Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Deserving's Got Nothing to Do With It
One of the powerful scenes in the movie "Unforgiven" is the one in the bar, just before the end of the movie. Gene Hackman's character is lying shot on the saloon floor and makes the statement: "I don't deserve to die like this." To which Eastwood's character replies: "Deserving's Got Nothing to do with it."
I think about that scene every time I hear people say that humanity doesn't deserve to survive, given all of our propensities towards brutality, selfishness, and disdain in general for the miracle of life. We are obviously insane, goes this narrative and deserve only to die out, and the sooner the better. The quote itself is interesting for me because it turns on a duality of cause and effect that presents us with both the philosophical, and practical aspects, of responsibility and fate.
The other side of this, naturally, gets expressed when real tragedy happen to good people; especially when deities are involved; to which the standard fall back is that we can't know their plan. An answer that is clearly not very satisfying. Shit happens may not be very satisfying either but it has always made a great deal more sense to me than sentient deities, or that they would have a plan for every living, and nonliving thing in the first place.
In any case, though, with so much going on that speaks pages to how bad we can be to not only each other, but to the place that brought us, and a great deal more, into being over the last few billion years, the degree to which "humanity doesn't deserve to survive" being uttered manages to piss me off now surprises me greatly; especially considering that it wasn't all that long ago that I would also fall into that refrain.
I should add, at this point, that this newfound attitude goes beyond my ability to ascertain that there are, indeed, also a great deal of good that we are capable of, as well the bad. So many little miracles of selfless acts of kindness, giving and nurturing that don't always get the same amount of air time in the info sphere. If you take the time to look you will always find them, and one can find hope in that even if the ratio of bad to good is lopsided towards the former.
This newfound attitude has come, I think, from a sudden realization that thinking about the above mentioned duality of what's "deserved" or not, as well as for where forgiveness comes in, has given me. The realization stems from seeing why "deserving's got nothing to do with it," in the context of our right to survive or not.
The thing is, we are what we are for a good number of reasons, of which bad choices are only part of the picture; important of course, but not the only part. When you think about it, the fact that evolution gave an oversized brain to one of its animal experiments, and that animal then survived long enough to not only become self aware, but to cooperate enough to create unique, and abundantly creative cultures, along with the raping, torture, and self indulgent excess of various groups at the expense of other groups, is nothing but astounding. We survived because, somehow, through either just dumb luck, or just enough good at various moments to carry the day, when it really, really, mattered, and/or combinations of both. And I am also pretty sure that there was no divine plan involved either, but saying that does not, in any way, rule out the possibility that a divine process might be at work.
The bottom line here is something that ought to be obvious, but isn't. If you are an animal that suddenly gets thrown into the deep end of expanded consideration, there is no way that sanity is a starting point, and that you somehow lost it somewhere along the way in growing up as a sentient species.
The further miracle at play here is that we somehow, outside of any reasonable expectation, discovered that there can be sanity in the first place, and that we can achieve it from time to time.
The fact is that, as we continue trying to grow up as said species, the hardest thing we may have to overcome is finding a way to forgive ourselves for all of the heinous aspects of being young, so fearfully ignorant, and so prone to selfish excess. In fact, maybe the whole notion of requiring forgiveness in the first place is wrong headed. How can being forgiven even enter the equation when we had to invent not only sanity, but the capacity to understand shame, and what might be going on underneath it all to create it. For some of you, of course, the answer has always been that this is why God created the garden, as well as original, perfect innocence. For me it is why we created God and a series of stories to provide a starting point for an ongoing narrative on what is, and what ought to be.
From my perspective the entirety rigs the game at least a little towards sentient survival because it requires it at its most fundamental level. In what way, you might then ask, does this filter down through the physical world of practical cause and effect? It does this through channels of interaction that can only be known without the filtering of objectification. Channels that are only felt in other words, and for which no objective means of measurement can be applied. And clearly the most fundamental of these is the need to embrace and exchange at every scale of consideration. And lest you doubt these unfiltered channels just consider why music has expressed what it has expressed from Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Pachelbel, to Pink Floyd, Ray Lynch, Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, John Murphy, and Steve Joblonski, to just name a few. These fundamental resonations, and what they make us feel, are used in movie soundtracks for a reason after all.
That the entirety also requires mind, and all of the objectification that goes with it, so that bounded meanings over time can take place, making structure possible to create more complex structure, serves to both aid us greatly, and to make things far more worse; if for no other reason than the more we figure things out the more consequence arises from the choices we make. And the more responsibility we must assume in everything that goes into making them. That is the bottom line of eating from the tree of knowledge, and it has little to do with sin as an act of seeking, or using faculties we had no part in selecting. For me sin is the act of taking the easy cop-out; of choosing not to choose, or living in denial that you have a choice at all, and that you must take responsibility now in either case. The knowledge and feelings to guide us are out there; have always been out there, certainly, but now we have the choice to make use of them quite purposefully. The only question remaining is whether enough of us will make full use of them or not.
"I don't deserve this. To die like this..."
Amadeus: Requiem Rex Tremendae Majestatis.
Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
Beethoven: Symphony #9 -- Ode to Joy
Pachelbel: Canon in D
Pink Floyd: Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Ray Lynch: The Oh of Pleasure, Celestial Soda Pop
Vangelis: Chariots of Fire
Hans Zimmer: S.T.A.Y.
John Murphy: Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)
Steve Joblonsky: Transformers, The Island -- My Name is Lincoln