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Big Think Interview With Gerard Senehi
Gerard Senehi: My name is Gerard Senehi and I’m a mentalist who likes to evoke mystery and a mystic who likes to seek truth.
Question: What does a mentalist do?
Gerard Senehi: There’s different labels to a mentalist but the label that I like for mentalist is that it’s someone who invokes mystery. There are some mentalists who manipulate people’s thoughts and have the ability to hypnotize people and I like to create mystery and invoke that in people.
The mystic element is that the mystic represents seeking truth. So, I’m a seeker of truth and I like to take people along with me through the entertainment to explore truth.
Question: What’s the difference between a mentalist and magician?
Gerard Senehi: A mentalist is someone who relies more on abilities of the mind whether it be the reading of the people, body language, psychology, influencing their thinking or some people would say even psychic abilities and abilities to predict the future whereas the magician will use more props and slide of hand. That’s the distinction.
Question: How did you become a mentalist?
Gerard Senehi: I had a psychic experience early on when I was in high school and I have a few different ones but there was one in particular that really struck me so that intrigued me and in started to inquire and look at my experience and experiment with it.
There was no training but it’s more you experiment with different ways of doing things and you just see if it works and most of the time it doesn’t work but then you just keep experimenting and when it works it often catches you by surprise but then you reflect back and you go, “Okay, what was it that happened that it actually worked?”
Question: Who has inspired you?
Gerard Senehi: There was a German mentalist named Ted Lesley who in the early days, when I was just starting out, I met him through my travels and he told me something really interesting that intrigue me and that impacted me quite a bit. He said that 99% of your success as a mentalist has to do with your…how you are rather than what you do and I was more leaning towards doing incredible things but that impacted me quite a bit. He is no longer alive but he was really on to something there.
Question: What have you taken from this advice?
Gerard Senehi: Well I think it brings the inner and the outer together because I think when you…when one starts in performance you tend to relate to that you’re putting something out that it’s either a skill that you’re putting out or knowledge or an ability that you’re putting out but then you realize that actually what you are really putting out is your self and you’re also putting out a skill and a performance but it’s a vehicle to put yourself out and so I learned that early on because when I started performing, I was actually performing on the streets in Tel Aviv, and so there I had to put myself into it because otherwise I wouldn’t get much response.
If I was just putting out something and my tendency was, has been to just play it safe and not to put my self out but to put out something cool or fancy or impressive and then I think what I’ve learned is that you have an opportunity to put your self out and then says who we are has boundless depth then you can always go deeper in putting out who you are because there is always more it’s not just it’s not just too dimensional. You’re not just someone who enjoys messing with people’s minds there is more depth to it than that and part of it is sometimes you’re just in to with that and then you have to dig deeper to find out what that actually means.
Question: What is the power of your work?
Gerard Senehi: I think it’s interesting because it’s something that people, we generally think we understand reality but when you see something like that it can make you question that, it can make you suspend your ideas and I think that is really interesting to me it’s not because some people look at it as you know it expands what’s possible but to me what’s interesting is it gets people to suspend their ideas by reality and not to be so sure that we know because I think we often think that we already understand reality.
We think that our world view is more or less complete that maybe there’s some things that we don’t know and some things that we don’t understand but more or less we’ve got to handle on reality and I like to do what I do because it brings that into question and that creates space for us to discover a lot more depth about who we are and why we’re here.
Question: Do you ever explain your tricks to people?
Gerard Senehi: No, I never explain. What I do and that’s unique to my style because I don’t tell people whether what I do is real or not real. I like to leave them guessing and that’s part of or creates this sense of suspension of the ideas because if I told them that it wasn’t real that I have some ideas about it and if I told them it was real they will just form some other ideas about it as well and I like to keep people perfectly in the middle whether they’re not sure and is much more interesting.
Question: Are we too focused on scientific explanations for paranormal phenomena?
Gerard Senehi: I don’t think they’re over focused. I mean I think we have certain belief systems that; but I find that people are remarkably open. I performed for scientists and always doctors and I’m always amazed at how open they are. I think it’s not that we tend to be skeptical it’s we’ve been given a very materialistic framework for existence and we don’t yet have a way even when new experience something on materialistic whether it’s psychic or spiritual which are two different things.
If we experience either of those we don’t necessarily have a conceptual framework or understanding to make meaning from it therefore it’s easier to kind of dismiss it but I don’t think it’s that people are necessarily overly skeptical. I’m always amazed at how open-minded people are.
Question: Why do people like being fooled by you?
Gerard Senehi: I think people are fascinated by the psychic dimension or the paranormal because it represents...It’s a metaphor for what more might be possible and I don’t think it’s inherently where the answer lies for us there are possibilities for humanity lies in psychic abilities but I think it’s a metaphor for that other things are possible, that things are deeper than they appear on the surface, that there’ a lot more and that’s why it’s always so fascinating.
That’s why also in times of crises people sometimes go back to their, you know it’s an easy place to look for deeper meaning or higher possibilities or greater possibilities and it’s not necessarily where we’ll find it but it’s the first place, one of the first places to look.
Question: Has there been a psychic shift since the start of the financial crisis?
Gerard Senehi: I don’t feel that people are [IB] pressing more. I mean, when I perform it’s it’s…it impacts people. People have strong reactions to it so I don’t feel that people’s responses has deferred. There’s perhaps new opportunities that are opening up because maybe because there is more interest in media but from people them selves I haven; felt the difference.
Question: Do your performances frighten people? How do people react to your performances?
Gerard Senehi: People are rarely scared by what I do. Occasionally, I’ve had somebody be caught off guard and get upset because they just couldn’t understand it and they show the visible kind of response. That’s rare because I also approach what I do in a very light-hearted way. It’s a playful kind of mess with your mind kind of quality.
I think it’s more when something just unexpected happens, that’s what’s most shocking for people and they can pop up at any point during my performances like it’s completely unexpected and that’s what catches people and makes them all of a sudden kind of step back and go, “What? Did that really happen? What did I just see?”
So it’s more the unexpected component rather the specific thing that I do. There was one time where I performed a miracle but because it was kind of expected it hardly had any impact and then I remember a few seconds later doing something more simple and then realizing that I have a much bigger impact as it was like.
Question: Do some people believe in you too much?
Gerard Senehi: Yeah, well I always like to make the distinction between psychic and spiritual that they’re not the same thing because sometimes I get people who respond quite strongly and then they assume that it must be the expression of something higher or some expression of God or something like that and of course that’s crazy but I do it by making the distinction between the psychic realm and the spiritual realm--because that’s an important distinction because we often assume if we experience something that’s not normal to our experience that there’s deeper or higher to it and that’s not necessarily the case.
Question: Are science and spirituality incompatible?
Gerard Senehi: I think spirituality can be approached in a profoundly objective manner because it has to do with the reality of our experience and our experience it’s important to be objective about our experience and we can quantify our experience, we can look at it objectively and that’s…that’s really important and we can look at that and recognize that something is deep versus something is not deep. We can recognize very objectively motivations, pure motivation, impure motivations. So, I think we could be very objective.
I mean, science has given us an incredible tool and at the same time we have to have the capacity to expand our consciousness. We have to have the capacity to let go and connect with something that we can’t hold with our minds but yeah we could still be objective as to whether we are doing it or not. So, there is still an element of profound rationality and reason. I think sometimes spiritually people think we should discard reason and…I think there is different sides to it because reason’s really important and our capacity to also let go and transcend reason is also really important.
Question: How do you pursue truth?
Gerard Senehi: Well it’s really something that we’re all collectively engaged with and it’s great to just kind of say, “That’s what I’m interested in. That’s a part of me.” And of course, we all should be interested in truth we…It doesn’t get the kind of recognition and it’s almost like, “What, you’re interested in truth? “And actually it should be “Well, of course.” You know, and isn’t it great what we can just say that and say and pursue that and explore what it means and not be afraid also of…of it’s implications because often if you’re interested in truth; part of it is like, “Well, who’s truth are you talking about?” And it’s like, “Wait a minute we actually are here to discover more and to get closer to truth.”
We don’t want to just kind of flatten it all out and say, “There’s no truth. That’s not possible to discover truth.” So, this is great. It’s great to; because I think also it may create space for all of us because it’s something that we’re all discovering together. It’s not just something that one person is going to figure out but we actually have to really kind of claim that it’s even possible.
Question: Do you distinguish between the real and unreal?
Gerard Senehi: I don’t draw a line between real and unreal and I think...I think I do that deliberately, very consciously because I’m provoking people. I’m provoking…I’m provoking them to question their ideas. I’m not giving them easy answers and also I’m entertaining them that’s part of what’s really interesting. Somebody told me early on that…I was at a fancy party and they said, “You know the reason we like what you do is because we know how to write book, we know how to operate on the human body, we know how to do all these things but we don’t understand what you do.”
And so, I think that’s part of what makes it fun and that’s part of what can create…It’s like art and beauty, you know. Art has the capacity to suspend our ideas. When we see something really beautiful, it has the capacity to make us feel like we don’t totally understand this and we can’t put it in a box. So, I like to do something that the people can’t put in a box and that’s what makes it good entertainment and has another added dimension because I like to make entertainment relevant for people.
Question: What is entertainment good for?
Gerard Senehi: I think entertainment has the capacity to evolve culture. So I think entertainment can be…can serve different functions. Entertainment can be used for escape, it can use for education. It can be used…and it can also be used to reflect deeper dimensions of who we are. I think and often I think in post modern culture, entertainment has slipped into some sort of feeling good, escape is--and I feel it’s important, it’s a great opportunity to say, “Wait a minute entertainment can be really cool, it can be dynamic, it can be intriguing, it could be creative, and it can help educate us or take culture forward.
Question: What are your goals as a mystic?
Gerard Senehi: I don’t know about 5 years but my goal is…my short term goal is to...is to try to generate momentum…Use public kind of a public success perhaps television work, to create a bit of kind of in the field of entertainment, create a movement of reflecting on deeper question, questioning reality, bringing attention to meaning, purpose, who we are or why we’re here in a creative fun way that’s not pedantic and that helps people to reflect on themselves and their own experience.
So that’s my goal and it’s something that I’ve always been interested in but recently I’ve been leaning into it and say how can I do that within my role as a kind of mystery entertainer.
Question: Can you do a trick on camera?
Gerard Senehi: It’s possible. It’s very unusual. I mean, it’s…because part of the impact is how…Part of the mystery of what happens is what happens between me and the other person. So it’s not just the kind of…But I can try something.
Topic: The spoon bender.
Gerard Senehi: All right. Watch this. Let’s just try.
Topic: Another spoon trick.
Gerard Senehi: Tell me how this looks. This is a little experiment with this spoon. Watch.
Topic: The magic business card.
Gerard Senehi: This is just a fun little thing but let’s just try this. This is the Big Think business card. I want you to catch it.
Recorded on: June 4, 2009
A conversation with the famed mentalist and mystic.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.