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As the Birds

By the Crossroads (part 2)

This brings a certain nonchalance, an indifference to the direction one happens to go. To drift aimlessly as the leaves in the wind, appears in contrast to be the very definition of contentedness. I realise that meaning is a falsehood, the most powerful of all cruelties—to drive one always forward, as if the destination is perpetual and lasting.

But leaves are not free from the cruelty of the world; to be swept ever which way, directionless and without power to change their destination. If we are to be free we cannot behave as the leaves. If the destination is false, then it is false for the leaf as well, yet it suffers anyway. But how does it suffer from a lack of attachment?

Is it that the leaf is unattached, or is it that it is destined to remain subject to the winds, in a way always attached to the swirling chaos of air. To behave as a leaf is not freedom, anymore than it is freedom to allow chaos to direct ones life. To give in to the chaos is to submit to the forces of perpetual change, and being a constant: chaos too is a master of those enslaved to it.

It is no small matter, our flattery of the birds. Their grace and their power; chirping whimsically as they subvert the forces of nature. How jealous we are, to build flying machines, if only we too could be so free. If the birds are so free of the winds it is because they embrace them eagerly; if they are so commanding of nature it is only because they obey it.

To be as the birds, obeisant to nature, to harness the winds of change to rise ever higher. How shall we model our concerns as the birds?

To be free from the chaos, one must accept it as the absolute truth of life. It is only from a place of acceptance can one move forward. The birds cannot rise within the air by fighting against it. The fish who fights the currents will be washed away.

But what of the leaf? To be the leaf is to suffer chaos as ones master, whereas the bird who fights the wind will surely fall from the sky. To remain in flight he must traverse the winds, know them intimately and negotiate with them. They will not always grant to him. But he has wings, and with his wings he may also disobey the winds. It is with his wings that he may choose. The choices he makes are his doings and will always be his to reconcile. Whether he rises or falls he will always be the subject of the outcome.

He rises and falls, moves forward, sometimes backward. The wind is not always benign; it can be violent and biting. When stormy and turbulent, he may choose to remain grounded for the winds care not for his safety. He chooses his destination, opens to the air and carries himself hence, where he may choose his dealings, his inputs and his movements. The winds may buffet the air but they have not the power to deliver him. When they yield to him, he will reach his destination, but always by his own power.


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By the Crossroads


Here I find myself located precisely and in all directions around me the ways to and fro are travelled by many, with apparent ease and certainty. I know it is an illusion; a front of certitude for their trembling hearts. My heart trembles too, but why cannot I shake the stagnation, why cannot I too attempt a direction? I am certain of the truth in any given direction but cannot find want great enough in any which way. How does one decide ones destination? Why must I choose?

Though it seems wise to choose; then why does it dishearten me to think of it? Is there too a wisdom in lingering by the crossroads? Why would a man wish to remain in this busy and anxious place?

Is it by economic necessity that many follow their chosen path? This seems necessary and indeed thus wise. A man not dependent upon the paths of life for his subsistence may choose any one without fret of poverty. A walker of a given path does so for his livelihood, and takes the path to be his profession, to walk it certainly and with vigour. A trained athlete runs the distance of the track, for he has professed it, and those who value him and his efforts applaud and support him. Perhaps he can subsist thereon, find peace and even thrive.

If it be by economic necessity one decides his path, then it aught to be chosen for the ease it may be followed. Perhaps not “ease” but for the minim of angst it begets within the man. How it is therefore a decision of practical consideration, but also, and perhaps equally, of meaningful import. The choice of path cannot be considered without either of these matters, and to choose without awareness must perish one for the sake fo the other.

If there is no true path, then the choice has no implication for truth. As truth must precede;  therefore meaning cannot be found within the choice and neither can it be found along the way. It therefore must be the case that truth and meaning are absent from the path entirely, and that all paths emanating from the crossroads are moral and existential falsehoods.

If this brings one consolation, at least a measure of peace, then it is worth the struggle to find it. It is an irony I believe that by realising the futility of the choice one finds peace. Is it not the very centre of the buddhist tradition? To let go of the futile—but first one must realise the futility.


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Youtube and Time

We are all largely familiar with two things in this information and digital content filled world: Time and YouTube. There are lots of other platforms and web content providers, but none as accessible and universally rated as YouTube. So what does YouTube and your time have in common? Well, it turns out that your time and YouTube’s money are inversely proportional. More specifically; the money earned by the producers of content, such as those addictive videos made by so-called “Youtubers”, the ads made and distributed by marketing companies and good old Google himself (who facilitates it all like a big broker), is inversely proportional to the time you spend watching the videos on YouTube. As your time dwindles, their earnings grow. You may already perceive what I’m getting at here; ‘hey! You’re stealing my time to benefit yourself and line your pockets with money!’ – said a peeved user who had an assignment to hand in but wasted all of his time watching cat videos while subjecting himself to the over the top commercial ads, failed to complete his assignment on time and got fired from his job, lost his livelihood and now walks the street hungry at night.

Ok so that last bit was a bit of an exageration, but the general treaty is not. YouTube is a platform for the benefit of content creators, which pushes “free” content to users, at the expense of their time and productive potential. Yes, the producers invest time, labour and money into producing the content, but the ultimate consumer is still paying the price with their time.

Traditionally, a product or service is something we buy to save us time and energy or satisfy a need or want, or to have a professional solve a problem we couldn’t otherwise solve alone. We traditionally pay money for the benefit of these products and services; money in that case is the price of the time and energy others have invested to produce the products/services. 

Whenever I watch a YouTube video, by the end I can’t help but feel robbed. I could have spent that 15 minutes doing something productive, like writing about how watching videos is a waste of my valuable time. I ask myself, “Why did I just spend all that time watching videos? Now I just feel used!” Indeed I do feel used, but why? Why do I feel the compulsion to watch a video, seemingly against my own will? I’ll have to do some digging and see if I can figure it out.

For now I believe it’s enough to be aware that when one consumes YouTube content as a means of entertainment, there is no payment of money so it seems to be free. Unlike a traditional transaction where one pays with money, here we are paying with our time!

Depending on what you normally use your time for, you may or may not be getting value for your time. We are normally, and rightly so, very judicious about how we spend our hard earned money because we expended our time and energy to earn it. Should we not act even more judiciously when cosidering what to spend our time on? We should be sure that what we spend it on is actually worth the price; 5, 15, 60 minutes you’ll never get back-sunk costs!

How much would you pay in money to watch those videos? Probably not much. If we think about time being equal to money then it shouldn’t be too hard to work out how much of it we’d be prepared to spend. 

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The sunk cost fallacy and utility in religion.

Religious people are religious and some are extremely religious, to the point of dangerous fanaticism. They are religious because they have been convinced of the Utility of the religion. The concept of utility is one from economics; a subject that has taken my fancy of late. Religious people gain from religion something that satisfies a desire. In my opinion they desire meaning: the meaning of life, the meaning of death, the meaning of each day or the meaning of suffering. All of these things that humans seek meaning in are valid parts of human existence. The problem I pose is that their is a fine line between personal meaning and dogma. When many people agree on a set of definite meanings for certain ‘articles of faith’ (e.g. A holy book) – thats’s religion!

The Meaning is the thing that has the utility. People derive happiness from having meaning, and will protect their religion and even fight violently for it because they are in possession of something they don’t want to lose. They fight because they are afraid of losing the meaning they derive from the memeplex of whatever religion they ascribe to. The meaning has utility, and the meaning flows from the memeplex of religion. This makes religion an asset with a value measurable in the interest others pay it. The more people pay interest, the more valuable the asset and therefore even more people are drawn to invest in it. 

This brings me to the idea of sunk costs. When a human has invested a significant portion of their lifetime and energy in a religion, they feel that by saying goodbye to it and moving on with a more rational and less meaningladen life, they will effectively lose their investment and never recover from the loss. The fear of loss is a powerful force of stagnation, both in human behaviour and the general economy. It paralyses people who wish to break free of a particular set of circumstances but feel apprehensive of the associated losses. By no means can we say that any such losses would be trivial and petty, there are very significant losses indeed. The problem with fear of loss is that it holds people back from gaining something they want. They probably want the new thing more than the old, because if they didn’t then they wouldn’t want it at all. 

For me the thought of giving up on religion was not such a big deal because I never invested a great deal of resources in it. But that is not the case for everyone. I feel that breaking free from the moralising dogma and contradictory scripture has made me a more effective and ethical person. I attribute this to the rather ironic realisation that the universe does not have me, nor anyone else, at it’s centre. How does that make me better? I think it works because I no longer feel the need to perform for an omniscient and rather petty god. It’s liberated me to do things such as volunteering, where I don’t do it for the appreciation of a religious memeplex but for my own sense of justice and my appreciation of the fundamental humanity of other humans. 

I’ve learned so much about other people simply from letting go of the enormous baggage of religion. I’ve learned that humans are not inherently or fundamentally evil or loaded down with “sin”. We’re simply animals who have big brains trying to figure out how to make ourselves happy. I entitled this piece with regard to utility because I suspect that all religious people really want is something to feel happy about. Religion promises so much, as I have mentioned in another post, but really only hold us prisoner to abstraction and baseless meaning. The sunk costs of religion really are irrecoverable, but that isn’t a reason to stay trapped inside the memeplex. If someone asked me one day how they could be happy and break away from something they spent a good many years doing and investing in, I would say that: One should always abandon unhappiness and pursue happiness, even if it seems that the unhappiness is still full of invested time and energy it will never yield happiness for you again, if it ever did, because you desire something else -the thing that makes you happy. I hope that humans can one day break free from the shackles of religion and see that we humans are so valuable and so quirky and silly at times. Isn’t it enough to be simply free. Free and silly. 

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No transplant, no way.

A heartfelt piece. It hits right in the soft place that nobody wants to get hit in.

Her legacy, my life.

When I was told that my mum could not and would not receive a transplant I was heart-broken and relieved. I was heart-broken for the obvious reasons. My mum will die much sooner than she should and Cystic Fibrosis will kill her. I was relieved that we could throw the darn transplant phone into some river and not feel so edge every time it beeps or moves or anything. We could eat dinner without glancing at the phone every five seconds. It was a mixture of feelings. I thought ‘maybe this is good because if my mum was called for a transplant in the morning and she didn’t make it through the surgery she would die far sooner than I ever imagined but maybe now we can have a few more years together?’ But then I thought, ‘no, this is terrible. This is unfair. I am going to lose my mother…

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Religion is the Impedement of Peace

War and ReligionMachiavelli promoted the practical implementation of policies for the purpose of achieving a practical and stable outcome. This is opposed to the prevailing wisdom of his time that rulers and politics should focus on moral and ideological precepts. He supposed that ideology is the root of all corruption and dysfunction and I suggest that it extends well beyond the realm of politics and power that Machiavelli ascribed his treatise to.

Take religion for instance. Religions represent a whole litany of ideologies that propose a methodology of worship of a supreme being and even go so far as to say that there are ways of living that please this supreme being. If one assumes that such a supreme being exists then adhering to these rules seems pretty reasonable. But we must agree to be bound by them. There is an internal process of utility that must be satisfied or satiated or quelled before we would agree to follow them. Thus the idea of the afterlife is formed.

We hear that in the afterlife we will receive no end of rewards for our efforts to follow the rules of the arching religion. If a cleric can convince a lay person of the reality of this cornucopian afterlife then the lay person will be amenable to any set of rules in order to ‘earn’ this reward.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that the cleric has undermined the basic social principle that human life has value, by ascribing inordinate value to the dead and the afterlife and the utility therein.

In one fell swoop the cleric and his religion have stripped the human of their respect for their own human needs and wants and ingrained a disregard for human life. This and all the while gaining the human’s loyalty to an arbitrary and unsubstantiated set of rules. The crown of dysfunction now is in the nature of these rules.

Would this newly created fundamentalist do whatever it takes to earn the abundance of their afterlife? They would if they believed it and that is the true nature of all acts of terror and violence committed in the name of a deity and its roots in religion.

So it is true to say that religion does indeed promote war and violence and immense atrocities against other humans. All in the hope of earning vast rewards in their afterlives. There is no religion of peace.

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Treacherous Greek Situation

The European Union needs to be careful in how it deals with Greece and its new government. Greece’s new government is known to be sympathetic to Putin and the Russian regime.

Failure to resorb Greece to the European community by whatever means necessary could push the beleaguered country into the hands of the Russians who will most likely jump at the chance to capture the political consensus of the Greek people. 

It would be an expensive move if Russia were to lend financial facilities to the Greeks but it would certainly be a destabilising blow to the EU which is currently engaged in a political and social tribulation powered by growing anti-Islam and anti-immigration sentiment, and more significantly by growing economic inequality and poverty.

The worsening situation in Ukraine instigated and prolonged by Russian demands for and ‘independent’ east Ukraine is driving apprehension of direct conflict with Russia. What has thus far been a proxy beligerance against the West is evolving into a true potential for outright war. The Russian incursion off the west coast of Ireland is indicative of an emboldened military under Putin that is keen to show off it’s capabilities.

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