Posts Tagged ‘stories’

*** This is the second part of a two-part list. The first part can be found here:

12 Stories in History that Changed the Way I Think – Part 1


# 6

 Sacsayhuaman, Olmec Heads, Atlantis, Homo floresiensis

I have very little difficulty believing that the Great Pyramid at Giza was built by the ancient Egyptians. It was damn hard but I think they were able to pull it off. But Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco built by the Incas? In mountainous terrain? Give me a break! Google that thing, look at the pics and tell me how? … And the Pre-Columbian Olmec heads at La Venta? They all depict black African men. At a time when there weren’t suppose to be any contact between Africa and Mesoamerica? … Cocaine traces in the tissues of Egyptian mummies? That screams Atlantis! … And how about the complete skeletons of pygmy humanoids in Indonesia? Where does that one fit?

History is a messy business. We simply don’t know a lot of things. What we do know are mere best guesses based on reconstructions of how we believe the human story progressed throughout the ages. I wouldn’t be surprised though if it turns out that our entire timeline, our whole premise in fact, is wrong. Maybe there really was an earlier age of humans before ours — the Golden Age myth every primitive culture is referring to in their legends and traditions …

*** The world is an interesting place. So much to learn. So much to do. So many unknowns. So many questions. And when I think about it, I always shake my head in disappointment whenever I see people out there doing nothing more than have some fun. Moreso when they start preaching about their uncaring ways.


# 5

Star Trek

Not so much the TV show, but more of the opening line: “Space, the final frontier.”

None of us alive today will ever live long enough to see the colonization of space actually happen. Yet deep in our consciousness, we always wonder about what the future will look like. We look at the stars at night and we can’t help but wonder about the majesty of it all. It evokes emotions. It stirs up the imagination. Are we alone in the universe? Are there worlds other than this one? What do these other worlds look like? Even the religious among us, when we pray, we look upwards, at the sky, at the stars. We address someone we believe resides somewhere out there. There is probably something to that. Something beyond religion. Something beyond science. Something beyond history.

*** Despite all the advances in our understanding of the world, there is still room to believe in some form of magic. There is still room to recite poetry. There is still room to admire beauty. It is this hope for a future and our creative expression to imagine what it looks like that keeps our human spirit alive.


# 4

Ramses II, Kadesh, Abu Simbel, Qin, Goebbels, Obama, Global Warming and Albert Einstein

Propaganda. First masterfully executed in the grand scale by Ramses II after the Battle of Kadesh, spinning facts to pave the way for his eventual diefication through the building of the Great Temple at Abu Simbel. The same exact techniques employed by the Emperor Qin to compel millions of Chinese to do his bidding. The same techniques custom-fitted for the industrial age by Josef Goebbels for the benefit of his Nazi Party’s goal of Lebensraum. The very same techniques modernized by present day spin doctors to sell shams like Barack Obama’s message of change and the Liberal’s global warming fear-mongering to the same naive and stupid public, who will predictably, now as always, gobble up lies with a smile.

Albert Einstein once said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Einstein was right, as usual.

*** The overwhelming majority of people are weak-minded. Totally incapable of thinking on their own. Easily swayed by whatever opinion is accepted by others around them. If you find yourself agreeing with opinions shared by a large group, chances are, you are on the wrong side of the issue.


# 3

Magellan’s Voyage

In 1519, five wooden ships with 237 men on board left the port of Seville in Spain to undertake what could very well be the most surprisingly successful adventure in human history. And along the way, accomplished something so big that none of the men who were there could have anticipated the enormous implications of what they were about to achieve.

Sailing unknown waters, surrounded by the mythologies of the era, guided only by the stars, at the mercy of the winds, Ferdinand Magellan and his men flung themselves westward, ill-equipped, across the vast expanse of the uncharted Pacific on nothing but mere hunch, pure guts and, undoubtedly, burning curiousity to find out what was out there. And found out they did. Most of the men, including Magellan himself, died during the ardous journey. But in 1522, three years after it all began, one battered ship from the expedition, carrying 18 dying men, made it back to Seville, completed the very first circumnavigation of the world and wrote a story that will forever live in the annals of great human discoveries as one the finest adventures ever.

*** Some stuffs are made of dreams. We won’t always know what lies beyond the fence. But we go for it anyway. Yes, the stakes are high. The odds of winning are slim. But sometimes good things happen nonetheless. Luck smiles more at those who dare try than those who don’t.


# 2

The Discovery of Quantum Physics

Nature, as far as classical Newtonian mechanics is concerned, is very predictable. The phases of the moon, the reaction of chemicals, the splitting of the atom, the genetic variations in asparagus, everything … everything can be calculated with a fair amount of accuracy. Nature, so it seems, follows a finite and very distinct set of rules that determines all the observable behaviors that we can see around us. In fact, maybe, life itself is simple and deterministic. And why not? Our bodies are made from the same chemicals, the same electricity, follows the same fluid dynamics that we can measure in our laboratories. So why not? The temptation to think that way was simply too great to ignore. Until someone, a hundred or so years ago, noticed that the physics of the very small is very different from the physics of the very large. The numbers didn’t align at all. Strange. And so quantum physics was born and changed the whole way science looks at everything.

We can hold a piece rock in our hands. We know it is hard, it is solid. But wait, the atoms that make up this rock is mostly made up of empty space. The protons and neutrons and electrons of these atoms are so small that even if you pack them all together, they would fit inside a pinhead with plenty of room to spare. So why the heck can we hold the rock if it is mostly made up of empty space?

Quantum physics introduced terminologies such as uncertainties, superpositions, multiverses and brought forth discussions about never-ending collections of paradoxes that resulted in the complete shift of scientific thinking from mechanistic determinism towards a more free-wheeling “hey, we’re not so sure anymore, we need more time to study”. Converting scientists from strictly practicing mathematicians to creative thinking philosophers bodes well for the future of research.

So, what happens if the geeks who built the Large Hadron Collider succeeds in proving the existence of the Higgs boson? Hahaha, man, don’t ask me. Do your own speculation and then let’s discuss.

*** Open-mindedness is the hallmark of true intelligence. Never be afraid to change your mind in the light of new evidence. Knowledge is good. But no knowledge is sacred. The dogmatic approach to believe in whatever you currently believe in no matter what is the attitude of a fool.


# 1

The Selfish Gene

Published in 1976, The Selfish Gene by zoologist Richard Dawkins is probably the most misinterpreted popular science book of all time. The confusion stems from the title of the book itself as the word “selfish” implies a rather unsavory characteristic that is carried forward by most to mean that the book was trying to justify selfish human behaviors through biological arguments, which, of course, it wasn’t.

Getting pass that common misunderstanding, the book was all about expressing the mechanisms of evolution through the point-of-view of genes and provided a very compelling explanation of why altruism exists in nature. This explanation, to my mind, provided the groundwork necessary towards understanding human nature deeper than those existing models proposed based on anthropological and sociological studies.

Because all living organisms are inherently wired to try to propagate their own genes, the rationale behind the principles of individualism stands on firmer scientific ground compared to the rationale behind the principles of collectivism. In evolutionary terms, “for the good of the species” is a consideration that sits lower in the hierarchy of priorities compared to “for the good of the individual”. Observations of various biological systems support this fact. In sociological terms, individualism should precede collectivism. Observations of human societies — the failure of communism, the abuses of nazism and fascism, the problems of socialism, and the success of capitalism — offers an interesting parallel that strongly implies that Dawkin’s arguments suggesting innately “selfish” motives for altruism is correct.

*** Help yourself before helping others. There is nothing intrinsically wrong about it no matter what other people say. The success of a society is nothing more than the aggregate successes of the individuals making up that society. Sacrificing your own success for the success of others is an unnatural way of pursuing life and is punished by nature in biological terms.

~ GC

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# 12
Darwin’s Bulldog

Charles Darwin was a brilliant man with a brilliant idea. But he was old, frail, good-natured and was just plain too nice to directly confront the hardliner scientists of his era who were critical of his fringe concepts. Then along came Thomas Huxley to Darwin’s side — young, fiery, totally uninhibited. Unafraid to clash swords with anyone. Willing to shout at and stare down even the most revered personality around. And boy did he gave his opponents quite the lashing. Without Huxley, the Theory of Evolution would have found it more difficult to go mainstream in the middle of all the criticisms thrown against it by the standing scientific establishment of the time. Hats off to Huxley and his sharp tongue.

*** To be brilliant is a good thing. But to remain quiet and nice in the middle of stupidity is not. Sometimes we have to shout. Sometimes we have to show people how dumb they really are.

# 11
Cortes and the Aztecs, Pizarro and the Incas

Hernan Cortes and the few hundred Spanish soldiers who was with him brought down Montezuma and the entire Aztec civilization within a few short years of their landing in Mesoamerica. Francisco Pizarro and his few hundred Spaniards did the same thing to Atahualpa and the empire of the Incas farther south several years later. Sure, they used every dirty trick in the book to achieve what they achieved — deceit, false promises, unholy alliances, opportunistic grabs — you name it they did it. But you’ve got to admit, what they did was pretty amazing considering the massive comparative disadvantage they found themselves in on the way towards getting what they wanted.

*** Creativity can compensate for lack of brute force. Adaptive ability to improvise on-the-fly is better than the rigidity of structured planning. People who insists on following plans to the letter doesn’t live in the real world.

# 10
Francis Drake, Gentleman Pirate

Francis Drake, El Draque, was that bastard English pirate whom the Spanish hated and feared so much that they were willing to pay hefty sums for the privilege of seeing his rotting corpse swinging on the gallows. Drake raided the Spanish Main for loot. Sunk ships. Burned villages. He struck fear in the hearts of Spanish sailors well before the Armada left port to attack England. To Spain, he was despicable.

To England, Drake wasn’t just Drake — he was Sir Francis Drake. Pirate who? No, no, he was an admiral of the navy, always welcome in the royal court, Elizabeth’s favorite adventurer. Huh? He did what? Sunk Spanish ships? Pillaged Spanish cities in the Carribean? No, no, you must have mistaken him for someone else. The guy was adorable.

After the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Drake could’ve retired a rich man and a hero at home. But he didn’t. He continued his seafaring adventures, died and was buried at sea in his 50s.

*** Just do what you want to do. Some people will hate you. Some people will love you. Doesn’t matter. It’s your life, you do what you want with it. Go down with the ship if that’s your thing.


# 9

The story of the Spartan King Leonidas and his 300. You know how it went, you’ve seen the movie. Persian king invades Greece with his 250,000 men. Heroic Spartans blocked their path along a narrow pass. After the bloodbath, the 300 lay dead, betrayed by a snitch, but they were heroes anyway because their sacrifice galvanized the Greeks, yada yada …

Here’s the thing though. The whole Spartan army did not mobilize because they were in the middle of observing a religious holiday. Only Leonidas and a select 300 went out to meet the threat. Screw that! That was stupid. They could’ve won the war right there.

*** Away with all religiously motivated observances. If some relic of an old tradition gets in your way of achieving things, heck, throw it away, go all out, break some bones and bash some heads! [getting carried away but i mean it — in a less violent way]

# 8
The Battle of Verdun

1916. The Great War. France against Germany. It was a stalemate. Neither side knew how to win it. What started as a vague German offensive quickly deteriorated into a massive slaughterfest where the only sense of strategy left was to kill the enemy’s men faster than the enemy could kill yours. Millions of soldiers from both sides were sent to the killing fields on false promises of victory and glory by their knucklehead leaders who were fully aware that a breakthrough was impossible. At the end of it all, 250,000 men laid dead and half a million injured. 70% of the men who died where ripped to pieces by artillery barrages.

*** Take charge of your own life. Never let the authorities tell you what to do. Most of the time, these people are as dumb as a pile of bricks. And always, they are looking out for their own interest, pushing their own agendas, not yours.

# 7

King Tut is perhaps, arguably, the most well known Egyptian pharaoh on this side of the galaxy. His intact tomb was discovered in 1922 and since then, by virtue of all the attention he has been getting, he has become the undisputed superstar of Egyptian mummy pop culture. But seriously, King Tut is a minor pharaoh. In terms of achievements of historical significance, he couldn’t possibly compare against the likes of Khufu, Rameses II, Akhenaton, and, I even dare say, ummm… Cleopatra. Well, his sarchophagus is shiny and there are lots of shiny objects buried with him so nevermind if he was a bum kind-of-a-pharaoh. The world likes shiny things, the world loves him.

*** Life is unfair. It always has been and it always will be. We do our thing. We give it our best shot. If we achieve something great, we fight to take the stage, then we cross our fingers and hope the world takes notice. If the world doesn’t take notice, well, screw them, they’re stupid.

~ GC


12 Stories in History that Changed the Way I Think – Part 2


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