I just finished a book on words, The Painted Word. It’s amazing what one can learn about oneself by expanding one’s vocabulary. I found out that I engage in sciamachy and omphaloskepsis on a regular basis. I now know that I’m a obsimath with a borderline case of abibliophobia and a full-blown case of dromomania.
What about you? Do you know your value in millihelens? If so, is said value jolie laide or conventional? Have you ever had gymnophoria? Do you groak? When you engage in omphaloskepsis, do you ever find a phlug?
Sciamachy = shadowboxing
Omphaloskepsis = navel gazing / deep introspection
Obsimath = like a polymath, but learning later in life
Abibliophobia = fear of running out of reading material
Dromomania = a crazed passion for travel
Millihelen = the beauty required to launch a single ship (re: Helen of Troy)
Jolie laide = unconventional beauty
Gymnophoria = queasy feeling someone is undressing you with their eyes
Groak = stare at some else’s food hoping to be offered some
Phlug = bellybutton lint
I finished The Painted Word this week. This book is a collection of words that the author finds noteworthy and intriguing as well as the definitions, origins, and interesting usages. There’s a loose theme of art (as the title might suggest), but it’s not particularly blatant and one might miss it if there weren’t quite a so many names of colors that probably didn’t appear in your Crayon box. There are also painting plates used as the books only graphics. Many of the words are one’s that will be well-known to the average reader, but others might be new additions to one’s vocabulary such as: bafflegab (misleading language), farteur (a professional and/or musical farter), and gymnophoria (the uneasy feeling that someone is undressing one with their eyes.)
I purchase a few new books this week, including: The Stationary Ark (a book by Gerald Durrell about running a zoo), Submission (a Story of O-style tell-all / novel by another Parisian woman), Dodger by Terry Pratchett (Pratchett recently passed away. I’ve only read one of his books to date [the first disc world book], but enjoyed it more than any fantasy book I’ve ever read [not my favorite genre.] This one is apparently Dickensian.), and 100 Films to See before you Die (The nice thing about this one is that it’s written by Anupama Chopra for the Times of India, and–therefore–features not only Indian [Bollywood and other] and Hollywood films but also other global films. I suspect that if I got the same book by an American author it would be 98 to 100% Hollywood–i.e. with maybe a couple French films thrown in if it was a particularly pretentious American film critic.)
The only book that I spent significant time on that I haven’t mentioned in past Reading Reports was Gotham Writers Workshop: Writing Fiction. I read about half of this book a while back, before I got distracted by other readings (in truth, I got burned out on writing books.) However, I’ll now try to plow through this to the end, as well as a few of the other writing books that I’m pretty far into. It’s really a good book on the elements of fiction writing.
Besides those, I’ve been reading a book, Yoga Education for Children, Vol. 1, that I introduced last week. It’s the text for the yoga teacher training that I’m currently attending (RCYT). I’m about 2/3rds of the way through it.
Built by the company of Gustave Eiffel, this train station opened in 1877.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book’s title might suggest that it’s about the germ theory of disease or genetic anomalies, but it’s actually about why some people exposed to germs or carcinogens don’t get ill, while other people become ill at the drop of the hat—even when they have no exposure to the immediate cause of illness. (e.g. A Japanese study found that hypersensitive subjects had skin reactions when exposed to a harmless leaf when they were told that it was from a lacquer tree [i.e. that it was mildly toxic.]) It’s well established that stress plays a role in one’s level of health. Of course, it’s not merely the presence of stress, but the nature of it and how it’s dealt with that matter. Our bodies are supremely skilled at conquering invaders and repairing damage as long as our parasympathetic nervous system is engaged sufficiently for our body to do the work of fighting infection and healing. Leader and Corfield’s core argument is that it’s how we worry rather than what we worry about (or even whether we worry) that influences proclivity to become ill. More specifically, the authors propose that the inability to communicate feelings can play a significant role in one’s propensity for illness.
The authors review many interesting studies from medical literature. For example, rhinovirus may be a necessary condition for a cold, but it’s not a sufficient condition. In other words, many exposed individuals never become symptomatic. The same has been shown for tuberculosis, malaria, and a host of other ailments. (It may be true for all ailments.) Another fascinating study found that sporadic bombing in London’s suburbs correlated with higher ulcer rates than the constant bombardment in the city. This suggested that the predictability of a stressor was important vis-a-vis its health effects—apparently more important than the presence or severity of the stressor. Also, there are the many studies about the correlation between certain times / events and disease onset (the most well-known of these is that the most frequent time of death from heart attack is between 8 and 9 in the morning on a Monday.)
Leader and Corfield make a compelling argument in support of their thesis that’s rooted in an extensive review of the scientific literature on the quirky complexities of illness. I’m not certain that I’m completely convinced that what they believe is most important is what is in reality most important. (To be fair, it’s not a matter of deficiency of approach so much as the complexity of disease onset and the difficulty of establishing a hierarchy of importance.) However, the beautiful part of the scientific approach is that even if one doesn’t buy the authors’ arguments hook-line-and-sinker, the book is still a valuable read because it presents a great deal of research–as well as some interesting food for thought on the present state of the medical establishment. I suspect the authors didn’t win many friends with medical doctors, given the strong critique they present. Leader and Corfield point out, what most of us have long suspected, that the money-makers in healthcare are expensive pharmaceuticals and surgery, and that this has created a dangerous incentive. Of course, the authors’ point is that this has undermined the value that psychological approaches might have, but the same could be said to be true for postural realignment therapies or other neglected approaches to treatment. The last chapter is a searing critique of the state of the medical profession that suggests that doctors are disproportionately ill-conditioned to listen to patients and to get to the root causes of their ailments.
The book’s organization is reasonable, but could have been improved. There’s a great chapter on the immune system, but it’s chapter 11 of 15 chapters. It would have been useful to move that text closer to the front of the book so that readers would have access to this primer as they considered why the solution might be found internally rather than in the medicines and surgeries that they are conditioned to believe are in virtually all cases necessary.
Of course, I understand that the authors’ thrust is on the psychological rather than the biological/physiological front, and this undoubtedly played into the organizational decisions. It may be true that the book isn’t about how a body can knock out ailments, but why it occasionally fails to; however, understanding how we defeat illness is an important part of the backstory.
There are important chapters on heart conditions and cancer. These are important not only because those diseases are major killers, but because these are the nasty diseases that many will be skeptical of the relevance of mind-body factors. In other words, many will accept that our attitude and approach to stress may be relevant in whether one breaks out in hives, catches the flu, or gets an ulcer—but may not except that a force as powerful as cancer can be swayed by one’s mindset and behaviors.
I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in how good health can be fostered.
This Triumphal Arch, called the Diadalív or the Stone Gate, dates to 1764.