The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, February 13, 2010
Spirituality ...

I’m engaging in some theology tonight. Simplistic theology, however, since over dinner I had a chocolate imperial stout that weighs in at 11% ABV (Southern Tier Choklat).

OK, so the question is God. And there is no answer; it’s pretty clear that there will never be one in this life. So why isn’t there an answer, why can’t there be one? Maybe because, if there was an answer, we would take God for granted. And for God to be God, we could NOT take God for granted. But if we were sure that God existed, surely we would; that’s just the way we are. So, if we could know for sure that there was a God, there couldn’t be a God. Simple as that! (At least after a bottle of imperial stout! But then again, Ben Franklin said that beer is proof that God wants us to be happy . . . ).

There are two, maybe three problems that we commonly have about God. One, of course, is the problem of pain. I.e., if God is all loving and merciful, then why is there so much pain in this world, much of it not caused by humans (although much of it IS). Then there is a related question, i.e. why is there so much injustice with regard to pain; some people have a lot more pain in their lives than others, no matter how good or bad they are.

Obviously, I can’t give a full answer to this, an answer that would satisfy someone who lost a friend on 9-11, someone who lost their home and spouse in Haiti, someone who is suffering from cancer, or someone watching a child die of starvation in Sudan. There is a theoretical answer, one that relates to free will, self identity and the after-life. I.e., that we couldn’t be free individuals with unique selves who can participate in a life, a consciousness beyond the temporal and temporary one we know here on earth, without having experienced injustice and death. We have to know death, for real, in order to live beyond death. Without that, we couldn’t play in the ontological big leagues. That’s the theory, anyway.

This can lead to another objection, even if you buy into the notion that God puts us thru hell and emptiness so that we will be “big enough” to keep him or her company in her or his timeless realm. And that is, why can’t God let us know nonetheless that he or she exists, even if we have to face pain and death and injustice. Some of us will take the higher road, and others will decide to maximize their pleasure in this life at risk of losing any chance for continued “being” in a realm beyond earthly death.

But maybe God doesn’t want us to have that choice. Maybe God in fact does love all of us, and thus has after-life plans for all of us. God doesn’t announce her or his presence with any certainty, as that would give us the option to “opt out”. Maybe we’re all on the road to some kind of “bigger existence” beyond the life we know, like it or not. The great uncertainty about the existence of God is just a part of it all.

As to how it all could work, and whether it might involve several tries (as the Hindus and Buddhists say regarding reincarnation) . . . and just how could we transfer anything of our past selves from one earthly life to a following one (the Buddhists say that only karma is passed on, i.e. whether you should suffer more or less based on how good you were in the previous life . . . but they don’t say just who or what passes on that karmic memory either) . . . well, that’s where my mind bogs down. That’s where I’m left alone with the detritus of daily life, the random draw of goods and bads.

But tonight, thank goodness, it isn’t too bad. I’ve got a recipe to try for apple-walnut oatmeal cookies, and the memory of that imperial stout from earlier this evening. As Tom Waits said, “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:28 pm      

  1. Jim,
    Ponderings on the existence of God. Perhaps you could go the way of the Gnostics (who in some cases borrowed heavily from the Greeks but in other cases made up their own concepts) who thought that “God” was a being beyond being—that is, definitely not able to be comprehended by man.

    They also conceived of an answer to pain in this world by making the Old Testament god a lesser god; they blamed this god for all the suffering in the world. I tend to think that this idea was a neat solution to pain and suffering. I have to say that I notice you add a “touch” to the question of pain and suffering by asking a most perceptive one yourself: Why do some people suffer more than others—often massively more than others? Excellent question. I can’t say I have an answer and can’t really say that the Gnostics had an answer to that one either—except for their general approach to the question of suffering in this world.

    Then there is the answer I’ve mentioned several times before—each one of us individually is the creator—and combine all individuals and that makes “us” the creator. I won’t repeat my reasoning as I’ve written it several times before here. If we are our own creators then one would have to reason that we ourselves are responsible for the pain and suffering in this world. Then perhaps there is not so “random” a draw of “goods and bads.”

    Then again, after one has had some “simple” mystic experiences, one begins to realize that perhaps there actually is someone looking over us—perhaps not a “god” but someone we may interpret as a “god.” And then perhaps the answer is again with the individual.

    And, though I might approach the question you pose from a slightly different angle, I seem to come up with the same answer: Who knows who/what God/god may be/is?

    Comment by MCS — February 14, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  2. Mary,

    Good point about the mystical traditions. I believe that the more mature and responsible mystical traditions of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and the Hindu world all point to the idea that God wants us as company in a timeless realm; God wants relationship with us (thus my past musings on a "theology of relationship"), and our earthly struggles are perhaps a preparation for that.

    God does not want us to spend an endless eternity playing golf in "Heaven" (or getting it on with those black-eyed virgins), with clocks continuing to tick as He or She goes about Her or His cosmic business. I.e., the standard stories and myths of "regular religion". That's not the way it works, if the great mystics are correct.

    Relationships inherently have a component of pain, it seems; perhaps that relates to the pain and injustice we suffer here in this world.

    Comment by Jim — February 15, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  3. Jim,
    I'd say you have hit the nail on the head. In the end it may all come down to relationships because it's thru relationships that we grow, is it not?

    And yes relationships have a component of pain. I find myself sometimes wondering at the fact that people are so afraid of pain in relationships. I wonder if there is something I do not understand about relationships and pain. But I certainly have had my share of extreme "relationship" pain in my life.

    But I have found that no matter how terrible the pain may be, it always seems to result in personal growth. Well, that is, as long as one does not use the pain as an excuse to become bitter and or vengeful. However, if one has a motive or goal of some positive intent, the result of the pain of relationships is a good kind of growth–perhaps akin to the pain of birth.

    Yet, hopefully, in the next world (or in heaven if one wants to use that term) such growth of relationship is without pain and one just has the joy of growth.

    I say that a "heaven" where one is limited to 70 virgins forever will become very boring in a very short time; in a "heaven" where one sits and looks at the "beatific vision" would be even more boring, to my way of thinking.

    Who knows what growth the person may achieve in a world where growth is a joyful thing and does not involve pain. I say that might be a pretty good place to be.

    Comment by MCS — February 16, 2010 @ 6:47 am

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