Posted by spritzophrenia on December 16, 2011
Christopher Hitchens is dead. Long live… No, can we please not do that. Let’s tell it like it is. Hitchens, like all men of sense and reason™ was an atheist and a materialist. In other words, there is no God, and all that exists is the physical world we can measure with Hadron colliders, molecular resonance imaging, Hubble telescopes and schoolboy chemistry sets.
But he will be remembered! Briefly. For about ten years, maybe twenty, those who knew him or once read his columns may pause and say, “Ah, Hitchens. Damn fine writer.” Perhaps our children or grandchildren may find a dusty copy of “God Is Not Great” on our shelves and scan it curiously. More than likely, physical books will have gone the way of the cassette tape and be little more than a historical curiosity. Any surviving data of Hitchens’ will no doubt be lost in the tsunami of electronic porn, advertising and fiddle-faddle that passes itself off as “information” these days.
He will mean nothing. It may be small comfort to say that he never did mean anything, on a cosmic scale. Even on an earthly scale, he was little more than a ripple in the puddle of humanity. In 10,000 years Christopher Hitchens will be forgotten, like Madonna, Bill Clinton, Osama bin Laden and so many others who seem so terribly important to us now. If he is lucky he may rate a footnote in some obscure cyber-history of the early 21st century, to be catalogued and filed with the billion other PhD history theses published that year. If we haven’t already eradicated ourselves as a species, of course.
His dust will stick resolutely to the gravity well of a small and once-beautiful planet, perhaps fertilising a meagre plot of weeds. In a billion years a few atoms that once made up part of his spleen may be blown far across the galaxy as the dying sun ejects matter into eternity.
Sorry Hitch, you’re nothing. And the only reason we eulogise you is to help us avoid the knowledge that so too, are we.
Front Line Assembly | Everything Must Perish
Posted in atheism, God, god, Meaning of Life, ontology | Tagged: atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Everything Must Perish, Front Line Assembly, nihilism, Sorry Hitch You're Nothing | 12 Comments »
Posted by spritzophrenia on November 16, 2010
Yesterday I asked if Muslims would find the movie “Four Lions” funny? Well, at least some Muslims do:
Humour allows us to conquer our own fears of terrorism and terrorists, and allows us to feel brave. We see the human weaknesses of our opponents, instead of buying into the myths of an invincible robotic terror machine. The fear created by the myths – whether perpetuated by the bin Laden’s or the Bush’s of this world – is itself part of the terrorisation process. If we can defuse the myth, we can get down to tackling the criminals at the heart of the violence and destruction…
…In a global Gallup poll of 50,000 Muslims across 35 countries, the results showed that of the seven per cent of Muslims who said the 9/11 attacks were justified, absolutely none quoted the Quran to support their view. Again, it is politics, not religion.” From Can Terror Be Funny? at AltMuslim. More Muslim commentary here and a good US-based review here. (Some spoilers in these.)
On to another movie on the same topic, much more serious and equally important. Released in 2005, I think Paradise Now is one of the most thought-provoking movies made. (Along with “Dead Man Walking”, “Milk”, “Food Inc”, “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Lord of War”.) Don’t worry, it’s not boringly didactic.
The movie follows Said and Khaled, two Palestinian friends who are recruited to be suicide bombers. This may be the last 48 hours of their lives. Drama, humanity, evil, love, romance, tragedy, comedy, it’s got it all. The movie is not really about the Israel/Palestine question, it merely assumes this as the background to the question of whether killing others in protest is valid. Perhaps even realism, not just humour, can take some of the scariness away. The film is not simplistic, and without giving away too much it portrays both the terrorist and pacifist points of view well. Both men and Khaled’s girlfriend have doubts, but I won’t tell you how it ends.
I was stunned by it.
Independent trailer for Paradise Now:
Have You Seen It? What do you think?
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Posted in ethics, hardship, Islam, life, Meaning of Life, Sociology | Tagged: cinema, film, Islamaphobia, Islamic terrorist, movie, Paradise Now, Paradise Now A Powerful Movie, peace, suicide bomb, terrorism | 4 Comments »
Posted by spritzophrenia on November 5, 2010
I came across a very cool little book yesterday, of “fond farewells, deathbed diatribes and exclamations upon expiration”. Some are tragic, some are uplifting, some are plain ironic:
“I wish I had drunk more champagne”
John Maynard Keynes
The British Keynes was not your average economist. Keynes, whose eponymous theories influenced Roosevelt’s New Deal and the rise of the European welfare state, was also a member of the famously liberated Bloomsbury group. He was politically liberal and sexually liberated, sleeping with many of the bohemian men in his circle and, of course, drinking champagne. Of that, and government spending, Keynes thought there could never be enough.
“I’ve Never Felt Better”
After suffering a heart attack in 1939 at the age of 57, “The King of Silent Hollywood” (Robin Hood, The Thief of Baghdad, The Mark of Zorro) reassured an attendant while resting at home, then went back to sleep and died that night. Fairbanks was an athletic movie star known for his charm, good looks, and— apparently— an inability to gauge his physical condition.
“The couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist— “
General John Sedgwick
General John Sedgwick was a corps commander of the Army of the Potomac who enjoyed a reputation among his men as a good-humored guy and relentless optimist. At the Battle of the Wilderness, while other men were diving for cover from Confederate sharpshooters, Sedgwick scoffed at the danger, stood up, and caught a bullet in his face.
Some “last words” in the book are official goodbyes, written before the author popped their clogs. Do you have any final words planned? I hope mine will be “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
? What do you think?
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Posted in humor, humour, Meaning of Life | Tagged: death, Funny Famous Last Words, humor, humour | 9 Comments »
Posted by spritzophrenia on October 1, 2010
This is not a post about going bald. It’s part two of a short series on suffering and spirituality. Here I mention a common Christian “literalist” objection to theistic evolution:
Doesn’t Genesis teach there was no pain and suffering until the fall, and therefore evolution cannot have been the mechanism?
Christians, Jews and to a lesser extent Muslims, all take their origin story from Genesis. At a particular point in the tale the human race is flourishing and then everything goes wrong. Humans make Promethean choices that separate them from God, and like all choices there are consequences, much like choosing to jump from a cliff. Christians call this “the fall”.
If you’re not familiar, here’s the whole passage. Among other things, in verse 16,
To the woman God said,
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.
~ Gen 3:16
In a literal interpretation— the approach anti-evolutionists normally favour— this clearly implies pain before the fall. Note the phrase “greatly increase”. In other words, there was pain before the human representatives made their choice, it just wasn’t so bad. On a literal interpretation, pain was around even in Eden.
And that’s really the only point I want to make today.
By the way, according to Galileo Goes to Jail, and Other Myths about Science and Religion from my public library, the church did NOT oppose anesthesia in childbirth based on passages like these. I also noticed that male domination (the husband ruling over the woman) only came in AFTER the fall. Take that, “women must submit to men” theology. Gee, maybe literalist interpretations of the Torah aren’t so bad after all? (Noting my post suggesting this whole section, like much of early Genesis, appears to be poetic in form, and reading those sections ‘literally’ is probably a mistake.)
There are some people who rather enjoy a bit of pain (see below).
More on the problem of pain tomorrow
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What Do You Think?
Depeche Mode sing Strange Love:
I give in, to sin…
Will you take the pain… I give to you?
Pain, will you return it?
Also check out the great
Pain and Suffering remix (Replicant tribute)
Anyone like to guess the where the title of today’s post comes from?
How do you think about physical pain and the meaning of life?
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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, god, hardship, Judaism, Meaning of Life | Tagged: biblical feminism, biology, creation vs evolution, creationism, Depeche Mode, Depeche Mode Strange Love, Depeche Mode video, evolution, feminism, Genesis interpretations, Genesis pain before the fall, pain, problem of evil, problem of pain, theistic evolution, theodicy | 11 Comments »
Posted by spritzophrenia on June 23, 2010
I’m thinking about benevolence. And compassion.
Early this morning the sky is grey and the Snapper card on the bus doesn’t work. I have only $4.80 left to my name. Just enough for the coffee which I’m hoping to treat myself to before the long walk home. I don’t tell the driver that. I’m too embarrassed.
I offer to pay cash and she tells me not to worry, “It’s the machine’s fault”. She gifts me a free ride into town.
I’m mulling this over as I leave my appointment and walk through the gentle rain. It’s so light it feels like prickles of mist on my face. Pleasant sensations.
Compassion is a word that Buddhists use a lot. It’s one of the really good things about Gautama’s “middle path”. I want to have more compassion for others, and even more so, for myself.
Tiredly trudging along Willis Street, I’m conflicted. I really owe a gift to the couple who let me live with them when I needed help. Even if I buy a card from the thrift shop I won’t have enough for coffee. I decide I want to do the right thing, and buy the card. Ironically, the only blank card there has a photograph of a full cup of coffee. At the counter the friendly Chinese New Zealander gives me a large silver candle with my purchase. “We’re giving them away to celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year”. “That’s right,” I think, “we’ve just had the turn of the winter solstice.” I’m amazed and grateful. I love candles.
I walk into a trendy Cuba Mall café, planning to ask them what my remaining $2.80 will get me. “Not much”, is the answer I’m expecting. Wonderfully, a long black is only $2.50. I was hoping for a latté, but that will be fine. I put my remaining silver, copper and brass on the counter, explaining I want to check if I have a few cents left in my EFTPOS account.
“Don’t worry about it mate, sort us out another time.” He gives me a discount latté, again unasked.
Now I’m sitting at a comfortable wooden table, feeling serene. Thankyou Cafe Plum.
Sometimes the search for meaning can seem long and hard. I’m not suggesting ‘the universe provides’. I don’t believe that. Whatever our beliefs, I think we can all agree the world could use a little more compassion.
When I’m not listening to Deicide I’m listening to Carbon Based Lifeform‘s eponymous Hydroponic Garden I cannot rate this album highly enough.
That thing about ‘the Universe’? I’m going to come back to it in a future post.
Feelings? What do you think?
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Posted in agnostic, ethics, Meaning of Life, personal development, spirituality | 32 Comments »
Posted by spritzophrenia on June 3, 2010
Post number 56! It’s about time I said more about this book I’m supposedly working on. Haven’t got too far with it on paper yet, it’s all in my head. I’m a little distracted with ideas for novels, too, whereas this will be non-fiction. As I’ve said, Spritzophrenia is to help flesh out ideas for my writing among other things. Your comments will help a lot with this.
A major theme will be the “meaning of life”. Cue all the humorous lines from Monty Python and The Hitchhiker’s Guide. While genuinely funny, what these works do is display an underlying cynicism; they suggest the question is absurd and unknowable, therefore the quest is laughable. But I digress.
Of course, the number one question readers will want answered is this: Yes, I do think I’ve discovered the meaning of life. I do believe I have a satisfying answer for the big question. That’s for another time. For now, some thoughts around the topic.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide is right in one major respect: The question itself needs some unpacking first. What do we mean when we ask “what is the meaning of life?” I think meaning must be distinguished from purpose. The problem is, “what is the purpose of life” is much easier to talk about than the “meaning”. The purpose of life is either “there is none” or “what the creator intends”, depending on one’s religious point of view.
However, the “meaning” of life is something felt personally, it’s something that I think must be apprehended or ‘felt’. By analogy, if I’m shown a mountain view and have the concept of beauty explained, I won’t really understand until I feel or experience beauty for myself. Meaning is the same, it’s something that has to be felt. This is not to say meaning is irrational or has no logical base. Far from it. However, the logical side of meaning doesn’t truly satisfy, it’s the personal experience of meaning that we seek when we seek the meaning of life.
I have much more on this, but will let it out in small doses. I’m a little concerned that unpacking the question in good ole philosophical style will be dull and beyond many people. Guess I’ll have to deal with that when the time comes. What do you think? Will the general reader sit through this kinda stuff?
What do you think?
Posted in Meaning of Life | Tagged: Meaning of life | 6 Comments »