The Floozman Discussion
by Don Webb
The factory foreman feels he’s been had. He comes back to his worksite at night, for a second visit. Again, he catches his night watchman in a position of repose.
Foreman: Now what are you doing? “Thinking” again?
Watchman: Hunh... Oh, yes, I was.
Foreman: Really? And what were you thinking about this time?
Watchman (feeling a bit desperate): Everything!
Foreman: Hah! If you could think of everything, you’d think about doing your job. Now hop to it!
To which one can add a few words of wisdom:
- “God is subtle but not malicious.” — Albert Einstein
- “Things would be a lot simpler if they weren’t so complicated.” — BwS motto
Both of those mottoes are illustrated by another old joke:
A team of scientists have discovered how to create life. They approach God with a wager.
Scientists: We’ve discovered how to create life. We think we can do a pretty good job, maybe even as good as You. Shall we have a friendly contest?
God: Sure, why not?
(God proceeds to assemble pieces of dirt. The scientists do the same.)
God: Nono... Make your own dirt.
The universe is not malicious, because it is consistent, not arbitrary. And any scientist will tell us that discovering the nature of its consistency is an undertaking that is both subtle and difficult.
The fact remains that we can analyze “dirt,” but we can’t make it any more than Elous Telma’s flatworms can. Where does that leave our night watchman, who claims to contemplate nothing and everything on alternate nights?
The scientists have discovered their limits, and the watchman has discovered his, as well. He doesn’t want to be fired for “nothing,” and there’s no way he can control everything; he doesn’t own the company. He will just have to do his job.
Philosophers find themselves in a similar quandary when it comes to metaphysics. They’re not like scientists, who determine what is true or false and to what degree and under what circumstances. Rather, philosophers determine the implications of what we think. Whether it’s good or bad is open to public debate.
And that is where the maze of philosophical and theological scholarship leads: do you think the world is good, bad or indifferent? In any case, what do you do about it? Notice that the “world” is something; it does not include nothingness or its opposite, which stand outside of it.
Utter nothingness and the transcendent infinite are equally unimaginable, for the same reason. Everything we can imagine already exists in some form somewhere in nature. We can describe nothingness or the infinite only by projecting an image of something within our own experience.
For example: the superworld of Floozman in Space resembles nothing so much as a theme park. Jenny Appleseed is quite happy there until circumstances in the material world force her out. Meanwhile, Jenny may think she’s in Heaven or wish to go there bodily, but only Janatone is willing to die.
Are they going to the same place by different routes? Not exactly: Jenny will remain a projection of the material world. Only Janatone’s way leads to the One, the being that is beyond all beings and is being itself; it’s part of the job.
Copyright © 2016 by Don Webb