Saturday, May 14, 2016


Flamingo, photo by Paige Klee


Because the words might mean anything.
If you told me that table means
chair, I’d sink into a cushioned

table and lean back, on the deck
of The Titanic, which means
luxury before a fall

Iceberg happens, but who could deny
that merde might mean
the highest grade of emerald?

In Polish “to cross yourself”
sounds almost like “to say goodbye.”
How could I write in a language

where you cross yourself before
you travel, step into water,
or commit suicide —

as if it’s not enough
to lose the future tense,
intended only for the young.


The Germans panicked when after the war
they got parcels  from America marked
GIFT. In German, Gift means poison.

The Old Germanic root of English “gift”
is giftu, poison.
Did the frost-bound Anglo-Saxons

guess, like the marble Greeks
with their pharmakon,
that a little poison could be a cure?

— though Socrates may have gone
too far, toasting the gods with hemlock,
saying death is no misfortune.


When a friend tells me, I’ll drop
you off,
it sounds — Splat!
like a misfortune, but it is a gift. Even

when we pray, A gift is God in action,
we cannot know if it’s a gift or poison
until later, from the vanishing point.

As we step into the dangerous
waters of memory, having failed

to cross ourselves,

let’s remember the primordial
meaning of “gift” was bride-price.
That’s why we toast To Life,

that dazzling and expensive bride —
a cup of kindness or poison
to cure us of this constant vanishing.

~ Oriana © 2016

It’s the first part of the poem that explains why “I can be a poet only in English.” It’s about the gift of emotional distance conferred by a second language.

The first line used to be “because the words don’t mean anything.” A friend corrected me, pointing out that logically I can’t say that. What I meant was “the words don’t mean anything at the emotional level.” If the word for excrement changed its meaning to “great treasure,” I would have no trouble adapting. Only native speakers would.

But imagine a native speaker of English now live and function in French. She knows what the word “merde” means and avoid tossing it around so as not to appear vulgar. But if instead it meant “compassion,” she’d have no trouble saying, “Merde is the supreme human value.”

I’ve often wondered what kind of poet I’d have become if I’d stayed in Poland — assuming I’d have become a poet at all (probably so, unless I’d never managed to dump Catholicism; then I’d have been too repressed to write). If I stayed in Poland and wrote in Polish as a secular person, a reasonably free mind, then I suspect that yes, I would have become a poet, but an entirely different kind of poet.

I was always playing with the language — as a young teen I loved archaic Polish, for instance, and also loved inventing new words. I didn’t especially like traditional Polish poetry (we were not exposed to the great post-war minimalist poets), but somehow I managed to discover a language poet, Miron Bialoszewski. My guess is that I would have become a language poet, fascinated not by the meaning of words but by their sound and playful transmutations. I might also try to write “intellectual” poems, in imitation of Szymborska. Both language poetry and intellectual poetry rely on detachment, distance. My Polish poetry would probably be heavy on wit and irony.

But personal narratives? Would I be able to write personal narratives in Polish? I can't imagine it. Too intimate, in both positive and negative sense. In the negative sense, for me Polish was the language of politeness, and that involves considerable inhibition. Too much deference, too many taboos.

At the time I wrote “I Can Be a Poet Only in English,” I fully meant it: how could I ever write a love poem in Polish? Yes, it is for me the language of the heart — and I can’t imagine writing a love poem in Polish precisely because it’s the language of the heart. Poetry requires distance, so instead of being flooded with emotions, one can focus on how to arrange words and create art — which can then touch the reader’s heart. It’s a paradox. In poetry, emotion is best expressed indirectly, through images, symbols, metaphor, brief “narrow-slice” narratives. Only then is emotion mysterious and powerful.

Wordsworth said that poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity. That tranquillity was attainable in English, because the words “didn’t mean anything.” They were arbitrary chunks of sound. In Polish the words were too conditioned to evoke emotions.

I have experimented with translating my poems into Polish, and in one case the result was much more powerful in Polish — it’s generally agreed that Polish is more emotionally expressive than English. But the poems were all born in English since more than emotional expressiveness I needed emotional distance to speak about highly charged matters. The poems had to move away not only from the church, but, even more so, from mommy and daddy — and the Mommy and Daddy of the first culture.

And I have moved away. For me, even after decades of living in it, English remains the language of distance — and that’s gloriously liberating.


I’ve been listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” It's better than “Blink,” even if less relentlessly documented. But it was the chapter on aviation safety that really hit home. Gladwell discusses the usual factors involved in crashes, such as bad weather and engine failure, but then he focuses on the degree to which a culture is hierarchical and deferential — a pattern reflected in speech. With special attention to Korean Airlines’ Guam crash in 1997 and the tragic black-box recording, he documents how the crew, speaking in Korean, simply did not dare correct the sleepy, dysfunctional captain. It would have been impolite.

Today the same airline has won awards for its safety. The biggest change? An American advisor was called in. The crew was forced to speak English — after being given more English lessons. Only those who became fluent in “the language of aviation” remained employed (at least according to Gladwell).

As someone who grew up in a deferential culture (at least as a “girl from a good home”) and learned to speak in a polite manner and not question authority, I understand this. When I arrived in the US, I was shocked by the bad manners, the impolite speech. At the same time, my polite expressions (I was trying to translate from Polish, prefacing requests with “Would you be so kind as to . . .”) confused people and even freaked them out. They expected short commands, skipping even “please.” This created clarity: “Open here”; “Exit.” What worked best in a crowded elevator was shouting “Four!” (I discovered this after first trying, “Would you be so kind as to press number 4?”)

But deep inside, I also felt more and more liberated. It wasn’t just that my peers were always saying fuck this and fuck that, those little blasphemies I loved. It was the egalitarianism and assertiveness of the language. Obviously an American co-pilot wouldn’t merely politely hint to the captain that he needed to pull up fast to avoid crashing.

When forced to speak English, the Korean crew had no trouble communicating with clarity, no matter how “rude” it would have sounded in Korean. And they felt comfortable being assertive. 

People who speak more than one language often say that they have a different personality depending on the language. I am softer and more polite in Polish, even if I try to avoid the formal address. A friend of mine says his mother sounded harsh and bossy in English; with her Polish friends, she was soft and charming. In her case, it’s possible to argue that she wasn’t sufficiently at home in English to be able to be charming in her English-language persona. But I am very much at home in English, and yet I too sense a difference. 


How did English become the least aristocratic language, becoming indeed probably the closest we have to the language of equality? I suspect the answer lies mainly in the diverse origins of modern English. It took in so many other languages that it was forced to simplify forms of address, the singular “you” becoming standard usage for everyone. True, it may have originally been meant as the more formal plural you, like the formal French “vous,” but because in English there is no separate grammar to differentiate the singular from the plural (that grammar fell from use not long after the time of Shakespeare), the “you” became direct, singular, and egalitarian.

In German, the respectful form of address is “Sie” — “they” — with verbs that follow reflecting the plural. “Are they satisfied with my essay?” you might address your teacher. I know it sounds funny in English, and practically insane. In Polish, it would be, “Is Mr. Professor satisfied with my essay?” — or simply an equivalent of “gentleman” or “lady.” Up to a certain age — meaning throughout high school — the teacher would reply using the singular “you,” thus maintaining the hierarchy. On my return trips I found the formal address ludicrous, stilted, and simply unbearable.

Here is the view of a Hindi speaker that I found online:

“My native language Hindi and the language I am learning, Japanese, have different pronouns and titles for giving respect to elders, authority and so on.

I hate it with a passion and do away with them as much as possible.

This is a large reason as to why I like English more than my native language.”

Another person on the Internet also commented how English felt a lot more egalitarian to her, and she also felt that her English-speaking teachers treated her in a more egalitarian manner.

To people who speak exclusively English it may not seem like much that you address everyone as simply “you,” and the person — regardless of social status, age, gender, or race, replies to you in the same manner. A five-year old says “you” to the teacher and the teacher says “you” to the child. But in fact this is revolutionary.

Does an egalitarian language automatically create an egalitarian culture? The question makes us instantly aware that there are many factors that create various degrees of hierarchy in a society. So I am forced to give a qualified answer: an egalitarian language does not by itself create an egalitarian culture — but it helps create a more egalitarian culture.

I strongly suspect that a culture can be helped by its language(s), or it can be stunted by the wrong kind of language, e.g. if you have to worry about five degrees of deference, or if it’s not clear if the action has been performed or is only intended. Gladwell gives the example of how Chinese helps children master mathematical operations — the language is already a kind of mathematics, so less translation is needed. 


But in some other respects, it’s English that may be liberating to the Chinese:

“In another study, Chinese-English bilinguals were asked to describe themselves in each respective language and surprisingly their self-esteem and self-description differed depending on the language they were using. In English they reported higher self-esteem and described themselves in more individualistic terms, while in Chinese they perceived themselves mainly as members of groups they belonged to.”

Yet another study mentioned that Chinese women admitted to feeling pain in English, but not in Chinese. Thus English is more likely to be a language of frankness and truthfulness, of less social anxiety. And I can easily imagine an Asian woman saying in her polite native language that she has a happy marriage. But in English it’s likely to be another story.

Again, it’s hard to disentangle language from culture, but it seems to me that highly deferential languages are the languages of lying. These may be only people-pleasing white lies, but if you’re forced to say them every day, then your mind-set is that of lying rather than telling the truth. If the language tends to vagueness and suggestiveness rather than direct expressions, then it’s almost impossible to tell the truth.

Speaking a language that’s primarily a language of politeness rather than a language of equality is like having a faint smile always smeared on your face. Language too is a mask; the languages of politeness practically demand constant pretending. The subtle message is: “You are inferior. It’s forbidden to have thoughts of your own, to think your thoughts and feelings have value.” The constant collectivist message is: “Don’t be yourself.”

Social class and gender are of course heavily involved here. Yet pondering how to render “Religion is the greatest bullshit ever told” into Polish and coming up blank (except for much weaker “nonsense”), I realized that working-class Polish men would probably not have this problem. Yet in English no one, no matter how sheltered and refined, is unfamiliar with “impolite” terms. Profanity is used freely. There is an ugliness to it, yes — but profanity is an act of liberation, defying authority and breaking taboos.

Profanity announces that there are no sacred cows. Anything can be questioned — and that means we can grasp more of the complexity of life. For instance, we no longer have to pretend that motherhood is all sunshine and rainbows. It was in English that I first heard a mother admit that at least once a day she wishes she could flush her kids down the toilet. Now imagine that the word “toilet” is taboo and a woman is forced to use silly terms like “powder room.” Euphemism has its positive uses, but being confined to it is stultifying. Languages that “call a spade a spade” — languages with a wealth of curses rather than terms of politeness — make communication of ideas and feelings easier and more truthful.


~ “In English, my speech is very polite, with a relaxed tone, always saying "please" and "excuse me." When I speak Greek, I start talking more rapidly, with a tone of anxiety and in a kind of rude way . . .”

~ “I find when I'm speaking Russian I feel like a much more gentle, "softer" person. In English, I feel more “harsh,” “businesslike.”

Susan Ervin-Tripp conducted a study in which she asked Japanese-American women to complete sentences she gave them in both Japanese and English. She found that they proposed very different endings depending on the language used. Thus, for the sentence beginning, "When my wishes conflict with my family . . ." one participant's Japanese ending was, ". . . it is a time of great unhappiness," whereas the English ending was, ". . . I do what I want.”

More than forty years later, Baruch College Professor David Luna and his colleagues asked Hispanic American bilingual women students to interpret target advertisements picturing women, first in one language and, six months later, in the other. They found that in the Spanish sessions, the bilinguals perceived women in the ads as more self-sufficient as well as extrovert. In the English sessions, however, they expressed more traditional, other-dependent and family-oriented views of the women.”

However, the author of this article suggests that it’s not the language itself as the cultural context that brings out different personality traits:

“Although divided on the personality issue, most respondents agreed with the fact that different contexts, domains of life and interlocutors–which in turn induce different languages–trigger different impressions, attitudes and behaviors. Thus, as bicultural bilinguals we adapt to the situation or the person we are talking to, and change our language when we need to (see here), without actually changing our personality. One respondent put it very nicely: "... it is not a personality change but simply the expression of another part of our personality that is not shown as strongly in our other language(s)”.

Future research will hopefully use both explicit and implicit tests of attitudes and self-concept as suggested by yet another respondent. This is all the more important as it could be that not everyone is equally apt at judging that they "feel different" when they change language. In a recent study, researcher Katarzyna Ożańska-Ponikwia examined why some people report feeling different while others do not. She asked some 100 bilinguals made up of people who had grown up speaking two languages, immigrants who acquired their second language later on in life, as well as students who had stayed in a foreign country for an extended period of time, to give answers to two personality questionnaires and to give scale values to statements such as, "I feel I'm someone else while speaking English", or "Friends say that I'm a different person when I speak English".

What she found was that only people who are emotionally and socially skilled are able to notice feeling different. According to her, some people do not report changes in their behavior or in their perception or expression of emotions when changing language, not because they do not exist, but because they are unable to notice them. She speculates that it is people with above-average levels of social and emotional skills who can notice that they adapt aspects of their personality and behavior when using another language.”

This "medieval Yoda" was found in a 14th illuminated manuscript known as Smithfield Decretals. It illustrates the story of Samson (don't ask). Oh lovable little demons! Perhaps the human imagination is not infinite after all, but keeps circling around certain patterns. 


I don’t have a definite answer here, but I think this much can be safely said: there is a lot of learning and adaptation that goes along with a language. To me the speakers of English (whether British or American) were dramatically different, and that no doubt brought out different aspects of my personality.

Emotional distance was much easier to me in English — which may come as a surprise to my American friends, who see me as quite emotionally expressive. But words in English don’t provoke a strong emotional reaction in me (simple Pavlovian conditioning seems to be at work here) so I can say (or write ) virtually anything in English — including words whose equivalent would never pass my lips in Polish (don’t forget that I was a “girl from a good home”). This emotional detachment from the words in English gives me a feeling of greater freedom to say anything — but because I am also aware that there could be consequences, I can be more controlled and calculating, depending on the context.

Here are more responses from the Internet:

~ I find that when I'm talking in Arabic, even when I'm not in an Arabic country, I'm a lot shyer and a lot more reserved. I'm also more deferential.

On the other hand, in English I'm a lot more talkative and assertive.”

~ I am equally bilingual in English and Malay yet I have extreme difficulty translating between the two languages. English is a very direct language, while Malay is prone to poetry, analogy, indirect or double meanings.” (Oriana: A language so ideally suited to poetry is the opposite of what you want for aviation safety.)

~ I’ve been living in Japan for 8 years now, and I really noticed a big difference when some Japanese women very fluent in French, and who have lived in France for a while, speak in French or in Japanese.

It might look or sound like a difference of personality or behavior but I think it’s just a cultural adaptation.

When these 2 women (who don’t know each other) speak in French, they’re more prone to irony and speak more frankly; they give their opinion in a more direct way and get onto topics they wouldn’t get onto when speaking in Japanese.

I should also add that the tone of their voices are really different when speaking in French or speaking in Japanese (lower in French, high pitched in Japanese) which gives even more the impression they are 2 different persons depending on the language they speak.

It's less obvious with a young Japanese boy I know when is switching from Japanese to French (well, he uses much more slang and swearwords in French!), or with a really extroverted Japanese girl I knew when she was switching from Japanese to French. Maybe because the way they behave naturally is already closer from the way French behave.

~ When I speak Indonesian, I find myself acting much more humble and shy/embarrassed (malu), and much more conscious of other's relative status, since it's very important to use polite language forms depending on status. I find myself becoming much more indirect and nuanced in my expression, yet cheerful, nosy and sociable in the manner I experience while living in Indonesia (where are you going? what are you doing? etc.) I literally feel more emotional in Indonesian.

~ Going with my native Slavic languages, I'm the proud carrier of the tradition of dark humor (not too dark but just enough to scare people with ethnic jokes). I am relatively conservative in my thoughts and my language/phrases, polite and overly shy.

When it comes to my French, I turn into the light and airy being, full of light and love, and perceive the world to be the same. I bathe in the sounds of the language, the tonality and the melody of its prose.

My English makes me to be an outgoing and positive person, a rather entertaining conversationalist and almost every other phrase that comes out of my mouth is just too witty not to share.

~ When I speak English, I feel more open because the country of origin always reminds me of a more straight-forward approach. When I speak Chinese or Indonesian, I become more reserved because the culture requires me to read between lines in conversation.

Oriana: Some people say that even their voice changes depending on the language. Others, though, insist there is no change in anything.

It’s obvious that culture and language can’t really be considered separately. I feel, however, that certain effects of learning a language later in life are real. If the second language reflects a more egalitarian culture (e..g  addressing everyone as  “you” rather than using deferential forms and the special grammar, indirect grammar that does with them), the speaker is likely to feel more assertive and have a higher self-esteem when using the egalitarian language. They become less timid, less passive, more frank (e.g. Chinese women will admit to feeling more pain if answering in English than in Chinese). If the second language stresses clarity rather than being vaguely poetic, the speaker is likely feel more rational, down-to-earth and businesslike. 

My favorite effect, though, is emotional detachment. When the second language is learned somewhat later in life (the critical factor is not growing up with it), the words don’t have conditioned emotional meanings. As I describe in my poem, curses might as well be endearments, so there is no big taboo against using or that word. Consequently the speaker is less inhibited and more relaxed — anything can be discussed (think of the Japanese women joking and discussing a wide range of subjects — in French).

Of course it takes a sufficient mastery of another language for these benefits. “With each new language, we gain a new soul,” my polyglot Aunt Henia told me. That’s because with a new language a new culture enters our psyche, enriching us. This may be particularly true of cultures that are in some ways more advanced than our culture of origin — for instance, being more egalitarian.


Always be sincere, even if you don't mean it. ~ Harry Truman

THERE IS NOT “TRUE SELF” ANYWAY (so go ahead, create a more vital, happy self)

“I am in the eighth grade. I just won a prize in my Sunday school class for memorizing the most Bible verses. I am a committed Christian. The next week, I read Camus’s The Stranger. There is no God. Later, I score a couple of touchdowns in the big game. I’m a serious jock, and don’t need to waste my time thinking about metaphysics.

But by the time I reached middle age, I still hadn’t discovered my unwavering “I.” Was I a phony? Spineless? Neurotic?

Problem was, the more I tried to uncover this deep self, the more frustrated I became. I could talk all day about my memories, fantasies, dreams, and I could reach some conclusions about what I thought my real identity was. But once I left the therapist's couch, I found that my insights didn't translate into clarity and ease. When I faced the difficult issues of my everyday life, I was just as bewildered and tormented as I had always been.

Reluctantly, I changed psychotherapists. I say reluctantly because I was very drawn to my first psychotherapist's ideas, grounded in the depth psychology of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. I had long studied and admired these thinkers, and was enamored of the idea that rigorous introspection could reveal true identity. 

My new psychotherapist practiced cognitive behavioral therapy, roughly based on the idea that a self is a collection of the habits that we choose to express. Our harmful habits cause our suffering; to ease the pain, create new habits. Making these habits is similar to fashioning a new narrative for ourselves, and acting out that narrative.

A philosophical school behind this kind of psychotherapy is pragmatism, as developed by William James at the turn of the twentieth century. James believed that there are no stable truths, but that truths “happen” (as Robert D. Richardson puts it in his biography of James) to those ideas that help us negotiate our world effectively, elegantly, aesthetically.

James also maintained that the habits we form to express these “truths” are what constitute a self. A psychotherapeutic corollary to this theory is that we won’t get happier by navel-gazing but simply by deciding to behave as a happy person might. Smile more, to put it crudely, and you will feel better.

Recent neuroscience bears out this idea that the “self” is a fabricated narrative. Michael Gazzaniga has shown how the left brain transforms the raw data of the right into meaningful stories. Daniel Dennett has demonstrated that the brain possess no central cognitive unit but rather processes data in several regions. What gives our being a “center of gravity” is language, with which we construct a cogent “I” to which we attribute, as we would to a character in a novel, intention, agency, rationality.

The notion that our identities are novels in the making is exhilarating. It grants us freedom, especially if we are sad, to create a more vital self. And our fictions are in fact not relative. Some are “truer” than others, if by truer we mean those narratives that are most alive, that connect us to the wide world in ways that are surprising, diverse, complex, ironic.

Though the work [of creating lively habits] is arduous, often sorrowful and fraught with failure, it is the artist’s labor, ecstatic, the struggle to transform painful, chaotic experience into orders exuberant and astonishing.”

Sphinx, Neo-Assyrian, 9th-8th century bc


The pragmatic philosophy of William James makes perfect sense. It was revolutionary for his time, and still is: Smile, and you will feel happy. To this I’d add that beta-blockers work better than any metaphysics: a lot of misery is due to the nasty effects of adrenaline.

As for forming new habits: Think Small. “Think Big” is the most disastrous slogan out there. It practically guarantees failure. The principles of Think Small: baby steps, mini-projects, and micro-ambitions. These reinforce focus on the work, not the outcome, and thus practically guarantee success — which builds on itself. “We manage best when we manage small.”

How to be happy? Smiling helps. Fake being happy? Why not — I'm not against it. But I say, do something small — even quite tiny — and do it very well. Do it with excellence, with artistry.

Also, “Remember you are loved” — not necessarily in the sense of romantic love. For me it's often enough to remember that no matter what happens, I have myself — not that I have to define that self. It’s enough that my “self” is happening, interacting with the world — and I'm never bored with that.



One reason I've always hated to talk about my life has been the keen realization that everything I say is false — not a deliberate lie, but an unavoidable partial and false version. Of course that happened too in poems, especially childhood poems: a painful sensation of enormous but inescapable lying, only partly redeemed by artistic merit. 

But I’ve grown easier on myself, knowing that absolute truth is neither knowable nor desirable, and art has to be selective and simplify. Rather than an accurate life story — aside from the important realization that I am not to blame for all the bad things that happened; circumstances played a huge part — it’s more important to have a life philosophy that serves the present, making it worth living. Besides, I can always treasure-hunt and polish the good things I produced in the past, those “inaccurate” poems and prose memories that I enjoy sharing with others.


“Jesus announced the coming of the Kingdom, but it was the Church that arrived.” ~ French theologian Alfred Loisy, 1902. He got excommunicated for this and other insights.

Jesus is never coming back. Never, never, never, never.

Not on the clouds of glory, nor even in a metaphorical way. Simply: never.

This doesn’t sadden me, but the thought that instead of the Kingdom we got the Church is depressing. It is said that Loisy made this remark with a note of regret. A false prophecy is commonplace; most predictions turn out to be wrong. But this was a colossal “wrong coming”. At least Loisy didn’t get burned at the stake, only because he was born late enough in history.

Another controversial position taken by Loisy was his distinction between the pre-Moses period dominated by the religion of El (or Elohim), and the post-Moses period when Yahweh gradually took over. El was the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon.

The best insights are often those that are put in the simplest words: “Jesus announced the coming of the Kingdom, but it was the Church that arrived.” Instead of the divine perfection, a flawed institution that almost instantly became oppressive and corrupt. “The Empire 

never ended." 

Furthermore, the entire message got completely derailed. The point was never dying and the afterlife in some disembodied state — that was never the Hebrew belief (the biblical belief was that life began with the first breath, and ended with the last breath — to exist, you had to be breathing — hence the clumsy notion of resurrection in the body).

No, the afterlife was never the point of the original Christian message. The point was supposed to be the future kingdom of god right here on earth. Deluded, yes, but at least we should take an honest look at what the message really was.

Obesity, especially excessive belly fat, increases the risk of numerous diseases, including diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer. In addition, the cytokines associated with the widespread inflammation related to excessive belly fat directly impair cognitive function. Worse, the effect of excessive belly fat ultimately increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

What would happen if these harmful fats cells were simply removed? Exercise can shrink fat cells but only liposuction can remove them from the body. A group of scientists at the Medical College of Georgia investigated this novel question by conducting three very clever experiments on obese and normal weight mice (Journal of Neuroscience, 2014). First, a group of obese mice were forced to exercise on a treadmill. Unlike the millions of Americans who own treadmills, these mice had no choice but to run. As expected, the daily treadmill exercising reduced belly fat, reduced the level of inflammation in their body, and significantly restructured how their brains’ function at the cellular level leading to greatly improved memory.

In a parallel study, the scientists surgically removed fat pads from a similar group of obese mice, i.e. they underwent a standard liposuction procedure. *The results were identical to those produced by running on the treadmill: inflammation was reduced and the mice became significantly smarter.* These findings confirm many recent studies that have documented the ability of fat cells to impair brain function and accelerate aging.

Then the scientists did something truly astonishing; they transplanted fat pads into normal, healthy weight mice. The impact of the fat cells was immediately obvious: the mice showed increased signs of brain and body inflammation and they developed deleterious changes in brain structure and function that lead to reduced memory performance, i.e. the rats became stupid.

The evidence is now quite overwhelming between increasing levels of body fat and a decline in virtually every aspect of normal brain function. The scientific literature is vast, including over 10,000 published articles that document the precise mechanisms underlying this connection. The relationship has been documented in humans, monkeys, rats and every organism that has been studied.


Of course the gold-standard study would be to randomly assign people to liposuction and control group, and track their aging. This simply can’t be done, so currently only the affluent undergo the removal of excess fat cell (by the way, surgery is not the only method; non-surgical techniques have recently been developed). And the affluent also live longer, but probably due to multiple factors, lower rates of obesity being only one of them.

ending on beauty:

What is of genuine importance is eternal vitality, not eternal life. ~ Nietzsche

This instantly reminded me of Blake’s “Energy is eternal delight.” And somehow that energy finds a venue for itself, the ideas and new areas of growth. It goes both ways: when a goal seizes the imagination, the energy will be found; and when energy is abundant, a goal will be found. Like a mountain river, the eternal vitality rushes on.

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—
Now lending splendor . . .
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.

~ Shelley, Mont Blanc

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