9 months ago

February 2020 Issue

  • Text
  • Paintings
  • Continued
  • Artists
  • Biltmore
  • Contemporary
  • Awareness
  • Rapid
  • Asheville
  • Arts
  • February
Works of art defining the contemporary age in WNC. Cover: ‘Downtown,’ 24x24, by Mark Bettis


EVERY PART OF OUR BODY IS IMPORTANT Your Health By Max Hammonds, MD Sometimes it is the little things that puzzle us the most. Why is that thing there? Of what use is it? Why not just take it out of the way? Such questions have plagued and confused health care providers for thousands of years. But we have had to wait for advances in medicine to help us understand small parts that we thought were useless – but weren’t. Such as: The pineal gland is a small, cone-shaped appendage attached to the base of the brain, which has stymied anatomists for hundreds of years. What does it do? Many thought it served some metaphysical, mystical function. Some thought it was the seat of the soul. Others thought it was a “vestigial” remnant of a now-lost larger organ. In 1958 a hormone was isolated from the pineal body and called melatonin – because it was thought to be useful in treating skin diseases. Through more rigorous hormonal and anatomical research, scientists discovered that the pineal body was a gland that secreted the hormone that modulates sleep cycles. Besides, this hormone – still called melatonin – also influences the pituitary’s secretion of two sex hormones – Those who have had the fifth toe amputated report great difficulty in walking and a loss of stabilization in the normal step. — Photo by Tyler Nix follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) – which affect the ovulation cycles in females and testosterone production in males. Most importantly, modern research has shown that blue light – that which emanates from tablets, computers, and cell phones – severely decreases the production of melatonin by the pineal gland. This particular wavelength of light interferes with the ability to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to go back to sleep once awakened. Suddenly, the small, mysterious gland at the back of the brain is essential in our modern age. And one of our good preventive health habits is to avoid those “blue-light” emitters during the last three hours before we go to bed. The appendix is a short finger-like extension of the first part of the colon (the cecum). It is located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, where it usually sits quietly – unless it should develop inflammation (appendicitis) and require removal. Over the centuries, no one seemed to know what its function was. Again, many thought the appendix to be a “vestigial” leftover from a larger organ now no longer present. Current medical research tells us that the appendix is a “safe home” for storing beneficial bacteria to re-colonize the colon should it experience a severe inflammation (like cholera) or an acute loss of its healthy bacteria (heavy antibiotic use). The appendix is also a significant contributor of white cells that are stationed there to defend against deadly viruses and bacteria that might invade that area of the gut. Who knew that the lowly appendix was so important? ‘Health’ continued on page 29 20 |RAPIDRIVERMAGAZINE.COM | RAPID RIVER’S ARTS & CULTURE | VOL. 23, NO. 6 — FEBRUARY 2020

MANAGING NEGATIVE EMOTION ZEN PHILOSOPHY WITH BILL WALZ “No self, no suffering.” - Buddha Buddha is said to have stated, “I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and the path to its transcendence. That’s all I teach,” but what this is also saying is that The Buddha taught entering into a deep examination into negative, problematic human emotions - what causes them, and the means to effectively managing them. This is so important because no matter how “smart” we may be, there seems very little correlation between the kind of intelligence that makes a person an expert in some field of study, in the academic or professional worlds, and emotional stability. There may even be, in many cases, an inverse relationship where with higher and more complex intelligence, there is little practical wisdom and little of what is sometimes called “emotional IQ.” The Buddha taught that in all of Nature, humans, because of their evolved brains, are unique in their ability to create a virtual reality called culture and to develop techniques and tools for living in a complex and exploitive relationship with Nature. This is a good thing from the standpoint of greatly freeing humans from the dangers and limitations of Nature while releasing us to be creative, making ever-more complex culture and tools. But Buddha also realized there is a very big problem connected to this evolutionary human trait of complex brain function. To borrow from a modern paradigm drawn from the very complex tool of cybernetics, humans live in very much what are virtual realities constructed of information manipulated by these complex brains, and this virtual reality generates a sense of a virtual-reality-sense-of-self that psychology calls ego that is quite disconnected from our true nature and from Nature itself with serious consequences for both us humans and for Nature. Buddhism teaches a model of mind that considers thoughts and emotions to be mind-objects or forms that exist within the formless energy of mind-consciousness that individuates into awareness, the faculty for directing consciousness energy with its inherent intelligence into the examination of experience. In recognizing this multidimensional model of mind, Buddhism then gives us a methodology from which we can train in building skill at managing the contents of the mind by directing awareness into this examination. The Buddha further taught that having realized this dimension of awareness that can examine the contents and activity of mind, the insight becomes natural that we then must not be the contents, the thoughts and emotions, as most people assume and our culture reinforces. Rather, if awareness can examine the contents and activity of the mind, then who we fundamentally must be IS this awareness and not the contents and activity. We are not egos that have awareness; rather, we are awareness that has an ego structure so as to engage the world. This shifts our experience of mental activity from one that seems helpless in its management to one that is interactive and opens the way for skillful management. While Western education focuses intensely on feeding the mind full of information and ideas along with methods of logic for putting these ideas together effectively for utilitarian application, it teaches nothing about managing these contents in a manner so as to maximize mental stability, serenity and wisdom. The Buddhist model, on the other hand, emphasizes that we can manage mind through meditative techniques where mind examines mind, shining the light of awareness on the content of mind giving us perspective and insight, while developing awareness of awareness, allowing us to explore its potential for intuitive insight into the nature of existence. We discover that as awareness, we are free of the contradictions and imbalance of the egoic mind, and we can deepen the exploration of life lived as awareness, the dimension that is the true source of intelligence, creativity, wisdom and insight. To continue borrowing metaphor from the cybernetic world, as the saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out” and any crazy thing can be programmed into these computer-brains of ours, much of it being completely contradictory and at odds with actual reality. Most importantly, these reality-virtualizing brains generating a virtual-self experiences itself as unique and separate from all else in the world, and this virtual-self is acutely aware of its vulnerability and its mortality; living in a story of itself in time, the past defining us and the future challenging us. This sense of limitation, vulnerability and dependency on the external world for stability and validation, and the too-often failure of the external world to provide consistency and validation, causes the contents of mind to be all too often marked by anxiety, frustration and unhappiness. At the core of most negative emotional experience - of depression, anxiety, anger and loneliness - is an exaggerated sense of this virtual-self in personal isolation along with a time-focus in the past or future. Most of the time, our focus of attention is on our “self” in our story-line in time that is too often distressing. Even anger, which in a given moment seems to be present-moment activated, has a strong component of residual past distress and disappointment brought into the present situation and is often carried quite inappropriately into the future, the ego chewing on its grievance over and over. The world, with the exception of whatever or whoever may be the focus of stimulating the emotion, has receded far into the background of our attention. Even the stimulating event or person is being experienced principally in its distressing connection to self, not in its larger context which would give the experience more sense and proportion, and thus greater acceptability. The world has to some inappropriate degree collapsed into the situation, thoughts and emotions orbiting our focus on our self. Buddhism recognizes this and teaches us to realize the antidote to such a perception is to ‘Walz’ continued on page 23 VOL. 23, NO. 6 — FEBRUARY 2020 | RAPIDRIVERMAGAZINE.COM | RAPID RIVER’S ARTS & CULTURE | 21