The Sane Society: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on How to Save Us From Ourselves

“The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born, when we die.”

 

“Every advance of intellect beyond the ordinary measure,” Schopenhauer wrote in examining the relationship between genius and insanity, “disposes to madness.” But could what is true of the individual also be true of society — could it be that the more so-called progress polishes our collective pride and the more intellectually advanced human civilization becomes, the more it risks madness? And, if so, what is the proper corrective to restore our collective sanity?

That’s what the great German humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) explores in his timely 1956 treatise The Sane Society (public library).

Fifteen years after his inquiry into why totalitarian regimes rise in Escape from Freedom, Fromm examines the promise and foibles of modern democracy, focusing on its central pitfall of alienation and the means to attaining its full potential — the idea that “progress can only occur when changes are made simultaneously in the economic, socio-political and cultural spheres; that any progress restricted to one sphere is destructive to progress in all spheres.”

Two decades before his elegant case for setting ourselves free from the chains of our culture, Fromm weighs the validity of our core assumption about our collective state:

Nothing is more common than the idea that we, the people living in the Western world of the twentieth century, are eminently sane. Even the fact that a great number of individuals in our midst suffer from more or less severe forms of mental illness produces little doubt with respect to the general standard of our mental health. We are sure that by introducing better methods of mental hygiene we shall improve still further the state of our mental health, and as far as individual mental disturbances are concerned, we look at them as strictly individual incidents, perhaps with some amazement that so many of these incidents should occur in a culture which is supposedly so sane.

Can we be so sure that we are not deceiving ourselves? Many an inmate of an insane asylum is convinced that everybody else is crazy, except himself.

Fromm notes that while modernity has increased the material wealth and comfort of the human race, it has also wrought major wars that killed millions, during which “every participant firmly believed that he was fighting in his self-defense, for his honor, or that he was backed up by God.” In a sentiment of chilling pertinence today, after more than half a century of alleged progress has drowned us in mind-numbing commercial media and left us to helplessly watch military budgets swell at the expense of funding for the arts and humanities, Fromm writes:

We have a literacy above 90 per cent of the population. We have radio, television, movies, a newspaper a day for everybody. But instead of giving us the best of past and present literature and music, these media of communication, supplemented by advertising, fill the minds of men with the cheapest trash, lacking in any sense of reality, with sadistic phantasies which a halfway cultured person would be embarrassed to entertain even once in a while. But while the mind of everybody, young and old, is thus poisoned, we go on blissfully to see to it that no “immorality” occurs on the screen. Any suggestion that the government should finance the production of movies and radio programs which would enlighten and improve the minds of our people would be met again with indignation and accusations in the name of freedom and idealism.

Art by Edward Gorey from The Shrinking of Treehorn

Less than a decade after the German philosopher Josef Pieper made his beautiful case for why leisure is the basis of culture, Fromm adds:

We have reduced the average working hours to about half what they were one hundred years ago. We today have more free time available than our forefathers dared to dream of. But what has happened? We do not know how to use the newly gained free time; we try to kill the time we have saved, and are glad when another day is over… Society as a whole may be lacking in sanity.

Fromm points out that we can only speak of a “sane” society if we acknowledge that a society can be not sane, which in turn requires a departure from previous theories of sociological relativism postulating that “each society is normal inasmuch as it functions, and that pathology can be defined only in terms of the individual’s lack of adjustment to the ways of life in his society.” Instead, Fromm proposes a model of normative humanism — a redemptive notion that relieves some of our self-blame for feeling like we are going crazy, by acknowledging that society itself, when bedeviled by certain pathologies, can be crazy-making for the individual…

more…

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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Dining Out Is Just About the Worst Thing You Can Do to Your Finances

Illustration by Sibel Ergener

by John McDermott

It’s not just the check—restaurant meals put us in a ‘consumer mindset’

One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll get from personal finance experts is to eat out less. By cooking at home, you almost always manage to spend less money on food (not to mention eat healthier).

But a new study not only confirms that eating out is bad for your finances, but suggests that eating out is among the worst things you can do for your personal financial health.

“What we saw consistently throughout the study was that when people reported their dining-out budget for the second time during the experiment, it was significantly higher than what they stated the first time,” Penn State professor Amit Sharma, one of the study’s co-authors, tells Futurity. “What this tells us is that obviously they thought they would spend less in a week, but as the week progressed, they realized they were spending a lot more and they rationalized that increase.”

Specifically, people increased their personal dining out budgets from less than $18 in the first week of the study to $55 in week two, when they realized the first figure was unrealistic.

I’m not sure where these study respondents live that any of them think $18 would last them a week’s worth of dining out. They certainly don’t live in L.A., where $18 gets you a tablespoon of quinoa with a side of two fig leaves, or New York, where $18 is the admission price for the privilege of waiting to maybe buy a cronut.

What’s most interesting, though, is the rationalization part. Rather than curb their dining out in the face of that information, people just readjust their budgets to meet their actual spending habits.

People’s tendency to overspend is partially due to valuing immediate gratification over the long-term benefits of saving. In Sharma’s study, people’s weekly budget goals were no match for their pressing desire to go out and eat some delicious food. “We tend to discount the future more than we should and, therefore, place higher value on current consumption,” says Sharma.

Worse, the study suggests that eating out changes people’s mindset from saving to consumption.

Serious savers know that a commitment to saving is about more than abstaining from the occasional splurge — it’s a mindset that informs every aspect of their lives. They understand that while spending $5 at Starbucks may seem like a minor purchase, it’s actually very important. That daily $5 purchase each morning equates to more than $1,200 over the course of a year, so serious savers opt for the shitty office brew. Conduct that calculus on all the small, seemingly inconsequential purchases in one’s life, and you have significant savings.

The people MEL profiled in our Into the Black series, for instance, didn’t pay off their debts because they refrained from buying expensive cars. They did so by identifying and cutting out any and all unnecessary purchases, no matter the size, and letting the savings accumulate over time. They bought cheap beer, hosted game nights and potlucks and took up free hobbies such as rock climbing instead of meeting their friends out at fancy cocktail bars.

But going out to eat seems to take a person out of that vigilant savings mindset: What’s a $5 coffee when I already spent $12 on lunch?

Way more than they could have imagined. In fact, foregoing that morning coffee could turn them into a millionaire, according to personal finance guru David Bach. If you’re younger than 30, and put the money you usually spend on a morning latte into a retirement account, it’ll grow to $1 million by the time you’re retirement age.

And that’s money you can dine out on.

https://melmagazine.com/dining-out-is-just-about-the-worst-thing-you-can-do-for-your-finances-bbee7062048e#.yywk7ha3p

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Pain Is the Best Antidote to Your Unfilfilling, Sedentary Office Job

by John McDermott

If you’ve wondered why some people insist on inflicting pain on themselves, you now you have your answer

The debilitating effects of a sedentary office job will terrify anyone who has one. Spending your day hunched over a desk ruins posture and flexibility, causes neck and back pain, makes your bones soft (really) and increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Simply put: Sitting all day makes us fat, sick and sore—not to mention bored and unfulfilled.

The antidote, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, is pain, specifically in the form of a hyper intense workout regimen.

The suffering that comes with running a marathon or participating in a race like Tough Mudder, which entails crawling around in mud and pretending you’re a Navy SEAL, obviously helps offset the weak bones and paunchy stomach that typically come from hours spent staring blankly at a computer screen. But it also fights against the existential dread of monotonous office work. “For individuals who feel that modern office work has made their bodies redundant, obstacle racing and other forms of short but intense and painful activities provide a brief but acute reappearance of the body,” study coauthor Julien Cayla, assistant professor at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore, tells Futurity.

The findings coincide with pre-existing research about office workers needing to engage in some kind of physical activity to stay sharp. Tough Mudders are on the extreme end of the spectrum, however — most people would benefit from taking periodic walking breaks throughout the day. Sitting for long periods of time slows down your cognitive functioning, while walking gets blood flowing to your brain, makes your thinking more balanced and gives your senses a break from the usual office stimuli, fostering creativity.

But the findings also suggest a disturbing conclusion about the nature of modern work, and our relationship to it. Simply put: Our work doesn’t meet our fundamental needs as humans. The modern “knowledge economy” revolves around people doing silent, sedentary work for more than half their waking hours, creating work that doesn’t occupy physical space, but instead lives only in the ether of the internet.

It’s a scenario so utterly unsatisfying — both physically and spiritually — that people have to crawl under electrified fences in sub-freezing temperatures just to feel alive. Which is not to say we were better off as an agrarian or industrial civilization. But there’s something undeniably fulfilling about working with your hands and forging something tangible, a satisfaction our current job market fails to provide us.

https://melmagazine.com/pain-is-the-best-antidote-to-your-unfilfilling-sedentary-office-job-abf96f398515#.y7t6mo1uc

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Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

Hutson_BR

SELF-ACTUALIZATION: Power can release your inhibitions and set your true nature free. But how you handle power depends on who you were before you got the crown. (Apparently Henry II of England, above, was an impetuous, divisive fellow.)National Portrait Gallery, London

Are you a tyrant or a servant?

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama told the crowd, “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

Growing up, Michelle said, she and Barack learned important lessons from their families about “dignity and decency” and “gratitude and humility.” “At the end of the day,” she said, “when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”

Research in cognitive science reveals the former First Lady is right: Power exposes your true character. It releases inhibitions and sets your inner self free. If you’re a jerk when you gain power, you’ll become more of one. If you’re a mensch, you’ll get nicer. So if you happen to all of a sudden become president, or at least president of your lab or book club, what inner self will come out?

Psychologists generally define power as control over others, by providing or withholding resources, without social interference. Tapping your true nature, though, begins with feeling powerful. Getting the corner office boosts creativity and reduces conformity.

In a 2008 experiment, undergraduates were asked either to recall a time they had power over someone or to recall a time someone had power over them.1 Then they were asked to draw an alien creature. Some were shown an example creature that had wings. When feeling powerless, seeing a creature with wings increased the chance a student would add wings to his own creature, a demonstration of conformity. Those made to feel powerful, however, remained unaffected by the example, following their own creative urges.

Power also makes people more likely to act on their desires. In one experiment, those made to feel powerful were more likely to move or unplug an annoying fan blowing on them.2 When working with others, the powerful are also more likely to voice their opinions. In another experiment, students were paired for a joint task.3 The one assigned to be the leader of the pair typically expressed her true feelings and attitudes more than her subordinate did.

When people obtain power, don’t expect them to behave dramatically differently from how they did before.

We are less deliberative and more persistent in pursuing our goals when we gain power. In one of a series of experiments, researchers asked students to recall having or lacking power, then asked how much time and information they would need to make various decisions, including which roommate to live with or which car to buy.4 Those who felt powerful said they’d need less time and information. In a second experiment, participants made to feel powerful spent more time trying to solve an impossible geometric puzzle. In a third, they were quicker to interrupt someone who disagreed with them.

Overall, power makes us feel authentic. In one study, participants recalled a time they had power or a time they lacked it.5 Then they rated their personality traits in three contexts: with their parents, at work, and in a social gathering. They also rated their feelings of authenticity in the moment, with items such as “I feel like I can be myself with others.” Feeling powerful increased the consistency of people’s personality ratings, which in turn increased their feelings of authenticity.

Power’s effects on expression result largely from the fact that it frees us from dependence on others, allowing us to ignore their concerns and pursue our own objectives. Intoxication from power leads us to focus more clearly on whatever goal we have in mind. With clear focus on a goal, we then pursue it.

Those goals are often selfish, which would seem to support the historian Lord Acton’s dictum that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But it’s not that simple. “The model is more complex than that,” says Melissa Williams, a psychologist at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, who has written about what leads power to corrupt or ennoble. In a review article in the Journal of Management, Williams summarized research that outlines four main categories of traits—personality, individualism, values, and desire for power—that can guide unethical or ethical leadership.6

It’s no surprise the traits of narcissism and Machiavellianism are stoked by power. A German study comparing 76 inmates convicted of high-level white-collar crimes with 150 managers on the outside found that the criminals were more narcissistic.7 A Dutch study published last year found that among 225 managers, those scoring higher on Machiavellianism were rated by their subordinates as abusive (“Our supervisor ridicules us”).8

Ethical leadership, on the other hand, arises out of several positive personality traits. In one study, 81 leaders in Dutch organizations were evaluated by their subordinates.9 People rated their bosses on traits such as agreeableness and honesty-humility. They also rated their bosses on aspects of leadership style, such as ethics and supportiveness. Honest, humble leaders were more ethical than others, while agreeable leaders were more supportive. They served their followers rather than demanding to be served.

Another influential personality trait is one’s propensity to feel guilt. Business managers who said they’d feel strong guilt after, say, running over a small animal were also more likely to report feeling responsible for others, and in turn they were rated as more effective leaders by their peers, superiors, and subordinates.10

One study looked at the role of social responsibility among CEOs.11 The more the chief executives expressed internal moral obligation—feeling the need to be responsible and do the right thing—the more they were seen to be moral and fair, and the less they were seen to act “like a tyrant or despot.”…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/why-power-brings-out-your-true-self

 

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Hamburgers Are Bigger Than Ever, but the Meat Has Always Been Questionable

 

by Quinn Myers

From ‘pink slime’ to bug burgers, a look at the quintessential American meal

For most of the world, the symbol most associated with America isn’t the bald eagle, George Washington or even the stars and stripes—it’s the hamburger and fries. But how much has this simple meal — a ground-beef sandwich with fried potatoes — changed since its glory days of the 1950s? Let’s find out.

The Ingredients

1950s: According to Andrew Smith, author of The Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, the quality of hamburger meat was so bad in the early 20th century that by the 1950s, customers needed reassuring that what they were getting was actual meat. “Heading into the ‘50s, White Castle had beef slabs delivered to each outlet a couple times a day,” Smith says. “It was ground up in front of any customers in the store to assure everyone that their beef did come from a cow, as opposed to a variety of meat and other products from other slaughtered animals.”

White Castle employee pointing out a White Castle inspected meat sign

So during the burger’s heyday, most people could feel confident that they were, in fact, getting 100 percent ground beef, while the fries were exactly as advertised: Potatoes, sliced in the restaurant and fried in animal oil.

Today: In 2008, a study by Brigid Prayson of the Cleveland Clinical Foundation tried to find out whether it was even possible for America to produce as much beef as was apparently being consumed — an interesting question, considering that there are fewer cattle being raised now than in the 1970s, and yet we’re eating more beef than we were then. The answers weren’t encouraging, and a test of a variety of fast-food burgers found that the amount of real meat in burgers ranged from just 2 to 14 percent. The rest was made up of what has become known as “pink slime,” or in the words of the study, “a mash of connective tissue, blood vessels, peripheral nerve, plant material, cartilage and bone.”

This nauseating goop was then doused in ammonium hydroxide, an antimicrobial agent once classified by the Department of Agriculture as “generally recognized as safe,” though the practice is banned in the European Union. McDonald’s and other chains have since claimed that they no longer use the stuff, but after a brief public backlash, it has crept back into grocery stores, with a 2014 study claiming that up to 70 percent of the ground beef sold in stores contains the dreaded pink slime.

McDonald’s pink slime

The meat isn’t the only thing chock-full of chemicals now, either. A quick look at the fry ingredients listed on McDonald’s website reveals not just potatoes but rather a dozen different things, including chemicals with such appetizing names as sodium acid pyrophosphate (that’s the one that maintains their friendly yellow color). Essentially, most of the water in the fries has been replaced with fat, and a bunch of chemicals are added to make them taste like they were fried in animal fat, rather than the mix of corn and soybean oil they’re actually fried in.

The Size

1950s: “The combo of french fries and burgers as a meal became solidified during World War II, since meat was rationed and you needed to bolster what small amount of it you had with something else,” says Smith. How small exactly were the burgers? In 1950, the average burger weighed just 3.9 ounces—not so much bigger than a modern-day White Castle slider, at 2.2 ounces, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For their part, an average order of fries weighed roughly 2.4 ounces.

Today: As rationing came to an end, burgers began to fatten up. “Chains like Burger King came along offering bigger burgers with more meat, and the increased competition led to an arms race of the sizes and the styles of burgers,” Smith says. As a result, the average fast-food burger has quadrupled in size since the 1950s and now stands at a gut-busting 12 ounces. Fries, meanwhile, have nearly doubled in size, weighing in at 6.7 ounces (again according to the CDC)…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/hamburgers-are-bigger-than-ever-but-the-meat-has-always-been-questionable-ba04dc37f0e7#.mugo2w70w

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What do slaveholders think?

Resultado de imagem para Labourers in Vidharbha region in Maharashtra, India. Photo by Sanjit Das/Panos

Labourers in Vidharbha region in Maharashtra, India. Photo by Sanjit Das/Panos

 image edited by Web Investigator

It is everywhere illegal yet slavery persists in many corners of the global economy. How do its beneficiaries justify it?

by Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick is a professor of sociology at the University of San Diego. His latest book is What Slaveholders Think (2017).

I liked Aanan as soon as I met him. My field notes read: ‘What a nice guy, you can just see from his face.’ Open-faced and conversational, he was enthusiastic about the explosive growth in his quarry operations and excited to show me around. Together, we toured the open mines where his workers carve into the earth, producing boulders that are broken down into gravel by smaller labourers, often women and children. Together with his workers, Aanan laughed at my efforts to repeat the process for myself, the sledge held high over my head before arcing down, momentarily disappearing into shards and dust.

He showed me the crushing equipment that transformed gravel into silica powder, proudly explaining that the Indian multinational company, Tata, which makes generous donations to Harvard’s renowned business school, was the exclusive buyer of his materials. I had met Aanan through a friend of his, a reference that considerably eased his concerns about speaking with an outsider regarding his operations. The fact that I was most interested in challenging bonded labour – a contemporary form of slavery – didn’t matter.

Around half of the world’s slaves are held in debt bondage in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Debt bondage is a very old form of slavery in which radically marginalised members of society, often from India’s ‘untouchable’ caste, must trade all their labour for single small infusions of cash. Broader social and economic systems ensure that they do not understand the terms of such loans, and that the time required to repay them is interminable. Lack of other work, lack of credit, and the need to pay for schooling and marriages effectively guarantee that there is no single contractual debt between the landlord and labourer but rather a string of interconnected informal loans.

Workers are often promised that their debt will be repaid within a certain period of time, only to be told that they have somehow incurred new debts. Running debts are occasionally sold to other slaveholders, and in this way a worker can change hands several times. Local officials are more likely to turn a blind eye than to enforce a remote law. 

The days of owning people are over, yet slavery still persists in dark pockets of the global economy. All forms of slavery are now illegal in every country on Earth, yet the practice still festers in unreformed nests of feudalism, where threats and violence can suppress or eliminate pay for work. Where slavery is verboten, psychological control through deception and fear is the new coin of the realm. In the case of debt bondage, it is the caste system – with Brahmin at the head and ‘untouchable’ beneath – that does the delicate work of stitching debts together into a seamless, infinite coercive system that leaves labourers feeling trapped.

Despite the abuse, the caste-based worldview frames these exploitative labour relations in familial terms. ‘You have to understand the mentality of labourers, and you should know how to make them work,’ says Aanan, who views himself as the caring parent and his workers as children. ‘To manage a group of labourers is like managing a group of primary-school children. They have to be provided with food or clothes, and they are taught how to behave … sometimes they start drinking alcohol; sometimes they indulge in feasts. So we have to pay them with caution. We divide them into small groups because larger numbers of workers tend to form a union and sometimes engage in mass holidays or strikes.’

Aanan says the happiness of his worker is paramount, even though his business model depends on entrapping the vulnerable and working them to the bone as they crush rock from dusk to dawn. He couldn’t come out and say this to me or to his workers – or perhaps even to himself.

Withholding pay and limiting opportunities to mobilise are important strategies for controlling workers. But all of this is done for the workers’ own good, Aanan insists. Though landlords complain about alcohol, such indulgences are also tactics for increasing debt. Rowdy festivals allow workers to blow off steam, effectively directing frustration away from their abusers. These events also allow workers to spend what little money they have, increasing the likelihood that they will remain dependent on the landlord’s line of credit. 

To the erstwhile slaveholder, leisure activities – talking, idling, drinking – are vices, tangible manifestations of social decline

When asked if he needs the workers or the workers need him, Aanan explains that: ‘The worker is my cash machine, my fate.’ In this one statement, he has captured a central contradiction inherent in most human-rights violations worldwide: exploitation takes place at the intersection of culture and capital, in the overlap between relationship and extraction, at the moment where care and exploitation intersect…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/this-is-what-slavery-looks-like-today-in-the-eyes-of-slavers

 

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The Strange Blissfulness of Storms

Scoles_BR-art

Is there a biochemical reason that extreme weather makes us happy?

Ifelt pretty sure something was wrong when the deer began running toward me. I knew something was wrong when a pine branch flew by my head. The air went dark and a noise like a train barreled through the forest, the actual wind coming after the sound of itself. The trees all swayed in the same direction, and then came the slap of thunder.

I felt more than saw the huge shelf cloud, a wall of black striped with electricity, surge forward over the ridge of the Allegheny Mountains overlooking Green Bank, West Virginia. A sharp line against the blue sky, it looked less like weather and more like a Rothko. I lived in this remote town, and I was on my usual afternoon run, picking my way across the trails that led from my house to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, where I worked. Adrenaline told me I needed to fly, faster.

I ran two miles in 12 minutes, a pace I’d never maintained before and never have since, hurdling downed trees and power lines. When I got back to my house, surprised to be safe, I dragged my dog down to the farmhouse basement. After a restless 30 seconds, though, I bolted back upstairs, threw the door open, and stood on the porch. A wall of wind hit me. Lightning struck like a strobe. I felt awakened, alive, engaged. As the edge of the front pushed forward, the force seemed to clear the air and charge the whole scene with yellow-lit significance.

Scoles_BR-storm
STORM INSIDE: Negative ions released in a thunderstorm, foreboded by a massive shelf cloud over a plain, might affect us in a way that explains the emotional rush we feel in extreme weather.NZP Chasers

I’m not the first to feel this way, or write about it. “It was his impression that not just he but other people too felt better in hurricanes,” wrote Walker Percy in his novel The Last Gentleman, published in 1966. Today, people crowd around Weather Channel broadcasts and cross their fingers that storms will strengthen. They get giddy over thundersnow. Percy, a philosopher as well as a novelist, was intrigued by the phenomenon. In one of his earliest essays, published in the 1950s, he asked, “Why do people often feel bad in good environments and good in bad environments?”

Why hurricanes elevate our mood—lift us out of a malaise we might not even know we’re sunk in—is a rich question for philosophers, novelists, and people who like philosophy and novels. It’s deepened by the fact that our giddiness often comes spiked with guilt, and a revulsion at ourselves for hoping for, and enjoying, something so destructive.

But the thrill of storms may not just be a psychological phenomenon. A branch of science called biometeorology attempts to explain the impact of atmospheric processes on organisms and ecosystems. Biometeorologists study, among other topics, how the seasons affect plant growth, how agriculture depends on climate, and how weather helps spread or curb human diseases. For decades now, a faction have looked at how charged particles in the air, called ions, might alter our psyches as they wing in on the wind.

Explanations of the environment’s impact on us sometimes crash at the intersection of science and pseudoscience. The idea that electrically charged molecules affect humans has led to dubious cures like negative air-ionizing therapy. But recent, rigorous studies have hinted at compelling links between ions, physiology, and psychology. The collision of that work with the science of storms could bear a message of connection for us all.

Scientists first attempted to unweave the web between air ions—whose composition changes with weather and environment—and human mood in the mid 20th century, when ion-generating machines and ion counters became more standardized and available. Ions, natural or ginned up inside a device, are electrically charged particles: Negative ions have an extra electron, and positive ions are missing an electron. Positive ions get their spark when some force—like the scrape of air over land or shear from water droplets splashing—strips an electron from them. That electron goes on the rebound and attaches itself to a nearby oxygen molecule, which then becomes a negative ion.

In the wild, people encounter the greatest densities of negative air ions in pleasant, hydrated places and during summer months. Breaking ocean waves and falling water—dropping from the sky or flowing over a rock ledge—release a rash of negatives into the air. So do bolts of lightning. Positive ions—often associated with pollutant particles like smoke, smog, and dust—are more prevalent indoors, in urban areas, and in the winter. The leading edges of storms and hot, dry winds like the Santa Anas in California also blow them in.

Lightning struck like a strobe. I felt awakened, alive, engaged.

Medical doctor Daniel Silverman of New Orleans and Igho Kornblueh of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia were first to test whether the shifting tides of ions do anything to the human body or mind. Is either polarity good or bad, or are they both neutral? In 1957, they gave subjects 30-minute treatments with air ions from ion-generating devices.

During the treatment, Silverman and Kornblueh watched patients’ electrical brain activity on electroencephalograms. Their long, slow, alpha waves looked calm and relaxed when they were surrounded by negative ions, positive ones, or both at once (not exactly conclusive). Another research group later confirmed chilled-out brain activity and sharper perception, when they treated patients with negative air ions. Their results weren’t definitive, but three other studies in the ’50s and ’60s looked at how ions changed self-reported perceptions of comfort and restlessness. According to this research, some subjects felt negative feelings with positive ions, and some reported positive feelings with negative ions…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/the-strange-blissfulness-of-storms-rp

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