On Some Opinions…

Monday Musings for Monday December 4, 2016
Volume VI No. 49/309

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Potpourri of News and Opinion

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

 

The Birth of Existentialism

I am delighted to know that many of our readers are pleased with our occasional philosophical discourse. After all, philosophy means literally “love of wisdom.” Wisdom is not information, it is not knowledge; yet it is both of those and more….

It is gratifying to receive readers’ mail who ask for more discussion of people who have made a difference in this world. People like Soren Kierkegaard, born 1813, died 1855, a brilliant sarcastic, humorous and incredibly prolific thinker theologian/philosopher. He, along with Martin Heidegger (1889-1976—I once went to Berlin to meet and talk with him), Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1950) and Albert Camu (1913-1960) are the four horses of Existentialism, all of whom give credit to St Augustine of Hippo for their start and cutting their teeth in understanding the basic premises and principles of existentialism… Soren used to write books pseudonymously, and then critique them harshly, calling the writer of the books, meaning himself, a no good “oeuf”…

A reader asked about Manicheans. The reader was stimulated by my remarks about Saint Augustine of Hippo. Yes, for 14 years of his life, between ages of 18 (372) and 32 (386, the year he converted to Christianity), St. Augustine was a Manichean. Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose of Milan on Easter morning 387.

Mani was a Persian. He was born and raised near today’s Basra which was a part of the Persian Empire. The religion is heavily based on Zoroastrianism and Zoroaster (Zarathustra) dualistic approach to heaven and earth, good and evil, body and soul… He is purported to have gone to China and converted Turan Shah of China (Puccinin’s Turandot which is really Turan-dokht, the daughter of Turan is based on this Emperor’s daughter). Manicheans were sophisticated and learned. They often ridiculed Christians and their ”faith.” Manichians were highly educated, most master-rhetors, engaged in the art of persuasion, like today’s law professors. They believed in dualism, rationalism and materialism. Augustine’s corpus of work contains19 volumes refuting Manicheans, Donatists, Palagirists and Arians. It makes for stimulating reading and ultimately giving reader a roadmap to attaining a vast reservoir of wisdom.

 The Gift of Pistachio and a Pinch of Sufism

In response to reader’s note:

This is a personal note. I know that it should be handwritten. But legibility becomes a problem. I am writing to tell you how touched I was to receive your thoughtful card with your inserted personal note bearing syntactical elegance and rabbinical wisdom (Rabbi from Aramaic and later Hebrew roots means ‘My teacher’.)

Also thank you for the gift of pistachios, every individual kernel depicting the Hafez poem” Pesteh Khandan.” Pistachios were known to Sumerians. There are records in cuneioform (spike or Mikhi) alphabet what scholars have interpreted to be pistachio associated with green color. Sanskrit word PESTEH is the etymology of our word pistachio. During Achamenid Dynasty, in Persia, Shiraz became the center for growing groves of pistachio trees. And in the pre-Islamic world, they used to ferment and make a wine from pistachio. There was and continues to be to this day, one species of pistachio that actually opens in the pod/shell on the tree before they are picked. They are called “laughing or smiling pistachios.” The Shiraz poets such as Mosleh-Din Saadi (1210-1290) and Khajeh Shams-Din-Hafez (1337-1406) have romanced this species of pistachio as the smiling or laughing (KHANDAN) fruit. As one can see, a cracked pistachio looks like a smiling face.

Saadi and Hafez were Sufis. Sufi philosophy has given birth to the discourse and science of “ontology.” For the last 1200 years, it has evolved the beatific message “to be in the world but not of the world.” Sufism invites, encourages, and teaches the art and skill of “being” as a contradistinction of “doing.” We need to set aside time for introspection and reflection…All one’s “doings” should be in the ultimate service of “being” and “becoming”….

Rumi, one of the most eloquent and influential Masters of Sufi in relation to ontology and being said: “Blessed are those who are in a state of constant worship….for the very act of worship is the essence is self-awareness and self-knowledge…”. I must assert that Rumi is very much exploited by literary charlatans and marketers who pose as Rumi authorities, yet do not know a word of Farsi language!)

May your faces like Hafez’ Pesteh be Khandan, smiling and happy forever.

Etymology of the Word “Religion”

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and John Calvin (1509-1564), two disparate theologians of the 13th and 16th centuries, along with Persian physician Abu Ali Sina, Avicenna (980-1037), the famed medical diagnostician and clinician of the eleventh century, have written independent treatises on the “religion.” Here is a summary of their work on the topic

The etymology of the word “religion”, re-ligion”; re: again, ligating: binding, connecting (surgeons ligate veins and tie up arteries); thus, re-connecting, re-binding, re-attaching…what to what is the question. Perhaps to the beatific vision of eternity and transcendence of love…

A Euro for Asia

Robert Mundel, Reagan’s Chairman of Economic Advisors, father of trickle down Rageanonomics (Ibn Khaldoun ‘1332-1406’ was the real father, Robert Mundel was a promulgator!), but he was the true father of the “Euro”. The 1999 Nobel Laureate in Economics, is in the process of fostering or fathering the equivalent currency of Euro for Asia. The name has not been conceived. The Sultan of Abu Dhabi, owner of the multi-trillion dollar “Sovereign Fund” which has been rescuing American Banks and Financial institutions (including Bank of America, UBS, CitiBank, and Washington Mutual) during the economic downturn, is behind the effort.

A personal note: We had the privilege of having lunch with Dr. Mundel in his Palladian villa in Italy on Friday June 25, 1992. It was a memorable occasion.

Dying Takes Courage

Randy Pausch’s name was being considered by some members of the National Humanities Center Nominating Committee for membership to the Board before we earned that he was dying. I was fortunate to be in the audience when he gave his “Last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon. It was a fascinating experience. He was a picture of health. He did summersaults and push-ups during his lecture, and at the conclusion of his speech, carried his wife off the stage. It is very sad that he died. Yet, it is glorious the way he lived and the legacy he left for us. The recent death of my beloved wife, Emily, reminded me of Randy’s death. Dying is an act of courage.

The “Dope” on Cannabis

In response to a reader’s question about cannabis and alcohol:

The scholarship on cannabis and data-driven research on this controversial drug show that cannabis may and does affect not only the higher cortical structures, but also the subcortical parts of the brain, what is known as the Limbic system, causing bipolar disorder (radical mood swings and irrational and impulsive behaviour) and can actually cause psychosis. Alcohol has the same adverse effects on the brain through different pathways. So, I really condemn both. I am absolutely against legalizing cannabis. More and more states, including Washington DC, have joined Colorado and Oregon selling cannabis on the free market. I would be happy to give you reference to these studies. A drunken parent should not hypocritically admonish a pothead child. It does not work. This is one of the astonishing teachings of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the ultimate role model to humankind. Although he was addicted to sex, after his conversion to Christianity, and soon after becoming a Bishop, he had enough discipline to stop sex altogether. The same, I condemn tobacco and its ill effects on the body in general. However, I guess the reason tobacco is not banned is that it does NOT cause bipolar disorder and psychosis.

The ultimate answer to these problems is education which starts in utero. Mamas must adopt Augustinian discipline to love themselves and their fetus(es), stop tobacco, alcohol and over-eating while they are pregnant, and continue to be role models to their children.

Hypocrisy and Greed of University Leaders

I am opposed to lowering drinking age in college as many, including 100 college and university leaders, promote. While prohibition is often counterproductive, I believe the answer to binging and the abuse and unreasonable use of alcohol, is education. The answer also lies in curtailing greed and hunger for money. The University leaders ought to cut out advertising of beer from all TV sports. It is sheer greed to have alcohol products sponsoring sports events, and it is sheer hypocrisy for the university leaders to tolerate this practice because it produces revenue for their institutions. Ban alcohol ads from all television sports.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge and the 2016 winner of NC Award in Fine Arts.
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