Dreamtime: the De-flattening (wild turkey dreaming)

Supposedly the biggest monolithic rock on the planet, Supposedly the biggest monolithic rock on the planet, "Uluru, ... also known as Ayers Rock ... is a large sandstone rock formation in ... central Australia. ... Kata Tjuta, also called Mount Olga or the Olgas, lies 25 km (16 mi) west of Uluru." (Wikipedia, 2 Dec. 2016)
Animation combines photograph of Uluru by Mark Gray (markgray dot com dot au) and bark painting of rainbow serpent by John Mawurndjul.
In the Dreamtime before time and space the Great Serpent Koniara slithered and thrashed mightily, creating the Land of Oz, the Sky above, and the Sea that washed its shores. And when his mighty slithering was done, Koniara called a great Corroboree to honour his creation.

Among those who came to the Corroboree was the scaly crocodile, Gumungung, who spake unto Koniara, saying, “O Great One, what thee or thou have wrought is awesome and immense, but there is no colour, no excitement, no magic or joy in the Land. As far as the eye can see, all is red and brown and flat as a toenail. And that’s more dull and boring than a pub with no beer. And newsflash: it’s also way too frickin’ hot!”

“My sacred doings be not to thy satisfaction,” quoth Koniara unto Gumungung, “and yet I made the whole ball of wax in just two days not six, and I didn’t need to chuck a sickie on the seventh neither.”

“More elbow grease maybe, that might have helped,” quoth Kuruku the Kookaburra, whose laughter rang out long and loud in the dry and beerless air.

The Legend of the Dog-faced Woman

Animation based on detail from Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation, painted by Hans Memling c. 1485Animation based on detail from Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation, painted by Hans Memling c. 1485
Every year there is a date
on which all parents hold a feast
they eat and drink and celebrate
a certain hairy, monstrous beast
who growls as bad kids meet their fate
so listen up as I relate...
the Legend of the Dog-faced Woman.

Once two kids of Satan's spawn
an evil boy, the girl a bitch
came upon a magic thorn
with which they pricked a sad old witch
and that was when the curse was sworn
and thus it was that then was born...
the Legend of the Dog-faced Woman.

When children disrespect their mums
or fail to listen to their dads
when kids forget to wipe their bums
or won't switch channels in the ads
or scream or sulk or suck their thumbs
tell them a tale, and here it comes...
The Legend of the Dog-faced Woman.

The Gospel of Scissors Paper Rock

animation to illustrate scissors paper rock, by SRS/CR/MMIn Japan, Mushi-ken is one of the earliest rock-paper-scissor or sansukumi-ken games. Published in the Kensarae sumai zue by Yoshinami and Gojaku. From left to right: Slug (蚰蜒 namekuji), frog (蛙 kawazu), and snake (蛇 hebi). The frog defeats the slug, the slug defeats the snake, and the snake defeats the frog. (Wikipedia 26 Nov. 2016)
Rock blunts scissors
The massive dead stone of ignorance and superstition blunts and smashes the keen sharp mind seeking truth.

Scissors cuts paper
The mind that is too keen and too sharp cuts the paper on which truth is written into disconnected shreds of reductionism and limited perspective.

Paper wraps rock
With lightness and breadth, truth enfolds and conceals the massive dead stone of ignorance and superstition.

Published in MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS, a disturbing repository of quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments. for kindle, tablet, smartphone or e-reader.

How long is the shortest Planck?

The Planck length is 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters: supposedly the shortest length possible in the universe. Planck transforming into a plank: GIF by masterymistery.Originally proposed in 1899 by German physicist Max Planck, Planck units “…are also known as natural units because the origin of their definition comes only from properties of nature and not from any human construct.” (Wikipedia 5 Nov. 2016) The Planck length is 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters: supposedly the shortest length possible in the universe.

How small is small? How big is big? How long is the shortest Planck?

There is a planck so short that anything shorter can't be measured, not now or ever, no matter how small your ruler or big your budget. The length of that planck is 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters: supposedly the shortest length possible in the universe.

According to Wikipedia (5 Nov. 2016) “It is impossible to determine the difference between two locations less than one Planck length apart”. At that scale, Reality is discreet, i. e. lumpy, as opposed to continuous, i. e. without any breaks.

How quick are the breaks that Reality takes? As long as the Planck-time: a duration so short you can’t measure it, not now or ever, no matter how quick your clock.

There are many plancks in the ramshackle shack that we know as the universe. There’s a Planck mass, Planck area, Planck energy, even a Planck particle. How many plancks are there? Too many for Einstein: he wanted less wood, more marble.

Originally proposed in 1899 by German physicist Max Planck, Planck units “…are also known as natural units because the origin of their definition comes only from properties of nature and not from any human construct.” (Wikipedia 5 Nov. 2016)

Planck units are based on the Planck constant, “…a physical quantity that is generally believed to be both universal in nature and having a constant value in time” (Wikipedia 5 Nov. 2016): in other words, a number that applies everywhere, always, and never changes.

But what if they’re wrong?

View from a shit-stained boulder

View from a shit-stained boulder
Lost, thirst-maddened, flyblown and with feet burnt black, the Seeker wondered the endless desert. Tongue grotesquely swollen, he climbed the highest mountain. Eyes horribly bulging, he swam the deepest sea.

For untold aeons he searched and looked hither and thither, high and low... driven by the primeval, urgent, elemental urge to Seek. Seek what? Doesn’t matter. Shaddup.

Lost, the Seeker sought.

Out of time, outside of time, high upon a craggy crag the Seeker encountered an elderly guru of dubious provenance, indeterminate gender and reproachable demeanour. Gnarled and nut-brown ze wast, perched cross-legged upon a shit-stained boulder, the smell of an oily rag emanating from zer ambiguous loins.

Jubilation rose within the Seeker’s throbberous heart. Humbly on chafed knees approached he the Nut-brown. Then eyes downcast spake he demurely, saying:

Do you believe in mermaids?

A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), oil on canvas'A Mermaid' by John William Waterhouse
(1849–1917), oil on canvas
Do you believe in mermaids?
in werewolves dark and furry?
in banshees, beasties, pointy pixies,
ghosts who go all blurry?

Do you believe in unicorns?
in vampires tall and smiling?
in witches, wizards, druids’ blizzards,
wood-nymphs so beguiling?

Are you in fact an alien?
a monster green and pimply?
a freak, a fright, a barrow-wight,
a corpse whose limbs lie limply?

If so then go to meet your friends
across the cold black river
perhaps they’ll kiss your bloodless lips
or ...

CONTINUES in ... AWAREWOLF & OTHER CRHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (Vot could be Verse?) for kindle, tablet, smartphone or e-reader.

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eBooks by Cosmic Rapture
(for kindle, tablet, smartphone or e-reader.)

NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS. This so-called "book" will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you twitching and frothing on the carpet. More than 60 dark and feculent fictions (read ‘em and weep) copiously and grotesquely illustrated.

AWAREWOLF & OTHER CRHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (Vot could be Verse?). We all hate poetry, right? But we might make an exception for this sick and twisted stuff. This devil's banquet of adults-only offal features more than 50 satanic sonnets, vitriolic verses and odious odes.

MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS. A disturbing repository of quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments.

MASTRESS & OTHER TWISTED TAILS. An unholy corpus of oddities, strangelings, bizarritudes and peculiaritisms, including but not limited to barbaric episodes of herring-flinging and kipper-kissing. A cacklingly bizarre read that may induce fatal hysteria. Not Recommended!

FIENDS & FREAKS and serpents, dragons, devils, lobsters, anguished spirits, hungry ghosts, hell-beings, zombies, organ-grinders, anti-gods, gods and other horse-thieves you wouldn't want to meet in a dark cosmos. Immature Content! Adults Maybe.

HAGS TO HAGGIS. An obnoxious folio featuring a puke of whiskey-soaked war-nags, witches, maniacs, manticores and escapegoats. Not to mention (please don't!) debottlenecking and desilofication, illustrated. Take your brain for a walk on the wild side. Leave your guts behind.

Power-dressing in the Psychopathic Workplace

Arbeit Macht Frei, by CR/MM/SRS, oils on board, commenced 2005 finished 2014, 54.5 x 74.5 cm"Arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase meaning "Work shall set you free" found above the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps during World War II. More than 70 years later, almost everyone is an inmate of the global concentration camp of modern human culture. And yet, as Jesus is said to have said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
The wearing of neckties, by men, at work, is a cultural practice akin to the chest-thumping dominance displays of jungle gorillas. There is a fabric-based language, a symbology, a semiotics used in the workplace, where necktie-encoded subliminal messages about power, position and personality are constantly being transmitted and received. The dialect of necktie-wearing stems from the language of corporate power-dressing, which is more about psychopathy than about style or fashion.

And yet, and yet and yet. In the context of self-actualisation and personal growth, attention to physical appearance and accoutrement such as clothing is considered to be counter-productive, at least within some discourses). There's a highly potent meme infecting the minds of many internet-users, that the more you think about how you look, the less progress you make on your spiritual journey. Ghandi for instance was never friendly with Calvin Klein: the one died before the other was even born. Nor would the Buddha have given much thought to the style or fabric of his loincloth.

And yet, and yet, and yet. Isn't it true to say that the discourse in which a higher value is placed on becoming self-actualized than on enjoying a good meal or a good fuck, say, is itself context-dependent and relative? And therefore, in some contexts, for some people, the pursuit of spirituality is just as 'stupid' or 'meaningless' as the wearing of neckties in the workplace.

[Digression alert: the quantity of dried snot and sperm on the doors and walls of workplace toilets is an indicator of the extent to which work in that workplace is seen as stupid or meaningless. Body fluids are an effective medium in which to express messages about despair and desperation.]

Which leaves us washed up high and dry on the drear shores of meaninglessness, enslaved by our own choices and contexts, and self-deceived by the trickster going by the name of Free Will.

But there is a way out. And it's really very simple. Here`s the way out: don't be surprised by the outcomes of your choices and don't complain about them. Or do complain, but then don't complain when your complaint fails to achieve the outcome/s you seek. Because you become a serial whinge-bag and acquire a taste for it, and then pity everyone around you.

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Lumpy or Smooth?

1927 Solvay International Conference: physicists meet to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. 
(back row L to R) A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. de Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin; 
P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr; 
(Front row) I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Skłodowska-Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch.-E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson. The only woman is Marie Curie (front, 3rd from left).
What's the nature of Reality: lumpy or smooth?

Concerning the answer to that question, some cosmologists have big toes; some have fat guts.

String theorists get all tied up in knots about it.
M-theorists haven’t got the branes to decide.
Relativists absolutely understand the gravity of the situation.

Light is discreet — she is made of particles, photons. No, Light is continuous — she comes in waves.

Reality is discreet: she keeps her secrets safe.
No, Reality is continuous: she has no gaps or overlaps.

Reality is smoompy, no, smumpy, no, looth.

1927 Solvay International Conference: physicists meet to discuss quantum theory. (back row L to R) A. Piccard, E. Henriot, P. Ehrenfest, E. Herzen, Th. de Donder, E. Schrödinger, J.E. Verschaffelt, W. Pauli, W. Heisenberg, R.H. Fowler, L. Brillouin; P. Debye, M. Knudsen, W.L. Bragg, H.A. Kramers, P.A.M. Dirac, A.H. Compton, L. de Broglie, M. Born, N. Bohr; (Front row) I. Langmuir, M. Planck, M. Skłodowska-Curie, H.A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, P. Langevin, Ch.-E. Guye, C.T.R. Wilson, O.W. Richardson. The only woman is Marie Curie (front, 3rd from left).

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The Sound of One Hand Slapping

Portrait of the Mastress, by Masterymistery
The Seeker asks the Mastress: “How may this humble supplicant who kneeleth before thee become enlightened? How doth One enjoin with the All, or is it predestinated forevermore to tread the cyclic wheel of existence, hamster-like, until the wrathful deities take pity on the crusading pilgrim's benighted soul?”

The Mastress — a nut-brown, gnarled and ancient guru of indeterminate gender and reproachable demeanour — respondeth imperturbably saying, “Ask the next six people you meet; perhaps you may find the answers you say you seek.”

“What the fricking flaming biscuit!” exclaimeth the Seeker, on hearing these mysterious words.

Loincloth wafting on a stealthy breeze, the Nut-brown maketh the smile of one lip curling. The visage of the guru wears a veil of inscrutability as profound as the deepest depths of inner space.

Dissatisfied and disgruntled, the Seeker taketh his leave of the Gnarly One and sets his footlings on the path that leadeth to the Inn of the Flowering Beetle, formerly The Queen’s Moustache. On the way he encountereth the first of six respondents — an aged washerwoman squatting phlegmatically in the shade of a cinnabar tree.

“How do you do, O Gentle Crone?” enquireth the Seeker courteously.

“Get lost asshole!” quoth the Crone, waxing wrathful, “or I’ll box thy poxy earhole in the blink of a newt’s eyelid!”

Brothers dreaming

Once upon a night, a nine-year-old boy named Cain dreamed he was soaring like an eagle in the skies above a land so beautiful that he wept with joy.

He felt so full of wonder and delight that he called out to his younger brother Abel, asleep in the bunk below. Cain wanted Abel at his side, flying through the air of that mysterious land. Cain knew in his heart it would be a long time and a far way before he’d see those colours or hear that music again.

The next morning Cain felt off-balance. He was happy and excited, as if he had discovered a great secret that would change everything. But he was also angry and resentful that he had to get up and go to school. He wished he could just go back to sleep and resume the magic dream.

Abel woke up that morning feeling hot and dizzy. Their mother, Eve, took one look at his pale sweaty face and said “no school for you today sweetie, you must be coming down with something.”

Then Cain said “he’s faking, it’s not fair…” and Abel said “am not!” and Cain said “liar liar your pants are on fire!” and Abel said “well your pants smell like poo!” at which point Cain flew at his brother in a rage, throwing punches as hard and fast as he could.

Enlightenment: the Dark Side

Depiction of the Wheel of Existence, showing the six realms of existence, with Lord Yama the "God" of Death in attendance. Applique and embroidery on silk. (circa 1800)

The Question

Abiding in bliss sounds great, but wouldn't it get boring after a while? Why seek to achieve enlightenment and/or nirvana and become One with the All?

From various sources, including conversations with various people (some real), I've constructed a ramshackle, unstable, incomplete and misleading picture of what some aspects of enlightenment/nirvana mean, to some people.

But I don't understand what the benefits are; I don't understand why achieving enlightenment should be set as a goal.

According to some schools of Buddhist thought, life is full of pain and misery. Then you die and are reborn... into another life of pain and suffering... over and over again, until you escape Samsara (the "Wheel of Cyclic Existence"), achieve nirvana and become One with the All.

Reincarnation is to be avoided. Life is to be avoided. The self must be liberated from the endless wheel of cyclic existence.

Or so they say. But is that true for everyone?

Not every life is full of pain and suffering. Life may be full of delusion, but what's so terrible about a bit of delusion once in a while? And even if every single life, without exception, is nothing but pain and suffering and delusion and aversion, some might still prefer that over nothingness, blissful or otherwise.

Us vs Them

Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, first published in Britain 2005, with introductory comments from the Dalai Lama.
What is a person? It's an important question because the way that a human behaves towards another lifeform is determined by whether the human believes the other lifeform to be a person or not.

In the introductory commentary to the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (2005) of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Dalai Lama describes the Tibetan Buddhist view of what constitutes a person, as set out below.

"Among the ancient schools of thought, which accepted the notion of continuity of consciousness, there were several non-Buddhist philosophical schools which regarded the entity, the 'I' or 'self', which migrated from existence to existence as being unitary and permanent. They also suggested that this 'self' was autonomous in its relationship to the psycho-physical components that constitute a person. In other words they believed or posited that there is an essence or 'soul' of the person, which exists independently from the body and mind of the person.

We are all strange loops

Strange Loop -- book cover
In “I am a strange loop” (2007) Douglas Hofstadter proposes that the self -- personal consciousness -- is a pattern. Hofstadter notes that patterns exist at different levels of resolution, ie at different points on a spectrum of granularity, from coarse-grained to fine-grained.

Here’s an example: Jack and Jill are persons who know each other. Per Hofstadter’s idea, the knowledge of Jill in Jack’s mind is as much a valid part of Jill as Jill's physical body is part of Jill. But the knowledge of Jill in Jack’s mind is “low res.” compared with the knowledge of Jill in her own mind. Jill’s actual body and mind are at the highest res available.

Extending the idea: A photograph of Jill is part of Jill. And so too are letters written by Jill, letters written about Jill, clothes worn by Jill, memories of Jill in the minds of her friends: these are all parts of Jill. Every part and aspect of reality touched by Jill in any way, is part of Jill — the “Greater Jill”, the total, aggregated footprint of Jill upon Reality.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the various parts or aspects of Jill is the extent to which each is subject to change. Everything is subject to change, but some things change less than others. A digitized photograph of Jill uploaded to the internet is less subject to change than Jill’s physical body.

How eating dogshit can avert death

The male and female primordial buddhas Samantabhandra and Samantabhadri in union. Thangkas painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith are in the private collection of Gyurme Dorje.The male and female primordial buddhas Samantabhandra and Samantabhadri in union. Thangkas painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith are in the private collection of Gyurme Dorje.
If we were sitting on a mountaintop with the wind in our hair and the stars in our eyes and a mug of yak-buttered tea in our hands, maybe just maybe we could have a productive conversation about the Book.

I'm talking about The Tibetan Book of the Dead, deluxe edition, with introduction by the Dalai Lama, Penguin Books Ltd, 2005.

Much of the material is outrageously bizarre and peculiar (in my eyes, at the time of reading). For example, here's an excerpt from the Specific Rites for Averting Death:

“When the indication of protruding ankle bones appears, one should face westward towards the sun when it is close to setting and remove one's clothes. Then, placing a dog's tail under oneself, and some dog excrement in a heap in front, one should eat a mouthful and bark like a dog. This should be repeated three times...

“Also in cases where other people are afflicted by illness: if the roots of their teeth grow grimy and black, such a person should wear a goat's skin, face the sunrise, and bleat three times like a goat. Similarly, in cases where the nostrils sag inwards, it will be beneficial if one visualises the syllable A on the tip of the subject's nose, recites the syllable A twenty-one times, and bathes in various rivers...” (Number of rivers not specified.)

Free Lunch (the Law of the Conservation of Karma)

The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates. Flemish tapestry (probably Brussels, ca. 1510-1520). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. (Wikipedia 23 April 2014)The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, "...who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life ... as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity." (Wikipedia 23 April 2014). I don't know what Chastity's got to do with it. Death triumphs over Chastity? Doesn't make sense to me.
The fact that anything exists at all is a very good sign pointing to the basic fairness, rightness and justice of Everything*.

You can get a free lunch, you just gotta know where to look (Everywhere and forever, all at once.)

According to philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, “god” is the answer to the question about why anything exists. The question arises from the contradiction between a reality in which things exist, and the idea that non-existence is easier than existence. In contrast to non-existence, which requires nothing, “everything that is possible demands to exist,” as Leibniz puts it.

But the fact that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people is a bad sign, pointing in the other direction, to the basic randomness and meaninglessness of Everything.

This post is about how that apparent contradiction is resolved by the Law of the Conservation of Karma.

In physics, the Law of the Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can only be changed from one form to another.

Similarly, the Law of the Conservation of Karma states that justice (karma) cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change from one form to another. In other words, everyone gets their just desserts, maybe not at the time or in the form anticipated, but at one stage or another, at one place or another, in one way or another. Everyone gets what’s coming to them, sooner or later, here or there, once or twice, in one lump or many.

Shall I Sing to Thee of Hatred?

DOJO OF ABS, oil on stretched canvas 39.75 cm x 50.25 cm. A horrible work, don't like it at all. DOJO OF ABS, oil on stretched canvas 39.75 cm x 50.25 cm. A horrible work, don't like it at all.
Shall I sing to thee of hatred
whilst the rancid wine-red moon
lies plump upon a sullen sky, beloved?
Or doth thy internecine inclinations
bereft of paradigmatic meaninglessness
assert thy drolly wrothful commands?

As you feed the gentle drops of blood
caress your cheeks like crimson tears, my love
calling forth sweet morphogenetic memories
of all the times we’ve slain together
the line of carcasses stretching to eternity
death-lily delineating forevermore.

Shall I woo thee with insurance
until the gibbous enormity patronises
the very longitude of marsupial afterbirth, dollface?
Or would’st thou engrave betwixt delinquent carnage
thrice-flailing widdershins encircling
sublunary solemnity’s crepuscular astrolabe?

Forsooth! And whence thy infinitesimals
thy gaping quiescence incarnadine
fistula-festooned but buttery, sweet cheeks?
Or durst thee verily impignorate
thy carious kynodontic blandishments
whence fulsome gadzookery ...

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Enlightenment? Or a Cold Beer Instead?

MAYA, MIRROR OF ILLUSIONS by A.B. Davies
What is this thing called "enlightenment" and why would one want it?

I've got nothing against the concept: I just want to know what the specific benefits are. As it says in the poem in the previous post (below): One wonders why oneness is set as a goal.

Unfortunately, there's not much hard info on the benefits of enlightenment, nor on what it is exactly or how it manifests or how to achieve it. It's one of those slippery words/concepts, like "God", that can mean many things to many people. Conveniently though, we can identify a small number of broad themes to help make sense of all the detail.

Enlightenment is believed to involve:

  • escaping the endless cycle of reincarnation -- the recurring samsara of birth, death, rebirth -- in which every soul is believed to be trapped
  • quantum entanglement in the biological sense, ie being "at one" with all living things
  • getting closer to God (I don't know what "closer" or what "God" means; but some people do, apparently)
  • absence of personal identity, or the state in which one finds oneself after losing oneself
  • living outside of time / "living in the now", a technique believed to lighten the (alleged) psychological burden of regrets about the past and anxieties about the future
  • accessing lost or secret knowledge about how things really work, and our individual roles in the process
  • seeing through the illusion, the maya, of a time-bound, material world in which everything is relative to every other thing, and nothing stands still long enough to be real.

One Wonders Why Oneness

If the sum of the parts is more than the whole
And some of the parts want a starring role

One has a question, it’s really quite small
For any who want to be one with the all

One wonders why oneness is set as a goal
One that one dies for, along with one’s soul

A goal that’s scored long after the game
When the self is forgotten along with the name

In trueness your youness is inside your head
Oneness and twoness is noneness: you’re dead

Minus my myness my self can’t be found
Above in the sky or below in the ground

One and one’s two, and two and one’s three ...

Enlightenment for Dummies

“How do I become enlightened?” asked the Seeker of his aged guru — a nut-brown, gnarled and wizened personage of indeterminate gender.

Sitting in padmasana on a large boulder on top of a high mountain, at first the Gnarly One treated the question with the stupefied silence it deserved. But the Seeker persisted, much to the Guru’s disgust and annoyance. Still the Nut-brown made no answer.

Still the Seeker persisted, until the Guru’s patience and forbearance evaporated, and ze quoth unto the Seeker, saying “if you want to know how to become enlightened, leave now, and address your question to each of the next five people you meet, from this moment on, henceforth to be precise.”

Dissatisfied and mumbling imprecations under his breath, the Seeker took leave of the Guru and made his stumbling way down the mountain.

At the foot of the mountain, he set his feet toward the dwelling place of his aged parents. On his way he came across an old woman sitting in the shade of a cinnabar tree.

“How do I become enlightened?” the Seeker asked, without even so much as a how-do-you-do.

“Get lost asshole!” replied the old woman. Which is what the Seeker proceeded to do — he chose a path along which he had never previously travelled, and after some time wandering through the foothills, became absolutely, totally, horribly lost.

The next person he met was a short and rather chubby man, with a twinkle in his eye and mischief in his heart. The twinkling man was sitting on a blanket in the middle of which was a large picnic basket. Behind the twinkler was a fork in the road and a signpost with two signs posted.

They don't bleed when you cut them

Economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few giant multi-national corporations. Apologies for no attribution but I can't remember where I found this diagram.
It's a strange world, and getting stranger by the minute. If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

I don't know what the solution is, but we all know what the problems are. And if people of goodwill and strong will put their heads and hearts and hands together, we can help steer the doomed Titanic of human culture out of the path of the iceberg of human greed and selfishness.

IMHO many of the problems are the direct result of the actions of large corporations, especially 'multi-nationals’.

I think the following two actions would help address many of the problems we face (and have caused). To implement either or both will be very difficult, but game-changing if done successfully.

  1. Remove the protection corporations enjoy as 'legal persons'. A legal person can “…sue and be sued, enter contracts, incur debt, and own property” (Wikipedia 22 July 2016).
  2. Remove the protection of limited liability for shareholders, partners and directors. Under limited liability, “a person's financial liability is limited to a fixed sum, most commonly the value of a person's investment in a company or partnership” (Wikipedia 22 July 2016).

It's not a god-given right of a corporation to be treated as a legal person. No, in fact the opposite. It's a get-out-of-jail-free card that flesh-and-blood people gave to corporations roughly three hundred years ago. Legal personhood enables corporations to enjoy the benefits of being a flesh-and-blood person, with few of the responsibilities or accountabilities.

Loincloth of the Mastress

In her homely twig-built Hut, a girlwoman listened to the little birdies tweeting, and smiled her agreement. And why wouldn’t she?

Young she was, and strong. Her belly was full. Her stools were firm. Her hair was long, with no split ends. Her thighs were alabaster, and she clasped them a lot. Life was good. All her needs were supplied in ampleness and abunditude.

For sustenance she plucked the fruit off the trees and the roots from the ground.

For shelter she had her happy Hut, her twig-built. And for maintenance purposes, the surrounding woodland vale was a veritable House of Hardware.

For clothing and footwear, she had no need or want. Warm and clement was the clime, and the very ground kissed her soles and toes with lips of soft, hydroxylising meadow-wort. On special occasions she wore her hand-woven peat-yarn panties, which she kept in a bulrush basket by her bed.

For companionship she lacked not. There were few if any human peoples within a hundred miles of her twig-built, but all the beasts, bears, birds, bees and bugs were her associates, if not friends, in the most profound and pompous sense.

For conversation she only had to turn to the nearest deer-turd, the fleas within her bushy armpits, or even the very moss beneath her naked feats. For she had been born with the Gift of the Tongue — she could instantly and instinctively understand all the languages of human- and Barbarian-kind; as well as all the secret dialects and pidgins of creatures great and small, even of stones and bones and other inanimates; and of spirits, sparrows, auctioneers, town criers and gypsies, nanny goats, pilchards and sphagnum. Yes, and pigeons too.

The Assembly of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities

The male buddha Vairocana in union with the female buddha Akasadhatvisvari. Thangkas painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith are in the private collection of Gyurme Dorje.The male buddha Vairocana in union with the female buddha Akasadhatvisvari.
This post is about the so-called "peaceful and wrathful deities" in The Tibetan Book of the Dead (deluxe edition, Penguin, 2005).

Here's a crude summary: when you're dead, initially you may encounter things that may seem to be deities but which are really just products of the mind/imagination.

According to the Book (p 387), the deities are symbols that emerge from:

the meditator's own awareness ... and sensory and mental processes.

The 42 symbols of peacefulness:

represent the quiescent natural purity of these fundamental components of our being.

What is and what will never be

Animated simulation of gravitational lensing caused by a black hole going past a background galaxy. ... The maximum amplification occurs when the background galaxy ... is exactly behind the black hole. (Wikipedia 14 July 2016). Copyright CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia CommonsAnimated simulation of gravitational lensing caused by a black hole going past a background galaxy. ... The maximum amplification occurs when the background galaxy ... is exactly behind the black hole. (Wikipedia 14 July 2016)
The Isthmus of Isness protrudes into the Sea
of Serendipitous Stochasticity

Generic lifeforms gambol in the quantum foam
so near yet so far from any kind of home

Indeterminate are those who lack specificity
and disrespect outlying six sigma eccentricity

Estranged the Higgs boson within a dubious ontology
makes many martyrs to a furious phenomenology

White-coated observers collapse the wave function
of many a double-slitted choiceful junction

While a black hole lurks in the depths of a cavity
where nothing escapes the malevolence of a monstrous gravity

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Up close and personal

This image features the head of an extra-terrestrial lifeform superimposed on 'Vitruvian Man', a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)This image features the head of an extra-terrestrial lifeform superimposed on 'Vitruvian Man', a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
The nature of interactions between persons is determined by the extent to which one person believes another is a person.

In the apartheid years in South Africa, for example, the Dutch Reformed Church rationalised the harsh treatment of black people (“non-whites”) on the basis that they have no souls, do not qualify for salvation, and therefore should not be treated as persons. This twisted logic was frequently included by Dutch Reformed Church ministers in their Sunday sermons to the volk.

Slavery is another example. As the property of the slave-owner, slaves were (and in some places still are) used, abused, bought, sold, burnt, broken and disposed of as if they were pieces of furniture. Clearly, a slave is not a person in the eyes of the slave-owner.

Dictionary.com lists a number of different meanings of “person” including “…a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.” “Person” can also mean “a self-conscious or rational being (in the philosophical sense)”, or “a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity (artificial person or juristic person) recognized by law as having rights and duties.”

So an animal can never be a person, according to at least one dictionary. Of course, the Indian government would disagree, having declared dolphins to be non-human persons.

There are many different definitions of “person” but they all belong under either (but not both) of the following two headings:

  • Every person is a human.
  • Every human is a person.

Ninja-boy and the clouds

In the dead of the day the ninja crept like a wounded hyena toward its prey. No clouds crossed the sky; the ninja wondered why. He had always wondered where the clouds go to die: a practice that had cost him dear over the years. The times, for instance, when as a boy he had turned to his father and plaintively enquired, "Oh where do the clouds go to die, daddy-san?" only to receive a swift box about the earhole, and the stern rebuke, "What the crap are you bleating now, shit-fer-brains? Jus' eat your rice and shut the fuck up!"

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Happy Campers

The Burial of the Sardine, painted by Francisco Goya (1746-1828)The Burial of the Sardine, painted by Francisco Goya (1746-1828)
The Happy Campers encountered the Scum of the Earth at the Crossroads of Perplexing Coincidence. The Happiest Camper said to the Chief Scumbag, "Good day to you, kind sir. What a happy day, is it not?"

The Chief Scumbag grimaced then replied, "Get fucked asshole!"

"Oh dear," said the Happiest Camper, "I do apologise if we have offended you and your friends in any way."

The Chief Scumbag frowned, hawked a gob of yellow-green phlegm upon the ground, then snarled "You offended your own mother the day you were born, Camper Boy! Now get the fuck outta here before I tear you a new one!"

"My, my, my," said the Happiest Camper, "you seem to be a tad tetchy this glorious god-given morn. Why don't we all thank the Creator for the many blessings bestowed upon us. Now, let us prey!"

And with that the Happy Campers fell upon the Scum of the Earth like ravening wolves until every last scumbag was dead and every drop of scum sucked from the face of the Earth.

Except for one little boychild scumbag hiding behind a tree. But not for long. He was found and brought before the Happiest Camper.

"Who are you?" asked the boychild scumbag with understandable trepidation.

"We are elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain," replied the Happiest Camper, leaning forward to slit the boychild's throat with a kris.

Mutter, Utter and Stutter: Demeaning of Words

Engraved portrait of Dorothy Pentreath, last native speaker of the Cornish language, of Paul near Mousehole, Cornwall (c. 1692-1777)
English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Welsh, Swahili, Japanese and the like are called languages presumably because they satisfy unambiguous criteria. I say “presumably” because I don’t think there are any unambiguous criteria that apply to every thing we label as “language”.

I was going to ask whether we really and truly know what is a language and what is not. But then I realised that the real issue is that we just can’t agree on a definition that satisfies everyone. Another problem is that we use language to define language, which is circular reasoning, which inevitably leads to self-reflexivity and paradox. For example, I'm using language to explain why you shouldn't use language to explain language.

Most if not all people would agree that dialects, creoles and pidgins are languages. But what about “dead”/archaic languages such as Latin or Cornish?

What about sign language, music, morse code, mime, and mathematics? What about the barking of dogs, the songs of birds and whales and dolphins, the scent trails of ants, the dance of the bees? Computer programming languages? Computer machine code? Which is a language and which is not? Give reasons for your answers.

Language is a tool that helps language-users manage information. Language is a tool that helps language users create, locate, capture, transmit and receive information, as a first step on the road to truth or meaning. It’s the first step because articulating comes before validating; uttering precedes verifying. (And BTW there may not yet be computers that meet the conditions of “personhood”. But there absolutely are computers that are language-users. In fact, all computers are language-users.)

The Dead Live Elsewhen

An example of a light cone, the three-dimensional surface of all possible light rays arriving at and departing from a point in spacetime. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MissMJ. An example of a light cone, the three-dimensional surface of all possible light rays arriving at and departing from a point in spacetime. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MissMJ.
Many if not most if not all people have secrets, or think they do. But in fact there are no secrets. Even the secrets people take to the grave are not secret. Everything is known, in at least one way or another. Information is never lost, not even from inside a dissipated black hole that has given its all to the All via Hawking radiation.

So don't be like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Being unable to see does not mean being unable to be seen.

In private, people let their hair down; they take the opportunity to "be themselves". When no-one else is around, they pick their noses, masturbate, piss in the shower, eat gluttonously, murder their grandfathers, beat their children -- do all the stuff they don't want anyone to see or know about.

But everything is recorded in cosmic memory -- the Akashic Records if you prefer.

Nor are these the febrile imaginings of an aging hippie fumbling around in the peyote-flavoured smog of the Age of Aquarius. Well they are, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a grain of truth in them somewhere. In fact, no less an authority than old smarty pants himself, Einstein, believed that nothing is ever lost.

How I got my Bad

detail from NIGHTMARE, oils on canvas 90 x 90 cmOnce, when we were little, Jonnie and me were playing and Jonnie got hurt, and started crying.

I started larfing. Jonnie hated that, when you started larfing at him. Then mum came and blamed me for everything and said she was going to tell dad. And I got really upset and screamed at mum and pushed her … Can't remember what happened next, but anyway, that's how I got my bad.

Since then my bad's got worse, a lot worse. Like when I was waiting for a taxi and then a taxi came and a girl tried to steal my taxi, and how she screamed and cried and…

But anyway, that's how I got my bad, and that's how my bad got worse.

And now I'm scared 'cos my worst is still to come.

Dust to dust

Drawing by J.
Old wizened trees gazing on forever
their eye-leaves slowly drifting in a velvet haze
extend their praise to blackness
while the grass tips bow with the wind
a thump is pounding closer and closer
the sound of footsteps come
to cut and hurt the trees until their wizdom-sap
oozes like thick black blood
but the creatures smile with glee
their pointed features pointing, their laughter steady
they suckle and suckle and suckle
until satiated they fall to the ground
the trees are not bothered
they've been through worse, have many stories to tell
they are saddened though
by the steady vampiric suckling of life
due to which the earth is salted and white as ice
its crystals are shimmering like diamonte
and this is the place
where I SCREAMED
I was growing, ever changing
a very promising maiden
the orphanage near the woods
thought so at least
the woods so close to hand
it would be natural to become inquisitive
so i waltzed out with all my possessions:
just a matchbox
and an old economically unacceptable coin
what happened next and why i am undressed
my money gone and my body black
the charcoal crumbles
and the wind blows me away in the breeze.

Words and art by J.

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The Bindu of a Naked Numbskull

Portrait of Thomas Aquinas painted by Carlo Crivelli, 1476
"How many angels can dance on the point of a pin?" is a question first asked by such truth-seekers as Aquinas in the glorious age of scholasticism, when metaphysical nitpicking, hair-splitting and name-calling were the order of the day.

Counting angels is not easy when they’re standing still, let alone jitterbugging on emptiness. And if the dimensionless point at the end of a pin were as infinitely rich in potential as the bindu of Hindu metaphysics, to count the angels you'd need some really tight air traffic control.

But if the point were a dome, and the angels were very thin, how many could dance on the head of a bald man?

Becoming bald is a process involving a diminishing number of hairs. But let's get specific. At the loss of which hair, precisely, can the label "bald" validly be applied? Or, if you're loading straw onto the back of a camel, what is the number of the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Most if not all questions about moving from one state to another involve a paradox. According to the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, motion is an illusion, and yet he sat on many stools. Paradoxes are like boogeymen: they seem scary and threatening but when you look closely they lack substance. Most if not all paradoxes emerge from the inherent limitations of human thought and language. Resolving them is simply a matter of accurate definition.

For instance, baldness could be defined as the mean headhairiness density of 0-2 hairs per square centimetre across more than 94.2% of naked numbskull.

Alternatively, we could apply a reductive definition paradigm based on recursion theory. If a full head of hair comprises, say, a million hairs, baldness could be defined as the phase transition marked by the loss of hair #999,678, and absolutely and totally bald, as the end-state marked by the loss of hair #1, i.e. the ultimate hair (hair #2 is the penultimate).

Similar methods can be applied to counting straws and camels.

Now if there’s no bijection, this post can draw to an ignominious close.

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Awarewolf

I came upon a golem
“encountered” one might say
eating dust as golems must
all bloody, muddy day.

I came upon a zombie
a zombie that I saw
gobbling brains ’til brainy stains
remained upon the floor.

I came upon a vampire
a vampire I did see
drinking blood that streamed in flood
bright red quite readily.

I came upon a werewolf
“awarewolf” as it were
hungry eyes saw my demise
my death, if you prefer.

I came upon the humans
in their global sauna
they ate a world and then they hurled
their guts out in a corner.

On the outside

Pacing the icy hallways and crystal corridors of the Fortress of Solitude, Superman pondered the meaning and purpose of his life. Frozen tears sparkled on his super-cheeks, for the steel-trap mind of the man of steel was corroded and tarnished with self-pity.

Alone. Sad. Tired. He ventured forth seldom those days into so-called civilisation. Alienated and profoundly depressed, he no longer sought to wreak justice upon the wrongdoer. Apparently indifferent to the plight of the undefended innocent, seemingly unaware of the cataclysmic disasters besetting a helpless world, the superhero disgruntedly trundled the polar passages, ruminating on the ingratitude of those for whom he had laboured long and mightily to protect.

And for what? The people of Earth had never been overly generous towards their saviours. Crucifixion for example seemed about as rewarding as a jab to the eye with a sharp piece of kryptonite. Which was why he'd been forced to keep his true identity a secret.

Resentment and bitterness permeated his super-soul. He felt used, dirty, discarded. Well, he would show them. No longer would he hide behind mild-mannered reporters. He would openly express his pride. He would come clean.

He would wear his underpants on the outside.

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A sermon on vermin

MEDEA, lithograph by Alfons Mucha (1860–1939). At the feet of the sorceress are her children, whom she has murdered to spite her ex-lover Jason (he of the golden fleece!)
With a slap of your hand you kill the mosquito that alights on you for a quick meal. With a stomp of your foot you squash dead a cockroach too slow at scurrying away. With a deadly feather-duster or vacuum cleaner you destroy the spiders and their elegant webs painstakingly woven in the nooks and crannies of your home. For no good reason other than to test the speed of your reflexes, you grab and clutch to death a tiny, inoffensive midge flying through the air. With an ozone-friendly insecticide you murder dozens of ants clearing away the debris on your kitchen floor. Humming a merry tune, you place a deadly mousetrap in your pantry cupboard.

You think of yourself as a person with at least one foot on the path to enlightenment. You rationalise the killing as being acceptable considering the nature and insignificance of the victims.

Yet the cockroach is to you as you are to the sentient entity known as Everything, aka Reality. The ant knows you as well as you know Everything. The mouse in the mousetrap understands its agony as well as you understand the trials and tribulations that Reality inflicts upon you. Do you want Everything to treat you as you treat those you believe are “lower” forms of life?

Actually, the sentient entity known as Reality doesn’t always treat humans in ways that humans would describe as “gentle” or “loving” or “respectful”. Let’s not forget that every thing is as much a part of Everything as anything, which is why Everything treats every thing equally. The so-called “acts of Everything”, including droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, continue to cause misery and death to humans, cockroaches, ants and mice indiscriminately.

What makes humans a “higher” form of life than, say, mice? It’s true that mice don’t build cathedrals as well as humans do. But humans don’t scurry or gnaw or reproduce as well as mice do. In what way is cathedral-building a worthier activity than gnawing, or reproducing for that matter?

The Summons of the Amulet

The gang were all there, in their usual spot behind the trees at the south end of the school grounds. They were talking about good ways to commit suicide and Tom said injecting air into your veins ‘cos that gives you a heart attack, and that’s how Bruce Lee died but they never found out who did it though.

Then Piggy said eating yourself to death, like in that movie where they ate and ate and ate and the one dude got sick and starting farting until they forced him to eat mashed potatoes and then they all screwed these hot young babes with ice cream and chocolate sauce dripping all over them.

The younger boys, JJ, Nose and Weasel said “Wicked!” and “Fully sick!” Nose got his name from the size of his nose. None of them could remember how Weasel got his name.

Just then the boys noticed Tom’s step-sister Suzie approaching. Her pale skin was dotted with freckles. She wore her frizzy red hair in pigtails. Her eyes lay deep and green behind spectacles with lenses the thickness of coke bottle glass. She had just turned seven and in her hair she wore one of the cute little bunny hairclips that daddy had bought her on her birthday.

In my father's house are infinite mansions

The material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships. Fritjof Capra, author "The Tao of Physics"
A pattern is a frozen process. A process is a freely flowing pattern.

A pattern is a static process. A process is a dynamic pattern.

A pattern is one form of structured chaos. A process is another.

In the material world/s, a pattern is structured chaos. The growth rings of trees, at a moment in time, are a pattern.

In the immaterial world/s, a process is structured chaos.The development of growth rings in trees is a process. Immaterial things like "Life", "Consciousness", "Self/Soul", "Thought" are processes.

Unstructured chaos is the primeval state. Structure is an emergent quality, i.e. structure isn't present or seems not to be present in the primeval state, but rather emerges or seems to emerge at a threshold level of complexity. Structure and complexity are correlated or seem to be correlated. The more complexity, the greater the potential for structure, the greater the potential diversity of structural forms.

Miscarriage of justice

The coppery smell of blood hung in the air within the narrow, blighted birth-chamber. "Not salvageable," was my father's judgment carelessly declared over the dying body of his youngest wife---thirty years his junior---on the occasion of my emergence into this world of pain. The next time we met was the day he died.

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The Plughole of Nothingness

Mastress, a gnarled and nut-brown guru of indeterminate gender
“Uncanny, Mastress is it not, how the processes of consciousness conspire to emerge unwittingly, unknowingly and unknowably behind the Curtains of Myness on the Stage of Solipsism in the Life Drama now playing at the Theatre of Self,” said the Novice to the Guru, a gnarled and nut-brown mendicant of indeterminate extraction and inherence, naked but for a dubious loincloth in the early years of retirement.

Having spoken informally, in a cringingly nervous and offputting attempt at the easy badinage of one learned colleague with another, the Novice flinched then winced then cowered behind the large laundry basket that doubled as a small laundry basket on top of another.

“If that’s what you’ve derived from the Teachings,” quoth the aged Guru, imperturbably eating a banana,” then you have derived yourself. Ex nihilo nihil fit. As it is written, so shall it be...”

“But Mastress, if I am not for myself, who is?” implored the Novice piteously, “and if not now, then when?”

“Nobody, never. Or everybody always. Now go sweep the stair. Perhaps you’ll meet a man who isn’t there. If only he were you,” grumbled the Nut-brown querulously, dugs flapping mysteriously in a windless breeze.

Global warming's habit-forming

DetailDetail from Hungry Ghosts Scroll, late 12th century, Kyoto National Museum, Japan. You don't have to be Buddhist (or even human) to feel that life is pain and misery. But some lives are more painful and miserable than others. One of six lifeforms available to humans for reincarnation purposes, hungry ghosts (aka anguished spirits) can never satisfy their monstrous appetites.
If humans were to go away
Would nice terrestrials stay and play?

Were we to leave for outer space
Who'd stand and say we're in disgrace?

Fish don't know its paradoxic
Waste is food and food is toxic

No birds there be, or bees, or trees
Who realize we spread disease

We'd like to say with deep remorse
We're very sorry, yes of course

But where's the mailbox on the moon
To send the Earth a Get-Well-Soon?

To tenderize a tough old bird
Just cook her longer, so I’ve heard

But like revenge, or so I’m told
The Earth is better eaten cold.

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Sign of success (dream)

I am employed by a firm of consultants. My office is in the middle of the alfresco dining area of a luxury hotel. I am happy. I feel good. I am not concerned about the fact that my office is in a terrible mess: papers everywhere, ashtrays full of butts and ash, and strange green caterpillars crawling all over the back of my chair.

The caterpillars have long, bristly hairs. Could they be dangerous? Are the hairs tipped with potent neurotoxins? Should I kill the caterpillars? I decide not to.

I find a sign on which most of the lettering is faded and illegible but I can read some of the words: "Director of Superannuation… in honour of… recognition… excellence…"

Two workmen enter the office wanting to affix the sign. We have a friendly conversation. I say "I'm amazed, astounded, really bowled over. Nobody tells me anything. It's the first I've heard of it. Without any inappropriate modesty I feel it is richly warranted…"

The workmen respond by saying they have known about it for some time--the fact that my achievements are to be recognised by means of the sign. The workmen go away. I go for a walk in the garden. When I return, the sign is no longer to be seen. I search my office, but the sign is nowhere to be found. The green caterpillars are still crawling on the back of my chair. I am not worried, or upset. I feel cheerful. I suspect the workmen may have taken the sign. But they probably have a good reason for doing so. I don't know what that could be.

President Bill Clinton enters the office. He is CEO. He knows about the sign. We look for it together.

"You are one of my best generals," he says to me.

The Guts and Toes of the Meaning of Life

Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to 'A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet...'
We’ll get to the meaning (and purpose) of life later, but first we need to talk about guts, toes and strings.

Physicists tie guts and toes with string. Or to put it less simply, string theory is seen as a promising way to integrate grand unifying theories (GUTs) with theories of everything (TOEs).

GUTs are about unifying three of the four forces that physicists call fundamental. “Fundamental” means there are no others. "Fundamental" means that across the whole of the universe are no forces, powers or energies other than the fundamental four: electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force, and gravity.

Every force is one of the four fundamentals or is based on one of the four. Centripetal and centrifugal forces, for example, are just gravity in the round. Nuclear energy is the strong force flexing its muscles. Radioactivity is the weak force at work.

Electricity and magnetism have been unified: they are different aspects of the same underlying force, electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism and the weak force have been unified into the electroweak. To put it less simply: electricity, magnetism and the weak force are thought to have once been the same thing, or at least, different aspects of the same thing.

And you're not wrong if you think this is all weird, strange or abnormal. In fact, renormalizing the electroweak was how three nerds (Glashow, Salam and Weinberg) earned their Nobel Prize.

The strong force keeps it all together. What is it? It is ordinary matter (as opposed to non-ordinary matter, called dark matter, which is believed to exist but about which we know very little). Specifically, the strong force binds protons and neutrons into nucleons, and confines quarks to their hadrons. (Jeez! It’s got to be true, you just can’t make this stuff up!)

It is thought that the strong and the electroweak were once unified but went their separate ways shortly after the big bang.

GUTs are about unifying three of the four fundamental forces. TOEs are about unifying all four. Unfortunately, the fourth fundamental force, gravity, has a mind of its own and continues to go its own way. Relatively speaking, of course!

TOEs aim to wrap all four fundamental forces into a nice, neat, tight, little parcel. And the best way to wrap a parcel is with string.

Le Club Nosferatu

nosferatu--Image from poster for the Werner Herzog movie---Nosferatu the Vampyre---starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani. Apologies but I don't know the name of the artist.It was 3:00 am and they were hungry. Where could they go in the City to feed? There were hardly any people about and all the restaurants and take-away joints were closed. So after some debate they decided to go clubbing instead.

When they got there the music was pounding loud enough to burst the eardrums of a beggar sleeping in the alley out back. He clutched his skull and wailed piteously. The blood ran down his cheeks.

"Well that's handy," said Armand, "we can have a quick snack before we go in!"

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A bad, bad feeling

Paulie was a skinny little kid with ginger hair and no friends. He lived with his mother in a ramshackle cottage on the wrong side of the tracks. His father had died in an industrial accident a few months after Paulie’s birth.

The kids at school teased him a lot. They called him “mommy’s boy” because his mother waited outside school most afternoons to walk home with him, or take the bus if they didn’t feel like walking.

Paulie’s love for his mother ran deep. She was always doing things for him, looking after him, helping him do his homework, stuff like that. And every year on his birthday she would bake him a cake and give him a present (even though they didn’t have much money) and sing “Happy Birthday” so that he could forget his troubles at least for one day.

Paulie knew the date of his mother’s birthday, but for one reason or another he never remembered in time to make her a present or a card. Her birthday would come and go and a few days later he would realize he had forgotten yet again. He would feel really bad about that, but only for a short while and then the bad feeling would go away.

One day at school it suddenly came into his head that it was his mother’s birthday that day. He was ecstatic that he had remembered. In art class he made a beautiful birthday card for her. He felt proud of himself for remembering, and he could hardly wait for school to end so he could hug his mom and wish her happy birthday.