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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Leaving Paradise

Due to some genetic anomaly, l am given to deep, oft convoluted and confused thinking which my friends swear must be one of the reasons for my high metabolism, l burn fuel just staying alive, thinking. I can vividly remember that at age 7 l used to sit and stare at the stars and try to understand existence, why am l here, why me and not some other kid for my mama, how do l add up in comparison to all these other people and the earth and the stars, where will l go after here and what is it like there. The Christian religion provided some answers soon enough but because of my rather colourful journey through the Christian faith (baptized catholic, raised cherubim and seraphim then Jehovah’s witnesses, became a reluctant born again Pentecostal in young adulthood and now ….) the answers where often conflicting. For example l was told to be sinless and blameless so l might go to heaven by most but the witnesses said the reward was an earthly paradise. What constitute sinlessness and blamelessness is hardly uniform except on the topic of sex. Religion has an obsession with sex. The concept of heaven and hell strangely never had the desired effect on me. I was neither afraid of hell nor desirous of heaven but l wanted to please God and honour the earth and other humans. Hell never scared me because in my childhood mental gymnastics l had become convinced that since the sphere before here is an unknown, unremembered entity, it either doesn’t exist or is not affected by my actions or inactions in this sphere besides if one is to burn in fire perpetually and eternally, it becomes the norm and therefore painless. Similarly as hell failed to strike the required mortal fear in me so did heaven fail to arouse the great desire. It just always seems to me that heaven will bore me to tears. Clean, blameless, white clothed, singing people eternally happy and smiley? Where is the challenge? If happiness is eternal and the norm how will we appreciate it as a desirous emotion since we have nothing to compare it with. In an existence where it is all done, all perfect where is the joy? Unless the nature of man will change, in which case we became other types of creatures, the eternal pain or happiness argument never worked for me. Ditto the concept of paradise, l am more inclined to accept a utopia on earth but it still seem to me that it would be a bland boring existence where the plants, season and people are perfect and healthy and happy whatever they do or do not do.

However since l am a believer in intelligent creation whether He or She is God or a non embodied intelligence, and desirous of a mostly happy existence here on earth in my allotted time and a similar existence for the largest majority of all such fellow humans on this sojourn with me, l am interested in understanding the nature of that intellect and the rules which work best to create a mostly happy existence for the largest majority. That is my spiritual quest, not out of fear or selfish desire or egotistical quest for immortality but a desire to make the best of this gift of life that l have and know for myself and the rest of creation and to happily expire into the nothingness that l came from. Now what is so scary about that?
Note of course that all this introspection today is the result of being bored stiff in paradise, all the order, beauty, security, the clean, happyish, fit, healthy mostly white (The waiters ignored me for 30 minutes at a restaurant yesterday until l asked if l was required to dance naked before getting a bowl of mussels) people are beginning to get on my nerves.

I leave Aspen this morning for the flawed big apple, l am more comfortable with the constant pursuit of happiness and perfection. How will we recognise pleasure if we have never felt pain?

12 comments:

Caleb said...

...and how would we appreciate heaven if we havent been through hell on earth. but does religion really have an obsession with sex? i would rather say religion as an obsession with all that is human. religion is an interferrence into our lives but we need it and have learnt to live with it esp the extremists who piss us off

Sherri said...

religion is man's subjective attempt to worship God.strict adherence to any religion is tantamount to bondage.on the other hand, "christianity" is a way of life- striving everyday to do the father's will. how do you know the father's will? simply by seeking him for urself.He's within each and everyone of us if u seek him He will reveal himself and enable u to explore and know his nature. His Love,splendor,grace,mercy, beauty,and majesty is in the everyday life arround us..
i believe, heaven is a bonus not the goal or motivation for living for God,love is all our God desires of us.
as for sex,it is beautiful and divine the way God ordained it, between two committed people.(male and female) hehe. religion is obsessed with it because of the sheer power it embodifies.
gotta go!!
we'll gist more on this.

Sherri said...

how long 're u going to be in nyc?
may be we could do lunch.

bleue said...

religion DOES have an obsession with sex. we (religious people) get v. throaty and husky about fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation (just writing that made me squirm...there's something wrong with that), pornography, etc. we (i?) tend to dabble in the grey areas on issues like war and abortion but sex done in inappropriate circumstances is really your fast-track ticket to hell...and i say all this with as much sarcasm as i can muster.

on to other things - i find your views on religion non-conventional (as far as nigerians go) since most of us tend to prefer rigid confines that tell us how we are expected to behave. we need structure and discipline to be human. i also find your views somewhat typical and modern (especially with the God = He/She? line) as more people start to question what others have been content with being spoonfed.

in any case, i haven't been to either heaven or hell but since my bible tells me enough about both of them, i tend to prefer heaven...because i can't imagine that all that fire doesn't hurt - it does. it's supposed to.

i'll be back. something about free calls from midnight and not having any credit :)

enjoy NY.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about life as we know and understand it dey tire me... 'cos If the final result is nothingness... then wetin we dey do here... I sigh! if that is the reality of our situation, then somebody needs a real ass whooping...

utibe said...

Funmi,

I commend you for dwelling on these important issues: Life, Death Religion etc. They remain as important as all our other human engagements, because we must(even if willy nilly) ultimately engage them. And I find that that engagement often forms the platform for our behaviour in everyday life.

We need to live reflectively and set out time to try to understand these issues by themselves- based on what we have experienced, heard, read, THOUGHT DEEPLY about and what our convictions are.The unexamined life is indeed not worth living' It turns human BEINGS to Animals BECOMING!

Reading thru your take, I came up with the reactions below.

"If happiness is eternal and the norm, how will we appreciate it as a desirous emotion since we have nothing to compare it with"

FUNMI, WE HAVE SOMETHING TO COMPARE WITH IT- the largely brutish life that most of humanity lives here on earth forms a basis for that comparison.

So the notion of a place where its all perfect and where we can be happy because its no longer "all-or mostly- imperfect" makes heaven/paradise attractive- hence the anticipated joy and desire to earn it.

"Unless the nature of man will change, in which case we became other types of creatures, the eternal pain or happiness argument never worked for me".

THIS IS PRECISELY THE POINT.HUMAN NATURE IS EXPECTED TO CHANGE AND WE WILL BECOME BETTER TYPES OF CREATURES - who would therefore be at ease with an extended period of peace, and worship of that 'Intelligent Designer"

"Ditto the concept of paradise, l am more inclined to accept a utopia on earth but it still seems to me that it would be a bland boring existence where the plants, season and people are perfect and healthy and happy whatever they do or do not do".

NOT SO. IF U CAN IMAGINE/ACCEPT A UTOPIA ON EARTH, WHY DOES IT BECOME SO DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE ONE BEYOND THE EARTH? Infinite happiness appears a logical progression from the the regular chaos that life generally is.

And Funmi, with regards to your seeking the greatest good for the greatest number here on earth, What invalidates the seeking of the same by "pro-religionists" in a world they are convinced exists beyond mortality, having themselves sought what you also seek here during thier time here on earth i.e. greatest good..,?

Indeed, why bother to seek good and not evil? If we buy the logic that since hell's fire would be the norm, it wouldn't therefore be an issue? Why make doing good,or seeking good an issue here on earth at all?

With regards to ur childhood conclusions about prelife memory erasure and your conclusion that it could therefore probably signal the non-existence of hell, or is unimportant cos we have no memory of it,(Recall Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" or conversely. I don't think therefore im not) I'd just say, consider the idea of sleep. Some of us talk audibly to the hearing of those awake during sleep but have no memory of it; but would that invalidate the fact that we did speak whilst asleep?

Methinks the "intelligent designer" has for the moment kept that prebirth memory erased and away from our comprehension because, well, he's the owner of the chess board and he plays it as he wills. That, for me, doesn't ipso facto invalidate the reality of prebirth/heaven/hell.

Indeed in Yoruba cosmology, these states (prebirth, life and death) are a cyclical interelating whole where the living,dead and unborn mingle.

Religion(as an organised human activity/institution concerned more with rites, duties,dictas etc.) has no doubt confused some portions of humanity and sadly set some off the course of wholesome spirituality, but as a thinking person, I find that all the material facts of existence, draw me to believe in the good of being connected to the root of my spiritualness- GOD and for me, the convincing manifestation of HIS awesome personhood - The Lord Jesus. Whenever im in sync with that root,I seem to do "good" things better and with ease and im at peace.

Pesonally, I want to honour not only man, but the intelligent designer who configured humanity in such complexity.Let's face it, He's a Genius!

Religion is obsessed with sex?Perhaps; but methinks that's only because the world is obsessed with it: the media, advertising, entertainment industry, even Virgin Atlantic lol! Part of Religion's business is to ensure that sex works within the parameters set by the "intelligent designer" which the "unintelligent disrupter" tries to reverse or sabotage for whtever reason.

Well there's more but they cannot be exhausted here.

Keep up the generally good work!

Nike Adesuyi( using my CEO UTIBE's PC!)

Omodudu said...

This English is too much jare. I tried to follow it sha. Reminds me of the post you made sometime last year about ebcoming A.... Old Woman.

deilah said...

Iv always prefered to view the emergence of my being as a phenomena that has evolved from just a primordial array a ovarries to an explosion of somethingness, an act of omnificent magic or a fortunate accident, rather than just a BIRTH, or a mere proof of mammalian fertility, or a practical testimony of the efficacy of ovulating counting.
For this reason, im forced to see myself as 'special', special enough to be given the gift of life. The reason why we exist (going by chosen philosophy) goes beyond recognizing our own inevitability, but the need to simply complement the lives of other individual existences in a way that adds value and substance. That brother, that sister, that stranger, that friend. This process of completion i believe helps to create a balance. Yes. Some form of equanimity and harmony between this peculiarity called The Human
Race, and all other factions that make up this terrene from which we subsist.

deilah said...

Iv always prefered to view the emergence of my being as a phenomena that has evolved from just a primordial array a ovarries to an explosion of somethingness, an act of omnificent magic or a fortunate accident, rather than just a BIRTH, or a mere proof of mammalian fertility, or a practical testimony of the efficacy of ovulating counting.
For this reason, im forced to see myself as 'special', special enough to be given the gift of life. The reason why we exist (going by chosen philosophy) goes beyond recognizing our own inevitability, but the need to simply complement the lives of other individual existences in a way that adds value and substance. That brother, that sister, that stranger, that friend. This process of completion i believe helps to create a balance. Yes. Some form of equanimity and harmony between this peculiarity called The Human
Race, and all other factions that make up this terrene from which we subsist.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@all, glad we are having these conversations, the best thing abot faith is the human quest to perfect it, that is why he/she gave us free will.

@sherri, here two more days babes, any hope?

pam said...

@utibe
Na wa oh! My brain don stretch small.

catwalq said...

religion is obsessed with sex and any other thing that it can use to guilt you into becoming a dedicated and unwavering follower.

I am not a christian and my faith teaches me responsibility for my actions. Anything i say, think or do, i am aware that I have to be responsible for and ready to face the consequences. I have been taught to love God instead of fear him as I am aware that I cannot love what I fear. case in point, do you fear snakes? if u do, then there is no way that u can show that animal the love and respect that it deserves.

also, hell is one of the many things that religions uses to scare its followers as a penalty for straying from its dictates. That is why so many people are afraid to die. for me hell does not exist, if I do anything that is not befitting of my status as soul, a spark of God and that i did not finish bearing the karma, then I will return...reincarnation.

i am very happy. i believe that I follow a very liberating path and it affords me all the freedom that I want and reminds me continously of my responsibility to myself and to my maker