…when mankind left the gravitational confines of our Earth.
A poor boy from the steppes, Yuri Gagarin, simultaneously became the first man in space and the first man to leave Earth and orbit it completely. (This is something that took NASA several steps before John Glenn finally emulated the feat).
While of humble background (like Jesus), his father was a carpenter (like Jesus) and his mother read voraciously (as Jesus knew the scriptures). Obviously, Gagarin wasn’t Jesus, but he did die in his mid-thirties which parallels Jesus’s early death.
Gagarin Launch on Vostok 1
I was alive when Gagarin stunned the world by being shot into space. I remember very few photos of the man or the event. The West was naturally very embarrassed by being overshadowed by a dictator-led communist state. Most scientists were just astonished. Most politicians and the mainstream media were extremely alarmist in public (and fully actioned in private) because the inter-continental aspect of chucking a nuclear weapon sized piece of machinery aloft at the height of the cold war was paramount in their minds.
What struck me then and since was the fact that Gagarin always seemed to have a happy cheeriness about him. When we now see his pre-flight pictures, his confidence is astounding, because remember, before the voyage, mankind had conflicting ideas about the very survivability for a man in the entirely hostile and unforgiving environment of space. Some said that a man would die within half and hour from radiation….
Of course, the Soviet scientists had tested these theories with mammals (dogs & ape) and knew that even though the animals died on their space-flights (and were destined to die, by design), they knew that a man could survive the flight and if a return to Earth could be made, he’d live to see another day. They’d also done a small step-by-step approach to their rocketry so even though the rocket was made primarily as an ICBM, its designer was actually more interested in getting men into space and had designed accordingly. (see this article on Sergei Korolev and his space-flight dreams).
This, Gagarin duly did, by re-entering the atmosphere in his capsule and then, when the speed had sufficiently reduced, by opening his capsule and leaping from it to then descend on a conventional parachute.
Amazingly, this all worked, perfectly.
International Space Station
We now see the benefits of this early Soviet work because for the next few years, transport of people to the International Space Station (ISS) will be done by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft alone now that the NASA Space Shuttle is grounded for good.
The Soyuz is a direct descendant of Gagarin’s early capsule and the subsequent work and deaths of Soviet cosmonauts. Later joint work with NASA and their own accidents and astronaut deaths have made the Soyuz platform very reliable, in space flight terms. See this Wikipedia article for a full introduction to space-flight of all kinds.
Google, characteristically, have celebrated Gagarin’s achievement (and that it was, make no mistake, he was a very, very, brave man), with a decorated main page which I’ve copied for posterity above.
Hooray For Gagarin.
So it was 50 years ago today. An event that changed the world and our perception of it and ourselves in the universe.
It’s only people some years older than myself who actually remember the previous world where people remained fixed to the planet and could only dream and wonder about the reality beyond. For myself and folks younger than me, we can only to imagine what that world was like because we are part of the world that Gagarin’s bravery opened up for us..
Crikey! I Never Realised! Maybe certain days have relevance above their station and mere numerical nomenclature? Who knows. So read on. See what happened today! 622 AD – The Hijra of Muhammad Muhammad runs away from Mecca to escape persecution. From this point forward, huge swathes of the globe took up Islam, Islamic empires spread...
Introduction You may not have noticed the co-incidence yesterday, but an Iranian aircraft crashed and the US Space Shuttle took off. the co-incidence was in the strange reporting that envelops such events. Iranian Crash This, as air crashes go, was pretty ordinary – something went wrong, it crashed, everyone died. You’d expect some reasoned discussion,...
Four views of comet Tempel 1 as the Stardust spacecraft swept past.
The absolute ingenuity of us humans and how far we have come since our cave-dwelling days is supremely demonstrated by the return of pictures by the spacecraft, Stardust.
In this case, 12 years ago, Stardust was launched to look at an asteroid then collect samples from the dust of a comet, Wild 2. It did all of this wonderfully.
Then, in the meantime, another spacecraft, Deep Impact, had been launched which crashed a small craft into another comet, Tempel, back in 2005, creating a crater.
The fantastic demonstration of our technical expertise is that almost on a whim, it was decided to get the first craft, Stardust, to have a look at this crater and beam the picture back to us – and it did all of this automatically, 336 million km from Earth, which a radio signal takes 18 minutes to travel!
Evidence of the crater: Left shows a Deep Impact photo from 2005; Right shows Stardust's image with a small extra crater.
Our Reluctance to Depart from our Hunter-gatherer Past
Dead Minke On the Nisshin Maru "research factory ship"
Some people still hunt for sport. Some nations dress hunting up with weasel words and hide their blood-lust behind the veil of science. Such a nation is Japan which kills whales for “scientific research” (900-odd this year) yet openly reveals this research as a fraud with with the real goals of short-term monetary gain and blood lust .
Whale for Sale: Sales of whalemeat have fallen, despite promotion
Here we see an advert for the “research” results.
It’s a desperate thing to see this because the Japanese claim that there lots of whales to eat – which was exactly what was said about the blue whale, right whale etc, all of which are now rarities of the ocean when once, they were plentiful.
It’s now being revealed by real research, that the more diverse an ecosystem is (and we live in one, you know), the more chance we will have of surviving all manner of disasters – disease, drought, climate change etc.
This week, I’ve become aware of three excellent initiatives that are focussing people’s energies, creativity, and cash(!) into positive solutions to the global energy crisis. It just shows what can be done – and these projects are not difficult or hard to creative creatures like ourselves. Big Mirrors in the Desert This is a $400billion...
Hell I agree with Leo Laporte that “MySpace is the new hell”. It’s just crap. 100 million people struggling for stuff just out of reach that’s never gonna happen. (see See http://www.twit.tv/natn28) Hieronymus Bosch‘s version is close but the Buddhist concept of “The Hell of Incessant Suffering” is better. Quote: It is because people are...
His world view isn’t set by the media, and the Western media at that.
The thing is when Barack speaks…
Photos showing prisoner abuse in Iraq caused a major scandal in 2004 (click for news item)
The thing is, it all sounds great when Obama speaks. But as with everything, it’s actions that count, not words. And the latest action in America is not pleasant at all.
Under direct command from Obama, Defence Secretary Gates has blocked the publication of any more images featuring Americans abusing and torturing people.
Q. The Reason?
A. National security, of course!
These aren’t all old images, mind you! No! The images span the period from the Twin Towers’ collapse to 22 January 2009 – this year! Gates’ reason for blocking the picture releases is;
“Public disclosure of these photographs would endanger citizens of the US, members of the US armed forces, or employees of the US government deployed outside the US”
Now can you imagine the scenario if a German had said that at the Nuremberg Trials after WW2? What would the US and British media have made of that? Let’s see what it sounds like, should we?
“Public disclosure of these photographs would endanger citizens of Germany, members of the German armed forces, or employees of the German government deployed outside Germany”
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The whole point is that these people have done wrong.
Obama and Opinion
Eye Swear, hope to die .......
Obama’s new response to the blocking of all torture images is wholly at variance with Eisenhower’s at the end of WW2.
Eisenhower got all media and persons to visit the death camps and tell everyone they knew all about them.
Obama? He said;
“…the release of such images would be ‘of no benefit’ and might inflame opinion against the US” – !!!! ???
My opinion is that across the globe, people have been yearning for some leadership on this. A demonstration of the ‘right way’ to behave. A feeling that justice can be done. A beacon of hope to show that actions and attitudes really can change.
There’s a fat chance of anything like that now, is there?
Q. Just what exactly did Obama learn when he lived abroad and elsewhere as a “normal person” as this author confidently states?
A.It certainly wasn’t ethics and it certainly wasn’t honour.
Shakespeare says in Henry V, “Done like a Frenchman: turn, and turn again!” So despite being cool about Sarkozy, Obama has definitely picked up lots of tips on his French trip on D-Day this year about how to behave like Frenchman and how to run a Republic.
See My Old Posts on This – I won’t stop until they do!
Megrahi and Calley compared and contrasted (in this post, VP Clinton said it was a bad day for justice and law… I just say wah? I also remember the deep embarrassment during the US primaries which all Americans should have felt, but forgot, when she claimed to be bravely dodging bullets and plainly wasn’t when the video surfaced.)
CIA Guilty of Torture and Kidnap – Damages of 1.5 Million Euros Amazing news today. An Italian court has bravely taken on the leader of the Western World and convicted 22 CIA agents of kidnap and torture. (see CIA agents guilty of Italy kidnap). The man on the left with the wacky beard and hat,...
Coroner and Law I’m often struck when reading the papers or news, to see the coroner’s verdict on someone’s death as: Ending his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed Well they have to say something, it’s their job, but the phrase is very peculiar. Take this couple, the Milners, who were...
I’m often struck when reading the papers or news, to see the coroner’s verdict on someone’s death as:
Ending his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed
Dennis and Flora Milner said they wanted to decide when to die
Well they have to say something, it’s their job, but the phrase is very peculiar.
Take this couple, the Milners, who were found dead in their home on the 1st November, 2009. They look quite jolly, don’t they. Would you say that the balance of their mind is disturbed?
Current UK law says that it’s OK to end your own life, but illegal to help anyone do it. I’ve emphasised the word “current”, because not that long ago, when the spoken language of the people of Britain would be comprehensible to us here today, it was actually a capital offence to commit suicide! In other words, if you failed to kill yourself, the State would that ensure you got your wish, by hanging you. This all came from the Catholic and then later Protestant religions’ view of life and the hereafter.
This shows that the view of suicide is highly flexible!
A common view, is as I stated at the top; that someone has a mental problem. This is a tautology, of course. (Statement: ‘All people who attempt suicide are mentally ill.’ Question: ‘How do you know they are mentally ill?’ Answer: ‘Because only mentally ill persons would try to commit suicide.’) But more to the point, what is the mind?
People have struggled since the dawn of self-comprehension about “the mind”. Descartes said “I think therefore I am” which is as good as anything.
Nichiren, the Buddhist monk has said many things, usually by quoting other previous Buddhist scholars and the like, and with an alarming number of references to the concept of “mind“, “self” and “existence“. For instance, quoting Dengyo he states,
“The two phases of life and death are the wonderful workings of one mind. The two ways of existence and non-existence are the true functions of an inherently enlightened mind.”
Which is all fine and dandy if you’re not depressed, isn’t it? If you are feeling down, it’s as dust to the wind, isn’t it?
But the truth of what Nichiren is saying is that it encapsulates one’s concept of “self”, regardless of whether you are up or down with your life.
And surely, by knowing oneself, even if you are suicidal, then your mind is never disturbed because at that point you have a very clear idea of “self”?
There are various forms of suicide, neatly classified on this Wikipedia entry. What is clear to me, is that there are, in essence, only two types of suicide, and they both to varying degrees are to do with a lack of value to life, not a disrespect of it.
Respect is a concept based in honour and subservience.
Value is a concept that is transferable across many human activities and we all have a good idea of it’s meaning that is far removed from any concept of society, duty, kinship and a host of other things based around law and natural justice.
The first is when one perceives no value in one’s own life.
Here, I’m separating life and existence into two different things, much as all the world’s major religions do. (Most religions, in one way or another, have at their core the premise that when you die, in the physical sense, that you “go” somewhere else afterwards). In such a case, a person may be fed up with their lot and end it all for one of the reasons that Wikipedia lists. For example, men with families like myself, when getting their pension statement will jokingly say amongst themselves that “I’m worth more dead than alive!”. The truth is that this is a truly valid reason that many suicides will use and is a far closer statement of the reality of many in the Western World’s lives than they care to admit.
The second is when a person sees no value in other’s lives.
Such examples could be:
A soldier in Afghanistan
A soldier in WW1 or WW2
A suicide bomber in Iraq or Afghanistan
A kamikaze pilot in WW2
In each of these cases, the potential for that person’s own death is there precisely because they set aside for a period any value of the person’s life they are going to kill, even though there’s a good chance they too will die.
By doing this they wrap up my first reason within the second. It’s impossible not to!
Of course, they justify their reasons under the flags of patriotism or peace and the promise or expectation of a “better life” either elsewhere for themselves or their families or country.
But what is the point of committing suicide for a country or a belief system like a religion? These are temporary constructs of our human minds. As Nichiren said;
There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. – On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 4
It is like the case of a person who in a dream sees himself performing various good and evil actions. After he wakes up and considers the matter, he realizes that it was all a dream produced by his own mind. This mind of his corresponds to the single principle of the essential nature of phenomena, the true aspect of reality, while the good and evil that appeared in the dream correspond to enlightenment and delusion. – THE ENTITY OF THE MYSTIC LAW – WND1, page 418
So what we have is our own mind.
Who is to say whether it’s mad or bad?
Who is to say that life itself is a true reality, because every single thing we see with our eyes and perceive with our other senses, is actually processed information by, and a product of, our own mind!
This last is pure physics and logic. We live, and see things just like TV. A TV picture is just dots on a screen. Our mind converts them into news, trees, people, porn. But there’s nothing there, only dots. Similarly with Great Art. It’s just paint splodges. It’s our mind that makes the Mona Lisa enigmatic – not even Leonardo’s - it’s our own mind that does it!!!. Just like the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.
Life and Love
So who can put any suicide under any form of disdain? Who can dare compare the suicide of a soldier (usually dressed up as medals and bravery, and they are brave, make no mistake) dying for his or her concept of patriotism with the suicide of a spurned lover, dying for their own concept of life and duty?
It takes just as much bravery for a young girl to walk into a market place and blow herself up as it does for a soldier to run across open ground through a field of enfilading machine gun fire.
And it takes the same bravery for a spurned or deceived lover to end their life when they’ve been through all the options in their own mind, using all the logic at their disposal and deduced that a new, different life for themselves in the next existence is a better option than the current life, especially if, as I said earlier, they consider the value of their life to be greater when they are dead!
To go through all these acts of certain death takes the same amount of courage from everybody, in that I see no distinction.
You may pile up dung and call it sandalwood, but when you burn it, it will give off only the odour of dung. You may pile up a lot of great lies and call them the teachings of the Buddha, but they will never be anything but a gateway to the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering.
Exploring the Simultaneous Nature of Cause & Effect Star Trek: The Next Generation: Finale, Episode - “All Good Things…” I’ve just watched the double episode finale to the TNG Picard series just after the cyclists finished their ascent of Mont Ventoux in this years Tour de France. It was “All Good Things…”(see link, link &...
The pope says sorry for getting it wrong over the holocaust and the nutty bishop The bankers say sorry for getting it wrong with their greedy decisions that lead to the current economic crisis Cricket captains say sorry for losing some games US car maker bosses say sorry for being crap UK Politicians say sorry...
The DWP have lost in the courts again after a tribunal today ruled that the Atos run Work Capability Assessment (WCA) disadvantages people with mental health problems. This follows a string of legal decisions ruling against the DWP as they … Continue reading → […]