Washing machine or death!

The road is opened! In the background my nearest neighbors. Did you know that here in Norway, the traditional unit for measuring the distance between neighbors is in stone throws?

Two updates in one day! It is a breach of tradition, and that on a Sunday. But what can I say, since it is slice of life and it happened today.

We brought the last van-full of stuff from the Fortress of Solitude to Riverview. I cannot find a couple small things from the kitchen, and there is a small bag that should have been in the garbage, but overall the move has been a rousing success.

The big thing today was the washing machine. Well, the commode was about the same volume but not nearly as heavy. The weight of the thing was horrifying. Why don’t they come with wheels, or at the very least handles? Are they all delivered by Superman? I feared for my life and that of my companion, truth be told. And indeed, when I dragged the thing into the new house, I felt a sudden headache (on the right side, near the temple); but it has faded and I am still alive some hours later, so I guess I did not burst any blood vessels. Still, this is far outside my normal range of intense activity. I am more of a slow-moving person. (I started to write slow-mowing, which is also true.)

The washing machine is now in place, but some small piece is lost so it leaks a bit at the water intake. I will have to get that part replaced, or perhaps the whole tube. But at least not the whole machine. If I have any say in it, I won’t touch it again for the next five years, and even then I better think of something if I’m still around. Right now I’m just glad I am still around NOW.

And it could have been worse. Yesterday and today we had to carry everything from the car to the house, or at worst drag it on a broad, flat two handed snow shovel (the English name of these implements is still unknown to me). But, eerily prescient, my friend wanted to carry in all the other stuff before the washing machine. I would have taken it first while we still had more energy, such as it was. But luckily I said nothing. When we had carried in the last of the smaller things, a guy on tractor came. He said my landlord had asked him to clear the road to the house. So we waited while he cleared the road, then drove the car nearly to the door, and took the washing machine from there, quite possibly saving my life. (We shall have to see whether it worked over the next days.)

So, better late than never. I now have a clear road and nowhere to go. Well, I could take a walk. But the north wind has picked up and the cold is pretty bad. Just keeping the house warm enough to not need outerwear is enough for now. Outside in the wind… no thanks, not today.

Tomorrow begins my new life, if any. Bet the bus drivers will be surprised to see me wait at 8 in the morning instead of 20:25 in the night. But the bus back should be the same. Well, in the long run. Tomorrow I intend to go back to the Fortress and wash down the first time. I may do this once or twice more, before sending in a professional cleaning firm to finish it. Or that’s the plan. But I am never going “home” again.

This sea of crates and bags is my home now. The bed I am a little afraid of sleeping in is my home now. The bedroom without wardrobe cabinets is my home now. The steep stairs whenever I go to the bedroom or the storage room is my home now. The thin gap between the wall and the floor that I had to put a rag in to stop the wind blowing in on my feet is my home now. … It really feels like home. Except there are not bookshelves all over the walls filled with books. I guess you can’t win them all!

One funny side effect of the two days of moving is that I was ravenously hungry both evenings. Hard work and little time to eat earlier in the day seems to have made my stomach bigger… My body seems to have forgotten that I have 20 pounds of non-essential fat, enough to tide me through weeks of under-eating. Oh well. Food tastes good. I should eat it while I am alive, as long as it does not stop me from continuing to be alive.  And at least in the short run, I think washing machines are more dangerous.

Not a good night’s sleep

My bed seems so lonely without me…

I went to bed a little after midnight, fairly early for me but then I was tired. About two hours later I woke up from not being able to breathe freely. My nose was stuffy and my chest was tight, although I could hear no wheezing like during an asthma attack. (Even those have been mild in recent year, but my childhood memories of waking up unable to breathe will probably never leave in this life.)

I was afraid something like this would happen. I won’t say that is why it happened, although it could play a role. I may have been extra sensitive. After all, I had a bad chest cough during one of my earliest visits here, when I had spent a lot of time in the home office which at that time was still bedroom. The bed stood there then, and there was lots of dust on the floor. Either of these, or something entirely different, could have been the cause. I had vacuumed the bed earlier in the day to get rid of wood dust that might cling to it, but still.

I am not at all sure it is an allergy. Yes, swollen nose and tight chest, but no running eyes and nose as I usually have with allergies. Each time I visit the farm where I grew up, I am sure to experience those. Furthermore, I had a day of sinusitis this past week, and today I coughed up several bits of green goo after having worked hard, probably from the same bacterial infection, only having found its way to the bronchia. So that is just as likely a reason.

In any case, I put the air cleaner in the room. It should filter out any dust that may be dancing around. It also supposedly spews out negative ions, although I consider that little more than pseudoscience. The heat pump also has this, by the way, except it only activates when dust is detected.

After a bit over two hours (mostly spent playing The Sims 3, but also putting away a few things) I felt pretty much OK, so I went to bed again. Slept for 4 more hours, for a total of about 6, which is normally OK. But I feel more sore and tired than when I went to bed. But I am alive! This should also be proof that my bedroom is not a death trap after all. ^_^ Although I am told that a very large number of those who die do so in bed, so take care…

I am home in Riverview!

This is the kitchen. The living room is far worse.  You may think this yet another Chaos Node, but I have a new name for it:  Riverview.

Also known as the Mothhouse, although obviously there are several houses at Møll. But mine seems to be widely known as “the red house by the river”, and so I am thinking of changing the name to Riverview.  There are of course layers and layers of  meaning to this.

Most obviously,  “Riverview” is the name of the second neighborhood in Sims 3. It does not come with the game but is a free download, and was the only other neighborhood (after the included Sunset Valley) until the first expansion pack came out and the neighborhood creator tool was released.  It is also my favorite.  My SimSelf has lived there since his teens.  It is also where I play my current Sims 3 game, the Doomed Adoptacy. But you would probably be reading my Sims Livejournal if that was what you were interested in.

The other part of the name Riverview is that in Nynorsk (New Norwegian) it can be directly translated as Ã…syn.  Å is an old name for river, although mostly replaced by the newer word “elv” now.  “Syn” is a direct translation of view.   However, the word Ã¥syn actually already is in use: It is a poetic, mostly religious, word for face.  I believe you would normally use “countenance” in its place.  “Let Thy countenance shine upon Thy servant.”

Anyway, I am here! No, seriously!  Not to hang up curtains and see if the water pipes are frozen.  Not as a guest. I am home. Finally, I am home.  In a house without other people and without other people’s stuff.  On the other hand, lots of my stuff. Too much of my stuff.  And I have not even moved everything.  The washing machine was left, because it was too late in the day, and the bedroom commode, and some of the food I think, and lots of power cables, and my stack of Magnus Robot Fighter comics.  Even so, there is an insane amount of  stuff.  A sea of it.  But there was that last time too.  Most of it got stowed away eventually.  The rest of it stood in its bags or crates until I took it here.  This time it’s for real.  Each book that does not bear good fruit will be cut down. Yeah, verily.  Probably.

Who will I be while I am here?  I do not know for sure, but I noticed that as soon as I was alone, I started recalling more and more of an old hymn from Smith’s Friends, one I had forgotten for years.  Of course, this could likely be because it was an old friend from that church who helped me drive and also did the heaviest lifting.  He helped me last time too, when I botched the move and had to suddenly get a lot of moving done in a very short time.  Hopefully it will be a long time till next time.  And hopefully there will be a lot less stuff. I intend to see to that.

We did throw away three big black garbage bags with stuff, including many computer games that I had saved last time but not opened, not even looked at, in the meantime.   And there are still a bag or two of games that could have gone the same way.  Some of the games that are gone were my favorites in the past, but if I have not touched them in 4 years, chances are I won’t play them for the next five years either.

Even without those games and various other garbage that had not been visible until I moved, there still was a lot. A lot.  I am quite tired and worn, even with my friend doing the heavier part of the lifting.  I don’t plan to unpack it all tonight, or even this weekend.  Many (most?) of the books and comics I intend to move directly from their crates to carrying bags to take them to the used-book shop in the city.  It is strange, I did not feel that I was able to part with them, now I don’t feel they have a place in my life anymore.  I should read books of the Truth. I should let the true Light shine into my life, so I can spread happiness in every direction.

First to my sims in Riverview…

I shouldn’t be here

Here, in this case, is Riverview (the Mothhouse).  I should have been in my old home packing.  My friend said he would come around half past nine in the morning, and the place still looks like I live in it:  Books in the bookshelves, clothes on the floor (OK, only a few clothes, and then in the bedroom), computers still running, other computers standing opened after I tried but failed to repair them.  A couple of the oldest computers probably ought to be recycled, truth to tell. I may be able to format them still.  If I have not used them since last I moved (4 years almost to the day) then I probably won’t use them ever again.

A little old lady on the bus said words of wisdom today, although not to me. I overheard it because she spoke to the woman across the  aisle. Said the little old lady:  “If you don’t have time now, you’ll never have time.”

I still plan to fix the two big black computers Someday.  Someday is the eight day of the week, right?  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Someday. They both just need a new power supply, preferably one with higher capacity so it does not melt like the previous did.  I am planning to order that after I move, because I want the delivery address to match the address on my credit card, and I can’t change the address on my card until I move. So Someday after I move I plan to order the parts that I can use to repair the computers another Someday.  But this first Someday I’ll need to unpack and get things in place after the move on Saturday.  Actually, the packing gets a bit easier because some of the stuff is already packed – last time I moved.  I intended to unpack it Someday.

Anyway, I went here instead because I wanted to broaden the shoveled path through the snow.  It should be broad enough now for almost everything, but I am still not sure about the fridge and washing machine.  I broadened it a good deal last I was here, but I got tired, so I decided to do it next Someday.  I changed my mind to today, but in the unexpected howling wind I did not get done as much as I had hoped before I had to seek refuge indoors. Don’t want to be sick for moving day!

Also, I bought two smoke alarms and a second thermometer.  The thermometer is in the bedroom now. It shows -5.9 degrees Celsius, where zero is the freezing point, as you may remember.  The temperature outside is supposed to be 6 degrees. Honestly, it does not feel quite that cold in the bedroom, more like fridge temperature.  Still, it is a pretty good bet that I’ll put a space heater there before using it for the first time. Presumably tomorrow, rather than Someday.

Thank you, Great Sky Fairy!

The title is ironic. An online acquaintance of mine over many years, who could have been a friend if he wanted, has a rabid reaction against religion in general and Christianity in particular. If he is not foaming at the mouth in real life, it can sometimes be hard to guess. Among the peculiarities that follow from this is fairly consistently referring to God as “sky fairy”, and gods and angels etc in general as “sky fairies”. (I rather prefer “invisible friend”, which also seems to be acceptable to this guy. But the default is Sky Fairy.)

The phrase came to mind because today arrived with mild rain, after varying degrees of freezing temperatures since around the end of the Copenhagen Summit. The rain was very moderate, merely a taste of the real thing, and ended soon. But temperatures stayed high (about 7 degrees Celsius, where zero is the freezing point of water) throughout the day. Only after sunset did the mild weather fade. It is currently around the freezing point again and headed a bit further, about -4C the next few days according to the meteorologists. But during this brief flash of mild weather, the water pipes all thawed up at the Mothhouse (or Riverview, as I consider renaming it). The shower is already leaking a little, so I don’t need to do anything about that. I’m setting the bathroom faucet to a rapid drip, that should hopefully be enough. So, I should be able to move in this weekend anyway without fear of 3 months without a shower. Great, Sky Fairy! ^_^

In less exciting news, my snowblower plan failed. Jernia has a wide range of snowblowers on their web site, so I set off for their shop in the city (the largest city on Norway’s south coast – actually the only city that is more than a town, really) and saw a snowblower as soon as I came in the door. It was big, and heavy, and somewhat more expensive than I had in mind. But at least I was come to the right place, yes? Not quite. This was the only model they had. There may be a reason for that, I don’t know. But given that I was only going to need this thing once, there are limits to how much I will invest in buying it (not to mention getting it home). Once I am moved in, the aluminum spade is quite good enough, since I don’t have a car. The only need for a car to come here is during the move. I guess we shall just have to carry stuff from the road. I made a path yesterday, and made it broader today. If I am lucky, I may get another day or two to further expand it, but it should be broad enough to carry pretty much anything. And it is not like I have a lot of huge objects. The obvious exceptions being the fridge and the washing machine. I really wish it were possible to drive those to the door, but it just isn’t.

Well, it is closing time again. I am really looking forward to moving here now. Let us hope it works out well.

Frozen water in the heat

I am at the Mothhouse again! That means another slice of life, and especially of cold.  Amazingly, we have had a week of just below freezing point temperature. That feels like coming from the freezer to the fridge. Or in other words, like Norwegian spring.  But it was not to last: Last night it fell to -15 C again. (That’s 5 Fahrenheit, for those whose temperature measurement is not in any way connected to the freezing and boiling of water.)  It is already milder again though, and the meteorologists predict that it will actually rain tomorrow.  I believe that when I see it, honestly.  But perhaps that would thaw out the water pipes?

Yes, they have managed to freeze again. When I came here today and opened the main water intake, only the kitchen and the WC had water. The shower and the bathroom faucet each has neither hot nor cold water.  I suppose I actually really should have kept it running, as insane as that sounds to a modern human.  I mean, hello, even in Norway I believe water costs money.  Hot water certainly costs money, and even the hot water pipes seem to have frozen when not in use.  People, it is ordinary room temperature both in the washroom and bathroom.  You could sit there and read a book in your ordinary indoors clothes.  Despite this, the water has frozen after 1 night of deep freeze.  Seriously, I can only conjecture that the pipes have never been insulated, just buried in the ground, and whoever lived here before just let the water run whenever the temperature looked to dip beyond zero.

I grew up in a house that was over 100 years old even then, 50 years ago.  There was no need to do crazy things there to keep the water from freezing, even though it was colder in the washroom there than here.  Someone here has done something stupid, and I seem slated to pay for it.  But as long as the pipes don’t actually break, I’ll just go ahead.  I called my friend with the big car and asked if he could help me move this weekend.

The road is still not plowed.  There has been snow and wind in the meantime, so the narrow track I had made through the snow with the spade was mostly lost.  Near the house it was at least visible.  So I have started on it again, but I can’t see myself clearing a road big enough for a large car to get to the house.  I will probably have to buy a snowblower.  Argh. This is not going to contribute lifetime happiness points, I fear.  The whole idea about hiring someone with a snowplow is that they actually use it to keep the road open.  Unfortunately, they cannot even know where the road was, given that it is now just a sea of white snow, so I can see why they would hesitate.  It is normal to mark roads with small bamboo staves before the first snowfall, but nobody lived here back then so it never happened.  I can only hope that if I manage to recover the road, I can mark it from now on.  But if I invest in a snowblower, do I actually want to pay someone to (perhaps) plow it too?

Farm living is not quite the paradise city people may believe.  Of course, if it were a real farm I’d use the tractor.  But it is just a farmhouse by the river, surrounded by pretty farmland that is not mine.  So no tractor. I love tractors, but I think I shall limit myself to a snowblower for now!

Unless the good Lord actually sends some mild weather after all.  But that might be a bit much to hope for, after the world leaders took responsibility for the climate at the Copenhagen summit.  And I don’t see any of them sending any mild winds anytime soon, literally or otherwise.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong:  I love this house, even if it is old and ugly and not practical.  It feels very homey. And I don’t feel like a guest here.  There is no one else in the house and it is not full of other people’s stuff.  So I really want to move in here this coming weekend. But I really want to be able to shower again before summer, too…

Sleep! Or not.

When I was little, I once dreamed that everyone else was eating cake and I didn’t get any of it.  I was grumpy for hours after I woke up.  As an adult, you can probably have all the cake you want, but perhaps you no longer can have all the sleep you want.  And grumpiness is the least of the consequences.

Sleep disorders are not just a “nightmare” for those who suffer from them. They also cost society much in lost workdays.  And not only those days when you are too tired to work, having tossed and turned all night and finally falling asleep when you were about to go to work. I have been there and you have my sympathy, but unfortunately your boss may be less sympathetic. It is common to come up with some more dignified excuse, which already distorts the numbers. And yet even this is only the top of the iceberg.

Lack of sleep, especially deep sleep, opens the body to a host of adverse effects further down the road.  Slow-wave sleep strengthens the immune system and helps rebuild muscles.  So a great number of sick days could have been avoided if you met the environment with a well-rested body.  And yet even this may not be the worst part.  Most of us don’t get sick every day or even every week, so a few days off is just part of what life throws our way.  But an increasing number of people are unable to keep a full job at all, or even a job at all, even though they want to.  And the truth is that mental problems is by far the fastest growing category here. Today’s information age has no room for those who barely can keep their mind together on an ordinary day, much less fill it with complex models of abstract information. Without sufficient sleep (and of sufficient quality) it is hard to remain alert and clearheaded enough for the workplace of tomorrow.

Indeed, sleep disturbances are among the first signs of major mental illnesses.  But they may be more than mere symptoms:  There are studies where healthy volunteers have been kept from dreaming for several days.  They reacted with loss of concentration, then changes in behavior  and attitude, and eventually hallucinations.  In these otherwise healthy people, a good night’s sleep restored their mental health.  But not all people get a good night’s sleep.

But knowing all this will probably cause you to worry even more, and so sleep even less!  Have I come to torment you before the time?  Hardly!  There are some good news, except they are not really new at all. On the contrary, some of them are approximately as old as civilization. Although some progress has also been made in recent years. Perk up your ears, you can sleep later!

“Meditation is not medication.”  This simple fact seems lost on some of those who arrive at places like the Project Meditation Forum. It is common these days to want a quick fix, and seek it out only when things don’t work anymore the old way.  Unfortunately, this is likely to cause disappointment and more frustration.  The effect of meditation is far more subtle, but it is still a solution in the long run.

A number of people find that their sleep becomes healthier after they have taken up the practice of meditation.  Stilling the waves of the mind, the carousel of thoughts and feelings no longer whirl through their heads when that head hits the pillow.  More prosaically, those whirling thoughts will show up when you try to meditate as well.  You will learn to watch them with detachment rather than hate them, fear them or repress them.  You will find that in the eye of the storm there is a calm center, and although it may take time to get settled there, you will find it gradually easier as time passes.  Unfortunately, by “time passes” we are talking months and years rather than this weekend.  Still, if you don’t have some terminal disease now, you will probably want next year to have done the right thing this year!  It is not like you do this for a stranger, but for your future self.

There are ways to speed up the process of meditation, or rather parts of it, with modern technology.  But first let us have a look at traditional meditation and how it interacts with sleep.

As I mentioned, many people will sleep better as soon as the turmoil inside starts to calm down.  But even if your sleep disturbances are physical and incurable, all is not lost!  People who meditate need less sleep too. In the beginning they may be able to get up half an hour earlier and meditate for half an hour, which seems a pretty tame exchange. But gurus and sages who have meditated for decades, can go with extremely little sleep and suffer no ill effects.  This does not happen overnight either:  The longer you keep at it, the greater the benefit.  There are very good reasons for this.

During sleep we use a different set of brainwaves from those we use when awake.  In everyday life, we mostly use beta waves, which are small and irregular but well suited for the constantly shifting attention of everyday life.  When we calm down and relax, we shift to alpha waves, which are slower but more regular.  On the road to falling asleep, these waves replace the beta waves, and eventually get mixed with the even slower theta waves. These take up by far most of our sleep time, especially as we grow older.  In the beginning of the night we also spend some time in delta (or slow-wave) sleep, which has even far larger and slower brain waves.  It is during this sleep phase that the body releases human growth hormone.  In adults this hormone mostly just repairs the body you already have (although nose, ears and sometimes hands and feet very slowly continue to grow even in adult life. It is worth it though.)  During the last part of the night, we instead spend more and more time in REM sleep, with intense dreams. The brainwaves here are much like in waking life. This sleep phase is essential to the mind but somewhat exhausting to the body.

As  we grow older, the pattern changes.  Deep, dreamless sleep is the first to fade. In many elderly several night can pass without any slow-wave sleep whatsoever. This is not only bad news for the immune system and muscles, but also seems to have a negative impact on learning.  Theta sleep expands to take the place of delta, but also dreamsleep suffers: In many cases, when the beta waves begin, instead of dreaming the elderly will simply wake up. They are not at all finished with their sleep for the night, but what are they to do?  The body reacts to REM (dreamsleep) by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.  If you wake up at this time, chances are that you don’t feel much like going back to sleep for a while, even if you are tired.

When you learn to meditate, at first you will spend the time in alpha waves.  That is actually a best-case scenario, because beginners are interrupted by beta a lot.  But time helps with this. Being able to enter alpha waves at will, you can fall asleep more easily.  But of course meditation time is not meant to be spent sleeping.  Rather, meditation causes an expansion of awareness.  With years of practice, you will be able to reach theta waves when you meditate. These deeper, slower waves are normally only active during sleep, but the guru or sage or advanced monk can enter them at will.

Now we remember that theta waves is where we spend most of our sleep, and particularly as adults and beyond.  So having spent hours in this state while conscious, there is no reason why these people should do it all over again while asleep.  Meditation itself is a rather pleasurable activity (although not at all exciting) so it is only natural that for those skilled enough, meditation gradually eats up sleep time.  Although there will always be some left. Probably. But we’re talking a couple hours here for old gurus.   That should make up for pretty much any sleep problems you may have.

Unfortunately, you are probably not a guru.  Well, there are some of them out there, but they probably don’t read this.  So what about the rest?  Well, we could get started with meditation without waiting overlong.  Also, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we could speed up reaching the deeper brainwaves. This is easily done through brainwave entrainment, which I have written about occasionally in the past. Like last week.

You can buy elaborate soundtracks with lots of explanation and support.  I’m a bit of a fan of LifeFlow, from Project Meditation.  This system is meant to work with meditation, and gradually introduces deeper and slower brain waves over a period of 10 months. That’s a lot of time (and some money) but it still beats decades.

I have also used Holosync, from Centerpointe Research Institute.  To be honest, I think they have researched marketing more than brainwave entrainment for the last pretty many years, but they do have a tried and true formula which thousands of people have been willing to pay a substantial amount to continue using for several years.  So it may be worth looking into. In any case, they have a free sample CD.  It is mostly sales pitch, but there is about 10 minutes of pretty good delta entrainment in the middle (at the end of the first track).  That may not sound like much, especially when it takes a few minutes to get the brain entrained (especially the first times).  But remember that there are elderly people who go several nights in a row without delta at all.  So it may be worth the time. Not to mention the price, since it is a free demo.

Or you could download free software and make your own. Some research required. Gnaural is available for several platforms, including Windows and Linux. Certified geeky.

Anyway, to sum it up:  Meditation can replace sleep to a great extent and is generally a pleasant activity (or rather passivity) once you get the hang of it.  If there is just no way you can sleep without eating toxic stuff, you may give it a try.  It will take time, but you are just tossing and turning anyway, so why not use that time?  Works for me.

Millionaire of the mind

Some people are easily fired up, but does that fire cause them to truly change, or just to glow for a while before they return to their previous state?  (Picture from the family-friendly anime “Kimi ni Todoke”.)

Earlier this week, I finished reading through Ryuho Okawa’s book, The Philosophy of Progress. After this, according to the back of the book, I will be a “millionaire in the world of the mind”.

That may not sound like much.  One image that comes to mind is the little old ladies who line up at the lottery counter in the supermarket.  Lotteries are surprisingly popular, considering how small the chances are of winning more than you lose. But I believe these people don’t take part in lotteries because they earnestly believe it is a way to get rich. Rather, it provides them with a sense of excitement. You risk something in the hope of gaining something of far greater value.  Well, I hardly have any need for that, when you realize that I am risking my very soul while I hope for spiritual immortality and enlightenment.

But the world of the mind, as Okawa sees it, is hardly a vague and hazy daydream.  It is the Real World, of which our 3-dimensional world is only a small part. Nor is it a private place.  Billions of spirits are active, far outnumbering the people on Earth, and some of them are watching over us at any time.  (Well, I suppose there may be times when modesty would cause them to look another way, but maybe not. If a spirit is sufficiently high, it is not disturbed by any event of earthly life. Or that’s what the presence in my head seems to tell me. I am not quoting Okawa on this, although the voices in his head and mine seem to agree on a lot of things.)

You will remember that shortly before I heard of Okawa or his organization “Happy Science”, I would eagerly tell you about how this physical world was just one of many world-layers, some of which were higher and some lower.  The lower worlds will be familiar to all who have daydreamed, to take an extreme example.  Such a world is private, easily malleable, and very temporary. In contrast, higher worlds are more permanent than everyday life, but also harder to change. You can vote to change a Democratic senate seat to a Republican, but you cannot vote to change the value of Ï€ or the speed of light. In the same way, you cannot change moral laws even with a filibuster-proof majority. Even though they are “all in the mind”.  Even if you cannot reach the higher worlds with an elevator or even a rocketship, they are in a sense more real than the physical world which they govern.  To learn the laws of nature and adapt to them (rather than trying to change them) is how science has made such great progress in the last few lifetimes.  Now it is time for the Science of Happiness to do the same.

I say this again, you may think that a world we can touch with our fingers must be more real than one we can visit only with our mind.  But this is not always so. It is certainly USUALLY so, because usually we visit worlds of daydream, either private or collective. But there are worlds that are prior to the physical world and rule over it, such as the laws of physics and mathematics.  These laws can not be invented, merely discovered.  In the same way, religion (properly understood) is a science of discovery.  This is why I can read a book centered in Buddhism and find useful commentary on important topics in my life as a Christian.  If religions were simply daydreams of their founders, any overlap between them would be random.  But as it is, the overlap increases the deeper you go into them.

That is not to say that there are not substantial differences of opinion between the Christ and the Buddha.  In one of his other books, Okawa narrows this down to a principal disagreement: The Buddha is far more optimistic about the strength in humans, while the Christ is focused on their weakness.  Okawa, who believes that he and the historical Buddha each come from the same spirit (of which each of them constitute about 20%), obviously sides with the more optimistic view.  He says essentially, I am not going to help you. I am going to tell you how to help yourself.

(Let me add that Jesus would likely agree about the disagreement. After his famous parable about the lost sheep, he says that there is more joy among the angels in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous who don’t need repentance.  That is a weird statement, because who are those 99 who don’t need to repent?  Have you ever met any of them?  I have my thoughts about this, but they are not yet mature enough to serve.  In any case, it is with St Paul we really get the doctrine that every human being is a totally, utterly, abominable stinking carcass of irreparable evil.  Paul gathers a selection of the harshest descriptions the Old Testament comes up with for God’s enemies, and declares this to be a full and fair description of every one of us.  I can understand Paul too, because compared to the beauty and majesty and purity of the divine, even glimpsed trough a glass darkly from a great distance, our natural condition certainly seems more like a badly wounded criminal on the run than a millionaire in the world of the mind.)

In any case, I did read the book. Now to read it again. And again, presumably.  It is rare indeed to see a publisher recommend that you read a book several times.  Normally they would want you to buy the next book; after all, that is where their money lies.  So they must have a lot of respect for Okawa to include his recommendation in their blurb.  But they do: “By repeatedly reading this book you will experience this extraordinary feeling that your soul is making great progress.”

Of course, feeling that you are making progress is subtly different from actually making progress, and I will try to bear this in mind.  After all, millions of Americans felt that they were making progress when they elected a progressive President a bit over a year ago. Many of them don’t feel that anymore.  Which of their feelings is the right one?

I believe that human minds are not easily transformed in substance. But they can more easily undergo a phase transition, like when a solid melts into a liquid and perhaps even boils and evaporates.  But when the energy from outside is removed, they condense and congeal again, to solidify in a form that may be somewhat different from before, but similar as it is of the same substance.

If I become a millionaire in knowledge but does not invest that fortune in a small grain of precious selfless love, then I am fooling myself. I am pretty good at that.

Why sex is love

If even a flower or tree were to think, “there is no meaning to this body, no purpose”, then they would be sorely mistaken. All higher life is built from selfless love.

OK, this is not quite the angle you would expect from the title, unless you know me. But I’m quite serious. Sex is love, even though most creatures don’t know it. Luckily we are here, so we can understand on behalf of all creation.

You hear a lot about “the selfish gene” these days, but that is an exaggeration, to put it mildly. More like a delusions. Let us zoom back a billion years or so.

Originally all life on Earth was haploid. That is to say, the living cells had only one copy of each gene. If that copy was bad, the cell was in trouble. If it was really good, the cell would use it for all it was worth to get ahead in life and divide and conquer the seas. (Life was mostly in the water at the time, of course.) Actually there are lots and lots of single-celled organisms today who are haploid and very successful in what they are doing. But some of them also hook up briefly and exchange some genes. Let us not dwell too long on that. These are all primitive organisms, after all.

At some point we got complex cells, however. All large plants and all animals are like this, and a number of big single-celled organisms as well. They have a distinct nucleus where they keep their genes. And they don’t randomly hook up with any passing bacterium. And they have two sets of genes, one from mom and one from dad.

Hey, not so quick! There are haploid eukaryotes out there, you know. Well, actually you should not need to know that if you are a normal person doing a normal job. But you may be familiar with yeast, fungus and perhaps even algae. Some of these critters can go around with just a single set of genes for the longest time. And then under certain circumstances they make spores that meet and greet and hook up and become diploid (having two sets of genes) for a while. Evidently this was considered a rousing success by someone (commonly referred to just as “Evolution”), because by the time we come to snails and weeds and upward, everyone is diploid. Well, not male bees, but they are kind of an exception, and they have only one purpose in life. (Amazingly, human males are diploid.)

Now if you were a selfish gene, there is no way you would share your place in the genome with a stranger. Sure, it might be good for the organism in the long run to have a reserve, or for some remote descendant. But for you as a gene, it would be a bad idea. It means half the offspring would not get a copy of you at all. If only one offspring survived, then there would be a 50% chance that you were not there, and would die with your current body. What kind of gene is willing to work hard even knowing that its neighbor may be the one to survive and not itself? Not a selfish gene, that is for sure. A loving gene, we should call it.

Let us take that again. The average frog / grass / human gene loves its neighbor like itself.

This tolerance for another, competing gene would be one thing if the organism reproduced by just making a small copy of itself. There are indeed some creatures who do this. Mostly plants, but some insects and a lizard or two. But for the most part, plants and animals both gladly accept a deal where the next generation has only half its genes from them, and half from someone else. You’d think they would at least pick a close relative (and I guess that happens too) but most go out of their way to find a stranger. You may even be one of those. But from the point of view of the gene, this is the ultimate sacrifice. Half of your genes give up their life so that the other half may live on.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” -Jesus Christ.

So basically humans are almost completely packed with Christ genes (metaphorically speaking), as are our furry and feathered and leafy friends. Love abounds in nature; it is the driving force in the evolution of all higher lifeforms. We are made of this stuff nearly from the molecular level.

Oh my gash!

I have been slashed, and not in a sexy way.  Rather, something sharp has slashed diagonally up the front of my calf (the leg, not the animal) leaving this black and red furrow.  The really strange thing is that this part is usually covered by the trouser leg, but there is no gash in the trousers, only in my skin.

I am not sure when it happened, but my guess would be sometime yesterday.  It did not hurt at the time, obviously, or I would have looked.  It still doesn’t hurt, not in the least. I can see it but I can’t feel it.  Perhaps the nerve cells in that area are dead from some other reason, or perhaps it somehow evaded them all.  The cut seems to be quite shallow.  There is no sign of serious inflammation around it – the area may be marginally redder, I am not sure.  I had almost felt better if my immune system had taken this a bit more seriously…

Then again, perhaps my immune system would feel better if I took this a bit more seriously, too.  Because I am not really planning to do anything about it. I would if I had discovered it at once, but now at least a day has passed.  With papercuts and similar I have found that if I just squeeze out a drop of blood and keep them dry for a day or two, they will heal completely; but if I wash them, they will hurt and get inflamed and take a week to grow.  I am not sure it is the same here, given that this is much larger, but it does look like it’s scabbed already, so it is probably a bit late to mess with it.

In hopefully unrelated news, I got sick at work today.  Not sick and bored with work, which is surely rampant in this world, but feeling unwell and having a number of gastrointestinal symptoms as well as shivering and extreme sleepiness.  It reminds me a bit of the fat poisonings I have described in the past, although not quite.  It started with a sudden sleepiness, which was a bit of a surprise since I had a good, deep meditation this morning as soon as I woke up.  At this time it was almost lunch break, and I napped a bit in my chair.  Waking up, the rest of the symptoms progressed, until I was shivering with cold and put on my outdoors winter clothes. After this I once again grew unbearably sleepy and napped, waking up feeling pretty good.  Strange episode.

I don’t think I have eaten all that much fat the last couple days.  I did eat something new last night though, a cheaper brand of noodles imported from Thailand by one of our low-price chains.  I really doubt they would make me sick though.  I’m not having any of them tonight even so.  There is only about 10 grams of fat in one package of noodles, but it is palm fat, the unhealthiest  fat you can get except for trans fat.  Usually noodle makers write these as “plant fat”, which makes the casual customer think it must be super healthy like olive oil.  In fact, however, palm fat is worse than animal fats for your arteries.  Buyer beware!

In other news, I broke the bathroom faucet here in Nodeland.  Now the water keeps running until I turn off the main water intake.  In the Mothhouse, the mixing unit for hot and cold water in the shower is broken.  The shower still works, but it is leaking cold water, not gushing but quite a bit more than dripping.  So now I am renting two houses with their water turned off.  That is quite an accomplishment, but not an impossible one for someone who has lived for more than 50 year!  Many strange things can happen in so long a time, don’t you think?  May there be many more years, and I will seek to faithfully entertain you with the strange things as long as I can.