Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby cfimages » 15 Aug 2011, 10:59

Pudu in Keelung (Jilong)

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This post was recommended by Charlie Jack (15 Aug 2011, 11:21)
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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby Charlie Jack » 15 Aug 2011, 11:22

Thanks, Icon (for the description) and cfimages (for the pictures).

*************************************************************************************************************

Parts of this thread put me in mind of a long-forgotten episode:

Twenty-one-year-old Lance Corporal Charlie Jack: Gripe-da gripe-da gripe-ety-gripe-gripe. Gripe-ola, gripe-acity, and gripe-amentarianism. In sum, and griping with the utmost gripe-isticality, gripe-issimo! the very quintessence of gripe!

Sergeant [deftly placing his right thumb under his right eye and his right index finger under his left eye, and pulling the skin down so as to reveal more eyeball area, all the while maintaining a perfect deadpan]: Jack, you see the concern in my eyes? Sounds like you got a personal problem. The chaplain's just down the road.

'Course, that remedy's not available to everyone.


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. . . a Cheyenne takes a bath every day in the nearest water, and even if they hadn't observed that custom, there would have been another requirement to take its place. If you're a human being, you can't get away from obligations.
--Thomas Berger, Little Big Man
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Re: Is it just me, or is Ghost Month especially over the top this year?

Postby bob » 15 Aug 2011, 18:02

yuli wrote: Have scientists got anything more useful to say on the topic of art than they are unable to say on religion? :doh: I thought so!

.....................

So... why not live with your religion, science (a very useful religion, if you ask me), and leave the rest in peace? :cool:


Science certainly has had a lot to offer on the subject of music recently. Check out "This is your brain on music" by Daniel J. Levitin and you'll see what I mean.

Science though is definitely NOT my religion. I understand that many people revere science as though it were a religion but my understanding is that science in it's purest sense (uncorrupted by politics, business etc.) is precisely the "opposite" of religion. If I think that it is kind of insulting in a way to insist that it IS my religion.

My thing is that belief in superstition is crazy (and I use that term in the nicest possible way). Sure, a lot of people are superstitious, but a lot of people are more or less crazy too and the more advanced our understanding of psychology and all the other sciences becomes the more crazy an educated person has to be to belive in one. Craziness is not "always" a bad thing but in this instance it clearly is.

That's all I am saying.
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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby yuli » 15 Aug 2011, 20:13

GuyInTaiwan wrote:yuli: Because their religion doesn't leave others in peace. As several people have pointed out, it causes air pollution.

I'm all for changes in social customs and habits to make life more sustainable - for example, there is no need for most of the milllions of people who drive to church every Sunday in the USA to use their own cars: well-organised bus services would cut down not only on the weekly pollution but also eilminate the need for parking lots near the churches - those spaces could then be turned into forest parks that help clean the air.
(For exanple, in the USA alone, if you take a conservative 20% national average of church attendance - see the two articles mentioned below - and assume that on average 3 people use one car - probably also a very conservative assumption - such a move would keep 20 million cars off the roads on Sunday mornings.
Information about church attendace figures in the USA is in the first article, and the second article is one that is mentioned inthe first one, to explain discrepancies between poll data and actual observation:
http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100 ... attendance
http://www.religion-online.org/showarti ... ?title=237 )
Now, changes of that kind do not require anybody to berate those millions how idiotic, superstitious, and unscientific their beliefs and customs are. :wink:
Also, where does all that paper come from? An old growth forest perhaps?

Not likely - old growth wood is expensive and used for products where fiber strength and fiber length is wanted. But according to this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joss_paper the source material is bamboo (which, as most people on thos forum probably know, is a kind of woody grass that can reach tree height).
 
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Re: Is it just me, or is Ghost Month especially over the top this year?

Postby yuli » 15 Aug 2011, 21:08

bob wrote:Science certainly has had a lot to offer on the subject of music recently. Check out "This is your brain on music" by Daniel J. Levitin and you'll see what I mean.

Oh, I am a great fan of scientific research into the physiology and psychology of music, dance, and other art forms - I have also always enjoyed reading about brain research in general. My point is not that scientists have little to say about artistic activities - no, I am sure scientists have quite a lot to say about that topic - my point is that science (as a whole) has little to say (in a philosophical sense) about art and religion as such and the human predisposition to create and maintain art and religion.
And it may also be the case that for you science is not a religion - although your zeal makes me suspicious :wink: - but for many people it is a religion - and it is quite likely that science as a religion will become even more popular as some other religions lose strength. (In any case, we need to be careful that we don't compare science in its purest sense with everyday religions practices - if any comparison is to be the least bit useful it should be between the pure forms on one hand and the practiced reality on the other... :wink:)
About the ghost month: in Taiwan it is not my culture so I don't participate in any activities here, but when at home, I find it important to spend the three days during which we remember the ancestors with my family - remembering the ancestors that are still alive is as impotant as remembering those that are no longer alive (PS: Okinawans do not worship the ancestors as is often falsely claimed: the attitude is one of respect for past generations, which is a foundation for the psychological wellbeing of the next generation - and every family has their own way of doing things). And I am sure that in Taiwan there is also much more diversity in people's attitutdes and beliefs than what burning paper money at roadsides would suggest to outside observers...
 
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Re: Is it just me, or is Ghost Month especially over the top this year?

Postby bob » 15 Aug 2011, 23:42

yuli wrote:
bob wrote:Science certainly has had a lot to offer on the subject of music recently. Check out "This is your brain on music" by Daniel J. Levitin and you'll see what I mean.

Oh, I am a great fan of scientific research into the physiology and psychology of music, dance, and other art forms - I have also always enjoyed reading about brain research in general. My point is not that scientists have little to say about artistic activities - no, I am sure scientists have quite a lot to say about that topic - my point is that science (as a whole) has little to say (in a philosophical sense) about art and religion as such and the human predisposition to create and maintain art and religion.
And it may also be the case that for you science is not a religion - although your zeal makes me suspicious :wink: - but for many people it is a religion - and it is quite likely that science as a religion will become even more popular as some other religions lose strength. (In any case, we need to be careful that we don't compare science in its purest sense with everyday religions practices - if any comparison is to be the least bit useful it should be between the pure forms on one hand and the practiced reality on the other... :wink:)
About the ghost month: in Taiwan it is not my culture so I don't participate in any activities here, but when at home, I find it important to spend the three days during which we remember the ancestors with my family - remembering the ancestors that are still alive is as impotant as remembering those that are no longer alive (PS: Okinawans do not worship the ancestors as is often falsely claimed: the attitude is one of respect for past generations, which is a foundation for the psychological wellbeing of the next generation - and every family has their own way of doing things). And I am sure that in Taiwan there is also much more diversity in people's attitutdes and beliefs than what burning paper money at roadsides would suggest to outside observers...


My wife bought a collection of short Zen Buddhist stories that she will translate for me every time she thinks that one has something to say that I need to hear. It's terrific, but it's not really religion. It's not religion until you add in the superstitious bits.

science (as a whole) has little to say (in a philosophical sense) about art and religion as such and the human predisposition to create and maintain art and religion.


What difference does that make? Science is beginning to explain that scientifically. Art has an adaptive function and is therefore worth supporting. I support art with my life since it is all I do. There is no philosophy that will change that because the value of art is simply apparent to me, as it is to many, many people.

(In any case, we need to be careful that we don't compare science in its purest sense with everyday religions practices - if any comparison is to be the least bit useful it should be between the pure forms on one hand and the practiced reality on the other... :wink:)
Oops. That is what I was doing. I guess that was a joke. Anyway you slice it though, comparing the pure form of science with religion in it's ideal form, or in the form that it takes as a practiced reality, you still find the superstition. On the other hand, the marketing, the hype, the politics etc. that go along with science don't have anything to do with what real science is.

I understand that ancestor respect or worship is extremely important to most Eastern cultures and from what I gather that usually has quite a positive impact on people, and for reasons I am probably ill equiped to lecture you about. However, the fact that Okinawans have preserved the benefit that comes with respecting the dead, while at the same time have done away with the superstition involved with worshipping them indicates to me that the mumbo jumbo can be done away with. That is essentially what should happen IMHO. Preserve the art and the wisdom and do away with the superstition. You are essentially arguing my position there.

Do they stink up the place with smoldering piles of ghost money in Okinawa?
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Re: Is it just me, or is Ghost Month especially over the top this year?

Postby yuli » 16 Aug 2011, 00:43

bob wrote:My wife bought a collection of short Zen Buddhist stories that she will translate for me every time she thinks that one has something to say that I need to hear. It's terrific, but it's not really religion. It's not religion until you add in the superstitious bits.

Exactly - in your definition! You may recall that i defined "religion" differently in another thread - independent of "superstition"...
bob wrote:
science (as a whole) has little to say (in a philosophical sense) about art and religion as such and the human predisposition to create and maintain art and religion.

What difference does that make? Science is beginning to explain that scientifically. Art has an adaptive function and is therefore worth supporting. I support art with my life since it is all I do. There is no philosophy that will change that because the value of art is simply apparent to me, as it is to many, many people.

As you may recall a similar argument in favour of religion was made recently in that other thread, too... :wink:
bob wrote:
(In any case, we need to be careful that we don't compare science in its purest sense with everyday religions practices - if any comparison is to be the least bit useful it should be between the pure forms on one hand and the practiced reality on the other... :wink:)

Oops. That is what I was doing. I guess that was a joke. Anyway you slice it though, comparing the pure form of science with religion in it's ideal form, or in the form that it takes as a practiced reality, you still find the superstition.

Whenver you reach a limit of understanding superstition comes in - but since no human can understand everything, who is free of superstition? There aren't many who can live confortably in the face of "the great unknown"...
The marketing, the hype, the politics etc. that go along with science don't have anything to do with what real science is.

:thumbsup:
I understand that ancestor respect or worship is extremely important to most Eastern cultures and from what I gather that usually has quite a positive impact on people, and for reasons I am probably ill equiped to lecture you about. However, the fact that Okinawans have preserved the benefit that comes with respecting the dead, while at the same time have done away with the superstition involved with worshipping them indicates to me that the mumbo jumbo can be done away with.

What i described is the general approach - there are, of course, individuals who feel differently, and there are plenty of cases known where mortals have been elevated to gods and worshipped. Human diversity is no different in Okinawa than anywhere else. But what I meant to say is that there is no doctrine or "general creed" that suggests worship - the general line is "reverence" and "commemoration"...
Not sure one could talk about "putting away with superstition" - the mere idea that the spirits of the ancestors are with us would be considered superstition by critics, no?

But i see all this in the same way as art: language is used to paint mental images, to create allegories, to set up paradoxes: the problem i see is that too many people take too much of all this "literally" - in any part of the world. I remember the healing circle i joined one day, on the invitation of a friend, when i lived at the west coast of Canada: everybody spoke a little bit about their religion, and when it was my turn i suggested that i did not belive in any particular religion but wanted to develop a way that would let me be open to everything and not get stuck on any one view of reality. As the talking stick moved around the circle, people kept talking about their specific beliefs, and i can't remember any details of what i heard that day except what the native shaman on the other side of the circle said: he told us that he believed in all religions because that allowed him to be open to everything. :wink: I still enjoy the memory of that experience...

By the way, I have a question for the other people who are interested in the topic of the ghost month in Taiwan: why do you call them "ghosts" in the Taiwanese culture but "souls" in your culture? This seems to me like a strong value judgement: ghosts = bad, stupid / souls = good, subtle - tell me it ain't so...
 
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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby bob » 16 Aug 2011, 01:35

Exactly - in your definition! You may recall that i defined "religion" differently in another thread - independent of "superstition"...

But you can't just define words any way you please. Religion "is" a belief in an active god or gods. That's superstition. No god or gods "does" anything.

As you may recall a similar argument in favour of religion was made recently in that other thread, too...

I don't doubt that religion served an adaptive function, what I question is whether it remains adaptive. That's what I said in the other thread too.


Whenver you reach a limit of understanding superstition comes in - but since no human can understand everything, who is free of superstition? There aren't many who can live confortably in the face of "the great unknown"...

But that is only according to your own logic. "Whenver you reach a limit of understanding superstition comes in." No, lots of people can just admit that they just don't know. And I think a lot more people are free of superstition than will admit it. What frightens them off is the response that they will be met with if they simply state their logical conclusions. Religious people are sometimes not just in positions of authority, but extremely scary.



the mere idea that the spirits of the ancestors are with us would be considered superstition by critics, no?


Yes, sorry.

As the talking stick moved around the circle, people kept talking about their specific beliefs, and i can't remember any details of what i heard that day except what the native shaman on the other side of the circle said: he told us that he believed in all religions because that allowed him to be open to everything. I still enjoy the memory of that experience...


Open to "everything?" How flakey is that? Anyway, I know about the healing circles that aboriginee people do and respect the concept, to a point. It is valuable for people to have a place to say what they want, uninterupted, but it also important that people engage in a real dialectic. The shaman probably drove a Buick to the circle. He doesn't believe in all religions.. You'd have to be crazy to believe in all religions....
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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby yuli » 16 Aug 2011, 09:04

bob wrote:Religion "is" a belief in an active god or gods.

It's not that simple - we have to be careful not to take words too literally. But let's leave it at that, since it is OT in this thread.
Whenver you reach a limit of understanding superstition comes in - but since no human can understand everything, who is free of superstition? There aren't many who can live confortably in the face of "the great unknown"...

But that is only according to your own logic. "Whenver you reach a limit of understanding superstition comes in." No, lots of people can just admit that they just don't know.

Those "lots of people" still appear to be very much a minority in terms of making a generalization about the world in general (my comment was just that, not an autobiographic statement).
What frightens them off is the response that they will be met with if they simply state their logical conclusions. Religious people are sometimes not just in positions of authority, but extremely scary.

Yes, too many are. And I think that if people who base their world view on logical conclusions according to your definition were to get (en masse) into a position of power, some of them, in some places, would exercise that power to suppress other world views all the same. Logical conclusions have never stopped people from acting out instincts, desires, feelings, and so on...
the mere idea that the spirits of the ancestors are with us would be considered superstition by critics, no?

Yes, sorry.

Again, my suggestion not to take things too literally. Surely you would agree that we humans have this common notion that we have what is called (in English) "memory". And in a person's memory somebody else can appear very alive who is physically long dead. Would you suggest that "memory" = "superstition"? I don't think so... but the boundaries are fluent: to bridge from individual memory to shared memory people use words, and it makes little sense to pounce on those crying "superstition".
As the talking stick moved around the circle, people kept talking about their specific beliefs, and i can't remember any details of what i heard that day except what the native shaman on the other side of the circle said: he told us that he believed in all religions because that allowed him to be open to everything. I still enjoy the memory of that experience...

Open to "everything?" How flakey is that?

Yeah, I've heard the associated jokes. I understand now that you take everything literally, so we need not argue about any of this. :wink:
Anyway, I know about the healing circles that aboriginee people do and respect the concept, to a point. It is valuable for people to have a place to say what they want, uninterupted, but it also important that people engage in a real dialectic.

Whether it is important or not depends on one's perspective. :) And there are many dialectics, inlcuding one of art. In any case, logic is not the right tool to approach art with, that's for sure (the collision is always entertaining, though).
The shaman probably drove a Buick to the circle. He doesn't believe in all religions.. You'd have to be crazy to believe in all religions....

Oh, really? :roflmao: Sorry, but literalism is funny (in the nice sense of the word, like "entertaining" or "causing pleasure", not in any negative sense)...
Anyway - as usual interesting to talk with you, but I am afraid we've been getting OT here - in any case, I'd like to see whether anybody can answer my question (at the end of my previous post), which I think is on topic.
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Re: Is It Just Me, or Is Ghost Month Especially Over the Top This Year?

Postby bob » 16 Aug 2011, 21:39

It's like how in some circles most people get angry when you ask a question like, "Do you literally believe that human beings were created when the Raven mated with a sea shell and nine months later heard voices coming from it and that when he opened the shell to investigate he discovered he had fathered tiny human beings living inside and that when he bored of them, he considered returning them to their shell, but opted instead to find female counterparts of these male beings?'". Do you literally believe that the raven found some female humans trapped in a chiton, freed them, and was entertained as the two sexes met and began to interact?"

They get angry when you ask those questions because obviously they don't literally believe that (you'd have to be pretty uneducated to believe it and they find the question insulting) or because they "do" literally believe it (and find the question culturally insensitive) or because you aren't really supposed to ask questions like that in the big cedar log long house at UBC (you wonder how many acres were laid to waste building THAT thing) and all the while in other places the cast system literally continues to exist, thousands of tons of bamboo paper literally keep being burned for nothing, and buddhists literally keep telling people not to try and escape their Karma and seek a better life. Christians literally keep fighting to keep evolutionary theory out of the classroom, and the president of a country literally prays to god before starting a war with the wrong country. In some countries girls continue to be literally enslaved and with a religious justification.

You begin to suspect a connection between the literal understandings and the literal actions. Still people get frustrated, confused and sometimes angry when you ask the question. Either that or they suggest that you just aren't getting the nuance somehow. You are pretty sure you do.

Meanwhile you have to admit the Haida creation myth is a funny and insightful little story and was never the justification for any atrocity that you are aware of. Not only that but they sure as heck got the art right...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Raven ... t_side.jpg

And they had been getting it right for a loooong time before that, before the half european Bill Reid arrived on the scene and essentially took it over. You know that because you have actually seen totem poles, the real things, still stuck in the ground and graying in the fog, so far removed from the western world the only way to get there was by boat.
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