Tag Archives: history

how the brain works

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The brain is a small but formidable universe within us that controls our physical as well as mental being. In a similar manner of the cosmos constantly moving across the great divine space, the brain fires nerve cells called neurons and wires them together and expands their territories from the physical realms of perception to the world of consciousness, which creates a model of our own reality. The brain is the leviathan enterprise that puts together the pieces of our existence under our constant attentive care of its functional longevity by understanding its fabulous varieties that neither age cannot wither away nor custom can stale away.

7ee906966d71ee3d21013e651439da07Our brains keep learning and adopting throughout our lives by the two neurological processes: Neurogenesis by which the brain creates neurons and neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire the connections between the neurons. These processes continue to change and grow our brains into very old age as scientifically corroborated by the finding of these neurological processes in the brains of 70-year-olds with terminal illness. Also, Albert Einstein whose brain was dissected after his death to unravel the secret of the genius was found to have more interconnections between the neurons in his brain. This is very telling evidence because Einstein was considered “slow” during his high school years. What Einstein made genius was his use of imaginations and reasoning skills that required of him the use of the faculties of the mind to the extent possible by firing and wiring millions of neurons. To further illustrate the wonder works of neurogenesis and neurolplasticity, scientists have found it in the avian world. Unlike other birds, canaries produce new melodies every ear to attract a mate. On examining their brains, scientists discovered that canaries generate each neurons each spring.

The theory of the brain is not as complex as it seems. Simply put, thoughts are like “sparks” rising from a campfire or sunlight’s igniting fire when focused through a magnifying glass. A thought repeated with intense focus becomes concentrated mental power, which becomes a dominant, archetypal energy that authorizes our thoughts and actions. These thoughts in the form of neurons form neural networks, which are like paths through a meadow. What we should do is a change in our brain by rewiring the neural pathways that drive our thought and actions. Einstein, whether or not he knew about neurology, constantly expanded the neural networks by engaging himself in finding a Rosetta Stone for Relativity Theory and other questions of the Universe.

The workings of the brain are in conjunction  with the upkeep of physical exercise, social interactions, and new daily challenges because they are portent stimuli to ignite ongoing mental sparks in the brain. In fact, the ancient Greeks and Romans already knew about the key elements of keeping the body and mind fit with the slogan of “Mans sana in corpore sano” (Sound mind dwells in healthy body.” Father of western narrative history Herodotus noted a holistic connection between diet, drink, exercise and lifespan. Socrates pointed out that many people did not think clearly because their body wasn’t in good health. His pupil and founder of Lyceum Aristotle added that physical exercise was essential for general mental and physical capacity. Then there was famous Roman orator, writer, and statesman Cicero proclaimed that soundness of mind depended on applying one’s energies to something of interest. This relates to the empirical finding of keeping the mind fit and alert in spite of horrible existential situations as evidenced by founder of Logotheraphy Viktor E. Frankl, who endured the horrors of daily life at Auschwitz and other subsequent concentration camps by persistently forcing this thought to turn to drafting his books on the tablet of his mind to publish them after the war. It’s both a priori and a posteriori illustration of how channeling one’s interest to intellectual or creative activities keeps his mental state stable and fit in such a dreadful mire of despondency and atrociousness.

BUJDt1DIAAA7rUXIn light of the above, it is not a hyped fashionably cliched mantra that we are what we think and what we do all the time. Popularity of self-help literature bestriding the bestseller charts has the origin of truth in the workings of the brain in the form of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. For my own brain at the moment of writing this essay is firing and wiring neurons, expanding the neural pathways and the yonder territories of my consciousness. The brain is then also plastic because it is being shaped by everything we do and what we opt not to do. It’s really a self-fulfilling prophecy without recourse to deities or even demons. Consequently, the more actively we use our brain to accomplish new daily challenges by fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks however trifle and insignificant that may seem and learning something creative or intellectually stimulating, the healthier our bodily and mental health becomes. Which is elegantly summed up by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Still achieving, still pursuing… Learning to labor and wait.” For this reason, the brain and the mind are concomitantly intertwined to constitute our wholeness so fascinating, so awesome that even a Psalmist praised God because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Surely, the praise is worth the singing, for our brain and its works are indeed a wonder.

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leonardo’s horse that came alive

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“Il Gran Cavallo” in San Siro, Milan, Italy

It was meant to be the largest horse in the world when the future Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482 to conjure it up from the phantasmal world of the artist with his magic chisels. This fantastical statuesque beast, “Il Gran Cavallo” (aka “Cavallo”) was soon to be cast in bronze, standing 24 feet high as the greatest equestrian statue in the world, following the clay model of the equal height made by Da Vinci. Then war broke out in 1499, ravaging Milan and engulfing the clay horse, leaving Da Vinci alone with the original sketches of Cavallo to go back to the drawing room. Such was Da Vinci’s plan to restore the aborted birth of the magnificent bronze horse before it became indefinitely suspended by his death.

The story of the unfinished Leonardo’s Horse piqued my usual counter-popularity curiosity when I came upon an article in a magazine on the train. Since this year sees the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci, many an article has featured the masterpieces of Da Vinci and the background stories thereof, but to me none other than this story about Da Vinci’s last masterpiece is intriguing and worth the writing. In fact, this “Horse that Never Was” had spanned a phantasmagoria of imaginations throughout the centuries until a certain American art patron named Charles C. Dent intended to make it his lifelong goal to bring the abstract equestrian statue to reality in 1977 when he first learned about Leonardo’s incomplete project about which the National Geography magazine covered. Upon his death in 1994, American sculptor Nina Akamu continued to carry out where her Renaissance predecessor had left off based upon the surviving sketches as a substratum of artistic guidance and completed a bronze sculpture of the horse in 1999, which was dedicated in San Siro in Milan, Italy. The great statue of Cavallo is a sight to behold with poised magnificence: it commands a sense of legitimate attention in a moment of suggestively continuous galloping that looks wholly authentic and real, rendering a majestic impression of dynamic continuity to marching music as pomp and pompous as Radetzky March.

Da Vinci’s creation of the great horse proves to be his last masterpiece that truly links the past with the present and the future by the medium of art. It weaves the subjectivity of time into a grand tapestry of history and betokens cultural achievements as an intelligent collective enterprise. Akamu wonderfully re-created the great horse by internalizing the artistic sense of the Renaissance period by devoting her years of studying Italian Renaissance works of art in Italy as she pursued the highest levels of craftsmanship and professionalism in the field. Also, her love of animals, especially horses, contributed to the anatomical study of and aesthetic perspective on Leonardo’s Horse. Akamu’s recreation of Cavallo manifests beauty that penetrates minds of the beholders and lingers there in solipsistic ecstasy so deep and intimate that it feels almost physical. For our faculty, as it interacts with a plight of fantasy, is rather instinctive than reasoning; rather sensual because it delights in pleasure than because it thrives in disciplines. That is why “Il Gran Cavallo” is a gorgeous piece of art.

for love of a tabby

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Praying cats

As a dog person who always has a soft spot for the man’s best friend, I tend to give a rather stoic glance on a cat that seems so high and aristocratic to reciprocate my regard. Cats are the cool, agile, cynical, and independent lords of the households, the poised and legal Pharisees of the animal kingdom. Yet a comparison of superiority between the canine and the feline is a puerile way to exert one’s favoritism of one species to another, which is reminiscent of eugenic theory of a superior race aggressively peddled by intellectuals in the early 20th century. That said, this note on cats reflects my findings of cats as man’s timeless companions in historical contexts, casting different lights over their stereotypical sinister image that I had about them.

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Mohammad and Muezza

Cats as a symbol of witches betray the fact that a revered religious figure such as Prophet Mohammad was very fond of a cat. So much so that his pet cat named Muezza was treated with the utmost tenderness. It is said that Mohammad used to shiver without his cloak in the cold rather than disturbing sleeping Muezza. Further to the Mohammedan episode of his beloved cat, cats have a sacred pedigree in Christianity as well. It is said that a local tabby, after a fresh wash, instinctively jumped in and laid down next to Baby Jesus. The cat’s warmth and soothing purr, all the more added by a pleasing after-wash scent, were conducive to an undisturbed sleep of the baby. In fact, researchers claim that letting a cat sleep on your bed at night will relieve you of symptoms of insomnia due to its calming purring sound that sends relaxing positive signal waves to your mental as well as physiological wavelength.

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C.S. Lewis and his Cat

C.S. Lewis, Author of the Chronicles of Narnia, also loved cats and had a stray cat he loved tenderly. Every morning he took his hat off when greeting his cat with pleasantly resonant “Good morning.” Moreover, when his veterinarian told Lewis to euthanize the cat due to its senility, the great Lewis refused to do so and nursed the cat for years until it finally met its creator.

Baby-Jesus-and-the-tabby-cat-artCome to think of it, cats have appealed to the fountains of imagination and boundless perception in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the lithe beauty of cats that distinguished itself from other animals. Edgar Allen Poe also saw something magically fascinating in a feline creature as his creative muse in literature. For me cats do not seem to be as cold, arrogant, and coquettish as they used to be. I even say hi to my neighbor’s big beautiful cat in sight, although it sends me a quizzical look as if I were a Prodigal Daughter. But above all, now I think that not only dogs but also cats will go to heaven.

’Henry Viii’s invention of England’ – review

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History is a story of a people who have accumulated their cultural artifacts, political crafts, and societal conventions into a great reservoir of Tradition that becomes the bedrock of a country. Therefore, it is always helpful to understand the origins of political and social systems as well as cultural propensities of a country if you want to pronounce your opinion on the stimulating current affairs of a country without Ignorant Prejudice.

The one such apposite example can be illustrated in the case of Brexit, which is the UK’s withdrawal from the E.U, seemingly unwelcome by people who are involved in international businesses and those who want to work and live in the UK as non-citizens. As an outsider who has never been to the UK, I think it deemed inappropriate to criticize its decision to exit the E.U. for the reason that only the decision makers and the people favoring the Brexit should know better. Nonetheless, one thing is certain that the current Brexit fervor and all its inclusive phenomena are never a new thing.

The proverbial English isolationism or exceptionalism, a quaint sense of Englishness different from its continental counterparts, goes back to King Henry VIII’s break from the Church of Rome in 1532. His unquenchable passion for Anne Boleyn, while still married to Catherine of Aragon, led him to bold separation from the Church of Rome, the Pan-European, supranational ancestor of the EU and the Leviathan of Christendom, which would disallow his divorce from his wife who was an ardent Catholic from ardent Catholic Spain. With an audacious proclamation of being the Head of Church of England, Henry VIII ordered a confiscation of the lands and wherewithal of monasteries and convents all over the Island and banning of professing the papist religion to his subjects from the Duke to the Butcher. Furthermore, the king constructed Royal Navy to remind himself and his subjects that England was Fortress bound by watery demarcation. In this manner, Henry VIII gained the absolute jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical as well as political matters and rejected any foreign authority within England. In fact, the substantial consequence of all of it is the king’s creation of England – not Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) or the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) – as a national and cultural identity, firmly entrenched in religious, political, and cultural sensibilities of the English that we frequently associate.

In view of Henry VIII’s schismatic separation from the Church of Rome, today’s Brexit movement is a historical reprise of the English exceptionalism that has something to do with its geographical characteristic as an island that shaped the particular national character known as “Englishness.” Hence, Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England can be regarded as the forerunner of Brexit today and the invention of the cultural sensibilities encompassing all things English deeply embedded in its national character. With this in mind, we can look at the Brexit phenomenon in a more sensible and balanced perspective and understand that history is not a thing of the past but an ongoing process that moves on within its cultural legacies for centuries.   

 

Author’s note: this is based upon my reading of an article about ”Henry VIII’ s invention of England” from this month’s issue of BBC History. Knowing one’s history can quell blatant antipathy. Hence this essay.

clothes have important offices

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Fashion fades, but style reigns.

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Anne Klein Women’s Dot Print Long Sleeve Blouse

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous,” said Coco Chanel, Godmother of the Mods. Ditto. Hence my choice of this pretty blouse:the sleeves are coquettishly but not provocatively diaphanous with cute stand collars and pretty polka dots adorably decorated on the front and back sides of this tunic-like blouse that gives the illusion of an authentic silk blouse redolent of a muslin black dress I fell in love with from Chanel 2007 Spring Fashion Show because it looked so ethereal, so graceful, and so beautiful even in its simple design bereft of any sparkling ornaments. What’s more, this blouse is very appropriate for work, rendering both professionally sleek and fashionably chic impressions. The loveliest thing about this pretty blouse is the way it hangs on your body when you walk or even stand, especially in breeze: it sways like a willow or a cosmos on a slender reed. This sensible and fashionable blouse will look just beautiful on all women with wings of fairies and aura of mysteriousness in any setting.

Author’s Note: I love this new blouse of mine, so I had to write about it. Vain? Immodest even? Hardly ever so because even someone like Virginia Woolf , who is revered as a forerunner of feminism, admitted thus: ” Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” This betokens Woolf’s indelible trait of femininity in her regard of fashion as wings of social mobility and status in society. So why not making fashion as an expression of myself in the most fabulously fashionable way?
 
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