Magic, Religion, and Conspiracy Theories

My previous blog (read it here) laid out that as I get older I feel more in awe of science. And that is what we should trust as we look for ways forward and problems to be solved. Indeed, without advances in medical science I would be dead from AIDS by now. But increasingly I see people turning to magic, religion, and conspiracy theories to try to explain their problems and give solutions.

All of these may give comfort but ultimately they are like drugs that seem to make life better but without actually providing the real solution. There is no such thing as magic, everything is explicable through science. Religion can have a good side in terms of when people are nice to each other. But it is so often used as a means to justify evil and attack others.

Conspiracy theories are rife and sinister. Indeed, I had the misfortune last week to talk to someone who started on about the worldwide Jewish conspiracy – that was when our conversation ended. When someone with power promotes their conspiracy theory, I’m always reminded of the advice ‘Ask yourself why this bastard is lying to me?’ Invariably it is about making themselves more powerful and richer.

Science over magic

One of those weeks where your plans go to pot

I had last week all laid out in my head. As I said in my previous blog, my clear intention was 3 gym sessions and at least one swim. No bad magic, devil, or conspiracy theory to blame. Rather it was a week knocked off track by caring issues, personal medical stuff, and an unexpectedly closed gym.

Mum: Big shops and a great weekend

Primarily I just spent time chilling with mum last week. But I also did a couple of big shops for her, one of which meant carrying a big heavy bag of stuff back from Iceland (the shop not the country!). Then my brother took mum to get her hair done on Friday. And on Saturday, he drove her to his partner’s place for dinner.

Me and Dave went over by train and came back to London by train later in the evening. It was a magical time with my niece and her partner also turning up as a surprise. Great to meet her partner’s parents’ dogs as well as my brother’s partner’s cat, Fred. He is wonderful – a big black fat cat.

Mum stayed over the night and then my brother brought her back home on Sunday. Overall, it was quite tiring for mum but it’s nice to have things like this that get her out of ‘looking at the same four walls’ – her words, not mine.

Patrick: The week his broadband was installed

One of those weeks when misunderstanding came to the fore but stuff got sorted eventually. My understanding was that the new hub would be delivered to Patrick and then an engineer would contact me to arrange a visit to set everything up. So start of the week, hub delivered and then the phone just went dead. Patrick was brilliantly pro-active and used a neighbour’s phone to demand the company come and set up his broadband which they did.

I went round to check it was all OK and to set up Patrick’s new laptop. This all went very well. What was a problem was that his personal alarm needed to be reconnected to the new broadband. The alarm company’s engineer eventually turned up but much later than stated and really did the minimum he could do in terms of service.

Day after I went with Patrick to get some shopping and sat down with him to go over any problems he was having with the laptop. Nothing major but it is instructive to understand what others have difficulty with on a piece of equipment you know so well. I suppose that’s what makes a good teacher: patience, understanding, and enthusiasm to pass on knowledge. Really is great seeing how much Patrick is enjoying using his new computer. Next step – a new TV.

Man with binary code projected on his face

Old friends: Daisy and Jimmy

So nice to see my old mate David (aka Daisy to differentiate him from various other Davids) on Monday evening. Indeed, my partner Dave was able to make it and that made the evening even better. Lots of nice chats and so good to hear about Daisy’s plans for the future. Plus we saw the French movie star Leslie Caron sitting at another table – read about her here.

Then on Saturday, me and Dave had to travel to the train station to get the train to my bother’s partner’s place. This was after we dropped off Patrick to go to the ballet with our friend Frances. Plenty of time, so me and Dave popped into Gay’s The Word bookshop. Haven’t been there in ages but a monumental place in modern British gay history. And so nice to see Jimmy who has been involved with the shop for most of the time it has been open. We also both knew my dear friend James who died nearly ten years ago – that is a special bond for both of us.

‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’

Dr. Seuss

Dealing with personal medical stuff

A trip to the hospital on Tuesday for bloods, etc. These things always take longer than expected. Indeed, the staff were lovely but it took me about two hours including a 30 minute wait at the hospital pharmacy. Followed by also collecting some of mum’s meds and getting her big Iceland shop.

Then on Friday, to the GP to get my regular INR check done. All good; in the ideal zone between my blood tending to clotting or running the risk of internal bleeding. Also had to get some checks done based on the possible side-effects of a new med I am taking for my prostate issues. All good though I’m really not sure the med is making much difference so I’m tempted to stop taking it.

pills

Gym: Just 2 sessions because of an unexpected closure

The plan was 3 sessions by only 2 achieved. Monday morning was good. Then went to the gym on Wed to find it unexpectedly but temporarily closed. Went again the next day to find it was open – hooray. But I didn’t feel full of energy that day so ended up doing a good workout but without some of the heavier weights I had been using previously. I had a plan to go on Friday as well but just wasn’t in the mood when I woke up.

56 gym sessions since the start of 2024 divided by the annual membership = £9.80 per session.

No swims but a good long walk

Tues afternoon I was with mum so the next best time to go for a swim was Thurs morning (based on when my pool is open and available for general swimmers). But I really wanted to go to the gym to make up for missing Wed’s session.

So no swims last week and only 2 gym sessions achieved. What I did do on Friday morning though was to have one of my long purposeful walks. Ended up walking for about 2 hours which got me to the GP’s and back as well as some other places. Not done it for a while and it was very enjoyable even though I got caught in a small downpour.

lady going for jog-run in cold weather

‘Our Accidental Universe’ by Chris Lintott

There is no magic, only science. In my previous blog, I highlighted how I am finding myself enjoying ‘accessible science’ books. I’ve stated before how I like non-fiction that gives new depth on something I know or, even better, wows me in a subject I know very little about.

The sub-title is ‘Stories of Discovery from Asteroids to Aliens’. The book comes from an angle of updating us with the latest developments in astronomy in the past few years. And highlighting how much of what we are discovering is by accident. Suggesting that innovation and ‘great leaps forward’ may arise from setting out to be deliberately innovatory but the end points are not the ones that we expect they will be.

This is a beautifully written book that is so very easy to understand although some of the things it tells us are absolutely mind-blowing. Indeed, the scale of the size of the universe is astounding. But we still don’t know if other life exists though it may actually have been and gone. And may arise after our civilisation is over.

I don’t think we will ever travel faster than the speed of light. And, if that is the case, then even if we find life elsewhere we may never be able to travel to meet them. Popular sci-fi almost certainly gives us a future that can never happen. And then there is the question of getting our non-scientific heads around understanding how the universe began with the Big Bang as well as what was there before and what there will be after the universe ‘ends’ (cue easy religious answers…)

Phobos

‘Man Plus’ by Frederik Pohl

A wonderful and relatively short sci-fi novel written in 1976. The world is in crisis and the big hope is to put human beings on Mars. The reality is that for people to survive on Mars, they need to have their bodies adapted. Thus a cyborg is created – based on a human being but actually physically more like a machine.

Our ‘hero’ finds himself almost accidentally becoming the first human who will be able to live on Mars. But despite being a non-human machine in so many ways, he is very emotionally affected. Thus is his very ability to function put at risk. And in the background is a mysterious force that is affecting the outcome of everything.

A very prescient book to my mind not least as I suspect the future for humanity is as cyborgs. With machinery enabling our bodies to function better and for longer. Plus neuro-links to ensure that the merger of human and computer become closer. And sci-fi tells us so much that this is what is to come, witness characters like the Cybermen, the Borg, the Terminator, RoboCop, etc.

Classic cyberman

No magic solution, only hard work

This is true of so many things. It’s practice and determination that makes the difference not magical beings. You master something by learning as much about it as possible and practising. And so I plod (but in a good way) onwards with my daily Duolingo. Perhaps I’ve dipped a bit in how much I’m doing each week but it is still every day. And I feel like I am building the foundations for some sort of future lift-off.

Euros 2024

Weather is still quite iffy with lots of showers. But summer is here in that lots of big events have started to take place. I love big events that you can just dip in and out of on the TV. OK they do mess up the normal TV schedules particularly the soaps – as mum would say, ‘Not bloody football again’. But I think it’s great just to dip in and out of the matches as they are happening.

  • I really want a nice quiet week. One where I can spend time with mum and Patrick but also get to the gym 3 times and at least one swim.
  • I’m actually reading 2 fiction books concurrently. A good feminist novel though with a strong dose of magic which I don’t take too seriously. And the next historical fiction novel in the series by S J Parris following the fictional adventures of real life person Giordano Bruno.
  • The Euros continue and the week after next it’s Glastonbury. I’m also really looking forward to the Olympics later this summer.
  • Need to keep an eye on my calorie intake and so keep my weight under control. Weight loss is definitely not magic, it’s just about eating less.
  • Really want to get some art into my life. A trip to a museum or art gallery would be lovely.
Absurdities and atrocities

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