Monday, December 26, 2005


In his book, Into the Cool, Eric Schneider discusses (along with co-writer Dorion Sagan) existence of life, both single and multi-cellular, from the perspective of the forces of nature needing a way to use up excess energy and create more entropy.
Working from the precept that "nature abhors a gradient," Into the Cool details how complex systems emerge, enlarge and reproduce in a world tending toward disorder.

Complex systems are both living and non-living; both obey the second law of thermodynamics.
This second law refers to energy's inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time. Although the second law is usually and correctly associated with molecular chaos - and thus with aging, loss and death - Schneider and Sagan show that it is also vital to life and complexity; it is behind evolution, ecology, economics and even life's origin.

There is a story behind the book's inception: Eric Schneider simply perceived that marine ecosystems needed deeper examination than what the current science culture was providing.

I feel the same way about the human organism, the fact that I also am one, quite aside for a moment: Is it not just another sort of ecosystem? Really? Does it not deserve the same sort of synthetic perspective, the same sort of respectful study and placement into the grander scheme of things?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Nerve lengthening

It's interesting to contemplate all the ways nerves can seem "shortened".. maybe it's a perceptual fantasy in a way, a finding that is nevertheless observable, measurable, play-withable and therefore has become conceptual fantasy as well. When we see a situation where a nerve seems "shortened", what are we actually "seeing"? Maybe we're just seeing that individual's brain's own perceptual fantasy, and getting caught up into that. As soon as that brain has changed its "mind" about what's going on out in the body, nerves seem to "lengthen" adequately along with most of the containment.

Skin stretching provides the sensorymotor cortex with new movement options IMHO. There could be some small or maybe not so small local physical effect... after all the PNS ends up, a lot of it, anchored in skin from below, miles and miles and miles of it.. easy to handle. One little stat about that, which unfortunately I can't confirm so far, is that each square centimetre of skin contains 3.54 metres of nerve. There are huge numbers of smooth muscle cells in skin.. It's never seemed much of a stretch for me (pun unintended) to imagine I can have a direct overriding effect on those by just planting my hands on someone, waiting for my fingerprints to stick onto their skin, then widening the distance between my hands slow and gentle, then waiting for up to 2 or 3 minutes, gathering up new slack once in awhile; you can practically feel the brain rushing in to take up residence again as you hold this process in process...but that's probably not even a sliver of what really happens. Given that the nervous system is built in a modular manner with old parts of high specificity as well as new plastic parts (Damasio), it takes time (but not too long) for the information to travel, sort itself and get into all the bits of brain that are relevant. But before long (perhaps 10 minutes) what needs to change, has, and entire body parts may clunk into new configurations while the patient lies there perfectly aware and relaxed and tracking. Bear in mind there has been very little verbal prep beforehand, just that the point of the treatment is to treat the nervous system, and the assurance that they will "feel" stuff, and that it's fine, and that it won't hurt. Frequently patients report that they can feel their limbs "get longer". Which makes me tend to think that there could well be some very funky homuncular shifts happening.

Whatever. Pain decreases. Thinking about all this stuff keeps me very engaged and engrossed in being a practitioner.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Dolor blog

Oh my gosh. This is a very, very good resource.

Adam, the blogger, is compiling materials for his doctrate. He looks at pain from all possible angles from outside in and from inside out. Did you know that there are five, that's right; five distinct kinds of congenital insensitivity to pain? Do you know why red-haired fair-skinned people are more sensitive to pain?

Did you know there was such a word as "pleonasm"? It means, superfluity of the verbal kind. The inverted word, "neoplasm," with which we are more familiar, means superfluity of the cellular kind.. (I love wordplay, please forgive.)

Friday, December 02, 2005


Yesterday I felt a sense of relief that November was finally done and over with. A sudden flash of insight put things into perspective: The name should be changed to 'Yes'-vember... No-vember is just too negative sounding.

If there is a month of the year I particularly dread, it is this one. If life is one great big three-dimensional jig saw puzzle that we will never finish in time, November is that time of year when you sit there scanning for the right piece, staring at pieces that look like they should fit but don't make sense; you try to place a piece and realize you already have tried that piece in the same spot five times, and it never fit before, so why would it now.

My seasonal affective disorder is not especially emotional, although I do feel slightly crankier than at other times, and I hang out in front of a light box each morning.. I don't feel depressed exactly.. I perk up easily and can be led into having a good discussion. No.. this is a bit more.. hmm, cognitive. It's a sense of having a mental fog bank in the mind; the edges aren't as sharp and it's harder to keep a chain of thought linked through to a logical end. It's hard to think creatively. It's hard to find one's own familiar inner motivation. Thought becomes restricted to one thing at a time, whatever is in front of one's face, and whatever presents itself to one's face feels too much.. well, in one's face. Truly it is hard to see perspective; just as in fog objects loom due to way decreased focal length, in this state, life events loom suddenly without being able to access the usual anticipation/preparation time. And just as with fog, when you look behind at your chain of thought some of it seems to have disappeared, requiring extra effort and mental squinting to make out its shape. There's no other time of year that demands such trust that one will survive intact, than this time that feels so composty, entropic. Life becomes less an effortless pleasure and more a slog. Routine becomes both cage and comfort. It's restlessness coupled with torpor, lassitude coupled with longing.

The jigsaw puzzle analogy works in another way: Often you sit there staring at pieces and nothing works, you leave it, do something else for awhile. You come back, several hours later or maybe the next day, and inside ten minutes you've spotted and placed (effortlessly) twenty pieces. I think that must be an example of the power of gamma organization of the visual cortex. Same with this edgeless time of the year; distraction works wonders. A bit of brisk walking rights the world for awhile. Doing actual jigsaw puzzles helps too.

I find jigsaw puzzles the best therapy for this time of year. I did three to get through November, and noticed the rise and fall of my self-esteem as if it were a yo-yo whose string was attached to the successful outcome of putting pieces together into a neat rectangle with a coherent image. Thousand-piece puzzles seem to be about right. Highly recommended for winter blahs.