Does a Parallel Universe really exist?

We must thank Gian Luca, our son, for bringing this material to our attention.

There are various intriguing phenomena that we may now consider as being part of the practical dustbin of “the supernatural”. which go against the accepted scientific evidence, and thus are summarily dismissed as “not serious” by the public media.  However, we must remember that humans first observed some “weird” physical events before finding the proper scientific explanation, i.e. Newton’s falling apple. There might be others waiting for the right kind of proofs to confirm or refute them. The existence of one—or several—parallel universe(s) is precisely a case in point.

In a New Scientist interview of Dr. Peter Gorham, working in the NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Antenna (ANITA), the expert said that they had found evidence that some neutrinos—high-energy particles—were coming up—and not down—from the Earth’s surface, as the laws of gravity would indicate; it happened in 2016 and 2018. Together with his colleagues of the IceCube project, they watched a giant balloon full of antennas hover above the frozen landscape to measure any landing particles. A subsequent press release said: “ When the ANITA events were detected, the main hypotheses were an astrophysical explanation (like an intense neutrino source), a systematics error (like not accounting for something in the detector), or physics beyond the Standard Model.” They said that it could a case of “exotic physics” (sic)

In their peer-reviewed paper on this issue, the IceCube group of scientists said: “we test the hypothesis that these events are astrophysical in origin, possibly caused by a point source in the reconstructed direction. Given that any ultra-high-energy tau neutrino flux traversing the Earth should be accompanied by a secondary flux in the TeV-PeV range, we search for these secondary counterparts in seven years of IceCube data using three complementary approaches. In the absence of any significant detection, we set upper limits on the neutrino flux from potential point sources. We compare these limits to ANITA’s sensitivity in the same direction and show that an astrophysical explanation of these anomalous events under standard model assumptions is severely constrained regardless of source spectrum.”

The mendacious use of a euphemism like “severely constrained” is a lame attempt to hide what is starkly obvious: with the present tools, scientist cannot understand it.

At the time of the Bing Bang—which created our universe—did another universe appear that is the mirror image of ours? A space where positive is negative, left is right, and time is running backwards? Can we hop into it to go back in our History?

Do you remember the clock going backwards in the opening scene of The Twilight Zone?

Note. The featured image depicts the great actor Lee Marvin in the 7th episode of the Third Season of one of the most memorables series of American TV, The Twilight Zone. Our family anxiously awaited for each new episode to air in Canal 4 of Montevideo. In those quaint times, families clustered around a single TV set to share the communal experience. We gawked, we laughed, we cried, we screamed together. All together.

And we were so much happier.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The symbology of Silence

“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.”

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

One of the most anguishing and troubling plays in modern theatre centers around two “losers” called Vladimir and Estragon waiting for the arrival of a mysterious Godot who keeps sending messages that he will show up but never actually does. They represent two human beings that do not know why they are living in first place; this is a resiliently disturbing question that keeps popping up during the pandemic.

Waiting for Godot [i] was initially published in French by Samuel Beckett in 1952 and became the first success of the Theatre of the Absurd; some critics have interpreted it as a product of Existentialism that proclaimed that life had no rational meaning and that we should not waste time trying to find any, even with religions. For all their miserable existence, the two central characters—usually represented as tramps—cling to the assumption that Godot—the representation of God or other altruistic meaning of life—will eventually appear and give answers. At the end of the play, dismissing the despairing nihilistic message that Beckett had intended to convey, many of us have emotionally identified with the two tramps who finally rose above their banality. Seeking answers for our existence, we are all as destitute as them.

In these times of enforced Social Isolation, the hitherto boisterous venues of Life—the quarterly streets, the public transportation, the work offices—have been deserted of all the varied sounds from the human presence —their conversations, their laughs, their exclamations. Seizing the opportunity, Silence has tyrannically filled all those spaces.

However, there are interlopers from our past that dare to show up uninvited. Even though we might be busy during the “staying at home” mandate working at a distance, doing homely duties, parenting tasks, neglected tasks/repairs, etc., there is always a critical moment when the abetting “nothingness” invites memories that for some clear or intriguing reasons, we usually store in the back of our minds.

A few days ago, I suddenly stopped typing on this laptop because one of the memories from the most painful day of my life—when my mother Gladys had passed away and we were in her wake—brutally came crashing down on me. Right before the time to close her casket came, we were asked to leave the room. Being the last one to exit, I had a change of heart halfway down the hallway. I turned around and returned with decisive strides. Once back in the room, I gently leaned over my dear Mommy to caress her beautiful hair and slowly kiss her saintly forehead.

“Hasta luego, Mamá ”, I whispered to her.

I knew then that I was not saying goodbye to her at all . Only “see you later.” I had the feeling that Gladys was rightfully, peacefully entering into another world, after working and , being such a uniquely empathic person, suffering for all her family members.

We must push back against the paralyzing inertia that may be poisoning our spirits with the renewed expressions of humanly endeavor filled with affection and hope.

Women have always been of paramount importance to carry out this task.

Let us give them the much-needed respect and consideration they deserve.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

(This article is based on our upcoming new book “Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague”)

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

[i] Samuel Beckett, En Attendant Godot, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 2002.

Have you lost faith in Mankind?

“Il y a plus dans les hommes des choses à admirer que des choses à mépriser »[i]

La Peste, Albert Camus [ii]

There are books that seem to be ageing in a dishonorable way—once deemed as essential reading, they nonetheless begin to show their little decadent details like a former belle that is cruelly being assaulted by the passing of time—and we nervously store them in the attic of our Subconscious mind, dismissing their tough messages. We know that they deal with resiliently pertinent issues, but we rather ignore them. La Peste, penned by the 1954 Nobel Laureate Albert Camus, is indeed one of them.

Written in 1947, right after the end of World War II, it was supposedly a tale of how a seemingly supernatural phenomenon out of the Dark Times can ravage the human communities and in its aftermath provoke little redeeming changes in Humankind; however, it had a much more profound and relevant message for the contemporaries of Camus. In a January 11, 1954 letter to Roland Barthès , the writer acknowledged the allegorical reference to the sudden Rise and Fall of Nazism, which had destroyed and traumatized the European communities. We must remember that intellectuals of the 20th century were flabbergasted that such a ghastly machine of mass extermination could have been spawned by Germany, one of the finest cultures of the Continent.

In Oran—then the second largest city of French Algeria—a physician called Rieux blew the whistle when he discovered many sick individuals in his ward consultations. The epidemic seemingly came out of nowhere and rapidly destroyed the social, economic and administrative fabric of the prosperous city port in just a few weeks. In the beginning the city inhabitants were reluctant to accept the Public Health threat as they could not face their own mortality and preferred to cling to their “normality.” Slowly but steadily all the warts of human nature begun to surface for all to see.

One sick patient paradoxically rejoiced in the sickness of others as a way to mitigate his own miserly solitude with a perverse schadenfreude [iii] that undervalued Life. A priest said in a sermon that the scourge was God’s penance for the parishioners’ sins. Many civil administration’s cadres abandoned their posts for the safety of isolation. Other individuals preferred to party before the inevitable demise would befall them. Dr. Rieux viewed the pest as “une interminable défaite” [iv] and was ready to give up.

Then there is the redeeming character of Rambert, who after trying to escape from the city in the beginning, decided to stay on to help the suffering. He reminded us of Katow, one of the central characters of La Condition Humaine [v] , who sacrificed his life for the sake of his companions. Ever since we read Malraux’s book in the Alliance Française, the train whistle—marking his cruel immolation in a cauldron by the Chinese Nationalists forces that had captured the political activist—has provoked an uncontrolled shiver from head to toe in our physique. But it also epitomized the great capacity of many people to surmount selfishness to help others.

One of the most terrifying constants in this book is the gradual yet unrelenting encroachment of the silence in places hitherto fully occupied by human activities. All the physicians still practicing in these terrible times are overcome with a sickening feeling in our stomachs when we traverse sections of hospitals that used to be bustling with patients and personnel—like children’s wards—and we only hear our steps’ echo. Moreover, when we learn that one of our colleagues has fallen due to the disease, we have mixed feelings of sadness for the loss but also pride for their sacrifices. Only in Italy, more than 100 physicians and 30 nurses have passed away recently.

Most of us have a relative, friend or neighbor that was infected while they were on duty as first responders in the police, fire stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, etc. Thanks to them, we are duly supplied with services and goods in our social isolation. Without the continued support of county, state and federal authorities, our country cannot weather this terrible calamity and recover a semblance of “normalcy” after.

In this so, so sad Easter, Pope Francis gave a mass, seated on an illuminated podium in the middle of a totally deserted Saint Peter’s square, to a TV audience on Friday. Instead of the elaborate Via Crucis [vi]—traditionally held in the Colosseum[vii] with the thirteen stations of the Cross—there was only a small procession of caregivers and jail personnel that offered a simple wooden cross to the Pope at the very end. The Pope, after all just another human being with all his frailties, stood up and accepted it with a resigned look but also a fierce resolve to keep on fighting. In his most sad homily, Pope Francis urged us not to keep wallowing in dark thoughts and dream about a better future for mankind. Will we be able to heed his recommendation? Coraggio.[viii]

The heroic example of thousands of humans should make us reconsider our lives.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

(This article is based on our upcoming new book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague)

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

References

[i] Can be translated as : “there are more things to be admired than disdained in men.”

[ii] Alber Camus, La Peste, Paris, 1947, Editions Gallimard.

[iii] Term in the German language that means “find joy in the disgrace of others.”

[iv] Term in the French language that means “the never-ending defeat.”

[v] André Malraux, La Condition Humaine, Paris, 1933, Editions Gallimard.

[vi] The Via Crucis or the Via Dolorosa is the path taken by Jesus Christ and his tormentors through the streets of Jerusalem to reach the Golgota, the infamous hill where he was crucified by the Romans.

[vii] The name of the massive arena where the Romans had their games, ceremonies and gladiators’ encounters, located in the center of Rome.

[viii] Term in the Italian language that means “courage.”

After the pandemic, how will our world look like?

“Bocca baciata non perde ventura, anzi rinnova come fa la luna.” [1]

Decamerone u il Principe Galeotto, Giovanni Boccaccio [2]

In 1348, at the peak of the worst pandemic the world has ever known (the Black Plague or Bubonic Plague that decimated the population of the planet with approximately 200 million victims) a group of young women and men escaped from the ravaged city of Florence and took refuge in a countryside villa. In order to bear their forced social isolation, they each narrated a different tale every night for two weeks—except one day of housekeeping and the religious holidays—which eventually resulted in a hundred tales ranging from the comic to the tragic. Thus goes the script of The Decameron, a seminal book of Italian Literature, which heralded the coming of the Renaissance in a world that had been dominated by Feudalism before the pandemic.

Heavily influenced by Numerology and Mysticism, Boccaccio expressly chose seven (7) young women who represent the following:

  1. Four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Virtue, Temperance and Fortitude.
  2. Three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.

The three (3) young men represent theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. [3]

Using the allegorical writing method of Dante Alighieri, this author engaged in a satirical critique of the then prevailing socio-economic-political parameters, heavily influenced by the rancid patriarchal institutions from feudal forms of administration and the Catholic Church. The exaltation of the necessary commercial values—like intelligence, astuteness and sophisticated values—is a common thread in these tales; up to that moment the European societies were dominated by only piety and loyalty.

The name Decameron is a composite of two classical Greek terms: deka (ten) and hemera (day) The subtitle of this work is a solid reference to Gallehault, a fictional king of the tale of Lancelot; he arranged the first clandestine meeting of Guinevere, King’s Arthur wife, with his friend and bodyguard, thus abetting their tragic affair. In a provocatively subversive way, Bocaccio elevated the figure of this prince to underline the hard indenture of women to the wishes of all their paternal figures. The escape of Guinevere represented the possibility of movement, of love, of freedom.

After their forced isolation from the plague ended, the European citizens came out determined to build a better society with more liberal values and tolerance for diversity, including the participation of women in some community affairs. The Dark Night of feudality was rapidly wiped off by the coming of the Renaissance.

What kind of world will emerge after the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We are now living both a humongous sanitary and economic crisis at the same time. Whomever thinks that we can go back to what we had hitherto considered as “the normal” is engaging in a most dangerous delusion. For example, the evident lack of proper preparedness regarding the needed stocking of emergency supplies of protective gear and ventilators exposed the disastrously short-sighted budgets cuts of governments. Who will publicly defend the skimping on the critical social investments in order to have a dangerously low “supply on demand” policy for “just on time delivery”? That has condemned thousands of patients to a lack of efficient respiratory therapy and medical providers and care personnel to a deficient protection by disposable gear. The civic organizations and political institutions must pressure the foolish “bean counters.”

Most epidemiologists believe that the initial host of this  dangerous virus was a bat, as had been the case with the Ebola, SARS and MERS infections; the bats are known carriers of many of these organisms, which do not sicken them, but reproduce inside them. Then one day the virus found the opportunity to jump into another animal, and then into another one, and so on, until it finally arrived in a human being in that infamous Wuhan “wet market.”  Unfortunately the Chinese authorities cleaned and disinfected that place without the chance for scientists to study it appropriately to find out how it begun. This zoonotic disease, which passed between animals and humans, was propitiated by a global trade of wildlife, agricultural intensification, deforestation and urbanization that are bringing human communities in a much closer contact with wild animals’ habitats. We must aside our petty differences and engage in more holistic terms with each other; these critical issues must be urgently addressed by all the national governments.

Another major upheaval is the change of the socio-economic parameters of most societies regarding the labor opportunities that will be offered by employers. The purely physical labor will continue to be displaced by the Information Age positions, all those that can be staffed by individuals working from their own homes. Knowledge is power. The remuneration of the heroes that are now buttressing communities—physicians, nurses, nurse assistants, laboratory assistants, fire and police forces, operators of basic services, truck and delivery drivers, re-stockers of warehouse supplies, etc.—must necessarily increase to reflect their real value for the well-being of our societies.

As we are writing these lines, we are hearing the generalized hand clapping of the Parisians, exactly at their 8 PM time through the transmission of Radio France Inter, in honor of the medical and nursing personnel that are serving in their hospitals. Later on we will listen to a similar gesture occurring in Buenos Aires at their 9 PM. Now the citizens of “modern” nations are not daydreaming about the “celebrities” of entertainment and sports that have polluted almost all the spaces of public media. But… who are they dreaming about? The scientists and researchers that are actively working to bring a safe and effective vaccine against the Coronavirus to the market. Hopefully we will re-assess our way of assigning respect and admiration to the public figures.

As the saviors of Mankind, the scientists that discover and develop the lifesaving vaccine(s) will be duly respected and remembered for many generations to come.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

(This article is based on our upcoming new book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague)

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Note. The featured image in this article is a reproduction of Bocca Baciata, an 1859 painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which alludes to Boccacio’s anecdote of Alatiel.

References

[1] “A kissed mouth does not lose its fortune, on the contrary it renews itself just as the moon does.” This is the ending of the tale of Alatiel, a Sarracen princess who, in spite of having thousands of sexual encounters with at least eight different men, managed to marry, as a virgin bride, the King of the Algarve.

[2] Giovanni Boccaccio, Decamerone Di Messer Giovanni Boccaccio Cittadino Florentino, GALE, Eighteenth Century Collection Online, April 2018.

[3] Introduction by Wayne A. Rebhorn, Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, Norton Books.

What is the significance of Number 17?

When we first arrived in the USA, we were surprised by the importance many people gave to the number 13 (thirteen) as a harbinger of bad luck—to be totally avoided. Only later did we learn its origins in the tragic demise of the Knights Templars in the Middle Ages, which we described in a previous article of this novel series. One of the reasons why it did not ring any bells in our conscience is that we did not have that family or cultural imprint in our memory, except for a vague recollection from the printed media.

For the Italians—and henceforth their descendants, us, the Italian Americans—the real dangerous number is 17 (seventeen) for reasons that were initially rather cryptic. We always took it as a given, accepting it as part of our cultural heritage. As a result, we never had any calms in using seat 13, or having an office in an address with 13. For all those that were watching our cavalier attitude towards that number, the certitude that we were not “superstitious” was applauded as a most rational attitude. That was a most specious assessment of our true state of mind as they had been hoodwinked by our camouflaged allegiance to a much, much more ancient belief from our ancestors.

The Romans were firm believers in multiple ceremonies presided by socially-sanctioned augurs that studied the flight of birds and the droppings of chickens to discern events still to come. They also studied the denomination of numbers to find hidden signs to exploit. The Roman denomination of Number 17 is XVII. Priests re-arranged those letters in various combinations, finally finding a similarity with the word VIXIT ( I existed) If we use the Past Tense to identify a status, it implies that the person is already dead. As a result that number was firmly associated with impending harm and even death.

For all its professed Cartesian rationality, our modern society still harbors fears and misgivings that hark back to the Dark Ages and were surreptitiously smuggled into our daily placid routines. Haven’t you noticed that many buildings lack a floor 13? Or that many hotels do not have a floor of suites starting with that fateful number? In a different scale but most noticeably there are countless villages in the Italian peninsula—especially those quaint settlements perched atop the mountains—where you cannot find the number 17 in any of the visible signs of the rustic communities.

Some numerologists claim that Life is all about numbers, good or bad. If we scratch the surface of our sanitized experiences, we might be able to find a significant one. The question is whether we can isolate them with a calm attitude and an open mind.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Why do we need amulets?

When we decided to nail down our butt to our desk chair to write our second book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plaguein a six months-period (we had blogged extensively about those issues for three years and we had a lot of material) we made the firm pledge that we would wear—except for a few circumstances where other kind of garments were needed—the same comfortable grey jersey that we loved. For Hispanics that odd behavior is popularly labelled as “hacer una promesa” (make a promise) and is ingrained in the long Roman Catholic tradition of Latin America.

The use of amulets or talismans has been a millenary tradition of Humankind, almost since the times we dwelt in caves and we saved a saber tooth for happy hunting. The natural amulets are made of many materials like precious stones, metals, teeth and claws of wild animals; the man-made amulets are made of wood, iron, copper, ivory, clay or stone. People that carry amulets believe that they confer special powers due to their connections to natural phenomena, religious identifications or mere luck.

In their lugubrious caves, illuminated only by the flickering light from the burning tip of animal grease of a rustic torch, the Neanderthals used the natural amulets to invoke the auspices of the gods before they went hunting for big mammals and also after they returned with a fatally injured victim of their joint ambush of a mammoth. In Ancient Egypt the scarab beetle was worn by the living and the dead alike as it symbolized life—its hieroglyph was the same as “to become”, enabling resurrection of the mummies. In Middle Ages countless objects that belonged to saintly figures eventually became amulets; their body parts were not spared, as attested by Saint Anthony’s tongue.

Why would supposedly rational individuals believe in these extraordinary powers? We must remember that all our Cerebral Cortex, whose large mass differentiates us from animals that might be able think and imagine at a lower level, is inextricably linked with the Limbic System, seat of the emotional trove that inevitably taints our thoughts. All the sensory and motor stimuli that travel from the periphery to the Central Nervous System must pass through the Thalamus—the sensory waystation of our brains. Just below it, lies the Hypothalamus that regulates mood, sexuality and desires; it responds to external stimuli by sending signals to other limbic structures to elicit responses.

Any rational thought is always “contaminated” by our impressions triggered by various stimuli that we have received in our personal lives or form part of our shared cultures. Most objects will have a rational significance that is thinly coated with such a veneer. When a certain object elicits positive attitudes in our minds, we treasure the stimuli.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

What is the significance of number 13?

For most of the citizens that live in the Western world, the number 13 has been a portender of bad luck that should be studiously avoided. Haven’t you noticed that in many hotels of supposedly sophisticated cities, there is never a floor No. 13? Or a seat No.13 in a bus or train? Or a cafeteria bill that ends with it? It never happens.

Across many cultures the number 13 has been a sign of pending or actual bad luck. The striking similarity of the assignment of blame for bad deeds in so many cultures might be related to the fact that they used the solar-lunar calendar to mark the time. There are approximately 12.41 lunations per solar year, which results in 12 true months and a smaller 13th month—its odd, out-of-sync image marked it as “weird.”

A major social event of the Middle ages seared the memory of Friday the 13th in the collective memory of all the European civilizations we inherited in the Americas. Philip IV, king of France, was extremely envious of the generalized prestige and vast wealth of the Templar Order that had fought in the Crusades to liberate Jerusalem. Its Grand Master, Jacques de Morlay, had joined the ranks of the warrior priesthood in 1265 and had fought valiantly in the Syrian campaign. When Saladin retook the Holy City from the Christian armies in 1291, he moved with all his staff to Cyprus.

The King of France was desperate to secure fresh funding for his treasury, for which he engaged the help of the Pope Clement V to rob the Templars of their wealth. Jacques de Morlay was summoned to the Vatican to supposedly discuss a crusade with the Roman Curia, but it was a vile set-up to round up all the Templar top brass. On October 13, 1307 they were all arrested under the orders of the king and brutally tortured to extract a confession of fabricated debauchery and theft in their ranks. Based on a partial confession by the victimized Morlay, the Pope demanded that all Templar members should make a similar confession; they initially did to protect their leader, but they recanted it when the Pope emissary came to investigate personally.

The machinery to crush the order and steal their wealth was already unstoppable. In 1309 and 1310, Morlay appealed directly to the pope who blatantly ignored him. In March 1312, the church deconsecrated the Templar Order and two years later a papal commission of three cardinals “corroborated” the criminal charges against Morlay and his superior staff; that same day they were all burned at a stake in public. Some onlookers later said that before dying Morlay cursed the treacherous king and foretold that he would die without a male heir. That prediction did come true.

These series of events provoked great commotion in the continent, searing a date in their collective memories. The Templars were arrested on Friday the 13th, 1307. That date corresponded to the old Julian calendar that was widely used at the time. It had been proposed by the administration of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. after extensive consultation with the Greek mathematicians and astrologers; it was progressively replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

Superstitious artists – Charles Dickens

If you receive a knife as a gift, you must return that odd courtesy with another gift.

Charles Dickens was one of the most popular writers of his times and he received a trove of gifts from his admirers over the course of his career, including cutlery. In 1850 his novel David Copperfield, which he considered as his masterpiece, was published in England; William Brookes, the owner of the Sheffield tool company William Brookes and Sons, was miffed to learn that Dickens had used the name “Brooks of Sheffield” to ridicule his main character and wrote a letter to him. The author replied that: “it is one of those remarkable coincidences…I had no idea that I was taking a liberty with any existing firm, and why I added Sheffield to Brooks (of all the towns in England) I have no…knowledge. It came to my head as I wrote.”

Mr. Books was so satisfied with the writer’s courteous response to his concerns that he sent him a beautiful cutlery case in 1851. Alarmed at the prospect of being left out of that budding friendship, Dickens immediately prepared an autographed first copy of his book with a nice letter. That book will come to auction in London soon. For all his savvy knowledge of human character, Dickens respected old wives’ tales. Defiantly superstitious he always carried a navigational compass with him in order not to lose his way—artistic inspiration—with the contact of worldly distractions. To receive the inspirational influence of the muses, his bed always had to face North.

The author plied his trade in the beginning of the Victorian period that started with the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 and ended with her passing away in 1901. Despite all the purported social sophistication of Victorian middle and upper classes, they mostly believed in the mystical aspect of life and respected certain ingrained traditions at home. When a person died, all the mirrors of the place where the wake was being held had to be covered with a black cloth, lest the spirit became trapped in one of those gateways. All the clocks in the household were stopped to mark the mourning and to avoid bad luck for the survivors. The fear of opening an umbrella inside a home came from that era.

As many other writers, Dickens believed that the presence of a cat was necessary to maintain the inspiration in the artist’s residence. Mary Dickens, daughter of the author, said that initially cats were not allowed in the household because they had many birds. However, she received a white kitten called Willamina from a London friend and it instantly became a dear member of the family, developing a devotion for her father.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Graphology – art, science or pseudo-science?  

-“Doctor…You have many personalities inside you—like Henry Kissinger.”

Of all the insults and effronteries we have received in our medical career, nothing comes even close to that dictum said by a psychologist specializing in Graphology. Not that we did not appreciate his diagnosis of a troubling psychological fact, which we have had serious suspicions of for years, but rather his bold comparison to that awful character. He was responsible for abetting the terrible repression of many progressive militants and organizations in Latin America during the seventies and eighties; our back still hurts from the heavy blows of a policeman ‘s baton when he cornered us during a street protest against the military dictatorship in Uruguay. If you want to know the details, please refer to our novel where we make Didier, one of the central characters, relive the terrible fear and pain we experienced that day.

During a prolonged break between patients’ scheduled appointments where we both consulted, he had encouraged us to write a paragraph to analyze our writings. Even though we were initially distrustful of the proposition, we politely accepted it. After just a few minutes of examining the contours and pauses of our writings, he started to accurately describe most of the positive and negative sides of our personality. He even had an irrefutable concluding remark: “above all, you do enjoy the histrionics.” Touché. We may try hard to conceal our true feelings and thoughts, but not our writings.

According to the British Institute of Graphologists: “Sumerian merchants were the first to codify their transactions in a recognizable script in 3000 BC and the first understanding of an individual’s character form their handwriting goes back to 500 BC when Confucius warned ‘beware of a man whose writing sways like a reed in the wind.” In the seventeenth century a school of Graphology was created in the university town of Bologna—the first public university of our planet. La Dotta was, and still is, the siege of scholarly research with yearly courses for interested students.

Is it an art or is a science? Most graphologists would vehemently argue that, as the interpretation requires original empirical skills bordering on artistic expression, it is both. But its detractors claim that it is only a pseudoscience with limited use. Graphology has been extensively studied and discussed in the think-thanks and institutes of the modern secret services like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Unfortunately due to the secrecy they operate under, most of that material remains sealed out of the public purview for years until it is finally de-classified like the two reports we will discuss here.

In a now declassified 1993 CIA report, the analyst E.A. Rundquist said: “it is interesting that graphologists require some of this investigative information (sex, age, national origin and profession) as a prerequisite of their analysis. They also get the informational content of the handwriting specimens themselves.” Is he insinuating that graphologists are playing the game with a foul hand? In fact the use of biographical information might set the limits for the “inspirational take-offs” of enthusiastic graphologists in their work. In spite of his skepticism about it, he said that: “ for the clandestine services, however, graphology as a validated assessment technique might have application in a sufficient number of instances, those where background investigation is impossible, to warrant considerable research to determine its effectiveness.”

Keith Laycock, a self-declared amateur graphologist, wrote in a now de-classified 1994 CIA report that: “the art of handwriting analysis-graphology…has two branches: an established and ‘respectable’ one devoted to the identification of individuals for their handwriting, and a black sheep-branch dealing with the assessment of personality.” The author said that, in spite being an amateur, he believed that the black sheep variant is very useful to assess the personalities of person that are otherwise difficult to evaluate. He believed that any serious assessment of Graphology must settle these issues first:

a) How far do we propose to go in plumbing the ramified depths of a subject’s character?

b) How do we handle the semantic problems which plague character descriptions?

c) What do we do about standards for judging the ethical aspects of character?

The author believed that first the requirements of the job must be determined to limit the extent of the study for these parameters: desirable, dubious or disqualifying traits. Ever since Congressman, and then President, Theodore Roosevelt designed the American Civil Service Corps in the beginning of the 20th century (to terminate the abominable corruption in hiring practices of the ethnic political parties ) the recruiters of the security services have not been interested in a complete psychological portrait of the candidate but just to properly vet him/her/sie for big character flaws or weaknesses.

The second problem is related to semantics: what is an honest or brave person? The author believed that: “definition of such words is a practical impossibility since the third unknown, an ethical standard, is involved. If we could establish agreed ethical standards, we could, no doubt, compose definitions which would be adequate, but there does not now appear to be now such a set of standards.” Does that set exist at present? Thus author believed that Graphology is more a art than a science, for which the real consistency of a practitioner’s results must be determined across several experiences in order to weed out the charlatans and dilettantes that claim to be experts in the field.

Almost thirty years after these two reports were produced, the major questions they put forward remain largely unanswered because more reliable studies might still be needed. Or perhaps they do exist already, guarded in a dark vault in the catacombs of Langley…

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Gravitational influence of the Moon

Since Ancient Times, humans have realized that the Moon has a big influence on planet Earth. Modern science showed us that the Moon modifies our planet’s tides, weather and temperatures. Elizabeth Merriam wrote: “since the Moon’s gravitational force depends on distance, at any given time, the portion of the Earth closest to the Moon (i.e. directly underneath it) is most strongly influenced by gravity. This means that when the Moon is over an ocean, the water is pulled toward it, creating what is called the tidal bulge. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the tidal bulge acts like a wave sweeping around the Earth. This effect causes the tides.” The relative distances of the Sun, Earth and Moon can affect the size and the magnitude of our planet’s two daily tidal bulges; the shape of the shoreline, including the presence of bays and estuaries, can increase the size of tides.

In any given 24 hours-period there are two low tides and two high tides, separated by a span of about an hour; during the new moon and full moon, high tides further increase in size and the low tides further decrease in size. The first and last quarter moon moderate the size of high and low tides. The weather is influenced through the presence or absence of water currents that can alter the continental temperatures like the Gulf current and the El Niño phenomenon have steadily done. The gravitational pull of the Moon can affect the land and atmosphere in a much-lower levels. What many ancient cultures have done is to study the possible effect of the Moon on human beings.

Animal physiology is affected by the seasonal, lunar and circadian rhythms in varying ways; even though the seasonal and circadian influences were studied, the lunar one is less well known. The lunar cycle supposedly influences the menstruation, fertility and birth rates; researchers have proposed that the level of melatonin and endogenous steroids might be the hormonal mediators. During full moon days, the birds lose the variations of their melatonin and corticosterone levels. The structure of the pineal glands and the taste sensitivity of laboratory rats are affected by the lunar cycles. The gravitational pull  of the moon may trigger the release of hypothalamic hormones. What seemed to have been a “traditional truth” for old cultures is just being unveiled by science.

The correlation of the lunar cycles and fertility/births has been contested by meta-analysis of data. The records of 11,961 live births and 8,142 natural births (not induced by drugs or C-sections)  during 1974-1978 In the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center did not show any significant relationship with the lunar cycles. The study of 564.039 births in North Carolina from 1997 to 2001 did not show a significant correlation either. A 2001 review of 70,000,000,000 birth records from the National Center for Health Statistics also failed to find a meaningful correlation.

Two studies have found evidence that a full moon can exacerbate the aggressiveness of patients with Mental Disorders, especially Schizophrenia; a methodical analysis of data confirmed it. People with Epilepsy have less seizures when the moon is less illuminated and there is a clear sky. The Sussex Police in the UK claimed that there was a rise in violent crime in their streets during the full moon period, which has been reiterated by their peers in Ohio, Kentucky and New Zealand. A statistically dubious study found an increase of fatalities in Dade County during the full moon.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.