Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Hard To Believe ...

     People that know me know that I don’t believe in God.  Some of them ask me what I do believe in.  I guess because they can’t fathom existence without making it have a point.  I just don’t really see any need for a reason to exist. Some of them are incredulous.  They simply refuse to accept that I don’t believe and tell me I must be lying.  I’m not.
     What do I believe in?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I don’t just mean in the spiritual sense.  I don’t believe in ghosts, UFO’s, reincarnation, Bigfoot, out of body experiences, psychics, ESP, none of it.  I certainly don’t believe in anything that presents no evidence and the only argument people can give me in favor of it is that I have to have faith, or someone saw something or wrote something down and I should just take their word for it.
     Just look at things rationally and logically.  I won’t go into a big thing on religion because people believe what they want to believe and that’s that.  I just think it’s funny that on the face of it, it’s completely ridiculous.  The fact is that there are many religions, and each one believes it is the correct one, so that leaves a lot of other belief systems out in the cold.  The different religions even contradict themselves within their own teachings.  If what you believe consistently and convincingly conflicts with the evidence at hand you have to move on.  If any of you want to go over it sometime come on over with a bottle of wine and I’ll be happy to spend the evening discussing it with you.  Well, perhaps happy isn’t the correct word, but I’ll do it.
     As for the rest …
     Ghosts and reincarnation cancel each other out. Either your spirit or soul wanders the earth in ethereal form or it gets put into another body to live all over again.  You can’t have both.  If reincarnation is real, why are there more and more people?  There should be a set number of souls and therefore a set number of people for those souls to occupy.  I know there are convoluted excuses that try to explain how everything could coexist and make sense, but once you start having to explain it with wackier theories you might as well just give up.  Occam’s Razor and all, you know.  Besides, if ghosts existed someone would have gotten a decent picture of one by now.
     If you have an out of body experience, how are you seeing anything?  We see because our eyes have evolved to detect certain wavelengths of light and our brains then make sense out of the signals received.  Without physical eyes, how would we see anything in our spectral form?  If our spirits were detecting the things around us it would most certainly be by other means and wouldn’t look the same to us as it did when we were receiving the information through our optic nerves.  If anyone tells you they left their body and were looking down on themselves on an operating table or other such nonsense, remember that they were under heavy sedation at the time and anything they say is suspect.  Same goes for someone that was “clinically dead”.  Their brain was ceasing to function, why would I trust anything they think they experienced?
     Just like UFO’s.  If you understand the size of the universe and the distances involved and the technology it would take to traverse them …  well to believe that some far off civilization attained all that and then simply crashed into the desert in New Mexico or came here just to mutilate our cattle or probe our rectums, it makes no sense at all.  There is no alien technology.  Everything we have is based on the physics and chemistry around us, the progression of each invention and bit of technology can be tracked and its origins identified.  Likewise, aliens didn’t come here eons ago and build the pyramids or Machu Picchu.  Man did that, and to try to give the credit to imaginary space travelers just cheapens your own species accomplishments, even if those accomplishments were just stacking rocks on each other.  If these ancient builders where so great, why didn’t they know about the arch?  Taken in steps, everything progresses nicely along a timeline that makes sense, one step leading to the next, interrupted only by mankind destroying the knowledge that came before in stupid wars and mindless destruction.
    If psychics are really psychic, why don’t they just win the lottery?  Don’t give me any crap about their integrity, they are happy to exploit people’s misery for profit and gain.  Why are they never exactly right?  Why is everything so vague.  Either you can see the future or not.  If Nostradamus could actually see the future he would know that Hitler’s name was Hitler, not Hister. 
      Every “unexplained” animal that the so called “cryptozoologists” claim exists has been proven a hoax or a misinterpretation of normal phenomena. 
      I could go on, but I don’t want to. 
      The problem with a lot of these things is that they rely on other people’s observations or experiences, and anyone in law enforcement or the legal system can tell you that those things are the least reliable and highly subjective.  A good lawyer can have you doubting what you saw within minutes of seeing it.  I don’t trust people when they tell me about a movie or TV show they saw.  When I see it, it almost never matches the description someone gave me.  It’s all subjective, different people interpret the same information differently. 
     This brings me to another thing I don’t believe in: people.  No, I know people exist, (maybe, we’ll get to that later) I just have no faith in them.  It has been my experience that people are generally frightened and self-serving.  They live in fear and act accordingly.  We all do it, I am no better.   The best you can do is constant self-examination of your actions to be sure of your own motivation and effect they have on other people, but really, who has time for that?  Not many people, I’ve come to realize, but I give the ones that try a pass and are happy to call them my friends.  
      “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  That is a very succinct and brutal assessment, but I think it’s true.  Personal growth should be the objective, and it is for most of my friends.
     I also don’t believe in most of the things we take for granted.  Most of the things in our life are actually abstract notions, contingent on a worldwide agreement that they are real. 
     Money, for instance.  We accept that money has value, and we live our life exchanging it for goods and services, but it only works if we all agree to a ridiculous scenario.  We are off the gold standard, but even when we were on it our money existed then as it does now, only in abstract terms.  Our money is in the bank, in the stock market, circulating the globe as a series of numbers on a spreadsheet or in a computer somewhere.  It only has  value because we have decided to give it a value, but in reality our whole economy is based on everyone just taking someone else’s word on it that certain pieces of paper are worth more than others. 
     A large part of our economy is based on things that aren’t real.  The entire diet and weight loss industry is a joke.  It’s a multi billion dollar industry of people preying on other people with phony diets and exercise routines that we buy into because we are ashamed of our looks or unhappy with our appearance.  Unhappy with an appearance based on an unreal expectation that we should all strive to look the same, and that one certain look or body type is ideal.  We all buy into it at one point or another too.  We will laugh off a hundred workout DVD’s or diet fads, but the hundred and first will sucker us in. Technically many of them will actually work, but only in the short term.  Almost anyone that has tried a fad diet or quick weight loss program will tell you the effects are not permanent, if they work at all.  Weight loss and continued health is achieved through permanent lifestyle change, not short time periods of selective behavioral changes, but people make billions because they know we can convince ourselves there’s an easy way. 
     Then there’s the religion business, and I’m sorry, but it’s a business.  You may think your hometown church is not a business, but putting that aside there is still a multi-billion dollar industry in television evangelists and cults and so on.  Scientology, Mormons, the Catholic Church and all of its rooms full of treasures.  All based on some variation of an invisible force that will guide our lives and bring us peace and happiness.  If someone claiming to be a holy person ever mentions needing money you can be sure they are not very holy.
     A huge part of our economy is also based on phony medical scams.  Not just the TV ads for “all natural herbal remedies” or whatever bullshit they try to sell us, but virtually every part of the health care system.  Medical science has provided us with a much better quality of life and saved many a person that was sick, I’m not arguing that.  There is a huge other part of the whole system that is purely economical and cares only about money and nothing about the health and well being of people.
       Pharmaceutical companies try to convince you that you have maladies that don’t even exist, playing commercial after commercial trying to convince you that some vague uneasy feeling can be solved with a pill.  We, our children, our seniors are all over-medicated for the sole reason that it makes people money and we want an easy way out.  Rather than reign in some of our bad behavior, change our diet or take some amount of personal responsibility for ourselves we take a pill, one with so many side effects that the cure is usually worse than the disease.
     Then there’s the whole industry built around self help books, imagine it and it will be real, believe in it and it will come true!  Nothing ever changes though; we are not all rich and successful because we read a book.  Again, people taking advantage of our need to believe in a simple fix for our problems. 
     Ironically, a large part of our economy is also made up of the industry driving it: advertising.  Huge amounts of money are spent tricking us into buying all these goods and services, creating illusions about everything we see.  The people who make the product are convinced that they need advertisement, and then we need to be convinced we need all the junk that we buy.  They make us feel like we are inferior to others if we don’t look a certain way or follow certain fashions.  They scare us into thinking we need some of their crap and that will make us feel safer.  They make us believe some random item will somehow make our life better, fix what needs fixing, yet as soon as we get the item home and out of the box we feel an immediate letdown.  That letdown is what lets you know you’ve been fooled, that someone has played on your own weakness to bilk you out of a little of your money.  Material goods cannot fill emotional holes.
     Speaking of advertising, I don’t believe in politics or leaders.  I think that some evils are slightly lesser than others, but they are all basically evil.  Ultimately the only thing someone with power cares about is more power.  Every governing system has been corrupted.  The history of civilization has been one of powerful men building empires only to have them fall to ruin, yet we keep on doing it.  Always it turns into war and greed and avarice and another downfall.  We can’t help it I guess, it’s our nature.  So keep doing it, but stop telling me somehow this time it will be different.  Our own government is stalled, bogged down by partisanship, hatred and divisive tactics that everyone can agree is destroying us but no one seems to want to change.
      Think about it in simple terms.  The rich and powerful run the world. They run the government; they enact the law of the land.  If that is so, then doesn’t it stand to reason that the rich and powerful want it this way?  If they wanted it to be different they would be using their money and power and lobbyists to change it, but they are instead using those very things to keep everything the same, even make it worse.
      I don’t believe in conspiracy theories either.  Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of clandestine and nefarious things are going on behind the scenes, but I think that the really out-there theories are themselves a form of conspiracy.  I think the people in power are glad that the crackpots are out there scaring us and diverting attention away from the things we should care about.  Whenever there is something big and crazy going on you can bet some law is getting passed at two in the morning that no one notices because attention is trained elsewhere.  
     The people in power only have power because we give it to them.  We could all decide one day that we don’t have to do what we’re told, but we go on day after day adhering to some vague notion of society and good behavior.  It’s a huge house of cards and we all get very nervous on a primal level if anything messes with it even a little bit.  A little chaos and we go to pieces and start making new rules and laws and blaming each other to try to desperately cling to our ridiculous idea that we are somehow in control of anything. 
     Then of course, there’s the news we’re fed everyday.  The news has long since become entertainment, driven by a need for ratings and money than actual information.  Sensationalism is the main tactic used to turn us into a gaggle of frightened voyeurs, gawking at stories that have little or no impact on our lives at all.  Who cares about murder trials that drag on for months?  If you don’t personally know the people involved, there’s no reason to invest yourself in other people’s misery on a daily basis.  You are just a ghoulish spectator of a media circus that exists to get ratings and make money and exploit your morbid curiosity and the people involved.
     I don’t even really believe in love.  I know it exists in some form or another, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference in most situations.  In my whole life everyone that has told me that they love me has hurt me, lied to me, or left me.  I have also done my share of those things to people I claimed to love.  We all have, we can’t seem to help it.  Most of the worst emotional pain is caused by people that have professed to love us at one time or another.  I think we should come up with another term besides love.  The only true love I have ever experienced in my life is the love I get from my parents.  It has proven to be unconditional and I can count on them like I can count on no other people on the planet. 
     Yet even having a parent is no guarantee of love.  There are a lot of really shitty parents out there and I am lucky to have mine.  Love isn’t a real thing. It’s another abstract idea that can mean a million different things.  What my parents and I have is not just some thing called love that appeared out of the blue, it is a conscious decision to put each other first and work to make sure we are there for each other.  Someday they will be gone, and I will have the memory of that bond, but would that be love?  Does love stop when someone that loves you dies?  Can love go on when there is no one there to give it to you?  Did my parents love me the moment I was born, or did that love grow and change a hundred times as I got older and our lives changed and we became different people?  Do they love me so much simply because they have a stronger genetic predisposition to care for their young more than some other people?   To just call such a complex and varied series of emotions spread over three lifetimes “love” seems to do it a disservice.
     So no, I do not believe in love.  I believe that some people are more loyal than others; I believe that some people fight their selfish urges for the good of others, but love can’t mean the bond my parents and I share and also mean something two people say to each other and then murder one another or break each others hearts a short time later.
      I like to think I can believe in myself, but that may not be possible either.  Your brain is not to be trusted.  You have to analyze everything it tells you, about other people, the world around you, and especially about yourself.  Your brain fills you with doubts; it will tell you anything to get what it wants, whether that thing is approval, drugs or alcohol, sugar, fat, caffeine, cigarettes, sex, whatever it wants.  That’s why so many people do things that end up hurting them and others in the long run.  Many of us eschew doing the right thing, the thing we absolutely know we should do, because we allow our brains to talk us into doing what we want to do, damn the consequences.  That’s not even taking into account for mental illnesses.  You know what they say; if you’re truly crazy you don’t know you’re crazy. 
     Think about it.  Peoples brains let them steal, lie, cheat, murder, rape, commit child abuse, spousal abuse, animal abuse, thousands of very horrible things and those people walk around amongst us every day.  Chances are, you’re one of them. Your brain can justify cheating on loved ones, lying, stealing, causing anguish and pain to everyone in your life only because your brain somehow talked you out of following your moral voice.
      Your brain is also very easy to fool on a basic level.  Any optical illusion demonstrates that visual manipulation of the brain is a simple thing.  Your ears are also very easy to fool, and when you combine the two there is a huge potential for misreading almost any situation.  Why do you think magic tricks work?  A split second of distraction, a bit of misdirection, and we are amazed and astounded.  That’s why scientists test things over and over and document all the minutiae that goes along with it. 
     The human body itself is 90% microbe.  That means we are actually only 10% human, the rest of us is actually a huge mass of bacteria and other microorganisms.  Microorganisms dominate the world, in species and biomass.  Everything else is merely a byproduct, existing only because the microbes are there. 
     All that is nothing compared to what comes next. 
     I can’t even believe in what we wishfully call reality.  When it gets down to the quantum level it really gets strange.  Take the double slit experiment.  It has proven that particles behavior is influenced by observing them.  They don’t become what we perceive as reality until we observe them.  If you’re not familiar with the double slit experiment, look it up and try to wrap your head around what’s going on in it.  The implications are mind-boggling.  Everything is made up of particles, particles that apparently can be in several places at one time, particles that can exist in different forms at the same time, never becoming one thing or the other until we observe them.  Extrapolating on that idea, it means for instance that there is very infinitesimal chance that the moon doesn’t exist until you look at it, at least not in the state we are used to.  I’m sure it does, but the tiny chance that it doesn’t is not zero, so it is possible. 
     That sounds suspiciously like a computer simulation or a video game.  Only the part of the game you are interacting with is visible, the rest of the simulated world is simply waiting in limbo, stored somewhere to be retrieved and pixilated when needed. Sometimes there is a little glitch and the graphics are out of whack.  Our brains even operate in the same way.  What we see is only sharp in a narrow field of vision.  Our brain mostly concentrates on motion, and simply fills in the rest.  It would be overwhelming for our minds to see everything all the time so it just tells us what is there is there and not to worry about it.  Also keep in mind, everything we see we actually see upside down. Our brain turns it right side up in our heads.
   Further, what about the part of the video game world in the distance, the part you can never access?   The non-playable area.  Always far off, never viewed sharp or in focus.  Doesn’t that kind of sound like the rest of our universe? The stars and galaxies forever out of reach, viewable only as blurry, pixilated dots on even our finest telescopes.  The amazing high definition, beautifully rendered shots of nebulae and star nurseries are composite images, culled from many sources.  When you just physically look at them as visible light through a lens it is pretty disappointing.    
     Our brains are like supercomputers, storing memories on a cellular hard drive, waiting to be recalled when needed.  It’s just a huge assortment of electrical impulses flashing through your brain, a chemically charged consciousness that ceases to be once the electricity is gone. 
      Computer graphics and the fancy CGI you see in movies is all possible because of fractals.  Fractal geometry is absolutely fascinating, and the way we figured out how to recreate the natural world in our video games is the same way nature does it.  Patterns repeated over and over again, the same on every level no matter how large or small.  Really, look it up if you don’t know it and prepare to have your mind blown again.  So what we see built by a computer program is accomplished the same way that the world around us does it.  Everything in existence can be explained mathematically.  That means that everything in existence can be represented and programmed mathematically. Einstein showed us that matter is energy and vice versa.  So if matter is energy, and a computer simulation is made up of electrical signals … well, you see where I’m going with that.
      So would we know it we are living in a computer simulation?  Believe it or not, there are serious experiments going on right now trying to detect if we are.
     Look at atoms.  Atoms are something like 99.9999999999999% empty space.  That means that we are basically made up of nothing.  In fact, if you took all the empty space out of all the atoms that make up every human being what you would have left would be the size of a sugar cube.  Think about that.  Every human on the planet.
      We don’t even touch anything.  Nothing.  We don’t stand on the earth, we hover over it.  A bat doesn’t touch the baseball when a player gets a hit.  We interpret the atoms repelling each other as touching something, but we’re not really touching anything at all.
     On top of that, 98% of the universe is completely invisible and undetectable, dark matter and dark energy.  Let’s not even get into multiverse theory, with its infinite number of parallel universes springing in and out of existence with every decision. Or string theory with its 10 or 26 dimensions, depending on your line of thinking.  Or quantum entanglement, probably the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever heard of, and I’m writing that after the list I already gave you.
     Perhaps all the little quirks and oddities we experience in life are nothing more than tiny momentary blips in the program.  Maybe déjà vu, ghosts, psychic phenomena … maybe it’s all just a bit of bad code, a cosmic power spike that warps our perceived reality for a microsecond.
     So do I think we are all living in a computer simulation? Not really, although it does make the most sense with the evidence we’re provided with right now.  That’s the problem.  We’re never going to have enough information to really know exactly what’s going on.  Even the things that I know to be true are true only to the degree that they match what we have observed so far.  We may discover something tomorrow that causes some new paradigm shift in our way of thinking and changes everything again.  Until then, we have imaginations and we are free to dream, our own little universe in our heads contemplating the huge universe around us. 
    So if we can’t figure out exactly why we’re here, or even where here is or what it’s made of, it doesn’t really matter to me as far as living my life goes.  I’m curious about it, but otherwise I just live my life and do the best I can.  I try to make sure that I make peoples lives better (or at least not any worse) when I’m around them.  I try to have fun and be pleasant to the people I meet.  I treat animals very well in case they aren’t just part of a computer simulation and actually do live at the mercy of the psychotic apes that run the planet.  I try to bring comfort when I can, and try to be giving and do what I can for the people I care about.  I try to put other people’s needs ahead of my own if I can.  If everyone did that everybody’s needs would be met. Think about that, a whole world full of people caring for each other and not their own petty wants and desires, not hurting themselves and each other over and over again.
     But alas, I can’t even do that all the time.  As hard as I try, I still have my bad days, my momentary lapses of reason.  This is where the other part comes in: forgiveness.  I try to forgive other people if they can’t always live up to expectations.  More importantly, I try to forgive myself.  You should to.  Do your best and don’t sweat it if you aren’t living up to some unrealistic ideal you’ve set for yourself.  Nobody else is either.
     People are people, and they are all imperfect, they can all be selfish, hurtful and small.  As much as I say I hate people, I still want to think that we’ll all be okay somehow, that everything will be alright in the end, even though the odds are against us.  I guess that’s called hope, and it’s the one thing I wish I could believe in more than anything else.  Unfortunately, to me hope sounds like a dangerous thing.  To have hope is to constantly be let down.  So as much as I’d like to have hope, I don’t think I ever can.
     Then again, maybe I do.  Maybe in actuality I’m an eternal optimist, always hoping, always thinking that the world is a better place than it seems to be on paper.  Maybe there is such joy and wonder in all the little things that really do exist and occur in our universe all the time and I have faith in every tiny bit of it.  It could be I can see things for what they are, but that doesn’t mean I’m filled with dread and misgivings and let it rule my life.  Perhaps just being a very tiny part of it and being interconnected to all things is enough to give me a reason to keep getting up everyday and trying my best all over again, whatever the ultimate truth..
      You believe what you want.

© David Ferraris 2013

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