Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. A phrase that first appeared in 1637 and was written by Rene Descartes. Descartes goes on to say, “we cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt….” What he meant was that as long as we are thinking, we are living. But are we? Is the definition of life, thought? Is merely pondering and fact-finding the highest form of life? Or perhaps a better definition is feeling, emotion, the things that often make life worth living?
It wasn’t long after the utterance of those words that people started to believe less in what couldn’t be seen, but could be felt, and more in what could be thought, what could be known. The known universe, the place we call home, a spiraling expanse with, what appears to be, infinite space, has always been a source of wonder. Just look up at the stars on a clear night and try to stop yourself from being in wonder. Wondering if there’s life out there? Wondering how many stars there are? Wondering if we’ll find the end of space? It’s natural to want to understand and know. It’s also a far less magical place to know something as fact.
And now, in 2020, we’re stuck with a disconnection, a feeling of loneliness that pervades most societies and cultures. Was it just as a result of cogito, ergo sum? No, it wasn’t just that moment. And yet, that moment was significant in that it marked a place where we turned away from a spiritual connection to one of intellectual pursuit.
Before we go further, it’s important to distinguish spiritual from religious. By spiritual, I mean connection. This can include religion but doesn’t have to. It’s simply a way to talk about being connected to something greater than oneself. Things like nature, groups, communities, family. These can all be spiritual. And it’s this, the spiritual, that’s lacking in today’s society. It’s also one of the most important tools that can help mitigate anxiety.
According to researchers who examined 2,000 people, spirituality was one of the best tools to combat anxiety. “Of the participants who had a generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, seven out of ten of them are now free of the disorder” as a result of developing a spirituality practice, the researchers concluded. What does this mean in real numbers? Of the 40 million people who currently suffer from clinical anxiety, 28 million could be anxiety-free. With no medication.
And it’s free.
So, Descartes says cogito, ergo sum. Perhaps a better phrase would be sentio, ergo sum. I feel, therefore I am.
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