Surpassing fate while alive

Screenshot anime Sakurasou Pet

“You can’t move others’ hearts unless you can move your own heart.” Today let us look at the story of three wise men in the East, who each sought to move his own heart and ended up changing the fate of civilization for thousands of years.

(This is a continuation of a series about the Human Operating System version 3, or the New Mind which must replace the mind that is common today. Today we look at the Far East.)

New Age people here in the West find the Eastern concept of reincarnation comforting: Even if we have to leave this world, we’ll be back after a while. But for the original owners of these religions, the concept of reincarnation was a very disturbing thought. It was like a prison in which they were trapped. Even if they did good deeds and were rewarded with a good rebirth, it was not a final solution. They had to keep running just to stay in place. There was no escape from the endless cycle, millions of years of temptation, separation and loss, the pain of birth and the pain of death, over and over for all time. Unless they could somehow reach Liberation. Salvation for them was not to live forever, but to cease living forever.

The Buddha became popular because people believed he had found the answer to ending this eternal cycle of life and death. In East Asia, many revere him or even worship him as a god. But if we look at it from a safe distance, his teachings are not a promise of Salvation after you die. No. This Liberation, the Nirvana (or Nibbana, in Pali) is supposed to happen in this life. If you do not reach Nirvana while alive, you’ll have to enter the ring again. In this sense, Buddhism is not a “faith”: It is experiential, and more of a science. There are methods, and peer review, and you are supposed to make observations. You can’t close your eyes and wish that you’ll get to Nirvana someday. You have to listen to the teachings, temper your desires, restrain your anger, overcome your fear, practice meditation and eventually reach the state of mind that is Nirvana.

(In later times, many of the Buddha’s followers have taken up beliefs and practices that – at least from a  distance – look a lot like closing your eyes and wishing to go to Nirvana someday. I can certainly understand this, but that was hardly how it began.)

If we go even further East to the homeland of Confucius and Lao-Tzu, they seem to have very little interest in the afterlife at all. Confucius certainly recommends venerating your dead ancestors, but I get the impression that this is necessary for your own sake rather than for theirs. To accumulate virtue and improve your soul while alive, this is itself the greatest goal. It is not something you do in order to get bonus points from gods. Indeed, I get the impression that the Sages would reject anyone who came to them with such an underhanded plan. To become a Noble Person, or in the most extreme case a Sage, this is the uttermost goal of earthly life.

The goal of your life must be reached while alive, and the earlier in life, the better. Nor is it a dreamy ecstasy – although ecstasy may happen earlier – but a state of mental clarity, of harmony and of being useful. The Sage is someone who can lead people in a natural way, by means of his example as much as his advice. There is no search for good feelings; if there is happiness, it is in the harmony with our purpose and in the good of many. It is not a life that would appeal much to an egotist, even had such a person been able to reach it.

(This hasn’t stopped later Daoists from fervently chasing after physical immortality, or at least extreme longevity. Belief in Immortals is rampant in folk Daoism, and a number of rituals are in circulation that are supposed to help you towards achieving this honor. I can certainly sympathize with that, but that was hardly what was intended.)

Confucius sums up his own life, early in part 2 of the Analects: “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.” It was this latter stage which was the culmination of his progress, and which is very hard to objectively achieve. You may think what you do is right, of course, but you could simply be morally stunted. But Confucius was not simply some guy who thought highly of himself. He says himself that he did not consider it a loss if no one had heard of him. He was to live only a couple more years after he was seventy, but he changed the fate of the world’s largest empire and is revered even today.

I believe that all these three men – the Buddha, Lao-Tzu and Confucius – were examples of the Human Operating System version 3, where the center of the personality is no longer in the ego or the body-mind. There have been others since, and quite likely before as well, but these are well known and their words are clear and luminous. If you want to hear from the Sage’s own mouth, this is a good place to start.

Be crazy so we can be sane

Screenshot anime Sakurasou Pet

“Love is simply an electrical bug in the human neural circuit.” Now if only we had a forum where we could get together and assure each other that it is the rest of the people in the world who are crazy…

The trigger for this entry came from another absurd question on Quora. This time: Should religious belief be classified as a mental illness?

It is kind of disturbing that people even ask this, but there are in fact a disproportionate number of the mentally ill who manifest their illness in terms of religion. That is perhaps not so strange, since religion is already the domain in which we have the most unusual experiences and traditions, and insanity is pretty unusual for most of us. It is hard to manifest insanity in the form of accounting, for instance.

Science comes somewhere in between, I guess – I see some pseudoscience that looks nothing like sanity to me, but still has some few but vocal supporters. Like “Venus was a comet which passed Earth during historical times before entering its current orbit.” But enough about that. But then again, ten years ago we weren’t a result of interbreeding with Neanderthals, now we are. (That would explain me, to some degree…) So science is pretty crazy even when it is true.

Given that almost everyone is religious, the notion that “religion is insanity” sounds more like a projection if anything. Like people worry in the dark corners of their mind that something may be wrong with them when they are so different from other people; therefore all the other people must be crazy, that would explain it!

The truth is, as I have said before, that almost all modern atheists are really half-a-theist: They tend toward Socialism, which gives them the option to serve a powerful, invisible, mostly benevolent invisible being that already has an established caste of servants dedicated to bettering the world on behalf of the otherwise invisible Greater Power, which in this case is called the State. True, the State does not offer an afterlife, but neither did Moses. Read the Pentateuch – the original Torah – and you will see that the question of the afterlife was left open. God promised them that their cows would have calves and their enemies would flee. Socialism is on that level now.

But atheists don’t know how similar they are to other believers, so they need to fabricate this vast gulf between them, with the believers being crazy. Luckily this is still a minority position among atheists, it seems. But the fact that some seem to really think so, made me think back to another small group of people who were Different.

For many years, I was part of a church (or sect, as pretty much everyone else called us) which was very pious. We took the Bible very seriously, although not always literally. If you think Jesus was literally a door and Christians are literally sheep, I guess some suspicion is in order regarding your mental health. This was not a congregation where you just went to church on Sunday and otherwise went on with your life as if nothing had happened. The founders and early adopters, in particular, were men and women of heroic virtue. They set aside even the usual “harmless” cravings of human nature: Entertainment, tasty food, pretty clothes, sightseeing … stuff that no one else would consider sinful, but they set it aside so they could use their time and money and thoughts to serve God and help their fellow man.

But by generation three and four, most of their descendants were not like that. They were still good people who stayed away from crime, drugs, drunkenness and fornication, by all means. But they had hobbies (much like me), they had tastes and interests and wants and wishes that were their own and not those of God. They were by and large human, although very good humans, loved by employers for their loyalty, honesty and hard work.

The problem was that they were really good people with a doctrine saying that they were far more than that. The chosen ones, the bride of Christ, the saints, the overcomers. They should be exceptional, rather than just good. And so, subtly and softly like the slow falling of night, rumors spread. Not rumors about anyone in particular, friend or foe. But rumors about The World and those who lived there, those who had not been saved. This is indeed a motley crew, as life will show us, but the attention became steadily more selective, until The World was a cesspool of depravity, an ongoing parade of drug abuse, divorce and drunken gay sex. All of which certainly happen in The World and not in the Church, but … you see the point, I hope. Because they could not get better, others had to become worse to keep the distance.

And that, I think, is where the more sectarian atheists are today. Because they aren’t all that different from believers, the believers need to become worse. Crazy, evil, or at the very least amazingly stupid. Because the need to feel superior is very strong, particularly in those who are average.

Viewpoint character

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

“Because I’m chosen by God!” Yes, but to be a viewpoint character, not the main character!

I have been left less than impressed by the MMORPG Champions Online, which I started subscribing to soon after City of Heroes shut down. The two were made by the same company, Cryptic Studios, and Champions was the newer of them. It sure has a lot of options, but it just does not engage me. There is something lacking. Or perhaps that’s just me growing up.

In any case, I came across an entry from early 2010, in which I fretted about the possible negative influence on my soul by all the fighting in City of Heroes (although at least it was heroic fighting – to protect the innocents and chastise the wrongdoers, I descended time after time). Less than two years later, the game closed down. Problem solved! but not by me.

(Incidentally, there are already RPGs where you can level up by healing and blessing people. I just don’t play them.)

Seen from my point of view, as the Very Important Person, I could say that God closed down CoH in order to help me focus on less violent activities. There is nothing wrong with that point of view, as long as one retains enough sanity to realize that this was not the only and hopefully not the main reason why the game closed down. (I believe the main reason was that it stuck out like a sore thumb in NCSoft’s new profile, where they focused on their Asian RPGs. Even though the game was profitable in itself, it might turn off potential customers with its America-centrism. America is no longer cool in Asia, where NCSoft has its headquarters and core audience.)

A bad leader focuses on micro goals instead of macro goals, a good leader focuses on macro goals instead of micro goals, but a great leader is aware of opportunities to combine them. God is a great leader, so it makes sense that he would throw me a boon while taking care of more important business.

The problem arises when the Viewpoint Character mistakenly thinks that he is the Main Character. I attended a Christian meeting here in Norway shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, where an until then rather unassuming elderly member of the congregation informed us that he had prayed for Soviet Union to fall, and now it had happened. Yes, I am sure he had, and it had undeniably happened. Good for him! He had prayed according to God’s will, evidently, which is a comforting thought. But the moment you think God is your hammer that you can wield to bring down empires, you have a problem. Oh yes.

During the last frenzied month of America’s economic bubble, gas prices reached new heights (although they never reached European levels). Faith-filled believers gathered to pray down the prices. Behold! From out of Heaven! The gas prices plummeted. All it took was the crash of the banking system and millions and millions of people losing their jobs, no longer needing to drive to work or affording to drive elsewhere. There we go! Problem solved! Good job, guys! When God is your hammer, anything is breakable.

In reality, of course, God is not our hammer. I am not the Main Character. What I am is a Viewpoint Character. I think it is great that there are viewpoint characters. Sometimes our goals are aligned with the greater good, sometimes the opposite (although hopefully we don’t do that on purpose), and sometimes not really related. The role of the Viewpoint Character, I feel, is quite valuable. As long as neither the Viewpoint Character or others confuse this with being the Main Character.

Everything is vanity, but…

Screenshot anime GJ-bu

Living each day in the delusional social world! It is not just high school, although that may be closest to the archetype…

Vanity of vanities! Everything is vanity! But since when has that stopped any of us?

There’s another question floating around on Quora: Does belief in an afterlife give meaning to the life we live now? Opinions are very divided. Some say of course, if everything ends with death there is no point in anything. Others say that if you have only one short life, it becomes more important, because it is all you have and not just a tiny slice at one end of an infinitely long stretch of time.

Emotionally, I dislike the “life is more important when short” argument. If someone told me: “We should go see this theater piece, it is very poignant because everyone dies at the end – they even shoot all the onlookers” … I would turn it down without hesitation. Poignant or not, if you aren’t around to remember it afterwards, it loses a lot of appeal instantly. But that is not my message today. No.

What I think is that to most of us, most of the time, it doesn’t really matter. We don’t really think about it, and we generally act as if death wasn’t a big deal, except just after some family member dies. After a while, we forget and go on with the usual stuff: Living in the delusional social world, where important things are not talked about and trivial things rock the world.

For the most part, we do what the people around us do, and they are for the most part very nearsighted. So when someone suddenly dies, they realize that their last words were perhaps a pointless quarrel about something small and banal, or that they used to resent this person because of something that now seems just stupid. But right up until yesterday, all of this seemed perfectly reasonable. This does not seem to be very different depending on religion or lack thereof. It is not like atheists usually think: “Well, it was just a piece of meat anyway. Besides I don’t have free will so I couldn’t have done anything different.” They feel the same way as others, for the most part, or at least the sane ones do.


I also live for a great part in this delusional world, where small things seem bigger than large things, and where I live every day as if it is not the last (which, admittedly, it hasn’t been up until now, long may it last). I have reached the respectable age of 54 years. A few days ago I read that the retirement age in France is 60 years. I cannot imagine retiring in 6 years, but then I don’t live in France either. Here in Norway the retirement age is from 62 to 75, with the pension starting quite low if you are 62 and increasing over time. (Although long-time state employees are guaranteed 66% of their final salary when they retire, if I have understood correctly, even if they retire at 62.) Anyway, I cannot imagine retiring because of old age 8 years from now either. If I pick up a couple more chronic illnesses, perhaps, but they would have to be pretty serious.

But looking at it another way, now that I am this old, does it really make sense to study Japanese and French and mathematics on my free time? Even if I learn them, I will not have that many years to use them. Not to be defeatist or anything, what with most of my relatives living in the range of 80-90 years and staying reasonably sane until shortly before takeoff. But even that is not a lot. Shouldn’t I skip the foreign languages and concentrate on learning about the coming world, the afterlife etc? There are days when I think so, and lately the pendulum has been moving that way again. But it is unlikely to last.

Because even if everything that concerns this life is like smoke on the wind, it still feels real while we are in the middle of it.  Even to me, much of the time.

Quick recipe for happiness

Screenshot anime Little Busters

“When you make someone happy, in turn it makes yourself happier as well.” It is like a garden hose never becomes dry as long as it is in use. If happiness runs through us, we have happiness in us.

Someone on Quora asked if there was a step by step plan to become happy. Well, there are several. Arguably the Dhammapada by Shakyamuni Buddha or the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ could be used as such: Their effectiveness does not depend on believing in the divinity of the men who spoke them, they are effective because they represent unchanging truth about human nature. But presumably people want something that is not tied to classical religions, something more generic. And much, much easier. So, what about something super basic. It is not super high concentrated The Fastest Way Ever to Complete and Everlasting Happiness, but it is simple.

1) Each day, try to give others a little more love (respect, understanding, sympathy, thanks) than you receive. Another way to say this is to put a bit more work into other people’s happiness.

2) Each day, learn something new. Preferably something you don’t need to hide under your bed. ^_^; I mean more like improving a skill, or understanding something (or someone) better.

3) Keep an eye out for your own mistakes and spend some time looking for them. Be grateful if someone points them out, or at least investigate whether it may be true.

4) Keep at it. It takes time from you start planting seed till you can harvest fruits, but if you keep at it, sooner or later you will become a happier person and the world a little better than it otherwise would have been.

Being human is hard enough

Screenshot anime GJ-bu

I am human too, you know. Just with more books. ^_^;

I have written a number of attempts to describe the reality of spiritual gestation, how the spiritual life begins as a small embryo, stuff like that. But it remains above my pray grade, it seems; I cannot express it in a way that I feel sure will do more good than harm. So let us talk about being human instead.

A lot of humans live in poverty. I am not one of them. Even in my childhood, I did not go to bed hungry. I wore patched clothes when I was at home and played with used batteries and tin cans, stuff like that; but I was never worried that I would not get enough food or that we would be evicted or anything like that. So I can’t bear personal testimony about that kind of thing.

In Norway, there is something like a security net that catches people when they fall on hard times, although they can get through it if they are crazy enough. There is also some resistance for those who try to become rich. Both of these borders are much weaker in the USA, from what I hear. I just read on Quora a highly educated and intelligent man describing his rapid descent into poverty because of medical expenses for himself and a loved one. Once he was poor, medication was hard to come by and his health got steadily worse. He was too poor to go to job interviews even when his health allowed it, because he could not afford to travel to the place where the interview was. Eventually his luck turned and he got a job where he could use his old high-income skills. If he had not had them, things would have been grim indeed. As it was, he was able to gradually improve his health and replace essential things for living in America, like a super cheap car.

This kind of problem would not have happened in Norway, but it is a matter of degree. It is expensive to be poor here too, just not that bad. Higher education is free, but you still have to live somewhere (it is pretty could outside most of the year here) and you still need to eat. You won’t get paid life support by the State if you are taking an education, but you do if you are just refusing to work. I am not sure about the logic of this. I suppose you could stealth educate yourself using the local library (in towns where there still is one) or a cheap laptop and the Khan Academy. But you are unlikely to get a job without an actual college degree these days, so sooner or later you have to go there, or be parked on the side line of society.

If being poor is hard, being stupid is no walk in the park either. Or rather, that may be what you end up doing for the rest of your life. This may actually be worse here in the zeroth world, because we need only productive workers with the ability to quickly adapt to ever new challenges and keep their skills from rusting. OK, perhaps not worse than in the USA, since we at least have health insurance for the unemployable. So they are likely to live to a ripe old age unless they drink a lot, take dubious drugs, fail to take prescription drugs, or eat immense quantities of unhealthy food. All of these things happen with alarming regularity, but it takes quite a bit to kill a stupid person, so they still tend to live quite a while. What they do beside writing comments on Net News sites is a bit of a mystery. But from what I see, ignorance is not bliss.

But even if you are employable, life is not a dance on lilies. People who earn more than me, and have nice homes and nice cars, still suffer. The most common reason is problems with relationships. They have unhappy marriages or almost-marriages, or are living alone with a screaming kid, or living alone and paying child support, or have troubles with their friends, troubles with their parents or children, troubles with their boss or their coworkers, trouble with their siblings or trouble with their neighbors. And almost all of them thinks there is nothing they can do about it. Either it is always someone else’s fault, or (in the rare case where people actually realize they are not anywhere near perfect) they are just born that way and they can’t help it.

There are also numerous health challenges, and even more so for our mental health. There is hardly a person who does not have a phobia or two, or a recurring depression, or an addiction or compulsion, or thoughts and worries that assail them and don’t take no for an answer. And if you are lucky enough to not have any severe disturbances yourself, it is a good bet that someone close to you is suffering, and eagerly sharing their suffering.

With all that, it is a bit of a miracle that there are happy people in the world. But there are. For most people this is the result of being in the right place at the right time, I think. But some people have a tendency to wait out at the right place, while others are rarely there to be found, so there is also partly a matter of character. It is not an either / or, it is about increasing one’s chances, not a guarantee for success. That is life in this world. This world is called Earth, not Heaven. It is not a world of absolutes, there is a random element in it, but it is not completely random, not by a long shot.

Marcus Geduld, superhero of the mind

Screenshot anime Minami-ke

It is natural for young people to feel constrained and uncomfortable when people think extremely highly of them (at least people of their own gender…) but hopefully at our age we have outgrown this.

I ran into this fellow on the Quora website, in itself one of the most promising initiatives of the new century. A site for intelligent answers to intelligent questions, it attracts ever more people who either are highly intelligent, think they are highly intelligent, or both of the above. It is not a place where you ask about the height of Mont Blanc, but a place where you ask why Hinduism doesn’t send missionaries the way Christianity does, or what old people wish they knew when they were young. Stuff like that.

Ah, but I have praised Quora here before. Now to praise this Marcus Geduld fellow. First, I thought his name was a pen name, because Geduld means “patience” in German. For someone writing a disproportionate number of the thoughtful answers on Quora, that would be an ideal pen name. Let us just say, a fool really can ask more than the wise can answer. And even if the wise eventually manage to answer the question, the fool will either disbelieve them or already have wandered off. Patience is not just a virtue, in such a place it is a necessity! ^_^

I first noticed this person a while ago when someone asked the perennial question about how to deal with the tragic fact that most people aren’t as smart as $Asker-of-Question. There are various instances of this question, with slightly different wording, on Quora.  I cannot remember which particular version this was, but I remember the gist of the answer. It was, basically: Challenge yourself! You may think you are smart, and that may be true as long as you stick to the things you know and the things that come easy to you. But what if, instead of coasting along, you spent some time each day doing something just barely possible for someone with your talents? Learn a completely unfamiliar skill, or several of them. Read books that are above your level, that you need to reread to “get it”. In short, make yourself struggle. Then you will personally know how it feels to be the stupid person. Because we are all stupid people when we get outside our comfort zone.

This attitude seems to run through much of what Geduld writes. Don’t coast along, stretch yourself. It is the only way to grow. And he brings out numerous examples from his own experience, so evidently he actually does this habitually. He also kept a log of his mistakes for a long stretch of time – perhaps he still does somewhere. I have elsewhere referred to this as “automisanthropology”: The study of why I, of all people, am up to no good. Mistakes, dubious motives, fallacies, pulling the wool over one’s own I etc. It is a very useful study, and Mr Geduld has advanced much farther and faster toward the truth than I have. If you are anything less than a demigod, you should go and admire him already.

It would seem that Quora requires you to register before you get to see all the good stuff. I am not sure, I already had both Facebook and Twitter. But taking the time to get a Twitter account is well worth it to see this amazing person in action.

It is not just the disarming honesty and the daily mental calisthenics, but the guy is basically a Voice of Reason. Despite his claims to atheism, the voice in my heart agrees with him on numerous important issues. Also, it is a joy to read his posts. He does not let them go until they are shining brightly with luminous prose.

Maybe he’ll find out that I am stalking him, at some point. But I trust that he has progressed beyond the self-consciousness where being praised or criticizes by humans makes a difference to one’s sleep or appetite, or indeed makes the compass needle of the heart swing wildly back and forth. So it should be safe for my few readers to go off and stalk him as well – on Quora, at least. Not in the flesh, please. He is happily married already, to his best friend of course. Well, one needs to be two for the two to be one, so that at least is not something he can take credit for!

From a lower world to a higher

Screenshot Sakurasou, featuring Shiina Mashiro

That is pretty much how I feel when reading books like MOTT or Schuon – like I am being pulled into a life where I grow to become more like myself, or the real me. But while fascinating, it is not necessarily fun, and it does not always feel entirely safe.

My previous entry was about the computer game The Sims 3. So it makes perfect sense that this is about the book Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey into Christian Hermeticism. I have written about it before, but then I haven’t opened it in a long time, at least not often. This time I have begun on chapter 3. I have also downloaded a .pdf file to my home server and copied to my tablet and phablet so I can read it anywhere.

(The book itself is once again out of print, which may boost the interest in the .pdf file. I don’t usually condone stealing; but I think reading this book, no matter in what form, will increase the chance that you will pay for it and other books as well at a later time.)

As I have said before, “lower worlds are the worlds we create, higher worlds are the worlds that create us”. Among these may be considered the worlds of mathematics, for instance, since the unyielding rules of mathematics must exist for the universe to exist in its present form, whereas the opposite is not necessarily true. Of special interest is the worlds of religion, as they deal with the emergence and growth of the human as such, which is the soul. With all due respect for the human body, it is mainly a vessel for the soul. I here mean soul in its widest sense, the psyche in psychology, rather than just the immortal spirit-soul which cannot be proven to those who don’t already know it. It is obvious that all humans have a psyche, and religion is the original psychology, the Teachings of the Mind.

So this book about Christian Hermeticism is thoroughly psychological, but itself it is on a higher level than the everyday psyche. It deals with the archetypes above all, and their relationship to each other and to our actual life. It is not religious in the sense that it pretends to be a message from God. It is well aware that it is merely a link in a long chain, and it goes to great length to show this chain, this tradition, evoking a number of the great souls that make up this timeless community scattered throughout time.

For those who want to stay firmly within the first four dimensions, this book is unwelcome for sure. For it sees our life in space and time as merely a vessel for a much greater being which is not so constrained. Ordinary life is just a starting point. (I originally typed “starting pint”. I guess that works too…) Things escalate from there, or descalate from Heaven perhaps. Anyway, Heaven and the soul meet somewhere, and sweet music arises.

This book is not for everyone, I know. Religious folks will likely find it at least heterodox, if not heretical in places. Irreligious folks will find it babbling about imaginary things which make no sense to them. But for some of us, it speaks about things we know from experience but not as well as Unknown Friend, the author of the posthumous book. A student of non-Christian esoteric traditions, he came to find his home in the Catholic Church later in life, and brought with him what he considered to be in accord with the Truth of that religion, even if it came from elsewhere. But he also eagerly embraced the mystic traditions of the Church, and in this found his anchor. Meditations on the Tarot was his final work, a “lifetome” as a better man than me has said, and it was his wish that it be published anonymously and posthumously.

It is not at all necessary to understand the internal combustion engine to drive a car, nor to understand semiconductors to operate a computer. But to some people it can be very satisfying to have this kind of knowledge, and once in a blue moon it can come in useful. MOTT is a book for religious geeks who want to understand how and why the archetypes of religion work, not just that they work. I don’t think this necessarily makes us better people than others, but it probably makes us better people than we otherwise would have been. For to us, the attraction of metaphysical knowledge combats the attractions of the superficial life and the roaming ego. The two of them are opposed one to another, so we cannot do what we want.

(What I want, incidentally, is to play The Sims 3 all day and still become wise. While the game is conductive to wisdom, it is so only when used in conjunction with a much higher view, from which our life on Earth looks suspiciously similar to that of the Sims:  Short, flat and comical. MOTT is quite conductive to that perspective.)

More shiny?

Screenshot anime Little Busters (safe for work and school)

It is just a small thing, but since it makes me happy it is amazing!

The last fluorescent bulb in my home flickered and died, although happily it did not shatter like one did a few years ago. It was time to replace it with a LED bulb, the way I had done with about a dozen incandescent bulbs last year. I was also looking for a smaller bulb for the last spot in the living room 5-bulb main lamp. In addition, I ended up buying a set of three LED downlights for the kitchen. “Make your Home a Palace of Neverending Light!” Well, at least 20 years, according to the packaging. I don’t see why they would stop working then if they’ve lasted that long, but those who live shall see!

I also bought a new charger for my Galaxy Tab 7.7, as I had accidentally swept it off the table where it was charging. The tablet took no damage, but the connector at the end of the cable from the charger broke beyond repair. (I did repair it, but it worked only fitfully at best.) Stupidly it was made in one piece, so I had to replace it all. The replacement has a USB cable that connects the charger and the tablet, so if one part breaks, you need not replace them both.

My trip also brought me past a display of the new Galaxy Note 10.1, the big brother of my Galaxy Note 2 phablet (big mobile phone). The Note 10.1 was very nearly as Shiny as its little brother.  By “Shiny” in this context I mean the mysterious ability to radiate a small but noticeable amount of joy and satisfaction, giving the user a feeling similar to an orthodox worshiper watching an icon (according to studies of Apple fans; I believe Samsung has somehow managed to copy this memetic tech from Apple, by means unknown.)

For those who don’t use Note or iPhone or religious icons, it is similar to the feeling you get when watching a picture of someone you like a lot. Otaku (fans of Japanese entertainment) get this feeling, only more strongly I believe, when watching merchandise relating to their favorite series, such as small dolls of the main characters, or pillows decorated with pictures of them. I have not gone quite that far down the slippery road of the otaku, but it is big business (and parodied in some anime!)

Since I already have the Note 2, I was not seriously tempted to buy the Note 10.1 for its shiny. Hopefully there will be a Note 7 eventually, by the time I am ready to retire the Tab 7.7. But that may be a year or two off if things stay their course, and that is an ocean of time to me. Who knows who will be alive and who will be dead two years from now? We must do all the things that must be done, before they are lost forever. Buying yet another tablet is not near the top of that list right now.  But if you are looking for your first, this one is shiny. And it has a pen so you can draw on it and handwrite.

I consider “shiny” a good thing in and of itself. If objects you use can give you some measure of joy beyond their more prosaic function, so more the better. Increase the amount of joy on earth without harming anyone? Sure. Of course, one may get attached to it, as one may get to other joys: Art, music, architecture etc. (I use “joy” here as distinct from “pleasure” which in my use applies to the senses and fulfillment of instincts, but there is an overlap. Eating when you are hungry – even just a little bit hungry – is a pleasure, but food that is deliciously prepared and presented adds joy of the mind atop the pleasure of the flesh, as it were. There is also a considerable overlap in romantic relationships, but let’s not go there today.)

I would not mind if all of us could live our lives surrounded by objects that broadcast joy, so to speak. But I may be too optimistic about our ability to detach from such feelings. If we cannot die peacefully because we don’t want to part from all the shiny things, then clearly we have gone too far. But overall I think we should not wish for more suffering in the world, but more pleasure, joy and happiness in so far as it hurts no one and goes along with a virtuous life. (Not that I’m going to hold myself up as an example of the latter, but I mean in principle.) So, shiny, but not at any cost.

An infinite number of books

Screenshot anime Minami-ke, Kana and Chiaki

In regard to how stupid you are, I’ve compiled a ten thousand word report.

 In truth, an infinite number of books could be written on how stupid I am. And on many other topics as well.

I recently bought a book called The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. I may review it at some future time, probably at least somewhat favorably. But I have only read 18% of it yet. That is because I stopped at this quote by Neil Gaiman: “I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them only because there wasn’t an infinite number of Narnia books to read.”

I don’t have that relationship with Narnia, having only met it as an adult. But the idea of an infinite number of books is something that crops up in my own fiction in recent years. In The 1001st Book, the divine king Thoth of Attalan left behind thousands of books containing the universal magic lore. Wizards spend decades studying it and even centuries (for the final Gift of Thoth was that time spent studying the Truth does not count toward your lifespan), but they never manage to learn it all. It is said in that world that the person who reads and understands all the books of Thoth will be his reincarnation and save the world, but so far no one has come really close.

My choice of name and locale for the story is not incidental, but is plainly inspired by Japanese author and cult leader Ryuho Okawa, who should have reached 900 books any day now. Okawa does consider himself a reincarnation of Thoth as well as of Hermes Trismegistus, each of which is said to have written thousands of books containing all the secret knowledge of the world. Obviously this immense number of books is purely mythological. Only a few scattered fragments of writings purportedly from Hermes Trismegistus remain, although they are tantalizing in their powerful prose and have exerted a subtle but ongoing influence on Christianity and thus western culture.

Speaking of Christianity, we come to the second association. The disciple whom Jesus loved (generally assumed to be John) writes in conclusion of his(?) gospel: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”  Once again, an infinite number of books. Yet in the end the number of books included in the Christian Holy Scriptures was quite limited. Rather than write an unlimited number of books, Jesus Christ entrusted to the Spirit of Truth to expand and bring alive what he had embodied.

The truth is that it is natural for anything higher-dimensional to be infinite in terms of lower dimensions. Did that sound abstract? Think of a mountain, it is 3-dimensional. Think of a photo, it is 2-dimensional (at least the part of it that interests us). You can take an infinite number of pictures of the mountain, from all sides and all heights, and each tiny change in placement of the camera will yield a new picture, even though the mountain is the same. Even if you take them from the same place, the weather and time of day will still make them different. And even after all that, you have only shown the surface of it. Its content, the quality of what it is inside, is not described even after all that.

Therefore, there can always be an infinite number of books, because there are things higher than books. I remember my aunt’s husband saying to me, after I admitted I did not know something: “There could be written thick books about all the things that you don’t know.” And I have been reading such books ever since. And yet there is an infinite number of books that could be written still, about an infinite number of things. Because there are things higher than books, and even something higher than those things. We are immersed in eternity.