Vertigo interlude, part 3

For context, please see part 1.

I am desperate for the vertigo to leave… I just want to watch some really comfy tv and read and such things…

In the meantime, here are some more lectures and talks that are keeping me company…

Animals

The Extinct Ice Age Mammals of North America

Parasites are Way Cool Because…

Forensic Ornithology is Way Cool Because…

Peacocks are way cool because…

A History of Cats and Humans

The Search for Slow Lorises

Fishes are way cool because…

Secrets of the Crocodile MummiesSecrets of the Crocodile Mummies

Bowhead whales are way cool because…

The Surprising Lives of Insects

Penguins are Way Cool Because…

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Vertigo interlude, part 2

For context, please see part 1.

The vertigo continues… Overall I am still getting better but having better days and worse days… So bored!

History-ish

The History of Local Anaesthesia – Dr William Harrop-Griffiths

Pigs for Historians: A New View of Early America

The Struggle Against Slavery in History and in the Present – Dr Aidan McQuade

Historical Uses of Honey as Food

Ladies, Pugs, and Porcelain

Maria Tatar: The Big Bad Wolf Reconsidered

The Material History of the Color Blue

Cultural Impacts of Astronomy: Astronomy Of Indigenous Australia

Ghosts of women past

Venomous Women: Poison murderesses in nineteenth-century Germany

Holding it Straight: Sexual Orientation in the Middle Ages

Dr Jennifer Evans: “Aphrodisiacs, Fertility and Medicine in Early Modern England”

A vertigo induced interlude…

If you follow me on twitter you will be very aware that I’ve been suffering from vertigo for over two weeks… Hence the lack of posts… And if you’re waiting for a reply to an email, sorry!

If you’ve not had vertigo before, you may not be aware how boring it is… When you’re ill, you tuck up in bed with netflix, a magazine, a book etc.  I can’t… I have only really made it to being able to read a little teeny tiny bit yesterday.  And I haven’t been able to watch anything with much movement, Time Team was about my limit and even then I had to close my eyes when Tony got excited and started running around… So I have been listening to a lot of lectures on youtube…

And I’ve watched some really interesting ones and wanted to share.  This will probably be one of a few posts as there has been a lot.

Language

Swearing as a second language – “bad language” and language learners – UCL Lunch Hour Lecture

Language as a Window into Human Nature

How the Languages We Speak Shape the Ways We Think

The Power of Language

Barking up the right tree: how do we understand what words mean?

Susie Dent: “Dent’s Modern Tribes: The Secret Languages of Britain” | Talks at Google

Elephant: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

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Like the tiger, there is so much that could be said about the elephant but I will try to just touch on points rather than going into great detail – if something resonates with you, find out more.

A fun fact (possibly, I have no evidence) is that despite their great size and strength, elephants are afraid of bees.

Senses

You are probably familiar with the key features of these giant land mammals – their huge ears, their long trunk, the tusks which make them vulnerable to poachers, their comparatively tiny eyes which make their vision poor… There is so much to take in when you see an elephant.

I am reminded of the tale of the blind men and the elephant.  What you perceive is only part of a whole, the view may be completely different from where someone else stands, even if they are right beside you.  We are also reminded in this tale that sight is not a sense available to everyone.  The elephant, with it’s poor eyesight, relies much more on its other senses.  As I’ve mentioned before, we tend to be a very visual society and the elephant is asking us to play with our others and not just rely on what we see.

The trunk of an elephant is amazing.  Just amazing.  They are born with short trunks which grow rapidly and they have to master controlling it.  Which is not as easy as it sounds.  The human tongue is controlled by 8 muscles, the human body as a whole is controlled by less than 700 muscles.  The elephant’s trunk is controlled by 40,000.

Let’s say that again.  The elephant’s trunk is controlled by almost 60 times as many muscles as our whole body.  5,000 times as many muscles as our tongue.  No wonder baby elephants get a bit confused

That fact alone is pretty fantastic but the trunk just gets better and better…  Elephants use it in many ways:

  • to breathe
  • to smell – they have an excellent sense of smell
  • to make noise – such as trumpeting calls
  • to touch things
  • to drink
  • to pick up things – they can lift up to 350kg
  • to reach high places
  • to snorkel with
  • to spray water over themselves

How awesome is that?!  And this adaptability, flexibility and making the most of what you have is something we can all learn from.

They also have what’s called a pharyngeal pouch at the base of their tongue which can store up to a gallon of water for emergency use.  A good reminder to always be prepared!

Sort of related to senses, are the tusks.  Tusks are overgrown teeth (hence vaguely related to the sense of taste).  For African elephants, both males and females have tusks whereas for the Asian elephant, it is only the males.  The tusks can sometimes look a bit cumbersome and certainly are the main reason why elephants are in danger, with ivory selling for exceptionally high prices.  If you want to know more about this, watch the ivory game (on netflix at the moment).

So, why have tusks?  Well, they are used to dig for water and food, they are used to mark trees, they help the elephant to clear debris such as branches from the path and they are used in fighting.  There are apparently reports of elephants trying to hide their tusks when humans are around… a sad state which tells us lots about the poaching industry as well as the intelligence of this animal.

The tusks and the trunk do mean that elephants are excellently equipped with their own built in tool kit.

Matters of the heart and mind

Elephants are social animals for whom family is very important.  They are sensitive, compassionate and loyal and are regularly seen helping each other out.  They spend most of their lives in single sex groups, meeting up for mating.  The female herd is led by one of the oldest elephants and great respect is shown for her.  This elephant will have a mental map of migration routes which has been passed down from generation to generation.  Our society on the otherhand is one which is increasingly devaluing our elders, disparaging the wisdom of age and disconnecting from our ancestors.  This may be asking you to reflect on that.

Male elephants are a symbol of virility and firey passion, given this perhaps our elephant is a male?

It is said that the elephant is a symbol of chastity – they have a gestation period of over two years and once they have given birth, they don’t have sex again for 3 to 5 years.  During this time, they are devoted to motherhood and teaching their baby how to be an elephant.  Other members of the herd will join in with this and show mum how to help her baby if need be.

Elephants are said to feel emotions deeply and to grieve for lost family members.  There are also stories of them helping out people and animals of other species including standing guard over injured people, proving shade and protection.

In addition to a big heart, these intelligent and endearing creatures have unusually an large hippocampus, the part of the brain which deals with memory, so the elephant may indeed never forget.

Myths

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In some parts of Africa is was believed that the dead would return as elephants, again tying us to the idea of our elders, our ancestors and respecting their knowledge and wisdom.

In terms of Asian beliefs, elephants are associated with lightning.  For example, Airavata, a great white elephant from Hindu mythology, could fly, call down thunderstorms and create rainbows, surely a sign of their power.  There is also Ganesha, a god who could remove obstacles for people which stand in their way of success.  Buddha is said to have been a white elephant before being reincarnated as a human, a sign of their gentle nature perhaps?

In the west, where such animals weren’t seen, they were viewed as an emblem for the weird, unusual and a bit useless, hence our phrase white elephant.

Lion: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

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Look at this guy, he’s calmly surveying his domain and it’s clear he’s proud about what he sees!

The lion.  The icon of the African savanna.

But we shouldn’t forget about the Asiatic lion which seems to get far less press despite being endangered.

As I’m sure you all know, it is the male lion who has the mane and thus we shall focus on him.  Although in my opinion, the female lion is far more interesting… Perhaps at a later date I shall do a post about her as well…

The lion

As a species, lions are more sociable than most cats and generally live in prides which are made up of females, their offspring and one or two males.  Where fatherhood is concerned, lions have variable temperaments… some will allow cubs to play with their tails whilst others will bat cubs away.  The male lion often spends some of it’s life in a nomadic existence, having been kicked out of their birth pride.

Generally it is the females who hunt, cooperatively (see, they’re far more interesting already…) and the male just hangs around, possibly keeping an eye on the cubs… and then dominates the kill once it’s been made… This is a king who is milking his status for all it’s worth… He literally does get the lion’s share of the food…

The mane is the key feature of males although very very rarely, females have been known to have one.  The darker the mane, the healthier the lion and thus the more attractive to females.

They spend a lot of time sleeping, like most cats, and tend to hunt at night or dusk.  Although they prefer to scavenge, presumably as it’s more energy efficient.  See also the hyena which has a difficult relationship with the lion where food is concerned…

Of all of the big cats, lions have the most developed frontal cortex, the part of the brain which is associated with voluntary movement, planning and predicting consequences.  This card is asking you to use the power of your mind.  Yes, you have the strength to leap straight into an intense physical fight, but that’s often not the best way forward.  As we’ll see in the strength card from the wild unknown tarot, being able to control our emotions and tame our feelings is often a much better way.  That leaves you able to direct your energy and physical strength in a more focused and more productive manner.

The male lion may have been pictured for his leadership qualities.  Or for his force of personality, his power, his strength or his dignity.  These graceful beasts are also associated with protection.  Whilst males and females will defend the pride, it is the male who is physically more suited to the task.

Just a little about the lioness

I’m sorry, I can’t help myself, the lioness is far more interesting…  They are amazing hunters.  Males do hunt but far less so.  Lionesses on the other hand are experts.  They have the largest jaw of the cats which they use to suffocate their prey, unlike a lot of cats who sever the neck.  They hunt in packs and have a highly coordinated approach where everyone knows their role.  Their tactical approach means they can take down bigger prey and have more chance of success.  They go for an ambush style kill as, whilst they can run fast, they can’t run far and are much more designed for sprint and pounce.  This only works is everyone is part of the team and carries out their part.

 

Culture

The lion is often used to symbolise royalty, although feelings about the lion do vary across the world.  In some parts of the world the lion is a sign of healing whereas in other parts they are considered lazy and gullible.  In ancient Egypt, it was the lion’s hunting prowess that was revered and they were associated with war gods.  In Hinduism, lions are associated with gods and are considered sacred and lions feature on emblems, coats of arms etc the world over.

Do you recall the story of the lion and the mouse?  In the post about the mouse we considered the world from her viewpoint – everything was so big and overwhelming.  Think about the world from the lion’s eyes – there are few threats (only really other lions and humans), everything appears to be masterable, size is no issue as you are pretty big yourself… But, in the fable, the lion was brought down by a simple net and could not escape without the tiny mouse’s help.  Don’t overlook the little things and don’t get overly confident about your sense of power.  It’s easy to be calm if nothing is threatening you, what matters is how you act when there is a danger.

We have the constellation Leo which gives us the zodiac sign of the same name.  The story goes that the lion was killed by Hercules during his twelve labours.  The lion had take women hostages and was unable to be killed by any weapon.  Hercules realised he would have to kill the lion with his own hands and thus snuck into the cave.  When the lion pounced, Hercules grabbed it and bent it backwards breaking its back.  The trapped women were freed and Zeus placed the lion in the sky to remember this act of bravery.

In terms of the zodiac, Leo people are supposed to be outgoing, creative, enjoy the spotlight, natural born leaders and passionate.

 

The lion is almost always associated with the sun, despite being more active at night.  Perhaps this is down to his colouring, lions being seen more often during the day or simply because his traits are those associated with the sun.  As we’ve seen before, the sun is about confidence, it’s about being true to yourself, putting yourself out there, energy and power.

Wild Unknown Tarot

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lion is pictured on the strength card.  But don’t overlook the details.  This lion is carefully holding a rose in it’s mouth.  Whilst it is a symbol of strength it is also showing gentleness.  There is strength in non-action, there is strength in kindness, there is strength in vulnerability.  Strength is not all about physical action.

Dreamwatcher

Oh my gosh, I love the internet but wow can it bring you down…

Everywhere you look there is someone telling you that your dreams will come true if you wake up an hour earlier, do this, do that… here’s my story of how I took these three simple steps and my hopes and wishes all came true.  Blah blah blah.

As I said in a recent email to the awesome Meg from That Hummingbird Life (check out her recently revamped website which is not at all like what I am about to describe!):

“So many sites are like things were shit and then I discovered smoothie drinking headstanding yoga dance and now it’s all sunshine… Which is frustrating to read about. I’ve had depression as long as I can remember, my earliest memory of it was at 7 so at least 23 years, it’s probably not going away however many early morning sunrise spinach drinks I have.”

And to all the people who say anything is possible if you just try hard enough, it isn’t.  I can’t be an astronaut.  I am quite simply too short.  To say nothing of my disability which no power of the mind will overcome.  I can’t be president of the United States, I am not an American citizen.  I can’t run a marathon, I can’t even walk to the nearest shop.

Some things are impossible.

And it drives me to frustration when people try to argue against that.  Can you imagine the day to day experience of constantly dreaming of travelling the world when it takes almost a year of trying to finally organise a trip to see your sister who lives a mere 100 miles away?  The crushing disappointment that you would face every moment you dreamed of your impossible dream would probably break you.  It would certainly break me.

Which is why I don’t dream the impossible.

Out of self protection, over the last few years, I have actually lost my ability to dream.  Faced with severe depression, anorexia, increasing levels of pain and fatigue, continuing developments with my EDS, needing care, retiring and more, I have closed off my hopes.  So many ideas for my future have been snatched away in the last few years that I couldn’t go on dreaming.  And those small wishes I had became impossible in the face of everything else.  I desperately wanted to go to New Zealand.  But to go with a carer would mean paying them and paying double for everything.  Flights and accommodation quickly mount up to £10,000 which I will probably never have because of how my care contributions are worked out.  Friends repeatedly tell me not to give up, if I want it hard enough etc etc… But I can’t keep pinning my hopes on a one in a million shot.  It would break my heart, my soul and then my body.

So I closed myself off from my dreams.  Which is a really shit place to live.

And when you are faced with website after website telling you how to achieve your dreams and to just go for it, it all gets a bit sad.  I can’t even make the first step towards my possible or impossible dream because I haven’t a clue what it might be…

I am grateful that I was able to shut that part of my mind off for a bit, as I said, I don’t think I could have coped if I’d had to face my crumbling dreams head on whilst dealing with everything else.  But now, now feels like a time to start reopening that door.  Not to the impossible.  Just to have a vague idea of what the rest of my life might look and feel like.  After all, 40 odd years left without working gives a lot of empty time…

I’m doing some art work with a friend and we’re both working on canvases which are looking really cool and I’ll probably write more about that some time.  Anyway, recently we realised that mine looks a bit like a dreamcatcher which is so relevant to my little ponderings about dreaming.  I wrote a note in my diary so I’d remember that was the direction I wanted to take my piece in.  Then, when I looked at it this week, I realised I’d written dreamwatcher instead of dreamcatcher…

Zebra: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck

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When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras.  Except for all the many cases when they belong to zebras…

In the medical world, this phrase means don’t leap to the exotic diagnosis and overlook the obvious.  Which is fine, except when you are a zebra and everyone is telling you that you’re a horse… As in the case of Ehlers Danlos Syndome, the condition I have.

Anyway, that aside, let’s look at the animal type of zebra…

Zebras are part of the horse family so do take a look at the post for horse as there will be so overlap.

As you probably know, they have black and white stripes which are unique, like fingerprints, and ask us to be proud of our individuality.  The stripes may have a number of purposes; camouflage, visual identification, possibly to keep them cool and possibly to deter flies.  Interestingly, when you see a herd of zebra on the horizon, their stripes can make them appear like a mirage, questioning our sense of what is reality and what is illusion.

In terms of family life, they live in herds; one male and his harem of females.  There is a strict social order with an alpha female who gets to mate first with the stallion.  New mares go to the bottom of the pecking order.

In terms of the next generation, females have a gestation period of a year after which it is essentially for survival that the foal is virtually born running.  Zebras are very protective parents and have been observed risking their own life for that of their young.

Safety in numbers is key for this animal – their black and white stripes are most useful for camouflaging them when they are together in a large group.  Instead of using their stripes to blend into the background, they blend into each other which makes it hard for predators to spot and thus kill individual zebras.  This strategy really emphasises the importance of the herd – without it, the camouflage is useless.  This tight knit family really does need each other to survive.  Who is in your herd?

Remember though that their stripes talk to us of individuality, and this combined with the intimate community, asks us to look at how we can maintain our uniqueness whilst still fitting into our tribe.

Like the horse, the zebra is associated with movement.  Whilst they are slower than horses, they have great stamina which helps them when being chased.  They are well known for their long migration and are restless, not staying in one place for long.

This restlessness is exacerbated when the zebra is under stress, leading to unpredictable, skittish behaviour.  They panic and when they being chased, they run in a zig zag movement to try and outmanoeuvre the predator.  How do you react under stress?

Zebras are considered untamable with a wild nature and no concern for our rules but their social structure suggests that they do follow the rule of the zebra.  I’m not suggesting you should go and break lots of rules, but I think this may be a call to consider why the rules are there, which rules feel more relevant and which you feel you can cast off.

In terms of folklore, the main references I could find were African tales about how the zebra got its stripes.  It was once white but got into a fight with a baboon.  The zebra kicked the baboon and lost it’s balance, falling into a fire.  The sticks scorched the zebra leaving black marks all over its white coat.  A different tale says that overworked donkeys sought advice from a wise man who offered to paint them so no one would know they were donkeys.

I asked the Zebra,
are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Are you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?

– Shel Silverstein