Archive for May, 2011

Great post across on the NPR blogs about whether or not we can know if there’s an afterlife. I especially liked this quote –

I do ponder, though, that as we incorporate new matter over our lives, we DO become different beings—our “I-ness” changes over time.

That’s so true….we change constantly, never really knowing the “I” we will become. It’s a wonderful mystery leading to daily discovery of amazement and wonder.

I loved the quote from Prospero at the end of the post –

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

and, the Iris Dement song too…..

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geisha style kyoto

geisha style kyoto

photographing the blossom

One thing that strikes me when looking at these photos I took recently – you can tell where, I bet – is how different this style of dress is from the throw-away ever changing fashions – but, then, maybe they say something too……what do you think your clothes say about you?

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David Cameron today is defending his government’s proposals to change the English NHS. Interestingly, this debate seems to be happening as if there isn’t another functioning model in Scotland! There is – why not refer to it? Maybe there are aspects of the Scottish NHS which are better than the English model? Why not learn from them? Maybe there are aspects which are worse. Why not learn from them too?

The fundamental problem with all the health services of course is that they are actually disease management services, not health services at all. Almost all of health care has a primary focus on disease, and only a secondary one on health. Cameron says the NHS in England has to change – and in particular he says “we’ve got and that is to change and modernise the NHS, to make it more efficient and more effective and above all, more focused on prevention, on health, not just sickness. We save the NHS by changing it.”

He’s right about that, but what exactly within his proposed changes will produce an NHS “more focused on prevention, on health”?

The BMJ this week has a lead editorial on the issue of disease definition. The problem is that the definitions of diseases keep changing and as they change, more people become “eligible” for drug treatments, and there is enormous drug company influence on disease definition.

the definitions of common conditions are being broadened, so much so that by some estimates, almost the entire adult population is now classified as having at least one chronic disease.

This makes no rational sense. As Fiona Godlee says

I’m struck by the quote from Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who chaired the task force for DSM-IV. “New diagnoses are as dangerous as new drugs, he says. “We have remarkably casual procedures for defining the nature of conditions, yet they can lead to tens of millions being treated with drugs they may not need, and that may harm them.”

Moynihan’s article is a fascinating and thought provoking one. But I finished up reading it thinking, hang on, we don’t even have an agreed definition of health, let alone a host of diseases! Shouldn’t we agree what health is, and then craft a health service towards maintaining and developing health in individuals and the population, instead of one focused on the continually expanding definitions of disease which, literally, plays into the hands of those who want us on drugs for life?

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sun-kissed cloud-kissed

cloud hidden

John O’Donohue, in the excellent documentary, Anam Cara, talks about the impact on life of living in the presence of mountain, and in a beautiful passage talks of how the clouds come down and hide the mountain but the knowledge of presence, even though it’s now invisible, continues to make an impact on life. In fact, the visible becoming invisible takes the impact to a whole new level

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The “Black Swan” guy) has a new book out which is a collection of aphorisms. It’s called The Bed of Procrustes (ISBN 1846144582).

I like books of aphorisms. You can dip and dive into them and just stop where something provokes or captures you. Here are a few of his which have made me stop and think so far.

Don’t talk about ‘progress’ in terms of longevity, safety or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness.

Who doesn’t want longevity, safety and comfort? But he’s right, there’s a difference between being a zoo animal and living free in the wild. Can we have the longevity, safety and comfort AND the freedom and excitement of the wild??

If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead – the more precision, the more dead you are.

This is pretty close to my heroes not zombies theme. If your every day is scheduled to death, is that satisfying? Is there some room for spontaneity, for freedom to respond to events and circumstances? If life can’t be fully controlled, it certainly can’t be fully planned. Globally, we’re caught up in command and control methods based on a delusion of the certainties revealed by science – whether it’s economic science, earthquake science, or medical science. The events of the last few years in particular are really showing the extent to which these theories and approaches are delusional and only further power and control over the individual.

It is a very recent disease to mistake the unobserved for the nonexistent; but some are plagued with the worse disease of mistaking the unobserved for the unobservable.

This is a bit like Rumsfeld’s famous knowns and unknowns, isn’t it? But there’s also the issue of is reality only that which can be seen and measured?

Asking science to explain life and vital matters is equivalent to asking a grammarian to explain poetry.

This reminded me of Mary Midgely‘s superb “Science and Poetry” – one of my favourite philosophy books. Science isn’t everything and it can’t explain everything either….

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Okochi Sanso paths

Okochi Sanso paths

Okochi Sanso paths

Okochi Sanso paths

Okochi Sanso paths

We walk along numerous paths, streets, lanes every day. When we walk along them every day we can stop seeing them. Here are some paths I’d never walked along before which really grabbed my attention and reminded me to notice the paths I’m taking.

In the case of these garden paths in Kyoto, the paths themselves are beautiful. What about the regular paths you follow every day? What about the paths you follow through life? Where’s your present path leading, and what kind of path is it? Beautiful? Interesting? Enriching? (by the way, no paths go nowhere!)

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Okochi Sanso paths

When I looked at this stone, I thought I was looking at water…..then, I remembered some other stones I’d seen that seemed like that.
flowing rock
one stone amongst many

All stones which appear to flow….and I wondered about all those ways we have of subdividing Nature – solid, liquid, gas for example – and how appealing it is when we find in one form the echoes of another.

In the Higashi Honganji Temple in Kyoto, I saw this path – ok, not as natural as the rocks above, but beautiful and flowing all the same…..

flowing tiles

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