Tradition

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes regarded as the Celtic New Year. Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.

The carved pumpkin, lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween’s most prominent symbols in America, and is commonly called a jack-o’-lantern. Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the vegetable to frighten off any superstitions. The name jack-o’-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had, a candle inside of a hollowed turnip.

The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips. Many families that celebrate Halloween carve a pumpkin into a frightening or comical face and place it on their home’s doorstep after dark. In America the tradition of carving pumpkins is known to have preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration. The carved pumpkin was originally associated with harvest time in general in America and did not become specifically associated with Halloween until the mid 19th century.

Halloween is now the United States’ second most popular holiday for decorating.The sale of candy and costumes are also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. According to the National Retail Federation, the most popular Halloween costume themes for adults are, in order: witch, pirate, vampire, cat and clown. Each year, popular costumes are dictated by various current events and pop culture icons. On many college campuses, Halloween is a major celebration, with the Friday and Saturday nearest October 31 hosting many costume parties.

Christians, primarily of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist variety, are concerned about Halloween, and reject the holiday because they believe it celebrates the occult and what they perceive as evil. A response among some fundamentalists in recent years has been the use of themed pamphlets which attempt to make use of Halloween as an opportunity for evangelism. Some consider Halloween to be completely incompatible with the Christian faith due to its origin as a Pagan festival of the dead. In more recent years, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has organized a Saint Fest on the holiday.

Some Wiccans feel that the tradition is offensive to real witches for promoting stereotypical caricatures of wicked witches.

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Materialism

Culture industry is a term coined by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who argued that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods to manipulate the masses into passivity; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture make people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances. Adorno and Horkheimer saw this mass-produced culture as a danger to the more difficult high arts. Culture industries may cultivate false needs; that is, needs created and satisfied by capitalism. True needs, in contrast, are freedom, creativity, or genuine happiness.

Adorno and Horkheimer were key members of the Frankfurt School. They were much influenced by the dialectical materialism and historical materialism of Karl Marx, as well the revisitation of the dialectical idealism of Hegel, in both of which where events are studied not in isolation but as part of the process of change. As a group later joined by Jurgen Habermas, they were responsible for the formulation of Critical Theory.

In works such as Dialectic of Enlightenment and Negative Dialectics, Adorno and Horkheimer theorised that the phenomenon of mass culture has a political implication, namely that all the many forms of popular culture are a single culture industry whose purpose is to ensure the continued obedience of the masses to market interests. In The Dialectic of Enlightenment, they postulated a modern form of bread and circuses, the method used by the rulers of Ancient Rome to maintain their power and control over the people. This new system filled leisure time with amusements to distract the consumers from the boredom of their increasingly automated work. They were never left alone long enough to recognise the reality of their exploitation and to consider resisting the economic and social system. This pessimistic view of prevailing culture as an anti-enlightenment opiate for the masses draws strongly on Marxism for its condemnation of what is characterised as being continuing capitalist oppression.

Although Western culture used to be divided into national markets and then into highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow, the modern view of mass culture is that there is a single marketplace in which the best or most popular works succeed. This recognizes that the consolidation of media companies has centralized power in the hands of the few remaining multinational corporations now controlling production and distribution. The theory proposes that culture not only mirrors society, but also takes an important role in shaping society through the processes of standardization and commodification, creating objects rather than subjects. The culture industry claims to serve the consumers’ needs for entertainment, but conceals the way that it standardizes these needs, manipulating the consumers to desire what it produces.

The outcome is that mass production feeds a mass market that minimizes the identity and tastes of the individual consumers who are as interchangeable as the products they consume. The rationale of the theory is to promote the emancipation of the consumer from the tyranny of the producers by inducing the consumer to question beliefs and ideologies. Adorno claimed that enlightenment would bring pluralism and demystification. Unfortunately, society is said to have suffered another fall, corrupted by capitalist industry with exploitative motives.

Anything made by a person is a materialisation of their labour and an expression of their intentions. There will also be a use value: the benefit to the consumer will be derived from its utility. The exchange value will reflect its utility and the conditions of the market: the prices paid by the television broadcaster or at the box office. Yet, the modern soap operas with their interchangeable plots and formulaic narrative conventions reflect standardised production techniques and the falling value of a mass produced cultural product. Only rarely is a film released that makes a more positive impression on the general discourse and achieves a higher exchange value.

Critics of the theory say that the products of mass culture would not be popular if people did not enjoy them, and that culture is self-determining in its administration. This would deny Adorno contemporary political significance, arguing that politics in a prosperous society is more concerned with action than with thought. Adorno is also accused of a lack of consistency in his claims to be implementing Marxism. Whereas he accepted the classical Marxist analysis of society showing how one class exercises domination over another, he deviated from Marx in his failure to use dialectic as a method to propose ways to change.

Marx’s theory depended on the willingness of the working class to overthrow the ruling class, but Adorno and Horkheimer postulated that the culture industry has undermined the revolutionary movement. Adorno’s idea that the mass of the people are only objects of the culture industry is linked to his feeling that the time when the working class could be the tool of overthrowing capitalism is over.

However, despite these problems, the concept has influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture, popular culture studies, and Cultural Institutions Studies.

Brotherhood

America the Beautiful is an American patriotic song with words by Katharine Lee Bates and music by Samuel A. Ward. In the third verse, the author scolds the materialistic and self-serving robber barons of her day, and urges America to live up to its noble ideals.

At various times there have been efforts to give America the Beautiful legal status either as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, The Star-Spangled Banner, but so far this has not succeeded. Proponents prefer America the Beautiful for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations while still remaining as easily recognizable as The Star-Spangled Banner. Some prefer America the Beautiful over The Star-Spangled Banner due to the latter’s war-oriented imagery. While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, America the Beautiful continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans.

In 1893, Bates had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College, and several of the sights on her trip found their way into her poem. When she saw the majestic view of the Great Plains from atop Pikes Peak, the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room. The poem was initially published two years later and it quickly caught the public’s fancy.

Several existing pieces of music were adapted to the poem. The tune composed in 1895 by Samuel A. Ward was generally considered the best, and is still the popular tune today. Ward had been similarly inspired. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City after a leisurely summer day, and he immediately wrote it down. Ward died in 1903, not knowing the national stature his music would attain. Miss Bates was more fortunate, as the song’s popularity was well-established by her death in 1929.

It is often included in hymn books in a wide variety of religious congregations in the United States.

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Til all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine!
O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

Etiquette

Zendo is a Japanese term translating roughly as meditation hall. In Zen Buddhism, the zendo is a spiritual dojo where zazen, or sitting meditation, is practiced. A full sized Buddhist temple will typically be divided into at least one zendo as well as a hondo, literally base hall, sometimes translated as Buddha hall, which is used for ceremonial purposes, and a variety of other buildings with different functions. However, any place where people go to practice zen can be referred to as a zendo.

The first meal of the day in the Zendo will often be taken in the early morning, before dawn. It normally consists of rice gruel and pickled vegetables. The monks are summoned to meals by a gong that is struck. The five meditations are recited, after which monks will be served with the gruel and vegetables. Often monks will offer some of their meal to the pretas or hungry ghosts. Two meals are taken later, in the late morning and late afternoon. These meals usually consist of rice, vegetable soup and pickled vegetables. The monks remain silent during mealtimes and communicate via hand and arm gestures.

The following are recommendations on zendo etiquette, along with explanations of some Japanese terms. Etiquette varies in different temples, so the following rules may or may not apply in part or in full at any given zendo:

  • Enter the zendo on the left side of the entry, left foot first.
  • Gassho (place the hands palms together) and bow to the altar.
  • Walk forward across the room past the altar and go to a seat turning corners squarely. Cross in front of the altar only during kinhin (walking meditation).
  • Gassho and bow toward the seat, greeting the people to both sides.
  • The people on both sides respond to greeting.
  • Turn clockwise and face front.
  • Gassho and bow to those directly across room, greeting them.
  • They respond with a gassho-bow in greeting.
  • Sit down on the zafu (round cushion).
  • Turn clockwise toward the wall. (If in a Soto-style zendo, Rinzai style is to sit facing in from the wall.)
  • Always turn or move clockwise as viewed from above the zendo.

In some Buddhist sects there are as many as 348 precepts, or Patimoksha Rules, some of which serve as guidelines for the many details of monastic living, such as taking off your shoes before entering the zendo, and being sure your feet and clothes are clean. Fully ordained women are given about fifty more precepts than men. The precepts were created individually as situations arose that put monks and nuns in danger, or that were counterproductive to practice.

Depression

Although sadness may appear to be a much more subdued primary emotion than fear or anger, it ranges just as widely, from mild melancholy to uncontrollable crying. Sadness probably evolved to emphasize and underscore losses of all kinds; it takes us off-line so that we can regroup and reevaluate. It may even cause us enough “pain” that we are motivated to change. In the brain, sadness seems to be related to an increase in activity in the left amygdala and the right frontal cortex and a decrease in activity in the right amygdala and the left frontal cortex.

Prolonged sadness can cause sustained overactivity in the amygdala and frontal lobe. Some speculate this can cause neuronal “burnout” in these areas, either by depleting their stores of neurotransmitters or crippling the ability of these chemicals to transmit messages. When this occurs, sadness can slip into depression, which is characterized by emotional numbness rather than intense feeling. This is distinct from depression that is accompanied by anxiety, which can cause a person to become feverishly active, even suicidal. In classical depression, typified by a person sitting motionless in a chair with no intention of getting out, the numbness may be adaptive, granting relief in the case of a terrible loss or giving a person some “down time” to prepare for the next stage in life or to incorporate a major change.

That’s what happened to a patient we’ll call Bobby Jack. B.J. was a happy-go-lucky guy who generally responded positively to most everything. He tended to see the world as full of answers, structures, and stories that were positive and had good endings. His left hemisphere was working all the time, fitting everything into what he would have predicted. The ongoing story of life generated by his left hemisphere was accurate and upbeat. Events had closure.

But one September, after his company had conducted its annual job reviews, B.J. was told he wasn’t going to get a promotion he was expecting. He hadn’t failed to work hard; he just wasn’t right for the job. This upset him. He was sad. It was one of the first times real life didn’t square with the story he had running in his mind. And no promotion meant no raise, which meant that he couldn’t leave his apartment and finally buy a house, which he had wanted for so long.

B.J. tried to put matters back in order in his mind, but he couldn’t because there was no resolution. He didn’t get the job, period, for no reason that he could change. The spin he put on it was, “They made a mistake. They are fools. They will promote me later.” He tried to act differently, plan differently, do something to fit the situation back into his internal story line. In doing so, his left hemisphere may have started to overactivate, trying to deal with the new reality, trying to impose logic on the illogical set of circumstances, trying to get back to happiness.

Meanwhile his stomach had begun to act up. He got diarrhea and became physically exhausted. He began to worry that his physical condition was deteriorating. This steady anxiety commanded even more attention from his left hemisphere, which tried to find a way to explain his physical maladies as well. But there was no story that gave him control. He got sadder, more tired. He started to feel hopeless.

In all the discomfort B.J. had also stopped exercising. He gained a few pounds, which hurt his self-image. He became preoccupied with his failings, convinced that he was no longer fun to be with. He stopped talking to his friends and spent more time alone. He withdrew into himself, running his left hemisphere nonstop in trying to solve what were now all these huge problems. His left hemisphere could no longer take it. It got worn down, then burned out. There were no solutions. B.J. became clinically depressed. Now that his left hemisphere was completely inactive, his harsher, more realistic right hemisphere was free to take over. He chased people away. He didn’t have words anymore. He sank into a real blue funk.

Finally, B.J. went to a therapist. The counselor got him talking again. He had been stuck trying to explain events to himself, and it was extraordinarily helpful to thresh it out with someone else. As he did, he was able to put his experience into a bigger story line that could include a future. He saw that he hadn’t made egregious mistakes in the past and that he wasn’t a bad worker, but that someone else was in fact more suited to this particular job and that the choice was indeed his boss’s. His future was still in front of him. He could still work effectively and make a few changes that would make life more interesting and more fun.

B.J. put the loss into perspective by activating the talking brain, then recruited even more of the talking brain to plan and get into thinking about the future again. This prompted him to start taking walks, and to talk a bit to one of his siblings, which reactivated his left hemisphere. But it wasn’t quite enough, so the therapist prescribed an antidepressant, imipramine, which helped change the chemistry of his limbic system. He began to accomplish new tasks at work, to exercise, and to look forward to attaining new goals again. Bobby Jack was back.

Depression may be characterized by feelings of despair, guilt, helplessness, and hopelessness. People with depression may have symptoms such as less ability to concentrate, impaired memory, weight loss or gain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and loss of interest in everyday activities. The onset of this disorder is typically in early adulthood, although it can occur with anyone at one time or another, especially if someone experiences a significant life trauma. Depression affects 3 to 5 percent of the population at any given time, and about 20 percent of people will experience major depression in their lifetimes. Even children only five or six years old can experience symptoms clinically similar to adult depression.

Depression is less genetically based than any other mental illness, and is the one most dependent on environmental factors. Life events can affect brain biology in even the most naturally cheerful people, like Bobby Jack. Mark George, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of South Carolina Medical School, has done PET scans of the brains of clinically depressed individuals and maintains that scanning technology can open up new treatment options by identifying subtypes of depression and differences in responses to medication. Helen Mayburg and her colleagues at the University of Texas recently used PET scans to locate an area of the brain that is different in depressed people who do not react positively to antidepressant drug therapy. In these people the front tip of the cingulate gyrus has below-normal glucose metabolism. Being able to separate out a subgroup of patients for whom current medications are not effective is an important step toward finding the right treatment for the group.

The traditional approach to treating depression-talk therapyshould still be pursued. It is helpful because it opens a straightforward connection to another person. Talking helped Bobby Jack create a palatable story of the past and a new story for the future. It connected him to his therapist; he felt understood and was encouraged. This allowed him to break free from the loop of self-hate and recrimination. At the same time, it helped break the lock in this pattern in his brain. Also, the physical act of talking itself may have been helpful, forcing the language centers in the left hemisphere to work more, reactivating other structures.

For years, the last resort for people who did not respond to talk therapy or antidepressant drugs has been electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)-shock treatments. Electrodes are placed on the scalp and a strong electric current is sent through the skull to the brain. To be effective, the current must be so strong that it triggers a seizure. Because ECT succeeds in a majority of cases, some 50,000 people a year turn to it.

Like antidepressant drugs, ECT works by changing the chemistry in the brain, elevating mood. However, the side effects are significant. The typical regimen is three shocks a week for several weeks. To prevent pain and injury during each seizure, patients are put under general anesthesia. By the end of the cycle patients can suffer confusion and memory loss, some of which may be irreversible, and their mood may improve for only 3 to 6 months.

A new technique that has been found useful for treating severely depressed people is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which appears to have many of the advantages of ECT without the nasty side effects. A coil of magnets placed against the patient’s scalp sets up a magnetic field inside the brain, which excites neurons, also inducing heightened levels of a number of neurotransmitters. No anesthesia is needed, and there seems to be no loss of memory or disturbance of other brain functions. Unlike ECT, this technique can target a specific region of the brain, notably the left prefrontal cortex, where activity is often lower than normal in depressed people.

TMS is still experimental, but early results are encouraging. In one study patients showed a 50 percent improvement on a commonly used depression rating scale-better than that seen in most antidepressant drug or ECT treatments. TMS may also be useful in treating PTSD and OCD, as well as Parkinson’s disease.

Extermination

Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents of the family Geomyidae. These are the “true” gophers, though several ground squirrels of the family Sciuridae are often called gophers as well. The name pocket gopheron its own may be used to refer to any of a number of subspecies of the family. Pocket gophers are a symbol of the state of Minnesota, sometimes called the Gopher State.

Gophers are heavily built, and most are moderately large, ranging from 4.7 to 12 inches in length, and weighing a few hundred grams. A few species reach weights approaching 2.2 lb. Males are always larger than the females and can be nearly double their weight. Most gophers have brown fur which often closely matches the color of the soil in which they live. Their most characteristic feature is their large cheek pouches, from which the word pocket in their name derives. These pouches are fur-lined, and can be turned inside out. They extend from the side of the mouth well back onto the shoulders. They have small eyes and a short, hairy tail which they use to feel around tunnels when they walk backwards.

Pocket gophers are solitary outside of the breeding season, aggressively maintaining territories that vary in size depending on the resources available. Males and females may share some burrows and nesting chambers if their territories border each other, but in general, each pocket gopher inhabits its own individual tunnel system.

Depending on the species and local conditions, pocket gophers may have a specific annual breeding season, or may breed repeatedly through the year. Each litter typically consists of two to five young, although this may be much higher in some species. The young are born blind and helpless, and are weaned at around forty days.

All pocket gophers are burrowers. They are hoarders and their cheek pouches are used for transporting food back to their burrows. Gophers can collect large hoards. Their presence is unambiguously announced by the appearance of mounds of fresh dirt about 8 inches in diameter. These mounds will often appear in vegetable gardens, lawns, or farms, as gophers like moist soil. They also enjoy feeding on vegetables. They may also damage trees in forests.

For this reason, some species are considered agricultural pests. There have been many ways devised to exterminate them, and several commercial enterprises have capitalized on methods using ultrasonic units embedded in the ground, poison baits and traps. These methods, however, are largely ineffective since new pocket gophers will return to existing tunnels and easily reinhabit an area.

Carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust is an effective and inexpensive method that some people use to exterminate gophers. However, poisoning animals with carbon monoxide is illegal in some states, including California. Garden hoses are coupled to the exhaust pipes of vehicles using medium size soda bottles and duct tape, and with one end of the hose connected to the exhaust and the other end in the gopher tunnel, a vehicle is idled until toxic carbon monoxide fills the tunnel network, killing the gophers. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

A concussion method kills gophers instantly with a shock wave. Specialized equipment used by trained operators wearing personal protective equipment injects a mixture of propane and oxygen into the gopher burrow. An igniter on the end of the injection probe explodes the fuel mixture, destroying not only the gophers, but the burrows as well. It sends a fireball and intense shock wave throughout the tunnel network. This method is obviously not suited for urban residential areas. The destruction of the burrows by this method prevents loss of irrigation water, prevents injury from collapse of the burrow underfoot, and may make any reinfestation more quickly noticeable. Killing animals with explosives is illegal in some jurisdictions, although the concussion method is not regulated by US federal law. In Colorado the concussion method was approved for the control of prairie dogs in November of 2007.

Although pocket gophers will attempt to flee when threatened, they may attack other animals, including cats and humans, and can inflict serious bites with their long, sharp teeth.

Attention

Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, thinking mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference. It is recognized as a component of almost all religions, and has been practiced for over 5000 years. It is also practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and psychophysical practices which may emphasize different goals, from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.

Evidence of the origins of meditation extends back to a time before recorded history. Archaeologists tell us the practice may have existed among the first Indian civilizations. From its ancient beginnings and over thousands of years, meditation has developed into a structured practice used today by millions of people worldwide of differing nationalities and religious beliefs.

Meditation has been defined as self regulation of attention, in the service of self inquiry, in the here and now. The various techniques of meditation can be classified according to their focus. Some focus on the field or background perception and experience, also called mindfulness. Others focus on a preselected specific object, and are called concentrative meditation. There are also techniques that shift between the field and the object.

In mindfulness meditation, the meditator sits comfortably and silently, centering attention by focusing awareness on an object or process such as the breath, a sound like a mantra, koan or riddle-like question, a visualization or an exercise. The meditator is usually encouraged to maintain an open focus.

Some shift freely from one perception to the next to clear the mind of all that bothers them, so that no thoughts can distract from reality or personal being. No thought, image or sensation is considered an intrusion. The meditator, with a no effort attitude, is asked to remain in the here and now. Using the focus as an anchor brings the subject constantly back to the present, avoiding cognitive analysis or fantasy regarding the contents of awareness, and increasing tolerance and relaxation of secondary thought processes.

Concentration meditation is used in many religions and spiritual practices. Whereas in mindfulness meditation there is an open focus, in concentration meditation the meditator holds attention on a particular object such as a repetitive prayer while minimizing distractions, bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object. In some traditions, such as Vipassana, mindfulness and concentration are combined.

Meditation can be practiced while walking or doing simple repetitive tasks. Walking meditation helps to break down habitual automatic mental categories, thus regaining the primary nature of perceptions and events, focusing attention on the process while disregarding its purpose or final outcome. In a form of meditation using visualization, such as Chinese Qi Gong, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed. Some meditative traditions, such as yoga or tantra, are common to several religions or occur outside religious contexts.

Krishnamurti used the word meditation to mean something entirely different from the practice of any system or method to control the mind. He said that in order to escape our conflicts, we have invented many forms of meditation. These have been based on desire, will, and the urge for achievement, and imply conflict and a struggle to arrive. This conscious, deliberate striving is always within the limits of a conditioned mind, and in this there is no freedom. All effort to meditate is the denial of meditation. Meditation is the ending of thought. It is only then that there is a different dimension which is beyond time.

For Krishnamurti, meditation was choiceless awareness in the present. He said that when we learn about ourselves, watch ourselves, watch the way we walk, how we eat, what we say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy, and are aware of all that in ourselves, without any choice, that is the meditation.

Aggression

Everyone experiences anger at one time or another and it is easy to recognize in the faces of others. Learning to control anger is a natural and important developmental step for toddlers, and yet one out of five people experience attacks of rage that they report they cannot control.

Aggression is an important part of the natural world. Violent combat between males before mating upholds the rule of survival of the fittest and ensures the strength of the gene pool. Mothers also engage in aggression to protect their children from predators. Human anger is closely connected to the fierce defense of territory, mate, and self that many animals display Anger evolved as a unique set of feelings and behaviors that has its own value in changing other people’s behavior.

As in any evolutionary analysis, one must consider the costs and benefits of a behavior. It is important that all social animals be able to control their anger and aggression. While it might be advantageous to win out over other members of the species, it would hardly be helpful to indiscriminately kill or hurt them. The sociopath is an example of this brake on aggression gone wrong. In everyday situations, anger toward others can be costly, because it undermines future positive interactions. The benefit of changing someone else’s behavior to one’s own advantage can be enormous, however. We must walk a fine line to get a decent benefit without an outrageous cost. Therefore, the most important thing to learn about anger is when and how to use and control it.

Biologically, researchers are still learning more about the pathways and expressions of anger. Aggressive people often have underactive frontal lobes, the areas of the brain that restrain impulsive action and that supply wisdom, and if these are not working correctly or actively enough, feelings of rage will not be inhibited. Partial evidence for this conclusion is provided by findings of low frontal lobe activity in people with antisocial personality disorder, who are characterized by their angry, destructive behavior. It is as if the amygdala is saying to the cortex, “Be still. Let the automatic pilot work,” even though it would be better for the cortex’s reasoning to interfere and stop the inappropriate behavior.

People in the general population also experience episodes in which they can’t control their anger even if they want to. These occurrences may also be caused by a lower level of activity in the frontal cortex. In a heated confrontation, a person may feel that his brain is going too fast, considering all the aspects of the anger-provoking situation and maybe even events from the past that add fuel to the fire. With no inhibition from the frontal cortex, the thoughts are free to get out of control and the person quickly becomes overstimulated. This “noise” is very difficult to overcome in a rational way. The prefrontal cortex is less active than it should be; the underactive executive function is not as alert, gets overwhelmed, and subsequently has a hard time putting on the brakes. This imbalance can be caused by such things as ADHD, brain trauma, or the toxic effects of alcohol or drug abuse.

The problem can be exacerbated by an inability to express one’s thoughts and emotions. Verbalizing aggressive thoughts and feelings is the best antidote to violence. A popular therapy for perpetrators of domestic violence is getting them to learn how to “talk it out.” Breaking the cycle of low inhibition and overstimulation, however, is made more difficult when a person learns that acting on aggressive impulses will bring a kind of relief. Addiction to aggression as a way to solve problems and relieve frustration can make it very difficult for the angry person to change.

This was the case for Deborah, who as a girl grew up in a household that was chaotic and permissive to a fault. The home soon became ruled by the children. Deborah was affable, a perfectionist, and very smart, but she had a hard time with frustration. When she was four she began to tantrum periodically, though it was nothing compared with her two older sisters. They were outwardly bellicose and were hellions in school. Deborah’s behavior was tolerated because she was a good student who got all As.

In sixth grade, though, Deborah hit a subject she could not master: diagramming. She just couldn’t do it. In response, she disrupted the whole class and was suspended for a few days. This experience taught her that if she created a scene she could get more attention than her sisters. As she became an older teenager and encountered more frustrating challenges, she used her tantrums more often. They were manipulative. They got people to listen. They immediately resolved her frustration and disappointment. They were a high for her and she got addicted to them. She would even throw a tantrum simply because she was bored. This tantrum behavior ended up dominating her life, and she eventually spent most of her time in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

The chemistry of aggression is not well understood, but researchers do know that very low or very high levels of serotonin in the brain can contribute to aggression. Some clinicians have successfully treated anger and aggression with SSRIs such as Prozac that make more serotonjn available in the brains of people whose natural levels are low. Other research has shown that high levels of testosterone can increase aggression.

Migration

The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a medium sized sparrow, slightly larger than the closely related White-crowned Sparrow. It has a distinct gold patch on its head, flanked by two dark black stripes. When not breeding, its plumage is more variable, ranging from a small, dull gold patch and no black, to near breeding season plumage.

The song is a three note whistle, descending in pitch. It is very distinctive and often described as “Oh, dear me”, each note an interval lower in pitch than the preceding. However, birds in the mountains of British Columbia have been reported to have trill on the third note, rather than a clear whistle as in other populations. These songs are heard mainly in the breeding season, but also in the wintering grounds just after fall migration as well as just before they take off for spring migration.

Alaskan gold miners along the trails called this bird Weary Willie, because of its call which sounded like “I’m so weary”. The song resembles the popular tune known as “Volare” (Italian for the infinitive form of the verb “to fly”) written by  Domenico Modugno in 1957. Sergio Franchi sang the song, with modified lyrics, as the television spokesman for the Plymouth Volare in the 1970s.

The entire population of Golden-crowned Sparrows migrates within North America. They leave the breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada late in the fall, most arriving on the wintering grounds throughout northwestern California, Oregon and Washington from mid-September through October. Birds begin to return to the breeding grounds in April or May.

These sparrows makes a habit out of digging in the ground for grubs, insects, and seeds. This is because it has extremely large feet and claws. They use a digging technique of jumping backward off of both feet at the same time, which stirs up the soil, leaf litter, or grass. They then move forward to see what they have uncovered. Sometimes, when they jump backward, you can see the seeds popping up from out of the grass, where they were hidden before.

Golden-crowned Sparrow Nests are usually dug into the ground or placed in a depression so their rims are even with the ground. Each bird has its own feeding spot at a bird feeder. Even when there are no other birds around, it uses its spot exclusively. A group of Golden-crowned Sparrows are collectively known as a “reign” of sparrows.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow was considered a pest early in the 20th Century, because flocks would feed on vegetables and flowers in gardens and cultivated fields. Its actual impact was not as great as was originally thought, and it is no longer considered a pest. Its population has grown in the past 30 years, and the Golden-crowned Sparrow is now a more common Washington winter resident than it was 30-50 years ago. Its far northern breeding grounds are well protected, with many of them located in national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.

Totality

In their controversial analysis of the contemporary western society, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer developed a wider, and more pessimistic concept of enlightenment. In their analysis, enlightenment had its dark side. While trying to abolish superstition and myths by foundationalist philosophy, it ignored its own mythical basis. Its strivings towards totality and certainty led to an increasing instrumentalization of reason. In their view, the enlightenment itself should be enlightened and not posed as a myth free view of the world.

“Myth turns into enlightenment, and nature into mere objectivity. Men pay for the increase in their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power. Enlightenment behaves towards things as a dictator toward men. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things in so far as he can make them. In this way their “in itself” becomes a “for him”. In this transformation the essence of things is revealed as always the same, a substratum of domination. This identity constitutes the unity of nature.”

Adorno and Horkheimer see the self destruction of Western reason as grounded in a historical and fateful dialectic between the domination of external nature and society. They trace enlightenment, which split these spheres apart, back to its mythical roots. Enlightenment and myth, therefore, are not irreconcilable opposites, but dialectically mediated qualities of both real and intellectual life. Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology. This paradox is their fundamental thesis.

The attempt to ascertain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism animates the work. This regression ultimately has to do with the very nature of myth, which is said to be obscure and luminous at once. It is with positivism that science believes it can banish all mystery from the world such that humans become masters of it. Art itself has fallen prey to this myth. Perhaps surprisingly, this does not begin in the 18th century European Enlightenment, but with one of our most ancient of founding myths, Odysseus.

The deceptive nature of the sacrifice in Odysseus is the beginning of our journey towards enlightenment, for it places us on a similar footing with the gods. The attempt of persons such as Sade to advocate a world without superstition not only turns us into beasts with “the innocence of wild animals”, but means that we still must hold onto the one myth that we can actually live in a world where all is entirely as it seems. Transgression of the previous Catholic morality is the necessary mythical supplement to this view. It brings no pleasure but only violence. Both the Culture Industry and Anti Semitism ultimately have the same totalitarian goal, to make everyone the same, as economic cogs in the machine, devoid of their individuality. Thus enlightenment is necessarily violence against the Other, who doesn’t fit in.

The concept of enlightenment posits it as thought liberating man from his natural shackles, and creating man as master of the earth. This process of liberation entails at the same time the possibility of man to protect himself from, and understand the workings of, nature, and also mankind’s loss of being one with nature. In this process, the self is created as a subjectivity divorced from direct experience of the outside world. Man’s memory of this is very vague and distant, but is present in everyone as a certain inchoate feeling of loss.

In essence, Adorno and Horkheimer argue that the enlightenment turned magical culture, which looked for associations, analogies, and relationships, into a scientific culture, which sought to reduce everything to the irreducible, to base units of measurement, to the smallest particles, and as often as possible to numbers. This results in an inability to address problems of relationships, and often of anything to do with the irrational, such sexuality or emotio. The ideological structure has the tendency, common to most political ideologies, of arguing for its own accuracy. This kind of enlightenment thinking always implicitly claims that anything that is not reducible or quantifiable is simply not worth paying attention to. It is immaterial in the metaphorical sense, and it might as well not exist.

Thus, concepts as divergent as subjectivity, which cannot be measured or objectified, and collective action which is always understood as merely the action of many individuals, cannot be understood because precisely what needs to be understood is relational and subjective. This magical versus scientific thinking is easily recognizable in the two solitudes of contemporary Humanities and Sciences research in universities.