Monday, August 04, 2008
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, For Life is Meaningless
The service has all the trappings of a real funeral—a group of appropriately-dressed mourners, many in black, standing around a freshly-dug grave. The casket, adorned with flowers, stands ready to be lowered into the ground, as a frocked cleric addresses the crowd, offering a few words of praise for the dearly departed as he comforts the bereaved. Everyone looks sad, especially Dr. Crusher, who, we surmise, loved her grandmother very much.
The one difference, of course, because this is TNG, is that the cleric is an alien, and so instead of offering the usual do-not-mourn-for-lo-you-shall-see-Granny-again-some-sweet-day-in-Heaven line, or ending the eulogy with the traditional reminder about the return of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our alien cleric offers these words of comfort: Granny isn’t really dead, because she lives on in our memories.
I have said that Darwinism is a religion, and a dreary one at that. The episode of TNG serves to reiterate the point. William Provine asserted that when we die, we die, and even went so far as to call this assertion an “inescapable” conclusion of Darwinism. The extraterrestrial cleric, echoing Provine, does not and cannot believe in an afterlife; he cannot appeal to any notion as decidedly Christian as the Resurrection; he is certain that Granny is dead, and that no one is ever going to see her again. So, he offers what comfort his world view will allow. Mind you, this is simply the best he can do.
And no better. Granny is dead, but not ENTIRELY dead, because some part of her lives on in us, so long as we continue to remember her.
This is a COMFORT? Prithee, HOW?
Suppose, for instance, that because of a transporter malfunction during her return to the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher has her memory erased. Then, while examining her personal files in hopes of finding who she is, she learns that she had a grandmother whom she loved very much, and that this grandmother is now dead. Pastor ET’s words of comfort would mean nothing to her, since they are contingent upon Dr. Crusher’s ability to remember someone she has now forgotten. I see no means of finding comfort in such a situation.
For that matter, even if the transporter malfunction never takes place, even if Dr. Crusher remembers her grandmother fondly for the rest of her life—it would only be for the rest of her life, however long that may be. Even if she lives another hundred years, it would mean the memory of her grandmother would only live on for another hundred years—and then die when Dr. Crusher dies. And all those others standing around the casket, listening to Pastor ET, will die as well, and with them their memories of Granny.
So, what then? Does young Wesley take up the charge of keeping his great-grandmother alive by remembering her? How? He doesn’t have the same memories as his mother, presuming he has any at all. Worse yet, one day young Wesley will become Old Wesley, and he’ll die, too, and with him the memories of his great-grandmother (whatever those may be) and those of his mother.
There is simply no scenario escaping the inevitability of Granny being dead, buried, and ultimately forgotten. Not if when we die, we die, and that’s it.
Worse yet, consider this point: the memory of someone you love is only a memory; it is NOT the person you love. Memories are faulty, inexact. Sometimes, memories are outright false. To draw from another popular TV series, as Hawkeye Pierce once noted of Frank Burns, “No, I’m sure he remembers it that way. More’s the pity.” And true or false, a memory is all in your head. No part of it is physically real.
So, to sum up: never mind if Granny is dead and you’ll never see her again; you can delude yourself that it isn’t really so, even if it really is, just long enough until you die, at which point it won’t matter that you were deluding yourself, as if it ever mattered. This is all okay, because even though the universe is an accident, which means that life is an accident, and that Granny and all those who come before and after her, yourself included, are an accident, too, go ahead and tell yourself that Granny mattered, because… uh… the delusion will facilitate your survival. Yeah, that’s it. Your survival matters. Somehow. Even though nothing matters. Even though you and everyone you know and everyone who will ever be are all going to die, because even survival is at best temporal; when we die, we die, and that’s it. Not that you or anyone ever mattered in the first place.
This is simply what passes for “comfort” in a Darwinistic framework.As I’ve said in another post, if there’s anything inaccurate in describing such an outlook as “bleak,” it is only in that the description represents a rank understatement.
It strikes me as awfully greedy (not to say a bit narcissistic) to expect a fulfilling and meaningful life here on Earth (given the general lot of humankind) much less to expect joy and meaning in the hereafter. On what foundation do you base your hopeful expectation that the universe is not, in fact, as "dreary" as it might well be?
p.s. What is the episode title?
It's not that I expect life to be meaningful. Rather, the point I am making is that the Darwinist has no reason whatsoever to expect life to have any meaning at all. I am not a Darwinist, and therefore, am not precluded from finding a purpose to living.
The universe is a product of design. I am not the result of blind, naturalistic forces that did not have me in mind as an end product. Someone wanted me to be here.
That means there is a purpose to my existence. Whatever that purpose is--and I do not claim to have full knowledge of what that purpose is--it exists, nonetheless, in an ontologically real sense.
And, dang, I wish I could remember what episode that was. Sorry, but I got distracted after watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, with the oh-so-lovely Jeri Ryan in her "Seven of Nine" get-up. Boo-yah!
Most of us are content to fulfill our own (much more mundane) purposes such as providing a decent home and life for the kids, enjoying the occasional potboiler novel, and taking in old episodes of Star Trek on the tube.
If you say life is meaningless unless we are fulfilling a divine plan, well, that seems to beg the question of what sort of meaning ought to be considered satisfactory.
As for the "sort" of meaning, it would be whatever is in harmony with that purpose. We are here FOR A REASON, and any truly fruitful investigation into the world about us should be centered upon determining what that reason is. Find the reason, find the plan. Find the plan, find the Planner.