Blake Snow

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Tagged religion

The meaning of life: 13 things I learned from the world’s greatest thinkers

I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.

Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.

Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).

At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”

His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:

MGM Studios

MGM Studios

At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the classThe Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!

Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.

Here’s what I learned:  Continue reading…

Maybe mathematical crystal art is a message from God

Nicole Monteregina

Nicole Monteregina

Warning: This post contains existential beliefs. If you have a perfect, godless knowledge of the meaning of life, discredit my opinion and skip to next post. Otherwise, follow me, blind believers!

Either dirt has a fetish for fine art or God exists.

I say that because every winter crystals form on my office window. It’s an old, single pane window. It has no business living in an energy-efficient world. But its side effects can be mesmerizing.

Last month, during a particularly negative below cold spell, I entered the room to see something like this, only it was much more mathematical. Like something a computer would do in geometry, spilled all over the lower half of my window. But it wasn’t as mechanical as computer art. It was organic. Precise but spontaneous. As if the creator of math and science Himself had sent a memo.

The other windows in my house don’t do this, but this easterly-facing one does on occasion. Does it come from God or chaos?

Either way, it’s exquisite.

Fascinating research on correcting dishonesty

Via Business Insider:

How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%? Would they do it in order to be 4% legal? It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.

This is where confession and amnesty can come into play. What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely. This is the bad news. The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.

Religious folks call that atonement.

This video makes me want to high five the universe (and hug a rock)

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Not only that, but it makes me want to roast marshmellows around a fire and sing Cumbauya with believers and non-believers alike. Either way, I like watching Neil Tyson on PBS Nova. But I really like him after hearing this wonderful answer put to music and film.

That said, I still think modern NASA is a dinosaur. It’s the equivalent of thinking the Internet still needs a government agency like ARPANET to perpetuate great things.

It doesn’t, although I believe in NASA, ARPANET and similar “start up” public technologies to get the ball rolling, since the private sector would likely never incur the initial hard costs to get these kinds of things going.

So thanks government. But please step aside once you’ve paved the way — we’ll take it from here. (That last line basically sums up most of my political thinking).

Even science tells fairy tales to explain things (or why I believe in God)

Madagascar-Escape-2-Africa-games-wallpaper-3Like many things in life, the island of Madagascar is a mystery. A mini continent off the southeast coast of Africa, it features all kinds of crazy animals that shouldn’t be there.

How did they get there?

Since there’s no evidence of a land bridge, scientific consensus says that animals from Africa suddenly got the urge to hit the open seas on self-made rafts and hope for the best, even though currents and prevailing winds blow away from the island.

I imagine the sporadic migration of seafaring land animals went something like this:

Continue reading…

Rockstar endorsements make my religion slightly less peculiar

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I’d be a Mormon even if one of the most poetic, influential, and “let’s bring keyboards and saxophones back” rockstars of the last decade wasn’t.

Plus, if I wanted to align myself closer with celebrity thinking, there are a lot more popular, less demanding belief systems in existence to boost my status.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to have Brandon Flowers of The Killers publicly casting his lot with mine. If anything, he rocks a religious promotional video better than other celebrities.

Of course, religion, following Christ, or believing in God will never be cool. Nor should it be. Depending on the community, persecution rightfully comes with the territory. (How else would deity test the faith of its followers?)

Nevertheless, it’s nice to have backup. Superstar DJs very much included.


We now return to regularly schedules jokes about magic underwear, big love, how religion (not greed) ruins the world, why educated people have a harder time believing in God than uneducated people, great and spacious buildings, how successful people often get prideful and turn into jerks, yesterday’s news that Joseph Smith was a controversial man since he was entitled to agency like everyone else (including other purported prophets), why neither atheist nor believers have faith-shattering proof of anything, and Christians calling other Christians non-Christians because the second group worships in a different way. Go figure.

See also:

Don’t go to church if you want to stay fit

photo-Fat-BuddhaHallelujah, fatty! Your religious beliefs may give you greater peace of mind and self-worth. But it might also be blinding your ability to detect love-handles.

Says a new study by Northwestern University, “Young adults who frequently attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age as young adults with no religious involvement.” A thirteen year-old study by Purdue said the same thing: “Religious people are more likely to be overweight than are nonreligious people.”

Not only that, but Mormons tend to be five pounds pudgier than other believers. The reason? Religious folk are more accepting of their bodies and tend to be more content with their lives. Therefore, they’re more likely to overlook gluttony, summarizes the Mormon Times. As for Mormons being more obese than other devotees, Mormons are asked to abstain from even more stuff than most. With food being one of the exceptions, they engorde on it, said a BYU professor in 2006.

Ironically, the Northwestern study also supported the long-held belief that religious folks tend to live longer, largely because they don’t indulge as often in alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Go figure.

Unity: This is exactly what Op Ivy was talking about

You’re blind if you don’t see the Egyptian revolution (and its peaceful and unified protests) as a beacon to the world.

“During the fiercest clashes on January 28, I found a guy about my age guarding my back, who I later found out was a Christian,” Yahia Roumi, a 24- year-old protester from Cairo, told IPS. “Now we’re best friends; we never go to the demonstrations without one another.”

Unity.

Survey: Americans don’t know much about religion

From the Associated Press:

A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths. Read more…

A self-fulling prophecy, at least in Christianity.

Best news story I’ve read in a long time

2 Muslims travel 13,000 miles across America, find an embracing nation

An excerpt: “After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

Why old people turn to God

praying_hands“My own experience has given me the conviction that, quite apart from any such terrors or imaginings, the religious sentiment tends to develop as we grow older; to develop because, as the passions grow calm, as the fancy and sensibilities are less excited and less excitable, our reason becomes less troubled in its working, less obscured by the images, desires and distractions, in which it used to be absorbed; whereupon God emerges as from behind a cloud; our soul feels, sees, turns towards the source of all light; turns naturally and inevitably; for now that all that gave to the world of sensations its life and charm has begun to leak away from us, now that phenomenal existence is no more bolstered up by impressions from within or from without, we feel the need to lean on something that abides, something that will never play us false—a reality, an absolute and everlasting truth. Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.”—My favorite passage from Brave New World

Smooth Harold answers your burning Life of Pi questions

Life of PiI finished reading the popular Life of Pi last night. In sum, it’s a clever endorsement for zoos, storytelling, and the existence of God, either allegorically or literally.

Author Yann Martel’s use of metaphors is inspired and makes me feel inadequate as a writer when it comes to creatively describing objects, emotions, and experiences. For that, I was in awe — and laughing at times. Overall, I give the book four stars out of five for dragging a little in the first and second acts. Chapter 97 is my favorite.

If I were a disoriented high school or college student, and were forced to answer the following discussion guide questions for a homework assignment, these would be my answers:

Continue reading…

Gordon B. Hinckley dies at 97

A statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads: “President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through twelve years of global expansion, has died at the age of 97… from causes incident to age.

“His quick wit and humor, combined with an eloquent style at the pulpit, made him one of the most loved of modern Church leaders. A profoundly spiritual man, he had a great fondness for history and often peppered his sermons with stories from the Church’s pioneer past.”

In my lifetime, I respected this man as a prophet of God.