The paradoxes of human belief systems that contradict the essential characteristics for Life to exist are included in the list of major universal, collective paradoxes below, nonetheless they are so pervasive and crucial that they merit deeper examination:
From the moment we are born, we start building the software that governs our thoughts, actions and feelings. We are tutored constantly, at first without words, through our experiences, through the approval or disapproval of our parents, through the instinctual understanding of the energies that flow around us. Later, we start learning through language as well, accelerating the process. We are taught, trained and instructed by our families, friends, teachers, society. Some things we learn through repetition and habit, others by intense carrot and stick situations; reward and punishment. Actually, the stick usually comes first and foremost, since we usually learn quicker through fear than through gratification.
Pretty soon, however, we start learning most by the biggest stick and carrot incentive, the most terrifying and pleasing tool available to human society; social disapproval and approval. We become paranoid about any possible disapproval and addicted to approval, so we learn quickly to struggle hungrily for it. We are amazingly easily programmable and adaptable learning machines. Our world is incredibly complex, but we usually have no problem in installing programs inside us that allow us to do the correct thing on most occasions, to easily follow social form to the minutest detail; How we eat, how we dress, how we speak and address others according to their societal position or rank; to behave differently and appropriately depending on the situation and circumstances.
We even acquire different personas to cope with diverse social conditions. Our openness, eagerness and capability to receive programming codes that automatically protect us from mistakes- mistakes that would bring upon us the bloodthirsty sword of social disapproval and rejection- is nothing less than spectacular.
We build up complicated networks of thousands of beliefs that align us with the belief systems of our parents, our social circle, our teachers and the media and protect us from the dreaded rejection and ostracism, which, our acquired belief systems absolutely confirm, is a fate worse than death.
A big part of our labyrinthine belief systems varies according to culture and era. A few centuries or decades and a different religion or culture separate parents who would be worried and talking to psychologists and sociologists because their daughter is still a virgin at twenty five from parents who would consider her a whore and would banish her in shame because she isn’t. And this applies to our beliefs about everything, not just morality. One moment things heavier than air cannot fly and the next moment they can. Just twenty years ago the notion of gay marriage would have been unthinkable and a political and social suicide to consider it publicly. Today it is an inevitability for every developed country sooner or later after the United States accepted it and implemented it. Beliefs change for many reasons, sometimes because of scientific advances, political, social or cultural changes as well as changes brought about by significant events.
The interesting commonality of human society’s belief systems, the beliefs that are almost universal throughout millennia of human evolution and around the globe by way of different cultures, religions and ways of life, happen to be the most powerful ones. So let us examine what are some of the main, almost universally accepted beliefs of humanity. A good place to begin is life itself. Let us examine what we believe (know?) about life, starting by Googling the word:
the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.
Googling “what are the characteristics of living things” gets you the answer in layman´s terms:
- Living things are made of cells.*
- Living things obtain and use energy.
- Living things grow and develop.
- Living things reproduce.
- Living things respond to their environment.
- Living things adapt to their environment.
*Science has determined that non cellular life also exists, such as viruses, but the quotes refer to universal knowledge and what most people learn in school*
Or, you can get the more scientific sounding list from Biology, the science that observes life, more or less expressed by any source of knowledge similarly to this article in Wikipedia, expanded to seven prerequisites for life:
Listed here are the six rules used by scientists:
- Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.
- Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells — the basic units of life.
- Metabolism: Transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
- Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
- Adaptation: The ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity, diet, and external factors.
- Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.
- Reproduction: The ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism, or sexually from two parent organisms.”
- These complex processes, called physiological functions, have underlying physical and chemical bases, as well as signaling and control mechanisms that are essential to maintaining life.
So, put simply, according to everything science knows and all observations and examination of living organisms and the collective knowledge of humanity, there is no doubt for anything other than religious or philosophical reasons, that the only non-debatable characteristics for life to exist, its primary and absolutely essential physiological functions (since all life ever observed conforms to them) can be grouped and reduced to four. Here is what, according to everybody, needs to be there as a minimum for living things to exist; the basic or primary Operating System of Life:
- A sense of self and an organization of building blocks of just one, or many trillions of cells sharing a collective sense of separateness from the rest of the environment (for any life form discovered so far except viruses). This is necessary for self-preservation, for trying to breathe, eat and drink in lieu of becoming something else´s fuel, in order to acquire energy by metabolizing cellular material to energy and vice versa, thus serving the processes of homeostasis, metabolism, growth, response to stimuli and evolution.
- Adaptation to external conditions, namely the environment and everything that affects us including the weather and other living beings, using homeostasis, metabolism, evolution, response to stimuli and any other method that would get the job done.
- Reproduction, either with others, by itself or within itself (an organism grows, converts energy, self organizes, adapts to the environment and evolves through the reproduction of its cells, its building blocks). Reproduction is also essential to the metabolism, to evolution and to adaptation.
- Change, also encompassing the rest, is necessary for adaptation, the metabolism of energy and cells, homeostasis and growth and necessarily death. Life for any living organism includes by definition the death of another living organism. It is also the end result of continual change, or actually of any state; growth to a new state presupposes the end or death of the previous one, death of an organism means the loss of the sense of self together with the every single one of the other essential characteristics such as response to stimuli, growth etc.
Now pay attention, wake yourself up, drink a coffee and pinch your cheeks for this.
We will now examine four more of the universally accepted, collective beliefs of humanity, also about life and as undisputed as the ones above:
The Operating System of LIFE, LifeOS
The first one is the ego, and it’s frowned upon symptoms; self-centeredness, selfishness, egotism or egoism. Asian societies and philosophies are the most fanatical in their condemnation of the ego and selfishness, but the west is catching up fast. According to all contemporary societies Ego has to be fought, exterminated, subdued, hidden, disguised, scolded or denied depending on the culture. Sacrifice, selflessness and lack of ego are universally admired and desirable characteristics with references in every family, newspaper, book, school, movie, religion or forum. Basically, EGO IS NO GOOD, SELFLESSNESS IS HOLY. And that is a universally accepted truth. But the tiny puppy or kitten coming fresh and pure from its mother’s womb crawls and pushes with determination its newly born siblings to get the best nipple- the plants in the jungle strangle every other tree or plant to reach the sun or the water. EVERYTHING HAS AN EGO AND IS SELFISH, including every human being that ever lived, including Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.
EGO is primary Instruction for Life Number ONE. It is self-preservation, the first code of the operating system of life, LifeOS. Ego, the sense of self, either as a single cell organism or a multicellular complex organization is intrinsic to life.
This hard-wired program is absolutely necessary for life to exist, to create the automatisms for taking care of one’s self first, before anything else, so that every creature is responsible for its own survival and wellbeing before anything else. This is how life persists through endless change and danger. It is the programming to ensure life and survival. Would anything be alive if beings were not preprogrammed to take care of themselves as their priority? And how could that happen without a sense of self and the priority to take care of our needs, our survival and our adaptation to the environment? If each and every being did not have a sense of self, an ego, all beings would have to be connected, instructed and control by a central brain, and where would that leave the soul, the capacity and freedom of choice? How can sin exist if one has no choice?
The second one, well, weirdly enough is happiness. Like sex, everybody wants it and everything- in theory- is done for it. Nonetheless, if you are happy, you should be discrete, and not mention it too much because it angers people. If you are happy, you are either a liar showing off and you are hiding something dark (since we cannot survive our lukewarm lives emotionally, if we considered that continuous happiness could exist), you are insensitive to all the suffering around you and the gravity of the situation, or, YES, YES YOU ARE SELFISH (crime number one)! If you are really happy all the time, you are pretending, you are selfish, self-centered and insensitive, insane or all of the above. Happiness is not normal, not natural. It is a circumstantial rarity. And this as well, is a universally accepted truth. However, everything is born with the natural capacity and inclination to adapt to its environment and the ever changing conditions, to feel that everything around them is just right, that everything is exactly as it should be.
Our inherent inclination and predisposition to be happy. Happiness is our natural, inbred tendency towards adaptation to conditions, it is an inherent instinct, a built in mechanism. The reason we are attracted by the young, the little ones of every animal, however hideous in their mature form, is because we can clearly see their natural happiness, their playfulness, their lack of angst, their absolute belief that everything is exactly as it should be. It is in part because they have little memory or experience to compare it with, and in part because this absolute TRUST that everything is as it should be is engraved in them since conception and before. Baby crocodiles, which grow to be horrendous predators full of teeth and ferocity, can be cute in our eyes instead of horrible because they transmit the natural state of happiness; the total lack of doubt that everything is exactly as it should be. They want to eat when they are hungry, they yelp when they are hurt, but everything feels right. It comes from a deep, inherent trust in what is, and it is natural for most beings besides humans, because the idea of a better alternative is too abstract and complex for most beings to perceive, even if they could find a reason to envision an alternative. Adult animals, like antelope or gazelles are grazing contentedly minutes after a brutal attack by a lion, fully adapted in their new reality, just a couple of hundred yards from the carnage. Adaptation means feeling well and safe and content where you are, in your environmental conditions. Does a camel find the desert too hot or a penguin the ice too cold?
EVERYTHING WANTS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT IS, AND NATURALLY DOES, unless convinced otherwise. And apparently we have all been convinced otherwise. Happiness is simply adaptation to the environment, a necessary ingredient of Darwinian evolution. Only the happy beings, the ones fully adapted and content in their environment can thrive. It is the reason for the existence of primary instruction for life number one, an extra built in incentive for striving to survive and a survival and adaptation mechanism at the same time.
Happiness is primary Instruction for Life Number TWO. It is adaptation, the second code of the operating system of life, LifeOS.
The third one, and it is a whopper, is sex. Everybody has sex, everybody is interested in sex, and everything is bought or sold for sex, by sex or through sex. Wars are waged for sex, people are killed for sex, and sex is included or symbolized in most acts of violence. We are born because of sex, we worry about sex, we laugh about sex but mostly we feel guilty, dirty, inadequate, victimized and ashamed by sex. Every culture, even now in the twenty first century in so called “developed countries” condemns sex in a multitude of ways The word scandal is more likely to be associated with sex than any other part of human behavior. Presidents have lost their positions or their minds because of lust, political situations have changed because of it, millions have suffered or died because of somebody´s or their own lust, sexual behavior or drive.
All spiritual or religious leaders have to choose chastity in order to be respected, and deities even have to be borne by virgins in order to be holy!! In short, we love sex, we are drawn to sex, and we even forgive people for having sex, as long it is carried out discreetly or with respect to the applicable prevailing social conditions. But if you do it, you must always feel there is something distastefully animalistic about you, and you should be feeling embarrassed, ashamed, inadequate, soiled or mischievous. It needs tight control and rules to be acceptable. Sex is dirty, dark, shameful and immoral. It is animalistic and we are enslaved by it. Also this, is a universally accepted truth.
It is nonetheless undeniable that life and its evolution exist exclusively through growth and reproduction. Every being has a sexual drive, be it a flower that opens in beautiful colors to attract a bee or a spider so that they can tickle its female parts hanging on spectacular yellow stalks, a wolf or an insect. EVERYTHING WANTS TO HAVE SEX, AND DOES, be it plant, animal, insect, fish or an amoeba. Since death is an intrinsic part of the Universe and Life, Life being the result of constant activity and change, reproduction is the Universe’s way of assuring the survival of Life in its own tornado of change; limitless change. Things die, but their seed lives on forever.
Life has made sure everything is crazy about sex; not just like it, adore it. Actually every single creature would and does risk its life for sex. That is when all animals render themselves vulnerable and defenseless. Oblivious of predators, uncaring and unprotected during copulation, division or impregnation, sex is when they are most reckless. Sex, reproduction, is the essence of life. It is our natural defense against failure of primary instruction for life number one, the ego, and self-preservation. If we fail to survive, our genes can survive anyway through our offspring. The quintessential and oh so delightful absolute life insurance!
SEX is primary Instruction for Life Number THREE. It is reproduction, the third code of the operating system of life, LifeOS. So how can we collectively believe that something is wrong with something essential for life?
The belief systems that universally condemn the ego, sex and happiness, are embroidered by thousands of intricate beliefs and woven into practically all human communities and societies existing today. They are deeply entrenched throughout human history, with minor small lapses, small exceptions that serve only to confirm the rule. These belief systems guide our lives, our behaviors, our feelings, our thinking- EVERYTHING! They are the source of almost all human drama, violence, religion, criticism, judgment, misery, emotional and psychological problems, anger, shame, inadequacy, self-hatred and rejection. Why, since we all have egos, yearn to be happy and desire sex? Why do we choose to condemn them and ourselves for our nature, for wanting them, so universally and fiercely? Why do we create religions, societies, political systems that judge and condemn what we all desire?
The fourth belief, the absolute despair at the very thought of any change and any death, is the most paradoxical one of all, since all spiritual beliefs try to convince us that death is actually better than life in such a persuasive spiritual manner, that we all try at times to convince ourselves that we are agreeing, and that there is nothing wrong with death and transition. We can never sustain this for long, since the beliefs engraved on our bodies and minds about the danger and horribleness of any kind of death are overwhelming. Our spiritual and philosophical beliefs spread the notion of an afterlife much better and more desirable than life, with concepts such as heaven and eternal nirvana, while terrifying us with hell and suffering, punishment everlasting if we do not renounce our nature and physiological functions in this, the “material life”: Ego, Selfishness, Sex, Happiness.
And since our nature is always there, always inside us to remind us what we feel, regardless of how hard we try, we will always fail to not be human, to not have an ego, sexuality and the tendency to adapt to whatever happens. We shall sin and go to hell or the terrors of the bardo fields. Thus, death becomes a weirdly paradoxical terror; we are terrified of what we are supposed to be working towards. If afterlife is more important, longer lasting and better than material life, how can we be so afraid of it? Jesus Christ for example, is portrayed as merciful and forgiving, but apparently if you break moral rules and exercise the choices God has given you, the ones that come more naturally and are most pleasing, lust, gluttony, coveting your neighbor´s wife etc. you are condemned to eternal hell with no reprieve or second chances. Is that a hell of a paradox or what?
But death is as intrinsic to life as adaptation, self-preservation and sex. Death is the capacity for change, and animals rarely mourn a dead relative for more than a minute or two unless they are very young and confused. Death of an organism, a plant, an insect, an animal or a person allows new beings to exist. In the human organism, life without death is called cancer, an illness, and a serious anomaly. Cancer happens when certain cells multiply without dying, thus gradually taking all the space and the nutrients around, killing every other type of cell. In nature, whichever organism finds itself without predators, multiplies like cancer until it kills everything around it. Unless it is stopped or starved, unless a new, effective killer predator emerges, its very immortality creates death for everything else. Death of a relationship, death of an era, death of an object, a loved one, a business, a project; they are all powerful agents of change. Why do we suffer so much at the terror of every kind of death? Why do couples keep desperately horribly unhappy and unsatisfied relationships, scared of change, scared of death of even nasty and stale, boring and uninspiring things in our lives? Death is change, renewal, life itself. Death is Life, because life cannot exist without it.
DEATH is primary Instruction for Life Number FOUR. It is change, the fourth code of the operating system of life, LifeOS.
Without these four sets of instructions no life can exist, and that is undoubted and generally unchallenged by biology or any other kind of scientific observation. Humanity holds the collective belief that this is so and is fully supported by all data. Humanity, equally universally and simultaneously, believes or acts as if it believes that everything that makes life possible, all our natural tendencies, needs and desires, is somehow wrong, sinful and undesirable. Now there is the mother of all contradictions!
And what happens when there is a paradox? Then, according to a phenomenon that is recognized by the sciences of psychiatry and psychology, Cognitive Dissonance. Distress due to internal contradiction, internal conflict! How can humans be happy if we all suffer from constant acute distress?
Below you can find an organized list of the most important paradoxes that influence our lives, starting with the four paradoxes of Life OS, the contradictions between our collective beliefs and nature itself:
A.UNIVERSAL, COLLECTIVE PARADOXES OF EVERY CULTURE, EVERY HUMAN
The paradoxes every single culture shares, every civilization, every religion, every society, every philosophical concept or group since the beginning of human civilization:
In this imaginary world where the sense of self and therefore the ego would not exist, a central processor would be needed to oblige them to take care of themselves, to escape threats, to consume organic matter and metabolize it, to defecate, to keep themselves within a comfortable range of temperature or any of the thousands of actions that make life possible, and this kind of processor would have to be of a power and magnitude that is at least a trillions of times more than any supercomputer we know. In addition, however powerful and complicated this super controller would have to be, to be able to respond simultaneously and almost instantly to a practically immeasurable number of stimuli from 75 billion tons of biomass on earth alone and maybe 8.5 billion different life forms multiplied by the populations of the species (nobody knows for sure), it would always have a limit, and therefore the population and variety of life forms would have to be likewise limited. Before any living being existed, specialized controlling software would have to be created to control it effectively so that it could eat and metabolize food and liquids, protect itself in a multitude of situation and to adapt to conditions through homeostasis and evolution.
There is no conceivable or imaginary way of creating such a system; even the bandwidths of separate concurrent communication would be by definition limited. Nature´s way is the simplest, most economical and efficient, and it obviously works; each living being is born with built in software of self-awareness and the instinct to take care of its own needs as a priority. This way, any population can grow indefinitely. A sense of self that not only allows it to differentiate internal from external stimuli, but also to prioritize its actions. An Ego.
However, the one that forms a new relationship quickly and moves on is the one judged and accused of insensitivity, of never loving the other in the first place, of cruelty etc. In the example of a death of a loved one, the one adapting to the fact and moving on, wanting to live happily despite the loss, the ones dancing or joking the earliest are the ones most judged and criticized. There seems to be a stigma attached to happiness. In my country, Greece, that has been devastated and sunk by the worst ever economic crisis in history for many years, anyone appearing happy is severely chastised with admonitions such as: “people are throwing themselves of balconies or eating garbage and you dare being joyful?”
However, getting out of the crisis or even enduring the crisis better, adaptation to the new conditions and the new economic, political and social environment requires people who accept the new realities, react instead of sinking into powerless desperation and who move on, immersing themselves into the new state of things rather than constantly suffering because of it.
Are we, as a civilization, castigating people who want to be happy regardless of circumstances, and at the same time holding happiness as the ultimate prize: “and they lived happily ever after…”?
In addition, we are supposed to suffer in solidarity with our loved ones when they suffer. So, if we have trouble in our lives, whether emotional, financial, health or maybe because of an accident, say even just 10% of the time, if we love and care for up to eight people, we still have a chance to be free to be happy the remainder 10% of the time, but if we love nine or more, we are never entitled to be happy! So, apparently we should not love too many people, because the more people we care for the higher the probabilities of at least one of them to be suffering deeply for whatever reason at any given moment. When is it our turn? Are we never entitled to be happy guilt free?
It is not only physical death that we are terrified of, but any kind of death, any change and any evolution, although we can overcome our collective fears and take actions that put us into risk. Thank god, because otherwise any kind of evolution would be stunted.
But there are many more universal paradoxes that plague us. Let us explore a few biggies:
If, for example, you start playing golf at an early age and put all your focus, love, intention and energy on it, managing to excel, showing great talent, everybody encourages you to become, to be the best. If however, like Tiger Woods, you actually succeed in becoming the best, by winning most competitions and events than anybody else in human history, staying for the longest time rated No.1 in history and the media declare you as the best golfer ever, you are never allowed to agree neither with the media nor with your fans; if asked in an interview, you are supposed to be humble, to deny it, to give credit to your coach, your family and under no circumstances declare “I am the best golfer that has ever lived”, even if you and everybody else believes you are! You would be committing not only a mortal sin but you would be somehow offending everybody else!
If, in addition, you achieve a major milestone in the sport you are not supposed to congratulate yourself in any way. Look at the synonyms in the dictionary for congratulating yourself, for being happy and proud for your achievement: advertise yourself, aggrandize, attract attention, boast, brag, crow, gloat, grandstand, hug oneself, pat oneself on the back, toot one’s own horn, blow your own horn, blow smoke, bluster, cock-a-doodle-doo, exaggerate, exult, fake, flatter oneself, flaunt, flourish, gasconade, hotdog, jive, lay on thick, prate, preen, puff, shoot, shovel, show off, showboat, shuck, sling, sound off, strut, swagger, talk big, triumph, vapor among the most used. ALL OF THEM DEROGATORY, BAD.
So, to congratulate one´s self for a job well done is equal to social death and exposure to judgment and resentment.
Tennis player Roger Federer, declared by the media as the greatest of all time, his list of records, achievements and accolades a page long, in an interview with Andy Roddick, the champion he deposed in 2004 as No.1 by beating him in the Wimbledon finals early that year, was complimented by his host for not celebrating his victory against him and his achievement of an unprecedented 15th championship after the Wimbledon finals of 2009, one of the most hotly contested, dramatic and long final matches.
The comments are verbatim:
Roddick: “going to the locker room and I am at my locker, being very emotional, breaking down, it was a heart breaking loss and the thing that I remember is your team coming in and you giving them silent fist pounds and kind of giving them hugs, but it was in a very reserved manner; cause it was like you were taking into consideration that this was hard for me, do you remember that moment at all?”
Federer: “I mean, the moment was probably tougher for you than it was happier for me, I think it is so important to respect, you know, your fellow athletes and competitors, and I know how hard you´ve tried and how difficult it must be, because unfortunately you can´t have it all and that match..(raising his hands apologetically)”
Roddick: “You can, you selfish bastard (jokingly)”
Federer: “sort of (jokingly), but seriously you deserved it so much and I think this was for me a totally normal thing to do (not celebrate visibly) and not extraordinary at all really…”
Roddick: “well, it was impressive to me and I certainly appreciated it”
When I found this video while researching interviews of people widely considered as the greatest in their respective fields to see what they say about themselves, I was incredulous at the exchange; Federer saying that his opponent deserved so much to win, a ridiculous notion since he had beaten Riddick repeatedly in the past, and furthermore declaring humbly that reducing and hiding his happiness whenever he achieves a milestone in his career, is a totally normal thing to do! He couldn´t even accept the compliment for his consideration and his modesty! Examples of the same “admirable” attitude abound in everything: If you congratulate yourself or enjoy any success or achievement somehow you are a horrible person for “patting yourself in the back” or “gloating”. Suffer with your failures and suffer for your achievements as well, because either somebody else has lost in order for you to win, and you should be commiserating with them, or you should be stringently avoiding to celebrate lest you commit the sin of reminding those who never even try their failure through inaction, lack of intention and effort and passivity.
So, if you lose you are miserable, and if you win you must be neither happy nor proud lest you offend the loser! When is it your turn? When do you deserve to be happy and proud, never?
But pride is the measure of conditionality of love, since you cannot truly love something you are not proud of. If you say you love your partner or child, but are embarrassed by something they do or are, a characteristic you are not proud of, that something is where your love is conditional, where you do not actually love them. If you love your house, you are proud to show it off, but if there is one part you wish to hide, that part is the conditionality of your love, where your oneness is incomplete, where your love is tainted. So, the paradox of pride is expressed as: “Love yourself, but love others more, but do not be proud of yourself, so do not love yourself, be humble, do not think too much of yourself, so do not love yourself!”
Since all paradoxes are connected as a chain of contradiction backing each other to avoid observation, the paradox of pride sustains the paradoxes of happiness, ego, sex and all others including the paradox of religion.
Religion is a set of beliefs held by a group of people. Explained more comprehensively, religion is a system of agreed common beliefs and practices shared by groups of people (usually about god and the meaning and purpose of life, but not necessarily since there are various religions who do not even believe god exists). Common religious beliefs are meant to help us coexist within a set of rules, same as political and economic beliefs. Let us explore and examine the most widespread sets of beliefs through the world´s most prominent religions and categories of world viewpoints. Of course, each one is subdivided into numerous denominations, divisions and sects:
- Christianity: Christians believe in a benevolent, loving god with three dimensions, the father, the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. There is also the concept of Satan, the antipode of god, a malevolent being trying to win over human souls in competition and eternal battle with god. All humans are born with the original sin; life is a behavioral trial ending in everlasting heaven if all temptations of the flesh and the mind are overcome and humans suppress their animal-human impulses and instincts and hell if they succumb to their nature which is sinful by definition. Bottom line: Self-sacrifice and suffering, selflessness and humility combined with a culture of shame and guilt are integral to the various Christian beliefs, since the prime example, Jesus, sacrificed himself for humanity and paid for its sins. Love is the goal, and god loves us; apparently he does not love himself and we shouldn’t either.
- Islam: Muslims believe in one god, Allah and his primary prophet, Muhammad. The purpose of humanity is to serve Allah and obey moral rules. Human nature again is considered deficient, and Allah is a severe judge and a punishing god. A strict set of duties regarding the worship of Allah, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly practices and moral obligations must be unerringly performed to reach paradise, any diversion to be strictly punished. Bottom line: humans are there to serve the true god and worship him, we are inherently flawed, immoral beings that need to be checked and kept in line strictly with a pervasive set of moral and legal rules and we should be willing to sacrifice ourselves in the service of god to reach paradise.
- Hinduism: Hindus generally believe in one god, Brahman through infinite representations of gods and goddesses. Hindus believe their position in this present life was determined by their actions in a previous life and we experience many reincarnations as many different creatures to absolve ourselves from our bad karma. If a person’s behavior before was evil, they might justifiably experience tremendous hardships in this life. Pain, disease, poverty or a disaster like a flood is deserved by that person because of their own evil actions, usually from a previous lifetime. A Hindu’s goal is to become free from the law of karma…to be free from continuous reincarnations. Only the soul matters which will one day be free of the cycle of rebirths and be at rest. Bottom line: We carry bad karma through numerous other lives, which, although we do not remember we carry the stigma and curse for them. Again, life is bad and something that we experience to pay for earlier sins and to then, if we succeed, we can get rid of it.
- Buddhism: Buddhists do not believe in god at all, rather the attainment of divinity through enlightenment, Buddha himself being a human that has ascended through self-realization, enlightenment itself attained through meditation and self-discipline, as well as the eradication of all wants, temptations, weaknesses of the flesh and desires as well as of the ego. Like Hindus, they believe in multiple reincarnations full of suffering in order to achieve divinity, the ultimate prize being freedom from endless cycles of life and death. Bottom line: Our nature is against our divinity, life is bad, through self-discipline, relinquishment of earthly wants and desires, enlightenment through meditation and deprivation will lead us to get rid of our material existence and ascend spiritually.
- Judaism: Although the least populous of the major religions, it has the distinction of being the first monotheistic religion, the most practical and dedicated to this lifetime, the only one where humans can argue with and question god and the only one that is genetically restricted and not possible for all humans, but only for the “chosen people”. As such it is an ethnic, non-inclusive religion. Judaism also imposes morals and practices to be strictly adhered to, and punishment is mostly in this life, although the concept of heaven and hell still exist, hell often referring to this lifetime. Multiple interpretations of the bible and the Torah and debate are not only permitted but encouraged, however dogmatic parts also exist in the belief system. Bottom line: Ethical rules, intense study and intelligent debate, maintenance of a separate identity from everybody else, the keeping of traditions and practices of worship and a wide net of rules is the key, with survival of the race as the main objective.
- New Age: New Age spirituality, although not a declared religion per se, believes that divinity is in every being. The need for the extermination of the ego, selflessness are at the forefront and it encompasses not only many practices mostly from eastern religions and ancient indigenous beliefs, but also forms an amalgam of beliefs centered on the wrongness of our human nature and the dangers that humans pose on the universe as well as the desirability to escape the form, the material world. Tight moral and behavioral rules apply, judgment and guilt are prevalent. New Age spirituality is also the harbinger of the era of the feminine to correct the “evils and abuses” of thousands of years of masculine rule. Bottom line: our nature is wrong, human beings are inherently dysfunctional and dangerous to the planet due to their destructive egos. We should be ashamed of our nature, act against it and abolish it so that we can ascend to an ethereal existence.
- Animism, Paganism, Heathenism, Romanticism: They all represent belief systems and practices that glorify nature, including human nature. There are numerous ethnic and historical variations but they share an extraordinary distinction; they all believe the divine made things right, that we should be happy and enjoy life and that we should get our lessons from our nature and the way things are around us. Animism, for example, a scientifically constructed term that describes a wide range of indigenous religious beliefs, basically suggests that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others, thus we should live our lives in respectful relationship with all other beings. Paganism or Heathenism are also constructed terms, this time not by scientists but by the early Christians, usually used as slurs against non-Christians generally refers to seeing divinity in nature and all other beings. Paganism came to be equated by Christians with a sense of hedonism, representing those who are sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future, and uninterested in sophisticated religion. Pagans therefore are people who like to enjoy life and not live in constant anxiety of the future, including in fear of afterlife. Paganism is also associated with 18th and 19th century Romanticism. Astoundingly, all the above categories are to collective opinion like a red cloth to a raging bull; causing fear, anger, disgust and generally an unspecified and fuzzy feeling of disapproval. They seem vile, dangerous and immoral.
- Cultism: The word cult has at least three meanings, the first of which is just choosing to love or admire something or somebody “too much”, like the Elvis cult. The second is just an “unorthodox” religion with fewer followers than the major ones, a non-mainstream set of beliefs. Many major religions like Christianity, the most populous in the world today were considered cults when they first started out. The third and most common one refers to a group venerating a specific symbol, person or object instead of any notion of the divine as the creator or the one, and carries many negative connotations that have to do with authoritarian, secretive, abusive, exploitative and often even deluded leadership. Bottom line: Absolute dedication to a cause, a symbol or a leader in the few positive connotation cases, blind obedience, abandonment of personal judgment, relinquishment of personal will and responsibility in the most common negative connotation cases.
- Atheism-Scientism-Scientific Materialism: Although again there are numerous variations and long standing debate as to whether atheists are by necessity materialists, what all of these belief systems share in common, regardless of their variety of beliefs, is the belief in the non-existence of a creator entity or intention and the concepts of “spirit” or “soul”. The world works through purely statistical probability obeying similarly random natural laws that are measurable. Bottom line: If you cannot measure or directly observe it through empirical data, it does not exist or is a random, non-meaningful event.
- Secularism-Agnosticism-Skepticism: This diverse, wide category of beliefs is more of a stance or philosophical viewpoint than an actual religion as we perceive it, signifying rather a lack or refusal of any religion, and there are infinite variations sharing either an indifference to anything other than purely material life issues, or the admission of an inability to understand or know anything more than a restricted range of the purely physical experiences. The similarities between this category and the atheist-scientist category are many but the main difference is lack of interest, passion or willingness to be bothered, namely lack of strong beliefs. Where atheists and materialists can be very passionate about their beliefs, these belief systems focused on non-beliefs and indifference. Nihilists also fall generally in the same category, but in this case driven by disappointment rather than indifference or resignation. Bottom line: Nothing exists or matters except living a comfortable, safe, good life.
If we now examine first all religions based on the existence of an all knowing, all powerful creator force or entity we can see the paradox right off the bat: They are all based on the divine having made a mistake in creating humans which we must suffer to rectify and to discipline our inherent dysfunction. Basically they say that god fucked up in making us and we must be guilty and ashamed of our nature and try to defeat it. In religions not accepting the existence of a creator entity such as Buddhism and a potpourri of ethnic religions the same disdain at our nature is displayed, most of the time directed against our sense of self, our ego but also extended to condemnation of sexuality, desires of the flesh, pride and everything else that constitutes our material existence. In all these sets of beliefs our material existence, our lives are undesirable, a horrible wretched suffering and we should suffer even more to get rid of them. In order to achieve paradise, nirvana, nothingness or any other kind of super blissful afterlife promised by each one of these religions we must actively refrain from being happy and enjoy no pleasure in this lifetime!
PARADOX: EVERY ORGANIZED RELIGION IS AGAINST NATURE AND LIFE, AND IF IT BELIEVES IN SOME CONCEPT OF THE DIVINE, PROCLAIMS THAT THE DIVINE MADE A MISTAKE IN HOW HUMANS ARE, FOR WHICH WE NEED TO BE PERSONALLY GUILTY, ASHAMED AND PUNISHED. TO ASCEND, WE MUST OVERCOME OUR HUMANITY AND REPAIR OUR ERRONEOUS NATURE.
Their common message: Suffer, relinquish the self and all your pleasures and sacrifice yourself in this undesirable life in order to achieve happiness in a theoretical afterlife!
All categories of the non-religious, such as Agnostics, Atheists, Scientific Materialists, Secularists and others, chosen by people disillusioned by the hypocrisy and rampant contradictions in all religions, think they are escaping the paradoxes, but actually fall into the same paradoxical traps. To give an example, a Scientist that believes in random probability and natural selection as nature´s way of evolution are paradoxically blind to the fact that if the best solution survives, then we as humans are also the best solution and believe like everybody else that there is something wrong with us!
This is because the collective and universal paradoxes are just that: Collective and Universal! They are installed in every human being irrespective of ethnicity, culture, geographical location or historical period. All of them see physical life as a burden even if they profess otherwise.
Religions or sets of beliefs that see oneness as the ultimate objective that we humans should be striving for, paradox themselves equally impressively:
If everything is one, how could we be wanting and striving to be one, which by definition assumes that we are not?
Actually, Animism, Paganism and Heathenism are the only belief systems trying to stay out of the universal contradictions and the guilt, shame and fear of the afterlife that comes with it. This is why they are the most detested, the most feared and the most morally judged and persecuted. Is that a paradox or what?
Do you see the paradox? Wikipedia states that “As of 2005, estimates classified 54% (3.6 billion people) of the world’s population as adherents of an Abrahamic religion, about 32% as adherents of other religions, and 16% as adherents of no organized religion.” Abrahamic religions, the most known and widespread of which are Christianity, Islamism and Judaism declare that we were banished from Paradise because we lost our innocence and became ashamed of our nakedness and became able to conjure destructive concepts such as shame, propose that the path back to Paradise is to enhance our concepts of shame! So, we lost our place in heaven by acquiring shame and we need more shame to go back!!! How paradoxical is this? Fifty four percent of the earth’s population suggests shame as the way back to being unashamed!! To be unashamed you must be ashamed! How many times have you heard the derogatory phrases “Have you no shame?” or “This person has no shame!”?
As for guilt, a similar and related sentiment to shame, it is supposed to guide you same as shame to avoid doing things that make you guilty. But even if you never repeat an act twice you are supposed to be guilty about it. Since it makes no difference to whether you feel shame and guilt if you never repeat an act or even rectify the consequences of your actions, shame and guilt are used as eternal punishments and due payment as well as excuses to keep doing the same things that cause them, since as long as you are a good person by paying the appropriate penalty of guilt and shame, including more of the same if you are delinquent and are not experience the socially accepted appropriate amount, you can do whatever you like. Confess, repent, be ashamed and guilty and then come next week for absolution of your weekly shameful acts!
Be guilty and ashamed of not being guilty and ashamed enough! Are you having fun at what you have actually been programmed to believe?
B. SHARED PARADOXES WITH PERSONALIZED TOUCHES
All individual, personal paradoxes have their roots in the universal belief system contradictions but we are under the illusion that only we, just ourselves among all people, carry them despite constant exposure to evidence to the contrary in all our friends, family and anyone we get to spend enough time with to see beyond the social facade and persona. Like the universal paradoxes with which we are intertwined they provide constant suffering, fear, shame and guilt and engage us in endless rationales both to support them and, through a miracle of further contradiction, to forget them in the various ways that humans try to alleviate the distress caused by cognitive dissonance.
Quoting Wikipedia again,
“Cognitive dissonance theory is founded on the assumption that individuals seek consistency between their expectations and their reality. Because of this, people engage in a process called dissonance reduction to bring their cognitions and actions in line with one another. This creation of uniformity allows for a lessening of psychological tension and distress. According to Festinger, dissonance reduction can be achieved in four ways. In an example case where a person has adopted the attitude that they will no longer eat high fat food, but is eating a high-fat doughnut, the four methods of reduction would be:
- Change behavior or cognition (“I will not eat any more of this doughnut”)
- Justify behavior or cognition by changing the conflicting cognition (“I’m allowed to cheat every once in a while”)
- Justify behavior or cognition by adding new cognitions (“I’ll spend 30 extra minutes at the gym to work this off”)
- Ignore or deny any information that conflicts with existing beliefs (“This doughnut is not high fat”)”
Let us take a look at some of the most common personal paradoxes that plague each and every one of us in various individual twists and a wide variety of versions:
All variations to this internal question such as “am I worth happiness, am I worth this partner, this job, this position, people’s support and kindness, am I worthy to be loved, to be trusted etc. are either answered “absolutely yes!”, “absolutely not!” or remain in constant unanswered limbo like Hamlet’s “to be or not to be?” or the plucking of a daisy with “She loves me she loves me not”, eternal mysteries whose answer is either an absolute and emphatic “YES!” or a resounding “NO!” interspersed with interminable daisy destruction and endless introspection and doubt.
All the relevant internal personal questions regarding our self-worth are questions where we are all incapable of choosing a permanent answer. Furthermore they are questions where we constantly rediscover the wheel, our previous beliefs, as if nothing has happened, as if all the consequences of the past experiences with the contradictory belief were never experienced. Yes forgets the moments of No and vice versa and both are fanatical during their respective periods. Both options are simply choices because neither is dependent on any actual reasons or data; we just arbitrarily decide to have worth or not. These decisions are purely indications of self-love and are dependent on whether we feel we are making ourselves proud or not; there is never a rational reason to flip from one position to the other, and no position sticks and the rationale is never a factor when we flop back to the opposite.
So, if an experience was precious to us enough to feel emotional pain from losing it, we decide to not have anything precious in our lives in order to not feel any pain when it is lost! We would rather live a life empty of anything of value to our hearts in order to not experience its potential loss! But if we choose to never have something precious, we are preempting a possible negative result (possibly not having a beloved lover, for example) by turning it into a definite negative result (definitely not having a beloved lover by never choosing to open our heart to anyone)!
Even more interestingly, all our friends and people around us try to encourage us to try again while fully sympathizing and understanding the why we do not want anything again so precious and valuable that we would actually hurt by losing it! Paradox for us, paradox for them and sheer idiocy to boot!
The dissatisfaction of “not enough” leads us to destroy what we have; a woman that is dissatisfied with the time she gets to spend with her beloved because he works too many hours, for example, often suffers, nags and complains and throws tantrums until the relationship is a nightmare for both and dissolves; unhappy with a half full cup of exquisite tea she refuses it and spills it, being left with nothing! Paradox?
But if somehow we are guilty, even if we don’t acknowledge any responsibility or even remember that we were told or it crossed our minds to not carry so much money or go to that particular neighborhood or just not go alone and we ignored it, our subconscious minds know and create internal conflict, that of being guilty and a victim at the same time. A prime example is the trauma experienced by sexual abuse victims from a family member where thoughts and guilt about deserving it, being promiscuous, somehow dirty and responsible keep the trauma alive longer and make it much deeper than a random sexual abuse case by a stranger. In a twisted way, the trauma of rape is easier to overcome if accompanied by great violence than if not; physical harm and injury somehow justify that we are not responsible and thus we suffer less internal conflict. The balance tilts decisively towards victimhood and the internal case for guilt loses serious points.
One very common case of this paradox is found in all kinds of relationships, whether business, friendship, family or romantic.
When a couple splits up, the suffering is not due the other party being horrible as we say, because then we would be happy to get rid of them, sing Hallelujah! And say “Good riddance! It is due to us knowing that we also have dirty laundry to hide, that we did not do our best, that there were occasions where we are responsible for the break up or the problems of the relationship. Similarly, if we are distressed and angry about losing our job because the boss was an asshole, it is for sure that there are things that we know we have done wrong or not at all, that is why we feel so much distress, the paradox. Again, a clear cut case would have us say “Good riddance” again and move on.
We view ourselves in the same manner, disappointing ourselves every time we don’t measure up. We can be the greatest one moment and the lowest the next; again, forgetting the previous state entirely as well as all the reasons for it’s existence. Another occasion where our opinion and belief about ourselves or another person can flip flop 180 degrees to its polar opposite. Related to the paradox of “Good Enough”, there is never any gradation of opinion, just a switch to one position or its polar opposite. Again, we never ask the question “Who am I comparing to right now? Who is good enough?”
You would think that our perception of our looks and attractiveness would be influenced by how the people around us perceive us, but strangely enough this is not the case; supermodels that everybody slobbers over and are pursued by many people, constantly complimented for their beauty suffer exponentially more through feeling they are ugly than most average and plain looking people. A spectacularly handsome young Norwegian that I had in a workshop with a Calvin Klein underwear ad body declared that he was embarrassed to go swimming because he had “man boobs”, i.e. he believed his breasts were too flabby! The fact that no girl had ever agreed with him and they all viewed him as a demigod made absolutely no difference to his personal perception of his looks. Some of the most beautiful women that I have ever met were the ones hating their looks and bodies the most. Rarely do the people that we admire for their good looks feel good about themselves whereas people like Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson, flabby and full of wrinkles nowadays, short and in no way to be described as beautiful can feel very attractive and have everybody else agree with them as well. For me personally, I felt ugly, unattractive and horrible many times when I was young, trim and in good shape, whereas now that I am fat, bald and flabby I actually feel very attractive and similarly many people agree with me. Once more, there seems to be a switch between attractiveness and horribleness with no gradation in between; it is either one or the other. If you feel beautiful one moment and ugly the next with no apparent to anybody change in your actual looks, are you in paradox? Do both opinions coexist inside you in constant conflict?