You Can Quote Me On This

I’ve written a lot of little thoughts down lately, as opposed to full-length posts. But that’s no reason to keep them to myself. Here’s a list of them, and I hope you can get something out of my experiences. Enjoy.

If you find yourself surrounded with people who bring out the best in you, hold on tight; you’re moving in the right direction.

Listen and you will learn about the world. Create and you will learn about yourself. Practice both equally and often.

Whenever I look around a room of strangers, it always appears that everyone is confident in who they are and have it together. But it only takes a few minutes of actually talking to them before you realize no one does. Life is easy for no one, and the worst thing you can do is feel intimidated by illusions. You’re better than you think.

If you’re not completely happy with something in your life, and you’re not making changes, you’re wasting your damned time.

Stop expecting and just roll with it. The best things in life are usually unplanned.

Snapping out of denial is like waking up from a dream. Whether it was a good dream or a nightmare, nobody likes to get out of bed.

Every once in a while you need to stop. Reflect. See where you are. Decide where you want to go next. Cut off any dead weight holding you back. And latch onto the things around you that will take you where you want to be like rockets.

You’re never going to find a person who doesn’t have some irrational moments here and there. You just need to find one that can laugh at their self afterwards.

Never let your past define you. Take each day to evaluate your life and live how you want to live from now on, and not just how you’ve been living so far.

The world isn’t black and white. But it also isn’t gray. It’s full of color.

It seems like every time one person disappoints me, five people step it up and impress me. And here’s the key to enjoying life: focusing on those five people instead of the one.

Measure success by how many people are there for you when things get tough.

Just keep pushing the limits of patience, understanding, open-mindednes, and responsibility until one day you find you’ve matured into a respectable adult, and not just some kid who got a little bit older. Then push a little more.

Just spent some time in my dark empty house. Went into the attic and found a box of old cute love letters filled with ink from a time where not being together seemed impossible. Found a box of old video games from a time where 3D graphics seemed unimaginable. Found an old guitar from a time where learning to play it seemed terrifying. And it all reminded me that the future is going to surprise us no matter what, and we’re so much more than the confines of our limited imaginations. That’s exactly what I needed to remember tonight. To not forget.

We need to continue to be there for each other and reach out any chance we can because the best way to not feel alone is to be constantly reminded that you aren’t and never will be.

You never know where you’ll be in a year. Or six months. Or a week. Not even tomorrow. But just as things can take a turn or the worse in one day, so can they take a turn for the better the next. Keep moving, you never know what the tide is going to bring in tomorrow.

Homophobia & The Illusion of Choice

When you listen to homophobic people explain their point of view, you will often hear some very peculiar things. Now, when I say homophobic, I include anyone who is against gay marriage, gays in the military, and any other discriminatory points of view you can think of. Their reasons usually include a word that in no way belongs in the conversation. That word is “choice”.

I always hear things like “it’s a lifestyle choice” and “if they choose to do that, it’s not my problem.” Recently, Carl Paladino (who recently ran for Governor of NY State) even said that it’s wrong for children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option.” But, where is this word ‘option’ coming from?

As a heterosexual, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to be attracted to women. After puberty I didn’t take a look at some men and some women and think “hmm.. I know most people want to sleep with women, but those men are preeeetty tempting!” For that matter, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to like ice cream or chose to dislike the smell of horses either. That’s because nobody chooses what they prefer, they just enjoy the things they like, and avoid the things they don’t.

So why is it that homophobic people just don’t seem to get this? Well here’s one possible solution that helps put my mind to rest:

Let’s say you were a homosexual man (and if you really are a homosexual man you can still play along). You come to a point in your life where you know very well that most men are attracted to women, but you find yourself mysteriously drawn to men. Your church tells you that homosexuality is a sin, and you know your family would frown upon it if you were gay. So what you do, even though it’s less pleasurable, is go for the women. You get married, have a family, and you’re very proud of yourself because this was quite an accomplishment. You think that this is how most men must feel, and that’s why the bible was making such a big deal out of it. Life is a struggle!

Now you see some openly gay people and you think to yourself “that’s not fair! They took the easy way out!” To you, resisting this temptation was one of your major accomplishments in life; a sacrifice that you had to make. Why should these people who chose the easy route be entitled to the same privileges as you?

And there it is: the choice. This was not a choice to be gay, but only a choice to be honest with oneself.  You often hear about people who are openly against homosexuality getting caught having a gay affair (Ted Haggard comes to mind), and then their defense is that they were “tempted by the devil and gave in to that temptation.” Well I have some news for these people: There is no such thing as a temptation to have a gay affair when you’re straight, you’re just gay! (or at LEAST bisexual!) As a heterosexual, I never look at a man and think “I know he looks yummy, but I must resist” because I am actually a straight man, and not just playing the role of one to avoid judgment. I don’t ‘resist’ men for the same exact reason I don’t look at a horse and fight my temptation to sniff it’s… well you get the picture. There’s nothing to resist!

Nobody ever chose to be gay or straight, but any attack on openly gay people is an attack on honesty. If you aren’t ashamed of your society for preventing gay people from marrying and openly serving in the military, you’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

Update: This video goes perfectly with this post. Special thanks to Alec N. for contributing.

Why We Don’t Mind The Smell of Our Own Gas

It’s no secret that one fart can clear a room of people in seconds. But have you ever noticed that when you’re the one who “dealt it”, it’s really not so bad? In fact, we actually kind of enjoy it. We don’t seem to mind the smells of our own bodily functions, but we can’t stand it if it comes from anybody else in the world.

So why is this?

Well, it’s also no secret that the sense of smell is the sense which is most related to our memory. The reason for this is the primary olfactory cortex is connected (I’ll spare you some details here) to the limbic system which is responsible for both memory and emotions. This is why when you smell a a fragrance that your ex used to wear, it not only brings back memories of that person, but resurrects some old feelings as well.

Now, back to farts. When you pass some gas, or even have a bowel movement, the emotion that is usually most prominent is relief. You felt uncomfortable, you released something out of your body, and now you feel better. Over the course of your life, your brain has now associated these smells with feelings of relief. The reasonable part of your brain understands that this is a bad smell, objectively. But the emotional part of your brain subjectively enjoys the smell because every time you’ve experienced it, you’ve felt pretty damned good.

So don’t feel crazy the next time this apparent phenomenon happens to you. Enjoy your own odors. Just don’t expect the rest of the room to share in your enjoyment.

There’s No Such Thing As Sex Addiction

I remember a time when you would hear the name Tiger Woods and think about golf. Well those days are over because every time he’s in the headlines now, it’s because he’s apologizing for his several affairs. As of right now, the latest news is that Tiger Woods is a sex addict and is going to sex therapy.

Moving further into the past, there was a time when what we currently refer to as “sex addiction” was better known as “survival of the fittest.” Remember that? As far as evolution is concerned, Tiger Woods is a role model. The idea being that the more women a man has sex with, the greater the probability that his genes will be passed on and therefore survive at least one more generation (evolution sounds so sexist, right?).

Evolution aside, I personally don’t think adultery is respectable, but adultery is really Tiger’s only actual problem. If he wanted to live the life of a bachelor and sleep with several women, he shouldn’t have gotten married, or at least not have remained married. But that’s enough talk about Tiger’s domestic issues.

What it comes down to is simple:

There is no such thing as sex addiction.

Even though the DSM-IV (the most recent medical diagnostic manual) does not acknowledge it’s existence as a real disorder, no one even seems to question it. That doesn’t mean I believe the DSM is a gospel, it just happens to agree with me on this issue. What happens every time someone is involved in a sex scandal is they eventually come to the media and admit (if you even want to use that word) to the world that they have a problem. They, unlike every other man in the world, like sex too much. They have this terrible stuff in them called testosterone and this dreadful ability to attract women and they need help. Now, the world stops looking at them as a bad person, and begins to pity them, as they now have a problem which they can’t control; they are now the victim.

The whole thing is so obvious, but the majority of people fall right into the pity trap every time. I would love to see Tiger Woods get on a podium and say “I’m sorry I cheated on my wife, but when she now leaves me, I will continue to get laid on a regular basis by women who you can only dream about. Because I am a superstar athlete… and you are not. Thank you.”

Also, an addiction isn’t a disorder unless it prevents you from living a functional life. Have you ever seen Tiger Woods play golf? I think he’s functioning just fine.

There’s No Such Thing as a Peaceful Alarm Clock

Hearing a beep or buzz as the first thing to bring you out of your sleep is the most unpleasant sound to start your day with. So in an effort to start my day off a bit more peacefully, I invested in an alarm with a CD player built in. I then proceeded to stick one of my favorite albums in there, and went to sleep knowing I would be waking up to one of my favorite songs.

This was pretty nice the first day, and even the second day. By the end of the month, I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day and I grew to hate the song. Since I didn’t want to end up hating any of my favorite songs just for the cheap payoff of waking up slightly better, I rethought my plan.

Next, I invested in an alarm clock that had nature sounds built in. What could be more relaxing than waking up to the sounds of waves, or a lake, or even birds chirping?

For the first few months of this new system, I was thrilled with it. I woke up every day with a smile on my face and felt great about my new technique. Then, suddenly, the whole plan backfired. I began to hate the sounds of the ocean, and a long list of other sounds that most people would find soothing.

I had completely conditioned myself to associate these sounds with the unpleasant feeling of being disturbed while trying to sleep. This association was drilled so deeply into my subconscious that I now cringe and feel anxious when I hear these sounds in real life.

It’s a bizarre feeling, but it has led me to a final conclusion:

There’s no such thing as a peaceful alarm clock.

Whatever sound is waking you up will slowly, subconsciously associate itself with feelings of anxiety and turn the sound from calming to clamoring. I hate a bunch of songs now, and I cringe at the sound of waves, but I definitely learned my lesson.

“Good” and “Bad” People Don’t Exist

It’s very easy to label people as “bad” people. Most would consider anyone who commits a crime a bad person, but what is it really to be “bad”?

The way I see it is that everyone has certain things that make them happy, and we tend to do things to fulfill that happiness. For one person, that thing might be playing baseball, but for someone else that thing might be stealing. If the person who enjoys baseball plays baseball, they end up being happy and there’s no problems. If the person who enjoys stealing robs a bank, they might be happy, but will also have to deal with the consequences.

The question is this: If both people are doing what makes them happy, can you label one of them a “bad” person?

Although the kleptomaniac is breaking the law, they are only satisfying a need of their’s. That means this person has two options:

1. Never steal, and never feel the satisfaction of their need.

or

2. Steal, and deal with the consequences that will follow.

The person who enjoys baseball will have these options:

1. Never play baseball, and never feel the satisfaction of their need.

or

2. Play baseball and feel satisfied.

Since neither person can control their own desires, is it really fair to label people “good” or “bad”? If anything, the kleptomaniac should receive pity, because they weren’t fortunate enough to have a legal desire. The baseball player actually has it easy. This person is not fighting any urge not to steal, they simply don’t feel the need to. That does not make this a better person, it makes this person the luckier of the two.

Another example is a sexual one:

All people have certain things you would call “turn-ons” which satisfy them sexually. Some people have odd “turn-ons” which we call fetishes. Some fetishes are very innocent, such as a foot fetish. This person is sexually aroused by feet. There’s no problem here besides the oddness of it.

For some people, their fetishes are harmful to others, such as rape or pedophilia. These people, for whatever reason, are only turned on by these illegal, morally wrong practices. These people have the same options as listed in the last example. In order to fit into society as a “good” person, they cannot fulfill their sexual desires. This is beneficial to society as a whole, but not to the individual.

Personally, I don’t fall into these categories, so I consider myself lucky. I think about things that make me happy, and am thankful that those things don’t happen to be harmful to others or illegal in some way. I couldn’t imagine having to live my life fighting such desires. So instead of labeling people as “good” or “bad”, I see the world as gray. I just feel sorry for those who must live their lives with, what I would consider, a warped set of needs.

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Our Faces Are Accidents

People are very funny about what they value about themselves. You can see this through which compliments tend to get the best reactions. For most people, a compliment on looks is one of the highest compliments you can give. But isn’t that strange? Looks are the one thing we can’t take credit for, we’re just born that way. Yet, if someone tells you you’re beautiful or handsome, you light up.

What’s funnier about this is the one thing on our faces we can control (without surgery) is make-up. So if a man tells a woman she’s beautiful while she spent a lot of time making herself up, it actually does make sense that she should feel complimented for her accomplishment. However, if a man says “you look so beautiful without make-up, you don’t even need it”, it’s a bigger compliment. How silly!

Another little example is our names. If you introduce yourself to someone and they said “oh, that’s a nice name!”, you feel complimented. Guess what, though, you didn’t name yourself.

So why is it that we need to hear that we’re good looking? Why does that compliment make us feel good? To some people, it means more to look good than to be good, even though being good requires a lot of effort and looking good is primarily left up to nature.

This is why it bothers me when people have low self-esteem based on their looks alone. Self-esteem should be based on things you have control over. If you tend to ruin things in your life by neglect and lack of effort, it makes sense that you could feel bad about yourself. But feeling bad about yourself based on the way you were born doesn’t make any sense at all.

Now I know that it’s not as simple as just saying this so logically, because society is set up to hold value to looks. Even the way we evolve is based on how we look since we need to find mates in order to reproduce. I’m just pointing out a silly thing we humans do to ourselves. It really doesn’t matter how you look, because everyone has different taste.

Never try to fit a mold, create your own and learn to accept yourself for who you are. If you want to improve your personality, by all means go right ahead. If you want to get in better shape for the sake of being healthy, good for you. Just don’t get hung up on your natural, physical features that you may consider “flaws” based on how other people look. If your nose is bigger or bumpier than most people, accept it, because that’s who you are. Being angry that you got “stuck” with an “ugly” nose will get you nowhere. If you can’t see past these things on yourself, you’ll have an awfully hard time seeing past similar things on other people.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

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Take Some Time Apart

When in a relationship, make sure you give yourself a bit of space and breathing room. Spending too much time with any one person or group is not only unhealthy, but dangerous.

I’m sure this is going to sound like quite a dramatic stretch, but to understand this, it’s important to understand how a cult works. Yes, a cult. I’m not trying to propose that being in a relationship is like being in a cult, but there are lessons that can be learned from one mistake and used to prevent another.

A major condition for a cult to work is isolation. If the members of a cult start spending time with other people, they will begin to compare their cult’s ideology with the thoughts of “outsiders.” This is very healthy for the individual, but detrimental for the cult. While it’s important to socialize and share thoughts with others, it’s more important to do this with all different groups of people. Otherwise, ideas just become justified by the same, like-minded people without an outside opinion.

Couples who spend every day together, and bring each other along for every activity they do, are in a very similar situation as these people who are accidentally sucked into a cult. It’s important to keep a healthy level of independence, and spend an equal amount of time apart as together. This doesn’t mean you love each other any less, but you’ll actually end up getting a chance to miss each other (which makes seeing each other mean a lot more).

As far as married couples go, this tends to happen more naturally. Mainly because at least one person spends half the day at work, and the other half at home. This is clearly a fool-proof system since the divorce-rates are so low right now, right? No? Maybe there’s no rhyme or reason to marriage. Maybe people didn’t evolve to spend 50 years together. Maybe people are only meant to spend a few years together and then move on.

In the mean time, while we try to figure that out, try to keep your independence while in a relationship. You owe it to yourself and each other. Or don’t, what do I know?

You Want What You Can Lose

I’m a strong believer in the fact that people want most what they cannot have. I would be surprised to find anyone who would disagree with that or who hasn’t heard or thought about it before, so for that reason I’m going to skip the explanation of this concept.

There’s a side of this that I think gets overlooked though:

People also want what they can possibly lose. The higher the chance of losing something, the more we want to keep it.

Am I being too abstract? Let me give some examples that most of us can relate to.

When in a relationship, the degree in which one person wants the other tends to fluctuate. Sometimes you really want your spouse and other times not as strongly. This doesn’t mean you love them any less, it’s just a natural variance.

You’ll notice that the times you really want each other, though, is when there’s any sort of threat that can take them away. The prime example here is jealousy.

Ah, jealousy, the unique emotion that can tear people apart who love each other, or keep bad couples together for the wrong reasons.

Most people have caught on to this function of jealousy, and some even use it to their advantage. If a person feels their spouse isn’t paying enough attention to them, they might purposely flirt with someone else in front of them to make them jealous. Why start trouble? Because they’re creating a threat and the idea of them being snatched away by someone else makes their spouse want them more.

Sometimes people feel too comfortable in a relationship and see no chance of it ending because things are perfectly fine. This causes them to lose interest though because something that secure has very little chance of being taken away. What do they do to fix this problem? Without even realizing it, they will often start fights over petty issues or complain about things that would never be issues if bigger problems existed. Now the possibility of breaking up just increased and a threat has been posed. Starting to see the cycle?

When you watch a sporting event, it’s always more fun to watch your team narrowly win because if they’re so far ahead that they can’t lose, what’s the point of watching?

It’s been said that if people were immortal they wouldn’t enjoy life as much, if at all. This is because there’s no chance of losing life, and nothing can possibly pose a threat to it. This tends to be the key in the tragedy of most vampire stories. The immortal, who we would think would be happier than us, actually envy us for being able to die. Let’s lay off the science fiction though.

Ever have a bad dream where someone you care about dies? I’ll bet you woke up wanting to see them more than usual. The idea of their mortality is something you probably don’t normally think about on a regular basis, so when it enters your mind… well I think you get the idea.

You’ll also notice this happens with possessions. You may not be crazy about some old shirt that you never wear, but if someone suggests giving it to someone else, maybe as a hand-me-down, suddenly you really like it and want it for yourself.

This last example will serve as a segway into my next update:

When your spouse leaves on a trip somewhere for a few days, you miss them more than if you haven’t seen them for a week when they’re closer by. That’s because when they’re on a trip, you have no chance of seeing them, the option isn’t there. So your desire for them is much stronger than if you could see them whenever you want. Missing someone has its bad side (when the person is away), but it always feels so good to finally see them upon their return.

It’s important to have a healthy amount of time apart in a relationship – just enough to miss them a little bit. But I’ll elaborate on this subject next time.

I would just like to note that is this not ground-breaking, and I take no credit whatsoever for the ideas discussed. This is a simple explanation of an already discovered quality of human nature. I also strongly recommend watching “A Nice Place To Visit” which is a Twilight Zone episode written by Charles Beaumont. I can think of no better example of this subject than this.