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  1. . . . Or if you prefer a more blunt metaphor . . . The Double-Edged Sword.

    I heard a man say on the radio one day that “hope is the denial of reality.” A quick google search revealed Margaret Weis’ fantasy character, Raistlin, the evil magi, as the original author of the quote. Regardless of the source, the words struck a chord with me as soon as I heard them. A thousand fragments of perception merged into a classic “big picture” in my teenage mind as I sat there in my arm chair, cradling a cup of cold coffee in both hands, stunned by the epiphany bullet.

    It’s a great example of hearing the right thing at the right time and being forever changed. I was ready for the revelation, you see.

    Two years prior, I had believed in the mythology of crystals. I could pass my hand over a crystal and feel the energy emanating from it—it felt like a minor electric shock, consistent and unrelenting until I moved my hand away. I could “program” a crystal for dream recall and remember a dozen dreams in vivid detail upon waking, whereas I would normally recall only one or two at most and with a fraction of the clarity. I could even ease the mind of a stressed-out friend by secretly placing a crystal, programmed for the task, within his bedroom.

    But crystal manipulation was the least of my powers. I could see the future in my dreams, telepathically influence the actions of those around me, read minds, travel out of my body, speak to the dead. . . Yes, I was quite the psychic fraud. I fooled many people—myself especially.

    Eventually, I came to realise (I’ll not bore you with the how) that my seemingly profound feats and experiences were, in fact, dreadfully mundane. I familiarised myself with the relevant sciences, and I have to say, the understanding I achieved was very empowering.

    I discovered the awesome potential of placebo, along with its limitations, and dumped the crystals. I can now recall my dreams with the same clarity, but without the crutches. I can even cause myself to experience that electric sensation I once felt from the crystals, at any time, and anywhere on my body.

    I learned about mentalism (telepathy, talking to the dead, etc.) and refined my manipulative skills.

    I came to the obvious conclusion that my few dreams that seemed prophetic were no more than a demonstration of statistical probability. I had thousands of dreams that meant nothing and caused no feeling of déjà vu. What would have been really strange is if I had no “prophetic” dreams at all. If you were to be subjected to a rapid slideshow consisting of ten thousand common images, and then witnessed a few of them the following day in your normal routine, it would not be a fantastic coincidence. Dreams are much the same.

    As one with an appreciation for science, I am now ten times the psychic I was before—because that’s what good psychics are. I have come to realise there are two kinds of mystics in the world—those who are deluded (usually less skilled, because they don’t understand what they’re doing) and those who deliberately scam the gullible with good science and psychological manipulation.

    But what is the danger of hope? Hard-nosed critic that I am, people sometimes ask me why I would want to deprive others of their comforts.

    Hope/delusion nearly always comes with a hidden price. And hope is a vital first step toward delusion, so I tend to consider the two to be one and the same. You can’t have delusion without hope, and so rather than writing about delusions directly, which most of us can understand the potential danger of, I’m homing in on the source here.

    My stepfather also walked the spiritual path, much as I did. Unfortunately, he invested a great deal more money into it than I did. He is a “certified” Inca shaman, a master of the Malkeizadek (sp?) Method and a reiki healer. From the many classes and workshops he has paid to attend, he could tell you everything you could possibly want to know about chakras and the mysterious higher power that manipulates space and time to show him many licence plates with three numbers in sequence.

    I asked him if he had ever bothered to investigate the relevant statistics to determine whether or not his experiences were even unusual. He said that stats don’t mean anything to him. I told him that was a blatant lie. If every licence plate in the world had three numbers in sequence, he wouldn’t think it in any way significant to see those plates everywhere. He assumes divine intervention simply because he doesn’t think there are very many such plates around, and therefore it’s unusual beyond coincidence that he would see them all the time.

    Logic is the bane of mutated hopes . . . and the best friend you’ll ever have. To demonstrate the real danger of hope/delusion, I’ll use my stepfather again.

    Three years ago, he and my mother invested $300,000 into a business venture. It was a lot more money than they had to spend and they put up their house as collateral. Now they are barely surviving. What seemed like a sure thing, their ticket to a life of luxury as multimillionaires, has turned out to be the worst scam they could ever have fallen for.

    This happened because they have a weakness for gambing. They are aware of this, and they keep a leash on it. They would never go out and buy enough lottery tickets to bankrupt themselves. But a business venture . . . Well, now, that's different. Or is it?

    Back when they were still basking in the glow of fantasy, I knew they had been scammed. I knew the **** would hit the fan long before it ever did. The scam was obvious. I don’t say this to stroke my own ego—I’m aware of the fact that even I, cynical sceptic that I am, (well, that's what people call me, anyway) inevitably have my own seedling hopes and full-blown delusions. I say this to make a point. Had they been thinking clearly, had they been standing with both feet planted on the ground, they would never have been taken in. I wouldn’t have fallen for a scam like that, because I’m always suspicious of things that seem too good to be true. Rest assured, I’ll fall victim to different hopes, and then you can laugh.;)

    The scammers knew their type, knew exactly what to show them and exactly what to tell them. You should know that my parents are far from stupid. It all comes down to psychology. It is unreasonable to assume that every person who falls for what you recognise as an obvious scam, is simply stupid. You stab yourself in the foot that way. To make mock and laugh at the seeming foolishness of others is to sentence one’s self to a similar fate. Instead, it’s essential to understand the truth of this, because in doing so, maybe you can identify the knife (or knives) at your own back. We all have at least one. It seems to be a universal human failing. I think I’ve found my vulnerability—or at least one—and that is what inspired me to write this blog.

    But the most critical danger isn’t external. When it comes to our fondest hopes, we’re all just drunks stumbling in the dark, easy targets for any of a million potential predators, but more apt to stumble and break our own necks before anyone else has the chance to do it for us. Picture the cancer victim who rejects chemotherapy, thinking he can cure himself with his mind, only to die a very slow and painful death.

    Such a delusion presents a different kind of danger as well. The man bases his conclusion on reports of others who claim to have done it. He ignores the millions of people who have tried to cure themselves of various ailments in similar ways and failed. He somehow equates an abysmal success rate with absolute proof. That’s the kind of absurd logical failure that unrestrained hope can lead us to.

    The only reason we make any progress at all is because there are people who are sceptical. For all we know, those who seemed to cure themselves may have been eating the cure. For all we know, the universal cure for cancer could be as simple as a change of diet. But we never will know unless someone takes a realistic approach—the scientific approach—to exposing the truth of the matter.

    I’m sure the message here must seem depressing and pessimistic to some, but it really shouldn’t be. Hope stems from a lack of appreciation for what we have. It is typically nothing more than the manifestation of avarice and greed. We want more. Why do we want more? If you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you probably live in a country where freedom of choice and equal opportunity is valued. You probably have friends and/or family who care about you more than you realise. You probably live a life that many less fortunate people would kill for. Owning a computer automatically puts you in that category.

    So, why do we always want more? Why can’t we just be happy with what we have and the way things are? The basis for hope strikes me as more disturbing and depressing than my seeming pessimism. Those who are ever hopeful are ever wanting, and those who are ever wanting are never fully satisfied or content. My (illogical) sense of morality, combined with a bit of critical thinking, tells me that hope can very well be labelled evil. After all, isn’t greed one of the seven deadly?
  2. Every second of your experience in life, every atom in your being, all the genetics and DNA you were born with--those are the only determining factors in what you do. It's impossible for you to actually make a choice as most people perceive the notion. Your so-called choice is predetermined by countless influences in your life that all combine into one inevitable conclusion.

    Sorry if that disturbs you. Truth is often unsettling.

    This, of course, is as obvious to me as the fact that Thomas Dietz' Video #11 is the most amazing thing ever. But a lot of people will refute both claims. I've heard and read numerous arguments, but none make any sense at all to me. Clearly, Thomas Dietz has Anthony Gatto beaten like the dead-horse topic of Twilight's suckage.

    There are two possible reasons for this, as I see it:

    1.) I don't care. Whether my theory is true or not has no effect whatsoever on my life and therefore it is easy for me to accept. On the other hand, one who can't cope seeks hope.

    2.) I'm too egotistical to admit to being wrong or to give an opposing view due consideration. I do have a mighty ego, to be sure, but I've also been known to change my stance faster than Superman, AKA Thomas Dietz, can change his clothes.

    :confused:

    Thoughts?
  3. Someone very dear to me is a hardcore conspiracy theorist (hereafter referred to as a "CT"). He combs through the internet for hours on end, seeking the latest in no-hope speculation. He subscribes to mailing lists, watches videos, consumes essays and news reports, blogs and “experience reports” by the hundred, and seems to give them all equal credit, at least in terms of plausibility. “You can’t just disregard them completely,” he says. “Who knows?”

    After numerous discussions with my friend, I'm not sure which disaster I'm supposed to fear the most: the end of the world in 2012 or the upcoming enslavement of the human race. All I know is, I better stock up on popcorn, because it's going to be one heck of a show.

    If there’s one thing all conspiracies have in common, it’s that they are never good news. The aliens don’t come in peace. Chip implants are for the good of the few—a handful, really—and the rest of humanity will suffer. Governments want to control your every action or kill you or both; the CTs can’t seem to decide which, so they tend to go with the last. Logic takes flight.

    They say the purpose of their research and educational endeavors (have you ever had a guy explain how the government plans to exterminate the chattel while you're sipping coffee in a busy cafe?) is to spread awareness. Although real solutions are rarely offered—the conspiracies usually expand to the point where there is no hope at all—the least we can do is to be aware. After all, without knowledge, what hope is there?

    . . . Perhaps you can understand my frustration.

    I don’t think the point is to be aware, because there’s rarely any point to being aware. So what is the point?

    In true CT tradition, I’m starting to see patterns everywhere. I have my own theory--the human need for conflict.

    First, I often observe people picking fights for no apparent reason. I don’t think most of us really care about the result of an argument. Most arguments are utterly ridiculous. Sometimes we realize this halfway through and decide to back out. “What am I doing?” we think to ourselves. And we know from experience that most people won’t admit to being wrong. It would defeat the true (and useful) purpose of the conflict if we came to that conclusion too easily. It’s all about the process. These conflicts are rarely satisfying if you play expressly to win. . .And don't we all know that?

    That guy She accidentally offended didn’t want an apology. He wanted to argue. The apology was icing, if He got one. She didn’t care about the apology either. What would it have cost Her, after all, to say a few words that She didn’t mean? They both wanted conflict and so a conflict was born (it takes two to tango).

    I’ve met some religious folks who don’t even seem to believe in their deity—they don’t follow any of the guidelines set down by their faith, and by their own supposed beliefs, they are surely heading for a terrible place—but boy, do they love to argue.

    Many people take up a cause. It’s the perfect solution. You get to satisfy your need for conflict without feeling any guilt or remorse. Indeed, you can feel good about yourself, safe in the belief that you are doing good works. But how many people who fight for a cause even know what the cause is about? You may have noticed that many of those with radical political views—or really, any intense feelings at all—can rarely justify them. It doesn’t matter what the cause is for, only that they have one.

    As painfully obvious as it may be to all who meet them, few of these people will ever admit their own ignorance, even to themselves. They have found a “safe” way to exercise their internal demons, which might violently claw their way free if not given the outlet. I think this is ultimately why the (by no means a reflection of all) religious folks mentioned above take up religion in the first place. To them, it is a cause no different from saving the whales.

    Ask someone why the whales need to be saved, and they all-too-often just stare slack-jawed and say, “Well, do you want the whales to die?” with wide eyes threatening ultimate condemnation.

    Why, yes. If that’s the best answer you can come up with, my friend, I have but one request: send me a nice big steak so I know what they taste like before the last one is gone. And now we have a conflict.

    Many of us fight with ourselves. We agonise over dilemmas when we already know what our decision will be or should be. Sometimes we make the wrong decision, even when we know better. The reason should be obvious by now if you’ve read this far. We fret over morality when morality is instinctive. Again, the answer to this conundrum is obvious. Obey social rules so as to avoid trouble you can’t handle (don’t run through town in the nude). Otherwise, do as you feel. Be as you feel. We all know this balancing act is the best practical solution, and yet we still engage in internal debate.

    I covered racism in my last blog, and I think it is merely another example of contrived conflict in the contemporary political environment. There are many people with differing views on this issue who will never allow it to die, simply because it is their chosen method of release, or their luck of the draw from the great Conflict Lottery in the sky. It is the perfect, politically correct leash through which to exercise those terrible demons that plague us all. And who can resist such a perfect outlet?

    But the real question is, why do we all feel this need for conflict?

    Conflicts take myriad forms, and the different kinds have different purposes.

    I think the classic debate helps to facilitate our learning, discovery and creative processes. Many times I have learned more about my own position through defending it. In other words, I didn’t have any good reason for thinking as I did before the debate started, but by the end of it, I had discovered enough to actually justify it. Other times, when I realised I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, I had to seek out new answers. Sometimes those answers were provided by my opponent. Other times, it turned out we were both idiots. I have learned a great deal from such conversations over the course of my life. Often, though, the debate only serves as an outlet for my own instinctive need for conflict. Yes, I have no shame in admitting it.

    My name is Kit Summers and I am addicted to conflict. Keep the chip; I don’t want one.

    Conflict is essential to human life, a necessary “evil”, if you like, though I do hate that word. I think that, in a way, it is an integral component of our continuing evolution.

    But let’s get back to the original topic. Global conspiracy. Doomsday. Cataclysm. These are contrived conflicts taken to the extreme.

    Most of us don’t have to worry about wolves and bears or lions and leopards any more. The necessity of violent struggle for survival is gone. Those days have passed, but the instincts remain, hardcoded in our DNA. So we generate another type of conflict, this one a true detriment to our kind, and, sadly, linked too often to the helpful conflict of debate. We take our arguments too far, culminating in violence against each other. The lines become blurred and people start to condemn all manner of conflict, unwittingly spearheading a classic cause and generating their own conflicts, deluding themselves, just like the rest of us.

    I think conspiracy theory is the lesser beast in this category. It provides the sensations of mortal threat and impending doom without actually going anywhere. Few CTs ever act on what they think. The worst that happens is they become depressed, as my own friend has. I feel impotent in this situation, unable to dissuade him from anything he thinks, or even to provide comfort or solace. He has built his own mental prison from spending too much time on the “Prison Planet” website, among others.

    At its most basic level, conspiracy theory is no different from the fight for animal rights, the glory of the Celestial Teapot, or the protection and preservation of the African barking spider (AKA a man’s right to break wind whenever and wherever he wishes). It serves a primal need, no more.

    I have much more to say on the subject, but like CNN, I’ll "leave it there" for now. I have a tendency to be long-winded and I fear I have written too much already.
  4. I think I must be one of the most egalitarian people alive. There is a definite limit to “tolerance”, a soaring plateau of elevated consciousness to which one can only ascend by not caring. Yep, that’s right. I just don’t care. I’m incapable. And you really can’t get any more tolerant than that. I’m pretty sure some kind of mental illness is to blame, but if so, I’m a tough “nut” to crack. Several psychologists have tried, to no avail. Apparently, I am, for the most part, a reasonably happy and healthy person. Yay for me.

    But is it “normal” to not care one iota what people do, say, think or look like? Surely not. After all, racism is rampant, or so they tell me. And, evidently, I’m a racist, because I don’t give flying, excrement-filled doughnut about you, at least in terms of what you look like, where you come from, how you live, where you live, what you do with your time, who or what you sleep with, and so on. I’d like you to be happy and healthy. . . but apart from that? Meh.

    The one guiding principle in my life—the only rule I would enforce if I were a god—is “do no harm”. As long as you don’t harm other people in any tangible way, I couldn’t possibly care any less what you do. Strangely enough, most people tend to agree with me. Or rather, they agree with the surface idealism. Only two people who actually understood what the heck I was talking about have ever agreed with me.

    You see, I wouldn’t mind living in a community of necrophiliacs. Actually, I would I find it utterly fascinating. After all, they wouldn’t be bothering me. . . and I don’t believe the cadavers would be in any fit state to object. I happen to think that anything unusual is inherently interesting, and life just doesn’t get any more unusual than living in a town full of corpse lovers.

    So, hopefully you can see what an utterly loathsome creature I truly am. Real peace. . . real tolerance. . . these are disturbing concepts indeed, if you bother to think about them and don’t share my strange affliction of the mind.

    Now, the point. . . (and you’ve probably guessed it) I have occasionally found myself accused of racism—always, without fail, due to the fact that I am not the most “racially sensitive” person in the world. In other words, because I don’t treat other races very much different from my own, I’m a bad guy. I’m a racist. It’s a strange world we live in. I always thought that to treat other races any differently would be the very definition of racism. I still think so.

    I was watching an episode of survivor a while back (don’t ask me why). A guy got into an argument with a black girl and called her “ghetto trash”. Yikes. Well, the black guy on his tribe was so enraged that he campaigned to have Mr. Racist voted off immediately—and, inevitably, he got his wish. When I heard the phrase, “Ghetto trash,” I had a racist thought. Yes, I had an instinctive racist reaction, according to dictionary definition, for the first time in my life. I thought, “Oohh, faux pas, what a dumbass,” knowing that the black guy would react exactly as he did.

    Words cannot express how much that upset me. I suddenly realized that I have now come to expect black people to overreact and play the race card at every opportunity.

    Anticipation of this is, ironically, what saves me from being called a racist. Yes. . . the only way I can avoid the dreaded label is to actually BE a racist. Walk on eggshells. Treat them like children. That way, I’m not a racist, at least in the public perception. But then I’m a racist on the inside.

    Well, to hell with that. I’m sorry, people. . . I refuse to play along.

    I’m pretty well convinced it is our current fixation on racism that keeps this BS alive. The only racists I’ve met in person are those who coddle members of another race. As far as I can tell, the evil racism we’ve heard so much about is virtually nonexistent. Maybe it’s just ‘cause I live in Canada. The most racist thing I’ve ever heard would be one of my buddies ranting about the “damn pakis” answering the phone at X company. He’s hearing impaired, can’t understand their accents, and therefore can’t get any customer service. Yeah, he’s such an a-hole for being frustrated. Let’s chase him into the windmill and burn him.

    Folks. . . Racism is BS.

    I’m going back to my roots, the core tenants of my unholy faith (Peace): I don’t care who you are. I’ll treat you the same as everyone else—with as much respect as I can manage without giving myself an ulcer.

    I’m telling you, the only way to defeat this beast is to simply not care. It’s like the monster in the closet. When you hear that creepy rattling and the doors start to creak and shiver and your heart starts pounding and your bladder lets go. . . just say, “You’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real, you’re not real!” Make the sign of the cross if it gives you comfort. Wear a crystal pendant enchanted by your psychic aunt. Whatever works for you. Just don’t give in!