Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Fear Clings But Love Releases

October 5, 2008

There is a feeling I get whenever I decide to give away something of value. Part of me feels love, a light and airy state I enjoy. But there is another feeling there too, one a bit darker and heavier than the first. This part of me feels fear – of loss, of becoming smaller and closer to nothingness.

Fear clings but love releases. We are like leaves floating in a fast moving stream. The water of Life slips around us and we are carried along in the flow. In their fear, some leaves cling to the rocks and create eddies as the water’s flow is impeded. The water has always moved downstream. Life flows. Fear misdirects and stagnates. Love releases.

Fear looks inward and sees only the self. Love looks outward and sees the great circle that connects all of us. We all fall from the same tree and so there is no reason to fear. As life flows past me it finds you just downstream. It passes you and finds another, and another. Eventually, it finds me again. We are all connected.

That is why I try to give where and how I can. Sometimes love wins but sometimes I find myself clinging to something too valuable, too dear to give away. If I were wiser I would see that this is precisely the thing – the one thing too dear to give away – that has the greatest chance of impeding the flow of my life. Such a thing has the power to misdirect and stagnate the water around me. Such a thing has the power to cut me off from the natural flow, ensnaring me. A snag this big must be released for my own good and for the good of the stream.

It is a mistake to think of anything as if it came in a limited quantity. Scarcity is an illusion. There is enough of everything to go around, but there are those whose fear is stronger than their love. They find ways to gather resources to themselves, effectively blocking the flow downstream.

If you desire peace, then release your desires. Do not fear. Do not gather more than you can use. Help where and how you can. And remember:

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

Rolling Stones

Thoughts Are Things

September 20, 2008

I have heard that perception is reality. To me that means that pure, actual reality is happening all around me, but I never see it, not really. I am separated from it by the imperfect lens of my perception – although it might be more accurate to say I am protected from it by the shield of my perception.

In that sense, I have to say no, perception is not reality. Yes, my lens is imperfect, and I love how I can shape my world through the practiced use of selective perception. Yes, perception filters our experience of reality, but I think that our link to pure, actual reality is a little more personal than that.

There is a fundamental, transcendent Creator that exists apart from the physical universe of space and time. Its existence does not depend on our perception, nor does its form or its character.

And then there is Creation. Creation, by design, is a pool of unlimited potentiality. It is a state of ordered chaos in which all things that can be imagined are possible. In this place, perception filters reality, but our thoughts (and the thoughts of God) create it.

Thoughts are things. Thoughts have the property of bringing things from the pool of unlimited potentiality into existence. Isn’t it true? Of course there is the ordinary link between what we think and what happens. First the idea, then the action, then the result. I think everyone would agree on that.

What I am referring to is something a little harder to accept. What I am saying is that there also exists a direct link between what we think about and what happens. First the idea, then the result. Automatic. No action required. Before you brush this aside, what about positive thinking? Don’t we all believe in the power of positive thinking?

This idea puts prayer into a different light. Why would God set up a system that would chain him to his throne, forever having to listen to our needs and desires, innundated by one prayer wave after another? I don’t know, but I think there is another possibility. I think God created a system that allows us more control (and demands more responsibility) than that. Prayer works, just not for the reason that many people think.

When we pray (or meditate or hope or send out positive vibes… whatever) our thoughts shape events and change people’s lives because of the system God set up, not because God himself somehow grants your request. God is our father, but not our daddy. We were created in his image with the power to create – and destroy.

When you pray, I am sure that God hears you – if that is your intent. He knows your needs will be met and that all things will, in the end, work out for you, because that is how he set up the system. The reset value – the default setting – is for you to be whole.

So when you pray, do it however you feel comfortable. Be specific and if you can visualize what you want, so much the better. However, be careful how you pray. A prayer full of need only serves to reinforce that need.

If you pray “I need money” or “please give me money”, the message you are sending into that pool of infinite possibility is that you are broke. The universe will then work to make it as you have spoken, and you will tend to remain broke. Remember, the Bible says that God spoke the universe into existence.

Instead, imagine yourself as already having what you need or desire! Picture yourself paying the bill you are concerned about. Pray as if you already had the money. Thank God or the universe (or the lotto) for sending the money in time. This is where faith comes in, for it is really our faith, more than our thoughts, which make reality.

What if God Was One of Us?

September 18, 2008

Circles are perfect. They have no beginning, no end – yet they are whole, lacking nothing. Circles are pure and simple – yet they wield the power to contain and define complex ideas. One example that comes to mind is the yin-yang symbol.

Dark and light interlocked in a balancing embrace. Together, light and dark are in harmony and yet that is not enough. Within the dark is found light and within the light is found darkness.

Each side contained by and containing the other – each by its opposite defined.

Could this be the nature of God? Good and evil, light and dark, creator and destroyer – together as one? Two sides of a single coin, spinning in eternity, never to be caught, both heads and tails and yet neither? Immortal brothers wrestling on the line between order and chaos?

Familiar strangers, unable to blend or to separate, neither able to win or to lose…

If people were created by such a being (one containing both good and evil), wouldn’t it follow that we would also contain both good and evil? And don’t we?

If an omnipotent and omniscient power of good pre-existed evil, then the power of good must have created the power of evil, or at least have watched it come into existence, allowed it to be. Perhaps God needed evil to exist and so he created the serpent, knowing that Adam and Eve would fall into temptation. Perhaps evil is a variable in some cosmic experiment, and we are the lab rats. Perhaps evil is necessary for us to grow spiritually.

But the more I think about it, the more I look at the yin-yang, the more I wonder. Isn’t it possible that good and evil have always existed together? That possibility gives God some humanity and makes him a little more accessible. Such a god would be keepin’ it real. Know what I mean?

Sort of like that song originally released by Joan Osborne, One of Us:

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets…

The Underlying Theme

September 17, 2008

The actual core of a thing is usually simple. For instance, the foundation of a home is pretty straightforward as compared to the things that are built on it, around it, over it. On the surface, the eye sees a complicated arrangement of roof and walls, doors and windows. Just below the surface, under the vinyl siding, run unseen rivers of electricity, water, and air. Deeper still, buried within the structure’s core, lies its foundation – the intrinsic mechanism that makes all the rest possible.

Is life any different? On the surface, life – including all the systems that make life possible – is very complicated. Thousands of scientists around the world spend their days working hard to uncover the mysteries of life’s roof, walls, doors, and windows. Priests and philosophers attend to the flow of life’s electricity, water, and air. And yet there are a few who seek to know life’s very foundation, its underlying theme.

How does the mechanism of life work?

Does God sit on his throne, picking which prayers to answer, weighing the devotion of each child before deciding who gets blessed that day? Is God really that interested in my day-to-day life that he knows the exact number of hairs on my head as the Bible claims? Religion has cast God as some kind of spiritual micromanager, complete with all the “omnis”: omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), omnibenevolent (seeking the good of all), and omnipresent (present everywhere, in the past as well as the future).

Omnis, by definition, are transcendent, meaning they are as limitless as life itself. God gave us the capacity to choose from a limitless set of possibilities. Why would God micromanage such a creation? That would be predictable, downright boring. Everyone loves a mystery. God already knows the outcome of the things he has chosen to control. He gave us free will so we would have the capacity to do something unexpected. God wants to be surprised by life! That is why he made us and our world so variable, so chaotic. For it is only within a state of chaos that all things are possible. (Of course, some order is required too – yin and yang.)

In this context I believe the very purpose of life can be understood a little better. God created the universe and put billions of people in it, all different, yet all created in God’s image. Because God creates, we create. In a sense we are all just like life itself. Each of us builds a unique life on a common foundation. Simple.

Deep down we are all made of the same stuff. The differences between us are something to be celebrated, encouraged, nurtured, for they are the very reason we were created in the first place.

Life is Like a Pachinko Machine

September 12, 2008

A pachinko machine is a flipper-less Asian pinball machine, smaller than the ones in the United States and played vertically. The playing surface is round at the top and covered with glass to keep the ball in play and to protect the intricate array of flashing lights and small metal pins sticking out from the surface of the board. At the bottom, below the lever, there is a container holding a large number of small steel balls.

You flip the lever and one of the balls flies up the right side, pressed outward by centrifugal force until gravity begins to affect it. Just past top center there is a rubber knob designed to stop the ball and set it in play. The ball strikes the knob, reverses direction, and then it pauses – momentarily reflecting the scene below – before bearing downward to encounter the first pin. Now firmly in command, gravity insists that the ball bounce off the pin, either to the right or left. Obviously, the ball cannot choose its own way. That choice is made on its behalf by the physical laws of nature and the other mystical powers that be.

Unlike the ball, people have the power, perhaps even the obligation, to make choices. It is said that only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. I think it should be death, taxes and choices. Remember: If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. Whether you are a steel ball or a person, choice is inevitable.

That brings me to my point. Life is like a pachinko machine. Rushing in from where I was before, thrust in perhaps, I am born into the world. At first I am controlled by outside forces, but as I grow older I am confronted with a choice – my first choice. Perhaps it is something simple like: Do I choose to get the toy for myself or cry until mommy gets it for me?

As inconsequential as that decision may seem it is really a fork in the road, a metal pin under the sheet of glass. If I choose to get the toy myself, that decision leads me here. If I choose to cry until mommy gets it for me, that decision leads me there. Soon, other choices lead to other decisions as the ball relentlessly percolates down the board.

In a pachinko machine, sometimes the ball finds a way to score a million points before getting to the bottom. Sometimes the ball doesn’t score a lot of points as it finds a less-traveled path from pin to pin. Sometimes the ball falls through a trap door in the playing surface, wins the jackpot, and goes back to the container – bypassing the rest of the board. There are an infinite number of paths, each with a promise of its own. That is the nature of pachinko and of life.

But no matter what path you take, you always end up back in the container – waiting for another play, another chance to choose.

Before the Big Bang

September 10, 2008

I heard that scientists at CERN successfully tested the new Large Hadron Collider today. Assuming further testing is successful, the scientists will attempt to recreate the conditions that existed immediately after the Big Bang. According to this story, they hope to answer questions about the origin of the universe. (Scientists are pretty sure that any black holes they create will be too tiny to swallow up the Earth.)

Wow. Going back to that instant, that sharp crack when it all began! What a great achievement if they are successful. I wonder what it would be like to approach the Big Bang itself?

Looking at it another way, let us suppose we can reverse time and watch the universe begin to shrink; contracting faster and faster until finally everything – the entire universe – is in one place. Like salmon swimming back to where they were born, the stars crowd towards the center of the universe. As we follow along we begin to feel a beat like the pulse of the cosmos, and hear it counting backwards. Three, two, one, and now, as the countdown approaches zero, the entire universe is breathed into a single point in space. The singularity. The Big Bang. The film has been rewound right back to the very first frame. Are you there with me?

This is the place where we meet up with those scientists – a microsecond after the Big Bang. Now, let us suppose that we can go back just a bit further, to a microsecond before the Big Bang. Suppose we were allowed a peek at what caused the Big Bang, a look at what (or who) came before?

What would we find?

Help Me Start a New Religion

April 15, 2008

I want to start a new religion and I need your help. Religion in its current form has failed and proven itself false. We need a fresh perspective, one that serves reason as well as emotion – a holistic faith that allows for the sacredness of personal experience as well as the power of shared group vision. Sound good? At the end of this post I’ll let you know what you can do.

On a broad scale, popular religions like Christianity and Islam have mainly served to divide us with the bloody blade of intolerance. Millions of dead, entire cities and towns full of innocent people slain in the name of God or Allah or whoever. That bloody blade’s given name is Love, but that is just to cover up what religion really is: an instrument to control and exercise power over the masses.

The Church’s hidden agenda has lain just under the skin of humanity, festering for centuries until today the sickness of the monster has surfaced and lies exposed for all to see. While people starve for physical and spiritual nourishment, the Pope lives in splendor in a guarded palace, his fount of power wasted trying to conceal the decadence of the Church.

Religion has become diseased and people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with doctrine that just doesn’t make sense. Dogma – the idea that one should believe something or do something just because it is the expected norm and not because of any logical reason – is becoming unacceptable because people are asking questions, questions the Bible and the Koran are unable to answer without relying on dogma. “That’s what it says in the Bible” is no longer enough to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated curiosity of modern thinkers.

So, what are these questions and what are the answers? Well, I was hoping you would know. Maybe we can figure it out together as we create the new religion, actually more a kind of anti-religion.

Want to help? Send me your religious and spiritual questions, especially the ones that religion has failed to answer. Post them here as comments and I will repost them for discussion by the community. Once we reach a consensus, the new religion will be born and then who knows? I always wanted to wear one of those crazy Pope hats.

One Thumb and Two Fingers

January 24, 2008

Positive dynamic stability is a principle every pilot learns to understand.

Imagine an airplane flying in a straight line with its altitude and airspeed steady. The pilot takes the stick, pushes it forward, and then releases it. The airplane begins to dive and as a result its airspeed increases. As air rushes faster across the surface of the wings, lift is increased and the airplane begins to climb. The airplane climbs through its original altitude but as its airspeed decreases, so does lift. The airplane levels off and begins to descend. As it passes its original altitude – descending this time – airspeed increases, lift increases, and the airplane begins to climb again.

This process continues with each hill and valley, each wave becoming progressively smaller until at last the airplane is once again flying in a straight line with its altitude and airspeed steady. Positive dynamic stability has negated the pilot’s input, steadied the ship, and brought order because of the way the airplane was designed and not by any input from the pilot. If anything, the pilot’s action led to instability but clever design returned everything back to a default pattern of order.

As a flight instructor years ago I would sometimes get a “white-knuckle” student who worked against the airplane by constantly moving the stick and never allowing the aircraft to stabilize.

The cure was simple.

In flight, and after a reasonable number of warnings, I would take the controls and stabilize the airplane. I would then ask the student to make a hard bank to either side and begin a descent. Once the maneuver was established and the airplane was “out of control”, I would make the student put both feet on the floor and sit on their hands, neither of us touching anything. Most trusted me enough to comply. Down, up, down, up, each pass closer to the original altitude and airspeed. Soon, the airplane was flying in a straight line with its altitude and airspeed steady. In fact, the airplane was flying itself more smoothly than the student had ever done it.

After that the student was allowed only one thumb and two fingers on the stick and their flying was much better.

The principle of positive dynamic stability can be applied to life outside the cockpit as well. In the past, I have been a white-knuckle pilot while flying my life. I have crashed into more rocky hilltops and dry gullies than you can imagine.

The cure for this is simple too.

Put both feet on the floor, sit on my hands, and stop moving everything around. The principle of positive dynamic stability works in life and it’s as real as gravity, as powerful as the will of God. One thumb and two fingers. That’s all it takes.

Is Evil Necessary for Good to Exist?

January 6, 2008

 

I posted something recently called The Opposite of Love, a little piece that explores the nature of opposites. That got me to thinking and I’d like to expand a bit on the idea.

There are a lot of opposites in our world. So many, in fact, that you could argue that we live in a dualistic universe, one in which everything has an opposite. Perhaps opposites are necessary for the existence of some, or all, things.

For example, in order for hot water to exist, cold water must also exist. Otherwise it would just be water. Hot water cannot be defined without the existence of cold water. Hot water is just water that has a higher temperature than some other water. Even the term ‘higher’ requires two temperatures, one hotter and one colder.

How about on and off? If there was no state of off, there could be no state of on. It is the possibility that a light could be off that makes real the possibility that it could be on. Otherwise it would just be a light.

Up and down, light and dark, positive and negative; the examples are numerous. What about good and evil? (My regular readers are groaning right now. “Oh, he’s not going to get back into the God thing is he?” Yep, I’m afraid so.)

Is evil necessary for good to exist? I’m thinking that maybe it is. That might explain the existence of evil in the first place, something that has bothered me for a long time because of one very simple question. If God created the universe and everything in it, where did evil come from?

I am not one to take the Bible literally, but I do believe it contains a lot of ideas worth considering. Take the story of how evil was introduced into the world. There was God, Adam, and Eve hanging out in the Garden. God is credited with creating Adam and then Eve, but wasn’t there another presence there too? Yes, I am referring to Satan, in the form of a serpent.

Did Satan just appear spontaneously, out of the control of God, or was he created for a purpose? Or perhaps Satan has always co-existed with God and the two are really just opposites that rely on one another for existence. God and Satan: The eternal yin and yang, light and dark, something and nothing.

I know this is an unorthodox idea but before anyone blows a religious fuse, remember that it is just an idea. I’m just throwing it out there, so stay with me. There really are only three explanations for the existence of evil (if it does exist). First, evil just happened by itself. That implies that God is not omnipotent. Second, God created evil. Even if evil is the result of a fallen angel, if God created everything, he must have created Satan knowing that he would fall, and therefore God created evil. Third, God is both good and evil. This is the possibility that makes the most sense to me.

The first case violates the whole concept of a created universe. Any creator powerful enough to create life and everything that is would have seen evil coming. I can’t see a creator god making such a big mistake, as in, “Oops, I didn’t see that coming.”

The second case, although more plausible, violates the concept of reason. Why would a creator god create its own nemesis? The only reason I can think of is that in order to give us free will, God had to create something besides good from which to choose. If there is only one choice, free will has no meaning. This has some validity, especially if you believe that the purpose of life is change.

The third case really only violates our traditional concepts of good and evil. We have labeled good “good” and evil “bad”, but what if these are man-made constructs that misrepresent the true nature of good and evil? Perhaps good and evil are just two sides of the same coin or just two movable points on a continuum?

In a world of “us against them” don’t we always consider “us” to be good and “them” to be evil? Don’t you realize that in “their” eyes, we are the evil “them”? Who is right? Doesn’t it depend on your point of view?

If you can see the truth that there really is no enemy, it may be that the third case is the only one that makes any sense at all.

The Opposite of Love

January 2, 2008

What is the opposite of love? At first glance, the obvious answer is hate. I looked up the antonyms of love and hate in a few online references, and in all cases love and hate were listed as opposites. That got me to thinking.

I know that I have both loved and hated someone at the same time. When my ex-wife suddenly left me years ago, there was a brief moment when I hated her. This happened shortly after our separation and at a time when I still loved her, so the two emotions can exist together in a kind of dark harmony.

I began to wonder: If love and hate can mingle together in one heart simultaneously, are they truly opposites?

For example, most people would say that light and dark are opposites. In the classic yin-yang symbol, light and dark seem to exist separately, each defining the other. However, at the core of the light there is a spot of darkness, and at the core of the darkness there is a spot of light. The lines are clearly defined, however, and there is no blending of the two. On the other hand, I am looking at a shadow on the wall of my office. It is not pure light or dark, but appears to be a mixture of both, a subtle blending not seen in the yin-yang symbol.

Perhaps light and dark are opposites only in the sense that they tend to define one another on a continuous gradient between the two extremes. If this is so, any area on the wall that appears brighter than another would seem to be light; the contrast between two adjoining areas produces the sensation of relative lightness and darkness.

For example, say we assigned a scale of one to ten to the light-dark continuum, with one being pure darkness and ten being pure light. An area of level three would seem to be very dark unless it was compared with an area of level one, in which case it would appear as light. A logically bright level eight area would appear dark when compared to a level ten.

This is very interesting, but it occurs to me that there would be no way to make a level one area appear as anything other than dark (since there is nothing darker than pure darkness), or a level ten anything other than light (since there is nothing lighter than pure lightness). So at the pure extremes of light and dark the gradient model does appear to break down and offer us the possibility that light and dark are really true opposites.

Likewise, take the opposites ‘something’ and ‘nothing’. There is no gray here. Either something is something or it is nothing. It cannot be a mixture of both. One can never equal zero.

I have always believed the opposite of love is fear, not hate. In my own thoughts I theorize that it only appears that hate is the opposite of love. Since hate is often the result of fear, I think that hate is the symptom and fear the cause, making fear the deeper, hidden and true opposite of love.

Perhaps fear is the true opposite of love just like pure dark is the true opposite of pure light (and something is the true opposite of nothing). If this is so, hate may be just a point on the love-fear gradient, a transitory dot on the line between the two extremes.