Eps 142: Guest, CJ Casciotta; Finding Your Sacred Weird

Today my guest is CJ Casciotta.

To get the EXTRAS for this episode and more info about CJ’s work, go the Spark My Muse Podcast support page HERE.

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Eps 101: How Racism Came to America, Guest Dr Kendi

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 Today my guest is award-winning author and historian Dr Ibram Kendi. He is the 2016 winner of the National Book Award for non fiction and the youngest winner ever in that category. At the time of this interview, he was teaching at the University of Florida, and weeks later became Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University

Dr. Kendi’s book:

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EPS 30: Why is it funny? A neuroscientist on humor studies

  • What makes something funny?
  • Can the science behind what makes us laugh teach us something about how to make better decisions, or how to getting along better with others?
  • Why do some people find things offensive that others find hilarious?
  • What factors influence humor and can they be altered for desirable outcomes?
  • Can the brain recover from major damage and how plastic is it?

All these questions and many more are studied using experiments and FMRI brain scans at the Goel Neuroscience Lab at Toronto’s York University to unlock the role of emotion in decision-making, mental systems, and human behavior.

Scroll down to click the LISTEN button.


Dr. Vinod Goel is my guest today. He is a neuroscientist of note, but he is currently on sabbatical in Zurich, so he will not likely be joining us for our LIVE discussion portion on humor on October 13.

Enjoy my recorded conversation with him for the podcast and scroll down for shownotes.

Caleb Warren, behavioral researcher from the Humor Research Lab, with Pete McGraw author of the Humor Code,  is stepping in to answer your questions and discus the science of humor on October 13 HERE(or click to watch the replay)

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The way the brain understands a joke works the same way any mental set shifts work. By studying what the brain does with humor, we can understand how the brain understands and perceives the world in symbols, language, abstraction, and in social contexts. Using FMRI scans that study of the brain has revealed some interesting and surprising findings.


Basic jokes rely on non verbal set ups that become funny when the expectation is not met and advance jokes are semantical and often involve a shift in thinking about a social norm.


Why uneducated people get offended at jokes.


Physical humor and language-based humor. It depends on triggers.


Study show that tickling rats cause a kind of laughing response. Are they REALLY laughing?


How are humor develops, starting in childhood and moving toward abstract concepts. The social context and the semantic network of association develop to understand much more.


His study of the role of emotion in reason and decision-making.

The impetus was watching American politics.


The manipulation of emotion in advertisements to bring people to an illogical conclusion. Different portions of the brain are not used that would help make a good and logical decision.


Arguments laden with emotion don’t engage the reasoning part of the brain found in the left dorsal lethal prefrontal cortex. Instead brain activation happens in the medial ventral prefrontal cortex.

Studying war veterans with brain damage in the medial ventral prefrontal cortex could reason just fine but not if the medial ventral was damage. This part of the brain filters out the emotional content so we can make wise decisions.


His findings show the individuals with more education and with higher IQ, and better working memory capacity care better at compensating for the differences and detect if there is emotion playing into the decision at hand.


Brain plasticity and what can be healed.


The strange case of the normal woman they scanned who had the shockingly atrophied brain hemisphere. Her working hemisphere took over all the functions of the damaged hemisphere.


One of the surprises in his recent research that exploded the common perception in the field of neuroscience.

The visional perception parts of the brain that are not near the frontal lobe but help us in reasoning.


Dr Goel ideas about why humor is such an important part of the human experience.

Humor allows us to entertain ideas in a non threatening and safe environment or forum where we can positively interact.


The distinction between humor and pleasure and between laughter and humor.


Laughing disorders and occasions where laughter doesn’t include mirth. Laughing yoga and the “holy laughing” phenomenon.

Where in the brain laughter is sourced. Feigned laughter is shown to come from a different part of the brain than genuine laughter.


Laughing and yawning can both be phenomenon.


Laugh tracks used in comedy shows to make us perceive the show as more funny.


Often humor is relying on the violations of social norms. The science behind why Archie Bunker is no longer funny for most people.


On what makes something classically funny.


Dr Goel children don’t think he’s funny.


The brain chemistry of humor in the reward centers of the brain.


“Humor is a very sophisticated marker of intelligence.”

Special End-of-Summer News and Updates Episode

Here’s a picture of me “at the office” as I write this post. I love creating episodes and posts for you, and it’s especially nice to do it outdoors…but I’m going to need a hoodie…more on that later.

hammock offic


This short Sunday episode contains news and info.

I’m debuting my new microphone for you to hear. Tell me if you can hear the difference!

A few Episodes are already in the queue, but after those air, you will hear a much richer and higher quality sound demonstrated in this short episode! Many thanks for your kind response to my need for financial support. I still need to buy more monthly space at the audio hosting site, but it is a landmark accomplishment to upgrade my mic and I had to share my joy, gratitude, (and the new and improved sound) with you!




In September, I will launch a Slack Community just for us!

Slack allows you to connect and collaborate much like Facebook but without all the ads and baloney.

At the Spark for Creatives community, we will be able to share, talk about the podcast topic of the week, connect, collaborate, communication, trade notes, and encourage each other in our communication and creative endeavors.

If you’re calling involves creating or communicating, welcome to your tribe!

(If you feel like reading political, religious, or societal rants, seeing posts from only about 12 people, being inundating with horrible news stories, seeing animated GIFs, playing Pet Saga, or looking at adverts from the places you just visited online, you will still have Facebook to turn to.)

• You must be subscribed to my email update list to get the application to join.

• You can join this community for free if you start as a charter member. In the future there will be a few special access areas, education options, and premium groups options that will be paid add-ons or features, too.


Subscribe to the mailing list for the chance to apply (and you also get the latest audio episode links delivered to you, 2-3 times per month.)

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It’s getting chilly. Time for a cozy hoodie (ends SEPT 7th! These are on sale to finance the show and ordering ends soon: SEPTEMBER 14th.

Click to see all the color and style options, including t-shirts if you like to layer! I hope you stay all snuggly warm as you listen to the shows I’m making for you!


REPLAY of the LIVE class (on Periscope)! with notes!

I was a sweaty, nervous wreck on my first periscope.

It’s comical…did anyone ever see Broadcast News (the movie)?
I needed two tissues for my sympathetic nervous system.

(Some technical difficulties threw me just before broadcast and I talked SO VERY fast.)

If you didn’t get to see it here you go!
(Twitter pulled the plug on this feature – sorry everyone)




THE #1 Myth about the SOUL…

is that we have one.

But first….we should get on the same page…


(what are we talking about?)

This is how I’m describing it:


In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. We might use it this way, “1,517 souls were lost in the Titanic disaster.”

SOUL ≠ dead BUGS BUNNY …like a floating ghost and that sort of stuff.

Not a faint rendering of bugs bunny leaving his body to play a harp on a cloud with Porky Pig. Not something that is ghosty and haunting a house or helping Demi Moore on a Pottery Wheel. (Patrick Swayze-style..google it, young people.)


Ancients thought of the mind and heart differently (the will and the emotions)…

Maybe these verses come to mind…but you’ve been thinking about them in your own context instead of the ancient context from which they were written.


Remember this one?

The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things JER 17:9

(Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life)

or Proverbs 4:23 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

….The writers of these scriptures were not talking about emotions and feelings when they said “heart” (like we associate the heart today…they were talking about the HEART as one’s will and control center of a person…(the thing we now associate with the mind.)

For them, the emotions (the heart for us in our context) were associated, instead, with the bowels. Perhaps a bit gross..but there is some

MEDICAL TRUTH/correlation : anxiety and stress are closely associated with disease and problem that happen in the intestines…like….ulcerated colon, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (bloating, constipation, gas, and other fun things), digestion issues, food sensitivities and problems in that part of the body. These are extremely related to one’s emotions and levels of stress.

The GEM MODEL of the Soul (my version)


Think of the SOUL as a gem and the facets are ways to see the soul.

You can go as far as saying other things beyond these are facets:

family of origin, social economic situation, skin color (if that has been a defining factor in your life)

education, the country you live in,

Even Christianity is a facet. A worldview is a facet that we can gain a kind of look at who we are.

Grace is central to Christianity, for instance. We can look at our soul through the facet of grace.

When light is added to a stone you can see its flaws and imperfections and you can see its quality (color, cut, clarity, caret)

UGLY soul? Is that possible? what do you think?

In his book Care of Souls, David Benner writes, “We can define soul care as the support and restoration of the well-being of persons in their depth and totality, with particular concern for their inner life. Soul care is done in the context of community.”

The vantage point of Soul Care views struggle or failings not as fatal flaws or illness to be “cured”. Not therapy or self-help. 

It’s a sustaining endeavor for our interior lives and our relationships, like water and food is for the body. Incidentally, caring for the body falls within the bounds of Soul Care.

Ten Signs that You Need the Renewal of Soul Care 

1. Fruitlessness. Are there observable deficits in the enacted your Fruit of the Spirit? That means, is there any lack or slack in the


areas of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? (If not, I think E.T. went home without you. Phone again. You might want to text, and retweet as well.)

2. You find yourself perceiving things others say as personally offensive, or as direct attacks. 

3. You are “venting” more in person or online.
4. You feel unloved.
5.You feel increased frustration, restlessness, or desolation.

6.Your fears and anxiety are more prevalent.

7.You have increased tension in relationships.

8. You struggle with one or more of the “seven deadly 

sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. 


9. You have problems sleeping or bad dreams.

10. You’re in a creative slump. 


THE #1 myth about the soul is that…. you have one. You don’t have a soul you are a Soul. You have a body. George MacDonald, in 1892 (C.S. Lewis quotes him and the quote is mistakenly attributed to him sometimes)

Think of the Soul as “the real you” the essence of you. contained in a body, yes, but made up of everything about you in a pure sense.

Some might say the soul gets extinguished or goes to paradise or gets absorbed into the great Life Force (God) …but in terms of what you need…you always need Soul Care, because you are a soul and that include both the visible and the invisible.

All this more and much more is available in my book. Shame-filled plug.