Spirituality

Considerations of religious issues in general

Spirituality

Postby Gavin » 10 Feb 2013, 22:22

At the beginning of the BBC programme Wonders of Life Prof Cox visits a remote village in the Philippines and shows the viewer some natives gathering around fire. He says:

"This is a place where the traditional belief is that mountain spirits give us life and that our souls return to the mountain when we die, and where the people who live here still imagine that the spirits of the dead walk among the living ... The people light fires, inviting their souls to commune with them."


He continues:

"No matter how unscientific, this idea that some kind of soul or spirit or animated force makes us what we are an persists after our death is common. Virutually every culture, every religion has that deeply held belief - and there's a reason for that, because it feels right..."


One of the natives says:

"I believe that their spirits are around us. I know that they are near, that they have a second life."


I found it interesting to consider two possible responses to this, one from a 19th century or early 20th century empiricist, and one from the modern commentator.

The 19th century empiricist - a philosopher or perhaps a physicist like Prof Cox - would say:

"Notice how the native states that she has certain knowledge of something that she cannot possibly know. This superstitious belief without evidence has no place in scientific method. While we may "feel" that there is life after death, that does not make it true. It doesn't make it false, either. In fact, this woman doesn't know any more than anyone else about life after death."


But Prof Cox (he is very likeable, and doubtless very knowledgable) treats this view apparently with respect (despite being a humanist). He said it is incumbent upon science to answer the question "What is life?". I think if anything can do this only science can. Whether it's incumbent (or even possible) I'm not so sure.

Back to the earlier remark, it doesn't "feel right" to me, actually. While we wish it would be otherwise, it seems probable to me that there is no afterlife. We don't exist as individuals after we die any more than we did before we lived - probably less.

I may be wrong, and that's the thing - at least I'm not claiming to "know" things I cannot possibly know. Religion has fallen out of fashion, only to be replaced by spirituality (and in this case spiritualism), but I find this more muddy, if anything. I wonder what people think about spirituality on here and about the respect that is commonly paid to it today. Personally I think a lot of gobbledegook is spoken, and a lot money is made from gullible people in its name. If there is "something more" to us, that's difficult to define and there's insufficient reason to assume it persists after death.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Gavin » 09 Mar 2013, 19:03

The kind of trendy spirituality I'm talking about is exemplified by the early nineties actress Sherilyn Fenn, who has now started a blog. There she describes herself as:

"A seeker and speaker of my truth. And I encourage others to do the same. All are one and yet here we appear to be separate and therefore truth has many faces. And they are all relevant.This is my place to share"


It's very fashionable now for there to be this idea of "my truth", "your truth" and everybody else's truth. Whatever happened to the idea of "the truth"? I'd like to hear people coming out with this kind of thing in court!

Ms Fenn's favourite books include The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It seems a lot of people are looking for an alternative to religion now.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Elliott » 09 Mar 2013, 19:34

Sherilyn Fenn was stunning in Twin Peaks. It's sad when you realise that these people (actors, singers and celebrities) are really just silly, lost people like the rest of us - often much more silly and lost than the rest of us, actually.

If the quote is anything to go by, she sounds fairly typical of a certain kind of modern person - not terribly bright, not much substance, but desirous to be substantial and sensitive and good. But with nobody else to tell her how to be substantial, sensitive and good, she just falls back on the fluffy waffle of spiritualism. I think that's how most people arrive at it.

Like you, Gavin, I think that religion is probably false and so on, but even then I still think it is better than the intellectual (and therefore moral) chaos of spiritualism. For the type of person I'm talking about, spiritualism is basically a free pass to believe (or pretend to believe) anything that each individual wants to believe; it's a way out of having any intellectual responsibility or expectations.

Having said that, I would not (and do not) condemn anyone who professes beliefs of which I know nothing - theosophy, Buddhism and so on. Whom I condemn are those people who, when you try to get them to talk about their spiritualist beliefs, only reveal that they actually don't have any.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Gavin » 09 Mar 2013, 23:57

Good points.

"Sherilyn Fenn was stunning in Twin Peaks."


I can't disagree with that. We're watching it right now. What a weird programme it was - but that's David Lynch for you.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Charlie » 10 Mar 2013, 20:02

Whenever I look at Facebook, I see all kinds of waffle there in the form of quasi-spiritual, quasi-motivational speaker-esque posts and supposed 'quotes'. They're normally accompanied by some cheesy, utopian imagery, like screen shots from a Deepak Chopra powerpoint presentation:

There are so many of these floating around in fact that I doubt that the people posting them can even remember half of what they're supposed to be following! Lots of them seem like cries for help. Here are just a few I've found:

In life, you'll find three types of people: Those that will change your life, those that will harm your life and those that will be your life.


Be kind to one another :-) Everyones just trying to get through life, as everone faces challenges while they do the best they can while the world gets tougher and tougher.


It is not an investment if it is destroying the planet. - Dr Vandana Shiva


Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen


Everything happens for a reason. Maybe you don't know the reason right now, but when it is finally revealed…it will blow you away

Can you blow me away please if Labour win in 2015? Thanks.

Strength isn't about how much you can handle before you break, it's about how much you can handle after you break


Don't be afraid to be grown...

How many of us are afraid to grow up because we fear that we will no longer be attractive...desirable?

Last night I got to have some girl time with one of my favorite women. She is a gorgeous woman who has been a light in this industry for two decades. We are both now in our forties, but I found myself more mesmerized by this woman's beauty now than when we were in our twenties. During our conversation, I realized that her beauty had DEEPENED from all the wisdom she has collected from her years of experiences. It's a beauty that has been earned. A beauty that a twenty year old can't possess until she has paid the price of...evolution, of transformation, of having rose from the ashes of a thousand rebirths.

I thought to myself...this is the new phase of beauty that maturity brings. It's a beauty that has learned to build and rebuild hearts. A beauty that can sustain all that is substantial. It's a beauty that we, culturally, rarely exalt, rarely recognize or give praise to. Culturally, we hound exterior youth but... it's our deepening, our self-actualizing, that creates the beauty...that lasts...for eternity.

Don't be afraid to be GROWN. It's beautiful;)
Being 'GROWN' sounds rather painful actually.

Someone who really loves you sees what a mess you can be, how moody you can get, how hard you are to handle, but still wants you in their life


Journey of young women: we cannot become what we need to be, remaining what we are.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Caleb » 11 Mar 2013, 03:47

Spirituality, religion, etc. are all a load of nonsense. They may have sometimes produced great art or music, but they've never cured anyone of polio. The only difference between a cult and a world religion is the numbers involved. The Bible is just as fanciful to me. Spiritualism does suit a certain type of daft person though, as do the ultra watered down versions of major religions.

I don't really have much to do with such people though because I find they generally take a similar approach, i.e. touchy-feely and completely irrational, to all areas of discussion. Whether it's a conversation about the economy or philosophy, it's like talking to a child.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Gavin » 16 Mar 2013, 10:58

I have to agree with that. It's just a shame that so many atheists also seem to be all-out liberals and/or socialists. There is really no logical need for that, I think. Perhaps it's just the vocal ones who do that, the ones who have a problem with religion because to them it primarily represents authority, and who need "something else to believe in" instead. I'm just not religious because it doesn't stack up, isn't very credible, but that is hardly going to make me into some kind of anarchist or socialist.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Caleb » 18 Mar 2013, 00:15

Gavin: Nietzsche said, of English socialists in the 19th century that they were basically like Christians without Christ. Both believe in the brotherhood of man and they're not that unalike in many ways.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Andy JS » 19 Mar 2013, 18:44

Gavin wrote:Good points.

"Sherilyn Fenn was stunning in Twin Peaks."


I can't disagree with that. We're watching it right now. What a weird programme it was - but that's David Lynch for you.


Sorry to post off-topic. I just wanted to say how much I agree with the comment about Twin Peaks. About a year ago I decided to watch the entire thing (both series) and it's probably the best drama I've ever watched on TV. Describing something as being "ahead of its time" is a bit of a cliche but it certainly applies to Twin Peaks; I can understand why so many people didn't understand it when it first came out in 1990/91. One of my favourite things about it is the fact that the camerawork is "traditional" in the sense that it doesn't fly around the whole time with cuts between shots every half a second, (something which I think was already becoming common at that time). I would certainly recommend the show to anyone who hasn't seen it.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Caleb » 20 Mar 2013, 01:38

Oh yes, Twin Peaks was something else. It dipped a bit in the middle of the second season (the whole Billy Zane and Shrilyn Fenn subplots, as well as the subplot with James Hurley running away and having an affair with that rich woman), but it was generally excellent.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Elliott » 20 Mar 2013, 02:21

I agree the soapy elements got in the way. I especially found tedious the subplot with the one-eyed woman developing an obsession with curtains. (Come on, I want to know what Windom Earle's doing!) Surreptitiously watching the series as a child, I also found the character of Bob simply terrifying. It is a great series.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Caleb » 20 Mar 2013, 05:07

I think the point with Nadine and her obsession with curtains, her husband's (Ed's) dissatisfaction with their marriage, which led, in part to her accident, and her amnesis/psychosis thinking she was a high school student again (and becoming obsessed with the football player) was actually right at the heart of Twin Peaks, and indeed, David Lynch's broader point in much of his work. It was really instrumental to the series. The facial expressions the actor playing her husband would display in response to some of her antics were pure comedic genius. He played that role as an absolutely hilarious straight man.

David Lynch is basically obsessed with what lurks beneath the surface of a particular rosy image of (small town) America. He has basically made a career out of exposing and skewering that rosy image as both creating neuroses and being an attempt to mask those neuroses in a feedback loop.
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Charlie » 20 Mar 2013, 20:02

Funnily enough, I watched Twin Peaks again recently. My other half had heard so much about it and wanted to watch it, so I found my old DVDs and we sat through it together.

In my view, the first series was brilliantly done, but the second one soon went downhill after Laura Palmer's killer was revealed and David Lynch began to take a backseat.

For some reason, now, whenever I think about Ray Wise and his manic grin in series two, I get an image of Tony Blair. I can just imagine the ex PM driving around with a large bag of golf clubs in the boot of his car…
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Gavin » 20 Mar 2013, 23:59

Same here Charlie, currently sitting through it with my wife! I think Caleb described Lynch well:

Caleb wrote:David Lynch is basically obsessed with what lurks beneath the surface of a particular rosy image of (small town) America. He has basically made a career out of exposing and skewering that rosy image as both creating neuroses and being an attempt to mask those neuroses in a feedback loop.


But Lynch, for me, is a surrealist and I'm not especially into surrealism. I don't mind an artwork like Dali's (I think Dali was technically skilled and I suppose Lynch is too) but I'm finding it harder to sit through two seasons of Twin Peaks! It's like the inside of Lynch's head, on the screen. I expect some on the forum will strongly disagree and they are welcome to do so, but I also found Eraserhead to be one of the worst films ever made.

We are up to Season Two, Espisode 21 of Twin Peaks now, so not too far to go now! I agree that what merit it has dies out a bit after the murderer of Laura Palmer is unveiled (at ABC's request due to declining viewing figures). All this said, I do like the theme tune (I remember it being released) even though it is used throughout each episode and at the beginning and the end!
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Re: Spirituality

Postby Elliott » 21 Mar 2013, 02:48

I am also not a fan of surrealism. Anything that is meaningless... irritates me. However, the surprising thing about Twin Peaks is that actually does all make sense - though I certainly wouldn't have worked it out on my own. It's all to do with a time loop, and you'll have to watch the prequel (which is therefore also a sequel) Fire Walk With Me before you'll be able to understand the explanation. Obviously it's strange to create something so cryptic that people need to consult websites to explain it for them, but I think in this case Lynch gets away with it.

As for the theme tune, it is very nice, but I also like a lot of the incidental music throughout. What's so nice about it is that it's very locked in time: those synth strings virtually scream "1990", and I really like that!

Eraserhead... well, I think this was before Lynch managed to get his surrealist tendencies under control. The film doesn't make sense and has many parts that are deliberately obtuse. It's also too long - a lot of films are, but it's especially grating with this one for obvious reasons. What I would say in its favour is that it is a unique and well-crafted experience. It's quite surprising that he made The Elephant Man so soon after this - it is completely non-surreal, and a fantastic film.
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