03 feb Is God happy?
This question comes from the late Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski (Thw New York Review of Books, December 2012). He draws our attention to the meaning of happiness. Is Nirvana, he wonders, the absolute state of happiness? Those who cannot read the early Buddhist scriptures in the original, cannot be certain: ‘happiness’ does not occur in the translations. It is also hard to be sure whether the meaning of words like ‘consciousness’ or ‘self’ corresponds to their meaning in modern languages. Nirvana entails the abandonment of the self. This might suggest that there can be happiness without a subject – just happiness, unrelated to anyone’s being happy. Which, according to Kolakowski, seems absurd. On the other hand: one can only be perfectly happy if one forgets (or refuses to see) evil and suffering on earth, in other words if one is detached from all things material. Both Buddhism and Christianity suggest that the ultimate liberation of the soul is also perfect peace of the spirit. My spirit, in that case, should be in a state of ‘immutability’, so that nothing can influence it. This is what monks and true mystics are working on: to get close to God, to absolute happiness. But an immutable state of mind with immutable happiness, what does that mean? Nothing. It is like the happiness of a stone, to use Kolakowski’s words.
Only children, very young children, can be in a state of happiness because they are still ignorant of evil and corruption. After the age of 4 or 5 the human being becomes aware of the suffering around him. He cannot anymore be totally happy. Back to Kolakowski’s question: Is God happy? Only if he is indifferent to mankind’s suffering. But how can an indifferent God be the loving father we make of Him? The true God of the Christians, Jesus Christ, wasn’t a happy person, as far as we can see. As my son said when he was 4: ‘why do we have to look at a man with blood running out of his hands and feet? Why is Jesus on a cross, suffering, while my teacher says this is the God of love?’ It made me cry. In short, happiness does not seem applicable to divine life. Mother Teresa knew this. She has been looking for the compassionate God during half of her life and she didn’t find him. My guess is that intelligent Christians (like the Pope) are seeking for the answer as well. There is a tough contradiction in all of this: conscious people can never forget the negative sides of life and therefore can only imagine what happioness might be. To experience happiness one must either be ignorant or in a trance, the state of mind we might encountar in Tibetan monasteries. God cannot be really happy as man cannot be really happy unless we imagine that evil, hell, and even purgatory are no longer in operation and that every single human being has been saved by God and is now enjoying celestial bliss. But such a condition has never been seen, is Kolakowski’s conclusion. We have to accept that man is far from perfect. Can we accept that God isn’t either? Only if we accept tha He is our own invention and not the other way around. But that is maybe another discussion.