I doubt that I’m the only one who looks at all of the random killing sprees going on around us and wonders, “what is going on with this society?” This year a resident of Santa Monica, gunman John Zawahri, 23, is believed to have set his father’s house on fire, then carjacked a woman on the street after firing several shots from a semi-automatic rifle into a bus. He then proceeded to Santa Monica College, where he continued shooting. He was shot in a firefight with police in the school’s library and died on the sidewalk outside. Four people were killed by Zawahri and many of our local community members were in the line of fire, if not immediately affected by what they saw. I personally know of two people who have been traumatized by seeing first-hand what happened at Santa Monica College.
Growing up, it was rare to see or hear about killing sprees targeted toward random innocent people. I would remember hearing about gang violence or certain homicides in the news – like Nicole Simpson – but it was rare, very rare, to see people who would go on a rampage and slaughter people they didn’t know. Yet, it seems like every month we hear of another school shooting, theater shooting, workplace shooting, or other killing rampage. At any time, in any place, one could be a target for a bullet shot by some lunatic they never even knew. There seems to be such a callous disregard for the value of a human life. It’s as if these killers see no difference between taking a gun into a crowded library, theater, or school yard and killing a few dozen men, women and children than standing on an ant hill and stomping on ants as they walk out. How did we get here? What can we do about it?
Perhaps the root of the problem is a failure of our generation to be able to tell the difference between a human and an animal. This generation is one that grew up with the idea of absolute “Darwinism” – the idea that humans are nothing more than ape-like formations that bumped around in the forest for tens of thousands of years until we shed some hair, started walking upright, and grew opposable thumbs. This type of logic, devoid of a Divine Creator, has resulted in a blurring of the line between humans and animals. If you take this theory to its logical conclusion, there is no reason why humans have civil rights and monkeys don’t. For someone who is a strict evolutionist without a Godly Lawgiver in the picture, there should be no reason why killing a human is any different or worse than killing an ant, a rat, or any other living organism. To such a person, when a lion kills a zebra, it is not “morally” wrong, and therefore, how can it be “morally” wrong to kill another human? It may defy societal norms, but such a person would be hard pressed to admit that there is some immutable, unchangeable moral standard.
There seems to have been an attempt to teach our generation that a human is nothing more than an evolved animal. Because no scientific instrument can measure a soul, the assumption is that one does not exist – or if it does, it’s no different that the soul of an animal.
With an understanding of this social ideology, we might now be able to explain why we have been seeing mass killings on what seems to be a frequent basis. When human life is seen as no different than that of a bug which they can squash with no remorse, then it is almost expected that such tragedies will continue to occur in our society. When a human kills another human and rationalizes his actions as “survival of the fittest”, it is a sign that something desperately wrong is happening.
Sharpening the line between human and animal is one way to stop the senseless violence that is growing rampant in our society. One way of doing this is to spread the awareness that our Creator created us with a soul, a purpose, and with love, and that we’re not just evolved monkey-like beings that happened to be. Our society must get back to an awareness of the value of human life. Unfortunately, accomplishing this goal is a long term solution that requires an awaking of the core conscious locked in each person.
There is no scientific way of measuring a divine soul, but anyone who has spent the necessary time on introspection will know it exists. Our generation lacks this basic skill. We are a generation of instant gratification, instant information, and 5 second commercials. Once we get taught in school that we are evolved animals, we become too busy to question the voice inside us that tells us it is not so.
When the drafters of the Bill of Rights added an amendment to the constitution protecting the right of citizens to bear arms, it was done with an understanding of the sanctity of life and an understanding of the difference between man and animal. The idea that a human is just another animal was as foreign to them as the tooth fairy, and therefore there was little harm in allowing citizens the right to bear arms and establish a militia to counteract tyranny and oppression. However, this same fact no longer exists.
While it’s true that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people”, until there is a radical change in the psyche of our generation, it seems like the very least we can do to save ourselves from ourselves is to demand strong gun control laws.
In my opinion, what happened in Santa Monica College is just one example of a certain form of depravity that will only get worse the more the root cause, the disregard of the sanctity of human life, is misunderstood. One solution is to take steps on a personal level. It is within us to recognize the differences among us and take responsibility for our place in this world. We need to recognize the Creator and ask what is wanted of us, and then fulfill that mission.
The Biophysiology of Love and Sexuality: Why We Feel What We Feel
In this survey, we’ll attempt to understand what goes on inside our bodies when we feel romantic love. This will get divided into two categories, new love and long-lasting love. A comparison with parental love, the love for one’s child, will be assessed. Hopefully, this will provide us with insight into the differences between what causes us to feel love towards our romantic interest compared to love for our children. We’ll conclude with what goes on in the minds of men and women during physical intimacy.
Parental Love vs. Romantic Love
Scientists have shown with neuroimaging techniques that a strong romantic interest is as powerful as cocaine, as delicious as your favorite food, as refreshing as an irresistibly quenched thirst and as rewarding as a big monetary payday. Interestingly, a study out of London has shown that particular areas of the brain are “inactive,” or turned off when people attune to their romantic interests. People in the study who were “in love” lost the ability to be judgmental and critical of the behaviors and habits of their partner. The part of brain that allows us to evaluate trustworthiness in others was also suppressed. Neurobiologically, indeed it seems, “Love is Blind.” This is why it is often difficult to see faults in our partners or even in our children.
Scientists have found that our love for our romantic partners and children activate different parts of our brains associated with “feeling good.” For example, the area of the brain mediating sexual arousal is only active by our love for our romantic interests. On the other hand, areas associated with facial recognition, the ability to notice changes in facial appearance, are primarily active by images and thoughts of our children. Some suggest this is because the way we relate to our children is through observing how they grow. We shep nachas, derive pleasure, in taking note of their every transformation. This also implies our brains aren’t expecting transformations, facially, in our lovers, lending credence to the monogamy model of relationships. That is, when engaged in romantic love, the brain is expecting a consistent “face of love,” as demonstrated by the deactivation of this facial recognition region. However, love for our children elicits activity in the facial recognition region of the brain, which is active in tandem with our “feel good” associated brain regions, allowing us to derive extreme benefit from merely observing their bodily, facial, and behavioral transformations.
Many believe that even the strongest romantic relationships always hold an element of being conditional, whereas the parental-child relationship remains unconditional. There are regions of the brain that allow us to perceive that our partner understands the loving gestures we make towards them and further, is able to reciprocate that love. These regions are constantly active when engaged in a romantic relationship, suggesting it is important for us to sense that our feelings and romantic intentions be understood by our romantic partner in order for the love to thrive, continue, and last. In relation to our children, the contrast is quite great. These regions of the brain that allow us to perceive that our partner understands our gestures of love and care are suppressed or at best weakly activated. This implies that our love for our children isn’t dependent upon their reciprocation of our feelings or their understanding of our love towards them. When it comes to our children, neurologically, we love them unconditionally, because even though they struggle to grasp our intended emotional actions towards them, it doesn’t stop us from loving them.
The Neurobiology of Attraction
What brings two people together in the first place? Chemicals in the brain, one of which is called serotonin, coined the “pleasure hormone”, was actually found to be at low levels in the initial stages of attraction, while levels of anxiety were found to be high. Serotonin breeds mental calmness and reduces our propensity to feel attraction, albeit, initially. In Italy, a study outlined that the combination of low serotonin levels and high anxiety lead to a “falling in love” feeling, one where the process of “fawning” begins. Anxiety breeds focused attention, obsession, and intense mental focus on a lover, all being key features of attraction. I would like to suggest that this focused attention that lasts on average for two years, blocking out attention and desire from all other potential suitors, lends evidence, at least neurobiologically that we are built to be monogamous.
In Italy, the researchers further showed a strong difference between men and women early on in a relationship versus later in a relationship. Early on, men who are really in love, with strong feelings for their new romantic interests are found to “soften” up, becoming more sensitive, emotionally vulnerable, and empathetic. This is due to a small drop in the masculinizing chemical in their body, testosterone. Women, on the other hand, experience a rise in this same chemical early on in a romantic relationship, which assists in enhancing their sexual drive and sexual attraction for their partner. Later on, males in a long-lasting relationship were found to have higher than baseline levels of testosterone, whereas females returned to baseline. This suggests that if men want to feel like “a man” then one might appropriately recommend a long-lasting committed relationship.
Researchers in Berlin and New York wanted to understand: what makes us feel pleasure and bonded to those we love? Two chemicals in the brain, predominantly active at different times during a relationship, are implicated in eliciting bonding with another person, thus appropriately nicknamed “bonding hormones.” Early on in a romantic relationship, levels of stress and anxiety are high and this triggers the release of the first of these hormones, oxytocin. Oxytocin first gives us a rushed “pleasurable” feeling, a feeling of being bonded to the person, and then has a secondary effect of lowering our anxiety, giving us a calm feeling. First we feel bonded, connected, and attached to someone, and then we feel a sense of calm. Experientially, many attribute their closeness to someone in a relationship as being the reason for their calm affect, which eventually sets in. Now we see a neurobiological basis for this phenomenon as well. In long-lasting, strong, secure relationships, a second hormone called vasopressin is predominantly active, allowing us to continue to feel close and bonded to our partner even well after the “fawning” or “falling in love” period. Vasopressin was shown to ensure pair bonding and devotion to one’s partners. Neurobiologically speaking, stress and anxiety below a certain threshold is seen as a good thing in a relationship because it elicits the “bonding hormone.”
If closeness induces good feelings, then distance in a relationship can be very painful. There are times people describe actual pain when in poor relationships. People speak of feeling hurt physically and emotionally when they sense a lack of connection or bonding with their romantic interest. Along these lines, researchers in Sweden found that pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, are linked to low levels of oxytocin. Low levels of stress can lead to low levels of oxytocin, and low levels of oxytocin can be indicative of emotional pain, by reduced pair bonding, and physical pain. It appears anxiety is the catalyst for a euphoric feeling experienced in “young love,” as it triggers a “bonding hormone” to keep us bonded with our partners to create lasting love. An associated response to intense stress can be seen in women just after undergoing the labor of ultimate giving, childbirth. A mother appears to fall in love instantly, postpartum, with the baby she bore. Researchers found that there are high levels of oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” in a mother right after childbirth. All of this is in concert with the incredible stress that was just experienced by the mother through her labor pains. Often within hours after a birth, a calming sensation washes over a mother; oxytocin rushes through the mother’s body attaching her to the experience and her baby, and acts to suppress much of the stress response.
Physical Intimacy in Men and Women
Physical bonding creates as much, if not more, neurological reactions to be examined. The first kiss gathers a wealth of information about a potential partner. The exchange of information happens via one’s olfactory sense, tactility, postural position, and of course, the caressing of the paired lips. Kissing causes one’s blood pressure and pulse to increase, pupils to dilate, breathing to deepen, all the while reducing stress for both sexes. Kissing stimulates oxytocin release in men to excite and stimulate our desire for more. In females, however, oxytocin does not rise and sometimes depreciates during a kiss, suggesting that women need “other things,” such as a more romantic atmosphere. Gender differences evolved about the meaning of a kiss. For most men, a deep kiss is largely a way of advancing to the next level sexually. For women, kissing reveals the extent to which a partner is willing to commit to a good long-term relationship and child rearing.
Physical interaction begs the mention of sex. There are stark differences between the brain activities of a man and a woman experiencing sexual climax, by orgasm. Men experience heightened brain activity; a euphoria and level of pleasure similarly seen in heroin or opiate use while in a state of orgasm. Men start “thinking” a lot after they climax and orgasm. Men attain an expansive mind opening moment, presented with an opportunity to think critically and broadly. Women by contrast have a lot of decreased activity in the brain during a post-orgasmic sexual climax. Much of the brain goes silent for women during an orgasm, especially the parts of the brains responsible for governing moral reasoning and social judgment, as well as the parts responsible for eliciting worry or fear. Women literally shut everything out allowing them to be fully invested in the moment with nothing else to distract. Women intensely feel every sensation throughout their body, while maintaining synchronous motion with their partner. Men, on the whole, have hyperactive brains in a state of orgasm, whereas women experience a quieting of the mind, having all fears subside.
In summary, attraction in a romantic relationship is catalyzed early on by a degree of anxiety, which causes an individual to be focused on his/her lover. The focused attention eliminates other distracting suitors and a bonding begins to form. This bonding brings with it a sense of calm. The calmness seduces us into feeling utterly secure about the relationship. Sexually, in a state of orgasm, men experience an expansiveness of the mind, with increased thinking. Women during orgasm, conversely, experience a quieting of the mind, facilitating intense sensitivity for their body’s feelings in the moment with suppression of fear, anxiety and social judgment. It is my hope that you now better understand the neurobiological associations of love and sex.
Words of Wisdom: Melech (King)
מלך (MeLeCH)- King
The Hebrew word for King is מלך (MeLeCH). According to ancient Hebrew wisdom, MeLeCH is an acronym for Moach (Brain), Lev (Heart), and Caved(Liver), in that order.
An insight that can be gleaned from this order is that a true king is someone who first thinks and guides his actions by his intellect (Moach/ Brain), then by his emotions (Lev / Heart) and lastly by his physical desires (Caved/ Liver, is understood as the source of physical desires).
Man, who has been dubbed the “King of beasts”, as the “ultimate homo sapien” (meaning “wise man” in Latin), and who has been made in the image of the ultimate Supreme, can and should allow his wisdom to guide his emotions. This hierarchy of priorities is also reflected in the vertical stance of our very design, with our brain being the highest part of our bodies, the heart below the brain, and the liver below them both.
In contrast, in a four-legged animal’s body, the three are nearly on the same level. Thus, a person is “acting like an animal” when his mind can not exercise its authority over his heart, and his physical desires triumph over his rational intellect and his emotions.
The same ancient insight helps us understand the reverse. What happens when the word for king (מלך) is read backwards and when one first acts with his Caved (physical desires) then with his Lev (emotion) and lastly with his Moach (intellect)? You get the word כלם CLooM, which in Hebrew means a calamity or nothingness. A king can be absolutely great or absolutely disastrous simply depending on what guides him.
As we go on everyday working in our jobs, or running our businesses or dealing with our family, spouses and partners, it will serve us well to remember what direction and hierarchy can help set us apart and transform us into kings and masters over our lives and daily dealings.
Considering this new insight, we may now be able to shed some additional light on the holiday of Chanukah. This holiday has always been celebrated for the miracles associated with it. However, it was also regarded as a pseudo philosophical victory over the Greeks who influenced the world as a primary world power. The Greek way of life and philosophy put heavy emphasis on all of the above components of MeLeCh. They attributed importance to philosophy and thought (Moach), emotions and art (Lev), and desires and beauty (Caved). This influence has continued even in our times, where each of the above areas are independently flourishing around us. Although the Greeks were successful in all of these categories independently, perhaps their mistaken ideology was that they attributed equal or disproportionate importance to them, and failed to connect any spiritual significance to them as an integrated whole. The Jewish ideology, on the other hand, believes in the need and importance of all of these areas in our lives, but instead puts emphasis on their correct order. It is through order and an overall spiritual significance of all three components of MeLeCh that light truly shines.
Orange You Hungry for Latkes?
When you hear of Chanukah being spoken about, it’s safe to say that the first food that comes to mind are latkes. The idea of latkes and sufganiyot (and any other fried food your family may have the custom of eating), came about as a commemoration of the miracle that occurred through the discovery of a jug of oil. The story goes as follows:
After Alexander the Great, a friend to the Jewish people, passed away, his great kingdom was split up amongst his head commanders. Israel, unfortunately, fell under the rule of Antiochus III. To simply rule Israel wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to erase the Jewish religion and therefore forbade Jews from studying the Torah, being circumcised, etc. If any Jew was caught practicing the Torah, they would be murdered. One day, an old Jewish man named Matityahu was tired of seeing the constant disrespect, and called out to the Jewish people to rise with him in rebellion. Only a few agreed to follow him, as many were afraid for their lives. Having been an old man Matityahu was not able to fight for long, and on his deathbed he urged his 5 sons to carry on his mission. He appointed his second son, Judah, to be the leader. After Matityahu died, his children did not fail him. Even though they were outnumbered one to one hundred, the numbers did not scare their small army for they believed Hashem would protect them. And so He did. They continued fighting and continued winning, until Judah and his men went up to Jerusalem, and there was no one to fight. They went straight to the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, only to find that it had been completely desecrated. There were idols and pig sacrifices everywhere. They searched through the rummage to see if they could find a jug of pure olive oil that might have still remained, in order to light the Menorah. To their surprise they found one tiny jar, enough to light for one day. However, there was an even greater miracle. This tiny amount of oil, burnt for a total of 7 days, enough to give the Jews more time to make more pure olive oil. To remember this miracle, we now have the tradition to eat oily foods on Chanukah.
Seeing as I try to maintain a healthy kitchen, frying is not a regular occurance. But if I’m going to fry in honor of this beautiful holiday, I might as well fry healthy ingredients. Therefore, I developed the most delicious “healthy” latke recipe. They are so savory you won’t want to dip them into any sauces.
1 Bushel Italian Parsley
1 Yellow Onion
4 Garlic Cloves
1 tbsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
¾ c. canola oil (for frying)
Process all ingredients through the food processor using the shredding disc for the yams, carrots, and onion, and the blade for the garlic and parsley. Combine ingredients in a bowl and add eggs, salt black pepper and garlic powder. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed with the eggs.
In a medium-sized frying pan, warm up the oil on medium flame. Scoop out yam and carrot mixture, about one large spoonful, gently place in oil and pat down. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side…. and ENJOY!!
Wishing you all a beautiful and Happy Chanukah.
You can contact Valerie at firstname.lastname@example.org for all catering inquiries, and make sure to follow her on Instagram @valskitchensecrets for more ideas.
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