from the world's big
Are You Related To George Washington, Like I Am?
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments to my last post, “Are You A Paster, Presentist, Or Futurian?” Some readers proclaimed their temporal orientation with pride. Others shared insights into the idea of differentiating people according to temporal orientation. Still others rejected this idea altogether.
Let me proudly proclaim: I am a Futurian. That is, I am a person who is primarily oriented to the future. Over the next three posts I plan to reflect on my own temporal orientation with the hope of further developing the distinction I introduced last week.
In the final post of this series I will explain why I consider myself a Futurian. In next week’s post I will reflect on the extent to which I am a Presentist. This week I will describe the Paster in me. My goal is to discover something more general about the nexus of temporality, self-understanding, and politics through reflection on my own particular case.
While I have felt a sense of intimacy with many pasts over the course of my life, there is one past period that has gleamed consistently as a Golden Age in my imagination: the American Revolution.
I am not a Revolutionary War buff, per se. Though, the war does interest me. What enthralls me is the “ethical life-world” that emerged in late 18th century America, which was canonized in the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution. Tom Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin – these names still glow for me. Anything written by any of them is inexhaustibly interesting. The letters, newspaper editorials, laws, and pamphlets produced by the Founders are to me a sacred inheritance.
This is not to say that I am unmoved by critics who point with contempt to the many personal foibles of these men, or to their political failures and hypocrisy. The perpetuation of slavery by the founding generation never ceases to disturb me. The common obsession at that time with reputation and honor often strikes me as petty and indeed contemptible.
My particular heroes have shifted as I have learned more about the extent of these factors and others. I was once enamored with Franklin the folksy intellectual and Jefferson the eloquent political sage. Both of these revolutionary “celebrities” have been diminished in my eyes over the years. I’m more taken lately by Washington, who so earnestly strived and succeeded to be virtuous (and who freed his slaves posthumously in his will). And by Madison, who was thoughtful, careful, and curious to the end.
Note, however, that I have absolutely nothing directly genetic, ethnic, or religious in common with any of the men that I have listed above. The first Americans in my immediate genetic line were Yiddish-speaking Jews who came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe one hundred years after the ratification of the Constitution.
The Paster in me is integrally related to my sense of myself as an American. It contributes to my sense of membership in a society still trying to develop and institutionalize the conception of justice devised by the Founders.
The American Revolution can only be part of my past because of the way that American-ness works. To be or become an American is to accept that your forefathers (and descendants) are not all (and will not all be) members of your particular sub-cultural group. If you are a 21st century Thai Buddhist American you should nevertheless be able to feel in your gut that you are connected in an important way to the English Deists who were delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Similarly, if you are a Scotts-Irish Evangelical American today you should be able to imagine a glorious American future in which great leaders who are Thai Buddhists, Arab Muslims, or African American members of the United Church of Christ may emerge who exemplify American political ideals.
This is the sense of “we” suggested in President Washington’s words written to the Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island in 1790: “If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.”
Notice that this is a conditional statement: only if we have wisdom, etc. will we reach our potential. Thus, we are presumably not yet the “great and happy people” that we must strive to become. And our becoming great, happy, and a people bound by common wisdom, depends on our success in establishing moral institutions administered by virtuous government officials [this is how I read “under the just administration of a good government”]. To the extent that these conditions obtain, the many different kinds of Americans will be able to share in the same sense of “we” that bridged the cultural gap between George Washington and the Jews of Newport.
The American Revolution is not the only past that is salient to my self-understanding. I am haunted by the Holocaust as a defining “Age of Horror.” All the more so because German-Jewish intellectual culture before the war is another Golden Age to me: the ethical life-world presented in the philosophy, fiction, and letters of Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Franz Kafka, and so on, is a key touchstone of my personality. I am also occasionally enthralled by the Golden Ages of ancient Greece and Rome, though this is largely a continuation of the chain of tradition that connects me to the American Founders. Interestingly, despite being a proud Jew for all of my life, I have never connected to the ethical life-world of ancient Israel (canonized in the Torah), or that of the Rabbis (canonized in the Talmud), as a Golden Age.
My own capacity to identify with the American Founders reflects the successful incorporation of Jewish Americans into the broader public narrative of American-ness (especially since World War II). Not all kinds of Americans have yet been welcomed into the mainstream as successfully. There is still much work to be done in order to seal Washington’s hope for a great and happy people into every American’s sense of the past.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
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.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?