Thursday, July 31, 2014

Creativity? Madness? Restless Leg Syndrome? There's a Pill For That!

"Gauguin's Chair" - oil on canvas - 1888, Vincent van Gogh
(click on all images to enlarge)

"Development of uncontrollable artistic urges has been documented in medical case studies. One 41-year-old woman with Parkinson's disease who began taking levodopa developed what neurologists called a "devastating addiction to painting." Her home became a gathering place for artists, and she began compulsively buying painting materials. She described the spiral earlier this year in a medical journal: "I started painting from morning till night, and often all through the night until morning. I used countless numbers of brushes at a time. I used knives, forks, sponges … I would gouge open tubes of paint–it was everywhere. But I was still in control at that point. Then, I started painting on the walls, the furniture, even the washing machine. I would paint any surface I came across. I also had my 'expression wall' and I could not stop myself from painting and repainting [it] every night in a trance-like state. My partner could no longer bear it. People close to me realized that I crossed some kind of line into the pathological, and, at their instigation, I was hospitalized. Today, my doctors have succeeded in getting my medication under control, and my creativity has become more tranquil and structured."

"Another proposed mechanism lies in the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that moderates a person’s ability to filter out irrelevant stimuli. That is called latent inhibition, and it has been associated with creative achievement. It is reduced in people suffering psychosis but it increases when those people are given antipsychotic medications. Reduced latent inhibition might enhance divergent thinking by widening (or loosening) the associative network, enhancing creative thinking."

"Dopaminergic stimulation is also used in women who have recently given birth and would like to stop lactation, and in people with Restless Leg Syndrome. "I don't think anyone has checked," Inzelberg said, "if people in treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome become creative."

- Excerpts from a July 17, 2014 article: "The Creativity Pill" via The Atlantic

"Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget

Like the stranger that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

And now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free

They would not listen
They're not listening still
Perhaps they never will"

- Excerpt from "Starry, Starry Night", 1972, Don Mclean 


Nothing flies in the face of the Mechanistic world view more than the human need to create. Artists, poets, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers - our efforts are the monkey-wrenches gumming up the Machine... and if we really do our jobs, the Machine grinds to a halt... or, maybe just transforms. Or, so we'd like to think, if only on a subliminal level.

But, at the core of Mechanistic science (see quotes at the end of the post), Matter is King, and all the mysteries of the universe will be revealed under a microscope, by an x-ray, an electronic probe, or inside the womb of an atom-smashing machine. Like begets like. For the Mechanist, Matter is essentially dead, but, somehow, and at some point, it became organic; having magically sprung to life like the puppet in the children's story, Pinocchio. In the eyes of a Mechanist, Life, as a creative force unto itself, is a delusion. It and its activity can be explained away by the automatic distribution and interaction of chemicals; chemicals which can, moreover, be recreated in a lab. Scientists have not, yet, found quite the right chemical brew to replace you, but they're working on it. And, if they can't do it, the Tech-mechs, with their delusions of sentient computers, will. Or, so they'd like to think.

And, so, I was more amused than surprised when I stumbled across "The Creativity Pill," an article that's recently been making the rounds in cyber-space. More hype than actual content, it's the sort of "news" one comes to expect; endless spins on the latest Mechanistic victory over the natural world, designed to trivialize what many of us might find meaningful. While neurologists are a little slower at developing a true Mechanistic formula* -  the physiology of the brain being a somewhat tougher nut to crack - Big Pharma will provide the necessary tools; it's the gift that keeps on giving. Hence, levodopa (L-DOPA), which, according to neurologist, Rivka Inzelberg, seems to increase creative output in those afflicted with Parkinson's disease...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Pet Store - Creatures as Commodities - (featuring murals by "Phlegm")

"Cat" - urban mural - Sheffield, England - "Phlegm" (found here)
(Click on all images to enlarge)

"The more we exile ourselves from nature, the more we crave its miracle waters. Just as our ancient ancestors drew animals on cave walls and carved animals from wood and bone, we decorate our homes with animal prints and motifs, give our children stuffed animals to clutch, cartoon animals to watch, animal stories to read. We call one another by “pet” names, wear animal-print clothes. We ogle plants and animals up close on television, the Internet and in the movies. We may not worship the animals we see, but we still regard them as necessary physical and spiritual companions. Technological nature can’t completely satisfy that yearning.

But what if, through novelty and convenience, digital nature replaces biological nature? Studies show that we’ll suffer. Richard Louv writes of widespread “nature-deficit disorder” among children who mainly play indoors — something new in the history of humankind. He sees it leading to attention problems, obesity, depression and lack of creativity. Adults suffer equally. Patients with a view of trees heal faster than those forced to stare at city buildings. In studies conducted by Peter H. Kahn and his colleagues at the University of Washington, workers in windowless offices were given flat screen views of nature. They reaped the benefits of greater health, happiness and efficiency than those without virtual windows. But, importantly, they weren’t as happy, healthy or creative as people given real windows with real views of nature."

- From the 2012 NYT article, Nature: Now Showing on TV, by Diane Ackerman *


It was a fairly nondescript summer day... hot and hazy, glazed over with that white-gold cast that defines a predominately cloudy sky. I was in my car with no particular destination, but, as is usual, found myself gravitating towards the coast, as if the ocean was some huge magnet and neither myself (nor my car) had any choice in the matter.

Lying between myself and the shore, however, is Route 1, which, in part, is just one long, extended strip mall, punctuated by an endless repetition of shoe-box shaped buildings, identified only by their corresponding rectangular signs. These advertise everything from food to furniture, service stations, beauty salons, craft stores, consignment shops, and the occasional "Psychic Reading". On impulse I drove into the black-topped parking lot belonging to one block of buildings, featuring an outlet of a popular pet store franchise. I'd been there before... I liked to look at the small, exotic fish in the marine-life aquariums, so, I went in...

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Anatomy of a Dream (Intus Natura, Vita Eternus*) (Notice, 8/6/14)

Cast-stone box-lid, taken from a carved plaster original - app. 3" X 5"- 1993, DS
(click on all images to enlarge)

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living; this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”

“But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called -- called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”

“He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time.”

- Three quotes from: Call of the Wild, the 1903 novel by Jack London.


I generally try to avoid recounting dreams on blogs, because, for anybody but the dreamer, they're generally boring. But, in the case of this morning's (July 6th) dream, I actually tried a different technique of dream interpretation and searched its elements online. So, while anyone reading this may or may not find the dream itself terribly exciting, this method of unravelling dream symbols might intrigue.

The Dream:

I was living with my friend, Moo, or, possibly just visiting, but, due to the weirdly circuitous nature of dreams in general, I only became conscious of the dream at the point I'm about to describe.

At this point, someone (?) inquired about the disappearance of Mindy, Moo's family dog. Horrified, I suddenly realized that I had let Mindy out the previous night, but had forgotten all about her! I immediately ran to the door I'd let her out of... it was huge white door, filling one wall of the tall, but narrow, white room it opened from. Oddly enough, I found that it was open and slightly ajar, so, I had never actually closed the door at all. I still felt guilty, but I surmised that the dog could've come back indoors if it wanted to.

At this point the dream convolutes in such a way, that I realized that Mindy has gone far off into the surrounding woods. I can see her. But, the dog I actually see in the woods is a large St. Bernard. Mindy is not, in reality, that breed of dog (although there is a St. Bernard in Moo's son's family), but this didn't occur to me till I woke up. It also came to me in the dream that, perhaps, Mindy had gone up in the woods to die. But, while this upset me, I was suddenly struck by the rightness of such a choice. That is, it occurred to me in the dream, that the most ideal setting for any creature to die is near the earth with nature surrounding them.

In the last segment of the dream, I was proposing to Moo that we establish some variety of fund or fellowship - related in some way to death and nature -  which had for It's symbol (and would be given or carried by its members) a small, leafy twig tied with a bit of fabric.

And then I woke up.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Creatura - What You Can't See, Can Kill You (Update 7/18/14)

Typhoid bacteria found here.

The post - under construction - which originally appeared here: "Creatura - Metamorphosis, Myth & Mirrors," has fallen back into the implicate fold.

Sorry to say, but it's time has not yet come... and may not come. It's the sort of philosophically extravagant blog post I'm avoiding these days, because, in reality, I haven't the time for intensive, online explorations of overwhelmingly dense subjects. In any event, any form of "Creatura Hypothesis" - which, tentatively, was on my agenda - would be premature at this point, and I've decided to parcel out the quotes and images that appeared here into a succession of pared-down future posts.

Blame it on bacteria... that Creatura from the microscopic realm. I am on my second run of antibiotics to rid myself of an upper-respiratory infection, and am hardly in "top form". In a virtual "Battle of Creatura" which one will win?

Hopefully, the one writing this, but don't put your money down just yet! ;-)


"Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons. These bacteria yet again prove the almost miraculous tenacity of life — but, from a technology standpoint, they might also prove to be useful in enabling the creation of self-powered nanoscale devices that clean up pollution. Some of these bacteria also have the curious ability to form into ‘biocables,’ microbial nanowires that are centimeters long and conduct electricity as well as copper wires — a capability that might one day be tapped to build long, self-assembling subsurface networks for human use."

- From an ExtremeTech article - July 18, 2014: "Biologists Discover Electric Bacteria..."

I bring to you the latest in weird biology news... although it appears a Danish group made a similar discovery a couple of years ago. George Dvorsky, meanwhile, reflects on the alien life angle...

As for me... well, electric bacteria might have been exciting news at some point in the past... in the days when biological discoveries added to ones sense of wonder, and an overall respect for the natural world, without necessarily providing support and/or tools ("biocables" and "nanoscale devices") for the Techno-Mechanistic agenda. 

Instead it's just beginning to deeply depress me. As does articles like this one: "Should We Deliberately Edit The Genes Of Wild Animals?"

Should a bear not shit in the woods?