Charles Shiro Inouye has just written a fantastic book, The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide for the Future (Greg Kofford Books, 2016). In it, he demonstrates how the most popular ways of framing Apocalyptic narratives—as a violent and cataclysmic event that makes clear the triumph of justice in which the wicked are punished and the righteous rewarded—does not actually match the fullest view on this subject as taught by the great world religions. Justice as the supreme virtue reigning over the end of all things has never been the main point, nor is it the best understanding of that virtue. Certainly it is important, but justice is intended to ultimately lead us toward compassion and a viewing of the world and its inhabitants, human as well as other forms of life, as God does, or as Dharma or the Tao attempt to call us toward. Apocalyptic teachings—with the word “apocalypse” referring to the great “revelation”—whether applied to the final end of the world and human inhabitants, or to our own end of the world that comes with our death, are instead designed to lead us into self-examinations of the world’s conditions, what justice would demand, including its implications for our lives, our own complicity in suffering or unfairness that comes from our communal lives, as well as the sobering realizations that agency will always make it impossible for us to ensure that our children will choose our same values as theirs. The teachings are not to make us feel smug that we’ll the “saved” remnant when the final bell might toll for the earth. Instead, what justice is designed to do, ultimately, is to lead us through sorrow to a state of coming to recognize as our own state of being what it is that God sees, and to then turn in compassion toward those not yet understanding the true nature of reality and the highest forms of fulfillment. It is to call us to be “saviors on Mount Zion,” to the path of the Bodhisattva who postpones her or his own entrance into Nirvana in order to be with and teach and model compassion to all forms of life, to the “hero’s journey” described by Joseph Campbell and others that is and embodied in so many stories the world over and in every generation of the one who passes through trials and sorrows, learning from each challenge how she or he has falsely identified with various aspects of life that have prevented their true nature from fully shining forth, only to then come to grasp the life of the Gods and then return to her or his community as a teacher/savior. “Plan B” encompasses learning and turning of these sorts. It is a powerful way of understanding so much that is compelling at the heart of the great world religions, so much that is on the path of a genuine spiritual adventurer.
In this two-part episode, author Charles Shiro Inouye joins Charles Randall Paul, James McLachlan, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of these elements present in the great traditions, and which serve–whether distant or immediate–as a call to us all, as something we recognize in our deepest core as the common denominator of our spiritual heroes. Toward the end, the panelists also speak of connections and differences between eastern ideas about “non-attachment” and “nothingness” and LDS (and other western) notions of “eternal” families/relationships. Are there also connections between these concepts and the call of Zion for its members to be of “one heart and mind”?
We hope you will listen to this episode and then share your ideas and questions in the comments section below. We encourage you to use the World Table comment system as Mormon Matters will soon be switching to it exclusively.
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Charles Shiro Inouye: The End of the World, Plan B: A Guide to the Future (Greg Kofford Books, 2016)
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