Angels?

Maybe

Angels were made as
Part of the divine algorithm that
Serves to direct our immortal souls to

Yang-God

But they have acquired their
Own reality
And they like to
Help us

Try asking them to
Help you
It doesn’t need
Faith
It’s better than
Praying to
God

God’s only interested in
Your afterlife


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Brucciani: God the farmer?

Image: Victor Vasarely

God the farmer?

by hugo brucciani
august 2017

maybe

at the heart of the multiverse is
the yin-yang
the dual consciousness that
everything is made of

after a while
it wanted
more energy
new energy

it created life:
goldilocks planets and
DNA because
life is new energy

when a life form dies
the new energy goes
eventually to
the yin-yang

it made some
corrections like
on this planet
wiped out the dinosaurs
with a massive
strategically placed
asteroid
to clear the way for
humans because

because of
human consciousness
human souls are
super-energy

the yin-yang was
originally harmonious and
complementary but
competition evolved

pushy yang got greedy
wanted more
super-energy

soul goes through
layers to be
depersonalised
the layers are
also dual
the energy can go to
yin or yang

clever yang made a
fast track through
the layers to yang:

religion

what you believe
determines your
afterlife destination

yang became god
used human goodness
(evolved through sociability)
to create religion

quick yang did a number on
yin
said yang had created
yin
said yin had turned evil
and had been expelled
all lies

yin fought back
but was beaten by yang’s PR

support services
including
angels, miracles, prophets and
divine revelations were
provided by
god’s ineffable algorithms

god wants you
religious and dead
mass religious deaths are
great for god
religious wars are
perfect

anticipated by
god’s algorithms
human intelligence evolved to
the point of enlightenment

now that ‘god’ is dead
the super-energy from
dead humans
no longer pours through
god’s fast track

it can now go to
yin
restoring balance for
a while

god the farmer
moves on to
other crops on
other planets

will slow yin protect us from
the scorched-earth strategy of
yang’s judgemental algorithms in
the prophesied end times to come?

will yin
defend its
post-enlightenment sustainable source of
super-energy?

Or will yin
lazily accept the
massive final shot
as godless humanity
dies?


[Editor’s note: for an alternative view of life on earth – humanity as a failed experiment – see Brucciani’s lockdown is like the end of the world.]

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Loony calendar?

June 2017

In northern Sweden, some Muslims follow the Ramadan advice of the European Council of FatwaPhoto: Fredric Alm / Al Jazeera

One thing Muslims could do to cheer themselves up is: drop the lunar calendar. North-west European Muslims have got enough to worry about without facing a month of 18-hour total fasts.

(I’m not a Muslim – I’m a North-west European agnostic lapsed Christian. I don’t like religion, but at the same time I’m fascinated by it! Some of my friends are Muslims. Some of them are fasting.)

Apparently, a lunar-solar calendar was used in Arabia before Islam. A solar correction known as ‘intercalation‘ or ‘nasri‘ took account of the year and the seasons. The Islamic lunar calender was implemented, as I understand it, because intercalation was being used to allow armed violence during the months of unarmed peace. Or something like that.

The months were reorganised, and consequently the new Islamic ‘year’, starting, of course, with ‘yearzero (or one – it’s not clear) had twelve lunar months of 29 or 30 days with no intercalation, making a total of 354 or 355 days. It’s now Islamic ‘Year’ 1438 (October 2016 CE to September 2017).

So how can the Muslim ‘year’ be a year? It can’t be, of course, because it isn’t. A year is the orbital period of the earth moving around the sun: 365 or 366 calendar days. The Islamic lunar calendar – with all  due respect to a world religion with nearly two billion followers – is a loony calendar.

No doubt Muslim farmers, herders and others continued to observe lunar-solar cycles. Today, the only effect of the lunar ‘year’ on most Muslims is the timing in the solar cycle of the lunar month of Ramadan. And this is the problem.

In tropical Mecca, dawn to sunset (the Ramadan fast period specified in the Quran) at any time of year is about twelve hours – a manageable period for total fast. Also, in the tropics the difference between astronomical dawn (the start time agreed by most Muslim scholars) and sunrise is very short; in northern lattitudes it can be three or more hours.

For the diaspora, therefore, it’s more difficult than in Mecca or Medina. In the UK this year (2017) Ramadan is in June: 18 hours.

I’ve tried a long total fast for a few days. It’s hard. The spirituality is said to make it easier, but even so, it’s tough. And then, once the sunset ceremony of prayer, dates and water is over, you’re stuffing loads of food late at night. It can’t be good for your health.

So, drop the lunar calender. No offence meant, but it’s ridiculous to persist in using a yearly calendar which isn’t based on actual years. There are 12.4 lunar cycles in a year. Restore the intercalation, and fix the twelve Islamic months in a lunar-solar calendar.

Ramadan would be well positioned as month nine of twelve in an Islamic lunar-solar calender. It’d be in Autumn in the North (about ten hours daylight in London) and Spring in the South. Muslims in Dunedin, New Zealand (there are some) would have a similar fasting time.

There might be a problem relating a solar-fixed Ramadan to sightings of the new moon. If necessary, the proposed intercalation could adjust the position of Ramadan each year, so that it begins and ends on a new moon. The exact (Gregorian) date of Ramadan would then vary by several days, like Easter, which is also dependant on the moon cycle.

The dates of the surrounding lunar-solar Islamic months would also then vary, but as most Muslims use the Gregorian calendar for everyday purposes, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Yes, I know. The prophet Muhammad had a divine revelation which supposedly ordained a lunar calendar. The Quran’s verse 9:36 says, ‘Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]’.

Fair enough – but the translation’s square–bracketed ‘lunar‘ suggests non-divine interpretation.

Another translation says, ‘The number of the months, with God, is twelve in the Book of God, the day that He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are sacred. That is the right religion. So wrong not each other during them. And fight the unbelievers totally even as they fight you totally and know that God is with the godfearing. Know that intercalation (nasi) is an addition to disbelief. Those who disbelieve are led to error thereby, making it lawful in one year and forbidden in another in order to adjust the number of (the months) made sacred by God and make the sacred ones permissible. The evil of their course appears pleasing to them. But God gives no guidance to those who disbelieve’.

In that translation, the twelve months aren’t said – or interpreted – to be lunar, but the intercalation needed for a lunar-solar year is said to be an error made by disbelievers.

Verse 9:37 says, ‘Indeed, the postponing [of restriction within sacred months] is an increase in disbelief by which those who have disbelieved are led [further] astray. They make it lawful one year and unlawful another year to correspond to the number made unlawful by Allah and [thus] make lawful what Allah has made unlawful. Made pleasing to them is the evil of their deeds; and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people’.

Right. Clear as mud.

I’d say: have your 12 months; make four of them sacred; but respect the sun and its seasons. Restore the intercalation and make the Islamic year an actual year. 1,500 years after the local problem with tribal fighting, how can that be an error made by disbelievers?

Another problem with my suggestion is that the beginning of each Islamic month is supposed to be determined by the sighting of a new moon. A possible compromise would be to have an extra month (call it Shams, meaning Sun) and make each month 28 days. An extra day would be needed to make a 365-day year. (See International Fixed Calendar and Foundation for the Law of Time.)

Postscript: A Muslim friend told me that one of her UK Muslim aquaintances has unilaterally decided to follow Mecca time: she fasts from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. This is an imaginative idea – probably better than trying to change a 1,400-year-old supposedly divinely ordained calendar.

Yes I know. Verse 2:187 says, ‘And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset.’

But that was in tropical Arabia. Perhaps Quranic proclamations about Ramadan and the lunar calendar didn’t take into account the possibility of future worldwide diaspora.

Most modern Muslim scholars prescribe as the start time of fasting an astronomical dawn that is based on the sun being 18 degrees below the horizon; but some post-diaspora scholars have said that dispersed Muslims may observe a 6:00 am to 6:00 pm fast.

Verse 2:185 of the Quran says, ‘God does not impose any hardship upon you. He wants you to have comfort so that you may complete the fast’. Admittedly, this is in the context of postponing fast days if you’re ill or travelling, but surely the principle of kindness also applies to dispersed Muslims facing an 18-hour total fast.

Some Muslims say that the hardship of a long total fast is a test of submission to God. But according to a Hadith generally accepted as authentic (Sahih Muslim 2593) the prophet Muhammad said, ‘Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness’.

As-salāmu ʿalaykum.


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Awkward encounters with celebrities

Detail: Girl Before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso, 1932

In which I make a fool of myself with two (or three) quite famous people, discover Laurel and Hardy in the UK’s Lake District, berate touchy creatives who complain about fame, and match UK TV characters Beverly from Abigail’s Party and Alan Partridge.

Updated 2019

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If you see a famous person in public, you recognise them, but you don’t know them. You might admire them for whatever they’ve done that made them famous. Should you speak to them, or should you pretend not to notice them out of respect for their privacy? The thing is, you do know them, in a way. It’s an etiquette conundrum for the reticent British.

In recent years, I’ve had two encounters with celebrities. Neither went well.

Encounter 1
A familiar face

On the first occasion, I saw maverick UK film director Mike Leigh on a street in London’s West End. He was walking towards me and my wife on a crowded pavement. I recognised his distinctive face, but I didn’t realise at the time who he was.

I thought he was someone I knew in real life, so I started to give a facial ‘hello!’ expression, and he – generously (or perhaps instinctively), given that he obviously didn’t know me at all – started to respond with a similar expression.

image
Mike Leigh | Photo: Stuart C Wilson / Getty Images for BFI

At that point, I suddenly realised that he was actually a famous person who I didn’t personally know; and that although I recognised him, I didn’t know who he was. We were getting closer. I changed my focus to somewhere over his shoulder, neutralised my expression and walked past him. Awkward.

Encounter 2
Knowing me, not knowing you

On the second occasion, I managed to rachet up the awkwardness. UK TV comic and film actor Steve Coogan and US film actor John C Reilly came into the small country pub near Broughton-in-Furness in Cumbria (AKA the UK’s fabulous Lake District), where our party of five were having a meal.

It was a small room with two or three tables. Coogan and Reilly took off their country-style jackets and peaked caps, and sat at another table. They didn’t acknowledge us. I got the impression that perhaps they’d hoped to have the room to themselves.

We recognised them (although I had do some googling afterwards to get Reilly’s name), but we discreetly ignored them while we – and they – were eating, drinking and talking.

It was like a surreal version of Coogan and Rob Brydon‘s brilliant TV spoof restaurant tour of northern England, The Trip, but with Reilly instead of Brydon, and with us (accidentally) hearing only snatches of their conversation.

When we left I decided – emboldened by a couple of pints – to say something to them. Something amusing would be good, I thought. OK, actor-celebs want to be left alone when dining incognito. But deep down, don’t they want to be recognised? Loved, even? I was going to give them some love.

After the rest of our party had filed out, I stopped at the end of Coogan and Reilly’s table. They were deep in conversation. ‘Excuse me’, I said, ‘Sorry to interrupt you.’ They stopped talking and turned to look at me. They both looked wary.

I was going to ask Coogan, ‘Didn’t you used to be Steve Coogan?’ I thought that’d be an amusingly pseudo-stupid cliché. He’d get the joke, we’d have a laugh, and I’d go on my way. What I actually said to Coogan was, ‘Didn’t you used to be on TV?’

I don’t know why I said the wrong thing. I admire Coogan’s work, but I wasn’t particularly starstruck, so it wasn’t that. It was probably a combination of my sudden proximity to the intoxicating world of show business, my audacity tripping me up, and the beer. (And the large gin and tonic before that. Don’t worry – we had a designated driver.)

Anyway, what I actually said wasn’t amusingly pseudo-stupid – it was just stupid. I couldn’t correct myself – that would have made it worse. I could only let it lie. It lay heavily, like a fart in a lift.

Coogan and Reilly both looked – understandably – taken aback. They looked at each other. They shifted in their seats. Coogan said, ‘Er…’ He looked cornered, as if he was taking my question seriously but realised there was no way to answer it.

The atmosphere darkened. For a moment, I thought they might get up and attack me. (Reilly’s a big man who looks like he’s been in a few punch-ups; and Coogan had a dangerous look about him. I’m a big man, but I’m in bad shape*. I wouldn’t have fancied my chances.) Time seemed to have slowed down. Actually it had only been a second or two since I’d spoken.

‘Just kidding!’, I said lamely, smiling and making the universal peace gesture of outward palms. They seemed to relax a bit. ‘It’s nice here, isn’t it’, I added even more lamely, gesturing at the room. (It was a lovely little pub, with excellent food.) They looked relieved, and nodded in agreement. I think one of them said, ‘Yes, it is.’

It was a save, kind of. ‘Bye then!’, I said. I think one of them replied, ‘Yeah, bye’, as I turned and left (not too hastily, I’d like to think).

image
Steve Coogan | Photo: Larry Busacca / Getty Images
John C Reilly | Photo: Scott Gries / Getty Images

When I told our party about this awkward encounter, my sister (who’d hosted our meal and had rented our holiday cottage, and consequently felt even more entitled than usual to judge my behaviour) was horrified. Disgusted, even. She said I shouldn’t have done that. Annoyingly, she was right.

🤡

Postscript 1
Laurel and Hardy in the Lakes

I found out that Coogan and Reilly were making a film, Stan and Ollie, about Laurel and Hardy‘s swansong 1953 UK tour. (Oliver Hardy became ill during the tour; he died four years later.) Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston in what’s now south Cumbria. That’s why Coogan and Reilly were in the area.

Apparently Laurel and Hardy attended a civic reception at Ulverston’s Coronation Hall during their 1947 tour. They appeared on the balcony, and waved to a massive crowd in the square below. Laurel was presented with a copy of his birth certificate.

image
Oliver Hardy in Ulverston, 1947 | Photo: A J Marriot

I thought that maybe the BBC film had spliced that event into the 1953 tour, and used Broughton-in-Furness as a stand-in for early 50s Ulverston.

We saw a film crew in the square in Broughton-in-Furness (a small market town north of Ulverston). My sister thought she saw UK film and TV actor (and former Dr Who) Christopher Eccleston; and she overheard a technician in a shop complaining that he’d been waiting eight hours for a two-minute shoot. Show business!

However, Eccleston wasn’t filming Stan and Ollie, but was making a new series of Cumbria-set BBC drama The A Word. It was a coincidental glut of celebs (but, sadly, my sister didn’t accost Eccleston).

As it happens, Coogan and Reilly weren’t there to film Stan and Ollie either. The film, due to be shot largely in the West Midlands and Bristol, had been delayed, and Coogan and Reilly took the opportunity to secretly visit the Laurel and Hardy museum in Ulverston. Apparently, Coogan has a holiday home near Coniston. Nice.

Anyway, I wish I’d known about the Stan and Ollie film at the time of my encounter with Coogan and Reilly. I could have attempted a brief, intelligent conversation about their project, instead of making my would-be-humorous interjection. I could have said, ‘It’s Laurel and Hardy, isnt it?’

Oh well. You always think afterwards about how an unsatisfactory encounter could have gone better. At least I didn’t ask for a selfie. I should have done, really.

The film, released in the UK in January 2019, got 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 75% on Metacritic. Not bad. One critic said, ‘You feel like you’re beholding the real duo, so thoroughly concieved are the actors’ physicality and performances’. I thought it was really good. To my new almost-acquaintances Steve and John, I say: well done – just not well met.

🤡

Postscript 2
Steve Garbo – the curse of fame

According to Wikipedia, Coogan likes to keep himself private, and has said ‘I have never wanted to be famous’.

Greta Coogan

Coogan’s proactive contribution to the UK Leveson Inquiry into illegal press intrusion was admirable and effective. His legal team forced an uber-hacker to say who instructed him to hack Coogan. Coogan got hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages from Mirror Group Newspapers after they – eventually – admitted hacking phones and covering up unlawful activities. (Kerching!)

But, ‘never wanted to be famous’? Really?

What did he think would happen when he worked hard to become a very successful TV comedian and film actor? If you succeed at that, you get famous. Job satisfaction, awards and peer-approval are all very well, but in that line of work fame is a true measure of your success. If Coogan ‘never wanted’ to be famous, he could have done something else.

Sensitive creatives who complain about fame probably did want it – craved it, even – but then couldn’t cope with it when they got it. That’s fair enough, but when they then publicly complain about their fame, it grates with the audience whose appreciation gave it to them.

Anyway, sorry, Steve, for adding my own rubbish intrusion. (I’ve emailed him via his production company, and invited him to read this. I don’t suppose he will, but you never know.)

🤡

Postscript 3
Beverly and Alan – a happy coincidence

It occurred to me that Mike Leigh and Steve Coogan have something in common apart from me having seen them in the flesh. They’ve both created brilliant but monstrous UK TV comic characters who expose the terrible cracks in the facade of working-class upward mobility.

The unforgetable Beverly (wonderfully co-created by actor Alison Steadman) in Leigh’s 1977 BBC TV play Abigail’s Party, and Coogan’s local radio/TV presenter character Alan Partridge (co-created with writers Patrick Marber and Armando Iannucci), who first appeared in 1991 and is still going strong, have both deservedly become cultural icons.

Leigh’s roots are middle class and Coogan’s are working class. Leigh’s been accused of middle-class mockery and Coogan could be accused of working-class self-mockery, or, even worse, class betrayal.

(Yon Alan Partridge character is nowt but a lickspittle mockery, an’ a betrayal o’t’ working class an’ our rightful aspiration to better ourselves. Get thee gone, Steve lad, an’ never darken our door again.)

However, such criticism misses the point: the characters are funny because they’re true – exaggerated and enhanced, but fundamentally true. In both cases, the humour’s cruel but not mocking – and not betraying.

The characters’ vulnerabilities and pretentions – and their crucial lack of self awareness – are shown with painfully funny honesty.

(Sadly, Leigh and Coogan are not thought to be collaborating on anything any time soon.)

image
Beverly and Alan – a match made in hell
Alison Steadman as Beverly Moss
| Photo: BBC
Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge | Photo: Steve Adams

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Occupy your mind

Thoughts after getting sacked from a temporary job at the Leicester, UK, HSBC call centre

Couldn’t hack it, got the sack. Monday morning won’t be back. Need to go to work – nowhere to go. (And oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go…)

It upset me. It was a crap job, so I don’t mind losing it, but getting fired was a bitter blow to my fragile male ego. Getting fired from a crap job!

(The reasons they gave didn’t ring true. I suspect age discrimination, illegal in the UK. So, yes, I’m doing something about it.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought: better find something to occupy my mind – and I did. The strangeness of the phrase, ‘Occupy your mind’, got me thinking.

image
Zombie Jacko promotes Occupy | Graffito and photo: Ezra Li Eismont

The Occupy movement uses it as a clever slogan: Occupy your mind – think responsibly. But in everyday usage it’s not an instruction to occupy your own mind; you already do, obviously. It’s short for ‘Find something to…’

That’s a strange shortening, suggesting mental indolence addressed with military zeal. Stop that daydreaming! Wake up and (find something to) occupy your mind!

Why do you need to find something to occupy your mind? What’s wrong with your mind being occupied only by you?

Perhaps what’s wrong – apart from the tendency of the mind to brood disproportionately on the painful details of recent setbacks – is the risk that you’ll turn into the animal in you. The advice to keep your mind occupied or even preoccupied and to find a suitable occupation is meant to save you from your lower self.

Spookily anticipating the Occupy movement slogan, 16th-century Roman Catholic utopian philosopher Thomas Moore said, ‘Occupy your minds with good thoughts or the enemy will fill them with bad ones’. By ‘the enemy’, Moore meant, of course, the Devil who, as any fule kno, makes work for idle hands – and minds.

In our enlightened post-Darwin times we can take a less Moore-ish and more diplomatic approach to ‘the enemy’. We’ve got a lot of bad and baddish animal stuff going on – down there. Monsters from the id, if you like.

If you can face that stuff and give it a non-judgemental nod of acknowledgement from time to time, the bad stuff will behave itself, and you can live above it. (And – which is more – you’ll be an adult, my child.)

In which case, of course, we no longer need a mental occupant to distract us from our animal urges. They’ll be under humane control. More or less.

But we like being distracted; and now we’ve got a habit: media addiction. Let’s watch a movie…

I mean, we still need distraction from the things we have to cope with day-to-day using part of our minds:

  • Find shelter, pay for it, keep it clean
  • Get food, pay for it, prepare it, cook it
  • Ablute, wash, groom, exercise
  • Choose clothes, buy them
  • Choose clothes, wear them
  • Wash clothes, dry and fold them
  • Iron and put away
  • Have children: have no life
  • Go to work, get sacked…

For Om’s sake – give us a break.

We need mental distraction, entertainment, stimulation, a funny cat, anything. Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, Netflix, YouTube, er, Tumblr, whatever, we need it. We deserve it. Bring it on. It can occupy our minds rent-free.

The field of mind occupancy studies got a boost recently when the research centre for neuromapping at the University of Salamanca in Spain announced the publication of a paper, Neuromapping patterns of mind occupancy by Carles Escera and Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa.

The paper includes in an appendix the following illustrative poem by Cadenza Prize winner Hugo Brucciani.

occupancy and occupation
by hugo brucciani

occupancy of the mind by
a lodger who is welcomed by
the mind’s landlord
rent-free. it could be
reading a book
watching a movie

takes most of you
out of yourself
to a resting place

enough of you
is left behind in the mind
as a pilot to enjoy it
judge it, control it
end it, if necessary

after the end
when the occupant’s gone
you come
back to yourself

the process of rejoining
can be delayed as
the pilot reflects on
echoes of
a different world

meanwhile the landlord
above it all in the attic
watches on
the bastard

‘occupant’ sounds ok
find place to live
pay rent – harmless but
‘occupation’ sounds
heavy, man

find an occupation
right, I think there’s one
in Palestine is there?
Syria? Sudan?
what am I supposed to
do about it?

oh, you mean a job
right. yes, you’re right
job

find a good job
thats. right. so
it’s a good job I’ve got
genes for work ethic
and obediance, then

so my mind’s meant
for an occupation
designed by the
landlord’s architect
the bastard

we can fight back
join the underground
resist the occupation
evict the occupying forces
take vacant posession

we know what we feel
we can live above
our work ethic and
the other
bad memories in
the basement

we don’t need no
occupation
we could live well on
a state income
paid by
social credit
owed to
us all

because yes
the world owes us
living

Then
we can work when
we want

good riddance to
the occupation of
our minds

the landlord and
his architect can
suck it up, live and learn

the occasional
occupant’s ok though
there’s a good movie on
at nine *

* This is possibly a reference to the increasingly archaic practice of watching scheduled TV broadcasts.


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The meaning of meaning

image

Probability maths says that given infinity, a random character generator (producing upper and lower case letters, spaces and punctuation marks) will reproduce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Think monkeys and typewriters, if you like.

(Shakespeare is wheeled on for this thought experiment rather than, say, Charles Dickens because he’s the supposed apogee of literary creativity. The reductionist probabilitarians are saying: you think Shakespeare’s great – well, he can be reproduced by empty randomness.)

You can kind of see what they mean, and there’s probably not much point arguing with a probability mathematician (though there are valid questions about the abstract concept of infinity) – but it just seems wrong, doesn’t it? The first sentence or two, maybe – but the whole thing? Maybe some things will never happen by chance, even in infinty.

Then there’s the origin of DNA. Scientists say it can be explained by random chemical events occurring over a very long time. There are several different theories as to how this might have happened, but none of them sounds remotely plausible. As with the randomly reproduced Shakespeare, it just seems impossible.

I know it sounds like I’m on the slippery slope from intelligent design to creationism, but I’m not. I’m suggesting that the crucial element in both cases is meaning.

Henry VI, Part One
Scene I: Westminster Abbey. Dead March. Enter the funeral of King Henry V, attended on by Dukes of Bedford, Regent of France, Protector; and Exeter, Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, heralds, etc.
Bedford: Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

I’m yawning already, but that’s not the point. The works of Shakespeare, including that opening of the first play, exist because they have meaning. That meaning comes from human consciousness and its medium, language. The unique sequence of six million characters comprising that product of meaning could never be reproduced by chance, I’d suggest.

Wikipedia says DNA is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms. Most DNA molecules consist of two strands coiled around each other to form a double helix. Both strands store the same biological information, which is replicated when the two strands separate. DNA molecules called chromosomes contain an organism’s genetic information.

Does that sound like something that came about by chemicals randomly bumping into each other without the post-DNA benefit of natural selection?

(Some say RNA, a similar but single-strand molecule currently synthesised from DNA, appeared first, and that DNA evolved from RNA. RNA is thought to be capable of self-replication. However, the appearance of RNA in a hypothesised pre-DNA ‘RNA world‘ presents the same problem.)

So how could such incredibly complex self-replicating molecules have come into existence? Perhaps it happened because – humour me – the universe (or multiverse if you like) has meaning, perhaps deriving from universal consciousness. Again, I’d suggest that meaning is never the product of random processes.

Random mutation, of course, fueled the natural selection which led from the first living organisms to humans capable of pondering the meaning of meaning. However, randomness and meaning are worlds apart.

Perhaps they’re in a hierarchy, with randomness subject to probability, and probability subject to meaning.

Try as it may, maths and science can’t yet explain the origin of life, what consciousness is, or the ultimate nature of the universe.

I’m a big fan of maths and science. I’d love science to have an explanation for everything; but perhaps some things are ineffable. Perhaps maths, for all its fundamental beauty, is the scaffolding rather than the be-all and end-all.

Perhaps the edifice supported by that scaffolding is a multiverse made of consciousness and meaning. If so, the meaning of life and the ‘purpose’ of DNA is to reflect multiversal meaning – a reflection exemplified by the works of Shakespeare.


Pseudo-academic footnote

I thought my post title was original – but, of course, it’s not. The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism by Charles Ogden and Ivor Richards has been in print continuously since 1923.

The most recent publication is the critical edition prepared by Terrence Gordon as volume 3 of the 5-volume set C. K. Ogden & Linguistics (London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1995).

Wikipedia says the book proposes a contextual theory of signs: words and things are connected by signs that are the source of our power over the external world.

(I’d say: sod the signs, it’s language that has the power – the power of meaning.)

The book has been used as a textbook in many fields including linguistics, philosophy, language, cognitive science, semantics and semiotics. Umberto Eco described it as ‘a seminal book, whose merit was to say certain things well in advance of its time’.

Damn!


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Victoria Park morning

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This view caught my eye. See the straight branches with the new morning sun shining through (Dylan reference), the mist along the line of trees across Victoria Park and the long shadows. It’s taken from the car park extension, the building of which was facilitated by the cutting down a large number of mature trees. It links to the Lutyens war memorial. (I like to call it the Sir Peter Soulsby memorial car park extension, in honour of our elected mayor, who’s spent our taxes on several such vainglorious developments. Hes not actually dead yet, but…)

Heaven

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Mosaic: St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, Rome

Is there an afterlife? How can there be? Life is life. Death is death. Or is our individual consciousness independent of our living body? If so, heaven/hell/whatever must be a crowded place. Except it wouldn’t be a ‘place’, of course. It’d be ‘outside’ space-time as we know it.

So, if there is a heaven, and you get past the gatekeeper, what would you do? I’d head for the library. Unless they’ve closed it.

Old people – youth vampires

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Have you noticed how old people, especially couples, sit and stare at children in public with a longing, entranced gaze. There’s more to it than doting. It’s an unconscious desire for youth – not the youthfulness of young people in general, but the pure youthfulness of children.

What if when Death apears on the horizon, we unconsciously start seeking the elixir of youth – the special, magical energy of children. Perhaps the old people, with their spooky vampiric gaze, somehow actually steal it. (Maybe it’s more effective if there are two of them.) After all, children have energy to spare. It doesn’t do any harm. Perhaps it keeps the old vampires alive a bit longer.

Probably, some horrible Crowleyesque sacrificial energy-transfer ritual could confer immortality. But old people just do it without realising it.

Having reached old age, I’ve found myself starting to do it. I’d have to be careful, of course, make sure my wife (not old enough yet) is with me, and avoid inappropriate staring scenarios. I might get a few extra years!


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God is a mixed metaphor

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Creationism Painting: Michelangelo

God is a mixed metaphor
Do you know what He is for?
Religion is a form of art
Totality made up from parts of
Goodness, wisdom, power, love
Authority from up above
He’s been dead two hundred years
Poisoned by our hopes and fears

Life is a revolving door
Do you know what it is for?
Philosophy? Ah nah nah nah
Just put you hand upon your car
And swear you will be true to those
Who lie in wait, half comatose
We’ve been stoned two hundred years
We know all your hopes and fears


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