Life is a difficult place.

For everyone.

It requires deft navigation and some sort of protection .

Mostly we get hurt and as a consequence build defences so high and so strong and so completely that not only do we keep others out, we also keep ourselves in.  Hidden and afraid.  Cut off from real contact outside ourselves, we offer our masked face composed from person-coloured armour to the world.

Is this the price we pay for safety?

Is it too high? 


Chatter in.

Chatter on.

Chafing on my skin and brain and heart.

Not your fault.  Not even my fault.

But true.

Need spiders.

(Mary Jane Kennedy)

Shine On

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.  (Hafíz of Persia)

Who Am I? (And Who Are You?)

Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who has spent his life researching the functioning of the brain.  His research has led him to offer a number of theories on how neurobiology influences our thoughts, decisions, feelings and actions.

His latest work is centred on our sense of self – that inexplicable feeling we all experience of having a distinct self.  Sometimes this self is clouded, sometimes confused but there is always, within every human being, a strong consciousness of self.

Here he speaks about some of his theories surrounding this fascinating subject –

Interesting Discoveries About the Brain (3)

More About Mirror Neurons – Monkey See – Monkey Do 

A mirror neuron is a part of the brain in human beings (and other animals) that fires when we do something and also when we see the same action performed by someone else. Neurons that act in this way have been found in various parts of the brain and are offering explanations for everything from our attraction to watching sports to our empathic reactic to the suffering of others.

This two part video gives a simple but accurate description of the discovery and function of mirror neurons –


Classifying Human Experience


Image by Ateupamateur via Flickr

We have spent centuries perfecting ways to classify and authenticate physical objects and forces. In order to classify a cow (or a human or a rose) we look for the features that both link it to other cows and also the features that distinguish it from other mammals so that we can recognise it uniquely.

We do the same with other physical phenomena such as wind or rain or earthquakes. If the air around you is moving it is some sort of a wind – now whether it’s a balmy breeze or hurricane depends on force and temperature etc but different as these two phenomena are, we can all easily define ‘wind.’

To do this we create a list of criteria (and if it’s a good list it develops and changes along with our developing and changing knowledge) and we use these criteria to help us to authenticate the creature or feature or force of nature. We seem to have developed a different way of categorizing our experiences as human beings in the world.

When it comes to our experiences of life, we tend to learn – in our family or society or both – a template of how we believe these experiences should go rather than how they actually go. These templates don’t appear by magic but are created by us as part of our social reality and in spite of their shortcomings they can be quite useful. The problems arise when we fail to see these templates as a means to understanding and see them as ends in themselves. When that happens we authenticate human experience only if it will fit into our societal template and this is so limiting that problems are inevitable.

Models for Modes

Rather than using rigid templates when categorizing human experience it might be more useful to define some basic criteria which may help to define and describe our experience of being alive. We could, for example, take attributes that we know are constructive and lend themselves to human well-being – e.g. love, trust, cooperation etc – and use these as the criteria for behaviour. If we did this it would allow for a diversity of human experience and action while still upholding healthy and constructive human standards. The use of well thought out criteria to evaluate anything – behaviour, animals, flowers, restaurants – allows for the co-existence of individuality and excellence.

In order to arrive at valid criteria, however, we need to re-examine the nature of human beings, starting with the most fundamental level – human nature.

TomorrowHuman Nature – A Conceptual Framework – I