Friday, February 27, 2015

February Fitness Update

Oh how I must have forgotten how important it is to take a deep breath, to take several deep breaths, to relax yourself in this way, and to not do anything drastic or to make any important decisions without first doing this. My mind has been running at high anxiety levels, been depending on beer for too long, when really all I needed was to breath.


Breath in...breath out. Repeat.

I feel like I'm getting stronger. Yet, I'm working against a force called time, also called aging. It's like I'm walking down the road, and each year that passes that road get's a bit steeper, a bit more difficult to climb. I still look very young. Not just in my own mind, but am told by strangers, by sales clerks, anyone and everyone, that I look ten to fifteen years younger. Okay. It's true. But the reality is, I am what I am. I may look 25, but I'm not 25. My actual age has yet to show on my face, but it's still somewhat of a handicap when it comes to developing my athleticism. I can reach my physical fitness goals, but each year that passes, it get's a little bit harder, I'm working against more resistance.

I have been doing the pushups regularly, but not fifty, or twenty, which is my goal, more like four sets of five, sometimes ten spread out throughout the day, and a lot of the plank exercise. This I do, three to five times a week, and have been doing so for months. So, there has been some improvement. A little bit. Even though a few year's ago, I could do more maximum pushups, I didn't stick with it, so in this way I'm climbing the hill slow and steady, the repetitions are not many, but I'm consistently doing them. I'm also still riding the bike every week, doing squats, and walking, but not yet running.

I don't know, I must have some kind of sinus condition, because whenever I try to run, I get problems with my sinuses, that I never get from any other kind of fitness activity. Though I do have chronic runny nose when I ride my bike in any temperature less than 90 degrees, but I don't get the sinus pain I've gotten from running. I don't go to the doctor, so who knows. Though maybe I've exaggerated the sinus problem a bit. I mean, yeah, it's there, but I'm not giving up just yet. I'm sticking with a three mile goal, but it's sort of a low priority, something I see in the distance, with no plans of becoming a marathon runner like my cousins. Really have no desire for it. But three miles run on a regular basis, as opposed to being a one time challenge, would be good enough for me. I haven't really been aggressively going after it, because of the sinus problems, but I'm thinking as I get stronger in other areas, which I have been, it will be easier to accomplish.

Baby steps. This is so small. Anything involving physical athleticism is small. But it is nevertheless vitally important. The mind is the master, but a weak body limits a strong mind. Without a strong foundation of physical strength and mental discipline, you won't get beyond that basic level of survival. It's a very basic level, but it's the foundation for all else that follows. Well, it is for me, because I've got secret goals concerning the longevity of my time here on earth that won't be voiced here, but let's just say I've got to be physically strong, to prepare the way for my mental fitness, to get to where I need to be, which has absolutely nothing to do with physical athleticism.

Anyway, I've been making some progress in my fitness. Which is why I'm writing this post. It's a sort of mile marker. Maybe it doesn't mean anything to you. I don't know, but it feels good to say it. I feel stronger. Look stronger. Just need to learn to relax naturally. Doing more of the deep breathing exercises. I did some tonight. Was originally going to write a post more about that, about breathing, sitting outside and listening to a conversation between two owls, but that will have to be another post.

Have big plans for pictures in the next couple of weeks. I'm planning on doing a couple of day trips on the bike. And doing a video clip with audio of this awesome birdsong sanctuary, of hundreds of birds hanging out at this pecan farm nearby where I live. I was there yesterday, but didn't bring the camera, and it was just so glorious, that I think I want to share it here. And plus, the weather right now is awesome, it's hard to believe that my hometown has only been in the teens, with a ton of snow and ice, and here we've been in the upper seventies with plenty of sunshine. It's like a world apart. Like being on another planet.

I'm telling you, it's a good time to be in Tucson, though we've got a bit of wind and rain coming up this weekend, and a slight cool down with highs in the 60s, so it'll probably have to wait until next week, but yeah, I'm planning on a few adventures and sharing them here. Hopefully I haven't lost all of my readers, otherwise I guess it will just have to be for my own benefit.

Monday, February 23, 2015

At Length and With Studied Obscurity

One of the book's I'm planning on reading over the next few days is a novel by Knut Hamsun called Hunger. This post is not so much about that book, but just wanted to comment on an excerpt taken from an book review about it:

Humsun's writing is clear, spare, honest, intimate and punishing. He has a story to tell and he actually wants to tell it, which sets him apart from many very successful modern writers, who seem to have little to say but wish to impress by saying it at length and with a studied obscurity.

I want to focus on this one passage: those who seem to have little to say but wish to impress by saying it at length and with a studied obscurity. That's something I've encountered a lot lately, so much so that it's been turning me off reading, and it's become a daily struggle to find something that is actually worth reading.

Okay, when I'm reading a book what I'm looking for is not frivolous entertainment, I'm not looking to forget about my problems or to escape into some fantasy world, into some literary version of a film, as just a way to pass the time. No, I'm not really reading for entertainment per se, that's secondary, I'm more so reading for knowledge and insight. Whether I'm reading fiction or non-fiction I'm looking for a combination of information and inspiration. Not all information is technical or academic, or found only in non-fiction, but also concerns the realm of feelings and social relationships, as well as unspoken cultural attitudes and beliefs. Books, especially fictional stories, can provide a wealth of insight into human psychology and sociology without necessarily using textbook jargon. In this way, a novel can potentially be very enlightening. But it can also be full of a lot of crap, a lot of nothing, like the literary equivalent of a soap opera or a sit com. Just because it's well written, doesn't make the information worth reading. That's something you got to determine yourself, based on what it is you're looking for.

I'm not looking to read a 1,000 page novel that realistically creates an alternate world. I don't need a high resolution picture of the scenery painted in words. I don't need to see what the people actually look like. Or to smell the flowers. Or to hear the birds. I'm more about the ideas and the feelings underlying the ideas. Give me information and inspiration in 300 pages or less. Give me something that really matters. Something that moves me, that makes me feel wow, this book changed my life, my whole way of thinking, that made me feel like until I read this I had been asleep, but now I am awake and I'm going to do something great!

So, I'm planning on reading Hunger. Which may or may not meet this criteria, but we shall soon see. It's the story of a starving artist writer, who can't get work, who is descending deeper and deeper into depression. Yeah, I keep being drawn to the dark stuff. I guess I feel like I can kind of relate, even though I'm not technically a writer and I'm not starving, but I have issues with employment, of finding something I like and keeping it, because after a few months, and especially after the first year, despite committing myself to working hard and excelling at my job, meaning that I am not a slacker, and have a low tolerance for slackers, but even so after awhile, which has been the case for every job I've ever had, I start to feel like I'm suffering the deepest torments of hell, that I feel trapped and I cannot take this anymore, and ask myself is this it, is this really what my life has come to, I have to do this for the rest of my life when I hate everything about it, the people, the place, what I'm doing there, and yet I need the money, it's easy to keep going back, for the job security, but then I realize that my life is meaningless there, that this job is destroying my soul. And then I quit, and feel the best I ever felt in my life, for awhile, a free and independent spirit, my time finally my own, but then the money runs out and I have to grovel all over again for another job that I hate, and the cycle starts all over again, I settle in, get good at what I do, establish a niche, until I feel yet another itch for freedom, for something better, but that something better either doesn't come or doesn't last.

So I can relate to the stories of the alienated outsider and the starving artist struggling to survive, because that is what I am inside, starving for a meaningful outlet that would give me the freedom for my creative spirit to soar.

I'm also planning on reading the novels by John Fante. I'm reading Fante because Bukowski recommended him as being his main influence. Now, for the record, let me share my thoughts about Charles Bukowski. I like the way he writes, but I don't like what he writes about, which is basically getting drunk and getting laid. End of story. It's fluff. No substance. He's got a nice style, but the content is worthless. It's a fast, effortless read, that goes down smooth and easy, but in the end you've found that you've gained absolutely nothing from it.

I'm planning on reading Fante because I hear that his writing style is similar to Bukowski, but I'm hoping the content is better. We'll see. If not, I'll be looking for something else.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Man in My Basement

Another early book review.

I'm taking a break from my original reading list. Still waiting on some new material coming in through interlibrary loan. Still waiting on my local copy of Burroughs's Naked Lunch. I've had it on hold a couple months now, as there's only one copy available for checkout and a waiting list. We'll get there eventually.

Anyway, after the last book, I found myself at a loss for what to read in the meantime -- as I can only stand ebooks in small doses, hard on the eyes, I prefer paper -- so I went perusing the public library shelves, randomly searching, and I came across what's turning out to be a pretty great book. I mean, higher caliber than what I've read in awhile, plus it's not that long, easy to read, yet still very smart, intellectual, philosophical.

It's called The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosely.

I had never heard of it before, it's fairly new, came out in 2004, meaning that it's not an old classic, though I have heard of the author, but hadn't ever read any of his stuff. He's black and American, so it'll be filed under my African-American literature category. It's a slow study of mine I'm undertaking, reading African American lit, as I feel a close emotional bond with African American writers.

It's a story of a black man, down on his luck, lost his job, behind on his mortgage payment, spending his nights getting drunk, playing cards, and reading science fiction novels. Can't get a job, because he drinks too much, but also because he was fired from his last one as a bank teller caught stealing from his drawer. It's sort of black listed him on the local employment front. He's a home owner, inherited the house he was born in, been in his family for over a hundred years. His ancestors were not slaves, but indentured servants, a fact that he and his family are proud of. He's in danger of losing the house, and out of the blue a mysterious white man, a wealthy economist/entrepreneur from Greenwich, Connecticut shows up on his door asking to rent out his basement for two months over the summer.

He's willing to pay big, over $50,000, but the catch is he wants to be locked in a cage down in the cellar, as punishment, or penance, for an undisclosed crime which he wishes to resolve this way. The tenant is to play the role of prisoner, and the landlord is to play the role of warden. Okay, that's all I will say for now. Other than, that the offer is accepted, and the remainder of the novel, focuses on deep philosophical conversations between the two. So far, and I'm a little over half way through it, it's a great book. At this point in time I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, and unlike the last book I read, I doubt I'll be changing my mind. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

You Forever

So I just started reading You Forever, the second book I've read by T. Lopsang Rampa. Despite the fact that I didn't much like The Third Eye, I decided to give this one a chance, since I had requested it weeks ago via interlibrary loan and I hate to waste those requests coming from hundreds of miles away.

Luckily this book, You Forever, is much better than the other one. Though can't say I'd give a perfect five star rating, but maybe it will be deserving of a modest, yet still respectable score of a three out of five stars. 

It's classified as being non-fiction, a sort of instruction manual for developing psychic abilities. So I suppose you would find it in the new age/philosophy section of the library. Though I am definitely more skeptical of new age ideas than I used to be, don't absorb every word as the absolute truth, far from it, but I'm finding this book to be very easy to read, entertaining and inspirational, with creative ideas about seeing the world from different perspectives, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Even if this is just recycled thought, and after all what isn't? it's put together very well, that if you're ever looking for a good introduction to new age thinking, this might be a good book to start with.

I just read a section about seeing auras, the difference between the etheric body and the aura. The etheric body is sort of a residual emanation of the life force of the body, which according to this author is what ghosts are made of, whereas the aura is more than that, being sort of a visible link between the body and the soul, revealing not only the physical health of the body, but more of the soul energy animating the body, the general orientation and intentions animating the personality, whether they are good or evil, compassionate or ruthless, compatible or incompatible with your energy, etc.

Reminded me of a workshop I went to when I was like 19 or 20. Back then when I was living in Wisconsin I had an older friend that was into this stuff, and we went all over Wisconsin and Northern Illinois to different new age shops, seminars, theosophical sponsored meetings in the after hours of bank basements, and one time we went to this workshop in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin about how to read auras. I wish I could remember her name, the teacher of this workshop, as I would look her up, who besides claiming to be able to read auras, was also a Reiki master, and intuitive counselor.

Though I have had success seeing the etheric body, which is like a thin film surrounding the body, and sense the magnetic emanations, heat and vibrating energy from living things, I've never been successful in seeing the aura. After reading many books, and after many failed attempts I just sort of gave up, dismissing it as not very important anyway.

Though it would be cool if you could just look at a person, and based on the colors of their aura know whether or not they are telling the truth, whether they have good intentions or bad intentions, whether they are healthy or sick, and if they are sick what specific illness they are suffering from, even if they don't otherwise look sick, if you could sense some underlying problem in its early stages, and maybe be able to help heal it, either energetically, or by bringing it to their attention so they can seek medical treatment for something that may have otherwise gone undetected.

I'm still somewhat skeptical of it though, this kind of thing is in the realm of the fantastic, I guess you would call it pseudoscience, so it's not like I know this whole idea of seeing auras and of being able to accurately read people this way, it's not like I know it to be absolutely true, because I have not experienced it to be a fact myself. I'd like to believe it to be true, it would be nice if it were true, but until I actually have this ability myself, I will probably remain unconvinced.

I just hope that the people that claim to see auras, that write about how to see auras, that describe what auras look like, and what the different colors mean, I just hope they are actually speaking from personal experience, knowing it to be a fact that they have actually repeatedly experienced themselves, and are not just repeating what they have read elsewhere, without having actual firsthand knowledge of it.

After all, it is difficult to believe that a person can see auras, when you yourself are unable to see them, and when most of the people you know are unable to see them. It's difficult not to feel suspicious about it, to suspect that maybe they are either lying to you, or they are lying to themselves, having falling into the delusional error of wishful thinking. That having read numerous new age books saying this and that is true, even though they have yet to find confirmation of it themselves, that they have reached the point of believing without seeing, and are thus perpetuating the falsehood to others. Hopefully that is not the case.

Okay, let's say that auras are real, that there is scientific evidence supporting not only the existence of auras, but that confirm that people can in fact be trained to see auras, even more important than that is determining the value of seeing auras, of accurately deciphering their meaning, and then determining what you can do with that knowledge.

I would say that using it as a lie detector would in itself make it worthwhile. Being able to accurately size a person up instantly would be a very good skill to have too. But to be able to do that, you've got to first establish a standardized system of meaning, that different colors means such and such, and then you've got test its reliability. This is what the occultists and new agers have been saying for hundreds of years, but how accurate is this information really? I mean, maybe the aura can be proved, but who can prove that purple means this, and orange means that? Unless you can repeatedly demonstrate certain colors being associated with, for example, certain ailments, it will largely be a matter of speculation.

However, I think there's potential value in being able to read auras, but first you've got to actually see them, otherwise, until you can do that you've got nothing, it's just a theory, with no substance to back it up.

Well anyway, I would say that if you can stand to read new age philosophy, and want a good, easy to read starting place for learning about auras and other new age ideas, I would say give You Forever a chance.

Update 2/17:  Actually, now that I've read most of the book, I'd have to revise my review somewhat. Instead of giving it three out of five stars I am more inclined to give it two. It's still an okay reference book, but you don't need to read the whole thing cover to cover. Some lessons are definitely better than others, and others are worth skipping over. However, there's still enough substance there to make it worth checking out, if you can get it for free at the library, but I wouldn't recommend buying it for your permanent collection.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Third Eye

Just finished reading The Third Eye by T. Lobsang Rampa. It's supposed to be the autobiography of a Tibetan Lama, except it's written by a British man who is neither Tibetan nor a Lama. And no, it's not a biography, nor is it a translation of an autobiography. The catch is T. Lobsang Rampa is actually a British man named Cyril Henry Hoskin (1910-1981) who claimed to be possessed by the spirit of T. Lobsang Rampa, a Tibetan Lama, and as such he considers all his books written by and about T. Lobsang Rampa to be true autobiographical stories, and not at all fiction.

Well, obviously the guy had a few screws loose, either that or he was an exceptionally successful con artist. Though I didn't know the background information of the author until after I had actually read more than half of the book, and so I don't think my opinion of it was too badly prejudiced by knowing this. Pretty much my opinion is that even if the book were true it was nothing special. It read like it borrowed heavily from Theosophical writings about Tibet, late 19th Century mysticism, very new agey, not really anything I hadn't heard before: tales of telepathy, levitation, astral travel, hypnotism, invisibility, psychometry, geomancy, pretty much the standard fare superhuman abilities attributed to advanced practitioners of Yoga, except it came across more as hearsay, someone repeating what they read elsewhere, but hadn't ever actually experienced themselves. And there's nothing wrong with doing that either, but just don't try to pawn it off as a true autobiographical story, when it clearly is not.

Overall I found the book to be shallow, nothing too extraordinary or original, wasn't even really that entertaining, and this is coming from someone who is absolutely fascinated by all things related to Tibet, yogis, and superhuman abilities, but I would definitely classify this as a work of fiction, and not a very good one either. I'm kind of surprised at how many people liked it. To me, the book would probably appeal most to people interested in mysticism, but who have limited knowledge of it and maybe are hearing about it for the first time here, and so it would probably be amazing to them, not knowing there's nothing original here, and everything in this book could definitely have been written by someone who has never been to Tibet. Kind of like Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, except that's a better book.

Cool book cover though. It also helped that it was a fairly short and easy read. So it wasn't a complete waste of time. I gave it two out of five stars. One good thing that came out of it was it rekindled my interest in Tibet, and in learning more about its history, so I've already requested a few books on the subject, and look forward to reading more about it soon. And will also read one more book by this author, because I had already requested it weeks ago and it's on the way, so I might as well try to read it, and maybe I'll share a few thoughts about it when I get the chance.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dreams of the Future

I really need to start a dream diary again. Yeah, I know, this is not the first time I've posted about this. It's something that has come up again and again over the years. And it's not like I'm going to use this blog as my dream diary, rest assured if anything it would only be for recording the more memorable of dreams, but certainly not every single one. That is better served by a notebook. Nothing fancy. Just a basic dollar store special would do. Most dreams remembered are usually not fully detailed, just a few lines or so of information. Therefore, there's usually not enough there for a blog post anyway.

Last night I had a dream. It was a dream involving travel, being on some sort of super elevated train, involving water, felt sort of like being on a roller coaster, but going really really high up into the sky, and than going back down to the level of water, being sort of a combination of train, plane, and boat. I remember traveling over some distance with people, it was like a several hour trip, but I don't remember who they were, and seeing the empire state building, looking down on it, seeing it on the horizon, very far away, and wondering if that was where I was headed. You see, in this dream, I remember not being quite sure where I was going. I thought maybe it was headed that way, but just then we took a nose dive, going down a huge hill, like being on a roller coaster, and landing on water, where the roller coaster became a boat, finally stopping off of some sort of transit dock, off of what appeared to be a lake, I'm thinking maybe somewhere in Ohio, but I could be way off, which was some kind of vacation retreat. And that is all I remember.

There's not much there, but it made a strong enough impression on me that I am able to write about it for the first time several hours after it happenned. Had I not been thinking about keeping a dream diary these past few weeks I would have totally forgotten this. I wonder how much is forgotten because it is quickly dismissed as unimportant and therefore is not written down. Probably a lot. This is why I've got to get back into the habit of writing down my dreams. Got to do it. There is a certain discipline involved. It takes a huge amount of commitment to do this everyday. Sometimes you're lazy. Just want to go back to sleep, or do whatever it is you do when you wake up, eat, read, take a shower, exercise, make tea, whatever. Anything but dwell on your dreams, which are often dismissed as unimportant, trivial, nonsensical fantasies.

Random insight:

Okay, I've got a new theory for you. My theory, and this is a huge shot in the dark, in the sense that it's totally unscientific in that it's probably impossible to verify, but those theories, which are more imaginative than anything, are sometimes the most interesting because they are uncensored by expectations of what is or is not possible. Meaning that sometimes you just got to put an idea out there, no matter how ridiculous or unprovable it may first seem, and once you do that the verifying can come later.

The theory is this: that when you dream of things that don't make a lot of sense, that you don't really understand, one possibility for it is that maybe you're seeing the future, like hundreds or thousands of years into the future, and because things are so radically different, you don't have any kind of reference point for understanding it, that you just interpret it as being nonsense, when it actually may not be. But if you could remember what you dream, because maybe some of these prophetic dreams are not that distant, maybe just twenty or thirty years into the future, rather than twenty or thirty centuries, then maybe if you write them down, and have a record of it then maybe you would be able to see something there that you wouldn't recognize otherwise.

And that is my random insight of the day. Or just another supporting argument in favor of keeping a dream diary. Keep reading, there's bound to be more to come.