Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Imagining paradise

In a personal or employment situation that involves steady labor, it is probably easy to dream of not having to work.  When I think of work, I tend to use the word I just did: Labor, meaning hard steady work. Work these days may involve many required steps, concentration of the mind and maybe the hands and eyes, as with a teacher who has 150 term papers to read and judge (fairly and honestly, we hope). So, for many people, paradise may include not having to work, or not having to do the work one has been doing.  

I read today of the benefits of coffee.  The author had read such praise of drinking coffee that he got excited and wrote "he was just one cup away from being invincible."  I think boys and men are more likely to think that being invincible would heavenly than girls and women would. I don't think I have many places in my life where I need or desire invincibility, which I take to mean I can't be defeated.  I haven't been defeated in a long string of days, not because I am invincible, but because I am not in contests or fights or struggles or wars.

Would I have a better marriage if I were invincible? Would my friendships be better if I could not be defeated?  Maybe, I were invincible and knew that I could rely on being that way, I might pick more fights, engage in more, say, financial competitions with other businesses, knowing that I would always come out on top.  But, I suspect that being invincible is just shorthand, just a word symbol, for no worries and only pleasantries. Whether we are imagining heaven or only pleasantries or wonderful achievements, it seems very difficult to specify all the variables one wants set just so.  

Daniel Gilbert is a psychologist at Harvard and the author of "Stumbling on Happiness."  That book relates to ordinary human attempts to imagine or specify what one wants for complete paradise, total wonderfulness.  If our attention is naturally drawn to a sore muscle, heaven might be said to be freedom from muscle pain. But most days, when we are free from muscle pain, we don't congratulate ourselves on being in heaven.  It is more likely that we are fretting about our bills or getting an oil change for the car.

I wonder if we simply aren't built for heaven, at least not a worry-free, possibly boring existence of no challenges, no needs, no rewards and concomitantly, no loses, no defeats, no worries or bothers.  I am not yet to a place of being thankful for irritations, mistakes and failures but maybe I am moving in that direction.

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