It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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How To Live The Mystery Of Life

In a rational world, when a mystery presents itself, the mind goes to work to solve the mystery. This approach works very well when it comes to explaining the sudden extinction of the dinosaur or what is making a patient sick, but it works much less well when it comes to the mystery of the human body. All of us are in intimate contact with that mystery, and so we are presented with a choice.

The first choice is to follow the usual rational procedures to understand how the body works. A massive amount of information has been collected in this way. Measurements, data, and research studies pour in every day. But there is another choice that is not well known to most people, which is to live the mystery. There is a stark difference between these two paths, as we will show.

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A Stress Remedy That Works

Stress has been a familiar term for decades, and the problems caused by chronic stress are legion. There is no reason to continue to put up with the rush and pressure, the demands and crises of modern life, when toxic stress is involved in most lifestyle disorders. No one is immune to stress, and despite the claims of some high-powered, competitive people, no one thrives on stress. What, then, can be done?

First, we need to get beyond the popular use of the term. When people say that they are stressed out, they mean that undue pressure makes them feel exhausted or overwhelmed. Certainly, this can be true, but stress, medically speaking, is a pressure that pushes the body out of its normal state of balance (or allostasis, and eventually homeostasis), requiring various processes like heart rate, blood pressure, and hormonal balance to kick in so that the stressor, as it is called, can be overcome. For a long time, much emphasis was placed on the stress response in the form of fight-or-flight. The point was made that unlike our remote ancestors, who needed fight-or-flight as a mechanism when under threat from predators, in modern life fight-or-flight is an evolutionary holdover that long ago outlived its usefulness.

The greatest threat now is not from fighting predators, going to war, or facing bodily harm. The greatest threat is from low-level chronic stress, which causes a milder version of the stress response. The full-blown stress response is not sustainable past a brief period, counted in fractions of an hour, at which point a rebound effect automatically occurs, causing the stressed person to feel exhausted and drowsy. This automatic shut-off valve is not present in low-level chronic stress, which can be maintained for days, months, and years, as attested to by people who stay in toxic relationships or endure stressful job conditions.

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Order Out of Chaos: Why You Aren’t a Hurricane

One of the mysteries of human existence is the fact that you do not fly apart into a cloud of atoms and molecules but instead hold together as a living, breathing, thinking organism. It is said that we live on the edge of chaos, because the human body has adapted to counter an enormous range of accidents, mistakes, wounds, illnesses, and stresses that would cause a non-living system to be wrecked.

A simple example is your joints. You bend and unbend your fingers hundreds of times a day. Take a bar of steel and bend it hundreds of times. It will break, which your fingers don’t. In fact, they get better at whatever they are doing, such as practicing the piano, a repeated activity that creates more order even though playing the piano or violin demands unending movements that look random if you happen to be deaf.

The study of chaos has progressed far enough that you can take any phenomenon, from the weather to a beating heart, traffic patterns to brain waves, and study it as the contest between order and chaos. Your life depends on the predictable (orderly) sequence of events that produces a healthy heartbeat, and if the sequence gets out of sync, the heart can go into irregular activity anywhere from a benign irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) to a random convulsion (fibrillation) that proves fatal.

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What If Everything Is Alive?

One of the great failures in science is still haunting us, the failure to discover why living things are alive. One of the most promising theories was known as vitalism, which held that some undiscovered “life force” or “spark of life” is what separates living things like trees, cats, and amoebas from non-living things like rocks, water, and salt. Vitalism was once so promising that the Nobel Prize was given to a champion of vitalism, the French philosopher Henri Bergson, in 1927. But significantly, the prize was in literature, since no one, however enamored of vitalism, could provide scientific evidence for any kind of life force.

The tables were decisively turned to the opposite of vitalism, known as functionalism, which breaks life down into processes like metabolism, growth, reproduction, adaptation, evolution and extinction.. That’s where we find ourselves today, which poses a huge problem. Vitalism and functionalism are opposites, which implies that in the game of either/or, if one is false, the other must be true. But unfortunately, functionalism doesn’t explain life, either. It explains how life behaves, which isn’t the same thing.

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An Improbable Mystery: Who’s Minding The Store?

One of the strangest mysteries in everyday life is that it is much easier to stay alive than to be alive in the first place. There’s a cascade of processes inside us that is perfectly synchronized—a body remains alive as long as its organs are alive, organs remain alive as long as tissues are alive, and tissues remain alive as long as cells are alive. This cascade has been understood for centuries, and yet no one knows why cells are alive to begin with. They don’t deserve to be, because the teeming chemical reactions inside a heart, liver, or brain cell can easily be reproduced in a test tube without showing any signs of life.

Science is far more comfortable asking “how” than “why,” and if you ask how cells operate, the picture is fairly clear once each microscopic process inside a cell is analyzed as biochemistry. The bottom line is that 99% of biology centers on the “how” of living things. The nagging question of “why?” is ignored as basically unscientific. Unfortunately, there is no “how” without “why.” If two cars collide, the physics of one machine crashing into another is cut and dried, but to really explain what happens, you have to determine if one driver was distracted by a phone call, drunk, or something else.

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The Remarkable Importance of the Goldilocks Zone

In the search for life on other planets, a concept known as the Goldilocks zone is critical. This is the region, not too close to a star but also not too far away, that makes the development of life possible. The critical factor is heat, since being too close to a star, as Mercury and Venus are in our solar system, is intolerably hot while being too far away, as Saturn and Jupiter are, is intolerably cold. The Goldilocks zone makes sense, although there has to be a fudge factor, since large enough planets and moons can generate their own heat.

Yet simple as it sounds, the goldilocks zone determines in many ways how successful someone’s life will be and at the same time the likelihood of enjoying wellness to age 70 and beyond. The human Goldilocks zone begins with our physiology. The human body has a surprisingly narrow range of temperature for survival—it is life-threatening to have a fever over 105o F. or hypothermia below 95o F. for a sustained amount of time. Our Goldilocks zone for internal temperature is therefore only 10 degrees.

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Why Isn’t Your Body Perfect?

There is no good reason, from everything science tells us, why the human body shouldn’t be perfect. The scientific model builds Nature up from the simplest, smallest components to the largest and most complex. There is no doubt that at the smallest scale subatomic particles, atoms and molecules, and are perfect, because they have endured without change for billions of years.

Did imperfections arise with the beginning of life on Earth? Single-cell microorganisms are thousands, perhaps millions, of times larger and more complex than the smallest molecules that they are built from. But one-celled creatures have endured for something like 3.5 billion years. Since they reproduce by cell division, the most ancient forms of amoebas, algae, protists, and so on are actually still with us–literally the first amoeba has never died or aged.  Life forms with complex structures constitute much less than one percent of living things; a bucket of ocean water is likely to contain hundreds of unknown variations on their DNA.

Imperfection gained the stage thanks to the same force that produced perfection: evolution. We suffer from disease, resist ageing, and fear death, but all of these are creative steps as far as evolution is concerned, since evolution triumphs through maximum diversity and an endless supply of new genes leading to improvements.

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What If Aging Is A Mistake?

Since no one wants to age, there is a tremendous incentive to prevent, slow down or even reverse it. But all these efforts run into the same obstacle. No one actually knows what aging is or precisely what causes it. On its face, this riddle shouldn’t exist. The universe is subject to entropy, which causes everything, including the universe itself, to run down like a child’s toy whose battery slowly runs down. Biology chimes in with the obvious fact that all higher living things grow old and die.

But reality changes depending on your viewpoint, and one viewpoint tells us that aging, especially human aging, could be a mistake. First, we need to counter the evidence that living things must grow old and die. This is more easily done than you might suppose. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the counter-argument against aging.

  • Entropy refers to the dissipation of heat by which warm things grow colder. But those are inanimate things. Life preserves and increases energy. Putting on a coat in winter effectively defeats entropy, and so have all living forms for at least four billion years.
  • The universe may die a “heat death” as it approaches absolute zero, but in the meantime, complex forms keep arising and surviving. The force that creates them is evolution.
  • Unique among the living things yet discovered, Homo sapiens can consciously choose to evolve.
  • Long ago Homo sapiens escaped the prison of Darwinian survival of the fittest by moving in any direction that offers more complexity, creativity, and discovery.
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How One Blind Spot Distorts Reality

There’s an old joke about a man who falls off the Empire State Building. As he passes an office window on the way down, someone shouts, “How are you going?” and the man answers, “I’m okay so far.” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t laugh at the punchline the first time they hear the joke, but there’s also a wince thinking about the thud that awaits the man at the end.

Science has been okay—so far—in explaining how nature works, riding the crest of success for several centuries now. But the thud is near at hand, as outlined in a very readable, perceptive online article titled “The Blind Spot,” jointly written by two physicists, Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser, and a philosopher, Evan Thompson. The blind spot referred to in the title has been of tremendous but hidden importance in your life.

The blind spot refers to science’s rejection of consciousness as a key factor in describing reality. Rigidly adhering to a belief that it holds the key for explaining everything, science hasn’t seen its own blind spot—or taken it seriously, with a few exceptions—and therefore the vast majority of working scientists don’t hear the thud that awaits them. The authors of the article do, and they go right to the heart of the problem. As they view it, science has been wrong on two counts. The first is the belief that science can accurately and objectively describe the real world as it exists. The second is the belief that physical reality is all that must be accounted for.

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What You Are Feeling Is Grief

Paige Harbour is a university student who assists me as an editor and in social networking. She is also an astute observer of these times and a brilliant thinker and writer who has her hand on the pulse of the generation born around the beginning of this millennium. I've asked her to write a guest newsletter.  John Perkins

When COVID shut down my college campus my school bag was shoved deep into a closet. After more than a year of quarantine and confusion it is still filled with past assignments, printed worksheets ready for the recycling bin. It surprises me how far-away my pre-pandemic memory is situated – these assignments are now hardly recognizable to me. One of these papers was a ten-year plan, meant to be finished for a sociology class, still a blank page.

That semester had involved taking an environmental sciences course; an activity that can be summarized as three months of terrible news. News about all the ways in which humanity had profoundly damaged our only home, news about how all the wrong people were going to suffer immeasurably for these crimes against the planet. We sat listening, cycling through rapt attention and total dissociation. Massive extinction events, cataclysmic fires, rising tides. Threads of synthetic fabric and splintered plastic fragments are in the ground, the water, the food we eat. Did you know Iceland now holds funerals for melting glaciers? It felt as though the world was dying, yet I was expected to continue living. 
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EPIGENETICS: A Funny Thing Happened … On The Way To Doing Something Else

In 1967, I was learning the technique of growing cells in plastic culture dishes at the University of Virginia. There are two fundamental steps in the process: Step 1) Creating a suspension of isolated single cells to be inoculated into a culture dish; and Step 2) Creating culture medium, the fluid environment in which cells grow.

Starting with embryonic muscle tissue, digestive enzymes are used to breakdown the connective tissue matrix of the muscle, which frees individual cells. In the enzyme-saline solution, the released free cells are spun down in a centrifuge tube forming a pellet at the bottom of tube. The cell pellet is resuspended in fresh culture medium and a sample is pipetted into each culture dish. The suspended cells settle down, attach to dish’s surface, and begin to grow. The cultured cells live in a fluid environment referred to as culture medium. Growth medium is the laboratory version of blood, the fluid environment that cells live in within the body.
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The Truth about Your Brain (You’ll Be Surprised)

The notion that human beings walk, talk, think, and do things because our brains control us is an argument that has been around for decades. It replaced the religious argument that the soul is what drives us or some divine spark ignited by a divine creator.

Now the average person accepts that the brain is a machine analogous to a computer, and when we believe that we have free will, we are mistaken. This view suggests we are like brain puppets driven by the mechanical operation of neurons.  Robbed of free will, we only have to go a step further to see that even being conscious is an illusion. As long as the machine-brain is in charge, anything else we tell ourselves is just a story.

Yet the flaws in this argument have been pointed out many times.

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The Central Dogma: From Dogma to Doo-Doo

In 1958, Francis Crick, co-founder with James Watson of the DNA genetic code, defined the concept referred to as The Central Dogma. This dogma described how the organizing information in biology represented a one-way flow from DNA > RNA > Protein.

The Central Dogma provided the foundation for the principle of Genetic Determinism, the belief that genes “determine” the character and quality of our lives. While I taught this concept to medical students for over a decade, it was only after I left academia that I looked-up the definition of Dogma: A belief based on religious persuasion and not scientific fact. At that moment I realized I had been teaching religion in medical school.

When confronted with the real definition of dogma, Crick responded, “I used the word the way I myself thought about it, not as most of the world does, and simply applied it to a grand hypothesis that, however plausible, had little direct experimental support."

The main point is that The Central Dogma, a hypothesis that was never tested, has been repeated so consistently over the last 60 years that people have bought it to be a scientific fact. This dogma has always been an unverified “suggestion.”

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THINK Beyond Your Genes - July 2021

Hello Dear Friends, Cultural Creatives & Seekers Everywhere,

The video in this article is a rerun from a previous article. Why play it again? The message is even more relevant today.

Joy Ride?

Over the past several weeks, the public was offered a momentary break from the never-ending onslaught of news of a world in chaos and upheaval. Global attention was temporarily focused on the exploits of gazillionaires Jeff Besos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk. Each of these individuals, representatives of the top 1% of the top 1% of the world’s wealthy, have invested their riches in creating their own space-flight companies. To demonstrate for the public their trust in their own efforts, Besos and Branson strapped themselves into rockets and blasted-off into space.

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One Thing Modern Medicine Got Wrong: The Human Body

A strange fact that nobody seems to act upon is this: The body you see in the mirror isn’t your real body. The image you see is of a solid physical object, stable and fixed like a table or chair. But in reality your body is fluid, constantly changing, filled with numerous spaces, and the host of trillions of bacteria. All of this is more you than the you see in the mirror.

The old saying, “What you see is what you get” doesn’t fit our bodies. Consider the billions of cells that die and are replaced every day. They are like the bricks in a house that vanish while building remains intact. If you accept this as the truth, modern medicine is challenged at the core, because medical students are taught to treat the body they see. You might even say that in most cases they are taught to treat only the body they see.

The model taught in medical school is common to all the sciences. It is known as naïve realism. What makes it naïve is the assumption that the world delivered by the five senses, but especially the visible world of objects, is enough to describe reality. In other words, “What you see is what you get.” Develop the most powerful microscope you can imagine, and you will see what Nature is all about.

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A New Model Of Perception Is The Biggest Disruption Of The Twenty-First Century

2020, the year of the global pandemic, was in many ways an urgent wake-up call for humanity – demonstrating perhaps more clearly than ever that our conventional models of reality are deeply out of sync with the real world. The confused and incoherent responses to COVID-19 highlight the inadequacy of our collective sense-making and governance systems. But the pandemic might be just the catalyst for a profoundly disruptive and unstable decade. Driven, on one hand, by a convergence of complex global crises, from climate change to economic instability, from food scarcity to mental health as our current world order begins to fall apart; and on the other, by the cascading impacts of disruption to every sector of the economy as a new order emerges. Never has the need to understand the underlying processes of change that drive these extraordinary occurrences been more acute and consequential.

This speaks to a much deeper problem than recognised by conventional analysts – that our underlying models of thought and reality are increasingly out of touch with the interconnected complexity of global systems. If we are to successfully navigate the coming decades of crisis and disruption, then, we require not merely technocratic external solutions applied as a kind of ‘band aid’ to these mounting challenges, but rather a fundamental reset of how we think and see these challenges in the first place.

The metaheuristic of reductionism

At the core of the problem is a reductionist model of the world that has outlived its usefulness. Although reductionism as reflected across society has indeed enabled huge progress such as enabling incredible medical advances, the model is not adequate to the current crises, and now has become our biggest impediment.

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To See The Future Of AI, Look Inside Yourself

With the heightened promise and potential threats of artificial intelligence (AI) constantly in the news, people have become more deeply confused. Should they welcome the AI revolution or fear it? In either case, robotics and super-computers march ahead with inexorable momentum.

There are warnings from top-level scientists about a future in which computers become so advanced that they will leap into autonomy. Freed to make their own decisions the way humans do, AI machines conceivably might create catastrophes like starting a war. On a more mundane level, robotics has steadily replaced humans in many jobs.

Of course AI is also touted as a huge advance, yet the irony is that the direst perils of AI are already here, in the form of our own human intelligence. We feel intuitively that we have natural intelligence, not the artificial kind. After all, nobody built us from mechanical parts. We lead emotional lives; we are capable of insight and self-reflection. Despite these things, however, the human mind is deeply artificial in many ways, and the negative connotations of the word “artificial”—fake, lifeless, illusory, mechanical, arbitrary—apply to everyday life.

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How AI Could Set Us Free

Various scientific fields over the course of history have hoped to master Nature for the benefit of humankind. At the top of the heap right now is artificial intelligence (AI), which has allied itself with the technology of robotics. Between them AI and robotics are having a sizable impact on the work force as more and more jobs get automated. Advocates of AI are both supremely optimistic and nervous. Both relate to the possibility of a super-intelligent machine that would far surpass human intelligence.

If you are an optimist, this so-called Singularity, as the hypothetical machine is called, would become self-improving. Its software would become free of human constraints, and in a “runaway reaction,” it would keep improving its knowledge and the technology that knowledge creates. The result would be a revolution in human civilization—or its demise. The worriers are nervous that the Singularity could initiate global war on its own, or perhaps turn on us as its inferior and deal us some other kind of fatal blow, for the good of life on Earth.

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The Brain Needs Reinventing—Here’s How

We’re living in a golden age for brain research, which could revolutionize how we think, feel, and behave.  Thanks to advanced brain scans like the fMRI, brain activity can be localized and even the most precise activity pinpointed. For example, researchers can spot the minuscule area in the visual cortex that, when damaged, prevents a person from recognizing faces, including his own.

Now the goal of neuroscience is to map the brain’s 100 billion cells and perhaps a quadrillion connections down to the tiniest detail. But what will we use the map for? One obvious area is medicine. The more we know about what goes wrong in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, the closer we get to a cure.  But the highest good would be to reinvent the brain.

“Reinvent” isn’t an exaggeration. Ten thousand years ago Homo sapiens had evolved the same genetic array that modern people inherit, which includes the same brain structure. But in the intervening millennia since then, there arose reading, writing, advanced art and music, mathematics, and science.  Each advance required a new relationship between mind and body.

Human beings reinvent the brain as we go along, day by day. You are doing it right now. In short, the brain is a verb, not a noun. It is reshaped by thoughts, memories, desire, and experience.

If genes and a fixed structure of brain cells told the whole story, it would remain a total mystery why a cave dweller after the last Ice Age should have just the right complement of neurons to discover gravity or write a symphony. Now we realize that the human brain is far from fixed, at any level. New brain cells are being formed throughout life; trillions of connections between neurons are developed; and the genetic activity inside each neuron is dynamic, responding to every experience and every stimulus from the outside world.

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Why We Need The Divine Feminine.

With the decline of organized religion and a decades-old drop in church attendance, people have largely made their spiritual life into something private and personal. The rise of meditation and yoga attests to this. But it is hard to fix your sight on a spiritual goal if you don’t believe in heaven from the Western perspective or enlightenment from the Eastern.

Looking around at the tone of modern life, I think an important goal is worth seizing on: the divine feminine. Being scientific, rational, and technical, secular society seems to have less time for values that Carl Jung would have included in the feminine archetype, that religions cast as goddesses or a motherly figure like the Virgin Mary, and which most of us identify with our mothers growing up.

But at a deeper level, the divine feminine represents certain values that human beings have long cherished.  Half of human nature is represented by the feminine in both sexes, as reflected in the qualities of the ancient Greek and Roman goddesses.

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Weekday Personal Support

Join Panache Desai each weekday morning for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.

Designed To Move You From Survival and Fear to Safety and Peace. Available Monday - Friday. Meditation begins at 9 AM.  Access early to hear Panache's monologue -  around 8:30 AM. 

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