God loves a lullaby, in a mother’s tears in the dead of night, better than a Hallelujah sometimes
God loves the drunkard’s cry, the soldier’s plea not to let him die, better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
We pour out our miseries. God just hears a melody. Beautiful, the mess we are: the honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a Hallelujah.
In celebrating human life despite all of its suffering, it reminds me of the passage from Richard Dawkins’s book Unweaving the Rainbow that I quoted in my sermon "The Mystery of Consciousness”:
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?
But I think that there is something more than this in “Better than a Hallelujah.” I see “Better than a Hallelujah”: pointing out how beautiful the good side of human utility functions is.
The good side of human utility functions is more than beautiful: in the terms of my view in “Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life,” the good side of human utility functions is our starting point for building God. I wrote:
let me do a riff on Anselm by defining God as “the greatest of all things that can come true.” God is the heaven—or in Mormon terms, the Zion, the ideal society—that we and our descendants can build, and god is a reasonable description of the kind of people who make up that society. But what does a heavenly society look like?
No doubt our descendants will have a clearer idea of the greatest of all things that can come true than we do, but only if we start moving in that direction based on the good side of human utility functions.
What is the good side of human utility functions? It is all of our desires that can, in principle, be satisfied without bringing others down–desires the likes of which we could logically wish to come true for all people. It is those desires that “Better than a Hallelujah” points to.