The Coward

There is a place that I should much like you to know of, though you in your better wisdom should wish to know it not.  And were it not a real place, I would be entirely content to write of it and relieve my weary heart.  But that it is real, I am forbidden to so do.

So I will write of it as if it were a fantasy, and in the mystery of your mind’s enchanted places, the vision of my story will reside—for you to judge and give it life or death, that if you let it live, and believe it to be truth, you alone will be to blame for this outrageous, unlawful act.

If you are to come to know this place that may or may not be real, you must first begin to understand the Royal Courts of Wise Men.

If I am not lying to you, the Royal Courts have been around for many a millennium, providing wisdom for the fool and ruling over all the earth.  Many a man who has lost his way has come across the Courts, and with a trembling soul and desperate heart, he enters.  There he finds the Noble Men who sit in the seats of mockers, and when he pleads his case before them, it is not until after much scornful laughter and disdainful condemnation that they take his soul’s adversity and put it in a box.  They package it with proverbs and tie it shut with merit, and with this done they give it back and send him on his way.

He leaves in utter confusion, not sure if he should be sad or glad.  He cannot tell whether the Royal Men were his dearest guides and friends or his tyrannical adversaries.  Of only one thing is he certain: he will not reject their advice, which seems more like commands, for it has relieved him of his duty to think, and for this he is very grateful.

So do men come in and out of the Royal Courts in an assembly line of ignorance, and in those days—if there ever were such days, for remember, all of this is only true if you let it be—there was such a man who came to the Courts in desperate search for wisdom, for his heart had bore a grief much greater than it could hold.

And so the man came, in utter despair, through the forest of confusion; in lonely, solemn march, he made his way through those dark and winding woods.  So thick and dense is the foliage that none who enter can hope to keep their bearings.  Lost and wandering in aimless surrender, he came upon the Courts.  Looking up he saw their construct towering above him as high as to the heavens, promising answers from the secrete places, and he, at the end of his will’s determination, seized the door and pulled it open with a force that came from the bowels of his heavy heart.

Upon his so dong, the massive doors began to open on their own, as if compelled by fate or moved by the supernatural force of wisdom.

With caution, he entered and beheld the most glorious sight his eyes had ever seen, for before him stood the Royal Courts in such majesty.  He gazed across the endless palace ceiling decorated with Royal paintings and scenes of such beauty that the pen would reach beyond his means to try to write them down.  The Court was structured with magnificent ionic columns and ornamentations of silver and gold that, from the outer perimeter, grew thicker and thicker until, at the centre, the room expanded into an immense flood of space with a domed ceiling of infinite hight, equipped with many skylights through which shown a sun that seemed much brighter than the one that barely graced the forest floor outside, all rising upward, ever upward.  And at the very centre were three monstrous thrones upon the high tops of which sat the Counsel of Wise Men.

Our weary pilgrim, in speechlessness at the sight, fell on his face before the thrones in grievous, piteous solicitation.  The Wise Men looked down on him.  They saw his wrinkled tunic and equally worn brow, and taking him to be a common beggar, poor in wisdom as he was in wealth, they asked him his desire.  And trembling, he lifted his head to try to speak, but no words would come out.  At this, the man on the middle throne, whose voice was like thunder, commanded him, “Rise humble servant.  What is it you wish?”

And rising to his feet, the peasant pleaded, “I have come, o noble ones, in want of an answer to my endless woe, that I might ease me of my pain.”

At this, the wise man on the left, seeing that the poor man had noble desires and being well pleased at so virtuous a solicitation, said to him, “It is good of you to seek the advice of wiser men, and we, as friends, shall be glad to grant you help.  Please proceed.  How came you to this state of desperation?”

The lesser man replied, “It was not long ago that I used to dwell in the safer hidden caves of this world, living there in silence and safety.  Daily I secluded myself in their mysterious crevasses, taking care to never bother another soul.  Though others called me selfish, ignorant, and dead to life, I was, for a long time, perfectly content with my invisible life, or non-life, of secrecy.  I think I should have gladly gone on in that secluded state to this day if I had been so allowed, for I had no desire to leave.”

The man paused as if unsure he could go on, for the painful memory of his tragedy, he thought, would surely grab his tongue, shortly, and forbid him speak it.  But the wise man on the right, who spoke in a gentle whisper encouraged him to continue, “How did it happen, then, that you should find yourself here? What demon’s curse could have compelled you from your blissful state?”

“No demon’s curse!” the man rebuked him, forgetting himself and his respect for the Royal Court, “but divine blessing of beauty beyond compare withdrew me from my cave.

“It was a glorious evening.” he continued, easing his tone, “The sun was setting on the horizon, painting every tree and plant a fiery shade of red and gold.  The warm summer’s air blew fragilely across the landscape, hesitating before entering my cave with a gracefulness that was only mildly dampened by the harsh construct of the rocks.  Moved by the sweet fragrance of lilies, as many are often moved, I thought it would be good to enjoy the evening’s air and peek to see what beautiful scene must lie beyond my cavern.  I crept with caution to the mouth of the rock, a decision I would forever regret, and leaned against a protruding stalagmite to grace my eyes with the vision that lay beyond.”

“Aye, so it was the sun that drew you out” said the wise one on the left.

“No,” responded the amiable fool, “it was something much more than I could ever have imagined, for just outside my dark and hollow cave, I saw the most glorious angel that heaven could design.  Her brown hair, tinted gold with the sun’s gentle beams, danced in the wind while she walked, as one of divine origin, through the open field, admiring the breathtaking view.  Her delicate figure and grace was surly something of heaven, for the world is not equipped with such tender beauty.  In her hand, she held a bouquet of lilies that she must have found among the many that were growing in the field.  Though they smelled like heaven, and the evening looked more majestical than the glory of Rome, none compared to the incomprehensible beauty that I saw in her.  And as she looked upon the field in awe, so did I look upon her.

“At last, I could bear it no more; I had to go become a part of her.  Without thinking twice, I left the comfort of my home, which now seemed a prison, and pursued her with all my heart.  When I had reached her across the field, I placed my hand on her shoulder.  She turned and unveiled to me her divinely beauteous face that seemed to shine on me with beams from heaven itself.  I felt my knees grow weak, and I could not speak.

“I wished to tell her how radiant she was.  How her face was like the sun, and her body like that of a goddess.  I wanted to tell her that she, a nymph, was the most glorious thing my eyes had ever beheld and that I had not known joy until that very moment.  I wanted to ask her to never leave me but always stay, that I could provide for her every need and grant her every wish.  I longed to tell her so much, but all I could not, for my breath had left me.

“Gentlemen, I may not be a nobleman of wisdom, but I do know this: the sun sets.  And once it does, all that’s left is darkness.”

Upon saying this, the man grew silent, as if his words had run out like a music box whose spring becomes slack, and he began to weep.  But the man with the thunderous voice roared, “You fool!  You should have never left the cave, for the cave is small, and one may know its structure well and in it, may never get lost.  But the end of the cave is the end of wisdom, and to leave was utter folly.”

“When you departed,” added the one on the left, “you left the one place where you were sure to live in peace.  You should have never gazed over the edge of that rock, for the rock was all that kept you safe from this vain illusion.”

“This fantasy is folly,” whispered the one on the right, “and your overlooking your ignorance is what caused your vain desire.  If you hadn’t left, you would never have desired that which you cannot have.”

“You must return,” the middle one thundered, “to your cave, even if it seems a hell, for you brought this on yourself, and for it you must pay.  Away!  To your prison!”

The man could not believe the words he heard, and he chose to believe them not.  “No,” he said, “you misunderstand me.  My mistake was not seeing her but remaining mute before her.  I would never take away my memory of her, but the grief I bear is because I am a coward and would not speak.”

“You fool!” the council rebuked him again, “there is no sense in what you say, for she was an illusion.  She was not joy, but the destroyer of happiness, for she lay beyond the reach of wisdom.”

Though the memory of his cowardly act gave the peasant much grief, this thought gave him more, and so he drew his breath in pain: “Well perhaps that’s what joy is,” he replied, “perhaps joy is the destroyer of all happiness, who lies beyond the reach of wisdom.”

And for that thought alone, the man was exiled to the place that isn’t real—the place where cowards are sent for crimes of treason and folly.

For the Noble Wise-Men of the Court, if there were such men, were very joyous, and all who said otherwise, if there were such people, were guilty of high treason and sent away to the place that lie beyond that kingdom ruled by wisdom, a place which, if there is such a place, must be dreadfully miserable, for there could be no happiness there.

However, my dear reader, there probably isn’t such a place, and all this probably never happened, so don’t let it bother you too much.  For it, lying beyond the reach of reality, cannot bring much joy because it is the destroyer of all happiness, and only a coward would choose anything over happiness, and only a fool would believe such a thing exists.

What’s Left

I am not a scholar of religions.  I know quite a bit about the way people think and even about the way people in other countries think, but I do not know very much specifically about every one of the millions of religions on the face of the earth.  Therefore, I cannot say I have chosen Christianity as a result of intensive research, but I will say I have done so as a result of much careful consideration, analysis of experience, and collaboration.  In fact, while the first two of these are often the most intellectually satisfying, the third is almost always the most compelling.  If you are a Christian who is having some difficulty believing, I highly recommend talking to an atheist.  Do not, so much, try to argue with them; just talk, ask questions, and go through their thought process with them, and watch as it falls apart all by itself.  Usually, unless they are just genuinely confused people, atheists tend to be very good at arguing, but when it comes to mere philosophical thinking, they run in to natural issues (and please, I do not intend to offend any of my atheist friends, I am just trying to explain what course the debates generally take as a result of the very structure of reality–intellect is irrelevant).  As Christians, we have nothing to hide, there is no intellectual dishonesty that we must cover with word games or what have you.  Instead, the Christian’s duty in an apologetics debate is to stay out-of-the-way of truth and let satins lies expose themselves˚.  All this should be done with the most gracious and loving of attitudes, for it is an attempt to free your opponent’s (whom you would rather call your friend) mind from the lies just as much as it is to free your own.

This post is entitled “what’s left” because I here intend to address what is left of the issue of the Omnipotent; this is the transition post from metaphysics to theology, if we would pretend the argument were so well-organized.  As I have already implied, the primary task that remains for us is to identity which organized religion best suits our derived metaphysical model†. As I said, I am not a scholar of religions; therefore, I will proceed by identifying the necessary qualities of a satisfactory religion and this done, we shall find that the Christian model sticks out dramatically in its principles.  It is for this reason that I hold it to be somewhat superfluous to deal individually with every single religion we can possibly find; though I would by no means discourage the process, for there is likely much wisdom to be gained from such an endeavor.  After all, as C. S. Lewis writes (excuse my failure to bother with exact quotes), while the atheist must hold all talk of anything beyond naturalism as utter nonsense, the Christian is free to believe, and even expect, there to be bits of truth in all religions.

To be clear, concise, and orderly, three things which I almost never am, the sort of religion we should be searching for based on the argument this far posses the following qualities:

  1. It should be centered on an Omnipotent being, a God, that is the cause and definition of all of reality.  This excludes pantheism/polytheism because the quest should be for a root cause, not an inexplicable set of causes–there should be a singular, Omnipotent source of being.  If we instead hold separately the source of each faculty of being, then our argument for reason breaks down and we fall into a cyclical (recursive) insanity.  For our logical scope is dependent on the interdependencies of each of the faculties of being.  That is, if we are sets of unrelated characteristics, then we cannot be “rational thoughts” inside of the Omnipotent’s mind (for rational thoughts must be coherent), and therefore, we cannot explain the cause of logic, and we have left the absolutist scope established earlier through the art of rhetoric. To simplify, there cannot be one god of logic who is not good and one god of goodness who is not logical, as pantheism/polytheism requires, because if that were so, neither would be omnipotent in the sense we have described, the sense that is required in order for a functional scope of logic to exist–logic would no longer be universal, but instead would have a partitioned domain of reality in which to exist.  The alternative is a fractal reality: one that is entirely logical, entirely good, and entirely every other characteristic which the Omnipotent possesses by our model.  This is necessary just as every other part of the argument is necessary: reality must have a root cause, and there we must find also the cause of reason, morality, love, and being-hood.  Pantheism/polytheism are primarily an illusion–usually, they are based around a model that really uses one god from whom others were derived, thus not really being Gods due to their lack of self-sufficiency.˚
  2. Its God should be entirely good, loving, and logical.  As concluded in “The Character of the Omnipotent.”
  3. It should allow for the use of reason.  If any religion does not allow one to contemplate its truth-hood, then there is no reason to suspect it to be true: for even by doing so, you are rejecting its truth-hood.  (Consider the paradoxical sentence: “This statement is false.”)
  4. It should acknowledge us as a part of the Omnipotent’s creation.
  5. It should acknowledge the infinite domain of existence of the Omnipotent as well as of his perfected creation.  It should also allow for the possibility of evil and the natural consequences that arise from morality and immorality as a result of the moral structure of reality. That is, it should allow non-being–the natural consequence of evil due to the fact that all being is good.
  6. It should satisfy the “Art of Thought”–a subject that I will likely touch one in a future post.
Even after this brief list of qualities†, the possible candidate religions are greatly narrowed.  However, there is one piece of the puzzle that is yet missing–a piece whose absence, in all religions that I know of but one, excludes them from the running. That puzzling piece is the reconciliation of natural justice (that non-being stuff) and love.  I know of many religions that simultaneously acknowledge justice and love (usually with a tendency to focus on one or the other), but I am yet to find a religion other than Christianity that allows the two an infinite domain of being.  It goes back to my formally seemingly useless ramblings about pantheism and polytheism.  There are many religions that allow for a partitioned domain in which love may exist and another section in which justice may exist, but only Christianity explains how they may both exist infinitely as they must by our model. It does so with a story:
We have a God who created us perfectly in His own image (like what the pagans call gods).  He loved us infinitely and gave us the capability to love Him and, consequentially, the freedom not to.  We chose not to and the natural consequence should have been death.  Upon our rejection of His love, we were (or would have been–of course time is hardly relevant, and mostly metaphorical) dethroned of our being-hood; however, being a loving God, He chose to give of Himself, thus meeting the definition of a loving God, instead of allowing for the termination of ourselves.  If you have theoretical difficulty with this part, think of Him as thrusting being-hood back into us via the giving of his own being-hood.  Of course, He leaves our salvation ultimately up to us thus leaving the free will intact.  Even after his saving of us, we can still choose to turn away. “Sometimes no matter how much life you give something, it dies anyway.”
Allow me to further relate the story to our model: It is as if our being-hood, our very selves, were a sandcastle built by God, and He gave us the option to enjoy it as it is or knock it down. We chose to knock it down–to knock ourselves down–and so God drew from Himself, a Being of infinite sand, to rebuild it.  Upon rebuilding it, He gave us the choice once more, only this time with us knowing, in the highest sense of the word, what the consequence of destroying it is.  Thus, the result of a redeemed humanity is the exact same thing God created in the fist place only now with a knowledge, or self-awareness, of what that existence is˚.  Hence you have the theme of death and resurrection sprinkled all throughout the universe.
And now my dear friends, that all this messy theorizing and calculating not go to waste, we must move the second faculty of the soul in order that our step up the mountain of purgatory be a complete one†.  That faculty is the will: what are we to do with all this theory?  If our conclusion is correct, then all of our lives here on this earth are but the occurrence of a single event: the decision between eternal live and eternal death.  That’s it.  There is never a moment of meaninglessness, nor a moment of incomparable value.  No amount of pleasure is worth enjoying nor amount of pain worth avoiding if only you may make the right decision about heaven.  “All is vanity under God.”  The only thing that matters at all is God Himself, and therefore the only thing that matters in this life is that precious decision.  Whatever age you are, life is almost over.  Do not let anything get in the way of Heaven, for nothing is worth it.  Choose  very carefully.
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˚Like the ‘act of non-action’ for you eastern thinkers

† I apologize for this awkward shift from a Christian perspective to an objective one.  I might rather say: the task remains to explain why our model is best embodied in Christianity.

˚ This is me being clear, concise, and orderly!

† Brief

˚ Of course, with fractal reality, all this story stuff is entirely true and entirely false depending on what you mean by it.  There is indeed a sense in which the redeemed humanity will have never left Heaven because (1) the whole story, even the death, is a part of his paradise, (2) even as a dead man, he was bound for eternal life.  Although he did have a choice in the matter, because he chose life, he may look back at when he was dead and realize that even then he was in paradise because he was on his way to becoming an everlasting splendor, and (3) a finite amount of time spent dead is completely and literally negligible when held next to a timeless eternity of life.

† If you don’t know what I’m talking about, but do care, look up the medieval model of the soul.

Joy is a Whisper

Joy is a whisper in the darkened night of day;

It comes not in the morn’ or when the life of earth be gay.

No, joy is found in the darkest of worldly depths:

In the sweet and lonely crow of a morning cock,

Who’s pleading song awakes the daytime’s breath

With mourning breath and sound that darkness mocks.

In the coldest, darkest hour of nighttime’s reign

Does he first beginning to sing his woeful tune–

That, not till all his unheard calls seem vain,

Awakes fiery Helios to heavenly renew.

 

‘Tis then that somber Selene surrenders her throne

Upon which sits a kingdom ever-changing.

With that the muses ‘cross the land do roam

And in happy folly do begin their singing.

Thus the song of mourning turns to the morning

Song of fools. Who drink their happiness away.

Oh what pleasure is found in the face of a fool smiling

Who fills his fleeting moment with things so gay;

All too soon to find this time of quickness

Has quickly passed him by with chariots’ swiftness.

 

The blissful kingdom now crumbles to utter ruin

As the global tip does flame in brilliant burn,

And as Aeneas’ eyes did once reflect in pain

The Trojan Tragedy by pagan devils spurned,

So the fool onward looks as he sees his kingdom’s  fate

Who’s shortest, worthless reign would not worthed more

Had a thousand times the time of day been t’ rate

Of the death of his foolish pleasure, now his soar.

As darkness once more covers the empty earth

The world waits in silence for the wise cock’s verse.

 

That Joy is a whisper in the darkened night of day;

It comes not in the morn’ or when the life of earth be gay.

The Necessity of Evil

Ooo, creepy.

I ended my post on the Character of the Omnipotent an overly classical˚ foreshadowing of a post to come which would touch on why the Omnipotent would allow our “mortal, finite bodies to be void or partly void of being.”  This is that post.

So far in our model of the Omnipotent, we have One who is Infinite, Rational, Good, Caring, and Loving of us. And as for our model of ourselves, we are infinite, fractal beings embodied in (or imitated by) finite bodies created with love for a purpose equal to the purpose which the Omnipotent has for Himself. That purpose is to exist in the Perfect and Beautiful state which the Omnipotent “presently” enjoys.  If you are an existentialist reading this and have an issue with such being our purpose, then your error is your reading this far before converting to absolutism.  This argument established an absolutist scope from the very beginning; therefore, with in this scope, such a Purpose is valuable on an Absolute level.  That is, the Omnipotents’ Being is Absolutely Good, and to exist like Him is also, therefore, Absolutely good.

By existing “like” Him, I mean existing in the manner in which He created us to exist. Which is to exist as a part of Him.  Each of us is a thought in His mind with a specific “place” that we belong and “function” for which we exist (by nature of being coherent rational thoughts).  Our purpose is to exist in that place and satisfy that function.

Our beings, having been “begotten” of His being, must posses all the qualities of His being†.  Therefore, our beings are loving.  And since they are designed entirely for their purpose, their every quality must be a necessity in fulfilling that purpose.  Therefore, it is necessary that our beings are loving in order to fulfill our purpose.  “Loving of what?” is just a silly question at this point, for the Omnipotent makes up and encompasses all of reality and therefore to love anything other than Him is Absolute Nonsense˚.

So man’s purpose is therefore to love the Omnipotent as He loves man†.  But what is love? Love is the act of feeling joy at another’s presence, the sacrificial longing for the Good of another, the desire of another, the intellectual realization and acknowledgment that another is Good˚… and all arising from the free will of a being.  Therefore, in order to create us to be loving beings, as He did that we might fulfill our purpose, the Omnipotent had to give us free will.  It is Absolute Nonsense for loving beings to exist without free will, and since He is loving, it is also Absolute Nonsense for Him to “beget” beings that are not loving.  Thus we His creatures had to be given the option not to love.

But to not love is to no longer be a part of the Omnipotent, for he is infinitely loving, and to no longer be a part of Him is to no longer be a part of reality–to cease to exist.  This is our model of evil: nonbeing.  In order for love to exist, He had to make our existence optional; thus, evil was a necessary evil.  Any one of us can choose to turn away from the joy of being to the pain of nonbeing.

This whole phenomenon is best illustrated, as it has been, using the metaphor of time (i.e. that we are created at one point and allowed to exist a while in a body and then to decide to no longer be), though it is logically paradoxical because eternity is beyond time.  One might expect that the ones who would have chosen to not be would therefore not have been created.  With fractal reality, we know that both of these are simultaneously true: there is a sense in which the beings who steal away from the gathering of joy† never really exist and also a sense in which a whole journey happens at the conclusion of which such beings are no more.  Remember, reality is infinite and any human scope finite; therefore, in order to see more of reality, we must move our limited scopes from one thing to another through time.

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˚ Alas, one of the tragedies of being born in the eighteenth century (I turn 243 next December).

† Just as it is a logical necessity that His Reason gives birth to ours, so must each of His other “character traits” give birth to each of ours.  (By the way, please do excuse my poor use of the word being; I am merely trying to be consistent.  You may mentally substitute the word soul if you wish.)

˚ And to love the Omnipotent is also to love the self and everyone else for they are all a part of the Omnipotent “A quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost will go here once I relocate my copy of it–a task which is unusually difficult at 2:30 in the morning” -TWM.

† (hmm, these doctrines are starting to look familiar)

˚ “Ladies with an intellect of love …”

† “Whoever has succeeded in the great attempt / To be a friend’s friend; / Whoever has won a lovely woman / Add in his jubilation! / Yes, who calls even one soul / His own on the earth’s sphere! / And whoever never could achieve this, / Let him steal away crying from this gathering!” -Friedrich Schiller “Ode to Joy”