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Showing posts from May, 2016

SOMETHING NEW, PLEASE

A friend sent me a video of a "holistic doctor" promoting her "30-day detoxification plan." My friend wanted to know what I thought of the ten-minute clip. I try to abide by the "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" philosophy, but I wasn't speaking to the author so I loosened my tongue. In truth I couldn't get past the first 2 minutes. The video was amateurish and unedited and the "expert" threw around as many buzzwords as she could, thinking if she stuffed her sentences with "wellness" and "detox" and "adrenal support" and "affinity for the liver" the whole would somehow make sense. It didn't. Or if there was a message, the one I got was "this is derivative nonsense I've seen dozens of times before, only usually it is done with better lighting." Derivative. Yes, derivative. But the author is not wholly to blame. Human nature is at fault. Others have had success w…

THE BEST-KEPT SECRET

The Swiss psychiatrist and father of analytical psychology Carl Jung (1875-1961) observed that virtually all of his patients aged 40 or older had as the root of their mental disequilibrium the pressing fear of death. This is called mortal fear, which can seize a person at any time (though it becomes more common the older, and therefore closer to death, you are) and hold you paralyzed in its grasp as you contemplate the reality that there will come a day that you will no longer be around.

You will die. At least your body will. As well as your mind, since the mental and physical are inextricably linked. But the mind cannot bear the thought of its own demise. It insists on living forever. And so anti-aging is all the rage, as pseudo-experts preach the gospel of immortality on earth. Before this, the mind invented the notion of reincarnation, to buy itself more time in future lives where you will be a king or a celebrity, of course! Never mind the fact that nobody I've ever met has any…

THIS ONE'S ON ME

Many of the world's religions share common themes and stories. For example, Christianity holds that God sent Jesus Christ to Earth to spread the message of eternal life. In John 3:16 it says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 


Not to be outdone, Catholics take it step further. Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed himself on the cross for the redemption of human sins, they say, on behalf of all humanity. Specifically it was original sin he atoned for, the OG of all transgressions, in which Adam following Eve's prodding disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate from the Tree of Good and Evil. The battle of the sexes is eons old.  In the Bhagavad-Gita, considered by many to be the Hindu bible, we have a version of Christ called an Avatar, who visits the Earth from age to age. Krishna was one such Avatar who lived 5,000 years ago. He tells his disciple: "Whenev…

SYNERGY

A vicious circle is a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation. This is also known as a vicious cycle. An example is obesity, which involves an interplay of diet and exercise. When a person gains weight, it is usually due to an increase in caloric intake through the consumption of calorie-rich foods, especially high-fat animal protein and refined carbohydrates. This person may or may not be a regular exerciser, but gaining weight in the form of fat makes working out less enjoyable. Obese individuals complain of joint pains - indeed a risk factor for osteoarthritis is weight gain - and the lowered ratio of muscle to fat can weaken a person, causing him/her to shirk the weights. Also, since fat is pretty inert as far as cells of the body go, you get a decrease in your resting metabolic rate, so you burn fewer calories throughout the day than someone with more muscle. So y…

JUST NOISE

Life is a quest for immortality. Each of us desires to live forever. Most of us attempt to live on through our children. That is, by perpetuating the species we believe we achieve a stake in immorality. Reproduction has served us fairly well so far. Life began on Earth with the single-celled organism 3.8 billion years ago; and the human species, so far the pinnacle of animal life, has managed to stick around some 200,000 years, with no end in sight.

But reproduction is in essence an animal act, since all creatures breed. In this way the beasts are like their betters, seeking to live forever. And so procreation occurs everywhere, as the old gives way to the new. Even within your own body, cells are renewed and replaced, though the individual (you) remains ostensibly the same - just like the species - however you may mature and age. That's why you go by the same name, whether you're a toddler in diapers, a dapper gentleman in a tux, or a geriatrician wearing Depends; and humans h…

ON SELF-STIMULATION

How's this for irony: I recently wrote a short piece extolling the virtues of masturbation, either with or without pornography, and by the end of the book I had decided to take a break from the habit myself - possibly for good. In the two weeks it took me to compose PORN! I watched a fair amount of explicit films, pleasured myself more than usual, and called it research. How else to really get to know the material than to dive in "head" first? Of course like most guys my age I have decades of practice in the art of self-stimulation. But in the course of my research I learned a lot about the age-old habit I didn't know before.

For example, the vast majority of kids discover their genitals and the pleasure they can bring by age 6. I didn't touch myself until aged 10. That my sexual awakening coincided with the onset of puberty is common to most young men. Many boys and girls masturbate by the age of 13. But there are those who do not discover the pleasures inherent …

21ST CENTURY GENTLEMAN

In the film Big Lebowski, the protagonist, known simply as the Dude, is asked what makes a man. Is it a "life of achievement, challenges met, competitors bested, obstacles overcome?" Is it "being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost?" Is that what makes a man?

In his quite entertaining and sorely under-purchased book on being a man, TIME's columnist Joel Stein describes a series of adventures which he hopes will adequately prepare him to be the father of a son. He fights former UFC champion Randy Couture, repairs things, performs obstacles with the military, and other stuff we often associate with manliness, at least conventionally. Towards the end of his tale Stein writes that "being a man is about the sacrifices we make every moment by not surrendering to childishness: going to work, being faithful, telling the truth when the truth is ugly, taking care of others." That's what being a man is. But Stein is joking. He actually does asso…

THE ROYAL PAIN

Midway through the first year of my medical residency I hit a snag. Colorado Novembers are cold, and I was feeling down. Seasonal affective disorder is real, I'm here to announce. Also, I have always had a penchant for flouting authority, and during my month in the newborn nursery (the place where babies are made) I decided not to wear scrubs like the other residents. My recalcitrance was not merely for its own sake. Rather, I had clinic in the afternoon and changing into slacks and a dress shirt during my 30-minute lunch/commute to the other side of town was just too much of a hassle. Besides, I wasn't delivering these babies. I was just changing their diapers and sometimes circumcising them, and the little peckers hardly bleed. Of course my reluctance to go along with the program was reflected in my evaluation. That and the fact that I didn't show up once or twice for overnight call. I'm just not a night person. And really with two other pediatric residents I was mer…

DO IT YOURSELF

I recently took part in a discussion about food, which I enjoy almost as much as eating food, which is a lot - if the food is well-prepared. Which is what this piece is about, if I can just get past this paragraph.

While swapping our favorite dishes I asked a friend whether he likes to cook. "I used to," he replied. "But I no longer have the time." This friend is a successful business owner, so his reply seems justified. Or does it? 

The line dividing self-sufficiency on one side and dependency on the other is not etched in stone. And it seems to meander steadily in the direction of dependency the farther we go in life, as we climb both the ladder of success as well as that of age. Indeed we start out completely dependent on our guardians. We require our parents or their surrogates to feed us, bathe us, clothe us and coddle us. As we emerge from the toddler stage we grow more independent. We are able to brush our teeth, make our beds and tie our shoelaces. The more e…