Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Greg Hunter, "Wildfires Worldwide Unlike Ever Before"

"Wildfires Worldwide Unlike Ever Before"
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 

"Climate engineering researcher Dane Wigington says out of control wildfires are not just in California, but a global phenomenon and unlike ever before. Wigington explains, “Let’s look at the facts. This summer we had a state of emergency in British Columbia with nearly 600 wildfires. We had similar circumstances in Alaska, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Siberia. When you look at these massive fires in California, like the car fire over the summer or the campfire that just happened, the car fire 240,000 acres burned. In the campfire, 140,000 acres burned. Siberia, in recent years, has lost a hundred million acres, and nobody reports on that. So, we are losing forests all over the globe at an unbelievable rate.”What’s to blame for the massive amount of wildfires? Wigington says it is caused by geoengineering or climate engineering, which is basically spraying the skies with metal particles to reflect the sun in order to cool the planet. Wigington says, “The single biggest factor that has set the stage for these wildfires is climate engineering.”

Wigington contends the conditions for wildfires are being intensified on purpose because the smoke from massive global wildfires blocks the sun and temporarily cools the planet. Wigington says, “Wildfire smoke in northern latitude forests has specifically been named in a manner that would consider them to have a desirable effect on the Arctic. What we can also say about the fires’ intensity and conditions that has allowed these fires to do what they have done are absolutely the result of climate engineering. That is without question. The reason these areas are so dried out is a direct result of climate engineering. Otherwise, we would have more rain on a warming planet. Statistically, we would have 7% more moisture in the atmosphere for every degree of sea warming.”

All the climate engineering, commonly called chemtrails, is making unnatural swings in temperatures, says Wigington, and he goes on to point out, “These events are absolutely not natural and not reflective of the entire global picture. Last week, we had snow falling in Louisiana. On the same day at midnight in Eagle Lake, Alaska, it was 45 degrees at midnight near the Arctic Circle. The official purpose of climate engineering is to mitigate a warming planet, but we know, statistically speaking, that climate engineering in exchange for toxic cool-downs, it actually further fuels the overall warming of the planet.”

Don’t expect to get the truth from the government or the mainstream media (MSM) that climate engineering is dangerous to humanity, let alone even going on, because Wigington says, “Right now, there is an official illegal federal gag order on all of the National Weather Service and NOAA. If all of the consequences of climate engineering were considered, it is mathematically the single greatest threat we collectively face short of nuclear cataclysm. If we don’t address these issues, it effects every breath we take and the entire web of life, we are on an extraordinary short time horizon. Climate engineering is not about the greater good. It is about keeping business as usual and keeping power in the hands of people who already hold it. It’s about confusing and dividing the population about the true state of the climate until the last possible moment. They are hiding the severity of the climate to keep the population from panicking because the situation is so severe. Here in the U.S., we are importing about $41 billion worth of food annually to keep the U.S. store shelves stocked to keep Americans pacified and clueless as to what is happening around the world until the last possible moment. It is that severe.”

"Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with Dane Wigington,
 founder of GeoEngineeringWatch.org."

Chet Raymo

“In A Dark Time...”
by Chet Raymo

“I've quoted a few of these lines before, from a poem by Charles Simic:

"It's like fishing in the dark.
Our thoughts are the hooks,
Our heart the raw bait.
We cast the line past all believing
Into the night sky
Until it's lost to sight."

In a sense, that's the story of my life: a long love affair with the night sky. My first book of popular science was “365 Starry Nights”. My first book of personal prose was “The Soul of the Night: An Astronomical Pilgrimage”. “An Intimate Look at the Night Sky” followed much later, but every book in between, fiction and non-fiction, cast a line into the night sky.

What is it about the starry night that gives rise so effectively to what might be called the "religious instinct"? The dark, precisely. The unplumbable depth. The hiddenness. The silence. The infinity. The abyss of time. I can calculate the number of thimblefuls of water in the sea, but I have no way of knowing how many galaxies there are in the universe, or whether the universe is finite or infinite, or even how many universes might exist. Or where the universe came from. Or where it's going.

I stand barefoot on the terrace in the dark of night, and looking is a kind of prayer. A prayer without words. Without supplication. A silent acknowledgement of ignorance. Heartfelt ignorance. An ignorance that is a receptacle aching to be filled.

"My heart the bait."

The dark night of the soul. The starlit valley of shadow. The knowing that unknows. There, just there, hanging between Cassiopeia and Perseus, the barely visible blur of the double cluster, the rent veil of the temple.

“The line's long unraveling
Rising in our throats like a sigh.”

"Reality..."

"Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality."
- Gary Zukav

“The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease”

“The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions 
Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease”
by Maria Popova

"I had lived thirty good years before enduring my first food poisoning - odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. I found myself completely incapacitated to erect the pillars of my daily life - too cognitively foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even meditate. The temporary disability soon elevated the assault on my mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. Even as I consoled myself with Nabokov’s exceptionally florid account of food poisoning, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me - somehow, a physical illness had completely colored my psychoemotional reality.

This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. Long before scientists began shedding light on how our minds and bodies actually affect one another, an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between the body and the emotions, or feelings, emerged and permeated our very language: We use “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms - fever, fatigue, nausea - and the psychological malaise, woven of emotions like sadness and apathy.

Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humors - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm - in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. These beliefs are fossilized in our present language - melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.

And then French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes came along in the seventeenth century, taking it upon himself to eradicate the superstitions that fueled the religious wars of the era by planting the seed of rationalism. But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science - the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly ascertained and proven beyond doubt - severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.

For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo - setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off. It was only in the 1950s that Austrian-Canadian physician and physiologist Hans Selye pioneered the notion of stress as we now know it today, drawing the scientific community’s attention to the effects of stress on physical health and popularizing the concept around the world. (In addition to his scientific dedication, Selye also understood the branding component of any successful movement and worked tirelessly to include the word itself in dictionaries around the world; today, “stress” is perhaps the word pronounced most similarly in the greatest number of major languages.)

But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Esther Sternberg. Her groundbreaking work on the link between the central nervous system and the immune system, exploring how immune molecules made in the blood can trigger brain function that profoundly affects our emotions, has revolutionized our understanding of the integrated being we call a human self. In the immeasurably revelatory "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions" (public library), Sternberg examines the interplay of our emotions and our physical health, mediated by that seemingly nebulous yet, it turns out, remarkably concrete experience called stress.

With an eye to modern medicine’s advances in cellular and molecular biology, which have made it possible to measure how our nervous system and our hormones affect our susceptibility to diseases as varied as depression, arthritis, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Sternberg writes: "By parsing these chemical intermediaries, we can begin to understand the biological underpinnings of how emotions affect diseases… The same parts of the brain that control the stress response play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives.

Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what the molecules and nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts. And then we need to ask whether these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.

We are even beginning to sort out how emotional memories reach the parts of the brain that control the hormonal stress response, and how such emotions can ultimately affect the workings of the immune system and thus affect illnesses as disparate as arthritis and cancer. We are also beginning to piece together how signals from the immune system can affect the brain and the emotional and physical responses it controls: the molecular basis of feeling sick. In all this, the boundaries between mind and body are beginning to blur."

Indeed, the relationship between memory, emotion, and stress is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sternberg’s work. She considers how we deal with the constant swirl of inputs and outputs as we move through the world, barraged by a stream of stimuli and sensations: "Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: a trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. Each can lead into the black box and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere."

Memory, it turns out, is one of the major factors mediating the dialogue between sensation and emotional experience. Our memories of past experience become encoded into triggers that act as switchers on the rail of psychoemotional response, directing the incoming train of present experience in the direction of one emotional destination or another.

Sternberg writes: "Mood is not homogeneous like cream soup. It is more like Swiss cheese, filled with holes. The triggers are highly specific, tripped by sudden trails of memory: a faint fragrance, a few bars of a tune, a vague silhouette that tapped into a sad memory buried deep, but not completely erased. These sensory inputs from the moment float through layers of time in the parts of the brain that control memory, and they pull out with them not only reminders of sense but also trails of the emotions that were first connected to the memory. These memories become connected to emotions, which are processed in other parts of the brain: the amygdala for fear, the nucleus accumbens for pleasure - those same parts that the anatomists had named for their shapes. And these emotional brain centers are linked by nerve pathways to the sensory parts of the brain and to the frontal lobe and hippocampus - the coordinating centers of thought and memory."

The same sensory input can trigger a negative emotion or a positive one, depending on the memories associated with it. This is where stress comes in - much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilizing us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress, Sternberg notes, is determined by the biology undergirding our feelings - by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus. She explains the neurobiological machinery behind this response:

"As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones - the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run - these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.

All this occurs quickly. If you were to measure the stress hormones in your blood or saliva, they would already be increased within three minutes of the event. In experimental psychology tests, playing a fast-paced video game will make salivary cortisol increase and norepinephrine spill over into venous blood almost as soon as the virtual battle begins. But if you prolong the stress, by being unable to control it or by making it too potent or long-lived, and these hormones and chemicals still continue to pump out from nerves and glands, then the same molecules that mobilized you for the short haul now debilitate you."

These effects of stress exist on a bell curve - that is, some is good, but too much becomes bad: As the nervous system secretes more and more stress hormones, performance increases, but up to a point; after that tipping point, performance begins to suffer as the hormones continue to flow. What makes stress “bad” - that is, what makes it render us more pervious to disease - is the disparity between the nervous system and immune system’s respective pace. 

Sternberg explains: "The nervous system and the hormonal stress response react to a stimulus in milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. The immune system takes parts of hours or days. It takes much longer than two minutes for immune cells to mobilize and respond to an invader, so it is unlikely that a single, even powerful, short-lived stress on the order of moments could have much of an effect on immune responses. However, when the stress turns chronic, immune defenses begin to be impaired. As the stressful stimulus hammers on, stress hormones and chemicals continue to pump out. Immune cells floating in this milieu in blood, or passing through the spleen, or growing up in thymic nurseries never have a chance to recover from the unabated rush of cortisol. Since cortisol shuts down immune cells’ responses, shifting them to a muted form, less able to react to foreign triggers, in the context of continued stress we are less able to defend and fight when faced with new invaders. And so, if you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection."

Extended exposure to stress, especially to a variety of stressors at the same time - any combination from the vast existential menu of life-events like moving, divorce, a demanding job, the loss of a loved one, and even ongoing childcare - adds up a state of extreme exhaustion that leads to what we call burnout.

Sternberg writes: "Members of certain professions are more prone to burnout than others - nurses and teachers, for example, are among those at highest risk. These professionals are faced daily with caregiving situations in their work lives, often with inadequate pay, inadequate help in their jobs, and with too many patients or students in their charge. Some studies are beginning to show that burnt-out patients may have not only psychological burnout, but also physiological burnout: a flattened cortisol response and inability to respond to any stress with even a slight burst of cortisol. In other words, chronic unrelenting stress can change the stress response itself. And it can change other hormone systems in the body as well."

One of the most profound such changes affects the reproductive system - extended periods of stress can shut down the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, resulting in lower fertility. But the effects are especially perilous for women - recurring and extended episodes of depression result in permanent changes in bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In other words, we register stress literally in our bones.

But stress isn’t a direct causal function of the circumstances we’re in - what either amplifies or ameliorates our experience of stress is, once again, memory. Sternberg writes: Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as on the actual event that has occurred. And it depends on memory, too.

The most acute manifestation of how memory modulates stress is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For striking evidence of how memory encodes past experience into triggers, which then catalyze present experience, Sternberg points to research by psychologist Rachel Yehuda, who found both Holocaust survivors and their first-degree relatives - that is, children and siblings - exhibited a similar hormonal stress response.

This, Sternberg points out, could be a combination of nature and nurture - the survivors, as young parents for whom the trauma was still fresh, may well have subconsciously taught their children a common style of stress-responsiveness; but it’s also possible that these automatic hormonal stress responses permanently changed the parents’ biology and were transmitted via DNA to their children. Once again, memory encodes stress into our very bodies. Sternberg considers the broader implications: "Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some elements of PTSD. Common stresses that we all experience can trigger the emotional memory of a stressful circumstance - and all its accompanying physiological responses. Prolonged stress - such as divorce, a hostile workplace, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one - can all trigger elements of PTSD."

Among the major stressors - which include life-events expected to be on the list, such as divorce and the death of a loved one - is also one somewhat unexpected situation, at least to those who haven’t undergone it: moving. Sternberg considers the commonalities between something as devastating as death and something as mundane as moving: One is certainly loss - the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty - finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped.

In the remainder of the thoroughly illuminating "The Balance Within", Sternberg goes on to explore the role of interpersonal relationships in both contributing to stress and shielding us from it, how the immune system changes our moods, and what we can do to harness these neurobiological insights in alleviating our experience of the stressors with which every human life is strewn.”
Related:
“Chronic Stress: The Hidden Health Risks” 
"Stop Stress From Killing You"
“Pull The Plug On Stress”

"Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent"
By Melanie Curtin


"Everyone knows they need to manage their stress. When things get difficult at work, school, or in your personal life, you can use as many tips, tricks, and techniques as you can get to calm your nerves. So here's a science-backed one: make a playlist of the 10 songs found to be the most relaxing on earth. Sound therapies have long been popular as a way of relaxing and restoring one's health. For centuries, indigenous cultures have used music to enhance well-being and improve health conditions.

Now, neuroscientists out of the UK have specified which tunes give you the most bang for your musical buck. The study was conducted on participants who attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states that included heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing.

According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date. In fact, listening to that one song- "Weightless"- resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants' overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. That is remarkable.

Equally remarkable is the fact the song was actually constructed to do so. The group that created "Weightless", Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener's heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

When it comes to lowering anxiety, the stakes couldn't be higher. Stress either exacerbates or increases the risk of health issues like heart disease, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, and more. More troubling still, a recent paper out of Harvard and Stanford found health issues from job stress alone cause more deaths than diabetes, Alzheimer's, or influenza.

In this age of constant bombardment, the science is clear: if you want your mind and body to last, you've got to prioritize giving them a rest. Music is an easy way to take some of the pressure off of all the pings, dings, apps, tags, texts, emails, appointments, meetings, and deadlines that can easily spike your stress level and leave you feeling drained and anxious.

Of the top track, Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson said, "'Weightless' was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous." So don't drive while listening to these, but do take advantage of them:

10. "We Can Fly," by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)
9. "Canzonetta Sull'aria," by Mozart
8. "Someone Like You," by Adele
7. "Pure Shores," by All Saints
6. "Please Don't Go," by Barcelona
5. "Strawberry Swing," by Coldplay
4. "Watermark," by Enya
2. "Electra," by Airstream
1. "Weightless," by Marconi Union

I made a public playlist of all of them on Spotify that runs about 50 minutes (it's also downloadable)."

Free Download: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, "On Death and Dying"

"The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss"
By Julie Axelrod

"The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them. The stages of grief and mourning are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life, across many cultures. Mourning occurs in response to an individual’s own terminal illness, the loss of a close relationship, or to the death of a valued being, human, or animal. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying."

In our bereavement, we spend different lengths of time working through each step and express each stage with different levels of intensity. The five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. We often move between stages before achieving a more peaceful acceptance of death. Many of us are not afforded the luxury of time required to achieve this final stage of grief.

The death of your loved one might inspire you to evaluate your own feelings of mortality. Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.

Many people do not experience the stages of grief in the order listed below, which is perfectly okay and normal. The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process - it helps you understand and put into context where you are.

Please keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Some people will wear their emotions on their sleeve and be outwardly emotional. Others will experience their grief more internally, and may not cry. You should try and not judge how a person experiences their grief, as each person will experience it differently.

1. Denial & Isolation: The first reaction to learning about the terminal illness, loss, or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. “This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening,” people often think. It is a normal reaction to rationalize our overwhelming emotions. Denial is a common defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the loss, numbing us to our emotions. We block out the words and hide from the facts. We start to believe that life is meaningless, and nothing is of any value any longer. For most people experiencing grief, this stage is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger: As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry. Remember, grieving is a personal process that has no time limit, nor one “right” way to do it.

The doctor who diagnosed the illness and was unable to cure the disease might become a convenient target. Health professionals deal with death and dying every day. That does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to those who grieve for them.

Do not hesitate to ask your doctor to give you extra time or to explain just once more the details of your loved one’s illness. Arrange a special appointment or ask that he telephone you at the end of his day. Ask for clear answers to your questions regarding medical diagnosis and treatment. Understand the options available to you. Take your time.

3. Bargaining: The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control through a series of “If only” statements, such as:

▪ If only we had sought medical attention sooner…
▪ If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…
▪ If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…

This is an attempt to bargain. Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable, and the accompanying pain. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality. Guilt often accompanies bargaining. We start to believe there was something we could have done differently to have helped save our loved one.

4. Depression: There are two types of depression that are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words.

The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

5. Acceptance: Reaching this stage of grieving is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Loved ones that are terminally ill or aging appear to go through a final period of withdrawal. This is by no means a suggestion that they are aware of their own impending death or such, only that physical decline may be sufficient to produce a similar response. Their behavior implies that it is natural to reach a stage at which social interaction is limited. The dignity and grace shown by our dying loved ones may well be their last gift to us.

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience - nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.”
Freely download "On Death and Dying", by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, here:

Musical Interlude: Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “Dream Ten”

Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “Dream Ten” 
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ7eSn_9uT0&feature=related

"A Look to the Heavens"; "Why Do We Look to the Stars?"

"Distorted galaxy NGC 2442 can be found in the southern constellation of the flying fish, (Piscis) Volans. Located about 50 million light-years away, the galaxy's two spiral arms extending from a pronounced central bar give it a hook-shaped appearance. This deep color image also shows the arms' obscuring dust lanes, young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions surrounding a core of yellowish light from an older population of stars.

But the star forming regions seem more concentrated along the drawn-out (right side) spiral arm. The distorted structure is likely the result of an ancient close encounter with the smaller galaxy seen near the top left of this field of view. The two interacting galaxies are separated by about 150,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 2442."
- http://www.antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090228.html

"Why Do We Look to the Stars?"

"The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us - there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation of a distant memory, as if we were falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

For as long as there has been humans we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. This perspective is a courageous continuation of our penchant for constructing and testing mental models of the skies; the Sun as a red-hot stone, the stars as a celestial flame, the Galaxy as the backbone of night.
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."
- Carl Sagan

The Poet: Robert Frost, "Fire And Ice"

"Fire And Ice"

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice." 

"Hope..."

"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.
 And no good thing ever dies."
- Tim Robbins, "The Shawshank Redemption"

"Cognitive Dissonance & the Human Mind"

"Cognitive Dissonance & the Human Mind"
by Dan Eden

"When “Robbie” the robot was told to shoot a weapon at a man in the movie Forbidden Planet, his electronic brain sparked and short-circuited. His creator had programmed him to never harm a human and so the conflicting ideas paralyzed him. Human beings often are presented with opposing thoughts also, but our brains have developed a way of resolving these conflicts through a process call cognitive dissonance. We are taught, like “Robbie,” that killing is prohibited — but what about war? And many anti-abortionists support the death penalty… conflicting behavior is all around us. So how exactly does that work?

Simply put, congitive dissonance theory states that when you have two opposing ideas (or ideologies) at the same time, you will act upon the one that causes the less distortion to your ego. According to Wikipedia: "Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one’s behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people’s ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony or consonance. If cognitions are unrelated, they are categorized as irrelevant to each other and do not lead to dissonance.

Let me give you some examples. There are lots of schemes and con-artists trying to get your money these days. Almost every day I receive dozens of e-mails from people like Abada Muzoola from Nigeria, who just happened to get my e-mail address and wants me to help him transfer 70-million dollars to my bank in return for a 10 percent commission. Wow, I could use 7-million dollars! All he needs is my bank account number and pin-code. He is even willing to transfer the total amount to my account because he trusts me so much. I continue to receive variations of this scheme every day. Why? Because they work. Somewhere in the world is a victim who will have cognitive dissonance.

On a more sophisticated scale, Bernie Madoff bilked hundreds of wealthy people out of an estimated 50-billion dollars by manipulating the same mental process (and would have continued doing so had he not bragged to his sons, who turned him in). So how is it that people are able to convince others to give them access to their funds or to willingly give them their cash? First, one more example: You’re walking down a busy street deep in your own private thoughts. All of a sudden a smiling woman jumps out of somewhere, stands in front of you, and puts a flower in your hand. “Hello dear… isn’t it a wonderful day today? I want you to have this flower!,” she says.Now you have a beautiful flower in your hand. It’s a nice gift and she seems friendly. She begins to walk with you, telling you that you have nice, kind eyes. She says she noticed right away that you were special and so wanted to meet you. You forget your previous thoughts about work, bills or your own life. Suddenly you feel good… appreciated… uplifted. Then, in the same friendly voice and bright smile, she says, “I know you are a good person and you can help me by giving me a something for the beautiful flower — right?”

What happens inside your head at that moment is cognitive dissonance. The dissonance or dis-harmony comes from two conflicting ideas or decision paths. One path tells you that you should just say “No thanks!” and keep on walking; maybe return the flower and feel insulted even if it means she will become disappointed with you. The other path tells you that she has made you feel good and has earned your friendship and a couple of bucks. She has been friendly and you don’t want to ruin the brief relationship you have formed. Heck, you should probably even give her back the flower so she can use it on the next victim. Which decision will cause the least damage to your ego?

In cognitive dissonance theory the outcome of these opposing thought paths will be the one that requires the least emotional stress. Most victims will pay up rather than feel they are being cruel or disrespectful to someone who has made them feel so good. In the case of the Nigerian philanthropist, Abada Muzoola, it is often less stressful to believe that you are the lucky “chosen” beneficiary than to believe you are one of the thousands of e-mails he has sent this offer to. Later, after their bank account has been cleaned out, most people realize that they should have known better and are puzzled by their own vulnerability. Many feel so embarassed that they don’t report the crime to the authorities.

Psychologists refer to this vulnerability as the “willful suspension of disbelief,” where one can easily see the potential manipulations and evil motives of ther perpetrator, but, because they have already made some prior committment to go along with this, it is easier to continue than to back out. The investors of Mr. Madoff knew that a 10% to 12% annual return on an investment, especially in the current bear market, was impossible. Something dishonest or illegal had to be going on. But because they had been made to work so hard to let him take their money — often begging him to please allow them to invest millions of dollars — they had made the psychological investment that “locks in” the cognitive dissonance. After that, it was more stressful to admit that this was a ponzy scheme than to just avoid worrying about it.

In Festinger and Carlsmith’s classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to perform boring and tedious tasks (e.g. turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. After an hour of working on the tasks, participants were asked to persuade another subject (who was actually a confederate) that the dull, boring tasks the subject had just completed were actually interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 for the favor, another group was paid $1, and a control group was not asked to perform the favor. When asked to rate the boring tasks at the conclusion of the study, those in the $1 group rated them more positively than those in the $20 and control groups. This was explained by Festinger and Carlsmith as evidence for cognitive dissonance. The researchers theorized that people experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions, “I told someone that the task was interesting”, and “I actually found it boring.” When paid only $1, students were forced to internalize the attitude they were induced to express, because they had no other justification. Those in the $20 condition, however, had an obvious external justification for their behavior, and thus experienced less dissonance.

Are you beginning to understand how this works now? Cognitive dissonance has been used to control larger groups and populations also. In World War II there was a famous campaign where citizens were asked to donate all their old pots and pans, supposedly to be melted down to make tanks, munitions and war planes. The collection was highly effective and the psychological “investment” initiated solidarity and nationalism for the war effort. Of course, all those pots and pans ended up buried in landfills.

Here’s a modern day example: When the US invaded Afghanistan, ex-President Bush came on the television asking families to donate whatever they could to help the school children in Afghanistan who needed paper and pencils. Thousands of school kids collected coins in classrooms across the nation and sent the donations to the White House. The funds ended up being put in to some vague account that never did what it was donated to do. But the “investment” was enough to gain support for a far-away war in an obscure land for vague reasons. Sometimes, as with the tragic collapse of the World Trade towers on 9-11, the “investment” is made for us. In this way an entire nation can be made to feel that they have already sacrificed something and that they should choose the path of war over peace forgetting about the Iraqi civilian casualties — or even that Iraq was not responsible. I once belonged to an Episcopal church in New Mexico that collected oil for M-16s to send to the troops in Iraq! They also invested the church funds with Raytheon and Haliburton.

Cognitive Dissonance in Advertising and Marketing: In advertising there is a theory that a consumer may use a particular product because he or she believes the advertising for that product, which claims that the product is the most effective of its kind in the job that it does. Then the consumer may see a competitor’s advertisement that seems to prove conclusively that this competitive product is better. This creates dissonance. The consumer must now relieve the uncomfortable feeling that the dissonance brings about and will often do so by switching products. The theory acts as a double-edged sword, though, because while advertisers want to create dissonance for nonusers of their product, they do not want to create it for those who do use their product. This is why advertisers use their logos on things like NASCAR and sports arenas. They want you to become loyal to their brand. This will create distrust when you see the same product — even an apparently better product — with a different and unfamiliar brand.

Cognitive dissonance most often occurs after the purchase of an expensive item such as an automobile. A consumer who is experiencing cognitive dissonance after his or her purchase may attempt to return the product or may seek positive information about it to justify the choice. If the buyer is unable to justify the purchase, he or she will also be less likely to purchase that brand again. Advertisers of high-priced durable goods say that half of their advertising is done to reassure consumers that in purchasing their product the right choice was made.

Some good uses of cognitive dissonance: Congitive therapists use this technique to change bad behavior and decisions. The technique is called a “yes set.” Getting a patient to agree to treatment for addiction or to initiate some beneficial behavior is difficult. There is often a fundamental “batting of heads” between the patient and people trying to help. The breakthrough is achieved when the therapist purposely initiates a series of statements to which the patient can agree. After repeatedly agreeing with the therapist on a multitude of minor decisions, the patient begins to feel good and the therapist allows the patient to “invest” in this positive relationship. Then, with skill, the therapist introduces the crucial decision. “So don’t you think it’s really time for you go to rehab?” Faced with the option of agreeing or offending the therapist, the patient often continues the “yes” response. The example above is highly effective because the patient not only agrees to change the bad behavior but is immediately rewarded by the continuation of their positive self-esteem and good feeling.

Cognitive dissonance requires some skill to work
: The concept doesn’t always work. Especially if it’s poorly executed. I was once shopping for a car and, after selecting a possible make and model, found myself sitting in the little room with the salesman, haggling about the price. At one point he asked me for my driver’s license or credit card and told me it was a “gesture” so that I would trust him. At the time, I just said “No way,” and split. For many customers, this simple act would be enough to form a psychological “investment” with the dealer, who could then use this to manipulate and close the sale. It might be more difficult for the customer to demand his license or credit card and storm out of the office than to sit there and be intimidated until they signed the sales contract.

Eliminating Cognitive Dissonance: There are several key ways in which people attempt to overcome, or do away with, cognitive dissonance. One is by ignoring or eliminating the dissonant cognitions. By pretending that ice cream is not bad for me, I can have my cake and eat it too, so to speak. Ignoring the dissonant cognition allows us to do things we might otherwise view as wrong or inappropriate. Another way to overcome cognitive dissonance is to alter the importance (or lack thereof) of certain cognitions. By either deciding that ice cream is extremely good (I can’t do without it) or that losing weight isn’t that important (I look good anyway), the problem of dissonance can be lessened. If one of the dissonant cognitions outweighs the other in importance, the mind has less difficulty dealing with the dissonance — and the result means that I can eat my ice cream and not feel bad about it.

Yet another way that people react to cognitive dissonance is by adding or creating new cognitions. By creating or emphasizing new cognitions, I can overwhelm the fact that I know ice cream is bad for my weight loss. For instance, I can emphasize new cognitions such as “I exercise three times a week” or “I need calcium and dairy products” or “I had a small dinner,” etc. These new cognitions allow for the lessening of dissonance, as I now have multiple cognitions that say ice cream is okay, and only one, which says I shouldn’t eat it.

Finally, perhaps the most important way people deal with cognitive dissonance is to prevent it in the first place. If someone is presented with information that is dissonant from what they already know, the easiest way to deal with this new information is to ignore it, refuse to accept it, or simply avoid that type of information in general. Thus, a new study that says ice cream is more fattening than originally thought would be easily dealt with by ignoring it. Further, future problems can be prevented by simply avoiding that type of information — simply refusing to read studies on ice cream, health magazines, etc.

Cognitive dissonance is all around us. We live in a world full of contradictions. Children are killed in Gaza in the name of peace. Feminists wear makeup, short skirts and high heels. Conservationists like Al Gore fly around in private, fuel guzzling jets. Anti-gay Christians tap their feet in public bathroom stalls… these opposing ideologies are all resolved somehow, somewhere, deep in our human psyche with cognitive dissonance."