Monday, 29 December 2014

The Bible Explained

As a person who has ostensibly completed twelve years of education in the Christian realm, completing all of his assigned ‘religious education’ classes, The Spear feels he should probably be somewhat concerned about his complete lack of knowledge of The Bible.  In those twelve years, he opened it up at the request of teachers perhaps once or twice, and apart from a brief glance at the start of Genesis some 15 years ago, he has never really taken the time to read it.  That is, until a couple of days ago. 

The Spear has certainly heard many readings from the ‘good book’ over the years, and has listened to hundreds of homilies (commentaries by priests on scripture).  However, somehow, through all of that education and lecturing, The Spear never really got a good idea of what the hell the Bible really was.  To him, it seemed like a really old, mostly irrelevant book about God and Jesus and all that good stuff.  For while the education system and church were good at reading its passages to him, they were woeful at providing him with any context.

For a first glaring example of The Spear’s contextual ignorance, he never even knew that the titles of the books contained within the Bible had any real significance: whenever a passage was cited, it all just seemed random to him.  It was never pointed out to him that ‘Genesis’ or ‘Exodus’ could actually mean anything, say like describing stories about a ‘beginning’ or ‘exit’.  They really just sounded like fancy old names to The Spear.  He had no awareness of an overarching story or theme.  THAT is the level of ignorance we are talking about here.  Near-total ignorance.

The Spear also only learnt later in life the very, very close historical relationship and indeed overlap between Judaism and Christianity, which one would have thought was quite essential knowledge to have any contextual understanding of say the first two-thirds (the old testament) of the Bible, and which is spelled out clearly by introductory paragraphs within it.  This was certainly taken as assumed knowledge, as the emergence of Christianity from Judaism was never made explicit to him.  Basic, fundamental things here.

Just by taking an hour to read some of the introductory paragraphs to the books contained in the Bible, The Spear feels that he has learned more about the religion than in twelve years of indoctrination.  Rather than seeing the Bible as some random holy book, he can now see it for what it is: a complex collection of history, customs, poetry, songs, aphorisms, stories, letters, guidance, laws and prophecy, written by scribes over thousands of years, and open to limitless interpretation.  In modern times, it could best be seen as a kind of a reference book for life that some people may find useful.  That is all.

Why can’t anybody in the system just say that and avert years of ignorance and confusion for so many?  Or is The Spear just really stupid and everyone else already knew that?

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Einstein Clones

“Ladies and gentlemen, we can argue all day as to why and remain none the wiser.  What we do know for sure is that the program isn’t working,” the Chairman of the Board made sure to gesture with his hands as he spoke to the assembled stakeholders.  He had heard that the majority of communication was non-verbal, and effective body language at a crisis point like this could make or break his proposition.

“But if we can just understand why, we may be able to salvage the project at minimal cost,” interjected the project’s lead scientist.  “Just think of the possible return on investment you could achieve with another six months of research!”

“If I recall correctly, that’s what you said six months ago, and a year before that,” the Chairman responded, making sure his cufflinks were clearly visible to the drably-clad professor.  “The creditors are past impatient, even for such a long-term project.”

“But what about the latest submissions?  Surely you must admit that the clones are closer to a breakthrough now than ever before?” said the Doctor.

“Please, Doctor, if you can tell me what commercial merit a truckload of fifth-grade modern art and passé sci-fi stories have, I would be delighted to hear them.”

The doctor remained silent.

“The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that we’re bleeding cash.  This was understandable during the creation and education phases, but now, after eight years in the production phase with nothing to show for it, it’s time we started implementing contingency plans to avoid insolvency.”

“And exactly what is it you would have our one-thousand geniuses do?  Teach tenth grade?” the doctor scoffed sarcastically.

“No,” said the chairman, shifting upright in his chair to give himself every inch of authority.  “In this labour market, I am obliged to propose to the Board that they drive taxis.”

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Neo Neanderthalis

The year is 2308.  Machines dominate industry.  The muscle mass of the world has been made obsolete.  The six phases of mechanisation are complete.

First came the geometrical tricks, those neat extensions of man’s brute strength.  Levers, pulleys, yokes, wheels and other such magnifiers of raw animal power allowed man to settle and multiply.  Man was released from the limits of his body.

The second phase was the harnessing and direction of energy, which let man and beast burst beyond the barriers of even their magnified output, accelerating progress and making life comfortable.  Man was released from the limits of his power.

Next came processing; unleashing logic at the speed of light.  Now the machines were not only stronger and faster, but they were smarter too, if in a dumb way.  Man was released from the limits of his mind.

Automation was the next logical step.  The machines got smarter.  The machines learned to learn.  There was barely a task they could not complete, once they were self-sufficient.  Man was released from the limits of his management.

Fifth was the development of emotions.  The machines learned to feel.  The creative bastions of humankind were no more.  Man was released from the limits of his art.

Lastly, cognisance emerged.  Or perhaps it is more correct to say that man and machine converged.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  Man was released from the limits of his ego a long time ago.

Maybe that’s why there are so few humans left.  How could they compete with a super-ego?  I’ve never seen one, but I hear there’s a breeding program to try and save the few remaining in the wild.  Would you like to make a donation?

Friday, 21 November 2014

Transactional v Relational

Every morning The Spear ducks down the road for Crappy Cappy Hour – cheap coffee between the hour of 9:30-10:30AM.  Every morning The Spear is faced with the choice of two coffee shops, side-by-side; one always full and vibrant, the other always empty and stark.  Every morning The Spear chooses the latter.

Actually, that is a lie.  The first few times The Spear became aware of the time-specific sale of discount caffeinated beverages, he went to the much busier shop.  Truth be told, until he got sick of having to wait so long for a coffee in the busy shop, he never even saw the obvious alternative situated right next door.  Since then, he has never looked back.

Same coffee.  Same cost.  No wait.

What The Spear can’t fully understand is why no one else seems to have discovered the café next door.  Every morning the hordes of caffeine lovers jostle in the atrium of the busy shop, seemingly unperturbed by expressos which are anything but express.  Meanwhile next door The Spear is served so quickly he barely has time to read the headlines in the paper.

An obvious candidate for the disparity in business – to anyone who has frequented both establishments - is the staff and experiences they offer.  The busy café is owned by a family of Italian immigrants, talking loudly and joking with their customers, with whom they have clearly established relationships.  The Spear is uncertain who owns the second café, but it is certainly staffed by neat and demure Asian students, who offer little conversationally other than what is necessary.

The Spear, with his technical background and associated social skills, has no problem with the transactional offering.  He is going to the shop for a coffee after all – not a conversation.  Any conversation would detracting be from his objective – a quick coffee.  The empty shop meets his requirements dutifully.

But seemingly The Spear is in a minority.  It would appear that a relational, rather than a transactional approach to life may be the norm, if coffee shop attendance is anything to go by.

Is one expected to develop a relationship with a modern-day barista?  Do they fill a void previously filled by some other form of relation or community – like a servant or the church?  Is the coffee secondary to the banter and chat which may be had during morning tea?  Is it that the relationships often count for more than the product?

If there’s anything that the world of ‘business’, as opposed to the world of ‘science’ has taught The Spear, it is that ability is important, but relationships are vital.  Without healthy relationships, ability is essentially meaningless.  You can make the best damn coffee or the best widget in town, but unless you are someone that people want to do business with – which may mean knowing the right people, having a charismatic personality or being trustworthy – people will take their business elsewhere.  

Yes, you can achieve in isolation, but it is unlikely you will have anything other than the patronage of the transaction-minded minority to show for it.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Twisted Memories

The Spear was standing at the urinal today, busy doing his business.  In what is a common occurrence in his predominantly male workplace with limited – and possibly code violating - toilet facilities, one of his colleagues was forced to stand next to him in the other and only urinal available.  In a split second The Spear was bombarded by a childhood memory that seemed too bizarre to be true, and too weird to risk asking anyone other than Google about.

The good news is, The Spear isn’t crazy: there actually was a schoolyard pissing contest in the 1990’s Aussie children’s show Round The Twist.

Round The Twist did some pretty fucked up stuff, disturbing (while thoroughly entertaining) a generation of Australian Children, a large proportion of whom still share a fear of clowns and scarecrows.  You know what he's talking about.

That said, it was one of The Spear’s favourite shows, and always a good way for teachers to wind down on many a Friday afternoon. 

They just don’t make them like that anymore.