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Existence 101

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Pretty much whatever your religion, life is school and unlike how it seemed 2 weeks into the new school year in 4th grade, it is neither interminable nor all there is and ever shall be. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, a Buddhist monk or Voodoo priest, the core beliefs about existence can be abstracted as Life is School and there is something after the school year.

Whether we existed before the first bell or not and whether we only take one class or keep coming back after summer vacations are trivial differences. Whether it is self-study with no-grades or pass/fail with extreme prejudice certainly matters to particular adherents but in the broad scheme of difference between material realism/no school and all other religions/school is in session, these are all minor variations on the core shared beliefs that:

1) some aspect of our consciousness continues to exist after our physical death

2) there is a purpose to our existence and that that purpose is to learn something.

On the first day of school, either by your design, some higher power's design or random chance we are dealt a hand to play in school (to mix my ecclesiastic metaphors) comprised of our physical body characteristics, our family circumstances, and the world environment. Body cards include looks, intelligence, artistic and athletic capabilities, neurochemical/brain function balance, stature, body type, health, gender, etc. Family cards include wealth, mental and emotional security, birth order, educational and religious background, etc. World environment encompasses historic time, location, cultural and political context, etc.

What we are here to learn is also agreed upon by pretty much all religions. Love one another appears to be the main lesson. There are a wide selection of secondary shoulds, coulds, woulds and shall-nots, must-nots and damn-well-better-nots, but the main lesson definitely seems to be Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.

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What happens AFTER is also universally agreed on. And the answer is "SOMETHING! The diverse secondary conjectures about what constitutes that something (evocative of the Lilliputian divisions between big-enders/little-enders and high/low heelers) are trivial against the profound agreement that, contrary to all physical experience, our consciousness continues to exist after the death of our physical body.

So, whatever-cism we profess let us stop staring out the window, playing with our pencils and tormenting the little girl or boy sitting in front of us. Yes, we agree that is a teacher up in front and one way or the other there will be a test in the morning. Luckily, we also all agree that the grading is so heavily weighted on the one prime question that if we just love one another all the rest of the questions will follow.

Recognizing that we really are all in the same school should help us do so.

(Article changed on October 17, 2014 at 06:31)

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Maurice Nobert lives in Shaker Hts, Ohio. He has 5 children and 1 grandchild. He is a managing partner in SixthSense Partners, an analytically focused management consulting firm.


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