were you there before you were born?

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

Mark Twain

I know that title is a mouthful, but you will have to bear with it. But before we get into the meat of today’s topic, is it really the case, as implied in the quote from Mark Twain that we were dead for billions of years before we were born? Is to not exist and to be dead the same thing? To die, I think is only possible if we have lived. And therefore Mark Twain is only half right. And for this reason, there is some reason why many if not all of us fear death or is it dying. The thought of ceasing to be goes with all our hopes, desires, anxieties and even troubles.

How many of you remember what you ate for lunch last Monday. I will wait. Rebecca remembers life from when she was inside the womb. That is as close as it gets to before one was born. I don’t remember much of anything from the past anyway.And maybe it is a good thing. No, I didn’t have a bad childhood. It was just ordinary. School. Home. School. Just like it is for most people.

Do you know anyone with such memory or are you one of the 59 others with such memory and would you weigh in and tell us about it.

On happiness

Seasons Greetings everyone.

I hope you all are keeping well and that you have had a break from work, boring colleagues or for that matter away from annoying relatives.

While scouring the net, I saw a post about unwritten rules on happiness and what struck me as odd was that the poster reduced happiness to the little question of money writing things such as a 50 and 5000 shillings watch both tell time but can’t buy you more hours, which while being generally true is not what we think about when we buy stuff. He writes, for example

1. A $50 watch and a $5000 watch both can tell you the time. But neither can buy you more time. So focus on living each day and each moment fully. And that buys you time and happiness.

2. A $20,000 car and a $200,000 car can both take you to your destination. But neither can take you to your dream. So focus each day on getting a closer to that. And one day you’ll reach it.

Which all sound interesting but only on the surface. The day I meet a person buying an expensive watch because they hope to buy an additional 2 hours in a day, I will report. Until then, this advice while almost looking really deep is nonsense.

I read somewhere, I think it was in Courage to be disliked, that we are happy generally when we feel useful to others. Happiness is fleeting. And as such buying things cannot really solve the problem. We will just need the next big thing: we become like the city of Dubai always coming up with the next big thing to build.

Between contentment and happiness what should we pursue?

Happiness, like all gifts of Fortuna, are never constant. Today one is happy, tomorrow they are miserable. Maybe detachment is what we should seek and say with Arjuna or is it Krishna, that we should look with the same eye a mound of gold and a mound of Ash, a dog and the man who eats the dog.

Be happy. Seek detachment.

here is something I like

even if you don’t read the whole blog, this alone I find is quite good

In conversation with a believer

To be clear, I do respect anyone who does believe with integrity. Who does treat others with respect, those who do not share into the same belief. Or those who do not want to believe at all in any form of a higher being. Because, without that principle in place, the believer will not receive the respect he or she is craving.

I do not believe in any higher being or deity, nor do I adhere to any mystical belief system.

For me, the adherence to a “believe” is an absolute private matter! And in my opinion, has nothing to do with any religious affiliations. As I understand if a person needs the embrace of a religious group, there must be doubts about the validity of the held beliefs. If one is convinced that there is a deity in existence, then there is no need for spiritual support of that conviction. One is free to worship on one’s terms!

To me, a belief is personal, and like our imagination, are emotional responses of the individual. As far as I can count, there are currently around eight billion individual emotional responses possible on this planet.

As an atheist, I take responsibility for my entire existence!(Here is where we say AMEN-my own) I alone must account for my actions and my thoughts, including my demise into nothingness. For me, life is a one-off experience, and I feel lucky to have that experience. There is no one to blame for my bad choices, but myself. I am aware and respectful to the fact that I am part of a universal cycle; consequently, I treat my life with the utmost reverence. Of course, we all make mistakes and fail in our quest on occasion. There may be one religion I would call myself an adherent to, and that is the religion of universal love!

I am suspicious of people who are in need to convince others of the righteousness of their beliefs. To me, it proves they lack convictions!

On a more general note, if we human beings had decided a long time ago to adhere only to one single belief system, we would have died out by now! Because only through the challenges and variety of conflicting ideas has the human mind progressed to this day.

I miss my mother

This morning I caught myself shedding a tear for my mama. I miss her. It’s been 13 years since she became an ancestor and not a single day goes by when i don’t ask myself what would life be with her around here.

What would she think of my crazy cycling? Would I be cycling?

What would she think of the relationships we have all built? What we have become? Would she be proud of her grand kids? Daughters in law?

Would she have aged gracefully? She left us too soon. We were still children.

And this reminds me of Narcissus and Goldmund-

“But how will you die when your time comes, Narcissus, since you have no mother? Without a mother, one cannot love. Without a mother, one cannot die.”

Maybe when our time comes, we will not suffer a similar fate for we had a mother and we have loved.

I miss her, my mother, my teacher, my friend. She was such a giant in our lives and that space remains unfilled.

 

On religion

by Kurt Vonnegut

Palm Sunday is a collection of some interesting essays by Kurt Vonnegut that I would recommend to any one as summer, winter or whatever season reading. They are full of humour and every once in a while something to make you think. One of the essays is titled religion and I want to just share some passages that I found to be quite good.

His uncle Clemens, he tells us wrote

whoever entertains liberal views and chooses a consort that is captured by superstition risks his happiness

and I think this is true for both men and women.

The portion I liked best is this farewell from the same uncle addressed to friends and opponents & to next of kin present to deliver his body to the earth

Do not mourn! I have now arrived at the end of the course of life, as you will eventually arrive at your. I am at rest and nothing will ever disturb my deep slumber.

I am disturbed by no worries, no grief, no fear, no wishes, no passions, no pains, no reproaches from others. All is infinitely well with me.

I departed from life with loving, affectionate feelings for mankind; and I admonish you: Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally, and if they would contribute mutually to each others’ welfare.

This world is not a vale of sorrows if you will recognize discriminatingly what is truly excellent in it; and if you will avail yourself of it for mutual happiness ad well being. Therefore, let us explain as possible, and particularly at the departure from life, that we base our faith on firm foundations, on Truth for putting into action our ideas which do not depend on fables and ideas which science has long ago proven as false.

We also wish knowledge, goodness, sympathy, mercy, wisdom, justice and truthfulness. We also strive for and venerate all of those attributes from which the fantasy of man has created a God. We also strive for the virtues of temperance, industriousness, friendship, and peace. We believe in pure ideas based on truth and justice.

Therefore, however, we do not believe, cannot believe, that a thinking being existed for millions and millions of years, and eventually and finally out of nothing – through a word- created this world, or rather this earth with its firmament, its sun and moon and stars.

We cannot believe that this being formed a human being from clay and breathed into it an immortal soul, and then allowed this human being to procreate millions, and then delivered them all into unspeakable misery, wretchedness and pain for all eternity. Nor can we believe that the descendants of one or two human beings will inevitably become sinners; nor do we believe that through the criminal executions of an innocent one may we be redeemed.

Quoting Bertrand Russell famous declaration that in case he met god, he would say to him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information” that he would, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”

On the White House prayer breakfasts (and now we have our own version of national prayer days) he writes the

lethal ingredient in those breakfasts wasn’t prayer. It was a virulent new strain of hypocrisy which did everyone in.

And I agree with him when he writes

I don’t think anybody ever dreaded hell as much as most of us dread the contempt of our fellow men.

To end this already long post, I will add one last thing, about community. He says if you are going to be a leader with a mission to help us find an amazing future, then you should consider helping us find an intelligent and imaginative way back to some of the more humane and comforting institutions of the past. Say extended families for example. He argues the nuclear family doesn’t provide nearly enough companionship.

So, my friends, go and be lonesome no more.

Happy weekend everyone.


and while we are still here, I hope no one who reads this blog also believes in this

Unbelievable? Chapter 4

On human purpose.

This chapter could have been titled C. S Lewis and nothing would have been lost.

It starts by the story of a woman, Jennifer Fulwiler, who had grown up atheist and when she had her first baby, she, in her own words,

I looked down and thought: What is this baby? And I thought, well, from a pure atheist, materialist perspective he is a randomly evolved collection of chemical reactions. And I realized if that’s true then all the love that I feel for him is nothing more than chemical reactions in our brain. And I looked down at him and I thought: that’s not true. It’s not the truth.

It is possible that there are people who look at life this way. They see a beautiful painting and say what is this but random brush strokes on a fabric on and on, which would be one correct way of looking at the painting or the baby in this case. But the baby or even painting, can be looked at as a labour of love.

I said the alternate title of this chapter is C.S Lewis because Justin can’t help himself from referring to him in almost every page. Lewis’ conversion to Christianity and his works in defense of that faith such mere Christianity are quoted as evidence that without god, our lives have no purpose, no meaning no value.

Justin tells us life only has meaning if you believe in Jesus. We will get to the question of Jesus later. For our purposes, I will just say it seems there are billions in the world whose lives have no meaning because they are not Christians.