(Originally posted 1/12/17 on Read With The Gringa.)
Installment #3 of “The Art of Living”, a translation of the works of Epictetus by Sharon Lebell.
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Two things the gringa loves most are science and history. When the two collide I believe I am in Paradise. Add the spice of controversy and there is simply no going back for the gringa. Archaeologists in Greece have made this dream combination come true for the gringa.
Let us travel back 3,000 years to the bleak mountaintop of Mount Lykaion in southern Greece, which some ancient Greeks believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, rather than Crete. This is the revered resting place of an altar featuring a grisly design of sheep bone construction. This is where the religious leaders of Greece hoped to pacify their god of gods, Zeus himself. Offered up are the bloody sacrifices of what one would expect to be sheep or goats, considering what the altar is made of. Think again dear readers.
For those schooled in literature and philosophy, when Greece is mentioned, you hearken back to the days of Plato and Socrates. You believe these sophisticated thinkers of Greece gave birth to civilized society as we know it. As you cruise about town, passing homes with columned porches, you remind yourself that this bit of architecture was passed down from an exceptionally cultured society. Or not. Not when the skeletal remains of a teenage boy near Zeus’ altar indicates that young, human sacrifices were being bled out on top of a table made from sheep bones in efforts to gain favor with a god that might rain down lightning if he got pissed.
But Mount Lykaion is historically linked to Greek athletic festivals, isn’t it? Isn’t it one of the ancient sites with a stadium and hippodrome, all indicators of a culture that appreciated athletic competitions? The gringa wonders, was death the price for losing or, could it have been the price for winning, or, could it have been the “opening ceremony” after which a priest turns around and commands, “Let the games begin!” Who really knows at this time because this is a recent discovery.
And some scholars are not too happy about revelations of human sacrifice as part of ancient Greek religious ceremonies. I mean, after all, Greece way back then liked to call rival foreign nations nasty names like barbarians and cannibals. But, really, who do they think they are fooling? Remember, Socrates asked Adeimantos if he had heard the latest gossip about religious zealouts feasting on the remains of their human sacrifice. Socrates includes a gruesome description of a terrible recipe of mixing the entrails of different victims which, if ingested by some hapless cannibal, transforms them into a wolf. Considering that Adeimantos had already heard the story, it seems that the nasty religious practices going on atop Mount Lykaion were no big secret among the ancient Greeks. It’s just big news to us.
So what kind of science goes into the decision that the remains of this young man belong to a specific era and culture? Scientists have to analyze the composition of the altar itself. Considered an “ash altar”, the gringa’s depiction of it being constructed in the fashion of, say, a dining room table and made completely out of sheep bones is not an altogether clear picture of what scientists are dealing with. Imagine, if you will, that ancient priests led sheep and goats to a sacred place, slit their throat, then burned the remains. Each sacrifice slaughtered and burned atop the ones that went before. Eventually a mound of ash accumulates and becomes a ritual platform. At Mount Lykaion the mound was almost five feet high.
So, the scientists use their handy-dandy equipment to measure remains of bones to see which animal (or human) they belong to. If human, they measure the pelvis to see if it is male or female. Then they need to determine the age of the remains. The first thing that comes to mind is ye aulde carbon dating technique. But there are other methods that can be used on other objects and archaeological sites to determine age:
So, if history, science and drama are appealing to someone you know, remind them that there are still exciting discoveries to be made, particularly in Greece. For young people who long for the curiosities that are found in archaeological digs, remind them that not every ancient puzzle has been solved. Along with history, they should also have a strong foundation in STEM studies. And lucky for me this archaeological site has its own website keeping fascinated individuals like myself up-to-date on their latest discoveries. Because the gringa really wants to know just went on up there.
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The gringa was recently requested by a fellow blogger for permission to re-post some of my material. I was flattered at the interest and apparent seal of approval. In appreciative reciprocation I also wanted to re-post an item of this blogger’s choosing. The gringa’s “guest” blogger, Octavian D. Curpas, YouTube video blogger from Arizona, forwarded a transcript of a German Christian singer he recently interviewed, Florence Joy Enns. Lacking a URL link to a video of this interview, the best the gringa can do is provide a link to his YouTube channel, Octavian D. Curpas and a link to the video that inspired the interview, Florence performing “Mein Ziel”. From a Christian perspective, Octavian advocates for reunification of Norwegian children separated from their families through Norway’s version of the U.S.’s Child Protective Services. The gringa will not even attempt to delve into those delicate waters and stick to what she knows. But, dear reader, expect this post to be a bit more personal.
So, returning to his interview of Florence, the gringa then wonders how she can get the subject of a German Christian singer to relate to anything science or fantastical. The intrigue begins with the first quote Octavian cites from Florence, “God answered my prayer when I was 5 years old.” Florence prayed for a baby brother and, despite her parents’ intentions to have no more children, Florence’s prayers were answered and she got a baby brother.
This takes the gringa back to when her eldest son was only three-years-old. We were driving over a bridge and a little dog was running through traffic, perilously close to becoming flattened road kill. Zachary began praying very loudly for God to send a rescuer to the dog. Within moments traffic stopped behind us, a car opened its door and the dog jumped in. My son became a believer.
Now, my son’s independent action of unprompted prayer came as a surprise. The gringa is Jewish. The caveman is Catholic. We are both non-practicers of our respective religions where ritual and temple attendance is concerned. We believe our faiths are based on love and compassion and that is the lifestyle we live, following the easy rule of thumb delivered by Jesus to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It seems simple enough. As a homeschooling mom, the gringa did include religious studies as part of my son’s curriculum, but it included instruction and history on every major religion in the world: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and much more. So, although we have never forced any formal religious training upon our children, they have all grown up and adopted their own religious beliefs and lifestyles. They learned the best way, by our example and explanations for their questions.
A few years after our eldest son’s first prayer was answered, he asked me how he would know that God is real. The gringa adopted, of course, a Jewish perspective for such a question. I explained to him that in the religious texts I rely on for wisdom an example is given in which the person asks God for a demonstration. There is nothing wrong with such a thing. I told him that Jews call it “asking God for a sign”. I told him the story of Gideon who asked God to give him a sign by “putting out the fleece”. God responded. That night, before Zachary went to bed, he looked upward and said, “God, if you’re real there will be a cat at the front door tomorrow.” Now, the gringa chuckled to herself then tucked her precocious six-year-old boy into bed and thought nothing more of it. The next morning, while preparing breakfast, I saw my little boy tear through the apartment and open the door, immediately screaming, “YES!” Low and behold there was a darn cat sitting on our welcome mat. I thought I might faint. How strong the faith of the child. How pure the heart that asks for a sign. How kind and benevolent for a god to respond.
The reality is that such stories are not uncommon. They cannot be explained. Regardless of whether a person believes in God as creative cosmic energy or a divine old man with a beard, there are simply things that happen in which science can only shrug, hold up its hands and say, “Hey, we don’t have a clue.” The gringa adores science and all its fascinations. I also believe that there is a kernel of truth to all of the world’s diverse religions. They all share commonalities where kindness, compassion and forgiveness are concerned. I try to not sweat the details that are controversial points of doctrine and stick to those key elements that maintain a single thread throughout them. I don’t believe religious faith and belief in science are mutually exclusive. I believe they are inextricably linked together. I believe that science will eventually reveal what exactly the greatest architect, scientist and artist the world has ever known is. So, in a way, science is also my religion.
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No kidding, we could all be participating in a game we call life. At least that’s what SpaceEx founder Elon Musk recently told folks at the Code Conference. He thinks it’s possible we are all characters in a virtual reality game created by beings of higher intelligence. The gringa would have appreciated that, if this is so, they could have opted me for a superpower rather than this pesky thing called epilepsy. That was just not nice at all.
Now, Musk is an intelligent guy. What in the world is he talking about? If he really believes in this possibility and he’s not some wacked out fringe science believer, does he have anything of substance to back up this theory? As he began to explain himself in the interview, he took listeners back to the video game era of Pong. The reasoning follows this line of logic:
He expects that augmented reality will be the era of technology where reality and the game will be indistinguishable. He believes it’s possible that other life, far more advanced than humans, has already reached this stage and Earthlings are part of their augmented reality games. So what the heck is augmented reality?
Definition: augmented reality – technology that super-imposes computer generated images over the player’s real-world view. What the person sees is a composite image of reality and computer generated images.
So, basically, if I wanted to live in an augmented reality, rather than go to the trouble and expense of painting my walls I would pop in my augmented reality contacts at the beginning of every day. They would be programmed with an image of my quaint little apartment featuring walls of my favorite color preferences. I could also eliminate having to look at dust and the icky grime build up in my bathtub. Mona Lisa could grace the place of honor in my living room rather than an inexpensive original by an obscure starving artist. I could live a life of comfort and laziness and never be bothered with the filth accumulating around me as I no longer have any motivation to clean, since my augmented reality apartment is always spic and span and downright lovely.
But how does such a possibility translate into one that puts forth that all of us humans are already part of an extra-terrestrial or advanced earlier human augmented reality game? Does that put us on the same level with our pets? Are we the pets of extra-terrestrials or earlier humans? Am I cleaning house for treats? Am I an augmented reality star?
Is there something positive to the possibility of being little more than an observed lab rat in an ET/advanced human video game? Well, there’s that whole apocalypse thing. If we’re not really “real” then the apocalypse is not really “real”. It’s just all part of the program. The Earth is not going to self-destruct because of human accelerated climate change. Or will it?
What if the ETs/advanced humans are simply seeing if we solve the problem? What if they WANT us to solve the problem and we don’t? What if they get disgusted and hit the reset button and start over? Will I be doomed to repeat this very day all over again once the game advances to the point that my character is, once again, sitting at the same desk pecking away at the same laptop keys composing the same story? Would I know I had been reset or would I just resume in the blink of an eye as if nothing had happened feeling it was my first time to write the story rather than, perhaps, the kazillionth attempt? What if they delete my character altogether because I never reached my full potential the first time around? Holy Cow! What if they re-invented me with supermodel measurements, flawless skin, a genius mind and bottomless pocketbook?!
But what if there are no super-advanced civilizations managing us like puppeteers? How about we continue to progress through science and technology and eventually have supercomputers that can generate augmented reality en masse for the public, as easily available as the Internet is today? What if augmented reality becomes a way of life? What if we are reduced to live our lives lying about on loungers, hooked up to nutritional supplement dispensaries and simply exist in our mind’s created reality? What if we are doing that already? Or perhaps we go about our everyday affairs but we ladies can all have Prince Charming for husbands. Our cranky boss can be converted to look like a hobbit. Instead of passing strangers on the streets, people are all programmed to look like Easter bunnies and unicorns.
Could artificial intelligence evolve through augmented reality to the point that a character could actually be considered to have consciousness and exercise free will? If so, is it possible that you and I originated as artificial intelligence and have advanced to that stage as characters in an advanced ET/advanced human augmented reality game that the simulated civilization is developing the same technology that led to our original existence? It seems greater minds than the gringa have been musing over just such questions and more for quite some time. The idea of humans living a virtual reality existence did not originate with Musk. He simply did a spin with a theory originally proposed by philosopher Nick Bostrom.
Bostrom’s theory proposes:
Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, has published a controversial article in Philosophical Quarterly positing the possibility that we are all characters in a computer simulation. He bases this on the theory that at some point in the future humans will have super-computers capable of running simulations of the civilizations that came before them and let them continue unhindered to see how far they develop. If that is true, consider the possibility that it has already happened and you and I, dear reader, are existing within one of those simulations. How would we know?
We would know once we evolved to the point that we developed technology to create simulated civilizations. That is why the ones in control of the simulation we are cast in have to design the program with an apocalyptical human extinction parameter when the characters get too close to achieving that level of technology. Then it all starts over. The gringa hopes her next character is epilepsy free and has prettier feet.
P.S. Augmented Reality… there’s an app for that!
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