Struggling Through The Life And Death Tug-Of-War


Jason Silva is the host of Brain Games, a National Geographic production. Jason is a futurist and techno-optimist, a bit of a poet and has a gift of gab for sure. Generally, he brings a great deal of energy and emotional authority to his topics, which float around neurology, biology, computer science, physics and language. Generally, a lot of fun. Jason also happens to be an atheist, trans-humanist, and a self-styled prophet of 'the singularity', tapping into the palette of existentialism to fill his scientific-religious projections with the emotional force of brilliant images, salient quotes and moving words.

I'm probably going to do a few of these from 'Shots of Awe', a series Jason is doing on YouTube. These are little 'philosophical shots of espresso', according to Silva, and worth watching, even if you have reservations. Here's one he did on why we have a pang of sadness when we experience the beautiful. I may not agree with the conclusions, but I love his observations.

"I feel nostalgic over something I haven't lost yet because I see its transience."

I can certainly identify with this complex emotion. This is a poignant observation that even we who have the hope of the resurrection can see when we experience all the happy things in life and their anticipated passage simultaneously. As an apologist, I use this reminder of death, this little death that happens at the happiest moments, to engage those who wish to deny their mortality. Death applies to everyone and momentary joy and happiness brings with it a reminder of the great leveler 'who rounds all our hillocks fair and evenly.' [1]

Don't get me wrong, I don't do this all the time. I'm not a killjoy. I pick my moments.

"...we defy entropy and impermanence with our films and our poems."

The way he says this has emotional force and, for half a second, I'm drawn into it as if this is some sort of answer to the pain of the anticipation of death and is a kind of salvation—that, though we rot, our songs and stories and art will live on.

I guess I don't identify that strongly with my art.

If I'm in a beautiful moment and I capture it for others somehow, it makes me happy; maybe my name will be remembered kindly and maybe I will 'live on' in this sense with what I've created...

But the moment will end. And so will I.

I don't see a hope in art that answers the life and death tug-of-war. Although Silva delivers his antidote with verve, is it weak tea and not any answer.

"...we hold onto each other a little harder and say, 'I will not let go!' I do not accept the ephemeral nature of this moment. I'm going to extend it forever! ... Or at least I'm going to Try."

Going with Dylan Thomas' "I will not go gently"[2] attitude, Silva suggests stubborn resilience in the face of death. And this encouragement, if taken flatly, is a sermon to the converted. Fighting death is something that life does. If you don't agree with that, go visit a critical care unit. Ultimately, the winner is death by a knockout. Silva would say that so far, death remains the undefeated champion.

Silva would also be bound to say that, without his hope in future technological breakthroughs, this is every person's ultimate fate.

He has faith in the idea that we will ultimately transcend the biological limitations of this life and escape into the mainframe, so to speak. What he's saying is we ought to try and take down death with our science and our beauty and our ability to create. This is faith in humanities' ability to bootstrap itself into eternity. The hope is still to beat death and live on.

Although I don't agree with this gospel, I definitely prefer it over the obsession with vampirism and the immortality it offers, infesting our culture like kudzu.

At least Jason is addressing the culture in a fresh and creative way and his observations are both salient and moving. I'm intrigued by his answers when they come... at least he's observing his world and looking a real things; at least he's asking the basic questions about what makes us tick and what excites us and moves us. He's using his eyes and brains and words and the observations of others to ask questions and try to project forward in a positive way with hope in the future.

I think Christians need to engage like this. I think we need to be unafraid to ask and to think and to observe, not fearing the answers that come. When we do it, we are the better for it.

We Christians are often characterized as the ones who are afraid. In this video, Jason observes what all have experienced, that a seed of sadness in planted in the field of earthly joy; death confronts all of us, even when we don't know it, even in our happiest moments and everybody is sad and scared about it to one degree or another, not just Christians.

Jason's answer is a kind of religious answer based on an anticipated technological breakthrough and his answer makes man his own savior. For Silva, the answer is to fight the fear and move forward with what we know and what we can learn and ultimately beat death so that our joy might be complete. At the end of the video, Jason says wistfully, " least I'm going to try."

What Jason is missing, in my view, is that someone, namely Jesus of Nazareth, already came along and beat death just outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem in 33 A.D. No other religion on the planet claims anything like this. Along with everyone on this website, I say the preponderance of evidence points to this singularity beyond a reasonable doubt. And I challenge you, Jason, to look at the evidence for this. I'm counting on the fact that at the heart of all true scientific investigation is humility in the face of facts.

I don't want to start a war unless it's a merry one—please understand I love your stuff and I love your creativity. I don't want to take away your optimism for technology and I don't want you to stop doing what you are doing. I just think that maybe we Christians haven't given you our best shot. I'm not even saying that I'm the guy that can pull that off, but I welcome your questions and interaction if you are so inclined.