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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ad Infinitum

I had this dream last night that I thought was genius when I woke up from it, but it turns out I woke up from it in the middle of the night, and so by the time it was morning I had forgotten exactly what was so brilliant about the dream. Still, I tried to drill the importance of the dream into my head while I brushed my teeth and flat-ironed my hair this morning. My dream didn't seem quite as impressive as it did in the middle of the night, but it still seemed like a good start to a good idea.

I remember learning that there are an infinite number of universes, each one existing inside someone's head. These seem to be parallel-type existences. The way I discovered this was that I had a dream within my dream about one of these universes that was alternate to my own reality. In my dream's dream, my boyfriend was someone else than my boyfriend. In fact, far from being graduated adults living together, we were classmates in high school, and he hardly had any interest in me. I think the me in my dream's dream wouldn't have cared that this guy didn't take an interest if it weren't for the fact that the real me was inside her head, remembering how things could have been between this boy and I. That sentence was really confusing. What I mean to say is that I had taken over the me in this other universe that I dreamed. The me who was in my first dream was the real me, and the me in the dream within a dream was taken over by the real me from the first dream, thus providing the consciousness of the alternate universe. That doesn't make much more sense, but I tried. I tried also explaining the two existences to my classmate; I tried to tell him how things were different in our other life. But as you see that I have a hard time explaining such things, I'm sure I wasn't very convincing.

After awakening from the dream within a dream, I recall talking with a science guy about what happened. He explained to me that there are an infinite number of existences, that inside my brain lives another existence in which I exist, and that inside the me inside my dream within a dream lived another existence, and that I, in turn, was the existence inside another me's brain in a realm outside the realm in which I exist, and that this goes on infinitely in both directions. All this had something to do with string theory.

Then I remember asking the science guy whether this was a large infinity or a small infinity, upon which the science guy asked what I meant. I explained that if there was only one existence inside my head, and inside that head another, and another inside that head and so on ad infinitum, that that would be a relatively small infinity in comparison to an infinity in which there were multiple, hundreds, thousands, maybe even an infinite number of existences inside my head, and that inside each of these were also an infinite or extremely large number of other existences. So this got me thinking about how there could be different sizes of infinity, which seems in itself to be a paradox. After all, infinity is supposed to be infinitely large, right? But doesn't it seem that the web-like type of infinity would be much larger than the linear type of infinity? If we were to draw the infinities, it seems like the linear infinity is two-dimensional, or bi-directional in structure, whereas the web infinity has depth and height in multiple, infinite directions. Which makes web infinity seem just so much infinitely larger than the linear infinity; the whole concept rather blows my mind, and is clearly difficult for me to define. Smart people say that if you can't state something simply, then you don't really understand it, and unfortunately, those smart people are right.

Well, I felt like I was onto a breakthrough, but now I'm lost.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

The Jill Caroll Story

I've been reading about Jill Carroll during my downtime at work, and I'm quite moved by the story.

For all who don't know, Jill Carroll is an American freelance reporter who was working in Iraq when she was abducted last January by Iraqi insurgents. She was held captive for 3 months before finally being released. Jill tells her entire story on Yahoo! News in 10 or so rather lengthy parts.

As far as kidnappings by religious extremists go, this one went rather well. Jill was not tortured, starved, or killed, but was released relatively unscathed. I say relatively because it's clear when reading Jill's story that she was tormented. Her freedom was taken from her for a quarter of a year, and I can only imagine the kind of damage that an experience like that could do to one's psyche.

Her story is moving because it gives an inside look into the character of the Iraqi insurgents, and it is sad to see how human they are, and yet how deluded. It is touching to get sort of a human-level view of Iraq, instead of the detached video-game view we see on TV. When there is war, there must be detachment; otherwise the terror of it all would sink in too well.

I'll be honest, I avoid hearing anything about Iraq, because I find it too surreal, and too depressing if I recognize the reality. I am frustrated by our government and the lies we have been fed. I am frustrated that we got ourselves into this in the first place and that we can't just leave now that we're in it. Will we ever truly be able to leave, I wonder? Will fundamentalist Muslims ever stop hating us? Will we ever stop trying to make everyone like us? Will any of it ever end?

I think about Johnny, a marine friend of mine who was stationed in Iraq until recently. Some of the places that Jill writes about in her story are places that I recognize from Johnny's letters. Jill tells how many times American soldiers would be so close to where she was being held. I wonder if Johnny was looking for her. I wonder what other terrors he might have faced.

My heart goes out to Jill and to Johnny, and to the U.S. marines who have served and are serving and will serve abroad, and to the Iraqi people.

May we eventually find peace.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

No brother, I can't spare a dime

I'm sick of all the fucking bums around town. I cant have a lunch break without having money solicited from me by at least one bum, and often two or even three bums. I almost always have some change in my pocket and a couple dollars in my wallet, but I always refuse to share my money with the bums. There is no reason for me to give my money, which I work for, to these people. What the hell do these people do to warrant them being given money? They certainly don't make the city any prettier or better-smelling.

I like to take my lunch in the gallivan plaza downtown during the warm season, but it seems that its becoming more and more of a hub for bums to hang out in, and I have to share what used to be a rather peaceful environment with the slum of the earth.

Its rather interesting to note how many bums sleep in the day time. I wonder what they do at night?

I believe that everybody has their prejudices against some people. I happen to hate people who don't or cant do anything for themselves. They are either fucking lazy or fucking incompetent. I even hate the people who cant do anything for themselves because of some impairment, be it physical, mental, or whatever. I concede that its maybe not fair to hate people who seriously don't have their faculties together in order to make a life for themselves through no fault of their own, but I still feel that way. At least I'm honest about it.

Here's what I think should be done with all the bums: they should be rounded up and shipped out into the middle of nowhere, say Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Central Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, or the wasteland-like, where they will live on reservations and have to figure out a different way to exist besides freeloading off of society.

Probably what would happen is that they would all perish. And frankly, that's fine by me. Its the survival of the fittest's way.

Kein Geld für euch, faule Penners!

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Treatise on Belief: To Thine Own Self Be True

I don't know much about the religious convictions of my family and how they were reached. It's just one of those things we never really talked about in my family. I think my dad has been an atheist all of my life, and perhaps longer than that. My mom doesn't believe in Mormonism as far as I know, but she believes in a god or force in the universe, and purpose in life. She attends church for the social aspect. My brother Zac is an atheist, and I think my brother Alden probably is too, but really, it's just one of those things we don't talk too much about in my family.

Growing up, my parents wanted Zac and I to make up our own minds about religion. They introduced us to Mormonism because that is the culture they themselves grew up in. They kept a close eye on what we were being taught, though. When my brother, at nine years old, came home from Sunday school talking about feeling guilty, my parents decided to pull him out of Sunday school and to not have me baptized in the church. They did not think it was healthy to raise children to have morally guilty feelings at nine years old. Guilt is prevalent in Mormon culture. If you can manage to reach adulthood in Mormonism without having a low self-esteem and plenty of guilt, then you are a strong person.

When I was eight, I told my parents I wanted to be baptized. They asked me if it was my own choice, and I told them it was. And it really was my own choice, too, although it was influenced by the fact that all my friends were being baptized around that time. And so I was baptized on my ninth birthday. My parents let me be baptized despite what happened with Zac and despite my dad's atheism. Mormonism tends to try to prevent its followers from thinking too critically. But my dad was not about to try to impress his beliefs on me without allowing me to think for myself, and that I appreciate.

I was active in the church until I turned 16, when my activity started to wane and my doubts started to grow. This was a period of what a lot of ex-mos like to call "cognitive dissonance". The claims of Mormonism just didn't seem to make sense to me. My belief in the church was in serious doubt. When I turned 17, I began a major identity crisis in light of the death of a close friend. For a long while I was angry. I cursed god for taking my friend from me.

After awhile, I began to question the existence of god. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense that god was a human creation, not the other way around. There is a lot we don't know about the world and the way it works, and why we're here and how we got here and what will happen to us when we die. It is human nature to fear the unknown. So we created god to explain what we can't yet explain otherwise. Some things that used to be attributed to god or supernatural forces now have scientific explanations. But for the big questions that we may never answer, god is still a convenient explanation. Keep in mind when I say god, I'm not necessarily talking about the Christian version. I'm talking about any supernatural means for giving explanation or meaning to our existence.

I grew into an agnostic at 18, and unofficially denounced my Mormonism. During my first year of college and some time in a course on the world's religions, I found that I philosophically connected with Buddhism to a large extent, but I did not believe in a spirit separate from the body, and I did not believe in a supernatural being that may be classified as a god. I began to explain to people that I was agnostic with atheistic tendencies, in that I did not believe it possible to prove one way or another the existence of god, thus my agnosticism, but that I personally believed god does not exist, thus my atheism. But I began to feel that the atheism portion is the crux of what I believe. Not what I know, mind, but what I believe. Thus today I simply call myself atheist.

After my first year of college, I decided that I wanted to officially resign as a member of the Mormon church, for my own sake of closure and personal integrity. But seeing how this is a rather ramificated (yes, this is my own coinage) type of denunciation, I decided I ought to think carefully about this decision and do some research. I joined an exmormon mailing list, in which I sought support from others who had done the same thing as I was doing. It's always nice to know you aren't alone. Many claims about the Mormon church were brought to my attention and I began to collect documentation regarding these claims. After much study of the documentation, I became convinced of my conviction that the Mormon church is based on false claims. The particulars are not so much important, since I don't care to try to convince anyone of my convictions, and anyway, all the information is readily accessible for those who really want to see it.

Having decided to go through with my resignation, I drafted two letters: one to the bishop of my local ward requesting that my membership status be rescinded, and one to my parents expressing my atheism and decision to leave the church. I didn't feel like this would be an issue with my parents, of course, but I felt my family deserved to know. I happened to visit my parents the same day they received the letter. I sat on the sofa as my dad read the letter, and when he finished, he came over and kissed me on the forehead. Not being a very affectionate family, it meant something for him to do this. It meant that he was proud of me. I think it must have been tough for my father to watch me in the church all those years and to hold his tongue regarding his own beliefs, but he was pleased that I got there on my own, and so was I. I have been much happier in life ever since.

It is my own personal feeling that god doesn't exist. This makes the most sense and the least cognitive dissonance to me. To ME. I emphasize, to me. Since my loss of faith, I have recognized that faith is important to others, that it makes them happy, gives them hope, and purpose in life. For me it does not do these things, but serves to cast doubt on my integrity to myself. And I must be true to myself. I also believe, though, that others must be true to themselves. Do I think they are wrong? Of course I do. The fact that I believe something is true means that I must believe the alternatives are wrong, as it is with everyone else who holds convictions true. But I don't think other people ought to adopt my way of thinking without getting there on their own. And if they never do, as long as they are happy in what they believe, then I feel fine that they believe as they do. I do not want others to encroach on my right to believe as I do, and I wouldn't want to do the same to others.

I guess the real question now is whether having this attitude means I have a superiority complex. I concede the possibility. I am rather egocentric, and have recognized this in myself for many years. I am the most important person in my life. And I believe this is the way things should be; after all, I'm the only person I have to live with for my entire life, therefore I ought to look out for my own needs above the needs of others, and I ought to be happy with myself. Selfish? Yeah, maybe. But I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing.

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