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The Aspen Eye is Looking at You

January 7, 2015

Tags: movement, order, aspen eye, aspen tree, Bergman – Ingrid (1915-1982), Bogart – Humphrey (1899-1957), Casablanca – movie, connected, Egyptian eye of Horus, “Here’s looking at you, kid”, love, Nature, Nepalese eyes, old, organism, Rocky Mountains, self-pruning, skiing, ski lift, sternness, The Aspen Eye is Looking at You, Utah, wise

From a ski lift, many years ago, my ski instructor pointed out that aspen trees have eyes. Aspens self-prune by throwing off lower branches – which makes for straight, sturdy stems. Where the branches fall off, they leave trunk marks like the Egyptian eye of Horus, or like the famous Nepalese eyes: They look at you – and don’t let go. For me, the aspen eyes have become a symbol for our yearly ski trips to the Rocky Mountains, and for the truth and beauty we find in Nature.

There is a stand of aspen in Utah that is estimated to be 80,000 years old. When you think this is remarkable, consider that all the trees of an aspen grove are joined underground: That forest is a single organism, if you will. We surely can learn from something that old, wise and connected.

Even if you never watched the classic movie Casablanca, you have heard about the famous scene: “Here’s looking at you, kid,” Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman, with love and sternness, because the lovers have to part; Ingrid has to learn to live her own life, and get over the pain of losing the greatest love of her life.

The aspen eyes look at me with the same Casablanca sternness. Those eyes are more than just beautiful. Through those eyes Nature looks back at me, I feel. Deep and hard. Same way how we should look at our fears.

Just Thinking … About Cancer

July 10, 2014

Tags: order, food, herbs, movement, water, alcohol, awe, birthday party, boredom, cancer, cell, cold shower, cooking, commitment, death, decay, emotion – fake, energy, flower, friendship, function, gadget, genetic, genome, gossip, hands-on doing, heart, helping hand, hiking, hugging, indoors, joy of life, judgment, Just Thinking … About Cancer, kissing, laughter, love, moral, music, nakedness, Nature, office party, OMG!, open door, outdoors, pollution, religion, revenge, scientist, self-inflicted, sex, song, stargazing, stuff, survival, talking, tolerance, tribe, TV, vegetables, vitality

Just thinking … some half-baked thoughts.

Just thinking: What is cancer? Of course, cancer is genetic. But what are those cancer genes doing in our genome?? Scientists now seem to come to conclusion that cancer is less some terrible thing gone wrong deep down in our bodies, but more some last-ditch effort to let at least SOME cells survive. They happen to be cancer cells, and nobody likes them. But they are strong, surviving cells when the rest of the body decays. It’s not the best of all strategies because in the end, the body dies, but the cancer cells die with it. But that is what we need to concede: The cancer cells are stronger – in many cases. They are more primitive, and they have only one goal: to survive. The other cells in a body might be more likable – they laugh, they cook, they make music, they hug and kiss. We all like the other cells better. But, in the end, cancer cells so often win.

Just thinking: Why do we get cancer? The theory is that the cells are losing something – their vitality, their drive to survive, their energy, their joy of life. Causes? Too much bad food (think birthday parties at the office). Too much boredom. Too much drink. Too few herbs. Too little commitment. Too little movement. Too little friendship. Too little hands-on doing, too much talk and gossip. Too much TV. Too much fake emotions – OMG!. Too little heart. Too little outdoors, too much indoors. Too much pollution. Too few vegetables. Too few hikes into Nature. Too much stuff. Too much religion, too little awe. Too many functions, too few open doors. Too much judgment, too few helping hands. Too many “friends”, not enough tribe. Too few cold showers. Too many gadgets. Too few flowers. Too much morals, too little tolerance. Too much revenge. Too little stargazing. Too few songs. Too little nakedness. Too much sex – too little sex – who knows, but definitely not enough love.

Just thinking: What can we do so that cancer can’t grow? Of course, there always will be some terrible genes, and some terribly undeserved cancer. But scientists think that 50 to 70 percent of cancer are self-inflicted – at least. What we can do? It is not so much fighting cancer, it is more giving cancer no ground on which it can grow. The list is long what we can do – reverse all of the above. Personally I think eating a lot of freshly cooked vegetables every single day will go a long way. Because if you are eating vegetables, you automatically are not longer the person who brings sugary cupcakes to the office birthday party. And from there it all starts ...

The Diabetes Book Is Finished …

May 7, 2013

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, balance, acne, advertisement, Alzheimer’s, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, apple, bacteria, beauty, book, calorie count, carrots, cauliflower, concentrated, cucumber, dementia, detail, devil, diabetes, digitalis, fatigue, Five Health Essentials, formula, foxglove, fungi, germs, great-grandmother, happiness, infection, insomnia, kale, label, manufactured, medicine - single-agent patented, natural, Nature, nutritional bar, organic, packaged, plant, smart, sugar cane, sugar - table sugar, superfoods, TV, virus

… and, of course, I already started to write a new one. About herbs and infections.

And this is what I am finding … again: So many herbs have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal action – it is mind-boggling. Nature wants us to be healthy – if we would just listen to her! When I wrote about diabetes, I found that we have not just a few diabetes-fighting “superfoods” – we have literally hundreds of them, or even more. Now I am finding a trove of herbs that want to help us win over germs (or live in happy co-existence with them). As usual, herbs alone don’t keep us healthy – herbs are only one of the Five Health Essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

Again, it comes down to: What is natural, is healthy.

Interestingly, just because a manufacturer declares something “natural”, it doesn’t make it so. Point to proof: sugar. Yep, originally sugar derived from sugar cane. But after that cane has been mixed and cooked and clarified and decolorized and filtered and processed and concentrated and skimmed and refined, the end product table sugar does not deserve the epithet “natural” any more. Same as the single-agent patented medicine derived from a plant – think digitalis, manufactured from foxglove – doesn’t deserve it.

“Natural” on your nutritional bar doesn’t mean anything – it is not a protected word like “organic” is (and even for “organic” there are sinister endeavors at work to make it less so). Don’t fall for "natural". A cauliflower is natural, an apple is, and so are carrots and kale and cucumber … you know the list is nearly endless. But anything in a package, anything with a label, anything they advertise for on TV, anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce, anything with a calorie count on it, anything your great-grandmother didn’t eat is not natural, and not healthy.

Indeed, I could write so many books about how to live healthier (and if nobody hinders me, I just might) – how to be more energetic, smarter, happier, more beautiful, have purer skin, sleep better – and they would all come down to the five essentials: Water – movement – food – herbs - balance.

If you recognize these five essentials as formulaic, you are right –I want you to recognize the formula (and learn it by heart). We are from Nature, and need to live by Nature, as much as possible. Otherwise, we get sick. Needless to say, the devil hides in the details. My new diabetes book – out with Rodale’s probably in August - is chock-full with details, and so will be, I hope, the book I am writing now, on germs. That one will come out in due time – which I project about two years into the future. If we can project at all.

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

Tags: food, order, Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!, book, wheat, diabetes type II, diabetes type I, gluten intolerance, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, brittle diabetes, hospital, diabetes, end-organ failure, gym, garden, cello, a walking after dinner, exercises, writing a book, fresh food, fish, meat, dairy, sugar, sweetener, trans-fats, processed food, gluten, daily bread, evolution, genes, monotheism, hunter and gatherer, eating nibbling, Nature, holy, cattle, sheep, husbandry, religion, rules, timetables, schedules, Kellogg – Will Keith (1860-1951), breakfast, cornflakes, industrialization, prosperity, scarcity of food, adaptation, calories, burger, obesity, celiac disease, diarrhea, skin rash, bloating, neurologic, psychiatric, symptoms – gluten-related, gluten intolerance, under-diagnosed, lectins, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, seeds, digestion, arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, celiac, wisdom of the body, toxicity of wheat, morphine-like substances, brain, longing, cocaine, heroin, agriculture, extinction, monotheism, guilt, over-hunting, ice-age, bison, elephant, deer, cow, gruel, ploughing, farming, corn, sugar, addiction, starvation, bread, pizza, cake, cookie, muffins, vegetables, addictive food, wheat kernel, harvest, milling, minerals, flour - white, diseases, vitamins, iron, flour - “fortified”, root vegetable, celiac, rye, barley, oats, dinkel, kamut, grains, hulls, waste, starch, bread - sprouted, gluten, sprouting, degenerative diseases, wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats, redemption, plant food, vegetables, herbs, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, rabbit

Not that I should luxuriate in writing blogs while I am finishing my diabetes book, but to call attention to the problems with wheat – on this occasion I just have to do it.

Since this is my big theme presently, let me roll up the whole gluten conundrum from the diabetic side: Ninety percent of people with diabetes type II are overweight; ten percent are not. Now – what gives the ten percent their diabetes?

Genes, of course. But genes account only for part of the puzzle. Most slim diabetics have either type I diabetes (which I will not discuss here), or they have gluten intolerance. Disclosure: I am one of those ten percent, and while I don’t yet have full-blown diabetes with all the dismal consequences down the road like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, my number always hover at the upper border of normal or the low border of diabetes. For somebody who has brittle diabetes and ends in the hospital frequently, this seems a good place to be, and sure it is. BUT: By the time people are diagnosed with diabetes, a good third already shows sign of end-organ failure. Which means: They really already have advanced disease. I don’t want to wait doing nothing and closing my eyes.

So, what do I do? I move, for starters. I don’t go to the gym, but I work in the garden, play my cello, go for a walk after dinner with my husband, and do tiny exercises every time I get up from my chair during my long writing sessions (aaah – writing a book about health is not such a healthy thing, after all).

And I eat healthily. Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, some fish, much less meat (but meat I do eat – and recommend), no dairy, no sugar, no sweeteners either, no trans-fats, and basically, nothing processed.

But back to gluten. We pray for our daily bread – and are not aware how recent the “daily bread” was invented – not longer than five to ten thousand years. Which is nothing in terms of evolution and our genes. Actually, our “daily bread” is around not much longer than monotheism – the belief in a single, singular god. I find that interesting: When we were hunter and gatherers, eating and nibbling and plucking from Nature wherever we went, we had multiple gods – the ones that were hidden in the groves, in the deep lakes, in the skies – and everything was whispering to us: Holy, holy, holy.

Then agriculture was invented with cattle and sheep husbandry, and we learned to sow and to reap, and suddenly there was that one stern god over us, telling to adhere to his rules – one obviously needs rules and timetables and schedules and order to be a farmer.

Forward a few thousand years to Mr. Kellogg, who gave us our breakfast cornflakes, and modern scientists who gave as bigger kernels of wheat, and then all the abundance that came with industrialization and prosperity – and here comes the modern American wave of obesity and diabetes. Where for millions of years always was scarcity – and that is what our bodies were adapted to for millions of years – now we can get the whopping calories of a burger for one dollar. Without to move out into the woods and hunt and gather.

If gluten is at the root of those ten percent of slim diabetics – so what! you exclaim, because you are fighting the pounds for most of your life. Gluten makes a few of us very sick – with celiac disease. Gluten makes a lot of us fat, with sickness down the road from the excess pounds.

Celiacs have no immune tolerance for gluten; they might get diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, and all kinds of weird symptoms – including neurologic and psychiatric. Half of the symptoms are not showing in the belly, which is one reason gluten intolerance is still one of the widely under-diagnosed disease – even that the last ten years has turned the tide a bit.

The funny thing is: Wheat does not want to be eaten. Like basically all nuts and seeds, the wheat grain contains a family of compounds called lectins that are there to protect the grain from being eaten. The wheat plant has no interest, so to speak, to be gobbled up and extinguished. On the other hand, from the wheat’s point of view, of course, it is extremely advantageous that farmers everywhere now growing this seed that originally had a very narrow distribution, namely the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Somehow we managed to spread it more or less worldwide – or did the plant entice us to do its business?

Not sure. But nuts and seeds contain lectins that hinder digestion and make people sick with arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on – the celiac who runs to the bathroom ten times a day is only the tip of the iceberg. And it shows the wisdom of our bodies: To get rid as fast as possible of a toxic substance.

Wheat is addictive – it contains morphine-like substances that play with your brain and your longings just as cocaine and heroin do. I always picture how the first farmers, sitting placidly and satisfied in their hovels, invited the last hunters who came in from another fruitless hunt for something to eat (the rise of agriculture happened parallel to the extinction from overhunting the very large ice-age mammals – they had bison the size of elephants, and deer like cows at that time. The rise of monotheism happened at the same time … did we feel guilty for the overhunting??). The hunters got their bowl of gruels or their flat breads; it must have seemed heaven to them. As they never got enough of it, they came back for more and more, until they one day decided to plough a piece of land, and settle down as farmers themselves.

So, if you want to get healthy and/or slim, you first have to break the wheat (and corn! And sugar! But those are other topics …) addiction. You don’t die of starvation, if you leave out bread and pizza and cakes and cookies and muffins. You just get healthier. The food to eat: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. And some brown rice, as rice does not seem so addictive as wheat. It just doesn’t taste so yummy, yummy that you want more and more of it.

In all of this, I haven’t even talked about what they do nowadays once the too-big, overinflated-by-starch wheat kernel is harvested: They mill it and grind it and take the good stuff out, namely the coarse outer layers that contains vitamins and ls . The make white flour from naturally brown flour, and because it is known that white flour contains nothing healthy and leads to deficiency diseases down the road, the “fortify” the flour with vitamins and iron.

Believe me, nothing is as well “fortified” as the original grain. I mean the really “original” grain which we cannot retrieve anymore because the first grains were so puny – not much more then a few hard nibs in your mouth while you were searching for the really belly-filling rabbit or root. If you want to do wheat at all (and if you are a celiac, you can’t have it ever again! Also not rye and barley; perhaps not even oats), at least stick to dinkel and kamut, some of the older grains. Not as old to go back to the dawn of times, but going back a few thousand years, to the first cultured strains. They contain more hulls and “waste”, less gluten and starch. You also can try sprouted breads where most of the gluten has been used up in the process of sprouting.

Our modern degenerative diseases have to do with mostly four culprits: Wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats. Our redemption lies in the plant world: vegetables, herbs, fruit. A few beans, a few nuts. Some fish. And occasionally … a rabbit.

Smell Of May

May 30, 2012

Tags: order, advantage, amine, animal, aroma, attar of rose, aurora, Austin - David (born 1926), baby, bearded iris, bee, birth, blooming, bordello, Bradford pear, brain, brothel, bush, business, cadaverine, California, camp, carnation, chemical, chestnut - edible, child, Christmas, cooking, corymb, dead body, depression, digging, DNA, emergency room, evolution, fall, February, fertility, flower, fragrance, garden, gathering, genetic, grub, helix, heritage, holiday, housing, hunger, impregnation, intercourse, June, learning, life-giving, linden, Mary Rose, May, Memorial Day, molecule, mother, Nature, odor, olfactory, papoose, peony, perfume, perishing, pink, plant, pong, pregnant, putrescine, Pyrus calleryana, reproduction, rhododendron, rhubarb, root, rose, scent, scientist, season, semen, September, sex, shelter, smell, smelling, snowball viburnum, sperm, spermidine, spermine, spring, summer, survival, strive, teaching, The Smell Of May, tree, viburnum, Viburnum dilatatum, wasp, whiff, Wikipedia, winter, wood

May makes me giddy. On Memorial Day we did a long walk, me with my nose up in the air all the while, sniffing. My idea is (no scientific proof – it’s just my private hunch) that if we are smelling flowers all spring and summer and fall, we prime our brains to get through winter without depression.

That statement exaggerates, but it contains a kernel of truth. I put my nose into any flower I encounter (careful not to be stung by wasps and bees because I had some unfortunate wasp encounters a few seasons ago, one of which landed me in the emergency room).

Roses are already blooming for a while, earlier than usual. My David Austin rose “Mary Rose” is the sweetest thing; the old attar of roses must have smelled thus. The peonies’ fragrance lies heavily over the yard; whites have a stronger fragrance than pink and red ones. Linden trees bloom in the summer they soil cars parked underneath with sticky sap but give off an addictive sweet odor: I can’t wait for it. Snowball viburnums fill May evenings with their perfumes sometimes so cloying, it reminds me of a bordello (even if I have only a vague idea about a real brothel). Bearded iris and rhododendron mostly have to make up in showiness what they lack in scent. The little carnations look modest when you look down on them, but their peppery aroma is bold and assertive.

One plant pong stands out though - the unmistaken whiff of human semen. Wow! It comes from Viburnum dilatatum. The viburnums are mostly known for the perfumy, showy snowballs, some faintly tinged with an aurora pink. Viburnum dilatatum however means business: This sturdy bush with white feathery corymbs gives off the plain smell of sex. Isn’t that what the flowers and the bees are all about? Impregnation, reproduction.

But – why would a plant use the human odor?

I don’t know the answer, and I also don’t know which chemicals produce this familiar scent – do you know? I used to think that it was the DNA (the helical molecule that transmits our genetic heritage). But a scientist who works with it, says DNA has no odor to speak of - and he should know. Wikipedia claims some amines like putrescine, spermine, spermidine and cadaverine are responsible for semen’s unmistakable odor. Spermine and spermidine sound just like it - but putrescine and cadaverine? Don’t they sound more like emanating from dead bodies than from the fluid that carries life-giving sperm?

Whatever chemicals are involved, I remember the same smell from rhubarb in bloom (which will happen in June in my garden), and from edible chestnut in the South. In California, people complain about the fragrance of a notorious tree, called Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) – but I have not sniffed it personally.

Why plants are doing this, namely using OUR fragrance? Dunno. All I can say that the fragrance talks to me – meeting me at a point I understand from experience. Ultimately, of course, it means that Nature uses the same molecules in plants, animals and humans. We are not extra or outside from Nature – we are part of her. Once a scent worked for her during evolution, she recycles it. In prehistoric times, spring was also for humans the time of be fertile and to become pregnant. Having a child born in late winter made sure that the mother got still some rest in the winter camp, but then could carry her small child around (in a papoose, for instance) when she went on her next spring duty: gathering fresh shoots from emerging plants, digging roots and grubs, gathering wood for cooking.

A baby born in February could learn walking during the next winter camp, and was ready to toddle behind with the next spring move. Does Nature with her scents conspire to make us want to have intercourse at a time expedient to give a child the best possible start? Nowadays, with sheltering housing and ample food all year round, these small advantages mean nothing anymore; during those years of hunger and strive, they might have made the difference between perishing and survival.

Nowadays, most babies are born in September, which has nothing to do anymore with survival advantage – only with what we did during last Christmas holidays. I have to say that I like the idea that Nature tries to nudge me into bed with someone – right now. Preferably my husband.

World Water Day 2012

March 22, 2012

Tags: water, herbs, allergies to herbs, arterial disease, bath, bath – commercial bath ingredients, bath - herbal, bath oil, bliss, blood flow, breathing, bruise, candle - unscented, chamomile, children and herbal baths – careful!, circulation - sluggish, coconut oil, cold – beginning, cold shower, Earth, dandelion flower, eucalyptus, fever-lowering bath for children, foam, healing waters, herbal bath, herbal bath, high blood pressure – uncontrolled, ginger - grated, hops, insect bite, incense, insomnia, jasmine, lake, lavender, linden flowers, lung, meadowsweet, mint, muscle ache, muscles – sore, music, Nature, nerves – tattered, ocean, orange blossoms, parsley, pleasure, relaxation, river, rosemary, rose petals, sage, salts - bath, skin rejuvenation, skin sore, sleeplessness, soap, soul, stimulation, stinging nettle, tepid bath, tonic, valerian root, winter blah, World Water Day 2012

Today is World Water Day. Celebrate it with

• a dunk in the ocean, a lake or a river if your are living in a warmer climate
• a cold shower (Don’t do it if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure – controlled on medication is fine – or if you have an arterial disease)
• a nice warm herbal bath, together with gentle music and a lit candle (unscented because scented candles and incense are harsh on the lungs). Warm baths relax and soothe. And any fragrant herb you have at hand will increase water’s action:

- Chamomile works against sore skin and insect bites
- Dandelion flowers: Gather as many as you can find and throw them directly into your tub – they will make you playful like a princess and renew your skin and will drive out the winter blah
- Eucalyptus opens your lungs and helps you breathe
- Ginger, grated, to enhance blood flow to all parts of your body
- Hops for easing you into the night
- Jasmine to make you smile and refresh your skin
- Lavender for calming your nerves and rejuvenating your skin
- Linden flowers relax and might help with a beginning cold
- Meadowsweet helps sore muscles and will bliss you out
- Mint stimulates and heals your skin
- Orange blossoms for beautiful skin and nourishing your soul
- Parsley heals bruises
- Rosemary for relaxation
- Rose petals to enliven your skin after a long day
- Sage against stiff, hurting muscles after a workout
- Stinging nettle to push sluggish circulation, and are a tonic for your skin and your whole being
- Valerian root for easing tattered nerves and prepare for a good night’s sleep

So many more herbs grow on our beautiful Earth! Use any combination of herbs you like: Dare to explore!

Never make the bathwater too hot! And always, always. always end your hot bath with a short cold shower or gush, starting with feet, hands, face, and then your whole body – to close your pores.

Before you dress or go to bed, slather your skin with coconut oil. There’s nothing better for your skin!

Cooler bathwater acts more like a stimulant – when you want to go out afterwards and shine in the world.

And a tepid bath can lower fevers – especially helpful in small children. But in small children, especially those under three years of age, I would not use herbs in the bathwater, just plain water. They can have violent reactions.

You have two ways to do an herbal bath: To throw a handful of herbs directly into the hot bath water. Or to brew a tea in a pot, and then add the steeped tea to the bathwater. This last method is less messy. There’s actually a third way: To buy an herbal bath tea bag – much bigger than those used for tea in a cup – and throw it into the bathwater; contain a medley of herbs, usually to lift your spirits and to soothe your skin.

As always: Don’t use any herb that you are allergic to. Allergies to herbs are rare, but they can happen.

Herbal bath can heal. But don’t forget the immense pleasure they bring into your life! And other than commercial baths (foam, lotions, soaps, salts, etc.), they are pure Nature, particularly if you pay attention from where you get them.

And after a renewing bath like this you will know again why we have to protect Earth’s healing waters. Think about ways how you can save water!

More About Brown Fat

November 2, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, air-conditioning, baby, bear, belly ballast, brown fat, California, cinnamon, cleansing, cloves, cold exposure, cold stress, cold water, core temperature, coriander, depression, diabetes type II, disease, drug, experiment, fasting, Florida, food - warming, garlic, ginger, happiness, heating, hibernation, hunger stress, hypothermia, ice water, immersion, infection, insulin-resistance, La Jolla, longevity, metabolism, More About Brown Fat, Nature, obesity, onion, pharmaceutical firm, physician, pool, pounds, pre-diabetes, refrigerator - walk-in food, residential swimming pools, rutabaga, shivering, stress, stress mechanism - beneficial, stress – moderate, summer, sweating, swimming, temperature, toxin, U.S.A., water resources, weight loss, winter, winter kitchen, winter swimmer

My experiment is going on. Of course, I have no idea if it is really new brown fat that turns me into an oven every time after my daily cold laps in the pool. For all I know, I could have a not-yet-recognized infection or any other disease that makes me burn up. Only thing I know is that I feel terrific – for the moment.

But for the sake of an interesting exploration, let’s stick with my brown fat hypothesis. This is what I have learned about about brown fat so far:

1. It used to be thought that only babies (protecting them from hypothermia) or bears (keeping a reasonable core temperature during hibernation) have brown fat. It turns out that traces of brown fat are still around in adult people. – A little aside: Other ways to increase body temperature are increasing surrounding temperature, moving about, shivering, and eating certain “warming” foods like cinnamon, ginger, onions, garlic, rutabaga, coriander, cloves – interestingly foods often used in the winter kitchen. But there is no hint that those foods increase brown fat. Or a shred of a proof that a so-called "Brown Fat Diet" will increase that precious tissue in your body.
2. Brown fat can help weight loss by increasing metabolism speed.
3. Brown fat also can decrease elevated insulin-resistance (also called pre-diabetes) and a diabetic situation.
4. Brown fat can be induced to increase by cold exposure – be it by swimming in cold water, immersing in a tub filled with ice water, or dancing in a walk-in food refrigerator (don’t you wish you had one of those at home??).
5. Needless to say, there are already pharmaceutical firms are already working on drugs that might trigger growth of brown fat, without going through the ado of cold exposure. The easy way out, I call it. And definitely not an interesting way, if you ask me.

I like to think about cold-induced brown fat as one of the benefits of moderate stress. We all know that stress is bad for you, don’t we? Not necessarily though. Moderate stress might be what makes the body function in the way Nature intended it. With heated dwellings with forgo the winter cold stress – and get sick for it, lacking brown fat. With air-conditioning in the summer, we miss out on the sweating which give our body a good cleanse of all the toxins – and get sick for it. Occasional hunger stress (fasting!) is another beneficial stress mechanism. Not only do we get healthier on occasional fasting, and live longer with less belly ballast, it also seems we get to be happier with fewer pounds – and less depressed.

One estimate is that there are about three million residential swimming pools in California (I am not even mentioning the pools in Florida and all across southern U.S.A.). If these pools are anything like our pool here in La Jolla, all those turquoise eyes should be gazing at the sky, basically unused. All, of course, using up precious water resources. How about using them? If you are in decent health (ask your physician), you start by doing a single lap across your pool. Tomorrow two, and every day one more until you reach twenty-one laps. The brown fat will appear very fast – and will help you lose weight.

Putting on brown fat, however, might mean walking a fine line: You want to increase your metabolism by cold exposure. But you don’t want to get where most winter swimmers end up: with more fat on their bodies. Fat (of any kind) protects against cold, and makes you better able to withstand long swims in icy water. Don’t go there!

Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo

October 14, 2011

Tags: herbs, food, order, anti-oxidants, Asia, bamboo, bamboo - as medicine, bamboo - nutritional value, bamboo shoots, bamboo wood, Bambusa, beauty, bone growth, building material, calcium, carcinogenic, Chinese brush painting, Chinese culture, Chinese food, cholesterol, coconut milk, copper, Crouching Tiger - Hidden Dragon, crystal healing, culm, curry, cyanide, dance, Dendrocalamus, fat, flavonoids, fiber - dietary, Four Gentlemen, furniture, gem stone, grace, harmony, healing stones, Hong Kong, infection - bacterial, ink - black, immune system, Invasive Plants 3: Bamboo, iron, Japanese culture, kitchen utensils, lungs, Made in China, manganese, migraine, mineral, mushroom, mushroom - button, mushroom - raw, Nature, osteoporosis, Phyllostachys, Poacea, poisonous, potassium, power, protein quartz, sauce, scaffolding, silica, snow, socks - 100 percent bamboo, TCM, tools, toxin, Traditional Chinese Medicine, true grass family, variegated, vitamins B, vitamin C, winter, zinc

One time, traveling in Hong Kong, we saw a bamboo outside our hotel room window grow about a foot per day. Amazing. The record for bamboos seem to be somewhere at a yard per day – which makes them the fastest growing plants on record.

Those were tall bamboos. At home, we grow smaller varieties – and always in a huge tub lowered into the soil. These things throw out side-shoots or culms, as they are called botanically, so fast – they would run over the yard in a few seasons if not properly grown in a pot. One stand in front of the entrance and greets the visitors.

Easier, of course, would be to not grow bamboo. But that is impossible. Because, for me, bamboo stands for beauty. They don’t flower (or only about every one hundred years or so); they don’t lure you with colorful berries. But their pointed leaves have a charm that I wouldn’t want to miss it from my garden. If you watched the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” you know what I mean – the scene in the tops of swaying bamboos is unforgettable! When I drew my first bamboo leaf with black ink, I was hooked forever on Chinese brush painting – and the living plant, which we all – from humble student to great master – try to capture, is so much more beautiful. It is as if grace and dance have been captured in a plant.

Bamboo is not one single species – there are many, from little to very tall, mostly green, sometimes variegated – but all in the Poacea family – also called the “true” grass family. Their long stems barely taper which makes them perfect for building materials. In China one can see huge skyscrapers being built or renovated, and the scaffolding is all bamboo – many, many stories high – quite an astounding sight for western eyes! The light but tough wood makes furniture, tools and kitchen utensils. And last time I bought a pair of socks, I found they were made of 100 percent bamboo, made in China.

In Asia, bamboo is used for food and medicine; you certainly have eaten crispy bamboo shoots in a Chinese dish. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bamboo is used against bacterial infections, especially in the lungs. But be cautious: There are so many different “bamboos”, and some are poisonous. But the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Phyllostachys are generally edible – but check before you put them in your mouth: As with mushroom, 99 percent is not good enough; you have to be sure 100 percent!

It is better to stick to the ones you can buy in the supermarket: They are those fast-growing shoots I described initially. Make sure they are fresh and white once peeled, not already brownish. Even the edible bamboos contain toxins (cyanides) that have to be destroyed by cooking – never eat them raw (as you also know never to eat any mushroom raw – not even those innocuous-looking button mushrooms; they are carcinogenic).

The nutritional value of bamboo? They are high in protein and dietary fiber, and contain zinc, iron, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C and many B vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 - plus flavonoids – anti-oxidants. Because of their very low fat contents (and no cholesterol to speak of), they are delicious in coconut milk, as sauce or curry.

Those bamboo shoots have a high silica content; they make good food and allegedly are good for all connective tissue, including skin, hair and nails, and feathers – in case you grow them ...

Silica is one of the many minerals you need for strong bone growth – there’s a reason why those bamboo trunk grow into the sky so rapidly (and you know already that calcium alone doesn’t do a thing for your bone). Silica is the main mineral in quartz, which is also used as a healing crystal. I have not quite made up my mind about healing stones, but I like the beauty of gems, and a clear quartz supposedly is for harmony and power – it might be only in the eye of the beholder, but that counts heavily for healing. I look at them a treasures Nature gives to us.

In TCM, bamboo is thought to help the immune system. I have never used it myself or on patients though. Bamboo also seems to prevent migraines.

Japanese and Chinese culture revere bamboo. In Chinese painting, Bamboo is the first of the Four Gentlemen, and stands for an upright, hardy character – not difficult to see why, if you find the green leaves still on the stem in the middle of winter and snow.

Invasive? Yes! But useful and beautiful!

The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.

My Eyes Were Resting On Green

August 11, 2011

Tags: order, food, water, apple - Braeburn, attention, barn, barren, beef - ground, black, blue, body and soul, bog, brown, cat food, chicken liver, Chinese brush painting, coconut oil, color game, commitment, concept, cooking, cornstalk, dandelion, dealership, effort, fir, fireweed, flag - American, flower, food - wholesome, forest, garden, Gobi Desert, green, green landscape, growing, hills, house - burnt-down, human, hungry, idea, lily pad, log cabin, loosestrife - purple, mailbox, Maine - down-east, maple geraniums - hardy, meadow, My Eyes Were Resting On Green, Namib Desert, Nature, New England, New Hampshire, oats - rolled, onion, orange, Otto – cat, pepper and salt, picket fence, pickup truck, pine, pink, pond, purple, recipe, red, rose, rosy, Route 2, spruce, steeple, sumac, sunflower, tired, town, tractor, tree – touching a tree, Turk’s cap lilies, United States, valley, Vermont, white, yellow

Yesterday I drove from Vermont to down-east Maine on Route 2. During the first part, my friend Bob guided me through tiny back roads from Vermont into New Hampshire to Route 2; if you ever have to follow another car like that, it helps if it is a fire-truck red pickup truck that you can’t lose out of sight easily. That bright red truck was the beginning of the color game for me when I later sailed across gentle hills east, east, east for seven hours. Since I took up Chinese brush painting in January, my eyes are drawn by lines and colors.

After the bleak, beautiful scenes of the two barren, forbidding deserts we visited this year – Namib and Gobi – I reveled in the green landscape that sustains me - body and soul. Green were the meadows, the lily pads on the ponds and the forests of maple, pines, firs, spruce and sumac. Saturated, satisfying green.

A few colors were sprinkled into the green canvas: rows of orange Turk’s cap lilies, a patch of tall yellow sunflowers, a surprising line of bright red tractors at a dealership, pink roses and big swathes of rosy fireweeds, an occasional blue mailbox and clouds of dainty pale blue flowers that might have been hardy geraniums, the subdued red of barns, brown male flowers uppermost on green cornstalks, the purple loosestrife that invades the boggier areas, the black ruins of a burnt-down house, and of course the white houses, steeples and picket fences we all expect from New England. Natural colors and man-made colors – but all insignificant against the green on the hills and in the valleys.

Many of the small towns along Route 2 were decorated with American flags red, white, blue, making a contrast to nature that seemed to say that the “United States” is a concept, and idea that deserves effort and commitment rather than growing organically out of the soil. Something that easily could be swallowed by fertile green if we don’t pay attention.

Gentle rain and creative fog formations wrapped the land, nourishing and renewing. We know, of course, that Nature can come upon us with force and destructive. Not here, not yesterday, though.

Green, of course, is our most wholesome food. When I arrived at the log cabin, tired and hungry, I began cooking a pot of fresh cat food for Otto from ground beef, chicken livers, some rolled oats and dripping wet dandelion greens from the garden. Then I thought the better of it and saved a few pieces of chicken liver for the humans: I browned two big onions in coconut oil, added a sliced Braeburn apple and a handful of green dandelion leaves, and pepper and salt. Last I added the few slivers of chicken liver. A meal for the gods!

During dinner conversation, my friend Matt said the sentence: “I make sure that most of the time I am not too far away to touch a tree.”

My Neighbor Is Sick

June 22, 2011

Tags: food, order, abdominal pain, addictive, aging - premature, appreciating, artificial molecules, book, bowel, cancer, car, cell phone, chewing, cholecystitis, colors, computer, constipation, conversation, dairy, diet, dinner table, dispute, distraction, eggs, fiber, fish, flavors, food - inflammatory, fork, fruit drink, gallbladder inflammation, game, grace, HFCS, high blood pressure, high fructose corn syrup, high-protein diet, hunger, inflammation, iPod, iron-fortified, kidneys - compromised, kidney stones, meal, meat, mindful eating, mouth, My Neighbor Is Sick, Nature, neighbor, newspaper, osteoporosis, pounds, preservatives, protein, public transportation, radio, religion, roughage, savoring, sitting down at the table, soft drink, spoon, starch - white, stress, sugar, supermarket, table – set the, taste enhancers, Tibetans Alternative, TV, vegetable, vitamin-enhanced, water – drinking enough, weight gain, weight loss

My neighbor suddenly has abdominal pain – on the right, under his rib cage. Now there are many reasons to have that kind of pain, and he of course needs a check-up with his doctor – very soon. Today.

The doctor will hopefully soon find out what ails the neighbor - but here are some ideas. Because the other piece of information is that he has been on a diet for a while - a high-protein diet.

After having made sure he sought an immediate appointment with his doctor, I gave him a piece of my mind: No diet is a short-cut for good, healthy, everyday eating habits. “But I already lost eight pounds!” he said.

Eight pounds lost weight does not prove that one is healthy! It always puzzles me: People who would never feed their car the wrong octane fuel, seemingly give little thought to what is healthy fuel for their own bodies and thus constantly violate the laws of Nature.

These are the most frequent bad consequences of the ill-advised high-protein diet (and I have seem them all!):

• Constipation. The bowel needs roughage to function according to plan. Protein is digested more thoroughly than fiber, leaving little substance in the intestines lumen to push matters forward, which will lead to impaction can lead to a plugging-up of the whole plumbing system.
• Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis). High protein diets are often also high in fat, which may drive the gallbladder into overdrive. This can cause inflammation and/or move stones.
• Kidney stones. High protein can lead to kidney stones, especially in already somewhat compromised kidneys – which come naturally with aging. At any rate, drinking enough water is always advisable.

A high-protein in the long one has been shown to promote premature aging, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancer – neither of which plays a likely role in my neighbor’s present affliction.

Whatever he has, he needs to reassess what he is doing to his health. And I am sure after this scare, he will. We have talked about diet and healthy eating here often, so I can make this short:

• Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables!
• No artificial molecules (sweeteners, flavors, colors, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, taste enhancers, vitamin-enhanced, iron-fortified, soft or fruit drinks, etc.).
• No dairy – because it is the most ubiquitous inflammatory and unnecessary food there is.
• No sugar and white starch; they are addictive and put the pounds on you.
• Have a modest intake of meat, fish and eggs.

In order to turn around your eating habits, it is useful to practice mindful eating – the way of slowly savoring and appreciating everything that goes into your mouth.

• Sit down at a table when you eat – set the table in a nice way, even if you are alone. Especially if you are alone.
• Say grace for your food - even if you are not a religious person. Because millions of people go hungry every day.
• Have no distractions – no TV, computer, cell phone, game, radio, newspaper, or book.
• Have no stress – avoid disputes at the dinner table. But have a lively conversation about important things in your life.
• Never ever eat in the car or on public transportation; teach your children that NOTHING can be eaten in the supermarket because it has not been paid for (and one should sit down for eating).
• Chew thoroughly; put fork or spoon down between bites.

The How you eat might be more important than the What you eat – at least for a while.

If you live alone, go back to the Tibetans Alternative: Where one eats one food at each meal, and rotates, instead of filling the plate with everything at the same time.

Whatever the neighbor has, let’s wish him a speedy recovery!

Bringing Home The Truth?

May 14, 2011

Tags: order, food, movement, water, advertisement, antibiotics, automobile, Bringing Home The Truth?, canned food, coffins, cold shower, cooking, education, environmental clean-up, Five Tibetans, gardening, governmental responsibility, HFCS, health improvements of the twentieth century, homeopathy, housewives, hygiene, junk food, justice, kitchen, lilac, love - making, microwaves, music - making, Nature, painting, poverty, ready-made dinners, repairing a bike, scientific research, sewage, societal forces, stinging nettle, supplements, take-out food, truth, TV, vaccinations, water preservation, water supply, walking

You who have followed this blog notice that I do change my mind. For instance, I was a great supporter of the Five Tibetans – and to a degree, I still am. But then my lower back spoke up against the practice, and now I do modified exercises. I let you know.

Was my first opinion untrue? Not really. Different people have different needs, and plenty of people come back to me and tell me that I once recommended the Five Tibetans to them – and they are still doing them daily, and happily.

Spending time on the Internet and blogging about health sometimes feels to me as if I hit a wall: We health nuts are discussing minor improvements in our diets, when the majority of people are eating junk food, don’t know how to even cook rice (forget BROWN rice!), and spending every free minute in front of TV that carries them into fake worlds while stealing innumerable hours of their lives and their powers away.

That might apply to my blogs, too: Somebody reading this, is not walking right now, not playing an instrument, not gardening, not repairing a bike, not cooking stinging nettle greens, not making love, not painting the lilac in bloom now, not taking a cold shower.

And my blog (or all the other health blogs) doesn’t reach that majority. I have started worrying about this.

The other worry is that we bloggers seem to disperse truths – but we don’t seem to change minds. Or do we? I have been in too many online discussion where opinions about, say, homeopathy, clash, and the divides are never bridged.

We can say that most health improvements came at the beginning of the twentieth century with advancement of hygiene (better water supply, better sewage systems). Much less with antibiotics and vaccinations - as much as doctors want to exploit those tales. Then came our downfall in the fifties - the widespread automobile use let people walk less. And also in the fifties, housewives succumbed to advertisement that "helped" them spend less time in the kitchen: canned food, microwaves, ready-made dinners, take-out food, supplements, and what not. And in the seventies, HFCS, sealing our fates (or coffins).

So, this is my question of today? How do we make up our minds about what is healthy? Do we believe every published research study - some good, some shotty - or the myriad of business interests that pipe up on all occasions?

For me, after all the years of studying, health has become simple: Follow what Nature intended, and you will be all right. For all the little details: Hard to get at the truth. Besides, the truth might be manifold.

And, as before, health changes on a grander scale might come from societal forces rather than from our little opinions here: From environmental clean-up, water preservation, governmental responsibility, better education, greater justice, less poverty.

Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds

December 11, 2010

Tags: order, movement, water, balance, biochemistry, birds, Canada geese, cod liver, cod liver oil, cold shower, cold – stress stimulus, cormorant, Don’t Know About the Biochemistry of Birds, fire, gardening, ice, light, marriage, multivitamin, Nature, playing ball, pollution, pond, running, seasons, skin – dark and light, spirituality, sun, talking, vitamin A, vitamin D, walking, waterfowl, winter, wood stove

Today the pond was frozen over for the first time this year. The Canada geese have flown away to a place with still open waters, and the lone cormorant that, for weeks, had greeted us every time from the same spot is gone, too. We still can make out where he always had been sitting – a white sheet of guano at the edge of the reservoir (presumably soon being washed into the reservoir, enhancing our drinking water…).

We marveled at the bird every time we walked by. Why was he always sitting on that very spot so steadfast? Hatching time was long over. He was not deterred by the many passers-by. We had gotten fond of him, and his whimsical determination.

My husband and I take our walks to catch up on each other's lives; we are talking to each other (helps a marriage to survive). And to catch a ray of sunshine – so precious at this time of year when the sun gets lower daily. We want to build up some vitamin D under our skin to get through the winter without colds or cancer. I don’t know about the biochemistry of birds, but the cormorant must have thought along the same lines: Get in as much of the goodness of the sun. as long as it lasts!

Of course, a walk in the dark exercises your body, too. But walking (or running or playing ball or finishing up fall cleaning in the garden) in light has the extra benefit of helping your body to produce vitamin D under the skin. Lighter skin produces it more easily; dark skin needs longer exposure. Besides helping fight infections and cancer, vitamin D is essential for bone strength – and doing something outdoors, moving around, gives an extra boost to your health.

If we live right, we are able to do away with artificial vitamins. Isn’t it marvelous that the body finds the required vitamins in its food and produces some under the skin? Of course, the food has to be fresh, not processed – because artificial things (let’s not even call them food!) are devoid of what really nourishes your body. It has to be this way – that you find all your requirements in fresh foods – because, otherwise, how would have mankind ever survived without the multivitamin from the drugstore?

We do eat cod liver about once a month – giving us a hefty dose of vitamin D (along with vitamin A). It is delicious. But probably polluted – so we don’t have it often. If you don’t like the idea of eating cod liver, get a good cod liver oil preparation and take it during the winter months.

Our walks keep us healthy. Winter is not a time to stay indoors; it is the time to bundle up warmly, march out and come back an hour or so later with red cheeks, ready to sit in front of the warm wood stove again. That walk in the cold gives your body a stimulus to balance itself according to the season – similar as a cold shower does: Cold is a healing stress – if not overdone.

Out there, with the cormorant or the Canada geese or just the still surface of the frozen pond, we bond again with Nature and rediscover that we are part of it, and rediscover our spiritual home.

We Are Hard-Wired For Awe, Respect, Morals

May 7, 2010

Tags: order, water, air, art, awe, babies, books, education, families, Good Mother Earth, justice, kindness, money, morals, music, Nature, nurturing traditions, power, religion, respect, sex, soil, spirituality, We Are Hard-Wired For Awe - Respect - Morals, worldwide community

A Yale study just concluded that babies already can differ between good and bad behavior. In eighty percent of cases, the baby chose the “good guy” puppet after they had seen a short puppet show.

Exactly what I always thought: We are hard-wired for awe, respect and morals. Unfortunately, we are also hard-wired to follow peer-pressure – and those two forces fight war over our souls. To enforce the knowledge of good and bad, we need a nurturing culture around us, in families, and schools.

Let’s not take morals too narrowly, though. Most morals have very little to do with sex (after all, it is a biological drive and, in all cultures and religions, has been hard to suppress), and very much to do with money and power. (Does not mean that I am a libertine; just means that sniffing out other people’s bedroom habits is not my cup of tea).

Religions often abuse our innate longing for goodness and request obedience to their rules and superiors. I personally think goodness is already undermined if you have somebody paid as a priest/minister/pastor; I hold that people should come together voluntarily and should stay unpaid lay celebrants. Religions that preach to hate, should be out. Spirituality that fosters kindness should be in.

This is what I want to see celebrated: Nature foremost because we would not be here without Good Mother Earth and her water, air and soil, families, nurturing traditions, worldwide community, justice, music, art, education and books.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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