Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What then, once your life is over?

Life is special in every way. It's statistically rare, improbable. However, it's great to be in it! Feeling life at liberty is what this is all about. We can't live life focused in worries about death. What happens once our bodies cease to function? So far, we have no connection with those who have died. Once they're gone, we only hear more from them by their acts and deeds, but never ever from them personally. They aren't persons any more, their bodies have ceased to function.

It bothers people to imagine that their thoughts and images exist only within their bodies. It's incredibly difficult for most people to accept that once life ceases, thoughts and images and feelings are gone for good. So, we better enjoy our special state, while we are awaken and alive.

Most matter around us, near or far, in our planet or in our Universe, is not conscious of itself, except us. We are matter, too. We are made from the same atoms everything else is made of. It's true: our combination results in thoughts, feelings, memories, images, creativity, love, hatred, selfishness and altruism. But that's all it is: our very special combination. We are living systems; we are conceived, born, educated; we love, hate, think, get anxious, stay calm, get sick, get well, enjoy, die.

It's important, I would say, not to live under false promises, expecting things which won't be. It's important to be conscious of how valuable our condition—matter conscious of itself—can be. Our cultures seem to be built upon strange grounds: "games" that might have worked at some past time, do not work now. Today we need to face reality as positively as it can be understood by our most careful methods of studying it. It would certainly help to move around using basic scientific attitudes.

Why can't we teach our children that we are alive and, in so being, we are privileged beings? Why can't we help children understand life and death? Anything taught soon enough, will become understandable reality for any being capable of thinking. We hide death from them. Why do we do that? Why do we lie? We cherish honesty and truthfulness, and yet we plan our children's education upon lies—that we dare to call practical. Why haven't we decided collectively that designing our cultures orbiting truths will certainly be more liberating than making people face hidden realities deceptively.

Living is our great privilege. We have some choices. We aren't as free as we would like to believe. We need to be realistic about our true limits. Not everything is possible, however, most reasonably envisioned goals are attainable applying proper methods and strength, will strength. Are we truthful with our children as we speak to them? Do we let them grasp reality in its wholeness, or do we purposefully hide dubious corners from them? It's time, now, to rethink our universal culture. And, yes, it's an absolute necessity, this new culture must be universal. Every single human being must be included. Our planet has already become small enough. We're all incredibly tight together.

So, what matters is your life today, now. We are mandated by existence itself, to enjoy life fully and ethically.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Metaphysics, a waste of time?

"War of the Worldviews", written by Deepak Chopra (pro spirituality) and Leonard Mlodinow (pro science), is one incredibly interesting book. I can't stop reading it; I can't put it down. Page after page, both authors deal with this eternal discussion about our origins. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Is it important to know why we're here? Do we need reasons to exist? Does our Universe need reasons to be? Is existing not complete in itself? Does it need initial reasons? Is everything planned ahead? Are we the result of preconceived ideas? Is our Universe planned of self designed?

Today we understand better than ever every single force that participates in generating our present material and conscious reality. We know with high degrees of certainty, that our consciousness is something that emerges due to our brain cells combining and interacting amongst themselves. Our consciousness is the final totality of what we experience. It forms itself as pieces of information enter our brain through our senses. We have at least two sources of information feeding our brains regularly: our senses—providing images, sounds, smells, feelings and taste of that which is outside of us—and our memories, combining information from our senses with information from within. Thirdly, we need to be very careful in including what our bodies need, which they communicate to our consciousness through our drives. There we have: three sources of information, of stimuli. Each one exerts its special degree of influence over every single decision we make.

Why do so many people—more than 56%—insist on explaining consciousness as something that can only exist if everything is within a greater, superior, transcendental consciousness?

When we say, individually, "I, me", who is there? Who speaks and thinks and refers to herself/himself as "me"? Is it not that combination of what entered our brains through our senses, mixed with our memories and our drives, what builds up our final consciousness, which, incidentally, is continuously changing?

Anybody with some understanding of processes will categorize human reasoning as something very special. It is! That can't be denied. However, the origin of such richness in handling complex issues is what is being debated. Some will fearlessly affirm that such complex processes are indicators of our spiritual nature. Thinking is first; existence comes after. Do we think consciously because of our brain's processes, or our brain processes are possible, because we originated from intelligent entities, beyond matter?

World views are radically split in at least two groups: skeptics and spiritualists. Skeptics account for less people than spiritualists. This is not something that would be expectable today! What happened? Why haven't most people been captivated by such beautiful methodology as that defined within anything scientific? Is it because perhaps it's one more deception, similar to discovering realities concerning Santa Claus?

Why do we insist on raising our children upon lies? Do we like to see them deceived as they find out reality? What is good about such game? We hold honesty and truthfulness as human utmost valuable assets, and yet we grow our children telling them lies that we amiably call "fairy tails"? Do we not know, yet, that deceipt is highly conducive to frustration and misbehavior? Why are we tolerating such falsehood as something "nice"? Is it because it generates sales?

We need to find ways to free people from illusions. Some of us are convinced without any hint of doubt, that freedom depends highly on depending on what is true.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mexico in Serious Danger of Moving Backwards

It's difficult to explain this in the USA, but Mexico has moved forwards intensively in the last 12 years or so. Do they understand this in the USA? They probably don't. At least, most of them simply do not have the slightest interest in the subject. But it is a subject of superlative importance for the North American continent. Some companies in the USA are still unaware of Mexico being part of a commercial treaty that should make it really easy to expand their markets. Most web sites ignore this and can't sell or do not want to sell anything to Mexicans.

As I am writing this—December, 2011—things are happening in Mexico that might lead this struggling nation back to the past. "The Past" deserves a definition.

Ballots and elections. It took Mexicans about 200 years to design an idiosyncrasy proof electoral system. They got this in 1997 and in 2000, the PRI party—the one in power for 71 years—gave in. President Salinas de Gortari declared in several international forums that "Mexico hadn't just changed political parties, but Mexico had decided a shift in political regime". It's clear that what this expresident meant was that the change hadn't been a simple thing, but a rather very complex shift towards an uncertain new "regime". Why did Salinas say that?

During the campaign months people would very often express that, as happy as they could be that the PAN party was going to win, they were sure it was going to be a disaster, but they didn't know how or why. Today, most of those who commented about the "future disaster", are prompt to express that what really happened is that the PRI structure was never torn down. It's up and powerful, today perhaps more than ever. In the past, the PRI bands used to need to be careful and protect themselves from the other bands. Today, they are protected by the system. They don't need to be careful of each other: they're now dwelling a country of laws, not exactly the one they contributed to create, but exactly the opposite.

Mexico is an extremely difficult country, mainly because of the complexity of a culture that forgives narcotics organized crime more easily than child sexual abuse. For some of us, Mexican born citizens, it's impossible to understand and least of all, accept, the attitude adopted by important editorial figures who have insisted on disseminating the idea that president Calderon's frontal battle against organized crime is a "wrong political action". What would the "correct" action be?

Obviously, this isn't even about political correctness, but simply about political propaganda. The media in Mexico had been traditionally at the mercy of the group in power. Freedom of the Press is only a constitutional formality. In reality, it was never respected. The media were used to communicate whatever the empowered group needed in order to "look good" in front of the people.

It wasn't until year 2000, right when Vicente Fox took office, that the Freedom of the Press became a reality. However, the change meant a serious problem for the entire structure. The media directors were used to receiving "official suggestions" about what to communicate, how to emphasize it, what not to mention, and so forth. Fox and his group of break-in politicians—most of them, convinced believers of democracy—never sent a signal demanding what the journalists still believed to the president's prerogative.

Confronting the presidential power from a newspaper column used to be considered a real act of bravery and civil courage. It shouldn't be, anymore. At a time, it became a "national sport" to destroy the presidential couple using the media. And it was an incredible efficient process. Fox's presidency showed numbers that have only been improved by president Calderon's. However, somehow the media have been incredibly effective at showing to the public an image of constant conflict, lack of imagination to rule and an extensive set of negative traits.

If some or all the negative traits are real, would be a thing to be carefully analyzed. What is undeniable, is the fact that both non-PRI federal governments have yielded numbers that speak marvels of them as responsible administrators, lawful officials and human rights honoring politicians.

Whenever all they needed to do was to abide by the law, they got excellent results, the best ever in the Mexican nation. One clear example of this is the growth of home building, with three-party administered funds. All employers in Mexico have the legal obligation of paying 5% over the salaries paid, to a home building fund called "Infonavit". During the Fox and Calderon administrations, the number of homes built amounts to 1 in 4 houses that have ever existed in the country!. In 1982, the funds of "Infonavit" were seized by Lopez Portillo, and were used to diminish the government internal debt.

Calderon's decision to combat the bands of organized crime was an obligation once he took office. It wasn't something optional to do. Why would it be optional for a government to combat crime? Has it ever been optional to chase criminals? I mean, is it something that should be left "to see what happens"? As a matter of fact, if Calderon had not shown a determination to combat organized crime, he would have been criticized for not doing his duty. The violent encounters between bands of crime groups have resulted in close to 50,000 deaths. Were these deaths caused by bullets from the Army or the Navy? Absolutely not! Then, why are they saying this everywhere? That's the heck of an important question, to be answered with the most accuracy, and be learned accordingly by all Mexican citizens....

The media had never paid any attention to the encounters between gangs. Why did it become so important to record the daily deaths of the armed gangs? Simply because it was the perfect combination: mention the death toll of the day, and concatenate it with "Calderon's 'peronsal' war", and that's it! You've got your journalistic critique of the presidential decision to abide by the law by combating the criminal bands.

In December 2011, as I'm typing this, the weekly polls reflect nothing but a total lack of understanding of what is really important for their country on the part of the citizens of Mexico. If the intention was to generate total confusion, they have been incredibly successful at achieving such goal. Not even the PAN friendly people—a mere 21%—know why their option is a valid and valuable one. Electorally speaking, the benefit is only on behalf of the loser of the elections in 2006, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. This man has had an erratic behavior concerning his relations to the PRI party. Incidentally, during the elections in the state of Mexico, his participation was frankly and openly on behalf of the PRI candidate, even in detriment of the candidate of his alleged party, the PRD, Alejandro Encino. What happened there?

What we see today is a PRI "super candidate" quickly being diminished in the polls. The last heavy stroke against him being his uncomfortable muting during an interview as he was unable to mention 3 books that he might have read that would account for his political views.

The PAN party has always attempted—and achieved, most of the time—democracy in its internal processes to select candidates. As of right now, 3 pre candidates are running for the PAN presidential candidacy: Josefina Vazquez Mota, Santiago Creel Miranda and Cordero. Neither has the stamina and high oratorial capabilities that President Calderon has. So, their performance as candidates is uncertain. The election process has been going on for at least 5 years. The PRI candidate has been on the news daily, competing only with President Calderon. If the information handled by the public were the correct one, the PAN brand would be the highest, well above the PRI and PRD party symbols. However, the extremely clean financial administration of the federal Government—along with its dutifully administered respect for Human Rights—have been opaqued by the daily media sort of pathological necessity to transform every single official act or event, a target for the most severe and unfounded critique.

The future of Mexico is uncertain if whoever holds the presidency decides to break the rules of the IMF. A lot of Mexicans wish our country to continue in the path of sustained growth, rather than in a path of financial upheavals similar to Greece, Italy and Venezuela. We could have grown a lot more during the last 10 years, but the needed Constitutional Amendments were systematically denied by the Congress—with a majority of seats under the control of the PRI party.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Just a physical body ... "just"?

It's extremely difficult for me to believe that when I think of myself as being "just a physical body" I'm missing something. I am "just" a physical body, but ... what a fantastic entity this physical body is! If we think only for 10 seconds about the incredible number of events that needed to take place in the "right direction" for this "inferior" physical body to exist, then we are no longer going to to say, ever, that "just being a physical body" is not something extremely special in the Universe.

Yes, I am very proud to be a physical body, and a great one at that. I don't have to imagine a supreme being with whom to connect in order to transcend my physical body. And there is no way that I will ever accept that the being inside this body is anything else but one of the functionalities of the body itself. Do you want to call this inner formation "a soul"? Go ahead! Call it anything you wish! However, it won't change what it really is: a physical body with incredible intellectual capabilities.

Our body is a mixture of atoms, fixed into molecules. As an entity, it is simply marvelous. It takes longer for a Sun to form itself and start generating energy to supply to surrounding planets, than it takes, once the proper planet is formed, to generate living creatures. The rare thing here is the planet appropriate for life.

Once the proper planet exists, then the level to which these living entities can evolve depends on time and lots of different and complex conditions. In our case, our species, homo sapiens sapiens, is an extreme amongst the extremes. It's so special! If you conceived for a moment the degree of value that our body has, you would never think that believing of ourselves to be "just physical bodies" is something that needs to be fixed with connecting with "supreme beings". We are supreme beings!

The simple fact that we can conceive our existence, that is, to be conscious of the fact that we exist as aware entities, is already a great marvel in itself. We are aware that we exist, we are aware that we evolve, we are aware of the Universe in which we exist. We have made up a large number of expressions to call our essence and that which surrounds us. We are now aware—if we don't get ourselves lost in the "supreme being" attractive idea—that the simple event of our existence is an incredibly improbable happening in the Universe. And yet, we also know now that, after all, the Universe itself has a tendency to create places where beings similar to us can exist.

We are—something difficult to understand—just one form of life. And life is the concept we have developed so we can name entities that evolve according to a program embedded in helical molecules, perfectly bound together, that we call DNA. We get to become whatever we become—as living organisms—because during millions and millions of years—"year" being just one unit of time, so we can get the idea—molecules of certain elements get together, bind themselves using the free orbits of their atoms and determine to register the bindings into DNA, so the same variations of molecule bindings can take place in almost exactly the same way, time after time after time.

Why do we need the concept of "soul"? Even if the soul, spirit, supreme being hypothesis were true, things would not change for our living condition. We would still need to forego the living paths programmed in our cells and then in our particular creations as a different species. So, what do the souls or spirits need to "come down" to matter—the inferior element—and invade bodies that are already equipped with every single element they need in order be conscious of their existence? If the souls are real, then do they duplicate the capabilities of the physical body?

Everything that traditionally has been intended to be explained as possible only because of the soul, we know now that happens inside the brain. It's the brain and the way its neurons are connected, and they were they interact, that what we call "thinking" happens. Our memories are nothing but active connections amongst neurons. Our feelings and what we call consciousness exist within the brain functions, and the brain itself is only one more organ of the "physical body" they are always under valuing in the name of the superiority of the soul.

I don't even need to ask the question of where the idea of the soul came from. It's useless and we all know the answer. We have learned that different human conglomerates throughout their histories developed different theories to explain what they didn't understand. They created hypothesis and tried to improve them as some deeds were impossible to explain. The soul is the most logical concept to design, since our thought and our imagination almost depict ourselves as separate entities from our bodies. But the fact is that we aren't! Our consciousness, no matter how "superior" it might look to you, is something that exists within the confines of your working organism.

Yes, sadly, when the body stops working, it all ceases to exist. So, the soul doesn't go anywhere? Is there no soul? Then, what is the meaning of life?

Who said that life needed a meaning? Does the Universe need a meaning? Things need meanings only because we abstract them from the flow of events in which they are all embedded. We become real slaves of our beliefs, false beliefs. Why don't we try to concentrate in appreciating the real value of what we are? We are great bodies in an incredible Universe and we know we are! And this is the most fantastic element of it all.