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Thu, 20 Feb 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Three Stoic lessons from a galaxy far, far away

Star Wars

Luke gazing into the sunset.
It is no secret, to those who are familiar with the saga, that Star Wars is filled with wisdom. Those not familiar with Star Wars are at least familiar with its iconography, such as the helmet of Darth Vader — that great symbol of the dark side of the force.

Some are also likely familiar with the little green Jedi master, Yoda (not to be confused with the cute little creature of the same species from the Mandalorian). Yoda is first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke seeks him out on Dagobah to learn the ways of the Jedi. He appears again only briefly in The Return of the Jedi (but not without failing to impart some more wisdom), and is present throughout the prequel trilogy.

The great thing about being a reader of the Classics is that you can recognize almost immediately the Stoicism of Yoda's teachings (one may also locate some Buddhist elements as well, though I think that is to be expected given the similarities between the two). He preaches against attachment, cautions against giving into fear, and speaks of the Force with the same reverence that the Stoics spoke of Nature, among other things. So, let us look at some of the Stoic lessons we can learn from Yoda.

Comment: This also goes to show why a phenomena like the original Star Wars trilogy has had such a lasting cultural impression. The newer 'feminist' versions not included. The stories tell a classic archetypal hero's journey but also highlights differing modes of spiritual development through the Jedi and the Sith and a philosophical underpinning that is reminiscent of the ancient Stoics. See also:


Men think they are better liars says new research

Men better LIars?
© University of Portsmouth
Men are twice as likely as women to consider themselves to be good at lying and at getting away with it, new research has found.

People who excel at lying are good talkers and tell more lies than others, usually to family, friends, romantic partners and colleagues, according to the research led by Dr Brianna Verigin, at the University of Portsmouth.

Expert liars also prefer to lie face-to-face, rather than via text messages, and social media was the least likely place where they'd tell a lie.

Dr Verigin, who splits her time between the Universities of Portsmouth and Maastricht, in the Netherlands, said: "We found a significant link between expertise at lying and gender. Men were more than twice as likely to consider themselves expert liars who got away with it.

"Previous research has shown that most people tell one-two lies per day, but that's not accurate, most people don't lie everyday but a small number of prolific liars are responsible for the majority of lies reported.

"What stood out in our study was that nearly half (40 per cent) of all lies are told by a very small number of deceivers. And these people will lie with impunity to those closest to them."

"Prolific liars rely on a great deal on being good with words, weaving their lies into truths, so it becomes hard for others to distinguish the difference, and they're also better than most at hiding lies within apparently simple, clear stories which are harder for others to doubt."

Dr Verigin quizzed 194 people, half men and half women, with an average age of 39.

Microscope 1

'Gay gene' ruled out as biggest ever study on genetics and sexuality shows environment is major factor in homosexuality

gay pride parade
Genes play just a small role in whether a person is gay, scientists have found, after discovering that environment has a far bigger impact on homosexuality.

In the biggest ever study into the genetic basis of sexuality, researchers from more than 30 institutions including Cambridge University and Harvard, looked at the DNA of nearly 500,000 people in Britain and the US.

They found that genes are responsible for between eight to 25 per cent of the probability of a person being gay, meaning at least three quarters is down to environment.

Comment: They sure were nervous about announcing these results!

'Our findings prove that the vast majority of gays aren't born gay, but trust us, it's complicated nonetheless!'

It's not really that complicated. Society has gone to hell in a handbasket, and everything has 'gone fluid' in the process.

No Entry

How to gracefully, but firmly, say No!

how to say No

Saying no isn't always easy, but you can do it in a more graceful manner.
Sometimes we just don't want to say no. A friend asks you to go out on a Friday night. You want to... badly! But, you also know you have an early morning, and told yourself you needed to keep it mellow, give yourself some much deserved me-time, and simply reconnect to that beautiful feeling of nothingness. Do you give in and go because you want to? Or because your friend wants you to?

Sometimes it's that you really want to say no, but you're too afraid. A co-worker asks you for help with a project; a friend asks you for help moving furniture; you get asked to grab dinner with a friend. You say yes to all of them, because the fear of how the other person will respond to your denial is too much to bear.

Wanting to be liked by others is something many of us can relate to. And there's nothing wrong with it, but if you're compromising your well-being, who you are, and what makes you happy, it's time to take a step back.

Comment: How to stop being busy all the time - Do fewer things, better
The secret of being productive lies in choosing what to do - and doing it right - instead of doing more and more. When you are busy, you don't have time to think, reflect, or enjoy. You are running from one task to another without being present. Your mind needs space. Silence helps us reflect. Serendipity attracts new ideas. Distance brings perspective.

your life. When you say yes to everything, you are saying no to what really matters. That's the biggest issue with being busy: we end doing the wrong things.

Doing fewer things right, not being busy, should be a badge of honor.
See also: The importance of saying "No" in a healthy life


The language of emotion: Cultural variation and universal structure across different populations

© J.-M. List
Colexification network involving "surprise" and "fear"
Words for emotions like "anger" and "fear" vary in meaning across language families. Researchers have now compared colexifications of emotion words — cases where one word signifies multiple semantically related concepts. By analyzing such words in 2,474 spoken languages, they found variation in emotion conceptualization and evidence of a universal structure in colexification networks.

Among the rich vocabularies many languages have for communicating emotions, many words appear to name similar emotional states. The English word "love," for example, is often translated into Turkish as "sevgi" and into Hungarian as "szerelem." But whether the concept of "love" has the same meaning for speakers of all three languages remains unclear. In the current study published in Science, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Australian National University have used a new method of comparative linguistics to examine the meaning of emotion concepts around the globe.

Colexification networks reveal wide variety, cultural influence on emotion semantics

With the help of a database of 2,474 languages, the researchers constructed networks of colexified emotion concepts and compared them across languages and language families. These emotion colexification networks varied significantly, suggesting that emotion words may vary in meaning across languages, even if they are often equated in translation dictionaries. In Austronesian languages, for example, "surprise" is closely associated with "fear," whereas Tai-Kadai languages associate "surprise" with the concepts "hope" and "want."

Comment: See also,


Competition or Cooperation: Which one works best for you?

Scientists at Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) have studied the differences in problem solving in people with different thinking styles to discover that "analysts" solve problems faster while competing, while "holists" solve problems faster while cooperating. The authors suggest using the study results in pedagogics.
© CC0 / Pixabay
According to the MSUPE scientists, people of different cultures can have "analytical" or "holistic" way of thinking. Analytical thinking involves focusing an object as such, studying its internal structure and laws. This way of thinking is more characteristic of Western Europe, as well as the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia; it implies breaking each object and phenomenon down into components, and assuming that the whole is the sum of all components. Analysts believe that life events change linearly and progressively. They are more likely to use formal logic.

Holistic thinking requires greater consideration of the social context, as well as focus on the relations between objects and phenomena. According to experts, holism is characteristic for East Asia, as well as Latin America and Russia; it implies considering any object or phenomenon in the context of its environment. Holists see life as dynamically changing; at the same time, they realise that these changes are often unpredictable. They tend to explain life events by the context of situations.

Magic Hat

Do you happen to be suffering from Enjoyment Anxiety?

Have you ever felt the pressure to only show your best side on Insta, Snapchat, or Facebook? Do you find yourself questioning if the effort will really be worth it ahead of big celebrations, birthdays, and holidays? If so, it could be a sign that you have enjoyment anxiety...
Enjoyment Anxiety
We've all heard the term 'anxiety' and, if we're being honest, we each think we have a pretty good idea of what anxiety is. Used to describe feelings of worry, fear and unease that our bodies feel when our 'fight or flight' response kicks in, most of us have felt anxiety at one point or another in our lives; be it surrounding exams, a new job, moving house, or making a big change.

(Almost) nobody likes big changes or that insurmountable feeling of pressure that often leads to a sense of anxiety and overwhelm, but we can at least understand it when these big, scary events cause us to feel anxious.

But what about when it comes to events that should be enjoyable? Going on vacation, celebrating the holidays, birthdays, sharing with friends and family on social media - aren't these all supposed to be activities that cause joy in our lives, not anxiety? How are we supposed to justify our feelings of fear and worry, when we know they are stemming from something we are 'supposed' to be enjoying?

Comment: See also,

Wedding Rings

The emotional languages of a happy relationship

Modern research has taught us a lot about what keeps people in love — and what makes them fall out of love.
holding hands
There are dozens of research that teach us a lot about what keeps people in love. Many of them point to the importance of work and effort. Successful relationships emerge when two people invest in their relationship — over time their love becomes stronger, more exciting, and full of fresh emotions and feelings.

Relationship researchers are deeply motivated to identify interpersonal patterns of successful relationships and marriages.

Dr John Gottman, a renowned psychological researcher who focuses on marital stability and divorce prediction, argues that the "Four Horsemen" can predict the end of a relationship — Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

He says identifying these communication styles is a necessary first step to eliminating them and building a strong relationship. To avoid destructive communication in our relationships, we recommend we replace them with healthy, productive ones.

Comment: See also,

Black Cat 2

Cat whisperer: A few special people can read feline expressions

cat wail

Like humans, cats communicate their emotions through facial expressions.
Whenever the cat sitter texts Georgia Mason and her husband photos of Sylvie and Luke, their two brown tabbies, "we usually agree if our cats are looking cheerful or grumpy or anxious," she says.

Now, a new study led by Mason, a behavioral biologist at the University of Guelph in Canada, shows that people who can consistently decode feline expressions belong to a special clan: That of the cat whisperer.

For the research, Mason and colleagues created an online survey and invited internet users (aka, the cat's biggest fan club) to take part. The 6,329 participants from 85 countries watched between two to 20 short videos of cat expressions, and then responded if they thought the felines were distressed or happy. These random users got an average of 11.85 out of 20 ratings correct — better than chance, but not by much.

Comment: See also:


The ideas that bring harm and weaken the minds and emotions of my generation

© Andrew Neel on Unsplash
A world immersed in paranoid concerns of safety distorts one's outlook, which is detrimental to the ability to function and thrive.

It's a tough time for Generation Z. Mental health problems, specifically mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, are skyrocketing. Gen Z is the least likely to report good or excellent mental health and the most likely to report poor or fair mental health. Suicide rates for US teens and young adults are the highest ever.

As a 23-year-old Gen-Zer who has dealt with these issues personally and has seen the impact on fellow friends and loved ones, it breaks my heart.

On the path of bettering my mental health and trying to help others, my journey has led me to seek explanations on why things have gotten so bad, and I found a compelling hypothesis in the work of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and legal scholar Greg Lukianoff.

In their co-authored book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Haidt and Lukianoff examine Gen Z's mental health problem. They argue that youths have been immersed in a world characterized by paranoid concerns of safety, which distorts their thoughts and is detrimental to their mental well-being.

"Many university students are learning to think in distorted ways, and this increases their likelihood of becoming fragile, anxious, and easily hurt," they say.

Comment: See: MindMatters: How Universities Are Destroying Young Minds With Pathological Thinking