let’s call it a letter to the youth

No, it is not my letter. Those I have sent emails know I don’t write long letters. It’s been written by a fellow I used to know. I disagree with some of what he says. I also write my responses here because for the duration that I have known him, he has never responded to any question I have raised about his claims.

With that behind us, here we go

He writes

Have you noticed how many of us have little respect and patience for the “institutions” that be? The government and our leaders have become easy targets for our cheap shots on social media. We can heap insults at someone’s parent without even batting an eyelid in the name of “speaking truth to power.” We have forgotten what it means to “respect your elders” no matter how unworthy of respect those elders seem.

I don’t know about you but I think the mindset that people in authority deserve respect just by their positions can not be justified. It reminds me of the rider in one of the letters of Paul that leaders are given by god and so on that we must always submit. Cornell, we will not bow down to these leaders if they are unworthy of respect. Respect is earned, that is what I was taught.

After claiming we must respect elders, even if they are Ezekiel Mutua about whom the journalist wrote

Yet every time he opens his mouth to make a statement, most sensible people cover their faces with their hands in utter embarrassment.

he takes a cheap aim at atheism/ skepticism. He writes

Religion has become a by-word. Many of us are now attracted to atheism and skepticism because these schools of thoughts promise us “independence” of thought and a sense of “enlightenment.”

No, atheism for the umpteenth time is not a fad people are attracted to. It is the religious who think this is so. For those who were religious and no longer are, have arrived at their atheism through reflection and for some it is was a painful conclusion to make. To carelessly talk of it as if religion or its adherents have provided any proofs to back their claims is arrogant and uncalled for. Additionally, anyone who has come to the realization that it’s repugnant to our morals and good sense to give up your concubine to be ravaged and then chopping her in pieces to display in the town centres, must be called enlightened. Anyone who believes that such a story could have been inspired- whatever that means- by a god is need of much education.

And no

It doesn’t help that most religious leaders have made it easier for us to doubt the validity of religion: they live lives that spit in the face of what they preach by sleeping with members of their congregation and duping worshipers out of their hard-earned money. Of course we are justified to rage against such hypocrisy.

it is not the pastors that make us doubt the claims of religion. The claims of religion[s] are absurd, and some are repugnant to our reason. And I am surprised you don’t see this as the main reason for our disbelief. We wonder how clueless the religious are to continue to follow such people.

I don’t know what he means when he says

By ridiculing religion and insulting our heritage, we soon find ourselves having to work in jobs we never dreamt of and bury dreams that refused to come true.

because I see no relationship between ridiculing religion and the job I do. It can actually be argued that it is the religious who ridicule our heritage. They claim, while wearing a 3 piece suit, carrying a bible and using an iPhone, that this and that is un-African. Give us a break. Look yourself in the mirror, you may find you are the lost one.

Contrary to his claim that

We are slowly and painfully realizing that those peers who pretend to have it together also spend their nights on soggy pillows and are just winging it through life. Disillusionment has become our second nature.

while I sometimes have my anxieties, I don’t go to bed to cry and no, I have always respected my parents even when I thought they were wrong. If you doubt it, ask my father :-). Disillusionment doesn’t come as a result of disrespect but as a result of unmet dreams. Even those like me who respect their parents sometimes feel disillusioned.

And contrary to his conclusion

God is probably real and humility is the only way to know for sure. Skepticism is an impossible way to live and sometimes we must believe something before we can verify it and affirm or dismiss it. Life is a story and all of us are mere words and pages in a novel of infinite chapters.

god is probably unreal. Skepticism isn’t an impossible way to live, unless maybe you are referring to Pyrrhonian skepticism which is different from academic skepticism. And we don’t have to believe without verification. What is important is right action.

So to the youth, go out there and make mistakes. Just don’t die trying. Respect those worthy of your respect. Question authority and those who claim to have authority over you and most of all, be curious to learn, to improve your knowledge and most of all, if you can, to be a good citizen of the world.

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Lucille 2: La gaudière

Lucille 2

La gaudière

n. the glint of goodness inside people, which you can only find by sloshing them back and forth in your mind until everything dark and gray and common falls away, leaving behind a constellation at the bottom of the pan—a rare element trapped in exposed bedrock, washed there by a storm somewhere upstream.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Dear Lucille;

Can you see the music and the dance all around?

Can you see the melodies, the codas, the rare refrains, the flanged bridges, and the occasional, but unforgettable  reverberations that string together one and all? Do you feel the sea of pure music, abounding all around, permeating all and one, and setting forth basal harmony to all that abide by it? Does the heavenly resonance touch your heart, and quicken it, and leave you in a turmoil of emotions and longings? If you do, Lucille, I heartily welcome you to my world – a world of symphonies, and in which every single sentiment, every single profundity, and every single chord, has a place on the eternal staves of cosmic music.

At one time in the past, you posed a question unto me, Lucille. You asked me what it was that I saw in you, and that attracted me so intensely towards you. Alas, I found myself speechless then, and I asked for some time to actually think over the question. And, in my solitude, I tried to hack away at the question, trying to reduce it to elemental artifacts, as my professional training was wont to do. It is upon this reductionist paradigm that, for many restless moons, your question remained unanswered. Until, one day, I decided to gaze at the composition, the wholeness of the question, rather than at the composites. And lo, the heavens opened up, light came unto my mind, and the answer came rushing at me, almost immediately:

Lucille, I am privy to a dance that you perform, every single second of your life, and that no one else perceives.

There is an ethereal gait… an other-worldly elegance to your steps, and to your body movements, that I have never observed in anyone else. It is like a unique fingerprint – a primordial signature by which you ceaselessly authenticate and weld your spirit to mine. I have, on various occasions in the past, watched you as you went about your life, and got struck by the sheer grace and fluidity that you seemed to command. Like a ballerina, you’ve always stepped the right way, swayed the right way, gyrated the right way, shrugged the right way, and consistently held me captive, with your movements, the right way. Never have I ever seen a misstep on your path, nor a stumble, nor a tumble, nor a sprain.

There is one particular vision about you that I remember vividly, Lucille. We were on a nature trail, when suddenly, you run up ahead of me, and cast yourself as a silhouette against the setting sun. Then, you executed a perfect arabesque – à demi hauteur, straightened out, pirouetted, and finished off with a grand jeté right across a stony brook. I was mesmerized. But what made the moment even more magical was the fact that, up in the evening skies, a large murmuration of starlings was, right then, performing the most intricate, and iridescent, whorls, swoops and loops… in perfect rhythm with your body movements. It was like both you and the passerines had suddenly, somehow tapped in to a common, ethereal symphony, and were dancing right along to it. Afterwards, we walked the rest of the way in an enchanted… almost divine, silence.

By Tao, it’s said that certain streams hold every single song that has ever been sung. If this is so, then I think that you, Lucille, have somehow bathed in certain such streams, and inherited their precious melodies. For within you, there is a resonance to a cosmic song that never terminates, never pauses, and that never ceases to tug at my soul strings. There is, within you, a harmony and grace that would make even the loftiest angels weep with enchantment. And yet, so innocently and naturally do you carry about your daily chores that I’ve wondered, on many an occasion, whether you are actually aware of this dimension of yourself. Lucille, are you aware that, by a simple flick of your slender wrist, you regularly hypnotize me, and cast me, quite bodily, into Nirvana? And are you aware that, by your presence, every single nature walk feels like a retreat into the verdant fields of Arcadia?

Such is the mellifluous hold you have over me, Lucille, that I have but one recurring dream. I dream that one day, our essences will transmogrify into twin rivers, which will race alongside each other, singing and chanting and dancing to the sweetest melodies ever visited upon mortals. And at the end of our journeys, we will cascade over a cliff, twisting and weaving into each other, until we submerge into the silent pool at the bottom. Upon which, with a final sigh, we will become but part of a larger lake – a large confluence whose myriad tributaries render it immortal. And there, we will ebb and flow, swirl and pirouette, in harmonious eddies, till the ends of time

Yours forever enchanted,

Cystorm Cintanex

N/B: For a related note, see Lucille 1: Sonder

Lucille 1: Sonder

Lucille 1

 “Sonder:

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

— The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows


Dear Lucille,

I know that you aren’t aware of this, but today, you passed by me on the motorway. I was just emerging from the service lane into the highway, when you whizzed by at breathtaking speed. I gave chase, but my old Jalopy was certainly no match to your pearl LaCrosse. So I hugged your wake, and tailed you till you disappeared far ahead. And for those precious minutes that I could still spot you ahead, I remained in Utopia.

Lucille, you left behind a portion of your essence on the motorway.

Perhaps it’s my imagination, but as long as I remained in that outermost lane, I could pick up your fragrance. It was a heady sensation – riding a Jojoba and Eucalyptus trail. Memories were unlocked; of idyllic meadows, of scenic nature trails… and of vast savannas. But at one time, a ChromaFlared roadster cut in ahead of me, and the scent abruptly gained some Tiare and bergamot notes. You used to wear these ones too. And once again, yet other memories flooded; of Samoan rainforests, of a great many lakeside walks… and of misty, sleepy skylines. I was enchanted. And I wondered whether I was turning into a synesthetic.

A few wistful wishes run across my mind then. Forgive me, Lucille, but my professional background rendered a rather bland dimension to the wishes. For instance, I imagined myself getting out of the jalopy, standing on the tarmac, and twirling round and round, until I robbed the earth a teeny tiny fraction of its rotational velocity, and extended the day by a single, precious millisecond. Doubtless, by the time I achieved this, my entire mind would be scrambled from all the twirling, but that extra millisecond would be a unique, original, and priceless gift from me to you. And as you experienced that extra millisecond, I would lie on that tarmac, oblivious to the world… having fried my mind completely. And I would smile, contended.

I imagined launching myself into a geostationary orbit, and acting as your personal sentinel from deep space. I would bear up with the freezing cold, the utter silence, and the vacuum of deep space, just to maintain a constant proximity between us. I would master celestial mechanics, and draw up intricate ephemerides of all asteroids. And whenever any asteroid broke free from the belt, and headed towards earth, I’d have you look into the skies, witness the shooting star, and make a wish for us. And upon the dusk of my days, I’d launch myself from orbit, descend towards earth, and turn myself into a shooting star in the earth’s atmosphere.

My mind explored the toil of time on your fragile beauty, Lucille. And I vowed, in my fantasy, to craft a space-ship for you, launch you into deep space, and activate a luminal-velocity space-drive. At this velocity, time for you would come to a standstill, and you would never grow old. Instead, you would transverse the hearts of galaxies, make acquaintances with quasars and pulsars, and skim along the event horizons of black holes. You would peer through the windows of the multiverse, tunnel through worm holes, and surf on cosmic gyres. Truly, you would become ageless, and your true spirit would emerge: the spirit of stellar dust… a heart after my own.

Yours forever enchanted,

Cystorm Cintanex

 N/B: For a related note, see Lucille 2: La gaudière

An address to friends

Mainly the religious ones.

This is an invitation to dialogue.

Somewhere in this blog, you will find posts on how I became an atheist and what has changed since, what I have learnt in the interim and what I believe. I hope you are interested enough to search for these posts. They may not be detailed as many of you might expect but they explain a few things about me.

In this post, I hope we can engage on why I no longer believe and why I don’t think I will.

I was brought up in a religious environment. I attended catechism classes, was baptized and confirmed in the catholic faith. I believed because I was told. Maybe I was naive for not questioning some of the unbelievable stories that are told in the pages of the bible. I do not have an answer as to why I believed for so long. There was hardly a non believer where I grew up. There was no reason not to believe in god. Everyone I knew believed that there was a god who loved them, who many years ago walked among men but has since stopped appearing in person for fear of being killed. In all this time and especially in my campus days I really searched for god. The religious group to which I belonged emphasized finding god in all things. I honestly tried to find god in the people I met in nature and so on but either god was busy to reveal himself to me or there wasn’t any.

It is ridiculous to read in posts by apologists that the are no ex-christians. I don’t know what they mean. Maybe it is their way of not acknowledging the possibility of apostasy.

I will honestly say here that I haven’t finished reading the bible or the Koran. I am in the first chapter of the Mahabharata, I have read the Gita, the gospel of Buddha. Am not interested in reading the book of Mormon. I hope to find time to read the Vedas. Anyone with enough time to search this blog will be able to find where I am with that exercise[ reading the bible]. I have been accused of reading the bible with a desire to find it in error. This is not the case. What however has happened is that whenever I read the bible,I find it full of absurdities that I can’t ignore. Whereas I agree that one has to be acquainted with a particular book to offer a critique of it, the much that I have read in it and about it is sufficient for me to make a judgement. The next question would be why I would believe what others have written about the bible instead of believing the bible authors. My response to this challenge is that one can only believe to the extent to which he is convicted and no other. In the many books, I have found what comports with common sense whereas some of the bible stories are contrary to common sense. The next challenge is that of exegesis, that the bible has to be read in a particular way, that in it is hidden layers and layers of lessons. This might be, I don’t deny it, my question has always been to what passages should I apply this way of reading.

Let me demonstrate.

You must have heard of the creationists of various strips. They argue that the earth or rather the universe was created in 6 days. Some of them call these 6 days god days and say they are longer than the standard day me and you mean when we talk of days. A few chapters later, they argue that the seventh day is the day of rest because on that day god rested. In one scenario, the days are god days and in the next referring to the same thing the counting has changed. I let those who have time to make excuses for the bible to do so.

The bible makes a claim that a god exists and that this god did several things. I don’t know what god is. I don’t know what it means to create, neither do I know the difference between that which is created and that which has always existed. I can’t begrudge those who believe the universe was created. I don’t know what evidence they are privy to.

There are those who have asked me to read the NT that maybe I would find something different. That the god portrayed there is different. I have read all the gospels. I have read several letters of Paul. I have read the book of revelation. I have read Hebrew and I am not convinced. If you think there is something am missing, or I could have missed in the good book, mention it. We will discuss it. I am open to persuasion. But we must have a deal; we will have a debate only if you are willing to consider that you could be wrong. Please don’t preach as well. If you have no argument or piece of evidence you wish me to consider, I would prefer we don’t waste time.

I have since considered several arguments for the existence of god and the responses to these arguments. I will state from the outset that I was never led to belief because I had considered the arguments for god, I only read these arguments in the period I was leaving the faith. If as a believer you think there is one I ought to consider, let us talk about it. I will allow you to explain to me why you think they are persuasive and to tell me what god they establish its existence.

I realize for the believer, the bible gives a guideline on how they should live their lives, what they should eat and not eat, what they should wear and so on. I want us to agree that morality has nothing to do with the gods so I propose that in our discussion you will not bring up the question of where I get my morals if I have no belief in god. You will, if you look through this blog, find what I have written on morality and you could at the same time read the argument in Euthyphro and maybe read Nietzsche’s On Genealogy of morals.

Let us also agree here that whether life has meaning or not has nothing to do with gods.

Let us consider this post a special invitation to the believing folk to present the case for believing in god. I am willing to listen to all you got to say. If you think there is a book I should read, I hope you can summarize what you think I will find in it. Life is short, it can’t be spent reading apologetics only 🙂

 

Blog break

Professor Coyne has shared a very interesting letter that I would like my christian friends to read, reread and understand and then think deeply about it. Maybe then we can have a conversation. I know some of you [theists] will say it is the opinion of one man, that is well and good and you are right, but what is important is for theists to realize that their beliefs are personal and they’d do everyone and themselves a lot of good if they kept them as such, that is, personal!

I get email: A Christian Christian!

Letter of note

SERVIUS SULPICIUS TO CICERO

Dear friends, here below is a letter written to Cicero by one of his friends on the loss of his daughter Tullia where he is told not to grieve for his daughter. I don’t know about you, but I find the letter truly inspiring and inspiring even if in some places it appears harsh. I think it is one such that would bring a smile to your face even in the face of grief and such calamity.

In the letters of Cicero as I had indicated in an earlier post, we see the political intrigues that were at play during his time, the jostling for power, the state of the economy and the relationship between master and slave, between teacher and tutor and especially how Cicero the man related with others whom he considered his appears as well as how he sees himself in all these.

The extant letters of Cicero show him to be a great courtesan, he appeals to the emotions of others for example when in his many letters he tells them he is honored that they love him. He also has a lot of confidence in his relationships with the powers that be and especially Pompey and Ceasar whom he talks of in very high esteem. 

Having said this, I share here the letter that I mention in the first paragraph and please do share your take on the letter.

WHEN I received the news of your daughter Tullia’s death, I was indeed much grieved and distressed as I was bound to be, and looked upon it as a calamity in which I shared. For, if I had been at home, I should not have failed to be at your side, and should have made my sorrow plain to you face to face. That kind of consolation involves much distress and pain, because the relations and friends, whose part it is to offer it, are themselves overcome by an equal sorrow. They cannot attempt it without many tears, so that they seem to require consolation themselves rather than to be able to afford it to others. Still I have decided to set down briefly for your benefit such thoughts as have occurred to my mind, not because I suppose them to be unknown to you, but because your sorrow may perhaps hinder you from being so keenly alive to them.

Why is it that a private grief should agitate you so deeply? Think how fortune has hitherto dealt with us. Reflect that we have had snatched from us what ought to be no less dear to human beings than their children–country, honour, rank, every political distinction. What additional wound to your feelings could be inflicted by this particular loss? Or where is the heart that should not by this time have lost all sensibility and learn to regard everything else as of minor importance? Is it on her account, pray, that you sorrow? How many times have you recurred to the thought–and I have often been struck with the same idea–that in times like these theirs is far from being the worst fate to whom it has been granted to exchange life for a painless death? Now what was there at such an epoch that could greatly tempt her to live? What scope, what hope, what heart’s solace? That she might spend her life with some young and distinguished husband? How impossible for a man of your rank to select from the present generation of young men a son-in-law, to whose honour you might think yourself safe in trusting your child! Was it that she might bear children to cheer her with the sight of their vigorous youth? who might by their own character maintain the position handed down to them by their parent, might be expected to sta~id for the offices in their order, might exercise their freedom in supporting their friends? What single one of these prospects has not been taken away before it was given? But, it will be said, after all it is an evil to lose one’s children. Yes, it is: only it is a worse one to endure and submit to the present state of things.

I wish to mention to you a circumstance which gave me no common consolation, on the chance of its also proving capable of diminishing your sorrow. On my voyage from Asia, as I was sailing from Aegina towards Megara, I began to survey the localities that were on every side of me. Behind me was Aegina, in front Megara, on the right Piraeus, on my left Corinth: towns which at one time were most flourishing, but now lay before my eyes in ruin and decay. I began to reflect to myself thus: “Hah! do we mannikins feel rebellious if one of us perishes or is killed–we whose life ought to be still shorter–when the corpses of so many towns lie in helpless ruin? Will you please, Servius, restrain yourself and recollect that you are born a mortal man?” Believe me, I was no little strengthened by that reflection. Now take the trouble, if you agree with me, to put this thought before your eyes. Not long ago all those most illustrious men perished at one blow: the empire of the Roman people suffered that huge loss: all the provinces were shaken to their foundations. If you have become the poorer by the frail spirit of one poor girl, are you agitated thus violently? If she had not died now, she would yet have had to die a few years hence, for she was mortal born. You, too, withdraw soul and thought from such things and rather remember those which become the part you have played in life: that she lived as long as life had anything to give her; that her life outlasted that of the Republic; that she lived to see you–her own father–praetor, consul, and augur; that she married young men of the highest rank; that she had enjoyed nearly every possible blessing; that, when the Republic fell, she departed from life. What fault have you or she to find with fortune on this score? In fine, do not forget that you are Cicero, and a man accustomed to instruct and advise others; and do not imitate bad physicians, who in the diseases of others profess to understand the art of healing, but are unable to prescribe for themselves. Rather suggest to yourself and bring home to your own mind the very maxims which you are accustomed to impress upon others. There is no sorrow beyond the power of time at length to diminish and soften: it is a reflexion on yea that you should wait for this period, and not rather anticipate that result by the aid of your wisdom. But if here is any consciousness still existing in the world below, such was her love for you and her dutiful affection for all her family, that she certainly does not wish you to act as you are acting. Grant this to her–your lost one! Grant it to your friends and comrades who mourn with you in your sorrow! Grant it to your country, that if the need arises she may have the use of your services and advice.

Finally–since we are reduced by fortune to the necessity of taking precautions on this point also–do not allow anyone to think that you are not mourning so much for your daughter as for the state of public affairs and the victory of others. I am ashamed to say any more to you on this subject, lest I should appear to distrust your wisdom. Therefore I will only make one suggestion before bringing my letter to an end. We have seen you on many occasions bear good fortune with a noble dignity which greatly enhanced your fame: now is the time for you to convince us that you are able to bear bad fortune equally well, and that it does not appear to you to be a heavier burden than you ought to think it. I would not have this to be the only one of all the virtues that you do not possess.

As far as I am concerned, when I learn that your mind is more composed, I will write you an account of what is going on here, and of the condition of th. province. Good-bye.