A ghost is a deceased person that haunts the living, because the deceased person has unfinished business or lost property that was highly important to him. In spite of what healthy skepticism might prompt me to believe, I believe in ghosts, because I have seen many of them.
As an atheist and a skeptic, however, I must insist that ghosts are tangible characters. So, when popular belief stipulates that ghosts are spirits, I must insist that this cannot be, and I also refuse to consider ghosts to be some kind of manifestation of a person's afterlife.
A ghost is a dead person in the sense that the person has lost his life. A person that was once productive, alive, giving, and present but has since lost the spark of life and no longer has initiative is dead. Such invididuals may become ghosts.
When a person “dies” and becomes a ghost, the death is often witnessed as a change in the person's life and friends wonder what happened to the once so pleasant person. The death occurs when a vital part of their life vanishes and takes the person's inner light with it, leaving a person who is eerily unreal and often unpleasant to meet.
This may require some explanation.
The person has been so closely attached to a “fetish”—a person, an idea, a cause, or an object—that it is inseparable from his life. Everything is understood and valued against the fetish that the person has attached himself to. Even if the individual might have had a realistic view on reality, his or her entire existence has been measured according to the fetish. A mother may thus enjoy life, but some mothers enjoy life as mothers, that is, not as independent individuals but through their relation to their child and the identity of being mothers. The child has become the mother's fetish.
The fetish is the glass through which the person views his entire existence. It does not prevent the person from seeing clearly; in fact, it is vital for the person's clarify. The person's contact with reality goes through the person's fetish, and instead of using his own root as a guideline to his existence directly, the person applies his fetish as a an intermediary between his root and reality.
This usually works well, but it is dangerous to be so dependent on an external factor. If you found out what a person's fetish is, you may control the person via his fetish, but that is another discussion. If you make a person hate his fetish, the person will hate himself, and his beacon will be his own self-hate. That, too, is another discussion.
Back to the ghosts. Legends have established that ghosts are often looking for something that is lost, or the ghosts haunt people that own that which the ghosts have lost. If you destroy a person's fetish or make it inaccessible, you will remove the item that the person required to be in touch with himself, and hence the person's indicator of reality. The vital part of the person through which the person lived is gone. The person's spark of life disappears together with the disappearance of the fetish. The person “dies” but is unable to find rest without his fetish.
That is the secret behind the curse of the ghosts. Ghosts of flesh and blood have lost their fetishes, and their curse can only be lifted if the ghosts can recover their lost fetishes or if they find a new fetish. In rare cases the ghosts may find their own root.
The fetish is the person's axis mundi, the indicator of world order. If the axis mundi is shifted even once, the world is destroyed. An Aboriginal tribe in Australia understood this concept so literally that they symbolized the axis mundi with a stick, and if the stick were to be destroyed, the tribe would sit down and wait to die, because the world order had been destroyed.
In the mythical universes the axis mundi connects the cosmic planes of existence. In Christianity, the axis mundi is symbolized by the Jacob's ladder, and in the Norse mythology it was Yddgrasil. The the individual, the axis mundi is the connection between sensing and interpretation of the senses, and the connection between his past and his future. It is the person's thread through life.
The fetich is the person's single reference point that cannot afford to be shaken. If control of the fetish is lost even once, the basis of the person's world view is for ever uncertain. If the person's fetish is his girlfriend, she needs not demonstrate her disinterest more than once before the person's local world—himself—crumbles, even if the girlfriend finds her way back.
Like their mythical counterpart, real ghosts haunt those living individuals that have life, warmth, and an inner flame. The haunted people are those who possess the fetishes of the ghosts.
The ghosts make themselves present in different forms. You may forget about the ghost and only become aware of its existence when it rattles the chains of an inextinguishable bitterness. Or you may wonder why the ghosts return to people that they once had relations with, even if the ghosts themselves have long since renounced the relations. Or you may have been together with a ghost and leave with a feeling that the ghost was the only person in the party who gained from the contact. The presence of the ghosts is a transparent outline of that which the ghosts once felt they were as living individuals.
The ghost may be the mother who has lost her child because the child has moved away from home or has freed itself from its parents, and who attempts to keep the child in its childish needs by helping with cooking or laundry. Or the ghost may be the old politician who has lost interest in politics but still turns to other politically active individuals about issues that he could easily discuss with anyone else.
Ghosts may not walk through walls, but they are very real, and they cannot be slain like vampires with a proverbial stake through their hearts. Ghosts are also never kind. And unlike the ghosts of the myths and legends, ghosts may not be reunited with their lost identity by anyone; true ghost hunters need hard training in psychiatry. We other mortals can rarely dispell the ghosts. If we are unwilling to flee the haunted area, we must live with their howls at night and their chilly puffs down our backs.
September 2011 Archives
A ghost is a deceased person that haunts the living, because the deceased person has unfinished business or lost property that was highly important to him. In spite of what healthy skepticism might prompt me to believe, I believe in ghosts, because I have seen many of them.
The forest of Rold in Denmark includes an area that is known as the troll forest owing to the eerie shape of the trees. There is a perfectly natural explanation for that, but that will have to wait, because this is about the secret behind troll hunting.
Troll hunting is difficult because you cannot enter the troll forest with the desire to hunt trolls. Everywhere you look you will see oddly shaped trees but trolls are nowhere to be seen.
The secret behind troll hunting is that the trolls will not appear until you cease looking for them. It is when you forget your business that the trolls begin to appear. Often a curious face will peek from behind the roots of a fallen tree, or a troll may be napping against a trunk. Soon you will see trolls everywhere in all shapes and sizes, and you feel them blowing down your neck and wink at you in time with the movement of the trees. But as soon as you begin looking for more trolls, you will not find any.
Trolls are shy and will hide when you approach them. There is often but a piece of wood or bark left when you walk towards them. But if you keep a proper distance, you will often be able to point them out for your companions who may not have seen them yet.
Not all troll hunters are skilled. The trolls usually hide from troll huntes with too much sense in their heads who see nothing but trees. When they hunt for trolls, they search for the darkness with flashlights, trying to create trolls where there are none. When they are asked to describe the troll, they can rarely point at the nose, the eyes, and the mouth at the same time, seeing the entire face of the troll. They often describe a single closed eye that soon turns out not to belong to any troll. They also have difficiulties recognizing trolls that are found by more skilled hunters.
The unfortunate troll hunters generally have difficulties understanding abstractions, analogies, symbols, and intuitive explanations, are are rarely creative.
It is the unfortunate troll hunters who attempt to find profundities in their favorite topics or activities even if there is nothing to be found. Skilled troll hunters will find that certain topics provide a myriad of trolls.
Some mystery cults would probably have sent the apprentice into Rold forest with no explanation but an instruction to come back once the apprentice had learned something. I will wish you happy hunting instead.
Truth is reserved for misguided humans who believe that truth is a goal.
Truth is sought by humans who are culturally trained to believe that somewhere, someone knows what is “true.” They believe it is the duty of each human being to either be this person or to work hard to comprehend through this person what is “true.” Even if they may not formally or literally believe in gods, it is implied by their culture that it is “God” who holds the final and eternal truth.
The Devil has no interest in aspiring for his opponent. Satan turns his back at God. He knows that there is no such thing as “true.” Satan does not want truth. Satan is the perpetual liar, and it is his corruptive nature to destroy truth.
Yet a truth that has been forced to adapt to the Devil's eternal question mark and destruction through the ages has not become a lie; it has only been progressively less wrong. Satan's obstinate desire to destroy truth as we know it has replaced the term “true” with the term “progessively less wrong.”
It may sound as if Satan inadvertently attains the very goal that he wishes to avoid, but there is a monumental difference between the two concepts.
“True” is something that is measured as the distance from an absolute, constant merit, which is an ultimate goal. The closer something is to this goal, the more true it is.
“Progessively less wrong” is measured according to a point of departure. It is a measure of how far you have reached and how far you have progressed.
“True” is an angst of not being close enough to God—a fear that cannot be eased, because there are no gods. The wish to reach the goal is a death wish, because once the wish has been granted, there is nothing more to strive for.
To be “progressively less wrong” is to revel in your own progess, and it is a perennial desire to always go further.
The desire for “truth” creates rigid societies. People think in terms of “right” when they maintain their own, “true” course while they actively combat any other course and are hostile towards discussion and perspective.
The desire to be “progressively less wrong” leads society in new directions. It encourages respect for past knowledge and enthusiasm for constributing with new knowledge, to lifelong learning, and to an appreciation of the fact that there is great value to be found in the interaction between humans with unique views.
But it is not easy to be “progressively less wrong” instead of being “more right.” Many people have a feeling of what is “right” and do not have the slightest idea of how to be “less wrong.” They belive you are opting for the second-best solution when you wish to be “less wrong” rather than “more right.” This, in spite of life itself being a monument to the fact that there is nothing second-best to beling “progressively less wrong.”
To learn what is wrong in a popular “truth,” we must follow the Devil's example.
Satan does not belive in false authorities who know in advance what is “right.” Satan has much more respect for those people who seek to demolish truths—assuming these people are not merely motivated by another “truth.” Satan believes in chaos, because he trusts people to be creative, and he trusts that a large number of people that do not share an opinion are capable of functioning together.
To be “progessively less wrong” demands the Devil's tools: the ability to be critical and to learn from your own and others experiments, but also to keep an open mind that allows controversional thoughts and acts. The key talent is creativity, but unfortunately our god-fearing culture is suspicious of this chaotic skill, or may have lost its belief in it or forgotten it in its quest for maximum profit or “financial responsibility.”
A truth that cannot be destroyed is promoted to divinity and will enthrall independent thought. In his destruction of truth, Satan therefore demands bickering and dispute, obstacles and destruction, frustration and error. Only thus can truth be destroyed and mankind be liberated from God.
It is usually considered bad practice to compare groups that you don't like with Nazis. This comparison is made so often, however, that it has earned its own name: Godwin's Law. The "law" states that most discussions on the Internet newsgroups invariably end with one part accusing the other part of being a Nazi, and that this accusation marks the end of any constructive debate. The reason is that discussions often become more heated and invectives become more fierce, and because "Nazi" is considered the worst you can say, this invective indicates that the debate has removed the parties as far as possible. The rule is virtually universal, but there is an obvious situation where it does not apply: if your opponent is a genuine nazi, it is absolutely fair to refer to the opponent as a Nazi! This is noted in the Godwin's Law FAQ, which dryly observes that this law is not useful by neither part. It suggests one talks about Nazis instead of talking with Nazis.
There is a gray area, however, where the person you debate with is a Nazi in every respect, except that the person himself or herself either won't admit or doesn't believe he or she is a Nazi. If you refer to the person as a Nazi, you'll be correct, but the person will be insulted either for political reasons or as a result of ignorance.
There is a certain fairness in accepting that if someone rejects a particular name, one should at least consider honoring the rejection. It should not be honored uncritically, however; if a Holocaust denier argues in favor of Nazism cannot be called a Nazi simply because he or she claims (or believes) to be otherwise, the person's rejection cannot have much weight. Compare it with the situation with athletes from Eastern Europe or China some decades ago, who officially were "unprofessional" athletes but whom anyone knew were 100% dedicated to their sport by their respective countries, and only were allowed in the Olympic games because their countries emphasized that they were not paid. In any sense but the strictest level of formality, obviously these athletes were professional; anything else is a matter of words. (This recurring conflict solved itself as commercial interests in other countries began to sponsor the athletes who could also no longer unambiguiously be considered amateurs.)
There is thus a lower limit for not belonging to a particular group: you may be so similar that it does not make sense to consider you different. You are not necessarily the person you think you are, or what you attempt to convince others that you are.
Some of my close relatives were members of the Nazi party during the Second World War; one was an SS officer and the other was honored with a seat next to the Führer at one of his birthday parties. If anyone were Nazis in Germany in the 1930'es and 1940'es, it would these two people. I knew them both as very pleasant human beings who would always contribute positively to any occasion, and who did so out of genuine interest, not as an attempt to make up for their pasts.
Many Nazis at that time must have held much more moderate beliefs than these two people, and some presumably smaller number must have been less moderate. This indicates that here, too, there has to be a lower limit of how excluding the definition of Nazism can be, because if there were not many "degrees" of being a Nazi, how many people would qualify? If you narrow Nazism to a phenomenon that could only describe a tiny number of exceptionally cruel individuals, then how could there be so many millions of Nazis in Germany before and after the Second World War? Were these millions of Nazis in the period between 1920 and 1945 really so similar that there were no small or even considerable differences? Did they all disappear, and with them also nazism, as through magic when Germany lost the war? If the definition of Nazism is so narrow that it does not fit anyone, were there even Nazis in Germany before and during the Second World War?
The answers are as obvious as they may be discomforting: firstly, Nazism covered a wide array of people because otherwise there could never have been that many Nazis. Secondly, Nazis did not radically change their opinions on the night between August 2nd and August 3rd, 1945 after the Potsdam conference; they just knew to keep their mouths shut. In short, Nazis were humans, and humans are different. Nazism was found in many shades and different Nazis had different emphasis on its ideological core principles. There is not a single, precise weighting but rather an inclusive sphere spanneing various weightings of core ideologies, and they did not simply vanish from the many options provided by human consciousness. It is this fact that make the answer discomforting: if Nazism fills a spacious sphere of different opinions and does not unequivocally demand that one behaves like a Hollywood Nazi archetype, then it means that we are surrounded by people who would have been clearly recognizable as Nazis by the standards of Germany, 1930.
More specifically: a number of core principles outlined a circle around the many different Nazis of the 1920'es and 1930'es. If a group of people today believes in core principles that by and large are contained within this circle, then this group would have been part of contemporary Nazism had the group existed back then.
The strong condemnation of the horrors of World War II has created a fear of contact with Nazism, which has a very unfortunate side effect: the post-war descriptions of the horrors during the Second World War has created an anthropomorphism, that is, they have transformed Nazis into a symbol of the horrors. The post-war condemnations have created the mythical Nazi—the spectre of the worst thinkable human being, all of the Nazi horrors integrated into a single person.
The mythical Nazi is mythical, because the mythical person does not exist. The Nazis of the real world were not like the mythical Nazi. The mythical Nazi and the real Nazi appear in different realities. The mythical Nazi is found in the world where you find dragons, trolls, and other monsters. The real Nazi is found in our own world. These Nazis had many opinions and values, dreams and ideas, hopes and plans, and they were human beings of flesh and blood like the rest of us.
When you speak of the real Nazis, you must not confuse them with the mythological Nazi. The two phenomena are completely different, and any commingling of them will turn the discussion meaningless. Think of the word "bat," which takes on completely different meanings depending on whether you are talking about animas or sports. If you assume one meaning in another context, you will not be making any sense.
The notion of the mythical Nazi is unfortunate because it makes it difficult (if not impossible) to recognize real Nazis. You will never spot a real Nazi if you believe that a real Nazi can only be recognized by the traits of the mythical Nazi, because you will be gazing into a fantacy world that is not populated by real, existing people. It may be compared to question that my four year old son asked one night when he gazed into the night sky: he asked what all the glowing dots were and why there were no stars. It turned out that he had learned through images and stories that stars are five-pointed and big, and therefore did not recognize the real stars. Like my little son did not recognize the real stars, you will not recognize the real Nazis around you if you think they must all be like the mythical Nazi.
People who would be recognized as Nazis with no shread of doubt in the 1930'es, and who might even have known so themselves, can now get away with Nazi positions without anyone—or even themselves—realizing it. If someone points out that there is remarkable agreement between the opinions, either Godwin's law applies, or popular belief in the mythical Nazi is so strong that others cannot relate the concept of a Nazi to anything real and present. The post-war chase after Nazis was justified by portraying the nazis as so evil that they could be outlawed. But this justification created a Nazi monster that was so terrifying that no one can recognize its much more commonplace face.
Nazis of today are unlike the mythical Nazi, because the mythical Nazi never existed. Nazis of today are not necessarily goose-stepping down the Straße, do not necessarily wear armbands, and do not necessarily call themselves Nazis. Only the mythical Nazi does all of this, as well as the few individuals who attempt an ostensive act of the universe of the mythical symbol.
Germany had millions of Nazis back then. How many of these Nazis were shouting "Heil!" in the streets back then? How many of those who even knew about the persecution of the Jews played any active role in it? How many of them wore a Swastika as jewelry? How many of them believed that their own children should be killed if they had physical disabilities? How many of them were interested in Hitler's religious mysticism? When not even the majority of the Nazis back then were anything like the mytical Nazi, why demand that Nazis of today should look like this mythical being before they can reasonably be called Nazis? Or rather: why not call them Nazis if they otherwise are like the Nazis of the past, just because a mythical creature has been invented that does not exist?
Belief in the mythical Nazi must be cast away to all other superstition of witches, trolls, ghosts, and dragons. We must realize that the Nazi of today is like the Nazis of the past with mostly the same opinions, values, ideas, and desires. And we must remember what these opinions were, and that they can only be implemented by repeating the horrors of World War II. We do not exorcise Nazism by denying to read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, believing it may turn us into the mythical Nazi; instead, reading the book, whose language is no harsher than that of an average politician, might open your eyes to very real Nazis around you. We must recognize Nazism today by any name if we wish to ensure that History does not repeat itself.
Commercials work. Political campaigns shift votes. Children become educated in schools. Negotiations foster results. By and large, humans influence each others through speaking with each other. Everything we say is intended to move one or more opponents. It would make no sense to debate if we did not influence each other with our words. All communication would be meaningless. The sounds generated in our larynxes would fall on deaf ears, and as a species we would probably never have developed a language. There is no Cartesian dualism where voice and spirit is separated from body and action.
Tell a person that has been a bully victim that repetitive hostile rhetoric or persistent belittlement that words cannot hurt. They may break a child as efficiently and as permanently as violence and sexual abuse. Tell a person who struggles to balance his or her financial situation that the words "you're fired" have no physical consequences before the layoff is effectuated. Tell an innocent person who receives a death sencence in an American court as a result of the prosecutor's sharp tongue that words pose no danger. Tell the person that attempts suicide after years of directed character assinations that noone attempted to cause real damage. Tell the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq that the lies about weapons of mass destructions meant nothing.
If a politcal party did not expect their words to convey any meaning and caused the population to change their behavior, the party would withdraw from the public and stop wasting its time on TV commercials, in debates, in radio interviews, in newspaper columns, and in campaign adverts. No voter would be influenced by the communication, but would vote entirely independent of the messages from the political parties. It is simply obvious that communication from political parties aim to move the population in one way or another. The choice of rhetoric, the choice of subjects, and the choice of argumentation all aim to change the behavior of the population. It is neither unwanted or undesired if an individual is unaffected by the communication from the political parties, it is an unthinkable thought.
Long time of persistent messages create communicating communities of agreement - discourses - which are even ranked alongside the definition of reality, because reality is not objective but a social definition - through language. Language describes reality: the words attached to meanings that are worth assimilating or opposing, sentences defines the subjects that one is expected to be concerned with; the language composes the reality that is describable and thus relatable. The more a reality is described in one's society, the more present it becomes; it becomes institutionalized.
This make the Scandinavian right-wing parties squarely co-responsible for the position that the right-extremist, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik had articulated; even Breivik himself knew this and referred to the Norwegian and Danish right-wing parties. Anders Breivik can be expected to suffer from a personality disorder, but it the rhetoric question is obvious: would Anders Breivik's personality disorder have become manifest as mass murder if his perception of reality had been nourished by a rhetoric about peaceful coexistence instead of the hostile rhetoric applied by his political idols?
The answer, as Philip Zombardo has stressed, to examine the individual only when all other explanations have been abandoned; you are not who you are; you are where you are, that is, your identity and demeanor is primarily determined by your physical and communicative surroundings. Anders Breivik had taken note of the rhetoric and embodied it. Much of the hostile rhetoric would only be possible through actions such as Anders Breivik's on a larger scale. Imprisonments in concentration camps, genocide, and mass deportations are the only way the hostile rhetoric could be accomplished in practice, and in this light, Anders Brevik's only personality disorder is his lacking ability to understand that the action, and hence the rhetoric, is insane.
It is not even certain that Anders Brevik suffers from a personality disorder. If a hundred people stand at the docks and yell: "push him off the docs!" about a person and one of the 100 people suddenly pushes the person, it would be absurd to assign all blame to that one person and claim that the shouts of the remaining 99 individuals had never been heard. Anders Breivik's statements and opinions are far from unheard on the extreme right wing, and he may have been led by the extremist rhetoric in the same way as solders are driven to shoot at an enemy that they have been conditioned to view as inhuman.
The Scandinavian right-wing parties cannot be held responsible for the probability that Anders Breivik suffers from a personality distorder, but their rhetoric guides the actions and opinions that a person such as Anders Breivik will assume. It is shameful that instead they cast all guilt aside and continue with their hateful rhetoric as usual.
That's why the so-called geek is bullied in school; it is why the eggheads are ridiculed; it is why the worst thing you can tell a religious nut out to save you is that you are already been saved, because the person doesn't want you to be saved; and it is the reason why expert opinions are consistently throttled and replaced by complacent yay-sayers by right-wing governments who need to "get something done."
It is the reason why you should never strive to become the best in your professional life. Strive to become second-worst according to the following two rules:
Rule 1: You must be better than the worst performer, because is the one that gets the ax during corporate "rightsizings," and you must be just superior enough to avoid the pink slip.
Rule 2: The best performer is the primary challenge to anyone who is threatened by the perpetually looming layoff rounds, which means that the best performer is always a challenge to everyone else. It is the best performer that gets knifed in the back, never the worst performer, because only the better performers pose a threat to your job security.
Your challenge is to strike a balance where you avoid as many knives in your back as possible while being barely skilled enough to make it through the next stable period.
Contrary to what you might think, your project manager will not appreciate your skills. Your project manager is paid to do his or her job, and the faster his or her team completes the project, the sooner the project manager is in need of a new assignment which may not be available. The project manager's job security increases with the slowness of the project team, and not only do the best performers expose the project manager's occasional ignorance, they also endager the project manager's job security by completing the project faster. If the project manager's boss begins to wonder, the worst performers in the team can always be sacrificed, because it is never the project manager's fault that the team is slow.
Hence, any skilled project manager who is determined to keep his or her job will slander the best performer and lie about the person if it helps. The project manager will usually choose to tell your boss that you are considering a new job or that you are helping some other department, because this is a codified message known only to senior management that a person is unwanted: it instructs senior management that a person is a threat to them, too.
And so skill is undesired. One would think that, in spite of our major scientific headway and occasional wonders of civilization, mankind would have progressed to a state where life could be a wonder to be lived rather than the battle to be fought that still charaterizes the life of less advanced species, but no; humans have not truly advanced to a state that is any different from the beasts of the wild. Mentally, we are still primitive apes struggling to survive being yet another experiment of evolution which, statistically speaking, is guaranteed to fail. Were it not for business competitiveness, we might have succeeded.