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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots

It is time I fulfilled the promise of my headline.

Riots broke out simultaneously in London last night starting in over twenty 'flashpoints'. Croydon to the south and a police station in Birmingham were on fire. There was further trouble in Liverpool and Bristol. Masked children roamed the streets on BMX bikes ransacking stores and stripping PC World of its entire stock. Over 225 arrests were made, including a boy of eleven. Some of the kids in the mahem were as young as seven.

The ostensible cause of the riots was revenge against the police for shooting Mark Duggan. He was himself in possession of a gun which may or may not have shot the bullet embedded in the handset of a policeman from Scotland Yard's firearms unit.

There is nothing the devil likes more than tit for tat. If you can prove that a good man made a mistake, then hey presto! You've got carte blanche to kill, injure and rob as many innocent people as you like. The whole world can be regarded as one great blob of hostile otherness. It deserves everything it gets.

Where does this impression come from, that the world is full of evil people who deserve to be stripped of everything, followed by a horrible death?

It comes from babyhood and childhood: the time when the emotional substratum is laid down. A child learns to love or hate from his own parents. The skill with which the parents manage family interactions is crucial to his or her consequent development.

But now we live in an age where more than fifty per cent of marriages end in divorce and many children are born into loose-knit families that do not involve marriage at all. A happy couple who have been married for more than six years is as rare as a queer tomcat.

Mothers are bribed into divorce by the near certainty that they will be 'awarded' most of their husband's wealth plus custody of the children by the courts, followed by government benefits. So the incipient urge to find a new partner after five or six years (the recipe for a second-rate or decadent culture) is actively encouraged.

Civilisations at their height incorporate conflict into relationships: they learn to quarrel without hatred and without destruction. Love can survive this 'managed' conflict, but it cannot survive a deceitful superficial harmony. Good people can laugh while they quarrel. Conflict, like evolution itself, is one of the essential ingredients leading to a beautiful creation. Without it, life would be bland, tasteless and dull.

Conscious people know all this, because it is obvious. Surds do not, because their innate hedonistic drive can see no sense in anything except self-gratification. When it comes to surds, social harmony is an engineering problem. Let us study the data and see what leads to a society with maximum harmony and minimum crime.

The best is an intact family which does not watch violent videos and maintains careful control of the content of computer games. Holding up a mirror to nature is fine: but if nature is reflected in a distorting mirror which revels in blood, sex and gore. it gives children, especially those with absent fathers, a totally UNTRUE picture of normal life which they will then adopt as a template of normality. In the old days, children would imitate the elders of the tribe. Modern children see ANYTHING THAT COMES THROUGH A SCREEN as the ideal on which to base themselves. Children without fathers will splash around trying to get an idea of what masculinity is, and the screen is where they will look.

Mothers who look after their children in a two-parent family are like gold dust. They shine and never tarnish. They bring good luck and wealth to the whole society.

Mothers who try to justify their divorces by vilifying the fathers to everyone including the children, will conjure up nothing but enemies and bad luck. Their children will be stuck in shallows and in miseries.

There is a very easy way to stop divorces and separations: the courts should give custody of the children to any father who asks for it. The statistics in a major study showed (Hathaway and Monachesi: Adolescent Personality and Behavior: MMPI Patterns of Normal, Delinquent, Dropout and other outcomes - Table 92 and 93) that single fathers kept the crime rate of their children at the same level as the average for the whole sample of over 7000 families, whereas single mothers produced a crime rate amongst their children which was even higher than that of children who lived with neither parent.

In other words, single mothers are much more likely to rear the type of children involved in yesterday's riots.

If custody were granted to fathers (currently this happens in only 2% of cases) then the mothers who rush into divorce (80% of divorces are instigated by mothers) might think twice.

The ideal that I, for one, admire, is a stable two-parent family.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Love

When you fall in love, it transforms you like alchemy. The whole world changes in the light of this love: things that might have been boring before take on an extraordinary vibrancy. The whole world suddenly makes sense and the suffering in it becomes almost incidental. The person you love seems more valuable than you are yourself and you know that you would willingly die to save that person. To use Bertrand Russell's word, everything is 'transfigured'. It fills you with extraordinary joy.

Now I am going to stick a pin in the balloon I have created. You may find that your love isn't reciprocated and the person isn't nearly as good as you thought they were.

But heck, the love was real and the experience was real. The world in that transformed state was just as valid as it was when you were doomed and gloomy. That leads you to search for the experience again. The person may have let you down, but you still love love. The love has a reality of its own, like the fragrance of a flower.

When you love someone, you love them just because they are there. They don't even have to do anything.

What if you could love the whole of creation like that, just because it's there? What if you could love the source of all things like that?

Surds

I wish to coin a new word, or rather extend the meaning of an old one. 'Surd' has only, to my knowledge, been used as a noun to mean an irrational number or a voiceless consonant. As an adjective it can mean 'stupid' or 'insensitive' and in philosophy 'surd evil' is the same as 'natural evil' - the evil of a falling rock that has no human agency.

I want to call this word into service as a noun, to help us with the problem of forgiveness.

We all know that most of the problems of the world come from not forgiving. We feel aggrieved and we think we must get our own back in some way. 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord' but 'for goodness sake, Lord, when are you going to get on with it?' So we wait for a bit, and then we do the job ourselves.

The trouble is, we misfire. If the person who wronged us had a green face, and that person is unavailable or dead, who can we punish? Easy. We can punish somebody else with a green face, because he is in the same group. He must deserve punishing pretty well just as much. That is why a woman punishes her husband for what her father did and a man punishes his wife for what his mother did. They belong to the man group or the woman group and they must deserve punishing just as much as the rest of their kind. Most wars are like this, e.g. Protestants like to punish living Catholics for what their dead forebears did and vice versa.

Now to summarise what I have said in previous blogs: in order to do evil, you have to know that you exist. Knowledge of your own existence leads naturally towards goodness. A conscious person who tries to do evil is extremely rare.

Most of those who harm others are unconscious. The stories we have inherited from such as Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley express this metaphorically and that is why I have toyed with the words 'zombie' and 'vampire'. They are the people who want to punish a leader because the crowd has turned against that leader, like hens pecking at an injured bird; the sort who yell 'crucify him!' for no good reason except that everybody else is doing it. They are following unconscious evolutionary programming. This is not fictional and that is why I want a new word: I think 'surd' will do very well.

Once consciousness is present, it is self-corrective. Conscious people can't do harm to others without suffering themselves, because they are CONSCIOUS and they feel the pain of the other person. That is not to say that they are soft and weak or cannot be cruel to be kind.

This makes it possible to forgive. The one who has wronged you is quite possibly a SURD. He or she is following an unconscious routine, running an entirely selfish program. The surds are legitimate fodder for evolutionary psychologists. They survive at the expense of others and over many generations this will produce a passable receptacle for something better. The whole process takes place in mental darkness. 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

If, on the other hand, the person you think has wronged you is conscious, there are only two possibilities. Perhaps he or she was trying to do you good (tough love), but you didn't realise it or you didn't like it. If a conscious person knowingly tries to harm you, there is absolutely no necessity for revenge. Why? Because consciousness inflicts its own punishment, and believe me, that person will suffer horribly.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Do we really want things to come right?

That is not such a silly question as you might think. If the ONLY wish of EVERYONE was for all things to come right, then I am absolutely certain that we would enter a golden age. It requires ABSOLUTE SURRENDER to the common good. This does not mean making the other person good, but on making oneself good. Politics is about making other people good, and religion is about making oneself good (but as we all know, religion has a habit of wandering into politics). Richard Dawkins is wrong to attack religion as the source of all evil. He should be attacking the wandering of religion into politics as the true cause.

Of course, zombie motivation pivots on 'getting what one wants' regardless of the common good. One cannot blame zombies for this. It is the essential mechanical tropism which has pulled, apparently by magic, good bodies out of the primal sludge. We call it evolution.

From a zombie point of view, consciousness has absolutely no useful purpose. It simply interferes with normal, selfish, zombie functioning.

Yet we who know existence also know this: without consciousness, the whole physical universe might just as well not be there.

What would be the use of a multifarious, complex, orderly universe, held like a hologram in the midst of infinite space and infinite time, if nobody knew it existed?

Now consciousness is in the picture, we need no longer be chained to the slavery of mechanical selfishness. Using our beam of consciousness, we can illuminate matter and chisel our local chunk of inchoate stone into a beautiful sculpture that comes alive.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Dream and Creation

Creation is not a single act; it is a continuous process. Everything has to be sustained, held in existence.

When we go to sleep and dream, everything can seem very real, especially if love, hatred, or fear comes into it. When we wake up we may feel foolish for having believed so deeply in the reality of what we just experienced. If you have ever dreamt, as I have, that you went to sleep inside the dream and dreamed a dream within the dream, then you may wonder if you comprehended the nature of waking up correctly. What if this is a dream? Is there an infinite series of wakings up? Will we go on waking up from different layers of dream for ever?

So what is so specially real about what we so smugly call 'the real world'? Well, you say, everything's much more consistent than in a dream. If you put something down on the table, it stays there if nobody moves it, until tomorrow. Then what about pain? If you have a really bad toothache, there is no way that you can see that as a dream. Sex, of course, seems pretty real (more on this later).

But what if dreams use different tricks on each level? What if pain, sex and consistency are unique to our level? There are hints of these even in sleep, but 'waking' life certainly has the edge.

And if we are dreaming now, whose dream is it? Yours or mine? Solipsism is a real danger here, but solipsism is not rational (as I have said before) because even my own liver is 'other' and the dreams I have when I go to bed are almost completely out of my control - I can hardly claim a right to talk about 'my' dream: I don't even know what is going to happen next. If you can do 'lucid dreaming' you might have a little more claim to being lord and master of it all, but even then, the fabric of the dream is provided for you.

There is even more 'otherness' in waking life. That is what makes creation on our level so beautiful: we can experience OTHERS, we have company and we are not alone. We know that the source is 'OTHER', and yet always present and close (holding us in existence). The things which we sometimes think should not exist, like enemies and pain, are the very things which compel us to accept and believe in the reality of otherness.

Friday, 21 January 2011

What We Are In

Causation involves beginnings and endings and yet the universe must contain (or rather, be contained by) at least one thing THAT HAS NO BEGINNING utterly beyond our mortal comprehension. Also, everything must have something it is IN, some sort of substratum. Ultimately everything is IN what we can only identify as NOTHINGNESS. This nothingness, far from goading us into nihilism and despair, should be our central source of inspiration: it supports and contains everything that we see, touch and know, in the same way that timelessness supports and contains time. How on earth does it do it? How can everything hover in, and be supported by, absolutely NOTHING? It is this fundamental mystery that all people acknowledge in their bones and it is this seminal miracle that enables the highest and the lowest to pass each other in the street and say "God bless you!"

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Evolution's Highest Accolade

Evolution's highest accolade, taking evolution as the wellspring of atheistic philosophy, is 'I survived', or perhaps, 'I survived and reproduced'. Can you see what an absurdly trite sort of triumph that is, how, if I may throw in an oxymoron, dully tawdry? Can the highest reach of civilisation merely be its own continuance?

Supposing you manage to spread your seed all over the world - perhaps you could be the main contributor to the world's largest sperm bank. Have you won? Is that it? You managed to get your genes firmly into the future, so are you a real winner, ready to receive evolution's highest award?

Survival of what? That is the question. What is the use of having millions of children if you don't get even the least pleasure from them? They're dished out in test tubes, perhaps, or you finally end up dead and you don't even know that they exist?

Merely surviving is the triumph of the zombie. Zombies are programmed to survive physically, and that is really their only goal. Evolution has pulled us out of the primal sludge, but it was all preparatory to "Let there be light!" the inception of consciousness, and never let us forget that contemporary zombies are still living in that dark primal sludge.

Now we have a new criterion: that which leads to the nurturing and survival of consciousness itself. It is a new type of survival which sometimes runs in an exactly opposite direction to zombie survival.

Consciousness survives on love, on altruism, on risking one's physical life for what one knows is right and good, while zombies survive on selfishness and greed. If your only ambition is physical survival, you may be led to do things which kill the spark that was really your only hope. I don't need to give you the obvious biblical quote.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

As if in answer

At lunchtime today I heard a talk in Battersea by a psychiatrist called Dr Hughes (who looks and sounds rather like the late Anthony Clare). Dr Hughes has just returned from Haiti where he lived in a tent and saw around him the most extreme suffering imaginable: people who had lost everything, their friends, their families - amazed still to be alive themselves.

A psychiatrist of course has to deal with people who have received more suffering than they can bear.

Amongst the lifeless bodies that lay around, he saw a three-year old child trying to talk to his dead father on a mobile phone.

When Dr Hughes arrived, there was no government, society had broken down, kidnapping was rife (worse than anywhere else in the world) and young men, morally derelict from the tension, were raping the young girls.

Yet he wants to be there more than he wants to be here. The people of Haiti are proud of their country. They are deeply religious, and in spite of all that has happened, believe profoundly in God.

Alleviating even a tiny part of the suffering can awaken and enlighten the one helping as well as the helped.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Better Ways

Of course, suffering is a bad way of waking up. There are much better ways: compassion, work, love, music, altruism, knowledge. But suffering is the default way.

And of course, suffering doesn't necessarily go away even when you do wake up. But once you have woken up you have a much better chance of not actually being the cause of the suffering yourself.

The most difficult question is why innocent, conscious, children should suffer. Their suffering may be from some natural disaster not of human making. If there were no hazards there would be no parenthood and no heroism. The dangers are real dangers.

But there is survival. What real harm does drama do, if you still exist at the end? There is a lot of evidence that we do still exist at the end.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Suffering

Suffering is a flint stone. With a hard blow or severe friction out of it comes a spark. The spark is consciousness.

The early Theosophists, when they saw a large stone, would give it a kick. That was to start it on the path of evolution!

A Zen master sometimes gives his student a sharp blow with a stick - when the student least expects it. Often that is the final stage and the student suddenly becomes enlightened.

If the suffering doesn't succeed in making a spark then the person will complain that there is no God.

Sometimes the suffering will make intermittent sparks. We've all met people who thrive on war and can't wait until there's another one. We know people who love fear and rush gleefully into danger. Why? Because they recollect the spark of consciousness which came with the fear, and that was when they felt really alive.

A real artist can feel alive even without suffering. That is because of the creative spark.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Atheists are irrational

Atheists, particularly scientific atheists, are always claiming that they are 'rational' (Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins, for instance). Peter Atkins says that atheism is the 'default position'.

How can that be so? They clearly believe that the universe created itself and that it holds itself in existence, in other words, sustains itself.

That ascribes GODLIKE qualities to the universe itself. For them, the universe sprouts out of nothing and remains there with the aid of nothing. That deserves worship. It is a kind of pantheism. For them, the universe IS GOD.