Saturday, March 03, 2007

New Poem: Unconventional Love Sonnet #2

Unconventional Love Sonnet #2

Sitting on my deck beneath the cool full
moon, I hear the distant somber chords
of an acoustic guitar, an improvised blues piece
accompanied by the occasional coyote howl.

I am reminded of the losses in my life,
women I have loved and lost, each one
embedded in my cells, each one a melody
of memories, nearly forgotten most days.

As I listen to this lonely moonlit music,
my heart opens to the mystery of loving,
risk and reward, the fragile balance.

How many nights have I sought this woman
whose touch revives me? How many years
have I feared this radiant opening?

Bono at the NAACP Image Awards

Bono was awarded the Chairman's Award at the NAACP Image Awards the other night. His acceptance speech was very moving. Watch until the end -- it takes him a couple of minutes to get warmed up.

Dharma Quote: Compassion

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week from Snow Lion Publications:

Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe.

~ From The Compassionate Life by Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The Tell-Tale Heart

I found this computer-generated animation of the Edgar Allan Poe classic over at iFilms.This is only a trailer, but it's cool.

Here is the blurb that accompanies the video:
Edgar seems like a proper and well to do gentleman. However, even ones most seemingly intelligent and kind neighbor can go mad. This computer-generated trailer of Edgar Allan Poe's classic, The Tell-Tale Heart, was created to embody the dark motif, classic style, and heavy anticipation so well crafted in the original written story. In honor of Poe and his followers, the short includes several Easter eggs of Poe's life and other stories/poems.

Here is the website for the film.

And here is the original, 1953 version of the film -- the first animation to be given an X rating. It's narrated by James Mason.

Beautiful China

Dark Roasted Blend posted an amazing collection of pictures of China. I've always wanted to visit China, and these pictures are a prime example of why I've been drawn to the land there.

Here are a few, there are many more at their site.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New Poem: Unconventional Love Sonnet #1

Unconventional Love Sonnet #1

I had forgotten the moon, the monthly
cycle scented by oceans and blood,
the cramping pain of fertility and
the sloughing of unneeded cells.

I had forgotten the rituals of evening,
potions and elixirs applied to skin,
and the warm being in bed beside me
as I drift away into other realms.

All these mysteries and more, forgotten
but now reclaimed, embodied by the woman
whose smile tickles my awakening.

Beneath the surface of shared moments
run rivers deeper than any language,
a liquid intimacy beyond the hands of time.

Video: Images from Iran

My friend Kate over at Zaadz posted this on her blog, and I thought it was pretty cool, so I'm reposting it here. Music in the piece is by Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.

Here is the text that accompanies the video over at YouTube.
Do you believe the lies and disinformation sown by the US and Israeli governments? Do you believe that Iran is a closed, fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship? A country full of potential terrorists eager to attack American citizens? If you believe this, will you be more likely to turn a blind eye to the predicted US and Israeli attack on the citizens of that country?

But what if Iran and the Iranian people are not as they have been portrayed? What if there is no threat from Iran? What if Iran is just a Middle Eastern country with 86 million people - people just like you and me?

What then?

Would you stand up for your fellow human beings against the predations of a small cabal of psychopaths in power and say "NO MORE!"
This is a classic Green Meme, sensitive self worldview, and as such this text fails to make the distinction between the the Iranian people, who actually like America, and the government, which is hostile, paranoid, and dangerous. Should we attack Iran? Hell no. Is Iran as harmless as its people? Hell no.

With all of this in mind, here is the video.

Britney, An Appreciation: From The Worst Horse

The Worst Horse is a pop culture site for Dharma people, and a Dharma site for pop culture people. It's one of the truly cool sites on the web.

The editors sent me a link to their new post on Britney Spears, which is not another attack piece.

I can't stop thinking about Britney Spears and her bald head.

I keep thinking about it. Talking about it. I can't not talk about it.

Why? Because it's The Great Story of Our Time.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of Britney Spears' music. I mean, not at all. (Is that clear?) But the shaved-head story is undeniable. Not because it's the story of a young, "sexy," capital-c Celebrity -- possibly -- unraveling before our eyes. It is that, but that's not what makes it great. Its greatness is in how emblematic it is. That shaved head is everywhere: the news, the tabloids, the web, and it's already been subject to many a Photoshop job, including ours (above). It's more than the image of the moment, it's already pop-culture history.

It's no surprise, really. Earlier this year, Newsweek ran a cover story about our "Girls Gone Wild" culture -- the Britneys and Parises of the world, and the young (and not-so-young) girls who are aping their "gone wild" behavior. Perhaps it was exploitative to make that a cover story, but it might instead (or, also) have been a near-last-gasp of the way we all were, Before Celebrity Mattered Most to So Many.

These days, the news stories people are most closely following are "Anna Nicole" and "Britney's breakdown." In the case of Anna Nicole, it almost makes sense: she did in fact die. And she appears to have left a mess in her wake. (Imagine if this is how Marilyn Monroe went. It would have gotten similar play. And her actual death of course did.)

But Britney didn't die. She shaved her head. Big difference.

Maybe she is having a breakdown. But maybe she's not. Maybe she's a stressed-out young woman who's had enough and decided, You know what? I just don't care anymore -- about being famous, being pretty, being busy. Maybe I will just, bit by bit, do what I can to reject it. Seems likely it's some of both.

Read the rest of this post.

Satire: Research Grant Blown Wooing Cute Research Assistant

From The Onion:

Research Grant Blown Wooing Cute Research Assistant

March 2, 2007 | Issue 43•09

MISSOULA, MT—University of Montana wildlife biologist and Herbert R. Braithwaite Foundation research grant recipient Dr. James Neuthom has spent his entire $275,000 grant—intended for the study of whirling disease on rainbow trout—on such items as a 15-foot sailboat, scented stationery, and several dozen boxes of chocolate, according to documents he submitted to the foundation Tuesday.
Enlarge Image Research Grant

Neuthom spent $7,000 on a trip with Hamilton to Lake Tahoe, which contains no trout.

Neuthom is now seeking additional Braithwaite Foundation funds to continue his desperate attempt to win the heart of his 23-year-old research assistant, Betsy Hamilton.

"During the course of my project, I have encountered some unforeseen but truly vital expenses," read the introduction to Neuthom's 47-page project proposal, which details predicted outlays through 2008, most notably an additional $60,000 in "part-time female research-assistant salaries." "This money is needed to continue the very important work I'm doing with Betsy, who is a talented and beautiful young woman."



The application also noted increased travel and laboratory expenses for the upcoming year, including first-class airfare and luxury accommodations for two to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's annual convention, a powerful telescope "perfect for warm, starry June evenings," and $275 for a custom-made, tailored lab coat.

Representatives for the Braithwaite Foundation are currently reviewing Neuthom's expenditures, and have not yet decided whether to contribute further money to his studies.

"We're impressed with all the energy Dr. Neuthom has poured into this endeavor already, but he insists much, much more work needs to be done before he produces any definitive results," foundation director Ted Sengupta said. "Before funding his new proposal, we'd like to see what discoveries he made while studying 'the effect of moonlight on Montana's native trout populations,' which he chose to research on a quiet, isolated lake 150 miles away from the established site of his study."

"We're sure he has a good reason, but $1,500 for a singing Italian gondolier seems a bit curious," Sengupta added.

Sengupta said that, in the Braithwaite Foundation's long history of funding ecological research, he has never seen an aquatic wildlife study require so many fresh-cut flowers.

Sources at the University of Montana say they have rarely encountered an established researcher as generous as Neuthom, who often spends long hours in the lab with his young assistant, helping her participate in every aspect of the study, even those for which she is not technically qualified. He also frequently offers to drive Hamilton home in the Wildlife Research Center's newly acquired Corvette.

"I thought that grant would last Jim [Neuthom] at least two years, but I simply didn't realize how many hot-air balloon rides, CDs, and spontaneous dinners at tiny French restaurants are required for an in-depth trout study," said UM professor of agriculture Steven Czymedia, who claimed he was "fascinated" by Neuthom's new theory that fine champagne might be directly related to rainbow trout migratory routes. "The subject is obviously very near and dear to his heart. I've never seen him so excited. I wish him the best."

Hamilton, who plans to list her involvement with the project on her medical school applications next year, could not be reached for comment. However, her roommate, Kelly Deem, said she believes Hamilton has enjoyed her experience as a research assistant, since the flexible schedule works around her classes and allows her to spend more time with her fiancé.

According to the Braithwaite Foundation's internal auditor Michael Romero, if Neuthom has misused funds, the organization will take appropriate measures.

"We have a team carefully examining every receipt submitted by Dr. Neuthom over the last few months," Romero said. "If anything untoward has happened here, my assistant, Emily will find it. She's really quite something, you know."

Two New Gallup Polls -- Hillary and Bill

The first poll is somewhat predictable to anyone who has been following Democratic politics for any length of time: Democrats view Hillary as most electable. Of course, this is among mainstream voters and not liberal insiders (who don't much like Hillary).
PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Panel survey shows that Democrats think Hillary Clinton has the best chance of being elected president among the Democratic presidential candidates, followed by Barack Obama and John Edwards. Even as momentum appears to be building in some political circles for an Al Gore-presidential run, less than half of Democrats and only about one-third of Americans think he has a good chance of winning should he run. Overall, Americans are split over which Democrat -- Clinton or Obama -- has the best chance of being elected, with Republicans giving Obama the better odds.

More than 7 in 10 Americans believe Clinton and Obama have an "excellent" or "good" chance of being elected president. At 52%, Edwards is the only other Democrat who is viewed as having a good chance by a majority of the public.

Even after his recent star turn as a presenter at the Grammys and Oscars, only 31% believe Gore has a good chance of winning, while 42% believe his chances are slim, and 26% think he has no chance at all. The poll was completed before Gore's documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, was awarded two Oscars Sunday night, so the impact of those wins on his chances, if any, is unclear at this point.

Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Christopher Dodd are thought to have better-than-average odds of winning the presidency by fewer than one in five Americans.

There's more to this poll that you might want to check out at their site.

The other poll is far more interesting, and it's a little surprising: Americans Predict Bill Clinton Would be Asset as First Spouse.

I'm sure there are many of us -- who feel that Bill was our best recent president -- who wouldn't even question this idea. Of course Bill would be a great asset as First Gentleman. He is one the most intelligent politicians we've had in a long time. And he knows the players on the world stage far better than Hillary does at this point.

What's surprising is that Bill's public image has been rehabilitated to the point that a broad spectrum of the populace also think he would be an asset.
Former President Bill Clinton will enter uncharted waters should his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, succeed in capturing the presidency in 2008. Not only would he be the first man in a position that is defined by duties traditionally associated with women, but he would have to make the seemingly awkward transition from the former leader of the free world to a rather domestic-oriented post.

The latest Gallup Panel survey, conducted Feb. 22-25, 2007, investigated how Americans say Bill Clinton might write his new resume. Although a majority of Americans (63%) say he should not hold an official government job as policy advisor to President Hillary Clinton, 61% think he should advise her unofficially. Americans also think Bill Clinton should fill such familiar duties of presidential spouses as hosting White House social events, taking up a charitable cause, and representing the White House abroad at special ceremonies. They do not believe, however, that he should deliver paid speeches before business and industry groups.

More generally, Americans predict Clinton would be an asset as a presidential spouse. By a better than two-to-one margin, 70% vs. 28%, Americans believe he would be more helpful than harmful to his wife's presidency.

You can read the rest of the poll results here.

Schoolhouse Rock - How A Bill Becomes A Law

When I was a wee lad, I loved my Saturday morning cartoons. Superfriends and various other super hero cartoons were usually followed by the Bugs Bunny & Road Runner Hour. During the commercial breaks, there were a series of animated music videos that aimed to be education. Schoolhouse Rock is one of my best memories from childhood. "How a Bill Becomes a Law" was one of the best shorts they ever did, right up there with "Conjunction Junction."

If they did this same piece now, they'd have to add in something about lobbyists and pork barrel projects, and that would ruin the fun.

Via: VideoSift

Speedlinking 3/2/07

Quote of the day:

"We live in a Newtonian world of Einsteinian physics ruled by Frankenstein logic."
~ David Russell

Image of the day

~ BONUS ARTICLE: Two-Day Workout -- "Between working 40-60 hours per week, carting the kids around, or being forced to take those swing dancing lessons you promised your girlfriend (we've all been there), the last thing on the "to do list" is going to the gym. Mr. G has the answer: the Two-Day Workout."
~ Cholesterol in Foods Less Significant Than Total Calories -- "Your blood cholesterol level is influenced far more by how many calories and how much saturated and partially hydrogenated fat you eat, than by how much cholesterol is in your food." I've been trying to tell people this for a long time.
~ Strength For Caring Reminds Caregivers To Eat Healthy During National Nutrition Month -- "Strength for Caring (, an online resource for family caregivers, is pleased to announce new resources to celebrate National Nutrition Month including healthy recipes and food charts, tips for exercising when you have no time, and healthy lifestyle basics."
~ Test Your Vending Machine Smarts -- "Get the goods on the healthiest vending machine choices." A little quiz to test your "crap food" smarts.
~ Coffee: Aroma, Taste And Dietary Fiber -- "Already recognized as a source of healthful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, coffee also contains significantly higher levels of soluble dietary fiber than other commonly consumed beverages, scientists in Spain report."
~ Sweat may spread hepatitis B virus -- "Findings from a study of Olympic wrestlers indicate that hepatitis B virus is found in the sweat of infected individuals, and so sweating might be a way that the virus could be passed between participants in contact sports."
~ Green Tea And COX-2 Inhibitors Combine To Slow Growth Of Prostate Cancer -- "Drinking a nice warm cup of green tea has long been touted for its healthful benefits, both real and anecdotal. But now researchers have found that a component of green tea, combined with low doses of a COX-2 inhibitor, could slow the spread of human prostate cancer."

~ Image Concerns Tied to Depression in Arthritis, Lupus Patients -- "Concerns about appearance are associated with depression in people with rheumatic arthritis or lupus, an Australian study finds."
~ Antidepressants Help Men Decrease Alcohol Consumption -- "A CIHR-funded study explored the relationship between use of antidepressants and level of alcohol consumption, examining whether using antidepressants affected the link between depression and level of alcohol consumption."
~ Sleep Deprivation Affects Moral Judgment, Journal SLEEP -- "A study published in the March 1st issue of the journal SLEEP finds that sleep deprivation impairs the ability to integrate emotion and cognition to guide moral judgments."
~ Study: Sex Makes People Feel Sexier -- "Research finds that sexual activity raises testosterone levels in men and women."
~ Meditation Shown to Increase Grey Matter and Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease -- "Researchers ... have found in their studies that meditation can impact the thickness of the cortical tissue in the brain. This type of change is significant in the way the tissue is then able to process sensory, cognitive, and emotional responses."
~ Developmental Dissociations in Prefrontal Cortex: Maintenance vs Manipulation Processes [Developing Intelligence] -- "Cognitive theories of "executive function" vary greatly in the number of distinct cognitive processes they propose to subserve the goal-directed coordination of behavior. Some theories suggest that strong active maintenance of information, and a way of "updating" the information that is maintained, is sufficient to explain performance on executive function (EF) tasks, which typically require careful control over behavior."
~ The Driven Motorist -- "How we project ourselves onto our cars."
~ Warnings Of Increased Suicide Risk Didn't Dampen Antidepressant Prescriptions -- "'Black box' warnings on labels of certain antidepressants about possible increased suicide risk had no effect on the amounts of the medications prescribed in North America."
~ Beyond Getting Lucky -- "Achieving your goals and attracting what you want is within your control -- and when you break it down into a few easy steps, success is closer than you think!"
~ Study: The color red impacts achievement -- "U.S. and Germany scientists have discovered the color red can affect how people function, keeping them from performing at their best on tests."

~ Queer 101: A Guide for Heteros -- " Conservative Americans may demonize gay people -- but how much do progressives really know about queer culture?"
~ The last lovemaking taboo lifted? -- "While somebody might make a comment at a party, say, about oral sex, or some other aspect of their sex lives, few are yet willing to openly discuss anal sex. And yet the practice and interest in it appear to be growing."
~ Unpatriotic Christians [The Frontal Cortex] -- A very interesting graph, with serious implications.
~ "Intellectual Conservative" seems to be an oxymoron [Pharyngula] -- "Many will argue with the conclusion of my title, but there are so many examples of outright intellectual vacuity from people who anoint themselves with the title "conservative" that it is fast becoming a synonym for 'ignoramus.'"
~ More on the same idea: Conservapedia : why do conservatives tolerate this tripe in their name??? [Galactic Interactions] -- "It's coming-out-of-the-closet time. I was a Republican once. Now, saying you're a Republican around is a little bit like saying that you're gay in the middle of a Southern Baptist church service. You're just asking for trouble."
~ Education and Emotion [The Frontal Cortex] -- "Last week, I criticized David Brooks for his conservative interpretations of modern neuroscience. This week, I'm happy to report that Brooks' policy recommendations are much more interesting (and scientifically accurate, at least in my opinion)."
~ Anti-"Don't Ask" Bill Introduced -- "Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., on Wednesday revived legislation aimed at forcing the military to eliminate the policy preventing homosexual service members from being open about their orientation."
~ Incentivising invention -- "Will a boom in philanthropic prize-giving change the world?"
~ James Dobson's power may be waning -- "Is James Dobson's legendary power starting to wane?" We can only hope.
~ -- "Recently we blogged about Billhop, a site for tracking state legislation. is a similar site for Federal legislation, created under the auspices of the Sunlight Foundation, where Ellen Miller describes it as "a user-friendly Thomas on steroids," referring to the Library of Congress' legislative information site, which has been around since 1995."

~ New market-based system aims to predict bird flu -- "Is a bird flu pandemic coming? Health experts say there is no way to know, and especially no way to know when."
~ Warning Issued For Plastic Baby Bottles -- "Parents are being warned about plastic baby bottles after studies showed they could possibly cause developmental and reproductive problems." This is deadly serious.
~ Artificially evolving social robots -- "Carl Zimmer has written a fascinating piece on a study that simulated the evolution of communication in artificially intelligent robots."
~ Parking Goes to Highest Bidder -- "See that spot that just opened up? Forget about it. Some yuppie won it in an auction two hours ago, so you're out of luck."
~ Food is Power -- "Anna Lappé attends the first international Forum on Food Sovereignty in Mali. With more than 600 participants from 98 countries, the meeting will gather some of the most important social movements working for food rights global."
~ Tornado Science, Facts and History -- "This is the fastest start for the first three months of the year since 1999. Scientists say the pattern is likely to continue."
~ Why do birds migrate? -- "Why do some birds fly thousands of miles back and forth between breeding and non-breeding areas every year whereas others never travel at all?"
~ Pre-Inca Observatory Is Oldest in Americas, Study Says -- "Thirteen 2,300-year-old towers precisely spaced along a ridge near a ceremonial site make up the oldest known solar observatory in the New World, experts say."
~ Model simulates atomic processes in nanomaterials -- "Researchers from MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology and Ohio State University have developed a new computer modeling approach to study how materials behave under stress at the atomic level, offering insights that could help engineers design materials with an ideal balance between strength and resistance to failure."

~ From Alan Kazlev: Initial impressions reading Jean Gebser. He's right, Gebser is hard to read.
~ From Joe Perez at Until: The Genesis story, as viewed by Kronology (part 1) and The Cross of Stone, on Genesis (part 2). See also: Kronos mandala: a symbol of Everything and The human being, the chimpanzee, the ape, the orangutan, and the monkey. Joe has been busy.
~ Are God and Science reconcilable? from Life 2.0.
~ Cruelty from Peter at The Buddha Diaries.
~ From ~C4Chaos: The Business of The Good, The True, and The Beautiful.
~ Finding God through Intimacy from Gary at Integral in Seattle.
~ The Main Pathologies and the Beauties of Organized Religion --- A Quick Summary over at Integrative Spirituality.
~ Aurobindo’s truth claims from Ed Berge at Open Integral.
~ How Much is Too Much? How Much is Too Little? from Mike at Unknowing Mind.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Poem: Theodore Roethke

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Veruca Salt - Seether (American Thighs, 1994)

Veruca Salt basically had this one brilliant album and then quickly faded into oblivion. But at the height of the grunge music era, they were one of a handful of riot grrl bands to break through into the mainstream (and, being from Chicago, one of the very few not to come out of the Pacific Northwest).

This came up on Video Sift today, so I thought I'd share the flashback.

Via: VideoSift

Revealing Your True Self

This is today's Daily Om, a good reminder that we often live our lives far removed from who we really are. Doing so can lead to all kinds of problems, including depression, anxiety, physical illness, and other forms of suffering.
Essential Authenticity
Revealing Your True Self

Identity is an elusive concept. We feel we must define ourselves using a relatively small selection of roles and conscious character traits, even if none accurately represents our notion of "self." The confusion surrounding our true natures is further compounded by the fact that society regularly asks us to suppress so much of our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual vibrancy. Yet we are, in truth, beings of light-pure energy inhabiting physical bodies, striving for enlightenment while living earthly lives. Our true selves exist whether we acknowledge them or not, often buried under fears and learned behavior. When we recognize our power, our luminosity, and our divinity, we cannot help but live authentic lives of appreciation, potential, fulfillment, and grace.

At birth and throughout your childhood, your thoughts and feelings were more than likely expressions of your true self. Though you may have learned quickly that to speak and act in a certain fashion would win others' approval, you understood innately that you were no ordinary being. There are many ways you can recapture the authenticity you once articulated so freely. Meditation can liberate you from the bonds of those earthly customs that compel you to downplay your uniqueness. Also, communing with nature can remind you of the special role you were meant to play in this lifetime. In order to realize your purpose, you must embrace your true self by letting your light shine forth, no matter the consequences.

Rediscovering who you are apart from your roles and traits takes time and also courage. If, like many, you have denied your authenticity for a long while, you may find it difficult to separate your true identity from the identity you have created to cope with the world around you. Once you do find this authentic self, however, you will be overcome by a wonderful sense of wholeness as you reconcile your spiritual aspect and your physical aspect, as well as your inner- and outer-world personas. As you gradually adjust to this developing unity, your role as a being of light will reveal itself to you, and you will discover that you have a marvelous destiny to fulfill.
Psyche doesn't like to be ignored. Our true nature is free-spirited, loving, compassionate, joyful, and expansive. But as we grow up, nearly all of us lose parts of this as a result of trying to satisfy other people's expectations, especially our parents. If we are really unfortunate, our parents may have smashed that free-spirited and vulnerable being into a box of restriction and conformity.

When we lose this inner child, as I have struggled with most of my life, our lives can feel flat and meaningless. The essential self grows out of that child. We can become rigid in our approach to life, controlling of our surroundings, and cut off from any real emotional contact with others. Psyche will tolerate this for a while, but eventually it will start to throw up symptoms to get our attention.

Depression and anxiety are two of the primary symptoms for a lot of people. Physical illness also arises, sometimes as a direct result of doing something so far from who we are that psyche has no other choice than to throw a hand grenade into our lives. We usually ignore it and pay the price later.

Getting back to this essential self, this vulnerable and curious and open inner being, can be very difficult. Therapy helps, meditation helps, identifying our subpersonalities helps, being in nature helps, and crying helps -- even loving our pets or playing with children can help. One of most direct ways into that part of ourselves is the recognition that it has been lost, especially when we see it in others. Mourning that pain, feeling the fear and loss that keeps it repressed and releasing those feelings can help us get back to the deeper part of ourselves.

Satire: Norah Jones Releases Debut Album For Third Time

From The Onion, of course.

Norah Jones Releases Debut Album For Third Time

March 1, 2007 | Issue 43•09

NEW YORK—With critics hailing its sound as "reminiscent of a young Norah Jones," Norah Jones' third album, Not Too Late, features the singer-songwriter performing mellow, acoustic pop songs with soul and country-pop tones.

"This third album is a great first effort," said Billboard columnist Emmanuel Stevens, adding that he looks forward to watching someone with such raw potential mature as an artist. "Hopefully, she won't suffer from a sophomore slump seven albums from now."

In the weeks since this year's Grammy Awards show, many fans have expressed outrage in online forums that Jones was "snubbed yet again" in the Best New Artist award, which she hasn't won since 2003.
Since I'm dissing her, and I actually enjoy some of her music (which does all sound the same), here is one of her first hits, "Don't Know Why."

Bill O'Reilly Talks to Marilyn Manson

Damn, that was a bit surreal . . . .

Muiltiple Intelligences -- Take the Test

[image source -- click to enlarge]

The Multiple Intelligences web site has a quick 40 question test that will give you a basic sense of your various intelligences (based on the work of Howard Gardner). I actually scored a little differently than I had thought I would, being low in logical, interpersonal, and musical (OK, I knew I was low in musical), and rather high in linguistic, naturalistic, and visual/spatial. I guess the one that threw me was being low in logical.

Take the test here.
Learn more about multiple intelligences here.

Speedlinking 3/1/07

Quote of the day:

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."
~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Image of the day:

~ The Training Strategy Handbook -- "How Should You Train?"
~ Non-GMO Solution To Seafood Allergies -- "Seafood allergy sufferers may soon be able to eat prawns without the fear of an adverse reaction. Chinese scientists have taken a promising step towards removing from prawns the proteins that cause an allergic response without resorting to genetic manipulation."
~ Lighten up in the weight room -- "The amount of weight you should lift is dictated by the goals you want to achieve."
~ Early sex correlates with delinquency -- "New research suggests that when teenagers and younger children engage in their first sexual intercourse far earlier than their peers that they will exhibit higher levels of delinquency in the subsequent years." My guess is that sex isn't the problem, but a symptom.
~ Study Finds Kids Gain Weight Over Summer -- "Study Finds That 5- and 6-Year-Olds Gain More Weight Over Summer Than During School Year." Damn video games.
~ Reduce your BMI, pay less for insurance -- "Amid a growing obesity epidemic in the United States, an insurance company has started giving customers another reason to slim down by being one of the first in the nation to offer discounts to customers who keep a low body-mass index." I knew this was coming. Someone like me, whose BMI is 27, will be penalized even though my bodyfat is hovering around 11%. BMI is not a good measure for healthy, muscular men.
~ Getting a Better Handle on Your Job Prevents Type 2 Diabetes -- "Left untreated, emotions can be the root of countless health issues you may be experiencing, and can even shorten your life if you let them. Based on a study of some 700 primarily male Israeli workers who complained of job burnout, add type 2 diabetes to that list."
~ Growth Hormone To Boost Athletic Performance Risks Diabetes -- "The study reports the case of a 36 year old professional body-builder who required emergency care for chest pain. He had lost 40 kg in 12 months, during which he had also experienced excessive urination, thirst, and appetite." One case is not even close to an adequate sample, and bodybuilders are not representative of the average person who wants to use growth hormone for health or weight loss.

~ Overly Anxious And Driven People Prone To Irritable Bowel Syndrome -- "The researchers studied 620 people who had confirmed gastroenteritis caused by a bacterial infection. None had had IBS before, or indeed any serious bowel disorder."
~ When God Sanctions Killing, The People Listen -- "In the article, University of Michigan psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers."
~ Greater Deficits In Emotional Facial Expression Can Indicate More Severe Alcoholism -- "Recognition of emotional facial expressions (EFEs) is a key form of non-verbal communication that is lacking among alcoholics. New findings show continuing EFE decoding deficits among alcoholics even after three months of abstinence."
~ The Rich See What They Believe -- "People see what they believe, not vice versa, when it comes to social injustice, new psychology research shows."
~ Angry? Breathing Beats Venting -- "While it is a common assumption that an angry person needs to blow off steam or risk going through the roof, research in psychology shows just the opposite. According to University of Arkansas psychologist Jeffrey M. Lohr, research has consistently showed that venting anger is at best ineffective and in some cases is even harmful."
~ Stress-related adult disease may originate in fetal development -- "According to a review in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, evidence is mounting that lifelong stress-related conditions such as depression and chronic pain may be linked to fetal growth and timing of delivery."
~ Positive Gains With Hypnosis -- "Over recent years, hypnosis has gained acceptance as a credible method of treatment within the traditional medical community. It is now recognized as credible by both the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health, as seen by the information provided on their websites."

~ 1 In 3 Boys Heavy Porn Users, Study Shows -- "Boys aged 13 and 14 living in rural areas, are the most likely of their age group to access pornography, and parents need to be more aware of how to monitor their children's viewing habits, according to a new University of Alberta study."
~ Kids Allowed To Join Groups For Complex Reasons -- "New research at the University of Maryland looks at why kids decide to include - and exclude - other kids from their group of friends. It turns out the decision making process is much more complex than previously believed, and could even provide insights into how to intervene when children are rejected by their peers."
~ Bush Health Plan Raises Taxes by $526 Billion, Report Says -- "President George W. Bush's plan to revamp the health-care system would increase taxes on Americans by $526.2 billion over the next decade, according to a congressional estimate."
~ Civic Engagement Keeps Aging Americans Mentally Healthy After Physical Decline -- "People who continuously participate in community groups are often spared losses in psychological well-being after developing functional limitations, according to an article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences."
~ Iran Agrees To Join Neighbors Summit -- "Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, will join U.S. and British representatives at a regional conference here on the Iraqi security crisis."
~ Censoring Our Educators -- "State legislators across the country are trying to force university professors to zip their lips on controversial topics."
~ McCain on Letterman: I Will Run in '08 -- "Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona says he will officially enter the presidential race."

~ Transportation study receives outstanding paper award -- "Got a train to catch? The walk to the nearest stop has been put under scientific scrutiny, looking at distances involved and the environment along the way."
~ New evidence that global warming fuels stronger Atlantic hurricanes -- "Atmospheric scientists have uncovered fresh evidence to support the hotly debated theory that global warming has contributed to the emergence of stronger hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean."
~ Toward tapping the potential of 'stranded' natural gas -- "Newly discovered chemical catalysts may be an answer to the century-long search for economical ways of using natural gas now burned or "flared" as waste in huge quantities, scientists in the United States and Germany report."
~ Iron in Northwest rivers fuels phytoplankton, fish populations -- "A new study suggests that the iron-rich winter runoff from Pacific Northwest streams and rivers, combined with the wide continental shelf, form a potent mechanism for fertilizing the nearshore Pacific Ocean, leading to robust phytoplankton production and fisheries."
~ Huge 'Ocean' Discovered Inside Earth -- "Scans of Earth's deep interior reveal a vast water reservoir beneath Asia that is at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean."
~ Snails Save Energy by Re-Using Mucus Trails -- "Snails save valuable energy by following each other's mucus trails a new study finds." Yummy.
~ Volcano Blows as Space Probe Flies By -- "A probe flew by just in time to witness a volcanic explosion on Jupiter's moon, Io."
~ Ning lets anyone make a social-networking website -- "A new Internet company backed by Netscape Communications co-founder Marc Andreessen launched a free service on Tuesday that enables people to make their own social-networking websites."

~ From ~C4Chaos: The Next Generation is Infected with Boomeritis. See also his other post: Social Entrepreneurs: Harbingers of Conscious Capitalism.
~ Umguy, late of Ideological Putty, has started a new blog: Still Seeking. Glad to have back.
~ From Joe Perez at Until: The electromagnetic spectrum as a metaphor for the 30 tiers of Kronology.
~ From Gwen at Buddhist Geeks: Why You Can’t See Me Naked: Sex & The Middle Way -- Nice post.
~ TikkunGer and I have begun a discussion of Integral Judaism. We're doing it by email, but each of us will post an update from time to time. TikkunGer has the first one: Lets Talk Integral Judaism.
~ CJ Smith looks at a recent Andrew Cohen blog entry and likes what he sees: Meaningful Enlightenment.
~ From Hokai's Blog: Buddha and Myth.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Depression as an Adaptive Trait [Updated]

My morning client just canceled on me, so I have some time to write about this article from the LA Times that looks at the emerging field of evolutionary psychology.

One of the sections of the article that seems to have struck a nerve with bloggers is the mention of depression as an adaptive trait (not coincidentally, it's the beginning of the article). Here is the relevant section:
IN the fall of 2005, psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson Jr. was treating an 18-year-old college freshman whom he describes as "intensely depressed, feeling suicidal and doing self-cutting."

A few years before, Thomson says, he would have interpreted her depression as anger turned inward. But instead he decided that her symptoms might be a way of signaling her unhappiness to people close to her.

He discovered that his client's parents had pressured her to attend the university and major in science, even though her real interest lay in the arts. In the course of therapy, he helped her become more assertive about her goals. When she transferred to another school and changed majors, he says, her depression lifted.

Thomson based his approach on the idea that depression is not simply a disease to be eliminated, but a way of eliciting support from family and friends. It's a concept derived from evolutionary psychology, a burgeoning field that is starting to influence psychotherapy.
The article goes on to examine the different approaches evolutionary psychologists are taking to the traditional problems in psychology, everything from depression as a social cue to schizophrenia as a genetic flaw in gene transcription.

One of the interesting things to me, from an integral point of view, is that evolutionary psychology has the potential to become an all quadrant affair. Traditional psychology operates mostly in the UL (interior, individual) quadrant of the psyche, although both Freud and Jung sought to "medicalize" their theories. Contemporary neuropsychiatry nearly dismisses the UL in favor of the UR (exterior, individual) realm of the body, treating brain chemicals rather than emotional states.

Increasingly, over the years, there has been some interest in including the influence of cultural values (LL quadrant, interior collective), behaviors, and prejudices in the practice of psychology, especially with the rise of humanistic psychology in the sixties.

What we need is a an approach that combines all of these with the addition of the LR (exterior, collective) realm of society, environment, and habitats.

Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology -- as brilliant as that book is -- doesn't really offer too much of an all quadrant approach. The emphasis is squarely in the UL quadrant of the psyche. Maybe if he ever writes the textbook on integral psychology that this book was supposed to be the Cliff's Notes for, we will get a more all quadrant model.

Back to the article. Toward the end of the piece, they present a lot of different ways evolutionary psychologists are working with depression, many of which seem very productive. When we begin to understand depression as an adaptive response to specific situations, it ceases to be something to feel shame about. Rather, it is an almost healthy response to very unhealthy situations and experiences.
Two other new therapies rely on the common-sense notion that normal, adaptive functioning can go awry because of unfavorable life circumstances, including abuse and trauma.

Paul Gilbert, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Derby and former president of the British Assn. for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies, is developing a regimen he calls "compassionate mind training." Its aim is to help patients who are highly self-critical learn techniques for soothing themselves.

The therapy draws on both evolutionary psychology and attachment theory. Certain systems in the mind trigger anxiety and depression, while others soothe and provide feelings of safety — a capacity that may not develop in people from abusive or neglectful families, Gilbert says.

For a pilot study published in December in the journal Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Gilbert recruited nine volunteers already undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy for personality disorders or chronic mood disorders.

Therapists explained the evolutionary significance of attachments to the participants and helped them analyze the origins of their self-critical feelings. Participants were taught to feel empathy for their own distress, and then practiced imagining an "ideal of caring and compassion."

They kept weekly diaries of their progress. The paper reports "a significant impact on depression, anxiety, self-attacking, feelings of inferiority, submissive behavior and shame" among the six who completed the regimen.

In Toronto, Leslie Greenberg, professor of psychology at York University, is testing "emotion-focused therapy," which seeks to replace unhealthy, or maladaptive, emotions with healthy ones.

In an article in the summer issue of the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, Greenberg offers a case study of a woman suffering from major depression, anxiety disorder and interpersonal problems after having been raised by emotionally and physically abusive parents.

Greenberg encouraged the woman to engage in imaginary conversations with her parents in which she expressed her feelings about their sadistic behavior.

In therapy, the anger she felt, an adaptive emotion, eventually replaced her fear and feelings of worthlessness. "She began to create a new identity narrative," writes Greenberg, "one in which she was worthy and had unfairly suffered abuse at the hands of cruel parents." That emotional rewiring left her "open to learn to love" again, he writes.

Shani Robins, president of the Institute for Wisdom Therapy in San Diego, also draws on evolutionary psychology in his therapy — a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation, training in humility, and psycho-education.

Understanding the evolutionary origin of problems can help patients put them in perspective, he says. Fear of heights, snakes and open spaces may have been useful to our ancestors, for example, even if such phobias seem excessive today.

Explaining these mechanisms "normalizes the reaction itself, and that's huge," Robins says. "When patients come in, they not only have symptoms — they're feeling pretty bad about it." In time, they learn to "self-judge a lot less."
In many of these approaches, attachment theory is an underlying mechanism. This is essentially a LL quadrant look at an UL quadrant need. Attachment theory basically states that a child needs to form a healthy bond with at least one adult figure as it grows up so that it can feel safe to explore itself and its world, and to learn proper social functioning. In an abusive family, that attachment may not happen or it may happen in ways that leave the child wounded as an adult.

When a child doesn't form healthy attachments, s/he grows up to be an adult who also cannot form good attachments. Love relationships, especially, become difficult or impossible to navigate or feel comfortable in, leading to depression and isolation. Substance abuse also can become an issue for these adults (addiction is often just an attempt to escape pain).

Several of the approaches outlined above work from this foundation toward healing depression by examining the pathological attachment history of the individual. Especially in the case of abuse or trauma, these are very profitable avenues of healing.

Another approach mentioned in the article suspects that we are not evolutionarily adapted to living the lives we find ourselves in now. The approach advocates increased omega-3 fats (proven to reduce depressive symptoms), increased sunlight and exercise, and getting more sleep. This is a distinctly LR quadrant look at the depression problem that offers UR solutions, without neglecting the UL emotional realm (employing group therapy) or the LR cultural values context (we are expected to work hard and function well).

My hope is that as evolutionary psychology evolves over time, the field will begin to integrate the useful material from each of the disparate lines of investigation currently being explored into a more comprehensive and integral model.


I want to suggest another way that depression can act as an adaptive trait that isn't mentioned in the article, or anywhere else that I am aware.

People often mistakenly think of depression as being sad or unhappy. In reality, true depression is a near total absence of affect. There are few emotions at all in true depression. What there is for many of us who have suffered with depression is a desire to escape, to not feel anything; therefore, sleep and substance abuse become common behaviors. Many depressives can sleep 12 to 16 hours a day.

This in itself, I think, is an adaptive behavior. From my experience, the psyche can only handle so much at one time. If it feels overwhelmed, it shuts down. One way that it can shut down when faced with overload is depression. If there is too much pain to process, the psyche orchestrates a chemical cocktail of neurotransmitters that launches a person into a depressive state.

The problem seems to be that we often get stuck in that space without therapeutic intervention. Anti-depressive medications can make people functional in their day to day lives, but they cannot heal the underlying causes of the depressive state. For that, we need to access the original emotions and release them -- and/or we need to relearn a healthy response pattern that short-circuits the overload state and allows the emotions to come up and be released naturally.

My sense is that many depressives have a veritable bottomless pit of unprocessed emotions that need to be released. But the psyche feels overwhelmed and shuts down, preventing the emotions from coming up. Even when a person is able to start accessing some of the emotions, without a proper filter (and I suspect many depressives don't have a good filter) or adequate self-soothing techniques (the article mentions this as an issue related to attachment theory), the emotions come on too much and too fast and the individual will shut down again into a depressive state.

The combination of drug therapy with depth psychology (and here some somatic work might be a healthy addition, since many depressives suffered early childhood trauma that may be pre-verbal) seems like the best approach. And of course, many of the techniques described in the article sound like valuable additions to the therapeutic arsenal.