Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Living within the Clumps

Life is clumpy.

Get over it.

Not helpful.

Really. I mean, how are we supposed to live with unpredictability?

Well. Pretty much the way you've been living so far.

This shouldn't be a big surprise to you. That life is unpredictable, I mean.

Because, you know. Look around. See?

We really really want life to be predictable, so we say things like when a door closes a window opens and there's a reason for everything, but in fact,

that's just not true.

Here's what is true.

First. When a door closes, you can't go that way anymore.

So you've got to find another way.

Chances are good you'll find one. There are lots of options. Sometimes you need to be creative and work hard and be patient. It would have been good for you to get ready for a clump of bad things to come along, so, you know, having some extra money in the bank is a fine idea. For example.

If you know that bad clumps are always out there lurking, then heck. Get ready for them.

And everything doesn't happen for a reason, but lots and lots of things that happen come with a life lesson wrapped up inside, something to learn, something to remember for next time.

Like, wear a seatbelt. Flush twice. All smells are particulate. OK, that last one is not useful to remember at all. It's just disgusting.

However. There are some things that happen that are so terrible, horrific, and monstrous, that not only did they not happen for a reason, but they didn't happen so as to provide you with a neat little lesson to learn from.

They happened because the quality of bad things is clumpy, too. Many bad things are just kinda bad, maybe most bad things. But some are much, much worse. Some are beyond imagining. Some are the stuff of nightmares that are not supposed to transition into daytime and reality. But they do.

Some you just have to survive as best you can. And maybe find people who have already survived as best they could. And then maybe become one of those people, so that you can be one of them when it happens to someone else.

Could be that there is a reason, after all.

We are supposed to help each other. And sometimes it helps to have been there for people who are now there.

Community is the thing. Coming together. Sharing lives and pains and joys and struggles and clumps.

Oh. And sometimes bad things happen because you did something stupid.

Let's not rule that out.

Because that's when everything does happen for a reason, and the reason is, you were an idiot.

Now. If God exists (always an option), then how does he fit into all of this?

Well. His main job is not to keep you safe from bad things. If it is, then he's doing a really crappy job of it.

And we're going to assume that God never does a crappy job on anything.

His main job is not to provide you with object lessons to learn from. With an exception for the stupid things you do. Those, you're supposed to learn from, whether God exists or not. Here's the lesson: That thing you just did? That's what idiots do. Don't be an idiot.

See how easy it is?

Now, as far as all the other bad things, especially the really bad things that happen, that's an interesting question.

Clearly if God exists, he could stop bad things from happening.

And clearly, he doesn't always do that. He might do it sometimes, but, well, you never really know. 'Cause they didn't happen.

So why doesn't he just stop all the bad things and keep only the good things?

Huh. Good question.

Let's give it a shot.

First. If there were no bad things, then we would never have any reason to look to God for help. Or to each other, for that matter.

We might even just start to think about only ourselves all the time, and never about anybody else.

Eventually, that would cause bad things. Maybe it does already. I'm gonna bet on that one.

Second. if there were no bad things, then there would be different levels of good things. And we'd start to rank them so that some of them would start to seem bad to us, and then we'd complain about it.

So even if there were no bad things, we'd come up with some. Maybe we already do that. I'm gonna bet on that one, too.

Third. There are only good and bad things if there is some sort of God around to call them good and bad. Even Richard Dawkins says that. "No design, no purpose, no good and no evil, nothing but pointless indifference."

That's a universe without God.

So even if we're not totally crazy about all the bad things,

they are only bad if God exists.

So you just have to live with that. And you kinda have to live with whatever he calls good and/or bad. You don't get to get to define good and bad for yourself.

Because often something that is good for you, is bad for someone else. One of you is being a jerk.

And we can't really let nations or cultures define what is good and bad, because they are full of people, and people are often not the best judges of that.

Because, well, the Holocaust. For example. There might be others. Ha. Not funny.

Fourth. If there were no bad things, then we'd never do anything at all.

Because some of the bad things are like, um, being hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Dirty. Naked. Walking instead of driving. Or floating. Or flying. Being sick. Or lonely. Or bored.

All of those needs give us something to do. For ourselves. For each other. If we had no needs, we wouldn't do anything. We wouldn't need to. And we wouldn't need each other. Or God.

And we wouldn't have dark chocolate. Or ice cream. Cookies. Hamburgers. Pizza. Fondue. Ceviche. Curry. Sushi. Burritos.

Or cars or movies or jeans or books or bikes or skiis or games or TV or music or scuba diving or dancing or theater or pyramids or great walls or tall buildings or short buildings or buildings or

anything. At all. Like friends. Lovers. Children.

Bottom line. Life is clumpy. So we need each other. And we need God.

Get over it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Life is Chaotic. Then you die.

And when we say Chaotic, we don't mean messy (though life is certainly sometimes messy) but unpredictable. That's what Chaos Theory is all about. Unpredictability.

Life is unpredictable. And then, yes, well, it just so happens that at the end, dying cease to be an option and becomes an imperative.

That might be the only predictable thing about life, in fact. Taxes too, I suppose. Unless you're able to figure out how to not pay them. As some have been known to do.

But just because life's unpredictable doesn't mean it's random.

Nor does it mean that there is no meaning or purpose to existence.

Or that there is no good or evil.

Richard Dawkins and his buds have mistaken unpredictability for randomness.

So the way that life works lies somewhere between randomness and predictability.

So when we say things like God has a wonderful plan for your life or when a door closes a window opens or everything happens for a reason or ask questions like why do bad things happen to good people or most importantly why do bad things happen to ME?, 

we are acting like life is predictable. That there's a reason for everything.

That somebody is in charge and making all the decisions and pulling all the strings and making everything happen according to some grand plan.

God. Or if you don't like God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain or Fate or Destiny or Karma or Aliens or the Buddha or the Military-Industrial Complex or the Illuminati.

We're gonna go with God. Short, sweet, simple.

Now the Richard Dawkinses of the world don't wanna go with God or anything resembling God, so they swing all the way to the other end of the bell curve to randomness.

Frankly, that just shows a lack of imagination.

Let's just use some. Imagination, I mean.

So. Let's just say that life will have good things and bad things in it. Also lots of things that are neither good nor bad but are just ... things.

Now. Everybody is going to get some good things and some bad things.

That seems fair.

So when something bad happens to us, here's what we say - why me?

Yeah, we never say that when good things happen.

We kinda assume that good things are normal and bad things are not normal.

For those who believe in God, sometimes we think that God's main job is to protect us from bad things and make sure we only get good things.

That's just silly.

For those who don't believe in God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain or Fate or Destiny or Karma or Aliens or the Buddha or the Military-Industrial Complex or the Illuminati, bad things are just baaaad things dammit, and good things are great, unless you are Richard Dawkins pretending for a brief moment that there are no bad or good things, there are just things, in which case, a bad thing is just a thing.

Yeah, he never does that. If he ever did, he'd stop saying that religion was bad. For example. He's a total hypocrite. Sorry, Dicky. And he never ever ever ever says that a bad thing that happens to him is not a bad thing it's just a thing. Never ever ever. Nobody does, not even Dr. Dicky Dawkins.

So really, life is going to have good things and bad things in it.

Now. Here's a math question for you. Or two. Several.

Are the good and bad things going to be equally divided in your life? Just exactly the same number of good things as bad things?

And are they going to be equally divided between humans? That is, will every human get exactly the same number of good and bad things as every other human?

And will the good things and bad things happen at regular intervals so that we will know they are coming and 1) bake a cake (in case it's a good thing or 2) run and hide (in case, well, you know)?

And since Death is like the ultimate Bad Thing, is everybody going to die at the same age?

Whether you believe in God or not, the answer to all those questions is the same:

No. That's ridiculous.

So here's what that means. It means that you will have an unequal number of good and bad things happen to you in your life.

Some of you will get way more good things, and others will get way more bad things. Some won't suffer much. Others will suffer a crapload.

Sometimes in life you'll get a crapload of bad things all at once, and then there might be a loooong pause where nothing bad really happens. Sometimes a ton of good stuff will happen all at once.

And since we're all going to die at different times in different ways, some of us will die before we are born, some when we are born, some when we are babies or toddlers or pre-schoolers or schoolers or teenagers or collegians or young adults or middle adults or old adults, and some will die quickly and painlessly and others will not be that lucky.

And some things will happen for a reason, and others will not.

And sometimes doors just close and windows don't open. Sometimes they'll both open.

It's not random. It's unpredictable.

Your life is not paint-by-numbers. It's not fill-in-the-blank. It's not a crossword puzzle.

It's a blank canvas with dangers and joys lurking in the paint, the brush, in your fingers and brain, in the fabric of time and space and in the interactions that are your emerging life.

And every interaction is the artist of your life.

So here's what Chaos tells us - life is clumpy. Life comes in clumps. Clumps of good things. Clumps of bad things. 

And when you get a clump of bad things that happen to you, you wonder, why do bad things happen to good people, but of course, what you really mean is, why do bad things happen to ME?! ALL THE DAMN TIME!?!?

And the answer is (envelope, please), why not?

Bad things happen to everyone eventually. Sometimes terrible things.

But not equally. Some people have lots of terrible things happen to them. 

And others ... don't.

Because the universe is clumpy.

In scientific terms, the universe started out not clumpy at all, and then got clumpier as time went on. So after 13.8 billion years, there's a crapload of clumpiness out there.

So just about the only other predictable thing about the universe is that it will be unpredictably clumpy.

Live accordingly.

OK, that is not helpful advice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why bad things happen to good people, or Chaos Theory Explained

Here are some things folks worry about.

Like, why bad things happen to good people.

And, why good things happen to bad people.

Also, does everything really happen for a reason?

Plus, if a door closes, does a window open?

And most importantly, why do bad things happen to ME? Or in your case, YOU?

Now the reasons that we wonder about these things are curious.

It's because there's a certain ... tension ... in our thinking.

Science tells us that there's no reason or purpose for anything.

Not for the universe. Not for the earth. Not for humans.

Not for you. Not for me.

Everything is meaningless. That's what they tell us.

What? You don't believe me?

Well. Since science is all about evidence, here's some. Evidence, I mean.

Richard Dawkins, Oxford zoologist …
…the universe "has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference"…human beings are "machines for propagating DNA”.

Jacques Monod, Nobel Prize winner, physiology/medicine
"The ancient covenant is in pieces. Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance."

Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot
You are there. Along with all the rest of us.

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner, physics

"Though aware that there is nothing in the universe that suggests any purpose for humanity, one way that we can find a purpose is to study the universe by the methods of science, without consoling ourselves with fairy tales about its future, or about our own."

Bertrand Russell
"That man is the product of causes …;
that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental (collections) of atoms;
that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;

that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system,
and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins;
all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.
Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built."

Stanley Kubrick: "The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning."

Joseph Conrad: Life is "that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose."

Jean Paul Sartre: "It is meaningless that we are born. It is meaningless that we die." 

Sartre: "Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance."

Sartre: "Everything has been figured out, except how to live."

Clarence Darrow: Life is a ship that is "tossed by every wave and by every wind; a ship heading to no port and no harbor with no rudder, no compass, no pilot, simply floating for a time, then lost in the waves."

The catch, of course, is that nobody lives like that.

We, and by "we" I mean "everybody", live like there's a reason for us to be here.

And thus, there's a reason why things happen. Bad things. Good things.

And there's supposed to be some sort of ... balance to the universe. 

Like, if you are bad, then bad things are what you get.

And if you are good, then you get good things.

The universe is supposed to be sort of like Santa Claus. There's a list. All of our names are on it. And good and bad things get divided up perfectly and justly and fairly between good and bad people.

Now, if there's no meaning to the universe, all of that is just
ridiculous. Things just happen randomly without meaning or purpose, so when a bad or a good thing happens to you or me, well, tough luck or wasn't that nice?

So bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people randomly and without rhyme or reason, and good things will happen to good people and bad things will happen to bad people randomly and without rhyme or reason.

And sometimes more good things will happen to bad people and sometimes more bad things will happen to good people, because it's all random.

Nothing happens for a reason. Things just happen to people because things just happen and people are always getting in the way.

When a door closes, a door closes. Windows opening are entirely
unrelated and random. Sometimes windows don't open when doors close.

In fact, if we really paid attention to Richard Dawkins up there, there are no good things or bad things, because there is no good or bad. There are just things.

"Good" and "bad" are just levels of comfort and inconvenience that
we make up out of nothing. Because we persist in thinking that we matter. That we are here for a reason. That there is meaning and purpose to our lives.

Silly us.
Perhaps, though, we might be wrong. In part, at least.

That would be ... intriguing.