2009-10-25

The Human Condition

Some people take comfort in delusion. But the comfort of delusion is not a lasting, secure comfort. We cannot afford to be complacent and we cannot afford to be delusional.  In order to become what we must become, we must understand how far we are from it now and what we must realistically do to change. Understanding the truth, however painful, is the beginning of change, improving the conditions of human life, and all life.

 

What are some of the problems before us?

 

We human beings rarely experience lives of joy. Instead, we often experience pain, sadness, anguish, and despair from the conditions of our existence, the "human condition", and the despair causes us to embrace delusion and apathy.

 

Our understanding and knowledge are limited - we are all ignorant of at least some things that are known by others - information and education are not equally available to all - but even the most knowledgeable are constrained by the present limits of human comprehension. Ignorance limits our opportunities and forecloses potential solutions to innumerable problems. But even the smartest and most capable among us are terribly ignorant and incompetent when judged against the scale of total knowledge of all things and the total power to do all things. Our minds are also afflicted by irrationality and heuristic biases and other faulty modes of thinking and decision-making.

 

Our present human bodies are filled with weakness, inadequacy, faults, and shortcomings. We often suffer terrible illnesses, diseases, and adverse conditions of the body and mind. The best medicine of this era cannot treat or cure many of these disorders, and many of us do not even have access to the best medicine of this era.

 

We are all of us today under the doom of death. We live for little over a century at most, and most of us will not even live that long. Some of us will die of conditions that could have been treated, because we do not have access to the best medicine. But the doom of death stands before us all.

 

As if our circumstances were not already bad enough, we human beings also foolishly stand in the way of our own happiness. We typically fail to appreciate the potential and actual value and good in others as much as we should. We typically fail to realize or learn how our own self-interests can be harmonized with others' self interest. We often act carelessly toward one another, harming one another or casually allowing one another to suffer. Many of us are obsessed with trying, at any cost, to achieve higher status compared to others, rather than working together towards shared happiness.

 

We are disorganized and uncoordinated even we try to help one another. We suffer from inequality - the physical inequality of body and mind compounded by the engineered inequality of injustice and lack of compassion. Many of us live under beastly conditions of life, suffering hunger or living in constant physical danger.

 

We human beings are also typically cruel and contemptuous of the lives and welfare of other animals on the planet. We have already begin the widespread destruction of our biosphere, partly fueled by desperation to survive and prosper, but also by ignorance of other alternative ways to survive and prosper, and ignorance or irrational denial of the consequences of the destruction for our happiness and survival as well as the happiness and survival of other sentient and sapient beings.

 

Although our powers to create are very limited, our powers to destroy are great, and increasing. The faults of our present human natures pose tremendous dangers to the entire world. And human beings are limited to this world - our bodies are so weak and constrained, we can live only on the very surface of the Earth, under optimal conditions. We require very narrow ranges of climate, pressure, gravity, radiation, and so on to survive. We cannot yet live permanently anywhere but on Earth, so humanity is in constant danger of extinction from our own actions and various natural processes.

 

The human condition is a terrible condition compared to what it could be and should be and what we, deep down, want it to be.


2009-10-18

True Dignity for Those Whose Lives are Interrupted

Many people have said biostasis and cryopreservation do not show the proper respect for the dead. For them, all cryopreservation techniques are inherently violations of the body. And in saying so, these people echo the benighted attitudes people once held towards anatomical dissection, surgery, and organ transplants.
 
Human dignity, they would argue, requires us to do as we have always done, especially with the dead. Even though we all know the horrible, and pointless, atrocities that are committed against the human body by funeral home embalming, still, it is the tradition, and so it is not questioned. Only thoughtless tradition gives the deceased the proper dignity? When we truly love someone, we should want them to live.
 
As Jesus of Nazareth said, "Let the dead bury the dead." And I would say, let the living save the living.
 
The greatest respect we should show to someone who is dying is to help them to overcome death by preserving their potential for life, and we can do this only by preserving their body, which contains the support for their soul. It is not respect to destroy someone's body and soul by embalming or burial or cremation.
 
This is what some people would consider dignity - burying their friends and family in the ground, like burying excrement in a latrine. This is how a cat buries its feces - it scratches a hole in the dirt, lays its feces there, and then covers it over. This is how people have been treated until now – like feces! Some people burn the bodies of the dead, incinerating people like trash and scattering the dusty refuse around. Is this dignity? Treating people like garbage and excrement?
 
This is what superstition, ignorance, and mindless tradition have led us to -- contempt and disregard for human beings, and destroying those who can be saved. Our loved ones' bodies, immediately after they fail, are still potentially alive; their bodies still contain the essence of what they were. To allow superstitious fears about death and taboos about the dead body distract us from saving worthy human beings - this would be the true violation of those human beings' actual worth, their real dignity. We need to love with informed love. We cannot "take out the trash" anymore!
 
True dignity arises from understanding and faith and love. True regard for the dignity of human beings calls us to acts expressing faith in life and the future of humanity. It is, ultimately, hope for actual resurrection, here and real. True, brave, and informed love requires us to carefully preserve the body and soul and keep them until they will be brought back to life.

2009-10-12

A New Day Dawning

The world has so many problems; how can we say there is a better future ahead?
 
We can and should pay attention to the problems and inadequacies that exist today and do everything we can to remedy them, but we should also not take the many things humanity has accomplished until now for granted. We should not take for granted the solutions to past problems, and focus only on current problems, if that will cause us to lose heart.
 
When we remind ourselves of what has already been accomplished, we can be more confident about our readiness to continue and build further toward the better world to come.
 
That is why we need to understand that faith and hope have a role in our survival as human beings and all possibility of our future flourishing. Faith and hope can allow us to stand up to the nihilism of discouragement, cynicism, and misanthropy which can arise from our impatience and frustration, from our so high, and thus so frequently dashed, expectations for humanity.
 
The worst moments in human history may lie ahead of us, but we must be determined to hold on to faith and hope to survive those times and emerge, as humans always have eventually, victorious. We must believe that every loss and destruction we suffer can, and will, someday be redeemed.
 
A new day is dawning, and the light of this dawn arises first as a vision of happiness, and a desire for happiness, and a perception of the possibility of happiness - happiness, that is, the total fulfillment of humanity.
 

2009-10-04

Fulfillment

In my last few messages, I have discussed three concepts -- the better world to come, the divine, and immortality -- that link our transhuman vision of the future with themes common to religions from all over the world and throughout history.
 
The theme of the better world to come we now understand is realized in our efforts to make the world a better place through self-understanding, science, technology, and understanding one another. Through learning we can acquire knowledge and wisdom and the fullest, best realization of our own inner natures, and we can also build the tools which will allow us to transform ourselves, so that we can become better able to learn, better able to know and understand, and better able to realize and fulfill ourselves, both as individuals and as members of the entire human family and the fellowship of all sentient beings. The better world to come is the world of the future which we can and will build, if we set our hearts and minds on it, and if we realize the proper methods and tools of development and progressive, directed evolution. The world we look forward to is not merely more technologically advanced, a world of more conveniences than now, a world of a few more inventions. The world we can and should look forward to is a world transformed, transfigured by our own transformation as human beings, and a world in which all nature and the physical world will be transfigured by our transcendence and the effects of our transcendence.
 
The transcendence of the human condition and the limitations of humanity as currently constituted is anticipated and theorized through the ancient traditions of gods and superhuman sages. Again, we human beings should not look forward to being merely more aware of certain facts or more empowered by various technological gadgets. We should look forward to realizing all of what we are and hope to be, all the best of what we can be. What we are now is the germ of what we will become, and what we are now will be transfigured in what we will become. Like a seed growing into a tree, like an infant growing into an adult, we will not be as we are now. Humanity is still in its infancy, but when it grows up, it will ascend.
 
Eternal life is something that perhaps cannot fully imagine in our current form, but as a goal we see it before us and all kinds of ancient religions have passed on visions of it as something to aspire to. The work of resurrection, like the work of paradise and ascension to godhood, is our work, a task that we must set ourselves to realize and accomplish. Only in enduring, ascended life will our aspirations as human beings be realized. We are not born to be interwined with death, and we must purge death from ourselves and all humanity and sentient beings.
 
This transhuman vision is not something completely new in the world; it is a new understanding of, and dedication to, aspirations as old as humanity itself. UI is the fulfillment of all that is best in all the world's religions. It is in UI that their visions of a better world to come, the divine, and eternal life can be realized.
 

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