Permanence is scary.  The idea that you’ll be trapped in this town, or in this marriage.  Or that if you take that job you’ll probably be stuck in that field for the rest of your life.  Or that things won’t change and you’ll never find a life partner.  If things suck, we don’t want them to stay sucking.

Death is an especially terrifying event.  Once a friend is gone, she’s gone.  Guns are bad because they can make someone permanently disappear with the pull of a trigger.

Unless of course you believe in heaven, and especially in forever families.  Mormons believe that eventually we will all die and be reunited with all our loved ones in heaven.  So really, any mortal separation is only temporary, and while that’s sad, it’s all okay because it’s not permanent.  A child could die by a freak accident and if his parents are Mormon, while I’m sure they will be absolutely devastated, they will also feel a sense of peace about the event because, hey, they’ll see him again one day and get their second chance to raise him in heaven.

With beliefs like this, what’s there to fear in life or death?

For those who don’t share those beliefs, life events carry a lot more weight.  Our decisions and actions and misfortunes can determine the rest of our existence, and the existence of others.  There is no second chance and there is no do over.  If you mess up, you mess up. The fear of the theoretical consequences can be stifling for some, and the paralysis of fear is all too real.

There’s a stereotype with Mormons that they do a lot of things. Accomplish a lot of things. Succeed in said things. I think to succeed requires a certain degree of risk taking. People with fear paralysis tend to be bad at risk taking. People who believe they will always have a second chance have nothing to worry about.

At what point does it matter how the universe actually works, when a belief system continuously produces confident people who are successful?  Which is more important: truth or taking action? As we lay on our death beds (believing we will soon go to heaven or not) what will we prioritize in the life we just lived?  The things we did or the things we believed?

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4 thoughts on “Permanence is scary and that’s why Mormons are so chill all the time

  1. On the flip side, people who don’t believe that death is an illusion (atheists and others) are actually exempt from the most (arguably) consequential permanence there is; existence.

    Eternity, from the point of view of someone who is trapped in a state of existing, could be the most hellish thing imaginable. In fact, the most glorious description of heaven ever given could turn to hell, given an eternity to get used to it, tired of it, bored of it, tortured by it.

    That of course gets back to whether neuro-habituation exists in heaven, which it would have to, in order for us to have any resemblance to our current conscious experience, which would then require neurons which then requires a brain and we are back at consciousness being an emergent property of a meat-computer, and the reality of death and non-existence.

    I would argue that the stereotype of Mormons as happy and successful people is 1) not a global phenomenon, and 2) due more to the values and structure of their upbringing and community, rather than their core metaphysical beliefs. I will grant that many of the values put forth by the best Mormon communities and families seem like an oasis in the 21st century desert, in a way that other Abrahamic religions should envy, given what they preach.

    However, I would argue that most of the metaphysical beliefs you are identifying as the drivers of their fearlessly productive and joyful lives are actually common in many other religions, in similar enough ways, and that many of those some metaphysical beliefs, framed slightly differently, can cause their own paralysis, for example lack of motivation in the light of eternity. The stereotypical Mormon outlook seems to be produced in vastly less numbers by other Christian sects who share similarly inspiring views about the afterlife.

    I’ve seen fear of the reality of death causes some to shrink and some to fly, and I think it has a lot more to do with how people were raised, and what they were taught to value. To some, if death is real, then as you said “life events carry a lot more weight”, but that means they carry a lot more weight in the good and the bad, and to some people that means that to not live our one life as if it is our one life is the ultimate failure.

    1. And to be clear, much of the time I would put myself in the “paralyzed by the reality of death” camp.

    2. Thank you for reading my post and for this comment :).

      Mormons believe in eternal progression so they will be not get bored of heaven because there will always be new challenges and new things to learn and do, etc.

      Is neuro-habituation an “earthly” thing? A physical limitation of man? Maybe yes and therefore in heaven when man is perfected (or reaching perfection) he wouldn’t deal with that, and would be able to accurately experience everything without any habituation or anything else altering his reality.

      I wouldn’t know if happy Mormons are a global thing or not but I would guess so? What makes you argue that they aren’t?
      And yes, I’m sure many religious people have similar beliefs which would make them chill in the same ways; I didn’t mean to imply that Mormons are unique in this way. But for me this is the first time I have learned about these beliefs and have witnessed people who are accepting regarding losing their child, etc.

      From what I understand, the Mormon beliefs about heaven and eternal families and having a second chance to raise your deceased child, is different from the general “I’m sure I’ll see them in heaven” vibe I get from general Christianity. I haven’t fully explored those beliefs though and I’m sure they’re way more in depth than what I know, but I do think Mormonism has specific ideas that others don’t share. I think that’s what specifically makes Mormons different from other Christians. In terms of behavior and happiness. (And other things less relevant to this conversation.)
      I think you’re right about how the fear of death causes some people to shrink and some to fly. I wonder how exactly they were raised or what values they have that makes people react differently.

      I think there’s another thing at play, besides fear of death, and that’s fear of failure. I think that along with the Mormon view of heaven, there’s also this “everything is going to work out” mentality. Like if you don’t find a spouse on the earth, you’ll find one in heaven. If you can’t quite achieve something here, you’ll get it eventually up there. So there’s this idea that you might as well try, and keep trying. Sort of like that question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s like no matter how many times life knocks you down, Mormons believe that they will be successful eventually, so all this failure is just rungs on the ladder they have to climb anyway.

      P.S. Your last sentence about living life to the fullest just gave me an idea for a future post! 🙂

      1. Regarding my half-assed foray into neuro-habituation; the problem is talking about “Heaven” or “Eternity” in a logically coherent or useful way, which is probably impossible. You can generate a thousand specific unanswerable questions or incongruities in a minute, just by starting to play out the possibilities:

        We’re trying to describe a place or state based on our current ability to experience things, based on our current quality of subjectivity, and so we naturally would use words like seeing and hearing and touching. What will Heaven look like, feel like (in a tactile sense), sound like, etc. These are all natural questions to ask but they are all questions that presuppose our still having the same sensory organs in the afterlife.

        If we still need eyes to see in the afterlife, then we’re still talking about the existence of photons or something like them, and a set of heavenly physics that would dictate and constrain their behavior, and pretty soon we are back to an existence very similar to this one.

        The idea of seeing or hearing is also so provincial too, and can be completely divorced from the idea of being a conscious or an intelligent being. Maybe there are humanoid beings who evolved on an extragalactic planet which never evolved seeing or hearing organs for some reason, but are still as conscious and ‘intelligent’ as us.

        Any way of describing heaven or the afterlife which would sound even 1% comprehensible to a human would have to use human words, and even the vaguest or most exotic of those words are based on descriptions of human sensory organs or subjective experiences that are related to those organs. For example if we want to admit that talking about what heaven might look or sound or taste like is a logical dead-end we might resort to subtler descriptions, like what heaven might feel like, in an emotional sense, or what it might _be_ like, in the sense of existing there, but these are still comparisons to something we can relate to as humans, which means we have experienced them with human sensory organs, and the brain.

        If we back up and say “OK we don’t need eyes (or any eye-like sensory organ that interacts with photons) to see in the afterlife” then we are talking about a different definition of the word “see”. Even if we redefine “see” to not mean anything to do with photons, and more to do with “to sense” in a vague sense, then we still have to ask, how are we sensing? Everything we sense in life, in any way, is ultimately reducible to components which explain the physics of how it was sensed.

        I guess I’m saying that you can either define heaven or the afterlife as having no definition or description at all, or you can define it using human language (vague or majestic or holy or metaphysical language also counts as human language, ultimately), which then puts constraints on it as a system, which means it can be studied and understood and predictions can be made about its behavior, and it becomes just another universe, in which our universe exists.

        I also wonder if the concept of perfection is mutually exclusive with eternity. If something can be perfected, in any real philosophical sense, how can it exist in eternity. In eternity, there are eternal ways to grow and change, so nothing could ever be perfected or finished in any sense like that, maybe.

        In reply to your point about “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”, the answer for any being who lives in our universe would be “the absolute smallest amount of work”, because if you couldn’t fail, you would only have to breathe a whisper of your intent and then flop down on the couch and your desire would be on track to not failing.

        Knowing you can’t fail, as a certainty, short circuits every drive we have evolved, and everything that describes human behavior.

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