Father∫ Son

Penis Power and Prowess

The penis always hangs in a balance, physically, metaphorically and mentally. The penis is every man’s glory and shame as well as both his driving and failing force. The penis is an arrow (in shape as well as function) equipped for some potential target. How has it come to seem more than it is?

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Aging Out, Losing Out

murrsy schane state of mind

Both my parents died at 89. My mother from end-stage Alzheimer’s, my father from heart failure probably induced by advanced Parkinson’s Disease. These were, for both of them, easeful deaths. Among Shakespeare’s heroes to die in one’s own bed would have been the happiest death. Still probably is.

But age, especially nowadays, is not so much about death or mortality. It’s about falling off track, about technological derailment. To everyone keeping up with the changes in cable endings can get a little formidable, not even attempting to comprehend VR and tech novelties that are momentarily about to exist. The pace of that progression is, itself, progressing.

I see peers, even people as young as fifty, becoming digitally dumb.

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Marching to Save Their Lives and Ours

murray schane state of mind

When I was in fifth grade we had air raid drills that always ended in the school basement. Surrounded by raw brick walls and crouched under a dark jumble of pipes and cables, I felt more unsafe there than I imagined I would in an upstairs classroom. We were warned, as if told like a ghost story, that when the bomb exploded directly over us we would all be instantly vaporized. Some of us giggled. No one, other than the stern-faced teachers, was afraid.

Kids don’t cry. Until they are hit.

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Go Back Home Again (If You Dare)

murray schane state of mind

Photo by Nathan Walker

My launch pad: the top floor of a turret in midtown Detroit. It was a brief stay, a small room and a bath I shared with another boarder, a woman I only once caught a glimpse of as I was winding up the stairs. No female visitors were tolerated in my room. Even then that seemed like a throw-back. But my parents were content. I befriended the three people who lived back of the garden in a carriage house. A tall, gangly-legged man who looked like central casting for a 1930s roué. He wore purple cravats and chain-smoked viciously acrid French cigarettes: Gitanes. The two women were always squabbling. One was a doctor, forty-ish but washed-out pretty. The other was a stay-at-home drunk. I felt like I was living a Truman Capote story. And I was sad to leave.

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Exercise as Treatment for Obesity and Deteriorating Mental Health

murray schane state of mind

Finally, when both my knees began consuming themselves with arthritis, I went for help. Exercise was the answer. But I am preternaturally lazy. If I had an exercise bicycle it would become a clothes rack in no time, even with the possibility of live spin classes. I had to be pushed. Physical challenges always failed me unless under the relentless thumb of a coach. And I always avoided coaches. I was both too dreamy and too energized by thoughts, by activities that occurred in some mental field, not an outdoor playing field.

My sons were, perhaps in blind reaction, the opposite. One liked team sports — soccer, basketball, baseball — the other took to martial arts and body building.

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Are You Thinking About the Self?

Murray Schane state of mind

Drawing by Sydney Cash 1972

“Self” is the consummate même for our time.  From the moment we acquire language and first utter the word”I”, we are haunted by the private, insidious question, “Who am I.”

Psychologists have been delimiting the meaning of self since that field of endeavor announced itself, a hundred and thirty years ago. In 1890 William James, one of the first self-designated psychologists, published “The Principles of Psychology.” He opens with this statement: “The Empirical Self of each of us is all that he is tempted to call by the name of me.”

In my first contact with schizophrenia, as a medical student, I discovered how slippery that sense of self could be. I learned to identify such slipperiness as depersonalization or identity diffusion. Interesting as academic concepts, but to those suffering that instability of self is like being on a ship tossing furiously in an unremitting storm.

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Thanks for What?

murray schane state of mind


Thanks is a reward handed over to someone else. An empathic gift.

Giving thanks might have begun in religious faith. “Thank God!” is one of our most frequent utterances. “Thank God” is a kind of prayer reversal — acknowledging the hope, incipient and insubstantial, that an intervention will (or has) provided aid or comfort or safety.

As children, we are instructed to thank others for a meal, a gift, a favor. Here thanks is plied as obligatory. Behind the failure to give thanks is a reprimand. And the exchange between the giver and the receiver becomes a bond of mutuality. But not love. One doesn’t thank the person that just shared a kiss or a sexual embrace. Continue Reading

How to Sleep

The quest for a good night’s sleep has challenged humanity from before Hippocrates to today’s big pharma. Almost everyone with public access has weighed in.

There are ten Ted talks about sleep, among them:
Russel Foster on the science of sleep;
Arianna Huffington on how a good night’s sleep can make one happier and more successful;
Jeff Iliff on how sleep helps brain metabolism.

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Playing for Life

murray schane state of mind

Play is the first formidable task of childhood, even very early childhood. Play appears before speech and before socialization. It begins spontaneously.

While universally regarded as an important function in children, its fundamental purpose is elusive. It has yet to be studied neurobiologically. No one seems to be sure why children play, why they seem to need to play.

In the early 20th century the great psychologist of childhood development, Jean Piaget, regarded play as purposeless, as just a means of seeking pleasure. More recently play has been incorporated into educational programs for improving cognitive development,  enhancing sociability and accelerating physical facility.

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Why Men Hate Ballet

murray schane state of mind

Here I was at the University of Chicago about to end my short career as a ballet dancer. My blind friend, Robert Walz (a portrait of him in the framed picture) had just been killed in a head-on car crash. And my Chaucer professor would not grant me time to attend the funeral so I stayed up all night with a friend typing my term paper and got downgraded. Not a good time.

Then I made a radical decision. Having listened to my father whisper “doctor” in my ear since the cradle, I decided finally to apply to medical school. I had to quickly pack in pre-med courses: physics, quantitative (chemical) analysis, calculus, etc. I took the MCATs and got in. A hero’s journey—like my little hero Panzil.
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