Lately, I’ve been thinking about a quote from Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead:1
Even if they had been real gods, what did it matter? What was it to me? Here I was still, right where I was born a thousand or so years before, in the middle of the human condition—namely, rubbish and pain. If the gods were real, their only relationship with us was to use us to play their games. Screw them all.
…. I washed my hands in a puddle that had formed nearby. It felt good on my burnt finger. The water was real. So were the earth, air and fire. And that was all I cared to believe in. Let it go with the basics. Don’t get cute and sophisticated.
I don’t know why it started, but lately I starting thinking about this quote, especially the second-half. Religion is a subject that interests me a lot, but I started thinking to myself “is any of it useful?”
Mahayana Buddhism, which includes things like Zen and Pure Land Buddhism among other things, has some incredibly sophisticated strains of philosophy in it including Madhyamika (Middle-Way), Yogacara (Conscious-Only) and Avatamsaka (Flower-Garland) schools of thought. I’ve studied them off and on and they’re incredibly powerful, incredibly deep. They make some of the Western philosophers I learned about in school look like amateurs.
But then again, what if it’s just all a bunch of mind-games. Maybe just people being “cute and sophisticated”.
Countless generations have come and gone before, countless generations will surpass me too. My life is short, and will be forgotten. But is that really my problem?
Is my interest in religion just me over-thinking things? Am I just being melodramatic about life, and need to just unwind and relax? Go play Nintendo more or something.
Maybe all we really have is just the four elements, and a lot of rubbish and pain. Maybe the Powers-That-Be are just a bunch of capricious jerks.
P.S. Taking a “break” from my vacation. Just had to write this one down.
1 Although it’s a little-known science-fiction book written in 1969, it’s a pretty profound book dealing with how different people face death, religion and other subjects.