From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kanye West: Humbled at last

Le Louvre   (Photo by Gloumouth1) 
He who has proclaimed “I Am a God” on an album called “Yeezus” is not particularly known for his humility.

Nevertheless, Kanye West admitted to experiencing a twinge of modesty at the recent BET Honors.  As he took the stage to accept a Visionary Award, West stated:  For the first time in my life, I understand what it’s like to feel humbled.

As the spirit overtook him, West went on to wax philosophically about the nature of racism and slavery.  He told the somewhat captive audience that “on the micro” there seem to be different races, “as opposed to the macro which is the human race.”

Perhaps his wisest sentiment of the glitzy evening was something to this effect:  Just because we’ve made it big time doesn’t mean we aren’t slaves.

“Au contraire,” continued he who hangs out at Le Louvre in Paris:  We’re slaves to the idea of being cool.


Copyright February 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hawking weighs in on human nature

(Public Domain)
While graciously escorting contest-winner Adaeze Uyanwah around the Science Museum of London, Stephen Hawking weighed in on the best and worst of human nature.

When Uyanwah asked him “what human shortcomings he would alter, and which virtues he would enhance if this was possible,” Hawking warned against aggression and lobbied
for empathy.

According to Cambridge News, Hawking believes that human aggression “threatens to destroy us all.”  Whereas such behavior might have been integral to survival during “caveman days,” its current risks far outweigh its benefits.

Not convinced that human empathy will prevail in time to save this planet, Hawking is advocating for the colonization of outer space.  He views such pioneering as “life insurance” for the human race.

Hawking has repeatedly stated:  I believe that the long term future of the human race must be space…


Copyright February 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Self-mummification: Meditate vs. medicate

Mummified Monk  (Photo by Per Meistrup)
In today’s medically-oriented societies, death is often approached with fear and resistance.  In order to quell these existential anxieties, drugs such as morphine are administered.

Some centuries ago, highly advanced practitioners meditated rather than medicated.  Live Science reports that “aging Buddhist monks would slowly starve themselves to eliminate decay-producing fat and liquid, while subsisting mainly on pine needles and resin to facilitate the mummification process.”

They would then “be buried alive with just a breathing tube to keep them holding on so they could meditate until death.”  Although some may argue that this is outright suicide, is it qualitatively that much different from, say, certain types of end-stage care?  If these aging monks chose to die a conscious dignified death (as opposed to a stupefied one) is that morally wrong?

Of course, there may very well be other viable alternatives.  Rather than embarking upon a self-mummification process, couldn’t a dying person simply focus upon meditation while lying in bed   and awaiting a more natural cessation of breathing?

After all, these mortal coils will be shuffled off one way or another.  Is it not ultimately the soul’s journey that takes precedence after bodily death?

Copyright February 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 23, 2015

Epigenetics: As the DNA turns

Core Histone   (Image by Emw) 
In a delightful article titled “DNA on the Couch,” psychiatrist Deborah L. Cabaniss explains why “psychology is… our biology.”

She begins by describing how DNA “folds around” histones (cellular proteins) in a manner similar to that of thread wrapping around a spool.  In this way, six feet of tightly- coiled DNA can become compact enough to fit inside of a microscopic cell.

However, these folds tend to either expose or envelop certain genes (“sections of the DNA that determine the make-up of… the building blocks of everything in our body”).  When a gene is “open,” it can produce proteins, and when “covered” it cannot.  Therefore, the way the DNA is wrapped “around histones effectively dictates which genes… are turned ‘on.’”  These types of on-and-off aspects are known as “epigenetic changes.”

What’s really fascinating is that scientists have now discovered “that the genetic code can be modified after birth.”  In other words, histones can become “chemically modified” by lifestyle factors.  For example, parenting styles have been found to “cause profound epigenetic changes.”  Nurturing styles result in one set of genes being “turned on,” and neglectful styles produce quite 
another pattern.

These epigenetic patterns can persist well into adulthood if not intervened with.  It is encouraging to note that later-in-life nurturing can reverse the effects of early epigenetic changes. Having nurturing relationships during adulthood can thus offset some of the previous “damage.”


Copyright February 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Panspermia: Seeds of life everywhere

Anaxagoras Fresco  (Public Domain)
If the theory of panspermia weren’t complex enough, there are also the subheadings of lithopanspermia (“interstellar panspermia”), ballistic panspermia (“interplanetary panspermia”) and directed panspermia (intentional panspermia) to contend with.

From the Greek, the term "panspermia" can be literally translated as “seeds everywhere.”  Seeds of what?  Seeds of life.

According to Panspermia Theory, “’seeds’ of life exist all over the Universe and can be propagated through space from one
location to another.”  The rudiments of this theory were first proposed by the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, circa 500 BC.

Anaxagoras stated:  All things have existed from the beginning. But originally they existed in infinitesimally small fragments of themselves… There were the seeds (spermata)… but these parts, of like nature with their wholes, had to be eliminated from the complex mass before they could receive a definite name and character.   

Millenia later, Francis Crick (of DNA fame) proposed a “theory of directed panspermia.”  Because he “found it impossible that the complexity of DNA could have evolved naturally,” Crick believed that “small grains of DNA” could have intentionally been “loaded on a brace of rockets and fired randomly in all directions.”

Could some of this DNA have landed on Earth?  Crick seemed to think so.


Copyright February 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, February 21, 2015

KKK: Not all that sweet

KKK Members, 1928  (Library of Congress)
Stop any ten people in the United States and ask them what KKK means:  Chances are most will answer, “Ku Klux Klan.”

It seems that the “UK branch of Krispy Kreme” wasn’t thinking along those lines when it named a promotional campaign “Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesdays.”

After advertising these so-called “KKK Wednesdays” on Facebook, “the Hull branch of the doughnut chain” received   a lot of agitated feedback.

The Guardian reports that the Facebook page was then removed, and the company issued this statement:  Krispy Kreme apologizes unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores.

All well and good, since the Ku Klux Klan has historically attacked “black Americans… Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians and… Catholics.”


Copyright February 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bobby Jindal's exercise in exorcism

Governor Jindal  (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Louisiana governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, who converted to Roman Catholicism after growing up within a Hindu family, has made no secret of the fact that he once took part in an exorcism.

According to New York Times blogger Charles Blow, the exorcism was for a college friend of Jindal’s named Susan.  Susan was a “charismatic Christian” who had been recently diagnosed with cancer at the time.

Jindal's own account of this exorcism can be found in an article he wrote for the New Oxford Review titled “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare.”  

Jindal describes these “physical dimensions” rather vividly in passages such as this:  Suddenly, Susan emitted some strange guttural sounds and fell to the floor…  Susan’s sister… ordered us to gather round and place our hands on Susan’s prostrate body.

Some of Jindal's friends were commanding Satan to “leave this woman.”  Jindal self-reportedly began to “feel as if something was pushing down on my chest.”

The exorcism apparently went well since “Susan wound up claiming, “Jesus is Lord.”  She then seemed not to remember anything that had occurred during the actual ritual.

Jindal is currently contemplating a presidential run, and some are wondering whether this exercise    in exorcism might deter voters.  Others feel that it might instead be a plus because “nearly 70 percent of Americans believe [per 2008 Pew Forum survey results] that ‘Angels and demons are active in the


Copyright February 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved