Sunday, August 30, 2009

There are reasons to doubt that depression is merely a psychological malfunction. In this article at Scientific American, scientists discuss that depression might actually be a mental adaptation that brings certain cognitive advantages to the individual, albeit at significant costs.

Depression's Evolutionary Roots

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Please don't leave me
I always say how I don't need you
But it's always gonna come right back to this
Please, don't leave me

Friday, August 28, 2009

"If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon. But Napoleon envied Caeser, Caeser envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed. You cannot, therefore, get away from envy by means of success alone, for there will always be in history or legend some person even more successful than you are. You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself."

Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

X: I would like to disbelieve in a God who, if existed, would tolerate my disbelief.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'
Arthur C. Clarke

Cargo cults are religions based on an interesting interaction: the arrival of technologically advanced people into a primitive tribal society that has no way of understanding the technology of these foreigners, the "cargo", except in terms of divine wealth and magical thinking. These Cargo cults were documented in New Guinea and countries in South West Pacific Ocean, and sprang up independently in islands that were separated both geographically and culturally. The birth of cults was greatly enhanced during the WWII by the movement of soldiers into these areas.

Following are extracts from wikipedia:

"Members, leaders, and prophets of cargo cults maintain that the manufactured goods ("cargo") of the non-native culture have been created by spiritual means, such as through their deities and ancestors, and are intended for the local indigenous people, but that, unfairly, the foreigners have gained control of these objects through attraction of these material goods to themselves by malice or mistake.

Cargo cults thus focus on efforts to overcome what they perceive as the undue influence of the others attracting the goods, by conducting rituals imitating behavior they have observed among the holders of the desired wealth and presuming that their deities and ancestors will, at last, recognize their own people and send the cargo to them instead. Thus, a characteristic feature of cargo cults is the belief that spiritual agents will, at some future time, give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members. ...

Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the fetishization and attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw. Believers may stage "drills" and "marches" with sticks for rifles and use military-style insignia and national insignia painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers, thereby treating the activities of Western military personnel as rituals to be performed for the purpose of attracting the cargo. The cult members built these items and "facilities" in the belief that the structures would attract cargo intended to be sent to them."

The native man sees the white man doing things like talking on a radio, doing marches etc and then he sees the arrival of planes that bring food and other stuff out of nowhere, and in his limited intelligence, he assumes that the actions of white man are the religious rituals required by gods to send the cargo. So, the natives concludes that if he wants the cargo, he has to perform these rituals too.

The John Frum Cult

It is one of the world's last surviving cargo cult, based on the mysterious and perhaps mythical figure of American WWII soldier John Frum, who is seen as something of messiah. He promised to the people of Tanna a glorious second-coming, when he would return with wealth and abundant cargo for everyone. So, the people of Tanna wait for the return of John Frum and their cargo from the gods. Every 15 February, they arrange a religious ceremony to welcome him. So far he has not returned, but then, which religious messiah ever has?

When David Attenborough, the naturalist, asked a cult follower that it has been 19 years (at the time of interview) and Frum hasn't returned, so why does he continue to believe in him. That follower replied: "If you can wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ to come an' 'e no come, then i can wait more than nineteen years for John."

Touche! :)

Richard Dawkins derives four general lessons about the origin of religion from this contemporary model in The God Delusion:

1. A cult can spring up with amazing speed
2. The origination process rapidly covers its track, adding mythical elements to it. John Frum, if he existed, was alive during the last century, and yet it is now impossible for us to determine whether he is a real or fictional person.
3. Human psychology is suspectible to religion, indicated by the independent spread of such similar cults on separate islands.
4. Cargo cults are similar to older religions like Christianity, which also originated from local cults and Prophetic figures surrounded by legends.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sanza speme vivemo in disio.
Without hope we live in desire.

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between!" Richard Dawkins, on The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

Extracts from wikipedia:

* The concept of schizophrenia as a result of civilization has been developed further by psychologist Julian Jaynes in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind; he proposed that until the beginning of historic times, schizophrenia or a similar condition was the normal state of human consciousness. This would take the form of a "bicameral mind" where a normal state of low affect, suitable for routine activities, would be interrupted in moments of crisis by "mysterious voices" giving instructions, which early people characterized as interventions from the gods. [Source page]

* According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state would experience the world in a manner that has similarities to that of a modern-day schizophrenic. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands, and obey these voices without question; one would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se. Others have argued that this state of mind is recreated in members of cults. In his 1976 work The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes proposed that human brains existed in a bicameral state until as recently as 3000 years ago.... Jaynes argued that the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external "gods"—the commands which were so often recorded in ancient myths, legends and historical accounts; these commands were however emanating from individuals' own minds....

Jaynes theorized that a shift from bicameralism marked the beginning of introspection and consciousness as we know it today. According to Jaynes, this bicameral mentality began malfunctioning or "breaking down" during the second millennium BC.... Jaynes further argues that divination, prayer and oracles arose during this breakdown period, in an attempt to summon instructions from the "gods" whose voices could no longer be heard.... Leftovers of the bicameral mind today, according to Jaynes, include religion, hypnosis, possession, schizophrenia and the general sense of need for external authority in decision-making. [Source page]

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Me: God, I am being so rational! :(
Aati: Rational people don't fall in love. They fall in enjoyable tolerance.

Monday, August 10, 2009

...There was once a dream that was Happiness. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile....

My 22nd birthday (on 8 August) is past, and i feel so old and weary, like a Werner's Syndrome of the mind. There has been too much free radical damage, and too little repair.

I have seen life, about one-third of the average human life span. And i do not like what i see. I have seen the loneliness which gnaws at the heart of human condition. I have seen the upholding of traditions at the cost of individual happiness. I have seen the malice and darkness that resides in the soul. I have seen Eros being turned into vice. I have seen humans being born in chains. I have seen infinity withering away into decay. I have seen Hell being paved with good intentions. I have seen the volcanic anguish of a muffled scream. I have seen bitterness which permeats the endocardium. I have seen society invent insanity. I have seen the beauty in life being crucified on the cross of morality. I have seen chaos in a pair of eyes.

Is it not enough to make anyone feel old?
We are living in worlds of elaborate fiction...

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