Sunday, February 5, 2017


The Eternal Feminine: Tripoli, Libya: laundry prevails over bullet holes.


       He had stopped believing in the goodness of the world. ~ Henry James

I think it is all light at the end, I think it is air.

Those fields we drove past, turning to mud in April,
Those oaks with snow still roosting in them. Towns so small
Their entire economy suffered if a boy, late at night,
Stole the bar’s only pool cue,

In one of them, you bought an old quilt, which, fraying
Still seemed to hold the sun, especially in one
Bright corner, made from what they had available in yellow
In 1897. It reminded me of laughter, of you. And some woman
Whose faith in the goodness of the world was
Stubborn, sewed it in. “There now,” she might as well
Have said, as if in answer to the snow, which was

Merciless. “There now,” she seemed to say, to
Both of us. “Here’s this patch of yellow. One field gone
Entirely into light. Good bye…” We had become such artists

At saying good-bye; it made me wince to look at it.
Something at the edge of the mouth, something familiar
That makes the mouth turn down. An adjustment.

It made me wince to have to agree with her there, too.
To say the day, itself, the fields, each thread
She had to sew in the poor light of 1897,
were simply gifts. Because she must be dead now, &
Anonymous, I think she had a birthmark on her cheek;
I think she disliked Woodrow Wilson and the war;
And if she outlived one dull husband, I think she
Still grew, out of spite and habit, flowers to give away.

If laughter is adult, and adjustment to loss,
I think she could laugh at the worst. When I think of you both,

I think of that one square of light in her quilt,
Of women, stubborn, believing in the goodness of the world.
How next year, driving past this place, which I have seen
for years, & steadily, through the worst weather, when
the black of the Amish buggies made the snow seem whiter,
I won’t even have to look up.
I will wince and agree with you both, & past the farms
Abandoned to moonlight, past one late fire burning beside
A field, the flame rising up against the night
To take its one solitary breath, even I

Will be a believer.

~ Larry Levis

If I had to condense the poem to its essence, it would be this:

You bought an old quilt, which, fraying
Still seemed to hold the sun, especially in one
Bright corner, made from what they had available in yellow
In 1897. It reminded me of laughter, of you. And some woman
Whose faith in the goodness of the world was
Stubborn, sewed it in. “There now,” she might as well
Have said, as if in answer to the snow, which was

Merciless. “There now,” she seemed to say, to
Both of us. “Here’s this patch of yellow. One field gone
Entirely into light. Good bye…”

It made me wince to have to agree with her there, too.
To say the day, itself, the fields, each thread
She had to sew in the poor light of 1897,
were simply gifts. Because she must be dead now, &
Anonymous, I think she had a birthmark on her cheek;
I think she disliked Woodrow Wilson and the war;
And if she outlived one dull husband, I think she
Still grew, out of spite and habit, flowers to give away.

. . . I think she could laugh at the worst. When I think of you both,

I think of that one square of light in her quilt,
Of women, stubborn, believing in the goodness of the world.

Please indulge me as I repeat these are the summary lines:

I think of that one square of light in her quilt,
Of women, stubborn, believing in the goodness of the world.

Of course just making a quilt is an act of hope, optimism. “First, you need a warm blanket,” as my mother memorably said, she who knew about survival. It’s said that a society depends for its continuation more on its women than its men (aside from women doing the child-bearing). If that’s true, then perhaps it’s due to women’s greater involvement in the domestic side of life — cooking, cleaning, taking care of others in a myriad of ways. “Life goes on” women seem to be saying simply by keeping busy with their usual chores.

This is an exquisite poem, marvelously worded and imagined. It makes the unknown 19th century woman who made the quilt come to life again, with her stubborn belief in quilting and gardening and life in general. I apologize for oversimplifying it by focusing on “central meaning.”

It is a multilayered poem. There is of course mortality — winter and maybe “going into the light” — dying into the light, dying into god if we want to substitute a a cosmic and more or less benevolent god for the archaic tribal tyrant still peddled by those who think that only their small group deserves eternal life (after death, that is). And not just life, but warmth, bliss, unfailing affection — knowing you’re good, you belong.

The poem also mentions the constant saying of good-bye, including the break-up of relationships. Why would two people put time and energy into creating a complex pattern of cooperation, only to start tearing at the costly fabric? Or, to shift metaphors, wouldn’t that be an amputation an arm or a leg, bleeding and hurting? Do people get better at it, or is the cost ever greater with age?

Still, the central issue remains — can one believe that the world is good? That life, at bottom, is good and worth living? There may come a time when it isn’t — and that’s when the unconscious makes the decision to die. Not all life is worth living. But on the whole, there is an elemental pleasure in simply existing. Because anything might happen. And that’s interesting.

“The Quilt” is the kind of poem that can be read again and again — which is highest praise.

Bronze statue of a woman, 3rd century b.c., found in 1994 in the sea near Kalymnos, Greece

Tadeusz Rozewicz has a wonderful poem about old women. Here is an excerpt:

Hamlet flails in a snare
Faust plays a base and comic role
Raskolnikov strikes with an axe

old women
are indestructible
they smile knowingly

god dies
old women get up as usual
at dawn they buy bread wine fish
civilization dies
old women get up at dawn
open the windows
cart away waste
man dies
old women
wash the corpse
bury the dead
plant flowers
on graves

. . .

their sons discover America
perish at Thermopylae
die on the cross
conquer space

old women leave at dawn
to buy milk bread meat
season the soup
open the windows

The woman quilter could also be Captain Ahab's wife in the cartoon.

~ “There have been times that I’ve nearly canceled a teaching trip because I just didn’t want to leave my dog. There’s so much research now that having a pet — experiencing that sense of warmth and connection — increases longevity and happiness. The other side of the equation is that when there is a deficit of connection, there is loneliness and depression.

The wounds in our lives are so often related to severed belonging and the ways that we, in some way, get split off from the feeling that who we are is okay. Through our families and our culture, we get the message that something is wrong with us. We split off because we get hurt or because another has not been able to stay with us.

In the earliest phases of our lives, what we most need from a parent is the sense that we are known and loved. In Buddhism, these expressions of awake awareness—understanding and caring—are often described as the two wings of a bird: they are interdependent, and intrinsic to our wellbeing. On this path of healing and awakening, bringing these two wings to our own inner life and to our relationships with others is what I sometimes think of as spiritual re-parenting.

The beginning of healing is recognizing suffering and asking the question: Where does it hurt? Seeking to understand, offering our interested presence, is the first wing of spiritual re-parenting. Just as the concerned parent, seeing their child upset, angry, withdrawn, would want to know what’s going on, we can learn to bring interest to our inner life and gently ask ourselves: What is going on inside? Where does it hurt?

A challenge is that, while we might get in touch with feelings of loneliness, shame, or being unloved by others, when we don’t know how to be with those raw emotions, we are quick to leave. Judgment is one of the main ways that we leave when things feel difficult. We blame ourselves, get angry, judge others. Or we numb out. Or we distract ourselves.

There’s a story of a wise old sage who lived deep in the wilderness. The people seeking wisdom from him had to travel through dangerous jungles and forests for days to get to him. Once they arrived, he would swear them to silence and then he would say, Okay, I have one question for you. What are you unwilling to feel?

The second part of spiritual re-parenting — expressing our care — arises as we learn to stay. When a child is angry or upset, what do we do? We stay with them until they can get in touch with what it is they are really needing. In the same way, we can commit to staying with our own inner experience, no matter what it is. And as we get in touch with what those hurting places really want or need, our caring can naturally flower into an engaged, nurturing presence.

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,
"Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud;
Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to

~ Hafiz



It’s been suggested that few people grow up the feeling they are OK. Many of us worry about hidden and obvious flaws, defects, and incompetencies. Now imagine becoming an immigrant. Even if you don’t encounter outright prejudice (though that’s usually just a matter of time), your feeling that you are an OK person is bound to be shaken. Simply being different can do it. Having trouble with the language and social customs is bound to do it.

And this brings me to . . .


~ “Myth: Psychological distress among refugees is primarily the result of war-related violence and loss. 
    Fact: Distress among refugees is related just as powerfully to life in exile as it is the violence and destruction of war.

In study after study, it turns out that distress among refugees is related as strongly to so-called “post-migration stressors” as it is to experiences of war-related violence and loss. What happens to people after they become refugees affects their mental health just as powerfully as whatever they experienced during the war. It’s counter-intuitive, but true, and a consistent finding across studies of refugees from numerous war zones living in diverse settings.

For refugees in camps, life entails continuous exposure to overcrowded and inadequate housing, a lack of access to adequate nutrition and medical care, unemployment and severe poverty, heightened family violence, sexual assault in and around the camps, separation from relatives left behind, and a chronic sense of uncertainty regarding the future—life on indefinite hold. These stressful conditions are powerfully linked to depression, anxiety, and trauma. They also deplete people’s psychological resources for coping with war-related traumatic experiences. It’s a lot tougher to heal from the violence and loss of war when confronted with high levels of chronic stress and uncertainty.

And what about refugees living in more highly developed Western nations? The findings are surprisingly similar to those for refugees in camps. In a recent review paper, my colleague Andrew Rasmussen and I identified a consistent set of post-migration stressors that threaten refugees’ mental health and undermine their resilience and capacity to heal from experiences of war-related trauma and loss. Social isolation, discrimination, heightened family violence, poverty, the loss of social networks, and especially indefinite detention while their applications for asylum are pending, all take a powerful toll on mental health. Although war-related violence clearly contributes to distress among refugees, a narrow focus on war trauma can lead us to overlook current stressors that may account for much of the distress we are seeing.

Psychiatrist Allen Keller and colleagues found that being granted asylum and gaining release from detention markedly reduced depression among asylum seekers in the U.S. Psychologist Jessica Goodkind and her colleagues have shown that helping refugees develop new social networks can significantly improve their psychological wellbeing and reduce emotional distress. And researchers at the International Rescue Committee have shown through a randomized controlled trial that a community-based intervention was able to significantly reduce harsh and abusive parenting in refugee families, a key source of toxic stress affecting children that often spikes among refugees as a result of chronically heightened parental stress.” ~


I’ve given a lot of thought to "immigrant trauma," and found my best clue in the finding that the "loss of the familiar" sets off all the alarm bells in the amygdala region. After the anxiety stage comes depression, or at least an immense sadness, as if mourning multiple deaths. Talk about the loss of connection!

Then there is the feeling of no longer being an OK person. There can also be a lot of embarrassment since at first you — not long ago a competent, well-skilled person in your native culture — don't know how to do the simplest things in the new place. For instance, I didn't know the meaning of "dime" and "nickel," so paying for things and receiving change turned out to be challenging (until one kind person taught me about coins).

Section of the Seasons of the Year, fresco by Petras Repšys at Vilnius University

Refugee writers and poets have given us works such as Lolita, Doctor Faustus, The House of Spirits, the essays of Joseph Brodsky and the poems and essays of Czeslaw Milosz (including The Captive Mind). Here are just two entries:

Theodor Adorno, “The Authoritarian Personality” (1950)
Country of origin: Germany
Reasons for leaving: After being dismissed from his teaching position in 1932 by the Nazis, Adorno left to study at Oxford and then moved to the United States in 1938.

Adorno wanted to understand what kind of personality type was susceptible to fascism. He found his answer, via Freud, in a harsh parenting style that led to the kind of person who would crave the approval and guidance of an authoritarian.


The personality type Adorno et al. identified can be defined by nine traits that were believed to cluster together as the result of childhood experiences. These traits include conventionalism, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, anti-intellectualism, anti-intraception, superstition and stereotypy, power and "toughness", destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and exaggerated concerns over sex.

(Oriana: I think “anti-intraception” here means “anti-empathy.”)

Tukuhnikivatz Arch, near Moab, Utah; Mark Stacey

more from Wiki:

“Parents who have a need for domination, and who dominate and threaten the child harshly, and demand obedience to conventional behaviors with threats, foster the characteristics of this personality. In addition, the parents have a preoccupation with social status, and communicate this to the child in terms of rigid and externalized rules. The child then suffers from suppressed feelings of resentment and aggression towards the parents, who are instead, idealized with reverence.

Alfred Adler provided another perspective, linking the "will to power over others" as a central neurotic trait, usually emerging as aggressive over-compensation for felt and dreaded feelings of inferiority and insignificance. According to this view, the authoritarian's need to maintain control and prove superiority over others is rooted in a worldview populated by enemies and empty of equality, empathy, and mutual benefit.”

(Oriana): George Lakoff has the same interpretation: the authoritarian personality reflects the “strict father morality,” with its subjugation of women and minorities and emphasis on obedience and punishment, hierarchy rather than equal rights. Liberals tend to come from nurturing rather than punitive families.

Of course there is also the left-wing authorianism:

Cristina Garcia, “Dreaming in Cuban” (1992)
Country of origin: Cuba
Reasons for leaving: Her family was among the first wave of people to escape from Cuba in 1961 shortly after Fidel Castro took power.

Garcia’s first novel looked at three generations of women exiled from Cuba, all with complex feelings about the country, from love and nostalgia to revulsion. For the daughter of a revolutionary, now living in New York, her memories are of being raped by one of Castro’s young followers. “She wants no part of Cuba,” Garcia writes of this young woman, “no part of its wretched carnival floats creaking with lies, no part of Cuba at all.”

Oriana: Famous books by refugees include Nabokov’s Lolita (I also strongly recommend Pnin), Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. 

Thomas Mann, drawing by David Levine


~ "Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: “Things must change — no matter how. Anything is better than what we have.” Totalitarian rulers organize this kind of mass sentiment, and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it.


I found in Brecht the following remark:

The great political criminals must be exposed and exposed especially to laughter. They are not great political criminals, but people who permitted great political crimes, which is something entirely different. The failure of his enterprises does not indicate that Hitler was an idiot.

Now, that Hitler was an idiot was of course a prejudice of the whole opposition to Hitler prior to his seizure of power and therefore a great many books tried then to justify him and to make him a great man. So, Brecht says, “The fact that he failed did not indicate that Hitler was an idiot and the extent of his enterprises does not make him a great man.” It is neither the one nor the other: this whole category of greatness has no application.


The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.


Nobody knows what is going to happen because so much depends on an enormous number of variables, on simple hazard. On the other hand if you look at history retrospectively, then, even though it was contingent, you can tell a story that makes sense…. Jewish history, for example, in fact had its ups and downs, its, enmities and its friendships, as every history of all people has. The notion that there is one unilinear history is of course false. But if you look at it after the experience of Auschwitz it looks as though all of history—or at least history since the Middle Ages—had no other aim than Auschwitz…. This, is the real problem of every philosophy of history: how is it possible that in retrospect it always looks as though it couldn’t have happened otherwise?" ~

“We are not reliving the 20th century, for how could we? Rather, ideas from the past have melted and reformed into a postmodern fascistic style; a fascism with a wink in its eye and a bad-boy smirk on its face.” ~ Nick Cohen

FREEDOM LIES IN COMMITMENT ~ Sartre (paraphrase)

Why don’t we know what we “really” want? Why is making choices so stressful?

~ “The basic problem is this: Most of us consider making decisions to be an analytical skill, a rational weighing of pros and cons. But applying intelligence is not enough because choice is intimately tied to emotion. If we want to be happy and not drive ourselves crazy second–guessing, then choices need to be attuned to context, desire, and temperament. It sounds daunting when framed this way, perhaps too abstract, but it isn’t hard. You simply learn to self–observe.

The brain contains multiple minds. Briefly, the consciousness we think of as “me”—a singular, in–command self—is not the only agent acting on our behalf. Like the Wizard of Oz, other actors are busy behind the curtain. The various and separate aspects of mind, however, are inaccessible to conscious introspection.

Think of a magician’s trick: The audience never perceives all the steps in its causal sequence—the special contraptions, the fake compartments, the hidden accomplices. It sees only the final effect. Likewise, the real sequence of far flung brain events causing a thought or an action is massively more than the sequence we perceive. Yet we explain ourselves with the shortcut, “I wanted to do it, so I did it,” when the neurological truth is, “My actions are determined by forces I do not understand.”

Ironically, the very anatomy of the brain assures that we often act at cross–purposes with ourselves. While it is not necessary to wade through the neurological details behind this strange but fascinating way our heads are constructed, it is necessary to appreciate that an invisible force exists that pushes you in certain directions. It is beyond the scope of this column to illustrate how one discerns what those directions are. But it can be learned. Once you get oriented to where your true desires lie, you can better align your choices in order to achieve them.” ~



The message that I take from this article is that the brain contains multiple minds (competing neural networks). That multiplicity makes it more difficult for us to figure out just what it is we “really” want. Yet to accomplish things we need to settle on something (Again, Sartre: Freedom is found in commitment) and use the power of focus. Are we the slaves of passions? Yes, but by becoming more aware we can become more coherent, and use the passion as energy and determination.

And we absolutely need to close options and commit to one course of action. Keeping too many options open is paralysis. Commitment is the only way to accomplish anything.

Ah, you say, but that’s just the problem: we don’t know what we really want. We have multiple minds and those minds COMPETE. Fortunately there is a question that can guide us: Does doing X enlarge me or diminishes me?

This is an amazingly effective question. The answer is often instant. It’s also frightening because it often points to action rather than comfortable inaction. But experience indicates that we regret not the things we’ve done, but mostly the things we’ve failed to do.


 From a year ago, this very thought-provoking talk. Yanis doesn't necessarily have answers guaranteed to work, but the issues need to be discussed. “He believes that the mega-rich and corporations are cannibalizing the political sphere, causing financial crisis. Hear his dream for a world in which capital and labor no longer struggle against each other, “one that is simultaneously libertarian, Marxist and Keynesian.”

I think he raises a good point about the mountain of idle cash that's not being invested for the good of humanity (into green energy, for instance). Unless we work for change, we’ll see a “post-modernist 1930s dystopia.”

It’s also interesting that he brings up the brief Athenian democracy to point up that it is NOT the source of modern democracy. The Athenian democracy included the poor (as long as they were non-slave males). The “liberal Western democracy”  is rooted in Magna Carta and the Enlightenment; it was born as the “democracy of the masters.”

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.” ~ Benito Mussolini


~ “[Rasputin’s] table manners were alarming. His beard was flecked with food, he licked the spoon before using it to serve others, tore the bread and fish apart with his fingers and wiped them on the table cloth. Some were revolted by his crudeness, others saw it as part of his charm, and it's quite possible that he exaggerated his gaucherie to set himself apart from the effete and mannered aristocracy. He cast such a spell on his worshipful female followers that they were known to kiss his freshly licked fingers, and vie for the leftover crusts of bread on his plate.

It was Rasputin's rootedness, however, that made him sensitive to the hunger pangs of ordinary Russians. He immediately recognized that the serpentine bread lines in Saint Petersburg – the food transportation system had broken down as a result of the First World War – were dangerous and contained the seeds of revolution.

Genuinely stricken to learn that corn was rotting in the imperial warehouses while the people starved, he sent telegrams to Czar Nicholas II, who was away fighting the Germans on the front line, begging him to increase food supplies. But Nicholas – despite Rasputin's missives, the labor strikes, the 300 percent inflation, and simmering anger in Moscow and Petrograd (the city 's new name that replaced the German-sounding Saint Petersburg) – did nothing.

Rasputin tried to get Alexandra to distribute food in the streets to show that she felt the people's pain, and though she seemed agreeable, it never happened. He even wrote to senior government officials appealing for action – short, unpunctuated notes that testify to the sincerity of his pleas:

    kind dear apologies forgive me much meat is needed, let Piter [Petrograd] eat, listen help rosputin

    kind dear apologies allow oats taken, much woe in zlaenburg province, lots of oats, Petrograd cart drivers are worried, that's not good, Siberia is full of lard please feed Petrograd and Moscow

"His notes were often scribbled and hard to decipher. His grammar and spelling were atrocious. His meaning was often hard to make out," says Smith. "But yes, Rasputin was very serious about the food problems in Petrograd. The czar did not heed his advice, regrettably.”

Rasputin proved fatally prophetic. The February 1917 Russian Revolution was ignited by food riots, when hungry marchers stormed the legendary Filipov Bakery, whose delectable black breads, piroshky, kopeck buns, and chocolate cakes were daily delivered to the czar's palace. The Cossacks, called out to quell the riot, refused to open fire. A petulant Alexandra, sounding like Marie Antoinette, relayed it all in a letter to her husband: "They smashed Filipov's bakery completely. ... A hooligan movement, young boys and girls running about and screaming that they have no bread, only to excite..."

By then, Rasputin, whom Alexandra lovingly called "our dear Friend," had been dead for two months — murdered in the early hours of Dec. 30, 1916 (Dec. 17, according to the Russian calendar then in use).

Rasputin's excessive fondness for Madeira is undisputed. "Go on, drink, God will forgive you," he would urge his dinner companions. "I love wine," he declared in 1916, by which time he had become a functioning alcoholic.

His daughter Maria, while admitting that her father's drinking was out of control, said he was far from a typical booze-hard. "She noticed," writes Smith, "how he never spoke so beautifully about God as when he was drunk."

Nor dance so well. After a few glasses, Rasputin was known to leap to his feet in his tall, patent leather boots and dance with ecstatic abandon to the music of three minstrel gypsies who accompanied him to his evening parties.

What comes as a surprise then, is to learn that the Madeira Monk supported the temperance movement, speaking out against the scourge of vodka and endorsing the Sobriety Society in his village. Smith spotlights this paradoxical nugget:

"I would not say I'm the first to write about this, but no previous biographer has explored it in such depth," he says. "It is a definite puzzle, given his own troubles with the bottle in his latter years. I'm still not fully certain how much of the press coverage about his support for the temperance movement was genuine or 'fake news.' It's difficult to say for certain.”

Several biographies state that Rasputin was exceedingly fond of sugar – with one even citing his black teeth as proof. But his daughter Maria flatly states that her father disliked sweets. A trivial point of discrepancy — except that it has a bearing on how he died. The standard version is that Rasputin's murderers, a group of monarchists led by Prince Yusupov, knowing of his supposed weakness for sweets, laced cakes and wine with cyanide and served them to him, and, when he miraculously survived the poison, shot him dead.

So whom do we believe? Smith is unequivocal. "I believe his daughter," he says. "The stories that he loved sweets come from less-than-reliable sources. Black teeth? Hard to say. I've never seen a single photograph of him with his mouth open. The love of sweets belongs, I would say, to the realm of myth."

And while it's true that the 48-year-old Rasputin was lured to a cellar and served cake and wine on his last night (perhaps Yusupov & Co. bought into the sweet-tooth myth as well) while Yankee Doodle played on the gramophone, neither contained any poison. The autopsy report said as much.

Smith's comprehensive biography portrays an intriguingly multifaceted figure who enjoyed power and had a seductive vitality, but who was also an earthy and compassionate family man. It's a far cry from the demonic Rasputin of the irresistibly catchy 1978 Boney-M song, with its fantastical claim that Ra-Ra Rasputin was a "lover of the Russian queen" and "Russia's greatest love machine." The former is salacious gossip. The latter is hard to prove, but in the succinct words of another historian, Robert K. Massie, "He would send out for prostitutes late at night as people might send out for pizza.”’ ~

Rasputin with his followers
from The Smithsonian:

“The autopsy reports do not mention poison or drowning but instead conclude that he was shot in the head at close range. Yusupov transformed the murder into an epic struggle of good versus evil to sell books and bolster his own reputation.

The responses from the public were mixed, reflecting Rasputin’s checkered reputation. The elite, from whence Yusupov and his co-conspirators came, rejoiced and applauded the killers when they appeared in public. The peasantry mourned Rasputin as one of their own, seeing the murder as one more example of the nobility controlling the Czar; when a peasant rose to a position of influence with the Czar, he was murdered by wealthy men.

To the dismay of Yusupov and his co-conspirators, Rasputin’s murder did not lead to a radical change in Nicholas and Alexandra’s polities. To the emergent Bolsheviks, Rasputin symbolized the corruption at the heart of the Imperial court, and his murder was seen, rather accurately, as an attempt by the nobility to hold onto power at the continued expense of the proletariat. To them, Rasputin represented the broader problems with czarism. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Provisional Government leader Alexander Kerensky went so far as to say, "Without Rasputin there would have been no Lenin."

Rasputin's body

~ “Divers brought up the frozen body of Gregory Rasputin from beneath the ice of the Malaya Nevka River in St. Petersburg on November 18, 1916. The wooden supports of the Large Petrovsky Bridge from which his body had been thrown into the water  were stained with blood where he had hit his head on the way down. For several days a crowd of women gathered on the riverbank with bottles, pots, and buckets to collect the “holy water” sanctified by the contact with his flesh.” ~


Researchers have long known that people with autoimmune diseases, such as hepatitis, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis, are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia.
But this new research shows that the development goes both ways: People suffering from schizophrenia also have an increased risk of contracting autoimmune diseases, especially if they have suffered from a severe infection, according to scientists.

The researchers found that a person suffering from schizophrenia has a 53 percent higher risk of contracting an autoimmune disease compared to people who are not suffering from schizophrenia. Moreover, those who have schizophrenia and have been hospitalized or received treatment for a severe infection have a 2.7 times higher risk of getting an autoimmune disease.

According to Michael Eriksen Benrós, M.D., Ph.D., a senior researcher at the National Centre for Register-Based Research at Aarhus University and the Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, “this information will be very useful for psychiatrists working with schizophrenics. That’s because six percent of schizophrenic patients have an autoimmune disease that requires treatment in a hospital,” he said.

“But the actual occurrence is significantly higher, seeing as our study does not incorporate all the people who are being treated by general physicians or have not been diagnosed yet,” he said. “This means that psychiatrists should be on the lookout for signs of physical illness among their patients with schizophrenia, including autoimmune diseases.”

According to Benrós, a lot of the data points to infections as a determining factor.

“It could be that people with schizophrenia are genetically vulnerable to infections, which increases the risk of getting schizophrenia but also autoimmune diseases,” he said.

He explained that the immune system reacts to an infection by producing antibodies that do not just react to the infection — they also start breaking down the body’s own tissue. This is how autoimmune diseases develop.

“Another possible explanation could be that symptoms diagnosed as schizophrenia are the first signs that an autoimmune disease has developed, but has not yet been detected,” he said.

“If you have a family member with schizophrenia, there is a six percent higher chance that you yourself will develop an autoimmune disease. The genetic factor does not look to be so significant, even though genetic studies have shown a correlation between genes and schizophrenia,” said Benrós.

baby mountain bluebird

ending on beauty

. . . paradise was when
regathered from height and depth
came out onto the soft, green level earth
into the natural light

~ A. R. Ammons

For me the clarity became perfect when I read the title of one of Jack Gilbert's poems: "We have already lived in the real paradise." Visions of celestial paradise, e.g. Dante's White Rose, or the biblical City Paved with Gold, seem like the last thing we'd want.

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