Don’t Fear the Light: Openness vs. Blind Faith


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I believe it was Carlsbad Caverns that my family toured when I was going into fourth grade. We were taken deep beneath the earth’s surface, and guided into a large domed cave within the natural underground tunnels. The tour guide told us to put our hand 12 inches in front of our face, and he turned off the flashlight. “Can you see the outline of your hand?” he asked. We all could–or so we thought. There was no light at this depth in these caves detectable by the human eye, and the outline we thought we saw was simply a construction of our brain. A single match was then lit, flooding the ballroom sized cavern with enough light to see every stalactite and stalagmite in wonderful detail.

It seems likely that a humans’ aversion to new ideas is rooted in evolution. If what you have been doing has always worked for survival, changing it could be quite dangerous. Why let someone convince you to go out on a limb that could snap, instead of continuing practices that have always kept you alive? It is understandable that our survival instincts tell us to fear change, and support the status quo. If there were berries and game here last year, there will probably be next year as well.

But in evolution danger lies in too homogeneous a species. There is still much mystery surrounding why, but about 70,000 years ago the human population of earth “bottlenecked” and was reduced to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. Humans were extremely endangered and essentially almost went extinct. For the people living before the event or series of events or long-term change, there was not much reason to change what had worked for survival. But for some reason, a bunch of humans died off, and only a small group survived.

I don’t know why that group survived. It could have been a genetic variation, or special skills one group possessed, or perhaps, the ability to adapt. While many other humans could not break with tradition in terms of “what has always worked”, maybe a small group was able to reassess their method of survival, and change it in order to survive in the new environment. Whether the new environment was caused by climate, predators, wars, disease, famine, or aliens hardly matters. What matters is the ability to predict upheaval, and properly prepare for that change.

70,000 years ago there were probably a lot of people that knew something was happening, but did not know what to do about it. They probably continued living the only life they knew, and died because of it. There were probably also people who did not see any change coming, and failed to prepare out of ignorance. Others might have continued hunting the hypothetically disappearing game until the very last one was eaten, and then starved, refusing to believe that their way of life could possibly change.

Some humans might have seen a change coming, but prepared for the wrong change, or predicted an event that never came to fruition. But what we know is that there were a select few who were either lucky, or smart. I like to think that the survivors were the ones who were not afraid of the light. It seems that people who were the most open to learning, who could consider new ideas, and adapt to their environment would be most suited to survive, and I don’t think that has changed.

This does not mean any new idea should be seized upon and believed wholeheartedly without proper scrutiny; some of those early humans died because they saw the wrong change coming. But equally detrimental was refusing to see the light, and therefore not adjusting reactions to escalating dangers. The ultimate survival skills lie in those who can objectively and rationally consider risks and rewards. Shutting out a new idea is just as likely to end negatively as blind faith in a new idea, or being convinced that the oldest idea is novel.

Moving into the twentieth century, what humans must do to survive is be vigilant and logical. There are those who stand on their front porch and watch as a tsunami rolls in, and there are those who run to the top of mountains to be rescued by aliens who never show. We want to avoid each category. We should learn about the tsunami and assess the weather report: the risk to an area, the scope and magnitude, and the timing. But there’s no harm in hearing out the would be extraterrestrial pilgrims either; just beware of seeing something where there is nothing. Often your instincts will be correct, and there will be no facts behind the theory. However it does not hurt to listen and objectively consider data, you may be surprised by the result and learn things that seem so obvious in hindsight.

Sometimes we are more comfortable in the dark, imagining our hand is visible, than seeing our real environment illuminated. In a place so dark, it does not take much light to see your true surroundings. Don’t continue to imagine that you see your hand in the dark. Be brave, and light the match; it will illuminate things you never knew were there.

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Sleeping and Dreaming: Does it fit with my Soul Playing Video Game theory?

Sleep is weird. I ended up getting out of bed at 2:30am the other day to jot down some thoughts that were running through my head—I couldn’t really sleep which is abnormal for me.

But I was thinking about sleep… what happens while we are sleeping? I get that we are recharged and have dreams, organize our thoughts and fix our bodies. But I got to thinking about why 1/3 of each of our lives is supposed to be spent sleeping. That just seems like a long charge and a quick drain. I’ve always thought about how much I could get done if I only had to sleep say, 2 hours per night. Can you imagine 6 extra hours per day to write, read, work out, or just watch movies?

So browsing in the book store, I came across a book in which one section claimed to have a method of only sleeping 2 hours per day, and being fully rested and healthy. I am a skeptic… certain things I want to believe… but really? 2 hours?

The kicker was that all the sleep wouldn’t be at the same time. The two hours is supposed to be split into 6 parts throughout the day: a 20 minute nap at 10am, 20 minute nap at 2pm, same at 6pm, 10pm, 2am and 4am. But don’t oversleep, the book warns, or you will throw off your system, and possibly turn into a gremlin. I was left wondering how the hell anyone can just immediately go to sleep for 20 minutes, and then immediately get up. And obviously this schedule presents certain problems for anyone with a normal job, kids, or like, a life.

As I said I don’t believe everything I read, it has got to make sense to me. But then I thought about how I’ve heard that certain types of batteries want to be charged long before they are depleted, and that this actually gives the battery a longer life. What if humans are shortening their lives by depleting their batteries every day before we charge them? Could it be that taking the time to charge ourselves when we get down to 50%, or even 70% will make our batteries last longer?

All the talk about charging batteries got me thinking about my post, What if Life is Just our Souls Playing Video GamesAha now this whole weird sleeping thing makes a bit more sense. We need to save the game so that our data isn’t lost! Perhaps dreams are simply our soul’s experiences being uploaded to “heaven” each night, and we see those experiences all jumbled together because it happens so quickly, we only get glimpses of this and that. Maybe in dreams our friends end up in a setting they were never in, or we experience something we only saw on TV, or do something waking us wants to do. It’s just all jumbled together being uploaded, and our video game self is confused at the apparent glitch, while our souls totally get it.

But you only dream during REM sleep… which just so happens to be about 2 hours per night. See where I’m going with this? Is REM sleep the only kind of sleep that revives us, and therefore the only part we need? Are the other 6 hours wasted laying there? Perhaps there is something to the idea that we only need 2 hours of sleep per day, as long as it’s the right type of sleep. And furthermore, this makes us seem more like our phones with batteries, and if we are more like our phones than ourselves, then what is controlling that phone? In this idea, it would be our “souls” controlling the “phone” (our human bodies), the phone connecting us to “heaven”/”the afterlife” whatever you want to call it.

Maybe video game controller would be a better analogy than phone, but same idea. If our video-game-playing soul is connecting to (the game) earth through our bodies, that would mean we are simply the device. And if our souls don’t save the game often enough, things can go awry. People go crazy when they don’t get enough sleep; does our soul forget it is in a video game, or our bodies get too far separated from our souls, without the chance to upload and organize the experiences of “the game”? And in that way, uploading or saving 6 times a day could keep our bodies even more organized, and increase our battery life.

But then again I wouldn’t be so quick to discount those 6 hours “wasted” every night, when we are not dreaming in REM sleep. Maybe that time is a chance for our souls to disconnect from the game of life, and do what they need to do in whatever realm they live in.

Some Adventures Don’t Feel Adventurous

So it has been almost three weeks of this new blog, and I have got to say I am glad I started it.

But I was almost disappointed that I didn’t get into any crazy adventures so far. With my carpe diem attitude I figured I’d have made my way around the world by now having wrestled bears, sailed through a hurricane, and become honorary chief of an obscure tribe. Okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I have been all gung-ho to go out and do things.

I made sure to get to the beach (twice), I played 18 holes of golf (haven’t golfed in 10 years, and even then only a few times), went to cookouts, went to a party, sang along to country music, and tomorrow I’m going jetski-ing for the first time. I’ve had fun cooking and foraging, especially since I have a place to share it now. I really enjoy doing all of that, but maybe I had this naive belief that—well I don’t even know what. That my life would turn into a movie?

But now I am realizing that there have been some great improvements over the last 3 weeks. I’ve barely watched any TV, I haven’t been able to stand sitting still! If a friend comes over, I will search for other things to do instead of just sit, and the interaction increases energy, sparks conversation, and just makes for a better time. So instead of killing my brain with the tube and being a boring friend, we’d go places, play kan jam, foosball, cards, Settlers of Katan, and just had more overall conversation and interaction. Not a crazy adventure, but a positive change none the less. Well to be fair throwback N64 Mario-Kart is always a pretty crazy adventure.

And I suppose two weekends only gives you so much opportunity. It’s good to be adventurous, but not stupid… And if I were hellbent on “having fun” without much exciting new opportunity, that could lead more to stupidity than adventure. So I am going to keep doing what I’m doing, since I’m enjoying myself anyway, and whatever comes will come!

I think cumulative small changes are harder to notice, but can easily add up to more positive benefit than one big change or event—even though it was sort of one big event I attended that set in motion tiny little changes. And like I have mentioned before, to me its been more about rediscovering mundane things than finding a trap door into Narnia. And actually this is a good reminder, because as much as I hate to admit it, my “vacation attitude” has mostly left me, but I didn’t completely return to the real world that sucks the life out of you.

And this blog in and of itself is a fun new adventure to see who likes it, who follows, who responds, who comments, and it has kept me thinking about the right things. I enjoy writing, so it gives me another outlet, sparks my imagination, and gives me a standard to go back to. Otherwise my vacation attitude would have gone away, faded without much notice, and everything would have gone back to normal. But since I created this blog in the height of my high-on-life, that has been preserved, and to go back on it would mean not only losing my positive attitude, but abandoning a project I started with such inspiration and vigor. And I’m not going to let that happen.

I feel more resilient to negative things, even though I may not be excited about everything. Its been easier to enjoy moments here and there, without letting other looming stressors take away from squeezing in bits of fun. And I’ve actually been able to avoid stress by not caring about things I shouldn’t care about.

Its not as simple as “not caring what others think”, because I still don’t want to act like a jerk, or burn bridges, or show no work ethic. Its not caring about being judged for stupid things that don’t negatively effect other people. Some people will always try to exert their will over you, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad if their will is, say, not drunk driving. But when it is the way your hair is, or how happy you are, or how energetic, or what you write on your blog; who cares, just do you and forget the detractors.

So overall I’m going to go ahead and give myself a B for holding up to my blog’s standards over the first 2-3 weeks. Thank you to everyone who joined in the discussion with me early on, I look forward to keeping this energy going!

What if Life is Just our Souls Playing a Video Game?

boatHuman beings lack perspective, literally, as in, we only view the world from our eyes. I’m not trying to be all high and mighty; we can look at pictures and videos from other perspectives, but we are still doing that with just our eyes and other senses, mostly based out of our heads. Then we process that with our brains which are pretty much basing the new material off of old stuff we processed and inventoried before. It works for us on earth, but it does make me wonder why there is such a willingness to say we know what happens after earth. There is only so much information we have to go off of, so to say there is nothing, or to say there is something quite specific confuses me… I’ve always been a skeptic, which I think is a healthy way to not be hoodwinked.

So the idea I’m about to present also lacks perspective I realize, but it takes that lack of perspective into account. Have you ever played video games for a long time, and then perhaps you got busted in Grand Theft Auto so you snap out of it, look around and are like, “Woah I’ve been playing video games for like 5 hours”? What if earth is just our souls playing a video game?

Maybe its a coming of age type thing for our souls to spend a lifetime on earth, and see what we can get out of it. Or maybe there is no limit to how many earth lives you can live, and you got to keep going around until you finally get it right. The other souls will laugh, “Ha, it took you 230 lifetimes to move beyond earth! I did it in 46”.

And as soon as we die we look around and are like, “Damn, how did I forget I was playing a video game that whole time?” And then all the souls sit around and have a beer (or whatever body-less souls drink for a good time, because I don’t want to imagine an eternity without a good beverage) and talk about what they learned on earth.

“Can you believe I beat that old lady and stole her wallet, just to buy some vodka?” What a silly thing for a soul to do, but the person was coming from a very particular perspective of being a poor drunk who’s past stimuli didn’t teach him that he shouldn’t beat old ladies and take their money. (For the record I am anti-old-lady-beating, don’t use your infinite soul as an excuse!)

Could that be it? That we are put into a simulator and forget about what happened before life, and have no idea what will happen after? Coming into this world was pretty dream like: you just wake up all of the sudden—can’t even really pinpoint when and where—and you’re here, without any perspective on where you came from, and just have to be like, “Okay, lets see what happens”. But in a dream you completely forget that you were ever awake. It feels so different, dreams and reality, yet from the perspective of a dream, it seems like that is all there is. It’s a dream within a dream! Maybe Inception was onto something.

The perspective is much more omniscient from the soul. Imagine entire ideas and feelings transferred in a fraction of a second, with no room for confusion. And I feel quite limited, like I can see so little from inside my skull, and have to express all my brain-stuffs in words—which is so primitive. I have to look in one direction, and can only look at one place at each time. How limited 5 senses are! There should be infinite stimuli that we process in a vacuum (think of all the wavelengths we just recently, or have yet to discover), not just a few, that get mixed up with so much emotion in there! But we are after all still humans, and have got to learn these things.

What if I totally just cut down the amount of human lives you have to live before you move on, awaken from this coming of age test, and join the universe as one once more? Now you don’t have to die on the battlefield of WWIII in your next life, because you can use this life to finish up your earthly, coming of soul age lessons! Okay, now I’m getting cocky… I don’t want to set myself back ten lifetimes.

The Shortest Friendship of My Life

Do what makes you happy today (assuming you’re not a serial killer or something) because you never know if you will be here tomorrow. Yes, I am trying to be all bright and happy, but everyone gets a reminder of their mortality from time to time. My most recent reminder happens to be linked to the very event that sparked this blog, and this attempt to enjoy every second of life. It makes it all the more important to love life, enjoy yourself, and cherish the time you have with friends and loved ones.

I went to something called the Porcupine Freedom Festival the last week in June. It is about politics to some degree, but the community at this week long event is really where the fun comes in. I left having made new friends, spent one of the best weeks of my life with them, and adopted this positive attitude to bring back to my everyday life, in order to have fun with the otherwise mundane.

Unfortunately upon returning home, last Monday I found out that a new friend of mine who had attended the event for 3 days and sang for a half hour slot on that Wednesday, had died in a car accident on that Friday, once back home in Wisconsin. His name was Drew, and he was 20 years old, and truly one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. He was into music, had a great indie style, made some of his own songs, and covered others—I liked a cover he did of Lady Gaga. We hung out by the campfire for two nights with a few other new friends, and caught up after his set on Wednesday before he headed back home with his dad.

It was the shortest friendship I’ve ever had in my life, and I fully expected to see him again. He was talking about coming back to the coast within a few months and attending PorcFest again in 2015. I intended to keep up with his music; already I was encouraging him to do some open mic nights in Milwaukee, maybe throw another Lady Gaga cover in there, and keep practicing his unique style. It was such a shock, and a very strange feeling to hear that he died just two days after I had last saw, just 5 days after first meeting him. I didn’t know him extremely well or very long—there was simply not enough time, but there was something very pointed about the situation.

I don’t want to make someone’s death all about me, but I want to explain the impact Drew had on me in the short time I knew him. Here was an event we attended, that had such a positive impact on me, influenced me to create a new blog, and take home a whole new enthusiastic attitude on life, partly because of Drew and people like him who I had become friends with at the festival. And then, one of those very people I became close with, part of what made the festival so great, who was inextricably linked to that week, and the impact it had on me, died immediately following the event. There was a piece of that week that I was not going to be reacquainted with, a piece that I couldn’t experience again, that I would never have back, no matter what situation I found myself in.

It was as devastating as it was symbolic. It serves as a reminder, and an influence as I start on this new journey (with this blog as my breadcrumbs) to have a positive attitude, and enjoy every moment in life. I’m so glad I spent those hours with Drew, and was able to have him in my life for what little time was possible. You never know when you, or someone you love, will leave this world; don’t spend the time you have second guessing yourself, or sulking. Drew didn’t: he drove from Milwaukee to play his homemade music in front of strangers, some of whom, like myself, were lucky enough to become his friends. He took a chance, he did what he loved, he put himself out there, he emanated radiant vibes, and he had fun doing it.

I am so grateful I got to meet Drew before he died, and spend some of his last days on earth with him. He may be gone as a person, but the influence he had on me in the very short time I knew him will not fade, and will live on as a piece of me. The positive, funny, warm hearted person that I knew him as would be proud at the opportunity to help others realize their potential, step out of their comfort zones, and live their lives chalk full of energy and passion. Be like Drew, and do this life for you, enjoying every second of it; you may never know how far the ripples you create in this world will spread. Drew jumped into the pool of life doing a cannonball.

Song Therapy to Get Out of a Rut

I developed a strategy yesterday for mentally returning to a good place. I didn’t know I was doing it, but in the morning before work (I didn’t work until 3pm) I was very high on life, having a recent reference point from an amazing festival all last week, and found myself enjoying the moment, when 2 weeks ago work would have loomed over me negatively. And I have a pretty upbeat job selling running shoes; retail though it is, I would categorize it as generally enjoyable.

So anyway I went for a run in the high noon heat and danced to the music, sang along a few lines because thats what I wanted to do, when I would normally be like, “but what if someone sees me and thinks I’m weird?” (Though I’ve probably been holding myself back for no reason; I’m sure some people already think I’m a bit odd).

When I felt a pulse of energy or excitement, I raised my arms to the sky, breathed in deep and took it all in. I passed an older gentleman running and would have kept my head straight forward two weeks ago, but yesterday I turned, smiled, and waved. He took out his earbuds and joked, “I was young once too”, and I laughed and told him if he keeps it up he’ll stay young. I ungracefully hurdled over a lawn sign.

Afterwards I’m happy, feeling accomplished (from the run), excited about my new blog! I just so happen to love this song “Rewind” by the Rascal Flatts right now, and I inadvertently bumped it at my highest moment (keep in mind I am not talking about drugs when I say high). Here’s the song:

And I was still quite happy well into work, and it was not so much negativity as it was tiredness that hit me around 5 or 6pm. I was like, damn being happy takes a lot of energy… or running 5 miles during the hottest part of the day. One of the two.

At points throughout the day pangs of fear would rise in me, as if its scary to be excited about life. The higher you fly, the further you can fall, so what—just stay neutral? I don’t think that is the answer, I think perpetual happiness is a better goal. So I tried to ignore the negatively.

What if my blog fails: who cares, what have I lost? And worrying about it doesn’t help anyway. What if at my happiest moment, it all comes crashing down? Well, at least I was happy before. What if I am judged for what I post? I am sure I am! And the best feeling is not caring at all and doing it for me.

But sometimes just rationalizing things is not enough, because then I engage in a conversation with myself, and in doing so, allow a platform for the negativity. Okay long setup, but back to the strategy I stumbled upon. Every time I started to whistle the tune to “Rewind” I would return mentally to my happy state of mind, from the best part of my day. Singing the lyrics had an even better effect (though not wanting to scare away repressed Massachusetts customers, I limited that to the back room amidst the shoe box audience).

I don’t know, maybe there’s a psychological basis for my observation, if I have any Psychologists reading (or maybe a freshman year pschology major who knows it all, and just needs to complete the other 6 years of study as a formality). But anyway, try it out and let me know if it works for you.

It does, however, take energy to be happy, and at points yesterday I had to let myself relax, perhaps slipping into neutral. I’m expecting as I train myself it will become default to be excited about life instead of having to coax myself back into position.

I’ve never really been an unhappy person, I’ve just found that I tend to fall into a routine, and not enjoy life as much as I could. It is cool to look for opportunities to have fun in a normally mundane situation. And really there is infinite amounts of things to be excited about.

So maybe no day should be normal. If we expect our days to be the same old drudgery, they will be. But two seemingly uniform days where I write, run, then work do not have to be identical; in fact it is impossible for them to be identical. Yet it is easy to feel like you are Bill Murray stuck in Punxsutawney indefinitely. But if you look for opportunities to be excited about “the same old stuff”, I am pretty sure you’ll find them.

Joe Jarvis’ Excellent Adventure

I try not to be too serious a person, yet the first blog and website I created is all about politics… which doesn’t tend to be the most lighthearted subject. It gets heavy man, and I need to expand my focus to express the fun, adventuring, laughing, ridiculous, kind of silly philosophical side of me. I am going to write about strange and interesting things that I think, see, and experience. I am going to muse about life, and rant about what annoys me.

Maybe I’ll show you where I go, or tell you what I foraged. I’ll share some theories on the afterlife and religion that are almost certainly false. I am going to demonstrate some delish food I make (like the banana I took today and cut up, mixed with melted dark chocolate, topped with granola, and would have topped with whipped cream if I had any in the house). Hey I might even tell you how to live your life, and you can tell me in the comments section how much of a pretentious asshole I am. That’s what the internet’s all about!

Hopefully I don’t get sued for the references to old movies and TV shows in my titles. Can the phrase “excellent adventure” even be considered intellectual property? Probably not. But that’s what I am doing, going on an excellent adventure, and taking you along for the ride.

Today I decided to attempt to enjoy every second of life because like, that’s the point of life, right? Not just hedonism, there are plenty of ways to enjoy life without the baser and carnal distractions… but those are pretty fun too, eh? eh? Okay I’ll stop.

But seriously, it doesn’t make sense that we only feel good while we are on vacations, or just for the weekend, or just an hour a day. I’ve got to assume we only do this life thing once, and should do everything we can to get it right. Or maybe we go around a million times and the previous life decides where we start the next one, in which case you still want to make the most of life. I’m being broad and cliche right now but its an introduction, cut me some slack. We’ll have plenty of time to go into detail, at which point I’ll drop the cliches, and whisper sweet nothings in your ear.

And this blog is my tool for making sure I don’t forget the goal I set today, which is to feel this good everyday, find the fun in everything, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, talk to people, seek out experiences, and take chances. If I go a week without posting, it probably means I am failing. Or it could mean I am accomplishing my goal so well that something crazy and unexpected has hampered my posting, like a spontaneous visit to the Yanomamö tribe of Brazil to participate in their ash eating ritual of cremated relatives. But hopefully my experiences will be somewhere in between and I’ll post regularly.

Excellent!