My Dream Afro

Last night I had a dream....  In it I had an afro.  It wasn't clear whether I was Black or White, but if I was black I was the lightest Black I've ever seen.  My afro, after taking out the rubber bands that kept it looking short, was a dark umber, and a full four inches thick.  I used a "pick" in the dream to shape it.  My immediate circle of friends and acquaintances were surprised and happy, and encouraged me to go after my dream of joining an acting class.  I went to the class, but was virtually invisible...un-noticed.  After I woke up I remember thinking the afro had given me identity, but no special breaks.

I loved that afro.

Of course, it also meant I was younger in the dream, because the cells in my body have lost the ability to counter-act the natural hydrogen peroxide they express, and my hair has been salt-and-pepper for a couple of years now.

I am sure having the dream was the result of a conversation I had earlier in the day with a young black woman where I opened an account at a credit union.  I've been rather cooped up for the two years I was unemployed, and feel a need to share what I've learned during the past two years.

The young woman had teared up, almost crying, and said it was just so meaningful to have someone acknowledge what's going on.  She told me about a quote she'd heard where someone had said that Fox news almost single-handedly had divided the country, and I countered that all the news stations were just as bad...  She agreed.  It was especially meaningful to me also, that I am not alone in my new found convictions.  And, I have had three other conversations about basically the same things at my contract job, two with Black women, and one with a Hispanic man, who also agree with my conclusions.

My conversation with the gentleman began with me saying, "I am just so desperate to talk to someone about something I saw this morning on the news," and after indicating his willingness to listen, I continued, "The news reported that a judge in Orange County had landed himself in hot water with statements made about a rape victim.  He had said the victim didn't put up a fight, and that if she didn't want intercourse her body would have shut-down." "What bothers me is that they closely match what Akins said, but more than that it reminds me of what Lakoff has described as a technique the Conservatives use, knowingly or unknowingly, that in linguistics can be called, Don't Think of an Elephant, where just by making that statement you automatically think of an elephant...it gets the message out there and people are thinking about it, because they don't follow up with anything that is true, like saying, What Is True is that most rape victims experience orgasm, but it's simply a bodily response and has nothing to do with wanting the act of intercourse."  And, he agreed.  And that meant a lot to me.

A little harder to get into would be the fact that men who rape are not the evil monsters we've been taught to think of them as, they're behind the curve, have little sense of control or power, and are not experienced with the use of their Reward System (not at least using the paths to it that are most natural to humans).  Do we want to punish them?  Certainly.  But....we should also want to take care of them, to help them fix these problems they're having...if for no other reason than that we don't want them to do it again...and, this isn't rocket science, it's not hard to fix this type of problem...but the way we've gotten used to treating them doesn't allow for any therapuetic process to occur, we're all about the punishment, and none of the cure.  Which is just as dismal as the pain of the victim.

I mean, wouldn't it be better to teach victims of these crimes that there is something mentally deficient about their attacker?  Instead of painting them as evil?  But I digress.  I just think that, hopefully, in ten or fifteen years time, they'll finally find that anyone who develops any sort of criminal behavior will also be found to have ADD or ADHD, or some further progression of that distrophy of our Reward System.  And, until they do begin injecting narratives about how to develop the Reward System - the paths more natural to our species, we can only expect the troubles to continue.

My latest letter to our President, this one about my story...

Dear Mr. President,

I am being denied any cash assistance (welfare).

After being out of work two years (laid-off, IT jobs off-shored + forbearance and mortgage precluded accepting lower wage jobs), my wife of 20 years divorced me and wants to kick me out.  Because I am still living in the marital home we are considered "one economic unit" so I don't qualify for federal welfare (GA/GR at County level), and because I don't have full custody (it was granted to my ex-wife in the divorce) I don't qualify for Cal-Works.  Until my ex-wife kicks me out I have no way of repairing my car, or finding meaningful work without money for the busses or trains, and no way of qualifying for any public assistance other than food-stamps.

Today I saw a documentary called, "Nero's Guests," where it was explained how humans were torched to create the lighting for Nero's grand party in Rome, and how none of the guests raised any concerns for the use of human beings as lighting for the party.  This documentary was explaining the plight, and suicides among India's farmers, and mentioned how if you give so much to the rich its called an incentive, but if you give a tiny bit to the poor it's called assistance, and as I look around the Internet there is so much disinformation about public assistance, but in actuality we've enabled the Wealthy to succeed in their class warfare against the poor, and we all have become complicit by our acceptance of their framing of the issues through our national airwaves.

Please don't compromise Medicaid or Social Security...and please find some way of providing the ability for the poorest among us to take control of our lives because it does not exist as things sit.
I am so upset there is no social safety net for men in my situation.  And, I am so upset that our televisions have brain-washed my ex-wife into believing everything is okay and that People like me are just lazy, when we really can't find work.

And, please, "Santa" repeal the Patriot Act, the NDAA and stop the drone war which is creating new terrorists faster than it is killing the old ones.  The real face of terror is much closer to home than is portrayed on television.

Thank you,

Death Penalty

I have been for and against the death penalty over my life....

Until I learned of my ADHD, which I prefer to call Reward "System Dystrophy"

And in learning about my condition, and working towards increasing my dopamine activity,
I believe I have learned that besides all criminals starting with this or that condition or characteristic:
Most of society will never commit a murder, and as much as the dominant narrative presented tries to convince us that each of us is capable of murder, it is just not so...there is one population, and it has to do with whether that person has developed the knack of facile use of their dopamine, which invariably has to do with developing "pathways" natural to our species.  Humans have a drive to experience dopamine, we require it for concentration, we require it for feelings of well-being, and when People don't learn, or are not trained enough, in the appropriate use of it, a vacuum is left, and other, less natural pathways are developed.  Secondary pathways that are not as functional, are tied to specific activities and strong emotions, sometimes they learn the wrong ways to use their Reward System.  I use to wonder why I would almost 'orchestrate' conflicts whereby I could prove my superiority and self-righteous indignation, and get angry at others in public settings...a waiter who forgot my order three times, a fast-food worker who wouldn't follow my logic...it was because my brain chemistry at those times offered some fuller sense of myself, some depth of being I was lacking during the rest of the day.  If my beliefs had been more extreme, I am sure my behaviors could also have been more extreme.

In my case it may have begun with my family not knowing how to show me the emotional bonding, but I am sure it was not hereditary, but was definitely passed-down in a way.  Now, I have learned I can change this, and increase my dopamine through thinking of my relationships and orchestrating the meanings I attach to my perceived bonds with others and pets, and at the same time am learning to defuse and delete as much as possible the secondary pathways I developed.

But, we need to recognize that we are not beasts, and can describe and reflect on our inner-life, and we need to increase the awareness of the public to this important facility we now identify as dopamine or the Human Reward System, and begin to help people understand that we are beasts in that there are pathways natural to our species which need to be developed, and less natural ones that need to be defused through restructuring the meanings surrounding them.

And, if the rest of society were given these facts in their daily news, I believe they would begin to think more like parents instead of like cops, and show more compassion for those of us with this difficulty, and it's many and complex symptoms.

Precepts Important to Believing My Blog: Dopamine Is Separate From Emotion

I will try to word this without reference to scientific study and without using words that may be misunderstood, but simply, for anyone who is reading who is unfamiliar with chemical transmitters and circuits they flow through in the brain, but I will use the word dopamine.

My contention is that dopamine is separate from emotion, but that it enhances emotion and gives it depth.

Few would argue that we as humans are emotional beings.  We also know that emotion functions together with our memory.  When we remember moments of contention, we recall the emotions both associated with that past moment, and also the emotion associated with the meanings we attach to the circumstances of that moment.

Also, few would argue we are capable of feeling emotions more deeply sometimes.  Sadness associated with the death of a Father or Mother is deeper and stronger than the sadness you may feel after killing a mouse in your home.  In fact, due to the meanings we attach to each event we may experience two or more emotions with one over-shadowing the others, like after killing a mouse breeding in our walls and spoiling our food.

However, when we experience strong emotional responses, or remember strong emotional events there is an element called dopamine which is mixed up with the emotion or emotions....  It is the expression of dopamine which allows us to feel whatever emotion we are also experiencing so deeply that it is experienced not only in our minds, but also in our bodies.  Take for example the term, "heart ache," where sadness feels so deep we feel it localized in our chest.

Of course, pain can be physically localized, if we are hurt physically, but emotions, while they bring on physical sensations, occur in our mind, usually as a result of an orchestration of meanings.

Now, to come to my point:

We can feel emotions more deeply if we are expressing dopamine.  We can increase the depth of our feelings simply by focusing upon them.  Breathing deeply while focusing on specific emotion can deepen the experience of that emotion.  It is important to understand in doing so we are also expressing more dopamine, deepening the experience of the dopamine increases the experience of the emotion many times what it may have felt like at first.

Just as important as the linkage between emotion and dopamine, is learning to subtract the emotion while maintaining and deepening the experience of the dopamine.  In this way we can "use" emotion to bring about a "dopaminergic state" and then clear any specific emotion from the experience.

What I have found in doing this simple but powerful exercise is that my memory becomes sharper but more fluid, my emotions come more freely but play across my mind like notes on a piano - just a moment for each instead of getting stuck on any one, and my sense of my identity and ability to think become enhanced.

So far I am only capable of keeping my dopaminergic states going for short periods of time, but it seems very clear to me that dopamine is separate from emotion.  I believe for many people the experience of dopamine is sublimated into their emotional experience - what I mean to say is that most people can't describe or tell one from the other.  But, for people with ADHD, or People who do not normally use their dopamine, it is important to learn this skill, both in being able to reproduce the experience and also to be able to describe it.

(In Progress) Important Precepts: ADHD Is Related to The Human Reward System

I am challenged by some who believe my ideas or theories do not lie within the Scientific Literature.

To counter this opinion I need to lay out step by step what I have learned, and explain how I am connecting the dots differently from the current dominant narratives:

1. People with ADHD show less dopamine activity in brain scans.
2. Dopamine is associated with the Human Reward System.
3. Dopamine is now seen as the only neuro-transmitter associated with the human ability to concentrate and stay on task.
4. Dopamine is known to be associated with feelings of well-being and a sense of connection to others and the world.
5. Dopamine pathways are the patterns of thinking or behaviors which offer a pay-off of feelings of well-being and pleasure.
6. The most natural of dopamine pathways is the one built upon relationships, forming at the beginning of life by a child's emotional bonding with their parents and later with other adults.
7. When the most natural pathway is blocked during early childhood it creates a condition known as ADHD.
8. Individuals who have ADHD are less able to concentrate on tasks which they are not already obsessed with.
9. Individuals who have ADHD are more prone to developing co-morbid conditions, many of which are not found outside of the ADHD population.
10. Co-morbid conditions often offer a circuitous route to expression of dopamine, either through the driving narratives contained in them, or by direct stimulation (increase in dopamine).
11. The expression of dopamine is a basic human drive, not a choice.

I will work towards fleshing out each of these, but believe most are known to be true and do fall within scientific literature.

(In Progress) Precepts Important to Believing in My Blog - About Neuroplasticity

Tibetan Monks have had their brains scanned, and as a result of studies, it's been proven neuroplasticity extends to later in life.  In other words, people can and do change the structure and function of their brains after they "grow up."

Some links follow, but if you search the Internet for these words you will find similar ones: neuroplasticity meditation "tibetan monks" "brain scans" structure development.

Following are links to some articles and two paragraphs of each - please follow the links to read the full articles.  Also, I first heard about this through Democracy Now, where you may also find a short video interview with a researcher (I will try to post that link below)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/

Buddha's Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation

Richard J. Davidson, Director and Antoine Lutz, Associate Scientist
In a recent visit to the United States, the Dalai Lama gave a speech at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Over the past several years, he has helped recruit Tibetan Buddhist monks for, and directly encouraged research on the brain and meditation in the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The findings from studies in this unusual sample as well as related research efforts, suggest that, over the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the long-term practitioners had actually altered the structure and function of their brains. In this article we discuss neuroplasticity, which encompasses such alterations, and the findings from these studies. Further, we comment on the associated signal processing (SP) challenges, current status and how SP can contribute to advance these studies.

What is Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is a term that is used to describe the brain changes that occur in response to experience. There are many different mechanisms of neuroplasticity ranging from the growth of new connections to the creation of new neurons. When the framework of neuroplasticity is applied to meditation, we suggest that the mental training of meditation is fundamentally no different than other forms of skill acquisition that can induce plastic changes in the brain [1,2].
 
 

Of Meditation, Monks, and Music: Dr. Davidson Speaks on Systematic Mind-Body Training
 

....Other Effects From Meditation

Dr. Davidson’s group has also studied meditation practitioners with regard to how their practice affects attention—a mental faculty important to processes such as mental focus, perception, memory, and consciousness—and the brain’s circuitry involved.

An NCCAM-funded study by Dr. Davidson and his colleagues looked at the effects of meditation on a task challenging attention and on related brain activity. The type of meditation studied was concentration meditation, which may be described as focusing sustained attention on an object such as the breath or on a small visual stimulus. One group practiced this meditation as part of an intensive retreat, for
3 months and 10 hours per day. They were compared with a control group that had just learned a similar technique and practiced it 20 minutes daily for 1 week. The task on which all participants were tested, before and after their meditation experiences, challenged attention and memory using a rapid series of letters and numbers. All participants improved on this task following meditation, the investigators found. The longer term practitioners, however, improved much more and also showed more efficient use of brain resources important to the task.
 
 

My Latest Letter to The President About Reducing Demand for Illicit Drugs

Dear Mr. President:

Just as teaching people to respect the rights of homosexuals is tied to teaching them it is organic and natural (not a choice), to teach people about how illicit drug use is tied to how people "learn" to use their Human Reward System, and the adaptations involved when People do not have proper use of it, offers the greatest chance to reduce the demand for illicit drugs.

This is a paradigm shift both for the drug user as well as Society, and will empower normal citizens to think and act more like Parents than like Cops, and actually help People get over it.

Understanding that it is dopamine replacement therapy, and that the human drive for dopamine (and the feelings of well being, connection to others, and concentration it brings) I believe are key not just to the problems of drug abuse, but also so many other behaviors which have been criminalized.

How people "learn" to use this facility, and perspective over their dopamine pathways, can allow people to begin to weed-out their secondary pathways and focus on development of the primary pathway, which is relationships and one-on-one connections with others.  This perspective will allow people to enhance their experience of life and increase their experience of dopamine in natural ways.

This is why people take drugs on a habitual basis.  It does not account for the once-in-a-lifetime user, but understanding that the human mind produces this neuro-transmitter which is now both associated with not only our ability to stay on task and become sucessful in school and business, but also for our feelings of wellbeing and connectedness to others is so important, and yet, perhaps due to our dysfunctional views on Personal Responsibility, is not being seen as it should, and we need to help people connect the dots in a more logical fashion, to allow us to get to the important parts of the argument and move forward.  Abstinance is never enough, and leads to recidivism - but understanding their behavior is just a natural adaptation to NOT having access to something natural inside their own brains, something they CAN learn to get themselves, will reduce demand for illicit drugs, and is the only way to keep it lower.

Punitive Justice against drug users does not allow them to get better and in fact makes them worse (just as the death penalty does not act in reality as a deterrant or reduce levels of homicide).  This learning, if shared with the People, will reduce addictions, violence & learning disabilities.

Thank you,