The Biological Control of Flatulence


Farts are funny. It’s immature to laugh at them, but we can’t help it. We’ve all dealt it, and we’ve all smelt it. Its universal appeal stretches across demographic lines, income brackets, and various levels of sophistication and intelligence. We might laugh out loud, behind a hand, or wait until the alleged perpetrator has left the room, but sooner or later, most of us will be laughing. Depending on how bad it smells, flatulence might be the one bodily function that offends everyone and no one at the same time. It embarrassed us (most of us) when we do it, but most of us don’t mind laughing at ourselves most of the time. The jokes we tell about them play as well in the seediest bars as they do in the most refined churches. They’re funny, and we laugh, but are we laughing so hard that we forget to ask why we have at least some ability to control this biological quirk?

Those of us who have a layman’s interest in evolution find it fascinating to read scientific theories regarding the most basic bodily functions we all take for granted. The theories are based, in part, on evolution and natural selection, but they are just theories. Most of these discussions involve relatively trivial, yet fascinating theories regarding why we have the ability to blink, fingernails, earlobes, and goosebumps. We don’t analyze these actions, because what’s there to analyze? Have you ever met a person who couldn’t blink. A friend of mine had this problem, due to necessary surgeries, and she had to regularly drop saline into her eyeballs. I didn’t value my ability to blink before I met her, and I never appreciated the greater mechanization of the human body before I met those who have a deficit in the basic functionalities we all take for granted. 

Most of our functions were born of need. If animals didn’t have levels of functionality necessary for survival, they either developed them or went extinct. When the species found a way to survive, a level of natural selection occurred, in which the animals passed those adaptations along. How has the otherwise indefensible ball of mush, we call the octopus, managed to survive hundreds of millions of years? They adopted and adapted various intricate survival techniques that are almost inexplicable to science.

At one point in human history, early humans realized they were near the bottom of the food chain, and they tried to find ways to neutralize the other animals’ dominance. In the course of developing weapons and other techniques necessary for survival, they developed the most complex organ in the animal kingdom, the human brain. Fossil records indicate that the human brain grew in size, relative to the body from early primates to the current Homo sapiens. The need to survive, in other words, dictated our brain’s current size and complex level of functionality. The owl needs acute vision to see small prey from their perch high up in trees, and they need to be able to fly down to catch them. Due to the complexities of the human brain, we didn’t need either of these abilities to survive, so we never developed them.

We don’t need goosebumps, but according to some theories, humans may have needed them at one time to ward off prey. When man was more hairy, the goosebumps made the air stand up and appear more abundant, so they would appear larger to the prey. The other, more widely accepted theory is that our hairier ancestors strengthened their hair fibers to stay warm, and the scientists suggest that raised hairs trap air to create insulation in a manner we still use. Thus, when we’re creeped out or cold, our brain still sends a message to the body to raise the hair fibers or strengthen them to make what we have more abundant, or appear more abundant. The point is that there’s nothing really interesting about basic, common bodily functions, until we delve into the idea theories regarding why we have them. 

If we have scientific explanations for why we might have needed something as trivial as goosebumps, why no explanation for the control we have of gaseous releases? Ashley Cowie wrote an interesting, historical guide to famous flatulence in history that includes stories of fart gods and various other spiritual connections to the breath between the legs, and the idea that if a person pushed hard enough they could “fart out their soul”. Other articles list some scientific theories we have to explain the biological need to release gas from the system. There are scientific explanations to explain why some flatulence smells and others don’t. There are even scientific explanations to explain why some farts are louder than others are, but there are no scientific theories I can find to explain why we can control (for the most part) the force and volume.

All animals have this ability of course, but humans are the only ones who voluntarily deploy it on a regular basis for entertainment purposes. Watch a young wild animal let one go, and the force and volume is apt to startle them. Older animals, like older humans, are unmoved by them. Some humans say they do it to gain relief, others suggest they require it for medicinal purposes, but most of us just do it for fun. Was there ever a reason for this ability, a source for it that would define its need in such a way that we enhanced it?

The science behind it suggests that the volume of flatulence depends on how much gas we have bottled up and/or how tight the sphincter is. The digestive system needs to remove/release gas, and if it served that biological need alone, the rectum would be similar to a building’s exhaust flapper. Instead, we have muscles that we can voluntarily (for the most part) expand and contract to release anything we want, at any volume, to disrupt or enhance, social gatherings, and no one has come up with a sufficient explanation why.

Some have theorized that louder flatulence might be equivalent to some sort of biological alarm to warn us when there is too much CO2 in our system. The louder the flatulence, the more CO2 buildup we have, and the greater need for one to switch to a healthier diet. If true, that might explain why some flatulence is louder, but it doesn’t explain how we arrived at this ability and if natural selection played any role in it. We don’t need the control now, but we don’t need goosebumps either, so why do we have these abilities? Is it possible that at one time, a time when modes of communication weren’t what they are now, prehistoric man manipulated their flatulence to communicate coded levels of alarm to their fellow man? If a wolf was near, they let loose some silent killers to inform those in their clan, by scent, that a wolf was near, stay still, or prepare the weaponry for the hunt. If a sabretooth tiger was near, they let her rip. Is it possible they communicated with flatulence in a manner similar, but different from the Native Americans’ smoke signals, and that which the military would later use with the Morse Code in WWII, and the predators couldn’t figure out our secret signals to one another in time.

Seeking answers for why we have this ability might also help explain our individual view of God. Most Christians believe God created everything from life to the universe and everything in between to support the harmonious relationship between the heavenly bodies. If God created everything from the Sun to Jupiter to the flagellum and the atom to serve a purpose, what was the purpose behind giving us the ability to control the force of our flatulence? Both literal and contextual readers also agree that God gave us autonomy, but they disagree on how much. Literal and contextual readers of The Bible both agree that God is of unlimited omniscience, so the only conclusion we can arrive at is that He knew how we would use this ability. Some might consider it heretical to suggest this, but did God design the intricate anatomy down to the smallest, most insignificant elements of the anatomy, or did He allow for some autonomy on the part of the being in the same manner he provided autonomy of belief? Was the control of the force and volume of our flatulence a gift that He gave us, knowing how we’d use it, and an indicator that He has such a wonderful sense of humor? Did He decide to give us some wholesome fun with our body or, was the ability to control our flatulence a biological quirk we discovered on our own in the process of forcing waste out?  

Atheists, who also happen to be scientists, suggest that too often religious people explain any gaps in modern scientific understanding with the idea that there had to be a miracle involved, and that miracle had to arrive at the hands of a creator. Religious people suggest that scientists do the same and that if God inspired the writers of The Bible to explain everything from creation to goosebumps to this control of our flatulence we might not be having these debates. We probably shouldn’t question the content, or the purpose, of the best-selling book of all time, and it might have damaged The Bible’s legacy as a serious philosophical document to waste time on such trivial matters, but it would’ve also provided us some much-needed information and some levity if God inspired The Bible’s authors to include some incidents, and discussions about, flatulence in the various stories and parables of the book. Whatever the case is, some of us prefer to think that God gave us The Bible as a philosophical road map to figure out the larger things and a progressive intellect to figure out the rest.

Oh! Our Electromagnetic Minds


“God isn’t dead,” says a neuroscientist from Canada’s Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, named Michael Persinger. “He’s an energy field, and your brain is an electromagnetic map to your soul.”

To further define this provocative statement, Persinger conducted a series of experiments that caused “cerebral fritzing” in the hemispheres of the brain to generate images. Persinger found that when the right hemisphere of the brain was stimulated in the cerebral region, an area of the brain presumed to control notions of self, a sense of a presence occurred. The frizting then called upon the left hemisphere, the seat of language, to make sense of the presence. What was that presence that the right hemisphere generated?  Was it God?  In some instances, the left side of the brain told the subject that it was. In other instances, the subject believed they were seeing aliens, some claimed to have seen deceased loved ones, and others stated that they saw a presence, but they couldn’t tell what it was. It all depended upon the person.

The BrainIn a separate story, of the same theme, a young female believed she was being visited by the lord of darkness: Satan. Every night, at about the same time, this young girl would wake with recurring night terrors, and when her parents came running into the room, she claimed to have seen Satan at the foot of her bed. Her family was worried that their daughter may have been possessed. They called in exorcists and various spiritualists, to rid their frantic young daughter of her horror. After these attempts proved unsuccessful, the family called in doctors to see if these images were occurring as a result of her diet, some psychological malady, or some sort of sleep deprivation. Others believed the visions may have been a natural byproduct of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis, migraines, anxiety disorders, or some form of obstructive sleep apnea. In other words, they thought that her young, active mind was always playing tricks on her, even though they all believed that these visions were very real to her. When no medications, or psychological assistance, proved successful, the family decided to permit an experimental, investigatory group to walk through and see if their very specific ideas about the girl’s problem could help her. The investigatory group walked around the room with an electromagnetic sensor that pinged on an alarm clock that was resting by the head of her bed. They found that her alarm clock’s cord had become frayed, and it was emitting Electromagnetic rays near the girl’s head. The group replaced the clock, and the young girl no longer had the visions.

Want to build the scariest haunted house ever made?  Cocoon it inside electrical wires, throbbing with pulses of electromagnetic fields. This will stimulate the cerebral regions of your horrified guests to a point where they may cause them to believe they are sensing a presence. You won’t need to hire sixteen-year-olds to don Frankenstein’s monster masks, and you won’t need to spend hundreds on setting. You can just wire up a rusty, old tool shed and spend a few bucks to insulate the wiring, to prevent injury, and voila!  You will have the scariest haunted house man has ever created.

Want to open up a fortune telling booth, or bolster your claim that you are some form of spiritualist that can conjure up the dead for your customers. A little wiring, a conductive floor plan, a little setting here, and some costume designing there to provide aura, and you should be able to convince anyone and everyone that you have a gift.

The thrust of Persinger’s thesis is that it is your brain that creates these images. Images that can titillate, fascinate, and horrify any audience, and when these portions of your brain are stimulated with electromagnetic field-emitting solenoids, in a designated manner, they can be induced to create images that seem surreal to the human mind.

To create this atmosphere in a lab, Persinger used what he calls the “God Helmet”. It has also been called the “Koren Helmet” named after its creator Stanley Koren. Persinger places his subjects in a sensory deprivation tank that has white lab coat technicians on the opposite side of a 500lb. steel wall with a number of dials and switches to provide subtle stimulation through the solenoids inside this helmet.

The God helmet was not designed for the sole purpose of providing a subject with a feeling of God’s presence, but various tests ended up yielding such results.

“Those with a predisposition for God, often believed that they saw God after donning the helmet,” says Persinger. The tests that yielded these results were the ones that generated the controversy and the headlines for Persinger and crew.

In other, related speeches, Michael Persinger spoke about the effects various controlled substances (marijuana, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and LSD) can have on the various receptors in the brain, and he suggested that these drugs would not have any effect on you if you didn’t already have the proper receptors in your brain for these drugs to stimulate. In the proper setting, electrical stimulation can achieve the same results, he stated.

“So, I can get stoned using electromagnetic stimulation?” Persinger says he is often asked when he speaks to college students. “You can,” Persinger responds. “Electrical stimulation can trigger specific parts of the brain in the exact same manner a chemical can trigger specific parts of the brain. But,” he warns, “Excessive electrical stimulation of certain parts of the brain can provide some of the same deleterious effects that chemical triggering can, or any excessive, exterior triggering for that matter.”

Speaking of drugs, Persinger believes that electromagnetic testing could do away with the need for pharmaceuticals over time. What are most drugs and pharmaceuticals but chemical triggers that let the brain know that it needs to assist the body’s healing process more. To help mask the pain of a sore wrist, until the body can find a way to heal it, the brain sends out prostaglandins. When the brain doesn’t provide enough prostaglandins, or it doesn’t provide them soon enough to our satisfaction, we take Aspirin. Michael Persinger thinks this same procedure can be accomplished in an electromagnetic manner, so that we don’t have to take aspirin, chemotherapy for cancer, or antibiotics in general. “We could make EM wavelength patterns work the way drugs do. Just as you take an antibiotic and it has a predictable result, you might be exposed to precise EM patterns that would signal the brain to carry out comparable effects.” As with controlled substances, if our brain did not have the proper receptors for these pharmaceuticals to trigger, their effect on our body would be negligible.

“Whether through Electromagnetic or chemical enhancement, we’re all looking for ways to assist what the brain does to help heal the body,” Persinger explains. “Among more sensitive individuals, tests show that their skin will turn red if they are led to believe that a piping hot nickel has been placed on their hand. That’s a powerful psychosomatic effect of the brain on the body. Suppose we could make it more precise?”

In his published paper “The Tectonic Strain Theory as an Explanation for UFO Phenomena,” Persinger maintains that around the time of an earthquake, changes in the EM field can spark mysterious lights in the sky. A labile observer, in Persinger’s view, could mistake such a luminous display for an alien visitation.

Persinger maintains that environmental disturbances –ranging from solar flares and meteor showers to oil drilling– can be documented to correlate with visionary claims, including mass religious conversions, ghost lights, and haunted houses. He says that if a region experiences enough mild earthquakes, or other causes of change in the electromagnetic fields, this may explain why one specific spot becomes known as sacred ground.

“One classic example was the apparition of Mary over the Coptic Church in Zeitoun, Egypt, in the 1960s,” he continues. “This phenomenon lasted off and on for several years. It was seen by thousands of people, and the appearance seemed to precede the disturbances that occurred during the building of the Aswan High Dam. I have multiple examples of reservoirs being built or lakes being filled, and reports of luminous displays and UFO flaps. But Zeitoun was impressive.”

“Might it surprise anyone to learn, in view of Persinger’s theories, that when Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni before founding Mormonism, and when Charles Taze Russell started the Jehovah’s Witnesses, powerful Leonid meteor showers were occurring?”

“One might think Christians would be upset that this professor in Sudbury is trying to do with physics what Nietzsche did with metaphysics –kill off God. One might also think that devout ufologists would denounce him for putting neuroscience on the side of the skeptics.” {1} But Persinger claims that the purpose of his experiment is not to suggest that God doesn’t exist, or to disprove alien visitations. He claims that his argument concerns the notion that certain EM fields may be tinkering with our consciousness. He claims that most of those individuals that founded various religions may have experienced some sort of EM intrusion in their enlightening experiences. Other than the Smith and Taze Russell experiences mentioned above, there is the Saul of Damascus transformation that occurred following a bright flash of light. Persinger’s theory suggests that that experience may have occurred to Saul, later Paul, as a result of a minor seizure or a strike of lightning. Moses seeing the burning bush, may have been as a result of Moses being close enough to lightning striking that bush that receptors in his brain may have heard the voice of God coming from that bush. Persinger doesn’t appear to want to damage these stories in lieu of what these men went on to accomplish following the initial experiences, but he does believe that there was an electromagnetic element to these stories that has never been explored before. The element is what Persinger calls electromagnetic spirituality. These ideas, and others, have given rise to a field called Neurotheology. Though neurotheologists do not have specific concerns related to the validity of their subject’s belief, they do seek to determine what’s happening in the brain during a religious experience without apology.

Persinger claims he can create a religious experience for anyone by disrupting the brain with regular electric pulses. This will cause the left temporal lobe to explain the activity in the right side of the brain as a sensed presence. The sensed presence could be anything from God to demons, and when not told what the experiment involved, about 80 percent of God Helmet wearers reported sensing something nearby, a presence of some sort.

No matter how one reads the findings of Michael Persinger’s experiments –or the qualifiers he uses to settle the religious mind– the reader can’t help but feel they are conducted with the goal of undermining God, faith, and religion in general. Perhaps it’s our insecure inclinations regarding faith, or the fact that so much of science these days seems obsessed with diminishing God to a point that even the most devout begin to ask serious questions about their belief systems, but it cannot be denied that the role of God in our society is under attack, and the faithful cannot help but be defensive whenever a new scientist poses a new theory of this sort. To the latter, a word of caution may be necessary, for as science continues to progress, your outlier status, as one who refuses to meld the two, could increase.

As Norman Mailer once said: “If God didn’t want us to question His existence, why did He give us a progressive intellect?” Why didn’t He give us the less complex, and thus less curious, brain of the chimpanzee, and be done with it?  If God were insulted to the point of damning us in the afterlife every time we questioned Him, why did He give us a degree of brainpower that exists somewhere between His and the chimpanzee’s?  We could speculate, and debate, the reasons for this, and we would all end up in the same spot where we began. We could also spend all day speculating whether there is a grain of truth to Persinger’s theories on the electromagnetic capabilities of the brain, and the results of his experiments, but it’s hard to imagine that God would be insulted, or even aggrieved to the point of damning those involved in exploring the mind for answers, and thus using the gift of the mind He gave them, to its fullest extent.

 

Psychological Swearing and other maladies of the human condition


1) Swearing.  I used to wonder what it would be like to swear like an adult when I was younger.  Their ferocity fascinated me.  Their anger! had such punctuation.  Their sense of regret and sadness were palpable.  Everyone took them so seriously, and I was seen as a little kid.  I couldn’t get my emotions across.  It was a source of great frustration for me.  I saw adults in movies sweep everything off their desk to convey ultimate frustration, and I saw them stare into a mirror for thirty seconds before punching it, but in my inner circle of adults it was swearing that caused one adult to take another adult seriously when they were trying to convey emotion.  Swearing had great punctuation.  I knew I could punch people to get them to understand I was mad at them, but that usually prompted them to punch me back, and I didn’t care for getting punched when I could avoid it.  I knew I could cry to convey my sadness, but I’m a boy, and boys don’t cry.  Boys used different swear words, boy swear words, to convey sadness.  I knew I could raise my voice to convey excitement, and I did when I said something was great! but most people didn’t latch onto that excitement and try what I was telling them to try.  I realized that if anyone was going to take me seriously, I was going to have to start cussing.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to start cussing, it was that I was bad at it.  I didn’t have the timing aspect of it down, and my inflection was horrible.

I learned timing first.  I learned that there were occasions when group think purveyors considered it mandatory and acceptable to swear, but there were also times when restraint was necessary.   Cussing too much drained the power of the words, and it made one look like they were trying too hard.  Restraint was the key, but even using the words sparingly didn’t help me comprehensively.  I still lacked inflection.  I sounded awkward.  I learned timing, and I learned how to place provocative words before and after sentiments to get people shocked, but due to my inflections few people took me seriously long term.  The inflections came last, but they finally came, and I entered into that adult world of conveyance.  I was shocking and provocative, and people began to take me seriously emotionally, and I found that pleasing.  If I had a rough day, or someone was giving me the business, I could throw out a swear word, and everyone would back up and raise their eyebrows.  They finally knew that I was someone to take seriously.  What a glorious day that was!  Everyone knew I was a person who used swear words adeptly!  I was accepted into the club!  To maintain membership, I swore all the time.  I swore when I was sad, I swore when I was happy, and of course when I was mad and fed up.  I was conveying emotion with a degree of ferocity that could be felt.  A funny thing happened to me at one point in my swearing career, I began overusing the words.  I drained them of their emotional impact through overuse, and I ended up right back at square one.  I was unable to convey emotion in a proper manner, because I was swearing too much, using too many of the designed shortcuts, and no one was taking me seriously anymore.  When I wanted to convey emotion at times when group think purveyors considered it inappropriate and unacceptable to swear I couldn’t think of any appropriate and acceptable words to use.  It was then that I came to the conclusion that most adults have as much trouble conveying emotion as kids do.  They just use swear words to camouflage that struggle.

2) Girl Crazy. “The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing. –Marcel Proust.

When I was young, and I was very very young, I had this notion that every girl was attracted to me. All I had to do was catch their eye and hold it, and they would be mine on a temporary basis.  It didn’t matter how gorgeous they were, I could captivate them with one powerful stare.  When I got older, I had this notion that no girl was attracted to me.  Now that I’ve met that person that I wanted to meet my whole life, I no longer care who is attracted to me, and I can look back on this cognitive dissonance with some perspective.  Women like men that are attracted to them. They like to be wanted, even if they never cash in on the desire to be wanted, they like to be liked.  So, when I had the notion that a woman was attracted to me, I was actually attracting them with the notion that I was attracted to them.

3) Assigning Characteristics to Animals. Movies, both cartoon and otherwise, depict a dog listening to a conversation and reacting in a manner that suggest they understand more than key words and tones.  Some of us think this is cute and funny.  Some of us think they truly understand.  The cartoonish dogs hide their head when their owner says something stupid, and we laugh.  They scurry from the room when the bad guy suggests that they would make for an excellent dinner.  We laugh.  It sinks in with repetitive messaging.  Why wouldn’t Rover understand what we’re saying? We underestimate animals all the time. Look at what science is uncovering every day about the intelligence of these animals, why would it be so impossible to believe that they can understand us?  It’s not impossible to think that they understand us to a degree, but degrees are the key.  Dogs understand key words, and they understand tone.  Those who believe they understand more than that are trying too hard to understand their pets.  They’re trying to bond with their pets, and they believe their pets understand more than they actually do to bond with them, so they assign a degree of intelligence to these canines to have a better relationship with them.  It is the same mind set we bring to trying to understand infants and small children.  This is more credible, of course, as small children do have a greater capacity to understand language, but they do not understand high-minded, philosophical concepts such as morality.  Some psychologists have stated that young minds don’t have a complete grasp of the ramifications of their actions until they’re about eighteen years old, but we’ve told them and told them, and they still don’t grasp it.  This is due to the fact that their brains are not complex enough to understand these concepts.  As hard as it is for some of us to grasp the complex concept that animals and children don’t understand complex concepts, it actually says more about us that we think that they do than it does whether they do or not.  The question I have is am I onto something here, or do entertainment honchos know that we simply regard this all as entertainment and nothing more?

4) Misunderstood. “Everything great in the world comes from Neurotics. They alone have founded our religion and composed our masterpieces.” –Marcel Proust

I feel that I’m not understood, and I don’t understand that. I speak so clearly that a monkey should be able to understand me, but the humans around me listen to me with their own agenda so often that they do not take the time to understand mine.  Or am I a blowhard that is so ignorant of the various agendas around me that if I took a little time to understand them, they would take the time to understand me?

5) The Dark Days. “Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” –Marcel Proust

There are dark days that overwhelm me. Nothing I think, or write, can overshadow these days. These are the ‘all hope is lost’ days when I am so depressed about what is going on in the world philosophically, that I can think of nothing that will supersede it. These are the days when I realize that the world holds views so different than mine that it feels pointless to continue pounding my keyboard.  No one is listening.  No one is watching. No one is reading.  No one knows what’s going on. They all think in terms of their insular world, and they can’t see the greater whole. I look back on all the days I spent screaming from rooftops, and I realize I may have just as well have been shouting into a well. It all seems so pointless on these days that I can think of nothing funny, interesting, or enlightening to say or write. I just want to sit and sulk over the proceedings and realize that I have as little power as anyone else does to affect change. All hope is lost. It’s pointless. I don’t think I’m as important as everyone else thinks they are, so I end up cloistered by my own opinion and therefore invalid in the grand scheme of things.

6) Bring the Magic.  “Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.” –Marcel Proust.

Is it possible for a painting to affect our feelings of relevance?  What about music, have you ever listened to a song and felt alone?  Have you ever been scared by a series of words in a book?  It’s the only form of magic I believe in.  Some of the times, we bring the magic to a piece, some of the times the piece brings magic to us, and some of the times we invent magic that isn’t otherwise there.

I sat in a theater once, one among many, and I horrified myself.  The setting of the movie was one I knew, the characters were familiar to me, and I knew the plot from my own imagination. Goosebumps riddled my skin, my eyes were popped wide, and I wanted this movie to end well.  This is unusual for me, because I normally loathe happy endings.  I see them as unrealistic, cliché, and anti-climactic. When I’m truly horrified, however, I want peace in the valley.

I have a friend who never brings the magic.  The onus is on the artist to bring him enjoyment.  He doesn’t understand magic.

There have also been magicians that stole my magic.  These artists insist on telling me that my artistic interpretation was nowhere near what they had in mind.  How dare they steal my magic?  These magicians have reached a place in their career where they are so accustomed to people enjoying their work that they take it for granted, and they want to define it for us, so that their work properly represents their worldview.  They don’t belong in a world of magic.

It is possible, however, to bring too much magic. Yoko Ono created a work (that’s all I will call it) that was done on a large, white canvas.  It was what she called a ceiling painting.  The canvas was glaringly white and glaringly blank, except for one little word “Yes” painted up in the corner.  The canvas was so large, and the word “Yes” so small that the observer needed a ladder to get to it, and a magnifying glass to see it.  John Lennon later claimed this was one of the reasons he fell in love with Yoko Ono. He claimed that after seeing the piece, he had to know the author of the piece, and he had to meet her to see if she followed his ethic in life.  He wanted to find that one “Yes” person in a glaringly blank world of no.

If you don’t “get” a work of art like this, there’s something wrong with you.  You’re in the world of no, and you’re close-minded to the world of yes.  You’re not smart enough, artistic enough, or hip enough to interpret the insular world of yes.  If you look at this piece as a huge waste of canvas, that’s on you brotha.  You don’t understand the psychological power or the sociological ramification of the grand minimalist approach in such a statement.  Most of us know that art is a term that can be loosely applied to a number of works, but we all have limits.  We all want artists to perform individual interpretations of the world, but we also think that there should be some sweat involved.  Writing a word on a canvas in this manner could be called juvenile, posh and elitist, and something an insecure, high-minded, high-browed college art student would do to complete an assignment by the deadline.  A really devious college student could then add in all the interpretations later, and slip his buddy a high five when the teacher fell for it.  For this to be considered a seminal work by a seminal artist, on the other hand defies credulity, but as they say beauty, like art, is in the eyes of the beholder.

“It was beautiful,” Lennon said of the work.  He got it.   You didn’t, and we all know a number of people who get a lot of mileage out of that mindset.  His interpretation was egotistical and insular.  It could be said that that is what artistic interpretation is, but some of the times we bring too much magic to our interpretation.  Some of the times we bring more than the pieces actually contain.

7) God and Philosophy. I believe in God, and I am sympathetic to those who want to worship Him in a relative manner, but God should have little place in philosophy. Philosophy is the study of the human mind. Philosophers take their observations, and knowledge, of man and spread it out to the masses. They help us understand who we are and why we do the things we do, and in their interpretations of man are many answers to the problems we face if we understand how the human mind works a little better. To say that we should turn to God for all that ails us is, to my mind, a violation of the “God helps those who help themselves” principle. A philosopher should be forced, in his study of general and fundamental problems, to locate an answer that is entirely secular. Everyone has a relative understanding of God, and I understand their need to seek his guidance in matters great and small, but to my mind God placed us on this Earth to fend for ourselves, and our greatest philosophical minds shouldn’t rely on God to provide the answers to human frailty any more than we should.

8) Bullying and inner-strength. “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” –Marcel Proust.

Have you ever met a guy who was never bullied? They’re out there, and they’re usually soft. They have no precedent in their lives. When someone lays into them, they can’t look back at the high school bully and say this particular person laying into them now is not as bad as that bully. They can’t recall a day when they had to fight their way out of a particular corner. They have no mechanism with which to continue the fight of their lives for the rest of their lives. They never had to face the reality that they’re alone in a fight, and they never had to deal with the fact that if they didn’t do something the endless abuse would continue. Your parents can advise you, and in some ill-advised circumstances they can step in and assist you in this fight.  Most friends will abandon you on these occasions.  They may put forth a “Leave the guy alone,” but that usually leads to you having a weaker perception of yourself and increased bullying.  Most friends won’t want to implicated with the names you’re being called, or the degradation that you’re suffering.  They’ll usually take their seat with the rest of the spectators and enjoy the show.  It’s not that they’re evil or negligent in their duties as a friend.  It’s just that they’re insecure individuals who don’t want any part of your pain.  They probably have enough of their own to deal with, and this is especially the case in high school where insecurities are rampant.  When you’re bullied, and I’m not talking about the occasional pot shots that are delivered on a daily basis, but really bullied to the point where you don’t want to go to school the next day, you’re on your own.  You’re on an island with nothing but your own devices.  As Proust says, no one can truly spare you the humiliation of these fights, but you will be wiser, stronger, and mightier for having successfully fought them alone.

9) Argument for pot legalization.  If you bring up the fiscal problems experienced in California and elsewhere, you’re sure to hear a myriad of creative solutions.  One of the most popular out there right now is the legalization of marijuana.  “If we legalized it, and taxed it, the revenue we receive could balance a budget.”  It is possible.  I’m not saying it’s not, but my question is how long would it take to accomplish this goal?  How many balanced budgets would be achieved before the representatives began reallocating that money?  All of these creative measures are band aids to the true problem: spending.  It’s our fault.  We voted these guys in.  They appealed to us by promising record levels of spending, and we continue to require that they spend more.  Bottom line: All of these creative measures may bring more revenue to the government, but if these government representatives received increased revenue, they would simply spend more.  There seems to be no end in sight to this cycle for the moment.  We need a catastrophe.  Legislators don’t usually change their ways without a catastropohe that touches the lives of enough voters to make a difference in how its broadcast to the world.  Even then, they usually find their favorite band aid that allows them to keep doing what they want to do.  We’re in whatever situation we’re in, because it favors those who put us there.

10) Purchasing an identity.  We have too much time on our hands. We have too much disposable income. We have no disasters to worry about. We are so bored. We need a trinket that is backed by a successful marketing campaign to complete us. It’s a nothing nothing, but it’s something we need.  We need something to have, but what do we have to have?  We don’t know.  We’re told in some creative manner that affects what we think of our completion what we have to have, and we fall for it, because  we’re impulsive. We’re bored. We’re insecure.  We’re searching for something to complete us. This one product could make life so much easier. We could be one of the crowd and better than the Johnstons, but at least we’d have something to talking about. We like to talk about the products we purchase and how our products are better than yours.  It shows we know a little something something about the nothing nothing products we purchase. We’re finally complete, until the product runs its course and loses all tangible value to us, and it is a staple in the corner of our storage closet with all the other products that used to do something for us, until they grow so abundant that we need to buy a storage unit to house all of the products that used to complete us.  We can’t throw those products away, because we may fall back a stage if we do.

11) Our interest in the joneses.  We’re disinterested in most people.  We claim to be interested in them.  We detail for others who know them what we know.  Then when we have that narrative validated, we move on.  A friend of mine, we’ll call her Renee, wants to keep up on a girl we’ll call Shelly.  Renee details all that she knows of Shelley’s life.  Then she says: “Is that where she’s at right now at this point in her life?”  Another responds that that is correct.  The thing is if Shelley was at the reunion that just ended, Renee would have virtually no interest in speaking with Shelley.  We all have these little gatherings to help us keep up on each other’s lives, but we’re all usually interested only in those things that have occurred with us and those in our inner circle.  We constantly evaluate those of us around us to determine if there is something interesting in their lives, and we usually determine that there isn’t.  We usually live most of our lives in varying degrees of disinterest to the lives around us.