Friday, December 14, 2012

Lin Yutang: Spirit and Flesh, concl.

"A defense of the angels-without-bodies theory will be found to be most vague and unsatisfying.  Such a defender might say, 'Ah, yes, but in the world of spirit, we don't need such satisfactions.' 'But what instead have you got?'  Complete silence; or perhaps, 'Void--Peace--Calm.'  'What then do you gain by it?'  'Absence of work and pain and sorrow.' I admit such a heaven has a tremendous attraction to galley slav4es.  Such a negative ideal and conception of happiness is dangerously near to Buddhism and ultimately to be traced to Asia (Asia Minor, in this case) rather than Europe.

Such speculations are necessarily idle, but I may at least point out that the conception of a 'senseless spirit' is quite unwarranted, since we are coming more and more to feel that the universe itself is a sentient being.  Perhaps motion rather than standing still will be a characteristic of the spirit, and one of the pleasures of a  bodiless angel will be to revolve like a proton around a nucleus at the speed of twenty or thirty thousand revolutions a second.  There may be a keen delight in that, more fascinating than a ride on a Coney Island scenic railway.  It will certainly be a kind of sensation.  Or perhaps he bodiless angel will dart like light or cosmic rays in ethereal waves around curved space at the rate of 186,000 miles per second.  There must still be spiritual pigments for the angels to paint and enjoy some form of creation, ethereal vibrations for the angels to feel as tone and sound and color, and ethereal breeze to brush against the angels' cheeks.  Otherwise spirit itself would stagnate like water in a cesspool, or feel like men on a hot, suffocating summer afternoon  without a whiff of fresh air.  There must still be motion and emotion (in whatever form) if there is to be life; certainly not complete rest and insensitiveness."

-- Lin Yutang --
from The Importance of Living

Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I somehow get the idea that he doesn't take the idea of the possible existence of angels very seriously.  

"we are coming more and more to feel that the universe itself is a sentient being."

I'm not clear as to how seriously we are meant to take this statement.  Is he suggesting that this is just another idea similar to that of angels which is now coming to take the place of angels?

Or, is he suggesting that this may be a more rational idea which will prove that the existence of angels is untenable?

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