Are you prepared to knock on Heaven’s door?
The idea of heaven seems highly unlikely to me.
It seems very probable to me that death is just that – the end – no more, no more trace of me there than there was before my conception.
And 5 years ago I accepted the possibility of death in a way that I hadn’t before.
And I remain a stand for postponing the day of death as long as possible – billions of years if possible, and I get how improbable that seems to most, and it seems rather improbable to me, and it is still a possibility, as long as I am breathing.
Somehow it seems more likely that I live a billion years, than there is a heaven, and being realistic, neither has a very big probability.
And I’m no saint, and I know many who behave far worse than I far more frequently.
It is a very strange thing, this thing called life.
It is a very strange thing being human, having a body made of trillions of cooperating cells, existing in a world with billions of other people, some small fraction of whom are actually attempting to be fully cooperative at the highest of levels, and having a brain that has spawned a mind that does what this one does.
To me, it seems fairly clear that what most people interpret as “The Man” is actually their own subconscious processes. The computational complexity of our subconscious minds is just so much greater than our consciousness that it really can seem like it is all knowing and all powerful.
It seems clear to me why most people think of this as god, and it doesn’t seem that way to me.
Our brains have thousands of trillions of synapses, each capable of complex judgements, each firing about 100 times per second. The computational complexity of that is really difficult to get any sort of handle on. We are, each and every one of us, the most amazingly powerful entities.
And for the most part, what most limits us is our own beliefs, our own unwillingness to accept how powerful we are, how cooperative we are, how abundant the universe we find ourselves in can be.
It seems that for the most part, the patterns of belief that come generally under the title of “culture” dominate, and keep the vast majority out of the habit of seriously questioning and testing the commonly held “truths” of culture (particularly the idea of truth itself). We find ourselves in a culture dominated by the values derived from markets and money – which values are ultimately based in scarcity. Anything universally abundant in a market system has zero market value, whatever its human value may be – just think of oxygen in the air – arguably the single most important thing to each and every one of us, but of zero market value. When scarcity is zero, market value is zero. Markets cannot deal with universal abundance. Markets cannot and will not naturally deliver universal abundance. We now have the technology to deliver universal abundance of all the essentials of life, but market based (scarcity based) thinking prevents it happening.
It seems clear to me that all cultures have developed useful approximations to understandings that have served those cultures well in times past. It also seems clear that we are now in a time of such rapid, and exponentially increasing change, that we all need to be questioning all things on a fairly regular basis.
And to me, some things are consistent, and seem likely to remain so. It seems that the value of cooperation will always trump that of competition, provided that cheats are detected and punished appropriately (neither too harshly nor too gently, just sufficiently to remove all benefit they gained from cheating plus a bit more, but not too much more). Anyone who shows high risk of being a direct threat to life must be restrained, until that threat is mitigated in some reliable fashion. Just a few basic things like that, and we can all get along in our amazing diversity. Lin Ostrom recently won the Nobel prize in economics for demonstrating precisely this, but she didn’t phrase it in quite that way (almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten the Nobel prize if she had 😉 ).