The aliens are coming! Oh dear.

Illustration not from the book, but from the movie “Rebirth of Buddha”, also by Ryuho Okawa. As usual it was a hit in Japan, but in the West… not so much. More or less “members only” here. With the very occasional exception. *whistles innocently*

Ryuho Okawa has really pulled out the stops. He is publishing “The Next Great Awakening” in the USA. It stands out from most of his books translated so far by having a substantial section on space aliens. According to Mr Okawa, there have been several waves of these in the past, and there are several new alien races living among us today. His plan is for Earth to become an interstellar Planet of Love. (One may remember his foretelling, already in one of his first books, that Jesus will return to preach the message of love for the galactic age, in a future where tensions between earthlings and aliens will be running high.)

This is unlikely to do much good for Happy Science’s public image in the West, where people are far more skeptical to aliens than in Japan.

I’ll give the requisite thought to loving my alien neighbors as myself once I actually meet them. Until then, I shall have to work on my relationship to you Earthlings. That may well be enough for this lifetime, I fear.

At least this goes a long way toward putting to rest my fears that Ryuho Okawa might be the Antichrist (with a capital A). I cannot imagine the capital A making a PR blunder like that.

Of course, the book is not all about aliens. But I have a feeling that they are going to get most of the attention. That is kind of sad, because Mr Okawa usually has lots of useful advice. He is known to read 1000 books a year, and have distilled from them some of the most useful advice given to mankind through the ages. I have found similar advice in books of religion and philosophy, often decades or centuries old, and more often than not hard to read unless you are an intellectual. It would be a loss if people rejected all of that just because of a few UFOs.

Radio from Hell

“Your soul has been defiled!”  By radio? Well, that’s not quite what I mean…

I turned on the radio this morning. I have a portable stereo in the bedroom, I use it to play brainwave entrainment tracks almost every night. I had forgotten that it also has a radio tuner… In fact, when Gallup called the other day to invite me to a detailed study of broadcasting usage, I told them my household had neither TV nor radio. In practice it certainly seems that way, so hopefully I will be forgiven that lie.

This morning, however, I actually turned the radio on. I even tried 3 different stations. My impression was that ordinary people are in a kind of hell. Either that, or I am in a kind of paradise. Wait, does this paragraph even make sense?

What is the connection between radio and hell? There wasn’t one when I grew up, or at least I did not notice any. I think the people who have continued to listen to radio since then, probably still don’t notice.  But as I switched from one station to another, they all were so… jarring, I guess. Or like food made for elderly smokers – too sharp, painfully so. The music is disharmonious for the most part, and even when not, the lyrics are. We’ll be back to that in a moment. But even the news seem to be collected to make people upset, not to actually help them live their lives better or more safely.

The third and final radio station played Dolly Parton, who at least can sing well. But the song she was singing – “Jolene” – was an all too vivid reminder of the hell people today live in, where you not only have to fight for mating rights until you marry, but for the duration of your life.  (I don’t think she actually said anything about marriage, but this is how it is here in Scandinavia at least these days.  It is like civilization has slipped and fallen in this particular regard. I don’t mean you should treat your spouse like you take them for granted, but you should be able to take them for granted without treating them that way.)

This jagged, disharmonious, disturbing world is what people live in, is it not? A world where beauty is either absent or tainted, distorted, broken. A world where harmony is not just rare, but unwanted. God, how did we end up this way? What can we do about it?

I take a certain comfort in being disturbed by this sudden glimpse into the ordinary world. Perhaps they are not so much living in a half-hell as I am living in a half-heaven? Or perhaps that is always the case, the world below us is always hell and the world above us is always heaven, no matter which world we live in? So if you go to Heaven, you will find that even Heaven has a heaven.

On a more prosaic note, I think the reason why I dislike radio and television is that they try to think for you. With the Web, you click what you want to see or hear (or think you want), but with broadcasting there is someone else clicking for you. As if you were a patient unable to use your body from your neck down, and all you can do is open your mouth and they will put things in it. I would be hard pressed to spend much time using broadcasting even if it was of the same quality and had the same focus as myself.  But it doesn’t. It is different, at the very least. And in my ears, unpleasant.

Not literally Hell, I suppose. More like “Heck”. The realm of the Prince of Insufficient Light, if I remember my Dilbert correctly. That’s the world in which even Norwegians live these days – a world of insufficient Light. And the problem, the REAL problem, is that people like it that way.

… like King Solomon and I

When we are children, it is natural that even ordinary events, things that happen to pretty much anyone at some time, make us lose our peace and clarity of mind (if any).

I hope it amuses you as much as it amuses me, when I compare myself to King Solomon, the legendary archetype of the wise ruler. I assure you, this is not something that occupies my mind every day…

But just recently some small thing made me remember a movie about King Solomon. What struck me again, as it did when I first saw it, was how the movie separated the excited, sensual and generally upbeat Song of Songs from the chilling, cynical Ecclesiastes. Both of these are attributed to Solomon, although they may be inspired by him rather than dictated, historians now believe. In the movie, the Song was made during the visit by the Queen of Sheba, whereas the more depressing philosophy came after their parting. This is something common people can relate to, I am sure: When they are lifted up in the air by the whirlwinds of love, their feelings overflow into their thoughts, and likewise when they crash to rock bottom afterwards.

But it is different for people like King Solomon and I. You can compare the average person with a large stream, such as those that ran through the farm where I grew up in western Norway. During sunny summer days these streams were quite small – you could literally step over them – but after a day of rain, they were raging torrents that could sweep with them man and horse if you were careless. Now think of a similar stream, except that somewhere along its course it passes through a lake. When the stream grows to excess, the dam absorbs the shock, so to speak. It takes a lot more to make it go over its banks. Conversely, it takes much more dry weather to make it shrink. This would be people like King Solomon and I.

This was how I thought, that there were only a few people like that, and I happened to be one of them for some reason. Having reflected on myself, I think that is not quite it.  This should be the natural state of mind in my age, past the middle of an ordinary lifespan. There are unfortunately people, even many people, who remain easily moved by small things:  A thoughtless insult, being passed over for a promotion, days of rainy weather, even a bad loss for their favorite soccer team. So yeah, there are a lot of people who are not very similar to King Solomon.

And the truth is that I am not quite King Solomon myself. When I suddenly fall ill, it influences my thoughts quite strongly, at least while I am getting worse. And the time I suddenly was without a place to live, I did not exactly have Sabbath in my heart either. So perhaps the river of my feelings just run through a big pond, not the Great Lakes.  Still, I am glad for what there is. And I am glad I have not been tried beyond my breaking point. It is better if I can find the truth about my self through reflection than having to go through disasters to the brink of death to see myself. Or, perhaps just as bad, having hundreds of wives, like King Solomon.


But I hope you understand that when I write about different topics, they all pass through this big pond. It is not like one day I am only thinking about the weather, then about City of Heroes, then about books of timeless wisdom, then about writing fiction, and so on. Much like Solomon could have worked on the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes simultaneously, I also simply present different facets of my slowly changing life. Only by the balance and tone of the writing may historians of the future possibly be able to get a realistic picture. But they probably won’t. They may be better off studying King Solomon, even though he did not write an online journal…

When computers act up

A not unfamiliar sight in the Chaos Node, now come to Riverview.

This evening, I logged on City of Heroes for a few missions. I can generally do four hero tip missions a day without running out of them, but I don’t always do that many. As you may guess by now, I have other interests as well. ^_^

As soon as the game had loaded, however, the screen became a static of colors. This happens from time to time, not every day but around once a week, I guess. Usually I have to turn the power off, as it locks up completely.  I am pretty sure it is a problem with the video card, judging from the symptoms, and from the fact that this part of the computer got much, much warmer than the rest.  It cannot possibly be a good idea to have a video card that gets hotter than boiling water!

Well, I don’t have a video card that gets that hot anymore. This time I managed to shut down in a dignified manner, but I did not get the machine to boot again. There was nothing to see on the screen.  I checked the cables but the screen remained black after several restarts.

So I unplugged the XP computer, still my main machine, to replace the video card with an older one I had lying around.  (Actually it was in a machine where the power supply was broken, but that is not yet beyond any hope of repair.)

When I pulled the power plug, my Sims computer (standing beside the main computer) suddenly also went black. I had forgotten that the power pad had my XP machine designated as “master” machine, so that it would cut the power to everything else when I unplugged it. This could probably have been useful if done wisely, but instead this happened.

After I changed the video card, I got the XP computer up and running again. Since it was a different make of video card (ATI vs ASUS), I had to download new drivers. Luckily the Omegadrivers web site is still operative, even though no one has heard from the owner since last May, it seems. His drivers were awesome, to the point where he pretty much claimed divine inspiration and it was not impossible to believe him.  So after a while, I as up and running again.

That’s when I discovered that I could not boot the Vista machine, the one I use for playing The Sims while doing other things on the XP machine. Its screen went black and stayed that way.

Luckily I already had installed a small Ubuntu Linux area on that machine. I was able to boot into this one.  On starting, it said something about “unclean Windows partition” or some such, and added: “Fixing.” And so it did. When I later exited Ubuntu and started Vista again, it worked. It did badger me to go back to a save point, but apart from installing a bunch of security updates, there seemed to be no loss.

It is my opinion that one should always have some Linux around just in case one’s Windows partitions go bad. ^_^

Green winter continued

No pictures since it is dark when I come home, but the weather remains mostly above freezing, the snow is shrinking and there is much grass to be seen, although not here on the riverbank for some reason.

I am glad it has turned this way. This old house is charming but it has a problem with howling arctic winds like we had last winter and the beginning of this.  Although it helped when I put strips of cloth or paper in the gaps between the wall and the floor in the study, and plastic bags in the gap under the door in the kitchen.  These are keepers, even if the weather is milder now.

Being able to go outside without icy wind biting into the skin and bringing tears to the eyes… it reminds me strangely of the feeling of forgiveness.

Loving bread too much

My current definition of love is “liking so much that you are willing to sacrifice for”. Not perfect, but it covers the range from God to sex, drugs and rock n’roll. The more you love something or someone, the greater the sacrifices you are willing to make.

In the case of me and bread, the sacrifice (beyond the small expense) tends to be gut pain and having to stay within running distance from the bathroom for a while.

I don’t have gluten allergy: Pasta and wheat noodles are part of my near daily diet. I think what happens is that my digestion becomes upset when there is a large, sudden change in diet. The helpful gut bacteria have adapted to the usual food, and suddenly there is something else instead, so they leave in protest.

And modern bread is so good, it is hard to not go all out when I have it in house. Seriously, what happened to bread? It used to be boring, the same plain slice day after day, year after year. Now there are three or even five types of grain in a single bread, and often sesame, sunflower or flax seeds as well. Despite this complex recipe, the firmness and texture is nearly perfect, and stays that way for several days. Behold the great power of science! And not just behold it, I can actually taste it.

So it is all too easy to eat bread four times a day, and plenty of it. I suppose if I kept doing that, my body would get used to it. But then I might forget how good it really is. Now it is like food honeymoon each time…

Grumble or moan?

“Tied to this world, these people live to the extremes of desire without considering others.” Or, in the words of the Christian apostle Jude, “These people are grumblers and complainers, even though they live to satisfy their desires.”

“The words of higher spirits can nourish the souls of those who live on Earth. In contrast, there are some spirits who are unable to say anything valuable, and only grumble or moan.”  -Ryuho Okawa.

To be honest, I think this is not limited to the afterlife – in fact, I have no memory of the afterlife, so I would not know – but rather I see the same thing here in this world on Earth. Even though we may speak the same language and seemingly talk about the same thing, some are already praising the Light in song, while others are grumbling and moaning. This becomes evident when you manage to get a glimpse through the thick stream of words into the real thoughts that lay beneath or within.

There are people who can use long words and long sentences, yet if you were to sum up their message, it would basically be “moan, moan, grumble grumble”.  Even though they have that much brain to speak or write with, there is little if any gratitude.  Rather they will blame, blame, blame: Bush or Obama, their parents or their boss, their illness or their finances. Everywhere their path is blocked.  It is as if one sees a shade in Hades, stumbling in darkness, not knowing where they are or what happened to them. This is a terrible plight indeed.

I hope to be around to encourage you until I am 120, but whether that happens or not, I implore you: Believe in the Light! Acknowledge the invisible force of Goodness that is everywhere present in this world and any other world. When it seems that you receive less love than you give, that is when you can open your heart to this power. If you are already filled with the goodness that comes from others, there is no empty space inside for the Light to flow into. When you are empty, that is when the Light can fill you, so you can shine brightly from within, like the sun rather than the moon.

Of course, many people really are suffering. It is not something they make up. Truth to tell, this is the human condition, that from time to time we experience things we deeply wish we would never see. Loss is certain: If we do not lose everything in this world gradually, we shall lose it suddenly.  But let that not define us. Let it not shape our souls, so that we live our lives and die our deaths in despair. Let us believe in the Light, and gratefully receive the power to take one small step forward.

Or that’s what the voice inside me says. If I must be honest, there are terrible trials that others have gone through and not I, trials that I even now sincerely hope and pray that I shall never know.

But on the other hand, there are those who would consider my fate unacceptable, and my life not worthy of continuing.  I have been single all my life, for instance, while I have friends who feel sorry about spending a week without their spouse. (Whom they not usually praise as highly as you would think from this.) I earn far less than is common in this country, and am always passed by for promotions ever since I started working 30 years ago.  I care none about this. I do not remember it without actively looking for an example of what I might grumble about.  I did, however, grumble and moan when I was young, and was filled with bitterness because of the bullying I experienced in school as a child. At the time, I thought myself innocent, that I had done nothing at all to provoke the bullying. (It might have happened anyway, actually, since I was chronically ill and children are evil. But we’ll never know, because I was taunting them on a regular basis.) Anyway, I was bitter, and I was in a very real sense in Hell, or at least in the antechambers of Hell. For where your soul is, that is where you truly are.

I do not entirely make this up to sound good and holy, in other words. I know the grumbling and moaning, and I fear ever getting into that pit of darkness again.  May the Light Everlasting preserve us all, and may we let ourselves be so preserved.

The Thirteen Petalled Rose

This material world is not everything, not by a long shot, but it has effects that go far beyond the worlds we can even imagine. Or so I have been told.

I have finished reading Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’ book, The Thirteen Petalled Rose. That was fast. Normally the commute bus to work, 45 minutes each way, is my reading time. I got this book in Kindle format so I could read it on my Android smartphone even in the dark. But already it bright enough to read both in the morning and evening, so I can return to the paper books. I must admit I love ebooks though, for their ability to let me highlight freely, without feeling that I am somehow destroying the book. After all, I can read it with or without the highlights at any time. And there was quite a bit to highlight in this one.

There is no denying that this is a Jewish book, written by a Jew for Jews. And I am not Jewish. For that reason, I cannot review it the way it deserves. There are things in there that I cannot and should not understand. It is not that the book is cryptic, far from it. It is one of the best examples I have seen of “luminous prose” in a book of religion or philosophy. (At least if we don’t count Ryuho Okawa, whose books are lightly edited transcriptions of his speeches.) The parts that do not rely on specific Jewish knowledge or experience were surprisingly easy to read, and yet never approaching the level of platitude: Rather, there was a taste of poetry in them. I felt the enthusiasm of the author, seeking to share his beautiful vision of the world and the Jewish life.

But in the end, there are so many things that are simply different in the life of someone raised in a family of observant Jews. There are so many things taken for granted, so many words that have a meaning not easily translated. And when I came to such things, I struggled, then accepted that there are things I am not meant to know. Accepting this, I moved on, taking with me what I could from the text. But there are still treasures left, I am sure, for the intended audience.

While I found the book an easy read, I suspect it may strain the mind of those who are unfamiliar with mystic or esoteric literature at all. This is not a practical outward “how-to”, giving advice on what to say or do in various situations. Far from it. There is not really any commandment in it. Rather it seeks to impart understanding. The reader is, one hopes, able to see the deeper meaning of the things he already does.

It is obvious that Rabbi Steinsaltz is a broad-minded and ecumenical person. While he sees the Jewish people as the priests of the world, he holds every human sacred, and believes that salvation is not only for those who follow his own faith, much less his particular branch of the faith. As such, his book is an inspiration and a light even to the gentiles.

Recommended for the experienced religious reader, of any faith.  Newbies to Christianity should probably hold off until they are thoroughly familiar with their own faith, before reading books of other religions, even this one.

The convinced atheist will almost certainly find this book meaningless. It is written in and by faith.

Dentist check-up day

Nothing exciting today. I had my twice-a-year check at the dentist. No holes this time either. Modern science is awesome, eh? I used to have holes all the time in the past, although only small ones. Perhaps toothpaste these days is more effective or something. It seems unlikely to come merely from me having eliminated meat from my diet. In fact I drink Pepsi Natural pretty much all workday. (It is called Pepsi Raw here, but it is the same thing.) With 10% sugar and high acidity it should do unspeakable harm to teeth, but they seem to be unaware of it.

Of course, even with no holes, I still have to pay. For some reason, here in Norway there is no dental insurance. Does not exist for adults. Not through work, not private, not through the state, which otherwise does all kinds of health insurance whether you like it or not. There is state-paid dental care for children, but they generally don’t appreciate it. I certainly didn’t, and avoided dentists for the next several years. Also, science simply was not very advanced at that age. Even if you went to the dentist, he would repair your teeth with metal, and they would continue to decay.

One thing they had in the past though: Cute female assistants. My current dentist has equipment that moves around on its own like the arms of Doctor Octopus, it sometimes seems. Very high-tech. Saves the cost of having cute women around. Although I wonder if their original role may not have been to make the male patients refrain from screaming and thrashing about…

Inferior Lightwielder worldbuilding

I was imagining something weird again. This is unlikely to surprise regular readers, I suspect…

Actually it is not the worldbuilding that is inferior, although that may also be true. Rather it is the world itself, most notably its people, among them even the Servants of the Light.

I admit that it was Rabbi Steinsaltz’ book that prompted me to sketch out a new story. But it contains nothing I could not have written before. I came up with the idea of vertical, hierarchical worlds when I was still young. I think maybe 19, but I have no writing from that age, so I am not sure. At that time there was nothing religious or spiritual to it: I had picked up the idea of parallel worlds (or dimensions, as they were erroneously called) from a book by Norwegian SF authors Bing & Bringsværd. Their worlds were parallel horizontally rather than vertically, gradually becoming more alien with increasing distance from our reality, I think. In any case, at some point I changed my view of the multiverse to vertical and hierarchical, although at that time it was still pure SF.  Then some 25 years passed before I found this worldview again, in a different context.

In my latest story, the protagonist is from a world much like our own. In the library he chances upon a book that describes dozens of other worlds, in a brief but factual way, as if a textbook for world travelers rather than a piece of fiction. One of them stands out: The world where the community of Servants of the Light have worked tirelessly together to fill the whole world with Light, to the point where it became a paradise and eventually ascended to a higher level. This world again has now given birth to lower worlds, and while it is higher, they are lower.  Our hero decides to try the ritual written in the book to travel to one of these worlds.

The world of Gebir is an instance of Earth, with similar but not quite identical races of humans, animals and plants. However, this world, by virtue of being a little lower than ours, is inferior in details.  The soil itself is less fertile, and life is nastier, more brutish and shorter. The human races there are not only a little weaker physically and more prone to illness, but their lifespan is shorter even when they die from old age: An age of 65, or 70 for the strong, is considered ripe old age.

Worse yet is the mental inferiority of the people. They learn more slowly and forget more easily. Their attention span is shorter, and it is harder for them to see the consequences of their actions, for themselves and for others. Logic is a virtually unknown art, and superstitions reign.  (In all fairness, they do live in a world where a certain type of magic actually works, but they will believe in many other strange things as well.) Their willpower is nothing to write home about, they are easily mastered by their appetites, whether it concerns food or drink or sex or sleep. Quick to anger and easily distracted from work, especially mental work, they progress slowly and backslide quickly.

The sad truth is that these untermenschen are largely patterned on our own ancestors, from the middle ages backward.  It is hard for a modern person to imagine the sad state of mankind 1000 years ago, let alone 1500 years ago.

(Let me briefly once again say that I consider the “Dark Age” of Europe to be from the final generations of the Western Roman Empire, through the violent and chaotic era where entire nations were moving around, to the beginning of Carolus Magnus’ new Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, roman, nor – for most of its time – a real empire.) From here on, if not before, there was a slow and fitful progress in many areas. The Middle Ages, then is largely a time of progress, leading toward the Renaissance. It was certainly not guaranteed to end that way – China pretty much ossified before reaching the modern age, despite having a lead on Europe for much of the time – but neither was it some kind of black hole.  Things were even worse before.)

Now I am not saying that our world is in the process of ascending to a Paradise and beyond: There are still so many things that can go wrong, and some of them are indeed going wrong even as we speak. But comparing the English-speaking people today with their ancestors 1000 years ago, not to mention even further, even common people today appear as supermen in health of not only body but mind as well.

Be that as it may, this is the first time in a long time indeed that I design a world that is consistently inferior, and humans who are a breed of losers. I must admit that I had to reflect deeply on my fascination with the depravity I imagined. There is a saying about people who go into the sewers to clean up and people who go there to bathe (social realism anyone?). I am still in a very early phase of this project, having written only a couple thousand words. I am not sure how viable it may be. Let’s say I am not quitting my day job to write on this.  But I make these few notes just in case.