There has been all sorts of talk about happiness lately in the ‘nacle. (See here, here, and here.) I think these happiness discussions dovetail nicely into my recent posts and comments about the Garden of Eden story being allegorical. Since I promised I would flesh this idea out better, I figured I could start that process by looking at how an allegorical Fall of Adam and Eve could or should affect our expectations for happiness in this life.
As a brief recap: I have become increasingly interested in the idea that there was no literal Garden of Eden on the earth, but that the entire story of Adam and Eve in the Garden represents our pre-mortal progress from pre-sentient spirits/intelligences to the sentient spirits/intelligences we are now. Therefore, the Fall could be viewed as figurative of our progressing from innocence and (blissful?) ignorance to sentience and becoming “as the gods, knowing good and evil”. Why would that process be described as a Fall? Well perhaps Dave shed some light on the subject when he retold Voltaire’s “The Story of the Good Brahmin”. It was so good that I’ll repeat it here:
THE GOOD BRAHMIN
“I wish I had never been born!” the Brahmin remarked.
“Why so?” said I.
“Because,” he replied, “I have been studying these forty years, and I find that it has been so much time lost … I believe that I am composed of matter, but I have never been able to satisfy myself what it is that produces thought. I am even ignorant whether my understanding is a simple faculty like that of walking or digesting, or if I think with my head in the same manner as I take hold of a thing with my hands … I talk a great deal, and when I have done speaking I remain confounded and ashamed of what I have said.”
The same day I had a conversation with an old woman, his neighbor. I asked her if she had ever been unhappy for not understanding how her soul was made? She did not even comprehend my question. She had not, for the briefest moment in her life, had a thought about these subjects with which the good Brahmin had so tormented himself. She believed in the bottom of her heart in the metamorphoses of Vishnu, and provided she could get some of the sacred water of the Ganges in which to make her ablutions, she thought herself the happiest of women. Struck with the happiness of this poor creature, I returned to my philosopher, whom I thus addressed:
“Are you not ashamed to be thus miserable when, not fifty yards from you, there is an old automaton who thinks of nothing and lives contented?”
“You are right,” he replied. “I have said to myself a thousand times that I should be happy if I were but as ignorant as my old neighbor; and yet it is a happiness which I do not desire.”
This reply of the Brahmin made a greater impression on me than anything that had passed.
The idea is pretty simple – knowing hurts. But knowing is still better than not knowing.
Maybe these simple truths explain much of the Fall story. God knew of the great pain that attends sentience and human existence. He knew the horrors and fears that are associated with knowing we will “surely die” here in mortality. This human gig is apparently not for every Intelligence and God warns the pre-sentient intelligences of that. But we (Adam and Eve) were driven by something to want it anyway. (I’ll post later on how the Satan character might represent our nascent pride/ambition/greed.) We insisted on knowing. God let us make that choice (though it may have been a long process). God warned us of the trouble we were asking for too, but he too knew that some of us could and would press through the tempestuous seas and miserable aspects of knowing and eventually reach the peaceful shores on the other side where he resides.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Moses 3:18)
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat. (Moses 4:12)
I’m reminded of this great quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity.”
I believe the same principle applies to happiness. I suspect we are human because we are composed of and powered by spirits that didn’t give a fig about the happiness on the ignorant side of complexity so we chose to risk all for the happiness on the far side of complexity. I firmly believe that happiness exists. I think the more we become like God the more we begin to experience it – even in this life.
[Associated radio.blog song: The Lightning Seeds – The Life of Riley. I almost used “Happy” off the same album, but I like this song better and it still fit the post…]