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5/19/18

Her Stroke Caused A Mystical Experience

At 7:00 am on December 10, 1996 Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, awoke to a sharp pain behind her left eye. She didn't know a blood vessel had broken in her brain.  Squinting into the early morning light, she was irritated as her eye throbbed. Thinking of how to relieve the pain, she decided to exercise on an exercise machine which she rowed. That would take care of things, she thought.  Some aerobics were needed to get the heart pumping and the pain would disappear.  But it didn't work.  She saw her arms and hands moving forward and backward but they no longer seemed a part of her.  Of her experience on the machine, she wrote, "Feeling detached from normal reality, I felt as though I was observing myself in motion, as in the playback of a memory, as if my conscious mind was suspended somewhere between my normal reality and some esoteric space. I was sure I was awake, yet, I felt as if I was trapped inside the perception of a meditation that I could neither stop nor escape. Dazed, I felt the frequency of shooting pangs escalate inside my brain, and I realized that this exercise regime was probably not a good idea."

She got off the machine and in the bathroom climbed into the shower. Things got worse. She had no idea her brain was bleeding as her thoughts shut down and peace enveloped her.  Later, she would speak about her  experience, how, as she put it, her "consciousness soared into an all-knowingness, a 'being at one' with the universe."  She moved into a different way of seeing, one without three-dimensions, in which she melted into space.


She wrote a best-selling book about her experience titled My Stroke of Insight.

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5/13/18

Are Your Life Story, Your Free Will, and Your Self Convenient Fabrications?

Suppose that because of epilepsy you have had the connection severed between your two brain hemispheres so that one side does not communicate with the other. In an experiment, somebody shows you a card that says "Walk." So you walk. When asked why you did it, you say, "To get a drink of water." In fact you only did it because you saw the card. You made up the explanation after the fact. This couldn't happen to you, right? Wrong.
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5/6/18

V.S. Ramachandran: Brain Temporal Lobes and Mystical Experience

Neuroscientist Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran works in behavioral neurology and visual psychophysics and is professor in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. He has published books with popular appeal, including Phantoms in the Brain (1998), A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness (2004) and The Tell-Tale Brain (2010). In these videos he presents a young man who experiences recurrent mystical experiences and feels intense beauty in these moments. Ramachandran hypothesizes a reason for the experiences, although tracing them to the physical does not prove the cause as physical and the experience as deluded. One can also observe that people without the young man's condition have had similar experiences and that a door opened into a greater reality that few ever glimpse.

Part One

Part Two

4/29/18

Walter Freeman's Ice Pick Lobotomy on Howard Dully

This is a sad story, but one of self-redemption, so if you read the book you will find that Howard Dully was able to salvage something of the tragedy others made of his life. It is titled My Lobotomy. The title is simple, not pretentious, and the narrative is straightforward. Dully began life as a normal boy, bright, at a young age able to beat his father in chess. Then something happened to him. What happened to him was Walter Freeman.
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4/22/18

The Trump Era, Fake News, and The Epistemic Stroop Effect

The Stroop Effect occurs in a mismatch of word with color.  You are told to say the color of a word but its letters spell a different color. Repeatedly subjects react slower to a mismatch than they do to a match of color with word. For your own experience of the Stroop Effect take the "test" below.
Now notice how much more easily and quickly you can match and pronounce the colors below.


These colors do not require scrutiny.  The words and colors fit what your brain expects. This provides an example of the default mode for how we process the world.  Our brains do not like anything not fitting our preconceptions. Natural selection evolved brains to survive, not reason with the world. They fitted things into ready categories so our ancestors could avoid a tiger they saw lurking behind a boulder, even though the tiger was there only once and they had detoured around the rock scores of times since. The simple equation was rock=danger and brain neurons became wired for that. It made life easier.  So brains do the same today.

This effect is noteworthy in a post-modern era when fake news and alternative facts have become widely acceptable.  It helps explain why people believe what they want to believe.
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4/15/18

Scientology: Get Rich Quick. Form Your Own Religion

What do these Tinsel-Townees have in common?: Kelly Preston, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Issac Hayes, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Katie Holmes, and Tom Cruise. They belong to a cult that believes humans are an exiled race from outer space.
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4/8/18

Do Sociopaths Have A Conscience?

Yes, but not in the way you might think.
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4/1/18

Zen & The Art of Chicken Sexing

Bookmark and Share   In Japanese commercial hatcheries when chicks are born, trained sex spotters divide them into males and females. This is known as chicken sexing. The divided groups are treated differently. The females are fed because they will produce eggs; a few males are fattened for meat while the rest are deemed useless and early on meet a fate later encountered by all animals in a factory system.

Under pressure from the production line, the chicken sexer must almost instantly choose the correct bin for each chick, a difficult task as cockerels and females look almost exactly the same. Differences appear only after four to six weeks of age.
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3/24/18

No-Self, Antonio Damasio, and NonDuality


Non-Duality is the term for a view or experience of the world as not two and not even one—not the duality of a person and the world outside him or her, but instead that which is neither subject nor object nor a  unity.  The term derives from Eastern teachings, principally Hindu advaita, which literally means without duality. It also finds support in Buddhism (Zen, for example, in which the Heart Sutra declares that form is emptiness, emptiness form). The teachings are that we live in nonduality right now and we can find out for ourselves but not through intellect. (Zen koans are designed to teach the futility of intellect and reason in understanding it.)

A central tenet of non-duality is that self—that which we call our self—does not exist. The evidence is offered by a methodology.
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3/18/18

Blindsight: Graham Young Is Blind But Can See

What is consciousness? You may say that it is to be aware. But what does it mean to be consciously aware of something? I can type this paragraph while outside my window a bird chirps, shadows dapple the window ledge, and here, inside this room, my fingers move on the keyboard, music plays on the radio, and other events also happen as I focus only on these words. I stop for a moment, and there they are, all these other things. Then I return my attention to the computer screen. In a sense, I see but I don't see. I am aware but I am not aware. Things are part of conscious and, so to speak, they are not.

Graham Young of Oxford, England is a case in point.
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3/15/18

Never Forget Her Face



Czesława Kwoka in 1943 at Auschwitz. She is 14 and terrified as she looks at the camera.  She was born in Wólka Złojecka, a small village in Poland.  Her mother was Katarzyna Kwoka, a Catholic.  Their crime? Being Poles, who were considered racially inferior. She died on 12 March 1943, her mother on 18 February 1943.
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3/11/18

Ghandi Offers A Murderer A Way Out of Hell

In a scene during Richard Attenborough's fine 1982 movie, Ghandi, a wild-eyed Hindu stands before Mahatma Ghandi. He is desperate, this man, and has just come from the fighting. His head is sweaty, his hands restless. There is rioting in the streets, Hindu against Muslim, Muslim against Hindu. Whole houses have been put to the torch by both sides. Overwrought, unable to contain himself, he cries at Ghandi,

"I'm going to Hell! I killed a child! I smashed his head against a wall."

Ghandi, looks at the man, and tries to sooth him.

"Why?," Ghandi asks.

"Because they killed my son! The Muslims killed my son!"

The man holds his hand up to show the boy's height, only about eight or nine years old. He puts his head in his hands.

Ghandi says softly, "I know a way out of Hell."
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3/4/18

Notes for A Modern Descent into Hell

How should I pack?
What should I wear? Walking shorts and a polo shirt? Nothing? (If so, is there a nudist beach?)
Do I need dark glasses?
What should I say if I meet people I know? Good seeing you here! How's business?
Do I tip the ferryman?
Should I carry a foreign language phrase book?
Do they have welcome kits?
Do I take my American Express card?
Can I get a room with at least HBO and cable TV?

2/23/18

From My Cold, Dead Hands

This is far from a complete list.

After  George Hennard  drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby's restaurant in 1991, killing  23 people, wounding 27 others, the NRA made sure nothing was done about it.

After Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered 13 students at Columbine High School in 1999 the NRA insured nothing was done.
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2/18/18

Tranquilized by The Trivial

A life can be spent in avoiding confrontation with itself.  That phrase echoes in the very marrow of our bones.

Faces along the bar cling to the average day. The lights must never go out. The music must always play. (September 1, 1939. W.H. Auden)

Daily lives, culture, society--all is arranged for distraction, else people discover that they and the world are not as they want.  No deep reflection, no serious reasoning--avoid them at all costs, and that is easy as the purchasing power of a wealthy economy allows whatever it takes to keep the music playing, the action coming, the thoughts at bay.

Distraction serves the national agenda, both politically and economically, as it stokes material ambition and acquisition. Climb the corporate ladder, buy a fancier car, a bigger house, a faster boat. Is everybody happy?
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