Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Table of Contents:


On Knowability

Epistemology is the  branch of philosophy that asks about how we know what we think we know. I would dig it a bit deeper and ask whether it might be that true knowledge of anything, full knowledge, is truly impossible in a world of cosmic dimensions. In other words, could it be that the notion […]

On Understanding

A friend of mine responded to my blog #104 writing that he wonders about whether anyone can understand another person. The answer is: Partially, yes, if  the goal is that the other person feels understood. The best way to do this is to empathically respond to what is being said and allow oneself to be […]


Faith-ing is a word I use to express the idea that faith is something you do, not something you can “have.” It’s an activity of turning towards your highest values and a somewhat optimistic view of the possibilities in the future. Faith may not require that you think of the future as all rosy; rather, […]

Oops: Reflections on Coping with Mistakes

Sometimes I mess up. Not that it’s “my” fault, you understand. I have these foibles. Foibles are sort of mental gremlins that fuzzy my mind and generate errors. It’s their fault, so cut me some slack. Seriously, though, mere exorcism won’t do the job, and what I’m really getting at is that it doesn’t help […]


"Lexophile" is a word used to describe someone with a love for words as words, such as a paranomasiast—a punster. Some puns include:   "You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish."   "To write with a broken pencil is pointless." A competition to see who can come up with the best “lexophillies” […]

Passover Reflections

My Jewish heritage comes up at this time of year as people wish me a happy Passover. It’s awkward, because although I’ve enjoyed elements of the culture—jokes, history, some philosophy, cultural sociology—I am not affiliated with the religion per se. I’m more like the philosopher Spinoza (who actually was excommunicated by his congregation in Amsterdam […]

Permeability and Ability

My thesis this morning is that extraordinary abilities are to some significant degree due to an innate permeability of the mind to what some call “psychic” and others call “inspiration.” It occurred to me that our model of mind may be limited, overly materialistic. The reigning paradigm is that the contents of the mind are […]

Pre-Summer Solstice ‘18

We are approaching the summer solstice in a couple of weeks. It’s 8:30 PM and there is still a pick cloud in the evening sky, while it’s darkening—but not yet dark. I’m very happy because (chiefly) I have a wonderful and beloved wifey who attends to my needs while also attending to many other things. […]

Premature Closure: Some Thoughts

In a book I’ve recently begun to read, Exploring Happiness: from Aristotle to Brain Science, by  Sissela Bok (2010, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), I was struck by the author’s use of the idea of premature closure. That term is also used by Erik H. Erikson as a pitfall of adolescence. It means that […]

Problems with “Past Lives”

Someone asked me for my thoughts about the theory of “past lives”—a take-off on reincarnation. First, I think the mind is a hundred times faster and more clever than what we think it is, and it can generate quite compelling and vivid fantasies that seem like realities. In a multi-dimensional universe, perhaps they are a […]


As we begin the debates and the next round of political jostling for public office, I’m reminded that I’ve been interested since my early teen years 65 years ago in propaganda, the way the newspapers and other media can and do distort the truth. The old term for this is “rhetoric,” and I think they […]

Reasons for Non-Reason

A recent and most interesting book came to my attention, Matthew Hutson’s 2012 The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking, subtitled How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane  (New York: Hudson Street Press / Penguin). I’ve been thinking of the phenomena associated with illusion for much of my life. From rhetoric, propaganda and semantics […]

Responsibility Reconsidered

A friend wondered, “Why haven’t humans done a better job of taking care of themselves and the environment?” I responded, after a friendly greeting: “Fair question: Why have humans not done a better job? Answer: Species wise, homo not-so-sapiens is, as a species, fairly immature, emerging through several species levels over 1,000,000 years to be […]

Role Reversal? 1962

Jules Feiffer was a popular cartoonist in the 1960s, one unafraid of at times commenting on the international situation. In one strip, Feiffer drew two negotiators, one from Russia and one from the United States, It was at the time of the Soviet Missile crisis. At a stalemate, one suggest putting themselves in each other’s […]

School Supplies

For the first time in ages I haven’t shopped in stationery stores or drug stores for school supplies. I have enough to last me, and I won’t purchase more. This “came home” to me yesterday when I was at a Dollar Tree store, when in the past I would buy school supplies. No longer: I […]

Semantics Illustrated

Saul Steinberg is a cartoon-artist whose drawings I find to be thought-provoking (and I dearly love my thoughts to be provoked). Here in a New Yorker magazine cover of September 17, 1960 he portrays words and names that evoke different associations in different people. Sail on, oh ship of American hegemony (at the time, a […]


I woke up from a dream, and on and forgetting the rich eventful-ness of what was going on in the dream, I experienced a pang of grief-loss. I sensed that dream  was still engaging my interest, though I couldn’t say why. Dreams have that power. Then another frame of reference kicked in: I’ve learned to […]

Sociometry—What to Teach

Sociometry is the measurement of degrees of attraction or its opposite—un-attraction?—among people. It is part of the complex of creations of Jacob L. Moreno, a born-Viennese physician who immigrated to the United States and developed psychodrama. (This is one of my interests!) Sociometry was one of this genius’ major creations, but it has been largely […]

Strung Out and Spread Thin

Perhaps I’m being a sort of "Cassandra here, shaking my tambourine and prophesying, but it must be said: “Overload!” The information explosion and media glut has arrived. We are in exponential times, with accelerating everything. The trickle became a creek, a stream, a river, a delta, a flood, an ocean, and a tsunami, all in […]

The “Right” Answer

(So here’s this morning’s reflection: seeing the title, that’s a funny spelling: It should be aensur  . Ah phonetics.) There’s a whole category of answers that must be discovered repeatedly by people for themselves, an ongoing complex inner “map” that continuously gets revised. In this category are such questions as: – What is God? What […]

The Amplifying Unconscious (Part 2)

[Please see Part 1 for an introduction to this: I am suggesting a second type of unconscious process that is far more powerful, less rational, far quicker in processing, far more clever, and that this hypothesis accounts for many previously-inexplicable psychological phenomena.] The Ordinary “Muddled Middle” Unconscious I’m a psychiatrist who was trained in the […]

The Dingle-Derry Complex: Unrealistic Expectations

Reading Jean Houston’s mythic take on the classical Wizard of Oz 1939 movie, I was reminded of my own take on a tiny element in that great epic, the wistful song sung by the Scarecrow, “If I Only Had a Brain.” The Lyrics: I would while away the hours / Conferin’ with the flowers   […]

The Gestalt Function

There’s a function of the mind called “Gestalt” that’s not “Gestalt therapy” but rather the innate tendency to see meaningful patterns in what is perceived. The mind tends to see things as wholes. Shown a series of still pictures quickly enough, it generates the illusion of motion (and from this, movies and television). The Gestalt […]

The Impossible Dream

I was singing this song to myself, from the Broadway play of the 1960s, Man of La Mancha—, revealing my private dreams of grandiosity. These betray the mind’s capacity to think in terms of superlatives. Each is paradoxical, a way of dramatizing ambition, such as dreaming an impossible dream or fighting an unbeatable foe. They […]

The Lies We Live By

I have evolved from my role as psychiatrist in part into the role of cultural critic, because I found that part of what has come to be regarded as neurosis is just that some folks take to heart the lessons they’ve been taught or picked up from the ambient culture. It began to dawn on […]