On April 13, 1969, a boy was born in, a small rural town on the Highveld of South Africa. That boy was me and this was the story of the first 30 years of my life. It has been an immense privilege and pleasure to have shared it with so many friends all around the world.
It has been the most remarkable journey that I could have imagined. Unravelling the truth about the hypothesis that there is a God of sorts who not only made the world but who controls every aspect of its existence and who saved the inhabitants of the planet we call earth from eternal damnation.
I realised that the hold of the Bible on the lives of otherwise “rational” people is due to the way that our minds work. But we not only create mental concepts and structures which become the foundation of our thought – no, MUCH, MUCH more than this.
It is in our mind that we live and breathe and have our being. It is here where we not only construct mental images such as Christianity and democracy, but also the relationships with others. It exists in the mind.
At work we have an authority relationship with our boss. When our boss walks into the room or calls us, our behaviour changes. We react in a different way than we would have reacted if it was our junior who walked into the room or who called us. Our heart rate probably goes up slightly. We are more alert. Adrenaline probably pumps through our bodies and when they speak to us, we listen. This, not as a result of anything tangible, but intangible, imaginary in the sense that the relationship exists in our minds only.
It is amazing to compare our response to someone when he or she is our supervisor or boss at work and our natural response to the same person once we are promoted to the same level as him/her. We sometimes see this person in completely a new light.
Last week I read through the book of James and had the exact same experience. When I was a Christian, there was electricity in the book. It spoke to me. But last week, there was no electricity and I immediately related this to the absence of the Divine imperative to heeds the words of the books. As soon as the authority was gone, the magic also disappeared.
The magic was no the Holy Spirit at work in my life – no, it was my brain at work, creating relationships between myself, God and the Bible. Relationships that I discovered were not just the figment of my own imagination and the workings of my brain, but concepts and relationships that exist in the same way in the minds of millions of people around the world.
I write this at a very interesting junction in my life; the build-up to this point may very well be the subject of my next book. Time will tell.
I have been working in Johannesburg while I continued to live in Cape Town for the last 18 months, almost to the day. This meant that I was away from home for weeks and sometimes months on end which allowed me to write The Anatomy of a Skeptic.
A month ago I resigned from my current employment in order to pursue a mission I have been on since I was 27. I flew back to Johannesburg this morning to fetch my car. Tomorrow I will be making the roughly 12 hours car journey to take my car back to my home in Cape Town.
Over the next month or two, it will become clear what I will be doing for the next few years and where I will settle. South Africa, India or North America. Today I write the last chapter of The Anatomy of a Skeptic.
I am 39 years old. The mid-point of my life.
The fact that so many currents in the ocean of life happened to meet at this time and on this weekend is stunningly beautiful to me.
Even in this, I do not see the hand of an Almighty Father and I definitely don’t see the sinister actions of demons and Satan at work through and around me.
What I see is the amazing wonder of the human mind and the actions of life itself. Not just cause-and-effect – like the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, life is complex and beautiful with an inbuilt rhythm and beauty !!!
Beauty is all around us. It is in the mountain that I climbed again this weekend.
It is in the breathtaking views from the top.
The lakes and flowers…
But the mind of humans is spectacular – not just because we recognise this beauty. Inherent to the mental structure of the mind is the concept of evolution.
Evolution in this sense can be described as faith, hope and love. Not in the Christian sense of these words and concepts, but in the “human sense of the words”. A faith, hope and love bind humans together and somehow “will” us forward, against all odds.
I see it when a friend takes care of her husband who is suffering from Cancer with a dedication that defies logic (and NO, they are NOT a Christian couple!!!!);
I see it when Julie and myself visit our friend Paul who is dying from Brain cancer. As always when we visit Paul and Claudette we had a great time. We spoke about Paul’s death and about Claudette. The arrangements for the home. The funeral. We laughed and shared food and drink.
Paul’s attitude is that all people die. He only has a good indication of when death will greet him and as he told me; “Eben my bro, I lived not just one life, but at least five! Let’s not talk about it any longer. Let’s just share this time as good friends. I am extremely thankful for my life!”.
Not just Paul and Claudette or Rose and her family who exemplifies this concept of faith, hope and love as a build-in characteristic of the human psyche.
As people, we develop. We grow. We evolve. In some areas of the world, like in Africa, this happens slower than in other parts of the world. But even here it is happening.
Simple systems continue to evolve and develop into more complex ones. Technology marches on as it has been since the first humans started to use wooden and stone tools.
Our society’s are becoming more and more complex day by day and when challenges like global warming and increased economical instability threaten to annihilate the very complex structures that developed, we face these with amazing resourcefulness and ingenuity.
One defining characteristic of humans is that we don’t give up – no matter what. There is a universal will in humans that don’t allow us to go from a state of order to a state of disorder. For humans, our drive is always in the opposite direction.
We move from a state of ignorance and helplessness and chaos to a state of knowledge and enlightenment and ultimately greater order.
I can boldly assert today that I am a human being.
I am not subject to any Lord or God so that I must first seek Divine approval for any of my plans and actions. I alone bear the responsibility and the accountability of whatever I decide to do.
My morality is the result of the community of people that I call brothers and sisters here on earth. For whatever reason, I do not desire to harm any of them. I long to serve and love my fellow earthlings around me, whoever they may be.
My mind is subject to eternal inquiry. Never satisfied with what I know; never confident in any of my theories and hypothesis, along with Livingston through Africa, Nansen seeking a passage to the North Pole, my mind is never ceasing in its pursuit of new lands of information.
I embrace the transience of life; its fleeting character and because of this I determined to embrace every day as if this is the last one. Like my friend Paul from Cape Town, I want to come to the end of my life and say that I lived many lives.
I stop when I see sunsets; I kneel to pay attention to a flower; I dedicate life to my two beautiful children, Tristan and Lauren, to Dawie, my fellow explorer and to Julie and my many other friends. To each one who is reading this around the world.
(c) eben van tonder