Thursday, February 14, 2013

Orthodoxy, not Christianity.

Recently I have been compelled to start a journey to answer the question, "how do I know my beliefs are true?" Like most people, I have merely accepted what everyone that I love and trust in my life has told me to be true. It was not until recently when I was giving a good friend of mine some grief for his religious beliefs that it occurred to me that I have never taken the time to verify why my own beliefs are true.

My entire life I have been fed the notion that the Bible is 100% literal, accurate, truth. So you can imagine my surprise when I began a course to investigate the testable claims of the Bible and discovered that many things in the Bible conflict with history. Not only conflict, but overwhelming evidence to the contrary exists to some of the most popular claims in the Bible.

First of all, it is a well established historical fact that Hebrews have never been enslaved by Egyptians. That was a total shock right out of the gate. I'm not going to flesh out why. There is plenty of information out there regarding that.

Secondly, I have never accepted a literal, global flood but I discovered that the flood story was actually passed around to all of the Middle Eastern cultures. The story is all the same. <Insert deity name> wants to destroy humanity and picks his disciple <insert person's name> to save a few people and all the animals. This is not a story unique to Judaism, in fact it predates Judaism several times.

Just a few excerpts from the flood stories that predate Judaism, same story, different players:

The gods had decided to destroy mankind. The god Enlil warned the priest-king Ziusudra ("Long of Life") of the coming flood by speaking to a wall while Ziusudra listened at the side. He was instructed to build a great ship and carry beasts and birds upon it...

Three times (every 1200 years), the gods were distressed by the disturbance from human overpopulation. The gods dealt with the problem first by plague, then by famine. Both times, the god Enki advised men to bribe the god causing the problem. The third time, Enlil advised the gods to destroy all humans with a flood, but Enki had Atrahasis build an ark and so escape. Also on the boat were cattle, wild animals and birds, and Atrahasis' family...

The gods, led by Enlil, agreed to cleanse the earth of an overpopulated humanity, but Utnapishtim was warned by the god Ea in a dream. He and some craftsmen built a large boat (one acre in area, seven decks) in a week. He then loaded it with his family, the craftsmen, and "the seed of all living creatures...

The god Chronos in a vision warned Xisuthrus, the tenth king of Babylon, of a flood coming on the fifteenth day of the month of Daesius. The god ordered him to write a history and bury it in Sippara, and told him to build and provision a vessel (5 stadia by 2 stadia) for himself, his friends and relations, and all kinds of animals...

Enlargement of the earth was necessary again after 600 years. When the population became too great after 900 years, Ahura Mazda warned Yima that destruction was coming in the form of winter, frost, and subsequent melting of the snow. He instructed Yima to build a vara, a large square enclosure, in which to keep specimens of small and large cattle, human beings, dogs, birds, red flaming fires, plants and foodstuffs, two of every kind...

Finally, I learned that not only is the military takeover of Canaan as described in Joshua not an historical fact, but there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary which points to the fact that Judaism flourished from within Canaan and eventually became the predominant religion with no warfare at all.

You can imagine what learning these facts had to do to my faith. Having learned that the Bible is 100% literally true, and learning facts to the contrary constitute a huge philosophical problem for me. I am not the type of person who can look at hard evidence and say, "well, that conflicts with the Bible, so it's false." Nor do I find people with that ability particularly virtuous, even though cognitive dissonance is praised as a virtue in just about all world religions.

Continuing my journey to investigate the claims of the Bible has been an interesting experience thus far. It has given me the opportunity to gain lots of different perspectives, not only on christianity, but on life and other religious beliefs in general. Having talked to numerous christians about my philosophical belief problem in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary of my established beliefs has certainly been interesting. I have spoken with christians who range in philosophical differences from "you absolutely cannot be a christian unless you believe the Earth is literally 6,000 years old" all the way to "yes, many of the stories in the Bible are only allegories meant to convey the nature of God, many of the events of the Bible definitely did not happen" and everything in between.

Numerous christians have told me that my lack of faith is nothing more than a hardened heart and open rebellion against God. Other christians have told me that my honest search for truth is closer to Christ-like than many will ever get in their entire lives of blind, unquestioning devotion.

After several months it has finally occurred to me that my entire life I have not been sold christianity. I have been sold an orthodoxy. Biblical literalism is a very young, theological idea prevalent mostly among Protestants, and Baptists fall on the farthest end of that literalism spectrum. Christians have always accepted the Bible as "truth" but they have not always accepted the Bible as "actual literal events".  Biblical literalism is fairly new to the theological game.

Recently, I was called a heretic and "not a true christian" by a friend giving me counsel. This is a person whom I respect deeply but he has bought in hard to his chosen orthodoxy. So yes, I suppose I am heretical to his orthodoxy and if his orthodoxy defines a christian as X then I suppose according to his standards I'm not a christian either. This does not trouble me in the slightest. According to this orthodoxy, numerous other of the 42,000 denominations of christianity are also "not true christians."

My journey is not complete but I think what I have learned the most is many people have many wildly, differing opinions on whether I'm drawing closer to Christlike, rebelling against God, being a heretic, being a vigilant seeker of truth, doing something God loathes, doing something God admires, etc. Despite all of their differing opinions, they all have one thing they agree on, "my belief is the correct one!"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Black Balsam Knob Hike

Our trailhead was located at the junction of US 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway near Canton, NC. Originally we had planned to take the Blue Ridge Parkway to a different trailhead deep into the wilderness but the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed and we were forced to take an alternate route into the bush.

On our way to the trailhead, we ascended 2000 feet over the course of about seven miles. Along the ascension we got to see several stunning sites including this waterfall just off the roadway.

When we arrived at the trailhead, there was a small parking lot that had some snow on the ground. Being from South Carolina, often times it can be years between seeing real, actual snow.  Thus, seeing some snow on the ground was a bit of a novelty. We were hoping we would get to see some more snow while we were on our hike. And snow did we see.

Find the trail! Don't get lost!
The trails were poorly marked and poorly blazed and it was a bit of a challenge to be certain of where we were going from time-to-time. We looked at our map and got mixed up at some trail junctions (again horribly marked and blazed) and pressed on a different trail then what we thought we were on. Getting on the wrong trail was not the worst thing ever, in fact, were planning on hitting this trail on the way back. After about three hours of hiking we got to an unmistakable trail junction which indicated we were only moving about half the speed that we thought we were. This was horribly depressing. We were trodding through some thick snow and ice which was really slowing us down.

We elected to alter our plans to account for our very slow moving progress. Even though we altered our plans, one thing we definitely wanted to do was hit the top of Black Balsam Knob, which is 6240 feet in elevation. As you can see, from on top of this mountain, we are actually looking down at the peaks of other mountains around us.

We elected to press on to the spot which we had planned to make camp. Except that we were heading straight there instead of taking 7-mile loop around to it.  Our camp spot was beside the Blue Ridge Parkway which was 7.5 trail miles away from our vehicle. Since we were moving at only about 1 mile per hour it was going to take us 7.5 hours to get to our car on day 2, when we had only planned on it taking about 3 hours. Thus, we elected to skip the trails on the way back on day 2 and just hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is a beautifully paved highway with absolutely no traffic because it's closed due to snow and ice.  Our plan was formed.

We hit a connector trail heading towards our camp site, which was located in an area affectionately referred to as the Graveyard Fields. The entire time on this 1.5 mile connector trail my buddy was yelling at me that I clearly measured the maps incorrectly and undercalculated our distances grossly. He was convinced there was no way were only moving at a 1MPH pace. We were moving very slowly. Because we had several junctions of bridges with steep descents below us and the bridges themselves were covered in snow and ice, making it very easy to slip and fall.

Deep, Snowy Trail
It took us an hour and a half to walk this 1.5 mile connector trail with my buddy fussing at me the whole time about me measuring our distances wrong. I was vindicated when we reached a major 4-trail junction and a signpost confirmed the trail we had just walked was, in fact, a mile and a half. In fairness to his perspective, the trail literally seemed like it was twice as long as it indicated.  It was a very challenging walk through foot-deep snow at parts.

The sign indicated we were 2.2 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway (and our campsite). So we knew even at a 1 MPH pace we were be there in no more than 2 hours and some change. Luckily that 2.2 mile stretch was the flattest, smoothest, and most "unsnowy" section of trail we saw the entire day and we made it to our campsite in just under an hour.

The camp was in a flat basin called Graveyard Fields.  It was a river basin surrounded by scenic ridges and mountains in every direction.  Because it was a basin it was also very wet. It was sort of like sleeping in a marshland. Having experience with the unpleasantness of a wet tent bottom in the past, I was glad I made the decision to pack the heavy tarp that I did to place under the tent.

Finding wood to make a fire was a real challenge. Finding dry wood was impossible. Nonetheless we got a modicum of a fire rolling although it took nearly two hours and a lot of effort.  We ate our traditional "victory chili" before cleaning up camp so as not to attract any visiting bears during the night and turned in for the night. After the sun dipped behind the mountain ridge, the temperatures plummeted fast. While the fire provided no particular warmth, we picked up a few of the stones that made up our fire ring and brought them in the tent to put underneath our feet in the sleeping bags to keep them them warm. This was especially nice considering yours truly had been sporting sopping, wet socks for the better part of four hours.

The following morning we had about a mile walk to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway which was at the top of the Graveyard Fields basin. The photograph to the right here shows our campsite, which was one of the bare spots in the very center of the picture, which is about a kilometer away from our vantage point.

It was about a 5-mile hike back to our car along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even with 25-30 pounds of gear on our backs, under ideal road conditions we can exceed 2 MPH, even with occasional breaks factored in.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Parkway
I was actually kind of excited about hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway even though it was not part of our original plan. Having no traffic to worry about allowed us to casually walk in the center of the road and enjoy some majestic views along parkway and certainly some better hiking conditions. I was not disappointed.

One really neat thing along the parkway were numerous frozen formations that appeared on the rock walls. The most extreme was this completely frozen waterfall.  Needless to say. It was cold outside.

A combination of absolutely no cars on the road and walking through a dark, desolate tunnel got us prepared to enjoy the post-apocalyptic "The Walking Dead" for later that evening. That ice formation on the left-side of the picture was about 10-feet tall.

The Devil's Courthouse
After exiting the tunnel, we snapped a picture of this rock face referred to as "The Devil's Courthouse."

We arrived at our car in a little less than 2 hours after stepping onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, moving at a clip of about 2.5 miles per hour, mostly uphill with a ton of gear on. That also included a 15-minute stop for a mid-morning snack. I learned a tremendous number of lessons on this trip without too much heartache and ultimately hit the two main things I wanted to when planning the hike, reaching Black Balsam Knob, and camping in the Graveyard Fields. Seeing some snow was an added bonus though it added much aggravation onto the trip, causing us to alter plans numerous times.  Still a great trip that we're planning to do again in warmer weather.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Black & White Thinking

It has occurred to me recently that an alarming number of grownups engage in a very dangerous method of forming opinions that is essentially boiling all issues down to black or white.

President Obama is either all good or all bad, gay marriage is either all good or all bad, gun control is either all good or all bad, abortion is all good or all bad, illegal immigration is all good or all bad.

The people that decide President Obama is all bad will go to any length to perpetuate character assassination, including but not limited to, repeating purposefully incorrect information. While I admit, I did not vote for Obama in either election, I certainly do no not think that he's an Al-Qaeda plant sent to destroy our freedom, take away our guns, and convert America from a democratic republic to a communist state. And frankly, it's frightening that there are people who literally think this.

It's certainly not conservative, religious people that are guilty of this. President George W. Bush received the exact, same treatment from the left during his presidency.

Difficult and controversial issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, separation of church and state, etc. are very complex subjects with a lot of strings attached and certainly a lot of potential consequences.  Therefore to label any of these subjects as all good or all bad is foolish.

My opinions on these matters not withstanding, I prefer a rational approach to making decisions. I recognize there will be some good and some bad, but I need to support the stance in which the good outweighs the bad, even when it's counter-intuitive to my emotional preference. This is not always an easy approach but I do believe it is the best approach.

One example that comes to mind immediately is welfare. Nothing annoys me more than to be in a grocery line behind someone buying filet mignon with government-issued food stamps while texting on their iPhones. I can afford neither filet mignon or an iPhone. I hate freeloaders and abusers. However, this is not a black and white issue. People like that make me want to do away with government assistance programs.  However, some child somewhere will suffer and starve if government aid did not exist. While one can make the argument that it is likely that the child's parents are worthless, drug abusers and that is why the child would starve, that may or may not be true but it's irrelevant. The fact remains that a child somewhere will suffer without government aid and my conscience could not handle knowing I supported abolishing these programs.

The conservative right would have you believe that 99 out of 100 families on welfare are drug-abusing freeloaders. Even if that were true, and it is absolutely not, to have even one deserving family suffer would be unconscionable.

It has become apparent to me that the people who are the most guilty of black and white thinking are people who have been indoctrinated. I certainly concede that one can be indoctrinated with anything; religion, political views, racism, sexism, atheism, and so on.  However, it is evident that the most fervently religious are the ones who are guilty of the most extreme cases of black and white thinking.

Black and white thinking often boils complex issues down to two (false) choices. One of the most popular ones in recent history was President Bush's declaration, "You are either with us (meaning you support our invasion of Iraq) or you are with the terrorists."  Here President Bush gives the false illusion that there are only 2 choices, one support an invasion of Iraq or two you are a terrorist. Pick one.  This is an extremely dangerous method of both thinking and presenting options.

Adults should be capable of weighing all of the information and inspecting complex issues. An honest, rational approach is to be preferred to reducing the matter to all good or all bad.  There is a lot of gray area in life, a black and white assessment of everything does a disservice to humanity and to one's critical thinking skills.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cumberland Island

Calm Ocean
On this brisk October morning my buddy and I set out for Cumberland Island, an island off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia. The southern tip of Cumberland Island is on the Georgia/Florida state line.  We took a canoe to the island and made a decision to make an ocean side launch instead of a sound side launch.  Generally speaking an ocean side launch is guaranteed to be rough business, however the ocean was so placid we decided to give it a shot. It was worth the risk after all, because it was going to cut off about a mile and a half of our trip across the sound.

The plan was a three-day trip and an attempt to explore as much of the 10-mile long island as possible.

Dolphins Playing a Few Feet Off Shore
Our journey began at 9 a.m. on a Friday morning as we got into the water and it was about a 3-mile paddle to the Northern tip of Cumberland Island across St. Andrews Sound. During that time we skirted a few fishing boats that was kind of neat to see.  What was really nice was we had numerous close encounters with dolphins, also fun. All in all, it was about a 12-mile paddle from our launch point to our camp on the Island.

Holy Crap, A Wild Horse
One thing we were really excited about was hearing that there were wild horses inhabiting Cumberland Island.  It was our sincere hope to at least see a few of these wild horses and if we were lucky, to get an up-close encounter. Before we even reached our camp site, we saw this guy grazing close to the shore line.

Just a Few of the Thousands of Crabs at the Beach
Upon our arrival at the camp site, we were greeted by thousands and thousands of baby crabs who were scurrying to escape us. It was really interesting to see before we landed on the beach to see the ground literally swirling there were so many of these things. They quickly dispersed before we were able to get a good photograph of the sheer number covering the ground.

After all of the little creatures scurried away we set up camp on this picturesque island that is protected by the National Park Service. Our camp was on the sound side of the island and therefore, very little, actually no, waves or surf. Just a calm, serene, brackish river snaking around some abundant marshes.  Of immediate note when we landed and set up camp was the inordinate amount of horse dung which was everywhere. A bit of an annoyance, but a good sign that we could probably expect to see some more wild horses on our journey.

A Very Odd Pine Tree Formation
After setting up our camp we took inventory of the surrounding area and noticed the sprawling, monolithic oaks with Spanish moss.  Trees of this size and age would be a coveted spectacle on the mainland, but on the island there were hundreds of them in your field of view. Of particular note was this curious pine tree that used to rest on top of a sandy beach that eroded away after the tree had reached adulthood. What was left behind was a very curiously formed tree and network of roots to support it.

There was a possibility of rain so we erected our tent with a tarp below it to keep the base of the tent dry. This would end up being a mistake, but we'll get to that.  Since we paddled a canoe it allowed us to pack some luxuries like a few tailgate chairs, a cooler filled with some better-than-usual-camping fare and a portable stove for cooking our food. We were in the "Wilderness Area" of Cumberland Island, absolutely no fires were permitted here by the National Park Service.

Wild Horses
We were greeted by the island's local inhabitants, these little, biting spawns of Satan that the locals called Noseeums.  If you have never encountered these guys, consider yourself fortunate. They are basically these swarming little gnats that are very difficult to see, but it feels like they are carrying razor blades and are executing non-stop, fly-by kamikaze slicings of your skin.  They bite. Hard.

Our first encounter with wild horses was shortly after we decided to do a 7-mile hike that started at around 3 p.m. that afternoon.  We were on our trail for only about 30 minutes when we discovered these two grazing in a pluff mud bed during low tide. They were not particularly alarmed by our presence but they certainly took notice of us. The moment we took one step closer to them in order to get some better photographs they took off through the woods. I would not say they were skittish but they certainly were not going to be inviting us over for tea.

African-American Church, est. 1893
On the island was this tiny, African-American church that was built in 1893. The entire building had enough seating for about 30 people. We found out that John F. Kennedy, Jr. was married inside this church.

Wild Horses Outside the Church
Outside the church we found two wild horses grazing.

After we left the church we got into some real wilderness. We traveled a mile or so down this trail that was so narrow, both of your shoulders were brushing foliage on either side as you were walking. Imagine our surprise when we rounded a corner and came face-to-face with three horses.  Both parties kind of awkwardly stood, starring at one another kind of silently communicating, "um, we need to get by you."  I certainly was not interested in trying to force my way past these guys. Even though they were a bit smaller than domesticated farm horses, I had no doubt they were powerful and would hurt us if provoked.  After a few moments the horses decided to turn around and head into the bush.

Wild Horses In the Bush
As we walked by they kind of kept a wary eye on us.
Sunset at Camp

After toiling around in some fairly dense trails, we arrived back at our camp in time to catch this sunset and enjoy some Asian noodles and lemon chicken (like I said, better-than-usual camping fare).  It was at this time my buddy and I decided to play one of our favorite games, Dominion. It was also at this time we discovered that we left it in the car. After paddling a canoe through 12 miles of ocean and then hiking 7 miles we were pretty spent, so we turned in for the night getting ready for our big hike day.

Day 2

The sunrise splashed on the distant marsh made the vibrant green look like a golden field of wheat. During the night we heard dolphins splashing in the water a few feet away from us and we also heard horses galloping and neighing.  After some hearty oatmeal, we geared up and headed out for our hike on the southern end of the island.
We encountered some more wild horses including these two. Most of the horses were brown, with brown manes, but this one caught our eye because he was a very deep brown, nearly black.

A Twisted Fortress of Massive Oaks Lines Our Trail
We hit a trail that cut through the interior of the island, so as to be away from both the surf side of the island and the sound side. As you can see, the massive oaks covered with Spanish moss were plentiful, and stood everywhere along the trail like stalwart sentinels guarding something sacred.

Robert Stafford - 1790 - 1877

About 13 or so miles into our hike for the day, we were already pretty tired and had the good fortune to meet an adventurous chap whose goal was to do 50 hikes in 50 states.  He had saved up a bunch of money and was living out of his car, going from state to state experiencing different adventures. You can check out his blog on Cumberland Island here.

We walked with Kent and chatted him up about numerous subjects, mostly hearing about his various adventures.  After parting ways, we came upon a graveyard on the island. The headstone on the right was for a guy born 3 years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified and died 12 years after the U.S. Civil War ended.

A Mother Horse and Her Foal

The last photograph we were able to get was this photograph of a mother and her foal, not more than a few weeks old. This was our last photograph because then the rain came.

At first the rain was no big deal. It was falling softly on us and was a welcome relief to some surprisingly, stifling heat in early October. After all, we still had an additional 6 miles to walk before we were back to camp, and my foot was cramping so badly that I had to stop and actually considered trying to contact a park ranger to help give us a ride back to our camp. Alas, we pressed on.

The rain gradually got harder until it was no longer a welcome relief, but an annoyance.  We got soaked and then dry again by the time we got back to camp.  When we arrived at camp, we quite literally fell into our chairs and sat for several minutes. We hiked 21 miles in one day. That was an amazing feat in and of itself, but it came right after hiking 7 miles the day before.  After checking the damage from the rain it turned out that the tarp we had on the ground to prevent our tent from getting soaked, actually collected rainwater and kept it pooled up underneath our tent. Our tent and sleeping bags were soaked.

We decided we were too tired to care at the moment and began preparing our victory chili. Victory chili is our go-to meal for a victorious hike. It consists of black beans, ground beef, corn, jalapenos, fiery hot chili sauce, sour cream, cheese, and crackers. After putting in a very difficult day of hiking, victory chili tastes like a 7-course meal at a 5-star restaurant.

Shortly after sunset, the noseeums came out again in full force.  We were absolutely wiped out, so we crawled into the tent and chatted until about 9:00 p.m. then fell hard asleep.  We were awakened at about 1 a.m. because it was raining so hard it started leaking into the tent. That was pleasant.  It rained insanely hard for several hours.  We did check the forecast which said there was a "20% chance of scattered showers late Saturday night." Evidently, "scattered showers" on Cumberland means "typhoon" to everyone else.

Day 3

Around 6 a.m. the following morning it was still raining pretty hard. We gathered up as much as we could in our soaking, wet tent and sat silently inside the tent, wet, pissed off, and just waiting for the rain to abate long enough to gather the remainder of our stuff and head back to the mainland.

The rain finally stopped around 6:45 a.m. and we hopped in our canoe around 7 a.m. saying good-bye to this wondrous island.

On our paddle back, we made a decision to make a straight line to our destination instead of hugging the bank of the island for 10 miles then shooting a 2 mile gap back to our launch point.  By making a straight line, we were taking a risk by being out in open water for with no land around for miles, but we were making a straight line so it was going to cut about 3 miles off of our trip.

Additionally, we were riding the tide out to sea so we were getting a very nice "pull" from the tide and were making excellent time on the water.  Once we got out into open water, away from the protection of the island we learned that it was windy, really windy. So much so, in fact, that we started getting pretty nervous because we were experiencing some violent waves with pretty fierce intensity.  We got a bit further into the sound and the waves were a little more intense, but far less frequent which made for a much more comfortable ride.

About 3 miles from shore we noticed some extremely tall waves (higher than 6-feet cresting) out in the middle of the ocean. The worst part was, there was no way we were going to avoid them. A strip of intense waves was ripping right across our path and was in between us and our destination We both silently kept paddling.  We got into the middle of the waves and things got really dicey for about 3 or 4 minutes. One wave broke right after it passed underneath the canoe and we were only 3-feet or so away from getting tipped over 3 miles out to sea, with no land or boats anywhere in sight.

The surf picked up and got very choppy and rough. This was a complete departure from our smooth and peaceful ride into the island, it seemed like a completely different swatch of water the second time around.  As it became apparent that we were drawing closer to the destination, our anxiety began to wane. As we steered the canoe towards shore, we were only in foot-deep water and a wave decided to roll us right over onto the beach. How appropriate.  All we could do was laugh. How ironic that we survived six-foot waves 3 miles out to sea only to get tossed by a 1-foot break right onto the sandy beach.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Living Life

I have done some really amazing things in my life. This is not a brag session, but more of an attempt to collect some of the most fun and meaningful things I have ever done for my own inventory.  Also it's a bit of a self-check to see how I'm doing on my bucket list.

I am 35 years old and here are some notable things I have done so far in my life:

-Won (several) chess tournaments.
-Completed two triathlons.
-Forged my own knife from scratch.
-Solved a Rubik's cube.
-Watched the sunset on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
-Paddled over 300 miles in a canoe.
-Rode in a helicopter.
-Been interviewed on TV.
-Self-taught harmonica player.
-Performed a magic show for a paying audience.
-Donated over 30 pints of blood.
-Met two Heisman Trophy winners.
-Hiked several mountains.
-Forded an icy river in the dead of winter, with no shoes on. Or pants, actually.
-Designed numerous corporate logos.
-Have come face-to-face with wild horses while hiking.
-Been cave diving.
-Taken a (voluntary) bite from a police dog.
-Jumped off of a 3 story cliff into water.
-Wrote and illustrated a web comic.
-Played chess against 10 people at the same time, prisoners. In a prison.
-Spent the night on an uninhabited island in the middle of a lake.
-Built massive sand sculptures at the beach.
-Hosted a foreign exchange student.
-I have eaten raw, octopus tentacle.
-I have swam a mile.
-I have performed in a stage play.
-I have shot a sniper rifle, with a SWAT team.
-Built my own workbench from scratch.
-Built my own computer from scratch.
-Constructed a paracord belt.
-Been awakened while sleeping in the wild by a nearby pack of coyotes making a kill.
-Hiked 21 miles in a single day.
-Hiked 14 miles through a swamp in the dead of summer.
-Operated a bomb demolition robot.
-Taken an airboat ride through the everglades.
-Been to NASA.
-Heard blues performed by a street band on legendary Beale Street in Memphis.
-Won a No Limit Texas Hold 'Em Poker tournament.
-At one time owned 5 rental houses.
-Written a short story.
-Been in the largest home in the United States.
-Ridden the fastest roller coaster in the world (at the time).

Of all the things mentioned several of these things have been really hard. I mean really hard. But I'm reminded that there's nothing in life worth doing that's easy. If it were easy everyone would do it. My life experience has been rewarding.

All of the things mentioned have been great, but nothing compares to the joy of fathering two, wonderful children and having a wife who, after 11 years, I still adore and actively try to find new ways to fall in love with her every day.  Doing exciting stuff is all well and good, but having people you love in your life is what makes life worth the living.


I think non-stop. Of course everyone does, but what I mean is deep, critical thought. It can be about anything, the universe, the existence of God, whether my beliefs are rational, am I a good husband and father, am I doing all I can do in this life? Things like that.

Sometimes it's really distracting and can interfere with ordinary activities like brushing my teeth. I like to think in the shower a lot. I once reasoned in the shower that intelligence and a predisposition to believing silly, irrational things have to be separate cognitive functions right before my wife yelled at me that I was going to be late if I don't hurry up.

During my non-stop, introspective discourse I often wonder how is it that intelligent people come to irrational beliefs.  I have come to the conclusion that evolution has selected this psychological trait. The tendency to believe what you are told without question is a flawed thing in the human psyche, but one that certainly confers a direct survival benefit.

Imagine back to prehistoric times and a conversation between a father caveman and his two sons goes something like this:

Dad: "Don't go in that cave. Stuff will eat you."
Son A: "Ok dad, sounds good."
Son B: "I skeptical about that, I'm going to investigate what's in there."

Guess which son had a greater chance of surviving, having offspring, and thus passing on a genetic predisposition to obeying authority without question?  We are living in a golden age where skepticism is no longer dangerous in a survival sense, but is it still not regarded as an admirable practice by the majority of society.  It's simple. We have been successful as a species up to this point by obeying authority, and not questioning our older, wiser elders. It's innate in most of us to fall in line and believe what people we trust tell us, even if its ridiculous.

So I assert that even brilliant people are predisposed to believing silly things. Rational skepticism is our only shield against falling for nonsense. Skepticism is the intentional practice and recognition that as a human being, we are susceptible to believing stupidity and its a commitment to shielding ourselves against it.  It's a commitment to leaving emotions out of forming beliefs. It's the statement that I will not allow what I prefer to be true effect my decision in believing what is rational to be true.

That being said, would I prefer professional wrestling be real? Heck, yes. Could I ever doublethink myself into believing it's real? No. I'm a skeptic, absolutely no doublethink is allowed, ever.