A Day in the Life: a brief foray into political activism

What does politics have to do with existentialism? I’m glad you asked.

E V E R Y T H I N G

Politics in an outward expression of our personal moral philosophy. Your view of the world and the way you should live your life greatly informs your political views. I strongly feel that all aspects of one’s personality are connected, some connections are more obvious than others. The more connections I find between the various aspects of my personality… so more fascinated I am with the human condition. So come… be fascinated with me!

**The ideas expressed in this video are in no way meant to degrade or offend the views of others. If you are offended, I am sorry that I have offended you, but I stand by my words. This is, after all, America.**

I truly hope that something I have said reaches someone, anyone. Let me be clear, I am in no way naive enough to think that my voting for Gary Johnson will mean that the whole of our political system is going to change. Nor am I naive enough to think that Gary Johnson is going to win the 2012 Presidential election (I’m pretty sure Gary Johnson isn’t naive enough to think this either). I can’t even say for sure that Gary Johnson has a better answer than Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. But I can not, in good conscience, support a Democrat or Republican simply because they have a better chance of winning office. The only thing I can think of worse than voting for a mainstream presidential candidate that I do not have full faith in is not voting at all.

All Work and No Play (or why I don’t really care when the president plays golf)

We’re always told you have to work hard to succeed. This is certainly true and I am in no way about to try to refute that claim. That would be silly of me and quite honestly a waste of a blog post. But what I am going to try to do is convince you to take a break.

I can’t remember ever seeing my father with brown hair apart from in pictures; this is likely because, as he claims, his hair turned white the second my older brother was born. Now, my father is prone to hyperbole but you get the point: stress changes you. Some stress is good, but if you are overworked or under recovered you are going to eventually burn out. No one, and I mean no one is immune to the need for rest. For many, rest comes on in the form of sleep. A good night’s sleep has been shown to play as much an important role in your health (and in weight loss efforts) as diet and exercise. But I contend that leisure plays a vital role in our mental as well as physical health. Sometimes when I am writing a long and tedious paper for school I find myself starting to get frustrated and all brain function will cease to the point where I can’t type coherent sentences. At times like this I find it beneficial to step away and not worry about that paper for a while. When I come back to it my mind is fresh and I am again able to form thoughtful sentences. This concept spills overs into all aspects of our lives when we expect a lot out of ourselves: Work, cleaning, social responsibilities, even video gaming (ever try to beat a level of a game for hours failing each time only to come back the next day and beat it on the first try? yea I thought you did). My point if you can not be all business all the time and next expect to function at the same high level of excellence you expect from yourself.

You have to take a break.

This is why I love hobbies and television. They provide an escape that can relax and refresh the mind. This relaxation time allows us to recharge our batteries so that when we it is time to do our job again we can do it to the best of our abilities. Hobbies let our brain cool off and sometimes even help us gain fresh perspectives that will benefit us in the long run.

Have you ever looked at photos of presidents before and after they took office? They are pretty different, and not in a 4-8 years have passed sort of way. The presidency has a tendency to age a person beyond their years. And I mean, are we really surprised by this? That shit is stressful. Imagine the amount of stress you feel at your job and how sometimes that can be hard to deal with… now imagine that you a President of the United States and the entire world is scrutinizing ever decision you make… and any wrong decision you make can lead to war, increased debt, deaths, etc. No one they age so quickly.

And yet you hear a lot of complaints from people when the president (and even presidential candidates) take vacations with their families or go golfing. As though somehow the immense pressure of the presidency makes you immune to its pressures and the need for even 18 holes of futile escape. It’s true… when you are President… you are President 24/7 but I can not imagine even working a mediocre full time job and not being allowed a little down time. Granted the timing of trips to the country club should make an attempt to be sensitive to any urgent issues facing our nation, but lets be honest, no one is going to fix the economy in the amount of time it takes to drive your golf cart down the fair way.

So in conclusion, find a hobby, take a break, and let our presidents play golf.

Food for Thought: Love and Respect

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been pretty busy delving deep into the abyss that is business ethics. It has me curious at to who is reading publications such as The Journal of Business Ethics: businessmen or philosophers? My money is on the latter. And oh look I’m off topic already and I’ve barely started…

A N Y W A Y S . . .

I’m a big fan of Immanuel Kant. I’m not going to pretend that his ideas are the be all and end all of moral philosophy but they certainly do provide an excellent framework for determining how you should treat others. Whenever something has thrown me for a loop (ethically speaking), going back and reading Kant reminds me of how the world should be (providing it were all sunshine and daisies and everyone was required to study moral philosophy).  For those that are not familiar with Kant, allow me to introduce you to the Categorical Imperative. There are three formulations, but I just want to go over the first two. Ok now…

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.”

In simplespeak this means don’t do things unless you think it should be ok for everyone to do it.

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”

In simplespeak this means don’t use people.

The idea of treating others as ends rather than means has many implications in everyday life, but for Kant it is not enough to simply not treat one as a means. It is a twofold process. To be indifferent to someone means that you are not treating them as a means, but you are also not treating them as an end. For Kant we are morally responsibly for treating ALL people as ends. What this means is that we should find ways to promote the positive and negative freedom of individuals and be concerned for their physical and moral well being.

I am currently in the process of doing research for a paper applying Kantian ethics to corporate employee relations (fun right… I think so). So far a lot of what I have read relies heavily on this second formulation of the categorical imperative, and there was a citation from an article by Ornora O’Neill that really caught my eye in regards to how it relates to everyday life. Simply put O’Neill said that benevolence (and in turn-morality) creates a tension between love and respect. We are morally compelled to care about the well-being and happiness of others (love), but we should not go so far as to assume we know what is best for them and force our ideas of happiness upon them. Rather, we should allow them the autonomy and independence to seek out their own happiness (respect) (providing they are acting as moral agents).

I bring all this up because I feel that I see a lot of “you should do this” “you shouldn’t do that” “I think that’s wrong so you are wrong” in today’s society. In a country so deeply divided on every. single. issue. this doesn’t come as a surprise. I think that part of the problem is that we have had the “love” part drilled into our brains so much that it has stymied the “respect”. We are so self-interested and concerned with our own way of life that we fail to see the merit in ways that differ. This is not to say that we should tolerate morally reprehensible behavior in the vein of respect for individual autonomy, but we should recognize that we are all of different paths with varying experiences, purposes, capital, beliefs, etc. And to assume that there is only one way to properly live life is…for lack of a better word (and for minimal shock value) arrogant. What we should strive for as rational, moral people is a minimal level of physical and moral welfare for EVERYONE regardless of any differences among us.

In an effort to practice what I preach I will say that I am not telling you that you NEED to do this, I am merely opening your eyes to a different way of moral thinking. Take it or leave it.

 

*If you are interested, this is the citation for the article I was reading today…*

Bowie, N. E. (1998). A Kantian Theory of Meaningful Work. Journal Of Business Ethics17(9/10), 1083-1092.

To write is to write

I fear the possibility that the blog is going to fall victim to writer’s block. My brain has been pretty tired the last two weeks trying to comprehend scholarly articles about business ethics. What I really want to know is… at what point in an education does one learn to write so that no one can understand your words without reading i n c r e d i b l y   s l o w l y ???? Once I figure out what they are trying to say, I just get annoyed because I feel they could have said it much more succinctly and I probably wouldn’t have accidently dozed off in the middle of their article.  It’s really a catch 22 for me… because I love books… like… actual tangible books… but it seems that they put me to sleep (another reason those 7 books I was suppose to read this summer are still sitting on my shelf). And I can’t really buy e-books because if I stare at my computer any more than I already do I think I’ll develop a tumor.

At any rate, today I heard about this thing called National Novel Writing Month. It takes place in November, and basically your goal is to write an entire 50,000 word novel within the confines of 1/12 of the Gregorian Calender. The idea is that you just write; you forget about what you think you should be writing about, how you think it should sound, the minutia of coherence and so on. This is a novel idea (you see what I did there?!) in that I think it can sort of break people of the biggest thing that holds them back from writing- their brain. To meet the 50,000 word goal you have to write an average of 1,667 words per day, which means you need to write like your life depends on it and stop fighting yourself while trying to find the “right” words. I’ve always heard it said that the best way to become a writer is to simply write… everyday… many argue that it doesn’t have to even make too much sense… the point is that if you write everyday… eventually the words will come to you.

The second I read the description of this event I was filled with the most extreme forms of excitement and terror I could imagine. The idea of writing that much scares the bejeezus out of me, but I feel like, even if the end product was complete gibberish, the fact that I actually did it would be a great step in the right direction for my “writing career”. I’d really love to participate in this event in November, but I fear that it might drive me slightly mad if I’m trying to write a novel and take a writing class at the same time. So… I was thinking about doing this in January as my first post-baccalaureate attempt to pursue this dream of mine that snuck up on me- to become a published writer.

So…… thoughts?

 

PS- click the picture to check out some amazing quotes about writing from some amazing writers.

The Perks of Planning

As I embark on my last semester of undergraduate scholarly pursuits (queue droves of people applauding for me actually finishing… and then slowly stopping as they realize it means I have to pay back my mountain of debt… the scene fades as they weep… holding each other…. in despair) I’ve started to look back on why it took me so long finish. Sure, the fact that I kept changing my major didn’t help, but a large part of it was also that I got burnt out. I stopped caring. I had no desire to do my school work and the more I had to do the more I pushed against it. In more recent semesters I’ve gotten my act together and started to care a little more about my grades. In order to get through my last few classes I had to change my approach; I had to figure out a way to balance school, my social life, and a strong desire to lay on the couch and watch teen melodramas.

So I started planning out my school week.

The way my online classes are set up I am aware from day one (more or less) what I will need to do each week and when large papers and projects need to be turned in. Each week I divide up that week’s tasks so that I don’t have to do too much each day. I do the same with papers. I haven’t written a paper in one day since 2007 when I spent 12 straight hours on a Saturday writing a 14 page paper relating the developmental theory of criminology to serial killers (awesome stuff). Rather, I’ll start research and writing early enough on a paper that I usually don’t have to write more than 300 words a day. I mean, I’ll write more if I’m on a roll, but I tend to get writer’s block quickly (go ahead… ask me how my book is coming. I’d throw the manuscript at you but it doesn’t exist… consider yourself lucky). The whole point of it is to not overwhelm myself. I get a decent amount of work done, but then I also get to watch Gossip Girl. It’s win win.

As I mentioned in a previous video , I have also come to enjoy planning my meals for the week. If you didn’t heed my advice the first time, I’ll say it again. Try it. It’s especially helpful if you have trouble with cravings or if you are a stickler for macronutrients. By planning everything out in advance you will be able to see if you need to make any changes to ensure you get enough protein, don’t eat too many carbs, or whatever it is you are watching carefully. It also makes the day itself easier. No longer will you stand with the refrigerator door open staring blankly as you are trying to figure out what you want for lunch… you decided already. And since you are taking the time to plan, you allow yourself to make better food choices rather than grabbing the first easy to make sodium laden thing you find in the convenience store. I have some friends that go so far as to pre cook veggies and proteins for the week. This is an excellent idea if you work crazy hours and don’t have time to cook everyday.

Planning itself can sometimes be a tedious task, but it makes the rest of your life so much easier that it’s really worth it. I’m not always the most organized person, ask anyone who ever entered my adolescent bedroom. But we’re adults now and I can’t just shove things under our bunk beds and pretend we’re solving a problem. Planning things makes my life easier. I make to-do lists for everything. EVERYTHING. I even divide cleaning tasks into the days of the week so I don’t have to spend an entire day cleaning the entire house because I’d rather do a little bit of everything everyday (INCLUDING sitting around and doing nothing) than spend any day devoted to one task and not be able to have any free time.

Ok… I might be rambling now..apologies.

What ways can planning make your life easier?

Practice Makes Perfect… or at least better than before

 

THIS JUST IN!!!

If you want to be good at something, do yourself a favor and don’t not do it for a month (unless you have a good excuse). Today I practiced yoga for the first time in about a month and it felt as foreign as it did when I first started.

It seems I’m still having trouble adapting to the humbleness yoga requires, especially if you are a beginner. When I first started yoga in January of this year I thought I would have an edge because of my dancing background. I was horrendously wrong. When it came to dancing I was what many people like to call a “natural”. I just got it. Because of this I safely assumed that anything requiring balance and flexibility would just come to me as though I had been doing all my life. I’m not sure if there are “natural” yogis, but I’ll just say that it was hard for me to admit I wasn’t one. I don’t like be bad at things. In fact, I’d rather not do something at all than try it and be bad. This makes me both an awesome and terrible competitor (depending on my mood, mostly).

But the thing about yoga, and the thing I have to keep reminding myself is that your body will do things when its good and ready to. What you are doing at that very moment, no matter how mangled of a pose you are holding, is exactly where you are supposed to be. All you can do is practice, push yourself and enjoy it when you fall out of half moon pose (which you probably will).

The sad truth I learned today was that since I’m not a natural yogi, if I don’t practice all the progress goes away. A month ago I was working on inversions and today my wrists were crying simply from downward dog.

So two things:

1. Don’t be lazy – you might end up having to redo some of the progress you made.

2. Be patient – progress does not happen over night

Practice Makes Perfect: The Art of Patience

If I were asked to name the one thing my semi-eventful life has taught me I would say patience. Yet, if I were asked what quality I needed to learn the most, I would again say patience. Despite any leaps and bounds I know I’ve made in my ability to not get angry about “the way things are” as compared to “the way I think they should be” I see myself struggling almost daily due to an apparent lack of patience and compassion.

The thing about patience is, you can never have too much of it. That’s not to say you should allow yourself to be walked on by others and call it being “patient” with them. That’s not patience; that’s being a doormat. What I mean by that is that it seems, to me at least, no matter how patient a person you think you are, there is always room for improvement (naturally the same goes for many, if not all other aspects of life… but let’s limit the scope of this blog so I don’t ramble on forever, shall we?).

Accepting that you can not control the entire world

Try as you might, there are only a finite number of things you have control over: inanimate objects (at least most of the time) and yourself. And to a certain degree you only have so much control over yourself because you can not will your body to do things it’s not biologically capable of doing. All you can do is be mindful of your body and your surroundings and nudge yourself in the proper direction.

Accept that there is work to be done

You will never really know how much patience you have until it is tested. The key is to recognize when your patience is being tested, and do your best to find ways to help yourself, rather than putting up a hissy fit. Being a passive observer of one’s life is no good (and certainly no fun) but there is something to be said for the person that can easily realize that they have little if any control over what happens. I have sort of adopted this philosophy that things happen for a reason, and they happen when they are suppose to happen… and not a second sooner. Some call it God’s plan. Some don’t. I call it life…. I don’t really give a shit what you call it, but do your best to accept it. When you find yourself in trying times, it’s important to remember that it is going to get better, and that eventually, if you were paying attention, you will have learned something about yourself, or someone, or the world, or monkeys, or whatever. You wouldn’t be who you are today if not for your past, so don’t regret a bit of it. Be patient with your life’s path and what you have to learn. Learning takes time. You can’t try to skip to the end where you have it all figured out without that long part in the middle where you are trying to figure it all out…. hence the patience thing. So embrace patience, and allow the world to work with you.

Exercise- How To Maybe Not Hate It So Much

Working out can be a daunting task. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning the mere idea of getting off the couch to make myself food seems like an insurmountable task; and that’s before I factor in my achy joints that think I’m 40 years older than I really am. I really can’t blame anyone who doesn’t exercise; sometimes it’s really no fun at all. But when you are reaching for a goal sometimes you have to do things you don’t necessary want to do. But how on earth do you get started?

The first step is to actually get started.

It probably won’t be fun… you’ll probably want to punch the instructor of whatever exercise DVD you choose to do (I’m talking to you Jillian Michaels); you’ll probably want to shorten your runs because “you’re just not feeling it today”; you’ll probably want to reward yourself with an extra day off to celebrate the fact that you worked out a few days in a row.

The next step is to not stop working out.

I’ve found that scheduling a day off (I do Sunday’s) is enough of a rest. The only other time I’ll skip a workout is if I’m sick or injured. Don’t let me steer you wrong, it’s not the end of the world to skip a workout providing you can get back in your routine. But if you are just starting out you might benefit from sucking it up and doing your workouts even when you don’t want to. I had to do this for a couple months. The result was that it became such a habit that I began to dread my workouts less and less… it’s just that thing I do in the mornings now… it’s second nature. Now I’m at a point where I have no clue how I ever didn’t work out. I wish this feeling upon everyone on the planet… because it’s awesome. I can’t lie and say I never skipped workouts, but I do it less and less now. In fact I haven’t skipped a work out for over a month now (an accomplishment I am overly proud of).

The art of fine-tuning your workout– listen to your body.

Anyone that tells you that you NEED to work out for hours upon hours a day and burn x amount of calories in order to be fit is, quite frankly, a ding-bat. Part of making a healthy life-style work for you is listening to your body and knowing your limits. If I spent 4 hours a day exercising I’d probably get in shape a lot faster, but I’d probably also be miserable and tired and my DVR would overfloweth with late night melodramas. On the other side of the coin, if someone loves spending time at the gym and working out 4 hours a day, as long as they are properly fueling those workouts there is nothing wrong with that either. You have to find out what works for you and your schedule.

With this idea also comes knowing when you NEED to rest. Are you about to puke? Maybe take a breather there, buddy. Just feeling lazy and want to stop so you can watch Letterman? Get your ass back on that weight bench and quite whining. It’s also important to know the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain. Soreness = good (as long as it’s not lasting FOREVER) pain = bad. It might take a while for you to figure out a routine and schedule that works for you and your body while still allowing for ample DVR time. But once you figure it out everything gets easier.

Push yourself daily

I’m the first to admit there are days where I pull back a little so that I don’t want to die, but can still say I did my workout. But the truth is that in order to improve, you have to push yourself. If you do the same run everyday at the same speed for the same amount of time, all you are going to do is become more efficient and doing that same run everyday at the same speed for the same amount of time. Try running faster. Try running up a hill. Try intervals (this is what I do.. it helps with the feeling that death is coming for me that I get when I run).

The same goes for lifting. Lifting the same amount of weight every workout will only do so much. But increase that weight every few workouts and your muscles will scream.. and screaming is good.. it’s means they are getting stronger.

And most of all…

Have fun! If you are doing something you hate… chances are you are less likely to do it. So find something you enjoy doing so that your workouts become less of a chore. But don’t limit yourself. I use to HATE running. But now… I only slightly dislike it… change can happen, my friends

Cut Yourself Some Slack

So it seems I took an accidental hiatus from blogging. It also seems that I took an accidental hiatus from watching what I eat. I did very little to limit the food going into my mouth over the holiday weekend; but these are the sort of things that happen when family comes to visit, the french bakery you walk into has fresh baguettes and macaroons and and the fish mongers at Pike Place are handing out samples of smoked salmon. I can say without  a doubt though, that everything I ate was delicious, and I had a blast.

With all that being said, deviations from my normal routine have a tendency to derail me for what is longer than necessary. I dwell on every pound I think I’ve gained (still avoiding my scale as much as possible so I’m not too sure of a number… nor do I care to know); I dread not getting to go to the farmer’s market and eating an organic corn-dog simply because there are organic corn-dogs (it was awesome btw); a small piece of me dies every time I see an add for the local cupcake bakery; I could go on, but I won’t.. because I’m making myself hungry. The point is, not caring about every morsel that goes in your mouth is fun and delicious, and going back to calorie counting can be kind of a downer after a week of dining out and Godiva truffles.

It’s times like this that I ask myself “why do you stop watching what you eat if going back to your routine is such a drag?” The short answer is “because I love cupcakes and refuse to live a life they are not a part of”. And the long answer is “because this is a life” (it’s get’s longer.. gimmie a sec). As much as the allure of my potentially smokin’ hot bod compels me to eat better and exercise, I also know my limits. In order for my new found lifestyle to continue long-term I have to find ways for it to work for me… and if I couldn’t sit down to tea and a scone with my sister-in-law because I was too worried about how many calories were in that scone… this lifestyle would not work for me.

The truth is… not eating like a saint constantly will likely slow down my fitness progress, but the rest of that truth is that as long as I don’t go on a food bender on a regular basis, and as long as I get back to my regular routine and put in the hard work, any damage I might have done will be reversed and I will still be moving toward my goal.

So the same goes for you. Taking the day, the week, or the month off from your normal habits will only ruin your progress if you let it. Just get back into your food and workout regimen… kick some ass… and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy body and healthy mind… cupcakes included!