Monday, December 22, 2014

Ho Hum Homeland

Now that Quinn (the most exciting character since Brody) is on a black-ops assignment somewhere very dangerous, what will “Homeland’s” writers decide to do next?  

Carrie’s psychotic episodes may be endearing to the men in her life, but are boring, boring, boring to this viewer. Saul may re-assume some importance in the next season – we certainly hope so. And a potential volatile relationship between Carrie and long lost Mom may (or may not) rev things up a bit, but with Sunday’s episode and the (hopefully) temporary departure of Peter Quinn, who seems to be the moral compass of the show, the season finale seemed almost moribund. 

And a word to the writers: not everyone in the world drops the “F-bomb.”  It is certainly in Carrie’s high maintenance character to do so, but I would think “out of character” for someone like Saul and some of the other operatives, technicians, and directors at Langley, who appear to use the word two or three times in a single sentence. Just because you may be comfortable with it, it does not necessarily follow that everyone in the CIA uses it – on TV or in real life.   

The word has lost its shock value, having been flung at us by new and liberated cable networks.  But how many of us actually use the word in everyday conversation? C'mon! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cuba and the Twenty First Century

Regarding the on-going discussion about relaxing sanctions with Cuba: it is my belief that had this "normalization of relations" been done decades ago, the Castro regime would be long gone. There is nothing like  a wave of fresh air to sweep out a repressive regime with dictatorial tendencies. Once the Cuban people get a whiff of an uncontrolled Internet and social media, their beautiful Caribbean skies with open wide with gifts of free speech and creative thought. Of course, time is also a factor and nothing will come about in a day.  But the process has begun. Bravo to Obama.
I intend to be one of the first tourists to visit the island after we get a U.S. ambassador settled in Havana.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Biology of Belief - By Bruce Lipton, PhD - A Review

This book confirms everything that I believe but says it far more succinctly and elegantly than I ever could.

We learn that the quantum theory proponents may finally be gaining a foothold in the traditionally entrenched scientific community and their stubborn adherence to a material concept of physics (Newtonian). Dr. Lipton sees us as part of a whole (the metaphorical drops of water in the great cosmic ocean); we are a universal melting pot, (ie, the planet, the stars, the earth and all living creatures dependent upon it, are all made up of energy AND matter), and that this knowledge may ultimately save our planet and our species from extinction as we begin to move toward a more spiritual understanding of our place in the universal order.     

In his discussion of Western medicine vs. Eastern energy healing, he rightly suggests that Western society has ignored the benefits of Eastern healing techniques to our detriment for centuries:  “For thousands of years,” he writes, “. . . Asians have honored energy as the principal force contributing to health and well- being.” (Lipton 108)  

He talks about the dangerous and adverse effects of drugs and how belief can heal or harm, how fear and anxiety can kill. Most informative in this section is the discussion of parenting—how important parenting is -- even before birth.

Our universe and everything in it, Lipton says, is made up of energy – a fact that Einstein recognized but the medical profession has ignored until recently. Thus, in the quantum universe, knowledge flows holistically   rather than linearly, as in the Newtonian paradigm.   It is therefore incumbent upon us to learn to live in harmony with the “natural order” rather than to impose dominion over all living things.

We are in the midst of a mass extinction says Dr. Lipton, the last in a series of six and created by greed for natural resources and material things as well as an early abandonment of “spirit” in our evolutionary history.  This loss of “connectedness” to spirit was caused, he says, by a desire of the scientific community to create distance between itself and the controlling factions of the early church.  If human kind acts to reverse our trend towards the earth’s destruction, we may avoid another planetary catastrophe.   

The book was an engaging and enlightening glimpse into the changing views in the scientific community. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

JFK Remembered - a reprise

Each year during the past fifty one, there has been less and less said about JFK's assassination (until last year, or the fiftieth anniversary of his death). It appalls me, but I understand that most of us living today weren't even born in 1963.

I was kind of in love with Kennedy back then and was an ardent follower of him and his brother Bobby.  We believed in them, pure and simple, and the fire they provoked in my generation. His legacy today, however, is laced with a kind of blandness as though aside from his youth, his wit and charisma, his attractive young family, he really accomplished very little. This is blatantly wrong.

Kennedy's legacy grows with each passing year even though the tributes wane, (Chris Matthews’ new book, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” notwithstanding which documents true heroism during WWII in the Pacific Theatre). True, he allowed Khrushchev to get the upper hand (at first). Also true, that the Berlin Wall went up during his tenure. Indeed, he resided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco and we're all aware of his "indiscretions." But I believe today, that had that young president lived, he might have been one of our greatest leaders. Remember, he had only a thousand days in which to accomplish his agenda.

The thing I remember about the Kennedy administration was the sense of idealism and public service it inspired in us, more than I have seen since, even though President Obama came close in 2008. We wanted to serve back then; patriotism was not just a word being thrown back in our faces when we disagreed with government policies, it was a conviction. We believed passionately and reacted fervently.

As for his accomplishments, take note: the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, Civil Rights legislation, the Space Program and the introduction of the Green Berets. His major accomplishment, however, was a tight and tense little psychological drama between the USA and the USSR known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, which, without the successful maneuvering of the Kennedys, might have left the world in a state of nuclear disaster.

I guess his potential greatness will never be known which is what happens when someone takes you out before your time. But I think when all is said and done, his star will ultimately shine as one of the brightest. And though there seem to be few tributes today, JFK, this fifty first anniversary of your assassination, I remember. And I am grateful to have learned my political abc's under your leadership. You never blamed others for your mistakes -- you took your lumps with calm and grace. How refreshing it would be if our leaders today would learn to do the same

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Complexities of the English Language

With the undaunted and continuous reporting on every aspect of our world – both political and personal – as a result of the “twenty-four-hour-news cycle,” certain phrases appear again and again in our Media ad nauseum.   It isn’t just the “talking heads” who commit the sin of “pundit drivel.” It’s the supposed “experts” of all fields whom the pundits interview.  We are being proselytized on a daily basis to thinking in terms of the clichéd cliché.

Here are few that have come to make me cringe:  

“. . .having said that...”

“. . .that being said. . .”

“. . .at the end of the day. . .”

“. . .we’ll get to that on the other side. . .” (of the commercial break).

“. . .he allegedly. . .” (did something like cross the street).  

“. . .what were (are) your feelings. . .?” (asked of someone who can hardly speak because of being choked up with tears after a tragedy in their lives).

". . .sorry for your loss  . . ."

". . .what was going through your mind . . .? (when the gunman shoved the gun in your face). 

“. . . let’s DO this. . .”

“. . . be that as it may. . .”

“. . . so . . . “  (a word currently used to preface the answer to a question – Mike Morell should know better!)

“. . . like . . . “  (Oh, please, let’s get rid of this word used to begin a sentence or to fill a pause.  Like, I'd be over-joyed!)  

“. . . I know what the optics are. . .” The White House Staff uses “optics” a lot.  How about something like, “. . . I know how this appears. . .”

Appearances do matter and so do words.

My latest peeve, however, is the use of “complex” when the speaker means “complicated.”  Yes, the dictionary makes it sound like they are interchangeable.  However, there is a subtle difference in the connotation of the words.  In the case of the word “complex” the connotation is and has always been one of the following: containing multiple interconnected parts; a composite; multi-faceted; a complex system of something.  "Complicated," on the other hand, is not that complicated -- it connotes difficult to understand, analyze, explain or follow.

Am I the only one who gets rankled with the sloppy use of "I" and "me," "he" and "him" as well as "she" and "her?"  One should give it to "me;" therefore, one should also give it to "him and me" or "her and me."  Please don't let one give it to "her and I," since one would never give it to "I," would they?   I guess it's just me!  

Next up:  my rant on Pharmaceutical commercials.  I’ll bet you can’t wait! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Listen to Doctor Spock but Follow Captain Kirk

The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment: How the Left-brain Plays Unending Games of Self-improvement (Kindle Edition) - my review of this book on Amazon in June of this year.
This book is about many things and was, at first, difficult for me to find a single cohesive theme. My liberal arts background was primed for a beginning, middle and end, but in dealing with this material, there is no way to deliver information in a neatly wrapped package. Professor Chris Niebauer states at one point in the book, "Perhaps the lack of consistency is something you noticed while reading this. What is the book about? Psychology? Science? Spirituality?"

It was, in fact, about all of those, with quite a bit of "the new consciousness movement" mixed in.

Niebauer, a college professor of Neuropsychology, presents what ultimately turns out to be a stimulating examination dealing with left- brain, right brain responses. I learned that we are a product of an evolutionary left-brain "interpreter" which has (probably) saved us from extinction by providing a modicum of paranoia, caution and dare I say - good sense early in our evolution, so that instead of running towards our early predators, we ran from them, thus avoiding being eaten.

This isn't meant to be facetious, though it is, perhaps, a bit satirical, as the cover of the book boasts a Buddha with a sardonically lifted left eyebrow which turns out to be a feisty clue to the tone of the book.

A significant portion of the book discusses the work of Michael Gazzaniga, whose research. along with Roger Sperry, on the "split-brain" and free will is frequently cited. "Free will is an illusion," says Gazzaniga. This is augmented, according to Niebauer, by the teachings of Eckhardt Tolle and Alan Watts. I was not familiar with Watts, but I've read Tolle who is not a scientist, but a popular spokesman for the "new consciousness," professing that the "illusory sense of self" or the "egoic self" interferes with our desire to reach consciousness. This is also part of the Buddhist tradition, however, Buddhism, as I recall, attempts to go beyond the personal "self" in order to reach a "higher" self.

I enjoyed the author's lively style of writing including an abundance of references to his children and their innate right-brain tendencies to answer a question with a non-interpretive "verb" answer (also termed the "how") as opposed to our adult, more cautious approach to stimuli called the "noun" or the "what" response. (I interpreted this to be relevant because verbs are action-oriented; nouns are static). Children have not fully developed their "pattern perceivers" and therefore can speak "Zenfully;" ie, without placing things in categories (a left-brain trait).

It was the Zen-fullness that I missed most about the book - a more in depth discussion of the relationship of Eastern philosophies to the ever so subtle change in the scientific community discussed by the author, which allows for the possibility that who we are is not contained in the (physical) brain that dies, but in our consciousness (which might not die at all).

My question, then, is, what is consciousness? Is it that deep sense of awareness encountered by Edgar Mitchell as he rode back to earth from outer space having experienced the utter "connectedness" of the universe? Is consciousness a part of the brain? Or simply that quiet place we all seek through meditation? Is consciousness the "mind?" The "soul?" Is it a void waiting to be filled? According to Niebauer, matter makes up only 5% of .000000000000000000042% in the universe. Then, of what is the rest of the universe made?

Professor Neibauer was able to suggest to me, at least, a conclusion: what I gleaned from the book was that the right brain may ultimately lead us to a state of consciousness to which, I, as a Yoga practitioner and meditation enthusiast, am eager to find. The right-brain (person) is intrepid, a risk taker, a doer; he is action-oriented: he/she is Captain Kirk, while the left-brain may be Dr. Spock, a logical voice of caution; This is the perfect metaphor for me, as the most memorable and revealing moments in my life have been those unthinking explorations into the unknown--a voyage to an undisclosed destination, to "boldly go" where I have never gone before.