Monday, 31 March 2008

Two worlds inside our brains - Two interconnected hemispheres

What happens inside our brains is the most fascinating mystery of the universe. 

If in doubt about your cerebral capacity, think about the following facts about the human brain.

  • The human brain is said to have 100 billion neurons, like the number of stars in our galaxy. There is indeed a principle in alchemy - as within, so without.

We know that the human brain has two interconnected hemispheres though we are not usually aware of their differences in functioning. The hemispheres communicate with each other through a thick band of 200-250 million nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. 

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It seems that each hemisphere of the brain is dominant for specific behaviours:

  • the right brain is dominant for spatial abilities, face recognition, visual imagery and music 
  • the left brain may be more dominant for calculations, math and logical abilities. 
These are generalisations and in healthy people, the two hemispheres work together and share information through the corpus callosum. Much of what we know about the right and left hemispheres comes from studies of people who have had the corpus callosum split or suffered other injuries affecting brain structures or specific areas of the brain.

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Insider Description of a Stroke Impairing Brain Functions

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor tells from personal experience the different roles each brain hemisphere play and what happens when a stroke begins to shut down brain functions.

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During a massive stroke she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding - she studied and remembered every moment and describes it here. This is a fascinating description of experiencing a stroke, shared by a highly trained and experienced neuroanatomist.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

We live in two worlds: an outer world of things and a rich inner world

We live in two worlds! Now, this may seem very strange but we do live in two distinct worlds. 

The first is a world of things, events and other people.

Then we also live in an inner world of thoughts, impressions and reactions to outer stimuli.

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These two worlds are very different. The outer world contains all that is needed to create experience for us except one thing we all desperately seek - happiness.

Is it True that Greater Happiness Can be Found in the Inner World?

The problem with satisfaction and 'happiness' in the outer sphere of activity is that it is conditional. When the conditions change, dissatisfaction enters.

Greater happiness can be found only in the inner world. Everything that we can find in the outer world can bring satisfaction, pride, joy but all these may turn stale and seem transitory. Thus we can observe two important things about life.
  • There are people who have much in the outer world yet are not happy. 
  • There are people who need very little on the outside to find happiness in the inner world. 
But it doesn't follow that if you have little possessions, you'll automatically be happier. Studying happy people would reveal the success formula to be rather a state of mind, which is a function of the inner world.

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Trying to satisfy the hunger within by getting more and more is an endless process. The thirst is never quenched.

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So, how does one achieve tranquility, gratefulness and true contentment while being truly what we are, without deadening our senses and desensitising our feelings. Yes, it is possible.

Achieving this is the art of living - so simple essentially yet so difficult. It is a matter of spirit. 

The first picture is from a shop window in Munich, Germany. I spent a lovely Easter there with friends.

PERMA = Positive Psychology Approach to Happiness

Martin Seligman, the famous American psychologist (his concept of learned helplessness is very much utilised by scientific and clinical psychologists) has suggested 5 items that seem to bring happiness more often than not:

  1. Pleasure (sensory pleasure e.g. warm baths and tasty foods)
  2. Engagement (the mysterious state called flow when we are absorbed yet challenged in doing something)
  3. Relationships (human relationships are a good indicator of life satisfaction)
  4. Meaning (belonging to something larger than self or a quest)
  5. Accomplishments (realising tangible goals)

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Here, the yardstick is not how much money you have, or the size of your car or the value of your house or how impressive the job title sounds.

The five items are very much about achieving a significant balance between inner world and outer world matters. It does not mean that the quantity the items bring more pleasure, but the individual experience of them. So, one slice of pizza can bring more happiness than six whole pizzas, in the right circumstances.

The clue is that it is not other people who dictate the criteria, but the criteria comes from within us.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

War as means of peace is total failure!

Technology advances protect only soldiers and not civilians. 

The percentage of civilians killed: 

  • in WWI was 5% of total casualties. 
  • In WWII it was 65%. 

In Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties increased to 90% of all casualties (from Lancet estimate to Iraq Body Count). Advancements in military technology only save the lives of high-tech army soldiers, rather than civilians. 

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Should soldiers from high-tech armies be killed more efficiently?  

No. Talk to the families and loved ones of killed soldiers and civilians rather than politicians and you will know why not. 

Of course, there are always people using their voting rights to use devastating force on some other people living far away in Congo, Cambodia or Syria. But they never think how much it really hurts and how utterly useless such violence is.

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Mainstream media all over the world hardly criticises the efficacy of war as a means of achieving peace as politicians starting wars claim. 

Even in functioning democracies, which are proud of their 'freedom of speech' or 'way of life' people take it for granted that war conducted by their governments are justified. Hardly anyone flinches at news items like: 

'35 terrorists killed' or 'NATO soldiers kill 45 extremists' or
 "Car bomb kills 35 in Pakistan"
Like sheep, we buy the justifications given by our governments. It is comfortable for us to assume, against all historical data that governments do lie, corrupt the public trust and serve special interest groups in differing degrees in every human society. 

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Wars or armed conflict going on in different places around the world currently. 

Isn't it time we considered if using war to achieve peace ever worked?

Have wars ever brought peace

If the wars going on today would all end mysteriously, would the dark entities and the angels of death gather to put pressure to start a new war, let's say in Venezuela or Syria? 

Yes, says world history. 

Here is an article exploring this issue and alternatives to using war to achieve peace.

Global Military Expenditure is Increasing Alarmingly Fast

Global military expenditure stands at over $1.7 trillion in annual expenditure at current prices, and has been rising in recent years at about 1.3% per year. Roughly military spending is about 2.6% of the world's GDP (gross domestic product) or about  $236 per person.

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Eliminating the enemy never created peace. There are other alternatives to using war for peace. 

Peace is the way, not the end.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

People from different cultures use their brains differently.

People from different cultures use their brains differently.

We've heard this often, but now there's scientific proof.

People from East Asian Cultures use their Brain Differently from People in American Culture

According to the latest results from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, people from East Asian cultures use their brains differently from people immersed in American culture when solving the same visual mental tasks. 

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Does this mean that some cultures are brainier than others? 

This had been the central argument of colonialism, where the Victorian men were portrayed as the epitome of civilisation and others struggling to remain just over the simian border. 

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Some people would revel at any opportunity to prove that they are better than others and use this to justify their claims, no doubt! 

Different usage of brain and thinking patterns results from needs to adapt to different circumstances and environment and the challenges faced. There is no way of measuring inherent superiority or inferiority because how are we to construct a scale for such measurements. Should it be task based, used moral judgements or measure behaviours under monitored circumstances?

Research Evidence of Thinking Patterns Changing with Environment

Social psychology also provides strong evidence that one’s thinking patterns change depending on one’s experiences and environment. Western philosophers and psychologists usually take it for granted that the same basic processes underlie all human thought. 

Though cultural differences might dictate what people think about, the strategies and processes of thought, which include logical reasoning and a desire to understand situations and events in sequential terms of cause and effect, were assumed to be the same for all humans. 

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Research by social psychologists like Dr Richard Nisbett shows that people who grow up in different cultures actually think differently. The environment and culture in which you were raised affects and even makes many of your thought processes different from others. 

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So, we should have more understanding and not jump to conclusions too hastily.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Primal Entry - What is worse: Never to have loved or never been loved?

In the Beginning 
the word!

Almost all creation myths begin so.

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We cannot know if the word in the beginning was time or space or was it a code or command.

Inchoate, coming from the beyond where words and thoughts do not reach, it became creation.

So is it with the genesis of this blog. But, this blog should now have an identity.

This blog questions.  
You will find social, cultural, political, business, management themes, cross-cultural topics here.
The first question that this blog poses is:

What is worse: Never to have loved or been loved?

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