Saturday, September 26, 2015



It’s a shy rooster —
an immigrant, perhaps,
embarrassed about his accent —
his crowing muted, as if he came
from a fog-laden century.

No roosters to reply.
If not for the neighbors,
I’d crow back, out of charity.

Maybe this displaced rooster
crows a warning. Location,
he crows, location.
Here even an archangel
would be muted by the stench
of burnt barbecue. Save yourself  —

he struggles to sustain
the last unraveling note —
Go to New York and network
with the gilt-throated Pavarottis.
Here there is no one to listen
to the aria I send out at dawn,
creating the world, no one.

I feel sorry for the rooster,
but I’m waiting for the owl
bringing me message
from the Goddess of Wisdom.
Will it arrive in soundless flight,
an overlap of cunning feathers?

Or is the rooster, a priest of Light,
the wise one, not posing over and over
the same question to the dark?
He practices his sacred art
so we don’t die of the answer.

~ Oriana © 2015

When I came to the U.S., I was so young and naive that it took me a while to realize I would be an immigrant for the rest of my life. True, immigrant “Americanize” to a various extent. The more you “adjust,” the more you realize that the price is giving up your own soul. It’s not just the culture of your native country that you give up (some immigrants try to cling to it, but the culture in exile is artificial, already hybridized, a poor substitute) — it’s also the person you used to be. The pressure and power of popular culture are tremendous. And the people you meet are mainly the product of popular culture, and not, say, of reading Shakespeare.

There is also the pressure to be more extraverted, semi-manic (what used to be called “perky” — now it’s just perpetually busy), and shallow. It takes a while to create a refuge where you can be quiet and not feel bombarded by incessant advertising and other interruptions. Meanwhile it can feel like being destroyed. There is only one word I want to say to those who are considering immigration, but whose lives in the native country are not really all that bad: “Don’t.”

Nothing is all good or all bad. The upside is the mental enlargement that comes from the exposure to a different culture. And yes, I did get to read Shakespeare in the original, and it was not a disappointment.


In the past we derived our sense of security and of self not just from marriage, but from our bonds with the wider community, she says. Consequently, marital intimacy has become burdened with expectations, some of them highly contradictory. In short, love and security need closeness; passion and desire need space.

“This wholesale sharing and constant transparency deprives us of a certain mystery, of an ability to remain curious about one another,” says Perel. “It is a real experiment to try to bring together two fundamental human needs – our need for security, and our need for adventure – in one relationship, to ask the same person to make us feel safe and stable, and make us feel playful, mischievous and adventurous.”

So, are the two fundamentally incompatible? “Not incompatible, no. It is a tension, a finely calibrated balance. It is a paradox to be managed, not a problem to be solved.”

Furthermore, we have come to see sex as the barometer of the health of a relationship – for the first time in history it has become not a function for procreation, but a defining factor in marital happiness. “And happiness has, in turn, become the defining feature for staying in a marriage or not. Before, happiness was in the afterlife,” she says.

The only real backlash over the book [Mating in Captivity] – which has been published in 25 languages – concerns her assertion that infidelity doesn’t need to be confessed. “There is a moralistic aspect to infidelity in America, that is not universal,” says Perel. “There is more emphasis on the lying, on the definition of honesty as confession.”

How she approaches it with patients sounds unorthodox. “Several times already this week I’ve asked [male] clients, ‘Why did you tell her?’ They say, ‘I wanted to be honest,’” she cries, slapping her palm on the table in frustration. “I say to them, ‘For what? Who benefited from this? You? Your conscience? Your marriage, which is completely in shambles? Couldn’t you just finish this [infidelity] off and move on?’”

Our increasing life expectancy, Perel believes, also complicates matters, and raises questions about whether lifelong monogamy is a culturally constructed ideal. “It is something we have never had to consider before: 60, 70, 80 years with someone,” she says. “Many of us are going to have two or three marriages in our lives. Either we will reinvent ourselves with the same person, or we will reinvent ourselves with another.”

And while she emphasizes that she does not spout tips on putting the sizzle back into their sex lives, she does have some simple suggestions about how space and closeness can begin to co-exist within a relationship. Go to the cinema solo, to see the films you want to see, not only those that both of you agree on, she advises. If your partner loves to stay longer at parties than you, take two cars, or let him arrange a lift home for later. If he hates to travel, go away for a long weekend with some friends instead.

“It is about not being threatened by the difference of the other, not being threatened that if you don’t do everything together, then it means that you’re not close, that you are not intimate. We need multiple connections, multiple attachments. If you start to feel that you have given up too many parts of yourself to be with your partner, then one day you will end up looking for another person in order to reconnect with those lost parts.”

Perel is careful not to sound in favor of infidelity. But she asks her readers to understand the reasons for it, the complexity of it, the benefits as well as the price. She encourages tolerance.

Here is some more from Esther Perel:

In America, infidelity is described in terms of perpetrators and victims, damages and cost. We are far more tolerant of divorce with all the dissolutions of the family structure than of transgression . . . Adultery becomes a moral failing as we move to a description of character flaws: liar, cheater, philanderer, womanizer, slut. In this view, understanding an act of infidelity as a simple transgression or meaningless fling, or a quest for aliveness is an impossibility.

An affair sometimes captures an existential conflict within us: We seek safety and predictability, qualities that propel us toward committed relationships, but we also thrive on novelty and diversity. Modern romance promises, among other things, that it’s possible to meet these two opposing sets of needs in one place. If the relationship is successful, in theory, there is no need to look for anything elsewhere. Therefore, if one strays, there must be something missing. I’m not convinced.

The lamentations I hear most include feelings of loneliness and emotional deprivation. There comes a point when one no longer can tolerate feeling devalued and taken for granted. Lack of attention and the sense of having become a function rather than a person can instigate a wish for escape. Sexual boredom and frustration, or plain sexlessness, can lead to what Steven Mitchell dubs “acts of exuberant defiance.”

Sometimes, we seek the gaze of another not because we reject our partner, but because we are tired of ourselves. It isn’t our partner we aim to leave, rather the person we’ve become. Even more than the quest for a new lover we want a new self.

The men and women I work with invest more in love and happiness than ever before, yet in a cruel twist of fate it is this very model of love and sex that’s behind the exponential rise of infidelity and divorce. We ask one person to give us what an entire community once provided —and we live twice as long. It’s a tall order for a party of two.

It’s interesting that Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, said something similar: We often seek not so much a new partner, as a new life. We become a different person with the lover, someone we rather like. The alternative can be emotional deadness.

Moore also observed, “Relationship at a distance can do things for the heart that a closer, day-to-day relationship cannot.”

Neither Perel nor Moore advocate “open marriage.” At best they hint at a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — taking great care not to hurt either partner.


I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. ~ Maya Angelou


Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find out.

~ Roger Ebert (1942-2013)



“They’ll never make it,” a friend said, pointing to two women poets at Beyond Baroque. “Not brains enough.” “Now, you have brains enough,” she continued. “What you don’t have is experience. You need to travel and have affairs.”

The two women indeed never “made it.” Neither did I, in the sense of wider recognition — though when a stranger says to me, “I love your work,” I feel the reward is sufficient. Still, some people feel puzzled about my obscurity. I no longer do. There is also another question: “Are you abnormal enough?” Friends agree I meet that criterion as well. I fail when it comes to connections and living “in the right place at the right time.” But most of all, there is yet another question: “Are you narcissistic enough?”

Perhaps narcissism isn’t monolithic either. Could there be good narcissism — or at least the kind that’s absolutely necessary if you are to get ahead as an artist? Or even simply “succeed in life,” however we define it?


“Freud, who considered narcissism primarily a female matter, used it as part of his question about what women want, and his answer: a penis. Women adorned their faces and figures—that is, became narcissistic—to compensate for the lack of the desired organ. This focus on their physical charms made them self-satisfied and, therefore, emotionally impoverished.

The primary characteristic of narcissism is grandiosity. Narcissists exaggerate their achievements and what they are certain will be their future triumphs. They believe that they are special and can be understood only by special people, of high status. They feel entitled to extraordinary privileges. (They have the right to cut in line, to dominate the conversation, etc.) They show no empathy for other people. They envy them, and believe that they are envied in return. They cannot tolerate criticism. In life, we make moral judgments about such behavior.

Elizabeth Lunbeck, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University, has just written a book, “The Americanization of Narcissism” (Harvard), in defense of this condition. Her argument is an attack on the “cultural critics,” as she calls them, who wrote about the American society of the nineteen-fifties through the seventies. To her, that means, above all, Christopher Lasch, whose best-selling “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations” (1978) was a scorching denunciation of what seemed to him the moral emptiness of life in the postwar United States.

Lunbeck finds Lasch’s complaints ridiculously exaggerated, but what annoys her most is that he tied his critique to the psychiatric definition of narcissism, with the whole range of disabilities that this entailed. A new kind of person was being born on our shores, Lasch proclaimed. Literally, he said, the “underlying structure of personality” was changing. Americans, formerly stoical and severe—Grant Wood types—had become addicted to instant gratification. They were mouths, sucking and whining.

Lasch, needless to say, was not an admirer of the counterculture of the nineteen-sixties, but neither did he like the better-behaved bourgeois—the counterculturalists’ parents—with their insatiable consumerism. Modern technology, he claimed, had made Americans, especially women, dependent on commercial products, and thus deprived them of self-reliance. He disapproved of washing machines and birth control.

Freud claimed that an analyst’s position with regard to [narcissistic] patients—indeed, to all patients—should be one of “abstinence.” The analyst should say little, just listen. Sandor Ferenczi’s view was the opposite: what patients, especially narcissistic patients, needed was empathy and affection. They had not got this from their parents, and that was their problem. Ferenczi wrote that with difficult patients he wanted to be like “an affectionate mother.”

But Lunbeck’s discussion of Ferenczi is only a lead-up to her portrait of Heinz Kohut, a Viennese doctor who, fleeing the Nazis, immigrated to the United States in 1940. It was partly because of Kohut that narcissistic personality disorder became a live issue in American psychiatry in the seventies. In that decade, Kohut was building a new theory of the disorder, based, in large part, on Ferenczi.

Like Ferenczi, Kohut claimed that narcissism was due to low self-esteem, the product, in turn, of a mother’s failure to support her child’s natural sense of omnipotence, his conviction that his finger painting was the best finger painting in all the world. (Lunbeck says that Kohut blamed this maternal negligence, in part, on the women’s movement.) The child’s grandiosity, Kohut believed, would diminish in time, but it would still be there—in the bank, as it were—to protect him later, in the face of disappointment and failure.

 Kohut acknowledged that there was such a thing as “bad narcissism,” akin to the DSM definition: arrogant, demanding, and so forth. But from this bad narcissism he split off a new “good narcissism,” the feeling that brings color to your cheeks, boosts your self-esteem, makes you vivacious and creative. It also makes you loving, he claimed. Whatever else people said about narcissism, the essence of it, most of them agreed, was selfishness. Kohut ridiculed this idea. The problem with selfish people, he said, was not that they were narcissistic, but that they were “not narcissistic enough.”

Kohut had a huge influence on child-rearing, which is still in force.

The charismatic leaders, possessors of good narcissism, [are] “attractive, successful, lovable, and good in bed.” The victims, on the other hand, are characterized as “deficient in self-esteem, perpetually seeking care, protection, and love” from these alluring folk.

Simon Blackburn, author of “Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love,” counsels a golden mean. We should be reasonably kind to ourselves, he says, but we should not make our decisions in “pure and lofty indifference to the world.” We should care what others think. “Good manners are a small but constant adjustment to the reasonable expectations or needs of others, little tokens acknowledging their right to a certain space.”

He doesn’t regard sin as a big, Faustian choice. He thinks that if you fall it’s in the direction that you were leaning, and that whether you fall or not depends mostly on what your parents taught you. He suspects that there is no such thing as the “self”—bad news for narcissists. Like many philosophers and psychologists, he believes that what we call the self may be not a wonderful inner thing that is ours alone, and the framer of our destiny, but just the sum of our experience.

[Blackburn takes] a middle position on narcissism. Be nice to your narcissism, he says, but not too nice. Think of others.


The most provocative statement here is no doubt: The problem with selfish people, Kohut said, was not that they were narcissistic, but that they were “not narcissistic enough.” I think this is pretty much the current view as long as we substitute “self-esteem” for “narcissism.”

It’s commonly noted that in women, not being “narcissistic enough” often translates into the martyr or victim syndrome. One way or another, a healthy self-love is needed for a healthy, non-self-destructive generosity to others. And when it comes to artists, some degree of grandiosity may simply be a necessity.

I also heard the view: “Teach your child to esteem others, and he’ll have good self-esteem.” There is much to be said for the view that if we teach a child how to value others, the child will also come to value himself.

By the way, I don’t think supportive love is needed only in childhood. We need it in every stage of life. And any supportive love is therapy for what we may have lacked before. It doesn’t even have to come from a human being. I’ve seen a woman transformed from a bitter sarcastic type to a perfect sweetheart after she acquired a husky. It was stunning to see her become a different person once love entered her life — never mind it was a dog. With another friend, not quite as dramatically, it was the stray two kittens she took in.

And now for bad narcissism:


~ "In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people—that they have thoughts and intentions—to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it’s there in everyone.

Dualism was the strongest predictor of the three types of supernatural belief. It’s the foundation for belief in God, a disembodied mind. It’s also necessary for belief in spirits, part of the paranormal package. And it may encourage belief in life’s purpose because people see disembodied intentionality acting everywhere, or because belief in the afterlife enhances life’s meaning. . . . Cartesian mind-body dualism, the idea that a mind can exist independently of a body, allows for souls, ghosts, spirits, and Gods, all made of disembodied mind-stuff.

Another psychological process related to mysticism is anthropomorphism, the tendency to apply human-like traits to non-human entities or concepts. (See chapter 6 of my book: “The World is Alive.”) God or the Universe is hearing your prayers. Your laptop meant to crash during your presentation. Your dog understands you. Anthropomorphism can be motivated by loneliness or the need to predict and control our environment. It’s a form of pattern-seeking in which the pattern is another coherent mind.

Anthropomorphism could lead to paranormal belief if you see the world as alive and receptive to your thoughts or spells, or predictable through astrology. It might lead to belief in life’s purpose if one sees the whole world as conspiring to help or harm you. 

“Anthropomorphism of ‘life’ or ‘the universe’ shouldn’t be any different from anthropomorphizing the ocean, albeit a little bit more abstract,” Willard tells me. “Life has intentions for you.” Anthropomorphism does not increase belief in God, however. Somehow seeing the world as alive doesn’t translate into conceiving of one central personality pulling all the strings."

Poznań, Poland: Before and after the mural. Photo: Beata Kowalczyk

Clouds are so wonderful, who needs god? One of the great pleasures of atheism is being able to look at the sky and loving the sky; to look at a tree and loving that tree; of loving beauty and nature in general, without the barrier of inserting an invisible man into everything and worrying about your salvation. The world becomes so rich and enlivened once you know that that disastrous figment of human imagination truly doesn't exist. 

Then suddenly I remembered: it’s about fear. The early man didn’t understand clouds and thunder, so there had to be a malignant storm god up there casting the lightning, a cruel deity to be appeased with lots of animal slaughter.


After this year’s Yom Kippur services, a friend of mine approached his rabbi with this question: “Is it necessary to believe in God?” He expected the rabbi to dance around the question, but what came back was straightforward: “No. What is important is how we treat people.”

And if it's not necessary to believe in god to be a good person, and prayers aren't answered unless already part of the Master Plan, then god is entirely useless, even as a fictional entity. These days the only use may be to justify the horrors commonplace in the most religious countries, and sectarian warfare.

And those who delight in the thought of hearing from heaven the screams of non-believers in hell (I just read a comment that expressed precisely that joyful anticipation as the chief -- in fact, for that commentator, sole and sufficing pleasure of heaven) should be further disappointed to learn that according to the more recent teachings, the elect will not be aware of those in hell, not even their family members. I say “more recent,” since Tertullian, one of the earliest Christian theologians (1555-240 AD), wrote that watching those in hell would far surpass the pleasures of going to the circus.


It doesn’t surprise me that the belief in hell is waning, since there is less and less tolerance for cruelty, and besides, as soon as I arrived, I noticed that Americans don’t see themselves as sinners (a huge change after Polish Catholics) deserving any kind of punishment, much less eternal. The most recent (2013) Harris poll found the belief in Satan and hell down to 58%. I expect this to slide below 50% soon.

“It is increasingly difficult to convince educated people that they and their friends and children deserve infinite suffering for finite failings—or that a god who acts like an Iron Age tyrant (or domestic abuser) is the model of perfect love. A group called Child Evangelism Fellowship aroused intense opposition in Portland last summer in part because outsiders to biblical Christianity were appalled that insiders would try to convert small children by threatening them with torture.

The appeal of hell as a part of the faith package appears to be in decline, even among Evangelicals. According to a 2011 survey, while 92% of Americans claimed some sort of belief in God, only 75% believed in hell. A 2013 Harris poll put belief in the devil and hell at 58 percent. As one theology professor, Mike Wittmer, put it: “In a pluralistic, post-modern world, students are having a more difficult time with (the idea of) people going to hell forever because they didn't believe the right thing.”

The decline of hell-belief may be due to the same factors that may be causing the decline in bible belief more broadly — globalization and the internet. It gets harder to imagine oneself blissfully indifferent to the eternal torture of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and atheists when those people have names and faces and are Facebook friends.

Luca Signorelli


The last man pats the devil’s furry paw.
There, there, he says.
And they embrace.

The devil feels the warmth of human arms;
he receives affection for the first time
in eternity. He smiles, and his face becomes
beautiful: angelic!

And confides what heaven really is:
a replica of Circus Maximus,
just larger, almost infinite.
The devils were bred like pitbulls,
for fights, bets, entertainment.
Angels abuse them
to keep them mean.
They love to throw a human
like a bone into the pit,
and watch the devils
go for it.

(~ Anonymous)



Fucose (6-deoxy-L-galactose) is another important simple sugar, one of the eight essential sugars. It exists in our cells mostly in the form of a fucoidan.

Fucose and fucoidan are found throughout the body. “Fucose is found in the photoreceptor layer of the retina of the eye. Fucose is also found in the skin, brain cells, and kidneys. Fucose is also excreted in breast milk and may play a part in the transfer of immunity to the newborn. In addition, fucose has an active role in the immune system and in red blood cell function.

According to research, fucose is important in regulation of the immune system, which may affect the activity of inflammatory diseases in the body. Fucose has also been found to inhibit the ability of bacteria to adhere to cells, without which infection cannot occur. In addition, research has also shown fucose to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells.”

Fucoidan is a sulfated polysaccharide of fucose; it may also contain some glucoronic acid, xylose, or glucose It’s commonly found in brown marine algae and in shiitake. Fucoidan has aroused interest because of the exceptional health and life expectancy typical of people who consume a lot of seaweed — mainly the Japanese.

Immunosupportive Properties

Eating foods rich in fucoidan can help your immune system fight off infection and disease. One of the most powerful health benefits claimed for fucoidan is its functional support of the body’s immune system. Numerous studies have focused on this aspect of fucoidan’s medicinal properties. The polysaccharide gives the immune system a big boost by enhancing phagocytosis, the process through which white blood cells attack and destroy pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. Fucoidan also increases the number of mature white blood cells that are circulating in your body, thus bolstering the first line of defense against infection and disease.

Fucoidan helps activate specialized immune cells called dendritic cells, whose function is to present information to other immune cells and prepare them to mount an attack against a pathogen. Fucoidan also activates T cells, as well as enhances the antiviral and anticancer response of the immune system.

Thus, fucoidan can stimulate acute immune response, but it also dampens immune over- activation that can lead to autoimmune diseases.

Anti-cancer properties

Fucoidan can also hinder the migration of of cancer cells by inhibiting molecules called SELECTINS. Cancer cells can use these molecules to spread to other parts of the body.

It’s also by inhibiting selections that fucoidan prevents inflammation (which relies on the migration of white blood cells) from becoming excessive.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, fucoidan helps reduce the pain of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis. It also shows promise in multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

In summary: “Fucoidan blocks action of selecting molecules that promote adhesions between cells and blood vessel walls. This prevents excessive infiltration of inflammatory cells into tissues, helping to prevent and mitigate arthritis and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Selectin-blocade is one of the anticancer properties of fucoidan. Blocking selectins helps prevent metastatic spread of many types of cancer.

Fucoidan promotes better response to vaccines, improves immune competence, and suppresses chronic inflammatory reactions.”

(multiple sources)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


St. Petersburg


But what I’m really picturing 

is Omaha: field after field 

of sorghum crisp to my touch

and one house on a high hill, 

sheets on the line. You tell me

everything ceases, that even

our fingernails give up, but

what I really believe is that 

we keep growing: infinite corn,

husk yielding to green husk. 

I look back on the miles 

connecting me to Earth, think

I’d have never worn those shoes.

I slip them off like anything

borrowed. The clouds are thin

and yellow, smelling of 

fireworks and salt. In Omaha, 

the town votes me Queen of

Everything. You are the slow
dance, the last ring of smoke:

to be held tight, and then only
this colder air between us.

  ~ Sandra Beasley
from Agni Online

Beasley imagines becoming the fields and what is planted in them: “we keep growing.” Infinite corn, infinite sorghum.

But there is also a “you” in the poem: the person the speaker loves — someone about to leave her. “You tell me everything ceases.” The speaker knows that their love will end, the way everything must. That’s why the town of Omaha makes her the Queen of Everything. What I find it stunning is the way this poem reverses the usual strategy: it starts with something larger, dying and uniting with nature, and then making its way to the imagined end of a love relationship, the death that is a lot more real and relevant to her right now:

to be held tight, and then only  

this colder air between us.

~ and “this colder air” returns us to the posthumous fields. It’s the order of things, as Bukowski observed, in a brutal way, with his “each gets a taste of honey, then the knife.” Here, it’s being held tight, the assurance of being loved, the warmth and consolation of two bodies close together; then only “the colder air between us.” In the ultimate sense, there is a consoling promise of infinity in nature, though similarly we can’t help but feel the shudder of that colder air. 

Still, this is a poem that reminds me that up to a certain age, it’s not really the physical death that concerns us. Not yet. It’s the deaths before then. The death of a love relationship is much more real and more wounding than the more distant prospect. 


Though the fields seem endless, one senses that the consciousness that imagines entering them is a very solitary one, as is typical of writers. We rarely imagine happy human unions, but then those ever-dancing couples have the secret of being happy also in solitude. Here is one of Nabokov’s  reveries:

Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.

~ Vladimir Nabokov, A Letter That Never Reached Russia

Here the landscape that absorbs the writer’s happiness for perpetuity is an urban one — including, by coincidence, a dancing couple. Still, the speaker wanders alone. Must the dancing always end, and the walking hand in hand? It must — for one thing, without time alone, no writing would be done. 

Sneaky, those writers, declaring their connection to places and lovers, but finding themselves most happy when alone with their thoughts, the places and lovers becoming archetypal, eternal, universal. And yet, and yet . . . those stone steps, that moist reflection of a streetlamp in the black canal, it’s St. Petersburg for Nabokov, isn’t it, and Nebraska for Sandra Beasley. The first landscape becomes the enduring inner landscape.

And the last word, directly or in disguise, is loneliness — but loneliness made beautiful by the richness of life and all that surrounds us.


Here I can’t resist the temptation to quote once more my “Credo” — a poem in which I too imagine myself entering the cityscape of the town where I was born. (Do I repeat myself? I do so with the trust that a good poem becomes even better on re-reading; also, to some readers this will be the first time they encounter the poem.)


When God says, I could give you
the whole world, but would you take it?

he’s expecting No, since I am the alleged

immigrant at a feast, but I say Yes.
Go ahead, give me the world.
But that happened already at my birth.

Now I believe only in California,
dressed in flames each scarlet,
smoky year. A paradise on fault lines.

Like my life, split at seventeen.
Like my soul, an erased
infinity sign. Not even the body

remains our native country.
Leaving me only the inaccurate
loss of homeland, a place where you go

to die. By nineteen I had a plan:
word by word I would dissolve
into the thousand-year-old

town where I was born, an old Viking
river port, river wide as history,
the thick fortress-like cathedral

underworld-cold, me that shivering
dove; me the bowing in the wind,
lost in linden trees;

in the empty granaries,
that blinding
dance of dust and light.

Meanwhile I’ll take the world.

~ Oriana © 2015 

Sunday, September 20, 2015



I am walking in gray Warsaw,
past the swan parks, helmet gates,
the pale angels in cathedrals,
wild archangels in the clouds —
but there are no leaves.

Not one chestnut leaf is left,
crimson, crimped by frost.
And the ivy called wild wine
is spread leafless on the walls
like a crown of thorns.

Not even the last ghost leaf
to reach to me its small hand.
Leafless sidewalks, leafless sky —
bridges leading into fog
for the final time.

Gone, that cloud-dream of returning,
looking out of my high window
on my poplars greening, passing
silver rumors of the wind —
and then golden lies. But the girl

who knew them smiles.
The gray city in me weeps not
cold November rain, but tender
eggs from centuries of stone.
“Pigeons,” I coo. “My pigeons.”

~ Oriana © 2015


I was told that my poems are from another century. I think of them as rather than another realm — one in which beauty is a supreme value.

This one was written toward the end of the period when the past was still a radiant presence in my life. I’d already lost the future — hence my self-description as “postshumous.” But it’s only recently that I realized that the past has left me also.

Contrary to the New Age rhetoric, living in the now is not necessarily blissful. The pressing concerns are mostly pedestrian, draining. Memory is nicely edited — you don't reminisce about dental visits or car repairs. I don't mean to say that the past was paradise. But to me it was another layer of time and reality, another world enriching this one.

Yes, this is another instance of diminished brain function. It occurs together with the decline in creativity: memory and writing went together. I was very much a poet of memory. Memory, mother of the muses.

I mean the kind of memory that occurs spontaneously, that is elicited by a glance at something — what Proust called “involuntary memory.” It can still happen — it just doesn’t happen as it used to. So the past isn’t with me much . . . which all the masters assure us is a good thing. I live in the now without really trying. I am glad not to be brooding about the bad things; I just didn’t know that the good things would leave as well. Not irretrievably, no; but their radiant, effortless presence is no more.

The decrease in creativity didn't bother me at first, because quality kept going up. Then I reached a limit; then it was a choice between despair and prose. I realize it's not only aging but also circumstances, esp a huge increase in practical chores. But the process started way before the recent change in my life circumstances, so I sadly conclude that in my case at least aging is taking its toll.

What can be done? We cope somehow. I practice “harvesting” — the perfecting of older poems. And I do enjoy prose, which is always there for me. There are worse fates.


Marx believed that the working class will liquidate capitalism. The Communist Manifesto proclaimed, “The bourgeoisie creates its own grave-diggers: the workers.” But in reality it’s capitalism that gradually liquidates the working class.

It started with the peasants. The peasants, understood as the numerous and impoverished community of intimidated, illiterate small farmers has virtually disappeared in the developed world. The more modern the country, the fewer people are employed in agriculture. The same fate is currently catching up with the working class. In highly developed societies it’s a disappearing social class. The economy of the future will need minds rather than hands.

Two forces have become the grave-diggers of the workers: modern technology and international finance. The first one makes production more efficient and profitable. The second one directs investment wherever labor is cheapest and most submissive. In Asia labor costs one tenth of what it costs in America, and labor unions are prohibited.

The modern world is the world of the rich. Whoever does not belong to the privileged class is doomed to being subordinate, to mere subsistence and obedience. Whoever rebels will be defeated. In any case, the spirit of rebellion among the exploited and marginalized (the “excluded,” as the French say) grows weaker and weaker. Among them, the spirit of resignation is universal: you won’t break through the wall by ramming it with your head.

A few economic dogmas have been shattered. The most important one — that increased investment, commerce, and technology will increase the well-being of the entire society. Now it’s obvious: it’s those who are already rich who get richer. In each country and in the whole world, humanity can be divided into two groups: the winners and the losers. One man feels he’s climbing higher and higher, while another sees that he’s not even in the game, far away from the banquet table.

Those are the two divisions of the human family. It has always been that way, but the modern mass media made it more and more obvious.

There is increasing unemployment. In the developed countries, in 1974 there were 18 million unemployed; twenty years later, in 1994, there are 34 million. As a rule, if the unemployed person finds a new job, that job will be lower-paid. Unskilled labor is worst-off. It’t a great economic and humanitarian problem. What kind of work can these people do? One solution is to invest in culture and education in order to prepare people for life in the modern world which rewards skills and education. But governments tend to cut spending precisely in the areas of education and vocational training.

The twilight of the working class in the developed world doesn’t mean the total disappearance of the working class. Traditional industries are flourishing in the Third World. The international capital has liquidated the expensive working class of rich countries with the hands of the cheap workers in the Third World. ~ Ryszard Kapuściński, Lapidarium III, 1997, tr. Oriana Ivy

Fifty years ago, young Bob Dylan sang about the beginning of this “liquidation of the working class” in the developed countries.


This morning I had a naughty thought, “If I were god, I would do good things for people.” This morning, an even more subversive thought arose (I take no responsibility for my thoughts. They simply arise). Remembering how god was presented to us as the eye in the sky, spying on everyone’s sins, I realized that in the book of Job there was a hint that this was the function of one of the sons of god, Satan (ha Shatan) -- THE ADVERSARY. The Prosecution. It was Satan who “walked up and down the earth,” building the case against this or that human being.

It was bad enough that god would make bets with Satan. There was no need for the fusion of the two entities. God was unlovable enough as judge and executioner. To make him also collect the evidence for the Prosecution was really going too far.

In Rogier van der Weyden’s painting, the task of “weighing the souls” (the heavier ones went to hell) seems to have been delegated to Archangel Michael. In the town where I was born, right under the “ambona” (from where the priest preached the sermon) there was a baroque naked angel (with a loincloth billowing about) weighing the souls, one scale dipping down: a new meaning to “heavy soul.

Rogier Van Der Weyden, Archangel Michael Weighing the Souls


When I first heard the statement that faith moves mountains, I was a child and thought as a child
literally. So my immediate question was, "Really? Has anyone tried it? Has any mountain ever been moved that way?" I was fascinated by the possibility imagine, no bulldozers needed!

Later I realized that the statement was  symbolic, but even at that level, I had my doubts. I didn't know anyone who's accomplished anything difficult by faith alone, though I knew of some who perished that way (wartime stories). Any examples of accomplishment I knew relied primarily on very hard work, the "miracle" being that the people were willing to put in much more effort than average.

To do that kind of work you had to be obsessed with your goal, single-minded, ruthlessly casting off distractions, and compulsive. Maybe obsession is a kind of faith, but obsession — having the obsessive/compulsive personality — was a more accurate description.

I first experienced it in my late teens, when I devoted myself to acquiring a mastery of English. At 17 I was beginning to read Shakespeare in the original while my peers found the language sheer hell to learn (it was that, too). I dare say it had nothing to do with faith, and everything to do with my greed to pick up new words and phrases (I was past the age of effortlessly learning a new language — that ends at puberty).  

(As an aside: While no one has as yet moved a mountain by faith alone, many have died as a result of faith. Often it was having too much faith in a psychotic religious leader or in bizarre ideas, e.g. the true believers can’t be harmed by poison or dangerous snakes. Faith healers can claim an occasional success, but let’s not forget that faith can kill.)
Mount Denali, Alaska


In 1734, in Scotland, a 23-year-old was falling apart.

As a teenager, he’d thought he had glimpsed a new way of thinking and living, and ever since, he’d been trying to work it out and convey it to others in a great book. The effort was literally driving him mad. His heart raced and his stomach churned. He couldn’t concentrate. Most of all, he just couldn’t get himself to write his book. His doctors diagnosed vapors, weak spirits, and “the Disease of the Learned.” Today, with different terminology but no more insight, we would say he was suffering from anxiety and depression. The doctors told him not to read so much and prescribed antihysteric pills, horseback riding, and claret—the Prozac, yoga, and meditation of their day.

The young man’s name was David Hume. Somehow, during the next three years, he managed not only to recover but also, remarkably, to write his book. Even more remarkably, it turned out to be one of the greatest books in the history of philosophy: A Treatise of Human Nature.

In his Treatise, Hume rejected the traditional religious and philosophical accounts of human nature. Instead, he took Newton as a model and announced a new science of the mind, based on observation and experiment. That new science led him to radical new conclusions. He argued that there was no soul, no coherent self, no “I.” “When I enter most intimately into what I call myself,” he wrote in the Treatise, “I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.”

Until Hume, philosophers had searched for metaphysical foundations supporting our ordinary experience, an omnipotent God or a transcendent reality outside our minds. But Hume undermined all that. When you really look hard at everything we think we know, he argued, the foundations crumble. Descartes at least had said you always know that you yourself exist (“I think, therefore I am”), but Hume rejected even that premise.

Hume articulates a thoroughgoing, vertiginous, existential kind of doubt. here’s Hume’s really great idea: Ultimately, the metaphysical foundations don’t matter. Experience is enough all by itself. What do you lose when you give up God or “reality” or even “I”? The moon is still just as bright; you can still predict that a falling glass will break, and you can still act to catch it; you can still feel compassion for the suffering of others. Science and work and morality remain intact. Go back to your backgammon game after your skeptical crisis, Hume wrote, and it will be exactly the same game.

In fact, if you let yourself think this way, your life might actually get better. Give up the prospect of life after death, and you will finally really appreciate life before it. Give up metaphysics, and you can concentrate on physics. Give up the idea of your precious, unique, irreplaceable self, and you might actually be more sympathetic to other people.


The Buddha doubted the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent God. In his doctrine of “emptiness,” he suggested that we have no real evidence for the existence of the outside world. He said that our sense of self is an illusion, too. The Buddhist sage Nagasena elaborated on this idea. The self, he said, is like a chariot. A chariot has no transcendent essence; it’s just a collection of wheels and frame and handle. Similarly, the self has no transcendent essence; it’s just a collection of perceptions and emotions.

“I never can catch myself at any time without a perception.”

That sure sounded like Buddhist philosophy to me—except, of course, that Hume couldn’t have known anything about Buddhist philosophy.

Or could he have?

[The author goes on to establish that Hume had the opportunity to learn about Buddhism during his stay in France, when he was in contact with the Jesuits, who were aware of Buddhism because of Jesuit missionaries to Tibet and Siam.]

Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure what Hume learned at the Royal College, or whether any of it influenced the Treatise. Philosophers like Descartes, Malebranche, and Bayle had already put Hume on the skeptical path. But simply hearing about the Buddhist argument against the self could have nudged him further in that direction. Buddhist ideas might have percolated in his mind and influenced his thoughts, even if he didn’t track their source. After all, contemporary philosophers have been known to borrow ideas without remembering exactly where they came from.

I published an article about Hume, Buddhism, and the Jesuits. As I was doing my research, many unfailingly helpful historians told me that my quirky personal project reflected a much broader trend. Historians have begun to think about the Enlightenment in a newly global way. Those creaky wooden ships carried ideas across the boundaries of continents, languages, and religions just as the Internet does now (although they were a lot slower and perhaps even more perilous). . . . New links between Eastern and Western philosophy keep emerging.


“I look at the twentieth century, which in many ways was a secular humanist century… in that very century, the emancipation of women occurred, the end of colonial domination of the less developed third world nations was largely ended, the civil rights movement broke the back of segregation, and homosexuals began to overcome the prejudice that has prevented them from achieving full membership and justice in the social order. Each of these is a powerful achievement….” ~ Bishop John Shelby Spong

The paragraph continues, but I want to stop right there — just to thank Bishop Spong for enumerating some of those achievements. There is a toxic tendency some people have to “see no good, hear no good, speak no good” when it comes to the collective human accomplishments, the collective human genius that has given us so much. All they see is that we are a rotten bunch, prone to violence. Yet this list is just a beginning. Science (especially physics and biology), technology (jet travel and computers — think how recent those are), and medicine really took off in the twentieth century. The social safety net increased considerably, and the European and American working class rose from wretched misery. The progress continues to stun me.

There has also been a lot more questioning and free discussion. The literal belief in Bronze-Age and Iron-Age mythologies has continued its decline even in the US. Ecological awareness began to emerge. On and on, there is so much GOOD that could be said about the twentieth century that those who utterly omit that good, always dwelling on the dark spots, are in my eyes guilty of prejudiced perception. As Jack Gilbert said, “To see only evil is to praise the devil.”

Such people seem to take secret joy in negative developments. Maybe it’s not so much a psychological quirk as simply a bad habit, like chewing one’s nails or hair pulling. Maybe it can be stopped. Gently. Gentleness has also been one of the developments of the twentieth century, especially when it comes to child rearing, but also in how people treat one another, recognizing the dignity of simply being human as never before.



Galactose is a simple sugar that is produced naturally in the human body in the range of 2 -10 g. It’s also part of lactose, the “milk sugar”. Lactose is composed of glucose and galactose. (Note that unlike sucrose, the table sugar, lactose contains no fructose.) A nursing mother converts some of the glucose in her body to galactose, the “brain sugar” for the baby. By being converted to aminoacids such as GABA and glutamine, galactose helps remove toxic ammonia from the brain.

Galactose is one of the eight “essential sugars.” Without galactose, you would not be able to function. Your body needs galactose to function properly.

Galactose contributes directly (as well as through bonds by way of contact points on cells) to vital information and control processes in the body. It also functions as a fundamental and structural substance for cells, cell walls, and intracellular matrix. Your immune system wouldn’t be able to function without galactose either. Your body wouldn’t know which cells are “good” and what cells are “bad.” Your body wouldn’t know who the invaders were and which ones should be attacked by antibodies.

Interestingly, galactose is known as the “brain sugar” and supports the brain development of babies and children. Studies indicate that the monosaccharide sugar helps triggers long-term memory formation. Galactose also has been shown to inhibit tumor growth and stop its spread, or metastasis, particularly to the liver. This beneficial sugar can also enhance wound healing, decrease inflammation, enhances cellular communication, and increases calcium absorption. Getting a proper amount of galactose can also help to protect against exposure to X-ray radiation, and developing cataracts. Oddly enough, its been shown that galactose levels are usually lower in people with arthritis and in those with lupus.

Interestingly, lactose also has less significant metabolic effects than other sugars. Sugars can be compared on how quickly a specific sugar will cause a rise in blood sugar level. This measurement is called the Glycemic Index. Certain sugars and carbohydrates cause a spike, or rapid rise, in blood sugar level. This spike causes an insulin response and may over time lead to health problems such as diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and other issues. Maintaining a more even blood sugar level is ideal and appears to be beneficial. Lactose’s glycemic index number (45) is much lower than glucose (100), and galactose is much lower at (25).


In order to break down lactose in the digestive system, your body manufactures an enzyme called lactase. As we get older though, our ability to produce this enzyme declines. If your body doesn’t break down all the lactose, it will continue to pass through your digestive system. The “good” bacteria in your digestive system will take advantage of this undigested sugar, and use it as energy so it can grow and flourish. Lactose can help establish and maintain a healthy micro flora in your gut.


Early studies found that high consumption of dairy products to be associated with increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancer; galactose in particular was singled out. This was a correlation, which need not imply causation. Ovarian cancer has a strong genetic component. The correlation has not been found when the consumption of skim milk products was studied. Later studies questioned the validity of the early studies even in terms of full-fat dairy.

Recent studies found no correlation between dairy consumption and the risk of ovarian cancer; in fact a high intake of calcium and Vitamin D (both amply found in dairy) correlated with a lower risk. 2012 study: “We found no evidence that lactose intake influenced ovarian cancer risk, or that risk varied by tumor aggressiveness in the analyses of intake of dairy foods and nutrients. The overall inverse association with high intake of calcium, and the inverse associations of calcium and vitamin D with specific histological subtypes warrant further investigation.”

Excess galactose is converted into glucose. A rare (1:60,000) genetic defect results in a deficiency of a necessary enzyme, leading to excess levels of galactose in the blood and urine. This defect can be detected prenatally, or later in newborns (who cannot be breast-fed or utilize any other animal milk, and are given soy milk instead). In the US the screening is routine.

There are legitimate concerns about the safety of drinking milk (for instance, for the best composition of milk, cows should eat grass rather than commercial feed). The presence of galactose should not be one of those concerns. It makes sense that nature would provide an extremely beneficial sugar in breast milk.

Next blog: fucose, usually part of the fucoidan polysaccharide. Protects against auto-immune disorders. Think seaweed, certain mushrooms. It's all more complex than in our wildest dreams.

(multiple sources)

Jean Dubuffet, Cow with a Subtile Nose, 1954

ending on beauty and humor:


about gravity, quantum physics, and string theory — and it sounds like a sacred chant

Sunset on Pluto


With Marxism, socialism or income equality, where is the talk of how do we create wealth? The past seven years of politicians has encouraged non-work like never before.

Love the paintings of weighing the souls.

Best lines: “Give up the prospect of life after death, and you will finally really appreciate life before it. Give up metaphysics, and you can concentrate on physics. Give up the idea of your precious, unique, irreplaceable self, and you might actually be more sympathetic to other people.”


Maybe work in the sense of making a living in a single job 8 hrs a day will become obsolete due to technology. Marx actually had a vision of more fulfilling work, and a variety of work rather than something monotonous. The young Marx, before he turned into a prophet of the revolution, was a lot more interesting. In some ways he remains relevant. What about the constant recessions? It’s difficult on people to be getting laid off. The job they manage to get later — if they succeed — usually pays less.

Capitalism will evolve, but we don’t know into what. Marx would be astonished to discover the decline of the working class in the developed countries, even though he correctly described the decline of the peasants. This is so ironic now that we can see what’s happening — but just fifty years ago, who would ever have guessed? True, there were some people voicing their concern over the high wages of the American worker, and also over the use of industrial robots, the increasing mechanization of the assembly line. But those were outliers.

In mid-twentieth century, every prediction about the 21st century started with space travel. We were supposed to be colonizing Mars. Religious wars? No one would have guessed.

We live in tremendously interesting times . . .

Monday, September 14, 2015



Backwards. If you jump forward,
you’ll be sucked down under the wheels.
Backwards, blindly, rolled into a ball,
hands cradling the back of your neck.

Note the terrain where you’ll be thrust
away from the speeding locomotive.
On a soft meadow, you might get up;
on hard gravel, bones will break.

I’m doomed to carry these instructions
in the fragile planet of my skull.
Sometimes, after meeting someone new,
I suddenly think, “She could hide me.”

Why did I shudder when a Buddhist monk
said, “There’s no doubt: in your past life,
you died at Auschwitz.” Now I know
it’s enough to be a child of survivors,

to whose cunning and whose luck I owe
life — but an old movie is bleeding
through, of jumping backwards, away
from the transport — half-broken

crawling on sharp gravel until
the trees, a house, a stream — until
warm clothes, warm food, cool wind
of the springtime of my birth. Forward.

~ Oriana © 2015


“Hitler exploited images and tropes that were familiar to Christians: God, prayers, original sin, commandments, prophets, chosen people, messiahs—even the familiar Christian tripartite structure of time: first paradise, then exodus, and finally redemption. We live in filth, and we must strain to purify ourselves and the world so that we might return to paradise. To see paradise as the battle of the species rather than the concord of creation was to unite Christian longing with the apparent realism of biology. The war of all against all was not terrifyingly purposeless, but instead the only purpose to be had in the universe. Nature’s bounty was for man, as in Genesis, but only for the men who follow nature’s law and fight for nature. As in Genesis, so in My Struggle, nature was a resource for man: but not for all people, only for triumphant races. Eden was not a garden but a trench.

Knowledge of the body was not the problem, as in Genesis, but the solution. The triumphant should copulate. After murder, Hitler thought, the next human duty was sex and reproduction. In his scheme, the original sin that led to the fall of man was of the mind and soul, not of the body. For Hitler, our unhappy weakness was that we can think, realize that others belonging to other races can do the same, and thereby recognize them as fellow human beings. Humans left Hitler’s bloody paradise not because of carnal knowledge. Humans left paradise because of the knowledge of good and evil.

When paradise falls and humans are separated from nature, a character who is neither human nor natural, such as the serpent of Genesis, takes the blame. If humans were in fact nothing more than an element of nature, and nature was known by science to be a bloody struggle, something beyond nature must have corrupted the species. For Hitler the bringer of the knowledge of good and evil on the earth, the destroyer of Eden, was the Jew.

It was the Jew who told humans that they were above other animals, and had the capacity to decide their future for themselves. It was the Jew who introduced the false distinction between politics and nature, between humanity and struggle. Hitler’s destiny, as he saw it, was to redeem the original sin of Jewish spirituality and restore the paradise of blood. Since Homo sapiens can survive only by unrestrained racial killing, a Jewish triumph of reason over impulse would mean the end of the species. What a race needed, thought Hitler, was a “worldview” that permitted it to triumph, which meant, in the final analysis, “faith” in its own mindless mission.

Hitler’s presentation of the Jewish threat revealed his particular amalgamation of religious and zoological ideas. If the Jew triumphs, Hitler wrote, “then his crown of victory will be the funeral wreath of the human species.” On the one hand, Hitler’s image of a universe without human beings accepted science’s verdict of an ancient planet on which humanity had evolved. After the Jewish victory, he wrote, “earth will once again wing its way through the universe entirely without humans, as was the case millions of years ago.” At the same time, as he made clear in the very same passage of My Struggle, this ancient earth of races and extermination was the Creation of God. “Therefore I believe myself to be acting according to the wishes of the Creator. Insofar as I restrain the Jew, I am defending the work of the Lord.”

Hitler’s basic critique was not the usual one that human beings were good but had been corrupted by an overly Jewish civilization. It was rather that humans were animals and that any exercise of ethical deliberation was in itself a sign of Jewish corruption. The very attempt to set a universal ideal and strain toward it was precisely what was hateful.

Any nonracist attitude was Jewish, thought Hitler, and any universal idea a mechanism of Jewish dominion. Both capitalism and communism were Jewish. Their apparent embrace of struggle was simply cover for the Jewish desire for world domination. Any abstract idea of the state was also Jewish. “There is no such thing,” wrote Hitler, “as the state as an end in itself.” As he clarified, “the highest goal of human beings” was not “the preservation of any given state or government, but the preservation of their kind.” The frontiers of existing states would be washed away by the forces of nature in the course of racial struggle: “One must not be diverted from the borders of Eternal Right by the existence of political borders.”

Insofar as universal ideas penetrated non-Jewish minds, claimed Hitler, they weakened racial communities to the profit of Jews. The content of various political ideas was beside the point, since all were merely traps for fools. There were no Jewish liberals and no Jewish nationalists, no Jewish messiahs and no Jewish Bolsheviks: “Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” Hitler saw Jesus as an enemy of Jews whose teachings had been perverted by Paul to become one more false Jewish universalism, that of mercy to the weak. From Saint Paul to Leon Trotsky, maintained Hitler, there were only Jews who adopted various guises to seduce the naive. Ideas had no historical origins and no connection to the succession of events or to the creativity of individuals. They were simply tactical creations of the Jews, and in this sense they were all the same.

Hitler understood that agricultural science posed a specific threat to the logic of his system. If humans could intervene in nature to create more food without taking more land, his whole system collapsed. He therefore denied the importance of what was happening before his eyes, the science of what was later called the “Green Revolution”: the hybridization of grains, the distribution of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the expansion of irrigation. Even “in the best case,” he insisted, hunger must outstrip crop improvements. There was “a limit” to all scientific improvements. Indeed, all of “the scientific methods of land management” had already been tried and had failed. There was no conceivable improvement, now or in the future, that would allow Germans to be fed “from [their] own land and territory.” Food could only be safeguarded by conquest of fertile territory, not by science that would make German territory more fertile. Jews deliberately encouraged the contrary belief in order to dampen the German appetite for conquest and prepare the German people for destruction. “It is always the Jew,” wrote Hitler in this connection, “who seeks and succeeds in implanting such lethal ways of thinking.”

In Hitler’s world, the law of the jungle was the only law. People were to suppress any inclination to be merciful and were to be as rapacious as they could. Hitler thus broke with the traditions of political thought that presented human beings as distinct from nature in their capacity to imagine and create new forms of association. Beginning from that assumption, political thinkers tried to describe not only the possible but the most just forms of society. For Hitler, however, nature was the singular, brutal, and overwhelming truth, and the whole history of attempting to think otherwise was an illusion. Carl Schmitt, a leading Nazi legal theorist, explained that politics arose not from history or concepts but from our sense of enmity. Our racial enemies were chosen by nature, and our task was to struggle and kill and die.

Hitler in Potsdam, 1933

Struggle was life, not a means to some other end. It was not justified by the prosperity (capitalism) or justice (socialism) that it supposedly brought. Hitler’s point was not at all that the desirable end justified the bloody means. There was no end, only meanness. Race was real, whereas individuals and classes were fleeting and erroneous constructions. Struggle was not a metaphor or an analogy, but a tangible and total truth. The weak were to be dominated by the strong, since “the world is not there for the cowardly peoples.” And that was all that there was to be known and believed.”

When I came across a copy of Mein Kampf I was very curious. In my college years I still thought that Hitler had been an evil genius, and I thought the "genius" part would be reflected in his writing. Instead it was an incoherent, crazy anti-Semitic rant. Irrational obsession. I got a strong whiff of psychosis. I couldn't read for very long because actually it was very bad writing, just as writing goes. And it did seem psychotic.

One thing that strikes me in this eye-opening essay is that Hitler was not only anti-Reason but also specifically anti-science, even though the Nazis (as well as the Stalinist Communists) claimed to be “scientific.” Science was to be twisted to serve ideology. No results that didn’t confirm the ideology would be tolerated. Actually, Reason as such was not to be tolerated. In the future, education was to be limited — the Nazis realized that “too much education” was a threat. Just as education and reason are seen as the greatest enemies of religion, they are also the greatest enemies of secular ideologies — since any ideology is bound to be flawed. 

Nazi and Soviet military personnel, victory parade, Brest-Litovsk, September 22, 1939


“God disappears in the Bible. Both religious and non-religious readers find this impressive and intriguing. Speaking for myself, I find it astonishing. The Bible begins with a world in which God is actively and visibly involved, but it does not end that way. Gradually through the course of the Hebrew Bible, the deity appears less and less to humans, speaks less and less. Miracles, angels, and all other signs of divine presence become rarer and finally cease. In the last portion of the Hebrew Bible, God is not present in the well-known ways apparent in the earlier books. Among God’s last words to Moses, the deity says, “I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be” (Deut 31:17, 18; Deut 32:20). By the end of the story, God does just that. The consequences and development of this phenomenon in the New Testament and in the post-biblical Judaism are extraordinary as well.

As the people settle in their promised land, the remaining signs of divine presence and communication begin to diminish gradually. In the book of Joshua, the column of cloud and fire is no longer present, the glory of Yahweh no longer appears, and the text notes tat the manna ceases on the day after the people first eat naturally grown food in the land. The disappearance of the signs of divine presence is gradual.

In the book of Judges, the judge Gideon says, “If Yahweh is with us, then . . . where are all His miracles that our fathers told us about? (Judg 6:13) Gideon in fact gets his miracle, but miracles are fewer and farther between after this. . . . The diminishing apparent presence of God continues and even accelerates from this point. [Elijah on Mount Carmel] is the end of public miracles in the Hebrew Bible.

~ Richard Elliott Friedman, The Disappearance of God

From a review:

“Why does the God who is known through miracles and direct interaction at the beginning of the Bible gradually become hidden, leaving humans on their own by the Bible's end? How is it possible that the Bible, written over so many centuries by so many authors, depicts this diminishing visible presence of God - and the growing up of humankind - so consistently? Why has this not been common knowledge?”

(Me): This is an excellent question. Why has there been hardly any comment on the diminishment of god’s presence not only in modern times, but in fact in biblical times? Is it only now that we are bold enough to see what has always been in plain sight?

The first part of Friedman’s book, “The Disappearance of God,” is by far the best. Of course he isn’t the only biblical scholar to have noticed the initial high involvement and then the gradual disappearance of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible, but he writes in an accessible manner reminiscent of Jack Miles, who notes the same phenomenon in his prize-winning “God: A Biography.”

Still, the speculation on the causes of this disappearance is rather disappointing: yes, we can trace the narrative of how humans take more and more responsibility for themselves and are moving toward a “loyalty to the species” as the basis of morality, but the mechanism remains unclear. I think only Julian Jaynes was bold enough to offer an answer, which makes perfect sense to some (e.g. the lack of “mentalistic” vocabulary in the first five books of the Hebrew bible).

And then there is the disquieting statement by Yahweh himself: “I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be.” What kind of deity would behave in this way? One who satisfies his own curiosity with no regard for human suffering?

We are finally utterly on our own. ~ Nietzsche. Humanity has to rely on itself. But hasn't this always been reflected in sayings such as, "God helps those who help themselves"? And haven't military pointed out, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition," and "God is on the side of whoever has more battalions"?

Blake, Adam and Eve

 The more civilization advances, the more religion becomes a denial of reality. Every century, the gap keeps growing. The fight against reality becomes more and more desperate — or else the clergy try to change the dogma, which has been true of non-fundamentalist Christianity. Yet another accommodation is the disappearance of god. This is usually called secularization.

This is easy enough to see in modern times. Friedman’s achievement is documenting this happening already in the Hebrew bible. “In the Book of Esther, God is never mentioned” — this simple sentence says it all.


If we take the point of view that god is a human creation, then more and more humans cease creating him as the culture evolves. And indeed we see the growing importance of secular laws and, as greatest love object, our partner and children and pets (pets are not trivial here). But the lethal developments within Islam point to more entanglements between religion and power than we understand. 

Also, there is Nietzsche's own surprise: "What? Two thousand years, and not a single new god?" Nietzsche perfectly understood that gods evolve and die, and the vengeful old Yahweh is dead, at least in the West (Islam is similar to ancient Orthodox Judaism). But where is a new cult that would be the equivalent of emerging Christianity? — unless of course that cycle is exhausted by now, and babies and pets satisfy the need for devotion, being love objects that the snarly, uncuddly Yahweh could never be (arguably, Jesus remedied this situation for Christians, as long as they cherry-picked the text; I call this “sanitizing Jesus” to fit with our more advanced ethical principles, in effect making him more Christian than he was).

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel: Noah’s family disembarking after the Flood
I wasn’t the only child who was unnerved by the perception that at the beginning god used to walk and talk and do things — then less and less — then nothing. One brave little boy actually asked the catechism nun how come god used to talk to people, and now he doesn’t. I’ll never forget the sad smile when she slowly replied: “Times were different back then . . .” Did she also say, “People were different”? I can’t swear to it, but later that became my understanding: We have moved far away from the mythologizing archaic mentality. True: new cults are still periodically born, but they don't spread as they used to. Some are downright tiny. Perhaps people are finally more able to see that they are being sold a bill of goods, and cult leaders are charlatans, expert manipulators, and are often mentally ill, making it up as they go along? (I'm thinking of Scientology in particular.)

One hypothesis about the disappearance of an active god is the Julian Jaynes theory of the breakdown of the bicameral mind. There is a notable lack of "mentalistic" terms (like think, believe, imagine) in the early stages of a language. Thoughts were experienced as voices, Jaynes claims. Later only the prophets had that kind of consciousness (suggestive of schizophrenia, and some certainly were, e.g. Ezekiel is a classic schizophrenic).

It's been said that Jaynes is either a looney or a genius. Perhaps we'll never know. Anthropologists studying tribes did report a different mentality, but their very presence was contaminating that mentality. We can't even define consciousness, much less describe how it evolved. The closest is child development studies. But children are influenced by parents, who say things like, "That was only a dream." "No, that didn't happen; you imagined it." However, implanting false memories is notoriously easy, even in adults. Perhaps that's one clue about how mythologies arose. Note also that it's preliterate societies that were most prolific mythologizers. Once writing enters, enforcing slowness and reflectiveness as opposed to spontaneous flow, thinking is never the same.

By the way, Joseph Campbell was also asked how come humanity went through an era of producing rich, complex mythologies, and then it all ceased (or got reclassified as fiction, but ours is not a great age of fiction). Campbell replied that mythologies are collectively created when conditions are right, and conditions have not been right for the creation of new mythologies for a long time now.

I suspect the very nature of consciousness has evolved as culture has evolved, including information technology. Another factor is that as we become less helpless we have less need of a parent or ruler in the sky —“fear creates gods.” But the fact that god becomes less and less active already in the course of the bible (using the Hebrew arrangement) should already give us a pause. The first five books, where god is active, reflect a different mentality than the later books. Even some Orthodox rabbis admit that the Torah is mythology. But that mythology apparently comes from the Bronze Age. After that, you don't have the kind of mythology creation that was once prevalent.


Richard Friedman is a Hebrew scholar at UC San Diego. He tries very hard to salvage the idea of god, and even states, “There is some likelihood that the universe is the hidden face of God.”

 Alas, Friedman does not consider either Jaynes's radical theory of the disappearance of the “voice of god(s)” or Joseph Campbell's quiet observation that it takes special conditions for a society to engage in actively creating a mythology. Pre-literate societies are prolific myth-makers. Then the very structure of human consciousness seems to shift — here it's possible to return to Jaynes, at least in part. But Friedman may be correct in sticking to what he does best, i.e. the close analysis of the Hebrew text.


Friedman points out that even angels cease to appear in the course of the Hebrew bible. The last appearance of an angel is in the story of Elijah.
(Yes, the “correct” title should be “The Last Angel to Appear in the Hebrew Bible.” But the older I get, the more shameless I become — a phenomenon widely noted in women, the rise of the shameless old ladies. “The Last Angel” sounds more dramatic.)

Elijah and the Angel by Godfrey Kneller, 1672

THE IDEA THAT ANY BOOK WAS INSPIRED BY THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE IS POISON — intellectually, ethically, and politically. And nowhere is this poison currently doing more harm than in Muslim communities, East and West. Despite all the obvious barbarism in the Old Testament, and the dangerous eschatology of the New, it is relatively easy for Jews and Christians to divorce religion from politics and secular ethics.

A single line in Matthew—“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”—largely accounts for why the West isn’t still hostage to theocracy. The Koran contains a few lines that could be equally potent—for instance, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)—but these sparks of tolerance are easily snuffed out. Transforming Islam into a truly benign faith will require a miracle of re-interpretation. And a few intrepid reformers, such as Maajid Nawaz, are doing their best to accomplish it.”

“Religion produces a perverse solidarity that we must find some way to undercut. It causes in-group loyalty and out-group hostility, even when members of one’s own group are behaving like psychopaths. [Oriana: Will the kind of religion that proclaims it's the only true religion be eventually seen in the same category as racism?]

We can build strong communities and enjoy deeply moral and spiritual lives, without believing any divisive nonsense about the divine origin of specific books.”

“But it remains taboo in most societies to criticize a person’s religious beliefs. Even atheists tend to observe this taboo, and enforce it on others, because they believe that religion is necessary for many people. After all, life is difficult—and faith is a balm.

Most people imagine that Iron Age philosophy represents the only available vessel for their spiritual hopes and existential concerns. This is an enduring problem for the forces of reason, because the most transformative experiences people have—bliss, devotion, self-transcendence—are currently anchored to the worst parts of culture and to ways of thinking that merely amplify superstition, self-deception, and conflict.”

“More British Muslims have joined the ranks of ISIS than have volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. In fact, this group has managed to attract thousands of recruits from free societies throughout the world to help build a paradise of repression and sectarian slaughter in Syria and Iraq. This is an astonishing phenomenon, and it reveals some very uncomfortable truths about the failures of multiculturalism, the inherent vulnerability of open societies, and the TERRIFYING POWER OF BAD IDEAS.

No doubt many enlightened concerns will come flooding into the reader’s mind at this point. I would not want to create the impression that most Muslims support ISIS, nor would I want to give any shelter or inspiration to the hatred of Muslims as people. In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.

But a belief in martyrdom, a hatred of infidels, and a commitment to violent jihad are not fringe phenomena in the Muslim world. These preoccupations are supported by the Koran and numerous hadith. That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammad Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has). If you can find an important distinction between the faith he preaches and that which motivates the savagery of ISIS, you should probably consult a neurologist.

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces. But the task isn’t as simple as discrediting the false doctrines of Muslim “extremists,” because most of their views are not false by the light of scripture.


It is not an accident that millions of Muslims recite the shahadah or make pilgrimage to Mecca. Neither is it an accident that horrific footage of infidels and apostates being decapitated has become a popular form of pornography throughout the Muslim world. Each of these practices, including this ghastly method of murder, find explicit support in scripture.

~ Sam Harris, “Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon” 

Sam Harris, TED talk, 2010



 After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.

    Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is "burned up" immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.

    The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

    Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.

    When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat.

   The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.

    Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain's communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

If anyone tries to tell you "sugar is sugar," they are way behind the times. As you can see, there are major differences in how your body processes fructose and glucose. The bottom line is: fructose leads to increased belly fat, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome — not to mention the long list of chronic diseases that directly result. And eating sugar may accelerate the aging process itself.


One of the most potent ways to raise uric acid is by consuming large amounts of fructose. Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism. In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion.

Uric acid is a normal waste product found in your blood. High levels of uric acid are normally associated with gout, but it has been known for a long time that people with high blood pressure, overweight, and people with kidney disease, often have high uric acid levels as well.

It used to be thought that the uric acid was secondary in these conditions, and not the cause - but Dr. Johnson's research indicates that it could be a lead player in the development of these conditions, rather than just a supporting actor, when its levels in your body reach 5.5 mg per dl or higher.

At this level, uric acid is associated with an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, as well as diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.

Interestingly, uric acid functions both as an antioxidant, and as a pro-oxidant once inside your cells. So, if you lower uric acid too much, you lose its antioxidant benefits. But if your uric acid levels are too high, it tends to significantly increase inside your cells as well, where it acts as a pro-oxidant.

Over the last 20 years, we've seen a dramatic increase in fatty liver disease throughout the world, and studies done by Dr. Johnson and a group of researchers at Duke University showed that people who develop fatty liver drink a lot more soft drinks, and ingest far more fructose than the average person in the community.

Fructose consumption clearly causes insulin resistance, whereas straight glucose does not. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to full blown diabetes. Interestingly, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when you MIX glucose and fructose together, you absorb more fructose than if you consumed fructose alone.

Oriana: Yes, you can obtain inexpensive glucose as a sweetener; I suggest using glucose when you need an energy pick-up, and xylitol when you simply can’t stand the bitterness or tartness of something that’s good for you, e.g. pure cranberry juice.

Glucose is usually sold as DEXTROSE. The cheapest source of pure dextrose is available from NOW, a brand available online from IHerb. I mention IHerb because they give you a discount and free shipping, so “you’ve got to love them,” and I do.

Mannose, ribose, etc are beneficial sugars that can also be bought online, if you have money to burn. Ribose is very sweet and is supposed to be very good for the heart muscle, protecting it from enlarging and stiffening as we age. Ribose is part of  ATP, the “energy molecule” in every cell.

ending on meditative quiet and beauty


We don't choose what we write about. That’s one of the exciting things about writing: seeing what wells up from the unconscious, what your central themes are. You can’t escape from your central themes. But at some point I realized I was repeating myself: lilacs, streetcars, cemeteries with white gravel paths. It felt played out. And still not really conveyed, because it's impossible to convey to someone who hasn't walked into a small-town church and there's a Black Madonna in all her strange darkness just how that feels.

~ Oriana © 2015


the god is serene.  people and
trees and the rain on the streets
come to their most fervent life right
after death.  we buried a generous woman;
we’ll take ourselves back into selfishness
now.  we’ll rush past our own coming endings
as if we are sure they won’t hurt.  maybe

they won’t.  maybe at just the last moment,
nothing goes wrong.  simpler and easier
lines find our poems.  there is less and
less waste. Orpheus understands mourning,
its dry, stinging lungs, and the opposite,
too:   once in a while, a procession.
the alphabet full of respect.

~ Holly Prado, Esperanza: Poems for Orpheus

Now and then, I can't help but imagine my own dying. I repeat the wish I formed during my first year in the US: not to be a victim of a senseless murder. Or of an “act of god” like a giant earthquake, which later the televangelists will call divine punishment for California's godlessness. No. I imagine myself descending into a delirium, desperately trying to write a poem. But maybe not desperately. Maybe the lines will come easily, and all of them will be simple and perfect, the music flawless, Orphic. Maybe in the distance there'll be the sound of a flute.