A few days ago, during a dog walk, when insights often spring into my psyche, I was contemplating the fall colors and how the number of years I'll be able to enjoy changing seasons is falling with every passing birthday.
I had a brief relapse into a sort of semi-faithfulness, visualizing how nice it would be if life could be everlasting, eternal, without end.
But almost instantly a compared to what? echoed in my consciousness, drowning out the anti-death wish fulfillment chatter. Yes, indeed: when we complain about life, not its particulars, but life itself, there's no basis for comparison.
So why complain?
It's like saying, "Damn it! There should be two suns in the sky; that'd be so much more interesting." Or "I hate how there's only three dimensions of space, length, width, breadth; that's so constricting."
Well, that's the way the world is. Deal with it.
Likewise, an individual life begins and eventually it ends. No exceptions ever have been observed, yet virtually every religious person believes that he/she will live on after death.
In that compared to what? moment of insight I was confronted with the power of the human brain, which is capable to visualizing abstractions that don't exist in reality. Almost certainly no animal other than Homo sapiens imagines life after death.
Our power of imagination leads to wondrous leaps of creativity, both artistic and technological. However, it leads us astray when we attempt to compare "what is" with "what might be" in cases where there is no alternative to a clear and present reality.
There's no comparison to life, just as there is no comparison to the universe. We can wish that each were other than what they are, but that wish never will be fulfilled.
With that recognition, genuine faith, acceptance, love, and compassion blossom. Such is the glory of seeing things as they are, rather than through the lens of religious fantasy. We prostrate ourselves before reality as it is, praising cosmic inevitability instead of imagined human wish-fulfillment.
"when we complain about life, not its particulars, but life itself, there's no basis for comparison."
The complaint is not about mortality, but about the absense of a good reason for having the knowledge of mortality without the means to immortality. The scientist would say that this knowledge goes with the territory of knowing; that it's more a side-effect than an indicator what we may be capable of. The mystic would say that immortality is possible, but that it isn't what you think it is.
Posted by: cc | October 31, 2011 at 11:30 AM