Fear and Being Self Centered

For as long as I can remember I’ve had the strange fear that I am the butt of an elaborate inside joke. This fear (or paranoia) plays out in my head telling me there is something wrong with me that I don’t recognize but all my friends and partners are playing a joke on me. Usually I feel like I’m ugly and everyone knows it but pretends it isn’t true to laugh at me behind my back.

When I logically think about it it is ludicrous. I have had (and currently have) beautiful partners and I have some of the most caring and amazing friends who are full of love. There is no reason anyone could or would go out of their way to trick me.

Being a fan of self reflection I have been thinking a lot about why I feel the way I do when evidence points elsewhere. I think it comes down to a strong self centeredness. For me to feel this conspiracy exists I must believe that I am the central figure in many people’s lives. This is just simply not true. My friends do love me but they certainly do not think and act only based on me, and I wouldn’t want them to. My life is not The Truman Show.

I won’t even begin to venture a guess as to whether this is primarily nature or nurture but I have seen others exhibit actions that reflect this paranoia. People say or act as if the behavior, thoughts, and philosophies of another person are a direct reflection or attack on their own life. I don’t think any person has changed their behavior because of me but the spirit of self centeredness lives on.

I’m not sure what to really do about this yet. I think that self reflection is important to recognize the core issue and begin to address it. Recognition certainly helped me stop other negative feelings like jealousy and guilt. Hopefully it will help me continue to improve who I am as an individual by realizing my friends love me and I’m not their core.

Les Miserables

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This weekend my partner and I went and saw Les Miserables while visiting some of my family down in San Diego. Like most people, her and I left with tear stained cheeks and red eyes. There really wasn’t a dry eye in the house and I really, really enjoyed it.

I highly recommend it but it is always a unique experience as a man to cry in public. There are certain things that I think provoke the waterworks for individuals but for me it is almost always military/war related. I think the combination of losing friends in combat and my strong pro-peace stance makes these issues particularly moving. It was just impossible for me not to reflect on my friends when Marius reflects on the death of all his friends I just lost it. Especially after the XFF where Anastasia talked about the social stigma against men showing emotions.

The whole performance was incredible to me. I didn’t really know anything about Les Miserables before arriving and certainly didn’t know any of the songs but really enjoyed it. Samantha Barks as Eponine particularly stood out to me as a non-musical expert. Anyway… Les Mis is highly recommended and I’m hoping to read the novel some time this year.

Self Evolution

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I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions but I kind of get them. New Years is a concrete day to change, it is something we can grasp, it is a benchmark… a new beginning. For me self improvement is incredibly important, if a part of my life stops growing and becomes static I feel like it is dying. My body, mind, and spirit needs to be constantly challenged and face new experiences. With this in mind I am not really making a New Year’s Resolution but I am committed to myself and making the most out of my life.

Body: These fragile sacks of water that we roam around in are what keep our spirits in this plane of existence. I have fallen out of shape since my bike ride and it is time to fix that. I need to improve both my exercise routine and my diet. It will all start with baby steps but I would like to do a half marathon this year and really get into a solid plant based diet. This will have the secondary effect of helping my finances.

Mind: To quote Thomas Jefferson, “I cannot live without books”. I read them constantly and my interests are diverse. I find that I rotate through different subjects in a cyclical way and my knowledge of subjects deepens with each cycle. I want to keep this up but I really want to add more writing to my time as well. I have ideas for my book about my bike ride and I have no excuse for not getting those ideas onto paper. I am also finishing up the requirements for a MA program here in Los Angeles, I’d love to have my first classes underway by the end of the year for a Psychology degree.

Spirit: Nourishing the spirit is important to me and at this point I find meditation and yoga to be the best practice. I will also continue to read varying thoughts on the subject and trying out new practices to see what works for me.

Most people advise actual action items for improvement. That has never really been my style but I see some benefit to it so here is a loose list of habits I’d like to get into to pursue my goals. I might do a blog post or have a private list of how I plan to accomplish these habits… or I may not. I don’t really know yet.

  • Run 2-3 times a week
  • Yoga 2-3 times a week
  • Complete Fire Dancing courses that are offered at Fire Groove
  • Apply to MA programs
  • Meditate daily
  • Finish the book of my ride before summer
  • Start making breakfast for myself 4+ days a week

Extreme Futurist Festival Recap

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What a weekend. On top of the EFF I also had one of my partner’s in town and we went down to visit some of my family down in San Diego. There might be more on that later but before everything slips my brain I want to recap the EFF.

It was an amazing experience. I had a wonderful time and it was incredibly inspirational and thought-provoking for the most part. It also had a slight twinge of crazy and some stuff that I didn’t understand. I guess there are some forms of art that I just don’t get.

So, the good… it was an incredible two days and a very positive time. The vast majority of things were good. There was a diverse group of speakers on a ton of topics but I had my favorites. Aubrey de Grey was the keynote and  his talk on medical advancements and potential for extending life was phenomenal. Alex Peak‘s discussion of gaming and how games can be used to educate the world (and the need for fluency in code) was something that will stick with me for a while and has piqued my interest in code-writing. Kevin Fischer’s talk on cognitive enhancement was probably the most practically informative of the day for me but Anastasia Krylov‘s was my favorite. Anastasia talked about social norms as they apply to relationships and sex in a way that was not confrontational and incredibly enlightening. She is also a gifted speaker who kept things fun the whole time. There were many other speakers that I enjoyed and a full list can be found here.

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Vortex Immersion Dome

Another awesome thing about the conference was where the speakers held their talks. It was in something called the Vortex Immersion Dome, a semi-large dome that had projectors on the side to completely surround you with visual and auditory stimulation. The speakers stood in the center which took some getting used to but it worked really well for the conference, particularly Dixon’s Violin performance which was one of the single most amazing things I have ever experienced (seriously, check it out).

It was also really nice to see Brian Doherty speak and Reason Magazine sponsor the event. Many of the discussions had libertarian leanings even if the participants didn’t fully realize it and I think it is important for libertarians to be more socially active outside of the beltway. Futurist, technology, and entertainment conferences are an important audience to reach because they are the future. The future is going to be an information and entertainment economy made possible by technological advancement and libertarians need to be on the front lines showing the best way to advance human development is free from government restrictions.

Now, the bad… I want this blog post to be honest and not everything about the conference was great in my opinion. Most of my criticisms on this point may be biased and oversensitive because I have spent the last few years participating in and running conferences. To be frank, the logistics were a bit sloppy. There were little things like no real process for checking in other than getting a sharpie mark on your hand like a night club, the speaker printout didn’t have any subjects included, and information about a VIP pre-party wasn’t announced until the day before.

There was also a few logistical things that I think are more serious. Mainly, the speaker times and order were changed both days without any real announcement. It was impossible to know when someone was actually going to speak. The speaker time slots were also only 30 minutes which is not enough time for a real discussion of most topics, and there were not any breaks between speakers for food or just to run to the bathroom. The conference organizers also gave the speakers very little notice of when their time was up, during one speaker someone walked in and told the presenter that he had 1 minute without any prior notice causing the speaker to hurry through much of the presentation. There also seemed to be some favoritism played where Aubrey de Grey was basically rushed off the stage during a Q&A session so that a performer who was a friend of the conference organizer could present.

Lastly for the bad, the benefits of being a VIP were not communicated very well. I got a VIP ticket and I still don’t know what exactly I got for that. I was able to see the robot show (which was awesome) but there were not seats, a marked VIP area, or really any way of knowing where we were supposed to be or what the perks were.

It was still an amazing event, I just think logistically there is room for improvement (which is to be expected for a relatively new event).

And, the ugly… these are things that I didn’t understand or enjoy. It is very subjective and really no value should be attributed to it. Primarily, I didn’t understand Lydia Lunch’s performance at all, it may just not be my thing but to me it sounded like a angry verbal presentation of some of the most poorly written blogs from the internet. Many people seemed to get it and love it though, which is fine. There is plenty of room in the future for all types, my type of futurist focus will be more on science and technology instead of art. I originally felt that Lunch was at the conference to perform due to her close relationship with the conference organizers but seeing how many people loved her performance I think it was more than that. She is an artist, I respect her for that even if I don’t get it.

The presentation by Josh Harris also left me baffled and confused. I still don’t know what he was talking about or the point of his talk, and when he said that the “singularities” spoke to him and he presented a homemade video from the late 90’s as proof I was totally lost. He also talked about being on the FBI’s list because of 9/11 and how his life was an art piece and government photos were part of it or something… I really don’t know. I was lost and this was the first presentation I saw so it really scared me that I had convinced some dear friends to purchase tickets to an event that wasn’t what it seemed.

I guess that’s really it. It was a great weekend and I will definitely be there next year.

Extreme Futurist Festival

Today is the Extreme Futurist Festival. a hodgepodge of technology, philosophy, science, and club music. It’s gonna be awesome. As a strong proponent of science and believer that we may see the option for immortality in our lifetime I am really excited. In fact, I’m sitting at work crazy distracted and not able to really get much done.

There is a great line up of speakers including Aubrey de Grey, Brian Doherty (glad to see the libertarians stepping up), Anastasia Krylov, and tons of others. I wish they announced the subject matter of the speakers but with specialists in science, technology, longevity, non-traditional relationships, and a variety of arts it is going to have something for everybody. If you happen to be in the LA area this weekend you should totally check it out. I’m going to be there with a few friends from DC and the more the merrier.

More info can be found here.

Light Up

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Last night I lit up my fire staff for the first time and did a brief performance in front of friends, colleagues, and strangers. It was the culmination of the last six weeks or so of staff training that I have undergone at Fire Groove in Los Angeles. To be honest, it was an incredible experience. Not just the fire and performance, but the feeling of accomplishment and support that came from all around. My performance had plenty of flaws and it was obvious (to me anyway) that I have a lot of work ahead of me to still master the basics but I am certainly looking forward to the more advanced classes starting soon. I love fire dancing and am hooked.

It is more than the dancing and fire that I love though, it is really the community. Since leaving DC I have really been searching for a community. Much of my bike ride and my trip to Burning Man 2012 was part of the longing for a community that I have not felt recently. I have many friends but here in LA, and I love them each dearly, but it still felt like a bit was missing. I hope that my training and work with fire dancing will open doors to alleviate that.

The fire dancers I have met so far are a very open and caring group of people (they are also very beautiful people, I wonder why that is?).  They welcome all who come in peace and they encourage the sharing of knowledge about their art. There is no desire to restrict knowledge or prohibit competition, instead collaboration is encouraged and sought after. Artists of all stripes are part of the community in one way or another, whether it is designing custom outfits, performance art, or traditional art, it is all welcome and those who support the community are loved. In fact, I hope to start designing some glow staffs in my spare time, I don’t know if my model or design can really compete with the others out there but it should be fun.

As much as I love the community I feel like I haven’t taken full advantage of it. I approached it with extreme caution and my introverted side kicked in a lot, but I think that will change. I don’t quite know what I have to offer yet but I hope to contribute more than just taking classes. This is a group of people who won’t judge my polyamory, open relationship, anarchist views. Even if it doesn’t work out that I become a greater part of this group it has opened doors for me, given me greater confidence, provided me with a skill to gift to Burning Man next year, and has been a hell of a good time.

If anyone is interested in taking a classes with Fire Groove, there will be a free intro class on January 5th and 6th. You should definitely come by and check it out.