Friday, October 14, 2016

How can Taoist texts can help deepen our understanding of early Chinese history?

. Most Chinese historians use official dynastic histories. They comb through it for mention of who is a Taoist and then write this up as a history, but ignore the religous texts. However, these texts can help deepen the understanding of early Chinese history by providing alternatives perspectives. the early history of Taoism is different. Early Taosim believed in a new political referred to as "The Great Peace" in which every individual would be treated justly. This provided an important alternative to the norm of Confucianism. For years Taoism  has been looked down upon by Chinese scholars who refer to it as a "degenerate philosophy" that is controlled by the government, but Taoism is important because it gives a view outside the "zhengshi" or the official chinese documents. 

Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy?

Many religions have tried to answer the question of "why are we here?" and "what is our purpose"? Lots of stories surrounding our creation exist - but what if we were never real to begin with? What if our entire existence is just a computer simulation programmed by creatures more advanced than ourselves? That is the topic of the article we read in class today. The article,  entitled "Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?" published by Scientific American says the odds of our entire existence being on someone's flash drive is 50-50. It is also pointed out that the world as we know it, is built on math - like computer code. Well, I don't know about you, but I certainly feel I exist. "I think therefore I am" - but I can't prove anything else is, including you. If the world really is a computer simulation however, I'm  annoyed at the developer. Assuming you are alive however, how can the developer  let sentient people suffer? There's natural disasters, famine, drought, war....why doesn't the developer (who we can basically liken to God) help us? Unless they don't know we're alive - I've read many fiction books, but I don't feel bad for the trials the characters are put through because I know they're not alive. The scariest part about this is that at any time we could be deleted, or an error could crash the system. Let's just hope we're lucky, and the world we see is not a Sims game.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

World War 2 and The Book of Job

The story of Moshe Yosef Daum and Fela Mussbaum is similar to that of The Book of Job. Both face perilous tests to their faith, which have them doubt God's existence or benevolence. Moshe Yosef Daum and Fela Maussbaum who are a married couples couple, had to endure the horrors of Nazi Germany, where they were placed in Auschwitz. To survive the camps, they had to give up their baby which caused them to doubt God and question why he did not help the Jews, when they are his chosen people. This story has a similarities with "The Book of Job." Both are faithful followers towards God - but are punished. Both question why this is and they are answered with "God works in mysterious ways." This answer is of course, frustrating after all the pain they have endured, despite doing all God asks of them, Eventually, they both reach a point where they question God's decisions and their faith is severed.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Book of Job

In "The Book of Job" God shows off one of his most dedicated followers to Satan - a man named Job. Job has had a prosperous life and lives according to God's commands. The Devil claims that Job only obeys God because he has blessed him with good fortune, and that if his life was not so pleasant he would reject God.  God decides to make a bet with Satan - he will curse Job, and see if he will still be faithful for him even when his life is in shambles.
        God testing man is a theme I've seen before. In the story of "Abraham and Isaac"  God tests the prophet Abraham's faithfulness. God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Abraham obeys God, and is about to kill Isaac when an angel of God stops him and offers a lamb in his son's place.
        Both stories are similar because they both feature God testing man to see how faithful they are. God is characterized as constantly demanding praise, even when actions are cruel and unecessary. Both Abraham and Job were innocent and loyal followers of God - but he is seemingly not satisfied with this. He wants his followers to praise him even when his actions are despicable and without reason. I was appalled that God still pettily demanded praise after destroying their lives. The story also bears a resemblance to the story of "Noah's Arc" when he floods the entire world for their sins. God has a habit of "taking things too far." He goes to extreme lengths to ensure that man will continue to worship him, and servers punishes those that question his actions.
       There are however,  differences between these stories. Abraham and Noah remain faithful to God throughout their legends. Job also,  at first, resists cursing God's name for his misfortunes but eventually breaks down. God has taken everything from him. Job in agony, wishes he had never been born - therefore questioning God's judgement. Not only is God being unreasonable, but he also sees Job's misery as being defiant. God tortures this poor man so far he wishes he had never existed. Yet
still, God is only concerned with himself. He sees this as an insult against him. God pushed Job to the brink - and I get the unnerving feeling that God would have kept going until Job eventually snapped. I believe God would have kept searching for disobedience even when there was none - that he is truly afraid that people will stop loving him. God punished Job for no reason but his own selfishness.
       God also appears as foolish. Why does he agree to make a deal with the devil in the first place? It would seem that Satan is the only one who benefited from this. God of all people (or beings,) should know not to trust a demon - but it seems that he is tempted himself. Out of curiosity, he ruins Job's lives and causes him to sink into depression - all while the devil watches in delight.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My Opinions on Highschool

        The best thing about Highschool is the creative independence. While middle school had independence outside of the classroom I often felt we were restricted for what we could do creatively. Middle school English was in my opinion, very limiting. The teacher never provided alternative options and the topics were overall uninteresting. This year's English classes are, in comparison very open - ended which is the way I believe English classes should be taught. In science my teacher has also allowed us to do labs outside of the classroom.
          My least favorite thing about Highschool is the divided lunch times. Most of my friends ended up in separate periods and so lunch is boring for me. In addition, because of my school schedule I only get lunch every other day, so I get hungry during classes. Thankfully, some of the teachers are understanding and allow eating in class. I don't know why lunch is considered optional but if I want to take my elective (Creative Writing,) I have to fork it over (no pun intended.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adam and Eve: Who is to blame?

Image result for Eden

           The Old Testament tells us of the beginning of mankind, and it's downfall into sin. The story goes that the original humans were created in God's image. Adam the first man and Eve the first woman lived in a paradise created by God. This utopia was called "Eden" and they had no worries, for all their needs were provided for, and they knew no difference between good and evil. God tells them that they may eat from any tree in the garden - with the exception of a tree named "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" warning that if they eat from the tree they will die. They obey God's wishes until one day a snake (Often interpreted to be Satan in disguise), tells them that the fruit will not kill them and that God does not wish them to be like him, and know the difference between good and evil. Eve is tempted first - disobeying and eating from the tree. She offers the fruit to Adam who accepts, and so they were thrown out of the garden, causing the beginning of mankind's turmoil. 
        So who is to blame for mankind's spiral into supposed self-destruction? While many would blame Adam or Eve or the sly serpent, why not address the source of the problem? And the source is God himself.

Why was God so apprehensive to have Adam and Eve eat from the tree? By eating the fruit, it is said that they could see the difference between good and evil. Why would God not want man to know this? Perhaps he wished to keep his creations innocent. They say ignorance is bliss after all - but is this the right decision? To keep man oblivious, stuck in the garden of Eden forever? Maybe eating the fruit was not the cause of man's downfall but the key to their escape. While there are many awful struggles occurring in the world today, would you really want to live in a world with no challenge at all? Where EVERYTHING is provided for you? The idea might seem comforting at first, but I don't believe that having everything done for you is paradise. If the snake  hadn't tempted them into eating the fruit, I believe the thought would have eventually occurred to them. Maybe God didn't want us to gain the knowledge of the tree because he was afraid he would lose our disobedience. God , who is said to be perfect, lies to Adam and Eve about the tree, saying they will die if they eat it. He doesn't want to tell them the truth. It is written that God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14) , so maybe he had a desire to keep his creations under his thumb - safe, but under control. 

It seems at times, that God has questionable motives. God created the tree and conveniently put it in arm's reach when he did not want man to eat from it. Why did an all-powerful God not keep it safe? Why not keep it where no one can find it, perhaps in the heavens? It is doubtful that God would have just placed the tree thinking it would be safe. So that leads to a likely theory: that God planted the tree to assess man's character. To see if they were truly creatures of good. However, the bible says that Adam and Eve did not know the difference between good and evil. If they were unable distinguish the bad from the good, how could God form the conclusion that man was inclined to evil?  If that was his plan, than it was completely irrational because as beings who had just come into existence, and one where they had lived in utopia how could they have good judgement over what was morally right or wrong? 
            Humans are said to be created God's image. Despite being described as perfect God seems to be flawed- he makes irrational decisions, and seems to be selfish at times. Maybe God is more like man than we think. The earliest civilizations afterall,  had very human-like Gods. They did things for petty reasons, fought amongst each other, and demanded praise from their followers. Some were benevolent and some wicked, or so viewed by humans. So is it unlikely that this God might have flaws of his own? God was the cause of man leaving the garden of Eden - for creating the tree and expecting Adam and Eve, with their free will granted by God himself, to live blissfully ignorant forever. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ancient Flood stories: Comparing Gilgamesh vs Baucis and Philemon

Image result for greek flood

Throughout the world, one story has been ubiquitous throughout the ages - the story of a great flood that wiped out humanity and destroyed villages in it's wake. To some, it is the story of "Noah" in the bible. The story has many variations - over 600, so you would assume that when my English teacher asked us to choose one of these many variations and compare it to the most ancient story (The Legend of Gilgamesh,) that I would be overwhelmed by the amount of stories to choose from, but being a lover of Greek and roman history, I instantly gravitated to the Roman version of the infamous story, "Baucus and Philemon.". 
        The Greek and Roman pantheons are virtually the same - the Romans, after coming into contact with the Greeks syncretized with their religion, changing their gods to imitate the Greek pantheon until their gods became their counterparts. The names of these gods have  been changed - Zeus became Jupiter, Poseidon became Neptune Hades became Pluto and so on. In this story I will be using the Greek versions, as they are their original names.
              In the story, the god Zeus, and the titan Prometheus, were at war. Prometheus, who was the creator of mankind had evoked Zeus’s wrath when the thunder god saw that human beings were leading sinful lives, and so sent a great flood to wipe humanity out. Prometheus, knowing of Zeus’s plans warned his son, Deucalion of Zeus’s intent and ordered him to construct an arc. He took shelter within it with his wife Pyrrha. Heavy rain flooded the world for nine days and nine nights, and when Deucalion and his wife emerged, they saw the world covered with water, and knew that everyone had drowned. Feeling desolate and lonely without human company, they prayed to the titan Themis for a way to restore the human race. Taking pity, Themis ordered them to cast the bones of their mothers behind them. Interpreting this, they threw stones over their heads and the stones thrown by Deucalion became men and the stones thrown by Pyrrha became women.
               Seeing how this myth originally stemmed from the story of Utnapishtim in the legend of Gilgamesh, there are many similarities between the two stories. Both have previous knowledge of the flood, and both build boats to survive. However, there are far more differences than similarities. The cause of the flood, in the legend of Gilgamesh is because the Gods complained humans were growing far too noisy, instead of sin like in the Greek version. During the flood, In the epic of Gilgamesh it rains for 6 days and 6 nights while it rains for 9 in the Greek version. Both have different symbolism as well – in Utnapishtim he releases a raven, while in the Greek tale they throw "stones over their heads, meant to represent "the bones of their mothers." Utnapishtim is also granted immortality while Deucalion and Pyyrha are not.