Is eternity really so great? I've always thought so. Well, not really for "always," since that would be the same as eternity, and I'm definitely not eternal.
Rather, I meant for as long as I've been pondering death and the likely end of this one-and-only life we're all enjoying.
After reading a review by James Wood in The New Yorker of a book by Martin Hägglund, "This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom," I ordered it from Amazon.
Given that the book consists of 464 pages of quite intense philosophizing, I may not be writing blog posts about it for a while. So here's some excerpts from the provocative review.
I've wondered about what kind of society would make the most sense in a world that had given up belief in an afterlife.
After all, if this life were considered the only life anyone would ever have, it sure seems like we humans would value the quality of this life considerably more highly than we do now.
Here's some glimpses of how Hägglund views this question.
Once we seriously consider the consequences of life without end, the prospect is not only horrifying but meaningless (as the philosopher Bernard Williams argued years ago). An eternity based on what Louise Glick called "absence of change" would be not a rescue from anything but an end of everything meaningful.
Hägglund puts forth his eloquent case: "Rather than making our dreams come true, it would obliterate who we are. To be invulnerable to grief is not to be consummated; it is to be deprived of the capacity to care. And to rest in peace is not to be fulfilled: It is to be dead."
...A liberal rabbi or pastor might object that Haaglund is unhelpfully hung up on eternity. Eternity is not at the heart of what people care about; they hardly ever spend time envisaging it. But Hägglund's central claim is that a good deal of what passes for religious aspiration is secular aspiration that doesn't know itself as such.
He wants to out religionists as closet secularists. When we ardently hope that the lives of people we love will go on and on, we don't really want them to be eternal. We simply want those lives to last "for a longer time."
So his reply would probably be: Just admit that your real concerns and values are secular ones, grounded in the frailty, the finitude, and the rescue of this life. He makes a similar point in relation to Buddhism.
He is happy to welcome, as essentially secular, those popular forms of meditation and mindfulness which insist on our being "present in the moment"; but he chides as religious and deluded those doctrinal aspects of Buddhism which insist on detachment, release from anxiety, and an overcoming of worldly desire.
...But if we are to cherish this life, we have to treat what we do as an end in itself. "The real measure of value," Hägglund says, "is not how much work we have done or have to do (quantity of labor time), but how much disposable time we have to pursue and explore what matters to us (quality of free time)."
...And yet Hägglund's very vulnerability increases my regard for his project. I admire his boldness, perhaps even his recklessness. And his fundamental secularity seems right: since time is all we have, we must measure its preciousness in units of freedom. Nothing else will do. Once this glorious idea has taken hold, it is very hard to dislodge.
Hägglund offers a fulfillment of what Marx meant by "irreligious criticism," a criticism aimed at both religion and capitalism, because both forms of life obscure what is really going on: that, as Hägglund puts it, "our own lives -- our only lives -- are taken away from us when our time is taken from us."
We are familiar with the secular charge that religion is "life-denying." Hägglund wants to arraign capitalism for a similar asceticism. Religion, you might say enforces asceticism in the name of the spiritual; capitalism enforces asceticism in the name of the material.
I like what you wrote. Life is precious and no moment can ever be replaced. A close Atheist friend of mine said "It doesn't matter if you come back. You won't be you. You in this life, what you did with this life will have died. And so what you do now is critical, with each moment. The rest doesn't matter. It's just a fantasy from our perspective. Whether there is any truth to it can hardly have any relevance. And such beliefs can take away much from personal responsibility right here and now to do and be something worthy. "
Like Hagglund, Ava didn't need to theorize about the truth or illusion of life before our after this one. The facts as she and Hagglund have stated remain the same.
As an architect who became a self - made business woman originally from China, Ava's self-confidence is as unfathomable as her stunning beauty.
But for myself, I've built my life around the things that kept me separate, my internal life.
Maharaji said "Those who don't fit into the world fit into Sant Mat very well."
That applies to me perfectly. Each day must begin with meditation, must begin with removing the clothes of this mind and swimming in that sea of love with Maharaji. Each stressful moment is an opportunity to give thanks, and to hand that moment to Master. And somehow the results are nearly miraculous in transformation. It has become the very foundation of my own survival, and my highest source of happiness.
So there must be a more perfect philosophy that acknowledges the benefit of both, each to their own proclivity.
I will say this, Master has provided for me remarkable and pure examples of the healing power of spirit for those wounded beyond measure, torn and injured in ways that can never be healed, right along with examples of the supreme truthfulness of Atheism.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | June 02, 2019 at 07:12 AM
“...what kind of society...”?
I saw Baba Ji (GSD) in Hong Kong today and I’m headed to China for about a month. As far as a society generally without much belief in an afterlife, that’s about as close as it gets...
Gurinder gave a short Satsang and answered some questions. He was extremely diplomatic. Didn’t have any tough questions thrown at him... talked about living a simple life, meditation, love and surrender. I think his big thing was suran/surrender.
I was actually really glad I went. Just seemed like such a coincidence that he’d be in Hong Kong while I was here that I felt compelled to go. It was a very pleasant ending. No bitterness... just the realization that we are both two beings trying to find our way home... Although we’re definitely not on the same road and I don’t agree with Sant Mat, it felt good to end that chapter of my life with a peaceful feeling.
Posted by: Sonya | June 02, 2019 at 07:45 AM
How should we define quality time. Its in the state of mind and therefore a destitute and of limited means may be having better quality time than one equipped allways.
We can at tthe most ignore the dead end of our lives from where eternity begins and just be concerned all 24 hours 365 days of the possessions of objects or within our reach to bring forth comfort, titillations and luxury to our lives.
In the end the time spent irrespective of it passed may be just an overnight dream- as if passed in a moment.
But most of us definitely work towards quality time in the present and ensuring same for future. Thats life is all about. A few only venture to think beyond life sojourn here.
Posted by: meditator | June 02, 2019 at 07:48 AM
"but he chides as religious and deluded those doctrinal aspects of Buddhism which insist on detachment, release from anxiety, and an overcoming of worldly desire."
Sounds like UG Krishnamurthi without the aggression. I'll just stick with the OG/UG.
Posted by: Jesse | June 02, 2019 at 03:30 PM
Quote..."since time is all we have, we must measure its preciousness in units of freedom"
Isn't that what quite a lot of people are doing anyway, partying, getting drunk and disorderly, taking hallucinatory drugs. Most people I meet are only interested in themselves, their family, their friends, their occupations and their hobbies. Then there are the religious types who spend their time trying to be good and helpful to others. Mystics do believe in an afterlife and I'm hoping that may be true.
The intellectual types like the author are busy trying to figure out what the heck life is about, whether its horrifying and meaningless and what to do about it.
Quote: "And his fundamental secularity seems right: since time is all we have, we must measure its preciousness in units of freedom"
That sounds like being present in the moment, mindfulness is about attention, awareness, being quiet, calm and centred and free from anxiety and very rarely some people actually experience bliss!
Posted by: Jen | June 02, 2019 at 04:24 PM
Sonya that’s wonderful. Glad you had a positive experience. So no more pot shots. 😉
Posted by: Jen from Austin Texas | June 02, 2019 at 05:29 PM
Correct, no more pot shots. I just simply disagree with Sant Mat teachings, that’s all.
I’m in Shanghai now and it’s actually my first time visiting China. Really amazing city! Hoping to see some pandas 🐼.
Posted by: Sonya | June 03, 2019 at 09:25 PM
A lot of sites are blocked here but no trouble reaching Brian’s blog. Lol 😂
Posted by: Sonya | June 03, 2019 at 09:27 PM
That really is great Sonya!!
A good feeling of peace..
I go to satsang and sewa at times..
It just feels good and .. if I see my family..
I have to believe nothing at all..and just ''be'' where ever i go..
So the pain and troubles are gone by now.
One can say..it's freedom ...and that is joyfull indeed!
Posted by: s* | June 04, 2019 at 12:49 AM