Archive for the ‘Ruminations’ Category

Nathaniel’s Magic

December 22, 2009

What Nathaniel does is cajole people into forgetting

everything that is horrible about them.

In the interim

he loots their souls,

at the pretence of geniality.

Without being too harmful, to his credit.

But I hate magicians who pretend that their magic is real.

Or maybe I simply envy them.

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Batteries

October 1, 2009

It is as though everything in our lives must be recharged. Our cars with fuel, our laptops and cell phones with electricity, our stomachs with food and liquids,

our hearts with sorrow and mirth.

Deliberations With a Friendly Bigot

September 22, 2009

I’m writing this from Antalya, Turkey. I’m currently on vacation with my girlfriend, and it’s safe to say that minus the horrible stomach aches I get in the mornings from eating like a filthy swine and drinking sub-lethal (or almost lethal) amounts of alcohol – we are having an awesome time, thank you very much.

The purpose of this post is not to tell you how much fun I’m having. That, on its own, is not particularly interesting. I wish to write a few paragraphs about a guy called Safa, he’s our Turkish “special guest” (NO, we did not have a threesome). Einat met Safa this one evening while I was otherwise doing my best not to vomit the copious amounts of vodka I consumed earlier on. They had a friendly chat, and we set up a date for us three later on.

The following evening, Safa, girlie and me met at the main bar, ordered a few drinks, and started chatting away. We also proceeded to rendezvous with two of Safa’s friends from Iran (!!). You’re probably thinking right now: “oh, he had ‘deliberated’ with bigots. He met Iranians, hence title of post, enter altercations by angry Jews and Iranians”.  Nope. First of all, it was almost impossible to communicate any meaninful messages to our two Iranian friends, let alone shout at them with righteous indignation. Their English was quite bad, and other than that, they only speak Farsi, which is utter gibberish to me, pretty much the same way Hebrew is to them.

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Non-Ashkenazis and Right-Wingness

August 15, 2009

I often reflect on the sterotype attributed to non-Ashkenazi Israeli Jews that lumps them as conservative, right-wing, ethnocentric, underclassed, etc. I say “non-Ashkenazi” because I find the term “Sefardic” a bit confusing. Sefardic is supposed to mean “North-African Jew” (namely, Moroccan, Algerian, Lybian, etc.) – but sometimes I get the term lumped with Iraqi, Lebanese, or basically any non-Ashkenazi Jew other than Ethiopean Jews (there are Jewish communities from other places in the world, but they are freakishly minor in comparison).

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Peace is mutually assured destruction

August 9, 2009

“Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) was the term used during the Cold War to express the fickle (and spiteful) state non-agression that prevailed between the USA and USSR (and their allies) ever since WWII ended and until the dissolution of the USSR. The Cold War is probably a phenomenon that could only exist when two nations “fighting it” happen to be spectacularly powerful. So much that no matter what outcome a potential conflict may have, either nation would at best achieve a terminally Pyrhhic victory.

Now, I’m not saying that MAD is the ultimate ingredient for peace in any situation, but its success in keeping the US and USSR from annihilating each other (and in the process, the world) and its prevalence in nature are evidence of its potential.

My Kung-Fu teacher told me a story today about his old master, Richard Ratzkoff, who had an appointed fight against a fellow martial artist, nicknamed (or otherwise called) “Duke”. When Richard came to Duke’s dojo, he bowed. Duke bowed back accordingly, and a split second later,  was in mid-air, fist outdrawn, aiming at Richard’s face, missing it by a fraction. Richard evaded the blow a tiny moment before recieving a knock-out fist.

Right after this single attack, Richard and Duke turned to face each other, bowed again, shook hands, and parted, the melee drawn to a close right there and then. Richard said that when he parried Duke’s blow, he noted in that instant that should that man succeed in striking him, he would be done for. Duke later revealed that at that moment, he came to the realization that Richard just evaded his most powerful, most agile, and fastest attack, and he would never be able to exceed it.

So the two hardened warriors accepted their opponent as worthy, and came to terms with the fact that none of them could leave this battlefield without irreparable harm.

So they chose non-aggression as a better option. I see this event as a beautiful analogy to the Cold War – two warlike giants, hardened, natural-born fighters, having witnessed each other’s prowess as warriors – concluded that a clash between them will be disastrous for both.

When I heard the story, I immediately thought of similar skirmishes in nature, for example, in stags. Some stags possess exceedingly large horns, and in many occasions, when fighting for mates or territory, conclude their fighting with both parties unharmed (or at least, alive), after coming to the realization that either party will have too much to lose by winning that fight.

So nations, grand masters and stags make their calculations similarly.

The theory collapses when you let madmen who don’t invest a great deal of thinking do the fighting. These are the kind of people who would go headlong into a fight, oblivious to whether they win or lose, but it appears that even the most dedicated warriors (as Richard and Duke obviously are) make rational considerations when they enter a conflict.

Irrational Atheists

May 20, 2009

There’s two blogs I read every day, and, nowadays when most of what I do is study and work, two blogs that I read, period: 

 

those are Pharyngula and Evangelical Realism.

 

Deacon Duncan, the author of Evangelical Realism, had a wonderful series of posts about a book by one Vox Day, a smug mouthpiece of American wingnut assfuckery, called “The Irrational Athiest”. 

For Vox, the irrational atheist is irrational because he fails to believe in (apparently) the Christian God (probably a very specific, sectarian version of said God, too). 

I will waver the opportunity to explain why an atheist would not be irrational by failing to do that. First, that’s not the business of this post, and secondly, DD did it way better than I ever will.

 

I will, however, give a few examples of how this particular atheist can be irrational, and how I feel and what I think about my personal irrational behavior.

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Unhappy? That Makes Sense.

April 7, 2009

*
This following is some unedited, flagrantly unsubstantiated arguments about the phenomenon of human happiness, and why I think that attaining long-term happiness is impossible (and no, not just because I’m a bitter instance of mediocrity).

The evolutionary purpose of happiness is the same for any “adaptive rewards” in human psychology: adrenaline makes us high, excited and focused. It’s the reward we get for chasing that prey or for fighting off that lion.

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Do CODAs Talk to Themselves more Often?*

March 27, 2009

*This isn’t  peer-reviewed blogging, just an idea that’s occurred to me. 

 

Ever since I can remember myself, I talk to myself and think outloud. Well, actually, the latter is more fit than the former, since most of my “conversations” are merely the vocal manifestations of thoughts, being that they’re either garbled, incoherent, and, especially when I’m thinking hard – made of bits and pieces of information that’s being processed internally.

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Are Atheists Depressed?*

March 25, 2009

*I think the more interesting question should be: do depressed people tend to be more secular or atheistic?

I, for one, have always been a terrible pessimist, and have been subjected to terrible, ongoing bad moods ever since I can remember. The first thing that crossed my mind when I started dabbling with atheism and critical thinking is: “Why SHOULD there be a God? I imagine this world sucks bad enough so that it doesn’t need him”.

The ability to deconvert hinges not only on education, but also on disposition. The species of atheist I’m acquainted with has a convoluted personality, and that often includes mood swings. There’s probably all kinds of atheists out there, but maybe I’ve caught some sort of  trend here.

Depression can often result from a large gap between expectations and reality – expectations that might not necessarily be irrational. Presumably, it’s possible to conjecture happy-go-luckies who deceive themselves regarding their own competence as a defense mechanism against depression.

Maybe there IS some correlation between depression and rationalism, since it is obviously horrifying to impartially observe how trivial our personal existence truly is. As a by product of rationality, we understand how magnificent the universe is, and how dubious are supernatural claims. As a rather glum atheist, I find it very easy to ignore the emotional appeal to trust in the words of men and their stories about God and the supernatural – but this goes hand in hand with my inability to trust people in general, particularly when they tell me wonderful stories about some invisible sky daddy who loves me so much.

I’ve always wanted to see hard evidence, often more than is necessary, before I could truly trust what I hear and see.

I can only testify in my case that this leads me to an evidence-based worldview. Since I truly believe that it is what makes people happy that eventually drives them, I’m fully aware that worldviews change accordingly. It would be impossible for me to believe in a god or gods with my current personality, no matter what I’m offered – but it is possible for me to be irrational.

Admittedly, as irrational as any theist can be.

Searchlights

March 11, 2009

(Warning: verbal mess written in a very pensive mood ahead)

Science, or equivalently, human experience, is like the tiny radius of a searchlight.

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