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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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The “Everthing for a Reason” Meme

December 11th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

In my experience, the belief that “everything happens for a reason” must be one of the most seductive memes making the rounds. I have bumped into this meme myself on two particular occasions during the years of this blog’s existence, and found the idea very enticing. So much so, that I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to intentionally sustain such a view, as far as possible and reasonable?

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If a Messiah Came Again…

December 6th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Would the Messiah be a Christian?
More interestingly, recognisable to Christians?

Bear in mind that Jesus was a Jew. Jewish canon had a very specific idea of what a messiah would be. Jesus did not live up to those expectations, so Jewish culture does not consider him to be the messiah. Orthodox Jewish culture still waits. One small sect splintered out of Judaism though: with a very simple statement of faith, “Jesus is Lord“, they recognised and acknowledged a counter-cultural non-messiah. The group grew dramatically and came to be known as Christians.

Now imagine a Christian second coming, not recognised by Christians…

I want to make one thing very clear: this post intends no insinuations whatsoever. There is nothing it is trying to argue, it merely seeks to encourage some rethinking of subconscious or institutionalised assumptions.

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Extreme Quote Mining

October 28th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · No Comments

Just a quick post with a quote mining example. I’ve explained quote-mining before: it is when someone is quoted out of context, whereby their words are used to make them say something they didn’t actually say.

Often it is hard to know whether the person employing the misquote is wilfully dishonest or just woefully misinformed. In either case, to people that recognise what has happened, it doesn’t look all that different from this:

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Reflecting on Yearly Observances

October 10th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · 1 Comment

What is an anniversary? It really is a rather arbitrary day, a day like any other, except that the stars are more or less in the same place as they were when the remembered event occurred. Or the earth has returned to the same place in its rotation around the sun.

Depending on the calendar you use, your anniversaries could even be shifting relative to our astronomical frame of reference. On a lunar calendar, you would be drifting a full 11 to 12 days on every trip around the sun. (Lunar calendars were commonly used in antiquity, but are still in use for determining traditional holidays in various parts of Asia, as well as for the Islamic calendar.)

I’m actually trying to argue that any day is really just like every other. Except, we have chosen to imbue some days with a special significance, on a yearly cycle: public holidays, birthdays, new years’…

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Ducks and Predators

September 28th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · 4 Comments

I recounted a version of this story at my mother’s memorial service, just under a year ago.

There came a day when the population on our property was expanded by two new inhabitants: a pair of ducks. It was just a single pair — at least initially. It didn’t take too long for my mother to decide they looked a little bit lonely, roaming on a decent piece of property a bunch of kilometers from Stellenbosch, so very soon they were joined by another two pairs. Six ducks roaming around the property was a good-looking number.

The six ducks weren’t three couples, actually — I think it turned out that there was only one female among them. But one is enough: pretty soon, she had laid some eggs. Tasty little eggs, some predators discovered: the eggs became fewer very quickly. Whether any of the first batch of eggs hatched, I can no longer recall, but there were more.

Mother Duck

The female duck is spending some time in a cage to protect her from abusive males. It’s really bad being outnumbered. (I’m sparing you a view of her injuries.)

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Your reality and my reality — Remember Psychology!

May 6th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · 2 Comments

There is only one reality, after all, so what’s all this talk about your reality and my reality? Tonight’s dinner-time TED talk was Rory Sutherland’s Perspective is everything. His slide presented at 2:55 states, as its first point of four:

Things are not what they are; they are what we think they are

Think about that for a moment. Naturally, presenting it like that, it’s quoted out of context. Much rather watch the talk it came from (18:24 in length) to appreciate its context:

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Knock Knock… “Who’s There?” “Witnesses!”

March 17th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · 8 Comments

Just about ready to go out for some cycling, someone rings by doorbell. “How odd…” I think, “I don’t get guests? Did they mean to ring my neighbour? And utilities companies shouldn’t be here on weekends?” So I put on some pants and run downstairs to see who it is, rather than just blindly buzzing in the unknown. “Hi! We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we’d like to talk to you about the Bible!” (Not those words exactly, considering I’m living in a German-speaking area.)

Turns out I just had my first visit by Jehovah’s Witnesses! It was all very exciting. They said they want to talk to me about the Bible. I asked if they could come back on another day (since this weekend is packed), likely that got them excited too? I just showed interest, while I expect most people just shoo them away? (Or might it rather be the case of preferring to be shooed away, as that takes less time and effort? *grin*)

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Recitation of Words of Inspiration and Support

February 13th, 2012 · Posted by Hugo · 1 Comment

I’m busy reading Frank Herbert’s third Dune novel (Children of Dune). Marvellous fiction! I would consider it mostly political thriller, set in the far future. I’m sure more blog posts will follow from having read these, but today I’m pondering the role of memorised and recited words in people’s lives.

In the Dune universe there is a sisterhood known as the Bene Gesserit. In some senses one could consider them a religious order. One of the most famous snippets of text from these novels is their litany against fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Various characters recite this litany in their minds when they need to calm their nerves. This part is so well known, I have wondered if anyone has adopted it and made use of it in real life?

There are certainly similar ideas in human history. The first thing to come to my mind was Psalm 23 from the Hebrew Bible:

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