Thursday, January 13, 2005

I just had a thought which I thought was fun enough to post. I'm reading Mr. Clean's Christmas gift to me, The Question of God, which is basically a Harvard course in book form comparing and contrasting the views of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. It's quite entertaining. Anyway, I was reading this book and towards the end we get to the problem of pain, so-called. Personally I'm inclined to agree with Lewis that the capacity for evil is intrinsic in free will, and that only free will "makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having."

But of course I am further of the conviction that at some point evil will be a thing of the past. You see the implication from the above conviction: evidently I believe that at some point in human history (although "history" seems like an odd word to use for the Phoenix Earth) my entire race will be constituted such that it is simply not in our nature to choose to be evil. Instead of fumbling around as we do now, driven by some sort of impulse(s) to be good and finding ourselves only poorly successful only part of the time, I imagine a day when goodness (and all that it implies) is as natural as breathing.

And what about this fumbling about? This is actually what I think about most often when I contemplate the "problem of pain." What about that day when the fairy tale comes true and my race chooses always the same? Sometimes I wonder if that might not be ... well, boring. Now of course if you unpack what is meant by "same" you see that that is nonsense. Boring is, at bottom, a form of unhappiness, of discontentedness, of dissatisfaction. To imagine that such a thing will be present on a planet which is by hypothesis absent those very things and full of their opposites is preposterous, and the sort of thing one shouldn't need a university education to see.

Today as I was reading though I was struck by an image that made the same point more viscerally, and in the hopes that it might do the same for some of you I thought I would share it. A world where goodness is natural would be like riding a fighter plane at the edge of its performance envelope, all the time - always one twitch of the stick from disaster, and never quite going over the edge. To say that the true exhileration comes from the mistakes is foolish; the exhileration comes from finally getting the daring maneuver just right. Or to put it another way, it would be like flying in a perfect redowa all the time. We don't find our redowas exhilerating when we're out of synch with our partner or we stumble. It's exhilerating when you finally get it right, when you can power through free-form hungroise variations and pivots and Viennese steps and back all without effort, knowing that you're really riding the razor's edge and riding it.

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