Saturday, May 8, 2021

Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 2021

 It is that time of year. The second edition of the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. I entered this virtual race again because we got cool belt buckles last year. This year's version is 642 miles. It began on May 1. I have already completed 102 miles.

You can see my current location on the map just above Jackson. 102 miles is 16%.

I find that since the race started, my brain has been focused on doing miles. Not that there is any hurry. A very curious thing about my brain. It thinks it is in the race, therefore, I am compelled to do more miles than normal. 

Starting Monday was a 255-mile ultra-marathon. It took place between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona, on trails. For the first time ever, it was live-streamed by many volunteers on the course. I watched as much as I could. I happened to watch the winner finish in real-time, just over 72 hours. It was amazing to watch him run in to the finish, not at all looking like he just spent 3 days in the mountains doing 255 miles. The first female came in about 12 hours later. She did look like her feet hurt. I could feel her pain. However, all the finishers demonstrated an amazing thing about the human mind. The mind can somehow keep a body going and going and going. There was a live chat on Youtube. I could see that many people felt amazed as I did. Every time I logged in to watch, there were nearly 1,000 others watching. Many ultra-runners left the live stream on their computers all day while they "worked from home." And then, I went out to do my own miles. 

Speaking of the brain, I just finished another neuroscience book: "7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain" by Lisa Feldman-Barrett. Interestingly, this author thinks that the brain makes the mind, not that the mind uses the brain as a tool. Not a word about "consciousness," unless you count the word "mind" as consciousness. The implications are major if consciousness is a thing made by an organic process with no intentional guidance. 

I've read a number of neuroscience books. I can say that most of them do not propose that there is a consciousness, or soul, which is present at birth or that enters the body at some point. Experiments have not been able to detect consciousness. 

Neuroscience leaves us spiritualists hanging. There is no data, only individual reports. 7 1/2 Lessons also does not discuss the differing jobs of the left and right hemispheres. Perhaps in writing a logical book, the author did not give the right hemisphere a say; after all, the right hemisphere is non-verbal. If there is a higher consciousness, it would communicate quietly through the right hemisphere. The communication would be an intuitive thought received into the left hemisphere through the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres. 

René Descartes, a philosopher who died in 1650, knew as much about consciousness as we do. We still don't know what makes a human out of an animal. We prefer to see ourselves as special in the universe, more conscious than any other animal; but we could be wrong about our specialness.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Leading Causes of Death

 I came across an article from the New England Journal of Medicine showing the number of deaths due to various diseases. It shows COVID deaths in 2020. 

Take note: lots of people die from lifestyle than COVID. We the people have control over what we eat and exercise. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

On Love

 This morning, I was reading an essay by a philosopher, Bertrand Russell, in his book of essays "Why I am not a Christian." The particular essay is entitled The Good Life.  "Love is a word which covers a variety of feelings...Love is an emotion...on one side pure contemplation; on the other, pure benevolence." 

Suddenly it struck me, as my mind flashed on Jesus' saying "God is love."

God is an emotion. My mind expanded into the universe. 

Abraham always says, "There is great love here for you." Abraham is non-physical energy communicating through one woman. But Abraham is also teaching people about how to connect with higher consciousness. When Abraham says that there is great love for us in non-physical consciousness, what do I take that to mean? Abraham has helped me to deliberately and consciously choose how I want to feel at any given moment. Love is a feeling. God is love. There is great love here for me. Non-physical is here. I am a sentient being. What does love feel like? Love is a variety of feelings. Love is non-physical here in the material world too.

Love is a confusing word. Did my parents love me? Coming from a troubled home, I didn't have that experience. I don't have a husband or children, so I don't know what that type of love means. I love dogs.

In 12 Step groups, people often have difficulty with the idea of God. They really don't want anything to do with it, and this thinking is the biggest defeat of Alcoholics Anonymous. In step 3 we are to turn our will and our life over to the care of a power greater than ourselves. Elsewhere, the textbook of AA calls that power "God as we understood Him." Religion fouls people up because they are seeking a personality, an entity, or a voice to turn their will and their life over to. In my thinking this morning, I thought, "Holy shit! God is an emotion. In this word, there are big implications." We get out of obsessing for alcohol or drugs by getting out of ourselves, usually by a benevolent act, like helping another. 

Love is a word. God is love. Love is an emotion or a variety of feelings ranging from pure contemplation to pure benevolence. I am a sentient being. Sentient means I am aware of feelings. I can feel. Love is a feeling. My consciousness is mainly made of the translation of feelings. Thoughts come after feelings. That is, I feel and then I have a thought about how that feeling came to exist. Love is a feeling. God is love. Love exists as a feeling. Love is never a thing or an entity. God is never a thing or an entity. 

I can deliberately think and feel my way into love. Contemplate nature or help someone. Feel the feelings.

Geek out on this for crying out loud. It is amazing to have the door open to love and God and the greatness of everything.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Aslinger Endurance Run

What is this story about? Getting to the finish line is difficult, but if you do, it feels good.

If I tell people that I ran 50 miles last weekend, they say they are amazed, but actually, they have no idea what running 50 miles could be like. It is inconceivable. That I am able to do it is inconceivable to me. 

So, part of my brain thinks that 50 miles is easy and that part of my brain signs up for a race thinking it will be fun. Then, another part of my brain kicks in and says, "well the race is in so many weeks. We need to get on the training." And I do get on the training because I like running. And if I am lucky, I don't overdo the training and I don't hurt myself. Then, several days before the race, a sense of dread sets in. The logical part of my brain speaks up, "Why have I signed up for this race. It will hurt and I might not finish." And the logical part of my brain tries to come up with some really good reason for not going to the race. Or maybe no reason, just don't go. "You are 62 years old, what makes you think you can run 50 miles. Forget it. You could really hurt yourself and have to quit. Wouldn't it be nicer to stick around home and have a nice 10 mile run in the forest?" Since most races involve an effort of travel and picking hotels, food for the journey, planning nutrition for during the race, and preventive measures like taping, and shoe choice, just getting to the start line is a major undertaking. So many hurdles beyond the training.

Just that many hurdles came up with the Aslinger Endurance run which took place last weekend. Throw in there a mid-week COVID shot, and I had an excuse. I would tell myself, and everyone else, that I didn't go because of the COVID shot. There. Face saved. No need to stress myself out with a long drive and a run all night. Don't worry about how your feet will feel, just don't go. So, there. Many mental hurdles to overcome.

 Hard things involve doing what some part of the brain doesn't want to do. A step-by-step process got underway. I needed to go to the store to buy food for the journey. I needed to haul my little wagon out of the basement and pile the necessary stuff in it. I also lollygagged and took it easy, resting my legs. I wrote in my journal, asking myself: Why are you doing this? Why would you want to do this?" I remembered a race in 2019 where I did 50 miles and remembered how amazing I felt as I finished.

I also backstopped myself. I set off several foggers in the house so I knew I couldn't come back for at least a day. And off I went on my 5-hour drive.

I made it to the site.

I set up my personal aid station. The wagon is filled with extra clothes, drinks and snacks.

The course was a 1.15 mile loop. 50.6 miles was 44 laps. You get a belt buckle if you go 50 miles. About 80 people were entered into the race.

At the start of most races, they play the national anthem. The men take off their hats. People put their hands over their hearts. On this day, I put my hand over my heart. 2020's numerous disasters flashed momentarily through my head and I became a survivor. Tears welled up in my eyes. This 62-year-old lady is still kicking. I ran so many virtual races. Finally, I am at a race in person and plan to run 50 miles.

The race starts at 7 pm. Now, for a 24-hour race, the point is that you stay on course for 24 hours. But I already know that I can't force myself to stay on my feet that long. Part of this has to do with poor nutrition execution and a lack of crew and painful feet. I am bad at eating during running so I bonk around 34 miles. I look at those snacks I bought just for this race and don't want any of them. So, for a 24-hour race like this, I just plan on taking a long break in the middle of the night when I retreat to a hotel to eat and rest and make any necessary repairs (if I had a crew, they would solve my problems for me). Then I come back to the race and complete the miles needed for 50. I don't try to do as many miles as possible like the race would seem to demand because I already know the results of completely trashing my body. I don't prefer to need weeks or months to recover from one race. So I go to a limit of health and well-being. This attitude is somewhat anti-ethos for ultra-running, but hey, I'm 62 years old and still out there so let me manage my body as works for me.

This particular race was projected to have clear weather, though a bit chilly in the night. We start off at 7 pm. I begin with my easy pace of 5 miles per hour. I figure that I will run like that for about 14 miles, then add in walk breaks and quit sometime after mid-night with more than 20 miles. Then the next day there would be plenty of time to finish off the rest of the 50 miles before the race ended. My feet started to hurt sooner than I thought they should. I began to think that I had made a mistake with my shoes. I fought with the idea of canceling Saturday night's hotel reservation, finishing 26 miles on Friday night, collecting a medal for a marathon, and going home on Saturday morning. See? I'm trying to escape, to quit. But somehow, I never got the energy to pull out my phone and cancel Saturday's hotel. As 11:59 pm passed by, I realized that I was going to have to pay for the hotel anyway so I would for sure need to come back to the race on Saturday. Backstopped by a hotel reservation.

I left the race a little after midnight with 23 miles. That left 27 miles to finish on Saturday. No biggie. But not all was great with my body. The 23 miles had been more painful than I thought they should have been. In the night, I ran in two long sleeve shirts and a fleece, but I must have been more chilled than I realized. After I got into my hotel room, I ate and cleaned up. I decided to switch shoes for the next day. I planned to just go to the race and lazily walk around if I felt bad until at least check-in time for the next hotel (the next hotel was 90 minutes drive up the road. I knew I didn't want to drive all the way home after the race but just far enough to get near a city where the hotels were nicer). After I got in bed, I began shivering uncontrollably. My heart was racing like my metabolism was working hard on fixing my chemistry. What was happening? Well, nothing really. I drank more water. Read my book. Put in earplugs because the hotel was noisy even at 2 am. 

I got up at 7. I drank coffee. Ate a large peanut butter and butter sandwich. Packed up my stuff and went back to the race. The sun was out. I felt good. The shoes felt good. I set my Garmin for 3 minutes jog x 2 minutes walk. I really felt good. My feet weren't hurting at all. Even with a terrible night in the hotel, my body had healed itself. And so a very uneventful but glorious day unfolded. I actually was in a sort of zone. My feet never really hurt. I stayed enough ahead on nutrition that I didn't bonk. The miles passed easily. This is why I do these races, this zone feeling. Soon I was on the last lap. I rejoiced, "Hey, look, I did it. I met my goal!" All those tons of quitter thoughts had been refused. Here I was, finishing my race.

I packed up my stuff. I gave the race director a hug (my first mask-less hug in a year but who gives a shit about masks when they just ran 50 miles) and collected my belt buckle. The actual running time was 11 hours and 15 minutes (damn that's fast). Elapsed time was 21 hours. 

I look like a little kid. My dream came true. This little old lady is still out there. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Book Review -- "Beyond Order" by Jordan Peterson

 I am a Jordan Peterson fan. I often eat dinner and listen to his lectures. I read his first book, "12 Rules for Life" several years ago and was thoroughly engaged with it. Jordan Peterson claims to be a psychologist, but he is a very well educated man. Well educated in subjects beyond psychology, such as philosophy, religion, and even biology. He is a university professor and taught at Harvard for several years.

The book "Beyond Order," a kind of sequel to the first 12 Rules book, was written during a very difficult time in Jordan Peterson's life. His daughter and wife had some severe health problems over a span of a few years; then Peterson himself had to go through a very difficult detoxification from benzodiazepines, an anti-anxiety drug. I think this journey through a dark valley is reflected in Beyond Order. While the cover of Peterson's first 12 Rules book is white, Beyond Order has a black cover. The darkness shows up in the writing. Beyond Order is much more complicated to read than Peterson's first 12 Rules book, and projects a much darker, or deep, human ethos. Peterson's favorite word in Beyond Order seems to be malevolent. I think that I only understood portions of Beyond Order because I have listened to many of Peterson's podcasts.

It was at rule eleven and page 353 that I received a great message. Rule eleven is "Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant."

     After seemingly endless discussions of how the world and other people are malevolent: "The right attitude to the horror of existence--the alternative to resentment, deceit, and arrogance--is the assumption that there is enough of you, society, and the world to justify existence. That faith in yourself, your fellow man, and the structure of existence itself: the belief that there is enough of you to contend with existence and transform your life into the best it could be. Perhaps you could live in a manner whose nobility, grandeur, and intrinsic meaning would be of sufficient import that you could tolerate the negative elements of existence without becoming so bitter as to transform everything around you into something resembling hell.

    "Of course, we are oppressed by the fundamental uncertainty of Being. Of course, nature does us in, in unjust and painful ways. Of course, our societies tend toward tyranny, and our individual psyches toward evil. But that does not mean that we cannot be good, that our societies cannot be just, and that the natural world cannot array itself in our favor. What if we constrain our malevolence a bit more, serve and transform our institutions more responsibly, and be less resentful? God only knows what the ultimate limit to that might be. How much better could things become if we all avoided the temptation to actively or passively warp the structure of existence; if we replaced anger with the vicissitudes of Being with gratitude and truth? And if we all did that, with diligent and continual purpose, would we not have the best chance of keeping at bay those elements of self, state, and nature that manifest themselves so destructively and cruelly, and that motivate our turning against the world?"

It occurred to me that I don't see such great malevolence in the world as Peterson. I see greater well-being. Especially, I see Being as benign. Nature is not out to get me, and neither are most people. I can take Peterson's advice and live in such a way as to make the world a better place. I do not at all have the temptation to warp the structure of reality by doing evil. I have a conscious and continuous practice of gratitude. I have tools to deal with my resentment and anger. And, all I need to do is continue to live in the energy of well-being. Manifesting well-being is the purpose I carry out and my contribution to the world. These realizations about myself reflect many years of emotional work on myself, so it is awesome to feel as wonderful about myself as I do. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021



Credit for image:

   In the past few weeks, in daily encounters with people trying to make conversation, people have asked me in a casual way, like asking about the weather, “Did you get your COVID vaccine?” Actually, I am still waiting. I am far down the priority list. I’m Only 62. I’m not fat nor do I have any other chronic lifestyle disease. I don’t work in a special job. When I reply with, “I’m not eligible,” people often offer suggestions about how I could beat the system. Beating the system often involves lying or cheating in some way. I can’t do that. This brings me to the topic of ethos. My thesis: the methods by which people obtain a vaccine show their ethos. White privileged Americans are showing their ethos. The predominant ethos is deservability and unqualified right.

            What is ethos? Your ethos is your character. In a rhetorical argument, good character is important. You can believe and trust someone with good character. Ethos is how you show up in the world. What is your ethos?

            There are some basic privileges which the currently vaccinated have, although they may not recognize them. They are things like internet access, transportation, and time. These privileges do makeup one’s ethos, even if one doesn’t think about them. If one didn’t have these privileges, one wouldn’t yet have received a vaccine. Another way to get vaccine privilege is to work adjacent to a privileged category, like to have an accounting job in a hospital or the business end of a nursing home. This person is not exposed in their job, but the hospital will finagle an extra dose for these employees. Some people have bribed their way into the vaccine line. Money buys many privileges, vaccines are just one of them. Some people are just lucky. They were standing in the pharmacy at the end of the day and happened to snag an extra dose. Maybe in today’s moral environment, there is nothing immoral about any of this. But somehow, other than old people, I know many younger people who got a vaccine through some back door method like this.

            Another way to get a vaccine is to have a lifestyle disease like obesity or diabetes. Yes, I say it now. These people are at higher morbidity risk from COVID. But their problems are of their own making. Why should they get special privileges? From a public health point of view, yes, special categories of people should get vaccines as soon as possible. But it is a situation tinged with special privileges, maybe earned through years of physical neglect. Victimhood is another description of “specialness.”

            Where you live is a vaccine privilege. It is not just the country, but where in the country. Notice that in the US, within any state or county, vaccine privileges vary. I live in a Democratic city in a state with a Trumpist Republican governor. Despite the state being short of doses in general, the Republican governor sent more vaccines to the Republican countryside first. Presumably, that is where his voting base resides.

            If you don’t have vaccine privilege, what do you have? Vaccine poverty. Many people who were poor to begin with don’t have the rest of the means to obtain a vaccine. Many people don’t have specialness, or luck, or some other back door. So they are vaccine-poor.

            The liars are the ones that really bother me. I have been offered several methods for lying in order to get a vaccine. People I thought were pretty good people are telling me to lie to cut in line. I can’t do this. My ethos is not that. The other people who bother me are those who flaunt their vaccine cheating without at all realizing that they are flaunting an ethos of cheating.

            My ethos has something to do with personal integrity. Only a humble or sincerely honest ethos can defend against claiming unqualified rights and privileges. I am politely waiting in the vaccine line until it is my lawful turn.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Psychic Epidemics

 I am just sharing something I read and thought interesting. I have to question myself: what psychic epidemics am I participating in? How is my mind infected?

Carl Jung wrote of the dangers of what he called psychic epidemics, collective outbursts of mass psychosis that can take hold of entire societies and sweep them along to disaster. Having witnessed both World Wars, he warned that these were not unique events:  “the gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today,” he wrote, “are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events.  To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by psychic epidemics.” 

What should you do?

This is a good time to walk away from activities that bring you too close to the collective mind.

Second, put more time into your spiritual life. That’s a risky thing to suggest just now because certain modes of popular spirituality function very efficiently just now as conduits for the psychic epidemic building around us

Third, spend time outdoors in nature as often as possible.