Getting started..

I’m torn. I’m torn between subjects that I passionately love. I’m currently taking an online course run by the Arizona State university in Astronomy. I have burning passion for astronomy, physics and all things science. The only trouble is that my Maths is shit. Now, at 35, I wish I had paid more attention in maths class instead of daydreaming about what knickers Sandy Blake had on and  how do I get my hands in them.

I also love literature. I buy books constantly. I currently have, to name a few, titles by Orwell, Dickens and Twain sitting on my shelf not being read. It’s criminal. Not to mention a few casual books on social engineering, card tricks, a killer shark and an almost finished book about Abraham Lincoln and the American civil war. My problem is:

I want to know about everything. But the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know about a great many things.

earth-from-space

So I signed up to re take my GCSE/O level/High school maths. I start in October. £45. Bargain. One of the questions I have to answer to is “Where do you want this qualification to take you?” I’m tempted to answer “To the edge of the universe” but feel I might raise a few eyebrows considering I can’t do long division without a calculator. So I’ll probably stick to “Further education”

As a musician I always have the urge to set my guitar up and record. I find the hours fall away when I’m engrossed with recording. I’m very lucky, now that my children are at school, that I have a great deal of time on my hands during the day. But I fear when asked what I did today ‘Recording ideas for songs’ might be misinterpreted as ‘fuck all’

I enjoy writing. Blogs, stories, articles you name it. I haven’t written for a long time and it gets me all knotted up inside. I find it soothing, a bit like hoovering really. It releases anger and stress. So I need to do more of it.

I love to learn. I love learning new things. I love to explore. I like to say yes. Saying yes invites the possibility of new things, experiences and people into your life. Saying yes opens the door into an otherwise undiscovered world. I don’t know where I stand. I feel like I’m in the minority. I feel most people don’t necessarily want to learn new things. New skills. New lessons. I feel most people just want to reinforce what they already know. Even if it’s untrue. Maybe I’m talking wildly out of turn or maybe I’m bang on the money. I just don’t know.

All I know is I want the world. I want every taste, every sound, every emotion and every experience I can before my short time on this ball of water is over. It won’t start tomorrow because it’s already started.

Regardless of what atmosphere we are living in the conservation of knowledge must be accelerated. For without it we suffer in stagnation.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan

 

Air gun or egg hunt?

So last weekend saw the arrival of Easter. To me Easter has never been a big deal, even when I was a kid. To me it was two weeks off school and a shitload of chocolate. I’m not a believer in God or Jesus and I believe the bible to be nothing more than a collection of stories that in the course of 2000 years have succumbed to Chinese whispers.

However, the origins of the Easter celebrations don’t lie in Christianity. Originally Easter was the pagan celebration of spring, new life and the dawn of the harvest. Which is why eggs are the flagship symbol of easter. Eggs representing new life. It wasn’t until the third century AD that the Roman emperor Constantine set a date to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus bringing it inline with the pagan celebrations.

So, on Easter Sunday I let it be known on Facebook, where else, of this historical fact. Needless to say it ruffled a few feathers, prompted some people to remove me and generally it caused a bit of a stink. Seven days later I am still asking myself ‘why?’

Why would anyone be that upset by an historical event? Why would anyone care what I think about their festivals? Did hurt their feelings? Maybe. Did they cry? probably not. So what’s the big fucking deal? The above isn’t my opinion, it’s not something I’m musing over, it’s a fact. It happened. But of course whenever someone brings fact to a fiction fight they are often told to stop being so disrespectful and I shouldn’t cause such offence. Well to the people I upset that Sunday, I apologise. It was never my intention to upset you. But if you are upset by historical facts, if they do cause you great offence then I have to say that’s not my problem…it’s yours.

But the truth be told. I enjoy it. I enjoy ruffling the feathers of Christians. I enjoy debating over the origins of life, evolution or morality. I get a small kick out of it and that is my problem.

Easter

Shortly after the chocolate eggs were dispensed with we were treated to another magical day…St George’s day. Again I’ve not been one to stand on high with my hand over my heart signing our national anthem with a union jack waving majestically in the background with a great sense of pride. Why? Truthfully I think when it all boils down to it, it’s nothing more than a pile horse shit that someone made up. A day reserved to celebrate something that happened to me, by accident, at birth isn’t something that needs celebrating. It certainly doesn’t require me to feel proud about it and I don’t get all emotional at the sound of our national anthem. Not to mention that St George himself wasn’t even English. Not even British. He was Greek born to a Palestinian and lived in what is now Israel.

I’m proud that I’m a father. I’m proud that I’m a husband. I’m proud that I played guitar in front of 50,000 people at London’s Hyde Park and I’m especially proud that I fitted the skirting boards in my living room with no carpentry experience whatsoever. They were all good days and at the end of each one of them I stood back and admired my handy work.

I’m not proud to be English just like I’m not proud to be 5′ 11″ or have brown eyes. Pride should be for things that you did on your own, maybe with a little help from Youtube. I can’t do much these days without checking a Youtube video or two. I am happy to be English  and that’s the way it should be. Happy to be English. Happy to have brown eyes. There is too much unnecessary pride these days.

“Pride goeth before a fall”

 

Open your mind….

About a year ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook asking if anyone could recommend a good homeopathic doctor as he’s having problems with his back. I suggested that a trip to his GP or a chiropractor was in order and would probably yield better results. I was told I needed to be more open minded.

Open-minded image

Open-minded image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another friend posted a picture saying there was an orb/spectre floating in the background. I pointed out that it could quite easily be a spec on the lens or a reflection from the flash…again I was told I needed to be more open minded.

There is a notion that is flung around that to question something supernatural is to be closed minded, and to be close minded is a negative aspect of being human. This is not true and it can have dangerous consequences.

If a pilot, who was coming in to land at Heathrow with 300 passengers onboard said to himself ‘Ok I know what to do, I’ve landed a thousand planes. But you know what, today I’m going to keep an open mind, try something new and see what happens’  

I would describe myself as open minded. I’m more than happy to accept a new view or opinion.. so long as it’s based in fact and not superstition. I would also change my opinion on a subject if new evidence suggested so, although it would be a bitter pill to swallow. To me the true definition of being open minded is, willing to change your view despite what you believe.

I saw video a few days ago in which the stage & television medium/psychic Colin Fry gave a reading to a gentleman who had lost his son when he was just 3 months old (Please watch the video). I know the video is short, but there are a few classic signs of cold reading, and hot reading, that could explain how Mr Fry achieved his results. Fishing for answers, asking the gentleman to supply valuable information and simple deduction. Colin may possess supernatural powers and is able to communicate with the dead. However, I’m skeptical and unless he’s able to prove his abilities under test conditions then I will remain on this side of the fence.

If Mr Fry isn’t in possession of these magical abilities then what he has demonstrated in the above video is absolutely fucking disgraceful. If Colin Fry uses cold reading to achieve his results, then he’s systematically trampling over the beloved memories of the deceased, offering false hopes and exaggerated claims when people are at their most vulnerable and most desperate, all for profit, then he should be arrested for fraud. If Mr Fry truly believes that he has power to connect to people beyond the grave and hears voices in his head, then he could probably do with being in some kind of institution.

It was estimated at the turn of this century that the psychic industry was worth about $2 billion in the USA alone; and it’s growing. You require no formal training or qualifications to become medium/psychic and there is no governing body or guild, at least not in the sense of the GMC that doctors have. All you have to do is talk to people; and there will always be people who want a reading. While it’s not as lucrative as the oil industry it is older and it will be around for longer.

The James Randi foundation offers a $1 million prize to ANYONE who is able to demonstrate any psychic or paranormal ability under test conditions. Although thousands

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi)

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of people have attempted the challenge, to date the prize is yet to be claimed and has been on offer since 1964.

I have had people say to me that there are some people who go for readings, and that they take great comfort in hearing messages that their loved ones, who have passed on, are ‘in a better place’ or ‘happy and at peace’. So if it makes them happy, what’s the harm? To that I will say that a friend that offers false hopes and false promises is no friend at all. Especially if they are charging $700 for a psychic reading over the phone. At it’s most harmless it is just a bit fun, maybe after a few drinks down the pub or at a party. But when people make life changing decisions or squander the entire family fortune on trying to reach lost ones then it becomes deadly and it needs to stop. Or at the very least regulated by an independent body.

I don’t believe in psychics, reiki, ghosts, homeopathy or voodoo. Why?  because I see no reason why I should. To date, there is not a single shred of evidence that supports any of the above claims, at least nothing that can’t be attributed to cold reading or the placebo effect. So until there is, I will always question something that has no basis in truth or fact. I will try and keep an informed mind and not so open that my brain falls out.

Derren Brown.

Derren Brown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year I was lucky enough to part of the Derren Brown live show. I was picked at random from the audience and was asked to think of ANY word, write it down and seal it in an envelope. Derren then removed his envelope from under his jacket to reveal that we both had the same word written down. If you’re interested the word was CORNFORD. A model of guitar amplifier that I use. I have NO idea how he did it and I was 100% certain that he wouldn’t guess the word. The level of connection I felt with Derren at that time was overwhelming, I wanted burst. Derren makes no bones about how he achieves his results and there is nothing supernatural about it. I can understand how people are taken in by it all…It’s very powerful and has nothing to do with how intelligent or gullible a person is.

If you are someone who believes in such things then I would urge you to do some research into cold reading, if only to strengthen your belief in the supernatural. It’s certainly not my aim to convince you that there is no such thing as psychics, I’ll let you be the judge.

I would also like to add that there might very well be real psychics out there. But if there are, why has the $1 million prize reward not been claimed….for nearly half a fucking century?

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Tim

*FOOTNOTE*

There was an excellent blog about conformation bias written by a friend of mine which ties in nicely, totally coincidental I must say, which you can find here

And if you are interested in further reading on cold reading and the occult I would suggest:

The full facts of cold ready by Ian Rowland

Trick of the mind by Derren Brown

Confessions of a medium by Anonymous