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Thoughts & Visions


  Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

The Unspeakable Truth

Feeling listened to and understood changes our physiology; being able to articulate a complex feeling, and having our feelings recognized, lights up our limbic brain and creates an “aha moment.” In contrast, being met by silence and incomprehension kills the spirit. Or, as John Bowlby so memorably put it: “What can not be spoken to the [m]other cannot be told to the self.”

—Bessel van der Kolk

  Monday, October 10th, 2016

On Eating

You need to literally feel the taste of the food explode on the tips of your taste buds. The beauty, horror and terror of the food ought to inspire you to new (nude?) heights of in-spiration and g-astronomy. Food is a fabulous fantasy come true. Never feel guilty or fearful about what you eat for it is the birthright of every individual on the planet (who owns a plate). The eater should treat his food-laden plate like a the-ater (a place to experiment s-l-o-w-l-y). And frankly speaking there are no limits to the degree of slowness you can achieve. It’s all about losing yourself timelessly in the pre-sent moment. Enjoy each bite like it were your last.

  Saturday, October 8th, 2016

The Body Keeps the Score

Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it. I am reminded of the comedy in which a seven-time recidivist in an anger-management program extols the virtue of the techniques he’s learned: “They are great and work terrific—as long as you are not really angry.”

It’s important to have an efficient smoke detector: You don’t want to get caught unawares by a raging fire. But if you go into a frenzy every time you smell smoke, it becomes intensely disruptive. Yes, you need to detect whether somebody is getting upset with you, but if your amygdala goes into overdrive, you may become chronically scared that people hate you, or you may feel like they are out to get you.

Attachment researchers think that the three “organized” attachment strategies (secure, avoidant, and anxious) work because they elicit the best care a particular caregiver is capable of providing. Infants who encounter a consistent pattern of care— even if it’s marked by emotional distance or insensitivity— can adapt to maintain the relationship. That does not mean that there are no problems: Attachment patterns often persist into adulthood. Anxious toddlers tend to grow into anxious adults, while avoidant toddlers are likely to become adults who are out of touch with their own feelings and those of others. (As in, “There’s nothing wrong with a good spanking. I got hit and it made me the success I am today.”) In school avoidant children are likely to bully other kids, while the anxious children are often their victims. However, development is not linear, and many life experiences can intervene to change these outcomes.

But there is another group that is less stably adapted, a group that makes up the bulk of the children we treat and a substantial proportion of the adults who are seen in psychiatric clinics. Some twenty years ago, Mary Main and her colleagues at Berkeley began to identify a group of children (about 15 percent of those they studied) who seemed to be unable to figure out how to engage with their caregivers. The critical issue turned out to be that the caregivers themselves were a source of distress or terror to the children.

Children in this situation have no one to turn to, and they are faced with an unsolvable dilemma; their mothers are simultaneously necessary for survival and a source of fear. They “can neither approach (the secure and ambivalent ‘strategies’), shift [their] attention (the avoidant ‘strategy’), nor flee.” If you observe such children in a nursery school or attachment laboratory, you see them look toward their parents when they enter the room and then quickly turn away. Unable to choose between seeking closeness and avoiding the parent, they may rock on their hands and knees, appear to go into a trance, freeze with their arms raised, or get up to greet their parent and then fall to the ground. Not knowing who is safe or whom they belong to, they may be intensely affectionate with strangers or may trust nobody. Main called this pattern “disorganized attachment.” Disorganized attachment is “fright without solution.”

Breuer and Freud believed that traumatic memories were lost to ordinary consciousness either because “circumstances made a reaction impossible,” or because they started during “severely paralyzing affects, such as fright.” In 1896 Freud boldly claimed that “the ultimate cause of hysteria is always the seduction of the child by an adult.” Then, faced with his own evidence of an epidemic of abuse in the best families of Vienna—one, he noted, that would implicate his own father—he quickly began to retreat. Psychoanalysis shifted to an emphasis on unconscious wishes and fantasies, though Freud occasionally kept acknowledging the reality of sexual abuse. After the horrors of World War I confronted him with the reality of combat neuroses, Freud reaffirmed that lack of verbal memory is central in trauma and that, if a person does not remember, he is likely to act out: “He reproduces it not as a memory but as an action; he repeats it, without knowing, of course, that he is repeating, and in the end, we understand that this is his way of remembering.”

…Neuroscience research has shown that we possess two distinct forms of self-awareness: one that keeps track of the self across time and one that registers the self in the present moment. The first, our autobiographical self, creates connections among experiences and assembles them into a coherent story. This system is rooted in language. Our narratives change with the telling, as our perspective changes and as we incorporate new input. The other system, moment-to-moment self-awareness, is based primarily in physical sensations, but if we feel safe and are not rushed, we can find words to communicate that experience as well. These two ways of knowing are localized in different parts of the brain that are largely disconnected from each other. Only the system devoted to self-awareness, which is based in the medial prefrontal cortex, can change the emotional brain.

—Bessel van der Kolk

  Friday, October 7th, 2016

I ask you, Lord Jesus, that in your love you increase in me an immeasurable emotion, a boundless affection, longing that is without order and a burning desire without discretion.

—Richard Rolle (circa 1290-1349)


  Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

The Triumph of Surrealism

Or, The Angel of Hearth and Home (1937)

—Max Ernst


  Monday, October 3rd, 2016

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
All pray in their distress,
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
Is God our Father dear;
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love,
Is man, His child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart;
Pity, a human face;
And Love, the human form divine:
And Peace the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine:
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew.
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too.

—William Blake


  Monday, October 3rd, 2016

my blakean year

In my Blakean year
I was so disposed
Toward a mission yet unclear
Advancing pole by pole
Fortune breathed into my ear
Mouthed a simple ode
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

In my Blakean year
Such a woeful schism
The pain of our existence
Was not as I envisioned
Boots that trudged from track to track
Worn down to the sole
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

Boots that tread from track to track
Worn down to the sole
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

In my Blakean year
Temptation but a hiss
Just a shallow spear
Robed in cowardice

Brace yourself for bitter flack
For a life sublime
A labyrinth of riches
Never shall unwind
The threads that bind the pilgrim’s sack
Are stitched into the Blakean back
So throw off your stupid cloak
Embrace all that you fear
For joy will conquer all despair
In my Blakean year

—Patti Smith


  Sunday, October 2nd, 2016


Pomegranates were known in Ancient Israel as the fruits which the scouts brought to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the “promised land”. The Book of Exodus describes the me’il (“robe of the ephod”) worn by the Hebrew high priest as having pomegranates embroidered on the hem alternating with golden bells which could be heard as the high priest entered and left the Holy of Holies. According to the Books of Kings, the capitals of the two pillars (Jachin and Boaz) that stood in front of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem were engraved with pomegranates. Solomon is said to have designed his coronet based on the pomegranate’s “crown” (calyx).

It is traditional to consume pomegranates on Rosh Hashana because, with its numerous seeds, it symbolizes fruitfulness. Also, it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 commandments of the Torah.

The pomegranate appeared on the ancient coins of Judea. When not in use, the handles of Torah scrolls are sometimes covered with decorative silver globes similar in shape to “pomegranates” (rimmonim). Some Jewish scholars believe the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Pomegranates are one of the Seven Species (Hebrew: שבעת המינים, Shiv’at Ha-Minim) of fruits and grains enumerated in the Hebrew Bible (Deuteronomy 8:8) as being special products of the Land of Israel. The pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible many times, including this quote from the Songs of Solomon, “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.” (Song of Solomon 4:3). Pomegranates also symbolize the mystical experience in the Jewish mystical tradition, or kabbalah, with the typical reference being to entering the “garden of pomegranates” or pardes rimonim; this is also the title of a book by the 16th-century mystic Moses ben Jacob Cordovero.

In the earliest incontrovertible appearance of Christ in a mosaic, a 4th-century floor mosaic from Hinton St Mary, Dorset, now in the British Museum, the bust of Christ and the chi rho are flanked by pomegranates. Pomegranates continue to be a motif often found in Christian religious decoration. They are often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings or wrought in metalwork. Pomegranates figure in many religious paintings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often in the hands of the Virgin Mary or the infant Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, pomegranate seeds may be used in kolyva, a dish prepared for memorial services, as a symbol of the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom.

  Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

—T.S. Eliot

  Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

An Essay on Man: Epistle I (excerpt)

Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
That, chang’d through all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth, as in th’ ethereal frame,
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent,
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns;
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.

Cease then, nor order imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav’n bestows on thee.
Submit.—In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing pow’r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

—Alexander Pope

  Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Meditation Two (Just as I am)

My feeling of solitude and my sighing in the night used to find no echo. It fell upon emptiness. I was alone. But now my sigh has found an echo, it reaches someone who hears it, someone I can neither see nor hear in the darkness. But I almost hear near me but within me, further within me than I am myself, his answering sigh.

And this someone is God. I understand your love and how you forgive me everything, because when I was in love before as much as you, I forgave everything, seventy times seven, and I know what your reactions are because I know what it is to be in love. My former loves have taught me what love is. I know how you love me because I too have loved, and I know what passionate and obsessed love is and what it is to be madly in love with someone. And God is mad about me.

He loves me with all my weaknesses, with all my inherited and acquired defects, he loves me as I am, with my idiosyncrasies and my temperament, my habits and my complexes. Just as I am.

—Ernesto Cardenal


  Saturday, September 24th, 2016

The Nigerian Dwarf Goat

The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat breed of West African ancestry. The original animals were transported from Africa on ships as food for captured carnivores being brought to zoos; the survivors were then maintained in herds at those zoos. Nigerian Dwarf goats are popular as pets and family milkers due to their easy maintenance and small stature. However, because of their high butterfat, they are also used by some dairies to make cheese. They are registered by the American Dairy Goat Association, the American Goat Society, and the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association.

They come in many colors: white, black, gold, red, cream and patterns such as buckskin (brown with a black cape over the head and neck along with other black markings) and chamoisee (similar to an Oberhasli goat), with or without white spots. Some have white “frosting” on the ears.

Their milk production ranges from 1 to 8 pounds of milk per day (one quart of milk weighs roughly 2 pounds), with an average doe producing about 2.5 pounds of milk per day. Production depends upon genetics, how many times the doe has freshened (given birth), quality and type of feed, and general good management. Since Nigerians breed year-round, it is easy to stagger freshening in a herd for year-round production of milk. Thus, they are ideal milk goats for most families. Their milk has a higher butterfat content than milk from full-sized dairy goats, averaging 6.5% according to the American Dairy Goat Association. Later in lactation, butterfat can go up to 10% or even higher. This makes Nigerian Dwarf goat milk excellent for cheese and soap making.

Nigerian Dwarf goats are gentle and easily trainable. This, along with their small size and colorful appearance, makes them popular as pets. Some breeders bottle-feed kids, which makes them more bonded with humans. Others prefer to let their mothers raise them naturally, finding bottle-fed kids to be overly clingy. With either method, they can be very friendly (but also very mean) and can easily be trained to walk on a leash and some enjoy coming into the house with their owners. Adult goats should not live in the house, however, because as ruminants, they need to spend a large part of the day eating hay, pasture, or browse.

Nigerian dwarf goats’ small size also makes them excellent “visitor” animals for nursing homes and hospitals. Some goat supply houses even sell small harnesses and tiny wagons that fit Nigerian dwarf goats. As with all goats, does or neutered males (wethers) make the best pets, as bucks can have an objectionable odor. Nigerian Dwarfs, especially does and wethers, do well with children. Nigerian dwarfs also are easy birthers with very few birthing problems.


  Thursday, September 22nd, 2016


Cajeta is a Mexican confection of thickened syrup usually made of sweetened caramelised goat’s milk.

Mexican cajeta is considered a specialty of the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato, although it is also produced with the traditional method in several towns of the state of Jalisco, such as Mazamitla, Sayula, and Atotonilco el Alto.

Cajeta is made by simmering goat’s milk, or occasionally a sweetened liquid, stirring frequently, until it becomes very viscous due to evaporation of water, and caramelized. While goat milk is the most usual base, other liquids or juices may be used.

In September 2010, cajeta was declared the Bicentennial Dessert of Mexico, honouring its history, tradition and origin. Cajeta was born in the city of Celaya, Guanajuato, the state where the Independence of Mexico started back in 1810, with the famous Grito de Dolores by father Miguel Hidalgo. In Celaya, Hidalgo was named Captain General of America by his staff, making it an important element of the Independence War, as cajeta was easily stored and transported, and lasted for several months without decomposing, thus becoming an important food complement for the poorly fed troops.

Goat’s milk contains a high concentration of amino acids, with twice as much lysine and serine, in addition to more alanine, leucine, methionine, threonine, proline, phenylalanine, tyrosine, and valine, too.

Those are the specific amino acids scientists credit with producing flavor and aroma in Maillard browning, creating notes of caramel (lysine), almond (phenylalanine), persimmon (alanine), fried potatoes (methionine), fresh dates (serine), and rose (tyrosine). Cow’s milk has these amino acids, too, but at lower levels, so the specific composition of dulce de leche tends toward glycine (sweet), aspartic acid (fruity), glutamic acid (sour), and tryptophan (not assigned any flavor).

On top of that, goat’s milk has five times more cysteine, an amino acid associated with thermal stability and our perception of umami. So, compared to cow’s milk, goat’s milk is less likely to scorch or curdle, while doubling down on flavor and aroma and quintupling our sense of richness. In short, cajeta is everything you love about dulce de leche, but more delicious and easier to prepare.


  Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


Coriander grows wild over a wide area of Western Asia and southern Europe, prompting the comment, “It is hard to define exactly where this plant is wild and where it only recently established itself.” Fifteen desiccated mericarps were found in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B level of the Nahal Hemar Cave in Israel, which may be the oldest archaeological find of coriander. About half a litre (a pint) of coriander mericarps was recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamen, and because this plant does not grow wild in Egypt, Zohary and Hopf interpret this find as proof that coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians.

Coriander seems to have been cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B tablets recovered from Pylos refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacture of perfumes, it apparently was used in two forms: as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavour of its leaves. This appears to be confirmed by archaeological evidence from the same period; the large quantities of the species retrieved from an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagroi in Macedonia could point to cultivation of the species at that time.

Coriander was brought to the British colonies in North America in 1670, and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.

The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. The word “coriander” in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.

It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavour, aroma, and pungency. Ground coriander seed loses flavour quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala and Indian curries which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together with cumin, acting as a thickener in a mixture called dhana jeera.

Roasted coriander seeds, called dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. They are the main ingredient of the two south Indian dishes: sambhar and rasam.

Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling vegetables. In Germany and South Africa, the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread (e.g. Borodinsky bread), as an alternative to caraway.

The Zuni people of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chile and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad.

The commonest use of coriander seed is in curry powders, where it is the bulkiest constituent, often rough ground in India to give a crunchy texture. The seeds can be likewise used in stews and soups. They blend well with smoked meats and game and feature in traditional English black pudding recipes and Italian mortadella sausage. Coriander is an ingredient of garam masala, pickling spices and pudding spices and is used in cakes, breads and other baked foods. Sugared comfits made from the seeds are a traditional sweetmeat and breath sweetener. Coriander is a characteristic of Arab cookery, being common with lamb, kid and meat stuffings. Taklia, a popular Arab spice mixture, is coriander and garlic crushed and fried. Coriander with cumin is a common combination and features in falafel and in the Egyptian appetizer dukka, which consists of those spices plus sesame seeds, hazelnuts, salt and pepper, roasted and crushed. Coriander goes well with ham and pork, especially when orange is included. It enhances fish dishes and, with other spices, may form a delicious coating for spiced fish or chicken, rubbed into the scored flesh and grilled. Try frying a few seeds with sausages to add an unusual flavour.

  Monday, September 12th, 2016

Not Hard to Get

Yes, God is mysterious as fog,
but please, don’t give me that stuff
about God playing hard to get.
She is so into you
I can’t believe you don’t see it.
She’s flagrant about it.
She writes you the steamiest letters
in the colors of sky and leaf,
in stone and sea and child,
her hands are all over you,
she has moves that—admit it—
make you blush.
He’s in your dreams,
whispers to you when you aren’t listening.
You think those scriptures are some dry text
but it’s him, fawning all over you,
saying your name.
She wears the most revealing outfits,
struts her stuff, begs for attention.
They’ve always been like that.
Going on singles cruises,
trolling the skankiest bars in town,
hoping for luck.
She has no shame, no holding back.
I’d take her aside and talk to her
about decorum and such,
but golly,
I can’t even get in the same room with her
without her climbing all over me.
She’s yours, mate.

Yeah, it’s a little wild. Razor’s edge.
I get why you pull back.
But listen.
Secretly, so in the dark you don’t even know,
it’s your own heart that’s flirting
with everything that moves.
She’s the one
who’s holding you quietly, calmly, murmuring,
“Easy. Easy. I’m right here.
You’ve got me. It’s OK.”

—Steve Garnaas-Holmes