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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Religion: Not an excuse to discriminate

(USDA photo)
Long ago, a notorious apple was involved with the Fall of humankind.  These days, another type of Apple is becoming involved with uplifting folks instead.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post titled Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous.

Cook explained that these laws, “recently introduced in more than two dozen states,” basically state that “individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.”

How does this translate into real life?  In Texas, for example, legislation is “being considered” that “would strip the salaries and pensions of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – even if the Supreme Court strikes down Texas’ marriage ban later this year.”

Although Cook was raised as a Baptist, and has stated that “faith has always been an important part” of his life, he emphatically believes that religion is not “an excuse to discriminate.”

Even from just a business standpoint, Cook asserts that such discrimination is destructive.  He explains that Apple strives for “just and fair” dealings, having recognized long ago that “discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business.”

Bad for business, and bad for the business of life itself…


Copyright March 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bees: Many disappearing

Bee Goddesses, 7th Century BCE   (Public Domain)
Once upon a time, bees were revered and protected. 

Minoan and Delphic priestesses were referred to as “Bees.”  The honeycomb was looked to for inspiration.  Greek mythology speaks of a nymph named Melissa (“Honey Bee”) who fed Baby Zeus (“King of the Olympian Gods”) honey instead of milk.

Wikipedia tells us that domed “beehive tombs” were quite popular within certain ancient cultures of the Mediterranean and West Asia.  Beehive-shaped houses “are some of the oldest known structures in
Ireland and Scotland.”

Bees are no longer held in such high esteem.  Many are now fast disappearing, due to mankind’s disregard for their overall welfare.

Brad Plumer of Vox explains that some wild bee species have “undergone big range declines, and some species have gone globally extinct.”  This means that “we’re becoming more and more dependent upon a smaller number of bee species” for pollination of our crops.

These population declines have been linked with the following: an international trading of honeybees, thus contributing to the spread of “parasites and pathogens.” Imported pollen (nourishment for these bees) also contributes to the spread of bee killers.

Couple this with the wide use of pesticides, then add the mass conversion of wildflower fields to farmlands, and the result might be an extinction of Melissa’s many marvels.


Copyright March 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Imprisoned minds: Liberation education

Beware the revolving door...   (PD)
Teaching philosophy within a prison really ups the ante.

Students inside those walls are not just mulling over concepts.  More than most who move freely about, inmates are subject to the daily rigors of society’s views (or lack thereof) about morality.

That is why it is so essential to provide a "safe space” in which prisoners can mull over life’s finer points.  In the absence of that, they may simply be steeped in life’s coarser moments.

Christia Mercer of The Washington Post reports that she has been teaching Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” to a group of incarcerated women.  These women, “who have spent years in prison,”
responded vibrantly to this opportunity.  Some asked insightful questions; others bristled with excitement.

Mercer does this as a volunteer because funding for post-secondary courses has been slashed from prison budgets since the 1990s.  She puts forth this question for all to consider:  If our job as educators is to nurture intellectual growth and contribute to a
thoughtful future for our country, what could be more obvious than to help those who are educationally under-served?

Mercer adds this encouraging Rand Institute statistic: Recidivism goes down by 43 percent when people are offered education.  


Copyright March 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Little Mogadishu: Dream turned nightmare

DID Ambassador (by SusanLesch)
On the tough streets of Minneapolis, young people have been lured into joining terrorist groups for years.

Joyce Hackel of PRI reports on one family’s anguish, which began in November 2008.  When young Burhan Hassan didn’t come home that night, his family was worried sick.

They had cause to be.  Hassan had been recruited by the Somali extremist group al-Shabab, and was on his way to the Horn of Africa.  When Hassan later “refused to fight and or get the training,” he was
“killed by the son of the former al-Shabab leader.”

What makes teens vulnerable to such recruitment?  Hackel explains that there are not enough opportunities for them to “find employment or join a positive programming like after-school.”

The "Somali enclave" in Minnesota's Twin Cities is called “Little Mogadishu.”  About 40 percent     of young men there face unemployment… compared to 3 percent statewide.

A chain is only as strong as its meekest links.  Lest the American dream become a nightmare for     all, the meek must be helped to peacefully inherit their fair share of Earth’s bounties.


Copyright March 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 27, 2015

If only: Betty White's sweetest regret

Ludden and White   (Public Domain)
Sometimes it takes many decades to learn life’s toughest lessons.

In the meantime, regrets tend to pile up like compost.  Yet within the dregs of “if only” are some seeds of the sweetest fruits imaginable.

At 93, Betty White can look back upon the years with wiser eyes.  Onlookers might feel that she has experienced life to the fullest.  Nevertheless, there is one sweet regret that haunts White today.

After two failed marriages (which she takes her share of responsibility for), White finally met the love of her life.  However, hindsight is always sharper than foresight.  When Allen Ludden first proposed, White came up with all sorts of reasons to refuse.

Star Pulse reports that White recently told Oprah the following:  “…I spent a whole year, wasted a whole year, that Allen and I could have had together, saying no, I wouldn’t marry him…”

Because Ludden died from stomach cancer in 1981, White has greatly missed him ever since.  Nevertheless, White was quick to add:  But we made it.  We finally did.   


Copyright March 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Steppingstone to Mars: Bold and boulder

Little worlds unto themselves...  (Photo by stu_spivack)
Let’s face it:  Going from Earth to Mars is quite the undertaking, especially if you’re never coming back.

It is therefore best to get a little practice in under the asteroid belt before saying some fond farewells. That’s why NASA came up with the bold idea of creating a steppingstone to Mars. 

This can be accomplished by yanking a boulder off an asteroid and nudging it into lunar orbit.  NASA estimates that this will be done by 2025.

Once that “2- to 4-meter diameter boulder” is ready to roll (with a cost of more than $1.25 billion, per The Christian Science Monitor), astronauts can make it their temporary home.

This will allow NASA to “demonstrate capabilities” needed “for future human missions beyond low Earth orbit and then ultimately, to Mars.”

Talk about an adventure!  Bring some Rocky Road, it’s going to be a while.


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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Muslims in America: Here right along

Abdul-Rahman  (Muslim prince, U. S. slave)
Many Americans are unaware that Muslims have been in the United States since (and before) its earliest days.

Although the Founding Fathers themselves were not Muslims, Peter Manseau of The Huffington Post reports that “Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both owned copies of the Quran.”

Long before religious freedom became legalized, a 1682 Virginia statute referred to those with “Mahometan parentage and country” who “heretofore and hereafter
may be purchased, procured, or otherwise obteigned, as slaves.”

Manseau explains that the number of Muslims “far exceeded the number of Jews” in 18th-century America.  In fact, there were as many people with ties to Islam in post-revolutionary America as there were members “of Methodist or Roman Catholic churches.”

Why, then, do so few Americans seem to know this?  

Although slavery was at first confined to non-Christians, a 1667 Virginia law guaranteed that baptism alone would not guarantee anyone their freedom.  After that, there was a strong movement to convert all slaves (“whether Negroes, Moors, Mollattoes or Indians…”) to Christianity.

In other words, Muslims were then afraid to openly practice their religion.  Hopefully, that part of American history will not repeat.


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

Space psychology: Ups and downs

Lunar Mining        (NASA artist's conception)  
Because space colonization seems inevitable for the long-term survival of humans, there is a growing need for knowledge about space

Researcher Nick Kanas has written about the
following psychological challenges that such
colonists might face:  “…anxiety, depression…
psychosis, psychosomatic symptoms… postflight personality changes… interpersonal tension… need for privacy…”

It should be noted that many of these difficulties are also prevalent on Earth.  Plus, there are some extraordinary space-psychology benefits that have been reported.

According to Pacific Standard, Kanas also wrote about the “growth enhancing and salutogenic”  effects of long-term space endeavors.  Pioneers “may experience increased fortitude, perseverance,
independence, self-reliance, ingenuity, comradeship.”

Not only that, “transcendental experiences” and “religious insights” have also been described by seasoned astronauts. There is a tremendous sense of unity that can be gleaned by viewing Earth from a cosmological perspective.      


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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Religion ups the ante

No turning back...  (Public Domain)
Whether it’s saying no to immoral-sounding requests, or saying yes to just-plain adventurous ones, religion has a tendency to up the ante.

A religious person might shun drinking and gambling due to moral considerations, rather than to health or financial ones.

However, “when it comes to risk with no moral connotations,” religious people are often the first to take the leap.  They tend to feel “safe and protected,” and are therefore willing to face down dangers.

Rachel E. Gross of Slate explains that those who view God as “a source of divine protection” (as opposed to a source of “fire and brimstone”) feel the most secure.  These are the folks who just might take up skydiving.

After all, if the parachute doesn’t open, Heaven's just a cloud or two away...


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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Labyrinth: Keeping it simple

Grace Cathedral, SF  (Photo by Marlith)
When things get too complicated, people tend to become trapped within mazes of their own making.

When the ancient Greek architect Daedalus cunningly crafted  a maze that could trap the monstrous Minotaur, Daedalus himself had great difficulty finding his way out.

The maze that Daedalus constructed is often called “Labyrinth.”  Wikipedia explains that this is somewhat misleading.  Whereas a maze such as Daedalus’ is multicursal (with many choices of paths and directions), a true labyrinth is unicursal (with only one “unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate”).

The “labyrinth” actually originated in Minoa during pre-Greek times.  It had been associated with royalty, and may have originally been “the palace of the double-axe” in Crete.  This “double-axe” symbol was also linked with the beginning of Creation.

The classical simplified labyrinth became popular during medieval times.  This simpler design allowed for a more meditative experience.  Walkers could now tread the familiar paths to the center and back (some say to a Minotaur “death”  and liberating “rebirth”) while keeping their minds free from the anxieties of becoming lost or trapped.

Modern labyrinths offer just enough structure to engage the mind, yet not enough to overwhelm it.   This remains the beauty and balance of the journey.


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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Starstruck: Total Eclipse of the Sun

1999 Total Eclipse of the Sun  (Photo by Luc Viatour)
When many of us hear the phrase “Total Eclipse,” we think of Bonnie Tyler’s sad, sad song.

However, scientists among us are more prone to think of our nearest star, the sun.  Hoping to catch a rare glimpse of solar secrets, these “eclipse chasers” gather at locations throughout the world.

On March 21, 2015, a hardy group of heaven-gazers were hanging out in the Faroe Islands (you know, “halfway between Iceland and the tip of Scotland…”).  They were hoping for clear skies in order to view the anticipated total eclipse “in all its glory.”

Jay Pasachoff of Williams College told CBS News that “it is thrilling to be outdoors when the sky darkens so abruptly and so dramatically.”  He should know, having already “seen more than 60 eclipses.”

But it isn't just about the drama.  In fact, it’s more about avoiding drama, the drama of solar flares potentially blacking out grids here on Earth.

Just recently, "Earth was hit by a severe solar storm, potentially disrupting power grids and GPS tracking…”  Pasachoff said that in order to predict such occurrences, it is necessary to better understand these solar ejections “and how they travel through space in all directions.”

So go ahead, enjoy your sunlit days in comfort and ease, knowing that a starstruck few are looking out (quite literally) for the rest of us Earthlings.


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

Friday, March 20, 2015

'No-sweat' divorce: Who wears the pants?

Judge for yourself...  (Photo by Punkt8)
Who wears the pants in the family?  According to actress Eva Mendes, the “ladies” do.  And when these pants are “sweats,” that spells d-i-v-o-r-c-e in Mendes’ world.

How do we know all this?  Debbie Emery of The Wrap was kind enough to publish Mendes’ mighty thoughts on the subject.  They go like this: You can’t do sweatpants.  No.  Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America?

Mendes' boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, weighed in on the matter.  His response can be found in this Twitter quote: …Wearing them now. That’s right, tweeting in sweatpants.  Rats! Said too much…

Gosling also called this whole "sweatpants thing" a “joke.”

Wish that it were.  Although Mendes and Gosling may have been making lighthearted comments, these stereotypical traditions are still all-too-much in effect:

Ladies, if you want to hang on to your men, then you’d better mop floors and wash dishes in your Saturday-night best. 

Men, you can do whatever.  Be defiant.  Tweet in sweatpants.  It just makes you bad boys all the more alluring…


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


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gleeden: Breaches more than civil law

A howling success?   (Photo by Retron) 
Gleeden (Den of Glee?), a French dating site that is specifically geared towards adulterous affairs, may be living up to its name.

The word “den” originally referred to the lair of a predatory mammal.  It seems that what is being promoted as gleeful may instead turn out to be mournful (at least for those marriages that are ripped to shreds).

French civil law, as instituted in 1804 by Napoleon (who knew a thing or two about adultery), asserts:  Married partners owe each other the duty of respect, fidelity, help and assistance.

Some use the argument that this law is outdated.  After all, 1804 was a long time ago.  Using that logic, the Ten Commandments (put forth in the B.C. era)
would be even more outdated.

However, some wisdom seems to be timeless.  For example, one Gleeden customer claimed, “…when we are both married, we both accept we only want to go so far in the relationship.  It’s easier to keep things uncomplicated.”

This logic totally discounts the complexities of human nature.  Just because both go into the affair knowing each other’s marital statuses doesn’t mean that hearts will necessarily comply.

Play with fire, you might get burned.  Worse yet, you may take a lot of others down with you.


Copyright March 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jesus on speed dial

Hampton Library  (Photo by Sixman)
Hampton head coach Edward Joyner apparently needed an answer quick.

He therefore didn’t call upon Jesus by praying (so 1st century), but instead chose to press the speed-dial button on a cell phone.

Jesus apparently answered, but it was not necessarily the response that Joyner wanted.  According to a video shown on College Spun, the line went dead shortly after Joyner posed a question regarding Hampton’s chances against Kentucky.

One can only imagine Jesus thinking:  “Who does this coach think he is?  I don’t have time for such frivolous pursuits.  Too busy saving the world, not the team.”

Perhaps Joyner should try some old-fashioned knee bending.  Who knows?  It might work a whole lot better than today’s technology.


Copyright March 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Megachurch, Megamillion

Megachurch NYC   (Public Domain)
It seems that megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar has a last name that suits him.

Kate Brumback of Associated Press reports that Dollar recently put out a plea for lots (as in millions) of greenbacks.

After all, can the Great Commission be truly fulfilled without the ownership of a Gulfstream G650?  According to the Gulfstream website, the G650 “flies at more than 92 percent of the speed of sound."

Unfortunately for supporters of Creflo Dollar Ministries (but fortunately for the Gulfstream company), the G650 has been listed at approximately $68 million.  That there’s a lot of donations.

There were numerous reports that Creflo Dollar Ministries began this campaign “believing for 200,000 people to give contributions of 300 US dollars or more to turn this dream into a reality.”

This publicized intention may have caused an online uproar, for it quickly morphed into these words:  “Your love gift of any amount will be greatly appreciated.”  Brumback states, “Soon after that, the website’s entire page about the plane appeared disabled.”

Dollar is a proponent of the “prosperity gospel.”  Brumback explains, “Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.”

"Works" with what goal in mind?  Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Do not store up for yourselves  treasures on earth…”?


Copyright March 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 16, 2015

Heather Mills: Philosophically speaking

Mills and buddy   (PETA photo)
When Heather Mills speaks about ex-husband Paul McCartney as though he’s just one more human on this planet, she readily gets accused of slamming him.

Yet philosophically (and every other which way), she’s certainly got some valid points.  For example, Mills recently expressed frustration at being continually linked to McCartney rather than being appreciated for her own considerable talents.

E! Online reports that Mills described McCartney in these down-to-earth terms:  This is just someone I fell in love with who to me was a normal guy that happened to write a few cool songs in the 60s and a few in the 70s…

Those who tend to idolize McCartney (and celebrities in general) might be aghast at her assessment of Sir Paul.  Just a ‘normal guy,’ why how could she possibly even think that about a Beatle?

And yet, being the wife of an icon (be it McCartney, Gandhi, Pete Seeger, Abe Lincoln, FDR, JFK…) is not all that enviable a role.  There is a long list of “little women behind big men” who got to experience the not-so-superhero aspects of their respective spouses.

So if Mills prefers to move on from the past in order to better focus upon her present gifts to the world (such as owning this planet’s “biggest vegan company”), who (with no ax to grind) can really blame her?


Copyright March 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mr. de Kock: Good, bad or both?

Apartheid Era Sign  (Public Domain)
The strange case of South Africa’s Mr. de Kock can make the rest of us stop and think:  Is there really such a thing as a thoroughly evil person?

Mr. de Kock, the apartheid tyrant formerly known as “Prime Evil,” has done some pretty grim things.  After all, you don’t earn a title like that in the Boy Scouts.

Nevertheless, he has spent the last several decades expressing regret to victims and providing them with healing information.

Is this the fa├žade of an incorrigible psychopath?  Or could it be the sincere repentance of an at-least-somewhat reformed criminal?

Antgie Krog, Op-Ed Contributor to The New York Times, puts it this way:  Can an evil man change? Krog goes on to theorize that some “prefer... [Mr. de Kock] not change so that the rest of us, who find it hard to confess our… co-culpability in apartheid, need not change ourselves.”

Krog ends with this vital question:  Had Mr. de Kock not been initially “schooled in racism, indoctrinated through religion and educated into violence to protect an unequal social order,”      could he instead have grown up to be a “soft-spoken, kind and caring” man?

Copyright March 15, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Want more pi? Timing is everything

Dig in!   (Photo by Len Rizzi) 
Pi lovers will have it made on 3/14/15.  Not only will they get their usual helping of annual pi, but they will even be able to lick the platter indefinitely.

That's because the date for this year's Pi Day encompasses the first five digits (3.1415) of the famous mathematical
constant rather than just the first three.

Paul H. B. Shin of Good Morning America points out that if you devour your pi at 9:26 a.m. and 53-plus seconds, then you stand a chance of being infinitely in sync with this luscious ratio (3.141592653...).

So go ahead, grab that circular crust and have your way with it.  This is one time that you’ll be so busy counting decimals that you won’t even have to worry about counting calories.


Copyright March 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 13, 2015

Zoo therapy: 'Doctors' await

(1938 WPA Poster)
What if we’ve had it backwards right along?  What if the animals we think we’re visiting are actually visiting us?

Ted Gregory of the Chicago Tribune tells the compelling story of a young lady whose life was changed by her internship at a zoo. 

Beforehand, Zinyra Ross had been “isolated by severe cognitive disabilities.”  She had hardly talked, and had “walked with her
head down all the time.”

Four years later, after having served “hundreds of hours as an exemplary Brookfield Zoo volunteer,” Ross exuded confidence.  She had done a great job “as a greeter, guide and teacher,” and   had even spoken before “more than 600 people at                       the Chicago Zoological Society’s black-tie fundraiser.”

What made such a difference?  Famed animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, herself autistic, believes that “animals are a safe way for people with autism to interact socially.”

Marguerite O’Haire of Purdue University’s Human-Animal Interaction Research group maintains that “human interaction with animals releases oxytocin, known as the ‘love hormone.’”  Therefore, all children (and adults, too) can benefits from such “doctoring.”


Copyright March 13, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Facebook unto death, and then some

Fountain of Eternal Life  (Public Domain)
Although human bodies are mortal, Facebook accounts can live on long after the ashes have settled.

That’s not necessarily good news.  Some things are best buried along with their namesake. reported that Facebook has recently conceded this point.  Whereas accounts used to just be “memorialized” (i.e., “locked so that no one could log in”) after death, Facebook is currently offering some users more choice in the matter.

A Facebook user in the United States can presently opt to assign a “legacy contact” person.  This person will be able to sign in (with his or her own name) and add to the page, even after the user has died.

If the user does not wish to go this “immortal” route, then it is now possible to request that an account be permanently deleted after death.


Copyright March 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Injury: No blame, no shame

1842 Rail Accident    (Public Domain)
When Wise Woman Susun Weed was seriously injured eight weeks ago, she did not curse the circumstances, the heavens
or herself.

She instead got right down to the business of healing by repeating this affirmation:  My body heals rapidly and well.

Many, however, would leap right into blame with statements such as these:  Why didn’t I watch where I was going?  Why didn’t someone warn me about that rock?  Why me, anyway?

Blame, in turn, leads to shame – the internal feeling of not being smart enough, athletic enough, flexible enough, pure enough, enlightened enough…

Certain philosophies, some which call themselves “spiritual,” promote this type of self-condemnation.  The “there are no accidents” crowd often taints basic karmic beliefs by (literally) adding insult to injury.

When Weed asked Elisabeth Kubler-Ross why people tend to blame themselves for such things as accidents and cancer, Kubler-Ross replied:  Because guilt is preferable to chaos…  Bad things can just happen.  We aren’t in control of everything.


Copyright March 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

'Biblical' brain

Patriarch Noah   (Public Domain)
Many an ancient skull has been discovered, but one with a well-preserved brain inside is a rare find indeed.

Inquisitr reports that archaeologists found a 2,600-year-old human brain “preserved in oxygen-free clay-rich mud at an Iron Age site near York, England.”

Radioactive carbon dating confirmed that the man whose brain this was lived circa 6th century B.C.  His lifetime therefore
coincided with that of some Torah prophets.

Sadly, the circumstances of his death attest to the harsh conditions of this biblical era.  Experts determined that the preservation of the man’s brain was partly due to murder.

Inquisitr explains that the man’s head was “buried in a… pit immediately after he met a violent death by decapitation.”  This environment allowed the brain to “preserve its overall shape and microscopic features.”

It would be wonderful to conclude that atrocities such as this could never occur in today’s world,    and that 26 centuries have made quite a difference in human relations.  However, many a prophetic warning remains as ignored today as in ancient times.


Copyright March 10, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 9, 2015

Two wrongs: The cure for rape is not murder

See no evil...   (Photo by che) 
Although violence against women has been rampant in India (the National Crime Records Bureau reports on 309,546 such crimes in 2013 alone), murder seems a rather unlikely cure.

Nevertheless, “a mob of  several thousand people broke into a high-security prison in India, dragged out a rape suspect and killed him…”

Reuters reports that the 35-year-old suspect was “hauled naked through the streets and beaten to death.”  When police tried to control the mob, another person “was killed and several injured.”

Whether this degree of eye-for-eye vengeance was solely about rape, or whether it was also fueled by religious tension, is not fully known.

What is known is that violence begets violence.  As Mahatma Gandhi so eloquently stated:  An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.


Copyright March 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Deaf or death? A family's heartrending decision

y-Cyclodextrin  (Public Domain)
There are a number of do-or-die decisions in life, but few so heartrending as choosing between the extension of life and the quality of life.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a Bethesda, Maryland family that is having to do just that.  Phil and Andrea Marella, parents of 15-year-old Andrew, have been faced with the decision of whether or not to approve Andrew’s participation in a clinical trial of the drug cyclodextrin.

Andrew, who suffers from a “rare genetic disease that kills most patients by the time they are old enough to vote,” may gain years of life with the drug, but may lose his hearing as the result of its side effects.

Andrew’s mother poignantly summed up their dilemma:  Deaf or death, what are our options?  She then bravely added:  We have to keep moving forward.

After receiving a dose high enough to cause some hearing loss, Andrew was tested in a       soundproof booth.  His thumbs-up indicated so far, so good.

Because hearing is often the only major connection that seriously-ill children retain with their loved ones, this choice to continue is decidedly a courageous one.  Nevertheless, bioethicist Dr. Unguru of Johns Hopkins asks:  Where do you draw the line?  Is it hearing loss, renal failure, infertility, cardiac failure? 


Copyright March 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Roaches: Our new best friends

Forget these guys...  (Public Domain)
Forget cute little puppies and heroic St. Bernards.  If you’re trapped under a building, remote-controlled roaches can quickly become your new best friends.

Not only can cockroaches survive “dangerous amounts of   nuclear radiation,” but they can also grow a new leg if need be.  How many rescuers can match these feats?

Live Science explains that “cyborg roaches,” with their   implanted electrodes that enable “scientists to steer the creatures around,” may some day be carrying out “reconnaissance” missions and/or locating human survivors.  

If you’re already cringing at the thought of getting up close      and personal with these newfound buddies, consider this:  Roaches have gotten a bad rap.  Commonly thought to be filth incarnate, they are actually “constantly cleaning themselves.”

If you’re instead cringing about the seemingly cruel treatment of these insects, rest assured that scientists are working on a “steering mechanism” that’s less invasive than the implanted electrodes.  Team leader Hong Liang has also stated:  We don’t work them hard.  We let them rest.


Copyright March 7, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 6, 2015

Elders are gifts, not 'burdens'

Mahatma Gandhi  (Public Domain)
When a father in his 80s decides to kill his wife and himself so that they won’t be “a burden on their family,” something has gone terribly horribly wrong.

That “something” is our throw-away society.  When a car needs a few major repairs… time for a new one.  When a food item is one day past its expiration date… time to toss it.  Never mind that others are dying for lack of that same nourishment.

And so it is with our elders... Whether they be animals or humans, their liberty and pursuit of happiness is often forfeited at the first signs of major illness. 

When diagnosed with a so-called terminal disease, animals are often “put down.”  Why not instead “put them up” by lovingly caring for them in their time of need?

As for people, it behooves us to come up with much better support systems than we currently have.  It was Mahatma   Gandhi who warned:  The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. 


Copyright March 6, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Love: A bare-bones guide

Cowboy or Cowgirl?   (Photo by Hibernian)
If we could peer into the very core of love, we might find that it has no race, gender, disability, age or  religion.

In Santa Monica, California on Valentine’s Day, folks were shown what that might look like. 

Hidden behind a huge X-ray screen were a number of loving couples.  As they hugged one another, the viewers could only see their skeletons interacting.

As the couples afterwards stepped out in front of the screen, viewers could then see their physical attributes.  Some were gay, some elderly.  Some were interracial, some interfaith.

This presentation vividly displayed the bare-bones facts about love:  that it transcends all worldly categories and labels.

The Ad Council video of such must have struck an international nerve.  US Magazine reports that it received “more than 1.1 million views in just 24 hours.”

If we could all routinely view love from the inside out, the subconscious prejudices that         dominate many a human interaction might finally be laid to rest.


Copyright March 5, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Honduran 'Monkey God' reminiscent of Hanuman

'Lost City' (Illustration by Virgil Finlay)
There has been much talk lately of an extraordinary find deep within the Honduran jungle.  This discovery is said to be the long-lost White City (“La Ciudad Blanca”) of the Monkey God.

The Honduran Monkey God and accompanying rituals were vividly described by explorer Theodore Morde back in 1940.  He believed the White City (so-called because of the color of its stones) to be the capital of the Chorotegan people.

Morde’s Paya guides explained what the Monkey God’s temple had once looked like.  This knowledge had been orally passed down to them for generations.

According to these guides, the Monkey God’s temple had a “long staired approach” which was “lined with stone effigies of monkeys.”  The temple’s core
consisted of “a high stone dais on which there was a statue of the Monkey God… [and] before it was a place of sacrifice.”  There were also two other “colossal” images:  one of a frog, the other of a crocodile.

Stories also abound about a monkey who had “stolen three women with whom it bred.” The offspring of these unions were believed to be “half-man and half-spirit,” and were called Urus (“Sons of the Hairy Men”).

The Hindu god Hanuman is also a Monkey God.  He has been regarded as an avatar of Shiva, and is featured in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  Hanuman’s great physical strength seems comparable to that of the Honduran Monkey God’s.


Copyright March 4, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

India's daughters: Blaming the victims

Afghanistan 2011  (Public Domain)
On International Women’s Day, a film named “India’s Daughter” will be shown in seven countries.

According to the AFP, this film exposes the heinous ways in which women are being blamed for their own oppression.  

Mukesh Singh, a rapist whose victim died from the attack, made these shocking statements:  You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands.  A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night…
A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.  About 20 percent of girls are good.

Singh also had the shocking gall to blame his victim for fighting back.  He said:  She should just be silent and allow the rape.  Then they’d [the whole gang] have dropped her off after doing her.

Sentenced to be executed for this crime (as a result of testimony given by the victim before she died), Singh even added this vicious threat:  Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a societal mindset to steer a child so off kilter.   Kudos to “ordinary Indians” for their valiant efforts to reverse that mindset. 

Although India is still deeply steeped in patriarchal attitudes, Leslee Udwin (the award-winning creator of “India’s Daughter”) recently proclaimed:  In my lifetime, I can’t recall any other country standing up with such commitment and determination for women’s rights.   


Copyright March 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 2, 2015

'HEAVEN' surgery: Far from heavenly

Alexis Carroll, Transplant Pioneer  (PD)
With human head transplants allegedly only two years from fruition, some have been feeling aghast at the prospect.

The proclaimer himself, Dr. Sergio Canavero of Italy, dubbed this procedure “HEAVEN” (short for “head anastomosis venture”).  It involves the attachment of a decapitated human head to another human body via the use of spinal-cord “fusogens” such as chitosan and PolyEthyleneGlycol (PEG).

Wikipedia explains that when Dr. Robert J. White first transplanted a monkey’s head, there were many ethically-   based protests.  PETA (“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”) has since denounced White’s experiments as “epitomizing the crude, cruel vivisection industry,” and others have compared him with Doctor Frankenstein.

Dr. Jerry Silver called the current state of this procedure “barbaric,” and wondered aloud (should things go horribly wrong):  Can you imagine looking around the room, and you’re just a head?

Then there are other key factors to consider:  Would personality traits and memories somehow become confused when one person’s head is fused with another’s body?  This type of a fate could   be far worse than either natural death, or than living with difficult conditions in one’s original, God-given body.


Copyright March 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Peace circles: Exchanging rings in Oslo

Nobel Peace Center in Oslo   (Photo by Dirk Shroder)
Shortly after a synagogue in Copenhagen was
viciously attacked, Muslims of nearby Oslo were determined to demonstrate that “humanity is one.”

Huff Post Religion reports that they did so by
forming a peace circle around a local synagogue.  In return, hundreds recently “gathered around the Central Jamaat-E Ahl-E Sunnat mosque in Oslo to participate in and form a human peace ring.”

These hundreds included people “of all faiths
and ethnicities.”  Among them were Ervin Kohn, “president of the Jewish Community of Oslo” and Mehtab Afsar, “secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway.”

What a beautiful example for the rest of humanity to follow.

If only they would…