State of Mind Blog

Updates on Murray’s Writing

Bite Me

Murray Schane state of mind

I was 12 the first time I visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It was my first trip alone with my father, who was in the city on business.

I explored that cavernous building all by myself. I loved the big dinosaur that seemed to sway in the semi-darkness around him. His size was more staggering, more magnificently towering than the Empire State Building.

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Life on the Edge

murray schane state of mindI grew up with the specter of the Great Depression spread over me from my parents’ generation, from their childhood stories. Both my mother and father had essentially been orphans. The hardscrabble life they had to lead: forgoing high school to help support their siblings; changing habitats to avoid rent; living in squalor while working in upscale environments; going without food for days at a time. Not knowing what the future held – not quite knowing if there would be a future.

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How [Not] to Grow Old

murray schane state of mindIt’s not about slowing or reversing the effects of aging—the physical and mental and even psychological alterations that come with passing time. It’s really about retention and augmentation, about memory processing and personal growth.

To the young aging is a distant, medically enhanced, easeful promise coupled with the hope or expectation that aging, like cancer, will be vanquished. We each regard our death, the standard endpoint of aging, as unthinkable. We know it must come, like winter, but many many springs, summers and falls will precede it.

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Why Now? — The Rising Face of Sexual Abuse

murray schane state of mind

The most recent study of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) in 40,000 adults revealed that 10.9% were sexually abused before age 18 (15. 2% females, 6.4% males). 

That CDC study also correlated ACE with negative health outcomes and suggested neurobiological pathways to permanent brain scarring. This means that people like Christine Blasey Ford are susceptible to alterations in brain structure and functioning that will impact their lives forever. These effects can be mediated by psychotherapy and even psychiatric medications. But the trauma residue can never be erased.

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Clarence Thomas 2.0

murray schane state of mindThe Kavanaugh confirmation process kicks up issues far beyond and much deeper than the political and MeToo ramifications. In the midst of the confirmation drama we are seeing the unfolding of a heated drama about gender identity.

Gender roles enacted between men and women, as in the sexual assault cases, fly against the wind of gender de-allocation. The diffusion of gender specificity is disarming the old nature/nurture dichotomy.

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“And women have been long scripted to signal their essential, socially assigned vulnerability.”

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But the old “war of the sexes” plays on. Why did men of the older generation, so many pilloried in the MeToo revelations, do what they did, act as they did, and exemplify the worst side of men’s relationship to women?

Partly it may be the hubris syndrome reveling in male autocracy. The position of power creates an empathic dead zone around men at the top. Surrounded by sycophants of every color, men become inured to the feelings and wants of their subjects. And women have been long scripted to signal their essential, socially assigned vulnerability.

Why do men allow themselves to fall so far, to violate social norms that often seem to contradict the very role that provided them the means to achieve positions of esteem? Sexual prowess may provide a partial answer: men are conditioned to be sexual predators. They are expected to make the first move. Women are taught to be enticing. Usually this dynamic plays in low gear and harmonizes with a convivial mutuality.

But raised to thrones of power, perhaps subject to the hubris syndrome, some men seem to roar into unseemly, truly obscene action. And women submit out of fear and in line with their role of silent obeisance. They are caught in a schema that supports the male prerogative.

Women have been slowly gaining, very slowly, overtaking positions traditionally reserved for men.  In the still male dominant roles in government and corporations, women are beginning to seize a presence. In medicine women are nearly tied with men. In sports women have corralled parallel positions and have even gained some small entry into teams otherwise reserved for men.

But…at the ballet the other night I was struck by the unyielding demarcation between ballerina and male dancer. Even as ballet has progressed into new choreographic heights, women on pointe ultimately render themselves into the supporting arms of the cavalier. The pas de deux, even in a very contemporary choreographer’s shaping, remains an exalted variation of sexuality. Women choreographers are becoming a strong presence in ballet. Yet they, too, create on that dualistic dimension.

What does the future hold for men as they achieve ascendency? Will the relationship dynamics of the older generation, the MeToo formula of sexual exploitation, be dropped and disbanded. Young men seem to believe they have entered a new sexually egalitarian era.

But the New York City Ballet just fired three of their principal male dancers, all of the young adult generation, for sexually exploiting a woman dancer. Is it another version of the hubris syndrome? Male dancers are surrounded by beautiful women whom they regularly partner in graciously intimate physical contact. Are they tempted to degrade them possibly because much of the world outside of ballet regards male dancers as effete and even homosexual and therefore unmanly. Desire, derision, and self-exemption might be the fuel to that fire.

Or; has no lesson ever to be learned? Why do men persist in viewing women as the eternal victim?

Perhaps the answer lies partly in the social education of boys. Historically boys have always been raised in some version of militarism. They are shamed if they show fear or if they openly reveal humiliation when defeated in sports. They are threatened by ouster from the male enclave with slanderous invectives: Pussy! Gay!

Boys are expected to separate themselves from girls until the girls become objects of desire. But adolescent boys hang together in their sexual distance. They typically regard girls as objects of conquest. And they are expected to hold that regard with a subdued, sub rosa, sense of contempt. Boys are taught that females are the weaker sex. Boys are raised to be sexual warriors.

Is this war of the sexes ever going to end? Is the world ever going to be safe for women? Are men going to discover a better, deeper connection to women?

Perhaps the move toward gender neutrality will lead the way to disarming the bitter, hidden distrust and desire that has fueled men to exploit and women to submit.

We would ultimately all be safer, happier, and truly equal.

Is Paris Burning?

murray schane state of mindThat’s what Hitler wanted to know, as the Nazis began their retreat from occupied Paris. That question exemplifies the division, now rapidly growing, between authoritarianism and democracy, between bounded fascism and unfettered freedom. Hitler abhorred the idea of the phoenix of democracy rising back from the ashes of Nazism.

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Beyond The Pale

murray schane state of mindTrumps’s first impulse on learning of John McCain’s death was apparently to show the dead man his finger. What is behind that malice, that venomous and childish spite?

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The Kindest (or Unkindest) Cut of All

murray schane state of mindIt’s arguably a still serious issue: circumcision

There is a strangely vehement polemic about circumcision. Strange because of its vehemence.

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Why Aren’t We Reading?

murray schane state of mind

My first book had a glossy cover—a huge, flower-bedecked Easter egg. I loved holding it and turning its pages. That book set me wondering about eggs, their role in creation, and even gestation. It pushed me to want to read.

When my sister, almost four years older, was learning to read she used a visual system organized on a child’s easel. Being both curious and competitive, and also drawn to books, I studied that easel and somehow cracked the reading code.

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When is a Trump Brain Fart a Lie?

murray schane state of mind

Trump’s tweets have brought forth the idea of a brain fart. Seriously. There are as yet no formal definitions of a brain fart. Here are 2 attempts: “When you are attempting to remember something very obvious, something that you know you should know“and can’t; or “Something ill-considered and said or done impulsively.”

Trump’s tweets appear to match both definitions. He brings forth an idea, a comment, a policy statement, an accusation impulsively and without considering the impact his office and his public status would have. Plus he delivers false facts about important issues that he knows he cannot recall or never knew. Coming from an ordinary citizen—or someone with far less public standing—such brain fart tweets would go unnoticed. Continue Reading

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