Tuesday, February 21, 2006

4 walls

I felt threatened and trapped encompassed and swallowed by the four walls that were around me. The room getting smaller each minute, the space I call my own is leaving me. At a fleeting moment I try to muster courage and look into a past trying to look how far the roads taken me. These four walls trap memories of a past refusing to let go of the images that were real not so far away. How ironic, I have run away and travelled a distance, to get away from this very cage. The cage refuses to yield, and encloses me.

To be unique, to conquer the world, to understand truth, to see reality I choose and sometimes paid the price of my freedom and dignity.

I stand here within these four walls, unsure of tomorrow. Unsure, if tomorrow is what I have dreamt it would be.

Unsure of love, a word that seemed to have alluded somewhere in life, and left as quietly as it came. Unsure if these four walls, like the rain that it protects me from, like the harsh world that it keeps on the other side, has denied to me, that elusive word.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Searching

A nameless soul with a million things on his mind.

Perhaps like most of us, he's thinking about tomorrow. Perhaps he is not. But most importantly, life around him does not seem to stop regardless of his need for a moment.

picture taken at the Pudu market on February 14th 2006, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cartoons + Religion = Barbarism

In comparison with the small group of extremist hypersensitive Muslims who behave like wild animals in the streets of the world because of twelve innocent drawings, most Muslims in South East Asia (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore, and China) have shown the world that hope still exists even though groups of extremist hooligans continue to misconstrue Islam.

Assuming that the situation will continue to develop in the same direction, we see that this fiasco of the ‘cartoon’ war has left moderate people divided. Many of our friends (white, black, brown, yellow, and the occasional green) seem to be rather scared - and frankly, I fully understand why. You can read an explanation why everyone who has insulted Islam must be executed. It's a scary reading.The ‘cartoon war’ has lead to the clash of our civilizations. Those in the west are convinced that our citizens are free to believe or not to believe a particular religion. They assume that the head of state does not have the right to ‘control’ a journalist/cartoonist/undertaker as long as they do not violate moral principles of beneficence. The core of the American constitution for example, guarantees this right to its citizens.

There is however another part of the world that believes the government has the responsibility to punish those who carry out acts deemed ‘unfitting’ of become its citizenship. One such ‘unfitting’ behaviour would lie in the behaviour that does not engage in the glorification of God. Hence, any one who dare visualize God in any context other than that fits a certain narrow ideology, would be justly, and should be (as islamicawakening.com puts it) executed.

How would one really win a cartoon war?

For those in the West, victory come though the reinforcement of freedom of speech. To people in the west, it means that anyone can draw a picture even though there are others who may find it offensive. And if you do find such work offensive, then it is a problem that needs to be addressed by the judicial system. But, for those precious few, who live about 10,000 miles away from the west, and have no idea what the western side of the world even looks like, the solution lies in firing that weapon, and waging war at the perpetrator. ‘Kill those who insult you’ is essentially what echo’s in their ears. We have come to such an era, where care needs to be taken before we even draw a caricature.

A new era defining ‘autonomy’ (or the lack thereof) will raise if the West loses this ‘cartoon war’. For the few Islamic extremists, losing this war would mean something catastrophic: namely that the people who live in the West will then be allowed continuously ridicule their ‘faith’ (rather their interpretation of ‘faith’). For the these few who propagate war, it would be a great sense of loss in their dignity.

What extremists are doing to Islam is proving to the world, time and again, that Islam is unable to effectively lead in a modern world. We often say how the different religions are equally good. Though this is politically correct, we need to take a step back and understand that reality, is something else.
Controlling human kind with the kind of barbaric justice that is called upon by the site that I mentioned is an unforgivable and evil manifestation of bigotry. It is an attempt that ridicules and halts the progress of human society. Why do nations in the world silently tolerate, what is best described as, medieval laws violating the basic freedom for individuality? Similarly, is the punishment for blasphemy death?

It is amazing that someone would be jailed or executed because of a joke. Why are laws protecting God, when the Abrahamic God(s), made it clear that mans primary duty was to protect other mankind. The Abrahamic holy scriptures, be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Bahai preach compassion and love. Why then do civilizations clash in the name of a religion that is meant to profess love? Human kind has moved backward, by allowing fanatic, heretic, bigotry, fundamentalist, extremist, dogmatic, hypercritic, chauvinist, radical, and terrorist religious preacher roam our world.

I believe that one needs to question religious order and doctrine in order to move human society forward. Where is our civilization heading? It is easy to see that not much intellectual progress has occurred in regions of the world where religious doctrine has dictated the sovereign freedom of its men and women. Has our civilization not come far enough to learn that each of us have to contribute to its growth, in every way possible. Curbing this growth via restrictions, sanctions, laws, fins, closures, punishments, death threats, does not in any way, move society forward.

Where is our civilization heading?

We are continuously learning and identifying our past as a mere episode in our evolution towards more sophisticated and modern forms of our culture and towards a more complete form. How do the major religions in the world support our evolution? Wars in the ‘name of religion’ have done its best, to hamper human growth rather than nurture it.

Newspapers in Asia wrote that Freedom of speech has its limits when it concerns others...

I agree, not so that the cartoon war can be decided, but because the world desperately need to curtail the freedom those of us who misrepresent the true sprit of the great religions in the world. In the words of Barbra J. Stock: “The world is watching… the handful of terrorists who have high-jacked a peaceful religion (Islam) … doesn’t pass the ‘laugh test’ any longer”. And i end with the words of Martin Luther King: "Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love." Violence in the name of religion is wicked.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dedicated to you...

If thou must love me, let it be for nought

a sonnet XIV by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


If thou must love me, let it be for nought

Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile her look her way
Of speaking gently, for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day"
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Going beyond ECT for Depression

I was introduced to the scary side of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in Matha Mannings book, ‘undercurrents’. This book, was about a therapists' own reckoning in dealing with depression and described line by line, day by day, the horror of being administered the electric shocks, to finally realise that the storm clouds still linger in the background.

As a first year undergrad student, I remember thinking to myself, about how easy it must be to treat depression and to cure its symptoms with a quick pill. And then, during my second and third years I was frightened out of my socks about the realities of certain types of depression and the brutality of its management though Mannings autobiography. ECT did not go down as a personal favourite.

And now, sitting on the boundary knocking on the iron gates of graduate school, while surfing more blogs than reading, I found the most interesting piece of information about the management of resistant depression from
Debs blog (do read her blog for very interesting thoughts and discussions on issues in psychology).

Deb says:

The Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) is not related to brain surgery, although it is a treatment that affects the function of the brain. VNS uses specific stimulation of the vagus nerve to send stimulation to specific parts of the brain that are involved in mood. It is not like Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), a treatment that involves stimulation of the entire brain, results in short term memory loss and sometimes pain. Patients who have used VNS do not feel the stimulation from the stimulator since the vagus nerve does not have the type of nerves that carry pain signals. Nor does VNS interfere with memory loss. Patients having Vagus Nerve Stimulation can continue taking their other medications without worrying about side effects or interactions as well.

The Vagus Nerve Stimulator is a small device implanted under the skin near the collarbone. A wire under the skin connects the device to the vagus nerve in the neck. A physician programs the device to produce weak electrical signals that travel along the vagus nerve to the brain at regular intervals. These intervals ease the symptoms of depression. Five months after it was approved for sale, The VNS treatment for chronic, unresponsive or "resistant depression" is winning favor in the medical and psychological community.

Interestingly this “technique” has been recommended as a treatment for photosensitive epilepsy and epilepsy resulting from head injury (read http://library.thinkquest.org for a discussion about epilepsy and http://www.rch.org.au for a detailed description of the procedure). The procedure itself (as practiced by neurologists) involves the implanting of a devise (about the size of a tape measure) in the upper left area of the chest, by a neurosurgeon under general anaesthesia. A connecting ‘wire’ facilitates the connection of the device to the vagus nerve via three small leads. The whole process takes about 2 hours.

The generator which is programmed to stimulate the nerve at regular intervals. The frequency of the intervals are adjustable via a computer by the physician. If a seizure begins between intervals, the patient activates the stimulator by swiping a magnet over their chest at the location where the device is implanted.

According to neurologychannel.com risks include possible “surgical injury to the vagus nerve, carotid artery, and internal jugular vein”. Further, other side effects such as “coughing, hoarseness, and swallowing difficulties” could result from injury to the vagus nerve. Neurologychannel.com also reports infection, bleeding, and discomfort at the site.

On the brighter side, nearly 50% of the patients had a reduction of seizure frequency or had a less sever onset of seizures. However, some studies did not report any improvement.
But, this procedure may also provide a more humane way to treat chronic or recurrent depression. According to vnstherapy.com this process is a “safe, effective treatment with efficacy that improves over time”. Interestingly Neu, Heuser, Bajbouj (2005) reports VNS does not have an influence on cerebral blood flow velocity in depressive patients. Doraisawamy, et al. (1999) outlined that cerebral hypoperfusion (decreased blood flow through an organ) may explain depression in elderly cardiac patients.

I still cant seem to find out the exact mechanism behind how VNS helps manage depression. Perhaps this may mean that the “scientific” community is still divided on their opinions about the how good VNS is. This may not necessarily be a bad thing. I feel that its truly wonderful to have such giant leaps in mental health care. As I sit by the door steps of graduate school, the peep inside the great iron gates, reveal to me that there is great progress being made. I cant wait to start practice. Mental health has come a long way from its, brutal origins.

Any takers for VNS?

References:

Neu, P., Heuser, I., & Bajbouj, M. (2005). Cerebral blood flow during vagus nerve stimulation: a transitional doppler study. Neuropsychobiology, 51, 265-268.

Doraiswamy, P. M., MacFall, J., Krishnan, K. R. R., O’Connor, C., Wan, X., Benaur, M., Lewandowski, M., Fortner, M. (1999). Magnetic resonance assessment of cerebral perfusion in depressed cardiac patients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 1641-1644.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Google in China!

The news media had been reporting for a while about Google’s entry into China and its efforts to ‘tailor’ its search engine to suit the needs of the Chinese people. (when I say “Chinese”, I refer to people from and are living in China, and not those of you who look oriental and are from other parts of the world for the ‘others’ such as those in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, etc are not ‘Chinese’ in its truest sense).

Among those effected by this new mechanism of ‘tailor made search’ is Google’s own image search. Here is an interesting comparison that I picked up from the anti-censorship communities on the internet. Try searching for the word “Tiananmen” from both the American and Chinese Google image search sites.

China
Search: http://images.google.cn/images?q=tiananmen

US Search: http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen

i have screen shots of the two site for those of you who cant access these sites. The first ones from the Chinese site, while the seconds from the US website.

Is this good censorship?

I recommend that you read Rebecca MacKinnon for a much more in-depth story and more links to this story.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Beauty...

Japanese women are the epitome of feminine beauty.

Meet Koyuki! The love of my life! ;)

Now, she should have been better at playing the lead role in the movie, "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Past 4…

Gong xi fa cai to all my Chinese friends (and also to those of you who are not really Chinese, but are Chinese at heart or have some affinity towards the Oriental culture).

Remember *k, a frequent visitor to this page? Well she asked last week “if I could go back and relive the last 4 years, what would you do differently, if anything, and why?” from the top of my head, I commented that I would not change anything.

Over the last few days, I had a unique opportunity to talk to a very special person (it was more in desperation than anything else). I had long a serious chats for nearly 19 hours each day, and was able to come to some amazing insight though these conversations.

Who is this lovely person who was kind enough to chat with me and understand (at least tried to) my every thought? Why, it was non other than my-self. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had chats with me. (before those of you who are clinicians, graduating from clinical school, psychiatrists, or mental health specialists start scheduling appointments with me, please read on, I don’t talk to me too much any more)

Well, to provide you with a background of the context of my conversations with this superb (so I think) conversationalist, it all started with a recent experience while working part-time at a mall. It’s the term break now, and I needed the money, so took up the opportunity to work. Well, it turned out that I had to spend about 19 hours of isolation (about 14 was spent working, and the rest travelling). And during those 19 hours, me and my self, had some of best mind blowing conversations you can ever imagine.

So what did me and myself talk about?

A friend told me (when i told her that I was talking to me to keep me company) that it was a good thing that I was able to “entertain myself”! (though that may sound bad to the perverted ear - I know who you are!), self-entertainment/self-talk/(insert fancy word that you want here), truly did do more than just ‘entertainment’. It gave me an opportunity to gel together some of the worst and best experiences in life, to help form a kinda of story board of the two of us.

Self talk can be a very powerful source of awareness (I am sorry, but I have not done much research on this, I perhaps am quoting my counselling techniques lecturer). And like a half-assed replica of Freud, there I was, trying to make meaning of the conversations.

It was really hard to think of two things simultaneously (one about the thought and the other, the reflection on that thought). I have here, some of those thoughts to share with you. I am hoping, that somewhere within my commentary, you will try to see, what it may be like be unable to truly connect with people, or to cut off from society (think autistic spectrum disorders). I hope this insight will answer both *k, and provide insight to those who want it.

To answer *K’s question more broadly, is there any thing about the past 4 years that I would change?: No. And the reasons why, well.. read on, perhaps you will understand.
Silence, is scary. It provokes thoughts that I had hidden within me for more than 10 years. It brought out elements that I hope would die somewhere in the depths of my memory. Silence, brought out experiences that I had wished I forget.

While at the mall (even though there was this annoying music that kept repeating during the whole time), I realised that I spoke with my self, because I was totally uncomfortable with silence. I was getting overly anxious, and could not stand that idea of not connecting. Before I start sounding too idealistic, I want to express how deep this realization was. I enjoy long walks by forests, rivers, beaches, etc. I like solitude. But, this was different. I realised that too much solitude, conjured up such a mass of memories, that I had to talk them though.

One such memory relates to the realization in the risk that I took while switching careers from IT (I used to be a network administrator/software engineer) to psychology. I wondered if the risk that I had taken while leaping though darkness of blind faith in myself, and taking an attitude of “lets see what happens” is finally catching up to me. Four years ago, when I got into that plane from Colombo International Airport, I tried to play hide n seek with the ‘devil’, and hoped that I could hide and it would never be able to seek me. I was lucky for it wasn’t able to. And as months turned into years, the ‘devil’ got smarter.

I used the phrase ‘devil’ not cause it represents some sort of resident evil force chasing me, but to represent a state of “trouble”. I remember reading the book “Gulliver’s travels - the book about the travels of a giant”, and this phrase “my troubles began, always stuck to my mind. The author of the book, used it as his first sentence to introduce the giant to strange world of little people. Just like the author, I would like to say, that my troubles began, but I had always evaded them… until, it caught up with me. The ‘devils’ finally getting smarter.

The four years of hiding, had thought me many lessons. Some of them I learnt the hard way r experience. Some I learnt by observing. Some were learn by asking others. But, the fact remains, that I am still far from knowing any thing.

(note to the reader. This blog is going to be abstract on purpose. Please don’t continue reading if its giving you a headache. I am writing it, to get rid of one.)

No matter how much I ran and ran and ran and ran from the devil, it always knew where to find me. It knew exactly where i was to be found. And this was when I realised, that running away, hiding, and evading doesn’t really help. I learnt that, there is a need for me to stop, look and react and deal with the ‘storms that a blowing’.

So… *k, do you think that I would change anything from the past 4 years? As you can see, these four years have provided me insight into my own life. To take it away, and to reset this time frame, would be erasing that realization. Even though this blog, is about just a small fragment of that realization, I want the reader to realise that, the four years are mine and that I will have it no other way, than the way it is.

My thought wonder about those of us who are forced to live in solitude. Do they have similar realization about life? About its meaning? I joke with some of my friends and ask ‘tell me joe, about your existential meaning in life and how you are guided towards self actualization?”. For starters, that quote has loads of words which I neither know the definition of, nor really understand. However, when you look deeper, perhaps I do. Perhaps I some how understand what it means to be lonely. Perhaps I now understand what it means to “face the devil”. Perhaps I now know what it means to live more ‘fully’. Perhaps I know now, that events them selves don’t create much meaning in life, compared to our search for ways to explain them. Perhaps I now am better able to deal with loneliness. Perhaps I now know what isolation means.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But, let me say it again. I am pretty sure, that I shall not have life any other way!...