Archive for September, 2009


Our Last Summer

We had a drink in each café
And you, you talked of politics, philosophy
And I smiled like Mona Lisa…

That was from ABBA’s Our Last Summer, a song which tells of a woman’s precious memories of Paris a long time ago. Wow, imagine having a drink in each café – that’s practically bar hopping – with someone you really like, and then you talk about politics, philosophy and stuff. Alcohol loosens the tongue and the conversation unfolds naturally. Looking at her, you know from the intensity of her gaze that she is listening to every word you say, and from her quiet smile you can see that she likes what she’s hearing.

I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh yes, those crazy years, that was the time


Ah, the ‘immortality’ of youth. Living for the present, where each passing moment is all that matters. Carpe diem!

But underneath we had a fear of flying
Of getting old, a fear of slowly dying
We took the chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

Imagine the feeling when you know in your heart that you may never get this happy again. When you connect with somebody at an extraordinary level. When it seems that together you can take on the world. When you could even say something as cheesy as, “I could die this moment because this is the closest to Heaven that I’ll ever get.” And no matter what happens afterward, this moment will be your own happy ending.

And now you’re working in a bank
The family man, a football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Yet you’re the hero of my dreams


Ah, so they didn’t end up together after all. But this only makes that ‘last summer’ all the more priceless, because it will never happen again – except in her memory, where it is immortalized, frozen in time.

And that is called Life.

I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine,
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

inner minds


Among Great Minds: A Humbling Experience

The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. – INTJ Reb

Being in the presence of minds vastly greater than our own can be a rather disconcerting experience, especially if it comes to the point where there is nothing left for you to say other than what has already been said. I’m not talking about technical subjects like engineering and math because it takes years to study those, nor of the latest developments in science because one can easily google them. I’m talking about philosophy.

While science derives facts based on observation and math in studying the physical/natural world, in philosophy facts are based on pure logic to understand existence in relation to less tangible things such as beauty, emotions, and the supernatural. (Source:

Ah, logic. To grasp the unobservable, whittle it down to bite-size chunks and then turn it into a meal digestible by the mind. Here the playing field is leveled because education and acquired knowledge do not count, and all that matters is pure brain power. And here I am greatly humbled by minds that already have logical answers to questions I haven’t even asked.

I admit that I am a proud person in matters concerning intellect. I try to never lose an argument by not taking a stand that cannot be defended while manipulating my opponent into taking an extreme position that would saddle them with the burden of proof. I always play it safe by sticking only to what we ‘know’ and pointing out what we don’t.  I always say that science can only deal with theories that are testable, and scientific theories never become facts.

So when debating with an atheist about the existence of God, while I am a believer I sometimes say that we really don’t know. There is evidence both for and against the existence of a Creator, but there is no proof for either position. Evidence causes us to believe; proof causes us to know. Science, except perhaps in the field of mathematics, cannot really ‘prove’ anything – science can only disprove.

And I guess here lies the point where the atheists and deists part ways. While both rely on science, logic, and reason instead of authority, tradition, or dogma as bases for the formation of their beliefs (note: beliefs, not knowledge), when science can no longer gather the necessary empirical data because such data is sitting at the other side of the space-time boundary, philosophy comes in. However, beliefs based on philosophy are generally ‘inferior’ to beliefs based on science. But for as long as logic and reason are applied, these beliefs can hardly be called irrational. And yeah, atheists (even the ‘weak atheists’ who do not say that they ‘believe there is no God’ but rather that they simply ‘don’t believe in God’) do have a belief too: that either the universe had always existed eternally or was an accident in nature. Now this belief is definitely not based on empirical evidence but rather on…come to think of it, what is the basis of this atheist belief?

This ‘play-safe’ attitude of mine is sometimes the very thing that limits my mind from expanding into uncharted territories, especially when my intellectual pride is at stake. I am quite ashamed of this and I envy people who are willing to stick out their necks, like this someone who wrote in a forum:

The only reason I’m not an atheist is the unverifiable and unjustifiable and unreasonable reason that I’ve experienced God (or thought I have as some of you might want to put it). There’s no proving it – I can’t – but it’s what I know to be true. And to not believe will be to lie to myself. (Source:


I had written something similar to this before (I called it ‘Grace’), but that was in this blog and not in a forum. Perhaps later on when I’m more ‘intellectually mature’ I’ll take the plunge into the physically unknowable, where discussions are based on pure logic, and where I have to say the things I ‘believe’ (not ‘know’) and defend them – along with my pride.

Some minds do not want to wander into things that are ‘untestable with current proven instrumentation’. Others are capable of going to those ‘untestable’ areas, and still maintaining a discipline that studies ‘physical fact’. When you go into an area that is ‘untestable’ (I don’t consider logic a valid test, either, as it is a man made construct, and unproven at the extremes of experience, just as is ‘time’), you may find that the ‘minds that will not wander and do not want to conceive of something more’ violently and/or vociferously disagree; they have accepted and clung to ‘I don’t want to deal with that, so here’s where I stand’. There are those that cling to ‘logic’ as their last bastion of consideration, as well. Now, their stance upon the ‘proven’ is like religion to them, and we know how controversial religion can be.


The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. (Source:, posted by INTJ Reb)

inner minds


Cults Part Two: Why Even Smart People Fall Prey

In my previous article I posted in length Scott Peck’s characteristics of a cult which gave the word a broader meaning. Now let’s try to answer the question: Why do even smart people fall prey to the lies and manipulations of a charismatic cult leader?

Before we proceed, I must give the same warning I gave in Part I:

This may be a sensitive topic depending on the reader’s religious membership. I did not say ‘religious views’ because if the reader has any real views of his/her own not based on dogma, this is actually a very enlightening article. Moreover, as much as this is my personal blog and I am like a god here who can say anything he wants, I am a kind and loving god to my readers and so I’ll try to write this as gently albeit objectively as possible so as not to offend anyone. Of course, I’m not omnipotent so please forgive any shortcomings.

According to Scott Peck, the following are some of the things to watch out for in an organization:

1.) A living, self-appointed leader generally esteemed as God’s representative on Earth having the sole right to interpret the scripture, who commits serious ethical violations like preaching against wealth yet buys expensive cars – with the cult members’ money.

2.) The use of controlling techniques like hell- and salvation-based fear, where independent thinking and questioning of any sort are highly discouraged or actively suppressed

3.) Social and physical isolation – a sharp distinction is drawn between members and those outside the cult, and there is pervasive distrust for everyone except the “saved” cult members

4.) Extremist or fanatical behavior like compulsively and constantly trying to convert everyone by threatening them with eternal damnation

5.) Management secrecy – refusal to produce financial records and unethical fund raising using front groups

There are more extreme examples in Part I, and although there are no black and white answers or exact gauges, I guess the more of these characteristics are present in an organization, the more likely it is a cult. The bottom line is that people are being manipulated to the excessive financial and political advantage of the leader.

So why do even smart people fall prey? Growing up in predominantly religious environments, a lot of people fear and obey God without question lest they be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire where their souls will burn for all eternity while their family and friends rejoice and feast in Paradise. The punishment is just too great to risk it. So when someone who looks decent and credible enough claims to be a special messenger from God, a lot of people do not dare to question. Especially if he assures them of salvation from Eternal Hell.

The fact that this ‘messenger’ is self-appointed without any official endorsement from God Himself escapes even the supposedly smart people and they often believe this ‘representative’ when he says that God ‘revealed’ something to him.

Here is what the deists have to say about ‘revelation’:

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. (

Moreover, can anyone imagine a loving and merciful God who would punish His own creation for the imperfections He Himself caused? If a boy makes a kite that won’t fly, probably the most he will do is throw it away and then make another. He will not burn it – much less for all eternity. Well a sadistic kid with the makings of a sociopath might do that, but is that what God is supposed to be – a sadist?

Sadly, many still fall for these self-appointed ‘representatives’ and give up or at least suspend their reason in favor of blind faith because, as the ‘messengers’ say, that’s the ‘order of God’. Sadder still, these ‘appointed ones’ talk about a Kingdom of God in Heaven while building their own material kingdoms here on Earth – using their members’ money of course. inner minds


Cults: Why Even Smart People Fall Prey

Warning: This may be a sensitive topic depending on the reader’s religious membership. I did not say ‘religious views’ because if the reader has any real views of his/her own not based on dogma, this is actually a very enlightening article. Moreover, as much as this is my personal blog and I am like a god here who can say anything he wants, I am a kind and loving god to my readers and so I’ll try to write this as gently albeit objectively as possible so as not to offend anyone. Of course, I’m not omnipotent so please forgive any shortcomings.

First things first. To avoid confusion from mere semantics, let us try to define the word ‘cult’. While there are different, often contradicting meanings (you can google all you want), for the purpose of this article I will be using M. Scott Peck’s ‘characteristics of a cult’ from his book Further Along The Road Less Traveled. I wanted to abridge it by taking out the less important parts but it turns out I can’t do that without compromising neutrality – I told you I wasn’t omnipotent. But for your convenience I highlighted key phrases so you can just scan through the whole thing:

1.) Having a charismatic leader demanding total authority. Destructive religious groups almost invariably center around a living, self-appointed leader. This leader is generally esteemed as God’s representative on Earth, as God Himself, or as one who has the sole right to interpret the scripture of an established religion. The cult doctrine is based on his revelations or ideology. Because of his position of divine enlightenment, the cult leader exercises tremendous, and often absolute, authority over his followers. Individual cult members surrender their wills and their lives to the responsibility and authority of the leader. Additionally, since no large organization can be run by one individual, the cult leader generally has a “revered inner circle” or a group of loyal helpers appointed by the leader, who, to a lesser degree, share the prestige and power of the cult leader. Also, there are often serious ethical violations committed by the cult leader: the leader claims to be chaste and then impregnates a follower, the leader preaches against drugs or wealth yet buys expensive cars — and often drugs — with the cult members’ money. It is important to note, however, that it is not the mere presence of a leader that differentiates destructive cults from non-destructive religious groups; rather, it is the fact that this leader is plagued by ethical questions and demands total authority over his followers. This authority is derived through practicing “brain washing” techniques, isolating the cult followers, demanding fanatical practices, and using deception.

2.) The Use of “Controlling” Techniques. A large part of what makes a cult “destructive” is its use of fear or guilt-based “mind control” techniques. In order to indoctrinate and reinforce the follower, various forms of physical deprivation, social and physical isolation techniques, hell and salvation-based fear techniques and, most commonly, guilt-based, ritualistic confession of sins is used. In the cult environment, this confession goes far beyond its normal religious function. A follower’s thoughts are no longer his or her own — every past and previous thought and action now becomes the property of the group. The group and its leaders use this information — extracted in long confession sessions — to manipulate and shame the individual. Also, critical thinking and views that differ from those of the group are highly discouraged or actively suppressed and, as a general rule, the cult community does not permit questioning of any sort. The net result of these controlling techniques is a shift in the followers’ locus of control and responsibility. Followers lose the ability to think and act independently, and develop a tremendous and harmful dependency upon the cult group and its leader.

3.) Social and Physical Isolation. Cult members normally live in some form of isolation from the greater society. Almost invariably, cult members experience some form of social isolation — i.e. they have very little meaningful interaction with non-cult members. This occurs in large part because virtually all of their time, effort, and finances are devoted to the cult and its leader, leaving little time for family, old friends, and their jobs. A sharp we/they distinction is drawn between members and those outside the cult, and a pervasive distrust for everyone except the “saved” cult members is fostered by the community. Though not quite as common, destructive cults often require physical isolation as well. Cult members live in communes, and often cannot leave without permission. This serves to further isolate the cult member from those who would support his or her original belief system.

4.) Extremist or Fanatical Behavior. One of the true defining characteristics of a destructive cult is its pervasive fanaticism — i.e. when a behavior or practice that is not necessarily harmful (such as confession) is taken to a tremendous and unhealthy extreme. Members often neglect or abandon their families, jobs, schools, possessions, and lives to protect the cult leader and community. One area where unhealthy excess is clear is in the dangerous or ascetic rituals of a destructive religious group. Excessive praying, chanting, fasting, and sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, exhaustion, illness, and eating disorders. Other dangerous rituals such as snake handling can prove lethal. A second area where fanaticism appears is in the way believers “witness” their beliefs and attempt to convert new followers. The believers are compulsively and constantly witnessing beliefs to everyone, often in an extreme or confrontational way. This aggressive, high-pressure proselytizing can involve door-to-door recruiting, daily calls to potential converts, or threats of eternal damnation. A final area where cults manifest an unhealthy excess is in the endorsement of various forms of violence when used for or by the cult. This can translate into a stock-piling of arms in Waco Texas, or a “spare the rod, spoil the child” abusive mentality in Jonestown.

5.) Secrecy and Deception. Another part of what makes cults destructive forces in peoples lives is the fact that the followers are often unaware of certain cult activities, or are blatantly being deceived. Cult leaders often issue a “Sicilian Code of Silence” about their unethical conduct. Also, there is often “secret doctrine” reserved only for cult members, and levels of “secret doctrine” as one goes up the hierarchy of leaders within the cult structure. Destructive cults are often characterized by financial secrecy and deception as well, including the selling of indulgences, unethical fund raising, and a refusal to produce financial records. Additionally, “miracles” are often staged at “revivals,” in the form of phony faith-healings. Finally, cults such as the Boston Church operate using “front groups” — subsidiary groups which use a different name, but in reality are a part of the same destructive group. Cults often use this method to penetrate college campuses.

Okay, now we have a rough idea of what a cult is. While it doesn’t say that all of the above must be present, it’s only logical to presume that the more of these characteristics a certain organization has, the more likely it is to be a cult.

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Life is a Journey, Character is a Destination

Former US president Bill Clinton was once quoted saying, “Character is a journey, not a destination”, to which Newsweek writer Joe Klein responded, “No, life is a journey; character is a destination reached by the actions of a life.”

Clinton was criticized that his word was no good. But let us forget about Clinton for a while and focus instead on the importance of a man’s word. Imagine a man whose word is always taken with a grain of salt, with whom people wouldn’t make a deal unless it is covered by legal documentation and financial security. It would be very difficult for that man to do business.

In my industry, trading activity amounting to millions takes place everyday, and oftentimes the only contract is the verbal agreement through phone and there isn’t even a text message for confirmation and record purposes. Since the market is eternally fluctuating, traders also lose millions in a single deal and it is often very tempting to default from a losing contract because the other party doesn’t have anything to legally enforce it. Fortunately, our industry is very tight, and once a player loses his reputation with another trader, he will really have a problem doing business with everyone else.

One of my closest friends remarked that this very nature of the industry in which I belong significantly shaped my attitude to the point that it trickled down to the way I handle my personal relationships and social dealings. I think she’s right, and while a lot of people might consider my businesslike attitude as a good thing, my friend told me that it takes out the  spontaneity, the humanity, the fun. She further said that a man should not treat a romantic relationship like a business contract, because for the woman there will always be that fine print at the bottom of the page that the man failed to read.

I think she has a point. But thankfully, not all women are like that. And I really believe that a woman of integrity, no matter how fickle minded she may be at times, will always show her true unchanging character.


Golden Slumbers

Once there was a way to get back homeward/ Once there was a way to get back home/ Sleep pretty darling do not cry/ And I will sing a lullabye/ Golden slumbers fill your eyes/ Smiles awake you when you rise/ Sleep pretty darling do not cry/ And I will sing a lullabye

I think a lot of people love this song, but do we know exactly what it means? If you google it, you’ll find that Golden Slumbers is Paul McCartney’s version of the poem Cradle Song by Thomas Dekker and that he wrote it as a lullabye to himself because he misses his mom. Paul was trying to comfort himself the way his mother used to comfort him. How poignant. How sad.

Once there was a way to get back home.

Ah, Home. Whether for good or bad, the home is probably the most significant place that shaped our lives.  Scott Peck once wrote that, surprisingly, those who live in relatively happy homes are often the ones eager to explore the world and see other places while those who grew up in oppressive homes tend to be reluctant of getting out. The reason, he explains, is that when a child is born into a happy home, he/she forms a belief that the world is a happy and safe place that one should see. But for the child born into a cruel home, the world is a cruel place where harm is everywhere out to get you anytime, and so the child would rather stay at home because at least the hurts have a predictable pattern there and one can learn to get used to these hurts.

I remember reading somewhere that if the barn is on fire, the horses mysteriously run into the barn instead of away from it. One of the explanations the experts in animal behavior came up with is that the horses have known the barn as a warm safe place they call home. A fire naturally causes alarm and distress among the horses, and so they go to the place they consider their sanctuary, even if it is the very thing on fire.

Ah, the call of home. Whether by nature or nurture, the force is undeniable. Unfortunately, while perhaps most of us consider Home as the happiest place on earth that one should always return to, for quite a few it is the saddest, and if they eventually manage to get out, they would never want to go back.

While I feel for those who never had a happy home, I consider myself blessed for having been brought up in a home where, to borrow Scott Peck’s words, discipline and love gave me the eyes to see Grace. And so no matter where my feet may take me, I know my heart will always sing, Once there was a way to get back homeward… inner minds


Women Are Irrational, Men Are Insensitive

Common scenario: A woman asks her man if he wants to grab a pizza. The man is full, so he simply says, “Nah”. Big mistake. For the ladies, although you already know why, please allow me to educate your men and maybe you’ll thank me later.

When a woman ‘asks’ if we want to do something – eat, drink, watch a movie – she’s actually saying that she wants to. So if we curtly albeit innocently say no, she will take this as a direct rejection. And so the seeds of a fight will have been planted.

Now some might protest that if the woman really wants something, why can’t she just say it straight? That way, the loving man would gladly eat a slice of pizza without regretting over the extra calories for as long as he can grant his beloved’s pleasure.

Why do women have to talk in riddles that often cause misunderstanding? Why do women have to be so irrational? Ah, because women use something other than words to communicate. Something much more powerful and efficient. The slightest change in the tone of voice or the way the eyebrows arch could carry more information in a second than several sentences in a minute. Of course, it takes a woman’s keen sensitivity to detect them. Unfortunately, they often also expect us men to have same mutant-level sensitivity bordering on telepathy. So when a woman ‘asks’ us if we want to go out for pizza, she’s assuming that we understand what she’s really saying.

While men complain about women being irrational, women get mad at men for being insensitive.

But what if we try developing our own sensitivity? Although a lot of men are not very comfortable with the idea of adopting this female trait because it might lessen their masculinity, being a little sensitive but still logical and rational could lead to our great advantage over those testosterone-pumped chest-thumping cavemen in winning our mate.

As for the ladies, we would really appreciate if once in a while you try to talk in our normal language so we can take a break from reading your minds with ever word you say, considering that when we are stressed or tired or hung over, our senses are dulled. inner minds

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

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