The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Running Back

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After looking over my last entry, I realized that I might have come across as pretentious. I mean, who wants to hear about another nerd turning his life around through exercise? I can almost hear condescending Wonka saying something along the lines of “so, you’re running a half marathon… Please tell me about how special and challenging it is so that I can aggregate it to the other 3000 posts from everyone running in it.” Okay, I am pretty sure that condescending Wonka could come up with something a little bit more clever, but that is exactly the point: the fact that I will be running for 13.1 miles shouldn’t be all that special. It seems to me like exercise and movement should be a natural part of everyone’s life. There is nothing extraordinary about my undertaking. What attracted me to it is that it feels natural, like something that should have been doing along time ago.

I have to admit that when I decided to do this I thought I was doing something pretty major. After all, I only know a few people who run regularly, but after watching a few documentaries about the process, and after looking at pictures of the marathon itself I can see that there are plenty other people out there who can do at least twice of what I am attempting to do, and they do it much, much faster. I am not writing this to trivialize the actor running, and please, if you’ve been working hard to achieve what may now seem like an impossible goal, do not take this the wrong way. What I’m actually trying to say is that when we run, move, and exercise, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. Although it hasn’t happened many times yet, sometimes, when I’m on the treadmill or the road I disappear, and I feel an amazing sense of unity with the rest of the universe. It is almost as if I was carrying on with the task that was begun by the first bacterium capable of locomotion. It is difficult to articulate this vision, but it would seem that they runner’s high might have evolved for an essential reason.

In this article, scientists wonder about the causes behind the powerful endogenic reaction to running humans experience, and about why it is so remarkably pleasurable when the extraneous activity is both dangerous, and costly. Why do humans, as well as apparently dogs, enjoy it so much?

Although it is only speculation, Christopher McDougall, provides what, to me, seems like a valid explanation for the evolutionary development of this trait. He argues that our need to run in packs might have had something to do with it being rewarded by the bounty of protein calories provided by hunting. MacDougall believes that humans learned to outlast even the fastest animals by developing the ability to run incredible distances. Although not perfect, by any means, his explanation seemed to make sense, and provided me with a nice origin myth about why we run. Enjoy the video!

Click here to watch the video

McDougall’s explanation propelled my imagination as I moved though my workouts. I imagine a vast savanna and a tribe of hunters chasing after a few tired antelopes. The mention of dogs in the other article makes me wonder if hunting in packs was something that made the ancestors of dogs and humans become enamored with each other to the point where it’s almost impossible to think of a stereotypical human American family without thinking about a dog.

I wonder if the ritual of putting on our flip-flops, and bath robes on in order to sleepily take our useless, but nevertheless lovable, Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians out for a walk originates deep within our genetic memory. I wonder if, just like us, small dogs running through urban parks, and avenues feel that twinge of ancient power course through their veins as they forget about their small doggie issues. Is that why we run also? It is true that we no longer have to worry about capturing the fleeting calories cohabitating with us in a dangerous environment. We rarely have to worry about mountain lions, and Tigers chasing after us, but we stillrun. We put on our soft and comfortable, sweat absorbent clothing, and carry small water bottles attached were belts, as we listen to music.

Many people run, bike, walk, swim, and move for exercise. We do it because that’s what makes us feel like a part of our ecosystem. It is as natural to us as telling stories, and while I might agree that I am one of thousands of people doing what everyone else is doing, I can say, that without the shadow of a doubt it is a privilege, and in honor to run with the human pack as we make our way through the history of this small but beautiful world.

Written by Hector

April 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Judgement Day

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Today is the day of the Rapture. Nothing is going to happen, but a very large group of people will be disappointed. They will be made fun of, and ridiculed by the media. They will get a lot of attention, and may become more proselytizing than before, or may move on, who knows? Although it s tempting the poke fun at them, I don’t believe that this is an appropriate reaction. Many of us hold unexamined beliefs that have derailed our lives at one time or another. Those of you who know me will know that I’ve had more than my share of weird ideas.

Today, I think, should be a day for the rest of us to think about or or unexamined beliefs. I used to think, for example, that a good use of my time off was to rest and for the next day. Experimental evidence, however, has shown that people tend to feel better when they spend their days doing something useful, or productive. After spending more of my time doing things that I want to do, rather than passively absorbing media, I feel better for it. After examining the evidence,  I actually went back to college to begin working on my Masters degree. Again, an unexamined belief was keeping me from fully appreciating my life. If it is true that it is judgement day, let us judge our own thought processes instead of pointing and making fun, because no one has a perfect model of reality built in to their brain. Of course, the idea that we should face the world with out denial may also be wrong.

Do hold any unexamined beliefs? If so, how can you test them? What would be the benefit of abandoning them, if any, at all? It may be a good idea to talk to people you trust about those ideas. Fresh perspectives seem to help a lot. Please feel free to share some of your own experiences on this topic.

Written by Hector

May 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Spring!

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Triptolemos' departure. Side A from an Attic r...

Image via Wikipedia

After a few false starts in April, spring is finally here. Every year, since I moved to the East Coast I cannot help but be reminded of the story of Persephone and the pomegranates. As the tale goes Persephone was kidnapped by the God of the underworld. Her mother Demeter, the mother Goddess, could not bear to be separated from her daughter, and so she quit doing whatever it is that goddesses do to bring life, and abundance to Earth. After a while, some of the other gods began to worry that humanity would perish if they didn’t do something about it, so Zeus–who witnessed the whole kidnapping thing–told Demeter about that Hades did it, but the God of the underworld refused to let Persephone out of his realm. Eventually, when Persephone was allowed to leave, she ate a pomegranate seed, and, of course, anybody who eats anything from the underworld has to stay there for eternity, however, being that Demeter had some influence with Mount Olympus, her daughter was allowedto leave for the first half of the year, which is why we have spring and summer, but also have to put up with fall, and winter.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I miss Persephone when she  is not around. Having lived the first part of my life in Mexico City, and the second one in California, I found it difficult to adapt to the winters of the East Coast. I actually had never seen snow before, so seasonal affective disorder had a blast in my brain. This was the first year I actually managed to deal. It wasn’t that I was happy without Persephone, but I didn’t miss her as much. I discovered that a healthy dose of exercise, friendships, books, green tea, and the occasional glass of red wine made the season a little more enjoyable. Of course not having her around always made me idealize her. I thought about her warmth, and the way in which the soft winds of spring surrounded me, as I hiked through the many public parks in my area. She became like the goddess that is her mother.

Needless to say, when she returns I’m all smiles, and lay outside surrounded by her warm embrace. I look forward to her reign, as if it was the return of a long, lost lover. At first things are great! But towards the middle of the summer, she starts to annoy me. The constant heat and humidity surround  me and  make me wish that it was winter again. When she leaves again I am almost grateful.

In the story, when Demeter is at her darkest and about to give up on the search for her daughter, a Greek maiden with a sense of humor, makes a joke that brings laughter to the goddess, and it is through her laughter that she manages to free herself from the depression that has almost made her give up. I suppose that the irony of the seasons kept me together this time around. I found comfort in friendship, and books, and exercise, and tea, and family. Like many myths, this story is not just about the changing of the seasons, but about the changing of the heart, and about how we must learn to deal with life regardless of what it brings, because we get easily used to things. Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, we all must learn to find comfort in what we have, because if we learn to remain constant, diligent and aligned to our principles when things are good, maybe we will have the flexibility to sustain the when they are not so good. Let’s face it, we all lose our way, sometimes. We all bemoan the tragedy of our lives when things are good, so maybe we can learn from the myth, and laugh a little when things are bad. The things that matter are important regardless of seasonality.

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Written by Hector

April 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

My Stab at Economic Theory

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Lately, I have been reading a lot of books about economics. I know that reading a lot about something doesn’t make me an expert, but I’ve really been wondering about the value of things, and sometimes, I wonder if spending a certain amount of money on entertainment would be worth the amount of joy I’d derive from it, so the other day I came up with a formula to figure it out. Just for fun, I decided to take a stab at quantifying the whole thing, though I do not believe that it is a good idea to put numbers on everything. I did ejoy trying to think like an amateur economist though. Here is the result:

First, take your hourly wage, and figure out what percentage of it you would be willing to spend on entertainment. For example, if you made minimum wage, and you were willing to spend 10% of your income on entertainment, you would take $7.25, and multiply it by 0.1 (to figure 10%). You would get about $.72, then you would multiply that amount by the number of hours that you plan on spending with the book. If you were thinking about one of Brandon Sanderson’s books, you could look forward to about 20 hours of unadulterated, epic fantasy and joy, so you would multiply $.72 times 20. You should be willing to pay about $14.40 for the book. A variable on the formula allows you to multiply the ideal price of the book, by the number of people who are going to read it, so if your roommate, Joey, is going to read it, then you could pay $28.80 for the privilege of owning the material in question–assuming you like Joey.

This formula varies widely, specially when related to disposable income. Some people may make more money, but be unwilling to spend a lot of it on entertainment, others may make less, but be able to spend it more freely.

The other factor is that this works only for books you read for fun. Text books, or self-development books may be worth more for some people.

Here is the formula (I’m not a mathematician, so correct me if I expressed it wrong, and feel free to send the right one):

((HW*X) FT)) P=IP

HW = Hourly wage.

X = The percentage (in decimals) you are willing to spend on entertainment.

FT = Fun time the ride from the book.

P = the number of people, you like, who will have access to the book.

IP=Ideal price of item

 

What do you think?

I got the image from the Wikipedia and it is in the public domain.

Written by Hector

April 14, 2011 at 4:43 am

Posted in Comics, thoughts

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Myths Upon My LIfe

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I took this image from the Wikipedia, and it is in the Public Domain

Normally, I prefer to read science fiction, and science non-fiction, but all throughout the end of December and most of January, I’ve been consuming large amounts of mythology and Urban Fantasy.  Most of my reading falls under the umbrella of delicious escapism. I have particularly enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, The Dresden Files, and even Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson, as we well as the more literary works of Charles De Lint and  Padraic Colum.

I think everyone needs the kind of fancy that comes from the raw imagination of humanity. When I was a child, I used to pretend that I was somehow related to Poseidon–way before The Lightning Thief. My first crush ever was Aphrodite (Venus), as portrayed by Uma Thurman in Terry Gillian’s The Adventures of Baron Münchausen. I think my early relationship with myths was a healthy one. Everyone needs to hear a good fairy tale, and to be terrified or elated by the unfolding images it brings into our consciousness.

By the time I was in my teens, my fascination with mythology had grown a little bit outside of the ordinary, and I became very interested in spirituality and religion. I think I might have tried almost everything under the sun, from astrology, to meditation, homeopathy, and prayer. I became suspicious of science, because it didn’t fit my world view, and I even had the audacity to believe that my improbable ideas had a better foundation than other people’s improbable ideas. I don’t know how many hours I spent working to understand the mysteries of the universe, by browsing  the religion and spirituality sections of my local bookstore. I am not about to count my early explorations as wasted time, since I did learn some valuable skills, some even based on fact, for example, lucid dreaming and relaxation.

My problem was that I expected too much from practices that time and time again have shown themselves to be useless. Homeopathy never quite worked, neither did dream interpretation, and, other than teaching me to feel amazingly relaxed, I do not think that meditation ever opened my “third eye.”

It wasn’t until my early twenties, after completing some of the basic biology courses required by the general education standards set forth by the state of California, that I began to look into science once again. Particularly, into the theory of evolution. The sweepingly beautiful saga of life blew my mind, and invited me to question the layer of stories I had placed upon my world. Many of the spiritual meetings I attended  began to feel like playacting. At one point, I finally quit going to them, especially after I was criticized, and even verbally attacked for believing in science.

Emergence theory, Information science, and the idea that we can test reality have enriched my life immensely, as well the reading of philosophy, neurology, and skeptic thought. I am oversimplifying my journey into skepticism, but I am glad to have made it.

I am enjoying, however, revisiting mythology and dreams in the form of metaphors, and playful wraiths of the imagination.

Stories are important. According to Paul Bloom, they teach us how to behave. I   sometimes feel like they imbue us with the ideals, and the patterns of their heroes and characters, as they stitch themselves into our minds. I am glad to once more feel the pull of the gods deep within myself, this time around, however, I do not fear them, for I know that they reside within me. Of course, most of my reading is just light fun, an escape into a world where the primordial personifications of our fears and hopes mingle with soapy drama, and inane tensions. It’s fun.

I am happy to have recovered a healthy relationship with the beautiful sights of the imagination, especially when they are personified by Uma Thurman.

The image comes from the Wikipedia, and it is in the public domain.

Written by Hector

January 30, 2011 at 1:29 am

Some Thoughts on Stuff

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I’m sitting on the front lawn of my friend’s house, and I’m watching as my possessions fly away in a rush of bargaining and transactions. Each thing that leaves feels like another pound of wasted potential leaving my life forever. Garage sales are a wonderful way to reenergize the systems of your life.

More than the few bucks I am making by getting rid of stuff, I enjoy seeing the way in which things that slow down my life are filling with potential in some one else’s life. There is no doubt that some of what we sale will end up showing up on eBay, and some will be used or read (I have lots of books). Maybe others will end up in some one else’s garage sale.

I am sure that there is an lesson in economy somewhere in the process, but for me, it is about the promises objects make when we buy them. Many of the books I’m selling are going unread, even though when I purchased them, they seem capable of changing my life. A lot of the boxes the other families brought (it is a multifamily sale) are new and unused items. In my end, it feels good to let them go.

My hope us that the items I’m selling will deliver the promises I required from them at one time. I want for people to read them, and to use them, and to enjoy them.

Letting go of stuff liberates us from stagnation, and opens up space for making new things in our lives. Before the sale, the small one bedroom apartment I share with my wife was choking with the broken promises and expectations. Books stared at us from full shelves, and yarn skeins yelled to be turned into something wearable. Sketch books and art supplies went unused, reminding me that I’ll never be like Picaso. Some things were put away so that we wouldn’t have to think about them.

It’s not that stuff is bad, we just want to really enjoy and use what we have.

The garage sale wasn’t the beginning either, gradually, over the past few weeks, we have been getting rid of stuff, and we are discovering that we are using and enjoying the things that we have more and more every day. Loving what you have is the best way to enjoy it, and to truly appreciate it. There is something comforting about being able to hold a mental image of the things you own in your mind, and there is nothing like empty space and simplicity to fill your life with true potential, and to free your mind to pursue what you love, and love what you’ve got.

Written by Hector

September 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

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Dreams

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It seems to me like one of the most successful things this blog has done is to attract people who are interested in the world of dreams. From an early age, I have been fascinated by dreams and by what they can do for us but both in a psychological and even physical level. We awake to find that the experiences we just had are nothing but an illusion created by our mind, and yet the illusion brings us meaning and in many cases direction. While I believe in the importance of dreams, I am not somebody who believes in the supernatural. I think dreams are no more real than the waking thoughts we have every day. Like our waking thoughts, they can point us in the right, or sometimes even in the wrong direction. Dreams are not prophetic symbols or even symbols that indicate our psychological state. Dreams are more like a randomly generated movies that never fail to surprise. I believe our dreaming is one of the most creative things we do all day, and that’s why I think we should take full advantage of them and should use them to explore the world within. It is not that is what they mean anything, t least no more than events in the world outside, but sometimes when we’re dreaming our dreamscape looks and feels so much more vivid and real than the actual universe. So for the next few weeks I am going to explore the world of dreams from a scientific skeptical perspective. If you’re looking for me dictionaries or for prophecy you have come the wrong place.

Written by Hector

July 30, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Posted in thoughts