Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shigeaki Hinohara - his life

At the age of 97 years and 4 months, Shigeaki Hinohara is one of the world's longest-serving physicians and educators. Hinohara's magic touch is legendary: Since 1941 he has been healing patients at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo and teaching at St. Luke's College of Nursing .  After World War II, he envisioned a world-class hospital and college springing from the ruins of Tokyo;  thanks to his pioneering spirit and business savvy, the doctor turned these institutions into the nation's top medical facility and nursing school. Today he serves as chairman of the board of trustees at both organizations.

Always willing to try new things, he has published around 150 books since his 75th birthday, including one "Living Long, Living Good" that has sold more than 1.2 million copies. As the founder of the New Elderly Movement, Hinohara encourages others to live a long and happy life, a quest in which no role model is better than the doctor himself.

Doctor Shigeaki Hinohara - JUDIT KAWAGUCHIPHOTO

Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot. We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It's best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.

All people who live long   regardless of nationality, race or gender   share one thing in common:None are overweight... For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work.. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat..

Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full until 2014, with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I'll have some fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics!

There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old. Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100...

Share what you know. I give 150 lectures a year, some for 100 elementary-school children, others for 4,500 business people.. I usually speak for 60 to 90 minutes, standing, to stay strong.

When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can't cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.

To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.

My inspiration is Robert Browning's poem "Abt Vogler." My father used to read it to me. It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that there is no way we can finish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the distance.

Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke's we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.

Don't be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: You don't know when your number is up, and you can't take it with you to the next place.

Hospitals must be designed and prepared for major disasters, and they must accept every patient who appears at their doors. We designed St.... Luke's so we can operate anywhere: in the basement, in the corridors, in the chapel. Most people thought I was crazy to prepare for a catastrophe, but on March 20, 1995, I was unfortunately proven right when members of the Aum Shinrikyu religious cult launched a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway. We accepted 740 victims and in two hours figured out that it was sarin gas that had hit them. Sadly we lost one person, but we saved 739 lives.

Science alone can't cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.
Life is filled with incidents. On March 31, 1970, when I was 59 years old, I boarded the Yodogo, a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka . It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as Mount Fuji came into sight, the plane was hijacked by the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction. I spent the next four days handcuffed to my seat in 40 degree heat. As a doctor, I looked at it all as an experiment and was amazed at how the body slowed down in a crisis.

Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at DukeUniversity in North Carolina . He was a pioneer and one of my heroes. Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the problem.

It's wonderful to live long.   Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one's family and to achieve one's goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ghost in the Shell 1101010100100010101010100101

On the Hard disk of a computer all data is a simply 1's and 0's (one's and zero's).

10100101010010010001 000111110101010101011110101 01001010010101001010 10010100101110100

0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111
01001010010 1010010101 0010100101110100
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011
010010100101010010 1010010100101110100
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011

Patterns like these are all you would see if you examined the structure directly.
It would look random, and for all intents and purposes it WOULD be random.

For our human minds to get a grip on those 1's and 0's we take blocks of them and give them a label.
The letter 'H' is given the number 72 which in binary format looks like: 1001000
A computer has no trouble reading 1001000 in fact that is the only way it reads anything.
If I was going to write the world 'Hello' this would look like:
H = 72 = 0100 1000
e = 101 = 0011 0101
l = 108 = 0110 1100
l = 108 = 0110 1100
o = 111 = 0110 1111
or a string like this:
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 without the spaces.

More on the way characters are translated into binary codes using ASCII codes here and here.

On a Hard Disk there are millions, billions of 1's and 0's.

Some of the 1's and 0's are designated as the heading of file, other 1's and 0's are the content.
Some 1's and 0's are part of a binary executable file and get put into a microprocessor which acts in certain ways, depending on the pattern of 1's and 0's.
The contents you are reading now, are 1's and 0's on a computer somewhere and they are controlled by other 1's and 0's which in turn depend on other 1's and 0's and so on. Somewhere along this chain the computer waits for my fingers to touch the keyboard and tell it which of the available keys I want to add. You in turn read this, and either continue or decide to move on in search of whatever drives you....

I in turn have an idea, vague and unformed and fuzzy that I want to put out onto this blog. I type, I read, I check if the things I read and see in in black and white on the screen are what I really FEEL I want to say, if they hit the heart of my idea. And this process continues until I say "ok this will do, given the time and energy I have available, this will get the message across".

So far, this is all pretty standard computer engineering and IT stuff.
So what is the point of this article ?

The point is this: - The framework of interpretation determines if the patterns of 1's and 0's I see are meaningful or not.
In other words: the framework of interpretation overlaid onto the data is what releases the meaning, it decodes the information.
And here is the KEY point: That framework is not material it is an intangible, idea.
That framework is an agreement between a large group of people to do things in a certain way. But the agreement is not a material thing. Sure it can be written down, in words but that is simply the agreement written in an agreed form.

The framework of interpretation is what I call the 'spirit'.
The framework of interpretation is the 'ghost in the shell' to use the title of the popular Graphic Novel by Masamune Shirow.

Going back to our example: the pattern of 1's and 0's above would only represent the word 'Hello' if the computer I used, also followed the same system, used the same codes for the letters.
And if it the computer I used read the codes in EXACTLY the same way it was encoded.

If you take the same string of 1's and 0's as for 'Hello'
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111
and you decide (by accident or purpose) to interpret the codes by leaving out the first '0', you would get totally different result. You would get:
1001 0000 0110 1010 1101 1000 1101 1000 1101 111
and if you interpreted that using the same ASCII tables you would get:
144 = a strange character of ' E ' with an accent on top, depending on what system you use.
173 = upside down exlamation mark ' ! '
..... you get the idea.... gobble digook....

Or if you decided to read the 1's and 0's in blocks of 5 or in blocks of 6 you would get a totally different result.
It would be the "wrong" result in the sense that it was not the same system as was agreed to, but in another sense it would simply be another interpretation, useful or not depending on the viewer.

Taking this a step further:

Even the idea of calling information on a Hard Drive 1's and 0's is an abstraction and an interpretation. The actual information on a Hard Drive is in terms of magnetic orientation of tiny particles that are interpreted as a logic ONE or ZERO. There is a framework of interpretation agreed to by the manufacturers that says: "if the magnetic particle is this and that, we'll call it a '1', if not then we'll call it a '0'.

Reality is at every point intimately entwined with spirit, with interpretation, with meaning.

What is really out there ????

That is a matter of how you set your perceptions...... Carlos Castaneda, the mystics of the ages, the Sages, and the religions all offer different schema of interpreting the pattern of 1's and 0's that make up life....

And at this point the analogy with computers breaks down.
The codes for representing letters of the alphabet were chosen arbitrarily ('H' = 72 = 0100 1000).
Yet the reality of life seems to me to point to a commonality and a common reality underlying the mulifaceted physical world.
The code of interpreting life on that level seems to be more in the direction of love, caring, respect, honour....
Yet that deeper underlying reality cannot be expressed in simple words (and even less so in complex words or creeds), it can however ---- be felt ! - it can be intuited.

For me: stories and myths of great numinous beauty do this.
Stories in which the codes of honour, love and respect create a picture of such beauty and longing that I KNOW that everything IS worth the price. I've tried to write my own (here), to capture some of that beauty, but the true masters are Lafcadio Hearn(& here) George MacDonald, JRR Tolkien....

What is more: those stories tell me that I am living inside one of those wonderful myths right now... As we all live in that story.... a story that is different for each of us, yet also a part of the GREAT STORY.

Once upon a time, in a small solar system at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy there was a small planet on which living creatures dwelled......
......and so it goes on and on .... a story that includes you, me, every creature and rock and leaf... in a meaning and purpose so grand if we could see it it would blind us.... and so we take tiny microscopic bits of it and chew on those, argue about those bits.... until our eyes can take a higher intensity and we see more, and more....


- [1] Lafcadio Hearn's (
Koizumi Yakumo (1850-1904) )short stories, my favourites, most beautiful here.
- and more here: Glimpses of the Unfamiliar
- Biography of Lafacadio Hearn here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

making time to write -

your experience about finding it hard to write once you DO have the time makes me smile in recognition. ;-)

I have found that if I have FINALLY and with much effort and frustration got myself "just right" or "just so !" and now I have the time to do what I've been wanting to do, FINALLLLLLLLY then guess what ?

For me: usually: nothing happens. No flow.

When I'm in the midst of things and busy as hell and fighting for things on the behalf of others, teaching, students, friends, etc... then as a balance to all that physical outpouring, suddenly the creative writing stuff works as well.

I've had time to do things, and not used it. Now tend to think: oh well I have to do things that are seemingly not related to my direct aim and then suddenly it springs on me, and I have to jump when the inspiration hits me.
Not ideal but it works - sort of :-) - for me.

I used to try and wait for time write a book.
then I realized the time would never come and if it did I'd not be able to seize it.
I remembered: Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings while a busy University Professor, albeit probably with good support.

these days I simply put out little missives on blogs such as this:

speculations about being alive, musing and thoughts on the Universe
and on academia on:
and on: travelling
and stories:
I write when it hits me and I can squeeze out the time.

I figure that the reason it flows when I'm busy doing other things is: I'm dipping the scales of the see-saw deeply to the right, so to balance the energies themselves will push on the left.
The thing I need to watch for it to seize the creative energies when they come, and harness them to useful things such as writing and creativity.

The danger is getting too busy and having no time to do creative stuff.

A fine balance...

Seems there are not clear standard rules, just whatever works for you.
I'm still experimenting.....
'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'
- Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

another log on the fire: - why stuff happens

If you have played with a log fire then you will know that you need to add more wood to the fire before it dies down too much. In fact you need to add wood to the fire while it is nice and strong.

If you want the fire to grow stronger and bigger you need to add the heavier bigger logs while the fire is at its strongest. That way the flames will take to the heavy log and get into it by the time the current fuel starts to run out.

For a while after you have put the heavy log on the fire the fire will be a bit down.
You have to be careful you don't add too many heavy logs at once or your dampen your fire too much and it will die or take a VERY long time to get back up again.

These thoughts came to me when I thought about how every time things are going really well something "happens"...

This is how I explain those "happening" things to myself.

intent - moment by moment intent - frustration VS acceptance

This quote below, got me thinking and putting my thoughts about 'intent' into words.

"The flexibility of relaxing into what is, even if what is at the moment is not what you want, must ultimately bring you what you want -- first of all by giving you a good feeling about yourself and also by being in harmony with the cosmic soul movement within your psyche. Later, also, the thing you want will come, must come, as a matter of course, following the law of cause and effect. This is the climate which is essential in order to establish the inner knowledge that all fulfillment is potentially yours and can actually be yours through your knowing this."
Pathwork Lecture 149 "Cosmic Pull Toward Union -- Frustration.

I noticed the direction of my intent when I sat quietly and honestly looked at myself. I realized I was running away most of my life. Most of the time I was 'disliking' things. I felt justified in this, because I knew that there was more to life, and that life as I had it now, with all the hassles and ups and down was not the full story. I felt something like the quote below:

"You know deep within yourself that life cannot possibly be merely what you experience from day to day, it cannot merely be what it is at the moment. And because of that, you strive away from the moment. And because of that, you lose the moment. And because of that, you lose the meaning of life, for every single fragment of a moment contains all of life. The struggle to discover the true self and the acceptance of the now are not mutually exclusive opposites. They are indeed
Pathwork Lecture 163 "Mind Activity and Mind Receptivity."

I didn't understand about the acceptance of the NOW. I felt kind of "imposed upon" by reality, and in a very subtle way tried to escape it all the time. Imposed upon by a reality that was not what I wanted, as and how I wanted it. Small kid stuff. Spirit facing physical reality stuff.

Of course form the outside I was just your average guy, I worked in a career, and have friends and relationships etc... and so on. I'm not fundamentally different to anyone else. But I started to notice that my basic intent was one of distaste. One of having to force myself to do what I did (i.e. just about everything) and disliking it.
There was a habitual guardedness and aversion to anyone and everything, oscillating with periods of intensely wanting and desiring something that was missing from my life. This is all normal stuff, everyone struggles with these things.

Once I noticed these attitudes I was surprised.
Then I remembered the few times in my life when I actually was at peace. And I was at peace when I just accepted things as they were, when I accepted the moment as it was.
Usually I rush around like a headless chook[1], I try to cram in more and more into every moment, e.g. I know I shouldn't check my email just now, I should just finish this article, but I'll "just quickly have a look" and as I look I feel this tension that I'm not doing what I truly want to do, that I'm 'running away' and so on and so on.... you get the idea (I hope).
More recently I've decided to constantly bring my attention back to the NOW, to this moment and to do what I deeply and truly feel is the best thing to do now and NOT to feel guilty that I'm doing it, or feeling I should be doing something else.
And you know what ? it feels REALLY GOOD ! I love it. But it is only for short periods right now, I tend to get caught up in the headless chook [2] act sooner or later.

Then I started a new way of being: I would simply observe my dislike of the moment, observe the dislike of things as they were right now, whether it was waiting for the traffic light to change, for the 'idiot' at the front to get a move on, or moving through the queue at the supermarket.
Sounds Zen Buddhist I know, but that's what I ended up doing.

And by intentionally letting myself accept the moment as it was, I was able to drop the frustration - sometimes :-)
I'm not an expert by any means, and I doubt anyone would notice a difference in my daily life, but I notice a modest difference.


I guess one other factor helped me to come this realization: Time.
I'm not getting younger.
One day I will not exist on the physical level.
I keep putting things off into the future.
But I've been doing this for decades... years n years... postponing the time when I'll have all my s**** together and allow myself to be truly happy and at a peace....
Guess what ?
If I keep going like that then that time will NEVER come.
That time is right NOW !
I know this is all basic truths stuff. But the difference is when I really FELT it. It hit home.
Just took half a century or so :-P

I realize that this is life. I realize I have a working body and mind, and I better appreciate it now while I have it. I've seen colleagues and friends lose their mobility, get sick, pass over, and that is the way we all exit one day (unless you are Carlos Castaneda afficionado-master?).
So yes, I find being alive is a thrill in itself, I don't need a lot of money (but I would enjoy it and will work for it gently), I don't need a lot of thrills, because compared to being alive, conscious THIS moment these things are just icing on the cake.

Sure, I forget this stuff all the time. And then I remind myself. But I don't beat myself up when I forget (well not as much as I used to ha ha :-) ).

So then what have I got ?
  • On one hand: an awareness of how I have sent out an intent of distaste to life.
  • On the the other hand I realize NOW is the moment to appreciate life..
I then combine these two things (using story [4]) and aim my intent towards as sense of adventure, enjoying the moment right now.
It's hard work.
But really nice when it works.
Until I lose it, then have to regroup and go for it again... n' again....n' again.....

Intent is a force:
it is a force that operates all the time. It cannot be put into words. But like gravity or a magnet, it exists and it has a direction. It is a force that everything in the Universe has, and emanates.

More importantly it is a force that I and every living thing, every plant, anim rock - every thing - has. It is a force that I give out. I may not be conscious of it, but that does not make any difference. I still give it out. It is a part of life, and it may be the same as "purpose", I don't know.
What I do know is that like gravity and like magnetic force, or like love, you have to FEEL it, you can't "understand" it. And when you feel it, I only ever feel its direction, I feel the

It is hard to teach anyone about 'intent' - you just have to keep trying. There are no real words to describe the wordless.
The main thing I have found is: I need to be clear what my real intent actually IS right NOW. If I'm frazzled, hassled, flustered, angry, agitated etc.... my intent is all over the place... it is scattered not focussed and a mess. I think of it as a kind of pollution of my intent.

As I read back on my own writings I am struck how it starts to sound very Buddhist. Hm....


Carlos Castaneda [3] talks about intent in his books. He too says that there is no "HOW TO" about intent. You simply intend by intending. If you get all mind and head centered about it and start to argue and split hairs, then you have not 'got it'.





Some more Castaneda links below:

Living the adventure story: - how to enter a 'mood'

When people tell me to just 'be positive' or to 'see the bright side' or other well meant advice, it does not really do much for me.

What does more for me, if I tell myself a story and place myself INSiDE the story. It goes something like this:

When I feel overwhelmed by things in life, when the problems (or "challenges") start to feel like a ton of rocks and there is no fun at all in life, then I tell myself a story that I told myself in 1987:

"I remember in Kobe, Japan, in 1987 standing on a hillside at a Shinto Shrine overlooking the city and the sea and playing mind games with myself of pretending I was visitor from another planet and I had the choice to bail out or stick it out with humanity & go down with the ship if it came to that worst case scenario. I felt this love and commitment to the beauty and good things in human beings . I decided to see "it" through all the way, to take the risk of humanity destroying themselves or of struggling through to a new greater freedom. Weird stuff really but it kind of makes sense in view of the things I have learned since. Basically it was an affirmation of life and willingness to continue - how much else it was & in what way and in what context is hazy.

The way I actually decided was to imagine myself in a perfect world where I had all I wanted and then I asked myself if I was happy to just enjoy happiness there ?
Then I thought I`d get bored there and would go in search of adventure ( like the Fool of the Tarot) and where would I go ? I’d go to this life, this planet, & I’d be right where I am NOW ! So in fact I was a visitor from this perfect world... having an adventure of life right now, right here.

I imagined also that since Ultimate Reality (god, source, Buddha, whoever...) is perfect and that one day everything & I mean everything will be all right and so this perfect world would always be there, waiting for me. No matter what happened, it would be there, so enjoy life and do the best you can and smile... :-)

.... anyway something like that was what went through my mind as I stood looking out over the city of Kobe, from the Shinto Shrine on the hill... in 1987"

When I feel frustrated with the society I'm living in, frustrated by the bureaucracy and the stupidity (of course I never contribute to any of those ha ha ha ) then I tell myself this story:

I come from a place of no restrictions and as a game I'm trying to expereience different ways of living. So I tell myself that I am a traveller from another country. I am here to living in this
country to experience life from just THIS perspective.

It feels a little like being a game designer: Let's create a world where the people don't see and know anything except what is written down for them ... etc...etc... Then I enter that world, in fact that worls is where I am right NOW. (funny coincidence that)

I got this idea above from having lived in different countries. When I lived in Laos for some strange reason I did not mind the restrictions, the things that were less than perfect in my eyes, because I had come to experience a different country and I was a curious visitor. The same attitude helped me in Japan: I was there to experience life from a Japanese perspective, and I accepted things that I would never have accepted in my home country.

Then I realized: I had no home country, every country, every society has its unique 'take' on things, its set of restrictions and freedoms and it is part of the game of life to play by the rules of the current game.

Thai people have the concept of 'sanuk' = fun, enjoyable. They make everything they do bearable and 'sanuk' in some way. They add the little curly bits and the small extras and suddenly things ARE bearable. If you have ever lived in the Kingdom of Siam, or Laos you will know what I mean.

These are the ways of HOW I "enter" a story - or a 'mood' as Carlos Castaneda calls it.

I found that story lets me get into the 'mood' better than simply trying to follow simple advice like " be positive " or "cheer up" .

When a friend was trying to decide what to do, I wrote a story for her here. Stories give people more room to move, they give a three dimensional perspective. Advice is like a picture, a story is like a sculpture, you can walk around it and see it from different angles.

There is a great essay called "On Desert Islands" which talks about the life attitude sense of adventure by Dororthy L Sayers, I'm trying to find it and want to quote bits of it here.
More on Dorothy L Sayers here.