The Best Disease From Which To Die

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography

We can’t, of course, plan the way we’re going to die (with the obvious exception of suicide). We can, however, live in such a way that reduces the likelihood of our dying from certain diseases. Which is why it’s now almost universally accepted that we should exercise regularly, not smoke, drink only in moderation (if at all), avoid too much fat in our diet (and now probably too much carbohydrate), and not gain too much weight as we age. Continue reading…

Tribute To A Hero

Photo: epSos.de

In a previous post, What Makes A Hero, I discussed what I consider to be the criteria that one must fulfill to be considered a hero. In this post, I want to talk about someone who fulfilled those criteria in spades. Continue reading…

How Superstitions Really Work

Photo: Bludgeoner86

According to a Gallup poll, almost 50 percent of Americans are superstitious, believing that certain rituals, like wearing unmatched socks, will influence the likelihood of an event, like pitching a no-hitter.  Yet few people—or polls—attempt to determine exactly what force connects such rituals with such outcomes. Continue reading…

The Illusion Of Permanence

Photo: adam*b

My wife and son recently returned from a trip to Florida where they were visiting my in-laws.  They were gone for only six days, but when they returned, my son seemed somehow older (that is, by more than just six days).  I was once again reminded of the important Buddhist truth that everything—everything—is impermanent.  I was also reminded just how blind we all are to this truth. Continue reading…

Making The Most Of Milestones

Photo: Schlüsselbein2007

I remember thinking when I turned thirty not only that it wasn’t so bad, but that it was actually pretty great.  I felt I’d come to the end of the beginning of my life, had lived it vigorously, honestly, and meaningfully, and as a result was well-prepared to launch forward into the middle of it.  I’d spent most of my life training to be a a physician, had a number of close friends, had maintained good relationships with my family, and was looking forward to starting one of my own. Continue reading…

The True Meaning Of Freedom

Photo: mrsdkrebs

America is a symbol of freedom all over the world, enjoying as it does freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.  Our ancestors prized these political freedoms so much that many of them were willing to die defending them.  And though many of us are often accused today of taking them for granted, we continue to see people rising up to fight for them when they’re threatened (when someone else’s freedoms are threatened, too). Continue reading…

What If Our Brains Aren’t Good Enough?

Photo: MikeBlogs

I’ve always wanted to know the answers:  What creates consciousness?  How did the cosmos come to be?  What happens when we die?  Why are we here?  From a certain perspective, my life has consisted of a series of investigations into ways of discovering the answers to these kinds of questions.  In college, I became interested in philosophy.  In medical school, I became fascinated by neurology and simultaneously began my experiment with Buddhism.  I’ve learned a lot along the way and have settled at least the answer to the last question to my satisfaction (which, for interested readers, I detail in my forthcoming book The Undefeated Mind), but as to the others, a recent conversation with one of my brothers sparked an unhappy thought:  perhaps our brains are built in such a way that they can’t even properly conceive the answers. Continue reading…

Influence vs. Control

Photo: oskay

I often wish I could snap my fingers and make people do what I want.  I wish I could speed up the pace at which I achieve my goals and slow down the pace at which pleasant things fade.  I wish I could write blog posts and books that everyone loves, that I could have solitude and company whenever I want and not when they’re thrust upon me, and that when I’m in a bad mood I could simply decide not to be.  What I wish for, in short, is absolute control over my life. Continue reading…

Belief Contamination

Photo: DVIDSHUB

The abhorrence we feel when encountering beliefs that contradict our own is so universal and so powerful that it’s hard to imagine it’s the result of anything other than natural selection, programmed into us by evolution because it gives us some kind of survival advantage.  Even if we’re able to tolerate beliefs that are different than our own, remaining so creates a tension from which we can never quite become free. Continue reading…

The Creativity Of Scientists

Photo: mclephan

People sometimes argue about which scientific discovery or advance ranks as the greatest, as the most significant in the history of humankind.  Popular answers include electricity, computers, immunizations, and antibiotics.  Yet I would argue it’s none of these, but rather the scientific method of inquiry itself.

The scientific method only came into being relatively recently in human history as people began to become interested in proving all the things that other people believed (for example, that the sun rotates around the Earth, the Earth is flat, and the Earth is only 5,000 or so years old). Continue reading…