Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good Grief

Grief is associated with loss of a loved one through death. Bereavement is the result of this. However, grief can come from a loss such as a meaningful job, loss of autonomy, a divorce, or the removal of children from their parents, or a pet dying. This is a normal, healthy reaction to an occurrence that will affect the surviving person's personal world. In fact, to show no pain or healing is actually frighteningly similar to the emotional profile of a psychopath.
There are approximately seven stages to grief. These can come in any order for varying lengths of time depending on the circumstances surrounding the loss, and the person(s) that is affected by the loss (their state prior to the loss, other concerns in their life, the nature of their relationship to the lost). Sometimes only some of the stages manifest. The seven stages are:
1. Shock or disbelief. This is the numbness and "world collapsing" (sometimes actual collapsing), dissociating reaction to the realisation of the event. The person may want to get proof, or another opinion, or check. They may run off or hide, like they have just been attacked by a physical threat. It is best they are sitting down, and receive the news compassionately and clearly. However, life is not always that kind, and don't expect a thank-you note.
2. Denial. For instance, acting as though the person is still alive, that today is the same as yesterday, not hearing references to the loss, making a cup of tea for someone who no longer requires it, introducing someone else as the deceased, leaving something of theirs in the same way as though they are going to come back through the door, are all varying signs of denial. If someone slips and call you by the absentee's name, it is forgivable. If the person hasn't registered the loss has occurred for a year, it is a worry. However, if their shrine to the deceased has gone mouldy over the years, it may be time to suggest professional help.
3. Bargaining. If they are religious the may try to cut a deal with whatever spiritual entity they see fit, swearing they will never do something again so it won't happen again, wondering why it was whatever was lost instead of them, wishing it was them instead of whatever was lost, making bargains with other people affected to do this or that as a memorial or preventative or coping measure.
4. Guilt. If the relationship with the lost was strained it can be worse. If they are young enough to think they are responsible for the loss it can be worse as well. Or if the survivor caused the loss or the person has committed suicide. It can be like survivor's guilt. "I get ice cream at the beach, but they can't". What if I did this or I did that. Why couldn't I have been nicer to them or stopped them from going somehow, or stopped them from drink driving (e.g.), and why couldn't I have died instead of them? Guilt is a regressive thing for when children are developing their social skills by taking cues from the adults, and therefore think a horrible feeling is either their fault or a punishment. Try to keep perspective during this period, and cut some slack. Even if it was some one's fault, they probably don't feel good either, and if it isn't any one's fault (usually), it won't make the pain any better.
5. Anger. This could be wanting to punish anyone seen (rightly or wrongly) as the cause of the loss (doctors, the other driver, fate, God, aunt Fefe's home brew) or anger at yourself, or the deceased. It can come in delayed, "inappropriate" outbursts when the person is feeling safe enough to let it out, but it is a good sign. It means the grief is starting to become more outwards flowing as opposed to inwards, as the other stages are. It can be self-destructive, but if the survivor(s) know it is coming they can channel it into a beneficial form (work into effecting change so they can prevent a recurrence like an appropriate cause, learning self defence, taking it out on a punching bag, go camping and screaming into the hills).
6. Depression. This is crying, feeling lost, empty, lowered mood, isolated, less enjoyment of things that brought the person joy (especially if it is something they did with the lost), and "moping".
7. Acceptance. This is when the survivor realises life has changed for them, but it can continue on. There is not a rewind button, but some things from the past are still there in the present, and somethings are not, and it cannot be changed, simply accepted.

Physical symptoms of grief can sleep and appetite problems, hyper vigilance, changed activity levels and even heart attack.
Social symptoms can include isolation (not wanting to see anyone), and difficulty functioning at home, work or school.

In both children and adults, emotional regression can occur, so less adult ways of processing the situation or behaving, or coping will come to the fore.

Prolonged (or complicated) grief include intense and pointless longing the lost, severe intrusive thoughts of the loss, extreme feelings of emptiness and isolation (basically pining), avoiding activities that bring back memories of the moment of loss or of the lost, sleeping problems, loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities.

If the loss was a person who committed suicide, the survivors may be preoccupied with the reason(s) behind the suicide, denying or hiding the cause of death, "what if's" (I'd done, said, been this or that), feel blamed for problems proceeding the death, feel rejected by the deceased, feel stigmatized.

If the relationship with the lost was difficult or otherwise unhappy, the grief process still applies, and is compounded by the survivor's guilt (the unresolved fight they had two years ago where they stopped talking) and also how they see themselves (I'm happy such and such is dead, that's pretty dark).

With younger people, their stage of development effects how they cope.

In infants, they cry more and are more irritable.

3-5 yrs old don't realise the permanence of death, and can believe they "magically" caused they death, and can "magically" bring them back. They may have difficulty separating from caregivers.

6-8 yrs old Understand the permanence of death, and feel guilty. They may talk incessantly about the occurrence in an effort to understand and integrate the event. It is very important to tell the younger children, or those who have regressed into a younger state, that they are not responsible and although it doesn't feel nice, they are not being punished.

9-11 yrs old often the event decreases their self esteem. They see themselves as different from their peers, and may engross themselves in other activities like school work, extra curriculum activities (like computer games, or bug collecting) or social scene (other outsiders).

12-14 yrs old As they are starting to establish independence, they will have mixed feelings in a wide range of emotions. They may avoid talking about it.

14-19 yrs old Similar to adults. Sadness, anxiety, anger. Might not want to talk to their parents, but they will definitely talk to their peers.

Grief is not always about the loss of a person or even a good thing. The relationship may have been unhealthy, the job unpleasant, the object undesirable. If something unpleasant that has been there a long time is lost (such as an oppressive, occupying army), the initial joy is complicated by the empty feeling of lack of purpose (resisting or placating the tyrants), and a void called "possibility". Also the years of programming of that particular scenario suddenly made defunct is like when someone let's go of the rope in a tug of war. Although the liberation is good, the occupation and it's losses needs to be grieved.

It is important to keep in contact and openly communicate with others that have survived such as other family or friends or workmates, or others in a similar situation (such as an appropriate support group, victims of crime, divorcee, bereavement, or re-employment groups) or a professional grief counsellor. If you go it alone it is much harder to integrate, understand and have reference points for the process back into some kind of less painful life.
Apparently if the healing process unfolds unchecked and encouraged, it can be a real point of growth for the survivor(s). It is painful and overwhelming, but the process of integrating the experience and dealing with it's effects can really help one have a deeper understanding of life and it's rich tapestry.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble (oil based) vitamin that your body stores predominately around the liver. Like all fat soluble vitamins, it is stored in the body, so it does not need to be replenished daily, which water based vitamins (like vitamin C) do. In fact, vitamin A stores so well, you can actually poison yourself with it! If you eat the liver of a predatory animal (such as a turtle or a dog), you can actually die from too much vitamin A. Also, too much can make pregnant people have babies with birth defects, and may contribute to osteoporosis.
Vitamin A is used for vision (its true you have better night vision if you eat your carrots), bone growth (the job of osteoblasts), reproduction, cell division (making fresh stem cells) and differentiation (making stem cells into specialist cells), the immune system (making and strengthening white blood cells), and creates strong linings in the respiratory, urinary and intestinal systems. If you don't get enough vitamin A all these things are weakened, which makes it easier to get an infection, and harder to fight it.
There are two forms of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A, which comes from animal sources, and provitamin A carotinoid, which comes from plant sources.
Preformed vitamin A from animals is the easiest to absorb, as it has already converted into vitamin A pure. However, it is more dangerous as an excess is hard for the body to get rid of. It is found in milk, eggs, and liver.
Plant forms of vitamins, provitamin A carotinoids, are harder to turn into pure vitamin A, but it is also harder to consume an excess of, and can still be removed from the digestive system if necessary. Darkly coloured, orange or yellow fruit and vegetables tend to have more vitamin A in them. Carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potato, spinach, kale, and apricots are a good source of vitamin A.
Zinc is a mineral that is needed to release vitamin A stored around the liver into the blood stream so it can be used by other parts of the body. An excess of Vitamin A may inhibit vitamin D, which is necessary for building bones, amongst other things.

Saturday's Love Child

As you open your eyes
You realise you can stay in bed
You rest your head Then rise
The sun is high in the sky
And you have Time to watch it fly
Such a gentle start
So very easy on the heart
The afternoon spreads before you
Seems every door is open to you
You are Saturday's Love Child
So mildly ramble wild
Thinking towards Evening
And the Sun's serene leaving
In due time you will prepare
For all the moonlit fanfare!


Mycelia Miracles

Moulds, mushrooms, lichen and toadstools. What would we do without them? We wouldn't survive. They are a very important part of all ecosystems, breaking down dead organic compounds and recycling them into useful loams etc for the rest of he ecology to use. One creature's trash is another's treasure. Plants couldn't absorb food without their symbiotic relationship with mycelia (which lives on and in their root system).
Mycelia are the "root" system of fungal life. We often see the mushrooms etc, which is actually just the sex organ of the fungus, but the most important part is often hidden or ignored, and that is the mycelium.
The biggest living organism is actually 2400 acres of a single mycelia in the American state of Oregon. It has been broken up by logging tracks, but it is still the same organism. It would have to have started from a single spore over a thousand years ago.
Because mycelia have the crucial task of breaking down organic compounds, it has been cited for potentially consuming pollution and toxins that have wrecked havoc on our delicate ecosystem (such as petroleum, or residual fertilisers). Mycelium does release carbons back into the air, but it is worth it for the cleansing and feeding effect it has on the environment. Some farmers actually add mycelia into their soil to boost plant growth.
It has already provides all sorts of things for us besides mushrooms. Penicillin and cheeses both use various mycelium. The original fungus that produces penicillin sold for a very tidy sum for the day, but it's value in lives saved and quality of lives improved is immeasurable.
The pattern created in fairy rings comes from the way mycelium operate underground, spreading outwards and consuming it's original base in the middle to recycle and reuse the parts that have run out of food. It will concentrate on areas where there is more organic compounds for it to eat, and less where there is less food, or where conditions are harsh. It will become hardened when there is not enough water.
In every breath each of us breathes there are usually more mycelia spores then pollen. It is a very diverse lifeform, giving the earth that wonderful smell after a rainfall. Some people are allergic to mould spores, just as some are allergic to pollen.
Although warm, nutritious, wet and not too bright places are there their favourite places, they are found in cooler places. Tropical forest fungi are an area which still needs a lot of research as a lot of fungi are still not classified. In fact, definitions between fungi are still unclear, as flagellated (spores with tails) mycelia and other lifeforms are still being classified, maybe even requiring a kingdom of their own.
As mycelia use enzymes to break down carbon based biomass, they are very interesting for other reasons, namely the production of chemicals that could be useful to us as medicines and other industries. It is an area that deserves funding from governments and industries simply as research for research sake, as it is highly likely that one would accidentally stumble upon some compound that is extremely useful (and therefore profitable) in some area of modern life.
Anyway, saving the world is all in a day's work for the humble mycelia. They deserve a pop song all of their own!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Musing the Faeries

Throughout the world there are common mythological creatures - dragons, giants, little people, godhead (and lesser beings), nature spirits for instance. I find these commonalities endlessly fascinating and a riddle for logic - both rational and lateral. If a story is rare or from a particular area, one can see it as a customary peculiarity or a statistical anomaly. However, when there is a recurring idea throughout the world's cultures, one has to wonder if there is some purpose or even grain of truth behind it. Especially in societies where life is hard and hand-to-mouth and yet the people expend energy in dance, ritual and story telling to honour and maintain seemingly useless beliefs. Why? For generation after generation they pass down this knowledge even at the cost of their lives. Why? Unless there is some benefit, something behind it that expending the energy makes it worth it. For example, the idea of a multidimensional universe where spirit resides is pretty widespread.
Which brings me down to the little matter in a world that "there are more things between heaven and earth then man has ever dreamed". This is from European myths, but there are stories from every part of the world about "little people", good, bad, and ugly. Yes, faeries. The wee folk, the one that people see under the influence of Absinthe, magic mushrooms or badly brewed bootlegged Rum in days gone by.
In Europe nature spirits and the little people were in pagan times accepted as a part of life (such as the druidic priests knocking on oak trees to speak to the tree spirits, or why you knock on wood), as with many indigenous peoples. Then, with the advent of the Church, many of the beliefs and customs were vilified (such as saying faeries are amoral or mermaids have no soul), in an attempt to undercut the old "religions". I'm not saying Judaic/Christian spirituality is baseless or has remained intolerant and unloving, but the Establishment of the day in the form of organised religion (the Church) were doing damage to the peoples knowledge in the name of Power. However, you can tell a lot about a culture by their reaction to their encounters to their "little people". And ALL peoples have had encounters. Denial comes from a society that lies. Open acknowledgement is an innocent people. Seeing them as bad is a suspicious, closed society, seeing them as good is loving society, and seeing them as both is a realistic society that have gathered knowledge over time.
Anyway, in Europe they are called (in the UK), fairies and pixies. Here is one idea. The olde Celts put the the sound "ee" on the end of a lot of words. If the original people of the islands were visited occasionally by fair-haired Saxons and Nordic travellers could the stories around the little people began with the "fair-ees"? And their mysterious tiny hill dwelling neighbours the Picts? "Pix-ees"? The same goes for brownies (brown-ees) and kelpies (kelp-ees). I don't know about elves or goblins (maybe in a slander over resources, "gobbling") or the others, but the name for the little fairies and pixies makes sense to me.
Another hypothesis is that if a rather large Irishman from the stone age learns how to make a boat from a "fairee", and winds up in Wales (little dark haired people), has an encounter (maybe a misunderstanding) and returns back to Ireland, both people would have an unusual story to tell. If there was a fight, people being people, the story would have been exaggerated by both. In the tale of the "battle" (scuffle), the little people would have gotten smaller and smaller, and the giant would have gotten bigger and bigger.
It is interesting how often peoples all over the world say the little people live underground (dwarves mining for metals when blacksmithing was a nearly magical thing to common folk, or ant people for the Hopi Indians, or yowies and/or min mins for Australian aboriginals, for example) or on a hidden island that has some kind of "magical" doorway. The "magical" door sounds to me like a point of dimensional shift, which quantum science is starting to realise is actually a possibility, no, a probability.
A more "out-there" idea embraces "modern" alternative schools of thought. Apparently, the olde temples and places of import in "science" (stone age astronomy) and spirituality (Stonehenge etc) are built on the Earth's meridian points along "ley lines". Let's say an American Indian tribe is doing a ritual Sundance on their meridian point in the Americas. They have been dancing for hours, and are in a total state of trance. They slip through a dimensional doorway for a while. Projected on the other side of the world, on a sister meridian, they appear as a circle of tiny people dancing. Their headdresses look like wings in their diminutive size. A passing farmer, high on dodgy brew sees this and the story of yet another odd encounter is born.
If you look at the pictures of archetypal little people, they look a lot like classical "greys", the large eyed, large headed, small framed aliens in the group consciousness of popular culture. Could the "wee folk" have been the friendly visitors from out of space that is gently portrayed in "E.T."? Could the "gold" and "silver" the fairies, dwarves, leprechauns seem to bear and love be a metaphor for something greater? Wings in many artworks and mythological depictions (gods, angels, faeries, witches) throughout all cultures are a indication of a flight of the soul mind.
Anyway, this purely speculative, with little opportunity to "prove" in any scientific field in science's current basic form. However, life would be very boring without some mystery to muse upon and spectres to speculate about just beyond an ordinary grasp.
You can look up stories about "little people" in mythologies from all around the world on the web (start with fairies on wikipedia).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breathlike and Deathlike

The freedom that enfolds me
Holds breathless but deathless
Disbelief guides me home to it
The dark memories
Tattle stories so childish
In their adaptability
Forebode tales so mortal
With an eye for an agreeable ear
The unknown crushes
Burnt black upon my back
The nape of my neck
Is frozen alive
The fear that undoes you
Releases you breathlike and deathlike
Suddenly it's gone, the then and when
There is only now
You swing a step out
The moment is born again.


Phenomenal Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton are amazing little microscopic plants that the entire world depends on for oxygen, food and carbon removal. They live in water (oceans, lakes and rivers), near the surface. There are approximately 5000 different kinds (which is surprising considering they are autotropic). They are fascinating to look at because they form all kinds of geometric shapes, looking like something off a UFO ( They produce about half of the world's oxygen, and absorb thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean or lake, taking the carbon with them. Lots of things eat them, like krill. They are the bottom of the food chain, but they are highly inspiring! Buddha or Christ would be proud of their meekness.
All they need to grow is sunlight, and minerals. Ocean currents bring minerals up from the bottom of the ocean (or the mouths of rivers) which the phytoplankton use to grow, using sunlight for energy. They absorb carbon from the atmosphere and organic compounds such as carbohydrates, utilising minerals dissolved in the water and produce oxygen. They particularly need iron as well as other minerals.
There is a modern problem for phytoplankton though. Because of all the unstable acids, salts from fertilisers, carbon overload in the air etc, and other chemical rubbish we pump into our waterways and oceans, the sea is becoming more acidic. This is causing difficulties for all lifeforms there, such as weakening crustacean's protective shells, damaging coral, and reducing the productivity of phytoplankton (and reducing the food supply of the animals who rely on them). This is a problem.
There are saving graces in the case of phytoplankton though. Phytoplankton reproduce rapidly, living for only a couple of days. There are, of course, mutations that occur regularly. If our oceans get irrepairably acidic we may lose most of our food sources, but at least phytoplankton will evolve fast enough to survive. Lets just hope that whatever evolves next is still producing oxygen, not some other gas, considering it is utilising very different chemicals, and levels of chemicals, to the ones it grew used to over millennia.