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

Monday, November 30, 2015

A purposeful brain

Human Brain     (Public Domain)
Ever wonder why some elders managed to retain cognitive abilities well into their second century, despite having the plaques and tangles that are indicative of Alzheimer’s?

Ashton Applewhite of Huff Post's “The Blog” explores this very question.  She attributes such abilities to “cognitive reserve,” which has been defined as “extra neurons and the connections between them.”

This cognitive reserve is built “by resisting habit and inertia and continuing to learn new things.”  In other words, leading a purposeful life can help offset tendencies toward dementia.

The problem is that society often segregates elders.  In settings such as nursing homes, residents may be relegated to surviving rather than to thriving.  It’s tough to find meaning and incentive when activities mostly consist of passive entertainment.

Applewhite therefore makes a strong case for “helping older people stay engaged and purposeful.”  This makes sense (literally) for elders themselves, as well as for society at large.       


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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Beyonce by any other name

'Mrs. Jay Z' herself...  (Photo by Tony Duran) 
The Internet’s abuzz with the so-called news that bantamweight champion Holly Holm actually “dared” to ask Beyonce her name.

After Jay Z simply introduced Beyonce to Holm as “my wife,” Holm did what she normally does when husbands emphasize their own frame of reference:  She turned to “the wife” and politely inquired, “What is your name?”

How wonderful that Holm thinks to validate wives as individuals in this manner.  How wonderful that she does this so routinely that it automatically popped out while talking with Jay Z…

After Holm apparently apologized for this “oversight,” Beyonce assured her that it was no big deal.  After all, a Beyonce by any other name is still a Child of Destiny.


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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bennet Omalu: He who came forth and spoke

Mike Webster   (Fair Use)
In his native Nigeria, Bennet Omalu’s name (shortened from “Onyemalukwubew”) means “if you know, come forth and speak.”

After Dr. Bennet Omalu came forth and spoke the truth about football injuries, his name became prophetic.  Upon release of the film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, the fruits of Omalu’s knowledge will be widespread.

Where did such knowledge come from?  Wikipedia states that Omalu is a consummate medical professional, with advanced training in epidemiology, anatomic and clinical pathology, and forensic neuropathology.

However, Omalu’s keen intuition might very well be rooted in other realms.  During a 2013 FRONTLINE interview, Omalu confided, “I’m a spiritual person.  I’m a Catholic.  I treat my patients, the dead patients, as live patients.”

He then explained, “I believe there is life after death.  And I talk to my [autopsy] patients.  I talk to them not loudly, but quietly in my heart when I look at them…  I’ll come out of respect; I’ll look at the face.”

When football-great Mike Webster was on the autopsy table, Omalu said to him:  Mike, you need to help me…  You are a victim of football, but you need to help me wherever you are…  I can’t do this by myself…  Let’s prove them wrong.”

“Them” are the many who believe that football concussions have little or nothing to do with the development of dementia.  “Them” are also those who know the truth, but squelch it for personal gain.


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

Friday, November 27, 2015

A young Muslim's 'Trump card'

Trump in 2015    (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
In response to Donald Trump’s campaign to track Muslims, a young woman who was “born in the U. S. to first-generation Syrian immigrants” felt it imperative to send him a written reply.

Here are some excerpts from her note to him:  I heard you wanted us to start wearing ID badges, so I decided to choose one for myself… I chose the peace sign because it represents my Islam…  I heard you want to track us as well.  Great!  You can come with me on my Cancer Awareness walks at the local middle school…  Maybe if you walk in my footsteps, you can see that I am not any less human than you are.

This young lady, Marwa Balkar, is determined to set the record straight about all of Islam’s compassionate aspects.  Balkar has pointed out the many acts of loving service that Muslims do, such as offering food to the homeless through her local mosque.

Every religion has its share of ruthless followers.  An entire group cannot be blamed for the evils that only a relative few perpetrate.

As Balkar so cogently concludes:  All these extremists are not me.  That’s not my religion.


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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Putting the 'Hank' in Thanksgiving

Please, me too!      (Photo by Nhandler) 
Vet tech Rachel Kaufmann named her foster dog “Hank” because she thought that a strong name would toughen him up.

According to Woman’s Day, Hank was “pitiful and scared” when first taken in by Kaufmann.  With ribs sticking out, Hank could barely stand to be touched.

Kaufmann lovingly cared for Hank for six days before moving him to a longer-term home 11 miles away. Although it was tough to part company, Kaufmann felt that Hank would be well cared for there. 

Perhaps so, but Hank wasn’t about to settle for separation from Kaufmann.  He miraculously managed to escape from this second home and find his way back to her.

Just as Hank stood pawing at the door, Kaufmann pulled into her driveway.  Timid Hank greeted her with “a massive hug” as his tail wagged enthusiastically.

Although Kaufmann already has three other dogs, she couldn’t refuse this obvious show of love and longing.  Hank is now an official part of the Kaufmann family, and is no doubt enjoying a bountiful and blessed Thanksgiving 


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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Syrian refugees reminiscent of Anne Frank’s family

(Public Domain)
According to Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post, Otto Frank had desperately tried to secure passage for his family to the United States in order to escape Nazi persecution.

Anne Frank’s father, although wealthy and politically well-connected, was tragically unable to accomplish this.  It was a time when panic ruled in the United States regarding refugees from German-occupied countries.  Americans feared that such refugees could pose a threat to national security.

Sound familiar? 

Had the Frank family been admitted to the United States, Anne Frank could have become a long-lived writer there, rather than a victim of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 15.

In hindsight, many who read Frank’s haunting diary wish that such history could be rebooted.  In light of the current Syrian-refugee situation, perhaps this is that second chance.


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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude: Acting as if

Feeling blue, yet smiling...   (Photo by Jersyko)
Perhaps you’re not brimming over with gratitude.  Perhaps you’re feeling kind of fed up with life.

Nevertheless, you can act as if.  Some might rebel against such alleged hypocrisy. Others might claim that acting as if can eventually produce the target feeling.

Arthur C. Brooks of The New York Times is one such other.  He contends that “building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it.”

When we act grateful, the brain is actually coaxed into “processing positive emotions.” Even faking a smile can have that desired effect.

So there you go.  Put on your best outfit, and with it your best smile.  Then head on over to Thanksgiving dinner, and see how many “Thanks!” you can squeeze into one event.

Who knows?  You might walk out of there smiling for real. 


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

Monday, November 23, 2015

Russian courts stifle religious ‘extremists’

Nazi persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses   (Photo by Coreyjo)
Most mainline religious doctrine includes a certain amount of “exclusivity and supremacy” ideation.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are no different in that respect.  Nevertheless, they were banned in Taganrog, Russia in 2009 for “propagating the exclusivity and supremacy” of their own religion.

This has been part of a regional movement by local Russian courts to clamp down on what they deem to be religious extremism.  Sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita have come under attack to the extent that the Kremlin has had to push back.

Just recently, Putin granted “immunity” from such rulings to these four texts:  “the Christian Bible, Muslim Koran, Jewish Tanakh and Buddhist Kangyur.”

Religious groups that lack such protection fear being treated as though the Soviet Union were once again calling the shots.


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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Einstein’s entangled electrons still viable

'Told you so!'     (Public Domain)
Once upon a time, Albert Einstein proposed a theory of quantum entanglement.  To show that this was not just a fairy tale, physicists recently tried to close any loopholes within the initial experiments.

Quantum entanglement basically contends that two particles can “remain connected, even over long distances, in such a way that actions performed on one particle have an effect on the other.”

For example, when two electrons become entangled, one would have an opposite effect upon the other.  If one such electron were to spin in a clockwise direction, the other would then spin in a counterclockwise one.

Back in the day, scientists wondered about three possible loopholes:  Were the sampled particles truly representative of all entangled particles?  Could some lack of free choice be involved?  Could some hidden means of communication be in effect?

During recent experimentation, researchers were able to address these loopholes, using random samples with great distances between the two entangled particles.  As a result, they now agree with Einstein’s somewhat paranormal-sounding predictions about quantum entanglement. 


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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

From the mouths of babes

(Public Domain)
From the mouths of babes come such pearls of wisdom as this:  “But the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes…”

There is an honesty about their fresh perspectives on life, along with a curiosity that is philosophical (dare we say religious) in nature.  Questions such as “Will I (you, Aunt Betty, Grandpa Jim…) die someday?” can be expected.

Children might also wish to know: Where do we all come from?  Whom do you love best? Is God for real?  Why makes people do really mean things?  What’s the worst thing you ever did?

How should an adult handle such questions?  Sometimes it’s okay to admit that you just don’t have an answer.  At other times, it’s good to share some of your own feelings and experiences.  Kids can quickly tell when you’re lying or evading.

As for ultimate beliefs, they can be distilled into simple language that even toddlers can grasp.  As children grow older, they can be encouraged to interact directly with such fundamental inquiries.


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

Friday, November 20, 2015

LAX: And the first shall be first

LAX from On High     (Photo by WPPilot) 
Celebrities often seem to crave the limelight. They appear perfectly content to have ticket-paying customers line up at their feet.

But when so-called ordinary folks approach them at the airport, a whole different dynamic goes into effect. Adoring fans are then just in the way, and must be circumvented at all costs.

The cost for circumventing fans at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) will soon be lower.  Rather than hiring a private jet, celebs will soon have the option of utilizing a “special terminal,” one which will allow them to “glide directly from their chauffeur-driven limo to their first-class seat without having to interact with any of the general travelling public.”

This new hangout, costing a mere $1,500 to $1,800 per trip, will also include “separate security and border checkpoints.”  Such class segregation will allegedly protect commoners from the “media scrums” that out-and-about celebrities attract.


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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Denisovans: Long lost in the tooth

(Map by John D. Croft)
Once upon a time, Denisovans roamed the earth.  Turns out that “once upon a time” is a lot longer ago than scientists had presumed.

James Rogers of Fox News reports that “a prehistoric tooth discovered in a remote cave in Russia” is 50,000 years older than previously-found Denisovan relics.  This indicates that these “long-lost cousins” of ours were around for a really long time.

They eventually interbred with Neanderthals, as well as with modern humans.  In fact, “small amounts of Denisovan DNA” have been noted in present-day Melanesians.

Denisovan teeth were about “double the size of a modern human tooth.”  The genetic makeup of Denisovans shows twice as much diversity as that of Neanderthals, and almost as much as that of today's people.

So how and why did Denisovans go extinct?  That remains a mystery.


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