Where faith sees best in the dark

Kierkegaard

 

The believer humanly comprehends how heavy the suffering is, but in faith’s wonder that it is beneficial to him, he devoutly says: It is light. Humanly he says: It is impossible, but he says it again in faith’s wonder that what he humanly cannot understand is beneficial to him. In other words, when sagacity is able to perceive the beneficialness, then faith cannot see God; but when in the dark night of suffering sagacity cannot see a handbreadth ahead of it, then faith can see God, since faith sees best in the dark. 

Søren Kierkegaard

 

This quote is for a close friend of mine whose mother has recently passed away.

 

Reality check: God, and the unending debate of existence

god sculpture

 

 

There is an acute tendency, as always, between the theists and the atheists to debate about the S-word: supreme. Some extreme atheists, like those adhering to Christopher Hitchens (who sadly passed away due to alcoholism and smoking problems), or the intellectual snobbishness of Richard Dawkins, have this idea in mind that ‘religious people are mediocre and stupid’. The other extreme side perceives only their religion can show the path to enlightenment, or else hell is bent within the limits. Especially with the advent of social media, it is inescapable, for us oftentimes, to see how these arguments embroil themselves into zero-sum games. One tries so hard to convince the others only his or her thought can be ever justified. And that is truly fallacious.

Debate about the existence of God, after all, is the most stupendous thing to have been preconceived in conversations in our society. Not just it is, on its most fundamental core, devoid of meaning, but also unwise considering both people’s perceptions and points of view. Why are we debating, then, about, well, how you can call it, nothingness or ‘somethingness’?

We debate, after all, to prove who can solicit the most convincing evidence for the audience. When it comes to the existence of God, Supreme Being, The Only One, The Creator, or whatever you can call, nonetheless, it is a whole different thing. Debate, on its most essential aspect, should be emphasized on the search of facts and truth, as well as understanding overlapping perspectives resulting from the substances themselves. God, on the other hand, is not a matter of fact, truth, or substance; ‘God’, after all, is a matter of belief, all eventually depending on whether you have faith or not. Why are we debating so hard, after all, to force people to believe what we believe, when in fact they have their own customs and traditions?

Atheists say: “Had God existed, the world would have been devoid of problems.”

Theists respond: “God creates the problems so that humanity can learn from their mistakes much better.”

I think both statements have their pros and cons. In almost all religions we adhere to, we all know the virtues of altruism, and how doing good deeds saves us from calamity in the future. At the least, that ‘a supreme entity above will closely protect us’. Then there come wars, disasters, and other uncountable, unexpected crises, and things start to turn upside down. We see from reports people savagely killed by terrorists, children enslaved, some horribly dead in numerous accidents, and other calamitous occurrences. Some people question the validity of ‘God’, but some people, surprisingly, encounter their own miracles. We hear reports of babies surviving earthquakes, toddlers still alive after buildings bombarded by planes, or other lucky people miraculously barely having any wounds from severe disasters. Others, on the other hand, point out that such miracles are ‘God’s intervention’. Yes, we all acknowledge that things oftentimes happen beyond our own scientific construction, and some may definitely point out ‘the presence of the sacred order that makes things happen’.

The truth is that we know nothing about everything. Because both arguments can be correct at certain times.

After all, perceiving God is a matter of perspectives. Imagine when we take a picture of a bridge using various lenses of a camera. When you zoom to its maximum, you see bricks. When you focus down over, you see rivers. When you focus it much higher, you see towers and the sky. When you take it from left angle, you probably see houses and other low-lying structures. When you look at the right angle, you probably see skyline and other tall buildings. The main thing is plain simple: you want to take a picture of a bridge, but you can get numerous different outcomes from it. It is the same thing when thinking about God. Either you are religious or atheistic (fortunately things are much more open in this century), it does not matter anymore. After all, we live in a universe where Murphy’s Law exists. Things that will go wrong, will go wrong. Anything that can happen, can happen. At the least, however, some people will need the mental construction of God, not as a matter of substance, but rather as a matter of upholding moral values, in spite of unexpected circumstances. One of the greatest marvels in human civilization, for all the centuries of savagery, is their eventual ability to understand ethics and moral virtues. And ‘God’, sometimes for a certain part, plays a big role in making that possible (even though many cultures have ‘Gods of wars’ in their spiritual beliefs).

So, in the end, if you ask me whether I believe in God or not, here’s my simplest answer: “Whether God exists or does not exist, I do not challenge that position.” I’d rather be a freethinker.

 

‘Praying to stop being an atheist’

tmawson2

 

Tim Mawson, the man behind this report.

 

A British philosopher wants to convince atheists to start praying again to stop being atheists. Download the full report in Springer.

Source: Improbable Research

Excerpt:

“In this article, I consider what states of knowledge of the value of outcomes are consistent with a classical theist’s praying to God that He bring about those outcomes. I proceed from a consideration of the cases which seem least problematic (the theist knows these outcomes to be ones which would be, at least after they’ve been prayed for, best or at least good), through a consideration of cases where the outcomes prayed for are ones the goodness and badness of which the theist is agnostic about, to consider finally praying for outcomes that the theist knows would be bad at the time he or she is praying for them. I conclude that even prayers of this last sort should, albeit only on rare occasions, be prayed.” 

What the atheists really fear

shutterstock_149622140

Here it goes: the most recently released research report by the University of Finland suggests that atheists, having challenged God, may have implicitly developed emotional arousal and considerable stresses. And thus the excerpt (from General Discussion section of the report) as follows:

 

We asked atheists (Studies 1 and 2) and religious individuals (Study 1) to verbally dare God to cause unpleasant events, like murders and illnesses to happen to themselves and their intimates. Atheists did not regard the statements as unpleasant as the religious participants did in their explicit self-report. The impact of conviction was strong as it explained 38% of the variance in the unpleasantness ratings. However, when the participants’ emotional arousal was analyzed by their skin conductance level during their verbal dares, a different picture emerged.
In the first study, reading the provocations addressed to God increased atheists’ emotional arousal more than reading neutral statements about such things as sleep and weather. Second, God statements resulted in equal tension among atheists as reading the offensive statements (e.g., “It’s okay to kick a puppy in the face”). Third, this same pattern of results was obtained for religious individuals. The results indicate that compared to their conviction and responses on the self-report measure, atheists’ implicit reactions to the God statements were more similar to the reactions of religious individuals.
The results raise the question as to whether it was actually asking God to do the awful things that was upsetting, or whether it was contemplating the event itself (e.g., the possibility that one’s parents might be murdered) which was upsetting. Because of the following results, we think the first type of inference is more likely. When reading the God statements in Study 2, atheists experienced greater emotional arousal than when reading the offensive statements. Moreover, when reading the God statements, atheists’ emotional arousal increased as much as did religious individuals’ arousal. Atheists also refused to say aloud the God statements and they felt the need to undo the statements equally often as religious individuals did, although neither group refused to say statements very often or retracted statements very often.
In Study 2, atheists were also asked to say aloud statements that were otherwise identical to the God statements but God was replaced with a wish (e.g., “I wish my parents were paralyzed”). Speaking the wish statements and the offensive statement increased the participants’ SC level more than speaking the neutral statements. Thus, again, it may be that considering the offensive events was unnerving. It is also possible that the atheists implicitly endorsed thought-action fusion, believing that talking about disturbing events increases the likelihood that the event will occur. Nonetheless, as the SC levels also showed that atheists were more affected by God statements than by wish or offensive statements, it may be safe to conclude that atheists were less comfortable with daring God than with daring a more nebulous and impersonal fate or simply contemplating the distressing events.

Source: Big Think’s Ideafeed and Taylor and Francis Online. Read the full report on the second link.

‘We live not to follow the faith and the system’

bukowski

 

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), American author.

 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/atheism

 

God’s real name is not God…but we don’t have other better alternatives

When did humanity begin to have preconceptions of God? As I read from National Geographic a few months ago, some scientists argued that as soon as our ancestors began to learn farming subsistence 10 thousand years ago, the idea of belief in God began to fluorish (archaeologists summed up the conclusion that the first harvesting period began to give them inspiration that ‘miracle’ was working on the plants). Nevertheless, the others argued vice versa. They came out with another theory, suggesting that the plasma nutfah – the vocabulary biologists give to extraordinary plant seeds – these hunter-gatherers found in the grasslands instead had inspired themselves inspiration that something ‘larger than life’ is working out there, creating all these sorts of miracles. I am not sure which one is better, because either one may be correct.

Almost all religions in the world (truth be told, the number of religions in the world may vary from 4200 to more than 10.000) emphasize on the semipternal existence of God. But few tend to have tendencies to deny, particularly Buddhism. They instead propose of this idea: that the God all of us have been praising for centuries may not be the real eternal God we are used to believing in. But they do believe in Karma, the what-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap eternal law that has been ruling this universe, whose authority is only rivalled by that of God.

When I was still a small boy, I had no doubt that I had to believe in God, no matter how whether God is real or not. As time passed by, I began to develop my own theories about the supreme being. If God is omnipower, It must have been able to create a castle that is ‘larger than universe’. If God is omnipower, then God must have created something that is even larger than Itself, so large that God may look like a dust compared to the thing It creates. If God is omnibenevolent, won’t It forgive all the sins humanity has ever made in their lifetime? Won’t there be hell?

To be honest, I find it hard whether to believe in God or not. Even Buddha once emphasized through this quote, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own common sense.” So, who should we believe and rely on in this world? So far, only hypotheses are able to provide the answers. God may either be what that has existed, without beginning and without ending, or what we agree that seem to exist. What we conceive and what we see and what we believe in is merely the tip of an iceberg.

Instead, I do believe more in the hypothesis of God reflecting the universe Itself. I do believe more in the theory stating that the universe is a hollow state that will remain forever existent than the Big Bang theory in which cosmic-scale fabulosity started as soon as atoms began to split within trillionths of a second. Let us not debate whether which theories on existence of God and universe are the most correct ones; I never like to force anybody to either accept or follow my theory. Theories are merely about things that are according to our minds acceptable. The real problem is that we hold on to different principles on how we believe everything is taking place.

But I believe that no thing in this universe will ever last forever. From an atom to a galaxy, from something that is unseeable through our visible eyes until things that are beyond our current borders of knowledge, there is nothing that is infinite. Change is always taking place. Atoms collide and split. Ocean waves move in and out, back and forth. Continents split and reunited within a period of hundred million years. Apes evolved into human beings within 2 million years. Galaxies dissolve, stars explode, and planets are formed. Our hearts pump the blood, and cells carry on oxygen and carbon-dioxide every time. A baby grows up into a toddler, into a child, into a teenager, until he/she ages and passes away. Change is always permanent, and it always requires energy. As we used to learn in physics textbooks about energy conservation theory, it is always emphasized that energy is something that is both unmade and indestructible. So, the main question is: is God the energy? Given that logic, it might be correct.

Perhaps the largest of all the large problems humanity faces lies on how we have to make use of our own free will. Ever since every human is born into this planet, he or she has been given choices. But here comes the main problem: we often believe we have no limits. We often misuse it, and often at the expense of others. What I want to do may be unsuitable with what others expect me to do. And there comes out conflicts. To a larger scale, humanity had witnessed endless numbers of wars, battles, disputes, and conquests. There’s always upheaval almost every time. Why doesn’t God intervene? Even if It existed, perhaps It wants to emphasize something behind this: in the end, all of us have to reap what we have sowed. That in the end, everyone, including me and you, is equal. We get paid for what we have done.

It’s up to you whether you believe in God-like figures or not, but you may have to believe there is something larger than life that superintends all of us. Personally, I am not sure whether that ‘something larger than life’ is God or not, but I’m sure that we are being watched. On atomic level, we are all the same. We are all made of atoms which combine to form molecules and DNA and thus, seeds of life begin to form. The only thing that precedes all the problems in the world begins with us, and our free will. But this has always been the reality of the world, and it will always be.

The main question is this: is there God? There are questions whose answers are unknown unknown. It is not important to doubt and argue whether God exists or not, but the most important thing lies on how we’re all going to make use of our lives. When all of us are born into this planet, we are all still pure souls, like paper which has not been stained with even a single dot of ink. We are responsible for what we are going to do with our lives, and what we are going to do with this world, as well. Everything about God is just a matter of belief. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s more about ‘what’, less about ‘why’. That’s what I always believe in.

But then, at last, I will always tell my friends like this, “May God bless you always.”

What has been, has been, and what will be, will be.

Kafka (and the ghosts) on the shore

It took me almost three months to finish reading this novel.

As soon as I had finished reading the last page on the book, I had read 3 novels. The former was The Road. I bought that somewhere in 2009. The plot was not perplexing, but for some people, it might indeed be a kind of time-killing boredom. But what I adored from Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian tale was all the simplicity he used in interpreting the post-apocalyptic world. To be honest, I didn’t have any ideas on what and which kind of pandemonium that caused massive maelstrom, which did instantly wipe out the large fraction of the planet’s population, in no time. The setting and the background was kept at its minimal pace. But this was also the part where readers had to constantly expand their imagination independently, because one didn’t have to mention too much to provoke one’s imagination. The White Tiger was the latter one, and the most biting satire I had ever read so far. Almost all the words did indeed nibble; it entirely focused on the process from being a do-gooder into a savage, evil-minded, and corrupt soul. Balram Halwai was merely a microcosmic example of the reality in India, as Adiga wanted to interpret. The White Tiger was more of a reversed side of a happy-go-merry kind of business magazines we frequently see in any magazine stands in any bookstores.

And there was Kafka on the Shore.

Firstly, I borrowed this novel from my English tuition teacher, Miss Erica, somewhere in March 2011. Reading this novel was an uneasy task. I am very sure majority of the English teachers would not assign their students to read this novel and make a brief summary. Because it could not be summarized  briefly. Or more precisely, there are no exact summaries for this novel. How you want to define this novel depends entirely on your own. There is no exact ending to the story like the ending of the previous two novels. It all depends on the readers on how to create their own ending styles.

Kafka on the Shore, is generally conceived as a fantasy novel. But, to be honest, I did not think so. It might be more exact when it is re-classified as a surrealist novel. And I want to tell you something. It is extremely difficult for me to make a review for this story. Because almost everything written in the story is all in all notional and disordered. It involves more on a struggle between the may and may-not-be logics. And it is full of concepts and out-of-the-world experiences and out-of-the-science understanding, and much sex. But this is also where you need to unleash your imagination, where you have to ruin all the ring fences that block your imagination away. It is not too exact, also, to call this a ‘story’; this is more of an imagination-expanding moment, where everything seems so blurred to be differentiated whether this is a dreamworld or truly a world.

First, the tale brings us into a boy named Kafka Tamura. This is merely a pseudonym; the real name of this 15-year-old boy is never revealed until the end. He lives with his father, and his mother and his sister had abandoned them when he was still a toddler. He was a solitary boy, having few friends to talk to at school, and had uneasy relationship with his own father. Then he began an endeavor to search for his mother and his sister. He had nothing for preparation, merely a backpack used by explorers, some money, and some food to survive throughout the journey. Whether his sojourn had actually been arranged by the destiny, that remains blurred until now.

And the second tale introduces us into an old simpleton named Satoru Nakata. He used to be an excellent child, and his father was a professor. Because of the World War II, the whole family was evacuated to Shikoku. During the wartime, children and teachers were required to farm and seek for mushrooms in order to fulfil their daily needs. Then something absurd happened. There were more than a dozen of students who suddenly fell into the comatose state. There was no invasion by the fighter jets at that time. There were also no signs of chemical poisoning of the children. They just simply fainted, for unclear reasons. All of them in the long run woke up a few hours later, but Nakata himself remained unconscious for almost a month. He was then subjected to medical examination in a military hospital. When he woke up, Nakata was no longer the prior Nakata. His memory was already wiped clean, nothing entirely left there. As if there were an exchange of spirits throughout the period of unconsciousness. People thought he became an idiot, but indeed he did not develop any signs of Down’s syndrome. The problem was merely one: his soul became null-and-void, as if something had sucked his very own, very deeply.

Both Kafka and Nakata did not know each other, but their paths seemed to emerge. To which actual points the paths were emerging to, it was not really clear. What they had only to do was to ‘end the curse’. As I began to progress through one and another chapter, I found it no more useful to digest the story simply with robustness and rational points of view. We all are used to reading stories with precise beginning and precise ending as well, but Haruki Murakami, the one who authored this bizarre tale, had his own ways. Reading a story with a sturdy beginning and a sturdy ending as well would only restrict one’s size of imagination, according to him. Sometimes, honestly saying, it would seem insufficient to read the usual novels; you need books like Kafka on the Shore as a kind of treatment.

There were pretty much bizarre things as the story progressed. Nakata had a rare friendship with cats, and could communicate with them. Kafka met a young woman named Sakura in a bus. Kafka sympathized with a haemophiliac transvestite working in a private library named Oshima. Nakata’s search to a neighbor’s cat led to a fate-assigned rendezvous with a weird ‘concept’ named Johnnie Walkers, who told him he was making a kind of flute made of cats’ souls. Johnnie Walker took a favor in beheading cats, devouring their hearts, and froze their heads in a box. In the end, Nakata stabbed Johnnie Walker to death, at the same time something strange happened to Kafka. His shirt was stained in blood, but there were no wounds in his body. When Nakata woke up, he was somewhere in a city park, while the sun was already replaced by the shining moon, and no stains of blood in his golf clothes. He originally planned to surrender in a local police station, and predicted that fish would fall out from the sky, and that indeed happened. Nakata had to escape from Tokyo, and his decampment led him to a week-long encounter with Hoshino, a happy-go-merry, playful truck driver. Kafka received the news that his father, Koichi, had been stabbed to death. The ambiguities are: Johnnie Walker may be his father’s alter ego, or someone else, or perhaps just a kind of thing that takes shape in the embodiment of that British man.

More strange things happened. Kafka was accepted to work in the library, and sympathised with a middle-aged woman named Miss Saeki. In the end, they had sex together, and another one with Sakura, in the dreamworld. Beforehand, his father had foretold him, some kind of prophecy that he would in the end kill his father, and made love with his mother and his sister. This is another similarly bizarre conclusion: both Miss Saeki and Sakura may or may not be Kafka’s biological mother and sister. And what are Nakata’s roles anyway, then? Until a month after I finished reading this novel, the answer prevails blurred. But I know that he had the responsibility to open and close ‘an entrance stone’. What that object is actually, I do not have any further, and clearer ideas. But this was also where Kafka was given a chance to comprehend, at least, of what had been going on with himself.

And there came up another ‘concept’ who – or which – took shape in the form of Colonel Sanders. And this Colonel Sanders worked as a pimp. Who, what, and where this concept came from was never entirely revealed until the ending of the novel. He only wanted to mention himself as a ‘concept’, neither a God nor a Buddha. But he was here, in this world, to offer Nakata a solution, at least.

I understand it might be entirely confusing, and I also had that same feeling. But it was truly a novel, where reality, dreamworld, and imagination were merged as one invisible entity. I agreed with Murakami’s notion that ‘a story does not have to solely have an exact beginning and an exact ending’. You even do not have to entirely understand the story; you only have to venture it with your own imagination. This is comparable to the idea that ‘one would never understand what the world is’. We may attempt to straighten up our minds with rationalization, but in most cases, there are many things that we thought we know we have known them. The truth is always out there. In the end, the more we search in the quest to find out the truth, there come up more things we don’t know we don’t know. The world will forever remain a semipternal mystery.