Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Surgery Without Anesthesia

image by lisapizza,

We Need Controlled Experiments To Build Credulity

A few days ago the press was agog with news about a surgery that was performed without any anesthesia. The patient happened to be a professional hypnotist who reportedly used his own professional skills on himself, suggesting to his mind to withdraw all sensation from the organ that was under the scalpel.

image by blinc,

As further news of the event trickled in, it became quite clear that this feat of hypnosis will go down in history as yet another one-off event. Grist for the drawing-room conversation mill, and nothing much besides.

image by uks77,

Why? We have only the words of the good surgeon and his team and of course the patient for it, that's why. All evidence is hearsay. Now we know they are all good people and would not lie, yet, scientific protocol dictates that hard scientific evidence be fully disclosed in the form of data that peers can verify. Which unfortunately they do not have.

image by lusi,

The problem with such events is that they are not conducted in a scientific manner. For this to happen, the event has to be planned and devised as a proper experiment, with all its parameters put under monitor. While the event is underway, data must be collected objectively and precisely. And after the event is over, this data must be placed in the public domain for everybody else to share and contribute to. Gradually, as this Body of Knowledge (BoK) grows and becomes more structured and comprehensive, credibility and belief automatically starts being built up. Until a stage comes when respectable universities begin conducting academic programs around the BoK, government begins creating regulations (and investing bureaucracy) on the BoK, and youngsters begin talking about a career involving the BoK. There is nothing new in what I am saying here; this is what any high school student will tell you is the right approach.

image by clix,

Unfortunately, the hyped-up event of the surgery-without-anesthesia has generated no light and no insight. The patient walked in, hypnotized himself, the surgery was performed, and somebody called for a press conference.

image by larar,

I think it is high time we undertook these events more seriously. The days of sensationalism are long over - today skeptics ask for hard scientific evidence and rightly so. The cause of the discipline of self-development - of which hypnosis is a part - will not be furthered by such events which people are now construing must be just a sensational attempt to gain publicity.

image by wazari,

In order for CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) or alternative therapies to really prove themselves as credible alternatives to conventional medical intervention techniques, they have to stand the rigor of scrutiny by peers. Unless we don't believe in what we ourselves preach?

image by darktaco,
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scripting Alternate Realities

image by hopee,

Be The Script Writer Of Your Life's Story!

It was a pleasure to be called by the young director to see the rushes of the new movie project. The auditorium was full of these twenty-something kids, all of them bubbling with excitement and thrill at the prospect of seeing their own performances on the big screen. Some of them already established; others on the way to make their own mark under the limelight. There were a few others whose role in the event was to critique what was being shown to them. I felt rather out of place amidst such a young crowd, but gradually they soaked me into the group, and I surprised myself by interacting with the same gusto and fervor as they were. The energy of youth is indeed contagious!

image by asifthebes,

As script writer for the project, they had wanted me to generate alternate endings to the story. This seems to be the fad these days: you have the main storyboard, and then you work creatively on how the story could alternatively pan out. What if the story ends this way, and not that? What if the two do not unite in the end, so it is a sad ending? What if the ending is kept deliberately blurred, so as to keep the viewer in suspense even while they walk out of the hall? How will the audience react to this particular ending?

image by kinsum,

After receiving scripts for three alternative endings from me, the Director shot all of them, and there we were, finally looking at the four sets of what was essentially the same movie, critiquing and taking a call on which one will finally be released. (I am told it will be ready by May/June. 2008, that is.)

image by rmad,

While returning home, I couldn't help reflecting on what had been achieved. It was I who wrote all the four alternative scripts of the story. It was I who decided how the story would end - okay, it was a group effort. Finally it was I who gave it to the Director who went ahead and manifested the story into reality. Can't I do the same thing for my life? Why can't I be the script writer of my own life-story?

image by infinity_,

There was a point in time, up until which, my life was scripted by seniors who took decisions on my behalf, deploying their supreme wisdom about what was and what was not best for me. Later these seniors faded away from the scene. From that point on, although I did take over, parental/senior supervision and monitoring and control over my actions still continued with the same finger-wagging intensity; this happened through the "inner voice", or call it "conscience", that would "guide" me on what was "appropriate" and what was not.

image by stroinski,

Then one fine day it dawned that, oh my god, I was still on auto-pilot. "Do this. Not that. This. This is correct. This is not." Now why was this so-called "conscience", the "inner voice" telling me something that I did not like at all? Why was this dichotomy there in the first place? Why was there a difference between what I was doing and what I really, really wanted to do? Unless I took the controls in my own hands, I realized, I will not be able to fulfill the core needs that I had been seeded with and yearned for.

image by jynmeyer,

So I began searching for all the shackles which bound me, inhibited me and prevented me from fulfilling my _needs_, and which were really based on somebody else's values and beliefs on how life must be lived. And began shearing them away, one by one, these shackles. That was the time when I well and truly became the script writer of my own life.

image by clix,

Now that I am without bounds and on my own, what alternate realities can I begin to script for myself? Ah. So many umpteen possibilities open up. All that I have to do is to pick and choose the one that matches my core yearnings perfectly.

image by clix,

I put down in a notepad file how I want my life to be lived from here on, keeping in mind the full and complete knowledge of my present configuration. Now all I need to do is to invest a lot of emotional energy in my script. Freud calls it cathexis. While the learned man inevitably develops this very potent idea along his favorite route of libido and repressed erotica, I choose to give it a, uh, happy spin, if you please. I simply pour in a lot of mental and emotional energy into my particular alternate reality that I wish to have manifested in my life. And with a prayer on the lips and faith in the heart, I hand over the script to the Greatest Director Of Them All.

image by pushbeyond,

And what does the GDOTA do? In His infinite wisdom, He simply evaluates whether my script is in harmony with the need that He had seeded in me from my first incarnation onward, and having satisfied Himself, proceeds to shoot the film. Hey presto! I begin to live my new alternate reality!

image by kinsum,

What if my alternate reality requires the contribution of some other individual - or group of individuals - who I have no control over? Oh it is simple. This individual also has some script of their own - if they are not creating it so systematically and consciously; then the sum-total of their deep desires and needs becomes their default alternate script. The GDOTA simply matches, and if the matching is satisfactory, hey presto again!

image by tudodany,

Tell me now; wouldn't you want to be a script writer yourself? It is simple, you see, first you will have to open a notepad file...

image by zeafonso,

[For another take on leading life on a firmer foundation of present reality, browse to "To Most Dangerous Words To Beware Of".]
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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Dark World Of Medications

image by miqueias,

'Suicidal' Times For Pharmaceutical Companies?

Pharmaceutical honchos must themselves have to pop sleeping pills these days. For US and European governments are now mandating every new drug license to be given a "suicide rating" before the formulation can be released into the market. A cue which the rest of the world will not take long in picking up.

image by hatemachin,

It is now being discovered that just about any drug that can either affect the brain directly, or affect chemicals which in turn enter the brain, can lead to suicidal thoughts. The spotlight is therefore also on medications used to treat such innocuous conditions as acne, pain, bacterial infections, besides the more serious conditions of hypertension, insomnia, heartburn, and the like.

image by clix,

For example, take the case of Rimonabant (brand name Acomplia, or Zimulti, as it is now known in the US). The drug is touted as a wonder weight-loss medication, also likely to be marketed for cardiovascular cases. As this paper reports, patients participating in a placebo-controlled trial had to discontinue this drug due to depressed mood disorders, anxiety, headache, dizziness etc. Interestingly, the study was conducted on patients drawn from European countries, and after its publication, is still being sold in Europe (as of March / April 2008), though the application for selling it in the US has been withdrawn. Height of cynicism?

image by zoofytheji,

Also cynical are practitioners known to routinely prescribe anti-depressants along with drugs that are known to cause depression as side-effect. And there is apparently a tale hanging around the usage of these anti-depressants too, for instead of solving the problem, there are reports that they actually aggravate suicidal tendencies. Ho hum.

image by yog_sothot,

I cannot help feeling a sense of deja vu over this turn of events. In quite a few posts on my other blog, I have consistently decried the fad of popping pills for instant nirvana. Science presently is still not equipped enough to understand the complex and delicate interplay of chemicals in the cauldron called the brain. The feeling is that we are being used as guinea pig to conduct trial and error experiments with drugs - okay, if that doesn't work, then how about this? The only gain in the short run is to the companies manufacturing the drugs. But what about you and me? We get only one body in a lifetime. Why should we waste it away on silly experiments that the good doctors want to conduct?

image by craigpj,

As self-developer, my view is that most diseases afflicting us are a direct somatization of the thoughts that we continuously hold in our mind. And therefore the cure to the diseases lies in thought management. We invite diseases by our thoughts. And we can cure them again by correcting our thoughts.

image by scol22,

Ah. But this is a lone voice in the wilderness. It will take a major disaster in the guinea pig theater for the world to veer around to this view.

image by danzo08,
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Flaw In The Tower Of Pisa

Tower of Pisa, wiki

How A Flaw Becomes Cause For Celebration

They say that it took close to two hundred years to construct the entire structure of what is known as the Tower of Pisa.

image by drouu,

Wonder how he would have reacted, the architect who designed the structure, were he alive when it was finally completed and inaugurated and thrown open to the public to watch and admire? The reason why there is the epithet of "Leaning" before the name of the tower, they say, is because the foundation was too shallow, and that the choice of the location incorrect as the soil was weak and unstable. The poor architect would have held his head in his hands at his folly! And, depending on the disposition of the government of the day, perhaps run for cover, or jumped bail or hired expensive lawyers to defend himself.

image by linusb4,

But, no, look how the flaw has become cause for celebration. Had this mistake not been made, the tower would have been yet another high-rise structure, yet another bell tower like any other, with nothing beyond archaeological and academic interest. But the architect's mistake has made him a world celebrity; and tourists from all around flock to this city in Italy to especially ogle at it and take pictures standing next to it. Indeed, so famous has this glaring mistake become, that the tower dwarfs the other arts and artifacts that the city holds in her bosom.

Campo dei Miracoli, wiki

Flaws and mistakes shouldn't lead to dejection, you see. If there is cause to atone and repent, by all means, let's do it. But the beauty of making mistakes is that they give an opportunity to learn. Imbibing the lesson is very important, for unless it is well and truly assimilated, it tends to repeat itself. Wonder when the Pisa tower architect realized that he had erred? And whether he used the new-found wisdom for his other projects?

City of Pisa, as seen from the leaning tower, wiki

Try to not make any mistakes. And if they happen to be made, learn from them. And move on. This is life after all. For what may be considered to be a mistake at one point of time might well become a cause for celebration at a subsequent point of time!

Image by claudmey,
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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Digging To Unearth The Past

Megalithia image

Expect New Discoveries From Stonehenge Excavations

Visualize a structure made of stone in the middle of nowhere. Two large vertical stones, each weighing a few tons, and supporting another, third stone that sits like a lintel on the other two. (Technically known as a trilithon.) The stones being very hard rock, created from sand and glued naturally by silica, and go by the name of "Sarsen" stones.

English Heritage site image

And now visualize not one, but several such trilithons, all arranged in a circle. And then a similar set of trilithons inside this circle, arranged circularly, but not fully closed. Plus, now visualize another set of blue-colored rock, as nicely hewn as can be using crude tools, again concentric around these two trilithon circles. Yes, you get the picture. Circles within circles. One is talking about the Stonehenge of Great Britain.

BBC Image

Now what exactly was the purpose of such a structure? This week, archaeologists from the Bournemouth University and the Society of Antiquaries have begun yet another attempt to find clues to precisely this question.

BBC image

Why this fascination with circles? Rationalists speculate that the construction was used to conduct astronomy studies. You see, the study involving accurately measuring the progress of constellations. Now, just consider this. In an age when farming had just begun, benefits of animal husbandry had just about been discovered, clothing came from peeling hides off animal carcasses, writing was unknown and vocabulary was limited, people had moved out of caves and moved into own-constructed houses ... do you think that the one technology and science that would reach such an exalted level would be Astronomy? So much, as to motivate people to make strenuous efforts across quite possibly many years to mount a project of this size? So much for rationalism.

BBC Image

At the same time, it is a wonder how the heavy lintel stones could be lifted to such heights and placed very gingerly over their two supports. The mind also baulks at the gigantic efforts expended in hauling the stones from miles away. And these are the imponderables that lend that extra dimension to the mystique.

Turner Toys image

As a New Ager, what fascinates me are the engrossing stories about ritualism and spirituality and paganism that have over the centuries grown around the Stonehenge. While one school of thought attributes the structure as the final, resting place of the dead (which the availability of abundant skeletons in the now ongoing excavation will no doubt corroborate), another school of thought attributes to it the center of life and birth, with the centre resembling the human vulva and the birth canal. image

The excavations that the good scientists are carrying out will continue till April 11th, and are being faithfully recorded by the BBC here: There is an excellent animation that zips through the history of the construction down the ages, here:

Sunset at Stonehenge

There is a lot to learn from the ancients. Even if they were wearing clothing that smelt of carcass and used tools for their masonry that were um, less than sophisticated.

Greece Athens image – neolithic figurine of an ithyphallic seated man
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