Why God Why

“I went with nothing
But the thought you’d be there too,
looking for me.”

–Johnny Cash, “The Wanderer”

If the garden of Eden tale means anything to me, it means that human beings are not at home in the natural scheme they’re born into. The world as it is, is inhospitable, and to survive we must imagine worlds other than the one we’re in, and weigh them, and then work toward them.

Examples abound. Without clothes, we freeze or burn. Without weapons and tools, we starve. Without words, we cannot socialize, and without writing we strain to remember even a few book’s worth of information. Our crops fail if we do not imagine time, numbers, devices more regular than our own sense of rhythm. To find our home, we must continually imagine and work toward a world less and less like the one we’re from. A dolphin or a chimpanzee, by contrast, is born right into its Eden.

Our capacity for imagination is crucial, then. But a solitary imagination is weak, almost worthless, unless it can be communicated, which is to say, unless others can share the vision. Left to our own devices, we imagine the unreal, by which we mean, we come up with divergent and incommunicable visions, only a few of which show us a way to improve our reality. The solitary shaman in a primitive human group is able to bring his people a modest number of helpful solutions, if for no other reason than that he is solitary.

Hence platitudes about the importance of communal visions, of shared dreams, of ontological and eschatological group myths. We seek not just private cornucopias of visions, but visions which can connect with each other and with the world as it is. Which is to say, we seek convergent visions.

But this distinction between divergence and convergence means that we seek a vision of something real, means that what we seek is real. Consider: If you and I both observe a strange object, from different positions, then through comparing our positions, seeking new ones, and comparing observations of the strange object, our observations will prove convergent, and we will develop an accurate understanding of this real, strange object. If, on the other hand, the strange vision you behold has nothing to do with the one I behold, and our visions cannot be reconciled, this divergence tells us we are not looking at the same real object.

Therefore: In seeking a communal vision, a set of visions which each connect to our individual perceptions and which converge with each other, we seek something objectively real. Something really out there, beyond our conceptual horizon, that we can get to from where we are. A new Eden.

But what could our Eden be like? We’re very unusual beings, with very unusual needs. For one, we’re mostly social animals, and our Eden must be social, built of loving relationships. Furthermore, we thrive on knowledge, and no amount of knowledge is itself sufficient for our completion, and so our Eden must be as provident of knowledge and understanding as the most perfect teacher.* Also, as we come closest to contentment in voluntary, joyous, and purposeful activity, so must our Eden involve such activity. I could go on outlining probable attributes of our Eden, but suffice it to say, our Eden must be good, in every sense of the word, in the comprehensive sense of “good” that makes us unashamed of using such a presumptuous word.

But as we seek Eden, we do well to note our heading, for this itself offers clues to our destination. Specifically, throughout our travels, we seem to be moving in the direction of more knowledge and more power. For some sense of what’s meant by “more knowledge,” note that we are even beginning to be able to see into minds in real time and read those minds with some precision. For some sense of what’s meant by “more power,” consider we’ve now begun to conceive in detail of multiple approaches to overcoming-not forestalling, but overcoming-biological death itself. In short, judging by our heading, it seems our Eden will be not only chock-full of goodness, but also of omniscience, and of omnipotence.

And if you think much about the weird synergies of symbiosis that arise between harmonized thoughts, moods, individuals, tools, relationships, and spaces; and if you think therefore about how the sort of Eden I’m describing must be not just a place but a meta-culture, not just a physical state but a mindstate, not just a government but a religion, you might realize that in speaking of “our Eden” I’m coming close to speaking of a God. A personal, active, alive, awake, all-knowing, all-caring, always-right-there-ing, God. Especially given that this home we’re heading toward seems very likely to feature more omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence than any number of its inhabitants.

But just as we find it very very useful to distinguish between minds and bodies, subjects and objects, I think we do well to distinguish between God and Eden. One important distinction between the two might be along the following lines: It’s tempting to think that in the Eden I propose, that God is nothing more or other than the sum of all the minds in Eden. However, I think it far more likely that such an Eden would require a single, unified and unifying mind acting everywhere to harmonize all other minds without homogenizing all other minds. I do believe this would be crucial. After all, much human joy and pleasure and satisfaction comes from community, where un-identical minds give and accept and share content. To argue that our Eden would lack a single such unifying agent, is to argue simply that every member of Eden become in short order nothing other than (a mirror image of) that unifying agent. But such a union of minds is redundant-two identical minds are worth no more than one-and would eliminate any chance at community as defined above-by definition, two identical minds would have nothing to communicate. Because we thrive on communion, our Eden could not be a union of minds, where each becomes the same. Rather, God is the union, and our Eden, communion with and through God.

Lest any reader think I’m advocating for the reality of anything less than a real, objectively out there and independent God, just remember that the sort of God-in-Eden I’m proposing awaits us, is a God our visions of Which will converge, rather than diverge-the hallmark of an objective reality. And I wrote this post, in case it’s not obvious, out of a sense that my previous post-”God Willing, God Forbid, and a Third Thing Altogether”-leaned heavily on the presumed utility of the ol’ omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God concept, without my offering a single hint as to why I think that concept might have any objective reality. As for whether the God I propose exists, exists now, or just in an eventual human Eden, well, that will have to wait for another post.

*Just as I finished this sentence about Eden being as provident of knowledge and understanding as the most perfect teacher, and was pondering just how strangely our Eden might, in its teaching capacity, conflate our concepts of medium, message, and messenger, my son interrupted me to ask, “In the ‘Talking Word Factory’ [video], why do the words have faces on them?” And my answer to him was pretty much what I needed to write right after the sentence I’d just written about the most perfect teacher, to explain why I’m almost personifying the teaching capacity of our Eden: “The words have faces on them, so that they’ll be more fun to learn.” (Another name for Eden: Synchroni City?)

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