Java – The Majestic Buddhist Temple of Borobudur

Once standing on an island in the middle of a lake the fantastic temple laid buried under volcanic ash for centuries. Now dug out and restored it is a treasure trove of images, statues, friezes and splendour. It rivals Angkor Wat for its awe and wonder. We spent hours climbing up on it and looking out towards the surrounding volcanoes. Magnificent.

Borneo – Brunei – Bandar – Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin’s magnificent mosque – Photos

As with most temples, cathedrals and mosques, no expense has been spared. The ostentatious extravagance fulfils the need to demonstrate that it must be true; if it wasn’t who would go to such extremes??

All the wealth is poured into religious buildings.

For me, they are a delight. The best of architecture and craftsmanship can be found in them. They are so aesthetically pleasing if, at times, a little OTT.

Petra – One of the wonders of the world!

Graham sent me this. We’ve been twice. It is enchanting. The colours in the rock, the organic flow and the splendour of the carved buildings. Amazing.

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The Brazil Trip – Porto – Photographs

Day 5 – Portugal – the City of Porto

Having survived the portentous swells of the Bay of Biscay – Rocked ‘n’ Rolled – Written and Read – we boogied into Portugal. It welcomed us with blue skies, beaming sun and warm smiles. We docked in Lexiosis – a small fishing town with an impressive set of anguished statues on the beach commemorating 34 fishermen who lost their lives on one terrible day. They left behind bereft wives and children.

The huge rollers were thudding into the rocks sending spray tens of feet into the air. We could imagine.

We made our way to the tiled city of Porto,

admired the bridges, the gaily adorned houses and riverside life.

It is a city alive with churches,

monasteries, civic buildings, squares, statues and restaurants. What a beautiful city!

After getting directions from Henry the Navigator we checked out the Harry Potter bookshop,

the narrowest house in the world and the magic railway station.

The station interior was extravagantly garnished with elaborate blue glazed tiles depicting all manner of battles, scenes from ordinary life, Kings and Bishops. Likewise, the churches were similarly adorned with tiles illustrating religious scenes. The artwork was spectacular.

Then there was Sandemans

and the famous Port warehouses (couldn’t fit a barrel in our cabin), cormorants roosting on the rocks,

fortresses on the beaches, artwork and some extremely weird trees.

Following an Italian meal in the restaurant we completed the day with a recital from two brilliant musicians – a violinist and pianist.

We’d packed a lot in.

Our amazing galaxy – and our not quite so amazing Eric Idle (though he’s pretty amazing!)

Our amazing galaxy – and our not quite so amazing Eric Idle (though he’s pretty amazing!)

Now for something completely different and more uplifting!!

Eric Idle is an idol of mine.

Monty Python brightened up my days as a youth and altered comedy from mindless Sit Com to something more alternative with more bite.

Eric’s intelligence shone through as you can see in the lyrics of this song and many others. Who else could have take a bunch of facts about the universe and created such a delightful song. with awe, wonder and humour in equal dollops.

WHENEVER LIFE GETS YOU
DOWN, MRS. BROWN, AND
THINGS SEEM HARD OR TOUGH,
AND PEOPLE ARE STUPID,
OBNOXIOUS OR DAFT AND YOU
FEEL THAT YOU’VE HAD QUITE
ENOUGH…

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving,
And revolving at 900 miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power.

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour
Of the Galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our Galaxy itself contains 100 billion stars
It’s 100,000 light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, 16,000 light years thick
But out by us it’s just 3,000 light years wide

We’re 30,000 light years from galactic central point,
We go round every 200 million years
And our Galaxy is only one of millions and billions
In this amazing and expanding Universe
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light you know,
12 million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.

So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely it is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
Because there’s bugger all down here on Earth.

The Arrogance of Human Beings – Awe and Wonder of life

The Arrogance of Human Beings – Awe and Wonder of life

 

We are microbes on the surface of a small planet.

Our planet orbits around a small, insignificant star – Sol.

Our star is out in an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy – not even near the middle.

There are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is a mere 100,000 light years across. (It would take light 100,000 years to get from one side to the other!)

The biggest galaxies are 2 million light years across – hugely bigger – with 10 trillion stars. They make ours look tiny.

We know of 2 trillion galaxies so far.

The distances between them are beyond our comprehension. The universe is 46 Billion light years from the centre to the expanding edge.

Yet human beings, with our tiny brains, think we can understand something as stupendous as this. We can work out where it came from, its laws and its future. What a remarkable arrogance.

It is the equivalent of bacteria living in your toilet for brief seconds thinking they can work out the nature of the backside lowering itself into position.

The fact that we have worked out so much is amazing! Science is stupendous and exciting.

For those fundamentalists of all religions who think that god created all this for the sake of us little bacteria on this insignificant planet – I find your belief ludicrous. That is the height of arrogance and super-inflated egos.

The universe is a wondrous, mystical place. The one thing I’m certain of is that it wasn’t created for us. We have a brief lifetime in which to be astounded by it and enjoy it. How lucky we are.

Is There a Formula for Happiness? – A Small Experiment

Is There a Formula for Happiness? – A Small Experiment

Here’s my list of things that would make me happy
(Not necessarily in order)
A Good Education
Lots of Friends
A Good Sense of Humor
Great sex
A society that is compassionate
No war
A community and world in harmony with the planet and nature
Appreciation of the wonder around us – trees, rocks, countryside, culture, sunsets, geology
No religion
Plenty of love, children, family
Pets and wildlife
Creativity
Debate and argument
Relaxation and sport
Writing and painting
Photographing beautiful things
Communicating
Alcohol
Great food
Warm weather
Being respected and valued
Valuing and respecting others
A good marriage
Good neighbours
Great music
Discussion and close friends
Adventure
Health and fitness
A great job doing some good
Making a difference to the world.
Meeting interesting people and going interesting places

That should do it!

I think, therefore I exist.

Happiness is hard to understand: sometimes something bad happens but you still feel happy and sometimes you’re unhappy with no logical reason as good things are happening. Everyone has their own personal factors that make them personally happy and unhappy. There are some universal aspects, however. Some things – like poverty, low self-esteem or loneliness (not feeling alone) can be objectively linked to unhappiness.

So is there list of ingredients, which applied to everyone in the world would mean happiness to everyone?

I will ask for your collaboration in this one. Below there is a list of possible ingredients. I ask you to think about what would be a universal factor of happiness and either organize them from most important to less important or give a top 5 of most important.

  • A Good Sense of Humor
  • A Beautiful Big House
  • A Healthy Diet
  • Children and Grandchildren
  • Predictability
  • Good Government
  • An Interesting…

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Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Animal Rights – Plant Rights – Human Rights

Around 3 billion years ago a wondrous thing happened. The Earth had been cooling for a couple of billion years and conditions conspired to create something incredible. The first simple life-form was produced.

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The chances of that happening are so slight that it is possible that out of all the planets circling the 400 billion stars in our own galaxy this is the only instance where life has spontaneously formed. It could be that we are the only life in any of the two trillion galaxies that we know of.

Life is something special.

From that one single cell of life the whole spectrum of life on this planet has evolved – from the simplest to the most complex.

What we have all around us comes from that first cell. We are all its children.

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No plant or animal is more evolved than any other. We have all been around for exactly the same time.

Only humans would apply a value system to life. We try to create a hierarchy of importance.

We place plants at the bottom of the scale, then bacteria, then we work our way up through worms, slugs, insects to fish, then through amphibian, reptiles and birds to mammals – through mammals to monkeys then apes and finally us – human beings – the crown of creation. Some people don’t even accept that we are animals and related to everything else. Somehow we were uniquely created by a deity. We are not part of this at all.

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Except this is nonsense. Nothing is more important than anything else. We humans are just animals. We have merely organised living things according to their similarity to ourselves. In a biological sense plants are the highest form of life. Their cellular complexities is hundreds of times more complex than that of any human cell. We place a premium on intelligence. Consciousness and intelligence are merely survival characteristics evolved by organisms – nothing more.

I don’t mean to belittle the wonder of consciousness and intelligence – they are phenomenal. I merely point out that they are one of many equally fabulous wonders that life possesses. They are no more special.

Likewise we cannot know the level of consciousness of other creatures or even plants. We can only surmise.

Personally I believe we will soon discover that plants have a consciousness that is quite as good as ours. We will see.

The argument that I am making is that life is too fabulous to treat with the disdain that we have been treating it. We should be worshipping all of it for the wonder it is and protecting it with all our might.

I am a big advocate of human rights – but I am a bigger advocate of the rights of the rest of the spectrum of life. I think it is foolish to make distinction.

The message I would send is – protect nature, protect the plants and animals around us, conserve the wilderness and diversity. They all have as much importance and rights as we do.

This is what I have to say about the destruction we are doing to nature and a way forward.

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of genius – knowledge

Pete Smith’s Cartoons of genius – knowledge

 

There are no facts. Every moment is new. We experience everything for the first time. No two moments are identical.

I used this cartoon on the front of school documents prepared for Ofsted. As with the previous drawing on the education sausage machine the cartoon was never commented on.

Too often the teaching of science has been the transmission of ‘facts’ and the learning of knowledge. Science should be the investigation of the wonders of the universe to find out how it operates and celebrate it, learn from it and utilise it.

The more we investigate the greater the mysteries we unfurl. We have accumulated a wealth of knowledge but underlying it all is an even greater mystery.

Science progresses by scientists disbelieving the theories they are presented with, challenging them and coming up with superior theories to test.

Science is creative.

Science is thought-provoking.

Science is fun.

Science is illuminating, expansive and exhilarating.

There are no truths.