Friday, December 31, 2004

Energy, Matter and the question of Aliens


Energy is equivalent to mass multiplied by the speed of light to the power of 2. Thus is linked the properties of energy, mass and light in a simple numerical ratio.

One of my good friends, a dedicated scientist, has always insisted that all is energy and its transformations. I agree, but if all is a mass of dancing energy, then so is consciousness. And if so, consciousness and mass is equivalent in some form then? What is THAT numerical ratio then I wonder.

In any case, if such an equivalence of mass, energy and consciousness is true, clearly, so called 'magic' becomes possible. Think about it. If consciousness is truly another version of energy and mass, there is in theory nothing impossible about transforming our thoughts into lightning bolts or lethal ice blocks (in the best tradition of computer games) or perform the feats of typical X-men and women. It would merely be as banal as the transformation of heat energy into kinetic energy into electricity in a power plant. Or for that matter, from hydrogen into helium in a nuclear bomb (boom). Or is it that simple? =)

Well after all, it takes an awful effort to persuade hydrogen to turn into helium (and some mass into energy) or any element to morph into any other element whether through fusion or fission. Indeed, our astrophysicists will inform us that all elements heavier than iron require no less than a supernova to manufacture. Is it really that simple to achieve the 'fusion' of thoughts into physical energy, or the 'fission' of energy into thoughts?

Yet every human body is clearly moved and acts in sympathy with our thoughts and our consciousness. Most scientists tend to approach this problem from the other way: that is, it is the matter in the body that generates consciousness. Well, whichever. Whether the body moves consciousness or consciousness moves body, or both, if all is energy, both are fundamentally the same thing. And if science is right, the laws of the universe should apply to both--laws that include their transformation from one form to the other.

A future science should then produce grand and not so grand unified theories of matter, energy and consciousness. In addition, it must of necessity comes armed with a technology able to transform matter, energy and consciousness to one another effectively, and which utilises all three at once according to their laws. Finally, it may produce some secret of spotting what the alchemists termed the 'prima materia', the fundamental state of energy, matter and consciousness.

So if you ask me, I really do not think aliens, if they exist, use flying saucers and need to hurl all manners of plasma rays and torpedoes, gatling beams, mauler devices and what-not at each other. Sometimes I think fantasy authors probably paint a truer picture of advanced civilisations. Think Gandalf, Merlin and other merry folks waving their staffs, not Vulcan, Klingon and Psilon spaceships engaged in interstellar tango.

So well, all hail to mages as well as to macs. Toast, and a happy new year to a magical science.

PS. Of course Aliens may still have big heads, groggy cute eyes and a shining finger. Indeed, it may well require a big brain to emit large quantities of mind energy. Big eyes and sensitive fingers are also clearly helpful for energy channeling. Perhaps Spielberg is prophetic and can see where no man can see before =).

The paradox of suffering

My family just returned from Langkawi last week, escaping the horrible tsunami by a few days. It is at such moments that one truly wonders, again, about the paradox of suffering. Christians and most theistic believers affirm our faith firmly and completely in a God that is benign, loving and just. Yet when questioned about disasters such as the recent tsunami or September 11, and the general blight of suffering in creation, we often could say little that is satisfactory. What could we truly say to comfort or 'explain' the orphan and the widow, the dead children, the millions of homeless and the dying?

Words are indeed mostly useless in such situations. Yes we have our usual explanations, the Fall, karma, sin, whatever. Yet the symbols of religion perhaps avail us more help. In our suffering world, it is indeed to the credit of Christianity that its central symbol is a stark violent image of a Man pinned to a Cross. The symbol of the crucified Christ, both God and the Whole of humanity, do not explain suffering, or justify it, or reduce its horror. But, it redeems it.

If we look with eyes of compassion, we can see that humanity is one, not just in its glories and moon landings, but also one in our pain and vulnerability. No one in this world escapes the Cross, for suffering is everywhere and found in every life. The mother gives birth in pain to a crying child, and a man dies painfully and sorrow is in his wake. Yet Christ on the cross fundamentally gives us hope, for it shows how man can refuse to be broken by suffering, and can turn the worst evil and suffering into their opposites.

In our dark nights and pains, we are posed with questions that will probably never come to us otherwise. When everything seems stripped away and all is dark, one must ask fundamentally: 'Why do we even live?'--'To be or not to be?'. Worthy answers to such questions cannot be found by lazing away in rosy bushes and eternal sunshine. False pretentious desires, pride, and other illusions in our lives are stripped away in the crucible of suffering. Only the hardest rock stands firm and can support our very desire to live in such instances.

The fundamental paradox of life, to me, is what in the world can balance all this sum of pain and misery? One Russian writer poses the scenario of a boy who is ripped apart by the dogs of a nobleman on a whim. What good, he asks, can be justify this evil? Can God be truly good and omnipotent (the old question of theodicy), or does he not exist? Is life ultimately the fiction of an insane conjuror?

There are no facile wordy answers to such questions. Yet Christians remember this man who prayed from his cross for those who have crucified Him, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.' In his darkest hour, Jesus showed his unbreakable faith in the goodness of the God that has permitted his cruxificion and his love towards the men that have crucified him. 'Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love'. Does misery negate the value of consciousness and life? At the cross, Christ taught us how love and hope need not fail, even in the deepest valley of pain--even in the supreme night, the unconquered wonder of our human spirit can shine forth.

And love and its joy, is perhaps the essence of this spirit.

In the war between darkness and love, it is love that holds the final word. That is the essence of Christian hope: 'The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overpower it.' Yes, consciousness is worth it, for nothing can destroy our ability to give, to aspire, to grow and most importantly, to love--unless we let it.

Whatever our religion and beliefs, may we pray always that hope may never fail in the hearts of all the suffering.


I was involved in a discussion with a good friend of mine about the superpowers of the future. Here is one of my e-mails on this matter. I did not enclose my friend's response as I am not sure whether he intends them to be public.

'To carry on the Superpower discussion: I must first qualify everything by saying that one should not expect America to easily lose her lead in economic, technological, cultural or military aspects. Even if she should stumble into some wrong foreign policy decisions--short of nuclear war or the breakup of the American Union--she remains a supremely powerful and teeming vortex of energy. The reasons for this are simple: America provides Liberty, the freedom to make money, the freedom to live in a vast unconfined and beautiful country, and despite some current anti-terror measures, the general freedom to live without government oppression.

So long as America remains true to her founding values (which include free enterprise and entrepreneurship), she will be a terrific magnet for top talents. And whatever the 'evils' of her current administration, we must recognize that America remains a very diverse nation with many different values. There are probably more peace loving doves in America than in Germany, France and Britain combined, given America's immense population. It is this diversity that is itself a great draw: I don't see myself ever assimilating into a white country like Britain, but becoming "American" for an educated Singaporean is relatively easy and possible.

Above all, if America remains true to her values of tolerance and liberty (which she has fought 2 world wars and 1 civil war to maintain), there can be little doubt she can adapt rapidly to any change in the currents of the world. Do not forget that in the 1970s and 1980s, after the Vietnam defeat and facing the onslaught Japanese economic miracle, America was supposed to have declined and slipped into 2nd place. Now look at her comeback. I do not doubt that there remains immense vitality in her soul, and to supersede her is no easy task indeed.


Now turning to China, we see indeed one of the world's oldest civilisation, which has probably flourished longer than the whole of Western civilisation (aka from Greece and Rome). Its supposed founding can be traced all the way to the legendary emperors of lore (Fu Hsi, Yao, Shun), around 2700BC, stretching for 5000 years. Throughout all this time, it has produced a remarkably rich flood of philosophies, sciences, politicians, sages, artistic works, literatures etc. etc. etc. For many centuries in the past, if not for most of the last 3000 years, China was either the most developed or among the most developed regions in the world.

For instance, even in the far off ages of the Zhou (about 1000 BC), she has already produced a centralised and humane government over an area larger than Egypt, Mesopotamia or Persia. Her government is based on a politico-moral principle of the 'Mandate of Heaven', where the Ruler seeks to do his best to further the welfare of his people or risk losing his mandate. It is this early golden age that inspired Confucius and the philosophers about 500 years later, allowing him to form one of the most humane, inspiring and moral political philosophy ever developed. One of the key reasons Chinese civilisation has lasted so long is a genuine passion for 'ren-yi-dao-de', roughly, Benevolence, Fidelity, Righteousness and Truth, and the insistence that Emperors must conform to this ideal or risk being overthrown. This is why unlike Japan, China has a habit of kicking dynasties and emperors out of the capital (and burning everything else reason which explains the lack of historical ruins).

Chinese indeed have always enshrined Emperors not so much for their martial virtue, or how much land they have conquered, but their righteousness and their care for the people. And while this dislike of the military often leave China open to invasion (China was overrun several times from the north, usually during times of disunity and dynastic decay. The Sino-Japanese war is of course the latest example), she also produced a fabulously wealthy and civilised culture. The best example of both military weakness and cultural splendor was during the southern Song dynasty, around 1000-1200. At this time, the whole of northern China was lost to barbarians, yet in the south, technology and economy reached terrific heights. At this period, China was producing more iron and coal than England during the early industrial revolution, gunpowder guns and cannons were invented, and Chinese ships used the compass to navigate the oceans. Paper money, central banking, paper, printing all came into use. Its population exceeded 100 million, a number that is many times that of Dark Age Europe combined. Capitalism, business, trade and banking naturally flourished.

But in the end, after 50 years of warfare, southern China was conquered by the Mongols. Indeed, using her technology and engineers (gunpowder weapons especially. Guess where the Europeans got the invention?), the Mongols smashed countless cities in siege and conquered a vast empire. But the Chinese are either too lazy or too wise to bother about things like world conquest...She always conquer the barbarians via her culture. Both Mongols and Manchus became sinicized. The West was so special because she was superior both in culture as well as technology.

Anyway, my point is that China can indeed build a great civilisation again IF she can revive and creatively make anew her original humane values. Currently she is under the spell of western communism and has yet to produce a philosophy to replace political Confucianism. Yet I am sure that her wise and vast soul will churn out something. The key to her greatness may well lie in this test: To create a great new system of government suited to her historical and cultural character, and yet which encapsulate the best of western liberty and progressiveness. China, as evidenced by her excellent civil service examinations system (I am sure you know about it. Japan also seems to have a version in the past), has always respected people of the Word, of learning and intelligence, not people of an aggressive or dynamic character. She seeks for knowledge and harmony, especially political, philosophical and moral knowledge, and not power. This is very different
from the West. Thus she has a good chance of creating a just and humane political and social system suited for the dangerous century ahead, full of terrifying technologies and ruthless terrorists.

However, having said that, China is undergoing one of her periodic eras where the government seems to be losing the 'Mandate of Heaven'. Yes, they are delivering on economic progress, but it is a very corrupt government--authoritarian, legalistic, full of lies and violence. It is the kind of government associated with the heroic villains of Chinese history, like the First Emperor, Shih Huang Ti. In Chinese history, such governments never last long (meaning not more than a century), but such strong and evil governments usually precedes a magnificent new era. Shih Huang Ti's Qin Dynasty was replaced by the glorious Han, the Sui Dynasty later by the Tang and Song (the period parallel with the Heian Period of Nara and early Kyoto).

Yet the fall of Chinese communism, or its reform, may lead to short term anarchy or chaos. No one knows whether the transition can be smooth or not. The 'simplicity' (meaing homogeneity I presume) you mention of race is definitely a help. Should the transition to a glorious new government with the Mandate of Heaven be smooth, then I see little reason why China would not again be a glorious civilisation. But that is a very big IF. All else depends on that. And this new China would be truly a Civilisation, dedicated to the ancient humane values that are so crucial for the 21st century. It is not for nothing that China always remembers her first legendary Founders,
like Fu-Hsi, the Yellow Emperor etc. as not just great statesmen and semi-divine kings, but also great technologists who introduced the arts of benign civilisation, like agriculture, writing, fishing and flood control.

I think Heaven never allows any nation or individual to attain greatness without first putting them through a severe test.


India today is indeed disunited and full of chaos and poverty. Yet she has a sublime power and character that few or any nation can match. One can get a hint of this in the immensely vibrant life of even her poorest regions. Her cities and villages absolutely bustle with energy, flooded with a seething mass of passionate and idealistic people, good and evil, noble or base, people who wish to probe the highest and lowest depths of existence, people who wish to make money, people who simply wish to survive, or the countless many who wish to make Bharat (India) a great civilisation again. In all of these flow an immense health and vitality and what the Indian calls Ananda
(Bliss and Joy). What a contrast to the comparatively dead and uncheerful cities and nations of the West, Japan or modern China.

In her immense literatures, spiritual sects, artistic endeavors, philosophies and so on, we see a huge mass of people always seeking the Ideal, the Inner, the Spiritual. No other nation I think has dedicated so much energy and so much time to seek the Supreme and the Inner Dharma (Laws)
of existence. Her whole culture depends on this Supreme, the Brahman; it permeates her art, religions, literature and science almost completely. Her culture is like the facade of a Hindu temple, absolutely byzantine and exploding with a thousand different gods and demons, yet all the expressions of the One without a Second--as stated in India's oldest scripture, the Rig

China is predominantly a nation of the Mind, of intellect, order (Tao) and literary enlightenment (Wen Ming, according to the Chinese characters). India is a nation of the heart, of joyous life and mystical vision beyond Mind. If we look beyond her outward degradation, we will soon see many noble hearts and souls with deep and profound joy in life, with a sublime playfulness and kindness, and also many high flung idealistc souls seeking Vision and mystical enlightenment to solve the ultimate questions of life. There is no other nation which has sought so intently and continuously over many thousands of years to solve these 'dreamy' and impractical questions of life, such as Is there a God? How do we reach Him? What is death? What is life, really? What is Reality? What is the best way to live?

The Indian soul is one that never rests till it finds the Absolute, the Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being, Consciousness and Bliss) behind all life and the universe. It is this seeking and the fruits of her countless sages, from the prehistoric Vedic seers to Buddha to Shankara to the modern sages of the 19th century Hindu Renaissance (like Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna etc.), that give her culture an essential immortality--for ultimately, can any true civilisation be built without a deeper basis in spirituality?

Gandhi for instance is probably the first world leader to use non violence, ahimsa, as a basis for political action, thus inspiring people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Christians have preached non-violence for 2000 years, but which Christian King has practised this virtue of Christ? Instead Europe is the site of terrible wars and it is western civilization which invented the atomic bomb (and soon many more horrors ahead).

China, for all her strengths, does not fundamentally have much genius or even tolerance for too much mind in the sky spirituality. She is a practical nation. She loves ideas, yes, but even then, she focuses on political and moral philosophy, not so much metaphysics. Even Indian Buddhism she adapts to a much more simpler 'Chan' (Zen) form, and it is the simpler Pure Land sects (also found in Japan, those dedicated to Amida Buddha) that flourish in that land. Taoism has a mystical and playful aspect of course (and many Chinese do have quirky sense of humor) but it never attained the intellectual or spiritual heights of Buddhism or Hinduism.

Thus China could hardly vie with India in terms of spiritual prowess. The ancient seekings and talent of both countries can be seen very clearly in how India produced Gandhi as a liberation leader, while China produced Sun Yat-Sen, a scholar and doctor.

India's greatness will thus take a form that is radically opposed to the forms of the present world. Her greatest mission is in fact to produce a different form of civilisation based on the 'inner' energies of nature and the divine energies of Spirit and Consciousness.


This section is probably best written by yourself, but I offer a few comments for your consideration.

If China embodies the mind and India the heart, then Japan probably embodies the Will. Japan is a country where spirit is often identified with determination and inner strength. This can be seen in her cultural products (martial arts, manga, business practices etc.). Thus Japan seems to be a
very competitive society, where people compete with each other and where the whole nation compete against others. To be Number One seems to be a very important part of Japanese culture. It is in fact a lot like the West, in a way, for Power is recognised and enshrined.

One can see this in the very different Chinese and Japanese attitude to money: To most Chinese capitalists, money is good for its own sake and for its use in procuring earthly pleasures and needs. If they intervene in politics, it is more for protecting their families or themselves. To most
Japanese capitalists, I think money is more for the sake of national power and for the influence, power and strength it gives over other nations. Money is like a reward that conforms their distinctly Japanese determination, discipline and drive; a kind of war trophy.

Of course, Japan has another side--the intense aesthetic sense and an equally intense urge towards social conformity and harmony. Some people thus see the traditional art of samurai sword forging as expressing the quintessence of Japanese culture: How the Master fuses high beauty and
terrifying deadliness with a ruthless and yet clean fire. Confucianism also received a distinctly Japanese slant and perhaps the deep conformity drive of the Japanese is a reaction to their natural aggressiveness and competitiveness. Also, the 'threat' or competition posed by outsiders may also be a factor to union.

One must note that despite the smaller size of Japan, she was never as politically unified as China throughout most of her history. The various warlords were just too competitive. Even after the Medieval chaos and during the Tokugawa Shogunate, there was no true Imperial system and a highly centralised administration. Instead Japan was more like the Feudalistic Monarchies of Europe. In the end, it was some of the rival warlords who helped the Emperor Meiji to overthrow the Shogun. And even then Japanese politics later in the 1920s and 30s were plagued with violence and coups by zealous military officers, a factor that of course led to the disastrous Pacific War.

Whether Japan is going to be Number One or not, I think that many Japanese, as part of their natural Warrior Instinct and the innate idea that Will overcomes all, is probably going to at least try to carve up a great place in the sun for themselves. Japan has never been a tributary state for long in her history, and I doubt she will ever belatedly accept being second to anyone else; especially to China--unless China grows incredibly strong and scary. During the 1970s and 1980s for instance, the Japanese were openly seeking to surmont their former master, the United States, both economically and culturally.

Therefore, I do not think we can write off Japan. Whatever faults you find in Japanese youth, as you obviously know, Japan has a long tradition of learning very fast from other people and trying her utmost best to better her former superiors. And given the future importance of robotics and her lead in this area, she may well build up a robotic infrastructure that significantly exceed any other country in the world; giving her enormous financial and military clout. So all is possible. Though my own personal opinion that Japan as Number One is neither good for herself nor for the world. For a nation that enshrine determination and power, such things can lead to too much pride and even overbearing aggressiveness.

The ball is in your court, what do you think?

Europe and the West

Western civilisation is without doubt one of the most remarkable in world history. One key reason for this is the diversity and illustriousness of her origins. From ancient Greece, she accessed a profoundly logical and rationalistic philosophical tradition that eventually led to modern science. From Rome, she received a very Chinese like passion for good government and just laws. From Israel, she received a torrent of spirituality, ethics and mystical seekings. From the Germanic tribes she received a martial spirit and warlike aggressiveness. These four streams flowed into the nations that succeeded the Roman Empire, and over the next thousand years or so, these
energies forged a supremely vibrant, warlike and creative civilisation.

America, to return to the earlier thread, is part of the West. While her history is a mere 200 years, yet her lineage and traditions go all the way back to Greece, Rome and Israel. Her religion is Christian, her democratic (demos-cratos, rule of the people in Greek) government is inspired by the Athenian and Roman models, and her language is English and thus Romano-Germanic. The roots of her culture is in a sense no less ancient than China or Japan or India. This is one aspect of America one cannot ignore.

Western civilisation remains supremely strong and vibrant because no other culture can yet match the marvelous synthesis she has made of her origins. China, India and Japan are rather one sided when compared with her. The equivalence may be something like a Pan Asian civilisation incorporating Chinese government and humanism, Indian spirituality/philosophy and Japanese martial determination and spirit. No such synthesis has ever been attempted,
nor seems very possible anytime soon.

In this globalised world, western civilization, like Japan, shows an significant readiness to learn and to adapt. This is especially true I think, for America. Thus while the East may chase to catch up and synthesize, there is hardly any guarantee that Europe and America will just sit back doing nothing. Thus one could hardly say that the 21st century belongs to the East. It is only possible if Western civilisation enters into a stage of degeneration caused by extreme materialism, causing her to ignore her own vital springs in Greco-Roman justice, rationality and republican
governance, Christian spirituality and ethics, and Germanic ambition and discipline. It is possible, but how likely, who can say?'



Money: A thought

Any currency or precious metal or whatever that qualifies as 'money' is fundamentally a universally desired commodity, something that is readily accepted by human beings in exchange for their goods or services. The power of money is proportional to how widely and deeply desired it is by human beings, or to put it in a more complete manner, the usefulness of money is proportional to the size of the market.

Given the ever-increasing size of the market today, a fact propelled chiefly by the growth of technology (perhaps the chief factor), infrastructure and population, we can see why the attraction of money has increased manyfold from ages past. Simply put nowadays money can command a larger and ever-increasing sum and variety of goods and services. And as Adam Smith has pointed out, mankind seems to possess an innate instinct towards material betterment--an impulse that given half the chance of a little peace and order, will propel the 'natural progress of opulence' of a nation. Indeed, few human beings are completely immune to a desire or yearning for material progress. No matter our current inventory of goods, or the services we might already readily access, we always desire more and better.

If you have for instance the equivalent of a million dollars say 800 years ago in medieval Europe, you may perhaps be able to buy a piece of land, some cattle and sheep, and employ some farmers and soldiers to till and protect your land. You may also be able to squander a little of it on some exotic trinklet from the East. But that is about all you can do. Simply, you may have the money, but given the inferior technology, infrastructure and population, the available market is too small for it to have the signficance of modern times.

Today, the same million dollars can do the same as 800 years ago, but also much more. You can choose between a bewildering diversity of consumer and capital products, whether cars, furnitures, electronic gadgets, software, robots etc. etc. And the services you can command are also far increased, engineers, consultants, lawyers, doctors, scientists etc. And given the sheer size of the market today, one can also put the money into organizing profitable enterprises capable of generating even more capital for a good long time.

Is it therefore any wonder that today's age is the age of unprecedented commerce and the age of money's dominion?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

All Hail to MAC!

Oh yes, I recently converted to become a Mac user. One reason is the truly nifty feel and look of Mac OSX (not to mention the powerful G4 or G5 chips), another is the wonderful security provided by Macs. Viruses, adware, etc. are practically all aimed at PC-Windows platforms (though I think using Firefox or whatever instead of Internet Explorer may help significantly), thus using a Mac is alone enough to improve security tremendously. Then if you reinforce the Mac with the build in Safari Firewall (the Internet browser of OSX), virus scans and take certain other precautions, your Mac becomes basically impregnable.

Of course, Macs used to be limited in usefulness because of its lack of native applications. But Microsoft has written a Mac-Office and also Virtua-PC which allows Window applications to run on your computer. So you get the usefulness of the PC with the security, performance and cuteness (however defined) of a a Mac. Also, I just like the Apple Icon (reminding me of my first long lost Apple II computer. Sobz) =).

There is one major drawback. The Cost. =P I leave it to you to find out for yourself. Then again, who has heard of a cheap BMW or Lexus?

Who am I?

As some of my friends might know, I am a thoroughly unconventional person. You may not be able to tell on the surface (not much anyway), but beneath is hidden a thousand strange ideas and odd modes of action. Yet believe it or not, I fancy myself a thoroughly practical person--though most will think me mad once they know what I think about life, the universe and everything. Regardless, I am confident that it is in weridness and the unconventional paths that supreme success can be attained.

Coincidentia oppositorum.

I am an absolute eccentric who is perfectly normal
A practical guy enwrapped in dreams
A seeker of austere luxury
and the end that has no beginning.

Why do I blog?

Too much energy and too few places to expend it =P

In the past I simply indulge in computer games when I feel overly restless. But increasingly, it seems meaningless. Who sees, who cares, if I exterminate a thousand alien empires and save the world a million times on my PC or Mac? Hence in imitation of everyone around me, I think I shall start to ramble on the net. Perhaps some may be entertained or offended or even educated.