By Herb Wiggins, M.D., Discoverer/Creator of the Comparison Process Model/Theory 14 Mar. 2014
The Spark of Life and the Soul of Wit
1. The Spark of life within us. It’s the dopamine boost built into our cortex which can release it.
2. Its relationship to “chi” and other excited states of mind; a normal, not magical, natural function.
3. How to use and re-create this force, the endogenous dopamine release
4. Simple Biochemical and physiological basics of dopamine
5. Survival strategy of the dopamine boost; tiring, rest afterwards.
6. Simple conditioning exercises to release dopamine at will. Find those “special moments”. Mountain top experiences
7. Controlling these powerful dopamine releases. We’ve done it before with sex hormones in adolescence.
8. Dietary methods to increase dopamine. Weight loss from the dopamine boost
The Soul of Wit
9. Humor as Comparison Process
10. The pun, its value as COMP skill and training.
11. Jokes as self-perpetuating activities due to dopamine boost. Why jokes spread widely.
12. My Family of wits
13. My cousin’s gifts which sustained her against her heart condition
14. Grandfather’s family’s extreme longevity, mid 90’s usually. The family predisposition for humor.
15. The Jones’ family’s funny bone and longevity.
16. High dopamine may mean low addiction potential.
17. The modern malaise, drugs, depression, rock concerts/raves, and obesity.
18. Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony”, overeating and endorphin release
19. Dopamine, adrenalin appetites suppression; activity boosters.
20. Why do humans suicide alone among all other animals?
21. Potential treatments/course of action to bring modern societies back into health, revealed by a simple pun. It’s simple, universal and true.
1. The life force is within us all. It can be felt by any of us, when we feel that awe, that amazement, that most deepest and profoundest sense of wonder. No matter what it’s from, be it good love, be it good sex, be is that Eureka! moment of creative discovery. This living force is within each of us, but most of us have forgotten it, tho we’ve experienced it. It has value of multiplicity of purposes and uses and can be renewed and recreated by training to provide the inspiration we need to live, to survive, to perform well, and whatsoever good use we seek to use it for.
It’s real. It, in short, is the dopamine elevation which we can create using our cortical cell columns. Behind loves, emotions, good feelings, the humor and comedy of our species, behind all religions and underlying and creating all social, political, commercial movements & organizations, be they good or bad. It lies there sleeping in most of us. Yet we have all felt it, and felt its power. We remember it.
2. This is not to be confused with the Chi, or other spiritual energies, which have been mythologized from the Spark of life. This is real and existing, but those spiritualists and others have created divinity where it was not and beliefs regarding it which are not true. Not being scientifically trained in medicine and psychology and the biological chemistries of life, they have elevated a simple internal process, tho of great power, to some kind of divine event, which it clearly is not and does not have. Nonetheless, they have recognized the power of it, and can create it at will, tho they are mislead as to its origins in the body, and where it comes from.
For this reason they have not fully comprehended, or as much as we humans can comprehend, from where it arises and how to use it. They have not fully recognized through ignorance its limits and its capabilities.They do not realize its fullest potential to cure and heal, and create long life and the good. They have surrounded the elan of life with a lot of false beliefs, mummery, fluff and distracting, let us be blunt, delusions, both philosophical and religious, which hide and obscure a normal, natural living force inside of each of us which creates the will, emotions, inspiration, love, great music and art, great science and much else, endlessly and repeatably.
3. This work will show the normal physiological basis of the elan vitale and show each of us how to use it for our greater good. It will show the limits of it, and the potential of it to create a modern renaissance of life and health and well-being for all the peoples of the earth. Because you see, we carry this force, this powerful wellspring of all emotions and feelings within all of us from birth. There is nothing mystical about it. But it is real and we can each of us use it to create what we need best to live a good life for us all.
4. This driving force is the release of dopamine by the cortex of our brains. Dopamine, as has been previously shown is very likely the physiological neurochemical behind our emotions (The Emotional Continuum). Like its chemical siblings, adrenaline and norepinephrine it creates arousal, wakefulness, excitement. The heart pounds, the blood pressure rises, one is ready for anything and everything. To fight or for flight.
Dopamine is created in the brain by the substantia nigra, and probably on a microsynthetic process in various other parts of the brain. Where we find dopamine, we find adrenalin (epinephrine) and norepinephrine. When we get excited, or are seriously threatened, there is an immediate release by nerve stimulation from the brain, from bilateral cortical adrenals. This is the so called adrenalin rush. But dopamine is ALSO released with it. This is a very serious thing to happen, because people can die from heart attacks, strokes, and the general mania which can arise from this physiological, flight or fight reaction.
5. It’s a survival strategy which can result in persons doing incredible feats showing great strength, great abilities and even fanatical activities, which can do great harm to themselves and others. We recognize it in the suicide bombers, the kamikaze, and in the early Christian martyrs who could suffer unimaginable tortures and deaths for their faith. It is the power of the Jihad. That is the power of this physiological catecholamine release.
However, it’s very tiring, it uses up a lot of energy in a very short time and one must necessarily rest afterwards. Like good sex, there is always that let down afterwards and of which many women comment on to their snoring men, who literally pass out and sleep for the 20′ or so until the dopamine, endorphins, etc, can be metabolized away. Almost every one in his teens has had some experience personally, or vicariously with it. It’s very powerful, and the love it can generate can bond/bind persons together for a very long, even life time.
These show the natural life force of dopamine release and the related adrenaline rush seen in mania and psychoses. We are playing with Living Fire here and it must be carefully controlled if we are not to harm ourselves and others.
6. Be that as it may, this energy of inspiration, of love, of great feelings can be released by each of us, by simple conditioning exercises/rituals/meditations, to put it to use whenever we need it. There are many cases of this. An inspiring leader be he political or military, can talk to the troops and his party members to get them “up”, so to speak. This he does by carefully selected appeals to their feelings which all humans have in common. A wonderfully awe inspiring scene outside, such as a total eclipse of the sun, with its paradoxical and awesome darkness during the day, which inspired amazement in those who could both predict it as the Druids could, and others. A beautiful played rendition of a great piece of music, be it rock, or classical guitar, or orchestral music of which the great marches, symphonies, suites & so on are known by all. “The Glory and the Grandeur” a percussion suite comes to mind. And if we hear that one played well, we will never forget it.
Simply walking in the wilderness in the mountains, with wonderful scenery around you. Any kind of “mountaintop experience”. Looking down from Hawksbill Peak, under an intensely blue sky, seeing near dusk the sun glinting off the reflecting loops of the Shenandoah River in teh distance, with the Massanutten Mountains, darkly blue in the westering, dimming light. The trees below in their reds, greens, yellows and oranges, like a colorful carpet of pompoms. These are the scenes we can never forget. These are those special times where the dopamine highs are released. “Rocky Mountain High.” Do you see John Denver’s dopamine release event? It’s been there all along and we missed it. We see now his source of inspiration. And it’s a dopamine burst. And we can return to those again and again by teaching ourselves how to recreate that special feeling, and then put it to good use. We, too, can see it raining fire in the sky. a grand meteor shower, very rare, but still awesome.
These are the ways we can learn to access those feelings any time and anywhere we want to. Each of us has his own, special times, where he/she has felt those intense feelings. We remember them, we can recall them, we can use them to train ourselves to re-create that feeling. We put ourselves, basically, in a quiet sitting space. We recall that special time, or we put on some music which is great in its own way. Then we remember how we felt, and we let the music, the memory, the situation fill us with that same feeling. There are many ways of doing this. There are many approaches to creating this state. We each of us carry within us these powerful feelings in our memories and in our cortices. Practice this from time to time during the week. If we do it right, then we can induce this feeling again, and again, until, when we need that extra inspiration, we need that extra lift, when life is getting us down, we can recreate this surcease from threats, anxieties, and the rest of life’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. and the “1000 tiny shocks flesh is heir to.” When we learn to reproduce those goosebumps at will, that feeling of awe and excitement by the force of our wills, then we are there.
Just like meditation, right? Similar. That’s the key. We’ve all heard of it. We’ve all seen it done. But we never “got it” nor understood, comprehended, nor made the connection, nor ‘SAW” it because the effect has been surrounded by all that mummery and fluff. We didn’t see the unlimited forms of it because those disguised this simple, basic, normal physiological response to dopamine/catecholamine rising levels. Going to rock concerts (or raves), etc. is not an efficient way, nor probably healthy way to bring out and develop a self-conditioned response from a normal biological process, rising dopamine levels in our brain.
It’s nothing divine or spiritual. It’s the same feeling people can get at a religious revival, or a great sports event. The thrills of victory or the agonies of defeat. We see where it comes from. It’s built-in biologically within all of us. We’ve felt it many times and it can be remembered, then recalled and then recreated at will to find the inspiration, the will, and determination and purpose to do what we need to do for our betterment. It’s not magical nor mysterious. It’s simply normal human physiology. And if we want it, we can use this training for our best interests.
7. When young boys become men at puberty, the effects of testosterone levels rising can be seen. They get wilder, more aggressive, the muscles grow and get stronger. They have trouble controlling their feelings. We males can recall those times when we felt that huge, internal rush, where we felt like gods come to earth. That incredible feeling of power. That’s part of the dopamine rush created by androgenic steroids. When using too much of those, bodybuilders can get “roid rage”, which makes them crazy for a while. They can ram their fists through wallboard and wooden doors and barely feel it. It’s very similar to what happens when we get an adrenalin rush when in times of great danger. They can go frankly psychotic and require hospitalization in a psych unit, and sometimes never get back to normal from the psychotic break. Many of us have seen this.
But we learn how to control over time these strong feelings created by rising androgens in our adolescence. And we learn how to use it towards our own best interests and advantages. The control of this power without diminishing it is the key to success.
8. Diet can increase dopamine. Certain foods are higher in L-dopa, which is converted to dopamine by dopa decarboxylase, an enzyme in brain. Fava beans, esp. the younger beans (even stems are higher in L-dopa than riper beans. Exactly when to pick the younger pods seems not to have been stated. Steam or microwave for best results.
It’s not recommended to take L-dopa outside of a physician’s careful management.
The Soul of Wit
“Gnothi seauton.” (Know yourself) —Socrates, 5th C. BC, Ellas
“To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower.” — Wm. Blake, 18th C. England
Humor is clearly part of the Comparison Process, and the tie in with the dopamine is also highlighted by the COMP. This is just more depths within depths, too. See:
First, the pun is an easy way to look at humor. Puns are as common as homonyms, words/phrases which sound alike, though the words are spelled differently. The longest pun phrase known is a quadruple one, “Let Us Pray.” The first is a group of lions, looking bored and feeling hungry, “Let us prey.” The next related to the grocery vegetable section, where to restore the leafy greens, the grocer says, “Let us spray.” The last is left to the more creative in the same store.
When we hear puns, some call the lowest form of humor, tho the greatest writer and playwright in English, Shakespeare preferred them. One reason was his incredible creativity and verbal ability. THAT was because punning makes us find relationships among words, which can be uncanny and interesting. “But Hamlet ’tis common to die.” “Aye, it’s common.”
If people have a predilection to puns, they are far, far more likely to make the connections among many OTHER ideas, words and images to BE creative. If we do it every day, it increases our abilities to see unusual, unexpected relationships among words. This kind of skill, punning, is highly creative. It will even re-organize the brain’s structure and predilections to become more creative.
But the pun, like any form of humour is likely to make us laugh, or at least smile, and occasionally groan. It does elicit that good feeling which is the sign of the dopamine boost, so often pointed out here. Because of this, the pun is the quintessential event by which most humor can be understood. It makes us laugh. Dopamine is a “feel good” chemical, heightens awareness, improves mood, lessens depression and some even have read/stated monthly “Humor can be the best medicine.” Given the antidepressant effects of dopamine, it’s not surprising.
11. We note that jokes are passed around a LOT. We see and hear them in often different forms, even those which are different variations on the same basic joke. Again all myriad ways, the endless, unlimited Le Chanson. Years ago Tom Swift and Polish jokes were all the rage, and those made huge rounds, even going international, too. For instance, “Do you have to go ASAP?” Yes!” said Tom Swiftly. Then there were the elephant jokes, the Smurf jokes, the mucous jokes, endlessly, again, the variations on the theme.
“Do you know why elephants paint their toenails red?”
“To hide in cherry trees.” (picture an elephant in a cherry tree).
“Have you ever SEEN an elephant IN a cherry tree?”
” NO.” laughing.
” Works, doesn’t it!!” (Both laughing)
Then we recognize(COMP) at once the violation of logical principles which is blatant and that’s what makes it funny plus the elephant weighing 5-10 tons, balancing precariously on a slim branch in a cherry tree an utterly absurd sight, too. A visual image makes it even sillier.
Again, this is empirical introspection. We don’t HAVE to see others laughing to know they are. We can see inside their heads, recognizing the absurdity of the joke. Again, EI. This is how the COMP shows us the commonality of how most all humor works.
Slapstick is often violation of moral/social conscience. The joke, “How is a baby different than a sea gull? Well, the sea gull Flits along the Shore.” Again, the grin, the use of a not clean word, the joke, when we process the phrase by comparison, by exchanging the “F” for the “S” in shore, and vice versa. This is the COMP once more at work, getting the joke by COMP substitution, then reading the change and laughing at the result. There are huge numbers of jokes like this. There are huge numbers, unlimited numbers of all kinds of jokes.This is the Le Chanson at work, once again. It’s all recognition, too, yet another hallmark of the COMP working
But the point is we get that COMP related dopamine release, that smile, even guffaw. Dopamine is moderately addictive. So we tell it again to get that good feeling once more. And some persons tell a lot of other persons, each tells more and so it proliferates, exponentiating. Again, the multiple replications of the COMP. And so it gets done again and again and starts out small and can get national attention in time. Endlessly, again, the sign of the COMP.
13. In my family we have a lot of wit, esp. more clearly seen on my maternal side. Two of my uncles and two aunts were funny people. Spend much time with them and you’d be laughing too. My mother’s full brother was the living image of his father, in appearance and personality, too. Yet his father died when he was only a few months old, and he had no memory of him, either. Familial predisposition, heightened dopamine effects. My G’pa was a minister, his oldest son, was, too. My other grandfather was a minister. My step grandfather’s brother was a minister, same church. A boring minister doesn’t bring them back to the pews Sunday after Sunday as often, either. We can trace ministers back into the German reformed churches as far back as a Hessian soldier’s son and our Swiss Mennonite ancestors who founded the sect in Lancaster in the early 18th C.
I can name a large number of cousins who are funny, too, each descended from my mother’s sibs who were almost terminally humorous. I recall my cousin, who’s a nurse, visiting with her best friend at university, and she got us laughing so much, I’ve held that memory for 45 years. I have the familial predisposition to it as well, as does my youngest son, the elan vitale spoken of above. This can be a clinical sign of it, too.
Such people can have profound effects on others. My cousin Trudie Ann, named after her G’ma, was that way. Humorous to the point of almost being painful from what she could say or do. Like her father, who was a practical joker, too. Yet Trudie was a very sad case, a baby born with Transposition of the great vessels of the heart, meaning the venous blood came into the left ventricle and exited through the aorta and was not aerated and red. The pulmonary artery oxygenated blood came into the right ventricle and was circulated through the lungs again. The body was cut off from oxygenated blood. She was a blue baby, with severe clubbing of the fingers and toes, and very, very limited ability to do much due to low oxygen to brain and body.
But, and this was the surprise, she had a big hole between the ventricles, a connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery which was large and open (PDA) and the foramen ovale between the two atria was open, also. So enough oxygenated red blood got into her aorta to keep her alive, barely.
It was a balancing act. Now if the holes were too big, the heart would have gone into failure. and if too small, she’d have died from very low cardiopulmonary reserve. Needless to say, very, very few survive more than 2 years and she was too old for the corrective surgery, which not many survived even when it did become available too late for her.
But she had that spark of life, that sense of humor. And she was fun to be with, and endlessly funny, despite her appearance, her short stature, all of those things which young people can be so terribly crippled by. She wasn’t pretty, but that huge smile made up for all of it. She was a delight to all who knew her. She knew she lived on the edge of death and had to be careful not to overdo it. Only very short runs, and no long walks. But she lived this way solid in her faith and good humor for 22 1/2 years!! She was not expected under any circumstances to live past 2-3 years old. She was a delight to be with, exceptionally joyous and liked people and others around her.
At the last, she was out with friend, and the strain on her big heart got too much for her. She overdid it, not realizing she was losing, yearly, critical cardiac reserve and her great heart stopped and she passed on, suddenly, while having fun with friend, as always. What sustained this amazing person, this miracle of life within our family? Her faith and her uncompromising good humor. She was our miracle girl, though many did not realize it until she was gone.
This can be the power of deep religious belief and the dopamine from incredibly good humor, extending life beyond all the probabilities, which made her life a miracle. Trudie Ann, we love you, we miss you, Requiscat in Pace.
14. My grandfather had 12 brothers and sisters, a good sampling for statistical purposes, 5 of whom lived to be in their mid 90’s. We expect about 40% of offspring to be as long lived as their parents. My great uncle, George, I recall specifically had the family funny bone. He kept me laughing and of course I tossed it back at him for 2-3 hours of family history and related while visiting him in Towson. I asked him where the family baldness came from, his Mom or Dad? It was late onset, male pattern baldness. “Well, he said, “That’s a sore spot with me.” being totally bald in his 80’s with a bit of white fringe above both ears and around the back. “But…”, he said, with a twinkle in his eye.” And got me two photos, one of his father who was bald, and one of his mother’s brother, his uncle, who was bald, too. “You tell me!” and we laughed. Good humor to the last.
It was a big treat to visit with my cousin, Margaret, whose mother was a Jones, also, being Saranda Jones, my gr-g’ma’s older sister. I’d asked her where Lillian, her sister was, aged 90, as Margaret was 91. “Out dancing with her Boyfriend.” she said. Again, there it was. She said she didn’t have a very good memory any more.
“What happened to John Valentine Jones? ” He’d died in his 30’s.
“Oh,” she said, “He was crushed up against a barn by a mule and he died.”
“Margaret, that’s 20 years before you were born!!” I said. And we laughed again.
She talked about not being able to garden any more since last year. I asked her where and she showed me the back acreage, 1 FULL acre a farmer friend of hers plowed up for her, at age 90. Instead she put out a lot of orange clay vessels in the back enclosed porch and grew many fresh veggies there.
“I call it my pot garden.” she said, that glint in her eyes. The family gift in full. I knew where mine came from, then, by an easy, simple comparison.
15. My gr-gr-grandfather was David Jones, born 1822, Pipe Creek, Maryland, dying 1901. His father was also David Jones, dying young about 1844. His father, as far back as we can trace the Jones’, was another David Jones living in 1870 census on Big Pipe Creek age 99, who ran a mill, as a millwright, on the same watercourse, his daughter, Elizabeth married to the man who ran it as well. ( None of our David Jones’ owned any lockers. Locks, maybe and perhaps for a short time, bagels.) For several generations in that family, they lived into their 90’s and my uncle today, a Jones on his father’s side, his daughter a nurse, is 93. With the family sense of humor in full, too. 250 years of longevity, also possibly due in part to the dopamine boost, that spark of life.
When I had an outpatient procedure done some years ago, where I was put under with Intravenous meperidine(opium like pain killer) and diazepam(Valium), I came out of it. and he sort of looked at me. “Are you a drug addict?”
“No, not ever.” I said.
“The amount I used on you was more than twice what is usually used, including 10 mg. of Valium.” he said.
“Hmm.” I said. “At the dentist’s it takes 150% the normal amount of local anesthetic to numb the gums, too,”
He was quiet “You must have a real resistance to drugs of those kinds.”
“Yeah. A buddy of mine was hit in ‘Nam, and he took 2-3 times as much morphine as normal to kill the pain in his upper arm bullet wound. John was straight as an arrow about drugs.” It was OK.
My dopamine level is high, normally. It gives a resistance to addiction, because I don’t need it. We get a natural high on life in my family. It’s in the brain.
17. And this is yet again, depths within depths. Because in modern life people are taking coffee for the stimulation to get them going. Again, modestly addictive, caffeine’s chemical structure is a dopamine imitator. There are immense problems with drugs. People are going to raves, horror movies, rock concerts, to get that feeling back. They’d lost that loving feeling, and just can’t get it back. There is a lot of depression out there on the street. Roughly 15% of people in our society are taking psychoactive drugs. A huge number of people are overeating, too, in order, most of the time to get that endorphin rush from stomach distension.
Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony” is based on this effect. When Haydn’s chief patron, the Prince Esterhazy, commissioned him to write music, he often played it after a big dinner. The Prince ate a lot and then went to sleep. The stomach is the most richly innervated organ in the human body and creates a LOT of polypeptides. It’s an endocrine gland due to how much it produces, one of which is endorphin, which acts like morphine, tho not as long lived. So the Prince ate a lot, his stomach distended a lot, releasing much endorphin and bingo, like morphine he went to sleep right in the middle of Haydn’s hard to compose music.
Needless to say Franz was frazzled by this. So he created a work called the above symphony. At a certain interval, Haydn had noted the Prince falling asleep, so at those exactly timed intervals, the quiet music was marked “Sforzando!” which in Italiano means, “play as loudly as you can,” literally translated. And then was loud for a good bit of time afterwards, to keep him awake. Then it went on and on and he was treated to the wake up sections a couple more times. Again, the commonality, we can see why people fall asleep after eating. and why they overeat many times, too.
The catecholamines, adrenalin and dopamine are appetite suppressants. Those of us with higher dopamine don’t eat as much and are far, far more active because of the stimulant effects of dopamine. My father, grandfather and I have been lean persons. Adrenalin can even make some persons throw up.
A higher level of dopamine will also reduce weight by the increased activity it creates in normal persons. It acts as above to decrease appetite, increase activity, and can be a very helpful adjunct to weight loss and treatment of overweight persons. This might well be one of the life extension effects of normal/modestly elevated dopamine levels. My grandfather was lean all of his life. So is my father, both lived into their early 90’s, though my father is 91 and healthy. The setting of increased activity in him was higher. This might well promote longevity.
20. Consider that no animals and certainly no plants can commit suicide. Why is this? Why do they live? They cannot do anything else. Those species which auto-self-destruct are eliminated by the normal evolutionary processes. They must have a normal life sustaining metabolism built into them which will fight to survive. They will not commit suicide. Humans do, because our cortex can interfere and create the means and the impulse to do so. Much of this can come from mania and severe depression brought on by maniacal and lack of control of the self. Usually, the person who suicides has a profound and serious delusion about his condition. He cannot see himself surviving, although many others have lived despite being in worse conditions. Suicide, in most cases, can be seen as a clinical delusion where the comparison process in the cortex has gone very wrong combined with low dopamine/serotonin levels or imbalance between the two. A simple anti-depressant will often change this. A dopamine boosting regime will also in many cases.
21. So a cure for part of the modern malaise and problems in western societies already exists within us. Elevate those dopamine levels to a more normal level, and find what is lowering them abnormally and cut back that inhibition. Then a great many of those illegal, fattening and dangerous activities will get a lot better. The answers, as usual, lie within us and without. We simply have to put it together. From the simple lowly pun, a world’s problem can be helped and/or solved. These are Blake’s “seeing a world in a grain of sand.” It’s a prescription for social improvement, widely. This is the power and the endless, unlimited capability of the Comparison Process. Use it well and use it wisely.