I Think I Just Figured Out Flat Earth

So a good friend of mine, who most would assume is an otherwise intelligent individual, brought up the flat earth thing to me a few weeks ago.  It’s not that I was unaware of it, it’s just that I didn’t expect it coming from a friend.  After a bit of teasing, I humored him and asked him why he thinks the world is flat.

As it turns out, he didn’t necessarily think that the world was flat, it was simply a fun exercise in challenging the widely held belief that the world is round.

He asked me how I knew the world is round.  I told him that nobody falling off the edge was a good start.  He said that if they had fallen off, they weren’t exactly in a position to tell everyone about it.  Then I suggested using spatial reasoning to understand how someone could travel due east in a plane and end up at where they started.  So he asked how I knew a compass would take me due east.  I said by tracking the magnetic poles and letting you know where due north is.  He suggested that with a flat earth, the north pole would be a center point and where we think we would be moving in a 3 dimension circle around the planet’s equator, we would be moving in a 2 dimensional circle around the north pole.  Ok, but that would mean that someone couldn’t circle the globe by flying due south.  Has anyone?

I don’t know any off the top of my head but that seems like something that someone would’ve done.  He said that from what he’s read, apparently nobody does.  Huh.

I was tempted to start digging for sources to see if that was true but we were at a dinner with others so I tried a different angle.  What about satellites?   He said he didn’t know enough about satellites to know either way.  What about pictures from space?  You can CGI just about anything these days.  Huh.

So l asked us both to try and wrap our heads around how many people from all around the world would have to be in on this for evidence to have not leaked.  Astronauts, government officials, physicists, pilots, military, Redbull, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking… and the list goes on.  Now consider how the scientific community has laughed this off while the flat earth community is absent of anyone with a PhD in physics.  I told him that it all seemed very unlikely.  He replied, “But it’s possible”.  I agreed, and then asked, “have you ever thought that we might be in the matrix?”

I think poker should be taught in school simply for the purpose of teaching probability.

I had to concede that we might actually be on a flat earth, not because I thought we were, but because I didn’t have all the necessary information to confirm otherwise.  What I did have though, was a strong enough understanding of other related factors which created a very strong case for a round earth.  The probability of a flat earth being kept secret from the general public for decades, if not centuries, is an extremely unlikely scenario.  If we hold the flat earth to be true, it literally undoes the laws of physics that we’ve come to understand.

I suppose that’s the beauty of it all though, it doesn’t matter how much you know, you can never truly confirm or deny anything.  Even if you have all the evidence you think is necessary, you still have to concede that none of this may be real.  Huh.

So if you can’t confirm or deny anything, if nothing is concrete, if everything is on a spectrum and nothing is entirely real, how do you proceed?  Probability.  Is the world round?  Probably.  Take one step forward.

What that conversation also highlighted for me was that most people probably believe the earth is round for the same reason that people used to believe the world was flat – because that’s what they were told and they assumed it to be true.  If it’s in our nature to challenge our beliefs, why are we so surprised that we’re challenging the belief of a round earth?

From my research on the flat earth theory, there seem to be two camps.  There’s the camp of people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat and aren’t interested in seeing evidence to the contrary.  Then there’s the camp who are saying that things don’t add up, and are looking for alternative explanations.  That’s legit.  There are plenty of things that don’t add up in this world and history would suggest that governments aren’t always the most accurate sources of information.  Alternative theories to explain events like 9/11, JFK or the moon landing are a healthy measure to keep people accountable to what they tell us.  If we just blindly accepted what people told us, we’d all still believe the world was flat, or round, or in a VR simulation operated by advanced aliens.

I just wish that for the sake of conversation, we could reach a point where we could speak a little more honestly about this stuff.  Is the earth flat?  Probably not, but did you know that Antarctica is bigger than Canada and barely anyone flies over it?  I wonder what kinda cool stuff has yet to be discovered there… wouldn’t that be the perfect location for a secret Hydra base?!

Let me try something..

Anyone remember that scene from Old School where Will Ferrell steps up to debate ‘The Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville?

Curious enough, something similar happens to me from time to time.  Some people say that I’m articulate and well spoken but I may just be well rehearsed.  When I’m discussing something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, I’ve already had those conversations numerous times in my own head.  Perhaps that’s why my mind wanders when I’m giving speeches.  Perhaps even more curious, it’s often this state of mind which tends earn me that ‘mic drop’ moment.

Anyways, I had one of those moments in the shower earlier and I thought it might be worth writing down.  The debate question is:

What’s the real issue in American politics today?

Going into blackout mode…

 

This isn’t a black versus white thing, this isn’t a rich versus poor thing, and this isn’t a left versus right thing. This is what happens when politics becomes more important than governance.  This is what happens when a duopoly of power prioritizes the short-term success of their party over the greater good of the people they’re supposed to serve.

The American people have democracy, but in a democracy where you’re asked to elect someone you don’t know to run a system you don’t understand, what exactly are you asking of your people?  In an election process that requires billion dollar campaigns, who do you expect to be influencing those candidates?  In a system with such obvious fundamental flaws,  why do we keep expecting different outcomes?

When we start to notice what’s happening though, rather that acknowledge our mistakes and work to solve our problems, we’re given someone to blame.  If you’re rich, blame the tax raising democrats.  If you’re poor, blame the heartless republicans.  If you’re middle America, blame the coastal elites.  If you’ve lost your job, blame the immigrants.  If you’re a liberal millennial, blame the white man.  It’s all utterly ridiculous because when someone understands how interconnected we all are, it’s very easy to see that we’re all in this together.

The American people want freedom.  That’s the freedom to be whoever we want to be and love whoever we want to love.  That’s also the freedom for businesses to compete without unnecessary regulations.  The American people want lower taxes, but don’t mind paying them as long as they’re spent well.  The American people want someone working 40 hours a week to earn a livable wage.  The American people want to stop invading other countries.  The American people want affordable access to health care.  The American people agree on almost all major issues, but through the spin cycle of politics and media, everyone’s divided without even really understanding why.

The universe always finds it’s equilibrium.  Just after Trump was elected, I said this may be a good thing.  Not because he’ll be any good at his job, but because he might just be catastrophically bad at it.  Just maybe he’ll lie more than any politician ever has.  Maybe he’ll flip flop all of his policies.  Maybe he’l have temper tantrums so frequently that people question if he’s mentally fit enough for office.  Maybe he’ll let his racist undertones influence policy.  Maybe all the shady stuff that he’s done in the past will come to boil over during his presidency and we can finally have a complete meltdown of the confidence in our government.

Maybe that’s when we stop paying attention to them, and start paying attention to each other.  Maybe that’s when we start to drive our own rhetoric around the values that got us here in the first place.  Maybe that’s when we’ll finally open our minds to what government could be.

 

Thought Vs. Emotion

I think that by most people’s standards, I’ve had a challenging life.  I also think that by most people’s standards, I brought most of it on myself – and I would agree.  I have a long history of taking things that should be easy, and finding ways of making them hard.  I’m not actually sure why I have this quality, but I am starting to understand the impact it has on my life.

Each time I put myself in a challenging situation, I had to figure it out.  It wasn’t that I lacked a support system, it’s just that my support system would usually suggest that if I got myself into it, I can get myself out of it.  Over the years, I developed a system that was effectively: Understand where you’re at, understand where you want to be, and find a way to close the gap.  I think the key word there is understand.  It was an exercise in problem solving in the arena of thought.

My father passed away in my mid-20s.  He and I were close – he meant a lot to me.  It was cancer and he lasted about 2 years between diagnosis and death.  Towards the end, I remember having a conversation with a friend about how it would impact me.  I had noticed a pattern over the years which suggested that each time I went through something like this, I became a less emotional person.  Despite all the other challenges I had overcome, I knew that losing my dad would impact me more than anything I had ever been through and I was concerned about how it would impact my emotional disposition – would I have any left?

In the month that my dad died, the first girl I thought I’d marry left me for her ex-boyfriend, I tore my shoulder, and the promotion which I had just moved cities for was rescinded.  After I wrapped up the responsibilities around my father’s estate, I decided it was important to give myself time to grieve to prevent any future imbalance.  The following week was a combination of work, family sized lasagnas, weed, and a few movies that legitimately made me bawl my eyes out (the dad scene in Warrior got me good).  By the end of that week, I figured that the best thing I could do for my father, for myself, and for those who counted on me was to rise above and move forward.  I accepted that my father may have died earlier than I would’ve liked, but I also recognized that he led the kind of life that most people would aspire to.  He had a family who loved him, he was a master of his craft, he built and sold a business, he was respected within his community, and he was the giant upon whose shoulders I would stand on.  I had to wrap my head around that death was part of the natural order in which we all existed, and that I should be proud of the life that my father lived.  I don’t know if it was easy or hard, but I did.

I spent the next 6 months identifying where I was in my life, where I wanted to be, and worked on closing the gap.  By the end of that year, I was headed back home for a new career in wealth management for one of the world’s top global banks.  The loss of my father was never a source of depression for me, instead, I chose to use his memory as a source of inspiration and drive.  Even to this day, everything that I do is in some way for him.

I was often complimented on how well I handled the passing of my father.  I was called very well adjusted.  However, my concerns about becoming a less emotional person seemed to be valid.  The girls I dated since likely saw the same thing.  One said that I was driven, but not passionate.  Another said that I was empty inside.  My favorite though, and perhaps the girl who understood me best, called me her benevolent robot king.  I was a high functioning human being in most respects, but I did it without what most people would call emotion.  I don’t have the wisdom necessary to make any conclusions, but I’m starting to think that there some validity to operating without emotion.

This is where I think it’s important to define the term emotion.  Google’s definition suggests that emotion is a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood and relationships with others.  For me, the key word is instinctive and I think there’s a key difference between instinct and thought.  I’m sitting here trying to think of exactly what that is and I don’t think I can define it just yet.  When I try, I think of instinct like firmware and thought like software.  The firmware came with the hardware and can be tough to update.  Software however can be updated often depending on the applications you want to run and the tasks you’re looking to accomplish.

Before modern cognition, instincts were paramount to survival.  In modern society, our instinctual drives often seem counter-productive.  Easy examples include men cheating on their spouses because of their instinctual drive to procreate with multiple partners or women searching for men with the physique and resources to protect and provide for them.  If we were to understand these types of behaviors as instinctual and left over evolutionary characteristics from a past era, I think we’d understand each other a little better.  Unfortunately, this is where ’emotions and feelings’ come into play.

In many of my relationships, I was told that I had to respect their emotions or respect their feelings.  I understood that I should respect the person and that their emotional state is part of who they are, but I didn’t understand why I should inherently respect their emotions.  Perhaps my favorite example is when a girlfriend spent the day angry at me because I had cheated on her in a dream – for the record, I’ve never cheated.  I understood and appreciated that she had sensory input that triggered instinctual fears of losing a mate but what I didn’t understand is why it was acceptable for her to ‘feel’ upset with me let alone why that state of mind should be respected.

The more rational I became, the more challenging I was for someone who was emotional.  I was still nice, I still wanted to be a good person and I was still working hard to make a positive impact in the world, but thought and emotion were often two different perspectives in the world and one often struggled to understand the other.  What I’m going to say next might ruffle some feathers, and I could be wrong, but it’s my current evolution of thought on the matter.  I think that thought is a higher form of cognition than emotion.  I’m not prepared to say that one is better than the other, or that one leads to a happier life, but I am prepared to say that on average, thinking things through is a more successful approach than feeling things out.

When I think of humanity’s greatest thinkers and what they’ve accomplished, I’m inspired.  When I think of humanity’s greatest feelers and what they’ve accomplished, I draw a blank.  When I think of humanity’s worst, I think of people who let hate and prejudice get the better of them.  Hate is an emotional state while prejudice is a lack of thought.  However, I cannot accurate say that all good things come from thought while all bad things come from emotion because without emotion, where’s the love?

This would surprise many, but as rational and robotic as I am, I still cry on a regular basis.  I’d say about once a month, I see something beautiful or something sad that touches me and gets me misty eyed at the very least.  It was the kind of thing that I would fight when I was younger but I embrace now.  Fear doesn’t really register with me the way that it does with other people, but I do have a very real concern about losing that connection because there is something that feels very human about it.  Something that I respect and appreciate about emotion is that the best moments in my life were emotional.  Happiness is an emotional state of mind.

Where I’ll leave this for today is a theory that I’m working on.  We only have one body, we only have one central nervous system, and we only have one brain.  On that basis, emotion and thought have to be connected.  Emotion seems to have a stronger connection to the body and the subconscious while thought seems to have a stronger connection to the outside world.  I think that in earlier stages of evolution, instinctual drives and internal monitors were more closely associated with survival but as we’ve created the world we live in today, it’s become increasingly important to understand the outside world.  Trying to understand the outside world with an instinctual or emotional perspective can be limiting so thought has become more important.  As the outside world progresses, we continue to develop physical and intellectual tools to help understand what’s happening internally.  Currently, I’m trying to understand what will happen to emotion if we continue along this path.  I don’t think that the emotional state will disappear completely, but I do think that it’s importance will diminish as our understanding of how it fits into general cognition evolves.  How Vulcan…

 

The Wonderful Flaw in Capitalism

So sleep hasn’t come easily to me since I was young, but perhaps it’s both a blessing and a curse.  As I lay awake at night wishing I could fall asleep, my mind continues to problem solve.  A few months ago, I was doing my best to understand the difference between the idea of democracy, and the application of it in American politics – and effectively understand where things went sideways when 20% of the American public was able to elect someone which most of the world despised.  More recently, I’ve been focused on capitalism and more importantly, how it’s led to an unsustainable concentration of wealth.  At about 2am a couple nights ago, I woke up Siri to take a note.  That note reads:

“The fly in capitalism is the assumption that resources are scarce” 

I had said flaw, but close enough, Siri.  What I first tried to do was understand what capitalism is at its core.  My best definition was the exchange of resources for the creation of value.  Whether you’re producing a good, a service, or something in between, capitalism was there to reward you with resources to help you sustain yourself and with the goal of motivating you to create more value in the future.  Theoretically, in capitalism, those who create the most value should be rewarded with the most resources.  I don’t think that’s the case today.

As  the application of capitalism evolved, it became a heavily complex system and as with all systems, they can be taken advantage of.  For example, some businesses specifically target customers who don’t fully understand the transaction and end up paying for services they don’t need or products they can’t use – selling ice to an Eskimo.  While some examples are blatant, I suspect most are shades of grey.  Those shades of grey allow those with a greater understanding of the system to manipulate that transaction of value for resources – ultimately leaving them paying less or receiving more.  In this environment, the most significant factor in deciding who receives the most resources isn’t the ability to create value, but rather the ability to understand and play the game.

When I look across the board of the wealthiest people in the world, I don’t see a direct correlation between the wealth they’ve accumulated and the value they’ve created.  There are some, like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Larry Paige who I think should be among the wealthiest individuals in the world, but for each of them, there are dozens of wealthy individuals who have made their fortunes by extracting resources rather than creating value – casino’s come to mind.

So when I understood that, I thought that we just needed to find a way to get back to the fundamentals of capitalism.  We just needed to find a better way to ensure that there was a fair and equitable approach to the exchange of value for resources.  But wait… if resources weren’t scarce, would capitalism still motivate us to create value?

I know this is all super high level so let’s make this more tangible.  The sun currently projects more energy onto our planet than we’re capable of using – and we’re getting increasingly better at harnessing it.  99.9% of the resources ever used on this planet are still on this planet because as it turns out, matter can’t be destroyed.  That means that resources aren’t scarce, we’re just temporarily inefficient at turning used resources into usable resources.  That’s a technological issue that we’re getting increasingly better at solving – one which I expect to be largely solved within our lifetime.

So let’s be optimistic and think 100 years out.  There are solar panels everywhere.  Roads, roofs, cars, skyscrapers, and huge chunks of desserts are covered in enough solar panels to passive provide our planet with sufficient energy to both sustain and grow.  Waste conversion technologies have advanced to the point where a landfill can be broken down into synthesized raw materials.  Additive manufacturing is able to take synthesized raw materials and efficiently build just about anything that our minds can imagine.  If that ecosystem sounds familiar, it’s because that’s pretty much how our planet worked before humans came along and started trying to reinvent the wheel.  Mind you the earth did it at a much slower pace, but the fundamentals are the same.

Waste is a concept only known to humans.  In every other aspect of the known universe, it’s simply another state in which energy or matter can exist.  Once we can wrap our heads around that, it’s easier to understand that there is no scarcity in resources, simply an temporary inefficiency in turning used resources into usable resources.  That is something that I’m confident technology can solve, and it has me looking rather optimistically towards the future.

In a future where resources aren’t scarce, what would motivate someone to create value for others?  This is where the crusty capitalists might say that people are inherently lazy and it’s only through the motivation of scarcity that they’re willing to provide any level of value to others.  It’s too easy to find counter-examples for that to be entirely true, but I don’t deny that the fear of not being able to sustain yourself can motivate people to do all kinds of things.  What I also think though, is that love is a far more powerful motivator.  In this case, it would be love for what one does.  More often than not, the best computer programmers, the best musicians, the best entrepreneurs, and the best parents are those who absolutely love what they do.  Between their hardware, firmware and software, they’re totally in line with their life’s work.  They’re in their element.  They love what they do, and as a result, their drive, passion, and work ethic to create value for others far surpasses what they might have done out of fear.

That is the future I see and the future that I’m confident we’re headed towards.  We’re a few years out, and there will be plenty of stumbling blocks between now and then, but this is a logical eventuality which is simultaneously an enlightened perspective on how technology drives progress, and how progress drives ideology.  The future is bright and oh so cool.

The Real Cannabis Conversation

As is often the case, I think the the most interesting conversation on the topic is the one we’re not having right now.   I find that as people argue, they become more interested in defending their perspective than understanding another’s and I think that’s a key issue here.  While there are plenty of conversations around how to legalize or how to criminalize, I think the real question is why we should legalize or why we should criminalize.  When we take a proper look at the why behind whether or not we as a people should have legal access to this drug, we have a great opportunity for self-reflection.

I think the first thing we should do define is the term ‘drug’.  When heroin is found in the streets, it’s discussed as a highly illegal and highly dangerous drug.  When morphine is found in a hospital, its discussed as a pain killer and part of the medical process.  Both are obtained from the Opium poppy.  When you remove all the bias, drugs are simply something you put in your body for a desired effect.  That means they’re a tool and tools are remarkably indifferent to how we use them.

So why do we takes drugs then? I think we do it to adjust our state of mind.  Even drugs with no psychotropic effects are still targeting state of mind in a less direct manner.  Consider using an over-the-counter pain killer for a sprained ankle.  The ankle is an injury of the body, but the pain that’s being addressed is a state of mind.  If the mind was unaware of the body’s pain, the painkillers would be unnecessary.  Even if you’re taking drugs to address an illness with no obvious symptoms, you’re taking the drugs to address the concern of a future illness – still looking to resolve a state of mind.  So what if the issue isn’t a physical illness?  What if it’s mental?  What if it’s social?

There’s  a fantastic Sherlock quote… something along the lines of “I’m not an addict, I’m a user.  I look to alleviate boredom and occasionally stimulate my thought process.”  It’s interesting because if you say that it’s something you use to limit boredom, it’s relatable but if someone says they’re using it as a coping mechanism, it’s a bigger issue.  What if it’s a mechanism used to cope with boredom?  What I’m trying to demonstrate is that we’re really just scratching the surface of what drugs are and why we use them.  All we know is that we put them in our bodies to get us closer to the state of mind that we want to be in.  There’s a tremendous amount of research to do there, and I think the answers we arrive at will speak volumes on the human condition.

So let’s bring this back to cannabis.  Why do I take it?  Primarily for sleep, to escape my thoughts, and to alleviate boredom.  I recognize that the closer my life gets to where I want it to be, the less I want to escape from my reality and the less weed I look to consume.  That’s my personal experiment at the moment, if I’m where I want to be mentally, then will I still look to change my state of mind?

A great question to ask when discussing marijuana is addiction.  Most people would suggest that marijuana isn’t addictive because it lacks certain chemical properties that create a physiological dependency like some other drugs.  While that may be true to an extent, I’d suggest that marijuana can be addictive simply because of it’s effects.  I’ve had weeks where sobriety was the enemy and it was hard not to think I was staring addiction in the face.  That said, if you dropped me off in a location with no access to marijuana, I’d have a few sleepless nights and then carry on.  It’s easy to think of hard drugs when you think addiction but in reality, many addictions exist purely in the mind.  I think that with sufficient research, one may find that a chemical dependency and addiction are two different things, one is one of the body while the other is of the mind.  If that’s the case, marijuana addiction is possible and likely very real.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest about this and bring this element into the conversation

It’s not often that a drug makes the journey from being an illegal psychotropic to a widely prescribed medicine.  If I were to take this all at face value, cannabis is a miracle plant capable of treating all kinds of illnesses.  While I think that’s a possibility, I’m more interested in seeing the research than jumping on the hype train.  I also think that the medical properties of the plant would be discussed less if legalized recreational access was available.  In the current market, most users have acquired a medical license from a lax medical professional to achieve access for recreational use.  I can’t help but think that if wine were illegal, people would also seek medical licenses with claims that wine extends your lifespan, protects against cancers, improves mental health, and benefits the heart.  They may even be right, but it doesn’t change the fact that they were just looking to unwind with some friends at the end of the week.

So what are the actual medical properties of marijuana?  The real answer is we don’t know.  There’s anecdotal evidence of it successfully treating just about everything from cancer to seizures but the reality is we’ve just started the research.  From what I’ve seen, I suspect there are very real medical properties in the plant but I that we need to understand what they are to a much deeper level before we embrace them to this degree.  For example, I can confirm that it’s the most successful sleep aid I’ve ever used but I must also concede that I never wake up refreshed the way I feel when I sleep without it.  From an introspective standpoint, I think what it does very well is it helps you shift into a more copacetic mindset and it’s that mindset which helps you better deal with things like pain, stress, and anxiety.  Beyond that, I’m looking to learn and making no assumptions.

So what about recreational use?  We’re most of the way there and the momentum doesn’t seem to be letting up.  Every once in a while, some old white guy will say something like ‘I don’t see how making these substances legal will improve anyone’s quality of life.’  I understand that mindset, but I also understand why it’s flawed.  The error is in the assumption that marijuana affects all people equally.  Some of us are easier to get along with when we’re stoned while others are simply far more productive individuals.  There are some people who shouldn’t be using cannabis and that’s OK too.  The solution isn’t restricting access to everyone, the solution is to provide access to everyone and letting us collectively explore the pros and cons.  We’ll make some mistakes and lose some good people along the way, but such is the nature of progress.

Someone might say that it poses too much of a risk but to them I would say that fear makes for poor decision making.  Too often the government treats the general population like a parent treats their children but in reality, the general population is representative of a collective intelligence which is often under utilized.  Look at what happened when we legalized alcohol.  Alcohol abuse has ruined lives while alcohol poisoning has take them.  That doesn’t make alcohol bad, it makes alcohol important.  It makes it important to understand why we drink, and what the real impact is.  Marijuana will be no different.  It’s just another substance, which if anything, is a reflection of ourselves.

I can’t help but think that the majority of those who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana either have a political angle, don’t understand the matter, or are simply afraid.  The solution to each is education.  We all need to know more about what this plant is and what it does, but we’re not going to learn what we want to know by leaving it in the labs because there’s more to it than that.  Marijuana should be legal for the reason that every other drug should be legal.  We shouldn’t be cautious around drugs because they’re bad or illegal, we should indifferent around drugs because we understand that the ethical and practical impact has everything to do with that specific drug and that specific person.  The level of research necessary to truly understand those dynamics requires a decentralized approach to research and fortunately for us, there are plenty of volunteers.

So at the end of the day, who do I think should be smoking cannabis?  Anyone who wants to, on the condition that they understand what they’re doing and why.  We know it’s a plant that gets you stoned and we know it has medical properties.  We need to know a lot more than that.  Part of that process is giving us the chance to explore – and that means legalization.  When it’s all said and done, we’ve tried it their way.. with the whole war on drugs thing… now it’s time to embrace freedom.  The freedom for people to choose how to live their lives.  The freedom for people to choose what medicine they use.  The freedom to choose how to deal with boredom and the freedom to experience the negative realities of poor decision making.  It’s all part of the same evolutionary process… this is how we grow.

 

Confessions of a Marijuana Addict

So I’ve had an interesting relationship with weed over the years.  Growing up, I had no shortage of friends getting stoned and going to class or basketball practice, but none of them had any plans beyond high school so I made up my mind that I wouldn’t touch the stuff until I graduated.  By the end of that summer, I was a proper pothead.  Since then, my relationship with wacky tobaccy has gone through several stages, up to and including what most people would consider to be addiction.  In an age where legal recreational use is imminent under the guise of a medical application, I figured this post was long overdue.

So when I first started smoking, it was purely social and recreational.  It was usually in place of, or a complement to a few beers – and always with friends.  If I wanted to toke but nobody was around, I just wouldn’t.

It was in my first year of university that I started developing sleep issues.  Effectively, my brain wouldn’t turn off for sleep.  I’d go to bed, but my mind would continue to cycle from thought to thought for hours.  First, I tried basic sleep aids which didn’t help me sleep, but left me groggy the next day.  Then I tried some prescription stuff which worked about the same, but left me even groggier.  Eventually, my sleep schedule had me sleeping at about 9am and waking up at 5pm.  Lectures were mostly optional and it was easy to study at night so school was a non-issue, but many years later, sleep is still a struggle.

In university, I’d probably be a frequent user by most standards, but it wasn’t daily.  In many cases, I’d go weeks or months without, simply from a lack of access or a shift in priorities.  At this point, I think I had still yet to blaze by myself.  It wasn’t until I finished university and moved back home that those dynamics started to shift a bit.

I grew up in a pro-cannabis community, in a pro-cannabis city, with a very pro-cannabis social and professional circle.  Now as a recent university graduate, back home, with a full-time income and his own place, I’m pretty sure my version of christening the place involved a philly, friends, food, and family guy.  While my intake likely increased, it was still very much a social activity until I started using it as a coping mechanism.

I was an assistant manager at the time for a large rental car company.  My manager who happened to be a close friend of mine was fired in a cost-cutting maneuver.  His replacement sucked and my job went from fun to shit within a few months, including a switch to late-shifts.  The shifts had me arriving home close to 11pm and rather wound up – so I began my ritual of winding down.  I’d come home, ditch the suit, roll some reefer, and relax.  Eventually, this became every work-night.  Even when I moved for work to a new town where I didn’t know anyone – and the ritual persisted.

Following that role, I transitioned into finance and into a career path that was the epitome of high pressure.  I began that path thinking that I wanted to maximize my brainpower so it was time to take a break from the Buddha.  I did, but now I was back to not being able to sleep.  Eventually, I justified it to myself that sleep was more important – and the ritual persisted.

While still in that role, I began dating a girl who wasn’t the biggest fan.  She grew up in a household which embraced the war on drugs and just about considered it a deal breaker.  I cared a great deal about the girl and figured I could probably benefit from a break.  I did, but somewhere along the line, the bigger issue for me was taking direction from someone who doesn’t understand the issue.  So it became a weekend activity and not around her.

Not long after that, dispensaries started opening up in the city and the quality, section, and access all leaped forward.  Now there was a far better excuse to eliminate the weekend rule, but no excuse was better than getting a call from the girlfriend saying that her headache was so bad that she was looking to explore some alternative medicine.  She shared a spliff for the first time as an adult and never looked back.  Shortly after that, I had a bad ankle injury which took me off my feet for a couple weeks.  So I bought the new Xbox, and oz, and set up shop on the couch.  We broke up a few months later.  That’s mostly on me.

The following year, the only way I could fall asleep is if I greened out.  I was still mostly functional at work but was struggling with some short-term memory issues and occasionally spacing out in the middle of sentences.  The effective impact was marginal, but certainly noticeable.  It was like a cycle of going in and out of a fog.  I’d wake up in a haze that I’d spend the first couple hours of the morning trying to shake, then I’d hit my stride and cruise through the day, usually arriving home late in time to visit the vape.  I’d spend an hour or two watching tv, surfing on my phone, and doing bag-rips until I fell asleep on the couch.  I’d wake up at about 4 or 5am and move to the bed – and repeat.

It wasn’t preventing me from doing my job or playing sports, it was still a social activity, and it was the only thing that would consistently get me to sleep.  On the rare nights where I was without, I probably averaged 2-4 hours of sleep.  It was so easy to justify and so quickly approved by my peers that it was hard to pursue a routine without.

Prior to passing away, my dad shared an interesting thought on pot, “it never made anyone any smarter.”  When I reflect on that statement, what I hear is that we have a drug which interacts with our bodies in a variety of ways, most of which we don’t yet understand.  For all the good and bad it does, it’s probably not going to make you any smarter.  I owed it to him, my clients, my peers, and especially myself to at least explore that opportunity.  So I did.

Few people are more familiar with the games that you play with your own mind so I went to a good friend of mine and told him I was quitting.  He understood the situation well enough to know how to help.  We had a sesh and he left my house with my kit and all my supplies.  The agreement was a 6 month reset but a few months in, the family dog died and my sister took it rather hard.  It was still her coping mechanism at the time so I broke my commitment.  On the way home, I had the munchies and picked up a giant poutine.  When I got to my couch and started pigging out, I had this moment of thinking this isn’t what I want at all.  I was back to sobriety the following morning and made it until Christmas of that year.

While sober, my sleep schedule completely reset itself and everything was back to normal.  Most of the haziness subsided in the first couple weeks, with just about all of it gone within a few months.  That said, there’s something different about my brain now.  I can’t tell if it’s the hemp, bumps to the head, or just getting older but I don’t feel as sharp as I did when I was young.  While things like memory recall aren’t what they once were, things like perspective and open-mindedness have increased dramatically.  I don’t have the information necessary to know which factors contributed to which results, but I would be surprised if the herb had nothing to do with it.

I’ve now accepted that it’s my vice of choice.  For most the time I was sober, I wasn’t thinking about it.  The times where I was around friends who were getting green, or at home looking to wind down, all I could think was how much I preferred a moderate approach of once in a while.  Unfortunately for me, as soon as I had proven to myself that I could still stop if I wanted to, I was intent on making up for lost time.  I was back to smoking a joint before bed every night with the new girlfriend, and when things didn’t work out with her, I was back to greening out before bed every night on my own.

In November of last year, I moved for work.  It was a huge opportunity for me which would allow me to fast forward from a junior role to a senior role within a short period of time in a very well paid career.  I decided to use that as a reset point, thinking that this was the best time for me to apply my maximum brain power.  So I stopped using again with the exception of when I was visiting back home, and the little bit that I bought back with me each time telling myself that I was using it to reset my sleep schedule.  It took several weeks but my schedule was normalizing, I was getting healthier, and I was feeling better.  In January I was fired for unethical conduct.  A long story for another time, but it was unexpected, and very quickly turned my world upside down.  I had invested more of myself into this career than anything before.  It was the kind of career where the first 5 years were brutal but the next 30 made it well worth it.  I was fired almost exactly 4 years in.  Taking away something that I was so invested in and focused on, that meant so much to me and my future, was a very meaningful experience.

I walked out of that termination determined to be as productive and positive as I could with the experience.  Then I signed up at the local dispensary and proceeded to smoke ALL the cheeba.  I was focused on moving forward, but as a new resident in a small town that was then buried in snow, left me with limited activities.  Fortunately for me, I love to snowboard so I hit the slopes with some good friends for the first time in February.  Unfortunately for me, I took an uneventful spill off a jump and broke my arm pretty bad.  I had to have surgery, including plates and screws which meant that I was prescribed some pretty heavy duty painkillers.  Knowing what’s in them and their addictive properties, I decided to stick with my vice.

I’m pretty happy I was able to get through without getting into the opiates, but it did leave me in this perpetual state of being high all the time which I didn’t enjoy.  That was this February and I moved home about a week ago.  This transitional period that I’ve been going through over the last few months has resulted in a lot of personal growth and was ultimately the reason for this blog, but that personal growth has also left me with an unresolved perspective around this astro turf.

As I approach the second half of this year, my life is becoming far better aligned with who I am and what I’m capable of.  As much as I enjoy the endo, I don’t think it’s making me any smarter.  I think I’m a more capable individual when I’m sober.  I also think that the closer I am to reaching my potential, the happier I am.  I even had a moment a few days ago, smoking a joint from the comfort of my own bed, where I said this is enough, this isn’t what I want and it’s time to make a change.  I had to build some IKEA furniture that day so I obviously kept blazing, but it was a valid thought.  Even as I write this, part of my mind seems dedicated to finding the right excuse to justify rolling one up.

This last bit I write stoned.  Somewhere in my logical and analytical mind, I can’t help but think that this experience of addiction is highly educational in a self-growth kinda way.

The drugs I’ve done are weed, mushrooms (once), MDMA, and DMT (twice).  As a result of where I grew up and a brief career detour, I’ve spend my fair share of time around much harder drugs.  I resisted all of them on the same premise that the reward wasn’t worth the risk.  Those were life-destroying drugs and no high was worth that risk.  Weed wasn’t life destroying, so I seem to have fearlessly chased this vice down to its depths, knowing that I’m exploring something real without risks that I can’t handle.  I took a class in university call drugs and behaviour so I understand the changes in my brain chemistry when I’m stoned, but from an introspective standpoint, – hold on.. lost my train of thought – there’s something else here.  First, I think it’s important to understand drugs.  Not just how they affect someone’s brain chemistry but how they truly interact with peoples minds.  I think there’s a lot to be learned there.  Second, is to understand what it means to be addicted to drugs.  It can be a surreal experience, not just the mechanics of something that exists somewhere between a craving and a dependence, but also how it changes you.  I’ve become more introverted over the years. I much prefer a night in with a joint than night out drinking with the boys.  My memory is less effective than it once was.  It’s highly noticeable with names but less so with other things.  I’ve been able to adapt so it doesn’t affect me much but it’s annoying.  My sex drive fell way off when I was smoking the most.  By way off, I mean almost zero.  There are other things that likely contributed to each, but I’m confident my blazing did too.  Part of me tells me that I still have more to learn here but another part of me remembers what it’s like to be truly sober.  It’s like one of those limitless pills compared to where I am now.

Something occurred to me not long ago, maybe I smoke to make myself dumb.  My natural state of mind is very ‘go go go’, which is great when I get to apply it to something.  But when I don’t, I sense this gap between what I’m doing and what I’m capable of doing and it eats at me – until I’m stoned.  When I’m stoned, I don’t care.  I’m content in that moment and satisfied with life in general.  It’s as if I’m happier when I’ve lowered my potential to be more in line with my output.

So I suppose the moral of the story is fix your life and you won’t need to get stoned.  Here’s the interesting thing though, I don’t need to get stoned, I prefer to get stoned.  I stopped when I wanted to and chose to go back because my life was more enjoyable stoned than sober.  Maybe because I was a broken person, but probably because I was completely focused on a future which wasn’t my own.  I wasn’t in my element and I was nowhere near my potential.  I was tuning out assuming things would get better.  I was right – they fired me.

As I’m approaching this new phase of my life where I better understand myself and better understand where I should be applying my talents, I’m recognizing that I should probably end up smoking a lot less.  That doesn’t change the fact that I currently rely on it to sleep and have completely formed a habit out of it.  This won’t be easy, but it’s perhaps the most important area of growth when exploring the nature of addiction.  I know that I can quit outright, but that would be too easy and not what I want.  This is my vice of choice, but not the way I use it now – there must be moderation.  As always though, I’m optimistic.  As I begin to accelerate towards projects of high interest, I’m excited to start using my brain again and I’m reminded of a quote from my dear Sherlock Holmes, “I’m not an addict, I’m a user.  I alleviate boredom and occasionally heighten my thought process.”

My Thoughts on Privilege

 

A few years ago, a girl I was dating told me to check my privilege.  It was tremendously frustrating for me as I couldn’t understand what she was actually trying to say.  She went on to say that as a good-looking white male, I had all kinds of advantages afforded to me which weren’t available to others.  I reflected on that statement and it still didn’t resonate.  From my perspective, my path had not been easy and both my opportunities and successes were well-earned.  I figured a good place to start would be with a definition we could both agree on.  So we looked it up:

 

Privilege: A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available to a particular person or group.

 

That sounded rather general to me.  By that definition, if white privilege existed, then so did black privilege – and every other kind of privilege for that matter.  Tall people are privileged to reach things off high shelves while short people are privileged to not bump their heads on low ceilings.  If privilege is simply referring to the advantages held by some and not others, aren’t we just talking about people in general?  Maybe.

It would be easy for me to say that white privilege doesn’t exist because privilege doesn’t exist.  I would go on to give an example:  Would you rather be a black man being pulled over by the police in Alabama, or would you rather be a white guy getting pulled over by freedom fighters in West Africa?  Then I’d remind us that while we all share a common blueprint, we all vary in our own ways and those variations provide inherent advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstance.  If circumstance is the variable that determines if we experience an advantage or disadvantage, then does privilege really exist?  Like I said, it would be easy for me to say that white privilege doesn’t exist because privilege doesn’t exist – but I would be wrong.

 

Everything that I just said is valid to an extent but I think that there’s another layer to what’s going on here that better represents what we’re looking at.  I think if we explore this a little further, we’ll find some clarity

A granted privilege seems to be simply be an advantage given from one person to another.  What I find curious here is that the word granted offers the possibility of earning your advantage.  Consider a student who has good grades in high school and then is ‘granted’ admittance to a top-tier university – we’ll call her Priya. Now consider someone who had average grades, who also made it into that university after their parents made a significant donation – we’ll call him Bryce.  I think most people would blow the whistle and call a privilege foul here on the latter, but what if the Priya was at a top private school with unlimited tutoring funded by her parents?  What if Bryce’s parents grew up in poverty, worked hard, and were simply making a donation to their alma mater?

This is a rather interesting topic for me because in the context of a social conversation, privilege is what I would consider to be a poorly defined topic.  It’s like we know that there’s something wrong but we’re not exactly sure how to articulate it.  As in many other cases in society, we think we’re dealing in issues of fairness but in reality we’re dealing with issues of efficiency.

Let’s revisit the earlier example in a different context.  Let’s say for the sake of simplicity, Priya is unprivileged and Bryce is very privileged.  Both are admitted to a top-tier university and both approach their degree as an independent effort.  Now they’ve both graduated and while Priya continued to work hard and earned good grades, Bryce worked harder and earned better grades.  Now imagine that in 40 years, we’re reflecting on their life’s work and there’s a clear winner – Bryce.

If this were a real world example, what we commonly define as privilege could’ve led to the discrepancy in university grades and the career but that’s the point.  What if it wasn’t?  It’s certainly possible that Bryce did better because he had more resources at his disposal, but what if his circumstances we’re simply better aligned with his own personal strengths?  What if Bryce simply wasn’t motivated in high-school, but once he had the autonomy and challenge that came with a top-tier university, he was motivated to perform?  And what if his personality and degree were directly in line with his career path?  And what if Priya who worked hard and got good grades her entire life had the genetic blueprint for a world class chef, but became an accountant as a result of her academic focus?

In reality, what we’re really upset at is a series of systems which are inefficient at allocating resources and creating value.  The system we have currently is a ‘fair’ entry system predicated on prior academic performance and extra-curricular activities but it’s also the same system that would see Priya become an accountant and see Bryce not gain admission.  It’s largely a level playing field, but perhaps it’s time to prioitize making sure people are suited up for the right sport and playing to their full potential.

With the progress we’ve made in understanding our genealogy and psychology, along with advances in our ability to collect and analyze data… I smell a revolution in how we determine fit.  Imagine everyone being given the freedom to explore their options, while also being given the information to understand what they’re likely to be best at.  Now imagine everyone having access to the same information and how much more efficient we’d all be… at everything.  The goal isn’t to make privilege against the rules, the goal is to have a system in place that makes the use of privilege seem foolish and counter-productive.

If I were to offer up my best definition of privilege, it would be an applied, circumstantial advantage.  When circumstantial advantages are used to further the collective interests (efficient), people seem not to mind.  When circumstantial advantages are used to further self-interests (inefficient), there’s an issue.  Our issue isn’t with having different strengths and weaknesses from one another.  Our issues aren’t even with those who apply their strengths when competing.  Our issue is those who take the short-sighted approach of putting their own interests ahead of collective progress.  Our issue is with those who use their resources to create inefficiencies in the larger system at play.