Why I Run

It took some effort to pull my front door open, it always sticks on cold mornings. That’s just one of the quirks of this weird old house. As I stepped out into the morning air my dog looked up at me from the couch with a look of confusion and disgust. “What the hell are you doing human? If you are going out there at least close the door, I don’t have thick fur.” he seemed to say.

What the hell was I doing? It was bitter cold out, autumn has overtaken summer with a vengeance and the air burns my lungs in the morning hours. My hands immediately start to curl up in search of warmth, reminding me again that I need to buy some gloves. Oh well, I can buy gloves later. Right now I’m going to run in a big circle around a park a few times with the soccer moms and retired folks.

The reasons I run are varied, and I need all of them to keep me moving. Getting out the door usually requires me to focus on the short-term benefits. Running wakes me up and suppresses my appetite to prevent snacking. It also gets the blood flowing through my body and clears my head. Running in the morning has consistently improved my  job performance and my writing, and it keeps me motivated to take care of my body and life. When I don’t run I’m more likely to spend the day on the couch with Oreos and Netflix being a sloth, but when I run in the morning I tend to get my errands done, eat fairly healthy, and get a lot of work done. This first positive action in the morning sets the tone for the day.

But those reasons really only get my out the door and to my first mental wall (usually around mile 2). I need more than that if I’m going to push past the walls and keep running. For that type of motivation, I need to focus on the long term and philosophical reasons I run.

The first reason, as cliche as it sounds, is my partner. My body is kind of a gift to her and I want to take care of it. I want to be healthy enough that our lives can be long and fun together and that means investing a little bit of time now for a big payoff later. An investment in me is an investment in us. I also really like it when my partner tells me she finds me attractive, particularly when she is specific. There is just nothing that boosts my self-esteem like when she wraps her hands around me and says “wow, I can feel your abs”. Is it superficial? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I like feeling sexy to her and myself. It is kind of cool to step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

The second reason is related to my partner. Well, it is at least related to our relationship. Since we have a “not completely monogamous” relationship I have opportunities to be intimate with others with my partner’s consent. I can’t really fall into the “now that we’re married she’s stuck with me so I can let my body go” trap if I want to keep having the sexual variety and experiences that I’m interested in. I realize that attracting a intimate partner (or to get people to keep sending me sexy snaps @pneiger) is more difficult if you don’t appear healthy, particularly when I can’t offer any type of romantic relationship. When I lack the ability to provide love for a future partner I need to make up for that in other ways, being fit and providing friendship is a way I can do that.

Another reason I run is kind of quasi-spiritual. I see my body as the most amazing gift I’ve ever received. I don’t think there is a god out there that gave me a body, but if there is one then it seems like I should show respect for that gift. I wouldn’t take something my mom gave me and treat it like shit, why would I do that with my body if it is a gift from a loving god? It seems pretty disrespectful to eat junk and neglect your health if your body comes from god. Anyway, I don’t really believe that, but I do think this life and body is a gift of sorts from the universe. As such, I want to treat it well and see just I can do with it. I love self-experimentation and my body is an opportunity to see what my potential really is. I want to try and run 100 miles or be physically fit enough to explore space someday. I want to try and live until the point when death becomes optional.

Running is also tied to my life philosophy of libertarianism and minimalism. I believe in personal responsibility, including self-defense. But self-defense isn’t just owning a well-maintained firearm and practicing your marksmanship because other humans are not the only danger we face. It is very unlikely that I will need to use my gun to save my life, but it is very likely that I will need a healthy heart and immune system to save my life. I exercise because I love my life and I want to increase the quality and quantity of it. Eating junk food and neglecting your health is to commit slow suicide, it is anti-life.  Life starts with the body. As for minimalism, if I want to live a life with few possessions and lots of leisure time, I need to stay healthy. Health expenses add up quickly and I need to take as much responsibility for minimizing those costs as my genetics will allow.

Like all philosophical views, this is just my ideal, one that I fail at regularly. I’m not trying to get on my pulpit and put others down (just last night I ate way too much ice cream and cookies and seriously slacked on my exercise), this is just meant to illustrate what I think about to keep my body moving when I hit walls while running.

Another source of inspiration is my nieces and nephews. I want to be alive and healthy throughout as much of their lives as I can. I want to celebrate victories with them and be there to comfort them when they are hurting. I want to provide guidance, support, and my perspective on life (if my siblings are foolish enough to let them). I’ve seen first hand with family and friends how being unhealthy can shorten the quality and quantity of your life. there are plenty of people my age (35) who can’t walk up stairs, play with their children, or travel because of their health. I want to postpone that as long as I can. I imagine this drive to be healthy and see their children grow up is even stronger in parents. I know how much I care for my nieces and nephews, but I’m sure that pales in comparison for the love parents feel. Maintaining a healthy body and being a good example seems like it would come hand-in-hand with parenting.

I don’t love running, but I don’t loathe it anymore either. It takes effort every day to get out and pound the pavement, but it is slowly getting easier and I keep finding more reasons to run. Hopefully, that continues and I’ll be in my 70’s running 8-minute miles around the park still.

 

Post-Script: I forgot one thing, I’m kind of a hedonist. I enjoy pleasurable experiences such as recreational drug use and ice cream. In order to balance the damage those experiences do to my body I need to exercise. A long life is boring if it doesn’t include pleasure.

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My Old Life

Visiting DC last month was a bit of an emotional rollar coaster for me. As much as I hated living in that town, my time there was very influential on my life. It was there that I had my first professional job and built a community around a cause I believed in. Many of my fellow freedom fighters are stronger than I am, they were able to push through the tough years in DC and even come to enjoy that terrible swamptown.

I feel like I betrayed them. I took the easy way out. I threw in the towel and rode off into the sunset instead of fighting the beast from the inside.

I don’t regret it, but I sometimes wonder “what if”.

If I had stayed in DC I would probably be a relatively successful mid-level non-profit employee. Maybe I’d work for CKI or IHS, or maybe I would have gone back to school. I’m not sure I’d be married or not… none of my relationships in DC were terribly serious at the time except one, and I think that would have burnt out. I was mostly a Hank Reardon for a community of Dagny’s waiting for their John Galts. I don’t have a problem with my role, I knew I couldn’t have provided what most people in that city look for in a partner. But who knows, maybe I would have become Galt for one of them.

Some people say that it isn’t wise to wonder “what if”. I kindly disagree. I think it is unwise to dwell on “what if” because, to paraphrase Aslan, “we can never know what could have been”. I think reflecting on our choices and running the other scenarios through our heads can be valuable. It can be inspiring to feel like you could have thrived in a variety of scenarios, there is no set path and we should strive to make every path a wonderful one. Future decisions become less scary if we know that we will be alright, regardless of what choice we make.

I’m glad I visited DC. I saw some people that I love and were able to reconnect with them on a level that is difficult without being together physically. It was good to see how successful they are in their lives, and know that I could have had that life if I wanted it. I was also able to meet some kindred spirits for the first time in real life, people who I feel a strong connection to and hope to have in my life for a long time. It gives me hope to know that there are lights fighting the heart of darkness, even if I am no longer on the front lines with them.

I hate DC… but I’ll probably be back soon.

How Pure Must Allies Be?

I’ve been active in several different political movements in my life. I was raised conservative, became a libertarian, and am now a “left” libertarian who is passionate about LGBT issues, the drug war, and social justice. One common thread throughout the movements on the left, right, and libertarian is that many people demand a certain amount of purity in their allies. Personally, I think that is destructive. Particularly when that purity is demanded of someone’s past actions. Take Dan Savage, for example.

I like Dan Savage*. He did a lot to open my eyes to gender and sexuality issues and I think he is right a lot of the time. Though, in the past he made some harmful comments about transgender individuals and he contributed to the idea that bisexuality doesn’t really exist (Spoiler: We bisexuals exist). Since making those comments years ago he has become more educated and changed his mind. He has even apologized for making the comments. In reality, Savage has done more for the equality movement than most people… but he is often demonized because he wasn’t perfect in the past. Hell, he probably isn’t perfect now by anyone’s definition, but I’ve seen people say he shouldn’t be supported, his posts shouldn’t be shared, and that he shouldn’t be considered part of the equality movement because of the things he said in the past. It raises the question, how pure must someone be for them to get our support? And how long to we ostracize someone who has since apologized and changed their mind?

I didn’t always believe the things I believe now. I didn’t always support marriage equality. I used to think being gay was a sin and I said many hurtful things in the past. It seems that if I was more famous back in my youth I would be shunned by some of the people that I care about today.

All you have to do is watch the GOP debates or read the thread on a Reason Magazine Facebook post and you will see that most political views are filled with purity tests. You aren’t a “real” libertarian if you think a Basic Income Guarantee might be a pragmatic and beneficial initiative. You aren’t a “real” conservative if you don’t want to kill Muslims. Forget all the ways you might agree with a philosophy, if you don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue you are a phone, a RINO, a fraud, and all your opinions are worthless. If you disagree with some people on one issue you become incapable of contributing anything, even if your contributions are unrelated.

It is sad and really ineffective to destroy allies this way. By focusing on our areas of disagreement we only guarantee our movement will get smaller. Pushing people to the margins and cutting them out of the conversation won’t change their mind. Quite the contrary, it will only shrink their circle until they interact only with the people that you disagree with. If someone is wrong on transgender issues, you don’t decide that they aren’t a feminist, liberal, progressive, libertarian, or whatever and ostracize them, instead if you want to change their mind you bring them into the conversation and celebrate the areas you agree.

It is this pursuit of purity that drove me out of most political activism. My chosen identities of anarchist, feminist, libertarian, etc were constantly under fire until I said “fuck it” and just stopped being active. It wasn’t worth the heartache or headache to try and appease everyone. You destroy allies when you demand purity, and eventually you end up alone.

Facebook, Libertarianism, and Your Name

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As many of us in the queer community know there has been a lot of anger brewing in the last week about Facebook’s “true name” policy. Recently Facebook has cracked down on drag queens who violate their policy to only use your real name on the social network. While the policy has long been in place the recent crackdown has sparked outrage from many across the queer community because it puts them in the unenviable position of leaving Facebook or exposing their birth name, which could lead to serious harm from bigoted family members, employers, or neighbors.

While the easy position for libertarians to take is to say they are a private business and they can do what they want, I find this approach to be heartless and lazy. Many libertarians take the stance on marriage equality that the government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, therefore they don’t support marriage equality. While that might be philosophically pure it is again, heartless and lazy (and in a few cases a way for bigots to cloak their hatred behind a noble cause). But, if that is your stance you should be encouraging non-government agencies to see identity, relationships, and names as something owned by the individual and not the state. Those companies that view people as individuals instead of looking only at their government issue IDs, accreditation, or marriage certificates should be praised. Libertarians should be standing next to the queer community and fighting Facebook on this policy, your name and identity belong to you. It is not the property of the state (or your parents who named you), it is your personnel property to define and use as you wish.

It is particularly sad that the liberty community is being so silent on this issue when many people use fake names like “Freeman”, “Rothbard”, “Liberty”, etc as their online identity. Facebook says that they are not targeting members of the queer community, that it is a computer algorithm that identified them. I don’t know if this is true, given Facebook’s very progressive stance on gender identity I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this, but it is still a bad policy and libertarians should fight it. I don’t think the state should be involved but we should put pressure on them by writing to Facebook, boycotting those that advertise with them, and doing everything we can to stand in solidarity with those currently targeted, who face a very real fear of harm by this policy change.

Many have said that you can always have a “page” instead of a “profile” if you don’t want to use your name. While this might seem to be a solution on paper, the truth is separate but equal (and this would be far from equal) is not a solution. Facebook treating people differently because of their identity is discrimination, pure and simple. They are looking to the government as the only legitimate source of identity, something libertarians should be furious about. This policy, if left unchecked, encourages Facebook to require government verification for marriages, hometowns, and every other factor of our existence. We should draw a line in the sand here and vocally oppose it. There is nothing un-libertarian about encouraging private companies to change their discriminatory policies, but there is something heartless and lazy about remaining silent.

Self Reflection – Introduction

The nature of my lifestyle means I have a lot of time to think. 4-6 hours of constant bike riding daily kind of demands it, your mind tends to wander and you can only focus on podcasts for so long before you ignore them outright. I guess most of my adult life I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I believe and why I believe it. The stability of my Christian, conservative, white middle-class view on the world was another tower that fell on 9/11. After that attack I joined the military, saw some of the world, met lots of people, and realized my upbringing was not the “end all, be all” of the good life. In fact, I found it quite wanting.

This penchant for self-analysis and a recent post on the app “Secret”* inspired this upcoming series of blog posts. I think it is important to constantly question what you believe, why you believe it, and how people perceive you. There are many labels that people apply to themselves (myself included) but rarely can a person’s perspective and history be defined by a few grunted syllables. In addition, I think it will be fun to provide a permanent record of what I believe for future me to look back on. It is likely that 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now I will not have the same points of view. I actually hope I don’t, because that means I have likely stopped growing and learning.

So, in no particular order, here are the subjects, roles, and views I plan on exploring in the coming months, both my current views and how I got to them. I hope to get 1-2 out per week but that depends on logistics for my ride.

  • Libertarian Anarchist
  • Pansexual
  • Nudity and Body Positivity
  • Pagan Atheist
  • Transhumanist
  • Sex Positive
  • Open Relationships and My Current Monogamish Relationship
  • Veganism
  • Minimalist
  • BDSM and Kink
  • Drug Use

*Recently someone posted on “Secret” that my life is basically childish, hedonistic, and that I’m afraid of adulthood. I responded on Facebook and it doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but that perception of me did get my brain moving and was part of the catalyst for this series.

The Ride Begins Again…

Tomorrow morning I start on a 35,000 miles, 18-month bicycle ride around the United States and Canada with my partner (Anna), our friend (also named Anna), and our dog (Higgs-Bosom – The Dog Particle). I started this blog just over two years ago to track my (mostly) solo bicycle ride from Washington DC to Los Angeles. It is funny how things come full circle.

Anyway, because of the upcoming ride I will have some new writing responsibilities and this blog is going to change a bit. I will still write as often as possible in an uncensored way about the subjects I love (Burning Man, sex, spirituality, BDSM, LGBT, science, transhumanism, polyamory, open relationships, drug legalization, social issues, MDMA, anarchy, libertarianism, veganism, etc) but I really don’t know how much time I will have to spend writing. My Facebook page will probably also lack it’s normal traffic but if you want to add me there to see the articles and stuff I find interesting please do. If you are interested in following my other writing I will be blogging at two other sites:

  • Barely Functional Adults: This is going to be an uncensored blog about our bike ride. Because we are all adults and enjoy adult things (drugs, sex, being naked, swearing, sinning, etc) this blog will cover those things. Some highlights we are looking forward to include visiting nude beaches, going to festivals, the World Naked Bike Ride, Burning Man, and banging in every state. We will be updating 2-3 times per week. (www.BarelyFunctionalAdults.wordpress.com).
  • 10 Legs, Will Travel: This blog will be censored, updated daily, and basically rated “PG”. We all subscribe to the Dan Savage view of dealing with parents/family… basically, there are things parents have a right not to know about their adult children’s lives and they have a responsibility not to snoop. This blog will provide our families with a place to hear about our journey, look at pictures, and keep track of us without hearing about hanging out in the Orgy Dome or seeing our nipples, butts, pubic mounds, etc. (www.10LegsWillTravel.wordpress.com).
  • There are also other social networks:
    • Instagram: 10LegsWillTravel (we will probably take tons of pictures… the Anna’s are both great photographers)
    • SnapChat: pneiger (in case you want to send us pics of your junk)
    • Twitter: pneiger (though this is just my Facebook and blog linked, I don’t actually use it)
    • FourSquare: Peter Neiger

Anyway, I hope you will follow our other travels and still check out this blog from time to time. I will do my best to keep up with everything but it is likely I will only have internet access a couple of times a day… and I’m also working on college courses, Khan Academy, and some other writing so my downtime will be limited. Below is our basic route but if you have any advice on places to check out or know people with open lawn/floor space for us to sleep please shoot an email to 10LegsWillTravel@gmail.com . Much peace and love to you all.

Map Update (1)

Labels…

I tend to find labels exhausting. But truth be told, they are necessary in our world today. As much as I’d like to live in a time and place where we are just individuals and nothing is thought of our political beliefs, sexual practices, or religion that is not the case. It is never “this is what Peter believes”, instead we use shortcuts like “Peter is an atheist”. We try to compact complex ideas into single words so that we know who is an ally and who is an enemy. This sucks, but it is reality. And as a writer living in reality there is value in defining terms so that people know what I am talking about. As a person it also challenges me to put my beliefs and views into words… often it seems people adopt labels without knowing why they call themselves it.

So, here are some of my labels and what I mean by them. I may add more to this post and reference it in the future as needed.

Anarchist – An ideal world is one without violence or threat of violence. Because government in all forms is backed by violence we should move away from government solutions to our problems. It should be remembered that anytime you say “there ought to be a law” or something similar you are really saying “this situation is so bad that the only way to handle it is to allow people with guns to take people against there will and put them in cages if they disobey, and if they resist with force they sacrifice their lives”.

Atheist – I do not believe there is a conscious being that created and/or interacts with the daily lives in humans that is morally superior to us or should be worshiped.

Introvert – When I am mentally drained I recharge by time alone or time with close friends in a comfortable place. This doesn’t mean I’m shy or avoid public places, it simply means I find new conversations or unfamiliar places draining and need to be in a comfortable place to recover. Yes, this means I stay in 5-6 nights a week and would prefer being curled up with a book or Netflix over putting on clothes and going to a bar or club.

Libertarian – I believe the only person who has the right to control the body, mind, or labor of an individual is that individual. No person, organization, institution, or concept can morally restrict the freedoms of the individual as long as they are not harming another. A peaceful society requires maximizing freedom for all and equality under the law.

Nudist – The human form is beautiful to me and I am comfortable being naked and around naked people. To much emphasis is placed on turning people against their own bodies and forcing us to be embarrassed if we see another person nude. The body is not explicitly sexual and when you start to view it in non-sexual environments regularly you increase respect for individuals and appreciate the beauty that comes from our diverse forms.

Pansexual – For me sexual attraction is not fluid or binary. The people I am attracted to is not determined solely by their organs but depends on time, place, and the individual as a whole, not just their genitalia.

Partner – I am in a relationship with a wonderful partner who I love dearly. The decisions I make do not solely effect me so I take my partner’s thoughts and feelings into strong consideration when I make important decisions. We see eye-to-eye on all important things (marriage, children, and lifestyle) and we communicate openly. I would not be with her if I didn’t feel we complimented each other, can grow together, and are in many ways family.

Polyamorous – If relationship orientation has “only monogamous, one-and-only, no sex, intimacy, or attraction” on one end (let’s call it “1”) and “only polyamorous, must have or pursue multiple sexual partners, intimacy, and relationships” on the other end (“10”) then I range closer to 10… probably fluctuating between 4 and 7 depending on time, place, and individuals.

Promiscuous – Sex is not something that is spiritual, super-natural, or of great importance to me. I have no moral problem with having any kind of sex with consenting people if I wish. (Note: Being a partner means that she gets a strong say in this)

Transhumanist – Thanks to technological advancements humans will someday (possibly in my lifetime) be able to move our consciousness out of the body and into something more durable. The exact form of this will change many times and the initial advancement that grants the option of immortality is still unknown.

Skeptic – I prefer objective proof over subjective testimony. Humans are capable of understanding much through scientific inquiry and those tools should be used whenever possible. The “supernatural” doesn’t exist, though there may be natural forces and mechanisms in place that we have yet to discover or properly understand… in fact, I am sure of it.

Spiritual – I believe that there is something unique about at least humans (possibly other earthly animals and very likely extraterrestrials) that is more than just body and mind physical reactions as we understand them. A soul/spirit exists and exercising it can be beneficial to both the mind and the body. No organized religion has a monopoly on the truth but certain common threads among some “prophets” like love and honor each other, forgive, immediacy, etc provide a foundation. This are internal areas where objective measurement is not yet possible so we must use subjectivity. Whether the soul lives on after bodily death or not I am unsure of.