Sunday, June 11, 2023

Non-attachment and Letting Go

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It's been many years since my last blog post!"  :)

Let's talk a little about the Buddhist idea of detachment, or "non-attachment to things of this world".  Let's first remember that the earliest Buddhist teachings are not religious at all, but for more of a manual for how to live life such that one has the greatest level of enjoyment.  At some point later, Buddhism picked up the idea of reincarnation (most likely from Hinduism, which already existed at the time), such that all sorts of teachings arose related to how to guide one's self into reincarnation as a better creature/person and eventually reach nirvana, etc.  Originally, it looks as if Buddhism was teaching how to reach a good state of living (nirvana) in this life, not the next.  Buddhism seems to have started as something closer to "Secular Humanism" along with guidelines as to how to avoid unhappiness in one's daily life.  Practices such as meditation were primarily to teach the ability to focus on what's important and avoid getting sidetracked by things which don't matter in the end.

As part of this focus on important matters and avoiding sinking into sadness and depression, the teaching of "non-attachment" arose.  Some people interpret "non-attachment" as something more like, "don't get attached to things of this world because that leds to unhappiness ultimately".  This is absolutely wrong.  Yes, not being attached to anything in their world would avoid unhappiness related to that thing/person/animal ulitmately going away/dying, however such a practice would also lead to not experiencing what happiness this world has to offer!  Sure, you can live outside of the world, but there is much happiness to be had in this world as well!

How do we solve this problem of experiencing the happiness of this world while lessening the unhappiness which will ultimately happen?  Well...  Let's use my own situation as an example.  My wife has quite a few auto-immune diseases, including adult onset diabetes and allergies to various foods.  She seems to be slowly getting worse and ultimately it could put her into the hospital and kill her.  If I wanted to avoid the ultimately unhappiness of not having her around, I could leave now, try to forget her, try to find someone else, etc., but that would leave me without all of the happiness which I currently have by having her around!  What to do?

What to do, is to enjoy the happiness of the present while living in the present, and then learn to "let go" when it's time to do so!  As a simple example, we can all enjoying a great meal while it's happening but we don't say,"I have to keep eating it!  I don't want to stop, ever!"  (Ok, some of us may, but that's a different issue!)  You enjoy the happiness which life brings while it's happening.  You enjoy it as fully as possible, by making use of the focusing skills you learned through meditation, paying attention to things which are in the moment and which matter.  Then, when the moment is gone, you celebrate the memory of the events, because remembering is also a way to enjoy and and gain a different type of happiness, from the memory.  However, once it's done, once the person is gone, and once you have celebrated and appreciated their memory, it's time to move on.

"Non-attachment" is not about avoiding attachment to things of this world.  It's about learning how to let events, people, pets, etc., pass out of your life and not continuing attachment to things/people who are not there.  Avoiding life is not the lessson of "non-attachment.  Learning to "let go" is the lesson of "non-attachment".  As the famous song says, "Let it go!", and look forward to the next thing in an ever-changing life!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Why there may be no advanced alien cultures

Have you ever watched "Forbidden Planet"?  If not, you should.  It addresses the topic of this blog entry.

But that's not what I'm here to discuss. 

I'm here to discuss evolution.  The more we help women during child birth, the easier we make it to birth larger babies.  Is allows larger babies to ultimately reproduce, which leads to still larger babies.

Actually, that's only marginally what im here to discuss.

It's a parent's job to care for their child, but if they are too overprotective, the child will not learn valuable lessons, which ultimately doesn't help the child and could even be seen as a type of neglect.  Similarly, it's the job of a society to care for the members of that society.  (One could even say, the measure of a society is how it cares for those less fortunate.). But, might it also be the case that overprotectiveness in a society may be ultimately unhelpful to the members and even lead toward an evolutionary trend which is also unhelpful to the society?

If we continue to protect all members of our society, such as labeling a hot cup of coffee as "Hot! Be Careful", are we not tending toward overprotectiveness? Ultimately, this allows those with less "common sense", or those who were not taught appropriate life lessons by their parents, to reproduce. In the same way as ever larger babies, might this lead toward the society evolving into a place where those who tend to think less, or make bad decisions, could thrive and reproduce?

In earlier times, people needed to be careful or they would be hurt, get eaten, possibly die. There was a strong need to learn as much as you could, in order to protect yourself.  As we gradually remove this need, we are pushing our society toward a time when most people are cared for and are incapable of caring foe themselves. If that level of care should suddenly disappear, so would he people who need it to survive.

Maybe, just maybe this is what ultimately happens to advanced alien civilization.  Maybe it cares for all members to such an extent that any small interruption in that care spells disaster for the whole society.  In short, they care too much, they become dependent upon it, and thus can't survive without it. They evolve themselves in a culture which is so dependent upon care, such that when the care is removed, they become extinct.

Just a thought.  

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pro-life AND Pro-choice

 There is a lot of discussion and argument about "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice".  I guess I just see things a different way.  I'm pro-life, in that killing a fetus/baby should be avoided, but I'm also pro-choice, in that when it comes down only a concern of who has control over a person's life, I'll always side with that person.  If someone is trying to kill me, then they are exerting control over my life and taking control away from me.  That's unacceptable and I will do whatever I need to do in order to stop it and re-gain control over my own life, including killing them.  Yes, this means I'm exerting control over their life, but it wouldn't have been necessary if they hadn't initiated the situation.  There are many situations and concerns, and all of them should be taken into consideration when making a life or death decision, but the final consideration, which always trumps all other concerns is that a person should always retain control over their life, unless they give it up voluntarily (which is what is happening when someone tries to take control of my own life away from me).  In short, when you try to remove a person's rights, you inherently give up that right yourself.

So, since a person should always have control over their own body, what options are available to those who would like people to stop having abortions?  There are many options available, actually!  The first, most obvious, option is to simply try to convince the person to not have an abortion.  There's nothing wrong with making an argument for what you believe.  What's the most effective way to make such an argument?  The most effective way is always to have a civil discussion.  Lay out your reasons, listen to the other person's reasons, try to address their concerns by giving them options which are acceptable to them.

If "anti-abortion" groups want to promote not having abortions, they need to listen to "pro-choice" arguments and address the concerns.  I'll help with some examples.  For example, if a "pro-choice" person says something such as, "My passion just took me away and in the moment I didn't use birth control.  I can't afford, financially or time-wise, to have a baby right now."  Once option open to a person who disagrees with their decision, would be to volunteer to help financially and help them give up the baby for adoption.  An even more convincing argument may be to give them financial motivation to carry through with the pregnancy, such as paying for all medical bills, work time lost, classes related to easing child birth, and then helping with handing the baby over for adoption and the psychological issues involved with having an abortion and also giving up a child.  I know that's a lot, but I have to ask, "what is saving a baby worth to you?"

If abortions are really as abhorrent as anti-choice people claim, I would expect to see them offering to adopt people's babies and using their funding agencies to support adoptions and helping with medical bills, etc.  If the baby is far enough along that it can exist outside of the mother's body, then perhaps removing it from the mother and supporting medical needs until it can be adopted, may be an option.

In short, there are many options which could be pursued, however the primary one seems to be passing a law to take away a person's choice.  This doesn't address the problem at all, it simply tries to punish the person for having made a "bad choice" previously, or having found themself in a "bad position".  If it were not about control, then other, less controlling, methods would already be in use.  (Or, maybe anti-choice people are simply incapable of thinking of these other alternatives?  I would not expect this lack of imagination, however, to be as universal as it seems, so I would expect there are other reasons for trying to control people's lives.)  If the reason for wanting to exert control is because your God tells you "it's wrong!", then maybe you should pray for the person seeking an abortion and pray that God will change their mind.  It has happened, according to the Bible, many times in history and if you believe in prayer, certainly asking God to change their mind would be the strongest way to "convince" them?

Instead of trying to force people into agreeing with you, try gently pushing them in your direction such that they go willingly.  It's what you would want, if they were trying to exert control over you.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone"

I don't listen to a lot of Billy Joel.  I don't generally like his music.  However...

My Life

I have to say:

  • I don't care if you're gay.
  • I don't care if nature or nurture made you that way.
  • I don't care if it's natural or unnatural.
  • I don't care if you can or can't be cured.
In the end, all of that doesn't matter at all.  It really doesn't matter what choices people make in their life or why they made those choices.  Let me repeat that:

It doesn't matter what choices people make in their life


Because it's THEIR life!  Leave it alone!

Why do people feel the need to force others to live by their rules?  It makes no sense to me.  I just don't understand it.  If the people with whom you disagree are not limiting your own choices, then leave them alone and let them have their choices.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll leave you alone and let you live your life in return.  Maybe, just maybe, we will all ultimately just let each other live freely, the way they want to live.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The measure of a society

Mankind creates societies. It's what we do. Over many thousands of years we have built and torn down many societies, some good and some not so good. But what makes a "good" society? I claim that the measure of a society is not art, leisure, wealth, etc. Those things will always be part of any society. Sometimes they are reserved for a select few, sometimes for more. No, the real measure of a society is how it treats the poorest members.

It's a given that every society will have some great achievements, some wealthy people, some art, some music, and also some poor. We could look at how wealth is distributed. What percentage of the people are so wealthy that they have nothing but leisure time? What percentage needs to work full time just to get by? What percentage must hold down more that one job? What percentage of jobs are for unskilled labor, versus those with a higher degree? While these are all good measures of how successful a society can be, they all really come back to one thing; quality of life. We're really measuring the quality of life and looking at the distribution of that quality through out the population.

As Jesus said, "You will always have the poor among you." Think about how many religions there are which stress that caring for the poor is important. Why is that? Because, if the poor still have a reasonable quality of life, then it stands to reason that everyone else will have a life even better than that. It's a distribution with the poor at the bottom end and the ultra rich at the top. The rich can take care of themselves, the poor can not. Yes, there's a certain amount of socialism here as well, but that's not the main point.

The rich lives of those who are better off in a society are always built on the backs of working people. Each person's life is made better by the work of those below them. Look at it another way, society will always have some people at the top end and will always have some great achievements. These can almost be taken for granted. The question to be asked is how that society achieved those great things. Did they have slaves? If so, we would not say that's a great society, because we do not recognize slavery as a good way to treat people and thus get things done. It's been found, for example, that the people who built the pyramids where not slaves, they were paid workers. Thus we tend to think of Egypt's great achievements as being even greater, in that they were built by paid and respected workers. If we later find that the pyramids were, indeed, built by slaves, then our view of that society would be lessened.

We will always have poor. If we shove them under the rug and pretend they do not exist, we, as a society are the worse for it. One of those lost and forgotten poor could have made a great contribution, but since we threw them away, they never had a chance. That's a great lost for society. But this is only a practical, analytical, viewpoint. There's also the viewpoint of nature. Humans are a social species. As such, we get endorphins when we help each other. For most people, empathy is normal and has a great effect on their well being. That's a selfish reason for being nice and helping people!

What I'm trying to say here is simply that since we will always have poor in any society, the question for a society is whether these people are taken advantage of, taken for granted, ignored, shoved under the rug and forgotten, or if they are treated like fellow human beings and given the opportunity to better themselves. Note, I didn't say give them handouts. I said give them opportunity to better themselves. India's caste system doesn't do this, but that is slowly changing and is generally viewed as unfair.

We, as a society must decide how to deal with the bottom of the quality of life curve. When we move that bottom up, the rest of the curve rises also. So, we can measure a society in many ways, but the one which matters the most, the one which makes us human and betters everyone's life, is to make sure the poorest members are not forgotten. It's been said that if one were to design a society, the best way to go about it would be for one person to do the design, while a different person gets to assign roles. If you are willing to be in any position in your society, it's a good one. If there are some positions which no one wants, that's an easy measure of "bad", and improvement is needed.

So, look at a society, not for its great achievements, but for how it treats the poorest members. There's your measure of humanism.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You don't really believe that so why are you saying it?

This is going to be short.  I saw the latest PBS News Hour broadcast tonight, where they were lamenting the way all Muslims are implicitly held responsible for the Orlando Idiot, because he happened to be Muslim.  Well, that's true, people do tend to generalize in that way.  I will mention, however, that when a Christian extremist has been responsible for killing a large number of people (yes, it has happened, look up "Heavens Gate"), I do not believe that any large number of people held all Christians responsible.  Why not?  It's the same situation, isn't it?  Well, not exactly.  Just keep count of the number of people killed each week by so called Muslims in the name of their religion, and keep count of the number of people killed by people professing to be of other religions.  You'll quickly see what I mean.  People don't hold all Christians responsible for the actions of one idiot, because it's not the norm.  It definitely is the norm in Islam in many parts of the world.  There's a difference there which can't be denied.  For all of the talk about Islam being a religion of peace, it's kind of like those saying that a gun is not a violent thing.  Well, it can be a non-violent thing, but that's not the norm, is it?  Just keep a tally.  You'll see.  No, this doesn't give us the right to treat Muslims differently.  We should still treat all people the same until they point out why we should treat them differently.  I'm simply stating the reason why we see the mistreatment, not justifying it.

But what really struck me as odd was the video of a Muslim woman's prepared speech about how her community sees the Orlando killings as a bad and unfortunate thing for all involved.  She wanted to express remorse over the incident, which is fine, but I guess she wanted to end saying something which would be on an upbeat note.  What she ended with, however, didn't make sense, for the person saying it.  She said that those killed are in a better place!  What place would that be?  According to her beliefs, they're either in heaven or in hell.  Since they were gay, and since gay people are considered "sinful", in Islam, then she would have to admit that she believes those killed are in hell!  I realize that gay life can be harsh, in our world, but how is hell a "better place"?  As I stated in the title, "You don't really believe that, so why are you saying it?"  Doesn't this type of dishonesty simply lead to more distrust? Anyone who is listening, and who thinks about what they're hearing just a little bit, knows that this young lady, while trying to be nice, is being dishonest.  In the immortal words of Thumper's Rule, "If you can't say somethin' nice ... (And, in this case, your religious views do not allow you to do so) ... then don't say nothin' at all."  By all means, don't be dishonest about your own views in front of the world!

Doesn't it all come back to the same point in both parts of this posting?  What we hear and see isn't agreeing with what we know to be true.  That leads to distrust.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vulnerabilities of the Human Brain

Just yesterday, I watched the movie "Regression".  The reviews were just a little above 3 stars, but really, you should watch it.  It states at the beginning that it's based on a true story.  It definitely is.  (Spoilers ahead!)  I remember living through the period when it seemed every day or so you could easily read an article about yet another person who underwent hypnosis therapy, only to find that they were sexually molested by their parents, a friend, a relative, etc.  I remember thinking at the time, "This is ridiculous!  Maybe some of these are true, but really, don't we all know that you can get a person to say or do just about anything under hypnosis?"  Sure enough, it took about a year, but finally enough professionals in the field started investigating.  We now that a lot of innocent peoples' lives were destroyed by what we now, finally, recognize as "Junk Science".

Today, I saw that Texas and California now have laws which allow for an immediate hearing for anyone who was convicted solely on "Junk Science"; i.e., science which has since been shown to not be as reliable as we once thought.  This is a good thing and badly needed.  All jurors need to know about this possibility.

But, believe it or not, that's not what prompted this blog entry.  What prompted this blog entry was reading Dr. Carrier's article, "Did the Apostles Die for a Lie?".  Yes, the two are very much connected.  Just hear me out.  In this article, he discusses the question of whether the Apostles would have knowing died for what they knew at the time was a lie.  Read the article, as there are far too many ways this could, indeed, have happened (and has happened many times) for me to go into here.  The easiest, and simplest, explanation is simply that while they may have been totally convinced that what they "knew" as true, that doesn't mean it was true.  There are far more possibilities than simply, (1) they died for the truth, or (2) they died anyway, knowing it wasn't true.  If you don't know about The Law of the Excluded Middle, then you should learn about it.

But, that's just the beginning!  The brain is an amazing thing!  Always keep in your mind that what you know, what you see, what you hear, is totally within your brain.  If you brain says, "this is true", then it's true, for you, no matter what's happening outside!  I'll mention here that I had an experience once which really drove this home for me.  It was late morning.  (I love late morning.  I have the strangest dreams during late morning, and I usually remember them.  It's fascinating looking at how your brain is making sense of the random signals and random inputs (mostly from your ears)!  I dreamed a whole story line, which finally led up to an event which culminated in a loud noise.  That noise woke me up.  At that point, I realized the noise was a car horn.  Now, think about this.  My brain had no way to know that this car was going to blow its horn at that point, so it couldn't possibly create a story which led up to that, yet it did!  This means that in the instant when it heard the horn, it created the backstory to explain it, and I "knew" that story had happened, even though it couldn't possibly have done so!  Your brain totally controls your perception of time itself.  Amazing!

The brain is capable of many more things which of which many people are not aware.  I give you, the Selective Attention Test.  If you haven't taken the test, you should.  You will then become unfit for jury duty, because you will know too much about the lack of value of an eye witness.  (I was tossed off a jury for mentioning it last year!)

Now, do we even need to go into Confirmation Bias?  A good book on this is, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why we Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts".  Read it, especially if you work in the Judicial System.

There are many ways to alter your view or understanding of the world, even without drugs.  One of the more interesting ways, not mentioned in the above article, is to simply toss your head back and forth.  Do this for quite a while, even in time with music if you like, and you will produce a euphoric state.  Supposedly this is due to the large amount of endorphins which are released.  We know this today because studies have revealed it, however obviously many religions didn't know this at the time, which is why so many religious ceremonies involve this type of action and claim that it, "brings one closer to God!"  I'll also mention here that other studies have clearly shown that a magnetic field across the brain in just the right place can produce a sense of being in the presence of God.  (I don't have to make this stuff up!  The world is plenty interesting all by itself!)

So, now that we know all of the many ways in which the brain can be tricked in seeing, or not seeing, things which are there, producing whole stories around events which other actual explanations, even producing whole backstories to explain an occurrence, and producing mental states which clearly show we're in the presence of a divine being, simply because we're wearing a helmet(!), can we really continue to allow our children to be caught off guard by these things?!  Shouldn't we be teaching, in elementary, or high school at the latest, all of these known phenomena, so that when our kids end up having some strange experience during a camping trip when they were exhausted and hadn't eaten lately, they'll realize what's happening?  Wouldn't it be good to hear, just once, from someone that, "I had a really strange, other worldly experience, and it felt as though I had died and gone to heaven", only to have the next sentence be, "but I know what caused it, I know that it's rather typical of the state I was in, none-the-less it was interesting and fun!"

We need to educate our kids about all of the ways in which their perceptions can not necessarily be trusted.  If they know about these things, then they will be better prepared when (not if) the situations occur.  It's normal physiology, just like knowing how to lift a heavy load without hurting your back, just like understanding the causes of deja-vu (which can also be artificially produced).  People need to learn about these things, so they can stop hurting, and even destroying the lives of, others (as well as their own selves) by misinterpreting these things, when they happen.  (They always happen eventually.)

Don't trust your perceptions and stay safe out there!