Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Is Privacy Dead?
If you are like me, you've been reading about the pervasive use of databases by both corporations and the government. The former uses information for targeted marketing to cut costs and increase sales. The latter uses private databases for criminal investigations. I had thought that the government was also being lazy or circumventing legal restrictions, mostly just being lazy. Well, it turns out that the government is using private databases for the latter reason. It seems almost sinister because it's so subtle and opaque. The government is giving companies like Choicepoint government data to crosslink into their already massive databases and then buying back the information on a per transaction basis. The reason why is that the government doesn't have to tell you what data they were seeking or even what's in the database because they don't own the database. The Freedom of Information Act applies to public databases, not private databases. Relying on private entities for publicly obtained information is a way for government to be less transparent and accountable to its own citizens while it profiles and tracks them. An enlightening, somewhat alarming and slightly paranoid talk can be heard from this Homeland Stupidity
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Energy <- birth/death -> condensed energy (matter) (i.e. E=mc^2), but from the living perspective.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
What is the Purpose of Life?
I believe that the purpose of living is discovery, primarily discovering who one really is, but one is always discovering their own capabilities and limitations? This is my own personal belief, but it is a recurrent theme in just about every major surviving religion. It's certainly a major tenet of Buddhism and Christianity, although it's been a bit battered and mangled in Christianity. It doesn't matter what one's age is. There are children who are wise beyond their years and there are adults who are basically children and who will remain so. If Buddhism and Christianity are to be believed, then everyone has their own spiritual path and that path is unwinding at its own pace. The purpose of a spiritual master is to save people "lifetimes" discovering who they really are. Yet, such a belief is pointless. If you can only experience who you really are, then it doesn't matter what you believe or what another tells you for that matter. It comes down to personal choice and spiritual grace. Intellectual belief is just agreeing with a mental concept. It's one step removed from experiencing and living that existence. While I might believe in racial and gender equality, if I don't treat others of a different skin tone or women as equals, then I am just lying to myself. I am acting a role and not being truthful. And, what I say or think is essentially meaningless. It's my actions that count. If I say I'm not bigoted,and then turn around and act bigoted, then what am I? One could describe this as the dichotomy of being human. Another term for it could be insanity. Does a cat act like a dog, or a dog ever act like a cat?
Monday, November 20, 2006
Is there such a thing as a "good addiction"? Isn't a "good addiction" an oxymoron? "All things in moderation". Why do we recognize that drug or alcohol addiction is "bad" and yet, workaholism is tolerated or encouraged? You are killing yourself, just in different ways. In the former, you are totally throwing your life away, while in the latter, you are wasting your life and productivity for someone else's benefit, your employer. Both types of behavior are insane. This also applies for other activities that are good for you. Moderate exercise or drinking keeps one fit or healthy. Too much exercise just wears your body out, especially one's joints - what is called repetitive stress syndrome. I'm just as guilty as the next person. I spend too much time in front of computers.
I just discovered that the Olympic Torch Ceremony, the tradition of bringing the Olympic Flame from Greece, running it into the stadium and lighting the Olympic Games Torch from the smaller one, that tradition is a Nazi invention.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Given that few societies and cultures survive intact more than 1500 years in the West, what myths will we need to create for our children? As an example, there are radioactive coyotes and rattlesnakes at the Hanford Reservation due to contamination of the environment by nuclear waste. Granted that most of our nuclear waste and testing facilities are in deserts or in remote Pacific islands, but still how do we keep people from harming themselves through inadvertant exposure a thousand years hence. The Ukrainians have it worse. The area contaminated by Chernobyl is rapidly becoming a nature preserve and the wildlife and plants are thriving after adapting to the hard radiation. But animals and people dislike boundaries. Look at the ranchers complaining about bears and wolves from Yellowstone National Park. Make the bears and wolves and bison radioactive and you begin to comprehend the essence of the problem. Deer and wild boar make for good eating, but eating a highly radioactive animal isn't good for you in the long run. That is true for radioactive berries and other edible fruit as well. How are the Ukrainians going to explain to future generations to stay away from such a beautiful, thriving countryside after 2-3 generations?
Discover the Essence of Truth for Yourself
I finished Misquoting Jesus last week. Some of it I'd already known from previous readings, some I hadn't. The diminishment of women's role in the church happened gradually from the Second Century A.D. onward. First Timothy was written by someone who claimed to be Paul, but was not. Timothy is an example of a book that was included in the Bible for social reasons. The salutations in Romans were altered. A woman named Prisca was greeted by Paul as "first among the apostles". Later copies of the same Greek manuscript alter her name to that of a man, or put her husband first, or omit the apostles reference entirely. The Bible was altered for several reasons: copying mistakes, theological differences from what would become the Orthodox view (i.e. passages were altered to prevent one or more groups of Christians from claiming that their view was supported in scripture), logical differences/inconsistencies (i.e. passages that pagan critics pointed out that made little or no sense from an intellectual standpoint were corrected or omitted), social (i.e. women and slaves who were declared equals spiritually were declared subservient in every other way to the social norms of the time). The author also points out that in Mark's version, Jesus is angry a great deal of the time, while Luke's version is of a loving and compassionate Jesus. Yet, Luke's Gospel didn't remain unscathed from deliberate alteration by scribes. Mark's Gospel ended abruptly so verses were added to end the story a little better. The Johannine story of the woman who committed adultery (John 7:53-8:12), the last twelve verses of Mark, and the Johannine Comma (I John 5:7-8) do not appear in the earliest manuscripts that have been found. They appear in the Modern English New Testament versions. The English translations are also based on one of the most altered Greek manuscripts. In other words, the King James version is riddled with errors. This doesn't let the Catholic Bible off the hook either, although it had fewer errors. Jerome had to collect and collate several Greek manuscripts in his day and translate them to Latin, so the problem with textual and theological errors probably was already recognized in Jerome's time.
Professor Ehrman's take is that every time someone reads a book, he or she has to interpret and make sense of the book. Interpretation is also part of the role of an author. Mark's portrayal or interpretation of Jesus is different from Matthew's and Luke's, or even Jefferson's (who wrote his own Bible and who didn't believe in an angry Jesus). If Dr. Ehrman is to be believed, the angry Jesus is the historically accurate version of Jesus. These shadings of interpretation is how our Bible came to be. It is a living, breathing document, a part of its time, and now, an integral part of our society and civilization. However, I believe that he does the Bible a disservice in one respect. Texts are generally superior to oral histories and accounts because they are written down and the rate of change is less in written documents. The rate of change or alteration is significantly faster via oral transmission. Then too, oral transmission is a faster means of communication, but it is less reliable over time. Witness gossip in a small town or business or corporation. I am making some assumptions here. One, is that any written document is accurately written in the first place. Of course, there are written lies and fabrications called propaganda or spin, but most religions start out as spiritual truth that is written down and transmitted both orally and in writing. The second assumption is that where deliberate alterations were made, they were made with good intentions. By and large, professional scribes didn't alter documents they copied without good reason and many, if not the majority, of alterations were mistakes (according to Professor Ehrman). The few that were intentional were made for some very good reasons so the scribes or elders thought. The invention of the printing press has probably lessened the error rate, but how many books have you read lately that were poorly edited. I've read my share. How many books will survive 2,000 years hence with printing errors intact? How many Classical era religions have survived for 2,000 years? Buddhism is about 500 years older than Christianity. I'm not sure how old Judaism is, but it's likely almost as old as Mesopotamia. (Some religions likely survive longer because they are a truer picture of the Universe, but they are not the entire truth. Some religions are wiped out by force (i.e.Aztec, Incan). Since we were beaten, our God(s) have failed us. Your God is superior. The Jews never fell for that line of reasoning in spite of their many defeats.) That said, it's not the words or laws that matter. It's their essence. The only laws that are absolute are physical laws and even they might not be if another Einstein or Newton comes along and sees a truer version of the physical Universe.
Experience is truly the best teacher. Intellectual knowledge just shortens the learning curve, but it can't substitute for experience. One must experience "God". Reading about a "God" in the Torah or Bible is a poor substitute for experiencing spiritual truth and "God" for oneself - what the inadequate label points towards. Why believe the Torah or Bible unconditionally in the first place? Use them as a starting point, but they will make poor foundations for living if not used with discernment.
Let the flames commence.