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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Armed Religion

Last January, Israel's Welfare Minister, Isaac Herzog, said his country aimed to prevent an "over-dramatization" of facts by fanning out its diplomatic corps to all corners of the globe to explain why it needed to bomb the Gaza Strip into a different grade of gravel. It was heralded as a battle for public opinion. I doubted it would go well. "Over-dramatization" is hard to avoid in all situations that cannot be exaggerated.

I thought, world will listen to spin and reject it, because people are choosing a more enlightened path for themselves. People are miserable with spin. Matthew Arnold wrote, "He who finds himself loses his misery" , which is a start. Quote only isolates end result of a long process that begins with facing the truth about one's self and can be very miserable indeed. It's personal, you see.

On an individual level I can only comment as an older man who finds himself in the grocery store with other older men. We are all creeds and colors, but that is superfluous in two places: the beer aisle and the chip aisle. There we are just older men in profound meditation, a subculture apart, bound by experience in the belief we know better than to believe we know better.

We even have the same physique. This is not genetics, but conditioning. Our chief form of exercise is kicking ourselves and this develops the same muscle groups. It is also outward and visible evidence that we know how to have pasts.

Problem with Middle East is too much past. Whoever was there first has to deal with everybody else who was there first too. They have aligned this absurdity with the disposition of their immortal souls, which any old guy in a grocery store will tell you is just stupid. Result is you get deevolution to whatever mental age children spend most of their time running at each other.

In fairness to children, they possess joy. They feel what Virginia Woolf likened to bursting from the schoolhouse door on the last day of the term, "sudden joy". But religious people tend to sing long boring dirges about "hhhhoooowww joooyyyyoooouuuusss weee arrrrrt" and are not in themselves the least bit joyous.

There is also joy of finding chips, plain chips with no fancy-shmancy seasoning and health-shit stuff in them, and calling all the other old guys over."They're here, bottom shelf, found 'em!" Then, as one, we shuffle off to the beer aisle, strong, joyous, united and search for...well, everybody likes a different beer. I like stout, others prefer pilsner, lager or some excellent non-alcoholic brews. At that point freedom is best served by divided forces and we accept that. Why is it so much easier in a grocery store?

Diplomatic spinners represent very holy things in the Middle East that claim to have invented joy and defined it and boast scriptures full of long serious hymns about it, but they're not willing to practice the main ingredient of its composition. They can't divest. Can't throw off the hagiarchic tedium or quit kicking themselves a moment to feel the sheer relief of peace and prospect. No, it didn't go well.

Friday, November 27, 2009


The tendency to be religious is fundamentally panpsychic, a personification of the universe. I can't dismiss the idea that the universe itself is intelligent, that as we look into it, it looks into us. It exists in time between parenthetical boundaries of being and nothingness, concept-totality and concept-zero, which also frame the human mind. It is why we pray.

We receive the emergent reward, Life, but find it unsafe. Life has a 100% mortality rate, which is appalling and we'd very much like to speak to someone about it. Between the maths of all and nothing we are left two conclusions, both unsatisfactory: life, as a product, is defective; the purpose of the product, because it fails totally at some very crucial moments, is incomprehensible.

Church offers, among other psychological and social comforts --such as venue for a generation of women who like to sing in crazy vibrato voices-- a complaints window. One takes questions there. The window is round and located on the bottom.

If we turn a church over answers float up to the glass --"yes", "no", "maybe" and "ask again later"-- seemingly at random. This suggests the sphere of living worship and the ink-filled 8-Ball are novelties of identical construction, and, if we are to experience the punctuation and voice of the universe, we must look and listen elsewhere.

When the starting point of one's search presumes to include the whole universe, elsewhere is a pretty tough project. So we must experiment. A study of languages that died trying is helpful here.

Elsewhere, like universal personification, is a concept imagined in parenthesis. Parenthesis a word given by Greeks to the Romans, who in turn bequeathed it to us along with two related expressions: homosapiens* and ora pro nobis**. This keeps my theory of human religion in a flexible state. As today it is bendier than yesterday so shall it be more bendy tomorrow --and, if not intellectually safe, at least no less safe. In fact, you are welcome to try this at home.

*man the wise
**pray for us

Presque Vu

Deja Vu and Jamais Vu are words brought to us originally by cultural anthropologists who ventured into into places like darkest England to study temporal lore of tribes frequenting Ley Lines and menhirs like Stonehenge, then, for reasons unknown but on the tips of their tongues, report back exclusively in French. Their data is then seized by psychologists, who are seized in turn by physicists and astronomers, drugged, danced to exhaustion and a new tribe is formed.

Between the Big Bang and Big Crunch the universe goes thru cycles of expansion and contraction. During expansion, we remember a real past attending a variable and unseeable future. In contraction, because time is reversed, we remember a virtual past which, contrary to the entropic arrow of time, hasn't really happened yet. We percieve it as a normal, causal unfolding but accompanied by a crunchy noise and it just looks crinkly.

We don't remember the future in this direction either --backward from its beginning at the end of universal expansion-- for two reasons. Light is traveling backwards, out of our eyes and assembling all observables. Second reason is nobody liked the future very much and forgot it.

Because universe doesn't expand or contract quite evenly --less like a star-studded balloon than other stuff I shouldn't have machine-washed-- Bang and Crunch can coincide. Neither is time uniform --uniforms are dry-clean only. Time can constrict on an expanding field, which is how an acrylic sock can melt your turtleneck head hole shut in the dryer--creating an irreducible singularity. Thus do time and anti-time collide in brains and make deja vu.

Because the cycles throw us together from opposing ends of time, we get glimpses of ourselves coming back. Effect is more or less pronounced by what cycle predominates locally. My last planetarium visit suggests we are on spin. This also accounts for the disorienting experience of Jamais Vu.

Jamais Vu is the opposite of Deja Vu and consists of waking up in your pajamas --Jamais=french for jammies-- without knowing where or why. Sometimes Jamais Vu is inaccurately applied to waking up naked and painted jammy-like colors in the middle of a jungle with no clue where you are or how it happened. This is not Jamais Vu. It means you are a cultural anthropologist.

Old vs. New Ageing Research

Re: Nobel prize for medicine awarded for work on ageing. Three scientists win the most prestigious prize in medicine for work on telomeres---

I have worked privately on ageing for a long time and considered my work successful. I'm way older now. But this development stunned me. Let me get this straight, the idea is to STOP ageing? Nobel Foundation should really have made that clearer.

However, I am impressed with the idea of chromosomes wearing "caps" to avert degradation. I find a broad-brimmed hat useful too, especially while gardening. For hatless students of age-abatement there are other reports.

I recommend Stoker's research. He found ageing could be managed by modifying some social interactions, but there were side effects. His subjects complained of dental malocclusion, leathery wing growth and invisibility in mirrors. MRS --missing reflection syndrome-- is of philological interest as it forever linked vampires with the phrase, "Is my hair alright?"

Triumphs Of Faith, Intuition, Logic Over What They Are Called

I was raised in a church and might have remained except for Jesus's habit of raising the dead, which I found unnerving. One puzzle of a child's eidetic memory is independence from the spoken word --a state closer to Logos than adults remember to credit. Before I talked, I thought this of church people: How lovely, what ARE they? The Logos, I should add, was an interrogative. I thought this not in words but in pictures, and events within the picture that struck me as delightful, uncertain, or, as in the universal 50s experience of sitting behind a church lady who still had heads on her mink, insane and scary and did she kill them herself. It is still what I think in church, how I feel.

When I learned to talk, I asked things: I learned church people had faith; that faith acts upon information that is, by nature and circumstance, inconclusive. It is what happens when certainty is in short supply, and how people proceed, get on with life, when ignorance is unavoidable.

Later I learned people of faith were divided into those who made an effort to justify their beliefs and those who felt no need. Faith is justified in retrospect. Those who practiced this would review its successful episodes of guidance with appreciation, sometimes with bewilderment, quite often with hilarity.

Unjustified faith is simply never looking back, a voluntary blindness. It is often defensive and intolerant --a constant irrational argument infavor of itself. It is a survival bellow, very loud. Being a sensitive child, I avoided it and looked to logic.

Logic doesn't argue so much as avoid other methods in which facts are insufficient. But, where progress is imperative, a preponderance of evidence may suffice where fact is unavailable. This approximates intuition, a reasonable response to important but disorganized data, and is closer to logic than faith.

I am embarrassed by how old I was before I stopped arguing theology. At some point --probably after fatherhood-- I compared conflicting churches to kids going, "Is so! Is not! Is so! Is not!" When I gauged the two sides of the argument I found them of equal depth. Sustained debate on the subject can have no outcome other than to make the participants sick. I have seen this.

I suspect church people are acting out of some natural statement that can take no other form in them. I intuit it, which is less exclamatory only because it takes longer. It gives onto logic, which takes longer still. The feeling common to faith, intuition and logic is that something has opened, moved and caused ripples upon the surface of the waters; something tremendous has happened. Very much like falling in love --itself too intense for analysis-- which is esteemed by church people, intuitives, logicians alike, and misunderstood by all. As a unifying force, love elevates the enigma and will doubtless save us all if we do it more.