Imaginary triangles, Buddhist texts, and psychedelic ego-death

An artist painting himself: his ‘self’ — whatever that means (Source)

We want to be ourselves, we want to love ourselves, we want to improve ourselves — despite the fact that we sometimes can’t help ourselves.

What is this ‘self’ that we’re so preoccupied with? We know that psychological growth involves a healthier and more appropriate relationship with ourselves. But what exactly that ‘self’ is remains elusive, obscure, and almost mystical.

In this article, we’ll read about the self as understood in psychology as the ego. Then, we’ll transition into talking about the self as a transcendental subject, using Buddhism as our guide. …


Don’t get too attached to the dog in this image (Source)

Your pet gets sick, nears the end of its life, and becomes severely debilitated. It limps, it moans, it struggles to see. You look at it one day and finally decide: it’s time to put it down.

To put down a pet isn’t literal, of course: it’s a euphemism for killing it. But the phrase is nonetheless a descriptive one. Cradling its head in their hand, the veterinarian injects the animal with a lethal dose of sedative. It becomes limp, and losing the support of its legs, falls lifeless to the table. It has physically been put down.

Now, we…


As a young boy in Columbus, Indiana, I attended an elementary school called ABC Stewart. Last night, having been primed for nostalgia by some Thanksgiving-inspired reminiscing, my family and I went through old boxes in a storage room, where we came across the school’s 2004 yearbook.

Evidently, the school still wasn’t progressive enough for two squares to hold hands

The cover features a number of crudely-sexed stick figures of various colors, presumably a signal of the school’s multiculturalism, and not an entirely unwarranted one: my sister and I were one of three first-generation Syrian families there.

On the first page we encounter the founder, matriarch, and principal of the school, Merry Charmichael, whose…


Hunter S. Thompson’s second book, The Rum Diary, remained unpublished for most of his lifetime. But more than half a century after it was written, the novel was adapted into a film starring his long-time friend Johnny Depp, who portrayed its protagonist and Thompson’s literary alter-ego, Paul Kemp.

The film adaptation was a poetic triumph for the late Thompson, who wrote the book as a struggling 22-year-old writer. …


As part of my job at an optometry clinic, I run patients through a series of tests which screen for common ocular and visual disorders and provide the doctor with important information prior to the eye exam.

This routine has become proceduralized, enough so that I can have a relatively coherent conversation while running and documenting all the tests, and yet there are two distinct situations which rise above the mundane and give me an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Stereo #9: a striking display of subconscious knowledge

The image of the world given by each of the two eyes is slightly different than the other. The brain…


What is the quintessentially human endeavor? To face the most terrifying parts of yourself, striving towards truth and goodness of spirit, and at the end of a long journey of self-discovery, to be able to lead others through theirs. To find, in the particulars of one’s own suffering, something of the universally human, and to convey that insight to the world.

This has been the life led by psychologist Marsha Linehan, and the product of her labors has been dialectical behavioral therapy, one of the most thoroughly evidenced forms of talk therapy. …


(Translated from an obscure Sufi text)

Everything in the universe and on the surface of the earth praises God, and testifies to his existence — all of it is the work of the creator, the eternal and self-sustaining, the completely transcendent. Have you seen the sky? He raised it. And the stars in orbit? He fixed them. And your own creation? He made you from a blood-clot, fashioned and proportioned you, instilled in you a sense of right and wrong, and gave you the capacity for speech. All of these are signs for people who give thought.

Dumb, deaf, and…


You aren’t likely to find a more loaded term than the placebo effect. As one author pointed out, it has the quality of a semantic chameleon, signifying different things in different fields of study. To the scientists, it’s a nuisance: something that must be overcome in a research study in order to prove that a treatment ‘really works’. To the doctors — the orthodox ones, at least — it’s a happy mistake: a phenomenon that contributes to well-being, but which is for the most part evoked without their intention. …


Our visual field, the area of perceptible stimuli around a point of central fixation, isn’t uniform: there are some obvious, and other more subtle, discrepancies in our capacity for detection and response, known in the psychophysical literature as asymmetries.

The most obvious asymmetry exists between our central and peripheral vision. This is most clearly demonstrated when reading text, which requires a high degree of visual acuity, the ability to make out fine details of an image. Looking at a word directly, you can see it clearly, but shift your eyes even slightly away from it, and you’ll hardly be able…


Far from the American public’s reductionist conception of it, which emphasizes its sociopolitical aspects and obscures its status as a blueprint for self-becoming, Islam is a religion which is based on the single individual’s experience. Specifically, it instructs the adherent to introspect on his own life by viewing it from the perspective of a transcendent cosmic witness: a divine creator who will resurrect us and hold us accountable by a standard of ultimate justice.

The roots of this idea are no doubt ancient, and perhaps best captured in the striking iconography of the ancient Egyptians, who represented the final judgement…

Farid Alsabeh

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