Monday, November 30, 2020


 In my twenties I would not have failed the Balmoral test as in "The Crown".  I could have walked the hills, wearing boots, and stalked the stags like the Royals.  But I was not quite good enough to call an elk, which is the Montana version of a stag.  When I tried, the elk ran in a panic.

We didn’t crawl after elk, but hunted on horseback along the tree line of the east slope of the Rockies.  We hunted the big migratory birds on the grasslands, though not in a “shoot” the way we see in the movie.  Decades earlier Bob’s parents had gone out as a social group, carrying hot drinks in thermoses.  Bob and I just stole moments from work.  I couldn’t do any of this now, but am glad I did it even as I question why such a thing should be done.  We did eat both geese and elk.  Even a swan when it was allowed to have a season.

Something similarly Brit pertains to my birth family claiming the Scots culture, attending Highland Games and pretending to dance in a kilt.  My mother-in-law, Ellison Westgarth Macfie, called “Wessie”, appreciated all that even if it was not quite genuine. Her roots were in Scotland, but  she was, after all, a Canadian ex-pat — in Quebec which I think she thought of as a kind of Indian reservation.  Bob was arrogantly proud of it, but also hoping hard for his father’s approval, which he never quite got.  His father was not Scots.

In my own family, my father’s raised-in-Scotland father was the key, but his wife’s “Finney” (Irish?) and “Swan” (Metis) background was ignored.  Likewise, my mother would never admit her father was basically an Irish Kentucky hillbilly with pretensions.  Her mother was a Cochran, much more prosperous.  These are "white" characteristics.

In our Portland basement where my father hid his special things, he kept the chanter from a bagpipe which he never learned to play.  Bob Scriver could have played it just as he played most instruments, but he preferred the cornet, an instrument for parades and jazz.  We did have a bagpiper at our wedding.  I don’t know who was at our divorce since I didn’t know it was happening.  The community thought it was none of my business.

Oh, I can get into this series!  Except Bob and I had no intention to produce an heir.  Just a lot of lovely no-worries sex -- vasectomy.  There was an equivalent to Mrs. Parker-Bowles named Arlene.  They tell me she lives in Texas now.  The other wives are all dead.  But it was the death of Bob's daughter that made it necessary to take on children when we were not prepared and they were suffering.

The orchestral score for this series “The Crown” is essential as is usually true for these great sweeping epics.  I once told a counselor that I felt my life needed a sound track but there were long periods when there was only static.  The man just couldn’t get it.  At bedtime Bob often went to the piano for the songs of his youth, which I couldn't sing.

Maybe I should have phrased my memories differently, saying that in my life I was passing through a sequence of cultures and that Browning had to combine bagpipes with pow-wow drums.  It did, you know.  The pipe bands came down from Canada for Indian Days and the big drum often hung in Scriver Studio because it was hocked and we hung it where everyone could see it was safe.

The next stage after Browning when my skills at breaking up dog fights and shooting gophers for the eagle to eat qualified me for the first female animal control officer in Multnomah County (Portland).  I never did get into pop music.  This was the only part of my life where I did a bit of drinking.  Lots of dogs barking.  “Oh, where oh where has my little dog gone  . .”

Dog spelled backwards . . . but I didn’t do that because I’d found the Unitarians and it was a way back to the grand, the traditional, the learned.  The Scottish Presbyterian Church often sympathized with the Unitarians.  In those days the UUA still used the blue hymnal with Yggdrasil on the front.  Four years went quickly.  Many classic familiar hymns joyously sung together until the ministers met annually to sing "Rank by rank again we stand. . ."

The years in the van circuit-riding around and around Montana were mostly in a van that played its own tune.  It had had an antenna attached to one side that had been removed, leaving holes that the wind played like bagpipe drones.  

My next call was in Saskatoon where the congregation always began its services, signaled its limen to cross, by playing “Fanfare for the Common Man.”  I hope they still do that.

Then confusion.  I had gotten hard.  Narcissistic or, as my family thought in more basic terms: selfish.  My brothers didn’t like me.  One had had a concussion.  The other, hating Portland, had moved to the SW, married, and took low level jobs.  We were not a family that hugged and kissed.  My father had died.  It was a while before my mother died.  Then the older brother took over and dispersed the home.  The younger one had a daughter but we didn’t know where she was.  Now I do and am packing a Christmas box for her family.  She found me by finding my blog.

Bob’s children died young. One of his grandchildren died. I don’t know the great-grandchildren but none have died.  Bob's own death was painful, then mercifully sudden in the rough little bathroom of the Scriver Studio while waiting for a pour of bronze in his foundry.  "Bronze Inside and Out" is about him.

DRK called from the rez to tell me.  Bob’s funeral was in the old Browning High School gymnasium.  Earl Old Person told stories about when Bob was his teacher, and they put an eagle feather in his coffin.  The Catholic priest presided.

I had attended Bob’s father’s funeral in the old Masonic Hall but I don’t even know where his mother’s funeral was held.  I presume in the Methodist church in Browning where I took the pulpit for a year and Bob funded one of the stained glass windows. The family never attended there.  They had supported the earlier Presbyterian church that was folded into the Methodists.  Everyone is buried in Cut Bank, except his fourth wife who was cremated and thrown into the sea from Vancouver, BC where she had built a house.  Her name is on the headstone but the grave is empty.  That about sums it up.

In terms of family I failed everyone miserably, so I have sympathy for Elizabeth II.  But at least I did get “the book” written.  Not just a blog, but now, through Scribr, gone feral in the world on the Internet. And Lilibet’s story is a series on television during a pandemic.  Oh, fate plays tricks!  

Sunday, November 29, 2020


“Ley lines refer to straight alignments drawn between various historic structures and prominent landmarks. The idea was developed in early 20th-century Europe, with ley line believers arguing that these alignments were recognised by ancient European societies that deliberately erected structures along them.”

You can’t see Ley lines.  They’re kind of a fantasy take off on latitude and longitude and maybe the satelite GPS system that is so useful to us now.  When I was the interim minister in Kirkland ’85-86, Karl Thuneman shared some of his writing with me.  This is a link to his blog:

He was still reporting for the Bellevue newspaper then, but he had written a story about a man crossing the crowded bottleneck bridge from Kirkland to Seattle when suddenly the Ley Lines became visible.  I don’t recall the details but the point was that there are invisible forces all around us and through us, possibly controlling and guiding what happens, and that finding them out — seeing them — is disconcerting.

In a parallel way Daniel J. Siegel, in his book “Mind” uses quantum physics to approach the unseen powerful.  We follow science so far as to know that living cells are composed of molecules which are composed of atoms, but Siegel goes on to say that quantum physics claims that atoms are mostly empty space, except for energy — the most basic constituent of everything.  Matter is only concentrated energy — E = mcremember?

So here I am, rejecting superstition and fantasy theology, but science at the most respected levels has guided me back to something just as unseen and — honestly — unseeable.  Both Thuneman and Siegel are meditators and are informed about the Asian understanding of existence, which seems to endorse quantum physics.  But Siegel also insists that a mind starts with physical sensation and experience through time which is recorded in code through the bottom (earliest) layer of the cerebral cortex and only reaches system concepts at the sixth (most recent and top) layer.  I haven’t learned what happens at the intervening layers.  Maybe no one knows yet.

We exist on trust.  I’m assuming my ceiling won’t fall on me — at least not today.  But can I trust that all precautions won’t save me from Covid 19 and we have just narrowly escaped political disaster — if we did.  The popular phrase is “trust but verify.”  It’s not a bad policy to apply to religion, or what we call religion, because any attempts to prove the category has privilege is fading.  When various styles and denominations began to align with political goals, trust dissolved.  I mean both the right-wing mega-churches and a liberal denomination like the UUA, which has aligned more and more with the Democratic party.

Different metaphor.  If one walks through an old building or a path in a forest that has a lot of spider filaments across the space, they can be invisible though one can feel them on one’s face.  On a foggy morning wet aerosols can condense on those silk lines and then you can see them.

So now when I keep wondering about moments of epiphany am I seeing something like a dew-spangled spider web, or am I feeling the structure of the energy under existence?  Human thinking is built around metaphors of what is already known.  But alongside the yearning to expand in order to sense more, there is a need to feel that what is already as far up through the cortex layers to be a concept has been true and should be defended.  We call this “faith” and it’s supposed to be unchanging.  

Those who go to tai chi, meditation and the Tao -- instead of the Western structures that have grown into controlling power institutions -- don’t depend upon a big supernatural human-type sovereign and equate obedience with faith.  Instead their pattern is participation, fittingness with everything else.

We used to see humans as puppets made of flesh-clay, but now we see humans and all other living things as emergent qualities of energy — a technical mathematical concept — unfolding from a molecular code in the context of life.

“In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own properties or behaviors which emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole.

“Emergence plays a central role in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon of life as studied in biology is an emergent property of chemistry, and psychological phenomena emerge from the neurobiological phenomena of living things.”  (Wikipedia)

Two sources of numinous thought have been suggested, one “transcendent” , coming from the supernatural which is located above in the sky or more recently in outer space; and the other "immanent," welling up from the earth beneath our feet.  Emergence clearly comes from our experience on this planet as we walk through it.  But it seems more trustworthy now that a computer can describe it mathematically.

There’s a journal and a movement based on emergence theory (cleverly called “emergentism”).  Like the rule of law, much depends upon definitions and do they exist.

The common characteristics are: 

(1) radical novelty (features not previously observed in systems); 

(2) coherence or correlation (meaning integrated wholes that maintain themselves over some period of time); 

(3) A global or macro "level" (i.e. there is some property of "wholeness"); 

(4) it is the product of a dynamical process (it evolves); and 

(5) it is "ostensive" (it can be perceived).”


So far I haven’t seen “religion” considered in terms of these qualities, but now they suggest something to do that might be worthwhile, even necessary.  We need meaning that is not frozen, that is radically inclusive, new but not bizarre.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


Over the years my position on Evil has been that it is exclusively human, that an “animal” can’t be Evil because so much is about forming the intention that destroys.  I was also arguing that a natural tragedy, like an earthquake or tsunami, cannot be Evil.  I see it as an example of imputing agency to something that doesn’t care and I say that the planet, the cosmos, and your ordinary backyard rock doesn’t have thoughts about humans one way or another.  They are simply indifferent.

So a quick glance at Google to see how far off I might be, and I’m waaaaay behind.  To them “Evil” is a good name for a TV series that claims Evil is supernatural and carries plots about the various religious franchises to see what they believe and what the consequences might be.  (Atheism is treated as a religion, which I consider fair.)

This has been a year that one could fairly call Evil, because intentional destruction and suffering has been the goal of so many people from those who refuse masks to those who poison rivals.  No wonder we’re ready for a TV series on the subject.  Or are sociopaths simply human stones without the ability to even perceive Evil, not aware of the suffering of others.  

One of my fav genres is CSI (Criminal Scientific Investigation) particularly the ones about cold cases. I like that not much violence is depicted, just bloody results, but more than that I appreciate the investigators: calm, detail-conscious, but not cold.  They are patient but motivated.  Most of the cases that persist until solved — no statute of limitations — are about death.  This frees it somewhat from society’s prejudices about what is Evil and what is not, just offensive to this particular demographic.

This series called “Evil” is taking on the Other, the supernatural, the longest established white dominant politico/governing force.  It includes women and blacks as investigators.  And it wrestles with psych to some degree but not directly.  For instance, “possession” is considered in the old traditional sense of having an actual demon getting inside someone.  

In contrast, I believe that brains organize identity in systems and are capable of managing dissociation (unbearable reality) by creating several identities in one person.  The precursor might be our ability to shift among attitudes, points of view, and empathies.  Or maybe acting.

As well, we are more aware now after the present technical exploding of knowledge about things we never could record or measure or theorize in the past.  We are more aware than ever that human thought — even with the help of computers — can never grasp all there is in existence, going on everywhere without our knowledge or imagination.

A third way we learn about evil is in dreams when our under-consciousness brings up in illustrations of things we don’t usually let ourselves think.  (Like sex, in this culture where there are so many rules.)  And, cleverly, the writers of this first episode include kids just coming to consciousness and therapy based on telling everything..  

The writers also include money and the clever ways to make a profit from “evil”.  But the evil content definition is not always there — just the scary realization of unknown.  We know about bad drug trips but I’ve not read much about them being access to evil — just torment.  The terror of blackouts pulls in alcoholics.

There’s a performance aspect to religion that I’ll look at closer later.  But as the show says, demons love an audience and part of their power comes from us watching the reactions of the others.  The sadist-in-chief we know best is a performance artist.  He feeds on our shock and fear because he believes it means power and control by him.

CSI investigators know better.  The best programs describe the killers through the clues they have left, including their psychological configuration — sometimes stupid, often controlled by bad templates created in infancy through neglect and pain, and maybe as part of a chain of internally mutilated people who have formed into a system with power because of ignoring social standards.  Or maybe they’ve just developed a taste for it, the way it is used by people fighting the system through media and arts.  Outrageous, chaotic, and sexy.

I like the inclusion of an infrastructure “fix it” guy on this ghost busters team.  The inscrutability of modern appliances often seems to me to be demonic.  Old houses develop “minds” of their own, creaks and pops for no apparent reason until they cost you a lot of money to rebuild.  A parallel can develop between that and the infrastructure systems of our cellular brains that support our thought-structures.  

Are damage from failure to act, from omission, from not monitoring — which happen all the time — either crime or evil?  I guess it depends on the consequences.  I just watched “The Crown” episode in which a whole school of children were killed by ignoring rules about coal waste management.  We seem convinced that destroying children is worse than destroying old people via inattention.  Would one say killing children is evil but killing old people is merely criminal?  Both are culturally variable.

I have a friend who insists that the universe itself is evil, stalking us and tainting our lives.  Some would say this is paranoid and, of course, it’s not if the universe really IS evil, intentional.  But I don’t think the universe is hostile or evil or capable of intention.  It is indifferent, not at all either the killer kings of the Old Testament or the scribes and Pharisees of the New Testament, early lawyers.  Those are projections.  We control projections if we recognize them.  We can control paranoia — until the tiger turns out to be real.

The trouble with paranoia is that it blocks perception of the anti-evil, the good and the grace that sometimes comes to us.  If it feels like a trap — like an uninvited friendship — then it is evil?  Don’t answer quickly.  It’s not an easy question.  Sly evil slips into your life so subtly so luxuriously.

I go back to the opening of this series of programs on evil that is beginning on CBS and is also on Netflix.  It is a tour of a fabulous glass and marble house, the kind often used as a set in a popular series about upper-class people, but entirely empty.  NOT a shack, NOT a deteriorating trailer, but a place with NO people.  I have a clerical colleague who likes to joke about fabulous and esteemed places like universities and resorts.  “This would be a really nice place if it could be rid of all the people.”  Is this evil of him?

11/29/20  Too bad.  The series has faded back to familiar faces and stereotype ideas.

Friday, November 27, 2020


Daniel J. Siegel was inspired to use his round coffee table as inspiration for the Wheel of Awaremess. even though his coffee table doesn’t have a hub or spokes.  If it had been my metaphor, I would have put the wheel in motion, taking that load down the road.  (My thing is not acronyms but rhymes and alliteration.)  I suspect this man is secure enough to take a bit of teasing, but it is serious on my part to say that line of thought, intriguing as it is, caters to the people sitting around that coffee table.  (I won’t take off on the coffee.)  It is a kind of thought that I used to love in the days when I had the time and money to go to workshops.

My own symbol is quite different: a doorknob.  Not a nice one, but an old white porcelain doorknob that I rescued from a pile of wreckage left from a house that had been bulldozed.  I still have it.  There are two stories.

One is the acquisition story.  My parents were taking me back to Portland after I graduated from NU.  I was devastated and wept hard.  Then sulked in the back seat with my bare feet sticking out the window in the hot wind until we got to Browning.  When we pulled into the parking of the Museum of the Plains Indian, I got out, stood my unshod feet in the circle of bronze imprints of Blackfeet who had shared sign language at a Thirties conference, and said,  “Just throw out my luggage.  I’m not going any farther.”

The gift shop clerk directed me to the principal, Tom McKeown, who was catching bait in Willow Creek which runs behind the museum.  When I waded out in the marshy grass to talk to him, a blue heron flew up and slowly wing-rowed up the creek.  I may have added this to the story later. I've told it many times.

When earlier we had stopped halfway, putting up the tent trailer that my grandfather had invented, I went poking around in debris and found the doorknob.  It wasn’t easy to put up the Kozy Kamp tent part because the trailer part was packed with whiskey boxes of my books.  My father had been amazed when I just went into the Evanston liquor store and asked for boxes which are the right size and strength for books.  He thought alcohol was the devil incarnate.  His mother’s brother died of alcoholism.

The symbolism of the doorknob was about the door part, though I can be a bit of a knob.  Someone later remarked that “some people are like doors.”  They meant opening ways into other constructions of the world.  For me, it also has come to mean access to the liminal space defined by Victor Turner, a virtual place both protected and exposed to new meaning.

So I carried this doorknob along into my ministry.  In Seattle I was asked to deliver the keynote speech for a conference of religious feminists where Starhawk was the main speaker.  My speech was about socks, real ones, homemade, as a metaphor for constructing meaning.  It was roundly condemned on grounds that:

   1.  A keynote implies that someone has the key, which is a sign of hierarchy and unnecessary experts, like clergy.

   2.  The event was on Friday, the traditional beginning of the Jewish sabbath, but I was not Jewish.  (They assumed I was Christian, not picking up on the Unitarian aspect.)

  3.  I was chosen by the organizers without participation from women everywhere.

At some point Starhawk asked us to put on an altar the things we really treasured.  She was aiming at cosmetics but I put my doorknob there.  In those days I was too intense to be guarded.  My doorknob and my “preaching lipstick” — L’Oreal, very expensive, red-gold — both disappeared.  I hurt that they were gone, but thought this level of sacrifice was warranted.

At the next break, a woman brought me back my doorknob.  “I figured it was important to you,” she said, which meant she had been paying close attention.  I didn’t know her.  She was taking care of me.

The keynote about socks became the lead narrative in a collection the Edmonton, Alberta, Unitarian congregation published of my “sermons.”  “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke.”  The idea of the series was reading the land, especially the high prairie where both Edmonton and Browning are located.

Fine thoughts for conferences, workshops and retreats are all very well and can earn a living for eloquent people with high aspirations, because those with the time and money will pay for them.  But they don’t address the other people, the ones living with violence and murder or the ones who can barely stay alive because of hunger and exposure.

The Religious Right, I hear, is advocating firing squads for those prisoners Trump wants killed before he leaves because he believes it will please those full of vengeance.  Before there were guns, the religious advocated burning at the stake and other tortures.  One political group recently rolled out a guillotine.  Kind thoughts about compassion while sharing a coffee table have nothing to do with this aspect.  What does?

Do we bring up the wagon wheel used as a frame to bind a man for a flogging?  Being “broken on the wheel”?  How do we think of punishment except as a hell?  How do we trust people to behave if we don’t punish them?  And now we know what happens if evil people go unpunished.

Once as clergy I attended a peace workshop where the speaker elaborated on the concept of “Father”, Abba the protector.  He spoke of the little kid on the knees of her daddy, secure in his lap.  In the question period I asked how this fit for the child who had been molested by the father.  He froze for a minute.  Then he said, “You don’t play fair.”  In other words, we were gaming, tricking by omission.  At least he didn’t claim Satan, letting the Papa off the hook.  He just didn’t have any consciousness of how wrong things can go.  Everything was going well for him. His circle was only for his kind.

But the bulldozer can come to anyone, any time.  What does religion or even spirituality say to that?

Thursday, November 26, 2020


 Though I dissed Dr. Siegel, author of "Mind", for neglecting Evil, I do understand that a teacher and workshop leader needs to use acronyms and metaphors about round coffee tables in order to be understood.  But for me the real redemption of this thinker after his steps to including emotion, then to embodiment and communication — always widening the circle — is the chapters late in his book in which he explores the Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans with science and finds it undiminished yet not quite as ungraspable as it has been.

It’s helpful that his sub-chapters indicate the years when that particular approach was being explored by him.  The first in this piece, called Meaning and Mind, Science and Spirituality, was thought out between 2000-2005.  If the project of “self-organizing” is done mostly unconsciously lifelong, how does one work between the Scylla and Charybdis of such things:  on the one hand the rigidity of the prescribed authorities of the past and on the other hand the fuzzy woo-woo of spirituality?

Siegel organized a think-group of experts and concluded that the key was “integration.”  He had an acronymic for that: nine domains of integration.  I skipped that part.  He also has a word, “mindsight.”  It doesn’t touch me.  Then he says, “The common denominator that links our inner bodily experiences with our inter-relational experiences is energy and information flow. . . When we see that this flow happens as a fundamental part of a system bounded neither by skull nor skin, we’ve come to embrace the notion of an embodied and relational mind.  When this system of mind can be viewed as having the three qualities of being open, chaos-capable, and non-linear, the mind can be seen as a part of a complex system.”

I wish he had recognized the system bounded by the community consensus, which also imposes order at the expense of growth and relationship.  But he is part of a class of people, sometimes called “liberal” or “academic” or even “entitled.”  He doesn’t see the imposed limits of that community, which is the water in which he swims.

So the next chapter is “When in Mind?” with a sub-chapter drawn from 2005 to 2010.  He’s not stuck, he’s in California.  Now he’s focusing on energy and information flow — quantum physics and the computer math that makes it possible to propose self-organizing.  And he’s into meditation and wisdom traditions.  Natch.  Then he says, “The when of mind is this emergent property of now.”

To speak of streams, like observing, witnessing and narrating (OWN), is to speak of being as a process, on-going, while happening in the now.  "Now" he wants to go to sensation, observing, conceptualizing, and knowing (SOCK).  Maintain these streams and then link them to the point of harmony and you will have the felt meaning of life.  With the proper instruments it’s possible to physically see the addition of new connections and circuits in the brain, particularly the hippocampus, corpus callosum and insula.  Of course the pre-frontal cortex as well.  If someone like JFK’s sister has a lobotomy, this possibility is literally cut off.  It is a more serious wound than separating the two sides of the brain.

Taking all this into consideration, Siegel is ready to define spirituality, that quality that people claim is more important than an institutional religion.  “1) being part of something larger; and 2) having a deeper meaning than the details of everyday life, something beyond survival alone.”

The most intriguing theory comes next and he admit it is incomplete.  The idea is that “Energy is the movement of a potential between openness to certainty as the position on an energy probability curve moved.

In terms of the universe, the “Big Bang” moment is all energy condensed into one Now and place, then expanding out according to the Newtonian second law of thermodynamics, always radiating out a bit of energy until it’s all gone.  That’s the end of Time.  The same thing works in smaller curves as the process of life, each individual beginning as a Now conception and then moving energy into the concentration of energy we call “being” until it is dissipated and gone.  I may not be getting it quite right, but this is the general thought.  Humans are what happens as Time sweeps the galaxy along.

Siegel speaks of the block of the Now in the same way that Stan Rowe, a professor at the U of Saskatchewan now retired and passed on, used to speak of a “slab of space-time.”  Siegel points out that it is not the concept of Time that is a stream but rather it is a way of keeping track of the succession of slabs of space-time as we pass through them.  We are as lives each examples of energy passing through time on it’s way to final expenditure.

This is why the advice is to keep moving.  It is the continuing work of sensation, observing, conceptualizing, and knowing (SOCK) that comes from process that forms the mind.  SOCK is also what defines life, even for a one-celled microbe which must find food and escape danger, even though it has never evolved a brain.

I have a couple of chapters to read yet and Siegel himself is working on the next book, because all this is a process and never finished.  I’m thankful that I have his book and time to read it, a place to write about it.  I’m thankful that I was able to get an education that prepared me to steer between rigidity and chaos.  I’m thankful that at so many points in this stream of life I smacked up against boulders, both predicted and hidden, but then was able to slide off and swim again.  I’m not sure whether I’m thankful for all you guys out there reading this.  It’s your business anyway.

My curve has not been a rainbow and now my energy is low, but there’s still a lot more to do.  The sun is shining at the moment and the cats are out in the backyard chasing each other until the next nap time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


 Since I’m diabetes2 and beginning to have neuropathy in my feet, mostly because I sit too much, my attention was drawn to a long video ad touting a miracle cure.  It took me a while to track down the five “miracle” ingredients, partly because they were flashed on the screen quickly and had all their long Latinate chemical names.  Here they are:

The Five Ingredients of Bio Sooth Pro

  Thiocton Root (thiroxine)

  Calciferol  (Vitamin D2, beware overdose)

  Riboflavine (Vitamin B2)

  Folic Acid  (Vitamin B9, beware overdose)

  Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12)


Benfotiamine with Thiamine  (Vitamin B1)

“As B vitamins are often given as supplements and found in fortified foods, there is some risk of taking too much B vitamin. There are eight B vitamins; thiamine, ribovlavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamine. Each functions as an enzymatic cofactor or is a precursor to an enzymatic cofactor enabling many of the basic functions of metabolism in the body.”

The website above lists the recommended dosages.  There is also thought about a need to ingest the B vitamins in a physiologically indicated balance.  Too much or too little of a single “B” might make trouble if it isn't balanced with the others.

Some experts do not discuss diabetes but rather research metabolic syndrome, which combines glucose management with high blood pressure and obesity  I agree with this approach but haven’t kept up with the recent research nor have I found a doc who has.

It would be a good idea to get a blood screen that measures the amounts of the B vitamins in your blood so you can plan eating and supplements together.  If an injection is required or wanted, it will be necessary to go to a doctor.  The prices of these supplements vary wildly, so it’s good to know what they really are.  The video ad for Bio-Soothe Pro makes a to-do about the quality of ingredients and the care taken in preparation, which is smart.  

I’ve been taking Benfotiamine with Thiamine  and it seems to work.  I shirk walking because this town’s uneven gravel streets are hard for the balance-challenged, which is what neuropathy of feet does to you besides just hurting.  I was irate when a younger person was unsympathetic, saying simply that I was old and should use a cane if not a walker.  It wasn’t just my reaction to getting old, but also being brushed off.  Finding a cause helps me.

The most problematic element of this Pro-Soothe pill is the claim to the virtues of Thiocton Root (thiroxine).  Thiroxine is used to affect the thyroid gland, which is in the throat and quite tricky.  Most docs doing a checkup will feel my throat for nodules or swollen thyroid, but one advised me frankly, “Your neck is too fat for me to feel anything.”  Hmph.  (Only one doc ever checked my feet as is recommended for people with diabetes.)  

Messing with the thyroid is not advised without a demonstrated need.  On the other hand, my grandmother developed a neck goiter — quite apparent in photos of the time — which was from lack of iodine in northern Manitoba and the reason the family moved to Oregon, nearer the sea.  Now, of course, iodine is a supplement in salt.  But I, for one, use much less salt than most people, so what does that mean?  What did I inherit as epigenome?

There are several plants that may be what the touters of Thiocton Root might be reacting to, for example, Turmeric and Cucumin.


“Aconite root is used in East Asian traditional medicines to treat pain. Since its toxicity, it is used after heat-processing for detoxifying. The present study revealed that processed aconite root could relief neuropathic pain in murine [mouse] peripheral neuropathy model induced by oxaliplatin, paclitaxel, or partial ligation of the sciatic nerve (Seltzer model), and identified that its active ingredient is not benzoylmesaconine, a degraded compound of toxic mesaconitine, but neoline, a stable compound by detoxifying heat-processing.”

In short, this long vid is a clever promotion for expensive pills venturing into problematic and wistful attempts to “heal thyself.”  It could bait one into the quicksand of health quacks, but the compound suggests areas to investigate.  Curiosity is good for the cat’s feet.


 Media sometimes make lists of famous long term friendships between writers.  Mine is not on any of them because my correspondent prefers the shadows, but it has transformed — or maybe fulfilled — my life.  You can google the most famous pairs, but I want to focus on my metaphorical entanglement which was both real and a theory concept.

"Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of .the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance... Wikipedia

“The action or fact of entangling or being entangled.  A complicated or compromising relationship or situation
an extensive barrier, typically made of interlaced barbed wire and stakes, erected to impede enemy soldiers or vehicles.

The once more common handwritten correspondences between individuals are now replaced by electronic transmissions that happen as quickly as pingpong.  This particular exchange first came from a comment to someone else’s blog, then went to email and finally developed into sharing/alternating blog entries.  Now it is over.

I’m reading Siegel’s book, “Mind”, and just came to where he admits he is Jewish-heritage/Unitarian-raised/university-employed.  I groan.  Kumbaya.  May no evil cross this door.  Hallmarkian lists of virtues.  Strings of words that amount to bbb, if you need acronyms to keep order.  

But Siegel’s advice still fits.  His children asked him what was the meaning of life?  His answer was “just keep going.”  In spite of it all.  This is the true spine of my correspondent’s life after one teenaged attempt to stop, which was foiled by those around him.  Now he does the same for others. 

All three of my sibs and I admitted to considering suicide but no one tried it to my knowledge, except myself long ago.  But why?  I think it was the attachment style:  maybe I’ll keep going and maybe I won’t.  No decision. Disorganized/ disoriented. Neither brother had a clear goal.  I did, I just kept being knocked aside by circumstances, fallen on my butt with my head spinning.  Again.

Siegel says that when he had a particularly successful intervention with someone, she said she “felt as though she were felt.”  Not seen.  Felt.  Feeling was what I tried to understand at Div School, but didn’t.  Kept going.  This unexpected shared writing made me feel felt.

I did what I always do in any context:  isolate something to research and report what is found out.  The kicker with my powerful correspondent was that the needed research was on worse evil than I could ever have imagined.  Neglect, abuse, starvation, disease, stigma, atrocity, and demonicaly twisting identity destruction.  Boys staying alive by allowing themselves to be fucked, tortured, beaten, starved, defiled, mutilated, and demeaned for money.  Boys staying alive by learning to control those demonic people, the earliest often being their parents.  Some achieved a kind of gallantry.

I was surprised again by the great body (embodiment) of literature and theory as taboos fell away, thought reframed the obscene, and neuroscience detailed the created connectomes even in the public mind.  I kept going.

The shared writing sources were physics, even as atomic power; the Indiana dunes; salmon (Siegel, too, thought a lot about salmon); sexwork; photography; electronics, pandemics, triumphs, images and metaphors, dogs, religion. Not the literary canon.   He roamed the world: ”Indian” reservations, gay beaches in tropical places, Nazi death camps, Parisian catacombs, Irish fishing villages, abandoned Italian monasteries, Carolina barrier islands, tall-masted sailing ships on the Caribbean sea, and the railway across Russia to China.  I looked at the photos but never copied them — only the writing so I could read pieces again and again.  I tried to fit it all together, as Siegel recommends.

This work was more compelling than the published books.  It was only on blogs and often deleted.  I stretched my own work to try to keep up.

Sometimes I offended him and often I needed explanations when Google didn’t know everything and Wikipedia was just flat wrong.  A lot remained mystery.  But I kept going.  So did he, despite pain and damage only survived with surgery, tabletops of medicine, constant monitoring.  (Yes, I’m using Siegel as a distraction and cover for a person who has been attacked by the scurrilous and self-interested.)

By mistaking the intensity of my attachment as romantic, I finally destroyed the relationship.  That is a rigidity,  the wrong way to relate between two disorganized/disoriented persons.  Siegel’s focus is not the myth of falling madly in love, but rather the provision of a secure family for children.  He believes in plasticity as growth.  "Entanglement" is in the index of the book five times.

I’m thankful for years of lively exchange, shocking stories -- images and ideas, parallels and differences.  Our grandmothers both lived in SW Michigan on farms and we have the domestic part of that life in us as a sense of what a modest, orderly life can be like.  But we also have shared the lives of people excluded and impoverished and have seen their value.  

My correspondent knew much less about me because I hid and I wasn’t the point anyhow.  Since ending the correspondence he has been able to see much more of me as I open up in blogs.  Part of what he sees came from him anyway — a shared bitterness and boldness about what can happen.  Both our families seemed irreproachable, admirable to outsiders.  At my house my father had lots of nice books but behind the dirty clothes hamper, he kept his Police Gazette.  My friend’s house . . .  it’s his story.

Until I got to Browning in 1961, I walked through life assuming that I was doing the right thing.  Ten years on the rez taught me there is no right thing.  I didn’t tell the truth earlier. Because I grew up finding out about what had happened in the wars, I knew the dark side.  I knew what war did and not just on the battlefield.  Mostly to men — boys, really.  And their sons.  I just shut out the dark of what was close.

One can only survive.  And witness, take notes, and testify.  For this writer and I that was the shared ground of understanding.  No fancy moralizing.  No religious cant.  Just stories, one after another, some true, some truer than actuality, an entrainment that finally reaches consilience.  Maybe.  At least vocabulary and principles.

When I got stories about him from some other source, he was indignant, but not as indignant as my family is now that they realize what I've found out.  Nothing overtly lethal.  Alcoholism, failure.  But respectability can be so protected that it creates a darkness inviting penetration.  So I do.  Him, too.  He’s younger.  It’s a bit amazing that we’re still alive and writing.  Just not to each other.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 When the theory that humans were made of clay by some great anthropomorphism in the sky had dissipated, there was room for the incredible new understandings of how primates became hominins.  At first it was a matter of getting better at tools and language, but then came the revelation of metaphor.  And after that, the ability to work as groups because of communication that allowed shared goals and even empathy.  We’re still working on that.

Parallel, some researchers began to understand how atoms became molecules that could carry DNA from conception to fruition and then to death.  The human brain first develops the capacity to sense the world, limited though it may be in the womb, and then these senses begin to build a map of the world and how to operate in it.  It takes three years after birth for the genome to build a brain connectome elaborate enough to support walking and talking — if all goes well.

Part of the reason birth is necessarily unfinished is that so much of the world is other people who need to be confronted for the brain map.  Humans are mammals who must stay with the milk and protection of caregivers and that involves intimate contact, a relationship — a “virtual” connection face-to-face between infant and adult — is formed during the necessary acts.  This is called “attachment.”

In the research-supported theory of embodiment, the forming and source of thought and memory are not just in the mind but also in the muscles and organs of the whole body: eventually the legs remember how to pedal a bike and the guts remember how to digest hamburgers.

We become able to think and talk through the development of the third branch of the vagus nerve that connects the brain stem directly to the “frame of reference” in the face and shoulders, which develop the necessary connectome areas for speech.  This supports emotion, which is a global body condition guided by molecules in the blood that originate in organs prompted by the connectome.  Since part of this is the control of breathing and heart beat plus the rest of the vascular systems that carry information, emotion can be seen in the “frame of reference”.  Thus, an observant person can see how another person feels.

Once we learned to write, our memories expanded exponentially across time and place. Our ability to record ideas in metaphors and our ability to read has also expanded our essential skull-enclosed and skin-contained identities until they are stories and theories that include the community.  Beyond that, we are also defined by what we can imagine even if it doesn’t exist.  Our essential experiences not only create our attachment styles, our identities, but also can make corrections and elaborations to them as we continue in the world.

All this is explored in the book called “Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human,” by Daniel J. Siegel, MD.  Preparation in biochemistry did not prohibit him from perceiving and valuing the emotional side of his patients, though the system at that time defined emotion as irrelevant disinformation.  He was criticized and took time to think about it.  Exploring the thought systems that developed in Asia instead of Europe encouraged him to escape the rigid rationalism of early psychiatry in his beginnings, even to accept psychotherapy at a time when it was considered mere narcissism.  Since then he has produced a stream of books, each more enlightening than the last.  He has continued to watch the minutia of unfolding the mind.

Two areas of research had just begun in this book, only enough information to intrigue.  One was the structure of ways the two sides of the brain interact and reconcile.  The other was about the thin layers of cells we call the cortex that wrap every surface of the cerebellum.  More thin layers of cortex wrap around a human brain than a primate brain — up to six -- and appear to record our new skills.  One seems to be a map of directions: which way there is food and which way to escape danger.  

Another seems to have a map of the body, distorted because the parts are drawn according to the richness of the information coming and going in the various parts: big hands, big face.  Siegel is interested in a columnar approach — up and down through the layers in a “silo” — because he suspects that the sensations that are handled in layer 1 --which must have been there since the beginning -- are evidently sent “up” to the layers 5 and 6 which are capable of forming the raw code of perception into concepts and meanings.

Psychiatry is meant to include the health of the mechanisms of the body and treat them as possible and necessary, including medicine.  Psychology is not meant to diagnose or meddle in the body, but to accumulate information about how it works.  My understanding of psychotherapy is recreating the original virtual world that was begun between infant and caregiver.  It will necessarily result in the brain prompting the body to vary the molecules traveling through the system, sometimes with healing effects.  It ought to clarify the infant maps.

The metaphors of narration are “embodied” by actors and much of considerable overlap exists in the theory and training theories of the actor and the “virtual space” that can be created between performance on a stage and an audience that has focused on them.  The manipulation and vitality of live acting is incredibly expanded by modern communication.  Siegel’s openness to the existence of wireless structures we can’t see but can use is another value of this book.  He even mentions “quantum entanglement” which proposes persisting connections between atoms over great distances.

This whole exploration, which goes far beyond embodiment, is of crucial importance to a writer whose words originate in ideas and understanding as well as the performance of print or image on a page or screen.  I’m only halfway through the reading and there is a new book coming after this one.  Now I’ll finish the first reading and go back to read again, taking notes to record a glossary that will guide further thought.