Pablo Picasso

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
― Pablo Picasso

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
― Pablo Picasso

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (October 25, 1881 – April 8, 1973) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and theatre designer who spent most of his adult life in France. Wikipedia


By Heather Williams, H.W,. M. (with permission)

February 7, 2024 (

RELEASE – to set free from restraint, confinement or servitude; dismiss; relinquish

QUESTION: Can you release yourself?

STORY: Let’s explore the difference between relief and RELEASE. A pill is a relief. It works for a while and then you’ll have to take another pill. Drugs offer temporary relief. Here is something very valuable that my Teacher Thane said in the very first class that I attended with him in 1970 in San Francisco. Thane said: “Drugs can take you to a higher place – but you always come back to where you started. If you want to LIVE in a higher place, you will have to do some work.” The WORK he was talking about is the 4th Way WORK of using our everyday ego-identity problems, emotional hurts and difficulties as teachers to help us give up our ego-identity and RELEASE our True Identity – our Soul, Consciousness, our innate Beingness. So, instead of emotionally blaming, denying, judging or running away from our problems – come learn how to use this beautiful emotional tool called: RELEASING THE HIDDEN SPLENDOUR.™ This tool will help you to free yourself from difficult emotional habits, patterns, memories. Come explore! Learn more in this wonderful class: Releasing the Hidden Spelndour February class.


“True emotional healing doesn’t happen without feeling. The only way out is through.” ~ Jessica Moore

“Instead of resisting any emotion, the best way to dispel it is to enter it fully, embrace it and see through your resistance.” ~ Deepak Chopra

“We are healed of suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” ~ Marcel Proust

“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~ Louise Hay



Sit quietly.

Assume an erect posture. Sense the breath.

Sit calmly and FEEL the BEINGNESS of your existence. It is here now. It is present and available.

Get your pen and paper and write words or draw lines expressing you RELEASING yourself from old, erroneous beliefs that enslaved you – and entering a new chapter in your life.

Move forward into your day feeling the joy of BEING FREE to BE who you are.

Nine illustrated Rumi drawing quotes to inspire you to live boldly

An illustrated journey

Alex Mathers

Alex Mathers

Feb 21, 2024 (

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.

Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

“What you seek is seeking you.”

“All your anxiety is because of your desire for harmony.

Seek disharmony, then you will gain peace.”

“Gratitude is the wine for the soul.

Go on. Get drunk.”

“Become the sky.

Take an axe to the prison wall.


“Work. Keep digging your well.

Water is there somewhere.”

“When I am silent, I fall into the place where everything is music.”

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”


Do you want to be mentally stronger than most people?

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Alex Mathers

Written by Alex Mathers

Helping you develop mental strength and write better. Regular tips:

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 29, 2024


Photo: Guille Pozzi

ARIES (March 21-April 19): In my astrological estimation, the coming weeks will be an ideal time for you to declare amnesty, negotiate truces,and shed long-simmering resentments. Other recommended activities: Find ways to joke about embarrassing memories, break a bad habit just because it’s fun to do so, and throw away outdated stuff you no longer need. Just do the best you can as you carry out these challenging assignments; you don’t have to be perfect. For inspiration, read these wise words from poet David Whyte: “When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.”

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Many of you Tauruses have a robust capacity for doing diligent, effective work. Many of you also have a robust capacity for pursuing sensual delights and cultivating healing beauty. When your mental health is functioning at peak levels, these two drives to enjoy life are complementary; they don’t get in each other’s way. If you ever fall out of your healthy rhythm, these two drives may conflict. My wish for you in the coming months is that they will be in synergistic harmony, humming along with grace. That’s also my prediction: I foresee you will do just that.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Many people choose wealthy entertainers and celebrity athletes for their heroes. It doesn’t bother me if they do. Why should it? But the superstars who provoke my adoration are more likely to be artists and activists. Author Rebecca Solnit is one. Potawatomi biologist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer. The four musicians in the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha. Poet Rita Dove and novelist Haruki Murakami. My capacity to be inspired by these maestros seems inexhaustible. What about you, Gemini? Who are the heroes who move you and shake you in all the best ways? Now is a time to be extra proactive in learning from your heroes—and rounding up new heroes to be influenced by.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your homework assignment is to work on coordinating two issues that are key to your life’s purpose. The first of these issues is your fervent longing to make your distinctive mark on this crazy, chaotic world. The second issue is your need to cultivate sweet privacy and protective self-care. These themes may sometimes seem to be opposed. But with even just a little ingenious effort, you can get them to weave together beautifully. Now is a good time to cultivate this healing magic.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): If you don’t recognize the face in the mirror right now, that’s a good thing. If you feel unfamiliar feelings rising up in you or find yourself entertaining unusual longings, those are also good things. The voice of reason may say you should be worried about such phenomena. But as the voice of mischievous sagacity, I urge you to be curious and receptive. You are being invited to explore fertile possibilities that have previously been unavailable or off-limits. Fate is offering you the chance to discover more about your future potentials. At least for now, power can come from being unpredictable and investigating taboos.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): I invite you to study the fine art of sacred intimacy in the coming weeks. Life’s rhythms will redound in your favor as you enjoy playing tenderly and freely with the special people you care for. To aid you in your efforts, here are three questions to ponder. 1. What aspects of togetherness might flourish if you approach them with less solemnity and more fun? 2. Could you give more of yourself to your relationships in ways that are purely enjoyable, not done mostly out of duty? 3. Would you be willing to explore the possibility that the two of you could educate and ripen each other’s dark sides?

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Creativity teacher Roger von Oech tells how bandleader Count Basie asked a club owner to fix his piano. It was always out of tune. A few weeks later, the owner called Basie to say everything was good. But when Basie arrived to play, the piano still had sour notes. “I thought you said you fixed it!” Basie complained. The owner said, “I did. I painted it.” The moral of the story for the rest of us, concludes von Oech, is that we’ve got to solve the right problems. I want you Libras to do that in the coming weeks. Make sure you identify what really needs changing, not some distracting minor glitch.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Most of us have received an inadequate or downright poor education about love and intimate togetherness. Given how much misinformation and trivializing propaganda we have absorbed, it’s amazing any of us have figured out how to create healthy, vigorous relationships. That’s the bad news, Scorpio. The good news is that you are cruising through a sustained phase of your astrological cycle when you’re far more likely than usual to acquire vibrant teachings about this essential part of your life. I urge you to draw up a plan for how to take maximum advantage of the cosmic opportunity. For inspiration, here’s poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” (Translation by Stephen Mitchell.)

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): The myths and legends of many cultures postulate the existence of spirits who are mischievous but not malevolent. They play harmless pranks. Their main purpose may be to remind us that another world, a less material realm, overlaps with ours. And sometimes, the intention of these ethereal tricksters seems to be downright benevolent. They nudge us out of our staid rhythms, mystifying us with freaky phenomena that suggest reality is not as solid and predictable as we might imagine. I suspect you may soon have encounters with some of these characters: friendly poltergeists, fairies, ghosts, sprites or elves. My sense is that they will bring you odd but genuine blessings.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Some studies suggest that less than half of us have best friends. Men are even less likely to have beloved buddies than the other genders do. If you are one of these people, the coming weeks and months will be an excellent time to remedy the deficiency. Your ability to attract and bond with interesting allies will be higher than usual. If you do have best friends, I suggest you intensify your appreciation for and devotion to them. You need and deserve companions who respect you deeply, know you intimately, and listen well. But you’ve got to remember that relationships like these require deep thought, hard work and honest expressions of feelings!

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Among all the zodiac signs, you Aquarians are among the best at enjoying a bird’s-eye perspective on the world. Soaring high above the mad chatter and clatter is your birthright and specialty. I love that about you, which is why I hardly ever shout up in your direction, “Get your ass back down to earth!” However, I now suspect you are overdue to spend some quality time here on the ground level. At least temporarily, I advise you to trade the bird’s-eye view for a worm’s-eye view. Don’t fret. It’s only for a short time. You’ll be aloft again soon.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): In old Hawaii, the people loved their deities but also demanded productive results. If a god stopped providing worshipers with what they wanted, they might dismiss him and adopt a replacement. I love that! And I invite you to experiment with a similar approach in the coming weeks. Are your divine helpers doing a good job? Are they supplying you with steady streams of inspiration, love and fulfillment? If not, fire them and scout around for substitutes. If they are performing well, pour out your soul in gratitude.

Homework: What do you want to do but have not been doing it—for no good reason?

J.G. Ballard: My Favorite Books

The renowned English writer reflects on the literature that shaped his imagination.

Photograph: Fay Godwin/British Library Board

By: J.G. Ballard (

J. G. Ballard (1930-2009) was a colossal figure in English literature and an imaginative force of the 20th century. Alongside seminal novels — from the notorious “Crash” (1973) to the semi-autobiographical “Empire of the Sun” (1984) — Ballard was a sought-after reviewer and commentator, publishing journalism, memoir, and cultural criticism in a variety of forms. The following essay, in which Ballard reflects on the evolving impact of literature throughout his life, is excerpted from a new volume that collects the most significant short nonfiction of Ballard’s 50-year career.

As I grow older — I’m now in my early 60s — the books of my childhood seem more and more vivid, while most of those that I read 10 or even five years ago are completely forgotten. Not only can I remember, half a century later, my first readings of “Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe,” but I can sense quite clearly my feelings at the time — all the wide-eyed excitement of a seven-year-old, and that curious vulnerability, the fear that my imagination might be overwhelmed by the richness of these invented worlds. Even now, simply thinking about Long John Silver or the waves on Crusoe’s island stirs me far more than reading the original text. I suspect that these childhood tales have long since left their pages and taken on a second life inside my head.

This essay is excerpted from the book “J.G. Ballard: Selected Nonfiction, 1962-2007,” edited by Mark Blacklock.

By contrast, I can scarcely recall what I read in my 30s and 40s. Like many people of my age, my reading of the great works of Western literature was over by the time I was 20. In the three or four years of my late teens I devoured an entire library of classic and modern fiction, from Cervantes to Kafka, Jane Austen to Camus, often at the rate of a novel a day. Trying to find my way through the grey light of postwar, austerity Britain, it was a relief to step into the rich and larger-spirited world of the great novelists. I’m sure that the ground-plan of my imagination was drawn long before I went up to Cambridge in 1949.

In this respect I differed completely from my children, who began to read (I suspect) only after they had left their universities. Like many parents who brought up teenagers in the 1970s, it worried me that my children were more interested in going to pop concerts than in reading “Pride and Prejudice” or “The Brothers Karamazov” — how naive I must have been. But it seemed to me then that they were missing something vital to the growth of their imaginations, that radical reordering of the world that only the great novelists can achieve.

I now see that I was completely wrong to worry, and that their sense of priorities was right — the heady, optimistic world of pop culture, which I had never experienced, was the important one for them to explore. Jane Austen and Dostoyevsky could wait until they had gained the maturity in their 20s and 30s to appreciate and understand these writers, far more meaningfully than I could have done at 16 or 17.

In fact I now regret that so much of my reading took place during my late adolescence, long before I had any adult experience of the world, long before I had fallen in love, learned to understand my parents, earned my own living and had time to reflect on the world’s ways. It may be that my intense adolescent reading actually handicapped me in the process of growing up — in all senses my own children and their contemporaries strike me as more mature, reflective and more open to the possibilities of their own talents than I was at their age. I seriously wonder what Kafka and Dostoyevsky, Sartre and Camus could have meant to me. That same handicap I see borne today by those people who spend their university years reading English literature — scarcely a degree subject at all and about as rigorous a discipline as music criticism — before gaining the experience to make sense of the exquisite moral dilemmas that their tutors are so devoted to teasing out.

The early childhood reading that I remember so vividly was largely shaped by the city in which I was born and brought up. Shanghai was one of the most polyglot cities in the world, a vast metropolis governed by the British and French but otherwise an American zone of influence. I remember reading children’s editions of “Alice in Wonderland,” “Robinson Crusoe,” and Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” at the same time as American comics and magazines. Alice, the Red Queen and Man Friday crowded a mental landscape also occupied by Superman, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. My favorite American comic strip was Terry and the Pirates, a wonderful Oriental farrago of Chinese warlords, dragon ladies and antique pagodas that had the added excitement for me of being set in the China where I lived, an impossibly exotic realm for which I searched in vain among Shanghai’s Manhattan-style department stores and nightclubs. I can no longer remember my nursery reading, though my mother, once a schoolteacher, fortunately had taught me to read before I entered school at the age of five.

There were no cheerful posters or visual aids in those days, apart from a few threatening maps, in which the world was drenched red by the British Empire. The headmaster was a ferocious English clergyman whose preferred bible was “Kennedy’s Latin Primer.” From the age of six we were terrorized through two hours of Latin a day, and were only saved from his merciless regime by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (though he would have been pleased to know that, sitting the School Certificate in England after the war, I and a group of boys tried to substitute a Latin oral for the French, which we all detested).

Once home from school, reading played the roles now filled by television, radio, cinema, visits to theme parks and museums (there were none in Shanghai), the local record shop and McDonalds. Left to myself for long periods, I read everything I could find — not only American comics, but TimeLifeSaturday Evening Post and the New Yorker: At the same time I read the childhood classics — “Peter Pan,” the Pooh books and the genuinely strange William series, with their Ionesco-like picture of an oddly empty middle-class England. Without being able to identify exactly what, I knew that something was missing, and in due course received a large shock when, in 1946, I discovered the invisible class who constituted three-quarters of the population but never appeared in the Chums and Boys’ Own Paper annuals.

Later, when I was seven or eight, came “The Arabian Nights,” Hans Andersen and the Grimm brothers, anthologies of Victorian ghost stories and tales of terror, illustrated with threatening, Beardsley-like drawings that projected an inner world as weird as the surrealists’. Looking back on my childhood reading, I’m struck by how frightening most of it was, and I’m glad that my own children were never exposed to those gruesome tales and eerie colored plates with their airless Pre-Raphaelite gloom, unearthly complexions and haunted infants with almost autistic stares. The overbearing moralistic tone was explicit in Charles Kingsley’s “The Water-Babies,” a masterpiece in its bizarre way, but one of the most unpleasant works of fiction I have ever read before or since. The same tone could be heard through so much of children’s fiction, as if childhood itself and the child’s imagination were maladies to be repressed and punished.

The greatest exception was “Treasure Island,” frightening but in an exhilarating and positive way — I hope that I have been influenced by Stevenson as much as by Conrad and Graham Greene, but I suspect that “The Water-Babies” and all those sinister fairy tales played a far more important part in shaping my imagination. Even at the age of 10 or 11 I recognized that something strangely morbid hovered over their pages, and that dispersing this chilling miasma might make more sense of the world I was living in than Stevenson’s robust yarns. During the three years that I was interned by the Japanese my reading followed a new set of fracture lines.

The 2,000 internees carried with them into the camp a substantial library that circulated from cubicle to cubicle, bunk to bunk, and was my first exposure to adult fiction — popular American bestsellers, Reader’s Digest condensed books, Somerset Maugham and Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck and H. G. Wells. From all of them, I like to think, I learned the importance of sheer storytelling, a quality which was about to leave the serious English novel, and even now has scarcely returned.

Arriving in England in 1946, I was faced with the incomprehensible strangeness of English life, for which my childhood reading had prepared me in more ways than I realized. Fortunately, I soon discovered that the whole of late 19th- and 20th-century literature lay waiting for me, a vast compendium of human case histories that stemmed from a similar source. In the next four or five years I stopped reading only to go to the cinema.

The Hollywood films that kept hope alive — “Citizen Kane,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “The Big Sleep” and “White Heat” — seemed to form a continuum with the novels of Hemingway and Nathanael West, Kafka and Camus. At about the same time I found my way to psychoanalysis and surrealism, and this hot mix together fueled the short stories that I was already writing and strongly influenced my decision to read medicine.

There were also false starts, and doubtful acquaintances. “Ulysses” overwhelmed me when I read it in the sixth form, and from then on there seemed to be no point in writing anything that didn’t follow doggedly on the heels of Joyce’s masterpiece. It was certainly the wrong model for me, and may have been partly responsible for my late start as a writer — I was 26 when my first short story was published, and 33 before I wrote my first novel. But bad company is always the best, and leaves a reserve of memories on which one can draw for ever.

For reasons that I have never understood, once my own professional career was under way I almost stopped reading altogether. For the next 20 years I was still digesting the extraordinary body of fiction and non-fiction that I had read at school and at Cambridge. From the 1950s and 1960s I remember “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves, Genet’s “Our Lady of the Flowers,” Durrell’s “Justine” and Dalí’s “Secret Life,” then Heller’s “Catch-22” and, above all, the novels of William Burroughs — “The Naked Lunch” restored my faith in the novel at a time, the heyday of C. P. Snow, Anthony Powell and Kingsley Amis, when it had begun to flag.

Since then I’ve continued on my magpie way, and in the last 10 years have found that I read more and more, in particular the 19th- and 20th-century classics that I speed-read in my teens. Most of them are totally different from the books I remember. I have always been a voracious reader of what I call invisible literatures — scientific journals, technical manuals, pharmaceutical company brochures, think-tank internal documents, PR company position papers — part of that universe of published material to which most literate people have scarcely any access but which provides the most potent compost for the imagination. I never read my own fiction.

In compiling my list of 10 favorite books I have selected not those that I think are literature’s masterpieces, but simply those that I have read most frequently in the past five years. I strongly recommend Patrick Trevor-Roper’s “The World through Blunted Sight” to anyone interested in the influence of the eye’s physiology on the work of poets and painters. “The Black Box” consists of cockpit voice-recorder transcripts (not all involving fatal crashes), and is a remarkable tribute to the courage and stoicism of professional flight crews. My copy of the Los Angeles “Yellow Pages” I stole from the Beverly Hilton Hotel three years ago; it has been a fund of extraordinary material, as surrealist in its way as Dalí’s autobiography.

  • “The Day of the Locust,” Nathanael West
  • “Collected Short Stories,” Ernest Hemingway
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • “The Annotated Alice,” ed. Martin Gardner
  • “The World through Blunted Sight,” Patrick Trevor-Roper
  • “The Naked Lunch,” William Burroughs
  • “The Black Box,” ed. Malcolm MacPherson
  • “Los Angeles Yellow Pages”
  • “America,” Jean Baudrillard
  • “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí,” by Dalí

(“The Pleasure of Reading,” 1992)

James Graham “J.G.” Ballard (1930-2009) was a British author and journalist. Best known for his dystopic works of science fiction, his novels include “Crash” (1973) and “High-Rise” (1975). His semi-autobiographical novel “Empire of the Sun” (1984) was adapted by Stephen Spielberg in the 1987 film of the same name. This essay is excerpted from the collection “J.G. Ballard: Selected Nonfiction, 1962-2007“.

How We Sort the World: Gregory Murphy on the Psychology of Categories

“Every category is a simplification to some degree; it throws away information about the thing.”

By: The Editors (

The minute we are born — sometimes even before — we are categorized. From there, classifications dog our every step: to school, work, the doctor’s office, and even the grave.

Despite the vast diversity and individuality in every life, we seek patterns, organization, and control. Or, as cognitive psychologist Gregory Murphy puts it: “We put an awful lot of effort into trying to figure out and convince others of just what kind of person someone is, what kind of action something was, and even what kind of object something is.”

Gregory L. Murphy is the author of “Categories We Live By: How We Classify Everyone and Everything

In his new book “Categories We Live By,” Murphy, a professor emeritus at New York University who has spent a career studying concepts and categories, considers the categories we create to manage life’s sprawling diversity. Analyzing everything from bureaucracy’s innumerable categorizations to the minutiae of language, his book reveals how these categories are imposed on us and how that imposition affects our everyday lives.

In the interview that follows, Murphy discusses his lifelong interest in studying concepts and categories — “the glue that holds our mental world together,” as he’s described them — the impact of his research on his worldview, and the complex relationship between language and categorization across cultures.

What got you interested in studying concepts and categories, and how did this eventually lead to your new book?

I started studying categories in my first year of graduate school. The psychology of categories was fairly new and an exciting area then, because of the important discoveries by Eleanor Rosch and her students (some reviewed in the book). It was clear that the traditional way of studying how people learn categories was no longer appropriate, and we had to develop new techniques and ask new questions. So, it was a great time to be in the field.

But, as happens in many scientific fields, the work began to get increasingly technical and specialized. By this century, much of the work relied on mathematical models and computer simulations in order to test different theories. This is a normal and generally useful progression, but it meant that the average person couldn’t read the work or benefit from the field’s discoveries.

We often feel that once we determine the thing’s category, then all questions will be answered about it.

As I became a “senior figure” (ahem) in the field, I began to think that to some degree we’ve lost the forest for the trees, so I wanted to write about some of the important things we have learned about categories over the past 50 years, many of which are interesting or useful (and some both). Not all of this comes from psychological research; there have also been important contributions from philosophy, linguistics (especially semantics), and anthropology. I also wanted to get beyond theoretical investigations and talk about a lot of concrete examples, from the life-changing to the trivial. I learned a lot from doing research into some of these examples and thought others would find these cases interesting as well.

I want to get back to some of those examples. But first, how do you think your work has changed the way you view the world?

I think it has made me more skeptical of arguments about identities, of people and all kinds of things. We put an awful lot of effort into trying to figure out and convince others of just what kind of person someone is, what kind of action something was, and even what kind of object something is. We often feel that once we determine the thing’s category, then all questions will be answered about it: The person is qualified or unqualified; it’s the right thing to do or the wrong thing; the object must be made out of wood. But division into categories is often arbitrary — not completely, but in some respects. And every category is a simplification to some degree; it throws away information about the thing. If you call me an academic, that is no doubt true, but that doesn’t include a lot of other information about me, nor do I correspond exactly to your stereotype of an academic. (OK, I actually do, but a lot of academics don’t.)

There are a number of different ways to make categories, and they don’t always agree with one another. At some point, we have to make a principled decision about what the category is and why that is the best way to think about it, because the world isn’t pre-divided into nice categories that we simply have to notice.

That’s not to say that disputes over categorization aren’t important. They may be necessary, especially in rule-making contexts like the law or in organizations. But you have to take the entire process with a grain of salt and recognize the limits of what the category can tell you.

You suggest that any human culture that had language must have also had categories. How do words and their meanings influence the way we categorize and understand the world around us?

The relationship between language and categories is pretty complex. One thing to keep in mind is that every content word essentially specifies a category, of all the things that can be called by that word. So, a verb like jump specifies a category of actions that we would describe using that verb. A noun like cat specifies a category of the animals we would call “cat.” However, word meanings are often very complex and extended. They can include very different things.

An obvious example is homonyms, when two different and unrelated words happen to have the same name. From the point of view of the child learning a language, these are confusing, and one of the joys of parenthood is being forced to explain why the flying bat is called the same thing as a baseball bat, why we hear through ears but eat ears of corn, how a calf can refer both to a baby cow and to the muscles on the bottom of the leg, and so on. Children soon figure out that “that’s just the way it is” and have to go along with the crazy word meanings that adults have given to them. But from the perspective of the Whorfian hypothesis — which proposes that the language we use influences and shapes our thought processes and worldview — all such cases are troubling. I don’t think that English speakers believe that baseball bats are in any way similar to the mammal, even though they have the same name. There are limits on how much language can shape our thoughts.

Of course, most words are not homonyms, but many very common words have a lot of different, though related, meanings. So, the word church can be used to refer to a religious organization but also to a building (“The church burned down.”). Surely organizations and buildings aren’t the same kind of thing. So, language is an imperfect clue to what categories we have. Research comparing similar words of different languages confirms this: The categories picked out by different languages can be very different, even when people’s categories are quite similar.

Language is an imperfect clue to what categories we have.

Still, we have to admit that word meanings can help or hinder the learning about categories. If you’re a new skier, hearing people use words like popcorn or powder to describe different kinds of snow may help you learn what different kinds of snow there are and how they affect your skiing. But it seems pretty clear that this vocabulary developed historically in response to the categories that skiers had already figured out. The words didn’t come first, and then people learned about snow later. If there is a category that is important to us, society tends to find a label to refer to it.

How much do categories differ across languages and cultures? Do you believe certain languages inherently foster different categorization systems?

It’s hard to give a specific answer to this. In some respects, the categories of different cultures are surprisingly similar. In other respects, they’re (not-so-surprisingly) different. In the basic, common categories of everyday life, different cultures seem to have pretty similar categories. The differences may be in more social and abstract categories. There’s actually a field of study — ethnobiology — that compares the categories of the natural world across cultures, and to some degree, people pick out the same categories, or at least the same kinds of categories even in very different cultures. Of course there are differences when parts of the natural world occur in one place but not in another. I don’t know the different kinds of birds of South Asia, and I would imagine that the people of South Asia don’t generally know the different American sparrows or wild mammals. That is not very surprising. However, when people in different parts of the world make categories of plants or animals, they tend to make about the same kinds of categories, often based on the biological genus: categories like oaks, sparrows, trout, or roses.

Anthropologists who have studied nonindustrial societies often find that their categories of plants and animals are pretty similar to ours at a middle level. The differences are often found in the more specific and more abstract categories. An abstract category like arthropods is something that scientists may find useful and that you could be taught in your biology class, but it’s not something that people who are directly in contact with animals find at all useful. Arthropods don’t look very similar, don’t do the same behaviors, aren’t all edible, and so on. Knowing about crabs is useful; knowing that crabs and millipedes are in the same category… not so much. Similarly, people often know about very specific categories only when they are actually used in agriculture, hunting, or for some specific purpose. If you raise corn, you will want to know which corn is good to plant, which is only good for animal fodder or is decorative, and so on. So, you’ll have categories of different kinds of corn to help distinguish them. If you don’t raise corn, then you’ll probably just see it all as corn.

So, for most natural categories, the effect of culture is in providing focus and expertise to develop more categories of the things you’re interested in. Occasionally, that focus may result in categories that are specifically designed for a single purpose, like edible fish that can be caught in the local rivers. This is not a “natural” category, and it wouldn’t be known to people who don’t fish or don’t live in the area, but it could be very useful to the subset of people who rely on fishing or engage in it as a hobby. We may all form categories like that in our mini-cultures of special interests and activities.

The second part of your book is organized around specific case studies exploring categories ranging from critical (medicine, race, mortality) to trivial (peanut butter, almond milk, parking regulations). We could probably dedicate separate discussions to each of those, but since it’s not feasible to cover any of them comprehensively here, can you share the broader insights these diverse case studies collectively offer about the nature of categories?

Theories of categories are useful only insofar as they tell us about real examples. If they can only be applied to artificial and simplified situations (as in many psychology experiments), they aren’t of much use. So, my goal was to show how the different aspects of categorization play out in real examples. Some of these are outright silly, such as whether a burrito is a sandwich, or the famous case of whether Pringles are potato chips. Others are extremely important to the people involved and to society as a whole, such as racial or legal categories.

What’s interesting to me is that the same issues arise for the trivial and serious categories, such as the difficulty of making a definition that works, beliefs that categories have essences, and problems of fuzzy boundaries. Sometimes the law steps in, to tell us just how much peanut something must have to be sold as peanut butter or exactly what criteria must be met for someone to be declared dead. But such rules still allow for unclear cases, and often people don’t know or don’t follow those rules in their everyday lives. So, there are at least two categories: the official one based on the law and the one that most people actually use.

Is there anything else you think our readers should know?

I had the idea early in my career that science might step in and tell us what the answers are, at least for some categories. However, many scientific categories have the same problems as our everyday categories do. The case of Pluto is one that many people know. During the debate over whether Pluto is a planet, it came to light that there was no definition of what a planet is. Oops! And I discovered, to my dismay (which I share in the book), that there is little agreement in biology over how to determine what a species is. The problem, I argue, is not in science or in our human institutions, but in the world, which is extraordinarily complex. There are many different valid ways of dividing up the entities in the world, and we have to figure out which ones are useful to us. That’s why understanding how and why we make categories is itself an important goal. The world doesn’t give us categories for free — we have to make them ourselves.

Gregory L. Murphy is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at New York University. He is the author of “The Big Book of Concepts” and “Categories We Live By.”

Tarot Card for February 29: The Three of Cups

The Three of Cups

The Lord of Abundance is a warm and joyous card, which indicates a rare and precious type of love – a love which, once experienced, reminds us of the richness of shared emotion and commitment.It is also a card which refers to the wellspring of fertility, whether spiritual or material. Here we see the first seeds sown of a bright and bountiful harvest. Accordingly, the card will sometimes come up to indicate high days of celebration – like weddings or other intimate celebrations of love.The emotional quality represented by this card is deep and unusual – indicating the love felt not only by lovers, but also the love between close friends, or family. These relationships are gifts, which need to be cared for with great respect and gratitude.The Lord of Abundance offers one word of warning – this type of love cannot be created, nor engineered. When it occurs in our lives we are lucky and blessed. Some people spend a lifetime looking for such depth of emotion. And sometimes, people try to pretend it exists where it does not. So when you raise this card in a reading be aware that you are fortunate indeed!

Neural Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism in a Post-communist Country

Credit: Getty Images

Jan Kremláček,1,* Daniel Musil,2 Jana Langrová,1 and Martin Palecek2

Author information Article notes Copyright and License information PMC Disclaimer


A previous experiment showed that there was a strong correlation between conservatism/liberalism and brain activity, linked to an error response (r = 0.59, p < 0.001) in the USA political environment. We re-ran the experiment on a larger and age-homogeneous group (n = 100, 50 females and 50 males, aged 20–26 years) in the Czech Republic; a European country with a different sociocultural environment and history. We did not find a relationship between the brain activity connected to conflict monitoring and self-reported conservatism/liberalism orientation (ρ = −0.11, p = 0.297) or conservatism/liberalism validated for the USA agenda (ρ = −0.01, p = 0.910). Instead of replicating the previous study, we decided to test the hypothesis under a different socio-cultural context. Our results support a view of self-reported or validated, conservative or liberal attitudes as a complex behavioral pattern. Such a behavioral pattern cannot be determined with statistical significance, using a simple Go-NoGo detection task, without accounting for confounding factors such as age and socio-cultural conditions. Sufficiently powered studies are warranted to evaluate this neuro-political controversy.

Keywords: error related negativity, political attitude, liberalism, conservatism, neuropolitics


Political orientation significantly affects behavior and decision making on an individual and social level. Increasingly there are attempts to describe the factors that shape political orientation across anthropological directions with political neuroscience (Jost et al., 2014). Neuroscientific methods with objective measurements can verify or generate hypotheses related to the political orientation with conservative stance, characterized by closeness and holding tradition vs. a liberal orientation associated with openness and bringing about a change in the order (Jost and Amodio, 2012). Several studies advocating a strong correlation between neurocognitive settings and political preference continues to increase over time (for review, see Schreiber, 2017).

A recent study (Amodio et al., 2007), hereinafter referred to as Am2007, demonstrated that a person’s self-reported political attitude may be closely linked to a neural correlate accompanying a repeated error response, the error related negativity (ERN), in a simple laboratory detection task. The authors found a statistically significant relationship between the amplitude of the ERN and self-evaluation on the liberalism/conservatism (L/C) axis. They demonstrated that participants who presented a higher degree of liberalism in their answers had a larger ERN amplitude, and this fact was interpreted as a higher sensitivity to incentives for change to established rules.

The ERN represents a negative component of event related potentials (ERP) culminating above the medial-frontal cortex, about 50 ms after the moment of an error response (Gehring et al., 2012). Probable neural origins of ERN are localized in the frontomedial cortex, the anterior and rostral cingulate cortex, and the adjacent supplementary motor cortex (Iannaccone et al., 2015), as was also demonstrated by intracortical recordings (Brázdil et al., 2005). The ERN, characterized as a response to conflict, is behavior- and context- dependent. The ERN changes with several factors, such as personal characteristics, psychopathology, age, condition of neurotransmitters (diet, previous experiences) or relationship to the task being performed (Gehring et al., 2012; Larson et al., 2014). As is the case for other ERP, ERN is sensitive to the various aforementioned factors; however, its behavioral interpretation is difficult, as an undistinguishable ERN change may be caused by different conditions. Therefore, we found the results explaining political ideology, by considering ERN (Amodio et al., 2007; Jost and Amodio, 2012; Weissflog et al., 2013; Jost et al., 2014) appealing, and we decided to test if the results are robust with respect to different sociocultural environments. We attempted to replicate the results of the previous Am2007 study in the Czech Republic—a democratic country with a communistic history (1948–1989), in which self-evaluation of L/C need not correspond to the general political orientation. To account for different environmental and historical conditions, we calibrated political preferences according to the values associated with a typical agenda of US liberalism and conservatism in addition to the self-report. We expected to verify the extent to which the original hypothesis of correlation between neurological setting and political preference is specific to the self-reported L/C and US environment.

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By Heather Williams, H.W., M. (with permission)

February 5, 2024 (

Can you focus your attention on the present moment for one minute?

CONCENTRATE = to focus one’s powers, efforts or attention; to bring or direct toward a common center or objective

QUESTION: Can you focus on the present for one minute?

STORY: Focusing our attention is the key to opening the door to our Higher Capacities. Are you aware that your Higher Capacities are within you and available now? Right now I need to access my higher capacities because I am packing up all my studio stuff for our move to Tennessee. I’m lifting heavy books, picture frames, large drawing papers, tables and artist equipment as I attempt to fit them properly into a variety of boxes. I’m on box #52 right now! I am 77 years old and all this physical labor is draining my energy. Just to let you know how I access my Higher Capacities – I stop and take a break and listen to my body without judging, worrying or trying to change anything. I just focus my attention, relax any tension, listen, feel and love the Divine Energy that I AM. And then I move forward with gratitude. Wherever you are right now – feel gratitude for the Divine Energy that you are.


“Energy flows where attention goes.” ~ Tony Robbins

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~ Buddha

“Our task is to find teaching methods that continually engage the whole human being. We would not succeed in this endeavor if we failed to concentrate on developing the human sense of art.” ~ Rudolf Steiner

“The Western day is indeed nearing when the inner science of self-control will be found as necessary as the outer conquest of nature. This new Atomic Age will see men’s minds sobered and broadened by the now scientifically indisputable truth that matter is in reality a concentrate of energy.” ~ Yaramahansa Yogananda



Sit quietly. Assume an erect posture.

Sense the breath.

Sit calmly and focus your attention on the Present moment.

Notice any tightness or tension in your body.

Relax. Breathe.

Get your pen and paper and write words or draw lines expressing yourself paying attention to the Divine Energy that you are.

Take charge of your most valuable asset: your attention.

Move forward into your new day focusing your attention on the Divine Energy that is always flowing through you.