God’s in His Heaven–All’s Right with the World

By Jin-yeong Yi

“What is the best consolation in sorrow and in misfortune? … It is for a man to accept everything as if he had wished for it and had asked for it; for you would have wished for it, if you had known that everything happens by God’s will, with his will and in his will.”

—Seneca

“For I am already that which I seek. Whatever I seek or think I want, however long the shopping list may be, all of my desires are only a reflection of my longing to come home. And home is oneness, home is my original nature. It is right here, simply in what is. There is nowhere else I have to go, and nothing else I have to become.”

—Tony Parsons

“A man who moves with the earth will necessarily experience days and nights. He who stays with the sun will know no darkness. My world is not yours. As I see it, you all are on a stage performing. There is no reality about your comings and goings. And your problems are so unreal!”

—Nisargadatta Maharaj

“The Lord is everywhere /And always perfect: / What does He care for man’s sin / Or the righteousness of man?”

—The Bhagavad-Gita

As the world comes to an end–of another year, that is–most of us probably have our heads full with anticipation and apprehension of what lies ahead.

I’m still a pessimistic atheistic nihilist, but I like to indulge in possibilities, so please humor me by considering some ideas that I’ve been turning over in my head.

Since you are here, I invite you to take a moment to look back on the past year. Did you make any decisions you regret? Embarrassing behavior, poorly executed plans, wasted opportunities? Would you go back and change anything if you could? Now take a longer moment to look back on your life up this point as a whole, and ask yourself the same questions.

I’m probably not wrong in guessing that there were a lot of things that didn’t go your way, and that even if things went your way for the most part, you’re still not completely content–you want more of this and less of that.

Some of you may be deeply depressed–to the point where you wish to die or at least depersonalize so you can comfortably observe your life in third person.

Many commentators on Neon Genesis Evangelion complain about Shinji’s constant whining about his woes, but I’m sure most of us can sympathize to some degree: how many of us never find themselves in circumstances and situations they would rather not be in–mundane, tedious, frustrating, arduous, painful, pointless?

Doesn’t the world look awful right now? Doesn’t it look downright hopeless at times? Wars, economic depression, poverty, pollution, overpopulation, ethnic-religious-political strife, concentration camps, environmental destruction, natural disasters, child abuse, breakdown in human relationships…how many libraries can be filled with volumes on what we consider to be wrong with this world? And worst of all, doesn’t it all look meaningless? And even worse…ultimately beyond our control?

As Joseph Conrad lamented in a 1897 letter to Cunninghame Graham:

“It evolved itself (I am severely scientific) out of a chaos of scraps of iron and behold! — it knits. I am horrified at the horrible work and stand appalled. I feel it ought to embroider — but it goes on knitting. You come and say: ‘this is all right; it’s only a question of the right kind of oil. Let us use this — for instance — celestial oil and the machine shall embroider a most beautiful design in purple and gold.’ Will it? Alas no. You cannot by any special lubrication make embroidery with a knitting machine. And the most withering thought is that the infamous thing has made itself; made itself without thought, without conscience, without foresight, without eyes, without heart. It is a tragic accident — and it has happened. You can’t interfere with it. The last drop of bitterness is in the suspicion that you can’t even smash it. In virtue of that truth one and immortal which lurks in the force that made it spring into existence it is what it is — and it is indestructible!

It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions — and nothing matters.”

Now put such judgments aside for a moment and consider this possibility: that life is a movie written and directed by a cosmic Director–call It God, or Brahman, or Consciousness, or whatever suits your fancy. Suppose that this Director is perfect–It knows exactly what each scene calls for. All of the details are impeccably balanced together. A perfect movie is in the making as we speak–and we are starring in it.

As most of us would agree, a good movie does not necessarily mean a good life for the characters. A director getting his or her way often entails a character not getting his or her way. If movie characters were capable of thinking independently, not a few of them would probably question the decisions made by a director, unable to see how all the pieces fit. If a good director knows what’s best for his or her movie, think how much truer this would be of a perfect Director.

You may not be satisfied with what you are, but as far as the Director is concerned, you are perfect for Its purposes. Your hair color is perfect. Your skin color is perfect. Your height is perfect. Your weight is perfect. Your IQ is perfect. Your knowledge is perfect. Your ignorance is perfect. Your beliefs are perfect. Your likes and dislikes are perfect. Your joys and sorrows are perfect. Your pleasures and problems are perfect. Your thought process is perfect. You are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Every single decision you’ve made hitherto is perfect, and every single decision you will make hereafter will be perfect.

If your role is to succeed, you will succeed. If your role is to fail, you will fail. If your role is to die a peaceful death after a long and happy life, you will die a peaceful death (in your sleep, perhaps) after a long and happy life. If your role is to die a violent death after a short and troubled life, you will die a violent death (by your own hand, perhaps) after a short and troubled life. Either way, you will have fulfilled your role–there’s no way you cannot fulfill your role. Your every move, your every line–all of it is without flaw. No matter how insignificant you may be, you complete the picture–that is why you are here.

What you were yesterday was perfect. What you are today is perfect. What you will be tomorrow will be perfect.

If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then allow me to ask you another question: what are you, really? Are you a character in this movie? Or are you the One Who is running the show?

This blog post, written by someone whose writing skills clearly leave much to be desired, is perfect. Your opinion of this blog post, dear reader, whether it is positive or negative, in agreement or disagreement, is perfect.

I am perfect. You are perfect. The world is perfect. Life is perfect. Everything is for the best.

Whether or not we know this. Whether or not we accept this. Whether or not we are at peace with this. God’s in His heaven–all’s right with the world.

It may be so. It may not be so.

It’s possible, isn’t it?

See also:

Ramesh S. Balsekar – A Duet of One: The Ashtavakra Gita Dialogue

The Bhagavad-Gita

Meister Eckhart – Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense

I am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment 

Dennis Waite – How to Meet Yourself…and find true happiness

Paramahansa Yogananda – Why God Permits Evil and How to Rise Above It 

Of Thistles and Thanksgiving

By Jin-yeong Yi

Cloud in the sunlight

Without Contraries is no progression.
Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy,
Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason.
Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven.
Evil is Hell.

—William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

“Prayer is wonder, reverence. Prayer is receptivity for the miracle that surrounds you. Prayer is surrender to beauty, to the grandeur, to this fantastic experience. Prayer is a non-argumentative dialogue with existence. It is not a discussion… it is a love-dialogue. You don’t argue… you simply whisper sweet nothings.”

—unknown

“Happiness and misfortune, rise and fall, health and sickness, glory and dishonor, wealth and poverty; everything comes from God and must be accepted as such.”

—Elder Michael of Valaam

Some of the most difficult words that one could possibly utter: “Glory be to God for all things.” For to thank God for all things is to express gratitude for not only everything one regards as good and beautiful, but also everything one regards as evil and ugly. For every inconvenience, disappointment, lie, betrayal, bankruptcy, robbery. For every disease, abortion, miscarriage, rape, murder, suicide, accident, famine, disaster, plague, war, genocide. This is what it means to love life unconditionally.

Can one look at the world in its totality, at the grand interplay of light and darkness, and embrace it all, declaring, with complete sincerity, “Glory be to God for all things?” That is a question that each individual will have to answer for themself.

We All Live on The Rack

By Jin-yeong Yi

Torture of Cuthbert Simpson

“Life is algid, life is fulgid. Life is what the least of us make the most of us feel the least of us make the most of. Life is a burgeoning, a quickening of the dim primordial urge in the murky wastes of time.”

—W. V. Quine

“LIFE: To be born in imbecility, in the midst of pain and crisis to be the plaything of ignorance, error, need, sickness, wickedness, and passions; to return step by step to imbecility, from the time of lisping to that of doting; to live among knaves and charlatans of all kinds; to die between one man who takes your pulse and another who troubles your head; never to know where you come from, why you come and where you are going! That is what is called the most important gift of our parents and nature. Life.”

—Denis Diderot, L’Encyclopédie

I think a lot of people would agree that life is neither sweet nor bitter, but bittersweet. But just about everyone would agree that to live is to suffer.

Life is a great tornado, a maelstrom. It is a monster that chews on you until your last days. You have no way of knowing whether you’ll still be in one piece when it finally spits you out.

One of my favorite songs by Asphyx is “The Rack,” which is the final song on their debut album. The lyrics are about medieval Christian torture, but to me the song means much more: both the lyrics and the music describe the human condition itself. The world is a torture chamber. The world is The Rack.

Asphyx – “The Rack”

In the dungeon
Deep under ground
A morbid fear
Palpitations, unbearable pound
Footstep outside the stairway
Executioners’s arrival
A sinister procession
Grim macabre tribunal
Heretical pervert
Inexorable judge
The sentence is death
By the grace of the church
Inside the torture chamber
The smell of blood and pain
Iron is glowing in pits of fire
Instruments of the insane
The Rack: Altar of blood
The Rack: Altar of pain
Suffocate in blood
Bones pulverized
Mutilated tissue
Evisceration
Sawed off limbs
Emasculation
Human leftovers
A smouldering mess
Atrocious perfomance
Methods of madness
Inside the torture chamber
Instruments covered with stains
The rack has taken his victim
Beyond the boundaries of pain

Hold On…I Thought I Was the Freeman

By Jin-yeong Yi

Modern jail cell

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.

—William Shakespeare, Hamlet

For Charles Manson, a jail cell is a private universe:

Since he doesn’t have access to psychedelics, I suspect that Mr. Manson is referring to lucid dreaming and/or astral projection. To have such silence and solitude, to have the leisure to explore the fathomless depths of one’s own mind…at times it’s enough to make one pause and wonder who is more free, those who are behind bars or those who are outside of them.

Projection and Purpose (or, Meaning and Purpose in a Nihilistic Universe)

By Jin-yeong Yi

“The world is ambiguous. It does not come tagged ‘This is my Father’s world’ or ‘Life is a tale told by an idiot.’ It comes to us as a giant Rorschach inkblot. Psychologists use such blots to fish in the subterranean waters of their patients’ minds. The blots approach the patient as invitations: Come. What do you see here? What do you make of these contours? The sweep of philosophy supports this inkblot theory of the world conclusively. People have never agreed on the world’s meaning, and (it seems safe to say) never will.”

—Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Roland Barthes was on to something with his “Death of the Author”[1] concept, except that he apparently got it backwards: there is no such thing as inherent meaning in the text, only intended meaning, and intended meaning is not inherent meaning.

The best illustration of this fact can perhaps be found in language itself.[2] There is no intrinsic meaning to the collocations of lines, squiggles, and dots your retinae are picking up right now; the only reason why they mean anything to us is that we were trained to interpret them to mean something, that is, to refer to objects and ideas. In other words, we project meaning onto what is otherwise meaningless.

So while there is no inherent meaning in the sounds we utter or the symbols we put to paper, we can generally understand each other because we have a general agreement that certain sounds and symbols comprising a system of communication (what we call a “language”) denote certain things, and because we usually know what each other’s intentions are, given conditioning and context.

Needless to say, however, it is not always clear what someone is trying to communicate. This is why there are always clashing interpretations within literature, the conflict never being resolved when the author isn’t there to clarify what he or she meant by this or that.

Life is the same way, except that the story of life is written by no one, and its meaning and purpose are therefore open to infinite interpretations, which are, I daresay, equally true or false, because there is no inherent or intended meaning or purpose to it whatsoever. However, much as we can see sentences emerging from letters, and stories from sentences, we can see meaning emerge from the meaningless, and purpose from the purposeless. Though the meaning and purpose are, in the last analysis, merely human projections onto the black void of nothingness, I, for one, find them to be enough of a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Notes

[1] See the eponymous essay.

[2] See Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, Chapter 8 (“The Brain Does Everything without Thinking About Anything at All”), for a detailed discussion of this topic.

Celebrating Death Day

By Jin-yeong Yi

Theodor Kittelsen - The Pauper

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

—Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow

“Death is not our enemy—I think St. Paul was dead wrong. Death is our friend, death is our shadow, death is what gives life its meaning. You walk with death every day of your life, and ultimately you put your hand in the hand of death and you depart this world. And somehow, we don’t seem to have that relationship correct.”

—John Shelby Spong

“Nothing is more certain for us than death and nothing more uncertain than the precise hour at which it will strike.”

—Corliss Lamont, Freedom of Choice Affirmed

“Only death is real…”

—Hellhammer, “Messiah” (Apocalyptic Raids)

You might die today.

No matter how strong and healthy you are right now, God can throw you a lethal curveball at any time without warning, whether in the form of a devastating earthquake, a sociopathic burglar, a drunk driver, or a 1,000 foot sinkhole.

Whether we are young or old, it is never too early to think about death, because death can come at any time.

We might die within the next hour, for all we know. Maybe not. Either way, we’re running out of time, because we were born terminally ill. Every day is another 24 hours closer to the grave. Every day people die. Every day is Death Day.

The question isn’t whether we will die, because our deaths are all but a given, an inevitability. The question is how we will die. All of us will have to step down from the stage of life eventually, but what kind of exit will each of us make when we do? And in the interim, what will we do with the time we have left?

“We are all racing towards death. No matter how many great, intellectual conclusions we draw during our lives, we know that they’re all only man-made, like God. I begin to wonder where it all leads. What can you do, except do what you can do as best you know how.”

—John Hurt

“We cannot fix death, perhaps, but we can make life so good that death is paltry.”

—Spinoza Ray Prozak, “The Internet People”

“Though it’s odd, you’re never more alive than when you’re almost dead.”

—Tim O’Brien

Some light listening for Death Day:

Entombed – “Carnal Leftovers” (Left Hand Path)

Carcass – “Reek of Putrefaction” (Symphonies of Sickness)

Asphyx – “Embrace the Death” (Embrace the Death)

Hellhammer – “Triumph of Death” (Apocalyptic Raids)

Nihilist – “When Life Has Ceased” (Nihilist [1987-1989])

Cryptopsy – “Graves of the Fathers” (None So Vile)

Deicide – “Dead by Dawn” (Deicide)

Celtic Frost – “Necromantical Screams” (To Mega Therion)

Demigod – “Towards the Shrouded Infinity” (Slumber of Sullen Eyes)

Demilich – “And You’ll Remain… (In Pieces of Nothingness)” (Nespithe)

Morpheus Descends – “Ritual of Infinity” (Ritual of Infinity)

Gorguts – “Sweet Silence” (Obscura)

Suicide Saves

By Jin-yeong Yi

“As life is commonly the greatest blessing for man, it is to be presumed that he who deprives himself of it, is compelled to it by an invincible force. It is the excess of misery, the height of despair, the derangement of his brain, caused by melancholy, that urges man on to destroy himself. Agitated by contrary impulsions, he is, as we have before said, obliged to follow a middle course that conducts him to his death; if man be not a free-agent, in any one instant of his life, he is again much less so in the act by which it is terminated.

It will be seen then, that he who kills himself, does not, as it is pretended, commit an outrage on nature. He follows an impulse which has deprived him of reason; adopts the only means left him to quit his anguish; he goes out of a door which she leaves open to him; he cannot offend in accomplishing a law of necessity: the iron hand of this having broken the spring that renders life desirable to him; which urged him to self-conservation, shews him he ought to quit a rank or system where he finds himself too miserable to have the desire of remaining. His country or his family have no right to complain of a member, whom it has no means of rendering happy; from whom consequently they have nothing more to hope: to be useful to either, it is necessary he should cherish his own peculiar existence; that he should have an interest in conserving himself—that he should love the bonds by which he is united to others—that he should be capable of occupying himself with their felicity—that he should have a sound mind. That the suicide should repent of his precipitancy, he should outlive himself, he should carry with him into his future residence, his organs, his senses, his memory, his ideas, his actual mode of existing, his determinate manner of thinking.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

“Life is not so desirable a thing as to be protracted at any cost. Whoever you are, you are sure to die, even though your life has been full of abomination and crime. The chief of all remedies for a troubled mind is the feeling that among the blessings which Nature gives to man, there is none greater than an opportune death; and the best of it is that every one can avail himself of it.”

—Pliny the Elder

“When, in some dreadful and ghastly dream, we reach the moment of greatest horror, it awakes us; thereby banishing all the hideous shapes that were born of the night. And life is a dream: when the moment of greatest horror compels us to break it off, the same thing happens.”

—Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Suicide”

One of the more interesting books I have on my shelf is Wataru Tsurumi’s notorious Kanzen Jisatsu Manyuaru (The Complete Manual of Suicide), which was published in the early 1990’s, during Japan’s “Lost Decade.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: an instruction manual detailing various methods (from overdosing to freezing) that can be used for self-destruction. It’s a symbol of our time.

One would think that such a book would invariably give suicidal people the encouragement and resolve to fulfill their death wish. So it might surprise you to learn that it may, in fact, have prevented suicide in some cases. A Japanese reviewer of The Complete Manual of Suicide, writing in 2007, explains how the book helped him, and in doing so, he explains how suicide, or, rather, the idea of suicide, can give one the strength to live on.

Here is the full review[1] below (my translation):

I was saved 

By Wan 

I myself read this during a considerably difficult period of my life.

Really and truly, I was saved.

If it weren’t for this book, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now.

Irresponsible reviewers and carefree hypocrites criticize this book, but this is the kind of book that “genuinely suffering people” need.

I wonder just how many people were driven into a corner by the “one must live on” mentality.

“If you have a mind to die, you can do anything” is also a big lie.

The important thing is to have a firm hold of the option of suicide within oneself.

It is to attain peace of mind from “being able to die when push comes to shove.”

So what’s needed are “actual methods for dying,” and the “confidence of being able to apply them.”

With these things, you can, for the first time, gain the courage to live.

I want this book to be read by, above all, those “suffering people,” of course, but I would also like to have other people (the thoughtless, irresponsible and carefree people who say “Value your life”) read it, think and think, think and think, and think it through.

Life is kinder than we realize. For all its hardship and horror, it usually doesn’t force us to stick around and endure it ad infinitum. In most cases, we can choose to walk away from it all any time we wish.

If you, dear reader, happen to be contemplating suicide, I won’t make the mistake of promising you that “it’s all going to get better.” Unless one can actually predict the future, that is a most silly thing to say. There’s no guarantee that it will get better; it’s just as likely, if not more likely, that it’s all going to get worse.

What I will tell you is that, if anyone is going to rescue you from self-annihilation, it is likely that it will be none other than yourself. As the Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves.” And why is that? Perhaps it’s because no one knows you better than you know yourself. No one else has the same degree of access to your thoughts and your emotions. No one knows your darkest secrets and deepest desires better than you do. If the question is how you can find the will to live on, only you can help yourself, and the most other people can do for you is to help you help yourself.

Or maybe you don’t need help. Maybe you don’t need saving. Maybe you’re convinced, like Jon Nödtveidt supposedly was[2], that you’ve reached the peak of your life and that you’ve gotten everything you wanted out of life, and that any more time spent in this world would be superfluous. If no one knows you better than you know yourself, chances are no one understands you better than you understand yourself. And if no one understands you better than you understand yourself, who is more “qualified” than you to decide when your story is over?

Either way, take a good look at that fragile thing you call your life. At all times your life is in your own hands. It’s as fragile as a sapling. Will you crush it? Or will you spare it and, for better or worse, see its development to the end?

“That society who has not the ability, or who is not willing to procure man any one benefit, loses all its rights over him; Nature, when it has rendered his existence completely miserable, has in fact, ordered him to quit it: in dying he does no more than fulfil one of her decrees, as he did when he first drew his breath. To him who is fearless of death, there is no evil without a remedy; for him who refuses to die, there yet exists benefits which attach him to the world; in this case let him rally his powers—let him oppose courage to a destiny that oppresses him—let him call forth those resources with which Nature yet furnishes him; she cannot have totally abandoned him, while she yet leaves him the sensation of pleasure; the hopes of seeing a period to his pains.”

—Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature

Notes

[1] See the original review at Amazon Japan.

[2] The Dissection frontman and lead guitarist, who took his life at age 31, had said, “The Satanist decides of his own life and death and prefers to go out with a smile on his lips when he has reached his peak in life, when he has accomplished everything, and aim [sic] to transcend this earthly existence. But it is completely un-satanic to end ones [sic] own life because one is sad or miserable. The Satanist dies strong, not by age, disease or depression, and he chooses death before dishonor! Death is the orgasm of life! So live life accordingly, as intense [sic] as possible!”