Westworld and Leprosy.

The HBO show Westworld is a little bit of Jurassic Park, Ex-Machina/I-Robot, and the Wild West all rolled into one. For those who haven't seen it, here's a brief summary- In the near future, a company creates robots with a constantly-evolving artificial intelligence. The robots get harder and harder to tell apart from humans. The company then opens a theme park that functions as sort of a Wild West paradise. Humans can enter the park and live out their fantasies in sort of a live action role playing kind of way. (Wait, this is literally LARPing...nevermind.) Viewer discretion is advised. It IS an HBO show.

One of the more interesting angles of the story is how the robots are programmed. One of the primary pieces of their coding is that they cannot see things that would cause them harm or disrupt their view of reality. They are not aware that they are robots, so anything that would expose that truth they literally cannot see. In this, they are a lot more like us humans than we realize. We have a tendency to frame our reality in a way that avoids the things that cause us harm or exposes parts of ourselves that we don't want to see.

In the Gospels, Jesus often healed people that had leprosy. Leprosy was a skin disease that attacks the nerves and makes its victim numb to sensation, whether it be pain or pleasure. This ended up having dire consequences as those with the disease were unaware when they did damage to their infected regions. Burns, cut, etc., could go unnoticed and further damage would occur. I saw this with my father who was diabetic. Because of the lack of blood flow to his feet, he would not notice when they were injured, and the injuries also took longer to heal. His balance was thrown off and it led to a whole host of other health complications.

When Jesus healed someone with leprosy, He was actually giving them the ability to feel pain again. The ability to feel both pain and pleasure are signs of health and vitality.

While most of us don't carry around the physical form of this disease (it's very rare these days), many of us carry around a different kind of leprosy. We have a numbing of the heart. In a desire to avoid the pains of life, we have opted for numbness. But the numbness has also blocked us from experiencing the deepest pleasures that life has to offer. In our numbness, we not only become unaware of the things that are causing us harm and robbing us of life, we also can become blind to the pain that we cause others.

Carl Jung wrote, "So much unnecessary suffering comes into the world because people will not accept the 'legitimate suffering' that comes from being human."

In my culture growing up, we called this sort of numbness 'being tough.' But toughness is not the avoidance of pain, it's the ability to endure it. A person that is numb is actually weak and incomplete. Marcus Aurelius wrote, "Have you ever seen a severed hand or foot, just lying somewhere far away from the body it belonged to.. That's what we do to ourselves- or try to- when we rebel against what happens to us, when we segregate ourselves."  Some wounds can't be remedied with just a bandaid.  You have to look at it in its fullness, dig in, clean it, and give it time to heal. To do anything else would just be foolish and destructive.

The robots began to see more and more of what was going on, what they were, and what they were capable of. While it was painful at first, it's also when the plot got really interesting. We are not meant to sleepwalk through life. We are not meant to be emotional or spiritual lepers. While the healing process can be a painful one at times, it is also the one that leads to the greater joys that life has to offer.