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A Short Cut to Enlightenment

 
 
Greyfan
 
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 07:49 pm
My favorite radio show is This American Life, which airs on PBS on Saturday afternoons. Each week, a subject is examined in some depth, through multiple angles. Last Saturday (May 1) the topic was testosterone.

The first segment was an interview with a man who, in the course of treatment for an undisclosed medical condition, was left with virtually no testosterone in his body. Apparently, the male hormone influences more than sexual desire; it appears to control desires of all kinds.

The subject reported that he was unable to work up any interest in anything. He would wake up, and hours would pass while he sat passively in bed, staring at the wall. He developed an aversion to strongly flavored food, not wishing to engage his senses. He was untroubled by his lack of connection to the world. Far from being alarmed, he found that everything was "beautiful", although this registered not as a joyful feeling but simply a factual one.

Well, as I was hearing this, I couldn't help but draw a parallel between his experience and the goal of the Buddhist: detachment from the material world, rejection of its temptations, and a sense of the underlying unity of the true world. Achieved, not through years of meditation, but by a simple medical procedure!

It might be a bit painful, but think of the spiritual rewards....


The broadcast is available online at:

http://www.thisamericanlife.com/
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,074 • Replies: 14
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 08:31 pm
I heard part of that, it was fascinating.

I had to have my estrogen zonked out once, preop to what was a fairly minor yet important surgery, and took the drug Lupron to do that. Yikes, I did feel different, sort of a shell of myself, and was glad to have hormonal balance back later, yet -

I also found that even with my own hormones kicking in again, plus some additive ones re my age and the incipience of menopause, that I still didn't have my famous, to me, libido back. Mentioned this to the m.d. and got my female hormones with a little testosterone added in (most here probably know that women have some testosterone too..) That was called "Estratest". Swell, the old libido bounded back, hiiiiiiiii!!!!, but every once in a while I had the WEIRDEST DREAMS. Went back to the doc because even the slight memory of those creeped me out, and so returned to regular hormone supplements for my age and grace. Luckily, my transition to an older sense of self was more even after that....
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 09:02 pm
To continue, I am trying to remember what I felt, besides that "shellness". I can't say that I remember positives, such as a kind of beneficent detachment. But.. it might have been just about that time that I got somewhat more serene, if not stolid; it is a little hard to decipher, as I was dealing with learning about my strange eyes at that time too, and repositioning my idea of what I could or should do re various choices - and over time I picked less aggressive moves re career than I might have done a few years earlier.

Lack of the femme's normal allotment of testosterone at key time? normal dealing with circumstances? It is interesting to look back at some of your decisions with new eyes.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 09:19 pm
osso, With your faculties all back to normal, do you think you ended up making the right choice?
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 10:00 pm
Ah, which right choice? Not taking the Estrotest pill, yes, for me the dreams were unsettling, no thanks. Plus libido came back anyway, yippeekiyokayeaaaa. A certain loss of aggression I had re career around the same time was not identifiably related to this drug or that, as natural hormones were changing anyway, and at least some of that was re other circumstances. Quick example, I couldn't work in city planning or at a serious firm that was interested in me because of not being able to drive at night. Or at least I thought that was true, and I started to figure what else I could do, thus got interested in more idiosyncratic things, such as painting, writing, photography. Surely circumstantial, but right around a general hormone loss, both with that zappo drug and the comeback after that, and the fluctuations around menopause.

I'll agree that in many cases women are enabled by menopause to reach for the stars, etc. Just talking about m'self here. I remember my own drive, for years handling a lab in the daytime and taking classes at night.... making it, at least to some extent, and then flagging...

was it new knowledge of the new career?
weariness after years of spinning?
hormone harmony breakdown?
new wisdom to look inward more?
sheer laziness?

I dunno, and don't want to belabor more about me, I originally posted to say the show was VERY INTERESTING. I almost started a topic on it myself.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 10:12 pm
Since you made two posts in a row, I thought it only natural to have you expand on your first two. I was wondering if your drug induced enlightenment helped you to make the right choices in your career and other life changing decisions - even with the constraints imposed by your limited night vision. That you chose painting, writing, and photography seems it was the right choice for you.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 May, 2004 10:36 pm
Even if a certain period of testosterone lack and then pulse of it coincided with my decisioning making.... there were too many other factors. I have mentioned all this only to explain my personally tweaked interest in that program.

Please excuse this personal tangent at the start, Grey Fan.
I cannot connect my own hormonal escapade to any kind of new detachment, much less bliss... with any precision.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 04:31 pm
No apologies needed, osso. I had no agenda in mind when I posted this bit, other than to prompt an opinion or two; and your experience is more valuable than any further speculation on my part. I do hope to hear from some of our resident A2K Buddhists as well.

Did you, by any chance, see the Showtime special this week about the transgendered individual? It was very reminiscent of the second segment of This American Life, which also told the story of a woman who, through massive injections of testosterone among other treatments, became a passable man. Both mentioned a greater difficulty in crying, and less satisfaction when they did cry.

I wonder if we are anything more than the sum of our chemistry.....
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 06:02 pm
Yeah, don't apologize, Osso. We don't get enough of you as it is.
I was wondering if your testoserone drug caused you to dream that you were on the hunt at night in some woods.
Greyfan, I think that while the loss of testosterone may provide a "DETACHMENT", a loss of desire, this is not, as I understand it, what Buddhism is talking about. The loss of libido is an abnormal thing (except gradually as one ages, I guess). While it might make it easier for the Freudian ego to meet the demands of super-ego, because Id is out of the way, Buddhism is more concerned with "NON-ATTACHMENT," something quite different. Buddhist adepts have desires--they are fully alive, not quasi-dead. But they do not orient themselves to their desires. They freely feel them and satisfy or sublimate them, but they do not identify with them or suppress them. THOSE would be a forms of attachment.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 06:48 pm
Something like that, JL. I think I was a rapist or at least very aggressive for a few seconds, or? I cannot remember, even the sex of who I was, though I have a hunch it was male, and who else was in the dream, except that it woke me up and in the millisecond of dream recall we sometimes have I thought, what the hell? I think a dream like that, presumably in a late rem episode, happened twice... that is, my self observer that is there watching dreams caught it twice. Don't think it was a rerun, just a second thing that startled me to awaken in a quandary of what? I haven't had anything like that happen before or since and did think of my (then) recently modified daily pills. This is anecdotal of course, but from ME, she says, smiling.

The doctor's office at that time had a new nurse practioner who interviewed you first. She said something like 'we all have those dreams, dear'. Told it to the md and he stopped the pills instantly.
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IronLionZion
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 07:10 pm
Fascinating.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 07:41 pm
I wouldn't call it a loss of labido; our mind stays young, but our body doesn't. LOL
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2004 08:45 pm
eh? are you speaking of loss of libido on aging generally, CI? the loss of libido when my estrogen was zapped, not just cut off, but as I understand it, dismantled chemically in some way. was quite a sheer drop. Trust me, I was cheered to see mi' libido back some time later. Ah, I just didn't want it back quite so quackily as it happened with the addition of testosterone.

To get a little more precise here... I had been to the md with the complaint that the drug prescription that was restoring hormone balance after my surgery (by now you are all curious, no? it was a bleeding fibroid, and I had one of the early resectoscopies for it, not quite experimental, instead of a hysterectomy. Just a little high tech nab-it). The prescriptions did not restore libido, which had been in flight after the Lupron, as I mentioned, and it was quite a strange time. The md reasonably switched me to a similar product that had a smidge of testosterone added, testosterone helpful for us all re libido. In this case, for me, this person, that drug that year was too helpful, in my opinion, heh. One assumes these things can be refined. I am not actually against testosterone medication for some individuals in certain circumstances.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 May, 2004 04:49 pm
Thanks for the clarification, JL Nobody. Although the subject in question seems superficially to have reached an enlightened state, he was relieved to return to the "real" world. Its hard to imagine a religion or philosophy with a goal of reaching the emotionless, deadened place he was ever gaining much popularity. Though, truthfully, I myself am not yet enlightened enough to orient in a direction opposite desire, the dangers of living for desire alone seem clear enough.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 May, 2004 09:46 pm
IMHO, the way to "enlightenment" is a way toward the transcendence of "attachment" and "dualism." Desire is no more of a problem than getting hungry, thirsty or horny. They are manifestations of life. But attachments to the objects of desire and the division of the world into opposing pairs (good-bad, true-false, love-hate, etc.) are problematical.
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