Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beyond life -- a real question

We live our lives in an era where happiness and satisfaction actually have a time and place, where there is more than the search for survival. Life in our time is different in some ways from live in an age of survival. In many survival societies, alcohol and drugs are not significant. Marriage is an economic survival tool, not a source of fulfillment. Arranged marriages rule over romantic love and in such societies most people do not believe that passion is anything more than derangement.

What happens when survival is assumed? When what is argued about is really degrees of satisfaction. When division of labor and skill is no longer necessary in a household, what places to traditional roles have? No one needs to master technologies related to running a house or a family. We will not starve and go naked if I have not mastered the hunt or if my wife has not mastered making thread and cloth or how to tan leather. No one makes their own soap or candles or bricks in order to survive. Home canning is a hobby, not an essential. Cooking is an art, not a craft for most.

I do not fear starving, naked and cold in my old age if I do not have enough loyal children. If I want, I can work at McDonalds for minimum wage, rent a room in a basement, check out books and the internet at a library and keep a standard of living better than 99% of humanity's on social security. I can even get fat on that life style. Laugh, but the ability to get fat has historically been the sine non quon of success and wealth for thousands of years. In at least half of the world it still is.

So, what do we do with our lives when we can get and stay fat without marriage? What do we do when children are a luxury rather than an investment? What do we do when in many ways we have conquered the need to fight for survival on a daily basis?

The question becomes significant when you realize that what I am also really asking about is the celestial realm. Well, we may not get fat (in spite of all the Biblical phrases praising that -- I assume they are symbolic). In our lives we are facing the question of what we do when we are beyond life and have moved into living.

The answer is what separates the worlds of the next life, and what we do in this life. Do we seek pleasure, especially in the short run? That is the telestial kingdom.

Do we seek joy? That is the path beyond. And just what does that mean, from romantic love (I surely hope that is part of a celestial order, I do so love my wife), to seeking fulfillment in marriage rather than "just" survival (giving another layer to President Hinckley's comments about the need to have civil unions), to how we use our spare time or even how we blog, that is the question, the real question, that takes us past live and into living.

BTW, a great essay on the same topic is at: My theory of eternity


Stephen said...

The essential counterpoint to my comments, and the one suggested by 1 John, chapters one and two, is that this world and the glory and things of it are so transitory and so worthless that seeking them and the things we think are valuable, including (perhaps) romantic love and personal satisfaction is a mirage that misleads us.

Each generation has its own mistaken virtues. I think of those that felt that all men must be warriors and that any death not in battle was a disaster of eternal proportions, that war was the essential nature of man. Or those who had similar feelings about similar false directions.

Could our "enlightenment" be just as foolish from another perspective?

annegb said...

I think our concept of eternity, or life in the spirit world is so slight that we don't even know the questions to ask, Stephen. I think a lot of things will be more clear when we are actually there.

Stephen said...

annegb -- I agree. When John writes "brethren, it does not yet appear what we shall be" I think he really hits an important point. We know a lot less than we think we do.

Too often I think we are like preschoolers "but mom, I'll just die if I can't have chocolate ice cream for dinner" as we are certain what we need for happiness.

beatdad said...

I agree with your point and would like to add this:

One of the blessings of living where we don't have to struggle for our physical existence is that we have we are faced with the struggle to keep our souls alive.

I have every thing I need; why am I unhappy?

The folly, I think, is believing that those "things" can bring lasting happiness. To me it does not make those "things" bad, it all depends on the meaning we give to them.

Stephen said...

That is a very good point.

The flip side of it is that so many people decide that they have everything they need, they have no place for God, the spirit or anything but the temporary here and now.