The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness. – Nikos Kazantzakis

Ideas

Fractured

I know that a lot of you out there are bilingual, whether you speak Dutch, German, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, any other language, or 1337 (HAH, TAKE THAT).  Have you ever come across a word in that language that just doesn’t translate to English perfectly?  Of course you have.  All languages, obviously, are not descendants of one sole language, nor do they share the same, exact words.  Many languages used today came about through the Indo-European tongue spoken in early times, but how close are Urdu (APWH?!) and Spanish?  Or French and Russian?  And to compare the Mayan writing system and language with East Asian languages is just ridiculous (they are completely separate and evolved separately).

Now, even if you did have the same word meaning in English and another language, the connotation is something that just can’t be learned except through usage.  Learn as much vocab as you want, simply memorizing vocab will never let you understand the minute difference between horrendous and terrible.  And there IS a difference.

Now, I’ve been complaining about words in different languages and how they don’t mean the exact same thing, but I haven’t hit exactly on my point yet.  Ever heard of the phrase “lost in translation”?  Very true.

Going from one language to another, a word often loses so much of its original connotation that it really doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.  Take the idiom: 고래 싸움에 새우 등 터진다 .  Literally translated from Korean, it reads, “In a whale fight, the shrimp’s back explodes/bursts.”  In Korean, it really doesn’t sound this awkward because translation screws up the original intent of this idiom.  Really, this idiom should be translated to more like “When whales fight, the shrimp’s back is broken,” meaning that when powerful people/countries fight, many innocent lives are lost in the process.  The idiom also derives from the fact that Korea, a small country, is located between two powerhouses: China and Japan.  Explains much.

Denotation, of course, remains the same.  But what if a word in one language doesn’t even have a matching word in another language?  The best that we can do is take a shot in the dark and hope for the best.  And now a snippet of my reader response from last year on The Republic by Plato.

Through translation, some of the original meaning and exact wording of any book is lost, and The Republic is no exception.  For example, take the word thumos, the Greek word roughly translating to “indignation” or “self-preservation”.  Depending on how one translates thumos, Plato’s whole argument on the three parts of a human’s soul is changed.  Like Leontion whose appetite/desire compels him to view the corpses, even though he does not want to, “we often see other instances of a man whose desires are trying to force him to do something his reason disapproves of, cursing himself and getting indignant at their violence” (148, 440a-b).  In this case, indignation makes sense because “indignation” as one of the parts of the soul disapproves when “appetite” overpowers “reason”.  Since a just person “will be just and perform his proper function only if each part of him is performing its proper function,” a person will be just when “appetite”, a wild animal, is subservient to “reason”, the tamer, and “indignation”, the tamer’s sense of duty, is ingrained within “reason” (150, 441d-e).  In using thumos as indignation, however, there is a flaw.  If one were starving and on the verge of death, “appetite” would compel one to eat, but if “indignation” were against the dominance of “appetite”, eating to survive would be considered unjust.  Changing the meaning of thumos to “self-preservation” makes the last scenario work, for eating food would be complying with “reason” and “self-preservation”, not “appetite” since it is just facilitating “self-preservation”.  Insert “self-preservation” into Plato’s perfect society, however, and it makes no sense.  If the driving force of the Guardians was self-preservation, it would not be in the best interest of the community to have such people as leaders, for they would act in the interest of themselves, not the state, going against Plato’s assertion that the Guardians would act for the best of the state.  Thumos is neither “indignation” nor “self-preservation”, but they are the best parallels that English can offer.

Yes, I know that was confusing, but try reading through it again, and you might get a clue as to what I’m saying.  If you still don’t, leave questions in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer them.

If you really think about it, it’s quite sad that people of different languages will never understand each other fully.  But I suppose that’s the problem of humanity as well.  How wonderful a Babel fish would be…Douglas Adams had it right.

The Babel Fish […] is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe.  […] The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. – Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

 – Beyond Apathy

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My karma just ran over your dogma

Suddenly, this has become a very quiet, lonely blog.  To those of you reading, I am truly sorry that you now have to put up with the hassle of either 1) Logging in everytime you want to read my blog or 2) Making a wordpress account just to read my blog.
But who knows, maybe something good will come from this!  Maybe you will make and follow-through with a blog of your own!  If you do, please do inform me, I love reading other people’s thoughts and ideas on anything.

So let’s get down to the topic of today: karma.  Basically, does what you do now come back to you in the future?

Does it really exist?  Or is it just an ingrained instinct of humans to see patterns?
So taking sides now…let’s explore a little.

Karma does exist

Karma exists when humans admit that there is such thing as fate.  You may not be a determinist, but you sure do believe in some kind of natural justice that exists in this world.  You believe that “an eye for an eye” occurs naturally during the course of life because it was just supposed to happen.  And when you do good things, you believe that good things will happen to you because fate is quite pleased by all this justice making.

When you really get down to it, karma is in almost every religion.  For those of you that believe in a heaven and a hell, karma is most definitely ingrained in your *cough* dogma (pardon the terrible joke).  The determination of whether or not you go to heaven or hell not just rests on your adherence to your dogma, but also on your acts that you do in your lifetime.  If you were  good person, and you helped the old lady cross the street, and generally lived a “good” life, then you will most likely go to heaven.  If you were an evil person, and commited great atrocities against all of humankind, and set into motion WWIII, you’re probably going to get sent to hell.  I suppose that it is this incentive of the reward of a happy afterlife that pushes some people to lead good lives.  Of course, not all people are like this, but there are always some out there that need some kind of motivation like utopia to jolt them into religiously based morals.  The “if I play nice now, I will always get a cookie later” way of thinking.

Personally, I don’t think that is the best way of parenting.

Karma does not exist

Karma does not exist when the human sees no reason in life.  Well that sounds depressing.  What I meant to say was something more along the lines of…life is just events that happen and there is no apparent justice guiding the fate of our world.  What we perceive as “karma” is nothing more than a good deed followed by a good event or a bad deed followed by a bad event.  Moral justice then, is nothing but a mirage in our heads.  Oddly enough, this type of thinking requires so much more faith in humans themselves because what people do is not then a precedence to a reward or punishment, but a choice that they make to be either “good” or “bad”.  Not believing in karma is more like believing in people rather than a higher force, whether you believe them to be intrinsically “good” or “bad”.

Of course, it is impossible to tell whether events are connected or just a part of the beautiful chaos of our universe.  No one will ever know whether our good action today foretells a good day in the future.  No one will ever know how long it takes for karma to kick in.  A person may give up a kidney today to save the life of a stranger.  Ten years later, will he consider the $100 bill he found on the ground a retribution from fate from so long ago or a random lucky find?

I myself do not believe in karma.  I find it refreshingly startling to think that humans have the ability to choose between so called good and evil, just for the sake of being good or evil.  What I do believe in is the astonishing power of the human brain to perceive differently.  Humans are instinctively inclined to continue a line of sight once seen.  So karma to me, is doing something nice and seeing the other nice things in life, and doing a bad thing and seeing other bad things in life.  To me, we just perceive a pattern in the mess of events.

Worthless people blame their karma.  ~Burmese Proverb

KARMA STRIKES AGAIN.

 – Beyond Apathy


Forgiveness

What is forgiveness, but another way to better our own existence?
Thinking back to ancient times, for what reason did man stick with fellow humans?  True, it provided company, something alive in a harsh world, but above all, it was much more efficient.  With a two man team, you could alternate tracking an animal to hunt, and you had double the manpower.  This led to the discovery that one no longer starves to death during the winter if one works in a team.  So if 2 people are good, then why wouldn’t 3 people be great?  And 10 people?  And a tribe?  A village?  A city?  A nation?
In numbers, even the most incapable of animals find strength.  It is because of this strength that the word “society” evolved.

Forgiveness then, has always been beside man since he joined forces with another being.  Forgiveness, perhaps I sound too positive right now.  A better phrasing would perhaps be the “power to pardon”.  Imagine that in a team of two people, there is the stronger, more skilled dominant figure, and the lesser, slightly less skilled subordinate.  The subordinate, being less skilled than the alpha, screws up and lets prey get away.  The alpha now has to make a choice–a choice that probably flits through our minds at trivial acts, but nevertheless, a choice.  Does he let the subordinate stay with him, or does he make him leave?  By logical reasoning, he should be asking himself another question that determines his choice: Will my hunting be better without him?   In other words, does the subordinate’s hunting outweigh the fact that there is another mouth to feed?  If he decides that the subordinate is indeed an asset, then he has “pardoned” him.

On a darker note, if he decides that having the subordinate by his side is, in fact, bringing him down and making his existence less efficient, then he has refused to pardon him.  If you think that our society is now beyond this stage, then think again.  Why do students have new teachers every year?  It is because they have taught students to the best of their abilities, and there is nothing more or quality that they can give them.  In businesses, why do people get fired or laid off?  It is because their pay has outweighed their work, and it is worse for the company’s income to keep them.  Livelihoods depend on efficiency and the determination of what is beneficial and what is detrimental.

There is a saying that says that everyone has something to teach if you pay attention.  In the human conquest to know, to fully live up to our name Homo sapiens sapiens, we have found that the quickest way to gauge profit is to see who a person really is.  Observe how they react to different environments and situations, and see what their true face is.  If a person is truly bad, it has been found through many centuries of society that said person is most likely to cause damage to our existence, therefore, making a bad person somewhat like loose baggage.  If it is found that a human is with mostly good intentions, one has a greater chance of reaping a better reward, a better existence.  Oftentimes, it takes years before a person “knows”.  But in that instant, what will you choose?

When there is nothing more for me to gain, when I have seen the core of your existence, when the detrimental effects simply outweigh the benefits–it is then that you will become nothing to me.

 – Beyond Apathy


Time flows on–an idiom explained

Sorry about the delay in posting!  It’s been a busy past week as most of you well know.  I suppose I’ll miss you all during the summer unless I happen to see you over summer.  In that case, yay for those of you out there.

So!  The topic of this post…yes, you guessed it: time.  One clap for you.

And by delving into time, some philosophy and some physics will be brought in, so leave while you still can.

Or stay.  Staying and reading would be good too.

Time continuum sounds like something to do with scientifiction (nod to Hugo), but really, this is probably the generally most accepted version of time theory out there, the official creation credit going to Mr. Albert Einstein.  As most of you all know, there are three dimensions (in the traditional sense): length, width, and depth.  Now apply Einstein to the world, and voilà, you get four dimensions after adding in time.

Some of you may argue that time is not a dimension.  The tangible world around you, your chair, your desk, whatever you can touch in this reality is length, width, and depth.  If that object, let’s say a pencil, occupies a certain place in this plane, then it is tangible. So if it’s tangible, it must have dimensions.  But what if it’s not there at a certain point in time?  You couldn’t possible touch a pencil if it doesn’t exist in it’s place in space.  This means that time is indeed a dimension, allowing an object to exist in space while the other three dimensions mold its form.

Now that we’ve established that there are (at least) four dimensions in this universe, let’s focus in on the nature of time.  As described by Einstein, when all four dimensions are applied, it is called space-time.  This space-time could be what some call “the fabric of the universe”.  Imagine space infinitely stretching out in all directions.  Trick statement, it’s impossible to even fathom it.  Anyways, think of a table cloth, stretched out parallel to the ground in the air.  This table cloth is our very puny universe.  Drop a bowling ba–no, that’d induce the “Big Crunch” of our universe or rip a hole in its space-time…  Fine, a marble.  That small indentation in the cloth surrounding the marble is what gravity really is–a slight curvature of our universe.  Thus, the large/more mass an object has, the larger and deeper the area of indentation is.  Basically, this is why Jupiter has a truckload of satellites.

In order for space-time to be an accurate representation of the universe, it has to be a continuum.  Continuum in a mathematical sense is: Range = (-∞, ∞).  Discrete on the other hand is: Range = {…-3,-2,-1,0,1,2,3…}.  Good if you got that.  If you didn’t…sigh.

What if the universe was discrete?  That is one big “what-if”.  Time would not “flow” as it does in a continuum.  Between two points in time, there would be no essential “middle” that connects the two points in time.  If you’ve ever put a camera on the multi-shot option, discrete time would be somewhat like those pictures.  Snap shots in reality is what time would become with no existence between those pictures.  Really, we would not exist.

And here lies fault with determinism as well.  To the determinist, there is no choice nor reason in this universe for everything happens as it will predestined to.  Predestination indicates some planning, and if there are points in our life that we are to follow with no choice between those separate points in time, then, with the lack of the essential middle ground, one can infer that a determinist inadvertently (or mindfully) believes in the discrete version of time.  Which was concluded to be impossible in the previous paragraph.

Time travel is a tricky thing to envision, but again, only possible in the continuum theory of time.  So say Einstein’s “thought experiments” were not for naught, and that at the speed of light, everything freezes (if what we see is light, and light obviously travels at the speed of light, then we, moving at the speed of light, should see only one point in time, frozen.  This also leads to the conclusion that the speed of time and light are the same).  Go faster and the idea is that it would allow you to go back in time.  Of course, with light being the universal speed limit (for now), this is impossible to prove.

But to go forward in time, that requires a whole new set of rules.  To go forward in time indicates that there is something that already happened in the future, that there is something that exists in the future.  AGH, those darned determinists.

And this is why time theory is all still a theory.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. – Albert Einstein

– Beyond Apathy