my ridiculous beliefs

by brandon as Uncategorized — brandon Wed 29 Mar 2006 10:39 am

Because rage works as well as caffeine in getting me up in the morning I often read political weblogs. What’s been going around a few of them is a question: what’s the most absurd thing you believe? So on the liberal blog you get “Crack was introduced into the inner-city by the CIA” and on the humorous/liberal blog you get “I believe that I have a substantially better understanding of pro basketball and what it takes to put together a winning team than people who have been intimately involved with the game for 20+ years” and on the libertarian blog you have “That vengence and vendetta are perfectly acceptable alternatives to courts of law, and that individuals who practice each should be lauded, not prosecuted, by government authorities.”

So, this is my blog, I can be self-indulgent in it if I want, and my weird beliefs are too long-winded to bother exposing anyone else to in the comments of their weblogs. Here goes:

• consciousness is not a binary quality: a life-form isn’t just self-aware or an automaton; even humans have wildly different levels of consciousness over the course of the day. But at its most basic level it is a much, much lower-order process than we would ever be comfortable admitting. It isn’t rooted in language or memory or logic (though all those aid consciousness) but in the survival instinct. A roach is probably self-aware.

• whether an economic system works or not is culturally relative. It depends almost entirely on the beliefs of the money-holding citizens. Socialism won’t work in the U.S. Laissez-faire capitalism won’t work in France. Communism did more or less work in the Soviet Union for 50 years or so; it was built on the delusions of its ruling classes, but the U.S. economy is not so different in this regard.

• a lot of people who answered this question believe that clinical immortality will be realized in 10-50 years. That is possible but I do not believe it is a good idea. The brain is not capable of it. Immortal people will go insane.

• I am agnostic, with tendencies towards animism (see my bit on consciousness), but nevertheless I think some spiritual and afterlife possibilities are more likely than others. I was surprised to find my most favored scenario outlined in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World:

“Your body dies, your consciousness passes away, but your thought is caught in that one tautological point an instant before, subdividin’ for an eternity. Think about the koan: An arrow is stopped in flight. Well, the death of the body is the flight of the arrow. It’s makin’ a straight line for the brain. No dodgin’ it, not for anyone. People have t’ die, the body has t’ fall. Time is hurlin’ that arrow forward. And yet, like I was sayin’, thought goes on subdividin’ that time for ever and ever. The paradox becomes real. The arrow never hits.”
“In other words,” I said, “immortality.”
“There you are. Humans are immortal in their thought. Though strictly speakin’, not immortal, but endlessly, asymptotically close to immortal. That’s eternal life.”

Which means, good Christians really do go to heaven, but psychopaths do, too. The guilty Christian, though, may really go to hell.

On New Year’s day of 2000 my favorite cat, who had lived 20 years, died in my lap. He really didn’t want to go. The very last thing he did was try to run. Toward something? Away from something? How could I know.

• corollary: Religions that make claims on the afterlife are not about getting people to heaven. They are about sending people to hell. The appeal is natural. Who wants a psychopath to go to heaven?

• corollary 2: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is – and I’ve read it twice – entirely about the last infinitesimally subdividing moment of the death of its protagonist. The “hard-boiled wonderland” storyline is not a more reliable narrative than the “end of the world” storyline. If any of you have read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about; but I’ve never seen anybody come away with this reading of the book.

Right. That’s enough. Maybe someday I’ll read this entry again and laugh.

1 Comment »

  1. Comment by Christine Lim Simpson — March 29, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    And you write well too, Brandon.

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