Archives for November, 2011

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Evolved Madness

Why did our minds evolve with the capacity to go mad? Why are our emotions capable of disabling us? Why did we end up with feelings at all?

Let's start with the last question. When evolutionary biologists study emotion, they usually ask about its survival value. What is it that makes feelings useful to a creature's reproductive success?

This approach troubles me, because it suggests (implicitly) that animals might just as well have evolved...
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Moving from Depression to Bliss

There is such a thing as bliss.

One can feel it when life goes well. A new love, a new baby, the delicate colors of dawn, and quiet contemplation can all activate it. We know it well; we seek it. It feels warm, full, and embracing. When we are fortunate enough to be wrapped in bliss, we feel safe and stable. The feeling may last a moment or a month, but it is...
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A Crazy Camp Idea

What if instead of psychiatric hospitals, we created spirit-healing camps?

Not long ago I wrote a post proposing that Mental Health Day be renamed Spiritual Health Day. In that essay I explained how it seems to me that spiritual malady would be a more accurate and less damaging label than mental illness. With that in mind, I submit we should work to create crisis centers that nurture the soul.

Whenever people felt crushed...
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Masters of the Universe, Masters of Mind

Almost a dozen years ago, as neck problems caused the implosion of my surgical career, my moods spun out of control.

From my earliest years I had been highly emotional, easily wounded and often upset. My temper would flare without warning, but I could also settle quickly into good cheer. My instability worsened under the stress of child abuse, and I suspect my stepmother enjoyed pushing me into emotional collapse--a sensitive child must...
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The Hungry Love of Life

Every once in awhile it pays to look within.

Deep inside our cells, there is a great deal of hollowness. This isn't the emptiness that Buddhist meditators seek to apprehend directly, but simply a surprising lack of substance. For instance, if we enlarged the nucleus of a carbon atom up to the size of a basket ball, the nearest electron would orbit several miles away. So an accurate model of a DNA molecule,...
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Mad with Desire


My last post pointed out how the less we chase desire, the more peaceful we feel. This is fairly standard teaching within both Buddhist and Hindu traditions. However, one commentator suggests that the piece could only have been written by someone who enjoys health and financial security.

Although my wellbeing is better than it used to be, when I started working to escape desire my life was complicated by severe mental and physical problems. Even now,...
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Desire as the Root of Madness

As an exercise, list five things you deeply desire. Do you want a new job? A relationship? A vacation? Better health?

Now imagine that you were granted these things you crave. How good would you feel? How long would that satisfaction last? If you're like most people, in short order you'd start wanting something new.

We live in a culture that encourages desire. The entire advertising industry aims to make us want. These efforts to persuade...
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