Urbania; 345,600 Seconds of Paradise

30 11 2009

Monday through Friday they drive safely, resigned to their daily grind.  They get up, go to work, then come home again.  There’s no rush.  Then comes the four-day weekend, Thanksgiving Holiday, and their brains, whatever exists of them, fly out the window with the fast food wrapper.  For them, there is no Heaven, apart from what can be spared here on Earth.  Each second of bliss arrives once, and then it’s gone forever.  In four days, that’s 345,600 seconds, and every moment lost is a moment of paradise wasted.  Before they know it, it’s all gone, and they return to their weekly chore of earning the next one.  Eventually, there will be no more weekends or holidays, and the passing of this one marks another milestone toward that end.

The speed limit is sixty-five, and everyone is trying to go eighty, following the next car at a distance of a murderous few feet.  Occasionally, two drivers get into a micro-disaster, slowing the rest of the herd to a maddening crawl.  I look in the rear view mirror at the car behind me, cringing every time its headlights disappear below the line of my trunk hood.  My presence has robbed him of several of his precious seconds, and he threatens my life with his car, like putting a gun to my head and demanding that I do the impossible and speed through the car in front of me.  Through the night, our river of headlights winds, snaking up through the Tejon pass like a line of ants returning to the colony.  Over the mountains we pour, gushing like a waterfall into this basin, this sea of humanity that we call the Greater Los Angeles area.  While it may be large, there’s nothing good about it.  It’s the home of Hollywood, selling us fantasy to soothe our postmodern minds.  It’s the pornography capital of the world, the ultimate whore.  It spreads like a lake of lights, hemmed by the ocean to the west and south, and by the mountains to the north and east.  They keep reproducing themselves, not knowing why they are here, not caring where they are going, passing the onus of that discovery ever to the next generation.  It is a place where people are not best measured by the numbers, but by the kiloton of human mass.

In the middle of it all, there lies an open grave, just west of Baldwin Park, a city named for a dead rich man.  Few people know it as a designated mass grave, mostly filled with water at the moment, but ever ready for the fateful eventuality of the big one.  It’s like they expect a big hand to reach out of the sky with an industrial-sized can of RAID and spray our colony, watching us wriggle as we die.  Then we might need a big gaping maw in the ground to put our casualties.  Their grave is already dug and waiting, and they don’t even know it.

The colony is better prepared for death than for life.  Had they been prepared for life, they would not be burning with frustration, watching as the seconds tick by, counting down on their temporary paradise.  Instead, they would be drawing life everlasting from a source that never runs dry, like ants to a cornucopia that is renewed every morning.  Four days is nothing.  They could have eternity.  They would have so much that they need not fight for anything.  What’s infinity plus a few more hours, a few more dollars, or a few more feet along the asphalt trail?  There is no deadline, no scarcity, no limit for those tapped into the eternal source of life.

But they choose, instead, to fight for every last piece of the pie, and every last second of their four days of paradise, until it is over, never to return.

Infinite Dilution

4 12 2008

Take a small amount of raw sewage and dilute it to one-tenth concentration in sterile, pure water.  Would you drink it?  What if you were really thirsty?  If that’s not good enough, then dilute it by another tenth, to a one-hundredth concentration.  Even at that dilution, you will still see a haze in the water.  How dilute would it need to be for you to drink it?  Drinking water standards are high, but not as high as the standards for sterile water for injection (SWI).  You could dilute that water indefinitely, but it would never technically be acceptable for injection again.  Once that sewage is added, it doesn’t matter how much more sterile water you add, because you’re never going to want it in your veins.  However, realistically, if you diluted it by an ocean of water, you might actually get it safe enough for injection, assuming you only use a very small part of it.  No pharmaceutical regulatory agency would approve of it, but it might still work.  Let’s take it a step further, though.  We’re picky about what we put in our mouths.  We’re even choosier about what we put in our blood.  When it comes to the ultimately internal part of us, our eternal soul, we’re divided into two extremes.  There are the nominally religious among us who think that an act of evil can be balanced out by acts of good.  It’s like saying that a drop of sewage is made clean by mixing it with a drop of sterile water.  Okay, maybe two or three drops, and that’s good enough.  Our souls are justified, and we’re ready for Heaven.  One might think that we could connect our sewer lines to our potable water lines if we simply remember to flush twice for every defecation.  If it’s disgusting for drinking, then it’s abominable on the spiritual level.  In truth, no amount of good deeds ever cancels out any act of evil.  Want to get in to Heaven?   Well, you’re going to have to wipe that dog poop off your feet first.  Keep wiping.  No matter how long you wipe, you can only remove a certain fraction of what’s there, forever leaving some small residue.


Every person judges others.  It’s in our nature.  What’s also true is that every person has a different idea of what a basically good person is.  That standard that each of us holds is invariably defined by our perception of ourselves.  Dale Carnegie once said that no one blames himself for anything.  I have found this to be a reliable truth.  The standard that each person sets for himself and others is based on himself, such that he would never have to call himself a bad person.  Sometimes that standard is just a little bit lower, so that he might not have to call anyone else bad, either.  Whatever standard a person uses, whatever level of goodness he thinks a typical person must have, that standard must be applied equally, both to himself and others, in order to avoid a sense of hypocrisy.  Let’s say that a person fails his own standard.  What happens next?  Either he will adjust the standard downward to suit himself, or he will downplay the dirtiness of his own deed and say that it was not as bad as it seemed.  Not once in ten years does a person typically stand back and look at his motives rationally, or he might see the senselessness of his own ideals.  There is no basis for applying a self-determined standard to others.  Yet, not applying that self-determined standard to others means having a different standard for others than for oneself, which means having to be a hypocrite.  The world often criticizes the church for failing to live up to the church’s own standards, even if they still excel relative to the world.  Some people claim to have no standard for others, and in the next breath they condemn people who do hold others accountable.  On what basis do they condemn them?  They have, in the same breath, contradicted by deed the very ideals that they espouse by word.


I might tell you that I scored one hundred on a test today.  You might think that was a great score, but I might tell you that it was one hundred out of a thousand.  Then it’s not such a great score.  When it comes to sin, it’s your score out of infinity.  We see the sins of others relative to ourselves, and God sees our sins relative to himself.  If God is perfect, then anything short of perfection seems to fall short.  True perfection is an infinite thing.  We can approach it, but no one can ever really reach it.  If we think we’ve reached it, then it’s only because our perception of perfection is flawed.  On a test with an infinite number of points, anything less than infinity, anything not perfect, fails equally.  Any finite number divided by infinity equals zero.  A non-Christian once praised me for being of high character.  I told him that in the eyes of God, I was no better than he was.  He had no problem with that.  Then I told him that he was no better than a murderer or a thief, and one might guess that he reacted very strongly to that.  In essence, all he was doing was praising himself when he praised me.  It’s true, though, that anything less than perfection is complete failure in the eyes of a perfect God.  People hate to see me condemn sin, and they accuse me of putting them down.  They do not understand that I see myself as equal to the worst of sinners, and that people cannot possibly be put down any further than they already are.  We’ve hit bottom.  We can always sin worse, but we cannot possibly fail worse.  It’s a grim situation that everyone has gotten used to.  They get the job, the house, the car, the kids and everything that they want to think that life is about.  They get quite comfortable…and then they go to Hell.  The Abyss is loaded with “basically good” people.


If it ended there, then I might be better off not mentioning it.  If there were no hope, then I think I’d better keep my thoughts to myself.  Mathematically, the only way to fix the problem is to add infinity into the equation:


n / ∞ = 0, where n is any finite number




(n + ∞) / ∞ = 1


The only way for a sinner to be judged as acceptable is for that sinner to be judged together with a perfect person.  Logically, only an infinite being could truly be perfect, independently, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, multiples of infinity equal one infinity.


K ∞ = ∞, where K is some number from zero to infinity, excluding zero and infinity.


What this means is that we need to share our eternal judgment with a perfect person, which must inherently mean that we must share our fate with someone who is also God.  Therefore, we must hope with every fiber of our existence that Jesus was perfect, which means that he was also God.  We must also cast our lot in with his.  On the other side of the equation, when we are forever judged, all of our works on this terrestrial sphere will not amount to even a cheap plastic trophy.  Fortunately, they will also not amount to any form of punishment, either.


The problem is similar to an old riddle posed to sophomores: any mathematical line has an infinite number of points that one must pass through in order to travel along it from point A to point B.  At first glance it appears to be impossible to move at all, because one would need an infinite amount of time to travel through an infinite number of points.  In truth, though, the points are infinitely small, so it takes no time to travel through them.  The result is infinity divided by infinity.  The result equals one.  One what?  It could be one second, one hour, or one year.  By this same math, infinity is required of us, and we, together with one who is infinite, can match that.  The result is one…something.  I can’t define what it is, but it isn’t failure.  It isn’t zero.  It’s one hundred percent of Heaven, and I’ve never been there, so I can’t tell you what it is.


It’s like a hole with no bottom, filled with a limitless supply of soil.  Nothing less than an infinite supply of dirt can fill a hole with no bottom.  Christ died unnecessarily and went to a Hell that he didn’t deserve.  Doesn’t that one sound odd?  Jesus Christ died and went to Hell.  I can only imagine what that must have been like.  Here you have this dark pit of a place, suddenly lit up with a floodlight.  A load of monsters, fallen angels, blinking in the light, and people chained to walls, covered with small spidery demons that they could never quite see before.  The screaming and roaring stops instantly.  The fires subdue.  Someone, somewhere, seeing the horror of the place in true light for the first time screams, “Put it out!  Just…put it out!” preferring to be left in the darkness than to have its horrors revealed.


The sacrifice of Christ was real.  He gave utterly everything of himself.  In one sense, that sacrifice never stopped.  Human sin continues, and the suffering of Christ continues, but only because God is timeless.  In another sense, it is over and done with.  The price is paid, and the deed is done.  In the end, we will see him alive and victorious, and yet mortally wounded, all at the same time.


But the only important question will be, “Did we cast our lot in with his?”