Monday, January 27, 2014

Facebook White Noise

Lately I've been struggling with Facebook. I log on and scan it feeling alienated and confused. It's led to a lack of enthusiasm for the whole affair, that I wish to examine now.

At a certain point all the voices turn to static, a hum of a machine engineered to lull one into the illusion that things are actually being said. Never before have the data streams of mankind been so densely saturated, and never before have they been so vacuous. The cacophonous static of pixels is just colorful enough, familiar enough, that it is not rendered by the brain as static, but as a narrative – a veil of illusion that leaves us feeling as if we belong to a community of sorts, and are thus equipped to properly respond to the stimulating static – usually, through digitized banking systems, by buying something with just a few clicks.

For me, Facebook as become a community of static - not of individual voices of friends. And I can’t understand what is going on anymore.

As we paw at our smart-phones, we are only the ghosts in the machine – our true selves lost somewhere behind the chattering output that is fed to others, and then back towards us. Our own lives are a whisper in the babel.

Commercial algorithms, the DNA of social networks, govern our senses – a noisy dream of familiar faces spouting corporate agendas served with innocent naivety  – the specter of free will infecting our judgments and the meanings we assign to the characters strung together (with the help of guiding proprietary tools of 'sharibility') by our friends. As nodes in a web we forget that all we say, and all we can say, is conditioned by that web, and serve only to promote the survival, the nourishment, and ultimately the thriving of that web.

Wiggling our thumbs upon glass screens the actual physical world falls away to a visceral infection of emotional prodding – feelings of acceptance, unity, shared beliefs, and the affirmations of a meaningfulness born of an experience misperceived as being a faithful rendering of reality. Our inboxes are too full to read, so we must be fed a feed. Bobby is at Gold’s Gym. Sally is Jamba Juice. These are the lines for the appetites that are forged for us, whet with the misguided belief that we are smelling what’s really cooking outside the realm of marketing dollars that lubricate the entire chewing and swallowing process. These people were thrust before us, not out of the merit of being our friends, but out of the merit of being our friends with something commercially viable for us to consume. We have too many friends to talk to - so we've been spared having to, the machine will do it for everyone. We can just listen. Listen to what the algorithms spit out this month.

At a certain point everything is so hyper personal, so perfectly crafted for our consumption based upon our 10,000 previous choices, that we forget we are eating it all up, all the time, every time we tune in, thus consequently tuning out all else that might actually be before us.

And suddenly, when one can hear the static, one is no longer hypnotized by the 10,000 story lines – and one can easily change the channel.


Ultimately, from CNN to your Facebook feed, there is one imperative - click here. Thus you're measured and weighed, your impulse tabulated and stored, so your next one can best be fabricated for you in the soundscape of a numbing, commercial static. 

I'm not trying to hate. I'm trying to rationalize a sudden lack of enthusiasm that has left me feeling blessedly lonely online, that more often than not, leads me to venture out into the real world, to strike up a conversation or two. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pissed Racers

I love racing because it is one of the few humanly practices still available for our species to engage in that still produces within the human organism true fear – instinctual fight or flight, gut wrenching, bowel adjusting fear.  And therein lies the justification for the experience the racing experience.

Before a triathlon everyone is pissing themselves.  (Everyone's standing in, or floating in the water, mind you, or dashing off into the woods, but, yes, sometimes on the bike, too...anyway).  It’s one of the most liberating moments in a triathlete’s life I think – the moment you just let it ride because you feel, you understand on a bodily level, that it will only weigh you down - your body is engaging with full flight mode and there are much more serious effin' issues at hand.  THAT is fear.  You’ve peed 12 times that morning already!  But, 30 seconds before the gun goes off, you’ve got to go again.  The liberation felt here is not from breaking any social taboo, but the understanding of an animalistic reality, that, because of circumstances being nonconventional, can be experienced by your everyday 9 to 5er in a socially acceptable manner.

THAT is animal fear.  And that is why I love racing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

0006 - On Philosophy


When there's nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire.
- The Stars, Your Ex Lover is Dead [1]

Philosophy is an act, a behavioral tendency of a self to interpret the reality he/she/it finds itself in.  Philosophy has a history but it is not a history lesson.  

Or shouldn't be, anyway.  Books on philosophy are like books on yoga—helpful, but yoga is something other than any one author's rendering at a particular time in a particular way.  Philosophers jack 'philosophy', just like yogis jack 'yoga'.  

I'll name drop philosophers, but only as a courtesy, and will try to keep historical attribution and further analysis of ideas regarding specific thinkers to endnotes.[2]

Philosophy is open sourced code that, in some circles, might be considered a virus.  Especially if you don't like to have your current world view spun out of control, like internet browser tabs endlessly opening because you clicked the wrong link.   

As always, beware of self replicating questions (programs) that deviate and distract from the current programs that you want, or were told, to have rendering your reality.  Just like Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Chrome present you different versions of 'the internet', your worldview, your philosophy creates different versions of reality.

A philosophical incite, the work of philosophy, is a spark of ignition that is first fueled with doubt, and then nourished with ideas brought about by assuming the new perceptions brought on by the incite, and then, consequently rendered into paradigms shifts regarding of how the universe is fundamentally ordered.

Geometry worked fine with Euclid's 5 axioms for geometry.  It worked better when Reimann told us we only needed 4.[3] 


When inferior interpretations of reality are rendered through logical analysis available of sense data, your best move, particularly in a darwinian sense, is to adapt.  In other words, if you are standing in front of an oncoming train, step out of the way.

You step have to step into the water yourself, and there, you can't even step into the same river twice.  You have to be in a river in order to begin the analysis or a river.  You must, first step into the stream of data, so to speak, in order to render your understanding of data, and then realize that the notion of a 'data' as something permanent, not ever changing.  That you are, in fact, not in a 'river' but having an experience of a piece of something you are calling a river. 

Your world is a stream where the only unchanging thing is that it is always changing.  This was told to us clearly by the who I affectionately refer to the Buddha who Never Heard Of Buddha.****

David Hume argued that if Adam (of the biblical account) was born with perfectly rational faculties could not discern from any empirical observations that he would drown if he put his face underwater, until he put his face under water.[5]

I think this culminates in the work of Bertrand Russell who allows us to imagine a universe that is 8 seconds old.  For, all we can know about the universe is our current, uninterrupted conception of it.  Given that psychologists argue that our undivided attention span are about 8 seconds, Russell, argued rightfully that, epistemologically speaking - meaning as to how we understand knowledge - that there can be a whole new universe might have just happened, with all it's physics and stories, and all it's billions of books and super computers - just happened 8 seconds ago, and will only be there as is, during this unified thought.  Everything might be different the second you break your attention and wake up in a 'new' unified moment with it's own physics and stories and libraries.

If you had a book with a Theory of Everything...best to try and make it boil down to a Tweet...[6]

My advice on how to use this worldview of infinite universes of possibilities every 8 seconds as an article of faith?  

I say embrace it.

Maybe you want to call it forgiveness, or rebirth, or awakening, or idea enema, or a next breath free of any expectation.   Call it philosophy.

You can name it because it is yours and no one else's and can never be.  It will be with you at that undetermined moment where you step out of this universe.

The power to create your universe is in how you render the reality you find the next time you open your eyes.

The Stoics mastered this.  (Name drop warning).  When one reads the two most prominent authors of this school one finds as authors an Emperor of the Known World and a slave of that world.  They both strove with all their philosophical might, and, interestingly came the same understandings of the reality around them, generally speaking.  

It's hard to play the victim when you know you are the creator.

Instead of fighting the world as you know it, breath in, look at the world before you (not the one in your head) and interpret as best you can so you are ready for the next 8 seconds that are about to smack you in the face.

If that is not practical I don't know what is.

When racing, when in the depths agonizing fatigue, I breath deep and just say, hold on, just hold on 8 more seconds.

When running it's 'that next telephone pole'.  You don't know what you'll find there.  Maybe it's an incite that will get you to the next 10,000 telephone poles while running; maybe it's just another chance to put your head down and charge.

You are at once the emperor and slave; you are not the victim.  You are the artist of you own reality when one paints with the proper brush.

So what next.  Where's my paint brush?  Close your eyes, forget everything (and most important forget can't), breath, stay with the breath, and then begin again.  Everything starts there.

Or maybe with 'yes'.

It's the responsible thing to do.  Not bow down but to look at the stars if they've got something to say to you.


[1]  The quote is spoken by an unknown speaker, could be a sample.
[2]  Wittgenstein nailed this with his introduction to the Tractatus:

How far my efforts agree with those of other philosophers I will not decide. Indeed what I have here written makes no claim to novelty in points of detail; and therefore I give no sources, because it is indifferent to me whether what I have thought has already been thought before me by another 


I hope that all name drops are checked and rechecked by each reader to benefit their reading of this blog as needed.  I welcome any interpretations of my use of assigning a particular idea to a particular author.  We are all, indeed, as much thieves as blues musicians.

[3]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riemannian_geometry

[4] Heraclitus - 'You can't step into the same river twice', and, 'Change alone is unchanging' seems to suit this theme well in his work.

[5]  David Hume, from http://www.uwplatt.edu/~drefcins/humeencyclopediaentry.html

[6]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertrand_Russell


Monday, August 19, 2013

0005 - The Yoga Bus


The Yoga Bus left Pittsfield at 8.37 AM, facing south on rt-100, engine revved for a rapid ascent of Killington's foothills on the way to Pico and Mendon Pass.  The vehicle, a black Jeep Wrangler, took the s-turns with a seasoned maximal velocity - the pilot a local for 7 years now – that never could have occurred if some transient Saab or BMW from Massachusetts created for the driver and sole passenger a one-lane no-passing-zone hell.  

Today the Yoga Bus is a black Jeep Wrangler with a cracked LCD stereo that makes sense immediately upon glancing backwards and taking in the child seats.  The driver is an unshaven, man in his thirties wearing a 'Sub - Pop' t-shirt and slim designer jeans - a 6 foot 4 inch yogi, with too much centeredness to be deemed lanky, while possibly having lanky arms and legs.  Sometimes the Yoga Bus is a black Saturn piloted by me, a shaven headed, square faced fellow in MMA shorts and a three quarter sleeved workout apparel top made by Reebok from the mid 90’s – almost all the logo washed off at this point.

Hitting Killington, and other traffic (and, thankfully, a passing lane) at the Route 4 junction, the Yoga Bus faced westward, and barreled up over Mendon Pass before careening straight down into the plains of southwestern Vermont. 

The moment one passes McGraw's Tavern at The Inn at Long Trail, the highest road around, you know it's all down hill from here.  Your stomach drops as if your car where on roller coaster tracks, pulling you down faster than your body wants to fall.  It is at this point that you know you are leaving the valley.  Here one is outside the caress of the Green Mountains - one is descending into a new climate.  Mendon sits poised as the first town before 'town' - 'town' meaning Rutland.

The entire ride to Mendon, off to one's right, one can peer into the Green Mountain National Forest, a blanket of wildlife that is supposedly forever set aside by Congress.  This swath of trees covers multiple peaks.  One of the smaller of them with an undistiguishing and uncleared summit at 2600', lies before Lower Michigan road, immediately before rt-100 swings east with the White River into Stockbridge, and is called Hedgehog Knoll - the mountain I mean when I say 'my mountain', as in, the mountain I live upon.  

Everyone is welcome to board the bus provided that there is room.  Or room will be made.  We are those kind of folks here in Pittsfield.

Danny got on the Yoga Bus the other day, when it was a Black Saturn.  It would have been a good day for the Jeep, but never underestimate a Saturn, it bore Danny's 400+ lbs bulk easily.  Well, easily enough for me - he did look rather cramped, his sumo-esque frame filling my entire passenger window view, but he didn't complain.  For a man who spends all of his time eating only raw foods and training, he complains rather little, in my opinion.  Sometimes I'll go find him on a 10 mile loop, as he trudges slowly for hours carrying a sandbag.  

He only looks good, he's smiling.  95% of the elite athletes I know won't put out the power he'll emit today in energy expenditure.  

I can't count how many people are too self conscious to go to a Bikram Yoga class because of their weight, fearing to show a little skin and get sweaty with a room full of people.  They must be too fat, in their minds.

Danny didn't have that hang-up, and that lead him to having an amazing class, doing every posture in the sauna like environment.  Danny did what so many can't - let themselves do what they want to do.

The Yoga Bus don't care about your yogi status.  It cares about as much as yoga cares about your yogi status.  Yoga is an activity, not a thing - and all participants are equally engaged, that is, when they are fully engaged.

There is no position outside yourself by which you can judge 'your yoga' versus 'yoga'.  In fact, there is no 'yoga' outside of you.


Yoga is wave, not particle.  We can ride it like S turns, in the Yoga Bus.




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

0004 - Finishing at the Start

Roadside - training break to contemplate clouds. 

Gratitude and Thanks 

All the training ends that moment you're treading water with 3000 other athletes, trying to keep you heart rate down, waiting for the canon to fire, sending smoke over the morning mist, that will be sending off a fury of thrashing arms and feat towards one finish line.

That's wear the fun starts for me.  Right now, the real race is on.

At last check-in I've raised $2306 of $4000 for the MMRF - what I feels is a premier cancer research charity, that deserves all the help I can lend them.  

This outpouring of support and love from you all has created such a positive energy in my heart, and I thank each of you for your gifts, deeply - sincerely, thank you.  Nahmaste.

I'm not sure how long it will take me to finish the Ironman on Sunday.  Honestly, that tangible quantity doesn't matter.  The only particular number on my mind is $4000.  Once I get there, I can just enjoy the sun (or rain), free food, and safe and marshalled roads (and a lake) during a swimming, biking, and running workout.

All the work is done, I think, once I've made the difference that will carry on and outlive my own personal sphere.

9:59:00 or 16:59:00 - Doesn't really matter so much, as making sure I've got the next $1694 - at last check in- accomplished.

If you are able to help, the next day is crucial in my effort to raise $4000 for cancer research through the MMRF - any contribution is greatly appreciated.  Click here.








Monday, January 28, 2013

0002 - On First Realizing the Magnetism of Mountains

I first apprehended the hold the mountains had upon me while living on the Winward Coast of Oahu in the winter of 2011.  A few weeks prior I had been up in The Green Mountains, inland on the mainland, where I lived a life of privation and seclusion.  My recluse neighbors on the adjoining ridgelines were accustomed to this life, but I was racked with the weariness of a long winters within a wind-whipped cabin, where a  ubiquitous monotony was rooted in the dark pines that stood over me while I watched a world of ice, rock, and bark sleep  in the cold.  There was always the ache of the cold, weighing upon me like a lead vest, as I stumbled through the morning light scrambling to find wood to tend the fire that threatened to expire during the few hours of dulled sleep I seized beside the wood stove.  Anxiety, euphoria, loneliness, and dread:  I drank my fill during the slow crawl to solstice and the slower death march towards equinox, while I endured the strain of living alone in a natural landscape that made no allowances for emotional weakness.  Often enough, in weariness of being in this state, I longed to retreat backwards, following the New York City water supply and I-87 southward towards Jersey, my birth place.

Now, in Kailua, I was sitting on a beach blanketed in warm surf and moonlight.  The palm trees shrouded my seat  upon their root systems; the sand at my feet a welcome alternative to the dry, dusty ice and snow I habitually tracked in upon my icey wood floor.  There was warmth in every breeze here, a seasonless consistency rocking you in its womb.  There was everything that I had conceived as being a constituent of a tropical paradise, the everyday acts of existence were studies of the book of Genesis; never in my wanderings there, was I far from gardens.  Yet it was here that my mind escaped towards the mountains, seeking new investigations and journeys back in a barren place, where I could only sustain outdoor efforts for less than an hour.  It was one thing to romanticize about Vermont as a New Jersey hipster, it was another thing to long for it after finding myself on the easiest of terms in Hawaii.  But I know that it was the uneasiness of life’s harsh context  in the mountains that drew me there .  It was the land’s ability to push me, rather than simply sustain me, that beckoned.

Returning from where I had just fled would be to resume a challenge, and to stay there for years would test my resolve.  But I was unexplored, I felt, and Vermont was one of the few places that I had found on this planet that illuminated a pathway within my own understandings of myself.  When the horizon is without movement, one can read clearly within, and the comprehension of what was inside of me, or, more meaningfully, what was not within me, was the gift that would render every insufferable moment meaningful, and keep me from the realms of needless masochism.  




Friday, January 25, 2013

0001 - A Morning Run to the Stone Cabin

0001 - A Morning Run to the Stone Cabin


Purple light silhouettes barren and stark ridgelines.   With the sunrise, a ribbon of pigment illuminates the horizon and delineates an otherwise colorless and hostile landscape of pine, granite, and ice.  

The texture of the countryside is triangular; one always feels off balance, as if standing on a hillside, one foot lower than the other.   One feels that there are nearby mountain peaks, there is a  valley floor, and there is the angled land between- and that is all.  One intuitively feels the water table, the governance of gravity unto that which yields, pulling you with it.  

19th century humorists attributed the invention of the one legged milking stool to Pittsfield- the terrain being too continuously sloped for anything else.

But the land is tamed.  Animals graze on the many cleared mountainsides, gridded with fences:  some made of wood, some wire, some stone.  Most of the stone walls are deep in the woods, remnants of 17th and 18th century farms that are now covered in a second, third, or fourth growth of trees.  

Columns of smoke rise from isolated homes tucked up in the hills the rise from both my sides.

At -5°F the atmosphere feels more vacuum than substance; your cough is as dry as your lips and you always feel thirsty.

A fresh, dry snow dusts Tweed River Drive, a dirt road now cemented with snow and ice, but enough gravel and sand, to be drivable.  Drivable, if you have four wheel drive. Best to have a Jeep or a Land Rover.

I don’t have either, so I just run.  I’ve got another 1200 feet of climbing till I’ll reach the stone cabin at summit, where I can try and thaw out a bit before turning myself back to the West, running the 3 miles back to the valley floor, and running up the opposing hillside back to my home.

There could be worse ways to start a day.

There can be better.  Like staying warm in bed.  That’s what the rest of the world chooses to do.  It must be the case since I’m labeled as the crazy one.




Am I?