City of Wonder on Google+

All those shield symbols are basically “click me” signs. To move in more people, or get more imaginary money, you click on the corresponding sign, then wait. Or go do something useful, I suppose.

We interrupt everything to write about the game that has interrupted everything: City of Wonder on Google+. Not in any way related to the massive roleplaying game City of Heroes, this is a flash-based (I think it is flash) game played in a browser window. It is also very heavily inspired by Sid Meier’s Civilization series, except you can only play one city and eventually one colony.

CoW has existed for Facebook for a while, but I don’t play Facebook games. The security in FB is horribly bad, and the games – even when they are legit – write directly to your main output stream, cluttering up the Facebook experience for those who are your friend there for other reasons. (Except those who use the mobile Facebook app, at least Android does not show game messages. Luckily this is where most of my Facebook time is spent. Nearly all of it, actually.)

The Google+ version does not have that kind of privileges. Google has a separate gaming tab, which you need never open in your life if you are not that type. All messages written by games go in that one tab. Of course, the game will inspire the less spiritually developed players to write to their stream themselves. If they are not outright dumb, however, they can create a separate circle for their fellow gamers and restrict their game comments to that. I use that only for meta comments however, like explaining certain game features. Any projects or bonuses are automatically written to the game tab by the system, so I don’t write them elsewhere.

Social games is a way to share a tiny speck of symbolic love with people, so I consider it a good thing overall and will probably continue to use it. But it is also a very centrifugal activity – pulling the mind outward, out from its spiritual center of gravity – so I don’t think it will have any large place in my life as I continue my transition from shallow to less shallow.


Since I don’t have a lot of gamer friends these days, I went to the website of Playdom (who makes the game) and found a forum dedicated to their Google+ version.  Here was a tread for people looking for more allies, so I added a couple dozen of these to my Google+ account and invited them into the game. I am not sure if there is an upper limit, but I am probably far from it if so. Even so, the last three or four people I invited don’t show up on my pending list. And there are some who are still pending, but I suppose they will check up on the game when they return to work on Monday morning! :p

Having many allies is not strictly necessary to play the game, but having a certain number of them is necessary to unlock some game features, like wonders of the world and expanding the boundaries of your city. You can pay cash instead though.

Helping your allies (or anyone else, actually) build their wonders will give you a reward of 500 silver, so this can be a healthy contribution to your economy in the early game. It costs nothing except a couple clicks, and hopefully makes the other people happy. You can only help this way 30 times a day, though.

Allies get the opportunity to build embassies in each other’s cities for free. You can visit an embassy each day for a small coin reward (it increases over time), and usually get the chance to click a dumb help scenario to earn a couple hundred more coins. (Like help an old lady across the street.) You can actually visit several times a day and do the help clicks, but the embassy needs 18 hours to recharge. If you stay online for a long time – like ten minutes or more – there is a chance that the game will offer you the opportunity to go to an allied capital for a guaranteed help-click.

Conflict with other cities is voluntary and comes in three flavors. You can attack with your military (actual battles not shown), trade or initiate cultural exchange. Cultural exchange will give you XP (experience points) if you win, or cost you a small amount of silver coins if you lose. XP is what makes your city level up and eventually unlock new discoveries, so it seems like the obvious choice. That was one of my early mistakes in the game.

You see,  leveling up also determines the level of competitors you get to compete with. (Your allies are not among them, otherwise they are random.) If you are level 4, your competitors will be level 3, 4 or 5.  If you level up rapidly, you simply don’t have the number of cultural buildings to win a contest reliably. Also, cultural buildings are not the only deciding factor in a contest. The total population also counts (as it also does in trade and battle), as does the number of allies. (Although the allies don’t seem to help much, strangely.)

As a winning strategy, it may be better to level up more slowly. Generally buildings or productions that require more clicking also give more XP, so it may be better to buy houses that you only click once or twice a day. This goes for markets as well: They give a bonus XP each time you click on them. If you want to level up fast, you should choose production that is finished in 5 minutes, but a more balanced approach would be visiting only a few times a day, at most, and get less XP.

Of course, you will eventually want to level up when you begin to run out of technologies at your current level, but that would require a pretty lazy play style.

The main point of the game, however, as I see it, is helping random people solve their imaginary problems. Your values may vary.

More imaginary magic books

There is no end to the writing of books!

I recently wrote about my latest fiction project, tentatively called The 1001st Book. It is based on an ancient archetype of the wizard as a person who has first and foremost knowledge. In modern role-playing games and many fantasy novels, being a mage is something you are born to. You still need to memorize spells in some cases, but that is pretty much it. That is not how it used to be! In times of old, the wizard was both feared and respected, not just for his power but for his knowledge. The wizard was old and, well, wizened. A long life of poring over esoteric tomes had given him an uncanny knowledge of things beyond mortal ken.

I have realized in retrospect that what I am trying to do is modernize this archetype. And I try to do so by starting at the point where the wizard diverges from the ordinary people, the “muggles” or whatever they are called these days. This happens when he first begins studying esoteric books: Books of hidden knowledge, but usually hidden in plain sight.

Not to get excessively autobiographical here, but I dabble in esoteric books myself, and I can see how this would generally require some maturity to even get started.

Another influence on this particular piece of fiction is the Japanese new religion Happy Science and the valiant attempts by its founder to make religious knowledge available for people of average intelligence or even a little below. I recently saw (in a computer game, of all places) theology explained this way: “It’s like religion, but with more deep-thoughtiness.” It is this deeper thinking that is glaringly absent in most religious people you will hear of, and probably also most you will meet. They have some basic knowledge, but they don’t have a deep, wide understanding.

But this story is not about theology or Happy Science. Rather it points back to the traditional wizard archetype, where esoteric knowledge spilled over into the physical world, a literal understanding of “knowledge is power”. It was thought that a wizard could command various spirits, or knew hidden properties of plants or stones or animals, or could consult the stars. By combining diverse parts of this wide-ranging knowledge, he could accomplish things that seemed miraculous to ordinary people.

In The 1001st Book, each of the 20 000 Books of Truth contain just one arcane sigil. The rest of each book explains the concept which the sigil represents, the true knowledge associated with it, and its place in the grand scheme of things. While the lines drawn to shape the sigil are indeed memorized, the rest of the tome has to be understood. It is a process of cognition and cogitation, so to speak. You have to understand it and think about it. Only when you have fully understood the concept and its implications, can you use the sigil – an ancient word for “seal”, see Latin “sigillum Sanctum”, holy seal. (Possibly also Hebrew “segulah”, meaning an esoteric component or some such.) For the purpose of this fiction, we shall assume that the sigil is the seal on the knowledge of the book: It sums up and represents the deep and wide understanding the reader has acquired.

Needless to say, the power of this knowledge increases as you add more books, and become able to see the connections between all kinds of things. It does not just add up, it multiplies, because you can combine them in all kinds of interesting ways.

So how do you stay alive long enough to read hundreds or even thousands of heavy tomes? Ancient portrayals of wizards usually showed them as very ancient, and it was assumed that their art kept them alive. In my story, I have a somewhat more straightforward explanation: The Gift of Thoth, as it is called by the locals, comes from the fact that the magician does not age while occupied with the Art. Whether studying on the tomes, meditating on the sublime Truth learned in them, or actually using the Art in practice, the magician is in a state of  “otherness”, in which the mind is under the sway of the Spirit World rather than the material world.

This is an extension of a topic I wrote about (non-fiction, to the best of my knowledge) recently: That certain activities seem to prolong your life by about as much as you spend on them. In real life, religious participation and meditation seem to be among these. So it is no big leap of imagination to extend this to study of Books of Truth.

As for the actual scenes, these often come while I take a walk. This is the usual for me and fiction. The best length seems to be 10-20 minutes. Much less and I don’t have time for a full scene to form in my head. More, and my brain buffer overflows and I have to repeat the text I have written in my head so it doesn’t disappear. (It still changes a bit when I write it down, but usually is still recognizable.)

I know I have written before about walking and getting fiction “revelations”, but it still works that way, and it may be useful for whoever is reading this. It is unlikely that anyone would read this far unless they are into fiction writing themselves, right?

Opposite of starvation

Which of these represent the opposite of starvation? Sim-Magnus or the imaginary sim-Tuva? The answer may surprise you.

I first wanted to call this entry “anti-starvation”, but that sounds like a humanitarian organization.

I have a few times mentioned my own brush with starvation in 2005. It was certainly not in the developing country manner, but rather a medical situation that led me to steadily lose weight until my body started to adapt to the lack of food in several ways. The most obvious was perhaps the way it influenced my mind, with a kind of chronic hunger, which continued even after eating. There were other changes as well, and one of them may ironically have resulted in its opposite, which is the topic of today.

The opposite of starvation is probably the complex state of health often called “metabolic syndrome”. Actually the professional usage of this phrase may be a bit more precise. But as I am now in a state of pre-diabetes, a still mostly harmless form of the syndrome, I cannot help but notice the parallels.

When starving, my brain stem was hungry even when my stomach was full. I wanted to just keep eating, even though reason convinced me that I would just get sick. Now, it is the other way around: My stomach is bullying me to eat by the unpleasant gnawing feeling, but my brain stem would rather that I didn’t. I feel fed even when I wake up in the morning.  And rightly so.


Yesterday a couple hours after lunch I took a fairly long walk that burned 800 calories.  OK, I would probably have burned 100 of them even if I stayed at home, but anyway. I didn’t eat anything when I came home, because I had a doctor appointment next day and was told to fast the night before. So I went to bed, and woke up the next morning feeling completely restored. I could have taken another walk till my legs grew stiff, and probably another and another if I rested a while in between. I was not hungry at all, until my stomach began gnawing.  And my brain stem was right, while my stomach was wrong: My fasting blood sugar was 6.1 mmol. Not sure what that is in American measures, but the recommended upper limit is 6 mmol, and in some publications 5.8. So despite being physically active, I am still pre-diabetic. In fact, it seems that my body has decided 6.1 is the new standard (it was the same last time too), which it returns to after exercise.

This is in theory good news.  Not having to eat is money saved, right? Unfortunately the stomach disagrees. I am still experimenting to find ways to keep it from pestering me. I guess the best I can do is to just keep stopping before I am full, and hope that it will gradually learn to expect smaller and smaller portions.

Feeling over-fed by a small meal is certainly less unplesant than feeling hungry after a big one, so I can see why people just keep forging ahead until they get diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis. After all, we are programmed by our instincts to avoid starvation if possible. The safeguards on the opposite side are not nearly as formidable. But they are there, if you pay attention. And if you have tried both, you may recognize the opposite of starvation simply by listening to your own body, even before you hear it from your doctor.


I mentioned that the near-starvation may have somehow triggered its opposite. The body is known to do unusual things when facing unusual situations. And this is unusual indeed: Before the illness began at Easter 2005, I used to weigh close to 95 kg. (One kg is roughly 2 pounds, but not exactly.) This seemed to be a practical upper limit, as I stayed close to it for a decade or more perhaps. Occasionally I would dip down to 93, but usually I was in the 94-95 interval.

Now the limit seems to be at 88. That is good, right? No, actually, it is not that simple. When I was 95, the fat was distributed differently. I had a larger paunch (gut bulge), true, but I also had permanent fat deposits on my backside and thighs. Not enough to compete with your average housewife, of course, but plenty for a man and pretty obvious when looking back at some of the pictures from around the turn of the century. This kind of fat is harmless, possibly even healthy. It is only released in case of starvation.

And of course that was what happened, even if it went no further than that. No matchstick arms and protruding ribs and all that. But my body fat was gone. And when it returned, it did not return to where it had been. Now it is almost completely concentrated around my kidneys and thereabout. This type of fat, which is more common in men than in women, can be released very quickly to the bloodstream. It does not even take hunger, just stress.  Get angry or afraid, and delicious fat pours into the blood, ready to fuel your battle.

I consider this a poor exchange for my built-in sitting pillow. But this is the kind of thing that could happen if you are successful with your dieting. Luckily, most people give up after losing about 5% of their body mass in fat, so the effect on their body is quite limited. I will probably be one of them if I decide to lose weight at all. The doctor recommends it, although he is satisfied as long as I don’t gain weight, and stay physically active.  The irony is that I am not visibly “fat” at all. I don’t have the other symptoms of metabolic syndrome either, but if I had not convinced my body that it was starving, I might have been fatter and still healthier.


Sex-starved writer

There would be impure thoughts everywhere!” Even in my fiction, I’m afraid.

I had a scene for my latest story written in my head, more or less, but I refrained from writing it down today. I feared, almost certainly with good reason, that it was influenced by the general high tide of sexual consciousness that has been in my life the last couple days.

Even though I am over 50 and quite comfortable with my celibacy, the body-mind seems to have its own tides and times when it comes to sexuality. This is a more general atmosphere. It is not like I actually go out and buy drinks for lonely women in the hope of sexual favors, or indeed go out at all. But there is rather a general hunger for physical intimacy (to use a somewhat flattering but not quite misleading name). Or perhaps more starvation than hunger, in a certain sense.

I do not have experience with starvation in the East African sense, I am happy to say. But after a virus destroyed my ability to digest (or possibly metabolize) fat except in small quantities, it took my body several months to rebuild my digeston to live off carbs instead. During 9 months I kept losing weight, until I was a “thin client” indeed, as my coworkers joked. (Thin client is a kind of computers we used in our line of work.) Having lost my fat reserves, my body reacted with a different form of hunger.  You may think starvation is an extreme degree of hunger, but that is not really true. If you go a couple days without eating, you will probably experience an extreme degree of hunger. After a while, the stomach stops screaming for food, leaving only a dull ache.  Starvation is a hunger that permeates your very being. Even after I was able to eat large meals, I felt hungry deep inside. Before eating, during the meal, even afterwards when my stomach was so full that I more than half wished I could throw up. It was a hunger that came from the brain stem, not from the stomach. Ever present, until my body had recovered a ways.

The high tides of sexuality are like that. It is not something that stops if I wake up from a wet dream in the morning, for instance.  It will recede in its own time, but until then, it colors my perceptions, pulls at my thoughts and my feelings, and of course my body. It is not so much urgent as persistent. That is how it is for me, at those times.

In later years, I have had longer and longer periods of complete freedom from sexual impulses, as if that part of my life was something of the past. Only a couple weeks really at that level, but very enjoyable weeks. But always it comes back. I am not sure whether it is tied to the moon phases (it seemed like it when I was younger, but less so now), or some other kind of internal rhythm. There may also be an element of enantiodromia … whenever there is a strong impulse in your life, there will be countercurrents at best, possibly outright rebellion. It would not surprise me if my recent interest in the life of St Gregory would trigger some kind of active resistance.

Whenever one moves a step forward into contemplation or some related area, it is a safe bet that the mind parasites will stir up distractions. What these are can vary from person to person and over time, ranging from computer games to compulsive gambling to full-blown panic attacks. OK, I actually haven’t tried the compulsive gambling, but it is a classic example. I assume this could be something along the same line.

In any case, it is sure to be temporary. And in the meantime, I have to be very careful about what I write, whether fiction or otherwise. I have read some fiction where it is painfully obvious where in the book the writer has gone through a horny phase. I like to think that in my current story, what little flirty banter there is would actually be a natural part of the situation. But just to be sure, I won’t let my characters out more than necessary until this has blown over.  And the same should probably apply to some of my non-fiction.

In the computer game The Sims 3, sims with the personality trait Good have the option to donate to various good causes, exchanging some money against 24 hours of some extra happiness. One of the options is “Donate to Starving writers.” In the case of sex-starved writers, however, I think it is better for all involved if you don’t donate pictures of an explicit nature, as has happened (very rarely) in the past with overly helpful online friends.  Chick pics with beaks are OK though – I am not that starved!


In praise of negative thinking

A little too literally translated, I think. How about “It is all my fault, and only my fault!”

In my circles at least, “positive thinking” is accepted as a good thing. It is believed that some mysterious “law of attraction” will bring you the positive things you think of.

I, on the other hand, have found negative thinking to be quite useful. Not negative thoughts about others, but about myself.

You may want to skip this if you are vulnerable to depression, either from your personal history or family. Although I personally don’t find it depressing, but who knows. I am not you.


What I mean by negative thinking is not a vague and general feeling that “you can never do anything right”, “you’ll never amount to anything” or the more hardcore “why don’t you just die”. That’s not how the thoughts in my head go. I am not quite sure how much this comes from your parents speaking to you as a small child, or whether it is a biological tendency or even a spiritual one. In any case it is unfounded, as anyone can achieve at least something in the future if they choose to stay there.

No, what I call “automisanthropology”, the study of why I of all people am up to no good, is more concrete. Why did I make that careless mistake? Why didn’t I do anything while I still could? Why did I wait for someone else to help? Why didn’t I learn from last time I was in the same situation? Why did I think my own whims or wishes were more important than the needs of another? Why did I forget what I had promised to remember? And so on and on.

There is, I guess, an underlying optimism that allows me to think like this. An assumption that I could have done better, that at some point I will learn from my mistakes, that there is a fundamental will to do the right thing, deep down. Very deep down. Extremely deep down. That “original sin” is not the true original, but smeared across something even deeper, more primordial: The primordial spark of Light by which we can even receive Light. Even if that spark is no bigger than a mustard seed right now.

But exactly for this reason, I don’t hold back when I talk to myself. I tell it as I see it, and it is not pretty. I don’t want to just forget and put it behind me. I want to learn and change, even if it takes seventy times seven tries. I am not fine. I am not OK. I may have that potential, but mistakes were made, and by me. If I excuse myself, I will never change. And I must change. That is why I live, isn’t it? Not just to avoid death as long as possible, although I’d rather do that too, but to become more me, more the me I want or aspire to be.

And when has blaming others ever made anyone improve in any way?


1001st book worldbuilding

Thoth, god-king of Atlantis, as imagined by a contemporary Japanese artist. (From the movie The Laws of Eternity, although this is not about that.)

As if I had nothing better to do, I came up with yet another story. It has potential, I think, but probably not a lot of potential. We’ll see. As usual what I write about here is mainly the “worldbuilding”, the setting of the story, not the plot, if such a thing even exists. I usually leave that to the muses in my head.

The protagonist is a 15 year old boy, but that is kind of incidental. The point is, he has read 1000 books. He did not know the exact number, although it seems reasonable when he is told so by a new librarian at the town library. She gives him a book called The 1001st Book, which will probably be the title of my book as well if I complete it. Unless someone has used that name already, which is certainly possible: There is no end to the writing of books, according to Ecclesiastes.

The book he is given is a fantasy novel about some guy in a world where magic exists but modern technology does not. Magic is not something you are born to, anyone could become a magician, but it seems to happen only to bookish people. The reason, we learn from the book, is that you can only become a magician after having read and understood 1000 books. It does not matter what books. After this, you will be given the 1001st book, which tells you the truth about magic, and toward the end of the book, teaches you the Attalan Runes.

The Runes are a syllabic script (which I currently imagine to be similar to hiragana or katakana in Japanese, not that I am saying so in the text). Once you master the Runes, you can go on to learn the Sigils of Mu, representing words or concepts (which I imagine as similar to kanji in Japaese). It is in this script that the secrets of the world are written, which magicians need to know in order to master the forces of the world.

After reading the book, the main character (of my book, not the book he is reading) begins to dream that he is in that other world he read about. The dream is very lifelike. It is in this dreamworld that he will find the 1002nd and later books. Over time, it will become more and more uncertain which world is the most real.

The 1002nd book is the first of the 20 000 Books of Truth, written 12 000 years ago by Thoth, god-king of Attalan. It was also he who established the practice of offering the teachings of magic to those who had read 1000 books.  Thoth is believed by the locals to have been the incarnation of a god, not the Creator but the protector and guide of this particular planet. The line between gods and the most powerful magicians is somewhat blurry, but Thoth was more powerful and wiser than any of them.

It is said that this god incarnates in the world from time to time when history needs it, and if someone ever reads and understands all the 20 000 Books of Truth, that person will be proved to be the reincarnation of Thoth. But so far that has never happened. This is because there are many branches of knowledge, and they seem to be mutually exclusive: When you have studied one of them, the opposite branch becomes meaningless, mere incomprehensible babble. And the other way around: They who have studied the opposite branch, will not be able to study the first one.

(If you thought that last part far-fetched, you may want to lend a helping hand to the people teaching respectively quantum physics and relativity…)

Occasionally some magician is able to reconcile two branches of magic by seeing them both from a much higher perspective, and this person gains the wisdom and power of a god. But so far no one has been able to combine them all, or even nearly all. It is believed that only the Rebirth of Thoth can do that.

So, is my main character actually the reincarnation of Thoth? Perhaps not, but that is beside the point for now.  I am still just sketching out the world and some of the characters and some of the plot for the first book. You don’t become a god over the course of a single book, you know. Not even a small god. Definitely not Thoth, god-king of Attalan.  ^_^


In case it was not obvious, this is based on real-world legends. Thoth is an Egyptian god of wisdom and writing, which was later identified with Hermes Trismegistus,  Thrice-great Hermes. They were both renowned for having written thousands of books, although only a few scattered writings remain from Hermes. Of Thoth, as far as I know, only legends remain. A much more recent vision has placed his whereabouts in ancient Atlantis.

Whatever the historical events that gave rise to these legends, their now thoroughly mythical nature today makes them well suited to include in such a story, I think. Unless someone else has written it already. There is no end to the writing of books, after all!


1/2xXP week

Disappearing like water under the bridge…

The title today comes from the fact that today is 2xXP weekend (double experience points) at City of Heroes, for the last time before CoH changes into City of Heroes Freedom, a free-to-play MMORPG retaining most of the content but with a number of changes. I used to play the game most days of the week for over 7 years, but as I have mentioned earlier this summer, my enthusiasm is dwindling.  I did play it a few days after the terror attack in Oslo, probably not by coincidence. But now, even if it is double XP weekend, I don’t find it all that interesting.

The other component of today’s title was my realization that it was Friday. I had been at work perhaps a couple hours when I noticed that the coworker in the next office wasn’t there. I wondered whether he was sick or just taking time off (we have somewhat flexible work hours). Then I realized that he has Fridays off, and today was one of those. Really? Not Thursday or possibly Wednesday? No, it really was Friday. That was disheartening.

This is not because I love my job, although these days I kind of do. Helping people and getting paid for it is an awesome combination, although I keenly feel that I am not helping as much as I should. Even though I have tried, I seem unable to become really competent in my job. I guess I am harvesting something I have sown for many years, even decades in a sense. But I can whine about that another time. Today I will dwell on the fact that time is slipping through my hands.

It did not use to be like that. I have for years been blessed with more time than other people, or so it seems. Time seemed to pass more slowly for me. I did not always get much done, but I had a sense of being there and experiencing it all, even when I could not consciously remember all of it. Now, both this week and the week before, the days seem to just fly by. It is as if I am not completely there, as if the hours run and only part of them pass through me. It is a loss that I find profound and disturbing, although it seems that almost all humans have it this way at my age and even long before. I have been blessed with this for so long, and I feel the loss of it as if an important part of my life has left me.

I don’t want the years to just pass by and suddenly it is all over. I don’t want the missing days to grow into missing years and missing decades and the last years of my life to be only “half experience” or even less than that. And so I feel this regret, a sense of somehow having gone wrong and destroyed something precious.

I can’t help but wonder if this is not related to the long string of slightly unlikely events that have happened the last couple weeks as I tried in various ways to get more than a little broadband to my home again. I kind of succeeded, I guess: Today I watched the first half of The Ten Commandments on Voddler, a Scandinavian movie streaming service. I loved it.  I have not seen that movie before, and it reminded of just how cool Moses was. So it is not all bad, I guess. But I still wonder if I have somehow deviated from my destiny.

Perhaps the meaning of this unexpected and unwanted move was exactly this, to begin to disentangle me from the immersion in the online world, to give me a chance to become more quiet and introspective, to read more and meditate more and even pray more. There is a part of me that wants that, but there is also the outer part of me that likes to play games and read news and participate in social networks. They stand against each other, so I cannot do what I will. Both cannot unfold at the same time, at least most of the time.

Earlier this summer I read a quote by St Gregory the Theologian, or St Gregory Nazianzen as he is also called. I don’t really like names with Nazi in them, so to me he remains St Gregory the Theologian, even if that is supposedly the Eastern Orthodox name. Anyway! Look at this quote:

“Nothing seems to me greater than this: to silence one’s senses, to emerge from the flesh of the world, to withdraw into oneself, no longer to be concerned with human things other than what is strictly necessary; to converse with oneself and with God, to lead a life that transcends the visible; to bear in one’s soul divine images, ever pure,  not mingled with earthly or erroneous forms; truly to be a perfect mirror of God and of divine things, and to become so more and more, taking light from light…; to enjoy, in the present hope, the future good, and to converse with angels; to have already left the earth even while continuing to dwell on it, borne aloft by the spirit.”

I feel like a hypocrite for even saying this,but I was struck by the beauty of this quote. I had to go back and read it again. The voice in my heart was like: Yes! This is it! This is it exactly! This is what we tried to describe in that blog entry on prayer. To emerge from the flesh of the world, or the world of the flesh, to converse with oneself (or commune with one’s heart) and with God, or with angels and saints. The beauty of the divine things, the hope of receiving, into the heart, light from Light.

I hope you agree that the quote is amazingly beautiful. It isn’t just me, right?

But when the events in my life took a turn toward this, starting almost immediately afterward (or so it seems to me), I was upset and went to great lengths to counter it. I slapped the hand that tried to pull me up, and stuck with the things that please my outer self. So eventually, after this long process, I seem to have achieved what I strived for, at least to some degree. And it was not the beauty that St Gregory saw. Then again, I am not St Gregory (I sincerely believe). But I may have passed up a chance to become more like him, in which case I would probably have needed correspondingly less broadband.

I am sure God would still have granted me enough bandwidth to keep y’all updated.

Beep! Zeroth world problem

In a few war-torn countries, food is still scarce. In most of the developing world, worries are such as getting new shoes for the kids before they outgrow the old. In America, millions of unemployed wait in various degrees of dread for the utility bill, after a summer so scorching hot, a friend compared it to Satan leaving the door to Hell open. (One may doubt the door to Hell is in America, but if the road to it is paved with good intentions…)

So what do we worry about in scenic Norway?

Me, I fed my electronic pulse watch with my age, weight and sex. (“Male”, as “No, thanks” was not an option…) The watch calculated my exercise frame to be from 117 to 133 beats per minute. Fine. But it also insists on beeping if my pulse is outside the boundaries. Beep! Beep! And it just so happens that walking fast usually takes me to a pulse of 115, and there it stops. So, alternative 1, walking through the town with my watch beeping furiously.

If on the other hand I try to run, my pulse quickly goes over the higher value, and the watch beeps even faster. Beep beep beep! And more importantly, running also triggers my exercise asthma. So it is something I just don’t do, unless the alternative is likely death.

The obvious solution is to run a few yards to get the pulse up, then walk until it approaches 117 again, and run some more. Unfortunately this looks just as crazy as walking around with a beeping watch. That was not much of a problem way out in the countryside, but the first and last 15 minutes are through the town where hundreds of people are staring, at least if you act crazy.

So how did I solve this? By listening to the voice in my head telling me to Google for the product name and how to turn off sound. A PDF of the user guide (which I had lost) contained a description that, with a little trial and error, did the trick.

So the key to not be seen as crazy is to listen to the voices in your head. Bet you wouldn’t have thought of that!

(OK, it is not literally a voice, like with schizophrenia. More like an independent thought. Still, it amuses me.)

Anyway, I sped up once I was out of the town center, and burned 700+ calories, so I thought it was worth it.

Toddlers and dreams

“It is scary and dark out, and there are aliens…” In your dreams, young lady!

On the bus yesterday, there was a particularly loud toddler. I was a little irritated by the loud screams for a short while, but reflected on myself and noticed something. The way the toddler goes through intense emotions seemingly at random, or sparked by small impulses that cause extreme reactions. It is a lot like dreams, is it not?

I know some people, especially with old age, begin to dream so prosaic dreams that they cannot in the end tell them from real life. Such as the old man who naps after dinner and snores loudly for quite a while, then assures everyone that he did not sleep, he was just thinking with his eyes closed. To not be able to tell your dreams from your thinking, I am not sure whether that says most about your dreams or about your thinking… but at least when we are much younger, this is not the typical dream.

Even at my age, at over 50, I often experience stark fear during my first dream of the night. Whenever I can remember one of those, it is usually about some immediate threat, like a car accident about to happen, or a thief, or big spiders, that kind of thing. In waking life, extreme and immediate danger is very rare. While an armed burglar may eventually take my life, it is very much less likely than dying from fat like so many Norwegians do, unless I keep up my exercise schedule.

At the end of the night, dreams of great pleasure are more common: Flying, sexual activities, or wielding magic. Again, not spectacularly realistic. Especially not the sex…

Anyway, what strikes me is that dreams express extreme feelings and may change suddenly,  just like the waking life of a toddler. Could it be that toddlers are actually living in a dream? That until they learn to impose narrative on their life, there is no “real world” as we know it? There is the self, and the (m)other, but they are both rather nebulous, and the world even more so. A cat is not extremely much more realistic than a monster. The laws of nature could suddenly change. And some small thing – or even just the passage of time – could turn triumph into tragedy, then disappear just as suddenly.

I wonder: How much does our toddlerhood continue in our subconscious? Or, opposite, how far does our narrative reach beyond the realm of speech? If we had to face the world without being able to tell ourselves what is real and not, what would the difference be between our daily life and our nightly dreams?

Bach to basics

“The grownup wish of cultivating wholesome young men will never come true.” That is a lot more convincing if you aren’t listening to Bach.

I may be a pretty happy person overall, but I am far from perfect. For instance, I am rather incompetent at my job. Even though I now love it, in theory at least, I seem to have a hard time improving. I am not even looking to advance in my career, more like being able to fill a whole workday with actually useful work when there is not an emergency.

In all fairness, our staff is dimensioned to handle a near-emergency. We do get overloaded when all khaos breaks loose, but we do have some over-capacity on a quiet summer day. Anyway, I am sure I could expand my ability and scope with more dedication. But it didn’t happen today either. And then I went home.


I came home about half past five (17:30), or an hour after I left work. I sleep or read on the bus home, so that is time well spent. But after that the hours went by, and by the time I took my daily walk the clock was a quarter to nine (20:45). As I walked, I wondered how I had managed to spend that much time doing nothing.

Well, part of it was writing yesterday’s entry. Even though I backdated it to the time I went to bed yesterday, I had it only sketched out in my head. It changed a bit in writing, and grew larger, and there was the actual physical writing as well. So that took some time.

I read and commented on a couple illustrated Sims stories by an online friend. I know from experience how much work goes into Sims stories. Even though my own Micropolis story line was edifying to myself and others, I just don’t have that kind of time on my hand anymore, I feel. In addition to playing the game, you have to take pictures, and later write out the story and resize the pictures, perhaps adding captions or effects. Anyway, I didn’t do that today, I just read and commented, which I feel they deserve.

I spent some time catching up with an unexpectedly long discussion in which I had participated earlier in the day on Google+. The question was basically whether government was universal or a human invention. I weighed in with the conviction that on another planet, people may not need government because they all follow the voice in their head, which would teach them everything and remind them of everything. Opinions were somewhat divided on whether this was a good thing, but I think it is clear that it would make government as we know it superfluous.

Furthermore I opined that even on our planet it is possible for an individual to outgrow the need to be governed by others, and instead govern oneself. I don’t think that is particularly far-fetched, since there is already considerable variation in how much various individuals need to be governed. And even the same person can change over time.

I also spent a little time setting up the Galaxy Tab with the new SIM card, which arrived on Friday but the PIN code did not arrive until today. Once it had a new SIM card, Google’s 2-step verification stopped recognizing the whole tablet. So I had to generate a new verification password for that as well.

But at least I found time to listen to Bach’s Toccato and Fugue in D minor for organ!  Surely that at least is time well spent. I reserve judgment on Ryuho Okawa’s assertion that Bach was actually an archangel, but I can understand why someone would think so. I do believe his music has increased the happiness of many people: Not mainly in the form of an immediate, upbeat joy, but rather by refining – or calibrating? – the soul of those who have reached a level where this kind of music can touch them.

Perhaps I should consider more seriously my threat of listening to some Bach each day – except each day is already this short. In fact, it is over right about now. It is my scheduled bedtime, and I have not even found time to play computer games or watch anime! What is the world coming to?