Monday, April 10, 2017

Why God Lets Bad Things Happen

I'm replaying this older article ...

Disclaimer: First, God's not a bearded dude on a cloud. That's ridiculous. Second, people who use the term "God" a lot (particularly with the prestige uppercasing) are the very worst sort of name-droppers. Third, human beings have a knack for grinding down all loveliest words under the crushing weight of their stubborn ignorance. Even "poetry" has had most of the poetry sucked out of it, so good luck finding any juiciness at all in the term "god", which propels listeners into their blinkered, neurotic policy positions on The Subject, where they stop listening.

So I'm going to use the "G" word only once, in the first paragraph, only because it lets me frame the issue in familiar terms, and I won't bring it up again. As you'll see, this isn't really about god (or, even, God). It's about, as ever, us.

Here's why a loving, munificent god lets kids get cancer, and all the rest of the horrors: It's because we want it that way.

Human beings seek out stories to identify with. Narratives. Plot lines. Thrills-and-chills tales of trial, redemption, loss, tragedy, and jubilation. If that full range of outcomes isn't represented in our lives, we fabricate them in our imagination and in our art. We project, and then we identify with our projections. How often do you see people creating needless drama? How many millions are right this moment tightly wound up in "first world problems"? How many make themselves maxi-stressed over the outcome of a ballgame, or the weather report, or the stock market? Why do humans pay to ride rollercoasters?

It's because we like it, and crave it. In pursuit of rich experience (both "good" and "bad"), we make stories out of our stories out of our stories, and we absolutely want it all: comedy, drama, rom-com, horror, porno, and tragedy. All human entertainments - the worlds we, ourselves, construct with our god-like creativity - contain monsters and perils. Why would we create monsters and perils if we desperately want to avoid them? Again, we do want we can enjoy pretending to fear them! We want monsters and stress and drama and loss and violence, along with laughs and love and bliss. We have an innately abusive relationship with the universe, and, as with every abusive relationship, we subconsciously choose this dynamic 'cuz the making-up part is so, so good.

This world is exactly what you asked for: a huge, collaborative story ripe with exciting joy and sorrow, and it perpetually churns for our entertainment. If it were all cookies and pixie-dust, we'd be bored out of our skulls, and build even more chilling video games, movies and rollercoasters.

Consider America. After millennia spent desperately seeking cheat codes for this world, figuring the whole while that things would be so much better if only we could purge the illness and lions and warlords, the famines, droughts, and extreme poverty, we've done it! This richest of rich-world countries has expunged the vast majority of its nemeses! Yet look around you. Most of us spend most of our time building needless drama, stress, and sorrow for ourselves. We are far more depressed than any human beings anywhere, ever. We build internal towers of brooding discontent, and spend vast tracts of time lost in tumultuous TV shows and video games and sad songs and memories of pain and worries of loss, desperately seeking out whatever snatches of drama we can find to identify with.

Having finally slayed the monsters, we are bored, discontent, and hellbent on creating new monstrous worlds to inhabit as deeply and as continuously as possible. Virtual reality technology is right around the corner, and one senses that the public can hardly wait. Do you imagine we'll use it to build lovely realms without violence, pain, or menace? Of course not. We like those things! We plainly crave them! Even in our "real" offline lives, we creatively find dire stress and drama amid our ridiculously safe and comfortable American existence!

We inhabit a bright, beautiful planet full of promise and peril, lovingly tailored to our precise specifications. We need the sad and horrible parts. If we don't get enough of them - if we've implemented cheats to override them - we pay to get our fix, and/or brood, worry, and stress our way there. We need all the movies.

We make only one single mistake in all this. We're so adept at immersion and identification with storylines that we easily lose ourselves. Our problem as a species is that we immerse so deeply in drama (especially the parts that seem deadly serious - the grisliest, saddest, most turbulent storylines) that we forget we're the ones who signed up for this. The solution is to wear it all much more lightly, and to remember that the rollercoasters are merely rides (we waited on line!), not oppressors.

And that's on us, not "Him".

One level deeper, if you really want to go there...

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Thanks Jim!
“The world is so full of a number of things, I ’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

― Robert Louis Stevenson

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