Still alive, still alive…

Woke up with just a sore throat and improved from there. Was at work a bus or two later than usual, but otherwise normal day. Took a one hour walk in the evening. (Did not do that yesterday.) Pulse was a bit higher than usual, a sign that the immune system is probably working on something, but the difference was not very big. Then again my pulse has been unusually slow lately. Even for me, I mean. So it was more like in the old days now, I guess. Like this spring before I took up the habit of walking an hour a day. Well, most days.

I have been thinking more about psychology and religion. But when I try to write, the topic grows and becomes unwieldy and I stop a ways through. I guess that is OK. A shop should not have all its goods in the window, and a man should not tell everything he knows. So this for today, then.

Viruses and ghosts

In the movie The Rebirth of Buddha, hospitals are plagued by the ghosts of people who died there and refused to accept their fate.

Today, after eating a small piece of chocolate, my throat began to get irritated. I had to constantly cough and swallow just to keep breathing, or so it felt. I tried to wash it away with water and then eat something, but it just didn’t go away. I started to get really worried. At this point, other symptoms had already joined in: I was getting weak, my heart was beating fast, I was shaking and my face was flushed, my eyes were dry, I was queasy and my bowels were upset, I even developed a headache. It was like my body was breaking down all over, all of a sudden. I started to think: No! I don’t want to die! And then I remembered something.

The place I was when the symptoms began used to be a hospital, many years ago.

In the movie The Rebirth of Buddha, there is a memorable scene at the hospital, where Sayako (the main character, well, except for the Buddha) can see the ghosts of patients who walk around, bothering doctors and nurses and fellow patients in their attempt to get painkillers and other forms of comfort. They all don’t want to die, and being materialists in life could not accept the fact that they were dead. So even now they are haunting the hospital, thinking that they are patients there and it’s all about them.

Could it be? That some long dead patient had returned to its hospital and found some kind of resonance with me? Stray spirits are attracted to people who resonate at the same wavelength, so to speak: People with the same habits, viewpoints, attitudes, feelings and interests. Well, that’s what Happy Science says. That doesn’t sound very happy, but the happiness is that you can save yourself and sometimes even the stray spirits by reflecting on yourself and seek to live a life of selfless love. When the stray spirits notice this, they will either flee from the growing Light in you, or begin to reflect on themselves as well and be saved.

Christianity generally seems to assume that possessive spirits are all demons, not ghosts. This corresponds to the notion that the dead are sleeping, unaware of what goes on under the sun, as the Bible says. Of course, just because they are sleeping does not mean their dreams may not resonate with ours… if only in the form of a morphic field. Be that as it may, the New Testament certainly implies that not only mental illnesses but sometimes also physical may be created or made worse by the influence of spirits.

This may sound like pure superstition unless you consider that the mental equivalent to these stray spirits are complexes, or mind parasites: Essentially tiny split-off parts of the same stuff that personalities are made of. In some cases, people literally have multiple personalities, usually one more dominant than the rest but not always. In “healthy” people the other personalities never grow to more than a rudimentary level, but they can still mess up things pretty badly. This “complex” theory is a pretty respectable branch of psychology, first championed by C.G. Jung.

Consider the placebo effect, in which supposedly ineffective pills or injections cause substantial health benefits. And equally nocebo, where harmless treatments cause illness and in some cases death when people believe in them. A wrong diagnosis can sometimes become self-fulfilling, and the patient dies before the error is found and corrected. Likewise, someone may recover from a serious illness due to misdiagnosis, although this may be less common.

Even though I did not think about it at the time, I was aware that I was in an old hospital building. Judging from the symptoms, it seems likely that I have contracted the illness my coworker had last week (he has now returned). He is still not able to speak normally due to his vocal cords being  affected, and had various other symptoms including fever. So it could simply be that I have the same virus.

But in either case, body and soul are tightly integrated. In this life, they cannot be separated. In the next life, they probably can. But I am in no hurry to find out. Still, if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take: It certainly beats it wandering around bothering the living!

Actually, I should probably not bother the living even while I live. But at least reading my journal is voluntary!


(Incidentally, my throat is still irritated, but the other symptoms are gone for now.)

My Galaxy Tab and I

At least my Android tablet is sexier than I. And yet I am the one people get to see more often.

It’s three weeks since I got my first Android tablet, last year’s model of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. As far as I know, their second generation Galaxy Tab 7 isn’t out yet. Even if they make one, I am not sure whether I would upgrade. It depends, mainly on whether the screen is radically improved without gutting the battery life. Running Honeycomb (the tablet version of Android) on more or less the same hardware is not really an improvement, in my opinion.

That said, I am fairly impressed with the old model, except the screen resolution is just a little too coarse. It would take only about 20% more pixel density to get rid of the slightly blurry and uneven text and pictures in the current size. It is good enough as is, just lacking the “wow” factor.

So, with this attitude, I must be using it a lot and dragging it with me everywhere, right? No, I have barely used it these three weeks. And only taken it out of the house two or three times. Basically I use it as a wireless access point, and that’s that. Occasionally I get up and wander into my living room just to get out of my boss chair, and use the Tab to catch up on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. It is very well suited for those, and the Android apps for those services are all quite good. Oh, and Tumblr too.

So why am I not going steady with Tab? The short answer is: “I already have a mobile phone.” The 7″ fits in a coat pocket (or a purse, not that I have that) but not in a shirt pocket. And the overlap is almost complete. The Tab is better for reading (it is the size of a softcover book, only thinner, and the weight is similar. The phone is better for phone calls and for having in your shirt pocket. I actually receive phone calls very rarely, but of course the day I leave my phone at home, I get an important call.

My employer has invested in some high-end (Jabra) Bluetooth headsets that we familiarize ourselves with as part of our tech support job (at least those of us who specialize a bit toward Android), and I believe one of those would actually make the Tab *better* than my cell phone for calls. Using the headset for the calls, it should be possible to look up things on the Tab at the same time. I haven’t tested it though.

Honestly, I can see a potential in work for this size of tablet. Eminently portable yet with enough surface to read documents, look up data or search the Web. Add the fact that they are *phones*, and you basically have an office in your coat pocket. Or purse.

But if I started to carry this thing with me everywhere, I would leave my cell phone at home. Having Internet access at home is how I (and you) can stream my record collection over the Internet anywhere, anytime. I would not deprive my friends and family of that without good reason, would I? ^_^ Well, perhaps a little…

Walky days

I am getting quite familiar with these stretches of bike- and pedestrian road, a feature that is particularly common in and around Mandal where I live.

Today before dinner I took a walk to the tune of 775 calories. That’s up from 750 yesterday. Fine for weekends, but a bit long for weekdays, I think.

Yes, I am still walking most days, ideally an hour or so, although lately it has been longer. See, the alternative is to run, as I mentioned before. Walking, even rapidly, is not enough to get my pulse up in the training zone. (In fact, it has been dropping even lower since last I wrote about it. Now it is like 105-110.) I have to break into a run frequently just to convince my body that I am not simply ambling across the kitchen floor.

Basically, I have become immune to walking. -_-

I walk for an hour, and my pulse is like “what? I was supposed to react to this? Nobody told me that walking was supposed to count as exercise now.” But it is! Numerous highly respected publications recommend it! But evidently they recommend it for the average American, who is a mound of fat on stubby little legs or something. (Disclaimer: I have never been in America, but I had a friend who stayed there for several months, and there was a lot more of her when she returned.)

So if I had a body mass index of 29 (overweight a little below obesity), walking for an hour would have been epic exercise. Perhaps I should even asked permission from my doctor first. But because my BMI is 24 (“normal” a little below overweight), walking for an hour is just maintenance, or business as usual. What am I supposed to do, run? That would take some getting used to, since I only have done so for minutes total in my adult life. And teenage life. And late childhood.

I think, in fact, it was my learning to not run that made my asthma disappear sometime around the age of 10-12. I always thought it was some kind of miracle or I just outgrew it, one or the other. But I didn’t. I still have it, and it is called exercise asthma. Evidently it is not an allergy. The only thing that triggers it is exercising hard enough. So I have avoided this for four decades now. My muscles are very, very surprised when I try to run. I can do so for some steps, which is fine since that is all I need to pop the pulse up in the training range. I have to repeat this pretty often though if I want the kind of pulse I used to get from just walking, less than half a year ago. But it looks ridiculous.

In fact, it probably looks ridiculous just walking all over the place almost every day. The first quarter of an hour or so goes through the same part of the town each day, so I am sure the kids have already noticed. Kids are good at that. So when I am walking briskly through the neighborhood, I imagine the kids looking out and saying: “It’s Walky!

Heaven and Hell are other people?

Those who like to see other people smile should fit right into Heaven, and people will pray to meet them again.

The French playwright and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote a screenplay called No Exit where the most famous phrase is “Hell is other people”.  (In fact, I keep thinking that it is the name of the play.) This phrase has become probably his most famous, and even the most famous in existentialist philosophy. Sartre said the phrase was misunderstood, that it did not mean that other people were always hell. And indeed, there are people who claim that other people are Heaven. In fact, solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual exactly because to most, the absence of other people is Hell.

Without the feedback from other people, most of us would begin to unravel or dissolve. I am not sure whether that would happen to me, but I assume so. I cannot remember ever having felt lonely when alone, but I am human, so probably at some point it would happen.

Today’s point, however, is from a lecture (Beyond This World) by Master Ryuho Okawa, founder of the Japanese sect Happy Science. It is broadcast in this weeks “Happy Science on Air”. Here Mr Okawa formulates a quick test on who is bound for Heaven and who is bound for Hell:  Those who think other people exist for their benefit, are headed for Hell. Those who believe that they exist for other people, are headed for Heaven.

I have, years ago, sketched out an imaginary scenario in which those who want to rule over others are deported, all of them, to a parallel Earth similar to ours, and left alone together. By necessity, their world would develop into a hell, because they would no longer have helpful people to exploit, only each other. Conversely you could take those who want to serve others, and put them together on a parallel Earth, and it would begin to develop into a Heaven. This is the exact same thinking.

Actually, I suppose I did not need to drag Okawa into this, but I liked his concise way of contrasting these two attitudes. Just because he thinks he is a god does not mean he is wrong about everything, you know. Although it is generally not an endearing trait in people.

Even those of us who are allowed to commune with a Presence not of this world,  were once babies and needed the love of a (m)other, not just to survive physically, but to become human. Even baby Jesus needed a Mary! A baby is fully human in potential, but to become an actual human it must “download” humanity from someone who has it: Language, obviously, but also gestures and habits and likes and dislikes and many other traits. Over time the individual child develops its own traits, but it takes years of mostly downloading from parents, siblings, teachers and friends. Only gradually do we become able to take control of this complex being that is our mind, and for some it never quite happens. Life continues to happen to them, rather than them happening to life and to the world.

We all have a great deal of other people inside us, and it is much harder for someone who had a poisonous childhood to commune with the Heavenly world. Growing up in hate or scorn fills a child with dangerous mind parasites which takes a lot to get rid of. The inner light must be very bright for such a person to banish his or her mind parasites and begin to glow with a bright light from within.  Even neglect is enough for most people to experience many years, if not a lifetime, of darkness.

So Heaven is other people in that sense, and Hell also.

But for those who eventually have an encounter with the Truth, or the Light, there is a new dimension. Now comes the opportunity to look at ourselves and think: Do I live for the benefit of others, or do I live to harvest from them? Am I a predator who sees other people as “food” – not literally, I hope, but you know what I mean: Other people should praise me, other people should help me, other people should be there for me, it is other people’s fault that I am not happy, that I am not rich, that I don’t do my job to the best of my ability. If only they…

But people who love to see others smile are sure to fit right into Heaven if they come that way. The various religions have different ideas of how to get to Heaven, but it is disturbingly few who ask themselves: “If I come to the gates of Heaven, do I fit in there? Will Heaven still be heavenly if I am around?”

I am reasonably optimistic: Even if I am a very solitary person, I don’t have any enemies anymore (that I know of), and I cannot think of anyone I would rather not see happy. But my ability to actually initiate happiness where there is none, that needs work. Lots and lots of work. I mean, happiness in other people. If I am alone, happiness is not hard to come by. But for most people, it is! If they are alone, happiness is hard to come by. And I am not confident in my ability to change that simply by my presence.  Then again, I don’t claim to be a god. Just a superhuman like you. ^_^

In any case, the ability of self-reflection is also a responsibility. Only we who have this ability can possibly make the choice to initiate happiness, to summon it where it was not. Only we can choose whether to be Heaven or Hell to other people.


Dentist and hubris

Today I went to the dentist. Somewhat to my surprise, after all these years, he asked where I worked. What’s up with that? It’s been a decade, if not two. Perhaps he had been reading my journal here and could no longer control his curiosity. Probably not though, since he first asked whether I was employed, before he asked where. It has nothing to do with employers’ dental plans, because we don’t have them in Norway. (Possible exception for boxing and similar sports where teeth are likely to fly. American-style football also comes to mind. Anyway, it is not normal. We don’t have public dental coverage either – each of us pays for ourself.)

The pay was fairly moderate this time, because there were zero holes again. I felt pretty good about this, although a bit surprised. I live mostly on carbs, after all, since I can’t eat more than small amounts of fat without getting ill, and really hate eating meat and fish. Not so much for religious or ethical reasons, although those don’t help exactly. It is just icky. That leaves carbs of various kinds, neither of which are known to be loved by teeth. (Except the indigestible sugar xylitol, which is known to protect teeth but can upset digestion in larger doses. I don’t eat much of the stuff.)

I felt pretty proud of my achievement even so, and as I posted on Google+, decided to celebrate with Pepsi and chocolate.

The soda tasted disgusting. That is not a property of Pepsi generally, but this particular bottle was not their best, it was one of the worst I have ever tasted from that brand. And then I broke my tooth on the chocolate bar.

OK, not really, it was already broken, it is the usual one which breaks every few months (or roughly as often as I buy some new gadget, which led me to the conclusion that “every time I buy a laptop, God breaks one of my teeth”. This one would be the retribution for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, although I am not sure whether it actually broke before or after… but in any case, it came out now. On the bright side, I didn’t swallow it. It has a longish metal pin on the root side, so that would have been very risky.

So, it seems I will be back sooner than expected, and pay more than expected. The chocolate was good, though. I stopped halfway through so as to not get sick (there is fat in chocolate), but it was quite tasty. My hubris, not so much, I guess.


I’m fine (so far – dentist appointment tomorrow). I am just not in journal writing mode.  Also, I rediscovered the online comic “Dumbing of age“, which is one of several reboots of the classic masterpiece “It’s Walky!” -It has the same characters but in a slightly different setting. It works pretty well, but the original had a certain charm that has been fading with time. I am not sure whether any of my current online friends were met on the Walky forums. I think not, but I am not entirely sure. It did lead me to other comics where I eventually made a bunch of friends. (Some of which are married to each other these days.)

So yeah, I guess it is kind of nostalgic. Although I guess I have changed so much more since then than the comic has.

Anyway, I am fine, as far as I know. Two of my two coworkers are not quite so lucky, so I have had a little fun at work. But our job is a bit secret – not top secret but just a bit – so that’s it for now.

Still adding a little to my latest fiction, but nothing to write home about right now.

Dream of being people

I dreamed that I was a small group of people waiting to board a train. Somewhere around seven people, I think. But I was not all of them at once – there are still limits, even in my dreams! My consciousness moved from one of them to the next, seeing the situation through their eyes, through their minds. Each of them had different things on their mind, different feelings, different priorities.

It is rare that I dream like this (I think – I don’t remember nearly all my dreams). I have had similar dreams in the past, even since my youth: Dreams in which I move from one of the characters into another, like a spirit possessing one person and then another.  I have even wondered, many years ago, if this was what I would become when I died – a spirit that would flitter around possessing living people. I sincerely hope not!

Anyway, I have no feeling of evil in these dreams. It is simply a way of changing viewpoints, something many authors do regularly in books without being demons.

But it does kind of bring home the point that, no, I am not a body. There are people, even among my online friends, who seem to sincerely believe they are bodies. That’s pretty weird. At the very least you should think you are the software that runs on the hardware of the brain. Preferably the coder who writes the software that runs on your brain. You could have any of a lot different bodies and still been you. Sure, the body adds flavor to your personality, but it does not decide who you are going to be ten or twenty years from now. YOU decide that. That is a scary thought, isn’t it?

But I suppose if you have never been anyone else, even in your dreams, it may be easy to never realize the difference between you and your body. Oh well, you’ll find out when you look down on it someday, I guess.

Even more fiction

Why are they so perceptive at a time like this?” Because they have read Books of the Truth! But this works a bit differently in this world and my fictional world.

I am still slowly working on the 1001st Book. Vaguely related to the topic of yesterday, but not too directly (because this is fiction, and for teens and tweens mainly). It seems obvious to me that those wizards who have absorbed a particular book, and has the sigil inside themselves, are also able to recognize the same sigil in other wizards. More widely, they can recognize that topic anywhere.

For instance, the 1002nd book is by ancient tradition the Way of Truth. (The complete works of Thoth are collectively referred to as “Books of Truth”, which may be why it is called Way instead of Book, unlike for instance the Book of Light and the Book of Air which describe the true nature of those two things in general, and so on.)  Anyway, once the Wizard has absorbed the book sufficiently, he will be able to recognize truth wherever he sees it. And likewise when he sees deviation from the truth, he will notice this, and to some extent what is missing or exaggerated or otherwise just not right.

Anyway, it is a pretty classical magic thing, I guess, the supernatural ability wizards have to evaluate each other. So it is only natural that I weave it into the story. That there happens to be something vaguely similar in the world in which I live does not hurt, but it is certainly not autobiography I write this time. Despite the lack of actual sex. When writing about teenagers, that is probably going to seem less likely than the magic to some. But miracles do happen!


Spiritual centering and centrifuges

“Unrest within the heart” – that is something I know from personal experience! Like from spending too much time and thoughts on computer games, social networks and other outward things.

In my previous entry, about a social computer game, I mentioned that it had a centrifugal effect: Pulling the mind outward from its spiritual center toward peripheral things, outward things, shallow things. That is a pretty harsh drawback to anything, really… if you are into centering in the first place. It would seem that a lot of people are not.

Boris Mouravieff seems to have held the view that about half the population does not have a spiritual soul. This is not defined by race or gender or some such, but a separate property of the soul. Or lack thereof, so to speak. I doubt it works quite like that, but it certainly seems that some people are utterly immune to spirituality. Not necessarily the rabid atheists: If anything, their opposition could be due to feeling the threat of  conversion, much like people who react strongly negative to homosexuality are found to be somewhat excitable by such things, and sometimes switch sides at a later time.

But there are people who just don’t get it. They have an absolute conviction that there is no “in there” in there, no spirit or soul, that they are obviously meat and this is how things should be.  In a way, they are better off than those of us who keep struggling to wake up, and then fall asleep again without ever getting out of bed. I mean metaphorically, as in spiritual awakening, but it probably doesn’t help that I have had this tendency in physical life as well…

But the great saints, sages, gurus etc seem to agree that God (or Heaven or the Higher Self or whatever is really important) is always “in there”, and that over time a kind of center of gravity develops and grows stronger. The inner world, which at first seemed like a small thing, turns out eventually to be greater than the outer.

I should specify that by “inner world” I do not mean the imaginary world of daydreams or fantasies, although in its own way these too are signs that the human mind is not merely a computer. But the spiritual center is different and indeed opposite from the fantasies of the mind. These, too, are centrifugal: Pulling us outward and away from our true home inside.

To return to this inner home (in wordless prayer or meditation or just a simple willing act of the soul) is  a wonderful feeling, sweet and pleasurable to such a degree that it will often spill over onto the body’s senses, perhaps giving us goosebumps or a sense of pleasure (that is quite distinct from sexual pleasure, if anyone wondered). I believe it is similar to the feeling of a child being caught up in the embrace of a loving parent – but to be honest, I cannot remember such a thing from my own life.

Ironically, I have found that it is mainly the return there which gives such a pleasure. Staying there for some length of time does not, at least for me. I have not seen anyone else write about that particular aspect yet, but I cannot help but notice the similarity to Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. When he returned, there was partying, but his brother who had always stayed there, in his Father’s house, did not get such a party. That is not to say that he had drawn the shortest straw, for his Father said to him: “My child! You are always with me, and all that I have belongs to you.”

At first, the gravity of this inner center is quite weak, at least for most of us who have it at all. But it can grow over time. And as I mentioned a few years ago, the presence of people with a strong inner gravity can help strengthen our own, perhaps more than anything else. (Or perhaps prayer and meditation is more effective, I am honestly not sure though. In the beginning at least I think the presence of others is the most efficient.) This may sound counter-intuitive: If they have a strong inner gravity, would not that pull me outward from my own center and toward theirs?

The misunderstanding lies in the very fact that we can only speak of this in parables. It is not actual Newtonian gravity (although I am quite sure Newton had it, and in spades). We just use gravity as a way to illustrate or make it easier to recognize this when it happens to you. In reality, the center of gravity inside another is also the center of gravity inside yourself!  All is one, one is all.  So that is why their very presence pulls you into yourself, into your own heart, where you will find what you long for.

In the absence of such a person – often a saint or guru or bodhisattva – modern man can often find a similar help in the writings of such a person. Even the writings of someone who has left this world can have this effect. We are then touching on an area similar to the reverence for saints, and I believe the two overlap, but I will not go into this today. I will just say what I have experienced to some small degree and heard for truth by better men, that the presence of someone who is grounded in their own spiritual center will help strengthen the same in you. This seems to depend entirely on that other person’s integrity, not their orthodoxy, which may not completely overlap.

In other words, someone may be a master of the study of the correct faith, but their actual presence is of little value. Another may be useless for teaching, or possibly even worse than useless, but their presence radiates a call to turn inward that anyone with a trace of the same calling will feel. Why it is so, I know not.

I probably understand very little of this, so you may want to go to other sources. But I hope something has stirred within you, a feeling of the pull from that other center, that is opposite to the worries and entertainments of the world. Me, I am still kind of suspended between them, but I believe the interior castle is still growing. If I am given time, I now have hope that I may have a home there that will never be rocked by the strongest storm, even – I hope – the one that will one day blow out the candle of my earthly life.

I hope that is still far off, though.