There was a time in our history when the overwhelming evidence pointed to an imminent day in which all would be well on planet Earth. We were at the height of industrialization and it appeared that humanity, by virtue of its own effort, was capable of solving any obstacle that got in its way. Within a short span of 150 years we had made extraordinary advances in technology with inventions such as the cotton gin, the steam engine and electric light. These inventions catapulted a once slow and family centered economy into the fast and furious world of change that we know today. On the medical front, the new field of microbiology produced the first vaccines for cholera, anthrax and the plague produced an unprecedented optimism. Add to this the first blood transfusion and a looming vaccine for tuberculosis, and many started to believe that the maybe we could some day cheat death. On the theological front many had come to believe that the forces of Satan were being defeated and the Kingdom of God would soon be realized on earth in a 1000 year “golden age”. The revivals of Charles Finney, D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey were bringing in many new converts to Christianity and the Hymns of Fanny Crosby and Elisha Hoffamn drew many people into deep and personal relationships with God.
The optimism soon led to disillusionment during the first world war as we saw the devastation we could cause by our technological advances. The utilization of the airplane, machine gun and tank allowed us to kill more people with less effort. Killing had become easier than ever before; not just because of our new technology, but also because we no longer had to see the horror of death in the eyes of the one whom we had just killed. We now possessed the temptation of faceless killing. The second world war brought even more horrors as we saw the extent to which mankind would go in order to rid the world of an entire race. By the time pictures of Auschwitz and Hiroshima began to appear most people had already abandoned their optimism for a more realistic view of human nature. To many, it appeared that Nietzche’s prophetic utterance that “God is dead” (penned during the optimistic days of flourishing science and religion) may have been truer than they had initially wanted to believe. The question was no longer “Is there a God”, but rather, “where is God after Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Chernobyl and 9/11″.
Today we are once again in an age of scientific discovery and general optimism. From time to time we may hear of a modern day horror but we soon get back to our optimism because we are told that we must be a resilient people. We haven’t the time nor the desire to stop and reflect upon the suffering around us. With new breakthroughs in cellular and molecular biology just around the corner, we are once again on the verge of prolonging life and improving its quality. We no longer concern ourselves with finding God.
But all is not well. Life is (by and large) like a large masquerade ball in which nobody wishes to look upon another person’s humanness. Furthermore, we live in fear that we ourselves may be unmasked and perhaps someone might catch a glimpse of who we really are. We live in constant fear of our soul being found naked. We fulfill our need for community through social networking sights such as myspace, facebook or twitter. The irony in this is that social networking sights use narcissism as a binding agent for community. This has completely redefined relationship. Being online is by its very nature a solitary activity-an online community is communal solitude (We are all alone together). When we have an entire society living in a virtual world with virtual relationships we have nothing more than virtual meaning.
To escape the madness of virtual existence, we take up arms with a political cause. Sadly, this too is often nothing more than masked fulfillment of our own depraved sensuality. We politicise the suffering around us in a pretentious attempt to protect our reproductive rights. We no longer care about the sufferer- they are merely a means to our political agenda. The terminally ill person is viewed as an opportunity to promote embryonic stem cell therapy and the suffering of an aborted baby is viewed as a small price to pay in order to maintain our own erotic standards of living. Like David Carradine, we are willing to entice Satan himself in order to fulfill our own autoerotic fantasies. In the end we join Protagorus in declaring ourselves to be the measure of all things. We are, in a word, hopeless.
The folly of human enterprise is that despite the hundreds of years which have passed since the industrial revolution, we are no closer to immortality than when we first began this endeavor. Suppose one day we discover a cure for cancer, we end all wars and there is no poverty. Then what? We die. Yes . . .despite all of our best efforts, in the end we are still dead. All we have managed to do thus far is prolong our suffering. If I am going to spend my time on Earth in an extraordinary effort toward anything- I am going to make sure that it doesn’t end in folly. The only thing worth my own endeavor is an endeavor which ends in immortality. Call me selfish, but I want to live forever and I want to live forever on Earth. Not only do I want to live forever on Earth, but I want everyone that I know and love to live with me forever on Earth. Anything short of this. . . is folly.
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