Holiday cheer

Does our appreciation of the beauty and goofiness of the physical universe justify our mortality?

Does our appreciation of the beauty and goofiness of the physical universe justify our mortality?

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

As usual when the Christmas season approaches, Culture Vulture is embroiled in theological speculation of the ambivalent sort.

Like many rational, semi-educated individuals who were brought up on the teachings of Christ—i.e. love your neighbor, judge not your fellow man, show compassion to all people whether you are more economically privileged than they or not—I am often puzzled by the machinations of our allegedly Christian societal structure. And, beyond that, I often wonder about the ultimate intentions of God the creator in regard to puny, imperfect mankind.

In these musings, more often than not I find myself making excuses for God’s seeming lack of regard for the immense suffering and inevitable death of each of his living creations. A favorite line of thought is that God gave humans free will so that he would not be alone in the universe, but, being innocent of the concept of disagreement could not foresee that some of his autonomous creations might, at some juncture in their development as self-conscious entities, begin pointing out that there are certain functions and limitations of reality that they feel hinder their ability to fully develop and express their own free will.

Immediately, the portion of my mind that craves beauty and pleasure and loving companionship counters with the shop-worn conundrum that opposition is a necessary component of a universe whose structure allows choices of only a limited sort. For instance, all humans must eat to live—there is no choice in the matter—but those of us lucky enough to live in economic circumstances that include supermarkets and health-food stores are allowed to choose between grass-fed beef steak and organic tofu, while those who live in famine-blighted Third World nations have the choice of starvation or subsisting on whatever foodstuffs can make it past the web of economic corruption that sustains the local government.

As a believer in a benevolently motivated God, such thoughts are, to put it mildly, discomforting. As spiritual beings, those of us who live in privileged economic circumstances seem to me the equivalent of favored prisoners who have developed Stockholm syndrome. Our creature comforts allow us to sympathize with God’s loneliness, to worship and praise the source of our pleasure; but if we do so at the expense of our fellow humans—the people working in far away sweatshops assembling our cheap clothing, shoes and electronic gadgets—we neglect to acknowledge our kinship with all of mortal creation.

Personally, I’m sure that God, if he exists, wants us all to be happy, productive and compassionately helpful to one another. But I wish he’d just come out of hiding and admit he didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he created the universe we live in.