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Philosophy Politics Religion Uncategorized

Pure Imagination

Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.  Take a look, and you’ll see into your imagination – Willy Wonka

As we get closer to the end of the world, ahem, I mean the elections in November, many issues are coming to light that pose significant problems for the rest of us.  But I have to say that we all have the ability to fix all of these problems, but it comes back down to taking action.  I know I’ve said before that we have the power to change the world, but I feel that I must constantly say this, because we all get distracted, disenfranchised, dissociated, depressed, detached and that leads to disbelief.  But we can do it, if we just put our minds to it.  The problem is that we are assailed with one things after the other that kills our spirit.  If you just watch ten minutes of the news, its enough to kill any positive thoughts you may have had.  We sell sorrow on the news, happy doesn’t sell ads.  People want to see death, disorder and destruction.  Why?  I do not know.

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” Such a simple thought, and it is simply true.  The most amazing thing about humans, and life in general, is that it has the ability to overcome the equations that define the universe.  Gravity is constantly pulling things together, yet even a blade of grass can overcome its relentless force to grow up to the sun — whereas a lifeless rock can only roll down a hill. But let us not view gravity negatively, let us just assume that it is a mostly benevolent force that takes over in the absense of thought. And gravity gets stronger the more things cluster together.

So, to continue with this allegory, let us look at our society.  Politics, as well as social and moral order, can be viewed as gravity.  These things bind us together, we have rules to govern our lives.  We have a government because we have proven that in many cases we cannot or will not govern ourselves.  We are a society with a fleeting sense of personal responsibility.  And, because we cannot govern ourselves, we have created a tangled web of limiting rules, that have not only limited our actions, they have limited our sense of creativity.  And like gravity, laws and rules have taken over in the absence of thought, or common sense.

What can we do, you might ask.  How can we overcome this ever-increasing legal, social and moral gravity?  We take responsibility for ourselves and learn to create our lives.  Each day, we should wake up, smile that we’ve survived another day, and say, “Today will be another great day!”  It’s not the power of positive thought, it’s the power of will.  I’m not advocating these pyramid schemes, such as the scam known as “The Law of Attraction”.  I don’t need a gimmick to create my life.  I need to have resolve and force of will.  That is all everyone needs.  There is no magic pill or trick to make you anymore in control of your life than you are.  We choose to be where we are, whether we accept it or not.  We chose to be the way we are.

In November, once again, we will be faced with a challenge.  We must choose the right people to lead us.  This is not ideal, because we should each be our own leaders, but we have not been.  It is a very important decision, this year more than ever, because we are in a downward spiral into the abyss. We must all work together to create a better place, for ourselves and our children.

So I will leave you with this — “Anything you want to, do it.  Wanna change the world?  There’s nothing to it.”

 

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Life Philosophy Science

Zombie Reality

I have given them the last rites, now you do what you will. You are stronger than us, but soon I think they be stronger than you. – Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Today’s blog is actually a thought exercise I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.  There has been such a massive focus on the Zombie Apocalypse scenario over the past ten years, it makes me think that if Zombies have become such a pop icon, how close are we to making this a reality?  What spurred this thought today was a recent news story I heard about some gun ranges now setting up Zombie targets for Zombie themed shooting events.  While this seems very amusing, and I did giggle when I heard it, it is also a bit disturbing on many levels.

Zombies, as defined in the iconic Night of the Living Dead, were meant to be commentary on the capitalist society we live in.  Zombies are mindless wandering automatons who exist to consume.  Mr. George Romero is a visionary director, and his films paint a very disturbing fate for the human race, one which none of us can truly escape.  If the dead are rising up from the grave, and all of us will eventually die, then all of us would eventually become zombies, which is quite frightening. 

But back to the thought exercise.  We as humans have an amazing ability to make a dream into a reality.  I think back to some of the early science fiction works from the early 20th century, and how many of those concepts are now a reality.  Fahrenheit 451 talked of wall sized TVs, and we have made that a reality.  Asimov talked about robots, which have become a reality, though still in its infancy. There are so many of these instances that I can cite to punctuate the tenacity of humans to make things a reality.  What makes a zombie apocalypse any different? If you think about it, all one needs to do is create a virus that numbs the mind and removes reason and emotion.  This could be accomplished any number of ways, and in a world where biological warfare is a constant threat, who is to say that we have not already set this wheel in motion.  It would be highly desirable for an enemy to infect us with a virus that not only damages the host, but causes the host to kill those around them.  All one would need to do is introduce the virus and watch their enemy destroy themselves from within.

I personally know many people who seriously believe that the zombie apocalypse is a real possibility.  The power of the human mind is astounding.  It has the ability to make things come into reality by sheer force of will.  This is not to say that we can conjure things out of thin air, but if someone wants something badly enough, it can happen.  It was believed man would never be able to fly, now we can do it pretty much anytime we want.  We didn’t believe we could leave the planet, but we’ve had men walk on the moon.  So many wonderful and horrible things have come from our power of will.

So here is the thing to ponder, if we are obsessed with zombies, is it not possible that someone somewhere will be fueled by all the information we’ve provided on how zombies should be, and make it a reality?  With all the movies, shows, books and games on zombies, we have effectively given someone all the “research” they would need to actually create such a thing.  And if I were a betting man, I would bet on a zombie infection similar to 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, as they seem the most viable candidates for a realistic disease that mimics the Romero vision of zombies.  It seems highly unlikely that people will “rise from the grave” without some sort of supernatural cause, but a virus that makes people mindless, blood-thirsty killers seems highly likely to me.

At the end of the day, we must always keep in mind, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

 

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Life Philosophy Religion

The Need for Zen

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. – Alan Watts

Being Zen is probably the hardest and easiest thing one can do.  It is hard because we live in a world full of distractions;  we are distracted by people, gadgets, news, wants, needs and general chaos around us.  It is easy because Zen means just to be; don’t think about it, contemplate it, analyze it, or decompose it.  And Zen can just a moment, or your entire life.  It’s really up to you but its easy to just set aside a single moment a day to experience it.  Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to do it all the time. 

I have a few moments a day of Zen that I have now become accustomed to.  I’ve incorporated it into my day ritualistically, but not in a meaningless way.  Each day at around 4:45 I make dinner, I have always loved to cook, and it is dramatically different from what I am doing most of the day, which usually involves technology to some extent. 

Before I begin, I go to the grocery store and start at the produce aisle, looking for vegetables that look particularly appealing that day.  I especially like looking at the peppers because the shapes and colors are pleasing and soothing — bright reds, deep oranges or soothing greens.  Next, I head to the meat aisle, looking for what I’ve not had in a few days, what’s on sale.  I usually choose meat that goes with the day of the week.  Early week is chicken, mid-week is usually pork of some variety, and the weekend, especially Friday is steak day — though this is subject to change.

After I’ve chosen my meat, then the next crucial aspect of the meal is the wine selection.  I reserve my wine selection for the type of meat and spices I’ll be using that evening.  Since I am not at all fond of white wines, I choose among the reds: Pinot Noir for chicken, Old Vine Zin or Malbec for Pork and a Cabernet class for beef.  Again, this is subject to change depending on my mood.

Once I am back in the kitchen, the first thing I do is open the bottle of wine and pour it violently into a decanter so that it oxygenates quicker and let it set while I get the rest of the ingredients together.  I really enjoy choosing the herbs I want to use, usually fresh or recently dehydrated.  Prep work usually takes me about 20 minutes and once that is done, I have that first glass of wine and the cooking commences.  I usually have the pans going on the stove, and more often than not, the meat is cooked on my grill which I run all through the year.  Grilled meat as such amazing flavor and it is hard to get the same flavor from fried meats, depending on the recipe.  I spend my time just stirring, flipping and spicing, not really thinking about what I am doing, letting the food taste the way it wants to taste, with my gentle nudges in the right direction.

Then of course, the last part of the ritual is to finally eat what I prepared with my family, and watch their expressions as they taste what I’ve made, take feedback on what they do and do not like, and work to improve it.  There is nothing more satisfying that people enjoying what I have made, not from a sense of pride, but from the fact that I’ve shared my Zen moment with someone else, and in effect have given them their own Zen moment.  Cause and effect.

What is important to remember is that Zen is about you.  You cannot truly make someone Zen, they must want to be Zen.  Zen is not a lesson, it is an experience.  You can no more push Zen on someone than you can force them to remember something. It is something one attains through their own actions or non-action.  Zen is Zen.  But what does that mean exactly?  I find that my excursions into a Zen state of mind are usually not known to me until they have passed. While I am in a state of Zen, the last thing I am thinking about is “Hey! I’m Zen!”, it doesn’t work that way at all.

Zen is not a religion, it is the act of being.  It is that state your mind enters, where you are focused only on the task at hand and you are simply experiencing it, feeling it, enjoying it, living it.  It is a state where all the other cares of the world leave you, allowing you to shrug the weight of the world, if only for a brief moment, and allow your soul to do what it enjoys doing. 

My hypothesis has always been that if everyone could find and recognize just one Zen activity that they enjoy, the world would be less stressed.  So many people I know are always on the go, and rarely find time to enjoy their lives. I know so many people who are always doing, but never experiencing what they are doing, more concerned with what other people think, what they do not have, what others have, their jobs and their wants.  We pile this stress upon ourselves, with little to no release until eventually everything explodes into something dreadful.  My Zen cooking each day allows me to shrug off the stress of my day, things that may have upset me on the ride home, and/or things I have to deal with in my personal life, such as home, finances, health and family.  My Zen moment is for me, my little gift to myself each day, reminding me there is more to my life than petty worries. 

Life is a struggle, there is no way around it.  If you have no money, you struggle to get more. If you have lots of money, you struggle to keep it.  If you are sick, you struggle to get well and if you are well, you struggle not to get sick.  This is what drives us to experience the world.  If life were not a struggle, we would all sit blissfully in a field staring at the sky wondering what the purpose is.  The purpose of life is to live.

So when your day seems particularly rough, and you go home at night, think to yourself what will take your mind off of it.  We as a race need Zen more now than ever before, but it does not need to be all-consuming in your life, or cause you to stop doing other things.  Zen is so elegant because it can be incorporated into any type of life and religion.

Zen is Zen.  And You are You.

Categories
Philosophy Religion Science

A Programmer’s View of Religion and the Universe [Part 3]

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant.” – Zen Proverb

This is the my third installment in a series of posts expressing my view of religion and the universe, having been a programmer/analyst for the bulk of my adult life.  In the first post, I began by describing the similarities between the fundamental construction of the universe and how similar it is to the way software is designed.  The second post, I took a look at the concept of “purpose”.  Today I would like to talk about the concept of existence.

Existence is such a nebulous concept.  We can look at something sitting nearby, and it exists.  Or at least we think it exists.  But when we start to delve into the world of the really small, the quantum level, it becomes apparent that existence isn’t exactly what we thought it was.  Things only “tend” to be there — which returns us to the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there, does it still make a sound?”  Some schools of thought would suggest that it doesn’t fall, or make a sound.  This is possible, or I should say “probably”, because of the nature of the atoms that make up all matter in the universe.  Basically, an atom is composed of a cluster of neutrons and protons, orbited by 1 or more electrons.  Electrons, as observed scientifically, have a “probability wave”, which means there is an equation that governs all the possible positions it can be, everywhere in the universe and not just around the atom.  An electron has a probability, though very small, that it can exist anywhere in the known universe — though that probability may be some insanely small fraction of a percentage — e.g. a million billionths of a percentage point.  The idea is that it is possible, though very improbable.  But understanding this key concept, makes it possible to understand the other “weirdness” that governs our existence.

So what makes an electron “behave” or “tend” to be where you want it?  That is another source of great contention.  Some believe something doesn’t exist unless it is observed by someone, others believe it is there when it interacts with something else.  Either one of these concepts presents another problem.  Who was the first observer, or who was the first interactor?  Aristotle tried to explain this in his book The Metaphysics by introducing the concept of the Unmoved Mover — a primary cause or “mover” of all the motion in the universe.  It had not been moved by any other action, making it perfectly beautiful, indivisible and engaged in perfect contemplation of itself contemplating. 

There is therefore also something which moves it. And since that which moves and is moved is intermediate, there is something which moves without being moved, being eternal, substance, and actuality. – Aristotle The Metaphysics 12.7

 This very elegant philosophical concept allows the universe to exist without an observer, but it leaves the 13 billion year old elephant in the room — What was or is the unmoved mover? And how did it get there?  This question again introduces a plethora of concepts which you are probably already familiar with – creationism on one hand, the big bang on the other.  And unfortunately, this is where all human reason must end, as there is currently no known way to see beyond the moment of that our universe came into existence, because nothing was there to record those events.  Try as we may, spending billions of dollars to smash atoms together, hoping to get a glimpse of that first moment when the first particle formed, giving way to the universe.  But we have not discovered it yet, and I would have to say that we probably never will.  Not that we aren’t intelligent, and resourceful, but because the question and the answer are irrelevant.

We are so entirely wrapped up in the pursuit of finding the purpose to it all, we have forgotten that the moment is what matters.  We have existence, do we really need to understand why it is here?  Isn’t existence its own question and answer?  So back to the programmer’s perspective, do you need to know how your computer works internally to use and enjoy it?  Certainly not. We do not need to understand how the universe works to enjoy it, or utilize it.  We knew nothing about the universe, really, 2000 years ago and we survived, lived life and persisted. 

I write software using fundamental components.  I am the unmoved mover as far as my programs are concerned.  I am that which is programmed but programmed by myself and myself alone.  Do my bits of code wonder how they came into existence, while they await to perform their functions?  Who is to say.

Next time, we’ll explore the pinnacle of existence — life and the state of being.

 

 

Categories
Life Philosophy Religion Science

A Programmer’s View of Religion and the Universe [Part 2]

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” – Hamlet I.v

In the first part of this post, I began by explaining the similarities between modern software programming and the fundamental design of the universe.  It is no coincidence that these similarities exist, because at the base of everything is the one unifying language — Mathematics.  All things can be discussed in terms of mathematics, and all things can be quantified, to some degree, using mathematics.  So in order to define the “design” we must look to mathematics.

From this we can draw the conclusion that the architect of the universe is most likely a mathematician, but this is not to say that the architect created mathematics.  Mathematics simply exists and does not require creation, just as the fundamental state of existence does not require creation.  Mathematics and existence simply “are”.  It is very difficult for us to grasp this concept, because everything we see around us was created in some form or fashion, or at least that is the way we see it. 

In software development, there arises a need before there is a plan.  A customer describes the need to solve a problem, and a program is architected, engineered and coded to meet the need.  In all my years as a programmer, I have never seen a program appear out of thin air to meet the need; someone must design it, create it and define its parameters.  If we look around us, we see any number of objects lying on the desk before us; pencil, monitor, keyboard, checkbook, house, building, car.  All these things we created to meet a need or serve a purpose, and we use them until they are broken or no longer needed.  We don’t usually keep things around us, or create things, that serve no purpose.  But what is purpose?

The word “purpose” is a very broad term because we can define it so many different ways in the context of day-to-day life.  For instance, look at the purpose of a fork as opposed to a work of art.  Some would say that a fork has a higher purpose than a work of art because art does not perform a necessary function.  We as humans assign purpose to everything, and if something has not collective purpose, we tend to disregard it.  So we should turn that discriminate eye on ourselves.  What purpose do we as humans serve?  This question is what has spurred the millenia long strife of religion.  We cannot truly assign a purpose to ourselves, as a result, God has become the purpose, as we identify ourselves as his children.  This is not to say that this is wrong, but we must then put ourselves in the same role with our own children.  At the base level, children are a drain on our existence.  Our time and resources are spent to care for them, to teach them, to prepare them to have their own children.  One could argue that a child is no more purposeful than the work of art I mentioned above.  However, with a different understanding of purpose, children and artwork provide some level of entertainment and joy.  They enrich our lives, allowing us to enjoy the act of existing.  But what is existence?

Existence, like mathematics, just “is”.  And that is all we know at this point since we cannot define, or unable to ever define, why something like the universe would exist at all.  According to everything we know about science, it would have been much easier had nothing ever existed at all — a universe of tranquility, energy in a perpetual state of oneness and still. Everything around us all the time is trying to return to this state of stillness, only instead of becoming more still, it becomes more chaotic and more disorganized.  And unfortunately, once you’ve disorganized something, in the perspective of space AND time, you cannot reorganize it.  Time disallows us to ever return something to its exact state.  How is this, you might ask?  That is the realm of entropy.

For today, I leave you with these words to ponder, and I would love to hear comments or observations.

Categories
Life Philosophy Religion Science

A Programmer’s View of Religion and the Universe [Part 1]

“Far away, across the field, the tolling of the iron bell, calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly spoken magic spells”- Pink Floyd

Religion has been a source of tension in our world since we first looked up at the sky and declared the sun and the moon to be gods.  We have all struggled with the search for purpose, wondering why we are here and who put us here.  Its amazing to me that we have come to the point we have in our world, where we are so disjointed in our belief systems, that we have resorted to death and violence in the name of God.  Does anyone else see this as a fundamental problem?

I must be clear that I am not in any way, shape or form proselytizing.  My own religious beliefs are exactly that — my own.  Being human, I think it is necessary for me to impart my own personal findings, as I reach mid-life.  I have spent a great deal of time studying other religions, and will continue to do so, because finding a common religion that we can all accept is the only true way we will reach global peace.  We all know this to be true, because we are constantly trying to get others to believe in the same thing we do.  World peace has become a cliche, or philosophical chimera — which is really quite sad.

I dont’ really need to speak about any religion in particular.  Each religion exists for a purpose, and obviously people who follow a particular faith have found their own purpose within that faith.  We do need to understand the importance of coexistence.  Without coexistence, we never have a hope of overcoming the disparity of thought surrounding the creation and purpose of the universe.  We must overcome our urge to disparage someone else’s belief system, because if you really think about it, every religion has its imperfections.  Imperfections exist because we are all human, and if we were perfect we wouldn’t have any issues in the world.  So obviously we are not perfect, and no religion is perfect if it does not appeal to everyone equally so. 

So I have come to several personal conclusions that I would like to share, perhaps helping you in your own explorations of the mysteries of the universe.  There are so many things that I cannot comprehend.  The vastness of the universe is overwhelming and we are just a tiny, beautiful jewel floating around a luminescent ball of pure undulating energy — one star among trillions of other stars.  It sustains everything that exists on our planet.  There is not one creature, big or small that does not get its nourishment and life from the sun; directly or indirectly.  Without the sun, there is only darkness and cold, which makes me think that the sun and others like it, are a significant aspect of existence.  A significant part of the design. 

I have approached this problem the only way I know.  I have been programming software solutions since the mid 1990s.  Object Oriented Programming shares a striking resemblance to the way that our universe functions.  What is strange is that when you really think about it, the universe really is very similar to the Matrix.  It all begins with the fundamental equations and constants.  We have constants in programming and in the universe — Gravity, Speed of Light, Planks Constant.  We have variables: mass, energy, acceleration.  We have a toolbox of elementary particles, or objects, to build from: strings, quarks, nucleus, protons, electrons.  We have functions assigned to each of the objects we build: attract, repel, fuse.

As a programmer and software architect, it would be silly for me to think if I just throw a bunch of code together it will just work.  There must always be a design.  Even the simplest life-form, or program, is a symphony of interactions that allow the life-form to exist.  Then the question becomes, “Who’s design?”

If you strip away the layers of dogma we’ve created for ourselves, it comes down to two simple concepts: Either there is a design, or there isn’t.  The “intelligent design” we have assigned to God, because we as humans must anthropomorphize  that which we revere.  With the multitudes of possibilities of configuration, it would be silly for me to say that the design comes from something that has been humanized.  God, in my opinion, is most likely something we cannot at all comprehend, because we are very limited in our experience and understanding of the universe.  The entirety of human history hasn’t even been a twinkle in the eye of the Universe.  We are only just getting started.

Looking back to the sun we see that its function is not only to provide use with the energy we need to survive, but through complex interactions, its creates the very stuff we are made of.  This one fact is something that a great many people simply do not understand.  Every thing you are made of came as the result of the fusion happening in stars, and stars that have long since died.  The carbon, the iron, the oxygen we breathe, all came from the death of a star.  Even new stars are formed from the death of other stars.  But the sun is not god, as we learned long ago.  So where do we even start to look for the design?

That is an enormous amount of information to grock in one sitting.  I will continue this article, after the holidays.  I hope you return to read the rest, and provide critique of my conclusions.

 

Categories
Life Philosophy

Apocalypse? Perhaps.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had the time to blog. After my spaces account was shut down, I hadn’t had time to set up a new wordpress blog, and get back into the zen of blogifying my brain. But today, I feel compelled to put out my thoughts for everyone else to digest.

As 2012 approaches, every crack pot in the world has come up with some sort of vision, theory, justification, math equation, quantification and pontification about the end of the world, (and/or the Mayan prophecy). From the dawn of humankind, we have prophesied some sort of end to our existence here on planet Earth, but for what reason? Sure, the sun will eventually burn out, first swelling into a red giant, consuming most of the inner planets, then deflating into a glistening white dwarf. And yes, this will most certainly kill everyone still living on the planet. And considering we’ve cut all our spending on space exploration, for the time being, we won’t be finding any methods of leaving the planet any time soon – so we are left with our fears of annihilation.

We have become arrogant on so many levels — too arrogant considering how fragile we are, and how dangerous the universe is. At any moment, the sun can (and has before) unleash a violent flare that could easily change the course of our history. There are so many ways to die in the universe, so many things we can’t ever prevent. We scurry from place to place, most of us blissfully ignorant of the fact that at any moment, without warning, it can all end. Remember the dinosaurs? One day they’re happily eating leaves (and each other), then *BAM!* they are consumed in a fireball that engulfs the planet, nearly extinguishing all life on the planet. Nearly.

I was amused and angered by the ravings of Harold Camping and his disastrous miscalculation of the end of the world, which he had convinced his followers was May 21, 2011. But as you know, the end did not come and many people left their homes, families and jobs to obey the ravings of a madman turned prophet,  who had already been wrong before (not once but twice!). Despite this failure, he still persists in his message that the “Spiritual Rapture” had occurred, and the physical rapture was on October 21st, 2011 — which we also know, has come and gone.  He’s already taken all his followers money and misled them to the point where they must live the rest of their lives, knowing they were misled by a fool. And so many fools have come before him. 

Is there an apocalypse coming? Well what exactly is an apocalypse? If you take the literal definition, it means “total destruction”. If you take the biblical meaning, it is “a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception” or “lifting the veil”. So regardless of how we define it, an apocalypse has happened many times before and will happened again. But it doesn’t have to be something occult or paranormal, such as the wrath of god, or the zombie plague. It will probably be something fairly normal, yet greatly disregarded – like the sun, an asteroid, or the collapse of the technology infrastructure.

So why am I babbling about all this? Because there is a simple fact we all forget — it can all end at any moment. Which means you can only be sure of the moment you’re in, the moment you are living in right now.  One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life thus far is the Zen idea of enjoying “Right Now”.  I am just as guilty as everyone when it comes to this.  We are always looking to the horizon, instead of right around us.  Sure, we must plan to some extent, but to what extent? 

I don’t want to look forward to the end of the world.  I don’t want to worry about an apocalypse.  I want to live my life living happily in each moment.  And that is probably one of the most difficult things we as humans have to learn.  Living in each moment, when I actually get to do it, is really quite awesome.  I get glimpses of it in my life, but it is not something I can sustain on a regular basis.  I am working towards it, but we all have to work towards it.  If we all worked together on living for now, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today that threaten our world, and make some people long for the end. [I’ve got my money on Zombie Apocalypse Scenario though]

So the question ultimately becomes, “If it isn’t fun, then why are we doing it?”