Our Brief Moment in the Sun

          Every now and then, I catch myself in deep thought about life, pondering endlessly about how, as a conscious being, I’m able to be conscious. This paradigm of “thinking-about-thinking” is mentally onerous, and it’s what separates us from every other species, but people often opt out of questioning such uncharted thought-territories. Humans, being sentient and inquisitive, are afraid of not knowing what’s to come, or rather, what’s to come when we cease to exist. Life, transient as it is, has an expiration date to which we all generally turn a blind eye. Life happens, through the grace of non-random chance bestowed upon us ever since the explosion of the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago. In the eyes of the cosmos, we’re of no more consequence to existence than a sand grain is to the Sahara desert. But, remarkably, we find significance in the small things that keep us motivated and striving. Truth is: billions of humans have perished—it’s inevitable, but that doesn’t make life any less meaningful; it makes it more meaningful because you have only one shot to make the best of it. The hackneyed axiom,“You only live once” is rightly accurate and we must endure the fact that none of this lasts forever.

          The more we try to wonder about the great questions of life, the less accepting we become of the most undesirable outcome. But humans seem to be the only species that can fathom such philosophical scenarios, which, of course, is why we dominate the planet. Possessing the ability to understand the true nature of our position in the forest of planets makes us that more special. Some things we will never know and the unknown is not only mystifying, but also terrifying. Obtaining profound answers is our prerogative to keep us on track. We are pattern-seeking animals who got this way through our ancestors’ mode of survival in the past, but sometimes we invoke imaginary things as the cause of such nonsensical patterns because we want consequential meaning for what we do; continuing on devoid of it makes life a bit worthless and unappetizing. In terms of thinking, we are confined to our brain, which is constantly being tampered with by pernicious toxins. The more battered our brain gets, the more we try to fill gaps for answers without thinking logically and open-mindedly. Eschewing arcane questions leads to less worrying, but ultimately it may delay our chances of enriching our lives.

          One of the things that make us stand out, as an essentially newborn species, is what they call “intentionality”: being able to reflect on one’s own state of mind and desires. These intentions have orders and increase with expansive thought processes. Leonard Mlodinow writes in his brilliant book Subliminal,“…I want a bite of my mother’s pot roast– is called “first-order intentional.” Most mammals fit in that category. But knowing about yourself is a far different skill than knowing about someone else. A second-order intentional organism is one that can form a belief about someone else’s state of mind, as in I believe my son wants a bite of my pot roast…third-order intentionality takes you a step further, reasoning about what a person thinks a second person thinks, as in I believe my mom thinks that my son wants a bite of her pot roast.” This is how we’re more advanced than all other animals on earth, and I’ve noticed that the further you go in the route of intentionality, the better you are socially.

          Death is grim. The bleak mystery that most of us are left with after a loved one is gone creates a sense of unprecedented anxiety; bewildered with a blinkered view of where they may be as a soul or a reincarnate body. This is why I think it’s crucial to remind ourselves daily about the rarity of existence: Life itself happened to find its way out of the debris of the universe and here you are, thinking–whether rationally or irrationally, you can still muster up the audacity to question and deduce most things. Although our minds may sometimes trick us, we can honestly say that we’ve come a long way since single-celled organisms. When bereaved families are left, seemingly hopeless and in despair, it’s hard to assuage grief without thinking the deceased has gone onto a better place. Sorrow and anguish are just as painful as physical torment, so it’s understandable why people would mollify these dreadful feelings by providing tenuous succor. In my estimation, after we die we simply drift back to the abyss of nothingness, just as we were before we were born. I know it sounds too simple, and distasteful, but there’s no sort of evidence or reason to convince me otherwise. But still, no one really knows what happens when the curtains close. That’s why, day in and day out, I take it upon myself to recognize the grandiosity of our brief existence. People are entitled to their own opinions about the afterlife, but your view should propel you to relish every living second in this dimension. Waiting for “the next life” to redeem yourself is unjustifiable, futile, and inhumane to yourself.

          In the end, our brief moment in the sun has profound ramifications. We leave behind noble examples and emboldening ways to strengthen those we had any effect on. We exist for but a blink of an eye, but our impact can last for eons. When you’re overwhelmed with deep, pensive thoughts, just sit back and be grateful for being able to actually be grateful. There are billions of people who will never get the chance to exist; I find this pertinent and uplifting. It creates awareness and exuberance throughout life; happily skipping through every endeavor rather than gingerly tip-toeing through the unknown. We’re comprised of a multitude of emotions with love being the most salient of those emotions, and anything that makes us feel better, we will willingly seek out. It can be truly transformative to step outside of your body for a second and witness what’s happening in all places around you. Our insignificance makes us significant, what else would it do…?

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Are Humans Getting Dumber or Smarter?

           Here’s the caveat: I am leaning toward the former. You would presumably think that since technology is diffused more so than it was 100 years ago that we’d be tremendously smarter, but it seems as if our intelligence is getting impeded by our ignorance. Albeit, it’s generally difficult to put intelligence under one heading; it’s an ambiguous term that can be quantified in many different ways—the most popular being the IQ test. However, studies indicate that our IQs have been steadily climbing in the past century, but Smartphones seemingly buttress any type of uncertainty we’re fraught with, whereas 200 years ago these things needed to be committed to memory. Cellphones take away from the hands-on working memory we’ve been burdened with for the past 100,000 years, which puts an abridged life span on things we assimilate. So, we may be getting both dumber and smarter, but we are struggling to adhere to basic principles and facts that befall on our civilization, unremittingly. Another thing, which I will primarily focus on is willful ignorance; which isn’t going to provide our planet with prosperity; instead, it takes the route to dystopia where people are constantly muddling misinformation and bickering over pseudosciences. My gripes, that continue to get my blood to boil, are the persisting battle to accept homosexuals and the never-ending rejection of science. I stick with my theory: the smart people, or those who want to be smart, are becoming more intelligent, but unfortunately, the obtuse people remain stagnant and obstinate, leading to less overall intelligence.

          I think intelligence not only corresponds with a comprehension capacity, but also to the cognizance of what’s happening to oneself and the environment. Smart people are aware of malnutrition and thus look toward healthy foods to keep themselves around longer than usual. The rise in technological advancements has led the way to pure laziness, which obviously engenders obesity. Sapient beings should realize this and attack it at its roots, but we don’t—willful ignorance. According to the Health Organization, from 2004 to 2010, obesity increased from 11% in American adults. It’s not hard to adumbrate that this is a bad omen for years to come since many food distributors are selling deleterious processed foods to get more gain on their product.

          Climate change is a dire problem that is nearly irreversible at this point because of the narrow-mindedness coming from the naysayers and deniers. But, the evidence for global warming is incontrovertible: a study revealed 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is anthropogenic (man-made). Now, I’m not sure if the average lay person is more astute than any esteemed scientist (embrace the pun), but if I were a betting man, I’d listen to the scientists who painstakingly and feverishly work at understanding what’s happening to our climate. And, for those unsure about global warming, here’s a short summation: Global warming is the excessive release of greenhouse gases (Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) into our atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation that traps the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, giving rise to the earth’s average temperature. Furthermore, this opens a Pandora’s box: sea levels rise, storms’ intensity increases, droughts become longer, extinction plagues animals, a scarcity of food and water occurs, and there is a proliferation of fatal diseases.  In order to remedy this bleak situation, we must look toward alternative energy sources, but we remain unchanged and are elongating the resolution process. This, my friends, is willful ignorance: you can try to run on a broken foot, but there comes a time when one must be prudent and get healthy before making things worse.

          In the year 2014, the ubiquity of hatred and ostracism of homosexuals truly baffles me. It’s obvious that genes have something to do with being gay; I mean, if you’re heterosexual, try to choose to be suddenly gay–you can’t. That’s beside the point, though. We’re splitting hairs over the same sort of nonsense that divided us as a nation only a mere 60 years ago, and that’s racism. Now it’s just a different minority. A homophobic person really is masquerading something more sinister deep down. Whether it’s because they aren’t cut from the same cloth as you (narcissism) or because your religion tells you it’s bad (dogma), it’s still morally reprehensible to dislike someone because they’re different than you. It’s not like we all sat in front of a big screen and got to create ourselves, atom by atom; we had no choice in any of our physical make up. Therefore, there should be no problem with homosexuals on any level. Given the multifarious diversity of life on planet Earth, it would be perverse of you not to understand that differences exist.

          The Pew Research Center recently released a study that indicated one-third of Americans do not believe in evolution. This finding is exasperating to say the least. The planet screams evolution in thousands of different ways, from the growth of disease to the rise and fall of dinosaurs; it’s clear that the planet is billions of years old. It is old enough to have tiny nuances in each new generation that brought us from single celled organisms and common ancestors millions of years ago. A total of 98.5% of scientists treat biological evolution as a fact—as the process of continual development from successive generations. Once again, willful ignorance is apparent. The numbers don’t lie, and evolution has provided us with a myriad of apposite medicines because diseases themselves evolve.  Most people assert that evolution is just a theory, and indeed it is. But, it is a scientific theory, which, in the hierarchy of credibility, stands higher than a law. Theories come with a preponderance of empirical evidence that is tested thoroughly throughout years of intricate studies. It has yet to be disproven, and it fits perfectly with what we know about the planet.

          The willful ignorance that I touched on is an epidemic that is preventing our consciousness from expanding. All of the information I presented is a couple clicks away; it just takes a spark of curiosity and common sense to discern the malarkey from the truth. I’m no luddite, but I know that the tsunami of information that gets blasted into our brains daily can easily render us susceptible to gullibility and unsureness about what’s true and what isn’t. So, back to my main point: are we getting dumber or smarter? The answer is both; scientists and pundits of enlightened subjects seem to be thriving exponentially while laymen remain static, constantly looking to confirm their bias and turning a blind eye to reality. I try to question everything but am extremely receptive when learning new things. The truth may be discomfiting and somewhat incomprehensible, but for us to become smarter, we first have to accept what’s patently staring right at us. Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Let’s not be the ones who fall victim to those sentiments.

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Photo courtesy of Lee Verdecchia

Three Reasons to Fall In Love With Exercise

Activity is better than dormancy. We’ve all been immersed by health and fitness commercials, reminding us of the importance of staying busy, physically and mentally. Here’s some concise insight on how exercise truly does benefit you…

 

1. You’ll live longer

Regularly exercising can extend your life up to seven years, and eating correctly can even bump up that number. Take heed at how many elders are incessantly burning calories in the gym, exploring the vestiges of virility they still have left in them. We all want to live as long as possible; what good is a successful life if you end yours early only because of the unwillingness to acquiesce to a healthy way of living? Whether it’s Crossfit, Pilates, yoga, basketball, tennis, lifting, walking, jogging, or spinning, any of these avenues of exercise will pay major dividends to having a longer life. It’s about putting in the time and staying faithful to your regiment. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is one that calls for the grave prematurely. Most of us are confined to a sitting position, which is the antithesis of being active and upbeat. Not only does our lack of posture awareness create back problems, but in general it’s hazardous to our health. Recent studies proclaim that even with good physical activity habits, remaining sedentary and on one’s butt for excessive hours can lead the way to death and disease. Physiologically, exercise can curtail muscle atrophy, improve the brain’s plasticity, and lessen cardiovascular risks just from allocating a scant 20 minutes a day to working out.

2. Boosts energy and lowers anxiety

When your body is in the midst of strenuous activity, the body’s oxygen circulation is maximally churning to dole out all the appropriate nutrients that get the body aroused; accruing a faster metabolism will instantly have you feeling your oats. The more adept you become at working out, the easier it will be, giving you the ability to maintain higher bouts of output for longer periods of time. This yields a better sex life, higher levels of concentration, and expands cognitive retention, which leads to more productivity in the workplace. Also, the increased release of endorphins keeps a worrying mind at ease. For example, in terms of depression, exercise acts as a therapeutic remedy when drifting off to the land of expending kinetic energy and stymieing the release of the daunting stress hormone “cortisol.”

3. Improves quality of life

Once you begin to fall in love with exercising you’ll instantly be bombarded by feelings of exuberance, higher self-esteem, and a rise in willpower. You’ll notice that you’re capable of things you once thought were not possible. A rigorous daily routine will keep your brain as sharp as a tack and your temperament will remain bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to tackle whatever it is you want to achieve in life. Keeping your brain highly active can stave off the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s. All the aforementioned qualities that you’ll develop lead to more happiness and less dissatisfaction with what one has accomplished. With a salubrious state of mind, you never feel burdened by feelings of stress, and can go through life with a clear vision of what to value. Things will suddenly fall in place because you pride yourself on remaining healthy. Good moods elicit creativity and better relationships regardless of any situation. Knowing that you thoroughly reduce your chances of disease elevates your state of wellness, and with a hale physique you can progress in many different domains of life.

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Photo Courtesy of Louis Crispo