ODYSSEUS IN BARSTOW
If you knew what suffering awaits you,
you would stay with me and be deathless,
croons Calypso of the Tidy Braids —
but bronze-armed Odysseus
only broods on the beach.
His gaze caresses the watery horizon.
He wants his own life, its breakable glory.
He wants to be Odysseus. We praise forever
the man who chose not to be a god.
Yet I wonder: would I choose a life
rich with the journey, yet doomed to lap
at the shore of less and less —
I could sail an infinity of sunsets,
be it shipwrecked in Barstow, California,
in a tract named Desert Meadows,
married beyond return
to a gun collector, TV on loud,
scrawny palm trees rasping in dry wind —
My morning walk, the hills carved in crystal.
Petting the neighbors’ dogs and cats;
returning home to read about Odysseus.
I build a monument of pebbles
to the pebbles in Barstow, California.
Memorialize a dung beetle’s march,
every cloudlet with its knife-blade shadow.
every fissure in the sun-struck ground.
I trace faces of the dead in the dust —
the silent dead who sing life’s siren song:
the mere joy of existence. Even in
Barstow, caressed by the moonlight.
~ Oriana © 2015
Odysseus disguised as a beggar.
This poem is one of my personal favorites. I take joy in announcing that Nietzsche was wrong and what doesn’t kill you does NOT make you stronger. After a traumatic experience, you are lucky if your PTSD isn’t too disabling. It’s being happy and fulfilled and loved by the right person that makes you stronger. The less stressed you are, the better your health and your brain function.
In the same contrarian spirit, unlike Odysseus, if offered immortality I would take it, even at a price. I identify with Odysseus to a significant extent, but I would take immortality. Why? Simply so I could go on having consciousness. I enjoy the company of my mind. There’s never a dull moment; my mind keeps surprising me.
(True, there came a time when depression got to be repetitive and boring; that’s when I became fed up with it and ready to let go.)
I love my own mind. I love having a mind, having a consciousness. Always new adventures! And yes, I can imagine being shipwrecked in a dull place. I don’t need to be “where the action is.” I can take that for a short time only. The favorite part of every trip has always been returning home.
The worst deprivation? Not having a home (home = a refuge from stress; a place where I can be myself and do what I love doing). I am not a wanderer, except in the inner sense. I have to have a base camp, my queendom, my very own corner of the world. I'm like a cat: if I have a home, I am happy.
Remember that at seventeen I left home in a very big way. It wasn’t any kind of “running away from home.” Nor was it a hero’s setting out on a quest. I don’t identify with warrior heroes setting out to kill a dragon. I can’t imagine what woman could, even though the media have introduced female warriors, ludicrous escapist imitations of Superman — tall, athletic women who fight the forces of darkness. They never shop for groceries or change diapers. If such wonder women exist, I know I'm not going to run into them where I live.
Is there even such a thing as a heroine’s journey to begin with? There are patterns in women’s lives: betrayal in love and self-discovery are frequent. Is self-discovery and simply “being yourself” a heroic achievement if you happen to be a woman? Is “having your own life” rather than being mainly a service person to a man still far from what an average woman ends up with?
All we can say is that there is no single “heroine’s journey.” But whatever these journeys are, they are not those of a “warrior princess.”
For a while I strongly identified with an “artist’s journey.” It took a bad wreck, and some related hurtful adventure, to end that particular phase of my life. Again, it was my mind that made me survive the end of what at first seemed infinite. My mind kept whispering that it was still there, and much larger than a device for writing poems, which was challenging but also terribly restrictive and time-devouring.
You may ask, “But isn’t a woman’s journey about love and family?” For most women, that may be true, and the supportive role needs to be honored as much as being the quester and achiever. But for a growing number of women, their journey is neither about achievement nor about raising a family.
Still, there is the importance of affection. The longer I live, the less I worship achievement and the more I treasure affection. Looking at the clasped hands that survive of the statue of the Pharaoh Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti and Beautiful (1350 bc), I feel that the most important part survived.
Likewise, I’ve come to see cooperation as an essential part of achievement, not just the lonely individual struggle.
But, above all, life is much larger than “achievement.” That’s where “mere existence” comes in. It’s fantastic simply to be alive, taking in the astonishing world, both the outside world and the the thoughts mysteriously arising, like clouds passing through the sky.
Even in Barstow, to see the moon is a joy. To smell the wind. To hear the coyotes laugh in the hills.
As long as there is consciousness to take it in, just to exist is transcendent.
HAROLD BLOOM: YAHWEH AND JESUS ARE INCOMPATIBLE; THERE IS NO “JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION”
There is no Judeo-Christian tradition anymore than there could be, say, a Christian-Islamic tradition.
~ "Harold Bloom: All through the Hebrew Bible, the prophets perpetually proclaim that the Jewish people, that Israel, has failed to keep the covenant with Yahweh. Nowhere do they say what is palpably true on the basis of Jewish history and of human history in general, which is that Yahweh has failed to keep his covenant with the people.
I say in the book again and again that when Yahweh, which is the name of the high god ultimately in the Hebrew Bible, that when Yahweh is asked by Moses to give Moses his name and in the Hebrew, Yahweh punning on his own name, massively says, ‘Tell them that [words in Hebrew] has sent you’, which is translated in the King James Bible ultimately as ‘I am that I am’, which I translate in order to get it into an English that will make sense, ‘I will be present wherever and whenever I choose to be present’, which also implies its rather frightening corollary, ‘And I will absent wherever and whenever I choose to be absent’. It seems to me that he has chosen to be absent throughout most of human history, including Jewish history.
NPR: Well, if Jesus is like Hamlet for you, Yahweh, the God of the Hebrew Bible, comes closest to King Lear, a passionate, impulsive figure.
Prof. BLOOM: I think that Shakespeare probably founds his extraordinary figure of King Lear — irascible, jealous, intense, immensely awesome, angry, bereft, dangerous — on the Geneva Bible's version of — which is essentially not very different from what is now the authorized, the King James...
There are four different layers in the five books of Moses. The original strata of Yahweh as written by the author we call the Yahwist is of a remarkably impish kind of a person. He is not God the Father. He is something of a mischief maker. He conducts on-the-ground inspections all the time to satisfy his curiosity. He is very much a human being. He prefers the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden because evidently he gets hot as human beings get hot. He picnics on the side of Mount Sinai with Moses and 70 elders of Zion, who stare at him silently while he sits there silently and he eats and they eat. He closes the door of Noah's ark with his own hands. With his own hands, he buries his prophet, Moses.
And most of all, with his own hands, at the beginning, almost like a child playing with a mud pie, he plays with the moistened Earth and makes there a figurine. And then he breathes life into that figurine, and man becomes, as the Hebrew Bible says, a living soul and this is Adam. That is not what most people, I admit, think of as God.
God the Father is a later invention, on the one hand, of the Talmudical rabbis but primarily of Christian theology when they devise the Trinity, when Jesus of Nazareth, the more or less historical figure, has become an absolutely different figure, a Greek dying and reviving, God, a theological God. Yahweh is not a theological God at all. He is a human, all-too-human God.
The basic argument of this book, “Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine,” is that we have three very different personages or beings: the more or less historical Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew of the first century of the common era; the Greek theological formulation, or God, Jesus Christ; and the original God of the Hebrews, now greatly shrunken into God the Father, Yahweh, he who will be present wherever and whenever he chooses to be present and will keep himself absent when perhaps we most want him and need him. These three figures are so incompatible with one another that I don't believe it is possible to bring them coherently together in any single statement. They come out of totally different realms of discourse. Trying to think them together is really an act of psychic violence.
The operations of the mind have got to become extremely distorted in order to bring the more or less historical Jesus, the Greek theological God Jesus Christ and the human, all-too-human God, Yahweh, into some coherent relationship. The normal processes of thought are being disturbed, and an act of imposition is taking place.
NPR: Now you write that a Messiah who is God and who dies on the cross as an atonement for sins is irreconcilable with the Hebrew Bible. Why is that?
Prof. BLOOM: Yahweh does not commit suicide. And if one is to take the argument of Christianity, then Yahweh is, in effect, committing suicide through his supposed son. Yahweh also does not, even as a descending dove upon a human female virgin, bring forth a son. This is material that comes to one out of Greek and pagan traditions but has nothing to do with traditional Judaism.
I quote the great scholar of Hebraic matters Jacob Neusner as saying, "Judaism and Christianity are different groups of people talking different languages about different Gods to very different people." There is no Judeo-Christian tradition anymore than there could be, say, a Christian-Islamic tradition.
Whether 50 years from now, there will be of the 14 million now self-identified Jews more than a mere scattering, I would not be prepared to say. What that means about the existence of Yahweh is also a very interesting question. He is, after all, covenanted. Would he survive the disappearance of the Jewish people if that, indeed, is what happens? I do not know. I may, as I say, lack trust in the covenant, but though I keep asking Yahweh to go away, I say so many times in this book, he won't go away. He haunts me.
It struck me way back, in my teens, that no Hebrew prophet speaks of Yahweh as “my father” — it’s The Lord, it’s “Boss.” Then comes Jesus, who seems to be a messenger of an entirely different god, a non-punitive god (there are exceptions, but the non-punitive god shines through) — a god endowed with radical non-judgment and compassion entirely uncharacteristic of the times. I agree that trying to reconcile the two testaments is an act of psychic violence. And it doesn’t work. As Bloom observes, Jesus is a dying-and-resurrecting Greek mystery god. Yahweh is not the sort of deity who’d commit suicide, even with the idea of resurrection later. He’s too full of ego for that.
I like Bloom’s parallel between Yahweh and King Lear. I would add: the need for flattery. That’s a very strong trait the two have in common.
ALREADY THE GNOSTICS OBJECTED TO THE RETENTION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
The observation that the Old Testament and the New are incompatible is not exactly new. The Gnostics were a major group who said, "Look, no way was Jesus the son of Yahweh. Yahweh is evil. Jesus is the messenger of the true god." They were entangled in the imaginary, but at least their true god (Pleroma, or "fullness") wasn't as distasteful. There was also a major figure of Sophia, Wisdom, who also was the Divine Feminine. The Gnostics were seen as such powerful opposition to the church that they were exterminated. As usual, Catholicism triumphed by exterminating the opposition. The first time they failed was with Luther (there was of course a price on his head).
There were other voices calling for letting go of the Old Testament god and making Christ the sole deity — but those were mainly “heretics” who got burned at the stake. Then came Swedenborg, who doesn’t make an explicit case for dropping Yahweh, but simply pays no attention to the archaic deity. Swedenborg’s god is Christ. But Swedenborg did not attract many followers. The denomination exists to this day — I stumbled into a Swedenborgian church in Boston — but to avoid extinction, the church has latched on to New Age concepts.
Still, the voices calling for liberation from the Old Testament exist, but they are feeble and scattered. I think the movement will gain strength in the coming decade: why don’t we just drop the Old Testament, and make Christianity about Christ? Let’s take only those stories which we find inspiring (this would mean excluding some of the New Testament too). Let’s focus only on that which we find uplifting, which helps us live. But that’s still a huge step, and people are still too timid. And most people are too indifferent, and don’t want to think about the difficult issues. And after all, which are talking about choosing between two unreal beings!
By the way, the selective approach would mean that we don’t “revere” the ancient texts as revelation — or else claim the authority to decide which stories we will accept. That is close to saying, “We will decide what in here strikes as as holy and gives us moral guidance; the rest is an archaic encumbrance.” It would be an admission of how human, all too human, the whole enterprise is. We would know we are dealing with mythology.
The elevation of Jesus to the status of deity required the invention of the Trinity. Well, a binary deity was possible, but three was a magical number, and the Greeks were already familiar with one god in three forms, though this seemed a more female pattern: Maiden-Mother-Crone.
The divinity of Jesus was precarious, given the Jewish origins of Christianity. There could hardly be a greater blasphemy to the Jews than to say that Yahweh had a mortal son with a mortal woman — though later this son sat on the right hand of Yahweh, and was actually co-eternal with his father, his stay on earth having been only temporary. The church was defensive about the concept of the Trinity. We were warned against trying to use reason (because reason will always choose against god, and god must be chosen at any price) — but we especially warned not to even try to understand the Trinity. It was forbidden to think about the Trinity.
Fortunately children have no particular inclination to contemplate the mysteries of the Trinity. I was more interested by far in why “Mr. God” (as we politely called him) was hiding — why didn’t he show himself, why didn't he speak, or at least give a sign? Why didn't he answer prayers? Those, to me, were the burning questions, and not the Trinity.
Even so, I was suspicious of the foreign, Hebrew roots of Christianity. Why were we learning about a remote place with camels and deserts, and people who worshiped by slaughtering lambs? And back then I didn’t even know that the Catholic mass was based on the Temple ritual of animal sacrifice. But that gets into yet another angle of the awkward fusion of the Old and the New Testaments. Even as a child I sensed that it was not a good fit.
STEPHEN MITCHELL AND “THE REAL GOD”
Mitchell: “People have been trying to rationalize God’s lies for thousands of years. These stories are very powerful and are at the root of our culture. But you have to realize that the God of Genesis is a human creation, and not the God at the center of the universe,” says the celebrated translator Stephen Mitchell in an interview with Psychology Today, November/December 1996. Later he speaks of “the ultimate intelligence of the universe, which some call God or Tao.”
Mitchell states that he believes that there is absolute justice in the universe, but not in the sense of punishment and reward — more in the sense of surrender to whatever happens and bearing it with grace, without resentment, trusting that all is as it should be (I dare say: here is someone who didn’t grow up under a dictatorship, raised by an Auschwitz survivor . . . who, by the way, was not broken by her camp experience, in a way bearing out what Mitchell says)
Mitchell’s wife, Byron Katie, said about him, “Stephen is brave enough to be married to the impersonal.” Maybe more and more people are becoming brave enough to regard the divine in impersonal terms, but there is still a craving for a someone or something “out there” that cares. We can’t help it: we want the universe to be friendly.
“SPIRITUAL NO MORE”: TO HEAVEN AND BEYOND (redux)
The last time I set foot in a New Age bookstore I happened to be in Encinitas, that Mecca of New Age eclectic esoterica. In one of the several Lotus-something bookstores, I saw the title “To Heaven and Beyond.” AND BEYOND — as in Bed, Bath, and Beyond, a realm beyond mere bedrooms and bathrooms, new horizons that open as you part the shower curtain.
“To heaven and BEYOND.” Heaven is not enough any more. Heaven is so yesterday!
I stood there with a smile on my face – and suddenly the title of my third book came to me. You see, years ago I had an unforgettable dream of trying to save the manuscripts of my three wisdom books from the fire — then realized they were charred beyond salvaging and I’d have to re-create them. The title of the first one was The Serpent and the Dove (“Be ye as subtle as the serpent and gentle as the dove”).
It took me many years after the dream to “see” the titles of the other two books. The title of the second book was to be Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet. The third book remained a puzzle until the doors of perception were cleansed that evening in Encinitas and I saw it: Spiritual No More.
And the weight I didn’t even know I was carrying fell off me, and a feeling of great joy enveloped me as I ascended into clarity.
Now I can agree with Mary Oliver’s “You don’t have to be good” if I translate it into “You don’t have to be spiritual.”
Furthermore, I’d like to translate “what the animal of your body loves doing” to “what your mind loves doing.” If my mind is happy, my body is also happy.
I had this thought before, but now the realization was complete: instead of attending lectures on emptiness, chanting, meditation classes and the like (all wonderful for those who find nourishment in those activities), I needed to spend more of my time doing what I loved doing. Insights tend to have a stunning simplicity. Mine was: FORGET “SPIRITUALITY.” JUST DO WHAT YOU LOVE DOING.
Well, of course, a friend indulgently smiled. That stuff is for people who still haven’t figured out what to do with their lives. And I did, quite a while back, but I kept having crises and doubting my vocation.
I love having insights, especially life-changing paradigm shifts. Imagine — released from having to attend lectures on emptiness! No more chanting, unless seized by a sudden nostalgia for those vibrations setting up an odd tingling in my nose . . . No more the stench of incense, which I always hated, going back to my Catholic childhood. No more twangy music, no more wind chimes jangling my nerves.
The energy and sense of effortless accomplishment that comes from doing what you love, and afterwards, blissfully tired, falling asleep smiling to yourself — it’s a magnificent surprise. It’s “beyond heaven,” that dull place with nothing to do. It’s the bliss of knowing, pardon the trite expression, that you are on the right path.
You can imagine people’s consternation when they’d say to me — out of habit, I suspect — “I'm a spiritual seeker,” and I would calmly reply, “I'm not.”
I wasn’t trying to shock or offend. I was trying to give them the courage to drop the cliché. It’s OK NOT to be a spiritual seeker, to be on a perpetual quest. Perhaps you’ve already found a place where you feel at home and do your best work. That place won’t necessarily remain the same for the rest of your life, no. But life will evolve as it will, quite without the aid of seeking aid from “spirit guides.” If anything, that’s trying to be too controlling. The unconscious does its best work without such meddling. Just wait.
I realized that all my “spiritual” thrashing around — normally described as “seeking” or “quest” — was like staying in a relationship with the wrong person. And there is a terrific difference between a “default” infatuation and being in love with the right person.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL’S “SPIRITUAL PRACTICE”
Some people are likely to ask, “But isn’t writing your spiritual practice?” No. To me writing is writing. It’s not a ritual. It’s not the least bit like prayer (at least as I’ve experienced prayer — practically the opposite of writing, which wells up from the unconscious, and progresses by a “stairway of surprise,” as Dickinson put it).
For me writing is writing, just as a tree is a tree. How magnificent to see a tree as a tree, in its beautiful tree-ness, and not a “manifestation of the Spirit.” I see only the tree and the wind in the leaves, and love the tree as a tree and the wind as wind.
Others are welcome to see the tree as the Spirit, or Gaia, or the more archaic the Earth Goddess, or Intelligent Design. “It’s a free country,” as people in Milwaukee were always telling me (oh Milwaukee, the city where I learned to say “It’s a free country,” as well as quickly mastered all the “bad words” in English).
From a poem of mine:
The same moon moved between
darkness and light-wounded clouds,
winter’s hungry Wolf Moon,
adding phantom beauty to beauty.
“That is all,” the master said.
That is all but it is splendid.”
as I see the Spirit of Milwaukee
I don’t have any special time set aside for writing. It’s not a practice – it’s writing. I write whenever quiet opens up and thoughts arise like the flight of an owl. Non-fiction prose is effortless, inspiration abundant. With poetry, it’s been more of a love-hate relationship. In the case of poetry, I write if the knocking of words inside my head becomes too painful to ignore.
Deep reading actually comes ahead of writing. Joseph Campbell was once asked, “What kind of spiritual practice do you have?” He replied, “I underline in pencil sentences in a book.” Now that brings a big smile to my face. Yes, that’s my “spiritual practice” too.
At the same time, I am happy to announce a new arrival in my scriptorium: a heart geode – it could also be called a womb geode. It’s gorgeous: beautifully polished, lined with a wealth of amethyst crystals. It’s the most beautiful thing in the house, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned. We carry on little conversations, the geode and I. “Amethyst” means “not intoxicated.” In the past, my chief intoxication has been delusional, depressive thinking. Amethyst, a philosopher’s stone, keeps me cool-headed. How can I sweat the small stuff with such beauty next to me showing me what’s really important?
Crystals. Geodes. This may sounds like a throwback “spirituality.” But that’s the part of me that has always worshiped beauty. Creating and sharing beauty is at the center of my vocation. Beauty for the sake of sheer delight in beauty — not beauty as “spirit” or “pathway to the divine.” Why try to put unreal labels on the real?
Tree as tree, amethyst as amethyst. A crystal I can endow with a personal meaning, but above all a crystal whose physical structure is more profound that any theology. All actual beauty is more profound than any pathetic, world-rejecting theology (and they all reject the world for the “beyond,” don’t they?).
A friend observed, “So you too are a crystal-waving rationalist. Welcome to the sisterhood.”
At last I belong.
DOES EVERYTHING HAPPEN FOR A REASON?
When people have to cope with difficult situations in their lives, they sometimes reassure themselves by saying that everything happens for a reason. For some people, thinking this way makes it easier to deal with relationship problems, financial crises, disease, death, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes. It can be distressing to think that bad things happen merely through chance or accident. But they do.
The saying that everything happens for a reason is the modern, New Age version of the old religious saying: “It’s God’s will.” The two sayings have the same problem – the complete lack of evidence that they’re true. Not only is there no good evidence that God exists, we have no way of knowing what it is that he (or she) wanted to happen, other than that it actually did happen. Did God really will that hundreds of thousands of people die in an earthquake in one of the world’s poorest countries? What could be the reason for this disaster and the ongoing suffering of millions of people deprived of food, water, and shelter?
Why do people find it reassuring that the Haiti earthquake happened for a reason such as the will of God, when such terrible events suggest a high degree of malevolence in the universe or its alleged creator? Fortunately, such events can alternatively (and with good evidence) be viewed as the result of accidents, and possibly even of chance.
The idea that chance is an objective property of the universe was advocated in the nineteenth century by the great American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, who called this doctrine tychism, from the Greek word for chance. Scientific support for the doctrine came in the twentieth century with the development of quantum theory, which is often interpreted as implying that some events such as radioactive decay are inherently unpredictable.
Even if events that affect human lives do not happen by quantum chance, many of them should be viewed as happening by accident, in the sense that they are the improbable result of the intersection of independent causal chains. The deaths in Haiti, for example, came about because of the results of many causal chains, primarily (1) the historical events that led to millions of people living near Port-au-Prince, and (2) the seismic events occurring in the tangle of tectonic faults near the intersection of two crustal plates. These deaths were accidental in that the intersection of the unconnected causal chains was unpredictable. Neither history nor seismology are random, but their intersections often are so unforeseeable that we should call them accidental.
The doctrine that everything happens for a reason has intellectual variants. The German philosopher Hegel maintained that in historical development the real is rational and the rational is real. Similarly, before the recent meltdowns in the financial system, it was a dogma of economic theory that individuals and markets are inherently rational. Some naïve evolutionary biologists and psychologists assume that all common traits and behaviors must have evolved from an optimizing process of natural selection. In history, economics, biology, and psychology, we should always be willing to consider evidence for the alternative hypothesis that some events occur because of a combination of chance, accidents, and human irrationality. For example, Keynes attributed financial crises in part to “animal spirits”, by which he meant the emotional processes that can make people swing between irrational exuberance and pessimistic despair.
But if the real isn’t rational, how can we cope with life’s disasters? Fortunately, even without religious or New Age illusions, people have many psychological resources for coping with the difficulties of life. These include cognitive strategies for generating explanations and problem solutions, and emotional strategies for managing the fear, anxiety, and anger that naturally accompany setbacks and threats. Psychological research has identified many ways to build resilience in individuals and groups, such as developing problem solving skills and strong social networks. Life can be highly meaningful even if some things that happen are just accidents. Stuff happens and you deal with it.
(from another article)
Not everyone would go as far as the atheist Richard Dawkins, who has written that the universe exhibits “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” But even those who are devout should agree that, at least here on Earth, things just don’t naturally work out so that people get what they deserve. If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen.
We should resist our natural urge to think otherwise.”
GREAT CHANGES I’VE WITNESSED OVER THE DECADES
I’m pondering the great changes I've witnessed:
less abusive child rearing — I think this is the foundation of many other psychological changes
more respectful treatment given to the average person (the "dignitarian revolution" — human rights for everyone, greater kindness to animals); women’s right, children’s rights, animal rights
the older generation is more affluent than the younger one; a reversal of help between generations
greater cultural diversity, an opening up of America to cuisine beyond hamburger and meatloaf, and various kinds of "artsiness"; the decline of religion, the conservatives losing the "culture wars”
HIGH LEVELS OF STRESS-INDUCED GLUTAMATE IN BRAIN MAY KICK-START SCHIZOPHRENIA
An excess of the brain neurotransmitter glutamate may cause a transition to psychosis in people who are at risk for schizophrenia, reports a study from investigators at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) published in the current issue of Neuron.
The findings suggest 1) a potential diagnostic tool for identifying those at risk for schizophrenia and 2) a possible glutamate-limiting treatment strategy to prevent or slow progression of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders.
In patients who progressed to schizophrenia, the researchers found the following pattern: First, glutamate activity increased in the hippocampus, then hippocampus metabolism increased, and then the hippocampus began to atrophy.
Theoretically, this dysregulation of glutamate and hypermetabolism could be identified through imaging individuals who are either at risk for or in the early stage of disease. For these patients, treatment to control glutamate release might protect the hippocampus and prevent or slow the progression of psychosis. Early intervention may prevent the debilitating effects of schizophrenia, increasing recovery in one of humankind’s most costly mental disorders.
In an accompanying commentary, Bita Moghaddam, PhD, professor of neuroscience and of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, suggests that if excess glutamate is driving schizophrenia in high-risk individuals, it may also explain why a patient’s first psychotic episodes are often caused by periods of stress, since stress increases glutamate levels in the brain.”
ending on beauty:
TWO OWLS IN LOS ANGELES
They fly over the roofs
in a ghostlike flight;
disappear into a tree
like the night into the night.
Then they perch in parallel,
each on a TV antenna.
Absolute in upright stillness,
silent overlap of feathers,
urn-shaped bodies on the metal branches
that draw signals from pale city sky,
the owls are ambassadors,
come to relay messages
even to us,
unvisited as we are
by the gods.
Only my lover and I,
meeting here in secret,
~ Oriana © 2015
THERE IS NO JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION
The interview with Harold Bloom is powerful. “Trying to think of them [Yahweh and Jesus] together is really an act of psychic violence.”
SANTA CLAUS FOR ADULTS
One attempt to avoid the psychic violence of putting together a god of punishment with a god of mercy has been to get rid of the god of punishment (GOP) and retain only Christ — Swedenborg is among those who tried. This is emotionally much more comfortable, but it reveals wishful thinking with screaming clarity. A convincing deity should be not exactly as we'd like it to be, not simply a mirror of our desires. But then if god is an emergent phenomenon, as some have argued (on the basis of chaos theory, no less — science!), then it's surprising that anything but a sweetheart kind of god, totally nurturing, purely benevolent, has not universally emerged. It's a minority belief associated with liberal Christianity, and liberal Christianity is declining fast, while the punitive fundamentalist churches are the only ones to have shown growth.
It seems that, on the whole, children who grow up in nurturing families are attracted to the idea of a merciful god (and tend to grow up to be politically liberal), while children who grow up in punitive families tend to believe in a punitive god and become politically conservative.
But it’s possible that a merciful god is more obviously non-existent — a Santa Claus for adults — unless you admit it’s an imaginary friend you create now and then to help you in crisis situations. Likewise, if you start thinking about matters such as “Does it really make sense that Eve was created from Adam’s rib?” — without expecting to be thrust into hell for asking that question — you may distance yourself from the mythology a lot sooner, and stop attending your nice, liberal church. I’m speculating here.
As an aside, 12-Step programs realize that many (perhaps most) people were raised with toxic theologies, so they encourage imagining the kind of god you’d like to exist — again, a Santa Claus for adults. For some, it apparently works! Having a supportive group seems to be a primary factor behind what effectiveness those programs do have, but the idea of a helping, benevolent deity may also be of use. The brain is very flexible, and will usually do whatever serves survival, never mind the pursuit of truth.