A macabre reminder about the opposite of freedom, from the ever helpful cult “Happy Science”. 

After some months, I happened to hear that song again, “Free” performed by Sarah Brightman. It is a beautiful melody, and she has a beautiful voice (and name). But I still remember the shock of the first time I heard the chorus and recognized the words. There was someone else who had thought like that? And a woman at that. I could kind of imagine a man saying this. Well, I could imagine myself saying it, at least.

I had to be free,
had to be free,
it’s all that I wanted…
I wanted to see,
wanted to be
alone if I needed.
I had to be free,
had to be free
from feelings that haunted.
I wanted to see,
wanted to be

Judging from the rest of the song, that did not work quite as well as the character hoped. Freedom is an elusive thing when there is something one wants. Attachment and freedom don’t go together. I guess what she describes is a kind of compromise.

Spotify link, while it lasts.

After I was no longer a child, my mother told me that when I had been a toddler, I didn’t like to sit on her lap like the other children had, but insisted on standing on my own little feet. I don’t have any strong theories about why this was, but there has been no lap that I preferred over standing on my own later either. So I can relate to this. And yet there is so much more freedom left to gain. Mostly from myself though.

I have to be free. Have to be free…

Sims 2 and small hells

The Sims 2 was arguably the first game where artificial intelligence was sometimes indistinguishable from natural stupidity.

I installed The Sims 2 on my laptop, and was surprised to see that it ran noticeably faster than on my old desktop.

You may wonder why I was surprised: After all, the laptop is four and a half year newer than the desktop, and that’s 3 “generations” of Moore’s Law.  Today, that Law is usually quoted as “the capacity of computers doubles every 18 months”. This is slightly different from what Moore actually said, but easy to remember and pretty close to what we observe in the real world. That would mean an 8-fold increase in computing power, more than enough to overwhelm even the difference between a desktop and a laptop.

(Yes, this means computers become 10 times more powerful in 5 years, 100 times more powerful in 10 years, and 1000 times more powerful in 15 years. Do you really want to turn your new computer on in 15 years? What if it takes control of you instead of the other way around? Luckily, what has happened is largely that instead of making large, insanely powerful computers, factories are churning out smaller and cheaper computers. These days they are called “smartphones”. ^_^)


Sims 2 is a lot of fun when it starts quickly and runs smoothly like that. But even so, I notice that after a while (about half an hour or so, for me and Sims 2) I begin to grow more irritable and grumpy. A feeling of dissatisfaction begins to emerge from within. These are hellish feelings, as you know if you have been on the receiving end of them. They are certainly not heavenly. And this happens even though the game is a lot of fun and I want to play it more. But even as I do so, I can feel my patience wear thin and my temper begin to fray. Why?

One day I felt compelled to write something like this: “On the way to Heaven, the sinner stops in Hell, thinking he has arrived.” I am not sure if this is literally true for the afterlife, or even whether there are ways and time in the afterlife (at least in our sense). What I mean is that this happens to us in everyday life. We seek after the Good, the True and the Beautiful. But on our way we come to surrogates which please us, but on a more shallow level than what our hearts really seek. So we stop and cling to these things, but this is the cause of a growing sense of wrongness. As long as we project this wrongness outward, thinking that we have been wronged by others and not by ourselves, it cannot be abated. As the Buddha says in the Dhammapada:
“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who harbor such thoughts
do not still their hatred.
“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who do not harbor such thoughts
still their hatred.
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
This is a law eternal.


With The Sims 2, there is also the detail that the sims have needs and wants. And as with us, the two are not always in harmony. Their needs are such as hunger, bladder, fun and sleep. Their wants may vary, for instance to increase a skill or to become friends with a particular other sim. If their needs fall too low, bad things happen, all the way to starving to death. If they never fulfill any wants, they start worrying and eventually go insane. If you have any plans for them beyond this, that just complicates it even more. And if you tend to empathize (not to say identify) with the little computer people, some of that conflict will be felt in yourself. That is how I see it. In The Sims 3 this factor is less intense, because they take better care of themselves, and they don’t go crazy if they don’t fulfill their wants. They just pass over some benefits. So that might explain the difference between the two games.

But there is still some of this fraying of tempers in all games I play, although some hold out better than others. (City of Heroes, which will be discontinued on November 30 after 8 years, was quite possibly the best of them. I think part of this was its innate goodness. Even though roleplaying a hero is a kind of self-satisfaction, it is still aligned with good. I tried playing the included villain scenario, but this irritated me again.)

I believe that this restlessness and irritation and lack of satisfaction is a natural result of spending too much time in a lower world, a world less real than ours, even if it is fun. Conversely, spending time in a higher world can be distinctly unfun , but leaves us with a sense of deep satisfaction. (By higher worlds I mean not only those of religion, accessed for instance through prayer and meditation, but also secular studies of mathematics or physics, the laws on which our universe depends. It is not that these activities cannot result in great joy, even bliss, when we reach some new insight. But they are not entertaining or fun in the same way as playing a video game.)

So does this mean I am going to stop playing Sims games? Well, probably not yet. But perhaps I can learn to stop once my Fun bar has been filled…?

NaNoWriMo planning

Happy Science has a rather less optimistic view of ghosts. (Here from the anime The Rebirth of Buddha.) Don’t worry though, there are other spirits who are more helpful.

NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, is an open project to write 50 000 words of continuous fiction during the month of November. I have participated for about a decade by now, and even take my vacation in November each year. So also this year.

Today was the last workday before my “writecation”, where I take 5 weeks vacation from work (all the weeks that include November, basically). My tentative plan is to study Go, re-watch the anime Hikaru no Go and perhaps The Laws of Eternity, and write tens of thousands of words of fiction.


Yes, I intend to write 50 000 words of fiction about Go and related topics. For the unnaturally curious, here is my rough outline of the story:

The main character is a high school freshman who I for some reason want to call Eric. He is an “otaku”, obsessed with Japanese entertainment: Manga, anime, Jpop, and games. He was introduced to manga and anime by his older sister, but he is more into it than she. On the other hand, she is doing outrageous that he is not: She is writing gay fan fiction about straight character. This bizarre hobby of hers makes him rather nervous whenever she comes up with another scheme to give him a social life. (His sister is actually concerned about him, because he has no friends and tend to hole up with his anime and games all day.)

One day his sister introduces him to the anime Hikaru no Go, about a 6th grade boy who finds an old Go board which is haunted. The spirit in the board attaches itself to him and begins to badger him to play Go, because it is the ghost of a Go player from 1000 years ago who cannot find peace until he has reached “the Hand of God”, the perfect play. As long as the ghost is telling him how to play, he plays like a master, and becomes the center of attention from serious Go players. This causes him to try hard to learn the game himself, and a lot of adventures happen during the 75 episode of the anime.

The anime Hikaru no Go has inspired thousands if not millions of young people all over the world to learn to play Go. But it has only inspired one boy to try to find his own Go-playing ghost. This is his story. As you may guess, it is meant to be a bit on the humorous side.

Eric’s logic is that there since Go is popular among old men in Japan, there is bound to be thousands of ghosts who want to return to play more Go. All he needs is to attract one of them. They don’t need to be the best, as long as they are better than most people in Scandinavia, his success is assured.

First he needs to learn the basics of Go and the various Japanese phrases used in the game. (I can use this to pad the book if I run out of story.)  He also needs to expand his Japanese vocabulary, since it is unlikely that old Japanese ghosts speak English. (He actually lives in Norway, but for simplicity, all Norwegians speak English in his world.) Then he needs to find out how to get in contact with Japanese ghosts.

As luck (or plot) would have it, the solution to all his problems is found at the local Go club, in the form of a girl close to his own age, who happens to be half Japanese, daughter of a Norwegian sea captain and his Japanese wife. Not only does she play Go and speak Japanese, she is also a member of the Japanese religion Happy Science, which has an extensive lore about the afterlife. Together, they try to find out what happens to Go players who die.

So there you have it. Go, anime and Happy Science. “Write about what you know, not about yourself.” It shouldn’t be hard to write 50 000 words about these things – it is possible that I have already done so in my journal… ^_^;

Jobs are obsolete

In the life simulation game The Sims 3, anyone can live off painting, sculpting or writing books, if they have the patience, although the talented will earn more. In real life, few would trust such a hobby to feed them. But what if they already had food and a roof over their head? Might they be tempted to try to add to their income through art then?

The age where paid work is the measure of a man, that age is coming to an end. What will we do to distribute money after jobs?

It has been going on for a while already. In most of the western world, unemployment is high and chronic. Here in Norway, unemployment is low, but disability pension is widespread. This may be a more realistic take on it, for the old jobs will never come back, barring a disaster of horrifying dimensions. I am not sure we would even physically survive such a disaster. So disability it is, in a matter of speaking. But many of these men and women are not in pain or bearing visible scars. In fact, a study a few years ago told us that the disabled rated their health on average as better than those who were still working!

Rather, it is generally assumed that if a person cannot be gainfully employed, they must have some kind of illness that prevents it. As pretty much all of us have some kind of illness or weakness, especially after years of constant stress, there is usually some hook to hang the coat on. But in many cases, people simply don’t have the intelligence and concentration needed to work in the Information Age.

We may need a stupidity pension, and we may need to make it almost universal. For every year and a half, computers double their processing power. Artificially intelligence remains out of reach, it seems, but we are still able to automate more and more tasks. And machines that we don’t think of as robots, still contain more and more computing technology. And don’t be sure you can always get a job as a taxi driver: Self-driving cars are now allowed to drive on roads in Nevada and California.

The office assistants who used to fetch documents in file cabinets and file them away after use are long gone. I started my adult working career as such an assistant (although I got into a different job at the same place a year later). Today, I would probably have needed to stay in school for another three or four year to get into what is the new entry-level job. Some years from now, today’s entry-level jobs will most likely not exist either. People may need to stay in school till they are 30, and only work at highly specialized jobs. On the other hand, the profit from those who work will be very high. We may discuss whether they ought to keep that money or whether the owners of the businesses should keep most of it (in so far as these are still different people). But what about those who are patently unable to study for 25 years? And what about those who educated themselves for jobs that disappear?

An unfair but practical solution is to give a small “living wage” to everyone, whether they work in the traditional sense or not. The idea is that a human life probably has a value even if you are not employed in the traditional sense. You probably have relatives and friends who appreciate your existence, for instance. We might take the conservative approach and tell those relatives and friends to keep you alive if they think you are worth it, but this will likely cause even more resentment than taxation does. Given that those who are employed will earn a lot of money even after tax, it may be easier to give a “living wage” to everyone, and leave it to their own inventiveness if they want to earn more money. Of course, some of that inventiveness may take the form of crime. But not having food and a place to sleep is no less likely to lead to crime. And if we are not going to let people starve on the streets anyway, we may as well give a modest amount to all instead of a larger amount to those who are good at imagining illness. (For instance, whiplash symptoms tend to fade within a few weeks after compensation is paid.)

There is a lot of economic activity already that does not take the form of jobs, exactly. People make various goods and sell them, or perform services against payment without a regular employment. I hope to see much more of this in the future. Many humans are quite creative.

So I expect jobs and freelance supplemental income to coexist for a long time, but the jobs becoming fewer and more specialized, while the informal economic activity grows. But I may be wrong. I may have to confer more with the voices in my head to know for sure. But for now, they are telling me to hang onto my job. ^_^

Thinking is overrated

Perhaps you can figure it all out on your own, from the basics – if you live for several centuries.

Thinking for yourself is a lot more effective if you first have absorbed the foundation for higher thinking from the great lights of history.

I seem to know an unusually large number of people who say: “Don’t follow traditions, especially not religion. Think for yourself.” I don’t agree with this, even though I have a “gift” to make others think. And I myself have thought a lot too, over the course of the decades. But what I have found is that thinking (much) is not for everyone. Even when it works, it is rarely the best course of action. There are faster, easier and more fruitful ways to accomplish one’s life goals.

Confucius thought that there were three ways to wisdom: Reflection, which was the noblest. Imitation, which was the easiest. And experience, which was the bitterest.

Obviously we would be in a pinch if no one ever took the path of reflection. We would not have all these great quotes, for instance. ^_^ But in this age where we have gathered the wisdom of the ages and of the various civilizations, there is already quite a supply of this. So the path of imitation is wide open. By reading good books, for instance, we can easily receive what others have struggled hard to bring forth. There may not be a lot of wise people around in your family, workplace or neighborhood who you can imitate, although it would be nice if you could find one. But we have the memory of others through the ages, who set a high standard indeed.

If you are single and have more time than you know how to use, and have a brilliant mind, and your passions are limited and known to you, then by all means add to the pool of those who arrive at wisdom by reflection. After all, each perspective is a bit different, and none can see it and tell it just the way you do.

But if you are not such a person, it may be better to learn from others, and think only when necessary, or when you particularly enjoy it.


There are of course situations when we need to think for a bit. We may be working in a problem-solving job, for instance. Or we may find ourselves in a new situation with no recourse to handbooks. So it is not a bad thing to be able to think. But it is a waste of our life to invent the wheel over and over again.

If you hire someone, you don’t just take a random person from the street, give them tools, and say: “Think for yourself.”  You hire someone who has studied the experience of others and trained under the supervision of others and can by now do a wide range of tasks without having to think about them.

The game of Go has only 5 simple rules, and you can make your work from there with pure logic. But the great Go players – and there are actually professionals doing this for a living in Asia – they have all studied the games of those who were already masters, and absorbed for themselves what others have found by hard thinking or good luck. It has taken thousands of years from the game was invented till it reached its current level of mastery. Even if you learn it as a child and live for a hundred years, you have little chance to catch up to that with just your own thinking.

Why then do you think that in the matters of your soul, of your lasting happiness and the progress of society, you will succeed by throwing away in your youth the experience of thousands of years, and the wisdom of the greatest lights of human history?

It is true that we see many religious people who are stupid and malicious. But from who have they learned? Have they learned from the wisdom of Solomon or Jesus Christ? No, they have they failed to do so, and simply imitated the equally backwards relatives and neighbors around them. Repeated studies show that benevolent atheists are more familiar with Christian scriptures than the petty-minded religious person. When religion degrades to a form of ethnicity, as it has done in much of the western world, it becomes a label rather than a vehicle for transmitting a higher form of thinking.

By all means, think. But first thing about when it is useful to think, and when it is useful to first gather the necessary basis or foundation for higher thinking. To be born into a civilization is a privilege. Throw it not away lightly, thinking that you are the greatest thinker who has ever lived. Chances are billions to one that you are wrong.


Attachment and perdition

What we tend to forget is that in the end we stand as naked souls before the overwhelming Light, and there is nothing else. And not only at the end of time, but fundamentally even now, all that we rely on here on Earth is just the overflowing Light coagulating for a brief time into the forms we find comfortingly familiar.

Those who are unfamiliar with religion, often perceive it as needlessly ascetic. It is as if religious people want everyone to suffer in this life, is the impression. Is it really necessary to suffer as much as possible in this life in order to have joy in the next? Is it so that the sum of suffering in one world equals the sum of joy in the other, in some kind of karmic equation?

That is not how it works, I would say. The best explanation of how I see it is actually by Johan Oscar Smith, a Christian here in Norway, who wrote this about a century ago. (Translation by me, although I believe it is possible to buy Johan Oscar Smith’s writings in English from Brunstad Christian Church.)

“The enemies of our inner life are the forces that will distract the mind by leading the attention outward. These enemies are therefore desires of all kinds, which seek to split the concentrated mind to make it attach to outward things, things that will perish. And just in this lies perdition, that what the heart relied on ceases to exist, whereas itself as eternal being is left with the emptiness, which ought to have been filled by God himself. For this reason it is now very important for God to get the mind away from everything outward, that which shall cease to exist, and turned inward toward the source of life, that which shall continue as the soul continues, so that joy and inexpressible delight can fill us beyond the era of mortality and into the unknown eternities.”

OK, lots of commas there, but I hope you see what he says. The reason why religion begs us to not get attached to outward things is that they are perishable, whereas we are not. That is a leap of faith indeed, for our bodies are more perishable than some of the things people attach to, such as houses or gold. So the basic question of religion is whether we have eternal life, at least potentially. If we don’t, then religion does not matter all that much. And neither does anything else, for everything is fleeting, everything is subject to change and eventually destruction. If this is so, the human awareness is a cruel joke played on us by chance, and animals are better off than we are.

But now we are created with an opening to eternity in our heart. Unlike our furry friends, our minds can travel the paths of time, and not merely the horizontal timeline that goes into the past and the future, but even the vertical line that connects Heaven and Earth. Because we believe this, we do not want the heart to rely on temporary things for its happiness. For these things come and go, but the soul itself is looking toward a time and place where none of these earthly things exist anymore. If they were our sole source of happiness, then perdition would be sure. Then the best we could hope for would be to be utterly annihilated along with the things we relied on. That is not much of a hope, but some have it.

But for those whose hope goes beyond that, it makes sense to avoid attachment. I do not mean avoid using the things of the world, but avoid basing our happiness on them. Chocolate tastes delicious, but it would be pretty sad if an adult were to base all his happiness on chocolate. For a toddler, chocolate is heaven. While he enjoys the chocolate, nothing else matters.* But once we are grown up, we cannot go back to that. We know that this small enjoyment, while true, is not enough. In the same way, when we grow up spiritually, we realize that the joys of the world are not enough. It is not so much that they are not real – they are real to our senses – but they are small and temporary.

(* From my childhood, I remember a vivid fantasy I entertained for some length of time, about being able to buy a whole kiosk full of chocolates and snacks. Now I might afford to buy something like that, but it would only make me sick.)


There is a heresy called “gnosticism”, in which the religious person believes that the world is inherently sinful. The early Christian gnostics, for instance, insisted that Christ could not possibly have been incarnated, since bodies are sinful and not fitting for an awesome person like Christ. He must have just pretended to be in the flesh. Spirit is good, matter is bad, is the theory. But we do not say that. What we say is that spirit is eternal, matter is temporary. To hang onto matter and forsake spirit is to shorten our horizon dangerously. Even in this life, things fall away. As the Buddhists say, it is sure that we will lose our youth, our health, our material possessions, our friends and loved ones, and even our life. Either we will lose them over time, one after the other, or all at once. But we will lose them. The Buddha’s final words were reported such: “All things that have form, are subject to decay. Strive diligently!” Namely, for that which has no form and is not subject to decay.

Because of our natural tendencies or animal nature, we easily attach to things in this world even when we should know better. We have to correct ourselves. Well, most of us do, at least. It may be just a fairly innocent liking for something, but may grow into a fully grown attachment, which has the form “I cannot live without you”. When we say this in our heart to anything on Earth, anything that is limited in time, then we are attached, and we are in a sense already perished. For we will have to live without all such things, at some point, whether we want to or not. Or die trying, I guess, if God is merciful and powerful enough to simply obliterate us. There are some who believe that there is no eternal suffering, because God simply destroys those who are not saved, or rather he stops perpetuating them, stops giving them life. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this. It is a very attractive theory, and I am not sure it is wrong. But as a hope, it is pretty bleak.

The opposite of saying to someone or something on Earth: “I cannot live without you”, is to say (as is said in the psalm): “Who have I besides you in Heaven? When I have you, I desire no one (or nothing) on Earth.” The saints have it this way. Death is not a big deal for them, since there is nothing on Earth, nothing temporary, that they particularly miss. Everything they wanted was in Heaven anyway, so once they have fulfilled their tenure on Earth, off they go with a smile.

I am not a saint exactly myself. I am pretty nervous about my own transition. I don’t look forward to making account for my wasted life. But on the other hand, I can think of nothing on Earth that fills my soul to the point where I think: “No, I cannot die from that! I cannot leave that! I must go back to that!”** It would be a sad note to end a life on, don’t you think? That is how I see perdition.

But I may be wrong. You see, you hear these funny voices, in the Tower of Song… 

(** When I was much, much younger than today, I remember worrying that Christ might return before Christmas, which I thought would be a real downer. In my defense, the Norwegian word for Christmas does not actually mention Christ.)

Vexation or compassion?

I have a feeling this may become a recurring picture. Although in my case it feels more like I am returning from a different planet and seeing my own with new eyes.

A little background before we get to the philosophy. I am still trying to learn the ancient Oriental board game of Go. The rules are simple but the strategies almost unlimited. One of the resources I use is the Go Teaching Ladder, a website where you can comment on games by those less skilled than you, and get comments from those more skilled than you. More importantly, there are thousands of commented games, with various skill levels both in the commenter and the players. Walking through these can be very instructive.

I was stepping through a couple games played by 28-kyu players (that is very close to the bottom of the newbie league) and commented by a 2-dan player (that’s someone who may have a small chance at becoming a professional, depending on luck and location). The comments were instructive (if a bit above my head from the midgame onward) and amusing. You got a pretty good feeling for how he experienced watching the blind fighting the blind. At one point, when one of the players had made variations of the same error a number of times in a row, “magnus” (not me! the 2-dan player) exclaimed that playing like that  “is like bashing your own face with a brick”.

And this, dear congregation, is my text today: Living in the dark and making the same mistakes over and over is like bashing our own face with a brick, and not knowing who is doing it.


I suppose a “dan player” in the game of real life is one who is able to understand the great masters – the Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Socrates etc – and not only learn from them on a conscious level, but also practice wisdom, even if not necessarily on the highest level and all the time. Such a person would live a wonderful life in some ways, but would also be almost completely surrounded by the sight of people bashing their own faces with bricks, cutting themselves by grabbing knives by the blade, burning themselves by picking up red-hot coals to throw at other people, all that kind of stuff.

I can’t even claim to be on that level, but I guess I am not a beginner at life anymore, at least not in all ways. And one of the things that really bother me about social networks such as Google+ (not to mention Facebook, well, I mentioned Facebook but I don’t go there every month) is the sheer number of people bashing their faces in public and holding onto hot coals, getting angrier and angrier the more it hurts.

But enough about the American election campaigns.

The question is, how do I react to the self-inflicted suffering of other people? Given that I have inflicted a lot of suffering on myself over the past and will likely do so in the future, just on a more private and subtle level, my first response should be compassion. And there is some of that, if I must say so myself. (And who else would?)  But then someone – I or another – tries to given them some helpful advice. And this makes them very upset, causing them at best to run inside and close the door, at worst to hurt themselves even more. So after a while, some of us reach the conclusion that this is not a forum where we can actually help people.

In theory, it should be possible. I think it may happen occasionally, but it is so rare at least that I cannot offhand recall seeing it.

There is a tendency, when the less skilled fail to accept advice, that compassion turns to vexation. This is not a good thing, I think.

In the Christian story of the Incarnation, God had to go all the way down to where the people were, down in the manger, down in the desert, eventually down in the grave. Because with the possible exception of the few scattered saints of the Covenant, people just weren’t able to get up on high ground despite the best advice. Looking at this story from almost 2000 years later, there is some doubt as to the effectiveness even of this rescue expedition. Although I think my country would have been worse off if we were still following Odin, truth to tell. (Odinists may disagree. The Håvamål has some pretty good advice, after all.)

Anyway, it may be vexing to see people demand the right to keep bashing their own faces with bricks, but let us remember that it could have been us (or for some of us, it actually was) and hold on to compassion.

You can cure (some) cancer yourself

Meditation – which brings detachment from the things of this world – is also one of the best ways to stay in this world longer. 

Back when the AIDS epidemic was new, before we knew about the HIV virus, doctors were grasping at any clue to find out what caused it. One thing they discovered was that several patients had a rare sarcoma, a muscle cancer. Usually we don’t get cancer in the muscles, or that’s what we thought. It turned out that the cancer was not a cause but an effect of the failing immune system. Other, more common cancers also were found more often in AIDS patients. So today we know that the human immune system can detect and destroy a range of cancers without us even knowing.

In fact, if you have been an adult for a long time, it is likely as not that you have already had cancer and healed yourself without even knowing it. The activation of the immune system would give some body-wide symptoms similar to the flu but without the localized symptoms. You might have a temperature for a while, feel tired and lose your appetite, things like that. Of course these can happen for any number of reasons, so I am not saying you have a cancer just because you’re under the weather for a while. But it is one of the things that can happen, and do to most people.

As with an infection, once you have beaten a particular strain of cancer, you will be immune to it, probably for the rest of your life. So if you get a sarcoma when you are 40, for instance, and the body quietly beats it, you are the lucky one. If your identical twin doesn’t get it until 70, it is likely they won’t see the cherry trees blossom twice. From middle age upward, white blood cells start dying off if they have not been used before. So the older we get, the harder it is to beat our cancers.

Thanks to genetic wizardry that I don’t understand, it is even possible to put white blood cells in a petri dish with a known cancer and teach them to recognize it, then put them back into the body to mop up any remnants of the cancer after surgery. This is expensive though, so I suppose even if it is approved, it will only be available for the rich. At least for a while. But the point is, bodies can cure cancer by using the same immune system we use to fight off the flu or an infected hangnail. I have even read of scientists who believe that being exposed to more germs during our healthy years – including some vaccines – could increase our chance of staying cancer-free well into old age.

People often talk about “fighting cancer” and even say of those who die that they “lost the fight against cancer”, as if dying means you are some kind of loser. In that sense, we are all losers, with the possible exception of Elijah and Enoch. Life ends, and cancer is one of the way it ends. But cancer is not always the end of life, less so now than before, but even apart from medical intervention, we know today that the body can heal itself of cancer sometimes – most times, probably. But not by fighting. Not by getting angry. Getting enough rest, meditating, eating healthy, moderate exercise, all these things help. Anger or fear weaken the immune system. Fighting cancer is a losing proposition. Rather we heal ourselves, the way we generally do.

But sometimes it is the end of the road. That does not mean that you are a loser, or that you did not have enough faith. So perhaps you did not eat your veggies as often as you should back before you knew you were ill. Perhaps you could have meditated more, stressed less, not burned your candle in both ends. Hindsight is surprisingly sharp-eyed. But we are mortals, at least physically. We can do our best but sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes it is not enough to run faster, you need to have started earlier. And we can’t wind back life. Life is the expression in time of who we are.

For as long as we have a future, we can change that, though. Mostly by changing ourselves.


Watching you: A dark and jealous god arises.

Atheists will often say to monotheists: “I just believe in one less god than you do.” In practice, the difference is arguably even less. I would argue that the vast majority of atheists today believe in “half a god”.

There is an invisible, benevolent but still dangerous being that has the power and the wisdom to decide over life and death. Due to its nature, this being is not visible to the human eye, but its commands are carried out by a large staff of human servants. This being is also considered competent to regulate our lives (and, perhaps more important to most of us, the lives of our neighbors) in great detail, down to who we are allowed to have sex with. But it also looks after us, and gives us each day our bread even if we don’t deserve it, and far more than bread if we serve it faithfully. Generations are born, live and die, serving this great being, giving their lives if needed. I am, of course, talking about the state or nation.

The gradual growth of the state has given it steadily more of the powers that were in the past considered suitable only for God, and this process has particularly gained speed over the last few generations. During the same time, and in the same countries, open atheism has begun to blossom. In the social democratic nations of northern Europe, atheism is now the norm. But how much of a leap is that really, if the state conveniently provides pretty much the same framework for individuals and societies, which religion provided in the past?

Now you may argue that the state is thoroughly this-worldly and does not promise salvation or a blessed afterlife to the soul. That is hopefully the case, but I will point out that neither did Yahweh back in the days of the Pentateuch. Even as late as Solomon (or whoever wrote in his name), God’s own truth was that “the dead know nothing” and have no more part in what transpires under the sun. Toward the end of the Old Testament, there are more or less clear promises of a future resurrection. But the concept of a non-corporeal afterlife in an invisible paradise is at best hinted at in the New Testament, where the resurrection is still the main event. So today the state is roughly at the level of Moses’ God in that it can kill and that’s the end of it. If the technology advances enough, it may start offering selective resurrections, and perhaps eventually promise to upload us to the Cloud. This could certainly happen in your lifetime if you are young, although it may not happen at all, depending on how history unfolds.

My point is that it is a lot easier to be an atheist these days, as long as you are allowed to trust in a state that does its best to make itself as godlike as possible. It is rather less impressive than it would otherwise have been. And monotheists may not need to actually use their faith a lot either, since they can just float along on the same current as the atheists – for now. There are times and places where you cannot serve God and State, and where the State basically says, “Thou shalt have no other god before me.” I am not  fond of this practice. I’d rather we give Caesar what is Caesar’s, and not much more.

But at least, don’t crow about being an atheist if you depend on an invisible higher power to give your life direction.

Now is the Age of Faith

Do you really know for sure that bacteria are not thinking, feeling organisms? Chances are you have only seen them for a couple minutes through a school microscope, if at all…

It may sound highly unlikely when I say that we live in an age of faith, the like of which the world has never seen through all the ages. But it is true. It is just not true in the sense most people hear it. Their internal translator reads “religion” where I just wrote “faith”.

This misunderstanding is easy to explain: In the Middle Ages, faith was mainly needed in religion. You went to church on Sunday and listened to stories about things that happened far away and long ago, or in a world unseen by human eyes. The rest of the week you spent working with animals or crops or iron or clothes, things you could see and touch. There was no need for faith in those things. You could see for yourself.

But in our age, we spend upward of 15 years in school, and only a tiny fraction of this is spent on hands-on experiments. Most of the time is spent listening to stories about things that happened far away or long ago, or in a world unseen by human eyes. Even the things that could be experienced, such as the view through a microscope or telescope, are usually just transmitted by faith. Far more so the more complex teachings, such as the structure of the atoms or the evolution of species. We learn these things by taking them on faith from people who have taken them on faith, usually from people who have taken them on faith again. Sure, there are scientists who have actually researched the various things we learn about. But they are few and far between, and each of them has only experienced a tiny corner of a small part of one field of science, while taking the rest – including most of their own branch of science – on faith.

Now the voices in your head may be jumping up and down screaming. But I am not saying that science is a religion, or that there is no big difference between science and religion. What I am saying is literally that we live in an age where we have very little experience, and the rest of our knowledge rests on faith. It rests on trust in authorities. Almost all you know rests on trust in authorities. Think it over if you don’t trust my authority…