Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Seat of the Unconscious?

there is good evidence that what we call the unconscious is actually "lodged," so to speak, in the nonverbal -- but also transverbal -- right brain. Every patient comes into treatment with what I call a "likely story." This explicit story is located in the left brain, the seat of language, aristotelian logic, and linear time. However, the right brain has its own story to tell, but how do you tell a story in the absence of verbal language? You do so in the form of symptoms, or quirky character traits, unexplainable likes and dislikes, unaccountable mood storms, obsessions, compulsions, or self-defeating behaviors that the left brain is powerless to stop. This is because every self-defeating behavior is ipso facto a self-fulfilling behavior for a part of the mind of which we are not consciously aware. "There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all," sang Zimmie.

--Dr. Robert Godwin

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Who Would Rank Lower Than Bush?

I mean, who would you rank lower than George W. Bush? Nixon got in trouble for illegally wiretapping Democratic headquarters; Bush is illegally wiretapping the entire country. Nixon opened up relations with the Chinese; Bush let them poison your dog. Herbert Hoover sat on his ass through four years of calamity, but he was an actual engineer. If someone told him about global warming, he would have understood it before the penguins caught on fire. Ulysses Grant was a miserable drunk, but at least he didn't trade booze for Jesus and embolden the snake handlers -- he did the honorable thing and stayed a miserable drunk. Grant let his cronies loot the republic, but he won his civil war.
--Bill Maher

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


If everything is impermanent, then everything is what we call empty, which means lacking in any lasting, stable, and inherent existence; and all things, when seen and understood in their true relation, are not independent but interdependent with all other things. The Buddha compared the universe to a vast net woven of a countless variety of brilliant jewels, each with a countless number of facets. Each jewel reflects in itself every other jewel in the net and is, in fact, one with every other jewel. Think of a wave in the sea. Seen in one way, it seems to have a distinct identity, an end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesnt really exist but is just the behavior of water, empty of any separate identity but full of water. So when you really think about the wave, you come to realize that it is something made temporarily possible by wind and water, and is dependent on a set of constantly changing circumstances. You also realize that every wave is related to every other wave.

-Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Monday, May 21, 2007

American Healthcare Woes

The point of the system is to treat as few people as possible as cheaply as possible, and those who get ahead in the healthcare industry are those who find ever more devious ways to deny coverage. (For example, you can now be denied for certain preexisting conditions you didn't know about, on the premise that you should have known about them.)

--Andrew O'Hehir of Salon on Michael Moore's new film Sicko

Friday, May 11, 2007

Movie Review: Stranger Than Fiction

Years ago I took a college course on death and dying. It explored not only death of the body but also death of the soul. In fact we spent more time exploring the latter. The premise was that each and every one of our bodies must die someday and perhaps our minds or souls along with them, but we can keep ourselves fully alive psychologically until that day comes.

I just saw a movie that I take to be about psychological death and resurrection. It is Stranger Than Fiction. It features Will Farrell as an IRS auditor who lives his life and does his job with all the joie de vive of an obsessive-compulsive drone until he is shaken out of his numbing routine by hearing a voice out of nowhere narrating his drearily monotonous life like an author composing a story. In fact he discovers that he IS a character in a story still being written and who is about to meet his demise just as soon as the author (Emma Thompson) devises a clever way to kill him off. And because he has just crossed paths with a woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) he cannot stop thinking about and who gives him reason to live, he goes to visit a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) to find out who the author is so that he can persuade her to keep him alive.

I do not pretend to understand the deep meaning of this movie fantasy, if there is one. Just as my shallow brain has extreme difficulty understanding poetry, so I also struggle inordinately to decipher the abstract meanings of stories in books and films. I am stuck in their concrete details and befuddled when those details do not cohere. For instance how can a fictional character in a manuscript physically interact in the real world with real people including the author? It makes no literal sense. And yet I felt a depth of emotional involvement in this character's life and plight that I seldom feel when watching a movie. And I came away from the experience feeling quite moved emotionally and a little, if ineffably, wiser about life, death, love, art, and the potentially liberating effect of self-awareness.

I give this film an "A-" and heartily recommend it to anyone who reads this review.