Mind Soup

mindsoupWe all have association soups floating in our minds. Due to our unique experiences, we associate things together that others do not. After time, these associations become “common sense” to us, and we can’t see how others don’t understand these connections.

For instance, “dude, milk, guy, cow, idiot and garlic” are all related to each other in my head. In fact, I have caught myself joking about the connections to folks before I realized that it was only my mind that made the connections due to my unique language experiences. The listener had no experience with my mind soup and thus should not understand. Above I illustrate my connections to these words — coming from languages I have learned or studied. See how they are all connected? From garlic to dude. The first fun connection is how in Hindi, Cow is guy and Milk is dude.

Conclusion: Whether it is language, religion, politics, sexuality, culture, food or much more, we often forget that the connections we have in our own heads aren’t those of others. So, when someone says something odd to you, consider exploring their mind soup with them before you pass judgement. For they themselves may be unaware of their own connections. Instead of striving for the “truth” behind a statement, sometimes just trying to taste the statement can be much more rewarding.


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Poetry: Ada Limón

How To Triumph Like A Girl by Ada Limón

I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest, I like
that they’re ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don’t you want to believe it?
Don’t you want to tug my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no, it knows,
it’s going to come in first.


See more excellent poems in Sabio’s Poetry Anthology

About Ada Limón: Born 1976. She has lived in Europe for 10 years, California, Kentucky and several other places that inform her poetry. (Wiki article here)

About the poem: The day before the Kentucky Derby is called “The Kentucky Oaks” for 3-year-old fillies (young lady horses). Though fillies can compete with colts in the Kentucky Derby, they rarely do. Yet even with that, 3 fillies, over the years, have won the Kentucky Derby. Limón wrote this poem after watching the ladies at The Kentucky Oaks. (see her reading here)

My impressions:

I heard Ms. Limón read 12 of her poems last night — all superb. This was the first one she read, and oddly enough, it is the one I had read prior to her readings and had sent to my dearest friend because it reminded me of her.

Ms. Limón stated that in her latest book “Bright Dead Things” she strives not to talk around things, but to be honest and plain. It is that sort of poetry which I enjoy the most. You don’t have to struggle to understand it, you just have to relax so as to feel it.

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Shikoku Pilgrimage: religion up for grabs


Japan has four main islands. This excellent Financial Times article by Barney Jopson discusses the circumambulatory pilgrimage around one of those islands – Shikoku.  I have circled the island myself, but in a car, though I climbed up to several temples by foot.  The variety of motivations of those doing this pilgrimage was amazing.

The article shows the complex way Japanese handle their religious traditions.d Watching a tradition very different from your own can sometimes help you to see the silliness of your own.

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Poetry: W.H. Auden

Bird-Language   by W.H. Auden

Trying to understand the words
Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
Noises that betoken fear.

Though some of them, I’m certain, must
Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
Sound like synonyms for joy.


See more excellent poems in Sabio’s Poetry Anthology

About W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973): there are tons of webpages covering Audens’s life – he was a fascinating person. I won’t add more. Here is the wiki article.

My Impression: I just went to my first local poetry meeting. The poet we explored last night was Auden. I was only able to read a bit before I went. Each of us took turns reading our favorite poems of Auden. Of the few I had read, I liked this one the best.   It was simple, direct and yet deep. But most of the poems others read left me baffled — no idea what was being said. So Auden is not on my favorite poet list. He packs most his poems with erudition — a trait I don’t enjoy. But he was prolific and crafted many different styles, so I am sure I would also enjoy many more of his poems if I keep looking. He is incredibly skilled, I am told.

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Christianity was my Life Ring

Life_Preserver_PinI don’t remember learning how to swim. In my early childhood, we had a boat on Lake Erie and I am told that I was in the water since too tiny to comfortably admit in the company of more careful parents. My folks told me that I was first put in a life ring  behind the boat with my Dad swimming next to me. Occasionally, the story continues, I’d slip out and my Dad would put me back on the ring, but eventually I learned to let go intentionally and swam.

Religion has many functions (see my post on Various Religiosity). For me, the function it serve me did not involve looking for salvation, prosperity, escaping my sin, desiring to fill the hole in my heart, escaping drug addiction or violence or any other forsaking any other dark element that Christian conversion stories are full of. My adult conversion was pretty simple — probably like most folks, though they may tell otherwise.

My girlfriend was Christian – she was raised in a very religious Baptist family.  Hell, she was the church organist. It was awkward. My two closest friends were Christian and they had both been bugging me the last year. I was going off to college and uncertain about my future, and leery of leaving girlfriend behind and much more. THEN, I found my best friend dead — (see my post here). The year before I had lost two other friends: one to murder and one to suicide.

Pulling my dead friend’s face off his car seat caused me to embrace Christianity full go, right then and there. I grabbed the religion Life Ring. Only later after some more stability in my life and more insight into religion in general, did I deconvert. I was able to let go of the Life Ring. But before that, I was thankful for what Christianity offered me: a huge support group and a more committed girlfriend (well, for a while).


Pic credit: Life Ring


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Wagamama Alchemy

Driving today, I was daydreaming about a common phenomena we all have been through, then I came up with my own name for the phenomena: “Wagamama Alchemy”.  But before I explain the term, let me ramble a little bit about the words in the phrase.


Some words/phrases are just more succinct in other languages — and that is why we borrowed them into English. For example, imagine if we didn’t borrow these words:

  • bon appétit [French] — enjoy your meal !
  • faux pas [French] — an embarrassing blunder
  • non sequitur [Latin] — something that is not logically consistent with what came before
  • quid pro quo [Latin] — a favor in return for a favor given
  • Zeitgeist [German] – spirit of a historical period
  • Blitzkrieg [German] – a dedicated fast and ferocious attack
  • chutzpah [Yiddish] – audacious, gutsy nerve
  • kibitz [Yiddish] – unwanted advice in a competition
  • kvetch [Yiddish] – to habitually gripe
  • Juggernaut [Hindi] – an immense, unstable thing or force

Other borrowed words, and we have lots of them, just have a better feel in English than their equivalent single word in English. That is why we have many words in English. See my evolution of English diagram shows the various major inputs to English. Some of these inputs have continued having the exact same meaning as the English word, and others have drifted into having different nuances. Here are some examples:

  • guru [Hindi] – teacher
  • sensei [Japanese] – teacher
  • to loot [Hindi] – to steal
  • thug [Hindi] – thief
  • typhoon [Hindi] – hurricane
  • Schnapps [German] – hard liquor
  • Berserk [Norwegian] – violent
  • ghoul [Arabic] – monster
  • sofa [Arabic] – couch

OK, you get the point. Well, “wagamama” is a word I wished we’d import from Japanese. It simply means “selfish”, but you’ve got to admit, or is it just me, “wagamama” sounds a lot more selfish than “selfish”.


OK, moving on. We all know that Alchemy is “Alchemy” has a sordid etymology:

from Greek: Khemia – “land of black earth” [Egypt] where alchemy was a practiced and/or from to pour.
–>to Arabic: al-kimiya
–>to Latin: alkimia
–>to Old French: alchimie
–>to English: alchemy

Alchemy is a complicated philosophical/religious movement and historically meant to purify, mature and perfect certain objects — with philosophical goals of perfecting the human body and soul, and practical goal (among many) of making panaceas to cure any disease, making an elixir of immortality or changing lesser substances into gold. It is this last goal that is the common meaning nowadays. But in English we also use it to mean, “a process that transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.”  This is the one I am referring to in the phrase.

Wagamama Alchemy

We are all selfish — this brutish reality is often difficult for us to see behind both our evolved social deceptions and our self-deceptions. But should such connivery lead us to despair.  I say, “No!”.  For indeed part of us does not want to be selfish at times, and maybe, just maybe, with a little magic, a little alchemy, people can combine their selfishness in creative, unexpected ways, flavored the broth with our true giving (even if minuscule), to make a relationship (EN) which resonates into something that transcends two simply combined wagamama individuals and instead yields a new pair of magical oneness — cooperative, synergistic wagamama alchemy.  Such an act is never complete but must be a daily practice.


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Intellectuals Are Freaks

“Intellectuals — a category that includes academics, opinion journalists, and think tank experts — are freaks. ”

I have attended many universities and taught in four (see work background here). I also had a short stint in a political think tank as a researcher. I am not a journalist, of course, but just an opinionated blogger. So, does that make me an “intellectual” — some may say “yes”, but most who know me would laugh and say “no”. I’d certainly rather think that I am not.  Not only do I not have the intelligence to be considered and intellectual but intellectuals have tons of defects that I may have escaped.  Some, though, which I may be subject to.  This article by Michael Lind (from whence I stole the title of this post) make some points which I resonate with. Below I quote a few.  Tell us, do you consider yourself an intellectual? What criticism or suggestions would you have from intellectuals?

  • My point is that people who specialize in the life of ideas tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They — we — are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of their fellow citizens.
  • Whether they are professors, journalists, or technocratic experts, contemporary intellectuals are unlikely to live and work in the places where they are born. In contrast, the average American lives about 18 miles from his or her mother. Like college education, geographic mobility in the service of personal career ambitions is common only within a highly atypical social and economic elite.
  • In their lifestyles, too, intellectuals tend to be unusually individualistic, by the standards of the larger society.
  • The fact that we members of the intellectual professions are quite atypical of the societies in which we live tends to distort our judgment, when we forget that we belong to a tiny and rather bizarre minority. [I know my judgement is distorted]
  • I was the guest of honor at an Ivy League law school dinner some years ago, when, in response to my question, the academics present — U.S. citizens, except for one — unanimously said they did not consider themselves American patriots, but rather “citizens of the world.” [I too feel this way]
  • The social isolation of intellectuals, I think, is worsened by their concentration in a few big metro areas close to individual and institutional donors like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (where I live) or in equally atypical college towns. [True. But outside of those towns, we stand out as just odd.]
  • it might not hurt if every professor, opinion journalist, and foundation expert, as a condition of career advancement, had to spend a year or two working in a shopping mall, hotel, hospital, or warehouse. Our out-of-touch intelligentsia might learn some lessons that cannot be obtained from books and seminars alone.[Agree, because unlike many intellectuals, I have done these things, and since realized school does not make smart and that the smart folks can be the most stupid folks — self-deluded.]


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