Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Be Happy

Uploaded on Jul 1, 2011

Is happiness a skill? Modern neuroscientific research and the wisdom of ancient contemplative traditions converge in suggesting that happiness is the product of skills that can be enhanced through training and such training exemplifies how transforming the mind can change the brain. 

Kent Berridge, Richie Davidson, and Daniel Gilbert speak at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen Credit Dominique Issermann

  Leonard Cohen: Darkness and Praise

The email from the boy began: “Did anything inspire you to create Hallelujah?"

Later that same winter day the reply arrived: 
“I wanted to stand with those who clearly see God’s holy broken world for what it is, and still find the courage or the heart to praise it. You don’t always get what you want. You’re not always up for the challenge. But in this case — it was given to me. For which I am deeply grateful.”
The question came from the author's son, who was preparing to present the hymn to his fifth-grade class. The boy required a clarification about its meaning. The answer came from the author of the song, Leonard Cohen.
Cohen lived in a weather of wisdom, which he created by seeking it rather than by finding it. He swam in beauty, because in its transience he aspired to discern a glimpse of eternity.
There was always a trace of philosophy in his sensuality.
He managed to combine a sense of absurdity with a sense of significance, a genuine feat.
He was a friend of melancholy but an enemy of gloom, and a renegade enamored of tradition.
Leonard was, above all, in his music and in his poems and in his tone of life, the lyrical advocate of the finite and the flawed.
Leonard sang always as a sinner. He refused to describe sin as a failure or a disqualification. Sin was a condition of life. 

“Even though it all went wrong/ I’ll stand before the Lord of song/ With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!”
The singer’s faults do not expel him from the divine presence. Instead they confer a mortal integrity upon his exclamation of praise. 

He is the inadequate man, the lowly man, the hurt man who has given hurt, insisting modestly but stubbornly upon his right to a sacred exaltation.

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  

He once told an interviewer that those words were the closest he came to a credo.  

The teaching could not be more plain: fix the crack, lose the light.
Here is a passage on frivolity by a great rabbi in Prague at the end of the 16th century:

“Man was born for toil, since his perfection is always being actualized but is never actual,” 
he observed in an essay on frivolity.
“And insofar as he attains perfection, something is missing in him.  In such a being, 
perfection is a shortcoming and a lack.”

Leonard Cohen was the poet laureate of the lack, the psalmist of the privation, who made imperfection gorgeous.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Living with a sense of purpose in life


A sense of purpose in life also gives you this considerable advantage:
"People with a sense of purpose in life have a lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease."

The conclusions come from over 136,000 people who took part in 10 different studies.

Participants in the studies were mostly from the US and Japan.

The US studies asked people:
  • how useful they felt to others,
  • about their sense of purpose, and
  • the meaning they got out of life.

The Japanese studies asked people about ‘ikigai’ or whether their life was worth living.

The participants, whose average age was 67, were tracked for around 7 years.

During that time almost 20,000 died.
But, amongst those with a strong sense of purpose or high ‘ikigai’, the risk of death was one-fifth lower.

Despite the link between sense of purpose and health being so intuitive, scientists are not sure of the mechanism.

Sense of purpose is likely to improve health by strengthening the body against stress.

It is also likely to be linked to healthier behaviours.

Dr. Alan Rozanski, one of the study’s authors, said:
“Of note, having a strong sense of life purpose has long been postulated to be an important dimension of life, providing people with a sense of vitality motivation and resilience.
Nevertheless, the medical implications of living with a high or low sense of life purpose have only recently caught the attention of investigators.
The current findings are important because they may open up new potential interventions for helping people to promote their health and sense of well-being.”

This research on links between sense of purpose in life and longevity is getting stronger all the time:
  • “A 2009 study of 1,238 elderly people found that those with a sense of purpose lived longer.
  • A 2010 study of 900 older adults found that those with a greater sense of purpose were much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Survey data often links a sense of purpose in life with increased happiness.
No matter what your age, then, it’s worth thinking about what gives your life meaning.”

Read More:

Find out what kinds of things people say give their lives meaning.
Here’s an exercise for increasing meaningfulness
And a study finding that feeling you belong increases the sense of meaning.

The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (Cohen et al., 2015).

A sense of purpose in life

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Plastic Brain

Read this quote about how Merzenich thinks about his brain's decline.

"I want to put my brain to the best possible use as long as it is possible."

"Science tells us that a key to sustaining and growing our neurological abilities is seriousness of purpose.  I am old enough to have retired, but shall not withdraw to a life of comfort and ease because I know that the brain slowly dies when nothing that it does matters to it. ... understand that what sustains your brain sustains you.  You need to continue to work at things that support your brain's health now, and continue to work in ways that support it out to the end of your time on Earth."

- Dr. Michael Merzenich 

Brain Plasticity sites:


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kathleen Battle - Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileires No. 5

Published on Sep 3, 2013
Kathleen Battle 1st movement of Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileires no. 5 concertoes for voice and eight cellists.
From "Gala of the Stars 1985"
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Villa-Lobos - Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (with score)

Uploaded on Nov 5, 2011
Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Aria (Cantilena) for Soprano and cellos

(Sheet music is bad quality, but it's the only one I could find..)

Performed by Arleen Augér with the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic
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Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano

Uploaded on Jul 26, 2011
Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, performed live on July 9, 2011 at the Doctorow Center for the Arts, Hunter, NY. Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano, with cellists, Jerry Grossman, Wilhelmina Smith, Sophie Shao, Wendy Sutter, Eric Jacobsen, Aron Zelkowicz, Susannah Chapman, Andrey Tchekmazov, Caroline Stinson, Julia Bruskin, Kevin McFarland, Pitnarry Shin. Nardo Poy, conductor.
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