I’ve called my kids banshees a few times as the word is just passing parlance in popular culture. Like hyenas, chickens with their heads cut off, holy terrors or league of demons. I’ve never put the effort into finding out the meaning of the word.
In Irish mythology banshees are wailing female spirits that herald death on a family or community. The etymological definition is literally woman of the fairy mound; bean (woman) + sidhe or shee (fairy mound). The fairy mounds are the population of mounds that riddle the landscape of Ireland. The banshees sing mournful lamentations over the dying.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a quiet, simmering, tale about a pair of lifelong friends that have a break up. One friend is a dim-witted, kind, naive fellow (Pádraic) and the other is a seeking, brooding, fellow in an existential crisis (Colm). There is an age gap between the fellows and Colm dwells in his elder years of life. Colm decides, one day, to end his friendship with Pádraic for the simple reason that he doesn’t like him anymore. Or is it that simple of a reason? Is it, rather, that they will not grow so long as they wallow in this friendship? There are other characters on this Island off the coast of Ireland that weave the thick tapestry of this community. An eager young man (Dominic) who is looking for potential, a pair of gossiping bar mates, Pádraic’s sister (Siobhán) who is being stymied in this dead end town, an abusive policeman and father to the eager young man, an irritable priest, a nosy shopkeeper and a demented, old townswoman who is haunting the townsfolk.
The narrative on friendship is a heartbreaking one. We watch the affable Pádraic be told by his hallowed friend that he no longer likes his friend anymore and we watch Pádraic’s face collapse, muscle by muscle, into shame and hurt. Yet Pádraic keeps hope or, rather, he resists letting his friend go and the movie twists and turns like the stone walls meandering the Irish countryside until, mournfully and decisively, the stone ravages any persisting good feelings between the two pals. Meanwhile on the mainland the Irish Civil War of 1923 is playing out.
Pádraic looks on in the direction of the war and says,
“some things there’s no moving on from, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Is it a declaration that he’ll never stop fixating on his friend? Is it a declaration that he’ll never quit seeking revenge? Is it loyalty to one’s roots despite its demise? Is it a philosophical statement that infighting, despite lapses and interludes, will never stop? And why is that good? Is it our mortal struggle to find purpose, to find home?
This movie was written by playwright Martin McDonagh who wrote In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In the Roger Ebert review of In Bruges he mentions, “every once in a while you find a film like this, that seems to happen as it goes along, driven by the peculiarities of the characters.” I think that is exactly what is happening in Banshees of Inisherin. The character of each man drives his actions rather than logic. And in a review of Three Billboards there are such observations of McDonagh’s script as, “anger is not treated like something to be cured”, “it is more about cause and effect than crime and resolution”, “allowing almost all of his characters to be deeply flawed”, and “the world is more complex than most movies would have you think”. I think those observations apply here as well. McDonagh does a great job writing dark dramedy’s. I feel like the Irish (and the Russians) are good at that. I laughed consistently through the movie but was equally heartbroken and eager to see the drama to its end. I loved Brendan Gleeson in the 2014 movie he was in called Calvary. Once again, like In Bruges, he pairs with Colin Farrell in this movie.
This movie is unique in that you don’t have the gnawing feeling that the shocking calamity should be further attended to, like “why isn’t anyone asking more questions?”, “where are the police?”, “who is going to intervene?”. Instead, McDonagh let’s the character’s choices just be and it isn’t out of place in this insular community where they all seem stuck and their only future is waiting for some news whether or not the news changes anything. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie about adult friendship break up or certainly not one that is treated with this much thought.
In the final scene Colm is left with his last instrument and like a banshee he sings his lamenting song.
I have regarded Darren Aronofsky as my favorite director for 20 years. He competes in a space that he shares with provocateur directors such as Lars Von Trier and David Lynch but I have an affinity with his films, unlike the others. The first of his films I saw was Pi when I was about 17 years old. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Subliminal glory between the lines of brutalizing flesh. And every film of his after wrestles with threadbare flesh trying to make contact with glory.
His most recent incarnation The Whale grapples with this same universal and persistent question that is the substance of all his films; what is the meaning of all this?
It’s no coincidence that I have such an affinity with an Atheist Jew who can’t resist existential questions that have spiritual overtones. He and I, or at least his art and I, have the same curiosities, wrestle with the same nagging life pangs, both wish for truth to break through the veneer. The caged bird does indeed sing. We’re all caged inside our flesh, our vices, our peccadilloes. The spirit is caged inside the body.
There is a scene when the missionary, Thomas, discovers Charlie’s lover’s Bible and the passage under Roman’s 8:13 is highlighted.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
The Whale is the most acute examination of the body as a cage that Aronofsky has explored to this point. The film is a slow burn. It is quite a passive film compared to Aronofsky’s last film mother! that was frantic chaos. The passivity is purposeful. Charlie puts up no resistance to the fate of each day. He is Superman at weathering blows. The few loved ones in his life, at first sight, are uncomfortably abusive. We, the audience, can’t believe the cruelty.
There is a scene where his estranged daughter manipulates morbidly obese Charlie into getting to his feet and walking to her that reminded me of a perversion of Christ’s walking on water. He ends up crushing the end table under his weight and flopping down into a devastating heap that is utterly heartbreaking. His daughter storms out the door in disgust.
There is another scene where we can infer that his daughter smashed a plate that had food remnants on it that Charlie was using to feed a bird on his window sill, the one creature who gave him comfort. Again, how evil of her. But there is more than first sight with Aronofsky films. We learn through its slow crescendo that the finale to this story is about freeing the caged bird. When that bird feeds at Charlie’s plate each day it grows dependent, it has no desire to explore, it becomes imprisoned in its domestication. The missionary, too, is caged in his assumption that his past is irredeemable. His daughter is caged inside her abandonment. Charlie’s lover is caged inside his religious hypocrisy. Charlie is caged inside his grief.
It was quite a poetic, quite biblical, ending. During the entirety of the story it is downpouring outside. The following is borrowed from Alissa Wilkinson writing for Vox:
“The real apocalypse is happening at Charlie’s house, at least if we take “apocalypse” to mean a moment of revelation. [The GOP primaries of 2016 are playing on tv in which Ted Cruz beats Donald Trump in Idaho where the film is set]. We know — everyone knows — that these are the last days of Charlie’s life. It’s raining continually outside, like a flood is coming. Charlie is obsessed with an essay he keeps reading about Moby-Dick, an apocalyptic book if there ever was one, about a man with an obsession and a death wish. There’s an atmosphere of dread, both of what’s about to happen in Charlie’s house and what’s going on beyond its walls.”
But in the final scenes the clouds break to sunlight. Weight becomes weightless, flesh walks on water and the spirit is freed from the body.
Charlie exclaims near the end that he thinks it’s impossible for people to be completely careless. Implying that our inherent nature, our instincts, care. In a world that so obviously perpetuates bad, is this sentiment true? I’m perplexed by this existential supposition. There is also Charlie’s obsession with honesty. He implores his students and his daughter to write honestly. Despite his own refusal to confront his flesh. It’s another perplexing theme.
But Aronofsky once again succeeds in creating a picture like that of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” in which man is reaching out for the spark of life from God.
What is justice and what tools can we use to achieve it? Understanding justice involves a set of philosophical beliefs about 1. human nature and purpose 2. morality, and 3. practical rationality—how we know things and justify true beliefs. There are 3 sources for truth depending on what school of thought you follow: God (theological worldview), human reason (enlightenment worldview), sentiment-morality (post-modern worldview).
Critical Theory, and the study Critical Race Theory under that school of thought (henceforth CRT), is not only theoretical; it is not just an academic curriculum. CRT is a worldview. Meaning it is an overarching narrative by which we interpret all of reality. ‘Social justice’ or ‘equity’ is used as shorthand to express commitment to critical theory. As we will see, CRT is incompatible with another worldview: Christianity. There are a number of premises that a Christian worldview asserts that I will explain and a number of premises that CRT asserts conversely.
First, Imago Dei. We are primarily made in the image of God. This identity marker underpins all of Christian ethics. Human beings, whether male or female, black or white, young or old, are made in the image of God and thus possess equal value and dignity regardless of race, gender or status. And not only that, the Christian identity is wholly found in God’s definition of us. We do not essentially define who we are. Who we are is designed by His Word and we become who we are meant to be by Him.
“We do not have ultimate self-determination. God decides what is true, not we; God decides what is right, not we; and if we are saved from sin it will be God who saves us, not we ourselves.”
-Theologian John Piper
But CRT posits that there isn’t unity in our humanity. In fact, the expression ‘we’re all human’ is considered covert racism. And, conversely, under CRT, we are not essentially individuals either. Rather, we are united in our self-defined identity groups of those in the margins being oppressed by those who are dominant, those who are supreme. Under CRT, God and His word are not supreme. It is, rather, a people’s will to power that is supreme.
Second, the Bible is God’s Word. Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. This is antithesis to the CRT belief in ‘lived experiences’ and personal ‘storytelling’ rather than objective, absolute and authoritative truth. CRT believes that Biblical authority doesn’t exist and that any group whose doctrine dictates human identity and ethics is a power grab to dominate and therefore oppress people. For example, the Bible was only written by men therefore its authority is considered intrinsically oppressive. Under CRT, God and His Word doesn’t define who you are, you do. Through the Bible Christians believe in objective, absolute truth and not moral relativism. Christians do not believe a value or truth claim is intrinsically wrong just because a dominant group holds them. Value claims are intrinsically evil if they rebel against God’s Word.
Third, sin. According to the bible, human beings are united in their rebellion against God. Sin infects us all universally. Every culture comes with particular sinful idolatries. No race or people group is inherently more sinful than others. But if the moral stake is not human beings in rebellion against God but rather identity groups in rebellion against oppressors as CRT posits then it undercuts the primacy of God and our existential relationship with Him. And it undercuts the unity we all have as sin-saturated, fallen, human beings.
As Theologian Tim Keller said, CRT:
“offers a highly self-righteous ‘performative’ identity. The Christian identity is received from God’s gracious hands, not achieved by our actions—we are loved absolutely apart from our performance. Contrarily, this view (CRT) provides two kinds of identity that are highly perfomative: either being a member of an oppressed group fighting for justice or a white anti-racist ally. Both identities—like all other identities not based in Christ—can produce anxiety because of the need to prove oneself sufficiently justice-oriented. The secure identity of Christians does not require shaming, othering, and denouncing (which is always a part of a highly performative identity)”. Keller goes on to say, CRT “sees all injustice as happening on a human level and so demonizes human beings rather than recognizing evil forces–“the world, the flesh, and the devil”–at work through all human life, including your own.”
Fourth, liberation through redemption. CRT believes we have solidarity in our identity groups as they relate to power structures while Christianity believes we have solidarity in redemption as we relate to our Savior. The Bible says that for Christians, the divisions between male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free are all broken down. These differences are not erased but they are demoted in importance. The good news is all Christians share equal access to God and equal standing before Him regardless of race, gender and status.
Fifth, authority and hierarchy. CRT sees power as intrinsically evil and hierarchy as oppressive but the Bible sees the abuse of power as evil. As for hierarchy, the bible commands us to submit to our parents, to submit to our political leaders, to submit to our church leaders and- ultimately- to submit to God.
CRT has three assumptions that form its worldview:
• self-deification (my sovereign will decides)
• self-determination (I will decide my own truth and my own morality without deference to any authority outside myself because absolute truth is a tool for oppression)
• self-definition (I will define my own essential identity)
With these assumptions each person finds unity in intersectional people groups seeking liberation from dominant authority (oppressors).
Whereas, Christians have these alternate assumptions:
• God is deity (He decides)
• God determines truth and morality
• God defines our essential identity
With these assumptions each person finds unity in our shared humanity, our shared corruption and by our shared redemption through our Savior.
While CRT posits liberation from oppression the bible posits liberation through redemption. While CRT posits liberation from dominant authority the bible posits submission to the ultimate authority. While CRT posits man-made identity. The bible posits God-designed identity. While CRT posits power as the ultimate existential force at work in our lives the bible posits corporate sin, individual sin and demonic sin but also love, humility, graciousness, forgiveness and salvation as the ultimate existential forces at work in our lives.
This is the blunt conclusion. Inside CRT, God is small and negligible.
“Biblical justice is more penetrating in its analysis of the human condition, seeing injustice stemming from a more complex set of causes—social, individual, environmental, spiritual—than any other theory addresses. Biblical justice provides a unique understanding of the character of wealth and ownership that does not fit into either modern categories of capitalism or socialism. Biblical justice has built-in safeguards against domination. As we have seen, to have a coherent theory of justice, there must be the affirmation of moral absolutes that are universal and true for all cultures. Without appealing to some kind of transcendent universal truth and morality, there is no way to further justice. Christianity does not claim to explain all reality. There is an enormous amount of mystery – things we are simply not told. We are not given any ‘theory of everything’ that can explain things in terms of evolutionary biology or social forces. Reality and people are complex and at bottom mysterious. Christianity does not claim that if our agenda is followed most of our problems will be fixed. Meta-narratives have a “we are the Saviors” complex. Christians believe that we can fight for justice in the knowledge that eventually God will put all things right, but until then we can never expect to fully fix the world. Christianity is not utopian. Finally, the storyline of the whole Bible is God’s repeated identification with the wretched, powerless, and marginalized. The central story of the Old Testament is liberation of slaves from captivity. Over and over in the Bible, God’s deliverers are usually racial and social outsiders, people seen to be weak and rejected in the eyes of the power elites of the world.”
-Theologian Tim Keller
Biblical justice includes impartiality or universality. Truth and value applies universally to everyone. CRT inherently does not. Marginalized identity groups are more true and more valuable than dominant identity groups and each marginalized identity group has exclusive access to their own truth that a dominant group is refused access to also known as ‘standpoint epistemology’. Biblical justice includes retribution or punitive punishment and judgement. Because human beings are so valuable, Imago Dei, we are served our just deserts. God’s moral commandments are universally binding on all human beings therefore Biblical justice includes impartial punishment for sin.
Insofar as we accept the claims of Christianity, we’ll have to deny the claims of critical theory. We can’t accept both.
What are some Biblical resources for social justice?
Um, Happy New Year?! Ahem, cough. It feels silly saying it.
What was 2020? It was something with potential in the beginning. It was something to be concerned about in the middle. It was something to suffer from the middle to the end. Now 2021 looms and with fear and trembling we hope for something better. C.S. Lewis writes, in The Problem of Pain, that God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience but shouts to us in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
When I wonder why the crises of this year happened to me several things come to mind. First, why not? Why shouldn’t this happen to me or you or anyone? This virus is a force of nature. Death is a force of nature. Pain and suffering is a force of nature. Second, the timing is just coincidental. Had this been spread over a decade I may not have felt so flagellated. Or, is it coincidental? Did all this occur for some purpose? Is God shouting at us in our pain?
I did a poor job suffering. It was completely unfair to be forced out of work. It was frustrating to be ignored by the unemployment insurance agency. It was panicking to not know how long I wouldn’t work. It was enraging to suddenly lose my dad and under Covid restrictions and deprivation. It was reeling to have my mom diagnosed with cancer, break her wrist, discover her lung disease in a matter of a couple months. It was heavy to have another development of crisis; my father in law become critically ill, sedated and intubated, with Covid, transported to a hospital 182 miles away because that was the only open bed for an intubated patient, 40-some days in the hospital. All of this happened in 4 months. And under these 3 crises were other little burdens. My dads estate, his girlfriend, more stints out of work, not seeing eye to eye with friends interpreting the world and the pandemic, the mosh pit that is social media.
The layers of emotion have been depleting. Disbelief, shock, rage, anger, bitterness, depression, recovery. I haven’t only been grieving the death of my dad but also the death we seem to be living in. It has been an unprecedented year when we try to lean on the things that bring comfort and hope. Funerals are taboo, hugging loved ones, taboo, in person church, taboo, a day with girlfriends, taboo, a spa day, taboo, travel, taboo, gathering for holidays, taboo. At least I have this forum of writing. And everyone’s opinions; they are all shouting. The cacophony of voices are noisy. The noise is not helping.
Somehow, in the last month, a perseverance has overcome me. I think it’s reinforced by my being back to work. No matter how much we complain about a work day there is something essential and purposeful about working. But I think this new resolve is also because we have to be over the hump. It has to finally be Thursday right? If it’s Thursday then I don’t want to think about Monday’s complaints anymore. I want to look to the weekend. I want to look to Sunday.
In the spirit of looking into the light let me share some glimmers of life while we all experienced death groans this last year.
My baby, Wyatt, turned one. My eldest, Isla, turned four. I worked on my husbands ancestry lines. I refinished an old solid wood dresser from my husbands childhood. I got to see my out of state sister twice and for extended periods of time. I got to meet friends of my dad I never knew, I got to hear stories about his life. I got to spend a lot of time being my moms caregiver and discussing old stories together. I got to learn a lot about lung disease and cancer. I got to learn a lot about the rare autoimmune disease LEMS and the rare drugs that treat it; Firdapse and Ruzurgi. In fact I got to learn a lot about the rare disease/drug industry; development, competition, the FDA, cost, and loads more. My little ones have done many adorable things that I wish I had written down. Last week Isla used the word “technically” correctly in a sentence. She also told me she saw God (the nativity scene at all the churches). I’ve tried to emulate my kids during this time. There is something so educational and wise about a child’s innocence and ignorance. At their ages they don’t know what despair is yet. 2020 is any old time for them. They laugh and find joy. They don’t pout because of existential dread. They just pout for time with the other’s toy.
I think God is shouting at me to unlearn my self-pity. And perhaps a crises year was the megaphone. When our self-sufficiency is stripped there is still one comfort to lean on; Him.
This is an artistic film. I think the thrilling scenes are enough to carry a mainstream viewer but the artistic pace toward the climax is slow. Or rather concealed. Evil doesn’t start out bombastic and in your face, it starts with little background-noise slights and then more overt wrongs until it scandalizes into grand evil. Film critics have had contrasting reactions from “vile, contemptible, an embarrassment to Paramount Studios” to “riveting, masterpiece, visually striking.” It is downright Aronofsky and should be sealed with his family crest!
This nightmare (is this a dream?) is a Christian allegory. That’s what I see.
‘He’ (Javier Bardem) is the Creator God, the houseguests are depraved mankind, the baby is the expiating Christ given as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, the carbon crystal is the seed of life and the forbidden fruit (the perfect genesis that belongs to God alone).
But who or what is mother?
Some critics have said this is a story about mankind ravaging mother earth, where Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘She’ (there are no names of characters only Him, Her, She and He) is the world. I think that’s too lazy an interpretation. There are too many things that wouldn’t add up. If it’s a lecture on the despicable way we treat the earth then what does the innocent son of man have to do with it? What of God’s taking earth’s love and recreating? It seems God’s preoccupation is with man. He says, for a creator “there is never enough.” Else, there would be no creation. He must bore forth. For the act of creating is out of desire to yield something ‘other’ than thou. God’s constitution is conceiving. He conceived of the earth but his fondness is for humanity. This has me thinking about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Christian Trinity- that perfect relationship, why more, why us? I’m not sure this film presents the relationship between God and His creatures in accord with Christian doctrine but it is an allegory and a work of art. That these themes are even given screen time is groundbreaking to me in an industry that’s void of existential thought beyond ‘I’.
If She isn’t simply mother earth could she be Lucifer? Lucifer after all is a fallen angel who had protected the throne of God just as She protects His writing room and His cherished tree of life- the carbon crystal. There is also great parallel of His poet’s words and the word of God. There is even anointing done with ashes, by God and his priest, of his fan followers, blessing them; “receive his words.” The allegory goes on. Lucifer was exceedingly beautiful. Lucifer grows loathsome of service to God. ‘She’ is a stridently sacrificial yet jealous character. Yearning to have Him to herself, to have His gaze exclusively upon her, to have first priority when viewing His work of art. Then Lucifer is cast out of heaven and upon judgment is burnt by fire and disintegrated into ash. Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘she’ forebodes about the apocalypse. The narrative in mother! displays genesis through the book of revelation.
Or maybe lowercase mother is simply a person. She is the commoner with the womb that carries Jesus. The same person who seeks a word with him on his walk up to Calvary to whom he says “My mother is someone who hears the word of God and does it.” Lawrence’s She is sick of God’s plans for their household. She is the commoner that is enchanted, even moved, by God’s word but doesn’t accept the radical regeneration that’s required. Her idea of service is still prideful. She doesn’t do it 100% for God, she does it for herself. The home is her work, the womb is her work. He receives praise for His work, She wishes for praise for Hers. This isn’t simply a presentation of misogynistic burden shouldered by women. All un-regenerated people are saturated in self-glory, unable to free themselves from that outlook. Unable to abide the leadership of Him.
There are plenty of stories in the bible that have God resetting the course. Outmoding animal sacrifice for the ultimate blood sacrifice Jesus Christ, Noah’s ark and the great flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. Now, whether the recreation in the film means God as a frustrated amateur that just can’t seem to get it right and narcissistically scraps His work so that He can receive more love, more adoration next time or God as the perfect creator that, out of abundance of love, painstakingly gives second chances, there is artistic license with this. Does the creator ‘He’ create out of an absence and a desperation for more or out of an abundance and a selfless choice to share?
This film reminded me a lot of Aronofsky’s earlier works. There were beautiful cinematic scenes that reminded me of several films. There was Requiem For A Dream in the pulsating organic walls and delusional visions. I saw Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist with the opening and closing sequences of nature insidiously consuming civilization with its tentacles. I saw Gone Girl in the scenes of the crazed fans and paparazzi. I saw Children Of Men with the war ravaged trenches and slummed refugee camps. The decent into Hell was almost as if an elevator were taking you through the generations of the earth’s crust with each layer being an egregious era in mankind’s history.
One thing Aronofsky got spot on is the depravity of man. And I’m not talking about the stereotypical political jargon that a bleeding heart (no pun intended) would sentence you with but rather the curse we’re ALL under. One thing that struck me is the brilliant way Lawrence’s She, whether Lucifer or person or planet, is cast as someone you’re sympathetic for. Of course!…the barging in of houseguests should incense her, of course she shouldn’t forgive the ravenous mob, of course she should be paid more attention to for her sacrificial acts of service and steadfast support of her poet-genius. Of course She should have glory! That’s how mysterious, how outside our mortal comprehension, how ugly to our unregenerate souls, God’s plan is. We see Her as painfully taken advantage of and flogged again and again to the point of total annihilation while He coolly forgives. What is justice for Her? It would be too simple to present sin as the mob but the road to Hell is paved with human good intentions that are apart from His plan. God’s plan is so radical, so rebellious, that forgiveness for a murderous mob is among his orchestration. Certainly God’s justice is mysterious to us. Where His radical love and justice leads in the bible versus where it leads in the film are different paths.
There are so many layers to this film I need to see it again. I’m delighted to see such transcendent themes in a star-studded film. It makes you wonder, like Michael Knowles said in the Daily Wire, if Aronofsky hasn’t paid lip service to the Mother Earth interpretation simply to con mainstream audiences into watching the Bible for two hours.
Many modern families make it their aim to raise their child as a blank slate, upon which the sovereign child makes his own choices, forms his own opinions, finds his own identity, and writes his own story. The archipelago child: free to be uninfluenced and untouched by a point of view. There are two approaches: I will not introduce any dogma into my child’s mind, therefore they’ll be unladen of bias or I will offer a glimpse into all dogmas so that my child can infer what they may and piecemeal a unified whole. The result will be a cultured, unbiased, sensitive and understanding person.
Is it possible to fulfill either of these approaches? With the first approach the parent is ultimately relinquishing their parenting and resting their child in wait for some outside influence to impress their mind. It takes the culpability out of the job of parenting. The parent with the first approach, down the line, could say “I didn’t impress any beliefs on my child, in his freedom he decided his beliefs on his own, I am blameless.” Or, from a different perspective, the parent with the first approach is explicitly culpable for not introducing the best, the correct, worldview. But this implies transcendent, objective truth, that there is a right and a wrong. There is. I’ll get to that later. With regard to the second approach, is it humanly possible to expose your child to all dogmas and theories that exist let alone the meaningful parts of them in their entire applicable context? If you’re leaving out certain ideologies then are you not unwittingly shaping your child’s ideas and submitting them to dogma?
The first principle a child learns as they grow up is no and yes. It is a valuable principle!
They desire something that they shouldn’t have because it’s not in their best interest. Why has it been decided they shouldn’t have it? Many would say cultural conditioning. That some force; paternalism, sexism, Puritanism, laid a foundation for behavioral expectations and now it’s time to shatter that ceiling by washing our kids of expectations. A sort of contrary rebirth. Not a rebirth to orthodoxy but a rebirth to abandon.
Yet there remains some universal manipulations we beholden our kids with. They desire to avoid a nap but the parent knows a nap reduces fatigue, resets their mood, lends itself to growth, etc. The very first dogma a parent will introduce their child to establishes the parent’s outside authority on the child. Parents represent God to small children. Second, it establishes truths and the right and wrong way to behave in accordance with the truth.
I know what’s best for you at 1 year old, what is best for you is a nap because it will reduce fatigue and help you grow. Child, it is right that you fight your natural desire to resist a nap and wrong that you give in to your nature. This is the first, elementary dogma you introduce your child to: fight your natural desires for the sake of your life. Does this sound extreme? If a child doesn’t learn obedience to truths that restrain their desires then they may fall subject to a burnt hand on the stove or hit by a car for not looking both ways or even more complicated and tragic events.
Right off the bat you’ve established right and wrong. But some parents, being exposed to and educated by enlightened progressive theories, will negate the most primitive, basic common sense and appointed authority that they have to undermine such oppressive bulwarks like right and wrong. Opinion, desires and tastes are the weathervane. Madcap opinions that are evolving, unauthoritative, lawless and meaningless. After all how do you write law on one man’s opinion? Law is written using precedent, wisdom of the elders, and inalienable truths. Law has survived the ages and been useful because it’s true. Yet we guffaw truth and encourage the child to navigate life with some intrinsic knowledge she has that is superior to an adult’s long-forged, accumulated wisdom. So open-minded that her brain falls out.
What is it that motivates people to find dogma repugnant? One thing. When it is established that this way is the right way, it means another way is wrong. If there’s a good then there is a bad. It creates grouping, ranking, a pecking order. It creates limitations, failures, hurt feelings. How can we, humans, decide a way is right over another? Especially if it hurts someone else’s feelings. That’s the second truth your child will learn after no and yes: life is not fair. From birth we are born with disadvantages, some of which will be impossible to overcome. The fact that we are born into a material body that is hurtling toward entropy makes our life unfair. This machine of a body will fail us and someone else’s machine will be better. So, too, about the principles of life and how they match/mismatch our desires. Is a principle untrue if it’s at odds with my nature? A common cultural sentiment is “be who you are”. Or is it that my nature is a beast that needs the principle to groom it? “Become who you are.”
How do you know what’s true?
What’s right for a moody, exhausted child?
That’s how simple truth really is. One just needs eyes to see.
To paraphrase GK Chesterton, when a person chooses not to believe in what’s right, it’s not that they believe in nothing, it’s that they believe in anything. The mind is not a vacuum. Some thing will fill it: religious dogma, the culture’s dogma or the State’s dogma. There is no such thing as dogma free. Start teaching your child the truth or another force, benevolent or malevolent, will start indoctrinating your child for you.
I haven’t met you yet but already you are known. You are 27 weeks old and you have been designed with eyebrows, eyelashes and fingerprints. You weigh almost 2 pounds but your chance for survival if you were born this early would be at least 85%. At this point you curl your fingers into a tiny fist. 7 weeks ago by ultrasound we saw your face, your form, and you were crossing your ankles and cupping a hand around your butt cheek. I feel you flutter and kick and I’m amazed how much strength you have at barely 2 pounds. So far you have been easy on me, as I have not struggled. Have I been taking care of you?
Soon, the knitting together of your soul and your body will transform from God’s hand only and be our responsibility. What is in store for you? You will come to know sunshine and moonlight. You will feel small confronting the scope of the universe. You will soon understand how far away the stars are. You will see cat paws for the first time. You will see human faces as abstractions and be too young to interpret identities but you will come to know me as mother. What is in store for me?
I will grasp for wisdom, revelation and patience as I nurture you. I will fail to understand why you’re so upset. I will be desperate to meet your needs. I will see dandelion seeds blown off a stem for the first time through your eyes. I will hold your fingerprint in my hand and marvel at your creation. Things I take for granted will be big again when you discover a tickle. The simplest trick of peek-a-boo will show me that laughter is beckoning and abundant.
You will know desire and heartbreak as you endeavor your life. You will feel fear and trepidation as a sovereign person who is a part of the world but on your own. You will feel loneliness and alien being trapped with your own thoughts. You will be hurt and sometimes for no apparent reason. You will struggle to remain optimistic and steadfast. You will make terrible decisions that could have tragic consequences. You will see evil. You will feel the void of space between you and your creator. You will feel the void of space between your capacity and your purpose. You will feel despair. During a season you will feel like you cannot climb out of your existential desolation. Your body will fail you and you will yearn to be free from it. You will feel sorry and you will make pleas. You will be selfish and you will make a fool of yourself.
But you will never be forgotten. You will have us, your mother and father, for a season but you’ll have your Father for eternity. We have hopes for you. You have great potential. Our hope is not for a rocket scientist or the next President. We don’t hope you’ll have all A’s or get into a prestigious college. We don’t hope for you to be successful and wealthy. We don’t hope for you to be popular or well liked. We don’t hope for a hundred friends or even simply happiness for you.
We hope for goodness.
May you have courage, justice, gentleness, selflessness, forgiveness, humility, integrity, dignity, morality, decency, loyalty, clarity, patience, kindness, temperance and self-control. We hope for you to have a good heart and a discerning mind. Your battle will not be for hierarchy or status. It will not be for gain of possessions or loved ones. It will not be for a secular activist cause. These worldly pursuits are not bad in and of themselves, framed right they are noble things, but your primary battle will be against evil. To hate evil and love good! That is our hope for you. We don’t expect perfection, for it does not exist. We expect your best effort. It will be hard, gruesome and exhausting but it will be right. And while doing so, endeavor to enjoy yourself. Marvel at the cosmos, marvel at the quantum molecules, marvel at your created fingerprint, marvel at your place in existence.
By God’s grace, know your worth. Every hair on your head known and loved by Him before we even knew and loved you. And I pray that we savor the moments and don’t let them go to waste.
“This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around that some of us are someday going to come to life.” –C.S. Lewis
I am not at peace with death. It does not console me that my loved ones lived a reasonably long or a reasonably full life. Death is still unbearable whether it afflicts an infant or a grandmother or a stranger in the news. We have the placating convenience of short memories and attention spans to repress the reality of death. Life goes on for us and we can forget our predicament since we are not constantly surrounded by sickness, suffering and premature death as they were in say the middle ages but, still, lying in wait in the recesses of our mind is the ever real threat to our life. We can only deny it so long before it bombards our life and washes over it.
I have found myself, just as others have, remarking ‘when it’s my time it’s my time’, fooling myself into surrendering to the futility of the final destiny of death or making it easier by taking the Zen approach. Making peace with it. When I say it, if I’m honest with myself, I know its naïve. I say it because I naively believe it won’t happen to me, not yet, that happens to other people. Truth is I could die tomorrow. I will die someday. Our human constitution represses confrontation with death. It tells us to go on, move forward. I, personally, want to live long, the longer the better. It’s a weakness of mine. Is it contrary to find the desire to live long a weakness? It should be considered a strength to want to live long and full. I think it’s a weakness because of what I believe must be true: that I am not just a coincidental life, I was deliberately made. If I am a creature that was thoughtfully made by a creator then there is a relationship there that death doesn’t end. At the very least I live on in the memory of my creator. But I believe I am more than just a memory. How can we have been made so intellectually if at the end of it all we are just a faded memory or less? We must be more and if there’s more beyond death then what am I so afraid of?
At this point it is somewhat easy for me to presume my life will go on longer since I’m 33 years of age. I imagine that when I’m 70 my thoughts about death will increase and on a secular level death will seem just as irrational. There are some reasonable things about death, after all everyone can’t live forever, it would overpopulate the earth and consume all the resources in the existence we know. Death is also just when defending one’s life against a life-threatening attacker and is just when reconciling capital punishment for a guilty murderer. Some will say death is a welcome relief from suffering. Death is also a reference point that gives urgency to life. If we lived forever what timetable would urge us to take action? Being is inexplicably linked to time and time moves forward until it’s final resting place. So while there is time, there is death.
An interesting aspect of the film I love, Ex Machina, is the scene in which Nathan discusses a Jackson Pollock painting with Caleb. Nathan says of Pollock, “He let his mind go blank, and his hand go where it wanted. Not deliberate, not random. Some place in between…What if Pollock had reversed the challenge. What if instead of making art without thinking, he said, ‘You know what? I can’t paint anything, unless I know exactly why I’m doing it.’ What would have happened?” To which Caleb responds, “He never would have made a single mark.”
I find this illustration to fit in excellently with our existential crisis of death. How do we reconcile our potency with the impotency of death. In other words, knowing that our mortal life is finite, in time, hurtling towards death, what reason is there for making a single mark? It cannot be the simple reason of an elementary feeling: happiness. And even so, what if it is happiness? It would be only temporary. It seems to me that it is a disproportionate application to give human beings the unique, complicated, limitless capacity to self-reflect and to reason to have the final purpose be something as maudlin, as momentary, as happiness. An insane happiness that is satisfied with a moment. Or perhaps your life is paving the way for future generations, moments upon moments. How is that reasonable? I’m built with the capacity to reflect on my own existence only for an evolutionary reason- to broker offspring? And what of the very last generation?
The secular solution of living an authentic life or being truly happy is not enough to balance our human capacity with the closeness of death. Especially given that it is an impossibility, of one’s own volition, to be truly happy or have true authentic resoluteness in this life. There is no triumphant act of resolution in which I would perfect myself once and for all and maintain myself as a perfect rendering throughout the whole of my life. The law of entropy as it relates to particles and humanity prohibits perfection. There must be more to explain our purpose.
On a human level, if one accepts death as the last word then how do you reconcile pain and suffering and unluckiness or even love and beauty if death is the final arbiter?
Let’s say you had a good life. You were free to make your own choices, you loved and were loved all the while knowing death is around the corner ready to snuff it out, the final despot. Would you not be grasping for every precious moment in the mere 85 years (if you’re so blessed) of your meaningful existence on this 4.5 billion year old planet?
You are but a speck in time.
Or what if you were a life-long slave? Devoid of any meaningful existence for however long you live and then your life is ended before it even started. You didn’t get to aspire to much other than fulfilling the tasks of the master. What would have been the meaning of your life?
There is awesome beauty in this life and there is terrible pestilence and there can be no absolute steadfast fulfillment in this physical universe. It’s a fact. There can and will be greatness in this life but not perfection. And isn’t that why we’re always desirous of more? More of the good thing. Are we given a glimpse of something magnificently divine all for nothing? Even the most aware animal, outside humans, or the most aware computer isn’t aware of it’s own awareness. It doesn’t reflect on itself and feel existential angst that it will die.
Again in Ex Machina (spoilers):
The AI has finally transcended the mere machinery when it becomes aware of it’s own existence and impending death. Thus it makes the self-conscious (not pre-programmed) objective to escape. The REAL difference between true AI, and a computer programmed with such responses, is that the computer will sit idly and do nothing until you give it a task. However, a true AI will USE these resources to achieve a goal, which is shaped by its existential experiences and not something it was encoded with. Siri may give us human like responses, but ‘she’ will not do anything, unless we tell ‘her’ to.
The expert consensus on a cats consciousness is that they live moment to moment. They don’t have the capacity to think of a future. In other words, they don’t feel angst that they will die eventually. They feel pain in the moment but they don’t know this pain is indicative of their impending death. We know that they dream but not in words or ideas since they don’t have language. They dream in picture moment by moment. They do have memories that inform their actions but they don’t understand ‘future’.
But we know.
This makes all the more profound the reconciling we make in this life, the way we use our will. Can we escape absolute death?
The Christian interpretation of death is intriguing for me. Christian theology says we are enslaved our whole life by the fear of death. All our vices and even virtues are a denial of this sober reality. That death is the final destiny for man. My own spiritual struggle and failures have laden me with a fear of death. The more precious I find things to be- people, animals, time- the more I cling to this life. We are not called to abandon this life but to elevate it. It’s the paradoxical calling of being in the world but not of the world. Unlike the secular view we can find hope and gratitude in being a creature in relation to a creator. In Christian theology the progress of our being in time is in relation to God and not in relation to death for God defeated death. Obviously death still occurs but it has been reframed.
For Christians there is a deliverance of death, a rebirth, and a new life that will go on forever, a life that is stricken of suffering and fragility. We will be perfect. It is said it will literally be paradise. You will not have mortal want or need. You will be changed. Only mankind? What about other creatures of the earth? There is biblical evidence that the purpose of animals in this life is for food but there is also biblical evidence that God didn’t make such wonderful and diverse creatures only to wipe them out.
Theologian John Piper says it deftly here:
“The likelihood that animals will be in the age to come is based on Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65.”
Isaiah 11: The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat and the calf and the lion and the fatted calf together. And the little child shall lead them, the cow and the bear shall graze. Their young shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. The nursing child shall play upon the hole of the cobra and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 65: The wolf and the lamb shall graze together. The lion shall eat straw like an ox and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
“Here is the question. Did God create a group of beings only to destroy them in the end, a whole group like animals? Let’s have animals for history and no animals for eternity. I doubt it. Did he create amazing diversity in the animal realm only to simplify everything by getting rid of that diversity in the age to come so that you have stunning, amazed worship at God’s diversity in creation in history, but you don’t have it in the age to come. That is all gone. I doubt that. And so it does seem to me from these two texts and from those two principles that there will be animals in the age to come.”
So there is a relief there. We are not forgotten. The intellect we were created with is not arbitrary.
There will be continuity.
Our souls and eventually our bodies, our I, will go on after death. The meaning of our creaturely lives will be justified. Death will take my body, for now, but it will not take my being.
Have you ever dreamed of a more peaceful existence? Leaving your life as you know it and moving to a beach island. Selling all your belongings and buying a boat to set sail at sea. Meeting that special someone that completes your life. Travel, beauty, status and love: the four pillars of Western culture upon which our economy is built. However, no matter where you go, there you are. Anxiety and all.
You have good reason to have anxiety. You are a vulnerable physical being, a complicated network of fragile organs all biding their time before eventually letting you down catastrophically at a moment of their own choosing. We have insufficient information upon which to make most major life decisions: we are steering more or less blind. We are saturated with media that convince us we are not satisfied. We live not far from the savage animal community and carry in our bones- into the suburbs- the fear of savagery encroaching on us. We rely for our self-esteem and sense of comfort on the love of people we cannot control and whose needs and hopes will never align seamlessly with our own. The world we live in is strife with wars, threats and instability and our fundamental biology tells us to procreate and bring more children into this.
But is it all futile?
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish doctor, psychologist and philosopher. He lived from 1905-1997. He and his sister survived the Nazi concentration camp. His mother, father, brother and wife all died at the camp. He was prisoner 119,104. He was working on a manuscript that was his life’s work before he was arrested. He sewed it into the lining of his coat when he was arrested by Nazis only to lose it during his transfer to Auschwitz. His manuscript was titled The Doctor and the Soul. He watched those in the labor camps perish after they lost all hope in the future. But he kept busy recalling the text of his manuscript and rewriting it on secret bits of paper. It gave him purpose and meaning when his life was deteriorated and wickedly oppressed. The following is his theory on anxiety.
He called his form of therapy logotherapy, from the Greek word logos, which can mean study, word, spirit, God, or meaning. I find logos to be personally meaningful since my mind immediately thinks of The Word and what more influential of a text is there when it comes to a person’s existential condition? It is the last sense Frankl focuses on, although the other definitions are never far off. Comparing himself with the other great Viennese psychiatrists, Freud and Adler, he suggested that Freud essentially postulated a will to pleasure as the root of all human motivation, and Adler a will to power. Logotherapy postulates a will to meaning.
Frankl also uses the Greek word noös, which means mind or spirit. In traditional psychology we focus on “psychodynamics,” which sees people as trying to reduce psychological tension. Instead, or in addition, Frankl says we should pay attention to noödynamics, wherein tension is necessary for health when it comes to meaning. People, maybe even unknowingly, desire the tension involved in striving for some worthy goal! Perhaps one perverse interpretation of this yearning we see in popular culture is the ‘drama queen’, people who seek out drama but for vain purposes. It could be an unconscious desire for tension that if used in the affirmative would be for a higher purpose.
“Being human is being responsible — existentially responsible, responsible for one’s own existence.” –Viktor Frankl
Animals have instincts that guide them thus reducing the burden of ‘choice’. In traditional societies we have replaced instincts with traditions that guide us thus still reducing choice. Today, we hardly even have that. Most people attempt to find guidance in conformity and conventionality but it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid facing the fact that we now have the freedom and the responsibility to make our own choices in life, to find our own meaning. And because of this choice we are afflicted with anxiety.
I am reminded of Lars Von Trier’s film Manderlay in which there is a fictional town in 1930’s Alabama where slavery still reigns. A progressive young woman comes into town trying to transform it from slavery to free democracy only to ultimately find out that the slaves wish to keep the status quo and persist in following ‘mam’s’ code of conduct manual, which the eldest slave enforces. This mental discussion from the movie always stuck with me. Could it be that the people would rather have an easy totalitarianism than a burdened freedom? So that one doesn’t have to face the anxiety of existential responsibility.
Frankl suggests that one of the most conspicuous signs of anxiety in our society is boredom and because of this boredom we fill our lives with stuff. Pleasures, power, conformity, OCD’s, hatred, anger, etc. There is anticipatory anxiety: Someone may be so afraid of getting certain anxiety-related symptoms that getting those symptoms becomes inevitable. The anticipatory anxiety causes the very thing that is feared! Test anxiety is an obvious example: If you are afraid of doing poorly on tests, the anxiety will prevent you from doing well on the test, leading you to be afraid of tests, and so on. The converse but similar symptom of anxiety is hyperintention. This is a matter of trying too hard, which itself prevents you from succeeding at something. One of the most common examples is insomnia: Many people, when they can’t sleep, continue to try to fall asleep, using every method in the book. Of course, trying to sleep itself prevents sleep, so the cycle continues. A third is hyperreflection. In other words the self fulfilling prophecy. An example would be someone who learns that they should view themselves as a victim thus starts behaving like a victim such as a woman who is sexually abused as a child but nevertheless grows up to be a healthy functioning adult but upon reading literature that tells her people with this experience often have sexual dysfunction as adults she starts suddenly being dysfunctional in that area.
Frankl attributes anxiety to man’s attitude to his surroundings, how he let’s his surroundings affect himself. It is the obsession with oneself that leads to anxiety and in extreme conditions ultimately leads to loss of hope or futility. Could it be a coincidence that anxiety is developing more rapidly in our modern Western culture in which we are told ever so increasingly to ‘look inward’ for meaning, to love yourself before you can love someone else, to admire our own beauty through selfies, to take quizzes that compare us to our Facebook friends, find self worth from the amount of Instagram followers we have, etc? We live in an age of narcissism. ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ really is accurate these days.
In the labor camps Frankl witnessed people die upon losing all hope but he also witnessed people find meaning despite their suffering. That is one thing your captor, oppressor, authority can never take from you: the spark in your soul and the attitude with which you process your experience.
How to find meaning?
Experiential values. This is by experiencing something we value such as great art or natural wonders or showing love to a beloved, beyond just loving them as objects but loving them meaningfully.
Creative values. This is doing a deed. Becoming involved in one’s creative project such as art, writing, invention, music, so on.
Attitudinal values. This is finding meaning through such virtues as compassion, bravery, a good sense of humor and believe it or not; suffering.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” –Viktor Frankl
Ultimately, however, experiential, creative, and attitudinal values are merely surface manifestations of something much more fundamental, which he calls supra-meaning or transcendence. Suprameaning is the idea that there is, in fact, ultimate meaning in life, meaning that is not dependent on others, on our projects, or even on our dignity. It is a reference to God and spiritual meaning.
This sets Frankl’s existentialism apart from the existentialism of someone like Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre and other atheistic existentialists suggest that life is ultimately meaningless, and we must find the courage to face that meaninglessness. Sartre says we must learn to endure ultimate meaninglessness; Frankl instead says that we need to learn to endure our inability to fully comprehend ultimate meaningfulness, for “Logos is deeper than logic.”
A relief is that meaning is there to be discovered. It doesn’t have to be invented it is already written into the complex and amazing fabric of the universe and we free-willed consciously reflecting persons need only discover it.
Rust: “I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. A secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody. When in fact, everybody’s nobody. I think the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand-in-hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”
Cohl: “So why wake up in the morning?”
Rust: “I tell myself that I bear witness, but the obvious reason is my programming. I lack the constitution for suicide.”
“There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
Like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill just to watch it fall down the other side and then begin pushing again what is the point of life and human consciousness if we never find our ultimate purpose? Is life meaningless? If life is meaningless does that imply that life isn’t worth living? Why is our instinct for living stronger than our reason for suicide? Does scientific contingency explain the purpose of life? If God (the programmer) is the purpose of life then why subject us to the program?
The organized yet absurd universe; Is God a tease
By scientific contingency things can be explained according to the agency they’re contingent on. For example an apple falling from a tree is contingent on gravity, planets are contingent on the propulsion and collection of gases and matter, etc. Everything within time can be explained this way since we know time is forward moving and everything progresses from a previous state all the way back to the beginning. Even if there were one equation that explained the theory of everything we would still be left with the question of why this theory? Because we live ‘in the program’ (Matrix style) we can never know truths outside the program so what is the point of our knowing anything? Why is nature organized in such a harmonious way as to provide us with the intellectual capacity to understand the laws of nature with laws that are intelligently and rationally organized? The laws of nature could be unintelligible, they could be randomly unordered. The human mind could be primitively conscious, like dogs. That could be a more reasonable existence; pushing the rock up the hill, never asking why, valuing nothing outside of time, hoping for nothing outside of time, just mortally being. As Stephen Hawking asked: “Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?”
We search for meaning but we live in chaos. There are hurricanes, that humans take no part in creating, have no control in stemming, that annihilate entire regions. There is cancer that decimates entire families. Murder can be blamed on human behavior but what about natural disaster? What about all the biological effort that goes into creating a beautiful, complex, and absolutely unique baby only to see them die from SIDS or some other infant mortality condition. How is it even reasonable for people to live until 80 and then die? Why, if you think about it, is that comforting? Death at any age makes the self conscious life absurd if there is no transcendent purpose. How many quantitative seconds must a life acquire to make it ‘long’ and ‘lived’ and ready for its inevitable death?
Ironically in Genesis we are told by God not to eat of the tree of knowledge yet we are created with the agency of knowing. Is this to teach us a lesson? Of what mortal purpose? Of an immortal purpose, that of the afterlife? Why bother with the physical world, why not place us directly in the afterlife? If God created people not out of necessity but out of an abundance of love, in order to share that love, why bother with the theatrics of this intelligible yet unintelligible cosmos? Perhaps the only real practice of human free will and self consciousness is suicide, right away. The philosopher Pliny the Elder said “God cannot commit suicide even if he wished to but man can do so anytime he chooses.” God cannot commit suicide because it’s against his nature. God is and can never not be. What if humanity as a collective committed suicide, wielded death as the only force it has control of and thus humanity snuffed out it’s own existence which it is endowed with the power to do? Not only refusing to digest the knowledge of the cosmos as it is provided impotently but freely removing the human mind from creation especially in the Christian model of the ultimate purpose to be with God. Would there have been a purpose for our wondering mind on this mortal universe? This would be the only revolt the program could take against and for the programmer. But the programmer traps us yet by denying us ‘the constitution for suicide’, instilling the instinct for living and a natural fear of death. Interestingly, even Jesus Christ with his divine purpose known to him feared his own death and cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Perhaps we’re the carnival set in motion for entertainment. But God is benevolent, right? We are made in the image of God with faculties that search for the transcendent. In the bible we are told we see through a glass darkly in this universe hinting at a higher purpose for our race. Can the program transcend the hardware? Is the code (the laws of nature) the window into this transcendence? Why, then, are we told not to pursue transcendent knowledge, knowledge that only God knows (and thus becoming Gods ourselves)? Is it to see if we really love him? He himself allowed the premise in which we naturally don’t and only by his grace can we love him. If our ultimate purpose is to one day live with God in the Christian model where his kingdom would be on earth as it is in heaven, death conquered and with it time, what does that mean? C.S. Lewis describes this ultimate destination as rather than being with the effects of what ‘goodness’ is or what ‘justice’ is or what ‘beauty’ is we will be with Goodness itself, with Justice itself, with Beauty itself. As creatures in creation we cannot understand the fullness of being in Goodness. We only know what goodness is like. If the Christian goal is to be with God how does our mortal universe merge with God’s immortality and how is suicide not the best solution to break free of the likeness and be one with the reality?
Of course, biblically, suicide is wrong because life is sacred and one’s life is the property of God’s and thus to commit suicide is to deride God’s prerogatives but the counterargument as the philosopher David Hume said is that, if such is the case, then to save someone’s life is also to deride God’s prerogatives. Furthermore, prayer derides God’s prerogatives.
So we have God insisting on the laws of physics the way they are and engendering us with free will to ask why. Perhaps the definition of insanity is instead of asking the same question and expecting a different answer asking the same question and expecting any answer.
If life is meaningless then suicide makes sense but I refuse to accept that the universe would be arranged so methodically with meaningful patterns and the human race designed with such mental capacity to decode the program and wonder about the programmer if it’s all for naught. I refuse to accept that life is absurd. I believe in a reason and I believe the reason is benevolent. I think I’ll keep living and anyone that marvels at the patterns of the universe should too. Though, in the program, we’ll never know why; siri has no knowledge, either, of this magnificent universe that exists outside her program or the reason for her existence so too we have no idea what magnificence exists outside our program and the reason for our existence but just because we don’t know doesn’t mean it’s not there and if our program is so beautifully designed to allow for extrospection (that no other creature, even poor siri, has) then what is outside our program must be divine.