The Map of Heaven – by Dr. Eben Alexander & Ptolemy Tompkins.

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This was an interesting read written by a Neurosurgeon who experienced a near-death experience. He is obviously very well read as he quotes a great arsenal of influential philosophers and whatnot. The book is easy to read (but not too much); you’ll race through it in no time. My only critique is that it gets a bit repetitive at times.

Dr. Alexander is one of those people who don’t believe in organised religion but rather thinks that we are all united in describing the same phenomena but in slightly different ways. The book contains several letters sent to the author where people describe all sorts of “paranormal” experiences/behaviour.

The bottom line is that hell doesn’t exists; all you feel when you step over to “the other side” is endless love; you’ll also meet your loved ones once again, if you are open for it. When I shared this with my brother, he revealed to me that there are plenty of stories of unpleasant near-death experiences out there, something that surprised me as I’ve certainly never read or seen anything like that. Who knows? Maybe it sells more to write about unconditional love without any rules of conduct to obtain it…

It is interesting that the superior “beings” (angels?) from not just Dr.Alexander’s experience but other ones as well, are described as clouds of light, or beings that are just light – makes me think of something else I’m currently reading – hmmmm…*cough* *cough* … the Bible….

According to Dr.Alexander you can get in touch with the creator-force of this universe by immersing yourself in binaural beats and meditation. It is obvious that the Doctor feels that his message is an important one; as we all need to understand that we all come from the same life-force and will be re-united with it on this “other” spiritual plateau of existence after death; maybe even before if meditating and “Ommmmmm”-ing enough.

Love is the message of this book. Be kind and don’t worry. The end is nothing to be afraid of. You are not alone. You are loved. Amen.

 

 

The Chimp Paradox.

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I’m almost done with Prof Steve Peters’s book.

After reading the first chapter I was planning on criticising his work for its limited, repetitive, simplified vocabulary. This book is a shockingly  easy read which may leave you feeling underestimated as a reader. Considering what an impressive CV Peters has I expected something very, very heavy, but as this work is intended for the masses I guess it was decided to make it  u-n-d-e-r-s-t-a-n-d-a-b-l-e… (So try not to feel insulted by that and prepare to feel like someone is talking to you like you are an idiot). It is also obvious that Peters is terrified of being a controversial character as he continuously makes sure that he doesn’t generalise, almost apologising for scientific facts as he literally tries to wear a literary bullet proof west in an attempt to not offend anyone. It seems like this book was first published in 1988, then re-published in 2012, so if I’m correct it was originally written way before the SJW craze, which makes me wonder if the SJW mentality has always been a problem…..

The book is good and picks up after chapter 1. It ties in with other mental training books especially Willi Railo’s work  as Peters explains how you can re-program your mind to fulfil your potential. The work becomes increasingly brutal as you go deeper into it with Peters delivering one hard truth after another. “The chimp” is nothing but brilliant as it highlights comical behaviours which evokes hilarious  associations with your inner “chimp” and its irrationality. Prepare to chuckle your way through several of the chapters.

I certainly had some questions answered by reading this book, so even though the language is simplified it delves further into the mind than a lot of other “similar” works. It is of course always advisable to read this type of literature with a pencil or marker at the ready as no mentality-change will ever happen over night. If you want to exert your full potential you have to be committed.

Galskapens Historie – Michel Foucault.

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After arduous reading I finally finished Foucault’s Doctoral Dissertation: “Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique”( I have the Norwegian translation).

I found the book earlier this year as I went through my grandfather’s library and as  “insanity” doesn’t interest him much I took the book with me home to England. The physical book in and of itself is gorgeously old-fashioned and reeks of quality. Beautifully designed for anyone who appreciates real books. The topic is one that will instantly pique the interest of anyone interested in psychology and/or psychiatry, but be warned. Foucault’s work is not one based solely on empiric data. It is not written in a direct scientific language. Rather he expresses himself with big, wide, brush strokes, filled with tiny embellishments and un-expected twists and turns, sporadically breaking into Latin. An allegorical writer he sought to use pieces of art along with his own artistic interpretation of historical documents to describe the development of how madness was being treated and perceived overall by society through the “classical period.”I guess he felt that madness was not best described through only words, especially clinical terms. 

He seeks to find out where everything “went wrong” in terms of how the mad are incarcerated and put under conservatorship with the doctor presiding over the institutionalised like a God.

It’s a beautifully complex and heavy read. I’ve found myself reading some of the sentences, in fact entire pages over and over again, in order to fully grasp what the author is trying to communicate. 😛

The book’s  topic is actually perfectly summarised in the introductory essay penned by Norwegian academic Erling Sandmo, so if you want to keep things easy, you don’t have to read the whole thing …  but that of course means that you will miss out on all the best bits, which are well hidden. Packed into elaborate sentences and vivid descriptions.

What is truly fascinating is how heavily modern perceptions are moulded by past definitions of melancholy and mania. With what confidence “experts” of the past passed their verdict in regards to ailments of the mind! Makes one wonder how history will judge our modern science. How much will be laughed at? How much of it will be debunked? Yet, the “scientists” of the past were on to something, but I guess their vision was clouded by their time’s superstitions and technological shortcomings.

Doctor’s struggled to define the causes for Hysteria and Hypochondria  which were put in the same box of sorts, just like melancholy & mania ( this was before manic depression/bipolar disorder was coined as a maladie on its own). Foucault follows the gradual learning curve of the medical community citing the times of Hippocrates when it was thought that “the uterus was travelling around the body” to the eventual conclusion that Hysteria had to stem from the nerves in the body, hence our “bad nerves” saying.

The book follows the various “treatment” methods that were intended to firmly plant the mad back into the moral, righteous path of God. The “prescriptions” were neither particularly conversational nor pharmaceutical. They relied on warm or cold baths to manipulate the inner bodily functions (apparently the manic were almost immune to cold temperatures, which is why they could “thrive” in cold cells or go naked into the winter), doctors relied on what would classify as torture by today’s standards ( even though these descriptions are rather few in the book ) like causing blisters and sores so that un-wanted “vapours” could leave the body. They put the mad into hard labour as this was the surest way back to salvation, or they partook in the delusional’s delusion so as to communicate with the mad on their level. Like a man who believed himself to be dead and therefore refrained from eating, which nearly killed him. His imminent death was prevented by the medical staff dressing themselves up, pretending to be dead men that were eating. This bizarre banquette of the dead, convinced the man who thought of himself as dead, that he too had to eat, which saved his life.

Madness was defined as: Applying logical thinking to obsessive irrational beliefs and conclusions about the self and/or the world. It is actually quite a fascinating view of madness.

At the dawn of institutionalisation, the mad, the poor, the unemployed, the drunk, the beggar, the maimed, were all thrown into the same place. These were the people who society rejected. Many  “normal” inmates complained loudly about having to share cells with the mad that were “raving furious” and “screaming incoherently.” Just like prison guards complained of what a humiliation it was to house those who had gone astray with the irredeemably insane. The conditions described of the chained mad put on display for the bourgeois to see, resembles that of a zoo where humanity’s rotten apples are animalised.

Despite his communist leanings, the author chose to be loyal to historical facts and admitted in his writings that over taxation on businesses had led to un-employment and destruction of companies’ possibilities to employ the working class. By imprisoning the poor and forcing them into cheap labour, the initiative eventually led to the gutting of the already employed, turning it into a vicious cycle, where actions fuelled by a desire for social reform, led to the total opposite.

At a certain point, the destitute were freed from their imprisonment as it made no sense to keep them there. The poor were more profitable outside of institutions while the view on how convicts deserved to be treated changed too. Political prisoners were still kept hidden, somewhere, but now the time had arrived for the introduction of what we today would refer to as the asylum.

In the last section of his Doctoral Dissertation he describes William Tuke and Phillippe Pinel’s treatment methods and the transition from the neglect and blatant abuse of the mad to the dawn of modern psychiatry. Foucault seems to argue that this “improvement” wasn’t so much so as the marginalised, betrodden mad were still not in a particularly good place; but I have to say that from what Foucault describes I cannot help but feel that there were wast improvements made to the general treatment of the deranged.

Foucault leaves us, flirting with, but not really delving into Freud. Describing that a “family structure” had been established within the asylum due to Tuke and Pinel, with the mad’s role being that of a child whereas the doctor symbolised the father.

Animal Farm.

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I don’t think that there is a need to reveal my absolute love for George Orwell. I already did this last year when I wrote about my two favourite books: “1984” & “Brave New World” (the latter by Huxley).

Discovering Orwell was just as shocking to me, as finding out about the “Dead Kennedys”. The punk rockers had already written about all the topics that I was writing about in my teens. It was very surprising to find out that the same issues were addressed back then.

The same conflicts but with different names, the same disappointing politicians but with different names and so on and so on.

It made me realise that certain issues are timeless and that certain issues are bound to never be solved as it goes against human nature to resolve them. It is as if thought society’s critics are a broken record from the dawn of civilisation into eternity. Only the names, faces and clothes of the trapped protagonists change, doomed into never-ending repetition.

Their story and concerns remain the same. And it is therefore wise to ask, if there is any point in pointing out societies flaws at any given time, when these flaws remain largely the same.

It was bizarre for me, as someone who has continually criticised “big brother” through my artistic work, to all of a sudden open up “1984” a book I had previously never read. It was the final revelation to me, that anything worth addressing has already been addressed.

All you need is to read what has been written and read about what has been done in the past. Maybe it is because so few do this, that “new” writers and artists are needed, to remind people of what has been said before, giving the same words a new wrapping and relevance by swapping out names and fashions.

The world can’t be saved, there is no solution, there is no utopia, there never was. There can only be peace through totalitarianism, which is imprisonment, there is no equality, and there will never be such a thing as there is no equality in nature. And if we were to be forced into equality, it would be through a shared misery. There would always be someone on top of the pyramid, administering all those enslaved in equality below them.

And just like we do now, those at the bottom would think of themselves as free.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I smirked my way thorough “Animal Farm”, but it was a smirk tinged with sadness and defeat as I knew that what I read was not just the past, it was today and it will be the future.

” The animals were not certain what the word meant, but Squealer spoke so persuasively, and the three dogs who happened to be with him growled so threateningly, that they accepted his explanation without further questions.”

” They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now they were free, and that made all the  difference, as Squealer did not fail to point out.”

” The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

The highlight of the edition that I got in my possession, was actually Orwell’s preface, called “The Freedom Of The Press”. This is something that I encourage anyone who might read my entry to check out. Let me quote:

“If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.”

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.’

“For though you are not allowed to criticise the Soviet government, at least you are reasonably free to criticise our own. Hardly anyone will print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals.”

” So long as the prestige of the USSR is not involved, the principle of free speech has been reasonably well upheld.”

” On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency.”

” The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine.”

“But now to come back to this book of mine. The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: ‘It oughtn’t to have been published.’ Naturally those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper.”

” One does not say that a book ‘ought not to have been published’ merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it)     does harm to the cause of progress. If it did the opposite they would   have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are. The success of, for instance, the Left Book Club over a period of four or five years shows how willing they are to tolerate both scurrility and slipshod writing, provided that it tells them what they want to hear.”

” In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses.”

” But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is ‘freedom for the other fellow’.

“Voltaire: ‘I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it’.”

“…the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practise.”

“…there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods.”

” In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought.”

“…but by holding heretical opinions they ‘objectively’ harmed the regime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations.”

” These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you.”

” Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interest of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the falsification of history.”

” To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance.”

” The word ancient emphasises the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals are visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice.”

” Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain.”

” If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“..it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this preface.”

And it is to draw attention to that fact, that I’ve quoted Orwell’s preface to such an extent here on my blog 😉 Here are two quotes from Orwell’s Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of “Animal Farm”:

“…it taught me how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries. My wife and I both saw innocent people being thrown into prison merely because they were suspected of unorthodoxy.”

“…men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.”

Now look at these quotes and blank out “Russia” and “USSR” and see how much it resembles the issues that we face today.

 

We Have Always Lived In The Castle.

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Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived In The Castle” offers the best literary description of mob mentality and social anxiety that I’ve come across so far. Jackson display her extraordinary ability of realistic descriptions of human beings and their strange quirks. Especially amusing and tragic are her characters attempts at keeping up a normal life, when their circumstances are anything but. The change of atmosphere in the  Blackwood’s family home at the arrival of their male cousin is very realistic. The relationship between the sisters suffer a strain when the oldest one, realises how miserable her existence is. With the arrival of Charles, Constance longs to escape her suffocating, pantomime of a life. Her character displays clarity for the first time in the story, but only due to a man’s influence. Gravity shifts from Merricat to Charles, who now enters the household as the most dominant character. Both Merricat and Charles are negative forces in their own right, influencing and/or destroying those around them in order to get what they want or to make a point. Charles is more obvious and by shaking up the relationships within the family change the atmosphere of the household completely. Merricat internalize her contempt, is vindictive by nature and more subtle. She displays an “us vs. them” attitude in regards to the villagers, but only in her own thoughts. The ending of the story is very tragic and can be read as a warning of what can happen if someone never leaves their comfort zone. The sisters are pretty much buried alive in a fantasy, that only death will liberate them from.

The book yields few “stand-alone” quotes and has to be enjoyed and valued in its entirety.

” It was a fine April morning when I came out of the library; the sun was shining and the false glorious promises of spring were everywhere, showing oddly through the village grime.”

“Their throats will burn when the words come out, and in their bellies they will feel a torment hotter than a thousand fires.”

My only criticism is the excessive focus on food in the story.

Goodbye March, Hello April :)

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Another month of the year was over not too long ago, and what a great month that was 🙂

I had a great Easter celebration and a great St. Patrick as well!  Music wise the classical album kept on selling and we launched a promo vid for my upcoming release, which is now available for pre-order 😉 Not long now till I have the actual physical CDs in my hand and not that long till I’ll be playing the classical music live either 😀 Wo-ho!

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I had way too much fun doing this ↓

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Can you spot my egg? 😛

 

In Norway we read/watch crime for Easter 😛 Check my review here: My Easter Read

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Seriously, Carluccio’s cupcakes are nothing but divine 😮 😮 #BestThingEver #LikeEver

 

 

 

A book is not good unless you have to read it with a dictionary 😀 ha-ha

Still working on this one ↓

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Tears & Self Hate Is The Remedy.

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What do all Norwegians do during Easter? Well they either read or watch crime, preferably both. In the name of tradition I decided to read some classic crime and that led me to the Queen of crime herself, my late childhood favourite, Agatha Christie.

There has been some years since I actually read some Christie, the last time I was exposed to any of her works was as an audience member marvelling at her theatre play “The Mousetrap” down in London. Which was brilliant by the way.

Yesterday I embarked on one of her classics “And Then There Were None”. It was an easy read and I finished the book in less than a day. My verdict?

I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised reading Christie now. What startles me is the nonchalant way in which murder is being dealt with. There are 10 people stuck on an island, who quickly realise that there is a murderer amongst them. Even though the participants realise this, they remain in my opinion un-naturally collected and handle the issue in a manner, that would make you assume that murder isn’t really such a big deal.

I suspect that my generation have gotten too accustomed to loud screams, arguing and drama on the silver screen to be particularly convinced by the stiff-upper-lip, buttoned up mentality depicted in Christie’s crime. I suppose that our society is too drenched in psychoanalysis, where even the fragile state of a criminal’s mind is being overanalysed in order to find some excuse buried deep down in previous traumas that could possibly explain, the individuals murderous inclinations. I mean even the most treacherous of beings, could probably improve if they were in the receiving end of a hug, right? I mean there is probably some perfectly understandable reason as to why someone rape and/or kills. Shouldn’t we feel sorry for these poor wretched individuals? Enslaved by their urges, imprisoned by the traumatising memory of abusive parents, aren’t they the true victims? Well those are the questions we are supposed to ask ourselves. Poor serial killer, his dad probably didn’t acknowledge him, his mother didn’t breast feed him long enough.  In our modern fiction investigators are bound to develop alcohol problems. They suffer with relationship problems, self-doubt, you name it, they struggle to cope  emotionally with the sight of a corpse and the misery that their profession ensures them.  Someone unfortunate enough to be the witness of a crime or a discoverer of corpses, give in to total hysteria, or absolute shock, jumping onto the nearest shrink couch to deal with the trauma of discovering something unpleasant, something unpleasant that could lead to, god forbid a trauma or  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Our modern novels like our movies and tv-seeries are drenched in drama so thick, not even a truck load of TNT would be able to blast thru it, so no wonder then that my literary palate  has been saturated with bizarre expectations.

Where are the emotional breakdowns in Christie’s crime? Where is the person who desperately tries to build a raft to escape the island? Where are the scenarios with people throwing accusations left right and centre? Where is the fist fight? Where is the panic? Where is the gradual psychological meltdown? Why aren’t the people stuck on the doomed island falling victims to erratic decisions, psychological deterioration, abandonment of logic and reasoning, as absolute fear spreads thru their midst like a virus?

A sip of brandy can apparently sort out any sort of understated emotional outburst. It is important for proper English men and women of the late 1930’s to keep up the appearances at all times, even if there is a murderer at large. Even if they are killed off one by one, nothing can stand in the way of the noblest of virtues: namely a stiff upper lip.

Christie’s novel is such a strange read in our over analysed, straightforward, vulgar times, that I don’t really feel like I’ve read a crime novel at all. It is too platonic to move me or install any kind of fear. Would it be blasphemous to say that it lacks depth? Or would it be more accurate to assume that it depicts times of old, when women would faint and there wasn’t anything a brandy couldn’t solve?

In our times of insight we are supposed to saviour every and any emotion, and analyse why we would feel such and such. Terrorism should be dealt with by holding hands, waving roses in the air, and using hashtags. Well, the terrorists probably came from unstable backgrounds, they were probably un-employed, their radicalisation a result of western foreign politics. In fact if western countries were to eradicate their military, any weapons they might have and destroy any borders, execute any descendants of  colonialists and remove any statues of Cecil Rhodes, THEN the cataclysm for hate would once and for all be eradicated. Hell maybe we should just shut down all our prisons, let all the prisoners out, and collectively kill ourselves as anything wrong in the world can only be attributed to western people….

It is important to be ruled by one’s emotions. Any modern leader with any sense of self-respect knows that it is important to instantly change one’s statements, if one is initially perceived as being too strong or tough. Staying cool is a mentality only reserved for Russian hitmen on the silver screen or Vladimir Putin. Even soldiers risks bursting at the seams at any given moment. Politicians go on air, crying or criticising their own countries history. Only psychopaths would refrain from wearing their heart on their sleeve unless you are the Queen of England. In fact if people from the past could time travel, especially my Viking ancestors, there is a high probability that they would call us out for being a bunch of sissies, or as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say “a bunch of girly men”.

At the end of day, was the book any good? Yes it was, but all I could think of when I was done reading was how distant the times of Christie are.

A break up handled on Facebook for all to see is perfectly acceptable. Knowing what everyone is doing at all times is perfectly natural, as it is un-natural for an American female student in Italy to appear too cheerful after the demise of her flatmate. Better to imprison her just in case, since her emotional reaction isn’t in accordance with expectations. If you are a  British-Arabic or Norwegian- Arabic ISIS fighter it is important to get you back home to safety, as poor you, it is probably not your fault that you decided to join them.

Is it possible to get any softer or weirder than what we are at this point?