Take it or leave it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


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On the phone with an old buddy yesterday I had a hard time convincing him that the world would not be the same without him. Not only that, I added that he played such an integral part in the state of affairs that if he never existed the world as we know it would disappear. And this would not be a good thing for those left behind, since maybe everyone else would cease to exist as well, and we'd all blame DJ. Who in their right mind wants to carry that around on their shoulders, huh? 

My friend doesn't appear to be that special. He is not a chief of enterprise or head of state. He's not even a head of household. He is unmarried and without kids and works as a server in a high-end restaurant outside Palm Springs. So why is he so special? Because we all are. If you posit a perfect Maker, who is omni-everything, which includes being all-powerful, then said Maker could not help but choose from among the infinite possible worlds that could be made the best of all possible options, which is the world we live in. Even though there is suffering and vice and Donald Trump in our world, it's all essential to the plan. And since my friend is a part of the world, and me and you are too, we are just as essential as Donald Trump. That probably doesn't make you feel any better. But even the nastiest personages of history are integral, and the great drama that is life could not go on without their seemingly heinous contributions. 

As one philosopher writes, "Since God found it good that Judas [who betrayed Jesus] should exist, despite the sin that he foresaw, this evil must be repaid with interest somewhere in the universe; God will extract some greater good from it." And God did. The whole Catholic religion sprang up in Judas' wake, thanks in large part to the humble contributions of Jesus Christ, of course. Religion can be a good thing. A world in which everyone abided by the Golden Rule would be a better place, and I'm no practicing Catholic. Or would such a world really be better? Not yet, it is safe to say, or otherwise a world in which everyone is a Christ-like saint would be the one that exists today. And clearly, it ain't. Though Trump is not such a bad feller. Anybody who has earned his kids' love and respect must have done at least a few things right.

But again, it's impossible to judge the whole by its parts, whether the whole be our fallible president or the infinite universe. Unfortunately, all our individual perspectives afford us is just that: a limited point of view. But there exists an entity or being - or let's just go ahead and say it: God! - that has infinite understanding and will and power and that sees and knows it all, is all. And to this being, as it was to God who surveyed his creation in the narrative recounted in Genesis, all is very good. 

But my friend was still skeptical. And so I asked him if the Manhattan Bridge could remain functioning if one of its ropes were cut. He replied that yes, he thought it could. And because of advances in modern architecture, he is probably right. Damn. Okay bad analogy. And so I asked said friend whether water, which is composed of one atom of oxygen and two atoms of hydrogen, could continue to be water if you took away a hydrogen. Not at all. It would be a radical! A hydroxyl radical. Now that is a radical analogy, radical here being slang for hella cool. So rather than compare yourself to a rope on a bridge, be an atom. It's closer to home, since your body contains 7 x 10 to the 27th power of them.

I still don't know that my friend is convinced of the requirement for the overall welfare of the entire universe that his modest existence fulfills. But here's a guy who doesn't think you should run the water when you turn on the garbage disposal, so the fault is not with my explanations! 

But really, imagine throwing a rock into a lake. Think of the ripples the rock makes, and how far off those ripples travel. In some cases ripples even make waves. It is impossible for you to judge the far-off effect that your presence today has on those in your midst, and the aftereffects of your kindness (or cruelty) likely carry on for ages!

Of course, the fact that you are an essential ingredient in the potpourri that is life isn't itself an argument against suicide. Suicide happens, and when it does it must be part of the divine plan, because it is. But that doesn't mean you should do anything rash, even when the going gets tough. God invited you to the party, I bet he wants you to stay. I know my friend will stick around. He has more zest for life than two men half his age, despite being irritable a third of the time. Or maybe he's just had it with my philosophizing. But I think the world needs more if it, and I plan to continue until I don't.

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