Rhythm – An Atheist Contemplates Lent
By Klasie Kraalogies
At the heart of the cosmos is rhythm, movement, cycles. Existence is a near-infinite superposition of Ptolemaic epicycles, seasons and ice ages and aeons of move and counter-move.
A few days ago someone in the comment section talked about panentheism. Popularized, if that is the right word, by Baruch Spinoza – that sage who can be read with profit by atheist and theist alike. Of course, the roots of these thoughts lie in earlier history – Democritus’s atoms, the words of Zeno etc. It is also reflected in the thoughts of the Buddha. As well as the great author, Douglas Adams, who has his “holistic detective” Dirk Gently constantly holding forth on the “Interconnectedness of all things”.
So how does this connect to Lent? The religious calendar is a reflection on the rhythms of existence – of life-giving death, of pain leading to glory. While there seems to be a tendency to think of belief and unbelief as two absolutist categories, perpetually at war, this is simplistic. All of existence, dances in ecstasy, only to succumb to life-giving agony. As an atheist, hellfire etc. holds no sway – but our cyclical struggles, our painful struggles to not succumb to evil, to not die in vain but to sow the seeds of new life – these are powerful realities.
The previous Doctor in the BBC’s Dr Who had this as a main theme – the agony over the question – “Am I a good man?”. He then answers it himself:
“…I am not a good man! And I’m not a bad man either. I’m not a hero. I’m definitely not a president, and no, I’m not an officer. You know who I am? I… am… an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army. I never have. Because I’ve got them, always them, because love is not an emotion. Love is a promise..”
A promise. We are idiots – but the lesson we learn, and the promise we hold on to, which enables us to endure the rhythms of the Cosmos, to ride the waves of existence, is Love. Lent is the promise of love – love through pain, life through death. This is reality. This is rhythm. And rhythm, my friends, is music. We are the daughters and sons of supernovae – and our music is the music of the spheres.