The Possession Of Justice

The greatest possessions a human being may ever have are those for which we pay no money. They are not the only possessions worth having:  it is good to have a safe and warm home, it is healthier and we live longer because of it; it is pleasurable to have the ability to move around on a horse or in a car and see more of the world. But it is those things that define our individual characters that make the most difference.

This is obvious since we make decisions and those decisions impact upon all other life, the factors involved in making those decisions must be paramount. Mercy mist always be more important than profit, honour must always be more important than buying out a competitor, empathising must always be more important than the exchange rate.

So why aren’t they? Why when so many people want the possessions that come without money, when so many people want to see people express those characteristics that have nothing to do with finances, don’t we propel those qualities to the forefront of all we do?

Because these are not the qualities of money-making. Because for all the talk what we really want is to get by in the system and the system is against characteristics that limit  income. Because we sold those characteristics in the market place, and today they are little more than words.

We strive to possess and find we are the possession.

Caught In The Rain

I remember a car enthusiast saying to me that given how badly people drive it is amazing how few accidents their really are on British roads. Drivers are always compensating for other drivers mistakes. Which is a skill since none of us choose who the drivers around us are or what medication they are on or where they are going. My driving instructor told me to remember that everyone else on the road is an idiot – since he probably told that to all his students it didn’t reflect well on me.

In much the same way none of us choose our generation or the place into which we re born be it town or country. None of us choose who our parents are or what problems they will face during our childhoods. In many ways we now know none of choose some of our own characteristics which emerge in our brains during vital years of early development.

Yet we are all careering around the planet making up for each other’s deficiencies,  and somehow making do with what we have and it is amazing when you think of the million, million accidents and chances that go to create a life – that every one of your ancestors survived and bred – that there are not many more accidents than there actually are. That we put up with so many hardships and antagonisms so we can stay on the road of life.

The art of living, it would seem, is knowing where the idiots are.

Just Take The Pill

Our entire history has been one where we attempt to find answers for problems. It is our ability to answer problems that unifies all cultures and civilizations, though admittedly sometimes we can see the problems were not really problems as such in the first place (all those non-existent gods that needed appeasing).

In answering problems we have often generated new discoveries which we have used extensively (look at electricity or the water wheel or the the book) many of which generate huge problems of their own. But have we become addicted to the idea that there is always an answer?

Now of course, we could always come up with answers for anything but as those answers veer into the mystical, sometimes pretentious and often fanciful they become less and less useful. It may be that there are some things to which there is no human answer possible. I am reminded of a discussion I had as a teenager when someone asked me what was at the end of the Universe and I said to him ‘nothing’. ‘But what is that?’ He asked. ‘Nothing’, I replied, adding, ‘but we cannot imagine what nothing is.’

We are stuck with minds that seek cause and effect,  that create answers where there are none to be found because we must have an answer.

I wonder how many people will be driven mad in the future by the complete lack of answers available. That maybe our entire existence is based on an unknowable.

How To Argue

We are very passionate about what we ‘believe’, even more passionate about things we have never really questioned or been challenged to think about. It is one of the strengths of a good education that it forces us to assess our thoughts and brings us into discussion with people who do not accept what we accept. It isn’t compromise when you modify what you believe in the face of new ways of looking at the world, it is evolution.

I notice this a good deal at Linked-In where I sometimes step into conversations. Posters simply do not keep the strict point in the proposition or question. They range far and wide, bring in non-sequiturs, and generally try to skew the answer to fit into their view of the world, and so much argument is not about the question at all.

Close reasoning is not an easy thing, it does have to be learned, but just as we would be very uneasy to allow anyone to roam around society with a gun on them they have never be taught to use we should actually we worried about people in society who have not been taught to reason well. It isn’t teaching people what to think, but how to think. How to encompass many points of view, how to use source material, how to find out the facts and delve into the subject matter and then to resolve upon a point-of-view.

If your mind is not tuned, you will disable your whole life.

Storytelling

We have told each other stories for as long as there has been an ‘us’ to tell stories and to listen. We create the greatest of all gods and the meanest of all  foes and all are derived from what we know and what our sense tell us. And then we bind oursleves to the stories because we grow up with them and in childhood we don’t just love stories but we learn from them.

Yet it is the subliminal things we don’t always think about that tell us the most. For the stories tell us how to think – and bind us to traditions started when people really did think there were little people in the world, that the noises from caverns were dwarfs mining, that when you didn’t have an explation for something happening you could assign it to a fairy or a god and that was the entirety of the explanation needed.

These stories today are fables, loved by children and told by everyone. But they do compel us to believe in the story as a means of imparting ‘truth’. That can be the most dangerous thing we ever leearn.

Today we believe thse stroies to be part of the divine story of creation and the univesre. To be a terasure that imbues us with conifence because it id as ongdt our childhood recollections.

The Small And The Immense

I was struck when I learned about the atom – that most of it is empty space. Electrons and protons circling at a distance a nucleus. And I vividly remember thinking how like the Universe it was: things in orbits, forces in play, unceasing motion and mostly . . . emptiness. I  doubt there are also miniature humans on the odd electron (as in some supposed science fiction magazine) but I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future they find something they didn’t expect.

But it is how the small is an image of the immense that interested me and vice-vera. As if the template were fixed and everything mirrored it. Which has implications for other things. I have often said though we consider ourselves brilliant as a species, we cannot do anything nature doesn’t allow to be done. And our natures are images of her processes. Which implies that somehow, so is our reason.

There are few people who think that ‘nature’ thinks, preferring to believe in some organised brain in a  godhead for that sort of thing, but mirror images are never exact. There may well be reason in the Universe that is neither godly nor human; a reason we reflect but is unlike ours . .  . ours being so small, or ours being so personal or so especially human.

It is a reason though that is broader and wider than ours because it includes all species, all worlds, all ideas and all thoughts whereas we are terribly parochial.

We All Have Something To Say

Trying to promote my new book I have noticed just how many outlets there are for people who want to say something, in writing or simply talking. I know there are a lot of people in the world but have you ever considered the ‘millions’ of weblogs that now have been added to the newspapers, magazine, radio shows, tv shows, free newsletters and books that bombard us everyday?

I am sure most of these people are talking about much the same things. Take away simply news, and then take away opinion, I wonder how much is left that is objective thought, and after all is not objective thought where we all should be?

How much time do spend using reason for misguided purposes?  Can we really believe that endlessly using reason to argue only for our own ideas is the best use to which we can put our minds? Surely it is when we put time into understanding fully other people’s ideas that we shine?

And the reason that this is important is because everything we think is based upon certain assumptions. It is because we make different assumptions that any of us think differently from each other. And since they are just that, assumptions, to build a house upon them is to build in sand.

If we could read and listen to everything said on this planet for one day we might get close to what a human day ‘is’ on Earth.

I Believe What You Believe

It is a very curious facet of the need to work together that we seem to be a species that needs to think together as well. I am not sure anyone has done much research on this outside of looking at ‘cultural homogeneity’  and I am sure that when a group goes through the same experience it throws up relationship-bonds in similarities of response.

But the animal in us is very strong which is why, it appears, we need leaders so much. One person to represent us all. There is a joke in Israel that is it a country where there are six million Presidents. And in a way that is how the world should be, a place where there are six billion leaders. Surely that is a better world to live in that one where there are six billion followers?

I am always amused by how people pass through the years of their lives and somewhere along the way, become a ‘generation’. I heard a musician say once that he didn’t know what it was but something ‘happened’ to music when he reached the age of thirty. This is why people ‘look-down’ at others for the way they dress, they way they speak, the music they play.

But they fail to look down at the way we all follow. The way we give away power. The way we all accept inventions without question as part of the human way of doing things.

I wonder how much of civilisation really exists in any of us. How many values would survive if any of us were the last human being.

Our Priorities Are The State’s Priorities

Desmond Morris was very interesting in his series and book ‘Man Watching’ because he looked behind what we do, to put it into the context of what all animals do. And modern science has begun to show us how richly our actions are determined by glands excreting hormones in our bodies prior too reason getting involved. It is not even emotion, it is just instinct, something that religious people do not like to think about when it comes to humanity.

The ideas interest me because I have always been slightly enticed by the ideas of the psychology of history; that says, in the main, events happen because of our influence as much if not more than we are influenced by events. Human events. Someone once said that great leaders are those who do what the people want without the people realising it. It is akin to a collective will, which resonates with religious people at the point of mediation and prayer.

But whilst we all run around trying to make a name, trying to ‘be’ someone,  longing for a home, looking for a mate, chasing status amongst each other and family, filling our minds with other people’s thoughts selected for us in other people’s books and on-line, I wonder how much all this activity is hormones, how much is instinct and how much is purely rational?

After all countries and governments only exist because we have a need for leaders and borders that is purely instinctive.

Truth In Language

What is it to be able to say that truth exists in language? Is it more than that language makes some kind of sense to us because they are structured? And that if they veer off the road of sense then they must be false? Put another way, if a sentence follows the rules of grammar and all the elements in it refer to or denote, actual things, then the sentence can be said to be correct. Even the sentence Martians Don’t Exist is a correct and true sentence with meaning, because we know there are no Martians.

If this is all it takes for language to be true, then language merely follows understanding and knowledge of the world. It describes rather than reveals. It is the paint on the canvas but not the painting. And obviously if this is true, then language needs to change because like all tools we need to modify it to improve its efficacy.

But is there a cross-over between what it is for a sentence to be true and what truth is? The only idea I ever had that there may be is that there are consequences of truth in  language. Like all truth. And those consequences are that the meaning we impart when we write and speak, has content. That no matter how often we repeat it, or to whom it is said and at what time in the eons, it will always be the truth.

In this sense lies can be ‘true lies’; we get the meaning,  structure has touched upon the immutable.

The Questions Of Life

Long ago in a cave on a mountain in the Himalayas a sage thought that the answer to the question of why we are here was ‘to ask questions’. His fellow sage thought that such questions were fatuous as reason was a human faculty not a natural one and nature never asks why. The third sage in the cave who was younger than his fellow troglodytes thought that self-awareness demanded answers and created the questions to support the sense of self.

Three people separated from the rest of humanity, with nothing to do but think,  resolved upon existence itself as the key to self knowledge. They did so because existence is married to experience and experience informs our reason. They could not think of eternal death as central to human life because they had no knowledge of death save as the end of experience and reason as they knew it.

So it is when we ask any questions. They always arise from our experience. To attempt to generate questions about the unknown is always to guess both at the questions and the answers. We base everything upon things we know, and we are at our best when we reflect deeply and cut ourselves off from experiences that take our reason away from us.

You see a sage doesn’t need answers, a sage just needs the best questions.

Quests

I am not sure but I think everyone could do with a quest now and then. We don’t put on metal armour, hitch ourselves to a horse, and go and find a damsel that needs rescuing or a dragon that needs taming anymore. But the need to be doing something is very much in us.

It isn’t that society demands we work and make ends-meet. It isn’t that we have to grow a family and do our it for the connectivity of the human race. It is the feeling that there are emotions that demand actions within us. Médecins Sans Frontières and Volunteer Overseas are two organisations that meet that desire within many young people.

Daring to believe we can make a difference for the better, that a life to be saved can be saved by us, that a war to be avoided can be avoided with our help. Quests are about facing the huge, almost imponderable problems and finding an answer within ourselves, and taking that answer out with us to those we think need to hear it.

The United Nations, ramshackle and hobbled old horse that she is, is on a quest to give nations common goals but it started as the idea of a few people.

Today you will have an astonishing idea and the internet is a new plain on which you can ride out and fight your corner to change a part of the world for the better. It is no easier and no less harsh than any other struggle; but it will be your struggle and yours alone and you can fight it without any swords, just with your heart.

I hope you win.

How To Make Wisdom

The first thing you have to understand, and it is not easy, is that you do not have to be human to be wise. Some people, of course,  find that perverse and strange but the reason it is important is because we often say ‘nature is wise’, and many other times we say ‘it happened for the best’, and whilst both phrases are explanations meant to allay fears and placate, they do point to one of those most difficult ideas to grasp: the thoughts of thoughts.

Think of the human race, in fact think of the entire planet, not as an entity but purely as an idea. View it all from the point of view of theory and certain rather stark facts emerge. Human beings have grown around themselves not the opportunities of life but the chains of living. Propounding the long march to freedom they have not seen freedom as anything but the freedom ‘to do’ something. And those somethings are always linked to our nature not to our intellects: we congregate into countries when the whole world is one country; we congregate into tribes when DNA teaches us we are all cousins; we kill for flags when ethics repeatedly tells us killing is wrong. We lust for each other and money because one brings pleasure and the other brings power. We work tirelessly for the poor and homeless without changing the economics that creates them in the first place.

Sometimes being human is a hindrance to ever being wise.

The Art Of Dimensions

I am very bad at being able to visualise finished work taking shape in mid air or empty space. I look at pieces of paper wondering if I could draw anything and doodle because nothing comes to mind but words. The few times I have sat down and sketched something like my dogs sleeping or a flower it takes forever and comes out wrong somewhere along the line:)

I have great respect for people who have developed those areas of the mind that can work in imagined three dimensions but quite obviously I was not made to be an architect and I have never learned draftsmanship.

But that doesn’t mean I cannot both appreciate skills in others and get a lot out of watching them work. Because I can follow their eyes, imagine my arm muscles skillfully manipulating materials, sense the concentration as their work. Many years ago as a child I was always scared of thinking myself into someone else’s shoes in case I suddenly became them; I had visions of being at a piano in the middle of a concert and not knowing what to do next. It was an amazing thing when I told my mother this and she told me she had had the same thoughts as a child. How alike are brains!

But that empathy, that bond of human experience, is the very foundation of my own work.

Strength

We are well used to seeing things that do not yield, that are instantly resourceful, as the ‘strongest’.  Though in the way of Chinese philosophy it is pointed out that sometimes giving way makes you stronger as water can erode everything in time. And that’s the point, time. We are creatures of moments, held within the amber of infinity, and because we cannot conceive of timelessness we concentrate on the time we have. Everything is whittled down to fit into our lives and our vision rarely extends beyond what we have the energy to do in our own lifetimes.

Or do we? Silently, almost without knowing it, the thrust of our existence is to extend it. Every single person who bears a child is sending their life force down the coming ages. Every artist who creates the smallest thing is showing people to come how they thought, what they felt. Like water the human race is flowing down through time. Tumbling over centuries, a waterfall of ideas cascading into the minds of new generations.

We may hit brick walls from time-to-time but we simples flow around the edges and continue on our way. For thoughts are like water and cannot be stopped, nothing is their equal and nothing is stronger than their power to erode away pretension, delusion and self-satisfaction. And yes, create them too – water gets dirty sometimes.

Ideas are the paintbrushes that paint your personality into existence.

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