Not the kind of God that most people imagine. Not the kind of God listens to your prayers and maybe answers them, not the sort of God who might tell you to do certain things, like strap explosives to yourself and blow up a bus full of people. That kind of God couldn’t exist in an infinite universe in which everything that can exist does exist. In such a universe, God is the one thing that can’t exist. There could be gods though. If we were to go to another planet and terraform it, make it like Earth, introduce advanced animal and plant life to, do a bit of bioengineering then sit back and watch it unfold, we’d be a bit like the gods of that planet. If intelligent life evolved we might find ourselves being worshipped.
At 19.44 on 2015.04.27, a Monday, I thought I’d jot down a reverie that plays out in my head from time to time in which Wol
and I discuss matters religious and I give voice to my long-held contention that Christianity includes some rather confused theology – the notion of the trinity, for example, or the idea of original sin, both of which Wol believes in, not to mention the purported divinity of Jesus. I haven’t the heart to tell him where I stand as regards Big G these days – people tend to cleave strongly to their religions (an assertion perhaps evinced by the expression “to do something religiously”), canons more than most, and there’s little point in upsetting him when ignorance can be bliss. We have occasionally had some fascinating debates on religion, usually when both of us are drunk, but it became more and more apparent that our Weltanschauungen diverged on key aspects.
Back in 2002/3 when we were demonstrating against the war it seemed so much simpler. Now, though I can see the case for air strikes, that to leave those fleeing IS without air cover could result in massacres which will be filmed and shown to us, it feels like we’re trying to put out a fire with parrafin.
I asked The Professor (4) what animals he could see in this picture.
He said rabbit. Good, and what else? What about the birds? Yes, he agreed that birds were animals. And what else? The boat and the tractor, he said after a while. No, boats and traction engines are not animals (yeah, the traction engine has a face and is smiling, but let’s overlook that for now). What about the man driving the traction engine? No, people aren’t animals, he insisted. Yes they are, I said. I’m an animal, you’re an animal…
I walked out of the pension and turned right. I walked up the hill, past two small churches and several hotels and pensions, to the cable car station, where there are a load of snack bars, a tourist information office, and bureau de change, and the ticket booth for cable cars that go up the mountain, which is where I was going. It had clouded over but it wasn’t raining like it was yesterday. In my bag I had my waterproofs, just in case, along with my camera, a bottle of water and some sandwiches.
I bought a ticket to Skalnaté Pleso, 1751m above sea level. It’s possible to then get another cable car all the way to the top of the highest peak, Lomnike Stit, about 2600m above sea level, but I wasn’t planning on doing that. The top of the mountain would be covered in clouds anyway, and it would be cold up there. 5 degrees at Skalnate Pleso according to a sign down at the bottom.
I took the bus from Palanga to Vilnius. It cost 51Lt. Now I’m on the train to Warsaw. 67Lt. I have 10Lt in my pocket. The rest of my money I changed into Polish Zlotys. The woman in the bank seemed to find the way I said Polish amusing.
It took a while buying the train ticket, queueing at three different tills before I found one that would sell me the ticket, and then there was a load of paper work and a phone call. It was about a ten minute wait.
There’s a church on a hill by the port of Helsinki, a red brick building with gold balls sitting on the spires, making it look a bit Islamic but I think it’s a Russian orthodox church. I went in there today, just as a christening was starting. Tourists and people who’d just walked in were confined to an area by the door by ropes. There were prominent signs saying: “Silence Please! Divine service in progress” (in several languages) and images of cameras (still and video) and a mobile phone, all crossed out. Some people didn’t notice the signs or deliberately ignored them. Whenever someone took a photo a short, stern and very indignant woman would come over and wave her fist at the camera lens then point to the sign or hold it up in front of them.
Back in London after a couple of weeks in Eastbourne, now staying in Peckham Rye, but probably only for a few more days. I’ve been looking into getting a boat to Cuba, which seems to be possible but not so easy. There was a freighter going there from Lisbon, which took passengers and charged 90 Euros a day, but that’s fallen through, so now I’m looking into cruise ships, which aren’t as expensive as I’d thought they might be, about £500 to £700 for trans-Atlantic.
There was a Tibetan monk sitting outside my guest house this afternoon. He was sleeping when I looked out of my window but he was awake when I got outside and sat down. He talked in a very quiet voice about emptiness and compassion and how you should spend time studying and meditation rather than of partying. Impermanence – we waste too much time. If you’re forty you may only have another twenty years. I could barely hear what he was saying. An Israeli with a loud voice was talking to an Irish woman about Buddhism. When I got the chance I asked him one of the questions that has been bothering me about Tibetan Buddhism: What do they mean by sentient beings? They say may all sentient beings be happy. Animals are sentient beings? Yes, of course. But are plants sentient beings? No. Why not? Because they don’t have a mind. How do you know? He said that plants can react to sunlight, to the four elements: wind, fire, water and earth, but they can’t think. But isn’t the border between plants and animals quite blurred? Corals and sea anemones are animals. No all animals have a head, a body and legs, particularly the ones that live in the sea. There it’s not so easy to tell the difference between plants and animals. Things that cling to rocks and may never move throughout their lives may be animals. Plants are just things that photo-synthesize. And aren’t these distinctions we make between things, dividing life into animals and plants, sentient and non-sentient beings, illusory? They’re categories we impose on the world, which is what the Buddhists mean by reality being illusory. And emptiness is about the emptiness of reality once you strip away our arbitrary discriminations. Basing your concept of rebirth on concepts that you argue are illusory undermines your concept of rebirth.
Back to the Swami Darmandanda lectures. Today I arrived early and Swami said he was pleased with the class, though there weren’t as many people there today. About 20, when usually there are 30, though nobody showed up late.
On the way there the baba without a blanket who turned down my offer of 5 Rupees a few days ago – I can’t buy a blanket with 5 Rupees – called me over to him again. He made out he just wanted to chat to me, but he tried the same thing two days ago when I asked him if he had a blanket. He said he did so I kept on walking.