biological emotions and laughing goldfish

Lisa Feldman Barrett, psychology professor at Northeastern University, reduces the emotional states of being into four categories, in her book, How Emotions Are Made (Pan Macmillan, 2017). These four proto-emotions are, in essence, the messages your brain derives from your nervous system, the pure biological pulses that ultimately guide our relationship with the world around us:


Everything else, from happiness to sadness to disgust and so on, says Barrett, are learned reactions. Passion is culturally transmitted.

In identifying these raw materials of emotion, we might draw a closer understanding of the experience of that-which-is-not-human, even perhaps that-which-is-not-mammal, as pleasant — even mildly arousing — is the notion that this may be an indication of some broader universality.


Here is one of my favorite Chuang Tzu stories, which for me settles any argument over the existence of universal experience, and imparts the listener to "trust their gut" on this matter. Our relationship with the world around us is much tighter than we tend to consciously acknowledge:

Two old friends were crossing a bridge over a pond. One paused to look down, and noticed a school of goldfish swimming below. "Look, how those goldfish are playing and laughing!" His friend glanced down, nodded, and then replied, "How is it you know these fish are experiencing some form of happiness? Maybe they are simply swimming in the fashion that such fish swim, not happy, but neutral, and that you are imagining their emotion? You can never ask a fish! Does it not seem foolish to you to ascribe human feelings to simple creatures?"

His friend thought about this for a little while, peered one more time at the fish below, and then, waving his friend forward on their walk mentioned, "I know those fish are happy because I, too, have known happiness."


I used this story to put the 26 forms of cognitive bias into context, as well, "Cognitive Bias and the Laughing Goldfish."

As I click "publish" on this post, two blue jays are squealing in the flower box outside my window. They sound aroused!


The Need for Roots

Labor and human rights activist, Simone Weil, working in London with the French Resistance to the Nazi occupation of France, training towards becoming a Special Operations Executive which would return her to Paris, whilst suffering a bout of tuberculosis which would prove her death, wrote a large book titled, The Need for Roots. It is a wide-spanning work, investigating the common needs of humanity, the universal morality of feeding the hungry, the uprootedness of modern urban and rural life, collectivism, nationalism, and ultimately suggesting a plan for France upon victory in the War.

An example from its pages; I find an interesting rationale for the rule of law, and the effects of justice served, as a question of social morality:
"Just as the only way of showing respect for somebody suffering from hunger is to give him something to eat, so the only way of showing respect for somebody who has placed himself outside the law is to reinstate him inside the law by subjecting him to the punishment ordained by law."

She also declared eight spiritual needs for the human soul:

societal, to minimize individual encounters with conflicting obligations
with consent
more power equates to higher standard of conduct
looking up to symbols
a measure of conduct
to prevent one's falling to vice, to allow for integration, post-
Freedom of Opinion
free expression
freedom from fear and terror
to protect us from boredom
Private Property
a home, and one's tools
Collective Property
everyone shares


Twelve Food Groups

The nuts and beans and cereals are the Seed. Given no other food, you stand to get along on Seed alone. Your disposition may turn grouchy, however.

One of the great delights of living is Fruits, the many styles of flesh in which nature wraps the Seed. Flowers are included. Most fruit appear only briefly, annually, a gift of the seasons. Spicy, sweet, sometimes bitter. That fruit Eve enjoyed in the first story of the Bible makes so much sense on so many levels.

Vegetables are all of the other parts of the Plants. Leaf-Stem-Root. Mushrooms get to be vegetables. Sugar is a vegetable. So are aspirin and quinine, because those come from bark.

Meat is Animals. There is a big difference between the terrestrial and aquatic fleshes, but those remain subcategories of this food group.

Our own fingernails, lips and skin, licked blood and other parts of ourselves and our close friends that we swallow should probably be in their own food group. We'll keep it classic, and call it People.

Insects are Bugs. Shrimp should arguably fall into this category.

Minerals include salt, and the other kinds of dirt people eat.

Water is a food, I guess, if dirt gets to be a food.

Dairy and honey and any other animal secretions people deem to consume are the Luxury food group. The ability to catch a mother of another species and suckle from her, and gather the lactations and, mix with them, and let them get funky and oddly delicious, or freeze them, etc., is an outstanding achievement — not to mention how we have industrialized it! Truly, diabolically, luxurious.

Alcohol and Vinegar are specially processed from Seeds, Vegetables and Fruits. Fermentation is up there with lactation harvesting and the internet in terms of our specie's defining achievements. There are other processed foods outside the Luxury food group, but they mostly fall into the next category.

Chemicals are non-traditional, excessively modified foods or food-like substances.

Toxins and straight-up Poison, are the anti-food group. Since this category exists as a catch-all to make the overall list all-inclusive, then it includes everything from paint thinner to chunks of radioactive stuff to hot lava. Shards of glass are not included in this anti-food group, but rather (scrunch!) a Mineral: Man Eats Glass.


The Blossom of the Eight Emotions

Robert Plutchik created this wheel of emotions in 1980. Each of the eight spokes, or pedals, is an essential emotion, at its most intense near the center, and to lesser degrees, moving out. Opposites lie across the center from each other. The combination of any two, adjacent pedals generates the so-called advanced emotions, requiring some construction.
Consider the implications of the arrangement. Rage is the opposite of terror. Aggressiveness is a combination of interest and annoyance, and positioned between optimism and contempt.
Love, likewise, is that thing between optimism and submission. 

Nicely poetic, a symmetrical play structure for words.

Click on it, so you can get a closer look:

Thank you, Indexed, for a post that brought this to WhoDooWooWei's attention, and for developing an intriguing, original, expanded conceptual framework for the wheel.

Check it out, the emotion wheel was originally a flower bud shape, closed on both ends:


The Six Turing Primitives

Computer memory, unengaged, sits motionless, gathering dust like an unused library. Developing means by which to manipulate the contents of computer memory is, in essence, the job of the computer programmer and electronic engineer. 
Alan Turing (1912 - 1954), luminary of computer science, reduced the functions of manipulating computer memory into six primitive actions. Using only these tools, an unlimited variety of more complex functions may be built, from addition and subtraction, to guessing what kind of movies you might like to stream tonight. Any computational device capable of these six functions can perform the work of any other similar device, no matter how complicated — however, computation run times may vary. Indeed, a Timex Sinclair, programmed to do so, can render the same computations as the XBox. This is because, at the root, they are both doing these same six things:
Right:  move the machine head to the right

Left:  move the machine head to the left
Print:  place a symbol into the current cell
Scan:  identify any symbols in the current cell
Erase:  erase any symbols in the current cell
Halt: do nothing


Seasons of the Plague

Mild winters, cool moist springs, and early summers are reportedly the worst times for the Black Death.


Rays of Light

An optical glory at An Teallach, Scotland,
from the wiki commons. 

Glory of the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, at St. Peter's Basilica,
designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the mid-17th Century.

"Sometimes a kind of glory lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breath is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then - the glory - so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man's importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories."
 - John Steinbeck
East of Eden (thank you, whiskeyriver)


Measuring Relatively

If the size of an ounce were to fluctuate from market to market, store to store, as it often did before the standardization efforts of the 18th Century, the unit's utility would diminish, steeply. We would do as well to use "a handful" to measure and trade things. Big handed people would all get a leg up.

By definition, a unit of measurement is a standardized constant.

So it's interesting to come across a unit of measure that does change relative to circumstances and maintains its usefulness. Currency is an one example of a fluctuating measurement system.

Here is an old Chinese system for measuring the size and space of dwellings:

"A chien is a unit of space with a constant relationship between height, width, and length--the space between the supporting pillars, the floor, the ceiling. In a large house, therefore, the chein is large and in a small house, small. The usual house in this part of China was three or five chien. Some of the smaller side houses might be two chien. The partitions from pillar to pillar, front to back, could be put in or taken out at will. A room could be from one to five chien. In poor families, a chien tended to be a room."
from a footnote in "A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman" by Ida Pruitt as told by Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai

I will update this post when I recover information pertaining to a system of time measurement in which the time between sunrise and sunset is the same number of hours everyday, every season. Not only does the length of an hour change every day, but day hours are different from night hours.


Of Apples and Other Daily Prescriptions for Perfect Health

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Of course a fool lives by aphorism alone. If this one was written by a true believer or the Fruit Grower's Association, I do not know, but Chiquita Banana has trademarked the line that bananas are quite possibly nature's perfect food.
Houston mail carrier Jeff McKissack was motivated only on his faith in the orange. He built a monument to the fruit.  (McKissack died two days shy of his 78th birthday.)

So many singular keys to perfect health have been declared, an entire blog could be devoted to the subject.

The patron saint of practical advice, Benjamin Franklin, would have us believe that the secret to good health, wealth and wisdom is a sufficiently early bedtime.

A past yoga teacher talked of her yogi's belief that one should perform a daily inversion, even if no other exercise is done. It is very important to turn the organs of the body upside down at least once a day.
Many yoga practicioners believe the sun salutation, Surya Namaskara, a short and simple range of poses, is the healthiest habit (even if you don't get up before sunrise, Mr. Franklin).

The great Cheng Man Ching, who brought Tai Chi to New York City and the West, declared that the cat stance was the most important exercise of the day. Considering the bio-structural inferiority of the human knee and ankle (indeed, Cheng Man Ching was also of the opinion that Americans' ankles were their most troubled joint), balancing on one leg at a time for a couple minutes everyday would seem well-advised.

Robert Chesebrough invented and ate a teaspoon of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly everyday and lived to be 96. [Schwager, E.. "From Petroleum Jelly to Riches". Drug News & Perspectives 11 (2): p. 127.]

My friend, the late H. Richard Crane, when asked how he managed to stay so sharp well into his nineties, answered that one needs hobbies.
My Granny also lived into her nineties, and had neither hobbies nor a single medical issue. She often declared that she looked forward to passing away one day, that she would then be reunited with her husband, my grandfather, in the afterlife.


The 64 Arts of Krishna

Confucious had his Six Arts.  Roberta Smith identified six forms of contemporary installation art.  Krishna has them both beat, more than ten times over, with the Kalā, a Hindu catalog of the 64 arts.  As extensive as they come.

The Goddess Meenakshi is the upasana murthi, or Hindu patron deity of the fine arts.  Her little parrot knows each of the 64 Kalā and can recite them for you.

I have generated the following custom list from several web sources.  They each have specific Hindi names, but here we list them in English.

1. singing  2. playing instruments  3. dancing  4. theater  5. painting  6. body-painting  7. rice and floral decoration  8. making a flower blanket  9. personal grooming  10. jewelry  11. bedmaking  12. creating music woth water  13. splashing water  14. color mixing  15. garland-making  16. coronets  17. dressing for bed  18. tragus decoration  19. aromatics  20. applying ornament  21. juggling  22. secret mantras  23.  magic and illusions  24. food preparation  25. beverage prepartation  26. weaving and cloth-mending  27. embroidery  28. the lute and small drum  29. making and solving riddles  30. tongue twisters  31. recitation of books  32. enacting short plays  33. solving enigmatic verse  34. preparation of shield, cane and bow and arrows  35. thread spinning  36. carpentry  37. engineering  38. silver  39. metallurgy  40. sexual arts  41. mineralogy  42. medicine  43. lamb and cock fighting  44. maintaining conversation between men and women  45. perfumes  46. combing hair  47. communication with the hands  48. impersonation  49. knowledge of dialects  50. prediction  51. mechanics  52. use of amulets  53. conversation  54. composing and reciting verse from memory  55. training parrots and mynas to speak  56. shrine-building  57. lexicography  58. concealment with clothing  59. gambling  60. the dice game, akarsha  61. mastery of children's toys  62. personal etiquettte  63. understanding of dharma 64. awakening the master with music at dawn


rhythmical discharges from subcortial structures

Three different words for three different kinds of gibberish, a simple path to primordial pasts, perhaps a link to the divine:

lalation: "ga ga goo goo gaa ga"

embolalia: "um...uh...um....errr..."
(meaningless syllables)

glossolalia: "ehbu ondu wan akka rar"
(speaking in tongues, and similar phenomenon)

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. / And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. / And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. / And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
-- Holy Bible, King James, The Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-4

"It is, then, this pattern of essential ingredients, the strong cognitive imperative of religious belief in a cohesive group, the induction procedures of prayer and ritual, the narrowing of consciousness into a trance state, and the archaic authorization in the divine spirit and in the charismatic leader, which denotes this phenomenon as another instance of the general bicameral paradigm and therefore a vestige of the bicameral [pre-speaking] mind."
-- Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976.