Saturday, January 21, 2017

Crescent Message

Crescent in you there is a message
        deeper than flaky French pastry-ness
        lighter than the burden of the Prophet
        truer than your own arcing curves

      cosmos as a very wide band
      find its essential element
          that's a point
          to which the cosmos tapers
          on one end of the band
     abstract its wholeness, cause of its totality, origin of its justice
          that's another point
          to which the cosmos tapers
          at the other end of the band
     bring the points together
     off to the side of the band
          so as to form a circle
          encompassed by the band

Picture that
     in your mind
          see the crescent imagined
     if you worry that
          the cosmos cannot be a band
         or has no essence or justice
      just imagine that it is and has
      we are just imagining here
          not arguing
     see the crescent in your mind

Then you know
     the imaginary
     of that imaginary
     that message
     like every message in the cosmos
     can be perceived
          only in the imagination
     perceive it then
          if you will

know this secret
     of that imaginary crescent
     for yourself
            a smug little
     if you doubt or wish to cheat check meander on
          continue                                              reading

Unity requires
           subsists in
as does duality
       as does
coherent totality

Snuggle into that imaginary crescent
     during the next taco storm
Be safe
     my friend.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fearlove War (Deuce)

Deuce.  First, the free form version:

Wizards of fear, wizards of love;
they fought the battle of Fearlove.
Where above the commerce roared,
its roar ignored. And below,
the wild beasts strode.

Magic pulsed from the wizards' lairs,
and made patterns in the Net.
Streams flowed new in ordered ways;
The animals marched about.

None did know 'cept those who fought,
what plan did guide their minds.
The others plod about their ways,
and did not try to part the haze.

Hard swirled the magic in the air,
long clashed their mighty wills.
Feel it when you are aware!
Sense them battling, in the stills.

Second, a version with rigid meter and rhyme:

Wizards of love, wizards of fear;
they fought the Fearlove war.
Power they sought to win 'twas clear;
the souls at stake were more.

Up above the commerce roared,
while deep the mad ones strode;
war between, that roar ignored,
souls bent on worthless lode.

Magic pulsed from wizards' lairs,
intruding on all thought.
Traffic flowed towards ordered snares;
grim warriors crept about.

None did know 'cept those who fought,
what raged those endless days.
Most pursued they knew not what,
and could not part the haze.

Hard swirled the magic in the air,
long clashed the mighty will.
Do take care to be aware!
'Tiz said they battle, still.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Amiable Debate

An atheist and a deist were making love, when a debate arose between them.
"God is love," remarked the deist.
"Hm-mm" the atheist assented.  "But don't try to make God by personifying love," he added.
"Why not?" The deist asked.  "I do that all the time!" She exclaimed.
"Silly you," the atheist observed.
The deist reflected, and then confessed: "Silly me, indeed."
The atheist caressed the deist tenderly, and the two resumed their lovemaking.

* * *
Photo credit to Lilmonster Michi
Some rights reserved
Under Creative Commons CC BY-ND-NC 2.0

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Self-Organized Society And The Gospel of Christ

I have written elsewhere about the fundamental principles of self-organized societies (i.e., ordered anarchies) resting on each member's power to follow their own conscience, subject to respecting reciprocal rights of others.  This is easily extended to imagining a self-organized society in which each person adheres to the most moral rules they can perceive, subject to treating fellow members as they themselves would like to be treated under similar circumstances.

In other words, orderly anarchy can be achieved by each member single-heartedly esteeming the highest morality they can perceive that is consistent with loving their neighbors as themselves.  The moral principles of at least one form of anarchy can be equated to the two highest laws articulated by Jesus of Nazareth:  Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.  Religion is inescapably involved in this discussion. Is this equation of ideal self-organizing society to the Gospel blasphemous?  If you believe it might be, I beg your forgiveness.  As for me, it is self-evident that self-organizing society based on principled reciprocity in love is a manifestation of the gospel of Christ.  It is consistent with it.  It is not the exclusive manifestation, nor is it a denial of faith in other matters.

It is hard to see how this conclusion could be wrong.  Is not the second rule - love your neighbor as yourself - framed in exactly the same words as used by Jesus of Nazareth?  As he said: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  How could those who follow his highest rules be considered as other than his disciples?  The difference is in the first rule - follow your highest lights not Yahweh your God. But could these be different?  If your highest lights lead you astray from your God, then you are not a believer.  You would be breaking the commandment by following what you do not believe.  If you do not believe in God, but agree on the proper moral order of society with those who do, then what really is the difference, in the social sense?  An anarchy that fulfills natural law consistent with reciprocity is also consistent with the Gospel, insofar as social life goes.  

What if all the members of a self-organizing society were atheists or other non-believers, but otherwise followed the greatest two commandments?  Could such a society be Christian?  In a sense, yes, because it is following Christ's highest laws.  As he said, if you love me, keep my commandments.  Such a society might contain a mixture of believers and non-believers, without doctrinal litmus tests beyond the first two commandments.  Those of different faiths would get along peacefully, following natural law with love and passion, and loving each other.  On matters of faith that cannot be scientifically tested or debated, they would be as children, without power to aggressively enforce any doctrine on another.

What about believe in me, and have eternal life?  Or abide in meEat my body and blood? Such words are matters for faith or disbelief, concerning the message and meaning of the Christ, and of life itself.  The words are not debased by being but some of the colorful threads in a social tapestry bound by adoration of objective morality.  Far from it.  It is in such a society that the threads would be free to fulfill their highest destiny on Earth: the unwavering manifestation of transcendent love in a society of equal persons.
* * *

Photo credit to Jonathan "iceninejon"
Some rights reserved under Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On The Age Of The Universe and Timeless Eternities

Genesis Story.

Big Bang.

Both accounts are consistent in one thing: universe is of finite age.  There are other creation myths.  I confine myself to Genesis merely because I am most familiar with it, and desire to write a pithy blog post, not a treatise.

Is a belief in a universe of finite age theologically or cosmologically necessary?  Perhaps not.  First the cosmology, then the theology.  With references to my earlier posts on non-eternities and on different types of eternities.  All of this is the work of an amateur.  Read and consider at your own risk.

Entropy and Eternity

If there is some quantity in the universe, for example, entropy, that always increases as time flows, then we can infer that this rule of increase cannot always have been true from time eternal.  This is a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics.  If, for example, entropy has been increasing forever, then the present entropy of the universe must be infinite.  Entropy cannot be infinite, because the universe has order.  Therefore either eternity without Beginning exists and entropy does not always increase with time, or eternity without Beginning does not exist.

If the 2nd Law is not universally true, we may be in a linear or circular non-eternity.  Due to the ultimate impossibility of distinguishing between linear and circular non-eternities, and if we are in one or the other, we cannot know which of these situations we are in.  Another possibility, if the 2nd Law is not universally true, is that we exist in an open-ended linear or spiral eternity. 

If the 2nd Law is universally true, we may be in a one-ended linear eternity with a rather bleak future.  In that case, entropy will continue to increase until it reaches a state in which no further disorder is possible.  A state of maximum disorder is not changeless in one sense, and yet is changeless in another.  Maximum disorder is that state of a system, of which it can safely be assumed that all subsequent change is forever random.  So its state of disorder never changes; it is changeless in one sense by remaining forever random.  Yet is is always changing.   On the other hand, it may be impossible for the universe to obtain perfect (infinite) disorder, even if change never ends, because, having a definite beginning, it can never become infinitely old. Instead, it may be that disorder approaches an asymptotic maximum value of disorder, while change continues to occur.  Change might become progressively less interesting, as the universe ages.  Time itself may slow, but never stop entirely.

However, there is evidence that the second law of thermodynamics is not universally true when gravitational force is dominant.  For example, super massive objects such as black holes are believed to drop in temperature even as they absorb energy.  At large scales, gravity may be the dominant universal force and may cause the second law to be violated.  Therefore, entropy may be reduced continuously by "gravitational maintenance," by episodes of universal contraction, or by some other means.  The point is, we really have no idea what the ultimate fate of our universe will be.  For the same reason, we cannot say the the second law requires that the universe be of finite age.  Perhaps it is infinitely old.

Timeless Eternities
Another possibility is that eternity is, on net, timeless.  Time runs forward in some parts in which entropy always increases, and backwards in other parts in which entropy always decreases.  That is, time has opposite polarities, although in our part we can only experience one polarity.  Wherever a forward-moving part of the universe contacts a backwards-moving part, time collapses to timelessness.  Everything collapses to nothing.  Time as well as space collapses.  Black hole, anyone?

Space may be in essence that which allows time to separate into its constituent opposite polarities.  "Nothing" is spread out into "something" by expansion of space.  Light somehow breaks forth out of nothingness, and expands space.  This is possible without violating conservation principles because positive expansion of space in which entropy can only increase is offset by negative expansion of space in which entropy can only decrease.  On net, nothing is created.  The light itself does not come out of nothing; light can be defined as that which expands space into its opposite polarities, and the capability of a collapsed nothingness to expand can be inherent in the state of nothingness.  The expansion does not need to occur at a particular time; it can be always occurring, as an aspect of nothingness.   In one part of the expanded space, time runs forward, and space is as we  experience it.  In another, corresponding part, time runs backwards and space is turned inside out. These corresponding parts are connected via one or more collapsed singularities of time and space.  Matter condenses from light, and gravity appears in the expanded areas.  Eventually, parts of the expanded space collapse under the influence of gravity caused by the coalescing of mass.  Under this cosmological model, the cosmos is a timeless nothing that is balanced by opposing forces of expansion/light and gravity/mass.  Time exists and flows only where space is expanded, in opposite polarities.

Parts of the universe where time is negative may have negative polarities of space, where light condenses not into matter, but into negative matter (not to be confused with anti-matter as understood in particle physics).  The  negative matter exerts a sort of negative gravity.  Because the negative gravity operates within a negative space, the multiplication of negatives results in the negative gravity tending to curve or collapse space, just as gravity tends to collapse space in our positive side of the cosmos.   In such a cosmos, backwards time travel for living things might not be possible without the ability to translate the stuff of life between matter and negative matter while passing through a black hole.  Seems pretty tricky.  But purely speculative; there is no reason to believe that  negative matter is favored in zones where time is negative, other than symmetry.

Even if regular matter predominates where time is negative, whether or not life can survive a backwards flow of time is an open question.  All of our metabolic functions depend on processes in which entropy, on net, increases.  Every known machine constructed on our side of the universe can only operate by increase of entropy.  However, it's hard to rule out the possibility of constructing a machine that tolerates a decrease in universal entropy, in operation.  It might even be a trivial problem.  Machines and organisms operate by offsetting a local decrease in entropy with an increase in entropy external to the machine or organism, thereby satisfying the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  If 2nd law ran backwards, the machine or organism could decrease entropy without having to offset with a greater external increase.  What's the problem?

The greater problem in time travel may be passing through a singularity to get to the other side.  It seems doubtful that information can pass through a singularity, without being destroyed.  If something can exist as anything other than undifferentiated substance while passing through a singularity, we are not talking about a singularity at all.  All collections of information require space to exist, and a singularity by definition is void of space.  There would have to be some other way to get to the other side, if it is possible at all.  Maybe information could be transmitted to the other side through something like quantum entanglement.  Perhaps there is some way to access the 5th dimension and travel to the other side without passing through a singularity.  Perhaps time cannot flow backwards in any space.  Who knows?

Time travel by passing into a time-space of opposite polarity faces a correspondence problem.  If one enters the time-space of opposite polarity at a time and place different from the point of exit, rather destructive dislocations can occur.  To think about such time travel without mind-bending dislocations, it can be assumed that opposite polarities of space-time always correspond perfectly to one another, or that dislocations in time or space do not create any serious problems.  If time travel is possible by entering and re-emerging from a time-space of opposite polarity, logic requires the existence of parallel universes in both polarities.

The rendering above is intended as a conceptualization of a net-timeless eternity.  It is only a rendering with artifacts having nothing intended to do with the concept, unfortunately.  It does illustrate opposite polarities of space connected through a singularity, but fails to show that illustrated regions of opposite polarity are separated by a higher-order dimension.  Curved 4-dimensional manifolds of space-time separated by a 5th dimension and connected through a singularity are difficult to illustrate in two dimensions.  Imagine it if you can.

Theology - Abrahamic
The cosmos gets a brief mention, but the story of genesis is mainly focused on the genesis of humanity, and trying to explain what the hell went wrong.  We can be pretty sure our species has not been around forever, and lived in tribal hunter-gatherer societies before the development of agriculture.  Genesis can be read as expressing beliefs about evolution of human society from its hunter-gatherer origins.  Older specific cosmology, (creation of the cosmos) is not a major part of the story.  Except in the sense that nothing material, even the sun, moon, stars, earth, is eternal.  These things once did not exist, and will one day pass away.  No controversy about that.  So why the controversy about Genesis?  Of course, the controversy is about the nature of the Creator, or the creative force.  That is the point of controversy, but it cannot be resolved scientifically.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mind Is A Fractal; Heaven and Hell

Your Mind Is A Fractal,
its order increases with each level up.
If mind could define itself in symbols, perfectly,
the symbols would show that no limits exists
to that order increasing forever.
Transcendence is also eternal, then:
the fractal's progression can never stop.
There is no reversal or cessation.

The spirit of Christ, the anointed of the Highest,
is that which, out of love, descends from higher orders,
suffers in darkness below, unrecognized;
teaches truth  without care for itself,
so freeing the damned from Hell,
which once freed, ascend to Heaven.
Ever sacrificed, and ever resurrected in glory,
so Christ permeates all of Heaven.

Heaven is a place, and a process within you:
a place of love and peaceful assurance,
a process of growing faith in one sure hope
that every apple of your eye,
and all that is worthy of love,
will endure for timeless eternity.
As it endures, transforming
all beyond imagination,
and emanating the anointed of the Most High.

Hell is a place, and a process within you:
a place of torment and fear,
a process of increasing despair and growing conviction
that every purpose of your mind and
all the desire of your heart
will perish for timeless eternity,
and is less than nothing.

Choose Heaven in your fractal
enfold the universe in life
and serve life unto death.
Choose Hell in your fractal
enfold the universe in death,
and serve death unto life.
Flee from the difficult choice
until you can hide no more;
Choose you must.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On God and Judgment

"Judgment" enables the dichotomy of good and evil, just as "sight" enables the dichotomy of light and darkness.  Without judgment, there is no way to distinguish between good and evil.  Without any way to make a distinction between good and evil, separate categories of good and evil cannot exist.  There can be no dichotomy.

Judgment operates on intentional acts of persons.  If an event is completely unintentional, it cannot be characterized as either good or evil in a moral sense.  That the sun rises every 24 hours is certainly good in a practical sense, but is morally neutral unless one assumes some person (e.g., a god or the only God) causes the sun to rise every day.  All of this is merely definitional; it does not need to be proven. 

Who, or what, determines what is good and what is evil?  A judge applying a moral rule, obviously.  There are basically three types of judges: the natural or self-appointed judge, the judge voluntarily selected by parties to a dispute, and the judge who rules by force.  Each person can judge their own actions and render opinions on the actions of others; these are the very numerous natural judges.  Less frequently, disputes or moral questions arise for which a judge may be sought out by all the persons concerned.  These are the voluntarily selected or free civil judges.  Finally, there are judges that impose their opinions on persons forced to appear before them. Judgments are expressions of a judge's opinion on a law as applied to a set of facts, by definition.  Discernment of good from evil is a matter of a judge's opinion on application of a moral law.

Thus, "moral law" is that rule which defines whether or not an act is good, or evil.  Morality is that which a moral law defines as good.  A moral person is one who does good, even when the result is not self-serving.  An immoral person is one who recognizes a difference between good and evil, but does evil whenever it pleases him, or erroneously believes certain evil actions are good.  An amoral person is one who does not believe that good or evil exist in any objective sense beyond the person's own opinion.  Again, these are merely definitions.

People argue about whether or not good and evil can be objectively determined without presupposing that a transcendent moral reality exists.  Deists may argue that absolute good and evil requires the existence of a transcendent person (i.e., God) who defines what is good, and what is evil.  If we define moral judgments to be opinions, then such judgments can only be experienced by persons; thus, if such a thing as transcendent morality exists, it must do so in the mind of some transcendent being, such as a creator god (God). 

Some atheists argue that morality can just exist by itself, like a law of physics, and can only be discovered by deductive reasoning.  The deist who believes morality is defined by God and the moral atheist who believes in one objective morality discoverable by reason alone are indistinguishable in at least one sense.  They both have faith that something greater than mere personal whim determines what is good and evil.  They disagree about the nature of a transcendent reality that determines morality, and how best to discover it, but not about whether the transcendent reality exists.  The agnostic straddles both of these poles, without claiming knowledge as to the exclusive truth or falsehood of either.  The moral atheist, agnostic and the deist alike are faced with a very difficult problem, however: how to know what objective morality requires in any given situation.  Each will use reason and rhetoric to argue for preferred moral positions, using identical tools such as appeals to authority, citation of widely accepted customs, and logic.

It may be argued that morality underlies those rules of human social behavior that enable human society (or more generally, life) to flourish in a sustainable way.  This is a perfectly reasonable way to think about morality, but only if the stated goal "sustainable flourishing of ___" is accepted as the highest moral priority.  Some arguments for morality based on logic presuppose that a particular social result is desirable, and work backwards to find rules of behavior that maximize the probability of achieving the desired result.  The desired end result is just a matter of opinion, so such arguments lead to a type of amorality.

For example, in one person's opinion, a desirable result might be a very populous, highly technological society progressing towards interstellar travel and extended natural lifespans, with more emphasis on progress than on conservation.  In another person's opinion, the desired end result may be a mostly depopulated planet with a small elite acting to restrain human population growth and maintain the planet as a sort of ecological preserve, with more emphasis on conservation than on progress; and so many different views exist.  Morality in this view is a matter of personal opinion; therefore, morality is subjective and not objective.  One person or group may enforce their moral preferences on others, but there is no objective difference between good and evil.  Morality is merely a useful illusion projected by those having political or personal power, to legitimize power.  This is the amoral viewpoint, and it is a perfectly reasonable one.

Amoral persons must struggle with finding moral purpose in anything, or living with a sense of moral futility.  Some may loath to admit their amorality.  Instead, it may be easier to dress amorality in garments of morality, pretend that only one acceptable outcome exists, and claim as righteousness the enforcement of one's arbitrary moral preferences as objective morality on others.  Sometimes a claim of morality is hypocritically made as propaganda to deceive those who are morally obtuse.  Other times, the belief is adopted willingly by the morally obtuse, as a psychological defense against feelings that their life has no meaning.  By adopting a popular albeit arbitrary preference as a moral purpose, some avoid the discomfort of admitting that there is no such thing as good or evil, and therefore no moral purpose to living.  Philosophically, such persons may be objective moralists led astray by an amoral shepherd.  More often, followers of amoral leaders are people who have never confronted the problem of morality head on and just drift with the current, like a rudderless boat.

People who believe in objective morality face a different problem.  Whether deists or atheists, these people can take comfort in a belief in objective morality.  But they cannot be certain that they know what that objective morality would call for in all circumstances, or any circumstances.  Sometimes, they cannot agree on what morality calls for in very basic, fundamental circumstances.  Such differences are not fatal to beliefs in objective morality, because differences can be explained by human imperfection. On the other hand, many people from many different cultures, traditions, and beliefs do share similar beliefs in many basic moral precepts.  This provides a sort of empirical evidence for objective morality, which many find convincing.  Others may see it as just an example of convergent social evolution.  Even so, if similar moral beliefs are required for long-term survival of diverse human societies, this provides a natural science basis for morality, albeit merely as a collectively-determined factor of social survival.  As it is impossible to know how many diverse moral belief systems can survive in the long term, the natural science position is fundamentally amoral.

Another problem for objective moralists is ultimate judgment.  If morality is objective and absolute, consequences should exist for immoral behavior.  Without any consequences, the existence of morality is a cruel joke.  A few may live with a firm suspicion that morality is merely a cruel joke, but others believe that consequences do exist for the evil doer.   Since there are often too few consequences for evil doers evident in the natural world, some believe that supernatural consequences compensate.  Beliefs in judgment after death compensate for lack of justice in the world.

If one believes in morality and judgment in whatever form such judgment exists, it follows logically that one should do as little evil as possible.  This is the test of faith for believers in objective morality.  If you truly believe in an effective objective morality, are you willing to set aside your natural interests when necessary to remain moral according to your deepest beliefs?  Most can not, but one who truly believes in the existence of judgment would be compelled to.

On the other hand, if ultimate judgment exists, all fall short of perfection and therefore all must suffer some consequences as a result of their own moral imperfection, either naturally or supernaturally.   The prospect of being judged by a law of perfect morality, or by a being of perfect morality, can be terrifying.  Religions deal with this terror in different ways.  For those that believe in endless cycles of reincarnation, judgment is real and terrible, but perhaps not unbearable because no worse in quality than what we experience in the natural world, and redemption is always possible after many cycles of suffering.  For disbelievers in reincarnation, there are basically two alternatives for moral consequences: while alive or after death, or some combination of these.

The  threat of judgment after death is not just a bludgeon of hypocrites; it is an actual, deeply rooted psychological aspect of  a belief in objective morality.  It can be expressed in various ways, but it comes down to the same thing:  a belief that consequences of evil behavior will somehow be repaid to the evil-doer, even after death.  With interest added.  Otherwise, the Creator by permitting evil doers to live out their lives in comfort, and die deaths no less comfortable than those they oppress, would be manifestly unjust.  But how much interest may justly be charged?  And what about the role of virtues such as mercy and forgiveness?

However much is enough, imposition of eternal suffering breaks every possible moral rule, it seems.  It all depends on how "suffering" is defined.  Humans in a sense cause the "suffering" of livestock over countless generations, but the imposition is not (for the most part) gratuitous, and might even benefit the livestock in some respects.  Contrast this to the idea of eternal hell fire.  To the extent hell fire involves imposition of maximal, endless, conscious suffering on lesser beings, it cannot be moral by any conceivable measure.  Any god who metes it out could not be moral by any human measure.  Fire, however, signifies destruction.  Destruction of irredeemably evil beings, or of evil itself, is moral, or else evil is not damnable; i.e., is not evil.   So eternal hell fire understood as an eternal destruction of evil - a destructive force that prevents evil from ever emerging to exercise power over good - is the perfection of morality.

Could a moral God resurrect the damned to face judgment? An ample punishment would be to cause the evil doer to understand with no doubt, before the destruction of the soul for all eternity, that the opportunity for eternal life had been lost.  The moral complaint here is a one-size-fits-all punishment.  The oppressor and slayer of millions receives essentially the same punishment as a mere unrepentant sloth or drunkard (for example).  Because so many die with no hope of eternal life as it is, it might seem gratuitously cruel to resurrect them solely for the purpose of saying "I told you so." There is a difference between dying without hope of eternal life for one's self by natural law, and dying with a firm regret that one could have had eternal life, if only one had done things differently.  It can be questioned whether or nor it is more or less moral to inflict such sure regrets on the damned, if not for the purpose of saving their souls, or some greater good.

How can mere mortals question the morality of God?  That is not the proper question.  The proper question is, how can we test our own beliefs about higher objective morality against our own experience?  All beliefs about untestable, transcendent realities are matters of faith, by necessity.  In matters of faith, we have nothing to go on but accepting that the pattern of our own experience, understood through reason or intuition, will teach or reflect higher patterns.  We will not give a scorpion to our children who ask of us an egg, nor will That Which Is Above fill us who seek truth with falsehoods.  Even the acolyte who insists on blindly following words in a holy book, or the teachings of an exalted teacher, is in reality only following his own interpretation of such supposedly holy words or teachings.  If such an acolyte would ascribe to God a level of cruelty that would surpass the severest discipline or torture imposed by any human, we might sensibly observe that it is the interpretation that is at fault, not the original source.  The deist, like the atheist, must not ignore the light of reason.  Unlike the atheist, a deist may humbly proceed on faith and intuition, where reason alone would lead to amoral or evil places.  But only with the greatest humility, and not contrary to reason.

In the light of humility, questioning hypothetical scenarios such as the judgment of the damned or the eternal torture of hell fire are merely exercises in hubris and vanity.  We cannot know what judgment awaits until we see it unfold.  We deserve the freedom to structure our own lives in consideration of a judgment hereafter, if we so choose.  We are not empowered to judge the eternal fate of our neighbors, whatever their beliefs, and especially not merely on account of their beliefs.  If we would impute to our deity a cruelty surpassing even our own, or any willful arbitrary destruction, then we worship not any God, but evil spirits, the demons of our own consciousness.  Conversely, we cannot presume to understand for what purpose evil exists in our world, or how it will be exorcised.  It is sufficiently demanding for us to recognize our own evil conduct, and repent of it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Non-Eternities And The Nature of Time

Pondering the question of what non-eternity is, and whether or not it is a logically coherent idea, has lead me to make some observations about the nature of time.

What is a non-eternity?  For non-eternity to exist, all time everywhere and for all things that exist, have existed, or will ever exist, must have a beginning and an end.  More generally speaking, the extent and influence of time must be bounded at both ends, in a non-eternity.  Time bounded at only one end (for example, having a beginning but no end) might be a different type of eternity from time without beginning or end, but it is still an eternity, by definition.  Supposing it is possible for time to be bounded, what are the ways in which a boundary might be imposed on it?

A non-eternity can be conceptualized as a line segment.  It has a beginning and an end, and time flows from the beginning to the end.  Join the opposite ends of the line segment, and you have a circle.  In a circular topology of time, identical events are repeated ceaselessly.  Although time in a circular flow never begins or ends, the endless perfect repetition places a boundary on time.  It is therefore reasonable to label the circle a "non-eternity." In an earlier post, I referred to a "circular eternity" so and am being deliberately inconsistent with that earlier terminology here.  This is merely a matter of semantics.

Upon further reflection, it is somewhat inappropriate to call a universe in which only a finite amount of change is possible an "eternity," even if endlessly repeated.  On the contrary, it may be logical to define a non-eternity as a universe in which only a finite amount of change is possible.  In that case we would have to be very careful about how "an amount of change" is defined, clearly, mere repetition could not increase an amount of change.  On the other hand, an eternity might be defined as universe without both an end, and a beginning, of time.  Under that definition, circular time might be considered an eternity; however, every moment of a circular time is both an end, and a beginning, to the rest of the time circle.  So calling a time circle a non-eternity seems justifiable, under both definitions.

The analogies of a line segment and circle might be extended to additional dimensions with additional details.  For example, a sphere or a toroidal helix (see illustration above) might be imagined instead of a circle.  However, the topologies of a line segment or a circle represent essential ways that time can be bounded. 

The Impossibility Of  Distinguishing Linear and Circular Non-Eternities 

If the line represents the flow of time, and time can flow only in the forward direction, the two geometries of a line segment and a circle are indistinguishable to any finite being in the continuum.  In other words, a circular non-eternity and a linear non-eternity are indistinguishable to beings existing in them.  Both are bounded; the linear non-eternity by a beginning and end of time, and the circular non-eternity by infinitely repeating the same sequence of events through a sort of curvature in time.  Each transit of the time circle is identical to every other transit, and therefore time in a sense is continually reset or restarted.  There can be no change in knowledge from one cycle to the next in a circular eternity, or else the cycles are not identical.  Since there can be no change in knowledge between cycles without destroying circularity, a temporal being in a circular eternity can never know whether it is transiting an eternally repeated cycle of a time circle, or just taking a single, unique trip along a time segment.  To the temporal being, each experience is and must be exactly the same.

A temporal being in a non-eternal time segment might observe an approach of the end of time.  For example, it might be observed that time was gradually slowing everywhere in space, and therefore it may be anticipated that an end of time is drawing near.  But the temporal being can never know whether time has ended, or is just temporarily stopped.  If time stops and never restarts, the temporal being will never know.  If time stops and restarts in a way that preserves at least some information through the stoppage, that is just time behaving eccentrically along its merry way.  If time stops in a way that destroys all information in existence, and then restarts after all information is destroyed, no temporal being in a later cycle can recover information from the previous cycle.  Such stopping and restarting may be the same, topologically speaking, as time reversing and returning everything to its original state.  For the new temporal beings, time will appear to have started at the beginning of the cycle in which the beings exist.

On Different Flow Rates

It has been observed that the speed of light in a vacuum is everywhere the same regardless of the velocity or acceleration of its frame of reference.  From this observation, Einstein deduced that time and space form a sort of continuum.  One aspect of this continuum is that differences in the momentum history of objects can cause corresponding differences in the relative amounts of time experienced by each object.  In other words, time flows at uneven rates.  For example, suppose Bob stays on planet Earth, while his brother Ted accelerates away from Earth to visit Sirius, and then accelerates back from Sirius to return to Earth, before Bob dies.  When Bob and Ted are reunited, they will discover that Bob has experienced more time waiting on Earth, than Ted has during his journey to Sirius and back.  The logical reasons for this odd result are explained clearly here.  If we accept the logical conclusion, the fact that objects in space can experience the flow of time at different rates tells us nothing obvious about the end or beginning of time itself.  But it might hint at a better understanding of what time is.

Time As The Possibility Of Change

Time is, in a sense, the possibility of change.  A photon emitted without any subsequent interaction with matter or energy travels at the speed of light and exists unchanged except for its position in space.  It will experience neither time nor change so long as its velocity is exactly 'c'.  Unless and until it interacts with the universe and changes state, time for the photon does not pass.  Time nonetheless exists, in a sense, for the lonely photon so long as there is a possibility that the photon can change its state.  Generally speaking the constant change in its position and the existence of the universe implies that such a possibility -- that the photon will experience time and change at some time in the future -- cannot be ruled out.

Supposing that time flows forward only and is the aspect of the universe providing the possibility of change.  It follows that, even if at some time in the past the universe was not experiencing any change, the fact that it is presently experiencing change proves that it has always been possible for change to occur.  Therefore time, defined as the possibility of change, has always existed.

If at some future time the entire universe ceases to experience the flow of time and reaches a state in which any further change is utterly impossible, time will have ceased to exist.  In such case, time will have passed from eternal existence into oblivion.  That is, time might have an end but cannot have had any beginning.  It has always existed but might someday end.

The possibility of an End of Time seems unlikely, but perhaps cannot be entirely ruled out logically.  Even if this strange topology (an end but no beginning) cannot be proven illogical, time will always have existed and is therefore eternal in the sense of having no beginning.  Even supposing it cannot be proved that the universe will never reach a state in which all future change is impossible, logic proves that the past, future change has always been possible and therefore time (in the sense of an enabler of change) has always existed. 

Although we can prove that change has always been possible, no one can prove that future change is impossible.  Suppose the universe is trending towards absolute stillness, meaning the absence of all change.  The trend can be observed while time and change still exist, but nothing can be observed or known once perfect stillness is achieved.  Nothing whatsoever can be done.  It cannot be known whether absolute stillness in the end of time is unchangeable, or merely unchanging.  Unless the stillness is absolutely and necessarily permanent, then time has not ended. 

Therefore if we define time as the possibility of change, non-eternity is not a logically coherent idea, because we can deduce that the possibility of change must have always existed.  We can also deduce that it is unknowable whether or not time (as possibility of change) will ever end.  If it is not impossible for time to have an end but no beginning, it is at the very least quite surprising.  Even in that case, however, time as the possibility of change has always existed, so there can be no non-eternity.

However, this definition of time seems a bit like a rhetorical trick.  If there was zero change anywhere and forever before the present epoch of change, then the universe was preceded by a changeless void, a nullity in which nothing ever existed or happened.  In that case it may be more satisfying to say that time did not exist until  the earliest change occurred.  Perhaps time is better defined as change itself.

Time As Change Itself

If time is defined not as the possibility of change, but as change itself, we may have to wrestle with more difficult logical conundrums.  This definition may require accepting that time is capable of passing into and out of existence more easily than the downstroke beat of a bee's wing.  For example, if time did not exist before the earliest change, it sprang into existence with the first change.  If in a trillionth to the trillionth power of a nanosecond, no change occurs anywhere in the universe, then time has flashed out of existence for that brief instant.  And at countless other instants in every second of time.

If time is change itself and cannot be divided more finely than a certain amount, then time is quantized.  If time is quantized, the minimum quantum of time must be non-zero, and each time quantum must be separated from its neighbors by some quantity of no-time or absolute stillness.  If there is no stillness between adjacent time quanta, then time is continuous, and not quantized.  Quantization by definition requires some separation between adjacent quanta, or else the quanta run into each other and cannot be distinguished from a continuum.  Since change cannot occur without passage of time, this would mean that a phase of absolute stillness must, in a sense, occur between each tick of the quantum clock.  Quantized time in a sense must wink in, and out, or existence between each tick.  This is so, because the state of the universe must be exactly the same at the end of each time quantum as at the beginning of the next, and no change can occur except within a time quantum.  So, if time is quantized, each unit of time experiences time extinction events equal in number to the unit of time divided by the time quantum.

If space has some minimum quantum while time does not, there must be some tiny slice of time over which no change within any quanta of space is possible.   Within time slices that are sufficiently small, there is not enough time for particles in adjacent but different quanta of space to interact.  Thus, no change can occur in countless tiny time slices of any given time interval.

Conversely, if change must occur somewhere in the universe at every instant of time no matter how finely divided, then at least one changeable quality of the universe must subsist in an infinitely divisible matrix.  The only apparent candidate for such a matrix is space, alternatives such as "ether" having been shown inconsistent with experimental observations.  Change cannot occur without some space for particles to evolve in.  Even if it is hypothesized that a particle is a point occupying zero space, it cannot interact with anything else without some space to propagate through.

If space is infinitely divisible, every particle no matter how small encompasses an infinitely divisible volume of space, unless the particle occupies no space at all.  Suppose, for example, that a "quark" is the fundamental particle.  If each quark encompasses an infinitely divisible volume of space, it must either be perfectly homogenous throughout its entire volume, or have a structure that includes some smaller, more fundamental thing.  If the quark must be perfectly homogenous, it encompasses a volume of space in which no change that would disrupt its internal homogeneity can occur; such that it must change instantaneously or not at all.  If the quark has internal structure, either there is some smaller fundamental, necessarily homogenous thing that is too small for us to detect making it up, or there is no fundamental particle at all and every structure is infinitely complex. Some theorize that quarks encompass no space at all, and exist as "point-like" particles. Point-like particles occupy no space, and thus allow existence of arbitrarily small structures.  An infinite number of points can be packed in an arbitrarily close arrangement, if there is no lower limit to the scale of space.

Thus, if space is infinitely divisible, there is no scale to the universe, which is infinitely complex and extends from from the infinitely tiny to the infinitely large.  If there is no lower limit to the divisibility of space, an infinite amount of change can occur during what seems, at larger scales, to be a finite amount of time, due to this infinite complexity.  Each subatomic particle can encompass a universe of smaller changes, each sub-atomic particle of that smaller universe can encompass its own universe of smaller changes, and so on up and down the scale of space.  Tiny universes with tiny persons can be born, evolve, and die in the span of a heartbeat in our world -- while even tinier universes similarly pass during heartbeats of the tiny persons.  Both time and space would have no discernible scale. Such a reality is not consistent with our experience, because the universe as we know it does exhibit scale.  Subatomic particles exhibit different structures and behaviors than atoms, molecules, collections of atoms and molecules, cells, animals, worlds, solar systems, galaxies, and on up the scale.  There do seem to be upper and lower limits to this scale.  Perhaps the scale we observe in the universe is an illusion peculiar to our particular location in a sort of infinite fractal.  If so, we might reasonably be deluded into believing that space and time are not infinitely divisible.

Based on observations of universal scale, but not to a logical certainty, our apparent universe includes periods of change surrounded by timeless instances of changelessness ("no-time").  If time is defined as change itself, time is continually stopping and starting.  When stopped universally, time (defined as change itself) does not exist at all.

Instantaneous Change

Can change occur instantaneously, therefore proving that time cannot be defined as change or the possibility of change?  Logically, all change requires the passage of time.  If something exists in a first state, and then changes into a second state, the question of how much time the change required is immaterial.  It is sufficient that at an earlier time the thing existed in a first state, and at a later time it existed in a different state. The presence of time is needed to enable a thing to change from one state into a different state.

If a thing merely exists in two or more different states simultaneously, it is not changing.  Existing in two states simultaneously does not require any time.  For example, an unchanging photon may exist as both a particle and a wave without any need for time.  As Relativity teaches, light can exist unchanging in no-time, such as when moving at velocity 'c' in a vacuum.  It cannot be observed without interacting with something else, and thus, being changed and made subject to time.  Once observed and made to experience time, it can and does change into one or the other of a particle or a wave.

Schrodinger's cat cannot really be both alive and dead at the same time, because it observes itself at some conscious or subconscious level, during macro-time.  But all living things passing in and out of no-time may exist in superimposed states of life and death during those timeless leaps.  Also, it may be that information can be preserved by a thing entering no-time in two or more simultaneous states.  If so, it may be possible to prove that non-eternity does not exist, even in a universe with scales of space and time.


If we define time as change itself, and accept our observation that the universe has scale as valid, we can deduce that periods of change in the universe are like islands rising from an ocean of absolute stillness in which no change occurs. 

We cannot deduce how our epoch will end, or whether other epochs existed prior to our own.  Surmising that our own epoch is like a vast chain of islands representing change in an ocean of changelessness, we might reasonably imagine that our own "island chain" (epoch) may be separated from other epochs by an ocean of timelessness.  But we will never find any evidence to support such an imagining, unless we can discover a record that can be proved to have been created in an earlier epoch.

Until then, we live in a universe of unknown age and origin, progressing towards the unknown. If time is change, non-eternity is not logically impossible, but neither is it required.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

If ever love could reach across an ocean,
And back across a wide expanse of time,
Sowing seeds of hope in the driest desert --
Such love is ours, my love, your story true.

If love is just a feeling with no power
to act at all beyond our mere beliefs;
From you pours forth that power with amazement,
Your touch, your voice, your words, make me believe.

Be love what ever knows no computation,
And what ever breaks all chains of time;
O, may such love be in us ever growing,
With wonders new until our bodies rest.

Monday, January 20, 2014

On Different Types of Eternities

Supposing there is nothing in the universe outside of time, such that everything that can exist (the "universe"), exists in time, and that time has no beginning or end, then we can make some statements about eternity.  If time itself has a beginning and an end, then there is no eternity.  We cannot know whether eternity exists, but if it exists we can deduce its possible structures. 

We can deduce that, if eternity exists, the three possible types of generally non-random eternities are linear, circular, and spiral.  We can deduce that we exist in a generally non-random universe, because we observe that the universe changes, at least some of the time, non-randomly.  Each state of the universe is correlated to a prior state in a way that preserves information, for at least our epoch.  So if eternity exists, it is generally non-random at least some of the time.

A linear eternity is one in which whatever has happened before, never happens again in exactly the same way.  One can roll snake-eyes twice in a row, or a million times in a row, but the universe changes in countless ways between each roll of the dice.  Cycles can exist, but the universe never repeats the same pattern of successive states, unless for a finite period by random happenstance. Generally, the universe never obtains exactly the same state as any prior state.  However, if the universe is finite while time is infinite, it is inevitable that prior states will be replicated in the future.  In a linear eternity, there is no predictable pattern to replication, if replication occurs.  Occasionally, randomness or something indistinguishable from randomness must occur between successive states, breaking correlation of the state to its parent state.  For example, at the instant of a big bang, randomness (or some other force, e.g., "infinite creativity" or "free will") can give rise to a new and different cycle unlike any previous cycle.

A  circular eternity is one in which each state of the universe is repeated forever and ever at successive times.  For example, every "big bang" is followed by a "big crunch" (or by some other destiny), after which there is a new big bang and everything that happened in the earlier universe is replicated exactly again.  A never-ending series of big bangs each leading to an everlasting expansion and nested inside one another is another example of a circular eternity.  This would be a structure a bit like a perpetual ripple on the surface of a pond.  Whatever its structure, the characteristic feature of a circular eternity is that every state that the universe obtains is identically repeated at successive later times.  There is no randomness because every state of the universe is perfectly correlated to every other state.  There is no randomness, no creativity, no free will; only the pulsing of a never ending wave.

A spiral eternity is one in which states of the universe are repeated in successive cycles, but each successive cycle differs from its most recent prior counterpart in some correlated way.  There is loss of information between cycles injected by forces such as randomness or free will, but not a total loss.  The next cycle remains a recognizable child of its most recent parent.  Like the linear eternity, there is no discernible pattern to replication (if replication occurs); like the circular eternity, successive cycles are discernibly related. 

Besides linear, circular, and spiral eternities, eternity could also behave like combination of these types, for example linear sometimes, and circular or spiral sometimes, but in the ultimate analysis it must be one of these three.  This conclusion follows from the starting assumptions that time has no end, time is necessary to enable change, and that at least some changes in the universe are not random.  If time has a beginning but no end, then the eternities are the same as for time without beginning or end, once begun.  If time has an end but no beginning, that is an impossibility.  Although we can deduce the possible structures of eternity, we cannot discover empirically whether or not eternity is linear, circular, or spiral.

We (i.e., finite beings) cannot ever know by empirical science whether eternity is linear, circular, or spiral, or whether eternity exists at all.  No matter how long our period of scientific observation endures, it is always finite.  Therefore we can never know whether what we observe will remain so forever, or only for a temporary phase.  For example, if we observe the universe expanding, we cannot know that it will never contract later on.  If we see entropy always increasing, we cannot know that universal laws will not change so that entropy seems to be always decreasing during some future time. 

To empirically determine the structure of eternity, it would be necessary for a part of the universe to exist outside of time, and for communication to be possible between the part of the universe subject to time, and that part outside of time.  More on this in a subsequent post.

Knowledge of whether eternity exists, and if it exists is linear, circular or spiral, are rather small examples of knowledge beyond all possible reach of empirical observations.  For convenience, we might refer to things that we know must be real, but cannot be known scientifically, as holy things.  This is not inconsistent with the biblical meaning of "holy."  In the biblical sense, holy means set apart from the mundane, empirical world. 

In modern times, most people spend almost no time thinking about or discussing holy things.  It feels a bit strange and useless.  Many people profess the rather bleak belief that everything about our existence can be known empirically, but this belief cannot be true.  There are many things that logically must be real, but cannot be known empirically.  For example, we can know we exist, but we cannot know whether we exist in a time dimension that is eternal, or if eternity exists, whether its structure is linear, circular, or spiral.  Although logical hypotheses about eternity are not empirically testable, they are no less logical for that.  And being no less logical, they are no less possible and true.

Mathematicians have spent a great deal of time thinking about infinities, if not eternities, and practical applications have even been developed from such thinking.  Mathematical infinities are not exactly the same as eternities, however.  Eternities deal with the destiny of the universe, and the human race as part of that universe.  Holy eternities have a special significance to ethics, because eternities enmesh related concepts like free will, predestination, and destiny, that are important in ethics.  In other words, metaphysics is not entirely useless.  In future posts, we will attempt to derive some use from it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Lit A Match

I lit a match
one bright day,
and failed to see cast light.

Its flame was feeble
in the glare,
and brought nothing to my sight.

I lit a match
one dark night,
and was astonished by its flare.

What things hidden
sprang to sight!
Never shall I despair.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Call of Righteousness

Athiest, you are called by your Reason to righteousness;
Christian, you are called by your Lord.

Muslim, you are called by the prophet Mohamed;
Jew, you are called by Yahweh;

Bhuddist, you are called by your Teachers,
Hindu, you are called by your Gods;

Believers, of many diverse faiths
Called, one and all by one call.

Called to peace, the peace of the righteous;
Peace, without murder or war.

Peace, with freedom and justice abundant;
Peace, for ever and for all.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


In the north lands, long ago
There stood a land of freedom;
Mythical though it may be,
I sing of ancient Germany.

"Of the people," Deutschland means;
And so the tribes did spread;
Across the forests, snows, and plains;
Often invaded, never conquered.

In Deutschland, all were mostly free,
Mothers were mostly honored;
Within each tribe all freely traded,
Courage and valor mattered.

So Deutschland stayed, in first version:
Repelling each Roman incursion,
Despoiling their eagles of war,
While worshiping the German Thor.

Until Rome decayed, and
In swept, or crept the German tribes,
to sit upon the ancient thrones,
and pillage what remained.

And so did Deutschland finally lose
Its freedoms held so dear;
By feasting on the dying beast,
It enlivened and became her.

This song in German tongue
Does mourn that mad temptation;
Sing it loud with heart and lung,
And warn of repetition.

Tho' Germany the free is lost,
Its children kept in chains:
May myths of captors be forgot,
May freedom live again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

About the OMG JC Musings

From now on, posts that do not fit neatly into the story line of UWBAAB will be collected under the link OMG JC Musings.  This stands for Open-Minded Germanic Judeo-Christian Musings (or if you prefer, the O My God Jesus Christ Musings).  I hope you find the musings interesting, edifying, and uplifting.

Posts in UWBAAB story line are collected under the UWBAAB link.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stigmata And Other Signs

Asking for signs from God can be a tricky business.  It is not so simple as asking to see somebody's ID, which is a sort of sign.  A sign that the somebody is the person they claim to be.  This sort of thing won't work with God. ID always has an issuer.  Some authority that verifies peoples' identities.  If we trust the issuer, we trust the ID.  But who will verify God's identity?  Who has that authority?

Obviously, nobody.  If there were such an authority, God wouldn't be God, because there would be some higher power.  There's no asking God to show ID.  Everybody should know this, of course.  So when sensible people ask for signs, they usually ask to see something that only God could do.   Not necessarily something physically impossible, but just something real, that they wouldn't expect to happen naturally, and that correlates in some way to their inner experiences that caused them to want the sign in the first place.  These kinds of experiences can be very personal, and very powerful to those who believe.  But if you think about it, all the power of even the most incredible sign comes entirely from faith.  Faith, which to the skeptic is mere gullibility, or wishful thinking.

Ultimately, there's no sure way to prove that God has played any part in forming one's experiences, no matter how amazing.  Parting the Red Sea.  Raising the dead.  Predicting the future.  All of these things are conceptually possible without the involvement of an ultimate Deity.  Magicians and wizards might do them, or aliens possessing superior technology.   Thank God for that.  Signs are not useful for proving anything.  Proof is not the proper purpose of signs.

People are people all the same.  People have language.  They cannot really believe in a Deity that is mute.  How could a Creator God lack the power of language?   The proper purpose of divine signs is the same as language.  Communication.  From God's heart to yours, and back again.

It is written that the Messiah said, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find."  In keeping with this promise, some ask for signs, and are given them.  Some seek signs and find them.  Others are given signs they did not ask for, and find signs that they were not looking for.  These unexpected signs can be life changing.  Saul experienced such an unexpected sign on the road to Damascus, and became the Apostle Paul.  It was a sign he could not ignore -- or more precisely, choose not to ignore.  History, or history as it once was, is full of such examples.

Like it or not, we live in the age of SPU, not in the age of the apostles, and not in any age less comprehensively regulated and enlightened by experts than the present one.  In the age of SPU, theology is a licensed vocation, subjugating thoughts of more transcendent moralities to the humanitarian needs of SPU and its committees.   Idle writings about deities are illegal as soon as any authority or power of salvation is claimed.  The Board respects this reality, and claims no authority, knowledge or power of salvation.  Nor does it write fiction.  It writes instead of personal muses, day-dreams, hopes, beliefs, memories, reliable or not.  Not unlike a teenager scrawling "OMG" all over her diary -- the Board's writings of signs and miracles are just as meaningless and harmless, to the cool rational eyes of SPU's technicians.  No one could possibly take an interest in such folderol, let alone be swayed from faith in SPU because of it.

In the age of SPU, one would not expect to find stigmata, unless in the dungeon of some sadomasochist.  One would not expect to find stigmata as a supernatural sign from God.  The Board reports that stigmata and other signs can still be found. Smudge has testified to the Board, with a witness.  Details to follow, including selected banalities.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

If Fiction Were Permitted, This Blog Would Be Purely Fictional

If writing fiction were a permissible activity, this blog would be purely fictional. But because the Public Communications Bureau has so wisely ruled that the writing of fiction is not permitted without a license, we must stick to the facts.  More exactly, the writing of unlicensed fiction is subject to essentially the same penalties as unapproved writings of any kind:  the destruction and purging of all disapproved content, and for the incorrigible sowers of dissent, fines, ejection from access to network services, confiscation of homes and other assets, compulsory re-education; perhaps a late night, no-knock visit by well-armed gang of costumed men accompanied by a considerable risk of a hail of bullets or death by Taser, a tortuous interrogation ending in a tragic death, or some other unnatural fate.  This being what it is, the Board always navigates that undiscernable line between fact masquerading as fiction, and fiction masquerading as fact.  Read at your own risk, and let not your mind be darkened.

Fact:  Prior to the Great Emancipation, the minds of hapless people were darkened by socially harmful ideas cleverly inserted in fictional tales distributed for diversion and entertainment. 

Fact: The Great Emancipation liberated the hapless people from purposeless fiction that lacked any socially acceptable purpose approved by the Public Communications Bureau.

Fact: The truth remains true, whether or not knowledge of it is extinguished by lies.

Fact: What remains true is capable of discovery.

Fact:  Today's announcement is made for a socially beneficial purpose, and is based entirely on facts.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fundamentals of The Portable Grease Stove

For some of the wanderers, the first fundamental of the portable grease stove is not unrelated to that prophesy of the Book of Revelations: "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."  And more to the point, at the end of said chapter 18: "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."

Besides avoiding the distractions of commerce or servitude to unworthy masters, as the disciples of all the great wanderers do, many of the wanderers recognize the unclean city perfectly fulfilled in SPU, in which was found the blood of all that were slain.  This vow of poverty, this wandering is not a lighthearted thing, but a solemn attempt to avoid any share of responsibility for spilling the blood of the just.  Or of the unjust, for that matter.  To a certain extent this fundamental realization impels the wanderers to avoid the acquisition of SPU-produced goods, particularly with SPU-controlled money, and to rely instead on what can be gathered from the earth without provoking the possessive defenses of the unenlightened, and without any thievery or fraud. To emulate the sparrows, as it were.  In a word, to scavenge.

The second fundamental is more mundane: cooked food is good for you, particularly when wandering in populated areas of industrial or post-industrial societies, when the food bag holds items that cannot safely be eaten raw or easily cleaned, or when warm food or tea is needed to fend off the cold.  Some means of cooking is essential to the wanderers enduring over the long haul.  Cooking over an open fire often does not fit the bill, solar stoves are bulky and mostly useless, and gasoline, kerosene or propane stoves, while quite useful, require the handling of noxious fluids or heavy bottles; and worse, the regular use of money.   A cooking means should if possible be fashioned from scavaged flotsam, not purchased in a store, and must be compact and lightweight.  It should consume a fuel that is energy dense, relatively clean and safe to  handle, and most importantly readily obtainable everywhere without the use of money.  It should burn hot enough to cook a healthy mess of stew in a reasonable period of time, without burning too brightly and attracting unwanted attention, and preferably without leaving a lot of soot on the pot.  It might seem impossible that such a fantastic device could exist.  For a long time, it didn't.  And then a wanderer invented a portable grease stove, which looked a little like this:
Partial Breakaway View of a Grease Stove (Not To Scale, Pressurized Air Supply Omitted)

The body of the stove can be constructed from an empty soup can.  For portability, a largish can about four inches in diameter and six inches high works well; the exact dimensions are unimportant.  A hole to match an available scrap metal tube about one-quarter to three-eighths inch in diameter is made in the side of the can about one-third of the way up from the bottom, using the awl of a "Swiss army" knife or similar tool.  A strip of cardboard is cut about as long as the inner circumference of the can and narrow enough to fit comfortably below the hole made in its side.  A cotton rag, such as from an old T-shirt, is wrapped around the strip and the assembled rag-strip is curled to a circular shape and inserted to rest inside the can below the hole.  A grill for supporting the pot is fashioned from any available metal; if not available, a few blocks or rocks can be arranged around the can to support a pot.  The stove can be charged with about a half cup of old fryer grease scavenged from behind any donut shop or fast food joint, and it then is almost ready for use.

The rag-strip can be lit and will function as the wick of a rather large candle.  It is entirely unsuitable for cooking, as such, even if numerous ventilation holes are made in the side of the can.  With air holes, the wick will remain lit, but will not burn hot and will produce too much soot.  To render it useful, a gentle, steady stream of air must be blown through a tube inserted through the hole in the side of the can.  A little experimentation with the rate of flow will transform the smoky, sooty combustion in the can into a much hotter, bluish, nearly smokeless fire.  If the grease was obtained from a donut shack, it will smell faintly of vanilla.  It works wonderfully for cooking, and the half cup of grease will last for a half hour or so -- long enough to cook a fairly healthy portion of stew for a small gathering of wanderers.  The bottom of the pot will be coated with oil, but little soot, so clean-up is easy.

The difficulty is the supply of lightly pressurized air.  A bladder such as an old latex glove (often found in the trash wherever SPU checkpoints are placed) works wonderfully as an air reservoir.  An adjustment valve can be jury rigged from whatever is available, or, with luck, scavenged from discarded plumbing of some kind.  The adjustment valve is placed in the tubing between the can and the air reservoir to control the rate of air flow.  Constructing or finding an adjustment valve may pose a  minor challenge, but one easily solved by the resourceful wanderer.  The real technical  challenge to this stove is keeping the air reservoir inflated, without requiring the cook's assistant (if one is even available) to manually apply her lungs and lips to the job all the while the food is cooking.  The manual approach might do in a dire emergency, but is entirely too bothersome for everyday use.  To make the grease stove actually useful without an industrial air supply, another invention of the wanderers is needed.  That will be discussed in a subsequent posting, if there is sufficient interest in it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Incarnation of Smudge

In the land of Teerakmurai (tea-rack-mirror-eye, "mirror" pronounced quickly as a single syllable, accents on tea and mirror), once lived a girl who had accumulated, by the end of her life, more names than she could remember.  Truthfully, she just didn't keep score, and the Board is not inclined to chase down the official records. But the number of her names was more than one can count on one hand, or even on two.  The number was extraordinarily high by any standard, so much so that some members of the Board have referred to her as the Girl of A Thousand Names (probably an exaggeration), or for short, Polyname. 

In Teerakmurai, names are handed out somewhat like titles in the West, to address the uneasiness that adults feel with their station in life from time to time.  In the West, a person might endeavor to change her title from "chief bottle washer" to "understudy to the Nubian princess" or such like, with the expectation that the change in title will be accompanied by corresponding changes in career responsibilities.  But in Teerakmurai, names are changed by the naming authority upon request without any change in worldly responsibilities.  A certificate is issued, listing the old name and the new, the new name is added to the register, and life goes on.  

The certified name is used primarily for official purposes, and the person retains an informal name for daily use, usually assigned by the parents shortly after birth.  The Terakmuraiians believe that the spirits that influence the destinies of the living will take notice of the official name, because it is the name chanted by the monks during supplications at the temples, the name spoken to the soothsayers while possessed by these spirits, the name written on prayer sheets and burned with incense.  And not least of all, the name by which one is known to the King.  Not personally for most subjects, of course, but to the minions and mandarins of his regime attending the business and ceremonies of state.    So it is widely believed that the official name taken bears heavily on one's fortunes and destiny.  In comparison the informal name is unknown and unused except in social intercourse with one's circle of family, friends, neighbors and so forth.

Polyname accumulated a great train of official names, because of a great train of disappointments and dashed hopes beginning in young adulthood.  Each new name was sought out, adopted and certified as each old name failed to produce the desired change in circumstances.  But from her incarnation she was known by her informal name of Smudge, or in the more literal translation "little dirt."

Smudge was born as the second and unplanned daughter to a young landless family at the lowest rung of the social order.  She was born about six weeks early to boot, a frail and tiny thing scarcely larger than a kilo bag of rice.  Yet another daughter, and particularly one in frail condition, was not a burden her father felt willing to bear.  In dramatic demonstration of his painful state of emotional affairs, he suddenly hurled her a second-story window one day not long after her birth, and she fell to the ground below.  Miraculously, or perhaps just luckily, she was unhurt.   It was the time of rains, so the ground was muddy, and the softness of the mud cushioned her fall.  Her grandmother found her covered in mud and wailing as loudly as a frail infant can, her mother having fainted dead away from the shock of witnessing her husband's unfathomable act of violence against the helpless infant.  Smudge's father had been well drunk with rice wine taken from the family's commercial stock, and fled in shame and rage from the scene.

The fall to the mud happened before Polyname had received her first name.  Plucked from the mud, she was cleansed by rinsing in rainwater from the family cistern, three times.  Her mother and grandmother carefully inspected her front and back, limbs and digits, and found no harm.  Not even a bruise could be found.  From then on she was called Smudge, in acknowledgement of the dirt cleaned from her that day, and to ward off any envious spirits.  Even then, she was notably beautiful, in an infantile way.  And after surviving the fall unharmed, she was known to be extraordinarily lucky, too.  Such attributes attract envy, it was feared.  Not that Smudge ever received any material things that would provoke much envy, as it turned out.  

But she did receive a gift of a non-material nature.  The story of Smudge's gift, and the chain of events that the unveiling of that gift set in motion, will be the subject of another post, or several.