"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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Location: Australia

I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe. Like Arthur Dent from "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", if you do not have a Babel Fish in your ear this blog will be completely unintelligible to you and will read something like this: "boggle, google, snoggle, slurp, slurp, dingleberry to the power of 10". Fortunately, those who have had the Babel Fish inserted in their ear, will understood this blog perfectly. If you are familiar with this technology, you will know that the Babel Fish lives on brainwave radiation. It excretes energy in the form of exactly the correct brainwaves needed by its host to understand what was just said; or in this case, what was read. The Babel Fish, thanks to scientific research, reverses the problem defined by its namesake in the Tower of Babel, where a deity was supposedly inspired to confuse the human race by making them unable to understand each other.


Beepbeepitsme has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Whether Pigs Have Wings And Fly In That Inverted Bowl They Call The Sky

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax..
Of cabbages, and kings..
And why the sea is boiling hot..

(Lewis Carroll, 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' from "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There", 1872)


Well, they do figuratively at least. I am sure you have heard the phrase, "Yeah, when pigs fly!" This is usually part of a disparaging reply. It is said to express the meaning that whatever the other person has said, is unlikely to ever happen. So, I guess in human terms, the idea of flying pigs is preposterous. A pig can always hop an aeroplane, I suppose? Although this might be classified technically as cheating, it IS flying none the less.

Now the imagery of pigs having wings is a little more unlikely if you ask me. I suppose a pig with wings would be one that has taken on the characteristics of an angel. (The one on the book cover has an angelic look on his little snout?) Angels are claimed to be predominately of human form with wings. So, if a pig takes on the characteristics of a human (aka it finds itself with wings), it may be said to have undergone the process of anthropomorphism.
(Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behaviour to inanimate objects, ANIMALS, or natural phenomena.)

Contigent to this, is the idea, that if it was a human-like angel to start with, and it took on the face of a pig, this process may be interpreted as theriomorphism. (Theriomorphism is the ascription of animal characteristics to humans. It is the belief that gods exist in animal form and it could be seen as 'quid pro quo' to anthropomorphism.) One is, I suppose, the opposite of the other, except for a few slight differences.

Similar to an anthropomorphism, a zoomorphism is a figure of speech which ascribes animal characteristics to God. The purpose of a zoomorphism is give us an understanding of an aspect of God by using an illustration of an animal characteristic. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. - (Psalm 91:4)

So zoomorphism is the attribution of animal characteristics or qualities to a god and the use of animal forms in symbolism, literature, or graphic representation. Human beings specialise in the 'art of zoomorphism' and it is truly an "art form", as evidenced throughout human history in our literature, fine arts, music and dance.

Now, the pig, swine, or boar doesn't undergo motivational, behavioural and characteristic changes of its own volition. Humans are the instigators of these processes and to what purpose?

An example of this process is when a person is said to be "as greedy as a pig." To the human eye, the pig's eating habits appear to be decidedly indelicate. Because we consider this behaviour distasteful in ourselves, we ascribe the undesirable behaviour of greediness upon the pig and in doing so, in some way, alleviate the burden of that behaviour in ourselves. This is an example of how we negatively ascribe human characteristics to pigs. Thankfully, we also ascribe positive ones.

The graphic accompanying this page is also an anthropomorphic one as the pig is depicted displaying human behaviour. That is, "PIGASUS" is flying a kite.) *wink* It is also a play on words. In greek mythology, 'Pegasus' was a winged horse that with a stroke of his hoof caused the fountain Hippocrene to spring forth from Mount Helicon. He is a symbol of high flying poetic imaginations. In 'my myth' I have used the cover of the book, "The Te Of Piglet" and anthropomorphised some meanings of my own.

Piglet, from the book, "The Te of Piglet" (1992), by Benjamin Hoff is originally a character from A.A. Milne's book "Winnie The Pooh" (1926). Milne anthropomorphised an animal, piglet, in this famous book. Piglet is a very small, timid, pink pig, about 10 inches tall who likes to wear a long pink and black striped shirt. He is one of Winnie The Pooh's favourite friends. Even though he is small, his love for his friends is larger than most. Benjamin Hoff has used the character and personality traits assigned to piglet, by Milne, in order to explain and explore the concepts of Taoism.

Primarily, human beings anthropomorphise animals because it suits us to do so. By anthropomorphising an animal we alter its contextual meaning within the human world. It becomes a symbol of something else, even though in essence it may retain its former appearance. Its prescriptors change as it trots or flies into the esoteric world of symbolism.

Symbolism can suggest "intangible conditions" or "truths by artistic invention" Humans use these 'symbol-making skills' in an attempt to explain 'intangible conditions'. (For example: If one knows little about fertility but has observed that pigs are particularly successful at breeding; the 'artistic invention' of creating an amulent of a sow to wear around the neck, or of creating a 'Pig Goddess' to plead one's case to, is not so far-fetched.)

Some degree of anthropomorphism or theriomorphism is characteristic of many religions and philosophies. Evidence of this is found in Animism, Animatism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, and Shamanism. It is found in ancient legends, folklore, and Greek and Roman Mythology. Totemism, fetishism and other worship rituals also contain these concepts.

Anthropologists attempt to identify these forces at work. A british anthropologist, Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, argued in 'Primitive Culture' (1871) that animism is a primary source of anthropomorphic behaviour. (Animism is the belief in personalized, supernatural beings that often inhabit ordinary animals and objects.) It derives from people's self-conscious experience of the 'intangible', such as one's reflected image or dreams. Tylor describes it as the most primitive and essential form of religion.

Consequently, the symbolism associated with the pig is endemic. It flows through human history, and though the roots may be ancient and tribal; these beginnings impact upon the human culture of the present. Because the desire to imbue symbols with meaning is an on-going process, the symbol of the pig also has a modern and global context. This has resulted in layers of meaning, some of which are astoundingly contradictory.

So the pig has been seen as a deity, a god and a goddess. It has been a totem animal, a fetish, an amulet and a mascot. Wherever there has been the need, (or a set of 'intangible conditions'), human beings have deliberately and haphazardly, 'artistically created' the anthropomorphism of the humble pig. I say, 'humble pig', as this is one of the many ways in which the pig has been anthropomorphised. ("The Te Of Piglet", remember?)

It is but one animal to whom so many human characteristics, motivations and behaviours have been ascribed. These human attributes have been either positve of negative depending on the human purpose. Consequently, the attributes ascribed to pigs are also both.

And what about the inverted bowl? (which is an ancient poetic description of the sky or the heavens) Well, I guess it rolls on as helplessly and powerlessly as you and I? It matters not our protestations, beseechings and implorings. For after all, if "pigs have wings and fly" in the atmosphere, it appears to be largely because We have chosen for them to do so. (*wink*)

Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help - for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I."

Omar Khayyám (11-12th century), Persian astronomer, poet. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward Fitzgerald (1859).

PS: "No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but it was already impossible to say which was which."
(George Orwell , 'Animal Farm')


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Political Chat Soup

(an appetiser for a chaotic dinner party)

  • 2 teaspoons of liberal rhetoric
  • half a cup of conservative diatribe
  • 1 neo-conservative (slightly toasted)
  • 3 tablespoons of communist agenda
  • 5 lightly battered zionists
  • 4 tablespoons of racist jingoism
  • quarter of a cup of socialist ad hominems
  • 4 teaspoons of marxist philosophy
  • 1 de-booted neo-nazi
  • 5 sifted cups of free intellectual enquiry
  • a pinch of laissez-faire economics (partially blanched)
  • 1 dessert spoon of respect for traditional institutions
  • some radical, subversive or reactionary views
  • a smattering of dictatorial fascism
  • a sprinkling of discrimination or prejudice
  • 1 bottle of international goodwill


1. Open the bottle of international goodwill and sniff the cork.
2. Combine the free intellectional inquiry, the lassez-faire economics and the respect for traditional institutions. (This is a relatively inert mixture and as such requires little if no safety precautions.)
3. Pour yourself a small glass of the international goodwill and take a sip.
4. In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the racist jingoism, the marxist philosophy and the socialist ad hominems. (Place aside until the mixture stops bubbling)
5. Drink a glass of international goodwill.
6. Smack the neo-nazi on the head with a wooden spoon.
7. Place in a large pot the liberal rhetoric, the conservative diatribe and the communist agenda. (No need to apply heat as the mixture will reach boiling point on its own.)
8. Dispense with the glass and begin drinking straight from the bottle of international goodwill.
9. Smack the neo-nazi on the head with a wooden spoon and call him a waste of space.
10. Finish off the bottle of international goodwill and fling the empty into the fireplace.
12. Begin to tenderise the neo-nazi with a meat mallet. (Ear plugs are recommended.)
13. Quaff the second bottle of international goodwill while peeling and chopping into cubes the lightly battered zionists. (Ear plugs are optional.)
14. Coat the neo-conservative with the sprinkling of discrimination or prejudice and the smattering of dictatorial fascism.
15. Marinate whatever ingredients are left, and yourself, in a vat of international goodwill.
16. Serve in individual bowls the combined mixtures garnished with some radical, subversive or reactionary views.

(This recipe is a guaranteed starter for dinner parties. Before you have time to serve the main course your guests will be punching away. If there is anyone left standing before the dessert is served, they may have come to the conclusion that it is safer to discuss sex and religion.)


Politics, Sex And Religion

(or a short discourse on how to ruffle feathers across the galaxy)

Sometimes one should heed parental advice. I remember distinctly my mother advising me that politics, sex and religion should never be discussed in polite company. So, why do I spend my time online discussing these very issues? Am I a slow-learner? Do I have sado-masochistic tendencies? Do I think that in a predominately opinion based forum that those who also hold strong opinions will pay any credence to mine? Am I on some sort of power-trip lambasting my audience with irrefutable facts?
The questions for why I am, or why anyone is in political chat rooms could be as varied or as limited as one's psychological perspective allows. If there is a direct correlation between agenda and modus operandi, (which I think there is), perhaps it is pertinent that all of us ask ourselves what the hell we hope to achieve in political chat rooms.

An agenda, (for the sake of this discussion), is like the 'driving force' or the mission statement; the primary reason for action. Whereas, the modus operandi could be likened to the methods or solutions employed in order to further the agenda. So, I guess if there are those who come into these rooms in order to vent their dissatisfactions upon the world, it would be unlikely to expect a rational, objective debate from them if you are here to converse on a friendly basis.
Simply put this means:
1.If you are here to discuss, (and discussion is essentially non-combative) don't even attempt dialogue with someone who believes that a discussion and an argument is the same thing.
2. If you are here to debate, please inform yourself as to what a debate actually entails.
3. If you are here to argue, don't hold the mic down for ten minutes while you rant and rave and then wonder why the rest of the room wants you bounced.
Know yourself, know your agenda, and then check your modus operandi to see if the two are logically compatible.

What does that mean? It means that for many of us we cloak ourselves in the rhetoric and diatribe of our pre-conceived position and remain there. Wrapped in our personal comfort zones of biases and prejudices we berate others who do not see the world through our eyes when essentially it is physically and psychologically improbable for them to do so. We do NOT share either identically prescriptive genetic code nor do we share identical cultural and environmental influences. These are the two major influences upon our lives (the old NATURE / NURTURE Debate) and the very reasons for our expressed individualities.

That is: Most of us are totally unprepared to step outside our "comfort zone". It is a cosy, warm, safe haven where WE have ALL the answers. Consequently, when contradictory influences come a'knockin' we either set a personal defence of our barriers or we prepare ourselves for attack. My suggestion would be to do neither.
See yourself in all things and all things in yourself. The one true variable we all share is a sense of what it is to be human. Perhaps by seeing ourselves and others in this way will positively contribute to nullify the negative affects of billions of individually expressed personas.
By seeking to nurture, understand and appreciate diversity, we do not take from who we are, we simply add to it. I, for one, do not want my "comfort zone" to be so small, so exclusive, so inherently elitist that in order for it to exist, I must deny billions of other people the right to THEIR zones of comfort. For I think that it is only through the genuine desire to understand others that we can truly have any hope of understanding ourselves.

So, whichever part of the galaxy you call your home, or your 'comfort zone', ruffling your feathers may just cause others to ruffle theirs back at you. This, at best, will only afford light entertainment. At its worst the effects can be insidious, pervasive and downright bloody dangerous. My mother was essentially right when she advised me never to discuss politics, sex and religion in polite company. What she failed to point out with emphasis was that crucial word, "polite".

"The face you share with the world, is likely to be the face that stares back at you."


Monday, November 28, 2005

What Is It To Believe?

"I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief." -Gerry Spence
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -Voltaire
"What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out." -Bertrand Russell
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." -Buddha
"The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world" -Max Born
"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong." -Bertrand Russell
"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." -Henry Louis Mencken
"You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe" -Carl Sagan
"A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition." -Jose Bergamin
"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." -Joseph Conrad
"The word “belief” is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it—I don’t need to believe it." -Carl Jung
"Religion ... may be defined thus: a belief in, and homage rendered to, existences unseen and causes unknown." -Frances Wright
"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds." -Robert G. Ingersoll


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Whether 'Tis Nobler In The Mind To Paddle One's Own Canoe. That Is The Question.

(Hmmm, I have canoes paddling around in my mind? Yes, probably thousands of them. Some of them are missing oars too I think. But, semi-seriously to the question at hand.

Michel de Montaigne, was a 16th-century French humanist, who maintained that the world of human experience was a world of appearances, and that human beings could never hope to see past those appearances into the 'realities' that lie behind them. In Shakespeare's play 'Hamlet', Hamlet is fond of pointing out questions that cannot be answered. (You may notice that I have borrowed some words from Hamlet for the title of this page.)

Because the questions posed concern metaphysical matters, (as does my question), the play chiefly demonstrates the difficulty of knowing the truth about other people. That is, it is difficult to know their guilt or innocence, their motivations, their feelings, or their relative states of sanity or insanity. The world of other people is a world of appearances, and Hamlet is, fundamentally, a play about the difficulty of living in that world.

It is a play which has parallels to present human life, as do most of Shakespeare's plays. His plays inevitably deal with the human condition and all that that entails. Consequently, they are more than entertaining discourses and social commentary upon our emotional, psychological and intellectual states; they are indicators and manisfestations on 'how', 'why' and 'what' we think. Hamlet was fond of pointing out questions which are difficult to answer and so am I.

To 'paddle one's own canoe' ( circa 1800), is an idiom which means to be independent and self-reliant. It alludes to steering one's own boat or to being in conscious control of one's own life. (Or to think for oneself.) It is an idiom with which humanists concern themselves as a matter of course; as being a humanist means that they concentrate their thoughts on humans, their values, capacities, and worth. (In other words, they concentrate on what makes human beings tick.)

One of the ways of assessing who we are and why we are, is the
'Nature/ Nurture' debate. In this controversy, we ask if the behaviour of people is due to their Nature (or genetics) or to their Nurture (or environment).
Our little worlds in which we all sit have this in common. We were all born and all raised. We have all been subject to the influences of our individual and shared environments. The question is not whether Nature or Nurture has been the predominate influence but that they ARE the predominate influences upon us. They are what fashion us. Our emotional, intellectual, physical and psychological states are in direct correlation with our genetic code and the life experiences that being born human affords us.

Although the human genetic code IS what makes us all human; the differences in our individual genetic makeup is staggering. These inherent genetic differences allow for an infinite variety of possibilities which can be manifested physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically.

We are, individually, an assortment of chemical, hormonal and electrical impulses sloshing around in a semi-solid soup whose predominate physical component is water. The balance and nature of these ingredients is dictated by our individual genetic makeup. The ramifications of this fact, effectively and affectively, is that each of us interpret, process and analyse information in our own discrete way. Our genetic prescriptors have lead us to this.

In other words, our genetic code on an individual level is just that, unique. And the ramifications of our individual codes are also just that, unique. It is why I was born with blonde hair, blue eyes and a distinctly cantankerous disposition. Synonomously for you. (Same plot, different subtext. Gee, I hope it is a different subtext, for your sake at least.

So, we all arrive on this planet with a 'set of indicators' as to what or who we may become. These indicators are not 'set in stone' ; they are, ironically, not entirely prescriptive. They are innate possiblities of 'who we may become'.
The other major influence upon 'who we may become' is our individual and our shared environment. Not much needs to be said concerning this. It is obvious that the 'states' of our environments, shared and individual, impact enormously upon who we are and who we become. It is pertinent, though, to comment upon the fact that the characteristics of our environments also impact prodigiously upon the UNIQUENESS of our genetic selves.

Consequently, who we are and how we think, is a delicate balancing act. It is a play within a play within a play. The starring roles are filled by our innate selves and the myriad, mercurial environments in which the Self interacts.
So, none of us 'think' entirely the same, or process information the same, as we bring with us to any thought process, the influence of our individual genetic map and our individual life experiences. Basically, we have no option but to 'row our own canoe'. So, please don't expect me to think like you. I am only capable of thinking like me. For how can it be any other way?

My little neurons and electrical impulses that process and attempt to make sense of my world, can only let me process MY world. And, although I attempt to process and understand the worlds of others, I would no more presume to tell you how or what to think in YOUR individual world, than I would presume to know what is going down on Alpha Centari at this given moment.
This may sound as if we sit in isolation in our own worlds and to a large extent this is true. Our individually created worlds, which are partially predetermined, and partially consciously and unconsciously created; are in essence, isolated worlds of our own distinctive design. I find this neither a frightening nor a daunting prospect, just an immutable fact.
This isolation is tempered by our abilities to form bonds of commonality of experience and expression. Though there is no guarantee that the messages and information we share with others will be interpreted in the way that they were sent. This makes the act of living both challengingly wondrous and potentially eminently frustrating.

We share communal worlds because we have common 'tools' which allow us to communicate our thoughts, emotions and our psychological states. They are our commonalities of expression. Language, written, unwritten, spoken and unspoken is the most powerful of these expressive tools. Other important communication tools include the senses. Those of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.

These commonalities of expression, these processing and interpreting tools, are two-way streets. They allow us to absorb and to process information and to also impart the results of this information to others. Though, how we individually interpret that which is imparted, is a unique experience for each of us, as how we singularly interact with our world, influences our interpretations of it.

I will never agree with you for any other reason than that I ACTUALLY do agree with you. I may smile at you while we are discussing something pertinent, but please do not misconstrue this to be: "Her brain has shut down and she is defering to a higher power."
It has been said to me accusingly at various times throughout my life, "You can't tell her anything!" Well, DUH! No, you can't. I can only be in this world through my interpretation of it. That is not to say that I will not discuss my interpretation with you. But to blanketly assume that I will in any shape or form automatically 'take on' YOUR belief systems, (the ways in which you see and interact in your world), is egotistical in the extreme. And frankly, it is impossible for me physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychologically to do so.

To my chagrin, sometimes people desire for me to subordinate my thoughts to theirs. This is so subconsciously ingrained, that they appear to be totally unaware of it. It comes back to our own individual worlds, in which we sit. I am, for better or worse, supreme arbiter of my individual world, and you are of yours.

PS: Yes, it has been nobler IN my mind, and FOR my mind, to have rowed my own canoe.

PPS: I apologise to anyone who has read this in the faint hope of finding out more about canoes! If you read this far without a further hint of canoes, your individual world is infinitely more strange than mine. But if you look closely at the picture that accompanies this page, you will see something that almost resembles a canoe. (wink)

(BTW, I am neither, a rabid feminist, nor a closet lesbian. I am merely a woman who knows that all she can do with the INDIVIDUAL GENETIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL cards she has been dealt is, 'TO PADDLE HER OWN CANOE', or, TO THINK FOR HERSELF.