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Explaining Humans to Martians

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Rabbi Rami Shapiro answers questions and offers advice to S&H readers. “Imagine you are sent as an emissary to Mars. What five things would you want Martians to know about us humans? How would you answer this?”

My husband heard this on an office Zoom call: Imagine you are sent as an emissary to Mars. What five things would you want Martians to know about us humans? How would you answer this?

Rabbi Rami: I would share with them the following: 1) Humans are motivated more by flags than facts. 2) Humans fear other humans who don’t look, think, believe, or act
like them. 3) Humans prefer security to freedom and will surrender themselves to any strong leader (usually male) who promises to protect them. 4) Humans can be incredibly kind and compassionate and just as incredibly cruel and corrupt. 5) Humans are very good at killing other humans; just imagine what they will do to Martians.

A friend insists the opposite of spirituality is religion; I say it is science. Who is right?

Neither. The opposite of spirituality is pornography.

Spirituality honors people. Pornography objectifies them.

Spirituality is erotic. Pornography is dull.

Spirituality is ecstatic. Pornography is boring.

Spirituality is passionate. Pornography is apathetic.

Spirituality awakens the entire body. Pornography reduces the body to genitalia.

Spirituality celebrates sexuality. Pornography satirizes it.

Spirituality is authentic. Pornography is contrived.

Spirituality is original. Pornography is imitative.

Spirituality is spontaneous. Pornography is performative.

Spirituality is about Self- realization. Pornography is about self-obsession.

Both religion and science can be spiritual in that each can broaden your circle of compassion and help you work toward the thriving of person and planet. Pornography can do neither.

My father committed suicide at 55. My brother did the same at 54. As I approach my mid-50s, I am fearful I will do the same. Please, give me one reason to live today that I can use if the need arises.

One reason: You can always kill yourself tomorrow. I’m serious. Knowing you can take your life tomorrow allows you the luxury of not taking your life today. Instead of ending your life today, see what you can make of it today. Ask yourself: Who can I help today? Where can I find joy today? How can I make the world a little better for my being alive today? Repeat the same process tomorrow.

My mom is dying from COVID. None of the standard prayers speak to me. What can I offer her that might ease her dying and comfort me in my grieving?

I wrote this for myself and hope it will be of value to you as well. Whether you sit by your beloved’s bedside and whisper this directly, or whether you speak it over a phone or even in your imagination, fix your attention on your beloved and read this meditation aloud slowly, pausing for the space of one complete breath between each verse.

Listen Beloved and yield to the fact of your dying. Trust my words. Rest in my voice. Be still and know all is God, the nondual Aliveness “in whom we live and move and have our being.”

Listen Beloved: You are to this world what a wave is to the ocean that waves it: a precious and never to be repeated expression of Aliveness happening as all happening.

Listen Beloved: You are a way Aliveness laughs and weeps and loves and suffers. You are a way the One knows itself as the many. And soon you will be a way the many comes to know itself as the One. You are becoming what you have always been: Aliveness forever birthing and dying.

Listen Beloved: As you die memories, reflections, yearnings, and regrets may arise in you. Acknowledge all that arises. Do not cling, excuse, or explain. Without

clinging, excuse, and explanation there is only truth.

Listen Beloved: As you die echoes of those you have cherished may come to you. Say to each, “I love you.” Do not cling, excuse, or explain. Without clinging, excuse, and explanation there is only love.

Listen Beloved: As you die echoes of those you have hurt may come to you. Say to each, “I am sorry.” Do not cling, excuse, or explain. Without clinging, excuse, and explanation there is only acceptance.

Listen Beloved: As you die echoes of those who have hurt you may come to you. Say to each, “I understand your pain.” Do not cling, excuse, or explain. Without clinging, excuse, and explanation there is only forgiveness.

Listen Beloved: As you die -isms and ideologies that once defined you may fall away. This is because-isms and ideologies are of the past, and you are entering the eternal Present.

Listen Beloved: As you die you may begin to forget, but you will not be forgotten. You may begin to let go, but you will not be abandoned. You may begin to drift, but you will never be set adrift. You are loved. I am here. You are not alone.

Listen Beloved: As you die you are surrendered to the infinite in which the finite happens; you are surrendered to the One who is the many; you are surrendered to the formless that is of itself all form.

Listen Beloved: You were alive, now you are Aliveness itself. You were a being, now you are being itself. You were a mind, now you are consciousness itself. You were sometimes happy and sometimes sad, now there is only bliss.

Listen Beloved: My voice may be fading, but my love will not. Let me release you with this prayer:

As you slip from ignorance into truth may you be free from fear.

As you slip from confusion into clarity may you be free from compulsion.

As you slip from time into eternity may you be blessed with love.

As you slip from life into Aliveness may you be blessed with peace.

Listen Beloved: You were loved. You are loved. You are love.

I love this quote from James Baldwin: “If the concept of God has any validity or use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of him.” Would you agree?

I make a distinction between God and “the concept of God.” God is, to use the Hebrew, Chiut/ Aliveness and HaMakom, the nondual generative space “in which we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The “concept of God” is a theological projection reflecting our quest for security, certainty, power, and control. That said, I think Mr. Baldwin offers us a great standard against which to measure our theologies. If your concept of God doesn’t make you larger, freer, and more loving, exchange it for one that does.