thoughts

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 once 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 continue living 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. (If you’re offering online lessons right now please drop your information in the comments, along with what you’re instructing). 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 (Coronavirus) Could Drastically Change and Affect Human Biological Evolution

I was listening to Episode 88 of the podcast Sean Carroll’s Minscape, 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) [1]. 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 [2].

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 [3]. Under a telescope, Arc is almost indistinguishable from Human Immunodeficient Virus (HIV) [4]. 

It appears to be that Arc is an ancient virus that invaded a distant human ancestor, which we have since domesticated and repurposed [5]. It’s also known that the protein syncytin (responsible for forming the placenta) developed from a retrovirus infection [6].

COVID-19 is super contagious [7]. Honestly, we’ve all likely been exposed (or eventually will be) but aren’t aware since we can carry the virus without showing symptoms [8].

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.


[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107103621.htm
[2] http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2012/issue127a/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22622366
[4] https://massivesci.com/articles/arc-protein-mind-control-memory-brains-shepherd-utah-tedmed-alzheimers/
[5] https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2020/03/16/88-neil-shubin-on-evolution-genes-and-dramatic-transitions/
[6] http://www.virology.ws/2017/12/14/a-retrovirus-gene-drove-emergence-of-the-placenta/
[7] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/asia/china-coronavirus-contain.html?action=click&pgtype=Article&state=default&module=styln-coronavirus&variant=show&region=BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT&context=storyline_guide?action=click&pgtype=Article&state=default&module=styln-coronavirus&variant=show&region=TOP_BANNER&context=storyline_menu#transmission
[8] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Ftransmission.html

September 25, 2018
Boycott Football

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 .

January 29, 2018
Legality/Non-legality of substances

It continuously interests me the substances a person can freely consume and which will result in jail time.

First, decaffeinated coffee. While there are multiple ways in which caffeine is removed from coffee, 70% of decaffeinated coffee is made using a process in which the beans are soaked in either ethyl acetate (used in glues, nail polish removers, and cigarettes [1]) or methylene chloride (used in paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, metal cleaning, etc [2]) [2.5]. Surely this can’t be good for the body.

Secondly, alcohol. Most are aware of the negative effects on the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, embryos, etc [3][4][5]. Yet how many bars exist on a given street? Surely this can’t be good for the body.

Next is psilocybin cubensis (aka magic mushrooms, shrooms).
For those who have taken mushrooms, you know their benefit. For those who haven’t, here’s some stuff to chew on. In a study conducted by Imperial College London published in October 2017, participants were given shrooms and the results on depression were recorded. “Of the full 19 patients, all showed some decrease in depressive symptoms at 1 week” [6]. Furthermore, “5 of 12 [were] completely cured of their depression 3 months later” [7]. In 2012, research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists shared that shrooms could be used “as a treatment for anxiety in terminal cancer patients, in smoking cessation and as a treatment for alcoholism” [8]. And of course the magnificent spiritual enlightenments are most definitely worth mentioning.

Other substances that should be welcome are marijuana, LSD, and DMT. I’d go into detail about their benefits but I really want to get back to the book I’m reading. 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethyl_acetate
[2] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3144.html
[2.5] https://coffeeconfidential.org/health/decaffeination/
[3] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
[4] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
[5] https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body
[6] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-13282-7
[7] https://psychedelictimes.com/psilocybin-mushrooms/what-are-the-medicinal-and-spiritual-benefits-of-psilocybin-mushrooms/
[8] http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/07/magic-mushroom-drug-shows-promise-in-treating-addictions-and-cancer-anxiety/

November 11, 2016
Free-will and Determinism in Regards to the Election, and how to Respond to Hatred

When I was in middle school, my youth pastor would take us on weekend trips to see speakers give lectures. Mark Matlock is one we would often see. At one of his lectures he likened free-will and determinism to visiting a restaurant. He said determinism is like our parents taking us to a specific restaurant while free-will is having the choice to order whatever we wanted from the menu. We’d have the freedom to choose a healthy salad, a greasy burger, or anything else. Whatever option we chose would have consequences that we would be responsible for.

We didn’t really have a choice of our candidates (the restaurant). The DNC and media pushed Hillary to be the Democratic candidate over Bernie, so our menu options were chosen for us. We had Hillary or Trump (we can stop pretending Johnson or Stein ever had a chance). We also have to consider that we as a collective America did not ultimately chose Trump seeing as Hillary won the popular vote. But the restaurant we’re at contains the delightful electoral college.

Hillary was by no means the best menu option, but she was significantly better than the greasy burger that is Trump. This is because, if for no other reason, she didn’t incite violence among her supporters.

Review clips of Trump campaign speeches. Time and time again he would condone violence, one time saying “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher…I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

Some have dismissed this sort of talk, claiming he was just saying what was necessary to get elected. Regardless of if that’s true or not, some of his supporters have taken that to heart. Already Trump supporters have harassed women, Muslims, blacks, and others, and he’s not even the president yet.
See for yourself if you haven’t already:
https://twitter.com/i/moments/796417517157830656

So what do we do about this?

In a majority of the stories told in the above link, those being patronized remained silent/ignored what was being said.
In order to peacefully combat hatred, we cannot be silent. Just as those with hate in their hearts have the confidence to speak their minds, we who know Love must have the confidence to speak ours.

When I was the music teacher at Fossil Elementary school in rural Oregon I saw plenty of instances of children being mean
(note: overwhelmingly the children were nice to each other. There were inevitably times when they weren’t).

When I’d see a child being mean I’d stop the class and address the child by saying “We always have the choice to be mean or to be nice. Is how you are acting something a nice person would do?” When they’d respond with “no” or remained silent I’d say “make sure you always behave as a nice person would.”

Now I understand adults may not take this well. Children are generally better at receiving constructive criticism than adults. But this model is a good place to start.

As stated in a previous post, we must be strong. We must not tolerate hate through inaction but rather address and convert it to peace.

Let our Love be the water that wears down the rock of hate.

July 12, 2015
Speaking Up

There are a lot of cool things in this world. At the same time, there is a lot of room for improvement. If we’re going to change things for the better, each of us has to realize how much power we have, and how far that power can go when implemented in the act of speaking with another person.
Realize that the manager of your local grocery store isn’t going to know that the you want a larger organic section until you say something.
Realize that the musicians who aren’t listed in the program of a musical will remain unlisted until enough people call the show’s producer to let him/her know how disrespectful that is.
Realize that recycling won’t come to your community as a standard feature until enough people ask for it.

In all of these things, it is ESSENTIAL to remain calm and polite. No one is going to listen to you if you’re mean; the initial reaction will be to close up.
Change happens through calm, peaceful, and clear communication.

Think about something in your life that could change for the better. Find the phone number of the person in charge and speak with them as kindly as possible. Time may or may not be running out (in regards to how quickly climate change is happening), but there is always still the possibility that we can correct our mistakes and make this world the best place in the Universe.

June 30, 2015
The Phrase “Contributing to Society”

What does a person mean when they say that a person isn’t contributing to society, and why is it usually said as a negative thing?
I believe “contributing to the culture” is a more appropriate phrase. When we say a person isn’t contributing to society, it means that person isn’t giving back – isn’t doing their part. This naturally implies that we’re all responsible for contributing to the culture in one way or another, yes?
None of us asked to be here and assume the responsibility of giving back.
But we are, so we should do our best to do just that.
I think “contributing to the culture” is more appropriate because it’s much more inclusive as to what people can give. When I hear “contribute to society,” My direct assumption is that it means financially. But let’s thing of the arts. Anything a person creates is a part of the culture as soon as it’s produced. Imagine if a doodle you did over coffee is the only artifact left in 100 years to document the influences of today.
So if you paint, hum, skateboard, speak, dance, etc., you are creating something. It’s a natural consequence that you will feel fulfilled for having done your part.

March 5, 2015
Sugar, the Pineal Gland, and DMT

The prominence of sugar as an added ingredient in foods is eerie. Especially when recent studies have shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine or heroin (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23719144). Aside from the the known detriment of sugar (increased fat, links to cancer, general poor health) is something else. Sugar is known the calcify the pineal gland.

The pineal glad is located in between the two brain hemispheres and is often referred to as the “seat of consciousness.” Why might it be called that? Well, other studies have shown that the pineal gland is responsible for the natural production of DMT, sometimes referred to as the “spirit molecule.” (http://disinfo.com/2013/05/breakthrough-dmt-found-in-the-pineal-gland-of-live-rats/)

DMT is associated with out-of-body experiences. But out-of-body experiences are not necessarily as extreme as one might imagine. Through focused practices (such as yoga, meditation, etc.) a person comes to realize that Who You Are is separate from the physical self. That realization and experience, practiced over time, can be considered an out-of-body experience. My guess is that the focus these practices require triggers the pineal gland to produce DMT.

A natural question that follows might be, “are we meant to experience the effects o DMT?” Well, consider the following. If we can experience any effect from a chemical (whether produced locally or internally), that means we naturally have a receptor for it. If we naturally have a receptor for it, it is logical to conclude that we naturally produce that chemical. (listen to this podcast for more information: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91539-placebo/)

When the pineal gland becomes calcified through increased sugar consumption (as well as other factors (e.g. fluroide intake [http://www.icnr.com/articles/fluoride-deposition.html]), DMT production decreases significantly.

My conclusion is that removing sugar (and other pineal gland calcifiers) from one’s diet can increase the pineal gland’s natural production of DMT.

From personal experience, the the mild out-of-body experiences focused practice induces (meditation, bass practice) has led me to realize the abundance of the present moment. I don’t need to participate in a consumer society because I have everything I need right here and now.

Note: nothing against simple sugars like those found in apples, grapes, etc. I’ve not done the research but I imagine that naturally occurring sugars would not be detrimental as refined processed sugar.

November 9, 2014
Drifting Toward Centropy

Why are we so fascinated with randomness? Advertisers look at current trends to see how they can market a product, spending loads of money on research. If we look to most commercials nowadays they are the most arbitrary things ever (e.g. Old Spice, Keystone, etc.) Why is this?
I posit that whatever scientific theory of the time is most prominent, a society/culture will act accordingly. When we thought the Earth was the center of the Universe, we thought we were the sole purpose of creation. That changed when the heliocentric model put the sun in the center. Even more so when we saw how big the Universe is. Science humbled a planet.
Currently, science states that we live in a disconnected, random, and reductionist Universe headed toward entropy – total chaos. If that’s so, then society will act accordingly. But what if we shifted toward believing everything is interconnected, interdependent, and headed toward “centropy” (a state of balanced flux)?
Euclidean geometry provides answers for 2D events. Great, but the Universe isn’t flat. Everything has a 3rd dimension. To say the Universe is flat means all of the things within are flat.
Similarly, current scientific models of reality are based upon the assumption that closed and finite systems exist. Of course the laws derived from these systems will work for that system because they’re derived from the closed or finite system themselves! The issue the comes when we ask, “where do we ever see a closed or finite system in Nature?” Nature is always connected, always infinite, always open, and always interdependent.
So if art reflects the times, what does that say about us now? It says we live believing everything is random and has no purpose. However if we took a moment to actually be in Nature again, to observe the details of Nature, we’d see the opposite. Imagine what sort of art and technology we’d develop then. Think of how we’d interact with each other if we were aware of our true connected and interdependent Nature.

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