Captivating Jane Eyre (and St.John?)


I knew the story. I must have seen several BBC adaptations and movies of the story, growing up in London. And I knew of her; refreshed by a recent visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London.  The short lives of all three Bronte sisters. (At medical school, we learnt that Charlotte died of hyperemesis gravidarum: dehydration from vomiting of pregnancy.)

But I had not read Jane Eyre until now.  How is it not possible to fall in love with Jane?   I feel compelled to share her. Published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte’s novel gives us her inner life, a remarkable window into a beautiful soul.  Jane is born triply orphaned.  Despite her sad life and lack of physical beauty, she has inner beauty, vitality and strength.  Jane kept me entranced, through her journey to union with her soul mate.  A role model of how I would like to react to adversity and immorality; and achieve harmony.

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How do I feel, when my soul is torn?

I had another idea I was trying to sell.  It’s gone now,  but the point is not the deep sad of existence when not connected with at least one special other.  My soul mate, life partner and co-parent all ideally wrapped up in the same perfect package of spouse. {note to self, what is etymology of spouse, and why is it so rarely used today?}

I would look it up, but I have committed to doing this in 10 minutes, and I do get so easily distracted.  A feature or a flaw?  I often ponder on human origins, and the far more awesome story that science tells me than a simple Creator God.  I can’t have been much older than seven when it struck me that God is the Laws of Physics.

To have an understanding go God and science at this young age reflects on my winning the genetic and environmental ‘roulette’ that gave me highly gifted parents on both sides, and an extremely privileged up bring by a Bridge World Champion, and always delicately cared for by the Universe.  Including in my trials.

I feel trapped in one now.  My soul is torn.  It hurts.  Why is this you ask, I hope.

Expectations.  Life is not quite meeting my expectations.  So, instead of changing my expectations, I pack a sad.  I know this, and still it hurts.  An optical illusion can remain, even when we know it.  Do you know about your cognitive illusions?



Mythos: Free Will, free choice?


Humanity has long pondered the question of free will; and whether  chicken or egg came first. Like Xeno’s paradoxes the questions identify flaws in both language and logic.  What does Free Will (FW) really mean?

Mythos is the ancient Greek counterpart to logos (reason). The two sides of mind. Myths help us understand and live in this world. They carry a deep truth, even if the events are not factual.  This Atlantic article‘s title was “There’s No Such Thing as Free Will –
But we’re better off believing in it anyway.” A mythos.  It was “one of the most read and hotly debated Atlantic pieces this month. The galaxy of philosophical issues called “free will and determinism” is where morals and physics come together. In other words, it’s a subject that genuinely matters, and one that’s a hell of a lot of fun to argue about.”  Want to try?

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Why vegetarian? A cultural journey.


He asked me, “why are you vegetarian?”  He wanted me to write an article to explain why.  He thought his magazine readers would  be intrigued by the combination of muslim name with vegetarianism. The latter is more associated with Hindu and Buddhist names in the subcontinent.

My vegetarian journey is all about belief.   Science tells me that, cognitively, the most important reason is because of my belief about myself.  I chose to think of myself as being vegetarian. Therefore, I mostly eat vegetarian.

Hang on, he objected, “Are you truly vegetarian, if you don’t eat only vegetables?”.  So, what is a vegetarian and how did I become  one?

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Daily Prompt: Disagree

via Daily Prompt: Disagree

Agreeable it is to agree; but comfort zone offers no growth.

The real question is, can I really listen to the other, or do my internal voices drown out all others?  Honest disagreement can be more constructive in sharpening an idea than agreement.  Learning to listen seems really hard for our poor brains: designed for hunter-gatherer life.  It is the power of words/ideas that allowed our species to organise: agreement is the norm.

Our hidden biases, mental flaws, and defective models can lead to poor decision-making.  By disagreeing we help our friends and family to better decisions.  With science banishing “Free Will” to myth, we still have free choice in our actions.  Ironically, believing that there is no FW, makes us behave worse – easier to give ourselves a pass.

If there is no FW, why do we allow Criminal Justice system to exacerbate the inequities and iniquities of our worlds?  And if we do not disagree with an unjust system; are we not then complicit in its evil?  To disagree is a core part of being human and seeking the better angels of our nature.  But like all human tools can also be used for bad.  The difference is perhaps our motive: from ego or alter?

Water is vital for life; sugary drinks not.

“Please give us nothing but vegetables to eat & water to drink” Daniel 1:12

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  Daniel 1:15 (~600BC)

The book of Daniel, is not your typical religious text. It’s part of the Old Testament; part I of the Christian Bible. (In case you don’t know, part 2, the New, is a glorious story of redemption or being saved which may or may not be metaphysical.  It’s so hard to know with words, but the words are indeed very useful.  Which is why they survived.)

The core of the Old Testament is the 5-book Torah given to us by Moshe, our Father.  With no archeological evidence for Moses, could he be a scientific created of the Egyptian elite?  The timing fits with the reign of Akhenaten, the only monotheistic Phaoroh. After him, they reverted to the traditional Egyptian gods.  The speculation is that the religious monotheists established Israel as a colony of Egypt, allowing them to live in peace but away from the new regime of polytheism.

In contrast, Daniel reports a historical character. Like Jesus, Daniel’s story was written long after his death; in Daniel’s case hundreds of years.  The value of both stories is to remind of us deep spiritual and practical truths.  Such as diet health, and feeding our microbiota (bugs).  Eat your vegetables; don’t drink sugary drinks!

I found this pictures on Wikipedia; I hope they don’t mind me using it.  It highlights the simple but hard act of self-denial.  Rejecting sensual pleasure over health.  And his fellows behind him in the portrait show that that Daniel did not do this by himself.  We act best as teams.  And perhaps the result is the ability to go to the lion’s den, by himself.

Are you interested in following Daniel’s dietary advice, and tell me upon its impact on your health?  If so, the first step is: who is the team that will help you?   How can I help you?

And if you have the time, have a look at this project on vaccines as an educational tool.  And why am i vegetarian?.

You have been warned: don’t act, and face the consequences

But not all warnings are right; how do we know if we need to react?

HIV, SARS, Ebola.  These all emerged after some commentators thought that we had conquered infectious disease through hygiene, sanitation and immunisation. Humans face an ever increasing risk of new pathogen because our collective biomass is increasing.  This is not hard to understand if you think of all mammals as potential sources of life for micro-organisms.  I presume you have heard of the micro biome; the startling fact that you and I have at least 10 times more non-human cells than human cells that make up our body.  And that many of these bugs are essential to our health; and may in fact be driving much of our behaviour from the products of their metabolism.  It seems that even obesity may be, at least in part, caused by the bugs in our guts.  And that much as the negative impact of junk food may be through the changes in the microbiome that it causes.  Bugs love sugar!

For me, SARS was the alarm bell, the missed opportunity around needing to have better information systems so that we can deal with the next new bug.  Which could be as fatal as Ebola, but with the infectiousness of influenza.  Its emergence, just a matter of genetic roulette.  Once a bug that emerges that can feast on humanity, it will spread – see HIV/AIDS.

Ebola has rung a new alarm bell on the costs of failing to look after all our family – that we all face the risks caused by the weakest link in health.  But, I was prompted to write this not by this threat, but another one for which there is a much stronger case for a scientific warning.  That we must act upon, and yet much of the world, including many powerful people who really should know better, continues to deny.  Denial may the healthiest psychological strategy when there is nothing that we can do to reduce our risk.

And then there is the small matter of vested interest that makes us blind.  The vested interest in the comfort of today, for we know that is at risk.  And even if others are not so comfortable, that is really not our business, is it?

Well, that depends of your view of humanity and yourself.  Whether you accept the science that says we are all from a common ancestor, perhaps as recently as 50,000 years ago – maybe 200,000 years – the supposed time that modern humans emerged.  I have already made an implicit case for why we need to care about the other members of our family to protect us agains new bugs.  But what if we could have a Jesus or Buddha view of humanity, that saw our transcendent unity, and not just with the human family, but all of life, the whole universe itself.

The threat is the melting of the polar ice-caps, which is melting at an increasing rate.  A particular concern because 97% of the excess energy that humanity is putting in the atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans, especially the southern oceans around antarctica.  Once that is gone, and with it much of the absorptive capacity of the oceans – what happens?

Time will tell.  We are acting, but not nearly fast enough.  There is a prime villain here, and what will it take to act?  Especially if that action to decarbonise the economy is part of a radical transformation of production that is geared to people’s needs rather then profit.  With robotic production already here, this seems more possible than when human labour was essential to production.

And what will be human role in the new economy?  Why, to look after each other, as teachers, healers, entertainers.  Another Utopian dream?  Perhaps.  But, if our human family made a consensus decision to establish this new world, could we not just decide to do so from today?

To take back Abe Lincoln’s idea of democracy being the government by, for, and with the people.  Not the corporate interests that are paramount with the claim that this is essential for jobs. Not true.  The economy is not about money, it is about people and how they allocate the products of society.  Just because we inherited the capitalist model, does not mean that it continues forever – any more than feudalism; thought the legacy of that remain…

Technology offers new models of organisation.  Our planet demands it, as capitalism will destroy it – if it continues on the current path.  You have been warned.  Your call.