Sunday, August 20, 2017

"How It Really Should Be"

Musical Interlude: The Who, “Love, Reign O'er Me”

The Who, “Love, Reign O'er Me”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhSdNy1snaU
Hey, it's my blog, and I always liked The Who, lol

Musical Interlude: The Who, “Overture” (From "Tommy")

The Who, “Overture” (From "Tommy")

"The Holstee Manifesto"

"The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease"

"The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions
 Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease"
by Maria Popova 

"I had lived thirty good years before enduring my first food poisoning - odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. I found myself completely incapacitated to erect the pillars of my daily life - too cognitively foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even meditate. The temporary disability soon elevated the assault on my mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. Even as I consoled myself with Nabokov’s exceptionally florid account of food poisoning, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me - somehow, a physical illness had completely colored my psychoemotional reality.

This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. Long before scientists began shedding light on how our minds and bodies actually affect one another, an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between the body and the emotions, or feelings, emerged and permeated our very language: We use “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms - fever, fatigue, nausea - and the psychological malaise, woven of emotions like sadness and apathy.

Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humors - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm - in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. These beliefs are fossilized in our present language - melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.

Click image for larger size.
Chart of the four humors from a 1495 medical textbook by Johannes de Ketham.

And then French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes came along in the seventeenth century, taking it upon himself to eradicate the superstitions that fueled the religious wars of the era by planting the seed of rationalism. But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science - the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly ascertained and proven beyond doubt - severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.

For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo - setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off. It was only in the 1950s that Austrian-Canadian physician and physiologist Hans Selye pioneered the notion of stress as we now know it today, drawing the scientific community’s attention to the effects of stress on physical health and popularizing the concept around the world. (In addition to his scientific dedication, Selye also understood the branding component of any successful movement and worked tirelessly to include the word itself in dictionaries around the world; today, “stress” is perhaps the word pronounced most similarly in the greatest number of major languages.)

But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Esther Sternberg. Her groundbreaking work on the link between the central nervous system and the immune system, exploring how immune molecules made in the blood can trigger brain function that profoundly affects our emotions, has revolutionized our understanding of the integrated being we call a human self. In the immeasurably revelatory "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions" (public library), Sternberg examines the interplay of our emotions and our physical health, mediated by that seemingly nebulous yet, it turns out, remarkably concrete experience called stress.

With an eye to modern medicine’s advances in cellular and molecular biology, which have made it possible to measure how our nervous system and our hormones affect our susceptibility to diseases as varied as depression, arthritis, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Sternberg writes: "By parsing these chemical intermediaries, we can begin to understand the biological underpinnings of how emotions affect diseases.

The same parts of the brain that control the stress response play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives. Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what the molecules and nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts. And then we need to ask whether these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.

We are even beginning to sort out how emotional memories reach the parts of the brain that control the hormonal stress response, and how such emotions can ultimately affect the workings of the immune system and thus affect illnesses as disparate as arthritis and cancer. We are also beginning to piece together how signals from the immune system can affect the brain and the emotional and physical responses it controls: the molecular basis of feeling sick. In all this, the boundaries between mind and body are beginning to blur."

Indeed, the relationship between memory, emotion, and stress is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sternberg’s work. She considers how we deal with the constant swirl of inputs and outputs as we move through the world, barraged by a stream of stimuli and sensations:

"Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: a trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. Each can lead into the black box and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere."

Memory, it turns out, is one of the major factors mediating the dialogue between sensation and emotional experience. Our memories of past experience become encoded into triggers that act as switchers on the rail of psychoemotional response, directing the incoming train of present experience in the direction of one emotional destination or another.

Sternberg writes: "Mood is not homogeneous like cream soup. It is more like Swiss cheese, filled with holes. The triggers are highly specific, tripped by sudden trails of memory: a faint fragrance, a few bars of a tune, a vague silhouette that tapped into a sad memory buried deep, but not completely erased. These sensory inputs from the moment float through layers of time in the parts of the brain that control memory, and they pull out with them not only reminders of sense but also trails of the emotions that were first connected to the memory. These memories become connected to emotions, which are processed in other parts of the brain: the amygdala for fear, the nucleus accumbens for pleasure - those same parts that the anatomists had named for their shapes. And these emotional brain centers are linked by nerve pathways to the sensory parts of the brain and to the frontal lobe and hippocampus - the coordinating centers of thought and memory. The same sensory input can trigger a negative emotion or a positive one, depending on the memories associated with it."

This is where stress comes in - much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilizing us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress, Sternberg notes, is determined by the biology undergirding our feelings - by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus. She explains the neurobiological machinery behind this response:

"As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones - the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run - these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.

All this occurs quickly. If you were to measure the stress hormones in your blood or saliva, they would already be increased within three minutes of the event. In experimental psychology tests, playing a fast-paced video game will make salivary cortisol increase and norepinephrine spill over into venous blood almost as soon as the virtual battle begins. But if you prolong the stress, by being unable to control it or by making it too potent or long-lived, and these hormones and chemicals still continue to pump out from nerves and glands, then the same molecules that mobilized you for the short haul now debilitate you."

These effects of stress exist on a bell curve - that is, some is good, but too much becomes bad: As the nervous system secretes more and more stress hormones, performance increases, but up to a point; after that tipping point, performance begins to suffer as the hormones continue to flow. What makes stress “bad” - that is, what makes it render us more pervious to disease — is the disparity between the nervous system and immune system’s respective pace. Sternberg explains:

"The nervous system and the hormonal stress response react to a stimulus in milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. The immune system takes parts of hours or days. It takes much longer than two minutes for immune cells to mobilize and respond to an invader, so it is unlikely that a single, even powerful, short-lived stress on the order of moments could have much of an effect on immune responses. However, when the stress turns chronic, immune defenses begin to be impaired. As the stressful stimulus hammers on, stress hormones and chemicals continue to pump out. Immune cells floating in this milieu in blood, or passing through the spleen, or growing up in thymic nurseries never have a chance to recover from the unabated rush of cortisol. Since cortisol shuts down immune cells’ responses, shifting them to a muted form, less able to react to foreign triggers, in the context of continued stress we are less able to defend and fight when faced with new invaders. And so, if you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection."

Extended exposure to stress, especially to a variety of stressors at the same time - any combination from the vast existential menu of life-events like moving, divorce, a demanding job, the loss of a loved one, and even ongoing childcare - adds up a state of extreme exhaustion that leads to what we call burnout.


Sternberg writes: "Members of certain professions are more prone to burnout than others - nurses and teachers, for example, are among those at highest risk. These professionals are faced daily with caregiving situations in their work lives, often with inadequate pay, inadequate help in their jobs, and with too many patients or students in their charge. Some studies are beginning to show that burnt-out patients may have not only psychological burnout, but also physiological burnout: a flattened cortisol response and inability to respond to any stress with even a slight burst of cortisol. In other words, chronic unrelenting stress can change the stress response itself. And it can change other hormone systems in the body as well."

One of the most profound such changes affects the reproductive system - extended periods of stress can shut down the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, resulting in lower fertility. But the effects are especially perilous for women - recurring and extended episodes of depression result in permanent changes in bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In other words, we register stress literally in our bones.

But stress isn’t a direct causal function of the circumstances we’re in - what either amplifies or ameliorates our experience of stress is, once again, memory. Sternberg writes: "Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as on the actual event that has occurred. And it depends on memory, too."

The most acute manifestation of how memory modulates stress is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For striking evidence of how memory encodes past experience into triggers, which then catalyze present experience, Sternberg points to research by psychologist Rachel Yehuda, who found both Holocaust survivors and their first-degree relatives - that is, children and siblings - exhibited a similar hormonal stress response.

This, Sternberg points out, could be a combination of nature and nurture - the survivors, as young parents for whom the trauma was still fresh, may well have subconsciously taught their children a common style of stress-responsiveness; but it’s also possible that these automatic hormonal stress responses permanently changed the parents’ biology and were transmitted via DNA to their children. Once again, memory encodes stress into our very bodies. Sternberg considers the broader implications:

"Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some elements of PTSD. Common stresses that we all experience can trigger the emotional memory of a stressful circumstance - and all its accompanying physiological responses. Prolonged stress - such as divorce, a hostile workplace, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one - can all trigger elements of PTSD."

Among the major stressors - which include life-events expected to be on the list, such as divorce and the death of a loved one - is also one somewhat unexpected situation, at least to those who haven’t undergone it: moving. Sternberg considers the commonalities between something as devastating as death and something as mundane as moving: "One is certainly loss - the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty - finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped."

In the remainder of the thoroughly illuminating "The Balance Within", Sternberg goes on to explore the role of interpersonal relationships in both contributing to stress and shielding us from it, how the immune system changes our moods, and what we can do to harness these neurobiological insights in alleviating our experience of the stressors with which every human life is strewn."
Related:

"Why Does North Korea Hate Us? One Reason- They Remember the Korean War”

“Why Does North Korea Hate Us? 
One Reason- They Remember the Korean War”
by Mehdi Hasan

“Why do they hate us?” It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.

Let’s be clear: There is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment, and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).

North Korean officials make wild threats against the United States while the regime, led by the brutal and sadistic Kim Jong-un, pumps out fake news in the form of self-serving propaganda, on an industrial scale. In the DPRK, anti-American hatred is a commodity never in short supply. “The hate, though,” as longtime North Korea watcher Blaine Harden observed in the Washington Post, “is not all manufactured.” Some of it, he wrote, “is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.”

Forgets as in the “forgotten war.” Yes, the Korean War. Remember that? The one wedged between World War II and the Vietnam War? The first “hot” war of the Cold War, which took place between 1950 and 1953, and which has since been conveniently airbrushed from most discussions and debates about the “crazy” and “insane” regime in Pyongyang? Forgotten despite the fact that this particular war isn’t even over - it was halted by an armistice agreement, not a peace treaty - and despite the fact that the conflict saw the United States engage in numerous war crimes, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, continue to shape the way North Koreans view the United States, even if the residents of the United States remain blissfully ignorant of their country’s belligerent past.

For the record, it was the North Koreans, and not the Americans or their South Korean allies, who started the war in June 1950, when they crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the south. Nevertheless, “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings writes in his book “The Korean War: A History,” “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.”

How many Americans, for example, are aware of the fact that U.S. planes dropped on the Korean peninsula more bombs - 635,000 tons - and napalm - 32,557 tons - than during the entire Pacific campaign against the Japanese during World War II?

How many Americans know that “over a period of three years or so,” to quote Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, “we killed off 20 percent of the population”?

Twenty. Percent. For a point of comparison, the Nazis exterminated 20 percent of Poland’s pre-World War II population. According to LeMay, “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea.”

Every. Town. More than 3 million civilians are believed to have been killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them in the north.
circa 1950: An elderly woman and her grandchild wander among the debris of their wrecked home in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

How many Americans are familiar with the statements of Secretary of State Dean Rusk or Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas? Rusk, who was a State Department official in charge of Far Eastern affairs during the Korean War, would later admit that the United States bombed “every brick that was standing on top of another, everything that moved.” American pilots, he noted, “were just bombing the heck out of North Korea.”

Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and was stunned by the “misery, disease, pain and suffering, starvation” that had been “compounded” by air strikes. U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams, factories, and hospitals. “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,” the Supreme Court justice confessed, “but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”

How many Americans have ever come across Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s unhinged plan to win the war against North Korea in just 10 days? MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command during the conflict, wanted to drop “between 30 and 50 atomic bombs, strung across the neck of Manchuria” that would have “spread behind us a belt of radioactive cobalt.”

How many Americans have heard of the No Gun Ri massacre, in July 1950, in which hundreds of Koreans were killed by U.S. warplanes and members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry regiment as they huddled under a bridge? Details of the massacre emerged in 1999, when the Associated Press interviewed dozens of retired U.S. military personnel. “The hell with all those people,” one American veteran recalled his captain as saying. “Let’s get rid of all of them.”

How many Americans are taught in school about the Bodo League massacre of tens of thousands of suspected communists on the orders of the U.S.-backed South Korean strongman, President Syngman Rhee, in the summer of 1950? Eyewitness accounts suggest “jeeploads” of U.S. military officers were present and “supervised the butchery.”

Millions of ordinary Americans may suffer from a toxic combination of ignorance and amnesia, but the victims of U.S. coups, invasions, and bombing campaigns across the globe tend not to. Ask the Iraqis or the Iranians, ask the Cubans or the Chileans. And, yes, ask the North Koreans.

For the residents of the DPRK, writes Columbia University historian Charles Armstrong in his book “Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992,” “the American air war left a deep and lasting impression” and “more than any other single factor, gave North Koreans a collective sense of anxiety and fear of outside threats, that would continue long after the war’s end.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not pretending that Kim’s violent and totalitarian regime would be any less violent or totalitarian today had the U.S. not carpet-bombed North Korea almost 70 years ago. Nor am I expecting Donald Trump, of all presidents, to offer a formal apology to Pyongyang on behalf of the U.S. government for the U.S. war crimes of 1950 through 1953.

But the fact is that inside North Korea, according to leading Korea scholar Kathryn Weathersby, “it is still the 1950s, and the conflict with South Korea and the United States is still going on. People in the North feel backed into a corner and threatened.”

If another Korean war, a potentially nuclear war, is to be avoided and if, as the Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera famously wrote, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” then ordinary Americans can no longer afford to forget the death, destruction, and debilitating legacy of the original Korean War.”

"Your Pain..."

"We Are All Free To Do Whatever We Want"

"We are all free to do whatever we want to do,” he said that night. “Isn’t that simple and clean and clear? Isn’t that a great way to run a universe?” “Almost. You forgot a pretty important part,” I said. “Oh?” “We are all free to do what we want to do, as long as we don’t hurt somebody else,” I chided. “I know you meant that, but you ought to say what you mean.”

There was a sudden shambling sound in the dark, and I looked at him quickly. “Did you hear that?” “Yeah. Sounds like there’s somebody...” He got up, walked into the dark. He laughed suddenly, said a name I couldn’t catch. “It’s OK,” I heard him say. “No, we’d be glad to have you... no need you standing around... come on, you’re welcome, really...”

The voice was heavily accented, not quite Russian, nor Czech, more Transylvanian. “Thank you. I do not wish to impose myself upon your evening...” The man he brought with him to the firelight was, well, he was unusual to find in a midwest night. A small lean wolflike fellow, frightening to the eye, dressed in evening clothes, a black cape lined in red satin, he was uncomfortable in the light.

“I was passing by,” he said. “The field is a shortcut to my house...” “Is it?” Shimoda did not believe the man, knew he was lying, and at the same time did all he could to keep from laughing out loud. I hoped to understand before long.

“Make yourself comfortable,” I said. “Can we help you at all?” I really didn’t feel that helpful, but he was so shrinking, I did want him to be at ease, if he could. He looked on me with a desperate smile that turned me to ice. “Yes, you can help me. I need this very much or I would not ask. May I drink your blood? Just some? It is my food, I need human blood...”

Maybe it was the accent, he didn’t know English that well or I didn’t understand his words, but I was on my feet quicker than I had been in many a month, hay flying into the fire from my quickness. The man stepped back. I am generally harmless, but I am not a small person and I could have looked threatening. He turned his head away. “Sir, I am sorry! I am sorry! Please forget that I said anything about blood! But you see...”

“What are you saying?” I was the more fierce because I was scared. “What in the hell are you saying, mister? I don’t know what you are, are you some kind of VAM-?” Shimoda cut me off before I could say the word. “Richard, our guest was talking, and you interrupted. Please go ahead, sir; my friend is a little hasty.” “Donald,” I said, “this guy...” “Be quiet!” That surprised me so much that I was quiet, and looked a sort of terrified question at the man, caught from his native darkness into our firelight.

“Please to understand. I did not choose to be born vampire. Is unfortunate. I do not have many friends. But I must have a certain small amount of fresh blood every night or I writhe in terrible pain, longer than that without it and I cannot live! Please, I will be deeply hurt - I will die - if you do not allow me to suck your blood... just a small amount, more than a pint I do not need.” He advanced a step toward me, licking his lips, thinking that Shimoda somehow controlled me and would make me submit.

“One more step and there will be blood, all right. Mister, you touch me and you die...” I wouldn’t have killed him, but I did want to tie him up, at least, before we talked much more. He must have believed me, for he stopped and sighed. He turned to Shimoda. “You have made your point?” “I think so. Thank you.”

The vampire looked up at me and smiled, completely at ease, enjoying himself hugely, an actor on stage when the show is over. “I won’t drink your blood, Richard,” he said in perfect friendly English, no accent at all. As I watched he faded as though he was turning out his own light... in five seconds he had disappeared.

Shimoda sat down again by the fire. “Am I ever glad you don’t mean what you say!” I was still trembling with adrenalin, ready for my fight with a monster. “Don, I’m not sure I’m built for this. Maybe you’d better tell me what’s going on. Like, for instance, what... was that?”

“Dot was a wompire from Tronsylwania,” he said in words thicker than the creature’s own. “Or to be more precise, dot was a thought-form of a wompire from Tronsylwania. If you ever want to make a point, you think somebody isn’t listening, whip ‘em up a little thought-form to demonstrate what you mean. Do you think I overdid him, with the cape and the fangs and the accent like that? Was he too scary for you?”

“The cape was first class, Don. But that was the most stereotyped, outlandish... I wasn’t scared at all.” He sighed. “Oh well. But you got the point, at least, and that’s what matters.”

“What point?” “Richard, in being so fierce toward my vampire, you were doing what you wanted to do, even though you thought it was going to hurt somebody else. He even told you he’d be hurt if...”

“He was going to suck my blood!” “Which is what we do to anyone when we say we’ll be hurt if they don’t live our way.”

I was quiet for a long time, thinking about that. I had always believed that we are free to do as we please only if we don’t hurt another, and this didn’t fit. There was something missing.

“The thing that puzzles you,” he said, “is an accepted saying that happens to be impossible. The phrase is hurt somebody else. We choose, ourselves, to be hurt or not to be hurt, no matter what. Us who decides. Nobody else. My vampire told you he’d be hurt if you didn’t let him? That’s his decision to be hurt, that’s his choice. What you do about it is your decision, your choice: give him blood; ignore him; tie him up; drive a stake of holly through his heart. If he doesn’t want the holly stake, he’s free to resist, in whatever way he wants. It goes on and on, choices, choices.”

“When you look at it that way...”

“Listen,” he said, “it’s important. We are all. Free. To do. Whatever. We want. To do."
“Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”
by Richard Bach
“Born in 1936, Richard Bach is an American author who has written many excellent books. His quotes are inspirational and motivational. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull;” “Illusions;” “The Bridge Across Forever;” to name only a few of his books.

Notice: This electronic version of the book has been released for educational purposes only. You may not sell or make any profit from this book. And if you like this book, buy a paper copy and give it to someone who does not have a computer, if that is possible for you.

FREE download of "Illusions", in PDF format, is here:

"Positive Self-Deception"

"Positive Self-Deception"
by Damninteresting.org

"Most people think of the "mentally disordered" as a delusional lot, holding bizarre and irrational ideas about themselves and the world around them. Isn’t a mental disorder, after all, an impairment or a distortion in thought or perception? This is what we tend to think, and for most of modern psychology's history, the experts have agreed; realistic perceptions have been considered essential to good mental health. More recently, however, research has arisen that challenges this common-sense notion.

In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.

Consider eating disorders, for instance. It’s generally been believed that an unrealistically negative body image is an important factor in the self-abuse that characterizes anorexia and bulimia. A 2006 study at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, however, came to a very different conclusion. Here, groups of normal and eating disordered women were asked to rate the attractiveness of their own bodies. They were then photographed from the neck down, and panels of volunteers were brought in to view the photos and rate the women’s appearances objectively. The normal women, as it turned out, evaluated themselves much more positively than the panels did, while the self-ratings of the eating disordered women were in close agreement with the objective ratings. The eating disordered subjects, in other words, had a more realistic body image than the normal women. However, it is important to note that the study was based upon the broad concept of "attractiveness" rather than body weight specifically - while the eating disordered women may have rated themselves poorly because they felt "fat," their weight was a controlled variable and not the basis of the volunteers' assessments.

Studies into clinical depression have yielded similar findings, leading to the development of an intriguing, but still controversial, concept known as depressive realism. This theory puts forward the notion that depressed individuals actually have more realistic perceptions of their own image, importance, and abilities than the average person. While it’s still generally accepted that depressed people can be negatively biased in their interpretation of events and information, depressive realism suggests that they are often merely responding rationally to realities that the average person cheerfully denies.

Those with paranoid disorders can sometimes possess a certain unusual insight as well. It has often been asserted that within every delusional system, there exists a core of truth - and in their pursuit of imagined conspiracies against them, these individuals often show an exceptionally keen eye for the real thing. People who interact with them may be taken aback as they find themselves accused of harboring some negative opinion of the person which, secretly, they actually do hold. Complicating the issue, of course, is the fact that if the supposed aversion didn’t exist before, it likely does after such an unpleasant encounter.

As one might imagine, these issues present some problems when it comes to treatment. How does one convince a depressed person that “everything is all right” when her life really does suck? How does one convince an obsessive-compulsive patient to stop religiously washing his hands when the truth of what gets left behind after “normal” washing should be enough to make any sane person cringe? These problems put therapists in the curious position of teaching patients to develop irrational patterns of thinking - patterns that help them view the world as a rosier place than it really is. Counterintuitive as it sounds, it's justified because what defines a mental disorder is not unreasonable or illogical thought, but abnormal behavior that causes significant distress and impairs normal functioning in society. Treatment is about restoring a person to that level of normal functioning and satisfaction, even if it means building cognitions that aren’t precisely “rational” or “realistic.”

It’s a disconcerting concept. It’s certainly easier to think of the mentally disordered as lunatics running about with bizarre, inexplicable beliefs than to imagine them coping with a piece of reality that a "normal" person can’t handle. The notion that we routinely hide from the truth about ourselves and our world is not an appealing one, though it may help to explain the human tendency to ostracize the abnormal. Perhaps the reason we are so eager to reject any departure from this fiction we call "normality" is because we have grown dependent on our comfortable delusions; without them, there is nothing to insulate us from the harsh cold of reality."
“People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved.
 Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. 
Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.”
– Chuck Palahniuk

Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet: On Giving"

"On Giving"

"Then said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving."
And he answered: "You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions
 but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog 
burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give
 it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, 
and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, 
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, 
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.

And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.
You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life 
deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies in 
the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, 
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life - 
while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, 
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be over-mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity 
who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father."

- Kahlil Gibran
Freely download "The Prophet", by Kahlil Gibran, here:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Musical Interlude: Liquid Mind, "Liquid Mind IV: Unity" (Full Album)

Liquid Mind,  "Liquid Mind IV: Unity" (Full Album)

"A Look to the Heavens"

“From cold, clear skies over Riverton, Manitoba, Canada, planet Earth, the solar corona surrounds the silhouette of the New Moon in this telescopic snapshot of the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1979. Thirty eight years ago, it was the last total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States. The narrow path of totality ran through the northwestern states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota before crossing into Canadian provinces Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. 
Click image for larger size.
Following the upcoming August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. from coast to coast, an annular solar eclipse will be seen in the continental United States on October 14, 2023, visible along a route from Northern California to Florida. Then, the next total solar eclipse to touch the continental U.S. will track across 13 states from from Texas to Maine on April 8, 2024.”

The Poet: William Stafford, "Starting With Little Things"

"Starting With Little Things"
 

"Love the earth like a mole,
fur-near. Nearsighted,
hold close the clods,
their fine-print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands-
Like spades, but pink and loving; they
break rock, nudge giants aside,
affable plow.
Fields are to touch;
each day nuzzle your way.
Tomorrow the world."

- William Stafford 

The Daily "Near You?"

Pune, Maharashtra, India. Thanks for stopping by!

Chet Raymo

“Yet…”
by Chet Raymo

    "My suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, 
but queerer than we can suppose."
-  J. B. S. Haldane

“Legend has it that after reciting his official recantation, kneeling on the floor of the Holy Office in Rome before assembled officials of the Inquisition, Galileo whispered, "And yet it moves." To save his life, or at least to avoid some dank dungeon and perhaps torture, the old man had publicly denied that he ever believed or taught that the Earth orbits the Sun, rather than the other way around. The public recantation was real enough. Whether Galileo whispered the private qualification we'll never know. It makes a lovely story. In any case, he was allowed to go back to Florence under house arrest and in the final years of his life invented (I will dare to assert) mathematical physics.

And yet it moves. The Earth goes spinning around the Sun with its sister planets. The Sun whirls with its neighboring stars around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Milky Way drifts with its attendant galaxies toward the Andromeda cluster. The Milky Way Galaxy, the Great Andromeda Galaxy, and their lesser galactic companions, the so-called Local Group, dance somewhere near the outer edge of the Local Supercluster of galaxies. Which are but the tiniest swarm of galaxies in the whole outward-racing shebang.

It moves. Oh, yes, it moves, and Galileo didn't know the half of it. His inquisitors didn't know any of it, but they thought they knew all of it. And their descendants still claim infallibility. But let me not beat up on the dogmatists. We should all whisper to ourselves now and then, "And yet, and yet." Our descendants may be surprised at our own naivety. Wholly new paradigms may be required before we understand the origin of the universe or the mysteries of biological development and consciousness.

Such a little word, "yet." Maybe the most significant word in our vocabulary.”