Brains, Computers, and Meditation

As I was laying in bed last night trying to go to sleep, I figured I’d do some meditating. I tried to clear my mind, and simply view the thoughts that came to me, then let them go. As I was doing this, it reminded me of a computer shutting down, which was a problem, because then according to my meditation, I should have viewed that thought and let it go. But I wanted to blog about it! So I reviewed it a couple times in my head so that I would remember, then continued with my efforts.

It is so strange trying to think about nothing, because then seemingly random thoughts will pop into my head as soon as the others have faded, instead of the usual continuation of one subject evolving into another. And at this point, I can’t clearly remember what these thoughts even were, but at the time, it reminded me of pop-up ads as you are trying to close a browser. You realize there were all these ads behind the main window that you were focusing on. Maybe they weren’t taking up much of your thought, but they were certainly making the computer or internet run slower.

The same applies to background programs on the computer that you don’t even know are running until you shut it down. Then all these windows pop up like, “are you sure you want to close this?” and “forced shutdown could make you lose data”. But in the end the computer always seems to run better when it is restarted.

Our brains are probably very similar. Even though when we sleep we are often refreshed, it seems like it would be beneficial to shut down each memory train that is running in our brain. They reveal themselves as soon as you push out the more pressing thoughts closest to the front of your mind. Then random imagery, words, people, events, or fiction pops into your head. But somehow I doubt it pops in randomly, it must be playing off something else, or perhaps hanging out in the back of the mind the whole time just waiting to get some attention.

If anyone has a psychology background or understands how the brain works, let me know if I am onto something. But even if I am not onto something scientific, it certainly was good imagery to focus my meditation session. And then it puts my mind at ease, because I feel like I am putting to rest tiring backstories that need not constantly play in the subconscious.

Close those brain pop-ups down one at a time, and then enjoy the blank space, the clean surface, the properly functioning drive. Just clear it out, reset, and everything will run smoother when you boot it back up. Perhaps only truly important backstories will reboot, and you can put some of the nagging ones to rest.

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Sometimes Posts are Better as a Series

I will be on vacation this week, on a cruise with no internet, so I won’t be posting. I have, therefore, assembled some suggested reading from past posts.

Do you like the weird philosophical posts about what life is, who we are as individuals, and what happens next? Read the following posts as a series:

What if Life is Just our Souls Playing Video Games?

Sleeping and Dreaming: Does this fit with my Souls Playing Video Games Theory?

Humanity is a Puzzle, and We Are the Pieces.

What if we only Age Because We Expect to Age?

Cherish Your Time as an Individual.

Do you like the encouraging self help style posts that energize you to do what you love, and never give up on your dreams, or being happy?

The Legend of (Your Name Here).

Don’t Be Scared into the Status Quo: Ordering off the Menu versus Building Your Own Life.

Breaking the Cycle: From Ideas to Action.

Addicted to Happiness: The Brain is Your Dopamine Dealer.

Do it for the Perspective: Money Isn’t the Only Valuable.

Enjoy! You will all hear from me again soon!

Cherish Your Time as an Individual

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be manipulated and transferred. Every piece of us is as old as the universe, though the particular arrangement of matter in you does not even date back a year: each atom in our bodies is replaced every year. You undoubtedly have an atom that is part of your body that was part of someone else’s body at some point.

Perhaps we all started as one energy and will all coalesce into one energy again some day, where negativity will cease, and we will exist eternally as one in nirvana. (“Life is a waterfall, we’re one in the river and we’re one again after the fall.” -System of a Down)

In the grand scheme of things, our time on earth is short. Some people take this to mean it is insignificant. They say, we are all one, and being an individual is an illusion. And that may be true. But don’t you think there is a point of us being an individual, for however short it may be?

What I’m saying is, if we exist for the rest of eternity as one energy, then we should cherish this short opportunity to be an individual. It is a stress on our being, or our collective being to be an individual, but that makes me think there is much to gain.

Exercise is stress that makes us stronger. Trials and tribulations grow us. The pressure of academics makes us smarter. Could the stress of being an individual for 80 years make each one of us a stronger puzzle piece, so that when we all finally come together to form the puzzle, the entire puzzle is stronger?

So yes, if you hurt others you are just hurting yourself in a sense. But that does not mean you should be a slave to others either. Use this opportunity as an individual to see what can be accomplished by one specific piece of the universe. In the end, anything you gain individually will be gained by all of humanity.

Music or Magic Spells: What’s the Difference?

There is that certain part of your favorite song that always seems to cut deep inside you. It makes you invigorated, it makes you cry, or it makes you laugh. You want to belt it out, and dance to the rhythm. I have been to a lot of concerts, and when that song that I am waiting for comes on, it is like being in a different world. Without any mind-altering substances added, standing there with the crowd as the booming music ripples through me, I feel it. The magic of music.

Magic is a weird thing. The definition seems tough to nail down. Many people from centuries ago would think the way I am writing this post, the way it is being transmitted to you, and the way you are reading it is all magic. Since it is not mysterious to us (well actually, I am not super well versed in exactly how all this technology works, but I digress) we do not consider it magic. It is not supernatural, it is technology.

But if I conjured a fireball in my hands, would that be magic? What if it was then explained by science, and we found out there is a legitimate explanation for how I did this? Magicians don’t really do magic, they perform illusions. But if magic is simply influencing things without a clear method; effecting the course of events with mysterious or supernatural means… well that would seem to fit the definition. I don’t know how magicians do most of their tricks, so it is mysterious to me. Even if it is slight of hand, could that not be considered magic, since it is still not very clear how the slight of hand was achieved?

My point is: what’s the difference between magic spells and music? I would say the difference is success rate and fine tuning. I don’t know any magic spells that work, but I know songs that work in some ways to do some things. There are songs that work to make me happy, or energetic, or pumped up, or relaxed. Is that so different than chanting a magic spell: and mysteriously influencing a person’s mood?

But we are all so different (like puzzle pieces) that the same song is not going to always work the same on every one of us. You might have no use for country, while a certain country song might make me feel like the world is my oyster. Why rely on snake oil placebo elixirs in a vial when we have real magic spells in the speakers?

In lore there are incantations and chantings that give life, sew death, change attitudes, and influence the material world. But is not much truth conveyed in tales and myths? Perhaps songs are a primitive form of magic. Music is certainly involved in essentially all worship in one way or another. We have songs for hope, songs for change, songs for sport, songs for play. Is it so far fetched to think that with a little fine-tuning we could create “spells” that work on almost everyone?

There are patterns of music that people like. Many of the top songs use a very similar arrangement of tunes. Pachelbel’s Cannon in D can be heard in countless songs, as this comedian points out.

So can you explain why Pachelbel’s Cannon in D hits a chord with so many music enthusiasts? If not, then this fits the definition of magical. It is influencing us through means that we do not fully understand. Another example is this mashup of 6 hit country songs, check it out.

There is an official explanation for why we like certain songs: human brains like patterns but get bored easily. So if there is a pattern that changes slightly with each verse, our brains enjoy it because we eventually feel smart when we not only recognize the pattern, but can predict how that pattern will change slightly the next go around.

But still, someone just got inside our brains and influenced us, and we were powerless to resist. And playing the numbers, it seems certain types of songs are able to affect the masses; they know which spells will work. Taylor Swift must have some very powerful sorcerers working for her.

I know it happens to you too, you hear some crappy song once in the store, and then you are whistling it all day because it’s so damn catchy! It’s catchy because someone just cast a magic spell on you, and you go around spreading this spell to others who may also get the tune stuck in their head, for better or for worse.

Please share your thoughts below, I would LOVE to get a discussion going on this topic. But let me leave off by attempting to cast a spell on you all. This one is a calming spell intended to also elicit empathy for your fellow humans.

What if We Only Age Because We Expect to Age?

For our intents and purposes, space-time exists: that is, the same space may appear different depending on the time, and the same time may be different depending on the space. But does time by itself exist?

What if we have a lot more control over ourselves than we think? The power of thought has seemed to heal people on many occasions. The placebo effect has people feeling better all the time. Meditation, prayer, positive thinking: these all lead to individual improvement, that seems to come from within (or at least not an earthly force). So what if believing the biggest lie ever told, that we have to age, has actually cased the self fulfilling prophecy?

Suppose we only age because we expect to age. We count the years, we count the days, we dread the affect aging will have on our skin, our brains, our energy levels. Have we accepted aging as an inevitability, and therefore adjust our own self image day by day, which adjusts our outward image, and indeed, our fate? What if we put a little less emphasis on age, seeing as we don’t really even understand time? What if we are doing this to ourselves, and everyone joins in because it has been proven time and time again that people do age?

Interestingly I started writing this before I saw an article that talks about the age we feel being related to how much longer we will live. The study asked 6,500 adults averaging 66 years old how old they felt. Then the study tracked those participants over an eight year period. “About 14 percent of the young-feeling adults died during the follow-up, versus 19 percent of those who felt their actual age and 25 percent of those who felt older”.

Now how much does this really suggest about age? I don’t really know. It could be simply that those with certain conditions leading to earlier death could already feel the toll. But the research did account for those who were already sick, and died within a year of the study. So could it suggest that feeling young really does promote health?

In a sense, that sounds obvious. If you feel young, you are probably more likely to go get some exercise. But perhaps you are also more likely to dangerously push your limits? Either way, the study gives a great reason to think and feel young, which could actually have the effect of slowing aging.

We all know people who look and act way younger than their age. They all have different theories on how they did it: lots of exercise, the right kind of food, love, joy, meditation. But what if every one of those was more or less a placebo effect? All these people had to do was feel younger, and think younger, and their aging process was slowed? Would this not account for why there are so many formulas for anti-aging, but no real answer? Perhaps all you have to do if adopt a relatively healthy practice that you believe will make you live longer, happier, and healthier, and it will be so.

I haven’t ruled out this possibility, that our minds have greater effect on our beings than we understand. It seems the power to heal could rest within us. So then what else do we have the power to affect using only our minds?

Addicted to Happiness: The Brain is Your Dopamine Dealer

I decided to see if there was any science behind the fact that I love vacations (I know, who doesn’t?) and it seems to alter my brain activity. What I found suggests that, like many other enjoyable things, more dopamine is released when you are on vacation enjoying yourself. You see, I may actually be addicted to vacationing.

In the past, dopamine rewarded humans by being released to promote survival. Psychology Today uses an example of a berry patch being found, which promoted survival for primitive humans. So the next time they saw a berry patch, or something that last time led to a berry patch, dopamine is released. This ensures the brain is rewarding things that will help you survive.

But it is not always like that these days, probably because it is so easy to survive. An alcoholic gets a dose of dopamine when he sees a bar, and a doctor when he finishes a surgery. I get a dose of dopamine when I explore a new city. But if I always went to the same city, my brain would not release as much dopamine, so I would need to find a new place to explore in order to get the old “high”.

I made this from Caribbean shells that I picked up in February on my cruise, and first vacation of the year. I attached them to a piece of palm bark from Georgia on my way home from my last vacation of the year. Even though I can't always be on vacation, I can bring back the memories and feelings when I see my little creation.

I made this from Caribbean shells that I picked up in February on my cruise, the first vacation this year. I attached them to a piece of palm bark from Georgia that I found on my way home from my last vacation of the year. Even though I can’t always be on vacation, I can bring back the memories and feelings when I see my little creation.

This is the same thing that happens with setting, working towards, and accomplishing goals. Each of these things encourages your brain to release dopamine, thus helping you on your way to “survival”. When I talk about this small goal/ large goal paradigm to promote happiness, this is the scientific explanation behind it.

Everything that makes your brain release dopamine will inevitably get old, or run its course, which is why you need to always have different types of goals you are working towards and accomplishing. Once you accomplish a goal though, your brain is going to want another. Otherwise, the absence of dopamine will make you feel sad. That is why it is important to diversify your goals, and your hobbies.

Work goals should not be your only source of dopamine, because then you might not be happy when you are at home. And hobbies cannot be your only source of dopamine, because then you will become irritated in other settings. The Psychology Today article points out that we need to make peace with our “unhappy” brain chemicals in order to reap the full benefits of the “happy” chemicals like dopamine.

Eventually your brain will be rewired to the point where it knows it can survive the unhappy chemicals. It is like replacing instant gratification with long term rewards. If you can wait it out, and weather the boring or unhappy times, the dopamine reward in your brain will be that much better when it comes.

If the chemistry behind your feelings interests you, check out the Psychology Today article. It also talks about the other “happy chemicals” that course through your brain. If dopamine equals success, serotonin equals importance, oxytocin trust, and endorphins “brief euphoria that masks physical pain”.

They are all released by our brains to promote survival, though congruent with my theory, our brain is essentially still serving cave man needs. That is why it is important and beneficial to understand our brains, so that we can usher them into the modern era, and make them work for us, instead of being a slave to our brain chemicals.

Did I Accomplish My Vacation Goals?

Before I went to Florida I wrote down a short list of things to accomplish, just to get me into vacation mode. Overall I think I did pretty well. Let’s go through it point by point to be official.

  • Starting conversations with strangers was pretty easy. I knocked this off day 1 in Savannah, and then kept going through the rest of the vacation.
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life. I am going to call this one accomplished, because I did get some good perspective. Think of this: depression is a luxury. I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s suffering, and there are some real reasons to be depressed. But general short lasting depression could be considered a luxury in the sense that you have time to be depressed. Most people starving to death trying to scrape together enough food don’t have time to be depressed. They may think, I’m sad, I’m in pain, but they probably won’t be thinking, “what does it all mean?”
  • Not only did I get to the coast, I got to two coasts, the Gulf and the Atlantic (in Georgia). I also flew over the Gulf of Mexico in a small plane.

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  • So I may take a technicality on the foraging goal. I found a few wild edibles, but I didn’t actually forage any. My cousin has a bunch of bamboo in her yard, and I’ve had bamboo in some Thai dishes. But when I looked up bamboo, turns out there are over 1,000 varieties, and only about 15% are edible. They all may be fine if treated properly, but I didn’t want to take the risk this time. I did however find some edible glasswort on the beach in Georgia on my drive home. I didn’t pick any, but now I know for next time.
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Glasswort

 

  • Got a picture of the sign that warns you to use the historic steps in Savannah, at your own risk.
  • I’m going to use this as my picture of something Florida. Turns out bamboo burns really well. But I think I was being a little prejudiced when I said I wanted a picture of “something Florida”. I didn’t see anything that bad. But I did go to an auction where the specialty item for the night was frozen food. And a dancing, singing, mechanical 4 foot tall Santa sold for over a hundred dollars.

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  • I don’t think I did anything that redneck. I really failed on this front in fact. I could have at least ridden my cousin’s horse without a saddle, or grabbed an ATV for a ride through the mud. Well I’ll be back there in February, hopefully I will get to go mudding then. (I got a pedicure, which is essentially the 100% exact opposite of doing something redneck…)
  • I accompanied my cousin to a horse supply store that is 3 minutes from her house, which she had never been to. But I figured I would use the roller skating rink for this accomplishment: to go somewhere nearby my cousin had never been. I went with her to her friends’ daughters’ birthday party. Roller blade rentals were $3, and after making sure I would not go down hard in a heap, I thoroughly enjoyed gliding around the rink for an hour. It was probably the first time I rollerbladed in a decade.
  • Eating something unique to the area: I totally blew this one out of the water! I tried raw oysters and alligator from Apalachicola, a coastal town on the pan handle. I also tried home made (and hunted) venison summer sausage, and deep fried turkey. I enjoyed all of it, though the turkey tasted the best. I guess it is hard to make something taste bad when you deep fry it in a vat of oil. I still didn’t try boiled peanuts, but I hear I’m not missing much.
  • As for doing some suggestions from the comments, as I’ve mentioned, I ate gator. But I also went to the Pirate’s House in Savannah.

And that is that. It was kind of fun checking things off the list. Maybe I will make up a sort of scavenger hunt adventure to do over the holidays in order to try to capture the vacation feeling while at home.

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Do It For The Perspective: Money Isn’t the Only Valuable

I’m back! As in, vacation me which is my natural state of happy existence. Even my cousin could tell the change in tone from when I started this blog in July, and as of late. But there is something about getting out there, seeing new things, and talking to new people that breaks down this mundane and lethargic shell. The shell that says it is not that important to enjoy every minute of life, the shell that convinces us money is more important than living life to the fullest.

[By the way I’m going to mix in pictures of Barrow throughout this post for no apparent reason other than it makes me happy.]

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Being a relatively responsible person, I was a bit stressed about money before this trip. And it helped that I spent about $70 fewer dollars on gas on the way down. But really at the end of the day, I know I am not going to go into crippling debt. So why would I let a few hundred dollars make or break a vacation?

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So of course my advice to you all is go do it. Whatever it may be for you. Catch up with college friends, family members; this week will hopefully be full of that (as long as you don’t get snowed in). The more often I change my scenery, the easier it is for me to understand that it is far more important to live than exist. But it is a good thing I planned this trip far off, because when I am out of real-me-mode, it does seem a lot easier and cheaper to just stay home. If I had waited until last week to make a decision on this trip, I probably wouldn’t have taken it. Kind of like my New York City trip, where I was on the edge until the night before: “It is going to be such a hassle!”

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Yea, you know what, it is a hassle. And everything in the world is a cost benefit balance. The benefits of enjoying myself and growing as a person far outweigh the monetary, time, and energy costs of taking these trips. I don’t see the family that is down here super often, so having the chance to connect over the last few days (and the next) has been amazing. What if I had forgone this trip, and not spent time with my relatives, reconnecting, and getting to know each other more? Well maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable on the outside, but really it would be another crack in the pillar of happiness. Instead, I threw down some mortar, and popped another block on top of that pillar.

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Perspective is valuable.

In a material society it is hard to place value on things that you can’t hold in your hand, or buy for $300. But maybe we should stop thinking of our lives as separated: the family self, the friend self, the work self. Maybe it is time to think of skills and knowledge as something that will make us whole. Life experiences should grow you as a person, not separate you into different people. It could help to think less of, “How will this increase my earning potential?” or “Is this the most I could gain during my only 6 hours off this week?”

I used to only read non-fiction political books. I wanted to go into politics (what was wrong with me?!) so I didn’t want to waste my time reading non-fiction. This is especially ironic since I am now writing fiction books; turns out all that fiction wasn’t a waste of time! But even if I didn’t want to write, it would not have been a waste of my time. That is because A, it was enjoyable, and enjoying your time is not a waste, and B, perspective!

How can you think you know what is up with the world if you have only viewed it from one angle? How can you think you know yourself if you have only viewed you from one angle. I’m finding I like vacation me best. I’m more positive and I have more fun. It is a struggle to keep that attitude while not on vacation, but at least I have a marker, a goal. When do you like yourself the most? That is the real you. You do you.

Perspective makes you less judgmental.

Yesterday I stopped by an outdoor bar on the Gulf of Mexico. I ordered a Yuengling which just so happened to help strike up a conversation with the grey goateed man with a Harley hat named Eric sitting next to me. He was from Philadelphia, where one of the breweries is based, and my bartender was asking me if I noticed a difference between southern and northern Yuengling because of the different brewing locations (I didn’t).

So anyway we get to talking and he is telling me about all the redneck guys in the area. Sure, there was some poking fun at them, but the crux of the story was that they were some of the nicest guys he has met. One big burly man walked up to Eric while Eric was with his friends. “Is that Eric?” The friends tensed up, was trouble brewing? “JOE!!” Yells Eric and jumps to his feet to give Joe a big bear hug, because that is how they greet each other whenever they cross paths.

At a local bar Eric once walked in, and some ZZ Top looking fellas said (or maybe it was their beer that said it), “Who’s this f**ing guy?” Eric just laughed, “How you doing boys”, and bought them each a round of beer ($2.50 for a PBR, not bad). The rest of the night, they were like old friends. Now THAT is how to diffuse a situation. Eric had perspective, and was not going to be brought down. Turns out he was a Sociology major, just like me.

Perspective makes you less stressed out.

It could be so much worse. I could have been left alone from 15 up raising a younger sibling while Dad just dropped off groceries once a week. Maybe that is why he can’t read so well. I could be called weekly by a parent’s neighbors to come round them up. Maybe that is where his stress comes from. Those are real people I met: awesome people who are productive, nice, and don’t complain.

I’m not immune, I still complain. But the more perspective you get, the more pathetic you feel for complaining that you had to wait 30 minutes to get picked up from CCD (you like the plug Mom and Dad?). Oh right, and I have a Mom and Dad who care enough to encourage me with what I want to do (even though it doesn’t make me money yet), and read my work. Thanks 🙂

I could break down on the drive home halfway back. But you know what? I wouldn’t be alone. Yea, physically I would. But it would not rest solely on my shoulders to get me out of there, and that is priceless. How can I be stressed out when I think of the worst that could happen, and it really isn’t that bad.

I’m happy, I’m grateful, I’m energetic, and I want you all to be too! I love positive people. Be positive. It is not always a competition, you can encourage others without feeling less about yourself. Do what you love, when possible don’t stress. Set goals, big and small. But most important, don’t just exist, live.

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Joe Jarvis’ Bogus Journey

On Wednesday I will be departing the north once more to drive down to Florida for a visit with my aunt and cousin, and to spend Thanksgiving with them. Vacations, especially this year, have been what invigorates me and keeps me flowing with energetic and hopeful blood! And hopefully, this time I won’t have to drive through a snowstorm until North Carolina.

So fully expect my posts when I come back to be better. Better in the almost delusional tone that was presented when I started this blog, fresh off an amazing week in the New Hampshire Mountains at a campground with so many other likeminded and friendly individuals.

In February, I went on my first cruise, which besides Canada was also my first time out of the country. It flicked a switch in my mind. I knew I liked to travel, but I didn’t really know to what degree. Maybe it was the vitamin D, or the magic of the Caribbean, or perhaps those Mexican beers had a special ingredient, but when I returned, I was happier, more talkative, extremely positive, and invigorated!

But that was without being inspired at my core. Yes I love everything about vacationing, cruising, and tropical islands, but the event in June appealed to my base values and worldview. PorcFest (which has nothing to do with meat, it is short for Porcupine Freedom Festival) is like a cross between the annual summit for my political interests, and burning man. It is Woodstock for my ilk, hippies for freedom, survivalists for peace. And strangely enough this political type event inspired me to create a blog devoted to everything but politics.

I already had my politics shtuff going, and what ran through my veins after PorcFest was a life force. There was so much I wanted to do with the information and feelings that came to me over that week! But political avenues are notoriously frustrating and often futile. So I decided to spread my positive energy via another platform: this everything-but-politics blog.

Now I am generally a positive person, and I like to be outgoing. Some might find this shocking, but I am not actually the most naturally outgoing person. So sometimes I need to almost trick myself, or at least set myself up so that my future self will do what my current self wants him to do.

You see, it would be easy for me to think of all these cool quirky things I want to do on my way down, back, and in Florida. But if the only thing holding me to that is… well, me, than the only person I could let down is… me.

Thus, I am creating a list, almost scavenger hunt-y, and sharing it here for my little goals during my trip. And once I tell the internet about my plans, I feel to ignore them would not only let myself down, but others as well.

On the way down I may be like, “Uhg, I don’t feel like talking to strangers!” But if it is on my list, I might force myself out of my comfort zone. And in the end, that type of situation almost always ends with me glad I did socialize, or whatever the circumstances.

This is even more important since I am going it alone this time! Which is also a big step out of my comfort zone; I’ve never taken a road trip this far by myself. But that’s part of growing as a person, busting apart our comfort zones, and experiencing things without our embedded reservations. It’s worked out for me so far.

So here are some ideas for me. Nothing crazy, just got to get my Excellent Adventure juices flowing.

  • Start at least 2 conversations with strangers, preferably during the drive down. (A stranger starting a conversation with me does not count towards this)
  • Find out someone’s unique philosophy on life and compare it to my own.
  • Get to the coast, and take in the beach and ocean. Try to scoop in enough to last me until February.
  • Find a wild edible/ medicinal plant to forage and use.
  • Get a picture of a sign that tickles my fancy.
  • Get a picture of “something Florida”. Need I explain more?
  • Do something redneck. (This should be easy, I’m a hick at heart)
  • Enlist my cousin’s help to check out something close by that she has not seen/ done. (You know, the old, “I’ve lived here for ___ years and I’ve never ___”.)
  • Eat something unique to the area (I’m thinking boiled peanuts, but I could find something else?)
  • Do at least one suggestion FROM THE COMMENTS! (I NEED YOU GUYS TO SUGGEST STUFF IN ORDER FOR THIS ONE TO WORK. DON’T LET ME DOWN).

That should be a good starting point, just to get me out of my shell. If it goes well, then perhaps I will make a new list for week 2 of the vacation.

In addition to checking some of these things off my list in order to cast me into the fray, you can expect some other things over the next couple weeks. Expect pictures of me with lots of animals. These thin pictures of me on the sides and top of this blog; the Alaskan Malamute and the horse are my cousin’s. She also has another horse, and now another dog. And then there are my aunt’s three Akitas, a pig, some cows… well you get the point. I like animals.

And if all goes according to plan I will be stopping by Savannah, at least for lunch. I want to check it out for a second time, since there is a possibility that I will move to the area within a year. Also, my second fiction book (the first is in editing stages), which I am currently working on, takes place in the Savannah area. So I need to do some scoping out for that as well.

I am well aware the tone I present here fluctuates. I feel I can no longer as naturally cast forth good will and life giving energy with such ease as I could on July 1st. But like the cruise, the road trip to Indianapolis, PorcFest, New York City, the road trip to Vermont, and camping in Vermont, I fully expect to return invigorated with the same natural energy emanating that gave this blog birth. And if that fades, well I only have to wait until February for another cruise, to restart my cycle.

I started this blog with Joe Jarvis’ Excellent Adventure. If all goes well, this will be Joe Jarvis’ Bogus Journey!

Which Came First, the Tattoo or the Symbolism?

Ever have someone ask what your tattoos mean? I used to get uncomfortable at this question, because the truth was I hadn’t assigned much meaning to my tattoos when I got them. I thought of them as art, so for a long time I told people to interpret my two tattoos themselves. But like any art, my tattoos eventually revealed their meaning to me as well, years after I got them.

My first tattoo I got on my left arm the day I turned 18. “What did your parents say?” They said “good job” to the tattoo artist; my parents are the ones who paid for it. I got my last name, Jarvis, tattooed on my forearm. It is looking a little faded these days.

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“What is that in case you forget your name?” Ha, good one! At first it was art. But something inspired me to get it. There was something about my last name that I liked. I liked the sound of it, I liked the ancestors, and I love my family. And there it is. Why do I want my last name on my arm? I probably won’t forget my last name. But you can remember your last name, and forget where you came from.

There are Hollywood actors, and popular politicians who have changed their names to play better with the public. I don’t know if it is a coincidence that these people tend to be fake, aloof, and messes (think Carlos Estavez aka Charlie Sheen).

No, I am not going to forget my last name. That is there so that I don’t forget where I came from. It is there as a permanent reminder of who made me what I am today, and who I have to thank for making me the person I am today. If I want to run from any of that, I can start my tearing off the permanent piece of my skin branded with that reminder. That would be painful, as it should be.

About a year and a half later I caught the itch to get another tattoo. Perhaps this was the closest thing to a hippy phase I was going through. It was after freshman year of college, I was transferring schools, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I knew that I was totally in touch with like, nature and, like, spirituality man!

I drew the original picture myself, and had the tattoo artist render an acceptable print for permanent publication on my back. It was a tree growing out of the earth, and it was am image I loved. It looked cool. I liked trees, I liked nature, I liked maps. It was art. The imagery made me feel a certain way, and that was why I wanted that piece of art on me.

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Again, it was years before I assigned any meaning to the tat. But when I realized what it meant to me, it was the perfect tattoo! The tree of life grows from the seed of earth. What you do on earth, will affect what happens in your after life. Earth is the seed, and depending on how you plant it, fertilize, and water it, the tree that grows could be magnificent, or sickly.

And the tree of life, that connects us to the after life, can be as large and far reaching as you make it. Or it can die as a sapling, and one might be left with no avenue in which to follow in order to gain access to the afterlife. Perhaps if you do not grow your tree large enough, you cannot reach the afterlife, and must start over, with a new seed, in a new life.

But as you can see, my tree dwarfs the earth, which is where I hope to get to. Perhaps someday there will be occasion to add leaves and vibrance. But I’m not too worried. My tattoos were created before they meant anything to me. Likewise the structures we create in this life can seemingly mold themselves into place, before we know how to use them.

This relates back to what I was saying in another post. I like to write, run, forage, and exercise. I enjoy nature, health, philosophy, and social interactions. These thing I have been cultivating, and am sure will be of great use to me. When the time is right, my tree of life may grow leaves. And when the time is right, we can all use our talents, skills, and passions to flesh out the life we want to live.

And remember, what happens on Earth might not just affect this lifetime.