Archive for August, 2009

30
Aug
09

The Boss

Rule # 1: The Boss is always right.
Rule# 2: When the Boss is wrong, refer to Rule # 1.

For as long as the order is not illegal, it is poor judgment to defy or even question the Boss. Because even if your immediate boss is not The Boss or the owner/chief executive of the company, you are answerable only to your direct boss, just as he/she is answerable only to his/her immediate boss. So if you think that a certain order is counterproductive and not in the company’s best interest, for as long as it is not illegal you must obey it, because whether it turns out to be a good or bad move, in the eyes of higher management credit and accountability belong to your boss, and you will be rated by your boss based on how closely you followed his/her instructions regardless of the result. You can point out the disadvantages of his/her plan though, especially if your opinion was sought, but your Boss has the final word.

That’s in the corporate world. Now for the spiritual world, a lot of people believe in a Big Boss up there. I do too. The only problem is we have not seen or heard from this Boss, and a lot of people claim that they have direct instructions from Him that we must follow lest we not only get fired from the company but also get fried for eternity.

In the corporate world, if the Boss is out of the country and a co-worker tells you that The Boss called him and gave instructions for you, if you follow him you will not be putting your trust in The Boss but in your co-worker, believing that what he said is true and didn’t maliciously make it up. However, you can verify this by calling The Boss long distance or by other means of communication. More commonly, before The Boss leaves the country he would make it clear who will be in charge during his absence or if he would be giving his future instructions through a certain person.

In the spiritual world, there was no endorsement from The Boss. However, some people claim that they are special representatives or ministers of The Boss, and sadly a lot of people quickly believe them for fear of damnation.

In the corporate world, even if you were so low in the organization that you don’t even know who the Big Boss is, as long as you are receiving your paycheck for doing what your immediate boss tells you, you know that you are working in a real company.

In the spiritual world, the ‘paycheck’ is eternal life – or more precisely, escape from eternal damnation. No one has ever seen this paycheck yet, but the fear of not receiving it at the end of earthly life scares a lot of people into believing and obeying whatever the ‘ministers’ say, including, “Give me your money because it will only weigh down your soul.” innerminds inner minds

27
Aug
09

The Company is Not a Family

I’ve read from The Dilbert Principle that a company, contrary to what some bosses try to impress upon their employees, is not a family. I see this in real life too. For one, a family does not kick a member out for breaking the Rules or because there is not enough food on the table. As long as the erring member seeks forgiveness it is almost always granted, and no matter how scarce the resources are, everyone gets to eat. So to those who have fallen for this management lie that you are a family, wake up and get real. You are only headed for a big disappointment.

Well considering that a lot of us spend most of our waking hours with our co-workers, I guess we sometimes do experience brotherly/sisterly bonding with them, and friendships like this often approach the level of family love. That is definitely true. Among co-employees, that is – not with the bosses. And perhaps the biggest mistake of it all is to develop a parental transference with your boss. (I guess it would be better to treat your boss like a god than a parent if you want your career to grow.)

Now speaking of bosses, perhaps a lot of you already learned from Digg.com why you should never have your boss in Facebook:

Ah, so it seems that aside from treating your boss like a parent, it also isn’t a good idea to even consider them a friend. Or a Facebook friend.

The boss is the boss – not a parent, not a friend – and if one feels a warm kinship with them especially after work, one must never presume that the gap is already gone.

26
Aug
09

‘Word of God’ or Hearsay?

Warning: To those who are very sensitive and closed minded about their Religion, please move on to other blogs before I annoy you further. But for those who are wary of falsehood and false prophets, here’s something to think about.

When reading the Holy Books, a lot of us tend to take them as the literal Word of God, written with Divine Inspiration and thus free from human error.

Now when we say that we trust in the Holy Books, does it mean that it is in God whom we trust and that the Books are actually His revelation?

Before we try to answer that, let us first consider a definition of the word revelation:

Revelation: The act of revealing or of making known. In the religious sense, revelation usually means divine revelation. This is meaningless, since revelation can only be revelation in the first instance. For example, if God revealed something to me, that would be a divine revelation to me. If I then told someone else what God told me it would be mere hearsay to the person I tell. If that person believed what I said, they would not be putting their trust in God, but in me, believing what I told them was actually true. (from deism.com)

A lot of us probably have had doubts regarding certain parts of the Holy Books especially those that commission murder and genocide, or even those that demand that we give up reason in favor of blind faith and surrender all our material possessions as they only weigh down our souls. But then we are afraid to question our faith lest we burn in Hell for eternity. Who would gamble such a thing even if it were only remotely true?

But the point is, when we question the Holy Books, are we questioning God’s Word per se, or just the ‘messengers’ – the human writers who claim to be divinely inspired, never mind all the interpreters? There were no printing presses then, and some of the “authors” were probably illiterate, verbally passing on hearsay after hearsay from generation to generation until someone finally puts the ‘Word of God’  into writing. Now we have to presume that all of those story tellers, writers, and translators were also divinely inspired, lest the Holy Books be contaminated with human errors or deliberate rewriting. No wonder there are a number of significant disagreements among the Holy Books. And one of the things they do agree about is in killing the infidels. However, each man’s fellow faithful is for another man an infidel, so they try to kill each other, and to think they were all created by the same God.

So now, some of us might ask, where do we turn to for God’s Word?. My short answer: I don’t know. But I guess it would be better to say that we don’t know rather than to suspend our reason and force ourselves to believe in something unreasonable for fear of eternal fire. And the saddest part of it all is that this fear is based on hearsay to the nth level, probably with certain leaders time and again from past to present manipulating ‘God’s Word’ in order to control and tyrannize their subjects and expand their kingdoms by talking about a Kingdom of God in Heaven while building their own material kingdoms here on Earth. Well I guess that even sadder still is the thought that these subjects believe that what they are hearing are really God’s Word, so they are too terrified to question it.

But I do not think that the same God who gave us intellect and reason would demand that we relinquish these gifts in favor of blind faith, especially if this ‘faith’ is based on a man‘s word  – or many men’s word, if we include all the storytellers, writers, and translators. And so we must use our God-given reason to spot falsehood and false prophets. With reason, we do not need anyone citing any commandment prohibiting murder, rape, theft, kidnaping, assault, or robbery because we already know from common sense that these crimes are considered malum in se – ‘wrong or evil in itself – even if we live in the remotest places where there are no laws punishing them. Now as for malum prohibitum – ‘wrong because prohibited’ – ‘crimes’ like working on the Sabbath and not giving your money to the poor (or the Church), we must ask ourselves, are these ‘laws’ really the Word of God, or were they written by power-hungry leaders who plant the fear of eternal damnation into people’s hearts in order to control their subjects and conquer other nations? innerminds inner minds

23
Aug
09

Pain of Not Knowing

The Road Less Traveled author M. Scott Peck, MD wrote something about the “pain of not knowing”. I don’t remember much of it other than that an information vacuum makes us uncomfortable – in pain, even – and we tend to fill the gaps with conjectures and presumptions. While perhaps most people recognize these “fillers” as mere speculation, I suppose some treat them as incontestable truth. It’s easy to fall into this comfort of “knowing”, and I think most if not all of us had at one time or another been guilty of this self-delusion.

While most misconceptions are often harmless or merely annoying such as wrongly assuming a person’s position or civil status, some tend to be fatal like wrongly convicting a man to death based on “proof” beyond reasonable doubt.

I remember the article Is Psychology A Science by Paul Lutus because it clearly distinguishes the legal from the scientific connotations of proof and evidence. Let me cite the following excerpt:

The legal definition of evidence is (as one example) a set of observations that appear to associate a particular person with a particular event. Typically, legal proceedings begin with an investigation meant to collect evidence, followed by a trial that establishes whether that evidence meets a criterion – “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal proceedings, and “according to the preponderance of evidence” in civil proceedings (in the US). This, by the way, is why O. J. Simpson was found innocent in criminal court, but found guilty in a subsequent civil proceeding – using the same evidence, he wasn’t guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but he was guilty “according to the preponderance of evidence.”

In an embarrassing and tragic number of cases, innocent people have been placed on death row (and sometimes executed) based on evidence that, notwithstanding the innocence of the convict, met the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, when evaluated by a jury of 12 upstanding citizens, people whom we shall charitably assume paid no mind to the color of the defendant’s skin. Relatively recently, new ways of gathering evidence – like DNA testing – have proven the innocence of a fortunate few death-row inmates, and others who might have gone unpunished have been arrested.

The point here is that legal evidence is not remotely scientific evidence. Contrary to popular belief, science doesn’t use sloppy evidentiary standards like “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and scientific theories never become facts. This is why the oft-heard expression “proven scientific fact” is never appropriateit only reflects the scientific ignorance of the speaker. Scientific theories are always theories, they never become the final and only explanation for a given phenomenon.

Ah, theories. Always theories. Never become facts. How uncomfortable that must be to most people. And how painful it must be to quite a few.

Of course, assumptions are necessary for us to operate at all. And if we keep on saying “I don’t know”, no conversation will last more than a minute. And so we say “I don’t know exactly, but I suppose…”

Nevertheless, the freethinker should be vigilant against our tendency to delude ourselves into thinking that our assumptions are always correct. (I remember a line from Silence of the Lambs about how the word assume means putting an ass in front of u and me.)

And when it comes to our beliefs, how we arrived at a certain belief is just as important – probably more important – than the belief itself. inner minds

17
Aug
09

Infidelity: Human Nature and the Corpus Callosum

Ever wonder why most societies tend to be softer on men than on women when it comes to infidelity?

I remember reading something about our brains’ hemispheres: the left hemisphere, which deals with math, logic, observation, and reasoning; and the right hemisphere, which handles language, emotion, perception, and intuition. The article said that the corpus callosum – the band of nerve fibres that connects the cerebral hemispheres – is often thicker in women than in men, making it easier for the hemispheres to share information and interact with each other as they try to process thoughts simultaneously.

So I guess maybe that’s why men can make hard decisions reflectively and objectively. It’s nothing personal, just business. Women, on the other hand, tend to involve their emotions when making most choices.

And so when it comes to playing around, men can do it out of pure lust without the slightest affection, while for women to be able to make love they must have feelings for the guy. (A lady friend of mine once remarked that what if she underwent some lobotomy to sever her corpus callosum, would that give her the same “male privilege”?)

They say that man is polygamous by nature. But before the ladies raise their eyebrows and the boys their heads, there is something I read about human nature that I would like to share. It goes something like this:

The author, a psychiatrist, says that he was often asked what is human nature, to which he would answer, “Human nature is going to the bathroom in your pants.” He goes on to explain that a very young child, when feeling the need, would defecate anywhere and with his pants on. That is his nature. But given the proper toilet training, sooner or later as he grows up he will be able to hold his bowel long enough to get to the bathroom. This will have become his second nature. And in those rare instances when he didn’t make it to the bathroom, he would feel very unnatural about it. From all this, the author points out that there is no such thing as “human nature” because among all the animals, only man has the capacity to transcend his instincts.

And so I guess it is with man’s reputation for philandering. Assuming there is some truth that that‘s his nature, man has the ability to transcend this polygamous nature and adopt fidelity as a second nature. And in the unlikely event that he slips, he would feel very unnatural about it. Like he just shat in his pants. innerminds inner minds

12
Aug
09

Thumb Wrestling: Theists and Atheists

First of all I would like to say that I am not an atheist. I hope that somehow relieved the worried hearts of the people close to me especially the ones I grew up with and grew up to. It’s just that I hold high importance to effectivity and efficiency, and it’s complicated, or more correctly – complex and somewhat convoluted. And, it’s somewhat personal – someone close to me has doubted the faith. But that’s not what worries me. What worries me is that when people close to this person find out, they will try to convert this person using Religion and that would be very ineffective. I don’t even think it’s effective to convert them at all. Just let them have their way. The important thing is they are seeking for Truth and not just following their own wills. Who knows, maybe somewhere along the way they will have significant encounters…

To those whose minds are closed, I suggest you move on to other blogs. To those who are seeking, there are no answers here, only more questions. But to those who “seek truth deeply and widely enough, they find what they are looking for – enough pieces to begin to be able to fit them together, but never enough to complete the whole puzzle. In fact, the more pieces they find, the larger and more magnificent the puzzle becomes. Yet they are able to get glimpses…”

Okay, I’ll now continue on the assumption that only those with open minds are reading this part. (But, as I’ve heard somewhere, keep an open mind but not too much that your brains fall out.)

Hello my dear readers! The Theists, the Agnostics, the Atheists, and all those in between. Welcome. Before we continue, I would like to post again, for the reference of this discussion, Richard Dawkin’s “spectrum of belief”:

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’
  2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’
  3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. ‘I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.’
  4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. ‘God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.’
  5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. ‘I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.’
  6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’
  7. Strong atheist. ‘I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.’

This somehow reminds me of thumb wrestling. You lock the four fingers of your right hand with those of another person’s right hand, and your thumbs wrestle. You win if you are able to pin down your opponent’s thumb for a count of three. There won’t be a winner – or even a fight in the first place – if no one moves first by putting his thumb forward. However, charging your thumb risks its getting caught and pinned down, and so it’s often a waiting game.

Well, the atheists and the agnostics didn’t have long to wait, since the theists made the first move a long time ago. Many moves actually, and even more moves to cover the blunders. But now let’s try something different. I’ll let you state your position first. Not about God, silly. About the origin of the universe.  And, okay, about God.

If you would be so kind, please answer the two questions:

  1. What would you say about the origin of the universe?
  2. Could you please identify and briefly explain where you stand in Richard Dawkin’s “spectrum of belief”?

Okay, okay, out of Christian charity I’ll go first:

  1. I believe in the Big Bang theory. What happened before the Big Bang? I do not know.
  2. I am a Two and a Six:

To the question, Does the universe have a Creator? I am a TWO. And perhaps if I was a cosmologist dedicating my entire life to the study of the universe as a whole – its structure, origin and development – sooner or later after years of scientific research I would probably be leaning towards #1 – or #7, depending on what I’d find.

To the question, Was the universe created 6,000 years ago in seven days? I am a SIX, but only because I haven’t really studied in depth the evolution theory. I’ve read some articles about it, though, and I even bought a copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Too bad I misplaced it when I moved. Anyway, I believe in evolution. I am a TWO when it comes to evolution, and if I could travel back in time to sail with Darwin to the Galapagos and listen to his thoughts as he wrote his book, and then travel back to the present, state-of-the-art technology at my fingertips as I play with DNA…in no time I would probably be leaning towards #1. About evolution, that is. And that would put me at #7 in reference to the creation story.

Okay, now it’s your turn.

11
Aug
09

Duplicity Part Five: Simple vs. Simplistic

I don’t know whether to call it “splitting hairs”, but I tend to enjoy – well – splitting hairs. Now just to be sure, let us first try to define the idiomatic expression splitting hairs:

  • to quibble; to try to make petty distinctions. They don’t have any serious differences. They are just splitting hairs. Don’t waste time splitting hairs. Accept it the way it is.

  • to argue about whether details that are not important are exactly correct ‘She earns three times what I earn.’ ‘Actually, it’s more like two and a half.’ ‘Oh stop splitting hairs!’

Ah, petty distinctions. Details that are not important. Hmmm…if the details and distinctions that we try to argue about are petty and not important, then we are indeed splitting hairs. But if we are able to whittle things down to their very subtle but significant distinctions beneath the salient but misleading similarities, then we are not splitting hairs.

Now, are we splitting hairs here? How about we take an example from a previous post, the first (and my favorite) Duplicity article:

Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, while for others it’s out of sight, out of mind. Which do you believe? For me, I go with François de La Rochefoucauld: Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire.

So, are we splitting hairs? You be the judge. If you think we are, please move on to other articles now before I annoy you further.

(Now, since those who think that we are splitting hairs have already left this blog, we can now talk about certain potentially offensive things without them knowing.) Earlier I was tempted to put “simplistic” instead of “other” before the word “articles”, so it would have been written as “please move on to simplistic articles before I annoy you further”. Which is, of course, potentially offensive. But since those who would be offended by such remark had already left this blog a few sentences ago (they think we are splitting hairs, remember?), then I guess we have not offended anyone. Not yet, anyway.

Now when I said (or would have  said), “simplistic articles”, I did not mean simple articles. Because there are countless very simple yet very beautiful pieces out there, and they are not a bit simplistic. Just look at the words of Rochefoucauld above – a single sentence made of less than twenty words but it answers the question about distance and passion more clearly than volumes of books ever could. Definitely not simplistic. Okay, now before we go any further, let’s try to differentiate simple from simplistic:

Simple is an uncomplicated word which means ‘straightforward, easy,’ as in a simple solution. Compare a simplistic solution, which is too easy, i.e. it oversimplifies and fails to deal with the complexities of the situation.”

Ah, that’s a simple yet important differentiation. But then I found something even simpler and it has all the distinction I need:

Simplistic is failing to capture the essential complexity…”

The key word here is essential. And so we now have come full circle. We started by talking about splitting hairs – making petty distinctions. Then we arrived at simplistic – too simple to see the essential complexity. Indeed, we are definitely not splitting hairs here.

* * * * *

Oh, I forgot to write something about morality as requested by my nephew. Please forgive me, but that topic is so complex (there is a very long article in Wikipedia complete with countless cross references) and I still haven’t read much beyond the basics, much less experienced it (kidding). I do not want to make simplistic conclusions, you know – only simple yet profound observations. But perhaps I will try to write about it someday…when I have the answers whittled down to their simple yet essential cores…




Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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