March 18, 2020
Overcoming Paralysis of the First Draft
About ten years ago, I came across an article that has had a monumental impact on my approach to life. The article promoted the idea that we create more than we consume. I believe that during this time of social distancing, we have the wonderful opportunity to dive deep into our existing creative practices, or to explore and discover dormant passions.
One of the biggest prohibiting factors I see when suggesting that an individual discover their passions is what I refer to as paralysis of the first draft. In teenagers and adults, there’s this sense that what we create has to result in something amazingly beautiful, right from the beginning during our first attempt. While this ability may be available to some savants or geniuses out there, that’s likely not the case for most of us. Thus, when we notice our first attempt at painting doesn’t move us like those of our favorite artists, or we find difficulty strumming a guitar chord, we succumb to the paralysis of the first draft.
I implore anyone feeling this way to stick with it! The adage “Rome was not built in a day” comes to mind. Your first symphony or monumental painting, or sculpture, or whatever, is going to take some time. But, let me tell you, the sensation of unified focus on a singular task is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to pass the time. Of the four years I’ve attended Burning Man, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of investing vast amounts of time and energy into creating something beautiful, even if it only exists once and is burned.
Another thought that induces the paralysis of the first draft is getting hung up on how you’ll promote and sell your new creation. This is a dangerous thought that can inhibit our creations from being vehicles for pure self expression. When we dress our creations with the responsibility of providing us financial stability, our creative energy dilutes drastically. Thoughts of if this creation will sell and how we can adjust the piece to be more marketable take over, often resulting in a sense of failure or defeat. I believe, first and foremost, that creating is for the benefit of the creator – to have expressed yourself in a way you feel unquestionably compelled.
If creating for our own sake is the primary purpose of creating, the secondary purpose is to benefit others. Art has an extremely unique and ineffable ability to connect with other humans and our emotions. Many years ago, I was personally convinced to avoid suicide through the immensely emotional saxophone solo on “A Coin Perfectly Spinning” by the Contemporary Noise Quintet. I found solace knowing someone could feel as intensely as I was during this period of my life, and I didn’t feel alone. Perhaps your creations could connect with others on an equally, or greater, level and inspire the creation of even more beauty.
With all this ample time we have right now as we practice social distancing, explore your passions! Engage a childhood approach to life and create with wreckless abandon. Who knows what’ll pop out of us when we get out of our own way and create for its own purpose.
Right now, I have a lot of friends offering online lessons. These include Mikala Petillo and Alyssa Bell, and many others. That guitar gathering dust in the corner could help overcome any anxiety or depression you or another person may be experiencing during these challenging times.
March 17, 2020
COVID-19 Could Drastically Change and Affect Human Biological Evolution
I was listening to Episode 88 of the podcast Sean Carroll’s Mindscape, where host Sean Carroll converses with paleontologist Neil Shubin. Around one hour and eleven minutes in, Neil states the fact that about eight percent of our human genome is comprised of defunct viruses (the science world refers to these as endogenous retroviruses) . These are viruses that entered our genome at some part of human evolutionary history, and our bodies absorbed. For perspective, only two percent of our genome are our genes .
So what the heck are all those viruses doing up in there?
Well, some are mutating into proteins that are vital to the human experience.
Activity Regulated Cytoskeletal (Arc) protein is directly involved with the process of developing memories. Mutations or deficiencies of this protein result in dementia and other memory related illnesses . Under a telescope, Arc is almost indistinguishable from Human Immunodeficient Virus (HIV) .
It appears to be that Arc is an ancient virus that invaded a distant human ancestor, which we have since domesticated and repurposed . It’s also known that the protein syncytin (responsible for forming the placenta) developed from a retrovirus infection .
COVID-19 is super contagious . Honestly, we’ve all likely been exposed (or eventually will be) but aren’t aware since we can carry the virus without showing symptoms .
If viruses can cause humans to develop memories and placentas, subsequent developments from viruses are almost unimaginable! I can’t say, nor am I qualified to, when or if absorbing COVID-19 will actually result in a shift in human development/progression. But there is something particularly intriguing about the fact that in a very short period of time, a large portion of the human population is absorbing this infectious agent which has the potential to drastically affect the way our species develops and functions.
September 25, 2018
I am deeply bothered anytime I see someone promoting football. Not just because it is a sport that promotes aggression, but primarily because of the health impact on the players. Repetitive, subconcussive, blows to the head results in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Hits to the head promote the growth of a protein called tau, which forms clumps in the brain and spreads slowly over time killing brain cells.
Dr Ann McKey published a study in 2017 where she analyzed the brains of 202 deceased football players (NFL, Canadian Football League, collegiate, and high school). Of the 202, 117 (87%) had CTE. Of these 202, 111 were NFL players, of which 110 had CTE (99%).
Symptoms of CTE begin showing when a person is in their 20s or 30s. People suffering from CTE display increased aggression, depression, and paranoia. Cognitive symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, and dementia show later in life. Symptoms of CTE worsen over time, even if a person hasn’t suffered any more hits to the head.
Suicide is common among those with CTE. Often, suicide happens with a shot to the chest, not the head. This is because they want to preserve their brains for analysis. Families of football players often request the brains of their deceased be scanned for signs of CTE, so that they can know there was a contributing factor to their degeneration.
It is my understanding that football has not ceased, despite the NFL knowing about CTE and its effects, because of how much money football generates. On average, a college football team will generate $31 Million for its school in a year. In 2016, the NFL’s revenue was about $13 Billion. The idea that a sport that causes such a terrible descent to death is continued for a zeal of wealth is, in my mind, the most vile form of evil.
Please, consider retracting your support of football and help spread this message.
For more information listen to the Revisionist History podcast episode titled “Burdon of Proof.” Or read the NY Times article “111 NFL Brains.” Or, if you’re feeling scientific, you can read Dr McKey’s findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association .