On the subject of Humility Part 2

The recent events of my father's death have made me reconsider the subject of humility. How arrogant of the human species to believe ourselves superior to nature and yet, death is inevitable and we cannot do anything against it - neither can we abate other forces of nature (hurricanes, earthquakes...)
On a more mundane level, how we approach our fellow human beings is a matter of special consideration. I saw my brother last week show a complete lack of humility when dealing with people at the funeral and it reminded me of how Benjamin Franklin approached the subject. You see, Ben Franklin was not an aristocrat; he was a tradesman, a man of the people, used to hard manual labor. He started working at 12 as an apprentice at his brother's printing shop and from those humble beginnings he rose to world class diplomat, inventor extraordinary and statesman. He, however, felt he did not quite fit in with the rest of the aristocracy he frequented in the last half of his life and made a list of the virtues a gentleman should have.
The list itself is worthy of serious consideration, as is Franklin's method to practice the virtues. As he was told that he sometimes came across as too pedantic and arrogant, he added humility to his list of "gentlemanly virtues". In his words, while he did not think he ever achieved the virtue itself, he made a passable impression of it (which, to me, is a sign he did become humble).
Humility is the one virtue that you lose the moment you realize you have gained it. It is an elusive shadow of a virtue but one worth pursuing, for it greatly helps to allay the roadblocks in the difficult landscape of interpersonal relationships

The skeptic likes religion

My father passed away last Thursday. It was a very sad event when he kind of slowly slipped away. I knew it was coming but it was devastating anyway.
We went to the funeral parlor, where they prepared my father's body and then they showed it to us. I felt the impact of the sad event returning and then my wife asked for us to pray. We held our hands together and she then began to recite the Lord's prayer.
As much as I hold myself not to be a believer anymore, the reciting of the familiar words felt very comforting and reassuring. I don't know if it was because of the feelings I associate with the prayer (community, belonging, love) or because I felt comfort in engaging in a familiar activity when presented with an out of the ordinary and tragic situation. But my sadness abated for a while and I felt tranquility and resignation.
Religion may have a role to play in our society. It does not work for all of us or at least, not all the time, but I cannot deny that at least part of our value system derives from religious teachings and many people may need the sense of community and belonging that comes with church attendance and religious rituals.

On the subject of Humility - part 1

A friend just gave me this information which looks interesting though I have to say I have not checked it for accuracy. It is about Warren Buffet

There was a one hour interview on CNBC with Warren Buffet, the second richest man who has donated $31 billion to charity.Here are some very interesting aspects of his life:
  • He bought his first share of stock at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!
  • He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.
  • He still lives in the same, small 3-bedroom house in midtown Omaha, that he bo ught after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.
  • He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.
  • He never travels by private jet, although he owns the world's largest private jet company.
  • His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies.He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year.. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis. He has given his CEO's only two rules. Rule number 1: Do not lose any of your shareholder's money. Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.
  • He does not socialize with the high society crowd. His pastime after he gets home is to make himself some popcorn and watch television.
  • Bill Gates, the world's richest man, met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffet. So, he had scheduled his meeting only for half hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffet.
  • Warren Buffet does not carry a cell phone, nor has a computer on his desk. His advice to young people: 'Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself and remember:

A. Money doesn't create man, but it is the man who created money.

B. Live your life as simple as you are.

C. Don't do what others say. Just listen to them, but do what makes you feel good.

D. Don't go on brand name. Wear those things in which you feel comfortable.

E. Don't waste your money on unnecessary things. Spend on those who really are in need.

F. After all, it's your life. Why give others the chance to rule your life?'!?!?

And now that I was turned on to it, I will get back with Humility part 2 - sometime later...

Magical underwear and other mormon myths

Did you know that male mormons have to use a special undergarment with signs over each of their breasts, the navel and one of the knees? And this garment is supposed to "protect" them while being worn, thus fitting the description of a "magically" endowed underwear.

Evidence that this magical undergarment works as "protection": none that I know of. By the way, you can get your mormon underwear by buying it from the mormon church, the only approved supplier of magical undergarments.

Did you know that mormons believe that some jewish people were taken from ancient Judea into the American continent (the US, obviously, since Joseph Smith was born there) and they multiplied and flourished, eventually becoming two tribes, one good and one evil; the evil tribe destroyed the good tribe and were "punished" by having their skin colored in a darker color?

Evidence that this is how the Americas were populated: none. DNA studies conducted on amerindian tribes from Alaska to the Patagonia indicate that the human race colonized the American continent some 15,000 or so years ago, by crossing over from Asia over a land bridge on the Bering Strait. Mormon apologists indicate that DNA science is very new and, with further developments, their hypothesis will be confirmed. I remain very skeptical of the whole story but I am convinced that Joseph Smith did not like black or american native people.

Did you know that Joseph Smith eventually got married to more than 30 women? As the first Prophet of the mormon church, Smith had "divine" revelations that he could be married to more than one woman, as some of the characters in the Old Testament (see Solomon, David, Abraham...) The mormon church allowed and encouraged polygamy until Utah tried to become a state and they had to draft a state constitution banning polygamy, in order to be accepted into the Union. The mormon church holds, however, that if a man marries a woman and she dies, after which he re-marries, when he dies and "goes to heaven" he will be married to both women in the afterlife so that polygamy is legal in the mormon heaven.

Evidence that Smith had "divine" revelations on this and other issues: See DNA evidence above - the whole story about the jews being transplanted into the Americas was a "divine" revelation.