Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, October 17, 2014

God Speed

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

Traveling faster than the speed of light is one of the classic science fiction devices for which we are willing to suspend disbelief.  We need to get humans out to strange planets for strange new adventures, and, of course, traveling through the fictional medium of hyper-space or warp-space has implications for the adventure as well.  The truth is, though, that FTL travel would thoroughly mess up the real world.  It would require a complete revamping of the whole of physics.  Things that make sense and fit the equations now would make sense no longer.  I’m not saying it’s not possible for us to get around the limitation of the speed of light or that wormholes do not exist or whatever.  My point is that it is one thing to imagine that something might be possible without really understanding all the implications of such a radical change to the way we see things working. 

This is also true in relation to God, morality, good and evil.  There are those – and their numbers are legion, who are convinced they can do a better job of “god-ing” than God.  They would have a world without suffering.  They would have a world without killer tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, etc.  Their world would have no place for evil. 

To me, it’s kind of like gravity.  If I’m falling from a ten-story building, I would like for gravity to ease up, but, most of the time, gravity and I are good friends.  Gravity makes us strong and healthy.  I have a very hard time imagining how you could have anything like a human without gravity.  So, too, we think -- following Lennon, it’s easy to imagine a much better world, though all our imaginings are based only on the world that we know.  Just as we can imagine flying like Superman but can’t quite figure out how that works, we cannot figure out how we have a world at all, let alone one that would be “better” than this one. 

In The Once and Future King, T.H. White has Merlyn relate the story of Elisha and Rabbi Jachanan to Wart.  In the story Elisha and the rabbi are put up graciously and hospitably by a poor man and his wife who have only a cow.  When the men get up to leave in the morning, the cow is dead.  The next night, the two travelers are treated rather poorly by a rich miser and end up sleeping in his barn.  Yet, the following morning, Elisha has a section of the miser’s wall repaired for him.  Rabbi Jachanan is perplexed and questions what has happened.  Elisha explains: 

“In regard to the poor man who received us so hospitably,” replied the prophet, “it was decreed that his wife was to die that night, but in reward for his goodness God took the cow instead of the wife.  I repaired the wall of the rich miser because a chest of gold was concealed near the place, and if the miser had repaired the wall himself he would have discovered the treasure.  Say not therefore to the Lord:  What doest thou?  But say in thy heart:  Must not the Lord of all the earth do right?”

I am rather with Wart who still thought it a shame that the cow died, but it is true that some events and troubles serve a greater good which the Lord alone can see and comprehend.  I do not think there will be pain and suffering and loss in heaven, but I doubt that earth can even exist apart from some negative pole that is an essential part of life on this material plane.  We do not have to choose evil.  We do not have to make the world worse, but, there is, perhaps, a limit not only to how much better we can make it but how we make it better.  Someday we might find a way around the speed of light, but the speed of good will remain unbroken.


John Lien said...

Great post Mush.

I have a theory of relativity on these matters. The theory is that no matter what horrible things are removed from our lives we will still complain about what remains.

And this leads to thoughts of Heaven, where the sorrows of the world no longer exist. I have trouble imagining it. It's a matter of faith to me that I will enjoy it.

mushroom said...

... no matter what horrible things are removed from our lives we will still complain about what remains

How true that is.

And, you're right, no fantasy of heaven will ever do justice to the reality.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Someday we might find a way around the speed of light, but the speed of good will remain unbroken."

Bravo zulu!
That is a fantastic way to say it, Mushroom.

Anyone who thinks they can outgod God would create a hell on earth if they had the power to do so, because everyone would be robots with no identity or freedom to do anything other than what they were programmed to do.

Freedom, like truth is a two-edged sword.

mushroom said...

Amen to that, Ben.