Monday, June 30, 2008

Why that's just Infrasonic!

Researchers make noises of pre-Columbian society
“"We've been looking at our ancient culture as if they were deaf and mute," he said. "But I think all of this is tied closely to what they did, how they thought."

Velazquez is part of a growing field of study that includes archaeologists, musicians and historians. Medical doctors are interested too, believing the Aztecs may have used sound to treat illnesses.

Noisemakers made of clay, turkey feathers, sugar cane, frog skins and other natural materials were an integral part of pre-Columbian life, found at nearly every Mayan site.

The Aztecs sounded the low, foghorn hum of conch shells at the start of ceremonies and possibly during wars to communicate strategies. Hunters likely used animal-shaped ocarinas to produce throaty grunts that lured deer.

The modern-day archaeologists who came up with the term Whistles of Death believe they were meant to help the deceased journey into the underworld, while tribes are said to have emitted terrifying sounds to fend off enemies, much like high-tech crowd-control devices available today.

Experts also believe pre-Columbian tribes used some of the instruments to send the human brain into a dream state and treat certain illnesses. The ancient whistles could guide research into how rhythmic sounds alter heart rates and states of consciousness.”

Now this fascinates me on several levels. Of course, a lot of things endlessly fascinate me, that this article does is nothing unusual. I mean, how do holes appear in relatively new screening? Without any encouragement from our cat and dog residents, that is. Bud’s computer room ceiling was covered in those voracious little mosquito beasts last evening. Yeeechhh! And how much hair can one Black Labrador Retriever shed in one day? I swear there’s enough Black Lab hair on the bathroom floor alone to fully fur a standard-sized Dachshund, and I just vacuumed the house on Saturday.

The above article fascinates me, of course, on an historical level. History is an ever unraveling mystery. The facts are never as interesting as the stories behind them; truth is always stranger than fiction. I envy archeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists, etc., etc. I envy their passion and tenacity for unraveling the mysteries of our past that help us understand our present. I wish I’d been gifted like that – a gift of focus and determination. Ah, well.

Anyhow, sound that heals? How riveting is that?! We know about the soothing qualities of some music and the irritating qualities of others – Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as opposed to fingernails on the blackboard, Tibetan Singing Bowls as opposed to a pile driver outside our office building. So, this should not be too much of a surprise. Yet, a doctor prescribing sound to aid healing? Yes, that would be surprise.

I was just watching a Discovery Channel show yesterday about how animals “hear” the Earth. Through infrasound, a frequency too low for humans to hear, animals communicate with the Earth – at least, they are on the receiving end of Earth’s communication. The narrator implied that humans are not capable of receiving that communication from Earth. I found that interesting. It seems a vast assumption to me.

Sound is vibration, yes? Those who are deaf are able to dance through feeling the vibrations of the music. Wasn’t Marlee Matlin recently a competitor on Dancing with the Stars? Heck, I can feel my cat Fox’s purring when he lays on my chest while I’m reading in bed (between my nose and the book, of course!) before I even hear it. Why would folks put cell phones on vibrate during meetings, unless they don’t want the “ring” to be heard?

I think we are likely fully capable of receiving communications from Earth, we just aren’t trained to be aware of them. We’re too plugged into our Ipods, the boss droning on at our meeting, keeping an ear glued to the baby intercom that we don't "hear" infrasounds. Actually, we are too attuned to our own voices, self-centered species that we are.

I imagine once upon a time, a long, long time ago, we homo sapiens were quite aware of infrasounds. I can imagine that awareness might often have meant life or death for them. Perhaps our pre-columbian ancestors were so aware that they knew how to use sound for healing.

So, just thoughts for today. I believe I’ve seen one of those pre-columbian ocarinas somewhere - someone I knew had one - but for the life of me I can’t remember who or where.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I would read a book that was written from the POV of a dog. I am a dog person. Always have been. My first true friend was an imaginary collie named Poojie. Yes, I am a dog person. I loved Marley & Me. I currently am allowed to reside with two Labrador Retrievers. I raised Shetland Sheepdogs in my former married lifetime. Yes, I am a dog person.

So, I wept at the end of this book, even though we readers were put on alert as to how Enzo's own story would end.

Enzo travels from puppyhood, when Denny is an aspiring racecar driver, through Denny's marriage to Eve, the birth of Zoe, Eve's battle with brain cancer and her death, Denny's battle with in-laws for custody of Zoe, to Enzo's last days when Denny reaches the pinnacle of what Enzo has dreamed for him.

Enzo is the quintessential loyal Dog archetype. He's the ultimate companion in service to his master. He is Denny's amanuensis. (And Stein, his.) He serves as the mirror for Denny's fears of "not belonging or of not being approved of," as Jamie Sams puts Dog Medicine in her Medicine Cards. Enzo believes in Denny, even when Denny does not. He is Dog.

But Enzo longs to be a human. He envies our opposable thumbs and flexible tongues.
He has, as he often says, only gestures. Oh, but he does use those gestures well! i.e. when he tears custody papers from Denny's hands and ultimately lifts a leg on them. Ah, yes, he uses gestures very well!

I remember when our 7 year old Black Lab, Dusty, was just a pup. Dusty terrorized the house with his chewing. Everything went into his mouth. He chewed a hole in the wall, razor blades, underwear, jewelry and - horrors! - books! The Old Goober and I would holler at him and, eventually, when Dusty realized the hollering was directed at him, he would settle down with a look of guilt in those large brown eyes.

One particularly bright and shiny autumn afternoon Dusty leapt onto the couch, tipping it towards the window and began his "Squirrel, get off the Boss's property!" bark. I thought he and the couch were going straight through the window after our resident pesky tree rodent. It was then I also saw the masticated end of a throw pillow, it's guts spilling out onto the couch.

I instantly had a flash of Dusty in a straight-jacket and I heard in my head, "But I don't have any hands! And there is so much out there to experience! All I have is my mouth!"

Indeed. All a dog has is gestures.

This, fortunately for us, makes Enzo a keen observer of his human family and he shares their story with us.

However, I've been arguing with myself whether Enzo's dog-sight keeps him from seeing anyone but Denny as no more than a two-dimensional character. Denny's in-laws, the Twins as Enzo dubs them, certainly suffer from being the stereotypical evil in-laws out to control the life of their progeny. Perhaps it's that Enzo watches too much television? I don't know. I can't help but feel as if there was much more to this story that got edited out somewhere along the line. I would have loved more of Eve in particular. Why did she succumb to her parents' manipulation so easily? More depth would have made this a truly remarkable book. As it is, it is a pleasant read.