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Mon, 17 Feb 2020
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Science of the Spirit


God Fearers: An Open Letter to Christian Readers of Jordan Peterson & Roger Scruton

cambridge university
Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson have captured the attention of the Christian imagination in a way few, if any, explicitly Christian writers, thinkers, or movements in recent years can claim to have done. Intellectually serious Christians who come across them cannot help but be fascinated by the way in which these public intellectuals have been able to reach down into our secular culture and extract an unmistakably Christian message, without putting off readers or listeners who do not have any concrete religious convictions to speak of, let alone any experience of institutional Christianity. Both have tapped into a growing sentiment in our otherwise disenchanted culture that Christian civilization in the West may be worth preserving after all, even at this late hour.

Scruton and Peterson intrigue us because they have both reach and staying power — the very things Christians in missionary mode hope for most.

Scruton's staying power is beyond dispute. He has built up a richly deserved reputation over the course of forty years as one of the — if not the — leading conservative philosophers of our time.

Peterson appeared on the world stage much more recently, but his staying power is beyond doubt as well. If his critics had been right about him, his 15 minutes would have been up by now. But this psychologist from the Canadian prairies spent years thinking deeply about the strengths and weaknesses of our culture — to which his first book and magnum opus, Maps of Meaning: An Architecture of Belief (1999), is a testament — so that when his moment came, he would be ready for it. As has been the case for much of Scruton's career, with Peterson, people came for the controversy but stayed for the substance.


"The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation"

terrence mckenna
The late psychonaut/philosopher Terence McKenna once said "The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation," and I think my regular readers will immediately and experientially understand exactly what he was talking about.

It's not always easy to be on the outside of consensus reality. Our entire society, after all, has been built upon consensus — upon a shared agreement about what specific mouth sounds mean, on what money is and how it works, on how we should all behave toward each other in public spaces, and on what normal human behavior in general looks like.

We all share a learned agreement that we picked up from our culture in early childhood that it's normal and acceptable to stand around with your hands in your pockets and babble about the weather to anyone who gets too close to you, for example, whereas it would be considered weird and disruptive to stand around slathered in Cheese Whiz shrieking the word "Poop!" But we could just as easily reverse that consensus on behavioral norms tomorrow, and as long as we all agreed to it we could do it without missing a beat.


New research suggests anthropomorphising your emotions can help you control them

Joy and Sadness
© Disney/Pixar
Joy and Sadness … ‘a new way to regulate your emotions.’
In the Pixar film Inside Out, the emotions of an 11-year-old girl are personified as perky Joy, petulant Disgust and hulking Anger. Sadness - voiced by The American Office's Phyllis Smith - is, predictably, a downer with a deep side-parting and a chunky knit. Amy Poehler's Joy can hardly stand to be around her, like a colleague you would time your trips to the tea point to avoid.

But the takeaway of the 2015 film - said by Variety to "for ever change the way people think about the way people think" - was that both emotions were necessary, and Sadness was as valid a part of life as Joy. Now there is a case for not only accepting Sadness, as in Inside Out - but embodying her, too. Researchers from Hong Kong and Texas recently found that individuals asked to think of their sadness as a person reported feeling less sad afterwards, a result they attributed to the increased distance perceived between the self and the emotion.

Study participants were asked to imagine Sadness's personality, appearance, conversational style and how they might interact with them. In doing so, the idea was they would make it separate and less relevant to them. "The underlying mechanics of it is detachment - when they think about sadness as a person, it's like they are endowing independence to the emotion," says Li Yang, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin and corresponding author of the paper, published in September in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. "They feel detached from it, and that's why they would feel less sad afterwards."

Sadness is well established by research as leading people to focus on short-term and often indulgent rewards. By picturing their sadness with human traits and characteristics, study participants ameliorated its effect and were then more likely to display self-control. Such anthropomorphic thinking was even shown to be an effective advance strategy, preparing consumers to choose a healthier (or more practical) option.

Comment: If you are suffering from any type of emotional overload and have a hard time applying the above suggestions to your own life, it might be a good idea to search for a Creative Arts Therapist in your area. Through the use of art, music, drama, movement or writing, they will help you learn how to create emotional distance from whatever it is that is troubling you and regulate your emotions more effectively.

Post-It Note

10 Bad Habits of Unsuccessful People: Instead of looking for traits to emulate, focus on ones to avoid

success vs failure
The first successful person I ever met — truly successful, with accomplishments I admired and ambition I strove to emulate — was an entrepreneur in his forties, a client of mine in the first real business I'd ever started. I was 24 and eager to learn; he was constantly cheerful, and had more money than he could count.

We became close friends, and he told me eventually that he'd lost his wife, the love of his life, a half-decade before we met — the kind of loss, he said, that you never get over. It was a story that made his positive outlook seem all the more remarkable to me: Here was someone who had been through tragedy, and yet still made it a priority to do good things with his time and his money. He seemed to truly care about other people.

Often, he'd tell me what he saw as the secret to his success: "I just try to avoid being unsuccessful," he said. He studied what made someone (avoidably) unhappy, broke, or unmotivated — and then he avoided making the same mistakes.

I knew in my bones that he was right. Too often, we adopt a plug-and-play attitude: "If I do x, I'll be successful." But if success was easy and predictable, we wouldn't be seeking advice on how to achieve it. Instead of studying what's worked for other people, I've followed my friend's advice, paying close attention to the habits that hold people back from reaching their goals.

Here are 10 of the most common self-imposed barriers. If you find yourself bumping up against one, use them as a signal to reevaluate, reflect, and reverse course.

Magic Wand

Ikigai: The Japanese secret to living a long and more fulfilling life

For Japanese workers in big cities, a typical work day begins with a state called sushi-zume, a term which likens commuters squeezed into a crowded train car to tightly packed grains of rice in sushi.

The stress doesn't stop there. The country's notorious work culture ensures most people put in long hours at the office, governed by strict hierarchical rules. Overwork is not uncommon and the last trains home on weekdays around midnight are filled with people in suits. How do they manage?

The secret may have to do with what Japanese call ikigai. There is no direct English translation, but it's a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living. Essentially, ikigai is the reason why you get up in the morning.

To those in the West who are more familiar with the concept of ikigai, it's often associated with a Venn diagram with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

Comment: Another way to look at it,
"Don't underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, "He whose life has a why can bear almost any how." ~ Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Brick Wall

A surefire cure for despair

quit scrabble pieces
© www.aboblist.com
"I can't go on. I'll go on."
~ Samuel Beckett

Sometimes it just gets to be too goddamn much. You just finished a soul-draining argument with a family member who insists that Putin controls all major world events because that's what the TV said so it must be true, then you check the poll numbers for the upcoming elections in the US and UK and you see your favorite candidates just don't have the kind of numbers they're going to need, the latest revelation that the US and its allies deceived the world about what's happening in Syria has been completely swept under the rug by the establishment news churn, Bolivia has been taken over by US-backed Christian fascists, and now you're watching Mike Pompeo's stupid asshole face spouting some made-up bullshit about Iran that you know the news media will never hold him accountable for.

And it's just too goddamn much.


Psychologists Explain How To Stop Overthinking Everything

stop over thinking
Thinking about something in endless circles — is exhausting.

While everyone overthinks a few things once in a while, chronic over-thinkers spend most of their waking time ruminating, which puts pressure on themselves. They then mistake that pressure to be stress.

"There are people who have levels of overthinking that are just pathological," says clinical psychologist Catherine Pittman, an associate professor in the psychology department at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

"But the average person also just tends to overthink things." Pittman is also the author of "Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry."

Overthinking can take many forms: endlessly deliberating when making a decision (and then questioning the decision), attempting to read minds, trying to predict the future, reading into the smallest of details, etc.

People who overthink consistently run commentaries in their heads, criticising and picking apart what they said and did yesterday, terrified that they look bad — and fretting about a terrible future that might await them

'What ifs' and 'shoulds' dominate their thinking, as if an invisible jury is sitting in judgement on their lives. And they also agonise over what to post online because they are deeply concerned about how other people will interpret their posts and updates.


If memory serves, can it be trained? A new study offers hope

The age of information is reshaping our recall capacities, but does delegating mental responsibilities to devices work for us, or against us? Researchers say the answer is both
memory training
If there is one thing that all human beings seem to have in common, it is the fear of losing their memories. After all, memory shapes our personality, determines how we see ourselves, and contributes to shared experiences on multiple levels. Losing one's memory is akin to losing an entire life history.

The 21st century offers various technologies that keep us from forgetting the little things, such as phone numbers, which are now a touch away on our smartphones. But could mobile phones actually contribute to one's forgetfulness? Is age to blame for memory loss? Genetics? Or maybe a combination of all of the above?

Recently, a team of scientists working under Prof. Rafi Malach of the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science published the findings of a breakthrough study on this topic, in collaboration with neurosurgeon Ashesh D. Mehta and his team at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in the United States.

Comment: See also,

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Finding Meaning through Mythological Representations: Delving Further into Jordan Peterson's Maps of Meaning

chaos demon
Why have many ancient - and even contemporary stories - just stuck with us and seem etched into the psyche of civilization? What is it about particular narratives that appear to hold something so essential to our existence, and that have become reference points for our own narratives? And how can a story, or a mythology, serve us as we navigate life's many day to day travails, and unexpected twists and turns? Jordan Peterson writes: "A good theory lets you use things — things that once appeared useless — for desirable ends. In consequence, such a theory has a general sense of excitement and hope about it. A good theory about the structure of myth should let you see how a story you couldn't even understand previously might shed new and useful light on the meaning of your life."

Join us this week on MindMatters as we continue our discussion of Jordan Peterson's deeply insightful Maps of Meaning and dive into the treasures of 'Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience' - where we'll be taking a look at how the archetypes of many myths are, in fact, all around us - and whether we realize it or not, make up the firmament for the stories we tell ourselves about our own exploratory journeys into both the known and the unknown.

Running Time: 01:07:04

Download: MP3 — 61.4 MB

Snow Globe Xmas

New dream study reveals nightmares help brain prepare for real anxiety-provoking situation

Woman waking from a nightmare
© Prostock Studio adobe.com
Nightmares are no fun, but a new international study finds all that nighttime fear may actually be serving a greater purpose. Researchers from both Switzerland and the United States identified the areas of the brain that were activated while a group of participants experienced fear in their dreams. Interestingly, they discovered that after the participants woke up, those same emotion-regulating brain areas responded to scary situations much more efficiently.

All in all, the research team believe their findings lend credence to the theory that dreams actually help our brains prepare to tackle real world stressful situations. Consequently, this research opens the door for a multitude of new dream-based therapeutic methods for treating anxiety.

Dreams have become a popular topic of research in neuroscience circles, more specifically the areas of the brain that activate as we doze off. Just recently it was discovered that certain brain areas are responsible for the formation of dreams. Furthermore, different brain regions are only activated depending on the type of dream one is experiencing. For example, the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that a singular dream may incite.