God Threshold III

Philosophy, Religion

You take a photograph with a digital camera. You upload it to a computer. When you look at the image on the screen, it’s a familiar scene that you’ve just recorded. Underneath it though, is code, lots of code. While you see a picture, the image is produced on screen through a long string of coded information that the computer needs to display said image.

It’s not really all that different from your brain processing your sight. You open your eyes. Images are processed and the information is sent to your brain through signals in your nervous system. It is your brain that actually produces the image.

But there’s a tremendous difference between how a computer and a human brain translate and display images.

You can take two computers and connect them with a wire. That forms a network. Using software you can take the code of a photograph and send it to the second computer through the wire. The second computer, regardless of its operating system and sometimes regardless of its internal architecture, can then take that code and produce the exact same image that you first saw on the first computer.

The brain does not do that. If you witness two cars hitting each other on a street and a person standing next to you witnesses the same wreck, both of you can walk away with different interpretations about which driver was at fault. People disagree on what they see even if they see the same exact thing. You can show the same picture to two people and they can both see different things.

The point? No matter how much two people relate to each other whether it’s verbal or physical, it is impossible for one person to completely transmit their own personal experience to another. We can all look at the same thing and agree on the details of what we see but we can’t all see it the same. We can all listen to the same songs but we can’t fully share those songs between each other so that each person has the exact same code as another person.

No matter what we process through our experiences and reason, it is all colored by our individual minds. And every individual mind has its own color.

People, while they can communicate like a computer network, cannot have their brains wired together to share information and then experience that information in the precisely same manner. At the end of the day, all we really know is what we process through our own minds.

Is it any wonder then, that we can never fully agree on what reality is? We can all look at the same picture but we all have a different perspective.

Perhaps I’m wrong and reality does exist. It still doesn’t matter. We can never fully know reality because said reality would be processed by each of our different, unique minds.

Much of this boils down to the same question which I’ve posed many times on this blog: can something exist that is beyond our ability to experience? By that I mean is there something that we don’t possess the physiological necessities to experience? We didn’t have the ability to see bacteria until the microscope was invented. But even then, we had been experiencing bacteria (illness, etc.) despite the fact we couldn’t process its existence through base, empirical means. Our minds are incapable of processing the microscopic life form. But through technological advances, we can and did eventually experience it through sight.

I am speaking of something that can exist beyond any ability to experience; something that no amount of technology could ever find for us?

Or is the whole universe accessible to us and we can’t we just can’t experience it yet?

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God Experience

Religion

symbols

My first experience with God wasn’t a happy one.

It was in a CCD class. My teacher was going over the experiences of hell. Some woman had gone to the depths of the inferno in some dream and came back to tell people what it was like. She was some sort of inverted prophet.

The teacher told the story as though she was recalling a memory about a past storm. She described the fire and how the flames burned hotter than coals.

I don’t know why, but her talk got to me. I was only about 12 or so. Since I’d been born, God and the devil and heaven and hell were nothing more than theories, beings who were out in some ethereal world that had nothing to do with me.

But that day, the reality hit me that my actions did matter. Somebody was watching and keeping tally. I didn’t look at it though, from the stance that I had heaven to gain by doing good. I became all about avoiding hell. For all I cared, I could get stuck in some dentist’s lobby for eternity as long as the fiery coals weren’t sticking to my skin.

How did the talk from some volunteer Sunday school teacher get to me? It wasn’t as if she were a nun or a priest. She was just some mother who was trying to get through to a group of teenage kids.

I never shared with anyone that experience and how it thumped my soul into action. I started sitting closer in the front pews, while my parents stayed in the back. I paid attention to the homilies and the gospel readings.

Profound effect. Still didn’t know why.

I looked at ways to avoid hell. Someone told me if you died wearing a scapula or a rosary, you were guaranteed refuge in heaven. Then they taught me about confession and how if I died after confession my soul would be cleared and I’d be safe. Others told me to lead a good life and do good things and God wouldn’t condemn me. The inferno and my escape from it was always on my mind.

What bothers me now is I never questioned it. I never tried to investigate the teacher’s claims or ask myself why I got so scared.

Since then, I’ve come to believe that it was because of my first memory as a child. When I think back as far as I can, the first thing I remember happening to me was burning my hand on a barbecue pit. I was at some family get together, some second cousin’s graduation or something. I was walking around and I remember my hand sticking to some 55 gallon drum cut out as a pit. Searing pain, that’s what stuck with me. It burned and wouldn’t stop. Family members scrambled around me, some relative grabbed a bag of ice and put it on my arm. I’m not sure if it helped or not.

That’s it, that’s all I remember from that day, that moment. Talking to my mom about it one day, she was surprised that I remembered that, I was only about 18 months old, she said. She told me she kept bandages on my hand for a long time, even had to put a sock on it to keep me from hurting it again while there was raw skin exposed.

Maybe my mind connected hell with burning my arm. Maybe it’s bullshit. I don’t know.

It’s taken many years but the effect of putting hell off has waned, though not entirely.

Now, 34, I don’t know how God works and how people go to heaven or hell. I see good people, great souls, who don’t go to church or tout any religious ideology. I’ve met righteous muslim people and Jewish There are good “church-going” people, judgmental, narrow-minded, who have no business being rewarded for their intense dislike of things that are different.

I do believe there is a God but I think He’s more of a mystery to me than that day in Sunday school.

So, at a crossroads now, not knowing where I’m heading or what to do about it. Boat listlessly drifting in an open sea.

I’m not an atheist but I now see where they’re coming from. There is so much unfathomable evil in this world and this God that believers describe doesn’t seem to fit with that reality, or reality as we know it.

How can a God who drowned the whole world let genocide go unchecked? I mean a vile genocide, like Rwanda or Cambodia. People hacked to death, heads cut off in public. Women raped. Outsiders tortured. But no God.

Athiests see so many people utilizing religion as a channel to dominate and justify heinous activity. I see now how evil the institution can be and how they really believe that it’s ok to kill, rape, torture and destroy those who think different.

How can you blame someone for thinking that no divine would let these things happen?

Sure there are testaments, Bible passages, inspirational stories that are offered by ardent believers that there is something great and unknown.

I can’t say I don’t believe in that ideal. What I can say is, I’ve slowly  shed off the memory of the day I became firmly entrenched in the idea of hell. I’m awake now. The afterlife is uncertain again and I can’t go back to sleep.

Acceptance Finally

Uncategorized

Image

Does reality really matter anymore? I may have covered this somewhat already. Well, I’ll go over it again.

There’s been a long battle for centuries about the foundation of all knowledge. There are rationalists who believe we learn everything through reason. Then there are the empiricists who think every byte of brain power is by experience. It’s like the epic philosophical rivalry. Think Yankees v. Red Sox, Soviets v. Americans, Archie v. Reggie.

In the rationalist corner: Kant and Descarte, etc. In the empiricist corner: Locke and Hobbes, etc. Many philosophers who never had a dog in the hunt are often classified as one or the other.

I’ve struggled with it most of my life. I’m not really sure where I fall though I’ve always leaned more towards the rationalists. In my mind, the idea of all knowledge based on my senses makes me feel more like a hybrid ape than a human being. (Who knows, maybe at the end of the day that’s all we really are)

Empiricists argue that we all learn first from touching, tasting, hearing, smelling and seeing. Then at some point reason comes along and processes those sensations. Seems reasonable to me. How can you define a pure idea without any kind of empirical knowledge to back it up?

But then rationalists argue that all sensations are first processed by the reason filter. Which I take to mean, reason is there first. Your senses can deceive you. You can see a watery-looking image on the horizon on a hot day. But your reasoning capabilities helps you understand it’s a mirage.

Yeah, I’m going with the rationalist camp here. There really is no such thing as reality anymore is there? Maybe it was never really there. At the end of the day, we can’t really prove anything about what we perceive. Because it’s all perception, that pretty much belies empiricism doesn’t it?

A schizophrenic has all kinds of perceptions. What’s real to them? Is reality to a schizophrenic patient the reality we tell them after they take medication?

And if that’s the case, what’s real to us? This quickly devolves into that childish notion that we are all really living in our own play, with everyone around us merely being characters.

The true test for any reality is a result, I think. We can choose to believe perceptions that global warming isn’t real. But that’s not really going to stop global warming is it? It’s very much a tree-falling-in-the-forest-without-a-sound kind of thing.

Well, if that tree falls on your head and kills you, then the whole reality vs. perception thing doesn’t really matter anymore does it? The dead don’t perceive.

I say reality doesn’t matter anymore because it seems that people have given up trying to discover the truth of things, whether it’s politics, religion, science, etc. Every day we can log onto Web pages and read the things we like read. We can watch TV and listen only to the voices we agree with. It seems to me we have all withdrawn inside ourselves and in that case, perception is all we really know.

There is no such thing as reality.

And I think I hear the sound of a tree falling.