Is It All in My Head?

“…(M)any researchers… are coming to believe that psychological factors play a crucial role in perpetuating many physical illnesses, particularly a subset of chronic ailments that defy logic, diagnosis or a cure. It seems that the way you think about your illness can actually affect how sick you get.

These ‘multi-symptom illnesses’ — which include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and potentially others such as Gulf War syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and the condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity — have provoked intense controversy. Because they have no obvious biological cause, some doctors and researchers dismissed them in the past as hysteria or the ‘yuppie flu.'” (Psychology Today)

Why should it still be news that self-fulfilling prophecy plays a role in a variety of illnesses??? These are the conditions where it is most obvious and should be least controversial, on the borderland between mind and body. More daring are similar assertions about illnesses we ‘know’ are ‘real’ such as cancer and heart disease…

The Anti-Semitic Disease

“The intensification of anti-Semitism in the Arab world over the last years and its reappearance in parts of Europe have occasioned a number of thoughtful reflections on the nature and consequences of this phenomenon, but also some misleading analyses based on doubtful premises. It is widely assumed, for example, that anti-Semitism is a form of racism or ethnic xenophobia. This is a legacy of the post-World War II period, when revelations about the horrifying scope of Hitler’s “final solution” caused widespread revulsion against all manifestations of group hatred. Since then, racism, in whatever guise it appears, has been identified as the evil to be fought.

But if anti-Semitism is a variety of racism, it is a most peculiar variety, with many unique characteristics. In my view as a historian, it is so peculiar that it deserves to be placed in a quite different category. I would call it an intellectual disease, a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and massively destructive. It is a disease to which both human individuals and entire human societies are prone.” — Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times, A History of Christianity, and A History of the Jews (Commentary)

The Future of Tradition

“…Even the most sophisticated of us have something to learn from the fundamentalism of middle America. For stripped of its quaint and antiquated ideological superstructure, there is a hard and solid kernel of wisdom embodied in the visceral code by which fundamentalists raise their children, and many of us, including many gay men like myself, are thankful to have been raised by parents who were so unshakably committed to the values of decency, and honesty, and integrity, and all those other homespun and corny principles. Reject the theology if you wish, but respect the ethical fundamentalism by which these people live: It is not a weakness of intellect, but a strength of character.

Middle Americans have increasingly tolerated the experiments in living of people like myself not out of stupidity, but out of the trustful magnanimity that is one of the great gifts of the Protestant ethos to our country and to the world. It is time for us all to begin tolerating back…” — Lee Harris, author of Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History (Policy Review)

Pynchon from A to V

“I do worry, though, that Gravity’s Rainbow may be turning into an undervisited monument. In a poll of sixteen assistants and assistant editors under the age of thirty at my publishing company, a marvelously well-read group, I discovered that only two of them had read the book and only five had read any books at all by Pynchon. The comments from those who had read Pynchon suggested that they found him slow going stylistically and that his concerns were in general alien and irrelevant to them. This makes sense. Pynchon is a pure product of the cold war and the arms race and the adversary culture that opposed them, whereas these young people came of age after the fall of communism, in a time when technology is viewed as the royal road to imaginative and personal freedom. In a very real sense, then, Gravity’s Rainbow is turning historicalan inevitable fate. Three decades on, it has acquired something of the ‘aura’ that Walter Benjamin ascribed to works of art produced before the advent of mechanical reproduction. The question that remains is whether the book will come to seem dated in the years to come, or if it will pass the Poundian test of being news that stays news. Who can tell? What I do know about Gravity’s Rainbow for absolute certain is this: There is nothing to compare to it now.” (BookForum)

Third terror cell on loose

“Intelligence warns of new wave against soft targets: A third Islamist terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks against Tube trains and other “soft” targets in central London, security sources have revealed.

Intelligence about a cell with access to explosives and plans to unleash a “third wave” of attacks was the trigger for last Thursday’s unprecedented security exercise. The operation saw 6,000 police, many armed, patrolling across London.

Senior police officers say that there was “specific” intelligence from several sources that an attack was planned for that day. The disclosure contradicts official statements by Scotland Yard that Thursday’s security exercise — the biggest since the second world war — was simply a precaution aimed at reassuring the public.” (Sunday Times of London [thanks to dev.null] )