Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Way of a good dialogue

I was recently re-reading the dialogue “Is God a Taoist” (in The Mind’s I) and it had many intellectually delectable parts. The dialogue consists of a mortal talking to God about free will. The mortal’s initial request of seeking understanding about why God gave the mortal free will divaricates in many philosophical directions with interesting notions raised and ideas expressed. Here are two main excerpts.

GOD: Here I am eternally blissful without ever having to suffer or make sacrifices or struggle against evil temptations or anything like that. Without any of that type of “merit,” I enjoy blissful eternal existence. By contrast, you poor mortals have to sweat and suffer and have all sorts of horrible conflicts about morality, and all for what? You don’t even know whether I really exist or not, or if there really is any afterlife, or if there is, where you come into the picture. No matter how much you try to placate me by being “good,” you never have any real assurance that your “best” is good enough for me, and hence you have no real security in obtaining salvation. Just think of it! I already have the equivalent of “salvation” – and have never had to go through this infinitely lugubrious process of earning it. Don’t you ever envy me for it?

(and another good one, at a different part in the dialogue)

GOD: … all the arguments of the moralists – all the alleged reasons why people shouldn’t commit evils acts – simply pale into insignificance in light of the one basic truth that evil is suffering.

No, … I am not a moralist. I am wholly a utilitarian. That I should have been conceived in the role of moralist is one of the great tragedies of the human race. My role in the scheme of things (if one can use this misleading expression) is neither to punish nor reward, but to aid the process by which all sentient beings achieve ultimate perfection.

MORTAL: Why did you say your expression is misleading?

GOD: What I said was misleading in two respects. First of all it is inaccurate to speak of my role in the scheme of things. I am the scheme of things. Secondly, it is equally misleading to speak of my aiding the process of sentient beings attaining enlightenment. I am the process. The ancient Taoists were quite close when they said of me (whom they called “Tao”) that I do not do things, yet through me all things get done. In more modern terms, I am not the cause of the Cosmic Process, I am Cosmic Process itself. I think the most accurate and fruitful definition of me which man can frame – at least in his present state of evolution – is that I am the very process of enlightenment. Those who wish to think of the devil (although I wish they wouldn’t!) might analogously define him as the unfortunate length of time the process takes. In this sense, the devil is necessary; the process simply does take an enormous amount of time, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. But, I assure you, once the process is more correctly understood, the painful length of time will no longer be regarded as an essential limitation or evil. It will be seen to be the very essence of the process itself. I know this is not completely consoling to you who are now in the finite sea of suffering, but the amazing thing is that once you grasp this fundamental attitude, your very finite suffering will begin to diminish – ultimately to the vanishing point.

I really wish I could adopt this metaphysical view because I think that much happiness could be gained from it. Sadly, the notion of reincarnation is incoherent; or at least requires a departure from an evidence-based existence. I do like the idea of ‘the process of enlightenment,’ but modifying from the possible capital ‘E’ Enlightenment to the idea of understanding more about the world and the consequences of one’s actions.

My main concern is that of the pain of a victim. It just doesn’t make sense to me to believe that a perpetrator is hurting themselves more than the pain caused to their victim. Heck, if I could get behind that, I’d be blissed out almost all the time.

2 Comments:

Anonymous dave said...

i read that (it seems a hundred years ago, ok, eight years ago) in a book called God in all Worlds. i think i lent it to you for a time. it is interesting stuff. anyhow you need to check out Bright Eyes on the tonight show. he sings a song called "when the president talks to God". it's sweet.
http://www.saddle-creek.com/
dude you'll love it!

here are the words:

When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our women's rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God say ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke
No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That's what God recommends

When the president talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess god just calls a spade a spade
When the president talks to God

When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the president talks to God?

I doubt it

I doubt it

4:01 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

We did read that a long time ago and I ended up getting the book you lent me at one time (yet I haven't read it much). :)
Nice lyrics, I'll be checking them out.

10:35 AM  

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