Moon’s impact on moods | Sunday Observer

Moon’s impact on moods

The celebrated English poet William Blake wrote:
The moon, like a flower,
In heaven’s high bower
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.

Such poets, lovers and anglers know that there is something about the moon. They think something happens when the moon is full. A recent book claims that the moon determines much of our mental weather. However, others argue that we all have ups and downs in life and the cause does not lie in the moon or any other star.

Without getting emotional, let us look at the moon scientifically. If you look straight up into the sky, the distance you can see is immense. The moon is about 239,000 miles away and the stars are millions of miles distant. The moon shines the light it reflects from the sun. It has no light of its own.

The sharp definition with which, on a clear night, we see the moon is due to the absence of any concealing veil of air or cloud on it. Since there is no atmosphere on the moon to act as a buffer to the sun’s rays, temperatures there are extreme and sudden. The maximum is 212F. (100 C.), the temperature of boiling water. The minimum is 292 F. (180 C). Understandably, the moon’s hostile conditions cannot support life of any description. There is virtually no ‘best time’ to launch a rocket to the moon because in terms of space travel, the journey is so short. The average distance is 238,000 miles, with a maximum variation of only 25,000 miles.

There is something mind-boggling about the moon if we dig far enough back in time. The words ‘moon’ and ‘month’ are synonymous. For the Indo-Europeans, both ‘moon’ and ‘month’ were ‘menes’ reflecting the ancient practice of measuring time by the phases of the moon. In the Roman language, only the ‘month’ meaning has been kept. The Germanic languages still have them, but they have split them apart into separate words. In English ‘moon’ and ‘month’ are closely related. Originally, ‘Monday’ meant literally ‘day of the moon.’

Origin

No one seems to know for certain where the moon comes from. The most probable theory suggests that a body approximately the size of Mars once hit the earth, and the moon is part of the debris from that collision. Others suggest that it may originally have been part of the earth that broke away, or perhaps that it was separate and just happened to be caught by the earth’s gravity, or even that it formed gradually in orbit over time.

At 4.18 p.m. on July 20, 1969, the Apollo II lunar module touched down for the first time on the surface of the moon and Commander Neil Armstrong reported that “The eagle has landed.”

At 10.56 p.m. Armstrong stepped, left foot first, on to the moon and declared “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He said the moon has “a stark beauty all its own.” The astronauts later spoke to the U.S. President in White House, in what Richard Nixon described as “the most historic telephone call ever made”, and left a plaque stating “Here men from the planet earth set foot on the moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The debate about whether the moon affects our moods started with a statement by Arnold L. Lieber, a Miami psychiatrist. He said there is a strong relationship between human aggression and the lunar cycle.

According to him, it was especially notable among alcoholics, drug addicts, those who are accident-prone, criminally inclined and the mentally unstable. Lieber said, “Like the surface of the earth, man is about 80 per cent of water and 20 per cent solids.

The gravitational force of the moon exerts an influence on the water in the human body as it does on the oceans. Life too has biological high tides and low tides governed by the moon. On full moon days, these tides are at their highest and the moon’s effect on our behaviour is at its strongest.”

Lieber in his book “The lunar effect” alerted the Miami police department, newspapers and the psychiatric emergency room at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, predicting a “general disturbance in human behaviour during an impending cosmic coincidence.”

What he predicted came true. In his own words, “All hell broke loose. Miami’s murder toll for the first three weeks of the new year was twice higher than for all of January 1973.” There were also a series of motiveless and bizarre crimes. From the research he has done, Lieber says, “The moon has a direct impact on most of us. In his book he has recorded a number of incidents to support his theory.

Prof. Roland R. Fieve of New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center did not agree with Lieber’s theory. According to him, our genes are more influential than any outside force in determining our moods.

In order to substantiate his view, he said the moods of manic-depressives ride a constant roller coaster from wild elation to deep depression. However, he did not rule out the possibility of lunar effect on biological clocks.

Factual evidence

Lieber gives more factual evidence to substantiate his theory that the moon has an effect on our moods. For instance, the Phoenix Fire Department in the United States received 25 to 30 more calls on nights of full moon. On the other hand, a team of U.S. psychiatrists has reported that there was an increase in mental patients on full moon days.

Dr Fieve in his book “Moodswing” says outside influences do not affect our inner states of mind. He gives three examples to prove his point. According to him, former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s state of depression in the wake of the breaking of his engagement to May Todd in January 1841 had nothing to do with the full moon.

Dr Fieve says even after losing his Senate race Lincoln remained in good spirits. When the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House it became a circus. The President used to talk to visitors incessantly. After lunch, he met Senators, Cabinet members, bureau chiefs and Congressmen. Then he went for riding, swimming or walking. At the dinner table he used to talk incessantly once again. The moon had no effect on his moods.

Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill used to work round the clock. At times he was depressed and at other times he was very happy. Dr Fieve says Churchill’s moody temperament was something he had inherited.

The moon or the environment had nothing to do with his bouts of depression. Dr Lieber, however, is firm in his conviction that celestial bodies such as the moon have an influence on our moods. He says, “Each nerve cell generates its small aura of energy and it has its own electro-magnetic field. When there is a coincidence of cosmic cycles, the human organism is bombarded with a massive disturbance of gravity. The disturbance dramatically shifts the equilibrium between our inner and outer worlds.”

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