Showing posts from 2014


“Positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.” Montaigne believed that meditation is the finest exercise of one’s mind and David Lynch uses it as an anchor of his creative integrity. Over the centuries, the ancient Eastern practice has had a variety of exports and permutations in the West, but at no point has it been more vital to our sanity and psychoemotional survival than amidst our current epidemic of hurrying and cult of productivity. It is remarkable how much we, as a culture, invest in the fitness of the body and how little, by and large, in the fitness of the spirit and the psyche — which is essentially what meditation provides. Embracing the contents of consciousness in any moment is a very powerful way of training yourself to respond differently to adversity. However, it is important to distinguish between accepting unpleasant sensations and emotions as a strategy — while covert…


Christians all believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God who redeemed our sins, died on the cross and was resurrected on the 3rd day. But then you've got the Catholics, the Protestants, the Anglicans, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Presbytarians, the Methodists, the Non-Conformists, the Mormons, the Evangelists, the 7th Day Adventists, the Plymouth Brethren and many more.

They each believe that their's is the true faith.

In psychotherapy it started with Freud, then Jung, who both believed in the unconscious and the meaning of dreams, but they parted ways. Later came the Kleinians, the Adlerians, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, the Lacanians, Gestalt, Person Centred Therapy, Humanists, Existential Psychotherapy, CBT,  and many more.

 And guess what? They all think that their's is the true way.

Me? I'm an atheist, a Darwinian, a believer in science, rationalism and empiricism. The only god is Mr. Random Chaos. The meaning of life is sex and death. The best we can …


Sexism is innate and will never go away. It is part of our evolutionary drive, our basic instincts, present worldwide in 
every culture. Basically we are still apes with a gloss of civilisation going back only a few thousand years. As a society we must learn to curb our appetites and in the western world we just about manage it, with more progress on the way. Embrace the pain, this is how it is. The rest of the world has some massive catching up to do. Page 3 tits don't offend me. FGM, honour killings, forced marriages, rape, abortions and killings of female babies, sex trafficking, no education for girls do offend me and should be the real concerns for feminism.


The meaning of human existence in five lines. Given my soft spot for big thinkers’ answers to young people’s questions about life, I was thrilled when reader Dave Anderson shared the story of his mother’s exchange with none other than Albert Einstein. When Marion Block Anderson, an altogether exceptional woman, was a freshman at Oberlin College in 1951, she reached out to “the quintessential modern genius” and asked him, “Why are we alive?” She later told Dave about the impetus for her letter: We were having one war after another — first we had the First World War, then we had the Second World War and I just couldn’t see any point to the whole thing. So I wrote him a letter and I said, “What’s the point of living with what we’re going through here — having one war after another?” Lo and behold, Einstein wrote back. While short, his letter extends with exquisite precision both the answer to the question about the meaning of lifeand his views on religion: Einstein, in fact, had the admir…


In ordinary usage the word “meaning” implies intention, intention implies design, and design implies a designer. Any entity, any process, or definition of any word itself is put into play as a result of an intended consequence in the mind of the designer. This is the heart of the philosophical worldview of organized religions, and in particular their creation stories. Humanity, it assumes, exists for a purpose. Individuals have a purpose in being on Earth. Both humanity and individuals have meaning. There is a second, broader way the word “meaning” is used and a very different worldview implied. It is that the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer, are the source of meaning. There is no advance design, but instead overlapping networks of physical cause and effect. The unfolding of history is obedient only to the general laws of the Universe. Each event is random yet alters the probability of later events. During organic evolution, for example, the origin of one adapt…


Nietzsche also believed that hardship and joy operated in a kind of osmotic relationship — diminishing one would diminish the other — or, as Anaïs Nin memorably put it, “great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.” In The Gay Science (public library), his treatise on poetry where his famous “God is dead” proclamation was coined, he wrote: What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one mustalso have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”? [...] You have the choice: either as little displeasure as possible, painlessness in brief … or as much displeasure as possible as the price for the growth of an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys that have rarely been relished yet? If you decide for the former and desire to diminish and lower the…


The Hand Through the Fence: Pablo Neruda on What a Childhood Encounter Taught Him About Writing and Why We Make ArtSince our cave-dwelling days, the question of why we make art and why we enjoy it has haunted us as a perennial specter of the human experience. For Leo Tolstoy, it was about the transference of "emotional infectiousness"; for Jeanette Winterson, about "active surrender"; for Oscar Wilde, aboutcultivating a "temperament of receptivity." That question is what beloved Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda answers with unparalleled elegance in a short essay from the early 1950s titled "Childhood and Poetry," found in the altogether enchanting collection Neruda and Vallejo (public library). Neruda relays an anecdote from his childhood that profoundly influenced not only his poetry but also his understanding of art and of life itself: One time, investigating in the backyard of our house in Temuco the tiny objects and minuscule bein…


“Boredom … protects the individual, makes tolerable for him the impossible experience of waiting for something without knowing what it could be.” When was the last time you were bored — truly bored — and didn’t instantly spring to fill your psychic emptiness by checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram? The last time you stood in line at the store or the boarding gate or the theater and didn’t reach for your smartphone seeking deliverance from the dreary prospect of forced idleness? A century and a half ago, Kierkegaard argued that this impulse to escape the present by keeping ourselves busy is our greatest source of unhappiness. A century later, Susan Sontag wrote in her diary about the creative purpose of boredom. And yet ours is a culture that equates boredom with the opposite of creativity and goes to great lengths to offer us escape routes. Children have a way of asking deceptively simple yet existentially profound questions. Among them, argues the celebrated British psychoanalyti…


I started a death group, facilitated by a very experienced colleague. The group is for over 60s who are ready to face what lies ahead. As a society we don't really talk about death and dying, we seem to be in denial. And yet it's the one final inevitable experience that we all going to share. It will also be a lonely experience, even if we are well supported. Our own death is ours alone.
Many of us have lost parents and contemporaries, suddenly or through long illness. It never gets any easier and we are shocked, even when it is expected. Most of us lead a privileged life in relatively good health. Modern medicine can work miracles and we are arrogant, we expect it to. But we can't fix death, so let's prepare for it, let's take responsibility, put our affairs in reasonable order, write wills and lasting power of attorney documents. Let's meet up with the people we love and care about before they disappear. Let's talk about our fears and feelings, our hopes…

FROM THE '60s to 60s

The story of sex from the ‘60s to the 60s
Published in "The New Millenium Tales"

In the early ‘60s there was a wonderful enlightened gynaecologist who ran an NHS birth coontrol clinic in the East End. Her private practice was in her beautiful Nash Terrace house in Regent’s Park. She was a feminist ahead of her time. This was before the Pill and access to condoms, unthinkable for girls, was furtive and embarrassing for boys, who could not be relied on. She provided sex education, a painless physical examination, the fitting of a diaphragm and the admonition that it should be used every single time one had sex, no matter what the time of the month. She saved countless girls from unwanted pregnancy and instilled sexual confidence and self-esteem.
On the other side of the Park, a posh Harley Street gynaecologist, FRCS no less, with a discreet nursing home in the suburbs, was plying his highly lucrative trade as an expert abortionist, sign here, no questions asked, cash please. A lot…


So I don’t look it and in my head I am half that age. But I feel it in my body, so I’m trying to “Mind the gap”.
Somehow I never thought I’d get this far. When I look back it’s too scary and when I look ahead it’s too scary. So it’s carpe diem, enjoy the now.
After 30 years of practice I am still not convinced that therapy works. The pills work better. If Freud knew what we know today he’d be into neuroscience and what goes on physically in the brain. He was after all a man of science. He would be thrilled with the work of Masters and Johnson who located the source of the female orgasm well and truly in the clitoris. No more penis envy.
If I were doing one of those silly FB quizzes, here are some answers:
If I were a river I’d be the Mississippi
If I were a character in Russian literature I used to be Natasha in “War and Peace” but now I’m Masha in “the Three Sisters”
If I were a song I used to be Martha and the Vandellas “Dancing in the Streets” but now I am Bob Dylan’s “Just like a Woman”


This week's poem is by Alice Walker (African American, born 1944) EXPECT NOTHING
Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.


To decide whether life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy,"Albert Camus wrote in his 119-page philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus in 1942. "Everything else … is child’s play; we must first of all answer the question." One of the most famous opening lines of the twentieth century captures one of humanity's most enduring philosophical challenged – the impulse at the heart ofSeneca's meditations on life and Montaigne's timeless essays and Maya Angelou's reflections, and a wealth of human inquiry in between. But Camus, the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature after Rudyard Kipling, addressed it with unparalleled courage of conviction and insight into the irreconcilable longings of the human spirit. In the beautifully titled and beautifully written A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning (public library), historian Robert Zaretsky considers Camus's lifelong quest to shed light…