After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how does morphine work?), she now focuses on the biological basis of empathy. Some current research looks at “empathy in rats.” Watch this short video to see one of her experiments!
In her findings, it appears that a rat will choose to free another rat from captivity before choosing to eat a yummy treat. In other words, the rat empathizes with his comrade and helps relieve this other rat’s seeming misery before feeding himself chocolate and butterscotch.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last week, Peg brought Jack Gilbert’s poem “A Brief for the Defense” to our early-morning poetry circle.
Sun Magazine published this poem along with a short biography and their regret that they hadn’t known of Gilbert’s work until reading about his death in The New York Times. Jack Gilbert, 1925-2012, lived “mostly off the poetry grid,” the article said.
He rose to the top in the poetry world and then chose to step away, travel and feel his way through the world. He chose to study living rather than study academically–or be studied. In 1962, at age 37, he won the Yale Younger Poet’s Prize but six months later bowed away from public view. Over the years he gave few readings and taught only off and on at universities–both in the USA and in Europe–to earn a living.
“Nobody sees a flower–really–it is so small–we haven’t time–and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.”
Georgia O’Keefe, American Artist
Many of you, I imagine, have had this same experience: A friend, teacher, pastor, rabbi, astrologist, lover, sister, doctor, neighbor–someone in life–is like a fixture. We take them for granted. We don’t realize how important they are or how we’ve depended on them until it’s too late.
Not to sound dramatic, but you probably know what I mean. It’s human–waking up a bit too late. For me, it wasn’t losing my mother that left me reeling in the way of “I never realized how important she was.” I had regrets, but I knew Mom was important in my life. Her diagnosis spun me into a panic and regret, but I would have some time near the end of her life to say goodbye, make some peace, and let her know how I appreciated her. I tried–as difficult and awkward as I was.
When she died, I was just 31 and hugely sad. The loss called me to attention in a way nothing had. I wanted to make her proud. I wanted to live a life that would show my mother’s efforts and all she gave of herself to me was worthwhile.
Maya Angelou, the literary icon who died this week, gives her high school teacher Bertha Flowers credit for helping her to speak again after five years of silence and for igniting her interest in literature. Angelou once stated that the period of silence actually allowed her to absorb her surroundings more intensely. She had been mute after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend.
The literary master was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement and worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She authored 30 books, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is the first of six autobiographies.
Maya Angelou was a poet, actress, activist and educator, and she believed that “Love is what can heal all.” Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she lived for years in Harlem, Ghana, and influenced lives all over the world–including Oprah Winfrey’s–who has long considered Angelou her mentor.
She was also a cook and loved to bring people together around a pot roast, a “Sunday Dinner” which she said is “one of the most intimate ways to be together.” She loved country music, she told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.