Friday, January 16, 2009

Variations on The Green Mile

For a slow, plodding reader, I just set a personal record of sorts. I began reading The Green Mile by Stephen King at around 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday and finished the entire 538 page paperback at 11:00 p.m. on Thursday. Needless to say, it was a book I simply couldn't seem to put down!! I kept saying to myself that I needed to use the facilities or get something to eat or go to sleep; an hour later though, I was still reading away.

Of course, as I noted previously, my interest in reading the novel was piqued by the movie of the same name. So, I already knew the general arc of the storyline. I also understood there would be differences -- some major, some slight. Knowing the basic story premise helped to spur me along as I anticipated several key events.

If you haven't read the book or viewed the film, then a lot of what I will write below may not make as much sense as it might otherwise. I'm not going to provide a book report either. I'm just going to assume that those of you who are reading this know the story as King laid it out.

While the author made several references to God in the book, the all mighty doesn't figure prominently in what I got out it. In fact, I think the story could have been told just the same by referencing Tao, nature or nothing at all.

In fact, I'll go even a bit further. One of the key themes of the story illustrates what led me away from Christianity and the very concept of a personified supreme being.

The hero of the story is man named John Coffey (like the drink, only spelled different). He possesses unknown powers to heal the sick and to feel all the pain and misery this world has to offer. At one juncture, he describes the latter ability as being like tiny shards of glass poking him in his eyes and head.

If there was a personified God, then he would be John Coffey to the nth degree 100 trillion times over. Every time any one of his creatures screamed out in pain, misery or agony, he would feel it and, since there are billions upon billions of creatures (animal, plant and mineral), it would feel like trillions upon trillions of shards of glass cutting into his very soul.

His existence would be nothing like nirvana; it would be more like an oozing open sore. In essence, heaven would become hell with no end. What supreme being -- regardless of its omnipotence and omnipresence -- could survive such a torturous existence? Why would it want to?

The ONLY way it could ever hope to survive would be to become absolutely apathetic toward the evils of humankind -- to have the ability to see utter pain and agony with a casual disinterest. That is, of course, possible, but it immediately contradicts the notion of a personified being; a being that cares for each of us as unique individuals.

When I realized this back in my 30s (though, I think I realized this from the very beginning), it dawned on me that no one was up there listening to my prayers. There was no great old geezer in the sky keeping tabs on me or anyone else. Whatever it is had to be wholly IM-personal. And this brought me to Taoism.


  1. Great story about The Green Mile, and thanks for reminding me about that wonderful film. It sounds like the book has added dimensions and details that would make it worth reading...

    I am interested in your thoughts about supreme beings. I tend to view spirituality from an existential perspective. I believe that matter and energy are inextricably interconnected and that all matter an energy are spiritual in origin. So I believe that all existence is spiritual, and that as humans, we have free-will. We have choice. We can choose to act rightly, or wrongly.

    As humans we have unique abilities to experience the spiritual in life. Some animals may be quite close to our abilities (like dolphins for example.) But we are what we are, and we know us better than dolphins...

    I believe in a concept of spirituality that sees the planets and other celestial objects as the capacitors and reservoirs (for lack of a better term) of certain specific spiritual (mental and emotional) energies. So the Moon may have to do with caring and emotion in general. And the Sun may have to do with strength, physicality, playfulness, creativity. Every person is entitled to his or her own interpretation, by the way.

    I believe in a collective consciousness amongst living beings, and amongst humans specifically. And I believe in energy of the planet, magnetic, etc. that has power over certain aspects of physical existence.

    Anyway, I agree with you that a Supreme Being with ability to acutely feel the pain of others would be only setting themself up for a torturous existence. That's why I believe that as Humans, we are more or less responsible, and the ultimate arbiters, for our own evolution and fate, spiritual, emotional and physical.

    I see the planets and other (intra-solar-system bodies,) the galaxy, the universe as impersonal - indeed trans-personal beings. We are all our own beings, yet we are all one, and interconnected—both simultaneously. Amazing world.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Berd. It shows you are a philosopher indeed!


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