Reality may be non-material

I prefer the material realm of the universe we occupy to be a projection of an ethereal realm. The latter realm is effectively unknown. It is also an inexplicable dimension of existence. Yet, reality also seems to me to be more ethereal than material. Why do I say that?

Because almost everything in the material realm is subject to change. Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, of entropy, goes even further. Nothing of substance seems to be durable. While the material realm also cannot explain the ethereal realm, the latter may contain the templates (see Plato’s ‘real’) for transient materiality.

When Heraclitus (a Greek philosopher of yore) quoted a typically unrecognised Hindu thinker of centuries before him, saying “All is fire,” he was referring to the firmament which surrounds us. All my life, I have been enchanted by the apparently infinite number of balls of fire which we see as stars.

Recently, my mind’s-eye developed this scenario. The invisible ‘smoke’ from these fires could represent an integrated ‘mesh,’ the ephemeral realm of the Universe; and the ‘ashes’ and other disgorgements from each sun which fall upon their respective planets (such as Earth) could represent the material from which life forms eventually oozed or erupted. Does this vision make possible sense?

Then, there is the material realm of which we are part; that is, we are substantially matter. We are part of the 4% of the totality of matter estimated to exist in the Universe to be visible.

What of invisible matter? Two-thirds is said to be dark matter; one third is apparently dark energy. Was the latter transmuted from dark matter, or vice versa? However, since we cannot see either, could they actually exist? Of course they can, since bees and some animals are apparently able to use certain alternative strands of the electromagnetic spectrum to go about their business.

As well, there was my first clairvoyant who could see, and describe accurately, the spirit of my uncle who had manifested himself to him. That is, invisible cosmic matter may become visible under appropriate conditions; and invisible energy may be identifiable through its material impacts.

In the event, what is the point of all the fuss we make about the minuscule amount of visible matter in the Universe, including our human material selves? Are we not a lot more than our material bodies? The essence of each human being is of far more significance than the outer shell. Should we not be investigating non-visible matter and energy in their role in shaping humanity, in order to understand our place in the ephemeral realm?

Ultimate reality seems to be beyond the visible, tangible, cupidity and crudity of much of Earthly human existence.

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We really know nothing

Socrates reportedly claimed “I know nothing.” That statement resonates with me. After a sound colonial education, wide reading, thinking deeply about almost everything that affects us as human beings, comparing what the scientists are saying about cosmology with the beliefs offered by religions, and after a highly interactive and contributory life as an adult for 7 decades, I too feel that I know nothing.

But then, from about age 8, when I seemingly became aware that I had a brain with an associated mind, I began to ask myself “How do I know what I know?” No one could help me answer that question. The obvious answer? “I do not know!”

Continuing on a subjective plane of contemplation, are there not situations when one just ‘knows’ something, or about something? There are those who read the past accurately, or foretell the future accurately, or accurately read the thoughts of others, or see what is happening elsewhere (not always confirmable) – but seem untouched by their ability. It is as if they are merely conduits. My experience covers all these phenomena.

There are also those who communicate with the spirits of dead humans; and who say that the spirit realm influences – indeed, guides – some of us. As well, there is intuition, an understanding without perceivable cause; the so-called ‘third eye’ is often credited with this ability.

Is it therefore probable that those who seek knowledge, even through what we know as the sciences, can ever be certain that the explanations offered are (realistically) no more than theories, tentative in nature? What if some (many?) theories cannot be tested – ever? Does the use of mathematical calculations prove (that is, beyond challenge) any theory? Or, would a rigorous application of mathematical processes merely enhance the probability of the causal relationship being tested being potentially verifiable, were a process of verification to become available?

Since maths is apparently not created but discovered, does the human brain, drawing on only 5 senses (enhanced by some appropriate equipment), have the capacity to access the totality of the information which may be available? Worse still, the scientific method, which tells us reliably about the mechanistic material realm, is unable to deal with the ethereal realm. How do we obtain reliable information about matters neither measurable nor repeatable?

In reality, we puny humans can only hope to achieve a tentative understanding of matters of relevance to existence, by drawing upon what is set before us as knowledge, relying upon that ephemeral ability known as intuition. If only we could avoid being led into blind alleys by purveyors of faith in both the material and immaterial realms.

Knowing nothing, and awaiting hopefully for some slight infusion of insight from the ethereal realm may be sensible, while reconciling the tie to the material realm of Earth with that innate yearning for communing with the insubstantial Divine.

A Seeker of knowledge may thus need to settle for an understanding drawn from intuition, where the objective may actually be subjective!

Observing little children with joy

Little children are little people. They will grow up to be big people. In transit (as teenagers), some will become ‘know-alls’, based (presumably) on their belief they had suddenly acquired many rights and great understanding of the human condition. Some of those who attend university will claim to have solutions to everything they see wrong in society. Why not indeed?

Little children will progress (as they grow older) from asking “What’s that?” to “How does it work?” to “Why is it so?” They can’t help their enquiring minds. Some will proceed through adulthood enquiring, wondering, speculating; even prognosticating.

The adult-to-be can often be visible as the child progresses from being an observing baby (aren’t they all!) to an enquiring child.. Each such child is, of course, a complex product of Nature (essentially their genetic inheritance) and nurture (their experiences as they grow up). But, what of any memory (much of it concealed, but not completely buried) of a past life? (Professional sceptics may deny anything they do not like, but reality will prevail.) I have intimations of a past life which resonates (possibly) in my soul.

One uniformly-displayed attribute of little children intrigues me. Each child will point with a forefinger at whatever is interesting. Is this an inherited shared characteristic?
Yet, there is so much variability in their presentation of the ubiquitous startle reflex. Some will freeze; others will cry. Is this a variation of the fight-or-flee instinct? This instinct is shared with animals. Fighting or fleeing is not a realistic option for little children when a threat (real or imagined) is experienced. To freeze (to be still and quiet) seems to be the preferred option by both young and old, and both humans and animals. Crying may reflect a hopeless fear.

It has been said that anxiety is the prevailing emotional condition of all motile forms of life; and that such a state reflects the uncertainly of much of existence. Little children do display uncertainty when they expect, or are exposed to, change in their circumstances. They may subconsciously remember the terrible shock of being born.

What interests me is the variability in personality observed in little children. Of course, if often isolated, or lacking in displayed love, or brought up institutionalised (eg. long child-care hours, up to 8 hours per day each day, between age 3 and 5), any child can withdraw emotionally, or become subliminally angry. I write from personal observation here; research evidence confirms.

However, in normal circumstances, there seems to be an innate basal layer of a personality in each child. Seeking to explain an inborn proclivity would be fraught with difficulty. That is because I believe that past-life experiences are cumulative. I do know that a relaxed, co-operative child can house a concealed fighter who, in the Australian lexicon, ‘takes no shit’ from anyone. Another child in the same family can be recalcitrant or even infallible in presentation, while otherwise acculturated. Another member of that family may sail through life, cheerfully indifferent to others. Again, I write from close observation.

By and large, little children are a delight; especially if supported by a loving family. Those I see with their mothers are the most out-going, responding with a smile, or even a wide grin, to anyone who shows a clear interest in them. I have tested that response over many years, benefiting from the reciprocation of a personal interest.

The most interesting people in life are the little people.

Observing babies with joy

Every baby, at birth, is a miracle. Fully formed, ready to go – but not quite! Baby birds sit in their nests and squawk – perhaps only when they sight mum returning with food. These nesters will eventually fly away from their perch. Ground-hugging baby birds, like the plover, will practice flapping their flight-wings while standing on the ground. I once watched with interest a young plover falling onto its back repeatedly while flapping its wings. Eventually, it flew.

Baby animals, immediately after birth, get on to their feet with some effort. When they get their joints in synchrony, they move around, but close to mum. I once saw (on tv) a baby elephant walk over confidently to observe more closely a few birds fossicking on the ground. Soon, however, its mama wandered over and gathered her baby back.

What is fascinating to observe is a young animal make friends with a young one of another species. There are so many such examples. A giraffe and a sheep do, however, seem a strange friendship. I once saw (on tv) 3 different young animals moving together as companions. I also saw (on the internet) 3 cheetahs approached by a tiny baby deer while they were resting. It then nuzzled up to one of the big cats. Eventually, the cheetahs got up and walked away!

I have always felt, perhaps quite unfairly, that animals are better ‘people’ than human beings. Surely, it is only hunger which leads carnivores to attack other animals. Since hunger may be the prevailing condition, carnivores may create an incorrect impression as perennial hunters. Apart from some power-seeking or mischief-making, is co-operation not the modus operandi for the rest of the animal kingdom?

Human babies seem to be the only exception in the kingdom of fauna as needing a lot of time to become motile. They do remain on their backs for a long time. What are they thinking as they observe all? When placed on their bellies, after a few weeks they will lift their head to check out their surroundings. This seems to be the first action intimating purpose.

A little later, when lying on their backs, they will suddenly sit up straight but without any use of their limbs. We adults can’t do that, unless we have developed our core abdominal muscles through exercise. How do babies suddenly display muscle strength?

When my baby daughter was only a few weeks old, I sat her up with cushions on 3 sides, next to a window, in order to take photos of her. She was calm while listening to me. Then, in walked my wife, whose voice and words conveyed so much love. The baby became very excited, and tried to move towards her mother, with such joy on her face.

It was an incredible experience – especially for a product of a ‘stiff upper lip’ Asian culture. In that culture, after a babyhood of being cuddled and spoilt, there was thereafter neither words nor touch to demonstrate the close family bond. The compensation is that the extended family is always there, and could be relied upon.

Through that early bonding, each of our babies grew up into adulthood with confidence; so I believe.

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 3)

Whicky, the Tolerant

Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! What is to be done with Maxwell? There he is, resplendent in his shiny black coat and sleekly cuddly because of his skill in capturing a mouse-sized snack each day. Yet he is grumpy. He does so want the respect that he feels he is entitled to because of his Egyptian heritage. At minimum, he would accept his birth name Maxwell. He thus hates Virginia’s Maxie-baby. She likes him in spite of not approving his extra-mealtime foraging. He hates more being called Max by the family, although he realizes that many Australians have grave difficulty in articulating words of more than two syllables – something to do with their low-brow ancestry, he feels.

He most hates the name Mangy Max that House prefers. Yet he accepts me addressing him as MM – a sign of pure friendship. On the other hand, yes, on the other paw, who else could he talk to since he barely deigns to recognize his human slaves? Of course, being required to be celibate makes him quite cranky and a little vicious. He has heard of similar behavior in certain religious schools in his neighborhood – which enables him to be more tolerant of himself. Ah, the self-satisfaction of self-satisfaction! Only we cat-gods can understand that.

In his arrogance, MM is ignorant of House’s plan for him. Virginia is, however, well aware of all that is going on. How so? She is strangely gifted. She is able to hear as well as understand the language of mice and cats in all their simplicity (a little like the Malay language now known as Bahasa) – and tells me all she knows. After all, she is my pet slave. And I suspect that in lifetimes past we may have been together in old Persia with her as queen and me as god. It is of course possible that our roles were reversed then. Gods have indeed been transmogrified (no pun intended) into humans since Earth became inhabited.

Unlike MM, I am able to share my home with House the Mouse and his mob. This is because I am aware, as the followers of the Buddha have taught for centuries before the advent of Christ, that all sentient beings are worthy of respect and care. Since, in their philosophy of the meaning of existence, the bodies of all sentient beings (that is, beings with the power of self-perception) are interchangeable as temporary homes for our souls, the imperative of mutual respect, if not love, is paramount as a guide for living. Did not Jesus later talk of the imperative of mutual love and care for fellow humans? Those of us who have been gods and humans are empathetic to his teaching, although we believe that it is regrettably truncated in its compass.

I think that it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for the mice to nobble MM by belling him. Could I help them? How? By holding him down while they tied a large bell round his fat neck? What would MM’s slaves say about that? Had the mice thought about that? MM’s slaves might indeed like MM to reduce the population of mice in the paddock, even if it is not their property. For it is the nature of the landed gentry, no matter how they had acquired their land, to exhibit an almost prurient (as in morbid) interest in adjacent properties. I wonder if in these circumstances little Virginia might be able to help. But how? She is indeed little and possibly not strong enough to either hold down MM or to tie the bell in a Lilliputian scenario with a horde of little mice tying down a sleek cat. Now that would be a sight, would it not – a descendant of one of the gods of ancient Egypt being held down by common, nomadic, foraging, lesser beings like mice?

House, the Leader

“My, oh my,” I said to myself soon after that tumultuous confabulation of the members of my tribe. “There’s that sleek slob of a sanctimonious, self-satisfied scum of the moggy breed, salivating in the sun, no doubt at the thought of a slight snack on the sly, so to speak.” To be fair, I realize that Mangy Max is only displaying an inherited instinct, neither greed, nor hunger, nor any viciousness. I am aware, even as a member of a lesser species of the animal kingdom, that the gods of yesteryear had already displayed an almost infinite capacity for destruction, acted upon with indifference (as is the right of the gods). It was their nature, as the ancient Hindus and early Greeks had been made painfully aware – the goddess Kali comes readily to mind. There were, of course, no pharmaceutical companies around then to modify or rein in an inherited behavioral attribute.

“What to do,” I thought, day by day, as Mangy Max pawed off yet another member of my tribe. There was, of course, no risk of total depletion of my mob. My tribe could indeed be compared with that major Christian sect which had, until recently, a great propensity to multiply. Eventually, in the same way that this sect would have out-numbered every other sect of every religion had its leaders been successful in their efforts to keep their women in the kitchen and perennially pregnant, so my tribe would have increased in a probably Malthusian manner; that is, where the available food could not fill all our empty bellies. I realize, only too sadly, that Mangy Max was thus in tune (even unconsciously) with the instincts of Gaia (the Soul of Earth). That is, I do realize that there has to be a balance between the capacity of Earth to produce nourishment and those bellies which need that nourishment.

Malthusian proclivities aside, there is the issue of fairness. Sneaking up on someone to kill, rather than to indulge in open warfare, is an act of a terrorist. My tribe has therefore started (perhaps in the manner of Emperor Bonsai) our own war on terrorism. However, just as European colonizers blasted their way around the world in recent centuries by using their big guns, so Mangy Max has the benefit of a big and heavy paw (or two, or four), each armed with sharp claws. My inoffensive tribe, like the poor so-called natives in all the ravaged continents, has no defense against a marauder offering pillage, rape, or sudden death. It must be recognized however that, in contrast with the destruction of whole economies and their associated societies (in the name of mercantilism and Christ), Mangy Max was, in reality, a relatively kindly soul. Yet, he had, as I have fervently repeated, to go or to be nobbled or to be made a Buddhist. That is, Mangy Max’s future has to be either conversion or containment or (as lesser options) deportation or death.

Being down-to-Earth, as good leaders are expected to be, I have set up a Committee of Wise Mice to inquire into the problem of who would bell this cat. Since we have no realistic way of belling our persecutor, I propose to widen the Committee’s terms of reference to examine appropriate alternatives. These (obviously) are to have Mangy Max destroyed, removed, reduced to incompetence as a mouser, or forced to change his ways; that is, not to eat mice.

………………………………

Virginia continued her narrative. She might have been modeled on Scheherazade, but her motives were different: her life was not at risk!

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 2)

The Who

“So, the tribe had ineluctably glided from an intended chatty confabulation straight through to the formulation of an action plan, bypassing that conference stage when all those present, or factions thereof, would have been consulted. House’s unilateral conclusion and decision now faced the tribe with a requirement to define a plan of implementation; that is, to focus on how now that the what had been set out as the desired outcome. If House had only been able to watch the news on TV, he would have noted the parallel path followed relatively recently at an international forum by that infamous trio, the Council of the Chilling.

Led by a leader for whom time is a fast flow of funds well lubricated with petrocarbons, this Council sought to impose regime changes and a form of democracy based on individualism upon tribalism-based theocratic or military-controlled governments, wherever they were to be found. Like the right-to-lifers genuflecting before the throne of a theocratic ruler way over the seas, who are prepared to kill humans who do not agree with them on matters relating to the netherlands of the female members of humanity in order to save what they choose, arbitrarily, to define as human life, the members of this Council of the Chilling were quite willing to kill (and maim) women and children, but only collaterally of course, in the name of Western capitalistic democracy. House’s decision making had an international precedent.

Not knowing that mice might mimic mankind, the tribe waited, quivering in a silence well larded with both uncertainty and anticipation. House’s authority was thereby multiplied a thousand-fold. With a wink toward Angelina (his wife number two), he spoke again. Knowing that brevity beats bombast and obfuscating oratory, he said simply: “We know what we need to do. But, we will not waste any time discussing how we will do this. The question for us now, to be dealt with in real-time, is who will do it.” In adopting this approach, House had another international precedent, although he was not aware of it (at least in his conscious mind). The Council of the Chilling had taken a similar path in attempting to put tribal governance to a cryogenic death; it knew what it wanted to do, but without working out how this would be achieved in a durable manner, it had decided who would do it.

In the silence that had reentered the scene, neither Mona the moaner (House’s number one wife) nor Porthos (who once thought that he had a clear and undeniable thought to offer) nor anyone else had anything to say. Their thoughts and feelings had all been forcefully exploded only recently in that frenzy of self-expression. Instead, they were busily thinking about life and death – death without warning and a certain predictability about it, a martyr’s death (although they had never heard about Islam), and whether there was possibly a pleasurable life after death.

However, like any good leader, House realized that stressful peregrinations through mental minefields needed a break. In humankind, this might involve a Bex (a headache powder of yesteryear), a cup of tea (a drink still in fashion), and a good lie-down (most fashionable with unionized workers in industrial nations of the Western kind). Mouseland offered a similar process of rejuvenation. He would recommend that. However, like every clever and manipulative political leader in mankind, he realized that a holding pattern of non-action had to be embarked upon immediately. This would be akin to a Royal Commission, whose report he would subsequently reject (as is done in many a democratic parliament) if it did not concur with his own views.

With this template in mind, he closed this extra-ordinary meeting of the tribe with these words resounding in the ears of his tribe: “I will arrange for a Committee of Wise Mice to inquire and report on our long-standing problem. Those of you who are of a practical nature will, of course, speak before this Committee. The question before all of us is simply: ‘Who will bell the cat?’”

 

Thus ended the parable recounted by little Virginia who had somehow learned to understand the language of mice and cats.

Since life, as experienced, can (and will) be viewed in different (and possibly contradictory) ways, the perspectives, complexities, and concerns of the major participants in this saga pertaining to mice and mortality are indubitably worthy of note.

 

Maxwell, I am

I am, I really am, I bloody well am, Maxwell – not Max, certainly not Mangy Max. It is bad enough to have a glorious name like mine reduced to something meaningless like Max, or modified thereafter to Maxie-baby by little Virginia. But the shame of it all to be now referred to as Mangy Max (by House) or MM (by Whicky). And this is in spite of my glorious black shiny coat, the result of my daily diet of a scrofulous mouse. These mice are so slow-witted as not to notice my right paw in its descent upon their hind quarters.

It was House the Mouse who first used that most disparaging appellation Mangy Max. He had spat out that derogatory nickname in an inflammatory intent to create a curse – somewhat in the manner of Montezuma’s Curse – when complaining about my behavior towards his tribe. His complaint had strangely been to Whicky, my neighbor and friend. Whicky, a long-haired Persian (cat, of course), whose historical ancestry is as glorious as mine, shares his abode with House and his mob.

Purely as an aside, why does he do that? Perhaps the eyesight of the Persians had been dimmed during the Dark Ages in Central Asia and the Middle East. This was the time when there was war in the heavens. Dragons then ruled (for a while) that part of the Cosmos in which Earth rushed unperturbed on its regular rounds while Earthlings trembled in fear or trudged through the deserts for decades in semi-darkness. Their gods (which included cats of course) and their farming animals also suffered from this blindness. Well, that might explain Whicky’s seeming stupidity. As a further aside, you will, I am sure, pardon my attempted alliteration as I have so little joy since my family jewels and then my competence to propagate my line of ancient gods were dedicated to the compost heap. I know where they were deposited because Whicky told me so. How did Whicky know? Because his principal slave Virginia (but who actually and foolishly thinks that Whicky is her pet) told him so.

Returning to human folly like the humans I had adopted and trained, Virginia and her family thought – oh dear, how shallow these humans are – that they were the ones who had adopted us as their pets. Mind you, it is a kindly intended description. The connotation of possessing a pet powerfully led to these humans being propelled into a state of smug satisfaction. Pardon the alliteration again, but they are so satisfyingly soothing in the light of that space in my netherlands. I am almost light-headed, indeed slight-headed as well, so to speak.

This unsuspected role reversal allows us gods of Egypt and Persia (and no doubt other places as well) to so dominate our humans. We can climb up curtains (something our Siamese brethren are wont to do), scratch and tear fabric-covered furniture (all of us enjoy that, even when there are trees with appropriate bark in our back yards), or disdainfully look askance and refuse to react when called, picked up, handled fondly, or otherwise shown affection. By these attitudes and actions, we indicate with such sweet subtlety that we, the descendants of the gods, cannot be ruled. Mealtimes are, however, a different kettle of fish (a heavenly thought). Even humans show respect for the cook, don’t they? I mean, a stomach which rumbles forever is so un-majestic!

My innate majesty requires me to regain my proper name and public respect. What is it about these antipodean relics of a eugenically-cleansed species of humans that they need to reject or at least to confuse those necessary gender, tribal, or other ancestral boundaries? For example, someone known as Ali is not a turbaned Turk, but a girl with the birth name Alison. Her modern-day surname of Mead has been truncated from Meadowcroft. I wonder why she chooses to discard the evidence of her tribal, cultural, and geographical heritage. She really should learn from us cat-gods as we surrealistically survey the scene surrounding us with sly satisfaction.”

 

Phonics vs. whole word/ whole of language

Ramesh

When i worked with primary grades i also found half of the students are finding difficulties to read and write by using whole language approach. Its difficult to memorize 100,000 words to teach the students read and write. The phonics approach is working well, Tamil language had 12 vowels and 18 Consonants and 12 CVC, Once children learn this 12+18+12 They will be able to read and write whatever they want. Phonics is simple approach that can apply to teaching reading.

AYOPEJU FALEKULO

Phonics cannot be taught outside of the child developing a rich use of vocabulary, neither can the study of language end at the gateway of phonics! English language is complex, and even if it wasn’t you still need to delve into the structure of words, sentences and continue to build vocabulary knowledge over the years.

I do not believe that we should complicate the life of a child by making them memorize each written word, it is better to start with auditory perception of language structure, that is the child learning that the words they speak are made up of sound (phonemes) , which is phonemic awareness even before they start learning the symbols, they can hear the sounds and know them, then add on the symbols and start reading, then add onto this knowledge of phonograms and continue to build on the structure and grammar of language as the child enters the elementary years.

The whole language concept is something that has its place in elementary years. I really do not think it serves us well to use this as a method to teach 3 to 5 years old how to read, neither does the Phonics method work if it is done without a good foundation in vocabulary building and language use. Both sides of the coin have their use. That is why following the child is so important, if a child can’t get it via one method then you surely will find what works for the child! Anyway that’s my take.

What Does the Research Say?

Because of disagreements over the years about which type of reading instruction is best, phonics or whole language, the National Reading Panel began a study in 1997 to settle the debate. In 2000, the Panel released its findings, stating that there are five essential components that must be taught in an effective reading program: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension.1

Cons of the Whole Language Approach

Aside from overlooking spelling and technical mistakes, the whole language approach can also present problems for students with reading difficulties. Students with dyslexia and other language processing disorders need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding in order to improve their reading skills. With the high prevalence of processing disorders (15-20% of all students), many reformers believe explicit and systematic phonics instruction should be used to teach every student how to read – in order to prevent these students from falling behind. The whole language approach works for many students, but explicit and systematic phonics instruction works for students of all levels (and greatly decreases spelling and pronunciation errors).

Constructivist Theory

The philosophy of whole language is complex and draws from education, linguistics, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Whole language is a constructivist approach to education; constructivist teachers emphasize that students create (construct) their own knowledge from what they encounter. Using a holistic approach to teaching, constructivist teachers do not believe that students learn effectively by analyzing small chunks of a system, such as learning the letters of the alphabet in order to learn language. Constructivist instructors see learning as a cognitive experience unique to each learner’s own perspective and prior knowledge, which forms the framework for new knowledge.

The above are extracts from ‘What is the “Whole Language” Approach to Teaching Reading?’ from   The Reading Horizons Blog (Sept.23, 2010), with my added emphasis. How different is Constructivist Theory from post-modernism?