A to Z Challenge 2020 (M = Metaphysics)

I got through most of my life without knowing the meaning of metaphysics. I didn’t care. I saw it online and had to ask. Then I had to look it up. I still didn’t care very much, but I had a name for what other people seemed to hold in high regard, like a religion.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy consisting of ontology (dealing with the nature of being), and cosmology (the science of the origin and development of the universe). It can be deep stuff and fun bar talk after a few rounds. But there is woo-woo. There is always woo-woo.

New Age and nonempirical ideas such as energy (like chi and prana), ideas like being balanced, harmonized, tuned, aligned, unblocked, and mellow. Okay, maybe not mellow. While I don’t believe in that stuff, I don’t sit with my back to the door either.

In one sense, metaphysics is often used with ideas of what is real, the nature of beings, and the theory of mind and mental phenomena such as ideas, perceptions, memory, consciousness, and so forth. That all seems reasonable to me.

But metaphysics also gets rolled into broad theories of reality. These would be like materialism and dualism, the nature of reality, why something and not nothing. I’m not even sure I can mentally grasp the concept of nothingness. Is there free will? Is there always cause? Has the Universe always existed? Are there spiritual beings and life after death?

This stuff is not scientific. I had my time battling it out in conversation with friends who saw things in a different way. I’m sure I enjoyed it at the time. I just didn’t know or care what it was called.

Some of it is nonsense. But some of a lot of interesting things is nonsense. Like the existence of god, most metaphysical stuff cannot be proven nor successfully refuted. But maybe that’s where the fun lives.



A to Z Challenge 2020 (L = Lucid Dreams/Dreaming)

This is when you are asleep, and your frontal brain lobe makes you aware that you are sleeping and dreaming. I’ve seldom had this experience, but it has happened, and I remembered it. Like dreams themselves, it’s interesting. Also, like dreams, you can spend thousands of US dollars on learning and doing more about it. But, even with personal experience, I must weigh in with a bit of not so fast. The whole dream business is packed with frauds, charlatans, and quacks, and the awareness aspect has been roped in at great profit.

If you need help with lucid dreaming (I cannot do it intentionally) you can purchase books, tapes/CDs or whatever the tech is today, scientific publications, and induction devices such as special lights and speakers. You can spend money and time going to seminars to help you tap into your unconscious mind and get continuing education or college credit (Psyc.).

Perhaps you will fly (in your dreams) with spirits and have an out-of-body experience you enjoy, and that makes you free (again, you’re dreaming) of the restraints of being human and gravity bound to Earth. Maybe you will even feel better. But I doubt it.

There is no special state achievable by paying a fee through which we can find transcendent consciousness any more than we can stop having nightmares because we don’t like them. But, as with so many things, you can pay the price and take your chances. You can also read a lot more about it, if you are so inclined.

I prefer to know when it happens and what the biological cause is. When I wake from my off-base dreams, many of which relate to my life 30 or 40 years in the past, I know immediately that I was dreaming and what facts were twisted in my dreams to create the imaginary scenario.

So, yes, it is a real thing. But I doubt that it is what many seem to think. From reality to woo-woo, and to $$ all the way to the bank once again.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (K= keraunoscopia or keraunophobia)

Keraunoscopia is a form of divination, which is fortune telling or foretelling the future. My sister once told me that she went to a fortune teller at a show of some kind and was thrown out for laughing. We share that, but I would more likely just mumble bull shit. The forms of this divination crap, which must include reading animal remains or deposits, go on and on. This one is by reading thunder and lightning. Very, very, frightening, right? Well, it is.

Keraunophobia a related funky word that seems to be a condition of every dog I have ever owned. It is an unreasonable fear of thunder and lightning. As many of you know, I am a pluviophile who finds comfort, peace, and pleasure in rainy days, and I will often venture out with the intention of getting very wet. However, I avoid such behavior in extreme cold. I also avoid thunder and lightning. When I lived in the states of California and Washington, thunderstorms were rare.

Here in Texas it is rare to have a nice soft rain without the threat of lightning and telltale thunder. But that is what all the woo-woo diviners look for so that they foresee the future. Like when the current lock-down (or shelter in place if one finds euphemisms comforting) will end. Well so can I. If you go out during a Texas thunderstorm and hold your golf club just right, you may be struck by lightning. I have no idea what to do about dogs freaking out when it thunders and lightning strikes are too close to home, but I don’t blame them.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (J=Justification)

Justification is a concept I don’t recall being in my metaphysical pandora’s box or my highest theological concept. I still don’t care, but I needed a word for J -day.

In the Jesus brand of theology, justification is god’s removing the guilt and penalty of sin (call it hell). If you spin your English just right, you get to go to a good place instead of the bad one. But you must have faith and believe. To Christians, this makes sense.

Since the Protestant Reformation, and probably before, justification was and area of significant disagreement. It is also an area of significant theological fault that, to this day, divides Roman Catholicism from the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism.

Catholics, Methodists, and Orthodox distinguish between initial justification, which occurs at baptism, (ala infant baptism) and final salvation, accomplished after a lifetime of doing what you’re supposed to.

In Lutheranism and Calvinism, righteousness in the eyes of God is viewed as being credited to the sinner’s account through faith alone, without works, which maybe fodder for W-day.

My point here is that all these branches of Christianity, supposedly one religion, have fought over this woo-woo hair-splitting nonsense for reasons none of us probably care much about.

Atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindu, and Buddhists need not worry. There is no justification for any of this.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (I=Ignorance)

Ignorance is lack of knowledge, education, or awareness. When I hear or see the word ignorant, I seem to want to interpret that negatively, as a lack of intelligence, for example. But, it’s not. All people, intelligent or not, are ignorant of some things. Some very intelligent people are ignorant of fundamental cognitive biases hindering their own critical thinking.

I’ve heard the idiom; I don’t know what I don’t know. The fact remains that there is a great deal of knowledge of which I’m ignorant. I know what some of it is. I don’t know, for another example, if I go to a church on Sunday and sit with hundreds of other people for an hour or more if I will become infected with a virus that will end my life in less than a month or two. I do know what happened to the ignorant folks who went to choir practice several weeks back. What they did not know infected many and killed some. What I don’t know can kill or injure me or others.

Willful ignorance is not defined the same way. The adjective changes everything. When people today go to choir practice, or to church, or have gatherings in their homes thinking it is a safe thing to do; or when they rely on a medication they are taking as a preventative measure, unlike the choir members who were infected out of ignorance, the new group is being willfully ignorant. They have been provided the knowledge, education, and awareness needed to be safe and to not endanger others. They are choosing to ignore it. Are they so brain-washed by religion, a minister, or family member that they flaunt their beliefs in the face of death to themselves or others? I think so.

But, like so many atheists (agnostics also), I like to say I don’t know when I don’t. I say it often. It turns out there is much of which I am, and shall remain, ignorant. That does not seem to trouble most others. Yet, some folks demonstrate considerable irritation by my confession, and they suffer even more dissonance when they try to apply the phrase to themselves.

I know what I think. I think I like staying home.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (H=Haunted Houses)

Relying on my childhood experiences again; every run down, abandoned, or soon to be demolished house, and a very few still lived-in, generally by weird people, were haunted. “The haunted house” ended up being several places over a period of years during my youth. We went to these places, and we played in them, admittedly probably not legally or safely.

Did they have real ghosts? Of course, they did. You can tell that just by looking at them. Ghosts have no use for furniture or functioning plumbing. They don’t care if the paint is old, moldy, or pealing. They require neither heating nor air conditioning. And electricity is out of the question.

Were these homes possessed by demons that would harm us? We liked to think so, but not really, because we went there anyway. The most important feature of a haunted house was that adults seemed to stay away, mostly, but not always.

Oddly, we took care of these places. We behaved like they were our property. Finders keepers. Right? We also defended our turf. If you had the nerve to hang with us in a place like that, you were accepted into the group.

Even today, my wife and I may drive by a neglected homestead, sadly there seems to be too many, and one of us will comment, “that house looks like it’s haunted.”

Enter Hollywood and adult horror movies. In the minds of some, if they can make a movie about it, it must be true, or at least was or may be credible. Kind of like things on the internet. If it’s in print, there it is in black and white. It must be fact.

And then there are the ubiquitous Halloween places for entertainment and fund raising. I went to one years ago that was so dark I was sure that I would be injured walking into a wall or tripping. It was well done, but too dark.

Haunted houses have it all. The sights, the smells, the noises, and the stories (true or not). I almost feel guilty adding that the one thing they don’t seem to have is a real spooky ghost or two. But I am willing to pretend. Imagination has always been fun. Are you willing to meet me at the haunted house?



A to Z Challenge 2020 (G=Ghosts)

When I was a young boy, I believed in ghosts sometimes and sometimes not. Timing and environment mattered. Ghost stories around the campfire were a rite of passage. I can still recall how talented some story tellers were. I don’t recall ever thinking of ghosts as spirits from another realm. To a degree, I envisioned them as unseen earthbound beings, sometimes spirits of dead people, at other times I considered them independent beings.

When I was alone and frightened by noises or shadows and the like, that was always monsters or some form of ghoulish creature, not a ghost. All that ghosts of Christmas past stuff was for Scrooge, and they all seemed to be trying to help (and did).

The whole point of being scared was because it was fun, reality never played into it. Maybe that is why I was never fearful while tramping through cemeteries during all times of day or night. Half the fun of that for me was the fear others acted out or tried to cover up.

While I no longer believe in any form of a real spiritual world inhabited by disembodied spirits or any of the associated trappings of such beliefs, I have no problem with ghosts. They make great stories, movies (both serious and funny), Halloween is a favorite of mine, why not haunted houses?

Every time my wife and I hear an odd noise in the house that we have no ready answer for, she will say that we have a poltergeist, which is a noisy ghost or spirit. I will explain that he or she is loading the dishwasher, moving the car, leaving through the garage, wants us to call an electrician, or is getting ice for a drink.

I may be a skeptic. Maybe I don’t believe in ghosts. But I like them, and I always have.

Casper Bill

The Bard had ghosts in his writing. Maybe not like this one.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (F=Fire walking)

I was watching one of those HGTV home buying shows. This lady needed to make sure that her property ($millions), as glorious as each one was, had enough size and location to construct a pit or platform for fire walking. She was a shaman or something.

I have seen many shows where the main criteria were enough yard for the dog to take a shit and run around, or maybe a garden for granny. I only watched one where the buyer wanted space so her clients would be able to walk through fire.

In some parts of the world, fire walking is part of a religious ritual associated with mystical powers of fakirs (love that name, but I must be mispronouncing it). They really do walk on burning coals. The lady buying the house really does do that. I could not stand to walk on coals that were room temperature or under water without shoes. Walking on burning coals has never been on my bucket list and it will not be.

In the USA this event has gone New Age as a self-empowering experience. Some see it as overcoming fears and phobias. This is not fake. People really do this. If you ever watched it, you probably noticed the brisk pace of the walker. They do not tarry in crossing. Nor do they want to fall. That is fire down below.

It is possible to walk on fire, or least on a bed of burning wood coals and not get burned. But burns do happen. The proper wood and charcoal must be used and the person building the fire needs to know what they are doing (shaking my head “no” as I wrote that).

I have no idea how this works physically or what psychological gain there is. But it’s physics: thermo dynamics, probably. And well-padded feet soles don’t hurt. Fire walking is neither magic nor magick, spirituality, religion, or some form of holiness. It is not the Universe blessing someone. But it’s also not fake.


Everybody is wearing shorts.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (E=Energy)

In physical science, energy is a measurable with ergs, joules, electron-volts, calories, or foot-pounds as the capacity to do work. It is also defined as a usually positive spiritual force, such as an energy flowing through people. There is a lot of different energy in people.

New Age advocates see energy in the second sense, as a power force producing spiritual energy. It’s about enhancing energy by tapping into the power of the universe or another person by manipulating that force so that you can be healthy, happy, fulfilled, and successful. This makes life meaningful, significant, and endless. These are admirable goals for the defined type of energy, and indeed a considerable amount of time, effort, and expense (and someone’s profit) go into the pursuit of such energy.

Despite a long existence of things like chi, reiki, and prana, the second definition remains unmeasurable, although it is said to be the source of life and health. It is measured by feeling it.

Healers with special powers are often required. Masters, if you will; to help with unblocking, harmonizing, unifying, tuning, aligning, balancing, or channeling (see day 3). The key issue for all of this, to me, has always been that if I do not believe it works, it will not (sort of reverse placebo). The same argument is made for belief in any god or religion.

Yes. There is an energy to life. It takes a life to make a life, as far as I know. I don’t know how everything works, why, or when. I know that many quacks are out there in the world of bacteria and viruses, of gods and spirits, of true believers and skeptics.

If I take a drug that makes me feel good or bad, if I undergo a medical treatment, or if I have a helpful conversation with someone, including myself, I may feel better (or worse, for the other side of the value scale). I usually know why. In most cases the experience can be replicated.

The New Age way of looking at energy has never worked for me. Maybe because I am a natural skeptic. Even when I wanted it to work, and I sought it out, it did not have the claimed/desired effect. In every case, the failure was attributed to my skepticism. I was never told (even by people like chiropractors or massage “therapists”) that it was their fault, or the issue was fake. In one case, the practitioner claimed failure due to their personal lack of experience.

I have no scientific evidence that anyone’s life energy continues after death or that anyone was another person in a previous and separate life. When people like me try to be open to such things, does that give “energy” to fake practitioners? I don’t know.

I remain open to proof and evidence that is more than how another person was made to feel. But for now, I’ll stick to the first definition of energy.


A to Z Challenge 2020 (D=Déjà vu)

I recall one day as a child walking with my parents to the park where the county courthouse was (and is) along with a bronze statue of a deer upon which the tradition is to be photographed. I was about seven years old. I told everyone that I had been to this place before. I was certain of it. I don’t recall who told me that I had not been there, and that I was imagining it. But I think it was my father.

It was the only real déjà vu event in my life, that I can recall so vividly. If I went to the town where I grew up, I can stand on the exact spot where I said and felt it.

I’ve never forgotten. Then, one day about 5 years ago I was going through old photo albums and found a picture of me on the courthouse deer with my mother. She had to hold me up, so I was between six months and two years of age. I had been there before.

There were no pictures of my father. I had been there years earlier, probably with my mother and her sisters while Dad was at work. Déjà vu means “already seen” and indeed I had already seen as I thought. My memory was an actual memory within the confines of my actual life.

One of the issues with a woo-woo déjà vu experience is the feeling of strangeness, which is common. It happens often. My skepticism is, in terms of it being a lost memory (that is plausible), past lives (not so plausible), clairvoyance (nope), or other mystical and misguided explanations, there is a real-world explanation.

What we should focus on is the real. The feeling that may be caused by a brain state or things that precede brain temporal lobe epilepsy attacks or hallucinations. This, too, is common.

And I love the trite phrase, it’s déjà vu all over again. What’s your story?