Dear Friends

DF 41 - Metaphysics, a magic bus & a competition

April 2006

Dear Friends

Here on Sunset Boulevard, Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons are peering into my room from across the road, where they co-star on a billboard advertising the mini-series, Elizabeth 1.

I have partially drawn the curtains to block out Jeremy - sorry mate - and invited Helen over to my place. She disrobes and reads aloud to me, from The Stranger House by Reginald Hill…

'…Torture, trial, condemnation, the broken body hanged till point of death, then taken down while life was still extant and eviscerated, the bowels thrown to the dogs, the finally lifeless corpse hacked into pieces to be hurled into the river, except for the head which would be stuck on a pike in a prominent place till time and the crows had reduced it to a grinning skull…'

'Jeez Helen, all this for going Catholic in the English 1580's - it makes the proposed punishment for the recent cases of apostasy in Afghanistan seem quite civilised by comparison; this is all most encouraging.'

She thinks I'm being flippant and gets the hump, but my head is safe because she has to get back to her movie. She dresses carelessly and flies out of the window, but not before licking my finger so I can more easily turn the pages of Brian Greene's Elegant Universe...

I threw a rock in the lake
And it sank to the bottom
The waves spread out
But the rock got forgotten
The ripples came back
As we all feared
Looking for the rock
But the hole disappeared
It's somewhere in the middle
Some way down
The last guy that went looking
Almost certainly drowned
He ran out of time
He can kiss tomorrow goodbye

Theoretical physicists are alright so long as they don't get too tied up in superstring. Brian Greene is better than most at guiding us along the road to infinity or at least allowing us to stand back and get a proper look. The great fun is that you don't have to be a quantum mechanic to go on this ride.

Some ideas are difficult to express because they are shocking to one society and repulsive to others. I'm talking about taboo subjects, particularly in the realm of human spirituality. Of course, ever since god in its primitive form was found to be a powerful tool - by which the doctors in our early tribal days could exert control - anyone spreading original or unconventional thoughts outside of the mainstream has been demonised as a heretic, an infidel, a cultist or just plain nuts. This is almost certainly why Darwin delayed publication of his great theory for twenty years; he was scared of the church - as a 16th century recusant would be - but not for his life, he was scared of his reputation. I could go on a bit here but the mind police are hovering.

Anyway, can you imagine living in the late 1800's?

After a short time in being, the last meeting of the metaphysical society was held on May 16, 1880. Tennyson complained that 'after ten years of strenuous effort no one had succeeded in even defining metaphysics'; Huxley mourned that it died 'of too much love'; and, according to Dean Stanley (The Donald H. Rumsfeld of his day), "We all meant the same thing if we only knew it."

Well that's committees for you. For me the meaning is clear - living creatures do and will exist beyond the physical. And what does the future hold, given that our habitation on Earth is unsustainable? Surely another phase, we must adapt or die, evolve or cease. Take Darwin at his word - as if from caterpillars to butterflies - but beyond his dreams; it's time to look around some corners.

Here at the church of the spinning cross - that is the nascent gathering between my temples - we are celebrating our first real understanding of the way to go. Which path to choose? The most challenging of course; there's less traffic for a start. However this path breaks all the rules, as gravity has little hold on a metaphysical society.

Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Hubble have all made mistakes; and the bible was written by men. Just kidding sir!!!

Was it Einstein who proved that nothing could travel faster than light? Hmm, if the mysteries of an extended mind were to be fully examined we should realise that we can think ourselves to distant galaxies in the twinkle of a star; unless of course, thinking doesn't count. Of course, when we get there we shall discover that many of the nebulae are long dead, but the light took a very long time to reach us and consequently they were still shining on our human ancestors; weird eh?

Euclid would have you convinced that parallel lines were always equidistant. Indeed I almost became a believer myself until I converted to infinity - and also after the punishment meted out when I questioned the proof. 'Surely Sir, that's not possible, except on a small scale, and even then…' whack! Ouch! But then from the age of eight I didn't even trust a single straight line, let alone two.

Was it Hawking who insisted that there was nothing before the so called Big Bang? Impossible! The Big Bang was just a combustible leak from another dimension - a point of effervescence.

I wonder - did the Metaphysical Society suffer the same angst as Darwin? Insofar as it was difficult enough in the climate of the 19th century to publicly suggest - even consider - the origin of humanity to be anything other than the creation of God. How difficult must it have been for these thinkers to utter the words, to develop the arguments for an otherlife - apart from a conventional heaven? That would have been taboo, on a par with paedophilia or racial disparagement today.

Also, how familiar might they have been with the work of their contemporary, philosopher-cum-teacher Edwin Abbott, whose sphere in 'Flatland' was an extra-dimensional teaser - beyond all understanding? Now there was a brilliant teaching method; take a known situation, in this case three linear dimensions, tear off one of them - height - and then reintroduce it to a disbelieving public as an example of early superstring. Some still say that the social commentary embodied within the text displayed the real genius of the writer. Well it may have been a subtle way of dealing with the stifling class system - and putting priests at the highest order certainly tells us something of his broad intentions - but the invitation to look round a corner by peeping over the rooftops is what every parent/teacher would be doing naturally if the system was not so rigid.

The idea of thinking around corners is hard to grasp even by today's standards, so imagining something that did not 'exist' would have been dangerous territory in the 1870's. The philosophical study of being and knowing is all very well if you know what you are - ha, no chance - and then understand that knowing is just a matter of environmental judgement.

My father would always know when the bus was coming. He would say 'count to five…..' and there - as if by magic - the red Double-Decker would come round the corner; never failing.

'How do you know Dad?'

'It's something you'll discover when you grow up', he replied seriously.

Sure enough - a few years later when I'd grown a few inches I could see the red top of the bus over the rooftops, as it approached the corner, and so was able to predict quite accurately the moment of its full appearance.

However, if my physical growth had been arrested in the same way as my intellectual and spiritual growth was stunted at that crucial age, then I would have thought to this day that my father had 'supernatural' knowledge; and what is that?

Is that why we turned to gods, who seemed to have had all the right answers before we were old enough gain height?

The following is proof that our once fine English Bobbies - our English Police Forces that are now known collectively as the Police Service, my dears - or Boys in Blue as they were affectionately known, admired and respected, have made the complete transition from being institutionally racist (sic) to just plain silly. The rapidity of change can be attributed partly to the fact that the majority of new senior officers are fast-track university graduates and not real policepersons at all. Another contributing factor is the dereliction of duty by consecutive Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries, thereby politicising the police and stripping them of respect from all sections of society; instead of merely the 'All Coppers Are Bastards' clan. And let's not forget the adolescent patchwork of repair legislation has had the clear effect of widening the gap between the bar and the executive.

Cop this recent missive (verbatim).

Guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers:

If, as victims of hate crimes or incidents, individuals experience indifference or rejection from the police this in effect victimises them a second time.

Secondary victimisation takes place whether or not the police are indifferent or reject the victims if that is how the victim feels about the interaction.

Whether or not it is reasonable for them to feel that way is immaterial.

The onus falls entirely on the police to manage the interaction to ensure that the victim has no residual feelings of secondary victimisation.

I had to read that more than once to grasp the true silliness.

US$450bn of aid has gone to Africa in the last thirty years and yet life expectancy and Gross Domestic Product are both lower now than then. Would you care to read the last sentence again?

I have a lot of time for that dignified after-dinner gentle man Kofi Annan. He came near to stamping his foot whilst enduring an interview with the Vile Blitzer (CNN should really hire the contemptible Tim Sebastian; he is no more palatable than the wolf, but much better researched and he also has some real fangs).

Wolf indeed!! The neutered spaniel ventured that the U.N. could have done more on certain issues and implied that it had been left to the U.S. to take action.

With incredible patience and diplomacy - notwithstanding the bulging veins and clenched fists - our Kofi explained that the U.N. was only as powerful as the will of its members. He could have gone further to say that all of the major players had nothing but self interest at the stone heart of every slimy, debatable point.

A classic example - check it out, you'll find as many as you want - of a corrupt veto by a permanent member is China's current disinterest in any action against Khartoum in response to the atrocities in Darfur. I wonder who might be the biggest investor in Sudan's burgeoning oil industry - could it be China? Silly me - smack my bum with a wet kipper.

Here is the new competition, please send answers to either or both of the following questions.

a) What is a prophet?

b) What is the gospel truth?

Good prizes for the most interesting/humorous replies - usual rules apply1.


Ian Gillan

Copyright © Ian Gillan 2006

Oh btw - nearly forgot - I have a new record out!2

1 What's 'usual' you might ask. Don't ask as I'm unlikely to tell you. I have as many problems with reality as you do..... Steve/ed

2 It's true, he does (Caramba Authenticated Information Service).

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