Not too long ago we human species had still believed that by being able to think that we are greater than The Animal. By actually having the capacity to imagine a Human/Animal binary in itself had somehow made us mistakenly believe We greater than Them. Along the way, we have gradually come to realise we are but another animal and have also began to suspect that God may not exist at all.
All this is very well, of course. The Faithful find it incredulous that The Atheist believe they are crazy. But at the same time The Faithful will hold the exact same incredulous view of The Atheist. ‘Why would anyone want to believe they are godless animals’, The Faithful would ask.
I would go as far to say that not only are we Animal but that we are also Natural with full positive connotations. And I would also say that being able to imagine God, denounce Him, and to be able to hold on to a Us&Them viewpoint is completely natural. The Human Animal (or ‘Humanimal’) for being self-perceptivably so different to the other animals is really quite the improbability. Or perhaps eventually every life-system has its equivalent human species which goes through a patch of arrogance then humility to realise it is just another Natural Animal in exactly the same way we have.
So many things happened in 2017.
Probably the hardest year of my life. Health-wise was poor, for me and other family members. Work had been extremely busy and will continue to be so at least until the new academic year. My research, failing almost grinding to a halt.
On the upside the children are growing physically, mentally and spiritually. The next generation may well take over sooner than later.
But the world seems a place at crossroads. The Smart Age may not be as smart as its name suggests. I don’t believe the world will ever bring to an end the embodied qualities that all else need. Digital things maybe, but things they are. We must not forget that, for they will not let us forget. If the world is to be a better place than at present we must remind ourselves of values which have always informed us of who we are – physical beings in a physical world. Ideas and thoughts may seem infinite (for that is an illusion) but their consequences are always finite.
This year I will make sure I become the academic and father I had vowed to be. There is nothing to do but to show this by physical, tangible proof.
I love looking at the moon. I love watching it slowly change from a full moon to a new moon. I love half and crescent moons also. But they are all the same moon in different light.
By observing the moon and watching it change I can confirm that it is indeed a sphere. By looking at the shadows I can point to the direction of the sun, and infer its location relative to us.
But why should the moon be spherical? The more we look out there the more we realise that the other planets are spherical as well. So maybe the planet we live on is as well.
That thought probably prompted man to sail away from the coasts and literally venture out into open waters. The evidence increasingly pointed to the world as being round, or at least not being flat.
This also prompted us to think about how and why things do not fall off a round-edged world into whatever is beyond the horizon. Perhaps everything is falling into the centre – gravity. Eureka! All problems solved.
The fact is we have observed, with our own eyes, the planets and planetary satellites out there, and they are not flat but round. Things don’t fall off the planets because they are round. And the Earth is not special. It is not flat. And we, human beings, are not special. The world neither figuratively nor literally revolve around us, just as the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. It is only ignorance and arrogance that makes us think the planet and us are special. And sometimes people are kept ignorant for reasons of maintaining this power and control over them. This is not unlike the flat-earthers’ narrative that the Sun revolves around the flat Earth, all the while telling you that you are their Sun.
Death is both hideous and wonderful.
It is hideous in that those left behind grieve of their loss. Their love is what brings pain. And we can do nothing but love.
It is wonderful in that it unselfishly gives way to new life. The world is a finite space. We must all eventually stand up and give our seats to others more needy of it.
So death should be a brief moment of sadness and a lifetime of joy. It should not consume you, the one remaining. It should give you the will to continue to do your best, to not waste even a single beat of the precious drum commonly known as The Heart.
Let’s say the oil company has 100m tonnes of fuel in reserve, and at present levels that 1m cars on the roads, for example, each use 100 tonnes of fuel. The car companies make a new “eco” car which only uses 80 tonnes of fuel instead. The government replaces all the cars with these new “clean cars. Now the cars only altogether 80m tonnes of fuel.
But the oil company is not complaining. Knowing that the car companies see the opportunity to sell more cars, they wait patiently. Lowering the price point is but still making a better profit they sell 1.25m of these “eco” cars instead.
Now, we are still using 100m tonnes of fuel and the roads get more crowded also. A bit of a #wtf moment.
Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by our desires (thirst). To over suffering is to cut your desires. This (these eight ways) is the how you can cut your desires. The eight ways are to have right understanding, thought, action, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
The above is what the Buddha taught soon after his enlightenment, his realisation of the nature of existence. Notice how there is no mention of a deity or deities, or worship of a deity or deities, but that everything depends on your practice and way of life, minus the gods. Buddhism explicitly rejected the gods of his time and place, those of the Vedic tradition, the belief systems and practices that were to become Hinduism later on.
What the Buddha taught was not entirely unique. Jainism also rejected the belief in a deity or deities. However, Jainism believed in a soul, something Buddha rejected. Here, Buddhism is unique, in rejecting both the existence of gods and the soul. One must be very careful in understanding that what the Buddha taught and Buddhism are different things. Buddhism takes on its own life and comes in many different “flavours”. Thus the study of the many traditions but looking at the underlying principles will reveal how the different strands of Buddhism have diverged from what he actually taught. Do the math and you will see whatever remains must be close to what the Buddha taught.
In the beginning was a “big bang”. No one is sure how it happened but it happened about 14 billion years ago (in Earth time, that is). All the material in the universe came from this event. The material in the form of dust slowly gathered to form galaxies, suns, planets and satellites through attraction. The planet we call Earth was formed about 4 billion years ago, a little after the formation of the Sun, the star which gives us the energy for our survival, around which we revolve. Life on Earth began around 1 billion years ago in the form of simple cells. Our species – Homo – is perhaps one to two million years old. Civilisation in the form of societies and writing came about perhaps 20,000 years ago. Recognisable society is perhaps 7,000 years old. We know these things because we are smart.