Reflection on my 2010

Actually, for me the year did not just fly by. Which makes it even more embarrassing that I did not achieve anything worth mentioning, and that I am still pretty much the same person I was a year ago.

2010 was a likable year for me personally. I was not sick much, I loved my job, and no close relatives died. Overall, the year deserves praise for doing a good job, don’t you think?

On the other hand, I did not change much in 2010. That is my own fault, surely. It was not like I did not have opportunities. But compared to 2009, I pretty much stood still, or so it feels.

2009 was a year when I changed quite a bit, for an adult. In late winter I started using brainwave entrainment, and used it regularly through the year. (I don’t use it that regularly anymore, though I still use it sporadically.)

In spring I discovered Happy Science and through the summer began reading the books I could find in English. This triggered a (long overdue) realization that my job was love, and my attitude to it changed completely. (Although I am still not good at it. I guess you have to reap what you sow for a while.)

2009 was also when I started to build a library of timeless wisdom, or esoteric knowledge. Well, I guess I was moving in that direction already from a year or two before, but in 2009 I consciously started seeking out transformative literature. That is to say, the type of books that change you.  I have continued down that part in 2010, but I have not changed as much as I hoped. Words of wisdom are hard, so I tend to evade them more than I expected.

Looking back at 2010, I can’t say that much happened at all. I went to work, came home, played Sims 2 or 3 or City of Heroes, biked a little, ate noodles, watched anime, wrote some fact or fiction, and went to bed. It is a good life if you like work,  games, anime and noodles, which I do. But I had thought I would work more on my soul and less on my hobbies, compared to what I actually did. It is not like I was completely absorbed in these things, but looking back, I believe my priorities were off.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time. But that is when it is hard to change, is it not? If I don’t take the opportunity to change voluntarily, I may have to be exposed to some kind of crushing defeat in order to realize that I need to change. Some great loss or something.  It would be better to not have to undergo that, but realize when all goes well that this is my time of opportunity.

I have an extremely pious friend who visits me a few times a year. Last time, in late fall, he commented on how much happier or brighter I seemed lately. And that is probably true. I really feel like my life has gotten brighter. But now I need to sow the seeds for a much brighter future, and more importantly, eternity.

Euhemerus science

Having seen how awesome King Hermes was, the Greek soldiers decided that he must be a god! Picture from the Japanese animated movie “The Golden Laws”, based on a book by Ryuho Okawa.

There is a theme to my last few posts, and I want to press that point a little more. But to do that, I have to introduce someone with a difficult name: Euhemerus, an ancient Greek. His name means “Happy” or “Prosperous” (or something like that), so there is a pun in today’s headline. Anyway, his name may be difficult to you, but not to the people in the Macedonian court, where he was working.

Macedonia, back then, was where Alexander the Great came from. Alexander inherited a pretty good army from his father, but still, he really did earn that name. He built one of the world’s largest empires over the course of a few years. He died young, and his empire fell apart, but it was still an amazing feat, and it also made communication possible between cultures that had until then been mostly apart.

Old “Happy” lived a generation or so later, so had a most compelling case for the theory that made him famous: That the gods of old were actually men (and women) who had accomplished such great works that people thought they were gods.

We shall bear in mind that Greek polytheism was probably a lot more like Japan’s Shinto religion (which I mentioned in passing yesterday) than Religion in the west today. The border between men and gods was already kind of porous, with heroes and ancient kings being seen as offspring of visiting gods, mainly Zeus. Many of these were considered historical persons, though some are no longer thought to be. In any case, if some of Zeus’ sons were men of great fame, why not the rest of him, and Zeus and his brothers and sisters too?

So was born the theory called “euhemerism”, which claims that gods were once men who got excessive respect, usually after their death. This theory is also found in one of the Jewish apocrypha, still included in some Bibles today. It was also embraced by early Christian thinkers, although after the completion of the New Testament. The phrase “Those who you worship were once men like you” resounded through Christian history, apparently without the slightest irony.

Yes, until recently it could be argued that Jesus Christ was the best documented example of a man being later worshiped as a god, or even as God. While worship of emperors was common in Rome, China and Japan (at the very least), this was a formal, ritual, even political act. It is doubtful that many embraced these men as their personal savior. But Jesus Christ was another matter entirely. Despite his life and death being accepted as historical fact (except for a while during the 19th century), he is mostly famous for his divinity.

Of course, the big difference is that Jesus really was Divine, but some misguided people still can’t seem to understand this…

More locally, the Norse gods were explained as great kings of old by Snorri Sturlason in the early 1200s, and I read his explanation repeatedly when I was a boy. I had no idea until this year that this was called euhemerism, though.

An unexpected twist to this topic comes from the prolific Japanese writer Ryuho Okawa. He claims that the ancient gods of Greece (and Japan, presumably many others as well) were in fact historical characters. He even made an anime about one of them, Hermes, and this movie is still possible to buy on DVD. It was a big hit in Japan, but flopped completely in the USA. “Flew like a turkey” I believe is the local expression.

Okawa’s view is a bit less rationalistic than classical euhemerism. He sees the ancient gods as historical men and women, yes, but they were filled with a spirit from Heaven. They were men and women with a mission from God, and this is why they were venerated after their passing. So he is not entirely dissing their divinity, but they were still mortals. In the tradition of Shinto, he refuses to see gods and mortals as fundamentally different. They are all aspects of the Divine.

Okawa ought to know, if anyone does. Because he is already being worshiped as a god by hundreds of thousands of Japanese, and there are numerous temples dedicated to him. That is one of the things that makes him so interesting: He is a living case of euhemerism in action. Imagine if Zeus had a Twitter account, or Jesus Christ was videotaped during the Sermon on the Mount. Would they still be worshiped centuries after their passing from the world?

Well, Jesus would, of course, since he is just that awesome. But at least he would not be portrayed as an Aryan photo model.

So far, Okawa is doing well too in the being worshiped department, but he is not dead yet. His new religion is called “Happy Science”, and so – by a surely unplanned irony – the circle is closed. Old Euhemerus the scientist would perhaps have been amused.

Magic and genius

Screenshot from the anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot. “He was a god-like person.” In Japan’s Shinto tradition, the border between the human and the divine is still more porous than here in the West with our centuries of monotheism. So much so that even a soccer player can be seen as divine.

It is not just soccer players, of course. We all have this wonderful magic called life. Somehow, only dimly knowing how, we are able to control our own bodies to a great extent. Some people, through talent and training, are able to control them even better.

I believe without doubt that there is sports genius, just like there is musical genius or chess genius and others. And like with all of these, the genius cannot truly be brought out and made to shine without effort. Hard work through several years. But the thing is, for the genius it is not just hard work. It is something they feel called to, drawn to.

In the anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot, which set off this train of thought, the genius Kubo had a question for all who wanted to join his soccer club: “Do you like soccer?” And those whose eyes lit up when they answered “yes” were the ones who became his team.

Obviously, there was never a time in my life when I could have said that about soccer, or indeed any sport. But when I was young, you could have asked me: “Do you like programming?” and my eyes would have lit up in just the same way. I would practice it when no one was looking. I would read about it, think about it, even dream about it. And that is how, when the chance unexpectedly came, I was able to create a debt collection software suite that helped companies in Norway save millions. I did not earn millions, of course, though I did earn a few thousand for a little while, which I wasted. But that was not why I did it. I did it out of love.

We don’t think of life as magic, but if we came to a world where stones could move and grow, our first impulse would surely be to see it as magic. But because carbon-based structures do this routinely in our world, it is perfectly natural to us. In a similar way, if we had not seen genius before, we would quite likely be astounded and think it was something supernatural. Or at least our ancestors did just that. In the age before books, we did not have access to the many geniuses of the past. So when a great man (it was usually, not quite always, a man) stood up and did something remarkable, people thought that a god had descended on earth and left his seed among us.

Well, I suppose that can happen too, in a very abstract manner of speaking. But my point is that it is just a matter of perspective. We know for certain that our way of seeing things is right, and their is wrong. But what if not? What if genius really is divine and life really is magic? It is not like we can recreate these under controlled circumstances, after all, which is the essence of scientific practice.

Yes, I have also read that some scientists have recently created life. On a closer look, they have assembled DNA and inserted it into an existing cell from which they had removed the original DNA. That is creating life in much the same way as playing with Lego bricks is creating matter. Not that it is not respectable, but we are still a far cry from even understanding life, much like creating an equivalent of it from scratch. And the same is the case with genius, I think.

That is why I don’t have a problem with the notion that a genius is a “high spirit” who has come down from Heaven. It is just a different way of looking at the same thing. We need to see things from different sides. A world in which there are no wonders is not a world fit for human habitation. There is nothing heroic in creating a mental world in which everything is just the random movements of atoms. Such a world has no room for heroes anyway. Those who lose their sense of wonder lose, in a very real sense, their humanity. They become self-professed animals. What has always raised us far above the beast is our imagination. It creates delusions, but it also creates discoveries. It brings forth the madman and the genius. And sometimes the mad genius…

But genius without work is like water running into the sea, disappearing without having done any good. That is why Edison, one of the greatest geniuses of modernity, said that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% transpiration.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes music comes to me. Hauntingly beautiful melodies or even songs, in languages known or unknown, songs that I have never heard before and never hear again. If I were a composer, I could grasp those melodies and bind them to ink and irrigate the world with their beauty. But I am not, and so after a while they join the river Lethe and return to the endless ocean from which they may have come. I sometimes wonder if this happens to almost everyone, most people, or just a few. But it does not matter, I guess. I never felt a call to be a composer. If you asked me: “Do you really like music?” my eyes would not have lit up.

Soccer fiction??

Soccer and miracles. Screenshot anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot. The anime has lots of pictures like this, and some hair-raising music too.

There are some things you would feel safe to bet a large sum of money on. Large sum of money as in borrowing to the chimney to bet. Somewhere around that level of certainty was my conviction, unspoken because it was so obvious, that I would never write anything that had anything to do with soccer (or indeed any sport, but particularly soccer). Well, not anything other than “I hate soccer and wish it was dead”, or words to that effect.

As you can guess by now, I am writing soccer fiction. At least it is not about actual real-world soccer players and their imaginary guy & guy love adventures, which seems to be a very large proportion of the soccer fiction on the Internet. -_- I guess girls have their temptations too, in addition to chocolate cake I mean. And like most things regarding girls, completely incomprehensible. Inscrutable. Obscure.  Impossible to understand.

In any case, I have finished watching all 59 episodes of Aoki Densetsu Shoot, a Japanese animation about soccer. And as usual when I have seen come across something interesting, I started to thing of writing fiction. Not fan fiction really, but the usual. You know, the usual for me is to take the most basic concept of a movie or book or something, then condense it down to a couple lines, and expand those lines into a whole new story which is so different, it cannot be recognized unless I give you the seed.

In this case, the condensed version is: “Talented boy joins soccer club, has adventures and wins miraculously. Girls appear, chaos ensues.” OK, the last two words probably go without saying, but only for us guys.

The story is in all other ways different. It takes place in a fictional version of Norway. The main character does not get help from the spirit of a dead soccer player. He is a psychokinetic, able to affect things with his mind, but he does not know that yet.  (At this stage, he is like the teenage Clark Kent in John Byrne’s reboot of Superman, who uses his unnatural strength and speed to become a great football player until he grows so strong that he begins to become a danger to others.)

My main character, which I at least for now call Martin, takes an interest in soccer after he has to move to another part of the country and live with relatives to go to high school. (This is something I actually did. Everything after that however is so very much not me.) He moves in with three girls who are his cousins. Their father is usually away at work, though he comes home now and then. Apart from being his cousins, they also each have some trait that makes them less than attractive: One is too old for him, one too young, and the one in the middle is boyish, selfish, overconfident and hot-headed.

The middle girl is in the small town’s girl soccer team (actually captain there, but he does not know that until later). Trying to be friendly, he takes an interest in soccer. She teaches him some techniques that go beyond grade school when he last tried to play. After this, during a dream at night, he has an epiphany and becomes One With The Ball. From now on, he can impart his will to the ball just by a touch, and the ball will do whatever he tells it. Simple things at first, like hitting a particular point, but it gets gradually more unlikely as the story progresses.

The story henceforth alternates between his adventures with soccer and his misadventures with girls. In particular Cornelia, the overly aggressive cousin & captain of the girls’ soccer team. Actual quote: I think it says something profound about Cornelia that in her vocabulary, “people skills” means the ability to throw people around and knock them down without getting arrested. Onlookers see her rough behavior toward him as sign of them being very close romantically, much to his despair.

Then there is his classmate Helene, who is volunteering to help at the soccerclub. She has a crush on him, but being a boy, there is no way he can notice. Then there are an ever growing crowd of nameless girls who want to be seen with him once he starts getting famous. There should be at least one more girl, and perhaps a boy, to make chaos complete. But I am not finished plotting it.

I have written some 14000 words over the last couple days though. I basically leave most of the work to the muses in my head, as usual. So writing it is kind of like reading a book, except much slower.

Aoki Densetsu Shoot!

The moment of transition. From man to legend. Spoilers ahoy!

I came by accident across the anime Aoki Densetsu Shoot (Blue Legend Shoot) and when I heard the beginning of the opening song, I knew that it would be good. It is very rare that the opening (and, slightly less important, the ending) song does not give off a “vibe” about the anime.  If it is spooky, angry or disharmonious, you can be sure that the anime is also aiming at people who treasure such feelings. The Japanese are quite good at matching such things, I have seen only a very few exceptions to this.

(One notable strangeness though: Indecent comedies, which are popular in Japan, often have very cheerful and upbeat songs without any lurid overtones. They are simply happy. I guess the Japanese don’t have the same guilt as most westerners about sexuality – it just takes on the color of its context. But this topic is non-existent in Aoki Densetsu Shoot. There is some low-key romance, as is common in sports anime, but it is very very chaste.)

I have watched 20 episodes over the last few days, and am glad I did. It is quite old, from 1993, and you can kind of see this. It must have been a fairly high-end production at the time, I guess, but because they did not have computer assistance in the production back then, they had to use certain shortcuts to make the desired effects, and the resolution is simply lower than today. It is quite well drawn though.

The anime is about a high school soccer team. Ironically, soccer is something I have had particularly little interest in.  I grew up in a village on the west coast of Norway, and as in all such villages, soccer was the most important thing in a boy’s life until he discovered sex. For some, probably afterwards too. While Norwegians have valued sports highly since the Viking age if not before, and have many excellent players in several sports considering the sparse population, soccer has the broadest appeal. There may for all I know be only one Norwegian who is not interested in it, though more realistically there may be a few hundred. I don’t know. I knew a couple elderly Christian mystics who professed no interest in soccer, but I think they are dead now. That leaves me, I guess. Until this anime, I did not know what the offside rule was. (But I did know the name, so there is some contamination…)

In any case, the anime is nominally about soccer, but really about people and their dedication to their highest aspiration. This is something that has begun to interest me more lately.

The first 20 episodes are about the team under the leadership of Kubo. Having spent three years in Germany, he returns to find that Japanese soccer is too rigid. He wants to play “fun soccer” where each player uses his strength and where cooperation is built on trust, not on hierarchy and planning. He finds little understanding for this in Japan, but eventually gathers a small team of high schoolers who follow his path. Most of them look up to him as a prodigy or genius. But the truth, as with so many a genius, is that his skill comes from deep love and relentless training.

Tragedy strikes in episode 19. Kubo has not told his teammates that he has leukemia, and during an important match he does something unreasonable if not impossible: Taking the ball from the home goal, past all 11 players of the opposing team, into their goal. Â At the moment of his greatest triumph, his body gives up, and he dies just as he is being declared a legend.

It is indeed few people who become a legend while alive, though it does happen. More become legends after their death. And for some, it happens at the same time. This is typically martyrs, and I guess Kubo is one of them, in a manner of speaking.

I have to agree with his best friends that dying for soccer is stupid. But because they all know and share his love for soccer, they could understand him. The main character of the anime, the freshman Toshi, saw this duality: Kubo was “a godlike person”, but at the same time he was just like them, a high schooler who just loved soccer more than everything.

Having an important character die during the series seems to be pretty common in sports anime, or perhaps I just happen across those for some obscure reason. The other two sports anime that I have found worth watching were about baseball, and both of them had a main character die during the anime. There is probably some very Japanese reason for this. Or, as I said, perhaps I somehow mysteriously am pulled toward these. Even if I have never seen them before or even read the reviews, perhaps the voice in my heart are picking them out for me. Although I kind of doubt that. Or at least not much more than it picks out my Pepsi. Who knows. If life is like a dream, who is the dreamer?

Back into the freezer

Oh yes, it is winter.

A little slice of life here! After all, life is good to have too. ^_^

Although when you put things in the deep freezer, it is in order to stop all life processes, such as bacteria or fungi, and even the natural chemical reactions in organic matter. The recommended temperature for a deep freezer is -18C, or just below zero F.

This morning, it was -19C. It bottomed out at -20C around noon. Luckily I work indoors. But seriously! It’s like, you expect to see frozen mammoths littering the roadside, and rampaging 20 feet tall snowmen battling your city’s superheroes… OK, so the 20 feet snowmen are in City of Heroes, but it kind of fits the atmosphere.  It certainly does not seem to fit THIS Earth. The usual temperature here on Norway’s south coast used to be around -5 in the last half of December, but for some years until recently we began having green winter until well into January. And even in February, having -20C here on the south coast was rare if it even happened.

I admit that you don’t really have a guarantee of warm weather when you settle in Scandinavia. Sure, the combination of the Gulf stream, the Icelandic upwelling and a fairly steady wind from the west (thanks to the Coriolis effect) makes mild winters pretty likely here, unlike Alaska, which is not so far north of here. But it is not like there haven’t been colder winters throughout history. Just not in my lifetime, or the lifetime of my parents. But there was one 94 years ago. So two since people started measuring temperatures around here. I am sure there were many more during the Maunder Minimum. (A couple generations around the year 1700, when the big rivers of Europe were frozen, and even some of the straits.)

Until recently, it was assumed that the Maunder Minimum affected all the world. But this has been cast in doubt recently, just in time for the current low-sunspot period. It may have seemed like the world was freezing because western Europe pretty much was the world at the time, it being a low tide for the few other civilizations still around, like China.  Scientists predicted a couple years or so ago that the new sunspot minimum would mainly affect western Europe, and it looks like they were right. It seems to be business as usual elsewhere.

It is pretty much business as usual here too, only more expensive. But if something happens to the power grid, then may the Light help us all. Well, I have the wood stove and candles, I could probably stay alive for a few weeks with careful planning. But sometimes I just stop and think about how vulnerable we have made ourselves and our grand civilization. As everything become more and more advanced and abstract and specialized, how long will it last until civilization collapses from want of a nail?

At least I won’t need a freezer for some days, it seems.

Oh, and the snow you see in that picture? It cost me 700 calories (kcal in European) to clear it all away. ^_^

Islands of dreams

“To be connected with the whole world, doesn’t it sound like a dream?” Or, in the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” One girl’s dream is another man’s hell! What are my dreams? And what is my dream? Not the same thing…

Due to the cold, perhaps, I woke up a couple times before the alarm, even though I had slept too little the night before. (Not a dramatic insomnia, I just did not get my timing right.) Thanks to this waking up, I remember the two last dreams of the night.

In the first dream, I was going to college. But it was a college run by my current employer, and had experts from the various teams and departments teach their specialties to us who were studying there. That way, if I managed to learn, I would be able to to solve many of the problems as soon as I got them, rather than sending them on to people who were already overworked. (This is actually, if not realistic, at least giving me a hint of something. I should talk about this with my boss. Obviously not a college, but some way of sharing skills across teams. If no one else, then I at least am willing to study with the other teams, because I cannot continue being this clueless when others are working as hard as they can and still falling behind!) Anyway, the details are restricted by my non-disclosure agreement. I woke up just as I realized that I would not have to apply to get my old job back after I graduated! ^_^

I fell asleep again, after putting on the second space heater by my bed. (Yes, it is that cold. It is that or wearing outdoors clothes in bed. We are talking deep freezer here.)

My second dream was much crazier. It was about a young woman who decided to dive into the ocean from the ceiling of the atmosphere. That would presumably be the ionosphere in real life, but in my dream there was an actual ceiling over the atmosphere! Otherwise it was kind of realistic though. Obviously she did not dive in just a swimsuit from that height, but in a kind of re-entry capsule, in the shape (though not size!) of a short pencil, its sharp end down. It seemed like a hopeless thing even so, but I was just a disembodied witness. Needless to say, we did not find her or her capsule.

I woke up again, but briefly fell asleep once more and in the dreamworld some 30 days had passed. I read in an online newspaper that the capsule had just recently been found. Obviously the young woman was dead, but the scientists were optimistic that they would find enough data to say for sure whether she died before or after hitting the water. So it was not all in vain. It might be useful to others in the future of space travel (except the ones who are dead…) and anyway, it is science. Learning something new is always valuable.

The article also mentioned that she had a baby daughter, a few months old, for whom she had evidently left a message. I don’t think the message was disclosed, but I would not have cared anyway. I was just thinking about how you just don’t risk your life when you have a baby, it is just wrong. (Although on waking up again, I realized that there is probably no other time in your life you are more inclined to jump from the ionosphere…)

Anyway, that was my dreams tonight. In eerily related news, during my reading of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I came to the part where they arrived at the Island of Darkness. Spoilers ahoy, obviously!


In the novel, this island is also known as the Island of Dreams. The crew picks up a man fleeing from the island. He tells them that it is a place where dreams become real. They start out thinking that this would be a good thing. Dreams come true? That is a very positive phrase, after all. But then he explains that he means real dreams, not daydreams. And suddenly they row for their lives. (Although in the end, they are able to escape only with the help of Aslan in disguise. This Aslan fellow sure is something!)

So this made me think of what Ryuho Okawa wrote, that you can get an idea of your afterlife by observing your dreams. He also says that the Other World is a world where dreams are real and reality is like a dream – they switch places, basically. The afterlife is not of the body, but of the soul and mind only. The soul will gravitate toward that which resonates with its content. If my soul is filled with love for others and hope of seeing them happy, then it will surely gravitate toward that kind of scene eventually, not just in the afterlife but during our last years on Earth as well. If however it is filled with suspicion or envy or grudges, it will seek out such places both in our dreams and later when it moves freely.

This certainly sounds logical, although I am not sure whether it is theo-logical. But if we think about it, who is going to Heaven if I am not a person who would like it there?  If I go to Heaven and hate seeing happy people, won’t Heaven be Hell? They should be swarming all over the place, after all. If I become transformed in death so that I wake up not hating people, is it really me, or haven’t the real me died and been utterly destroyed (“fear him who can destroy both body and soul, yeah verily”) and some other guy gone to Heaven instead? It is not much help if he has my name if he has a different soul.

So. There may be something to it. But! Our dreams, don’t they reflect our past more than our future? If they are beginning to change – and it seems they are – is it not the newest me who counts? Think of that robber on the cross, I am not sure he slept too well during his last days on Earth, but I think he slept much better after his death, knowing that he would wake up to be with Jesus in Paradise.

I myself is still a bit nervous, but I am no longer convinced that I unavoidably will go to Hell. There is still some Hell in me, but I don’t feel at home there the same way as before. I am no longer so quick to think “I’m going to take you bastards with me to Hell” if I feel threatened. But it may still be much, much too early for me to say: “I’m taking you bastard with me to Paradise!” like my hero.   Perhaps one day… Yeah. In my dreams.

The horse harness

I think I needlessly mixed up two concepts in my previous entry: Fame, and being important to others. Sometimes they go together, sometimes not. For instance, no one talks about the one who invented the modern horse harness, which allows horses to pull great weight while still breathing freely. Supposedly this happened in China in the 5th century. Perhaps someone there knows. It seems like such a small thing, but it revolutionized agriculture and land transportation, and thereby trade. It came to Europe around the year 800, and without it the Dark Ages might have lasted much longer, if at all moving on toward the Middle Ages (not the same thing!) and eventually to modernity.

The Roman empire did not have the full use of horses in agriculture, although they did use horses in war. Instead, they relied on slave labor. While slavery has happened later as well, we cannot really imagine how important it was to early civilizations. The Christian message of freedom for the slaves, even if weaseled out of at certain times, was greatly helped by our hairy friend the horse, harnessed by a simple invention born out of empathy. Anyone who saw a horse struggle in the old type of harness should have been aware that it had trouble breathing when working hard, but it was probably just one man – or possibly even a woman or child – who thought of how to change it. By giving the horse greater freedom, they also brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of workers through the ages to come.

From “small” things like this, our history became possible. There are many turns where history could have slipped and fallen (and sometimes, it seems, it really did). But here and there, now and then, once in a thousand years, someone came up with an idea that changed everything. Sometimes it was someone great and famous, like Archimedes or Edison, mass inventors both. But sometimes it was just some guy, forgotten by those whose lives he saved.

“I have been here”

“I learned to be kind because of you.” That is how Unlimited Translation Works renders this line from the song “Kimi no mama de” (YouTube link). The line has also been translated as “I was able to be kind because of you”. So anyway, what have you learned or become able to do because of me?

I have been listening several times now to the song “Read my name” (YouTube link) by Chris de Burgh. I have mixed feelings about this song, and those who know me can probably understand why. Here is the chorus and the essence of the song:

I have been here!
read my name, read my name!
With all I’ve got I’ve taken part,
I’ve made a difference to the world.
I have been here,
just read my name!

Chris has mentioned in at least three of his earlier songs a practice of going to the graveyards and reading the names on the headstones there. I get the impression that he considers this a kind of sacred act, as service perhaps both to those who lie beneath those stones and him who doesn’t yet. Because for each such name, there was someone whose life was just as important to them as our life is to us. Someone who dreamed, and tried to share those dreams. Where we are, they have been. Where they are, we shall be. They have been here, just read their names.

I read an article on a Norwegian computer related web site the other day. It said that only a small part of the population used Twitter, and of those who did, only half actually read other people’s tweets. The other half were only interested in sending tweets, not reading them.

My reaction was that this was probably better than in the flesh, where it seems the overwhelming majority are in love with their own voice, and will use most of the time when others speak to prepare their next “message”. In contrast, as I believe my brothers can attest, I rarely have anything to say when I converse with people lately. When they speak, I am listening to them, so I usually don’t have much of a rejoinder when they draw their breath.

Yet even I have my “dance” that I wish to perform in front of the other bees, to tell them where I found my sweet flowers. This is the human condition, I think. (And that of worker bees, or so science says.)  But what does it amount to, beyond “I have been here, read my name”? What is the difference I have made to the world?

2000 years ago, when Jesus Christ lived, there was some 200 to 300 million people in the world. A number of them are still known by name, but even your high school teacher would only know 20-30. To get up to 200-300 (one in a million), without resorting to specific books on the topic, you need a classical scholar. And even then, you don’t get much further.

That is not to say that none of the rest made a difference to the world, a tiny and local difference. And due the “butterfly effect”, history might have been drastically different if one of them had made a different choice one day. But most of those lives kind of canceled out, like the waves of a raindrop hitting the sea on a rainy day. And then there was the depth charge that was Jesus Christ, who set off a tsunami that is still making waves 2000 years later. But how many would have followed his twitter in the year 25, compared to any other random raindrop?

Not so much comparing myself to the incarnate sky-god here, as just reflecting on the scope of things, and how hard it is to say who we are until we are forgotten and only the work we did remains.

Someone else’s theory, put quite simply, is this: The Savior is the light of the great saints. The great saint is the light of the other saints. The saint is the light of the heroes. The hero is the light of the good people. The good is the light of the world. -Details may vary, but in the old days, hierarchy was considered natural, and most thinking people would recognize the expression “the great chain of Being” even if they had not heard it before.

Today, we have democracy, and those who vote depending on the color of someone’s necktie have as much influence as you. Or that is the theory. But it is not quite like that. Well, it may be in elections, but most elections are much less important than people believe. If random people elect other random people, the result will not rise above randomness. And if you cannot rule your own home with wisdom, let us not mention your own body, what will you achieve even if you rise to power or fame? Randomness. Some poor forgotten widow whose feeble life has a single direction will accomplish far more.

By resource or talent I could be a hero, one of a hundred. But apart from a brief spurt of software development, my life has mainly been a raindrop on the sea, so far. Or so it seems to me. But we won’t really know until I am forgotten. As the flesh hides the bone, so does the personal life hide a man’s work. But in time it will be all that is left in this world. (I don’t mean “work” in the sense of “employment”, of course, but accomplishment.)

Luminous prose

Luminous prose! In the movie The Golden Laws (by Ryuho Okawa) a boy in the future finds the book The Golden Laws (a real book by Ryuho Okawa), and a great adventure begins. It would be easy to mock, except his books are actually great examples of luminous prose. Your luminosity may vary.

This morning I read an online friend complain that the word “luminous” was too much used about books recently. But I really love that word. I wish it could be said about my words, and that it would be true.

Originally “luminous” means “bright, shining, light-filled”. Evidently about books it mostly means “easy to read”, and that is not a bad thing in itself. “If you have really understood the Teachings of the Truth” says Ryuho Okawa, “you can explain them in your own words, using common words that even a child can understand. You can talk about a topic for five minutes or an hour depending on who listens. If you cannot explain the Teachings this way, you have not really understood them yet.” (That is not a direct quote: I explained it in my own words. ^_^ But it is pretty close.)

The book in today’s picture is one of the first published by Ryuho Okawa at the time he founded Happy Science. In my humble opinion, he has grown more luminous in some of his later books. But in general, his writings really come across as light-filled. And they are easy to read too. That is what I want to do to others. But it is not easy.

I admit that the English language has seduced me with its riches. There are so many words, so many ways of saying things, so many styles, so many nuances. I tend to use words that my fellow foreigners don’t know, and I tend to use long and complicated sentences. All of this is mostly for the joy of the phrase, not because I love the reader and want him or her to understand as deeply as possible.

There are some people who are very concise, but are hard to understand. This seems to be common among serious spiritual writers. Frithjof Schuon and Sri Aurobindo both have books that I start on repeatedly but give up. They are just too dense (not the writers, but the language). Old or rare words, even by my standards, may be extremely precise. But I may not understand them deeply enough to appreciate all the knowledge packed in them. When I do “get it”, it is a great joy. But at the same time there is a lot that I don’t understand, or at least not the way it should be understood.

I wish to be easy to understand, but sometimes that is not possible, because I write about things that most people are not interested in. That can’t be helped: I am me, after all, and you are not. If I were not me, who would be? But even if I write about strange things, I wish to write as clearly as possible. That requires me to first think as clearly as possible, and that is probably where most of the work will be. ^_^