Sunday, October 18, 2009

There was once a person utterly devoted to God. It so happened that he was present at a ship which started sinking. Nevertheless, the person didn't panic, for he was confident that his Lord will see to his safety.
So here he was, in a cold water, when a boat passed by with some lucky survivors. "Hey, jump in!"- shouted to him the people there. - "No, thank you, my brothers!"- responded the person. - "God will not leave me alone!"
After a little while, a raft was getting closer, with more people who managed to escape the wretched ship."Hey, get up here, bro!"- called they cheerfully. -"No, thanks!"- was the response. - "My Lord will save me when needed!"
After some more time, a log was floating past our hero, who already started to feel cold and weakened, but still was firm in his faith. -"Get hold, quickly!"- moaned the wretched man who was also struggling against the water. -" With some luck, we'll keep up until they find us!" - But he, too, had to go further alone.
Soon enough, the person we talk about lost his last strenghts and drowned...
...and there he was, in the Paradise, among the angels playing celestial instruments and a cheerful crowd made entirely of those who went to church every Sunday.
Lo and behold, the Lord Himself was there, smiling in the way to get a thousand of Giocondas envious.
"Why didn't you help me down in the sea?"- was the first question uttered by the newcomer.
The Lord sighed.
"My dear son, I haven't anticipated that you are... how to put it... a little bit more slow-minded than I hoped for. For I have sent you help three times, and three times you have rejected it!.."

And now, the story.

It all started with the question, why is there an image - no, a meme - of "evil genius" which is so persistent in many human myths? And why, at the same time, his counterpart - a good hero - can have many great qualities, but quick or strong wits are not necessarily among them?

Speaking about the evil geniuses, Cain (the inventor or agriculture and the founder of the first city, also the ancestor of those who invented music - i.e. arts - and blacksmithery - i.e. technology) - is the first one on record in the Bible.

In the European (both East- and West-European) fairy tales, there is often an image of evil wizard who possesses great power and chooses to use it against humankind. Mind you, if there happen to be other wizards who are not that evil, the bad guy will undoubtedly be the smartest and most skilful of them. (Think about the Middle-Earth epic for the most generic examples - all wrong doers there, Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman - were always the best in their class).

And if the genius does not happen to be evil, he is often portrayed as the one who doesn't have all his nuts in one box. A weird scientist who can figure out how to build a time machine, but will be utterly helpless outside of his comfy technological lair. As if from the three - being fit, being smart and being good - you are only allowed to pick two!

Well, what happens when the good heroes do need some wisdom to get by? They all tend to get it by some miraculous chance - be it by finding for themselves a wise fiancée or by coming across some wizard-in-disguise to whom they do a favor (strong guys are often so naive that they don't mind helping the others without expecting anything in return ;)) et cetera. I can't remember many tales which would start with the story of some diligent master who acquired a great skill in something and never was tempted by the dark side of the power. (The quickest example springing to the mind - Star Wars, a modern epic which might be related to some older myths- the always-good Obi-Wan is excelling at swordplay, whereas a villain-in-the-making Anakin has started as technology prodigy...)

It seems to be reiterated so many times in so many forms: people, don't tinker with technology, it might bring you into trouble before anything else happens and it is not even needed for your well-being!

One other Biblical story comes to my mind: this of Mariah and Martha, when Martha is busy doing the cooking and cleaning the house and the only thing Mariah does is sitting near Jesus Christ and watching him lovingly. Martha feels like she's left alone to struggle, she starts to scorn her sister and gets mildly rebuked by Jesus, who tells that her sister has chosen "the better part".

Isn't Martha here an embodiment of our technological, scientific and other activities? Then the Bible says very clearly: people, that's not what you need.

Isn't it a bit puzzlying?

Why create a world with a set of complicated rules just to say that those who chose to explore these rules are not doing the better part? Are all these rules just a disguise, and the real rules being hidden? (Bible appears to hint that the real rule is to love God - and therefore his creations, people among them - and nothing else than that).

Is God a being who has problems with self-respect? That could be a good pretext for the creation of the sophisticated world with the only purpose: to find out how many persons will discard all pleasures of that world and go searching for its Creator, full of love and devotion. (Make sure the pleasures won't last long, otherwise what if nobody would?)

I am not an atheist, by the way, but I can't explain this luddism, this mistrust in science and technology lurking behind so many theories. (Ancient Greeks were free from it, by the way - Hefaestus was a good inventor and Prometeus was a suffering hero who wanted the mankind to get better).

May be this resistance is supposed to be the force opposing the progress to keep the humanity from rushing along too fast? This can make sense...

Nevertheless, I wish there will be more space for the Greek way of thinking, especially now, in the XXI century. If we are drowning, we are allowed to use whatever comes at hand, why not? And if we aren't, then what was the whole point of these things coming by in the first place?


Ron C. de Weijze said...

I think the message is that the end comes before the means to it. The means should never sanctify the end, however the reverse is always ok. I recently understood this is exactly why quantum mechanics ARE an improvement over classical mechanics. In the end, there is the explanation of the beginning and looking back at the Big Bang background radiation we need to realize how it can be that all that was the smallest, now is the largest. Only waves can explain that. One kind of energy, solving and dissolving to and from matter. The mind does the same, creating thoughts and shaping an immaterial (virtual) space of objects, popping in and out of existence as we like (to read). So to know how we got started and where is our stronghold, we need to trace back to our (mental) roots, believing it to be true from a pov of accumulation, overview and insight, as real as things ARE. And if not from our own experience and knowledge, then from IT that was handed down and cared for through the ages. Imho there is nothing in the bundle of books (Bible) that says: thou shalt not e-read.

Anna Nachesa said...

Amish would probably disagree :)

Ron C. de Weijze said...

I once saw a documentary about Jansenists, a Dutch sect following Jansen, who stated that the snake in Paradise HAD spoken. They live an Amish kind of life somewhere in Ukraine. Their motto was "from newness comes LITTLE good" (my emphasis). So it is more like a warning sign they take very seriously, anything new. However that doesn't mean they will not adopt it in the end.