The Ully-Verse

From quantum stuff to space stuff and lots of in between stuff.

Turning Into Gods - Jason Silva

Let Me Help. 3 most important words.


“Let Me Help”

It was brought to my attention an episode in Star Trek regarding this. What are the 3 most important words you can say to another? I love you is the common answer, but I would like to explore an alternative, inspired by Star Trek, though technically Harland Ellison wrote this episode.

(They are strolling along, hand in hand, as 'Goodnight, Sweetheart' carries in the air from a radio repair shop.)
EDITH: Why does Spock call you Captain? Were you in the war together?
KIRK: We served together.
EDITH: And you don't want to talk about it? Why? Did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something? Whatever it is, let me help.
KIRK: Let me help. A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over I love you.
EDITH: Centuries from now? Who is he? Where does he come? Where will he come from?
KIRK: Silly question. Want to hear a silly answer?
KIRK: A planet circling that far left star in Orion's belt. See?
(Not that you can actually see any stars in the night sky above the Brooklyn Bridge.)

It is often talked about in movies. Often said at hello and goodbye, at times of endearment, and at times of great sorrow. Its often over used and used in place of awkward silences. The three little words of “I love you” are very powerful, and sometimes can bring great healing. However, those are not the three most important words. They only express emotion or a feeling. They are stationary. They do not express action. People can deeply love another person, but then be brutally harmful to them. Hence, the human drama.

No, the three most important words are not “I love you”, but rather…”Let me help”. When I say let me help, I say it all. I put my love into action. I also empower the other. They have the ability to tell me no, and they have the power to reply yes. They can tell me where, when, and how. The why is obvious -  because of my desire to love or live as a selfless servant. It also acknowledges that there is a need, but the person is managing on their own. They could have given up, but they didn’t. By helping, I’m not doing the job for them, or ridding them of their affliction or struggle, but merely helping them progress through it. More importantly, it signifies that they aren’t alone in the struggle; someone else is with them.

I can’t express the magnanimity I feel regarding learning this lesson. When considering what else I have to do or accomplish today, what could be more important than helping another. Expressing to them that they aren’t alone, they aren’t powerless, and they are not helpless…and neither am I.

Should We Believe In God? Faith and Reason

Faith vs. Reason
Should we believe in God?

Blind faith is part of an old form of learning in the Western Society. Charles Dickens once expounded in Hard Times that students would come to schools and be treated like empty vessels to be filled up with knowledge by the teachers. This type of approach has been used in many religious traditions for years. You go to a place of worship and the priest or spiritual teacher is supposed to fill you up with faith and spiritual juju--I mean what do you think spirituality is? A gas station? Hey, please fill me up with premium spirituality and get me a corndog while you're at it.

"Welcome to First Mount Sinai Baptipentecostal Church of the Latter Day Saints!!" , the nicely dressed church usher says in a friendly voice early on Sunday morning. She gives you a hug. "May I take your coat?"
"Sure," you reply, taking your coat off.
"May I take your brain?"
You stop in puzzlement with visions of hungry zombies dancing in your head.
"Excuse me?"
She looks at you with a smile and asks again:
"Can I take your brain, sir?", she says again, with an ever innocent smile. Laughingly, you ask "Why would you need my brain?"
A bright smile comes across the usher's face as she says confidently , "Oh, you won't need it in there. We don't do any thinking: Just believe. It has nothing to do with your mind whatsoever."
Thank God! Haha Irony, I see, is not without a sense of humor.

People teach that God - however defined - certainly exists, and we must believe this to be so. But should we believe in God just because we are told to?

Most religions say "Yes", but many modern people no longer will blindly accept such claims. In fact, most "believers" in God don't actually believe in God, as they have no particular definition of God in mind. They merely affirm that a statement (e.g. "God is real") is true without having any idea what the content of that statement is, if any.

I am not to define God here, as this would be futile. Many people, like me, require a firmer basis for their beliefs than a blind appeal to authority. In fact, one can go further, and point out that it may well be immoral to have beliefs without a logical basis. Consider why this is so...

'Everybody's entitled to their own opinion' goes the platitude, meaning that everybody has the right to believe whatever they want. But is that really true? Are there no limits on what is permissible to believe? Or, as in the case of actions, are some beliefs immoral? Surprisingly, perhaps, many have argued that just as we have a moral duty not to perform certain sorts of actions, so we have a moral duty not to have certain sorts of beliefs. No one has expressed this point of view more forcefully than the mathematician W. K. Clifford: 'It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.' Others of similar stature have echoed this sentiment. Biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, for example, declared, 'It is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.'

And Brand Blanshard has proclaimed that where great human goods and ills are involved, the distortion of belief from any sort of avoidable cause is immoral, and the more immoral the greater the stakes.

These men think it wrong for belief to outstrip the evidence because our actions are guided by our beliefs, and if our beliefs are mistaken, our actions may be misguided.

As Blanshard indicated, the more important the decision, the greater our duty to align our beliefs with the evidence, and the greater the crime if we don't. Where not much hangs on the belief, it might be thought that what one believes has little importance. But Clifford claims that even in trivial matters we have a duty to proportion our belief to the evidence:
'Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons, we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence. We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to.... But a greater and wider evil arises when the credulous character is maintained and supported, when a habit of believing for unworthy reasons is fostered and made permanent.'

According to Clifford, responsible believing is a skill that can be maintained only through constant practice. And since responsible believing is a prerequisite for responsible acting, we have a duty to foster this skill.

While this line of reasoning goes against what most religious people believe, I am firmly persuaded by the logic. Thus, we should not believe in God without reason. It seems, then, that we would be obligated to search for reasonable arguments to believe in God. Finding such reason we would be obliged to believe in God; lacking such reason we would be obliged to dismiss God's existence as a unproven hypothesis. This is fun.

The most popular and convincing arguments for God's existence that, in various forms, still exist today, are listed below:
  1. The ontological argument: God's existence follows necessarily from a definition of what He is.
  2. The teleological argument (aka argument from design). It is highly improbable that the balanced order of the universe arose accidentally.
  3. The cosmological argument: The world must have been put together at some point in time; it could not have made itself, therefore, it must have been created, and the creator must be God.
  4. The cosmological argument from motion. Maimonides held that "since things in the world are in motion and no finite thing can move itself, every motion must be caused by another; but since this leads to an infinite regress, which is unintelligible, there must be an unmoved mover at the beginning of the series. This unmoved mover is God."
  5. The contingent existence argument: "Another of Maimonides' arguments begins from the fact that the existence of all things in our experience is contingent, i.e., their existence begins and ends in time, so that each thing can be conceived as not existing. Contingent existence is unintelligible, unless there is at least one necessary existence, one being whose existence is eternal and independent of all cause, standing behind it. Maimonides laid great stress on the conception of God as necessary existence."
  6. The Kuzari argument: God revealed His existence to man in a public historical event. "Saadiah and Judah Halevi offered a non-philosophical argument. Since the revelation at Sinai took place in the presence of 600,000 adults [according to the Torah] there is public evidence that places the fact of God's existence beyond all reasonable doubt." This argument is one of the most popular arguments accepted in the Orthodox Jewish community, but most people have long rejected this as a case of circular reasoning: This logic is only convincing if one assumes that that this event took place as described in the Torah, but that is precisely what people need to prove to make the claim tenable.
Atheism was known in the Middle Ages, and was countered by the various proofs for the existence of God that were common to all medieval philosophical theology. Yet, since the dominant medieval culture was overwhelmingly religious, atheism constituted only a minor threat. In modern times atheism became a significant and widely held doctrine, based on and reinforced by naturalistic scientific ideas and scientifically oriented philosophy. The classical proofs for God's existence have been largely discredited and no longer provide a satisfactory ground for theism.

However, all is not lost. Modern theists usually offer arguments for the existence of God, but do not claim that they have proofs. These arguments, though not decisive, provide a justification for the theistic option, since it is claimed that these are matters about which no demonstrative certainty is possible. In the 20th century theistic belief usually rests on a combination of admittedly incomplete intellectual evidence and personal faith and commitment.

Thus, while there is no one proof that proves that an omnipotent God exists, there are a set of proofs that, taken together, may be used to construct an argument that it is at least reasonable to believe that God exists.

I think that few people would argue that blind faith is good faith. In many ways, it really is its own kind of superstition. Where superstition falls outside of religious approval, blind faith often falls within those boundaries. Both presuppose that you should simply believe in something because someone else tells you or because of past precedents that often have little relevance to the present moment. To me, blind faith is not an internal faith in God, the divine, or the universe. Blind faith is more like saying, "I am supposed to believe in God, and I do. I believe in everything without question." It's this last part that so problematic. True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It's a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.

I think this is a great quote from which to approach authentic faith:

"But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it." -- The Buddha

Anyone on the spiritual path or who has moved into the intensity of awakening has probably come across the truth that you have to relearn how to live. So many things are out of alignment with reality that it's made things a huge mess. You can watch the nightly news or listen to the arguments in your family if you don't believe this. You have to relearn how to engage with the world and find real truth--not just what someone else wants or needs you to believe. Faith is no different. Blind faith will have you following around a pastor, priestess, or teacher with no ownership of your path or your own will. You will give up your power, possibly even money, to get that spiritual juju from them, forgetting that you have it all along.

It gets worse. Blind faith will lead you down difficult paths. It leads you into problems simply so that you have to open your eyes. It's like refusing to look at a map while boldly telling everyone that you know where you're going. Once you're hopelessly lost, maybe then you'll get out that map and its accompanying compass. In the mean time, you are extremely easy to manipulate. You are blindly shepherded around because you put all your faith in someone who supposedly speaks in the name of God, but you don't maintain your own awareness and faith in yourself to discern truth from fiction from hidden agenda. Pretty soon you're giving up your life savings to a spiritual con artist--this isn't just provocative writing; we've seen this before.

I've been delving into issues of the mind in past blogs, but one place where it can be the champion is in bringing reason to faith. The two need to be in balance as you move into spiritual awakening. The awakening process is so tumultuous and muddied at times as you clean out soul-gunk that your perspective can get really skewed. It's a temporary situation, and having a clear line of balanced faith helps to guide you through. A discerning, rational mind helps you to hold faith in yourself as well as the divine. It teaches you to discern what spiritual teachers and communities to trust and be around. You don't have to make snap decisions on this path, but when situations arise, it will be clearer what you need to do. Blind faith will simply get you and others in your life hurt. It's a way of trying to get out of your responsibility to engage and analyze your life. While there are parts of life that we over-analyze, a little bit of this logic is a good thing, and a balanced sense of faith instead of a blind faith will help you through your main hurdles in life and on the spiritual path.

Anyone who has been in love or infatuated can tell you that feelings are not a valid criteria upon which to make important decisions or judgments. Feelings are deceptive and at the same time blinding. Decisions based on emotions almost always tend to blind ones reason and cloud ones judgment. Logic demands objective evidence and an understanding before its states anything as fact.

This is a work in progress, and Pascals Wager is left out, but should I include it? Thoughts?

Mother Nature Get’s Fingered

“Mother Nature Get’s Fingered”
A fantastic journey with weird shoes.

Vibram 5Fingers
I know what you’re thinking… is this a real blog? Reluctantly I say yes. I am getting naked, existentially speaking, and putting on a pair of those goofy Vibram 5Fingers shoes and walking the trails of our coastline. Some of my imaginary fans asked me some questions on a very important website, and these are my witty answers. 

“I am new to the Interweb, in 100 words or less… who are you?” – BETTY WHITE
I am an imagineering Vulcan with a backpack. That is to say I am an enigmatic, overly logical outsider with an active imagination, and a serious case of wanderlust. I have spent the greater part of 25 years indulging in the fringe. No, not the fridge, the “Fringe” as in the fringes of society where artists are born and geniuses are celebrated. I am an entrepreneur with a strange sense of what “local” means, and a complete lack of fiscal responsibility.  I have always been introspective, believing the doors to all the rooms lie with in my own mind, but the keys are held by the human experience.  I have a lot of keys, and time to open some doors. I am a writer. Well, I write stuff, and some encouraging people out there have me convinced to keep doing it. I also doodle a bit, and have a talent for it if I applied myself. I am an observer. I am awake and ever changing. I am obscure. I am also awesome.

This is an adventure from my perspective. My own unique perspective as a brilliant miscreant with a wildly checkered past. Well travelled. Mad as a balloon. Passionate about the human experience and all of its peaks and valleys. I have been a prisoner, a monk and character in an epic journey of growth and discovery.  I have tasted death, felt the crippling sting of loves withdrawal, and have gone mad. I lost an eye in one of those lame circumstances where you’re mom sais “Don’t do that or someone is going to lose an eye”.  I have lived a full life. An enriched life filled with mistakes, and lessons, and shit and glory and love. I am starting a new chapter in life, and I invite you join along.

 “WTF are you doing?” - MOM
I am going for a walk. I starting somewhere in the Bay Area and going south, hugging the coastline and inland mountains. When possible, I will explore our official trails, and help chart or maintain when possible. I am super excited about Big Sur and beeyaches of Santa Cruz.  I am keeping a journal, and posting it as frequently as possible.  I have a camera, small digital with video, and a Macbook Pro. I am still trying to find a solution to the laptop problem, too bulky but all I have.  I am going to play hooky from normality for a bit while I have an open window.

“Why are you doing it?” – Omar Sharif
Simply put, it sounds fun. I have spent countless hours writing out all the reasons why I am doing this, and each time I try to narrowly define why, it seems to change.  I have all sorts of deep and meaningful reasons, exploring my own psyche; having an adventure; running from society.  In the end, I decided to just do it because life is short and there is no one stopping me.

I have backpacked through Africa and Asia and now have come back to my roots to see what splendors my home state has. This is going to be the first in a multipart series of me experiencing California. Nature is my primary focus, with a bit of playing in public while restocking supplies and keep myself sanely connected to the world. I am also hoping to catch some really awesome live music and other local events.

“Are you trying to accomplish anything in particular? - BO BURNHAM
Not really. Not in any official sense. I am having a growing experience. I am trying to gain some peace and quiet in a variety of environments to help spur on creativity. Is that a goal? I am attempting to have a grande adventure, and I am keeping good records for later use such a novel, comic series, ect.

I am going to grow, and write about it, and if I know myself, I will have one hell of an experience. Some of the things I am being very conscious of, besides respecting the environment I am about to trampling through, are chakras. I am learning a lot about them and how neatly they correspond with Maslows Pyramid. I meditate, so there will be lots of contemplative moments, of which I will write about.  I am walking alone, so I have to make sure I have the right gear. I am only spending cash on food and park fees. No rides, no hotels, no restaurants. At least not that I will be paying for.

“Can I join you at some point for a couple nights off camera?” – SARAH SILVERMAN
Yes. Yes. Please bring some wine and a bag of jelly belly beans.

“What sounds fun about walking around in the dirt wearing weird shoes and not eating a lot?”– MARIO LOPEZ
Well, when you put it that way, Mario, it sounds lame. I wore a pair of Vibrams a few times and it took me a while to get over the freaky feeling of that stuff between my toes. The minor inconveniences of sleeping on the ground (or more likely slung in a tree) and pooping over a dirt hole, I consider growing pains. A small price to pay for such freedom.

“Why put yourself through the grief? Why not just work at the mall and go camping on holidays like normal people?” – RUSH LIMBAUGH
To which I reply, the physical pain and discomfort is minor in comparison to the slow agonizing pain of mediocrity. Does that sound pompous? I don’t mean to belittle those whose chose the status quo, we need you. The status quo should be temporary though, IMHO. We should weave into and out of it as we seek experiences outside the norm.

Shall we walk?

I am planning a trail walk from the bay area down to the Mexican border, hugging the coast, taking my time, and soaking up as much nature as time allows. I am taking this opportunity to get back tune with myself, write my manifesto, and meet my new friends.  I will document my journey as much as possible. I am still gathering some essentials, and planning the route, so if you are along the way, and want to meet up, lets coordinate. Are you feeling outdoorsy and want to hang out under the stars for a night ro 2, lets do it! 

Lollipop Chainsaw

Watch the trailer forLollipop Chainsaw, James Gunn’s "cheerleader vs. zombies" game

What would it look like if James Gunn, writer of such so-wrong-they're-great movies as Slither and Super, wrote a zombie-centric version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Wonder no longer. The first trailer is out forLollipop Chainsaw, a zombie slaying game starring high school cheerleader Juliet Starling, from the awesomely bizarre mind of Suda 51 and his Grasshopper Factory.
And yes, it's very wrong. There is cuteness mixed with weird sexiness. There are upskirts. There are lots and lots of zombies. And there are lots of lollipops and chainsaws. This is a project made for James Gunn, basically.

I Walk The Lonely Road

Passion flies
Emotions spark
A child cries out
in the dark

I walk the lonely road
I walk it all alone
A soul thats roaming free
A soul without a home

I step up in the name of God
Waiting for my turn
My life is gone to this very day
And forever my flesh will burn

If social networks were superheroes...

Are You Happy? - A guide for beginners

Facebook vs. Google+

Faith and Belief...some differences

Faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Typically when we talk about faith we are referring to religious faith, i.e., a belief in the existence of God and/or certain attributes about God. (There are some who would claim to have proof, or at least evidence, of God’s existence, but let’s not quibble here; there are plenty of people who have faith in God’s existence without having seen that proof or evidence, and it’s that kind of faith that I’m talking about in this post.)

In contrast, belief (as I am defining it for purposes of this post) is a conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenonespecially when based on examination of evidence . Thus, belief is an opinion held as the end result of critical thinking.

There is nothing wrong with having faith, as long as you recognize it for what it is: a belief that is unsupported by any proof. And there is certainly nothing wrong with having belief that is based on sound critical thinking applied to evaluating the evidence.

However, when people confound their faith and their beliefs, problems often arise. Faith and belief usually don’t mix very well.

Here’s why.

In order to effectively apply critical thinking and the scientific method, you must adopt the habits of a good critical thinker: intellectual humility (an awareness of and willingness to admit to the prejudice of one’s viewpoint and the limits of one’s knowledge and abilities), intellectual courage (a willingness to challenge one’s own beliefs), intellectual empathy (ability and willingness to examine issues from others’ viewpoints in an open-minded manner), fair-mindedness (treating all viewpoints equally without regard for one’s own feelings or vested interests), and so on.

But if you use a faith-based belief as the basis for subsequent critical thinking and the scientific method, then ultimately your whole line of reasoning — no matter how logically well-formed and evidence-based it may be — is fundamentally flawed from a critical thinking standpoint, because it rests on a root assertion for which there is no evidence. And worse still: if you are unwilling to yield on your faith-based assumption regardless of evidence to the contrary, then you’ve thrown quite a lot of critical thinking — intellectual humility, intellectual courage, fair-mindedness, and so on — right out the window.

Take, for example, the strict creationists who believe in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, i.e., that God made all of creation over a 7-day period some ~6,000 years ago. As you can read about in gory detail here (among other places), strict creationists seek to refute evolution. And their root assertion is based purely on faith, with no evidence to support it and a huge amount of evidence to the contrary. They are so adamant in their faith-based belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis that any evidence in support of evolution is immediately viewed as wrong; it’s just a matter of finding out why it’s wrong. This attitude is utterly inconsistent with critical thinking and the scientific method.

I could argue that the same holds for a certain segment of the “global warming alarmist” community, i.e., those who believe in man-made global warming as a matter of faith, and automatically seek to discount any evidence to the contrary. Really this is just a combination of worldview (see, e.g., my post on global warming and socialism), wishful thinking, and the confirmation/ disconfirmation bias working together. (And in all fairness, the same could be said of a certain segment of the “global warming denier” community.)

Bottom line: Whenever you are unwilling to critically examine one of your beliefs (whether faith-based or not), you CANNOT, by definition, be engaged in critical thinking.

Though...we must start to look at the elimination of belief also. See my next note for that.

Who Are You... Ullyses?

I am a polymath, universalist, critical thinker, and self declared anarcho-pacifist. I do my best as a teacher and I'm kind of a clumsy farmer.

What do you enjoy doing, Ullyses?

I really enjoy writing, even though it is most difficult for me, similar to how I feel about being an artist.

What are you doing for work these days?

I am trying to find a name for what I am doing, its an amalgam of social networking, storytelling, and exploiting technology for the purpose of inspiring others to fall in love with an idea and or product. Like a digital cupid with techno-ninja tendencies.

You seem like you have had an interesting life, Ullyses, tell me more about that.

I have had some the most epic journeys one could imagine. I lived in Africa helping train doctors how to treat AIDS, managed a Chinese karaoke bar, backpacked for a year all over Afica, wandered India, was a Buddhist Monk, starting businesses all over the globe, fell in love, lost everything, gained everything and lost it again, have been loved and hated and admired and despised. I have experienced what it means to be human.

You seem awesome.

I am.

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