Heaven is where one is content with things being as they are. It can be here and now.
That was my concluding aphoristic tag on last week’s post What is the meaning in life? Contentment? It leaves the problem of evil hanging unpleasantly over accepting the universe as it is. The Catholic Church believes in a benign, all loving, all-powerful God, but this leaves them exposed to the challenge of why their God would let evil exist in the world. To let people choose to be good. Unfortunately, what good is has flummoxed the philosophers and if they can’t define it clearly enough for an average person to apply in all cases, then it seems the word or the concept shouldn’t apply to them. If they don’t know what it is that is expected of them why should they be held accountable?
The term contentment means acknowledging and being satisfied with the world as it is given to us to experience. The world can give us many experiences during our lives, and some of them are going to be painful, and we should do what ever we can to avoid pain; that is why our bodies evolved the ability to perceive pain. It warns us that we are doing something which is harmful to our well-being. Pain then becomes a useful and positive part of our world, and if we have the mental ability to accept pain as a valid part of our world then we can accept it has a positive thing, and we should welcome it, and correct its causes.
Evil is a human concept, and it doesn’t exist for non-sentient creatures. Mother Nature, even though she has a human title and a caring sounding name, is bloody in tooth and claw and doesn’t behave with human ethics in mind. But nature isn’t evil; it is simply what it is, a mindless, motive-less interaction of physical reality. My problem if I want to be contented is to accept her occasionally appalling destructive behavior as appropriate and acceptable. But I am a conscious, mindful, motive filled human being who wants myself and all humanity to maximize their respective long-term contentments. It seems there is a conflict between what I want and what nature is doing and what it almost certainly is going to continue doing. It seems ungrateful of me not to love and respect the totality of what brought me and my human species everything we are and ever will be.
The problem seems to arise when I think of nature as having purpose, which requires thought, and fairness, which requires ethics. It, has neither of these, and is incapable of acquiring them, and if it is outside of its capacity it can not be held accountable and we should not attempt to lay blame and condone some punishment.
Accepting the world as it presently is means that I also accept what brought this world into being. But that means accepting all the evil that preceded this moment, which I have trouble doing, and, yet it seems I must accept it if I am going to be contented with this world. The alternative is to reject the past evils which were in the world, which is to reject the world as it was, which is to reject the world as it presently is because it was created by the world that was, which is to reject my relationship with it. Well, I don’t want to do that either, because then I reject all possibility of contentment. That would be rejecting all aspirations of happy, healthy, wise and wealthy because they are only oriented toward achieving contentment.
Accept nature and live in harmony with your relationship with it.