> In a message dated 3/10/01 4:30:17 AM Central Standard Time,
> firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> > The notions that in "heaven" one
> > would only sing hymns and nothing else would every happen and no
> > challenges would arise was a silly (and pretty horrible) parody.
> No better parody of this idea exists than Mark Twain's "Extract From Captain
> Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" in "Letters to the Earth," Twain's
> posthumously-published humanist masterpiece. Also a hilarious send-up of
> traditional Christian myths is "The Diary of Adam and Eve" in the same book.
On the other hand, George Bernard Shaw, in "Don Juan in Hell"
(Act III of _Man and Superman_, 1903), makes Heaven sound very
much like the Extropy Institute:
"[H]ell is the home of the unreal and of the seekers for happiness.
It is the only refuge from heaven, which is, as I tell you, the
home of the masters of reality, and from earth, which is the home
of the slaves of reality. The earth is a nursery in which men and
women play at being heroes and heroines, saints and sinners; but
they are dragged down from their fool's paradise by their bodies:
hunger and cold and thirst, age and decay and disease, death
above all, make them slaves of reality: thrice a day meals must
be eaten and digested: thrice a century a new generation must
be engendered: ages of faith, of romance, and of science are
all driven at last to have but one prayer, 'Make me a healthy animal.'
Is there nothing in Heaven but contemplation, Juan?
DON JUAN: In the Heaven I seek, no other joy. But there is the
work of helping Life in its struggle upward. Think of how it
wastes and scatters itself, how it raises up obstacles to itself
and destroys itself in its ignorance and blindness. It needs a
brain, this irresistible force, lest in its ignorance it should
resist itself. What a piece of work is man! says the poet.
Yes; but what a blunderer! Here is the highest miracle of organization
yet attained by life, the most intensely alive thing that exists, the
most conscious of all the organisms; and yet, how wretched are his
brains! Stupidity made sordid and cruel by the realities learnt
from toil and poverty...
...Life is a force which has made innumerable experiments in organizing
itself;... the mammoth and the man, the mouse and the megatherium,
the flies and the fleas and the Fathers of the Church, are all more
or less successful attempts to build up that raw force into higher
and higher individuals, the ideal individual being omnipotent,
omniscient, infallible, and withal completely, undeludedly
self-conscious: in short, a god...
...Life has not measured the success of its attempts at godhead by the
beauty or bodily perfection of the result, since in both these respects
the birds, as our friend Aristophanes long ago pointed out, are so
extraordinarily superior, with their power of flight and their lovely
plumage, and, may I add, the touching poetry of their loves and nestings,
that it is inconceivable that Life, having once produced them, should,
if love and beauty were her object, start off on another line and labor
at the clumsy elephant and the hideous ape, whose grandchildren we are...
Life was driving at brains - at its darling object: an organ by which
it can attain not only self-consciousness but self-understanding...
...[T]o Life, the force behind the Man, intellect is a necessity, because
without it he blunders into death. Just as Life, after ages of struggle,
evolved that wonderful bodily organ the eye, so that the living organism
could see where it was going and what was coming to help or threaten it,
and thus avoid a thousand dangers that formerly slew it, so it is
evolving today a mind's eye that shall see, not the physical world,
but the purpose of Life, and thereby enable the individual to work for
that purpose instead of thwarting and baffling it by setting up
shortsighted personal aims as at present...
Do you not know that where there is a will there is a way? That whatever
Man really wishes to do he will finally discover a means of doing? Is
it not the inevitable end of it all that the human will shall say to
the human brain: Invent me a means by which I can have love, beauty,
romance, emotion, passion, without their wretched penalties, their
expenses, their worries, their trials, their illnesses and agonies
and risks of death, their retinue of servants and nurses and doctors
[T]he philosopher is in the grip of the Life Force. This Life Force
says to him 'I have done a thousand wonderful things unconsciously by
merely willing to live and following the line of least resistance:
now I want to know myself and my destination, and choose my path;
so I have made a special brain - a philosopher's brain - to grasp
this knowledge for me as the husbandman's hand grasps the plough for me.
And this' says the Life Force to the philosopher 'must thou strive to
do for me until thou diest, when I will make another brain and another
philosopher to carry on the work.'
The philosopher is Nature's pilot...: to be in hell is to drift:
to be in heaven is to steer."
(Full text at http://www.bigeye.com/donjuan.htm )
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