Want A Religion? Why Not Bake Your Own?

This is a weird concept I’ve been working on for quite a while.

I was raised as a Christian kid.

Baby Jesus was a bit of a bad ass, and certainly had some sweet tricks.

I learned from a young age to treat others with the sort of respect we would show ourselves. If a man takes your tasty burger, you should offer him your Sprite as well.

That is a cornerstone of Christian faith.

Now, Christianity comes with what some might term “significant baggage”. A lot of stuff in the old testament is, frankly, a steaming crock of shit. The sort of thing an utterly demented psychiatric patient might scream from the top of a hospital building.

In his underwear.

In the dead of night.

After having covered his room with strange hieroglyphics.

Having said that, there are certainly nuggets of gold throughout the bible that we can all learn from.

I think it’s a good manual for how to live a positive life, if you ignore the bits that are absolutely batshit insane.

If you’re looking for the cause of the majority of the worlds pain and suffering to date – religion and nationalism are right up there. They’re both incredibly dangerous, like a fine Japanese kitchen knife. Treat them with respect and they are useful tools (though nationalism having much use at all is highly debatable). Treat that thing with disrespect and you’re going to do significant damage to yourself and to others.

I am a theist, undoubtedly. I, like many others, feel that the universe is far too vast and too awesome for human-kind to sit on the highest rung of existence. We do our best, old human-kind, but we surely fail a lot more than we succeed.

There must be something bigger than me, but Earth is littered with a huge array of religions. They have good points and they have bad. Your default is most likely simply down to the geography of your birth.

I’ve decided it’s a lot easier just to pick what I want, and discard the chaff.

Thinking about it now, this sort of thinking is probably why there are so many different, fractured religions in the wild today.

Still, I’m not advocating the spread of your, or my home-brew religious beliefs. This is about developing your own, personal, private code.

It’s the stuff you use to judge good from bad, the foundation of your moral compass.

If there is one thing 2017 needs, it is a functional moral compass.

 

Body Balance, Physiotherapy And The Mind

I’ve always been a very tall, skinny, weak nerd.

You can fight your genetics all you want, and you can certainly move the needle – but you’ll be fighting forever.

I’ve been fighting (in a friendly way!) my genetics for a long time.

I never really played a lot of sport, I just hung out with friends and messed around with computers. Then my darling wife dragged me to Queenstown and everything changed. I was in my mid-20’s and everyone around me was exercising. I started cycling, I tried running for a while, I started skiing, day walking, all sorts of shenanigans. I had a physical base of about 0. I was lucky in that I wasn’t carrying around any excess weight, but I had the strength and fitness of a wet towel.

I had no significant musculature and no idea how the human body was supposed to work. My expensive private school education hadn’t taught me the first thing about how my body was supposed to move. A real shame.

I trashed myself very quickly. My horrible mechanics put me on the lightning fast track to chronic pain, my joints hated me. Crohn’s has a nasty habit of causing joint paint too, but I didn’t know I had Crohn’s at the time, and while it would be easy to just blame that – it probably accounted for 20% of my issues. I was a mechanical mess.

Fast-forward to my early 30’s. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on subsidized physiotherapy and had little to no result (the biggest benefit of my therapy to date was simply having them tell me to take it easy for a while, an enforced stand down period).

On the positive side, I’ve watched hundreds of hours of YouTube material on physiotherapy, I’ve got books everywhere and I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts on the subject. I decided to fix myself, because it was clear no one else was able to.

It took me months of research to stumble across one of the fundamental principles of a healthy body, and that is one of balance. Specifically muscular balance across your joints.

In simple terms, if you push a lot, you need to pull a lot.

If you develop strength doing a particular movement in a particular direction – you need strength in the opposite direction.

Karate is a great example – we push all day. Punching, kicking, blocking. It’s all forward focused. The front of the body develops, the back of the body does not. The supporting musculature for all of our pushing movements slowly withers away and we end up with a huge muscular imbalance across the shoulders. Loose traps, malfunctioning lats and non-existent rear deltoids coupled with strong, tight pecs and tight biceps are a recipe for shoulder disaster.

Look at any joint, look at a movement, you need to be strong in both directions. The opposing muscle group must be trained or you loose balance, and you make physiotherapists a lot of money.

My shoulders.

I had a shoulder impingement issue from karate and I’d had it for a few years. Id gotten a lot stronger over time and my pecs were chronically tight. My posterior musculature, tasked with keeping that anterior strength under control was woefully inadequate.

I haven’t had a serious shoulder problem for over 2 years but I didn’t fix it with goofy physio exercises with a band, or with rows.

I’d tried that stuff for 6 months and I was still impinging. I was certainly stronger for my physio exercises. My rotator cuff was stronger, my rear delts were stronger, my traps were stronger.

No improvement.

I wasn’t really sure where to go from there.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t really have to look hard for an answer. This random guy started renting the desk next to me at work and stuck around for a few months.

Turns out I knew (of) him, I’d seen him on TV. He was a famous multi-sport athlete.

Naturally I bitched about my shoulders. “My shoulders keep getting pulled forward when I train karate, my pecs are tight blah blah blah” – my usual whinge at this point.

He told me to pull my shoulders back and keep them there.

Cheeky bastard.

I’ve been in and out of physio for a year with this shit, “pull your shoulders back” isn’t much use to me!

Long story short, I started walking around with my shoulders back, it took a while but months later that’s where they stayed and they’ve stayed back ever since.

Problem solved.

I fixed my shoulders with my mind. My mind is clearly some sort of deadly ninja.

I think about that conversation whenever I see people walking down the street waddling like ducks with the feet pointed outwards.

Don’t do that duck walk thing, it’s super stupid and we all judge you for doing it.

That was a weird, abrupt ending.

No one will notice.

Absolutes

Scientific minds try to think in absolutes whenever possible. If I do X, the result will very likely be Y. I experimented with A and the results were very most definitely B, C and D.

Cause and effect is a core, and utterly important principle.

Where humans are involved, though, I find I tend to overstep with absolutes.

Take attempted weight loss. Weight loss is simple, to loose weight the body must be at a caloric deficit. Without that deficit, you are lost. You can create a deficit in one of two ways (generally speaking):

  1. Reduce your caloric intake
  2. Increase your physical output

The required level of physical output required to tip the body into caloric deficit is generally very high (much higher than almost anyone realises) and is required on a consistent long term basis (something humans aren’t good at).

Reducing your intake is a smarter play. A little of number 2 is fine, but you’ll win or loose based on number 1 most of the time.

Relevance?

Someone was trying to loose weight, and doing a good job apparently, but they had hit a plateau.

They had a personal trainer, a gym membership, and were using both regularly.

Naturally I said to myself: “They just need to eat less. Less food, caloric deficit. Result.”

In a world of absolutes, that is true, but our world isn’t really like that when humans are part of the equation.

“No one needs to go to the gym to loose weight” I thought. “No one needs a personal trainer – what an absolute waste of money” I thought. True in absolute world, not true in this world.

A few hours later I realised I was being a twat. I’m quite familiar with this feeling.

Some people need gyms. No gym, then for them no result.

Some people need that personal trainer. No personal trainer, no result for them.

Not every human being is a calorie counting, obsessive compulsive, data driven fruit loop like myself.

My absolutes aren’t worth shit to other people. Folks figure out something that clearly works for them, and then they have minimalist douche bags telling them they don’t actually “need” whatever it is they’ve found to work for them, and that they are clearly “doing it wrong”.

A human being in a lab may be one thing, but a real person in the real world is quite another.

Speaking and thinking in absolutes just makes you (me) look like an asshole.

What I’ve Learnt From 16 Months As A Parent

It’s a surprisingly short list if you remove the mechanical elements such as changing the odd nappy.

  1. Your child is the greatest child that ever was and ever will be. All others are merely flawed imitations.
  2. Things that work for other people probably won’t work for you. Things that work for you probably won’t work for other people.
  3. 45 minute sleep cycles introduce a new, deeply enduring level of fatigue by about the second month. 80 hour working weeks are a laugh by comparison, as is sleep deprivation due to acute illness. It is a different animal.
  4. You don’t need half the shit people think you need.
  5. Second hand is better than first hand, for every reason.
  6. Having help is helpful. Hats off to single parents, they are warriors.
  7. Children are like dogs in many ways; one is that they force you to meet new people. Helpful for an introvert, and also helpful that mine is super cute. I’m the dad with the super cute daughter. Get your 16 month old to high-five or wave at a stranger and they become like putty in your hands. I’m not sure what you do with the putty, though.
  8. Those special possessions you loved when you were childless and were so proud of that you decorated your house with need to get put away. Those possessions you don’t really care about need to get put away too. Screw, lock, nail and chain anything and everything down, and don’t use 1 nail for a 2 nail job. 3 nails, minimum.
  9. Quality communication with your partner is hard when your fatigue level is pushing 11.
  10. If you genuinely try to do a good job, it’s good enough.

If I can do 16 months you sure as shit can too. A highly recommended experience.

Special thanks to my high fiving, animal loving, arm crossing, face pulling, waving, kiss blowing and truck noise making daughter.

 

Legacy

Legacy is a strange word.

To me, it means shitty, old software. No one likes old software, except for that weird guy that writes the Game of Thrones novels. I’m pretty sure he writes his novels on a preschool xylophone plugged into a potato, or some other similarly under-appreciated root vegetable.

Line 2 and we’re off on a tangent, things are going well. Let’s start again:

Your legacy is what you leave behind.

I’m unlikely to leave behind a multi-billion dollar estate and world-changing body of work, but I’ve recently started to consider what my legacy might actually look like.

I’ve been very aware of my own mortality since my early 20’s, but now that I’ve got a +1 in the family I’m more curious than ever as to what I’m going to leave behind. As a software engineer, I’m sure everything I’ve ever written and ever will write will be horribly redundant by the time I’m gone. Even if I meet an untimely end, my body (a poor pun) of work will age (nailed it) almost instantly, such is the nature of software and computing in the modern world.

I’ll probably last at least a few years in the minds of a few people as a slightly (largely) irritating, over-sized dork. After a few years I’ll probably be remembered as slightly more handsome though, so that’s nice.

Will there be anything else, short of the fallible and ultimately fleeting human memory of me?

There is a small chance some of my woodworking projects will still be around. Possibly a chair, possibly a bench seat, maybe a stool? I should really move away from wood, and into the warm loving embrace of steel so that my shoddy workmanship can live on through the ages. Welders are cool, welding is cool, and the helmets are great. Being able to stick 2 pieces of metal together like they’re nothing is a special skill indeed.

I’ll hopefully have some form of legacy through my kid(s), so if I do a decent job there I guess I can claim that, but that’s a little weird. Their achievements are their own, mine are mine and ours are ours.

If I was gone tomorrow it looks like I’ve got some oddly assembled sticks, some soon to be obsolete code, and some words to my name.

And I wouldn’t have even owned a welder.

Sad.

Words are powerful, and so I’m going to try to write some. I hope that the things that I write will give my family insight when I’m gone.

No one lasts forever, and that’s a good(?) thing.