Thursday, November 7, 2019

Am I A Christian? Am I A Stars Wars Fan?

Another quick one. This time; Christianity through the Stars Wars lens.

I'm a huge fan of Christianity, but I'm a fan of it in much the same way that I'm a fan of Star Wars or the Beatles. I've read the New Testament and I really found it fascinating. Agreed with lots of its tenets, and I took a lot of it to heart. It means something to me. It's now part of my palette of influences. Again, like the Beatles or Star Wars or all the other things I love and identify with.

So, am I a Christian?

..and this is what gets me to the topic of this article.

If you say you're a Christian people assume that you believe in it all literally. That you follow a particular version, and follow that version to the literal letter.

There's no middle ground for people who just like it. Or enjoy it. Or find some value in it in some way or other. People just assume it's either all or nothing. There's a total lack of nuance.

Imagine Christianity Was Star Wars.



Getting to my Stars Wars comparison I would paint it something like this;

Imagine you have a situation where, in say a thousand years time, you have people who believe that Star Wars really happened. That the Star Wars movies were literally true.

Now if you're just an average Stars Wars fan (who just likes the movies) you may be denounced by these "true believers" as not being a genuine Star Wars fan - even though you love the stories and find real meaning and value in them.

Alternately, when you state that you're a Star Wars fan to people who aren't fans of Star Wars they may just assume you're like the other "literal believers".

"What, you actually believe Darth Vader really existed??"

"Duh. How stupid do you have to be to believe that people can levitate objects using the force??"


It's a bit of a silly example, but you get the point I'm making. You'd be accosted by ignorant hardliners from either side. Simply for liking something. Very much like it is now with Christianity and many other religions.

If someone sees you reading the Bible they assume you're a literal believer of some description. There's no appreciation that you may be reading it because you find it interesting, or meaningful, or enjoy it in some other way.

"Why are you reading that? *confused look on the face* How stupid do you have to be to believe that someone could walk on water??"

Assuming that as you're reading it you must literally believe it verbatim. It's a bit strange really when you think about it. You wouldn't get that with any other content you were consuming.

"What? Why are you listening to that? Duh, do you really believe that there was an actual Yellow Submarine??"

No one would think you literally believed in magic because they saw you reading a Harry Potter book.

Are fans of Harry Potter expected to actually believe in magic by people? Do the real hardcore Beatles fans take all their songs literally? Completely missing all the poetical depth and meaning. It would be a strange world.

A literal interpretation. Be it by literal believers, or by those denouncing something under the belief that it's all meant to be taken literally. Just diminishes the whole thing. I think all the great religions of the world have been diminished greatly by this attitude.

You don't have to believe Moses was literally talking to a burning bush to find value in the tale. You don't have to believe that Master Yoda actually levitated Luke's X-wing out of the swamp to enjoy Star Wars ..or to find some meaning or resonance in the battle between the dark side and the force. 

Summary

Now, to summarise, I should state that I'm not saying that Christianity is or isn't true. Or that it's as fictional as Star Wars. My personal view is that it's impossible to know for sure what happened hundreds or thousands of years ago from such a removed position, but that ultimately it doesn't matter as if a story has value it has that value either way.

"Judge not lest ye be judged" makes sense regardless who said it or what the origin is.

This is just my personal opinion though, and ultimately it's an individual choice or judgement.

However, I do think that the lack of nuance from both sides means that literal believers miss out because they're overly consumed with concerns and doubts as to whether what they believe is literally true or not. Whereas those on the other side miss out completely as they deem something completely valueless because it isn't one hundred percent true in a literal sense.

..and no doubt those people reading this are now both equally annoyed. The literal believers annoyed that I'm comparing Christianity to Stars Wars, the Beatles and Harry Potter. The literal unbelievers annoyed that I'm saying Christianity has so much beauty, meaning and value.

(In fact, as I'm finishing this I'm listening to Kate Bush and the song Cloudbusting has just came on. What a song :) Personally I like all these things in similar way. It's all art. It's all religion. Why can I not like the New Testament in the same way that I like a Kate Bush or Beatles song?

Am I a Christian? Am I a Kate Bush fan?)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Turtles All The Way Down..

This'll be a nice little fun one hopefully. Concerning the famed "flat earth" idea that the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle.


The idea is said to originate in Hindu mythology. The general idea being that the Earth rests on four elephants, who in turn stand on the shell of a giant turtle. However, it's also a common cliché in the west and is often used to ridicule flat earthers and other ideas that employ illogical reasoning.

The story that most often gets repeated goes something like this;

A lecturer giving a scientific presentation about the Earth finishes his speech and then gets accosted by a little old lady who states; "You're wrong, Sir, the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle".
The lecturer then politely asks; "..but what does the turtle stand on?"
To which the old lady insistently replies; "Another turtle".
He then further questions her; "..but what does this second turtle stand on?"
She then triumphantly answers; "It's no use, Sir, it's turtles all the way down".

Some of the various versions of this story can be found on the following Wikipedia page; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

The first question that always springs to mind whenever I hear this story is how odd it is that a little old lady in the western world would believe such a thing in the first place. Was this a common belief in this part of the world in earlier times? Was she well read up on her eastern mysticism perhaps? Or is it simply a made up story, in part inspired by these eastern ideas, used to conveniently illustrate the ignorance and superstition of unscienced folk?

It's certainly an odd little story.

Etymology of the Two T's

Anyway, returning to the basic idea, what I really find fascinating is the etymology.

"Turtle" and "Tortoise" both contain a double "T" sound. In fact, in many ways they're both just variants of the same word, more or less meaning the same thing.

Curiously, we also have many words containing this double "T" sound denoting places at the edge of the world; Antarctica, Tartaria, Tartarus.

In Greek mythology Tartarus was a place at the edge of the world where souls where tortured after death. Torture is another word containing this double "T" sound and means "to twist" (another word with two t's).

The name turtle/tortoise no doubt simply denotes a shell or shelled creature. Shells, seashells and such, are often twisted too it's perhaps worth noting. The ring-shaped pasta tortellini also springs to mind.

So could it be that this idea of the Earth on the back of a giant turtle is simply a misunderstanding of what was originally meant? Maybe the idea was that we were "in" the turtle shell. After all, a turtle's shell is its home. As shells are for many other creatures. So it's a fitting motif.

Perhaps the idea was originally used as a metaphor for the "outer edge" surrounding the Earth. Hence why we have words conveying this double "T", suggestive of a shell, for places at the edge. When considered this way the idea of a "world turtle shell" doesn't seem quite as silly. It's also very similar to the concept of the "cosmic" or "world egg". Again, another conceptual idea where the world is within a "shell".

(Also as a side note, is "shield" related to "shelled"??)

It's also thought that the words turtle and tortoise could be related to the name Tartarus. The keepers of Tartarus were called Tartaruchi. According to Wikipedia the Italian and Portuguese word tartaruga (tortoise or turtle) derives from this noun.

The Arctic and Tartaria

A further thing worth relating is the potential overlap between the words Arctic and Tartar (or Tartaria / Grand Tartary). In fact, the Arctic Ocean was often labelled the Tartar Sea on older maps.

(Carte Generale Des Decouvertes
De L'Amiral De Fonte)

(Close up - "Mer De Tartarie")

I would imagine part of this confusion is due to the way directions can easily get confused. In this case the directions north and east.

If you travel from Europe to north eastern Russia or Alaska you can go straight east through Russia, or straight north across the North Pole.

(Which way?)

So there's land to the east and land to the north, but it's the same land. It would be easy to imagine how mapmakers, on hearing about land in these directions, could perhaps duplicate this land on their maps. This is maybe why the large area labelled "Tartaria" on older maps disappears so suddenly. It may have been that they overestimated the size of the territory by placing it both to the east and to the north of Europe.

Also, finally (and back to etymology) we have tartar sauce. This is a white coloured sauce normally eaten with seafood dishes. Its name is said to derive from the Tartars. According to Wikipedia;
This name comes from confusion over their allies the Tatars, because of whom the Europeans called Mongolia Tartary. This misnomer came from associating the name Tatar with the Greek mythological hell known as Tartarus.
However, given it's a white sauce perhaps its name also comes because of its similarity in appearance to the snowy Arctic. There's also steak tartare too, which similarly is said to get its name from the Tartars - owing to their fondness for eating raw meat. Again, Eskimo peoples tend to eat raw meat. So the overlaps seem numerous.

Ta-ta :)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Why Empires Fall ..Capital Suction

I'm being a little cheeky here. Obviously there are myriad explanations as to why empires fall. I'm just using this post to highlight one particular problem that will doom all empires sooner or later.

(This post follows on from a post I did earlier this year titled; An Island. An Example, which is worth reading in relation to this. That in turn followed up on my post; EU Discussion: Limits on the Sizes of Democracies. So it's essentially all part of a series really.)

Why Empires Fall...

Anyway, if we imagine a continent. Let's say this one that I knocked up earlier.


If an empire or country conquers all this territory, and rules from its capital, as depicted below. Then that capital will funnel money, power and people towards it. Almost like a black hole. All the tribute or taxes flow towards this capital. All the big decisions are made here. Meaning in turn that successful and ambitious people will also head in its direction. Further concentrating this power.


Of course, all these numerous people in the capital will need feeding too. Meaning food will also be funnelled in its direction. Provided, like the taxes, by people living further afield.

This process is something that can easily be seen in all countries and empires. With the capital city always having this same gravitational effect. An easy example is Britain. Where huge amounts of wealth and people are concentrated in and around London. Completely disproportionate to the rest of the country.

Anyhow, the further one gets from the capital the more distant one gets from political power and influence. Meaning that people further away will be represented or ruled by people that have little idea what's going on where they live, and no doubt less care or concern for what's going on there as well.

Again, this can easily be seen in most modern countries. For instance, people in the north of England or Scotland complaining that Westminster politicians have no idea what life is like where they live.

..And the bigger the country or geographical region the bigger the problem. Likewise the greater the power that gets concentrated at its centre.

It's also worth noting here that even good, well-intentioned rulers will struggle to represent truly far flung places. As the distances involved and the sheer number of people place practical limitations. There are only 24 hours in a day. So there's a limit to how many problems a person or government can deal with in that time. No matter how sincerely they may try. (I touch upon this in the two articles mentioned above).


So in my little cartoonish example you can see that the further away from the capital the people are the less happy they are with their situation (and the harder they are to control). Or rather, the bigger the area governed the bigger the imbalance.

This is all pretty obvious stuff of course, and it shouldn't really require a little break down like this to point it all out. However, people often fail to grasp these simple concepts when they're dreaming of their unions, empires and other grand schemes. You can build your empire at great cost, but once you do sooner or later the bits at the extremities will begin falling off. This is no doubt why we see the same pattern of expanding and retracting empires throughout history.

So what's the alternative to empires? In the 'An Island. An example' article linked to previously I try to explain how "countries" form due to natural organic processes. In my opinion the best way to proceed is to respect these natural processes by respecting democratic choices.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Somewheres" and "Anywheres" Through The CJ Lens

As you can see from the last post I've finally finished publishing my book Civilisation Judas. This is quite a relief as it felt like quite a big project, and took a lot of time and effort. So it'll be nice to let it leave the nest and fly off on its own. However, there's one final thing I'd like to touch upon which relates to the themes contained within it.

In the book I proposed a new notion. What I labelled the "city aristocracy" - a class of people similar to the more familiar landed aristocracy, but that draw their status and influence from processes which occur in towns and cities.

In the first chapter I explained this distinction as follows;
The landed aristocracy are tied to their land and derive their wealth and status from it. With their power resting largely on tradition and force (the force needed to defend their territory, raise militias, maintain law and order, etc). 
However, the city aristocracy don't have vast areas of land, what they have is transferable wealth - money, gold, trade links, etc. Their power largely rests on innovation and intelligence. Unlike the landed aristocracy they are not tied to the land, but are in a position to move, and to move their wealth as well.
In the book I suggest that historically "Jewishness" was something that emerged from wider society as a consequence of this distinction. Essentially stating that the word "Jew" originally simply signified a member of this city-based social class. As opposed to a member of a separate religious or ethnic class. And that the modern distinctions, be they religious, ethnic, cultural, etc, all originally stem from this social division that naturally occurs in societies.

(This is obviously quite a novel idea which will seem strange to many people when it's first presented. However, I explain it further in the book.)

Somewheres and Anywheres

Anyway, something that would suggest that I've correctly identified a very real historic and social phenomena is the modern, and seemingly very new distinction made between "Somewheres" and "Anywheres".

These are labels that have came about as an attempt to explain the difference between "leavers" and "remainers" in the current Brexit divide. A division that doesn't seem to follow the classic left/right political divide, and that has forced pundits and writers to analyse and search for markers to distinguish each group.

The "somewhere" and "anywhere" labels seem to do this quite effectively. Which has led to their usage becoming common parlance in political debates about Brexit. (They also seem quite apt in describing the divide between Trump and anti-Trump in America, and other such modern political divisions.)

The most noted proponent of these labels is the author David Goodhart, who explains the division quite succinctly in this following Newsnight feature.

(David Goodhart;
Anywheres vs Somewheres)

It essentially states that "remainers" or open-border advocates tend to be more mobile and well educated, and lack any strong connection to a particular place - hence they are anywheres. Whereas the "leavers" or nationalists tend to be less well educated, more group-focused and more rooted to a particular place - the somewheres.

It parallels my above division of city and land quite neatly and again suggests we're dealing with a social phenomena. A divide that naturally occurs in societies due to social and economic factors. With the historical Jewish/Gentile divide, and the current leaver/remain divide, being similar manifestations of the same natural societal tendencies.

Of course, this division in reality is more of a spectrum than a hard line. Much like the naturally occurring left/right spectrum in politics. However, certain events, such as the Brexit referendum, may force people to choose a side. Highlighting this division in ways it wouldn't normally be noticed.

Comparing the Brexit divide to the historic divide between Jew and Gentile may seem an odd comparison, however, as I explain in the book. Before the modern separation of church and state, religions were the state. So religious divides were also political divides by virtue of that fact. Similarly modern Jews and Christians will not necessarily fall into these same anywhere/somewhere categories today. As modern religions are so far removed from their historic origins. Plus the wider social landscape will have changed so much since that time. In fact, most modern Israelis today will no doubt tend very much towards the somewhere category. So in many cases it may be completely reversed.

I would speculate that modern religions are in part simply legacies of earlier socio-economic movements. Though we see them as purely religious or spiritual today. Likewise we can see how, even in this supposedly secular age, political movements often take on the zeal and accoutrements of religion. Be it rainbow flags or MAGA hats.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Civilisation Judas - Available on Amazon

This is just a short post to point out that Civilisation Judas is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format.

Kindle - Amazon US / Amazon UK
Paperback - Amazon US / Amazon UK

(the paperback version)

I've also made a little video to give a sense of what the paperback looks like in reality so people can prejudge before they purchase.


(paperback version - out now,
in the garden)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Variation in Human Appearance, A Product of Domestication?

This is going to be a post about human eye and hair colour. I also want to post it on Twitter as a little series of tweets, so I'm going to do it BuzzFeed-style with short sentences and nice pictures ..hopefully.

Variation in human appearance, a product of domestication. A theory.

There's a lot of variation in how humans look. Hair colour, skin colour, eye colour. Especially amidst European populations. Red hair, blonde hair, brown hair. Green, blue and hazel eyes. Freckles and different skin tones.

(the eyes have it)

This is quite different to what we see in the animal kingdom, where species tend to be quite fixed in how they look. So you could say this human variation is a little odd and unexplained.

(identical animals)

However, one place you do see variation in the animal kingdom is in domesticated animals. Cats, dogs, cattle, etc. In a single field you may see cattle of a multitude of colours. Black fur, white fur, ginger fur, blonde and toffee-coloured coats. Some with one single uniform colour, others spotted or patterned. Likewise you tend to see cats and dogs with all manner of fur and colour patterns.

(cattle colours)

So are humans domesticated too?

If you were being quite wacky you could perhaps speculate that we've been domesticated by aliens or some other nefarious force. If you're being a bit more down to earth you could maybe pose the idea that other humans have done the domesticating. Through slavery and ownership.

(alien slave market :p)

Or, and this is my personal favourite, you could opine that we've domesticated ourselves by creating civilisation, and by separating ourselves from nature.

(civilization_)

And that perhaps the rise of western civilisation was responsible for the large amount of variation we see in hair and eye colour in Europe.

Maybe the onward advance of civilisation will bring ever more variation in human appearance as we continue to evolve forward.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Cringe - Why It's Such An Apt Word

I haven't done an alphabet post in a while. However, I was thinking about the word cringe, and on reflection it seems like a good topic for discussion. I'm probably not quite young enough to talk about cringe without it being cringe, so hopefully it won't be too bad :)



If we break the word down we have the "C/K" sound, which we make at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, which we make by curling the tongue backwards. Then the "ing/ng" sound which we make at the back of the nose.

There's also a "J" sound at the end of the word - cr-ingj. Rounding the word off.

So it's like we're drawing ourselves inwards in the mouth when we make the word, as if we're mirroring the overall body movements we make when we actually feel cringe.

When we do something cringey we withdraw into ourselves in disgust. Likewise, when we watch someone do something cringe we empathise with the situation and feel it on their behalf. It's a natural pulling back, like when we physically touch something we find disgusting. Or like a frightened turtle retreating into its shell. It's a natural movement of retreat.

I've mentioned the "K/G" consonant before and how it is often found in words associated with being sick. Gag, sick, puck, bork, yak, yuk. It's all quite icky. Which makes sense with the sound being made at the back of the mouth. The "R" sound, the rolling back of the tongue, is quite literally a retreat or pulling back. Then finally, the "ing" sound comes with a similar sense. Being very stuffed up in the mouth, at the back of the nose. In fact, it's the sound we make when we have a bunged up nose. Again, quite icky. You could even perhaps see that final "J" sound, where we put the tongue across the roof of our mouth between the teeth, as a closing off.

So it's the perfect word to describe the pull back in disgust we feel when we witness "cringey" behaviour. This is no doubt why the word feels so right when we use it.

Alternately, when we're confronted with something that we intuitively like, that's the opposite of disgusting, we tend to reach out and open up. When someone brings a cute puppy into the room the reaction is "Awwhhh! so cute!!". Our language reflecting our behaviour in its openness. Big open-mouthed "Ahh" sounds. "Soooo Cuoooooote!". High open-mouthed sounds at the front of our mouth.

So the physical movements we use to make our words in the mouth often reflect, or stem from the actual body movements and feelings we're performing at the time when we're speaking them.