New Years Day, 2010 - While reading Bernard Werber’s new masterpiece God, a thought flashed in my mind. It was an idea that I had previously thought of but never acted on. It was an idea relating to Edmond Wells’ (well, actually Werber’s) Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.
I have always respected Werber who frequently applied the vast amount of knowledge he compiled in there in many of his works, in the most creative ways possible. Not because he was simply collating all the knowledge of the world, but because he created a dictionary of how to use that knowledge, what true knowledge is, and thoughts and philosophies of his that have never been heard of anywhere else.
Even more amazing is the fact that he started this massive project when he was just fourteen. Fourteen! The reality is that at that age, most teenagers prefer playing sports, gaming, socialising and dating rather than “boring” books. But Werber seeked knowledge. Instead of who won the soccer game, he was more interested in the lives of ants. Instead of learning names of celebrities, he learnt the history of ancient Greece. Furthermore, to make sure he did not forget what he learnt, he steadily compiled a knowledge tank that is the Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.
The most likely reason I adore and respect Werber so much is probably because I feel that his way of thinking is similar to my own. When I read his books, every page makes me nod in agreement as I learn, understand and empathise with his words. Above all else, I empathise most with his passion, because I too have had a hobby of collecting knowledge since I was young. The knowledge we gain from school is limited, the reason being that students follow a curriculum set by a department. Because of this, I frequently questioned my teachers; I felt not getting the most out of those who have learnt far beyond my current knowledge to be a waste. Thanks partly to that, even in university I had a better general knowledge base than many other students and also gained valuable life lessons. The point I am emphasising the most here is that seeking knowledge - beyond that which is given to us - is the fundamental basis of the Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.
What I am saying here is not the fact that Werber or I studied intently as students is ideal. What I respect is his passion for knowledge. The Encyclopaedia contains not just facts he rote-learnt from textbooks or classes, but things he researched, pondered and experienced himself. Yes, true knowledge is not something that one learns because he is forced to, but the precious reward one gains from passionately searching and researching. Also, the vast amount of knowledge left by our predecessors should not be blindly absorbed, but rather processed and analysed by each individual so that he or she can decide whether they think it is the truth or not.
This is what Werber refers to as, and what I emphasise as “relative and absolute knowledge”.
History, science, religion: all of these fields are bound to contain both truths and fiction. Therefore, each must be scrutinised and picked apart by the learner. I consider an encyclopaedia that stores all of this knowledge to be more valuable than any book in the world. And thus I decided: to record everything I know, and everything that I will come to know, here in my own book before it is too late.
I will name this book directly after Werber’s and call it the Encyclopaedia of Absolute and Relative Knowledge (note that I have switched the “absolute” and “relative” for the sake of differentiating from the original, and for the acronym ARK that will be used henceforth). This is due to the fact that regardless of copyright, it is not my original idea and was conceived by Werber. Also, there will be many entries that will be from the original Encyclopaedia, as many contain priceless information and ideas that I want to keep and already know now. However, these will only be Werber’s knowledge that I have looked over, thought about, totally agreed with and found to be so important that I must repeat them.
As a side note, I will write all of my entries in Korean to my best ability. This is because I want to record my thoughts in my mother tongue, which is my most precious language. If there is a need in the future, I will translate it to English. I wish that (the very few) friends who share my way of thinking will some day read these as well.
Lastly, I want to continue writing this book for the rest of my life. So with that thought in my mind - and the hopes that I will have the willpower and endurance to fulfil it - I hereby start my very own Encyclopaedia of Relative and Absolute Knowledge.
5th January, 2010
There was nothing.
In the beginning, nothing existed.
No light scattered the darkness,
No sound broke the silence.
Everywhere is filled with air.
It was a time when the first force, the force of neutrality, ruled.
But the air dreamt to be something more.
At that moment, a white egg appeared in the middle of the infinite universe.
It was a universe egg full of everything possible and all hope.
The egg began to crack.
The universe egg exploded.
It happened at 00:00:00, 00/00/00.
By the second force, the force of disassembling,
The shell that enclosed the egg of origin broke into 288 pieces.
Light and heat exploded out from the egg,
A giant dust storm spread into the darkness as glittery powder.
A universe was born.
Time began to flow, and as the molecules travelled farther,
They danced to the symphony of time.
(from God by Bernard Werber)
The number system represents the advancement of life and consciousness.
In a number, the curves represent love, the crossroads represent hardship and the horizontal lines represent binding.
Let’s take a look at each number.
“1” is a mineral. It has one vertical line and has no binds.
There are no curves and ergo no love.
Rocks are not bound to anything nor love anything.
There are no crossroads and ergo no hardship.
Minerals merely exist as the first step of matter.
“2” is a plant. Life begins here.
The bottom line shows that plants are bound to the ground.
Plants are rooted to the ground and cannot move.
The curve on the top represents the plant’s love for the sky and sunlight.
Plants love the sky and is restrained by the earth.
“3” is an animal. It is formed from two curves.
Animals love both the earth and the sky.
But it is not bound to either.
Animals only have pure feelings.
Animals live in fear and greed.
The two curves are two mouths.
If one is a mouth that bites, the other is one that kisses.
“4” is a human. Humans are beings on the crossroad between “3” and “4”.
They can advance to a higher step.
“5” is an enlightened person. This number is a mirror image of “2”.
The top line shows the limit by the sky, the bottom line shows the love for the earth.
He distances himself from other humans but love both people and the Earth.
“6” is an angel. It is a spiral, curve of love rising towards the sky.
An angel is a pure soul and mind.
“7” is a god cadet. “7” is another number with a crossroad.
It is the image of a “4” flipped around.
A god cadet is on the crossroad between an angel and what is next.
“8” is an infinite god. An endless, twisting curve of love.
But this curve spins on the spot and does not rise nor fall.
“9” is a curve. It is a “6”, an angel, turned around.
In other words, it is love coming down instead of going up.
From the sky down to the ground.
It is a curve that spins and spins and congeals mayonnaise.
(from God by Bernard Werber)
The history of cats is longer than people think. It is known that they have had an intimate relationship with humans for the past 9500 years. The hypothesis is that they were probably domesticated in Egypt and surrounding Middle Eastern countries such as Persia. The reason for this is most likely to eradicate vermin, as they kept stealing the stores of grains that had been produced using developed farming technology.
Cats, with their natural hunting instincts, excelled at this task and people came to love the animals more and more. They became important to the degree that in ancient Egypt, cats were considered sacred animals and worshipped, even being mummified in some cases.
But entering the Middle Ages, the image of cats deteriorated. Europeans considered cats as signs of bad luck and the pet of witches, and proceeded to massacre all cats. As the population shrank, rats thrived with the loss of their predator and began to multiply at a rapid rate. These rats, often carrying fleas, were key players in spreading the deadly Black Plague. In other words, thanks to the massacre of cats, a third of Europe died from the Pest.
Cats are beloved animals in the modern age (dog lovers may disagree), but superstitions linking cats to bad luck still exist. In the West, black cats are believed to be bad luck and have nine lives (most likely originating from a cat’s ability to break its fall).
But their image has much recovered and as it can be seen from characters such as Hello Kitty, they are becoming a symbol of cuteness. However, considering their close relatives such as lions and tigers represent bravery and the king of beasts, a cat’s dignity has surely fallen.
A habit is the automation of behaviour after many repeats. For example, if one fries an egg every morning, eventually frying egg becomes routine and can be done without even thinking. This is the most primitive form of learning.
“Automation” suggests that a habit comes from the subconscious mind. Because of this reason, people often do not know they have certain habits, as they do not think about the behaviours that are already habits.
In psychology, habits are defined as “the reduction of sensitivity following repeated stimulation”.
The system of habituation played a crucial role in the evolution of life. Habits saved an organism time by using the subconscious mind to behave more efficiently and more quickly.
For instance, an animal that is faced by a predator usually flees before it can think about the situation. This is the result of practical experience that the animal had gained throughout its life, knowing that running is the best way to avoid being eaten. And because of the repeated behaviour, it has become habituated, subconsciously fleeing when the same scenario comes along. This way, the animal maximises its chance of survival.
However, in modern society this primitive system often causes harm rather than doing good. This is seen in cases of procrastinating students, impulsive consumers and businessmen who smoke every lunchtime (addictions are strengthened by habits). These phenomenon tend to be caused by stress brought on by life and the person’s desire to relieve that stress or resolve their discomfort. This is why having hobbies and interests to relieve stress regularly is a good way to prevent bad habits from forming.
Bad habits form quickly, but good habits seem to take longer. But this only appears so because of the short-term rewards. Bad habits tend to bring satisfaction and stress relief almost instantly, but the advantages of good habits only become apparent slowly (but also steadily). So, what is a way to develop good habits easier? Giving yourself a small reward (such as chocolate) after a desired behaviour is effective in reinforcing such behaviour, leading to habituation.
According to a research, the average time that takes for a habit to fully form is 66 days.
Alchemy, which is considered the origin of chemistry, is commonly thought to have originated in ancient Egypt, but many scholars in the East studied it also. For example, Chinese alchemists invented black powder, the first gunpowder.
The history of alchemy can be seen from ancient Egyptian books dating to 4000BC.
There were two things that alchemists sought: transmutation of common metals into gold, and the creation of the philosopher’s stone. A philosopher’s stone is a mystical stone believed to drastically boost an alchemist’s abilities and grant immortality. This is similar to Eastern alchemy’s goals of seeking immortality.
Also, the idea from ancient Greece that all matter is formed from the four elements air, water, fire and earth, is very similar to the Five Element Theory of Eastern philosophy.
However, the major difference between Western and Eastern alchemy is that Western alchemists sought gold for wealth while Eastern alchemists sought medicine for the people.
In the Middle Ages, a “recipe” was invented for transmutation and the creation of the philosopher’s stone, called Magnum Opus, or “The Great Work”. It mentions three steps, which strangely mimics the creation of the world.
Firstly, the Black Step (nigredo) involves mixing Materia Prima (the first matter) in earth and burning it. This causes all the ingredients to become a black, solid mixture, entering a state of chaos.
Secondly, the White Step (albedo) heats this black solid, turning it into a liquid (a property of water). Impurities are washed away by aqua vitae, The Water of Life.
(Some sources suggest that there is another step, the Yellow Step (citrinitas), between the White Step and the Red Step, that involves the “yellowing” of the matter into gold.)
Lastly, the Red Step (rubedo) continues to add heat until the liquid is totally purified, while obtaining the sediments created from the fusion of matter and spirit, which is gold.
At the end of these three steps, the alchemist gains the philosopher’s stone. Upon closer inspection, one can see how the steps transform simplicity into complexity, bring order to chaos, and develop ignorance into enlightenment.
Therefore, the philosopher’s stone is only the knowledge that we gain, nothing more, nothing less. Although that may not be a simple task.
The following is the shortest letter ever written in history and its reply:
It was written by the author of the famous “Les Miserables”, Victor Hugo, in 1862 to ask his publisher how his book (Les Miserables) was selling. The publisher, amused by Hugo’s creativity, sent back an equally witty reply.
Making lemonade is quite easy.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3~4 cup cold water (to dilute)
Firstly, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of water to make syrup. If the sugar does not fully dissolve, warm the water a little.
While the sugar dissolves, juice the lemons until about 1 cup of lemon juice is collected.
Mix the lemon juice with the sugar syrup, then add an appropriate amount of water. The key point is to get the ratio just right to balance the sweetness and sourness.
Then, pour the mixture into a pitcher and put it in the refrigerator. Cool for 30~40 minutes. A cool summer drink can be made this easily.
In Western countries such as the USA, it is quite common to see children selling lemonade in a cup at a stand on the streets. It is quite popular as the children get to pretend running a large business while earning some pocket money.
How much profit will a business that sells a cup of lemonade at 10~50 cents (USD) make? (for convenience’s sake, NZD will be used with New Zealand prices in 2010)
If the above ingredients makes 2L of lemonade, and the cost of cups are included:
Ingredients: ($0.85 x 6) + ($1.49 x 0.5) + ($1.69 x 2) = $9.23 (lemon, sugar, cups)
One cup holds about 100ml, so 2L makes about 20 cups of lemonade. This means the cost of producing one cup of lemonade is: $9.23/20 = $0.46
Therefore, if a child wants to make any profit, he/she needs to sell the lemonade at least 50c a cup (about 38c USD). This makes a profit of 4 cents per cup, and the child earns less than $1 per pitcher of lemonade sold.
The history of tattoos is as long as the history of civilisation itself. From the priests of ancient Egypt to the modern Maori’s moko, people have always inscribed something on their skin. Even in modern society, tattoos are quite popular (especially among the youth and gangs).
There are many types of tattoos, but all carry the same message: “I own my body and can do what I want to it”. Reason being, people believe that the only thing they truly have full control over and exert total freedom on is their own body. This results in teenagers and young adults to get tattoos as a sign of rebellion, which sometimes stays even in adulthood.
However, there are other reasons for having a tattoo. For example, one can have something precious to them, something they never want to forget, or some ultimate life goal or purpose etched into their skin to remind themselves every day of it.
Also, in a religious sense, it could be done as a way to announce that “my body belongs to my god”. This seems like an archaic ideology, but many people still carry tattoos with such a meaning.
Furthermore, some tattoos mean that “I belong to this group”, which is analogous to branding a cow. For instance, many indigenous tribes in South America and the Pacific Islands give a child who has passed initiation a tattoo to prove that he/she is an adult.
Lastly, tattoos can be simply aesthetic, but they often carry the previously mentioned “ownership of the body” meaning also (a common example is the “tramp stamp”).