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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Star Trek

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and man, it made me so excited to see my Facebook page light up with Star Trek love. I don’t know if many people realize this about me, but I am kind of a nerd, and I really always have been. In my school days, I was not really popular, but that was fine. My school didn’t really have “bullies” and the popular kids were actually pretty kind. I wasn’t really friends with them, but there was no animosity between the many social groups. I generally enjoyed learning and wasn’t particularly athletic. I actually really liked playing sports, particularly football, but I wasn’t really that good at it. After one year on JV, I decided to quit football because I felt like kind of a fraud, I wasn’t the type of person that should be on a school sports team so I quit. Looking back, that is a shitty reason and I wish I would have kept playing.

Anyway, Star Trek has a very special place in my heart. I remember gathering around in front of the TV with my siblings and our binder of ST: TNG Customizable Card Game cards to watch The Next Generation whenever it came on. We would identify cards in the show as they happened and feel a sense of pride when we knew some obscure fact about the plot or characters. It was more than just a show to me because it was more than just entertainment. It made me feel like there were like-minded people in the world, people who longed for exploration and adventure. It was also my only real introduction to science outside of the classroom (which was mostly stiff, boring, and textbook based). Star Trek didn’t bore me with periodic tables, it showed me what you can do with science and technology, and the ethical questions that can arise. I grew up in a relatively anti-science environment and Star Trek challenged me and encouraged me to problem solve instead of trusting things based on faith. I distinctly remember when Lt. Barclay began de-evolving because of a virus or something and I had a moment of discomfort because I was raised to believe evolution was a lie spread by Satan. To be honest, I’m not really sure why my parents let me watch it while growing up.

It was also my only real introduction to science outside of the classroom (which was mostly stiff, boring, and textbook based). Star Trek didn’t bore me with periodic tables, it showed me what you can do with science and technology, and the ethical questions that can arise. I grew up in a relatively anti-science environment and Star Trek challenged me and encouraged me to problem solve instead of trusting things based on faith. I distinctly remember when Lt. Barclay began de-evolving because of a virus or something and I had a moment of discomfort because I was raised to believe evolution was a lie spread by Satan. To be honest, I’m not really sure why my parents let me watch it while growing up.

As I work my way through Voyager I find the show still has value, even for someone in their mid-30’s. Like all good science fiction, the issues it raises are often universal and applicable to our current time and place. They are human issues that make our lives complex, challenging, and rich. Sure, the acting and writing can induce some eye rolls, and the special effects are clearly dated, but the real value of Star Trek is the universe it creates and the vision for the future. My own idealism about humanity rests, at least partly, in the potential universe shown in Star Trek. My love of a Basic Income Guarantee and my belief that science and technology can get to the point where we all have our needs and desires met without labor come from Star Trek. The words “Live Long, and Prosper” bring guidance for how to behave, as well as hope for what we can become. Maybe I’ll see the day when 3-D Printers evolve to Replicators and death is finally cured, but even if I don’t I am glad to live in a time and place where I can view human potential through Star Trek.

 

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.

Extreme Futurist Festival Recap

XFF-2012-v4

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.

vortexdome

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.