Thursday, 26 April 2012
Friday, 20 April 2012
I want to show you something. You open the door into a large room and see everything inside is covered by a large dust sheet. There is nothing to tell you what lies beneath the sheet, your only clues are the undulations and peaks of the fabric. The lie of the land. Now suppose you are a fly. You take wing across the room and alight wherever you may but still you cannot detect what is below the fabric. You can walk on it but you cannot lift it, nor can you see or drill through it. You sniff, taste, listen, touch and look but what the veil conceals is remote. Being a fly you don't find this strange. Understood as a metaphor the scenario portrays the separation between total reality and the world known to our five senses.
Helen Keller was famously both blind and deaf and with only three senses you have to wonder what her locked in world was like. Not like ours, yet in a similar fashion our five senses would give us no knowledge of an unsensed larger reality. On TV I saw a shark that was sensitive to the muscle electricity of its prey, if that were us we would be able to find each other in the dark and round the corner too. Alas we're as blind to electric fields as we are to magnetism so there are six and seven sort of senses we don't have. On the other hand we do know of them. As evolved organisms biologists tell us we need only be aware of enough of around us to accomplish "the three Fs", to feed, flee and reproduce. We also have a sense of time and space though we have no sense organs for these, they appear to be built into our brains.
So a three sense reality, a five sense reality and more, but what the total reality might be we don't know. Science takes us into the unknown but it can't lead us to experiences beyond our senses can it? Well who knows because with physicists trying to unite the cosmologically large with the sub atomic small they have devised a 12 or 13 dimensional reality. Historically where science leads technology follows so through our five given senses we might one day be admitted to a larger reality by means of a gadget.
Like Helen Keller who gained a sense through a vibrating balloon touched to her lips and so learned to hear, speak and communicate, and become a professor. I want a gadget like that because I want to break through the veil of unknowing and see the furniture beneath. If there is any, assuming our brains are up to it, which they may not be.
Friday, 13 April 2012
There's a comic play by NF Simpson called 'One Way Pendulum'. A defendant stands in the dock with his alibi shredded, the judge has just asked what the chances are of him coming out of a Sainsbury's at ten twenty two in the morning on a bright sunny Tuesday just as a number 27 mounts the pavement? Extreme in the least and so an obvious lie. Guilty! For a moment I had to think. Got it, every event is a unique event. What are the odds of finding a randomised pack of cards in any one particular order? 52 X 51 X 50 X 49….. or ten with sixty eight noughts, more than the number of atoms in the galaxy. Yet more likely to happen than what you are doing at this moment.
Need a rest? Who was it said, 'You are an Englishman and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life'? My headmaster, but he was quoting Sir Cecil Rhodes. Odds on you're English too. We may laugh but Rhodes had a point, life is a lottery and we could have been dealt a poor hand indeed but for the accident of birth. For a start we did better than the founder of Rhodesia and de Beers did, by popping up in late 20th century Britain and not the 19th where he hung out.
Nor do we have to hide our sexuality as he had to or suffer from consumption and die before fifty. Hooray! On the other hand we aren't one of the richest men the world has ever seen. Boo! Anyway, when my headmaster quoted Rhodes like any patriotic prig I believed him, after all wasn't half the map red, hadn't we won the world war again, didn't our planes crowd the skies and the Royal Navy plough the oceans? And we had the atom bomb too. I thought it a miracle and though I suspected something wasn't quite right I couldn't put my finger on it. Until things began to pile up, too late I learned the Americans had all the money, the French had the painters, the Germans the composers and the Russians could dance the arse off anybody. I felt cheated. We weren't top dog after all. I was born a hundred years too late.
Back to the man in court and the unlikeliness of our being in any one place at any one time. Like being born. I wasn't born during the Black Death or the stone age or a primitive tribe stuck up the Amazon, and nor were you. Homo Sapiens emerged some 250,000 years ago and since then hundreds if not thousands of millions of us have lived horrible lives and met horrible deaths, the whole Hobbesian nightmare - nasty, brutish and short. And on top of the happy accident of the when and the where of my birth I had the luck of a safe home, sufficient food and loving parents, and the fairy on top of the icing was I ticked all the boxes, healthy, handsome, bright and white too. Infinite good fortune and not of my making.
Phew! Through by the skin of my teeth. What are the chances? Life was mine to throw away. 'And when you go up to Heaven,' the headmaster concluded, 'you will find St Peter himself behind the stumps'. Well naturally.
Friday, 6 April 2012
Easter, the spring celebration of birth and regeneration with hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, funny bunnies and a long weekend too. Whoopee! 'What you doing for Easter Jesus? Oh just hanging about.' The christians stuck it on the Romans but they got their retaliation in first. 'Put your feet together mate, I've only got one nail left.' And he obliged, gentle Jesus meek and mild, except when kicking the money changers out of the temple and running pigs off a cliff.
Spring, the death of winter and resurrection. Here's how to calculate when the festival occurs, it's the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Simples! 'Spring is sprung, The grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is, Some say the bird is on the wing, But that's absurd, Surely the wing is on the bird?'
Absurd. Easter like xmas, when people go to cold stone buildings and do a lot of mumbling. (Thank you Eddie Izzard.) Me I can't bear to see that bleeding man on a cross, I never could, it frightened me as a boy, but then I was brought up in a time when death, blood and suffering wasn't the norm. He died for our sins even though we weren't born and yet to commit any, not that there's anything quite so simple minded as sin. No, he died because the established religious zealots wanted him out of the way. He was treading on their turf. Nail him up.
Mr Steiner came to a New York advertising agency and asked them for an original poster to promote the sale of the nails he manufactured. The creative department got to work and produced something to their liking. When Mr Steiner saw it he held his head and tore his hair. It showed Jesus on the cross and one Roman soldier saying to another, 'For a good job well done use Steiner's nails!' No, no, no it wouldn't do, he would lose all his goyim customers! They had to try again. A week later Mr Steiner was called back to see the new poster. He fainted. It showed an empty cross in the foreground and two Roman soldiers pursuing a half naked man across the distant hills. One soldier was shouting to the other, 'This wouldn't have happened if we used Steiner's nails!'