Journal April 16, 2018

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Looks like a new theme might be in order for the website because the homepage is not loading for me. It doesn’t work in any browser or on mobile. I contacted support and they said (with proof) that it’s working fine for them but I asked a couple of friends and it’s not loading for them either. So posts are going to be a bit infrequent until I decide on an appropriate theme.

The name ‘Never Thought To Question’ is the last remnant of a blog that was once so much more negative and aggressive in it’s approach. The title comes from a song (Judith by a Perfect Circle). It was the perfect match for two main reasons:

1. The song is very anti-religion: So was the blog. At one point the blog was specifically anti-theist. I told myself it was about the religion and not the people following it. I soon realised this wasn’t always true and began to give serious thought to how unproductive that kind of talk is. It helps no one to constantly criticize, make fun  of and belittle anything or anyone. So I changed my approach and it honestly feels a lot better. As such if I change the theme I will be changing the name to Happiness is Free. I will also add a new tagline that I haven’t decided on yet.

2. People not questioning their beliefs is the root of religion and superstition: Not entirely but true but a fairly common reason. I felt that if I could just get people to question their beliefs even for a moment then maybe I can rid the world of religion and superstition. This aggressive and negative attitude hung around for far too long. It made sense to me at the time though.

So with a change of heart, a more positive and helpful approach and a much clearer conscience a name change seems appropriate and with technical problems a new theme too. I look forward to many more positive changes.

 

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A Bad Start is Still A Start

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Picture this image of Jeff Bezos in his cheap office space working day and night selling books online.  24 years later Amazon is a 100 billion dollar multi-national corporation selling everything from toilet paper to power tools. Even better is it’s a surprisingly common story:

Phil Knight: Knight and an old friend each put up $500 dollars to start a shoe company. 50 years later the proud chairman of Nike is worth an estimated $86 billion.

Larry Page: Page and Sergey Brin started running a search engine software on their university’s servers while they were doctoral candidates. When it started taking up too much bandwith they left and started Google.  It’s now a 101 billion dollar company used by millions everyday.

Ingvar Kamprad: Used some money his father gave him to sell replicas of his uncle Ernst’s kitchen table. IKEA went on to become a 35 billion dollar company.

Bill Gates: A university dropout who used his life savings to start a software company that nobody else thought was a good idea but in 1985 Microsoft Windows was born and now runs on 91% of computers worldwide.

J.K. Rowling: Rowling was on government assistance and could barely afford to feed herself and her child. She worked diligently on a book after her child was asleep. The book went on to be on a series of international bestsellers and blockbuster movies.

Oprah Winfrey: The news reporter turned talk show host was so poor as a child she had to wear potato sacks for clothes.

The list goes on and on, a little web research shows this. Even on a less grand scale neighborhoods and cities are full of stories of people who went from rags to riches. What they all have in common is hard-work and determination. All of these self-made billionaires ignored their doubts and critics and persisted even when things were dismal. Their stories are a reminder that no matter how unlikely success might seem it is always possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mr. Rogers Movie

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Even though he was an ordained Presbyterian minister if there was ever anyone who set the example of humanist values it was Fred Rogers.   He was one of the most pure of heart and dedicated his life to improving the lives of others, especially children.  This blog wholeheartedly endorses this movie.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ” -Fred Rogers

“The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.” -Fred Rogers

The Miracle of Life: Against all Odds

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Science, from the outside, can seem cold and calculating. The vision many people have of the sciences is lab coats, beakers and calculators. The scientist is too often pictured as a person in a white coat with glasses conducting their experiments and crunching boring, monotonous data to come to conclusions many of us may not even understand. One of the only things we really need to understand about the sciences is why the sciences have proven our lives to be a miracle. For example take what had to happen for you to be here:

    1. The Universe had to start to exist: Scientists, for the most part, use the Big Bang as the model to describe the origins of the universe. It’s not known what caused it but was the start of a process that created the Universe.
    2. Our planet had to be createdThe Earth was created approximately 4.6 Billion years ago and lived it’s early life in a chaotic state.
    3. Our planet needed to be able to support life: Life started approximately 3.7 billion years ago (The BBC website has a very good and thorough examination). At this point the Earth had survived bombardment by comets and asteroids, super-volcanoes and many other planet destroying phenomena. The Earth also just happened to be orbiting the habitable zone of our sun.
    4. Evolution: Human evolution started aprox. 13 million years ago. For evolution to even start complex amino acids had to form (aprox. 10 to the power of 40 chance according to some).
    5. Humans have had to survive:
          1. War: Humans have been fighting wars since at least 2700 BCE when Sumer and Elam went to war. We have been fighting ever since including two world wars and multiple close calls with nuclear war.
          2. Disease: Smallpox, measles, typhus, cholera and the plague to name only a few of the many diseases we have managed to survive so far.
          3. Famine: The great famine of Ireland, The Russian Famine, The Chinese Famine of 1907 and many others.
          4. Disasters:  We have survived numerous volcanoes, earthquakes and even an ice age.
    6. Your parents had to meet (and there parents and so on). Harvard Possessor Binazir actually calculated and came up with this great infographic showing the odds of you being born. According to Binazir it’s one in ten to the power of 2.685 million. So that’s a one in ten followed 2.865 million zeros chance that you could come into existence.

This brief look at human history doesn’t even begin to explore the destruction in the cosmos (like asteroids and rogue black holes ), the miracle of evolution that gave us our complex brains and bodies fit to survive in so many of the Earth’s  environments or how the Earth is perfectly suited for life. Despite all of the wanton destruction, disease, death and mayhem of the universe and life itself here you are in the year 2018 reading this article on your electronic device.  Congratulations you have beat everything the universe could throw at you to prevent you from coming into existence.  You can now enjoy being able to take a look around and enjoy life from the vast (family, friends, career..etc) to the simple (fresh air, good food..etc). and this fact is a miracle.

 

 


Journal: February 9th, 2018

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Winter is hard on most people, myself included. Where I live the days are shorter in the winter so it’s easy to attribute the lack of motivation to lack of sunlight.  Officially the jury is still out on sunshine, Vitamin D and better moods. However, a 2006 study linked vitamin D deficiency in older adults with lower moods. More recently, research at the Loyola University Chicago Niehoff School of Nursing showed that vitamin D supplements improved the moods of women with type 2 diabetes and signs of depression. Experts call it the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because human skin creates Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight (info). You need the sun for many reasons, your mood being one of them. So it makes sense that when there is less sunlight your mood isn’t as good, especially during a long and cold winter.

For myself the lack of sunshine actually directly affects how often I post new material because my motivation isn’t as good during the winter. There are a few ways to fight it though:

    1. Get Outside: This is obvious but can be hard to to do when it’s very cold, or snowy or icy outside. We have to force ourselves to get out in the sun in the winter as much as we can, even when the weather isn’t so great.
    2. Tanning beds and UV lights: Ask an expert if the bed uses UVB light. You can also buy lights that give off UVB light like this one. Make sure to ask your Dr. first about proper use.
    3. Vitamin D Supplements: You may not need to go this far if you get enough sunshine but it can work great to help moods during the winter. Again, it’s best to ask your Dr. first.

Sometimes sunshine is the best medicine!

Image result for sunshine quote

Meaning From Multiple Sources

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In the PERMA model the M is for meaning and purpose, a crucial part of living a happy life.  All of us have either found meaning or are looking for it, whether we realise it or not.  To find our meaning we first list our values and priorities. At the top of that list will be what matters most, your meaning in life. Attaching yourself to this higher value or priority does for the nonreligious and unbelievers what religion can: attach meaning to something bigger than you are. Even better is that meaning can come from multiple sources, thereby boosting our ability to get through life happy and fulfilled.

One of the founding father’s of modern humanistic psychology is Victor Frankl. He founded Logotherapy which is literally ‘meaning therapy’. Fankl was a holocaust survivor and finding meaning in the face of something that terrible was the only way he found to cope:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Victor Fankl

Frankl spoke of three main sources of meaning:

  1. Work: Not necessarily just a job but any purposeful work.
  2. Love:  Love in any form it comes in (spouse, family, friends..etc). Frankl felt love to be the person that brings out the best in you. “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” Victor Frankl
  3. Suffering: Courage in the face of difficulties. “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.’ -Victor Frankl

The most recent and comprehensive study found four main areas of meaning:

  1. Purpose: Present events draw meaning from their connection to future outcomes — objective goals and subjective fulfillment.
  2. Values: Which can justify certain courses of action.
  3. Efficacy: The belief that one can make a difference.
  4. Self-worth: Reasons for believing that one is a good and worthy person apparently are what results from immersion in our natural talents or what we excel at.  (Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs (2005, p. 610))

Studies vary about where people get their meaning from. One study found ‘Family was by far the most commonly cited source of meaning in life, with an overwhelming majority of mentions (36.14%). Interpersonal relations was the next most mentioned source of meaning (14.40%), followed by personal life (9.65%) and work (8.83%).” (Melissa E. Grouden, Paul E. Jose) But another one found 10 sources of meaning (Reker and Wong (1988)). Yet another study by Westerhof, Bohlmeijer, and Valenkamp (2004) found 5 sources of meaning. They all have 2 things in common:

  1. Internal sources of meaning: Personal growth, values and ideals, religious/spiritual enlightenment, emotional intelligence…etc.
  2. External sources of meaning: Work, leisure, relationships, cultural and religious activities…etc.

What all of this tells us is two things: First, that you don’t need to take meaning from just one thing and second that meaning can also change. Taking meaning from multiple sources ensures us that if we ever lose one source of meaning another is always there to keep us going through life, a safety net and the bigger the net the better. Also, our lives can change at any given moment and so it is prudent to regularly re-examine what gives our life meaning.  Knowing this we will always have a source of strength and a fundamental tool in our ability to cope with life.

 

Sources:

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Print.

Making Meaning in Life. Michael F. Steger. Psychological Inquiry , 23: 381–385, 2012 Copyright C ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. http://www.michaelfsteger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Steger-PI-2012.pdf

Emmons, R. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. In C. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.)

Baumeister (1991). Meanings of life. New York:

Guilford.Baumeister, R. & Vohs, K. (2005). Meaningfulness in life. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez, Handbook of positive psychology, pp. 608-618). Oxford UK: Oxford University Press.

Emmons, R. (1997). Motives and goals. In R. Hogan & J. A. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology, (p 485-512). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.