Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So Where Did We Go Wrong?

What? Wassermatter? Who are you raving on about now?

Well - all of us. No - strike that - some of us. I'm thinking about Western "Civilisation" (note the inverted commas).

G has been doing rather a lot of reading lately - good for her. And she has been pondering some fairly weighty thoughts about our Western way of doing things in general and Christianity (for want of a better word), more particularly.

You see, we've discovered finally that the concoction making up the Christian bible is a heady brew of ancient politics, the dark ages, misrepresentation and one-upmanship over the other ancient religions (most of which predate Judaism and Christianity by a mile). Throw in a pinch of bible reprints (and reinvention) al la King James around 400 years ago and 1100 or so years of catholic domination over access to any authoritative research material and the stage is set. By the way - I don't have an axe to grind with any Catholic or indeed anyone else of the same or any other religion - we've moved on.

But I don't think any serious biblical scholar or scholar of antiquities will argue with you that what you may read in your "authorised" (or any other modern translated) bible has little to do with the meaning of the original writings - how can they? They come from copies of copies of copies of scribed-out heresay and a bunch of passed-on word of mouth stuff. Have you ever tried the HR exercise demonstrating how easy it is to get line loss in passing on information?

This is how it works : Let 5 or 6 people leave the room, and then bring the first person back in. Show this person a picture - not too complex - and after allowing some time, take away the picture. Then allow the 2nd person into the room. The first person describes the appearance of the picture to the 2nd person - word of mouth only - and then sits down in the class. The 2nd person asks the 3rd person in and repeats the exercise. This carries on until the last person has been told what the picture looks like. Then the last person draws the picture based on what they have been told. And then the original picture is put side by side with the redrawn picture. Viola ! Horrendous line loss and misinterpretation.

How much harder would this be with a more weighty subject matter and over 2000 years, interspersed with wars, persecutions, destruction of key documents and 1100 years of suppression?

But the object of this is not bible or Christian-bashing. The object is to show that we have started venturing outside the box - looking at all those other people "out there". All those other people and their spirituality - and what an eye-opener it is!

We've always had a soft spot for the Native American - those original plains-dwellers who were quietly getting on with life, spirituality and minding their own business, when the "civilised" (there I go using inverted commas again) white man came along - invaded is a better word - and wiped them out, or imprisoned the remainder in locations. And then said "now get on with living in your little box".

And the more we started to study these ancient people, the more we see how very advanced both their lifestyle and spirituality are. Advanced not from the point of view of 7-lane freeways and noise pollution and wiping out huge tranches of nature - plus anyone who disagrees with you. But advanced from the point of view that they had mastered the art of living in harmony with their ecosystem. They lived in a generous way, a non-jealous way. They only took according to their needs and they honoured the nature they lived in harmony with. They recognised that you have to give back - you cannot always take.

And when you start to appreciate the way the family unit was formed and the various roles of the father and mother as well as the extended family, and why this was done in this way, the honour they had for each other and their world, the value they placed on silence and solitude and the need for thinking - to mention only a few factors - you start to realise that these were not "savages" by any means.

To the contrary! These people had learned by observation and by thinking. They passed down cherished ways of life - hard learned and proven to their children and children's children. And then we came along and tried to wipe them out. I say "tried", because the job thankfully did not succeed entirely - but it came pretty close and in fact served to decimate a very wonderful and valuable ancient culture.

So then we started to think about the white civilised hordes who came along, and about their (and our own) background. And we think back - beyond the industrial revolution, beyond the renaissance, beyond the dark ages, beyond the crusades, and back before the advent of Christianity and Judaism. And I started to wonder what our "religious" forefathers were doing round about the same time in ancient history that the Native American Indian forefathers were doing it - and why the paths diverged so much.

I guess there must be many factors in play that have shaped our destiny - sundry inventions, a technological evolutionary path that we went on, but also the predisposition of Western mankind to display certain negative character tendencies, which tend to throw a spanner in the works.

I was reading a piece called "An empirical expose on the damaging effects of arrogance on society" (5th edition - Dec 2008) by A.O. Kime, and I was interested to note the extremely far-reaching effects in a society and even at a country level due to the advent of arrogance. Now I'm not suggesting arrogance is the be all and end all of the woes of our society, but it does appear that we seem to have more than our fair share of it. And then I looked back again at the treatise I'm reading by Dr Charles Eastman, called "The Soul of the Indian Man", and I noted the level of humility in all their dealings - in their work, their social interactions, their spirituality, their living and their dying.

And I started to wonder just how much Westernised civilisation is infected with arrogance and the extent to which this has contributed to the mess we're in today. And if we had been allowed to evolve along the path of the Native American, would it have turned out the same?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Farewell Facebook

It's a beautiful day here - the sun is shining outside, but it's winter. That means in the Western Cape with little Cape Cottage style houses, it's like a bloody fridge in here. So I'd prefer to be doing things outside, rather than sitting in front of a computer in a freezing room (approx 10 degrees).

So - this is going to be quick.

I've done it - I'm free. I've killed Facebook before it killed me (that rhymes - may compose a song about it)!

"I've done it - I'm free. I've killed Facebook before it killed me
Facebook Facebook wherefore art thou Facebook?
Dead and buried. Done and dusted. Overs Gedovers, Bucking Fusted
I've not come to praise Facebook but to bury it.

You can put the above to any music you'd like to - I don't give a rat's ass. Oh - and in case you think I'm into plagiarism, credits on 2 lines of the above to Bill Shakespeare - mangled almost beyond recognition.

Why? Because Facebook is a goddamn almighty waste of time. The one commodity we all have in equal amount, and we waste it sitting mindlessly in front of a screen, ticking the "like" box and channeling our tremendous wit and intelligence into slowly and deliberately typing out the letters L....O.....L in the "make a comment" box. And if you're a particularly bright specimen, you might even get as far as ROTFLOL - God help us.

This is it - the pinnacle of human intelligence in the 21st century. Sitting like morons "liking" and spewing mindless 1-liners into little comment boxes. Why are they 1-liners? Because everyone else out there is either to short on attention span, too lazy or too stupid to be able to read more than one line. And don't expect to get any educated intelligent response - you'll be lucky to get anything at all.

Nope - don't waste your pearls of wisdom on your facile facebook frontally-lobotomised "friends" - rather blog your thoughts and then let those who are seeking something a bit different come across them as they will and learn, grow, take what they need and move on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Infinite Truth in an Finite Box

One of the things that gets me excited is when someone comes along and says something really outrageous. And I don't mean outrageous because it's just rude - but rather because it's controversial. And of course anyone can come along and talk any old rubbish - but what I'm talking about is the carefully considered controversial statement which is controversial just because not many of us have ever thought about it carefully - and it comes along and rocks our little world.

One such statement is "Jesus Never Existed" - wow! Now when somebody comes along and tells you this, the first instinct is to throw up all the barriers and drag out all the old traditional arguments from the closet - including the favourite "because the Bible told me so".

However, provided one can resist the temptation not to listen, if you start to ask questions with an open mind, this sort of statement makes your eyes open a bit wider. And you find when you trot out all the old traditional arguments against such a statement, not many of them appear to have much basis in truth and history. You see - you cannot use the Bible to prove it's own validity - if it contains truth, this has to be verifiable through other historic records - and these are plentiful, especially around in the centuries immediately BCE and CE. There were many serious historians around this period of history. So why aren't huge parts of the bible story historically verified?

And how do you start to unravel the truth from the fiction? Well, the way we did it, was to literally sit down in front of the keyboard and google "who am I" , and take it from there, with an earnest desire to find out more. We didn't start with malice-aforethought to trash the biblical account of Jesus. It just kinda happened. Made me wander around for about a week, alternatively feeling a bit deserted, and than feeling angry that I had been lied to for a huge portion of my life. Just goes to show - you never can tell, can you?

Then we went to a bunch of other gnostic and philosophical sites, and these led to other sites etc. And it all turns out that in fact Christianity and the Bible never cornered the market on truth. It has all been said and done long long before modern Christianity and the Bible ever came into existence - courtesy of those "other religions" we were taught were so naughty and sinful. If you can keep an open mind, you can go and look at Islam, Hinduism, and a bunch of other Eastern religions - just follow the links- they're all there. It won't take long for you to see the parallels with what has been written in the Bible - except that the historic documentary evidence proves who wrote it first.

And there is no shortage of godmen who came to Earth, born of virgins, with followers, persecution, death and resurrection etc. - the whole trip. And there is even a Jesus (a common name at the time) who was crucified, according to the historic record - but he was an anti-Roman agitator and it wasn't Jesus Christ - it was Jesus ben Stada.

And that's where the claim of "this is the only true religion" falls to pieces. It's really quite arrogant if you think about it - people discover a truth and then find some other people to believe the same as they do. And then they find 2 friends and they find 2 friends etc. etc. and pretty soon you have everyone having a really happy time believing exactly what everyone in their group believes, without exception. (Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?) STOP! Put on the brakes!!!! We have to set some rules to make sure everyone continues to do exactly as they're told and nobody strays off the path. And this my dears, is called Doctrine (with a capital D). People live by it, people die by and for it (countless numbers of them have died for it), and more ominously people kill other people for it. Look at all the major conflicts in the world. There are only 2 underlying causes - money and religion.

So there we are - we have our original bit of light (call it a truth) that we received, and we stopped there and put a roof and walls around it, and we sanctified it and worshipped it and made rules and doctrines - and that's where it stopped, permanently. And then we pointed fingers at everyone outside of our box, and called them fools, and called them "in error" and called them "wrong" and "sinners". And we look at how many are in our box and we are filled with pride.

But if we start to count all the people outside our box, we discover that there are always many more of them than there are of us. So we comfort ourselves by thinking that we are the "chosen few". We don't think that maybe God (or the Eternal, or the One Spirit - or whatever you want to call it) also inspired these other people and that maybe they also have truth? Who spoke to the Native American Indians before somebody pushed in and shoved a bible down their throats? They are a spiritual people - more spiritual I suspect than many so-called Christians today. Or the "savages" of South America who had to be enslaved and "educated" by the colonial powers?

You know what? Since we started really searching with an open mind, we find there are a huge number of people who have found a truth /some truth for themselves and who are finding more everyday. And almost none of these people (other than Christian fundamentalists) accuse anyone else of being in error. Because the search for truth is infinite - it's like picking up little hidden treasures in the sand on a beach. Sift through the rubbish and find the gem. Then move on and find another gem. Truth is like that - it is a journey, not a destination. And when you find truth, don't stop and make a doctrine out of it - pick it up and carry on looking. You will find many truths - but don't ever think you've found "The Truth" - that's eternal and infinite.

Don't expect to find infinite truth in a finite box.

And if you like what I'm saying - for heaven's sake don't join me and believe what I do. The search for truth is  as individual as your own destiny - nobody can do it for you. And don't agree with me; I don't want to stop searching and erect a doctrine.

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered : The point is to discover them" - Galileo Galilei

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Universes Popping into Existence?

One of the little benefits of being self-employed and semi-retired, is that one sometimes gets a bit of time to ponder on the great mysteries of life - like whether the universe actually began with a BIG bang (it must have been a really big one) or not. If it did, the BIGness of the bang has to be marveled at - it must have been such a hell of a big bang that the enormous gravitational forces holding whatever was there immediately before the bang were rendered powerless in the face of it.

I mean think about it - a milli-infinitesimally small nanosecond before the big bang, there was a black hole - of such  enormous magnitude that all of the material of the universe-to-be was crammed into it. And it was a black hole because the gravitational forces were so mind-bogglingly huge that not even light could escape it (which is the case with all black holes).

So now - that kinda puts it all into perspective, doesn't it? Gravitation so huge not even light can escape - and yet we have a bang that is big enough to blow out all of the material of the soon-to-be-announced universal forthcoming attraction (if you get my drift). Why weren't the gravitational forces big enough to cause the black hole to implode back on itself again? Surely the velocity of the explosion could not be faster than the speed of  light (which light itself can't escape a black hole)?

Then we have the scientists postulating that actually things didn't really obey all the scientific rules that naturally exist, for a convenient period of time after the Big Bang. So there was really no gravity at all, and therefore no problem for the Big Bang to actually BANG instead of kind of "plop" and re-collapse on itself. So having BANG'ed properly, after a convenient few seconds, there was suddenly gravity as we know it. But in order to believe this, we now have to have a new postulation : a hitherto unknown particle which when combined with the exploded massless matter allows the creation of normal mass with gravitation, as we know it today. And that's where the Higgs Bosun particle came from - also called the "God Particle". No wonder it's being called the "elusive Higgs Bosun" - it's going to be elusive for one hell of a long time. Gimme a break.

Has anyone thought that if there was a bunch of massless matter in existence up to 3 seconds or so after the big bang (i.e. there was supposedly no gravity problem before this as the scientists would have us believe), then what was holding the enormous black hole together in order for there to be a Big Bang in the first place? A black hole without gravity would not be a black hole, would it? And why would all of the matter which was to become the future universe have collected at this point in the first place, if there was no "proper" gravity?

And then we have the problem of the size of the universe and its age : The universe is said to be around 28 billion light years across, and is supposed to be around 14 billion years old (that is - assuming we here on Earth are located conveniently close to the centre of where the Big Bang is supposed to have occurred). If in fact we take into account that we are likely not in the middle of the universe at all (don't we just love to think we're always in the middle of everything?), we don't really have a clue how big the universe is - we just know how far we can see the edge of it to be. But what does all this size and age hooha have to do with the Big Bang?

Simple - if we ARE slap bang (if you'll excuse the pun) right in the middle of where the universe started out, then the edge of our range of "vision" is around 13-14bn light years away (the furthest object that has been seen by Hubble) and this was estimated to have come into existence when the universe was approximately 750m years old. The problem is that when we see the edge of the universe 13bn light years away, we are seeing it as it was 13 billion years ago, and where it was - 13 billion light years from Earth. And if that came into existence when the universe was 750m years old and it was formed in the Big Bang, it would have had to move from the centre of the Big Bang to where it is now, in only 750m years. Now since nothing moves faster than light, and light has taken 13bn years to get to us from that farthest bit of universe, I'm at a loss to understand how the Big Bang could have blown that bit of edge of universe so far, so fast! Imagine - it's travelled 13bn light years (the distance light has travelled in 13bn years) in only 750m years! Wow - it was moving 17 times faster than light! Not!

So there the scientists are - furiously accelerating sub atomic particles around the Large Hadron Collider (LHD) (at below the speed of light, I might add!) and smashing them together in the vain chance of actually finding a particle that is invisible, has no mass and is therefore essentially undetectable! What will they come up with next : "What we have in this test tube looks like nothing! But guess what? Yes folks - it's a test tube filled with Higgs Bosuns! " Can you see the problem here? How do you know when you have found something?

And we have all the other things that cast doubt on the Big Bang - like the absence of heavy metals in Population II stars, or the size of the event horizon of the singularity that was the Big Bang, or the equilibrium of the heat-distribution across the observed universe, or the presence of rotation of heavenly bodies in the universe (and I'm not talking about Teazer's) etc.  

Like much of my experience, when the initial thinking is incorrect, we tend to go further out on the limb and try and postulate lots of other fanciful things to support the original contention; and in the process we wrap ourselves up in ever-tighter knots. If we were to instead admit we were wrong and went back to basics, we might get some decent answers sooner.

We saw it in the original church with the universe going round the Earth debacle and we're seeing it again now, with Higgs Bosuns and Big Bangs.