Friday, April 03, 2015

A blasphemous thought

(Less inspired by Good Friday than you might think)

I don't understand why people feel like they need to believe in myths, astral planes, fanciful creatures, elaborate conspiracies, spiritual miracles, the supernatural, etc., to make life interesting. 

Real life — the things that you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste, and everything else that's demonstrably tangible — is unbelievable. The beauty is more beautiful, and the tragedy more tragic, than anything anyone could fabricate. 

I've often said my favorite thing about magic is that it isn't real. The skill of the illusion is the most compelling aspect for me. "How did they do that?" Yes, how did they? Because we don't live in a world where rabbits can materialize from hats or where people can be sawed harmlessly in half and then be reattached. If we did, those wouldn't be tricks, would they? No, we look for the physics of our reality that would allow for such unusual, convincing acts to occur. That's the fun.

This is also why I prefer nonfiction reading, or real-world fiction, to fantasy fiction. A well-done fantasy story can be a rewarding read, but the fact remains that the author took creative liberties with the universe. To a degree, that diminishes anything spectacular that happens. How sustainably compelling is it to encounter dragons or spirits in a universe where such things are commonplace compared to, say, the guy who lived for 12 years after having an iron rod tear through his brain?

And since it's Good Friday, let's talk about Jesus. It's likely that Jesus was indeed a real person who taught a philosophy of love, compassion and forgiveness, and who was then executed for steadfastly sticking to those beliefs, allegedly turning the other cheek even as he died. That's an incredible story. And a believable one, because never in human history has it been a stretch to imagine good people exploited and harmed by vicious people. Jesus' story is a powerful testament to the virtue of taking the high road even in trying times. That lesson is universally inspiring. It deserves to live on. 

The bodily resurrection story, in a way, actually diminishes that message. There's a poignancy to keeping a message alive after its messenger is gone forever. Everyone we know eventually dies, and none ever return to us; they live on in our memories. That's why the memories are special. But the resurrection adds an otherworldly component that diminishes the message: Whereas what was most important was getting along in this world (and forever ruing the loss that results from not doing that), now it's about worrying about capital-H Heaven and Hell. It's about saying all the right prayers, singing the correct hymns, getting your tithing straight and reading the Bible to sufficient levels. Now it's about Jesus being an eternal judge of Earthen behavior to the point where he apparently has specific opinions about gay marriage in the United States in 2015 A.D., and employs an army of believers to browbeat everyone else into falling in line. Which in turn leads to others who believe differently to turn against them. Not exactly what Jesus had in mind, I imagine.

Why can't we just stick to what we know to be real? That's so much better. It always is.

Have a good Friday. And a good every day.

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