Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

dirty dozens

The dirty dozen things that’ll kill us, or at least society as we know it:
Global warming
Loss of biodiversity and especially pollinators
Loss of topsoil
Radiation from nuclear power and loss of stratospheric protective shielding
Antibiotic resistance
Resource depletion
Lack of good clean water
Seismic and volcanic activity increase from pumping out the Earth crust cooling system
Proliferation of nuclear and other arms
Social pressures from overcrowding, injustice and economic class disparity
Release of antigens, poisons and mutated life forms from human activity like experimentation and the ecological changes we create

A dozen causes of stupidity
Mercury and aluminum
Crowd immersion
Anti-depressants and mood-elevators
Organized religion
Watching professional sports

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trauma and psychopathy

Having made poverty from plenty
Pomposity from prestige
Profit from prohibition
Poison from the beneficial
Propaganda from pestilent presumptions
And but petty pay-checks from the proper profit of diversity,
Puerile pederast preachers and politicians proclaim
The propriety of their perverse demands for deference and praise

If psychopathy involves peculiar brain chemistry &/or structures, as apparently has been demonstrated, do we know which came first, the psychological proclivities and condition, or the physical manifestations of them? I’m not at all sure we do; we do not yet understand the root of the condition.
When I was young, academicians still argued Mendel vs Lamarck. Now we are learning of epigenetic contributions to inheritance and inter-generational physical (and emotional) changes. It has been demonstrated clearly that trauma can generate epigenetic changes. These changes are surely, to some extent anyway, adaptive. The organism responds to trauma as if with hope that it can avoid similar trauma for its progeny. Of course, confidence can be diminished by trauma, even in subsequent generations, and this doesn’t seem to be a genetic advantage, but perhaps the brash bravery of psychopaths is only sometimes an advantage, and sometimes its opposite is.
Psychopathic individuals display deceitfulness, impulsivity, recklessness and lack of remorse. They’re pathological liars with superficial charm, extreme arrogance and compulsive need to control situations and people. These symptoms reflect an overall lack of fear, perhaps resultant from abnormal functioning of the amygdala. Psychopathic offenders show deficits in ability to use threat-relevant information to inhibit inappropriate behavior. They display smaller electrodermal responses to many negative stimuli.
The amygdale, a part of the brain which appears t process emotion, is part of the paleomammalian brain, not the “reptilian” Medulla oblongata at the top of the spine (which is ‘pre-verbal’ and sends automatic chemical and electrical orders out to the rest of the brain and body).
The terms ‘psychopathy’ and ‘sociopathy’ are sometimes taken differently, with sociopaths seen to have a sense of morality. But, although a sense of morality is still present, it allows for circumstances that devalue life. A sociopath is capable of empathy for a cause or an ideology (or a person who represents them), but can prevent themselves from empathizing with any their ideology devalues. A psychopath, as we have seen, has a diminished capacity for empathy that results from their brain not developing correctly. Psychopaths tend to not have a sense of morality. Or so some claim.
Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) used the term insanity without delirium to describe behavior marked by complete remorselessness. A psychopath came to be seen as an intelligent person characterized by poverty of emotions, with no sense of shame, who is manipulative, irresponsible, and inadequately motivated. The psychopath is unfamiliar with the primary facts or data that might be called personal values, and is incapable of understanding them (despite a tendency to practice mimicking the exhibition of values as noticed in others). Psychopaths have little or no interest in the tragedy or joy or striving of other humans as presented in serious literature or art, and is similarly indifferent to these matters in life itself. Such individuals execute well-designed strategies, a necessary feature of psychological adaptations, which have a tendency to be nepotistic - providing aid to close genealogical kin and/or sparing them from harm. Psychopathic individuals might or might not aggress against kin, depending on circumstances.
Psychopathy may arise in part due to selection for social dominance (and possibly mating effort); it isn’t psychopathy itself, but dominance (combined with mating effort) that confers adaptive advantage. Hence, “nepotism” and other “pro-social behavior” displayed by psychopathic individuals is likely a function of dominance as opposed to a care-giving system. Most psychopaths are not violent, and perhaps they victimize kin more often in non-violent ways; even if psychopaths do less often violently harm kin, that’s not the same as giving aid to them.

Being as some of the most influential individuals in history, including Alexander of Macedon, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Henry VIII Alex Hamilton, Winston Churchill, and JFK, can be seen as amoral, morality as social convention merits discussion. Most people accept the killing of other people as occasionally, at least, justified, and most great leaders have sanctioned indeed ordered, violent killings. Mohandas Gandhi didn’t, but he’s certainly been accused of amorality. On the other hand, how much Mussolini, Franco, Tito and others of similar ilk showed real leadership can also be questioned. Were Alcibiades, Mark Anthony, Andrew Jackson or Charles de Gaulle really more than opportunists? The term ‘opportunist weed’ always bothered me: nothing thrives without opportunity. But most of us think we can recognize evil.

We often pretend that if we put a name to something, label it, we know it, understand what it is, even have power over it. If we identify a condition, then we can combat it. To know your enemy, first find that enemy’s name, or identifying characteristics. What is defined can be contained (maybe).
Well, psychopathy, narcissism, egocentrism, ethnocentrism or whatever are only parts of amorality, of readiness to sacrifice others for the cause of what seems good for oneself. Often it’s just short-sightedness, or over-involvement in some dynamic (group identification, feelings of religious reverence, sense of moral propriety or even, amazingly, dedication to fashion). There being no bedrock fulcrum and lever basis to moral comprehension despite so many teachings to the contrary, we must go with somewhat fragile constructs like empathy, respect for life, mercy, charity, honor, honesty or maybe integrity. Not a lot to stand on, really, little more than an “I know it when I see it” kind of thing.
But we d know when someone is out of control, being irresponsible, selfish, self-centered, mean, petty or cruel. Not all the cues or clues are verbal: body language, pheromones and other smells, witness of pain inflicted, maybe even some much more subtle things, can tell us a lot sometimes even save a life.
But in the face of social hierarchy and pecking order, much of that seems to fall away. We submit, rationalize or just accept, become all but as bad through implication and association. It’s normal, but it’s not good.
We’re social, and some are stronger or more capable than others. To break away can be pretty darn scary and dangerous.
We need checks and balances, guards to guard the guards’ guards… It’s tricky. Like so much of life. And we’ve been lulled, spoiled, hypnotized maybe…
Some of us, certainly, are overcoming the effects of trauma.

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Modern Controversial Myths and Legends

Favorite Modern Controversial Myths and Legends:

The moon landings – supposedly a recent Chinese exploration found no evidence of them . To reach the Moon, spacecraft must pass through regions of intense ionizing radiation called Van Allen radiation belts; the principle danger of the Van Allen belts is high-energy protons, which are not that difficult to shield against. Apollo navigators plotted a course through the thinnest parts of the belts and arranged for the spacecraft to pass through them quickly, limiting the exposure, but it’s claimed that NASA now believes that traveling through the belts will kill passengers of any craft with just the shielding they know how to provide. This is rebutted by claims that whole-body exposure from belt passage is roughly the same as a chest x-ray, and exposure for an entire moon trip is the same as from one to three mammograms, or half the annual exposure of residents of Denver CO.

JFK assassination – sealed Warren Commission report, in 1979, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy”

Jet stream cloud seeding and ChemTrails - chemicals deliberately sprayed into the air by jets

Bilderberger Lizard people new world order conspiracy

Global warming, climate change and human environmental impact

Christians are Christian. Well, many Christians are Christian, but in the USA, maybe half are bitter, vindictive haters, vehemently opposed to about everything Jesus is reputed to have preached for in the "Sermon on the Mount" - it's become mixed with White Supremacy and support for Trump, gun advocacy, oppression of women and the poor, and self-defeating nationalism.

Organ theft – I saw on a Steven Segal TV show a bunch of harvested organs in a beer cooler. Made sense to someone I guess

GMOs save the world - GMO foods have been consumed in American for over 15 years. Though no adverse effects have been noted this is not the same as being proven safe. It means no causal link has been established between GMO consumption and a specific disease. GMO foods are mainly found in corn, sugar, canola and soy products, and this includes many cereal products, tortilla chips and protein bars which contain GMO ingredients. It is also contested that aspartame, riboflavin, beta-carotene and glucose could be derived from GMO corn and added to many products. There is huge controversy over the issue in the U.S.A, particularly over whether foods containing GMO ingredients should be labeled or not. It is without question that the tactics used by the main producer of GMO foods and science, Monsanto, are questionable at best. There is also question over whether GMO foods are bad for the environment. GMO foods are made to be resistant to roundup/glyphosate, a weed killer produced by Monsanto. There has been a 10 fold increase in the use of roundup in the past 15 years, and Monsanto are the only company who have the seeds for roundup resistant crops. The increased use of roundup could affect crops and find its way into the food supply. This has also created hyper weeds which are resistant to roundup, and many organic and small time farmers are now struggling against these super weeds.

Vaccinations and inoculations – some believe that the shots actually make our immune systems weaker as they make us more dependent on them than ourselves. Our bodies are naturally designed to fight viruses and bacteria and to keep our bodies from doing this makes our natural immune system weaker. A human given vaccines for a variety of different diseases will result in a weakened human overall.

Abiotic oil and loss of subterranean cooling system - popularized by books such as Thomas Gold’s Deep Hot Biosphere. rapidly rising streams of compressed methane gas reach the crust from the mantle, and when they strike pockets of high temperature they condense into heavier hydrocarbons like crude oil.

WTC 911 - the collapse of the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center were the result of a controlled demolition rather than structural failure due to impact and fire.

Water fluoridation – fluoride, a neurotoxic chemical found in industrial waste as a byproduct of aluminum extraction, had no use until it was noticed that it dumbs down mental capabilities (as does aluminum). There is evidence to support that fluoride is not at all related to the prevention of tooth decay. Children who drink fluoride have lower IQs than those whose water is not fluoridated. Many studies have confirmed it ineffective in preventing cavities. Fluoride is absolutely toxic, should not be consumed by anyone, and there’s a clear and established link between lower IQ and fluoridation levels.

MK-Ultra - a CIA experiment in behavioral programming and engineering, from 1953 to 1973. Experiments conducted on unwitting humans and children included torture, verbal and sexual abuse, electrical and chemical shock, the effects of stress on humans, interrogation techniques, subsonic and vibrational disorientation, drugs, radiation, genetic research, brainwashing, the use of prostitutes by agents, gases and poisons. The US government has also done other chemical and biological experiments on unsuspecting members of its populace, with some instances well documented.

BigPharma: many conspiracy theories revolve around pharmaceutical companies and their in profiting by keeping people sick and dependent on their drugs (rather than actually curing their illnesses). Moreover, pharmaceutical companies are also said to invent and brand many things that are not diseases or disorders and then create the treatments to generate a steady income stream of people treating non-existent or greatly exaggerated diseases. It’s also said that many drug companies work with the government to create monopolies and raise the entry-barriers for smaller drug companies to compete, by making it tricky for smaller companies to introduce a superior products (particularly by limited issuance of approval from the FDA and other government agencies).

Deliberate Dumbing Down of Education - For decades the school systems throughout the US and other countries have dramatically declined. It seems to be in the best interest of people in power to have a population smart enough to work as a slave, but not smart enough to free themselves from bondage. Many schools focus on treating children like robots; most focus on memorization rather than creativity. Schools teach children what to think as opposed to how to think. As a result children grow up to be much more docile towards taking orders and going with the flow. People less likely to question their reality or their government are much, much more easily manipulated.

These stories result from well-merited mistrust of government, which does little or nothing to fix that problem.

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Friday, June 02, 2017

The Many Loves of Dobie, er, Olympian Zeus

In Book 14 of the Iliad, under the influence of a love potion administered by Hera, Zeus sweet talks at her, amorously mentioning seven other lovers he currently sees her as much more desirable than. The silver-tongued stud!
But his candor was limited – much went unmentioned. Bright-sky father, patron of hospitality, enforcer of oaths and honest business, King of Olympus and supreme ruler of the gods, although married to his sister Hera (goddess of marriage and monogamy), Zeus had many sexual dalliances: first with Niobe (Nioba, from southern Greece)), and later also with Aegina (Aigina), Alcmena (Alcmene, mother of Hercules), Antiope (perhaps by force, at any rate, as a satyr; resultant twins were exposed, i.e. left out to die), Calliope, Callisto (an Amazon from Arkadia in southern Greece, whom Zeus seduced while in the form of Artemis ), Cassiopea (from Crete), Dia, Demeter, Dione, Elara (or Elare, a princess from central Greece), Eurymedousa (a princess from northern Greece), Europa, Io (Hera’s priestess), Kalyke (Calyce, mother by him of Endymion, also from southern Greece), Themis, Thyia, Eurynome, Lamia (from north Africa), Laodemia (from Asia Minor, mother of Sharpedon), Leda (by whom, Helen of Troy and Polydeuces), Leto (mother of twins Apollo and Artemis), Mnemosyne, Hybris, Olympias (mother of Alexander the Great!), Persephone, Pandora, Phthia, Protogencia, Pyrrha, Danaë (mother of Perseus), Selene and Semele (producing Dionysus). Metis, the goddess of prudence, was Zeus’s first love; he swallowed her. When Zeus had an affair with his aunt Mnemosyne, he coupled with her for nine nights. This scenario produced nine daughters, who became known as the Muses.
Demeter, Alcmene, Semele, Io, Themis, Eurynome and Metis he married. He has sex with his daughter Aphrodite and thus produced Priapos, a deformed God who had the shape of a penis.
He fucked Goddesses Aix, Deino, his sister Demeter (by rape, which produced Persephone, whom he also raped, producing an elder Dionysus, whom the Titans killed – according to Orphic myth), Dione (mother of Aphrodite), Himalia, Hora, Callirhoe, Carme, Maia (mother of Hermes), Othreis, Plouto, Sinope, Thaleia, a nymph from Africa (unnamed), and his grandmother/great-grandmother Gaea (twice!), accidentally (!) impregnating her. It was Gaea who warned Zeus, in a replay of the main Cronus story, that a son would one day displace him. As his then-wife Metis was pregnant, he swallowed her, as his father Cronus had swallowed his elder siblings (Homer places Zeus as ‘first-born’). Swallowing his wife seems to have given him a headache; from his split-open head Athena then sprang (fully armed). Zeus then married Themis, a Titan, mother of the Seasons and Fates.
Zeus fell in love easily and had many affairs with various women, however he would severely punish anybody who attempted to escort/fall in love with his wife Hera – like the giant Porphyrion who took a lightning bolt from the enraged god for lusting after his wife (albeit with a little help from the love god Eros). He also had a boy called Ganymede, a Trojan prince, who was so beautiful that Zeus abducted him from his cradle by taking the form of an eagle.
Some Mythologists hole that stories of Zeus’ infidelities were inspired by tales of patriarchal institutions overpowering ancient matriarchies around the Mediterranean. While patriarchy insisted on an all-powerful father figure, matriarchal systems were comfortable with many autonomous local goddesses, who later became the nymphs and mortal princesses ravished by Zeus in Greek lore. The stories also indicate the rise of marriage as an institution in ancient Greek society, and the demand of women to tame the polygamous desires of men.
Allegory, amalgamation of older stories, meta-memory, instruction, amusement, and entertainment in the manner of pageantry, all were surely involved in the evolution of the tales.
Maybe the legends were just an early form of surrealism, like Coney Island style fun-house mirrors.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Empire of Truth

Here in Chiang Rai, Thailand, between WiangPaPao and MaeSuai on Rt 118, at Ban MaePrik, is a Phra Naresuan shrine. At the back is a huge map purporting to be of King Naresuan’s empire, about 1600 CE. The area claimed for him is huge, encompassing Laos, much of Burma, a lot of Yunnan, the Thai/Malay isthmus and of course all of present Thailand. The map is a result of nationalist fantasy. The concept of a country, or of geographical boundaries, didn’t exist here back then. A king ruled people, including other kings (often relatives), not area. Tribute was paid, and this gets misinterpreted as a kind of tax affirming subject status. But were this the actual case, Southeast Asia would have been a part of China. No-one claims that.
The reason I’m bothered about this is another map, purportedly of the Khmer Empire of 900 CE, which includes all of Laos, some of Vietnam and Yunnan, and a lot of the isthmus. It’s ridiculous. Wikipedia, which shows that map (it also appears elsewhere on the Net), has become used as a propaganda device, manipulated, censored and sometimes controlled by powers with other concerns than truth. For instance, try finding out about the nefarious influence the sugar industry on international politics. You won’t get much of its sordid history. Or look up Armenia. You’ll no longer find that that country has been in four separate, non-contiguous locations. Explanation of WWI as the result of power vacuums resultant from decadence and decline in the Asutro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires should surely be easier to find. The internet isn’t supposed to be this way.
We need to be able to return to the challenges of conflicting viewpoints and messages, varied interpretations of information, and the right of people to challenge authority. But authority, as ever in the clutches of power madness, strenuously disapproves of that. Stuff needs to be swept under the rug or otherwise hidden away, so that the status quo will only be changed in the direction of, well, of destabilizing the power system by too rigorously reinforcing it.
Human power is never permanent. No matter what it does, power can’t stop change, can’t dictate what is real, and can’t reinvent the world. People in Laos KNOW they were never ruled by Khmers (well, except in the far south). People here in Chiang Rai, and north of here, know this too. Most interested historians also know it.
When fact presentation becomes overly influenced by special interests (nationalism, self-interest, corporate greed) instead of based on unbiased faith in truth as instrumental for the greater good, we get knowledge stratification at best, or, far too often, knowledge suppression. An inability to share is also an inability to enjoy the true fruits of labor, inspiration and intelligent, dedicated focus.
To understand the rise and fall of empires, the migrations of peoples, changes in linguistic usage and awareness, to truly know anything of our development, it’s necessary to contain the ego and stifle many desires. That the result can be worth it needs no proof.
The dark, curly-haired populace of Oc Eo and Funan were surely people who followed coastlines (back then lower) from Africa to Australia. They are no longer much in evidence in Cambodia, and one reason is wars of conquest which brought in other peoples – often highland ones.
Trying to administer distant peoples was only a recent folly; Angkor never tried to rule northern Laos, or the Thai/Malay isthmus. There is no reason to think they could have. Even Naresuan didn’t try to administer what he “conquered”! It was understood that distance from power-centers lessens power.
Much published research isn’t available to me; Amazon doesn’t want to ship here (Thailand) and purchasing electronic downloads sight-unseen makes little sense to me. I can’t afford it anyway, not and feed my children. It would be nice if the internet would provide better forums for discussion, but I suppose that would require an absurd new form of ‘peer-review’: deciding who has the right to the attention of whom.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Magical, and religious, thinking

Most of us engage in it. Indeed, it seems everyone does at least sometimes. It’s a semi-rational approach helpful in the face of irrationality. Defined as believing events happen as a result of other events, without plausible link of causation (or, belief that an object, action or circumstance not logically related to a course of events can influence its outcome), it’s a kind of wishful thinking. Simply in order to live we must believe some things without proof.
The sorts of magical thinking are many and vary widely, from luck superstition to religion to belief in abstract mathematics to hope that the Hadron Collider will “unlock” secrets and supply answers to some of life’s deep mysteries.
When trying to understand the opposite sex, the behavior of small children, death, international finance, war, or GMOs, we inevitably, but usually without recognizing it, turn to magical thinking.
To break a bad habit like reliance on intoxicants, many fear that will-power alone won’t do. They might replace one crutch with another, as in meetings with coffee for beer in bars. Works like magic.
To save for the future some become penny-wise but pound-foolish, which works like magic too, as magic has a tendency to bite one in the ass. Get a personal trainer or spiritual adviser and you can accomplish things you otherwise wouldn’t, in much the same way that a St. Christopher medallion can help one reach a destination, with or without high holy Catholic church sanction.
Confidence lends to increased competence, and also, in the opposite way, worry undermines our abilities and effectiveness.
Make sacrifices, wear the right colors, follow the instructions of a food guru, rigorously adhere to a schedule of placebo ingestion, and you’ll surely do better than you’d have done by just being lazy. It’s not just magic, it’s a process of abiding by a decision. When you feel like you’ve done something, it’s almost like you have.

Science has yet to explain all that much of what we experience, and perhaps cannot, so we naturally grasp at straws, at anything we can to make sense of things and allow us some hope. The only real differences between magical world-views and science is that science has a self-correcting mechanism and procedure for determining which concept best fits what is observed, while magic doesn’t.
Behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner showed that pigeons frequently repeat actions they learn to associate with positive reinforcement, i.e. when food was released to them, as if seeing a pattern, even when the food in fact becomes released at purely random intervals (intermittent reinforcement). When hungry, they'll do what once brought them food. Once a mental association is formed, it becomes like a habit, hard to break. Superstition and behaviors often characterized as “magical thinking” may be more closely connected with blind instinct than with sapient thought, or perhaps it's that established patterns tend to replicate, sometimes inexplicably.
Magical thinking, involving as it does, several elements, including belief in the interconnectedness of all things through forces and powers that transcend both physical and spiritual connections, invests special powers and forces in many things seen as symbols. The majority of the world’s peoples believe in real connections between symbols and their referents, and that some real and potentially measurable power or influence flows between them. There might be neurobiological basis for this, though the meaning, significance and specifics of symbols aren’t absolute, but culturally determined. Magical thinking accepts that transfer of energy or information between physical systems may take place solely because of their similarity or contiguity in time and space, &/or that one’s thought, words, or actions can achieve specific physical effects in a manner not governed by the principles of ordinary transmission of energy or information, and often, that wishing something can cause it to occur. Thoughts, words or actions assume a magical power, are able to prevent or cause events to happen without a physical action occurring; thinking equates with doing, and the individual assumes an importance rational science or philosophy is hard put to allow.
Thus, while appetite for such beliefs may appear to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, it is also ego-reinforcing. Sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, helps soothe everyday fears and wards off mental distress. But in excess, it can lead to compulsive or delusional behaviors. People who fashion themselves skeptics may yet cling to odd rituals that have no clear semblance to sense, yet can generate helpful faith – until they undermine genuinely productive efforts and become disabling.
The brain apparently has networks that specialize in producing explicit, magical explanations, in some circumstances, connecting otherwise unconnected dots, so to speak, in a manner easily preferred to rational explanations. A constant state of negotiation with the world results in bribery, promises, repetitious activity and sacrifices that cannot be scientifically demonstrated to achieve any results except to provide a kind of anxiety reducing reassurance, reassurance perhaps necessary.

Seven “laws” of magical thinking have been posited: “Objects Carry Essences” - everyday items become emotionally significant by taking on the spirit of their previous owners or unique pasts. “Symbols Have Power” - we confuse symbolic associations in our minds for causal relationships in the world. “Actions Have Distant Consequences” - superstitious rituals and attempts to channel luck through physical acts can bolster confidence. “The Mind Knows No Bounds” - belief in mind over matter, extrasensory perception, and transcendent experiences cannot be totally discounted. “The Soul Lives On” - it’s hard to believe that your mind dies when your body does. “The World Is Alive” - we often treat inanimate objects as conscious. And “Everything Happens for a Reason” as long as we insist that higher powers guide natural events. These “laws” apply equally to religion, ’though most Believers make clear distinction between Faith and magic!

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Monday, May 15, 2017