A Sunday (Christmas) Chat with Myself — 24 December, 2017

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”  ― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The biggest iconic opposites polarity in humanity celebrating Christmas is between Jesus, or December 25th, the day we celebrate as Jesus’ birthday, and Santa Claus. To me, Santa Claus is little more than a sales gimmick created by Coca-Cola to increase their profits, and is an icon of the shopping frenzy that takes place during the pre Christmas season. Santa Claus is to the real meaning of Christmas what a plastic, ten cent diamond is to a real thousand dollar diamond: Artificial. It is the exact opposite of what the season is about.

Jesus’ birth–his gift to all earthly creation–is that there is hope, and that’s not what Santa Claus offers you! Jesus offers hope: a way to lift ourselves out of the hopeless misery that we are/were in, and the opportunity to turn hate into love, and be loved in turn; To replace wordly passion with compassion; To replace violence and war with understanding and compromise; To replace ignorance with true education; To replace selfishness with unselfish  deeds that  care for all creation, not just ourselves and friends; To replace punishment–prisons–with understanding and a helping hand.

A 2013 CBC  report states that Canadian prison population  has increased by 75% in the last decade. The report further states that, ten years ago, the number of inmates in federal Canadian prisons was nearly 12,000. It’s now over 15,00! Obviously, punishment doesn’t work! Until we start treating criminals as human beings that need help and not our contempt, our prison population  will never go down!

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ” 
― Mary Ellen Chase

There was a time, before the Great Depression of the 1930s, that social assistance was provided by religious charities and other private groups. Today, welfare is big business and  has migrated from the offices of Pastors in religious institutions to government, and a report by the National Council on Welfare indicates that there are 1.7 million Canadians on welfare–obviously a growing statistic! And the last “Ho ho ho” that I heard from Santa Claus, he wasn’t too concerned about feeding the hungry and clothing the sick as he flits to and fro between us and the North Pole!

In order to survive, primitive man had to think of himself first. As we to evolve, Jesus the Christ was born to us with a new message: it is better to give than to receive. Is the idea of Santa Claus’s popularity just an attempt from the Dark Side to keep us primitive, to think only about our own selfish wants?

Giving and receiving is fine. It’s a Christian tradition. But charitable giving and receiving is Christ-giving and receiving! That’s what Christmas is all about!

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” 
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

A Sunday Chat with Myself

“The sad thing about Artificial Intelligence is that it lacks Artifice and therefore Intelligence.” — Jean Baudillard

In a C|Net article titled, “As AI and robots rise up, do humans need an upgrade too?” the author continues, “Forget hacking a computer. Some researchers want to hack the brain (italics added) to create human superintelligence to compete with AI.” In this article, the author makes some convincing arguments in favor of a better brain, and in its  prescribed aspect, I agree with her. Many of us could drastically reduce the calamities that befall us if we’d “upgrade” our thinking capacity, like upgrading our skills, education, and my favorite, playing professional Brain Games like Lumosity and Brain HQ. but aren’t we putting the cart before the horse?

We talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) taking over, but forget that AI is a human–a mind/brain creation–something that we’ve usefully invented through the use of our brain, and then, instead of taking pride in our accomplishment, we limit ourselves to think that the brain did it all, that we’re just a brain. No more!

“Before we do something about Artificial Intelligence, why don’t we do something about Natural Stupidity?” — Steve Polyak

We are much more than a brain. We’re a Soul! In other words, we’re a thinking, reasoning, eternal, feeling being that has somehow–still largely unknown to us just how we did it– created a brain–an indispensable tool–to help us create even greater things. As such we should celebrate our infinity, rather than degrade ourselves into believing that we’re only a brain that has somehow developed a mind, and that’s all we are.

Like a carpenter with his hammer, what does it prosper me to upgrade my hammer, as this article suggests,  but remain clumsy and continue to keep hitting my thumb with it every time I try hammering a nail into a board? Doesn’t it make more sense to upgrade my spirit–my soul, and therein eliminate  from clumsiness?

In this same article, Bryan Johnson is quoted as saying, “Looking at superintelligence for me is like when you’re on the motorway looking so far out ahead that you crash into the car in front of you,” and I believe this is exactly what we are doing by accepting brain improvement over Soul improvement.

Improve our spirituality and our brain will automatically work better for us to our interests, because it is only a tool–a beautiful, wonderful, powerful tool–of something in us that’s much, much bigger!

“Artificial Intelligence has the same relationship to intelligence as Artificial Flowers have to flowers.” — David Prnas

A Sunday Chat With Myself – Sunday, December 10th, 2017

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”    ― Epicurus

I like Sundays. Sunday can be a nice time to reflect on one’s life and get spiritual, and one of my favorite spiritual pursuits is giving thanks!

There was a time in my life when I was like so many people I know: I’m getting old and feeble and grumbling that my body ached too much; I didn’t have enough money–I couldn’t go on the vacation I wanted to go on; I had too few friends, the government was out to get me and thinking only of their own greedy selves; It’s winter and cold outside: why couldn’t I have been born in a warmer climate? My neighbor makes too much noise at night … and I could go on and on, as often I used to do. My life was just one misery after another.

I watched other people, and they didn’t seem to have the problems I had. For example, I noticed that Gus, just two houses over from me, was making the very same wage that I was making ( know, because he works at the same company I worked at), yet he seemed quite content with his lot. His kids were well adjusted and did well at school. I was making twice the visits to my doctor than Murphy was–and Murphy was even handicapped!  Why, I asked. Why? What was the difference between Gus, Murphy and myself?

I decided to do some investigating and found that the one big difference between us was, they gave thanks for what they had. They were grateful–not because they knew folks who had even less than they had, or even worse handicapped than Murphy was, so they felt it was their duty to be grateful, but they were just … well, Grateful for what they already had! And there lies the big difference. They weren’t grateful because they were happy, but it was gratitude that made them happy.

I decided to try it for myself. I created a special “Gratitude” file on my computer and made a goal of finding 10 things in my daily life that I was grateful for. Not only did I try to find 10 items, but also write a paragraph on each item as to why that certain event or thing made me happy. That was the hard part, because it made me really dwell on why I was grateful for that  certain event or thing. At first, it was hard. Having been conditioned for so long to think of only negative things in my life, I really had to “dig” to find 10 items or events in my life that made me happy, let alone write a paragraph on each item as to why. But, I was determined, and after a couple weeks, it actually became easy. And, to my surprise, I found that I was becoming happier!

I found that happiness and laughter are one of the best cures for ill health. Be happy and have a positive outlook on life and it’s hard to be sick. I began to enjoy life. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I couldn’t go on that special dream holiday I always wanted to go on. We have a wonderful patio in our back yard and my wife can make the best potato salad that I’ve ever eaten, and I love to barbeque. Even the children are now looking forward to the cool evenings on our patio deck, and even enjoy our sing-alongs to the our “Golden Oldies.” We’ve even invited Gus and Murphy over a couple times to join us in enjoying our new-found Gratitude!

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” 
― Alphonse KarrA Tour Round My Garden

A Sunday Chat with Myself – Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

“Men like that — when they know they won’t be found out — they will do anything.” 
― Michelle Paver

I’m the secretary of our Cardston Home Safe Animal Rescue Society and one of my tasks that I’ve undertaken is to create monthly posters advertising compassion to animals, and distribute them to the bulletin boards of select businesses in town.

After completing the poster, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how insensitive humans are when it comes to dealing with Nature,–not just lost and abandoned pets, but Nature in general. For example, now with the holiday season upon us, many a parent will consider getting a puppy or kitten as a Christmas gift for a family member.

“They’re so cute and adorable!” We hug the animal, maybe even kiss it. “We’re going to take such good care of you and you’re going to be part of our family!” we fondly chortle. At the moment, everything sounds so good and mushy. However, a week after Christmas, when faced with a cleanup job after the kitten or puppy accidently pooped on our beautiful rug, out the door goes the pet, and with the same intensity of passion in which the animal was adopted, it is now abandoned, left to face the cold elements on its own! Forgotten!

But pets and Nature in general aren’t the only things that suffer as a result of our indifference. We’re just as mean and cruel to each other!

I do believe in karma and, although karma can sometimes be delayed to manifest in our lives another day, I  believe that many of the calamities that happen in our lives are a result of our actions. If we are prone to gossip, should we expect people to trust us? If we are flighty and inconsistent in our thoughts and behavior, should we expect stability in our lives? If we frequently get angry at our children and call them stupid, should we expect our children to love us and care for us in our old age?

I listened to an interviewee this morning who was describing his life in Yugoslavia under the Nazi occupation. He was lamenting the fact that no one stood up to defend their neighbor, or each other, under the strict rules imposed on them by the Nazis. This is why Naziism was so successful for so long, because so few people in the occupied lands stood up against them, and I believe that this is the reason so many of us have to suffer because no one is prepared to stand up for justice for the weak, including our animals and Nature in general. In frustration, I often have to conclude that we deserve what we get!

“People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I want my reward now!

One often hears the expression “Heaven will reward you for this kind act”. That denotes a future event–the reward. But, I want my blessings NOW, not in the future! This is much like a grade one student told to study hard and you’ll receive your rewards when you graduate. The grade one student has no concept of future rewards. He wants them NOW, but in reality, rewards–or any reaction to an action, usually does  come in the future.

What is it about creation that, for so many events in our lives, we have to wait for our reward?