Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Bad Color

God's opinion is the universe. Don't ask me! Just go take a look for yourself, why don't you.

And let's face it, that God is pretty infinitely opinionated. God's like, "Well, that's just how I see it! What do you think?" But not waiting for any answer, God says "It's good!" God saw it and said, it is good. God saw Light, and said it was good. Light had a different opinion on that eventually.

God's good is not always the same as what other people think is good, it seems. Yet God's pretty secure in God's own opinion of how things should be set up. Are we? Are we secure in our own opinions, of what good is, and how things should be?

We should be! We down here are free to differ. "God, this universe is crap. Reality, life, suffering - what the hell were you thinking?"

Humans don't seem to see eye-to-eye with God on how things are set up. Usually, we have a fulsome list of things we could do without - and ever was it thus. "God cannot be both good and all-powerful," said Epicurus, a brilliant pioneer in his day! A bit of a child, by our standards. Oh, I mean a child only in terms of our understanding of cosmic mechanics. Clearly, in terms of how people live their lives, most mere mortals remain as children, next to Epicurus's principled and disciplined mind and methods. Yet in terms of how reality works, it's no insult to him to admit...he just didn't have a clue. Not really! That guy took a view of the universe as if it were the riotous profusion of a Hieronymus Bosch jungle painting, tigers and orange groves, and violence red in tooth and claw, and he said: "Ooooo, that red! That tooth and claw red is the problem! The painter could have just left that out!" And everything else would have remained, right? All to the good! Just that one little change, and all else, all that Epicurus called good, would remain. Just don't take that red paint and put it on there: simple!

Only the suffering would be removed, leaving a beautiful picture, to Epicurus's taste.

It's so hard for us to see today how Epicurus could possibly have sincerely thought this. Suffering: a purely gratuitous element! Not a consequence of the way physics is set up, no. With biology meshed in its warp and weft, thrashing forward along, relying on damage-avoidance pain mechanisms, impelled by yearnings and urges for whatever is deprived, what resource is lacking, as we wiggly creatures drive, strive and thrive - no, suffering's just a thing added on top of all that! For no reason, really. Can Epicurus have been pulling our leg? Is it possible? He seems to have had some sense that things are built on cause and effect, even if he didn't understand the perfect simplicity of it all at its core. Assuming quantum mechanical supersymmetry's barking up the right length of Planck (it sure does look like a winner!).

Well, whether he was entirely serious or not, we can't criticize Epicurus for having access only to the clues his age gave him. Today at least, the idea that you can change something fundamental at the foundation of reality, with the only result to be: reduce the owies for macroscopic squishy beings - this is a pleasantly ludicrous concept.

It's also a howlingly anthropocentric one: all of the universe, all for us! Not for us some lowly place, as a natural part of a natural universe that actually works. Such that we can proceed to figure out how it works. No, that's useless! That has no value, what we demand for a universe to be called good is: it must be custom-designed for our luxury and comfort. The needs of life itself, to change and push over obstacles as individual beings grow, die, are born all in a jumbling forwardly-evolving sprawl - that can't be the priority! A universe like that sucks! It just does.

According to some.

I say a natural universe is the highest of all goods we've been given, or could be given. Of course, I concede Epicurus's point that God could have designed an irrational universe, removed suffering that way. God could've designed a universe where effects do not proceed from causes, where matter and energy do not contort and hurl about inexorably along paths carved in fundamental forces, where miracle intervenes and must intervene, daily, constantly, anytime a tsunami, tornado or earthquake is about to hurt babies and old people. Anybody want to move to that universe? Sure why not! Sounds like heaven! Oh wait. Yeah. We've already got that.

I mean, if you're going to talk about God just to reject the premise out-of-hand, you are not reasoning. But if you credit the premise for a sec, God's already got that part of the package covered: an infinite kiss and make better, all damage healed in an instant, bliss and permanence - and knowledge, and communion in bliss with all, forevermore! This is what omnipotence means: God leaves you wallowing in freakish joy and mystery forever.

But let's be clear, though. I'm not saying "This world sucks, but heaven makes it OK." Nonsense! People who say this world sucks are fucking pansies. This world (by which I include the universe) is magnificent. Sometimes, I try to imagine the piss-poor world they claim they want. Imagine how horrifying this world would be if it were not natural. If we couldn't carve into it, learn and earn a place. If it were provably supernatural in origin, if there were no chance that we were on our own, and so to grow the fuck up and stand on our own: sufficient. A universe where, because of how everything was set up - clearly created for our benefit - we could not choose what we choose to believe, or choose simply to remain unconvinced. An improvement? Imagine if God forced God upon us, every day! Rubbed our noses in the fact of God's existence - forced us to believe! Left us a daily scripture message, written in the night sky by physically moving stars around. An improvement? A better universe? "Isn't it better to know?"

I don't know, I guess that's up to your personal good. Is it better to have a shitty universe but at least know its limits, or to have a universe of apparently limitless extent and wonder, and the tools in hand - human reason, primarily - to chase after and grasp for answers?

One thing is for sure. In a universe where God is forced in our face, we wouldn't be so free to differ with God's opinion. To create our own opinions, to give our own value to things. To hold different goods, our goods, higher and more dear to us than some inscrutable, cosmic good said to be God's. The fact that God leaves us room for doubt is a great gift. If God were forced in our face what would freedom mean? Today, we know at least that whatever God's highest good is, God's got it covered, which leaves us free to work for the goods we see. Even if there were no God, this universe and a chance to make a life within it is a thrilling, amazing gift. In this universe, we've got the universe covered. It's far bigger than us, and yet the whole thing is in our hands.

Imagine if we weren't free to learn, investigate, plumb, wring the knowledge we want from the fabric of reality. Imagine if we couldn't do that because there was nothing to learn! No natural fury, forces greater than us, implacable - indifferent to our plight! In a natural world, we can plumb these, grasp them, seize them by their inner workings and create our world around them, within them, upon them. Imagine if we weren't free to create. Let alone the world - imagine if we weren't free to self-create? To make of ourselves what we can and what we will, in our thoughts, words, actions!

And all of us together, creating our future as a species. To give a direction and purpose to it that is ours to form, ours to own. Heady stuff, this opportunity and this life we have.

Can anyone here imagine what a poor substitute the universe would be, if it were not observably, evidently built upon discoverable principles we can unlock, and reason from, from effect to cause to further effects, from theory to (eventually) testable result? Imagine a universe set up to coddle us, where we are created not as creators, but as a bunch of fucking babies. Or more accurately: prisoners. A universe with walls, which could not be pierced by human understanding or by science, because the choice had been made against nature. Against self-checked, self-sustaining nature, of which we are a part, not the purpose. Imagine claiming the highest and only good of reality ought to be the pleasure principle.

Well, you'd be an Epicurean.

Some people's opinion is that a luxury resort universe would be an improvement over the one we've got, with dangerous cliffs, and surging waves, and death at every corner. They say they'd want reality's big design requirement to be: "no boo-boos." No owies. "No More Tears!"

Well I'm glad God didn't share their babyish, wussyesque priorities, taking a baby shampoo approach to the universe's virtues. I'm glad that God valued adult virtues over childish ones, and that God gave us this far better world than the playpen some people claim they'd want. Those people can grow the fuck up at some point if they want, or if they prefer, they can just keep whining about how non-amazing, non-magnificent it is to have this chance, to carve our place in a universe that is manifestly bigger and more important than any one of us is. Bigger than all of us put together are. Fuck any pampered turds who say this universe is anything less than worthy of awestruck humility and gratitude! On the grounds that there is suffering? All suffering stems from one or the other: free will, or physics. Our ability to act and choose what we believe and who we will be, and our capacity to reach out even as far as behind the stars - and unlock them. That's worth throwing out? Cause and effect are of no value, no consequence?

I hate to be harsh. But anyone who can't see what we've got or who'd claim they want to chuck it for - some ill-formed crap version - I say: serve 'em fair if all their pets got cancer, if all their kids grew up to blame them for everything in life, if they themselves get kidnapped and imprisoned in Malaysia where every day their fingernails are torn half-off and they're gang-raped by large guard dogs. Fuck it, I'll go in there with them! Then I'll ask 'em about it in heaven, after about sixty billion years or so of coddling in indestructible bliss and luxury.

I bet the petty motherfuckers will still be bearing a grudge.

Then I'll go looking for Epicurus. Shake his hand. You know what? He had the right idea, all along. He was just a few facts short of a working model, that's all. But if his concept of things was lacking, his priorities were not wrong: it is good, a very high good and perhaps our highest human good, to do all we humanly can to increase human pleasure, and assuage human suffering.

This universe is, among other things, our chance. It is the one chance we have, to make a life's work that means something. It could mean everything. Once chance, and so much within our grasp. It must be a child, who'd scorn what that chance represents - or fail to see what a gift it is.

Now go get the red out.

1 comment:

dogimo said...

And let's be clear on this one, too: I'm not saying anyone should live one's life some dumb fucking way a bunch of patriarchal prudes with sex phobias and an evident hatred of the material realm decreed barely three centuries out from barbarism, leading to a fucking everlasting train wreck of cultural bias building up to bludgeon and cripple everyone's natural joi de vivre with neurosis, shame, and hatred of anyone who crosses your pet taboo.

If you want to ask me how to live, I'd say fuck you, that's your problem. But if I thought it was a sincere question, of course I'd elaborate! It's still your problem, but it's not like we haven't got plenty of good examples. And it's my problem too, after all. We can compare notes.

So I'd say first, do no harm. I'd say take Christ's word over Paul's, especially where they differ (and they do differ). Whether you believe in God or not, I'd point out that you aren't even a fit judge over your self - let alone over another person. Examine yourself. Examine life. Know right from wrong. Be able to say why right is right and wrong is wrong, if you're going to pronounce - but of course, it is honest and fine to say you don't know, and useful and productive to open an investigation for yourself into what others feel! I would say - don't pass off the responsibility for this onto anyone, not even church, not even God. God gave rock and roll to you. God gave you human reason. If you want to pronounce right and wrong, be prepared to speak to why.

You don't have to be afraid to speak out on right and wrong. You don't need to be wishy washy, afraid to state your own morals and why you hold them, just to be non-judgmental. You don't even have to be polite. You just have to recognize that your opinion - strong as it may be, well-founded as you may be able to lay it out - doesn't rule others. Others are not subject to your judgment. That's all you have to recognize, and as long as we're clear there, you can state your opinion as strong as you wish.

Personally, I believe in Christ. Of all of Christ's admonishments, the one I try to bear in mind most is to treat even the least human being as Christ. For what you do to that least being, you do in fact do to Christ. I refuse to judge you, because I refuse to judge Christ.

Me judging you would be a rejection of Christ's judgment. Perilous, perilous.

This side-note brought to you on behalf of all the dipsticks who think belief in God or the idea of heaven means somebody (me?) has to fucking chuck the life they'd like to live and be a slave to some bull shit. Bitch, please.