Uncategorized

 

Follow me on LinkedIn follow me on facebook tweet me

Alone in the Desert

July 27, 2017 by pgd1

James Cowan (born 1942) is an Australian author.  Cowan’s work lies at the intersection between modernism and ancient cultural perspectives.  Many of his books explore the beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples as they attempt to come to terms with the modern world.

He discovered that the impulse “to forsake the world with all its opportunities and pleasures in order to pursue a life of self-abnegation” is found in Zen monasteries, Sufi orders, and Christian monasteries.

Although the fourth century desert hermit Saint Anthony wrote no books and never addressed devoted followers, he managed to pass on a system of ascetical behavior that is relevant to the present day where many seekers are trying to access the inner stillness through silence and prayer.

Cowan describes the importance of Saint Anthony as a pioneer of spirit:

. . . No man before him had so deliberately chosen to turn aridity into a positive value. The desert became his metaphor for being, his ageless encounter with lifelessness as a principle of rectitude.  No wonder he was such a threat to Rome. This lonely man living in the desert imposed a new valuation on human endeavor: that people had the right to an inner life over and above their responsibilities as social beings.  Such a premise went far beyond any that Socrates had proposed, even at his death.  A new force had entered the world. By his retreat into the desert Anthony paved the way for others to take their first step on the road to selflessness.

St. Anthony was a renegade spirit, even in his own time.  His goal was to change – no, to transform himself.  Not ethically, not morally, but spiritually, mystically.  All great spiritual disciplines are timeless.  Stilling the mind, developing inwardness, cultivating detachment, these are all aspects of a genuine renovation of the spirit.1

Although we are all social beings, there is something to be said for taking time to develop mindfulness, and to some extent, withdrawing from the world.  The point is to be recollected, to not be bounced around by the stress in our lives.  Anthony of Egypt has an important lesson to teach on this score.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 Portions of this blog was retrieved from:  http://citydesert.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/desert-father-lessons-in-the-desert/ and http://www.innerexplorations.com/chtheomortext/cowan.htm.

Why We Need Sleep

July 20, 2017 by pgd1

“Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber.”
-
Shakespeare,   Julius Caesar.

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist:  He studies the sleep cycles of the brain.  And he asks: What do we know about sleep?

According to Foster, some areas of the brain are actually more active during the sleep state than during the wake state.  There are dozens of different ideas about why we sleep. Here are three of them.

The first is sort of the restoration idea, and it’s somewhat intuitive. Essentially, all the stuff we’ve burned up during the day, we restore, we replace, we rebuild during the night.

The second idea addresses the concept of energy conservation. You essentially sleep to save calories.

The third idea concerns brain processing and memory consolidation. Our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep.  Sleeping at night enhances our creativity.

In the 1950s, good data suggests that most of us were getting around eight hours of sleep a night. Nowadays, we sleep one and a half to two hours less every night, so we’re in the six-and-a-half-hours every-night league. For teenagers, it’s worse. They need nine hours for full brain performance, and many of them, on a school night, are only getting five hours of sleep.  It’s simply not enough.

Another aspect of loss of sleep is weight gain. If you sleep around about five hours or less every night, then you have a 50 percent likelihood of being obese.  What’s the connection here?  Well, sleep loss seems to give rise to the release of the hormone ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

How do you get more sleep?  Foster recommends the following:  Make your bedroom a haven for sleep. The first critical thing is make it as dark as you possibly can, and also make it slightly cool.  Turn off mobile phones.  Turn off computers.  Turn off all of those things that are also going to excite the brain.  Try not to drink caffeine too late in the day, ideally not after lunch.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 The content of this blog was taken from:  Foster, Russell.  “Why Do We Sleep?”  Retrieved from:  www.Ted.com.

Poetic Justice

July 13, 2017 by pgd1

Bob Dylan’s pointed and versatile lyrics are cited in judicial opinions and have earned him a Nobel Prize for literature.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia loved opera, but he also had a soft spot for Bob Dylan.  In a 2010 dissent, for instance, he chastised the majority for refusing to answer key questions in a case about sexually explicit text messages because technology was evolving so fast.

“‘The-times-they-are-a-changin’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty,” he wrote.

Justice Scalia was in good company.  Mr. Dylan has long been the most cited songwriter in judicial opinions, says Alex B. Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and the author of a 2012 study, “The Freewheelin’ Judiciary: A Bob Dylan Anthology,” published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal.1

It was a 2008 dissent from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., that really opened the floodgates, Professor Long says. “Judges’ inclination to go to Dylan has actually increased in the past few years, probably as a result of Roberts’ dissent in that case,” he said.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Roberts quoted Dylan as follows:  “When you got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

In an interview of the Chief Justice on Feb. 3 2016, Dean John F. O’Brien of New England Law, Boston, probed the matter, starting with a general question. “What was your objective in quoting Bob Dylan?” Chief Justice Roberts, a little defensively, said there was a place for a bit of levity and license in legal writing. “An intelligent layperson appreciates Bob Dylan’s poetry, if not his music,” he said. “It was, after all, in a dissent, so you have a little bit more leeway there.”

“Bob Dylan captured the whole notion behind standing,” he added. “In that case, the party didn’t have anything at stake in the case and had nothing to lose, and the case should have been thrown out on that basis.”

Legal writing forms a unique aspect of literature that is enriched by the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 This blog was taken, in part, from the writings of Adam Liptak, including “How Does It Feel, Chief Justice Roberts, to Hone a Dylan Quote?”  The New York Times.  February 22, 2016.

The Many Sides of Harry Lee Coe

June 23, 2017 by pgd1

Judge Morison Buck wrote the “Chips Off the Old Bench” column in the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s publication, Lawyer.  Judge Buck passed away in 2014; however his biographies of 58 Hillsborough County judges are preserved.  They make fascinating reading.1

Perhaps the most interesting is the biography of Harry Lee Coe.  The local daily newspapers, The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times, the morning of July 14, 2000 reported:  Hillsborough County State Attorney Harry Lee Coe III was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the left temple.  The life of a well-known, successful, and popular (with most people) figure whose public life spanned three decades was over; but questions remained: Why would a man in seemingly robust health at 68 whose political future appeared secure sacrifice his life?

Judge Coe attended High School in Lakeland, FL.  Recognition beyond Lakeland of his talent as a gifted athlete came when he received a combination baseball/basketball scholarship to the University of Florida.  His pitching record at University of Florida stood for many years, and he was the first pitcher to be inducted into the UF Sports Hall of Fame.  He signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers—the first individual from Lakeland to sign a major league contract; Boog Powell became the second Lakelander to be picked when he signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched in the Detroit Tigers farm system for three years during the spring and summer seasons during the windup of his schooling at Gainesville.

In the late 1950s, while still attending law school at Stetson University, Harry Coe helped pay his way through that program by pitching baseball for the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League.

Judge Coe ran the court over which he presided with firm determination to do what he felt was right and just.  Contrary to the tag “Hanging Harry” seized upon and played up by the press, he was considered to be fair, particularly dealing with young persons having no significant criminal history.  He believed in the familiar doctrine of “a second chance.”

Only Harry knew what prompted him to give up the prestige and security of his judgeship.  But he did that in 1992 when, as a Democrat, he challenged the incumbent, widely respected Republican, Bill James.  Harry Lee Coe was elected State Attorney.

Harry personally tried the case against Christopher Wilson.  After the verdict of guilty in the case, one of the news services released a photo of State Attorney Coe embracing the victim of the crime and his mother.  This was one of the most sensational criminal trials in Tampa’s history.  Harry made a masterful closing argument, and both defendants were convicted of all charges.  Shortly afterward, Judge Coe received a cherished letter from Gregory Peck.   In the letter, Peck compares Harry to the famous lawyer from To Kill A Mockingbird:

When I saw this photo in the N.Y. Times, I could not help identifying with you, and thinking that in this case, you have played the role of Atticus Finch in real life, taken on the challenge, and won an important victory for all of us.

Harry Coe’s obsession with gambling in greyhound racing became such a dominate force in his life that in his waning years it is undisputed that he caged money from his subordinate associates to support his pathological problem.

The National Council on Problem Gambling based in Washington, D.C., which maintains a 24-hour toll-free helpline for those needing help or information, reports there is a strong link between suicide and pathological gambling.  Las Vegas’ suicide rate is one of the highest in the world.

We will never understand fully why Harry Lee Coe took his life, but we can be grateful that such a fascinating and talented man walked this earth among us.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 This blog, with some editorial changes, was taken from:  Buck, Morrison. “Harry Lee Coe 1932-2000.”  Retrieved from:  http://digital.lib.usf.edu.

Who Can You Trust?

June 15, 2017 by pgd1

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Leo Tolstoy, Ann Karenina (1878)

Although technology allows people to stay connected over long distances, it can interfere with family bonding.

The pressure to stay connected online is intense, with the workday encroaching on downtime.  The social pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out) drive people to check Facebook and other social media throughout the day.  It is inevitable that the demands of staying connected to the outside world affects what goes on inside the family home.

Research shows that adults spend over 12 hours a day staying connected via various media.  The tech-addicted family is a real phenomenon.  And the fact is the human brain is only equipped to focus on one thing at a time, even with technology forcing us to multi-task.1

With focus being divided, the result is increased isolation and disconnection.  Social media at best results in a superficial connection to a large number of people.  As human beings, this type of social interaction is not sufficient.  We have a need for deep social connections to people we trust and with whom we form a community.  To be healthy, the emphasis should not be on the number of “friends” we have, but on the quality of our relationships.

Facebook can never provide what we truly need.  In certain instances it fosters families and friends that are superficial, lacking the trust and connectedness that such relationships have traditionally entailed.

There is no problem with having superficial relationships.  After all, there are only so many meaningful relationships that we can handle.  Therefore, there is a place for Facebook.  The point is to be aware of the difference between Facebook family and friends and true family and friends.

One will be there for you when you need them, and you will be there for them; the other will only be there when you turn on the computer or phone.  It serves our best interests to know the difference between the two, and to never confuse them.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 The first portion of this blog is taken from: “Netsanity: Are Connected Families Becoming Disconnected?”.  Retrieved from: https://netsanity.net/are-connected-families-becoming-disconnected  The remainder of the blog contains my personal reflections.  The drawing that accompanies this blog is my interpretation of a work by Rupert Bathurst.

Removing Prison Tattoos: An Investment in Change

June 8, 2017 by pgd1

For all 100,000 prisoners in their system, Florida has published data including their age, race, sex, what crimes they’ve committed, and — most intriguingly — what tattoos they have.  The most obvious thing this data shows is just how common tattoos are.

Kevin Waters, a criminologist at Northern Michigan University and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, notes that understanding which tattoos are purely aesthetic and which are signals can be a lot of help to law enforcement, distinguishing truly hardened criminals from posers—gang members do not take kindly to outsiders adopting their imagery.

A study by Kaitlyn Harger, now of Florida Gulf Coast University, found that upon release, ex-cons with tattoos could be expected to last just 2.4 years outside prison before being re-incarcerated, compared with 5.8 years for those without.  The effect was especially pronounced for those with tattoos on the hands and face.

In the mid 1990’s, Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles, set up a bakery to provide jobs to people trying to go straight.  The bakery was the first business in what is now Homeboy Industries, a non-profit which has since grown to be America’s largest gang-rehabilitation center, offering employment and other services to hundreds of former gang members.  Its free tattoo-removal service has become the organization’s biggest claim to fame.

Such programs are spreading all across America.  Half a mile from Homeboy, at the Twin Towers correctional facility, a Los Angeles County jail, inmates on good behavior are eligible to have their tattoos removed free of charge while still incarcerated.

Tattoo removal can change how others see a person.  When those others are judges, or prospective employers, that can be good; when they are gang-mates, it can carry risks.  Perhaps most important, removing tattoos can also change how someone sees them self.

Predictive as they may be, it would be hard and probably foolish to argue that the tattoos cause recidivism.  Similarly, tattoo-removal programs seem unlikely in and of themselves to make anyone an intrinsically better person.  But they can reflect a genuine investment in change and they may also help reduce the amount of discrimination reformed ex-cons face.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 This blog contains excerpts from “Crime, ink an analysis of the art on Convicts’ bodies.  The Economist.  December 24th, 2016.  Retrieved from:  www.economist.com.

The Truth About Lies

June 1, 2017 by pgd1

Lying, it turns out, is something that most of us are very adept at. We lie with ease, in ways big and small, to strangers, co-workers, friends, and loved ones. Our capacity for dishonesty is as fundamental to us as our need to trust others, which ironically makes us terrible at detecting lies. Being deceitful is woven into our very fabric, so much so that it would be truthful to say that to lie is human.

The ubiquity of lying was first documented systematically by Bella DePaulo, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The researchers found that the subjects lied on average one or two times a day.

“Lying is so easy compared to other ways of gaining power,” notes Sissela Bok, an ethicist at Harvard University who’s one of the most prominent thinkers on the subject. “It’s much easier to lie in order to get somebody’s money or wealth than to hit them over the head or rob a bank.”

There appears to be no agreement among psychiatrists about the relationship between mental health and lying, even though people with certain psychiatric disorders seem to exhibit specific lying behaviors. Sociopathic individuals—those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder—tend to tell manipulative lies, while narcissists may tell falsehoods to boost their image.

Researchers have shown that we are especially prone to accepting lies that affirm our worldview. Debunking them does not demolish their power, because people assess the evidence presented to them through a framework of preexisting beliefs and prejudices, says George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. “If a fact comes in that doesn’t fit into your frame, you’ll either not notice it, or ignore it, or ridicule it, or be puzzled by it—or attack it if it’s threatening.”

Technology has opened up a new frontier for deceit, adding a 21st-century twist to the age-old conflict between our lying and trusting selves.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1This blog contains excerpts from Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit,  Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways, June 2017 National Geographic  retrieved from www.nationalgeographic.com

Dual Diagnosis

May 25, 2017 by pgd1

Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously.  A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience.  Research shows though that drugs and alcohol only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse.

About a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.  These statistics are mirrored in the substance abuse community, where about a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness.

The most common method of treatment for dual diagnosis today is integrated intervention, where a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse.

A person experiencing a serious mental illness and dangerous or dependent patterns of abuse may benefit most from an inpatient rehabilitation center where he/she can receive concentrated medical and mental health care 24/7. Supportive housing, like group homes or sober houses, is another type of residential treatment center that is most helpful for people who are newly sober or trying to avoid relapse. These treatment centers allow for more freedom while still providing round-the-clock care.

Medication is a useful tool for treating a variety of mental illnesses.

Psychotherapy is almost always a large part of an effective dual diagnosis treatment plan. Education on a person’s illness and how their beliefs and behaviors influence their thoughts has been shown in countless studies to improve the symptoms of both mental illness and substance abuse.  Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is effective in helping people with dual diagnosis learn how to cope and to change ineffective patterns of thinking.

In over thirty years of practicing law, I have encountered many individuals who suffer from a dual diagnosis.  It is not unusual to see these people when they are off their medications and not functioning well.  The point I make here is that there is help and hope for them.1

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 This blog contains excerpts from “Dual Diagnosis”. Retrieved from:  https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Dual-Diagnosis#sthash.LmQx3HHd.dpuf

How to Help a Mentally Ill Person Who Stops Taking Medication

May 18, 2017 by pgd1

One recurring problem that I observe in the practice of family law is when a person who suffers from mental illness stops taking medication.  With this problem in mind, I began to search for solutions.  This is what I found:

  1. About one-third of people with schizophrenia say that they stay on medicine primarily because other people think it’s important.  For them, the influence of other people, rather than believing the medication is needed, is the key factor that promotes compliance.
  2. Persuasion is better than coercion.  Forcing someone to take medication by threats is, at best, a temporary solution that is best left for acute (emergency) situations.  It is better to try to find a way to persuade a person to take medication.
  3. Families should be genuinely sympathetic about the side effect problems and the distress they can cause.  Ignoring the side effect complaints won’t make them go away; indifference may make a person feel neglected or misunderstood.
  4. Prescribing clinicians frequently do not often detect or ask about noncompliance and are not always good at recognizing when patients stop their medication.  They may not recognize noncompliance until the person becomes psychotic and starts reacting to hallucinations.  Therefore, you cannot rely solely on a doctor’s assessment of the situation.  Nonetheless, if possible, it is important to maintain routine contact with the doctor to discuss, among other things, compliance issues.
  5. When someone relapses, it may be very hard to tell whether the biggest problem is that the medicine doesn’t work well enough (nonresponse) or the person is not taking the medication (noncompliance). It is very important to clarify the true cause of relapse because nonresponse to medicine would be handled very differently than noncompliance.1

The failure of individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to take prescribed medications can often leads to relapse of symptoms, re-hospitalizations, and homelessness.  It is important to have an awareness of the problem of mentally ill people who tend to stop taking medication.  We should apply these strategies to help these valued members of our society.

by Patrick Gafney

by Patrick Gafney


1 Weiden, Dr. Peter. “How to help someone who stops taking their medicines”.  Retrieved from:  http://schizophrenia.com/.

Secrets and Their Implications

May 4, 2017 by pgd1

Keeping a secret is hard.  As a matter of professional ethics, lawyers are required to keep a client’s confidences.  These confidential communications can be understood as secrets.

In a recent study, Michael Slepian of Columbia University, addressed the question of just how much of a burden it is to possess a secret.

The researchers discovered that people reported pondering their secrets privately about twice as often as they chose to conceal them from others.

It was this private pondering, rather the actual possession of a secret, that seemed crucial to health and well being.

Those who thought little about their secrets had well being scores higher than those who thought about their secrets a lot.1

From this research one might conclude that keeping secrets is not so hard–but thinking about them is.  As lawyers, we might pause to ponder what we think about.

It is important to remember that happiness does not depend on who we are or what we have.  It solely depends on what we think.2

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney


1 This blog contains excerpts from “Weighing on the Soul”. The Economist. April 22, 2017.

2 Siddhartha Gautama, aka The Buddha.

back to top