Unplugging From A Sick Culture

The other night some of the guys in the gym invited me to hang out with them for a “bro night”.  Since we’re always lifting weights together, I think the world of those guys and was like, “Sure, I’ll tag along.”  It was good spending time with them, but I can’t help but share my thoughts on the night.

It all began with us meeting up at Applebees.  As we sat at our table, laughing and eating, I watched them order plate after plate of food, each with enormous portion sizes, all while they downed multiple giant glasses of soda and beer.  I on the other hand, ordered a small piece of grilled chicken on a small portion of brown rice and drank ice water.

As I looked around the restaurant, watching all these fat people waddling in, eating enormous portions of fried, greasy, salty food, and downing it all with sugary drinks, I thought to myself, “Yep, this is why obesity is so prevalent in our society.”  As of 2007, almost 75% of people in the United States were obese, a number which is growing everyday.  It’s not much better elsewhere around the world.

We have people working sedentary jobs, spending all day sitting in some desk, barely moving, and then they’re shoveling the worst possible foods into their mouths each night.

Some of you reading this may think I’m humble bragging or something.  I’m not.  To tell you guys the truth, I’m very anti-social and spend most everyday, in its entirety, alone to myself.  Since I’m largely disconnected from culture, and have basically zero peer pressure, I fell into routines that are natural to me.  For one, everything I eat is home cooked.  I never eat packaged, processed garbage.  I mostly eat lean protein, like boiled eggs, baked chicken, or baked fish.  Then for my carbs I tend to eat brown rice, or noodles.  And my portion sizes are small.  I oftentimes track my calories in an app as well called My Fitness Pal.  When I’m bulking and lifting heavy in the gym, working out for maybe two hours that day, my total calorie count for the day may be 2500 calories.  On days I can’t make it to the gym, I’ll only eat like 1800 calories.  I get 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for every pound I weigh, maybe (1/2) g of fat for every pound of my body weight (about 90 g per day), and for carbs I may get like 1 to 1.5 grams of carbs for every pound I weight.

But anyways, I state all of this to point out that I’m very aware of what I put into my body and how it responds to what I eat and drink.  For example, if I eat more than 2500 calories a day, even if I’m working out for hours each day in the gym, I’m still going to get fat.  I’ve had it happen to me on multiple occasions.  And on days when I don’t hit the gym (normally the weekends), I have to be even more careful about what I eat.  If I start getting above 1800 calories, I can literally watch the pounds start accumulating on my body.  My stomach starts pooching, then if I keep at it, fat starts appearing everywhere.  In the past I’ve allowed it when I’ve tried out “bulking”, but I’ve learned I’m better off not sloppily bulking at all.  Maybe it’s my age, but I have to eat clean, pretty much every meal.

Why do I say all of this?  I just want to offer some perspective.  Each big glass of soda I watched these guys down (and I’d say they drank 2-3 big glasses of soda, each), they were about 1.5-2 cans of Pepsi each, I’d say.  So each glass was probably anywhere from 225 to 300 calories, and drinking 3 glasses, we’ll just guestimate that to be maybe 800 calories.  ALONE.  Most of that is in pure sugar.  The amount of sugar in cola is insane; it’s best to just see it in a picture. And are you guys aware of what happens when you eat quick carbs, such as sugar?  First your blood sugar spikes through the roof and your body is like, whoa, we can’t have this!  So then it kicks into fat storage mode.  It takes all that extra sugar (now in the form of glucose) and converts it to fat and starts storing it, all over your body.  Wonderful, the exact opposite of what anyone would want.  Plus, this is super hard on your body.  This requires a huge spikes of insulin production.  You’re just begging for Type-2 diabetes.

But we’re not done with this.  Now let’s move onto what they ate.  They began by eating appetizers, which alone were more food than I would’ve ate for an entire meal.  They began with a platter of Won Ton Tacos.  So they ate another 600 calories just to warm up.  This was followed up with humongous Cowboy burgers which were 1200 calories, with 2200 mg of salt!  2200 mg of salt!  That’s the entire recommended daily intake of salt in one burger.  Gee, is it any wonder why people all have heart problems and high blood pressure?  But that’s just the burger.  We still have to deal with the enormous plate of greasy, salty, garlic fries which were 610 calories and another 840 mg of salt.

These guys had consumed well over 3000 calories in one setting, not to mention all the alcohol they were drinking.  That was taking it’s toll on their bodies as well.  I was awestruck.

Next we all rode together to the movie theater.  I was in the backseat and then heard the stereo turn on.  It was that booty in the club rap music stuff.  We all know about it.  That music that objectifies women, glories in their drug dealing, talks about their violent retaliation to other dealers and rappers, brags about their wealth and how everybody else is a nobody, etc.  Though a lot of the tunes and beats are catchy, the lyrics and mental messages are toxic and complete garbage.

So we make it to the movie theater.  I had to use the bathroom real quick (due to all the water I drank as I watched them eat and eat and eat).  I come out and I see them buying MORE soda, giant big gulps of soda, and big packs of candies.  All kinds of chocolates, and they’re each carrying a giant container of popcorn.  They then go to this station and dump loads of butter and salt on top and fill up their big gulps with Pepsi and Dr. Pepper.  I was thinking to myself, “Didn’t we just eat?”

I looked up how much soda was in the big gulps they bought.  You know those giant 2-liter soda bottles they sell at the store?  Those things are family sized and last a normal family, under normal consumption like a week?  I dunno, I don’t drink the stuff.  But these guys are about to down half a 2-Liter (0.9 L to be precise) at one go during the movie, an absolutely insane amount of soda to drink.  Also throughout the movie, I saw them eat all of the candies and most of the popcorn.  I can’t remember what candies they were eating.  It’s inconceivable to me to even eat an entire box of candies at one setting, much less several while downing a big gulp of soda and munching on popcorn (just after eating out at a restaurant!).

So finally the movie begins to play.  It was called Death Wish and starred Bruce Willis.  The basic plot is Bruce Willis plays this wealthy doctor and some guys come and rob their home.  Some things go wrong and Willis’ wife is killed and his daughter is critically injured.  Willis asks the police to take care of it but they’re inept and nothing is happening.  Willis gets mad and takes the law into his own hands.  He buys a gun, starts investigating on his own, and brutally hunts these guys down, one by one.

The movie is pure violence and gore.  I remember one scene where he tracks down this guy named Fish.  The guy is underneath a car, working in an automotive garbage.  Willis asks the guy, “Are you Fish?”  The guy’s like, “Yeah, what of it?”  Willis grabs a giant mechanic wrench, winds it up like a baseball bat and crushes the guys knees as he’s underneath the car.  The guy’s screaming, then Willis (being a doctor) takes out some syringe and drugs the guy. Fish passes out.  Upon waking up, Fish finds himself tied up, and the car he was working on is jacked up several feet over his head.  Willis then begins probing him, “Who else was with you!”  The guy won’t talk.  Willis then pulls out a scapel, cuts into the guy’s leg and tells him, “Do you know that such and such a nerve is located at this location in your leg, not to mention an important artery.  In medical school we learned that striking this nerve is the most painful experience one can inflict on a patient.”  A few grueling cuts later, Willis digs the scalpel into the guy’s leg, strikes that nerve, and cuts into the artery.  Blood gushes everywhere.  Fish starts panicking, tells Willis about some other goon that was with them, and then Willis ties a rope to the car jack.  As he walks away, he yanks on that rope, the jack gives way, and the car falls straight onto Fish’s head in a giant splat.  Blood flies everywhere, onto the walls, oozing down the floor, literally everywhere.  Willis then makes a little quip, and the entire movie theater starts laughing hysterically.

I feel like a killjoy, but was I the only one bothered by that extreme display of violence?  Do we really need all of that to tell a story?  At the very least, any sane person has to conclude that we’ve become desensitized to violence and other things that should otherwise bother us.

That’s when I realized, I’ve been disconnected from our culture for so long, living in my own world studying physics, reading, going to the gym, etc., that I’ve lost touch with what everyday people do with themselves.  My diet is nothing like most people’s.  I don’t watch the sort of television or movies that most people do.  I don’t do the sorts of activities most people do.  But what really concerns me is that I don’t think people realize the toxicity of the culture around them or how it’s affecting them.

It’s sort of like they’ve been living in the murky, disgusting waters for so long, they don’t remember life outside of it.  Or maybe they never have been outside of it.  I’m sure people will say, Jason, it’s just a movie, it’s not real!  But it is affecting you, in subtle ways over time.  I can’t even begin to guess in what ways, but I don’t believe any of it is good.  And just some other advice — stop eating fast food.  Stop eating at the restaurants.  Stop eating what most people eat, period.  Start buying good quality ingredients at the grocery store and cooking healthy meals for yourself.  A few years from now, when you’re slim and trim, feeling good, and full of energy, you’ll thank me.  Everyone around you may be obese and have health problems, but you don’t have to.  Take care of yourself.

I have a few more things to say.  These guys were planning to do more bro-nights and invited me to come.  They want to hang out and play video games.  And what video games are they playing?  Violent shooters, where you’re all thrown into a some small environment, killing each other, over and over, in bloody, violent competition.

Do you guys see the pattern yet?  Destroy your bodies.  Destroy nature.  Destroy the bad guys.  Consume your mind with death and destruction.  Death, death, and more death.  And then listen to violent, degrading music.  Flip on the radio and listen to this!  (This played in our car ride)

Consume, consume, consume!  Eat, eat, and eat!  Bigger, better, more shiny!  Compete, we gotta win! Turn on the news, and fear, fear, fear!  More death, more death, more death!  Rape, violence, murder!  Fear, fear, fear!

The song says “Something’s got to give”.  Yeah, you have to unplug.

The South Korean Education System Is A Nightmare

Can you imagine going to school for eight hours a day, finally getting out at 4 pm, only to head to a cram school where you continue studying until 11 pm that night?  Then you go straight home, go to bed, and do the same thing the next day?   That’s becoming the norm in South Korea.

What a miserable existence.  No going out on dates, no school dances, no reading books, no video games, no movies, just school lectures, lots and lots of working practice exercises, drilling, drilling, and more drilling, practice exams, mock exams, and more exams, all day long, all day, everyday.  And there’s no room for mistakes!  All of the students are pitted against each other to get good grades, and those who fail to live up to these insane standards (basically study all day and have no life), they end up with very little opportunity in their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be admired about working hard and studying hard.  In the modern world, to some extent that’s required.  We all have to work hard so that we can do the complicated things we all need to be doing in the modern world.  For example, the human body is a complex thing, and doctors have to spend a lot of time learning all about it.  The same applies to scientists, engineers, lawyers, and many other professions.  But there has to be a balance.  In South Korea, and I would argue in many aspects of our own education system, we take things too far and demand too much of young students.

South Koreans are now suffering from a massive suicide rate.  Many of us look on our childhood as some of the best moments of our lives, back to a time where life was more carefree and innocent.  Not them.  They study/work 18 hours a day, starting as early as ten year old kids, basically every waking moment; eat, sleep, study, and work.  That’s all there is to their lives.

I think Gabor Mate really nails these sorts of issues in this next video.

Why do systems like this make people miserable?  It’s because we human beings are wired for contact, for interaction, for love, for generosity, for connection with the larger whole, for universality, and many other things.

Do school systems inculcate these human attributes?  Is there real love when missing a single test question means losing your spot in a good university, and basically being relegated to the a life without opportunity?  Does that sound very generous?  Actually, you know what, let’s just stop for a moment and remind ourselves what the word generous means.  Look in the dictionary.  You’ll find three definitions:  1) that you’re “more than adequate” as you are, right here, right now, 2) that those around you are “willing to give and share unstintingly”, and 3) it means that those around you are “not petty in character and mind.”  Is that the sort of world these systems are creating?  It’s the complete opposite.

Or let’s go back to love.  Love’s a complicated word to define, but if we look it up we find all kinds of good attempts.  Using the dictionary we find things like, hmm, a loving environment would 1) treat people with a “strong positive emotion of regard and affection”, 2) treat the student with “a warm affection or devotion”, and 3) the people around them would “get pleasure” from them being there.  From my experience teaching, there is some love in places of learning, but there’s not enough.

Do you think there’s going to be real connection to those around you when you’re pitted against every other student for grades, trying to beat them out for the opportunities that do exist?  As Gabor Mate mentions, we’re tribal beings.  We want to be around people who are loyal and look after us.  Did any of you guys see the new trailer for the Mr. Rogers movie that’s coming out?  He always stressed this concept of building a “neighborhood”.  He’d say, “Won’t you be my neighbor”.  I love that saying, but what did that mean?  A neighborhood is a place where where you feel worried, scared, unsafe, or alone, the people there will take care of you.  It’s the opposite of isolation and selfishness.  It’s about being good to one another and looking out for each other.

Where’s the neighborhood?  The second these students screw up on an exam, they’re booted to the curb.  The system breeds worry and fear, and isolates them in that desk; it even steals the time they have to connect with others.  How are you supposed to have contact and build real connection when the only chance you get to interact with others is when you’re eating lunch in a big noisy cafeteria?   And connection to the larger whole?  What time is there to think about God, the nature of the universe, or your place in this cosmos?  Those who do try to have any sort of happy, meaningful life are punished.  They score lower on standardized exams than other hungrier students, and get left out of society.

So I guess the assumption is that life will happen later, after they finish their schooling and get into the workforce.  But will it?  Well, not really; the same sort of environment awaits them in corporate world.  It’s sad watching this next video.  A woman talks about loving her husband, and how their relationship was great in the past, but now the bank where he works demands he work more and more hours, and they never see each other.

This all reminds me of one of my favorite videos featuring Alan Watts.  He points out that our society lures us on, “Here kitty kitty”, holding out some promise, “this great thing is coming, it’s coming”, always in the future, “it’s coming”, so keep working hard.  Work hard in school, study hard, memorize it all, even if you don’t care about any of it, regurgitate, regurgitate, so that you can move onto graduate school, do the same thing some more, then get out into the work force, work 12 hour days, and work work work, hoping to move up the corporate ladder, and then by jove, when you’re 40 or 50 years old you realize, “I’ve made it”, and you don’t feel any different than you did way back when and it finally dawns on you, “My gosh, it’s all a big hoax.”

No wonder so many students are miserable.  Our lives should not be measured in terms of what we produce, and especially not how well we regurgitate information onto an exam page.  Exams are not an evaluation of worth, they are a tool for the student’s personal benefit, to help them notice what they need to work on, or may not understand fully.  And as to the things the student needs help on, that’s what the neighborhood is all about — people should be there to help inspire, guide, and educate those who are lost, lonely, or just need guidance.

These sorts of institutions may produce a lot of economic output, but they are unnatural to anything that produces human happiness, and isn’t that what we’re wanting?  This is all warped.  It tramples on what it means to be a human being.

Do Our Opinions Matter?

Princeton recently did a research study, looking at public support for a particular government policy and whether or not it becomes a law.

What did they find?  Pretty much what you’d expect.  There is absolutely no correlation between what we Americans want, and what the U.S. government actually does.  They don’t care what we want, at all.  But if you look at elite business interests, they get exactly what they want.  You can read it here.

Why is this?  The richest corporations and billionaires give politicians campaign contributions and job offers when their terms of public “service” are over, and that’s enough to get whatever legislation they want.

Why is healthcare so expensive?  Why are college tuition costs insane?  Why are we in constant wars that never end?  Why does Wall Street get away with bailout after bailout? Why are all our good factory jobs sent off to become sweatshops around the world?  The list goes on.

The answer is simple; follow the money.  We the people don’t benefit from any of this, but the elite do.

Stephen Hawking Dies

I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but Stephen Hawking died just a few days ago.

In a recent post I mentioned that I’m not good with dealing with change.  I hate watching everyone get old and die.  I really looked up to Stephen Hawking.  He did the very type of physics research that I’m most interested in.

I’m middle aged now, but I feel like I’ve only just started life.  A lot of that time has been spent just struggling, trying to get traction, and working to get involved in some projects that’re meaningful to me.  Then I see Hawking die and it’s like, huh, how much longer do I have?  Maybe 40 years?  Then I think how quickly time goes by these days and it just hits me hard.  It’s like, what am I doing?

Death isn’t even a distant thing for me.  I have an old photograph of my family from about ten years ago during a Christmas get together.  Half of them are dead now.  My grandparents are gone.  A bunch of my uncles are now gone.  Other family friends are gone.  It’s really hard to process.

It’d be one thing if I lived hundreds of thousands of years, or millions of years, and I saw all this happen over eons of time.  But no, it’s not like that at all.  It’s like, ok, one day I’m a kid and my only thoughts are on video games and sports, then I’m out of school and spend some years trying to build a business and make some money, then bam, before I feel like I’ve even got things moving or anywhere near where I’d like them, my family members start dying left and right, my parents are getting grey hair and are retiring, people I look up to are dying, role models are dying, the entire culture starts shifting and changing, and it’s just too much.

I’ve been watching faculty in my department retire, and even some of them having strokes and dying.  Others are having health complications and are on the verge of retirement (some may be forced to retire).  If younger guys like me don’t come along, work hard, and get ready to carry the torch when the time comes, who’s going to do it?  Who’s going to carry this knowledge and expertise?  I can’t just expect that these brilliant people are going to be around forever.  They won’t be.  They’re here today, gone tomorrow, just like anything else.

Every time I see someone like Hawking die, it’s this stark reminder that I have no time to waste.  If you have something meaningful that you’ve always wanted to do, get out there and do it.  Right now.  Not tomorrow, not even later today, right now.  That’s really what his life was like.  He was given a death sentence, confined to a wheelchair, could literally only move some tiny portion of his upper lip (I think it was), and he does way more than me.  Types out best-selling books, one character at a time, probably (at most) a few words a minute, teaching the world about the universe.

I have so much more to learn about cosmology, quantum field theory, string theory, the workings of our brain, and all of that.  My dream for a long time has been to become an expert on the nature of the universe and our mind.  I’m working hard at it, but there’s so much more I could be doing.  I waste way too much time.  I also haven’t been prioritizing my time to the things that really matter to me.

The years just tick by, tick tock, tick tock.  Then I wonder, did I make time for those things that are meaningful to me?  Did I work to make those things a reality?  Or did I just coast, or goof around, wasting time?

What am I doing sitting around reading about Stormy Daniels’ affair with President Trump, wasting my life watching dumb Youtube videos?

Mind At Large

In a recent post I shared Aldous Huxley’s viewpoint that the brain does not produce consciousness but it instead acts as a filter.  He believed that our minds are actually aware of far more that’s going on in the universe than we believe, but our brains are locking us into a particular point in space and time and filtering out all our other awareness.  This same view was also shared by the famous psychologist William James.

What I wanted to share today is a website I found called Psychonauts Wiki.  It’s basically the wikipedia of mind-altering drugs, and it’s a comprehensive encyclopedia of how all these different substances alter consciousness, all of the known neuroscience (such as what sites particular drugs bind to, etc), as well as first hand accounts of what people have experienced.  There’s some really fascinating stuff on there.

Take their entry on DMT for instance.  I mentioned before that it’s the most powerful mind-altering substance there is.  It’s basically a naturally occurring neural transmitter that’s already present in our bodies, but when you flood the brain with it, people have what many believe to be ‘spiritual’ experiences.  These experiences are short-lived because the brain already knows what DMT is and how to deal with it.  It only takes the brain a few minutes to pump the excess neural transmitter away and restore balance, but during those few minutes people are shot into what they perceive to be another conscious dimension.

There does seem to be strong evidence that drugs like DMT are basically screwing with the operation of the brain’s normal filter operations, temporarily opening your consciousness up to domains you don’t normally experience.  I’m going to list out, in bold-face, some of the most bizarre and profound things people experience on extremely high doses of DMT; it’s almost as if the brain’s filter is dismantled and you see beyond life’s curtain.

Perception of Eternalism

People report exiting time as we experience it and can see their entire lives laid out before them, from beginning to end, as if it all has already been written in advance.  They see it all the same way one would see all the different blades of grass spread out in an open field, perceiving it all at once.  They still perceive causality and being connected to the present, it’s just they can see the end from the beginning.

Perception of Self-Design

Though we feel like this life mostly “happens” to us, when the brain’s filter is pulled up, you see that you, yes YOU, wrote the entire script of your life before this thing even began.  This includes creating your loved ones, the entire universe, and even the physical laws it all abides of.

Exposure To The Inner Mechanics of Consciousness

You directly perceive the “programming” which directs and controls your thought streams, why you like things and dislike other things.  Your preferences.  Your desires.  This goes for anything one consciously or even subconsciously perceives.  You sort of “stand above” the filtered mind you’ve been living in and can see it all in action, beholding the cage you put yourself in.

Existential Self-Realization

You become aware of some sort of “deeper” you beyond the filter, and just experiencing this is enough to flood people with an intense motivation for life and an ability to enjoy it.

Spiritual Enhancements

After perceiving all of this, people find a new sense of purpose, they form complex spiritual and religious beliefs about their true nature and that of the universe, there is an increase in compassion and love toward nature and other people, an increased sense of unity toward others, nature, God, and the universe as a whole, they lose interest in material things and even money, and they lose their fear of death.

Unity And Interconnectedness

A much wider array of concepts is integrated into their idea of “self”.  A person who used to be stuck in their “ego” and physical body now comes to feel they are the universe and everything they experience.  “Internal” and “External” are brought together into just “self”.  They are the people they’re talking to.  They are the plants.  They become everything, and the same love they had for themselves is expanded to everything.

Wild, huh?  And naturally if you come to this realization, it’s almost as if you’ve designed this fictional world to send people to come after you and tell you you’re crazy, all to keep the illusion up a little longer.  Apparently that’s the game — to trick yourself into believing that you are something that you’re not.

For a long time I’ve felt this world is an illusion of some kind.  Of course western psychology calls this ‘dissociation’, claiming that you’re just trying to detach your emotions from this world because it’s too painful to acknowledge the truth of your existence.  I don’t think that’s my case however.  I’ve thought long and hard about it all, and when I look at quantum mechanics, when I study relativity theory, when I study the brain and consciousness, when I look at evidence these pschedelic “psychonauts” give me, just when I think of the mind, space, and time, I find myself standing back thinking that something is up.

There’s some sort of bigger picture and I get small glimpses of it, and while all the pieces don’t perfectly fit into a whole, when I lay them all out on the table I start to see something.  I come to a conclusion similar to Alan Watts, that this is some sort of dream I’ve concocted for myself to play in, and that the nature of this game is convince myself that I’m something that I’m not.

It’s sort of like I created this illusory “self” consciousness, and its entire goal is to convince me that I’m my brain and some sort of petty consciousness my brain creates.  When I started this dream I made sure to filter out the “higher” me so that I wouldn’t be aware of what’s actually going on, and the whole nature of the illusion is to convince me that I’m my brain and my body, and to greatly fear death.  The reality is that once I die, my consciousness will expand, I’ll realize that I am in some way united with all matter and everything that ever has been or ever will be, that I am the Earth, I am the trees, and I am all of you.  I’m not only the stuff of this world, but also the stage on which it all exists.  Not “Jason”, but the real me.  In the meantime, the dream is trying to convince me that it’s oh so important to maintain this blob of flesh and blood in a particular form, and that it’s going to be oh so scary when it finally rots back into dirt.  It’s determined to keep me from returning to the Mind At Large.

Lately when things I experience are frustrating me, I start chanting this silently in my mind, “Om So Hum”.  It means “I am that”.  It’s a Yogic mantra I learned from, I think, Sadhguru.  Probably will sound corny to many, but try it and take it seriously.  A great love from within seems to permeate your mind, it brings you peace, and somehow that peace starts fixing situations around you.  It’s to remind you that what you’re experiencing is actually yourself (the real “deeper” you), even if what’s in front of you is crazy and something you want to get away from.  Don’t reject it, bring it back into the fold with open arms.  It’s about bringing unconditional, universal love toward everything and everyone.