Next Chapter

I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing on my writing lately. To be honest, the only thing on my mind is the next chapter of my life that is about to begin. I made the announcement on Facebook last week, but I have not written anything about it here yet. Long story short, Anna and I have decided to pause the bike ride for a few years and move to Wilmington, NC. I don’t want to rehash all the reasons here (though, I will copy/paste my Facebook status at the bottom of the post for those interested), but it is something we are both incredibly excited about.

Why Wilmington? Well, it has so much that we look for in a town plus a ton of bonuses. The city is dog-friendly, bike-friendly, cheap, near a beach, has a college, and an active community. It is also near bigger cities that can provide opportunities for new sexual experiences, concerts, and an airport for travel. It is also near the mountains and the city of Asheville, which is an area we’ve always wanted to visit and hope to spend a fair amount of time in. It is also a reasonable drive to other places we love like Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, and DC (well, we don’t love DC, but we love some of our friends who live there). The cheap housing will also allow us to get a multi-bedroom house with a yard on our budget, which means lots of Couchsurfing/Warmshowers hosting, friends can visit, and we can start gardening and home brewing.

So, what will this new chapter mean for my life?

Work will be the same, though I may look for some part time work depending on how expensive life gets. It has been a while since I was in a stable location for several years. I am pretty minimalist but there might be some unexpected needs or wants that pop up. Life on a bike is really cheap (you basically have only a cell phone and health insurance bill), living in a house is very different. The things I’m really excited about is focusing on rounding out my mental, spiritual, and physical fitness.

Health has a lot to do with diet and having a kitchen will put me in greater control of what goes into my tummy. Ideally I will be able to take my veganism closer to “raw” and cut out some of the processed foods that have been a part of my bike riding diet. I did a quick meal plan (below) and I should be able to spend less than $100 a week on food and easily meet my dietary needs. Also, and this is a big one, I’m basically cutting out alcohol for the next few months. The only time I will drink is special occasions, like an upcoming bachelorette party in Canada and my birthday in October. Other than that, I will try not to drink any alcohol and will not keep any in the house. Luckily, Anna supports this and has the same goals. Having a partner that shares your goals and methods is super important to success.

In addition to my food, exercise is going to be important for me to feel healthy. It would be really easy for me to get out of shape when we stop. A major benefit of the bike ride was activity was a necessary part of life, now I will need to make an effort. Anna and I signed up for a half-marathon to help with motivation and I will be joining the local YMCA to use their weight room, pool, and yoga classes. We are also joining a local cycling and running club to get some community support and to make friends. I’m also interested in barre and martial arts, but I’m not sure if I will jump into that right away.

I’ve never run a half-marathon before. In fact, I really haven’t run at all since my time in Army, so I have no idea what I’m doing. But, then again, I had never really biked before my first cross-country ride and that seemed to turn out okay. I am taking precautions with the running and will be consulting with professionals to make sure I have the right shoes and get a training plan that works for me. I know that running uses different muscles than cycling and is harder on the knees. As much as I want robot knees someday I don’t think the technology is advanced enough in 2016, so I should probably take care of my body.

I will be very likely be recording this time in detail and blogging about it. I want to keep track of my weight, measurements, and such during the few months leading up to the half-marathon. During this time I will take lots of nude pictures to have a visual record of this time, and they will probably be shared on this site. Don’t worry, I will provide ample warnings to prevent anyone from accidentally seeing my booty or flaccid penis in these non-sexual (kind of medical) pics.

This break will also give me an opportunity to focus more on my writing. I am dedicated to finishing the book about my solo cross-country bike ride, as well as submitting some of my sci-fi story ideas to be published. Anna and I are also working on a series of children’s books about our adventures around the US and a “Couple’s Guide to Adventuring” that will share what we’ve learned by spending two years together cycling nearly 10,000 miles.

Another thing we are looking forward to is accomplishing things that are impossible on the road. We want to expand our sex life to be more than just “maintenance sex”, we want to start gardening, and I want to become fluent in a foreign language. I’ll also be doing a lot of reading about transpersonal psychology to decide if that is a future career path.

To be honest, the thing I’m looking forward to most is building a community. Some of the clubs we will join will help with that, but I also want to start volunteering. I’m sure I can find local animal shelters, LGBT community centers, women’s shelters, and Planned Parenthood facilities that can use support and volunteers. The kindness of strangers has been such a part of my life and I want to make sure I’m returning the karma.

Anyway, I’m fucking excited and I can’t stop making lists and schedules and researching all the things I want to do. My little heart is all a flutter with the possibilities.

 

*Facebook Announcement*
“After a short conversation, Anna and I have decided to stop the bike ride for a few years after this next week. There were several factors that influenced this decision. None of them alone would be enough for us to alter our plans, but all of them together made us realize that we needed to change.

First, we just weren’t having that much fun anymore. Our frustration and stress runs deeper than the shitty roads of the south. We both started dreading the days when we had to ride. We love cycling, but that doesn’t mean we want to be forced to do it. It is better to stop now than to keep going until we hate it.

Second, we have been presented with an opportunity to live with our friendIvy for a few months and then move to Wilmington for a few years. As wonderful as it is to travel, we haven’t really had solid home since 2014 and we miss it a bit. We want to do home brewing, yoga, gardening, go on our honeymoon, get tattoos, learn to dance, begin fire staff again, take up rock climbing or surfing, foster animals, go to Burning Man, host Couchsurfers, take classes, etc, and that is more plausible with a home.

Third, the current logistics would make much of our journey a terrible rush… and we don’t want that. It is hot as balls and we would be on time crunch to get north.

So, what does that mean for you?
Probably nothing, unless you want to come visit us in Wilmington and hang out on the beach in the next few years. You have a place with us.

Post-Script: There was a surprising surge of anxiety about this while we discussed it. We felt like we were quitters or something… Luckily, we realized that bullshit. It is our life to do what we wish, and that includes changing your mind. You shouldn’t let past decision prevent future pleasure.”

*Starting Meal Plan*
Total Calories: ~2,000
Protein: ~77g
Fat: ~65g
Carbs: ~227g

Breakfast – Oatmeal with fruit, black bean and veggie scramble, avocado toast (~820 calories)
Snack 1 – Almonds (~100 calories)
Lunch – Veggie wraps (~450 calories)
Snack 2 – Grilled tofu salad (~150 calories)
Dinner – Veggie soup or bowl or chili (~300 calories)
Snack 3 – Fruit and nuts (150 calories)

Starting Meal

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Maybe Nothing…

This is the second post in a series where I think about death and the afterlife. The first post was kind of an introduction, this one will cover the elimination of consciousness at death, tomorrow is about reincarnation, the fourth will be about an afterlife, and the final one will be my concluding thoughts. 

Yesterday I talked a bit about what I would like to happen to my body if I die. Basically, return me to nature, let the animals feast upon me, or my partner can do whatever the hell she wishes. I’m dead. I won’t feel anything. She can burn me, bang me, abandon me, blast me into pieces, or send me to Europa. Whatever she wants and makes her feel better, I won’t feel it because “me” is no longer a concept that applies to that body.

But what happens to our consciousness*?

I feel like there are three primary possibilities: they disappear, they move to another body, or they move to an afterlife. There are many variations of the latter two that I’ll ponder on in future posts but this post is about the first possibility, that we simply die.

Our current understanding of science and the natural world seems to argue that when we die our consciousness is eliminated with our bodies. To my knowledge there have not been any peer-reviewed studies that show our consciousness can exist outside of our bodies and that it continues to exist once our bodies die. We are stardust and to stardust we shall return.

The scientist in me loves this, but is also open to more information (as all scientists should be). It would be a fatal hubris to assume that what we know about the human experience now is end of knowledge. It is possible that we are simply unable to measure, read, or understand the spirit at this point (or maybe any point). Reality doesn’t conform to human knowledge. Sight existed long before we understood light, it is possible that consciousness exists in a state that can leave the body after death but we just don’t have the technology to view it.

That being said, I don’t think that is likely. From what I know at this point it seems likely that our consciousness dies with our body. I’d like more research though, particularly into the experiences people have had on DMT and other psychedelics that seem to open gateways in people’s minds to other dimensions and lives. But then again, I like research into all the drugs I enjoy so maybe I am biased.

Either way, the idea that after death there is nothing isn’t a scary idea. I have no reason to fear what I will experience when I die then I do to experience fear when thinking about life before I was born. If consciousness is nothing but an evolutionary side-effect it actually makes me smile a bit. 100% of my existence, that was forged in the heart of stars, will be used to provide life for other creatures and eventually be blasted around the universe. The atoms will never arrange themselves in a way that makes “me” again but it will join with other atoms to be a part of other lives and reactions.

That is immortality.

* I’ll be using the term consciousness but you could also call it a soul, spirit, or something else.

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.

On The Spirit

Dealings of spirituality and religion are a bit difficult to me. I grew up in a Christian home but at some point along the way found it lacking. It isn’t necessarily the teachings of Christ that I found disagreeable, it is more the Church did not reflect what I saw in Christ. In addition, my upbringing denied scientific theories like evolution but did not provide any real counter-theory. I was told to just have faith, I was told “God works in mysterious ways”, I was told that evolution was “just a theory”… things that both insult the human capacity for logic and shows a complete ignorance to what a scientific theory is. They were straw men and when I was presented with evidence, logic, and the scientific method the straw men burnt easily, but the words of Galileo rang true “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

I certainly consider myself a skeptic, and by that I mean I place greater weight in objectivity and science than subjective experiences and faith. But science at this time cannot explain everything and the places where measuring objectivity is not possible (yet?) we must compile subjective experiences, look for patterns, and attempt to formulate measurable hypothesis. Still, we humans lack the ability to objectively measure spiritual experiences, and it may be that we can never measure them. No matter how much we can look into the mind it is difficult, or maybe impossible, to determine the source of spiritual experiences. They may be created and executed completely in the brain or the brain may act as a conduit for experiences coming from another dimension.

I use the term dimension in a semi-scientific way. I admit my knowledge of physics is pretty laymen but it seems it is possible that a dimension may exist in a way that it can interact with ours under certain circumstances. Meditation, psychedelic drugs, near-death, spiritual revelations, and maybe even dreams may act as gateways to another dimension. I don’t know this for a fact, but that is the point. We lack the scientific knowledge to measure and compare subjective spiritual experiences. It is possible our brains are like a water cooler where all the mechanics of dispensing water are controlled in one body, or our brains may be like a water faucet where the mechanics move outside our homes into an area that we don’t currently have access to (at least not without professional help).

The truth is, I don’t know what the spirit is or what spiritual experiences are. I think there is some truth in the spiritual practices that have woven itself within humankind. I feel (admittedly a subjective response) the spirit exists and that we can access enlightening experiences through various means. In some ways whether spiritual experiences truly exist or are simply misfiring neurons in our brain seems of little relevance if they help us live a more fulfilling and happier life. I think the mind, body, and spirit is a triad that encompasses the human experience, and each section must be exercised for complete health. I may be wrong, but in the end it really doesn’t matter to me, this balance of belief and evidence about reality helps me live a life of peace, love, and personal growth, and if there is a meaning to life that seems like a good one to me.

Self Evolution

self-improvement

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