NaNoWriMo is coming!

Screenshot Sims 3 Supernatural+University

Calling on the Blue magic of Aquarius, the power over water and air! If this doesn’t clean out the sink, I don’t know what will! (Screenshot Sims 3.)

I have been surprisingly relaxed about NaNoWriMo this year. I even started my vacation a week earlier, meaning I will have to be at the office during the last week of November. That was unthinkable before. Well, there are two reasons for that, the most important being that the office will relocate from one somewhat secret location to another, and this strongly suggests my presence. ^_^ The other reason is of course The Sims 3: Into the Future, which came out this past week, the next to last week of October. I just wrote about how ridiculously excited I was about that game, remember? It was actually very enjoyable too. But NaNoWriMo is like a pilgrimage, a holy near-obligation of the writing soul.

With that out of the way, let us look at the worldbuilding for this years novel, as we usually do.


The working title is “Hobby mages” and the pre-production blurb is: “High school boys are easily bored, and Andreas is no exception. Having nothing better to do, he joins a game where players use their smartphones to locate ‘magic nodes’ in the real world and harness a magic that is only visible on the screen. It doesn’t hurt that he can watch the girl from his parallel class from behind as she leads them from one location to the next. But what if she is right and this is not just a game? What if a sinister conspiracy has been draining our world of magic for centuries? And what if the only thing that can prevent them from making Earth a barren wasteland forever is a bunch of squabbling, selfish and mostly juvenile gamers?”

Originally the working title was “Ingress of Magic”, because the basic idea was a kind of love child of the outdoors game Ingress and the computer game Master of Magic, both of which have been in my “Top 10 Lifetime Favorites”. If you know them, the rest of the worldbuilding very nearly writes itself. But fear not, I’ll spell it out anyway.

The world in which the story takes place is very similar to our own, although some place names are different and some towns are found in different locations. One notable difference is that smartphones / phablets are called “POC” (or PoC for the purists), meaning both “Pocket Computer” and “Point of Contact”, as they originally included telephone, text messaging and email. The name was coined by founder Gil Bates of MicroSystems Inc, a driving force in personal computing for many years. The new invention did not take off until years later, however, when the charismatic genius Joe Stubs presented the MyPOC, with a larger screen, full Interweb access and an easy-to-use interface. However, today most POCs are powered by the Robo operating system from rival GIIGA, a many-tentacled software company with the curiously pious slogan “Deliver us from evil”. Nobody has quite found out why they picked that. But it is only RoboPOCs which can run the new game, which insists it is not a game, named “Influx”.

The game (or not a game) is so named because it consists of locating and harnessing magic that supposedly flows into our world from four other worlds, each in an alternate dimension, and each magic with a different color and properties.

Celestia is the origin of the White magic of light, knowledge and protection. It mostly leaks into the world from white magic nodes that coincide in our world with places of worship and religiously themed monuments. Small scattered amounts are found around town, presumably where religious people often pass through.

Nurtura is the world from which comes the Green magic of nature, healing and fertility. It is found in small amounts in forests, park and farms, but with particular nodes in forest groves, old large trees and moss-shrouded boulders.

Aquarius is the world of Blue magic, which controls water, air and the mist of illusion. It is scattered on rivers, lakes and the sea, but its nodes are in springs, fountains and where streams or rivers join.

Energaia is the home of Red magic, the magic of raw power, heat and speed. It is associated with fire and scattered around inhabited areas, but nodes are usual power plants, smelting industries and some other factories where intense heat has been employed.

There is yet another world, Exon, which is associated with black magic. Its nodes are typically cemeteries and disaster sites. But this is not a magic that flows into our world – rather, black magic is a twisting of the four other magics and of life itself into a different force, which is then drawn into Exon, a vampiric world or black hole of magic. While using the other four colors of magic increases their presence in our world, the use of black magic reduces all forms of magic and eventually, once they are drained, life itself.

One drawback to the four “bright” magics is that the nodes can only be unlocked by a pair, two players being present together and performing certain actions in sync. After a node is unlocked, the same pair of players will need to revisit it – not necessarily together, but within 12 hours of each other in either direction – in order for the magic to flow freely. Black magic can be unlocked and drawn by a single player, as it is fundamentally different.

When a gate is locked, there is only a tiny trickle of magic. Once it is unlocked, the influx of magic quickly increases to its maximum. A pool of magic gradually forms around the node, although this is only visible on the screen of the POC, which serves as a combined map, grimoire and talisman. The pool is “full” after about 4 hours, but you can absorb it into your talisman at any point, resetting it to empty. If a pool is left full for a full week, the magic flow will begin to dwindle, and after another week the node is locked again.

To further complicate things, a pair of mages can only unlock and maintain one color of magic. This can only be reset by an elaborate procedure performed by the Head Mages which administer the e-grimoires. When reset, they lose all connection to their previous color.

Other mages of the same color can poach on each other’s nodes, as they are supposed to be allies. It is not necessarily welcome, though. It is also possible to drain the pools of other colors, but this is considered very bad form without permission, as you only receive 1/4 of the magic charge due to loss during conversion. Black mages also receive 1/4 charge, but bright mages visiting a Black site will lose charge, another oddity tilting the player field in favor of the Black.

Invisible lines connect all magic nodes in the world, known and unknown, to others of the same color. These so-called Ley lines are the only known way to increase the output from nodes above the usual 1-week maximum. A ritual is required to activate a Ley line: A pair of mages on each end must perform the ritual simultaneously, or very nearly so. It is a matter of seconds rather than minutes, so that it is impossible for the same pair to run over and perform the ritual at the other end. You need friends to work with you. The result causes a small amount of magic to leak out along the entire line, which can be harvested in a pinch. More importantly, it doubles the output of each node, including the size of its magic pool. You can even triple the output by connecting a third node, and so on. This is however rare, because a line of one color cannot cross a line of another color.

Because magic is so weak now, the effects of spells on the physical world are very subtle and indirect. Users of White magic may gradually become smarter, luckier and with sharper senses. Users of Red magic may become stronger and faster. Users of Green magic may become healthier and sexier, although our main character would not have any problems with that for quite a while! Yes, I intend to make Andreas and Malin (his magic-only partner) Green mages, with all the potential for misunderstanding that follows from this.

So yeah, that’s pretty much the worldbuilding. I intend to explain the basic principles during discussions early in the story, so they don’t appear as Deus Ex Machina later when we run into them in practice. Maybe not every detail: Magic should be somewhat mysterious and subjective, otherwise it would be science, right? ^_^

In praise of sugar

1.5 liter bottle of Pepsi Cola, 3/4 full

This acidic solution of sugar passes quickly through an empty stomach and is absorbed by the body in a matter of minutes. It also tastes quite good. I would not recommend downing a large bottle of the stuff in one sitting, though! One glass at a time is enough.

I notice lately that popular science and health sites brand ordinary table sugar as “toxic” and “white poison”. I hope to convince you, noble reader, that sugar is actually the power of this planet’s yellow sun, stored in crystals that can be readily used even by ordinary humans.

Let me say a few words about myself. I am a (physically) ordinary man in my fifties, with an office job but also an outdoors hobby: The Augmented Reality game “Ingress”, where players have to visit “portals” scattered around town. Because of this, it is normal for me to walk 10 kilometers in a day, some days 20 kilometers or above. (10 miles is about 16 km, for those on that side of the sea.)

When a man my age has walked 10 km, it is normal to feel a bit tired in the legs. I am not actually an athlete, after all, but an office worker. This is when I sit down, drink half a small bottle of Pepsi Cola, and wait for the effects to kick in.

Pepsi contains a small amount of caffeine, which probably helps with feeling a bit more energetic. But it also contains 10% sugar, your supposed “white poison”. Let us take a closer look at this substance, and what happens when it is ingested by the human body.


Sucrose or table sugar is at the same time one substance and two: Each molecule of sucrose contains one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose, held together by a single atomic bond. The combined molecule is stable when stored, but breaks readily into its two parts early in the digestion. What is absorbed from the small intestine is therefore actually molecules of glucose and fructose. These are treated differently by the body.

The glucose passes directly into the bloodstream and is brought to every cell in the body. Muscles will absorb glucose if they have been used, as they seek to replenish their energy and glucose is the easiest form of energy carrier to be shared through the blood. It can also be used by all other cells, and is the preferred fuel of the brain. (The brain can switch to an alternate fuel source in emergencies such as hunger, but will use glucose if this is found.)

Meanwhile the fructose is held back in the liver, the gatekeeper of the inner body, as all blood from the intestines passes through there. The reason it is held back is that the cells of the body cannot burn fructose directly. But the liver can convert it into any of two other substances. The preferred substance is glycogen, which is the body’s medium-length energy storage. The liver contains enough glycogen to power the body for about 24 hours of normal activity. The more active you are, the more glycogen is stored. If this reserve is not full, the liver will mainly convert fructose to glycogen and put it away. When the body has burned through the glucose from the first sugar rush, and the blood sugar starts to fall below ideal values, glycogen is converted to glucose again and released in the blood. In this way, fructose become glucose by an indirect process, one that only releases the sugar into the blood when needed.

If the glycogen storage is full, the liver will instead seek to convert fructose into triglycerides, the building blocks of fat. These are then released in the bloodstream, and will hopefully find a hungry muscle eventually. If not, they may be put away in fat cells for further use, or if worst comes to worst, they may settle on the walls of arteries. This is widely agreed to be a bad thing, causing angina and heart infarct, blood clots and stroke.

So what happens to the sugar from my half bottle (about one and a half table glass) of Pepsi? Well, I have just walked 10 kilometers and burned about 500 calories. (That corresponds to more than a deciliter — half a glass — of pure white sugar, if you wondered.) It is a safe bet that the fructose will go straight in the liver’s storage this time. Your liver may vary, depending on your activity level.

When the first surge of glucose raises the blood sugar above normal levels, the pancreas releases insulin. This hormone basically declares hunting season on glucose: The muscles open up their membranes and draw in as much glucose as they can handle, burning it instead of fat while supplies last. They can also rebuild their own little storage of glycogen, if they have the time. This storage is local to each muscle cell and is not released in the blood like the liver does.

In addition to muscle cells, fat cells also are invited to the glucose rush. But they are slower and less efficient, and they are not going to get that time: The feedback from the muscles and the brain itself inform me that the sugar rush has begun. My body is now burning with the atomic power from the core of the sun, captured by unsuspecting sugar cane which made the ultimate sacrifice to bring me their precious sugar crystals. It is time to get to my feet again and enlighten the city for another hour or two!


And this, noble reader, is why I want to tell overly eager science journalists: It is not sugar which is toxic; it is the passive lifestyle that is toxic. If you don’t make a serious dip in your energy storage, then indeed sugar will do bad things to your body. Your muscles won’t absorb more sugar than they need, your fat cells will grow as fast as they can but the sugar may still linger in the blood for quite a while. The blood pressure will increase, the arterial walls will harden and attract fat made from fructose in the liver. So remember: Friends don’t let friends eat sugar and drive. Let’s go hack some Ingress portals instead … or play in the hay or whatever tide lifts all your boats. ^_^

Ridiculously excited

Screenshot anime

“I’m so excited!” OK, perhaps not quite SO excited, but still.

By midnight, I will be allowed to download the final expansion pack for The Sims 3: Into the Future! I am so excited! This is like my favorite expansion pack EVER!

OK, let’s back up here a little. I’m not normally this kind of guy. I have bought most of the expansion packs for the Sims 3 when they went on sale, months after their release, and even then I had a couple of them lying around for some more months before I installed them. The previous expansion, Island Paradise, I skipped completely. Even with the two previous Sims games, I did not preorder neither the game nor the expansions. So I was taken by surprise when I watched the trailer and producer walk-through for Into the Future and “fell in love”, so much so that I preordered it almost immediately. Since then I have counted the days till the official release (October 24 here in Europe) and now the hours (we can start downloading at midnight).

Of course, I do other things during those days and hours. It is not like I just sit around staring at the clock. But there is an awareness that intrudes in free moments. I suppose it is similar to human infatuation, which I have for some reason never experienced. I have had the same symptoms with computers though. ^_^

Judging from the trailers, the Sims 3 is really going out with a bang. It is a very ambitious expansion, delivering a new world that can be run in parallel with any of the earlier towns, where one or more sims can  travel freely back and forth between the worlds at their own choosing. The new technology is not simply a new skin on old functions (well, except for the hovercars and hoverbikes and some furniture) but completely new ways of doing things. And the variation of plumbots (Sims robots) that can be built is staggering, both in terms of looks (millions of possible combinations, billions if you count colors, trillions if you customize the colors) and the combination of qualities and personality trait chips.

But I think the reason for my excitement is not truly objective. There are others who are not particularly interested in this, including some who were very much into some of the earlier expansions. Rather, I think the game appeals to a part of me from my childhood. The future in the game is similar to that future I dreamed of as a child, not the future we actually got.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in this future. I carry in my shirt pocket a library with over a million free books, and a bookshop with many more. It also doubles as a concert hall with millions of performances by some of the world’s greatest musicians. It also lets me watch HD movies, and of course it lets me look at photos and even take high-quality photos or record video of my own. It is a newsstand where I can read the news from around the world, most of it for free, and I can also buy magazines of all kinds. It is a telephone that lets me talk cheaply to people anywhere in the world, and a mailbox where I can send them letters or receive letters from them, and we can watch each other’s pictures and listen to music together if we want. It would have strained my imagination when I was a child that such a machine could exist, and I would have expected it to fill a room at least.

But the hovercars, the vaguely humanoid robots, the food synthesizer and holographic computers are the staple of my childhood and youth sci-fi, and it is the child in me that is excited. There is another part of me, which I now think of as my true “I”, who watches this with a sort of detached amusement and also some caution. Although the compass needle of my mind is moving eagerly, there are constraints on how far it is allowed to go. I am not going to where I was many years ago, when I fervently wished that Jesus would not return until after Christmas.

There is a sword that cuts soul and spirit, and the spirit is my true self, the one that belongs in eternity, undisturbed by the oscillations of emotions and desires of the mind. It is this true self that will one day, I hope, return to a Light brighter than any future that man can imagine.

“Prayer fashions man”, a takeaway

Screenshot YouTube,

“I want to give myself a prayer for the future, so that I can be sure to find happiness” (from the song Remedy by Maaya Sakamoto, a light-filled song I have praised before.)

Warning: This entry is about religion. Feel free to skip if you are not a transdimensional Raccoon. Excess sanity points recommended for entry.

I wrote in my previous entry about the book Prayer fashions man, by Frithjof Schuon, and how I could not in good conscience recommend it because it scatters so many automatic beliefs that are necessary for most people to function normally. You don’t want to end up with your ego crushed like a fallen egg, where all the kings horses and all the king’s men can’t put back together the carefully created bubble of delusion that was your former “self”.

There are however scattered parts of the book that are harmless and even helpful even to us who are not certified saints and advanced mystics. I would not be surprised if different people came away with different jewels that seem to have fallen from the crystal mountains and boulders that make up most of Schuon’s writing. So I want to dedicate this entry to a few small things I learned.

One was the importance of divine names and ritual prayer, and the connection between them. In the past I considered names simply pointers, to be conveniently ignored once one knew what they pointed to. That may indeed be true for ordinary nouns and even the names of lesser beings, but Schuon is convinced – based on ancient Scripture, the practice of the great world religions, and his own direct intuition of metaphysical Truth – that the Divine Name has immense power on a plane that intersects with the soul. It may be said to be a kind of magic, although of course Schuon does not consider that for a moment. He was a spiritual scientists of high rank, and just as “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, we can conversely say that “sufficient understanding of magic is indistinguishable from science.” Or more precisely, one man’s magic is another’s science.

Indeed, I see Schuon as a sort of spiritual equivalent to a professor teaching students of engineering. For the ordinary user, a cursory understanding of electricity is enough, as he just needs to flip the switches and things work as if by magic. Indeed, religions as we know them today may be compared to large houses equipped with various devices powered by an energy as poorly understood by the religious as electricity is poorly understood by the unqualified user. The founders of the world’s great religions, and their disciples again, understood quite well what they did. But over time there were engineers of religion who harnessed the “wild power” that had ingressed into the world through the breach of the world’s walls from above. Like engineers here in Norway put some beautiful waterfalls in pipes to power the country with electricity, it may be said that there were great theologians who harnessed the spiritual power through devices such as ritual prayer, sacrament and necessary dogma. In each religion, there are parts that are meant to fit together. Picking and mixing from different religions is a dangerous thing to do unless you have the necessary religious engineering education.

Even in the dry periods of a religion when there are no great mystics, the “devices” of the religion continue to function as long as left undisturbed, at least sufficiently to save the souls of those who use them faithfully. This is not to gainsay the quote attributed to Krishna, that the priesthood is like those digging wells in a land flooded by water. If there was in such a “dry age” a soul whose eyes was opened to the overwhelming presence of the Divine, they would find it everywhere. But for the most part, people cannot taste the Living Water until it is “pulled up” through the devices built into the particular religion. And it is good that they can get to it that way.

By my light, I have largely considered ritual prayers to be for others, for those who rarely if ever felt the Divine presence, for those who simply flipped the switch and had no interest in knowing how it worked. It can be said in truth that I pitied them, and in this there is an element of looking down on the other. I was privileged, and I knew that this was by grace alone, not something I had earned. But there was still a feeling similar to a genius surrounded by idiots. Even if you know that you inherited your genius by genes before you even had a single brain cell, the fact remains that the people around you are still idiots.

But perhaps not. Given the power and the usefulness of sacraments and common prayers, perhaps I could gain something from them that I do not currently have. And also, perhaps others could gain something from me using them.

There is, according to Schuon and also some Orthodox literature which resonated with me, a certain community formed by those who partake in a particular tradition. As one Orthodox teacher so vividly explained, when the congregation is gathered for mass, there is also present a great number of souls who have lived before and gathered in the same way for the same purpose; and even those yet unborn, who will after our time gather likewise: They are all present together and united. We pray for them, and they pray for us, when we pray the same prayer together.

I had my own revelation of this years ago, which I briefly mentioned on these pages. As for the Lord’s Prayer, there is a line that says: “Give us this day our bread for the day” (or “Give us today our daily bread”). As I mentioned for God that I did not really need anymore bread for this day, God replied: “Us.” Meaning that I pray not simply for myself, but also for those who still don’t have bread for the day. (Of course, this revelation should probably be followed by at least a visit to The Hungersite, if not more.)

It is not accident, says Schuon, that the Lord’s Prayer (OUR Father, who art in Heaven…) is using collective pronouns. Ritual prayer is by its very nature collective, and it for the same reason somewhat mandatory. It fulfills a different function than the free-form individual prayer. It is our obligation to pray with those whose need we may not have, and likewise they pray for us in our need.


And then there is the power of the Holy Name. Actually, each religion usually has several Holy Names, any one of which can save. Saint Paul says that there is no other Name in Heaven or on Earth by which we can be saved than Jesus’ name, and this is generally thought to be simply the name “Jesus” or some similar spelling. Yet one may notice that Jesus makes a big deal out of this, at the time of his Last Supper, that he had revealed to them the name of the Father and preserved them in it. Yet there is some disagreement among Christians about the name of the Father. Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously think Jesus meant the name “Jehovah”; to them this is blindingly obvious, since this is the only name God personally gives to one of his trusted servants who asks him earnestly what Name to use. Some other Christians however believe that the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost is Jesus. Yes, all of them are Jesus. However, when Jesus is quoted as referring to God, he almost always refers to him simply as Father or The Father.

To summarize, in Christianity we could in good faith claim that Jesus, Jehovah (or Yahweh), God, or The Father, are all Holy Names, Divine Names. Schuon also refers to the Divine Name as a Revealed Name. Any of these names then are used in the revealed Scripture. In addition there may be later revelations after the Scripture was completed, and Schuon argues that the name of Mary is acceptable for Catholics at least, although he cautions that it should not be used exclusively but together with the name of Jesus. Well, obviously not all of us are Catholics, and as such we may not simply be permitted to walk into their tradition and abscond with their holy names, unless we are Raccoons I suppose. But the Gospel was meant to be preached to all nations, so the gospel should be OK.

After considering this earnestly, I have realized that the Lord’s Prayer does indeed start with a Divine name: “Father”. It is probably for this reason that Jesus cautions his disciples to not call anyone on Earth “Father” (something the Catholic Church, among others, seems to have a problem with). Ever since I was a teen, I have also tried to make sure to refer to my earthly father with a qualifier, not as a sign of disrespect, but so as to not take God’s Name in vain.

In light of this, I have decided to follow Schuon’s advice to try to solemnly present a formal prayer three times a day: In the morning, during the height of the day, and before going to rest. For this purpose I have taken the advice of Christ and chosen the Lord’s Prayer, or Pater Noster. While I seek to present this solemnly and soberly, without undue distraction, and with mindfulness, I also take Schuon’s advice to not seek to imbue the prayer with personal soul energy. This is unnecessary and unseemly, because the Holy Name has more than sufficient power. There is no need to engage emotionally and tire oneself as if we were carrying the Name rather than it carrying us. If we believe in the power of the Name to save and transform us, that is sufficient. It does not require our power, it requires our presence. As the voice in my heart explains: “It is not the energy you put into eating that nourishes you, but the food. Eating is still necessary, but it does not feed you; the food does. Grace is like that.”

Until this month, I could not have done this because it would to me be a step back, to a more primitive and magical thinking about religion. That would indeed have been true. But now that I have been explained in great detail how and why it works, it is different. Even if you are an engineering students, you are still allowed to sometimes just flip the switch! ^_^

(PS: After uploading this entry, I found a reference to the Didache, the 1st-2nd century summary of the teachings of the Apostles, recommends citing the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. Small world!)


“Prayer fashions man”, a review

Screenshot anime Denpa Onna

“When I think about it, I always wonder how much I really understand.”  In this age of social media, when we can surround ourselves with idiots at the touch of a button, it is good to read something that makes me wonder if I’ve really understood anything the way it should be understood.

After months, I finished reading this book, Prayer fashions man, by Frithjof Schuon. As I wrote in my Goodread review: “This book is awesome; don’t read it!”

This requires some explanation, for those who don’t know about Frithjof Schuon. He was a fairly prolific author in religion and metaphysics, following a tradition that is known as Sophia Perennis, the perennial wisdom. It is fairly well described in Wikipedia, and I quote (partly to circumvent future edits there):

“Perennialism is a perspective within the philosophy of religion which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth on which foundation all religious knowledge and doctrine has grown. According to this view, each world religion, including but not limited to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism, and Buddhism, is an interpretation of this universal truth adapted to cater for the psychological, intellectual, and social needs of a given culture of a given period of history. The universal truth which lies at heart of each religion has been rediscovered in each epoch by saints, sages, prophets, and philosophers. These include not only the ‘founders’ of the world’s great religions but also gifted and inspired mystics, theologians, and preachers who have revived already existing religions when they had fallen into empty platitudes and hollow ceremonialism.” 

Yes, this view of religion’s history is strikingly similar to that of the Japanese religion Happy Science, with the notable exception that Schuon and friends didn’t claim to be God or Buddha, and tended to live an austere and secluded lifestyle. I personally find it easier to accept religious teaching from ascetic and taciturn people who receive little of no financial gain or fawning adoration for their efforts.

Be that as it may, Schuon is always a hard read. His words are like crystals, beautiful and precise but hard. Even now, being more familiar with Schuon, I cannot really read his books like textbooks. Rather, I have to read them slowly and wait for bits and pieces of  them to cause a sort of “vertical recall”, similar to a memory but of something I have never learned before. It is this “timeless memory” which remains, often as not, and it may not be directly spelled out in the text.

One may wonder whether he is making his text hard to read on purpose, so as to keep away the casual reader. If so, that is probably a good thing, for when you begin to understand what he writes, it is natural to become deeply disturbed. I don’t really recommend his books for those who are doing well in their religion, for it will almost certainly cause them to either reject their simple faith or the book, possibly both. I also don’t recommend it for the atheist who does well without religion, for he will find it foolish and will also find that Schuon regards him as more foolish than a beast.

I would recommend this book to the rare breed of spiritual offroad adventurer, who finds light in many faiths, but also shadows there, and who is bothered by the superficial nature of modern religion and modern life as a whole. (To Schuon, “modernity” is almost a curse word.) And I would recommend it to those who once were believers, but who grew up and their religion did not grow up with them, those who now feels that there was some goodness in their faith, but it was ultimately just a bunch of humans trying to do something that was far beyond them. For them, it may be useful to look behind the stage, perhaps. If so, I would recommend they start with the last chapter, and read only that for a while. It is the most “humane”, the easiest to read and the most practical part of the books, I think.  I am certainly glad I read it. I hope to live long enough to read it again once it has had time to either change me or be forgotten. But I doubt it can be forgotten.

Madness is not the only danger in books. There is also the danger that something may be seen that cannot be unseen. Whether I walk in this new light or not, I may be judged by it. As I said, this is not a book to take lightly, and I cannot recommend it to just anyone.

Like a light that grows

Screenshot anime The Golden Laws

I made a trip back to 1986, aided by the mysterious powers of my diary (which at that time was printed on paper). It was kind of embarrassing, partly because back then it was less of a day-ary and more of a night-ary, kind of dark and angsty even compared to how I felt at the time. I remember that much. But also, I turned 28 at the end of that year, and I was still painfully stupid.  Probably still am, but I mean compared to now.

I was already recognizable myself, and I was rather more pious than now, it seems, at least emotionally. But somehow I continued to rack up consumer debt. Credit cards, shop loans, that kind of stuff. It may be argued that at the time, I earned rather less than I do now. We’ve had a phenomenal economic growth here in Norway over the last 20 years, not just the rich but common people, unlike in America and parts of Europe. But it was not dire need that mired me in debt. Although I didn’t write much details about how I got the debt (only about how bad it was), I remember buying various stuff that was not survival-related, to put it mildly. A big electronic organ (which admittedly brought me quite a bit of joy for some years, but which cost me several months’ pay). And then later (or was it first? I think later) an electronic accordion. Because I could, seeing how I got shop credit and all. Various computer related stuff (computers were invented back then, actually, just not the Internet as we know it). I bought the cutting edge stuff, of course. Buy now, pay later!

Taking that trip back to the past, I realize that I wasn’t really that different from ordinary humans. Lots of them still do this. I think most outgrow it, but I am not sure. As I said, here in Norway people have a lot more money now so any debt they have acquired is steadily erased by their rising affluence. But in America, debt still seems to be a big problem.

There were other typical human behaviors too, like in interpersonal relationships. (Not intimate relationships, I had my last kiss in 1984 after all, and even that was pretty accidental as such things go.) But what strikes me is how poorly I understood not just others, but also my own emotions. It probably seemed perfectly normal at the time, though. I don’t recall going around constantly thinking to myself: “You’re an idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t understand other people and you don’t understand yourself.” Well, I did think that, but mostly late at night when writing my diary, reflecting on myself. But I did not think it in advance, preventing or at least mitigating the dumbness.

Observing myself at half my current age, I am more convinced than ever that the current me is not simply a result of my half-Aspie heritage or Neanderthal genes or some such. I mean, yes, I was never entirely neurotypical, but that didn’t really make me who I am today. Rather it is the light of timeless wisdom that has kept shining relentlessly on me, showing me a little more now and a little more then. I may close my eyes and pretend that I did not see, but in the long run it cannot be unseen as long as the light remains on. Whenever I open my eyes, there it is again.

For me, this light is a religious thing. After all, this experience is foretold in Proverbs 4, verse 18: “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” The Norwegian translation, which was often quoted in the Church when I was young, translates it slightly differently (as is often the case with poetic elements of the ancient language): “The path of the righteous is like a radiant light, that becomes clearer and clearer until the full light of day.”

Now, “righteous” may not quite be the best description of me, if I must say so myself. And that is one reason why I think I am probably still an idiot, just less so than I used to be. But I’ve learned some lessons. Like “consumer credit really is a gift – from you, to them”. Or “don’t mix girls and money unless you are ready to lose both”. ^_^ Both of these are prefigured in Ecclesiastes and  the Proverbs of Solomon, by the way, although I should probably leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Although I am a Christian of sorts, I’ll readily admit that I have found timeless wisdom in the Scriptures of other religions and a few works that are not generally considered religious as well. That is great, I think, and perhaps Frithjof Schuon and friends are right about the transcendental unity of religions. But also over time I have found that although I have found wisdom in other religions, I had not really needed to. There is in the religion of my youth a spirit that keeps unpacking the deeper meanings of the Scriptures, so that they would be more than adequate for whatever one were to run into. I won’t deny that the same may well be true for the other great world religions. Those who have dedicated themselves to them would know, I guess. I can only speak for myself. And even then I haven’t earned this. It was given to me, for some reason.

But this is at the core of things, that this Light is alive. It grows, given the chance, becoming brighter and brighter as we admit it is right. Perhaps it is in that sense that “righteousness” is meant in the text I cited. When we admit that the judgment of the Light is right and we were wrong, the judgment turns to brightness. As long as we stand against it, it is like walking along a dark road where the headlights of the meeting cars shining in our face is more blinding than the darkness. But when we turn around and accepts its judgment, the same light brightly lights up the road. Well, that’s just an illustration, but one I know from experience.

So there it is. Looking back across half my life so far, that is the image that comes to mind: A radiant light, starting as the faint light heralding dawn, shining more and more brightly into wonderful daylight, where an entire world opens up around me. Well, it is not full daylight yet,  but so much brighter than in 1986! I wish I could show even one of you this brilliant road to tomorrow.  But judging from my results so far, it may be safer for y’all if I keep writing about The Sims…

Filter bubble and school bubble

Screenshot anime Narue no Sekai (featuring Kanaka)

What is wrong with this country’s education system? Well, first and foremost it is populated with people who are different from me. That can’t possibly be good!

In my previous post, I mentioned the MOOC I am taking from NTNU about technology and social development. Now for the bad part. We got an assignment to write about the Filter Bubble. The text by the professor was a one-sided reference to Eli Pariser and his claims that Google search result are filtered to conform to each person’s ideological and other views, so that a conservative and a liberal would see completely different pages when searching for a politically charged topic, for instance.

The problem with this shocking revelation is that it does not repeat when tested. This is mentioned in the Wikipedia article, and I took the time to test it for myself. At home I tested with one page signed in as myself (an avid Google user over many years, also using other Google services such as Blogger, Google Docs, and not least Google+, their social network.)  But a search for a very “me” topic while logged in to Google gave very nearly the same result as a search from an anonymous Opera window – some sites were a little higher on one than the other, but not so much that one would have noticed without looking for differences.

Now you may counter that both of the browser windows were on the same computer and so had the same IP address, so Google might be able to guess that I was the anonymous browser. (Then again this would not explain the small differences that were, and it would put Google in hot water if spouses, siblings etc borrowed each other’s computer and suddenly found themselves in a different filter bubble.) Just to make sure, however, I ran a new test later at work, using a tablet where I was logged in to Google and a work computer that is not used with my private Google account, is occasionally used with another Google account, and goes through a server farm in which we log on to a different terminal server each time we log on, and of course also has a different IP. Once again, the differences were trivial, with a little more prominence to sites I had visited in the past.

My conclusion is the same as those who have disputed Parisier’s claims. The facts do not even remotely resemble his description, at least in its Internet meme form. (I have not bought the book, so I can’t speak for that, and given the outcome of my tests the book would be a waste of time and money. I would not be shocked to the core of my tender soul if it turns out that selling his book and possibly related goods was the reason for the claims in the first place.)

The rest of the students uncritically accepted the claims and expressed their deep concern. One of them corroborated the claim by mentioning that he had found the answer to an iPad problem in a few seconds by searching on Google, while his friend who had the problem had not found the answer, despite being an educated man and mentally sound. I have no doubt that this is true, but it is not the filter bubble. It is called “Google-fu”, the art of using Google. In order to verify or falsify the claims of a filter bubble, you have to do an identical search, within a reasonable time of each other, and in the same geographical location if geography is involved. (The coverage of Hurricane Sandy is obviously different in New York and Paris, for instance, or even New York and Seattle.)

I was rather discouraged. This is tertiary education. University students were among us. Isn’t questioning at the heart of higher learning? Shouldn’t a university-level student pause in the face of extraordinary claims that can be tested in the convenience of your home, rather than respond emotionally in conformity with the claims? Am I truly the only person down into which the overwhelming brightness of a higher consciousness has shone to endow me with the ability to think twice?

After this, I lost part of my enthusiasm. I still intend to complete the course, though. Probably. Some day.