Mike’s Incomplete Philosophy and Belief System review.
Mike’s Incomplete Philosophy and Belief System review.
The following article was written over a number of days starting shortly after the loss of Heppie. It is included in this newsletter for general interest, but future stories like this may be posted on the blog instead, and linked to in the newsletter. Your opinion on this is welcomed, and sought at the end of this newsletter.
Life is not always as easy to define – and many of us find ourselves asking questions to try to work it all out. Many people will find a religion or belief system that they adopt in order to help make sense of life, and especially death.
The recent death of Heppie, my 10 year four legged constant travelling companion, has caused me to briefly reflect on all those experiences I’ve had so far.
Before reading on, I ask that if you have already chosen a belief system and are easily offended by having that belief system questioned, you may prefer to go and read something else. I’m not out to offend anyone. This is simply my own story so far.
Also I warn ahead of time that I have not done due diligence on some of these items as this is not my profession. Thus, if you are interested in any of these items you need to do your own further research to see what merit lies, or does not lie within them Happy reading!
My first encounter with any belief system was for a couple of years at a Catholic Primary school. Too young of course to be able to apply any real understanding to the situation, it was nonetheless interesting. The church sessions that were interspersed with other classes involved sitting, kneeling, sitting, and watching as every other kid in the school would go and get their free 1” disc of bread. I was the only one out of the couple of hundred who did not do so – but I don’t know if that was pre-arranged or what it was. Irrespective, I failed to find any special feeling of belonging.
The more obvious teachings of being good to others made innate sense to me – but I failed to find any magical spiritual enlightenment.
A couple of my high school years were at a Christian school. Here there was very little in the way of actual religious training, which suited me well as I still didn’t feel any sense of belonging to this type of religion. Again, just being good to others was the only bit I really had a belief in.
Roll forwards to when I’m about 20, and I have my first encounter with Jehovah’s witnesses. They visited a few times, advised of what I should be doing, and how only a certain fixed number of people could get into heaven. Given this rather low six figure number, it was statistically almost impossible for me to be a lucky contender, so I soon lost interest in this one too. I was however, quite happy with my built-in sense that if I do right by other people, then that’s a good thing and whatever potential judgment at the end, I’d not (at that point at least) be guilty of anything worse than accidentally killing a pet mouse by unknowingly sitting on it.
Near Death Experiences. (NDEs)
I think it was not long after this time that I was given a 2400 bps modem. (This is 1/20th the speed of dialup, 1/120th the speed of the cheapest broadband.) This opened a new world of opportunity to review any further religions I encountered. I soon discovered some pages about Near Death Experiences and for a time took comfort in that they seemed to make sense, providing more tangible and current evidence than 2,000 year old texts. I think the address was http://www.near-death.com/ Once nice thing about this belief system is that it seems to be compatible with elements of most religions but without the associated overheads.
Still a bit naïve sadly at 20, I and my then partner got taken up with the excitement of Timeshare, as a company was running an invitation-only presentation. They told us all about how you could go anywhere in the world for a small amount compared to what people normally pay, and enjoy one week once every second year in some foreign resort. Sounded good, and I guess for some people it would be – but of course there’s no advantage in air fares, etc. So, we parted with somewhere between $4.5K and $7K (which we didn’t have anyway) and signed up.
Now of course, said partner’s no longer contactable, and I’m stuck with a timeshare that I can rarely use, and which due to local resort availability issues can be a real pain. Being a jointly-owned asset, I appear to be stuck with it and may have to let it go delinquent. There are better deals to be found locally these days on sites like QuickBeds, NeedItNow, Checkin.com.au etc.
I guess this isn’t really a religion in most people’s definitions, but it is a belief system of sorts – happiness through theoretically cheap prepaid holidays. (The drawback being the maintenance fees, booking fees, transfer fees, and chronic lack of Australian vacancies within a reasonable timeframe, etc.)
A couple of years later, I was chatting online with a lady who defined herself to be a witch. This was a fascinating deviation from the mainstream, with strange beliefs about nude moon bathing, etc. By now, I had better Internet access, and was able to research these belief systems somewhat more efficiently. My mind’s a bit rusty on what witchcraft was all about now – at its roots it seemed mostly harmless – but now the only phrase I remember is the maiden, the mother, the crone – probably because it’s in a Tracey Chapman song too. Mind you, I think I was more fascinated by her than by the belief system, although nothing ever came of it. More info on this system at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca
A few years later while casually surfing away I read about body language and Mind Control Techniques. It is quite clear in this world that if you’re clever enough, you can convince people to believe almost anything. Every now and then (although less common these days it seems) you hear of some bizarre sect that makes a televised appearance for some reason – often a mass suicide or being blown up. Waco comes to mind… This alerted me to question more anything I was told, and the manner in which it was presented.
For example, be suspicious of any training that involves getting up early repeatedly – being tired reduces your ability to filter bullshit. I haven’t revisited this philosophy for a long time now – last I remember reading was http://www.dicksutphen.com/html/battlemind.html
A number of years later – after moving to Guyra and almost going broke due to the change – I was approached by a Health Insurance company to become a mobile sales droid. To become one involved a number of days of training in North Sydney. Sadly for them I had already learnt about mind control techniques, and was largely immune to the training. Certainly there was money to be made on commissions by selling and renewing policies to clients – quite a lot of money judging by some of the sales droids; but to do this for a living you either had to really want the money or else really believe in the product. For me, money wasn’t a big driver as I am satisfied if I have enough to pay the bills and a little in reserve; and the product may in rare cases really help someone in need – but for most people I imagine being vigilant in saving a similar amount in a bank account each quarter would achieve the same coverage over time, plus have the benefit of being available for any emergency, not just those covered in the qualifications and disclaimer sections of the application form.
The other element of it I could not take any joy in at all was the telephoning of customers to book appointments – complete with telemarketer-like scripted methods to keep callers on the line. It wasn’t cold calling, but it felt like it. I only stuck with this job for two days before giving it up on the second rainy night. Another irony was that of the 8 or so people at the training sessions, I was the only one who didn’t smoke!
Psychics (Local and Armidale)
I’ve had a couple of visits with psychics / spiritual readers and healers out of curiosity. (Well, they were in some promotional thing the Armidale tourism group was doing when I first moved here.) While they’re certainly fun to talk with, and talk about various issues with, so far the ones I’ve chatted with have not been able to produce any result that was not possible by warm reading. The idea of auras, chakras, etc, sound fancy and are easy to imagine but so far impossible to prove. A local one also claimed that my dog would die of a heart attack – she died from a fancy green injection instead with no heart problems – although perhaps it causes a heart attack. An Armidale one said my sister was pregnant – which was a surprise to her and now 6 years later is still not the case. I guess googling psychic, cold and warm reading will give more info. I’m not well researched in this area – the last article being a Youtube series “The Enemies of Reason” mentioned later. I don’t fully discount the possibility of psychic events, but have no evidence to hand
Einstein and a Budgie.
This is more a philosophy than anything else. Basically, if you were to have Einstein lecture to a budgie about his various laws on how the world works, the budgie’s response would probably be chirrp chirrp warble warble (head scratch) chirrup (crap on the ground) chirrup. The Budgie’s comprehension however would be almost zero, as a budgie is likely not capable of understanding human concepts and those of the world.
You can then extrapolate from this that perhaps we as Humans also lack the power to fully understand the world due to our own limitations – so don’t worry too much about it
The Magic of Radio
I have one belief which is that, given radio works but is otherwise invisible, then it’s quite possible that other things exist that we don’t have facilities to see; so as a result weird things may well be possible!
Two unusual things happened in the following few years.
Firstly my pseudo-grandmother was dying of cancer, and on her last night before being hospitalized she had slipped down in her bed and was choking. I’d previously given her a cordless doorbell button to press if she needed assistance by any of us – but in this case she was too weak to be able to reach it. I also sleep with a small fan running which masks other sounds. However, despite this I managed to hear her choking in the next room, and at the same time my father was awoken from a much further room. Perhaps it was a coincidence or logic, or perhaps something else.
Later, a close friend of mine had decided to kill himself. That day I had just finished teaching a class and was feeling a little unsettled – started to go towards the front of the building and then changed my mind and went back to the classroom – I felt unsettled. There, I checked my email and found what looked like a suicide note email. After trying a few contacts I eventually dialed 000 and the police found said friend in the car with the motor running and the pipe through the window. Again, perhaps just a coincidence, or perhaps something else.
So, a few years ago after teaching a class, one of my students approached me asking if I’m interested in a unique business opportunity – but paradoxically would not name what it was about. Already suspicious, I nonetheless accepted an appointment with them to hear more about it. They talked about how it worked, about how you’d do all your shopping online and get cheaper prices than retail, and how you’d make money out of anyone else you got to do the same thing.
I followed along for a little bit out of curiosity, but the products online were far from being a match for Woolworths HomeShop yet alone Coles, and required lots of bulk purchases. The orange juice was a horrible reconstituted job, and most other products just didn’t exist. The site was pretty poor too.
I went along to one Amway meeting in Tamworth out of curiosity – and it seemed to have most of the hallmarks of a cult. By then I’d also researched Amway / Quixtar online and based on those two things it seemed pretty clear that the only real money to be made was on creating promotional training cassettes and hosting the fancy get-togethers; not in peddling mediocre products. I guess if you stuck at it long enough you could make some money on the product sales, but it’s not for me. My belief when entering into any new business relationship or belief system is to go in with an open mind and research it online to build up your own opinions, because like I said before it’s very easy for us as humans to take on a belief even when it’s false – so question everything (I made a mistake years ago in buying a florist business which I really shouldn’t have! Funny how you learn from your mistakes.)
More frequently now I am seeing pure atheism posts on sites like Reddit – http://reddit.com/ , Zgeek – caution – not safe for work – http://zgeek.com/ , and in other media sites. I guess this is to be expected as more people research more religions and belief systems on the Internet and poke holes in their teachings. I’m not sure I agree with what they replace religions with sometimes but am happy provided they stick to the basic obvious rule of being good to others.
FSMism – Pastafarians.
FSMism is a strange new religion created when there was an argument in American schools about whether or not scientology (or was it evolution) should be taught alongside other religions in American schools. The basis of FSM is that the world, trees, and a midget were created by an entity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s a laugh, and I love the graphics! http://www.venganza.org/
Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth vs. The Great Global Warming Swindle
These two contrasting documentaries argue for and against the existence of global warming. In time we’ll find out who was more right and wrong. Sadly other than buying these movies the only way to get them is an illegalish download from a Torrent network – which kind of cancels out their good intentions. Why would they try to make money out of a movie that is meant to save the world – or at least tell it how buggered it is! (Call me a freetard if you like!!) http://www.mininova.org/get/989352 for Al Gore, and http://www.mininova.org/tor/1584963 for the Swindle.
One of my customers also send me a link to http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/goreerrors.html which claims 35 inaccuracies in Gore’s movie. I’m undecided in the face of these three entities.
Richard Dawkins has produced a couple of documentaries – The root of all evil, and The Enemies of Reason. He works strictly on evidential science, and argues against anything else that can not be scientifically proven. They make for an interesting watch but his very blunt questioning may offend some of you. These ones are free to watch on Google Video. He’s almost certainly an atheist.
Enemies of reason 1: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7218293233140975017&ei=4v6bSPPiGIGYqQPY6oQo&q=enemies+of+reason
Enemies of reason 2: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4720837385783230047&ei=4v6bSPPiGIGYqQPY6oQo&q=enemies+of+reason
The God Delusion: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9002284641446868316&ei=dP-bSNSbNpDCqAOyxdUk&q=root+of+all+evil
Virus of faith: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7619161192220036050&ei=F_-bSLGTGJCGrgOW9N0l&q=virus+of+faith
Reddit / Sheeple
Years ago it was quite easy to sit in front of a computer, open google, and have your mind go blank – not able to think of anything interesting to search for. Since then, sites like Reddit, Digg, etc have come along that allow you to see what other people think is interesting at that moment in time.
Another term that has become more mainstream recently is ‘sheeple’ – which roughly means people simply following eachother and / or believing things simply because other people do, for good or bad, without questioning.
While sites like this make it easier to find out what others are thinking about, it may also have a negative effect if it takes away your desire to look for and analyze information independently. I recommend researching anything you read as there’s usually two sides to any story.
OK so by now it’d seem likely I’d mostly be an atheist, but happy to accept that strange things may still be possible simply because radios work and yet without a radio we would not know that the signal was there. However, after those Dawkins documentaries, it would seem there is nothing other than life itself. Perhaps, however unpalatable, this is the case – in which case you’d want to have as good a life as possible since they don’t last forever.
However, this last article, which I read before once again losing interest in philosophies and religions; reverting to the more logical world of computer repairs and having finished the worst of grieving Heppie’s loss; does leave a door open for possibilities that can’t be proven in the traditional scientific method.
http://www.noetic.org/publications/review/issue61/r61_Grossman.html is a fairly long document that aims to impart that NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are verifiably real due to cases where patients have been able to report things that have happened, even in other rooms, while they’re dead – but whose evidence does not fit well with scientific methods and is therefore readily dismissed.
He does use some fancy scrabble language – such as the word Qua, which means ‘acting in the capacity of’ or something like that. Oh, and as stated, I haven’t done due diligence on this one – it’s the point I got to before freeing one of my registers from processing this sort of stuff, and getting back to work!
So, happy living, whatever you believe!