Quotes to Consider

Below is a small collection of quotes I’ve gathered from books I’ve read recently. Granted, what I’ve been reading lately seems depressing based on the quotes below, I strongly encourage everyone to read each of the books from which these quotes were taken as they will educate and enlighten to the realities and possible realities of our current world.

Marcus Aurelius

“It’s quite possible to be a good man without anyone realizing it. Remember that.”

From “Meditations” 7:67

Viktor Frankl

“When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

From “Man’s Search For Meaning,” p. 77

Todd Rose

“Contemporary pundits, politicians, and activists continually suggest that our educational system is broken, when in reality the opposite is true. Over the past century, we have perfected our educational system so that it runs like a well-oiled Taylorist machine, squeezing out every possible drop of efficiency in the service of the goal its architecture was originally designed to fulfill: efficiently ranking students in order to assign them to their proper place in society.”

From “The End Of Average

Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne

“The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods.”

From “The War of Art

Quotes to Consider

GETTING HEALTHY

The last couple of years I’ve been plodding toward a healthier version of myself. In 2017 I signed up at Planet Fitness and have been relatively good about working out from two to four times a week, though not without the occasional lapse.

I wanted to get in better shape and improve my fitness for the long-term, and started out with no desire to become a body-builder. I don’t lift heavy weights, though the weight is increasing little by little as I build strength, which was my primary goal. My secondary goal was to lose about 25 pounds. I didn’t look all that bad, but I had a gut that I really wanted to get rid of.

What I actually learned over the course of the last year was that changing my eating habits was the hardest part of dropping weight. I had been more successful quitting other vices than I had in adopting a healthier diet. However, I recently made a change to another area of my life which dramatically affected the foods I was able to eat for around six months. I got dentures. That process changed my life in ways I did not expect.

BACKGROUND

I was not born with good DNA where my teeth are concerned – or were concerned. I was also not taught at an early age the benefits of good dental hygiene. I don’t blame my mom. I just didn’t adopt an effective daily cleaning routine. Therefore, by the time I entered adulthood I was already struggling with the ramifications of poor dental hygiene and mediocre dental DNA. Looking back, about every 3-5 years I’d need to lose another tooth. Infections and impacted teeth weren’t uncommon. I tried hard as an adult to fix the issue, but I simply started too late to get ahead of the problem.

In the last four or five years I’ve been thinking about dentures as a solution as the semi-annual visits to the dentist for cleanings turned into quarterly, alternating visits to the dentist and periodontist. However I was timid about getting dentures because I knew it would be expensive. (I’m also a cheapskate…) A poor reason to put off healthcare or dental care, but still, I’m guilty of making the decision more than once.

Finally, though, I’d had enough and the ongoing treatments and solutions sounded less and less appealing. They also took more and more of my time. Dentists and Periodontists love to tell people to keep the teeth they were born with as long as possible, and I tried to do that, but eventually I made the decision to go all the way and address the root of the problem once and for all. I didn’t realize it at that time, but plodding toward a healthier lifestyle was about to get a rocket-assisted boost.

SURGERY ONE

In October, 2017 I had my first round of surgery – removing my back teeth. This was a total and complete body-pounding. I cannot tell you how hard it affected me physically to go through not only the surgery, but the healing process afterward. The first week afterward was pain management, the second week was a little less of the pain and more of the starvation that comes with having only front teeth to eat with. I could eat, sort of, but I had to use muscles in my jaws that I had never used before so at about the 10-14 day mark I thought my jaws were locking up due to the soreness… I was scared for a day or two, but it eventually passed.

I also ate Advil and Oxycodone like candy to deal with the pain in the early days. The foods I could eat were not all that different overall, but I had to make sure I let the gums heal so I stayed with soups and softer foods. Salads were out. I had no back teeth with which to grind leafy greens, so vegetables had to be soft. After a few weeks I was able to eat things like chicken or the occasional steak again. I had lost a little over 10 pounds by this time by eliminating fast food and large lunches out during the work week, and I’d cut out soda pretty much all together.

SURGERY TWO

In January, 2018 I had the front teeth removed and started using the new temporary dentures.

My dentist told me that the second surgery would be easier on me physically since the front teeth had one root and the back teeth had two or three roots. I was ready to complete the process and get the temporary dentures, give my gums enough time to heal and then start preparing for implants. However, the second surgery didn’t really go as easily as I’d been led to believe…

Where I had been in the chair for an hour and a half for the first surgery (pulling the back teeth and having bone grafts to prepare for implants), the second surgery lasted around three hours according to my wife.

After the removals and bone grafts the periodontist was frustrated that the dentures didn’t really fit quite right and my wife ended up hauling me to the dentist across town so he could help with the situation. I was still heavily sedated and bleeding… The dentist got everything fixed properly and sent me home to recuperate.

I awoke that evening with a soreness that I had never known before. I could also eat even less now because the dentures sat on top of gums that were still stitched up and swollen and very, very sore. It was basically a liquid diet for the first two weeks after surgery two. That’s when I lost the other 15 pounds.

I could go on and on about how the gums change over time, or how the dentures need to get adjusted by the dentist to go along with the changes in the gums, or a lot of other things, but I won’t. What I’ll say at this point is that I’m working very hard to keep that weight off. I’ve learned that portion control is king. Eating a lot more veggies and a lot less meat is also a big part of my success.

I also couldn’t work out at Planet Fitness as much as I wanted. I really didn’t have much enthusiasm to add additional soreness to my body… But I’m happy to say that I’ve kept off that 25 pounds, I’m back in the gym two or three days a week adding muscle and getting fit, and I’m eating a LOT better than I used to.

It’s taken months to get used to wearing dentures. It’s been the hardest thing I may have ever done for myself, but it’s been good for me in the long-term. I feel better than ever because I’m eating a much healthier diet, I’m working out regularly, and my self-confidence has never been higher because not only do I feel better, I look better too. I guess the silver lining is that being forced to do something is sometimes the only way some people (me) can make a change they know they need.

 

GETTING HEALTHY

Book Review: The Shallows, What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains

This is a book about the human brain and how it works. At times it’s heavy reading, deep reading, which is very much the point. The author looks at how the brains of humans have developed over the millennia, not so much from an evolutionary perspective in terms of the shape of or newly formed regions in the brain but from the perspective of intellectual evolution. In other words, the brain itself hasn’t changed physically as much as it has changed in how it works based on two human developments that are actually quite recent in human history – maps and books.

Maps gave humans the ability to think in a more abstract way about the world around them. Books gave humans the ability to amass knowledge and to think more deeply than ever before. Books evolved from the cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia and the Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt, to the creation of papyrus documents, connecting papyrus documents together to make scrolls, to the invention of the actual book as we know it around 1400, and then to the evolution of the written word and how sentences are formed. As books became more available, writing styles developed and evolved and deep reading was more possible than ever before, which led to deep thinking.

At a broad level, writing and deep reading allowed humans to think about specific ideas and concepts rather than spending our time scanning our environments looking for enemies or game to feed ourselves – a very distracted state. Other inventions also contributed to human advancement, like clocks, but they didn’t have as great an impact on our cultural evolution as maps and books from the author’s perspective.

One of the more interesting things covered is neuroplasticity, or how the brain actually works. The human brain is capable of rewiring itself throughout our lives either through training or through recovery from injury. For example, when someone suddenly goes blind from injury or illness, the brain can rewire the areas devoted to processing visual stimuli and redirect those areas toward improving touch or smell or sound. There are numerous studies that support neuroplasticity.

However this flexibility can be both a strength and a weakness. While it  can rewire itself as mentioned to allow other senses to develop when one sense is damaged, neuroplasticity can also cause problems when this rewiring doesn’t go quite right leading to obsessive-compulsive disorders, bipolar depression, or others.

How does the Internet affect the development humans have achieved over the last 500 years or more? We don’t have the capacity for deep reading or deep thinking on the Internet. Corey Doctorow, writer and tech guru, is quoted as saying we are plunged into an “ecosystem of interruption technologies” when reading on the Internet limiting our ability for deep reading, and therefore deep thinking. The backlit computer monitor delivers competing rapid-fire stimuli through the numerous alerts and distractions that come along with the Internet.

Michael Merzenich, neurosurgeon and author, writes “As we multitask online we are ‘training our brains to pay attention to the crap.’

But I have to wonder if the author stopped too soon. He focused on our collective intellectual journey primarily over the last 500 years, and now that it’s changing because of the Internet it is for the worse. My first problem with that is the assumption that everything leading up to the Internet was in the right direction. Though I can point to no alternate direction humans could have taken, it’s still an assumption that how we developed was along the correct path. My second problem is that the Internet can only be a bad influence though it promises so much more.

What if our brains are being rewired in a way that is positive, but we’re not able to see the end result yet? Perhaps we’re in transition to a new state of enlightenment. If deep reading is focusing narrowly and deeply on a topic and the Internet scatters our attention shallowly and broadly, is there a point at which the breadth of the “knowledge pool” we’re wading in becomes in itself a positive thing? Maybe we haven’t yet reached that breadth of knowledge required to attain this new, different intellectual state of awareness.

Though the Internet may be making our thinking shallower, perhaps the multitude of associations that can be made through this theoretical breadth of knowledge can more than make up for the narrowness and deepness of the specialized knowledge of our recent past. In other words, the Subject Matter Expert may be replaced by the Renaissance Man, the Jack Of All Trades, the handyman…

Also, it makes the assumption that everyone was a “deep reader” and therefore a “deep thinker” prior to the Internet. Before the Internet MOST people listened to Top 40, not Mozart. They read tabloids, not The Iliad. MOST were watching Friends or Roseanne or The Nanny, not enjoying Shakespeare at the theater. At least in the USA…

Though I don’t disagree with the basic premise of this book (the Internet can be bad for us) I absolutely have to question the scale of the problem it brings to light, namely that the Internet is turning everyone into distracted neurotics…

I gave it two stars because I did learn from the book, but I have reservations that everything human society achieved prior to the Internet was in a linear direction toward positive or “correct” evolution.

 

 

Book Review: The Shallows, What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains