Writing (4 of 4) 書くこと

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[For the non-Japanese speaker: This is a tutorial on how to improve English reading skills using Internet resources to find content you’re actually interested in / can understand; it’s part of my Customised Interaction Approach]

 

お願い: 英語の勉強で悩んでいる方々で、このビデオ教材が役に立ったと評価されたら、知人などに共有して頂ければと思います。

on being a parent

Poo-Panda's song Panda-chan, is it Poo?Panda-chan, can you Poo? Panda-chan, let's change the nappies

Poo-Panda’s song
Panda-chan, is it Poo? Panda-chan, can you Poo? Panda-chan, let’s change the nappies

 

When we talk about what is good (as I did when I said we should try to change towards more Good in this world), we usually do so bypassing the problem of definition.

“What is good” is differently defined by everybody.

We have a word in (as far as we know) every language which means Good, but it does not necessarily point to the same thing(s) and idea(s).

“What is good” for me when I say it (in English) in this part of the world may be very different for somebody who speaks another language in another part of the world.

We don’t have the same idea about what goes into Good.

We don’t agree about what things or ideas can be described as Good.

Nevertheless, we can agree on a couple of things. (Not much, just a couple).

The important thing is that in agreeing (or disagreeing) we are already engaged in a dialogue about “what is good”. We prove ourselves willing to say:

This is what I think is good. Do you agree with me?

Then the other person can reply Yes or No, and the question is

If the other person says No, can we continue the dialogue?

If we could continue the dialogue, that would be Good.

This means that Good in a universal way is “the changeable, modifiable Good”.

A kind of Good which (let us say) can be improved (through dialogue).

I mention this because I wanted to talk about a specific way of improving, which I’ve discovered in myself

  • when I became a parent.
  • when I started to identify myself as the father of a lovely little girl, who brought light into my life…

IMG_2348

Of course, you hear all these anecdotes about how difficult and how stressful it is to attend to all the needs of a child. You hear people saying:

No more sleep, no more free time and so on.

While this is obviously true (and funny), it is more instructive to recognise that

  • when you hear what a huge volume of resources a child demands of the parents
  • you’re actually hearing the parents saying how much they want to attend to the Good of the child, to make the child’s life and experiences in this world Good.

I mean, you could change the diaper of the baby right away, as soon as this becomes necessary,

OR

you could continue to watch TV or play your computer game for another hour and just ignore the baby.

But can you really (do the latter)?

Now,

  1. because of my own definition of “what is good” &
  2. due to my own way of seeing dialogues and potential for improvements everywhere,

at this point I thought that it would be natural (=universally true) to say that

people are improved when they become parents.

I feel that I became a better person when my daughter came into this world.

As parents we can be jolted out of our default inertia (“Can’t be bothered to”) because we feel an urge to do for our children all those

  1. things which you would forego doing for yourself,
  2. things which you would be willing to postpone doing for yourself,
  3. things which you would even resign to go without, for yourself.

Let’s say that you finished eating and you have to do the dishes. Now, if you’re just by yourself, you can say “I’ll do it later”, maybe even postpone it for a day or so.

However, when you’re attending to a child, you cannot help but do that which you know is Good right away.

(This was my experience, even though I now realise with a certain degree of sadness which is very difficult to convey that it is not a universally shared experience).

If I get up in the morning for myself (to write my blog, or to go to work), I do this with a certain reluctance.

However, when I get up in the morning for my daughter, whose experience I want to make the best possible, I do so with an alacrity and an enthusiasm of which I would not have thought myself capable of mustering 1 or 2 years ago.

As a parent,

  • you may feel better about yourself because you appear more generous (you’re giving to another),
  • but you mainly feel better because you know that you’re the sole person responsible for this child’s sense of well-being, for this child’s feeling or experiencing something Good.

You don’t want to take that away. You don’t want to rob your child of that possibility of feeling something Good.

(Especially for somebody like me who does not believe in the possibility of many good things happening in this world.)

I still believe and I still hold that people are improved

  • by the experience of becoming parents,
  • by the experience of taking care of another,
  • by the experience of being put in dialogue at a very basic level, especially before the first words come out.

Is the child laughing or is the child crying?

Is the child smiling or is the child frowning?

Is the child comfortable (=the body feeling something Good) or uncomfortable?

You might ask these same questions of yourself, but for yourself you might be able to delay gratification (as they say in psychology). You might be answering:

I’ll do it later:

I don’t feel comfortable sitting here, but getting up to get a pillow feels like too much just now.

Yet, (I hope) you would not do this when you’re a parent, because for the child you’re (usually) the only person who can make this experience better.

You are there (in a position) to improve, to change into Good, another being’s experience in this world.

This is one situation where you definitely should not take shortcuts.

This is one situation where you definitely feel that you should not be taking shortcuts.

This is one situation where I’m definitely holding anybody up to this standard.

No shortcuts when you are a parent.

To improve the people we bring out into this world.

insane by name

Which way through the gate to reach the Sky?

Which way through the gate to reach the Sky?

At this point, you may feel that it’s already too late to stop. You may be thinking right now:

“After giving so much of yourself to these dialogues, which seem to converge on a notion of truth and religion, this is becoming rather dangerous”.

Hitting upon the truth could be dangerous because there are several comfortable lies (or comfortable memes), false notions which a lot of people would rather still entertain, unfortunately.

I feel that I’ve gone far enough to earn myself the ire of many other people.

I do this with the knowledge that the dialogue will be very short, between me and these people.

I still hope that you can acknowledge that what I call “your comfortable lie” is a dialogue you have with yourself and not with me; the dialogue with me would be slightly different. I know that

the dialogue with me involves me throwing down (nageru 投げる) some ideas from your comfortable life.

Telling people something that is true always involves a certain risk and you get a bit worried:

Can everybody take it?

Or perhaps I’m crazy… That’s another possibility. If I’m crazy then you don’t need to worry about what I say:

This guy talks to himself so much, he’s obviously not normal.

Here you go, that’s your get-out-of-jail-pass (the jail of my dialogues): I’m insane.

It’s interesting that we think ourselves quite knowledgeable about insane people.

  • We do know a fair bit, although only in a limited field (psychiatry).
  • We don’t know enough about what we would call “the sane people”, but we think we know a lot about sane people because we think we’re sane and we know ourselves.

Let me tell you (as someone who thinks he’s insane in some respects) that your sanity and

the definition that you attach to sanity are cropped up from the dialogues you’ve had with many other people.

Is it sane to jump from a bridge? It depends, of course, but, in general, people would agree that it’s not a good idea. You might be bungee-jumping, then calling this sane or insane depends on how much risk you can take.

Am I offering the same kind of bet? That by hearing about some true meanings, you’d be jumping off a bridge?

Perhaps.

I’m building this from scratch and I am insane in some ways.

Insanely preoccupied with finding the meaning, not only of my life, but also of any human being.

Why do I do this? Because I like to think of myself as a rational being: Reasoned insanity.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering about my username, it means “the nutty guy” al zarghit.

Gone. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.

I think everyone is crazy in their own way.

I’m telling you that the truth pursued by an insane person could be accessed by everybody through a short dialogue with themselves, where they’re true to themselves and honest with themselves about certain comfortable lies which we have about ourselves and which should be discarded.

Comfortable lies such as

We are good people, we are not responsible for the bad stuff which happens around us; we are not responsible to do anything in this world except to move along and entertain ourselves from time to time.

Entertainment is good, laughter is good, but entertainment alone (as the norm is now) puts us in a quandary.

What kind of a quandary do we find ourselves in when so much entertainment is available just around the corner of the next click?

The danger is that

  1. we could forget about the truth, which can be discovered by a person individually &
  2. we might think that the only truth can be discovered by everybody moving together.

But we know our truth, we know why we’re alive, and we know the meaning of our lives.

Well, what is it?

Who’s asking this question? Only an insane person, of course. Al zarghit.

Why do I talk about this? Why do I feel that the silences and the dialogues which I had in my head should/need be shared?

Because I think that we need a new religion,

a new way of thinking about how to live in this world and to remember the meaning of our being in this world.

I feel that I can be a teacher, and that anybody can be a teacher.

What kind of teacher? A teacher who explains the way.

Quoting from memory, if you’ll allow me (Tohei Koichi (藤平光一) No. 21 The Way of Explaining (説道)):

 He who thinks only of his own Self-Interest cannot Become-Settled in the Great Way.

利己の人にて大道を成就する者はない。

If you have Met-Acquired the Great Way of Sky-Earth,

If you have become Aware of the Principle of Sky and Earth,

This you must Always make-Known to the People of the World,

That is the Meaningful-Task that has been Given to you by the Sky and the Earth.

天地の理を悟り、天地の大道を会得したならば、

これを普く世の人に知らしめる義務を天地より与えられている。

Begone the thought that We don’t have the Power to Help People.

我に人を救う力なしという無かれ。

One-Day Learning means One-Day Teaching.

一日学べば既に一日の師である。

This World is Full of People who have Lost their Way and who Suffer in their Minds.

世には、道に迷い、心の病に苦しむものが充満している。

Let us Use up All Our Power in Explaining what is Right to the People and for the People.

我が全力を尽くし、人の為に正しきを説こう。

So I like to think of myself as a teacher, up to a point of course.

Why only up to a point? Because I’m also insane and also lost sometimes. However, I belong to the minority of people

  1. conscious that we’re lost,
  2. accepting that we’re lost &
  3. realizing that we cannot be lost in this Great-Way.

We can all walk this way.

 

slowing down dialogues

Do we need a key when the door is unlocked?

Do we need a key when the door is unlocked?

I am hereby introducing a rational argument for acting morally. I am also deriving some conclusions about death which are no longer knowledge items, but rather beliefs; that being said, my “religion” does not require any “supernatural being” to do any work in order to ensure that GOOD and BAD deeds are rewarded / punished.

This means that I advocate a belief in SOMETHING [the principle that BAD breeds BAD and GOOD breeds GOOD] and not SOMEBODY [dispensing justice]; by the way, I didn’t invent this principle (a.k.a., karma), or, as we say in aikido,

Good causes [result in] good effects. Bad causes [result in] bad effects

善因善果、悪因悪果

And it all comes back to us. Always.

必ず我が身にかえる  

 

 

There is this strange concept in quantum physics that certain things are more likely to be found in certain places, at certain frequencies, set at spaced intervals. You could think of these as “lucky numbers” (or solutions to complicated equations beyond your average person’s grasp).

I would venture a hypothesis that

the human brain has been culturally conditioned in each society to accept dialogues of a certain length

  • 3 minutes for a song
  • 20-30 seconds for a conversational turn
  • 1-2 minutes for a self-introductory speech, etc.

Dialogues undershooting or overshooting this set number by a significant margin are rejected out of hand as anomalous

(to grasp this, think how inappropriate a four-second song or a ten-minute self-introductory speech feels).

In addition to the culturally-set values, we would also have been conditioned biologically (as animals):

How long could you pay attention to a single stimulus before that would endanger your survival?

Before that would encroach on everything else you had to attend to?

Maybe you had to go procure food, right? You don’t have time to listen to this guy talking for more than… half a minute? One minute?

The acceptable length of a casual dialogue is built into us by our evolutionary history and I assume that it would be under a minute.

Imagine a Neanderthal having a conversation with another Neanderthal; how many grunts?

How about the anatomy? Would all the parts of the vocal tract (which we take for granted in homo sapiens) be there to allow speech and for how long?

Would I have been choking more because the anatomy was not as perfected as it has come to be in the meantime?

The shape of the mouth has changed; think about how much difficulty a monkey has in maintaining control of all the muscles (lips, tongue etc.) which appears so natural and easy to us?

So that’s it, 3 minutes [if you’re listening to the audio track].

That’s all the time I could keep your attention, so good-bye.

Now, if I assume that your attention span is only 3 minutes long, things become interesting.

  1. If it really is only 3 minutes long and you tuned out, then you’re not listening to this.
  2. So I’m now talking to the other guys, the guys who have a longer-than-three-minutes tolerance for one voice recording.

Mind you, a high tolerance of long-winded arguments is not necessarily a virtue; maybe I’ve sounded idiotic, or incoherent after the first minute passed and you’ve decided 3 minutes is the limit, after that you’re just going to stop listening.

When did you stop listening? Well, if you did, then you’re not listening to this anymore.

So now I’m talking to the other guys, the minority.

Who belongs to this (incredibly patient) minority? The people who listen for 15 minutes?

My own style of speaking is organized as a rant, where I just run through the fields; discourse involves “running about” (currere, let’s remember the Latin). It’s a rambling dialogue where I’m talking and you just happen to be in the minority who have nothing better to do than listen, or who are

just intrigued by this self-infatuation that is so patently demonstrated by this fellow who is posing as an English speaker, but is obviously more or less pretending to be one.

Yeah?

You can see through me so easily, right? As an English speaker, my friend, as an English speaker.

You can’t see through me as a Romanian.

You can’t see through me as a Japanese.

You can’t see through me, not through my head, but you can see some parts of me, those which I put into words on a track that’s (usually) 15 minutes long.

Allow me to proceed to the crux of this dialogue:

If you listen carefully to all that’s happening around you, then you realize that sometimes you need to listen more carefully.

I’m not sure if you’re catching the (sounds of the) movements of the fan blades that are turning near my room (where I am now walking around and talking).

[Obviously, you need to play the audio file to understand all references to sounds]

I’ve had this insight when I was in Tsukuba (Japan) some years ago; I was at a friend’s house, it was raining, it was night time, I was on the balcony, and I kept hearing this noise combined with the noise of the blades of the fan of the air-conditioning unit; I’ve heard this noise that sounded very strange but somehow familiar. Then it just hit me that it was

the sound of rain hitting the cars passing in front of the house:

Ssshhhh, ssshhhh, sssshhhh…

Each car would go through a certain space, would hit a certain number of drops of water falling from the sky, the impact of which would ripple the sounds (sound waves) through the air and these would eventually hit my ear drums; then my brain would spend some time struggling to assign a source to this sound

(the sound of cars passing through rain).

So we spend time in assigning cause, but we’re usually not paying that much attention because we don’t have enough time, there are too many sounds going on around us.

Then, I listened to the AC fan blades and at some point I realized that, if I meditated long enough, I could feel it slowing down,

I could hear each blade individually, I could hear it going through the air and hitting the air particles, and then these air particles would ripple and the waves would hit my ear drums.

The insight, the revelation I want to talk about is not this, of course; so far it was just interesting.

The revelation was that as we would lay dying at some point in our lives, these sounds (from the world around us) would still strike us, but

  • the intervals between each wave would feel longer, and longer, and longer
  • time would seem to slow down, and then slow down, and then slow down some more.

Now, my guess is that in this final dialogue

  • when your body is probably paralyzed,
  • when the blood stops flowing to your brain,
  • when the last sound is that of the last beat of your heart:

boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom…

Let’s say that was the last one… but there wouldn’t be a last one in terms of what you (=the dying person) perceive.

It would be continuously slowing down, but the time interval perception would just continue to grow, and each interval would seem longer, and longer, and longer…

What does this tell us in terms of what we should do on this planet, while we’re here alive? It tells us that we should live our lives in the best manner possible.

No, simply because there would be a lot of intervals of time in that last dialogue you have to carry with yourself for longer, and longer, and longer intervals of time, as you’re slowing down, more, and more, and more.

At that moment (when you’re dying) there would be so much time that you’d probably be going back (the famous re-living of life experiences and so on).

Of course, I am not sure of this; I haven’t died and come back to tell you, but I have an almost religious conviction at this point that

the moment of dying only exists for those who remain but does not exist per se for the person dying.

Always getting slower, never completely stopping.

The complete stop would not occur, because that’s when time would stop, that’s when you’d say:

Okay, that’s the last interval.

There would never be such a time, there would be no end; when time stops, that would be it, but that would be it in terms of you while you’re still here, and while you’re still here there’s still time, there’s still an interval of a dialogue going on in which you might have to account (to yourself) for all you’ve done while you were alive.

Who were you?

How long did you talk to yourself and how long did you talk to others?

How will you look back to all that you have done?

Imagine how much more terrible this dialogue would be for a suicidal person, and you will understand why suicide is bad, intrinsically.

Imagine how much worse would this dialogue be for somebody who has killed another person, because this would be re-lived again and again, in slower and slower motion, each time unable to go back and change it.

Each time full of regret, full of the same, essentially bad, feelings that you’ve experienced originally.

Imagine how much more rewarding and how much better it would be to re-live mostly good experiences…

So this is important as a moral compass not just for me in terms of what I should do from a selfish point of view

“I want to rest in peace as I lay dying”

but also in terms of me and how I affect others and how I could possibly change their eternities spent as they lay dying, those eternity-bound dialogues in the last moments, in which they review their lives and how I have impacted them.

Would they be a series of pleasant, funny, amusing, touching moments?

Or, revolting, disgusting, hateful moments?

So choose well my friend, choose well while you’re alive, not just for yourself but also for others because

in each moment of our lives we’re deciding those last dialogues for each other and we’re setting ourselves up for an eternity of living good or bad experiences in those last moments.

So here’s my religious experience, my mystical insight. You can share yours, if you like.

Post Scriptum: The above principle does not guarantee that

if you do GOOD, you will live a GOOD (=happy) life and nothing BAD (=horrible) will happen to you

Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well:

People doing BAD stuff can have all sorts of GOOD stuff happening to them.

We all know this constitutes an insurmountable argument against the existence of a God-like figure, but some of us are comfortable going around it by (sup)posing the existence of another supernatural world where things get balanced somehow.

Nevertheless, if you share my belief and act accordingly,

you only have to worry about the GOOD and BAD stuff for which YOU are personally responsible.

If a drunk driver runs over me (=BAD stuff), this will not haunt me in my final moments (=eternities) because it is not something I lived to regret; however, the drunk driver will not have this luxury and he will have to spend many a moment (=eternity) pondering his responsibility for this BAD act and all the BAD acts that would (almost inevitably) follow.

It sounds naive, but doing GOOD is (in the very long run) the easy path as it ensures you will have peace of mind for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.

Of course, doing GOOD is (in the short run) the difficult path because you cannot take any of the (BAD) shortcuts as these would haunt you for (that illusory-but-otherwise-very-real-to-your-consciousness) eternity.

Soul illusions shaping our reality

Gracias, little brother, I know it's not easy being friends with me

Gracias, little brother, I know it’s not easy being friends with me

Speaking of epiphanies (again in the Religion category), there are moments in our lives when

  • we perceive something wrongly, but
  • this helps us to perceive correctly something else.

Usually this happens when you think something is in a certain manner and the difference between your initial perception and the subsequent revelation seems to have a lot of consequences in terms of improving your understanding

  • beyond noticing the actual difference,
  • beyond the idea that presents itself as truthful and reveals your initial assumption to be mistaken.

Allow me to illustrate with an example taken from my personal experience:

I was at the seaside with my good friend, Julian, and we were enjoying life as young people do; at the same time we were blissfully ignorant of many-many other aspects of life because we’re young and ignorant (nowadays, I guess we’re just the latter).

At this point I experienced an optical illusion, a mis-perception caused by looking up for too long on a bright, beautiful day; it was a cold, cloudless spring-day, and I was watching this eagle floating above a cliff that was jutting towards the sea.

As I was watching the eagle, my eyes fell upon the cliff itself and I was not surprised to find its shadow moving across the cliff face, when I was startled by the realisation that

the eagle’s shadow, instead of being black against an illuminated green (grass) and grey (stone) background, was actually completely lit, the way you’d have if you’re shining or reflecting a light from a wrist-watch or a mirror.

I could see a bright beam of light moving across the same cliff face where the eagle’s shadow should have fallen. Naturally, this resulted into the sort of facile philosophising you can imagine:

The shadow is light and you can take it from here.

That was the initial experience which I thought very insightful at that time but I soon discovered that I was very superficial in my appraisal of

  • where we were in the world,
  • where I was in the world.

At this point, we heard these dogs (Dobermans) barking behind us; it dawned on us that we were in a place that was not meant to be used as a public beach, and now the question presented itself to us:

What do we do about these two Dobermans who look pretty menacingly as they’re barking and blocking our way back?

So we tried to find a different path to go back to where we came from, back to our safe world, when the dogs started running downhill towards us. During this chase, as we’re scrambling across stones and boulders covered in seaweed, I’m reflecting on the fact that this will probably be a very unequal fight with these dogs who seem so powerful and about whose ferocity I (thought I) knew a lot.

At this point I was engaged in a dialogue with myself where I recast myself as the hunted (fighting for his life)

so that when we reached this point where we couldn’t climb up any more and the dogs were upon us, I turned around to face them, just thinking “How are we going to fight?”

We didn’t have any weapons or sticks, so I could only envision a fight where we would just bite each other, basically devolving back to the animal fighting for survival. I was looking at these animals, at these dogs’ muscles and teeth, which appeared not so much as teeth as fangs, right? I looked at these creatures, which would soon be upon us, and I assumed this aggressive posture.

It is at this point that my good friend, Julian, saved us (“us” meaning “us = the humans and the dogs”) from a really bad experience by changing his perception, by remembering his true self:

He had a different dialogue running in his head, obviously, and he decided that these dogs would like to become friends with us.

You see, they just wanted to say hello to us.

So he starts talking (dialogue) with the dogs: “They just want to be friends”.

Of course, I had my doubts since we had just been running and we had been chased (it didn’t feel like a dialogue), but I remained passive as I just didn’t know what else we could do. I watched as my good friend Juli responded

  • with a positive feeling of openness,
  • with equal dialogue,
  • with love towards these two dogs,
  • who soon responded in kind.

I found myself staring in disbelief two minutes later, as Juli was sitting down next to one dog and patting it on the head with the dog looking very happy, and I was still trying to get rid of

the last simulation of fight-to-the-death, nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw dialogue that I had in my head.

Then it hit me: This was a very good instance of a self-fulfilling prophecy:

  • I projected death, violence, fight, bite, kill, and it came back to me;
  • Juli projected love, trust, positive feelings, let’s be friends, and it came back to him, and I saw the dog licking his hand.

I realised that the intellectual in me who was so excited to discover the play-on-words between shadow and light based on a simple optical illusion was very shallow.

I found myself stunned to discover that I suffer from a psychological illusion of control and that I’m making myself my own enemy without realising it.

You can call it a soul illusion, that my soul was blacker than I would have liked to think, and this almost got reflected back to me and could have caused a very messy episode.

So I say this to all of you out there who feel that fear is just the expression of a healthy survival instinct meant to give us early warning and ensure our safety:

  • Safety comes not from fearing and giving in to our negative feelings and projecting those onto Others;
  • Safety comes from trusting and engaging Others in dialogues, as equal partners, as partners to be trusted.

That should be our default stance when we are not sure about what is actually happening, when nothing bad has actually occurred yet.

Do not subscribe to the idiot’s [from Greek idios “one’s own] dogma of preemptive attack, who would push himself and others around him into this drama of fighting for one’s life, when this is not a fight or a competition.

It could (in fact) depend on your mindset at that time and your conscious decisions could turn it into a dialogue of love.

  • Thank god (meaning Sky-Earth) for South Americans and their spirit.
  • Contrast this with the Eastern European grimness.
  • And come out from all this with an epiphany, an (intuitive) understanding of how we can improve our world.

Men, stop telling women what to do

Dilemma: Should I cover my daughter's feet? Or should I get a priest to baptise her first?

Dilemma: Should I cover my daughter’s ankles? Or should I baptise her first?

 

In a previous recording I said I don’t know if it is justifiable to make it a law that

women have to cover their bodies in order to prevent all these problems stemming from the “fact” that young men cannot control themselves.

Of course, I lied when I said “I don’t know”.

I think I know what is better.

Like everyone else, I have a very strong opinion and I’m convinced that my opinion is the more “correct” one, that there is more GOOD in it.

However, I’ll let you be the judge of that since this is a dialogue among equals.

Here’s my opinion:

It is not on us (=men) to decide.

It is not on us

  • Muslim men
  • Jewish men
  • Romanian Orthodox Christian men
  • Catholic men

to decide whether the woman’s head, face, hair, ankles etc. need to be covered.

I do not think that in all these societies, in which men have been masters for so many centuries, men should still be deciding rules for women.

I think women in each of these societies should (be able to) come forward and decide for themselves.

Call me a radical.

However, even this modest proposal presents us with a huge problem in any of the above-mentioned societies.

This is why I’m always hesitant in revealing my opinions which I hold to be better, to be superior in terms of GOOD, in terms of equality, in terms of looking at the Other as a dialogue partner.

Why do I hesitate? Why do I fear? Because a lot of people will be hurt, a lot of people will feel that their sensibilities, their tastes, their cultural learning have been offended.

Many people may feel that their beliefs have been (in some way) invalidated by what I say or somebody else says when we declare that

“Women should have the right to choose if they cover themselves or not”.

All this shows you that we live in a very strange period of our history as homo sapiens because we do not live up to our own definition of homo as including both man and woman.

Notice that in all these cases we have a religious aspect:

we don’t think about this issue as a human rights problem.

This is how sad the story is:

We think that it is a religious problem.

Now, who has come up with (and written down) these holy scriptures? Men. So of course men decide.

It is past time we had a dialogue with women and let them decide. At least in terms of what they wear. Or maybe we can have a dialogue:

We (women) will do this and we’ll do this, but you (men) will have to do this.

For example, ask men to stop telling women all the time what to do.

That would be a good start.

So yeah, I’m a radical from this point of view, and the fact that I’m a radical tells us that we’re in a really sorry state of inequality between genders because we frame it in terms of religion:

People don’t discuss religion.

It is very difficult to discuss religion, because people FEEL so strongly about religion.

I’ve had and still have (allow me to get personal here) a huge fight ahead of me just in refusing and postponing baptising my daughter. I’m Romanian and everyone is thinking:

Of course you’re going to baptise your daughter, make her a Christian.

If not, she’s going to go to hell.

It’s as basic as that. It’s as (and sorry for saying this so bluntly) mean-spirited as that:

If you’re a Christian and you believe that, you have just condemned a baby (who cannot speak yet) to hell at this point.

I’m sorry if you’re an Orthodox Christian and this comes as a shock to you:

Your belief system has just condemned my daughter (in particular) and millions and billions of others (many of them just children like my daughter who cannot yet speak), your belief system has condemned them all to hell.

Why? Because that’s what it says in the Book, right? Does it say so in the Book?

When was Jesus baptised? How old was he then?

Canon 110. (Greek cxii. bis)

That infants are baptized for the remission of sins

Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, By one man sin has come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned, than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.

The following, says Surius, is found in this place in a very ancient codex. It does not occur in the Greek, nor in Dionysius. Bruns relegates it to a foot-note.

[Also it seemed good, that if anyone should say that the saying of the Lord, In my Father’s house are many mansions is to be understood as meaning that in the kingdom of heaven there will be a certain middle place, or some place somewhere, in which infants live in happiness who have gone forth from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, let him be anathema. For after our Lord has said: Unless a man be born again of water and of the Holy Spirit he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, what Catholic can doubt that he who has not merited to be coheir with Christ shall become a sharer with the devil: for he who fails of the right hand without doubt shall receive the left hand portion.]

So we have a whole problem in Romania (and in Christianity) because just with baptism we have already destroyed our argument for a universal brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women by being so narrow-minded.

Let me spell it out for you, Christians everywhere:

“Not baptised” means going to hell. Is it the limbo? Where do the unbaptised go?

It’s mean.

If it’s mean, can we improve it then?

I’m asking what can we do, but I’m coming from a different perspective because I haven’t baptised my daughter.

I’ve stood against the current and I’ve felt the huge pressure you have to resist simply for not carrying out this ritual forward, simply for saying:

I think she’ll be OK.

I think you hold a false belief about what is actually happening in this world.

I think you allow yourself to be deluded about the state of reality because you choose to interpret it based on a single, very old book which is no longer applicable

Raise your hands for “Stone to death those who [insert crime]”

in relation to the present reality, in relation to our current knowledge about ourselves and about Others.

This is not just a conflict with Nature, with what we know after the scientific revolution, but also with what we know about other people.

The dialogues we’ve had with other people (should) have enabled us to realise that our own religion is a peculiar incident, something that occurred with us because we were born in a particular society, culture, time, place.

It is not because we (our race, our tribe, our people) were personally chosen.

It is not because somebody has planted humankind on this planet.

We’ve started from a place and it’s in AFRICA in case you think it’s Jerusalem, or in case you think it’s New York, or in case you think it’s Kyoto, or in case you think it’s Beijing, or in case you think it’s I-don’t-know-what-place.

We’ve started in Africa.

How did it start and where were we many, many, many years ago?

What did we do in the many thousands of years before we managed to talk to each other, before we managed to write to each other, before we managed to have dialogues with each other?

Roaming this planet, coming up with our stories, our myths, our religions.

Mind you, nobody is saying

“Throw the books in the bin and burn them”.

We’re not advocating the communist approach that “religion is the opium of the people” and it needs to be destroyed. Religion is not something we need to destroy.

Religion needs to be faced with the sort of honesty that would allow us to have dialogues on an equal footing with other people.

If it does not allow equal dialogues between people on this planet, then it is not relevant because it does not reflect our current agreement about each other.

It does not reflect anything about

  • who we think we are
  • who we say we are
  • who we want to be &
  • who we want everybody else to be.

If we’re just politically correct about who we give equal status to, then we’re facing (in the near future) another cataclysm

from Greek kataklysmos “deluge, flood, inundation,” from kataklyzein “to deluge,” from kata “down” + klyzein “to wash”

and we know how cataclysms have turned out so far, we know what we’re capable of.

We’ve come up with rational dialogues and now we need to be consistent in our words and actions.

So that’s my comment on religion(s) and that’s my comment on whether women should cover their bodies:

men should just shut up and stop telling women (around the world) what to do.

 

talking to ourselves (or the others)

Saussure quoted in Cliff Goddard, 2011 "Semantic Analysis: A Practical Introduction" 2nd edition, Oxford University Press.

In language itself there are only differences … and no positive terms.

When we talk to ourselves, there’s a multitude of Selves.

There may be an obvious Self in one specific context, but other Selves quickly emerge with each new context.

At the UN, there may be an American, an Ukrainian, a Chinese and a Finnish.

These Selves are obviously different, but some parts would inevitably be common.

Why do I say that? Because we’re animals, we have the same biological endowments across the species.

It is very significant that we’re all given vocal chords (under normal conditions) and most of us can use them to communicate.

Incidentally, if you can’t use your vocal chords, the brain is equipped with enough material to re-route to allow for sign language to express the same depth of meaning that we express through spoken words.

If you hear my voice and you can speak, you probably don’t get to appreciate how important and how profound sign language is until you consider that it would be possible to express (=to sign) the same meanings conveyed by somebody’s voice.

Through my voice I have conveyed a message to you by a simple process that doesn’t seem to require a lot of body movements, since these are internal body movements.

How about the external body movements? How is that different? How would reality be represented for these Selves? Imagine the Self of somebody who knows sign language.

Would it be similar to somebody who knows Japanese or Chinese and thinks in pictorial terms, whereby you could draw on your palm the kanji (Chinese-Character 漢字) for the word you speak aloud

to distinguish sensei (Before-Lived “teacher” 先生) from sensei (Conquer-Stars “horoscope”占星)?

Is there a difference in the same manner as there is in English with nouns and verbs spelled identically but pronounced with different stress?

  • on a certain syllable if it’s a verb (I re-CORD my own voice) &
  • on another certain syllable if it’s a noun (This is a RE-cord of my thoughts).

It is a remarkable fact that, while our Selves differ widely according to the sounds and the imagery we associate with the language we speak, we can find a common ground with Others speaking a foreign (to us) language when we are willing to share OUR meanings and to understand THEIR meanings.

Now, why should you be listening to me? In terms of time, we each have our own setting for how long we are willing to listen to another person, to an Other, which is different from our Selves.

If you tuned out by now (which means you cannot hear me), I am not one of your potential Selves:

Maybe you just got bored, maybe you don’t speak English, maybe I talk too fast, maybe I make so many mistakes that you can’t put up with it, maybe you think this has no meaning for you.

What are the reasons that made you sign off, that made you say

“this is not my Self, one of our Selves, it’s an Other and I’m not going to listen to this”?

When do we start refusing dialogue with others? When they sound very different.

Up to a point, we can listen to something different.

Our interest (in what Others have to say) is defined by how long an interval of time we’re willing to give the Others to state their meanings, their ideas, in certain ways, using certain sounds (which may or may not be shared).

“To question somebody” is different from “asking somebody a question”.

Are the sounds different? What else is different?

We insist on calling it a monologue when somebody talks to themselves. That doesn’t sound right in English. “When somebody talks to himself or herself”. We have to use the singular form.

What if you don’t have a singular form for the first person in your language?

What if there’s no concept of “I” separate from “we”?

Is that possible? As far as we know, the concept of “I” exists in every language. We just don’t know all the particular ways in each language of how it relates to the concept of “We”.

Are there many ways of saying “we” other than “us, ourselves, our own selves”?

What is the “we” in your language? Answer template: I and some people. These people are X, Y, Z.

I started these dialogues in order to show that we think of ourselves as individuals 

because every language is built on the concept of difference (I am not you),

but the social and biological reality disproves the concept of a separate “I” (We are here together).

This pattern of talk leads you in a certain direction (the dialogue with our Selves), which is marked by the length of time that I give my Self to produce some meanings. That “length of time” is different from person to person.

The language-specific concept of “We” will determine with whom we can accept dialogues of a certain length (our Selves) and with whom we’d rather have much shorter dialogues (the Others).

We don’t have a lot of dialogues with the others.

Why? Because they’re too different: Some things we want to take in, some things we don’t.

Some of these differences are well illustrated in jokes when something happens and then the reaction depends on who is the “We”.

Does the following joke make sense to you?

They say that in 2500, a UN committee decides that we need to build a bridge over the Atlantic. A Japanese company, an American company, and a Romanian company try to get the contract for the project. 

The Americans arrive with their plans and they say to the UN:

“We can build this bridge: We are going to start from both sides, one bridge from New York and another from London and we’re going to meet halfway above the Atlantic, using our latest technology to make the ends meet in the middle, with a margin of error of plus/minus 5 cm, and we would have to adjust the bridge parts to take into account this margin of error.”

Of course, the UN committee is quite happy with this proposal (5 cm across the Atlantic Ocean!).

Then the Japanese come and they say:

“We’re going to use a technology that will reduce the margin of error to within 5 mm; starting from New York, starting from London, and the ends will meet with a 5 mm margin of error.”

The UN committee is now feeling doubtful:

“5 mm? How are you going to do that?”

The Japanese explain:

“Well, we have this network of subcontractors in Japan who are doing an amazing job at producing the smaller parts, so we don’t have to worry about them and we can concentrate on the big design, but we’ll still have all the parts fitting together perfectly. In Japan we don’t have to deal with bad, defective parts coming from our subcontractors, like they do in other countries.”

The UN committee is satisfied with this explanation:

“Okay, so 5 mm. And you, the Romanians?”

The Romanians are the last and they say:

“Well, we’re going to start from New York on one side, and we’re going to start from London on the other side, and hopefully we will meet somewhere on the way, above the Atlantic Ocean.”

The UN committee is perplexed:

“That sounds a bit vague. How can you guarantee that the ends meet? What happens if the two ends don’t meet?”

To which the Romanians reply casually:

“Well, then you’re going to build you 2 bridges; we’ll give you one for free.”

What does this joke show you? This tells you that Romanian Selves have a high tolerance for a large number of people to take turns in a conversation.

You are one person telling the joke, but you also have many voices (the Japanese, the American, the Romanian, the UN arbitration committee, in addition to the narrator (=I):

That’s already 5 people talking through 1 person.

Why do we allow this? Because we think we can get a lot of useful information about many possible Others, and maybe a little bit about our Selves.

When we come together, how important do we think these differences are and how much should we push the others away from us when we realise that they’re Others?

How much difference can you accept?

  • If people eat dogs
  • If people eat monkeys
  • If people eat pigs (pork, right?)
  • If people eat snakes or bugs

Is this different enough for you to remove yourself from their presence? Or is this acceptable?

Could you still think

I could be one of them, the group called “we who eat monkeys, dogs, snakes, bugs, pigs, or sushi”?

Or mamaliga, of course.

In case you don’t know that last word (it’s Romanian), I suggest Googling Romanian food images and I’m sure it’s going to come up as the yellow stuff.

Anyway, what’s the point of this dialogue? The point is that in 15 minutes

  1. I am taking a short turn (in terms of my own dialogue), but
  2. a very long turn (for you to listen) because this is not you.

So of course you tuned off by now and you moved on to other better things.

You want to hear yourself, not some crazy Romanian guy who’s telling jokes about bridges built in 2500, right?

How do we improve things? We start by thinking about how much time do we give somebody who has a good idea.

Not me, obviously, but the scientists, the people who know what’s going on; these guys need a lot more of our (attention) time, at this point.

People who know more (who had longer dialogues with themselves about how Nature actually is) should get more of our time when they talk about, say, climate change.

The hard sciences (physics, mathematics etc.) should be given a lot more of our time.

We should also spend some of our time on the social sciences (psychology, politics etc.), but the social sciences need to clarify our terms, because right now we are talking about “freedom, equality, human rights” as if they’re universal concepts, and they’re not, as the Natural Semantic Metalanguage amply demonstrates.

We need to get back to what is Good and what is Bad, when we discuss the terminology used in social sciences, but before that

we need to listen to the hard sciences to know what are the constraints by which our social reality is bound:

Less resources, climate change, global warming.

Living off the planet, or living on the planet.