Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Empowering realizations 

It's unbelievably difficult for me to post this essay. I've spent my entire adult life trying to improve the way people view depressives and the like, making it clear that their illnesses are PHYSICAL, that their suffering is REAL, and that they deserve the same sympathy and support as those with ailments of any other sort; over and over I've hammered home the points that they didn't ask for it, don't want it, would do anything to be rid of it, and are NOT "just trying to get attention" by talking about it any more than a cancer patient is "just trying to get attention" when THEY talk about what they're going through.

Human nature is diverse, though, and it's silly to think that EVERY member of as gigantic a group as the mental health community would act the same way, or be perfectly virtuous and noble, or have the same deep needs. I've been doing peer counseling online for people with depression and other so-called "mental illnesses" for years, but I've just now grasped that there are folks who don't fit the description I've always used for mental health patients; I'm just now realizing what someone with a lesser emotional stake in that community would have probably long since derived from the available facts:

A large % of those who seek out "people to talk to" online DON'T WANT TO GET BETTER.

Let me be clear that I'm NOT talking about: the standard denial most people go through before they accept that they have a chemical imbalance in the brain that can't be eliminated by force of will, or that they may have to deal with it for the rest of their lives... or how all too many people still hang back from letting anyone in their real lives know they have a problem for fear of the stigma of mental illness and/or the refusal of those who should be supporting them to believe that there's a valid problem... or folks with valid concerns about the side effects of meds, which can be worse in some cases than the symptoms they're treating... or those who seek out advice on how to proceed and encouragement to get the process towards health going... or folks who need to vent OCCASIONALLY to a stranger who knows what they're going through because no one in their life has a clue... or people who don't know what's going on or what their options are and are reduced to asking strangers... or even about those who get fooled into believing that eating more carrots, eliminating dairy, or dancing naked by the light of the moon will cure them and so don't think they need to seek medical treatment because they're convinced that they're curing themselves (although they can be uniquely frustrating when they don't get better but stubbornly stick to the fantasy that they don't have a medical problem that needs medical treatment and instead seek out new quack remedies).

I'm talking about people who know exactly what's wrong with them and what it takes to fix it, who instead of getting treatment, or doing ANYTHING geared towards improving their health or reducing their symptoms, have chosen to use their illness as a tool to get attention and sympathy from their loved ones, liked ones and barest acquaintances until none of those folks can stand to listen to them anymore, much less give support. When they realize they've burned out everyone they know, they come online looking for total strangers to have one-way exchanges with; they weep and wail on and on, and the strangers are supposed to say "poor baby" and leave it at that... no urging them to take actual ACTION about their illness and the problems it's causing is allowed.

It doesn't seem like anyone could possibly be willing to provide that service, does it? Amazingly, cyberspace is chock-full of groups, clubs, forums, discussion newsletters and other ways that bunches of people interact with each other that have members who willingly provide an endless stream of poor-baby's in postings, through emails, in chat and even on the PHONE... I remember that one newsletter group I was in had phone volunteers that the admins were constantly having to remind people were available for emergency calls ONLY, and weren't to be harassed with constant calls from people who just wanted to wah-wah-wah to an audience for hours a day, and I do mean HOURS. Why do some folks pour their emotional energy down the bottomless pit of those who want sympathy rather than mental health? Because it feels good to help someone, or to believe you're helping, and it makes people feel better to be able to see themselves as in a position to give help and not just get it... and because people don't see that in some cases they're NOT helping, but instead are enabling sick people to not get the medical attention they need.

Let me hasten to add here that *I* have NEVER been among those who chanted "poor baby" rather than giving concrete advice; however, with my email addy still available at some of the mental health forums I used to participate on, I kept having to deal with people who were HOPING to get poor-baby-ed, and I'd done this email advice thing for so long that it never occurred to me to stop and think about what was going on... until a few days ago.

I got an email from a woman with an elaborate story about all her sufferings who wanted "someone to talk to"; when I asked her what meds she was taking to try to alleviate her agony, she responded with a semi-coherent ramble about how her illness was caused by society rather than having a physical cause, and that she'd found a doctor who didn't try to medicate her. Grasping instantly that she just wanted someone she could email complaints to, I told her that I wouldn't be able to help her, because I reserved my time and emotional energy for those who were actively pursuing getting well; she responded with a series of belligerent, vulgar emails, followed by an unintentionally hilarious one which was supposed to be from the director of an odd mental health/legal hybrid organization who was taking me to task for declining to help her... with HER 3rd-grade level spelling and grammar and from HER email addy. I reported her to Hotmail for violating their Terms of Use (they don't permit foul language to be sent with their service), and they deactivated her account within a few hours, which settled HER hash... but, for the 1st time, I didn't just shrug and chalk it up to experience, I started THINKING... and:

I realized that the overwhelming majority of people who wrote to me did NOT want help in getting better, but just wanted poor-baby's.

I realized that dealing with them was a total waste of my time.

I realized that it was an overall waste of my time and effort to keep allowing the "mental health emails" to come to me, and keep having to deal with them, just because I was giving valid assistance to 1 person in 50.

And so, after all my years of being available to the online mental health community, I QUIT.

I composed an email to send to each place that still had my addy available, and found myself writing far more than "please remove me"; I finally, FINALLY, had a surge of understanding about the hundreds of people I'd seen who wrote page after page of complaints about their terrible lives but not only didn't want guidance but aggressively resisted practical advice of any kind about getting treatment... I saw that they clung to their illnesses with white-knuckle grips because they NEED to be sick. They love their illnesses and circle their entire lives and senses of self around them; without them, they'd have nothing... and they wouldn't know who or what they were without their labels of "depressive" or "bipolar" or whatever. They ALSO use their illnesses as handy excuses for why no one likes them and their lives are disaster areas; if they weren't sick, they'd either have to concede to being failures or learn to take care of themselves, hold down jobs, make and keep friends, handle romantic partners and just plain get along... and they believe, in most cases correctly, that they can't do any of those things. They don't want to admit to themselves, or have others perceive, the cold hard truth, that they're, to be blunt, not offering much that other people are eager to have, and not functioning fully as adults, so they need their illnesses to blame it all on; thanks to "being sick," they don't even have to TRY, they can just wallow in their misery... and type it all out for the infinite audience online.

It sounds pretty harsh laid out like that, but it reflects what these folks say about themselves; they have no jobs or are doing grim low-paid work amid co-workers who aren't nice to them, they have no romantic partners or have ones that are cruel to them, they have no friends, or used to have friends until their mental health deteriorated, or they sort of have friends that won't listen to their complaints anymore and have largely withdrawn from them... not a single one of this subset of depressives/etc EVER said they had a good job, good friends or a loving partner. Yes, this is because of their illness, not because they're "bad people," but once they've refused treatment of that illness they need to be held responsible for how their lives are put together; if they CHOOSE to stay sick knowing that they'll suffer the symptoms AND be held back from full and joyous participation in human society, why should they get any sympathy for that?

Why? Because there are some online communities that are, pardon the crude term, emotional circle jerks where sick people encourage and enable each other to stay sick, passing around the poor-baby's and assuring each other that the right thing to do is stay away from the doctors and therapists who'd help them and keep hoping for a miracle instead... and there are also plenty of people who toss out a poor-baby when confronted with a sob story because they don't know what else to say, not understanding that they're feeding the sick person's desire to stay sick by rewarding them with sympathetic words.


I've been tied into the mental health community to some degree or another from the moment I 1st got online; it seems... unnatural, somehow, to be severing my last connections, but it's gotta be done-there are a million better ways to use the energy and time I want to devote to helping others than wading through the masses of people who don't want to get well looking for the ones who do. The good part is that it's empowering to understand what's been going on all this time and why, and to be able to use that understanding to remove a stressful and time-consuming activity from my life with a clear conscience.

Enough about me; does anything I've described sound like someone you know... or maybe even YOU?

If you you're a depressive, anxiety sufferer, etc, aren't getting medical treatment even though you feel awful, and find yourself complaining endlessly to whoever will listen, be aware that you're making people miserable, and they'll mostly draw away from you in self-defense eventually if they haven't already. It IS possible to have a good life even with a fairly heavy burden of "mental illness," even if you don't get treatment; there ARE people who do it... and they do it by NOT constantly bombarding others with their pain, and by NOT making it the focus and center of their lives. If you can't keep from complaining even when you try, it's time to accept that you're in enough pain to seek medical treatment; it doesn't matter if you were given meds 5 years ago and they didn't help you, or helped for a while and then stopped, there are lots of other meds you can take (you have NOT taken them all), and even if they have to try several different meds combos before finding the one that works, it's better to feel good in a few weeks or months than NEVER, right?

If you're on the receiving end of constant complaints from someone who's depressed (or whatever) and refuses to get medical care, be aware that their behavior is inappropriate and you have the right to set some boundaries:

1) If you aren't close to them, you can say, "I'm sorry that you're unhappy, but I'm not comfortable discussing this sort of thing with someone I don't know well."

2) If they're a friend, you can say, "I'm happy to help you find a doctor, or a therapist, or anything else you need to help you get better, but I can't handle hearing about this all the time; it's not curing you, and it's making ME depressed. Can we pick one day a week where we'll talk about your health issues, and then focus on enjoying our other times together?"

3) If they're a loved one, you can say, "You're one of the people I care about most, you've seen me through some tough times and I'm happy to do the same for you, but tough times are supposed to END at some point; your depression/etc has gone on for X months/years with no end in sight, and it's taking over our relationship. We need to accept that this will be an ongoing thing, and just as I don't complain about my bad back/arthritis/migraines all the time, I need you to not talk about how bad YOU feel all the time, so that we can get back to having positive interactions that aren't so one-sided."

Yeah, it'll be tough to say that stuff; that's why so many people just head for the horizon when someone in their lives becomes depressed, because running away, although it feels cowardly, disloyal, or mean, is easier to bear emotionally than trying to deal meaningfully with someone who's hurting and clingy.

As I've said, it was really hard to write about this; what finally tipped the balance was knowing that most of you have seen postings of various kinds by people like the ones I've described, and it'd be easy for you to get the idea that this kind of person, the kind who seeks attention with their illness rather than trying to find a cure for it, is representative of depressives/etc as a whole, and it's NOT... most people with mental illnesses either get treatment or endure quietly. If someone like this, who holds back so as not to burden others, wants to talk to you about their problems some day, please DO lend a sympathetic ear... it's one of the kindest things you can do, and you won't regret it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Odds and ends 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an eBay auction for address labels that had a bunch of images you could choose from... including one by an artist whose work I'm familiar with, and it was NOT his auction. I contacted him via his website (having first verified in his online gallery that I was correct about that exact image being his), and in a couple of days I got an email back from him thanking me; I checked, and the auction was still there, but minus his image... clearly, he'd decided to be nicer than *I* would've been about it and just asked the seller to pull his artwork, because had he reported it to eBay the seller would've been suspended (or booted) for copyright infringement. It's too bad the artist didn't make a fuss, because I'm willing to bet that that seller doesn't have the right to use ANY of those images, none of which he claimed to have created himself; yes, it's possible that some or even all of them have been put into the public domain by their rightful owners, but it's unlikely, which means that he's still profiting from images owned by other people without their permission.

But wait a minute-aren't any images the seller found online automatically in the public domain? HELL NO. People claim that all the time, but they're flat-out WRONG. Copyright law is very simple and clear; you can read all about it here


Here are the relevant highlights:

"Copyright covers both published and unpublished works."

"Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture."

"Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."

"Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work."

Surprised? You read correctly; you do NOT have to register your work for it to be protected under copyright law... another thing about this issue that few people seem to realize.

"Is my copyright good in other countries?
The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights."

I'll say it again: Just because a photo, artwork, or piece of writing is online does NOT mean it's in the public domain, not even if it's in a bunch of places; unless the owner has officially offered their work for everyone's use, you can NOT legally use it without crediting them, and you can NOT make $ from your use of it without their permission... and don't count on the owner not having registered to allow you to make $ from their stuff, because they can register AFTER discovering your theft and get all the $ from you:


And finally, something *I* learned from visiting that site today:

"I've heard about a 'poor man's copyright.' What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a 'poor man’s copyright.' There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration."

I've been hearing about how you should mail stuff to yourself as a substitute for registering for copyright my entire life, from countless sources; it's good to have this reminder that what everyone believes to be true is often wrong.

I read something fascinating on the LA Times site


"The new hip trend
Fitness-crazy boomers are paying a price -- replacement joints at a younger age."

That title and sub-title caught my eye; after all, humans weren't designed to run miles a day, ride a bicycle, use a Stairmaster, or any of the other kinds of activities that exercise buffs spend alot of time on, so it's no surprise that doing a great deal of unnatural motion would eventually cause problems.

"'We are seeing an increasing patient base of younger adults whose extremely active lifestyles put high demands on their joints,' said Dr. Joseph C. McCarthy, a clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and past president of the American Assn. of Hip and Knee Surgeons. These active baby boomers may forestall heart disease, stroke and the other plagues of the unfit, but in the process, their joints will take a pounding."

"'Running and other demanding sports don't cause arthritis, but they're accelerators,' says Lawrence D. Dorr, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Arthritis Institute at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood"

There's lots more to the article, if you're interested; I wanted to bring it up because if you're a hard-core workout nut, and you've either got arthritis anywhere or it's in your family, you might want to talk to your doctor about how to best modify your routine so as to not need to get your hips or knees replaced.

My husband and I saw a wild-looking customized car that he told me would be able to shoot FLAMES out of the exhaust pipes; I was all hot to have this feature on my eventual muscle car, but then I read this:


"Car exhaust flame throwers work by interrupting the spark to the engine. This dumps raw fuel into the exhaust system. The fuel is ignited by a coil and spark plug placed right before the exhaust tip. Doing this will shorten the life of your engine (and pedestrians). The raw fuel strips the oil off the cylinder walls and contaminates the oil causing more wear and tear."

There's a photo of a car in mid-flame at that URL; just looking at it makes me drool. My husband claims that if you changed the oil right after flaming that'd solve the problem, and that gives me hope; I'll do some research when the time comes, and if he's right (it happens so rarely that I can't count on it, lol)... I'll be setting the road on fire one day.

And last but far from least, the story of a wonderful dog who saved her owner's life:


"Belle the beagle triggered a call to an ambulance crew by biting on her owner, Kevin Weaver's, mobile phone.

The dog was trained to detect potential diabetic attacks by licking and sniffing Mr Weaver's nose to check his blood sugar levels and pawing him.

Belle resorted to dialling for help when Mr Weaver fell unconscious.

The dog used her teeth to press the number nine key, which the phone was programmed to interpret as a '911' call to emergency services.

Ambulance workers answered the phone and, hearing nothing but barking at the end of the line, rushed to the caller's house in the city of Ocoee in Florida state."

I hadn't even known that they were training dogs to help diabetics, had you? This is more proof, should any be necessary, that the dog is truly man's best friend... take THAT, cat lovers!! ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"The Human Behavior Experiments" 

Watch this show if you get the chance (I saw it on the Sundance channel, but other stations might be showing it too); it's an excellent crash course in how despicable the human species can be. Here are the highlights:

1) The Milgram Experiment; this is one of the 2 classics of this genre, and demonstrates our willingness to harm others if an authority figure tells us we have to... which is just as topical today as it ever was (asterisks are mine):


"The participant and a confederate of the experimenter, who was an actor pretending to be another participant, were told by the experimenter that they would be participating in an experiment to test the effects of punishment on learning.

A slip of paper was then given to the participant and another to the confederate. The participant was led to believe that one of the slips said 'learner' and the other said 'teacher,' and that the participants had been given the slips randomly. In fact, both slips said 'teacher,' but the actor claimed to have the slip that read 'learner,' thus guaranteeing that the participant was always the 'teacher.' At this point, the 'teacher' and 'learner' were separated into different rooms where they could communicate but not see each other. In one version of the experiment, the confederate was sure to mention to the participant that he had a heart condition.

The 'teacher' was given a 45-volt electric shock from the electro-shock generator as a sample of the shock that the 'learner' would supposedly receive during the experiment. The 'teacher' was then given a list of word pairs which he was to teach the learner. The teacher began by reading the list of word pairs to the learner. The teacher would then read the first word of each pair and read 4 possible answers. The learner would press a button to indicate his response. If the answer was incorrect, the learner would receive a shock, with the voltage increasing with each wrong answer. If correct, the teacher read the next word pair.

The subjects believed that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual shocks. In reality, there were no shocks. After the confederate was separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, the learner gave no further responses to questions and no further complaints.

At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the learner. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the ***screams of pain coming from the learner.***

If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:

Please continue.
The experiment requires you to continue, please go on.
It is essential that you continue.
You have no choice, you must continue.

If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession."

At this juncture, stop and ask yourself; based on your opinion of your fellow man, what % of people do you think would give the maximum level of shock, which was clearly labeled as being DANGEROUS? The test subjects were regular men, NOT death row inmates or psych ward patients; think of the men you know, all the men you've ever known, and ask yourself what the result of the experiment was.

"Before the experiment was conducted Milgram polled fellow psychologists as to what the results would be. They unanimously believed that only a sadistic few (0.1%), would be prepared to give the maximum voltage.

In Milgram's first set of experiments, ***67.5 percent (27 out of 40) of experimental participants administered the experiment's final 450-volt shock***, though many were quite uncomfortable in doing so; everyone paused at some point and questioned the experiment, some even saying they would return the check for the money they were paid. ***No participant steadfastly refused to give further shocks before the 300-volt level.*** Variants of the experiment were later performed by Milgram himself and other psychologists around the world with similar results."

Remember that the next time you hear war criminals say they were "just following orders"; it's not the cop-out it seems to be. Imagine what % of people would be compelled to obey authority during WARTIME, with their lives and freedom at stake rather than nothing at stake, and with the authorities being part of an established hierarchy of command over them, with actual power and control over them, rather than scientists with no ability to punish disobedience. What % of people would be unable to resist "immoral" orders given to them under THOSE circumstances, do you suppose? 80%? 90%? 99.99%? What does that tell us about how we should focus our prosecution of war criminals, or how we should even define what a war criminal IS? There are those that use being given less than pleasant orders as an excuse to indulge evil desires, and they should be treated like the scum they are, but what about ordinary folks who obeyed orders that were later judged to be immoral; what's the reasonable and fair way to treat them, given what Milgram showed us?

2) Some sick pup was calling McDonald's restaurants, pretending to be a cop, and getting managers to strip-search employees, make them do ridiculous things like jumping jacks while nude, and even perform sexual acts; you heard right, all this ugliness was done at the request of a voice over the phone that none of the participants had any proof belonged to a cop but complied with out of fear of "getting in trouble." The specific incident focused on had as the victim a minor girl (15 or 16), who'll be suffering for the rest of her life from the degradation she was subjected to; if you're the parent of a working teen, you might want to have a little chat with them about what they can and can NOT legally be made to do in the workplace, and about their right to contact an adult family member if there seems to be trouble.

3) Scary examples of how people don't speak up or take action when they witness something bad happening if there are other witnesses who aren't speaking up or taking action, known as the bystander effect:


a) The Kitty Genovese story:


She was murdered in front of 38 witnesses, and no one helped her, or even called the police until the end of the protracted assault when it was too late.

b) There was a drunk pilot staggering around a commercial airline; none of the passengers spoke up.

c) A series of experiments demonstrates that people will report smoke coming in under a door if no one else is in the room with them but not if there are others there who don't seem concerned.

d) They showed that if there's a lost kid asking for help in a public place, or even if someone COLLAPSES in a public place, no one will help.

e) And the biggie; as part of fraternity hazing, a boy was made to drink so much water that he fell prey to water intoxication (I'd never heard of it before either), and this group of boys who KNEW him, not total strangers at a distance but friends right up close and personal, let him DIE because none of them were willing to be the one to break ranks and call for help... one of the boys had actually dialed 911 on his cell phone but didn't press "send" because another boy showed up and announced that the victim was fine.

4) The other giant amongst psychological experiments, the Zimbardo Experiment, aka "the Stanford Prison Experiment":


What would you expect to happen if you took 24 undergraduate men, mostly from middle-class backgrounds, divided them up into "guards" and "prisoners" and put them in a setup that they were supposed to pretend was a prison? Think about that for a few minutes... and then read what actually happened:

"The experiment very quickly got out of hand. Prisoners suffered - and accepted - sadistic and humiliating treatment at the hands of the guards, and by the end many showed severe emotional disturbance."

"Prisoner 'counts,' which had initially been devised to help prisoners get acquainted with their identity numbers, devolved into hours-long ordeals, in which guards tormented the prisoners and imposed physical punishments including long bouts of forced exercise.

The prison quickly became unsanitary and inhospitable. Bathroom rights became privileges which could be, and frequently were, denied. Some prisoners were made to clean toilets using their bare hands. Mattresses were removed from the 'bad' cell, and prisoners were forced to sleep on the concrete floor without clothing. Food was also frequently denied as a means of punishment. Prisoners endured forced nudity and even homosexual acts of humiliation."

"As the experiment proceeded, several of the guards became progressively more sadistic - particularly at night, when they thought the cameras were off. Experimenters said approximately one-third of the guards exhibited 'genuine' sadistic tendencies. Most of the guards were upset when the experiment was cut off early."

"Prisoners began to show severe acute emotional disturbances. One prisoner developed a psychosomatic rash all over his body upon finding out that his 'parole' had been turned down (Zimbardo turned him down because he thought he was merely trying to 'con' his way out of the prison by faking illness). Uncontrollable crying and disorganized thinking were common among the prisoners. Two of the prisoners suffered such severe trauma that they were removed from the experiment early and replaced."

"Christina Maslach, a researcher previously unfamiliar with the experiment who had been brought in to conduct interviews, objected to the appalling conditions of the 'prison." ...Zimbardo has noted that of the over fifty outsiders who had seen the prison, she was the only one who ever questioned its morality. After only six days of the planned two weeks, the experiment was shut down."

Do some of those descriptions, and some of the photos at the Wikipedia URL, remind you of anything... such as what happened at Abu Ghraib? They had a recent interview with one of the "guards" from the Zimbardo Experiment in the documentary, and HE made the connection; he said that the photos he'd seen of Abu Ghraib inmates, and the descriptions he'd read about their treatment, reminded him of what the "prisoners" under his power had been subjected to. Coincidence? Not a chance.

The former "guard" said something else that was a big eye-opener; that he didn't believe that the "prisoners" were being truly harmed or upset, that he'd thought they were faking just to cause trouble, or were very weak people who were over-reacting to what he saw as just harmless horsing around... he was honestly convinced that the hysterics and total breakdowns that occurred couldn't possibly have been as a result of what he and his buddies did. Does this shed any light on the photos you saw of cheerful military personnel posing with mistreated Abu Ghraib inmates?

I'm not suggesting that any part of what happened at Abu Ghraib was ok or should be treated as anything less than criminal; the point the prison experiment makes is that this kind of behavior is NOT some sort of freakish aberration, NOT caused by "bad" people running the prison... it's BASIC HUMAN NATURE. That's why this sort of thing is STANDARD in prisons, military or otherwise; what occurs under non-wartime conditions isn't anywhere near as bad as what has historically been done to prisoners of war, of course, but it just differs in degree, not in type. This is why we need to focus, not on punishing perpetrators afterwards, but on giving training BEFORE assigning soldiers/guards to prison duty, and following up regularly to make sure that the "prison guard mentality" hasn't set in and started causing problems.

What all these experiments tell us collectively is that it's almost pitifully easy to put us in circumstances where we'll fail to do the right thing... or willingly, even eagerly, do the wrong thing. Most people reading this will say "*I* wouldn't do any of that stuff," but EVERYONE thinks that, and studies show that most people WILL do it; what makes YOU different? Do you have a lengthy history of always doing the right thing, even if it's difficult or contrary to what others want you to do, even if no one's watching... online as well as offline? Do you speak up when you see something odd or improper going on? Do you confront people who are misbehaving? Do you see people in authority as being no nobler than the rest of us, and so constantly analyze their orders to see if they're wise and appropriate? If someone tries to get you to do something, do you stop and think about it to be sure it's a positive thing to do rather than trying to seem "nice" by automatically doing what's asked of you? Can you honestly say that you have never, EVER, taken advantage of having power or the ability to harm, mistreat or "lean on" anyone? If someone's being victimized, do you ALWAYS leap to their defense, whether you know them or not? If so, congratulations; you probably wouldn't turn into a sadistic prison guard (or whatever)... but if you didn't answer each of those questions with a firm "YES," you're in the majority of people that falls prey to normal psychological pressures and WOULD likely do some of the things that seem so shocking in the documentary. Don't despair, though, because you can choose, CHOOSE, to become the sort of person who'd be the 1 in a million exception to all these scary rules of human behavior; you can start asking yourself on a regular basis if what you're doing is right, and if what those around you are doing is right, and if the answer is "no" you can change your behavior and confront those who are misbehaving... it takes alot of time and effort, a solid backbone, and the willingness to be targeted for abuse by offended wrongdoers, but if being "good" were easy, fun and rewarding everyone would be a saint.

Anyways, I'll say it again; watch the program if you get the chance... you'll never look at the human race the same way again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The souls of animals and clones 

First, an announcement; near the top of my sidebar you'll see a new addition to the clump of little banners to click on to subscribe to my feed and blogroll me... the vivid yellow "Add to Any" button. If you click on it, you'll go to a page that gives you, as of when I write this, *45* choices as to services you can view my RSS feed with; now, you can have me any way you want me, so to speak. I'm not ready to pull my other subscription buttons yet, as I'm not willing to totally trust one site with this whole thing until I see a record of good performance from them, but at least now I don't have to worry that I'm not offering enough options... I'm glad I didn't give in to earlier impulses to go to the trouble of adding a bunch of services individually!!

I discussed the soul issues with a devoutly Christian friend today; one who reads the Bible and thinks for herself, so don't roll your eyes. We have highly enjoyable discussions about spiritual matters because she shares my desire to understand WHY things work the way they do; she believes that karma is something God created to help Him run things, so we can even talk about the metaphysical stuff... it doesn't matter to either of us that she's sure there's a higher being behind it all and I neither believe nor disbelieve in that (as there's no proof one way or the other).

I found 2 quotes from the Bible that had been put forth as possible evidence that animals have souls:

Genesis 1:20-21

"And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that has life and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.' And God created great whales, and every living creature (nephesh, soul) that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

That wouldn't seem to have anything to do with the point if it weren't for the inclusion of the 2 words in the parentheses (I don't know if it appeared in someone's annotated Bible like that or if they just stuck it in to illustrate their point); "nephesh" is the word which was used in a Hebrew version of the Bible at the point it's included in parens above, and although it's been translated into English as "living creature" here, its primary meaning is "soul." That seemed a little iffy to me as proof of anything (not that I'm qualified to pass expert judgment on the accuracy of anyone's Biblical analysis), but this one is better:

Genesis 9:5

"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man."

The idea here is that only those with souls could be asked to give an accounting, and thus animals MUST have souls; it's hard to imagine what they could be accounting FOR, as without the brains to understand right and wrong and choose between them they can't technically sin, but even little kids are supposed to give an accounting if they die, and they can't technically sin either, so...

My friend already believed, as I do, that at least the higher animals have souls; my belief comes from my idea that the soul is formed by the energy of thoughts and feelings, which higher animals have to at least an extent which should give them some version of a soul (see my post of 4-14-04), and hers comes from her idea that God gives a soul to any creature that can love (and thus that some PEOPLE do NOT have souls, but that's a whole 'nother post)... where the line is drawn as to what kinds of animals have souls and what kinds don't has become more uncertain for her now, as the Biblical quote doesn't specify higher animals only, so she's going to research it and let me know what she comes up with.

The eventual existence of clones wasn't being contemplated in ancient times, so of course there's no mention of them in the Bible; that hasn't stopped some religious types from being certain that they know how God will judge them. The hard-core Christian view, among those who've really thought it through, appears to be that God gives each of us a soul the instant we start life, life begins at conception, and conception means sperm + egg; since cloning doesn't involve a sperm and an egg there's no conception, and thus no human life ever begins, making a clone soulless and not human. Those who haven't hashed out all the specifics just say that only people created by God would have souls, which means essentially the same thing; that His refusal to grant a soul to a person not made by Him would make God the omnipotent equivalent of a petulant child doesn't seem to have occurred to them. The "animals have souls" person's view, in contrast, was that the clone would have to be some sort of creature lower than an animal to not have a soul, and since the clone was still in God's image this wasn't possible. My friend's analysis was, "God's not stupid; He'd know that the clone had human DNA and so was human, and even if he disapproved of cloning he wouldn't punish the clone, which would be as innocent as any other baby at birth, by withholding a soul from it." MY analysis is that if the clone has thoughts and feelings, as we'd expect it to unless something went terribly wrong, it'd have a soul... UNLESS, of course, there's something in the egg and/or sperm that's important to the about-to-be-human's ability to form a soul, in which case cloning would produce sociopathic monsters... but that's not very likely... is it?

Would YOU see a clone as a fully human being, with a soul if you believe in such things? If you said "yes," ask yourself: Would you hire a clone to work in an important position in your company? How about as a babysitter for your child? Would you be willing to be close friends with a clone? Would you adopt a cloned child? Would you date a clone? Allow your kids to befriend one? Want your daughter to marry one? Would you love half-clone grandchildren as much as "regular" ones? Could you ever feel really, REALLY sure that the unnatural manipulation of DNA hadn't produced something monstrous as a by-product?

Scifi and horror stories are full of things that look like humans but aren't, things that are usually dangerous; we've all absorbed those concepts from childhood, and would have a hard time not being influenced by them. Unless and until science could prove the existence of souls, and that clones have them, cloned people would be sure to not be fully accepted... and so we shouldn't try to make any.

I sure hope this all gets sorted out in my lifetime...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Clothes encounters 

Regulars might remember my posting a few months ago (on 2-16-06, to be exact) that I'd realized that much of my wardrobe consisted of junior-sized shirts that don't fit over my boobs anymore, and that my ability (and desire) to dress like a geek all the time meant that I'd managed to get over 2 decades into adulthood having almost no clothes other than t-shirts, jeans and some sweaters from my college days... and thus my odyssey of belatedly building a grown-up wardrobe began.

For most of the past 4 months, I've been doing endless eBay searches for the kinds of shirts that I'd need for every possible occasion, that anyone my age could rightly be expected to have; at this point, I can honestly say that I can cover the upper half of my body for anything short of a formal event (I'm not willing to get a ball gown to have in reserve). As the new shirts were coming in, I was gradually yanking old ones and tossing them in a pile; when I ran out of old stuff to get rid of, I took a giant trash bag and started putting the rejects into it for eventual delivery to Goodwill.

I'd gotten rid of 78 shirts. That's not a typo; *78* shirts!! That's not all the shirts I had, it's not even HALF; when did I get so MANY? I've hardly bought an item of clothing in a decade, that's why so much didn't fit anymore; how many shirts would I have had if I'd been like most women and been buying new clothes every season all those years?

You know what's even scarier? Because my husband did a disappearing act on the pile of hangers liberated by my original frenzy of wardrobe-pruning (see my post of 5-27-06), I can't be sure how their # compares to the # of new hangers that had to be purchased, but... I think I pretty much replaced all of the old shirts with new ones. I'd just kinda gotten into the habit of doing the searches and bidding on shirts, and... just kinda never STOPPED. I got everything really cheaply (the most I paid was $15 apiece for a couple of things, and the bulk of them were under $10 with many under $5), so it averages out to far less than most women spend if you take into account how long I'd gone without new clothes, but it's still a fair chunk of change; luckily, my husband is of the rare "Buy what you want" breed, rather than the far more common "Why did you waste more $ on clothes when you've already got plenty?" breed (although considering how much he spends on tech gadgetry, he's got nothing to complain about at any rate).

The really touching thing, though, is what he's said a couple of times since I officially announced the end of my clothing searches; although he didn't seem too excited to see the steady stream of shirts coming in, now that the stream is drying up he tells me that he'll really miss seeing me modeling them, that it'd been the highlight of his existence... those were his exact words, can you imagine? Pretty strong sentiments from a geek who's traditionally barely noticed clothes, as evidenced by the holes and stains that typically adorn HIS.

I've made some unexpected discoveries about the sorts of clothes he likes to see me in during this lengthy process, too. The 1st was that, despite his overall preference for plain, dark garments, he apparently thinks I look particularly "cute" in the most feminine colors and patterns imaginable; I got some extras in that category in consequence, and it'll be amusing to shock my geek friends by wearing them sometime soon. The 2nd was that he's been secretly loving some pajama/lounge pants I'd gotten a while back to wear when it's too hot for sweatpants (I don't wear shorts-my family was very conservative about that sort of thing, and it's stuck with me), and that his favorite pair was one with an unusual mixture of gothic and pastel images that he called "a fetching combination of girlishness and menace"; when I half-jokingly asked "You mean like ME?", he said "Yeah, you can be fairly menacing" with a big, dopey grin on his face... isn't that an odd thing for a man to like? Although I hadn't been looking for more pj bottoms as part of my new wardrobe, a neat pair with a cartoonish animal pattern on them had popped up in one of my searches, and I'd won them because they went cheaply; it was their arrival that got him waxing poetic about the entire genre. I'm well aware that pajamas of this sort are meant for much younger women, but the way my husband beams at me whenever I put on the newest pair has made me decide that the rules as to what's proper for my age don't apply to things worn only within the walls of our home; anything he's that enthusiastic to see me wearing after all our years together that doesn't involve underwires and thongs and such has gotta be a good thing.

Perhaps the most amazing clothes-related topic is that I've actually gotten PANTS on eBay; that might not sound noteworthy to the men, but women's bodies can curve to all sorts of degrees, there's no shred of size standardization within a brand much less between brands, and finding pants that fit properly is often a nightmare. The 1st pair of pants came as a gift along with the matching shirt I'd won, and, although they're a size 6, they're cut full and fit perfectly; this set in effect gives me a suit now, since I've gotten some shells to wear with it, which really helped alot in covering all my clothing bases. A 2nd pair of pants came up in a search for shirts, and they were so cool that I took a chance... and not only do they fit, they make my butt look better than any pair of pants I've ever had, which is saying a great deal since my butt isn't getting any smaller or younger. The 3rd pair of pants should be arriving any day now; they're really dressy, and since they have stretch there's a good chance they'll fit even if they're smaller than the measurements the seller gave led me to believe... if they work out, they, along with the pants I already mentioned and a couple of pairs of nice slacks I got at WalMart, will complete the wardrobe for the bottom half of my body. (Edit: got 'em-they fit!!)

What might be my greatest clothing coup EVER came right at the end of my months of searching; I found an auction for a wild shirt in my husband's size, and because he really liked it I put it on my watch list... and then the very next day I saw another auction for the exact same shirt from a different seller in MY size... I can still hardly believe it, this is NOT the sort of shirt you expect to see more than 1 of. I won both auctions, 15 hours apart, and, although one seller was in our state and the other was halfway across the country, both shirts came on the same day; the whole thing was almost eerie, but in a good way. Anyways, we now have MATCHING shirts; I don't know if we look cool or silly, but we're certainly distinctive, and WE like how we look.

There's another anecdote that's technically clothing-related; I used my husband's bathroom tonight, and finished off the roll of toilet paper, so like any mature human being I looked for a roll in the cabinet to replace it with... and there was nothing. I was about to go get a fresh package for him, but then I spotted the dirty socks on the floor... and carefully draped one around the empty roll. Imagine his surprise when he next went in there to do his business and all he had available to wipe himself with was a SOCK, lol.

And one final anecdote that's not clothing-related but IS, er, wiping-related; you might recall my post of 4-1-06 where I described how my husband decided that a CLOROX wipe was the same thing as a hand wipe was the same thing as a personal cleansing wipe, and used one on his backside, much to the amusement of me and our friends. Yesterday, the husband of one of my friends asked me for an email addy where he could send my husband jokes or some such nonsense; since my husband has a website, you can send him email with ANY addy that includes his domain name... so I gave my friend's husband an addy that had "Clorox_Kid" in it, which he thanked me for and used not knowing it was a joke. My husband was going to explain to the other man why this was NOT an approved addy, but wimped out and just told him it was a joke and to ask his wife for clarification.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

You said/No I didn't 

I had an epiphany in a chatroom a few days ago... yeah, I know, but sometimes I get sucked in when I see that someone intelligent's in there. Chatting can be fun, but it's also a minefield; most folks can't even have real-life conversations with people who disagree with them without it getting ugly, it's a hundred times harder to avoid unpleasantness when the conversation takes place online in a forum or emails where you can't hear anyone's tone of voice or see their expressions and body language to get clues as to their emotional state and intentions, and it's about a BILLION times harder to prevent war from breaking out in live chat where the discussion moves fastfastfast and things can spiral out of control in a heartbeat.

It's normal for our interactions with others to ebb and flow; some stuff we're totally in synch with each other about, some stuff's iffy and some stuff's utterly non-overlapping, and as long as we don't get bogged down in that last category, as long as we keep moving forward to new topics, we can keep things friendly... which is tricky to do online, because we often have no sign that someone's not in agreement with us, and is getting agitated over a total stranger saying something they don't like, until they make a snippy remark out of the blue. Still, if you say, "Let's just agree to disagree" or "Let's change the subject" at that point, BEFORE it's gotten personal, you're almost certain to be able to get back to having an enjoyable exchange of ideas; not always, because there are people who LIVE to take any excuse to start a screaming match, or online version thereof, but in general just finding a topic you disagree on doesn't have to mean disaster for mature adults.

My epiphany was about a way to tell that your conversation with a given person HAS gone so far wrong that it's virtually impossible to make it calm and fun again; when this pair of sentences comes up between you and someone you're at variance with, it's a sure sign of impending doom:

Person #1: You said blah blah blah.
Person #2: No I didn't, I said...

Person #1 has taken a gigantic step away from the topic under debate into the realm of the personal; this might be ok if they were giving an accurate representation of what the other person said, but Person #2's response means that Person #1 has completely misunderstood them, and that tends to be dismaying and problematic under the best of circumstances. Even in a tense situation, though, we'd still expect that Person #2 could just politely correct the mistaken perceptions of Person #1, who'd politely accept the correction so they could get back to whatever they'd been talking about; it's reasonable to assume that people remember their own words, and the meanings they attached to them, more clearly than anyone else would, and thus that a person would be unquestioningly accepted as the ultimate authority on their own utterances. Unfortunately, the actual psychology involved in this sort of situation appears to be that by the time Person #1 is so emotional that they decide to abandon their attempts at courteous conversation and invoke "You said," they're also irrational enough to deny the validity of the "No I didn't" even when Person #2 can point out what they DID really say in forum postings, email or a chat transcript; #1 will simply retort that what #2 said MEANT what #1 claimed they said, and this refusal to accept the facts signals the end of #1's ability or desire to have further fruitful discussion with #2 for the time being (and sometimes forever-this is a BIG red flag). Typically, #2 will be enraged at being repeatedly and willfully misquoted, and by #1's inappropriately confrontational attitude, and will respond in the manner expected of the angry; a full-fledged battle often results.

It seems like an awfully tiny thing to be able to derail an erstwhile light-hearted chat, doesn't it? So tiny that I never saw what was happening until now, despite it being relentlessly consistent; a search of my memory revealed that each time I've seen those 2 assertions made, online or off-, it's led to a nonsensical and usually protracted battle about who said what, with bad feelings all around... clearly, the concept of what a person specifically said is a powerful one, and will require much more investigation. Sadly, it doesn't look like there's any way to settle this sort of dispute and resume the conversation that preceded it, or if there is I've never seen it; as far as I can determine, once those phrases have been said all you can do is call a halt and withdraw until such time as the argument can be viewed as old news that neither party will feel the need to rehash.

It's scary how quickly and easily this kind of hooraw can happen, but you have to SAY one of those lines for it to happen to YOU; if you're paying attention to what's going on when you're talking to people, you can of course stop things BEFORE they get to the point of no return. If you're about to throw a "You said" at someone, say to yourself, "It's a bad idea to try to use what a person said against them in a debate, because that inappropriately changes the topic to THEM, and it's too easy to misconstrue what they said or meant; rather than in essence accusing them of having said something 'wrong' and trying to use what I thought they said as an attack on them, I'll assume that I've analyzed their words incorrectly, and instead say 'Sorry, I think I've been misunderstanding you-could you please tell me again what you thought about X?'". If you've had a "You said" tossed at you, instead of giving the standard reply, you can say to yourself, "This person is so convinced that I'm in the wrong somehow based on what they think I said, and is so distressed about it, that they're willing to abandon polite discourse to make that point; instead of rebutting their claim, I need to say 'We've reached the 'You said' point in the discussion, and that means we've got to take a break from it for now'... and then I need to refuse any further attempts to draw me into the 'No I didn't' zone."

Understanding this concept has an even broader application, at least for me; looking back on the many people I've had various degrees of friendship with over the years, I realized that the ones I've ended up closest to are those with whom I have NOT typically ended up in You said/No I didn'ts with... I don't know if it's because we understand each other better or are intrinsically less inclined to swerve from proper discussion to personal references, but whether or not I can consistently have even heated debates with a person withOUT anyone resorting to "You said" is an amazingly accurate measurement of how close and long-lasting of friends we can be. I'm going to start asking people about this to see if it's a common pattern or an unusual one that happens to apply to me; if the former, that'll be a useful bit of psychology to have figured out, and if the latter I'll at least have found a helpful tool for navigating my own relationships.

It's a rare person who stops and analyzes what's happening in their discussions and disputes with others, but that doesn't mean that YOU can't do it; all you have to do is CHOOSE to handle things in a different, more beneficial way, and then keep reminding yourself to do so until it becomes 2nd nature. Yes, it's an effort, but it's worth it to be able to avoid arguments and upsets... with the added bonus that, if the other person is a manipulator or cockroach trying to cause trouble rather than a nice person making an honest mistake, you'll be sticking it to them by refusing to let them bait you.

The online world provides extraordinarily fertile ground for anyone seeking psychological insight; do you ever wonder why no one's writing books and articles about it, or even appears to be studying it?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Placebos and the truth about time 

I'm finally starting to catch up with my backlog of Discover magazines; I was REALLY behind... my husband keeps asking me if I've gotten to the articles about fire and the wheel yet. In the April issue I've found a couple of fascinating things; the 1st one is about just how powerfully the mind affects the body:

"Placebo vs Placebo"

"Medical researcher Ted Kaptchuk pitted two types of fake medicine--sugar pills and pretend acupuncture--against each other to see which one worked better. He recruited 266 volunteers suffering from chronic arm pain, which they rated at least a 3 on a 10-point scale.

133 subjects received acupuncture with trick needles whose tips retract so they don't penetrate the skin. The other 133 subjects were prescribed blue cornstarch pills that resembled amitriptyline, an antidepressant often prescribed for repetitive strain injury.

25 percent of the acupuncture group experienced side effects from the nonexistent needle pricks, including 19 people who felt pain and 4 whose skin became red or swollen. 31 percent of the pill group experienced side effects from the make-believe drug, including dizziness, restlessness, rashes, headaches, nausea, and 4 cases of nightmares. Dry mouth and fatigue were the most common side effects, and 3 subjects withdrew from the study after reducing the dosage failed to control their symptoms. The reported side effects exactly matched those described by the doctors at the beginning of the study."

Can you BELIEVE all the symptoms some people managed to psych themselves into feeling? Even more amazing is how they somehow got their bodies to manifest PHYSICAL changes; can you imagine getting redness, swelling and rashes from NOTHING? People who insist that they get all sorts of bad reactions even from substances proven to be totally harmless, like aspartame (see my post of 7-17-05), and claim that this proves they're harmFUL, please take note; just because you experience symptoms does NOT mean that whatever you think caused them actually did anything to you.

The more familiar response to placebos happened in the study too, of course:

"After 10 weeks, subjects taking sham pills said their pain decreased an average of 1.50 points on the 10-point scale. After 8 weeks, those receiving fake acupuncture reported a drop of 2.64 points. In other words, not receiving acupuncture reduces pain more than not taking drugs."

Why didn't the 2 placebos have the same amount of success?

"Kaptchuk says that the rituals of medicine explain the difference: Performing acupuncture is more elaborate than prescribing medicine."

We all consider ourselves to be very tough-minded, but in reality we're powerfully influenced by a wide variety of things... and are unaware that the influences are taking place, which makes us certain that what we feel and think comes straight from inside us-the advertising industry depends on it. The next time someone tells you with absolute sincerity that X makes them sick and Y cures them, take it with a grain of salt if they don't have science on their side.

The REALLY mindblowing article is this one:

"The Future of Time"

"Neurobiologists are slowly coming to realize that 'real time' is just a convention foisted upon us by our brains."

How many times have *I* said that? Theoretical physicists have been making this point for a while now, but it hasn't had any trace of impact on the general public's understanding; maybe getting the same message from medical science will shake a few people up.

"To understand how fundamentally your brain bends time, try this trick: Tap your finger on the table once. Because light outraces sound, the audio tap should register a few milliseconds after the sight of it; yet your brain synchronizes the two to make them seem simultaneous. A similar process occurs when you see someone speak to you from several feet away--thankfully so, or our days would unravel like a badly dubbed movie."

This is so OBVIOUS once it's explained, but I never thought about it before; I don't know which freaks me out more, the realization that I missed something so basic in my attempts to determine what's "really real," or the realization that a huge % of what I perceive each day is made up of sight/sound combos that simply do not exist as they appear to me.

"'The brain lives just a little bit in the past,' says David Eagleman, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Houston. 'The brain collects a lot of information, waits, then it stitches a story together. "Now" actually happened a little while ago.' Or rather, our brains live in the now, and we live in the future, without even knowing it. What we call causal reality is like one of those live TV shows with a built-in time delay for the censors."

We can't even tell accurately what "now" is; the very thought makes me a little woozy.

"To be intelligible, though, even the crummiest TV show requires an editor with keen timing. The same goes for our brains. Some medical disabilities are now thought to be the result of faulty timing mechanisms. Certain brain lesions, like those in Parkinson's sufferers, are known to disrupt timing patterns essential to clear speech. Many neuroscientists suspect that dyslexia and aphasia are not language disorders but timing problems."

That's nothing short of revolutionary. And what about another horrific medical problem, insanity; do some crazy people have "timing" problems... or can having timing problems DRIVE you crazy?

"'Time is one of the many, many illusions that the brain bestows upon us,' says Dean Buonomano, a neuroscientist at UCLA. How it does that is not yet clear, he says. Researchers long believed the brain was ruled by a single clock that kept all its disparate activities in sync, like a pacemaker that sends out a regular pulse--a sort of cerebral Greenwich mean time. But scientists are learning that there is no central clock. Instead, the brain contains lots of little clocks all running at independent rates yet linked by a network."

Like every other aspect of bodily functioning, every one of those clocks can be messed up in varying ways and degrees, not to mention combinations... and what effect would that have? Is it possible that all of our clocks work exactly the same from person to person, or do we each have slightly different internal rhythms... and maybe even perceive some aspects of time a little bit differently?

Can our perception of time be deliberately altered? Brace yourselves:

"Not long ago, Eagleman became intrigued by the stories one hears of people who experience time slowing--during a car crash, say. (Eagleman himself entered slo-mo briefly as a child, when he fell off a roof.) He wondered: What's really going on? Does the experience gain added vividness only afterward, as it's being recalled? Or does a person's perception of time truly slow down enough to absorb extra information?

Eagleman designed a test. He built a small LED screen that flashed a series of numbers too quickly to comprehend.

He attached the screen to his subjects' wrists, clipped a bungee cord to their legs, and had them jump backward, one by one, off a 150-foot tower--a fairly terrifying experience for the uninitiated. To his surprise, his jumpers (all two of them; the experiment is ongoing and the results preliminary) were able to read the flashing numbers on the way down--evidence that a brain under duress can warp time. 'It's like the brain has a reserve capacity,' he says.

'But like everything, it works as slowly as it can get away with.'" (You can watch him doing this experiment, with a net instead of a bungee cord, on a program called "Time: Daytime" on the Discovery Science Channel.)

WOW!! Or should that be "OW," as in "that's so wild it's making my head hurt?" No scientist would consider 2 results to be conclusive, but if even ONE person can do that #-reading thing, that's significant; our brains, or at the very least some people's brains, can essentially give us "more time" to handle scary situations... which adds evidence to the idea that time in general is a creation of our minds.

We possess primitive senses designed to locate food and avoid danger, NOT to provide us with an accurate representation of the world/universe, and our brains are designed to filter out most of the input we DO receive and splice together the rest in a way that lets us function easily, NOT in a way that helps us understand the way things really work; as a result, our concept of reality is limited and distorted. If they ever invent a device that CAN fully perceive reality, and can send all the details of it into our minds directly while blocking the parts of the brain that mold our worldview... what do you suppose the universe will turn out to actually be like?

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