Journal 2020-10-27

The whole song can be better heard by listening, rather than spreading noise.

The problem is the insistence on certainty, and building an identity around this, with everyone thinking they are always right.

No matter how certain you think you are, even if momentarily touched with lucid insight, you are probably not completely right (yes, including this).

There is no shame in not seeing everything or not understanding all the complexities and ramifications of all ends.

A Contrast

A few years ago, out of curiosity and in the hope of encountering some benevolent people, I went to a Buddhist centre in London. I could see the practical benefit in the exercises being taught and listened to some wisdom words, but was far less impressed with the paradigm of shared beliefs being advocated. There were several comments that jarred me, such as hero worshipping and speculating in earnestness as to who was the greatest recent guru; or the retelling of fantastical cosmologies as a matter of fact. My mind was truly decided, however, when music and singing was attempted. No doubt the purpose was to emote joy, but the result was blank for me. Nothing close to truth would create art – the expression of the soul – that uninspiring.

On leaving, the assembly exited the front door past two Buddhist people standing on either side, giving their goodbyes. The first person was everything I hoped to find there – she clearly just radiated a sense of peace, compassion, joy and love. The second, who from the literature seemed to be the leader of the place did not have the same effect on me. I had a feeling of disquiet and, to be honest, slight revulsion.

I never went back. I think the religion is great if it can help a person grow into the state of consciousness of the woman I encountered. Most importantly though the experience lasts in my memory because of the contrast presented to me between the two people: do I want to be more like the one or the other?

First World Problems

What to do when you have everything?

Want more.

Invent more problems.

Feel unsatisfied, waiting for an event in the future that never comes.

Fill the void with distractions and medications.

Become increasingly selfish, shallow and self-obsessed.

Worry about losing what you have.

Want what you have to be acknowledged as better than others.

And repeat…

(unless you can break this loop).

Metaphysics

The dictionary definition of “atheist” as a non-believer in God or Gods isn’t accurate because anecdotally there seems to be many people who think the doctrinal teachings from religious institutions are cultural based anachronisms – and so would be labelled “atheist” for not adhering to definitive religious beliefs about deities – yet believe in some higher power they cannot define. This type of thought would be different from believing the universe’s purpose and function is completely explicable in terms contained within itself by matter and its interactions.

There are a lot of belief jumps in this sentence: the universe is a purposeless collection of matter that mindlessly configured itself by chance out of nothing, existing in time with causes and effects and had no beginning. A reasonable-minded adherent might be aware of the glaring uncertainties in this position but state it is more parsimonious to adopt a materialistic concept of reality than implant a God belief system as an additional layer in the theory. Yet the certainty with which many proponents preach this position as absolute truth, suggests a type of commitment witnessed in religious belief.

An agnostic would state that the ultimate “why” questions are unanswerable, so from a practical perspective we should just be concerned with the “how” questions. The materialist’s objections to agnosticism based on the burden of proof for God being on the proponent, misses the point to an agnostic who has already ruled-out religious explanations of God but not higher meaning and purpose to reality. A particularly zealous materialist might overplay the remit of verifiable facts by stating opinions about ultimate meaning are irrelevant if they are not scientifically falsifiable – ignoring the fact that their own conceptual model for reality contains unfalsifiable conjecture.

My own instinctive opinion is that I believe religions share the same spiritual root, although the core message was often corrupted by the doctrines and institutions that arose. This is my personal version of “spiritual but not particularly religious”. As I am most familiar with Christianity I can be labelled Christian, however I do adopt a filter and select only what resonates with me, mindful that the scriptures were written and edited by early practitioners of the religion and that the Biblical canon was decided upon by the politics of powerful men in ecumenical councils, rather than being the unadulterated teachings of Christ. Looking back in history, the cruelties that have been perpetrated by professed followers of the religion represent the antithesis of the message of Christ; for real spirituality – the root of Christianity – is always inspired by love, joy, harmony, peace and reconciliation.

Human Cyborg 2.0?

Given how technology is moving, all the functions of your phone will be migrated directly into your brain. The “screen” will be projected into your vision and options chosen by thoughts.

All vision, sound, thoughts and feelings could be recorded. You could download and replay any recording from yourself or anybody else. Communication by mindscapes could replace the spoken and written word.

Your mind could operate any physical body.

Your perception of reality could be changed. Undesired emotions or detrimental thought patterns could be switched-off.

You could instantly download data and skills and have greatly augmented cognitive processing speeds.

Your thoughts could interact with artificial intelligence that could calculate the most efficient algorithm for any process you wish to undertake.

This isn’t fanciful thinking, it’s the implied intention for the not too distant future. The unasked question is to what extent this is really desirable.

Of course any totalitarian regime could easily control their population by these means. An empowered sadist could run amok in all the enslaved minds.

Philosophically it makes me wonder, what is it to be a human being? Practically it makes me certain, humans have to become worthy of the knowledge we are gaining.

Journal 2020-07-06

An obvious point is that there is greater chance of releasing the magic if not consumed by self-aggrandizement or conforming to other people’s expectations, especially if the current norms are harmful and wrong. Success in transcendent goals is not the same as success in negotiating positions of status in the current society, which of course will change with the relentless passage of time. It just so happens, however, that those people who were motivated by intrinsic value rather than their own psychological desires produced the best long-lasting examples of beauty and creative human potential.

The Colosseum

The Romans viewed the Colosseum as the zenith of civilisation, representing the natural order playing out in glory of the Gods. In the arena was unadulterated murder and torture for the entertainment of the baying crowds.

People 2,000 years ago are us, just brought up differently with different beliefs and living under different conditions.

Humanity has mostly now progressed enough to recognise the depraved evils that were socially accepted in previous times; yet a person of the time would have gone along with the accepted norm, assuming it was right because everyone else said it was right. They were wrong.

Unless you think we are currently at the zenith of civilisation, what are the great injustices of our time that are socially conditioned and accepted? These wrongs will have been justified and reasoned away to become the mainstream behaviour.

Timeline

200,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans in the world.

5,500 years ago, the written word begins.

475 years ago, the Scientific Revolution.

250 years ago, the Industrial Revolution.

150 years ago, the Technological Revolution.

70 years ago, digital electronic computers.

29 years ago, the Internet.

13 years ago, Smartphones & Social Media.

Another big changer due (or has already happened).

What will be the timeline in 1 billion years time? The future could be completely incomprehensible from where we are now.

Vantage Points

My mystical inclination believes something along the lines that: form ends on death, but time is just a perspective from one vantage point because the past, present and future are really one; all things are really a part of each other, connected and strands in the great tapestry of life; and maybe we have one foot in this life and one in deeper dimensions of reality. Maybe there are incalculable vantage points.

Even my purely rational inclination finds a materialist concept of reality difficult to accept, given the absurdity of a microorganism thinking it has the reasoning to understand how and why it exists in its petri dish.

I believe excelling at being a good human being is the purpose – and in doing so is helping the macrocosm of the universe to unfold as it should.

Nobody must believe any of this, it just feels right to me.

Replication

A pollyanna vision of the arc of technology might be that if robots can do all the work at higher levels of productivity than people, then in theory everybody could be wealthy, enjoying the fruits of automated labour. People are then liberated from economic and social necessity to fully explore life; to hopefully find true beauty, love and self-actualization – instead of struggling, worrying and fighting over limited resources to survive.

Looking through the attic I came across something I wrote a while back, that was a bit less pollyanna:

“School is typically a training in becoming a drone, with extra badges and gold stars for conformity to the set standards of assimilation into the machinery. The next life stage is to be oiled up with the particular drugs of choice to desensitize and negotiate the drone bot through the system, for the waiting skip at the end (unless not already fallen off into insanity).”

Made me laugh. Maybe I had watched too much Star Trek.

Alternatives

What would have happened if the US was not the first country to develop the nuclear bomb? What would have happened if the Nazis, Stalin, Mao or the Imperial Japanese Empire had the bomb first? No doubt after numerous live demonstrations on target cities, the world would have been subjugated to the particular brand of sadistic totalitarian control.

As technology progresses, additional existential threats to humanity will happen more regularly; the most frequently noted being in biological engineering, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. Technology is also making it ever easier to centrally track and control people’s behaviour, enabling the ideal conditions for any strain of despotic regime to thrive.

Given the stakes and the alternatives, we have to get better.

Journal 2020-05-23

Like a virus, negativity will attack you in the world and attempt to feed on your energy. A thick skin is some defence, but is fragile and needs constant fierce protecting, in a battle that will be eventually lost. Rather that becoming one of the infected, with it eating away at you from the inside and spreading or intensifying the infection of others, it is better to be immune.

When you don’t need validation by someone else’s good opinion you have gained your freedom to be who you are. People have every right to have an opinion about you, but good or bad, it doesn’t make it true. You know what is true, it may be buried under heavy ancient layers but you are the one to know.

Enjoy and accept the positive when someone has sensed something in you that resonates in them. The truth is you become immune when it is no longer about you.