John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Everything is everything

“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.” Buddha

Mark Twain

“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts or happenings. It consist mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever flowing through one’s head.”

Most problems

 “Most problems, if you give them enough time and space, will eventually wear themselves out” Gautama Buddha 

Be vigilant

 “Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts.” Gautama Buddha

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. 

Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained.

 That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”


Sherman Alexie, What You Pawn I Will Redeem

“I loved the smell of ocean water.
             Salt always smells like memory.”           

Alan Watts

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” 

John Piper

“If in the last 1% of our lives, we can get a victory over some longstanding sinful habit or hurtful defect in our personality, it will be a beautiful testimony now to the power of grace; and it will be an added witness (not the only one) at the last judgment of our faith in Christ and our union with Him.
 Take heart, struggler. Keep asking, seeking, knocking.
 Keep looking to Christ.
If God gets glory by saving robbers in the eleventh hour, He surely has His purposes why He has waited till now to give you the breakthrough you have sought for decades.”           


Languages Are Mostly Made of Happy Words

A new study analyzes vocabulary from around the world and finds a universal skew toward the positive.

In the time of Twitter and Internet comments, it’s not hard to find language being used for evil. People take the remarkable human capacity for communication and wield it like a big dumb ax, hacking into anything and anyone they don’t like.
When you see enough of that, it’s easy to forget that people also use language as a scalpel, to dissect and understand complex things, and as a salve, to help and heal each other. They write the kind of sweet notes people love to share on social media, maybe as a deliberate antidote to all the online hate.
Thanks to a large data analysis, we now know that the latter outweighs the former. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined 100,000 words across texts in 10 different languages and found “a universal positivity bias.”
In every language, on every platform, the median happiness score was higher than five.
This bias was first posited in 1969, when a pair of psychologists wrote a paper called “The Pollyanna Hypothesis,” named for the fictional orphan girl with a propensity to look on the bright side. The original study had high school boys, who belonged to different cultures and spoke different languages, do word association tasks, and then ranked whether the pairs were positive or negative. More often, they were positive.
In the new PNAS study, researchers analyzed texts from Google Books, Twitter, the New York Times, a Google Web Crawl, subtitles from movies and TV shows, and music lyrics. They measured how frequently words were used in each language (English, German, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, and Indonesian), and had native speakers rate how negative or positive they felt upon hearing those words.
In every language, on every platform, the median happiness score was higher than five—five being a totally neutral word—as seen in the chart below. The yellow is the “above-neutral” portion, and the blue is the “below-neutral.”
Though all the languages studied seemed predisposed to positivity, there are differences between them. Spanish and Portuguese were the most happy, in this study. For some languages, it really depended what kind of text the researchers were looking at—in English, music lyrics were significantly less positive than books, the New York Times, or even Twitter.
So all the languages studied tended to use happy words more often, but overall, languages also contained more happy than unhappy words. The researchers also measured “average word happiness” and found it to be high, regardless of how frequently those words were used in the text. So even lesser-used words were more often positive than negative.
“Words, which are the atoms of human language, present an emotional spectrum with a universal, self-similar positive bias,” the researchers write. While individual texts—books, songs, tweets—may skew negative, all in all, it looks like language is a positive tool.

Dalai Lama XIV

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

“Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.”

No Time To Say Goodbye: A Memoir of Life in Foster Care: Never trust a survivor,

No Time To Say Goodbye: A Memoir of Life in Foster Care: Never trust a survivor,: “Never trust a survivor,” my father used to warn me, “until you find out what he did to stay alive.”                                   ...

No Time To Say Goodbye: A Memoir of Life in Foster Care: For every mountain

No Time To Say Goodbye: A Memoir of Life in Foster Care: For every mountain: For every mountain there is a miracle.                                                                                               ...

The Dalai Lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”


The Dalai Lama

“In order for our perceptions to be clear, we must eliminate all the faults that prevent us from seeing things the way they are. The obstacles are imprints left by such delusions as desire, anger, pride and ignorance. Even after the delusions have been eliminated, the mind retains their imprints. But because the true nature of the mind is clear, pure, and knowing, it is possible to purify the mind thoroughly and attain that clarity of awareness.”  

Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing?”

Bolivia marks the third ‘Day of the Hug’

On Saturday (February 7), residents of the Bolivian capital of La Paz participated in the city's third annual "Day of the Hug." The event is organized by the La Paz Cultural Affairs' Happiness Program and is part of a citywide campaign to boost general happiness.
The event took place in the city's commercial district and according to Caracol radio, the event attracted hundreds of participants.
The happiness campaign is in part an acknowledgement of the challenges faced by the city's roughly one million residents. Among other issues, La Paz residents have to deal with notorious traffic problems, daily street protests and the historical tension between indigenous Bolivians and those of European descent.
Participants in the "Day of the Hug" said they walked away from the event feeling better.
"Of course receiving so many hugs gives you a special feeling," event participant Sonia Mamani told Reuters.
Among the most enduring symbols of the Bolivian capital are street zebras, who are city residents dressed up in outfits looking like a zebra to help direct traffic. The program has invited troubled youth to restart their lives by working as street zebras.
The zebras are a regular attraction in the city that in December was named a New7Wonders city along with Havana, Durban and Beirut, among others.
"I think that the people of La Paz are known for being introverted, but the mayor's office and the street zebras have organised this event in which we can go out and express our feelings through a hug. It's the most amazing thing to hug a person you care about, and something novel to hug someone you don't feel for or don't even know," Day of the Hug participant Waldo Balda said.
The goal of the day was to complete 30,000 hugs.
"Resilience in maintaining a positive attitude in the face of any challenge is among man's most positive innate abilities. We know it's not easy living in a city like La Paz. We know that many realities of the city will not change, but what you can change is what's going on in the inside," La Paz Cultural Director Sergio Caballero told Reuters.
As it turns out, Bolivians do have much reason to be hugging of late. Over the last decade, the country's economy has grown by an average of five percent per year. And construction in La Paz itself has has been increasing nine percent annually.

To complete the "Day of the Hug" celebration, the famous Bolivian pop rock band Octavia gave a performance. — Reuters 

Good news about getting old

Most of us cope with diminishing abilities and get happier in our later years

By Marnin E. Fischbach

Recent research from around the world indicates a startling and counterintuitive truth: Older age is one of the happiest, perhaps the happiest, period of life.
Happiness has been studied by economists in many countries, and the bottom line is this: Happiness tends to make a U-shaped curve over the span of a life. People are happy in their younger years, considerably less so in middle age, and then become progressively happier as they grow older, without regard to finances or children.
Happiness in youth and older age is driven by quite different factors. Younger people thrive on excitement and novelty, which help them build a sense of identity. This youthful approach to life, given its ubiquity across cultures, may be biologically and genetically determined. Older people, in contrast, find happiness not in excitement but rather in smaller joys near to home: family, friends and hobbies.
Judging from my own patients, I would confirm these observations.
Allegheny County has the second-oldest population in the country, behind only Dade County in Florida. As a result, I see quite a few older people in my practice of psychiatry and have been more than impressed by the coping skills of many of them.
Even those with emotional problems often still live in their homes and are self-sufficient and optimistic into their late 70s and 80s. Many remain surprisingly youthful in appearance and attitude. Many still golf, vacation at the shore, visit friends and family, care for grandchildren, write poetry and pursue hobbies. Some chuckle over my own failure to follow their footsteps into a pleasant and comfortable retirement. These well-adjusted older people, by the way, are by no means wealthy — they fall very much in the middle class.
Older persons generally have established their identities long ago and have no more need to prove themselves or build a career. They have raised their children and are benefiting from years of accumulated experience and wisdom. It is no wonder that many traditional cultures reverentially turn to the elderly for counsel.
But how can we square the U-shaped happiness data with the many physical ailments which also accumulate in older age? Who can be happy in the face of arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer or combinations of these ailments? And why is it that many elderly, unlike those who are young but also happy, seem not especially afraid of dying, despite being far closer to their end?
I recall struggling with these questions when I was young and quite fearful of death. My patients and older associates have provided some answers.
Every chronic malady produces physical symptoms. There’s pain, difficulty breathing, unsteady gait, fatigue or chest discomfort. There are frequent knee or hip injuries, fading eyesight, cataracts, hearing problems and lower back pain. The list goes on and on.
Each ailment results in some loss of prior activities or functionality. Arthritis can make it difficult to walk, let alone run, or to play the piano or knit. Visual or hearing problems can make reading or hearing people in a restaurant difficult or impossible. Pulmonary disease can leave someone too fatigued to do much of anything. In many cases, independence of action is significantly compromised.
Everyone, including the elderly, undergoes a subtle grieving process over each lost function caused by injury or illness. When older people get together, conversation frequently turns to their latest symptoms and the things they no longer can do. Nevertheless, there is often laughter, not unlike what one sees during a Catholic wake or Jewish shiva. These discussions help people come to terms with their bereavement.
Grieving may seem negative, but it is a biological, universal process with quite positive effects. And it helps explain the paradox of the U-shaped curve.
First, the older person who successfully navigates the grief process comes to accept a loss of function, as opposed to being emotionally paralyzed by it. This is no small gift, as I have interviewed a number of elderly people who have gotten stuck in their grief and consequently spent much of their remaining lives in sadness and regret.
Another positive outcome is the development of a new sense of self. Having lost some skills that previously defined them (such as tennis, crocheting, running, piano, etc.), older individuals often develop new skills more aligned with their residual abilities. They might attend college courses, study a new language, draw closer to their children and grandchildren or take up swimming. Often, older people tend to see life in ways they had not previously considered.
Finally, having grieved the loss of multiple parts of their lives, seniors become more accepting of the end of life. Death is less fraught with the fears that terrified many of us in our youth.
Growing comfortable with death is good news, a great treasure. Wouldn’t you rather go gently into that dark night, content and accepting, than go kicking and screaming? Wouldn’t you rather feel a sense of completion than feel cheated out of time that is rightfully yours?
Not everyone enjoys the silver linings of older age, of course. Many people cannot find in themselves the ability to go through these many small grieving episodes. A caring therapist might be able to help them negotiate the process and find the peace they seek.
But for many of us, maybe even most of us, Mother Nature offers happiness in old age and a mechanism to ease us into a comfortable parting with this world.

Marnin E. Fischbach practices psychiatry at several locations in the Pittsburgh area and lives in Squirrel Hill.

Keep Your Relationship Strong By Avoiding 'Bargaining Theory' Thinking


The study — published in the journal International Economic Review and conducted by University of Virginia professors Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern, followed over 4000 married couples over the span of around six years to ask a few basic questions regarding their happiness with their marriage. Unfortunately, they found that nearly 60 per cent of the couples misjudged their partner’s happiness over the course of the study. That’s where “bargaining theory” comes in. While it’s normally used in economics, bargaining theory was used in this study to describe how couples overestimated their partner’s happiness and try to take too much from them. Stern describes an example:
“If I believe my wife is really happy in the marriage, I might push her to do more chores or contribute a larger portion of the family income. If, unbeknownst to me, she’s actually just lukewarm about the marriage, or she’s got a really good-looking guy who is interested in her, she may decide those demands are the last straw, and decide a divorce would be a better option for her.”
Of course, divorce is obviously the most extreme outcome, but that’s the gist. In a way, it’s like love becomes the currency, and someone might assume they have a lot more power to bargain with it than they actually do. To break it down further, it can be dangerous to assume something such as “they love me this much so I can push them this hard”. So how can you avoid this type of thinking? Communicate with your partner correctly so you know how they really feel. If they aren’t as happy as you thought they were, find a way to change things for the better. The last thing you want to do is push your significant other further away by making them even more unhappy.

Marriage, Divorce, and Asymmetric Information [The Journal International Economic Review via Futurity]


Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.
                                                                                             -Alice Walker 


Yesterday (Sunday)we were downtown taking in the beautiful weather and decided to tour the Masque on Embassy Row. In the thirty years I’ve been in DC, I never ventured in there. It’s a magnificent building and the people we met inside could not have been more welcoming and gracious to us. They were delighted to see us. I suspect not many main line Americans drop in. Five or six people asked me if I wanted anything explained or if I had any questions. I prayed with them and was welcomed by all. It was a good and an interesting day.