A dear friend posted the following quote, which I adore, to commemorate the passing of Christopher Hitchens, formidable thinker and prolific writer:
We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours.He spoke those words in October 2011 while accepting the Freethinker of the Year Award from the Atheist Alliance of America. He was dying of cancer, something which many thought would force a religious awakening in him, a turning toward god.
Nope. Not a chance.
His words resonate deeply for me. I love a man who writes a book called, "god is not great: How religion poisons everything."
But here's the thing about that quote. As much as I know how true his words are -- how accurately they posit the choice that religion puts in front of people, think on your own or give up -- I also know they're not totally true, at least not for me. I know that it's not necessary to give up bliss, even a bliss that can feel idiotic, for the sake of reason. Inside me is a sense that we can have both, that we ARE both, consciousness AND bliss. Even before I was a yogi, I felt this pull of satcitananda -- this point of all being: truth, consciousness and, yes, bliss.
The kind of bliss I'm talking about really and truly can sometimes feel idiotic. I'm not kidding. There are moments when I'm reading something or thinking about something or picking up a newt in the damp woods or seeing my husband's face first thing in the morning, moments in which I am unreasonably happy -- completely giddy at the marvel of the world around me, the people in it, the potential for greatness which so often finds expression all around, in big and tiny ways. I am not setting my reason aside when I feel this sweep of joy. That bright arc very often has its source in reason itself, in thinking deeply on my own, in examining the orderly and chaotic creative genius of evolution that has landed us right here right now in this remarkable life we lead.
I have my cake and I eat it, too. It's not an either/or. To eat it, you gots to have it. If you have it, don't be stupid: eat it!
Hitchens ate cake to the very end, reveling in the glory of his critical faculties, resolute, fearless, honest. A few months ago he said, "My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends." Not Jesus. Friends, yo. Real ones.
That's cake, people. That's recognizing reality with all the lights on AND savoring every smidge of sweetness on the plate we've been served. That's satcitananda, baby, every single bite.