Sunday, 31 August 2014

How Much Does a Soul Weigh?

There are those who claim that, in reality, we are all energy beings. May seem hard to believe when you look at the meat and bone and gristle and tooth enamel that goes into making a person. Those who think we are less like the solid form that we perceive and more like an electrical charge, a creature of spirit, often say that if we could free our minds, we could see this reality as it really is.

Perhaps the latter explains why so many people - poets, shamen, mystics and rock and rollers, in the main - have used opiates, magic mushrooms, peyote cactus and the like, attempting to lift the veil from their eyes, to travel to astral realms or contact the world of spirit. Many would claim they have done just that and - though no drugs were involved - I myself once had an out of body experience* that I am one hundred percent convinced was genuine. Somehow, my essence, my consciousness, my soul if you will, began operating completely independently of my sleeping body and standing looking at my own form lying on the bed was quite a hair-raising experience, I can tell you.

A couple of things got me to thinking about all of this. I’ve been reading a book on quantum mechanics and one of the things that struck me was the following. Those things that we call atoms, tiny as they appear, are actually made up of 99.99 recurring percent of empty space and the author states that if we could remove all of that space, the entire human race would fit into the volume of a sugar cube!

That blows my mind because, if all seven billion of us humans could fit into a sugar cube, the hundred and sixty pound guy I see in the mirror would compress down to the size of a single atom, or perhaps less. It seems to me, therefore, that the claim that we are actually energy beings doesn’t seem that far fetched. You, me, all of us, are made up of atoms. Atoms are 99.9999% empty space, which means we are as well.

If we somehow turned off the electrical charge that holds us together, we would dissipate into almost nothing, like a puff of smoke in a gale. I guess the fact that we are glued together by electrical attraction means we are indeed made of energy, whichever way you look at it.

The other thing that got me wondering was something I heard several years ago. The thing I heard stuck with me, but now I can’t remember where I heard it, though I suspect it was one of those end of bulletin throwaway news items that are never followed up on. It concerned a scientist who was carrying out an experiment on people near to death. No idea how he was doing it, nuclear powered scales maybe, but he was weighing dying people shortly before death and then weighing them again as soon as life had flown the coop. What he claimed to have found was that people invariably weighed a tiny fraction less after death than while life remained. I don’t remember the figure now, but it was something like 0.000003 of a gram. Can’t help but wonder if that’s the missing weight of the human soul once it’s departed.

Well, I have drawn no particular conclusions about any of this. Not even sure if I’ve linked it very well, or even explained myself properly, but I offer it up simply as food for thought. I find these things fascinating. They make my head hurt, I admit, but fascinate me nonetheless.

I sincerely hope we survive after death, if for no better reason than I want some of these mysteries cleared up once and for all. Like, if the universe really is infinite, what’s it in? And if it isn’t infinite, where does it stop? Is there a wall? If there’s a wall, what’s on the other side? Like they tell us that it is scientifically impossible to go faster than the speed of light (because at that speed mass would become infinite requiring infinite energy to shift it faster than light) and yet now they say the big bang shot all of the matter out of it’s centre at faster than light speed. Seems they can’t make their minds up. I may not understand any of it, but when it comes to all these science boffins, I’ve come to the conclusion that any guess we make is as good as theirs. Maybe better. For example, I wrote a fantasy novel about twenty five or more years ago and in it I had my hero travelling through what I called the "multiverse". Now, in recent years, physicists have started suggesting that there may indeed be a multiverse. Sorry guys, but I thought of it first and I will be taking you to court any day now for infringing my copywrite. So there.

(*Out of Body Experience elsewhere on this blog). 

Saturday, 23 August 2014


Juxtaposition between the known and the unknown, the safe and the threatening, is almost always the culprit for causing that thing which we call ‘laughter‘. We giggle at sometimes inappropriate moments because of fear, or nervousness, or the simple fact that the injury, loss of face, death, etc, has befallen someone other than ourselves.
For example, despite the fact that I adored him, I got an uncontrollable fit of the giggles at my own father’s funeral. I pinched my thigh until my eyes watered and bit the inside of my cheek bloody, but no amount of pain would stop it and seeing my sister’s sweaty face all scarlet and howling only made matters worse. I tried to disguise my laughter, of course, burying my face in my hands and making crying noises, but with my shoulders shaking from mirth, I don’t suppose the other mourners were fooled for a second. No one said anything, but if looks could kill, me and dad would have been cremated together that day.
‘Schadenfreude’ is the name our German cousins give the act of finding humour in the misfortunes of others. That may sound callous, even spiteful, but I would suggest one’s laughter is more an expression of relief that the bullet of fate missed us, rather than any genuine pleasure at the other person’s pain.
Scientists aren’t sure why laughter is important, but believe it has some deep significance in terms of survival, in just the same way as the fight or flight reflex. What’s more, laughter isn’t confined solely to humans, but is shared with other species. For instance, if a monkey spots what it believes to be a poisonous snake, it will cry an alarm to its compatriots. When, however, it discovers the snake is nothing more threatening than a length of dead creeper, it spontaneously bursts out laughing in relief, as does the rest of the troop. Therefore, when some prankster springs out on us and shouts ‘Boo!’, we don’t laugh because they scared two year’s growth out of us, but because of the realisation a moment later that we are actually safe and unharmed.
Another example was filmed in a wildlife documentary on chimpanzees. The head of the troop, something of a bully, had fallen from a tree and hurt his wrist. As he limped along, the chimps behind him were mimicking the limp, but each time he stopped and turned, they would all instantly walk normally again and appear to be looking anywhere but at their chief. Put simply, they were taking the mickey out of him and thoroughly enjoying it – bit like the labour cabinet did with Gordon Brown – but didn‘t dare do it to his face for fear of retribution and having chairs kicked about the room.
It would appear that laughter provides the antidote to the rush of adrenaline pumped into our system by fear, signalling to the nerves, muscles and pulsating sphincter that, threat now passed, they may stand down from red alert. After all, it has long been known that laughter releases mood-enhancing endorphins within our brains, which not only promote a sense of general well being, but also gave rise to the old adage, laughter is the best medicine. Unless, of course, you have a brain tumour the size of an ostrich egg, in which case you might consider chemo. Or suicide.
Of all the beasts, the snake has the least developed sense of humour, apparently, because you can’t pull its leg (hat tip to the Beano circa 1965 for that one). Laughing hyenas have no real humour either, they just laugh at anything. Ugly, irritating bleeders.
Schadenfreude – or the malicious enjoyment of another’s misfortunes – is a great word, but trust those stone-hearted krauts to invent a word for sniggering as some bruised and bloodied old lady cartwheels down the up escalator, in a surreal race with her ancient wicker shopping basket, while flashing her piddle-stained bloomers at the world.
Mind you, I laughed until I nearly suffocated when I saw a bloke trip and fall while trying to jump onto the old route master bus he’d been chasing, so I can talk about stony hearts. It dragged him, twisting and turning, around a corner and for another hundred yards along Streatham High road. Why he didn’t just let go of the handrail, I will never know, but he made my day. I wonder if the conductor charged him for the journey? That would have cracked me up as well.
We have, of course, appropriated ‘schadenfreude’ into the English language and that’s what makes English the greatest language in the world. We steal all the good words from other languages and after all, a wigwam is a wigwam, a poppadam is a poppadam, why mess about making up new words when things already have perfectly usable names we can pinch and call our own? We did it with everyone else’s countries, so why not their words. Us English were never stupid and pretty damned good thieves. We should be proud. I know I am.