Monday, September 30, 2013


So, I finally made it, 20 posts in 30 days. At times I didn't think I'd be able to pull it off. I felt pressured and rushed, like I was under high anxiety to meet an important deadline that really mattered, but I was short on material, and even shorter on time.

Or so it seemed.

I made a list of possible topics to use ahead of time, if I ever found myself in a bind with nothing to say, and no spontaneous insights to share, from the bottom of my heart and the top of my mind. An idea map to give me a sense of direction, a list of possible ideas to use if I ever felt lost, uncertain of what to say, or not feeling like saying anything at all. I also used my paper journal a lot, another useful map, scanning it for ideas, finding fragments of thoughts that needed elaboration, and I went with it.

Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Some posts were overly rushed, poorly edited, unclear, too long, not right. It's like time was speeding up. The days rolled by, like a tidal wave. And sometimes I surfed, and sometimes I crashed. So I forced myself to keep going. Going against the philosophy of flow, only to find myself drawn back into it by natural momentum. It's either sink or swim, keep going or giving up.

By seeing the clunkiness in my movements, but even more so by feeling it, feeling the pulse of my words, breathing a full breath of life from the belly, or gasping for air, and adjusting the tempo to maximize the repair, I made a note of the difference between force and flow, between resistance and balance, this I know.

But that being said, I've never felt more alone in my life on this blog, than I have these past 30 days. Not lonely, just alone, like I'm speaking to an empty room. And every now and then people peep through the windows, and sometimes people pop in off the street for just a minute, without sitting down, without signing in, without taking off their hat and sunglasses, and without even sticking around for the whole show, and then they leave without saying anything at all. It's an open meeting. People can come and go as they please. No obligations. No worries. That's just par for the course. Can't really expect or demand anything more.

Problem is most of them aren't people. Say what? What are they then? They are robots. Yes, it's true. Although I don't have an exact figure of the projected numbers, but it is quite high, probably at least 50 percent of all my traffic. And maybe some of them are aliens. Yeah, that's right, they're electronically generated inter-dimensional illegal border crossers from the Planet X.

Yeah, I'm not serious, well not about the illegal inter-dimensional border crossers, at least I don't think so, but I am serious about the robots. Sadly, it appears that most of my readers are in fact robots. And I hate robots. I do not write for robots. I am not a fan of artificial intelligence, at all. I write for real people.

I don't need a lot of people, but I do need some. I would rather have one real person, than one million robots scanning my blog everyday. Unless we're talking about pay-per-click, in which case I'd have to set up a for-robots-only channel. Yeah, roll in the big bucks, with my robot only money making machine. Although something still doesn't quite feel right about that either, sounds like some kind of esoteric ponzi scheme, because someone's footing the bill, someone with a real face and a real life, with real money to lose, and who the hell would have robots working against their own interests. Seriously. So maybe that wouldn't be such a good plan after all.

Anyway, who'd have thought that more posts would translate into less traffic, and by traffic I do mean both robots and people. It's true. I've actually seen a reduction in traffic ever since I started this challenge. Isn't that strange? You'd think it would be the other way around. Blog land you are just so full of surprises. I cannot figure you out.

Okay, I speak to the real people that are there peeping through the window of this side show freak act, as if it were a television screen, probably some kind of an Access TV show, and I'm the main attraction, looking in believing that you are not being seen, but you are, yes, your screen is actually a two way mirror. Isn't that a trip? Why don't you meditate on that for a moment.

Sorry, I don't mean to push anyone over the edge right into the padded room of a mental hospital. There is no reason to be paranoid. I'm not a wacko. I'm just a little eccentric. Totally harmless. Probably smoked too much pot in my life, but I don't any more. So don't worry about that, mental stability is a-okay. Do keep in mind though that when you look into somebody's window, you just might be seen.

Actually, don't mind me, I'm just getting into my playful October mood, and though it is true in principle, I really don't know shit. I've long since learned that you cannot go by web statistics to provide the whole truth, at least regarding locations and page views, some people cover their tracks and others don't leave any at all. And sometimes it's not even intentional. It's just the security of the system.

But anyway, if you happened to make it this far, I guess I should get to the point.

Things will slow down once again for awhile. 20 posts in 30 days is just way too hectic for me to maintain doing on a regular basis, especially without getting paid. That's why this is only a once a year thing, and this may very well be the last. If I feel like it I'll do it, but only if I feel like it. So, I'll see you, or rather you'll see me, sometime in October, though I'll probably be up and running again in a couple days.

*This is post 20 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

One of the Best Autobiographies I've Ever Read

"And I knew more than she thought I knew about the meaning of religion, the hunger of the human heart for that which is not and can never be, the thirst of the human spirit to conquer and transcend the implacable limitations of human life." -Richard Wright, Black Boy

I recently read Black Boy, the autobiography of Richard Wright, the African American author probably most famous for Native Son. Which is another one I recently read, but Black Boy is in my opinion the better of the two.

It was first published in 1945, and is divided into two parts: the first part being the lengthier of the two, weighing in at over 250 pages, describes his experience of growing up poor and black in the deep south during the early 1900s. The second part, covers the early part of his adulthood, his twenties and early thirties, after having moved to Chicago and joined the Communist Party, where he played a very active role in that.

It's actually probably the best autobiography I ever read thus far, reads just like a novel, and would have given it five stars, if not for the fact that the second part was not nearly as good. I didn't at all like the parts about his involvement with the Communist Party, and not only was that not interesting at all, it was actually a major turn-off. So I gave it 4 out of 5, for that reason only, but the first part I would definitely give 5 stars.

I only wrote down this one paragraph, quoted above, down in my notebook while reading it, shared here just to give you a sample of the writing, and I could have saved a lot more, but I was finding that I would have ended up copying half the book, because it was all so good. It is probably one of the best books I've read in a long time. I think I liked it even better than The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which is also one of my favorites. And will definitely add it to my "will-read-again" shelf.

What do I like about this book so much?

I'm not black. I'm not male. I'm not a Southerner. I didn't grow up in a religious household. I never experienced the extreme poverty and malnutrition and racism and hardship growing up that he did. And yet, while I did consider it to be extremely informative and interesting for its historical value and insight into the race relations of the deep south, at a time where racial discrimination and oppression were both socially accepted and endorsed, but probably the main reason why I loved this book so much, is that I felt as if I could relate to him.

Not the racism. Not the feelings of inferiority and oppression and injustice, but the feeling of being an outsider, not because of my physical appearance or who my parents are or where I was born, but because of the way I think.

I don't know if it's characteristic of people with either INTJ or INFJ personality type, as I am, to feel as if in many ways I have been living a double life. That there is a public persona that is kind of shallow, that plays the game because you have to, but without really being interested in it or caring much about it, ya know going through the motions, doing whatcha gotta do to survive, but underneath the facade there is a much deeper and more genuine and passionate self that is rarely ever shared with anyone else because there are very few people that think the way that I do and that I feel that I can really relate to and would really understand.

And I also related a lot to his autodidactic habits, finding refuge in books, and ideas, and being dedicated to the pursuit of personal excellence and truth.

Well anyway, if you haven't read Black Boy yet, I would definitely encourage you to. It's a great book, one of the best autobiographies I've ever read.

*This is post 19 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Of Truth and Justice and the Eradication of Evil

"It was the 'moral duty' of a writer, Abbey insisted, to act as social critic of one's country and culture and as such to speak for the voiceless." -Douglas Brinkley

I searched and searched for a direct quote linking Edward Abbey to this statement, but I could not find any. So the attribution goes to Douglas Brinkley, speaking on Abbey's behalf, in the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Monkey Wrench Gang.

I read the Monkey Wrench Gang for the first time in my life this past August, and I wanted to like it, expected to like it, but I didn't like it at all.

Though for the most part I do like Abbey, even though there are a few things I don't like, and eventually do plan to read everything he's ever written. I guess, partly, I'm not totally in love with his writing, because even though I live in the desert, I'm not in love with the desert, or with cowboys and rednecks, or the west, period, as he was, but see myself more as a tropical person, someone who loves the water and beaches more than anything else, which is where I need to plant myself someday.

But anyway, this post is not so much about Edward Abbey or that book, or the reasons why I didn't like it, but is more so a response to this quote.

I thought it was very interesting. I guess you could say that it is in fact an aspiration of mine, sort of, I have a few, but in regards to writing, I have always felt that if I'm ever going to write something, you know, something better and more serious than this blog, like a book or a newspaper article, it would be with the aim of helping to make the world a better place, exposing injustice and corruption and providing information that would help to improve the quality of peoples' lives.

But unfortunately, as much as I read, and love reading, and am striving to improve myself, I'm not a very educated person. My writing skills are not perfect, I'm still struggling with my verbal fluency and grammar and mastery of the English language, and frankly, I really don't know a lot. I'm not an idiot by any means, but I really do not feel that I'm at the level of knowledge to write a serious work of investigative journalism, or a novel that does so, along the lines of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Maybe I will someday, when I improve my writing skills and become a more knowledgeable person. Yeah, even though I'm over 30, you could say that this blog has reflected my teenage years as a writer. If I live long enough, hopefully my writing skills will mature into adulthood. But in the meantime, I agree that if one does have a talent with words, it would be ideal to apply your skills in a way that contributes to the greater cause and promotion of truth and justice and the eradication of evil.

Featured Books:

*This is post 18 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Irreconcilable Differences

Is it possible for opposites to be friends?

I guess it depends on what you mean by opposites.

You know how they say opposites attract. Well, usually they mean only opposite in some ways, not all. It's usually like one person is more introverted and the other is more extroverted. Or one is more logical, and the other is more emotional. Or one is a morning person, the other is a night owl. You know, differences in personality, mostly.

But what about beliefs? When it comes to ideas, do opposites attract?

Is it really possible for a conservative and a liberal to be friends? And I don't just mean friendly in the polite sense, as you would with work associates, neighbors, or casual acquaintances, but to actually be good friends, or even companions?

How about a leftist and a right winger? An atheist and a devoutly religious person? A feminist with a sexist? A white supremacist and a black person who believes in the equality of all races? A meat eating hunter and a vegan pacifist?

Okay, those last few are extreme examples, that are probably unlikely to ever occur, but are given just to illustrate the possibility of two people having vastly different beliefs getting together, based on some other common link, which could be anything, a common taste in music, literature, art, or some other hobby, that would enable them to be friends, despite what would otherwise appear to be irreconcilable differences.

I think it would be difficult. Although not impossible. It depends on how outspoken they are, whether or not they are likely to want to discuss and debate their ideas, or whether they are the kind of people that don't have a problem keeping their ideas to themselves. Out of sight and out of mind, just like sometimes people don't bring their work home with them. They do not talk about it at all, and the other does not ask. Their relationship with one another is a completely separate aspect of their lives, an island unto themselves, completely removed from their work life.

To me, that would be the only way two people with vastly incompatible beliefs could ever really get along, is if they simply do not discuss those beliefs with each other. And if they did discuss those beliefs, where each strongly disagrees with the other, I personally could not understand the attraction.

I would say that for them to be able to overlook and accept such a pronounced difference, a difference that really gets to the essence of who they are are and what they stand for as a person, I would say that they must be distracted by some other aspect of this person that is clouding their judgment; or it is indicative of the fact that maybe they don't have a very strong conviction in their beliefs to begin with, that they could be attracted to someone who stands for an idea that is in direct opposition to something that they have claimed to be an important part of their life.

I think it's natural that people gravitate to other people that share something in common with them. This commonality might be superficial, a shared taste in music, literature, sports, or any other common interest or taste. But for the commonality to be much stronger and deeper, its got to also extend into the realm of ideas and beliefs.

So while it is possible for people with opposing viewpoints to be friends, they will only be friends on a very superficial level. Like activity partners, that get together to play tennis or whatever, but that never get into political or religious discussions. They will be friends to a certain degree, but by no means will they ever be good friends, as long as their minds are apart on issues that really matter to them.

*This is post 17 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Power of Prophecy

You don't hear too much any more about the Mayan prophecy of 2012. I guess it didn't happen, huh? Or maybe we are still in its midst, with its unfoldment being a gradual process, a subtle transition and transformation, not only of earth energies, but the psychic energies of mind and culture.

That's the wishy-washy new age explanation. Sorry, it get's a bit old after awhile. I've been under its spell since the late eighties and early nineties, and while I am not opposed to esoteric explanations of reality, lately I am more attuned to theories that are either verifiable, or, at the very least, actually add value to my life. That is, even if it can't be proven, if it makes me feel better, or gives me a reason to live, than it's worth it, otherwise what's the point?

But prophecies, particularly those involving cataclysmic earth changes, golden ages, or end-of-the-world scenarios, are usually dismissed as being unscientific, because they are always being altered and postponed and reinterpreted to fit the expectations and imaginations of those entertaining them as real. For instance, regarding the Mayan prophecy: It didn't happen. Actually it did, but it just didn't turn out the way we thought it would, or maybe it's only been delayed. It is very subtle in the beginning, you could say that we are in the first stage of the great change, that is actually occurring during a ten to twenty year period of time. It's not that the great change would happen instantly on December 21, 2012, but rather it was merely an indicator, a sort of resetting of the clock, saying that from this day forward we begin anew, except that it will take us years to realize just how different we and our world have become.

But you see, the bullshitness of it is that the same could be said for any time in the entire history of the world. It's called life. Things change. Our world is in a continual state of becoming. People grow old and die, and new people take their place. The same goes with ideas. Though some ideas endure longer than others, whether or not an idea remains true, depends largely on the outer circumstances. The world changes. The earth changes. This is a normal aspect of life. It may seem shocking, after what seemed to be a long period of stability, when all of a sudden your old predictions and characteristics of normality are no longer valid, simply because the circumstances have changed. And so it may feel like the end of the world, but mostly this is because the world you took for granted as being unchanging is all shook up. It changed.

The Mayan prophecy is a myth, about death and rebirth and the normal cycle of change. The old world is destroyed, so that a new world may take its place. This world is both physical and mental. It is our physical environment and our consciousness in response to it. Although this destruction may not necessarily be total, it is enough to significantly alter the landscape and the weather, causing a redistribution of resources, destroying old cities and establishing new ones, with new cultures and new ways of thinking springing up in response to the new environment. Bla bla bla. In a nutshell.

Our inner world is a response to our outer world. If our environment changes, so do we. We can intentionally alter our environment, and our experience, to some extent. For instance, the choice to build a freeway, or a park, will significantly alter our perception of the same location; where one will be ugly and polluted and feel rushed, like you can't wait to get out of the place, and the other will be beautiful and healthy and feel relaxed, where you want to spend as much time as possible there. And other times the environment changes in a way that we cannot control, that to survive, we either adapt to it, or we perish.

Every year is different, each day is an opportunity for a fresh start, to go in a different direction, to begin anew. It's all a state of mind. Anybody can do it. But sometimes people need some motivation. If people believe that a certain day has special significance, or that change is imminent, that we are in fact entering the age of Aquarius, if enough people believe it they can actually make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it could also go the other way, where the power of prophecy can be creative or destructive, helpful or harmful. That if enough people believe that the end of the world is near, even if there is no scientific evidence to back it up, some wacko, or a group of wackos, could actually make it happen, you know, unleash a deadly virus, drop the bomb, etc. So you got to watch out for that.

Prophecies can become self-fulfilling with either good outcomes or bad outcomes depending on the prophecy. The fact is, without scientific evidence to it back up, why would anyone make, or take seriously an end-of-the world prophecy? What is the value in it, especially if you can't stop it? Why the focus on death and destruction and calamity? When you could see instead a golden age of transformation, creation, and innovation? Of good times on the horizon? Why the doom and gloom? Is it because some people have some secret suicidal death urge? Maybe that's the real reason why people go to war, to fight in wars that they do not personally profit from. Except they dress it up, call it Honor and Duty, give you a medal, and a coffin with a flag. But, in the case of the end of the world prophecy, rather than dying alone they want to take the whole world with them. It could also be due to a fear of death. Or a fear and hatred of life. That people think if they can take control of it, to determine when they die, when the world ends, it is less to fear, because it was there choice? That's kind of sick though.

How open are you to change? What is possible? What is necessary? Why is there an endless state of war and violence and oppression and injustice? People cheating other people, taking what they want at someone else's expense. It's un-evolved, you say. People are such Neanderthal brutes. Rapists. Liars. Cheaters. Barbarians. Adulterers. Warmongers. Arrogant. Greedy. Superficial. Petty. Backstabbers. Obsessed with things that don't really matter, things like sports, celebrities, gossip, even political news junkies, yeah you people need to get a life, wake up and smell the coffee, it doesn't matter. I don't know what's happening to television news these days, has it always been this bad? that when I turn on CNN for a moment it seems like I have on the wrong channel, like instead of providing intelligent investigative journalism about stories that really matter, for a moment I think I'm watching Entertainment Tonight or something. It's more like frivolous entertainment, than education. I'm really sick of it. But I'm not going to get into another anti-TV diatribe. I'm already upset that they took off C-SPAN from basic cable, and I cannot get it without a digital cable box.

But anyway, sorry, I'm getting a bit off track here.

As far as prophecies go, I see absolutely no sense at all in worrying about or becoming fixated upon end-of-the-world prophecies, particularly if there is no scientific evidence to support them, and no way to stop them if in fact they are true.

The only value they do have, is to remind us of our own mortality, that things do not stay the same, but can and will change over time. This means that things will change for the better, which can be a source of hope and strength to plan for a better future. But it also means that things will, eventually, at some point, change for the worse, which means that you shouldn't take anything for granted. That we do not have all the time in the world to get things right, that we should not postpone living our lives and being true to ourselves, and that if you have ideals, now is the time to live them, not later.

The best you can do is to be optimistic, to try to be prepared, and observant of the world around you, noticing little problems before they become big problems, so that you may alter your course if need be before it becomes impossible to do so. But also know that some things are so powerful that they are completely outside of your control, and that no matter how prepared and observant you are you may not be prepared enough.

*This is post 16 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Favorite Cat Breeds

Of course you knew this was coming, right? I can't have a post about my favorite dog breeds, without also doing one for my favorite cats too. Well, this one is not so cut and dry as it was for the dogs.

Why? Because there are clearly some breeds of dog that I would never want no matter what, and although I do have certain preferences, I really couldn't say the same for cats. I mean, I love all animals, and all cats and dogs are special in their own way, but dogs have I think more pronounced differences between the breeds, differences not only in size and strength and temperament and skills, but also, to me, some dogs are just plain uglier than others. And yeah, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what I think is ugly, such as a bulldog or poodle, other people love, but frankly I've never seen an ugly cat. All cats, both short hair and long hair, pedigree and mongrel, all have a certain elegance to them, that dogs simply do not have.

So cats are in another category. They're all beautiful, and all share qualities more in common with one another than do dogs of different breeds. The main difference between cats and dogs, is that cats are much more solitary, natural born hunters. Dogs are more sociable, but not all are good hunters. Beyond that, there are many more differences between different dog breeds than cat breeds. That is perhaps a totally unprofessional and unqualified statement to make, but that is just an opinion based on my own limited experience. If you know otherwise, feel free to set me straight.

The point is, I don't really have a favorite cat, their all wonderful in their feline way, but I do tend to prefer the longer haired ones. Though not so much the Persian. But there are three cat breeds, that are all somewhat related, being the largest of all the domestic cats and originating in colder weather climates, that really caught my eye as being especially beautiful. Because with cats, more so than dogs, it's all about the beauty, which is why people adopt an animal that were it not for the fact that you are feeding them, they wouldn't otherwise want anything to do with you. For a dog, it's more about the companionship.

Well anyway, here they are, followed by pictures of my own lovely cat, who isn't a pedigree, but he's certainly one of my favorite cats nonetheless.

(1) Norwegian Forest Cat

Source: Norwegian Forest Cat - Wikipedia

Source: Norwegian Forest Cat - Wikipedia

(2) Siberian

Source: Siberian (cat) - Wikipedia

Source: Siberian (cat) - Wikipedia

(3) Maine Coon

Source: Maine Coon - Wikipedia

Source: Maine Coon - Wikipedia

(4) My Cat, Domestic Black Medium Long Haired

These two pictures were taken recently, yesterday I think, or the day before. He's ten plus year's old, and still going strong. A bit of a drippy eye though, but other than that he's a very strong and healthy cat. He's actually pretty sociable, and extremely vocal, meows a lot, very loudly, actually kind of reminds me more of a dog than a cat. And I do have contact with other cats, that are much more solitary and quieter than he is. Still, he's more like a cat than a dog is like a cat, but more like a dog than most other cats. He's a great cat. You can read the story of how he came into my life here, I wrote about it February of last year.

*This is post 15 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

My Favorite Dog Breeds

You know, I think I was being too harsh in the post I wrote a year ago about Dirty Dogs. Well, I was in a bad mood at the time about people not picking up their dog shit, and I was kind of forming somewhat of a low opinion of dogs because of it. And was thinking that I'd probably never own a dog again.

It is a lot of work, and they do seem to be slightly dirtier than cats, or at least they don't clean themselves as fastidiously as cats do, but I've been thinking about it that, despite the hygiene issue, there will probably come a time in my life that I will own another dog. I think I would like to have one. It wouldn't be here though. I would never have a dog in an apartment complex. It's just not enough room. But if I ever do live in a house again with a large yard, and plan on being settled there for a long time, and am not planning on doing any major traveling, and am liking where I'm living, then I think I would get a dog again.

I've had cats for years, and the cat I have now has been with me for 10 years, but I wouldn't say I'm any more of a cat person than a dog person. I like them both. But the advantage of a dog, is that you can do more with them outside of the house, you know go for walks, taking them to the park, even bring them along on a trip, something that is more difficult to do with a cat. So I was thinking about it, that just for the sake of experiment, I was wondering what kind of dog would I get if I were to get a dog again. Even though I have no plans of doing so anytime soon, I thought it would be fun to see what kinds of dogs I tend to prefer. So I spent some time looking at pictures online and reading descriptions of the various breeds, and I came up with this short list of my favorite dog breeds.

(1) Long haired Collie

Source: Rough Collie - Wikipedia

I love this dog, in fact, if I were to get another dog, this would be my first choice. Extremely smart, healthy, long-lived, loyal, affectionate, with an extremely lovely, huggable fur coat, one of the most beautiful dog breeds I've ever laid eyes on. I've always wanted a dog like this. It's my absolute favorite.

(2) Siberian Husky

Source: Siberian Husky - Wikipedia

I'll never forget when I saw a dog like this for the first time, it was back in the mid-nineties, while checking out an independent book store on Locust Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The dog's owner, who was also the owner of the bookstore, was an older man of Japanese descent, with a very memorable Lao-Tzu styled goatee and mustache. The dog was in the store hanging around the front counter, very quiet and well behaved. I thought it was the most beautiful dog, with stunning blue eyes, and I thought to myself that one day I too would have a dog like this. Well, probably only if I move back to a colder climate, would never put a dog like this through the unbearably hot Arizona heat; even I, with minimal body hair, can barely take it.

(3) Golden Retriever

Source: Golden Retriever - Wikipedia

Great dog. I had a friend who had one once, and I loved that dog. It was always a joy to be around. Very nice. Very friendly. Very playful. Very affectionate. A very reliable dog to have. You can't go wrong with it.

(4) Alaskan Malamute

Source: Alaskan Malamute - Wikipedia

Similar to the Siberian husky, but larger. Another cold weather dog, totally unsuited to where I live. This is not my first choice, but if I ever lived in Alaska, or somewhere that got a lot of snow, it would definitely be a strong contender. It's a very handsome dog, and I've always liked them.

(5) German Shepherd

Source: German Shepherd - Wikipedia

This is a picture of a puppy. Very cute. But mostly, German Shepherds are work dogs, very good for personal protection, guard dog, search and rescue, etc., which is why they are the number one choice for law enforcement K-9 units. Very strong, healthy, intelligent dog, that will be a loyal friend for life. There's also a long haired version, called the Old German Shepherd, and I would probably go with that one.

(6) Border Collie

Source: Border Collie - Wikipedia

Despite being at the bottom of the list, this would probably be up there in my top three choices. It's also prized for being one the most intelligent dog breeds, after the poodle which is the smartest. It's just a great all around dog to have. Very good quality animal.

Closing Comments

Well there you have it, if I were to get a dog today, these would be my top picks. I tend to prefer the larger, more active breeds, and the longer hair. Yeah, there's a lot more upkeep, they shed their hair everywhere, you have to groom them regularly, vacuum more frequently if you have carpeting, but I just love to hug and pet animals, and a long and soft coat of hair is the most cuddliest of all. Which is why the long haired Collie is my number one pick. Strangely enough, I don't feel the same way about people. A beard is just, gross. And I'm not a fan of long hair on men either, or hairy backs, or hairy legs, for that matter. Sorry. But for dogs and cats, the longer the hair the better.

*This is post 14 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Spiritual Inspiration of Nature

"Nature is the prime source of the spiritual life. Block it out, and we obliterate the source of the spirit that our soul's thrive on." -Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life

What is the spiritual life? Beyond the dogma of religion, the essence of spirituality is a feeling of sublime wonder and veneration for the sacred mystery at the heart of all life. It is the recognition that there is more to life than flesh and bone, more to life than merely the material and the utilitarian.

Life, subject to death and destruction, also embodies something else, at its peak, it possesses the purest essence of vitality, health, beauty, strength, harmony.

And so spirituality is not only a recognition of the great paradoxical mystery of life and death, it is also a celebration of the vitality of life at its peak, which is symbolic of all life itself, and tries to nurture this quality, not only in body, but in mind, and spirit. It's like a glimpse of immortality, but there is no immortality in the physical sense, only a long stretch of time, a state of mind, and that too is a mystery, when a second feels like an eternity, and the vitality of life as a reoccurring principle seems as if it exists forever. It is the principle that is eternal, embodied in different forms, but expressing the same eternal truths.

Nature is both ugly and beautiful, a source of pleasure and pain, health and disease, and of life and death, but nature is also written according to the law of harmony. All things follow a natural rhythm, an ebb and flow, of loss and gain, abundance and decline. When life is strong, life is healthy, life is beautiful. When life is weak, life is sickly, life is ugly.

Nature being the source of all of these things, is the primary inspiration. If you wish to nurture within yourself the qualities of beauty, harmony, and vitality, being exposed to, and meditating upon, these qualities reflected in nature will help you do so.

The law of nature is harmony. But there is a difference between the manifestations of humans and the manifestations of nature. Humans are a part of nature, but also may depart from nature's laws at their own peril. Humans may create beautiful, healthy systems in harmony with nature, or they may create ugly unhealthy systems out of harmony with nature.

And because it could go either way, one is more likely to find harmony in nature, than in man-made designs. Which is why keeping nature, reflecting the qualities of beauty, harmony, and vitality, close to our lives, and integrated into our cities, with plenty of flowers and trees and gardens and waterways, such as rivers and fountains and ponds, helps to enrich the quality of our lives, and opens up a door to spiritual inspiration.

But when we chop down all the trees and uproot all the flowers and silence all the birds and drain all the rivers and pave over all of the earth, and all that is left is concrete and plastic and smokestacks and people, buried in and blinded by a synthetic wasteland of cookie cutter homes, prison complex styled apartment housing, strip malls, an endless sea of billboards, commercial advertisements, highway overpasses, fast food franchises, and way too many pollution spewing cars, and all is gray and bleak and illuminated by synthetic lights and glowing television screens, while the silent screams of discontent darken the mind just as the city lights darken the sky, darken the soul, of their sacred star filled, moonlit illumination.

When you cut off the daily presence of nature from your life, and build something else in its place that is totally lacking in beauty and harmony and vitality and natural grace, you cut off the spirit inside, and sever the sacred cord (the sacred chord, the sacred octave) connecting heaven and earth.

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*This is post 13 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

One Ocean, Many Points of View

Have you ever heard the old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees? What it means is that some people get so caught up in little details that they are unable to see the bigger picture. They see the individual trees, but not the whole forest.

But it occurred to me that sometimes details do matter, and you need to look at the little picture too. So, just as it's possible to not see the forest for the trees, it's also possible to not see the trees for the forest.

One example of that would be like seeing the earth from outer space, and thinking you have the broader view of things, but not seeing the individual life stories enfolding below. In one sense, your view would be broader, but without the details on the ground your view would also be quite limited, and you'd be missing out on a lot.

Or, like thinking that paper documents -- things like bank records, tax records, court records, property records, medical records, school records, resumes, photographs, etc. -- give you a good overview of a person's life, without ever actually talking to them. While you will know certain facts about them, that will give you some insight into the kind of person they are, much of what makes a person a unique human being are never recorded in documents.

There are multiple ways of looking at the world, more than one way of seeing and interpreting the facts depending on your point of view, whether you are looking at something from the perspective of the sky or the ground, the microscopic or the macroscopic, the big picture or the little picture, the individual or the totality.

Everybody talks about how important the big picture is, that really, the smart view is the long view, the big picture is what matters most. The whole is greater than the part. The self is just a single drop of water in a vast ocean of eternity. What really matters is the ocean, not the individual drops. All is one. Bla bla bla.

True, but that's not the only perspective. There are multiple perspectives, as many perspectives as there are forms of life. Just because one perspective is limited, does not invalidate it. You know, we are limited by our senses, the world that we see as human beings, the collective hallucination that we call reality, is not the absolute reality, because reality may look and be totally different to other forms of life.

Our senses act as filters, our brains interpret the world in a way that is much like translating a foreign language that you don't have absolute fluency in, into a language that we can understand but is actually vastly different than the original. The meaning changes somewhat, and there is much that is lost in translation. Each species and even to some extent each culture and individual being translates the language of life a little differently, and much of it is happening at a totally unconscious level, where we are not even aware of how much we think we know about reality is the result of our unconsciously programmed beliefs.

Point is, even if there is a greater truth that transcends human understanding, a reality behind and beyond the reality that we know from our senses, a reality perhaps far truer than anything we could ever know while in this form of life, it doesn't invalidate the truth of our experience, nor does it make the meaning and purpose of our lives as individuals any less true.

Just because the ocean is greater than a single drop, it doesn't negate the value of those individual drops. If an individual drop of water has consciousness and self-awareness, even if at another level, from another perspective, they are in actuality not merely an individual drop, but the entire ocean, a whole body of water acting in unison as one, they are actually both.

There is a big picture and a little picture, an individual life and the totality of all life, all have their place, all have their value, one is not ultimately superior to the other. Yes, the ocean is greater than the drop, but to have awareness of your individual existence is like the ocean's ability to zoom in to that one spot of itself, and to experience the richness of life from that particular perspective, which although it is a limited perspective, that does not negate the value of it.

There is a suitable place for all, depending on the circumstances and needs. Sometimes it is desirable to be small, to be limited, to be an individual, to have a unique identity, to see from the perspective of a tree or a drop of water or a human being, to be mortal, and to live and die in time. It doesn't matter if there is a greater perspective that encompasses all, the point at which individual trees become the forest. There are important lessons to be learned here too, on the ground, and on the level of an individual, with a unique personality and sense of self, as well as great joy to be experienced that would not be possible from any other perspective.

All perspectives great and small have their purpose, and contain a certain element of truth appropriate to their situation. It may not be the ultimate truth, more of a relative truth, but it is a truth befitting the particular perspective in time.

The world as seen by a grasshopper is not the world seen by humans, and the world seen by humans is not the infinite ocean of truth that lies above and beyond and greater than the individual existence of being human, but it suits their needs.

You may aspire to expand your consciousness to alter your perspective, and to experience a deeper and more comprehensive point of view, but really, no matter what you believe, you are still limited by your human form -- your senses, your brain, your biology -- you may believe that you are one with the great ocean of infinity, but you are still seeing it and other perspectives filtered through your human consciousness, and that same ocean of infinity may appear vastly different to other forms of life.

It's the same ocean, but there are many different points of view.

*This is post 12 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Inventory of Habits and Goals

Here's a partial list of self-improvement goals, followed by a paragraph or two of commentary.

1. Wake up early. Early to bed, early to rise.

What time? Maybe, bed at eleven, up at seven. Yeah right. This has been sort of a goal of mine for a long time, and I say sort of, because every time I try it I don't like it, and I usually abandon it. So why do I retain it? I guess it's because I associate it with healthiness, productivity, and success. I'm trying to improve the quality of my life in anyway that I can, and getting up early seems like a good idea: start the day fresh, early, have the whole day ahead of you, lots of productive hours of sunlight.

But what do I end up doing? I often stay up late, and sleep late, whenever I have the chance. Early morning jobs that start before nine, do not agree with me. I do it, if I have to, if I cannot finagle another way, but I do not like it, and as soon as I get the chance, I opt for a later time, otherwise I suffer in silence, chronically sleep deprived. Though I think this is a seasonal thing. I tend to stay up later in the summer, because I enjoy the cooler nights, and go to bed earlier in the winter, because it get's dark earlier. But there must be some kind of middle ground. Not too late, not too early. It is what it is. Tonight I will probably stay up late.

2. Alternate run/bike ride every other day, five days a week.

Which would be what? Run 2-3 miles. Bicycle 10 to 15 miles. I have no aspirations of running a marathon or bicycle racing. I just do it for the transportation, the relaxation, and health benefits. I'm not a speed freak. Or an adrenalin junkie. I will never sky dive or bungee jump, but I think it would be pretty cool to run in the mountains, ride my bike across country, or to paddle through a white water rapids. Surfing is also a possibility, but I'm not a strong swimmer, I'll have to stick to small waves. Same with skiing. I'll have to stick to the bunny hill. Am I a daredevil? No. Speed is not my thing. Risking my life for 20 seconds of bliss, is just not worth it to me. I like a little bit of safety, to do my research, to be prepared, to take risks, but not unnecessary ones. After all, I don't have health insurance, but I am debt-free and would like to keep it that way.

3. Get Stronger.

Continue building up my strength doing weight training, resistance bands, and calisthenics. I need to become stronger, more muscular, over time, but without getting big. Slim, but extremely fit, like a gymnast, or a ninja. Yeah, you've heard it all before. I work out regularly, and blog about it every couple of months at least, but have reached a plateau; need to get much stronger, more agile, and acrobatic. Like a ninja warrior.

4. Cut out the daily beer drinking.

Make it more of a weekend thing. Not everyday. I've cut down quite a bit, but I still do have it everyday, and I'm not sure how it's affecting the pH balance of my blood. I recently learned that alcohol is extremely acidic, much like soda, and it may be throwing the whole internal balance of my body out of whack. Never really thought of it that way. I mean, of course getting drunk every night is not good for your health, and even two to three beers isn't good for your waistline, but I figured one to two beers isn't that bad. I mean, it's not really a health food, but there's improved circulation of the blood flow to your brain, and it boosts your spirits. That must help bestow certain health benefits, wouldn't you say? Yeah, an addict will say almost anything to justify their addiction, but really, two beers isn't a fifth of gin, it could be much worse; the problem is, although it's not a large quantity, it's probably not that good either to have it every single day.

5. Need some kind of natural stress-reduction program.

If I'm going to stop relying on drinking beer in order to relax and to help me go to sleep, I need something else to take its place. Which is not to say that I wouldn't ever have a drink again, but it would no longer be a routine, it would no longer be a significant source of pleasure, not something I rely on every night, even if it's just one beer. It would be good to not depend on it. But then again, I depend on a cup of tea in the morning, and I have no ambition to ever give that up. And if I don't drink heavily, what is the problem? Well, either way, being able to relax and go to sleep without drugs is probably something that would be in everyone's best interests to do. It doesn't mean you can't ever take a drug, or a drink, again, but it's better not to depend on it if there are other methods that could do the same thing that are better for your health.

6. Need money.

Earn more money. Save more money. Need to build my savings back up to at least $10,000. I cannot move, or make significant changes in my life, without financial independence. Selling my time to be no better off than a slave, doing what I hate for hardly any money at all, must come to an end, soon. Otherwise, this life was a failed experiment. But it's not about the money, per se. It's not about the acquisition of wealth, of buying expensive material luxuries, it's about the freedom that having a certain amount of money and financial independence can buy.

7. Read for at least two hours a day.

I used to set goals in terms of pages to read, but the ease of doing so varies depending on the difficulty of the book. For fiction, particularly if it stimulates me, I could easily read 200 pages in a day, but more difficult academic material I may more likely only be able to read 50 pages or less. So, because each book is different, it is more realistic to set a daily reading goal according to time, rather than pages. However, once I have assessed the difficulty of the book, I can also determine how many pages I wish to read per day based on that.

But it's not really about numbers, or quotas, what really matters is the substance of what is learned. I set this goal, simply as a game, to keep me focused on the things that matter most to me. But when it comes down to it, it's not about how many hours I read, or how many pages I read, or how many books I read, all that matters is that I read, that I enjoyed what I read, and that I learned something from it.

8. Need to improve my memory.

For the longest time, I would say that my memory was impeccable. Maybe not so much in the sense of memorizing strings of letters and numbers, but in the sense of vividly remembering experiences and events and the general idea and impression of things learned. But lately my memory has not been so good. This is a new development. I don't know if it's because of the beer, the heat, some nutritional deficiency, sleep deprivation, or all of the above, but my memory and focus has been suffering lately. I have been having some senile moments, forgetting what I just did a couple minutes ago, forgetting that I already brushed my teeth, etc. Need to do something about that. The worst of it is that when I look at the list of books I've read, I'm finding that I don't remember all of them. I mean, I do remember reading it, but I'm forgetting major portions, the key ideas, about it. For someone who reads a lot, that could be a major problem, because what is the value gained from reading if you are only going to forget what you read a few months/years later? It's extremely inefficient. Yeah, I definitely need to work on improving my memory, otherwise everything I learn will be for naught.

9. Write for at least one hour every day.

Whether that means here on this blog, or in my private journal, I need to make it a daily habit. And not just writing whatever, but actually attempting to write something good, you know, getting organized, and putting some thought into it. But I'm still not really sure if I want to be a writer or not. I don't really consider myself one, even though I probably write a lot more than the average person who doesn't consider themselves a writer. I don't think I'm a very good writer though, not that I'm terrible at it, I am a creative person with some interesting ideas, but I'm just not too good with the formal grammar aspect of it. I probably need to take some kind of grammar refresher class, or at least set aside some time to study it on my own, because that is probably my biggest obstacle in the way of significantly improving my skills as a writer. Again, in spite of this blog, I'm still not really sure if I really want to be a writer or not, as like a full-time calling. I still consider myself more of a reader than a writer, but I think it would be beneficial, either way, to improve my writing skills, and a large part of that has to do writing more frequently, improving my understanding and usage of grammar, and also logic. Have to spend some time studying that subject as well.

Closing Comments

Yeah, I've talked about it before, do I sound like a broken record to you? All these goals are nothing new. Sometimes I achieve success, for a little while, and then circumstances change, or I get tired of it, and go back to my old habits. So, maybe I'm not serious about it. I don't know. Sometimes I want to do these things, and sometimes I don't. Some days I feel as if everything I'm doing now, is just fine. Everything is as it should be. I have goals, plans, hopes and dreams, as well as grievances and complaints, but from one day to the next all that really matters is my health and happiness, and whether I am content and feeling at peace, even if things are not perfect. Either way, these topics, goals/habits, are a regular theme in my life, something I think about pretty consistently, and so it bears repeating, being that they are on my mind once again.

*This is post 11 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

No Such Thing as a Dumb Question

"There's no such thing as a dumb question. Nothing stops learning faster than making a person feel dumb for asking why." -Journal, August 04, 2013

That's something I wrote down in my composition notebook, late one night while sitting outside looking up at the stars, wondering about the universe.

Following this, I wrote down a series of simple questions.

Things like:

Why does a star twinkle?
What are stars?
What are they made of?
How do we know so much about them, without having actually visited one up close, without having actually traveled outside of our own solar system?
How far have telescopes and satellites traveled away from the earth?

Simple questions, triggered by simple observations, whose answers are readily available online or in any basic astronomy textbook.

Nothing too difficult or overly profound, pretty basic actually, and that's when it occurred to me that some people, maybe not you and certainly not me, but some, my might call these questions dumb, simply because they are so basic, so rudimentary.

Some people who call a question dumb are being arrogant, and others are ignorant. Both laugh and pass judgement, one because they believe the answer is so obvious you'd have to be a complete moron not to know it, and the other thinks it's dumb to ask because not only do they not know themselves, they don't care, they simply do not believe it matters, and that it's a waste of time to even wonder about it; it has no value to them, and therefore it should have no value to you.

But for those who do know the answer, how many would have known it without books, without teachers telling them the answers at some point in their life? Would they have known it just by looking up at the stars and thinking about it on their own?

Maybe one in a million would, maybe even much less than that, but most wouldn't, had they not had teachers filling their heads with knowledge.

So at one point they didn't know. And odds are they didn't even arrive at this knowledge on their own, simply by thinking and observing and experimenting, but rather they were fed this information, and are now repeating it just like a parrot, but if by chance this parrot happens to be an arrogant parrot, they think, that just because they know something that they have memorized a million times over, that anyone who doesn't know it is dumb.

But they are actually not dumb. Why? because they want to know the answer. They seek to expand their knowledge of the unknown, to become smarter and more knowledgeable than they presently are. They know that they do not know, and they seek to know. They are curious. They are interested. How is that dumb?

Yeah, there are some people that don't learn as fast as others, who may have difficulties with memory and comprehension, but so long as they hunger to know, are willing to ask questions, no matter how dumb they may sound to others, that is a sign of an intelligent life striving to increase their knowledge about the world. On the other hand, learning difficulties aside, a truly dumb person, doesn't know and doesn't care to know. That is the crucial difference.

Questions lead to answers. They are often the first step in the acquisition of knowledge. Without a question you will neither know what you are looking for or if or when you have found it.

So, there is no such thing as a dumb question.

No one person knows everything. No matter what you know, there was a point in your life that you didn't know it. But once you've mastered it, it seems simple. There will always be someone somewhere who lacks the knowledge and skills that you possess, but at the same time there will always be someone somewhere who possesses other knowledge and skills that you don't possess.

In other words, everyone is both a teacher and a student.

Simple for you, difficult for me. Difficult for you, simple for me.

If you know the answer, you are the teacher. If you don't know the answer, you are the student.

I'm a pretty sensitive person. I'm aware of how words affect people emotionally. Not so much here, not in written dialogue, but when speaking face to face and in the same room, I'm usually acutely aware when someone's feelings are being hurt, or if a person is being treated unfairly, or spoken to in a manner that diminishes their humanity; particularly when it is subtle. If I'm in a public place somewhere I tend to zero in on that stuff.

Perhaps it is because sometime way back in the early stages of my life, I too was hurt emotionally, but I do not remember when or exactly what the circumstances were, but because of that, I understand when I witness it happening to others.

I noticed one time, many years ago, when I witnessed a child asking an adult a question about the world, and not only did the adult not answer their question, they ridiculed the child for asking it. The child was crushed. Since then I've witnessed it happen on numerous occasions, to people I know, as well as complete strangers. I usually do not interfere, but only observe.

I've noticed that the people who respond that way, calling questions dumb, often without providing an answer, tend to not be very compassionate people, and are often violent or abusive in other aspects of their life. Usually. In other words, not very nice people. You can usually separate the good parents from the bad parents, by the way they respond to a child's questions.

I sometimes intentionally ask "dumb" questions, that is, questions that I already know the answer to, and questions that most people know the answer to because they are common knowledge and not at all difficult, just to see how people respond, to see what kind of person they "really" are. Sometimes I'm surprised.

If a person asks a question that you think is dumb, try to have patience with them, understand that at one point in your life you too were in the same position, and didn't know things that were obviously simple to others.

*This is post 10 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Taking a Midnight Stroll

So, last night after spending some time sitting outside on my patio, I was just about to come in when I stood up and saw a huge tarantula walking alone right down the middle of the sidewalk, right on the other side of the wall of where I had been sitting. Had I not stood up at precisely that moment, I probably would never have seen it.

This would be my third wild tarantula sighting ever in my life. The first was last year, which coincidentally was also in September. I think it may be an active month for them, something to do with mating season. I wrote and posted pictures about it here. That was a black one. And the second time was last month, when I ventured outside my apartment complex to watch the Perseid meteor shower, and discovered what appeared to be several tarantula burrows, and two brown colored juvenile tarantulas scurried by just inches away from my feet, retreating into their burrow with their legs partially sticking out, but I didn't get any pictures that time.

The one I saw last night, and pictured below, was also brown, but two toned, with a tan patch in the middle of it, which could have been hair, or maybe it was going bald, I couldn't get close enough to tell. But I think it may be the biggest one I've seen, possibly slightly bigger than the black one I saw last year, and about twice the size of the juveniles I saw last month.

What I did was go inside to get my camera, because I didn't have it out with me to begin with, and went outside my front door and out onto the sidewalk to photograph it. At one point, it seemed to sense me, it slowed down, and for a moment turned its direction, like it was going to head right for me, right off the sidewalk and down the two steps leading to my door, you know, to get me, but I backed up a little, and so it continued back on its way down the middle of the sidewalk. Just like the family of javelinas I saw last week, who were also walking right down the middle of the sidewalk. It's definitely not everyday that you see such a thing, and is definitely a first for seeing a tarantula do that. It was close to midnight, very quiet outside, and absolutely nobody around, so hopefully it made it out all right without getting squished.

Picture 1: I kind of like this picture the best. The car tire really helps put the size of this spider into perspective.

Picture 2: This is the back side of it, and it's moving away from me.

Picture 3: This is a cropped picture of the one above.

Picture 4: Bald patch?

Picture 5: Overview shot, leaving the sidewalk and headed into the parking lot. Not the best quality picture, but it's all I got. Do you see the "face" in the middle of the tan "bald" spot? There shouldn't be a face there, but it sure looks like one, at least from this perspective. Or maybe I'm just anthropomorphising? Yeah, apparently it's normal human nature to see human faces in inanimate, or non-human, objects, you know things like rocks, clouds, mountain peaks, trees, bugs. If that were a real face, that would be some crazy shit, like something right out of The Lord of the Rings.

*This is post 9 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge. I feel like I'm kind of running out of steam, don't have a lot of energy to do this, and it's going to be a very difficult challenge to complete, but I'm trying.

Monday, September 16, 2013

September Fitness Update

Well, it's been close to five months now that I've been using a resistance band as part of my regular workout. Still using the same band, the black band, with 15 to 20 pounds of resistance, from Black Mountain Products. Though I am noticing a little bit of wear and tear on it, and the way things look I doubt it will last longer than a year of regular use. Which is unfortunate, but because I'm really enjoying the workout I'll probably replace it when the time comes so that I can stick with it.

I have not missed a single week since I started. I usually do my resistance band workout three days a week, but there have been a couple of times when I only did it twice, and one time, when I was sick recently, that I only did it once in an entire week, but more often than not I have been sticking with it consistently, doing it three and sometimes four times per week. Where I do between 2 to 4 sets, 10 to 20 reps, per exercise. But I do not do every possible exercise, I just focus on four upper body exercises, namely: bicep curls, front lateral raises (for the shoulders and forearms), chest press, and rows.

I really enjoy resistance bands, I like the fluid motion, and the fact that it exercises strength, flexibility, and cardio all in one workout. But you're not going to get super strong or ripped from using resistance bands, at least not the ones I'm currently using. They are really good for toning, though, and that's always a good thing.

So if you're looking for a lean, muscularly toned body, without getting really big, and just moderately strong, they work really well for that.

It's also fun. And it's easy, in the sense that it doesn't take a lot of time and the exercises are really simple and straightforward to do. And it's also really safe. I think it would be very difficult to injure yourself using them, in terms of straining yourself or using improper form, as is the case with heavy weights, other than the rare case of a band snapping and hitting you in the face. But if you want to get really strong, and into the absolute best shape of your life, you have to do other things too.

Which I do, to some extent, but I'm just not pushing myself really hard, because of how hot it's been, I haven't had the energy.

I also still use a set of 10 pound dumbbells, mostly for shoulder strengthening exercises. And for everything else, I do body weight exercises, squats, crunches, triceps dips, etc., and I still walk a lot, occasionally ride my bike, and even less occasionally I jog. But as the weather gets cooler, things will pick up, and I'll do a lot more.

My push-up program has once again fallen to the wayside. I mean I still do a few once and awhile, but have dropped it from my regular routine, the things I do no matter what every single time. I guess it's because I was doing push-ups regularly for a few weeks without seeing any significant improvement, where my body was feeling more and more like a dead weight, even though I should have been getting stronger, that I got so frustrated with it that I gave it up. I thought to myself, this, feeling exhausted for nothing, is not worth it. I think it's the heat though. The weather is my handicap! I think if it was like 30 degrees cooler, it would be a lot easier for me. Which means like 60 or 70 degrees.  Because lately, even though I'm sticking with my other exercises, I often feel like I'm chronically fatigued and overheated, like I can't cool down, and it's very difficult sometimes to find the strength and energy to exercise at all.

But I do it anyway, as much as I can, at least. I feel a sense of urgency about it, possibly even more than anything else: that no matter what I do, wherever I find myself in my life, as far as where I'm living, where I'm working, and how things are going, whether things are good or bad, that no matter what, I will never let myself go. That I will never allow myself to get fat and flabby and out of shape and old before my time. That I will never allow myself to consistently engage in unhealthy eating habits. There may be occasional moments of weakness, of engaging in bad habits, junk food, fast food, getting drunk, smoking (not that I do, but just saying for the sake of example), that if I mess up and make poor choices, if I do something I ordinarily swear against, knowing it to be wrong, unhealthy, unwise, that I will correct myself as soon as possible.

That I am dedicated 100 percent to health and fitness, to eating healthfully and exercising regularly, and this is something that I vow to remain dedicated to for the remainder of my life.

Why do I exercise? Why do I seek to improve my strength and stamina?

I exercise because it's good for my health, it makes me look and feel more attractive, it boosts my confidence, improves my mood, helps me think more clearly, and it just basically makes me feel better all around. But I'm also thinking about it in terms of survival, about increasing my life expectancy, and also in increasing my chances of surviving any kind of an accident, disaster, or attack. All kinds of things could happen, where you may need to run for your life, swim for your life, climb for your life, carry a heavy weight for your life, or fight for your life. Without strength and endurance, you will be less likely to survive challenges that depend on physical fitness for your survival. So I'm always kind of looking at my exercise regimen in those terms, whether it's lifting weights or running, that maybe someday it will help save my life, or give me the strength needed to help save someone else's life.

That's how I look at it. Though at the same time, I know my limits. I know what I'm not, and I also know what I don't wish to be. I am neither an Olympian nor a Triathlete. I am strong, but I could be stronger. I am fit, but I could be fitter. And no matter how strong or fit I become, there will always be someone stronger and fitter than I am. It's not a competition. I don't think about it in those terms. I am somewhat of a competitive person, but when it comes to fitness, it's not about that for me at all.

Yeah, it's about health and survival. But I don't overdo it. I stick to a regular exercise regimen, where my progress has been slow, but steady, and anything more at this time I feel it would likely be too much, resulting in sickness or injury. So even though I may have a long ways to go before reaching my ideal level of strength and endurance, I'm building up my health and fitness a little bit everyday, and so I would say that things are good. As long as I stick with it everyday, I'll get there eventually.

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*This is post 8 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Conversations with Great Minds

I recently happened to stumble upon this interesting show, while watching Public Access TV, called Conversations with Great Minds, and I was pleased to discover that all of the videos of that show are also available to watch for free online. There's a lot of interesting material there, much like a combination of TED, C-SPAN, and Democracy Now, and if you haven't ever watched it I recommend that you do.

Note to self: I need to dedicate at least half an hour per day viewing educational, interview type videos, taking notes and writing some sort of response, summary, review, etc., to such material, on a weekly basis. It is a good habit to get into, particularly for the studious, lifelong learner, aspiring writer, and perpetual student. To me, if nothing else, it's a much better use of time than playing video games or getting drunk. Hey, what's the worst that could happen? Waste your time, or blow your mind...

Well, I happened to catch just a little bit of the episode with Thom Hartmann interviewing Cornel West, and haven't watched the whole thing yet, because I'm still using this pitiful little net book that is technically challenged while viewing streaming videos, it loads but the picture is so small and sometimes it freezes, but wanted to comment on something that Mr. West said in that video that stood out in my mind. 

He made some mention about valuing the lives of all children equally, no matter what country they live in, whether it is Iraq, France, Mongolia, the USA, or any other country in the world, he loves them all as if they were family. And it wasn't just children, but all people. Not his exact words, but that was the sentiment.

Well, it's certainly a noble point of view to take, and it sounds good in theory, but is it really true, is he really being honest? I mean people say it, but do they, in the deepest depths of their hearts, really believe it? Do they really value the life of a stranger, particularly a stranger living in a foreign land, equally to the life of their own family and friends? Or maybe that's not what he means. Maybe he doesn't mean the same kind of love a person would feel for their own family, but more of an extended sense of kinship, the respect and consideration you'd feel for members of your community. The second reason seems more understandable to me, the first one not so much.

I show all people common courtesy, respect and consideration, don't cause problems for anyone, but if I don't know a person, or don't have anything in common with them, a stranger in my own city has pretty much the same significance to me as a stranger in another country, which is to say, virtually none. Which means I neither love them or hate them, but my feelings are pretty much neutral. So yeah, I don't value the life of one nationality over another, in the sense that most of them, including people in my own country, are all strangers to me anyway, but still it only seems natural that you would feel more kinship for someone that you actually know or that you share something in common with.

But to say that you love strangers thousands of miles away, I have trouble believing it, because I myself do not feel that way at all. Though like I said, I do feel a certain element of respect for people, in the sense of treating them fairly and kindly. I am a kind person who would never willfully cheat or harm anyone without just cause. Just cause is largely a matter of personal defense, or defending the greater cause of justice. Loose terms, sometimes, but overall, I value peace and kindness and respect. Sometimes people are real shit holes, though, they harm, they steal, they bully, and disrespect, and wage war unjustly.

How do you deal with it?

It's the dilemma of being human.

I myself recognize the value of showing people respect, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they are innocent, as opposed to being ruthless criminal killers, and respecting the value of all life, regardless of nationality, race, or gender. Sounds good in theory as an ideal, but how does it play out in reality?

Most people are not world travelers. Most of what we know about what's happening in other countries, and our exposure to the people in other countries, comes from television. But viewing other people on television, is not reality. You do not know the people on TV. It is an abstraction. Reality is face to face and in the flesh. When we deal purely in mental constructs, ideas about things we do not personally experience or images of people or places we don't personally know, it is easier to both marginalize people, as well as to idealize them, perhaps more than you would if you actually knew them or saw them face to face.

I can talk about loving everyone, as an abstraction, as an ideal value, you know, in the sense of universal brotherhood/sisterhood, but do I really feel it when I'm looking at a complete stranger face to face, while on the street or in the store, or wherever?

No. Not really. Not unless I know them and actually like them do I feel a fondness for them. Yeah, I can admire someone I don't know, to some degree, assuming I know enough about them to form that opinion, just as I've admired certain authors and celebrities I've never met, but I wouldn't call it love. I do not love people just for being people. But I can and do show them kindness and respect, if I have the chance, and if that's what Mr. West means by love, then I'm in agreement. Otherwise, I cannot relate.

Well anyway, interesting comments by Cornel West. Will have to watch the whole thing soon, and maybe read his books. 

*This is post 7 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Being Young and Vital At Any Age

I go to the library almost everyday, and even when I may already be in the middle of reading something, I often browse for something new anyway, because you just never know when you may find something really great and totally unexpected that just happens to be there today, but may not be there the next time you look.

Well, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind was one such book. It was on my to-read list a few years ago, but back then it wasn't in the public library system, and so, not being a high priority, I just sort of put it out of my mind, until I saw it on the shelf a few weeks ago and checked it out. Though reading through it, I realized it really wasn't for me after all, it was just a bit too Christian, with way too many references to God and faith healing. Although there is some good stuff in there, don't get me wrong, it just wasn't the right time for me to read the whole thing, but what I did do was skim over it and took a few notes, jotting down passages that I liked, like this one on aging:

"You grow old when you lose interest in life, when you cease to dream, to hunger after new truths, and to search for new worlds to conquer. When our mind is open to new ideas and new interests and when you raise the curtain and let in the sunshine and inspiration of new truths of life and the universe, you will be young and vital." -Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

I would have to agree with that. But it's not just about aging well, it's about living well at any age. That to a large extent our mental outlook shapes not only our experience of aging, but our quality of life. Yes, health is a huge huge factor. You are as old as you feel. And sometimes what you feel, emotionally and mentally, really is a reflection of, or a response to, the actual physical health of your body. And if you are in poor health, your mental outlook also may not be very good.

While it is not impossible, it is certainly more challenging for a sickly person to feel mentally vibrant, optimistic, and young at heart. But, at the same time, if you are in relatively good health, that is, not suffering from any major debilitating diseases, or painful disabilities, but your only affliction is that you are growing older, and perhaps becoming a bit weaker and slower, and maybe not seeing or hearing or even remembering as well as you used to, it is still possible to retain your health into old age, and to feel young and vibrant at any age.

In other words, poor health may negatively affect one's mental outlook, but at the same time, a poor mental outlook will negatively affect one's physical health. And because it's easier to preserve health than it is to regain it once its lost, the sooner you start living healthfully and thinking youthfully the better. If you can do that, you will increase your chances of being young and vital for the rest of your life.

Sometimes though, people are living a healthy lifestyle, thinking good thoughts, having a high quality of life, but they still get sick. That's a shame. Sometimes illnesses have nothing at all to do with a person's individual lifestyle. It's not always a matter of bad choices causing bad outcomes. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. A person who never smokes or drinks may die of lung or liver cancer, and a person who eats healthy and exercises dies of a heart attack. Maybe you suffer from a genetic disorder with a predisposition for certain illnesses. Or maybe you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, infected, exposed, and struck down. And many diseases could be caused by man-made environmental toxins, in which case some people may have a genetic make-up that offers better protection than others.

The point is there are many factors influencing the state of our health, and how well we age, namely: genetics, lifestyle (diet, exercise, habits), mental outlook, and environment. We don't have control over all these factors, but we do have control over some of them, namely our lifestyle and mental outlook.

Obviously, as we get older, no matter what the causes, we are more likely to get sick. The odds of developing cancer and heart disease and a variety of other ailments increase substantially as we get older. But it is a mistake to assume that aging is synonymous with sickness. Although we will all die eventually, and the older we get, the more likely we will die, it is still possible for a person to live a long life, well into old age, without experiencing a major decline in health or cognition. In other words, a person could be relatively healthy until the day they die. It is possible. It is possible to live to be 100 years old without ever having cancer or heart disease or high blood pressure or high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes or difficulty breathing or difficulty swallowing or difficulty sleeping or difficulty eating.

So long as your body is healthy and your mind is youthful, it is possible to be young and vital at any age.

But, if you still have your health, and yet, you lose your will to learn, to think, to grow, to play, to create, to love, to inspire and to be inspired, and to feel joy and passion and curiosity and wonder and enthusiasm for living, no matter what your age, whether you are young or old, once that's gone, the rest will soon follow. That's what this quote means to me.

*This is post 6 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walkabout September

We had some very heavy rain come through here yesterday, some of it during the daytime, but most of it came in late last night, fortuitously while I was sitting out on the patio, as I usually do, between eleven and midnight. I had actually been sitting out there for probably about twenty minutes before it started raining, and the storm was pretty much a complete surprise. I mean I knew something was coming, but didn't know when, or if I would be lucky enough to catch it before I went to sleep.

It was so awesome, and instead of just having one beer outside, I had two to celebrate the occasion. We had a torrential down pour that lasted at least half an hour, with heavy wind, thunder and lightning, and some flooding, with pretty much a river of water flowing between my building and the building next door. In other words, it was great! You know, it cooled down into the 60s and it didn't feel cold in the least bit, but was actually extremely comfortable. With the humidity and rain it felt like the most ideal weather conditions I had experienced in a long time. I also have to say that thunderstorms are probably the most exciting and invigorating natural event I know of, and is far more entertaining than anything invented by humans, even better than the best book I ever read, and you know I love books, so that compliment carries a huge amount of weight. Which means that if I were to pick an ideal place to live, it would have to be somewhere that get's a lot more rain and thunderstorms than we get here.

Well anyway, I went for a walk today down by the wash, something I haven't done for probably a couple of months now. I figured with all the rain we got last night there's bound to be water down there, a whole river of it, and I was right. So here are some pictures from today, taken along my 3 mile walk down to the wash.

Picture 1: The wash on the right is higher than the wash on the left, and the water flowing down creates sort of a mini rapids effect, and that's what you see here. It sounded like a raging whitewater rapids. It was very loud, but like music to my ears, kind of like a water fall, too. It was spectacular.

Picture 2: The obligatory self-portrait.

Picture 3: Amazing, just a couple of months ago it was bone dry.

Picture 4: This part the wash, on my way back up to the road home, was completely dry.

Picture 5: Lot's of pretty clouds today.

Picture 6: More clouds.

Picture 7: Great view. That's the Catalina Mountains.

Picture 8: Windmill.

*This was post 5 of 20, part of my 20 Posts in 30 Days challenge. I'm slightly behind schedule, but I'll catch up, that you can count on. Still, I'm not doing too bad, considering that I've already posted more in these past ten days, than the entire preceding month. So, things are definitely looking up. Could this be a signal of the revitalization of this blog? Maybe. Or it could be the grand finale before the end. Hard to say, but it could go either way. You'll just have to stay tuned to see what happens.