Aether Song

Our time is not in the grey falling rain nor in the boundless blue-green sea. Our time is in the river that lies between them, flowing smooth and quiet over the sand or angry and roiling over the unyielding stones. Joining and dividing. Choosing our own way for good or ill.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Truly Yours

‘Truly Yours’ is one of those phrases that has a distinct Hallmark quality to it. The sort of words one is expected to whisper to one’s lover in moments of particular intimacy. But what in the end is truly ours? We will examine each of the things generally thought to be truly ours in the revealing light of two questions – does/did/will the thing in question belong to someone else? and can someone/something take it from you?

Let’s begin with the large and move toward the small.

Land. Is your land truly yours? The land was created with the formation of the Earth 4.5 billions of years ago. Many living things have called it home and passed across it long before your birth. Before the rise of our species, the advent of paper, the laws written on it and the men with weapons who will theoretically defend your property rights. The land did not ‘belong’ to anyone. Even after the rise of these things the land has changed hands many times and will again after your death if not before. So, it has belonged to others and will again. It can also be taken from you at any time by the same government that you depend on to defend it against others. Is it then ‘truly yours’? No.

What about your possessions? Most of these have no doubt been manufactured and purchased. Some few you may have made yourself. If you bought something used then it has already had a previous owner. When you die. If the objects are claimed then they will have another owner if not then they will go into a landfill more than likely. Can they be taken? Here we must answer yes, for what thing do you hold so close that it could not be taken by theft, fire, flood, earthquake or financial ruin? Are our possessions truly ours? Since we have them only at the sufferance of thieves of proper skill and motivation and circumstances of sufficient severity I would say they fail the test.

What about our bodies themselves? Surely these might be said to be truly ours? A case might be made for this. The hands I use have not belonged to anyone else. However, the organs I have might well be used after my death since I have signed up for organ donation in the event of demise so perhaps not. Can they be taken from me? Indeed they can. Disease or accident could easily rob me of any of the organs of my body. (I view organ thievery as an unlikely possibility). In addition the molecules of my body certainly were not manufactured by me, but rather by some unnamed and ill-fated star gone to black long before my birth and these molecules, unlike the organs they compose, have indeed been used before. I cannot know how many of the molecules presently in my hands were in hands before mine but it seems likely that some were and some shall be again

Well then, how about my memories? If anything those could be said to be mine right? No other would have the same memories as I even of the same events. This is true however, time will rob you of your memories and death itself will surely take them all.

So what then is yours that is proof against thieves, proof against catastrophe and proof even against time itself? Have we eliminated everything? No we have not.

There is one thing and that one thing is your decisions. Thieves cannot take them back from time, nor can disasters remove them. This is not to say that all decisions you make will in the end have great importance, but they are the one thing that are truly yours. They should be made with care.

What I have said above is true however it is incomplete and I should add a small addendum here. It is true that our decisions are the one thing which are truly ours, but those decisions are not made in a vacuum. They are made to bring about the world we desire or to avert the world we fear and we do not choose our desires or our fears. Evolution, gestation, genes and environment determine those for us.

And here we come to one of my ‘beefs’ with religion. In religion I do not even have the small consolation of my decisions being truly mine. The all-powerful, anthropomorphic deity could negate any and all of them at whim. Likely it could erase me from the time stream itself if it chose to do so and this is true of all humans. Our bad decisions can be erased by this being if benevolent, and any good decisions would be a pale reflection of our infinitely superior creator. They count for nothing as the future was decided before we were created. In this view we are in a state of perpetual childhood. We will never ever grow up. Perhaps our species is a long way from maturity, but I for one would like to see us reach it (although of course I will be long dead before that ever happens if it does). Once that maturity was reached we could say with pride that it was truly ours.

2 Comments:

Blogger Songbird said...

There are many believers, including yours truly, whose concept of God does not remotely resemble your description in the final paragraph. I was raised to believe in free will, and I continue to do so. You seem to have a disbelief in a predestination-oriented deity. What do you think of the God *I* worship?

5:37 PM  
Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

In truth, nothing is ours except our free will...I cannot believe in a "puppet master" God, but I can and do believe in a God who loves us enough to allow us to make our own choices, no matter how messed up they are. God does not rescue us from those choices by changing them or taking them back, but often through them redemption and grace emerge.

2:27 PM  

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