"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Socrates

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Facebook Obsession

Last week I watched a documentary about how a few Harvard students started a website, Facemash. The name eventually changed to Facebook, initially starting as an online yearbook for Harvard students. One of the founders, Mark Zuckerberg, said early on that he was hoping for six or seven hundred people to sign up. Before he knew it, his website was nearing one million members. In 2008, there was one hundred million users, and today there are more than six hundred million. Half of those users access Facebook.com daily; a business now estimated to be worth fifty billion dollars.

Until last night, the appeal to Facebook eluded me. I didn't understand why so many people were interested in staying connected with people they never bothered contacting before. I was confused as to why people spent time updating their "wall" with meaningless blips of information. But last night, when I signed up, selected my profile picture, modified the settings to my liking, and searched through thousands of people, I couldn't help but feel energized. Why? Why would someone feel a sort of rush from Facebooking? Here's my thought.

When I was fourteen years old, a computer game was released. It was called The Sims, and for a while, I was hooked. For anyone not familiar to the game, you live out the life of a computer generated character, having a career, buying stuff, building relationships, etc. Today there is a more popular game called World of Warcraft. The idea is similar, but with WoW you play with real people over the internet in a fantasy world. How is this related to Facebook?

I believe Facebook enables us to create a super alter ego, far surpassing any Sim character or Warrior. With Facebook, users have the ability to present to the world the precise image they want others to have of them, with complete control. You can create a super you, revealing only what you want. I'm certainly not saying every user has this goal in mind, or that it's necessarily a negative thing. I find it enthralling. I am fascinated by the amount of interest and time spent communicating using this sort of Facebook avatar.

But, living in this world of Facebook and spending lots of time as the profile one's created, I have to ask, are we creating our profile or is our profile creating us?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Question For Atheists

While I could ask the timeless question of "where did atoms come from", an atheist could easily retaliate with the question of "where did God come from". Whether you believe in a Divine Creator or simply physical matter, one must have a belief to this question that cannot be answered. So my question is this; if this physical world is all there is, what's the point? Would you not want to spend every minute of every day trying to get high, be it through drugs, sex, alcohol, exercise, food, fueling your ego, etc.? Why would you not rob a bank, conduct unethical business to get rich, or kill a person because they upset you? This leads to morals.

I would have to imagine atheists would not believe we were born with a "moral code", but that society has imposed parameters based on majority rule. If so, are you saying we are just byproducts of our environment? The year is 2011. The big bang, evolution, and physical science are the primary topics taught in our biology classrooms today. But if consciousness, divinity, meditation, and creation were taught, would you still be an atheist? Not to say the Truth would change, as the Truth needs no one to believe it. But would your beliefs be different? Years ago, it was preposterous that the Earth could be round. Schools taught the Earth was flat. Needless to say, they were wrong.

But an atheist may argue that with years of study, we've learned a great deal about science, discrediting anyone who would believe in a Divine Creator. However, in agreeing that science is based on an anomaly that cannot be tested or proved (the origin of the universe), how can physical science be trusted at all? So, if you are an atheist, a byproduct of what you've learned through society, enjoy your senses as best you can, and try not think too much about what you've just read.

Cogito ergo sum

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Curse

Example 1: Restaurant

"Oh this meal was wonderful. Based on the reviews I read, this restaurant far exceeded my expectation."

"I'm not sure what Jodie was talking about. I didn't think this was very good at all!"

Example 2: Travel Destination

"This place is beautiful, just like the postcards."

"It's so windy here, not quite what I was expecting."

Example 3: Movie

"I don't know what the critics were thinking. I thought this was pretty good."

"I guess to each his own, but I don't think this quite lived up to the hype."

Above are a few examples of how opinions of others, photographs, and media disable us from seeing things with a blank slate. Ever since we were born, we've been under a curse that prohibits us from seeing and experiencing what is. We inadvertently compare the original with the perception others have shared. Whether in the form of an opinion, picture, or image, nearly everything has been replicated and widely distributed to the masses. Is there anything we can experience without a preset expectation? Can we see, feel, hear, smell, or touch anything with a clean mental slate?

This is the curse The Bible says started with Adam and Eve:
Genesis 2:17 "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
As we all know, they ate the fruit.

Everything in the world has a label, understood by agreements we share using sounds or symbols. If I were to show you a picture of a dog, you would have a feeling toward that. If I were to write the word hate or love, you could understand what I mean through those written symbols. But, what you feel about a dog would most likely differ from what someone else would feel based on the individual's experiences. If someone's dog just died, the image of what's scientifically known as Canis Lupis Familaris, could make that person feel sad. For someone who's been attacked by a dog, that person could feel scared. And for someone who enjoys dogs, they would most likely get a good feeling by seeing that picture.

Everything we see holds a meaning based on outside influences. The word Hawaii could make you think of the beach or warm weather. A picture of a cross could be related to Jesus Christ, or a pentagram may cause someone to think of an occult. If you were to see a movie, you may have have a certain expectation by comparing that film to what critics say. Same with restaurants, travel destinations, and everything else. So can we ever have an experience without an expectation? Can we ever see something without giving a label based on what we've learned? Can we ever see the Truth if we are unable to let go of what others have told us?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can Humans Create Energy?

Energy. Energy has been the driving force of existence for eternity. Whether in the form of food, water, or oil, energy is required to fuel something or someone. There have always been wars and conflict over energy and energy sources, because energy is not something that can be created. It is limited, with only so much to go around. Going back to the laws of Thermodynamics, what goes in must come out, and what goes out must come in. Scientists have studied this and continue searching for zero point energy. But as they say, nothing in the world is free. And I agree, nothing in this world is free.

There are some people who believe that what you see is all you get, only believing in the physical realm. But many people with different religions, ethnicities, and societal influences believe there is something more. Many people believe in something called a soul. This soul, spirit, consciousness, or whatever else you want to call it cannot be explained, but we know it's there. Is it possible that the "soul" is from another realm? Is it possible that the something or someone deeper we feel is from a different world or level of existence? If so, does that "other world" need to adhere to the same rules we do in our physical world?

We all want and need energy, and according to what we know, energy isn't free and we can't get it for nothing. There's always been conflict over food, water, oil, and other forms of physical energy, but we also fight wars for, what I'll call, "spiritual energy". If someone verbally tears you down and you feel bad, in turn, they feel good. Or do they? Based on what we know, the energy given off by those being put down has to go somewhere. This is why there are bullies and people being bullied. There's always been people to bring you down, but there are also people who lift you up.

For the bully, they feed off of the energy put off by their prey, but if "spiritual energy" doesn't necessarily need to follow physical rules and laws, is there another way? Can energy be lost in the other world? More importantly, can we create energy out of thin air through compassion and helping others? Perhaps if energy was unlimited, there would never again be war, famine, or reason to mistreat others.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nothing is What it Seems

In reading the title of this post, you may think I'm saying that what things appear as are truly something else. But when saying nothing is what it seems, I mean that what appears as reality is actually nothing.

What is matter? One may say that matter is something you can hold in your hand, view with a microscope, or throw around on a field. But the only reason we believe this is through our five senses, for without these we could not experience, and without experience, matter could not exist.

If someone is born deaf, sound is not a reality, but more of a belief based on trusting others who claim they can hear. Does sound exist? Yes, but only because we have ears and neurons which transmit the information to our brain. Looking at just sound, can anyone hear the same thing? While we may actually hear an identical sound, what is heard by you is no longer interpreted identically to what is heard by me. There are too many medians (ear drums, neurons, brain receptors), but there is also another variable. Based on (most likely) a combination of our genes and life experiences, what may sound pleasing to you may not sound pleasing to me.

So does anything truly exist? Does matter exist? Do our senses exist? These questions technically cannot be answered, because without our consciousness and the consciousness we know as matter, human beings and anything else could not experience. But what we do know is that we all experience.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. -Albert Einstein

Friday, January 14, 2011

Are Things Getting Worse?

Tsunamis, flooding, earthquakes, shootings, war, famine, oil spills, failing economies, and birds falling from the sky...dead! With numerous reports daily of natural and man-made disasters, it feels as though the world is coming to an end. It seems things just keep getting worse and worse. But are they?

For every time you get in the car, there is a chance of an accident. The more you drive, the more chances for the worst to occur. For every time you swim in the ocean, there's a chance of getting bit by a shark. The more you swim, the higher the chance. For every person born, there's a chance that person could grow up to be a serial killer. The greater number of people born, the more potential murderers we have. So are things getting worse? I would have to say so, but (for man-made tragedies) is it just because of more people?

But what about natural disasters? Are they getting worse? Information. In the age we live, information is more available than ever before. Is the world getting worse, or are we just becoming more informed?

These questions lead my thinking to what's known as "The Matthew Effect". This term is taken from The Bible- Matthew 25:29 "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." Could this apply to information? In other words, are things getting worse due to the negative we see on the news? Are we creating our own destiny by expecting the worst?

If this is the case, I can only assume things will get worse, exponentially. Could this be reversed by raising a new generation of people who see good, therefore are good? If we only saw the positive of the world, why would anyone expect negative to occur?

Living in a World of Impossibility

The first law of Thermodynamics states, "The internal energy of an isolated system is constant". In other words, nothing cannot create something, and something cannot be reduced to nothing. This is physics. It's the conservation of energy and is not something philosophical or debatable, but factual.

This being the case, how are we here? What is this existence all about? How did we get here? What is here?

We live in a physical world; a world based on the laws of physics. This is what we can see, study, test, and agree upon as fact. It is for this reason we must assume that the energy on this physical level of existence always has been, and always will be. This brings me to the question of Absolute Truth. Is there an an Absolute Truth?

This again is an answer that is not open for discussion, as nothing could exist without an Absolute Truth. But can someone know this Truth. No. It is impossible to know the Absolute Truth of our origin on this planet, and the origin of this entire realm of existence containing what we call the Universe. It is impossible because in the world we know, we have laws of physics; something cannot come from nothing.

This brings me to the question of God. The term G.O.D. has been used so much in our modern society it has lost any meaning it could have once held. Therefore, I will use the term Creator for that energy that always has been and always will be. I believe in a Creator, as does everyone including Atheists, defined as a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. If a collection of atoms were to explode in outer space, you need to make some assumptions, and accept that atoms once created what we now know as the Universe. Looking at those believing in a "supreme being", something or someone created what we now call planet Earth and the Universe. This belief also requires assumptions, as any belief would.

Based on this common sense thinking, it is undeniable that no matter what you believe about this level of existence, assumptions are required. Theories. Beliefs. But I ask, if the Universe created the laws of physics, who or what created morals?

Vacation Time

“Where are you folks from?” my wife asked the family who had reached the end of the hike just minutes after us.

“We’re from Vancouver, Washington. How about you?” the woman replied.

“We’re from Kihei, but we’re initially from Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s funny, we’ve lived here for nearly five years and have never taken this hike. It’s beautiful up here!” my wife said as we gazed into a valley of the West Maui Mountains.

“We do the same thing”, the woman responded. “I can’t tell you the last time we’ve been to Mount St. Helens, and there are so many trails we’ve never bothered taking back home. I guess that’s just the way it is.”

It’s interesting how when there is limited time in a foreign place we want to do as much as we can. Why don’t we always act this way? Why do we neglect the opportunities for adventure at home, yet take advantage of every minute while on vacation?

There are many theories I have to this question. For one, time at home is related to work, chores, bills, etc., so we relate our place of residence with these things and not adventure/fun. Another is that we feel we could always do the things at home; like time is unlimited. Why do something unique when you always have the opportunity? I have another interesting theory on why we take advantage of every waking moment while away yet stay pleasantly engulfed in our daily routine at the place we call home. I believe when we are away, away from everything we’ve ever known, mainly pertaining to those we know, we have the opportunity to be someone else; someone we’d prefer to be. In a place where everyone is a stranger, we no longer feel imprisoned by the image we give to those we work with, visit with, and have business with. We’re able to separate from the responsibility of upholding whatever images others have of us.

But it’s most likely a combination of things with many variables. Plus I would have to imagine that each individual would treat vacation and travel differently. Some would prefer to visit the same place over and over again, while others would opt to constantly spend their time on holiday someplace different. What affects this? Why do some prefer changes, while others prefer the tranquility of expectancy?

Regardless of all else, I believe that very few of us truly view life as irreplaceable, and I would argue that even those who state they understand the permanency of their years on Earth can’t fully grasp the concept. How can you believe in death when no living person has ever experienced it themselves? Death is incomprehensible, but vacation ending is a reality most everyone has experienced. Ironically, only one is inevitable.