The Close Connection Between my Colon and my Brain

The connection between the nervous system and the digestive system has always been a mystery. The digestive system came first, and can operate independently.

You can see this at work, using a microscope to focus on an amoeba, an amazing creature, crawling along, finding food, ingesting it, digesting it, and eliminating it. Without any nerve tissue at all.

The molecular level is even more amazing – there is a huge amount of activity being performed by some large molecules, such as proteins and enzymes – and our newest findings – DNA and RNA. All of this in a single cell!

You and I have billions of cells – organized even more amazingly. With a huge brain – really a series of brains – organized to do different things. Using nerves to transmit orders and collect information – input and output – to use computer terms.

When I wake up in the morning – I take a shit. My colon does this automatically, it tells my brain what needs to be done – and my brain follows orders. I’m not telling you anything here.

Then I settle down for the most important part of my day – writing in my blog. If I do some amazing writing (by my standards) – I immediately feel the urge – to shit! Here the process works in reverse – my brain tells my colon what to do!

Our two systems – the digestive system and the nervous system – work together harmoniously. Except in cases of mental disorder – when things can get badly messed up. We eat too much or too little – or eat (or drink) things that are not good for us at all.

Our minds are a blessing and a curse – both!


How the Linear World Broke Down

This is going to be a theoretical discussion – but in my opinion – important theory that explains a lot about the way the world is. It’s not hard to understand – and it shows how linear development had to eventually cope with complexity.

Feedback loops began to appear. For example, the people affected by the Railroads (nearly everyone) became dissatisfied with them, and wanted to change the way they operated.

This was not something the Railroads were designed to do – and they resisted this with all their power. And they were successful at this for a long time – nearly a hundred years.

But eventually too many feedback loops appeared, and they could not be ignored. Complexity had to be acknowledged – which is nothing more than complicated feedback processes where everything affects everything else. The normal state of affairs. But not something people were equipped to recognize – at the time.

The Top of my Brain is Gone, But the Bottom Still Works Just Fine

This will be good news for those of you, like me, who are of an advanced age. The higher functions in the brain deteriorate, but the lower functions – which include the emotions – are as strong  as ever.

Perhaps it is more complicated than that, because the functioning of the body, as anyone can see, deteriorates. But somewhere in the middle of the brain, the emotions are still powerful. In other words – our emotional intelligence is still working.

And this is very important – it lets us perceive how the emotional intelligence of the smart guys around us is messed up.

This morning I found Affective Labor on Wikipedia. Which is talking about the same thing. I quote:
No longer does the worker insert a modified natural thing (Naturgegenstand) as middle link between the object (Objekt) and himself; rather, he inserts the process of nature, transformed into an industrial process, as a means between himself and inorganic nature, mastering it. He steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body – it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth.

This has some practical ramifications. I am still studying Software Development – not because I will ever be working as a Developer again – but because it interests me. And without half trying, I can see lots of stupidity going on there.

For example, I tried to download the latest Google App Engine SDKs, and found their download page was broken. Fortunately, they have a handy complaint link at the top of the page – as every Web page should – and I told them about their problem. Perhaps they will fix the problem – and keep Google on the top of the heap.

But this should not have happened in the first place – they should have someone like me – who is not too bright, on their team of extremely bright people.

I will take this even further. Our entire Global Economy is based on a Global Culture – which is at the same time very smart and very stupid.

I continue to read Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?. Where it is speaking of a zero-growth economy. I quote again:

The switch to a sustainable economy, wrote Herman Daly in Scientific American in 2005, “would entail an enormous change of mind and heart by economists, politicians, and voters. One might well be tempted to declare that such a project would be impossible. But the alternative to a sustainable economy— an ever-growing economy— is biophysically impossible. In choosing between tackling a political impossibility and a biophysical impossibility, I would judge the latter to be the more impossible, and take my chances with the former.”
The former – clearly perceiving the alternatives available to us – would be easy – if our emotional intelligence had not been overwhelmed by our computer intelligence. The end-result of a whole series of innovations – that took us further and further away from our emotional selves.

My Bicycle Accident

This wasn’t a bad one. I ended up covered with mud (and I mean covered), but only a few scrapes and bruises, and and some torn clothing.

As I was going down the road a truck approached from the other side. a car passed me on the left, going the same way. It knocked me in the ditch to the right of the road. The truck stopped, but the car did not. My bicycle ended up on the other side of the road, in front of the truck, that had stopped.

At first, was I dazed, and could not remember where I lived – or almost anything else. Gradually, it came back to me, and they called an ambulance. A nice man, who had been very helpful, took my bicycle to a sugar mill, which was close by.

The Ambulance took me to my local medical clinic, where they updated my file – and suggested I get a shower, before anything else.

My landlord Ray, who is a RN, gave me some Aloe Vera gel to put on my scrapes.

Now I have have to rent a taxi to go bring my bicycle back home.

Life doesn’t always work out as we planned.

Condemned to Live

Yes, this has amazed me too. Why me? I ask myself, I’m nobody special. But that doesn’t seem to matter. For some reason I will never know, I am here, and the world will have to put up with me for awhile longer.

To be fair, I must give myself some credit for my still being here. My rage saved me. I was determined to get even with the bastards – even though I had no clear idea of who the bastards were.

And I have to give credit to Social Security, who provided my retirement income, and to Costa Rica for a new home to live in. And for all the odds and ends left in the world that keep me entertained – such as the Internet. Life really isn’t so bad. It’s no bowl of cherries, but it’s not so bad.

I even have my drugs: caffeine and alcohol. Believe me, espresso is a drug – and alcohol is so dangerous it kills people all the time. Sugar used to be one of my drugs, but there are now artificial sweeteners that trick your pleasure centers much the same way – without all the calories.

Food is not so important anymore, my metabolism has slowed down so much it doesn’t need much. And I found out long ago that hunger, for me, is good for my bod.

And I have discovered that I do not have to get even with the bastards. As someone else has said: living a good life is the best revenge.

Are Americans More Prone to A.D.H.D.?

NY Times – A Misdiagnosis, Anywhere

There are five responses to this question, and this is the only one that really stands out.

Peter R. Breggin, a psychiatrist in Ithaca, N.Y., is the author of more than 20 books and the director of the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living.

This paragraph is typical:

Why are the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and the use of stimulants so prevalent in America? The idea that American children are somehow genetically or even culturally predisposed has no scientific or common sense basis. For several decades, starting in the 1970s, drug-company marketing has focused on selling the diagnosis and the drugs to American parents and teachers. As I first documented in my book “Toxic Psychiatry” in 1971, “Astroturf” organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and National Alliance on Mental Illness masquerade as representing families while taking millions of dollars from drug companies in support of their promotion of psychiatric medication for children. The National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association and even the American Neurological Association have promoted the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and stimulant medication, which leads to considerable business for mental health clinicians.

I used to suffer from depression, and I took Prozac as a result. I started out on 20 mg, and ended up at 50 mg. Psychiatrists and psychologists could not do much to help me, so they kept on raising the dosage. Then it was discovered that Prozac was no better than a placebo. I dropped it cold-turkey with no problems at all. The whole Prozac episode was conveniently swept under the rug – after millions had been made, of course.

Psychiatry, Heal Thyself

NY Review – ‘The Illusions of Psychiatry’: An Exchange

The medical profession has always had a poor record of disciplining itself. This is due, I am sure, to the duplicity of the human race itself – it demands that its doctors be superhuman. Anyone knows many instances of medical incompetency from their personal experience – but this does change our respectful, worshipful attitude towards them.

Now that we have the Internet, it would be easy for patients to evaluate their doctors publicly to give other patients the benefit of their experience. This will never happen, because doctors will not permit it – and, I think, their patients will not permit it either.

The one outstanding exception is doctors who are also writers, not an uncommon combination. They take pleasure in debunking their colleagues – often in venues such as the London Review of Books, and the New York Review. These are not read by the general public, but by more discriminating readers, who are better able to evaluate what they read.

As one of those readers, I would like to add my own evaluations of the Psychiatric profession. These have not been frequent, because I could not afford them. But psychologists in the US often form partnerships with them, and refer patients to them to get their medical prescriptions. Since this only requires 10-15 minutes of the Psychiatrist’s time, this is much cheaper. In Costa Rica, I had to pay for a whole hour for one fluent in English, for which he charged American prices.

All of the psychiatrists I worked with were of some of the nicest people imaginable. They could make cogent evaluations quickly. But looking back on it, I have to say they had poor understanding of psychotropic medicine – exactly what they should know the most about.

The story of Prozac is the perfect case in point. When it was first discovered, it created a sensation, and true believers quickly lined up behind it. Religious indignation was also strong – depression was God’s judgement, and should not be defeated! Its manufacturer made millions – and prompted careful clinical trials to judge its effectiveness (after the fact!)

My psychologist back in Silicon Valley, one of the nicest I had ever known, put me on Prozac, with the cooperation of his psychiatrist partner. It was supposed to work miracles – as he assured me and my long-suffering girlfriend at the time.

The standard dosage was 20 milligram, but they started me at 10 mg – since I didn’t seem to be a severe case. This was upped to 20 mg when the magic failed to happen. When I moved to Costa Rica, I was still on 20 mg per day. I was referred to a psychiatrist who spoke Spanish, English, and German fluently. Again, I was very impressed. He increased my dosage to 40 mg, but did not switch me to another medication, as my psychologist expected.

By now, they were many drugs for depression, some of them with entirely different ways of working. Evidently, he did not believe in them. I was suffering from culture shock at the time, which contributed to my perceived depression. He then upped the dosage to 50 mg, a very high dosage that bothered my doctor at the time.

Then the results of the large-scale clinical trials began to come out – Prozac was no more effective than a placebo! By then, I was becoming accustomed to living in Costa Rica, and decided, on my own, to discontinue Prozac entirely – not without some trepidation! I never missed it. Now that I have had my say, I return to the article in the New York Review.

The original article provoked an official rebuke from the American Psychiatric Association itself! They do not like being criticized. Dr. Angell defended herself admirably, I thought. Her main point is that psychiatrists are in bed with the pharmaceutical industry – a charge that can be leveled against doctors in general.

They say they are helpless to combat the pharmaceutical industry, with all its advertising and its helpful representatives,  who are willing to give out free samples. I am not impressed – the medical profession cannot combat the pharmaceutical industry? What kind of profession is this?

I was once a member of another profession: the engineering profession, which at time (perhaps a hundred years ago) had some independence. Not any more – they are only employees of a corporation, which they dare not criticize. The same is true, by and large, of the legal profession – they are also working for the man.