Monday, February 20, 2012

Alvy's Dying Star

This might seem far removed from my previous post, but that one was written a week ago. I will make a loose connection in the end.

Here is how it all started. I was driving home from the office on Thursday . . . or was it Wednesday?  Anyway, I have this beautiful drive, up from our fishing village across a small mountain pass, up a steep road, looking down on two lakes and the face of the mountain behind me. It was about when I got the one flat stretch just before the last turn to my house that I had this strange epiphany. Maybe that's a bid of melodrama, more like a thought. Because that part is flat, it has been clear-cut around it for pasture land. This opens the sky up for the stars to shine through.

When the darkness of winter being rolled back each day, there was still plenty of light out over the sea to the West, which accented the sky and Venus shining brightly.  As I was driving, I was listening to NPR's Stardate, which is a five-minute layman's astronomy program. The narrator said something that struck me powerfully. She made the comment, to the effect of, "That star (the one they were talking about) will die a slow death, much like our own sun in about 4.5 billion years."

This is hard to put into words but it was the finale of the universe that grabbed me. We are on a conveyor belt to oblivion. Now, it wasn't as if I didn't know that already. As I'm getting older, now 56, I think more and more about our final destiny.

This brings me to young Ilvy Singer's (Annie Hall) dilemma. His mother takes him to see the doctor and she, being the Jewish mother that she is, is worried sick about him. He is depressed. "Go ahead and tell the doctor what you told me."

Young Ilvy wasn't very happy with the situation but he squirmed and then said (my paraphrase), "I just found out that the universe is expanding. Therefore it will spread out and go cold and everything will die. Therefore everything I do is in vain so I'm not doing anything anymore."

The chain-smoking doctor looked confused. "Well, that's not for another billion years, son. There's time to do a lot of stuff now."

I think the boy's mother is shaking her head and saying, "Tell him that's crazy thinking, doctor."

Now, many will see that scene as just funny. But knowing Woody Allen, he was serious about that. He always raises serious questions about life.

My point is the absurdity of life, without the concept of God. Now, I'm not saying this in my cocky smiling way I use to as an Evangelical, in a "Gotcha" moment.  No, as I mentioned before, evangelical apologetics has its own points of absurdity that they like to cover up under a pile of cliches.

But imagine the universe is hopeless. It is expanding and inevitably it will spread out and grow cold and dark.  That future is endless.  The statues of Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln and the rest will slowly dissolve as the atoms separate, and the subatomic particles loose their energy and die into absolute darkness. That darkness will last for eternity. So, my life, even the hundred of thousands of years of human life, or even the millions of years of biological life itself, won't even appear as a millisecond in the grand scheme, not even a nanosecond.  As the great king Solomon shouted . . . it is all in vain, totally meaningless.

So, what is my point?  I guess what I'm trying to say is that there isn't a clear default position. In other words, if you say that Christianity is silly, or other religious world views are crazy, you are left with the greatest absurdity of them all.

How does this fit with "conversion disorders?"  My point with that is about knowing.  If our minds have the power to change our perspective of reality, of projecting illness around us . . . when there is none, how do we trust our minds about anything?

I'm not a nihilist. I have hope. There has to be hope. While the mind can't know with certainty, it can know with enough certainty that we can live within a framework of a belief system.

I'm going to move on next time to talk about a more honest Christian Apologetic.  Most Christian apologeticists are incredible dishonest.

I know that his had been a convoluted path but I will hopefully clarify it as I move forward.


Jaimie said...

I've been thinking a ton about the collapse of mankind lately. To unhealthy levels. I spent this whole weekend in a funk of depression. Drinking alcohol with the explicit purpose of forcing myself to stop thinking about flu pandemics, nuclear terrorism, etcetera. The possibilities are endless. I kept thinking about how wars have been a constant throughout human history and in 10 years we might not have the internet anymore. We might be doing good just to have electricity. And then what will we use to pay for food and such? It's an endless loop of worry. There is no preparing for it.

I came to the conclusion that I've been spending too much time on Reddit. If you haven't heard of Reddit, it's a site where a lot of atheists and smart people hang out. And the nihilistic mindset was totally getting to me. I had eliminated God from the whole system. But then, it sort of made sense to eliminate God -- God certainly didn't stop the black plague from wiping out Europe.

Anyway, I have since blocked Reddit from my browser. No more. I want to go back to the time when I wasn't worrying about this. Because I've tried worrying about it and it doesn't fix anything. It might be more "enlightened" to have a nihilistic mindset but screw that. I lost a weekend to being enlightened.

Maybe this is some new aspect of my anxiety.

I've decided not to stockpile stuff, though. I came to this conclusion last night through a process too long to share here. I feel that stockpiling stuff would compromise my life now, which is something I should enjoy and be grateful for. I have no control and stockpiling, to me, is the illusion of control. It may seem "wise" on paper, but I think it goes against a lot of the principles in the Bible.

jmj said...

I think what I was trying to say in my post that atheism is hopeless, and I say that in a thoughtful not a flippant evangelical way. I have atheist friends to strive to find meaning, but you can not find meaning in a universe that came out of nothing as a fluke, and is destine for nothingness.

I'm not saying that we should believe in God as a opium to dull the pain of nothingness. But, we seem to have this intrinsic desire for something more than nothingness and to me that is an echo that a personal God indeed gave us life.

There's got to be hope. I think that's why I ascribe to the unpopular theological view (among Christian views) that things are getting better, that the Gospel is getting traction in the world. When I say Gospel, I don't mean the quickie tract come to Jesus Gospel I'm talking about redeeming people from themselves and cultures from the dark ages.