Mournbrag

Look, the nature of grieving is weird, how are you gonna judge how somebody grieves?  (but the typo?!)

This book:

WIT

first got me to really thinking about this.

George HW and Barbara Bush lost a daughter to pediatric leukemia when she was four years old.  Cramer says that something like half of all couples that lose a child split up, because the ways that two people grieve can be so divergent and impossible, even offensive, for the other person to deal with.  The Bushes were determined not to let that happen to them (and they didn’t).

The instinct on Twitter to make someone’s death an opportunity for backhanded aggrandizement sets my nerves on edge.  I’m not sure why that particular thing gnaws at me so much.  Maybe because the whole point of the death of a noble guy, or death at all, might be to remind us how unimportant we are, or to encourage us to be better?

(Hardly a perfect model here: when SDB died I both wanted to talk about him and myself and also at the same time never talk about it.)

This dude David Carr was incredible, his death was shocking, the number of people he seemed to have touched directly is staggering.  In New York in 2009 I was talking to a girl who told me more or less unprompted about truly moving kindnesses and generosity David Carr had extended to her just out of excellence of character and goodness of spirit.

I’ll miss reading the guy’s stuff.  I was just reading his thing about Brian Williams because I’m sure he’d have something to say worth hearing.

Now this is a tribute:

If you can only have one sentence of writing advice, go with this:

“Keep typing until it turns into writing”

If you are prepared for an intense experience on the subject of death and grieving, might I recommend the American Experience “Death And The Civil War”?

If you’re rushed for time, allow me to summarize: the Civil War was a tremendous bummer.


Plan to redeem Brian Williams

brian w

Think this is a legitimately good plan:

Brian Williams announces he will buy a beer for every single American who’s ever actually been shot at in a military helicopter.

Ten city tour.  If you were once on a shot-at helicopter, go to the most convenient stop (they’ll be bars or VFW halls or something) and Brian Williams will buy you a beer and shake your hand.  You can tell him your story which will be good for him as a reporter.

In this way this beloved public figure can do serious penance and redeem himself and show he’s solid.

If he wants to provide pizza, that’s ok.  If he’s asking for my advice I’d say also go ahead and get pizza.  And good root beer for anyone who’s sober.

Learned an interesting bit of trivia about newsman Bob Schieffer the other day:

schieffer 2

Shortly after President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, while in the Star-Telegram office, he received a telephone call from a woman in search of a ride to Dallas. The woman was Marguerite Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, whom he accompanied to the Dallas police station. He then spent the next several hours there pretending to be a detective (the first of many deceptions during his career), enabling him to have access to an office with a phone. In the company of Oswald’s mother Marguerite and his wife, Marina, he was able to use the phone to call in dispatches from other Star-Telegram reporters in the building. This enabled the Star Telegram to create four “Extra” editions on the day of the assassination.


Trips

psilocybin

from this New Yorker article by Michael Pollan about psilocybin:

Carhart-Harris doesn’t romanticize psychedelics, and he has little patience for the sort of “magical thinking” and “metaphysics” they promote. In his view, the forms of consciousness that psychedelics unleash are regressions to a more “primitive style of cognition.” Following Freud, he says that the mystical experience—whatever its source—returns us to the psychological condition of the infant, who has yet to develop a sense of himself as a bounded individual. The pinnacle of human development is the achievement of the ego, which imposes order on the anarchy of a primitive mind buffeted by magical thinking. (The developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik has speculated that the way young children perceive the world has much in common with the psychedelic experience. As she puts it, “They’re basically tripping all the time.”)

This article gives a lot of ammo to hippies:

He said that the N.I.M.H would need to see “a path to development” and suspects that “it would be very difficult to get a pharmaceutical company interested in developing this drug, since it cannot be patented.” It’s also unlikely that Big Pharma would have any interest in a drug that is administered only once or twice in the course of treatment. “There’s not a lot of money here when you can be cured with one session,” Bossis pointed out.

Interesting talking about psychoactive drugs in medicine: pretty fast you hit the boundaries of science:

PATIENT: What does this drug do?

DOCTOR: Well, medically, nothing, but it might… make you feel like your ego died and you’ve come into harmony with the great spirit of the cosmos?

We’re at the limit of medicine here, crossing over to religion or at least social anthropology.

If you’re taking mushrooms in a lab in a New York hospital, under medical supervision, that’s gonna affect your experience.  If you take them after traveling to southern Mexico, in the house of a curandera, and you’re open to the idea that a curandera might have some kind of power, you’re gonna have another kind of experience:

In 1955, after years spent chasing down reports of the clandestine use of magic mushrooms among indigenous Mexicans, Wasson was introduced to them by María Sabina, a curandera—a healer, or shaman—in southern Mexico. Wasson’s awed first-person account of his psychedelic journey during a nocturnal mushroom ceremony inspired several scientists, including Timothy Leary, a well-regarded psychologist doing personality research at Harvard, to take up the study of psilocybin. After trying magic mushrooms in Cuernavaca, in 1960, Leary conceived the Harvard Psilocybin Project, to study the therapeutic potential of hallucinogens. His involvement with LSD came a few years later.

In the wake of Wasson’s research, Albert Hofmann experimented with magic mushrooms in 1957. “Thirty minutes after my taking the mushrooms, the exterior world began to undergo a strange transformation,” he wrote. “Everything assumed a Mexican character.”

(would they have assumed a “Mexican character” if Hofmann thought they came from Cambodia?)

If you get mushrooms from your college buddy, and the point is to clown around in the park, you’re gonna have another kind of experience.  If you’re a true hippie open to the idea that mushroom spores traveled to Earth as a kind of message from some distant galaxy, that’s gonna affect your experience.

What about this context?:

In a double-blind experiment, twenty divinity students received a capsule of white powder right before a Good Friday service at Marsh Chapel, on the Boston University campus; ten contained psilocybin, ten an active placebo (nicotinic acid). Eight of the ten students receiving psilocybin reported a mystical experience, while only one in the control group experienced a feeling of “sacredness” and a “sense of peace.” (Telling the subjects apart was not difficult, rendering the double-blind a somewhat hollow conceit: those on the placebo sat sedately in their pews while the others lay down or wandered around the chapel, muttering things like “God is everywhere” and “Oh, the glory!”) Pahnke concluded that the experiences of eight who received the psilocybin were “indistinguishable from, if not identical with,” the classic mystical experiences reported in the literature by William James, Walter Stace, and others.

That ain’t exactly laboratory conditions – there’s lots going on here.  I get that there’s a double-blind, but do you measure: who cared more about Good Friday going in?  Who was further along on some kind of spiritual journey?

My own thinking on this much affected by ideas of Helytimes favorite Wade Davis.  Got more interested re: ayahuasca.  It’s one thing to take ayahuasca at a rented house in Malibu.  Another thing to go to the Amazon, where your surroundings are halfway a hallucination before you drink a thing.  Big difference how you feel here:

artistic-farm-house

Vs. here:

shamans house

Old advisor at college, a wonderful eccentric woman, used to say she thought all pre-meds should be anthropology majors.


Well I hope you’re wrong, Leslie Gelb!

LG

from this roundup of predictions for “The World in 2030” from Politico Magazine:

No breakthroughs for the better

By Leslie Gelb, president emeritus and board senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations

The world of 2030 will be an ugly place, littered with rebellion and repression. Societies will be deeply fragmented and overwhelmed by irreconcilable religious and political groups, by disparities in wealth, by ignorant citizenry and by states’ impotence to fix problems. This world will resemble today’s, only almost everything will be more difficult to manage and solve.

Advances in technology and science won’t save us. Technology will both decentralize power and increase the power of central authorities. Social media will be able to prompt mass demonstrations in public squares, even occasionally overturning governments as in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, but oligarchs and dictators will have the force and power to prevail as they did in Cairo. Almost certainly, science and politics won’t be up to checking global warming, which will soon overwhelm us.

Muslims will be the principal disruptive factor, whether in the Islamic world, where repression, bad governance and economic underperformance have sparked revolt, or abroad, where they are increasingly unhappy and distained by rulers and peoples. In America, blacks will become less tolerant of their marginalization, as will other persecuted minorities around the world. These groups will challenge authority, and authority will slam back with enough force to deeply wound, but not destroy, these rebellions.

A long period of worldwide economic stagnation and even decline will reinforce these trends. There will be sustained economic gulfs between rich and poor. And the rich will be increasingly willing to use government power to maintain their advantages.

Unfortunately, the next years will see a reversal of the hopes for better government and for effective democracies that loomed so large at the end of the Cold War.

 


Conversational fodder for your Super Bowl party

Throwback to an old classic.  Milch spins Super Bowl –> Kierkegaard.  Starts around 0:41, meanders away by 3:40, pretty interesting again by 9:20 or so.

Good luck to both the Seahawks and the Patriots in returning to the spirit which gave them rise.  Stand by my Super Bowl pick.