Friday, January 2, 2009

Human longevity and the end of times

I was reading on the web about the passing of Maria de Jesus in Portugal who was the oldest living person for the past several months I do not particularly research out and follow these supercentenarians, but I enjoy reading about them and honoring them when I do come across them in the news. I like reading about them, and recommend likewise, for three reasons: it is often the only time that the media and the public at large particularly honors the elderly, they are living witnesses to what life was like over the past hundred plus years, and they often provide straightforward and powerful witness to a simple yet full life. Maria de Jesus, for example, was married, widowed, with six children and worked the fields for seventy years. She could neither read nor write, yet no one can say she didn’t have a remarkable life that was full, and with peace of mind. The oldest supercentenarian is now a lady in California, an Afro-American, the daughter of slaves. How can we not all marvel at the lives of this wonderful group of supercentenarians?

While surfing the net to find a really nice photograph of de Jesus to keep in her memory, I came across what I think is the creepy part of interest in supercentenarians, and that promoted me to have to write a blog posting today, even though I was kind of at my leisure and taking a break! But when I see something that is a grave error, and especially if it is heretical, I am highly motivated to stop what I am doing and correct it. This is because people watch where I browse with interest, and I am concerned that just rolling my eyes or throwing up a little in my mouth when I read such stuff and just moving on will result in some assuming I do not object to what I have just seen. I can’t do that with every topic because the whole world is filled with lies and garbage, but I focus on those that provide, as you know, good case studies, or are of great urgency toward healthy human thinking and behavior.

Sure, everyone asks the supercentenarians what is the secret to their long lives, and that is great. Also, it is great that people study them (with dignity I hope) to have more insight regarding the medicine of geriatrics and how to prolong healthy human life. The creepy people are those who study them in the admitted belief that there is a way to never die. The creepy site I came across quoted a creepy doctor who actually has the nerve to quote one passage from God’s expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and claim two incredibly wrong and stupid things: 1) that use of the word “Us” means God is “admitting” there is “more than one of him” (um, read the Qur’an, moron… “Us” is used throughout as kings use it as the “imperial we” and also in reference to the immortal life of angels who abide in God) and 2) that somehow God is encouraging humans to learn how to never die and become “immortal” on earth. There’s just so much I can do about willful stupidity. However, I have had in mind a topic regarding the resurrection of the dead at the end of time so I decided to combine these two intentions here and now in this blogging.

The entire Bible and every book of faith or belief system is about two things: 1) the temporary nature of life and how to live with what one has with graciousness and goodness of heart and 2) preparation for reunion after death with the Divine. Even those traditional mainstream faiths who believe in reincarnation don’t think that it is a wonderful thing to keep “recycling” in a living body, and they teach how to break the cycle through detachment of the material and achieve nirvana in the spirit after a final death. There is absolutely no where in sacred writings, particularly not the Bible, the Torah nor the Qur’an, any notion that there exists a way to live forever. God is laughing at certain humans’ desire find such a nonexistent way, though he does so with loving sympathy, except for those who push an inflated and hubristic view on fellow humans that only accentuates their downfall of spirit and of body, eventually. God wants people to be physicians and healers, providers of food, water and shelter, educators, and protectors, so that all people can strive to live as healthy and as long a life as is possible. The author of one of the Gospels, St. Luke, was a physician. Jesus taught constantly to tend to the sick and the needy and the objective is obviously to remove their sorrow, and allow them to live as healthy and as long a life as possible. But the entire point of the Bible and the Qur’an is that humans are expected to do the best with what they have in the understanding that it will not last forever and that they should hope for mercy and bliss in union after death and within eternal life in God, just as the angels already have from their beginning of creation.

People who want to “live forever” generally have a few problems that obscures their sense of reasoning with this matter. One is that they tend not to be elderly themselves, so they do not have the internal perspective of one who has actually lived a long life. Thus these young or middle age men or women have a vision of a vibrant and healthy person full of keen interests and vitality living on and on and on. This theoretical and unrealistic image becomes overpowering in their mind of what reality is like and of how one changes one’s view of grasping onto life as one grows old. In many ways it seems that those people who are not highly motivated “Type A’s” and who have lived a long time, seeing births and deaths in their own family, and having a simple love and acceptance of that are actually the ones who live the longest and the most contented. The Bible teaches that one will lose what one holds the tightest grasp upon and life and death are like that too. Those who grow old often do so because they are not hiding from death, but instead are intimate to the cycle of life and death, often as peasant poor and farmers themselves. So people who envision living forever often have a movie running in their mind where they picture healthy and buff “Type A” personalities running around for all time “doing good.” That’s actually the opposite of what medical research and anecdotal observation reveals. Those who are the most intense about living a long time often die even before they retire, hmm?

This then leads us to the second problem with those who claim that there is a way to live “forever” and that this would be a good thing. That problem is that these people just do not understand love. Again, they have this script in their minds of buff eternal people with lots of friends, interests and good causes. But generation after generation of humans did not live only for themselves and what they want, but to make room in the world for their children and their great grandchildren. The love of the generations that come after you, including those that you don’t live to see, is part of healthy human outlook regarding the reality of life and death. No tree lives forever, nor does a polar bear or an eagle. Biology and the reality of life and death dictate that no living thing is eternal and thus plants and animals make way for the next generation even without having a sense of love and destiny. But it is the consolation of humans with the limited lifespan of all things that they are self aware enough to understand that all things pass with time, even the sun and the stars, and that out of them new life is born, life that they love here and now (their children and their children) and “in advance” for the future generations.

Related to this problem of these “researchers” not understanding love is that they do not understand the love of God and of a place that is much better than even the finest lifestyle can build among a theoretically eternal life span on earth. God has promised that one’s natural home, with him in heaven, is a far better place where one is reunited with loved ones and the saints, and where nothing ever is sad or tarnishes, or loses its beauty, glory and savor. There is nobody in heaven who would EVER come back to earthly life, nor could they even envision doing so. People in hell would come back if they could, ha, but you would not want them back, nor would you want them to live eternally either, but that’s another story. However, that is a useful aside to think about. What would you do with genuinely evil people, such as a Hitler, who like you could live forever? Do you become God and imprison him for eternity on earth, or kill him, justifying that he “lost” the right to the eternal death defying body that you yourself had provided through your research? Believe me, people have enough trouble determining fair sentencing guidelines for child abuses and armed robbers. Who would be “in charge” of sentencing to prison or executing people who like you could “live forever” and “not die?” Do you want non-God fearing people to be able to keep a person alive in a prison cell for a thousand years? Humans wish for very foolish things without thinking it through and viewing it through the lens of genuine human nature at all.

It is precisely because the faithful understand the incomprehensible bliss and reward of eternal life with God after death that these people understand that there are two types of love: love for fellow humans while alive, and the love that comes from residing within God for all eternity. Far from being “liberating,” the notion of eternal earthly life is enslaving in ways that the worst and bleakest science fiction novels could not fully portray. All earthly love dies at some point; who thinks that you can love another human being, even one’s own child, for two hundred, three hundred, a thousand years? Earthly love is a gift that like fruit has to be plucked and enjoyed at its prime, not as it’s been artificially preserved for one thousand years. To keep people alive indefinitely is to deprive them of eternal life that is within the unimaginable immensity that is God’s eternal embrace. Jesus told the disciples about a poor man who suffered much on earth, but now lies in the bosom of the Patriarch of all the monotheistic faiths, Abraham. A poor man who was a “nobody” on earth is now resting in the love of Abraham himself, in God’s presence. Why would someone imagine some thousand year old man web surfing and rocket flying until he just falls apart from lack of love as being some sort of worthy research objective? People are nuts, there is just no other way to put it. Can anyone sane imagine being kept alive indefinitely so that one cannot reach heaven by dying and achieving eternal bliss with God?

Thus God promises and delivers three things. God promises an earthly life that while filled with limitations and uncertainty, if filled with goodwill, love and charity by humans they can have much love, kindness, peace and prosperity. God promises judgment of the individual for his or her belief and his or her faithfulness to God, and his or her works, whereby upon death one is rewarded and achieves heaven or is condemned to hell. God promises at some point in the future that the world will pass away and that the dead shall resurrect for a final judgment. This means that God promises that there will be a new heaven and earth that is populated and brought to life by those who have earned it. Think of it as becoming shareholders in a new company that one cannot imagine now, but will be like the Garden of Eden without the flaw and the sin. No one can second guess how or when God will do this for after all Jesus stated that even he does not know when God intends to do this. If one does not know “when” one also cannot know “how.” For example, what will humans who died as babies be like? Will there be millions of living human souls in precocious and wise infant bodies? That is not likely. So people must trust God that it will be wonderful and one should certainly realize that if you can’t imagine what it will be like, you certainly can’t create your mini-eternal life on earth, forestalling both heaven and the passing of all and coming of the new world.

I mean, for crying out loud, you humans cannot even find a cure for people who suffer from distressing skin disorders such as psoriasis. Families cannot live in peace and goodness without abuse. Communities cannot rebuild after disasters, take care of their own poor, give hope to their young and fight crime. Wars cannot be fought without destroying more than they preserve. And yet some of you fantasize about “living forever” and even worse state that you think that this is “OK” with God?

The only people who lived for hundreds of years were some of the Patriarchs in Biblical times and that was for one simple reason. These individuals were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, not because it’s “theoretically possible to live forever.” God for his own reasons allowed a few to live an extraordinary number of years, including many centuries. If you insist on knowing a “reason” for God’s intention in this matter, you would be on safe ground to think in terms of a combination of their providing faith legacy through many generations (staying alive in order to maintain their future generations’ first hand knowledge of God when there was no writing and when oral history communication was still weak) and also that this was a backwash of residue of Spirit from when God was present in the Garden of Eden on earth. There was a superabundance of grace and the Spirit never just vanishes, no matter how much humans sin and err.

Here is something that I don’t think many people realize. The Apostles were very interested in the time the world would pass away and Jesus would have his Return in the Second Coming. It is almost as though they skip over in their minds their personal deaths and reward in heaven, so eager are they for life on earth with Jesus present. Modern readers misunderstand that keen interest of theirs, even reading into it a minimalization of their hopes and anticipation of heaven. First of all, that is not true, because if you read all that they have said and written they are very fixed on the hope of heaven when they individually die. But they are very curious and eager about the Second Coming and the end of time. Why is that? It is because as Jesus has often been called the new Adam, the one who fixed what was first broken by Adam and Eve, the Apostles were eager to see a world that was “fixed,” with Jesus in rulership. Remember that this was the hope of all Jews at the time, that the Messiah would bring honor and bliss of an earthly realm. The Apostles and disciples maintained their fervor to be part of correcting the wrongs that had been done by humans, starting in the Garden of Eden, and they realize that the Second Coming is when that will actually be achieved. Until then, no matter how great the faith and goodness of humans (and they know there’s a lot of area for improvement, as we see today), human life will always be flawed. They, knowing this, had a “wipe the slate clean” mindset, and had in their minds the image of the new, global Jerusalem as their belief, and eagerly awaited their own role in its creation. As true servants of Jesus Christ and of God, these men thought “past” their own heavenly reward at the end of life, eager to bring the new Garden of Eden, the New Jerusalem, into being with Jesus Christ and his Return. That is why there is so much about them asking Jesus about the end of times and even what seems like their hoping for its soon arrival. They were eager to be new “shareholders” in the new world of the bodily resurrected where humanity has a second chance and there is no sin.

But heaven is not gained by staying alive forever, and the New Jerusalem is not to be without first all humans passing away at the end of time, when God foresees and wills that it happens. If everyone ran around and killed each other off, it’s not like that makes God go, “Oh, OK, they’ve killed each other off so now it’s time to send Jesus back!” The end of time is when all things naturally pass away as they have now outlived their time. Sure, the weakness and the sin of humans have a part in being the “cause” of when it occurs, but humans are only a part of the larger plan. Humans certainly are not the button pushers and the promoters of how or when. Likewise, humans can try to “stay alive” individually forever, cutting off their own noses to spite their own faces, not believing in or desiring heaven, or fearing hell, and thinking that humans are emotionally and mentally fit to just go on and on and on. But they will never achieve that goal because life is life, it is a limited span and something will always arise to curtail it. I mean, look around you; young children and adults are killing themselves rather than even reaching the maturity of their years due to mental illness, drug use, disbelief, despair, ennui, and ego centric poor lifestyle choices and opportunities. Humans are limited; no living creature has the spirit to live a long time, certainly not “forever.” Biology also dictates that viruses and other agents will arise to attack human bodies who think they are “eternal.” Natural disasters do not cease, nor does the temptation to “control population” through abortion and other means. Humans are no more capable and able or emotionally fit to live forever than spider monkeys (and I like spider monkeys).

Even though this was not a Bible or Qur’an quoting blogging I hope that you have found this helpful. The biggest challenge that humans have today is to regain their perspective and balance, which they have lost in the most frightful ways in the past forty or so years. This is what I hoped to assist in with the writing of this particular blog posting. Have a good day and I hope that everyone has a New Years resolution that also includes promoting balance and sanity for themselves and others!