February 25, 2003

Of humanity and such …

I’m still reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Childe" cycle. The fifth book in the series "The Final Encyclopedia" has been the biggest yet. At a whopping 700 pages and a font size tinier than normal, it probably equals all the other four books that went before it since all of them were around 200+ pages :p However, this books does take the time to explore the character and to talk about humanity and its future at length perhaps because it was written at a different time – a time at which novels weren’t bound by page limitations which set them at around 200-300 pages .. Or maybe it was just because Gordon R. Dickson was a known writer by then. Whatever the case maybe, while some might find this book to be extremely long winded at times, I found it to be thought provoking.

The book postulates that humanity is a giant multi-celled organism made up of all the individual people that make up humanity. That humanity as an organism has a consciousness of its own and that this mega-creatures actions are defined by the combination of actions of all individuals. I am not sure that I do subscribe to this idea or to some of the others Dickson has in the book about the evolution of the race. But then again, I probably am not the kind of person who sees things philosophically – at least, not at that high a level of philosophies. I’d rather deal with things at a personal level or at least at a tangible level.

Something did come out of the book that made me think of something though – evolve my own philosophy if you want to call it that :p However, it was not the book itself but an analysis written about the book and it’s characters which made me come up with my idea. The analysis pointed out that the main character – Hal Mayne, who incidentally is male – acquires traits like compassion, intuition and empathy which are traditionally the domain of females and that Hal’s companions, who happen to be female, take up traditionally male roles … or something to that effect. This made me think about Dickson’s idea of "splinter cultures" differently. In Dickson’s story, the "splinter cultures" are basically people who embody one specific facet of full-spectrum man from Earth – the philosopher, the man of faith or the warrior. These people have left Earth to travel to different worlds where they built a life for themselves with like minded others.

To me it seems as if we have splinter cultures here on Earth itself – that of men and women. I’ve always maintained that men and women are just two halves that make up a whole but if you look at it another way, they are each missing a half to make them complete. This half as far as men goes is the ability to empathize, to be able to see something from another’s point of view, to have compassion. I can only speak for men since that’s the point of view I’m familiar with, I can’t say this is what women lack since I’d be going based on hearsay, stereotypes and other input which might not be objective – plus, any ladies reading this might get totally ticked off at me :p But I digress …

To me it seems that humanity can be improved upon if the two halves of humanity were able to acquire some of the positive traits of each other. This would lead to a more compassionate, more caring race that could perhaps at last leave behind all the bickering, all the schisms, all the other ills of humanity and work towards a world united as one race. That is my dream …

January 25, 2003

Enter the twilight zone …

I know I haven’t written much lately but it’s not because I had nothing to write (in fact, I had tons of stuff going through my mind which would have made good fodder for this blog :p) but because I was too busy to write. SM actually takes a bit more out of me in the way of writing since it is about ideas and thoughts and dreams and philosophies – unlike DC (The Developer’s Corner) where I just talk about development stuff. Here I have to try and be coherent instead of meandering all over the place as I have a habit of doing :p Anyway, enough of the apologies and on to the stuff I wanted to talk about … well, at least some of it :p

I finished reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Necromancer" a couple of days ago and all I could say was "wow!!" because that book really spoke to me! I could totally identify with the protagonist and the way he thought and looked at the world and I really didn’t think that there were other people who thought that way (and here I am talking about the author – he must at least have seen the world partially like his protagonist to have written that way … at least that’s what I thought). I thought I coined the term "empath" because I believe that while a true telepath would be an impossibility (well, at least a sane one – all the vicious thoughts and secrets that they’d be bombarded with daily would make them go insane is what I think), I think that "empaths" are real and do exist. An empath (in case you are wondering <g>) according to my definition is basically somebody who can feel the emotions of another without actually knowing their thoughts and secrets. But I discovered that Dickson had used the term to describe his protagonist years ago! Plus, his protagonist says that nothing surprises him much because he can see it coming and the same is true of me – the latest example was that I saw the twist in the story coming in "Necromancer" way before it actually arrived – only thing was, that I was never sure that the plot would resolve the way I thought it would and yet, it did in the end!

Now I find myself wondering if I am simply remembering some of this because I’d read the other books in the series (the Dorsai series in case somebody is interested ..) or if I am just hitting the outskirts of the Twilight Zone :p So I decided to go back and re-read the whole series from the beginning since I’d read half the series ages ago (over ten to fifteen years ago if memory serves right) and have not even read the final half of the series yet. I started with the first book – "Dorsai!" – and was again hit with that weird feeling of … I don’t know .. can’t say deja vu since I have read the book before and so deja vu would be appropriate but then again, it’s not since I don’t remember most of this since I wasn’t thinking along those lines when I first read the book. This time the story is about an intuit – a person who intuitively knows the all possible future outcomes and so can take action so that a certain outcome will be possible. While I had never even thought of the concept of an intuit, I do agree again with some of the protagonist’s views. For instance, at the beginning he is described thus: "What seemed so plain, and simple and straightforward to himself, had always struck others as veiled, torturous and involved. Always he had been like a stranger passing through a town, the ways of whose people were different, and who looked on him with a lack of understanding amounting to suspicion. Their language failed on the doorstep of his motives and could not enter the lonely mansion of his mind. They said "enemy" and "friend"; they said "strong" and "weak" – "them" and "us". They set up a thousand arbitrary classifications and distinctions which he could not comprehend, convinced as he was that all people were only people – and there was very little to choose between them. Only, you dealt with them as individuals, one by one, and always remembered them as individuals, one by one; and always remembering to be patient." That is exactly how I feel about people!

I could probably go on and on with this and make this entry really long and boring but I’ll probably stop here for the moment. But I want to take this up again with another subject that has been on my mind related to people – but this time, to the real world and the situation in the world today … maybe tomorrow 🙂

January 17, 2003

For I am a jealous people …

I finished Lester Del Rey’s collection of short novels a couple of days ago but I didn’t get a chance to write about his story that I was talking about in my previous entry yesterday because I got caught up in too many other things :p So I thought I might as well talk about it today since I still feel strongly about that story. As I surmised, the story indeed was about God siding with the aliens but it God takes a more active role than I had envisioned at the beginning of the story – God appears to the alien priests as he did to Moses and tells them directly that they have been chosen to inherit the universe and that they must wipe humankind off the face of the Earth. Setting aside the whole argument as to whether the story is blasphemous or not (since I have the feeling that some might consider it to be so), what interested me was the question as to what I would do if I was put in the place of Del Rey’s protagonist, the priest.

The story ends with the priest holding a mass where he tells everybody "God has decided to side against us, I can only say that he’s chosen a worth adversary" or words to that effect. The point of the whole story is that Man is the only creature that would fight against his own maker. I keep on thinking what I would do if I was in that position. Granted, in the story the aliens are made out to be totally inhuman beings who torture animals and people for fun and then eat them for food and even eat their own kind. So the humans seem noble to rise up against them but that just means Del Rey stacked the decks a bit.

I believe in a merciful God – a God who can understand the failings of humanity. While I’d be the first to understand if God were to decide to wipe out humanity because of our greed, stupidity, prejudice and the worst qualities in humanity that we seem to show more and more these days, I don’t accept it that God would choose a race that is essentially even worse than humanity to be our successors. So if God were to decide that humanity was just not worth salvation, I’d probably understand looking at the world of today but then again, I also believe that humanity has the potential to be so much more than we are because sometimes we show such courage, honesty, compassion, feeling and humanity that it makes me realize all over again what we as humans are capable of ….

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Posted by Fahim at 9:27 am  |  2 Comments

January 15, 2003

Books and such …

I’m reading a collection of five short novels (they used to be called novella or novelettes depending on length those days but now there are only long novels and really long series :p) by Lester Del Rey and I keep on having this weird feeling that I have read them before 🙂 Be that as it may, I know that the latest story that I’m reading is going to end up making me think a lot. It’s called "For I am a Jealous People!" and starts off by introducing and earth which is being invaded by aliens and the main character is a preacher who is trying to hang on to his faith in God in these trying times. Earth seems to be at the losing end as the story starts and most of Earth’s setbacks in the war seem to be due to strange accidents such as a meteorite striking the stockpile of all of Earth’s missiles on the moon and burying it under a pile of debris, a tornado taking out the defence garrison in a city when the aliens land etc.

I have a strange feeling that the story is going to turn out to be about how God actually intends the aliens to take over the world (hence the "freak accidents" that help the aliens) but then again, maybe I *have* read the story before … I don’t know. I just know that it is going to bring up an interesting philosophical debate within myself as to whether we can ever really know God’s purpose and also as to whether we can understand what happens to us in the context of God’s great plan for all of us. Yes, I know that treads dangerously close to religious evangelism – and I don’t want to do that :p – I believe in God and there are certain things in life and in what I read which makes me think about it but that doesn’t mean that I should go around telling others to believe in God – to me religion is a personal thing between myself and God. But I do like to talk about the dilemmas and conundrums my faith brings up 🙂

I’d like to discuss how I see religion (not *my* religion or *your* religion but simply religion) and God one of these days but I just don’t feel like putting forth the effort just now. I’m still not feeling totally fit and this illness (if it runs true to course) will probably last for a week or two yet. The good thing is that this week is going to be full of holidays here in Sri Lanka. Today is a holiday because it is a Tamil festival and then Friday is going to be a holiday since it’s the full moon and we have every full moon off since it’s a Buddhist holy day. So I’ll have to work only one more day and that’s tomorrow and that’s fine by me 🙂

December 20, 2002

Interpretations, innuendo, insults, invective and inalienable rights

There have been raging debates here at SM the last few days and while I am not going into the whole debate myself (I stated my position at the very beginning when it all started), let me state a few personal things so that everybody understands where I am coming from and where I stand on certain issues. I believe in the right for people to express their opinion – I will defend somebody’s right to express their opinion even if their opinion does not tally with mine. Personally, I believe we should live and let live and that our opinion/stand while right for us, might not necessarily be right for somebody else. I do what I think is right and everybody should be free to do what they think is right. And here, spare me the arguments about how a serial killer might think going around killing people is right but that doesn’t necessarily make it so – as long as you do what you think is right and don’t harm either yourself or others, I think each person should have the right to their own opinion and freedom.

One of the things I love about Jen is the fact that she is never afraid to state how she feels – even if that might fly in the face of popular opinion. She states how she feels about a certain issue and will back her stand to the hilt with arguments and facts. But she isn’t above listening to the other side of the case either and I love her for being who she is. Yes, she and I might not agree on certain subjects but that does not necessarily mean that she has to see things my way or that I have to see things her way – we are both individuals with minds of our own and we are perfectly willing to let each other have our opinions and to understand the fact and to respect that. To me that is part and parcel of being a human being and interacting with other human beings – the willingness and ability to listen to other people’s opinions and to respect them but to stand by your own convictions if you think what is right for you is not what is right for somebody else.

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Posted by Fahim at 7:39 am  |  No Comments

December 15, 2002

Girls and guys …

Nope, this is not a "birds and the bees" type of entry :p I don’t know why I never watched the "Gilmore Girls" while I was in the US (probably clashed with another favourite show of mine <g>) but I do enjoy it very much. Every episode just makes me chuckle or laugh out loud. They have got to have one of the quirkiest cast of characters in a show in a long time :p Probably not since "Picket Fences" though "Stark Raving Mad" also does come to mind but that didn’t have so many characters. Anyway, love the show but unfortunately can’t watch it every week since when my parents are here, my Mom takes over the TV just at the time "Gilmore Girls" is on to watch one of her Tamil soaps :p Ah well … still an enjoyable and funny series – I hope it has not been cancelled in the US.

As for the "guys" part – my current book is really,really interesting – it’s actually a double-edition of two of Timothy Zahn’s books – "Cobra" and "Cobra Strike" and has been released as a double-edition as "Cobras Two". First an aside though (probably to justify the whole "guys" thing :p) but what’s with the name Johnny (or a variation of it) for a soldier protagonist? :p The protagonist in "Cobra" is Jonny Moreau, then there is Johnny Rico in Heinlein’s "Starship Troopers" and Johnny "Goodboy" Tyler in L. Ron Hubbard’s "Battlefield Earth" (a darn good book though huuuge!). I liked all those characters but I was suddenly struck by the fact that they were all warriors and all were named Johnny. But I digress …

I first read "Cobra" almost ten years ago (around ’93 or ’94) and have totally forgotten all about the book except for the main concept – that it’s about a bunch of super-soldiers who fight against some alien enemies. When I took up "Cobras Two" I was tempted to skip the first book since I’ve already read it (even though I can’t remember anything about it) but decided to read it again anyway. I am glad that I did because I find that I love it! It’s an interesting read and I probably see certain things in a different perspective now. While I am never for war (I believe that war should be a last resort and not the first thing you do when confronted by a problem …), the story itself is intriguing – especially the psychological aspects of it. I’m looking forward to the second part since I hope that will not be so much about war as about responsibility – the responsibilities of those with different/higher abilities to society.

Incidentally, cobra is the name of the super-soldiers – they basically are a walking weapon because they have a toughened skeleton (coated with a strong and light metal), super-strength (servo motors implanted in the body to provide additional strength/speed) and implanted weapons like finger tip lasers and sonic weapons – plus, a targeting computer embedded below their brain 🙂 Yes, I know this is all fiction but I believe that the underlying principle, that those with special/higher/different skills owe a responsibility to society (or as Spider-man/Stan Lee would put it "with great power comes great responsibility"), still stands true.

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Posted by Fahim at 7:51 am  |  No Comments

December 11, 2002

Of faith and hope …

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for several days now but never got around to it since I’ve been too busy (in fact, I seem to be sadly neglecting this journal altogether and that is bad – I will try to rectify the situation). I should start off by saying that I believe in "each to his own" and am not trying to refute anybody else (especially since this whole entry is based on something somebody said :p) but just trying to write about how *I* feel about certain things.

In response to my last entry, Mike remarked that he’d had a good life and that he’d never prayed in his life and that prayer simply made you feel good. To me, that sounds very similar to a man who has never been sick in his life saying that medicine is just coloured water 🙂 To me prayer is about faith – faith that God exists, that he’s listening to us and that even though we might be unworthy of his attention, that he is most gracious and all merciful and will grant us what we pray for – especially if we pray for others. Of course, I also believe that prayer alone will not suffice – that if we can do something to make our prayers come true, we should do it – that God helps those who help themselves.

To me faith and hope are twin sisters and mankind needs both to get through life. I often remember the story about Pandora’s box and how after she opened the box and let all the evil loose on the world, she closed the box quickly and heard a little voice saying "let me out, let me out". She asked "Who are you?" and the voice replied "I am hope. You’ve let sickness, aging, death, plague, poverty and so many other evils loose in the world and I am the only thing that can let mankind get through it all. So let me out!" Pandora opened the box once more and let hope go free and so there was hope in the world, even through the greatest suffering, we have hope. To have faith in the face of adversity – faith in God and know that things will be OK as long as you live a good life – and to have hope for a better day is probably the main reason that I get through life day to day. Faith and hope – hope and faith …
Just an addendum posted later :p I started out wanting to basically write about the fact that faith and hope are two things intrinsic to the human condition – whether it be faith in God or faith in yourself or faith in something and we *do* always hope, whether we acknowledge it or not. But I got sidetracked talking about how *I* look at things and so it became another one of my personal meanders. Sorry about that :p

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Posted by Fahim at 5:02 am  |  1 Comment

November 24, 2002

What is love part deux :p

Hmm … looks as if the timing of yesterday’s post was kind of unfortunate – though I had planned to write that since the day before and it was basically meant to be about what *I* thought about love and what *I* thought it had to be. There are no rules of conduct in this world – each one of us does as our conscience (or whimsy) dictates. As somebody pointed out to me in the GrooupHug mailing list when I said something to the effect "that I always have tried to do what I thought was right", that I would do what *I* think is *right*. Of course, that is basically what I said but I think the other person meant that what I think is right might not be thought of as right by others. I see his point in certain instances but I also know that there are specific things which are thought to be right by everybody in general. Anyway, I digress – as usual :p
Something I had had in mind to mention when I started the whole "What is love" entry was Haddaway and the significance/memories that the song has for me.

Unfortunately, I got caught up in the entry itself and it got a bit emotional for me to actually think about the lighter side of the entry : So here goes the rest of it today … I know that it wasn’t that memorable a movie and that some people said at the time it was released that it should have remained an SNL skit and never made into a movie at all but I still remember that particular scene and the song though I don’t remember much else about the movie at all :p Of course, there are other songs like that that I associate with a movies – for instance there is Gloria Gaynor’s "I will survive" which will always remind me of Keanu and his team of "scabs" mincing around on the football field :p There are other songs like that that I associate with either a movie or a certain situation or moment in my life but I can’t recall all of them or write about all of them here – I’m too busy listening to "What is love?" :p

To me Haddaway’s song will always bring up visions of Will Ferrell and Chris Katan doing there manic dance in front of the bar in "Night at the Roxbury" :p

November 21, 2002

Dreams so sweet …

This will probably be my first Solipsitic Meandering entry made from home since I’m going to use BlogMan to do it and it’s going to be a whine – but that’s nothing new for me, is it? :p I had a dream last night that I was in New York and that I’d got a job there. It took a while for it all to sink in and then I was like "Oh wow!! I can see Jen on the weekend!" – curiously in my dream it was Thursday (just as today is) and I was so excited about the whole thing. Of course, I then woke up to realize that none of it was true 🙁 Not that it makes an ounce of difference to anybody else but the dream was so vivid that I really lived it for those moments and so it was all the more shattering to realize that things were what I wanted them to be.

This brings up a point that Edward (who incidentally is a solipsist) made in one of our discussions – he said that if all of this was in his head, it would be better because he could do so much because he could do anything and control everything. To me personally, solipsism doesn’t work that way :p I think all of this *might* be in my head but if so, that it all works according to ground rules that I had already laid down. My life is supposed to be a certain way and even if it is in my head, I can’t really alter it suddenly or become omnipotent. At least that’s my explanation for my life being this way and still thinking that it’s all in my head :p

I’ll probably keep this brief since I have to make two blog entries today (one here and one on The Developer’s Corner) before I get to work. Ah the joys of journaling stuff :p

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Posted by Fahim at 5:50 am  |  2 Comments

November 18, 2002

Money, money, money …

I guess money *does* rule the world and makes it go round and not love. I sometimes feel that I am very naive about the world and my expectations about people because I expect everybody to think the way I do and think that people, their feelings and especially those you love, are important. But I constantly find myself rudely shocked to find that everybody does not think this way. (Yes, I know, another one of my cryptic statements/comments :p) Oh well, I guess I can’t change the people around me and I certainly will not change the way I think either just because everybody else is cynical.

But it does bring up the interesting question as to what I should put first when another person who seems to think money is more important is involved. Do I still deal with them with my principles intact or do I deal with them on their terms? I’m beginning to think maybe I should simply deal with them as they would deal with me – probably pragmatically from their point of view but coldly from my POV. Interesting … Oh well, I just started on the first step to be a coldly cynical person I guess. Heck, we all have to grow up sometime – or that’s what I’m told by others who think I am totally out of touch with reality and the world.

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Posted by Fahim at 12:11 pm  |  5 Comments

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