Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Recipe" Curried Tuna and Rice

Sometimes, rather than follow a recipe, I simply look around my kitchen (fridge and cupboards) and see what there is lying around. Then I put a bunch of it in a bowl, mix it up, and see how it tastes.

Tonight's late dinner comes from this approach - curried chicken and rice.

I started with one package of Trader Joe's wild rice, fully cooked (just heat for 5 mins in boiling water, still in package) - serves 3. Then I added three cans of tuna packed in water (drained the water) - serves 3.

I am NOT a fan of tuna, so I looked around for something else to give it some flavor and found a jar of Asian Passage Tikka Masala Curry Paste. It says it serves 7, but, yeah, whatever (image to the left is a different brand, but it'll work).

[It could have been even thicker paste, or less . . . something, but it's good.]

I mixed it all up, tried a taste, and added more plain yellow curry, about a heaping tablespoon, maybe a little more. Can't taste the tuna, so very good.

Total prep time, including opening cans and mixing, about 10 minutes.

If you want to serve three
, you get the following:

Calories: 509
Fat: 10 grams (4 saturated)
Carbs: 28 grams
Fiber: 10.75 grams
Protein: 49 grams

To serve four:

Calories: 382
Fat: 7.5 grams (3 saturated)
Carbs: 21.25 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Protein: 36.5 grams

Tasty and healthy and oh, so easy to prepare.

All in the Mind - Crazy Like Us? - Ethan Watters on the Globalization of the American Psyche

Nice episode this week on the ways in which we (Americans) are exporting our notions of mental illness to the rest of the world. This is a discussion with Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the American Psyche.

Crazy Like Us?


How did depression come to be marketed to the Japanese as the "Cold of the Soul"?

Has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) become the Western "lingua franca of human suffering"?

Why didn't anorexia nervosa, as it's experienced in countries like America & Australia, appear to exist in China 15 years ago?

How should the world meet the psychosocial (as distinct from the material) needs of Pakistanis in the face of the horror floods?

Can the human psyche be globalised in the way that fashion and fast food have been?

Journalist Ethan Watters, author of Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the American Psyche, is my guest on the show this week.

Tune in on-air or on the All in the Mind website, where you'll find lots of relevant stories from the show archives, and take the opportunity to comment directly there too (click on Add Your Comment).

Ethan is up for participating in any discussion that unfolds - so, go for it!

if you want to delve further, there's a video of Ethan Watters over at ABC's Big Ideas, and here's an excerpt from his book in The New York Times.

And some extra audio from the conversation we shared, as promised (will make more sense after you hear the show):

Schizophrenia in Zanzibar


"Culture bound" syndromes?


Trauma checklists that forget culture


The psychiatrist in the family


And now, this week's episode:

Crazy Like Us - The Globalisation of the American Psyche

"Would you like fries with that?" America's big brands and fast food outlets have become the dominant signatures of globalisation. But is mental illness becoming another? Is West best when it comes to the diagnosis, definition and treatment of mental illness? Ethan Watters unearths a disturbing trend, which could inform how we respond to disasters like the devastating Pakistan floods.

Show Transcript | Hide Transcript

Transcripts are published on Wednesdays. Audio directly after broadcast on Saturdays.


Ethan Watters
Journalist and author

Further Information

All in the Mind Blog with Natasha Mitchell
Includes extra audio of the conversation with Ethan Watters

A Mental Health Odyssey in India: Part 1 of 4
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2003

A Mental Health Odyssey in India: Part 2 of 4
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2003

A Mental Health Odyssey in India: Part 3 of 4
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2003

A Mental Health Odyssey in India: Part 4 of 4
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2003

Troubled Minds - ABC Science Online feature (Natasha Mitchell 2003)
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National

Drug and alcohol abuse: The refugee experience
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National

Aceh's Psychological Recovery
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2005

Burma: 'I resist in my mind only'
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2007

Disease of the Split Soul: Schizophrenia in Japan
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2002

On the Couch After Mao - Therapy in Modern China
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2004

Trauma and transition: Mental health in Iraq
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2004

Disembodied brains, culture and science: Indigenous lives under gaze (Part 1 of 2
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2008

Disembodied brains, culture and science: Indigenous lives under gaze (Part 2 of 2)
All in the Mind, ABC Radio National, 2008


Title: Crazy Like Us: The Globalisation of the American Psyche
Author: Ethan Watters
Publisher: Scribe, 2010

Title: Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria
Author: Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters
Publisher: University of California Press, 1996

Title: Therapy's Delusions: The Myth of the Unconsious and the Exploitation of Today's Walking Worried
Author: Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters
Publisher: Scribner, 1999 (ISBN 0684835843)


Natasha Mitchell

Dharma Quote: Even very tiny bugs and worms have the Buddha nature

Lectures on the Buddhist Path to Peace

by H.H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso,
translated and edited
by Jeffrey Hopkins


Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

One has to be cautious when one is very successful since at that time there is danger of becoming prideful and becoming involved in the non-religious, and one has to be cautious also when one has undergone lack of success and so forth since there is a danger of becoming discouraged--the life of the mind, so to speak, dying--due to which harm to one's practice could be incurred.

...Specifically, in situations of low self-esteem, Shantideva recommends reflection this way:

"Even very tiny bugs and worms have the Buddha nature and thus, when they encounter certain conditions, through the power of effort they can achieve the non-abiding nirvana of a Buddha. Now, I have been born as a human with the capacity to understand what is to be adopted in practice and what is to be discarded; thus, there is no reason for me to be discouraged. The great saints and so forth of the past who achieved a high level were people with a life-basis such as I have, not something separate."

Through such reflection, a resurgence of will can be generated.

--from The Dalai Lama at Harvard: Lectures on the Buddhist Path to Peace by H.H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, published by Snow Lion Publications

The Dalai Lama at Harvard • 5O% off • for this week only
(Good through September 3rd).

This is the last weekend to receive 15% 0FF on 3-volume set of
The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse.
This exclusive special ends September 1st!

The Third Replicator - Susan Blackmore

In her recent Opinionator contribution in the New York Times, Susan Blackmore talks about her concept of temes, or technology memes. This isn't a new topic for her, but it probably is new to the majority of NYT readers.

Susan Blackmore is a psychologist and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She is the author of several books, including “The Meme Machine” (1999), “Conversations on Consciousness” (2005) and "Ten Zen Questions" (2009).

(Susan Blackmore’s essay is the subject of this week’s forum discussion among the humanists and scientists at On the Human, a project of the National Humanities Center.)

The Third Replicator

All around us information seems to be multiplying at an ever increasing pace. New books are published, new designs for toasters and i-gadgets appear, new music is composed or synthesized and, perhaps above all, new content is uploaded into cyberspace. This is rather strange. We know that matter and energy cannot increase but apparently information can.

It is perhaps rather obvious to attribute this to the evolutionary algorithm or Darwinian process, as I will do, but I wish to emphasize one part of this process — copying. The reason information can increase like this is that, if the necessary raw materials are available, copying creates more information. Of course it is not new information, but if the copies vary (which they will if only by virtue of copying errors), and if not all variants survive to be copied again (which is inevitable given limited resources), then we have the complete three-step process of natural selection (Dennett, 1995). From here novel designs and truly new information emerge. None of this can happen without copying.

I want to make three arguments here.

Imitation is not just some new minor ability. It changes everything. It enables a new kind of evolution.

The first is that humans are unique because they are so good at imitation. When our ancestors began to imitate they let loose a new evolutionary process based not on genes but on a second replicator, memes. Genes and memes then coevolved, transforming us into better and better meme machines.

The second is that one kind of copying can piggy-back on another: that is, one replicator (the information that is copied) can build on the products (vehicles or interactors) of another. This multilayered evolution has produced the amazing complexity of design we see all around us.

The third is that now, in the early 21st century, we are seeing the emergence of a third replicator. I call these temes (short for technological memes, though I have considered other names). They are digital information stored, copied, varied and selected by machines. We humans like to think we are the designers, creators and controllers of this newly emerging world but really we are stepping stones from one replicator to the next.

As I try to explain this I shall make some assertions and assumptions that some readers may find outrageous, but I am deliberately putting my case in its strongest form so that we can debate the issues people find most interesting or most troublesome.

Some may entirely reject the notion of replicators, and will therefore dismiss the whole enterprise. Others will accept that genes are replicators but reject the idea of memes. For example, Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb ( 2005) refer to “the dreaded memes” while Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd (2005), who have contributed so much to the study of cultural evolution, assert that “cultural variants are not replicators.” They use the phrase “selfish memes” but still firmly reject memetics (Blackmore 2006). Similarly, in a previous “On The Human” post, William Benzon explains why he does not like the term “meme,” yet he needs some term to refer to the things that evolve and so he still uses it. As John S. Wilkins points out in response, there are several more classic objections: memes are not discrete (I would say some are not discrete), they do not form lineages (some do), memetic evolution appears to be Lamarckian (but only appears so), memes are not replicated but re-created or reproduced, or are not copied with sufficient fidelity (see discussions in Aunger 2000, Sterelny 2006, Wimsatt 2010). I have tackled all these, and more, elsewhere and concluded that the notion is still valid (Blackmore 1999, 2010a).

So I will press on, using the concept of memes as originally defined by Dawkins who invented the term; that is, memes are “that which is imitated” or whatever it is that is copied when people imitate each other. Memes include songs, stories, habits, skills, technologies, scientific theories, bogus medical treatments, financial systems, organizations — everything that makes up human culture. I can now, briefly, tell the story of how I think we arrived where we are today.

Both memes and genes are vast competing sets of information, all selfishly getting copied whenever and however they can.

First there were genes. Perhaps we should not call genes the first replicator because there may have been precursors worthy of that name and possibly RNA-like replicators before the evolution of DNA (Maynard Smith and Szathmary 1995). However, Dawkins (1976), who coined the term “replicator,” refers to genes this way and I shall do the same.

We should note here an important distinction for living things based on DNA, that the genes are the replicators while the animals and plants themselves are vehicles, interactors, or phenotypes: ephemeral creatures constructed with the aid of genetic information coded in tiny strands of DNA packaged safely inside them. Whether single-celled bacteria, great oak trees, or dogs and cats, in the gene-centered view of evolution they are all gene machines or Dawkins’s “lumbering robots.” The important point here is that the genetic information is faithfully copied down the generations, while the vehicles or interactors live and die without actually being copied. Put another way, this system copies the instructions for making a product rather than the product itself, a process that has many advantages (Blackmore 1999, 2001). This interesting distinction becomes important when we move on to higher replicators.

Read the whole article.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tami Simon Speaks with Stanislav Grof: Learning from Non-Ordinary States

Awesome - Dr. Grof is one of my heroes for his early work in psychedelic psychotherapy and his continued work on the spectrum of NOS experience. Tami Simon of Sounds True speaks with Dr. Grof in this interview.

They're not mentioned below, but two of favorite books of his (both with Christina Grof): The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth through Transformational Crisis (1992) and Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis (1989).
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tami Simon speaks with Stanislav Grof. For more than half of a century, Stan has been a pioneer in the research of non-ordinary states of consciousness. He is the author of many books including Realms of the Human Unconscious, Beyond the Brain, and most recently Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy. With Sounds True, Stan wrote the book When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Non-Ordinary Realities, and the audio learning program The Transpersonal Vision. Stan discusses the lessons that can be learned from non-ordinary states, the idea of a consciousness independent of the brain, and the uses and goals of holotropic breath work. (67 minutes)

Listen Now:
Download » Read Transcript »

Robert Kernodle - FLUID is God

Hmmmm . . . I'm not a believer in ANY form of supreme being, but if I were, this might be the closest thing to how I would conceive of it. Or not.

Interesting art to go with his philosophical perspective. Sounds a little like panentheism to me.

FLUID is God

By Robert Kernodle

The Supreme Being is like a liquid.

ASPECT 396 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle
ASPECT 396 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle

Beyond Religion

I do not claim to be a Christian. Neither do I claim to be a member of any other religion that treats the Supreme Being as an entity with human-like intelligence. I do not condemn anyone’s religious beliefs, nor do I preach to people to believe as I believe. I write here to share a unique point of view on a very popular topic – God.

Supreme Being

I DO believe in a Supreme Being, but this being is a verb as much as a noun. In my way of thinking, the Supreme Being is not a conscious spirit, but simply the action of existence that all things share. Anything that exists is part of all being, and all being is the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being, thus, is the sum total of all that exits.

All that exists has the common connection of existing. All that exists has the common action of being. Being is the united action of all things. The Supreme Being is both matter and energy, both substance and its relationships, both stuff and its motions. Being cannot be without a substance, and substance cannot be without motions to relate it. The Supreme Being, thus, cannot be an entity without substance, because having no substance means having no being. Consequently, the Supreme Being is always someTHING in motion.

ASPECT 283 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle
ASPECT 283 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle

Sublime Fluidity

What is reality? To what thing and to what motion can all things relate? I believe that all things relate to a fluid. All being is a fluid being, forever morphing and creating recurring self-similar forms. Human beings are results of this great fluid being that came before it.

Life, consciousness, intelligence, feeling, and the sensation of existing all arise from the supreme fluid being. This fluidity is the marvel of being – humans are part of it, we are it, we are a consequence of it. Human intelligence comes from the substance and motion of the Supreme Being, which does not think as humans think.


What we call “chaos”, “chance” or “accident” is what exists prior to minds that can name it. We humans arise from this condition of matter and motion that we call “chaos”. Life is truly amazing, because something that seems so opposite to it actually gives birth to it. The very nature of being is to create life like us.

The great fluid being of reality is capable of swirling humans into existence, because the way of fluid is to seek self-consciousness to reflect back on itself. Consciousness, therefore, is a reflection in the greatest of all liquid pools.

If someone wants to call this idea of Supreme Being “God”, then I can agree to this label. This God, however, is not person-like, not father-like, and not king-like. This God is not power wielding. This God is simply what is.

God is like a stream that knows how to flow, because it flows along the only path it can – the path that enables it to flow. God is like water with infinite and eternal morphing ability, fitting what contains it without conforming permanently to any one container. God is like a bubble that forms in the only sequence of events that exists to accommodate it. God, thus, is beyond absolute containment by the human mind, because mind is finite, and God is infinite fluidity.

Humans can only feel God – we can never know God. The effort of trying to contain what is far beyond containing is how we feel God. God is the overwhelming sensation of trying to grasp something far greater and far more complex than consciousness can grasp.

God is like the huge scale of a fractal that dwarfs all of its budding beautiful designs on smaller scales. God has no mind, yet God is all minds. Human minds, in this way, are only very remotely similar to the fluid processes that created them. God cannot know each mind personally. Each mind is simply a fragment of God’s whole existence in the unison of existence that God is.

Minds arise from something that precedes mindfulness. This something that precedes mindfulness is God. In this way, humans are perfected God. Sand is perfected God. Trees are perfected God. The ocean is perfected God. Any one thing that we can name is perfected God, just as everything named together is God being realized.

ASPECT 602 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle
ASPECT 602 - PhotoFluidism by Robert Kernodle

Human Responsibility

In my concept of God, humans must assume total responsibility for their existences. We cannot reason with all existence the way we reason among ourselves. We learn from our own existences and from our own thoughts, because these are processes of God, and this is how God moves through us. Each part of God manifests its own particular perfection or imperfection, so these things are in human hands to the degree that the greater flow allows it. Humans, thus, are in a sensitive position of being creators who must learn when they are able to shape specific forms and when they must participate with forms greater than they can control.

Humans rule God to some degree, as God rules humans. We are all in existence together, in unison, and in similar roles. God, in this sense, gave us a small dose of God-like power to control part of our being. Human being, after all, is a miniature of Supreme Being.

NPR - Teary-Eyed Evolution: Crying Serves A Purpose

This aired the other day - I find it interesting how everything MUST have a purpose in evolutionary psychology.

A Spanish soccer supporter cries during a world cup game
Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

A supporter of the Spanish team cries while watching the World Cup final soccer match, which Spain won 1-0. Crying may have evolved as a signal to those who were in close physical proximity to us, but it also adds a powerful dimension to interpersonal communication

Many animals yelp or cry out when they're in pain. But as far as scientists can tell, we humans seem to be the only species that shed tears for emotional reasons. Scientists who study evolution say crying probably conferred some benefit and did something to advance our species — because it's stayed with us.

Tears are universal. We need them to keep our eyes lubricated, but why on earth should streams of salty drops spew forth from our eyes, blurring our vision and making our eyes puffy when we get emotional?

One theory is that crying may have evolved as a kind of signal — a signal that was valuable because it could only be picked up by those closest to us who could actually see our tears. Tears let our intimates in — people within a couple of feet of us, who would be more likely to help.

"You can imagine there'd be a selection pressure to develop a signaling system that wouldn't let predators in on the fact that you're vulnerable," says Randy Cornelius, a psychologist at Vassar College.

More From The Human Edge

Tears Share More Than Words

Actors have a few tricks to help them cry on cue. A fresh, chopped onion can get the tear ducts going, and glycerin drops can help produce those big, beautiful tears that roll down the cheeks. Sometimes actors need these techniques because it's hard to cry unless you're really feeling something.

"Crying has to come from emotion, right? That's where we all cry from," says Jane Daly, an actress and acting instructor. She says tears come not only from grief or pain, but also from all sorts of other emotions, including joy and frustration. Tears can be cathartic and releasing. "It's what makes us human," she says.

Tears can play an important role in communication, and the extraordinary thing is that tears don't just telegraph our state of mind to others — they can also evoke strong emotions in the people who witness them.

Studying Tears

Randolph Cornelius, a professor of psychology at Vassar College, conducted a study to see what information tears themselves convey to others -- a concept he calls “the signal value of tears.” Participants in the study were shown a photograph from a common source -- a frame from a daytime television show or a scan from a newsmagazine -- whose subject had tears in his or her eyes. These images were then duplicated, with one version having the tears digitally erased, then shown to study participants who were told to evaluate what emotion the person in the tearful or non-tearful photo is feeling and expressing.

Below are three examples of images, with and without tears.

Example of tear and non-tear photos from a study by Randolph Cornelius
Courtesy Randolph Cornelius
Example of tear and non-tear photos from a study by Randolph Cornelius
Courtesy Randolph Cornelius
Example of tear and non-tear photos from a study by Randolph Cornelius
Courtesy Randolph Cornelius

According to Cornelius: “The presence of tears dramatically increases the level of emotionality that people infer from the photo. Tears also narrow the range of emotions people think the models are experiencing. Tearful people are mostly seen as experiencing emotions in the sadness family (sadness, grief, mourning, etc.).”

Cornelius said in an email that tears convey “very specific information” about the emotional and interpersonal state of a person and how that person would like to be treated. “Within the context of evolutionary theory, these results strongly support the notion that emotional tearing evolved as a system of communication that aids our survival by ensuring that others respond to us when we are feeling vulnerable and in need of emotional succor.”

We not only cry from our own pain, but we're moved to tears by other people's sadness, too. "I like to use the word empathy," Daly says, distinguishing that from sympathy. "With sympathy, we feel sorry for someone. But an empathetic person — a lot of actors — they feel the darn thing," she says.

She points to Tom Hanks' performance in the movie Saving Private Ryan, in which he played a World War II captain. She recalls the crying scene after Hanks' men have desperately attempted to save the life of the company medic.

"He just breaks down, sitting on an embankment on the side of a bridge, at another loss of a skilled, wonderful young man who barely had a chance to live," Daly recalls. "To see a grown man cry, it just brings you to your knees."

Watching the movie, we the audience feel it, too. Witnessing these tears, we get choked up. And this is because as humans, one of our signature abilities is that we're able to put ourselves in someone else's shoes to feel what someone else is feeling and predict how they might react — something academics call having a "theory of mind."

The Power Of Empathy

"A theory of mind is something that even 4-year-olds have," says Jesse Bering, who directs the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Belfast University. "It basically means that you have a theory about the unobservable psychological states that are governing — or causing — other people's behaviors."

This power of empathy is huge, and it's fundamental to pretty much everything we do, from forming close relationships to living in complex societies. Bering says those of our early ancestors who were most empathic probably thrived because it helped them build strong communities, which in turn gave them protection and support.

Within these communities, Bering says, tears could be powerful tools. They did more than just signal vulnerability — they were perhaps a way of keeping social and reproductive bonds strong. Maybe good criers were survivors.

"Crying seems to elicit compassion and guilt," Bering says, "and that itself may be an evolved mechanism to save relationships in distress."

He points to a recent experience after his partner cheated on him. "I mean, it was devastating," Bering says, "and I was convinced I was going to end the relationship right there." But many apologies into a long conversation, his partner began to tear up. "It wasn't a hysterical cry," Bering says — his partner was trying to choke back tears. "When I saw him cry, I realized I was basically getting through to him."

Bering says he realizes that the tears did the heavy lifting here. The same conversation minus the tears may not have had the same effect.

Tears Of Protection, Shame

This illustrates another aspect of crying — whether it's intentional or unintentional, crying is a powerful way to get what you need or want.

An infant cries after receiving a measle shot
Noel Celis/AFP

Crying, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is a powerful way to get what you want. And some evidence shows that natural selection favored infants whose cries were most alarming. Above, an infant cries after receiving a measles vaccination in Manila.

Think about how babies get attention — they cry. And there's some evidence that natural selection favored infants whose cries were most alarming.

"As a consequence, these babies — who were our ancestors — would have been less likely to find themselves left at home or with strangers," and theoretically less likely to be harmed, Bering says.

It's possible that crying may protect us throughout our lives. Just think how you react when someone starts to cry.

"It's hard to punish somebody or argue with someone who's crying," Bering says. "It's like a trigger that tells us to back off."

And here's the thing about tears: They don't often lie. Think about Tiger Woods and his public plea for sympathy after his extramarital affairs came to light. When he choked back tears, Men's Health editor Peter Moore says, we all knew where those tears were coming from.

"They're kind of shameful tears," Moore says. It's like saying, "I'm a dope, look at what an idiot I am, pity me," he says. "So, spare me. I'd just as soon draw the curtain over that one!"

Maybe that's another reason evolution kept humans weeping: Tears help reveal the truth. And that's because along with the tears, we've evolved a very sophisticated ability to interpret them.

Slavoj Žižek documentary Living in the End Times

Based on Zizek's book of the same name: Living in the End Times. Zizek outlines in the book the "four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures." Oh, joy!

As part of VPRO International’s Backlight series, broadcast in March this year, Žižek discusses many of the themes from his new book:

With thanks to Jonathan Waring, who writes about this video on his website:

Amazon's synopsis of the book:
Zizek analyzes the end of the world at the hands of the “four riders of the apocalypse.” There should no longer be any doubt: global capitalism is fast approaching its terminal crisis. Slavoj Zizek has identified the four horsemen of this coming apocalypse: the worldwide ecological crisis; imbalances within the economic system; the biogenetic revolution; and exploding social divisions and ruptures. But, he asks, if the end of capitalism seems to many like the end of the world, how is it possible for Western society to face up to the end times? In a major new analysis of our global situation, Slavok Zizek argues that our collective responses to economic Armageddon correspond to the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed by depression and withdrawal.

After passing through this zero-point, we can begin to perceive the crisis as a chance for a new beginning. Or, as Mao Zedong put it, “There is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent.” Slavoj Zizek shows the cultural and political forms of these stages of ideological avoidance and political protest, from New Age obscurantism to violent religious fundamentalism. Concluding with a compelling argument for the return of a Marxian critique of political economy, Zizek also divines the wellsprings of a potentially communist culture—from literary utopias like Kafka’s community of mice to the collective of freak outcasts in the TV series Heroes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Makes Us Feel the Best Also Makes Us Feel the Worst: The Emotional Impact of Independent and Interdependent Experiences

This press release comes via SUNY Buffalo - an interesting, but not surprising outcome. We are social animals, so it makes absolute sense that we feel best in sharing our successes with others, and feel worst when we fail in the presence of others.
Reference and abstract:
Jaremka, L. M., Gabriel, S. & Carvallo, M. (2010). What Makes Us Feel the Best Also Makes Us Feel the Worst: The Emotional Impact of Independent and Interdependent Experiences. Self and Identity, doi:10.1080/15298860903513881

Four studies examined the hypothesis that intense emotional experiences are more often centered on interdependent than independent experiences. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that when asked to write about emotionally intense events, participants were more likely to write about interdependent than independent experiences. Study 3 provided evidence that these effects were not due to recall effects based on mere exposure. Finally, Study 4 demonstrated that when asked to write about the most positive and negative interdependent and independent experiences of their lives and then rate their impact, participants were more likely to indicate that interdependent experiences had more emotional impact than independent experiences. Study 4 also provided evidence that the extent to which an experience fostered belonging motivations predicted the emotional impact of that event. Implications of the current research in terms of the need to belong and research on motivation and appraisal theories of emotion are discussed.
And now a bit about the research:

Our Best and Worst Moments Occur Within Social Relationships, Research Shows

Findings contradict notion that individual accomplishments mark highest, lowest points in life

Contact: Patricia Donovan,

Release Date: August 26, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the first study of its kind, researchers have found compelling evidence that our best and worst experiences in life are likely to involve not individual accomplishments, but interaction with other people and the fulfillment of an urge for social connection.

The findings, which run contrary to implications of previous research, are reported in "What Makes Us Feel the Best Also Makes Us Feel the Worst: The Emotional Impact of Independent and Interdependent Experiences." The study reports on research conducted at the University at Buffalo and will appear in the forthcoming print issue of Self and Identity.

Co-author Shira Gabriel, PhD, associate professor of psychology at UB, says, "Most of us spend much of our time and effort focused on individual achievements such as work, hobbies and schooling.

"However this research suggests that the events that end up being most important in our lives, the events that bring us the most happiness and also carry the potential for the most pain, are social events -- moments of connecting to others and feeling their connections to us."

Gabriel says that much research in social psychology has explicitly or implicitly implied that events experienced independent of other individuals are central to explaining our most intense emotional experiences.

"We found, however, "she says, "that it was not independent events or individual achievements like winning awards or completing tasks that affected participants the most, but the moments when close relationships began or ended; when people fell in love or found a new friend; when a loved one died or broke their hearts. In short, it was the moments of connecting to others that that touched peoples' lives the most."

The researchers included principal author Lisa Jaremka, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mauricio Cavallo, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, both graduates of UB.

A total of 376 subjects participated in the four studies that formed the basis of the researchers' conclusions.

Study 1 involved college students who were asked to describe the most positive and negative emotional experiences of their lives. Overwhelmingly, and without regard for the sex of participants, they were much more likely to describe social events as the most positive and negative thing they had ever experienced (as compared to independent events).

Study 2, replicated and extended Study 1, with similar results, and focused on middle-aged participants who were asked to report on a recent intense emotional experience.

Study 3 provided evidence that the strong emotional impact of interdependent (i.e., social) events reported in the first two studies was not due to the fact that social events were more salient than independent events.

Study 4 demonstrated that when thinking about both social and independent events, participants rate the social events as far more impactful than independent events. Study 4 also demonstrated that social events gain their emotional punch from our need to belong.

Gabriel's research and expertise focuses on the social nature of the self, including social aspects of self-construal, the social functions of the self, the need to belong and gender differences in strategies for connecting to others.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

PODCAST: The Magic Forest (the Art of Andrew Carnie)
Andrew Carnie's "The Magic Forest"

The curious and captivating intersection of art and science. Carnie uses images of dendrites and other brain images to create his art.

PODCAST: The Magic Forest

August 22, 2010 | Noah Hutton

This month we’re proud to feature a conversation with British artist Andrew Carnie, whose work explores scientific themes and the representation of the self through scientific imagery. We’re also featuring an exclusive online gallery of his work.

Carnie often creates pieces that are time-based in nature, involving 35mm slide projections onto complex screen configurations.

His latest project, Dendritic Forms, which is currently showing at the GV Art Gallery in London, is a body of work that investigates the visual motifs of trees and organic matter that is mirrored within the human brain. In the darkened gallery space, layered images appear and disappear on suspended screens, suggesting a narrative of the brain itself. In this edition of the podcast, Noah Hutton interviews Carnie about his personal interest in the brain, his thoughts on his own art, and the nature of the current dialogue between the arts and brain sciences. Total runtime: 29:21

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Scott McLemee - After the Postsecular

This article from Inside Higher Ed takes a look at the recent religious or theological "turn" in European philosophy. It seems many of the bigger names in philosophy - including two of the biggest stars, Slavoj Žižek, and Jürgen Habermas - are taking a second, more inclusive, look at religion as a part of human life.

It seems that it has finally become apparent to some philosophers of religion that the postmodern perspective (i.e., secularism) is itself a limiting lens. So now there is a move to see religion in its own terms, but still (it seems to me) through a social constructivist lens (a move toward pluralism in perspectives) more than through a intrasubjective lens (but I haven't read the book, so I could be wrong).

This is an interview with the editors of a new book - After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion - that looks at some of the issues in this new trend in philosophy.

After the Postsecular

August 4, 2010

Call it a revival, of sorts. In recent years, anyone interested in contemporary European philosophy has noticed a tendency variously called the religious or theological "turn" (adapting a formulation previously used to describe the "linguistic turn" of the 1960s and '70s). Thinkers have revisited scriptural texts, for example, or traced the logic of seemingly secular concepts, such as political sovereignty, back to their moorings in theology. The list of figures involved would include Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, Gianni Vattimo, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Žižek, and Jürgen Habermas -- to give a list no longer or more heterogenous than that.

A sampling of recent work done in the wake of this turn can be found in After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: New Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion, a collection just issued by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. One of the editors, Anthony Paul Smith, is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nottingham and also a research fellow at the Institute for Nature and Culture at DePaul University. The other, Daniel Whistler, is a tutor at the University of Oxford, where he just submitted a dissertation on F.W.J. Schelling's theology of language. I interviewed them about their book by e-mail. A transcript of the discussion follows.

Q: Let’s start with one word in your title -- "postsecular." What do you mean by this? People used to spend an awful lot of energy trying to determine just when modernity ended and postmodernity began. Does “postsecularity” imply any periodization?

APS: In the book we talk about the postsecular event, an obvious nod to the philosophy of Alain Badiou. For a long time in Europe and through its colonial activities our frame of discourse, the way we understood the relationship of politics and religion, was determined by the notion that there is a split between public politics and private religion. This frame of reference broke down. We can locate that break, for the sake of simplicity, in the anti-colonial struggles of the latter half of the 20th century. The most famous example is, of course, the initial thrust of the Iranian Revolution.

It took some time before the implications of this were thought through, and it is difficult to pin down when “postsecularity” came to prominence in the academy, but in the 1990s a number of Christian theologians like John Milbank and Stanley Hauerwas, along with non-Christian thinkers like Talal Asad, began to question the typical assumption of philosophy of religion: that religious traditions and religious discourses need to be mediated through a neutral secular discourse in order to make sense. Their critique was simple: the secular is not neutral. Philosophy is intrinsically biased towards the secular. If you follow people like Asad and Tomoko Masuzawa, this means it is biased toward a Christian conception of the secular, and this hinders it from appreciating the thought structures at work in particular religions.

One of the reasons the title of the book reads, “after the postsecular” is that we felt philosophy of religion had yet to take the postsecular event seriously enough; it was ignoring the intellectual importance of this political event and still clinging to old paradigms for philosophizing about religion, when they had in fact been put into question by the above critique. So, the question is: What does philosophy of religion do now, after the postsecular critique?

DJW: There are two other reasons we speak of this volume being situated after the postsecular. First, in our “Introduction” we distinguish between a genuine postsecular critique of the kind Anthony mentions and a problematic theological appropriation of this critique. The former results in a pluralization of discourses about religion, because the secular is no longer the overarching master-narrative, but one more particular tradition. The latter, however, has tried to replace the secular master-narrative with a Christian one, and so has perversely impeded this process of pluralization.

Yet it is precisely this theological move (exemplified by Radical Orthodoxy) which is more often than not associated with the postsecular. Thus, one of the aims of the volume is to move beyond (hence, “after”) this theological appropriation of the postsecular.

Second, we also conjecture in the Introduction that postsecularity has ended up throwing the baby out with the bathwater – that is, everything from the secular tradition, even what is still valuable. So, in Part One of the volume, especially, the contributors return to the modern, secular tradition to test what is of value in it and what can be reappropriated for contemporary philosophy of religion. In this sense, "after the postsecular" means a mediated return to the secular.

Q: You mentioned Radical Orthodoxy, of which the leader is John Milbank. His rereading of the history of European philosophy and social theory tries to claim a central place for Christian theology as "queen of the sciences." As an agnostic, I tend to think of this as sort of the intellectual equivalent of the Society for Creative Anachronism. But clearly it's been an agenda-setting program in some sectors of theology and philosophy of religion. In counterposing your notion of the postsecular to Radical Orthodoxy, are you implying that the latter is exhausted? Or does that mean that Radical Orthodoxy is still a force to be reckoned with?

APS: On the one hand Radical Orthodoxy, as a particular movement or tendency, is probably exhausted in terms of the creativity and energy that attracted a lot of younger scholars who were working mostly in Christian theology but also in Continental philosophy of religion.

In a way, those of us in this field know what Radical Orthodoxy is now -- whereas before its anachronism seemed to be opening genuinely interesting lines of intellectual inquiry, perhaps encouraging interesting changes in the structure of institutional religious life. Now its major figures have aligned themselves with the thought of the current Pope in his attempt at “Re-Christianizing Europe,” with its nefarious narrative of a Christian Europe needing to be defended against Islam and secularism. They are also aligned with the policies of the present-day UK Tory Party via Phillip Blond and his trendy ResPublica think-tank.

So, on the other hand, while its creative power is probably on the wane, it is still something that must be reckoned with -- precisely because of this newfound institutional power, and because we know that its research program ends in old answers to new questions. We have to move beyond mere criticism, though, to offering a better positive understanding of religion, philosophy, and politics, and this volume begins to do that. This means going far beyond addressing Radical Orthodoxy as such, though, and to addressing the reactionary and obfuscatory form of thought that lies beneath Radical Orthodoxy and which persists in other thinkers who don’t identity with this particular movement.

DJW: Yes, it is something broader that troubles continental philosophy of religion now – not merely Radical Orthodoxy as such, but what we try to articulate in our Introduction as the more general tendency to theologize philosophy of religion. Many philosophers of religion – even when they see themselves as opponents of Radical Orthodoxy – ultimately treat their discipline as an extension of theology. It is quite normal to attend a keynote lecture at a Continental philosophy of religion conference and end up listening to a theology lecture! This is the reason that questions concerning the specificity of philosophy of religion (what sets it structurally apart from theology) dominate After the Postsecular and the Postmodern. Such questions are not meant solely as attacks on Radical Orthodoxy, but aim to interrogate the whole zeitgeist in which Radical Orthodoxy participates.

Q: I'm struck by how your book reflects a revival of interest in certain thinkers -- Schelling, Bergson, Rosenzweig. Or rather, perhaps, their transformation from the focus of more or less historical interest to inspiration for contemporary speculation. How much of this is a matter of following in the footsteps of Deleuze or Žižek?

DJW: Deleuze and Žižek are exemplary figures for many of the contributors to this volume. We philosophize in their shadow – and, you’re right, in particular it is their perverse readings of Bergson, Schelling etc which have taught us how to relate to the history of philosophy in new, heterodox ways.

“Experiment” is one of the key words in After the Postsecular and the Postmodern: all of us who contributed wanted to see what new potential could be opened up within philosophy of religion by mutating its traditions and canons through the lens of contemporary speculation. Having said that, I think both terms of your distinction (“inspiration for contemporary speculation” and “historical interest”) are important at the present moment.

Ignorance of the history of philosophy of religion is the academic norm, and our wager is that through straightforward history of philosophy one can excavate resources that have been neglected, so as to begin to see the discipline afresh. It is a matter of revitalizing our sense of what philosophy of religion can do. Therefore, while mutating the history of philosophy is crucial, so too is understanding what that history is. So little has been written about Bergson or Rosenzweig’s contributions in this regard that a relatively straight-laced understanding of them is one of the volume’s most pressing tasks.

APS: In France at the time that Deleuze was studying and writing his first books, there was hegemony in the study of philosophy by the "three H's” (Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger). He followed a different path in his own work, writing important studies on Hume, Bergson, and Nietzsche (amongst others). With the rise in Deleuze’s popularity these choices in figures have taken on the character of a canon, but at the time it was considered quite heretical and bold.

While the historical canon for mainstream Anglophone philosophy of religion tends to focuses on Locke, Hume, and Kant, we hope our volume helps to establish an alternative canon that draws on more speculative thinkers from the modern tradition, like Spinoza, Schelling, and Bergson. We think that not only will this help us to address the persistent questions of philosophy of religion but will allow us to reframe those very questions.

Read the whole interview.