In a world full of bad news, I was delighted to find this uplifting interview with Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica.  This is an attempt to re-blog from  I hope it works.

People who like money too much ought to be kicked out of politics, Uruguayan President José Mujica told CNN en Español in an interview posted online Wednesday. “We invented this thing called representative democracy, where we say the majority is who decides,” Mujica said in the interview. “So it seems to me that we [heads […]

via ‘World’s Poorest President’ Explains Why We Should Kick Rich People Out Of Politics —


Who’s Crazy Now?



“The Scream,” Edvard Munch


The following story has been rejected by both Analog and Asimov’s science fiction and fantasy magazines, so I’ve reverted to my most reliable publisher, myself, to give a wider audience a chance to reject it, too.  I think it’s amusing and somewhat reflective of my philosophy of life, such as it is.  If there is a target of the satire, it would be The System as it exists today, one that creates mental illness by feeding it through an interconnected web of perverse incentives.



I am a visitor from a different future.  They label me schizophrenic, not the paranoid type.  My official diagnosis in 21st century mythology, is “disorganized schizophrenia.”  In the past, this form was known as “hebephrenic,” from the Greek, meaning “youthful mind.”  In real life, it means I laugh a lot, for no apparent reason.

I have been hospitalized, this time, because I went to the emergency room on a cold rainy night and told them I wanted to kill myself.  Everyone in the ER knows me.  They ask my name anyway.  This time I say “Gunga Din.”

They write “Charlie Appleton” on their clipboards.  If they already know, why do they ask?  I play along.  I practice my postures in the hall. The ballerina pose.  The dog pose.  The boxer pose.  It makes them smile.  I talk back to my voices and laugh at their jokes.

When I laugh too loudly, they usually give me a shot of haloperidol, an anti-psychotic.  This makes my body slow but my feet restless, so I dance to music played by my friends in our shared future, music only I can hear.

If I’m lucky, they give me another shot, this time of lorazepam, a benzodiazepine and addictive relaxant, but on days Nurse Bully Bozo (not his real name) works, he substitutes diphenhydramine, a sinus and allergy medicine, for the lorazepam.  He gives himself the feel-good shot in the medical supply room.

I know this because I see it in his aura.  Where I come from, we all read auras, only we call these “energy fields.”  They are as visible to everyone as the clothes they wear. It’s impossible to keep a secret, so no one tries.  We could see through clothes, too, if we wanted, but nobody bothers. The clothes are more attractive than the flesh.

I’ve attempted to explain all this to the hospital staff, but there are no words in any Earth speech to describe unimaginable concepts, like alternate futures.  They write on their clipboards that I’m “delusional.”  It helps them sleep better at night.

When I threatened to tell Nurse Bully Bozo’s supervisor that he was giving himself the feel-good stuff, he hit me, then told everyone I’d run into a door.  I tried to tell them the gash on my temple came from his ring, but no one believed me. He has an evil-looking ring with spikes on it, but he hid it after the incident.  When I started screaming that the ring was in his pocket, they strapped me to a table for a full day to keep me safe.

I’ve quit telling people I see their secrets.  I merely laugh when the psychiatrist’s deceased mother carps at him during his interviews with me.  She is too, too funny.  She wanted him to be a surgeon, instead of a psychiatrist. She nags him and gives him no peace. “Psychiatrists aren’t real doctors,” she says.  “I knew you would never amount to anything.  Just like your good-for-nothing father.”

I almost feel sorry for him, having a mother like that.  No wonder he became a psychiatrist.  The more she harasses him, the angrier he gets.  His face gets red, his jaw sets, his knuckles holding his pen turn white, and his hand begins to quiver.  I know he can hear her, but he pretends otherwise.  I’m supposed to be the crazy one, in this past Earth I’m visiting.

“Where did I go wrong?” Dr. Gunn’s mama moans, winking at me.  I try hard not to laugh–he thinks I’m laughing at him and ups the dose of my medications.

“Do you still feel like killing yourself?” he asks.

“I’m already dead,” I reply, and laugh again.  Now his deceased father has joined his mother in his energy field, and they are arguing.  They are blaming each other for the fact that their son is a loser.  “He wouldn’t be an alcoholic if you weren’t,” his mother says.

“He might have a family by now if you hadn’t soured him on women.”

They are bickering so much that I have a hard time hearing his next question.

“Do you hear voices?”  Dr. Gunn asks.

“Everyone hears voices,” I say.  “Voices, choices, they make noises,” I chant, trying to drown out Dr. Gunn’s parents.  “I hear your voice right now.”  I dare not tell him what else I’m hearing.  His mother is mad with him because he blew his inheritance on a floozy, who ran off with his best friend.  His father holds a grudge for the time Dr. Gunn had him arrested for slugging his mother.

I hate seeing secrets nobody else sees.  If they only knew what a burden it is, to carry all that baggage.  At least Dr. Gunn is trying.  He understands how widespread these secrets are.  He knows his upbringing was pretty normal, in this past Earth’s time.

“Please, stop,” I tell his parents.  I cover my ears.  Dr. Gunn thinks these are my voices.  He’s so used to hearing his parents bicker that he doesn’t even notice anymore.  It runs in the background, like machine noise, but it drives him to drink after work.

“Stop what?” the doctor asks me.

I try to distract Dr. Gunn from his parents’ argument.  When he’s angry or hung over, he takes it out on me, the staff, and whoever is closest.  At the moment, I’m the closest, and I’ve already had enough feel-bad drugs to knock me bonkers.

“Stop de wop de boppedy bop,” I say, getting up, twirling and chanting.  Dr. Gunn’s parents stop yelling at each other and watch me.  They start to smile, so I whirl faster, then invite his mother to dance with me.  When I slip up and call her by name, Dr. G freaks out and calls security.  They haul me to a padded cell, my favorite place in the hospital.  They watch through a thick, plexi-glass window as my movements slow, and I fall down.  I drift off into my alternate future, where my friends laugh and applaud.

We gather around the instrument panel that monitors my past Earth body and discuss the effects of feel-bad psych meds on it.  We analyze the past Earth energy field and how it affects the hospital staff.  We pass the Spirits around and congratulate each other on having made the right choice in the Earth-split.

My best buddy, Henry, winces as he scrutinizes the scanning monitor and looks admiringly at me.

“They sure walloped you this time,” Henry says.

“This assignment is harder than you let on,” I reply.  “Those people are crazy.”

“That’s why you’re there.  They are suicidal, determined to annihilate the Earth and everything on it, to prove their prophets right.”

“I know, I know.  I’m supposed to prepare them for the coming Earth-split, when probable futures split off like sparks from a cherry bomb.  Different people ride into different futures, depending on their beliefs.”

“They believe in evil,” says Henry.  “At least some of them do.”

“So do I, after what Nurse Bully Bozo did to me.”

“It didn’t hurt.  You have evolved beyond pain,”

At the moment, Henry is beginning to look like Dr. Gunn, only uglier.  He sees my thought and smiles.

“You don’t feel my pain,” I reply, almost smiling, but not quite.  I have a slight crush on one of the other nurses, Nurse Bleeding Heart (not her real name).  She claims to feel my pain.  Her breasts graze my arm as she changes the bandages on my temple.  The cut, which required three stitches, isn’t healing as quickly as they want.  I gouge at the stitches when I get the chance, claiming they are worms eating through my brain.  No one has noticed I only do that on Nurse Bleeding Heart’s shift.

“I don’t feel your pleasure, either, Lover Boy,” Henry says.  “So quit whining and pass the Spirits.”  I give up the bottle, reluctantly.  It’s a great antidote for the anti-psychotic.  It allows me to communicate with my future home and future friends when I’m operating in the Earth past before the split.

We turn away from the instrument panel and sit down to a lively dinner.  I eat like I’m starving, because I am.  That past Earth food is more poisonous than the drugs, so I’ve been refusing it.  White bread.  Soda pop.  Baloney.  Limp lettuce.  Bottled dressing.  Ugh.  We discuss my work assignment for the next day.  Rather, the others talk while I eat.

In the future Earth I inhabit—when I’m not on assignment to the past—everything is free, and money doesn’t exist.  People work because they like it.  They gravitate to areas of special interest or ability naturally and slip into their niches, like so many jigsaw pieces in a puzzle.  Each is unique but integral to the whole.  There is no competition and no overlap.

My future friends voted unanimously to place me in this assignment.  I was the most evolved, they said.  I was normal enough to pass for crazy.  If I couldn’t bring the alternate future to the past, no one could.  The integrity of the Earth split depended on me.

I look suspiciously at them.  I decide they tricked me, set me up, and are having a whale of a time at my expense.  Henry sees my thought and grins.

“You are the most evolved, you know,” he says now.  “I couldn’t do what you’re doing.”

“I agree.  You’re not smart enough to play dumb.”  I know Henry has doubts about his intelligence, but I’m lonely on this assignment.

“I could use some help,” I say now.  Henry passes the Spirits back to me.  I take the bottle.

“Thanks for the uplifting Spirits,” I say, “but I’m talking about companionship.  When I’m strapped down, or in a strait jacket, I have to do therapy on myself.  ‘It really is them,’ I say.  ‘It really is them.’”

“We know,” Henry replies.  “We hear you.  We’re there for you, just not physically.”

“Don’t I know it.”  By now, the past body is waking up and I know time is short.  I must return soon, lest they decide I’m catatonic and use shock therapy to jolt me into consciousness.

“You nag all day long, all of you at the same time.  It’s enough to drive a past person crazy.  There’s so much static in my brain I’m surprised other people don’t hear it.

“They do hear it, but they pretend not to.  You push the envelope on crazy, so that they feel normal.”

I look skeptical, so Henry continues.  “We’re all very grateful to you, you know.  If you weren’t there then, we wouldn’t be here now.”



Autism and Measles


Folk art, Telluride, Colorado, 2003

I read a little about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the March, 2019 issue of Psychiatric Annals.  The prevalence has risen dramatically in the last decade, now at one in fifty-nine children.  However, it’s not clear how these statistics were obtained.  Broadened diagnostic criteria, diagnosis by hearsay, and other factors may be involved.

Autism used to be lumped with “childhood schizophrenia” but no longer is.  It lacks the hallucinations and delusions of schizophrenia but has features of social withdrawal, repetitive behavior, communication and socialization problems, and resistance to change.  The article had some history about how the diagnosis came to be and the idea that “mother blame” became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.  I thought that wasn’t fair, because if close others contribute to the problem, the whole family dynamic should be considered as well as the larger role of society.

I also wondered about the cultural expectation for children to conform to socialization models dictated by the schools.  Anyone who doesn’t fit the excessively structured militaristic regimentation of grades, classes, sitting at desks, and listening for hours of every day, is considered abnormal, autistic, hyperactive, or given other labels applied to those who fall outside the bell curve.

Schizophrenics I’ve encountered have trouble dealing with society’s hypocrisy, and I wonder if autistic children retreat inward to escape a world that makes no sense.

Meanwhile, I caught part of an interview on NPR about the measles outbreak, which let me know a judge has blocked the Rockland County, New York ban on un-vaccinated children entering public places.  This “public health emergency” consists of hundreds of cases–465 in 19 states as of April 4, says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)–but not one death or any real complications.  The CDC spokesperson on the radio informed us that before the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine was developed, millions of people got measles, and there were hundreds of deaths.  She mentioned complications like meningitis.  Further research revealed the Rockland County outbreak started with a traveler returning from Israel, which is also experiencing a spate of measles. The CDC says outbreaks in the US are primarily among un-vaccinated  people in orthodox Jewish communities.

I was glad that New York state Judge Rolf Thorsen postponed the ban—which I consider a gigantic government power grab to force medical treatment on people—at least until a hearing on April 19.  Even the mentally ill have more rights to refuse medications than parents of children in today’s drug-crazed world.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued “an emergency health order necessary to curtail the large measles outbreak in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community” of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, according to the New York Times. Mayor de Blasio has targeted those living in several zip codes for vaccinations and threatens a $1000 fine for non-compliance. This has generated a heated backlash, in advance of a lawsuit, with an affidavit circulating to the effect that the mandate is in “clear violation of the Nuremburg Code which forbids forcing medical procedures on anyone without their fully informed consent.”

Government officials and the CDC lament the “misinformation” being spread by the anti-vaxers, who are “falsely warning that [vaccines] cause autism and lead to other health problems,” says the New York Times.  Now, “City officials say countering the anti-vaccine movement is a priority.”

The Psychiatric Annals report discounted the link between MMR and ASD in one sentence.  That had been a hypothesis of Bernard Rimland, a psychologist who founded the Autism Society of America in 1965, two years after the MMR vaccine was introduced.  (The CDC says on its website that thimerosal, the mercury-containing agent implicated in the claims of autism, was removed from all childhood vaccinations in 2001, and that the flu vaccine may or may not contain it.)

What they don’t say is that a case of the measles confers lifelong immunity.  Nor do they say that some doctors claim even vaccinated people can be carriers of the disease, or that vaccinations can confuse the body such that it becomes hypersensitive or allergic to a variety of usually innocuous substances.

Why do I care?  My psychiatric confreres are wimps hypnotized by their own propaganda.  Psychiatric Annals laments physician burnout and the loss of doctors from an “economy” that turns on the doctor’s signature.  This can be alleviated, they say, by a CWO, a wellness officer, who monitors physician burnout, and by better access and reduced stigma for seeking mental help.  And we should make electronic medical records more efficient, with doctors involved in design of software.

I wrote all over that article.  As one of the burned out physicians who preferred to retire and maybe starve than be beat to death by a psychotic system, I feel especially qualified to diagnose the health scare/snare racket as “suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, and out of emotional control.”  Doctor burnout is also a public health emergency.  We are losing prescription-writing machines faster than we can replace them, and everyone who has a “right” to health care has to pay through the nose for that right.  If they are broke or broken, Congress and federal/state/local bureaucracy, our “medical providers” of first and last resort, will step in and make sure the approved insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, bureaucracies, lawyers, government lobbyists and contractors, as well as universities, get paid to make sure everyone’s rights are protected from everyone else’s rights.  With Congress and the mayor of New York practicing medicine, who needs doctors?

Addiction to Prediction

When you don’t have a television, friends, or family, you have lots of time to read.  At least I do, and lately, I’ve been reading about science and philosophy.

I’ve been trying to understand from a scientific point of view the apparently universal addiction to predictions.  Albert Einstein believed it is the goal of science to predict, as did Isaac Newton.  They believed the laws of the universe could be apprehended and codified mathematically.  This was the basis of Einstein’s discomfort with quantum physics.  That events could not be definitely predicted–only their relative probabilities–led him to insist the theory was “incomplete.”

It could be said the future is incomplete, too, that science and the future will never be finished.  The ancients (and moderns) have a similar argument about God.  If God is perfect, the mover that doesn’t move, as Aristotle believed, or if God is done, complete, finished, and all life is moving toward that ideal, it does imply an end point.

It intrigues me that science has taken on the soothsayer’s cloak, seemingly without awareness that this is the stuff of superstition and mythology.  What’s this preoccupation with the future?  Is the present not good enough?

Quantum mechanics takes a leap by challenging the assumption of predictability.  It also challenges the mechanistic tradition that ousted God or other life force from the cosmos.  It supports my contention that there is no objective reality standing apart and uninvolved.  The experiment is a creation of the experimenter.

The most significant distinction, here, to me, is that quantum mechanics turns conventional views of science’s predictive aspirations upside down.  The cosmos is unpredictable.  We are floating in an ocean of probabilities punctuated with unlikely events.

We can predict with relative certainty that all our bodies are going to die, but no one can predict how or when.  Those who commit suicide may on some level want to decide the method and timing.  Those who “live dangerously” increase the probability that the how and when will occur dramatically and sooner rather than later.

Psychologically, the admission by scientists and mathematicians that life is unpredictable, that nature, the universe, and even electrons pulsate to their own rhythms–despite the rules mankind wants to impose on them–rattles the cages of the concrete thinkers who believe reality consists of rules.  It’s possible that the theologically inclined and the philosophers are more mentally nimble with respect to probabilities, possibilities, and the unexpected.  The people who believe miracles are possible, that prayer works, that all is not what it seems, might delight in the idea of a probable universe of infinite variability.

It seems science has painted itself into a corner by creating a construct that has little relevance to life.  Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, looks to Francis Bacon–who wanted to compile all human knowledge and saw science as the guiding light of the future–as a kind of messenger.  Durant praises Bacon’s vision but notes Bacon was not familiar with the scientists of his own time, like Kepler and Harvey.  His enthusiasm was ideological, not practical.  But Durant also suggests the idea of world rule by scientists instead of politicians is laudable.  According to me, Durant is idealistic himself.  Scientists in politics become politicians, as indicated by the current controversy over global warming or “climate change.”  According to the media-digested and regurgitated “statistics” or “evidence,” scientists speak with one voice.  Dissenters are ignored, discredited, or otherwise cast into the dustbin of irrational heretics.

My point, which I keep skirting, is that today’s science is not my version of “science,” so maybe I should respect Socrates’ insistence on strict definitions.  In our world, scientists as a group are accorded the awe and respect formerly reserved for gods, but who can define what “science” or “a scientist” is?

The Latin root for “science,” is “sciere,” or “to know,” so it presumes nothing about forecasts.  Aristotle made observations and used inductive reasoning to synthesize what he observed into an organized framework.

My dictionary says science is “knowledge obtained by study and practice.”  It also refers to systematized knowledge and classification.  By that definition, any organized body of knowledge could be a “science.”  The dictionary refers to the “science of boxing.”

Also by that definition, anyone who studies and uses a certain skill or set of skills can call himself a scientist.  The science of carpentry, the science of advertising, and of course, political science.  The “scientific method” need not apply.

My definition starts with the scientific method, which uses deductive reasoning to establish a hypothesis and seek evidence pro and con.  To establish cause and effect in a controlled experiment, the variables must be artificially reduced to one.  There is a “study” group and a “control” group, with the numbers in each group great enough to produce statistically significant differences between the groups, should differences exist.  So “scientific research,” at least in modern terms, only seeks to predict probabilities, like quantum physics does.

I have oft-expressed doubts about whether the scientific method is valid for obtaining knowledge that can be generalized outside the experiment, but this is the method used in medical research, at least.  The idea of causation, the motivation to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and the factors that might affect the outcome are arbitrarily chosen.

Does any effect have a single cause?  Here I have perhaps a broader view than most, yet I’m subject to “because” thinking, myself.  I figure it’s so much a part of traditional Western thought processes that many are not even aware of its subliminal effect on how we structure reality.  As I read the ideas of philosophers through time, I see they, too, sought causes for the effects they observed.  This correlated with beliefs in God, or nature worship, or superstitions and mythology.  The idea of an unseen hand directing the forces of nature and thereby life on earth, reveals the human desire to understand.

Quantum mechanics and the Oriental pattern-based approach to understanding shakes the cause-and-effect pedestal.  It no longer reigns absolute in a world in which correlations are given at least as much intellectual weight as presumed causes.

I wonder about such taken-for-granted notions as the speed of light.  How do they know it travels at 186,000 miles/second?  Who discovered that and how was it proved?  How does anyone know that’s the absolute speed limit of the cosmos?

It’s hard to know where hypothesis or mathematical conjecture ends and proof or answers begin.  So much is assumed to be true, until it no longer is, like the world is flat or evolution is a fact.

Are concepts of space and time even legitimate when considering the scope of the universe?  I wonder if any answer will satisfy the questioners.  Aren’t answers just the flip sides of the next questions, or series of questions?

Another serious limitation of the scientific method, especially as it’s applied to natural phenomena or human activity, is that you can’t know what might have been.  There are no alternative scenarios with which to judge and compare.  This is my dilemma with historical trends and concepts like man-made climate change.

Ex-post facto justification for historical events—like dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan—rely on the propaganda generated by “our side” about what might have happened instead.  “The Japanese would never have capitulated,” or “We saved thousands of American lives” are excuses I’ve heard numerous times.  Fact is, nobody knows what might have happened.  It is not given to us to know the results of unrealized action.

The disconnect between science and life also bugs me.  Thomas Hobbes tried to apply scientific principles to human behavior for a model of government.  I suppose the “behavioral sciences” also strive to fit human behavior into scientific models.  This seems backwards.  The deductive method tries to exclude too much and risks being blind-sided by factors it chooses not to see.

My study of astrology made me wary of predictions long ago.  People want and crave predictions, but “good” or “bad” forecasts both put binders on the future and restrict imagination regarding alternative possibilities.  “Science” might be more useful to humanity by broadcasting its knowledge of the present and leaving predictions to the fortune tellers.

If I Were in Charge . . .

If I were in charge of things, I would have more enemies than Donald Trump.  I would discriminate against everyone equally.  I would start with the budget and eliminate deficit spending.  Last year’s revenues would be this year’s budget limit.  This would infuriate everyone except the unborn children who are expected to pay for ballooning government debt.

Under the premise that government exists to fund itself, the next obvious bugaboo is taxes.  For people to pay taxes, they either have to be bullied or conned into thinking they will get returns on their investment.  This is why there are so many government jobs, government contractors, and government programs.  “Hire the opposition” is an ancient method of reducing competition and getting cooperation.  If you can’t hire the opposition, you can compromise the competition by making laws against them or throwing them in jail.

Of course, jail costs money, but the cost of competition is higher.  If you’re a monopoly, like the US government, you claim a monopoly over all “economic narrows,” such as the money supply, and over the laws, like drug laws, so that you can create bureaucracies to enforce the laws everywhere in the world.  This is why we have wars, which cost unborn children lots of future money.  This is why we have drug cartels, too, that create enormous competition for governments, unless they buy governments and then protect each other.  This is not only about El Chapo, who just got convicted, but about Pfizer, and all the other government-sanctioned drug cartels that trade so profitably on Wall Street.

If I were in charge, then, I would quit funding wars, bring the military home, and re-write their job descriptions to do the jobs we now hire government contractors to do.  That government competes with the private sector for skilled labor is a given.  Releasing government employees from their monopolistic responsibilities would free the government from doing both its job and that of the private sector, too.  This would save unborn taxpayers lots of future money.

If I haven’t been assassinated or impeached by this point, I would issue a currency that would compete with the Federal Reserve Note.  I would allow the new currency to be used in paying taxes.  People could still use their Federal Reserve Notes to pay income and payroll taxes, which are set up to pay the Fed perpetual interest on federal debt.  If the government is no longer borrowing money to support a deficit, the Federal Reserve would become superfluous. It could collect its Federal Reserve Notes in perpetuity and cost the US government nothing.  Since the income tax pays for stupidity, many people may opt out of paying the Fed to finance government insanity.  Not to stigmatize the mentally ill.  Not all insane people are stupid, and not all stupid people are insane, but, like lawyers, there seems to be a disproportionate percentage of both in elected positions.

I would not waste money on border walls or border security.  The way to stem illegal immigration is to give the immigrants no reason cross the border.  If there were no drug laws, there would be no drug cartels, and no need for CIA, DEA, FDA, DOJ, and the international deep state financial system of commodity drug money.  All those escapees from Guatemala and Honduras could return home safely.

If I haven’t alienated everyone by now, I would make payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare optional, both for employees and employers.  This would free up today’s money for today’s needs and asset building.  As things stand, the fiat money we have now represents government debt, so the more you have, the more federal debt you have assumed.

The government knows that the best way to control people is to borrow from them or to lend to them.  If you lend something that is valueless, backed only by the “full faith and credit of the federal government,” you are counting on promises made on behalf of those unborn taxpayers to work for future money to pay a debt on nothing.  Thus all investments, except those with practical value–like a debt-free home you live in–are investments in government debt, so “Rah, rah, America,” if you want your old-age nest egg to survive in the Ponzi financial system that depends on future money to pay for present excesses.  Anyone wonder why the US dollar has lost 97% of its value since the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913?  The “full faith and credit of the United States,” isn’t worth much anymore.

If I were in charge of things, I would acknowledge that government can barely afford to be in the government-over-the people business, much less in the war business, the agriculture business, the health care business, the social-consciousness business or the business business, so I would dismantle all the government “help” and its corresponding regulation and force people to find their own answers to their own problems, without the Nanny State to tell them what to do and how to do it.

If I were in charge, then, I would make life as easy as possible for myself by divesting myself of responsibility for making decisions for everyone else.  By then everyone would probably be an enemy, but who needs friends when you have peace?


Predicting Uncertainty




It’s impossible to know what might have been.  It’s just as impossible to know what lies ahead.  I just finished reading a biography of Albert Einstein (Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson, 2007).  It struck me that Einstein wanted to believe in a universe that could be predicted, if only we knew the hidden laws.  He thus believed in predestination, insisting that “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”  He wanted to believe in strict cause and effect.

In this regard, Einstein ran up against, and spent the latter part of his life, trying to refute the implications of his own 1905 paper on the “photoelectric effect” which won the Nobel Prize in 1922.  He relied on the work of Max Planck, who in 1900 had come up with an equation that described the curve of radiation wavelengths at each temperature.  This required the use of a constant (now called Planck’s constant) that accounted for the sudden shift in wavelengths of light emitted by metal at different temperatures.  Planck believed these “quanta” were not properties of the light itself, but of the interaction between matter and light.  It was Einstein who suggested these “quanta” were properties of the light itself.  Thus he and Planck laid the foundations for quantum mechanics, but neither was comfortable with the fact that their ideas undermined the Newtonian concepts of strict causality and certainty they cherished.

Based on these beginnings, the rising physicists of “quantum mechanics,” like Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, recognizing that light demonstrated the dualistic qualities of particles or waves, refuted age old ideas of an objective reality, existing apart from the observer.  They began to think in terms of probabilities.  Heisenberg developed his “uncertainty principle” in 1927.  This asserted that it is impossible to know the exact position and momentum of a particle, such as an electron, at the same time.  Knowing the precise location precludes certain knowledge of the momentum, and vice versa.

Quantum mechanics expanded the world of physics far beyond Isaac Newton’s absolute, objective universe, based on observable laws. But throughout his life, Albert Einstein resisted the vagueness of non-absolutes, even though he made his own contributions to quantum physics.  Einstein’s stubborn desire for predictability, which is the ostensible goal of science, for some people, could not adapt to the uncertainty of probabilities.  As another early quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, might explain, the wave function of probabilities exists until an actual event is observed, at which point the probability wave collapses and the probability of the event’s occurrence becomes 100%.  Linked with this is the idea that the observer cannot be objective but must be considered a participant in the event.


That the observer necessarily affects the experiment is an integral component of quantum physics, but the principle has more general implications, too.  Books like The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975), or The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Gary Zukav, 1979), describe how modern physics parallels the beliefs of Oriental mystics.  As noted in The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the Chinese term for “physics” is “wu li,” which means “patterns of organic energy.”  This relates to the pervasive quality of “qi,” sometimes described as “life force,” or “vital energy,” which is said to pervade the cosmos, including all matter and non-matter.  The idea of ‘qi” is ignored in Western thinking, as if life exists apart from science or medicine.


Western science presumes to disconnect life from the mechanical universe we imagine, but this is a relatively modern development.  Astronomy grew out of astrology and chemistry grew from alchemy, ancient belief systems that gave life to the heavens and to earthly minerals.  The search for cosmic laws or the language of the gods is as old as man’s awareness of the sun, moon, the planets and constellations, and their mysterious cycles.  All these have been used to make predictions.  The seer, the fortune teller, the prognosticator–these are as powerful as ever.  Modern superstition confers blessings on the predictors of weather, stock market, politics, or football games, as well as on the climate changers and the Apocalyptic soothsayers of the twenty-first century.

From a quantum mechanics point of view, however, it might be said that nothing can be predicted with certainty.  We only can assess probabilities and can’t know all the contingencies that affect events.  There is no objective reality, no ultimate outcome, no absolute end-point.  Time is endless.  There is only process, and no one knows where it will lead.  The possibilities are infinite.


If You’re Crazy, You’re Normal

I read some Psychiatric News.  It is all “Rah, rah, psychiatry,” bragging about the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) affiliations with universities, the government, and even the UN.  Psychiatrists are “reaching out” to hitherto unidentified depressed women in Appalachia by using barely trained high school grads to help bring these women into treatment.  Psychiatry (the APA) is congratulating itself for recognizing the link between poverty, lack of education, and other factors everyone recognizes—as well as stigma—to normalize mental illness by diagnosing everyone.

Meanwhile, I heard a snippet in the car, on NPR, in which they were questioning the belief that genius and insanity go hand in hand.  Their conclusion was you don’t have to be crazy to be smart, but 47% of Americans have some kind of mental disorder at some point in their lives.

It occurs to me the definitions of mental disorders are so vague that no one—even and maybe especially psychiatrists—knows what they are talking about.  For instance, President Trump has been diagnosed by the media and public opinion as a narcissist, but what is a narcissist?  Is that a character definition or merely a trait, present in greater or lesser degree in all of us?

In modern parlance and for insurance purposes, the psychiatric diagnosis has come to define the person, assuming a significance far beyond its intrinsic validity.  Psychiatric diagnosis is no better or worse than any label, but it has the sociological power of judgment pronounced by the priests of the “health care industry,” the scientific voo-doo masters of potions and incantations empowered to deliver—not relief—but diagnosis and treatment.  This promises without promising and hints that failure to feel relief is the fault of the recipient, and by extension, the society that creates poverty and ignorance.

That psychiatry is aligning itself with other institutions, rather than questioning the institutional contributors to poverty and lack of education, seems misguided.

The wave of public consciousness seems to follow the institutional lead, while doubting its sincerity.  Views from outside the mental health professions, on the mental health professions, seem cynical but grudgingly accepting that there may be special knowledge perceived only by a select few.

It appears Freud has been dismissed by the public and by the psychiatric establishment, yet I admire Freud’s insights and how he described tendencies of human nature, such as projection, transference, and their counter-balances, like projective identification and counter-transference. Transitional objects, which today has relevance with regard to medications.  Freud’s stages of psychosexual development have utility, even now, even if they have not been formally incorporated in to the official DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  Masochism and sadism.  Oral and anal fixations.

Psychiatry stands on Freud’s shoulders and kicks at his head.  Where is the interest in dreams?  Carl Jung claimed he split with Freud over the spiritual element in human nature, and more specifically, over psychic phenomena.

I believe that to recognize only material reality as valid is the claim and error of science as we know and understand it.  Still, astrophysics is largely speculative and unprovable, except in indirect or limited sways.  What do particle accelerators show about the nature of the universe?  What relevance does that have to life?