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Art and Sacredness: A Hostile Relationship
If art is designed to provoke the passions, it does not confine itself to the pleasant ones.
A few weeks ago Glenn Beck put a President Obama bobblehead in a mason jar filled with yellow liquid euphemistically described as “warm.” Days earlier, a college gallery in Boston displayed a controversial painting by Michael D’Antuono that depicts President Obama as a crucified Christ figure. D’Antuono’s painting was slated to go on display in New York City’s Union Square in 2009, but protests from Christian groups prevented it. Beck defended D’Antuono’s freedom of expression and reminded viewers that offensive art – even a bobblehead of President Obama in a jar of urine – does not trump Constitutional rights.
Beck’s art project, titled Obama in Pee Pee, is homage to Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, a photograph of a crucified Christ figure in a jar of Serrano’s urine. Serrano’s 1987 photograph was predictably controversial. It sparked debates about where US public arts funding should go. On Palm Sunday in 2011, French Catholic fundamentalists smashed it with hammers as part of an “anti-blasphemy campaign.” Last September, a small group of Catholics protested outside the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery when the gallery displayed it.
The history of art is scattered with moments of hostility. The French rioted when Stravinsky debuted the The Rite. Michelangelo’s depiction of nude figures in The Sistine Chapel outraged the Italian cardinal Oliviero Carafo, who pushed a censorship campaign to remove the frescos. Picasso experienced similar criticisms. If art is designed to provoke the passions, it does not confine itself to the pleasant ones.
In 2008, psychologists Jessica Cooper and Paul Silvia at the University of North Carolina conducted an experiment to measure the relationship between controversial contemporary photography and anger, disgust and rejection. In the first experiment 80 undergrads viewed 14 full-color photographs. Some were mundane, but others, including Serrano’s Piss Christ and a Robert Mapplethorpe photo, were not. The undergrads used a 1-7 point scale to answer questions about disgust (I find this picture disgusting), anger (this picture makes me angry) and rejection (should this be allowed at the Weatherspoon Art Museum?*). Cooper and Silvia found, as predicted, that the more anger and disgust the participants felt the more they rejected the provocative photos.
The second experiment was identical to the first but with a twist. A brand new group of participants (78 undergrads) viewed eight photos. Again, some were mundane and a few were provocative. This time the researchers asked the participants if they would like a postcard of Piss Christ sent to them as a thank you. Cooper and Silvia found that anger and disgust influenced the probability of reject – even though many participants who were not angry rejected it.
Cooper and Silvia’s study reminds me of Jonathan Haidt’s research on sacredness. Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU, argues that sacredness applies to objects (a holy book), places (Mecca), people (Jesus, Muhammad) and principles (E pluribus unum). Sacredness is like social glue; it binds individuals into moral communities. However, once the community deems something sacred, devotees can no longer think clearly about it, hence Haidt’s maxim that sacredness binds and blinds.** And because sacredness is linked to disgust – both literally and figuratively – Catholics find Piss Christ not just sacrilegious but impure as well.
With perhaps the exception of heretics and apostates, artists suffer invariably from dogmatic regulations surrounding the depiction of sacred objects imposed by organized religion. If change and innovation is central to art, regulating the visual world is an automatic bane on the artists’ creative output. In his magnum opus, The Story of Art, Ernst Gombrich outlines one example of how censorship affects creativity and innovation in art.
The proper purpose of art in churches proved of immense importance for the whole history in Europe. For it was one of the principal issues on which the Eastern, Greek-speaking parts of the Roman Empire, whose capital was Byzantium or Constantinople, refused to accept the lead of the Latin Pope. One part was against all images of a religious nature. They were called iconoclasts or smashers… The Eastern Church, therefore, could no longer allow the artist to follow his fancy in these works. Surely it was not any beautiful painting of a mother with her child that could be accepted as the true sacred image or ‘icon’ of the Mother of God, but only types hallowed by an age-old tradition… The stress on tradition, and the necessity of keeping to certain permitted ways of representing Christ or the Holy Virgin, made it difficult for Byzantine artists to develop their personal gifts.
Early Islamic artists experienced even harsher regulations, some of which still exist today.
The religion of the Mohammedan conquerors of Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa and Spain, was even more rigorous in this matter than Christianity had been. The making of images was forbidden… Later sects among the Mohammedans were less strict in their interpretation of the ban on images. They did allow the paintings of figures and illustrations as long as they had no connexion with religion.
Is it a surprise that participants in Cooper and Silvia’s study who were more ring-wing tended to reject the provocative photos more than participants who ranked higher on measurements of curiosity and interest in art?
Non-believers might have trouble relating given sacredness’ tight relationship to religion. But what’s sacred is not necessarily religious. If you’re a secular liberal, think about urinating on the UN declaration of human rights. Sacredness pervades everybody, even staunch secularists and atheists. The only difference with religion-based sacredness is that rules surrounding it are, in general, less tolerant and flexible. This is why artists are usually happier living in secular democratic societies that value free speech. It’s not a puzzle why Saudi Arabia is not a hub for artistic innovation, or why China discriminates Ai WeiWei and his art. If art is an expression, it only flourishes when people have the freedom to express themselves.
It is with this in mind that I appreciate Beck’s defense of D’Antuono. Beck’s obsession with the liberation party and traditional American values is strange – his theatrics are stranger – but, as an American, I agree that the Constitution is a sacred object; I would not feel comfortable putting it in a jar of my urine. But if Haidt is correct that we lose the ability to think clearly once we declare something sacred, then maybe the role of the artist is to highlight our delusions. In this regard, George Braque was right, art is meant to disturb.
* Is the art museum at UNC
** According to Haidt, many other moral foundations bind and blind. Not just sacredness.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.