Fallback strategy: Simplicity

Screenshot Sims 3

Many of my sims enjoy painting and decorating their homes with their own paintings. Me, I enjoy playing The Sims and decorating my journal with my screenshots. ^_^

I am not really a pessimist on behalf of civilization. I think it is entirely possible that by 2050, there will be 9 billion humans who are richer than I am today, eating whatever they want, traveling wherever they want, having more entertainment than we can even imagine today. Why not? The arrow is certainly pointing in that direction, and has done so for generations, and change is happening faster and faster.

But there is also the possibility that some critical resource will run out and there won’t be any obvious replacements. Actually, we know that many of our resources will run down over the next generation: Oil, gas, probably coal, and some metals. Freshwater in some areas, various types of terrain probably. As of today, alternatives are more expensive or less effective, which is why they haven’t already replaced the original. This may continue, and we would then end up with a world which is simply more expensive to run, so to speak.

Unless there is some kind of breakthrough (or breakdown),  this is where we are headed, a world where most of the world’s population competes on roughly the same playing field as we for resources that are limited either in quantity or quality. This is not a disaster exactly, but it means there is a good chance we will have to scale back our expectations of becoming richer and richer year by year. Is that really such a horror? Until a few generations ago, the whole world was what we now call “third world”. Your ancestors and mine included. Even if we never get to take a trip to the moon, as my 10 year old self expected to do, we have much to be grateful for.

The value of material peak experiences is highly overrated.

People look forward for years to retirement, when they will do everything they did not have time for while working. A few months after they retire, most have scaled down their ambitions, and quite a few wish they were still at work. (And their family members wish it even more!)

People save up for years to go on a particularly rare vacation, and look forward to it with ever mounting expectation. The actual experience is usually pretty good, but nothing like the excitement in advance. It is like that with pretty much anything. A new car, a new house, marriage, divorce – while you usually don’t quite regret them, the awesomeness you waited for is nowhere to be found. Wherever you go, you still bring yourself with you, and this is the main part of every experience. Your self colors all you experience. It is the most important part of your life, so be sure to make it the best self you can.

Once you see through the fallacy of the wonderful peak experience, and are willing to settle for 95% happiness every day instead of 100% happiness “someday”, a lot of options open up. Everyday things can get you that far: A hobby that allows self-expression, spending time with friends, perhaps pets, or books. These need not cost a fortune, and you need not travel far for them.

Do you really think you should be number one? In the prehistoric time of scarcity, it may have been important. If you were not at the top, there might not be enough food for you, or you might not get to choose a suitable mate. Today? There is already more food in the world than needed for the world’s population; if you read this on the Internet, your problem is more likely to be too much food than too little. As for mating … I hope that depends on other things than being number one, now.

Once you let go of the need to be number one, life becomes so much easier. We don’t need the newest and best, we can enjoy whatever works, and can find happiness in simple things that don’t impress anyone but are enjoyable to ourselves.

Free yourself from the need to impress others, and you have a lot more time to do the things you really want to do. Which are those? They are the ones you wish you had chosen when you reach the end of your life. That is when you no longer feel the need to impress anyone, no longer wear a mask, when you are finally yourself. Why not start earlier?

We don’t need to be rich or famous to be ourselves. We just have to be honest. It is not easy, but it is affordable. Less pursuit and more happiness.

Using all that CO2

You may try this in your own garden, but be careful if you make your own charcoal, the process can create carbon monoxide while it lasts. There is also the obvious fire hazards.

Yesterday I wrote at length about the futility of carbon taxes: Almost all the fossil fuel will be in the atmosphere within the lifetime of most of my readers anyway. Today I will tell you how we remove some of this carbon dioxide at a moderate cost, and in the process feed multitudes for thousands of years. It is really quite simple. Even if our high-tech civilization should fall apart, this particular thing is still easily within our reach. After all, I am talking about something that has been tried successfully before, ranging from about 450 BC to around 950 AD.

During this period, the Amazonian rain forest was populated by a native people which we suspect was the ancestors of some of the nomadic people living there after the European invasion. The soil in this rainy area is of poor quality, as the rain washes nutrients out of the ground and the rapidly growing plant life mops up what is left. Yet many patches deep in what is now forest have a strikingly fertile, deep black soil that is ideal for farming: The so-called Terra Preta, the black soil of Amazon forest.

When clearing forest, these people may have used smoldering instead of wildfires, covering burning trees and bushes to reduce them to charcoal. Charcoal can also be made to more exact qualities and quantities by recent but still fairly simple methods. The charcoal was mixed with manure, compost and  the occasional pottery shard and buried in the resource-poor soil, creating a new type of dark soil with amazing properties. It yields triple the harvest without any extra fertilizer, binds nitrogen and even regenerates itself for more than 2000 years – presumably until it is removed by force.

The charcoal, of course, consists largely of carbon, which is not released to the atmosphere as it would have been through burning. Once out of the air, it stays in the ground for the aforementioned thousands of years. This has historically not been a great idea, as the climate has become slowly colder for about 10 000 years, until quite recently. Today we have a new chance: There hasn’t been this much carbon in the air since the age of dinosaurs. If there ever was a time to mass produce terra preta, now would be that time.

In addition to the old-fashioned kilns for making charcoal, modern technology opens for a process of pyrolysis, where leftover biomass (like straw from corn etc) in addition to wood can be broken down to “biochar”, releasing flammable gases in the process that can not only supply continuing energy to the process but also produce energy. This may still be out of reach for parts of the third world, but while you were not looking, most of the tropical nations stopped hunting with spears and started getting mobile phones. Whether this in reality turns out to be part of the solution or part of the problem, I cannot say for sure.


 OK, we have a way of extracting carbon permanently (or very nearly so) from the atmosphere, in the process greatly increasing crop yields without artificial fertilizer. It is possible even with simple technology, and can use either wood or worthless byproducts from agriculture. The new fertile soil regenerates itself beyond the foreseeable future. Should our civilization one day collapse, having transformed the soil of the tropics this way would vastly improve the chance of any survivors to bounce back quickly.

Why aren’t we already doing this? What could possibly stop us from cheaply, harmlessly providing food for our descendants for thousands and tens of thousands of years into the future?

Well, there is the small detail that you can get more crops THIS year with less work and less expense, by using artificial fertilizer.  Since the overwhelming majority of people are like your neighbors, not like you, this is reason enough. The second reason is of course that they have never heard about it. Now you have. For more information, just search the Internet for “terra preta” and “biochar”, while we still have an Internet.


Carbon taxes

We may think we live in the post-industrial era, but we have actually just moved the smokestacks out of sight.

This entry is inspired by the book The World in 2050, published by The Economist, a magazine I have spoken well of over the years. In its chapter on global warming, the book takes the position that it is already too late to avoid the climate change in 2050, but it is still not too late to avoid multiplying this for the centuries after this. Of course, most people who read this book are probably grownups at the very least, so it may not interest them much how the world will look in 2070.

Climate change literally happens at a glacial pace. And I mean literally literally, not the way people these days have taken to using the world “literally” as an amplifier. The world is dotted with glaciers, and these grow and shrink very slowly, thus the “glacial” speed. The melting of these is a major part of the climate change. As long as there is plenty of ice to melt, the temperature will not increase rapidly, since the process of melting (technically called a “phase transition”) requires a much larger amount of heat than simply warming the same amount of water by one degree.

We have been able to pour large amounts of carbon dioxide (and some methane) into the atmosphere and the temperature has only increased a little. We have literally (literally) “seen nothing yet”, in the sense that all that has happened at any one place on Earth lies within the natural band of fluctuation. Whenever a particular place is extremely warm or cold or humid or dry, someone will usually be able to dig out that it was even more so in 1937 or 1899 or some other time in the past, and conclude that It Doesn’t Really Matter, the more things change the more they remain the same.

Some of my friends, God-fearing men and women, are absolutely convinced that man-made global warming is just a socialist hoax. This is a reasonable thought: When socialists agree on something, it is probably something nefarious. In this case, however, the greenhouse effect has been known since well before the first internal combustion engine. We just never thought it would be a problem. It will be a problem, but as usual not one socialism can solve. It will also be an opportunity, something socialism is spectacularly bad at.

The amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are in fact quite small even now, by interplanetary standards. Venus has an atmosphere of mostly CO2, while here on Tellus it is less than one tenth of a percent! It is natural to think that this cannot possibly have any noticeable effect. Therefore, the whole climate hysteria is simply a way for the left to introduce even more taxes, now called “green taxes” or more correctly “carbon tax”.


In so far as carbon taxes come in addition to other taxes, I am as wary of them as any conservative. Since the panic is still entirely theoretical, if we increase taxes now it is a safe bet that the government will use the money to play Santa Claus and barrel pork to important voters so as to remain in power and live it up. The idea that the green taxes will be used to combat or adapt to climate change is unlikely to actually be practiced until some visible horror arrives, such as water lapping into the streets of London and New York. This is still some years off, thank the Light. Thus, we are not going to do anything, except fly around in jet planes and hold conferences about how to reduce the use of jet planes, stuff like that.

Meanwhile, we continue to pump up oil and gas and dig up coal and tar sand, and burn it off as fuel mostly. Just how much we drill depends in principle on the expected demand, but there is also a time delay because you can’t just sail out in the Arctic Ocean one day and come home with a ship full of oil. It takes several years to make all the installations ready. But in principle, it is the demand that determines the drilling. And it does so by influencing price. The higher the demand, the more people are willing to pay for fossil fuels, and the more money there is to earn from drilling, and the more places people will drill.

Enter the carbon tax. Europe has had such taxes for so long now, it is taken as granted. Here in Norway, gas now costs $2.68 per liter, which is about a quarter of a gallon. So around $10 a gallon, most of it tax. Scientists are still uncertain whether this has had any effect on driving distance at all, but it is thought that people may have switched to modern, fuel-efficient cars slightly earlier than they otherwise might. It is hard to quantify, though, since we don’t have a parallel Norway in which the taxes remained low.

But what if we dared raise taxes to a point where it actually would curb demand? Wouldn’t we save the world through taxation, for the first time? After all, with higher prices, demand would go down; but the higher prices would not transfer to the oil companies as higher profit, so drilling would not increase. Win! Or…?

Well, yeah, to some extent this would work – if the whole world did it. That would require a massive alien invasion, and I think that would be more of a problem than the greenhouse effect. So what happens in the real world when Europe increases its “green taxes”?

The demand for oil goes down just a little. This causes the price to go down just a little too – perhaps a dollar or two, although that may be exaggerating. What happens next? The slightly cheaper oil means the remaining 6.6 billion earthlings can afford to use MORE oil than they otherwise would, and they will do so until a new equilibrium appears, close to the previous.


I don’t  think people really have realized that we already may have passed “peak oil” in its original sense, not in the sense of the scare stories where suddenly cars become useless because one day there is no gas. It does not work that way. What happened was that one day we extracted the most oil we had ever done, and the next day we didn’t, because it was so hard to get to. The IEA, which is the closest there is to an official authority on energy, claim that this happened in 2006 with crude oil. However, thanks to technologies for converting oil from tar etc, actual peak oil may have happened in 2011 or even be in the near future. In any case, what really happens is that demand is increasing at a whole other scale, as emerging markets keep growing toward western levels of energy use, while production of fossil fuels (including gas and coal) is rising more slowly and will eventually fall.

Because energy demand is rising steadily among most of the world’s population, fossil fuels are already becoming more expensive year by year. If we suppress the demand in one corner of the world, this is a godsend for the rest of the planet, since demand there is limited by the high cost. The production remains the same – the prices are already so high that it is the technical challenges that delays production, not waiting for a better price. Even if Europe and the USA both completely stopped using fossil fuels, which would definitely send the prices down, all fossil fuel will still be gone over the course of a generation or so. What remains will be what is ridiculously hard to get to, so that you would need a price of $1000 a barrel or more to make it worth it. Actually, I confidently predict that crude oil WILL reach $1000 a barrel unless something miraculous happens, although at the time it will be used as a raw material in chemistry rather than for fuel.

The upper limit of the fuel price is going to be decided by something entirely different: Alternative energies. When sun power, wind power, wave power etc gradually come online in large enough quantities, the demand for oil will begin to fade. But as I said, it will still be valuable for chemistry. And alternative energy is still dependent on government subsidies even though crude oil now costs over $100 a barrel on a regular basis. There are only a few limited, local uses where renewable energy is profitable today. This will change, but it will take time (and an even higher oil price).

The short of it is, aggressive taxation in the rich nations may delay the End of Oil – the point where almost all of it is in the atmosphere – by somewhere from weeks to a couple years, depending on how extreme the taxes are.  The effect is utterly dwarfed by the ever growing demand and the growth of alternative energies, which will decide the cut-off point of the fossil fuel price and thus the speed of emptying the known reserves. The taxes are almost but not quite irrelevant.

Let us be excessively optimistic, unrealistically so, and grant the remote possibility that Draconian carbon taxes may delay by as much as five years the day when all fossil fuel is converted to CO2. But climate change is a process that continues at a slow, steady pace for several centuries. A handful of years delay (during which we will still have extracted and burned ALMOST all the oil, gas and coal, just not absolutely all) will not be visible in the climate statistics – it will drown in the random noise, the wobbling of the planet, changes in the solar wind and natural fluctuations in the cloud cover, the occasional volcano eruption, stuff like that. We won’t ever notice.


 So is there any reason at all to have carbon taxes? Oh yes, but on one condition: That they replace other taxes. It is better to tax something that is less useful, such as oil, over something that is more useful, such as work. If we can make people drive a little less, it won’t do much good but it won’t do much harm either. If we make people work less, everyone will suffer.

So moving taxes from production to consumption is generally a great way to make the world a better place without actually cutting the taxes. I guess doing that is too much to hope for. But if we move taxes to fossil fuel use, this will cut itself gradually over time. When the fuels are gone, they are gone. And it will likely happen over the span of a generation or so. At that point, the more of the taxes that are on fossil fuels, the better, since no one will be paying them. Go go green taxes!  ^_^

“Probiotics for the soul”

“A disciple of God is always a disciple of God!” St Teresa would have agreed with this, I am sure. So would I, but it is harder to live it. The way of perfection is pretty narrow! Or I may be too big.

Finished St Teresa’s book The Way of Perfection. There is a certain irony in this, that I would read a book with that title. When I was a teenager, a main reason why I chose the particular Church I did was its references to the Bible verses about perfection. I argued that no one could be perfect, but the Bible argued otherwise. And yet, here I am. I’d like this to not be the home stretch of my life, but at the very least decades are gone, and I am still far from perfect.

Reading this book has not made me perfect either. But I think it has helped me a little, or at least preserved me a little from going in the other direction. Throughout the spring (from February) I have been reading a little bit most days on the commute bus to work. I currently think of it as “probiotic for the soul”. (Obviously probiotics have been on my mind the last few days!) Just like you supposedly can keep your body’s inner life healthy through regular intake of certain friendly lifeforms, so I think a regular intake of wholesome words can help the soul maintain its inner working. These words must be living, so that they have the ability to grow and work inside us.

The Bible, which I read a lot more when I was young, is well known among Christians to be “God’s living Word”. Jesus compares the Word with seeds that were sown, and there is also mention of the Christians (well, disciples as they were known at the time) being conceived through this seed. When Jesus is called the Word of God, this is an extreme honor: The Jews honor the Torah, as God’s Word, above all the prophets, even Moses who brought it to them.

In one of my unfinished pieces of fiction, the protagonist arrives in an alternate world where his hosts have a library where most books are of the form “Commentaries Vol 20 on the Commentaries Vol 19 on the Book of Light.” Trying to read one of them, it is way too deep for him, and he says so. His host asks him to first read the Book of Light. He opens it and finds that it is a collection of fairly simple-looking songs, a very easy read. His host says: “Where is a river deepest, at its wellspring or as it approaches the sea?”

Much of the Way of Perfection is dedicated to teaching the reader how to pray the Paternoster, the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in Heaven”) the way it was meant to be prayed. The saint draws out deep spiritual meanings and their implications for our life, over the course of many chapters. In the end, the short and simple prayer becomes such an awe-inspiring commitment that I have to reflect on myself before even starting to pray it. I don’t think this is a heresy, either. I think this depth, this awesome commitment, lies implicit in the original. The details may be colored by Roman Catholicism to some degree, but overall it is a universal truth. (Ironically perhaps, “Catholic” originally means nearly the same as “universal”.)

The divine Light differs from electromagnetic light just in this, that it is alive, able to grow and able to produce fruit. Ordinary light passes only in through our eyes, but the heavenly Light should shine out from our eyes, if all goes well, and indeed make us glow all over. But it is not visible to all, even in a figurative sense. (And to very few, in a literal sense. I am normally not one of them, and am quite happy with that.)

The Book of Revelation (“apocalypse”) is not at all my favorite in the Bible, but it has a great mental image: “The city wall’s foundations were decorated with every kind of jewel. The first foundation was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was chalcedony, and the fourth was emerald. The fifth was sardonyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, and the eighth was beryl. The ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst.” (Revelation 21, verses 19-20.) The stones have different color and in some cases different transparency. The city was said to be illuminated by the Light of the Lamb, so I imagine this light shining out in different directions taking on different hues depending on the gemstone.

So this revelation that shines through St Teresa, it might have had a different color if it shone through someone else, and it may be colored by the particular nature of the Roman Catholic Church; but it is a living Light, I believe. If I tried to explain it again to someone else who had not read the book, it would take on some of my color, and it would no doubt be less luminous because I am less transparent. But because it is living, this light might once again grow and multiply in the person who received it, and shine more brightly from them (in time) than it did from me. This is what I mean by saying that the Light is alive and can grow. It is the nature of the Light itself to be like this; the souls in which it grows are not the source of the Light, but carriers of it, and it is the Light itself that grows in them.

This is what I believe. But because I am such an opaque stone, with shadows and fault lines within, you would be wise to also check elsewhere, and listen to your heart. People who are filled with love for others are particularly worth listening to, but even those will have a color, so they may be more or less visible to different people depending on the color of the recipient.

Anyway, I recommend the book warmly, whether you are a Catholic or not. The first part of the book talks about how to live as a nun, and obviously some of us are not nuns. ^_^ But it is still inspiring. And its lengthy exposition of the Lord’s Prayer should be of interest to all Christians, and may even be inspiring to others who seek the Heavenly things.

But if you have no interest in what is eternal and closer to Heaven / God / the Light, then you should not read this book. It is written in a familiar tone as if from a loving older sister. To bare one’s heart like this is a matter of trust, and it would be indecent to take such a trust and misuse it. I fear that the harm that comes from this would outweigh any hope that her seriousness might help you. This is not a book of evangelism, but one that speaks to those who are within God’s family, who are hoping to dare call upon the Eternal One as “our Father”.

It may be too early to read it again yet, for when it is so recent, I tend to just skim. I kind of miss it, though. There are many good books, but to me there was something so very safe about this book. It was indeed as if I had found a collection of letters from an older sister I had never known, who had gone through much of this life before me and left me advice. When I read St Teresa, I lament that I did not know of her when I was young. But the truth is probably that I would not have been ready for it then, and might instead have become immunized, thinking ever after that “I know this” while not truly knowing it. Hopefully there will be at least less of this now!


Two confidences

“Just how perfect can I be?” There are two very different ways one can arrive at this feeling. One of them is very much more likely when you are young.

Pew Research, who (fittingly for their name) found out that American Christians knew less about religion than anyone else in America, have also found out that Democrats also know less about politics. The parallel is striking, if you ask me. The less you know, the more you are into it… or?

It is a bit more complex than that, in both cases. See, the study shows that the Democratic party has two very different groups of voters. The one that gives them the bad score is the barely literate working class workers who are connected to the party through their union and don’t need no facts to disturb them. The other part of the party, much smaller but quite important, is the academic elite. They tend to do the thinking for the party, and are pretty well informed. They also tend to be a bit remote from the mainstream, to put it that way. (Luckily for the Democrats, the elite of the Republican party is not exactly the man in the street either.)

The Democratic party, like all leftist parties (of which it is quite possibly the least leftist in the world, but by American standards it is leftist) has these bold plans to reform society. There may be two very different points of view that lead to this aspiration, and I will show how these fit the two main voter blocks mentioned above.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the overconfidence of the ignorant. Because they know so little, they think there is very little to know, and so they overestimate themselves. Looking at others, they have no clue how to estimate them either, so will randomly put them down or up depending on unrelated factors.

Once you learn a bit – not a lot, but enough to get an overview of that particular field – you realize that you have been an idiot, and your confidence plummets to record lows. It stays low for quite a while as you continue to study, but gradually climbs as you amass a wide and deep knowledge base. In the end, it is clear to you and your fellows in this particular field that you are a leading expert. You start getting used to the fact that others just don’t know what they’re talking about, and gradually you stop listening to them. In this way you enter the second and last overconfidence, the overconfidence of the elite.

You may wonder why I call it overconfidence when they actually are the best, head and shoulders and chest above the rest. The answer is: Because they are still not God, they are not omniscient, not by a long shot.

The exception to this rule is Ryuho Okawa … according to Ryuho Okawa. I have mentioned before that I can totally understand why he thought he was a god. When you read (and write!) more books in a year than most successful people do in a lifetime, it is hard to find your place in the rank and file of what normally pass for humanity on this planet. Not that I am like that or anything, I am just an ordinary superhuman. ^_^

Now the tenured elite in America have not actually come out and called themselves God and Savior, but they clearly do believe there is no other being in the universe that is above them, and they have bold plans to make life better for the lesser humans, this time through social engineering.  Wanting to reshape the very soul of a nation according to their untested ideas (or, in some cases, tested and failed) is almost certainly reaching too far.

Luckily democracies are really good at oscillating, so that after a few years of Democrats there will be a spell of Republicans and so back and forth. Religion does not have this natural oscillation. This is why I would rather have democracy than theocracy, no matter how well-meaning the theocrats are. In fact, the more well-meaning, the more likely to go completely overboard. The more certain you are of your own righteousness, the more clearly evil are those who oppose you, and unfortunately they just have to be removed with extreme prejudice.

Socialism, as I have said before, is essentially a political religion. It is no coincidence that communist regimes, the extreme of socialism, murdered millions and millions and millions of people over the past century, not just in one country but several. For the betterment of mankind, of course. (Social democracy, on the other hand, is still subject to oscillations. To refer to a country like my native Norway as “socialist” is pretty ignorant. Rather, any democracy will eventually move in the direction of the majority voting for money to themselves, from the savings of the past generations first and then by borrowing from the future, until the creditors shut the door. As we say about Greece: When your socialism fails, blame capitalism!)

But enough about the sad political religion of the left.  Let us see whether true religion also has two prongs, like politics have. The large mass of staunchly religious would be those who don’t know enough about religion to even doubt it. Then there would be a large number of doubters in the middle. And finally at the other end there would be those who have studied religion in great detail, both in theoria and praxis, and have confidence because they truly know in what they believe.

And unlike socialism, which wants to change the world from the outside, changing circumstances, true religion seeks to change the individual from inside. Therefore change always begins with ourselves. As the Christian Bible says: “It is now the time when the judgment begins with God’s house.”  Such a confidence can be tested quickly and effectively through the experiences of daily life. In fact, it cannot avoid being tested. Then our divine nature (or lack thereof) will definitely show itself.

But once you have studied religion enough to realize your ignorance, there is no going back (unless you stop really early, I guess). Madness is not the only danger in books: There is also the danger that something may be understood that can never be forgotten. You have to keep learning, working your way up from the lowlands of doubt until you reach the city on the hill. And our understanding, or lack thereof, will be tested in our own lives sooner or later. A saint or sage can say: “Come follow me!”. Listen for this from your pastor or rabbi, and the same from your congressman, and it will serve you and your country well.

Stupid people don’t read this

“Even if they can’t read the message, they would know what this picture means.” In the days before widespread literacy, there was sacred art, sacred architecture and sacred music. But I can only paint and compose in words.

There is no comma in today’s subject line. There is no need to say “stupid people, don’t read this”, because they can’t. It is too much bother for them, poor things. tl;dr as they say these days.

I know this not just from the level of response I get, but also from this article in Business Insider: Bite-Sized Chunks Of Info Are Best. Here we learn that “Humans can only process small amounts of information at a time” … “There is no chunking here, there is not progressive disclosure. It’s just all the information thrown on the page all at once. The result? You don’t read it, you just leave.” Sounds like one of my regular pages, don’t you think?

Well, there is nothing wrong with just leaving. Even though I write mostly in middle school level language, it may just be too much for ordinary humans. I am not all surprised; I went to school with ordinary humans. They keep the wheels of capitalism turning, but I’d feel rather weird if they started hanging out here in droves. I mean, it would be kind of nice if they could learn happiness from me. But they would probably look mostly at the pictures and headlines and conclude that “the key to happiness is to be single, play computer games and watch anime.”  ^_^


As I have said before, I actually have a lot of respect for simple-minded people. Many of them manage to persevere and often accomplish something in this life, even though they walk as if in a fog. Many live morally, even though they are not able to foresee the sorrow and heartbreak that immoral living would cause for themselves and others further ahead in time. I am certainly not all-knowing, but often I can see such things ahead and it is simply practical to drop such temptations as gambling, non-medicinal drinking, pyramid schemes and careless flirtation. They are, past a certain point, not even tempting. But for those who can’t see the world as if from a very high place, these and many other temptations are mostly resisted by faith alone, or fear of getting caught.

I – and you, if you have read this far – are privileged. Written words are our friends, not our enemies. And so we are allowed into the library of the ages, there to learn from the great teachers who have preceded us. They teach us not only facts, but how to think, sometimes even how to think about thought. It is like a kind of superpower, of the type that starts small and grows over time and use. But with great power comes great responsibility, as Jesus Christ said. Wait, that was not exactly what he said… “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” is the old-fashioned English version. But the point still stands, and it is a rather sharp point and painful to touch for me.

I don’t want to go to my eternal dwellings yet. I have still so much to learn, and so much to teach. I wish to say all the worlds that should be spoken, before they are lost forever. But how, when I cannot reach those who need it the most?


Your faith may vary

When we think of faith, some may think of miracles – but when Jesus saw the people he had fed coming back to make him king, he was exasperated. They had not realized that it was a sign, but just that they got free food. In faith, there are layers of meaning, not all of them available to everyone at the outset.

Religious “faith” is a word that means different things to different people. Usually it means something weird to people who don’t have it, of course. That is probably why so many of them flee it like the plague. But it also means different things to different people even within the same religion.

Since most people I converse with are thoroughly agnostic if not outright atheist, their idea of faith is obviously one that harmonizes with this life choice. As they see it, faith is the lazy or stupid person’s alternative to thinking. Rather than gather actual facts and think logically about the conclusions they lead to, the religious person can simply believe whatever makes him or her feel good, regardless of whether it is factually true or not. Consequently, while they may be happy in their belief, they are likely to cause all kinds of trouble for themselves, others, and the world at large. The conclusion is that faith should be fought on every opportunity, in order to reduce its cancerous influence. The atheist may or may not actually be bothered to do this, depending on whether he has tried and failed sufficiently often.

Undeniably there are people who fit this description all too well, especially in America (or perhaps they are just getting more publicity there). Stupidity and faith are certainly not mutually exclusive. But perhaps they should have been.

“Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me.
 I have more understanding than all my teachers; for I meditate on your testimonies.
I understand more than the old, because I have kept your precepts.
Psalm 119, 98-100

The seeds that fell on good ground are the people who hear and understand the message. They produce as much as a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was planted.
Matthew 13, 23.

A funny thing about that Jesus quote is that if you give it to others but leave a blank where it says “understand”, they will usually insert “believe” or “obey” instead. Jesus was not unfamiliar with either of these, but chose to use “understand” here.

Faith is supposed to cause, and coexist with, understanding and eventually wisdom. It is not supposed to be a quick way to avoid thinking – rather it should form a better container of thought than we can fashion out of our personal experience. Or you may think of it as the skeleton on which our thoughts are fastened, if you prefer that image.

In light of this, we see the absurdity of trying to avoid faith. Your average atheist does not avoid faith at all, but rather has faith in some other model of containing thought. Frequently this is some form of socialism, which is a philosophy that competes squarely against religion. The atheist is rarely entirely devoid of ideals – usually quite the opposite. He has ideals, and he is usually sure that what he is doing is for the greater good. Everyone needs some kind of overarching system of thought and meaning of life, or madness ensues. If you don’t have religious faith, you have faith in various other sources that you find more reliable. And it is no great wonder that you do, given that most religious people are stupid hypocrites – just like most people everywhere and at all times.

You should be aware that the usual religious person knows next to nothing about his own religion. I refer you to the occasional questionnaires by Pew Research (like this one) and the unavoidable embarrassing statistics that are published afterwards, showing that Christians only know about half of these easy questions while atheists know somewhat more. This is because in America, you have to actually make an effort to be an atheist; in some countries it is the other way around, but the majority will always be ignorant and not particularly care about it.

Thus, the willful stupidity that you observe in the religious person is NOT an effect of their faith, but the opposite: This is how you end up when you DON’T meditate on the testimonies, to use the Jewish description. Other faiths have somewhat different ways to express this, but you should find the same at least in those religions with which I have a passing familiarity.


The representatives of the religion is its saints and sages, just like the representative of science is the scientist, not some random quack who has read about quantum physics in Science Illustrated and believes he can use it for magic. Yes, unfortunately there is quite a bit of religion on this level.

It is not difficult to find in religious text things that are upsetting or that seem to run counter to common sense. But it is not difficult to do so with science either, if you are as ignorant of science as most people are of religion. For instance, to go back to quantum physics, pretty much the only thing common people know about it is that really small things can be waves and particles at the same time. This is obviously not true. There can’t be waves if there isn’t something to make waves in, like some kind of liquid or something. Stupid scientists! They should get out more. Well, no, we don’t actually say this because it happens to be demonstrably true, even though only a few people have actually seen it happen. The same largely applies to religion.

Science is not a religion. Religion is a science. It is a platform for exploring the deeper reality of the spirit, just as worldly science is for exploring the physical world. But in both cases, most people simply read the cliff notes and have faith in them; they are neither scientists nor saints. Well, neither am I, I guess. Still, you pick up some when you look around for decades.

Now you would expect this from me, who wanders the jnana (insight) path, while most Christian walk the bhakti (loving worship) path, if any. And certainly the Bible assures us that God has chosen that which is foolish in this world, to put the wise to shame. But it seems a bit of twisting words to think that this encourages stupidity. Rather, it encourages an alternate wisdom, based in a completely different container of thoughts. And, generally, based more on practical exercises than thought-building. Religion was originally experiential, it was based on things you could do and experience for yourself the truth of the words. If we don’t, well, we can hardly blame the religion for our shaky understanding.


In short: The stupidity of the religious is not from our faith, but from not understanding it or not practicing it. A faith that is only meant to serve as an insurance is unlikely to cause wisdom.

If we were sims…

See the old man in the background? This is right before the end, before his life flashes before his eyes. He has a lot of memories that are unlike mine, such as marrying and raising kids. And throwing eggs and stink bombs. Well, I think I got the better deal… but actually I hope it is a bit early to sum up yet.

As you can see from my personal journal, my health challenges are not over yet. Of course there are others who are worse off than me, but they are not me, and that makes a difference from my perspective. And my friends and relatives generally don’t blog or write a journal, which one can understand since they know about mine. You know, it is possible to write something less embarrassing than this if you want. -_-

Some time ago I wrote about the YouTube trailer for The Sims 3 Generations. The part that really got to me was the ending, where the camera zooms in on the old man in the park and we see his life pass before his eyes in a jumble, and then stop at one particular moment of his life. I am in no hurry at all to test the whole “life flashes before your eyes” part, I assure you. But if that movie had been about me, what would those pictures have been and what would that final picture be? I believe that unlike him, my pictures would mostly have been of me alone or more rarely with groups of people, although Supergirl (or Superwoman as she wanted me to write) would probably also have featured in some of them, and probably a couple other girls. But mostly me and a computer, or me and a book, I guess. And I think the last one might have been of me in my grandfather’s rocking chair the day I read the tract by Elias Aslaksen about the way to react, and realized that I had free will, regardless of what people did around me. But I don’t know for sure, and I am in no hurry to test it.

If we were sims – I would have wanted to be played by someone like me. That may be a very small thing indeed to boast of in recounting my life, but I generally treat my sims the way I would have wanted to be treated if someone up there played me. Well, I guess I might have wanted a little more freedom… but my sims get to play if their fun motive is low, eat if they are hungry (and frequently their favorite food, at that) while at the same time I nudge them to work toward their long-term goals when the opportunity exists. They live long, happy lives and generally achieve permaplat (in Sims 2), roughly corresponding to an unshakable mind in this world, well before they pass on.

There is no mention in the Holy Scriptures of treating our Sims the way we want to be treated, so I don’t know how much it matters. But I think it does, if we play games like that at all. And they are indeed a way to wisdom, if you don’t lose yourself in them. In the higher speed of time in these simpler worlds, the consequences of choices play out much faster than in our world. And some of us also consider the possibility that there are levels of reality higher than this one, higher dimensions not made of the same elements, from which greater minds than ours may watch us but we may not watch them. But it is probably not quite the same.

There are scientists who say that this world, which we consider 3-dimensional, may actually be a hologram. Others again say that it seems not to be divisible endlessly, but that there are minimum measures of everything, such as the Planck length and perhaps even a Planck time, similar to the clock ticks of a computer… But then, each era has cast the universe in the perceptions of its own age. Perhaps if we begin to understand the universe, it will change again … like a new expansion … or perhaps it is our minds that need to expand?

Hidden, forgotten treasures

My hidden treasures, the original source of my happiness.

As you can see in my personal journal, I am still not entirely stable after the jaw surgery. I got a mild fever and malaise for a while today.

When I stopped shaking enough to be able to read, I fetched a book I have brought with me since my younger years, when I was in the Christian Church of Brunstad. As you may know, this was my home, more so than any physical place. It was, for the longest time, far from me that I would ever part ways with the Church, where the Truth was taught without reserve. All one wanted to know about the godly life was laid out plainly, and there was nothing to hold anyone back from growing in all goodness and holiness and purity, for the duration of our life.

Things changed a bit toward the end of my time there. A modernization, I guess you could call it. I wonder if they ever changed back. In any case, I brought with me the books from the old time. I have given away novels beyond counting, but the books from the Church are still with me. And it was one of them I pulled out of the shelf when I was once again able to control my body. It was the collection of articles by Johan Oscar Smith in the Christian magazine he started in 1912, and which I believe is still running: “Skjulte Skatter”, or “Hidden Treasures” in English. To this day I cannot see those words used without thinking of that small, simple magazine – simple in layout, but so rich in content. Smith died long ago, during World War II, but his words are still alive.

At the time the magazine started, it was around a decade since he became a Christian. He had grown up in a Christian country – as Norway was at the time – and in a God-fearing family; yet like many other young men, he was not personally a Christian. One good thing about our culture is that people generally are not expected to be a Christian just because it is the prevailing religion: It is expected that one chooses to be a “personal” Christian, or not. Those who don’t are free to live as they want, as long as they don’t break the laws (or only small laws), but a “personal Christian” is held to much higher standards. So people don’t do this unless it is important to them. So also back then, although it was more common than now.

After somewhere around a decade as a Christian, this man had an amazing wisdom, authority and clarity of thought. Reading him again now that I have actual life experience, I am struck by the clarity of his vision. Unlike me, he was not familiar with several religions and philosophies, and certainly would not have paid them any heed. But in the words of the Bible, read in that particular spirit, he was also able to draw out lessons that are true for all people, in all cultures, at all times. Of course, many things vary, and much of what he writes is only applicable to Christianity. In a sense, all of it, but then Christianity in the sense that one of the ancient church fathers said: There has never been a time in which that religion did not exist that is now called Christianity. (And I would read this as applying not only in time, but also in space. After all, Balaam seems to have never heard of Israel until he was hired to curse them, and yet God spoke to him repeatedly. So why would God not speak to Taoists, Buddhists, Hinduists etc?)

But in any case, Jesus Christ has lived and inspired Johan Oscar Smith with a wisdom that is quite rare in any generation. Certainly there have been more wise men in the world than I thought when I was young, and particularly compared to me! But even so, I am amazed when reading much of what he wrote back then.

For instance, in a very short column on faithfulness in the Light, he mentions that “it is not for the sake of the light that God gives us light”. That hit me like a blow, because as someone who by my new nature belongs in the “Realm of Light”, I tend to worship God as the Light, which I still think is valid. But what Smith refers to here is enlightenment or the light of revelation. The New Testament mentions (although he does not cite that in this context) that the revelation or manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for what is useful. We are not given revelations because revelations are cool, but because we are expected to act on them to better serve our neighbor. (Now that I read what I have typed, I remember St Teresa mentioning this too.)

It is possible to enjoy the Truth and then forget to check whether this means that I have to change my life. Which I have to, if I am faithful in the light. I cannot say I have been that, certainly not by the standards of this man, who is barely even known by most Christians in his native Norway, not to say anyone else.  I think he deserves more recognition. And I deserve less.

For I suspect that the reason why I let this book gather dust for years while I sought the Truth in books from faraway countries and times, was the same reason why it impresses me so much: The blinding brightness of it, that is unbearable if one has something outside of God’s will, some small thing or two or ten hidden in dark places. Things that seem a good idea to conveniently forget until just before one departs this world.

When a person wishes to live wholeheartedly for, in and by the Light – that is when these recesses become visible to the heart. There is something in this world one would miss. The reason why we want to go on living is not merely to serve God and Neighbor. There is also something we like so much that we want to keep it no matter what. Usually this is not a “deadly sin”, but some lesser vice: Smoking perhaps, but usually something less obvious or vicious: Computer games, delicious foods, sexual fetishes, a fancy car, a record collection, comic books, letters from a high school sweetheart who is now happily married elsewhere. (No, not all of these apply to me. I speak generally.) Most such things are not seen as evil by other people, or even by oneself when thinking rationally. But for some reason the Light points this thing out and says: “Get rid of that!” and then we dig our heels in. “Take something else instead!” we say. “Take this, or that, or those things which are much bigger and prettier! Just spare this little thing, it has not done you any harm, I will be good, I promise!”

In Buddhism these strange addictions are simply called “attachments”. In the language of Smith’s friends they are living sacrifices. When God wants a sacrifice, we should give it while it is alive and kicking and struggling. Tie the sacrifice with ropes to the horns of the altar! It will probably be easy to give up your favorite sexual fantasy when you’re 88. Or computer games when you’re going blind. Lots of attachments also die naturally while we are still in our prime, as my journal since 1998 clearly documents. There were many things that were dear to my heart at some point in my early journals that I now am happy to be rid of. And that is good. But the God of J.O. Smith is one who demands sacrifice. Not because he needs anything, probably not even likes to see us squirm, but because he sees that we need to be free from our attachment so we can see clearly, think clearly and act boldly.

“It is like killing your pets” I wrote in my journal when I unpacked more than 100 old computer games I did not even play anymore, and threw the paper, plastic and disks in their separate garbage. But if I have 101 pets scampering around my spiritual feet at all times, I will not be able to run the race of salvation, not only my own but that of the world itself. A great amount of Light is needed for this world to even survive the times ahead. I wish I could remain here and contribute to that. But unless I bear the living sacrifices into God’s temple (to use the Old Testament symbolism), I will not be part of the solution but of the problem.