Are you even the same person eight years later?

The last time this blog had a post, the Great Recession had been going on for three or four years and my dual Bachelor’s degrees in Linguistics and Psychology were NOT the reason I was employed. A high school friend’s sister worked at Domino’s so there was the boost of nepotism I needed in 2011 to get a job in the post-housing-post-fracking boom of the early 2010’s.

It’s two months from eight years later and rereading my blog post as a 32 year old man who slaughtered his first cow today, I can’t help but feel a strange camaraderie for myself in the past. The post from 2011 refers to the emotional death that comes with low-skill, low-wage labor. It is the same feeling I got as a river guide in Alaska after a few seasons under my belt and no increased earning power to show for it. It is the EXACT feeling I endured during my two tenures at the Post Office. What a wild ride the Great Rebound has been!

But I also feel a sort of pity for that 24 year old me-from-the-past, writing from his first experience as a college graduate in the work force. He refers to his days as “time-tunneling,” sort of putting your head down and just taking that next step, regardless of how your mind or body feels about it.

These days I wake up before the sun rises and I feel engaged the entire day. My tunneling days are over! I have arrived here, at my Life! Of course I was living my Life just great back in 2011, unknowingly training for my first marathon and gearing up for what would be the catalyst to my current gaia-ecology-encompassing world view. “Youth is wasted on the young,” they say. Having been young myself once, I believe Youth just lacks the perspective to appreciate what is so great about being young. Arguably that is kind of the point of it – to have everything easy and not know it so you can later look back, admonish your short-sightedness, and move forward with a wider view of the world.

So to our 2011 selves, I say, rejoice! The world did not end in 2012, rather only the mechanisms keeping the old, broken stories afloat. The sun keeps rising, morning after morning, and if there is work worth doing, there is time to do it. And there is so much work that is worth doing!

Advertisements

Emotions and Their Detriment to the Idea of Free Will

Tonight while working I suddenly realized I had shot into a truly wonderful mood, casting a stark contrast to the pissy mood I had been in just a half hour before. Spending the 20 minutes before I had to head to work at shoveling some of the driveway, even in heavy snow-mobiling gloves the tips of my fingers were getting incredibly cold. This pain in my fingers and cold over my body made me incredibly irritable as I don’t seem to deal well with cold, physically or emotionally. I went in to work aware I was in a terrible mood and I knew very well why. Then driving back from a delivery I noticed myself smiling and laughing at silly things and realized my mood had done a complete 180.

Why? I wondered. Why was I suddenly in such a great mood? I could understand coming out of my irritable state as I warmed up but what had happened to fill me with this sourceless joy? As I was unable to find a solid reason, my mind turned to the question, why do I care? Reflecting on past moods and my wonderings what caused them, I noticed we as humans rarely question why we are happy, though we almost always must question why we aren’t. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that, generally, we aren’t happy when something is amiss – when we’re in pain, when something we want isn’t available, when we need food or sleep or water. Being happy means everything is in order, right? But this isn’t always so, it’s only just a general principle. Sometimes we are happier than current circumstances would indicate we should be. Can this not also be so when we’re sad?

Ultimately I didn’t really care why I was so happy, I suppose. I will gladly accept being happy whether I have a reason to be or not. Perhaps our moods are just combinations of chemicals that come and go in our brains and for whatever reason, if even there was one, my brain chemicals had aligned to produce a sense of mild euphoria. Maybe these same random chemicals sometimes combine in such ways as to make us sad, despite there being no external source causing this depressing attitude. The “zen” type of mentality of just accepting one’s emotions seems particularly wise when emotions are viewed in this light. If they are but things that happen for no reason, there is no point questioning them or trying to alter them. Best just to accept you are happy, or sad, or angry, and go along with it. I know I find myself only becoming more upset if I get upset about my being upset. A cyclical downward pattern can quickly develop from negative emotions. I find it best to simply accept what one is feeling and let it go its course.

All this contemplation made me further doubt the idea of free will. The reality of free will is something I want to believe in but I find it difficult to reason with myself that my choices are entirely my own. The best argument I can make for the case of free will is my intuition tells me it is so. I trust my intuition quite a bit, but normally it can be backed up by empirical evidence and isn’t glaringly opposed by reason. An example would be the idea of a soul – my intuition tells me we do have them, despite a lack of empirical evidence. However, billions of people believe in some sort of religion, and thus a similar idea of souls, and the counterargument “there is no such thing as a soul” really has no evidence backing it. The concept of a soul isn’t easily proven, but nor is it disproven.

Free will, however, feels more and more like something I want to believe in, rather than something I actually do. Take my emotional swings; I had no control over these. I was powerless to stop becoming angry and frustrated and without patience due to my limbs getting cold. I was equally as powerless to avoid becoming joyous in my car for seemingly no reason. This to me points to the fact that ultimately there is no free will, that outside forces push us to and fro through life.

“Ah, but!” my mind quips. “You are able to master your emotions.” Such as when I was frustrated and cold, I caught hold of that fact in my head and breathed slowly in and out, concentrating on my breath, attempting to settle myself and realize my emotional swing was without merit. That was a conscious decision I made, a choice, and thus would provide evidence for free will. Or take for instance my mastery over the feelings of anger and vengeance I feel toward a certain girlfriend-stealing guy. I have plenty of pent up rage and frustration and anger to let myself fly off the handle and break something of his or fight him or…something angry people do. Yet instead I consciously choose to avoid acting out in what I view as a degrading and low manner. I am really trying to be Jesus on this, to turn the other cheek, and just wish them both well and get on with my life. It’s not terribly easy but it is indeed a series of choices I have and am and continue to make.

This post may seem a bit rambly, and it is, but I quite liked the thought-train I hopped on in my car and wanted to explore it further once I got home. I am attempting to write something just about every night of the week and so far it is working swimmingly. I wrote a post about bread last night and at some point every day I update what will end up being a larger work reflecting on a week’s worth of running.

Plus I’m not even sure anyone reads these so I lack any compulsion to try to impress an “audience.” At this stage of the game I still basically entertaining myself with the idea of practicing writing, whatever that means for me, and developing online works that are more substantial and worth caring about than little status updates on facebook.

Me Amongst the Proletariat

This blog project nearly got abandoned as I just don’t have the energy to work on it lately. Work seems to sap me of any excess energy to do anything of value or have any deep thoughts. Then I realized I had actually been thinking about this very fact and how I seem to be in the midst of a grand experiment.

My last job was 2 years ago at Victoria’s Secret. Working in the stockroom, I unboxed, sorted, and tagged panties. Massive amounts of panties, for 4 hours at a time. It was a horrendously boring job and very much put me off work for a long while. Being in college, funded by parents, I was able to get by financially just fine. I didn’t have an excess of money but I ate alright and I was afforded a few luxuries. Looking back at that time, and even to a few weeks ago before this Domino’s job I realize what I had most of was time.

It is very difficult to appropriately appreciate something until you no longer have it. I am only working part time at Domino’s, 20-30 hours a week, and yet I feel like my free time has completely vanished. There are two aspects to this, one being I honestly do have less free time, the other being the effects work has on a body and mind.

In my very first post I talked about how my blog would serve as an outlet for the innumerable ideas I had bouncing around in my head. Now, even if I dedicated a lot of my time to writing out my thoughts, nearly nothing would ever get done as I seem to be out of thought-juice. I believe this is caused by less time to just sit and ponder things, as well as coming home mentally exhausted, or at least mentally tuckered out, and unwilling or unable to spend energy on just thinking, something I have been used to doing for years.

Over the past few months, with nothing but time on my hands, I would migrate from activity to activity throughout the day: bake some bread, read the internet in the meantime, practice tying knots, play guitar, make a new song idea, develop that idea, write words to it, work on some building project in Minecraft, go punch down the dough, watch stuff on YouTube, go for a run, etc. etc. That was a long list, and that was what I was doing every day. During these daily periods of time expenditure my mind was alive with conjecture and it was all I could do to keep from going a sort of crazy with the excess of it in my mind.

Consider my life now – I’ve been working every day for over a week, averaging 4-8 hour shifts. I enjoy my work, quite a change from nearly every other job I’ve had, but I am always in alert mode, trying to make myself valuable for a consistent 4-8 hours. When I come home my mindset is unchangeably that of “I need to relax.” Whether I am coming home at 3 or (much more likely) 7, I am not only content, but feel compelled to just sit around doing nothing of value for the rest of the night until I get tired or feel I should get to bed.

Today is the first day all week I haven’t had to wake up at 10 to get to work at 11 (or as was the case, to get into town to do some recording in a studio at AIMS. I hope to have the recordings soon). In fact I still have about 2 hours till I need to head to town, and what have I done with my free time today? Finished a half dome in Minecraft. Played a little Rift. Watched youtube videos and just generally wasted my time on frivolities. I was completely aware of this the whole time. At one point I said to myself, you should do something productive, like go run or make music or look at jobs or something. And while I knew I should, I literally could not find then motivation to do so. This has how it’s been for the last two weeks. I feel like I really am starting to understand the “little man” now.

I expressed these thoughts concretely while talking with my brother last night. I often put ideas into words when talking with him and just as often receive great deals of validation from his response. As I put it when talking with him, I used to look at the myriad worker bees, the people droning on in their mundane, boring day-to-day lives, seemingly oblivious to their potential or the metaphysical yokes their jobs at placed upon them. Angrily I used to think “Why don’t you get out?! Why don’t you apply yourself to something greater, to something you actually want?!”

I think I have the answer now, as I am living that answer currently. Their answer might be something along the lines of “Why bother?” And I totally get it. After a day spent relatively slaving in exchange for some measly pittance from a conglomerate growing fat off your work, one just doesn’t have the motivation to do anything great at the end of the day. To come home and watch some funny show and not worry about anything for a little while is reward enough, is time well spent. I just got off work and I am going to have to go back in the morning: why would I expend energy doing something bigger than myself in my few hours of downtime?

“Is there any hope for me in the future?” I wondered to myself. Will I always feel so tired from work? Fortunately I feel the answer is no. When I spend my time and energy doing worthwhile things, great things, things where I can feel myself growing while I work on them, I come away feeling energized and refreshed. It’s similar to how you can kick your own ass working out and yet walk away from it feeling like some sort of superman. Among other things, my time spent as a “Delivery Expert” at Domino’s will serve to motivate me to find or invent that job where I care about my work, to find something that motivates and energizes me no matter how much time or energy I put into it. Delivering pizzas is not that something.

As my brother put it, I am tunneling through space-time right now. He is absolutely right – I am doing nearly nothing of great consequence, merely passing the time, burrowing through the months as quickly and absentmindedly as I can, with the intention of emerging on the other side some six months from now financially loaded and mentally empty, ready to head off into the world to refill my wonder and awe tanks. I don’t, however, believe this time will be a complete mental/creative waste. I made a pretty damn good song the other night in just over an hour, and clearly somewhere in the back of my mind some little philosopher continues to ponder existence, as evidenced by this article I’m now writing.

But I am certainly not thriving. The expression and ideas summed up in “same shit, different day” very much apply to me for the time being. It’s not an unpleasant worldview, it’s just nothing worth caring about. I am not unhappy or sad lately because I am not really feeling anything; my current lifestyle isn’t worthy of emotions. I just thank my lucky stars (and my own decisions) that I don’t have a mortgage or a wife and family or student loans or any of a myriad of other heavy burdens I might have had to shoulder. I can continue blindly with my time-tunnel contented to know it will only be a short trip and much better things are awaiting me on the other side, just a few monthmiles from now.

 

Mitochondrial DNA

Unlike the DNA in the nucleus of each of your cells, you inherit your mitochondrial DNA exclusively from your mother. Mitochondria, the “power houses” of the cell, contain their own independent genome. While both sperm and eggs contribute equally to the genetic information that will later be present in a fertilized zygote, paternal mitochondria are marked for destruction upon entering the egg. So it is that mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother and provides a direct lineage back through mothers to “Mitochondrial Eve,” the oldest known common human ancestor on the mother’s side.

Consider what all this means! My brother and sister share the EXACT SAME mitochondrial DNA (henceforth referred to as mDNA) as me. The same as my mother. And yet totally distinct from my father. My siblings and I share the EXACT SAME mDNA as my grandmother, as well as all of her children! This applies to all my cousins born from my aunts that are my mother’s sisters as well, but it does not extend to my cousins born from my mom’s brothers. And the furthest I can take this idea back is to my grandma’s sisters, some of whom are still alive, and all of their children, and all of their grandchildren born from my great-aunts’ daughters. That means there are approximately 15 living people with whom I share the EXACT SAME mDNA. Sure, my brother and my sister have about half the same genes as me, but there are 15 people whose mDNA looks exactly the same as mine. That is mindblowing!

And then it gets even more confusing, because consider my great-grandmother on my mom’s side. I know next to nothing about her, or any sisters she may have had, or any daughters she or her possible-sisters may have had. Take it back even further, to my great-grandmother’s mother, and on and on, and all those women and their progeny possess(ed) exactly the same mDNA that is generating energy in my cells at this very moment.

I do not know the rates at which mDNA mutates, though I would assume it is something similar to chromosomal DNA. Even if that is true, I don’t think the effects would be felt or seen nearly so fast as with cDNA because you skip out on all the gene-splicing and crossing over you get with fertility events. Or perhaps because these changes are unaffected by anything but themselves, the changes are more readily apparent. I don’t know and will have to do further research. But my initial intuition suggests I am spookily related to a large number of individuals, mitochondrially speaking. But how different is my mDNA from others outside my family if we look back 6 generations and imagine all the children, grandchildren, etc. that descended from that old generation? Now consider 6 generations later, some now distantly related individuals have children, not knowing they both have the same mDNA they inherited from a common ancestor many generations ago. All this looping and unchanging inheritance leads me to see the similarity between all people.

Leaving behind who I am, becoming who I want to be.

Today I launch an idea that has been floating around my head for a while. It’s just one of a few steps I am taking to stop being who I am in order to become who I want to be. I recently read an article by John Dvorak where he reasons that Facebook is basically just AOL plus. I agree wholeheartedly with his distaste with closed systems; it’s a big reason I don’t use Macs. “If I want a personal webpage with all sorts of information about myself,” he explains, “I’ll go to WordPress.com and make one.” And that is exactly what I am doing.

I was almost tempted to start a Twitter account, such was the number of random little ideas that have been popping up in my head lately. But I am a bit of a scrooge when it comes to Twitter. I just don’t think I or 90% of its users are important enough to provide a constant feed for readers to consume. But I suppose I feel important enough for a blog. At least that requires a little effort to make anything worth posting.

I was going to have one blog dedicated to all my interests and thoughts but I felt that would be too overwhelming. Instead, I am launching a mini-network of blogs, all my own, that cover my varied interests. This one you’re reading right now will be the central hub and probably the busiest of them all, where I intend to flex my writing muscle at outlining thoughts I am having, or blurb about general updates in my life. Connected to this hub will be a blog, probably the least interesting, dedicated to keeping track of my workouts and running progress: this blog will exist mostly to inspire me to continue being active, especially with how hard it is to do compared to Boulder where being healthy felt as natural as going to bed when you’re tired. I also intend to get back into music in a more consistent way and so I will be creating a blog of songs I have recorded. This may also be used as a general “arts” blog where I include what little poetry I come up with and the even rarer drawings I do.

Another blog I will make will be concentrated on my new-found love of baking. For about a month or two now I have been experimenting with sourdough baking, having created my own yeast starter that I have used in all my bread. I am only up to 8 attempts at bread but I am finally getting the hang of what dough should feel like, how to knead in flour, and most importantly, how to make really tasty bread. Now that I have the basic bread down, I think it is time to experiment in a more laissez faire style, where I stop following recipes to the T and I allow some misguided sense of inspiration to guide my hand.
I may even open up a blog about gaming, something I tend to do a bit of. But I have never fooled myself into thinking anyone gives a damn about what games I am playing and so this blog may never come into being, but heck, while I am basically documenting my existence, I may as well cover it all, right?
These blogs will exist for a few reasons – First of all, I had told myself I would start writing recently and as of yet I really haven’t done so. This stems from my massive brainstorm about what sort of job/career I want. Ideally I want to do something I can do from anywhere, and writing certainly fits that bill. It doesn’t matter whether I am in the Ivory Tower in Eaton or some little café in Luxembourg, I can write from anywhere in the world. The trouble is, I’m not much of a writer, nor do I have anything to really write about yet. These blogs should serve nicely as a place to basically work out my writing muscles and, should I garner any sort of audience, inspiration to continue doing so.
Another reason will be to share – with whoever is interested. I’m currently back at my dad’s in Colorado, separated from all my friends by seven, fifty, or hundreds of miles. It’s very lonely up here and that’s why I refer to it as the Ivory Tower. Nine out of ten days I am all alone, conversing with no o,ne and for someone whose brain never stops motoring the excess of ideas and thoughts and images and sounds bouncing off each other within my skull is exhausting. Even if no one at all reads these blogs, at least I will get some of these ideas out of my head and into the world at large. I think that it will prove to be very satisfying and help to inspire personal growth.
So buckle up, dear readers, the old facebook status of my life is about to be turned into a whole branch of the internet. And do tell me in the comments below your answer to this very important question: Is an excess of commas that serve to express the cadence of natural speech awkward when reading? I have been told time and time again I include too many commas when I write but I only include them because were I to speak my writing out loud, the commas would be in exactly the place where one would expect to hear a pause. Does this matter to you? Or should I stop editing myself and let the commas roll out as they please, laughing and giggling all over the place?

Advertisements