…renders them obsolete in a world without people. in the world of the loner. in a world without government; in a world without commerce. the teachings of Buddha, in contrast, require no world. Buddhism is a doctrine about the struggle between human and universe. Jesus’ teachings are about the struggle of the individual to understand and create his/her place in a society.
This bit of wisdom comes from a cult sci fi book, “Earth Abides”, by George R. Stewart, about the survivor of a pandemic, who suddenly finds himself alone, with lots of time to read. Actually, I can’t be sure this is his idea originally – Pope John Paul said much the same in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.”
Jesus said “Love one another.” How is it possible to practice this faith, when there is none other? If there were no money, no system of commerce, how could I “… go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” There are no poor. I can not have possessions if there is no one else – the concept of ownership and private property are illusions create by a commercial society.
Jesus’ life, as we know it, was about a rebellion of love, against a society. He never concerns himself with “the universe.” Satan tempts him only with corporeal and political desire – the temptations the have arisen from social and political organization. Indeed, how could the message of Jesus be relevant to the Masai? “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s due”? Who is “Cesar”, when you are a nomad? How will you give away anything, when you have nothing in your culture like “ownership” – the herd is tended by the tribe, and the tribe follows the herd, to live, to survive. None of the individual animals belongs to any individual. “Love thy neighbor”? In a nomadic tribe, who is the neighbor?
George Stewart does discover that the “old testament” speaks more to the questions of the one within the universe – make sense, given that the Jews were nomadic, had no Kingdom, per se (at that time). How indeed would Jesus invitation to enter into the larger global society, have been appealing or even comprehensible by (at least the earlier) Jewish civilization? To acknowledge a caesar? Above JHVH? To support the poor and the sick, when nomadic survival was only survival of the fittest, not by dogma, but by the necessity of the desert.
And so, for us, we the modern social animal – will you be able to adopt such a social religion as Jesus’, if you do not desire in your heart to plunge into the seemingly absurd chaos which is fundamental to a liberal society of egoists? Love is only useful to salve the wounds of human interaction. It becomes a useless burden if you intend to go it alone.