Friday, September 9, 2016

Lasting Happiness in a Dark, Fallen World

Sept. 9, 2016

     And what of the souls who are perfectly content in this dark, fallen world? They are the ones who revel in what this place is, and fight to defend it from those of us who labour to make life on Earth as it is in Heaven. For we happy few, there is a primordial sense of setting right what once went wrong. The Holy Spirit poured out onto the eleven apostles at Pentecost is with us now. The Great Commission still vibrates in the blood of Christ by which we are all knit
together as one mystical body, transcendent of space and time. So is this the secret to lasting happiness in a dark, fallen world-- escaping into transcendence? There is a sprawling pharmacopeia of substances which can deny the sorrowful realities of life and ease unrelenting physical pain. 
     Transhumanists ( hope for a day when the frailty and limitations of the human condition ultimately give way to digital immortality. ( By 2045 the Singularity will have arrived, or so futurists predict. By then, we'll have merged with artificially intelligence machines to cast off death, sickness, infirmity, and all other ills to which flesh is heir. To exist as a digitized consciousness, as ones and zeroes inside a virtual environment, seems to be transhumanism's end goal. Imagine if the entire human race uploaded itself into Robert Nozick's theoretical "experience machine" ( never came out. What kind of world would we create for ourselves and each other inside the simulation? 
     The following story is from the Buddhist tradition, but it could have been one of Jesus' stories about the Kingdom of Heaven. As far as I can tell, the Parable of Me And Mine is one such story. 
The Parable of Me and Mine
This parable is from the Yogacara Bhumi Sutra.  The text was translated from Sanskrit or Pali into Chinese 284 CE.  This translation is by Albert Waley found in Buddhist Texts through the Ages (Conze et al, editors, 1954). 

     Some children were playing beside a river.  They made castles of sand and each child defended his castle and said, “This one is mine .” They kept their castles separate and would not allow any mistakes about which was whose.  When the castles were all finished, one child kicked over someone else’s and completely destroyed it.  The owner of the castle flew into a rage, pulled the other child’s hair, struck him with his fist and bawled out, “He has ruined my castle! Come and help me punish him as he deserves." The others all came to his help.  They beat the child with a stick and then stamped on him as he lay on the ground. . .  Then they went on playing  in their sand-castles, each saying, “This is mine; no one else may have it. Keep away!  Don’t touch my castle!” But evening came; it was getting dark and they all thought they ought to be going home.  No one cared what became of his castle.  One child stamped on his, another pushed his over with both his hands.  Then they turned away and went back, each to his home. Behaviors resonate for centuries for both children and adults. Today’s prized possessions and cherished ambitions are yesterday’s sand-castles.  What is left.

     Lasting happiness in a world as dark as ours involves seeing it all from an eternal perspective. Equanimity comes from understanding the transient nature of life, phenomena, emotions, and how it all relates to the Kingdom. 



Digital Immortality

Experience Machine

St. Crispin's Day Speech, Henry V by W. Shakespeare

Parable of Me and Mine ("Sandcastles")


Linda McFall said...

The sandcastle story is a simple reminder that only love endures in all its forms. An experience machine! Now that would be hell.

Theophane said...

The sandcastles are supposed to represent what we build, fight for, kill fort, and destroy during our earthly life, and how utterly childish it all is in the face of the eternal Kingdom of God. Pride of life, pride of the eyes, desires of the flesh!

An experience machine could be someone's idea of heaven, especially if that person could forget the artificiality of the experiences. I imagine it very tempting for someone to lock him or herself inside that machine and hide from real life in there. Even if there was some degree of time-dilation involved, a person could not stay inside the machine forever.

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