SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Finding Meaning through Mythological Representations: Delving Further into Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning

chaos demon

Why have many ancient – and even contemporary stories – just stuck with us and seem etched into the psyche of civilization? What is it about particular narratives that appear to hold something so essential to our existence, and that have become reference points for our own narratives? And how can a story, or a mythology, serve us as we navigate life’s many day to day travails, and unexpected twists and turns? Jordan Peterson writes: “A good theory lets you use things — things that once appeared useless — for desirable ends. In consequence, such a theory has a general sense of excitement and hope about it. A good theory about the structure of myth should let you see how a story you couldn’t even understand previously might shed new and useful light on the meaning of your life.”

Join us this week on MindMatters as we continue our discussion of Jordan Peterson’s deeply insightful Maps of Meaning and dive into the treasures of ‘Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience’ – where we’ll be taking a look at how the archetypes of many myths are, in fact, all around us – and whether we realize it or not, make up the firmament for the stories we tell ourselves about our own exploratory journeys into both the known and the unknown.

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Harrison Koehli (Profile)

Harrison Koehli co-hosts SOTT Radio Network’s MindMatters, and is an editor for Red Pill Press. He has been interviewed on several North American radio shows about his writings on the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists (commies too).


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Elan Martin (Profile)

Born and raised in New York City, Elan has been an editor for SOTT.net since 2014 and is a co-host for MindMatters. He enjoys seeing and sharing what’s true about our profoundly and rapidly changing world.


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Corey Schink (Profile)

Corey Schink was born and raised in the Midwestern United States, where he worked on farms and as a welder, musician, and social worker. His interests in government, philosophy and history led to his writing for SOTT in 2012 and to becoming a SOTT editor and SOTT Radio co-host in 2014. He now resides in North Carolina, where he enjoys the magnificent views of the Appalachian Mountains.

Meat is crucial for feeding the planet, and going vegan is not more green, say scientists

cows

© Catherine Falls
Meat is vital, particularly in the developing world, say scientists.

Meat is crucial for feeding the planet, leading scientists have said, as they warned it is not more environmentally-friendly to go vegan.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College said farmers were increasingly feeling demonised by the unsupported ‘meat is evil’ claims being promoted by environmental lobbyists.

Speaking at a panel in central London, they argued that meat was critical for the physical and mental health of children, particularly in developing countries, and said that moving away from livestock farming would not improve land use.

Prof. Geoff Simm, Director of Global Academy Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I think (livestock farmers) do feel they are being demonised.

“Often the argument is made that going vegan would minimise land use, and the modelling studies that have been done demonstrate that that’s not the case.

“We feel that while livestock production has a range of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits, the costs have perhaps been receiving far more attention recently than some of the benefits.

“Meat has massive social benefits. It’s an important source of dietary protein, energy, highly bioavailable micronutrients, even small amounts of animal-sourced food have a really important effect on the development of children, in the developing world on their cognitive and physical development and they are really important.”

Prof Mike Coffey, from Scotland’s Rural College, added: “It’s completely unnecessary to go vegan.

“If everybody went vegan it would be devastating for the UK environment. Animals bred for food help boost biodiversity.”

Researchers are currently attempting to breed more environmentally friendly cattle, which grow faster and eat less, which could further reduce the sector’s carbon footprint by reducing the amount of methane released by cows.

This could also lead to shoppers in the next few years being able to check the label of their food to discover the environmental impact it has had, they added.

Prof Coffey said that the difference in methane emissions from best and worst cattle was about 30 per cent and that if all UK farmers used the most efficient animals this could reduce carbon emissions by nearly a third.

He said by next year farmers will able to select bulls for breeding that will father dairy cows that consume less feed for the amount of milk they produce.

But Prof Coffey said the next stage will be trying to measure the methane given off by different breeds of cattle to find which are the lowest emitters.

He added: “By next year farmers will be able to select bulls whose daughters consume less feed for the amount of milk they produce.

“Where we go next is can we actually measure methane emissions from groups of animals.”

Prof Coffey said that soon shoppers could be able to check meat labels to find out how much environmental impact their food has had.

He added: “My expectation is that at some point in the near future there will be product labels that relates to the efficiency or carbon impact of the food.”

Professor Andrea Wilson, also of Edinburgh University, said more research was needed into the impact of veganism.

She added: “We know a lot about the livestock sector because people have looked at it. We actually know very little about the vegan sector.

“The danger is we demonise one and jump too quickly to the other.”

New dream study reveals nightmares help brain prepare for real anxiety-provoking situation

Woman waking from a nightmare

© Prostock Studio adobe.com

Nightmares are no fun, but a new international study finds all that nighttime fear may actually be serving a greater purpose. Researchers from both Switzerland and the United States identified the areas of the brain that were activated while a group of participants experienced fear in their dreams. Interestingly, they discovered that after the participants woke up, those same emotion-regulating brain areas responded to scary situations much more efficiently.

All in all, the research team believe their findings lend credence to the theory that dreams actually help our brains prepare to tackle real world stressful situations. Consequently, this research opens the door for a multitude of new dream-based therapeutic methods for treating anxiety.

Dreams have become a popular topic of research in neuroscience circles, more specifically the areas of the brain that activate as we doze off. Just recently it was discovered that certain brain areas are responsible for the formation of dreams. Furthermore, different brain regions are only activated depending on the type of dream one is experiencing. For example, the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that a singular dream may incite.

“We were particularly interested in fear: what areas of our brain are activated when we’re having bad dreams?” states researcher Lampros Perogamvros, of both the University of Geneva and University Hospitals of Geneva, in a release.

For the research, 18 participants were gathered for a sleep experiment. After being fitted with EEG electrodes, in order to measure brain activity, the participants were woken from their slumber multiple times over the course of a night. Each time they were greeted by a series of questions like: “Did you dream? And, if so, did you feel scared?”

“By analyzing the brain activity based on participants’ responses, we identified two brain regions implicated in the induction of fear experienced during the dream: the insula and the cingulate cortex”, Perogamvros explains.

The insula is also involved in emotion evaluation and regulation while we’re awake, and automatically activates whenever we start to feel afraid. The cingulate cortex, on the other hand, helps control reactions during threatening situations.

“For the first time, we’ve identified the neural correlates of fear when we dream and have observed that similar regions are activated when experiencing fear in both sleep and wakeful states,” Perogamvros adds.

Next, the research team wanted to look into the possible relationship between fear felt while dreaming and emotions felt while awake. So, they handed out a dream diary to 89 participants to use for a full week. Participants were asked to write down any dreams and emotions they felt while sleeping first thing in the morning all week. Finally, after seven days, each participant was placed in an MRI machine and shown a series of images.

“We showed each participant emotionally-negative images, such as assaults or distressful situations, as well as neutral images, to see which areas of the brain were more active for fear, and whether the activated area changed depending on the emotions experienced in the dreams over the previous week,” explains Virginie Sterpenich, a researcher in the Department of Basic Neurosciences at the University of Geneva.

In this phase of the research, the study’s authors were especially interested in observing the behavior of brain areas usually associated with emotion, such as the insula, amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex.

“We found that the longer a someone had felt fear in their dreams, the less the insula, cingulate and amygdala were activated when the same person looked at the negative pictures,” Sterpenich continues. “In addition, the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is known to inhibit the amygdala in the event of fear, increased in proportion to the number of frightening dreams!”

It’s worth noting, however, that the research team believe that once a nightmare crosses the line into causing full blown terror, it loses most of its neurological benefits due to the high likelihood of sleep disruption and stress upon waking.

“We believe that if a certain threshold of fear is exceeded in a dream, it loses its beneficial role as an emotional regulator,” Perogamvros concludes.

The study is published in the scientific journal Human Brain Mapping.

Nursery goes entirely vegan, but not everyone is happy

Jigsaw Day Nursery

© SWNS
Jigsaw Day Nurseries, in Chester, will be entirely vegan from January.

A nursery has sparked outrage by becoming one of the first in Britain to introduce a 100% vegan menu for children.

From January, Jigsaw Day Nurseries, in Chester, will no longer be serving meat, fish, eggs or dairy products to the 260 children they care for. Instead the children, all aged between 0 and four, will eat the likes of lentil-based ‘Shepherdless Pie’, coconut rice pudding desserts, plant-based yogurts and cereal served with soy or oat milk.

Staff say the switch has been made with ‘the children and the planet’s future in mind’, but some parents now claim their meat-eating kids are being discriminated against.

One mum, who has a three-year-old daughter at Jigsaw Curzon House Nursery, described the vegan menu as ‘bonkers’.

She continued: ‘Just to enforce it on us without any say isn’t right – they shouldn’t be making these decisions on my behalf.

‘If my daughter wants to be a vegan when she’s older then that’s fine but I’ll have that conversation with her myself.

‘There’s obviously no cheese, which my daughter loves, and no meat or the goodness from fish. It’s such a huge, drastic change and I’m not happy about it.’

Another parent, who also did not want to be named, added: ‘To impose a lifestyle choice on these children before they can make their own mind up is plain wrong.

‘If anything it discriminates against those kids who enjoy a diet of meat and fish. To ban them from eating meat is outrageous. Its simply not their decision to make.

‘I like to think I cook healthy and nutritious meals for my children which include meat and vegetables. My son has a big appetite as well, I think he’ll come home starving.’

However some parents have welcomed the move and are now suggesting other nurseries follow suit to ‘save the planet’ and ‘educate the children’. One mum wrote on Facebook: ‘Vegan or not, this is an incredibly healthy sounding menu and I am thrilled our son will be eating this kind of food.

‘If anything, it takes the pressure off having to feed him uber healthy food at home because I know he’ll have had a wholesome and nutritious meal at nursery.’

The nurseries are Chester’s biggest childcare provider and are rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted. Childcare costs between £235 and £240 per week, or £48 to £49 a day, including meals and snacks.

Nursery founder Claire Taylor said: ‘We appreciate that this is a decision that comes with a business risk associated, however we feel passionately that a sustainable path is the one we wish to follow for the benefit of our children’s future.

‘The food that the children eat within our nurseries not only has an impact on everyone in the setting but also on the health of our planet.’

She added that the company had worked with a fully-qualified nutritionist to ensure the menu ‘meets all of the relevant guidelines for early years nutrition and diet for children under the age of five’.

All the new dishes have been adapted from the existing menu, meaning children will be ‘fully familiar with the tastes, textures and flavours’.

Mrs Taylor added that the children and 70 staff at the nurseries, eat 1,300 lunches and 2,600 light snacks every week, meaning they have a ‘significant food footprint to consider’.

She added: ‘We fully acknowledge and appreciate the response we’ve had from a group of our parents.

‘This is a change which impacts their child and they have every right to voice their concerns and seek reassurances.

‘It is important to highlight that we have also had a significant amount of support and positive feedback from others across the two settings who are fully supportive of the imminent changes.’

How dancing gives your brain and mood a big boost

dancing

It doesn’t matter if you are a professional dancer or if you just like to move on the dance floor on Saturday night. It doesn’t matter if you like to tango or break dance. Dancing, of any kind, combines physical exercise with the positive power of music and social engagement. Together, these yield major mental health and brain benefits.

In fact, it has such beneficial effects on the brain that dancing is increasingly used as therapy for developmental disorders like Down’s syndrome, mood disorders such as depression, and neurological disorders as in the case of schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and dementia. Here is why it’s so good for your brain.

Dancing Gets Your Brain and Body Involved

Some workouts, like running on a treadmill or spinning, you can do and completely turn your brain off. When you exercise in ways that disengage your brain from actively participating, you’re getting the physical benefits of increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain and the release of feel-good, stress-reducing neurochemicals, but you’re losing out on cognitive gains.

In How To Work Your Brain in Your Workout (and Why It Matters), I write:

While doing anything physical is still way better than sitting on the couch, using exercise machines that involve a limited range of identical, repetitive movements takes your brain offline, asking very little of it. Doing the same thing over and over again, in life and in your fitness routine, is the enemy of brain health and physical neurological movement, flexibility, and control. It’s like asking your brain to solve the same crossword puzzle a thousand times.

Like playing a musical instrument, dancing requires complex cognitive coordination and function. Studies using PET imaging have identified regions of the brain that contribute to dance learning and performance. These regions include the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.

Dancing Activates the Brain’s Reward Center

Dancing combines the therapeutic power of music with physical activity. As with any cardio-based workout, dancing causes the release of feel-good neurochemicals, endorphins. When you combine dance and music, you get the added bonus of activating the primal reward centers in the brain. One study concluded that dance constitutes a “pleasure double play” in your brain. Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.

Not only does dancing stimulate the reward circuit in your brain, but it also activates the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain primarily responsible for emotions and memory. Whenever you dance, it can subconsciously remind you of good feelings at other times when doing it, like at your wedding or just having a good time with friends.

Dance Lowers Dementia Risk

Just like learning a musical instrument, language, or any other new skill, learning dance moves takes focus and activates the hippocampus. Keeping the hippocampus engaged is key for preventing cognitive decline and dementia. One study found that when people between the ages of 63 and 80 were taught dance moves, it had a lasting effect on their brain’s neuroplasticity — the formation of new neural connections.

Another study investigated the effect various leisure activities had on the risk of dementia in the elderly. The researchers looked at the effects of 11 different kinds of physical activity, including cycling, golf, swimming, and tennis. Of all the activities studied, only dance lowered participants’ risk of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing uniquely combined stimulation from physical and mental effort as well as social interaction.

Dancing Gives You Social Brain Benefits

Humans are social animals who need contact with one another. Your brain needs it. Dance is a social activity that connects you with other people. When you’re dancing with others, your brain actually relaxes because you are in a group. It recognizes that what’s happening is a communal experience which activates mirror neurons in your brain. Your brain likes feeling like it’s part of something bigger.

Mirror neurons are circuits of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of your brain which subconsciously map out and follow the minds and actions of others. Mirror neurons play a vital role in human interaction, behavior, and thought processes. The article, Science Says: Dancing Makes You Happy, explains it like this:

It may be an art form, but it’s also a great opportunity for socialization. Since the very beginning, dance has been used as a social activity that connects us with others. You’ll make lasting bonds with your instructor or choreographer, with your partner or other dancers, and even with audience members. You don’t even have to speak out loud to create those connections with other people. Simply doing those steps in sync with other people can be a shared euphoric experience that you won’t soon forget. When you get social, you feel happy. Perhaps it’s the endorphins that are being produced when you interact with like-minded people — laughing, chatting, enjoying time together. But it also may be something even deeper.

Having the opportunity to partake in an emotional catharsis with everyone else in the room is a unique experience that can help you bond with a complete stranger or deepen the connection to your loved one. As humans, we constantly seek out those meaningful connections with others. Dance provides a way for us to relate to others on both a physical and emotional level in a way that other situations may not.

Dancing Decreases Depression and Anxiety

Because dance is both a physical and emotional release, it’s ideal for people experiencing stress, depression, and anxiety. Studies show that dance, in particular, can decrease anxiety and boost mood more than other physical outlets. In one study, researchers had people with anxiety disorders participate in one of four activities: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.

One study involving teenagers with depression, anxiety, and stress found that those who attended dance classes two days per week showed significant improvement in their psychosomatic symptoms and self-reported that they felt happier. Other research found that when people with depression participated in salsa dancing, they had fewer negative thoughts, better concentration, and an improved sense of tranquility.

HIV-positive sperm bank opens in New Zealand

sperm egg

© Science Photo Library
The online sperm bank will make clear that all its donors are HIV positive.

The world’s first sperm bank for HIV-positive donors has launched in New Zealand, aiming to fight stigma surrounding the illness.

Three HIV-positive men have already signed up to donate – all of whom have an undetectable viral load.

This means virus levels in their blood are so low that HIV cannot be transmitted through sex or childbirth.

Sperm Positive was launched by three charities ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December.

Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc hope the project will educate the public about transmission of HIV, and reduce stigma for those who have the illness.

The sperm bank says it will make clear that all donors are HIV positive but on successful treatment that prevents them passing on the virus.

While it does not itself operate as a fertility clinic, Sperm Positive will put people in touch with local fertility clinics if they agree to a match.

One of the three donors, Damien Rule-Neal, told Radio New Zealand that after he revealed his illness to his employer, he was bullied and eventually decided to leave his job.

“We’ve got the science behind it to say that medication makes you untransmittable,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of my female friends that have HIV go on to have children, it shows that science and medication have given us that ability back.”

Diagnosed in 1999, Mr Rule-Neal is healthy and married, with two children and three grandchildren.

There have been a number of advances in HIV treatment in recent years, including a world-first kidney transplant from one HIV-positive patient to another in March.

Antiretroviral therapy – a daily combination of drugs that prevents HIV from replicating in the body – can lower the amount of the virus in the blood to undetectable levels.

But HIV continues to be one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Approximately 38 million people had HIV/AIDS in 2018.

More polio cases are now caused by vaccine than by wild virus

polio vaccine

Four African countries have reported new cases of polio linked to the oral vaccine, as global health numbers show there are now more children being paralyzed by viruses originating in vaccines than in the wild.

In a report late last week, the World Health Organization and partners noted nine new polio cases caused by the vaccine in Nigeria, Congo, Central African Republic and Angola. Seven countries elsewhere in Africa have similar outbreaks and cases have been reported in Asia. Of the two countries where polio remains endemic, Afghanistan and Pakistan, vaccine-linked cases have been identified in Pakistan.

In rare cases, the live virus in oral polio vaccine can mutate into a form capable of sparking new outbreaks. All the current vaccine-derived polio cases have been sparked by a Type 2 virus contained in the vaccine. Type 2 wild virus was eliminated years ago.

Polio is a highly infectious disease that spreads in contaminated water or food and usually strikes children under 5. About one in 200 infections results in paralysis. Among those, a small percentage die when their breathing muscles are crippled.

Donors last week pledged $2.6 billion to combat polio as part of an eradication initiative that began in 1988 and hoped to wipe out polio by 2000. Since then, numerous such deadlines have been missed.

To eradicate polio, more than 95% of a population needs to be immunized. WHO and partners have long relied on oral polio vaccines because they are cheap and can be easily administered, requiring only two drops per dose. Western countries use a more expensive injectable polio vaccine that contains an inactivated virus incapable of causing polio.

The Independent Monitoring Board, a group set up by WHO to assess polio eradication, warned in a report this month that vaccine-derived polio virus is “spreading uncontrolled in West Africa, bursting geographical boundaries and raising fundamental questions and challenges for the whole eradication process.

The group said officials were already “failing badly” to meet a recently approved polio goal of stopping all vaccine-derived outbreaks within 120 days of detection. It described the initial attitude of WHO and its partners to stopping such vaccine-linked polio cases as “relaxed” and said “new thinking” on how to tackle the problem was needed.

Source: The Associated Press

Marcus Aurelius’s utterly practical Stoic guide to inner freedom

Marcus Aurelius statue

Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” instructs us in practices to restore our power of free will.

In The Princess Bride, Westley disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts delivers one of writer William Goldman’s classic lines: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

The Stoic philosophers weren’t trying to sell us anything. If you believe Stoicism is a superficial idea that encourages us to suck up our pain and get on with it, you are missing their point.

The Stoics didn’t promise freedom from disturbing emotions and hardships. They promised the freedom to have emotional well-being despite our problems. The Stoics didn’t teach us to resist our feelings or pretend they don’t exist. To the Stoics, sucking it up was a waste of a learning opportunity.

In previous essays, I have considered the ideas of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

In this essay, I’m taking a deep dive into Meditations by Marcus Aurelius via classics professor Gregory Hays’s magnificent translation. Aurelius did not expect that anyone but himself would ever read his aphorisms. He wrote for himself a guide to living a life consistent with his highest values.

To get the most out of reading Meditations, do as Aurelius did: Examine your reactions to your day-to-day experiences. Challenge your reactions, not other people, to uproot your conditioned responses.

Each of us is responsible for removing our judgments, mistaken beliefs, and conditioned responses that we hold in our minds.

You won’t free yourself from experiencing troubling thoughts and feelings by reading the classic Stoic texts. Instead, you can learn an understanding that will change your relationship with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

If you are fed up with trying to control the world to secure your sense of self, then become a student, as Aurelius did, of all the ways you block your true nature and thus deprive yourself of peace of mind. As you do, you will experience freedom to make better choices.

Our True Nature

Aurelius’s reasoning follows from his first principles, so let’s begin there. The Stoics had an “unwavering conviction that the world is organized in a rational and coherent way.” The animating force behind it all is logos. Logos is not easily translated, but Professor Hays provides helpful pointers:

Logos operates both in individuals and in the universe as a whole. In individuals it is the faculty of reason. On a cosmic level it is the rational principle that governs the organization of the universe. In this sense it is synonymous with “nature,” “Providence,” or “God.”

Logos animates our true nature. A fundamental characteristic of logos is an unbroken interconnected web of relatedness. In Meditations, Aurelius instructs us:

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

Everything is interwoven, and the web is holy; none of its parts are unconnected. They are composed harmoniously, and together they compose the world.

If you reject Aurelius’s belief that “everything is interwoven,” you won’t gain the full benefit of his wisdom. Today, like most days, it will appear as though you are separate from everyone and everything. Perception is mediated through thought.

Nature of the World

Why do we need to keep reminding ourselves of the nature of the world? When we walk away from our true nature, suffering begins. When you encounter another, do you size them up as for you, against you, or irrelevant to you? If so, given your understanding of life, most days will be stressful.

To curse drivers who just cut us off, we must see them as fundamentally different from us, a mental error, Aurelius would say. Aurelius explains,

The logos that governs [our true nature] has no reason to do evil. It knows no evil, does none, and causes harm to nothing.

Aurelius often reminded himself,

No one can prevent you from speaking and acting in harmony with [nature], always.

Aurelius examined his perceptions intending to protect his mind from error. How do we know we are in error? Suffering is a signal of our confusion about our true nature. “Nothing is good,” Aurelius wrote, “except what leads to fairness, and self-control, and courage, and free will.”

Mindfulness

About 10 years ago, George, an MBA leadership student of mine, observed that he could make a different choice. George reported on being cut off by another driver as he was on his way home after class. George’s first thought was, “How dare he pass me like that?” George had always found it reasonable to speed up and cut off the offending driver. But then, for George, something out of the ordinary happened:

Slowly, I remembered the professor’s words about ego and true nature. Without realizing it, I was driving at the speed limit. Not a mile above (which is unusual for me). I even went to the point of putting on my seatbelt. It took me a few minutes to realize what happened, what I did, and what was going through my mind. After I stopped the car, I remembered what had happened as if I was watching a movie.

George took back his power of choice by becoming mindful, not mindless, of his mental activity. As you begin to be more mindful, like George, you are no longer fused with the character on your movie screen. The power of choice, inner freedom, has been restored.

There is nothing wrong with using Aurelius’s ideas to have a better experience of life, but don’t stop there. The real prize is the experience of your true nature.

Be like George: Pull back the curtain and see what beliefs are driving you. Your understanding of how life works is the wizard behind the scenes producing your thoughts and feelings.

Other People Can’t Reach into Your Mind

That the world we perceive is shaped inside-out by our thinking is a core principle of the Stoics. Aurelius puts it this way: “External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”

If you allow your emotional well-being to depend on others behaving a certain way, you are screwed; impermanence is the only thing to count on.

There is no such thing as perfect circumstances. Today, like most days, will probably reveal some troublesome people. Aurelius reminded himself (and us):

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.

Yet, we are all the same. Each of us has a wrong mind and a right mind and the power to make another choice.

But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.

Are you dreaming of a vacation? A new job? A new partner? Perhaps change is in order, but you are likely to be disappointed if you don’t change yourself first.

People try to get away from it all — to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within.

The present is the only time you can choose your right mind. Aurelius writes, “Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already or is impossible to see.”

Observation is the central part of Aurelius’s teaching. He saw he had a wild mind and admonished himself.

Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future.

Stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

If you insist that you are your conditioned responses, Aurelius would say your mind is weak, untrained, and prone to error.

If you don’t expose your beliefs about yourself and the world, lasting behavioral change is impossible. In Aurelius’s words, “We need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions…to eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow.”

Dealing With Anger

Observe yourself when you feel like a victim of others — your fellow drivers on the road, your inconsiderate partner, and ungrateful manager. Aurelius says, stop lying to yourself.

Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. — Then where is harm to be found? In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine. Let the part of you that makes that judgment keep quiet.

When it seems like someone made you angry, Aurelius’s correction is to acknowledge that you wanted to be made angry. If not traffic, it would have been the person in the supermarket express line with 20 items or your noisy neighbor. A talk with your neighbor might be called for, but the conversation will go better if you understand your neighbor can’t reach in your mind and make you angry.

Remind yourself that your experience of the world will be 100 percent correlated with the understanding that you hold in your mind.

Are You Willing to Practice?

The goal is not merely to understand Meditations; that is an easy task. The goal is to follow through on a disciplined practice to become more aware of and stop justifying your dysfunctional thinking. Marcus Aurelius was one of humanity’s earliest teachers of mindfulness.

Aurelius made a practice of inquiring into the nature of his thinking. A willingness to examine your thinking will lead to inner freedom as you clear away your misunderstandings about life.

To get the most out of Meditations, be willing to disrupt your sense of self. Perhaps you tell yourself you are a person with a short fuse and so justify conditioned responses to certain people and circumstances.

Have you ever tried to change your golf or tennis swing? One’s swing is grooved in, and a new swing often requires an initial period of very clumsy awkward movements, like learning to drive all over again.

Your habitual responses to life are similarly grooved in. Someone says something to you that violates your self-concept, and their action triggers your belief about how other people should behave toward you. Angry thoughts follow from your beliefs, and your body feels intense emotion that seems to carry you toward behavior you will regret later.

Can you catch yourself in the moment and stand down? Aurelius would say everything depends on your choice.

Inside-Out Change

As you begin your practice, you may not catch yourself in the moment. Can you practice standing down from your secondary responses, the endless repetitions of your story of how you have been wronged?

With practice, a new understanding of how life works takes root. That new understanding will do the heavy lifting.

Today, remember your true nature when a driver cuts you off. Today, listen carefully as a colleague presents an alternative view. Today, have a kind word and a warm meal ready for your partner who comes home cranky from work.

Since your experience is perceived inside-out, as you change, your world will change too. Those you encounter possess “a share of the divine.” Like you, they may have forgotten the truth; and like you, they can awaken to their true nature.

Mindlessly gripping our conditioned thinking, we have much less free will than we may believe. It seems like we are making a choice when all the while, our thinking has us in its trap. Aurelius’s Meditations instructs us in practices to restore our power of free will. Our behavior follows our beliefs about our self and others. In short, our understanding of how life works is 100 percent connected to our experience of life.

Aurelius reached a fork in the road of his own life:

You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live. Not in syllogisms, not in money, or fame, or self-indulgence.

If you have come to a similar realization in your life, following Aurelius’s path to inner freedom will serve you well.

About The Author

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry’s essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.

Three NHS workers die suddenly while working for same ‘toxic’ ambulance trust. Could 5G be related?

east of england ambulance

© Alamy
Former health minister and local MP Norman Lamb, who is standing down at this election, has called for an independent investigation into the deaths.


Ambulance dispatcher Luke Wright and paramedics Christopher Gill and Richard Grimes all died suddenly after a whistleblower raised concerns about psychological abuse

An ambulance service where three staff have died of suspected suicide in two weeks has been accused of a toxic culture.

Ambulance dispatcher Luke Wright, 24, and paramedics Christopher Gill and Richard Grimes were found dead between November 11 and November 21.

Shortly before their deaths a whistleblower wrote to the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s boss complaining about psychological abuse.

Former health minister and local Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, who also received the letter, is calling for an independent investigation into the deaths.

He said: “For three people working on the front line to lose their lives within such a short space of time is deeply shocking.

“It does raise a question as to whether there needs to be a thorough internal investigation.

“I am conscious that people have complained about a toxic culture in this trust. I’ve been appalled by some of the behaviours that I’ve seen in the organisation.”

Dad-of-one Luke was in Norwich while Chris was from Welwyn Garden City, Herts, and Richard in Luton, Beds.

Luke’s brother Daniel, who also works for the service, said: “We need to highlight that it is OK not to be OK. People need to talk to get help.”

The whistleblower’s letter, uncovered by the Ambulance News Desk site, claimed that bullying behaviour was undermining staff confidence.

It said: “If this situation continues the risk of suicide and increase risk to patients will result in reputational damage to the NHS and potential loss of life.”

Dr Tom Davis, medical director of the service, said: “We will not be ­commenting on the unfortunate and tragic loss of our colleagues recently as we need to be sympathetic

“But we encourage staff to seek support when they need it and to speak up if they are suffering with mental health.”

Comment: This is a rather fishy story, to say the least! Three suicides in 11 days, all from the same workplace. In the report from the BBC, they quote Daniel, brother of the victim Luke Wright, as saying:

Daniel said his brother “constantly had a smile on his face. He was caring and loved his job and was amazing. He was always helping people.”

Does that sound like someone on the verge of suicide?

There’s an interesting connection made by Jack Kruse. From June 24 of this year, Smart Cities World reported:

5G testbed demonstrates the ambulance of the future, today

The West Midlands 5G testbed joined with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and BT to demonstrate a remote-controlled ultrasound scan over a public 5G network.

WM5G, the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed designed to accelerate 5G deployment, is working with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) and BT to showcase how 5G can transform healthcare and the emergency services.

The organisations recently combined to undertake the UK’s first demonstration of a remote-controlled ultrasound scan over a public 5G network.

The demonstration was hosted by the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) in UHB’s prestigious simulation lab located in the Institute of Translational Medicine. The showcase brings the concept of a 5G connected ambulance to life and provides new technologies to frontline staff to create a facility for patients to be diagnosed and triaged in the most appropriate settings. It enables remote diagnostics performed by paramedics who are supported by clinicians based in the hospital.

The images are relayed over a high-bandwidth 5G connection, so the clinician is able to view both the ultrasound examination performed by the paramedic and keep an eye on the overall scene inside the ambulance. The superfast speeds of 5G ensure sharper and more reliable imagery for the clinician than could previously be achieved.

Could the recent activation of 5G in the ambulances have something to do with these three mysterious deaths? YouTuber Jack Striker noted birds were dropping dead outside of Coventry Hospital after 5G was activated there:

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This is all speculative, of course. But three unusual suicides timed rather perfectly with the activation of a high-speed 5G network where there have already been noted odd bird deaths – something is going on.

See also:

Ben Shapiro interviews David Berlinski on his new book, Human Nature

david berlinski

Wow, this is an amazing, hour-long conversation between Ben Shapiro and our Discovery Institute colleague David Berlinski. It’s today’s Sunday Special on the Ben Shapiro Show and you can watch it here on YouTube:

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Berlinski is wise and hilarious, and Shapiro a very fitting interlocutor. David’s new book, which forms the spine of the interview, is Human Nature, out now.

I’ll have more to say on their interaction later. But in the spirit of the Fast Track program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hastening needed prescription medicine ahead of otherwise routine burdensome drug trial requirements, here are David and Ben right NOW, covering the philosophical and political attack on essentialism, why evolution is fundamentally at odds with a fixed nature to human beings (or dogs, or anything else living), whether the problems with evolutionary science are more a matter of science or social consequences, whether the Nazis would have been satisfied by wiping out the Jews or whether they would have turned their evolutionary testing on Germans themselves in the end, and much more. You will enjoy this.