26 Mar 2012

Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 1 - Introduction

Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 1 - Introduction - by P.K.Odendaal - 23 March 2012.

The lines for the battle has been drawn. The whole world is at war. There is a war for land, a war for the resources of the world, a battle for man's money, a battle for man's mind and the biggest of all - a battle for man's soul. The troops are defending their strongholds these days with a new vigour and commitment.

I have entered the last mentioned fray some forty years ago.

I am writing this article as a dedicated Christian and not as an Apologetic. Many Christians are Apologetics and dodge their calling as dedicated Christians. God does not need apologetics. He needs no excuse for having created Heaven and Earth.
In this article I take issue with philosophy, the murderer of mankind. I will be prosecuting this battle on many levels, as it is an all out war on many fronts : the spirit and the flesh, the intellect and the faith, the rational and the emotional, the physical and the meta-physical, the philosophical and the real - and the Good and the Evil.

15 Mar 2012

What kind of fool am I - Part 1 - A Fool's Paradise

A Fool's Paradise. by P.K.Odendaal - 8 October 2011-10-07

Respect, consideration and patience are vital virtues for the survival of mankind - as are tenacity, resilience and persistence.

And most of use are prepared to throw this all away and go for the sweet vices leading to self destruction.
And so am I.

My strongpoint is that I cannot suffer fools gladly, being one myself par excellence.

You may ask why I cannot suffer fools gladly when I am the perfect fool, and I may remind you that the insinuation is not that only wise men may not suffer fools gladly. Fools may also not suffer other fools gladly.
And most of us including myself are not so sure what a fool really is.

I have heard and read a lot about fools, and I find that they have the following very strange and almost desirable or enviable traits :

  • They are born every minute.
  • They and their money are soon parted
  •  They rush in where angels fear to tread
  • They can do with a pound what a wise man can do with a penny.
  • They perish while wise men die and both leave their wealth to others.
  • They utter slanders
  • They do mischief as a sport
  • They are servants to the wise of heart
  • They are right in their own eyes
  • They make their wrath presently known
  • Their fathers have no joy
  • They are counted wise if they hold their peace
  • Their mouths are their destruction
  • They all meddlers (I think in the affairs of others)
  • They despise the wise words or the words of others
  • Wisdom is too high for them
  • Those who answer their folly become like them
  • There are more hope for them than the men who are wise in their own conceit
  • Their wrath is heavier than stone and sand
  • Their foolishness will never depart from them
  • They trust their own hearts
  • They utter all that is in their minds
  • Their voices are known by a multitude of words.
  • The tell everyone that they are fools (as I have done above)

Wow - Makes you think. Fits me perfectly. So whilst I am a fool - why can't I stand other fools ?

The answer is simple. It is that trait of us that we discern in others that we really hate.

I am starting a Hall of Fame for Non-Fools - so if you are not a fool or know someone who is not, please let me know - that person will be the first entry into that Hall.

Maybe I should conclude with the following apt passage from Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing :

Dogsberry : Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! but, masters, remember that I am an ass - though it not be written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. .... Oh, that I had been writ down an ass!

5 Mar 2012

Friendship - Part 4 - Thoughts on homosexuality

Friendship - Part 4 - Thoughts on homosexuality - by P.K.odendaal.

Let's get it straight before I start, I am straight.
However - I have male friends and acquaintances who are not - and what should I think or do about it. I cannot cling to my old prejudices and old conventional wisdom, as I am more against the latter than the former, and I just can't close my eyes or bury my head in the sand.

I will also never say it's right or acceptable, but I need to respect the lives and views of my friends and acquaintances. So I need to address it and set my own perspective on it, to guide my attitude towards them.

This came to a head last week when I was prevailed on by one of my family members, who wanted me to delete a friend, who is gay, from my friends list on Facebook, as he publishes or shares photos of naked men.
Can I just delete a friend? I do not think a friendship can be deleted. It would have suited me fine with regard to less close friends or people who pretends to be friends, had it been so easy. Does it make a lesser friend or an unfriend of me? I do not think so. My friendship is without any strings attached. I will also not fake a friendship, and pretend I do not see.

I am informed and guided in this article by two great men - both gay. And I admire them immensely, for they have contributed posthumously to the richness of my life, due to their contributions in the fileds of literature, science and mathematics. And I am not alone in my veneration for them. In fact, these two persons died prematurely due solely to the fact that society rejected their lifestyle. And so we were sadly bereft by anti homosexual activists of much lesser stature than they were, of their genius and their possible continued contributions to mankind, had they lived longer.

Oscar Wilde.
The first is Oscar Wilde. He may not be a Shakespeare, but he came very close to being one, if his career had not been prematurely terminated by the father of his 'boyfriend'. Pardon the word - I am a novice on gay affairs.

Oscar Wilde produced prolific plays, poems and stories during a short career as a writer and playwright, and I may have read all of it, had I kept track, as I read most more than once. His works are however as witty and emotionally as deep as that of Shakespeare, although the treatment of emotional aspects by him was more direct and in your face, than that of Shakespeare. Shakespeare always lets you wonder what it is in his works that is so well hidden, and yet so troubling, disconcerting and disconforting. Not Oscar Wilde.
But let me start at the beginning.

Oscar Wilde was put on trial on account of homosexuality, which was a crime at that stage (1899), before a London judge, because the father of Lord Alfred Douglas, the latter being his lover and the first being an atheist, accused him of 'sodomy' and 'gross indecency', and after three trials he was convicted on these counts to two years of hard labour.  When he was released in 1897, he spent his last three years in penniless exile and sickness, before dying in 1900 at the age of forty six.

The main argument went about 'the love that dare not speak its name' to which he replied :

It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as "the love that dare not speak its name," and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it ...
This is exactly the recurrence of history of the Greeks of 400BC when every matured male of note had a beautiful young boy friend. Why I would not know - but that is history. My personal view is that it is caused by the emancipation of woman and the subsequent emasculation of men.

I also very well know that there are many other factors that cause this social deviation, if I may call it so, without offending those. These factors are environmental, genetic, hormonal, identification with the wrong parent during childhood or the absence of one, seduction, the wrong friends, etc..
I also find it strange that in a very religious era of British history, homosexuality was a crime and atheism a virtue, but as so often happens in times of doubt, rejection and depression, Oscar Wilde wrote his last and most beautiful work - a poem called 'The Ballad of Reading Goal' whiulst he was in jail. I read this poem three to four times a year and have been doing this for twenty years, and conclude this part on him by quoting a few verses from that poem :

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard.
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to
see is the gallows-tree,
With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit!
We were as men who through a fen
Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in goal
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

This too I know--and wise it were
If each could know the same--
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is
good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is

I wish you would read all 109 verses.

And now for Alan Turing.
He died even younger than Oscar Wilde at the age of 41 when he committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill.

Alan Turing is regarded as the father of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence and might have invented the first computer called the Turing Machine, to break the German military codes during World War II. He was a mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist. His Turing Test for the establishment of the presence of intelligence in anything, specially machines,  is still being used today.
After being charged for 'gross indecency', his security clearance was cancelled and he lost his job.

In 1952, he was criminally prosecuted for homosexuality, and given a chance to ingest female hormones (chemical castration) instead of a prison sentence. The hormones led to the growth of his breasts and ultimately he committed suicide.
In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology for the way in which he was treated.

Do you think I will shun my gay friends? No way.
Do I accept atheism as a better choice than homosexuality? No way.
Am I prepared to condemn a homosexual person, whilst I close my eyes for gossip, lies, fraud and corruption, as many of us do? No way.
Am I going to cast the first stone? No way.

Is a homosexual person allowed to serve and praise God? Of course - scripture says all creation shall do that - and that includes them.

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom as the demise of mankind - by P.K.Odendaal

6 March 2012.

Conventional wisdom is the term given to the expected outcome of anything based on previous experience. Beautiful and elegant and disastrous!
You will see in the blurb of my blog site, I have the opinion that conventional and wisdom are two very divergent ideas and does not make a logical connection with each other such as hot summers day. Conventional wisdom is more like a white darkness or an illogical conclusion. Is one who is an expert in nonsense really possible. We do not need to ask an Edward Lear this question - and whilst we am at it, here is one of his children from the book Nonsense Drolleries :

Pussy said to the Owl, you elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing
O let us be married! Too long we have tarried
But what shall we do for a ring
They sailed away for a year and a day
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose
Dear Pig, are you willing, to sell for a shilling
Your ring? said the Piggy, I will
So they took it away and were married next day
By the turkey who lives on the hill ...

Well, that takes thinking to write that nonsense, but we do not need any thinking for everyday life. It is so straight forward.

Let's explore it from some basic level.
Conventional wisdom has it that if I need advice I should get it from someone else who has been through this problem before, because they will have learned something from it. I can tell you now that I have never gotten wise counsel from such a person, and I have the nagging feeling that no-one learns from previous experience. We seem to be the only animal species on earth who will make the same mistake every time. I do not know where the adage 'one bitten twice shy' comes from. When I look at the disaster series on television, I see the that same old people who had these dumb accidents on racing boats, racing cars and other stunts, come back again and again for more of the same - accidents and injuries - and fame.

And the other side of this coin - asking somebody else for advice - is in any case almost never followed - I have yet to find someone acting on the wise counsel of another. In fact, we know what is good for us, but we then set out and do the wrong thing.
I am guilty as charged.

But then, I also have this idiosyncratic way of veering from the trodden path - or conventional wisdom - and try and do exactly the opposite thing - having been bitten too much by conventional wisdom. And I have been very successful most of the time. I think I can safely say that I was more successful from deviating from conventional wisdom than I was from following it - it fact - many times more successful.
But, conventional wisdom is this easy, non-inspirational, no sweat and boring way of letting life take you where it wants to. I never need to investigate the outcome of anything, I just follow blindly. I do not need to go to any trouble to learn something from my mistakes. In fact, the less I learn and the less I know, the more simple life is, and I can just take things as they come. That is about the attitude of 90% of all people.

No Nobel prize winner, inventor or great statesmen were of this type. The one thing they had in common was that they took the uncommon way when they had to decide on something.
This is also the lesson from evolution. The species which developed a mutation - changing themselves - were able to outlive those who stayed the same. The unconventional wisdom which is quite straight forward and easy to understand, is that a variation on a theme is the crux of creativity.

And this is the point I wish to make. If we could do something different and risky and innovative when we are expected to behave or act normally or conventionally, is not only exciting but also leads one to new vistas and experiences we never knew existed. But society does not want us to act differently. We should all die or fall together.
I often enter offices of those in high places and find a plaque with the words THINK on their desks - and every time I see it, I try to think about something, but I always seem to fail. What do they think when they see this plaque every day? If one looks at the speed of their career advance one quickly deduces that they think about nothing as well.

But then again - why should one do any thinking - it is such a tiring and risky business - and sometimes even very expensive and troublesome.
I must relate the first skirmish I had with the act of thinking early in my professional career. My client had a stream running through his residential development, and the stream had silted up with clay over many centuries, so that it was unfit and even dangerous for the recreation of his residents. I was instructed to work out a solution to make it attractive and safe, and duly presented him with a drawing showing the excavation of the clay and the lining of the stream with grass blocks. He instructed his Head of Parks, a man called Dup, who was more used to working with steam locomotives than with people, being a train driver previously in his career, to do the work themselves by hiring a dozer - it would be much cheaper - how much cheaper, it did not take them long to find out.

So on the appointed day the hired dozer with operator appeared on site. The operator was instructed to doze the clay from the western towards the eastern bank of the stream in a certain way so as to prevent the dozer from being swallowed up by the heaving unstable clay. Dup then excused himself from the site for pressing business at the office. When he returned a few hours later he found that the dozer was gone, but on closer inspection he established that he could see the top few millimetres of the exhaust protruding above the clay - and on further inspection found the operator hiding somewhere behind some shrubs.
He then asked the operator what the problem was, whereupon the operator explained that he thought it would be better to doze the material from the eastern towards the western bank. A bigger dozer was then hired to extricate this dozer from the clay, and after many hours and many thousands of Rands this was accomplished.

He thereupon summoned the first dozer operator to him to give him a lecture on thinking. He said in my own words, that this operator had only thought one thought on that day and that it had cost the company five thousand rand. Could this operator now just imagine, if every person of the forty million living in this  country, took the liberty of thinking only one thought today, how many billions of rand it would cost the country.

Having been in the Defence Force some ten years before, I was disciplined never to think anything, so this argument was nothing new to me, although I must admit that refraining from thinking was always a very difficult task for me.
And so it happened in my life that I started to think - and I have become so arrogant as to think every time I have to make a decision - and even more - I would think what the normal thing would be to do in these circumstances, and then do precisely the opposite thing. Needless to say, it has caused me many hardships, but also many exciting victories and successes.

In modern parlance it means thinking out of the box. And for a South African that is an almost impossible activity. We have this idiosyncratic behaviour that we have to place everyone in boxes, like post in mail boxes. I have since my youth rebelled against this type of thing - and against everything else, so I did not need a lot of encouragement to think out of the box.
And after all - what makes this intricate and complex life more enjoyable than venturing into unknown territory. Following the road less travelled - in more than one way. Come with me and let's stretch this envelope to unbelievable new vistas and experiences.