Friday, April 15, 2016

Life Is Worth Living, Still

"Congratulations, dad! It's a boy!" I called a friend two days ago to issue these congratulations moments after he sent me a "text message" announcing the awaited arrival of his son. The Rad Trad is to be the godfather and, thankfully, will not have to join the Successful Italian Businessmen to do so.

A coworker returning from maternity leave said her new son is "a bag of organs" until he develops some more engaging characteristics, presumably like the ability to fight her for his dignity. A newborn child is an unwitting explorer, finding and absorbing everything anew, a Romantic and an adventure seeker. What adventurers will this child go on? What lessons will he learn. He could be a great man of the world; he could be a good man, with a steady job and a family of his own; he could be a complete scoundrel and reject all his rearing; he could kill someone; he could be mediocre. He could be a saint; he could squeak into heaven at the end; he could be lost to hell. He really could be anything.

He will sop up everything he can, but also leave what he cannot take in behind. His mind is a paper towel drying up excess water after a spill. Something that makes us different from the lower creatures is our memories. They seem to learn from what happens to them, which trains them for their states of existence, be it house dog potty trainer or a tiger cub on a first hunt; their encounters are purely didactic. We do not just have memories, we have experiences of mind, soul, and body with ourselves and with others. Our experiences can be reminisced, rejected, lamented, considered, recalled, decried or assimilated. Learning is a sensory act of punishment in military service, but not always in civilian life. Our experiences and our rumination creates self-awareness and eventually hints to us that we are distinct from the large and small fuzzy creatures, that our souls resemble He Who is above us rather than the animals below with us.

I learned of my godson-to-be's birth the same day yet another article on the impending integration of Artificial Intelligence with human life appeared on the news wires. Futurists are wildly optimistic that dynamic A.I. will replace most human functions and free up our time to do.... something.... I am not in the understandable minority that sees A.I as a threat to human existence. The very reason Artificial Intelligence captures the imagination betrays its limits, that it is bound to a linear, formulaic concept of intelligence with inputs and results that can think for itself if thinking equates merely with finding solutions to parameters of problems. Perhaps A.I. could even learn to multiply its presence, but what it cannot seem to do is value itself inherently or to realize even that it exists in a qualitative way similar to humans. Perhaps the real threat of A.I. is that it could eliminate practically all jobs and render those who do not own the robots penurious; the Industrial Revolution did not cause that much social harm in contrast.

Artificial Intelligence would not have been created if not for creators who see the human mind as a purely sensory computer, reacting to various inputs and stimili, a cross between a dog and a Windows machine. Technocrats would use their inventions to lighten our already white collar burdens and free our time for the bars and our live in girlfriends. We live more and more the lives the the low creatures, roaming from one amenable sensation to another. It sounds pathetic, but it is much worse. Society continues to automate and alienate itself until it reaches a place not seen since the Fall of Adam and Eve, when man who once knew God fell away, losing not only the Divine presence, but even the intuition for God. Difficulty did not cause the separation of God and man; it was the result of the great divorce. Confusion will continue to reign and life generally to become more mechanical, less human. Perhaps the average millennial will be able to take a vacation to the Caribbean in their 50s, provided they do not discharge their savings too soon. Otherwise, we have little to look forward to.

God and friendship are the two most important things in life, friendship being an image of the love of God. Society is withdrawing from God and from its component pieces. But life is still worth living. Msgr. Fulton Sheen ran a television program in America decades ago called "Life is Worth Living". We can love ourselves until we find there is not much there to love if we do not add to our lives. Love of God and love of neighbor fills one much more than a successful career. No one has ever said at a funeral, "Stan could reconcile the entire ledger and calculate EBITDA by close of business. He will be missed. What's that? The recruiter's calling with candidates. Sorry, I have to take this."

Eventually God made man for Himself. Man is a little child, currently having a centuries long tantrum and hiding in the yard. Father slowly approaches. While the rest of society waits for Father to come to him, I hope my godson comes out of hiding and looks his Father in the face.

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