Mars – we ain’t coming yet

“I’ve been back on Earth, after a year in space, for precisely 48 hours.”

“I start the journey to my bedroom: about 20 steps from the chair to the bed. On the third step, the floor seems to lurch under me, and I stumble into a planter. Of course, it isn’t the floor – it’s my vestibular system trying to readjust to Earth’s gravity. I’m getting used to walking again.”

“I’ve only been asleep for a couple of hours but I feel delirious. It’s a struggle to come to consciousness enough to move, to tell her how awful I feel. I’m seriously nauseated now, feverish, and my pain has gotten worse. This isn’t like how I felt after my last mission. This is much, much worse.”

“Over the past year, I’ve spent 340 days alongside Russian astronaut Mikhail ‘Misha’ Kornienko on the International Space Station (ISS). Apart from NASA’s planned journey to Mars, we’re members of a program designed to discover what effect such long-term time in space has on human beings. This was my fourth trip to space, and by the end of the mission I’d spent 520 days up there, more than any other NASA astronaut.”

“I struggle to get up. Find the edge of the bed. Feet down. Sit up. Stand up. At every stage, I feel like I‘m fighting through quicksand. When I’m finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that’s even more alarming. It feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs …”

“I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling. … They are swollen and alien stumps, not legs at all.”

“My skin is burning, too.”

“This is why we volunteered for this mission, after all: to discover more about how the human body is affected by long-term space flight.”

“Our space agencies won’t be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind.”

“In my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I have been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.”

(These are extracts from an article by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in the ‘Good Weekend Magazine’ in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 Oct. 2017.)

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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.

The trauma of birth and its aftermath

Does any human being ever remember the stress of birth? During my boyhood, whenever I had a severe headache, believed to have been caused by glare, I would feel a strong pressure on both temples. Although I never spoke of this experience, I suspected that somehow I was recalling my passage through a birth canal. I soon grew out of those discomforting episodes.

What a terrible shock it must be for a baby to be pushed out of its comfort zone into the terrible glare of light, and the horrifying sounds of voices, and then being handled. Only after being swaddled and held against the mother could the baby retrieve the mother’s comforting heartbeat and soothing voice. In modern times, the baby is then swathed and placed amongst other babies, some of whom would be giving voice to their discomfort, their need to be held, and (possibly) a terrible hunger.

The world must be a horrible place to enter, and in such a terrifying manner. How long does it take a baby to become adjusted to the new surroundings? How aware is the baby, broadly, of the pattern of movement of the surrounding space? Is it their frequent and extended sleep which enables the baby to adjust to the new environment, but subconsciously?

Does the soul of the baby have a role to play in this early phase of Earthly existence? Would there be any past-life memories (however vague and fleeting) awaiting exposure? Could a baby display any ongoing anger, possibly because of the manner of its death in its immediate past life?

Would a baby, in the stage of infancy, be aware of any skills or abilities carried forward from the previous life; and which would blossom any time after about age 3? I refer to the high skills displayed by a few little children which do not evidently have a genetic source. Such skills are: playing musical instruments, gymnastic ability, mathematical calculations, and such like, at a level requiring an extended period of development, and displayed after years of Earthly life.

Then, there are those little children who remember accurately their immediate past lives, some even before age 3. The displays of such high skills and reliable memories have been well documented. This is an undeniable facet of our reality.

So, how complex could a baby be? Is the recovery of past skills and memories akin to a flower re-opening (at daybreak)? That is, could any flower of scarce skills be closed down (to a bud) at Earthly death in one life, to be re-opened in the next?

Does such recovery of skills (physical and mental) and memories require, where this is warranted, up to 3 years of development of the infant’s brain? Strangely, most (if not all) adults cannot remember any experience in their lives before about age 3.

I wonder – what are babies and infants doing as they observe and observe – even as they give us great joy, juxtaposed with sleepless nights and some (or much) worry? Indeed, they are a great and wonderful mystery, with each birth a miracle.

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!

Destiny, God and the Spirit realm

My present understanding of Destiny is that we are indeed marionettes, the puppet master being a set of circumstances set up by ourselves. That is, we have free will, exercised both autonomously and reactively. By our actions and thoughts, we set in train the Cosmic Law of Cause and Effect; that is, the Law of Cosmic Justice (or Karma, as the Hindus term it).

We, in each life on Earth, carve out the banks and the rocky impediments through and over which will flow the river of our personal destiny in the next life, even as we obey the imperatives of Destiny in our current life. The latter would have been carved out in previous existences. Just as there are scientific laws which govern our physical lives, so there seem to be cosmic laws which govern our existence from birth to death, and thereafter.

Thus, in each life, I will paddle on the river of my personal Destiny. My trajectory will be within the walls of the canyon and over those rocky impediments I had carved out during my past life. As I paddle, relate to others, and respond to circumstances reflecting both the Law of Chance and the cosmic unavoidables (exercising what free will seems available), I will be carving out the framework for my next life, paying off my cosmic debt, and improving myself spiritually (if that is what I want).

Seems reasonable, does it not? Thus, I reached the conclusion, as said by some guru, that karma, like shadows, follows one everywhere. I also felt that chance must have an independent role in the circumstances of my life.

So, where is God in all this? All that is required from the one and only Creator is to set up the mechanisms underpinning our lives and relationships, let them evolve as appropriate, and allow us to choose our own path and bed. In some circumstances, He/She might choose to intervene in our lives.

But then, why not leave that work to the higher beings in the spirit world? They certainly seem to have been active in my life. Indeed, I can testify that I have received the odd message – and in a timely manner!

In so doing, were my spirit guides acting on their own? Or, were they only instruments of Destiny? If the latter, were they guiding me to optimise the opportunities available in my path of Destiny to improve my life-chances in both my current and future lives? Or, were they acting at the behest of God, who had chosen to intervene in my life?

How cosmic laws affect us after death, whether one meets God and one’s spirit guides; and, if so, where, is something which (presumably) one finds out only then. We certainly do not remember such experiences, any more than we can remember our past lives. Strangely, my attempted glimpses into my past lives, through auto-hypnosis, had displayed a strange consistency with the presentation of a couple of my alleged past lives by a respected clairvoyant healer.

When a significant experience is both confounding and inexplicable, why not simply accept it tentatively, I asked myself.

(This is an extract from my book ‘The Dance of Destiny’)

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.