21 August, 2014

Are Our Brains Become Hopeless At Interpreting Information?

Pre-frontal cortex

The other day I was with a few people sitting and talking. A couple of those present had their iPads with them. They were constantly looking at them and answering bits of the conversation from stuff they kept finding on their iPads. I found this annoying and unnecessary. So I was interested to read what the neurologist, Susan Greenfield, has said about this.

Ms Greenfield tells of how we are becoming slaves to digital technology and how this has begun to alter our brains. The need to constantly check Twitter, Facebook and the like, our almost inability to converse without checking our emails is actually a form of addictive behaviour.

According to Greenfield's book, Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving There Mark On Our Brains, social networking sites may be worsening our communication skills and reducing 'interpersonal empathy'.

As for games she suggests that obsessive gaming could well be making us more reckless and aggressive. It seems that the pre-frontal cortex is the 'newest' part of the brain in evolutionary terms and potentially gamers could do irreparable damage to their cognitive functions, concentration and moods, with symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This applies especially to young people, where the pre-frontal cortex does not develop fully until the mid-20s.

Our reliance on search engines may mean that we are sacrificing deep knowledge and understanding, Our ability to reinvent ourselves online may lead us to lose our sense of who we really are.

The message does seem a bit doom and gloom - for all ages. She poses the question: "Have you noticed how much harder it is these days to concentrate on a thick book or long article?" This could be because the internet is making our brains more 'flighty and easily distracted'. Hence the popularity of YouTube short videos. According to Greenfield we are finding it harder to cope with complexity or anything requiring sustained attention.

We are becoming more like computers ourselves: super-efficient at processing information but hopeless at interpreting it.

There is no doubt some truth in what she writes, it's so easy to Google something rather than work out whatever it is for ourselves. If we take this to extremes what will we actually become? Almost robotic? And who or what could/would be influencing or controlling us?

I don't know the answer to these questions but I do know that when I go on holiday abroad I feel much better and healthier. I put this down, not just to sunshine and relaxation, but to not looking at a computer, phone or television; and not reading newspapers for the period I'm away. It's quite nice being with your own thoughts and thinking for yourself.

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20 August, 2014

Truro Cathedral And The White Feather Sniper

Inside Truro Cathedral

We were in Truro, the city for Cornwall, and while there we popped into the Cathedral. It always gives me a lift. I felt there would be something inside for me, as I saw a white feather in the entrance lobby. Always a good sign.

White Feather poem

We lit a candle for those we have lost and nearby was a board of poems from World War I. One shone out from the rest: The White Feather Sniper. As regular readers will know I have published many posts about white feathers.

Inside Truro Cathedral, Cornwall

The special atmosphere of the Cathedral makes you want to look up. I suppose this is what it sets out to do.

Truro Cathedral, Truro, Cornwall

 The arches and pillars are magnificent, you don't need to belong to any religion to appreciate the splendour.

Ceiling Truro Cathedral, Cornwall

The white feather had gone from the lobby following our visit.

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19 August, 2014

The Remarkable Coincidence Of The German Emperor Who Tried To Eat The World

French postcard of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
caricatured trying to eat the world, but finds it 'too hard'.
It looks as if there has been an interest in coincidences for a long time. Here's a story I found in The Evening Telegram of December 16, 1896. If it's true, it's quite remarkable.

Wilhelm or William II of Germany
Wilhelm (William) II - German Emperor
A certain peasant and his wife, in Germany, were married on the same day as the Emperor and Empress, the peasant's Christian name being William.

The first child, a boy, was born on the same day as the Crown Prince, after which they had five other sons, each of whom was born at the same time as the five younger boys of the Emperor.

The Royal couple were informed of this, and were exceedingly interested in the very strange coincidence, but this interest was intensified when, on the last occasion of a royal birth, viz., the little daughter of the Kaiser, it was learned that the peasant's wife had also given birth to a daughter on the same day.

So astonished were the Emperor and Empress that they stood as godfather and godmother to this little girl, and have well provided for her future.

I've checked and William or Wilhelm II had seven children, six sons and one daughter He married Augusta Victoria on the 27th of February 1881. So the dates and info seem to fit okay.

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18 August, 2014

The Mystery Of The Mouse Triangle

We had a recent trip away but, before we went, a Mouse Triangle began to take form.

Two days before going we found a dead mouse on our driveway. I moved the mouse in a respectful way.

The following day there was a further dead mouse on our driveway, about three feet from where the other was found. Again I moved him or her to a better place - or maybe he or she was already there. But, whatever, the next day we went on our trip, with no dead bodies in sight and a good time was had by all.

We arrived back late on the Monday and on Tuesday morning Karin said, "You'll never guess what, there's another dead mouse on our driveway."

And, of course, she was right. If the three dead mice were all in their original positions, and you were to join them with straight lines, it would make a triangle - thus the Mouse Triangle I mentioned in the first sentence of this post.

Mysterious. We haven't a cat, or any other rodent hating animal, so how did the mice end up in our driveway? Synchronicity perhaps? But synchronicity means 'a meaningful coincidence' and, as yet I can't pin a meaningful label to the three mice.

Obviously there's the nursery rhyme of Three Blind Mice, which my grandson used to like us to sing together. But he's now 4 years and 1 month, so has moved on to other songs, such as something from the Frozen movie.

I Googled 'dead mouse as a symbol' and the first entry I clicked on was Yahoo! Answers. The entry read: "Her co-workers went on to name it Mike the mouse before burying it. Mike is actually her brothers name and she got a weird feeling about the whole situation."

But, I'm not mouse-like, though I sometimes get called Mickey - I mostly get called Mike nowadays.

I next clicked on What's Your Sign and the writer said about dead animals: "An animal death reminds me of a Latin phrase I hold dear: Omnia mutantur omni tempus (all things are changing - a time for everything)."

On that note I decided to stop searching, but was persuaded to click on one more entry for the Spirit Animal Totems website which read:

"To see a dead mouse in your dream implies that you are not letting minor issues bother you. You are not letting your own fears get in the way of what you want. Alternatively, a dead mouse indicates that there is something that you have ignored or neglected for too long."

But it wasn't all a dream, so the mystery of the Mouse Triangle remains.

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16 August, 2014

Her Dead Mother Helped Her Give Birth

Clover Stroud was pregnant. Nothing strange there, especially as she already had three children: Jimmy, 13, Dolly ten and Evangeline 22 months,

Clover's mother, following a nasty accident many years ago, had become profoundly mentally and physically disabled and incapable of looking after herself. Sadly, when Clover was five months pregnant, her mother died.

She writes, "I was distraught, but took comfort in seeing the strength of love she had given me as a child living in my own three children, and tried my best to focus on the fourth little person who would soon be joining us."

After 38 weeks Clover went into labour. As her contractions peaked she suddenly felt very alone. This was despite her husband and the midwife being at her side.

She writes: "I wanted to escape, and somehow leave the labour room to retreat back into my safe life, before childbirth. But then, at the moment I felt most hopeless, I became quietly aware of a third person in the room with us."

Looking at this new visitor she noted that the woman was wearing a long denim skirt and there was something familiar about the knitted waistcoat. She realised this was her mother, her dead mother. Her appearance was as Clover remembered her from her teenage years, and before her accident.

Her mother smiled at her and she heard her say, "Come towards me. Come here. Come over and meet me." This was a voice she hadn't heard for 22 years.

Another contraction and again her mother said, "I'm here, just come towards me."

Clover's husband and the midwife were not aware of this other presence in the room.

Clover explained, "I did not think for one minute that I was hallucinating ... as I moved further into my labour I could see her clearly, standing beside me at each step. When I felt scared, I looked at her, and she smiled a little brighter so that my fear subsided."

She continued: "With her beside me, the pain stopped being a terrifying force ... Mum left the room as seamlessly and as quietly as she had arrived. When the moment came to push, she had simply gone. She had come to guide me to that point."

Her son, Dash, was born.

As a finale Clover said, "I know meeting my mother after death might seem improbable, but trying to understand, or account for, the powerful, mysterious force of the human spirit feels futile - beyond scientific reckoning."

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15 August, 2014

Memories Rekindled And Batteries Recharged In Dorset

Bournemouth, Dorset
Bournemouth Dorset
We had a few days away staying with friends in Dorset. This kindled some memories as we lived in the area before moving to Cornwall.

The weather was somewhat changeable but we seemed to dodge the showers and visited several places we knew. The photo above is Bournemouth, showing some of the beach and the pier. From there we walked to the Russell-Cotes art galley and museum.

Russell-Cotes art gallery and museum, Bournemouth
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
There were many magnificent paintings on show including Anno Domini by Edwin Long. When the picture was first exhibited in London, in 1883, it caused a sensation. People queued around the block to see the gigantic painting which shows the Holy Family arriving in Egypt. It is also known as The Flight To Egypt.

Anno Domini by Edwin Long
Anno Domini or The Flight To Egypt
The Sea Maidens by Evelyn De Morgan was part of a special exhibition: The Morgans and the Sea.

The story behind the painting is that The Little Sea Maid is distraught when the Prince declares he does not love her,

Her five older sisters, shown in the picture, sell their abundant hair to the Sea Witch in exchange for a knife. The Little Sea Maid can then kill her unrequited love, the Prince, and return to mermaid form. Instead the Sea Maid drowns herself rather than kill the man she loves.

In the painting the sisters' cold eyes and inexpressive faces allude to their lack of an immortal soul. So there you go!

The Sea Maidens
We also went into Poole where we had a trip on a boat from the harbour - the second largest natural harbour in the world - to the small town of Wareham.

Poole harbour
Poole Quay Dorset
In the harbour we passed Brownsea Island which is where the Boy Scout movement was first started by Baden-Powell.

Poole Harbour Brownsea Island
Poole Harbour passing Brownsea Island
Leaving the harbour the boat sailed up the River Frome ...

River Frome, Wareham Dorset
River Frome
... to Wareham and the sun came out!

Wareham Church Dorset
Wareham Dorset
And then it was back to Poole.

Customs House Poole Quay
Pool Quay - Old Customs House
Another day we walked along the River Stour at Wimborne.

River Stour Wimborne
River Stour
A lovely few days - batteries recharged!

Photos: © Mike Perry - Click on any photo to make bigger

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14 August, 2014

Spiritually Influenced Awful Jokes

Buddha advice on emails

Sometimes we can take ourselves much too seriously. After all, we are simply fleeting glimpses being transported on a rock hurtling very fast through space. Enough said - here's some spiritually influenced humour.

A Buddhist monk leaned over to another monk and quietly asked, "Are you not thinking what I'm not thinking?"

In the beginning there was nothing and God said, "Let there be light," and there was still nothing - but you could see it a bit better.

Reincarnation joke

"I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep"
~ Stan Laurel

If you want to confuse God ask Him what his earliest memory is.

Whenever you are feeling blue, just remember to start breathing again.

Two friends meet on the street.
"Hello, how are you?"
The other ones replies: "I'm fine, thanks."
"And how's your son? Is he still unemployed?"
"Yes, he is. But he is meditating now."
"Meditating? What's that all about?"
"I'm not too sure, but it's better than sitting around doing nothing."

Life is an orgasm, don't fake it

Yes, life is Sexually Transmitted.

Funny professor clip art
An elderly philosophy professor gave a one question final exam, after a semester dealing with a broad range of topics.

The class was seated and ready to begin when the professor picked up his chair, plopped it on top of his desk and wrote on the board:

"Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist."

Fingers flew, erasers erased, notebooks were filled in furious fashion. Some students wrote over thirty pages in one hour attempting to refute the existence of the chair.

One member of the class however, was up and finished in less than a minute.

Weeks later when the grades were posted, the rest of the group wondered how he could have got an 'A' when he had barely written anything at all.

His answer consisted of two words:

"What chair?"

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