Why we should not trust our intuition?

The existence of female intuition and it´s less considerate counterpart male intuition, as well as an all-encompassing universal intuition is mentioned extensively in so many situations. On the contrary to the common popular defense of intuition, I believe it is still an unsolved matter. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a simple definition of intuition is:

A natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence: a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why; something that is known or understood without proof or evidence.

einstein-intuition-1068x660In order to understand it, we can first distinguish the temporality of it with a simple division of three moments: Pre-event, during the event, post-event. The difference might well be that when we feel intuition towards something or someone before it happens, later, theoretically at least, we can either prove or disprove the intuitive assumption; During the event, while it occurs, we feel an intuitive thinking and we can address it in real time, verifying the truthfulness of the sensation; and after the event, when we remember the intuition we had towards the event in question and then assert it to be true or false. For those of us that are interesting in this concept of intuition, I´m sure that you heard it usually in a context where the intuitive sensation was actually asserted to be true and it helped the capable person with a certain situation and/or person.

Let´s try now to evaluate the certainty of that sensation.

Using intuition or our “gut feeling”, as It is commonly referred to, is, according to PsychologyToday, that “we think of intuition as a magical phenomenon—but hunches are formed out of our past experiences and knowledge. So while relying on gut feelings doesn’t always lead to good decisions, it’s not nearly as flighty a tactic as it may sound.”

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Typìcal quote about Intuition, here 

The idea, I believe, is clear, Intuition, as it seems, can be said in the place of or with certain confusion of terms such as Empathy, Spirituality, Instincts, Judgement, Emotional intelligence and many more that have little or nothing to do with it. Hence, in my opinion, intuition, like consciousness, cognitive thinking, Free Will, and many more sensations we share, is usually an abstract feeling that provides comfort and a general sense of control and security in the interaction of a person with the surroundings (whether material or animated form). Meaning, just like when we claim that two events occurring in a relational way are a coincidence, we simply can´t analyze the unimagined amount of information that preceded the coincidence. Like Hana Estroff Marano says, intuition can be the lack of awareness, or knowledge if you wish, evoking the subconscious, whether with an impartial bias or current subconscious estimation of the situation.

Intuition is trispectivism unaware of the circumstance and I do believe many times can actually do more harm than good. For example, the way we treat other people, most of the time our defense system is preventing us from accepting the other (or Other depending on the topic), yes only when we recognize some negative aspects in the person in front of us we take credit in the sake of intuition, all other times it simply fades in the multitude of people and time. We can save that by being aware and conscious about the instinctive mechanism in us and by more thoughtful consideration of any person and situation according to the context. Admittingly, it does require much more work but in the end, I think you will agree: it´s worth it.

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Trispectivism as perceived by Roland Barthes, in Mythologies

“How is a myth received? We must here once more come back to the duplicity of its signifier, which is at once meaning and form. I can produce three different types of reading by focusing on the one, or the other, or both at the same time.

 

  1. If I focus on an empty signifier, I let the concept fill the form of the myth without ambiguity, and I find myself before a simple system, where the signification becomes literal again: the Negro who salutes is an example of French imperiality, he is a symbol for it. This type of focusing is, for instance, that of the producer of myths, of the journalist who starts with a concept and seeks a form for it.
  2. If I focus on a full signifier, in which I clearly distinguish the meaning and the form, and consequently the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, and I receive the latter as an imposture: the saluting Negro becomes the alibi of French imperiality. This type of focusing is that of the mythologist: he deciphers the myth, he understands a distortion.
  3. Finally, if I focus on the mythical signifier as on an inextricable whole made of meaning and form, I receive an ambiguous signification: I respond to the constituting mechanism of myth, to its own dynamics, I become a reader of myths. The saluting Negro is no longer an example or a symbol, still less an alibi: he is the very presence of French imperiality.

The first two types of focusing are static, analytical; they destroy the myth, either by making its intention obvious, or by unmasking it: the former is cynical, the latter demystifying. The third type of focusing is dynamic, it consumes the myth according to the very ends built into its structure: the reader lives the myth as a story at once true and unreal.”

[Taken from Roland Barthes, Mythologies, Selected and translated from French by Annette Lavers, The Noonday Press – NY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux  p. 127.]

What do Durkheim, Charlie Hebdo and Trispectivism have in common?

The reflections of Emile Durkheim, the person considered by many as the father of Sociology, are relevant to the understanding of any modern era social problems. According to his theory, there are some structural effects in society that by acknowledging them, one might be able to organize better. Now, I´m not a sociologist but the resemblance of certain parts of his writings to the universal idea of Trispectivism captured my attention. Well, that and an article someone brought to my attention that blames the Western European societies in the recent clash with some radical Muslims.

Actually, when talking about the Western world and in particular about the differences between the US and countries as France, Denmark and England, the most obvious social issue that is noticeable is with the difficulties with the Other. While the US fights with that omniscient Other abroad, meaning, extrinsic alterity problems, the Europeans have to fight it intrinsically, in their cities and amongst their population.

DurkheimIronically, in the beginning to the middle of the 20th century many thinkers mentioned Durkheim’s theory of the differences between Social Solidarity to predict that the US will collapse from interior conflicts because of the immigrant that were swarming into the neo-promisedland. With a capitalist system and thought, surely the individualism will thrive, separating the different groups into heterogenic groups that eventually will deteriorate the country from within, or that is what they predicted.

As we now know, in the US the immigrant manage to integrate unimaginably better than the EU immigrants. While there are, of course, some racial issues and the streets are rivers of prejudice and a-prioris, the level of hostility and anger is small in relative to the old continent.

So what is the difference? Durkheim divided Social Solidarity into Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. The first is collective consciousness in beliefs, work, thinking the same about value, which, as you have might guessed can remind us the Marxist way of thinking. It is when the social forms a unity (as bird flock of fish schools). The Organic solidarity, on the other hand, is more to describe modern societies, that are based on functional interdependence.

Both of the paradigms can be explained with the trispect mindset, after all, in every discussion about society the use of Trispectivism is obvious and even necessary. There is the individual, whether indigenous or immigrant, interacting with the universal (the social sphere, the country), and the change between the configuration of one system and another is the interaction, which is constant and prone to continuous modification. While in the EU there is a kind of emphasis on the social group acting as one (even with the capitalist influence), the Americans give more relevance to the fact that an individual, any individual will want to succeed, thrive, live better and thus will have to develop a will to integrate into the current. Free will and personal effort of integration from the individual in the US has turn out to be incredibly different from the country programs of integration and continuous effort to make it seem as one happy family.

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France is a great example of that, today with more than 6 millions of Muslims that making about 14% of the total population, the country is in disarray. Immigrants find themselves as marginal groups unable to comply with the rest of the traditional ties that were assumed by the locals many years back. Thus, instead of integration we see self-segregation, a search for another identity. When in the US one creates an identity within a multiple of other individual identities, in the EU, one creates a sphere within a beating social collectiveness. This is more terrifying than any crazy radical individual on the American ‘higher unity’ of individuals, as Simmel described it.spot1_nov04

There are many other components in this equation, no doubt, state of economic crisis, the fact that the numbers of immigrant augmented immensely in the last 30 years and many more.

So, to reiterate, it seems to me that the problem of assimilation in the EU is BECAUSE of erroneous programs of assimilation of the governments and not the lack of them. The reality is that while the immigrant feels as if the country owes him equal rights, he will most likely do the least possible to attain them (generally speaking of course). While if US makes it clear that rights are not attainable but by proving you are worthy of them, the country thrive on hard working, assimilated new Americans. The interdependence of many individuals is a well established reality that is function better than the ideal of one social collective body.

Why, one might ask, does the sporadic radical Muslim, attacks, act and react mostly in France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, when other countries, little further in the region, in Africa on in many other places have a much more bloodier history with the Muslim world (not only under the Ottoman Empire). Why is it that Charlie Hebdo and some Jews in a kosher market get to be the target for radical, mal-integrated, group of 2nd generation individuals? Or is it simply a question of media coverage? Who know?

Charlie Hebdo

Are emotions an obstacle for happiness?

Well, while reading the title one would surely notice the oxymoron or irony of it. Of course happiness is an emotion, and if we eliminate emotions we´ll have no way of knowing if we are happy, certainly not to the usually aspired degree of Happiness. This is some of the contradiction people confront while thinking about rationality and emotions. I mean, if the Aristotelian Eudaimonia is the reason for our actions, then emotions should be the most relevant reason for our actions. This last deduction might frighten any reasonable being because we all know how irrational and terrifying, as well as surprising, emotions can be.

assumptions-rational-choice-theoryThe intuitive manner we live upon can be an obstacle and here is probably where emotions can be somewhat problematic. Today, thousands of empirical and statistical experiments reveal, throughout the world, and with overwhelming conclusions, that in most situations we have no idea what we are doing. For example, we now know beyond any doubt that we are thinking in a heuristic, bias way about everything around us, while believing we are actually being far from bias about anything at all. Fear, love, hate, anxiety, nervousness, so many emotions that dictate the way we think, act, and even how our bodies react to diseases or affect our decision-making abilities. Depressed people cannot manage to estimate clearly success, reasons for different activities. Put a nasty odor in a room and see how people turn to vote more conservative and become less open to change. We, as brainy animals, see and like to share patterns everywhere. We witness them when we think about someone and then see them in the street, when we think we are having a “lucky hand” (usually when we like to taste success) and in countless other occasions.

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On the other hand, who did not feel sorry of acting the way he or she did while being angry (at their partner, parent or even colleagues)? Which one of us don’t aspire to be able to always make the better choice, in business, in love, and all the way to the supermarket? We all saw and loved the movie Life of Pi, right? With so many examples of how it is nicer to simply let our emotions dictate the world around us and not dry calculation and science. But is it really true? Anyway, does ‘true’ really matter?

star-trek-spock1So many of us toy in our head with the idea of being more rational, calculated, pragmatic, but then, remembering Mr. Spock from Star Trek, we dismiss it with horror. Luckily, today, more and more scientific fields are getting together to show a harmonious existence between those two is possible and even very relevant. These new visions about life teach us not to dichotomize or generalize but to know, to understand and eventually to apply it in our lives.

Rationality through emotions! Although it might sound weird to some, it makes perfect sense. Actually, it is both rationality through emotions and vice versa, emotions through rationality. We hear quite a lot about rationality being robotic, mechanic, cold and emotions as warm, individualizing, communal. That is a common mistake for the simple reason that any person with the minor intelligence will never discard the existence of feelings in a person, even the most rational there is. Hence, the simple reality is that it´s irrational not taking emotions into account.

In the next clip there is a co-founder of an interesting center that is dedicated to those questions and more.

Here she speaks about Planning Fallacy:

From the same Center, here´s a checklist of Rationality: http://rationality.org/checklist/ and a recommended reading: http://rationality.org/reading/. Enjoy!

A thought about the power of connectivity and technology. Connected by Tiffany Shlain

For centuries we were preoccupied about independence, let us now begin advocate for interdependence. This is me paraphrasing the conclusion from the documentary Connected, by Tiffany Shlain. This 80min film is a touch of personal quest for the memory of her recent deceased father, the brain surgeon and writer Leonard Shlain, and a call for global recognition of the power of interconnectivity. The legacy of her father is shown to be implanted in an aspiring director and human-being giving way for an aesthetic feature documentary.

connected-posterConnected_the_FilmI cannot say that the documentary reveals any large scale investigation or even revised common knowledge and preconceptions about the Internet / Smartphone era we are living in. However, it does offer a broader perspective about the interconnectivity between everything on this planet (or the universe, if you ask Neil deGrasse Tyson). The film skillfully intertwines between her autobiography with a eulogy to her father’s work and the impact of technology over our present and future existence. This is a very difficult task, moving back and forth from the individual and the universal with coherent logical continuance, and yet, with the aid of excellent animation director and film narration, Tiffany manages to create eighty minutes of interesting reflection on our life.

I connected to the documentary because of its basic conceptual vision of interconnectivity between the individual and the universal, which is what I investigate in my book Trisipectivism. Unlike many texts written about the good and the bad that people create with new technology (while some creating MOOCs to provide high level education for people around the globe, others succumb into self-indulged egocentric use), the film tries to focus on the big picture of simply making the better choice. The cycle of wrongful doing can always be broken by a simple decision of begin advocating and working for good.

We are on a crossroad, she concludes, and it is up to us to use this power for good. Although I find this conclusion somewhat arrogant for, in this world, it is the constant sensation that we, in this dot of time and space, are all so potent and important for the future. Perhaps it is not as romantic as the film’s narration but it is exactly that fact that might just help us regain consciousness of our place in this world. Maybe she is right, and we should take this role of masters of the universe and actively set the world back into order. Or, on the other hand, maybe if we stop thinking that we are so great, we will naturally be led to living peacefully with our fellow cohabitant of this amazing universe. As much as I would like to choose the second option, it is against nature to stop concentrating on the ‘I’ as the chosen one. Thus, in the end, her largest contradiction might just be the film’s most important message.

Which ever way, the movie speaks not only to your emotional individual being (the loss of a loving father, the birth of a baby, movie against the odds) but also to the universal one (global connectivity, Cosmos etc.). It is left for each and every one to decide which interaction she will choose.

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“Earthrise” image is the first color image of our planet taken by humans

A story about a woman and a beard

WurstLately I heard some people calling the Eurovision a freak show, a circus –“What has become of it?”- They utter with a sneer. While it is true that each one of us is entitled to an opinion, only in a perfect world the opinion will be based on real facts, some common logic and lack of hypocrisy. The even more worrying reality is that so call critic was made towards a flesh and blood female, having an anomaly in the form of a beard. Hence, dear Miss Conchita Wurst (with its amusing literal translation Vagina Sausage) was thought of being a bearded woman (if there are some who do not know still, she’s a drag queen). However, all jokes aside, this, in my opinion, is much worse than the reality, for to critic someone for being born one way or another is much more cruel than towards one who chose a certain lifestyle and line of work. Aparently, though there is much difference between the two kinds of bearded ladies, for some, their image can create the same effect.

My love of art revealed an interesting painting to me that can be used as an example for this post.

12. José de Ribera. La mujer barbuda

The Bearded Lady is a painting by the Spanish artist José de Ribera (made in 1631). Ribera spent a long time of his life in Naples, where he saw this woman on two different occasions. The woman is identified by the engraving on the rock (on the right hand side) as Mrs. Magdalena Ventura. However, it seems that Rivera tried to exacerbate and captive the viewer by the shape of the breast (more to the middle of her body) and the fact that she is represented nursing a baby. The engravings say that at the time of the portrait Mrs. Ventura was 52 years old, thus, making the representation a little more unreal. Therefore, by using the breast and the baby to emphasis the feminine nature of Magdalena, Rivera succeeded in making a greater impact on the viewer.

This was Rivera’s way to bring forth a social problem. Civil protection for the disabled or for those suffering some deformities did not exist in the society of the Spanish Golden Age. In fact, Freak shows were for many of years the center of attention and derision for those considered ordinary.

Without going into the philosophical studies on the perspective of the “Other” (work such as Levinas, Foucault etc.), it is interesting to reflect on the way we acknowledge those people. Somewhere in between rejection and fascination we try to capture the malformation mixed with our imagination. This phenomenon was more popular in circuses, but later the same idea was marketed into what was perceived as the human zoos, town fairies and vaudevilles. The common people paid good money to be fascinated by people with rarities and amorphous (bearded lady, bowlegged…), feeling attraction and rejection simultaneously.

The fact of the matter is that “bearded women” are suffering from a complicated medical condition called virilization (or masculinization) that can be developed because of excess of testosterone production or use of anabolic steroids. In girls who are going through puberty or adult women there are more than few causes for such a difficult hormonal imbalance, for example polycystic ovarian syndrome, certain medications or anabolic steroids, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, tumors of the ovaries or adrenal glands that release male hormones. The tumor (one of different gonadal sex cord-stromal tumors) is known as “androblastoma” or “arrhenoblastoma”. One of the most frequent signs that appears as a result of this imbalance is hirsutism which implies hair in women in the so-called androgen – sensitive areas (upper lip, cheeks, chin, around the areola of the breasts, breast, central line of the abdomen, gluteal area and the upper third of the thigh from the inside), places where the hair in women normally do not occur, and represents secondary sexual characteristics of males. Beside hirsutism, women who are suffering from this kind of hormonal imbalance have irregular menstrual periods, their skin changes its’ structure frequently becoming more oily and with acnes. However, signs of virilization in a female depend on the level of testosterone in the body, so in a more difficult condition they can develop deepening of the voice, loss of female fat distribution, male muscle pattern and occasionally enlargement of the clitoris also can occur. For the women that truly suffer this imbalance, this can be a nuisance and uncomfortable from an early age.

Being a drag queen homosexual or a person with any kind of abnormality, there is no sufficient reason for any kind of remark or fear. Both are people with dreams, desires and most certainly a story (and quite a difficult one, I presume). While the more conservative are also the more religious and as a recent study by David Pizarro shows, also the more disgust, they seems to be the last to follow their own rule of love thy neighbor and do not judge other etc. It would probably be better if we look at what’s inside and less on physical decoration (by choice or by birth) and accept some of the diversity that make our world so worthwhile with honesty and love.

Who hides behind the mask?

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Last week, Professor John Picton, Emeritus Professor of African Art at the University of London’s School of African Studies, spoke about West African masks. The talk held place in the recently renovated and renewed Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Professor Picton says that it is important to understand that the relationship between a mask, the person wearing it and the mask-in-performance, is neither simple, nor straight-forward. This asseveration is very interesting in relation to Trispectivism, recognizing the three perspectives interacting in one performance. Picton also elaborated on aspects of power, performance, disguise, secrecy, colour and imagery in specific masks from Nigeria.

Map-YorubaThe renowned expert explained about the mysterious subject of masking and masquerade in Nigeria. One of the main mask destinations he discussed was in Nigeria. In the Yoruba tribe there are three types of masks for different ceremonies. The most impressive one is called Epa, which is an incredibly decorated masks with variety of symbols.

As you can see in the photos, there is a large variety of colours and shapes (i.e. the color of white means hard work in the fields but for a Muslim it is purity and closeness to God). Not every detail has a meaning but certainly some forms, shapes and symbols have meanings. This is where the knowledgeable will be able to distinguish between the important and the not important aspects of the mask (i.e. a wheel have no important message but two red colors on the forehead mean a certain deity). So does the chant and the music. A good wearer has to know to distinguish music, words, and steps and of course the symbols of the deity he represents.

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The ceremonies which the tribe uses the masks for are known to be a form of a test, where the most famous one is the representation of death (of a person). The spirit is entered into the mask before the ceremony and the wearer of the mask is supposed to embody the spirit or re-embody the dead person. Actually, in some cases, as with the masks of the Ebira, the mask maker incorporates body relics of the death person (possessions and even skin tissue, hair, bones etc).

CofradíasThe secrecy of the wearer is important. The mask wearer cannot appear to your eyes as the neighbor’s son or a relative that you grew up with. In order to keep the mysterious aspect and the holiness belief, it has to be the transcendental divine. The human body (again) becomes a mere vessel. That is the reason why both the spectators and the performer have a belief that a person cannot see the wearer of the mask naked in any other occasions; otherwise, they will fall ill. One cannot see the inside of the mask.

mask dance

mask3The masks are created with images about the authority, army, spirits, kings and other power position essence (in some case even an American or other foreign symbolism). It is believed that the masks dance, sing and tell stories, they make you laugh and sometimes think, they initiate children into adulthood, lead armies to war and celebrate their achievements.

Masks create distance, with no exception, which, in a small community, brings to life some dramatic distance between performer and audience. It is a wonderful interaction in a trispectivist manner where the human agency dissipates into the cause of the ceremony, meaning the metaphysical one. The fact that the wearer actually has the physical strength to dance and jump with those heavy masks in midsummer is also believed to be thanks to magical intervention and medicine with special powers.

chiwara-dancing

The notion of the mask blurs the individual All into an ambivalent, sometimes ambiguous identity, one that is depicted by the universal All yet still represented by an individual. This anthropomorphic deification of a symbol repeats in different cultures and in this one, probably the most intriguing issue is the use of masks. This creates an acute interaction between the spectator in the physical world and the mask as a door for the spirit world to intervene.

 

Mask from Pitt Rivers museum, Oxford
Mask from Pitt Rivers museum, Oxford

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Mind the God

Lately, it seems that there is an increasing scientific curiosity about the mind and the reasons for the way we behave, think, act and perceive the world we live in. One of the latest themes where we can witness a rise in public attention and social conversation is the scientific reason for religion. While up until 40 years ago, no one could even imagine there will ever be such liberty and openness to actually research this part of our life, today both religious and non religious are cooperating to get some answers (I have to admit though, that by saying cooperating I mean most of the investigators are non-religious and the test subjects are religious).

                                                                              religion9

The results are by far fascinating. We can learn so much about ourselves as the social animal, about history, anthropology, sociology and many more sciences combined. A recent study shows that religious faiths activates a network of nerves that coordinate the social communication, feelings, imagination and memory (not for all aspects). It shows that in the human brain God is perceived as another human being with thoughts, intentions and of course, feelings. The neuroscientist Alumit Ishai, professor of cognitive neuroscience in Zurich University, investigates this subject. A few years ago she studied, with the help of a MRI, what is happening in the mind of Carmelita’s nuns when they perceive a union with their God. The results were that the mystical experience caused an augmented activity in the visual cortex, the Insular cortex and the Orbitofrontal which shows us that it is not any different from another substantial excitement as emotional experience.

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It is known today that gods and similar ideas were with Homo sapiens for the past 70,000 years and more. This is when they started to create variety of worship rituals, beliefs in different gods and general awe towards the unknown and unfamiliar (which of course was practically everything). This need for gods is a common interest for social psychologist, evolutionist, anthropologists and other investigators from different fields (up to philologists at times). The question is what caused that need to believe and if it had an effect on civilization, meaning, whether or not the belief helped civilization coagulate, as with skills as survival and procreation.

The more common and logical of the explanations today is based on the cognitive model of believe as a product of human mind. That, of course, explains why there is an obvious personification to any god that was ever worshiped. Religious people have the tendency to relate to the god they perceive many of the natural characterization they feel. That is to say, that other than thoughts, intentions and feelings that are common to all, each believer sees her god according to what she feels. A person who is very sensitive will normally see God as a very caring and sensitive being; another person with a temper, will perceive God as a fearful being, one that punishes and condemn etc.

This conclusion is also supported by the fact that human being tends to relate any incidence they experience to a personified existence and not to the nature of things. One example is when someone wakes up at night because of a loud noise, the first instinct it to shout “who’s there” and not “what is going on there”.

The theory of the mind is fascinating and surely one post will not be enough. Thus, in the next few weeks I will upload some more interesting studies related to this great enigma, the mind. If you are interested, you are more than welcome to propose links, ideas and even guest blogging.

S. I. Cohen

The question of After-life

I´ve seen many debates between religious people and atheists, some (most) of which end up in a dead end as simply a question of faith. However, there are other debates that in spite of that fact, seem to incite and inspire the listener to engage in an introspective thought about themselves and about life. A recent debate I´ve seen is, by far, one of the latter.

In this remarkable and mind-altering debate, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are giving a relatively calm responses to the variety of religious reasoning (for lack of a less antithetical term) two rabbis try to defend.

In one occasion during the debate, they referred to the significance of NDE (Near Death Experience) and discussed it by different names and experiences (personal as well as of others). This phenomenon is when the soul/consciousness/being (or whatever name we choose to call it) leaves the physical body and manages to fly/hover/transport itself to other locations (in most cases physical).

Now, the debate is obviously not about the question if people believe it happened to them or not, but what does it signify in the grand scheme of things. Meaning, can we collectively deduce the existence of “something out there” from an experience of that sort? While watching the debate, many things come to mind (many of which were told by the two astute liberal thinkers) but one of which I think to have a more interesting gray zone, and that is the commonly known Astral Traveling.

forest-path-mysticalA few years back, as part of my travels, I had a six month stay in a small village in a developing country. The village was fascinating and awe-inspiring with a hallo of the supernatural, surrounded by human beings with incredible powers and capacities. And still, more than anything, what was the most marvelous in this bucolic community were the stories. I have been told about many versions of miracles, metaphysical experiences and even natural born gifts of the people around me. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could not find not even one proof for the veracity of any of the stories. I was desperate, wanting so bad to believe, I walked around looking under every stone, entering all forbidden areas, asking human teleporters, psychics and astral travelers to show me, teach me, to give me a simple test demonstration just so I could live and believe what I wished so much to exist. I heard many firsthand experiences, magnificent epistemic unimaginable ones, yet, for the most part, after insisting on some proofs I was simply considered as another enthusiastic skeptic, materialistic in the need of unnecessary science. Other times, I was actually told to wait while they will show me their powers when I least expect it (note: I´m still waiting, 10 years later).

The sad and unfortunate fact is that in spite all of my will to believe (that actually I possess to this day), I couldn´t find a shred of proof. On the other hand, my understanding of basic psychology helped me more than once to understand the birth of those perspectives.

Like the time I was doing a meditation session to reveal who I was in my former life (regression to former life/s meditation). It was amazing, so vivid, so true, I still remember it to this day. I was lying on the mattress regressing step by step with the mellow, harmonious sound of the voice of the instructor, going back remembering year after year every step of this life. I saw my toddler’s years and me as a baby, all the way to the memory from the womb (that was, admittedly. a little vague) but when we reached the metaphysical space and then the former death, I was shocked. I did see myself in my former life (who I was and how I died is a story for another post).

José GUTIERREZ SOLANA, El espejo de la muerte, Ca. 1929
GUTIERREZ SOLANA, El espejo de la muerte

Needless to say it haunted me for days. However, the more I thought of it, the more I began to analyze it as I used to do for years with my dreams. You see, as a person with very vivid and dynamic oneiric life, I began to have a lot of interest in interpretation. When you do it long enough, one can start seeing a pattern of how it functions (both in the oneiric state as in the other ones). Remembering that event I began to see this pattern functions splendidly. After all, the soft meditation music with the fact that we are lying down, rapidly took us to a theta wave neural oscillation. I did some more reading and not much time later I found the experience rather explainable by simple self awareness. Of course, if I wanted to blindly believe what I had seen (or imagined) I would have simply blocked any possible explanation (rational and natural one). But I couldn´t. I say these words not without some sorrow because a part of me still wishes to simply avoid reason and let faith be the creator of magic and wonder. In fact, at times I would have liked to be able to wake up every day with the pure and irrevocable notion that my dream is, in fact, reality. Nevertheless, instead of believing it to be right and by that arguing the existence of other worlds and spiritual existence to all, I simply enjoy yet another lesson about the most magically and mysterious entity we can undoubtedly say exists… our brain.

So, enjoy this wonderful and inspiring debate, and if you have any comments or ideas, feel free to share them.

Weekly choice, by peers

Hey Congress! 4 ways to break a stalemate!

Converse. Convince. Compromise. Cooperate

“Partnership is not easy but it requires the continual application of we can call the four C’s – conversing, convincing, compromising, and cooperating. These practices are fundamental to the biggest “c” word in management – communication – open, honest and mutual.

Mutual benefit requires mutual consent.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/2013/10/08/hey-congress-4-ways-to-break-a-stalemate/

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Richard Dawkins answers the question: what makes us human? | BBC Radio 2

evolutionProfessor Richard Dawkins reflects on the qualities he thinks make us human, and discusses his influential theories with Jeremy Vine.

“Darwin would be fascinated if he could come back and see what is now known. We are very, very unique species. Make the point that other species are unique too. But we are unique in a very special way, in our ability to think, in our ability to place ourselves in universe, understand where we came from. No other species comes close to that.”

http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/11/28/richard-dawkins-answers-the-question-what-makes-us-human-bbc-radio-2

Here’s another link about some of the many talks by Dawkins:

http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html

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Can Long Distance Relationships Work?

About three million Americans have long-distance relationships

“…our culture emphasizes being together physically and frequent face-to-face contact for close relationships, but long-distance relationships clearly stand against all these values. People don’t have to be so pessimistic about long-distance romance. The long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.”

None of this research, though, tells us anything about which types of people can cope with long distance relationships. While some people may naturally have the skills required, others may not.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/12/can-long-distance-relationships-work.php

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Ted’s best of the week!

iO Tillet Wright thanks to her parents for not asking her to define herself as a child. Her experience of growing up without check boxes like “female”, “male”, “gay” or “straight” thoroughly infuses her art.

“Sometimes just the question ‘what do you do?’ can feel like somebody’s opening a tiny little box and asking you to squeeze yourself inside of it.”

“There are just as many jerks and sweethearts and Democrats and Republicans and jocks and queens and every other polarization you can possibly think of within the LGBT community as there are within the human race.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/io_tillett_wright_fifty_shades_of_gay.html

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Person of the week! Homage a symbol of a century: Nelson Mandela

Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – 2013) was born in the village of Mvezo in Umtatu. Mandela was the person that brought peace to one of the most problematic regions in the XXth century. The first black president of South Africa united people, identities of different race, color and culture. All under the same roof and vision. This great man’s funeral will be held on Sunday, December 15, after the emotional 10 days farewell.

“Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba’s former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility,” Obama said in a statement.

Mandela ground breaking work was mainly political and social to end the South African apartheid regime. He was most known for his policy and attitude of forgiveness, fostering racial reconciliation while avoiding a failure in empty retaliation out of anger and vengeance. Thus this Rolihlahla (“troublemaker” in colloquial Xhosa) became the most appreciated peacemaker this modern world has even seen.

A short biography:

http://www.biography.com/people/nelson-mandela-9397017

p.s. – Why Nelson?

“No one in my family had ever attended school […] On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why this particular name I have no idea.”

— Mandela, 1994