Debunking Shangri-La Anywhere

by Mike Pyatt

Mike Pyatt

What entices deep pocketed futurist earthlings, to plunk down up to $250,000 a person to embark on a would-be, three-month voyage, fraught with incalculable risk, on former PayPal CEO, billionaire, Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket to Mars? Is it the pioneering spirit of yesteryear? Or to see if one could grow pansies on Martian soil? Based on Musk’s recent comments, some conclude it’s his attempt to elude man’s eventual extinction on earth. He remarked, “But history suggests some doomsday event will happen.” Unlike Neville Shute’s characters, in his 1957, post-apocalyptic, On The Beach, Musk won’t sit in his electric Tesla, waiting for disaster. There’s already talk of a “pure democracy” where “everyone has a voice” on Mars. Does that sound familiar? Some estimate it could take forty years to establish a thriving Martian community. Will it be a celestial Shangri-La?

Even though such a place is imaginary, an idyllic paradise from the scene of James Hilton’s 1933, novel Lost Horizon, for millennia misguided dreamers have longed for such a place on earth. The 1937, movie sequel depicted a place hidden in a Nepalese mountain valley, where greed and avarice were nearly non-existent, and a century old mystic ruled a palace where people are mystically content, slow to age, isolated from the ills that vex most of the human race. In the end some malcontents revolt against this idyllic setting. Humanistic romanticism, like that naive mystic, overlook and ignore the one element that makes such a place impossible. Man’s presence. That corruptive agent that is part of the equation which always spells doom to such misguided pursuits.

The concept of a Shangri-La existence has a long, storied, and unsuccessful history, rooted in the16th Century fictional island satire by Sir Thomas More, including contemporary attempts to create the “perfect ecosystem.” It has eluded us.That hasn’t slowed the pursuit.The Four Coins recorded a1957, vinyl romantic hit, Shangri-La. It began, “Your kisses take me to Shangri-La. Each kiss is magic that makes my little world a Shangri-La.” The globetrotting Dalai Lama is the closest figure to a Tibetan monk most of us know. There’s no real Shangri-La. Only the renamed Tibetan city of Zhongdian, a pleasant fabrication to attract wealthy tourist. It’s factually located in north China.Tibet quickly discovered there’s profit in hawking “Shangri-La Lite.”

An ongoing desire for some non-rational experience is nothing new. The 1960’s drug culture, not dissimilar to now, though different in the degree of danger to the substance of choice, have a drug induced “first-order experience.” However, it lacks a verbalized propositional form to articulate it. Some recall former Harvard Professor Timothy Leary, linked LSD experience with that described in the1964, Tibetan Book of the Dead. Whether it’s the existentialist speaking, or Eastern Mysticism in an American commune, they demonstrate a uniform desire for an irrational experience attempting to find some convoluted sense of life. Ultimately it ends in despair.

Consider the beguiling words of a Tibetan Monk, “The mind of man is like the wind in a pine tree in a Chinese ink drawing.” Man dies twice, according to Zen Buddhist. He’s only a wind, and only a figure in a drawing. The very reverse of Biblical Christianity. Man’s real and Fallen. Shangri-La isn’t possible. But we can be redeemed, and find joy on our journey. The pantheist claim that God and Nature are identical, and the universe is an extension of God’s essence, rather than a special creative act revealed in Genesis One. Pantheism’s the origin of this relatively recent blasphemous “green movement” that has reached a sacrosanct plateau.

One must reject this faulty, naive yearning for a world with no epistemological boundaries, where good and evil are relative, imprisoned in progressive educational and social models, that are pervasive in American culture. Although it has a predictable failed history, secular humanism is repackaged nearly every generation, and unabashedly re-marketed to an expanding, naively optimistic populace. The false underlying premise’s that with another tweak, twist of philosophy, or more time, modern man can achieve a morally elevated place to reign. Autonomous man’s at the zenith of this movement. That’s why it’s doomed to abject failure. That foundation crumbled long ago. If man ever steps foot on Mars, the unraveling begins. His futility to escape God’s dominion is thwarted by the salutary reminder of the Psalmist, “Where shall I flee from your Spirit, or Where shall I flee from your presence?” Nowhere!

On a practical level, few desire such a farcical existence. Most are trying to navigate this fragile life that’s punctuated by surprises of joy and disaster. Since ancient days man’s inner voice has signaled him that there’s an internal vacuum. This hole cannot be filled by craven human or institutional devices. John Adams, in1787, published Defense of the Constitutions, a refutation of Diderot’s, Rousseau’s and Condorcet’s assertion of human and institutional perfectibility. Even veering toward Unitarianism, Adams knew better. Being made in God’s image, natural man is quite remarkable, unlocking the atom and DNA code, but not his own soul. Unregenerate man gladly embraces a “God” he can mollify. Not the Infinite/Personal God, who tells us the Truth about ourselves.

Thankfully our percipient Founders knew legislation wouldn’t alter the natural impulses of the heart, only the inculcation of morality through Godliness. Emerson’s Transcendentalism commingled agape love and erotic love, a distinction with a difference, and religion sank into maudlin sentimentality. One’s inner yearning cannot be gratified by fatuous confidence in human nature, religious mumbo-jumbo, philosophical slight-of-hand, or escape mentality. Muhammad, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and L.Ron Hubbard have one thing in common-they’re all dead. God’s eternal truth transcend Nirvana, Shangri-La, “Celestial Kingdom” or frivolous tautologies. Easter’s coming. What do you think?

Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s roderickstj@yahoo.com

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