The Great Outdoors

I have always lived out in the country. At my childhood home, my parents had four acres of land lined with dense woods. Although most of the woodland area didn’t belong to us, we would always wander down through the trees to the charming stream at the bottom of the steep valley. This was one of my favorite activities when I was growing up. As I got older I would explore further and further down the stream in both directions. I have many stories of adventures in those woods with my friends, my family, my dogs, or even just by myself. I treasure the time I spent there and don’t plan on selling that house or the land even once my parents pass.

Even when I moved out to an apartment while attending college, there were plenty of gorgeous deep woods for us to explore right off campus and right outside our apartment complex. My college was nestled high in the hills of West Virginia, only visible after a long drive on winding back roads. It was almost like a small village hidden in the trees. Even now I only live a short walk from the river and can wander up into the trees right behind my house whenever I want to. I’ve always had the advantage of having nature right in my backyard.

The other day at work, we were talking with a girl who was originally from a big city. She was exasperated by the lack of people and places to go in our area. She even complained that she missed looking outside and seeing houses and buildings. Now when she looked outside she would just see cows. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, who would rather look at buildings than cows?! Its baffling to me that some people would actually prefer living in a crowded city. To me that has always seemed like a nightmare.

It’s strange to think that most people actually live in cities now. Each year humanity becomes more and more separated from the Earth. I find that terribly sad. To think that some people have lived their whole lives within the confines of New York City for instance. Even Central Park or other state parks in more populated areas don’t do the true majesty of nature justice. While I was in awe at the unique, natural landscapes in Hocking Hills State Park when I was there, it was still somewhat spoiled by the sheer number of other people there, making that serene, calming environment noisy and crowded. There is a special magic that can only be found alone in the silence of nature. It breaks my heart to think that so many people will never experience that. There are even plenty of people that have no desire to.

I believe that humanity has lost something crucial to our survival when we severed our ties with the natural world. For so many centuries we viewed the harsh conditions of the outdoors as our enemy, not realizing that it was also an essential part of us. Not realizing that it has the potential to heal as well as harm us. That we need its nourishing energy to be happy and healthy and fully alive. We have all come from the earth and whether we want to accept it or not, we are still a part of the earth.

I know a lot of people that have hopeful fantasies about humanity living in space or on Mars one day. This has always seemed like an impossible, as well as idiotic plan to me. Humans think space will save us once this planet has been utterly killed. Yet no one seems to realize what life separated from our Earth mother might really be like. I imagine life in space to be absolutely desolate and devoid of all of the things I love about being alive. I truly would not want to live if it meant being apart from the Earth. That would be no life at all to me.

And sadly that life apart is something so many humans already seem to be living, oblivious to the majesty of life that they are missing out on. Even people living in smaller towns with a grassy patch of backyard to themselves, can’t comprehend the meaningful time I have been able to spend in nature all my life. Sitting by a single tree behind a fence as neighbors drive by or mow their lawns cannot compare to being fully immersed in the deep, green forest, or all alone on the bank of a great river. The former is a sad substitute for the latter.

I believe it is because so many of us have spent our lives separated from nature that we have so easily been able to continue destroying every piece of it. So many people see this as necessary development, as “progress.” They don’t realize that what humanity builds, while impressive and amazing at times, can never compare to what nature has already provided for us. When so many people have lived their whole lives away from the natural world, it’s no wonder they are unable to grasp the importance of it.

I don’t know that there is any way to help so much of humanity realize what they have been missing out on. Like many things lately, it seems like a lost cause. However, contemplating all of these other lives I could have led, makes me so grateful for the life I have. It has truly been a blessing to grow up and experience this little sliver of existence the way I have been able to. To be accustomed to only the sounds of bird calls, rustling leaves, and running water outside my windows my entire life. To have spent so many days barefoot, with the warm soil between my toes, walking through the shallow water of a clear stream. Collecting enough wild berries at the edge of my yard with my grandmother and sister to make a pie. Always having plenty of space to garden or simply bask in the sun. To have always had loyal, loving, innocent animals at my side. To be able to gaze at a sky full of stars each night I have been alive. I would not trade this life of mine for anything.

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What A Beautiful Life

The last few days I’ve been watching a lot of videos about what life was like in the Victorian Era. While the things I’m learning are extremely interesting, they are also quite horrifying. I discovered just how unsafe it was to be alive during that time period, let alone all of the rest of human history. People would meet their death doing things as simple as taking a bath, eating food from the market, having a bathroom installed in their home, having colorful wallpaper, etc. It seems as though there were unlimited dangers all around that weren’t yet fully understood or identified.

It’s very interesting to me how I am able to simultaneously marvel at human achievements throughout history and also be dumbstruck at our sheer recklessness and stupidity. On both fronts it seems incredible that we have managed to make it this far. It really puts a lot of things into perspective for me. Generally I have expected a lot out of the human race. Perhaps that’s because when we’re young we are surrounded with the idea that humans are the pinnacle of evolution, fabulous, unique, God-like beings. At least that’s the impression I seemed to get about what most humans thought of our species. Yet in every waking moment, I seemed to be confronted with human limitation and outrageous foolishness. It would be a constant source of frustration. People never seemed to live up to the standards I had set for them. Not even I was able to meet those standards.

History used to be one of my favorite subjects. But as we learned more and more it seemed like the only things that mattered in recorded history were wars and politics. These things are certainly interesting, but there is so much more to history that I would have rather explored. Learning about society and the way other generations lived awakens a fierce gratitude within me for the luxuries of the time period that we live in. So many simple conveniences that we take for granted were not so long ago unimaginable. I’ve been reflecting on the amazing benefits we now have such as electricity, running water, plumbing, cars, medicine, technology, the internet, the list could go on and on. Most of us tend to use these conveniences everyday without thinking twice about them.

As you know I spend a lot of time worrying about the end of the world. The end seems more and more inevitable each and every day. However, learning about the history of humanity, makes me less concerned about it for some reason. I’m left just feeling grateful that we made it this far. It seems like each moment is an incredible gift. It seems selfish and ungrateful to complain that I won’t get more. In my twenty seven years of life I have already had more pleasure than entire populations had in a lifetime. I’ve allowed myself to feel so cheated that I may not get to live out my life and die of old age as it feels I was promised as a young child. However, when I think about it, I was never even guaranteed the time I’ve already had. Had I lived in any other time period, or even in a different part of the world today, I might have already succumbed to some horrendous illness or accident. This shift in perspective has been extremely therapeutic for me. It has made me feel lighter and reflect on my good fortune.

From now on I plan to work on being grateful for each moment I am given. However much life I have left on this earth will be more than enough. How absurd it now seems to complain when I have so much. Gratitude is truly the cure for so many psychological woes. Perhaps there is no better or more powerful feeling. Even love itself is a form of gratitude. And I really do love this life. I love the many beings I have been lucky enough to share it with. Each day is filled with so many unbelievable blessings. Nice clothing and bed linens, a safe, warm home, a cup of coffee, a hot shower, fresh fruits and vegetables, clean water. How insane the people of the past would think us for finding anything to complain about or to be dissatisfied with. What a beautiful life.

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Doomsday Preppers

This may seem funny to a lot of people, but I genuinely respect the people that are currently stockpiling food, water, ammunition, etc. and otherwise preparing for the end of the world. There have always been people like this, and I can see why in the past it may have seemed crazy. But looking at the world in 2021, I don’t see why anyone is still expecting everything to turn out okay and continue on as normal indefinitely into the future. There is just no rational or logical reason to think that.

All of the science points towards an inevitable societal and environmental collapse happening within our lifetime. It is no longer just something for our children or grandchildren to worry about. We are going to experience catastrophic changes within a matter of decades. That may still seem like a lot of time to right our course to some people, but even if that was enough time (it isn’t) the fact is that we haven’t even started trying to change in any meaningful way. I fully expect to witness the end of the world, if not entirely then at least as we now know it.

This is something I’ve mentioned in passing in a few of my other posts. However, in those posts I was focusing more on the mental and emotional impact of feeling this way. The frustration and pain of not being believed or taken seriously by the majority of the population. That is its own separate issue. Today I wanted to focus on my personal inner conflict with where to go from here having accepting these things to be true.

I can understand to a certain extent why hardly anyone seems to accept this ultimate outcome for the planet and human life specifically. It is hard to deal with. It is scary. It leaves you feeling empty and hopeless a lot of the time. But I’ve never had the luxury of being able to avoid the hard facts of an issue. That’s part of the reason I became vegan even though it certainly would have been easier to keep my head in the sand. I just can’t deny reality the way a lot of people can. I don’t have those same defense mechanisms when it comes to avoiding the ugly truth. Maybe it would be better if I did. Maybe I’d be happier that way.

My problem isn’t whether or not to believe these things, it’s what to do with this overwhelming, devastating information. For a while I thought I might be able to influence change, to shift humanity into living in a way that would prevent this doomsday from happening. I pretty quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. We simply don’t have enough time to break through the strong illusions of the human race, the greed, the selfishness, the idiocy quite frankly. Now I’ve switched over to contemplating how to mitigate these coming disasters for myself personally. How can I ensure my family and I suffer as minimally as possible?

I genuinely want to use however long I have left in peaceful, stable times to start preparing. My mind often drifts to strategies of stockpiling food and water, teaching myself basic first aid, studying the local plants, learning what can be eaten or used for medicine, how to purify water, how to start a fire, how to effectively grow crops, etc. The only reason that I haven’t actually started any of these endeavors is because the thought of why I need to is too painful. While all of these activities interest me and even seem fun to a certain extent, the underlying reason for them causes me too much grief for me to think about it for very long. Not to mention the anxiety I feel when I realize just how much I’ll need to learn. Part of me wonders if my time is better spent in a blissful state of self-induced ignorance. If I’d be happier overall spending these days trying to enjoy a normal life for as long as I’m able to. Rather than struggling now in order to make my future struggle somewhat easier.

After the events of this past year, these heavy thoughts have been weighing on my mind even more than usual. I think I’m finally ready to start gathering my resources. The amount I’d need to learn and do is overwhelming, but nevertheless I have to try. I’m going to do my best to have fun with it, to make a game out of it. To try to focus on the moment and the actions as I’m doing them rather than the reason behind those actions and the dismal, frightening, unpredictable future ahead.

This summer I am going to begin by stockpiling knowledge. I’m going to gather up books on all of these topics. I’m going to start trying to identify and memorize different useful plants in my area. I’m going to devote myself to my gardening. I’m going to buy some type of water filtration device. I’m going to teach myself basic survival skills. I may even buy a gun and spend some time doing target practice with my uncle. I no longer mind if anyone thinks this is funny or that I’m crazy for believing what I believe. My only hope is that by expressing these thoughts and feelings, others may be moved by my certainty and resolve. Many people in my life believe that I am extremely intelligent. I hope that eventually some of them may trust that intelligence enough to follow me, to listen to me, even if what I say is hard to hear.

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Children

It is crazy how much can change within you in only a year. When I first began working at a child advocacy center, I really didn’t like children very much. I know it sounds awful, but it’s true. I didn’t dislike them. I just hadn’t had hardly any experience with them in my personal life, let alone at work. I have no idea why I was even hired to be honest. My social anxiety has always been extra overwhelming when it comes to children. I had never learned what I was supposed to do or say around them. I had no idea what to expect or how to respond.

Learning how to talk to and behave around children is just another one of the many reasons I am inexpressibly grateful for this job. Now that I have been able to spend so much time with children, it turns out that I actually love them. They are so much better than adult humans. So innocent and loving. So eager to please. So eager to learn and to understand. They are truly amazing little creatures. There is a unique joy that comes from gaining the trust of a child, to be offered a tiny hand or hug. Even though we aren’t supposed to be touching one another right now because of the pandemic, who could deny such a blessed gift?

Part of me began to worry when I realized I actually love children now. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on my blog before, but when I was 22 or 23 I had my tubes tied. I never had the desire to have children, and was always terrified at the idea of accidentally getting pregnant and having to have an abortion. Or even worse, not being able to get an abortion. I am still so grateful that I found a caring doctor that was willing to respect my wishes and my right to make decisions about my own body. Never once did she talk down to me or try to tell me I’d change my mind some day. And I’m relieved to be able to say I haven’t.

I don’t think I’ll ever come to regret that decision. I still firmly believe that human being in general are a plague upon this planet. I would never add more fuel to that fire. Besides, I could never allow myself to bring a child into this world knowing I’d have to watch them die when the earth becomes uninhabitable in a few decades. I still think I am too selfish and impatient to be the kind of mother I would want to be. I’m still more than happy just having my fur children. Besides even if I ever wanted a child of my own, I would never be brave enough to go through pregnancy and childbirth. That whole process still seems horrific to me. I see no difference between an adopted child and one that has my DNA. I’d happily be a foster parent or adopt a child if the urge ever struck me to bring a child into my life.

For now I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. Being a child advocate is the perfect job for me in so many ways. Apparently a lot of people that don’t want to have children of their own end up working with children instead. I think it’s a perfect compromise for the nurturing, motherly instinct I have as a woman. I am still able to have children in my life without having them in my home. I have a place to help them learn and grow and thrive, while also still having my privacy and personal space at home.

I finally understand that deeply fulfilling feeling of being a positive influence in the life of a child. It is such a magical thing to see the world through their eyes, to see how much your words and actions mean to them. I can see now why so many people are able to have limitless hope in humanity. These little beings are capable of becoming anything. They have so much potential to do good in this world. They are so full of curiosity and love. If only there were more people around them to teach them how to hold onto that love as they grow older. The children of this world are definitely capable of learning, sadly the adults are not competent enough to teach them.

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Outgrowing Selfishness

I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.

As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.

The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.

No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.

So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.

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Loving & Letting Go

What is grief, but love persevering.

Unknown

I’m still working my way through Les Miserables. As I near the end, I feel confident in saying it has become my new favorite book. I am going to be very sad once I’ve finished it. There are so many beautifully worded commentaries on the human condition. Things we all know well, but put in a way that reminds us of the mystery and beauty of being alive in this world. The last thing I read that really struck me was about love.

I believe it was called the great paradox of human existence or something to that effect. It has the potential to save, to transcend, while equally having the power to destroy and condemn. What a cruel world where we must have the very thing that may ruin us. There are so many contradictions in this life. Our challenge seems to be to let our love be stronger than our fear. A difficult task.

I am constantly being confronted with things that confound my black and white thinking mind. How am I to devote myself whole heartedly to a love that I can’t be sure of? How am I to hold onto this love inside while also letting go of the pain? It seems like I used to feel everything all at once, so sharply, and now I feel nothing at all most days. Neither is ideal. But I don’t know how to negotiate a happy middle ground.

I read something the other day about it being possible to still love someone, but to also let them go. For me this feels impossible. Which is what leaves me in a difficult position. I desperately want to keep my happy memories and the love I have in my heart. But I also want to be able to let go and move on. How do I do both? If I focus on letting go, my heart closes. I feel hatred and betrayal and disgust. If I try to push these feelings aside and recall more tender emotions on the subject, it once again becomes too painful to let go. I feel myself clinging desperately onto some chance of reconciliation.

It’s always been much easier for me to forget someone if I have a reason to hate them. However, this hatred tends to also taint all of the nice memories I’ve made with them. Is it really possible to have both? To cherish the memories while also accepting there will be no more? Maybe it is something that I’ll be able to master someday with more practice. Maybe it just gets easier with time.

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The Comfort of Not Knowing

If you saw my post yesterday, you already know that I have little to no expectations for the future. I am just trying my best to be grateful for the amount of life I have been given and not worry about the years of growing old that may be lost to me. I’ve always had a hard time imagining myself being old anyway. The thought is pretty unsettling actually. However, obviously I don’t know everything.

I am simply making an educated guess based on all of the information I have available to me. I recognize that there are still things in this existence that I don’t know about or understand. Laugh if you like, but taking LSD has humbled me. It showed me that even when you think you are seeing everything, there are always new perspectives and new discoveries to be made. There is still so much about this life that we do not understand, and most likely never will.

For someone will such a dark outlook on the world and the future, this is a great comfort. Not knowing is something to be grateful for. There are few things more beautiful and enlivening than being surprised. No matter how much you learn or know, this life is always full of surprises. Amongst the monotonous daily drudgery, lurk the most unlikely things.

If I’ve learned anything, the farther in the future something is, the less accurate any predictions you make will be. It’s almost like the butterfly effect played out before our eyes. Small, seemingly insignificant details can snowball into relevant factors for the future in unpredictable ways. Now perhaps this is just a depressed mind grasping for some shred of hope, but even though I’ve lost any expectation that humanity can or will rise to the occasion, I have opened my mind to other (albeit somewhat ridiculous) possibilities.

This strange comfort of “not knowing” struck me one day as I was watching alien conspiracy theories. *Pause for laughter* Yes, I realize how silly that may sound. But hear me out. From a purely mathematical and probability perspective, aliens exist somewhere out there in the vastness of space. This I’ve accepted with not much interest. It doesn’t mean they have or will ever make any kind of contact with us. However, there are a lot of unexplained wonders that exist across the world that some people suspect have alien origins.

Obviously just because something can’t be explained, doesn’t mean we can assign any fanciful explanation we want. But the fact remains, there are quite a lot of things in this world that for the time being we are completely at a loss to explain. Whether that means there are aliens or ghosts or whatever is irrelevant. It simply means we don’t know everything.

Sometimes I like to amuse myself by coming up with outlandish ideas of how the world may not end. Maybe aliens arrive and save us and the planet, maybe something like this pandemic takes out the majority of the population before we have the chance to put the final nail in our environmental coffin, maybe the world governments have some kind of contingency plan that will save us at the last moment, maybe an amazing technology is being invented as we speak that will change everything. It could also very well be something I am entirely unable to imagine. I’ve also learned from taking acid that even our imagination doesn’t define the limits of what is possible.

It seems like most of the population has been continuing on with a foolish sense of assurance due to a vague idea of these ace in the hole possibilities. I’m not among those that always think everything will work out for the best somehow. I don’t believe there is a god up there that has a plan for all of us. I don’t believe humans are some type of miracle of creation or evolution. The universe couldn’t care less whether we exist or not. Despite all of that though, I do accept I don’t know everything. And I am interested to see what surprises are still waiting for me.

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The Beginning of the End

It has been a truly bizarre year. I’m sure we could all agree to that. It seems like everyone is anxious for things to “get back to normal.” To be honest, I don’t have much hope that that will ever happen. When this pandemic first started, I didn’t really think much of it. I was just pleased to have an excuse to stay home. Now I’ve begun to think this is just the first phase in a long downward spiral for our species and our planet. This has been a long time coming.

I used to get flustered and frantic about my opinions on the state of the world. I felt I desperately needed to spread a message, to inspire change, to educate people so that we could all start to work towards a healthier, sustainable society. After years of exasperation and futile efforts, I have finally lost hope. Humanity will not change, therefore we will not survive much longer. Humanity has no interest in changing, we have no time left for the change that is needed, and to be honest, at this point, I don’t think we are capable of changing. It is a shame, but I have resigned myself to our fate. I have accepted the demise that is to come. Not 200 years in the future, not to the generation after me, but to me, to my generation, to everyone I know.

Cowspiracy was the tipping point for me. After watching that documentary and absorbing all of the scientific facts about our crumbling environment and the projections of how much time we have left before utter catastrophe if we continue at this rate (which we will), I realized that I will not be living out the extent of my natural lifespan. I have no idea how I will eventually die, but I feel pretty confident in ruling out old age. Perhaps it will be starvation, civil unrest, natural disasters, having no clean water, or even from a pandemic. It could be this very one, or the inevitably worse ones to come. To be honest, I’m surprised this is all due to a Corona virus and not one of the many strains of anti-biotic resistant bacteria we are breeding in our animal agriculture industry every day.

If I had even a shred of hope left that we would somehow overcome the self-imposed threats facing us, the public response to this pandemic has obliterated it. My fellow humans are incapable of even making the most miniscule, temporary changes to their daily lives, let alone the massive, permanent changes we need to make to survive as a species. Even though the pandemic rages on and is even getting worse in some areas, people have seemingly decided to just go back to normal. As if it’s been a year, so fuck it, it must be over.

If humans are incapable of simply wearing a mask when they are in the grocery store for 30 minutes, there is no way they’ll be capable of eliminating meat and dairy from their diets entirely. Perhaps if we had already implemented a strategy to move society that way and we also had a couple hundred years to get there, but we aren’t doing anything and we don’t have anywhere close to that amount of time. Scientists predict we only have a few decades and the US government is still subsidizing the industries that are killing us.

Not only has the majority of the population not accepted one of if not THE root cause of our impending demise (animal agriculture), but we can’t even all agree that we are even facing a real problem! Climate change is still up for fucking debate in America. And I don’t even expect those of you reading this to understand or agree with me on any of this. I’m mostly just having a good ol’ scream into the void. It’s the only thing I can really do at this point, sadly.

I won’t waste my time listing all of the statistics, facts, and figures about how animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, desertification, and species extinction. How it wastes massive amounts of food, water, and land. How everyone shouts “save the rainforest!” while ignoring the fact that the reason it’s being cut down is to make room for livestock. All of this information is readily available for anyone willing to look into it. Cowspiracy’s website has most of it laid out with citations. Although, in my experience, facts have never been enough to make anyone change. What I will point out, is that this pandemic is also just a symptom of the ways eating animals will eventually be our undoing.

Whenever a pandemic emerges, it is almost always related to some animal. And not just any animal. An animal that humans have been using as food. We end up keeping this “food” in filthy cramped spaces, crowded in with other animals and covered in piss and shit. Then we eat those same animals. It’s no wonder we are constantly facing disease. Bird flu, swine flu, mad cow disease. Starting to see a pattern yet? If we didn’t eat animals, none of these things would be a problem. To be honest, it’s almost karmic justice for these innocent beings. I wouldn’t even mind if humans were wiping themselves out due to our own greed and stupidity. But unfortunately we are taking down the whole planet with us and that breaks my heart.

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The Social Dilemma

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The Social Dilemma is a new documentary on Netflix that everyone needs to see. It is a harrowing look at what social media and the internet in general are doing to us as individuals and society as a whole. I’ve long suspected that this new age of technology was having a deleterious effect on our brains, but never could I have imagined how serious it actually is.

We have been trapped under the wheels of a machine that we created and set into motion but now have no power to stop. The tropes about robots taking over and destroying humanity didn’t manifest in exactly the way we pictured it, but I would argue the age of AI overlords has already begun. We have become the victims of our own advancements. Our biology and slow rate of evolutionary change simply cannot keep up with and stay on top of the rapid growth of technology.

Our psychology is being used against us for the sole benefit of corporations and advertisers. This documentary points out that we are no longer the consumers. We are the products being sold. More specifically our attention is being sold. And it seems for the most part we are helpless to overcome the addictive nature of this new market. Not only that, while we feed into this system, society as a whole is becoming more and more anxious, depressed, and isolated from one another. This isn’t necessarily a purposeful outcome, yet it is an insignificant side effect for the people and algorithms running the show.

If you’d like some first hand evidence, try logging off of Facebook for a few weeks. I have been avoiding that site for over a year now. You wouldn’t believe the lengths the site has gone to try to reel me back in. I found it funny at first, seeing notifications for less and less relevant things when I did open the app. How desperate Facebook is to somehow regain my attention! But now I think it’s actually quite scary.

I will say I have felt much better mentally since I stopping using Facebook. I don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone for one thing. I am not weighed down by constant updates and online drama. I don’t waste time thinking up a status update or obsessively checking to see how many people liked it. It is freeing. I feel lighter now.

However, despite my success at overcoming the algorithm in that regard, I am still not completely free of the strong psychological drive to seek dopamine “rewards” online. For instance, I now post on here everyday. I do greatly look forward to seeing how many people like what I’ve written. Although I limit myself to checking my notifications once a day. I also still scroll my feed and post drawings on Tumblr. Not to mention I am perpetually watching either YouTube or Netflix all day long.

While I am able to remember, and think back fondly, on a time before the internet and social media, newer generations will not have this luxury. This new form of society is all they have ever known. Soon humanity will not even be able to conceive of a world without these detrimental influences.

I desperately long for the simplicity of my childhood spent away from screens, enjoying the real world. But even more than that, I pity the children of today. They have become victims without even realizing it. And what choice do they truly have? While disconnecting from our devices is liberating and beneficial in many ways, it is also extremely isolating in others. It is choosing to be apart from the rest of society in a major way. Even though it is better for your own mental health, it is also lonely, a virtual exile.

Ultimately I don’t know what the solution could be to this problem we’ve unwittingly created. Humans are forever hopeful. The executives that once had a hand in creating this new world seem to believe we can overcome it somehow. But I don’t know if I agree. I see it as just another sign of our rapidly advancing inevitable demise as a society and as a species. Although I sincerely hope I am wrong.

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Society & Stress

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I was thinking the other day about just how normalized stress has become in society. Humanity has, in a sense, imprisoned itself. We exhibit similar behaviors to animals in captivity. Yet we have designed our own cage. It’s strange to me that there doesn’t seem to be any type of movement to address or change this. No one is working to restructure society so that we can live better lives. I don’t think anyone even knows how we’d do that or is searching for those answers.

If a zookeeper notices a macaw pulling out feathers, it is a huge concern. The bird is obviously highly stressed, to the point that it’s exhibiting unhealthy self-harming behaviors. Biting, picking, rubbing, pulling, these are all signs of distress that we easily recognize and try to correct in animals.

However, how many people do you know that bite their nails? Probably quite a lot. You may even bite your own nails. But this isn’t seen as a major concern, a symptom of living in constant stress. It is just a “bad habit.” A common behavior that no one thinks much of. Skin picking and hair pulling are a bit more recognized when it comes to mental health. But ultimately, despite being extremely common, they are still seen as a problem with the individual, and addressed as such.

At what point do we start to look at the bigger picture? At what point does the sheer number of people showing these symptoms begin to tip the scale from personal to societal? And what needs to happen for people to start addressing it?

These symptoms are somewhat inevitable for animals in captivity. Because animals were not meant to live in captivity. In the same way, I’ve come to view my stress behaviors as not necessarily a personal failing or imbalance in my brain chemistry. My brain and body are working just fine. They are responding how they were designed to respond. The problem isn’t with the individual, the problem is with the systems we have built ourselves into. We are simply not meant to live this way.

In the end, I don’t believe that any amount of medication or therapy will ever be able to address the ever increasing number of people with mental health problems. While valuable and worthwhile, these measures are only a band-aid on the gushing wound of our modern lifestyles. I desperately hope that someday we can work together to change our society rather than trying to force an impossible change within ourselves.

I don’t know what the answer is. I wish that I did. But I still think it helps to know that you are not alone. You are not broken. Your body isn’t betraying you. Your brain is not inherently ill. Your feelings are not wrong. You are doing the best you can in a strange new world that millions of years of evolution has not prepared us for. Forgive yourself. Be grateful to yourself for fairing as well as you have.

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