Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Soul Sickness & Nourishing Sacredness

Health & Wellness

Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” 
Walt Whitman [1819-1892],
Preface to Leaves Of Grass, first edition (1855)

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1860 edition)
Image Credit: Thayer and Eldridge; Boston, Mass.
Source: Wikipedia

What troubles the soul is the opposite of truth. We might call this instinct, and some proclaim to have good instincts. I am inclined to view this as the soul speaking. This is not about fairness, but about the search for truth. Poetry is distilled prose in search for truth, or at one time this was so. But I think it still is so—that poetry can be both revealing and salutary. I am reading a book, Care of the Soul (1992), by Thomas Moore, which says the soul does not so much require curing but caring, nurturing, etc. The soul is not some silent partner in your life; when it is hurting or in pain, it lets you know.

Silencing it, censoring it or ignoring it will not work. Neither will using drugs, whether they come from pharmaceuticals or the street; such are only temporary solutions to a human condition of soul sickness. When you feel as if “something is not right” you understand the gist or meaning of the words that I just wrote.

Some might find this idea irrational, but it is not within the bounds of rational thought or ideas. This does not, however, deny its reality or validity. We, humans, are more than flesh and blood; we are more than materialistic beings; we are also spiritual beings. Such are the intangibles, the unknowns, the unseen aspects of our being. Serious thinkers throughout the ages have made inquiries into this very subject.

Science cannot and Religion fails when it imposes without love or understanding. But there is Poetry and the great voices of poetry, which Whitman is part of, to increase our understanding of what it is to be human. Poetry speaks to us in a far different manner than does science. It does so, I believe, not through the channels of reason, but through our souls, however hard this is to describe, let alone define.

Definitions and certainty have their place in our lives, but they cannot and do not lead to complete understanding  or to pathways of truth. There are general truths, but there are particular truths, just as there are particular tastes. The writer residing in the human body makes inquiries and writes about such inquiries. So have I throughout the decades of my adult life and have touched upon this very subject in some of my writings, in some of my posts. It is important because it is human.

I plan to write more about this subject from time to time, and will share some of my thoughts. I have the desire and the need to do so and hope that you can give it some attention.

Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul (1994 edition); in Chapter 1 to introduce the working view of the book, Moore writes: “Care of the soul, looking back with special regard to ancient psychologies for insight and guidance, goes beyond the secular mythology of the self and recovers a sense of the sacredness of each individual life. This sacred quality is not just value—all lives are important. It is the unfathomable mystery that is the very seed and heart of each individual. Shallow therapeutic manipulations aimed at restoring normalcy or tuning a life according to standards reduces—shrinks—the profound mystery to the pale dimensions of a social common denominator referred to as the adjusted personality” (19-20),
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taza in Reverie by Charlotte Dumas

Photograph Of The Week

“Taza,” a photograph by Charlotte Dumas, a Dutch photographer, is part of the series Reverie; her work will be on display in May 2017, as part of “Hunting with a Camera: Pioneers of Dutch Nature Photography,” an exhibition at the Dutch Fotomuseum, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. On Dumas’ site we can read more about the Reverie photos: “In 2005, Charlotte Dumas travelled to Norway and Sweden New York and Colorado to create portraits of the majestic canines in her series Reverie. Despite her close proximity to the wolves in her photographs, Dumas reveals the vast distance between the world of humans and wolves as her photographs portray the wolf as an enigmatic, imperceptible being.” It seems so unusual to see a grey wolf alone, away from the pack. This photo of the sleeping wolf reveals her vulnerability, something that is pointed out in the artist statement: “They not only convey their vulnerability at rest, but also reflect a falling, the losing of consciousness. “As I spent time with them I felt this was maybe one of the most intimate and private moments to witness: the gap between wakefulness and slumber, a space for dreaming and reverie.”
Photo Credit: ©Charlotte Dumas, 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brigitte Engerer: Chopin’s 21 Nocturnes

French pianist Brigitte Engerer [1952–2012] plays the complete Nocturnes of Frédéric François Chopin [1810–1849; born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, Poland]. The nocturnes are 21 pieces for solo piano that Chopin wrote between 1827 and 1846. So, grab a cup of tea or coffee and allow these nocturnes to carry you along to another place of the mind and soothe your soul, to a place between wakefulness and sleep, to reverie. It’s classical soul music.

The Playlist:
1. 0:06 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto
2. 5:53 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante
3. 10:29 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegretto
4. 17:09 Op. 15, No. 1 in F major. Andante cantabile
5. 22:07 Op. 15, No. 2 in F sharp major. Larghetto
6. 25:43 Op. 15, No. 3 in G minor. Lento
7. 30:53 Op. 27, No. 1 in C sharp minor. Larghetto
8. 36:32 Op. 27, No. 2 in D flat major. Lento sostenuto
9. 42:27 Op. 32, No. 1 in B major. Andante sostenuto
10. 47:27 Op. 32, No. 2 in A flat major. Lento
11. 53:01 Op. 37, No. 1 in G minor. Lento
12. 59:51 Op. 37, No. 2 in G major. Andante
13. 1:06:17 Op. 48, No. 1 in C minor. Lento
14. 1:12:25 Op. 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor. Andantino
15. 1:20:11 Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Andante
16. 1:25:36 Op. 55, No. 2 in E flat major. Lento sostenuto
17. 1:31:19 Op. 62, No. 1 in B major. Andante
18. 1:38:51 Op. 62, No. 2 in E major. Lento
19. 1:45:11 Op. 72, No. 1 in E minor. Andante
20. 1:49:19 Op. posth in C sharp minor. Lento con gran espressione
21. 1:53:18 Op. posth in C minor. Andante sostenuto

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Better Understanding of ‘The Addictive Personality’

Human Behaviors

Unbroken BrainMaia Szalavitz, writes: “Addictions and other neurodevelopmental disorders rely not just on our actual experience but on how we interpret it and how our parents and friends respond to and label the way we behave. They develop in brains designed to change with experience—and that leaves us vulnerable to learning things that create damaging patterns, not just useful habits.”
Image Credit & Source: ScientAmer

An excerpt published in Scientific American taken from the book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, by Maia Szalavitz, says that there is no scientific evidence, no general collection of personality traits, to label someone with an addictive personality. Such a diagnosis is a myth, and in no way based on current scientific research. Moreover, Szalavitz adds that many of the behaviors associated with addictions are often a result of problems associated with learning and interpreting one’s experience, whether positive or negative.

Such individuals are not born with what is deemed as anti-social personality disorders, which suggest a genetic component, but might have learning disorders, primarily in how they process information—often in a way that can distort their thought processes and lead to the formation of bad or destructive personal habits.

In “The Addictive Personality Isn't What You Think It Is” (April 5, 2016), Szalavitz writes:
Although addiction was originally framed by both Alcoholics Anonymous and psychiatry as a form of antisocial personality or “character” disorder, research did not confirm this idea. Despite decades of attempts, no single addictive personality common to everyone with addictions has ever been found. If you have come to believe that you yourself or an addicted loved one, by nature of having addiction, has a defective or selfish personality, you have been misled. As George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told me, “What we’re finding is that the addictive personality, if you will, is multifaceted,” says Koob. “It doesn’t really exist as an entity of its own.”
Fundamentally, the idea of a general addictive personality is a myth. Research finds no universal character traits that are common to all addicted people. Only half have more than one addiction (not including cigarettes)—and many can control their engagement with some addictive substances or activities, but not others. Some are shy; some are bold. Some are fundamentally kind and caring; some are cruel. Some tend toward honesty; others not so much. The whole range of human character can be found among people with addictions, despite the cruel stereotypes that are typically presented. Only 18% of addicts, for example, have a personality disorder characterized by lying, stealing, lack of conscience, and manipulative antisocial behavior. This is more than four times the rate seen in typical people, but it still means that 82% of us don’t fit that particular caricature of addiction.
It is worth your while to read the full article. In essence, what Szalavitz argues, and does so rather persuasively I might add, is that there is no collection of personality traits that easily define an addictive personality. While extreme traits like risk-taking, poor impulsive control and novelty-seeking can lead to addictive behaviours, it can also be found in persons who are compulsive and fear novelty. Or in persons who are lonely, without friends and who are generally alienated from society.

Over time, persons can easily become locked into negative habits, and once formed find it difficult to change. Successful treatment is often found in cognitive based therapies, I would suspect; and not so much in pharmaceutical drugs, which do not effectively change patterns of thinking and of learned behaviours. Not surprising, religion and spirituality have also shown to be highly effective in breaking bad habits, including harmful addictions.

For more, go to [ScientAmer]

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Tastes Of Jean-Talon Market

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Marché Jean-Talon: The market, at the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy district, is bounded by he Jean-Talon Street to the north, Mozart Ave. to the south, Casgrain Ave. to the west and Henri-Julien Ave. to the east. During the growing season, between May and October, about 300 vendors, mostly local farmers, have their produce stalls at the market.
Photo Credit: Susan Moss; Tourisme Montréal

Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon), in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy, is one of those places Montreal natives take for granted, that is, until they move elsewhere, to cities where such places cannot be found. I first came here with my father in the 1960s as a young tyke. Back then, it was not as fancy as it is now after the modernization was completed in 2005, adding such contemporary accoutrements as underground parking and specialty boutiques. Before, it was primarily an open-air farmer’s market with stalls where merchant-farmers sold their fruits and vegetables.

It is still primarily about the produce. One of the beauties of this market is that you can sample the fruits and vegetables before purchase. The many vendors place them on a platter (see photo below), so you can see if they are tasty enough for you, and often they are. This gives you an opportunity to sample various kinds of fruits and vegetables, notably ones you have never tried before. The place is packed, as you would expect, on the weekends, so it is advisable to arrive as early as possible in the morning. It is a nice way to spend a Saturday morning, as is exploring Little Italy,which resides in the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie.

This market has been a Montreal landmark since 1933. One of the four large public markets in the city, it is the largest open-air farmers’ market in North America. It is not only a place to get fresh fruits and vegetables, but also cheeses, fish, baked goods and olives, to name a few of my favourite specialty boutiques, This place also epitomizes why the city is known for its great food and cuisine. There are many food favourites that are common to Montreal, but as I write this in the morning I miss my chocolatine (le pain au chocolat) and the café au lait.

Sampling the Produce: The raised platforms are filled with fruits and vegetables for the purpose of sampling. Here you can see the tomatoes, mangoes and pineapples, among other fruits and vegetables.
Photo Credit & Source: Foodology

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Looking Out (Oct 2016)

Autumn 2016

A couple of photos, near my writing space, of a few of the green houseplants residing with me inside my residence. These include two philodendrons, a dieffenbachia and an African violet (Saintpaulias). The last photo, a northwestern view, shows the large public park with its changing Autumn foliage. Lots of reds and golds are in view, contrasting with the blue sky; some would define it as more of an azure sky. These photos were taken last week; and even looking at them today provides me a different impression, one that is influenced both by my experiences today and by the cumulative ones that preceded it. Both memories are real; both memories are valid. It is always inspiring to look out after a long period of introspection. One can easily see that too much solitude can lead to malnourishment of the soul.

All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bob Dylan: Hurricane (1975)

One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs (co-written by Jacques Levy)—in a catalog that has many great songs—is dedicated to the case of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer falsely accused and framed for the 1966 triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey. Racism played a prominent role in Carter’s arrest, prosecution and incarceration, which Dylan makes clear in the song. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I can still remember hearing the song for the first time in late 1975, when it was released as a single, and how much it stirred a passion for justice. So it remains, as it should. (You can hear another version, with Emmylou Harris singing backup, [here].)

It, the song, is the first track on the album Desire, which was released in January 1976, Wikipedia says, “making the Carter case known to a broad public. ‘Hurricane’ is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defense.” Carter was freed in 1985 after spending almost 20 years in prison. Soon after he moved to Toronto. Rubin Carter died of prostrate cancer on April 20, 2014; he was 76.

I saw Bob Dylan in concert at the (old) Montreal forum on October 30, 1981, when he and his music showed definite influences of Christianity. For some, this was Dylan’s dark age of music creativity, but I disagree. The opening song of this concert was “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979), which is as true as it was then and is as good as it gets in the department of creativity. In a simple word, the song is “masterful.” This song can never get old, since its meaning forever stays young.

The story of Dylan and his search into both Christianity and Hasidism (to wit, the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of Judaism) has already been told and analysed, and is not worth recounting here. Only his intimates know some of the story; only the people that were there during the time can ascertain what happened. Even so, this does not mean that they do “know;” only Dylan himself knows and appreciates the complete story. Others can only speculate, What we do know is that Dylan’s music changed then, and that he had a spiritual experience or awakening, which is not a bad thing but always a good thing.

Like many searchers, myself included, Dylan wants to find his place.