Love is a Dynamo – Part II

Love is like pi natural, irrational, and VERY important.

Lisa Hoffman


Original Caption: A youngster, clutching his soldier father, gazes upward while the latter lifts his wife from the ground to wish her a `Merry Christmas.’ The serviceman is one of those fortunate enough to be able to get home for the holidays.  December 1944

U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: NWDNS-208-AA-2F-20

Persistent URL:

World War, 1939-1945

Interesting Discoveries About the Brain (8)

Sleep and the Brain

When you are alert, your brain generates Beta Waves.  When you are awake and relaxed, these change to Alpha Waves. As you sleep, your brainwaves slow and deepen, becoming Theta and Delta Waves.  Someone in a Delta Wave sleep is extremely difficult to wake up – this is what all of us call, a deep sleep.

Three to five times during the night REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep happens, this is the dreaming stage of your sleep.  These REM stages can last between five and thirty minutes and make up about 25% of a night’s sleep. When you are not dreaming you are in Non Rapid Eye Movement sleep – or NREM.

We need both types of sleep.  Sleep is vital for the well-being of our brains as well as our bodies.

  • Growth hormone in children is secreted during sleep.
  • Chemicals we need for our immune system are also secreted during sleep.
  • Sleep gives the body a chance to repair muscles and other tissues, replace aging or dead cells, etc. (“Beauty Sleep?”)
  • Sleep gives the brain a chance to organize and archive memories. Dreams are thought by some to be part of this process.
  • Rats who normally live for 2-3 years, survive only 5 weeks when deprived of REM sleep.
  • Rats deprived of all sleep last only about 3 weeks.
  • We all know we do badly without sleep – some experts believe that this is because sleep gives neurons a chance to shut down and repair themselves. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity.

John Medina – a developmental molecular biologist says though there are many mysteries about the brain, there also are some ‘brain rules’ he believes we should follow.  These are well established scientific facts about our brains and the things that help it to function. One of these Brain Rules is the importance of sleep.  This is what John Medina says about sleep in his book (and on his web-site) Brain Rules: (1)

Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
– When we’re asleep, the brain is not resting at all. It is almost unbelievably active! It’s possible that the reason we need to sleep is so that we can learn.
– Sleep must be important because we spend 1/3 of our lives doing it! Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
– We still don’t know how much we need! It changes with age, gender, pregnancy, puberty, and so much more.
– Napping is normal. Ever feel tired in the afternoon? That’s because your brain really wants to take a nap. There’s a battle raging in your head between two armies. Each army is made of legions of brain cells and biochemicals –- one desperately trying to keep you awake, the other desperately trying to force you to sleep. Around 3 p.m., 12 hours after the midpoint of your sleep, all your brain wants to do is nap.
– Taking a nap might make you more productive. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent.
– Don’t schedule important meetings at 3 p.m. It just doesn’t make sense.
So, there is no doubt how important sleep is to healthy brain (and mind) functioning.
Here is an interview with John Medina that you might find interesting –

Are Human Rights alright? Part 4

Imagine what might happen if the results of the Human Genome Project really rocked the world.

People would stop each other in the streets.

“Hey, cousin!” they’d exclaim.

“I just found out we’re related! How are you?  Good to meet you! We must get together soon…”

Imagine then, if the realization that we are physiologically part of the same family, prompted us to begin acting like a family?

We’d be a sensible family.  One that knew it had problems but was confident that by working together we’d sort them out.

Problems like the issues surrounding human rights.

Our first step in tackling these problems, might be to make sure everybody feels part of our family. This in itself is a complicated process. We’d already know, from our smaller family units, that true belonging is only possible when both rights and responsibilities are in place.  It’s necessary for everyone in a healthy family to both give and take. This is justice and creates not only basic well-being but dignity and independence.

However, our ‘family’ might pause at this point to examine its conscience, just to make sure that there really is a place for everyone. It’d be in our own interest to do this because, as the African proverb goes,

If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth.

This proverb wasn’t written about the London riots but there’s no denying how well it fits them both literally and metaphorically.

Instinctively we all know that alienation is an extreme of ‘otherness’.  None of us have any loyalty, responsibility or affection for a society – or a family – we feel doesn’t want us. This alienation can sometimes be self-imposed but even so, the ‘family’ needs to be careful that we don’t create structures that perpetuate alienation and disaffection.

OK – so now we have our global family structure. Everyone is welcome and needed – so, what happens next?

Well, obviously, we’re going to ensure that everyone is fed, clothed, housed and safe within our family. Basic life prerequisites.

But this doesn’t mean that some people should do the providing and others should just get to consume the resources – far from it. A good family will always help out in emergencies and will gladly provide for children and anybody vulnerable. But a really good family will also create an environment where everybody can stand on their own feet and live a dignified, productive and independent life.

So, in very simplistic terms, a ‘family’ approach would ensure that everybody had the basics necessary to sustain life and access to the ‘tools’ necessary to allow independence, dignity and the opportunity to contribute to the overall well-being of the family.

How then might our family gathering approach unpleasant issues like the abuse of the ‘rights’ accorded to everyone within our system?

Well, we all know that this behaviour doesn’t have a place in a functional family. Everybody is absolutely expected to respect everybody else and no abuse can be tolerated. We do make mistakes in this regard – even in our smaller families – but overall, guided by the principles of justice – not revenge – our wise family would take whatever steps it needed to take to secure the well-being of the entire family.

And so we might continue, looking at global problems through a lens we understand – the family.

The world is knotted in deep and terrible disorder and no one simple solution is the answer to all of it’s problems. However, sometimes when things are hard to understand and manage it’s helpful to return to first principles.  To things we already know and understand. Like families. We all know about families.

In a family we’d expect love, mutual assistance, support, forbearance and concern with each other’s welfare. This isn’t considered ridiculously idealistic as a goal for a family.

Now that we know that ‘our family’ includes all sorts of people – children who are being sold for sex and slavery, men, women and children struggling and needlessly starving to death, minorities who are persecuted for their ethnicity or beliefs – maybe we won’t only feel concern for them but also responsibility, and a certain entitlement to have a say in their welfare, just as we might with members of our known family?

In the words of Article 28 0f the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

The corollary of that is that all of us also have a responsibility to ensure that this happens.


Photograph – UNICEF – Pakistan, 2010: A boy flies a kite in a camp for people displaced by flooding that began in late July 2010, affecting 18 million people, half of them children.

Regarding reciprocity…

Humanity is a complex, dynamic system of oneness – that’s a fact.  We doesn’t act in a unified way (unfortunately) that’s also a fact but that doesn’t change the reality that the human race is a system of oneness, it just shows we don’t know how to operate the system.

A system of oneness is a system of reciprocity and it’s more than just the simple action of give and take. It’s all about co-creating environments and conditions that work for all involved. There are many examples of reciprocity in nature – examples like the hermit crab and the anemone.

The hermit crab finds its home in vacated shells of whelks or other mollusc.  One species of hermit crab carries a large pink anemone on its shell so that when octopi or fish who like to feed on the hermit crab approach, the anemone shoots out it brilliantly coloured tentacles, and stings the intending predators.  This is a good example of living co-operation as the crab returns the compliment to the anemone, which feeds on the droppings and discarded food of the crab. When the crab needs to move to a larger home, it gently detaches the anemone and takes it along.

In human relations, just as in nature, reciprocity creates an actual environment.  Once this environment is created all manner of new and wonderful things can happen and the co-operation we need to learn in order to survive and prosper will get a real chance to take hold.

Apart from the obvious, the difference between us and hermit crabs with their anemone companions is that we have free will.  We get to decide what to do, and in our efforts to do what is best for ourselves we can think that acting only from self-interest will be the most advantageous.  This isn’t true.  It is now widely believed that our greatest advantage lies not in individualism but in reciprocity and cooperation – and that’s not just because it’s a ‘nicer’ way to be but because it’s a more practically advantageous way to act.

Like the anemones and the crabs we share our planet.  Whether we like it or not we are interconnected.  One family.  One unit.  As well as being undeniably cousins according to our genome, we are all now living in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller.  Like an extended family packed into a small house we need to accept our interconnectedness and work out how to get on with each other.