Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Dangerous Miracles

“We who are about to die demand a miracle,” wrote the poet W. H. Auden during the dawning crisis of World War II.  We could say the same for us in June of 2020.  But what kind of a miracle should we demand?  It’s an interesting question. Suppose we had the power to perform one miracle, with the intent of improving the lot of the human race?  It’s not a question easily answered.  You can never predict the result of performing a miracle.

Here’s the first miracle I would perform, as an immediate boon to all humans as well as to all living creatures of nature.  I would change the most prominent feature of Donald J. Trump into its opposite: that is, from  cowardice and mendacity to the courage to speak truth to power.  I admit it’s hard to imagine how my miracle would play out.  Trump’s conversion to savior and hero might cause mass disorientation and suicide among his base followers.

The truth is that miracles can be dangerous.  Let me try another.  Suppose for a miracle we instill a simple but indestructible quantum of basic decency in every human being so that crimes, legal and spiritual, just fade away.  Obviously, that won’t work.  It would mean the end of police, lawyers, jails, the business of incarceration, guns, the weapon’s industries, and of course the entertainment industries. That extra injection of simple humanity would be a radically subversive miracle.  So cross that one off.

Let’s then suppose we miraculously grant perfect health to everybody.  That would be a great miracle for Americans, millions of whom have poor or no health coverage. But I’m not sure everybody would be happy with this miracle, for example, the pharmaceutical industries.  To stay rich for these folks it’s essential that we have plenty of illness, crime, mental distress, boredom, fear and plain old  unhappiness.  Perfect health and profound happiness would really upset the world order.  And enemies of that miracle would come rapidly crawling out of the woodwork.

Suppose somebody chose to endow us with miraculous powers to move about in space, so that we could levitate and even have sex in the air like Tibetan tantric yogis.  That would be a fun miracle, don’t you think?  And very convenient.  No more crowded planes, hanging around bus stops, having to bring your car in for an oil change, the end of the horrors of the DMV.  Imagine how beautiful the world would be without automobiles, without the energy industries and all the pollution.  On the other hand, here too we’re bound to run into opposition. Bound to be big vested interests strongly opposed to this miracle, too. 

The way the world is set up, and the way people seem to be made, may not welcome our wonderful potentials.  Perhaps we need to pick our miracles more carefully. They all seem to have dangerous consequences. One well documented miracle is inedia, the ability to live for long periods of time without food or drink, and to function quite well.  Suppose for a moment that large numbers of people suddenly became happy inediacs.  This would no doubt alarm large sectors of the food and drink industries, and it wouldn’t be good news for farmers.  And all those advertisers would be left in the lurch.  Sorry.  Goodbye inedia.

Problems arise at the interpersonal level.  I recall two students of mine who were having psychic experiences that resulted in falling out with their mates.  In one case of a woman who had a mystical experience, the marriage was destroyed.  In another, the woman was having precognitive experiences that caused her boyfriend to treat her like “a lucky charm” to support his appetite for gambling.  That wrecked the relationship.

So it is hard to pick a miracle without a risk of danger.  Any ideas?  To be on the safe side, let’s choose a miracle to benefit everybody.  For example, let everybody love everybody else unconditionally. How could that go wrong? But here again we may be at risk.  It is hard to imagine how it would feel to exist in a state of loving rapport with all beings.  Would it after a while become a little boring?  Would it inspire a movement of protest whose motto was: Back to Normality and Nastiness!

For my approach to the topic of miracles, see below:


Richard said...

The miracle is waking up as a species. Which is what we're doing. Covid is a miracle, forcing us to look at ourselves in the mirror in isolation. George Floyd's death - an absolute tragedy - has resulted miraculously in the world being forced to look into a painful mirror where one group suffocates another group. These are miracles.

As an aside it's important to be aware that biologically psychopathological individuals are unable to change at a fundamental level. The author of 'Political Ponerology' reckoned that roughly 20% of biologically defective individuals form 'pathocracies' (e.g. the hierarchies of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao). His compatriot, K. Dabrowski, creator of 'The theory of Positive Disintegration', reckoned that profound change requires sensitivity, a healthy conscience, a biologically healthy body and a desire for change. He suggested that most people are close to psychopaths, following biological or social drives. He also suggested that only about 35% of the population are capable of profound change.

So we need to be careful what we ask for in our miracles. We live on planet earth and we have to have our feet on the ground. Widespread knowledge about pathological individuals, and a knowledge about the process of enlightenment for those that are capable of profound change, would be miracles to me.

Michael Grosso said...

Thanks for your sensible comments, Richard, but my discussion is about real extraordinary phenomena and some of reasons behind resistance to taking them seriously.I wouldn't call Covid 19 a 'miracle' but an opportunity in disguise.

Older Blog Entries