Friday, February 10, 2017

ROBOTS, DANCING AND GOD'S WILL


 
Tatania in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
by Frederick Howard Michael

 In my youth, the public school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Lord’s prayer. Today, my entire school would be arrested and thrown in jail for daring to offend America haters, God rejecters, or some such malcontents who feel it is their duty not to go along with the crowd. I can’t recall anyone ever being scolded for not reciting these two inspirational messages, but I can’t recall anyone making a stink about it, either. I’m sure I moaned and groaned about it as much as or probably more than most, but the sentiments expressed in those two recitations have been touchstones in my life that I am glad I have.

Until just yesterday, I had always interpreted the part of the Lord’s prayer where we pray that God’s will be done as a real downer. Like, your mother is crazy but you’ve just gotta put up with it, because it’s God’s will. Or you can’t go to the movies because you are sick, so it’s God’s will that you don’t get to spend ninety minutes in the dark with your latest onscreen heartthrob. Whenever you had to suck it up and accept defeat, disappointment, illness, disaster and all kinds of pain, you submitted because, you know, God’s will, not mine.

But only yesterday, well into my gray-haired dotage, it dawned on me God was getting a pretty bad rap from this idea. It was then that I remembered the second part of that phrase in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Now, I’m aware that there are many variable interpretations of biblical translations, but it seems pretty clear that God’s will is that we do things on earth more like they are done in heaven. This is not about sucking it up, suffering and blaming God. God’s will is that earth shall be more like he wills things to be in heaven, and it’s a pretty safe assumption that your crazy mother won’t be making you miserable in heaven, God will find a way to bring her into compatibility with heaven, not the other way around. So our job is not to suck it up and soldier through, but to make earth more like heaven, somehow.

This is why I do no fear the robot. Bring on the robots, let them do the drudgery, the boring, repetitive jobs; free humanity to make earth more like heaven. Encourage our imaginations to run riot, and let the things we imagine be profitable in every way, intellectually, emotionally and financially. Bring on more dancing and singing, more beauty, more song, more paintings, more gardens and flowers everywhere, more games, more poetry, more books and more time to read the, more romance, more time for delight in children and raising them and telling them stories, more theaters and play acting, more family excursions, more of making earth like heaven. Whatever your heaven is, as long as you’re not hurting someone or taking away their freedom to find their heaven, please go ahead.

But, look around. We live in a shabby world of sensory deprivation, a world that lacks personality, sensibility, decoration, grace, charm, and individuality. Go to a mall and it’s vast, and physically comfortable, but lifeless, and every damn mall from coast to coast is interchangeable. They all look exactly alike with their potted palms and tiled walkways. Where is the singing and dancing, where are the choirs harmonizing like the old barber shop fellows? Nobody has time for the small, but vital art of living anymore.

And Good God, merely stepping into the cold sterility of a hospital is enough to rob the heartiest soul of the will to live. I know hospitals have to be sterile, but do they have to look that way, too? No. I spent some time with a sick relative in a hospital in Spokane where the walls were painted in soft pastels and decorated with ivy covered crumbling bricks, willow trees and children on swings. It made turning every corner interesting and delightful, instead of terrifying.

Break up the global cartels, let them be the Morlocks running the machines and tinkering with the robots, we humans have better things to do. Bring back humanity with all its joy of living, something a robot can never take away from us or share with us.

Spoken by Oberon, the Fairy King in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

More of this, please.

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