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FireTom


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Total posts: 6650
Posted:Now I stumbled across this book recently (and it's the 4th book I attempt to read within a decade for reasons explained later on) and it gives me rashes and mindspins, laughter and marvels - anything but tears, which is what I conceive a good book to be.

It's Bill Bryson - A Short History Of Nearly Everything, written in 2002/3.

I only share two passages with you (as I'm only at a fifth of it's entire volume) and encourage you to read it, if you have ever wondered what things are about (in science classes) and never found anyone explaining it to you in a way comprehensible. I also encourage you to read it, if you're suicidal, depressed or suffering from any other condition that makes you not appreciating life in general, or your life in special.

I will have more to say on the subject and reckon it's the stuff, wonderful discussions, debates and evenings of a wondrous outlook on existence are woven from.

Enjoy:

 Written by: Bill Bryson, A Short History Of Nearly Everything



Introduction

Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn't easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.
To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and curiously obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, co-operative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence.
Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don't care about you - indeed, don't even know that you are there. They don't even know that they are there. They are mindless particles after all, and not even themselves alive. (It's a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.) Yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single rigid impulse: to keep you you.



Now he goes on and gives the valued reader a brief overview about the size and dimension of the Universe and how science evolved, explaining and understanding the Universe in itself. The book has it lengthy moments, where he displays the struggle of scientists and their (sometimes rigid) personalities. But all in all he's able to give examples that make (me) understand scales and proportions.

example:

 Written by: Bill Bryson, A Short History Of Nearly Everything



Welcome To The Solar System

Our solar system might be the liveliest thing for trillions of miles, but all the visible stuff in it - the Sun, the planets and their moons, the billion or so tumbling rocks of the asteroid belt, the comets and other miscellaneous drifting detritus - fills less than a trillionth of the available space. You also quickly realize that none of the maps you have ever seen of the solar system was drawn remotely to scale. (...)
Such are the distances, in fact, that it isn't possible, in any practical terms, to draw the solar system to scale. Even if you added lots of fold out pages to your textbooks or used a really long sheet of poster paper, you wouldn't come close. (...)
Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter was as small as the full stop at the end of this sentence, and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be over 10 metres away. (...)
Now , the other thing you will notice as we speed past Pluto is that we are speeding past Pluto. If you check your intinerary, you will see that this is a trip to the edge of our solar system, and I'm afraid we're not there yet. (...)
We won't get to the solar system's edge until we have passed through the Oort cloud, a vast celestial realm of drifting comets, and we won't reach the Oort cloud for another - I'm so sorry about this - ten thousand years. Far from marking the outer edge of the solar system, as those schoolroom maps so cavalierly imply, Pluto is barely one-fifty-thousandth of the way.



This stuff being perfect for a cozy star gazing night, to sweetly get whispered into a desired girls ear (while all we (boys) want is to get into their pants) - unfortunately my memory is by far too weak to remember all this stuff exactly and it's not very romantic to just hand her the book instead. But (to me) it opens up a deeper understanding into the mysteries of existence, reconfirms a lot of stuff I believe to have figured out by myself (or vaguely remembering from back then in school) and explains why I saw what I saw back then when using illicit substances to expand and alter my consciousness:

 Written by: BB's SHONE



The Mighty Atom

At sea level, at a temperature of 0 degree Celsius, one cubic centimetre of air (that is, a space about the size of a sugar cube) will contain billion billion molecules. And they are in every single cubic centimetre you see around you. Think how many cubic centimetres there are in the world outside your window - how many sugar cubes it would take to fill that view. Then think how many it would take take to build a Universe. Atoms, in short, are very abundant.



In his book, Bill Bryson swiftly tackles the most fundamental scientific theories, from the Big Bang to the Relativity Theory to the evolution of man, he gives background information about the lives and personalities of scientists and explains scientific processes in a humorous, modestly easy-to-understand way.

Now there is something that repelled me from picking up the book, after having read its introduction: First I would never again be able to claim that I have gained these insights from within myself - pondering upon the Universe and it's structure whilst rudimentary scribbling a disfigured butterfly on a napkin for example. Second I would be absorbing blasphemous texts, for which I would have gotten burned just a few centuries ago, along with the author (what an honor) and third for not really knowing where to go after I have absorbed and maybe even understood the content of this book.

Now why is this a topic of "Social Discussion" you may ask? Well I gain a firm belief that, by understanding the Universe and it's laws, we (or better speaking "I") may gain (a better) understanding of mankind and myself.

As a matter of fact I believe that: "as in the smallest, in the greatest scale - as below, so beyond" = as equations always are reversible, it has to apply the other way round too.

Humans, after all, are like planets and some are like stars (= Suns) out there. Some even are "standard candles", by which we can measure the size (and vastness) of consciousness. Whilst most of us may never become stars (or even more), we can become planets and by that harbor life (which stars unfortunately cannot). Some of us remain moons and create currents (without which life would not get stirred up), become comets that fall from the skies and transport vital elements to distant planets or (fatally) eradicate entire species - making room for other steps of evolution (both meta- and physically). Until we surpassed our prime, have our atoms transformed (a billion of which once have been Shakespeare, Gengis Khan and (honorably) Buddha, traveled through space and time for times immemorial) and (maybe or not) re-in-carnate...

Will the understanding of the size, dimension and laws of the Universe help us to understand and grasp the value of (our very own) existence? An existence that is not coined by conditionings of "good and evil", "peace and war", "acceptance and rejection", etc. but one that overcomes all these dualities in definition and leads to a wholesome, content life?

Is our life and existence governed by chance or justice? (Which is the title of another small booklet about "the golden rule")

Thanks for having read (a part of this) rather looooong, but hopefully mildly entertaining post and thanks for attempting to share your thoughts. Certainly thanks to Bill Bryson and the copyright owners of the book, who hopefully don't sue me for reproducing parts of it here...


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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FireTom


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Total posts: 6650
Posted:Yupp, we try to keep it friendly in here *hides knife behind back* wink

First is first

@ Stone, no apologies or self-explanations needed hug

Science does hold a lot of truth and one foremost: We know better now, that in fact we have not even scratched but merely started to polish the surface of what is to be known out there. And there is a great deal of what we don't know - or don't understand (about the Universe) and that deal piles up to maybe 90% or more.

"Happiness" (as everything else) is a subject to definition. Some ppl are considering themselves "having a bad day" if their bicycle tips over and breaks a handle, whilst others get seriously disfigured and still consider themselves "lucky" (to be still alive).

Thus everything in the Universe is matter of definition (or "relativity") and there comes "you" as the observer of all there is in the Universe. Without "you", no observer and subsequently nothing to be observed (from your POV). The Universe (as we imagine it) has no center. Same applies to "us"... If you'd say: "I (whatever that is) stand in the center of the Universe", you are just as right as anyone else who claims it (in the very same instant).

As "I" see it, Buddha foremost tried to do one thing, which is to break the rule of the priest cast and provide access to "divinity" for the average Joe, i.e. "you" and "me". Before Buddha anyone wanting to "speak to the gods" had to go to a "translator" (i.e. priest).

He set the focus straight to where divinity is to be found: in any...

If "non-dualism" is a centerpoint of Buddhist philosophy, why is there then an "ego" to be struggled with, something "within you" that needs to get cured, much like a disease? Especially something that doesn't exist, but is merely a concept ("Ego" has been coined into existence by S.Freud).

So why would you want to liberate yourself from something that might not even exist by definition? It's a merry-go-round and most could drop as many bags talking to a shrink than they can walking to Lhasa (except maybe for the pretty views and distance traveled). If shrinks don't work for you, try religion and any other sort of spirituality - sooner or later you'll find exactly what is yours.

"Suffering" is a concept, a reaction to circumstances and the attempt to heal, a cry for help. Look at a little child who fell down: BIG crying - moments later (depending much on the parents) it's forgotten... If we truly mature, suffering is not such a dominant concept in our lives anymore... maybe because we realize where it comes from and what it is good for.

BTW Judaism I would not at all call a "mainstream religion", it's far too "exclusive" to be "mainstream".... shrug

Strawberries all the way, please whipped cream topping wink


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:@ Cthulu: Yes, you're officially insane - happy now? wink hug

Science offers a lot of (possible) explanations. Actually there is a humongous deal that cannot be explained and funny enough many who got themselves deep into physics turn to spirituality.

Why? Because if we really look deep and close, rip all the curtains aside and peel off all layers (that we technically can peel), we do observe something that we cannot identify.

We do know how things work at a certain degree, beyond that we got no plan. Why do things work out the way they do? Why does live evolve and what for? The more answers science provides, (logically) the more questions pop up out of nowhere...

Actually many scientist theories do require a lot of faith by the public audience (until proven erroneous or confirmed). And by the time you enter quantum physics, you need as much rationalism as you possibly have not to get lost.

We have watched many great moments of science, but we have seen as much or even more darkness out there... rolleyes I am not saying that science has got the answer to everything, no this is not what I am talking about.

I am saying that science and spirituality, that evolution and intelligent design do not necessarily exclude each other. We know about evolution, but still we don't know how it really works (spontaneous, or gradually... egg and chicken). As a matter of fact, we do not even entirely know how "we" "work"...

See, I differ on the point of what "heaven and hell" actually is getting defined for - but in ONE point I fully agree with you: It's only if we find (unconditional) love, that we will enter "h(e)aven".

If you dig down you may find that "unconditional" "love" (and especially in this combo) is so hard to find out there, that you may be better off starting to look within yourself. And then you will certainly drop the concept of a "hell" very quickly (I'd say), because if you cannot love your self (unconditionally), how could you (really) love someone else (unconditionally)?

Your life is as much hell as you make it yourself. As a metaphor of what I am trying to indicate here you may watch "La vita e bella" from and with R.Begnini. It explains how we can alter our views on "reality" to obtain "happiness" (or at least survive (long enough)).

If one takes himself and his life too seriously (i.e. is caught up in Samsara), it's hell - fully agreed - but on his own terms only.

When I am saying that we *are* planets and stars, then I use this as also as a metaphor. Even though parts of our body most certainly have been planets or stars (or parts of them) at some stage, it's not as if you had entirely been Mars or Venus or might be reborn as a new star on the heavens after you died... Believe that I believe in that and I'll call it "loonacy"...

IMO the fact that a part of me has been Buddha at some stage, does not make me more Buddha-like. But it's an interesting idea that atoms might carry something like a "memory"... hmmmmmmmmmmm.

The funny aspect of all this is, that it doesn't actually matter. Life comes, goes, comes again. The only ambition is the one that we put in. It's us, who make it a competition, a race, a quest, try to apply some meaning or to find explanations for it. And it's us who think that we are the only ones who ponder on the meaning of (our) life...


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne

Total posts: 2830
Posted:Cthulu, thanks for you wise comments, and adding to the discussion. I think faith is really believing that things can be much better than they are now.

Im not sure about reincarnated as such, but for sure, if we achieve the state of unconditional love we will be transformed. Id suggest this state is a way of being rather than a place like heaven. Id suggest if someone had a strong connection to Buddha, then they would learn more from his teachings than worrying about whether or not some of their atoms came from Buddha. The essence of Buddha is compiled in the Dharma (his teachings). This is the guide for the journey of life.



Fire Tom, does it make the least bit of difference if we know 10 or 90 percent about the Universe?

Happiness was a poor choice of words. I was talking about Samsara. The craving and suffering that keeps us on the wheel of life. Like its the I-me-mine that keeps us craving more and more material things in life. The more we have, the more we crave. This leads to unhappiness. I think this is possibly the merry go round you were referring to.

Non-dualism is a part of Buddhist philosophy, and yes I agree there then is an "ego" to be struggled with, something within you" that needs to get cured, much like a disease? Well put. Buddha had a natural ability for psychoanalysis of the human condition and nailed that one, way before Freud. Atta (Pali) literally means "self", but is sometimes translated as "soul" or "ego".

Unconditional love is another Buddhist idea, again Id suggest looking up the Metta Bhavana.

 Written by:

The funny aspect of all this is, that it doesn't actually matter. Life comes, goes, comes again. The only ambition is the one that we put in. It's us, who make it a competition, a race, a quest, try to apply some meaning or to find explanations for it. And it's us who think that we are the only ones who ponder on the meaning of (our) life...



Well put, I agree clap


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:I agree that it's the craving that breeds unhappiness. Not sure whether the suffering keeps us on the "wheel of life" (are there any traces on re-incarnation to be found in your philosophy?) but certainly the idea "I should have taken a left in Albuqueque" (dwelling over "missed opportunities and 'chances'") keeps us hanging on.

I find you caught up in this merry-go-round, therefore I would like to ask you to decide (for your self), Stone:

Is there a "self" or not? Is this "self" (if it exists) the "ego" or is it something else (like "immortal soul")?

If there is no "self" to begin with, then there is no need to "liberate" anything, because there is no "imprisonment" taking place and there is nobody there to break the bars...

Do I get my self across?

Suffering much derives from the same concept: If there is no "self" that can experience suffering, who tells you that you suffer? If there is no "atman" (in the most honorable meaning) then all Buddhist philosophy is for the bucket. No liberation needed.

As I see it there is. But to put it in the correct context:

"I" am just another "you" = In lak'ech.

The holy trinity (me-myself-and-I) is not necessarily the playground for selfishness, because ^^^

Dunno whether all credits go to "Buddhist ideas" (like the one of "unconditional love"). I understand your enthusiasm and would even encourage it, if not you would try to put the entire philosophy against what I feel. I told you before: there is no opposition against Buddhist philosophy to be found within me (as long as you don't try to missionize me - by that you build up resistance). wink

And finally (for now): I (for myself) strongly doubt that an internal warfare against conditioned negative sides will lead to the desired "peace of mind". Maybe it works for others - it doesn't work for me. "Integration" or "letting go of" IMHO are much more successful concepts. Peace starts only from within.


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne

Total posts: 2830
Posted:Fire Tom, its craving that causes suffering. Ego is just our prior learning experiences, our memories if you like. There is no "self" to begin with, that happens when we are born (and grow older). In many respects we are all the same, its just we have different life experiences. Do we have souls? Show me a soul.

Many people like to think they are special, individuals. But most of us are running on automatic. I learnt a lot about artificial intelligence from OWDs Ultimate theory of reality thread. Suggest you have a read wink


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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FireTom


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Total posts: 6650
Posted:Stone, find me inclined to say that Buddhism is a predecessor of what I conceive "the truth" and "the path" to be.

"Soul" is a word, just like "love". It's what you connect to this specific assembly of letters. Now who are "you" to ask "me" to prove anything? umm wink Show me "ego" please... shrug wink

Many things in the Universe run on "automatic" processes. It's necessary, dude. Imagine "you" are at work in (for say) Manhattan and receive a phonecall that "your" wife is about to give birth within the next 2 or 3 hours in a Brooklyn hospital. Now "you" rush to the subway to get there in time. Imagine "you" have to hug every single individual on the way there (just for chuckles and because "we all love each other so much"). How practical would this be?

"Automatism" is an important feature of the human mind, it's necessary and I would claim that ALL humans run on "automatic" at certain times (twinkles at the human condition when sleeping)... no criticism, just noting.

If we were to see things as they "really" are (on a (sub)atomic level), if we would constantly see auras, sense the energies and properties of everyone and everything around us, if we would hear all the thoughts of all the people around us - how destracting would this be?

As long as we have no immediate "need" for such features, they just get blurred. What's wrong with that?

"If you know that you know nothing, at least you know something and therefore there is no *true wisdom* in it as Socrates suggested." (FireTom)

I admire the ...-ist and other "dealers in faith" approaches of merry-go-rounds, I am amazed how much compassion is awakened in people when they hear that a species goes extinct every *fill in appropriate timespan*.

Actually 99.9% of all species that existed on this planet in history are extinct by now. Does this spark any compassion? Do we mourn the Trilobites (or T-rexes)? Actually we do not even have the slightest idea of "how many species actually exist on this planet", but we're all ready when it comes to drag ourselves down for the most ridiculous and so obvious natural of all reasons.

Actually without global warming we would (still) be in an ice age. Any concern? Actually the 50 billion or so cells in your body run on automatic, without any knowledge or interest in you - does that make you sad?

Brother, I appreciate your input - but why are you making yourself a missionary of Buddhism?


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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Posted:hey sorry to but in here, back to the topic of Bill Bryson - A Short History Of Nearly Everything, written in 2002/3.



i've reccently started reading this book and its an excellent book, there is so much information in it, that unfortuantley he can't explain some parts of it, because some pages could fill books them selves. the book has sparked a fascination with the sub atomic level physics, for example he explains that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, but two photons seperated for millions or trillions of miles will still be able to affect each other simmultaneously. Equally fascinating is how an electron can not be found in one single place, you can only find where it is going to be, or how the electron is every where and no where within an atom all at once or how you are not currently sitting on a chair, but in fact hovering above it because all the electrons that make up you and the chair are repelling each other because of their negative charge. i want to learn more about this sort of stuff, mainly like how it works. i know thats pretty hard unless i took up a pyhsics course or something, so does any one know any interesting web site links that might help in my search?



Peace.

EDITED_BY: Tanelorn (1198605909)


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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne

Total posts: 2830
Posted:Hi Tanelorn, no problem go for it.

Fire Tom, that path is still the path of irregular steps. I should have been more specific on soul. By soul I mean the immortal everlasting soul. Ego on the other hand manifests its self in many ways, though I think it ceases to be when a person dies.

So if many things in the Universe run on "automatic", and I agree it is an important feature of the human mind, then we are basically robots programmed by our experiences.

I think my understanding of unconditional love is different to rushing around the subway hugging every single individual on the way to the maternity hospital. Its having Loving Kindness for all living beings, on this planet or any planet.

I dont think we need to see things on a sub atomic level to know how they are. I think its more about who we are being as human beings. In many respects, if we know our selves then we already know the thoughts of other people.

As far as Socrates goes, its not the something you know so much, as knowing what you dont know, you dont know.

Fire Tom, Im not on a mission. Thats why I suggested you read OWDs very secular Ultimate theory of reality. You still seem to be confusing Buddhism with Western religions and dealers in faith. Buddhism is not about searching for someone to worship, its not a Christ substitute. Its more centered on our present existence here and now, providing solutions to the problems of our existence like you asked about at the start:

 Written by:

An existence that is not coined by conditionings of "good and evil", "peace and war", "acceptance and rejection", etc. but one that overcomes all these dualities in definition and leads to a wholesome, content life?



Which to me reads like asking about conditioned co-production (Pratitya samutpada).


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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Doc Lightning
GOLD Member since May 2001

Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

Total posts: 13920
Posted: Written by: Tanelorn


hey sorry to but in here, back to the topic of Bill Bryson - A Short History Of Nearly Everything, written in 2002/3.

i've reccently started reading this book and its an excellent book, there is so much information in it, that unfortuantley he can't explain some parts of it, because some pages could fill books them selves. the book has sparked a fascination with the sub atomic level physics, for example he explains that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, but two photons seperated for millions or trillions of miles will still be able to affect each other simmultaneously. Equally fascinating is how an electron can not be found in one single place, you can only find where it is going to be, or how the electron is every where and no where within an atom all at once or how you are not currently sitting on a chair, but in fact hovering above it because all the electrons that make up you and the chair are repelling each other because of their negative charge. i want to learn more about this sort of stuff, mainly like how it works. i know thats pretty hard unless i took up a pyhsics course or something, so does any one know any interesting web site links that might help in my search?

Peace.



So I wonder: what would be wrong with taking a physics course at a local college? I warn you: introductory physics is tough, mathematical, and not terribly interesting (far more about hanging weights and sliding blocks than about subatomic particles and distant galaxies). But it sets a foundation.

If you can stomach the math (and I couldn't), consider going back to school and studying it. I am a trained molecular biologist, but when it came to physics, the sort of stuff that started popping out was entirely too mathematical for my tastes.

I can recommend some lay books that go into quantum and string theory. They're both by Brian Greene and they're called The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Posted:i have a rare disease known as mathamatitus where if i go near any maths i spout big smelly spots ubblol

half of my psychology course is statistics and its one of those pains in life that you just have to put up with. These books sound like they might be appropriate, thanks for the suggestions, i will check them out!


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FireTom


Stargazer


Total posts: 6650
Posted:Tanelorn: Which is eggsactly one of the points in here... many people who get very deep into maths and physics seem to lack an "appropriate" way to explain their subjects to the general audience - which is what Bill Bryson actually manages. I also miss further explanations into each and every of the subjects he tackles (sigh)...

Doc: I don't think math is the main problem, I reckon it's mostly the way teachers present that dish to the general audience, which makes it indigestable (for me)... shrug

Stone: I perceive you to be on a mission, as I see you bringing up the Buddhist philosophy in many subjects (as the one and only remedy for mankinds sanity). This (to me) is an invalid approach, which is why I am opposing.

Fact is that "you" in fact are (as) special (as everybody else) and that Buddhism is no foolproof way to "enlightenment" (whatever that may be). "Immortal soul" to me is that spark of life, consciousness if you like that is within each and every being and thing.

Maybe I'm confusing one and the other, still I'd say there are as many cunners and conmen in Buddhism as there are in other belief systems.

As all started out from a singularity, we indeed are all one: You, me, the good, bad, evil, Illuminati, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, Buddha himself, Jesus, Aliens - all derive from the same source. We might just be different aspects of "the one and only"...

 Written by: Stone

I dont think we need to see things on a sub atomic level to know how they are. I think its more about who we are being as human beings. In many respects, if we know our selves then we already know the thoughts of other people.



This is eggsactly another pivot: you don't think there is a need... why are you judging over other ppls roadmap to the same destination?

And finally: I have to disagree with what you say about us basically being programmed robots. How much time do you spend on taking conscious steps and your breath, when being late and rushing to the train? It's all about (setting) priorities, isn't it?


the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

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burningoftheclavey
SILVER Member since Jul 2005

burningoftheclavey

lurking like a ninja with no camouflage..
Location: over yonder

Total posts: 926
Posted:Tanelorn, theres a quite lightweight intro to quantum film type thing called 'What the Bleep Do We Know' you should check it out..

I agree with firetom too. every religion is different, but really its all different paths up the same hill. Trying to get someone on your own path just ends up in irritation because they have most likely experienced another path towards enlightenment or whatever. and experience in my opinion is one of the best teachers. I think it would be extremely difficult to reach the peak of the hill purely by learning from books or other materials. (but they can help alot!)


on spam robots - "Burn the robot! Melt him down, and then we can make lots and lots of money from his shiiiny juices!"

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