Saturday, May 13, 2017


The Rock of Cashel, Ireland


My first thought was, he lied in every word,   
  That hoary cripple, with malicious eye   
  Askance to watch the working of his lie   
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford   
Suppression of the glee, that purs’d and scor’d          
  Its edge, at one more victim gain’d thereby.
. . .

Thus, I had so long suffer’d, in this quest,   
  Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ   
  So many times among “The Band”—to wit,   
The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search address’d            40
Their steps—that just to fail as they, seem’d best.   
  And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?

So, on I went. I think I never saw           
  Such starv’d ignoble nature; nothing throve:   
  For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!   
But cockle, spurge, according to their law   
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,   
  You ’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

No! penury, inertness and grimace,   
  In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See   
  Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,   
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:   
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,           
  Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”

If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to balk
All hope of greenness? 'tis a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair I
n leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud
Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!

Alive? He might be dead for aught I know,
With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,
And shut eyes underneath the rusty main;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I
 never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
. . .

A sudden little river cross’d my path   
  As unexpected as a serpent comes.                                  110
  No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;   
This, as it froth’d by, might have been a bath   
For the fiend’s glowing hoof—to see the wrath   
  Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.   

So petty yet so spiteful All along,                             
  Low scrubby alders kneel’d down over it;   
  Drench’d willows flung them headlong in a fit   
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:   
The river which had done them all the wrong,   
  Whate’er that was, roll’d by, deterr’d no whit.
. . .

Burningly it came on me all at once,                                    175
  This was the place! those two hills on the right,   
  Couch’d like two bulls lock’d horn in horn in fight,   
While, to the left, a tall scalp’d mountain … Dunce,   
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,   
  After a life spent training for the sight!

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night perhaps?—Why, day   
  Came back again for that! before it left,   
  The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:   
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,           
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—   
  “Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”   

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it toll’d   
  Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears   
  Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—           
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,   
And such was fortunate, yet each of old   
  Lost, lost! one moment knell’d the woe of years.   

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met   
  To view the last of me, a living frame          
  For one more picture! in a sheet of flame   
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet   
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,   
  And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

~ Robert Browning, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (1858)

Childe = an aristocratic young man who has not yet been knighted

colloped = “having ridges or bunches of flesh, like collops”; a collop is a slice of meat; in German, “klops” is a meatball

slug-horn = a nonexistent horn found in the works of Browning

Thomas Moran: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, 1859

This is a Wasteland-type poem inspired by King Lear.  I never worried about the meaning — just enjoyed the wild language. Did Browning intend to make a statement about meaningless medieval quests and the destructive military code of honor? Was he commenting on the barrenness of modernity, as Eliot later did?

Commentaries have of course been written, but I can’t resist the impression that more than anything, Browning was having a lot of fun with language. He said the poem came to him quickly, and that he didn’t intend any conscious allegory. That’s quite a confession from a poet who tended to be rather didactic!

Note how the poem seems to flow by itself. To me that’s a mark of the best poems — each line, each words, appears inevitable.

“He must be wicked to deserve such pain” — especially spoken of an innocent being, a horse — talk about blaming the victim! So right-wing . . . The honor culture is the ultimate in right-wing ideology. 

The Middle Ages were the era of “honor culture.” Childe Roland felt it would be a dishonor to abandon his quest, in spite of all the evidence he was going to an abysmal place. It’s about proving himself, showing that he’s “fit” (or, in more modern parlance, a “real man”). It’s the opposite of pragmatism, or simply of self-love and self-preservation. It’s also the opposite of caring for others — note that Roland’s quest serves no one but himself, in the sense of his deranged need to prove himself (as part of the deranged culture of knighthood).

Childe Roland does not even rescue any maidens, nor liberate anyone from the predations of a dragon. Nevertheless, he can still be called a “knight-errant.” Here “errant” means “wandering.” Nevertheless, when it comes to Childe Roland, we can easily conclude that his wandering through a wasteland was an error.

We the moderns, that is. In the nineteenth century, “honor” still mattered hugely, including its erroneous, macho, ego-driven interpretations. Dueling was illegal, but it was certainly practiced. War was glorified — that’s how you proved you were a “real man” — if you survived, that is. If not, parents were supposed to feel proud that their son died a hero.

Browning wasn’t really sure what he wanted to say in this poem — he admitted this — but he was still ahead of his time in showing a meaningless, self-destructive quest of a young man 

trying to live up to false ideas of honor. 

 The Knight Errant, John Everett Millais, 1870. Art as soft porn, anyone?


“Absolute faith is touted as a virtue. It's actually vile, the surrender of the greatest human gift, the power to reason. It's voluntary self-enslavement.” ~ Jeremy Sherman (author of the article about how nonsensical it is to hold on to the absolutes of Christianity and Buddhism — see my previous blog)


The good thing is that we don't have only one mind, but many — networks of neural pathways constantly compete for dominance. The “reason” network (more developed in some people than in others) does not cease to be active in those who try to junk it in favor of unquestioning faith. It keeps whispering (the so-called “whisper of Satan”) and creating cognitive dissonance. It finds ways of being heard. The bad part is that then the person may get more and more crazy and extreme trying to defend what reason rejects. We don't rise in passionate defense of 2+2 = 4. We get passionate and extreme when we know we’re on shaky ground.

Lightning, Istanbul, the Faith Mosque in the background.

With 80 million sold, the best selling book by an American author ever, is Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. J.D.Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is #2 with 65 million.
Rosslyn Chapel, The Green Man


In recent years a growing body of evidence has shown that our political behavior is governed more by emotions and less by rationality. These findings contradict the way most of us think about political processes and voting. The theory of rational choice, influenced by great philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and Emmanuel Kant, is considered to be the leading school of thought in political science since the second half of the twentieth century. But also outside academia political campaigners and the media primarily employ logical arguments, such as weighing candidates' pros and cons, and analyzing the implications of different policies. James Carville's famous phrase from Bill Clinton's early ’90s campaign, "It's the economy, stupid!" reflects a broad conventional wisdom that voting is primarily about money. But no, voting is primarily about feelings and emotions! This is, to an extent, unfortunate because it means that we sacrifice some of our interests and welfare on the altar of our psychology.

If voting was about influencing the election's outcome, you would have agreed with your next door neighbor who supports the rival party that you both stay home. But no. You want to be there to cast your vote, because voting is more about expression than about consequences. In a research paper that Esteban Klor and I published a few years ago, using data from U.S. state elections, we showed that patterns of state election turnouts are similar to patterns of football match turnouts. You will be more attracted to travel to the stadium and pay for a ticket if the two teams are close competitors and your team has a slightly higher chance of winning. After all, we expect to enjoy the game more when our team wins rather than loses.

Logic and reasoning are universal. We all use the same logic (though some use it more than others), but moral sentiments and emotions are idiosyncratic. They are derived from our personality, which is what makes each of us different. People whose personality tends toward conformity and privacy are more likely to vote Conservative, while those who are drawn toward solidarity and empathy are likely to find Labor to be a more attractive party, and people who reject authority and favor freedom are likely to align themselves with Liberal causes. [note: for the US, translate “Labor” as Democrats and Liberal as Libertarian]

The fact that we continue to debate issues endlessly, and yet never seem to agree, suggests that there is something in ideologies way beyond rationality. This other thing is none other than subjective taste, which, to a large extent, is shaped by our emotional being. "De gustibus non est disputandum," as the Latin idiom goes ("In matters of taste, there can be no disputes"), and, indeed, disputes never help bridge opposing ideologies.

In circumstances where reason is at odds with subjective taste, it is the latter that carries the day. In most cases we tend to pay attention selectively to the evidence that confirms our political orientation while pretending that the conflict between reason and taste does not exist. How many of our friends who regard themselves as right wing will admit that while they are disgusted by the idea of signing an agreement with fanatic ayatollahs, they logically realize that the West would be better off with the Iran agreement? How many of our left-wing friends will concede that while they are emotionally averse to any form of American intervention, the sanctions against Iran [did] seem to work and removing them [is] a dangerous move?

Our craving for ideology also means that we like our politicians to be ideologists. Vittorio Caprara and his associates showed that voters seek to vote for politicians who are similar to them in personality. Ideology is often the means by which politicians convey their personality to us. Politicians who downplay ideology are wrongly tagged by us as opportunists who are into politics for themselves and not for the public.

But our desire for ideologists comes with a price, because it creates the wrong incentives for our policy makers. Politicians are much more rational than we voters. They are governed primarily by their instinct for political survival. Our need for them to follow an ideology means that they will obey it to appease us. They even believe in their ideology to convince us that they will do so. But this is precisely against our interest as a public.

By understanding our craving for ideology there is a chance that one day we'll be able to dispense with it. When that happens we shall all be better off.


So there it is — “what oft was thought, but never so well expressed” — voting is emotional, not rational — just like religion and the stock market, and probably most things. But we need some rational window-dressing so we don’t feel we’re just slaves of passion.

Dali: The Enigma of Hitler, 1939


Dear Miss Arendt!

    I must come see you this evening and speak to your heart.

    Everything should be simple and clear and pure between us. Only then will we be worthy of having been allowed to meet. You are my pupil and I your teacher, but that is only the occasion for what has happened to us.

    I will never be able to call you mine, but from now on you will belong in my life, and it shall grow with you.

    We never know what we can become for others through our Being.

That was the remarkable first love letter from Martin Heidegger to Hannah Arendt, who was 19 and his student. He was 36 and married. The letter was written in February of 1925. Their romance went on for four years.

And here is an excerpt from the letter Arendt sent him on her wedding day:

    Do not forget me, and do not forget how much and how deeply I know that our love has become the blessing of my life. This knowledge cannot be shaken, not even today, when, as a way out of my restlessness, I have found a home and a sense of belonging with someone about whom you might understand it least of all.


    I kiss your brow and your eyes,

    Your Hannah


I love the quote that I used as the title. In youth I had no idea that I had anything to offer to anyone (I'm not exaggerating). The love object was everything — I was nothing. Over the years it slowly dawned on me that I did have this or that to offer — but when people said, “You have so much to give” I thought that were idealizing me in an unrealistic way. Yet Heidegger is right: even at a young age, simply what we are, our complex, unique, and deeply human personality, our whole being, is a gift to anyone who comes into our lives. If we become involved, both lives are changed, enlarged.

Reading about the gift of our being to others reminds me of a greater wonderful shock: the first time I read, in the Desiderata, You are a child of the Universe. You have a right to be here. That too was a granting of value — even if just the acknowledgement that you have a right to live, so you must have some value. We need to value ourselves and treat ourselves not with a whip, but with tenderness. Then kindness toward others will be automatic. 

“We never know what we can become for others through our being” just happens to be a beautiful “communitarian” argument against suicide. And I love it that Heidegger says that we don't know, we never know. In the deluded thinking of depression, we assume we have nothing to give — but we don't know what we can give — that even a casual remark we make can change someone's life.

And it’s precisely the interaction with the lover’s personality — his or her “being” — that makes love such a fascinating experience, full of surprises. “You are more like myself than I am,” someone told me once. But that’s an illusion that doesn’t hold for very long. Soon we discover the differences that remind us that the soul of another is a dark forest. But forests are full of birds and deer and dappled sunlight.

If our being is a gift to others, how opposite that is  from the self-loathing instilled by a toxic theology centered on sinfulness:

~ “I would go [to confession] at LEAST once a week that last year I was Catholic. Lamentably, I was shackled down by the Church’s concept of sin, and what’s sickening to me is that I didn’t realize it till later because I’d grown so numb to that soul-crushing guilt. The Church made me think I was filthy and contemptible in nature and needed to be washed clean, when the dirt was, in fact, imaginary.

I don’t miss being told I was a sheep that needed saving.

I don’t miss being blind to the fact that I was being led to the slaughter, not to salvation.” ~

Mary Magdalene kissing the feet of the crucified Christ, Tolentino Basilica, Italy, 14th century

But this is by far my favorite image: Penitent Mary Magdalene wearing only her hair; Toruń, St John's Cathedral, 14th century


It’s been observed that if a person raised in poverty later gets rich, some of the personality traits and behaviors that we’d see in a poor person remain (think how many times you heard someone say, “My parents grew up during the Depression; they never threw away anything”). And someone raised in wealth but later impoverished may still automatically act like a rich person.

Here is my own observation along those lines that I don’t think anyone else has made. Around the year 2000 or so for a while I was corresponding with transgendered men. I was startled by their self-confidence until I realized the obvious: they grew up as boys, not girls, and usually lived for some years (sometimes many years) as men. I knew better than to say (over and over): “A woman wouldn’t say what you just said. Women generally don’t have that kind of self-confidence (or fearlessness, risk taking, boisterousness, aggressiveness, autonomy, action orientation, etc.)”

The irony was that these individuals repeatedly stated that they used to feel they were women imprisoned in a male body and had a fundamentally female psyche and personality. One boasted, “I feel I’m developing female intuition” (supposedly as a result of the surgery and hormone treatment). They also hoped that the hormone treatment would make them grow really large breasts — not the small buds they ended up with before deciding to get implants.

Those men who imagined that they were women in male bodies — they were downright MACHO. In my eyes,  it was more than self-confidence, it was swagger. Well, there was also some self-pity about how they suffered from being “in the wrong body,” and, post-surgery, some distress at losing muscle strength as result of drop in testosterone). It was quite a leap in awareness for me, that experience, that startling self-confidence and boldness (if as if hadn’t met men before! but these were men who wanted to be women, so gender was a central issue).

I finally understood the notorious “happiness gap” and the statement that men are happier just because they are men, even this arguably pathological bunch who wanted so much to be women (they had a completely unrealistic, mythologized idea of what it was like to be a woman — you’re beautiful and adored). Being in the dominant social group develops certain expectations, especially if you’re tall, handsome, and even somewhat athletic. And testosterone is a superb anti-depressant and energizer. True, these men end up losing much of their testosterone (the adrenal production of testosterone persists and may even increase) — but they grew up with it, and were significantly shaped by it (this extends far beyond stronger muscles and bones).

We’d all agree that putting on a dress does not transform a man into a woman. But it seems that even castration (in adulthood) still does not change a man to a woman. Having grown up male (“with male privilege” as a friend of mine would put it) prevails. And all this starts with the Y chromosome becoming activated during pregnancy, turning on testosterone production that virilizes the body and the brain of the fetus. Recently I said, “Freud was wrong: I never had penis envy; what I have is muscle envy." But more than that, I have self-confidence envy.

Now, I realize that this is not a politically correct piece. Yes, the stereotypes — if they hadn’t made themselves so blatant during that correspondence, this essay would not even exist. Now, of course I'm aware that not all men are happy just because they are men; the pressure to succeed can be brutal, the competition ruthless, and so on — more stereotypes, just from the other side. Of course we should see each person as an individual, eschewing stereotypes and trendy cultural clichés. But I just want to report what for me has been an eye-opening experience.

Oriana: Yes, the liar is ultimately defeated by reality, but . . . the liar doesn't think in terms of "ultimately." He wants to fool some people NOW, and then disappear before being found out.  Also, what we currently see is such a barrage of lies that there is no time to refute them one by one. Even worse, perhaps, is our knowing that millions of people couldn't care less about the truth.

"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings; with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew." ~ Isaiah 6: 1-3

Seraphim: Petites Heures de Jean de Berry. The text says “above him” but here they are below him, which makes for a better composition. Also, the train of his robe is NOT filling the temple. And what is that misshapen horizontal angel in the upper left?


~ “Mother's Day originated in 1870 as an appeal to women to leave the home for an "earnest day of counsel" in which women would meet together to influence international issues of the day.

The first Mothers Day proclamation began with the words, "Arise, then, women of this day!" It was a call to public action.

The Mother's Day proclamation urged women to take public policy into their own hands. It also asked women to stop supporting men who weren't dedicated to seeking peaceful settlements of international conflict.

"Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause," the proclamation continued.”

Mother's Day was born out of the suffragist movement of the 1850's and 1860's when women joined together to fight slavery and seek the vote. How fascinating that the bold history of Mother's Day has become transformed into a sanctification of women's domestic role.” ~

quartz-filled geode with a cat inclusion


~ “My realization of the yawning fissure separating the socialist idea, which I wholeheartedly embraced, from the “really existing socialism” which I found difficult to swallow, occurred long before Rudolf Bahro coined the latter phrase in 1977 — and well before I was forced to leave Poland in 1968. One of my first publications of the British part of my academic life carried the title Socialism: The Active Utopia, which signaled its main message: the great historical accomplishment of the socialist idea was its acting as a utopia laying bare the social ills endemic in the status quo and spurring into remedial action.

What derived from that message was another belief: that declaring any kind of status quo as the “socialist idea fulfilled” cannot but be a death knell to what was its major, indeed paramount role to be played in history. In the longer run, such a declaration would have inevitably stripped the socialist utopia of that role (just as in the case of another utopia — that of democracy).” ~!

~ Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was a Polish sociologist residing in the U.K., renowned for his books on modernity. Bauman “posited that a shift had taken place in modern society in the latter half of the 20th century; it had changed from a society of producers into a society of consumers. According to Bauman, this change reversed Freud's “modern” tradeoff — i.e., security was given up in order to enjoy more freedom, freedom to purchase, consume, and enjoy life.” ~

Some quotations:

~ Like the phoenix, socialism is reborn from every pile of ashes left day in, day out, by burnt-out human dreams and charred hopes.

Why should I be passionate? Because things could be different, they could be made better.

The carrying power of a bridge is not measured by the average strength of the pillars, but by the strength of the weakest pillar. I have always believed that you do not measure the health of a society by GNP, but by the condition of its worst off.

The risk of the Holocaust is not that it will be forgotten, but that it will be embalmed and surrounded by monuments and used to absolve all future sins.

I suspect that one of capitalism’s crucial assets derives from the fact that the imagination of economists, including its critics, lags well behind its own inventiveness, the arbitrariness of its undertakings and the ruthlessness of the way in which it proceeds.

A powerful case for a refurbished, secularized response to individual mortality was constructed and extensively argued by Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociology. He strove to insert and settle “society” in the place vacated by God and by Nature viewed as God’s creation or embodiment — and thereby to claim for the nascent nation-state that right to articulate, pronounce and enforce moral commandments and command the supreme loyalties of its subjects; the right previously reserved for the Lord of the Universe and His anointed earthly lieutenants.

Marcus Aurelius appoints personal character and conscience the ultimate refuge of happiness-seekers: the only place where dreams of happiness, doomed to die childless and intestate anywhere else, are not bound to be frustrated. ~ Zygmunt Bauman, The Art of Life


To me socialism — in the sense of SOCIAL SAFETY NET, not nationalization of industry — i.e. “social democracy,” not to be confused to Soviet-style “socialism” — is simply the outgrowth of decency, of caring, of knowing that society is a collective, collaborative enterprise.


The roots of what has come to be known as "Social Darwinism" can be traced back to the robber baron era in the latter nineteenth century. The idea that the economy of a successful capitalist society amounts to a cut-throat competitive struggle, much like what was supposed to be the case in the natural world, was inspired by the British social theorist Herbert Spencer. In fact, it was Spencer who coined the term "survival of the fittest," not Darwin.

With Social Darwinist rhetoric, and policy proposals, being much in evidence these days, we should try to set the record straight about Darwin. In fact, Darwin's Darwinism was radically opposed to an individualistic, "nature, red in tooth and claw" political ideology (as the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson described it), especially in social species like honeybees and humankind. In his treatise on human evolution, The Descent of Man, published twelve years after The Origin of Species, Darwin recognized that humans evolved in interdependent cooperative groups, not as isolated individuals, and that cooperation was the key to our success.

Indeed, Darwin attributed our dominant position in nature and our remarkable cultural attainments to our evolved social, moral, and mental faculties, in combination with our language abilities. Following a discussion in The Descent devoted to the role of social behavior in various species, Darwin dealt at length with the subject of "Man as a Social Animal." He concluded that our morality is a product of the evolutionary process, and he believed that our "social instincts," including even our capacity for "sympathy," "kindness," and the desire for social "approbation," are rooted in human nature. The rudiments of these behaviors, he pointed out, can be found in other social species as well.

Darwin's Darwinism was grounded in a more accurate understanding of human nature, and of the circumscribed role of competition in any society. Social Darwinism represents a perversion of Darwin's views. It is time to consign it to the museum of antiquated ideologies.” ~

But great care should be exercised before trying to put any utopian ideas into practice.

Rembrandt: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630

RELIGIOUS MODERATION IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF TAKING SCRIPTURE LESS AND LESS SERIOUSLY. So why not take it less seriously still? Why not admit the the Bible is merely a collection of imperfect books written by highly fallible human beings? ~ Sam Harris


This is a perfect observation: religious moderation is the result of seeing the “holy” scriptures as less and less holy. The progression is usually from the inerrant word of god to “divinely inspired” to entirely human. Not written or even inspired by a bearded dude in a nightshirt (typed: nightmare) somewhere up there in the clouds, but perhaps the voice of intuition, which is a tad schizophrenic — are own own thoughts being broadcast to us? Why would the voice of guidance, or intuition, be anything but our own? What if it proves fallible, as on occasion it does? .

Above all, we need to see that all “holy” scriptures are entirely human: the work of men bound by their ancient culture, writing with a tribal agenda: our god can beat your god, and later: our god is the only true god; you’re sacrificing lambs to idols, stupid; we’re slaughtering lambs at the only correct altar. What may have made sense thousands of years ago in the Ancient Near East should not have the strangling power of dead hand over us who live in a vastly different world.

~ “Periodically in history man’s conception of God changes as man’s knowledge and moral sense improve, and these epochal transvaluations can upset not only philosophers but also whole nations and eras. We live in such an age, when the revelations of science, of history, and of the ethics of Christ have made it impossible for developed minds to believe in that “grim beard of a god” who frightened our forebears into decency. In this sense it was Christ who killed Jehovah.” ~ Will Durant, “Fallen Leaves”

Will Durant, raised a Catholic, did not believe in a personal god, but admired the ethical teachings of Christ. Ariel Durant, raised in a Jewish family, wrote this in In A Dual Autobiography by Ariel and Will Durant (1977): “We never deserted our faith for any other, but we lost most of it as we rubbed against a harsh and increasingly secular world . . . my Uncle Maurice helped to free me from such nonsense, and awoke in me a desire to read books and enter the world of thought.”

(Freud would probably appreciate the conclusion that Christ killed Yahweh. A son’s task is to kill his father, in a symbolic way.)

Ariel Durant


"When food is heated up to a high temperature, new compounds are created, and some of them are known to be harmful to health," said Raj Bhopal, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, who led the research. "This is not to do with frying. ... it's more to do with the cooking process, with the temperature.”

When foods are cooked at high temperatures, they release chemicals known as neo-formed contaminants, or NFCs. This group includes trans-fatty acids -- or trans fats -- that are known to increase the risk of heart disease. "When the temperature is high, (trans fats) are produced at a very high rate," Bhopal said.

The researchers believe cuisines that typically involve cooking food in hot oils at high temperatures may explain why higher rates of heart disease are seen in certain populations, such as among people of South Asian descent.

South Asians -- including residents of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka -- have a four times greater risk of heart disease than the general population.

Bhopal's own research has investigated this rise in risk among people living in Scotland.

"In Scotland, the highest rates of heart attack are in the Pakistani population," he said, referring to one of his earlier studies. "The next group are Indians.”

At the bottom of the list were the Chinese.

"(They) were way down at the bottom," Bhopal said, adding that he was surprised, as all three communities had long been settled in Scotland and lived reasonably similar lifestyles. "The explanation had to be around food.”

"In the Chinese snacks, there are virtually no trans-fatty acids, less than 1% (in some cases)," Bhopal said. "In the Indian snacks, there's a vast amount." The Indian treat jalebi -- fried batter soaked in sugar syrup -- was found to average 17% trans fats and samosas 3.3%.

Bhopal believes the difference comes down to Chinese meals including more boiled foods, lightly fried items and stir-fries, whereas Indian cooking entails longer, deeper frying of foods and the use of pressure cookers. "The emphasis is on the temperature," he stressed.

Even more accurately, the emphasis is on the temperature of your oils.

"This study shows that by heating and frying, you can change what appear to be perfectly healthy oils and make them unhealthy," said Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who was not involved in the research. By unhealthy, he means the creation of these chemical byproducts, such as trans fats. "Heart disease can manifest if you (then) reuse oils that have been boiled," Miller added.

The group also looked at other byproducts of heating oils to high temperatures, called advanced glycogen end-products. These are also known to increase the likelihood of heart disease.

Bhopal used the example of cooking a chicken to highlight the vast differences in how much of these byproducts are produced. When a chicken is boiled, this cooking process releases an average of 1,000 glycogen end-products, whereas roasting and frying produce 4,000 and 9,000, respectively. "Different forms of cooking are leading to vastly different results," he said.

"It makes sense to avoid snacks that are cooked in high-temperature oils," said Bhopal, who himself has now switched to cooking olive oil. "Olive oil does not heat up to a very high temperature," he said.

Miller agreed. "Try not to boil oils ... and it's best to avoid fried foods," he said.

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

Not the boredom of the feeble Christian heaven, but “living dangerously.” 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.

I also like the idea that self-esteem is related to the person’s “degree of animation.” Now, there can be excess — we don’t want manic energy. I want vitality, not over-excitement — steady, quiet energy rather than “wild” energy. But I’ll take any kind of energy over apathy. En marche!

ending on beauty

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

  The River Arve at Chamonix

No comments:

Post a Comment