10 years ago, I played around with the concept of aesthetically evolved images. This year I revisited the concept and produced several new works as a result. A video explaining the work can be viewed online here:
A gallery of the work can be viewed here: https://www.ashleymills.com/evoart/
I haven't updated this blog for a while but that doesn't mean nothing has been happening. Quite a lot has been happening as will be revealed soon.
In the meantime, I wanted to point you towards my new youtube channel where I have been posting videos of mushrooms.
Mushrooms are a great hobby of mine of which I will have quite a lot to say now and in the future:
This post is for people don't know much about mathematics but have heard of prime numbers and might be interested to learn more.
I want to tell you something about the natural numbers, and show you a proof about them which I hope you'll be able to follow. I'm going to try and introduce a few terms, so that you start becoming familiar with this stuff.
What are the natural numbers? The natural numbers are represented by the symbol TeX Embedding failed! and comprise the set TeX Embedding failed!. That is, the natural numbers are whole positive integers, and are the kind of numbers people are familiar with in the natural world hence the name. Sometimes TeX Embedding failed! isn't counted as a natural number, and there are several mathematical/philosophical arguments around this point. But in our case we will include TeX Embedding failed! in our definition of the natural numbers although we won't use it in what we are talking about. Notice that what we are doing here really has nothing to do with the "real world". We are talking about an abstract space of numbers which we've decided to call TeX Embedding failed! and we've decided that it only contains those numbers we specified. Pure mathematics is always like this, and any correlation with the real world is purely coincidence. When mathematics is used explicitly to model the real world, it is called physics.
Whenever I talk about numbers in the following sections, assume I mean the natural numbers as thus defined.
If you take any natural number, you can ask a question, can it be expressed as a product of factors?
A factor is just a whole number that divides another a whole number of times. And the word product is just another word for multiplication. So for example, if we consider the number TeX Embedding failed!, then TeX Embedding failed! is a factor of TeX Embedding failed! because TeX Embedding failed!, and TeX Embedding failed! is a whole number. TeX Embedding failed! is not a factor of TeX Embedding failed! because TeX Embedding failed! which is not a whole number.
Instead of thinking "what numbers divide TeX Embedding failed!", I usually like to think from the other angle which is "what numbers multiplied together, produce TeX Embedding failed!", which says exactly the same thing but in a slightly different way. So for example, we can say that TeX Embedding failed! is a factor of TeX Embedding failed! because TeX Embedding failed!. Do you see that we are saying exactly the same thing, but that there is a subtle difference in the way we look at it? You can look at it from either angle, depending on what you prefer.
Now the number TeX Embedding failed! has a lot of factors: TeX Embedding failed!, and TeX Embedding failed! are all factors of the number TeX Embedding failed! and this list is in fact all the possible factors of the number TeX Embedding failed!. How do I know that this is all the possible factors? Well, I just went through all the numbers starting from TeX Embedding failed! upto TeX Embedding failed! and worked out whether or not the number divided TeX Embedding failed! a whole number of times.
But if you look a little closer, there are some obvious facts about finding the list of factors for a number. The most obvious one is probably that any number bigger than the number, cannot be a factor. Any number bigger than TeX Embedding failed! cannot be a factor of TeX Embedding failed! since it will always be a fraction, which is not a whole number. For example TeX Embedding failed!, and TeX Embedding failed!, and so on.
Another fact we can observe about finding the factors of a number is that the numbers TeX Embedding failed! and the number itself are always factors, so we get those for "free" without having to do any calculations: we know that TeX Embedding failed! divides every number and a number always divides itself. TeX Embedding failed!, and TeX Embedding failed!. So really, to find all the factors of a number, we really only need to go through the numbers checking if they are divisors starting at the number TeX Embedding failed!.
I've just introduced a new term, divisor. This is what we call the number on the bottom, because it is doing the dividing of the number on the top. Another name for the number on the bottom is the denominator, and the name we use for the number on the top is the numerator.
Another fact about finding factors of a number is that we never have to check any further than half the number. For example, for the number TeX Embedding failed!, we never have to check any higher than TeX Embedding failed!. This is because any divisor that is bigger than half the numerator, cannot possibly divide the numerator a whole number of times (unless it is equal to the numerator). If the divisor divides the numerator exactly TeX Embedding failed! times this is OK because TeX Embedding failed! is a whole number, but if the divisor is any bigger, then it won't be able to fit TeX Embedding failed! times and it will therefore have to fit less than TeX Embedding failed! times and will be a fraction. For example, TeX Embedding failed! but TeX Embedding failed!.
So, in general, to find all the factors of a number TeX Embedding failed! I just need to check all numbers less than TeX Embedding failed! from TeX Embedding failed! to the biggest whole number less than or equal to TeX Embedding failed! and see if they divide TeX Embedding failed!. Add to this list the numbers TeX Embedding failed! and TeX Embedding failed! and this gives the complete set of factors for the number TeX Embedding failed!.
Here are some examples
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
A prime number is a number that has exactly two factors: TeX Embedding failed! and itself.
TeX Embedding failed! is not considered a prime number because it has only one factor: the number TeX Embedding failed! which also happens to be itself.
So the smallest prime number is TeX Embedding failed!, because it has exactly two factors: TeX Embedding failed! and TeX Embedding failed!.
Here is a list of the first 10 prime numbers:
TeX Embedding failed!
If you try and find all the factors for each of these numbers, you will see that the only factors are TeX Embedding failed! and the number itself. Which means they are prime.
Now what I want to get onto is a very interesting fact about the natural numbers, which is that every natural number greater than TeX Embedding failed! can be expressed as a product of prime numbers. We call this the prime factorization. And it is a strange and interesting fact that it always exists.
So to take our familiar TeX Embedding failed! again. We can write TeX Embedding failed! as a product of primes: TeX Embedding failed!. Right, and as TeX Embedding failed!, TeX Embedding failed!, and TeX Embedding failed! are all prime numbers, you can see that the claim is true for the number TeX Embedding failed!.
But I am claiming something much stronger than this: that every natural number greater than TeX Embedding failed! can be expressed as a product of primes. How do I know that this is true?
I certainly can't check that it is true for every single natural number individually, that would take a literal eternity as there an infinite number of natural numbers.
No, we have to be a little cleverer than that, and in this case we will prove that it is true by a method called mathematical induction.
This sounds complicated but really we are just using some reasoning here, and the only reason it gets a special name "mathematical induction" is because the pattern of reasoning we are going to use comes up so often in mathematical proofs that is worth giving a name.
But forget that, and just follow the reasoning.
Claim: every natural number greater than 1 is either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes
I'm going to start by showing that we know something about the first few natural numbers. I want to show that the claim is true for the first few numbers: that they are either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes, lets do that:
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
TeX Embedding failed!
Now, wouldn't it be interesting if we could somehow deduce from just this information, that the claim is true for all the rest of the numbers?
Well we can, and to make it easier to think about this, I want to introduce some notation.
We are only looking at numbers that fit in our claim, so we don't care about the number TeX Embedding failed! since that was excluded. We can map the numbers we do care about, that is, every number greater than TeX Embedding failed! to a notation. Let us call the first number we care about TeX Embedding failed!, and we can call the second number TeX Embedding failed!, the third number TeX Embedding failed! and so on. So if we want to refer to the nth number we care about we can use the notation TeX Embedding failed!. We can construct a set of numbers TeX Embedding failed! which represents all the natural numbers greater than TeX Embedding failed! which are less than TeX Embedding failed!
You might wonder why we are doing this, instead of thinking about actual numbers. Well it's because if we used actual numbers, we would have to say what they are, but by saying TeX Embedding failed! I can talk about the nth number without caring what exactly it is. This allows a more general reasoning to be performed, which I hope you'll see the point of soon.
What I want to do is try and construct an argument. What I want to show is that if our claim is true for the numbers TeX Embedding failed! then it is also true for the number TeX Embedding failed!. We'll get back to actual numbers later, but to give a quick example, this is like saying I want to show that if the claim is true for TeX Embedding failed!, then it's also true for TeX Embedding failed!. But I'm not going to say what TeX Embedding failed! is at the minute, as it doesn't matter.
What I want you to do is just assume that the claim is true for the numbers TeX Embedding failed!. Allow yourself the freedom to assume that this is true for now, without worrying about the actual numbers. This means that for all numbers TeX Embedding failed!, TeX Embedding failed!, upto TeX Embedding failed!, the claim is true: these numbers are either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes.
Now, I intend to show that if this is true, then the claim is also true for the the next number TeX Embedding failed!, that is, TeX Embedding failed! is either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes.
The intention is quite easy to show.
If TeX Embedding failed! is prime, then that case is satisfied, and the claim is true. So let us assume the only other case, which is that TeX Embedding failed! is not prime.
This means it must have some factors that are not TeX Embedding failed! or TeX Embedding failed!, otherwise it would be prime and we've just said it's not. Now, we know that these factors must be less than TeX Embedding failed! since whole numbers multipied together cannot be bigger than their result. So there are some factors less than TeX Embedding failed! which when multiplied together, produce TeX Embedding failed!. So, given that the factors must be less than TeX Embedding failed!, this means that the factors must belong to the set TeX Embedding failed!, since this contains all numbers greater than TeX Embedding failed! and less than TeX Embedding failed!.
But we have made the assumption that for the numbers TeX Embedding failed! the claim is true, that is, they are either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes. Which means that the factors of TeX Embedding failed! are either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes.
Now take any of these factors that when multiplied together produce TeX Embedding failed! and express them as a product of primes, and you will get a factorization of TeX Embedding failed! expressed only a s a product of primes. Which means that the claim is true for TeX Embedding failed!, that is, TeX Embedding failed! is either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes.
So, going back to actual numbers. If we assume that TeX Embedding failed!, we do know that the claim is true for all the numbers TeX Embedding failed! since in this case, this is the numbers TeX Embedding failed!. Which means that the assumption we used in the proof would hold for this case, and therefore it must be true that the claim holds for TeX Embedding failed!. Therefore we know that the claim holds for TeX Embedding failed!. But see what this allows us to do? We can now prove the claim for TeX Embedding failed!, given that we know the claim is true for TeX Embedding failed!. Then we can prove that the claim is true for TeX Embedding failed! given that we know it is true for TeX Embedding failed!. And so on, working in this way so we can show that the claim holds for every natural number greater than TeX Embedding failed!.
We don't have to show the proof for each step however, as we proved the general inductive step that if it's true for the previous numbers, it's true for the next. So from this information, and the direct proof that it's true for the first few numbers, we know it will be true for all numbers.
Thus, we have proved that which we set out to, namely, that every natural number greater than 1 is either prime or can be expressed as a product of primes.
So hopefully, you've learned something about what a prime number is. And also this strange fact about the natural numbers.
Back in 2005 I created a system to evolve images using aesthetic selection. I want to get this system up and running again, and in the process I found my old MSc mini-project report which was delivered to the university.
In addition to describing the process by which I evolved "traditional" aesthetic images, I also speak about two other experiments where I evolved cellular automata and color maps for mandelbrot sets.
Here is the PDF:
Warning, this is a ~22MB file. The upside of this is that you can zoom quite far to embedded images.
You're a particle of some kind, or at least you think you are. You might be something less, but you're not quite sure. Whatever you are, you feel strange. It feels like being a squiggle of some kind, a mirrored Mobius strip that reflects itself. You're inside out, and outside in. There is a contradiction and you feel like you are many things all at once. It is as if something had grabbed the fabric of the universe between finger and thumb and made the slightest twist, but in fact you twisted yourself. You are an inflection in infinite dimensional space.
You are a water molecule, and you behave. If it were cold you would arrange yourself against your siblings and through a choreographic miracle form a snowflake, but it's warm. You are vibrating very quickly, and you are being pushed and pulled around by other things. Your extremities feel drawn towards some of these things, and you don't know why. You feel the pressure to align yourself with something. You align. You are the result of uncountable knots untie-ing themselves in infinite dimensional space.
You are a nucleotide, and your life is a wonder. Giant teeth grind above your head, knitting you into an incredible majestical weave. You are symbolic. There is language here and the knitter is writing your novel. You are an indescribably complex harmonious chord made up of infinite notes.
You are a protein and you stand steadfast like a sentry at the gates of your domain. The flag goes up and you swing open your doors letting wave upon wave of ionic metal hurry through to bounce their way inside. You are an imensely small fraction of an immeasurably large fractal.
You are a mitochondria and the echoes of your ancient past cement your position. You pursue your goal relentlessly, struggling against entropy to produce sustenance for others. You are an equation and after an infinite number of derivations, you simply fall through yourself and become your own inverse. Subsequent derivations become integrations.
You are a neuron. You receive a barrage of musical notes from thousands of others. Your life is a game show and your job is to spot the harmonies. When the notes coincide and create just the music you are looking for, you shout as loud as you can and throw your heart along your axon. You are an irreducible, incalculable, logical paradox, and you laugh at your own impossibility.
You are a brain. You are multitude and manifold, you are many things, and yet a single thing. You are folds within folds within folds, and your language is curves. You are both the operating system and the user. You are a self-writing program of indescribable parallel complexity. You are a hand made up of infinite hands all holding themselves.
You are a human. You have complete freedom and you are filled with boundless joy. You can do and achieve anything. Your existence is a miracle and your nature is divine. You are an infinitesimally small section of an infinitely long, infinitely dimensioned thread, upon which an infinite number of mathematical orchestras are each playing an infinite number of symphonies in concert.
The rest of the thread is the rest of the universe, and your every vibration moves the entire thread.
You look up and you see the sun hovering above the snow capped mountains, bathing you in a golden light which illuminates the green and fertile landscape before you. The warmth nourishes your body as you breathe in, closing your eyes at the same time. You take a couple of slow breaths feeling the air flow through you, feeling completely at peace. You open your eyes again and survey the scene.
At the foot of the mountains you see vast swathes of trees, and you can just about make out birds cutting through the gentle haze that nestles itself among the tops. You imagine the life in the forest, the amimals the plants, the fungi, the insects, the water, the fish. You imagine the breath of the forest, its daily respiration and it's yearly cycle of regrowth. The breath of the forest reflects your own breath, and you cast your eyes further down.
You see a river on the near side of the forest, crossing from the extent of the vista on the left, where you can see it enter the base of the mountain range. You imagine the river is drawn from thousands of streams in those peaks, and you imagine gullies running fast over rocks and crashing waterfalls. You imagine jumping Salmon among the mist and the spray. You imagine life.
The river glints and glistens in the bright sunshine, and the specks of reflected light are enough sometimes to make you squint a little. You take a drink from your water bottle. The now warm water runs down your throat and settles in your stomach.
You cast your eyes further down and you see Elephants roaming among the trees on the near side of the river. A baby elephant is holding the tail of its mother and the herd seem to be meandering along without a care in the world. At that moment you imagine you hear the sound of trumpeting, but you're not really sure. You concentrate on the scene and your mind notices something, one of the baby elephants is chasing another. They're playing you realise, the elephants are playing! A smile cracks across your face and for a brief moment you are overwhelmed with joy and you can't help but let out a little laugh.
You watch for a while, and then carry on with your survey, casting your eyes further down. Across the plains below you that stretch between you and the elephants far in the distance, you see dense trees becoming sparser. The gaps are filled with lush green grass, and other green plants you can't identify. A few hundred yards from yourself there is a large lake, fed from a promontory of the river which snakes its way across the plain toward you. The lake reflects the sky and in it you can make out thin whisps of white clouds set against a deep blue.
You play your attention further toward yourself, reaching the bottom of the hillside you are sitting on. You look down the grassy slope, which is covered in hundreds of small flowers, being serviced by dilligent bees and insects buzzing around peacefully.
You look to your right and there is a bush about a meter away. In it you see many things. You can see a spider winding itself a web, and you watch it crawl carefully around the scaffolding, fixing ropes to spokes. The tree has red thorns on it, small dark berries, and shiny green leaves.
You are sitting on a red and green tartan mat made of wool, it feels warm under your crossed legs.
Your attention comes to yourself and fills your body. You half-close your eyes and breathe. You can hear birds from the trees behind you, and the rustling of leaves compliments the play of the breeze against your skin. You sit like this for a long time just enjoying the experience.
After a while you forget there is a you at all: there is only the breeze, only the warmth, only the sounds.
There is no you, but there is.
Just to give some context, I wrote this in response to this tweet by Simon Singh:
He is referring to is this Guardian article. You can read the responses yourself, but I responded that I thought I should have the right to choose what goes in my water.
What annoyed me about the article was it's conflation of anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation: two issues with massively different risk profiles, and the idea that we should blindly submit ourselves to the authority of science.
I'm a huge advocate of science and reason for solving the world's problems, so I found it a little strange to see people claiming to advocate reason, whilst simultaneously lambasting anyone who dares to actually do it for themself. And worse, that their objections should be overruled with force instead of reason. In anycase, it inspired me to write a short article discussing the responsibility of scientists in communicating with the public. TLDR: the burden of proof doesn't stop at the peer review board.
The burden is on you
In professing an understanding of science the scientist carries a great burden.
The human condition is in the majority governed by emotion and we would be fools to throw this understanding away. Are not love and compassion emotional qualities? Do we wish to throw away all emotion in a desperate attempt to fortify the vanguard of reason?
It is clear that emotions are inseparable aspects of the human condition, and thus a profession of knowledge that aims to be complete cannot deny them.
What is the ideal situation? If the person against whom you levy a reasoned argument can be wholly convinced and can see for himself that the suggested action is necessary, then there shall be no conflict. The person will carry out the action for himself with full conviction and an enthusiasm that carries his brothers along in the same. Your objective will be fulfilled.
But should the person feel coerced or ultimately forced into having the action carried out on his behalf, against his will, we will have reached a situation which speaks more of force and a lack of consent, that it does of the original benevolent and reasoned aims of the scientist.
Thus on the one hand our scientist is driven by benevolence and compassion, with a desire to reduce suffering, in this case that caused by tooth decay, by his action of fluoridating the water. But on the other, it seems he is willing to submit to his own emotions of domination, and invoke tyranny to enforce the efforts of his reason and fluoridate the water against the will of those who oppose him.
At what point does the will of the benevolent scientist stop? And at what point does he admit his benevolence has descended into wrongdoing? Is he willing to forcibly brush everyone's teeth for them in order to enforce the "public good"? I expect, and I hope, that we can all agree that such a conclusion would be absurd.
But there is a line, and we cannot blithely ignore that it exists, whilst at the same time stamping our feet on it.
The politically shrewd may argue the case from the perspective of cost and only cost. If we concede that there is no harm from fluoridation, then the scales of cost are presented with the one side being weighted by the cost of the fluoridation process, and the other being weighted by the cost of public dentistry, which our reason tells us will be increased if fluoridation is not carried out.
In which case the argument for Fluoride seems compelling. But this argument is naive and neglects all the consequences of the action and fails to account for intangible costs. The religion of money is invoked, and reason appears to evaporate.
Consider this, what is the cost to society in creating a perception of science that ignores the feelings of people?
What is the cost to democracy in advocating force to impose the outputs of reason?
What is the cost to reason itself in advocating force, rather than relying on the force of reason itself?
Does the scientist lack that much faith in the ability of reason to convince? If he is not convinced of reason enough to trust in it completely, why should the uninitiated be?
Isn't it a strange state of affairs, when those who hold the virtues of reason the dearest, poison the chalice of reason by eschewing it in favour of force?
Seeing the whole picture
The proponents of reason in this case seem to be blind to their own shortcomings in it. Their reasoning has excluded the emotional aspects of humanity and is therefore less complete than a reasoning which considers them.
Surely if you wish to espouse the virtues of reason, you should stick by your conviction and let reason encompass the totality of the problem?
Human beings are emotional creatures and how we are treated emotionally affects our health. If we are to prosper as a nation we cannot neglect the impact this has on the health of society as a whole.
If you care about health at all, then you will understand that mental health plays a central role, and that emotion cannot be excised from the problem so readily.
If you wish to uphold your pledge to reason, then you should accept that emotion plays a vital role in the health of our nation. And in accepting this you should resolve, not to blindly swing your scythe against the people who's trust you hope to engender, but address their concerns until they are convinced.
If the decisions you make do not account for their emotion then you have failed in both your comprehension of the problem, and in your job in resolving it as a scientist. You have resorted to force instead.
It is your job as a scientist to convince yourself and your peers that your hypothesis is consistent with observation and that the causal agents you apportion to effect are really those responsible. You do this in wilfully submitting your publications to peer review and understand the process well.
Although the wider public are not your peers in science, you should not be so arrogant as to believe that the burden of proof you shoulder is any lighter when you carry it for them as it is for the review board. If you cannot convince the public that your suggested actions are necessary, this is not because of shortcomings in your opponent, it is because of shortcomings in you.
I implore you, do not abase yourself by abandoning the strength of the very thing you claim so vehemently to espouse: reason.
As a scientist of reason, you must persist as an educator, and as a human. You must work to build trust with the public and take the totality of the problem into account. The world of people is and never will be as clear cut as the results of a scientific study, and so you must not treat it as such.
Accept emotion, accept the difficulty, but persist anyway, and don't give up until you have your fellow humans convinced. Not as embittered enemies, grudgingly accepting their defeat and domination, but as allies fully won over to the cause. Only then will we truly progress.
I'm asking this question because there are a lot of ideas in the world including my own, and I want to say a little something about the latter.
Ideas are interesting things, and I want to begin by exploring them.
When I say that you or I have an idea, what is it that we have?
I can try and construct language to explain it to you, I can try and use words, and you might accept them. But what does this mean? What does it really mean to accept an explanation for something and consider it true?
What we have is a logical system that is agreeing with itself. To accept an idea as true is self-referential. It is a labeling acknowledgement of a concept that has arisen due to process from within the same system that generated the idea itself.
Why don't you ponder upon another idea, and ask yourself another question, and that is. Is there something that goes below, or beyond the notion of an idea? Is there something within the mind, below ideas, but that is not made from ideas, but that still has substance?
What am I talking about, and what am I looking at inside myself when I ask this?
I will do my best to point you in the right direction but laughably, and unavoidably so, this is all I can ever do. With that said, let me begin.
Thoughts come into us all the time, they come from outside us, and they come from within us. Sounds, smells, tastes, senses, all come from outside us, impinge upon us, and generate within us thoughts, ideas, flows of information, changes in entropy, or whatever label you want to apply to them using language, i.e using other thoughts. If this seems self-referential, this is because it is so. I can only express ideas about thoughts with other thoughts, when my goal is to change thoughts into words and put them here for you to read.
But lets start with these thoughts, that come into the head, these things that bash against us from outside like waves against a shore. They splash around inside us and we might recognise them in the "conscious" and consider them real. Now these things that come outside, they knock themselves about inside us, and trigger all kinds of further thoughts and ideas. Now ask yourself this, do you think there is any material difference between the thought caused by the sound of a squawking bird, and the thought you attribute to having originated from "yourself", such as "I'm hungry", or more detached "I want a new car"?
At the very centre of us, there are thoughts generated by the body, about its needs. I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, I need to sleep, I want to have sex, and so on. Some of these thoughts are incredibly important in that if we don't listen to them, we will die. If we don't eat and drink, then clearly we will die. If we don't breathe we will die. Thankfully the burden of breathing, of pumping your heart, and of regulating everything else, is largely autonomous from the perspective of the "conscious" and we don't have to bother ourselves about it.
Some thoughts require attention because you need to do something about them. You need to find water to drink it, you need to bring it to your lips in order to swallow it. So how does this come about? How does the body's need and it's message to you that it is thirsty, propagate itself upwards into "conscious" and ultimately into action? And furthermore do you really think it needs your attention to achieve the goal, or is it all largely automatic and you are just given a kind of oversight?
So the body tells you it is thirsty, and a huge cascade of thoughts make there way up to you, and you make some kind of decision on how to act, based on what you know works, or if the situation is tricky, you might take all kinds of cues from the environment, and create thoughts which are a kind of simulation about what might happen if other thoughts are carried into action, and then the simulation might show you that you reached water, and "you" decide to carry this action out.
You might wonder who exactly I am speaking to when I say "you"? I'm speaking to all of you, but I'm willing to posit that there is some part of you that thinks it is more important than the rest of you, and that thinks I am speaking just to it. Now, we've got ourselves down inside this thing, this mind, but I want to get outside of it and talk about what happens when we take on ideas.
We are going somewhere with this line of thought so keep yourself along with it, and don't take my word for any of it.
So instead of fundamentally important ideas such as "I'm thirsty", we are talking here about much more spacious and indefinite ideas (and comparatively useless) such as "god" or "no-god", or "theism" and "atheism", and what these ideas mean, and what they can do to you.
For that's what they are, they are ideas. Much as the "conscious" thought "I'm hungry", has it's genesis deep in the mind somewhere as a result of messages from the body, these ideas "there is a god" are more or less identical in their material affect on the mind. (We can allow ourselves to concede that perhaps something like "I'm thirsty" is a bit more hard wired into causing certain types of action than "There is a god").
So this is what we are talking about here, how ideas can cause actions, and why that might be important.
So ask yourself what kind of actions might the thoughts "there is a being that has superpowers and can destroy me if he wants if I don't follow his rules" or "there is no god, there is nothing of merit in religion, and there is nothing of merit in the ideas that religion engenders".
I hope you can see with me, that these are both ideas that can be adopted into chains of thought that ultimately generate action. I happen to think that they are both quite childish ideas, but that's immaterial.
How might we choose which ideas to include in our goal-oriented simulations in order to live our lives? Well this *is* belief. Belief is the decision to permit oneself to include an idea into the mind, and give it influence over the processions of thought that lead to action. Disbelief is the suppression of the idea, and the removal of it, based on prior experience or prejudice or whatever, because it is judged as being nonconstructive apriori for being able to help with achieving your goals. And by the way, the noisy part of you, the loud mouthed ego, might not know what these goals are, and they might not pop up as understandable ideas into your "conscious".
So why am I not a theist or an atheist?
It is because I do not believe that these ideas (and many like it) are relevant to me, that is, they are not necessary for me to function. But more importantly, these ideas can be very powerful, and they like to feed back on themselves in the mind, and they like to keep themselves around. Them being around inside myself is contrary to my agenda, and I hope that eventually you'll be able to see why they might be getting in your way too.
Ask the religious person, let us say, a particular type of Buddhist who believes that we are constantly reincarnated and constantly re-experience consciousness. Ask them where they got this idea from? Is this an idea that they saw inside themselves in a meditation (let's assume they have)? If so, where did it come from and what is it's purpose?
Besides the point that there is something foolish in taking what's seen in the depths of a mind and assuming it can be expressed symbolically and still retain any meaning, how does it help to keep this idea around in the mind? How does it help a person be completely free, completely unfettered if they keep such ideas around?
I mean, let's be honest here, this thing is an idea, it is just a construct. How could it be useful to a human, and how can it help that human to achieve its goals?
Now I'm talking of course about a specific goal, which is my spiritual goal, and that is freedom.
What I'm talking about here is complete freedom of the mind and freedom from being held hostage by any ideas at all, and this is a very important thing. You might notice then the absurdity in me having any goal whatsoever, given the massive consequences that holding one has to the very object of being free. But I'm permitting myself to speak of it here, and I'll pretend that it exists, whereas really I'm not going to hold onto it at all.
The reason this is important is that because when you look at the ideas, look at the mind, through meditation, you will see that there is something beyond thought, something literally unbelievable, because it cannot be expressed by ideas or used directly to influence action. It *causes* ideas but cannot come about from ideas. It is thus, unbelievable in itself and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever to talk about it, other than to hint that it might be there.
Now the atheist (or the theist indeed) might argue that I've derailed myself here, that I'm pointing or talking about something. Making claims about something that I can't backup. He or she might argue that I am making definitive claims about the mind saying that there is something "beyond ideas". They might task me to prove that this is somehow materially true, with various physical measuring instruments or something equally absurd.
But do they admit that the sound of a horn, the representation of the sound in the mind, and the description of the sound are all the same thing?
They might, but I think that they know the difference between a description of something and the something itself. And they should know the difference between the measurement of temperature with a mercury thermometer vs the experience of feeling the warmth of sunshine. So why would they ask me to measure this thing?
What is it like to feel the warmth of sunshine and can it be enjoyed without explaining it?
At the root of some religious beliefs are things which are not beliefs, things which are not ideas. Sometimes a person will have an amazing experience, something they cannot explain but that feels amazing. They try to put this into words and get themselves all caught up in trying to understand it. We find convenient descriptions all over the place that seem to click with what we feel, that seem to make sense, and that the mind thinks might be be useful in staving something unpleasant thing off or in achieving something desirable thing, so we hang onto the idea and forget the experience. Sometimes we get taught, sometimes under duress or threat, that the thing we feel is attributed only to some specific idea, and that we'd better not think otherwise.
More superficially, some believers don't even have this spiritual dimension at the root of themselves, they instead get caught immediately by an idea that resonates with their goals, and they come to believe the idea without it having any root in experience. It just "makes sense" and seems amenable to the particular goal-oriented behavior they have in mind (again not-necessarily conscious).
Now I'm going to tell you that the only thing that really matters in all of this is the experience that causes the ideas, and not the ideas themselves. But I'm knotting myself by doing this because I am of course using and expressing ideas myself right now, and I'm giving them an importance that they do not deserve.
I'm telling you to devalue ideas, but I want you to convince you to do this using ideas and by telling you that my ideas have value. Pretty absurd, I hope you'll agree. This is why you mustn't believe me, but instead find out for yourself.
Some atheists are so caught up in the power of language and logic, that they cannot understand something that is right under their noses. Namely that at the root of everything they do and say is a stream of experience that is beyond language and logic.
The logician is angered by this statement, because he wants me to believe that I must answer to him using logic. He believes so vehemently in the truth of language and logic, and ironically not the feelings that his expressions engender, that he ends up running fullspeed away from the truth. This is also absurd.
What he fails to grasp, is that I don't want to engage him in logic, because I've already ascertained that it is useless in achieving understanding about the thing I am looking at. Thought doesn't allow me to see the thing, thought gets in the way of me looking at it without judgement and seeing it for what it is.
But can I explain this to the logician without him getting redder and redder in the face as he gets more exasperated with my inability to engage him? In my stupidity for rejecting logic.
What I'm trying to tell the logician is that there is a different way to play the game, and instead of trying out this different way, he keeps playing his game, as if my answer is going to come from there. Or as if my experience of this other way is going to evaporate by the heat of his red face.
So instead of arguing with him I'd like him to just suspend his prejudice for a second and imagine that maybe, just maybe, I've not being completely stupid, and that there might be something in (or rather outside of) what I'm saying. And I would suggest that he try a very simple exercise.
I am suggesting only that he sit down, breathe, and observe.
Then he can ask himself "what is thought" without trying to answer it. And I'm suggesting, that he will get an answer to this question that satisfies him, and yet neither has a logical explanation, nor demands one. Then, let him consider the power of his logic again.
Believe it or not, the theist is also a logician, and is also caught up in his ideas. But the theist is probably in a much more difficult position since he binds his ideas strongly to the morality within himself, making them all mixed up. Thus his reluctance to look at new ideas derives from a reluctance to challenge his morality. But he shouldn't be afraid of me because I'm not asking him to change his ideas, only to look within himself honestly and openly. If he can do this, perhaps he will ultimately see the damage that divisory ideas can wreck, and discard them.
Why do I care about this?
It is very difficult to write anything without coming across as judgmental, and it is even more difficult to personally not hold judgments against others. In that sense you should know that I am in no-way excluded from the problems with ideas outlined in this post, nor am I free from conflict myself. In fact I'm the most important person in the post as I can only control myself and nobody else.
But if we are to assume that the goal is peace and prosperity for all, and that our theist and our atheist both aspire to this, then I hope, and this applies especially to anyone with strong divisory or exclusionary beliefs, that they might sit and ponder for a while about all the conflict in the world and where it comes from. Perhaps then they will see that there is only one place it can possibly come from: within each of us.
You've probably heard of and seen day of the dead depicted in popular culture, specifically I expect you've seen elaborately decorated "sugar" skulls, death figurines, and death themed alters (ofertas) in documentaries or popular articles about Mexico. But I'm going to tell you what I know about it from being in Oaxaca for day of the dead this year.
"Day" of the dead is not really a day at all. Originally, the Aztec forefather to Day of the Dead was a month long festival that began at the end of harvest in August. Day of the dead is thought to have evolved from this celebration and may have roots that go back several thousand years.
When the Spanish invaded Central America just a few hundred years ago, a principal tool of their domination was Catholicism. Disease was another, albeit unintentional, genocidal apparatus. Combined with the more traditional favourites of slavery and execution, the Spanish managed to reduce the indigenous population from approximately 25.2 million people to around 700,000 over a period of about 100 years .
As a side-dish to this apocalyptic entree, among other horrors, these demonic forms destroyed the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, partially destroyed Zapotec Mitla, and almost succeeded in wiping out all written and spoken Maya leaving only 4 (!) of the many thousands of books that the Mayans wrote. To paraphrase Richard Feynman: imagine *our* civilization reduced to just 4 books!
Naturally, being as tiny minded as they were violent, the conquistador zealots did not like Day of the Dead but decided, presumably to avoid causing a revolution, to allow its continued celebration among the indigenous population so long as they obeyed several conditions. The principal of these was that the duration of the festival was curtailed to three approved days and moved forward in phase from August to the end of October. Day of the dead was thus formalised as being on the 31st October, the 1st of November, and the 2nd of November. It is no coincidence that the latter two days mark the Catholic "all souls day". "Dominate everything" was the mantra of the invaders.
Following a few hundred years "integration", the present day festival is a strange amalgamation of pre-Hispanic ritual, some catholic elements and iconography, as well as a humorous take on death (perhaps betraying denial), that some believe was a coping mechanism for the genocidal years where death was a daily companion and had to be faced somehow lest complete social paralysis take hold. 
In truth, the present day festival still lasts much longer than three days. Celebrations begin several weeks before the 31st, much like is the case with the modern celebration of the winter solstice,
People celebrate day of the dead slightly differently depending on where in Mexico they come from, as there are many different indigenous influences (16 different indigenous populations in Oaxaca alone). I'm sure some and will contest my interpretation below, but this rough timeline is approximately true of contemporary Oaxaca city at least (I've only been once):
Markets start selling day of the dead merchandise. Pan de muertos (bread of the dead) start appearing in bakeries and other shops. Pan de muertos can traditionally come with a toy skeleton inside it, which is said to bestow fortune on the lucky finder.
People sell all kinds of decorated skulls including ones made of sugar. Many of these items are incredibly detailed and spectacularly artistic. I only have a single decorated skull below, but there are many many varieties.
Camparsas start happening on the streets (the earliness of their appearance may be a logistical consequence of the large number of camparsas that take place, coupled with the police presence and authorization they often need).
A camparsa is a procession that has one or more brass bands playing cool dia de muertos songs. The people are dressed up in death-themed costumes and are acting very jovial. Mezcal is often involved. The purpose of a camparsa, I was told by my Zapotec/Mixtec heritage friend, is to round up the dead that might be wandering around the streets early, to tell them to go home to their relatives.
Alters start going up around the place and the intensity of day of the dead celebrations increases.
Local authorities put on artistic shows, and sand paintings are made.
Catrina competitions and other costume competitions are held.
More and larger camparsas.
Alters are all up, the alter contains food offerings for the dead, cigarettes, mezcal, and everything else they need. Copal (a very intense incense from tree sap) is lit and burned to bring in the dead and to bridge the gap between the real and spirit world. The dead are famished from their tiring journey into our realm, and must be provided for.
Many tons of yellow and other flowers from the mountains, and cultivated marigolds are placed around everywhere. The dead need strong smelling things to stimulate their senses.
Intense parties occur. Teenage boys fight each other with firework-emblazoned bulls. The brass bands go really crazy and team up into mega-bands on the street.
People have celebrations in their homes and much chocolate is drunk.
Ad-hoc and very large camparsas of much greater spiritual intensity occur around the towns.
People go into the cemeteries to wake their dead and sit with them as they come out the ground and into the realm of the living. The cemeteries are absolutely covered in yellow flowers and are full of candles, people, music, food, and activity.
The presence of the dead is much more widely and obviously felt.
The dead are back now and with their families, the child dead are also there. Sometimes this is separated out, with the 1st being for the children and the 2nd for adults. In other parts of Mexico it's the other way around. In anycase the dead are back and enjoying the offerings.
People pay visits to the houses of others, to visit their dead. Anyone who knows anyone is compelled to take the opportunity to go and say hello. Visitors are encouraged to eat something by their hosts. The old of the village may sometimes visit almost every house, having known so many families and people in their time.
Towards the end of the 2nd, the dead go back to the cemetery. Processions often accompany them.
We arrived at the cemetery via a "tour" that was really a very expensive taxi, and told to be respectful but to go and enjoy ourselves and be back in an hour.
Being thrust into the breach like this imbued me with a sense of anxiety and trepidation.
All of my instincts told me I was doing something disrespectful. All around were candle-lit graves covered in yellow flowers and surrounded by what I perceived as mourning families. Over one grave, a girl was draped crying.
How disrespectful I felt, and how disrespectful I felt others were, standing around gawping as if the scene were some Disney World spectacle put on for our entertainment.
I felt anxious to move about the cemetery, worrying with every step that I might walk too near a grave and offend someone. I was utterly uncomfortable making my way further into the cemetery, having to navigate the extremely narrow paths which threaded between graves. The worst was having to say "excuse me" to move past families surrounding graves: it felt so intrusive.
You cannot imagine the degree to which the reservedness of the English in me was affronted by the scene. I was paralyzed with worry, and wanted to leave, and I was struck by the conviction that bringing tourists here was utterly offensive.
Many of the other tourists did not seem to hold my reservations, there were people taking photos of every thing, camera flashes going off all over the place, even people with tripods! The craziest sight though was that of three American tourists whom had dressed up in LED-lit suits, and were dancing around and between the graves. I was just about ready to combust in shame after witnessing that.
I was of course grossly over-reacting, let me explain why.
You might be thinking tonight, what were LED-lit Americans dancing to in a grave yard? Presumably music of course, but where was the music coming from in a grave yard? I don't know about you, but music isn't a normal occurrence in British graveyards.
Well, believe it or not, it was a live band. That's right, at the promontory of the cemetery, a full stage had been setup, and an amplified live band were playing mariachi and other music.
It's strange, how something so obviously contrary to my perception of the place, had failed to ignite a change in perception earlier. The live band was for the people in the graveyard. This was my first clue that something totally different to my English experience was going on here.
Furthermore, on closer inspection, there were people drinking Mezcal, various other alcoholic drinks, and smoking whilst sitting around their family graves. In fact, many of the families appeared to be having a jolly good time at it too!
But I was still apprehensive for a long time: grubby cultural biases surrounding strong topics like death are very stubborn to clean off!
Nicola and I decided that we needed to try and relax and get more into the spirit of things. So we bought a beer each at one of the many stalls at the entrance to the cemetery (the presence of beer sellers should have been an obvious clue for us as to the nature of the event). Now, with our beers, we didn't feel so odd. We still felt odd, but not quite as odd.
It felt now, like we had gatecrashed a stranger's wedding, but were at least attempting to blend in and join in the fun.
Although, a wedding is very selfish in comparison to dia de muertos and focuses on a single family. Perhaps a better analogy is that it is if all the villagers were having a big joint birthday party in a public space, and we were strangers that had wandered in.
Now imagine, if you ended up a stranger at someone else's party, the last thing you want to do is stand around gawping at people, and looking incredibly awkward. No, you need to join in, mingle, at least try to get some acceptance from the group. Of course, it's not your family, so still there will be some strangeness about it, but most people are open and at most weddings there are people who come as partners that perhaps even the bride and groom don't know. Nevertheless, they are welcomed in and their participation is encouraged.
From this perspective, re-evaluating the dancing Americans, even they didn't seem as crazy as I'd first imagined. If you're going to turn up uninvited at someone's family gathering in a public space, isn't it better to be at least entertaining? The girl who had been crying over a grave, subsequently went over to the LED-lit Americans, and posed for a photo with them whilst her mother took it. Several other children came up and did the same. Maybe it was OK, I started to think.
Many children were walking around dressed up in Halloween style costumes and asking for money in pots.
Copal was burning everywhere and the place was full of a candle glow.
A man was crying and wanted to tell us the story of his loved ones.
People were arriving at 1 and 2 in the morning with wheelbarrows full of flowers, chairs, drinks and family members.
It was the most powerful consciousness altering experience I have had without deliberately attempting to alter my consciousness (through meditation for example). I felt, probably for the first time in my life, a true extra dimension to reality that I hadn't seen before.
You have to see and feel this for yourself, because I can't describe it. But I'll tell you one more thing.
The roots of this festival extend throughout the country. We went up into the Oaxacan mountains for a three day hike and in one of the villages the villagers climbed up a hill to the tallest point on the mountain to dance all night with the dead. We met the mushroom man of the village the following morning and he was full of happiness. I showed him my mushroom pictures and he embraced me as a fellow mushroom man. The Zapotec culture is well connected with the true nature of reality and through the veneer of westernisation, if you are willing to look, you will see something incredibly powerful.
Day of the dead is a festival of incredible cultural sophistication. It allows society to deal with the dead in a very healthy way.
Death is a constant from whom nobody can escape. Everybody mourns and everybody dies. Everyone is unified by death.
This is made absolutely apparent in day of the dead where family sees family at the cemetery, surrounded by death. Families comfort families, and help and support each other, as well as having a good time together.
The dead are not forgotten when they die, and something of them really seems to come come back every year in the manifestation of memory and consciousness of those who summon them.
Knowing that the dead are remembered year after year, the living reflect on this and incorporate this future into the present execution of their lives, unconsciously and consciously tithing the expectation of how they will be remembered.
The dead can be mourned in passing and ordinary personal grief processes are respected, but come the next year, the dead must be celebrated. It is the duty of the living to respect the dead and provide for them. Society supports itself in overcoming grief.
We should import day of the dead into our culture, as the dead deserve more than the barren and morbid treatment they presently get.
I don't need to go into exact details, anyone who has experienced bullies or witnessed any kind of injustice, can probably recall the memories, the pain, and the shame. But what I need to do is deal with it. This is obviously a very personal thing, but I'm putting this here partly out of catharsis, but more importantly because it might help others.
For years the effects of bullying have pained my life, many years beyond the last time I'd ever seen the bullies. I have been anguished and thwart by my fear and by my shame. I also ended up bullying people myself because of being bullied, and that is a terrible thing, I am sorry from the very bottom of my heart and I hope one day that the people I hurt can forgive me and that I didn't do them any lasting damage. In anycase, the consequences of bullying are horrible, so the focus here is on healing after being the subject of bullying or abuse.
The term bully makes what is being done sound childish, but it is not. It is cruel, and it is abuse. In the most direct description it is people hurting other people, and it is wrong.
Bullying causes many emotions but the strongest of these are hurt, fear, and shame.
When I speak of hurt, I'm principally referring to emotional hurt. Although I've experienced physical hurt at the hands of bullies, this was never for me the major issue. I'm lucky to be blessed with a large frame, and my body is very physically resilient. But accompanying physical attacks is the much more damaging emotional hurt caused. I know others are not so lucky, and may have experienced a much greater degree of physical hurt, even to the point of debilitation, and for that I imagine this is going to be even more difficult.
But no, for me, physical damage was only a temporary inconvenience and my rough physique brushed it off as I would brush off a tumble on the snowboarding track.
The hurt that bullying causes is deep and myriad (humiliation, feeling stupid, feeling ugly, etc), but what damaged me most though, regardless of whether there was a physical assault or not, was the mental feeling of subjugation. There is a lot of fear in those moments when the bully toys with you, when the bully holds you in the headlights like the doe. It is a gut wrenching feeling of exposure and vulnerability. At it's worst, you feel paralysed to act and allow yourself to be abused.
This is where the shame comes from. You feel complicit in the act, because you didn't stop it. You feel ashamed to tell anyone about it, in case they reject you, or I guess fundamentally, you are worried that they will no longer love you. The shame allows it to continue, because you don't tell anyone about it. The shame increases your isolation and makes you more vulnerable, so the bullying continues.
The fear causes damage too. Fear is an incredible learning tool. It is perhaps the most powerful agent of change the brain knows of, and for good reason. That lion really can kill you, so you'd better not go near its pride. The roar of the lion, rightly so, should tell you to stay well away from that place, and you'd better not forget it, lest you waste your life getting gobbled up by a big fat Felix.
Fear projects its tendrils deep into you and in bullying and other controlling/violent situations you can learn associations that are incredibly difficult to unlearn. Those people, the bullies, stick in your mind like nothing else, and can reduce you again to your subjugated state, just by being present again in the future.
So you worry, you worry, and worry, and worry, that you'll see the bully again. Because you don't know what to do, you don't know how to handle the situation. You worry all you will do is freeze again, and all you will do is be abused again. It's a terrible terrible thing, and it's tragic yet understandable how someone can be driven to suicide out of absolute pure desperation and helplessness, because they've been trapped in a cycle of fear, isolation, and shame.
Thus, bullying and generally abuse of all forms, is incredibly destructive, and that it is why it is of incredible importance that you deal with it. This is why I'm writing this letter, to deal with it myself.
Now, for many years I did not know what to do. I was full of hate for my bullies, despite sometimes being afraid even to say their names out loud. I was so full of anger and hate for them that I wanted to kill them. I wanted them dead. Now of course, I don't really want to commit these acts, but a greater fear in me was having to feel that feeling again, having to feel powerless in front of the bully, and be abused again. That was my greatest fear, and I had to deal with it somehow, but I didn't know how.
I would dream of smashing the bullies' head in. To begin with the dreams were principally of me being subjected again to abuse, but over time, they became more violent. As the anger within me increased, and as I did nothing to deal with it, the dreams became increasingly horrific. I had one only last night where I ended up stamping on the bullies head, and it was crushed against a metal door holding, causing the bullies' brains to vacate the skull.
I actually encountered one of the bullies last Christmas and he asked me how I was and tried to shake my hand. I reluctantly shook his hand, but I couldn't function properly. I was trapped by fear and doubt. Would I again become a paralysed wreck laying vulnerable, ready to be abused. But something in me had changed, a lot had changed since this bully carried out his hatred on me. I had nurtured a hatred inside myself so great that it was truly more terrifying than he had ever been or ever could be.
The bully asked me "how you doing", but all I could say was "what do you mean, how am I doing?" as if the anger in me demanded recognition from him, as if the affront of this complete indifference was as bad as the former abuse itself. He became confused, and asked me "what's wrong with you?", again I responded "what do you mean, what's wrong with me?". Things were escalating but I felt I had no means to control the situation, I had again been isolated in the situation, as my family were sitting at a table not far away, but somehow I was stuck alone at the noisy bar with the bully. Finally the bully gave up and turned his back to me saying "Well, fuck you then!". This caused paroxysms of rage to erupt within me.
This was him, spitting in my face again (as he had literally done once), this was him showing me he was still the same. I was livid. Without thinking, from amygdala to mouth, I shouted at him "Fuck you, you fucking prick!". He turned around and seemed genuinely confused and perhaps even slightly afraid "What's a matter with you?" he said to me. I just walked off shaking, feeling a mixture of fear and confusion about what had just happened.
I had ignited within myself an even greater problem by doing this. I had caused for myself much more anguish. But I forgive myself because I didn't know how to handle the situation. Nobody told me, nobody supported me, I never told anyone about these bullies until long after there was any use, so I didn't know what to do. I had allowed anger to consume me, I had allowed it to build up over the years, and this had caused my current problem. I'd escalated things because I hadn't dealt with my anger.
I struggled with myself following this incident, told various people to gauge reactions. Some supported me, saying it was right to stand up to him, others scolded me for not just ignoring him. In anycase, I still didn't know what to do, and what I'd do if I saw him the next time.
So, we come back to the dream I had last night, about smashing his skull in. I spoke to my partner about this in the morning, and she told me I needed to deal with these people, forgive them inside myself. I was annoyed about this, because it made me even more angry that these people still had control over me. Still caused me pain. My mind could not accept this. Didn't want to give them the credit. But now I know that it isn't really them, it's me. It's the anger in me that is controlling me, not them.
We had a long discussion, and I realised many things, many obvious truths that are echoed in many great books and religions. And understanding finally what they meant. I will put this into practice, and hopefully, eventually free myself from fear.
The first thing to do is to forgive your past self for being bullied. Yes, you abandoned yourself to fear at the time. Your lovely self. You were a coward and allowed yourself to be bullied, these things are true, but are excusable if you have any compassion. You were under a situation of fear, a wonderful mechanism of nature that is genuinely useful, but it doesn't make great judgements about the real threat, it over-reacts, and this can be abused. You couldn't do anything else, given you knowledge and training. You were overpowered by the situation. It happened, accept it.
You are no less of a person for being bullied, if anything it should help you be more compassionate. You are a good person and have a lot of great things to give to the world. That you were ashamed and told nobody, is only because you were ashamed of yourself. Literally, it was you who was most ashamed by your actions, not the fear the effects of shame from others, but you. Because you felt you abandoned by yourself. I guess in part you also felt abandoned by others, because nobody had come to your rescue. But it's OK. It happened, you can't change it. You have to love your former self and forgive yourself.
Now the next thing to do is to forgive the bullies. Yes that's right, forgive them. You cannot carry around a bellyful of hate and expect to be happy, it simply won't work. We are creatures of higher consciousness, and we do not have to conflict with each other. Nature knows this, you know this, and this is built into you. Anger and hatred, do not bring resolution. If you were to kill all the bullies, you would only cause more anguish to yourself and others. It's impossible to cure yourself from anger. Let go.
Forgiving the bullies does not mean that you think what they have done is right, do not make that mistake in reading this. You will see from what I tell you last, that you should never think what they have done is right, and you will never allow yourself to be abused again. But for now, forget that, and forgive the bullies.
Love them. As trite as it sounds, love them. Have compassion for them as human beings. Regardless of what they have done, somehow find a way to love them. This is a very difficult one, but it's like a wife still loving her husband despite his stroke having changed his personality. Deep down at one point at least, assuming they are not truly sociopathic, they were a child and they did not have these impulses to hurt others. Something happened to them, or someone taught them, to be sadistic. Regardless, the loving them isn't for them. It's for you.
Love thine enemies is not about the enemies, it's about you. If you love all creatures, even the bad ones, you will cultivate love, the most powerful and valuable of all things inside yourself.
This is why you must love, because you deserve to be filled inside with love. And nothing, nothing at all should be in there to hold you back.
You can run up against hatred all you want but it will only burn you to pieces. And of course it will, what else could such feelings do but destroy you? In their very essence they are the things you most abhor. You don't want those things inside you, and you must do everything to get them out. Love is the solution, as you have always known it to be. This is why when you see on the news as you probably have, the mother and father of a murdered child professing their forgiveness for the perpetrator, the strained incredulity of it can be understood. It is the only way these people can move on, the only way they can finally let go.
Love yourself first and foremost, then love your family, and then love everyone else as if they were your family.
So to my bullies, I forgive you, and I love you.
And so finally we come to the issue of justice. What the bullies did was wrong. It *was* wrong. There is a right and a wrong, no matter what the greedy and the powerful want you to think, and we all know it. It is wrong to hurt others intentionally, and any form of it is wrong. If you're brain has not been broken like a congo child forced to murder and rape at the point of a gun, or if you aren't one of the tiny percentage of truly sociopathic people, you know it to be wrong. We have courts, we have justice, to deal with people who do wrong. And for the big things, we hope this serves us.
For things like bullying, the actions are often not even illegal, and the assault may not be severe, regardless of the actual damage these things do. But what you have to do, is stand up for yourself. You can never let yourself be bullied again. This doesn't mean running upto the bully as soon as you saw him and headbutting him in the face. That would be offence, not defence. No, reserve justice for cases, where you are genuinely affronted, and there is no possible other way out. Then you must, you absolutely must, stand up for yourself with as much love and courage as you can muster.
Now you might be thinking that still you don't know what to do if you meet former bullies again. And it is true that I haven't given you specific instructions. The truth is, as Burn's said "the best laid plans of mice and men are want to go awry" or thereabouts. The point is, you shouldn't be thinking about what you are going to do if and when you see the bullies again, you should be focusing on yourself, on loving yourself, and then the right action will come naturally to you if it needs to. It's the fear now, and the hatred inside you now, that are a thousand times more pressing than anything else that bully in your mind or anybody else could ever do to you.
But if I were to guess, I'd say you will probably ignore them, as this is the best thing to do with people who haven't changed, unless they come out in sincere forgiveness.
And if you get physically attacked? Well, then you will either run away and get help if you can outrun them, or you will fight as viciously as an alleycat to stop them. You will stand up for yourself out of love, but only when it is entirely necessary. If you can ignore them, you will. If you cultivate love inside yourself, and forgive, and remove the hatred, I trust that you will take the right action if and when the time comes. Until that thing that may never happen, happens, you don't have to think about it. Live now.
If you are in a situation where you cannot defend yourself and you are being abused, you absolutely must tell someone who can help you. Do not be ashamed. Do not stay in the situation. There are people who can help you, and they will. Even if the first person you approach dismisses you, do not give up, keep telling people until someone helps you, do not give up. If someone is doing something illegal to you, tell the police immediately. There is a way out of your situation and I know you can find it.