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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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When you won’t phone mom…

September 28th, 2014 · Posted by Hugo · 1 Comment

Back in my pre-teen years (I was somewhere between 10 and 12 years old), I was cycling home from school in the Netherlands. Misjudging a maneuver to dodge a pole on a sidewalk, next to a speed bump. Swing left a bit onto the speed bump, swing right back onto the sidewalk. (Cycling next to a friend on the cycle path meant swinging right wasn’t an option.) Returning to the sidewalk a little bit too late meant the speed bump had already started dropping. I broadsided the edge with my wheel, and went down.

Somehow, I seem to have landed on one of my two front teeth: I can’t remember any other injuries anymore, but I broke the tooth. (It exposed a nerve, but didn’t damage it, so no pain from that as far as I can recall, but there was a piece of tooth that I could pick up and take home with me.) As soon as I got home, I made a phone call – because I felt the need to talk to one of my parents about it.

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Religions are not “Viruses of the Mind”

August 21st, 2014 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Sue Blackmore was a champion of the idea that religions are “memeplexes” that act purely in their own self-interest, to the detriment of the population whose minds they infect. She wrote a couple of books on the topic, to explore the extend in which this theory could be true.

I recently stumbled on an article she wrote in 2010, published in The Guardian: Why I no longer believe religion is a virus of the mind. In it, she mentions all the benefits religions have for humans – it is “biologically adaptive”, in the sense that it actually benefits the genes too: religion may lead to happier, healthier lives, but most importantly (from a biologically adaptive perspective), religious people have far more children than non-religious people.

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We all practice Belief, and it Matters

August 10th, 2014 · Posted by Hugo · 4 Comments

Daniel Dennett famously criticized “belief in belief” in the past: he pointed out that there are many things that many of us no longer believe, but that we still believe it to be good to believe in those things. Consider a series on The Guardian on the question of Should we believe in belief?

But are things really that simple? The Dennett position can be criticised on two grounds. The first is that societies do need myths, as indeed do individuals. Take away their organising beliefs about their purpose in the world and both individuals and societies disintegrate: the belief that societies can function without myths, or rather that they should and will in the enlightened future, is itself a myth, and not a very helpful one.

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Thanksgiving, saying grace, and “dominion” over other lives

November 28th, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Today is Thanksgiving in America. From what I read, this holiday is also celebrated in a secular manner, though it has its roots in religious and cultural traditions.

I think this aspect of our traditions is beautiful and valuable. Similarly I have wondered about the benefits of the tradition of “saying grace” at every mealtime. It is a practice that could train our perspectives towards being more thankful of what we have in life, in contrast with having some “sense of entitlement” and being critical when things aren’t exactly the way you want them.

Permit me to quote the entire intro section of Wikipedia’s entry on Grace (prayer), because each paragraph had something useful in it, in the context of what I’m aiming for with this post:
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Faith and Unbelief in the context of Zen Buddhism?

November 23rd, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · 2 Comments

Plum Village in France is a Buddhist meditation center. I stumbled over a post titled 51 Mental Formations which is simply a set of lists: “Universals”, “Particulars”, “Wholesome”, “Unwholesome” and “Indeterminate” mental formations. Being tagged with “trancription”, my guess is that it is material covered in a talk by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh?

What particularly caught my attention this evening, was that it lists “unbelief” and “lack of faith” as unwholesome – something heard regularly and strongly within fundamentalist Christian circles as well. What it provides, for me, is another example of the breadth of meaning of “faith”, and the meaning of “unbelief”, which is surely at odds with the fundamentalist Christian stereotype for those concepts.

I truly believe to fully appreciate the value and meaning of faith to humanity, and the reasons why “unbelief” references a concept that is harmful to a human, it is necessary to consider the greater diversity of human spirituality and the value it brings to our lives. And for context, I consider humanism to be relevant to this discussion, also a spiritual tradition of sorts.

I don’t have much to add at this point, I’m effectively saving the link for future reference. But simply to “go mediate” on the mental formations mentioned, I suspect, may already provide some insights.

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Contemplating Dust

September 28th, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

On 23 September 2011, just over two years ago, I saw a bird on the ground in a hospital parking lot. It wasn’t moving. Much.

poorbird

It was still breathing though. 16:05, the time of my first photo. I paused for a moment. Not sure what I was doing there, or what the point was; it was really just a coincidence that I was passing by at that time. But I paused, and stayed with the little bird for a minute or two. Its last minute or two. Very surreal, watching the little bird die. Its head slowly sagged lower and lower, until it gave a final convulsion or two and lay still, motionless.

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“Religious”, I do not think it means what you think it means

July 2nd, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Dale’s now writing a book on the “religious/non-religious mixed marriage”. What I love about his work is that it is positive. Anyway, he writes short daily journal entries while working on his books, the first for his new book points out the problem with our terms. Contrast:

Most people think of someone as religious if they believe in the existence of a God or gods. But many Unitarians, Buddhists, Humanistic Jews and others consider themselves religious even if they do not believe in God.

Whereas,

A slew of surveys show that millions of Americans believe in God but consider themselves nonreligious.

Some more detail in his post, Coming to terms.

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Stories for Children with Leukemia

June 9th, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

This example is about helping kids fight their Leukemia:

I’m hoping there aren’t people that try to argue that the general principle is a case of lying to children. Comic books are universally understood to be stories. Even when a child wears his Batman costume and says “I’m batman!” The stories provide a mirror for the children with which to understand their own lives. Perhaps some like to debate the presentation though?

I think that many children are now going to understand how this treatment can give them a magic power through this ‘Superformula’.

You can’t tell from this video how it is presented to the children though. If they are directly told that the formula provides “magic power” to make them better, would that be bad? I really don’t think so, but might there be “hard-liner rationalists” that would object to the use of the “magic” adjective?

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Our Lives are Stories

May 20th, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

It matters not what your worldview is, whether you be Christian or Muslim, Buddhist or “Tom Cruise, Scientologist”, whether you’re atheist, Hindu or Orthodox Jew… if you are living a meaningful life, you are living a story.

These stories of ours are not a matter of physics, not a case of chemical reactions, these stories are not a set of facts, a causal chain of events. Instead, they are fictions, narratives of human meaning, in human language, experiential, relational. These stories are what make us human. They are the things that turn life into a ride, rather than a mere condition of matter.

We are our stories, our stories are us.

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Brief (Unshared) Reflections on Six Years…

January 27th, 2013 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Scary how the years fly. The sixth anniversary of this blog passed a few days ago.

Consequence of the strain of thought-exhibitionism I exhibited especially in the early years, this blog serves as some interesting indirect documentation of a journey that has taken me on roads I did not anticipate. And some weeks before the blog’s sixth anniversary I felt I
arrived, yet again, at a destination that I felt I
had, in fact, briefly visited within its first year already.

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