Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Established facts, scientific studies, reality, and aliens; and where to practice if you are in Singapore

Gee, I haven't blogged in what seems like forever... well, five weeks, actually, which may as well be forever in the world of blogging. So what's new with me? (Not that you would care, but this is my blog, so I may as well say something about me). In the last post, I reported about being in Singapore for my brother's wedding, catching up with people and places I haven't seen in thirteen years. Well, I've been back in the U.S. for more than three weeks now. I'm getting back into the grind of academic life, by and by. Actually, the main reason why I'm blogging now is because I'm procrastinating about preparing for my summer class, which starts next week. Pretty sad reason to resume blogging, don't you think?

But I suppose I should try to say something more... substantial. How about... aliens? As you may know from a couple of posts in the past (for example, this post), I believe that not only do extra-terrestrials exist, but that at least a couple of them have been living on this planet for at least the last fifty years. Well, last weekend, I expressed this belief to a friend, and added that at least one former leader of a G8 nation has publicly declared that aliens have been on this planet for the past fifty years (for more information, see this International Business Times article).

Being skeptical, my friend proceeded to ask me a couple of probing questions ("If this thing is so top-secret, why would this former leader spill the beans in public?", "What motivation would our leaders have for hiding their existence from us, if indeed they exist and have lived on this planet for the past 50 years?"). I tried my best to answer her questions ("Well, he probably wants to make sure the world knows about it before he goes to the grave with it", "The aliens are very likely to be harboring technologies that would make us no longer dependent on fossil fuels and much more immune to the business cycles of capitalism, and people in the military-industrial complex and those in power certainly do not want that to happen...").

Being a rational person who sticks only to established facts and scientific studies, my friend wasn't too impressed by my responses ("In order for your answers to be credible, multiple conspiracy theories would have to be true... are you willing to buy all those theories?"). And being the nice polite-conversation kind of person that I am, I decided not to press things any further, and we switched to a more neutral subject of conversation.

But this exchange with my friend really got me thinking. There's nothing wrong with sticking to established facts and studies, in and of itself. But I'm just not convinced that these facts and studies are the only ways to find out about reality. After all, people in power are in the business of making sure that the established facts and studies that the general public has access to are precisely and only those facts and studies that they want us to have access to. In other words, the established facts and studies that we have access to may well reflect only the part of reality that a small group of people want us to have access to.  

So this whole alien thing seems to be a no-win situation. If aliens exist, and if the aliens themselves or those in power do not want us to know about their existence, they would make sure that, beyond eye-witness accounts here and there by people whose sanity is cast in doubt, no evidence of their existence ever makes it into the public sphere, and so there would be no chance of their existence ever becoming an established fact or the subject of a scientific study. In such a case, established facts and scientific studies wouldn't be much good in helping us to track reality here. If, on the other hand, I am wrong, and aliens do not exist, then their existence would obviously never become an established fact or the subject of a scientific study. But then we would have no way of being certain that these established facts or scientific studies are indeed telling us all there is to know about what is out there. So, one way or the other, established facts and scientific studies aren't all that helpful to us in this case.   

Which means that, as far as the question of the existence of aliens is concerned, just because something is not an established fact or supported by some scientific study is not in itself a reason to dismiss it out of hand. Which suggests that there has to be some other way of gathering facts about the universe in which we live. One way is to see and experience things for yourself. If you have actually seen an alien (say, if you have been abducted by one), that would be a good reason for you to believe that aliens exist. But then again, you would probably have a hard time convincing somebody like my friend, because she would probably think you hallucinated the whole thing up while going through some other traumatic experience that is more terrestrial in nature (maybe you really got abducted and raped by humans wearing alien costumes...), and your hallucinating something up obviously wouldn't make it an established fact or supportable by a study.

Well, I wasn't really planning on going on this big rant about aliens. Maybe my sanity is in doubt here. Maybe I am slowly going bonkers, and the subjects of my blogging are the first symptoms... hmm, must be all that tropical air in Singapore. But I believe that in addition to established facts and scientific studies, there is at least one other way of getting reliable information about the universe: The testimony of reliable and sincere people. After all, if you think about it, most of our knowledge of so-called established facts and scientific studies come from sources that we take to be sincere and reliable: How many of us really have the time and resources to verify every single established fact with our own five senses, or to read every single scientific study out there? Most of the time, we read the papers, watch the news, listen to experts that we trust, and take it that they are not pulling the wool over our eyes. If we are alright with doing this with information concerning everything else in the universe, why not with aliens? I mean, if you read that International Business Times article that I linked to above and watch the accompanying interview with Paul Hellyer... well, the guy definitely has solid credentials (former top leader of a G8 nation), and he seems to be a sincere and clear-headed person, not some rambling lunatic. So... why not give this whole notion of aliens being around another honest hearing?


Anyway, I'm not sure why I went on this big rant about aliens. It's not as if anybody's paying me to do this. Well, I suppose I should say something about yoga, since this is ostensibly (still) a yoga blog. Well, what about this: I am happy to report that I did not miss a single day of practice the whole time I was in Singapore. My family was kind and gracious enough to put up with my getting up early six days a week to do this super-sweaty yoga practice. Oh, and speaking of sweaty, boy, did I sweat! Because of the heat and the super-high humidity in Singapore (it's tropical), I sweated like I've never sweated before. By the third or fourth Surya A of every practice I did in Singapore, I was totally drenched in sweat. Somehow, that made me practice at a much faster pace. One morning, for instance, I actually got through full primary in an hour and five minutes. I don't think even Sharath's led is that fast... The other upside is that because of the heat, my muscles warmed up really quickly, and practice was a breeze: Which probably explained the super-fast pace of practice. And also, because I was so sweaty, Garbha Pindasana was a breeze: My arms just slid through my legs like there was nothing there.

While in Singapore, I also went to a shala once. The Yogashala is located in the Chinatown area, and I had a really enjoyable practice there. James  Figueira, the principal teacher and owner, gave me some really cool tips about my backbends. I also brought my mom there. The last time I heard, she is still going there once every couple of weeks, and trying to do the practice by herself at home; last time I heard, she told me that they have moved her up to Trikonasana. Anyway, now you know: If you are ever in Singapore, you have a place to go practice if your immediate environment isn't so accommodating for you to do your practice in ;-)

Alright, I think this is enough blogging for somebody who hasn't blogged in, like, forever. More later.