“This big, bright, beautiful spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices.
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In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition. The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64's central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxy's only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems. While all the stars in M64 rotate in the same direction as the interstellar gas in the galaxy's central region, gas in the outer regions, extending to about 40,000 light-years, rotates in the opposite direction. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation are likely the result of a billion year old merger of two different galaxies.”
“In many ways my mother's funeral was a joyous occasion- a time to celebrate her life, to celebrate family. A time, too, to think about death. She was the last of her generation, and died in hope of heaven. I am the oldest of the next generation, agnostics mostly. That puts me on the leading edge- of oblivion.
Well, let's not get morbid. With a little luck, my twilight years will be golden, and every one of those years is a gift of science. I am past the age of my father's death, and well past the age that my grandfathers died.
A century ago, the average male lifetime in the United States was 45 years. Today it's in the 70s- and rising. Never before in history have so many of us had the expectation of a ripe old age. The average lifetime won't rise forever, of course, at least not without some genetic jiggering. There are biological clocks ticking in every cell of our bodies. Our cells are fated one-by-one to die, each at its appointed time, until finally the entire colony expires. For multicelled creatures like ourselves, death is not the opposite of life; death is part of life.
Single-celled organisms are potentially immortal. With an appropriate environment and nutrients, bacteria can live forever, Hayflick notwithstanding. Genetically programmed, inevitable death appeared rather late in the history of life, just 600 million years ago, at the same time as sex and multicellularity. In recent decades scientists have begun to understand that if you want to have creatures with eyes and ears, brains and backbones, gonads and gods, then you gotta have death, too.
Writing in the journal "Nature", biologist Gerry Melino noted that an individual cell in a multicellular organism can do one of three things- divide, specialize, or commit suicide. If division and specialization occurred without cell suicide, an 80-year-old person would have 2 tons of bone marrow and a gut 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, long, said Melino.
The whole business of building and maintaining a multicelled organism is a genetically orchestrated dance of cell division and cell death. For example, as a human embryo develops, the extremities of the limbs first look like stumpy ping-pong paddles. Then cells start to selectively die in a way that turns the paddles into hands and feet with digits. We have fingers and toes because certain cells were programmed for suicide. The Grim Reaper has an alternate role as a Michelangelo who releases the statue's form from within the block of marble.
Sooner or later, however, in multicelled creatures, the reaping runs ahead of the shaping and we experience senescence, the physical decline of old age. Scientists are not sure how or why senescence evolved, but humans are the only creatures for which it makes much difference. For other animals and plants (including ourselves until recently), death by accident or violence was a more likely fate than doddering old age. If evolution never selected against senescence, it may be because it never had a chance to do so.
But I live in a civilization that has invented antibiotics and childproof caps, vaccinations and seat belts, sterile parturition and the ABM Treaty. It is possible that I will collect my Social Security check for another 10 or 20 years. This is a huge new thing in the history of life: Not nature red in tooth and claw, but Centrum Silver and senior aerobics.
For most of the history of our race, death came as a bolt from the blue- a snake bite, an impacted tooth, a bash on the head by the warrior next door, starvation. There was an apparent arbitrariness to the circumstances, and our ancestors were quick to invoke the intervention of gods or malevolent spirits, and to imagine that the interruption of life was only temporary. The idea of personal immortality may have been a response to the iffiness of life.
Now, with the benefit of medical science and the orderly assistance of civilized society, we live long enough to see that mortality is a necessary part of the plan, a corollary of life that is built into every cell of our bodies. This is all rather too new for us to have yet assimilated the idea. By and large, our cultural and religious responses to death are the products of a time when only the lucky survivor experienced senescence- when the Grim Reaper with his glistening scythe was a more continuous presence in our lives than the Michelangelo with his artful chisel.
Only a few thoughtful philosophers and scientists have been brave enough to absorb the lessons of genetically programmed cell death. Personal mortality is the price we pay to exist at all as unique, complex, multicelled, sexually active, thoughtful individuals. Death is life's necessary partner, endlessly creative.”
"One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places. For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out."
“How and Why Banks Will Seize Deposits During the Next Crisis”
by Phoenix Capital Research
"As we’ve previously noted, one of the biggest problems for the Central Banks is actual physical cash. The financial system is predominantly comprised of digital money. Actual physical Dollars bills and coins only amount to $1.36 trillion. This is only a little over 10% of the $10 trillion sitting in bank accounts. And it’s a tiny fraction of the $20 trillion in stocks, $38 trillion in bonds and $58 trillion in credit instruments floating around the system.
Suffice to say, if a significant percentage of people ever actually moved their money into physical cash, it could very quickly become a systemic problem. Indeed, this is precisely what caused the 2008 meltdown, when nearly 24% of the assets in Money Market funds were liquidated in the course of four weeks. The ensuing liquidity crush nearly imploded the system.
Because of this, Central Banks and the regulators have declared a War on Cash in an effort to stop people trying to get their money out of the system. One policy they are considering is to put a carry tax on physical cash meaning that your Dollar bills would gradually depreciate once they were taken out of the bank. Another idea is to do away with actual physical cash completely. Perhaps the most concerning is the fact that should a “systemically important” financial entity go bust, any deposits above $250,000 located therein could be converted to equity, at which point if the company’s shares, your wealth evaporates.
Indeed, the FDIC published a paper proposing precisely this back in December 2012. Below are some excerpts worth your attention: "This paper focuses on the application of “top-down” resolution strategies that involve a single resolution authority applying its powers to the top of a financial group, that is, at the parent company level. The paper discusses how such a top-down strategy could be implemented for a U.S. or a U.K. financial group in a cross-border context. These strategies have been designed to enable large and complex cross- border firms to be resolved without threatening financial stability and without putting public funds at risk.
An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company into equity. In the U.S., the new equity would become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. Insured depositors themselves would remain unaffected. Uninsured deposits would be treated in line with other similarly ranked liabilities in the resolution process, with the expectation that they might be written down."
In other words, any liability at the bank is in danger of being written-down should the bank fail. And guess what? Deposits are considered liabilities according to US Banking Law. In this legal framework, depositors are creditors.
So if a large bank fails in the US, your deposits at this bank would either be “written-down” (read: disappear) or converted into equity or stock shares in the company. And once they are converted to equity you are a shareholder not a depositor, so you are no longer insured by the FDIC. So if the bank then fails (meaning its shares fall), so does your deposit.
Let’s run through this. Let’s say ABC bank fails in the US. ABC bank is too big for the FDIC to make whole. So…
1) The FDIC takes over the bank.
2) The bank’s managers are forced out.
3) The bank’s debts and liabilities are converted into equity or the bank’s stock. And yes, your deposits are considered a “liability” for the bank.
4) Whatever happens to the bank’s stock, affects your wealth. If the bank’s stock falls at this point because everyone has figured out the bank is in major trouble your wealth falls too.
This is precisely what has happened in Spain during the 2012 banking crisis over there. Since then it’s also happened in Cyprus, Greece, and it is now perfectly legal in the US courtesy of a clause in the Dodd-Frank bill. This is just the start of a much larger strategy of declaring War on Cash. The goal is to stop people from being able to move their money into physical cash and to keep their wealth in the financial system at all costs.”
“George W. Bush Enjoying New Status as Smarter Bush”
by Andy Borowitz
DALLAS (The Borowitz Report)— “After years of being subjected to unfair ridicule, former President George W. Bush is now enjoying his newfound status as the smarter of the two Bush brothers to have achieved elected office. Speaking to reporters at his home in Dallas, Bush said he was deriving “quiet satisfaction” from a new poll showing that ninety-one per cent of the American people now consider him the smarter Bush. “I know that no one’s saying I’m a genius,” he said, modestly. “But I look pretty good when I’m graded on a curve.”
Bush pointed with particular pride to the fact that seventy-four per cent of those polled said that, of the two Bush brothers, he had a “far superior command of the English language.” “When I was President, I got a lot of grief from people who didn’t think my English was too good,” he said. “I think now they’re realizing it could have been worser.”
The former President said that he hoped the American people’s view of him as the smarter Bush would soon be shared by his parents, George and Barbara Bush. “At Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad would never let me carve the turkey because they thought I’d screw it up somehow,” he said. “Something tells me I’ll be carving that turkey this year.”
"Don’t people even think anymore? How can they swallow this wholesale engineered fabricated snowstorm of distorted disinformation and not see through it?
Just look squarely at this instantly appearing, highly sophisticated, fully mobile in flashy new vehicles, heavily armored ISIS machine. They’re a well supplied and coordinated organization of a supposedly bunch of radicalized Islamic rebels, pulling recruits out of the war torn rubble of a devastated Middle East almost overnight. And the supply of not just weapons but the coordination of very difficult food, water and medical logistics.
Read about any war. This was a massive problem and challenge even for highly organized and supported western nations during war campaigns in the past. (Hence the US/NATO drops of supplies to ISIS reported frequently.) To top it off, they supposedly have social media recruitment savvy and access to mass media coverage to broadcast their carefully timed staged threats and beheadings, while the all powerful NSA is stumped? Doesn’t this remind you of the hunt for Bin Laden? He was interviewed by a CNN news crew in Afghanistan during a manhunt for him before 9/11, but the mighty military had no idea where he was.
Now think of this; ISIS is reported to be taking over oil fields and production as they go – AND selling their oil to various markets for income! Now there’s a pretty sharp band of wild eyed rebels. But after all, we need to explain the obvious “support” they’re raising.
Who’s kidding who? Is anybody paying conscious attention? Yet they’re still portrayed as a rag tag, hastily assembled “uprising” of religious zealots from several nations that have suddenly become stronger and smarter than NATO and the massive western military industrial machine as they march into Syria and spread about the area.
It’s the execution of a big, bad Al Qaida cognitive dissonance redux. It’s time people snapped out of it. So very similar to boxcutter-armed students hijacking sophisticated airliners and piercing the most protected airspace in the world – 4 times in one day.
Why is this ISIS phenomenon important? Because this obvious creation is now the backbone of the drive to finish not just the takeover and restructuring of the Middle East, but is an important tool in the further subjugation of the unwitting populations of the western world.
A Typical Day in Upside Down, Mind-Controlled Dystopia: The saddest thing about all this is how the majority, of the west at least, gobbles up this pusillanimous propaganda, while over 80% of Syrians believe this is western driven, never mind millions of others worldwide who can see this for what is. The sleeping masses however figure if it fits the meme of the day and they’re saying it with apparent authority, based on “information” and “revelations” of course, therefore it must be true.
After all, to think to the contrary or in the least bit critically might flip the apple cart of self-serving convenience and draw attention to yourself from the draconian authorities. Mustn’t do that.
Now apply this type of mind numbing charade to every other aspect of this globalist roll out and you’ll start to get the picture. Engineering’s the game….unscrupulous, murderous control freaks is their name. Blow off all of the intimidation. That’s the function of it, to shut us down.
Stand up now or live the rest of your life on your knees.
And for anyone wondering, the formation of behind the scenes alliances to accomplish clandestine operations is standard operating procedure for the CIA, Mossad, MI6 or whomever. That’s what they do continually and always have. It’s the work behind the scenes, the buying off of leaders, people and movements, the skullduggery that is so prevalent in our world that you’ll never hear about. That’s why some of these naively bought off groups and individuals change their minds, give up their weapons, and get the hell back home when they find out what they’re part of – the destruction of their own at the behest of the West, Israel and complicit Arab states and that they’re just expendable fodder for someone else’s agenda.
I hope western soldiers have the same wake up call and respond accordingly. It’s no different.
Wake Up, Little Suzie, Wake Up! I just had to take another shot at this ISIS “make believe” charade and call it for what it is–a new Al Qaeda operating at way bigger, better supplied and coordinated levels but way more obvious. Russia knows this and is wisely taking a stand there in Syria before the madness spills over to Iran, their next big target. The flatfooted, blood-blinded US is stumped about what to do. They didn’t see rationality coming into the mix when Russia said they’ll help stop ISIS. What an exposure, but again, hence the deliberate demonization of Russia in their propaganda campaign leading up to this.
Most of the world is catching on. But now they’re pushing it to new levels saying these “ISIS” influences are now infiltrating every western country, especially now via this manipulated mass migration. How convenient.
Look out for a rash of false flag domestic attacks, even more than they’ve been executing over the past several years. Their M.O. is called the “strategy of tension” at its most fundamental level. Research Operation Gladio to understand how they operate, and have been doing for a long, long time. People are much more susceptible to programming when in that fear state, leaving the manipulators free to keep calling the shots. And don’t forget to look at the Zionist Greater Israel designs. It’s very revealing.
It’s time we looked at these realities head on and stopped wincing in fear and cowardice. Be awake, aware and spread the word. So many have been lulled to sleep over the years, especially since the 9/11 hoax, that they can’t think for themselves any more. When we connect the dots for them and point out some of these glaring inconsistencies they might just come around. Let’s hope so and each make an effort to educate and help them discover these truths for themselves.
These globalist manipulators are getting sloppier and more obvious by the day in their desperate attempts to outrun the awakening. Let’s put the screws on and show them we’re not going to take it and that the jig is up. Contribute to the awakening. Don’t just be a bystander. That’s been going on way too long and is simply a debilitating function of previous programming. Shake it and come alive. Now’s the time. We each make a massive difference. Know that."
"Conclusion: U.S. President Obama’s chief aim in Syria is not to defeat the fundamentalist ISIS and Al Qaeda there, but to replace that country’s secular leader Bashar al-Assad, who is, on the basis of the above-cited evidence, far more popular in Syria than Obama is. Yet Obama says that militarily overthrowing Assad would be the ‘democratic’ thing to do.
Obama ‘introduced democracy’ into Libya by militarily overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi and sparking civil war there; and he ‘introduced democracy’ into Ukraine by a violent U.S.-planned coup getting rid of Viktor Yanukovych and sparking civil war there. Before Obama, George W. Bush had brought ‘democracy’ to Iraq by overthrowing Saddam Hussein and sparking civil war there.
Is the ‘democracy’ in the United States itself still authentic, or is it instead now fake, such as America’s former President Jimmy Carter recently said — that the U.S. is no longer a democracy? If the U.S. is no longer a democracy, and yet accuses other governments of being dictatorships that the U.S. has a right to overthrow, then would that hypocrisy indicate a disrespect for the public’s intelligence? How much should a person trust Mr. Obama’s honesty?”
“Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light would have suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was from a supernova, or exploding star, and record the expanding debris cloud as the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant. This sharp telescopic view is centered on a western segment of the Veil Nebula cataloged as NGC 6960 but less formally known as the Witch's Broom Nebula. Blasted out in the cataclysmic explosion, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material.
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Imaged with narrow band filters, the glowing filaments are like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. The complete supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation Cygnus. This Witch's Broom actually spans about 35 light-years. The bright star in the frame is 52 Cygni, visible with the unaided eye from a dark location but unrelated to the ancient supernova remnant.”
“This photograph of the Eagle Nebula made by a rather modest telescope - the 0.9 meter instrument at Kitt Peak, Arizona - appeared on APOD (click to enlarge). I sat in front of the computer screen for ten minutes, breathless. One tiny corner of the Milky Way Galaxy, one of tens of billions of galaxies that we can potentially see with our telescopes! At the center are the so-called "Pillars of Creation" from a famous Hubble photograph.
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I recall when the Hubble photograph appeared in the media hundreds of viewers claimed to see the face of Jesus in the billowing clouds. Which prompted these observations from "Skeptics and True Believers": "In an article on the psychological basis of belief, the psychologist James Alcock proposed that two aspects of the human brain might be called the "yearning unit" and the "learning unit." He probably didn't mean these terms to be taken literally, as referring to separate compartments of the brain, but yearning and learning are certainly central to the way we interact with the world. It is hard to imagine how we can be fully human without a little of each. Finding the proper balance between the two is a task that can keep us occupied for most of our lives.
We yearn when we dream of fulfillment, of greater happiness, of knowing more. We yearn when we love, when we laugh, when we cry, when we pray. Yearning is wondering what is around the next bend, over the rainbow, beyond the horizon. Yearning is curiosity. Yearning is the driving force of science, philosophy, and religion.
Learning is listening to parents, wise men, shamans. Learning is reading, going to school, traveling, doing experiments, being skeptical. Learning is looking behind the curtain for the Wizard of Oz, touching the stove to see if it's hot, not taking anyone's word for it. In science, learning means trying as hard to prove that something is wrong as to prove it right, even if that something is a cherished belief.
Yearning without learning is seeing Elvis in a crowd, the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs together in ancient rocks, weeping statues. Yearning without learning is buying tabloid newspapers with headlines announcing "Newborn baby talks of Heaven" and the like. Yearning without learning is looking for UFOs in the sky and the meaning of life in horoscopes.
Learning without yearning is pedantry, scientism, dogmatic belief. Learning without yearning is believing that we know it all, that what we see is what we get, that nothing exists except what can be presently weighed and measured. Learning without yearning is science without a heart, without a dream, without a hope of beauty. Yearning without learning is seeing the face of Jesus in a gassy nebula. Learning without yearning is seeing only the gas."
"The question of who we are is a seed that can bear much fruit if given the chance to unfold. At some point in our lives, or perhaps at many points in our lives, we ask the question, “Who am I?” At times like these, we are looking beyond the obvious, beyond our names and the names of the cities and states we came from, into the layers beneath our surface identities. We may feel the need for a deeper sense of purpose in our lives, or we may be ready to accommodate a more complex understanding of the situation in which we find ourselves. Whatever the case, the question of who we are is a seed that can bear much fruit.
It can send us on an exploration of our ancestry, or the past lives of our soul. It can call us to take up journaling in order to discover that voice deep within us that seems to know the answers to a multitude of questions. It can draw our attention so deeply inward that we find the spark of spirit that connects us to every living thing in the universe. One Hindu tradition counsels its practitioners to ask the question over and over, using it as a mantra to lead them inevitably into the heart of the divine.
While there are people who seem to come into the world knowing who they are and why they are here, for the most part the human journey appears to be very much about asking this question and allowing its answers to guide us on our paths. So when we find ourselves in the heart of unknowing, we can have faith that we are in a very human place, as well as a very divine one. “Who am I?” is a timeless mantra, a Zen koan ultimately designed to lead us home, into the part of our minds that finally lets go of questions and answers and finds instead the ability to simply be."
"We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching. Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so."
The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers" by Cal Newport
"The Berlin Study: In the early 1990s, a trio of psychologists descended on the Universität der Künste, a historic arts academy in the heart of West Berlin. They came to study the violinists. As described in their subsequent publication in Psychological Review, the researchers asked the academy's music professors to help them identify a set of stand out violin players - the students who the professors believed would go onto careers as professional performers. We'll call this group the elite players.
For a point of comparison, they also selected a group of students from the school's education department. These were students who were on track to become music teachers. They were serious about violin, but as their professors explained, their ability was not in the same league as the first group. We'll call this group the average players.
The three researchers subjected their subjects to a series of in-depth interviews. They then gave them diaries which divided each 24-hour period into 50 minute chunks, and sent them home to keep a careful log of how they spent their time. Flush with data, the researchers went to work trying to answer a fundamental question: Why are the elite players better than the average players? The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they're willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life. The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell...
Decoding the Patterns of the Elite: We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50). The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice - the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability. This might not be surprising, as the importance of deliberate practice had been replicated and reported many times (c.f., Gladwell). But the researchers weren't done.
They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat. The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best - the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany's two best professional orchestras - there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule. This isolation of work from leisure had pronounced effects in other areas of the players' lives.
Consider, for example, sleep: the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players. Also consider relaxation. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities - an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all.
Hard Work is Different than Hard to Do Work: To summarize these results: The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players (around 50 hours a week spent on music), but they're not dedicating these hours to the right type of work (spending almost 3 times less hours than the elites on crucial deliberate practice), and furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly throughout the day. So even though they're not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.
I've seen this same phenomenon time and again in my study of high achievers. It came up so often in my study of top students, for example, that I even coined a name for it: the paradox of the relaxed Rhodes Scholar. This study sheds some light on this paradox. It provides empirical evidence that there's a difference between hard work and hard to do work: Hard work is deliberate practice. It's not fun while you're doing it, but you don't have to do too much of it in any one day (the elite players spent, on average, 3.5 hours per day engaged in deliberate practice, broken into two sessions). It also provides you measurable progress in a skill, which generates a strong sense of contentment and motivation. Therefore, although hard work is hard, it's not draining and it can fit nicely into a relaxed and enjoyable day. Hard to do work, by contrast, is draining. It has you running around all day in a state of false busyness that leaves you, like the average players from the Berlin study, feeling tired and stressed. It also, as we just learned, has very little to do with real accomplishment.
This analysis leads to an important conclusion. Whether you're a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you're chronically stressed and up late working, you're doing something wrong. You're the average players from the Universität der Künste - not the elite. You've built a life around hard to do work, not hard work. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you're done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day."
“A charming animated baby, Kristin Neff's son Rowan retreated into himself as a toddler, losing his few words and becoming prone to inexplicable screaming fits. There are numerous ways Neff could have reacted to Rowan's 2004 diagnosis of autism. She could have buried her emotions, become despondent or immediately found something to blame. But Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was in the midst of pioneering psychological research on self-compassion. And her findings suddenly proved invaluable to her personal life. Being sympathetic and kind to herself let her cope constructively and offered insight into how to parent her struggling son.
Neff wrote about it all in "Self-Compassion" (William Morrow, 2011), released this April. And a budding field of research has psychologists are finding that self-compassion may be the most important life skill, imparting resilience, courage, energy and creativity. It's also a skill many people lack.
Self-compassion is often misunderstood as being soft and indulgent; and the phrase alone would probably turn the stomach of Amy Chua, whose book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (Penguin, 2011) re-stoked the debate about how strict or lenient we should be with our kids and with ourselves. But psychological research says neither side of this debate wins.
According to Chua, imparting self-esteem in children should stem from accomplishments, justifying the use of authoritarian tactics to force kids into achieving and thereby build their self-esteem. But the harsh punishments and criticisms this requires - Chua threatened to deny one daughter lunch and dinner for years if she did not perfect a piano piece called "The Little White Donkey" and called her other daughter "garbage" - have been associated with anxiety and depression later in life.
Conversely, current Western parenting theories say that being "given" high self-esteem paves the road to achievement. This leads parents to indulgently praise everything little Emma does and protect her from frustrations that may damage her self-esteem. However, recent research has linked such upbringing to neuroticism, emotional fragility and narcissism.
At this deadlock, psychologists have recently taken a step back. Re-examining previous research against more than a decade of new studies, some psychologists are suggesting the emphasis on self-esteem may be distracting us from a far more important life skill: self-compassion. As motivating as it is comforting, self-compassion may uproot previous paradigms that have focused, to a fault, on building self-esteem, they say.
What is self-compassion? "It is not this nimby, bimby stuff," said Paul Gilbert, a researcher at Kingsway Hospital in the United Kingdom. "Compassion is sensitivity to the suffering of self and others and a commitment to do something about it." Self-compassion, as defined by Neff in the academic literature, has three aspects: mindfulness, common humanity and kindness.
Mindfulness is holding your own thoughts and feelings rather than suppressing or being carried away by them. In Neff's case, when she discovered Rowan's diagnosis, mindfulness meant pausing the flood of worries and accepting her anger, disappointment and pain.
Common humanity, in part, is the understanding that your feelings and experiences are not completely unique. No matter how hard we try to avoid or hide them, all humans go through hardships and have daily pains, frustrations and disappointments. By acknowledging she wasn't the first to have a child diagnosed with autism, Neff found strength in numbers.
Being kind to yourself is not only providing comfort in the moment; it is also committing, whenever possible, to reducing future instances of such suffering. In Neff and her husband's case, being sympathetic to themselves not only helped them deal with their son's diagnosis, but it has helped them find novel ways to ease some of their son's symptoms. For instance, instead of struggling against autism, Neff said, they have accepted it as part of their son. This openness helped them discover that Rowan is calmer and more expressive around horses, which have since featured large in helping Rowan cope with his disorder. (Their story was featured in the book and documentary film The Horse Boy.)
The problem with high self-esteem: While Neff, Gilbert and other compassion researchers find fault with Chua's hypercritical approach to parenting, they find common ground when it comes to her critique of the West's tendency to hand out empty compliments, give everyone a trophy and thus artificially inflate self-esteem.
Decades of research, particularly in the 1970s and '80s, suggested having high self-esteem is the cornerstone of happy, successful lives. This spurred an emphasis on self-esteem-building in parenting books, schools and even prisons. But now scientists are realizing they may have been measuring the wrong thing; all the benefits of having high self-esteem are equally found among the self-compassionate, said psychologist Mark Leary, a researcher at Duke University. And when statistically looking at self-compassion alone, the negative aspects of high self-esteem, such as narcissism, disappear.
Where self-compassion is a way of relating to your self - especially when times are tough - self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or, preferably, the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both. But putting such stress on maintaining high self-esteem can be problematic, Leary said. While often erroneously used as a source of comfort, self-esteem is supposed to guide us, telling us when to try harder or when to apologize, he said. It should work like the gas gauge in a car, Leary explained. "If you artificially get stuck on full, you are going to make bad judgments about when to fill your tank up."
With or without self-esteem interventions, most people think they are better than average on just about every trait psychologists have bothered , including self-awareness, Neff explained. And today's college students, according to a 2010 meta-analysis of past relevant research, published in the journal “Social Psychological and Personality Science,” are more narcissistic than they have ever been.
They may also be less resilient and more fragile psychologically, according to experts such as Hara Estroff Marano, author of A Nation of Wimps (Broadway, 2008). Kids who, say, grow up constantly hearing "You are so smart," may start believing "smartness" is part of what makes them lovable. And therefore, anything that does not support this picture of themselves, such as a C on a test, a negative evaluation or a job rejection, causes them to become defensive, anxious or, in some extreme cases, completely fall apart, Marano contends. Rather than continuing to put stock in building self-esteem, psychologists are increasingly finding, as Gilbert put it, "the secret to success is the ability to fail." And this is exactly where self-compassion steps in.
Will self-compassion make me lazy? Due to our ever-increasing competitive societies, researchers speculate the tendency to choose self-punishment, rather than self-compassion, is on the rise. People often believe that punishing themselves will keep them in line and ultimately keep them safe.
Unfortunately, self-criticism can lead to generalized hostility (toward oneself and others), anxiety and depression; these are problems that can handicap people from reaching their full potential. Self-critics also report feeling like they have lower energy levels, researchers have found, and often subconsciously engage in self-handicapping strategies, such as procrastination, Neff told LiveScience.
Turning instead to the side that will offer a mental hug may sound soft. And according to Neff, the most common fear about becoming self-compassionate is that it will lower performance standards and encourage laziness. But researchers have found that self-compassionate people are actually less likely to sit on the couch all day eating bonbons. "Self-compassion begins to sound like you are indulging yourself, but we don't find that. People high in self-compassion tend to have higher standards, work harder and take more personal responsibility for their actions," Leary said.
Presumably because they are not afraid of being mentally taken through the ringer, researchers also think self-compassionate people may be more aware of their own faults, have more courage and be more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the “Creativity Research Journal.”
Like a good parent, the compassion-giving system also makes sure your goals are actually in your best interest. In other words, it gently nudges you away from "striving" that is fueled by addictive behaviors, such as greed, unhealthy eating and substance abuse and towards goals motivated by desires for greater health and well-being for yourself and others. For example, self-compassion training has been found to help both anorexics and people who are overweight. Self-compassion encourages a person's "drive" while also giving it focus and healthy, wholesome boundaries. "The soothing system," as Gilbert put it, "gives the context for the striving."
“What if this road, that has held no surprises these many years, decided not to go home after all; what if it could turn left or right with no more ado than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin were like a long, supple bolt of cloth, that is shaken and rolled out, and takes a new shape from the contours beneath? And if it chose to lay itself down in a new way; around a blind corner, across hills you must climb without knowing what's on the other side; who would not hanker to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know a story's end, or where a road will go?”
"Former US army colonel and Chief of Staff for Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson unleashed a most prescient speech on the demise of the United States Empire. As Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith notes, Wilkerson describes the path of empires in decline and shows how the US is following the classic trajectory. He contends that the US needs to make a transition to being one of many powers and focus more on strategies of international cooperation. The video is full of rich historical detail and terrific, if sobering, nuggets, such as:
• “History tells us we’re probably finished.”
• “The rest of of the world is awakening to the fact that the United States is 1) strategically inept and 2) not the power it used to be. And that the trend is to increase that.”
Wilkerson includes in his talk not just the way that the US projects power abroad, but internal symptoms of decline, such as concentration of wealth and power, corruption and the disproportionate role of financial interests.
Wilkerson also says the odds of rapid collapse of the US as an empire is much greater is generally recognized. He also includes the issues of climate change and resource constraints, and points out how perverse it is that the Department of Defense is the agency that is taking climate change most seriously. He says that the worst cases scenario projected by scientists is that the world will have enough arable land to support 400 million people.
Further key excerpts include:
• “Empires at the end concentrate on military force as the be all and end all of power… at the end they use more mercenary based forces than citizen based forces.”
• “Empires at the end…go ethically and morally bankrupt… they end up with bankers and financiers running the empire, sound familiar?”
• “So they [empires] will go out for example, when an attack occurs on them by barbarians that kills 3000 of their citizens, mostly because of their negligence, they will go out and kill 300,000 people and spend 3 trillion dollars in order to counter that threat to the status quo. They will then proceed throughout the world to exacerbate that threat by their own actions, sound familiar?…This is what they [empires] do particularly when they are getting ready to collapse.”
“This is what empires in decline do, they can’t even govern themselves.”
Quoting a Chinese man who was a democrat, then a communist (under Mao) then, when he became disenchanted, a poet and writer…”You can sit around a table and talk about politics, about social issues, about anything and you can have a reasonable discussion with a reasonable person. But start talking about the mal-distribution of wealth and you better get your gun” … ”that’s where we are, in Europe and the United States”.
"A Global Recession Is Coming… and It Won’t Be Pretty"
by Bill Bonner
SYRACUSE, Sicily – “When in doubt, go to Italy” is the saying. We are always in doubt. What better place to go? Today, a warning about why a global recession is now likely. But first, an update on Sicily… where we’ve spent the last few days exploring. Sicily is not exactly Italy. It sits in the middle of the Mediterranean, where every sleepy sailor or ambitious empire builder was bound to wash up. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, and French – all tried their hands at ruling Sicily. The Italians are only the most recent of the invaders.
A Visit to the Temples: We rented a little Fiat 500 to explore the island. It lacks power, but it is perfect for zipping around in tight places. Yesterday, we visited Greek and Roman ruins. The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is a marvel. It has one of the best preserved Greek temples in the world. About two hours away is a Roman villa with some of the best frescoes ever discovered. Apparently, they were buried in a mudslide and were thus preserved for 1,000 years.
The Sicily that we’ve seen so far is remarkably open. Rocky mountains, open fields, vast pastures – there is little shade. It must be excruciatingly hot in summer. If we were running things, we’d plant more trees. Still, it is nice to be able to see so much countryside as we are driving around. One thing we’ve noticed is that there are thousands of abandoned houses – large stone farmhouses – all over the island. The small towns, too, are depopulated. In the large towns – Syracuse and Palermo, for example – you see many recent immigrants from Africa and India. But the small towns and rural areas seem to be losing people, leaving houses empty.
Between Scylla and Charybdis: More about Sicily in a moment… Back in the markets, the Dow rose 200 points – or just over 1% – on Friday. And commodities giant Glencore recovered most of its week’s losses. The fright of a few weeks ago seems to have diminished. It is “back to normal” — almost. Stocks and bonds still trade at silly prices. Shills from Wall Street still “talk their books” on TV. And the Fed is still promising a rate hike – perhaps before the end of the year.
This rate hike talk is either believed or not. To the extent it is believed, it is disastrous in the short run. To the extent it is not believed, it is disastrous in the long run. A rate hike (or even the anticipation of higher interest rates) in the U.S. drives investors to dollars. This raises the price of dollars for holders of foreign currency. Anyone who owes dollars and can’t print them at will – in particular, governments and corporations in the emerging markets – is in a rough spot. And when you put debtors between Scylla and Charybdis – that is, between a rock and a hard place – many of them are bound to run aground.
Here Come Negative Interest Rates: The U.S. dollar is the funding currency for the world economy. When the exchange value of the dollar goes up, it is another way of saying dollars are scarce. And when dollars are scarce, world trade tends to go down. In other words, it creates a situation opposite to the EZ money the Fed has been aiming for. We see the effects of this already. Sales of the yellow machines – backhoes, loaders, bulldozers, etc. – have been falling for three years. Containerized freight coming from China is down 30% since 2013. The world economy is slowing down. A global recession is now in the cards.
On the other hand, if you don’t believe the Fed will raise rates – which we don’t – it sets up a further thought. The Fed did not raise rates at its last meeting for a reason. It must see the problem developing in the world economy, as we do. And it must realize that its policy goal must be to lower the price of the dollar, not raise it.
Our prediction: The Fed will come forward, not to praise the dollar with higher interest rates, but to bury it with a negative-interest-rate policy (NIRP)… a ban on cash… or “whatever it takes.” It is all coming… along with bigger and even more reckless bubbles.
Crooked Deals: But let’s forget the Fed for a moment… We landed in Palermo on Friday. The city has a bad reputation. “People don’t like Palermo, because it was controlled by the Mafia,” explained a taxi driver. “They made crooked deals and built all these ugly apartment buildings you see on the outskirts of town. Many times, they had to tear down ancient buildings that had been there for hundreds of years.”
It was true that there are ugly apartment buildings in the hills surrounding Palermo. But it looked to us like almost any other town. The apartment buildings that the Mafia built were no uglier than those built by the democratically elected government of Baltimore.
“How was it to live in a town run by the Mafia?” we wondered. “It wasn’t so bad. They killed people who threatened them – but besides that the Mafia ran a fairly decent government. There wasn’t much crime. If someone stole something from you, you could usually go to the Mafia and they’d get it back for you.” More to come… "
“Point your telescope toward the high flying constellation Pegasus and you can find this expanse of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies. Centered on NGC 7814, the pretty field of view would almost be covered by a full moon. NGC 7814 is sometimes called the Little Sombrero for its resemblance to the brighter more famous M104, the Sombrero Galaxy.
Click image for larger size.
Both Sombrero and Little Sombrero are spiral galaxies seen edge-on, and both have extensive central bulges cut by a thinner disk with dust lanes in silhouette. In fact, NGC 7814 is some 40 million light-years away and an estimated 60,000 light-years across. That actually makes the Little Sombrero about the same physical size as its better known namesake, appearing to be smaller and fainter only because it is farther away. A very faint dwarf galaxy, potentially a satellite of NGC 7814, is revealed in the deep exposure just below the Little Sombrero.”
"Debating the merits of a particular government policy or proposal with authoritarian-minded political opponents is pointless– if you’re hoping to persuade, at any rate. Far better to ask them a few apparently simple questions– and force them to confront the disquieting answers about the authoritarian nature of the political and social system they support.
For instance, you might ask what their view of slavery is. Is it morally wrong to own another human being? Probably, they will say it is wrong. Now ask: What does it mean to be a slave? Usually, they will tell you it means being the property of another. Now ask the killer follow-up: What does it mean to be the property of another? Point out that it means having control over another person’s life– control of his actual person, his body. His mind, even. To be in a position– to be entitled– to use violence to enforce compliance.
A slave is not at liberty to act as he wishes to act. He must do as he is told– and if he does not, he can expect physical punishment and that punishment will not be considered assault. The slave must accept his punishment. There is no appeal, no recourse. He must bow low and submit– or risk the repercussions, which ultimately include death. His only hope is escape.
The slave, most obviously, owns nothing– because he controls nothing. He may be allowed to use things. But the owner of these things– himself included – is someone else. Someone else gets to say yes– or no. When– and where. How– and how much. The slave has no real say– in that he is never in a position to say no. Not without consequences raining down upon him. He merely obeys. Because he must obey.
The fact that his hands may hold the scythe does not mean the scythe is his. The fact that the effort of his body cuts the wheat does not mean the wheat is his. He is permitted to keep a portion. In principle, because in fact, the slave owns nothing that may not be taken away from him. At any time, for any reason. And he is powerless to do anything about it. The slave’s dwelling, the clothes he wears– even his very body– are subject to arbitrary control against his will by another person or persons. This is the essence of what it means to be a slave.
Be sure your opponent accepts these points– which he must accept, because to not accept them is not unlike refusing to accept that 2 + 2= four. Now ask him whether he (or anyone else he knows) is free to determine the course of his own life. Or do others set down terms and conditions which he must obey? Is he free to do business with whomever he chooses to do business? Or is he told exactly with whom he must do business– and under what conditions?
May he travel freely? Or is he required to travel with permission– and only under certain conditions? Must he carry ownership papers with him wherever he goes? And is it not true that if he is caught without these papers, he is subject to arrest and imprisonment for that reason alone? Is he free to raise his children as he considers best? To teach them as he sees fit? Or must he teach them things others decree he must teach them?
Is he even free to choose whom to marry? Or must he submit to the authority of others in even this most personal of life’s choices? Is he free to defend himself when accosted by strangers? Or must he submit to these strangers, if they wear a certain type of outfit? (Did not the overseer also wear a certain type of outfit?)
May he own things? More precisely, is he permitted other than conditional use of things? For instance, that which he may think of as “his” home. If it is in fact “his,” then surely that means no one else has legal claim to it and cannot take it away from him once he has paid the original seller in full. Ask him about the large payments he must make to others every year, forever, in order to be allowed to remain on “his” property. Remind him that plantation slaves also had homes– in the sense that they were allowed conditional use of dwellings. Dwellings ultimately owned by someone else. The slaves were permitted to use these dwellings so long as their labor provided enough return to the true owners of the dwelling. A slave who refused to work– who declined to make payments in the form of his labor then (and tax payments now) would soon discover who the true owner of “his” dwelling really was.
Just as today.
Ask whether he is compelled to give up whatever portion of the fruits of his labors others decide they are entitled to– and how this differs from the slave in the field being forced to pick cotton for the benefit of others. Ask him what he thinks will happen if he declines to hand over the fruits of his labor. Ask whether he is at liberty to do as he wills even with his own poor body. May he freely choose to treat his body’s ailments as he sees fit? Or will he be chained and jailed if he treats himself in other than the “lawful” manner?Ask whether he knows that he may be forcibly taken from his home if he declines to be “treated” in the manner prescribed by others.
Who, then, owns his body? His very person? If I have the power to compel you to do– or not do– then is it not a fact that to some degree at least, I am your owner?And in that case, are you not a slave? The control need not be vicious or even mean. The owner of a beloved dog is no less the owner of the animal by dint of the fact that he treats it kindly and tends to its needs. The dog is not at liberty to come and go as it pleases. It is allowed to use certain items– an old sofa, for example– and not other things. It does not own anything. It is owned. Neither did the plantation slave own anything. And many had benevolent masters– for example, Thomas Jefferson– who tried to treat them with kindness, as they saw it. Who saw themselves as parents of subnormal adult children in need of guidance – and restraint. This benevolent treatment, however, in no way made the slaves other than slaves.
Behind the gentle guiding hand, always the whip. As it is today– with the exception that today’s slaves are unaware of their condition and imagine themselves to be free. Its subtlety is its genius. Instead of individual plantations, there is one consolidated plantation called “our country.” But we are owned nonetheless.
It is immaterial that we are not normally chained… if the chains may be put on at the first hint of disobedience. That we are allowed use of more (and nicer) things than the slaves of the past does not in any way change the fact that they are just as owned (because just as controlled) by someone else – and may be taken away at any moment, if the true owners so choose. Our cotton fields are the cubicles of the modern office; our overseers called by different names. But their job is what it has always been: To make sure we toil, submit and obey. And if we do not… Well, we all know the answer to that one."
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” - Thomas Edison
Why is this blog here?
"Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'" - Kurt Vonnegut
"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
But remember: "I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth." - Morpheus
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I’m a Choctaw “Native American”/Euro mongrel, living in Arizonastan, scavenging for nuggets of truth and soul nourishment wherever they might be found. Random observations, comments, rants, satire and discoveries from the road to NowHere.
“If any man is able to show me and prove to me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change, for I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. It is only persistence in self delusion and ignorance that does harm.” - Marcus Aurelius
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"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." - Morpheus