Updates on Arguments…

So, it’s been a hot minute since the last installment of the Argumentation series.

It turns out understanding something and putting into a form that is readable, comprehensible, and enjoyable for others are very different animals.

The feed and stable costs alone…

But I digress.

Anyways, yeah, the primer on logical fallacies is coming, once I nail down a format that isn’t going to make either of our eyes spontaneously bleed.

I’m going to be explaining and giving examples for each, but I also want to be able to link to reliable outside sources. Something that you can dig into, if you want. Something that lets you explore a little more. And, unfortunately, Wikipedia – for as much as it is a handy reference – isn’t quite what I’m looking for here.

So, while the search continues, so does the wait.

Sorry.

To fill in the lonely moments between, I’m going to start posting about some of the good things I consume; movies, TV, books, maybe music.

Life can be a dour bitch as it is, and I’d like to brighten it up a bit with some things that make me happy. Maybe they’ll make you happy too.

Don’t think I’ll do proper reviews. Not just yet anyways.

Loving a thing and wanting to dissect it don’t share much space on the Venn diagram in my head. I’m weird that way.

But I’m not discounting the possibility, if I can come up with something cogent and interesting to say about the larger meaning/themes/motifs in any given work.

Again, no promises there.

In other news, I’ve been experimenting with new depression meds – under my doctor’s supervision – and they seem to be working well. They’ve given me the energy to come back here and post. I’m calling that a win.

I hope you’ve got a win of your own, no matter how small.

Until next time…

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Managing Symptoms…

As part of my quest to burn down/ salt the earth of the stigma against mental illness in this country, I occasionally post about my depression.

I don’t want this to be the blog where that’s all I post about, but it is part of my life, and has been for as long as I can remember, so – if I’m being as honest as I need to be – the subject will tend to creep into the discussion from time to time.

Usually the content revolves around how depression and anxiety intersect with my work life, creative endeavors, and attempts at fitness. (I’m finally back in the gym on a regular basis, btw.)

Today I want to talk about an aspect of the thing itself: energy.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some woo-woo, Chakra-balancing, incense burning, everything will be all right of you just think positively and do yoga, infomercial bullshit.

It’s just a discussion about something I’ve noticed.

But yeah, energy.

I know how much baggage that word carries with it in our culture. So, let me define it for our purposes here:

Energy is the ability to do work.

That’s it. Eat, drink and breathe. Covert the chemical energy of plants, animals, and oxygen into chemical energy your body runs on.

We’re absolutely NOT talking about spiritual or mystical energy.

Nothing supernatural here. Plain old, down and dirty human stuff. That’s all.

SO, WHEN I REFERENCE ENERGY IN THIS POST, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

Got it?

Cool. I knew you would understand. Go you. You’re every bit as awesome as I’d hoped.

Our bodies run on energy. Every part of our bodies. This includes our brain.

That squishy, gray fat-battery sloshing around in your skull.

In fact, your brain uses roughly 20% of your body’s total energy needs.

That’s right, a fifth of everything you consume goes into keeping your hard drive spinning.

Anyways,..

It’s easy to think of emotions and thoughts as being ethereal things, because we don’t normally “see” those things. You can feel your heartbeat, breathing, see your limbs moving, feel the trickle of sweat as it works its way down the crack of your ass, but you don’t have a physical reference for thoughts and emotions.

I’m not going to talk about the roots of consciousness, or really any other weighty philosophical topic, (I can hear my friends cheering even before they read this), but I do want to point out that thinking and feeling are physical processes, even if we don’t have a physical reference for them.

The things that go on in our heads, regardless of what you think about them spiritually, can be described as chemical processes. Compounds – neurotransmitters – have to be synthesized and metabolized. There is no free lunch.

It takes calories, energy, to think and have emotions.

And, as we have established, it takes a bloody lot of them.

One of the main symptoms of Depression is a lack of energy and motivation.

You just end up feeling tired all the time.

Part of this, according to a theory I read in college, is to encourage the organism (us) to ignore distractions (the world and everything we love in it) in order to be better equipped to deal with the internal struggle.

I don’t know if that’s correct or not. Sometimes I think it sounds nice.

But one thing is certain, depression requires a shit-load of calories from your brain.

(We may appear generally numb from the outside. We may even be generally numb to the outside world, but ask any depressive and they’ll tell you, there’s too much going on inside. Often, way too fucking much.)

All that internal work takes a ton of energy.

And humans do not have an infinite supply, regardless of what some people would have you believe.

We all have only so much energy. (The levels vary, sometimes wildly, between individuals). There is no “inexhaustible well” from which to draw. It don’t exist. And if you’ve been kicking yourself because you can’t seem to winch up the bucket of that mythical well, STOP IT RIGHT NOW! You’ve been lied to. There is no well. Never was.

All you have is your own, particular bucket.

All you can do is look to manage the levels in your bucket.

That’s it.

So, how can we do that?

(Ok, here’s the part where I tell you I’m not a doctor or any kind of licensed professional. This is just my experience. Your mileage may vary. And for fuck’s sake, go talk to your doctor. Seriously. Go.)

First thing: Start getting some exercise.

Yep, that thing you don’t feel like you have the energy to do.

Force yourself to do a little of it. A 5-10 minute walk, once a day. Start small and work your way up to something you like. You’re not training for an event, you’re looking after your health. Exercise helps us to have more energy to use, by convincing the body to produce more. (Really you’re tricking it into thinking it needs more on a regular basis, but whatever works eh?) Exercise also has been known to ease the symptoms of depression. I like lifting weights. Find what you like and do it, even if it’s only a tiny bit at first.

Second thing: Fix your sleep.

Seriously. Regulating your sleep can raise you several notches towards the light. Try to get 7-8 hours a night. Get up at the same time every day. That helps. Have a pre-sleep routine that you do every night. Total darkness. After that, it’s whatever works for you to start getting regular sleep. You’ll know it’s working within a week, usually within a couple of days. If you don’t get regular sleep, your metabolism goes straight to hell. A Damned metabolism equals diminished energy production.

Third thing: Fix your food.

Yep, diet. Look at it and ask yourself if you’re really getting all of the macro & micro nutrients, and calories you need. You’ve been on a calorie restriction, trying to lose weight? Lay off and return to maintenance calories, (between 13-15 calories per pound of body weight for maintenance), maybe for a few months. You’ve not been eating enough fruits and veg, relying on supplements to get your vitamins and minerals? Learn to eat better. Supplements are not anywhere near as bio-available as whole foods are. Start adding in more fruits and vegetables. Try one serving  per day, until it becomes normal, then add another somewhere else in the day. It might take six months, but you’ll get there. Probably sooner than you think. And there is plenty of variety, so find something you actually like to eat. Have you been eating super low-fat? Stop that shit. Your body needs fats. It’s how you produce hormones. Your brain is mostly fat. If you’re not getting at least 25-30% of your calories from fat, you need to up it in a hurry. All the research says it’s perfectly safe and healthy, as long as you avoid trans-fats. Are you getting enough protein? 0.6 grams per pound of body weight should do the trick – slightly more if you’re working out regularly or trying to lose weight. Drinking enough water? How much, you ask? Unless you have a disorder with your thirst mechanism, or you’re really hot and sweaty – which causes an issue with thirst perception – you should be drinking liquid (not alcohol) when you’re thirsty. We evolved that mechanism for a reason, use it.

Fourth thing: Do the things that give you energy.

There are things that make all of us wake up a bit. Things that energize us. It varies from person to person. Find those things that light you up like Christmas, and do them. Doesn’t matter how small. Doesn’t matter if you’re the only one doing them. As long as no one gets hurt, it doesn’t really matter. Depression feels like it steals our joy. Things we used to enjoy lose their flavor. That’s how it feels, anyway. But that’s not the case. You have to think of depression as a loud noise, drowning out most everything else. Imagine talking to a friend at a noisy bar. You could just let the din of the space overwhelm you, but you like your friend and you try focus on the conversation you’re having. You might not hear all of it, but you’ll get most of it. This is how it is with depression. The things that used to give you joy are still there, they can still lift you up, but depression is trying to deafen you like that one asshole who keeps playing Conway Twitty on the too-loud jukebox. Keep doing the things that wake you up and make you feel energized. Just keep doing them. You’ll get better and better at feeling them again. I promise.

Final thing (because this list is getting long and I’m running out of steam):

Pay attention to your Mental Hygiene.

What the fuck does that mean?

Simply put, pay attention to the things you think about. Pay attention to your thoughts.

(not all the time. you don’t need to turn into some navel-gazing vegetable. sheesh.)

Some thoughts are going to make your depression worse. Learn to recognize those thoughts, and redirect them.

Here’s how:

Become aware of how your thoughts make you feel. Often you will begin by noticing after the fact. That’s normal. The more you practice, the earlier and earlier you will pick up on it. Pretty soon you’ll become aware of them right as they start.

Become aware of these thoughts, and how they make you feel, without judgement.

That’s the important part: without judgement.

If you judge your thoughts, you’ll either run towards them or want to run away from them. Either option gives the thoughts more energy.

You dig?

Judging your thoughts dumps more calories into thinking them.

(And you only have a limited amount of calories to go around, remember? Of course you do, you’re fekkin’ awesome.)

So, once you’ve gotten some practice noticing your thoughts and not judging them, you can take the next step, which is trying to turn your thoughts to a neutral subject. I often use my breath, or immersion into my physical senses (trying to see, hear, smell, taste, etc everything I possibly can at that moment). Again, these are things you are observing. Just watch them for a moment. Let yourself float in neutral for a few minutes. Let your heart rate and breathing come back to normal. Let the hormonal response to the painful thoughts ebb. A couple of minutes. (Ok, could be as long as 20 minutes, if you let yourself get deep into the negative shit. But really, what’s 20 minutes for sanity?)

Once you’ve got practice at that – and this can happen fairly quickly, it doesn’t take years, or even months – you can practice thinking about things that give you energy. Your next workout, next project, dreams for the future, whatever gives you the git-up-and-go.

This is redirecting your thoughts to revitalize your energy stores. It’s not weird mystical shit. It’s just something we’re not generally taught.

But it is all scientifically describable and provable.

This doesn’t require any belief, only action.

Action and practice.

You’ve likely heard, somewhere, about the Cherokee grandfather telling his grandson about the two wolves. Or, maybe you’ve heard the Buddhist saying that what grows in your garden is what you water.

Both of those sayings, and countless more like them, boil down to one thought:

It’s about what you give your energy to.

That is what flourishes in your mind.

This is just one method of learning to redirect your mental energy. I encourage you to research others. This one works for me. As do a few others I’ve tried.

And, I know I’ve avoided the topic of weird mystical shit, but if woo-woo works for you, go get your woo-woo on. I will not judge you for it. I might ask for detailed information, but I won’t judge if it helps you climb out of the hole.

So, that’s it.

I hope this helps some.

I encourage you to do more research on the subject. Sometimes just realizing there is information out there is enough to get me off my ass and moving. Maybe it’s the same for you.

Whatever the case, if – like me – you deal with depression and/or anxiety, I hope you come to the help you need. Professional or otherwise.

I don’t know if there is a cure for depression, but I do know there are ways to manage it that are productive and healthy.

I’ve tried to outline some of them for you here.

If you have different methods that work for you, feel free to leave a comment describing them.

I wish you well on your journey.

Remember, all you have to do is keep walking.

One foot, in front of the other.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Short, Sharp Argument…

This series, (I didn’t think it was going to be one), could also be called, “Killing Your Sacred Cows with a Single Stroke”.

Today’s target:

“The Free Market”

I can’t type that phrase without quotation marks because “The Free Market” has never existed.

Never.

It’s a theoretical/ hypothetical construct that pundits and politicians use to convince people to vote against their own interests.

There is no such animal. Never was.

As a theory/ hypothesis, it’s clean and nearly convincing – that’s because it leaves out the reality of human affairs.

A “Free Market” system would only work if, and only if everyone had free and open access to all the information.

And that can’t happen in reality. There’s just too much data.

More than that, it has never happened in reality because people, business entities, and governments have never allowed the free flow of information. That’s just history.

Without free access to information, consumers can not make rational decisions about how to vote with their dollar.  And the whole argument of “the Free Market” hinges upon consumers being able to make a rational decision.

And, has everyone forgotten about incentives?

If the main goal of any company is to make a profit, then it becomes an incentive to that company to hide any information that would harm that ability. And to cut whatever corners are necessary to make that profit happen.

How do we know this? Like I said:

Just. Fucking. History.

Take some time to check it out. You’ll be enraged, aghast, maybe even a little afraid.

But if you’ve grown up in the Western World, you sure as shit won’t be surprised.

And another thing: human beings are not completely rational animals. We can use reason, but it’s clear, from observation of our behavior, that we often default to emotional responses. So, any hypothesis that counts on us being rational actors is falling on its face and eating the gravel off the track, before the starting pistol even fires.

So, people who advocate for the free market ether:

A) Haven’t thought about the realities of human interaction.

– or –

B) Are the very people who would limit your access to information because it suits their purposes.

There, that about covers it.

Until next time…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Updatery…. Pt. who knows?

It’s been 8 days since I posted anything here. Suppose I should remedy that.

Where are we on the writing front?

Just finished a 5,000 word short story. Completely new characters and setting. A bit of the old fashioned Sword & Sorcery shuffle. I’ve been resisting the urge to put in my editing teeth and start gnawing for about a week now. But tomorrow morning, let the chewing begin.

I hope to have that one out to my beta readers, maybe over the weekend.

Then one more spit shine and out to the highest paying market it might fit.

Dream big.

My WIP re: novel length fare, is somewhere in the middle of chapter 7 and waiting for me to dial the way-back machine to mid 80s Kansas and get back into the groove.

A small town. A haunted wheat field. Spreading insanity, ghosts of the past, and the teenagers caught in the middle.

I’m not an outliner, so, some projects have to flutter around the vaulted ceiling of my subconscious until I get the general feel for the bat’s wings and direction of flight.

On the self publishing front: currently investigating book reviewers and bloggers. There are a lot of them out there. Trying to find the ones that a) read my genre, b) will review self-published books, c) don’t have a 12 month waiting period, d) Will give a review more professional than a 200 word equivalent of a thumbs up or thumbs down, e) have any kind of readership of their reviews. Face it, you could give the best reviews in the world, but if nobody reads them, well…

And I’m still researching how to market my book online. Not sell it. That one I’ve got down. How to get people to see it and maybe be interested enough to buy it, that’s the trick.

And that might involve actually talking to people.

Shudder to think.

I guess I could always get drunk first.

Well, maybe only 2 or 3 drinks.

I know what you’re going to say:

Buzzed networking is drunk networking

You’re probably right.

I should think of other coping strategies.

What would I do without you?

Anyways,..

That’s what I’ve been up to.

Until next time…

 

Posted in The Writing Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karma’s a Bitch…But not Really

If you thought this post would be more about Argumentation, sorry. It won’t be.

But, it is going to be about one of my other pet-peeves of American ignorance: Karma.

Here I’m going to do something that “they” say one should never do at the start, I’m going to tell you you’re wrong.

And, the odds are good, for something like 90% of you, I’ll be correct in assuming that what you think Karma is, it well and truly isn’t.

Let’s start there.

Most people, I run into anyway, think that Karma means if you do good things, good things happen to you, and if you do bad things, then bad things happen to you.

Sound familiar?

Is that what you thought it was?

(excepting people I’ve lectured on the subject before, I’ll bet you did.)

That is not Karma.

Actually, I’m not sure what that is, other than maybe a collective wish for Justice that is projected out to be an a priori law of the universe.

Nothing wrong with that, by the way. It’s just not Karma.

So, if that’s not it, what the fuck is it?

Glad you asked.

(and by you, I mean me, borrowing your skin, but not in a creepy, serial killer kind of way, just metaphorically.)

Karma is a Sanskrit word that means: action.

That’s it. Just action.

Okay, so, like most Sanskrit words, it’s got more meaning bound up in it.

(to keep blood from seeping from your eyes, I’m going to paraphrase a bit here. If you really want to dig into Karma, look it up. Or, you know, read the Vedas.)

Karma has a few aspects.

The first is fairly basic: it is, essentially, the law of cause and effect, written in a spiritual vocabulary.

Your actions have causes that led to them. Your actions, in turn, become the causes that lead to other effects.

See, simple. But wait, there’s always more…

Another way to look at Karma is as a kind of spiritual/ behavioral inertia.

That is to say, if you act in a certain way, in a certain set of given circumstances, you will be more likely to act in a similar – if not same – way in similar – if not same – circumstances at a later time.

In this regard, we would look at Karma, more modernly, as habit.

And really, if you interpret it only that way, as habit, then you’ll not really go too wrong in your understanding.

Another aspect of Karma is more akin to an explanation of its existence as some kind of force of nature, for lack of a better term.

The idea is that Karma exists, and we are bound by it, to aid our own journey to enlightenment.

Essentially, Karma keeps you doing the same things, in the same situations, over and over again, until you learn whatever it is you’re supposed to be learning from it, at that stage. It is the teacher that won’t let you move forward until you’ve passed the lesson.

So, in a sense, if you find yourself making the same mistakes, over, and over, and fekkin’ over again, that’s your Karma. It’s trying to make you go through it until you wake up to the knowledge you need to move on.

Also, there is no good Karma or bad Karma. It’s all just Karma.

To attain liberation, (Moksha or Nirvana), one needs to remove one’s Karma. Get rid of it. Be free of it.

There are plenty of esoteric discourses on Karma in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

If you dig that kind of thing, definitely dive into it. You will not be disappointed.

But this is a fairly concise overview of the subject.

And now you can stop annoying the ever-lovin’-shit out of me by using it incorrectly.

I share because I care.

You feel that, don’t you?

Don’t you?!

Good.

We can move on to other topics.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Me, at 40.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Putting the Civil Back in Civilization: Argument – Pt III

When not to Argue,

or,

Sometimes it’s just fucking pointless.

This is a big thing. Which is why I’m shoe-horning it in before a long discussion about fallacies.

In pt I of this series I made mention of when argument is warranted and necessary. But even a cursory glance at popular public discourse will show that it is equally, if not more important, to know when not to argue.

My basic rule is: try not to argue about dumb shit.

Dumb shit, in this arena, mainly consists of opinion and preference.

Here’s why: opinion, preference don’t really affect the course of our collective lives. If you can take it or leave it, as you choose, then it doesn’t really call for argument.

Logic need not get involved.

(If, for some weird reason you haven’t read pt 1 and pt 2 of this discussion, go read them. Especially if you’re new to this and you don’t really know what I mean by Argument.)

In those instances, where you just want to persuade someone else, reason isn’t required. Logic can sometimes aid in persuasion, but, if you’re watching the world we live in, you’ll have noticed it usually doesn’t enter into it. Shows you how easily we’re persuaded.

Emotion usually does much of the heavy lifting in persuading us to think one way or another.

(Yet another reason I cackle when some pundit makes pronouncements about society based on the assumption that we are motivated by reason. That’s a motherfucker who is out of touch with reality. Best to give them non-toxic crayons and keep them away from open flames.)

The problem with Emotion doing our deciding for us is that emotion is ephemeral and easily swayed. And we, as creatures of emotion, are likewise easily swayed. So much so that we can make catastrophic errors when we base our decisions solely on emotion.

The point of arguing with Logic is that it removes the bias emotion can interject into a discussion.

People can be emotionally persuaded of almost anything.

Go up in a sufficiently tall building, and you will see the curvature of the Earth. And yet, there remain citizens – many of whom are still legally allowed to vote and carry firearms – who staunchly believe the Earth is flat.

Want to believe something bad enough, and you will.

Logic and Reason end run around that.

The whole point is to flense away the things that don’t meet the standard of reason so that we may get closer to the truth.

So, when it comes to discussions of a purely subjective matter, argument isn’t the tool you’re looking for. Learn how to construct a sales pitch. That’ll get you more distance in that race.

There is another time where it’s just fucking pointless to argue with someone:

When the other party has no respect for the discussion or the members involved.

Easiest examples:

You don’t argue civil rights with a white supremacist. They neither believe in them or that you have the right to have them. In this, they are not good faith members of the discussion. You wouldn’t listen to the Nazi side of the argument about the formation of a Jewish state. And you don’t argue women’s rights with and avowed misogynist. It’s a fruitless exercise, and your opponent doesn’t believe you have the right to exist anyway, so fuck ‘em.

(The way to deal with these types, in a democracy, is to outnumber, outvote, and outlast them.)

 

So, let’s recap:

It’s just fucking pointless to argue when:

a) Your opponent is not a good faith member of the discussion.

&

b) It is a matter of subjective concern. (Persuasion, personal preference, etc…)

 

Logic is meant to help us find objective truths. Use it for pretty much anything but that, and you’re wasting your fucking time.

And let’s face it, you really don’t have time to waste, do you?

Until next time, where we’ll try to dig into logical fallacies, or at least the ones that show up over and over and fucking over again in our culture…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Putting the "Civil" Back in Civilization, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment