The Courage to be Kind

Fear is the path to the dark side. – Yoda, Star Wars

Fear is the mind-killer. – Litany Against Fear, Dune

A Torrent of Insecurity

This morning I woke up and, in between bites of lime marmalade on buttered toast, read my social media ‘new feed’. It was one long queue of sensationalistic headlines and attention traps that masqueraded as a procession of ‘important’ information – and I was disgusted. Normally my ‘news feed’ is packed with articles from science magazines (yes, I see the same ‘latest discovery’ related to me by four different ‘magazines’ all of whom are shamelessly copying or reposting from each other) or philosophy sites with witty or engaging quotations and questions. I normally have beautiful visuals of mathematics or magnificent photographs of some of the most mind-boggling fractals of all – Nature in all its glory. But this morning, that is not what was in ‘my feed’ – that’s not what I saw.

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The emotional appeal for Atheism

[This is a repost of a comment I’d made on http://thephilosophyforum.com]

 The Emotional argument for Atheism
This topic of discussion has piqued my interest and so I humbly attempt a contribution:
I understand an ’emotional appeal’ not to be an outburst of irrational emotion on behalf of the orator, but rather an oration intended to appeal to the audience’s emotions – that is, intended to arouse specific emotions within the listener. The manner in which this is done can vary, but a well-reasoned and logical argument, if successfully ‘appealing to the emotions’ has the benefit of being sound and able to withstand attempts to de-construct it.
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The Deep Symbolism of the Mobius Strip

The Mobius Strip

If ever there was something which merited the name “God” in my eyes, it would be the Mobius Strip. But I don’t believe in a personal, let-alone sentient, god. I’d be far more inclined to call it “Tao” instead. Buddhists might call it “Om” (or “Aum”). Mathematicians should call it “i” (the square root of negative one), but there are even more examples in Mathematics (the involution, the half-rotation, inconsistency, contradiction, “not” or the symbol ¬). Electronics circuits represent it as the inverter whose ouput feeds back into its input. Philosophers might call it “contradiction” or more formally the “paradox of self-reference” epitomized in the Liar Paradox:

“This statement is False.”
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One Life…

Excerpt from this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU0PYcCsL6o

“So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes, you would have every kind of pleasure you could perceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say, “Well that was pretty great, but now let’s have a surprise! Lets have a dream which isn’t under control! Where something is going to happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be”. And you would dig that and come out of that and say, “Wow that was a close shave wasn’t it!”.

Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further and further-out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today; that would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have, of playing that you weren’t god. Because the whole nature of the god head, according to this idea, is to play that he’s not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not god in a politically kingly sense but god in the sense of being the self; the deep down basic whatever there is. And you’re all that! Only you’re pretending you’re not.”

I find this concept compelling – not the part of us being the ultimate reality (because I don’t agree) – but for the core concept of boredom. Changing Alan Watts’s version for one, not of dreams, but of immortality or reincarnation (not that different), you would have to agree that, given a vast amount of years to live (or lives), you would eventually get bored. The ‘risks’ you would take would be greater and greater, to the point where you would embark upon a ‘life’ from which you could not wake up – one where the end is definitive. That is the ultimate thrill. Death is obsessively fascinating!

Many people find the idea that we have but this one life absolutely terrifying. This is why there are so many invented stories of an afterlife or reincarnation or something more. Even buddhists and zen masters can’t find peace in this and have had to invent stories of Sacred Wheels and Nirvana and enlightenment (or are these inventions only for those who aren’t ready for the truth yet?).

Given the above, I don’t understand why so many people need something more. The above thought-experiment makes it seem to me perfectly reasonable to have but one life and be grateful that we do. I personally am relieved that I have but one. Sure, I’m also terrified! But I don’t need anything more. I feel sadness for all my past mistakes, immense sadness that I’ve caused so much pain to loved-ones through my own mistakes – but it’s not because I think “After I die I will be no more” that I don’t care. I am acutely aware that my own life has had millions upon millions of repercussions to the world around me – the one that will survive me – and it is my participation in the advancement of Life on this planet that makes me so remorseful of my mistakes.

But because I have but one life, I will not waste it commiserating that fact. I will enjoy it, experience it, live it. This harkens back to the pithy aphorism (not sure if it is Buddhist): “The journey is the destination.”

So much purpose can be derived from this truth – not least of them is that, given the intrinsic and unique value of the journey, it is my responisibility to make everyone else’s journey as free from suffering as possible – or at the very least I must not be the cause of their journey’s end (i.e. murder = BAD!). Another purpose that can be derived from this truth is to assure the harmonious perennity of Humanity as a whole – to maintain balance and harmony so that Humanity’s journey persists (Humanity’s duration far out-lasting an individual life). From there I realize it is my responsibility to keep our planet clean and hospitable to human life – or encourage our governments to pull together and start our great migration towards other planets. Humanity must continue and spread, in harmony with all other life.

I am born with a gift of compassion and love and it is my responsibility to use that gift within the tiny duration of my own life to assist the lives of others, and keep us all moving forward. Pretty simple reasoning isn’t it? That is why I think that consciously choosing to believe that there is no afterlife (whether or not it ultimately is true) is important and the mature thing to do. It’s bloody difficult, but you know what they say about worthwhile things being difficult…