<div class='navbar section' id='navbar' name='Navbar'><div class='widget Navbar' data-version='1' id='Navbar1'><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d2311776453606727856\x26blogName\x3dSuccinct+Rambling\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_HOSTED\x26navbarType\x3dLIGHT\x26layoutType\x3dLAYOUTS\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://www.succinctrambling.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://www.succinctrambling.com/\x26vt\x3d9186886991166660088', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script><script type="text/javascript"> (function() { var script = document.createElement('script'); script.type = 'text/javascript'; script.src = '//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/google_top_exp.js'; var head = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0]; if (head) { head.appendChild(script); }})(); </script> </div></div>

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Facebook History Of The World

This is the most awesome, succinct version of world history I've ever read. It's really ingenious. Check it out. I can't believe how elaborate it is! By College Humor.

http://www.collegehumor.com/facebook-history

SPF

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So, You Think You're Dreaming?

I seem to have extraordinarily vivid dreams. Often when I describe my dreams to others, they are astounded by how bizarre and also how clear they are. My friend Will likes to joke about how while he is sleeping, I am out roaming the universe at night. And indeed sometimes it feels like I am. I wonder if it's because I've read so much sci-fi. I do think sci-fi works like those of Arthur C. Clark can actually expand your imagination.

Not too long ago I had a lucid dream in which I was walking down a staircase, and then came upon a beautiful mosaic. I remember it very well because of how clear and detailed it was. I remember thinking (in my dream) that there was no possible way my brain could manufacture what I was seeing.

I could see the roughness of the grout between the tiles. I could feel the imperfections in the stone. There were little chip marks, little scratches, and all of the little details that exist in real-life objects when viewed up close. All of that was in my dream. I woke up with the distinct impression that I had actually been somewhere else, somewhere real.

Assuming that I was not experiencing astral projection, the question comes up, where did all that complex detail come from? How could that near-infinite visual data be stored in my head? I know for certain that I had never seen that mosaic before in real life. Was it being recalled from other things I'd seen, or was it actually being generated?

And the data wasn't only being generated (or recalled) and displayed in a static way, but it was being rendered in real time! I could walk back and forth adjusting my point of view, and the image would change accordingly. The light even played across the mosaic form a nearby window with perfect accuracy!

The most powerful computer in the world with top-of-the-line graphics could never display that much detail in real time, with seamless motion and lighting effects. And I find it hard to believe that the brain could either! The amount of data that enters our eyes is so vast! It is one thing to realize that our brains actually absorb so much information, organize it, and make sense of it all. But to generate that much data while dreaming?! Surely not.

I've had enough of these extremely vivid dream experiences to know this wasn't a fluke. Either the brain is far more powerful than we ever imagined, or I really am out exploring the universe at night. The second option almost sounds more likely.

SPF

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Post To Make Evolutionists Angry

The debate over whether intelligent design is a credible topic to teach children (or even mention to children) in school is such a no-brainer to me that I am simply flabbergasted as to why it is such a hotly debated topic. The only way I can think to explain its passionate dismissal by so many educators, is complete professional bias because of its connection to religion, the most unpopular of subjects today.

When looking for an explanation, is it not simply good practice to consider more than one possibility? Of two explanations, one may very well be proven wrong, eventually, and then the other would be more sure. And yet in the case of the origin of life, only one possible explanation is put forward in schools, and it is one that has not been proven. Rather, it is one that has been proven to be very shaky indeed.

The refusal to consider alternate explanations is dishonest, unwise, unbalanced, and just bad practice. And it's not just refusal. It is protest marches, court cases, hate mail... it is pulsating forehead veins! I say stay this madness! Education has been hijacked by the dogma of the staunchly irreligious.

Logic seems to dictate loudly that intelligent design is not only a credible explanation in talking about the origin of complex systems, but a far more likely explanation than unaided evolution is. We must remember, however, that they are very different types of explanation. While one of them is purely based on science, the other admits that science alone cannot always be used to prove what can be proven logically or philosophically. But is it really so strange that a thing, contemplating itself, is unable to explain its own origin using observation and analysis?

Why then such fury? Is it anything more than a gross overreaction to the hint of a religious flavor? It is a fury that causes evolutionists to become more narrow and religious in their thinking even than their counterparts! For which is more narrow and dogmatic, to accept nothing but what the scientific method can prove, or to accept some element of the unexplainable? Is it more narrow to believe only in the natural, or to leave room also for at least the possibility of the supernatural?

But logic gives the greater argument. Setting aside the question of life, let us ask this: What complex system, showing clear order, do we know of that did not come about from something even more complex and orderly than itself? A complex thing like a book can only exist because it came from a more complex author. A complex ECG printout can only exist because it came from a much more complex printer. A complex ant hill, can only exist because it came from a much more complicated ant. What about a beehive? A melody?

In fact, we cannot find anything complex and orderly that did not originate from something even more complex and orderly, and with a specific creative intent. It would be madness to try to explain a book by postulating that a nearby printing press exploded, and the letters, ink and paper all fell down together coincidentally, and in the right sequence to produce intelligent text. It would be lunacy to try to explain a pop song by postulating that there was an accident in the recording studio, and all the instruments were knocked about while the record button was pressed. It is madness and lunacy precisely because even the dullest of us recognize the signs of intelligent design in literature and music.

We cannot find anything complex and orderly that did not originate from something more complex and orderly. And yet in the case of the most complex and orderly thing of all, life, we are taught to believe that the opposite is true. Even with absolutely no precedent, we are taught to deny these clear principles. We are taught to believe that life did not originate from something more complex and orderly, but instead that the universe exploded and that all the pieces did indeed fall down together coincidentally and in the right sequence.

Is this not simply madness? It may very well not be madness, it may in fact be true. In the case of life, perhaps the printing press may well have exploded to produce the book. But what about the likelihood of those two contrasting explanations? We are talking about astronomical figures here. What sane person, finding a book, would assume such a far-fetched explanation? And yet, this is how we are taught to think!

Is it the apparent absence of an author that leads men to think this way? They look around, and see no obvious sign of an author (besides life itself), and so they wrack their brains for centuries in order to come up with any explanation that is at least feasible. And then they tell it to themselves for centuries more, until they they actually believe it is true. That is precisely our situation! Evolution may be feasible, but is it likely? Is it not more likely that we simply have not found the author?

Actually, it is not the apparent absence of the author only, but it is the intentional unwillingness for there to be an author that has caused us to take the most unlikely explanation imaginable, and elevate it to the dogma of our age. Why? For many reasons. For intellectuals, it is because believing in God means accountability. For non-intellectuals, it is because believing in God is so damn unfashionable. Also, because religion through the ages has proven to be so damning, men will believe anything to escape it. Is it really so foolish to imagine God away for the sake of self-preservation?

But intellectual honesty must at some point prevail. And even though we may hate the idea, we must admit the obvious. As clearly as we know that a beehive is the result of the intelligent bee, we can see that life is also the result of something, or someone intelligent, beyond our ability to fully explain or perhaps ever understand. Either that is true, or we are betting on the feasibility of a theory with a likelihood of somewhere between a number astronomically minuscule, and zero.

So why is there such vehement protest against the theory of intelligent design? Why do we insist only on the dogmatic indoctrination of evolution? Bias, nothing more.

SPF

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Origin Of Things

I am fascinated by the incalculable number of things all around us, things that we take for granted and most often don't even notice. Where do they all come from? Who makes them? How are they made?

There is a knob on the stereo amplifier above my desk. Someone had to fashion that, had to design it and produce it. It must have been manufactured in a factory somewhere. By who? Using what? Did they make an entire machine just to make those particular knobs? Where were the parts for the machine made?

The perfectly shaped little rubber blobs that act as mini stands for my laptop. The strap of my watch, with all it's little separate pieces, ingeniously designed to function. The custom light fixtures in the storage unit I can see from my window. The glass jar sitting on my desk. The valerian root extract inside. The countless little pieces of metal and plastic, attached to just about everything, giving things their shape and structure, holding them together.

There are too many little things everywhere for me to begin to fathom! And the idea that each one of them has a story, a process that they went through, involving people and places, labor, and factories, machines, transportation, trade, money, design, assembly, placement and then sales. It is an inconceivably complex web!

Yesterday, I was in the main mail sorting center for Amsterdam. It is a gigantic warehouse full of machines, each one the size of a building itself, and each one full of countless rollers, latches, switches, clasps, belts and unnameable pieces and parts. These machines sort thousands of letters each minute. You can see them zipping by at a tremendous pace. If you thought a paper jam in your laser printer was annoying, imagine if one little letter in one of these machines jammed. They would have to call the professionals; no normal human would have a clue what to do!

All those little parts! I mean, someone must have designed the overall concept of the machine. And then engineers must have figured out how to build it. And then specialists must have specifically designed all the parts for it. And then manufacturers must have produced them--probably using other machines. Where does it end? Where does it begin?

Sometimes, when I drive through the city and look around, the sky scrapers, the bulldozers, the trains, I can't help but marvel at the ingenuity of the human race. We have accomplished so much. We have built so much. We have made things that our ancestors could not have been capable of imagining.

The scope of human imagination is astounding. And the ability to collaborate, and turn ideas into real things is a mysterious phenomenon to end-consumers like me. It would seem just as rational of an explanation (did I not already know some of the background) if I were told that it was all conjured by magic.

After all, what is the difference between technology we can't understand, and magic? We, for instance, discovered and harnessed radio waves: invisible forces that travel through the air at lightning speeds, completely undetected, transmitting voices and information to people far away. Our ancestors would find no other term satisfactory than "supernatural."

And magicians, who know well the secrets of their craft, probably find it quite hilarious that we call what they do magic!

SPF

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can't Take It With You

Are you ever tempted to burn everything you own and start over? I am. There was this story of a guy who rented a big wood-mulcher and just started throwing everything in. He even threw in his ID, the title to his house, and all his papers. Finally his clothes went in as well. He stood there naked, and free.

I guess it's more complicated when you are married and everything. But sometimes I wish I could just get rid of everything I own and be free too.

I somehow feel bogged down by all my possessions. I can see an image of myself in the afterlife, drudging through endless, forsaken, dreary plains, hunched over with a giant sack on by back full of all the worldly possessions I couldn't let go of in life... OK, maybe that is a bit dramatic. Perhaps a ball and chain would suffice; each chain representing some useless possession...? Never mind, you get the picture.

I think that the more we are attached to things, the more they control our lives. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel liberated every time I throw something away. I would love to live in a clean, white, minimalistic room, with nothing but a table (with a built-in tablet computer of course), and a chair, and the few books and things that I need. It would be like an office in Star Treck. 

There are people that are addicted to shopping. Literally. Physically, their brains release chemicals that make them feel good when they buy things. Psychologically, they feel validated somehow when they have new, shiny things. That scares me because I really like new shiny things. o_O

I know people whose houses are so cluttered with things they've collected over the years, that one feels claustrophobic and overwhelmed just being in their home. Often these people have no idea about the many things they have tucked away in drawers and such. I am close to someone like this. They are often surprised when I pull ancient artifacts out of the far reaches of time and space (their cupboard).  But then, after a few minutes, they recognize whatever it is, and proceed to tell it's story in detail, as I sit captivated and on the edge of my seat. (...)

Many people have tremendous difficulty letting things go. They seem willing, at first, for me to help de-clutter their house. But when it comes down to each little knick-knack, it turns out that each one is of unspeakable sentimental value (now that they've found it again). Or, what I hear most often is, "you never know when that might come in handy!"

I knew a single lady who had--I counted--18 cooking pots in her kitchen.

I'm looking around our house right now, at all my things, and there are so many things I wish I could get rid of!

I would love to take up a minimalist lifestyle, like Gandhi. I would mulch all my possessions, except the bare essentials: a bed, a couch, cook-ware, dishes and my clothes. Oh, and my computer of course... And my books I would need to keep. I couldn't really part with my iPhone either, I need that too much. And, well, none of my 6 guitars are worth giving away, really, I don't think anyone would want them, and besides I invested a lot in those. My other computers I would probably need to keep too, in case this one breaks down... Have you ever used Bose headphones before? I have a pair, they're really exceptional. You can't really go back to normal headphones afterwards... Of course my MIDI keyboard; I hardly use it, but I've been meaning to play around with it more. Actually I think I should get another keyboard since this one doesn't have MIDI support that works with Windows 7. I'm sure I can store this one in the laundry room. I have a whole box full of cables of every kind and type. You really never know when you're going to need something like that, and you always regret not having one, when you need one... My music collection I can keep. That doesn't really count, does it?

Damn. I guess I am just one more ensnared consumer.

God, I hope my kids don't have to innocently take me out to the zoo one day when I'm old and naive, and while I'm gone sneakily empty my house of all my old useless gadgets because it's become unlivable. ..Sigh..

The truth is: we are born into the world naked. And when it's finally time to leave, we'll find that we can't take anything with us.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - JC

We really need to figure out what that means.

SPF

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thank You For The Mustard

I recently finished Chesterton's enduring masterpiece, Orthodoxy. I am still digesting it, re-reading sections at a time, trying to follow his thoughts. He is the finest writer I've ever come across. He uses so much paradox. The impression I get is that he is willing to turn the entire world upside down, if only he can get you to realize you've spent your entire life standing on your head!

I've always found it strange that many see Christians as narrow minded. Although, nowadays, after I've experienced much of the anti-intellectualism, thought-manipulation, and adherence to unfounded dogma that infects most of Christendom, I can see more why that accusation is in many cases valid. But I mean in more general terms, who is more open minded: the one who believes strictly in observable material laws that govern and determine, or the one who believes in a supernatural element to the universe? OK, that was rhetorical...

Chesterton puts it superbly:

"For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.

"Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. Even if I believe in immortality I need not think about it. But if I disbelieve in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case the road is open and I can go as far as I like; in the second the road is shut. But the case is even stronger, and the parallel with madness is yet more strange. For it was our case against the exhaustive and logical theory of the lunatic that, right or wrong, it gradually destroyed his humanity. Now it is the charge against the main deductions of the materialist that, right or wrong, they gradually destroy his humanity; I do not mean only kindness, I mean hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loose. They may well call their law the "chain" of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to it as a whole as the same language when applied to a man locked up in a mad-house. You may say, if you like, that the man is free to think himself a poached egg. But it is surely a more massive and important fact that if he is a poached egg he is not free to eat, drink, sleep, walk, or smoke a cigarette. Similarly you may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say "thank you" for the mustard." - C.K. Chesterton Orthodoxy 1908 (Public Domain)

read more from Orthodoxy... 

SPF

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Before You Get De-Eared

Few things annoy me more than those people who choose their musical preferences based upon what is fashionable, what is congruent with the subculture they identify with, or what makes them feel validated. People who use music to create or sustain their own self-image should be de-eared.

It sounds harsh. Those who limit themselves to one or two genres, and especially those who ignore particular genres on principle, frustrate me so much because they are missing out on so much undiscovered beauty! To me, it's like being in Hawaii and refusing to go in the water.

Someone overheard me listening to an alternative metal band recently and asked, "how can you like that kind of stuff?" I asked her why she likes bananas.

You see, we all like things for a thousand different reasons. Music is not good on a linear scale, because all music is different, and each type is beautiful for its own reason. I like apples because they are tart and sweet. I like oranges because they are, well, orange. In the same way, classical music is beautiful because it is dramatic, or serene. Metal is beautiful because of its energy. Acid house is beautiful because it makes me feel like I'm floating...

I also get frustrated when people ignore the beautiful or interesting things around them. I remember walking with a girl through the streets of Amsterdam. It was her first time there, and she spent the entire time with her eyes on the ground in front of her. I was so annoyed that she was a visitor in my beautiful city, and wasn't doing it the honor of taking everything in!

I was sitting in a waiting room, and there was a poster on the wall. Someone had scratched out one of the sentences and rewritten it in a more 'proper' grammatical form. It seemed that at some point another person had come along and scratched out his comment, replacing it with a 3rd, more correct sentence. I mused over this poster for a good while, and I looked around at the other people in the waiting room to see if they were enjoying it as well. They were all frustratingly placid!

All of us get annoyed or frustrated when people seem completely unaware, unconcerned, or unmoved by things that we find of great concern, of particular interest, or especially moving (at least I hope I'm not the only one). Sometimes I look around at people and it seems like they are zombies, focused only on eating brains.

That makes me wonder what beautiful and interesting things I am missing out on. Things all around me that I never notice because I am too focused on what I am interested in, like music... and brains. (In 8th grade they made us all play with a real human brain, soaked in formaldehyde, in biology class. It was gross and squishy, but I was the only one who didn't actually get a chance to touch it, so I've always been looking for another opportunity.)

Maybe we all need to slow down and take a step back. We should try to notice things more. We should let beauty surprise us in places that we would never expect. We may discover light where we thought there was only darkness! And you should listen to that genre of music that you've blacklisted because those people like it, and instead try to discover the reason why they like it! ... Before you get de-eared.

SPF

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Too Will One Day Diffuse

I'm so fascinated by the second law of thermodynamics. The idea that energy diffuses, and all its implications, just boggles my brain.

When you put a drop of dye in water, it will spread out as far as it can until the concentration of the dye is equal and consistent throughout the entire substrate. That is the natural law of diffusion. Everything likes to spread out as far as it can unto equal concentration. The same goes if someone passes gas in a room o_O.

If a spaceship door is opened, since the void of space is empty (that's why it's called space) everything will be violently sucked out because of this same tendency to diffuse! The air wants, desperately, to spread out evenly through space. And, well, space is very empty, and there is lots of it.

When I have a hot cup of coffee, it sits on my desk, and I get so absorbed in writing that by the time I go to drink it, it is cold. Why is it cold? Because the heat-energy wants to diffuse. The air around it is colder, the desk is colder, and so the heat happily moves along to these colder things in its mission to be consistent.

Everything wants to spread out. There are no mountains on the ocean. Mountains take energy after all. The surface of water is flat because all the water spreads out to the path of least resistance.

Potential energy wants to be released! A lot of energy was put into making your average stone. It wants to release its energy and break into sand, into dust! An enormous amount of energy was put into building a city. People ate carrots, full of energy from the sun, their bodies extracted the energy from the carrots to be used by their muscles and brains. But energy diffuses, and so eventually the city will all crumble (unless more energy is added to maintain it).

Suns will burn out. Planets will grow cold. Solid objects will break up into smaller and smaller objects. Everything made will eventually be unmade. Everything gathered will be spread out again. Pressure will be released. Gravity will be satisfied. Things will get simpler, and smaller, and colder.

One day everything will be even, released, empty, broken down, spread out, cold and consistent.

But happily for now, here on Earth, for some reason that nobody knows for sure, things keep getting more complicated, more advanced, more built up, and more sophisticated. Weird.

SPF

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dark Timelessness Of Non-Existence

What in God's name am I? I don't mean what sort of animal. I'm quite certain I am human. But I mean, what is my personhood, my consciousness, my self-awareness, my attention? In short, what makes up my mind?

Am I my brain? If my brain were to be in somebody else, would I still be me? If my brain were sitting on a shelf (yet somehow kept alive and active), would I still be me?

I think, yes.

But what I can't wrap my brain around, is this: am I my brain, or do I inhabit my brain? All evidence seems to point to the idea that I merely am my brain. Yet, I don't believe it. They say that every psychological occurrence in my mind, every thought, is simultaneously a physiological event in the brain. Ok. But that doesn't explain me.

During brain surgeries, they have shown that when they stimulate a certain place in the sensory cortex of the brain, the person will feel a sensation corresponding with the place they stimulated. They might poke here, and the person will feel as if someone touched their hand. They might poke there, and the person will feel as if someone is tickling their toes.

I suppose then, that if the technology existed, a scenario like in The Matrix, is perfectly plausible. We could exist in a reality completely separate from reality by connecting our brains to the proper sensory inputs. Of course, we all know it will be the gaming industry who will invent it!

What if someday, then (I really believe this to be probable), we are all just brains sitting on a vast array of shelves, connected together, without the need for bodies, living in a real-as-reality virtual existence, where the discomforts of real-reality don't have to irritate us anymore, and we can make up any reality (or set of realities) we want? Who would need (or even want) the real world? Of course this has been the subject of science fiction novels for decades.

But my question is what exactly is sensation? I see the mechanism of sensation, but where is the point where the neurological message is received? Just because a neurological pathway is stimulated in my brain, where am I to receive that message? Light waves may enter my eye at a particular frequency, my retina will pick them up, and my optic nerve will send a signal to other nerves in my brain, but at some stage I experience color.

But where do the signals end up? What good is a message if there is no one to receive it? Is the neurological pathway transmitting data me? If a packet of binary information is sent across an Ethernet cable to a computer, the website is only rendered if that packet is received and interpreted, and eventually displayed in a web browser. What good is the cable sending signals to other cables? But all I see in the brain are the cables!

Am I the cables? Power cables being lit up with data, transmitting in circles? Who experiences the signals? Are the signals the experience? It's a complex pathway consisting of millions of nerves that activates and is flooded with electricity and neurotransmitters, and... then it stops. Who is on the receiving end of that message?

If the signal is the sensation, then do cables, computers and circuit boards sense?

Imagine I were to die. Ok. Now, say my brain was perfectly preserved. All brain activity has long ago ceased. Much later, one of those clever brain surgeons pokes something in my inactive sensory cortex, suddenly stimulating the sleeping neural pathway that would cause the feeling of my hand being touched. Now, if I am my brain, would I not feel that?! Even though I am not concious, even though I know nothing, would I not still experience that sensation?

If the message is the experience, then yes, in the dark timelessness of non-existence, I would indeed feel someone touch my hand!

But it makes no sense to me. How can the mere activation of neurological pathways cause me to sense anything? There must be a recipient of the messages, on the other side of the brain. I can only conclude that I inhabit my brain. How can the thing be self-aware? How can the cable feel?

This is a conundrum that has bothered me for many years, and I cannot properly articulate it with words. I've tried here, and I don't expect you to see what I see. How can I craft my words to stimulate the same neural pathways in your brain that have been stimulated in mine?

I feel trapped in here.

SPF

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts On Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
I just read about how Gandhi led approximately a fifth of the world’s population to liberty, with a very unconventional approach: meekness. His commitment to non-violence later went on to inspire people like MLK.

Even though Gandhi didn’t at all identify himself a Christian, and clearly never really grasped the concept of grace or God’s forgiveness, Jesus’ sermon on the mount was one thing he strove to model his life after. In fact, he followed Christ’s teaching to such a degree that most Christians would call him radical. His life mimicked Christ’s in many ways (just read his biography next to a gospel account).

As he went on to transform an entire nation, armed with nothing but the humility of Christ, he read about every morning (in addition to his Hindu scriptures), the evidence of the power of Christ’s gospel of reconciliation is, in my mind, made overwhelmingly clear.

Now, here is what I am thinking. If to be “Christian” means to follow Christ in teaching and practice, is it possible that an “unbelieving heathen,” a Hindu even, could actually have been a more authentic Christian than many who name themselves Christian?

Just so the conservatives won’t accuse me of blasphemy, let me simply ask the question this raises: Which is more important, how correctly we believe or think about God (orthodoxy); or how we live and act in relation to God (orthopraxy)?

SPF

Friday, April 1, 2011

Set Your Mind To It!

I can fix water pipes. Who knew? I just repaired my grandma's copper piping that provides water to her garden. I'm not a plumber, I'm just a guy with a will to get things done.

Actually, I've been doing all kinds of handy stuff lately. Remodeling, installing floors and shelves, running cables through buildings, putting up light fixtures, working on cars and bikes, fixing enormously complex computer problems, setting up Linux servers. I have no training in any of this stuff.

People always tell me it's so amazing that I am able to manage the IT department considering I've had no training at all. My instinctive reaction is to say, “you could do it too!” All it takes is a little patience and perseverance.

All I know about computers, or about any other handy work, I learned by trial and error, critical thinking, logical deduction, reading and research, lots of inquisitiveness, and simply continuing to have at it until it's done.

People tell me I have a special gift for figuring things out. I suppose that is possible. But I think it has to do more with the mere willingness to set your mind to it. I think all of us are far more capable of doing things than we know. We far too often give up, or don't try at all, because we assume we won't be able to do something.

Here is a good example: I started getting so many requests to fix peoples' personal computers, I was overwhelmed. So I decided to start charging €3 per 10 minutes. Very soon, all the requests stopped! People, at least in most cases, were suddenly, as if by magic, able to fix the problems themselves!

If you're reading this, I want to challenge you. You know that problem that you're waiting for the repair man, or your dad to come over and fix? The kitchen sink... or the computer? Try giving it a go yourself... Be patient, be inquisitive, and set your mind to it. I bet you'll be surprised!

SPF