Friday, 22 February 2013

Tobacco and Illusions


My fellow complex arrangement of stardust (you, reader), as I put down my ever receding friend, my C10H14N2 inhaler, my lovely glowing cigarette, and take the troubling love to think, I cannot still refrain from complex emotions. The wonder experienced from the process which this poison (nicotine is quite toxic - more than arsenic - 60 mg for a 70kg adult is lethal) of pleasure enters my bronchioles, alveoli, blood, brain; triggering a whitewash of dopamine to ensure my brief contentedness and to encourage more and more more more! The terrifying image in my mind of the tissue of my lungs literally blackening, and the surface area so necessary for the intake of oxygen slowly decreasing. Not to mention the increasing chance of a mutation in the tissue, commonly called, well, cancer. Also though, slight welling emotions as I remember some of the great smokers; Christopher Hitchens “There have been moments of reverie, wreathed in smoke and alone with a book, and moments of conversation, perfumed with ashtrays and cocktails and decent company, which I would not have exchanged for a year of ordinary existence.”, Oscar Wilde “A cigarette is the perfect type of perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”.  Though, ofcourse, I recognise this as sentiment. My bias is personal, and I am not immune to it though I would never inflict it on others. Besides, to you it is probably just meaningless babble, unless ofcourse these roots of influence are as unwilling to be doused in pesticide and torn from your skull as mine seem. Not that I have tried.  The constant and, I would add, necessary task of outgrowing illusions, or, such as free will, at least acknowledging them is lifelong and brings much pain aswell as enlightened doubt and engrossing curiosity and fascination. So I frustrate myself enough to know the research, the dangers and the inevitabilities of my very much ‘T-minus’ habit. And as I write that very statement I cannot help think of an anecdote involving Stephen Fry and Tom Stoppard at a dinner party where an American woman in disbelief of Stoppard’s rigorous habit of inhaling and chewing simultaneously, felt enough to say, “And you’re so intelligent!”, “Excuse me?”, “Knowing those things are going to kill you,” she said, “still you do it.” To which he replied, “How differently I might behave, if immortality were an option.” I think that that particular sentiment seems particularly fluent while my lungs are at this moment filled. I can’t write without an ashplant, I cannot read for very long without one either. Nor does scotch taste as good, conversation sound as interesting. Though much, I have read, is the same with all addiction and it is not always a pleasure to be always tied to a substance. I do not oppose any laws eradicating smoking in enclosed spaces, where the effect is mutual but the habit not. Nor, I think, would I recommend a life seen through smoke screens. This poison has been the love of my life, and I do not say that without at least a tinge of sincerity, myself and this tobacco plant, two distant cousins now tied in matrimony, products of evolution finding an accidental company, once again join forces, to clear thought, read read read! and the only fight I have ever known; the struggle with the illusory. My mind has bonded my secular nature and love for argument, literature, science and the curious with this very mortal compulsion and to light one, it has been, does tend to light the other.

I Am Losing


I am losing a friend. To the mephitic and odious infection of evangelism, to the bloodless and sinister cult of ‘faith-healing’ and it’s leprous and wart smothered sister, ‘prophesying’. Practices still peppered with fakes and frauds, only too excited to steal advantage and rob the true believers of reason and scepticism of any kind. My friend is no fake. A few sinful years ago, it was drink and merry friends that gave meaning to his life, and it is no hollow rationalization of mine to assume this. It has been a snowball from the beginning, and it is reaching speeds and mass no reason can match. The snow, was provided by a visit to an eccentric church that ‘specialised’ in indoctrinating the young and aimless. Dragged along by a friend, he experienced what too many atheists and non-believers dismiss as hokum. A religious experience.

 Churches such as these are constructed to provide a setting that makes such experiences happen. The structure of the service, a concert atmosphere followed by a hauntingly convincing preacher, of similar age and social status, soothing his audience with flowing tones and hypnotic prose. A thoughtless mass of susceptible minds, so ready and unconscious, so disgustingly manipulated, so the next, is just an inevitability. Some are homed in on - new faces, stand-alones, the disabled and the melancholic – and are told something about themselves, statements so weak and transparent to anyone who does not already ‘know’ and expect it to be true. But they do know, the whole service provides this knowledge, they have been told and suggested to by a seemingly trustworthy authority, and this knowledge sticks like a tape worm to the very intestines of their will. It takes only a touch or a shout that “Jesus, he knows and loves you, he has been with you and suffered all your sufferings, He Loves YOU.” The expectation does the rest, and they feel God, inhaled through their lungs, through every blood vessel down to their toes.

These experiences do exist, it is real cognition, and you, reader, have heard many versions. It is obvious that they often lead to religious belief, though do not always happen in a church. The experience comes, and then the mind fills all the gaps with whatever religion that is most known or comforting or convenient. Instant faith. It is sinister. And there is absolutely not even one minute piece of evidence that it is supernatural. No evidence suggesting it is not just brain-function.

It makes nauseous to even ponder on these ‘stage-masters’, whether they manipulate knowingly or unconsciously, I will always hold them responsible for cultivating a distrust in scepticism and evidence.

So know, my friend, is a ‘faith-healer’, he walks the streets using techniques that psychics and astrologers have used for centuries. He ‘fixes’ broken thumbs, minor headaches and tobacco addiction, all miracles all Jesus, yes I know, yes whatever. “But what proof, what evidence do you have to reason that bone has grown instantaneously, that increased cranial blood-pressure has decreased, that it is not simply endorphins you supply, not simply illusions?”, I ask, “God told me.”

There is clear blockade, armed guards every twenty feet, ordered to kill any reason that should try meander through to consciousness. It is at best distressing. Argument is not useless, it is impossible. To approach any conversation with the expectation of coherence is idiocy on my part. He now considers moving to the middle-east on an evangelistic crusade, and my warnings of the violence and prosecution, maybe even death he feels compelled to subject himself to, are desperate and still unheard, unlistened, condemned and executed as reason by his minds zealot protectors, at the impenetrable blockade.

It is exponentially heartbreaking, to feel compelled to witness so much self-prosecution and self-disgust, so much damage and compulsory misery, -the will of god - which one can force on himself. To feel never once lost for words, when all words are so impenetrable.

 

Insomniac


Oh Vanity! You left me everytime curiosity became me. Everytime the books were open and the sun was set, the universe would be glimpsed without the selfish sun drowning out the cosmic echoes of its brothers and sisters, preoccupied in the distance. The silvery sheen on the speckled blackness, the sloshed luminous milk in a canyon of darkness, the devil scattering pearls to never be grasped, just glimpsed for half a life, so God can cackle at his insomniac creations trying to jump at them. Oh Misery. What woeful insomnia is this, to have to stare at something so wakeful? To be forced to dream without sleep? The smooth matte paint, punctured and torn from the restless seas of photons, attacking nothingness with unorganised and distressing delight! LET THERE BE LIGHT. A command only half obeyed. Or still does light do battle with the darkness, the stars it’s surrounded soldiers, living life under siege. Darkness is bliss, they are told, much like ignorance only less. Joseph Smith; an amoral fraudulent twat? The cleverest of the cons? Unending insecurity seeking unending love? IGNORE HIM! I can’t, he symbolises everything I despise. HE DOESN’T! His followers do. Manic and Depressive, together at last.

The Athiest Christmas Tradition


Being an atheist at Christmas, I thought, is a time when obligations that bind and torture the faithful could be thrown behind ones shoulder, to the wind, in the same guiltless pit where the illusions of one’s youth were cast without regret or sentiment. The sceptical brain in growth. Though now I have an unconsidered issue, the bonds are tied too tight between Christmas and family, to discard one would be to offend the other. Especially an extended Christian family containing a minister and his disciples, the warriors of the Almighty Lord, contain – to my knowledge – only one other than myself out nearly 30, that accepts Evolution by Natural Selection as anything other than the ramblings of the unsaved. I am not a closet atheist, my unbelief is well documented in their records, and I have experienced my share of shunning. But at Christmas, the masks come on (one practice I refuse to partake), and I am sincerely(?) welcome to attend and be merry. One practice that is not uncommon at such gatherings is for me to be slowly surrounded or cornered, where every torso is pointed at me, and beliefs discussed in an open and organised fashion. My contribution to this discussion is not wanted. These moments, for me, are thrilling. I enjoy argument to the point of obsession, and have become rather adept, if I do say so….. Idea are propelled in my direction, to here here’d, unconditionally by the rest. I take too much pride in subtle pointing out the differences in their personal beliefs, not to mention the contradictions. I enjoy this unholy tradition for it does have a propensity to sharpen ones wit, if not just scrape the rust from the blade. Some members do object, and their presence often means an end to such affairs, as does someone cursing my existence – “jesus you’re a fuckin’ asshole, mate” – my response was not well accepted by the crowd, “Blasphemy!” And yes, Christians can swear with as much prose and skill as the rest of us blasphemers. Though this is the one and only setting when religion is discussed. For the most part, banal politeness and intolerable niceties fill the air with a high enough concentration of carbon dioxide to send them all to heaven and me to hell. At least the company would be interesting, and I could smoke.

 

One of the other roles an atheist must play when born in to Christian ceremonies, is to be impolite. The amount of times one must say ‘no thankyou’ in order to avoid hypocrisy.

‘Would you like to join us at the Christmas church service with the rest of the family?’

‘No thankyou.’

‘Would you like to join us in prayer?’

‘No thankyou’

‘Would you like to accept Jesus Christ our Saviour into your life and be saved?’

‘No thankyou and please go away, swiftly, please’

‘Would you like to help us slaughter infidels to the god Ra?’

It may as well be. It is truly white noise topped with the feeling of a mosquito buzzing nearby. Though these family meetings happen rarely, and on some topics, the conversation can be delightful. The immense and invaluable awe and curiosity the true wondrousness of the universe and its complexity have been my life’s unmatched joy. To be trapped in this curiosity, my life’s unmatched obsession. There has been such beauty, love, sadness and doubt in this obsession. Though with my ceremonial and audaciously religious family, I feel guilty to say, this is all inaccessible. It is replaced by childish feelings of irrational guilt and hopeless annoyance and boredom. It may be that very guilt that keeps me coming to these moot gatherings. It is a common trade of Christianity (and maybe all monotheisms), guilt. Everything is taken personally and all is offensive. And with any person not related to me, I find it no great bother. Being offended is useless, it offers no argument and a shit is rarely given. But this one circumstance, the unconsidered circumstance, gives me more evidence for my distrust in religious practices. Objectively, it is no problem, aside the brush can swipe, but when it is the ones who were there from your first breath, who have such claims and holds on your psyche, to use guilt as a method of control deliberately is disgusting, to do it unknowingly is seeming more like the methods of religion.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Honest, At Last


Black dogs are on my tail. Fear becomes gravity, as if the world is heavier, exponentially increased in mass. Depression is the proper term, but it is so contaminated and unsuitable. It does not convey the feeling, the pain, the way everything becomes black and lifeless, slow and shaded in misery. Exertion of any kind is pointless and excruciatingly difficult. Every food normally savoured turns to ash in my mouth. Sounds and colours lose their taste.


Thoughts of death are involuntary, they come and project themselves on the surrounding world. I do not want to kill myself, I just wouldn’t mind dying. My fear is lopsided; I fear almost everything but death. Un-life, the lack of complex chemistry, not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. It does not seem peaceful or desirable, awful or futile. But the human reaction, the fear of death so wonderfully drilled into us by Natural Selection, is gone. I can’t find it.


It is a sickness, not something that happens to the deserved or the inferior, the weak or the sensitive ones. It is chemistry. I am Chemistry. A factory error. IT IS NOT MY FAULT. But this rationality lacks influence. It FEELS my fault, I feel I AM a cunt. I know, at least I think, it is untrue, though I can’t shake the feeling that this is somehow a punishment. I take huge solace in the fact that I have no wish to pray, to ask a ‘higher-power’ to fix everything in exchange for my soul. Though it is irony that many do belittle themselves by asking for forgiveness. For to do so requires the admission that it is their fault are they are as pathetic as they feel.


I am Bi-Polar. And too many of us Manic-Depressives commit self-slaughter. I should never think I speak for all who suffer from Bi-Polar or indeed Uni-Polar Depression, but I will commit myself to honesty because of the taboo and the chest-crushing shame that surrounds a disease so common, and so lethal to not just those who suffer, but everyone around them. The taboo is silent persecution, it is a guilt-trip on those who aren’t as happy as the world wants to seem. It shouldn’t be so that the miserable should feel guilty for being miserable, and the happy are praised for being happy. It is entropy, not God or human will that guides (or un-guides) this universe, there is minute control, if any, over how we feel and the circumstances we live in.

 I considered posting this anonymously, not realising the monumental hypocrisy in doing so.  I still feel embarrassed and un-polite if I do not smile at a smiling face in public, and I am suspicious that many feel the same. The statistics so clearly show that the people that cover the skin of Earth are not nearly as put together as they seem. Though is an obvious usefulness of appearing well. Genetically inferior males of many species employ tactics to ‘fool’ a potential mate into choosing him (though many turn to rape, unfortunately).

 I had hoped I would feel better after writing this – I don’t – but I am almost certain I would if someone felt better after reading this.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Curiosity

The life of a thought, as it sparks through the neurons, can be tremendous and short. They are rarely remembered, often vulgar or the brains responses to our bodily needs, though some, are so enthralling, that they send rouge and rushing waves through your every cell, calling your hairs to stand to attention and your skin to tremble as if it caressed by the softest of feathers. It was this very constellation of senses that changed my centre of gravity very suddenly to the chair I now sit, rambling at a keyboard. The phrase that sent me there, I will not postpone, was while reading an essay by Christopher Hitchens entitled 'The Catastrophist', on the science-fiction writing of J.G. Ballard. The phrase itself though, was anything but science-fiction. Hitchens quotes Sir Martin Rees in a lecture he gave in honour of the late Professor Joseph Rotblat: “Most educated people are aware that we are the outcome of nearly 4 billion years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6 billion years from now. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.” 

Imagination does not suffice! To think of creatures of unimaginable nature, so profoundly different from ourselves, gathering in numbers to watch the last moments of a dying star. And, the last moments of the life that feeds upon it. An event that would make Revelations cower and put angels on double-time. The final extinction on a planet, that already now has put 99.5% of all existed species, un-empathetically, to the metaphoric sword. Ah! But why dwell? 'Tis only another whimper in a galaxy with a million million stars, in a universe with a million million galaxies. And yet humans find it still so easy, nay, so comfortable that this entire entropic and beautiful universe was created with them specifically in mind. A god who did this, who created a universe only to wait almost 14 billion years before his favoured humans even existed on one of the maybe billion billion planets that inhabit this universe, so he could send his son, in human form to be tortured to death only 3 uneventful decades later. It even happened after almost 200 thousand years of human flourishing. I could only postulate that god himself may be under the influence of one of the many brain disorders he so graciously bestowed upon us.  I do not think it unreasonable to criticise a belief that holds such solipsistic and supernatural specifics, I think it strange to say otherwise. I certainly don't respect them. 

We are destined to live strange lives. Lives that absolutely are all about us, and lives that harbour such solipsism and ignorance, so conveniently forgetting the insignificance and minuteness of our quixotic wanderings.  It a wondrous thing to be alive in this universe, an unlikely thing as it is to be alive at all. No god or mind behind it, no - as Christopher Hitchens puts it - celestial dictator to loom. It is not the son of god that we rely, but a sun of helium and hydrogen. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

From Pain to Illusions

'Illusions, of course, cannot be abolished. But they can and must be outgrown'
- Christopher Hitchens

The blossoming of self-pity is no more veracious than when under the fertile ground of pain. It hurries to feed on self-critique, leaving solipsism and self-obsession the room to flourish without reason to prune and contain them. Bitterness is a paralytic, and fear a parasite. The fight against chronic pain is not a fight against pain itself, but a  fight against these irrationalities and illusions. Objectivity is, as it  has proved of itself, a cure of illusion when coupled with reason. There is a certain allure, if suffering necessary, to suffer for a cause. And there is reason to willingly comply to humiliating torture if what follows is recovery and the lessening of un-health. Though, where all allure and reason is misplaced or misused, is one's suffering where one cannot find irony.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Thou Shalt Question.

Is it cynical to suggest that organised religion is our species greatest embarrassment? To suggest that these ancient combines comprised of rusted reason and termite-ridden morality are destroyers of development? If it is, it shall cause me no discomfort to remain satirical and skeptical.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Hypothetical Heaven

Chopin, fine tobacco and coffee that lacks light and is sodden in my olfactory and gustatory systems start off this, just another, restless night. BUT!!! If suddenly, under a cognitive lapse, I swallow my cigarette and inhale my coffee, causing my lungs the bother of trying to extract and feed to my brain and blood, oxygen from coffee, and my lungs burn and stutter, causing, well, my death, should i spend my next thirty minutes being fitted for wings, smiling and dancing with unrecognisably  un-decrepit relatives? I think not. AND, more profoundly, that if my hypothetical death scenario's reaper is sharpening his scythe and swapping the placement between my coffee and cigarette at the moment I type this, and before this gets titled and posted I'm twitching with my face in the ash tray, I absolutely hope that i will not be joining some cloud bouncing party with the people I love. And it is because that if heaven is a place where only constant happiness endures and misery is forgotten or impossible, then what is and was the fucking point? For it to be truly happy all things and memories annoying, disconcerting, boring, sad (a funeral of a friend for example), itchy, uncomfortable, of hunger, painful, loneliness, and yes, even empathy would have to be eradicated from our consciousness. And what would be left of those memories? Almost nothing for, I would guess, all of us. We could either not know of the suffering in an apparent hell, or, not even give the slightest fuck about the burning and tearing of flesh of bones of people we probably knew. I must ofcourse mention that trying to reason about a hypothetical paradoxical situation is rather difficult with almost completely unknown variables.      And as my coffee finally drains the last of rather viscous matter down the tubes adjacent to my bronchials, I shall end my penning for this night. But never my pondering, my thinking, my reading. Hence the no sleep.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The "Alto-Cumulus" Miracles


In the brisk flitted consciousness I have had the pleasure and the pain to experience, I have noticed the forceful comings and the hesitant goings of ideas of the supernatural. I may add though that I myself – and I count myself lucky- have not ever had the desire for supernatural virtue. Susceptibility to supernatural belief is something that seems innate in our human condition, I might add, but that is not relevant and for another pondering. On to the matter of miracles.  The Christian mind has a way with miracles which renders a deep suspicion in its reasoning that engages a great deal of thought.  The elasticity of what might occur to be a miracle can stretch to the bounds of the ridiculous. The miracle of a saved parking space to the miracle of sunny day seems to fit those bounds rather snug. But what of things like shrinking tumours and the finding of a long lost child? But of course these are things that could have gotten better without the hand of god to squeeze a tumour small or guide the stork that saves the child. I don’t want to go beyond the obvious and point out that, tumours can shrink and children can find their own way home, but it seems I must to prove a point. Of the millions of cancer sufferers there will undoubtedly be a portion of those who pray, and undoubtedly a portion of those whose tumours shrink, therefore a group will exist containing an overlap of the two –who pray and whose tumours shrink. Are these therefore miracles? Of course not. The same applies to missing children and to any other misery that could have gotten better anyway. Miracles also have tendency more miraculous if told to a more na├»ve, young or trusting audience. This brings up the point of the sincerity of the teller. Whether it be control of minds, egoistic soothing, a coercive push towards antique beliefs, an amount of scepticism is certainly necessary when it comes to the authenticity second hand accounts. Personal agenda of the teller or all the previous tellers who informed the even more previous tellers before him is maybe an obvious reasoning, but a reasoning that has yet to burst through the meninges of impressionable brains. Miracles also –like any unbelievable word of mouth story- have a snowball-type effect. Through each generation of the stories existence it might alter slightly from misrememberings or mishearings and these effects get passed down to the next generation of the story. There also is the effect added to the story through each of its generations, including amplification of certain details for theatrical effect or leaving parts out for censoring purposes.  As these stories “evolve” -if I might be so bold to use the term- the seemingly minor and superfluous details can retain their place in the story, therefore becoming not, obscure and trifling irrelevancies, but part of the dogma. Just to be complete I shall add that as parent stories give rise and birth to daughter stories , an ever increasing variety of stories shall exist, expanding and adapting, nay, mutating, meaning two stories might have shared ancestors, but cease to have many similarities with each other or with, indeed, their ancestors. The issue of “evolving” stories retains practical relevancy only for miracles with a history sufficiently large to have caused adaptations which change the probability of the miracle being true. Now to a rather tedious endeavour - explaining the issue of finding sufficient validation (of the mere miraculous) from biblical text.  This is a rather hopeless and endlessly insufficient proof, and I shall begin with an importation of words from a man with better words than I.

“Here then we are first to consider a book, presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant people, written in an age when they were still more barbarous, and in all probability long after the facts which it relates, corroborated by no concurring testimony, and resembling those fabulous accounts, which every nation gives of its origin. Upon reading this book we find it full of prodigies and miracles. It gives an account of a state of the world and of human nature entirely different from the present: Of our fall from that state; Of the age of man, extended to near a thousand years: Of the destruction of the world by a deluge: Of the arbitrary choice of one people, as favourites of heaven; and that people the countrymen of the author: Of their deliverance from bondage by prodigies the most astonishing imaginable: I desire any one to lay his hand upon his heart, and after a serious consideration declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of such a book, supported by such a testimony would be more extraordinary and miraculous than all the miracles it relates; which is, however, necessary to make it received, according to the measures of probability above established.”
David Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 

 This passage (As the highest pitch of the eloquence of these words ring in my ears, I have now a realisation, that this is what must be meant by ‘Atheist Porn’) leads obtusely but directly towards my next reasoning.(A miracle that seems molded to a biblical form, most probably, is molded from one.  As I make this assertion, it seems at the present moment, to be of little relevancy to my current point, but a tangent, into the relevancies of another.)  So I continue; Biblical text itself (the King James Bible, preferably.)  is suppurating with grandiose miracles and scientific ignorance(and yet the Christian mind’s claim is that it holds every answer you could ever need for scientifically graced, un-grandiose life of the modern human) which immediately gives reason to suspect the truth of any action in its poetry saturated pages. This book, then, falls from ever affecting whether the miracles inside it are probable - to an extent which would make the most deluded lottery junkies feel hopeless. The assertions of biblical events remain evidenceless and unmatched by History, which is why these very events are not taught to students as History, but as religion. The reason most biblical events are not included is that fantastical lack of evidence, and it is evidence that gives us our knowledge of history. The French Revolution, Hitler’s Final Solution, The Fall of Hellenic Society, are presumed to be true, because of the overwhelming amount of evidence that is bestowed on us by the scientific method. Therefore, the insidious suspiciousness that is validated by the lack of evidence for biblical miracles, becomes an inevitability, an almost necessity, in dealing with this matter.