Tag Archive: bravery

Google Gagarin

It Was 50 Years Ago, Today

…when mankind left the gravitational confines of our Earth.

Google Gagarin

Google Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

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

Gagarin Launch

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

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 Celebration

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..

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Whales and Space Demonstrate Contrasts In Humanity

Introduction

Two items on today’s news demonstrated the vast contrasts in our humanity. Stardust probe finds ‘subdued’ comet crater & Japan halts whale hunt after chase by protesters.

Our Absolute Ingenuity and Progress

Four views of comet Tempel 1 as the Stardust spacecraft swept past.

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 2It 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.

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 Whales On the Nisshin Maru research factory ship

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

Whale for Sale: Sales of whalemeat have fallen, despite promotion

Here we see an advert for the “research” results.

mmm yummy.

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.

Thank Goodness For Bravery

Whalers clash with Conservationists

Whalers clash with Conservationists

So we should all thank the people from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who have peacefully risked their lives “for the bigger picture”.

It’s another aspect of humanity revealed to me today, in the news.

Bravery & Courage.

Ady Gil and Shonan Maru 2 confrontation

Ady Gil and Shonan Maru 2 confrontation

The whalers say constant harassment has forced them to suspend operations – well dah!

That’s the definition of bravery, as seen in these dramatic shots.

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Curious Suicide

The Coroner and The 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”

Dennis and Flora Milner said they wanted to decide when to die

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.  It is also very common, over 110k webpages!

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!

New Economy

Angst

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?

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.” – Nichiren, The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life

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”?

Suicide Types

Disappearance/Appearance

Value

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

 

Grieving Woman

We must remember that so long as war exists on earth there will be some danger that even the nation which most ardently desires peace may be drawn into war . . .
I hate war . . .
Let those who wish our friendship look us in the eye and take our hand.
© Gettty Images https://tinyurl.com/looceef

In each of these cases, the potential for that person’s own death is there precisely because they set aside for an undefined 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.

Country-Person, Person-Country?

Nationalism and native land

Nationalism and native land

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

and here;

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

Soldier Love

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.

In this story, a very good Agatha Christie type of mystery, transported into the modern era in a multi-cultural ghetto that explores the social conflicts and mores from many angles, not least the personal, the social, the political, the economic and the cultural clash angles, one of the characters, Hassan, says,

‘Fucking love, ain’t it, messing with you, makes you unable to think clear.’

And that’s about the sum of it.

Let there be light

Let there be light

For the love of a woman, a man, your children, a country, a religion, a promise of a better future;  these are all good and valid reasons for a suicide.

Question?

Now can anyone tell me a valid reason to oppose someone’s suicide?

Answers must be logically consistent.  When you’ve got them, then either reply here or write them on a piece of paper and shove them up your arse.

I really don’t care.  It’s my blog space and I’ll say what I want.

 

Somewhat Related:

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.

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Pirate’s Revenge

It’s funny how things change and how the world has different perceptions of a people.  You see, people have long memories.

Somali Pirates Vow Revenge on U.S., France on Rescues – is the news currently.  Also, the Somalis have taken pot-shots at a US politician in Mogadishu according to Voice of America.

Maersk AlabamaThis all flies in the wake of the piratic capture of the container vessel, Maersk Alabama (ironically delivering aid to Somalia) and the subsequent events which included quick thinking and stellar bravery all round.

@AmazonThe trouble is that it was a US crew, and their Navy shot some pirates.  Deeply doubly worse though, is that these events have gone on for so long now, (starting well back in the Bush era), and any decent control has been woefully inadequate.  The pirates have now literally amassed a pirate’s ransom and can afford a huge arsenal, and also have become exceedingly cock-sure and confident about their own capabilities.

Even worse, these are the same peoples who booted the USA ignominiously out of Somali way back in 1993.  People have long memories.  In their mind, they see the USA as an aggressive yet defeatable opponent.  And because of years of Western vacillation over the problem, they now have a decent technological and military capability.

Pity the poor 290 hostages still in Somalia!

Contrast this to last November or January.

In November, a few Royal Navy Marines in rubber dingies countered a pirate threat and killed some pirates – no threats of revenge.  See Rubber Dingies beat Flying Metal in War on Pirates

In January some pirates drowned following the Sirius Star event (later ransomed for $3m, most getting soggy) – no threats of revenge.  See  Not all Pirates Win, but Most Do!

Conclusion

This is obviously an on-going tale.  But if people had done the right thing years ago, this could all have been avoided.

The sea people of Somalia have turned to piracy because they had no money and are destined to live in a virtual desert.  Ineffectual self-government, a civil war, mad Arab rabble-rousers, famine, disease, foreign invasion.     They’ve had the lot.

All the people actually needed was a bit of cash, a bit of food, a bit of hope and a bit of a future.  For the cost of a small ship spent 10 years ago when they were being ignored, things could have been so much better now.

What Should we Have Done?

Across the world, there’s a set of universal laws that people of all cultures recognise.  Piracy and hostage taking is obviously ‘a bad thing’ no matter who or where you are.

  • This should have been nipped in the bud at it’s very first breakout.
  • Money and other resources and help should have been immediately pumped into the area to better people’s lives.

That’s all. Nothing fancy.

People all over the world recognise right from wrong.  They also recognise when they are being abused and forgotten.  Many years of this leads them never to forget – and that’s the ridiculous situation in which we find ourselves today.

It’s another chickens coming home to roost scenario.

What Will Happen Now?

Well what I hope won’t happen, is that the full might of weaponry isn’t let loose again.  The Somalis and the Americans must both be seen not to lose face, and the 290 hostages …?  I hate to say it, but it’s not good.

I won’t even think of the term ‘collateral damage’, so the Somalis must be made an offer that they can’t possibly refuse in return for leaving the high seas fee for passage.  It’s not a promise of money that’s important – it’s more that they must be shown a vision of a demonstrably better future.  If you need help wondering what that means – then just put yourself in their shoes.

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Mars Phoenix Promises Astonishing Hope for The Future of Mankind

How so?

As I write this post, a little spaceship is sat on Mars, basking in the relative warmth of the sun but still, in a very physically hostile place.

I am (slightly) older than the “space age”, which most people would say started with the Russian Sputnik launch in 1957, so I have grown up watching astonishing feats of bravery, skill and ingenuity, so much so, that like most other people, I’ve become blase about the whole thing.

It’s only the odd explosion that attracts the attention. For most people, the world of the internet is just click and browse and chat – the physics and technology that allows instantaneous communication around the globe is just hidden away – “oh! it’s another Intelsat launch – hmm”

However, two pictures from The Phoenix program showed and reminded me just how far we as a species have come and what we are capable of… It’s not the pictures from the surface of another heavenly body that I’m thinking about – we’ve had them since the sixties. They are old hat! ;-)

It's a Parachute!

It's a Parachute!

No, the first one is at the left.

Currently orbiting Mars is another spaceship, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It took the picture of Phoenix dropping down to the Martian surface, suspended beneath it’s parachute. That single picture summarised, for me, just how good we’ve become.

Mars is millions of miles away, and yet we can take a picture from one craft, remotely, of another craft, miles away, in so much detail that we can actually see the parachute chords!

Remember, we didn’t remote control the craft – the radio waves take too long to reach Mars for direct radio control… We programmed the craft to do it!

On the Surface!

On the Surface!

The next picture is the craft on the Martian surface, viewed from the orbiting spacecraft. We can even see the solar panels unfurled!

Truly, if we as a species are capable of this, then we can do anything we put our minds to! I do not see the energy crisis as an insurmountable problem. Or global hunger. Or global conflicts. Or global warfare.

The problem is purely of people’s creation and the problem lies within our minds. If we decide it’s NOT a problem but is in fact a simple task that enables us all to keep living, then we can do these little tasks. We can see parachute chords on other worlds – we can surely keep the trees growing.

If we can’t do these tasks, then because Mars is a much less tectonically active place than the Earth, in a billion years the only evidence that humans existed on Earth won’t be on Earth, it’ll be on Mars!

md_646_1_

Phoenix descends past Martian Crater

The proof that Mars is tectonically inactive lies in this picture. The spaceship is floating down on it’s parachute in line of sight of a huge Martian crater.

Statistically, the inner worlds of Earth, Venus and Mars have been whacked by meteorites at the same rate. The only reason the Earth isn’t covered in meteorite scars is that crustal movements and weathering erode them away – quickly, (in geological time-speak). Craters like this have been made many times on Earth. We only see small remnants left now – until the next one arrives.

This picture also shows something of the immense time-spans that I’m talking about. This crater could be a billion years old!

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