Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Update 11B Addendum 

Trauma & Therapy
A Response to Clinical Death

"As Physical as Mental"
by Bridget Wishart


Edgar lived on the rank. He was the oldest man and he was dying. He was grumpy a lot of the time but had a soft spot for me and my young daughter. Edna was his partner, a cheery soul who always had a smile and a lot to say. She nursed him through his long illness and patiently put up with his bad days.

One afternoon she called at the back door to tell me Edgar had passed away and would I view the body. I was a bit taken aback. My upbringing hadn't included this custom and I'd never seen a dead human. I didn't want to upset Edna so I walked back up to their house. 

She took me upstairs and opened the door to Edgar's room. As the door opened and I walked in I could hardly stay standing my mind was filled with golden love and joy from a space in front of me. I held onto Edna and I gasped. 'He's so happy and so grateful to you.' 

I looked across and left to where Edgar's empty body lay. Edgar wasn't there anymore. I can't say why Edgar's soul could communicate with me but not Edna. If I had to guess I would say something like our wave lengths matched so I could receive his sendings. 

I was totally unprepared for the experience, I wasn't expecting anything to happen. I thought it might be a bit weird or creepy to see a dead body but that was it. The sensations from Edgar's soul sending was as physical as it was mental. 

I have always believed that we inhabit our bodies and on death we depart and possibly that after we leave our bodies we gently dissipate and become one with universal energy. Edgar's soul/life force obviously hadn't gone very far. 

It is an experience I will never forget. It hasn't turned me to a religion but I have always been a fairly spiritual person with a strong belief in good being a way better path to strive along than evil so it just verified and strengthened my viewpoints on life and death in the multiverse.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Update 11C

Trauma & Therapy

Syndromes & Delusions: 
From Real Pain to False Memory

Compiled & Narrated 
by Anthony Servante
& Priest Bobue Horaguchi

Being replaced by duplicates


What I have is called "Disassociative Amnesia". There is no brain damage caused by physical trauma, but because of a psychological trauma, my short-term and long-term memory play tricks on me. Between my vivid dreams, my childhood and young adult memories, and the experiences that are being formed in my head as they happen, I'm pretty damned confused about what came first, what happened before, and what just happened. Case in point: That lengthy article about my clinical death and floating in the operating room. It seems to have happened yesterday, but it happened when I was 13 years old. I turning 56 this year.

The meds my Shrink gives me keep me in the present moment, which is quite honestly, fucking boring. She tried to get me on antidepressant pills, but I took her advice personally and told her that I wasn't depressed. She tried to explain that that's what the pills are called, but that's not what they work on; they control the wandering mind, the fluttering memories that crash into one another. I tried to explain that a good strong cup of coffee keeps me grounded in the present, so all I really need is something to keep the frazzled nerves of being wired all day in check. Thus, she prescribed Xanax, an anti-anxiety med; it prevents my frail nerve ending from triggering an anxiety attack, you know, like when the air-conditioning on the public bus goes on and you think your core body temperature is dropping, so you must me dying. Yeah, that. Without anxiety, such thoughts as "Am I dying?", "Is this a heart-attack?", "Is that trio of thugs going to kill me?", and other paranoid triggers, don't have any response. With Alprazolam, the answer is always "No" to any paranoid question. I guess with anti-depressants, the answer is always, "Who cares?!"

But enough about me.

Update 11B was all about me and the long-winded analysis about why there's always two sides to the same memory. Which I've been giving a lot of thought to given the fact that my iphone has become my back-up brain, my memory retrieval. What was the name of that movie? Google it. What was the name of that barista at the Starbucks. Check your iphone notepad. What song are these the lyrics to? Search them on YouTube. That's how I remember things now. But the Shrink promises me that once the anxiety and paranoia stop triggering my reliance on my back-up brain the iphone, my memories should return normally. I need to access a normal memory to string together a series of memories, the way one remembers the annual seasons of your favorite basketball team: When you can remember one season, the following season falls into place, creating a string of memories. This string is what is strengthened by recalling the seasons rather than any one player and his individual statistics; the stats will become part of the string as one remembers more and more. That is, remembering without the iphone Google search, which atrophies the brain function of remembering. Anyway, that's the plan. That's MY therapy. Taking happy pills, noting the events in my community (the weather, the homeless, the butterflies, the deaths of our hill animals and birds), and talking with people about the old days of our little town. Connecting the past, present, and predicting the future strengthens the string of the history of my city. It's the base of my memory for the time before I moved in here and what has happened since.

Just as I have my trauma and therapy, so do all the volunteers who share theirs with us here on the blog.

Syndromes & Delutions:

Before I turn the column over to the volunteers who have shared THEIR therapy with this blog, I thought I'd go over the main conditions that trauma creates in the troubled mind. For me it's "disassociative amnesia". I can't distinguish things that just happened from things that happened a long time ago (plus, I confuse dreams and books and movies with the plot of my own life as well). Here's a look at other disorders.

1. Thought Insertion--The feeling that one's own thoughts have been inserted by outside forces and that these memories are not of one's own making.

2. Erotomania--The delusion that a stranger is in love with you. The most publicized cases involve people believing famous celebrities are in love with them, but anyone can suffer from this delusion.

3. Capgras Syndrome--The belief that one's friends, coworkers, and family have been replaced by duplicates or actors.

4. Fregoli Delusion--Like Capgras, Fregoli syndrome holds that one's friends, coworkers, and family are in fact one person, changing disguises to pass themselves off as many people.

5. Intermetamorphisis--Often called "reverrse Capgras", this syndrome holds the belief to trauma sufferers that friends, coworkers, and family are in the process of changing facial features and personality traits, often right in front of the sufferer; many times these morphing people have no faces as they are in the process of changing to another face. One cannot distinguish facial features; instead, they see blank faces.

6. Syndrome of Subjective Doubles--The belief that a doppelganger, an exact duplicate of the sufferer, exists somewhere living a parallel  life; they may or may not have similar character traits to the sufferer. Often they feel that they may be living the doppelganger's life by mistake or that the doppelganger has moved into the sufferer's life while they're at work.

7. Reduplicate Paramnesia--The belief that an entire town, city, or neighborhood has been duplicated and replaced with one's own place of residence. If one travels to New York, say, one believes that they are still at home in Los Angeles, that their neighborhood has been changed just enough to seem different.

8. Truman Show Delusion--The belief that all public surveillance cameras are following only the sufferer, that they exist only for them.

9. Cotard's Syndrome (lycanthrophy or birds)--The delusion one believes that one is dead, and that their organs have been harvested and they are in fact empty vessels. Ironically, given the fact that they are dead, they also believe that they are changing into another form, a bird, a small rodent, or even a werewolf.

10. Ekbom's Syndrome (contagious)--The belief that one is covered with bugs that one cannot see; symptoms include scratching one's skin sore, washing clothes and bedsheets constantly, and trying to keep bugs out of the home. This is the only syndrome that is contagious to nondelusional people close to the sufferer.

11. Disassociative Amnesia--Taken as discussed. 

Trauma Patients

Foreword & Summaries by Priest Bobue Horaguchi:

Thank you, Professor Anthony Servante, for providing me with the list of syndromes and delusions that would precede the patient updates. I am quite confident that these descriptions will help readers to better understand the symptoms that trauma sufferers display during their daily lives, symptoms that are certainly taken for granted by the general community who are unaware of the mental conditions that our patients endure and the effect that they have on family and neighborhood. Too often have I been told by parishioners that these "sick" people should not be allowed in my temple, or that they should have a separate service; they worry about how their behavior will influence the children. Well, I can most certainly assure any concerned parishioner that the effects of trauma are not contagious or dangerous, and that Temple, Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, is the best place for our patients to be in their time of mental turmoil or doubts. 

It is never my intent to segregate the sick from the healthy, be it mental or physical, and I would no more turn away anyone with cancer just because a parishioner felt uncomfortable or believed their children would be frightened by the patient's appearance. I cannot say with absolute certainty that we are all equal in the eyes of the Almighty, be it Buddha or Christ, and I do recommend that anyone with the flu or extreme depression spend the day with a loved one at home lest he cause undue stress to the parish, but only in matters where it is best for all that any disease be kept at bay. 

With that in mind, allow me to update your readers on the latest developments with the patients who have volunteered to share their trauma and therapy with your readers. As always, bless you, Professor for giving the traumatized sufferer a voice and a platform to use it. 


Ms. M lost her job with the bus company after the small city busline where she worked was taken over by San Gabriel Valley busline; she refused the cut in pay to drive for the SG Foothill line. Although she has lost her faith, she finds comfort with the parish on Fridays and Sundays. She attends Paint Therapy after services on Sunday. She draws ocean vistas and often depicts dolphins along the choppy water of the shoreline talking to her. She refused Dream Therapy as she claimed that the creatures in her nightmares did not like being talked about. Her accounts were noted in her file, but her dream log was returned to her. 

Ms. E started Sunday services as community service for shoplifting. She attends Paint Therapy also, in addition to Dream Therapy. She was suspended from her job when the store manager noted that she worked with the Sheriff's office as a Community Safety Representative. Since she pocketed only packets of cough drops and aspirin, the manager didn't pursue charges and turned the matter over to her superior. She is serving three months community service at the temple and can return to her job only after completing her therapy. She insists that someone placed the cough drops in her jacket pocket and often finds items in all her pockets when she gets home, but does not remember putting them there. Her paintings depict her Siamese Twin with handfuls of cigarettes and lighters--other items that she has found later in her pockets.

Mr. S was in an car accident and fears driving. His partner does the driving now, but the patient feels that his partner will one day deliberately drive the car into oncoming traffic to teach him a lesson. Since his job requires driving, Mr. S now attends community service at the temple on Fridays. He comes to Paint Therapy on Sundays. He refuses any other forms of therapy. He insists that his driving is in control. But his partner reported that he always turns on the windshield wipers for no reason, though he insists that bird poop is all over the glass. He suffers manic depression and has been referred to a Psychiatrist, but he says he's only there for the community service classes. He paints his partner over and over in different suits. He says the ones in the black suits do the driving. The blue suits are the passengers. All the drawings have blue suits.

Mr. W completed his Dream and Paint Therapy but refused to return to work, though his community service was completed. He demanded the return of all his drawings, but I had to take photos to keep for his records to show his finished his therapy and three months of CS. The drawings depicting Mr. W being followed by clouds. Then he said they were jets. He dreamed often of flying in jets above the clouds, but then denied it. He was almost relieved to be done with his CS and did not return even for temple services. It was rumored that Mr. W committed suicide, though this has not been confirmed. He spoke often of returning to his home country to be with his sick father. As of today, we have no further word on Mr. W.

Mr. D communicates by email. I forward the email to Prof. Servante. He last wrote about writing a book about the causes of his trauma but was having trouble finding a publisher or volunteers to interview. That's when I put him in contact with the professor.

Mr.M attended two months worth of Dream Therapy but began showing up drunk. He was referred to the local AA. He has since been rehired by his former employer. He asked that we minimize sharing his story with the blog until he is settled into his job. We will respect his wishes.

Ms. E suffered a schizophrenic break during her Paint Therapy sessions. She is now under the care of a County Psychiatrist. Last we heard, she was taking her medications and doing well.

Ms. B avoids crowds. She was referred to a County facility. Only her close friends and family visit with her, though we heard that she limits her communication to nods and smiles. She sleeps up to fourteen hours a day and drinks vitamin juices rather than eat solid food. A nurse attends on her once a week.

Ms. S assists me with the therapy five days a week as a means of her own therapy. The other two days, she does Paint Therapy and attends multiple services. Once shy, she is now very talkative. Originally, I thought she was proselytizing, but found out later she just likes talking about Buddha very much. She always asks me questions about reincarnation and is fixated that death may be permanent. Her drawings are of Buddhist gods and demons.

Ms. N does not hide her anger, frustration, and anxiety very well, but she tries. She tries every therapy, attends services here at the temple, and sees a County psychiatrist. She has begun writing to Prof. Servante of late about possible breakthroughs in her memory, information she will not share with me.

An Email from Ms. N to me here at the blog:
To Anthony Servante
You haven't responded to my last email, but I saw my email on your blog. I guess that's a start. Therapy is so limited in what it can do. It gives you a name for what you have, as if that is a cure. What if the disease doesn't have a name, even if you give it one? How will that help? We come up with names for unexplainable or unnameable things. The word "thing" itself raises the question of why it doesn't have a name, other than "thing", and what is to be explained by replacing a nonexistent object or concept with the name "thing" as if that is an answer to a unasked question. Other names like ghost, god, supernatural, demon, also perform this function. Such names beg the question that if the word exists, the object of the word must exist as well. But just because the paranoid man may believe he is being followed doesn't mean he isn't being followed. The therapist must leave room for doubt when giving a name to the syndrome or delusion suffered by the trauma patient. As creepy as some of these delusions may seem, just because one believes that there exists an alternate reality doesn't mean our reality is not someone else's false belief.

I will continue to send you emails. Please respond. 
Thank you.

P.S. There is a cure. 

Update: I have contacted Ms. N by email and we exchanged phone numbers. It turns out we know each other from Facebook (small world). 
Anthony Servante

Thank you, readers, for following the Trauma & Therapy series. Next time out, I hope to turn to Music Therapy and Crafts Therapy. We will continue to post updates from Priest Horaguchi and emails from others who contact me directly. I can be reached at servanteofdarkness@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Update 11B

Trauma & Therapy

The Trauma of Therapy:
Clinical Death & Rebirth

Compiled & Narrated 
by Anthony Servante

Stairway to Heaven or Synaptic Misfiring?

Before we get started here, let's review a few terms that will be important for the development of ideas in this article. The first is "organic death". Simply, this is a cessation of all bodily functions to a point where the body can no longer be resuscitated or brought back to life. "Clinical death" means, according to the medical dictionary of the term, "death as judged by the medical observation of cessation of vital functions. It is typically identified with the cessation of heartbeat and respiration, though modern resuscitation methods and life-support systems have required the introduction of the alternative concept of brain death". Note that the "brain" activity defines the final step which qualifies the body as living or dead. Technically the body can be dead, but as long as there's brain activity, the body can be clinically dead but the vital organ functions are being performed by machines. In some instances, the machines can be disconnected by order of the family, but it is possible the body will continue to function at the basic level of "activity" and therefore still be alive, even though the body will never gain a full or normal life. The line between clinical death and minimal functional life activity is very thin, nearly transparent.

Our concern here is trauma and how a person who actually gains a full and normal life after clinical death readjusts to his new life or, as many would say, "rebirth". For some, there is therapy to help those who died on the operating table and experienced the lowest levels of brain activity. For them, they must learn to readjust to living again after experiencing a perceived death. Though it is very rare for people to recover from organic death, recovering from clinical death is common, but for the patient on the operating table, in the auto accident, or choking on a bone in a restaurant, their near-death experience can be as real as organic death, and therefore a traumatic event requiring therapy. And as we have seen, sometimes such patients turn to religion more readily than therapy.

But not all of them.

Trauma or Inspiration?
When I was thirteen years old, I had surgery on a muscle tear from a bicycle accident. I overheard the doctor who examined me tell my dad that my scrapes and cuts were superficial but that there was a tear to the leg muscle. I remember my dad asking the doctor if I could wear a strap around the leg to hold the muscle together. The doctor said, No, he needs surgery. The muscle will continue to tear as the boy plays and runs till even walking will affect the use of the leg. My dad agreed, and surgery was scheduled.

I was in the waiting room outside the doctor's office; the door was open. My dad walked out and told me that it's time to go home. When I got to my feet, my knees buckled. My dad noticed but kept walking toward the parking lot. The nurse got me a wheelchair and pushed me out to the parking lot. Needless to say, I was scared shitless by the news. The word "surgery" around my aunts and uncles on my mom's side of the family was always bad news. I didn't think scared thoughts, but my knees buckled anyway. I was scared at a subconscious level. Not from the prospect of going under the knife, as they say, but from the unknown factor that awaited me after the surgery. Some of my aunts and uncles didn't survive being cut open.

I spent the night in the hospital; surgery was scheduled for four in the morning. I was drowsy as I was prepped. The anesthesiologist covered my nose and mouth with a plastic mask and told me to count back from 100 to zero. I don't remember reaching a count less than 90. What I do remember has stayed with me for the rest of my life and shaped the person I would grow to become.

I left my body and floated above the surgeon, who leaned over my small form, covering my view of my open leg tissue, attending nurses, who handed shiny instruments to the surgeon and checked beeping panels and colored lights on consoles, and the anesthesiologist, who kept an eye on the panel that seemed to be measuring my breath and brain activity, judging by the green spikes and straight lines. They moved to and fro, and I finally got a look at myself. I could barely make out my face beneath the mask. I floated forward a bit but still couldn't see my leg. There was a white sheet with a square hole where the doctor's hands were busy with the shiny instruments. Strange, I thought, but where was all the blood, like in the movies; where was the nurse dabbing the sweat from the doctor's brow? Then I decided to fly somewhere more interesting.

I didn't get far. I know because I have no memory of a journey. My eyes opened, and I was in bed in the hospital. The overhead TV was on. The local evening, maybe morning, news was on. Channel Five. Where all the monster movies fill in the late night slot before the channel goes off the air. Four am. Maybe Six or seven pm. 13 or 14 hours had gone by. The nurse asked if I was thirsty. I was. She held the paper cup of water as I drank. I asked for more. In a while, she said. After the doctor sees you. The doctor didn't see me until after the news. He asked how I was feeling. I answered with a question: What time is it? 6:00 pm on the dot, he said. I saw you, I told him. Where? During the operation. The doctor and the nurse exchanged an odd glance. Again, How are you feeling? Fine. May I have some more water? Of course, he said, and nodded to the nurse. And the nurse brought me another cup of water and a tray of hospital food. She fed me as well.

After the doctor exited, the nurse asked, Did you see me too? No. You were all wearing white masks. Except for the girl who put me to sleep. She was wearing a green mask and cap. That's right, she said. Did you see a light? No. How about shadows? No. Only the people in the operating room and the machines. I tried to leave but then I woke up here. Where were you going? To look around. Not up? No, to look around. Did you feel like you were falling before you woke up? No, I was still floating when I woke up. I don't remember if I reached outside. How did you plan to go through the wall? I don't know. I just knew I could. Maybe that's what woke you up--when you ran into the wall. No. The knock out medicine wore off, that's all. It's nothing to be afraid of. I wasn't afraid. I was curious; I wanted to explore. Well, you ate all your food. That's good. If you're still thirsty, just press this button and I'll come back with another cup.

Two days later, my mom picked me up and drove me home. My dad was at work. The doctor and the nurse never asked anymore questions about my floating. Just "How are you feeling?" But I asked a lot of questions, but they were ignored. So as I grew older, I sought my own answers. What happened on the operating table? What did the nurse mean by a 'light? Did I die? At which point during the surgery? Of course, the answers I found in my youth led to new questions. The most important being: What was the difference between "clinical death" and "organic death"? I read everything I could find on the subject. There was no internet in those days. All I had was the library and my aunts and uncles. The books led me to ghosts, god, and the afterlife. My family tried to steer me towards Catholicism. Between the two, I found my love of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and religious studies. I knew just one religion wouldn't give me any answers but their own. I needed answers beyond the one scope of the one faith. I needed a leap of faith over faith itself. That's where the answers lay.

Biology v Belief
In the simplest terms, clinical death is the shutting down of my organs (those beeps and green spikes on the machines). It's death beginning, but still under the control of every doctor and nurse in that operating room. As the surgeon wraps up the surgery, each organ that begins to shut down is revived. If every major organ shuts down before I can be revived, that's organic death. After such death, revival of atrophied organs couldn't be fully awakened anymore. Only while the majority of vital organs like the heart, brain, liver, and so on, are still only starting to die, can they be fully revived. Clinical death is more common than organic death, and one of the main symptoms of clinical death is the brain freaking out as his fellow organs stop responding to his neuro-synaptic commands; in this state of panic, the brain projects an image of the body floating above itself on the operating table, sees a bright light, witnesses shadowy figures who one can interpret to be saints, gods, or angels. The brain in a state of desperation elicits common sights and sounds that have been medically known for many year, but people who experience clinical death choose to interpret this commonality as a religious omen. Thoughts of heaven, hell, and immortality help to reorganize the confused brain coming back to its senses after surgery and especially after clinical death. With such thoughts, sufferers of trauma can believe that they saw Jesus or Heaven itself. There is a rebirth, a new life where death no longer holds a grip on our fear. After all, we were floating above death.

But why didn't I turn to religious rebirth for an answer to my floating? Why did I turn to supernatural books instead of Grey's Anatomy? Why wasn't I traumatized? If anything, I feel like I was enlightened by the experience. I chose to read more in order to learn more about the causes behind my experience on the operating table and to find similar cases to mind. One need look no further than our local prisons and jails for cases where prisoners chose religion over reasons and causes for the trauma. Men in prison who are sexually assaulted often turn to religion for a safe mental haven, and find congregation with other born-again inmates to find protection from further harm. Other victims of assault join gangs as a means of safety, for there is safety in numbers. They either become born-again victims of trauma or experts at avoiding future trauma. I turned to knowledge for bigger questions rather than small convenient answers. Little answers were loops that turned back onto themselves. God is always the answer. I wanted to know why. Sure, God is one answer that I found in the bible. But Buddhism led me to reincarnation. Another religion claimed heaven was a state of mind, another claimed that Heaven was on Earth, others that heaven was in the skies and was spelled with a capital "H". I worked through religious study and found safety in academia. Rather than choose one group of born-again believers, I chose the number of students and scholars to direct my search for answers. One book led me to other books, and the best books open doors, not close them.

What is Good and Evil to the Sick Soul?
One of the best books I found on the subject was called "The Varieties of Religious Experience" by William James. William James is known as the Godfather of Psychology for his lectures and books on the workings of the brain and their effect on bodily reactions per his studies in the late 1800s, especially his lectures in "Psychology: The Briefer Course" (the lengthier course was abridged to allow the layman easier accessibility to the work outside the university). James did not think of the "mind" as an independent source of emotion but as part of a duo, along with the senses, that work together to create the psychology of thought and the physicality of emotion. In terms of trauma, this duality of mind and body becomes imbalanced, one side dominating the other.

For James, the "healthy-minded" individual was the person who found balance with his evil and good sides without having to go through trauma. He is not so much healthy as unconflicted. He doesn't so much lean toward good as he avoids evil. He has learned to deal with any conflicts that may arise and maintain a healthy-minded perspective. That is, until he is surprised by trauma. Here there is an unforeseen imbalance between good and evil. For instance, a healthy-minded individual has a wife who is assaulted by a stranger. In a healthy-minded frame of mind, he would turn to the law for justice. However, evil may become the dominant side of his balance now and choose vengeance by taking the law into his own hands. In a state of trauma, he leaves his healthy-minded balance with his other unproductive states of mind (the police may never catch the man), and seek redress by any means available to him. He is in a state of imbalance due to the trauma, and he accepts the imbalance as productive. With this frame of mind, he can injure and even kill the criminal who assaulted his wife. His mindset is okay with that outcome.Trauma often alters one's point of view in this way.

Now with the individual accepting a new mindset to balance his healthy-minded perspective, he can now face the inevitable consequences of his actions spurred by this point of view. He realizes that he is set on killing the person who assaulted his wife. This realization satisfies the present, as revenge will often do, but the law may not see things that way. He, too, is a criminal now. This new balance has given evil the upper hand. James writes, "If we admit that evil is an essential part of our being and the key to our interpretation of our life, we load ourselves down with a difficulty that has always proved burdensome in philosophies of religion." The pious man who would never kill anyone in his healthy-minded state, where good was higher percentagely over evil, now leans toward evil as a healthy outlook.

I don't want to imply here that we were balanced toward good or evil before the trauma. It's just that good and evil were always in contention. Healthy-mindedness meant dealing daily with that struggle with good winning 51 percent (or higher) of the time. William James points out that we are always out of balance. When you find a wallet on the bus bench, your first thought may be to steal the cash, although your hand may shake as you reach for the money; your eyes may wander as if everyone were watching you as you pick up the wallet. Do you keep the money or find the wallet's owner? You are always being placed in positions where the mind and body fight to make the choice between good and evil, as James calls it. However, after trauma, this imbalance becomes wider, more pronounced. It is easier to accuse the wallet's owner of being a fool, a thief who would steal your wallet if he had the chance. James explains, "Now in contrast with such healthy-minded views as these [i.e, killing and theft], if we treat them as a way of deliberately minimizing evil, stands a radically opposite view, a way of maximizing evil, if you please to call it, based on the persuasion that the evil aspects of our life are of its very essence, and that the world's meaning most comes home to us when we lay them most to heart." Trauma centralizes the healthy-mindedness of evil when the "heart" needs it most.

James refers to this "morbid" shift from good to evil as the "sick soul". We are remorseful for our criminal acts. We killed. We stole. We are no longer connected with goodness or heaven or god. We are as the beast who strikes without thought or conscience. James explains this consequence of evil action, "Such anguish may partake of various characters, having sometimes more the quality of loathing; sometimes that of irritation and exasperation; or again of self-mistrust and self-despair; or of suspicion, anxiety, trepidation, fear." How could heaven hold such a place for such a soul? Yet, in his healthy-minded state, the evil action made sense. It was the right thing to do. Why suffer so after committing the act? Was it not the right thing? While quoting Tolstoy, James clarifies this frame of mind that turns on itself, "My state of mind was as if some wicked and stupid jest was being played on me by some one." Tolstoy refers to this dread as a "thirst for God." Where the healthy-minded individual repositions his view toward evil and acts on it, he finds himself farther from God. Even when in balance with good and evil in contention, still he was not ready for God. His soul was not yet sick.

Just as my soul was not yet sick when I came off the operating table. I floated above the operating table where my body lay cut open, but I did not feel closer to God, nor did I feel farther from God. I felt unsafe because I did not understand what happened to me at this moment of detached experience. If I chose to blame the doctors for bringing me back to life and stealing me of my chance to go to heaven, then I could have claimed sick soul status. But I chose to find answers for this experience. I was still in a healthy-minded perspective where I was struggling to understand if it were a good or evil experience. Did I die and start my journey toward heaven, or did I hallucinate the experience because there was a medical mistake made during my surgery? I still had to realize if this was a question of good and evil.

I realized neither.

It is at this point of realization for the healthy-minded individual who chooses evil when God seems most out of reach that God ironically comes into reach for the sick soul. Clinical death appears to be a doorway to heaven. For now, in this sick and morbid frame of mind, the individual is ready to be forgiven to make himself worthy of acceptance by the greater power over good and evil, the points of contention that have plagued him his whole life. Just as trauma has led him to the dark path of criminal behavior. it is trauma that leads him to the light of his rebirth, a second chance at healthy-minded salvation. Otherwise, that clinical death which initiates that path of light does not lead heavenward but toward an understanding of "clinical death" itself.

To paraphrase William James from his book of lectures, "Varieties of Religious Experience", "There are two types of evil that plague the "sick soul" (a person in psychological contention with external matters): one, a struggle to adapt to natural circumstances whereby the individual can remedy the conflict with a balance between one's own frame of mind with the tangible outside sources that upset the balance; here the individual fits the natural forces outside with the natural network inside of his head. For instance, the loss of a job which leads to the loss of a roof over one's head can be remedied by finding temporary shelter with a friend or family member or at a homeless shelter until unemployment insurance provides income or until one can find a job, even at a lower rate of pay. The balance in essence is a compromise between one's self (setting pride aside to ask for help and accepting a lower wage) and the conditions one must accept when placed in such an embarrassing situation. Two, the struggle with internal turmoil of self whereby only a supernatural circumstance can provide balance; for instance, if one loses his job and becomes homeless, but his pride is too strong to seek a natural solution, comfort, and therefore balance, can be attained by laying the blame and answers to one's misfortunes on higher sources, namely, a god. In such a situation when help is offered by friends and family to the unfortunate jobless person, this individual may say that it is God's will that he is in such a circumstance but that God will show him the way out" (Var. Sick Soul). For one, the evil is remedied by individual action; for two, the evil is remedied by God.

The trauma of clinical death misleads the crashing brain to see things that provide avenues to such a remedy. During the operation, while you are under anesthesia, you see a bright light, you float above the operating table, you see a man wearing sandals, you experience euphoria. When you come out of the surgery, you are reborn. You saw God. Your sick soul was healed. In discussing Tolstoy's thought of suicide, James differentiates between happiness in a healthy-minded state and happiness in a sick soul state: he writes, "One has tasted the fruit of the tree, and the happiness of Eden never comes again.... Natural evil is swallowed up by supernatural good. [The sick soul individual] is saved by what seems to him as a second birth, a deeper kind of conscious being than he could enjoy before." Note here that the "supernatural" now overrides natural evil. In our example of the man who kills the criminal who assaults his wife and the man who steals the lost wallet, these evil acts are natural, earthly acts. They are forgiveable in clinical death, when sick soul individuals believe that they experience the supernatural hand of God.

And balance returns. Good outweighs evil again with God's blessing. Only, what if during clinical death, that wasn't God? What if it wasn't the brain crashing? What if it were evil itself manipulating your state of mind during the surgery and creating your frame of mind after the "supernatural" experience? This is the question that occurred to me when I experienced clinical death. I mean, if there's a God, then there's a Devil. Just who was it in those sandals that you saw as you died during surgery? And what was his plan in playing you during your most vulnerable moment? We must think of our killer who now feels forgiven for killing. Wouldn't an evil entity persuade such a person to kill again? And wouldn't our killer do as "God" wills?

But these are questions for another day. As I said earlier, knowledge is not posing questions for answers, it's answering questions with more questions. And round and round it goes. Because the answer is either God. Or the Devil. Or you keep asking questions while looking over your shoulder.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #14

Misplaced Homes & Butterflies
by Anthony Servante

Homeless blame the electrical waves 
for the strange bird, animal, and insect behavior

A multi-department escort for the homeless
as bulldozers raze their shanties

At the San Gabriel River bed, where the homeless campers had received their orders to vacate last month, the stragglers who stubbornly stayed behind lost their homes as their encampments were bulldozed to oblivion this week. The homeless scattered into the city, as heavy rain, lightning, and thunder set the background soundtrack to the razing of the wood and cardboard shanties. Throughout the city, the campers sought refuge under business awnings, in parks, and behind mom and pop shops. Now it's up to the Sheriff's department to keep the homeless traffic moving out of the city.

But, honestly, this city of ours is too small to house the homeless,  and surrounding towns have all the resources to feed, house, and provide medical assistance. However, the riverbed campers will not accept these options; they have stubbornly chosen to stick close to the SG River where they have lived for close to ten years, on and off.

Census takers fear going into the Shanty Town, the long-term residents there bully the newcomers who seek a place in the riverbed to build their own shanty. Many of the city residents tell stories of drug use, prostitution, and white slavery, but I often talk to these homeless people who just happen to ride the same bus I do around to the shopping areas, where they buy food, camp supplies, and most importantly propane tanks for heating their small shanties. During these talks, I find that they are no more different than the city dwellers. The Shanty Town is just a microcosm of the surrounding city, with its own fringe elements to deal with. What city or small town doesn't have drug addict, mentally ill, and social outcast residents. I know of one woman who defends the homeless to their face but calls the cops on them when they sit to close to her on the bus.

Well,  if the past behavior of these homeless dwellers is any indication, they will wait out law enforcement by constantly being on the move within the city. They will be back in the riverbed once the cops tire of going in circles. Also, the cops will be inundated with phone complaints from business owners demanding the removal of the homeless from the fronts and back of their stores and shops. The deputies will try to convince these shanty-folk to go to the neighboring cities where they have dozens of beds on a first-come, first-serve basis, hot food for free, and an indoor gymnasium where they can sleep on air mattresses. But the answer is always no. And I believe always will be.

 Third squirrel dead this week on my street,
coinciding with the butterfly infestation 
between storms

The new wave of butterflies 
has grey outer wings for camouflage

 Here the butterfly shows 
a peek of the inner orange & black
inner wings

Between storms, the sun appeared with a crown of white clouds. News on the bus traveled: The local bus line was coming to an end; no more free buses. The San Gabriel Foothill Bus Line was taking over and installing a small fleet of electric buses to replace the old diesel trams. April 1st, 2019 marked the beginning of the new line. The Day of Fools was an appropriate choice of a start date.

But the driver refused to discuss this changing of the lines. He wanted to talk about the butterflies. Thousands of beautiful butterflies swarmed into the city from the south. They were everywhere. Right before the bus picked me up, I was taking pictures of the flying insects covering the flower bed behind the bus stop. They looked like Tiger Swallowtails, but mutated. Or evolved. Half their wings had the tiger skin design; the obverse side had a blank grey color that blended into the background of concrete and old white paint. I'd never seen butterflies with two different wing colors. Another thing I noticed was that they were flying in the rain the next day. They were flying and getting knocked down by the drops. Normally, butterflies hide from the rain. These ones acted like there wasn't any rain there, only to succumb to the mysterious substance falling from the sky.

Since that day the butterflies arrived, we've had three more storms. Many of the pretty insects now littered the sidewalks, drowned or stepped on when they were knocked to the ground by the rain pellets. There was also an increase of dead squirrels in the neighborhood. One neighbor blamed another for poisoning the poor little creatures. That night someone threw a dead squirrel into the accuser's lawn. The police were called but they shrugged the incident off. The Animal Control Truck came and picked up the dead squirrel and mentioned that deaths had increased from about two a week to about half a dozen a week. The police laughed and said that at least the deaths kept him employed.

After the police left, the Animal Control officer mentioned to me about the butterflies as well. He had to explain to phone callers that the AC department didn't have anything to do with insects or arachnids. But sure enough, during breaks in the rain, dozens of the butterflies would appear and head north toward the mountains. The officer assumed they were looking for flowers. The last two days of rain killed many more of these insects, and three more days of lightning and thunder are coming. Still, the survivors will keep trying. The AC officer said that for every dead butterfly, a dozen butterflies would reach the mountains. "What's in the mountains?" I asked. "What's killing the squirrels?" he answered with a question.

The sun was shining today. The homeless are rebuilding their shanties in the riverbed. The butterflies are no longer swarming. But you see one here and there flying around as if lost. I found another dead squirrel--in the neighbor's front sidewalk. Now she will no doubt blame the other neighbor for putting it there, just as he blamed her. My head in swimming in this craziness. The Shrink told me today that I'm paying too much attention to little things, that I'm making a "mountain out of a molehill". Really, that's what she said. She didn't hear the irony in her words. Maybe she knows more than she's letting on about why the butterflies are heading for the mountain?? One more thing: She re-prescribed my meds.


A little research this afternoon, and I came up with a few answers. Monarch butterfly migration usually occurs in the fall, hibernation in winter, and awakening in spring. This year with our San Gabriel Valley extended winter, the monarchs have awaken early. Although spring is just around the corner, the cold rainy winter continues, bringing snow, hail, and thunderstorms, weather new to the San Gabriel Valley. It would seem nature is simply out of whack. This odd weather also seems to account for the numerous deaths of squirrels and birdlife. Needless to say, the icy cold winds and rains are also affecting the SGV residents, both homed and homeless. Nothing supernatural here. Global Warming? Maybe. And maybe not. 

In the cold light of day, and a lovely day it was, things seem much more rational. As my Shrink likes to remind me: It's all in my head. Well, that is why I call the column "Views from a Troubled Mind", right? 

One last note: right before I got to work on this addendum, I heard a noise in the back yard and grabbed the flashlight and went to investigate. In my mind, there was an opossum going through the trash. Worse case scenario, there was a burglar trying to find a way to enter the house. So what good would a flashlight do me if I entered the back yard and bumped into a burglar. Not much. Anyway, I ran into an opossum. We stared each other down. He won. He was eating a squirrel. I wanted to grab my camera and grab a photo, but I didn't want to get bit by a possibly rabid giant rat, so I let it go. So, that's what's been killing the squirrels. Maybe I should retitle this article, "Rude Awakenings"??