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Love Lives On

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The gaze of love is not deluded. Love sees what is best in the beloved, even when what is best in the beloved finds it hard to emerge into the light.
– J. M. CoetzeeWhen I was 25, living in Manhattan, and trying to jump-start a career in writing and photography, I visited my parents and brothers in Buffalo two or three times a year. On those trips, I also saw my maternal grandmother.It was painful to witness Bubby’s decline. Though only in her mid 70s, by then she was legally blind, mostly deaf, unable to manage on her own. She had a room at a Jewish nursing home downtown, an institutional environment where I always felt uneasy.On one visit, as I was leaving I noticed two of Bubby’s former neighbors sitting in folding chairs on the lawn. I went over to them. Mr. Klein’s recent stroke had paralyzed one side of his body and frozen half his face; his attempts to talk were unintelligible. Mrs. Klein, however, seemed virtually unchanged since I’d last seen her, more than ten years before. S…

Electrocuting the Ants

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I did terrible things to insects as a child.Like many other boys growing up with nothing better to do, I tore the legs off Daddy Longlegs, incinerated pill bugs with magnifying glasses, and set fire to more than one ant hill. But I didn’t stop there.I was a kid scientist. Spurred on by the early space program and largely ignored by the adults around me, I dreamed of one day voyaging to the stars. Meanwhile, to prepare myself, I read Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury, and other SF masters of the day. At the same time, I plowed through one field of scientific inquiry after another, beginning with magnets and batteries – I built my first lead-acid battery when I was seven – and moving quickly through fossils, geology, chemistry and electronics. But entomology was my most enduring interest and bugs were my favorite experimental subjects.The insect kingdom was convenient for testing ideas that came up in both my scientific and science fictional pursuits. My interest was, I believed, purel…

How to leap tall buildings in a single bound

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The only way to find the limits of the possible is by going beyond them to the impossible.
– Arthur C. ClarkeDuring much of my childhood, I lived in the realm of possibility: machine intelligences, aliens, mutants, future worlds, alternate pasts. Infinite possibilities.My first science fiction book was Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. I was 10 when I found a copy at a Temple Sinai rummage sale. It opened the universe to me. Soon, I was wandering over to the adult section of the library every week, taking out as many science fiction books as the librarian would permit. I also haunted the local pharmacy’s rack of science fiction and mystery novels, trying to figure out how best to allocate my 50-cent allowance. By my early teens, I had amassed a collection of several hundred science fiction books and had read many more.Around the time I discovered Asimov, I decided I wanted to be a “space scientist,” a dream that carried me all the way through my first year of engineering school. By then, I had …

The Cast of Characters

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NOTE: I’ve been working with an illustrator on the characters in my forthcoming book on balance and thought you might be interested in what we’ve developed. Here’s the cast of characters and a brief introduction to them.Know thy self, know thy enemy.
Sun Tzu, The Art of WarThis is a book about balance: What disrupts it, what restores it, and how to keep it going.It is also a story, and like any story, it has a cast of characters.Some are friends and fellow travelers. Some are enemies. In the pages of this book you will come to know them well. But first, some introductions.Al/Alice
We are the heroes of this saga, an epic battle not only for balance but literally for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.UnBalancerThe villain in our story is the nefarious UnBalancer.UnBalancer is a fearsome and sometimes deadly force. It strives single-mindedly to unseat us, and sometimes it wins the battle – but not, as we’ll see, the war.BalancerOur chief ally in combating UnBalancer is Balance…

Miracles

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There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.
– Albert EinsteinI am a miracle worker by trade. Or more precisely, a facilitator of miracles.I state this with humility. My powers are as ordinary as those of the Wizard of Oz, whose only real magic was tricking Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion into beginning a journey out of their self-limiting beliefs.The best trick I’ve found to facilitate miracles is deceptively simple. (Like the Wizard, I, too, sometimes need to be a little deceptive). It’s called the Miracle Question and it goes like this:Imagine that after you finish this essay you do whatever you would normally do with the rest of today. But tonight, while you’re asleep, a strange thing happens: A miracle occurs. This miracle is just for you, and it’s that all your problems and concerns are solved. Wonderful, right? However, there’s a catch. Because the miracle happened while you were …

Got Anxiety? How to Help

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NOTE: This article first appeared on lifehack.org, where I am now a columnist.In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at what anxiety is and how to tell if you or someone close to you is suffering from an anxiety disorder.Now let’s explore the causes of anxiety disorders and the treatments for them. We’ll also delve into the best self-help strategies anxiety sufferers can practice themselves and how their friends and families can help.Types of people who are prone to anxiety disordersThe causes of anxiety disorders are not completely understood, but most people I’ve worked with seem to have one or more of the following: a more sensitive temperament, to have suffered events that felt traumatic to them early in life, and to have endured a period of stressful situations. The combination of these factors brought them to a tipping point that created an anxiety disorder. Specific risk factors for anxiety disorders include:Childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing a trauma…

The Two Faces of “Anxious”

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NOTE: This post first appeared on lifehack.org, where I am now a columnist.“Anxious” is a word with two faces. Sometimes it means eager excitement. “I’m anxious to see you!” we say, as we get off the phone with a friend who’s coming to visit. The other side of “anxious” is a bit darker: “I’m anxious about that test,” we say, when we’re worried about the results. We call the second meaning “anxiety,” and most of us experience it from time to time.In common usage, both meanings of “anxious” describe our responses to fleeting, time-limited events.But anxiety can also have a much more powerful grip on many of us. Without the right kind of attention, it can rule our lives.I’m a psychotherapist in private practice north of Boston, Massachusetts, and I’ve worked with many clients who have anxiety. In this, the first of two articles on a psychotherapist’s views on anxiety, I’ll describe what anxiety is and how you can tell whether you or someone close to you is suffering from it. In Part II, …