Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Benefits of a Two-Party System

The two-party system in Cayman started over a decade ago and today there is still considerable debate as to its necessity. Many of us remember the “good old days” when we simply had elected officials lumped into the overall Executive Council. However, it was impossible to expect that Cayman politics was going to stay that way. We may reminisce about our innocent youth, but we are never going to get it back. The two-party system is here to stay.

The reason the two-party system exists in human affairs seems to stem from human nature itself. In whatever social-political arena we examine, the people in them fall into two broad categories. For sake of simplicity we call them “liberal” and “conservative.” Everywhere we look in the broad spectrum of humanity, people are divided into these two categories. Everyone we know is either a conservative or a liberal. In actual fact, this seems to be decided at a very early age in our life. It is difficult, if not impossible, to change one’s mind-set. You are either left, or right. You are either liberal, or conservative.

For example, in Cayman, we have UDP (liberals) and PPM (conservatives). American politics is also divided between liberals (Democrats) and conservatives (Republicans.) Despite the monarchy, English politics is also divided between political parties that are clearly liberal and conservative. In the US, news agencies (despite their claims of “objectivity”) are divided between liberal and conservative: CNN is liberal, and Fox is conservative. This is clear as day. In Cayman, radio stations (as evidenced by their talk-shows) are also divided between liberal and conservative. Even in our immediate families, we see this divide.  No matter where we look in the world, the divide between liberal and conservative exists.

Of course there is the minority “independent” viewpoint. There are some people who do not like to be categorized and will say, “I am liberal when it comes to social issues, but fiscally, I am conservative.” Be that as it may, this “independent” person can nevertheless be categorized as a liberal or conservative. And usually, it’s how you view things socially and /or how you vote. We can hide from labels all we want, but the truth is you can be categorized. You are either on the “left” or on the “right.”  

Now why exactly is the two-party system inherent in human nature, and what are its benefits? There seems to be a simple answer. Generally speaking, liberal minded people are concerned more with the future, progress. Conservatives are usually concerned more with the past, tradition. (I said “generally speaking.”) A balance is needed between these two viewpoints. If all one did was focus on the future, without sufficient attention to the past, there would be danger of cutting oneself off from continuity. A tree without roots becomes unplanted very quickly. On the other hand, the danger of focusing on the past, without sufficient attention to the future, is that it would stunt growth. What good are the roots of a tree that bear no fruit? The future must be balanced by the past, and the past must be balanced by the future. In other words, liberals and conservatives both need each other.Both parties are necessary for the advancement of society.

We learn this concept of balance in debate class where two opposing viewpoints are formed to argue a topic. One side argues in favour of one perspective, and the other side argues in favour of the opposite. The reason this is done is so that a higher understanding of the topic can be achieved. If everyone believed the same thing, how would we advance in knowledge? It takes opposite viewpoints to advance human knowledge and society. This is called “dialectic.” It’s what we mean when we say “looking at both sides of the coin” or “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” And so there is no such thing as one viewpoint being more correct than the other. If you subscribe to the UDP, this does not mean that the PPM is wrong. And if you subscribe to the PPM, this does not mean that the UDP is wrong.

And so it is useless to call for the de-establishment of the two-party system. What is really important is to establish a proper playing field so that both parties can properly expound their viewpoint with the necessary counter-balance. We must realize that members of the opposition are integral to the advancement of Cayman’s society. People with different political viewpoints from you deserve your respect. It is very likely that you can, and will, learn something from a viewpoint you do not subscribe to.

As always, there is religious confirmation of this. In Israel 2000 years ago, the Pharisees were liberals and Sadducees conservatives. The Pharisees were not as ascetic as their Sadducee counterparts. Jesus’ apostles were also divided between liberal and conservative. St Paul and St Peter fought bitterly about their opposite viewpoints. When Christianity began to spread to the Gentile world, St Peter (the conservative) did not want to do away with Jewish customs. St Paul (the liberal) said that those traditions were no longer necessary (Galatians 2: 11 – 14.) Jesus Himself chose both liberals and conservatives to spread His Church. Surely this confirms for us the necessity of having two parties in Cayman. Christ, in whom all things converge, is both conservative and liberal, which is why He could break the law if He wanted (Mark 2: 23 – 28), while at the same time recommend his followers to adhere to it (Matthew 23: 2 – 3).

I am not in the LA on a day-to-day basis, so I cannot say for sure, but from the outside it often seems that the two parties lack respect for each other, and for the most part seem intent on destroying one another’s personalities. This shows a lack of respect and understanding of the raison d’ĂȘtre of the two party system. From such derisive division, how can we expect unity in the Cayman Islands? There must be acceptance and open communication between both sides. Recognize that both parties are necessary for the advancement of the Cayman Islands. St Peter and St Paul did not share the same views, but they came to an agreement because they had the same common goal: Christ. In the same way, PPM and UDP do not have to share the same views, but they must come to agreements from time to time for sake of their common goal: Cayman.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Scientific Evidence for God

I have indirectly addressed this topic in other articles, but I am now compelled to address it directly. What scientific evidence is there for the existence of God? In the history of human thought, God’s existence has never been definitively answered. If it had, we would no longer be discussing it. Just as we no longer discuss whether the earth is in fact actually flat. In what follows I do not fool myself to believe I am going to “prove” God’s existence, but simply show that modern science “points” to it. By modern science, I mean specifically evolution. Evolution is a fact that has completely refashioned humanity’s understanding about the world, and so it is only natural that we use it to determine God’s existence. Despite popular belief, science has never been in conflict with God. Many of the world’s greatest and most revolutionary minds were in fact scientists who believed in God: Michelangelo, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Teilhard de Chardin, to name just a few.

In what follows we will not have time to touch on Christian topics such as “Jesus Christ,” the “Trinity,” “Scriptures,” or the issue of “institutionalized religion.” We will not be able to look at the problem of “sin, death and suffering,” and if there is a good God why these things are possible. I am not side-stepping these questions, because they are all perfectly answerable. Time does not permit us to answer them right now. For now, we will concentrate solely on the scientific basis for believing in the personal God.

When wondering if God exists, one of the first questions that come to mind is the “Infinite Regression” question.  It goes like this: “If God made the universe, then who/what made God?” And then the next question is: “If somebody/something made God, then who/what made the thing that made God?” And of course the question goes on and on, backwards, towards infinity. Infinite Regression. We have all heard this question. It is essentially a Cause and Effect question. The universe is the Effect, what was the Cause? In the history of human thought, there has only ever been one satisfactory answer to the “Infinite Regression” riddle: there had to be something that “had no beginning;” something that “always was;” something “eternal.” Yes, the only way to avoid the absurdity of asking the Infinite Regression question over and over again is to presuppose that there was something that did not need to be created. From Plato and Aristotle onwards, this concept of eternity has been held by both believers and unbelievers. This is because eternity satisfactorily explains how the universe came into being. For the world to exist at all, there must have always been some sort of existence. Now of course this does not mean that eternity is a personal God. That is a different story. Many people imagine eternity simply as an endless ocean of impersonal energy.

So what evidence is there for a personal God? The evidence is found in the discovery of evolution. Although many people use evolution as proof against God’s existence, it will not be long before the world as a whole realizes that evolution actually points to his existence. How so? Because evolution has a direction:  towards the spiritual and the personal: two attributes of God.

It is actually very easy to see: from stardust, to plant life, to animal life, to human life, evolution undoubtedly moves in the direction of the spiritual and the personal. (See Diagram A.)  Starting at the bottom, stars are impersonal and spirit/consciousness is undetectable. But as the universe evolves to plant life, spirit/consciousness becomes perceptible. However, “personhood” is still not evident. Then, as the universe evolves to and through animal life (through natural selection), we begin to see high levels of spirit/consciousness and glimpses of the personal. The earth is filled with highly conscious creatures, many of which border on having personalities. We often remark that our pet dogs are like persons. Almost, but not quite. It is not until the universe evolves into human beings that we undoubtedly have the most conscious and personal animal ever. Humans are self-conscious persons, the pinnacle of evolution…for now.

Stopping for a moment, who can fail to see this direction of evolution? There is 300 million years’ worth of evidence that evolution has constantly moved in the direction of higher spirituality and personality. Many unbelievers will refuse to follow this logic of evolution. They will say that the evolution of life does not head in any one direction; it scatters and diverges in all sorts of directions. Now while it is true that the branches on the tree of life diverge in various directions, everyone can see that the trunk of the tree of life grows in the direction of smarter, more personal animals. Do not the concepts of “Natural Selection” and “Survival of the Fittest” imply that only the more intelligent and sophisticated life forms will advance? Of course it does. The universe is built to evolve toward higher spiritual and ultimately more personal life forms.

What is very interesting about this “directed-evolution” is that many unbelievers in fact sub-consciously believe in it… even though they do not realize it! This can be seen by the fact that many of them believe in extra-terrestrial intelligent life: and extra-terrestrial intelligent life can only appear on other planets through this samedirected-evolution!” Surely we are not blind to this?

But we should not assume evolution has stopped here on earth. When we project evolution along its trajectory, we are justified in assuming that the universe will eventually evolve to an even higher degree of spirituality and personality than human beings:  something “super-spiritual” and “super-personal.” And it is here we see evolution point to something like the concept of God, who is defined as the supreme spiritual personal being. God is not the sky-fairy, or the person in the clouds. He is the end of evolution, the top of the spiritual ladder, the super-spiritual and super-personal Being.

Evolution re-introduces an easy-to-see hierarchal structure of life: it is like a ladder reaching up to God. Stars are at the bottom, the wide range of life in the middle, and humans at the top rising upwards toward heaven. The universe moves “inwardly” towards spirituality and personality, not so much outwardly into outer space.

Even though I have not “proved” God’s existence, I have at least shown how evolution “points” to it. Faith in God can, and should, come about from a scientific look at the universe. Great thinkers of the past used science to come to an understanding of God, and today is no different.

In conclusion it is worth noting that the above is a scientific approach to God, and as a purely “intellectual” approach it is rather dry. There is a more fruitful way by which God can be shown to exist, and that is by lifting your will to him (the Great Unknown) to see if you experience a communication that takes place in any person-to-person relationship. “Test” God in prayer, and see if it bears results. However, one must be willing to invest a certain amount of time to see results, for one night of earnest effort would hardly be enough to learn to play the piano, much less talk with God.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Globalization and the Body of Christ

The value of any religion is how it stands the test of time. And it is Christianity which shows the greatest ability of any religion to conform to the 21st century. I have already written on the parallels of evolution and the doctrine of Creation. And again, as I see the effects of globalization all around us, I wonder why nobody notices the similarities it has with another certain Christian doctrine? In what follows, we will examine the close relationship between globalization and the Body of Christ, so that Christians can better understand their faith, and so that non-Christians (for if they choose to not believe in something, they must know what it is they do not believe in) can better understand it too.

What is the doctrine of the Body of Christ? Quite simply, it is the process by which the human race becomes one body. As the human race populates, and humans live in greater communion with each other, Christ’s body grows and builds itself up.  “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4: 15 – 16). The formation of Christ’s body is a massive under-taking that will require “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7: 9). Christ’s body covers the entire human race, from the deepest past to the farthest future, so that all things and all people are in someway incorporated into (or rejected from) the Body of Christ. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (I Corinthians 12: 12). Christ’s body extends to these parameters because he is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1: 16 - 17). Most people only think of Jesus as an individual Jew who lived in Israel some 2,000 years ago. Yet Jesus is, and always has been, a lot more than this. Like Voltron, who is formed when various robots unite together, Christ came to “unite all things in him” (Ephesians 1: 10). When he “has put everything under his feet” he will hand everything over to the Father “so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15: 26 – 28). So for a Christian, God will fully dwell with humanity when Christ’s body (the unity of the human race) is achieved. In short, the entire history of the universe is the formation of Christ’s body.

Of course, you can probably already see the parallels that those scriptural passages have with globalization. Globalization is quite literally the unification of the human race happening before our very eyes. Today, more than ever before, the nations and people of the earth are converging on each other in all domains of life: geographically, economically, culturally, religiously etc. Never before has humanity been so aware of itself ‘as a whole:’ we realize that we form one community on this earth. The United Nations, World Bank, and other global governing bodies have been formed because of this awareness. “Global” is the new buzzword. The Internet and social sites like Facebook further highlight the connectedness of the human race. On a daily basis, the human race is being driven towards greater unity and inter-connectedness with itself – a reality that reflects precisely the doctrine of the Body of Christ.

This drive towards greater unity is increasing humanity’s knowledge and awareness: which for a Christian is a spiritual awakening. God is truth. We stand on a tower of knowledge passed on by those before us, and which we are passing on to those after us. The founder of Wikipedia explains it like this: "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.” Human knowledge accumulates over the centuries and becomes more accurate and refined. We thought the earth was flat, now we know that it is round. We thought the earth was the center of the universe, now we know it actually circles the sun. We thought the universe was ready-made in 7 days, now we see that it evolved over millions of years. The Scientific Revolution of the last 150 years was brought about by globalization (sharing of knowledge), and it is essentially a Spiritual Revolution, even though most of us do not think of it that way. But the fact remains that the Scientific Revolution has given birth to enormous amounts of knowledge and very spiritual technology. Cell-phones, the Internet, GPS technology, are all spiritual objects. They provide instant knowledge on just about any subject, and immediate communication with anybody, anywhere – all in the palm of our hands. Look at your phone, the energy and complexity of it; can you not feel spirit radiating from it? Many of us first find out what is happening in the world through the Internet, or our cell phones. With this technology we can communicate with people who are not even near us - it used to be thought that only angels could do that. As globalization continues, we can only expect knowledge /spirit to grow exponentially, which is consistent with the doctrine of the Body of Christ.

However, great evil can be borne out of globalization (indeed it already has), but ironically this is yet another reason that proves its similarity to the Body of Christ. Christianity is clear that as Christ’s body forms, someone else’s body is also forming: the anti-Christ’s. The Christ cannot come without the anti-Christ. The anti-Christ is any nation, people, or person, who hates the unity of the human race, and works against it. Whereas Christ stands for human unity and life, the anti-Christ stands for human disunity and death. All the knowledge and technology we listed above can be used for anti-Christ-like evil purposes: war, the nuclear bomb, global warming, anti-social behavior, loss of privacy, to name just a few. Never before has the concept of the anti-Christ been as popular as it is today: for every one of us can see the potential for some future dictator who will force everyone “to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark” (Revelations 13: 16 – 17). So much hate and so much evil, it seems that globalization is not destined to happen in peace and harmony, but only through sweat, blood and tears (and here, coincidentally, we glimpse the mystery of why Christ had to suffer and die.) As human beings, we decide whether to love and live in harmony with our neighbours, or to hate and wage war against them.

The Christ and the anti-Christ stand on our horizon. We can forecast weather and perhaps one-day control it as Christ did (Luke 8: 22 – 25), or we can destroy the earth’s ecological balance and deplete its natural resources (anti-Christ). We can cure diseases and mental ailments like Christ did (Matthew 17: 14 – 20), or we can create viruses and neuroses meant to destroy each other (anti-Christ). We can provide food and water to the whole earth as Christ fed the multitude (Mark 6: 35 – 44), or we can sit idle and allow our fellow human beings to starve (anti-Christ). Will the human race find unity, or will it destroy itself?

That question remains to be answered, but my intent here was only to show people that the Christian religion is more relevant than they realize. Far from dying a slow death, Christianity seems to be positioning itself to be the religion of the future. The reason Christianity is seen as a “bronze aged myth” is because it is still interpreted as if it is the Bronze Age. If Christianity is eternal as it claims to be, then it is must be relevant in every generation, and as I have pointed out, it is definitely relevant in our generation. In the 21st century, it is Christianity alone that offers an explanation of globalization, while the rest of the world is only watching the phenomenon unfold without the slightest idea of what it means. One must either accept that the Christian faith predicted the phenomenon of globalization 2,000 years ago, or have to dismiss the similarities as “coincidence.” I know that many will call it “coincidence,” yes, but Christians can boast and call it “prophesy” - a lot more satisfying, and encouraging to our faith. It is no longer hip, nor reasonable, to say that Christianity is a “bronze aged myth” when it has proven time and again to be the most legitimate belief (or lack of belief) system out there. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Slave of the Slaves

I have often heard people say that the African slaves brought across the Atlantic were converted to Christianity through intimidation and violence.

I have always felt that this was not the true story. Experience shows us that when something is forced on people through fear and violence, it is despised by those who it is forced upon, and eventually abandoned when the threat of violence is gone.

Yet the ever-present faith of the African-American people is too real and too important to them for it to have been instilled in them through fear and violence. It seems that such a faith could only have been borne in them through love.

Below is a highly moving and emotional letter which suggests what I am saying. It was written in 1627 by Peter Claver, who called himself the "Slave of the Slaves." It relates the experience of the African slaves as they disembarked from their transatlantic journey. One cannot help but be touched by this man's love for the dignity of the African people and his compassion for their traumatic experience. You will not find this in the history books.

By reading it, I can better understand (make more rational sense) why the faith of the descendants of the African people is today still so strong.

St. Peter Claver
"Slave of the Slaves"
The Letter:

"Yesterday, May 30, 1627, on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, numerous blacks, brought from the rivers of Africa, disembarked from a large ship. Carrying two baskets of oranges, lemons, sweet biscuits, and I know not what else, we hurried toward them. When we approached their quarters, we thought we were entering another Guinea. We had to force our way through the crowd until we reached the sick. Large numbers of the sick were lying on wet ground or rather in puddles of mud. To prevent excessive dampness, someone had thought of building up a mound with a mixture of tiles and broken pieces of bricks. This, then, was their couch, a very uncomfortable one not only for that reason, but especially because they were naked, without any clothing to protect them.

"The joy in their eyes as they looked at us was something to see."
We laid aside our cloaks, therefore, and brought from a warehouse whatever was handy to build a platform. In that way we covered a space to which we at last transferred the sick, by forcing a passage through bands of slaves. Then we divided the sick into two groups: one group my companion approached with an interpreter, while I addressed the other group. There were two blacks, nearer death than life, already cold, whose pulse could scarcely be detected. With the help of a tile we pulled some live coals together and placed them in the middle near the dying men. Into this fire we tossed aromatics. Of these we had two wallets full, and we used them all up on this occasion. Then, using our own cloaks, for they had nothing of this sort, and to ask the owners for others would have been a waste of words, we provided for them a smoke treatment, by which they seemed to recover their warmth and the breath of life. The joy in their eyes as they looked at us was something to see.

This was how we spoke to them, not with words but with our hands and our actions. And in fact, convinced as they were that they had been brought here to be eaten, any other language would have proved utterly useless. Then we sat, or rather knelt, beside them and bathed their faces and bodies with wine. We made every effort to encourage them with friendly gestures and displayed in their presence the emotions which somehow naturally tend to hearten the sick.
After this we began an elementary instruction about baptism, that is, the wonderful effects of the sacrament on body and soul. When by their answers to our questions they showed that they had sufficiently understood this, we went on to a more extensive instruction, namely, about the one God, who rewards and punishes each one according to his merit, and the rest. We asked them to make an act of contrition and to manifest their detestation of their sins. Finally, when they appeared sufficiently prepared, we declared to them the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Passion. Showing them Christ fastened to the cross, as he is depicted on the baptismal font on which streams of blood flow down from his wounds, we led them in reciting an act of contrition in their own language."

It is said that Peter Claver personally baptized over 300,000 slaves.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can Mother Nature Destroy Herself?

One problem the non-religious have with the religious, is that the latter see humanity as "unique," and a "higher form of being" than other life on earth.

This sticks in the craw of the non-religious because to them it is obvious that humanity is far from "special," and is in actual fact a scourge upon the earth. Whereas other animals live in general harmony with the earth's ecological system, it is humans which pollute and abuse the planet's resources. Humans are definitely not a "higher form of being," but by all intents and purposes, a "lower form of being," destroying the earth for it's selfish purposes.

It is from such a perspective that these words (which I have often heard) are uttered,  "Mother nature is going to wipe humanity out, because we are destroying the earth."

I find this perspective very intriguing, because the non-religious do not realize that by making that statement they are in actual fact admitting that humanity is "unique" and "different from other species." This is because the statement implies that humans are in some way different from mother nature. But this is not the case. Humans are mother nature. We are not separate from mother nature. We came from the bowels of the earth just like every other creature. So if we are polluting and abusing the earth, it is mother nature herself who is abusing and polluting herself. Surely we can see the connection here?

So it is quite accurate to say that, currently, mother nature is in the process of destroying herself. At first we may have said, No, that is not possible. But how else can we truly understand what is happening? Either we admit that humans are different than other species, and in effect, different than mother nature, or we admit that it is within reason that mother nature could actually destroy herself.

She has created a nuclear bomb that could seriously destroy the earth and set her back millions of years. With the press of a nuclear rocket button, she could, in effect, commit suicide (of course, life would eventually crop up again, but it would nevertheless be a devastating reality.) The question is, will she do it? Will mother nature (humanity) continue to plunder and destroy her own natural resources? Will she pull the trigger and let loose the nuclear bomb? Will we destroy the human species along with a good portion of the biosphere? All this remains to be seen...

We need to stop looking at mother nature in terms of "other," for we are mother nature, and so the responsibility for the safe-keeping of the planet lies in our hands. We have a tremendous responsibility for the earth. In us, mother nature can choose selfishness and pride, and in so doing cause destructiveness and death. Yet, in us, she can also live in harmony with herself, and with all creatures and the earth.

We need to grow up, and recognize the great responsibility we have to safeguard the future of the earth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Cyberspace to Outerspace

At a time when everyone is concerned about over-population, we should take comfort in the fact that humanity is in the process of "creating space." For many this may seem too fantastic to be true, but there can no longer be any doubt about it; in creating cyberspace, humanity has created space itself. Cyberspace is real space.

Whole physical objects are being transferred into cyberspace: books, documents, leases, laws etc. There is no longer any real need for libraries, halls, filing cabinets and warehouses which used to store these paper documents. Nearly every major corporation and firm has completed the process of moving their paper documents to cyberspace. Sure, some of these companies still keep hard-copies, but it does not change the fact that - in reality - these hard-copies are not really needed.

Other physical objects that are moving to cyberspace include all sorts of art forms: music, pictures and even drawings and paintings. We no longer need (except for reasons of nostalgia) DVD's, CD's, photo albums, portfolios etc. to take up space in stores and homes. I have already begun the process of uploading every hard copy picture I own to the internet. I take comfort knowing that if these pictures are ever lost or destroyed, they will still be available on the internet.

Money is also moving to cyberspace. During the last 15 years we have seen a huge transition from cash to "paper money" in the financial world. Money is no longer needed to exist in a vault, or even in your wallet, if it exists on your account in cyberspace. All you really need is your debit card. Okay, cash is still the most liquid, but our debit cards are becoming even more so. Do you see how fast they swipe those things at Starbucks? And who can say if in another 15 years we will even need debit cards anymore? Perhaps a simple chip implanted into one of our fingers will suffice...

Okay, you may think that I am exaggerating this issue, and you probably doubt that other physical objects will one day be transferred into cyberspace. I mean, seriously, can houses, trees, and people be transferred into cyberspace? I personally do not doubt it. We are still at the very beginning of the cyberspace phenomenon: it is barely 15 years old. Cyberspace is as old as a 15 year old kid! There can be no doubt that major advancements in cyberspace will arrive. Maybe the movie "The Matrix" is more prophetic than we realize? Humans existing in cyberspace may seem incredulous to you, but I think it is a natural prolongation. People are already meeting, and falling in love, in cyberspace...

I believe this move to cyberspace could also have major implications for outerspace travel. You often hear people say, "Before the sun explodes, humanity will have moved on to other planets." I cannot help but feel that this is short-sighted. Humans will not need to move "externally" to some other planet, when it can move "internally" to space that is opening up within us. Inside the very bosom of the globalizing human race, space is opening up. We are penetrating into the very fabric of space-time.

Perhaps it is more plausible that intelligent life will not be found by reaching out to the stars, but by reaching inwardly, into cyberspace.  By punching into cyberspace we can perhaps link to a network bed by which we can communicate with other intelligent life who have managed to do the same. In such a scenario the vast distances of outerspace (which is a crippling handicap to outerspace travel) will no longer pose a problem. If this is indeed possible, then perhaps the reason we have not yet heard from other intelligent life is because we have not yet acquired the capability to receive their communication? Perhaps they wait for us. The greatest thing humanity has, is a penetrating mind, and that will be our greatest similarity with other intelligent life.

People with religious faith should trust in the phenomenon of cyberspace, because it is consistent with their religious belief. Remember, "the kingdom of God is within you." God will not come from the literal stars and sky, but from the bosom of the earth and the collaboration of humanity. The earth contains all we need to liberate ourselves.

"Most people think great God will come from the sky, take away everything, and make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on earth." - Bob Marley

So now you see the light?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is Spirit?

When most people think of “spirit” one of the first things that come to mind is a wandering ghost in paranormal realms. Such a spirit is usually bodiless, and hard to see, like a fleeting light or shadow. I would like to dispel this idea of spirit, because I believe it is seriously flawed. The universe shows us that spirit exists only in relation with matter: specifically, complex matter. Without matter, spirit cannot exist. That is one point I would like to make in this article. The second point is that there are attributes of spirit that is plain for everybody to see, and the higher the degree of spirit, the more obvious do these attributes become. And lastly, I will touch on the spirituality of technology.

Spirit is usually synonymous with “mind,” and so attributes of the mind are attributes of spirit. So we can say that anything that is conscious, holds information, and can communicate, is spiritual. In addition to that, good and evil are also both attributes of spirit. Let us examine these characteristics of spirit as they appear in the natural hierarchy of the universe. As we proceed upwards from inanimate matter to living creatures, we see the degree of spirit rise: consciousness, information and communication all grow, and coincidently, so do good and evil.

Firstly, inanimate matter, or for simplicity’s sake: rocks. Are rocks spiritual? At first sight, we may say No, because rocks are not alive. Rocks are made up of atoms and minerals, and are not very complex materially, and so their spirit is not easily identifiable. Yet, many people talk about the healing power of rocks, and even Jesus said that if the crowds did not praise him, the stones would (Luke 19:40). Yes, spirit is found in rocks, although it must be said that consciousness, information and communication are barely perceptible in them, if at all. Good and evil is also barely perceptible in rocks, but we could at least say that for a rock to exist is good, and when a rock decomposes, that is evil. (This will make more sense as we carry on.)

Secondly, plant-life. Plant-life is undoubtedly spiritual. Plants live, nourish themselves, produce offspring, and some even respond to human stimuli. Because plants are more materially complex than stones (plants are made up of millions of cells) they are more spiritual. Plants are conscious in the sense that they partake in life, they carry genetic information that they then communicate by passing along to their offspring. Because plants are a higher degree of spirituality than rocks, the degree of good and evil in them is also greater. A plant not only exists, it lives, it experiences life, and that is good. But the greater evil for the plant is that it dies. This is a higher degree of spirituality than rocks, which neither live nor die.

Thirdly, animals. The animal-kingdom contains a wide range of spirituality. From the lowly insect, to the intelligent dolphin, we see wide ranges of consciousness, information and communication. The more complex materially an animal is (animals are made of millions of complex cellular groupings) the greater is its spirit. This is why larger brains characterize very spiritual animals. An insect is rather simple life, and its consciousness is rather limited. Yet it is alive, and so it is spiritual. A dolphin has a highly complex brain and nervous system, which allows a much higher degree of spirituality. Because animal-life is a higher degree of spirituality than plant-life, the degree of good and evil in them is also greater. Animals are mobile, spontaneous, and experience many pleasures of life, which is good. On the other hand, the great evil for animals is that they can suffer. Anybody can see the anguish of animals as they suffer. It is a very real and poignant evil. Yet, this is a sign of how spiritual the animal is, for the higher the degree of spirituality, the higher the potential for evil. (It is worth noting that we sympathize more with greater spiritual creatures than less spiritual creatures. This is why we are more concerned when dolphins are captured and dogs are mistreated, but not too bothered about tuna or insects.)

And last, of course, is the human realm. Nothing on earth is more materially complex than the human brain, containing billions upon billions of neurons! And of course, nothing is more spiritual. We are not only conscious, we are self-conscious, and our brains hold almost limitless amounts of information. In addition to that, our ability to communicate is unparalleled by any other creature. Not only do we use highly sophisticated spoken and written languages, but the subjects that we communicate about are also unparalleled: art, science, love, sports etc…Humans can do extraordinary good things; we can take pleasure in truth, bask in love, and admire justice. We can be stewards for all animals and the planet itself. But on the other hand, our capacity for evil is just as outstanding. In the human realm there is not only death and suffering; there is sin. Only in the human realm do the evils of pride, envy and murder exist. Sin does not exist at any other level of spirituality, except at the high level of human spirituality.

So from what we have seen, spirit is everywhere in the universe. It is all around us, existing in different degrees. Moreover, we see that spirit is always accompanied by matter, by complexly arranged matter. Despite what we see in the movies, and hear about in ghost stories, spirit cannot exist “on its own:” it needs some sort of material body. The idea of a ghost without a body is a pseudo-reality. Even when one feels the “spirit” of a city like New York, or Paris, the “spirit” is a product of the complex social structure of that city. We have also seen that there are different degrees of spirit in the universe, and the greater the degree of spirit, the greater its consciousness, communication, and the greater the degree of good and evil (coincidently, this is why the greatest angel, Lucifer, could become the greatest devil.)

I would also like to point out the spirituality of technology. Most people do not think of technology as spiritual. But in actual fact, radios, cell phones, and the Internet are all highly conscious, informational and communicative inventions. Our cell phones are some of the most spiritual objects that humankind has created. They can provide us with any information we need, as well as instant communication with anybody on the globe, all in the palm of our hands. And this is just the surface of what a cell-phone can do! And as every spiritual object, cell-phones have a complex material body. Any engineer can tell you that the material of a cell-phone is extremely sophisticated and complexly arranged. It is a modern day marvel. Of course, people who distrust technology usual do so because of the evils inherent in them: anti-social behavior, loss of privacy, and the ability to manipulate others, to name just a few. But as we have already shown, these evils do not mean technology is not spiritual; just the contrary!

In conclusion, I would like to point out that based on what we know about spirit, the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) have the most logical version of Heaven (the highest degree of spirituality). These modern day religions have always maintained that matter must of necessity be present in Heaven: the doctrine of the “resurrection of the flesh.” In Buddhism and Hinduism, the general feeling is that enlightenment is achieved without the human body, or that it is easier achieved by freeing the mind from bodily restrictions. Whereas it might not be 100% accurate to say that matter is left out of the heavenly picture in these Eastern religions, it certainly is not explicitly included. Spirit is always connected with matter, and without matter, spirit cannot exist. So despite the popular conception of Heaven as a community of bodiless souls floating around and communicating with each other “through their minds,” it is instead a real city with real walls, real trees, and real bodies. It is a supra-new City, the New Jerusalem. And of course, like every spiritual reality, evil is also present in the New Jerusalem, although at it’s polar opposite: the doctrine of hell.