Love and Reality

From the movie Her

From the movie Her

I recently saw the movie Her with Joquin Phoenix and it really got me thinking.  Rough cut of the movie line: it’s a love story, about a man and a Operating System (OS).  But past that simple description, it asks us to take a look at how we narrowly define love and on a deeper level, what is ‘real’.  Culture seems to have the job of creating norms and rules about things that aren’t always easily definable.  Love can be simply defined, but it also has intangible qualities that are much more difficult to quantify.  It requires us to put language to feelings.  Reality is equally as hard to nail down.

love [luhv] noun

– a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
– a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
– sexual passion or desire.
– a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
(used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, my love?

reality [ree-al-i-tee] noun

– the state or quality of being real.
– resemblance to what is real, a real thing or fact.
– real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs: the reality of the business world; vacationing to escape reality.
Philosophy of Reality
– something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

These are probably good definitions, but are these definitions really the totality of these complex words?  What does love feel like?  Does love happen in reality or is it a construct of our minds?  How do you know it’s a “true love,” rather than a superficial “I’m so in love with ice cream” kind of love?  And who am I to judge if you’re not really so in love with ice cream?  In turn, what is Reality?  What does it mean that Reality exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive?  What are the nuances of a feeling real?  Is there a better way to love?  Or a worse way?  Do we attempt to make these deep philosophical ideas into black and white issues, easily defined, to fit in the boxes we like, so we can be comfortable?  While I understand that our cultural perspective does define these concepts, under what perimeters should love or reality be defined for anyone, given that few of us are from the same exact culture?

In Her, a man falls in love with a computer operating system (OS).  The OS is a learning, thinking, questioning, and growing being.  It has a great personality, but for most of us, it’s not what we think of as a “real person,” and therefore we might wonder, is he having a real relationship?  There were several places in the movie that I felt myself cringe when he talked about his girlfriend, and then explained she was an OS.  Yet the love felt real, at least to the man, and for me, the movie stretches the idea of what constitutes real love anyway?  At what point is love “real,” or valid?  Do we limit other peoples emotional lives when we foist our cultural judgements, our contextual thinking, and perceptions of reality of right or wrong doing, onto their reality?  Who gets to decide for everyone anyway?  Given that so many people are lonely and learning to love is powerful to our lives, why would we stop love from existing in any form that doesn’t harm anyone?

The movie also explores the idea of what make any of us real.  Is the OS real?  As in a sentient personhood sort of real? Is the OS more real than say a Corporation, which in the US we have given personhood and now Corporations have the rights of a real person, even though I’m pretty sure that Corporations don’t have souls. This is a similar question that was asked in the movie Blade Runner, At what point is something ‘real’?  More human than human was the sales pitch for the Replicants.  We could create ‘people’ but they had no rights, no souls, they weren’t real independently from our need or use of them, the Replicants were commodities.  Yet they evolved over time to have feelings, physical and emotional, and memories, and relationships, and they wanted ‘more life’ and to be considered real.  And, even today it’s amazing how many people have cyber relationships going on in virtual worlds?  Real people are behind the avatars, but they often haven’t met in the reality we call meeting ‘in person’, yet they can really know each other and they talk, have friendships, and dare one say even fall in love sometimes.

What if love and reality are big things, so big that we can only ever see a tiny bit and we think we’re seeing the whole thing, but the whole thing is so vast that there is no way from our small place in the universe to see it all?  What about that?  From this perspective of vastness, it may just be that we probably know next to nothing.  And, we create cultural constructs of our knowledge and try and make the whole vast infinite universe fit in our tiny little boxes.  I am reminded of a line from the movie Lion in Winter, “I know, You know that I know, and I know that you know that I know, we are a very knowledgeable family…”  But, the line might have been more true if we just said, “I don’t know, you don’t know, I don’t know what you know and you don’t know what I know, and we are all just making stuff up all the time pretending to be knowledgeable, it’s what our family does.”  That would have been funny.  In fact that’s the only thing I know is true… really.


What can Zombies teach us?


“My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I mean, we’re all dead. This girl is dead. That guy is dead. That guy in the corner is definitely dead. Jesus these guys look awful.”
Quote from Warm Bodies

This blog probably belongs in October.  But here it is, January 2014, and I am writing about Zombies.  Probably Zombie blogs are worthwhile all year long…  that’s my hope at any rate.

So, what do Zombies have to teach us?  Well, let’s start with what Zombies represent.  They represent, on a simple level, the living dead.  In Africa, the Voodoo definition of “Zombi” is a living dead person who is controlled by another person, the other person controls everything about the Zombi and the Zombi has no will of his/her own.  In Western culture, Zombies are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses hungering for human flesh, and particularly for human brains.  In a recent movie, Warm Bodies, Zombies eat brains to vicariously feel human again  by eating the memories and experiences of another person and also in an attempt to feel connected to their past humanness.

Now, knowing what a Zombie is, what can you learn from them?  The first question possibly needs to be: Am I a Zombie?  The second question is also what most spiritual journey’s are about: How do you stay alive once you decide you’re not a Zombie?

My personal bias, probably because I am old, is that being alive when you’re a kid or a teenager, well that’s far easier. I am not attempting to minimize the teenage angst, or the terrible things that can happen to children and teenagers.  But, having survived my own childhood and teen experience, I feel somewhat clear on this subject. It’s really hard for young people to be the living dead.  They are typically too alive in their minds, even if they are overwhelmed and depressed, they often haven’t had the long term experience of being beat down by choices, life, or responsibilities.  There are always exceptions to this rule of thumb.  But, if you’re 30+, yep you’re in danger, seriously deep danger. By your 30’s you typically have all sorts of past history, you have whatever is going on in your life now, to include responsibilities, kids, cars, homes, credit cards, and jobs.  These things make us tired and these things, these responsibilities in conjunction with general exhaustion, can make it easy to become the living dead… slaves to our stuff and slaves to our choices… no longer feeling in control, but rather forced to do the will of others.

Anytime you feel trapped in a marriage, or a job, you wake up, go to life (work), come home, watch tv, eat, sleep, wake up… do it over and over again, you are in danger.  It’s the monotony of life, the losing of interests, the giving up of dreams, these things are part of the slow migration towards becoming a Zombie.  Whenever you give up on important ideas, this giving into the status quo of societal expectations of you, then you’re in danger.  When you stop questioning yourself and others, and quit being curious and exploring what people think and why they think what they think, and if you agree or disagree, and why you agree and disagree… you’re in danger.  When you stop noticing the beauty around you, or participating in making the world a better place, you’re in danger.

I’m not absolutely certain, but maybe all it takes to stay alive, is finding your passion and keeping your brain alive.  Being on the quest to discover the things that gets you up each day with interest, excitement and passion, not just getting up because you have to get up, but because you genuinely want to get up.  It could be anything, so I am not interested in limiting this to being artistic, though for me it has to do with being creative and thinking and learning.  Again, creativity, thoughtfulness and education can take a lot of forms.  Maybe you love your job, you wake up ready to go out and “Live it!”, or maybe your job is the thing you do to support your real life, the one where you are continuing to explore the world around you, refusing to succumb to the potential banality that surrounds us all.  When in motion it is easier to stay in motion, but it takes a greater effort to get things that are at a stand still, moving again.  In the movie, the Zombies are able to become alive again, it took an openness to love, to start caring, and willingness to participate differently in life.

You can be rich, poor or anywhere in the middle, and still find yourself waking up dead.  And anyone, rich or poor can have a rich life, filled with passion, curiosity, and connection.  A simple truth: it’s easy to lose yourself, we are all just 2 steps from being a Zombie.  Mundane existence is a slippery slope and we all can slide down that hill, if we aren’t paying attention.  For me, being alive is about having passion and balance, it’s about really truly caring,  not being afraid, and not living a life of fear and hopelessness.  There are many issues that seem hopeless, and yet, if we are alive, aware, and thinking, looking for ways to make things better for ourselves and others, then very little is truly hopeless.  We often have opportunities that show up in our lives to love and learn and grow.  Question your thinking, why you believe what you believe?  Question my thinking.  But, always keep looking at ways to really be alive.

Be kind to everyone you meet, they are all walking a hard road, often filled with Zombies.  The lesson: be kind to Zombies, we’re all in danger of becoming one.

When you love someone…

Dreaming 2

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”
Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I am not sure exactly why this quote has so captured me.  Especially in the hindsight that Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s husband, Charles Lindbergh, had three other families (wives and kids) in Europe. It’s unclear if she knew this or not. I would find it a little hard to imagine such a smart woman being completely ignorant of who her husband was, and what he was capable of, even if she didn’t know the specifics. So, maybe she did know that he had affairs, and maybe she understood that love is complicated and messy sometimes. That often we are hurt, not by another’s actions, but rather by the idea that we have of who they are and how they should act, instead of loving them in spite of the fact that we feel failed by them, for not being what we want them to be.

There are boundaries that may be healthy for us, for me affairs cross a boundary in a marriage. Would I love my husband less if he had an affair? No, don’t think so, the love can remain. I’m not sure if I would stay in the relationship, certainly if I stayed it wouldn’t be in the same way. I don’t know what the relationship would look like, but it would change as I changed my thoughts about myself, my husband and the new “now” of our marriage. Love can bind us to people and places, it can give us purpose to learn and to move through the fear of vulnerability and stay true to love that is just for love.

Change through time is true in all relationships, family, friends, and lovers, even without traumas and dramas. We are constantly shifting how we feel about other people.  How we think about them, changes how we feel about them.  We do this all the time.  Think about the myriad of ways that we get angry or annoyed with people, even people we love, for much less concerning issues; the kids leave lights on everywhere they go, you ask nicely, you ask sharply, you ask and ask and ask, and still, no matter where in the house you walk, the lights are on. You scream, you rant, you threaten, and in these moments you don’t love in a loving way. Because your love has stories and expectations woven into the core of it. If you loved me, you would turn off the lights because you know and care what that means to me… Or, you would turn off the lights because it’s the responsible thing to do, or it saves money, whatever. Unspoken stories, I love you when you… do what I want?  The weft and weave as I sit in my justified nagging and yelling place, not showing love, because you didn’t meet my expectations. Is this conceivably true? Can I possibly be so self centered and demanding? Having unrealistic expectations of others and then wondering why the relationship feels distant or hurtful. This is the way of severing and ending relationships, this is not loving.

Just where is my responsibility for my needs, my feelings, and my expectations? Why don’t I turn off lights as I come to them instead of being unloving? Tell myself new stories that don’t connect my love for you, or your love for me, to my expectations? This simple shift is probably the hardest thing to do. The fine line between a healthy boundary and an unrealistic expectation. This shift takes courage, because like life, it’s fragile and filled with the longing of wanting to be loved in return, and we cannot control that. It takes the strength and flexibility of a dancer walking on a tightrope with no safety net and also dancing with a partner navigating the same dangerous ground.

Not many of us do this balance well. We may have areas where we sit in Buddha like calm over a topic while the world around us loses it’s collective mind. Yet, there are always chinks in our perceptions, places where we lose our own minds, often to issues or ideas that someone else has no problem with. It keeps us humble, we aren’t so perfect ourselves.  We are all creatures of light, but also of shadow. When we recognize our imperfection, do we then withhold love from ourselves?  Often the answer is “yes.” If this is true, how can you truly love another, with all their messy imperfections, if we can’t love our own self, with all of our messy imperfections? We hide and hate our shortcomings, we drown them and pretend they don’t exist, instead focusing on the shortcomings of others.  Isn’t the idea “to love others as we love ourself” at the core of all world religions? I think “yes.” My very purpose in this life is to recognize the places in myself that need to be challenged, tweaked and tuned, to learn to love myself through the process, and learn to love others in spite of my (mis)perceptions and (mis)expectations of them. Allowing for the ebb and flow, the here and now. Being present to the tide as it dances by my shore.

Potty Mouth III – Last but not least – Get Creative and Commit

*Disclaimer: This is the final installment of the Potty Mouth series, so if curse words continue to offend you, please do not read this blog posting. In fact run, run fast, run far, there is still time to save yourself. If your still under 18, where are your parents? And, do they know what your reading online? If you answer “hell no!” Then, well I don’t know what to say… I’m in shock!


As so many random thoughts I write about get started, my husband and I were talking. We were drinking wine and laughing discussing how people create all sorts of faux profanity. Often it’s a kid related reaction, because none of us seem to want to be the person who taught a two year old to drop an F-bomb on grandma, or in public, or anywhere at all. It’s sort of not cute to see a two to twelve year old sounding like big potty mouths. It’s probably not cute when their 45 either, but good luck with that one. Children and religious grandma’s have probably accounted for some very creative faux cursing. Some are uninspired and boring like fudge, or dang it, or shuuuuger! These lack any creativity at all. Some more creative cursing with kids might sound like Bloomin Ell, Fiddle Stix, or Fluffy Ducks, I don’t think “crap” or “fart” are real curse words, so I tend toward “Freaking numb nuts! Bloody ell, crap or, Fiddle Fart!” when children are involved. But, what about when you have no children, or their grown, and you are all on your own and feel the need to let’er rip?

My husband said that his dad looked at him one day, when he, my husband, was laying down some non-curse word, curse word, and said, “you need to commit” it’s sort of like the Yoda Quote, “Do or do not, there is no try”. Michael said it was probably the best advise his dad gave him, because that philosophy is true of life in general. So, if you’re going to be a potty mouth, and you recognize that there will be times when you need the medical benefits of an expletive, then let’s discuss being creative about it. This leads us back to Debra Morgan, from Dexter.

My friend Mindy just had a baby, I think Debs response to learning Dexter was having a baby with Rita was priceless.
Deb: (excitedly) A baby? a motherfucking rolly-poly, chubby cheeked shit machine? Are you kidding me?
Dexter: I’ve never heard it described in quite those words before, but yeah.

Mindy told me if I had said that, she would have burst out laughing. In hind site, I wish I had, but I’m not sure I would have been able to pull it off as well as Deb, because I would have been, snorting through my nose hiccuping, laughing as I said it.

Or, if something is so good you can’t control your overwhelming happiness…
Deb: Sweet Mary mother of fuck that’s good.
Dexter: I think you might have broken a commandment somewhere in there.

It’s funny how it isn’t funny when a little kid swears, but it can be really funny when some people swear, like your mom or grandma, it’s the surprise of the unexpected. If you look like your a little uptight, but then you loosen up and say, “Crap on a fucking cupcake!!” People often laugh. It’s the unexpected, the novelty that makes it work. Also, crap on a cupcake is a personal favorite of mine, because it is a great juxtapositioning of things that don’t belong together, and it reminds me of a girl I knew in college. She was that person who was so superficially nice, but she would trample all over you if she felt the need. She was the “non friend friend” that tries to steals your boyfriend, or tries for your job, or basically makes a game of trying to fuck with you make you feel less than. I used to say, “I’m just a little cupcake… Baked by the devil,” (you need to use the sweet voice for the first part, and the demon voice for the second part to really get the whole effect) This was/is what I say whenever I tried to explain how I felt about her people like her. So crap on a cupcake just makes me laugh it sort of sums up how tied together the good and bad can be. Being creative means coming up with profanity that isn’t common, I personally love, “Asshat,” it’s so descriptive, and what it describes is funny, to me at least. I also love “cluster fuck,” it really makes me laugh, because what the hell! A cluster of fuckers, or maybe a cluster of fuckers fucking, who knows, but it’s funny. If you ever watched the show Tombstone, you might never wonder again how cocksucker can be worked into every situation and probably helped win the west. Using words from other places is a good way to A. Be creative and B. Get away with cursing in public or work situation without a lot of blow back. For instance “shag it all” or “sod off,” both roughly translate into fuck it all and fuck you, but sound cool and British.  I used to say, “Things get shagged up…” The list goes on, Bloody Sodding Hell, people know your mad, but they’re probably not too offended by the content. Bollocks, is a great, holy shit I’m surprised or annoyed, word. And, there is a long list of others UK options to choose from. The chicks at Chick, came up with a list of the 100 best curse words of all time, making a short video about it. I’m not sure I agree 100% on all the best swears, and they are very American, but Holy Buggering Fucksville! it’s a funny video Batgirl/boy! I learned a few new words, such as Bumblefuck, Thundercunt, and Craptastic, I’m not sure when I’ll use them, but now they’re locked and loaded for the perfect moment. The Chicks also recommend changing things up and using words in unexpected ways. And, that’s what I call creative.

I hope as you’ve read this post something will become clear, I don’t call other people curse names, I don’t say “you fucking asshat!” etc. I don’t think that’s really helpful to situations or people. I might think it in my head on occasion, often about something I’ve just done, such as, “I am such an Asshat!”  But, in my marriage, friendships, and general passing folks on the street, I don’t curse at them. It’s no way to either start a real conversation, or ignore and move on. If you engage with calling people names, most people will engage back, so now we’re in a power struggle… For creative genius? I don’t think so. I also don’t really find cursing a means for projecting strength or being respected by others. I don’t respect people more when the tell me I’m an a Fucking Asshat, do you?  It’s just one of those things, I can call myself anything, you can’t.

To be honest, I subscribe to the idea of, ‘make life funny,’ and the same holds true for profanity. I believe that we need lots of tools in our toolboxes, and while I wouldn’t make cursing my only tool, anymore than I would recommend only having a hammer to build a house, it still belongs in the toolbox. Not only can it help to expel tension or communicate a strong feeling, it can also make us laugh and bind us together in other interesting and useful ways. Plus, my guess is, that while “Mama” may have been our first word, “Shit” was  close behind.

Potty Mouth… Intent and Impact

*Disclaimer: Again, if curse words continue to offend you, please do not read this blog posting. In fact you should shut your eyes right now and back slowly off the page.  This goes for you if you’re under 18.  Back away slowly, and then run.  Of course if you’re 18, you could probably teach me some creative curses.  But, scoot on off this page before you turn to salt.

David Sedaris Quote

We’ve all met them, you know, the people you drop fuck into every other word in any and all sentences.  They say things like, “I haven’t seen you in fucking forever, fuck me, how have you fucking been?” or “One fucking time at fucking band camp…” or even “Fuck you, you fucking fuck!” which was a personal favorite of mine in my 20’s, because fuck got to be the verb, noun, and adjective.  In fact, my favorite potty mouth is Deb Morgan from Dexter.  She gets stars for her ability to also use cures words creatively, which I will bring up in the next installment of the Potty Mouth series.

There are several reasons why people over use curse words in regular talk.  They are trying to assert their right to speak however they want to and it becomes a habit.  Maybe it’s how they differentiated as a kid into an adult, see you can’t fucking boss me around so fuck you.  Cursing is a form of expression that little kids aren’t really or readily allowed, so I am an adult, hear me swear like a sailor!  I personally chose the higher art form of differentiation and got a tattoo… except I still curse, so I think maybe it’s worse for me, I have tattoos and curse… sigh.  Maybe they’re surrounded by friends who support the shit talk, and so they bond with all their friends, and it becomes a habit.  Or, it makes them laugh because it ‘offends’ someone, thus gaining them a sense of power or superiority.  But, it really doesn’t matter why specifically, over time, even a good thing can wear people out.  Even those of us who enjoy a curse or two or twelve.  What starts off with real power, or at least shock and awe. in the rarity of its use, looses that pop when that’s all that is said.  Plus, what are we really saying when we continually curse in simple sentences?  That we speak with a lot of blue adjectives?  That we’re flamboyant?  That we’re tough?  That we really feel intense about the subject?  Maybe ‘yes’ to all that.  But, whether we like it or not, we live in a bigger culture, and we have to look at what our goal is, when we talk with people.  It’s a little communication issue called, Intent versus Impact.  If my intent is to be funny (which it normally is, at least to funny to myself), and I say something, and no one laughs, I missed my intent.  The impact was, no one thought I was funny.  Wow, that hurt just writing it.  Deborah Tannen speaks to the intent of the words.  Two people may use the same curse, and mean two very different things.  She states that people need words to convey emotion, and for those that use them, curse words are linked to emotion in a visceral way. [1]  Overuse may just dissipate the emotional impact, it basically bleeds the feeling out of the words, because no one keeps listening after awhile.

As young adults, we often want to push buttons, cursing is an easy button to push.  It’s a great way to maximize offense, or a great method to strengthen our opinions, or find our tribe.  But, it’s the easy button of language.  It doesn’t require much creativity or intellect to pop off with a *#&@^%$@ (insert your favorite curse here).  And, sometimes, just on the occasion, others words might work better to make a point or communicate your position.

It is also true that cursing holds a different value than it did in the Victorian age, or even up to the 1950’s.  Since the 1960’s there has been a steady acceptance of cursing in Western culture, and American culture at the very least.  Our politicians get caught cursing on microphones, most of our music, movies and books, have people saying all sorts of things that might have curled my grandma’s hair.  In fact check out Why Educated People Curse.[2]  The whole use of what once was considered ‘strong language’ is now sort of passé.

But, again, too much of a good thing is still probably too much.  And, we each have to find that balance in how we speak and to whom we say what.   Which leads me along to the next blog, creative cursing and committing.

[2] The Editors, “Why Do Educated People Use Bad Words?,” April 12, 2010, The New York Times Opinion Pages.

Why are we Potty Mouths?

Mel Brooks Bullshit

*Disclaimer: if curse words offend you, please do not read this blog. In fact you should shut your eyes right now and back slowly off the page.  This goes for you if you’re under 18.  Back away slowly, and then run.  Of course if you’re 18, you could probably out curse me 6 ways to Sunday.  That just might be the topic of a later blog.

Profanity: n. The condition or quality of being profane; irreverence.

  1. Vulgar, irreverent, or blasphemous speech
  2. The use of bad, strong, foul language
  3. Swearing or Cursing

The purpose of cursing:

I am not sure exactly how these thoughts pop into my mind, let alone anyone else’s mind, but I was driving along yesterday and started wondering why I curse sometime?  And, why I enjoy it so much.  In fact, why do any of us curse?  I have my own personal theory about this, but I decided to do a little research, because cursing is a technique that we find all over the world.  While some languages apparently don’t have swear words per se, they all certainly have ways of being rude.  I’d say one of the great gifts of the English and Germanic Languages are that they have exported all sorts of curse words, near and far.  Who hasn’t met some nice person from some foreign land, and then pumped them dry for the “bad words” in their language?  I have been known to pump that well a few times myself.  My dictionary of Spanish insults is impressive.

Apparently swearing performs several social and psychological functions.  It’s sort of interesting that there has been research on this issue, and the research found that chimpanzees have similar behavior to human in this regard.[1]  I am going past the scientific research and possibly over a cliff, to say that my dog has been known to throw down a curse or two.  If you surprise him, he jumps up, saying “ruff %#!*!&#$!!!” which loosely translates into “What the Fuck!” in dog language.  I have witnessed this same behavior in other dogs, cats, and pretty much almost every animal video on YouTube.  Plus, if you have ever listened to Crows and Seagulls, I am pretty sure they are saying some shit that would curl your hair.  They’re the potty mouths of the avian world.

I think at this point it’s within believability to imagine that cursing has been around as long as people have had the ability to make any sort of vocalizations; that first finger smashed by that first rock probably elicited the caveman equivalent to “Fuck!.”  So, what’s the purpose of all this cursing?  Clearly there has to be a purpose if we’re all doing it and we have been doing it so damn long.

Well, going back to the whole finger smashing incident hypothesized above; apparently swearing can help with pain… who knew that?  Well, these guys, Richard Stephens, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston knew.[2] In fact they advise that you should swear in response to pain if you hurt yourself.  The funny thing here is this doesn’t just give you license to be a potty mouth forever when you’re in pain, because if you overuse the swearing, you get a diminishing return on the pain relief, and no one will continue to feel sorry for you, because they will bored with your strategy.  But, seriously, these guys caught themselves a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for their research.  So, swear some when you smash that finger or stub that toe.

To add to this cool science, a group of neurologist and psychologists at the UCLA Center for Alzheimer’s disease research have suggested that cursing may help in differentiating Alzheimer’s disease.[3]  If grandpa curses, it can tell the doctors just what sort of Alzheimer’s you’re dealing with.  That’s sort of cool, because it’s a pretty simple test, except you’re still left with grandpa and his cursing.  Which can get tiring.

Then there is the wonderful psychological aspect of cursing.  It can make us feel so good!  We need to say something harsh in response to surprise or any strong emotional response to events.  We want to feel stronger rather than weaker.  We want to be a badass in that moment.  I think cursing can give us that.   We also use cursing to push people away, or to fit in.  It can easily work on both those levels.  We are quite capable of choosing the when’s and where’s of social cursing.  What may be appropriate with a group of friends, might work out poorly for you in your grandma’s house.  And, it’s important (i.e. intellectually entertaining)  to look at because cursing it is a normal part of human communication.  It happens and we all do it.

Which leads to the next Blog about the Impact of Cursing.  See you soon! Damn it!


[1] Angier, Natalie (2005-09-25), “Cursing is a normal function of human language, experts say”, New York Times, retrieved 2012-11-19

[2] Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston (2009). “Swearing as a Response to Pain”. Neuroreport  20 (12): 1056–60.

[3] Ringman JM, Kwon E, Flores DL, Rotko C, Mendez MF, Lu P. (2010). “The use of profanity during letter fluency tasks in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer disease.” Cogn Behav Neurol. 2010 Sep;23(3):159-64


Mirror Mirror…

“The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.”
― Chuck PalahniukHaunted

Why is it so easy to see issues, especially negative or problematic issues, in someone else, but so difficult to see same issues in ourselves? We spend so much time looking out windows at others, instead of looking into mirrors at ourselves. The lack of control or effective ability to create change in others often leaves us lost and frustrated. We tell ourselves stories about how if others really loved us, or saw our value, they would do these ‘small’ things to change, so we could feel better.  All the while missing the opportunities for change, that might be meaningful in our lives, by ignoring the change we can create in our own selves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea, I’m calling it the Projected Self Concept.  The projected self plays nicely with the idea of internal locus of control versus the external locus of control.  Do I have power over my emotions and myself?  Or do you?  The Projected Self idea asks us, if the issues that I find frustrating or annoying are actually ones that trigger some deeper concern I have in my own self?  Is it that I see in others what I dislike in myself?  Often I think that yest this is true.  Sometimes the behavior or qualities I dislike in others aren’t a one to one mirror of my own self, but those behaviors may trigger another feelings about myself that I don’t like, so I project them in an effort to ignore my issues. So I don’t see have to see them: I rationalize my behaviors.  Say for instance, my mom who is aging, moves very slowly.  It’s frustrating, especially on cold days.  I am not frustrated by my projection of my own slowness, because I am quite capable of hoofing it, at least for a few more years.  But, maybe, just maybe, I am triggered by the idea that I am aging, and I am not getting enough done, or I am wasting time in my life, wasting time I could be using to do something I think is meaningful.  I feel her slowness and then feel my own frustration that I am not meeting my own goals for myself, the feelings feel the same.  And, I feel it most when I am standing there waiting for her to get out of the car or walk into the post office.  The projected self then can focus on the other, blame the other, and viola! presto magico!  I am no longer the problem, I don’t have to look closely at myself, it’s not my own aging, or lack of follow through, it’s “her” she’s the issue, she’s so slow!

The fascinating thing is that the more we look at ourselves, the more we find that our lives and our frustrations are ALL about us.  What power lies in that knowledge!  One of the super secrets of life is that we can learn through being aware of our selves and our feelings provide a road map.  The more we can recognize this idea, that we notice when we are projecting ourselves, the more peace we can have because we are no longer trying to change others.  It all gets really clear when we recognize that we really do create reality around us.  We are magical thinkers, confabulating our histories and our stories so that these projections make sense.  We get to be victims of our avoidance.  And, just as magically, we can stop it, we can choose a different reality.  We can instead find ways to know ourselves, understand our fears, recognize the triggers, and give up the idea that we need to be right, or that our feelings are about someone else.  As long as we are confabulating and projecting, we miss the opportunity to actually see ourselves (in that mirror) and do the work of personal or spiritual growth.  Thankfully, we can choose to develop insights into our triggers that can lead to real changes.  The sort of changes that we have some control over, like taking responsibility for the changes that lead to deeper relationships with others, and developing more authenticity in our relationship with ourselves.  So, choose wisely.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
― Albert Einstein

Several books that I have read lately have me thinking.  The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz and The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.