28 May 2011

THT: What if this is it?

I remember shortly after coming out and while I was dating Brig I thought about Mormon "hell." See, Mormons really don't believe in hell. In fact, the belief is that the worst place you really have a chance at getting into is so wonderful, we could never even come close to imagining the greatness of it. And if we did, we'd do anything to get there. During that time I thought, "I could do this. I could live a happy life in a world just like this, even with all of its flaws and imperfections." I mean, there are difficult times... but there is so much to hope for and dream of. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow and progress. So many people to meet and love. And then to think that even if all my accusers were right, and I was going to Mormon hell, it would by a thousand times better.

Well, lately I have been contemplating another idea. What if this is it? No heaven. No hell. Just this life. 80 years on this planet. What then? Do I have a purpose still? I've been raised with the idea that my purpose in this life was to prepare for the next. It rested completely on the idea that there is a next life. If you take that away, what is left?

When I strip that idea away, here is my conclusion. I still want to learn all I can. I still want to do what I can to make this place I live in a better place. A better place for my family, yes, but also a better place for future generations of people. There are so many ways a person can contribute good to society. Some are giant leaps and others are barely noticed. But change is happening and we are able to drive that change by living lives of honesty and goodness. On my deathbed, if I can look back on my life and feel as if I have made positive change in the world (even if it is only small and personal) I will be satisfied and will feel fulfilled. What better feeling to die with than the assuring one telling you that you lived a meaningful life and that it somehow created some measure of positive change in the world, even if it was only within a single person.

When I look at that conclusion I came to, it becomes clear why we have myths and legends and religions and stories. Take away the literalness of everything that has been said about folklore or religion and what do you have? Stories that are basically trying to teach us that we have the power within us to do something good. To improve ourselves and gain strength, power, and knowledge. To be agents for change in the larger world around us and improve life, inspire, and heal. That together, we actually have godlike powers to create the world of tomorrow.

So maybe the world wasn't flooded. And maybe Noah didn't actually collect two of every kind of animal. But don't we find hope in fresh starts? For second chances? Don't we sometimes feel the need to clear our lives of the crap and start over with the basics? Doesn't that give us hope that we have the power to become better?

And even if you don't believe that Jesus raised people from the dead or healed them, have we not had faith in our ability find cures for disease? Have our doctors not literally brought people back to life? Are we not literally empowered to heal?

When we try to make myths and beliefs into science, it falls apart. We spend millions of dollars doing carbon dating and excavation and people spend their whole lives searching for solid evidence of this or that, and when it comes down to it, we've missed the point entirely. Just like the pharisees who counted steps on Sunday. All these schools of thought are just meant to try and help aide people in finding the power within themselves to live rich, meaningful, good lives.

So at the end of the day I feel like I am asking the wrong question. Who cares of this is it or not? The interesting question to me is, why do we as a human race believe in leaving a legacy? Why do we find fulfillment in doing good? Why do we strive for better even after our basic needs are met? What is in us that causes such a phenomenon?


Bravone said...

Great thoughts and good questions. At one time in my life, after losing my spiritual belief system, I immaturely threw out the pure reasons you mentioned for doing good. Now, although still striving to ascertain spiritual truth, I realize the necessity of grounding my actions in an internalized value system that demonstrates my desire to do good simply for the sake of doing, in the hope of leaving the world a better place than I found it. If there is a post mortal recompense, all the better.

bradcarmack said...

I love your thinking! You should consider the Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation- I think you might find folks asking similar questions there (transfigurism.org- disclosure, I'm on the board of directors there).

I think there may be biological underpinnings to our need to leave the world better than we found it. Whether that is true or not, I find the drive one of the noblest aspects of humanity, and, like you, I think it survives when the literal aspect of myth is stripped away. Like several other MTA (Mormon Transhumanist Association) members, I don't think that myth is a pejorative term. The utility of such stories is large, as you point out above. There are problems with literal interpretations, though.

Great thoughts,

jen said...

Have you ever read The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, or any of the other books by him? He asks many of these same questions, and comes to the same basic conclusions.

One of the things he talks about is that the world is becoming better. We as humans are moving more and more towards common sense rather than the superstitions. As we (as a race) move to common sense, we will find heaven right here.

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