Spock like

Spock was no fun, right? Always so serious. If there were any logical flaws in what a person was saying, he was always quick to point it out. The overall goal of everything “making sense” was worth it to him. It was worth it to keep correcting people, even though the rest of the crew thought that he was a drag. There were even episodes of the original ST series where they examined how the other crew members disliked him. Awesome stuff. That’s why he was always my favourite character.

Similarly, Data is my fave character on STNG. He takes the Spock-like behaviour to new heights, sometimes to hilarious effect. Data is the most logical one, and yet, he’s often the comic relief too. Great combination.

Me, I’m more Spock-like than Data-like. Because I don’t see anything funny about this alarming trend towards non-logical, “results-driven” analysis. But then again, I’m not like Spock or Data at all. Because unlike those two, bad unthinking gets my blood boiling.

If a drunk driver has a terrible accident and a child dies as a result, is he a much worse person than every other drunk driver? Why? Because of the bad results. This piece of illogical reasoning was shoved at everyone two years ago, media quoting the grieving family as if they had a good point. They were grieving and I am sympathetic. But they did not have a good point.

Every drunk driver is arguably an idiot. They are all negligent. Whether they have a terrible accident or not, is a matter of luck, the weather, road conditions, and what all the other drivers are doing out there. The amount of liquor that they consumed before driving, affects the degree of their negligence and their carelessness. If they drank a lot, their carelessness reaches criminal levels. But ALL people who drank at that level, are morally the same – regardless of results.

Legally and morally speaking, there is a very sharp line between deliberate actions, and accidents. This much is obvious. But then we have the “results-driven” analysis which throws all logic right out the window. It makes no sense. But yet, many people simply parrot it without thinking it all through.

The “results-driven” analysis goes like this. A child died. Therefore, what THAT drunk driver did, was murder. He is guilty of murderous intent, for getting behind the wheel drunk – because a child died. But, if a child hadn’t died, then he would not be guilty (retroactively) of murderous intent, which works backwards – after the fact. If a child hadn’t died, then he’d be just the same as any other drunk driver – stupid, negligent, careless. But not murderous. This guy is different – only because of the results. (Throw in a few irrelevant facts, like, for example, the fact that he’s wealthy – and voila. You have a great example of how to do a flawed, incorrect moral analysis, which everyone buys into. The ship’s crew support one another in this wrongness, much to Spock’s great chagrin.)

Surely, when you break it down, everybody can see that the analysis of calling him “murderous” strictly because of the results, is incorrect on every level – morally, ethically, legally, and logically.

Yet, this type of backwards non-logical thinking is being flogged all over the place. And intelligent people are being fooled by it.

The worst part of pointing all of this out, for me, is to be accused of being non-compassionate. “You don’t care that a child died!” Well, that is not true. I care just as much, if not more, than anyone else. But I can’t just sit back and allow this type of brain-killing unthinking to seep out there and be spread around, without saying anything.

People would hate Spock just for pointing out whenever somebody was wrong. I know how that feels. But he would simply point out the illogic of being accused of bad character. He figured that correcting errors was his job, so he did it. Similarly, to say that I don’t care about this child or her family isn’t fair or accurate. The negligent person who drove drunk is NOT any worse of a human being than every other drunk driver who drank as much as he did. His moral culpability should NOT be determined after-the-fact, due only to the results that he did not fully control or intend. What I say is the truth. And it should not mean that I am unlikeable just for saying that. But it does. Like Spock, being disliked won’t stop me. But unlike Spock, all of this makes me very sad. Because on top of losing their child, these good people were made into spokespersons for unthinking. These good, grieving people were converted into character assassins. And that’s just wrong.

I speak up about this, even though it makes me unlikeable, because the dangers of retroactive application of guilt based solely on results, are very serious. People can be framed in this manner. People can be finished by this sort of thing, even though they are just the same as many other people who are simply more lucky. Retroactive application of moral guilt, based on results, is a dangerous tool wielded by would-be character assassins who deploy vast segments of the unwitting population. And so I will always fight back against that. Simply because it’s wrong.

Something tells me that not everybody is fooled by that type of  unthinking. But many highly intelligent people ARE fooled by it. So I hope that somehow, I can help with that.


A typical error

I just read a column by a “legal analyst”, which scared me. It showed a complete lack of analytical ability. Before I explain how and why it’s wrong, I’m going to provide an analogy. My analogy contains the same lack of logic, and the same “unthinking” pattern, as the so-called legal analyst.  – but that’s where the similarities end. The facts are different, in my analogy vs her article. But the same “linkages” are used – that is to say, there is no logic at all. It’s stupidity.

The “unthinking” pattern is always the same. Fact. Excitement about the fact! Another fact. Excitement about this fact too! Then, therefore, a very excited conclusion! The problem is that the facts, taken together, do NOT lead to that conclusion at all. The conclusion is just stated as true – not proven. The conclusion bears no resemblance to any sort of logical cause-and-effect analysis at all. The conclusion is just a dramatic statement which remains unproven. And the conclusion is simply wrong.

Now, for my analogy. I’ll use the same pattern of “unthinking” that I keep seeing out there, over and over again. It alarms and concerns me. Here goes.

Fact: Sometimes, innocent people are drowned by tidal waves! It’s awful!

Fact: That awful person deliberately drowned those innocent people!

Conclusion: Both the tidal wave and the awful person are criminals! Because the most important thing is that, the people who drowned were all innocent! Therefore, since they were all innocent, both the tidal wave and the murderer are evil! They are the same! Because in both cases, innocent people drowned! It has to stop!

See the problem there? The fact that the victims were all innocent, is taken to be the important “causal link” that makes both of these factual examples “the same”. But other than the fact that the drowning victims (both of the tidal wave, and of the murders) were all “innocent”, is there any other similarity linking these two facts together? Of course not!

What’s the most important factor distinguishing the tidal wave, from the murderer? Um, let’s see. Think, think. Um, maybe, the fact that the murderer set out to kill people, on purpose. But the tidal wave is just a tidal wave, which accidentally resulted in people dying. See the difference? Big difference. Oh, huge. Really important difference there.

Now, to the silly article by the “legal analyst”, who makes me despair for the future intellectual capacity of the human race. I am not exaggerating. I really do worry.

She wrote (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting) this. Fact #1: western military security action has resulted in innocent lives being lost. Innocent lives lost! (To make it even dumber, she cites unnamed “sources” and gives a random figure with a possible range of half a million – “sources estimate that between 1.5 and 2 million innocent lives have been lost to military action”.) That is quite the fact – she’s only off by up to half a million or so. I wonder what her “source” is. But no matter. They were innocent! All innocent!

And now for fact #2: terrorists are bombing concerts. (She doesn’t seem to be as excited about this fact, for some reason.)

Her conclusion: All the victims were innocent in both cases! Therefore, military action is no better than terrorism! It’s all the same thing! Because all the victims were innocent! This means that military action is just as bad as terrorism! Because both things have resulted in innocent lives lost! So they are exactly alike! And that’s all she wrote.

Now before you go sputtering and squawking that, how dare I compare military action to a tidal wave? As if military action is a force of nature or something! Hear this: I am not saying that military security activity having unfortunate, unintended collateral damage, is the same thing as a tidal wave. Do you get it? I was using an analogy to show the error in logic. It doesn’t mean that I hold the facts in my analogy to be the same as the facts in this person’s newspaper column.

In both my analogy, and that news column, the “innocence” of the victims is used as the only “proof” that one thing is just as bad as the other. She offers no other proof that terrorism and military action are similar in any way. She offers no other evidence, no other argument, no other logical link between them. Just the fact that innocent people have died is enough, she says, to make these two things the same.

Now let’s have a reality check. Neither that “legal analyst”, nor anybody else who makes similar arguments, have any clue what sorts of horrifically terrible, awful decisions have to be made by the people who are keeping billions of innocent civilians safe, every day. She hasn’t a clue. Neither do I, and neither do you (unless you are one of the people devoting their lives to keeping people safe, in which case, I thank you).

Furthermore, in the countries where powerful western forces are using their intelligence capacility and their technology to keep civilians safe, they were asked to be there. They didn’t just muscle their way in. They were asked. And probably 98% or more of the people who live in those places, are grateful for the help. The 2% who scream about the help they’re getting, are being magnified and given lots of air time. Meanwhile the other 98%, the ones who are happy that somebody is there to help out with this problem, never seem to have a voice.

And then we have “legal columnists” like this air-head woman, who claim that a security operation, which tragically resulted in accidental unintended deaths, is “just as bad” as a terrorist act which deliberately targets civilians for carnage. OH PLEASE! GIVE ME STRENGTH! What? Are you kidding me?

This empty-headed columnist, and all people like her, conveniently leave out the most important thing distinguishing security action from terrorism: the intention. One is to save people. The other is to destroy them. It’s VERY easy to tell the good guys, from the bad guys.

I really hope that this sort of nonsensical stupidity stops. It’s not fair to the people who lay down their lives to fight monsters. But hey, they do it anyway – no matter how dumb you are. Luckily for you.

P.S. now let’s have a look at some of the ways that people who don’t know how to think, try to counter the above. All are typical, but none are relevant to my point.

  1. “Look at the history of military action! There have been lots of times when the US or another western country went in, uninvited, and did violence to further their own interests! This means you’re wrong!” (answer: No. I’m right. The world has evolved considerably. Western countries no longer invade other countries. There is more co-operation with respect to global security now. It’s a different world. Your point is irrelevant.)
  2. “You think that all soldiers are good! Well, some of them are bad! Here’s some proof – here’s one time that a soldier did something bad. Here’s another time. So then, you’re wrong. They ARE all the same as terrorists.” (answer: No. I’m right. Individual examples of particular soldiers doing wrong, do not change the overall intention of security forces. The overall intention is positive. They are preventing random, mass violence – every single day.)
  3. “You ignore the other intentions that the military have had! For example, here’s proof that they intended some kind of benefit for themselves, when they went in there. Therefore, you’re wrong about how they only intend to keep people safe.” (answer: This is a combination of counters #1 and 2 above – particular examples which are contrary to what I say, taken together with historical facts which are no longer true. It’s still not enough to make what I say wrong. Yes, history does not run in favour of western powers. Yes, they were colonizers. Yes, multinational companies have done land grabs, and have extracted resources without compensating local people, because of corrupt local governments. Yes, all of this has happened. Yes, we can do much better. Yes, I agree that there has been an issue in the past with an arrogant attitude towards indigenous local people all around the world. Absolutely. But none of these historical facts prove that therefore, present-day military action is “just as bad” as terrorists who attack civilians. Let’s not forget what point I am making. I am saying that to compare what the military does, in trying to hunt down and prevent terrorists from destroying people, bears no resemblance at all to planting bombs in concerts and shopping malls and subways. There is a stark difference. And the article that I was critiquing above, is basically supportive of terrorism. And for that, she should be fired.)
  4. “I don’t have to listen to you anyway! You’re a bitch.” (answer: and now we have the most typical response of all. Denial, anger, and distraction. None of that changes the truth. But go ahead.)



Action and authenticity

An action is a bridge, between your inner self and your outer world. When a person acts, if they are being authentic they will show who they are and what they’re thinking. But when action is only an imitation of what somebody else does, it’s no longer a bridge between your real self and others. It no longer speaks to who you are. When you are just imitating, your action becomes a different sort of bridge. Your action is really only a link between how you feel about the person you want to imitate, and the image that you want to portray to others. But note that your real self doesn’t feature anywhere in the process. Therefore, when you imitate, you’re only creating bridges between other people. YOU aren’t even in the equation. Only your action is.

That’s why authentic action is always best. Imitation is the opposite of authenticity.

I’ll give an example of what I mean, using a common experience: a girl wants to impress a boy and make him dependent on her. Leaving aside that this is a questionable goal to begin with, let’s say that her motives are good. She just wants to find a partner, and this is the only way that she’s been taught how to do it. She believes that she needs to make somebody dependent on her, so that he feels like he can’t get along without her. Now, how should she do this?

Unfortunately, the goal here (to make another person dependent on you) is not ethical. And ultimately, it won’t work, unless a lot of underhanded tricks are being used. Because to further her goal, a goal which is inherently disrespectful of the guy whom she’s trying to hook, she can only perform inauthentic actions.

Why do I say that this goal is inherently disrespectful? Because if she sets about trying to make another person dependent on her, it means that she doesn’t care about what THEY might need. The only important thing is what SHE needs, from them. This essentially erases the other person from importance. In that scenario, she is the only person who is important to her. And that’s the formula for a dysfunctional relationship.

She will probably assess his life and say to herself, who is he dependent on? His mother? Well they have a good relationship. So, he must depend on her then. Right. I will therefore carefully imitate whatever his mother does. And then he will shift his dependency from her, over to me.

This type of thing doesn’t work though, for so many reasons. The filter that she’s using to analyze the boy and his mother is faulty, because she views life from an inauthentic place. She doesn’t know herself. She’s probably spent her whole life just finding people to imitate, as if she’s learning how to be a human being mainly by emulating other human beings. That doesn’t work. You end up coming across as inconsistent. People will find that there’s no real person there to connect to. There’s only a series of actions, but not a real, genuine heart under them.

If a girl tries to “hook” a boy by imitating what his mother does, she is not being authentic. She is not being herself. She’s trying to wear the personality of another human. All of that time and energy that she spends on careful imitation, she could be spending instead on learning who she is and what SHE wants to do.

What’s the point here? It is that instead of imitating other people, you should be closely examining your own inner self to determine exactly who you are. Your actions need to show who you are, not who you are imitating. The more that you practice authentic action, the more comfortable you’ll be with yourself. The best part of that is, other people will react in a more positive way to you, if your actions are coming from an authentic space within you, rather than from your cold assessment and repetition of the actions of others.

Are there risks? Oh yes. If you are being your authentic self, rather than imitating the outer actions of “successful” people, somebody might not like you. You might not be able to make another person dependent on you. Well, that would actually be a good thing. You shouldn’t be trying to do that anyway – it’s disrespectful of others, remember?

How can you tell if you are being an authentic human being, where you actually know yourself and your actions are a true bridge between your inner self and the outer world? Because some people don’t like you. That’s how. Well, that’s life. Accept it. It’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t like you. At least you’ll know that you’re alive.

It’s only when your actions become TRUE bridges between yourself and the outside world, that you will become a real, authentic person. And people will be able to use those bridges to reach the real you, rather than just an empty space where your heart should be.

Nightmare City

A severely dystopian future was trying to unfold, but luckily it got stopped in its tracks.  People weren’t aware of how they were each unwittingly contributing to this horrible reality actually occurring … they thought that they were just into tech.  They thought that they were hobbyists, who enjoyed new cool toys.  They didn’t realize.

It all started with “self-driving cars”.  Innocent enough – “saving lives”.  But to allow these machines into urban areas involved so many necessary changes, eventually rendering cities into wealthy-only enclaves in which “the poor” were not only unwelcome, they were physically excluded.  How did this all unfold?

The insurance companies underwriting self-driving vehicles decided that pedestrians and bicycles needed to be strictly forbidden on the same roads with the automatically driven cars.  It was just too dangerous.  The risk of claims was too high.  The cars could be hacked and pushed into cyclists or pedestrians, at will. Yes, there were automatic safety features on each of these cars, so that they couldn’t crash into eachother – but people who were walking and cycling were still free to make errors and step in front of a vehicle.  So … it was then just better to keep everybody else off the road.  Unless you were an occupant of a self-driving car, bus, or truck, you simply were not allowed to be there at all.  Roads were lined with high, electrified fences.  Entries to the roads were gated – and you could only open the gate if you were in such a vehicle.  It was all tech.  And dry.  And sterile.  And oh, so clean.  And safe.  And boring.  The cars didn’t move very fast, and nobody was allowed to drive them.  The manual cars had all long since been destroyed, by law.

This “evolution into safety” resulted in car-only roadways, with nobody driving.  Sure, there were “pedestrian-only” areas within the cities, where everyone was walking around … but sadly, it wasn’t really “everyone”.  It was only the vehicles’ occupants walking around.  You see, you would have to take a self-driving car into the city, and be delivered to a pedestrian-only boulevard.  There, you would get out of the car and be able to walk around – and the only people you’d see, were other vehicle occupants who’d been delivered there too.  And then, when it was time for you to leave, you would flag down a driverless taxi, or else summon your car if you were very well off.  And off you’d go.

No bicycles.  No motorbikes.  No other way of being transported around on those roadways – too dangerous.  And no pedestrians, other than in these well-marked, fenced off “walker only” areas.  The only people you’d encounter in these walk-around areas, were other people with money.  Because only by having money, could you flag down a driverless car or bus or taxi.  You’d need a pass to get on.  And those passes were expensive!

Finally – no visible poverty, anywhere in the city.  Because if you didn’t have money, you simply could not physically get there.  There were people employed as “guards” at all the city’s gates, ensuring that nobody other than vehicle occupants could enter.  Too dangerous for anyone else!  Yes, visible poverty had finally been eliminated.  Emphasis on the word “visible” … you wouldn’t have to see anyone who was poor, anymore.  So, you’d never have to think about it.  Everyone around you would be “in the system”, just like you.  If you wanted to go into a city, you’d need cash for that.   And so, the exclusion of “others” would be complete.  You have your nice, neat, clean, tidy, wealthy enclave in each urban area, where these driverless cars took priority over the former “messier” ways of getting around.

Sterile.  A one-note nightmare.  And ultimately, uninteresting.  How do other people live?  Who knows, and who cares?  We finally have our enclave.  And the tech-loving types got us here.  Lucky us!  And so, poverty would never be resolved, since large groups of people would simply be forced into their own neighbourhoods, where the wealthy would never enter.  Out of sight – out of mind.

And now, back to real life.  The nightmare is over – I woke up.  Yes, currently if you have a bicycle, you can go anywhere.  You can walk anywhere, too.  We trust eachother to be sensible in cars, and at intersections.  Occasionally, some driver does the unthinkable, sometimes seemingly on purpose (?!)  Sometimes, somebody gets behind the wheel after rendering their brain useless with drugs or alcohol.  It happens.  Something needs to be done!  What was this nightmare solution again?  Oh yes, a gate, to be opened only by a driverless car, would block your access to the downtown core if you were walking or cycling.  There might be areas where you could still bicycle or walk around, without being delivered by a car or bus – but in those places, there would be no cars.  And there would be nobody with any money.  In those areas, people would barter for what they need, and they would forget about what they want.  So, in order to achieve safety, you must either buy into the system and get a real job, having enough cash on the system to buy a car, or a car-card to go into the city — or else you can forget about ever setting foot in there again.  Just stay where you belong, and don’t bother the elite with your presence any more.  There!  Poverty solved!  Hopefully, the “non-city” people will never organize themselves and try to take it by force.  But then again, they’ve thankfully been rendered mostly mentally useless with invisible, poisonous gas, and toxic food and drink.  Phewf!!

Do we want this kind of city?  Who wants it?  Not me!  Me, I would do anything to prevent it.  Anything.  I want to keep my city just as it is.  Lively, integrated populations, variety of people, and variety of transportation.  No gates.  No electrified fences.  Thank you.

(My apologies if the above blog was loose, disjointed, or otherwise not very readable.  Nightmares will do that to you.  You wake up feeling all jangly and upset, and hardly able to write.  And I’m sorry if you wasted your time reading about my nightmare.  Merry Christmas.)

You get eggroll

I saw a 1968 Hollywood movie last night – and musing it over, it’s about metaphysics.  But it seems to be about something else – a blended family.  It’s called “With Six, You Get Eggroll”.  WARNING:  do not read the rest of this blog posting, if you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised.  Because I have to get into the entire plot, including the pinnacle of the film, in order to show you how it’s about metaphysics.

A widow with three sons, one of whom is teenage, dates a widower with a teenage daughter.  Predictably the kids are angry and hostile to have their deceased parent replaced by a stranger.  The parents try to work around it as best they can, then they get fed up and just get married, announcing their nuptials to the kids only after it’s done.  Chaos ensues.  They try to alternate households, to be fair to everyone, while putting their too-small homes up for sale.  The title of the film comes from an amusing moment when the youngest child says, while they are at a Chinese restaurant, “I’m so happy that we’re all together!  Because with six, you get eggrolls!”

Long story short:  the parents have an argument; the Dad falls out of a camper being driven by his wife, in his underwear; he ends up wearing a dirty restaurant uniform, wandering the streets; two road accidents happen involving a chicken coop; the chicken coop driver tries to beat up the teenage son; more chaos ensues; the entire family goes before a judge, with an entourage of hippies at their side.  Silly, right?  And finally, because of the argument, the two auto collisions, and the attempted assault, the whole group pulls together as a real family!  How do we know?  Because the daughter refers to the teenage son as “my brother”, and the son in turn refers to the male parent as “my father”, while arguing before the judge.  The parents hug and the movie ends abruptly.

What a wonderful illustration of metaphysics, alternate timelines, conjecture, false causative conclusions, and actualized potential!

There are two ways to understand this chain of events.  Both are mere conjecture, only “what ifs” based on what happened, what didn’t happen, what could have happened, and what couldn’t have happened.  Are you with me?  This is a very valuable exercise.  I didn’t know that there were real philosophers hidden in Hollywood.  I’m glad to know it.

The central figure in this movie is not the Mom.  It’s not the Dad.  It’s not any of the kids, nor the well-meaning, meddling sister in law.  No.  The central figure is the jerk driving the chicken coop, who tries to assault a teenager.  Because if it wasn’t for him, this group would not have pulled together as a family.

This last statement is the error that’s commonly made.  “Something bad needs to happen, for anything good to happen.”  That’s just wrong.  Now I’ll explain how this erroneous thought involves metaphysics, conjecture, and alternative timelines.  Stay with me now.

What did happen was that this jerk driving a chicken coop, who got into this family’s way on the road twice, causing two collisions (thereby raising the aggression level), and then raising his fist to a teenage boy’s face in front of his step-father and step-sister, was involved in a chain of causation which ended up with a very happy, well-bonded family group.  But the most important fact to take away from all of this is that this is not the only way that the family group could have bonded.  Yes, we are into alternative timelines at this point.  Because in order to assert that “this is the only way that could have happened”, you have to imagine that it didn’t happen.  “If this hadn’t happened, then they wouldn’t be a bonded family.”  That is imagination.  You’re into the realm of alternative realities at this point – the alternative reality where there were not two road accidents and an attempted assault, followed by a heated courtroom scene – with hippies.

Now, if we are going to get into non-events, such as “what if this didn’t happen?” then let’s do it.  I have a different take on it and I would argue that my understanding is more correct.  It’s based on potentials, and actuality, as well as imagination.  If those who espouse “bad things need to happen for good things to happen, and this movie plot is an example” can draw upon their imaginations to make their incorrect point, then so can I.

Here’s the correct take on it.  This group pulled together as as family, because that’s who they are.  They have this potential within them, it just needed to be actualized.  The actualization of their potential as a family could happen in infinite numbers of ways.  It was bound to happen because of who they are, and what they do, and what they are likely to do.  And the triggering cause for this actualization to occur does not need to be a bad thing.  It could easily also be a good thing.  One can imagine many positive alternative scenarios, causing chains of causation to arise, which result in family bonding.  And these chains of causation need not involve any bad actors.

In fact, even if the argument hadn’t happened, and the Dad didn’t wander around the streets in his underwear, and the two motor vehicle accidents hadn’t occurred, this family group was SO headed towards emotional bonding that it may have even happened that same day, with the same speed.  One could say that this was a family waiting to happen.  A clue to that is in a scene just before the chaotic pinnacle of the film.  The mother finds a way to bond with the daughter, having her do a list of chores to show her what’s involved in running a household – and then sends her off to go and have fun and relax, demonstrating that she will teach her without using her.  The daughter kisses her step-Mom on the cheek, showing that her hostility has vanished.  That’s the REAL pinnacle of the film, because it demonstrates the potential for loving family being actualized, out of something positive – the willing performance of chores.  Another clue comes from the fact that it’s the daughter who first shouts “He was going to hit my brother!”, starting a cascade of pronouncements from the rest of the children showing that they have now bonded.

So, the REAL cause of the bonding emanates from the mother-daughter moment, which happens BEFORE the jerk with the chicken coop comes along.  In fact, when you see the chain of causation in this way, with the daughter at the centre, the chicken coop driver reduces from “central figure” to “mere bit player”, playing a role of catalyst which could just as easily have been filled by anybody else.  He isn’t important, after all.

So, rather than saying “This films proves that bad, chaotic stuff needs to happen in order for people to bond together”, which is incorrect on the above analysis, one could say “This film proves that people carry within them the potential for a certain positive outcome, and one way or another, this outcome is bound to occur – call it ‘fate’.”  The outcome of “well-bonded family group” emanates from these facts:  these two are good parents, they love eachother, they love their kids, and these are all good kids, who are eventually bound to appreciate one another via any number of infinite potential chains of causation, only one of which occurs during the film, and in this case, happens to involve a bad actor doing bad things.

Finally – the title is interesting.  The small child says, “With six you get eggrolls!” but the plural “s” is missing from the film’s title.  So we are left with eggroll.  Families are based on a woman’s eggs.  The “egg”, which symbolizes life’s “potential”, is actualized in the film.  Her egg is born, with a new loving family.  That’s why they call it “eggroll” in the title, rather than “eggrolls”.

Say, maybe I should try a career as a film critic?

Addiction as vacuum

Does everything has a negative or “dark” side? No, I don’t believe so – but individuals can seem to render something negative, by their use of it.  Something inherently wonderful can be exploited – but the exploitation doesn’t render the wonderful thing nasty.  The use of the thing does not change the thing itself.  Take religious or spiritual belief, for example.  People seek out something to believe in, to feel better.  They’re trying to feel happy.  They search for answers to the yawning, bottomless questions – and this quest itself can be exploited.  But the mere fact that some people will exploit this search for happiness, doesn’t render the search into something awful.  It’s the exploitation that is nasty, not what is being exploited.  This nuance is often lost on people.  Some very intelligent people will declare that “religion is a serious problem”.  But what they are really saying, is “the exploitation of peoples’ needs for spiritual answers, is a serious problem”.  It’s a subtle difference but an extremely important one.

The next time somebody says to you, “Religion is a terrible thing – what a problem for humanity”, you could respond with “well, it’s the cynical use of the common need for spiritual answers, which is causing the problem”.  You might get a blank stare, but it’s worth trying to explain.  The issue is the “locus” or location of the problem.  The location of the problem is not within the person seeking spiritual answers, wanting happiness, searching for contentment.  The problem is not within the timeless truths, that have spanned centuries and popped up all throughout human culture, mysteriously having a few core beliefs in common.  No, the problem lies in two locations:  one, with those who would take this human need for answers and cynically use it for their own purposes, and two, with those who might be highly intelligent, but who simply are putting the wrong spin on “religion” by urging people to stop believing, not really understanding the issue.

Why do some people seem to be happy, sometimes with very little by way of material possessions?  With “menial” jobs, or no job, or 3 jobs?  How do they do it?  And why do some cultures seem to have more than their fair share of unhappy people, with epidemics of “depression”?  A scientific type of examination would demand that we find out what “happy” people all seem to have in common, and do the same thing for the “depressed”.  I don’t have the resources to do a scientific, rigorous study.  But my anecdotal informal examination would be based on my own observations and experiences, together with my ability to think deeply and clearly – YES, I said it.  I did.  I think that I have that.

I read a great book once called “Addiction to Perfection” by Marion Woodman, a Jungian psychologist.  I tend to work at a high speed, so slow-moving counseling sessions don’t do it for me.  Videos are also too slow.  I like to read, and read quickly, to get the insights that I need.  Once in a while, a particular piece of work shakes something loose within me and causes me to expand.  This book was one such piece.  It was suggested to me by a counselor I was seeing at the time, who must have sensed that he worked too slowly and wanted to provide me with what I needed.

This book talks about child rearing, and how (in the Jungian belief system) what happens to us as a child forms our personality, and our challenges throughout life.  That’s where I start – with this book and the insights I obtained there.  Then, I raised my own child.  While doing so, I took a few years to look around me and pay very close attention to people.  I saw patterns unfolding, and I discerned the results of certain practices.  Made some decisions, stuck with them at all costs (have paid dearly for them too), and have followed the trajectory of evidence.

Physics enters in here.  What is a vacuum?  It is an absence of stuff, that sucks due to the polarities.  A vacuum tries to fill itself.  When a baby or small child doesn’t have anybody who is truly interested in them, a vacuum forms in their chest.  They crave another human being, a bigger human, to care about them.  They can tell when nobody cares.  They know.  Even if somebody is only pretending to care, just going through the motions inconsistently – they know.  If their caregivers are inconsistent, such that they never know who they’re going to spend their time with, and they never know when the “food bringer” will be there, this vacuum gets set up.

If the vacuum is not filled, it could become permanent and last throughout life.  The vacuum turns into a kind of black hole, where everything just disappears.  This black hole feels painful and the urge to fill it up is quite profound.  So the person suffering with it tries all kinds of remedies.  Answers … substances … experiences.  Thrills.  Sensations.  Relationships.  Anything.  But nothing works, because the nature of a black hole is that it can never be filled – everything just disappears down there and the person feels worse and worse.  Nothing works.

But then, there are people who don’t seem to have this type of vacuum within them – they are content.  They are calm, they are warm.  They don’t use things every day to feel better.  They feel OK.  These are people who had somebody truly interested in them while they grew up.  Their parent, or caregiver, or close relative, or older sibling – somebody with a heart relationship to them, not a paid caregiver – was absolutely interested in their life.  And they knew it.  So no vacuum formed.  No black hole ever developed.  They don’t really need anything.  Even if the interested person or people die, as long as the person enjoyed this sensation of somebody being truly interested in them during their young, formative years, they are going to be fine. They have what they need, and other people enjoy being around them, so life will be good, no matter what happens outside of them.

So then, what can somebody do who has a black hole vacuum within them, perpetually unhappy, discontented, tending to blame other people for their lack of a good life?  There is only one way to fill in this black hole.  And that is to develop a caring relationship with somebody more vulnerable than yourself.  You see, this works both ways.  When a parent or heart-caregiver truly cares, is deeply interested in their offspring or charge, then their own vacuum gets filled up.  It works when you are either giving as an adult, or receiving as a child.

As a parent, maybe you became disconnected from your child due to following bad advice.  Maybe the bad advice came from your own parent, or a well-meaning friend or professional.  Maybe you find that you don’t feel that interested in the kid – you’re busy, you’re trying to “train” them to behave in a certain way and they are resisting it, you’re depressed or stressed out.  The solution is to behave as if you ARE interested.  Pretend to be interested.  Go through the motions.  The kid will know that you don’t mean it, at first – but then something magical happens.  When you go through the motions and pretend to be interested, lo and behold – you DO become interested!  And then everything will change.

What about people who don’t have a significant relationship, who don’t have a kid to take care of, who have a yawning black hole vacuum because their parents didn’t know any better?  I would say, just find somebody vulnerable to develop a caring relationship with, and be really interested in how they are doing.  Don’t be afraid to connect.  Don’t hesitate.  Give of your TIME, not your money.  Give of yourself.  Give with your presence, be there.  Do it consistently.  It might feel hard at first, scary.  But it’s the only solution to filling up your vacuum. It would be best if you could find somebody who doesn’t know how to take advantage of your efforts.  Savvy adults who are “takers”, who have their own black hole to deal with, might not be a good choice for you.  Somebody younger, who has a fighting chance to get happy, might be better.  But who knows?

Unfortunately, this formula for “happiness” or at least fulfilment, can be exploited just like anything else.  It doesn’t have a negative side to it – but people can certainly render it that way.  You could find yourself being drained and exhausted by a bottomless pit of another person, in which case you need to know when to take your leave.  It’s tricky.  Yes, this formula can be used and exploited for sure.  That’s the challenge.  The easiest solution is to be a parent to a child, who hasn’t yet formed a vacuum within them – but if that’s not possible, then you might have a world of challenge in front of you.  I wish you good results, and please do be careful.

What religion brings

Well, it’s that time of year again – when atheists sternly tell you what not to believe, while you shrug and ignore them, planning your holiday get-togethers as usual.  What’s up with that anyway?

It’s atheism’s traditional, annual irrational false association ritual – one that I personally find quite annoying.

It goes like this.

Religion is terrible.  It’s the source of all evil.  Because if you look at it, the religious leaders are sometimes bad – and people often do horrible things too, “in the name of” religion.  Therefore, it’s an all-round terrible thing.  And if you believe in it, then you are either stupid, or terrible – or both.  So, please don’t.  Be smart.

Let’s pull that apart, shall we?  This is MY annual ritual.  Applying rational thought to irrational, non-causative assertions is my hobby.  I have to do something with my time.

First, let’s examine the phrase “in the name of”.  This is the reason for people pointing the finger at all Muslims:  some people, calling themselves Muslim, do awful things and while doing these things, they say that they are doing it “in the name of Allah”.  Therefore, they are doing these despicable acts “in the name of Islam” and this means that Islam must be bad.

Are you following me here?  Can you see the error in logic there?  The anti-Muslim goofball tries to make a false association between a) the individual acts of certain soul-broken, damaged-beyond-repair people, and b) billions of other people who don’t even know them.  This false association is created by the bad actor, whose words appear to link him to all the other Muslims, according to him.  And so, the idiotic among us try to tag billions of hardworking, spiritual Muslims with what the sorry human has done to other humans – just because he said so.

Hey, if the criminal actor said it, it must be true!  Right?  So you can see how this false association forms the basis of hatred against a good portion of the human life on this planet.  Clever?  No.  But still, people do it.

This same sort of false association and error in causation is done by atheists, every day.  They wear the mantle of “thinking human” and they “mean well” when they say “religion has caused so much misery and hatred”.  They repeat their mantra especially at holiday time, sincerely believing that if you’re a believer, they are just trying to do you a favour.

Let’s look at the sentence “religion has caused so much misery and hatred”.  This is not true.  What’s true, is that some people cause so much misery and hatred through their actions, while claiming religion to be the reason they do it.  Again, just because they said it, doesn’t make it true.  And their heinous acts simply do not tag those who celebrate religious holidays.  That’s just trying to jam together two things that do not relate, due to bad actors claiming inspiration from something other than their sorry selves.  That does not wash.

So now let’s move to the millions of people who celebrate religious holidays with their friends and/or families, on an annual basis, enjoying eachother’s company.  Shall we tag them with what strangers have done, in the past, “in the name of religion”?  No.  That would be a false association.  Those acts have nothing at all to do with these good people, who are using religious holidays as a convenient excuse to get together every year.

Yes -it is convenient.  Whether you believe spiritually in a certain mythology or not is really irrelevant.  Not everyone believes the same thing.  Some just enjoy the season, without any spiritual belief attached to it.  Some enjoy the season, AND attend church or synagogue, or Mosque if it’s Ramadan.  Some do all of that and have their own private observance of the spiritual aspects of the particular holiday they celebrate.  It doesn’t matter.

Religion is not actually a “thing”.  It’s a huge category, encompassing cultural and social rituals, as well as spiritual belief, and yes – bad actors try to use it too.  But it’s not a “thing”.  It’s a massive set of ideas, practises, symbols, and beliefs.

This set of ideas, practises, symbols, and beliefs forms the basis for annual reinforcement of social and family bonding.  When people get together under the auspices of a religious holiday, they are enjoying one another’s company – not the holiday itself.  The holiday isn’t a “thing”, it’s an occasion.  Let’s use a completely secular holiday for a moment, to make this point.  When you get together on Thanksgiving, for example, during dinner you aren’t all going “Hail to Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving is great!  Let’s think about Thanksgiving, the holiday.  Everybody ponder Thanksgiving.”  No, I don’t think that anybody does that.  Rather, they are enjoying the fact that they are together (or, if they are in a dysfunctional, non-attached group, it could be something worse – true).  The holiday itself is a symbol of “gratitude” as a concept.  So, they might ponder gratitude while enjoying dinner, giving homage to the symbolism of the occasion – or they might not.  But the important aspect of the holiday is the bonding of the group.

Same goes for Christmas, or Hannukah, or Ramadan, or any other annual ritual provided by a religion.  It’s the togetherness that counts.  And yes, there is a certain conscriptive or authoritative aspect to it – if you don’t come home for it, that’s frowned upon.  Or worse, you could break your mother’s heart if you don’t show up.  The religious holiday does have a certain responsibility attached to it and again, this is valuable for bonding purposes, because people are very busy.  The religious holiday provides an excuse for you ducking out of something else – gotta go.  It’s Christmas.  Can’t help you today, it’s Hannukah.  It provides a source of glue for heart-attached groups of people, to reinforce their bonds and enjoy the energy thus created.

So why would atheists try to pull apart this sort of social/familial bonding?  I guess they would have many reasons for that – some sinister, some simply unaware of what they’re doing.  But I think that the efforts of atheists to “disrupt” religious holidays are completely futile anyway.  So why did I give that any energy today?  Simply because I wanted to throw in a rational argument for why religious holidays are good, and for why you can’t assert that “religion is bad” because of what SOME people do while naming it as their source.  With any act of aggression or hatred, the bad actor firmly sets himself apart from everybody else and this will never change.  In conclusion, atheists are sending an irrational message, based on false associations, for reasons which currently escape me.

(bonus thought:  If you are thinking to yourself “She’d better just shut up!” right about now, then I have to wonder … why you are reading this?  Isn’t it optional?)