Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Tudor Princes xD

Thought I'd mention my music/band on here today. I haven't mentioned it before and felt it was time to give it a little airtime. It's going pretty well, but as ever with new bands and music it's a little bit lost in the internet wilderness, struggling for light. So much so that I'm sharing it on a blog that's also struggling for light xD

It at least gives me a chance to explain the band name though. I haven't explained it to people in 'real-life' yet as it seems a little bit off-piste for them. I generally just say "oh, it's just a word we've made up".

The original name was going to be The Tudor Princes - after 'Prince Tudor theory', a theory that holds that Queen Elizabeth the First actually produced children. I was reading a lot about this at the time. However, I got bored with that so it morphed into The Tudahs. The Tudor Princes also sounded a little bit highbrow for an indie band from Teesside.

Of course, on this blog I've mentioned the word Tudor before, and how it's cognate with words like Dieu, Jew, Judah, Teuton (as in Teutonic), Tiw (the god that gives us the name Tues-day), Theo (meaning godly), and even possibly the words David and Druid. They all vaguely mean God or godly, so I guess we're trying to tap into some sense of godly power or royal greatness. The music's a bit more down to earth though I guess.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Capture Shock - Evidence for God?

I've been considering the big questions recently. God, death and the like. Is there a God? Why is there evil in the world? And so on. Anyway, on the question of death people often ask, "If there's a God why does he let people die?" This is a question we all ask in childhood and never really find an answer to. So over time we just brush it off.

Recently the question has crept back up on me, so I've been wondering what would happen if we couldn't die? Immortality sounds great, but it gets dark when you really think about it. Suffering could be infinite. Imagine you're locked in a metal box or a dank dungeon with no way out. Or paralysed with no way to move. Just infinite suffering with no release. Or imagine an even more abstract scenario - you get pulverised to dust by an asteroid, or chopped into a million disparate parts by a thousand tiny knifes - yet still no death.

When we think about death in this sense it becomes our 'get out of jail free' card. It's something of a mercy.

I think of the Bob Dylan line from 'Precious Angel';
When men will beg God to kill them and they won't be able to die
Or the Leonardo da Vinci quote;
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death

Of course, the answer to all this would then be, "Why would God create a world where people can suffer in the first place?" I'll leave that question for another day though :p

But going back to the death-as-mercy idea one thing that I think might illustrate this to be true is capture shock. This is where animals die simply due to the stress of being captured in a cage and trapped. It's not uncommon for monkeys and other animals to die in this way after being trapped, or while kept in cages during transit from one place to another. They don't die due to injury. disease or lack of air and water - their death is brought on by the stress and panic of the experience.

A familiar example of this is when mice die after being caught in humane mouse-traps. The traps don't harm the mice, they only capture them, but the mice often die simply as a consequence of the panic brought on by being trapped. Obviously this must be a harrowing experience for the poor mouse, but the alternative of dying slowly after being trapped for days or even weeks would maybe be much worse.

I wonder if nature/God has built this capture shock system into animals in order to alleviate suffering? Off the top of my head I can't think of any obvious evolutionary reason for it.

In fact, I first read about capture shock in a book which was stating how odd it was that humans don't experience it to anywhere near the same extent as animals do. Do we not need it as much because we have the option of suicide? Can we consciously choose to end our lives, whereas animals need to unconsciously expire?

Maybe death means the happiness of existence outweighs the suffering that comes with it?

Nostradamus: Fraud & Forgery???

I've just finished reading a book about the 16th century French prophet Michel de Nostradamus.

The book was titled Nostradamus: A Life and Myth by John Hogue.

I really enjoyed the book and it contained some fascinating information. As ever though I'm going to leave the reviewing behind and quickly move on to some of the interesting questions the book raised for me.

My first question when reading about the early years of Nostradamus's life was did he actually exist? The evidence for his existence seemingly being a little bit patchy. For example;
Nostradame's father died in early 1547. An examination of a document in the archives of St.-Remy, dated 6 February of that year, lists the heirs of the late notary public. The name of his eldest son, Michel, is inexplicably missing. Were father and son no longer on speaking terms?
Then later this when relating the details of his first marriage;
Finally a marriage was arranged, says Chavigny, to a young Gascon lady "of high estate, very beautiful and very amiable." Strangely enough, neither Nostradamus nor his sympathetic future secretary and biographer make any mention of her name in their writings.
In fact, according to Hogue most the information we have for large parts of Nostradamus's life come from just two sources - the above mentioned Jean-Aymes de Chavigny and Nostradamus's son Cesar de Nostradame. Both published their accounts after his death.

The book is full of incidences like this where factual evidence simply contradicts the narratives of these two biographers. Some muddiness is understandable given that they're writing largely from memory, but the inconsistencies here appear quite considerable.

A large part of Nostradamus's early adult life was apparently spent as a wandering plague-doctor and apothecary. Again the written accounts of this period of his life seem somewhat apocryphal. Take this passage from a work titled Traite des fardemens et confitures about his dealings with plague victims - this was supposedly written by Nostradamus himself;
Among the unforgettable experiences that I actually lived through, one especially stayed in my memory. One day I went to a woman. I called in the window. she covered herself with a death shroud and started sowing it together, starting with the feet. When the undertakers entered the house. they found the woman dead lying in the middle of the house next to her sister. She was just able to sew and cover half of herself in the shroud...
Other passages mention victims going crazy and running amok, dying whilst eating and drinking, and jumping to their death onto cobblestones.

The entire life of Nostradamus seems to be divided into two parts - the early part where he worked as an itinerant doctor, and the later part where he suddenly becomes a visionary soothsayer. The evidence for the first part seems a little sketchy. However, the evidence that there was someone in France publishing under the name Nostradamus during the later part of his life is quite abundant.

My general view is that there was a real Nostradamus that produced almanacs and prophetic quatrains, but that this legend has been added to by countless forgers and writers of fanciful works.

Interestingly, Nostradamus published his quatrains during a turbulent period in French history when Catholics and Protestants were frequently at war with each other. Some people, including England's Sir William Cecil accused him of being a Catholic propagandist. Likewise, some Catholics accused him of being a heretical sorcerer. The possibility that he was being used as an agent to influence the political agenda by one side or another seems a realistic possibility.

Interestingly, Nostradamus referred to Protestants as Jovialists in his writings. This seems interesting as it links Protestantism in with the Pagan revival. Maybe more evidence that the true origins of Protestantism are different to what's generally believed.

Nostradamus was also apparently an acquaintance of Julius Caesar Scaliger, father of Joseph Justus Scaliger.

Also I came across a an example of the name Rome being rendered as Rosne in the book. That seems like something worth bearing in mind in regards my little etymological wanderings.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Earth: Our Pet Project

I've been thinking about our relationship to the animal kingdom a lot lately. Whether it's nature documentaries, Christmas TV adverts or YouTube animal videos we seem to be anthropomorphising animals more and more. I wonder where it's going. It's like we're moving every animal on the planet to the status of pet.

Personally I think this is probably a good thing overall, but I wonder what effect it will have. Human beings are now so ubiquitous on planet earth that for any land animal we're pretty much unavoidable. Is this effecting the evolution of those animals? Are tigers becoming more cuddly in order to survive in our world? Are we saving or wiping out animals on the basis of how cute they are? If we are, is this a bad thing?

There was recently an article in the news about seals violently attacking penguins. Everyone, myself included, was slightly shocked by it - "Really? seals doing this? but they're cute? This can't be right." Our cuddly Pokemon-style view of the animal world was ripped from us. (I wonder how this PR disaster for the seals will effect the way we protect them in the future. They might wanna buck their ideas up if they wanna survive in our cartoon vision of Earth.)

I had an example of this sort of confused thinking myself the other day. I was buying dog treats for my friend's dog. I'm a vegetarian, but all the treats contained meat of some sort. I then had a crisis of conscience trying to decide whether it was morally right to buy something for a dog that contained meat. Starve a dog, or kill an animal? In the end I bought the treats, but it made me think. I read somewhere that Paul McCartney's dog is vegetarian. Fair play to him if that works out for them, but you've gotta wonder how the dog feels about it :p

I think this is a topic I might come back to over the coming year. It seems more and more relevant. I might make 2015 the 'co-existing with animals' year. I don't think there's going to be any easy, honest answers though. It seems we're all too confused.

Sun, Son, Sin, ...E

A common theme of this blog recently has been language and how the vowels in words are interchangeable. For example, my name, Neil, can be spelt Neal, it sounds identical to the word kneel, people often spell it as Niel. It's all the same really. The important parts are the consonants N and L - as long as we know there's a vowel between them we can get by okay.

For example, I've recently been thinking about the words sun and son. The link between Jesus being the Son of God and early Christians/Pagans worshipping the Sun is commonly observed. I was wondering if the word sin could likewise be linked in with these two. Jesus, of course, was the embodiment of our sins. This would bring to mind words like sign and singe and all sorts, and we could go on forever.

Incidentally, there was a Semitic moon god called Sin. So we have Sun and Sin (Moon).

A lot of early written languages only had symbols for the consonants and didn't notate the vowel sounds. I've been wondering how legible the English language would be if this was the case. As an experiment I'm going to try this out. I'll remove four of our five vowels and leave just one to stand as a marker for where a vowel sound should be.

E thenk E'll remeve E.

The ferst lene ef thes bleg weeld new reed;

E cemmen theme ef thes bleg recently hes been lengeege end hew the vewels en werds ere enterchengeeble.

E bet wecky, bet net cempletely ellegeble. E freer ese ef the censenents weeld meybe meke thengs e lettle better. Fer exemple, 'weeld' weeld be better as wed.

E'm seyeng thes, bet ebveeesly E knew whet E'm tryeng te wrete, te enyene reedeng thes et, ne deebt, jest leeks mentel :p