Race

We’ve traveled through 19 states and countless cities now, and in some of those areas being white made us stand out. As I’m typing this I am at a home in a historically black neighborhood and we are the only white people I’ve seen in the surrounding blocks. I’m going to be honest during this post, even if I feel a little shame for my feelings.

There are times I felt uncomfortable biking or walking around certain neighborhoods. I have no logical reason to believe I was in any danger or that anyone wanted to harm me, quite to opposite really. But, when you are walking through a neighborhood and you stand out because of your race it can be somewhat unnerving. Particularly when the cultural norms are so different than what you are used to. I never grew up in a neighborhood where dozens of people hung out on the street throughout the day and night playing music. I’m not used to seeing my neighbors.

I don’t want to be nervous in places where I’m different. I’m feel shame when I recognize this feeling because I know it is irrational, but in a lot of ways society has reinforced these feelings. We’ve met several people on our bike ride who have warned us about going into non-white areas because “you better have a gun” or “some people will attack white people just for being white”. This goes directly against facts, but the fear can still plant seeds in your mind.

In fact, the only time we have ever been directly threatened or had people treat us poorly was a group of white people in North Dakota. Every other person we’ve encountered has been incredibly friendly, even when they are baffled by what we are doing. I recognize that two vegans travelling by bicycle with their dog and a solar system stereotypically falls firmly in the category “shit white people do”.

I want to get over the nervousness and the internalized knee-jerk reaction when I’m in an unfamiliar place. I realize I shouldn’t be naive, but in the United States there are very few places that are truly dangerous to us. Violent crime is super rare. I guess the best option is to keep going places that are new, expose myself to the true people and cultures of this country, and not beat myself up too badly. My first thought might be “uh oh, this place might be dangerous because I’m white”, but my second thought that occurs when my logic kicks in is “fuck that noise, this place is fine. Stop stereotyping. Everyone here is probably kind and friendly. Rarely does anyone want to hurt a stranger”. And, hopefully, it is the second thought that is more important.

Podcasts!

When you spend 4-6 hours a day cycling you have a lot of time to listen to stuff… or, I guess, a lot of time to be stuck in your own head. I certainly spend some time without earbuds in, but most of those hours I am listening to music via Spotify, books via Audible, or podcasts via Podbean. Podcasts are my current favorite and I thought I’d share what is currently bouncing around my speakers. In no particular order…

Practice of the Practice: This is one of the newest additions to my lineup. PotP is a podcast about the inner workings of running your own private therapy practice. I am still considering therapy as a future career field and I’ve found this to be incredibly informative.

On No Ross and Carrie: Currently my favorite podcast. Ross and Carrie investigate claims of the supernatural, paranormal, and fringe science. They personally get involved in cults, try out “alternative medicine”, and join religions. They’ve joined the Mormon church, Scientology, tried cleanses, tarot cards, and a whole mess of other things. They are funny and scientific and it has really inspired me to explore more religious practices myself.

TEDTalks: A bunch of these are available on Podbean. The quality varies but I find the Science and Medicine category to be pretty solid. My only real complaint is that they are videos instead of audio, which means you can’t shift away from the screen without pausing it and it sucks up a bunch of memory.

The Tim Ferriss Show: The podcast for Ferriss, the author of the “4-Hour Work Week” (one of the most influential books I’ve ever read) covers people who are the best in their field. Chess prodigies, neuroscientists, adventurers, fire fighters… every angle of maximizing human potential is explored. It is rare that I am not incredibly fascinated or inspired by the subject and interviewee. Ferriss is also a strong Stoic who published “The Tao of Seneca” on Audible.

Waking Up with Sam Harris: The podcast by the (controversial?) atheist and neuroscientist is similar to Ferriss’ podcast. It doesn’t come out nearly as often but I do enjoy them when they come out.

The Joe Rogan Experience: Man, Rogan is kind of an asshole sometimes and he is wrong on a lot of stuff but he gets into some fascinating conversations with incredible guests. Because Rogan is so prolific (he comes out with a 3ish hour podcast several times a week) I usually just download the ones with guests that I know of or subjects I’m interested in.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me: This is an advice show for the modern era and the flagship podcast for the McElroy brothers. They are freaking hilarious and I have had to pull my bike over several times while listening to them because I am laughing so hard that I’m crying and I can’t see the road. If you love comedy podcasts give this one a try… it can take an episode or two to get a feeling for the three guys and their contribution to the show.

Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness: Another new podcast to my list. Van Ness is an infinitely curious guy who investigates the random subjects that crosses his mind. His excitement during interviews can’t be contained, and it provides a comedic effect. The show is only about thirty minutes, which is a nice break from the other podcasts which can run over an hour. Some of the subjects he has covered includes menstrual cups, what was the first Christmas really like, what is gender identity, and who were the Romanavs?

Bunker Buddies: This is a McElroy podcast put on by Travis and his friend Andie. They discuss various end of the world scenarios and survival situations such as surviving a zombie apocalypse or surviving an airplane crash. Part funny and part informative.

Sex Nerd Sandra: Probably the most informative podcast about sex subjects that I’ve ever listened to. Sandra spends an hour or so interviewing experts on specific sexual subjects including swinging, anal sex, and asexuality. She is a fantastic sex educator who also puts on online classes weekly.

The Adventure Zone: This is the first McElroy production that I was introduced to. The McElroy brothers play D&D with their dad. It is a nerdy kind of funny and I anxiously await each new episode of this more than any other podcast.

The Isaac Morehouse Show: Morehouse is an entrepreneur and freedom advocate who explores what it means to be free in today’s world. There is often a particular focus on education and entrepreneurship, but it can get downright philosophical in the best possible way. I’ve found this podcast to be the most personally rewarding to listen to and it inspires creativity.

Sawbones: The final McElroy production that I listen to. In this show Justin and his wife Sydnee (a medical doctor) explore the wacky, crazy, and sometimes disturbing, world of medical history. They walk you through the relatively logical Greek/Roman era to the batshit crazy dark era to the enlightenment into modern times. It is the one Anna and I listen to the most together.

 

If you have any podcast recommendations feel free to send them my way and I’ll check them out.

 

Inspired

While on the bike ride we get approached by curious people a lot. These people tend to fall into two categories, either they tell us they wish that they had done something like this while they were younger or they are in the process of doing something like us. To be honest, it is sometimes hard to be generous to people in the former category. While it is true that our bodies age and time passes us by, it seems like a weak excuse to say “well, if only I were younger”. I am all for people taking advantage of their youth, but that age doesn’t mean you are forced out of an active life. In fact, being active is key to living a longer and healthier life. Just ask Charles Eugster or check out the Blue Zones research.

The latter group, the people who we talk to who are doing things similar to us, are the ones that inspire me. They are rarely young, wealthy, or particularly fit, but they are pursuing their dreams. Just yesterday we ran into a group of veterans who are doing a cross-country charity ride and many of these veterans have physical handicaps. One of them only had the use of one arm and she was peddling across the country on a hand bike… with one arm. Another was riding a tandem bike with his son who has Down Syndrome.

Inspirational figures are not limited to physical feats. There are people bucking the system and doing life their own way, just look at the participants of Praxis. The greatest limit on accomplishing our dreams is our own mind. We are capable of accomplishing, overcoming, creating, and exploring so much in this world, if only we give ourselves permission to be great. It is easy in today’s world to be comfortable, but comfort doesn’t bring fulfillment. You won’t be on your deathbed looking back at your life and think “Wow, I’m really glad I was comfortable” but you can look back and say “Damn, that mountain was tough to climb but it was totally worth it” or maybe “Ugh, I spent a year writing that book but what a feeling to see it finished”. We have an eternal capacity for love, creation, and exploration, if only we let our selves accomplish it.

No Seduction Necessary

I sent a Snapchat sext to some friends of mine this last week. There are a few people who have expressed consent to receive banging pictures and we send them to each other from time to time.

After the sext we began chatting about relationships and life and such. I realized that I didn’t know much about this person and their partner. I asked if they were in an open relationship and it turns out they have a similar set up as a partner and I. In fact, they mentioned that they thought about “seducing us” if we came to visit on our bike trip. This made me laugh a little bit.

One of the benefits of letting your freak flag fly is people tend to know where you stand on issues. Seduction isn’t really needed with us, instead people can just ask outright if they want to do something or talk about something. It really is freeing to live life out in the open and not worry about secrets or misinterpretations.

And this doesn’t just apply to potential sexual partners. When you stand tall and proud for the things you support it provides strength for others. Not a month goes by that I don’t receive a Facebook message (usually from someone I’ve never met in person) asking for my perspective on things like relationships, drugs, sexuality, or adventure. I love those messages (though I’ve been pretty slow to respond lately because I suck), and I love when people are open about things they want to do with me/us.

Of course, being open and asking doesn’t guarantee a certain result, but it is certainly more effective than being secretive. And despite what does or does not happen we are always discreet.

Note: I don’t think this couple was really going to try and seduce us in a deceptive or creepy way. I think they were just saying that they had discussed between themselves what they would be interested in or open to doing with us and they would approach us about these things when we got into town. That’s cool, I understand that. Though, as kind of an introvert a little heads-up about intentions or desires is nice.

Putting It Down

I have trouble putting books down. Sometimes, this is because the book is awesome, but often it is the opposite. I keep reading a book because I started it, or maybe because it is a book that I’ve been told that I should read. It is a book that had some sort of cultural impact or is a popular read among some social group that I am part of.

Those aren’t good reasons to keep reading. If I am no longer enjoying a book I need to stop reading it, and not feel bad about it. Books, like relationships or hobbies or jobs or anything else, should be put down when they aren’t creating any value. It is better to put down the book when bored than keep reading it to the point where you are resentful. If you wait too long to put down the book you will never joyfully return and, even worse, you may give up on reading altogether.

So, I am going to try to put more books down, and then pick more books up. I currently have 832 books on my “to read” list… that’s 16 years worth of books if I read one a week and never add any more. My life is too short to read something that doesn’t give me pleasure.

Compliments

Compliments are funny things. We all want compliments (probably), but it depends a lot on the situation. I think we tend to prefer compliments that reinforce our hard work towards some goal. If I work hard and get a good grade a compliment on my hard work means a lot more to me than a compliment about something I have no control over, like my eye color. I think this is why I’m always a little awkward when people compliment my eyes or my dog. These things are completely out of my control, unless what they are really saying is “congrats on not getting your eyes stabbed”. We like to think we are doing the right thing, compliments are often a way to tell someone you agree with them and recognize their hard work.

It gets more complicated in our society when it comes to our bodies. For example, I have a Facebook friend who has been working out more and sharing images of her progress. I will generally like these because I support people doing what they want, but I probably won’t ever give her a specific compliment on her body or progress. As someone who hasn’t met her in person I don’t think I have the social capital to compliment that. In addition, I am a male who is in an openish relationship, which means my interactions with women may be met with increased skepticism.

It sucks. I think it is a shame that all humans can’t openly and honestly compliment each other without any assumptions of ulterior motives, but that is the world we live in and we need to operate in reality. Of course, this would be a much smaller issue if we lived in a culture that wasn’t body-negative or sex-negative, and if friends and family saw each other nude more often to create a realistic view of what bodies look like.

Anyway, the world needs more compliments. We need to support each other as we try to better ourselves. Life is too short to be negative or try to tear each other down.

Jesus Christ

Recently, an old college friend of mine asked me what my thoughts were on Jesus Christ. I know she is Christian, but I don’t know the details of her religious practice. She said she is “a believer” but that is all I really know. I could make some assumptions based on our previous interactions and her location in South Carolina, but that isn’t really relevant to my view point.

I answered her openly and honestly, as I try to do in all my interactions. It was an interesting experiment writing my thoughts on Christ down so I figured I’d share them with my blog audience. (I’ve made some minor edits to my original message for clarification and ease of reading).

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I think that there are two likely scenarios with regards to Jesus Christ. One is Mythology and one Universalism. I’m not sure which is “true” but I lean towards the former.

First, mythology. Jesus (like many deities before and after him) is primarily a work of fiction that are used by people in power to control others or as a way of explaining/dealing with the world. There is not much real evidence for the miracles mentioned in the Bible. The copies of the New Testament that we have were all written 100+ of years after the events supposedly happened and came from oral tradition. It seems likely that the stories could have evolved from real events but had supernatural elements added. There may have been a man named Jesus who lived in that time and preached to the masses, but the walking on water, water into wine, loaves and fishes stuff was added later to show divinity and convert people, or to provide hope for believers.

There is also the problem that comes from humans translating and removing books over the last two thousand years. If a book is truly divine then I don’t know how to explain all the editing and changing that has gone on over the millenia. Even within modern Christianity there is no agreement on which books belong in the Bible. So, it seems possible that Jesus is primarily a work of fiction. This would mean that there is no real afterlife or supernatural world.

Now, Universalism. If there is actually a supernatural world then I think there is another explanation of Jesus. He could be one of many prophets who have appeared to spread knowledge and morality. It seems that if there is a god that wants humans to know him then he would send many messengers at different times to different people. If you look at the spiritual leaders from the dawn of history you see a lot of similarities. There are common threads, teachings, and stories that run through lots of spiritual practices.

So, I don’t know if he was the son of god. If he was the son then I doubt that he was the only one and I don’t think it is likely that allegiance to him is the only way to heaven. To be honest, if god would send a good person to hell because they didn’t believe in Christ then I think god is a terrible being and not worthy of our praise or obedience (it is even worse if you believe that god will send aborted children to hell). I don’t think it is some sort of hoax, I think it is likely either a myth or it is only part of the story.

I consider myself a follower of many of Jesus’ teachings because I think they are a decent guide to living a good life. But I don’t think you need to believe in the supernatural to see the value in his teachings.