Monday, 21 March 2011

Hedging your supernatural bets

GM been a bit quiet lately, you are (probably not) wondering? Been busy. Having a break now, though.

Living in foreign parts once, I was once shown round a huge Hindu temple by two Chinese friends. A bell went, and some sort of ritual developed up front. My Chinese friends put their palms together, closed their eyes and bowed. I said "I thought Hinduism was a matter of culture and being born into it? Can you convert to it? Do you believe in it?" I was fascinated.

Friend opened one eye and said. "I'm not a Hindu, but ... well, you never know..."

Ultimate perhapsists.

Today, and for a couple of weeks Gloria is taking herself and her blog off to foreign parts, inhabited by a lot of Chinese perhapsists. Daresay she'll visit a temple or two. Maybe she'll light a joss stick, just in never know.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Tsunamis, disasters, happiness

Apologies if you've heard this legend before. I got it from Matthieu Ricard's writings on "Happiness." Sorry also about the historical male chauvinism; a more PC telling is just too cumbersome.

Long ago, the son of a king of Persia was raised alongside the son of the king's senior advisor, who became his greatest friend. When the prince ascended to the throne he asked his friend to write a history of men and the world so he could learn from it how best to act. His friend went away to consult historians and scholars, sages and wise men.

Five years later he re-appeared in triumph with thirty-six volumes relating the entire history of the world, from creation to the young king's accession. "Thirty-six volumes!" cried the king. "How will I ever find the time to read them? I've so much to do running my kingdom. Please, my dear friend, condense your work for me." The historian bowed, and went back to work on his history of men and the world.

Two years later the king's friend sought out the king; he had a ten-volume version. The king was away at war with his enemies, and his friend eventually found him on a mountain top in the desert, directing the battle. "This battle decides the fate of our kingdom. How can I find the time to read ten volumes? Please, old friend, abridge your history even more."

The king's friend bowed, went away and spent three years writing a single volume that accurately summarised his history of the world. When he returned to court, the king said "You're lucky, having the time to sit and think and write in peace and quiet. Whilst you've been doing that, I've been working on taxes and how to collect them. Reduce the pages of your history tenfold, and I'll spend an evening digesting them."

Two years later, the work was completed. But when his old friend the historian returned, the king was bedridden, and in terrible pain. His friend was himself now a white-haired, wrinkled elder. "Well?" said the king with his dying breath. "The history of men - what is it?"
The historian gazed steadily at the king as he died, and said:

"They suffer, Your Majesty."

In the light of this week's news, I find it pretty hard to disagree; all that can be said is that somehow also, around and in between the suffering, we can, in various ways, find contentment and equilibrium, endurance and resilience, and at least the possibility of experiencing happiness.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New post-mortem technique adrift in euphemisms?

"So far, the technique has been tested on 33 deceased individuals."
(BBC News website)

So why don't they test it on some dead people? Or even - bodies? Breaking news for the BBC to catch - a body isn't an individual, i.e. a person. It's what a person leaves behind, or it's the end of a person, depending on your beliefs. We can and should treat it with respect, show compassion to those who loved the person, and all the other attitudes that we exhibit post-mortem (in every sense) but we also need to describe it accurately. Euphemisms can help us take care of each other, but they do so at the risk of confusing our view of the world.

We need clear language to help us come to terms with and respect our mortality, just as we need an end to the fog of euphemisms used during modern conflicts if we are to understand what happens when we go to war. What happens as a result of "surgical air strikes" (i.e. bombing) is "deceased individuals" (i.e. the bodies of people who've been killed.)

vide, if you haven't already, George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language." Dated contextual details, but still true. Or truer than ever.

Sorry to get the morning off to a slightly bleak start, but really, BBC, get a bloody grip on your language.