Snapshots of a… Crazy Kinda Life

The Misadventures of Messie Jessie

The Mastery of Writing and Teeth Brushing February 24, 2016

Malcolm Gladwell (*nerd girl swoon) wrote about the 10,000 Hour Rule in his book Outliers. Basically, the 10,000 Hour Rule claims that if you spend 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at something — anything — you will have achieved mastery of that skill. Even if you totally suck at whatever that skill is, after 10,000 hours you will become an expert.

outliers book

Yesterday when I published my last post, I was super nervous before hitting the “publish” button. So nervous in fact, that I almost didn’t publish it at all. I was filled with fear that the people I know would silently judge me; that people I respect would think my ideas and writing skills were crap. I was not sure if I was okay with making myself vulnerable in that way.

But then I thought to myself, “come on now, girl. You can’t seriously have spent the time to finally write something after THREE AND A HALF YEARS of silence on this blog, only to trash it?” I was right, I could not.

Later that night, I got to thinking about all the writers and bloggers I admire, and how I (in no way) measure up to them. I realized I am jealous that they can nail a piece of work, seemingly right from the start. How do they produce such amazing content, every darn time?

Oh, yeah. The 10,0000 Hour Rule.

I realized that, my favs, they too produce their share of crap. I just never see it. I only read the 10,000th hour delights.

Then I started to wonder – “so what exactly AM I an expert at? What have I spent 10,000 hours practicing?”

If you think of 10,000 hours in terms of working a 40-hour a week job, that breaks down to 4 years and 11 months of deliberate practice.10000 hours 2

What skills have I spent almost 5 years of full time work practicing? Here’s what I came up with (minus the obvious facets of being alive, such as sleeping, breathing, cellular mitosis, etc.):

  1. My actual job
  2. Typing on a keyboard
  3. Watching TV
  4. Responding to emails

BORING.

But seriously, according to this rule, I haven’t even yet mastered brushing my teeth (by my calculations, I’ve only spent 4 years and 6 months on that particular skill).

Confession: I did originally have on that list “the act of writing”, because I have physically written a lot of stuff in my lifetime. We all have. But I took it off because I cannot say I have spent 10,000 hours crafting writing – which brings me back to my point.

I cannot worry about crafting the perfect work every darn time. I just have not spent enough time working on it yet. Which is why I am doing exactly that right now.

By my calculations, I’ve only got 8,436 hours left. Roughly.

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Wanna put in some practice? Drop me a line at CrazyKindaLife@gmail.com

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Why 32 Is A Totally Awesome Age For Dating March 26, 2012

Filed under: All about me,Masticate on this — Messie Jessie @ 11:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

… Because you can go out with both 27-year-old boys and 37-year-old men and neither one is inappropriate.

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In the last year, I have pretty much dated exclusively in the +/- 5 year extension range. It wasn’t until my most recent date, which happened to be with a 27-year-old, that this fact came to my attention. After telling this aged Twenty-Seven guy all about how he was on the cusp of entering a spectacular time in his life, I segued to the amazingness, for a woman like me, of dating a younger man. Since I knew that the relationship was never going to go beyond this one date (despite the fact that he was a most enjoyable date– but, you know, we were pretty clear on the reality of the situation), I had no misgivings about fully disclosing my dating history of the 365 days prior.

Me: “You know, now that I think about it, you’re the third 27-year-old I’ve dated since the start of the new year.”

Twenty-Seven: “Since the start of the new year? How many people do you go out with?”

Me: “Oh, well not that many really. But before you three 27-year-olds, there was a 37-year-old. He was pretty fantastic too. Then before him there was another 27-year-old, and then before that, a 37-year-old. That’s all I can think of in the last, maybe, 7 months or so. I feel like I’m forgetting someone though.”

Twenty-Seven: “Not that many, huh? Boy, you sure do know how to make a guy feel special.”

Me: “No, you are special. All of you are special. You see, the beauty between dating both 27-year-olds and 37-year-olds is…..”

Do you know that 27-year-old son-of-a-gun actually sat there and listened to me emphatically ramble on about the awesomeness of other guys I’d dated for a good twenty minutes? And then he let me buy him breakfast.

Just another beauty of dating a 27-year-old; they’re so attentive sometimes. Bless their 27-year-old hearts.

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Shortly after my date with Twenty-Seven, I decided my age preferences were a phenomenon that required closer examination. I asked myself, which is better: dating a 27-year-old or a 37-year-old?

Just for you, my readers, I have taken a purely scientific approach and developed the following method of measure:

I like fulcrums, yes I do. I like fulcrums, how about you?

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Oh heck, who cares. When they’re with me, everybody wins!

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Email me at CrazyKindaLife@gmail.com and tell me all your favorite things about dating older and younger folks. If you write, I might even share some of the wonders that didn’t make it into this post. 😉

And if you like fulcrums as much as I do, don’t forget to Rate, Comment, Subscribe, Share!

 

Ouch, My Heart Hurts: The Science of Emotion for the Layman November 16, 2011

I went on a date with this fella two weeks ago. And let me tell you, ladies- this fella was quite a catch. Smart, hilarious, ruggedly handsome and the owner of his own super-masculine business (which, might I add, I figured would come in handy should I ever need manly assistance around my house some day). This fella was the kind of fella that makes you think to yourself, “Man, I reallly don’t want to screw this one up.”

Needless to say, after a second date, I found myself getting the ol’ Butterfly Belly and Flush Face whenever Fella crossed my mind (which was approximately every 35 seconds, give or take). He and I texted and called each other continuously throughout the day, every day. I was certain that Fella was crazy about me, and I was crazy about Fella.

Then, abruptly, the calls and texts slowed down. And by “slowed down”, I mean stopped nearly completely.

Two nights ago I summoned the courage to question Fella about this. With a knotted stomach, pounding heart and froggy throat, I tripped over my tongue as I asked, “Are you still interested in seeing me?” As the fateful words, “we’ll see” passed through Fella’s lips, my heart sunk, my stomach flipped and my throat grew a lump roughly the size of West Virginia.

After the conversation I slumped down on my couch, staring blankly at the ceiling, mentally reviewing every miniscule moment with Fella, trying to pinpoint the exact second in which I personally shattered any potential for happily-ever-afterness. I laid there like a lifeless lump, feeling like someone was ripping out my guts, stabbing my heart with a samurai sword and beating my head with a blunt object of undetermined source. I was in pain.

But why? Why, if I was affected by internal emotional discord, was I experiencing such extreme physical pain?

Turns out, my body can’t tell the difference between the two.

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In 2009 some super smart scientists from the University of Arizona and the University of Maryland conducted a study to figure out how our bodies interpret and synthesize social rejection. Forty people signed up for this study, not knowing that soon half of them would be tortured for the sake of science. These super smart scientists (Kross, Berman, Mischel, Smith and Wager) forced the participants to gaze at a photo of a recent former lover, of whom they still pined after, whilst thinking about this rejection of their undying love.

Using super cool brain scan techniques, the super smart (and sadistic) scientists found that the areas of the brain that were activated are the very same areas that activate when we feel physical pain. And these super smart and super sadistic scientists felt pretty confident about their findings because they were able to predict the specific brain activation with 88% accuracy.

You guys, I totally drew this diagram myself.

Here’s how it works:

We have this thing in our heads called a brain. And within this brain are all sorts of nifty areas that do all sorts of nifty things. One of those nifty things your brain can do is to manifest emotions. And the nifty part that’s responsible? It’s called the Limbic System. The limbic system is made up of a bunch of different parts, some of which you may have heard of before: hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, fornix and so forth. The limbic system takes up a significant amount of the central interior part of your brain. As it should, since emotions are pretty significant.

The limbic system is pretty powerful too. So powerful, in fact, that it has the ability to totally override your sense of judgement and consequence (which is controlled by your prefrontal cortex). Think about it: Ever get really mad and say something you know you shouldn’t have said, but in that moment you just had to say it and it felt sooo gooood to let it out? Then later you had to apologize for that really nasty thing you said and admit that you didn’t really mean it (even if you really did)? You can thank your limbic system for that. It single-handedly blocked all neural communications from your prefrontal cortex that were desperately trying to scream at you that calling your boss a “mudderfunking crocksucker” was not a wise move. Hence why the term “flooded with emotion” is pretty spot on.

So, when your heart gets stomped on by some ruggedly handsome Fella, your limbic system gets all kinds of crazy activated and starts affecting the parts around it. One of those parts is the Insula. The insula is related to the limbic system, but not really considered to be part of it. Think of it like the limbic system’s cousin. Among lots of other stuff that is not totally, although is kind of, related to this blog topic, the insula controls our social emotions (and orgasms! Woo-hoo!). The insula takes all that crazy activation from the limbic system and interprets it into conscious emotional states. The insula makes us aware that we are experiencing emotions; usually the more basic ones, such as anger, fear, disgust, happiness and sadness.

So when Fella told me “we’ll see”, I was sad. I know this because my insula made me aware of it. Gee, thanks insula.

Side note about the insula- it also is home to these really awesome neurons called Mirror Neurons. These neurons are like, telepathic or some far-out stuff. No, really… they are. Mirror neurons tell us all about how other people are feeling and we, in turn, feel similarly. That’s what we call “interpersonal experience” and where empathy comes from. When Fella started feeling differently- I knew it because I felt it too. Thanks again, insula.

Meanwhile, the limbic system is still all wacky and activated and it starts to affect the Secondary Somatosensory Cortex too. This area of your brain reacts to physical sensations like light touch, abdominal area sensation and pain. Did you pick up on that? Your emotional center is activated and it activates areas of physical sensation. Are you making the connections yet? If not, your brain sure is. But it doesn’t end here.

The limbic system has more work to do and this is where the really good stuff starts happening. Your limbic system is going to activate just one more area: the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC for short). This area does ALL KINDS of fun stuff inside your head. First of all, it’s the part of our brain that detects errors and conflict. When we make a mistake, the ACC sends out a distress signal that says there was a serious violation of our expectations and, in turn, we experience a response to the error to keep us from making the error again. In other words, it says, “this didn’t work. Don’t do that again. And in case you didn’t get the seriousness of this message, I’m going to make you feel bad about it too.”

For example, when I started pinching myself extremely hard in hopes I was dreaming the whole “we’ll see” incident, my ACC activated and told me that pinching was an error because I was damaging my skin. And to reinforce that I was damaging my skin, it sent out signals that caused pain to my skin. My ACC wanted to make sure that because I was not dreaming (which was a violation of my expectation that I was dreaming, in which case the pinching would not have been real pinching but rather dream pinching) that I understood the importance of not pinching myself again. My ACC made me feel bad about pinching myself and I stopped.

Another thing your ACC is responsible for is weighing the cost versus reward of an outcome, mostly when pertaining to emotional errors. Basically, it takes your emotional blunder, evaluates how bad the blunder was and then decides what should happen the next time you are faced with the same, or similar, potential for blunder.

My ACC told me that the cost of the “we’ll see” blunder was pretty significant and strongly advised me to avoid this blunder again in the future.

So now we know the ACC is connected to evaluating both physical and emotional experience. Hmmmm… interesting, right? But wait, there’s more: Like the limbic system, when your ACC gets crazy activated it starts instigating other areas around it too, especially when there’s all sorts of rewards and costs and evaluation of emotional blunders going on.  The worse the blunder, the more intensely your ACC gets buzzing, and the more intensely you register physical pain, which makes you feel bad about the blunder and decreases the chances you’ll make that (ruggedly handsome) blunder again.

However, your ACC isn’t the one manifesting your physical pain. Your Vagus Nerve is.

Your vagus nerve is pretty stinkin’ awesome. It begins inside your brain near the ACC and heads through the medulla oblongata (always a fun word to say), then shoots down your brainstem and into your spinal cord before branching out to… wait for it, wait for it…

… your tongue, ears, throat, heart, lungs and digestive organs. Let’s repeat that in case you missed it: Your vagus nerve is connected to your tongue, ears, throat, heart, lungs and digestive organs. Got that? Ok.

Normally your vagus nerve likes to get buzzed. When activated by other parts of your brain, it lowers heart rate & blood pressure and helps keep your gastrointestinal organs out of trouble. Funny thing about your vagus nerve though- it doesn’t like to get buzzed by your ACC. They don’t get along so well. It’s like putting Yankees and Red Sox fans in the same room together: things tend to get ugly.

When your ACC is all crazy activated because of your emotional blunders and then buzzes the vagus nerve, the vagus nerve gets all irritated and annoyed but it can’t really do anything about it. Instead, it huffs and puffs and compensates by overstimulating your tongue, ears, throat, heart, lungs and digestive organs.

Here’s the part where it all comes together. Are you excited yet? No? Well you should be, because your tongue, ears, throat, heart, lungs and digestive organs are totally excited. Too excited, in fact. And what happens when your tongue, ears, throat, heart, lungs and digestive organs are over excited?

Your tongue gets tied.

Your ears ring.

Your throat gets all froggy and lumpy-like.

Your heart beats really, super fast.

Your lungs breathe faster and make you short of breath, which makes you feel all whoosy and pass-y out-y.

The muscles in your chest get tighter.

And your stomach gets sick.

Sound familiar?

That heartache you feel when someone who is really smart and funny and handsome says, “we’ll see”? That’s your heart rate increasing and the muscles in your chest getting all constricted.

That gut-wrenching feeling when you realize a person is not as crazy about you as you are about them? Totally your stomach and intestines kicking into overdrive.

And when you want to say something to Fella but you’re tripping over your words because your mouth isn’t working right and your throat can’t get any wind past that West Virginia in there and you end up sounding like a stuttering idiot? Yeah, that’s your muscles in your tongue and esophagus contracting and spasming out.

Aww shucks, vagus nerve. You shouldn’t have. No, really; you can stop any time now.

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So there you have it, folks. It doesn’t matter if you burn my arm with a red hot poker or burn my heart with your red hot “we’ll see”. Either infliction activates the same areas of my brain, so it’s all the same pain in the end. My body can’t tell the difference.

But my body does know one thing: LOVE HURTS. (<– you should click that)

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In case you thought I was born with all this incredible knowledge, while that’s very kind of you, I can only take partial credit. So here’s credit where credit is due:

What Causes Chest Pain When Feelings Are Hurt?

Why Do Emotions Hurt?

How Emotional Pain Can Really Hurt

Vagus Nerve Damage

And a very special thank you to Wikipedia and Google for all of your miscellaneous expertise.

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Random (And Slightly Disturbing) Thought of the Day October 12, 2011

I think a lot of thoughts about a lot of things.

Sometimes they are really smart. Sometimes they are really silly. And sometimes… well, sometimes they are completely random.

So here’s today’s random thought, which occurred earlier today during a moment of pause, now documented for your reading pleasure:

“Our bodies are basically poop factories. Pooping is pretty much the end result of our every bodily function …(thoughtful pause)… Wouldn’t it be weird if an alien race came to earth and our poop was their primary source of fuel? And then they started harvesting us for our poop? They would take the entire human race as their prisoners and we’d be hooked up to these machines that collected our poop all day. They would make pooping the sole purpose of our existence.

Although on the bright side, I’d probably get to eat a lot so it wouldn’t be all bad. … Except they would probably invent and force-feed us this tasteless, goopy, food-like substance that made us poop, like, 10 times our normal amount of daily pooping. And our bodies would grow weary and weak and saggy from the ceaseless pooping but there would be nothing we could do because we’d be shackled to the walls while these aliens stockpiled our poop to fuel their spaceships. Man, that would totally suck.”

After another silent pause, all thoughts of poop promptly vacated my mind and I returned to reading an article about the latest developments in cognitive neuroscience.

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Ever have completely random thoughts? Do you, too, fear that aliens will come to earth to harvest our fecal matter?

There’s only one way to stop them, my friends: Rate, Comment, Subscribe, Share!

(And a special thank you to I’m Your Fan Club for subscribing! Click the link to check out her super cool blog.)

 

Life is pretty much like, totally. August 10, 2011

Filed under: Masticate on this — Messie Jessie @ 7:41 pm
Tags: , ,

Life is pretty much like this totally amazing thing.

Totally.

And sometimes life is so totally amazing that you can pretty much feel your heart swell and you don’t think that life can possibly get any better because it is so totally amazing that it makes your heart swell.

But then life turns into this totally not amazing thing that sucks so bad that you pretty much think it couldn’t possibly get any worse because it totally sucks and is pretty much not amazing in any way.

And then life goes back to being totally amazing and you pretty much forget about how not amazing it was because it is so totally amazing that you can’t even imagine it being not amazing whatsoever.

Life totally repeats this cycle over and over again and it pretty much never stops. Sometimes it totally happens, like, pretty much over the course of just a few hours throughout the entire day and it’s like you’re totally on some kind of roller coaster and you start to think that you’re pretty much going crazy. Or totally pregnant. Sometimes it repeats over the course of a few days or weeks or months, even. You totally don’t think you are crazy and/or pregnant during these times.

Me? I’m pretty much totally amazing right now. It’s totally awesome except for the fact that it pretty much sucks because it means that soon life is going to start being not amazing and I’ll be pissed because life will pretty much be totally sucking.

And then I’ll totally refer myself back to this blog post.

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P.S. If you’re totally wondering why I’m pretty much using the same 3 words over and over again, I’m totally going to refer you to THIS post (<– click there. Or here. It pretty much takes you to the same place. Actually, I lie. It totally takes you to the same place). It will pretty much make sense after you read it.

And then you’ll think that I’m totally amazing and pretty much a genius.

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Ever think that life is totally amazing? Or that life is totally not amazing? Think that someone you know would totally benefit from reading this pretty much amazing piece of writing?

You totally know what to do: Rate, Comment, Subscribe, Share! Totally.

And shout out to chelle3115 for subscribing! You are pretty much, totally amazing.

 

Ok Universe, message received. May 19, 2011

While sitting here eating my 2.5-quarts-of-popcorn and 1-pint-of-milk dinner, I decided I wanted to tell you about the exact moment in my life that I hit bottom.

2.5 quarts of popcorn will tend to do that to a person. Not so much the pint of milk.

It was March 14th, 2008, approximately 9 o’clock pm. I had no job, $50 to my name, a backpack of belongings over my shoulder, and now, rendered officially homeless as well. I watched the person who had dropped me off drive away, never once looking back, as I waited for the person whose front stoop I was standing on to come to the door, hoping she would take me in.

That one singular moment is forever etched into my memory.

The how’s and why’s of the situation aren’t really relevant to this blog post. What I will say is that immediately after, I did what any other 20-something does when they find themselves in destitute: I called my mommy.

A few weeks later, on the way to pick up the rest of my belongings that a friend had allowed me to store at their house until I had somewhere to put them, my mom said something that will also be forever etched into my memory banks. These were her exact words:

“The thing is, the Universe will always tell you when you’re not doing the right thing. And if you ignore it for too long, it will bang you on the head and force you to listen.”

That simple statement had pretty much summed up the entire past eleven months of my life.

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So what exactly do I mean when I say “the Universe”?

The best way I can explain it is this: some people call it “God”, some call it “Allah”, and some Atheists out there probably refer to it as a “FGE” (*bleeping* Grow Experience).

I tend to think of it as a nonsingular, amorphous energy source of undetermined origin, more easily referred to as the Universe. The Universe is you, it is me, it is our intentions and our energies that we send to, and receive from, each other. This nonsingular, amorphous energy source of undetermined origin collects all these intentions and orchestrates them into a symphony called life. We just need to tune our radios to the right station to pick up its message.

I often do what I call “putting it out there to the Universe”, which simply means making public my intentions and/or desires. The Universe usually responds by manifesting opportunities, to which I just need pay close enough attention.

The Universe doesn’t give you a set of commandments or rules. All it asks is that you try to live the most personally sincere and benevolent life possible. The Universe will always allow you to make your own choices and decisions. It will, however, give you pointers along the way.

And, as my mother so eloquently stated, if you don’t listen, it will knock you upside the head and force you to make some serious changes.

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Needless to say, in 2008 I took my cue from the Universe and have since moved on, and upward, with my life. Because I’m sure no one out there wants a play-by-play of the last three years, let’s just fast forward to the meat and potatoes of this post, which started two weeks ago. I will do my best to be brief, but thorough.

A new position became available at my place of employment. It was suggested to me by a reliable authority that I should submit my resume. Initially I was hesitant; I wasn’t really interested in the job. However, I was persuaded when it was implied that I could do so “just to find out more about the position.”

Little did I know, or expect, that submitting my resume would ignite a course of events that two weeks later would result in me crying at the bus stop on the corner of 68th & Broad.

But I get ahead of myself. Let me back up just a little.

You see, I was told the position was mine if I wanted it even before the interview. It was made clear that, as far as my career was concerned, this would be a very smart decision and would assist in upward movement in the future. However, I had other career ideas in mind. Promptly after the interview I set an appointment with our CEO for the following Wednesday to discuss these ideas and how taking this position would influence the potential for these ideas to become a reality. I announced I would inform everyone of my decision after this meeting.

I had about 5 days before this meeting to think about my decision. Even though I didn’t want the job, I knew I should take it. I also thought about the other plans, projects and possibilities in my personal life that I have had on the back burner for a little while now and have recently become open to pursuing. I felt if I took the job I would be pigeon-holed in a direction I didn’t want to go in. I thought that my life would start to be more about my job than it would be about… living it. I began to feel smothered by it all. Things were moving much faster than I was ready for, and were quickly getting out of control. I had put balls in motion that I now wished I never started rolling in the first place.

Enter Wednesday. To me, this was the day the trajectory of my life was to be determined. It was a Robert Frost “Road Not Taken” kind of day. During the hour-long ride I geared myself up, thinking about what I wanted to say and exactly how I was going to say it. Anxiety was high, but I was prepared and confident. This was going to be a pivotal moment in my life, and there I was, about to step knee deep into it.

Ten minutes before I was due to arrive I get a telephone call that the meeting was cancelled. Apparently there had been a mix-up and the CEO was already booked. There were no times available later in the day.

My first reaction: anger. My second reaction: rejection. My third reaction: “screw this, I’m quitting. Clearly I’m not appreciated around this joint.”

As I passed the stop I would have gotten off of at, I decided to wait and get off a block away. I was too embarrassed to be seen by any other employees. I crossed the street to wait for the next bus in the opposite direction. Then I started to cry.

I didn’t even know why exactly I was so upset. I just was. I thought to myself, “clearly the Universe is trying to tell me something right now, I just can’t figure out what the hell it is.”

Then I cried a little more. Actually, that’s a lie. I cried pretty much the entire ride back, keeping my shades over my eyes (even on the subway) and covering my mouth with my hand, trying my best to look pensive rather than revealing that my bottom lip was quivering.

Somewhere around the mid-point of my travels, I realized what the Universe was telling me: I had been waiting for someone else (namely, the CEO) to tell me what decision to make, when what I really needed to do was make that decision for myself. Additionally, the Universe was giving me the opportunity to stop some of those balls from rolling and get things back under control.

Message received. 2008 lesson learned.

When I got back to my office, I let everyone know that I had decided not to take the position. I stated it was for personal reasons and that I was well aware that this was not looked highly upon. I also said I understood the potential consequences that this may have for future advancement in my career.

And I, I chose the road less traveled by.

I thought perhaps later I would regret this decision, but in truth, I didn’t. And you know what? I still don’t. I made the decision that I felt was best for me, no matter the repercussions.

I think that’s exactly what the Universe was hoping I’d do.

Oh yeah, and remember those things I said had been on the back burner for a while? I’ve since been “putting them out there to the universe”, and I’m hoping to catch whatever the gets thrown my way.

So, now, if you’ve made it this far (and aren’t bored to tears), what’s the take home message in all this? Put it out there; be willing to listen; let it manifest; make your own choices.

And may the Universe never bang you on the head.

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Reality: Fact, or Fiction? April 25, 2011

I present you three vignettes:

Vignette 1– While at church this past Easter Sunday, the Reverend gave the age old sermon of Jesus’ resurrection. In his sermon the Rev compared the resurrection to the sinking of Titanic.  He posed a question to the congregation: although the last survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean, died in 2009, do we now doubt the legitimacy of the story of the ship? Of course not, for it is recorded in history for all time. He then asked why would we have any reason to believe the gospels written by the last witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter & John, to be any less true?

It was at that exact moment, as the Rev was still preaching about the miracle of Jesus, that I, seated in the first pew, turn around to my grandmother seated behind me and, in a tone probably louder than it should have been, ask, “is there a literal translation of the Bible? You know, from the original Greek/Hebrew version? Because, well, there was a lot of political stuff going on when they translated the Bible and a lot of stuff was changed to suit the needs of the leaders of that time.”

My grandmother instantaneously shot me a look of shock and disgust.

Vignette 2: Julius Caesar was so loved by his people, that he became slated to be the king of Rome. In early 44 BC he was preparing to lead a military campaign against the Parthians, and planned to leave March 18th.

Before his departure he was to attend the last meeting of the Senate. En route he encountered a man with a letter warning him of his murder. Caesar refused the note. He was then approached by an old man who whispered in his ear, “It is the Ides of March”. Caesar took no heed and proceeded to the Capital.

On March 15, 44 BC, as he was stabbed no less than 23 times, Julius Caesar met his death.

Vignette 3: A cohort of mine, Jen, has recently become involved in a long-distance romantic tryst with a man who lives overseas. Although Jen is aware that this gentleman is 4 months out of a 20-year relationship, and has a new girlfriend as well, she maintains this affair nonetheless.

In addition, Jen is well aware that on many nights this gentleman is probably with said girlfriend, especially on the nights they do not speak to each other; and yet she has requested not to hear anything of it from him, and finds peace in this self-imposed ignorance.

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What do these three vignettes have in common? Well, before we delve into that matter, let me give you a brief philosophy lesson.

Immanuel Kant and David Hume both agreed that the essence of reality is merely the perception that our senses present to us. We have no knowledge of the way things truly are beyond our impressions. Kant called this Transcendental Reality.

Bertrand Russell, after analysis and critique of the above axiom, built upon it to develop what he called The Principle of Induction. This Principle claims that the way things appear to us may be taken as reality until, and unless, we have some experience or reason that suggests we are engaged in an illusion. To him, what we experience is what we believe, and what we believe is our reality. If, and only if, we experience something which negates our current reality, will our reality alter.

And now, I will follow in Russell’s footsteps and build upon his Principle: Our reality is what we make of it, in that we choose what we perceive. We take in information from our senses, from that draw inferences about our environment, then make choices –conscious or unconscious– as to how we will perceive this information. If all our perceptions are merely illusions, we, in effect, choose which illusion we will believe.

In turn, we choose our realities.

For my grandmother, she perceives the tellings of the Bible to be true. She chooses to believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. Her faith is her reality.

For me, I perceive that Jesus may or may not have been the son of God, or even a real person for that matter. I choose to believe that I will never know what God is, or isn’t, until my time on this earth ends. Because of my historical knowledge, I perceive that as long as dozens of centuries worth of revisions are contained within the Bible, I cannot discern fact from great storytelling. What’s more, I choose to believe that it may be very well possible that people the likes of David Koresh could have instead been God’s only begotten son (not that I condone the raping and murdering or anything). Rather, the quest for absolute truth and knowledge is my reality.

For Caesar, he chose not to believe the forewarnings. He perceived that in the love of his people, no harm would befall him. A false sense of security was his reality.

And for my dear cohort Jen, she has self-induced the perception that her gentleman is, indeed, out with his other gentlemen friends, as he tells her is so. Although I am certain in the back of her mind she knows otherwise, she chooses to accept this illusion as her reality.

One summer evening, while walking home from a cafe with bellies full and warm air caressing our skin, a good friend once said, “every day is a battle of perspective”. I liked this so much that I wrote it down and tacked it on my wall next to other quips and keepsakes I shall like to not forget. However, I think what was behind his words, his true meaning, was that everyday we choose how we will perceive the information our senses present to us. We choose our view of the world, our perceptions of our relationships, our personal truths. We choose our reality.

Whether we know it or not, we choose which illusions we will believe.

And as I draw this post to a close, I will share just one more vignette:

Earlier, as I sat here click-clacking away on my keyboard, writing this very post, something small and dark fell from my ceiling and landed right upon my lap. I let out a high-pitched scream and jumped from my perch to a higher location.

I searched my sitting space for any creepy-crawlies, but did not find a one. My faithful dog, following my command to “get it”, sniffed out the situation. She found no many-legged creatures either.

I had no evidence to the contrary, and so that I was able to resume my seating arrangement, I chose to believe it was a dust bunny that had fallen from my ceiling fan.

This is my reality, because I choose it to be.

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“All things are subject to interpretation. Which interpretation prevails at a certain time is a function of power and not truth.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 
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