History, Part 1: Why Bother?

Posted in All, Economics, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2010 by marushiadark

“Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.” ~ Proverb.

When I was in middle school, I really hated history.  In eighth grade, I literally failed my history class because I didn’t want to do the work, because I felt the subject was difficult and boring.

That changed as I went on to high school.  I started watching The History Channel back before every other show was about Nazi Alien Templars.

Back then, the programs were fun and compelling and I enjoyed watching them.  It didn’t even occur to me at the time that I was actually learning something in the process.  Part of it may have been the subject matter being taught (I very much enjoyed Medieval castles), or the fact that they used computer models to render cities and events in a spectacular way.  Whatever it was, it managed to change my perception that history wasn’t fun or easy to learn.

Now that I’m an adult, I understand the significance of history and have a greater fascination in learning more about what happened in the past, and that has actually helped me a great deal in other areas of my life.  As a result, I’ve become more self-motivated in figuring out the context of the world around me and am always learning something new about history.

“History is written by the victors.” ~ Winston Churchill.

For most people, when they think of history, they think about the political history of countries, the formation and fall of nations or empires, possibly even ancient history with Egypt and Stonehenge and such.  This is the history taught in most schools today.  Much of it is quaint and irrelevant and omits the really interesting or important stuff.

Have you ever noticed, for instance, the amount of coverage devoted to battles in WWII?  Everyone knows about D-Day and Midway and the fact that Hitler committed suicide; yet I bet you’ve probably never heard of I.G. Farben, have you?  Who’s I.G. Farben, you ask?  Good question.  Too bad no one ever asks that question.  Maybe they should.

In America, students generally learn American history, starting with the Revolutionary War or just a bit before that with the colonization of America by the British, shortly after Columbus “discovered” America.  I suppose for little kids growing up in America, this would be an easy and somewhat relevant place to start, but as I said, it omits a great many things.  Moreover, it is biased towards American interests.

Most countries have a lot of dirt on them and do not wish to teach their citizens about this for fear that we may cease to give our government the support it wants.

Of course, in doing so, we fail to teach our children how to make our countries better by learning what they really need.  Why is it that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that 9-11 was an inside job or when Ali Khamenei says that the reason other countries hate America is because we’re occupiers … why is it that when our enemies tell us why they hate us and what we’re doing wrong do we not listen?  It’s because we’re arrogant and think that we are perfect and can do no wrong; when the truth is we’re far from perfect.

They may not be right about everything, but neither are we.  There are always two sides to everything.  One usually cannot be objective about something when that person has a vested interest in the thing it’s talking about.  So it is with our government-sponsored public education when it comes to the matter of its own history.

“We fight over an offense we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.” ~ Kingdom of Heaven.

Many people ask, as I once did: why is studying history important?

History is all about context.  The reason they say that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it is because history is all about context.  The reason things are the way they are now is because of events that happened before.  It’s simple cause and effect.

If you can better understand the motivations and context of the past, then you can better understand the present.  All life’s problems are technical.  Understand the cause and you can find the cure.

For instance, say you have a problem with your car.  If you can’t remember when the last time you changed the oil was, you may wanna start there.  Find out if you’re in need of an oil change.  Your problem could be as simple as that, and knowing a bit of history about your car can go a long way in correcting the problem.  If the car is old and passed through many hands, there could be something less obvious that occurred during the history of the car.  Maybe a part was replaced and never reported and the part was of poor quality and that’s what’s causing the problem now.

When you go to the doctor, one of the first things they do is check your medical history.  Things you may have eaten, things that may be in your environment, places you might have been to, people you might have fucked, drugs you might be on, … such things can provide a better context to your current state of affairs.

The reasons for needing to know the history of a country or the world are no different than the reasons to know the history of a person or a car.

In recent history, America has become heavily involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the threat of war with China, North Korea, and Iran ever looming.  Many people wonder why this is.  To understand the current situation, we would have to go back to the first Gulf War, which would require us to go back and look at the Cold War, which would require us to look at WWII, which leads to WWI, and so on and so forth.

Understanding current affairs allows us to make predictions about the way the future will unfold.  That is simple Newtonian Mechanics: an object will continue what it’s doing unless acted upon by an outside force.  Learning about those outside forces then allows us to update our predictions.

Learning history can even help you in ways you wouldn’t normally think it can.  Understanding global trends can help you economically and medically.  You will be able to predict, broadly speaking, what will happen when and where and this can help you make better financial decisions, avoid certain foods or places when traveling, and otherwise fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle for yourself and your children.  Knowing economic history can help you invest your money.  Understanding the history of famous scientists can help expand your knowledge of what medical treatments are out there.  Knowing political history can tell you which politicians are really looking out for your best interests.  And so forth.

Long story short, learning history helps us to better understand the present and the future, and thus increases our chances of survival.

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Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

V is for Vacation

Posted in All, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by marushiadark

“Everybody needs a little time away … from each other.  Even lover’s need a holiday, far away from each other.” ~ Chicago, Hard to Say I’m Sorry.

Some of you may be wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to this past month, why I haven’t been posting on my blog.  Truth is, I needed a little time to think things through and sort some things out in my life, so I took a little vacation from my blog.

I think I’ve cleared up enough that I can return to writing here, at least on a part-time basis.  I will try to write everyday, but will no longer beat myself over the head for not doing it religiously.

People often expect their leaders, teachers, and counselors to be on level above that of human beings – to be perfect in all things and to have all the answers.  That may be helpful for a time.  But one thing I’ve learned in my time away is that it’s often more important to see such persons as being human.  Being just as fallible as the rest of us.

I’ve always thought of Christ as being one of my mentors.  Reading the Biblical tales and watching movies about his life are good ways to learn, but I think for many of us, it puts him at a place beyond us, as though we were trying to ask advice from Superman or Dr. Manhattan.  Watching movies like The Last Temptation of Christ, however, I think bring a greater degree of comfort because it shows a human being with human problems that we can relate to.

Seeing a human being suffer and struggle through and overcome his or her problems is a lot more valuable, I think, and a lot more credible than if that same advice came from a completely perfect being.  It lets us know that someone else was once like us, in our very position, and managed to survive.  They found a way, and so can we, which gives us just a bit more hope.

My life’s been like a sign wave lately, going up and down, with the highs and lows becoming more frequent and in greater amplitude.  If this trend keeps up, I will either crash and burn or fly into orbit.  Which of those happens is a matter of how much inner strength I have.  But I think I can safely say the roller coaster ride is over and I’m starting to level off now.  I’ll find another way to get to space.

I’d like to be able to tell you everything that’s happened to me in the last month, but I couldn’t even record a fraction of it all in my journal, and I write in that thing a lot more than I did in any of my articles.

Suffice to say, I needed a break and I got one and now I’m back.  I think everyone should take a rest every now and then.  A human being is subject to all the laws of nature, after all, and among those are the laws that govern pressure.  If you allow the pressure to build up without release, you will inevitably explode and do some damage, whether to yourself or to someone else.  Better to release that energy before it gets to be too much.  Anyone who’s tried to boil water in a lidded pot should understand the analogy.

Would that we all had padded, sound-proof rooms where we could go and let out feral screams and slam the walls and throw shit into them without fear of judgment or repercussion.  To take a bat to a piece of glass or a hammer to a sheet of drywall and not have to worry about fixing it later or paying for the damages.  Maybe someone out to invent a place like that.  Convert a psyche ward into a ventilation facility and charge a small admission fee so people could come in, vent their inner emotions, and then leave.  That sounds a lot more helpful than any drug, I’d say.

Imagine taking out your anger at yourself and others in a controlled environment.  You get all the benefits of catharsis without the mess.  The world would certainly feel a lot less stressed if we had places like that.  And it’d be cheaper than taking a week off from work.

Mindfuck #5: We’re All Mad

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality on October 10, 2010 by marushiadark

“Everyone here is mad. I’m mad. You’re mad.  It’s only by chance n’ careful planning if you’re not.” ~ The Cheshire Cat

What does it mean to be mad?  Madness is a synonym for insanity, which is the opposite of sanity, which means to be sane.  The dictionary defines “sane” as “being free from mental derangement” and “having sound judgment.”  But what does that mean?

Typically, when we think of an insane person, we think of someone foaming at the mouth, talking to the voices in their head, imagining that the walls are covered with insects, but there are other types of insane.

No one can know everything, therefore no one can know the whole truth.  So all of our individual realities are limited by our perceptions.  Thus, our realities are subjective and relative, based more on consensus and mutual agreement than objectivity.

Even the scientific method is subjective, since it’s based on observations that are fallible.  If reality is consensual, then the scientific method just says that whichever subjective observation gets the most votes wins the “What is real?” poll.  It’s like the guess the candies game.  You can increase your odds through various methods, such as measuring the size of the candies and calculating their volumes and the volume of the jar they’re contained in.  Maybe your guess is even the closest, or even exactly the right amount, but only the person who initially counted the candies knows for sure.  Science seeks to analyze our universe, yet we are part of the universe, and the very act of measuring it changes everything.  So science isn’t all that different from philosophy or religion.  They’re all just people taking their best guess based on the information they have.  As long as it works for what the person is trying to achieve, then it is effectively correct.

To know what actually exists, we’d have to remove ourselves from reality and view it as a closed, isolated system, which is next to impossible.  Even if we could do that, I have a hunch that the result will simply serve to prove the same conclusions that a few observant people have been trying to tell us for thousands of years.

So if reality is subjective, then no one knows the whole truth.  So how do we know who is of sound mind and who is deranged?

A reasonable person would have to conclude that, if no one knows the whole truth, then we’re all just a bit missed misinformed.  We all shape reality to reflect our beliefs instead of shaping our beliefs to reflect reality.  None of us sees reality for what it truly is, which means we’re all just a bit delusional.  We’re all just a little bit mad.

And if we’re just God in a void playing fingerpuppets, then some would characterize that as having already gone mad, just like how Tom Hank’s character in Castaway created Wilson to avoid going mad; but in a different light, talking to a volleyball is madness too, since it’s not a real person and can’t talk back.

So madness is all a matter of perspective, really.

“The world ain’t what is it seems … You keep that in mind.  The moment you think you got it figured, you’re wrong.” ~ Mr. Rate, Shooter

It’s ironic that those who have a better understanding of what’s going on tend to be labeled by the masses as “crazy, insane nuts.”  You hear all the time about so-called “conspiracy nuts” that say the government has done all these things to its own people.  Are they crazy?  Or do they just know something that you don’t because they have more information than you do?  If they’re grounding their arguments on logic and evidence and you choose to ignore them, doesn’t that make you the crazy one for denying some part of reality?

Not every conspiracy theory is true, of course, which is why it’s just a theory; and new information could come along to change or even debunk that theory at anytime.  But not every conspiracy theory is false either.  To make a blanket statement like “all conspiracy theorists are nuts” is to assume that you know everything there is to know about the government and the people who work for it and what their minds are like, and that based on both your extensive knowledge and mind-reading abilities, you have come to the conclusion that no, the government cannot and never would do something or anything like that.

But the reality is, at least the last time I checked, that government is comprised of people (and possibly aliens) and that humans are fallible and prone to such things as rape and murder and abuse of any and all power.  So what is conspiracy except two or more people coming together to do such things?  What is government conspiracy except those conspirators being in the government?  So the pejorative use of the term is in fact pretty stupid.

Speaking of stupid, religious nuts are common, right?  I’m sure we’ve all seen the guy on the street holding up a cardboard sign that says “The End is Near.”

Is he crazy?  Only if the end is not near, because that would be a denial of reality.  But the end of what?  And what exactly is “near”?  Two months?  Two years?  Two hundred years?  Two hundred years is very near if viewed from the perspective of human history, but no one would be alarmed or take notice of a guy who said, “The End is 200 Years Away.”

So is this guy crazy?  Perhaps.  It may simply be that he is looking around at the world and misapplying the teachings of his holy book in regards to it.  But it could just as easily be that he knows something that the rest of us don’t.  Who are we to say that God didn’t send him a message in his sleep to tell him to go do that?  Are we so arrogant that we think we know what God can and can’t do?  If God can talk to people and create prophets to carry his message, why couldn’t he make new ones in our own time?  Especially if we didn’t get it the first several times around.

I’ve always wanted to sit down and talk with one of those people and find out just what’s going through their heads.  They could tell me what they know and believe and I could share with them what I know and believe, and hopefully as least one of us will get something out of the experience.

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.” ~ Clarke’s First Law

Another common cliche is the mad scientist who stumbles upon a new truth but is then rejected by his colleagues.

Most of the time, this truth is perverted and abused for uses that are harmful, destructive, and immoral, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, genuine breakthroughs are ignored by those of small mind, unwilling or unable to expand their thinking; or by those whose paychecks are on the line, researching something contrary to what that one person discovered. 

Nikola Tesla would be good examples of both.  In fact, he appears in a number of propaganda cartoons, including one with giant robots.

But either way, all these “mad” scientists did was discover something true about the way the universe works.  Whether it’s good or bad depends upon the character of the person that uses it.  The knife that kills can be used to save your life.

Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws of prediction lead us to believe that reality is a lot stranger than we think it is presently.  They emphasize expansion of consciousness and a journey further down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where things get “curiouser and curiouser.”

In a way, we are all arrogant for assuming that we know anything at all about what’s really going on.  Religious minds are arrogant to say that God needs anything from us.  Scientific minds are arrogant to say that they know that God doesn’t exist.  And so on.

We are all mad.  We are all arrogant.  We are all delusional.  Some more than others, but that too is part of the illusion and we cannot say for certain that we know which ones those are.  Pride goes before the fall, and all fall short in the eyes of the Lord.

Mindfuck #4: Infinity

Posted in All, Humor, Psychology, Science, Spirituality on October 9, 2010 by marushiadark

“The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.” ~ Alan Watts, philosopher

The concept of infinity is another one of those doors that I opened up once without actually knowing what it was and then quickly slammed it shut in fear upon realizing what I was looking at. I don’t recall how old I was at the time when I first had that revelation, but I must have been around fourteen or so, because I still held firm to a Christian understanding of the afterlife.

In school, they taught me that when you die and go to either heaven or hell, you go there for an eternity.  One day, I found myself wondering about that.  I imagined myself up in heaven, sitting on a cloud with God and angels plucking at their little harps.  You know, heaven.  Then, I thought about being in such a situation as that forever.  So after all that had been done, then what?  Still the same, with the singing and the clouds and the halos.  Fast forward a million, billion, gazillion years (numbers that I couldn’t even fathom in their own right) and that still wasn’t the end.  Fast forward a million, billion, zillion, bazillion years, … nope.  Still the same spot.

I tried to stretch my mind  to keep going as far into the future as I could.  But intuitively, I knew that, no matter how far ahead I went, the situation would always remain the same.  If heaven was being on a cloud with God for all eternity, then this is what it would look like.

At about that point, I started becoming deathly afraid.  I realized, in that moment, that no matter how hard I tried, there would be no end to it.  It would just keep going and going and going to the point of madness.

Truthfully, words like “infinity” and “eternal” have no meaning until you actually come face to face with the realities they describe.  Only then do you truly realize how frightening the concept really is.

It’s just like how words like “heights” and “hundredth floor” don’t mean anything until you get up there and look down and the threat of imminent death is slammed into your face.  You become like Eddie Murphey’s character in The Golden Child where, in one scene, he drops a quarter into a bottomless pit.  He waits and waits for there to be a sound.  He knows that it ought to make a sound if there’s a floor, but none is made.  After a few seconds, he started to become confused.  After half a minute, he becomes worried.  The longer time drags on without a sound, the more frightened he becomes, as the more he realizes that there is no bottom!

Infinite time and infinite space are linked.  But infinite time is less frightening when one is always living in the now.  Infinite space, however, is another matter entirely.

In art, the principles of linear perspective and relative scale help define a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional medium.  Such depth, especially infinite depth, is merely an illusion on the page.  But the reality of infinite depth is potentially incomprehensible, and certainly very frightening.

To illustrate this point, consider the following parable I created.

Imagine a spaceman who travels out into the universe in search of God and meaning and truth and other such things.  He knows that God is greater than anything there is, and this is all he has to go by.  So he travels out into the depths of space until he loses all sight of the earth.  He travels to the end of the solar system, until the sun appears as nothing more than a tiny dot.  By now, he has traveled incredibly far, but space is vast and there’s still so much left.  He presses on to the edge of the galaxy, until millions upon millions of stars are now within his field of vision.  Still he trudges on until the whole of the galaxy now appears within his windshield.  By this point, if he were traveling at the speed of light, it would have taken him over 100,000 years to see such a thing.  In such a time, the ancient cavemen would have developed to the point where they could build ships like his.  And there’s still so far to go.

Our spaceman turns to his left and sees Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy, through his port window.  To reach it, it would take twenty-five times longer than it took him to go from earth to where he is now.  Such a trip would be maddening.  As he travels towards Andromeda, it would appear as though he wasn’t even moving at all.  Andromeda would appear to stay exactly the same size and distance away.

But supposing our spaceman took pictures every few millenniums of Andromeda to prove to himself that he wasn’t losing it, but that he was, in fact, showing marked progress in gaining towards Andromeda.  Such might encourage him to stave off madness and press on a little further (never minding how the hell he’s even still alive at this point).

So our astronaut friend has traveled about 2.5 million light years.  The galactic equivalent of moving from one blade of grass to an adjacent blade of grass in a great big universal lawn.

In his millions of years of travel, he’s found no God.  But he’s seen the wonders of the universe through his windshield and has grown quite bored of them.  He decides that he will make a trip to the edges of the universe itself.  Assuming our little spaceman was somewhere near the middle of the universe, it would take him about forty-six billion (46,000,000,000) years to reach the edge.  The significance of such a number in terms of either time or distance is really lost on human beings.  It’s just beyond our comprehension.

Most people can’t even last a single day without going mad from boredom (some of you probably won’t even make it to the end of this post).  If our astronaut friend didn’t shoot himself in the head after 2.5 million years, he might do it in 2.6 million, or three million, or even five million; and that’s still only a fraction of the way to his destination.  Even if he managed to make it as many as a billion years, that still leaves 45 billion more to go.

And we humans think we know what God is?!  God is supposed to be greater than the whole of the universe, right?  To be able to even see the whole of the universe in his windshield, we’d have to travel at least twice that distance, or close to 90 billion light years!

Again, such a concept loses all meaning in human minds.  I could probably take you to the beach and say, “Here’s a billion grains of sand,” and have you line them up end to end.  Now multiply that by ninety (good luck even imagining ninety beaches).  That would make ninety billion grains of sand, but we’re talking in terms of light-years here, not microns.  A light-year is 10^16 kilometers.  To make just one light-year, you’d need like a million, billion, billion beaches.  Yeah, ok.  The human mind can imagine that, right?  No!

So to reach the other side of the universe, you’d need like 90 million, billion, billion, billion grains of sand and … you see where this going.  It’s just too much for any mind to comprehend.

And we’re still not even done yet!

Supposing our astronaut gets far enough away from the universe that he can see the whole thing in his windshield.  Who’s to say there isn’t a multiverse made of a trillion universes, each about 90 billion light-years across and several trillion light-years between them?  At this point, the only way we can talk about such things is through comparison and scale.  To shrink down the universe through a metaphor.

Now imagine the astronaut gets to the end of all of that and sufficiently beyond (say 1.5 times the distance from the center) to see the whole thing in his front windshield.  Is that God?  I don’t know.  It could be.  Or maybe there’s even more to existence.

But for sake of argument, let’s say there isn’t.  Let’s say that after the multiverse, there’s just nothing as far as the eye can see, except when you’re look directly at the multiverse.

Supposing also that our spaceman is a closed-minded, uptight, and arrogant little fucktard who’s not at all impressed with the fact that he’s got the whole of the multiverse in one glance.  So he begins to wonder what’s “out there” in the emptiness of the void beyond existence.  Is there just oblivion or is whatever it is just so far away that he can’t seen it?  After all, he’s seen the universe itself become a spec within his window and that was pretty big.  But he still hasn’t seen God yet.

He continues on and on into the void of space beyond the multiverse.  Only this time, he has no visual reference to go by.  There is no point of light appearing in the distance to mark his journey by, no matter how far out he travels.  Because there is no secondary point, there is no time, since time requires a change in the relationship between two objects in space.  He’s in solitary and time seems to stand still.

Eventually, he looks back behind him and sees that the whole of existence is quickly fading into the distance, appearing now as just a faint point of light.

Our astronaut begins to get worried.  Like Eddie Murphy from the Golden Child, he is becoming more aware of the infinity before him.  He starts to sweat now at the thought of there not being anything else out there.  What if he goes to far and loses sight of the multiverse behind him?  How will he knew which way to go to get back?  He could be lost in the void for all eternity, too late to reverse his foolish and prideful decision to soldier on.

At this point, he has two options.

The first option is to admit to himself that he is afraid and will turn back in fear, returning to the multiverse.  He will have to admit to himself that reality is an island in a void and that God is the sum total of it all and that meaning and purpose are self-defined.  He will then return a changed man and have a new-found spiritual awareness.  He will appreciate the universe for what it is, having seen every last bit of it and realizing that there never was an end point at all.  He will feel at one with anything and everything there is.  He will then travel to planets of lesser minds and cultivate them with this profound spiritual wisdom.  Both he and they will be much happier for it and he will live out the rest of eternity in peace.

The second option is to continue on into the void and stay there for all eternity, living in abject nihilism.  Since he will have existed for billions of years, he will no doubt have done a lot of thinking in that time and have unlocked all the mysteries of existence.  This may be why he chose to carry on, because nothing in reality fulfilled him.  So if there is nothing left for him in the universe, he will go on to create his own, using what he has available: his thoughts.  He will divide himself and enter the realm of dualism and separateness where he is a fissure of mind, a fragmented consciousness, a veiled awareness.  He shall either be the most enlightened soul in all existence, or the maddest.

Chi is for Chakra

Posted in All, Health, Spirituality on October 8, 2010 by marushiadark

“Aang, tell me everything you know about Chakras.”

“What are Chakras?” ~ Avatar: The Last Airbender

I don’t have very much faith in the human race as a whole, but every once in a while, someone comes along that really proves they know something about what’s truly going on in this world.  I would have to say that the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender are one such group of people.

For instance, I learned more about chakras from watching the episode The Guru than I had from any other source.  I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which it was presented, between use of simpler language, visual examples, and their ties with the four elements.

After watching that episode, I became more acutely aware of my chakras and figured out how to sense when there was a problem with one of them.

Chakras are large collections of energy within the body.  They are a part of the energy layer.  Where chi is like blood and meridians like blood vessels, chakras would be like the various organs.  Indeed, the various chakras have a direct effect on the organs of the body.  Clarity of the chakras means health of the body, while blockage of the chakras leads to disease, be it mental, emotional, or physical.  So understanding how your chakras work is vitally important for anyone wishing to be healthy.

Most aficionados will tell you that you have seven chakras.  In actual fact, you have a lot more than that; possibly well over a hundred, depending on how loosely you define the word chakra.  But most people agree on at least the main seven, so we’ll start there.

“In order to enter the avatar state, you must open all the chakras.” ~ Guru Pathik

The seven main chakras follow along the spine from the coccyx at the base, all the way up to the skull.  Their actual positions correspond roughly to the organs of the endocrine system, called glands.  The endocrine system is an information system, much like the nervous system.  The glands release chemicals through the bloodstream that then attach to our cells and cause the cells to execute all the various functions of the body, such as growth, sleep, emotion, metabolism, etc.

In TCM, doctors are often able to diagnose energetic symptoms before physical symptoms become apparent.  The soul will use the chakras as a medium to communicate its desires to the endocrine system, which in turn communicate that desire to the rest of the body.

Energy flows through the chakras like electricity through a circuit board or water through a river.  If there is a blockage or resistance at any point along the way, it will disrupt the flow of energy, which will impede upon the desires of the soul being carried out.  These blockages are created and removed by various emotions held in our mind.

“Each pool of energy has a purpose and can be blocked by a specific kind of emotional muck.” ~ Guru Pathik

The chakras go by various names and have different properties, but the basic understanding is as follows:

  1. Muladhara – The Base Chakra, also called the Root Chakra or the Earth Chakra.  It’s located at the base of the spine, at the tip of the coccyx (tailbone) near the perinium.  It is responsible for survival and blocked by fear.  Its element is earth and its color is red.
  2. Svadhisthana – The Sacral Chakra, also called the Sexual Chakra or the Water Chakra.  It’s located between the sacrum and the L5 vertebrae (lower back).  It is responsible for pleasure and is blocked by guilt.  Its element is water and its color is orange.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the sex organs (naturally).
  3. Manipura – The Solar Plexus Chakra, also called the Stomach Chakra or the Fire Chakra.  It’s located between the L1 and T12 vertebra.  It is responsible for willpower and is blocked by shame.  Its element is fire and its color is yellow.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the adrenal gland (as in adrenaline).  Interestingly, it is also referred to as the Sea of Chi, presumably because it is a very large pool of energy.  The use of the word “solar” in solar plexus is not accidental, since the sun is the largest source of firey energy in the solar system.
  4. Anahata – The Heart Chakra, also called the Air Chakra.  It’s located between the T6 and T7 vertebra, about where the heart is.  It is responsible for love and is blocked by grief.  Its element is air and its color is green.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thymus gland.  Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians believed the heart is where the soul of the body was housed, not unlike the spark in Transformers.
  5. Visshuda – The Throat Chakra, also called the Sound Chakra.  It’s located between the T1 and V7 vertebra.  It is responsible for truth and is blocked by lies that we tell others and ourselves.  Its element is earth and its color is blue.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thyroid gland.
  6. Ajna – The Brow Chakra, also called the Third-Eye Chakra or the Light Chakra.  It’s located in the middle of the forehead, between the eyes.  It’s responsible for intuition and oneness and is blocked by the illusion of separation.  Its element is water and its color is indigo.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the pineal gland.  The Ajna is perhaps the most well-known chakra.  The Hindu bindi is a symbol of it and many pop culture references depict a literal eye there.  The Ajna is your own person all-seeing eye that gives you the power of second sight and inner knowledge.  It also relates to dreams and mystical experiences.  An open Ajna is the defining characteristic of all Indigo Children.
  7. Sahasrara – The Crown Chakra, also called the Cosmic Chakra or the Thought Chakra.  It’s located at the top of the skull.  It’s responsible for being in the present and is blocked by attachment to the past or the future.  Its element is aether and its color is violet.  Its corresponding endocrine glands are the pituitary and hypothalamus glands.  The crown chakra is the point of connection with the divine Allness.

These are the basic seven chakra.  The lower chakras are yang chakras (male, day, sun, positive, extroverted), while the upper chakras are yin chakras (female, night, moon, negative, introverted).  The heart, being in the middle, is both and neither.  It is in perfect balance.  Each chakra, except for the heart, is paired with its correlated chakra of equal distance from the heart.  If the heart is zero, the lower chakras would be 1, 2, 3, … while the upper chakras would be -1, -2, -3, … and their properties relate accordingly.

“Born in you along with all this strife is the power to restore balance to the world.” ~ Uncle Iroh

Recall that the chakras are the mediums that your mind uses to direct the actions of your body.  Depending on what physical and emotional sensations you are feeling, you can diagnose which chakra is blocked and correct it.

Case in point, if you have stomach pains, it’s a problem with your stomach chakra.  If you know it’s not caused by something you ate, or getting punched there, you can ask yourself, “What am I ashamed of?” “What am I too proud to let go of?” “In what way can I be more humble?” and when you find it and correct it, you will feel a lot better.

I used to have obstructive sleep apnea until I started being more honest with myself about who I was, what my situation was, and what I wanted or needed.  Soon, my throat chakra started to heal itself and I could literally feel the difference.  When I entered a mindset of “I want to figure out what’s wrong here,” my thyroid would swell up as though I was choking until I finally found the problem.  Once I corrected it, I would belch and the feeling in my throat would go away.  Similarly, after I’d broken up with my girlfriend of four years, I felt like there was a great weight on my chest.  But as I started to get through the grieving stage and move on with my life, I could literally feel that weight sink down from my chest into my stomach.  Then I knew it was time to move onto shame.

Because each of the chakras is paired (except for the heart) and grouped according to yin and yang, it is possible to experience disease in multiple chakras at the same time.  For instance, guilt and shame are related to one another, so you might feel lower back pain and stomach pain at the same time.  Or maybe neck and stomach pain since solar plexus and throat are paired.

As I said before, you have the main seven chakras, but there are other ones besides these.  Usually, these other chakras have auxiliary effects and appear at the halfway points between the main chakras, or in pairs running up and down either side.  For instance, there is a pair at the knees, hips, kidneys, shoulders, ears, and temples of the head.  These provide extra energy for the base, sacral, stomach, heart, throat, and brow chakras respectively.

All in all, it should be fairly straight-forward as to what these other chakras do.  For instance, the ear chakras are responsible for hearing.  If you have problems with your ears, it could mean that you aren’t listening to someone, and so your body is just obeying the orders of the mind and producing chemicals that induce a physical change.  If your hips are sore, it’s a problem guilt.  And so forth.

There is also a large chakra at the base of your feet called the Ground Chakra, which receives energy from earth.  There is also one several feet above your head that discharges energy out of your body.

A river naturally flows from a source atop a mountain, moving on downhill towards some larger body of water, such as the ocean.  When we look at a map, our natural inclination is to think that a river is always flowing south, because south on a map is down.  However, some rivers, such as the Nile actually flow north.  The energy of the body is a lot like that.  It flows contrary to our expectation.

The top of the mountain is actually the bottoms of your feet where we gather energy from the earth (the phrase “being well-grounded” relates to electromagnetism).  Earth is female (mother earth) and negative, while yang is male and positive.  Opposites attract, so the energy flows up from the earth to the body through the yang chakras, passing into the heart.  The heart, being neutral, converts the negative energy into positive energy (fear into love), which is then attracted to the negative, female yin chakras.  The energy then flows through the upper chakras out the crown of the head and into the cosmos or Allness, which is a great ocean of energy.

In this way, we draw essential life force that allows us to run out bodies and interact with our world and be a source of energy for future creation.