Reversion by Amy Rogers: a book review

Reversion

Dr. Tessa Price lost her infant son to a rare genetic disorder. For Tessa, much more is at stake than science when she invents a radical gene therapy to save another child, seven-year old Gunnar Sigrunsson, who suffers from an equally fatal disease. When her procedure fails to gain U.S. regulatory approval, she opts to treat Gunnar at the Palacio Centro Medico, a posh international center for cutting edge medicine.

During one of her visits to the Palacio, Tessa finds Gunnar almost miraculously improved. On the same trip, chimpanzees in the animal lab seem to go mad, savagely killing one of their own. The events seem disconnected until an animal technician begins to exhibit signs of the same madness and releases the animals, despite their rabies-like symptoms, into the nearby forest.

The leader of a brutal drug cartel occupies the Palacio with his private army, while a rival cartel with modern weapons, lays siege from the outside. As the two factions exchange blows and animals attacks increase, Tessa and a small group of patients hide in the research wing, hoping to avoid detection.

Tessa realizes that the greatest threat may not be the drug lords or deranged chimps, but a revertant virus, combining elements of rabies with a bat virus that creates a rabies-like contagion that can be spread through touch, and apparently through the air. Tessa’s cell studies show that Gunnar is the host. The boy she is trying to save for the sake of personal redemption – for the fatal genes she passed to her own son – might doom everyone around him.

Reversion is the second novel of Dr. Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, who writes science thrillers, a genre one can explore in depth on her blog, sciencethrillers.com.

Dr. Amy Rogers

Dr. Amy Rogers

Amy is also a writing friend I know from the Sacramento branch of The California Writer’s Club. I posted an enthusiastic review of her first novel, Petroplague, in 2011. Once again, she has created a gripping story that parallels the headlines we read in the papers. You can find both ebook and hardcopy versions of Reversion by clicking the icon at the top of this post.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A “small” thing

I’ve read about this, but it never happened to me before.

Late yesterday afternoon I was driving home from the bay area. I’d been up at 6:30 to attend a second day of Dharma teachings. The weather was fine, traffic was moving, I was listening to a decent audio book, but a wave of fatigue overtook me, and all I could think of was stopping for a stretch and caffeine at a Starbucks up the road.

I pulled up behind a small truck and half a dozen cars at the Benicia Bridge tollbooth. The truck seemed to take forever getting through, as if there was an argument about the toll. With some mixture of fatigue and (hopefully) the wisdom I had absorbed from the teachings, I waited patiently, and finally reached the window. I handed a five dollar bill to the cashier.

“No need, sir,” she said. “The lady ahead of you paid your toll.”

As I said, previously, this was something I had only read about before. I was suddenly wide awake, wondering how I could pass the gift on. Carry $10 next time I came to that bridge and pay for the stranger behind me, yes, but what about day to day actions? I don’t cross toll bridges often, and as I felt the effect of that small gesture ripple through me, all I could think of was how to pass it on.

“Don’t bother trying to save the world,” one of the lamas had said. “What right choice is in front of you now?”

What a powerful question, and how worthwhile it is to keep it in mind!

Posted in Buddhism, Culture, Inspirational, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Imagining outcomes

This morning, I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother. She lived to be 92, had 14 great-grandchildren, was happily married for 49 years, and was lucid and even cracking jokes with those at her bedside until almost the end.

Almost everyone I talked or listened to commented on her outlook – positive, even when facing adversity. How central that seems to have been to this life well lived!

I’ve been thinking a lot about attitudes recently – actually almost daily, without coming to any clear conclusions. Through the course of the year, documented in various posts, I’ve been looking at views and outlooks, my own and others, from the perspective of which are helpful and which are not.

It’s easier to see in others. My mother lost her father when she was in grade school, as the result of a freak accident. I remember my mom in adulthood with a certain wariness, a backward glance over the shoulder, as if wondering when or how the next blow would fall. Be it nature or nurture, I’m coming to see how I carry the same trait, without even any such clear reason why. The good news is that when such things come to consciousness, we can look at them, and in observing they begin to change.

Along these lines, I remember an irreverent joke my father used to tell:

“Once there was a study to determine which children were optimistic and which were pessimists,” my father would begin. “One day a group of observers came through for a tour. In the first room they visited, a boy was crying his eyes out, even though the room was a virtual toy store, with shiny new bikes and every kind of playing you could imagine.

‘What’s wrong?’ one of the observers asked.

‘Everything’s so nice,’ the boy said. ‘I’m afraid I might break something.’

The group moved on to the next room, where they came upon another boy who smiled and sang as he shoveled his way through a mountain of horse manure.

‘How can you be so happy in all of this mess?’ an observer asked.

‘Easy,’ the boy said. ‘With all this shit, there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere!'”

I know which boy I have been for most of my life. I also know which one I aspire to be!

Posted in Family, Inspirational | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Character

Morgan Mussell:

Here is a wonderful meditation on character, both general and personal, from Debra, who shares with me a keen interest in the writings and world view of James Hillman. It makes a great companion piece to my previous post on Hillman. Thanks Debra!

Originally posted on The Ptero Card:

“A man’s character is his fate.” Heraclitus (540 BC – 480 BC), On the Universe

“If the final purpose of aging is character, then character finishes life, polishes it into a more lasting image.” James Hillman

Anna Rebecca Smith

If I have felt compelled towards living life closer to the margins, seeking out what is obscure, liminal, or for understanding more deeply the nature of life, I might trace these loose threads back to childhood and the memory of my dear Great, Great Aunt Bunny. The family myth taking root early in my life often compared my oddness to hers. Maybe another child would not have taken the myth to heart and some may say a child should be left without a myth or vision handed down by an ancestor, but I remain grateful.

Although long since passed on, her presence fosters in me a love of life’s oddness. Through the legacy…

View original 791 more words

Posted in Authors, Imagination, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Soul’s Code by James Hillman

the soul's code

James Hillman (1926-2011), a prolific post-Jungian psychologist, thinker, and cultural critic, wrote more than 20 books, but The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling (1997) is probably his best known work.

In a head-on attack upon the reductionist nature of both the nature and nurture camps of western developmental psychology, Hillman proposes a view of individual destiny based on Plato’s Myth of Er. Are we nothing but helpless products of our mothers in the first year of life or our luck-of-the-draw genetics? Or is there a deeper meaning to how we grow and unfold?

Hillman proposes an “acorn theory,” arguing that each acorn holds the pattern of the oak it may become, just as each soul that enters the world may bear a destiny shaped by intelligence rather than random chance: “what is lost in so many lives and what must be recovered [is] a sense of personal calling, that there is a reason I am alive.”

Hillman expounds his theory in a number of biographical sketches. He writes of Manolete, the most famous bullfighter of 20th century Spain. As a child, he was sickly and frail. “He stayed so much indoors and clung so tightly to his mother’s apron strings that his sisters and other children used to tease him.” Then, at the age of 11, he became fascinated with bulls.

Current psychology theory would hold that Manolete chose a macho vocation to compensate for his mama’s-boy childhood. Hillman wonders if somewhere deep inside, was “the acorn” that realized his destiny was to face down charging, thousand pound bulls, including the one that gored him to death at age 30. Of course that was too frightening a vision for a boy of 8 or 9 to hold!  Of course he held tight to his mother!

Hillman also discusses the childhood of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the 20th century’s most influential women. As a child, Eleanor was “funny,” as well as “sullen, stubborn, spiteful, [and] sour…She lied; she stole, she threw antisocial tantrums in company.”

She lost her mother, a brother, and her “playboy father” before she was nine, but all the while carried on a vivid fantasy, “the realest thing in my life,” in which she lived with her father in a large household and traveled the world with him.

Psychotherapy would have regarded her fantasies as delusions and prescribed psychotropic medications to try to return her to normal. But what of the possibility that her visions meant something? What if her fantasies were “invented by her calling,” Hillman asks, and “were indeed more realistic in their orientation than her daily reality.”

“Imagination acted as a teacher, giving instruction for the large ministering tasks of caring for the welfare of a complex family, of a crippled husband, of the state of New York as the governor’s wife, the United States as its first lady, and even of the United Nations. Her fantasies of attending to “Father” were a preliminary praxis into which she could put her call, her huge devotion to the welfare of others.

Hillman is always provocative, inviting us to look deeper into, or “see through” the ideas that limit soul and it’s individual expression. Psychological literalism is often in his crosshairs, as when he says, “Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods.”

James Hillman, 1926-2011

James Hillman, 1926-2011

The Soul’s Code is a challenging book, but valuable as it sheds new light on many unquestioned assumptions about development, the individual, and destiny that need to be questioned.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Books, Imagination, Myth, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The end of Longmire?

From the A&E Longmire Facebook page

From the A&E Longmire Facebook page

I’ve devoted only one of 645 posts to a television show, Longmire, because the series is exceptional. Walt Longmire, a rural Wyoming sherif, is haunted by his wife’s murder. Each week we see him try to keep peace with his own demons, with his daughter, his employees, and the neighboring Cheyenne reservation, while solving crimes and capturing desperadoes.

Though the show has a solid viewer base, A&E cancelled the series two weeks ago. TV Guide reports that Longmire viewers are too far over the hill. With an average age of 61, apparently we don’t by as much stuff as the sought-after 19-49 year old demographic.

“It was losing money for us,” said one A&E executive. “It’s a business.”  No one thought the decision was based on quality…

All may not be lost. As one of the top 25 television shows of the summer, Warner Brothers is putting together a presentation to other cable networks to continue with a fourth season for Longmire. I hope they succeed so I don’t have to spend my “golden years” recalling the good old days when television was occasionally intelligent.

Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Television | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lend a hand—49 things you can do to make a difference

Morgan Mussell:

Russel so often brings us magnificent photos, but here he gives something else – suggestions that are in reach, things we can do in the face of the glut negativity that greets us each morning in the papers and the news.

Originally posted on Russel Ray Photos:

Inspiration

For those who continue to rant about things over which you have no control, I would suggest getting out in your community and volunteering.

Scott #2039 VoluntarismMy life has been full of volunteerism, so much so that too often I let the unpaid volunteer job interfere with the paid professional job. I started with Key Club in high school, then Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity at Texas A&M University, and then to Red Cross, American Heart Association, Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and many, many others.

Following are 50 things you can do to help the world. I have done them all at some point in my life. Don’t let your ego get in the way of contributing to your neighborhood and city. Keep in mind that businesses have liability concerns, so the type of services that you’re allowed to volunteer for might be limited in some circumstances.

  1. Scott #1788 Special OlympicsPick a…

View original 900 more words

Posted in Inspirational | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

About Affirmations

“Affirmations are simply the practice of repeating to yourself what you want to achieve while imagining the outcome you want.” – Scott Adams

For a long time, the word “affirmation” brought to mind, “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.” When you see it in print like that, it’s hard to believe and easy to dismiss. The phrase was created by Emile Coué (1857-1926), a French psychologist and pharmacist who developed a method of psychotherapy based on autosuggestion.

Later, when I studied the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, I found a broader concept of affirmations and why certain types of suggestions work for certain types of people.  In Scientific Healing Affirmations, (1925), Yogananda wrote:

“Imagination, reason, faith, emotion, will, or exertion may be used according to the specific nature of he individual – whether imaginative, intellectual, aspiring, emotional, volitional, or striving. Few people know this. Coué stressed the value of autosuggestion, but an intellectual type of person is not susceptible to suggestion, and is influenced only by a metaphysical discussion of the power of consciousness over the body. He needs to understand the whys and wherefores of mental powers. If he can realize, for instance, that blisters may be produced by hypnosis…he can understand the power of the mind to cure disease. If the mind can produce ill health, it can also produce good health.”

Recently, I found an even simpler testimonial to the power of affirmations in Scott Adam’s book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Discussing affirmations in an earlier book, Adams drew negative email from people who claimed he believed in magic. In two chapters of his latest work, Adams lays out the principles of affirmations without venturing any guesses on why they have worked for him, with the exception of one simple principle:

“The pattern I have noticed is that the affirmations only worked when I had a 100 percent unambiguous desire for success.”

He then summarizes his experience with affirmations, leading up to the big one in his life: “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.”  As the book makes clear, he was already working in the field and committed when he practiced this suggestion.

I recommended How to Fail when I reviewed it, and the chapters on affirmation alone are worthy of another recommendation.

Posted in Psychology, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments