Writing page 3
Monday 11th April 2015, 9:05 am
Influential Books that I have Read
Proving that the World is not Flat
Some Qualities within our Vision
Monday 11th April 2015, 9:05 am:
It is an overcast morning and I have just stepped outside my house. I look out towards the Northwest where I can see a wide view of Adelaide suburbia, and I notice there is a lot of cloud around, but I can see the distant regions of suburbia clearly. I can see that it isn’t raining over those regions at the moment. I can see an airliner in the distance silently flying low and sedately south towards Adelaide Airport. I look up at a cloud that is closer. It is low enough, close enough and moving fast enough for me to observe it clearly moving towards a point above me from the west. It is moving silently. I feel a cool breeze against my face, and I can hear the sound of rustling leaves in nearby trees. In the moving cloud, I can see that it has many wisps of vapour that move as a whole unit but also have smaller independent movements. Some wisps of vapour seem to be slowly growing. Some wisps of vapour seem to be slowly disappearing. Some seem to be slowly rolling at various rates. The whole thing looks very fluid. I find it very difficult to comprehend all the movements that I can analyse as a mechanical construction, but I can see it all very clearly as a single entity, and watching it in the clear light triggers emotional responses. I feel inspired. It is a fantastic spectacle, and one that I’ve only noticed now, by chance while looking up at that cloud. I find myself asking questions. What is this thing we call a cloud? Why are there clouds? Why does a cloud look like a solid thing and not just a blurry smudge of vapour? Why is it all moving the way it is? What if I never looked at that cloud? Are all clouds the same? Why does it move without sound? Why doesn’t it announce itself as a special event? I find myself enjoying the interactions of subtle colours, and enjoying the way that some shapes I see in the cloud are growing or changing their nature, while others are shrinking. I can sense an overall shape to the cloud and can see that it too is slowly changing. I can feel that the cloud is somehow in freefall, but it’s a freefall within certain constraints. We don’t see clouds changing altitude much – certainly, we don’t see cloud masses lose altitude to drop to the ground (unless we consider the rain that is sometimes dropped from a cloud mass). The cloud has changed and moved on and soon will be gone.
This experience of watching this cloud is part of my life.
I can communicate ideas and experiences.
I am able to look at things, feel things, smell things, hear things, and think about things from the world I live in. I can write down my observations, and try to communicate some sophisticated ideas by using my skills with a sophisticated and highly complex shared language (in my case, Australian English). Using my shared language, I can experience things from other people, and learn things from other people. I can also experience things from my imagination or from someone else’s imagination.
Our understanding of life is tied to our culture.
I suspect that the understanding of life we each have is tied largely to the ‘culture’ we are born into, as well as the things we have reflected on from our actual experiences encountered during our lives, especially from experiences encountered during our childhood. By culture, I am referring to the sum of the shared language we interact with or use with other people we interact with, the shared outlook on life that is conveyed through the many interactions we experience, the shared understanding of the world we live in, the shared understanding of how to behave among other people, the shared understanding of historical events, the shared understanding of what things are important in life, etc.
The values we have are very important for determining what we may see as important and what is not important. Our values will allow us to feel inspired by certain things we experience, or disgusted by other things we come across. We live in a very complex world, full of interacting detail. We each have different collections of values, and these may change over the course of our lives, as a result of the things that are experienced, or maybe as a result of reflecting back on things that may or may not have happened. Our age plays a genuine part in looking at and determining our values.
(Based on notes from my diary, 19th July 1981, then revised and reworked in 1995, July 2002, and again in 2015)
1a. Background part 1 – 1981 (aged 21)
“I am resting in bed on a typical Sunday night, listening to the Beatles’ “White Album” through headphones. My mind is wandering. I think of a lot of things, re-live pieces of my past, think of what could have been, what might have been, think of the future, think about anything that comes along.
“I often contemplate the state of my life on Sunday nights, before starting a new week at work.
“As I lie here with my headphones on, I can feel my body working. I can feel the blood going through my neck on both sides. I can feel a very thin line between life and death; I suddenly feel totally vulnerable.
“I couldn’t see why my body had to keep on going. It could stop at any moment.
“I felt a need to record my beliefs on life, and on other important things, just in case I didn’t get another chance.”
1b. Background part 2 – October, 1995 (aged 36)
“I did then put down some of my beliefs about life in general. I was 21 years old. About fifteen years have passed since then, and I again feel the desire to record my insights.
“Even from an early age, I have been quite serious about finding some truth and understanding about my life. I can remember many times from when I was very young, feeling that one day I will be wise and know everything, and know why people did things.
“The lifestyle and prefabricated pattern of existence offered to me from my society always seemed too vague in its answers to life’s fulfilment and in its answers to “why”s in general. I wanted to learn what life is really about, what it really means, and I wanted to know what is truth, and what is only misleading “surface” stuff or even just distraction. There always seems to be plenty of distractions, to keep us from looking at the important things in life.
“I felt that I needed to know more about the nature of my life, to have some sort of basis for progressing, hopefully growing as a result of perception of truth.
“I am happy with the understanding of the world that I now have. It has stood the test of about twenty years of looking at things critically. I realise that I might need to make some modifications to the things I understand as I progress through life, but I know that the essential elements are solid, good foundations.”
2. My understanding of my life – July 2002
I have developed an understanding of my life, based on looking at it from various viewpoints:
2a) Looking at my life from the “inside” (from my point of view, as being an individual entity with personal needs and desires). This is the most ‘selfish’ viewpoint, and an essential one, but you can only make a balanced understanding of this viewpoint after considering some other viewpoints:
2b) Looking at my life from the “outside” (as being one of billions of entities making up the whole system of life on this planet or elsewhere). Looking at my life from “the outside” involved a further breaking down of points of view:
2b.i. looking at myself as part of my immediate environment with direct involvement with other entities;
2b.ii. looking at myself as part of the wider system of life on this planet, and
2b.iii. looking at myself as part of the universe, encompassing all life, planets, stars, matter and energy.
All of these viewpoints offer a different perspective on one’s life. The last one however is the one I would like to start with. This point of view seems the furthest distance from one’s personal life, but I believe it is the viewpoint that offers the most fundamental foundation, the most useful for having as a building block. It is at this viewpoint that one can most readily search for “ultimate” truth, the workings of the world (universe, existence) for living and non-living entities, at its most fundamental level. It is looking for truth about questions of “god”, the ultimate importance of life to “god”, the importance of people to “god”, and in particular, my importance to “god”. (I am using the word “god” here to mean ‘that something’ which controls the workings of the world at its most fundamental, and not as a Christian or other religious figurehead.)
2c) My Metaphysical Starting Point
We all have some underlying metaphysical beliefs that underpin how we make sense of life, that underpin our general approach to life, and that provide the deepest foundations for any beliefs we may have about life. We may not be able to easily see or articulate these metaphysical beliefs, because for some reason, we don’t often have reason to formally do so - certainly, in my society it seems to a taboo subject, something sure to turn people away. Much too personal? Is that really important? Let’s not get into such a personally vulnerable discussion!
These metaphysical beliefs are often unable to be directly verified or proved; they are almost at the level of say ‘a gut feeling’. However, I put it to you that your true underlying metaphysical beliefs will determine much of what you do and how you go about things. It is interesting that many people say they believe one thing, but act according to a very different set of beliefs. Certainly, I’m sure that most people haven’t done much thinking about their true metaphysical beliefs, and how those beliefs may project into every aspect of their lives – but it is my understanding that our deepest metaphysical beliefs do project into just about every aspect of our lives. Very few people seem to realise that if they say that they believe in a god or religion as pre-packaged by one group of people or another, then there are implications which do follow from such beliefs.
I can only talk for myself, but I know that my metaphysical beliefs were basically developed at a fairly young age (around 8 to 10 years old). Maybe they are closely tied to the “developed strategy(ies)” for coping with the rich soup of life’s experiences we develop during our early years of life (just a hypothesis).
2c.ii) My metaphysical starting points:
These are 3 metaphysical beliefs that I’ve long held:
2c.ii.1) My beliefs should be based mainly on my experiences, and not based on other people’s spoken anecdotes or written words. Of course, it is going to be very difficult to untangle myself from the influences of books and the knowledge gained from others. I guess I’m trying to say that I want to put my feelings and my understanding as the primary source for my beliefs.
2c.ii.2) I believe that ‘ultimate truths’ should be the same for me as it is for anyone else, or anything else.
I believe that all people are equal, certainly when looking at them as how they relate to the universe, planets, and all matter and energy. Truth goes beyond all ‘personal truths’ and beliefs, whether you like it or not. Real truth is just there, and it doesn’t matter what philosophy or beliefs you have, real truth can’t be changed by interpretation.
2c.ii.3) By its very nature, ultimate truth is everywhere, always. And, because it is everywhere always, I believe it is available to anyone (or anything) at any time with the capacity and desire (etc.) to look for it, regardless of their circumstances of existence. Someone on a tropical island has the same potential to discovering truth about their lives, as someone living within a long-standing city. I know that it takes some courage to openly look for truth, openly look at truth, and not just settle for a convenient substitution. I think this is why religions have done so well over the years. They provide a system that people can somehow feel at ease with, can understand, and can fit their egos within. Truth doesn’t place people or individual organisms above anything else, however. This seems to be something which is very hard for most people to take, and religious constructs have been clever to allow people to feel better about their situation than cold truth might allow them - even though I think that deep down, most people know more truth than they are willing to admit, and prefer to hide behind something that feels warmer (with a false “safety in numbers” aspect), even though it is not truth. Truth will be truth, whether I can explain it or not.
I naturally disagree with the answers to truth put forward by all religions or “Religious Institutions”. I have always found it hard to understand how a religious institution such as Christianity (with all of its smaller sects such as Catholicism, Baptism, etc.) could honestly present their understanding of god as ultimate truth, when they require one to do this special thing or that special thing in a special place in order to be blessed. I can’t help but think of the dilemma of other cultures, practising different lifestyles and different worshipping of different “gods”, etc. What happens to all of the people involved there, who don’t play the game to the right rules, who may not have access to the game at all? Do they all forfeit credibility with the “real god”? Is it simply a matter of being lucky enough to be born into the “right culture”, or do all people have just as much accessibility to the truth about this world? Don’t all religious institutions (modern or otherwise) say that one can be worth more than another by playing to a special set of rules?
What egotistical bullshit; what self-centred delusion!
To me, religious institutions feel worse than than just being a whole lot of bullshit; they feel quite dangerous. I see them as a perverse means of controlling the masses of basically insecure and unquestioning people. I see them as a form of tyranny, taking advantage of human nature - along the lines of wanting a set of guidelines for the pursuit of worthwhile life, wanting to believe that there is a special purpose in life, wanting to believe that there are ultimate rewards for ‘doing the right things’ during their lives, such as eternal happiness in paradise after they die. Well, I wonder how many people have been conned by such promises over the years? (Certainly most people that have lived, because that’s the extent of hold that religions have on the vast majority of people, who do not seem to want the hassle of searching for truth themselves).
I believe that everyone must search for their own understanding of truth about their lives, and not just rely on the stories passed on from somebody else. Beliefs are extremely personal. How can someone expect to change another person’s deep beliefs by just talking and spinning a pattern of arguments (no matter how clever)? Surely deep beliefs are formed by many experiences, many observations, many pieces of understanding, many thoughts and many considerations? In the same way, please don’t accept that anything mentioned here is actually important for your life – surely you have to determine what is important and what is not. These words are not intended for converting you to my beliefs, but to explain the way I see the world – to hopefully provide a different perspective with some constructive ideas.
2e) My “god”
From my viewing and feeling of the world around me (feeling it from the outside as honestly as I can) I have come to believe in “god” as being the “mechanical laws of nature” only, or to use another colloquial expression, “mother nature” is my god. There is no special entity out there, with a special interest in human beings. Every drop of water, every cell, every atom, every living being, every non-living entity, everything, conforms to the mechanical laws of nature. It is so simple and obvious. And it feels right, truthful, even after many years of testing this belief.
The laws of nature are mechanical, unfeeling, untiring, merciless. They don’t need special worshipping, they don’t need anything. They don’t need life and they don’t need people. They don’t know even what a person is, let alone what a person might be doing. There is no human type mind behind the laws of nature, dealing out exceptions or favours to our personal lives.
Seen from the furthest “outside” viewpoint, that of “god”, everything has the same value. People mean the same as ants, or rocks, or atoms, or stars. Everything in the universe is ultimately subject to the laws of nature.
There is no compassionate “god” behind the workings of the world. There is no “after life”, no heaven, no hell, no reincarnation. When you die, that’s it.
I believe that “life” was started as a consequence of “natural” actions occurring within just the right conditions - basically the laws of nature, within a very complex mixture of chemicals (themselves the result of the laws of nature). Once started, life developed and evolved to the state that it is now, with all of its complexity and detail.
This view of the world thus tells me how I see the worth of life, and my life in particular, when looking at it from the furthest viewpoint. That is, life has no real purpose, it has no real value to the fundamental workings of the universe. It is just there, or here. And there is no reason that there needs to be any life in the universe at all. But, I hope you also see that without a sense of appreciation, the universe has no meaning either. Without me, the universe has no meaning. So there is a kind of interdependence, even at this furthest view of the world.
2f) Changing the Viewpoint
Changing the viewpoint (coming in a bit closer) to that of looking at my life as being part of an environment with interacting individuals changes my potential worth. I am now within a group of individuals each with their own values and outlooks. I have values too, and find that my life can influence changes on those other individuals, and vice versa.
And even though my life has no value to the world at large, it does have value to me (obviously that of ultimate importance to me), and to my interacting environment (that of being able to affect other entities, whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise). And my interacting environment has value to me (the ability to affect my life in a multitude of ways).
It is a marvellous sense of positive value that can come from someone else, particularly someone held in high regard, high respect. It is value I feel in myself coming from respected sources (such as close friends, family, other people that I have much contact with, or other people that I may have only passing contact with or even other animals, etc.), that is so precious to me. But however precious, any positive value obtained from interactions with others is not as precious as the value I take from myself. My self is the most important thing to me.
2g) Have I come full circle?
I guess I have come to a stage where one could argue “what was the point of me looking out at the ‘ultimate truth’ situation, when any importance we have comes from more personal viewpoints”? Does it really matter what our ultimate truth may be? Does it really matter if religious groups are right or wrong?
Yes it makes a world or difference! What you truly believe will underpin just about everything you do, why you do it, and how you do it. Starting with a different premise will lead to a different type of appreciation in everything you do. We see it so often with 2 groups of people fighting, each believing that they are doing ‘the right thing’. With my understanding of truth, I don’t have a group of other people ultimately telling me what I’m to do, or don’t do. When I do something, I know that I am ultimately doing it for myself, and not because I think I’ll go to ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ (after I die) if I do it.
To me, the search for ultimate truth has led to a better understanding of priorities, of personal worth, a better appreciation of other people’s diversity, and of other influencing sources, like religions and governments, etc. To me, the understanding I have come to does give a good perspective of many aspects of my life. It means that my personal values are based on a foundation of truth, not fantasy. It provides a very different perspective on the value I place on my own life. I am the one who is ultimately responsible for my life. No other person or ‘being’ is responsible for my life. It is trying for a basis of truth instead a basis of convenience or ego.
If something doesn’t work out, I don’t go around blaming my relationship with a “god” – like I see many people doing. It is realising that I am only the centre of my own life, and not the centre of anyone else’s life. I provide the meaning in my life, through my understanding of the world around me. I choose what I want to value.
I don’t need to be told by anyone else, what to do in my life. I’m not living to go to ‘heaven’ (or similar) when I die. I am living mainly for me, and partly for those who I value around me. And I know that much of what has been presented to me by others as being an explanation of truth and how to live my life, is false, irrelevant to me, and generally only really serving the desires of others. One can’t really blame others for trying to get me to serve their causes (they are only trying to get what they can get for themselves), but it doesn’t mean that one has to tolerate them completely. Why should I tolerate anybody else at all, really? I choose to tolerate others generally, because I prefer to live among other people. I like to treat others as I expect others to treat me.
2h) A World within a World
It is like seeing that we live in a world within a world. We go about our lives (our passing existence) within a sub-world of life on this planet. That sub-world is then within the enormity and coldness of ultimate existence within space and time. Most of our survival skills come from living in the sub-world of life on this planet. This sub-world (because of the way it came about as a result of millions of years of evolutionary forces) has some special “laws” of its own (being more specialised, more refined, more complex, more personal forms of the fundamental laws of nature) which have in turn led to the direction of developments of life on this planet. Evolution of various species, as a result of some offspring better meeting the demands of survival than others, is the type of law I’m talking about here. Everything must conform to the laws of nature, but as living beings with advanced capabilities, we can affect other entities with complex combinations of those laws within things such as speech, persuasions, kicking, touching, etc.
In fact, we, as a very highly developed species of animal on this planet can do more than just conform to the specialised laws of survival as well. We often have time and the capability to do other things besides just keeping ourselves and our species alive. We can create things, we can destroy things, we can enjoy watching some sport, we can record ideas or special events in our lives, we can go for a walk along the beach, just to enjoy it, or we can take some time to use our imagination and think about things critically, or otherwise, as I’m doing now. We can do so many things, it’s amazing really. The irony in this which comes to mind, is that this capability (to get up to other things) has clearly shown in recent years to be a real threat to the survival of the species. Our society is using up resources at an unsustainable rate, primarily because there are groups of people who want us to think that we’ll have more enjoyable lives if we work to generate money which is spent on their products of entertainment or ego pandering.
3. Some Implications of these Beliefs
If everyone thought the same as me wouldn’t we have widespread chaos? Surely, the vast majority of people would be living in a “dog-eat-dog” world. Everyone would be out for themselves. Well maybe that’s actually pretty close to the way the world is at present. I really don’t know what would happen if everyone thought the same as I do; all that I know is that both I and my wife have very close beliefs to those described earlier, and we both believe in considering the “rights” of others, as we would want others respect our rights. That is something we do for our sense of who we are, and who we want to be. We know that we could live without the vast majority of laws imposed by governments, simply because we have a strong sense of self, wanting to do the “right thing” by ourselves and others, for our own well being.
If everyone shared our understanding of life and the world we live in, maybe the vast majority of people would have a better sense of themselves, would discuss things of greater relevance, would have a better sense of humour, would have a better sense of how fragile and precious life is?
Influential Books that I have Read
I am not a big reader of books. I didn't do a lot of reading as a child. I preferred to be doing things for myself. However, I have learnt over the years that there is an enormous value that good books can have on ones understanding of things. Books are how I studied influential works of art by people such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Pablo Picasso, Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Henry Matisse, Paul Gauguin, etc. I didn't have access to many original pieces by the artists just mentioned, but I did have access to these artists' collections through books.
These following books have stood out as being very special to me, mainly because of their influence on my understanding of my life generally.
Proving that the World is not Flat
Haven't you ever wondered whether the world (The Earth) is basically
flat or spherical, or perhaps both? How can you really know, without actually
blasting off from Earth and looking back at its shape? Could it have been
proved by the ancients, that the world can't be a flat plane?
Some Qualities Within our Vision:
There are many aspects of our vision that we might take for granted, but these are actually part of the superb physical vision we have, and make "just looking" such an enjoyable and often moving experience. There are so many aspects to our bodies that we might take for granted.
It would be good to have several tools/mediums at one's disposal for
expressing things felt through the combination of all these aspects
as well as aspects of all of one's senses. There are many other things
which are part of our experiences, such as:
There are so many subtle aspects which can all contribute and combine
to provide such a magnificent uplifting experience.
Writing page 3