Friday, October 17, 2014

Japan Bashing

So I just got this book, "The Enigma Of Japanese Power" and the author says in the intro that the book is not about Japan bashing. But then he goes on to do just that.

He bashes the infrastructure "Urban housing is cramped, confined and extraordinarily costly. The cost of living measured against average income, is exorbitantly high. Commuter trains are extremely crowded, the road system is ridiculously inadequate. These and other deficiencies in the infrastructure of daily living leave average Japanese city dwellers with a lower standard of comfort than that enjoyed by their counterparts in less wealthy European countries"

He's right on a few points, the cost of living is crazy high, and trains are crowded. But I like my small apartment and the "cramped" urban environment that gives me quick and easy access to everything I need.

Then he bashes Japanese art "One can hardly say that much emanates from Japan today that enhances the less materialist aspects of life in the way of great music, great literature or even impressive architecture."

Considering Japanese art like video games and anime are the main reason I originally became interested in Japan, I'd say this guy is just a snob with crappy taste. Since living here I've discovered Haruki Murakami, easily my 2nd favorite author after John Green, now Paulo Coelho is only my 3rd favorite, haha.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The World

Incoming flow of conscienceness rant!

The world is wonderful. There is more prosperity, equality, justice and peace than in any time in human history, and as a college educated white male, perhaps I have no right to complain. But complain I will. 

The world is becoming a better place, but at the same time it's becoming a much more complicated place. I am accustomed to living in big cities, but big cities have developed an underclass of people just living to pay the rent and find some measure of happiness in this crazy new world. 

I feel a bit cheated that no one ever told me the world was this complex. I was raised to believe that as long as I read my Book of Mormon and said my prayers, everything would turn out a-okay... Ugh.

I remember scanning a few pages of Thomas Friedman's book The Wolrd is Flat in Target as a teenager and thinking it was too "businessy" for me, that I would be an artist! And such trivial business books weren't worth my time. 

Recently I've been reading the book Why Boys Fail and it suggests that maybe boys should have The World Is Flat as required reading. When I read that it immediately triggered my memory of seeing in Target all those years ago. Perhaps I misjudged.

Something about turning 29 and reading the book Entertaining Ourselves To Death by Niel Postman triggered a big change in my way of thinking. Reading Paulo Coelho's book Adultery only furthered my suspicion that age 29 (the return of Saturn) is an opportunity to have a turning point in my life. I am still more of an idealist and a dreamer, but I have acquired a thirst for real world knowledge.

The problem with learning a lot of history is that you start to see how violent and unpredictable the world is. Where is a safe place to live and raise a family? Is that even something worth doing? What sound investments can I make? 

Stefan Molyneux recently did a video about Ayn Rand. He says that her ideas are kind of freaky to some people. He says it's because of how much western society has fallen away from it's principles, but I have i different theory. I think we are finally realing what hateful bullshit religion is, but at the same time, the ideas that must replace religion, secularism, objectivism, relativism, etc, are pretty scary.

Which is perhaps why I like the idea of humanism so much. Even without religion, we cannot ignore the power and importance of having compassion for our fellow man. But compassion cannot trump honesty. If someone believes in something that is clearly bullshit, like religion, you should tell them the truth. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Moroni's Challenge and Kundun

The difficulty with leaving the Mormon church is that there will always be someone you love telling you to take Moroni's challenge again. The challenge is the idea that if you pray with the right frame of mind that the Holy Spirit will confirm that the church is true. But Moroni's challenge is something I will never do again. I took that challenge hundreds of times, but I could never be sure that the feeling I got from praying about it wasn't just my own mind telling me it was true because I wanted it to be true. 

I recently re-watched one of my favorite movies, Kundun. It's about the conflict between China and Tibet. There is a very memorable scene where the Dalai Lama and chairman Mao sit down together. The negotiations seem to be going well, and it seems like there is nothing but mutual respect between the two men, but then chairman Mao tells the Dalai Lama that there is something he must learn. That religion is poison. I don't agree with socialist or Marxist ideology, and I certainly don't endorse the violence and human right's violations that the Chinese committed in Tibet, but I do agree with the sentiment that religion is the opiate of the people. 

It is a shame that the beautiful culture and religion of Tibet had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the dark ages, but it was something that had to be done for the sake of the poor people living in that country who were stuck worshiping a false god and living in poverty and ignorance about the outside world.

I have a theory that the Dalai Lama himself, through his thorough understanding of Buddhist principles, has come to realize his own humanity. He has said there should be no 15th Dalai Lama. I think he continues to act as the Dalai Lama because of the positive teachings of compassion and non-violence that he has the power to share with the world. I doubt the leaders of the church would ever say there should be no next prophet.

I think I was moved as a teenager when I first saw Kundun because of the parallel experience I was having with leaving the church. The Dalai Lama was convinced as a child that he was special, he was part of a loving community that taught profound truths about the importance of having compassion for your fellow man. But they also taught him a lot of nonsense about being reborn and listening to hissing, thrashing oracles in funny costumes.

I think now that I am older, I relate more to the chairman Mao character in the movie. No matter how much you may love and respect someone, if they believe something that is fundamentally wrong, you should tell them.

The church has adapted to mainstream culture in the past, changing its stance on polygamy and blacks holding the priesthood, but the world is changing too quickly for it to keep up now. I left the church for purely intellectual reasons, but I understand now that was also the right thing to do morally. Telling children they are special because they believe in the only true religion is psychological child abuse, even without threats of going to hell. Trying to use the law to enforce outdated ideas about sexuality, as the Mormon church has done with the LGBT community, is wrong. 

So, since I've taken Moroni's challenge hundreds of times, could I perhaps persuade you to watch Kundun once if you haven't seen it already? I'd love to hear what you think about it. Are Tibetan Buddhism and Mormonism (or any religion) really so different? Are their superstitions any more or less rediculous than yours? Are their struggles for peace, compassion, freedom and understanding any more or less admirable? I believe that it's the principles that are important, not the religious trappings. Religion is no longer necessary to teach correct principles, religion only divides us.