Few things are as disturbing to me as fake positivity.

I recently saw a speech by one of those hyper-motivated types. He described how he gets up at 3:30AM, looks at photos of the things he’s thankful for, listens to recordings of his own affirmations while exercising, eats a nutritious breakfast, counts his calories, keeps track of how many positive things he says to other people throughout the day—all that crap.

This kind of person is a bomb that could go off at any moment. A person has to be incredibly emotionally unstable to require all that regimentation just to get through the day. You can easily picture them clutching their knees, rocking back and forth in a dark corner, repeating: “I’m happy, everything is OK! I’m happy, everything is OK!” It’s essentially what they’re already doing.

This is the type of person who suddenly snaps, brings a Kalashnikov to work one day and, with a giddy giggle, starts mowing down co-workers and colleagues.

There is something to be said for the ability to properly express depression, existential angst, and general outrage at the unfairness and pointlessness of the universe.

If you’re healthy, you can handle a good bout at feeling shitty—and not only that, you can come out of it refreshed, as if you’ve vomited out poison or shed an old skin.

Yeah, it’s childish to mope and say/write depressive things and demand that others listen to your whiny crap, and it’s embarrassing later. But consider the alternative: smothering your real feelings with contrived happy thoughts that aren’t really yours. That sort of double-think compounds major depression because it convinces you that you’re happy when you really aren’t.

The best method, in my experience, is to just ride it out and get the full awfulness of an episode of depression. Mine usually get to the point that I give consideration to suicide. At some point, it bursts. The anger and the sadness reach critical volume and collapse under their own weight. I gradually muscle my way out from underneath it. I dust myself off and I move on without having to fake a feeling.

It seems far healthier to me to face the fact that we’re depressed, let ourselves say some stupid shit we don’t really mean, and then shake it off and carry on with life.

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It’s hard to tell whether I’m crazy or not.

A few new studies have come to my attention. They all indicate that I should get the fuck out of this basin of smog as soon as I can.

The problem is called PM2.5—particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size. New research has shown that breathing this shit for a long period of time causes physical changes to the hippocampus, specifically shortened dendrites of decreased complexity. This is associated with impaired learning and memory; one of the hippocampus’ main jobs is moving new information from short-term memory to long-term storage.

The reason that PM2.5, or “fine particulate matter”, is of concern is that it is small enough to cross the air-blood barrier in the brain and travel to various tissues.

But the study was done on mice. What about humans?

Turns out, the study was prompted by findings by Mexican scientists. They examined the brains of accident victims—children and young adults—from Mexico City (which has terrible air pollution) and Veracruz (which has relatively cleaner air). They found that the brains from Mexico city “showed more extensive inflammation, oxidized DNA and other pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.”

All right. But what about long-term effects?

A 2010 study involving 680 men linked black carbon emissions (a marker of traffic-related air pollution) with impaired cognitive function. Even when their scores were adjusted to compensate for social and educational differences, the men who lived in areas with heavier air pollution performed worse on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.

I’ve written before about how important brain health is to me. I consider my brain to be me. And it’s not even just me, but my universe. It’s the mechanism I use to see and understand the world, and it’s my library of all my experiences and memories. Few things are more important to me.

I now have to carefully consider the real implications of this information. The correlation and causation seem to be there—but how much would I really be affected? Am I willing to be affected at all? How much have I already been affected?

The real question is: am I being obsessive about this? Is it irrational that I want to get out of here within a few years because of this, in spite of the fact that I otherwise love living here?

One thing this new information has really fucked up is my bike rides. I used to take 20-mile rides a few times a week. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea anymore.

I can just add this to the list of 218 other very important things I need to work out very quickly.

I’ve always envied people with command over their own bowels. Some people can go sit over a toilet, and their bowels will obediently begin their undulating sphincter rhythms to void their contents. That is as incredible to me as having conscious control over your own heartbeat.

Bowel movements for people like me happen at the evil stinky whim of our gut-minds. The bowel will retain its putrid load until it feels like discharging it, defying my orders even when commanded by the brain it to do its job. And it will insist on disgorging its foul contents whenever it wants to, no matter how inopportune a time it may be. If I’m unable to comply with its demands, if I have no choice but to forcibly restrain its efforts, it will take revenge with a series of spasms and contractions, and it will voice its complaints with horrible bubbles of fetid gas.

“In contrast to the remainder of the peripheral nervous system … the enteric nervous system does not necessarily follow commands it receives from the brain or spinal cord; nor does it inevitably send the information it receives back to them. The enteric nervous system can, when it chooses, process data its sensory receptors pick up all by themselves, and it can act on the basis of those data to activate a set of effectors that it alone controls. The enteric nervous system is thus not a slave of the brain but a contrarian, independent spirit in the nervous organization of the body. It is a rebel, the only element of the peripheral nervous system that can elect not to do the bidding of the brain or spinal cord.”
—Michael Gershon, The Second Brain

“Pooping is the orgasm of the butt hole,” a friend once told me. His words have stuck with me over the years.

As a male, I don’t have a large a large opening in my body lined with massive bundles of erogenous nerves. As such, I can’t closely compare the euphoria of passing a satisfying stool to sex—but I would say that of the most pleasurable bodily feelings a human can have, pooping is probably number two. Pun very much intended.

This isn’t just about pooping, really. What’s really fascinating to me is the long tube that runs through our bodies, regulating what parts of what we eat will be integrated into our bodies, lined with so many nerve cells that it constitutes its own nervous system.

The inside of your esophagus, stomach, intestines, and bowels are actually the outside of your body. The sugars, proteins, fats, electrolytes—none of this stuff is part of your body until it crosses the lining of this mucosal labyrinth into the bloodstream. Your body is a club and the intestine is the bouncer.

The use of a cavity with selectively permeable walls for digestion goes way back to the beginning of animal evolution. It’s more or less unique to animals, so no other organisms get to experience this sort of interaction with their environment. (I sometimes imagine plants to experience orgasmic pleasure when sunlight hits their leaves, but that doesn’t make sense at all.)

Interacting with us in this cavity are trillions of bacteria: our cousins, billions of years removed. Without them, our body’s digestion strategy would not work. Our relationship with our gut bacteria is so complex that we’re just beginning to understand it.

Some highlights:

Some doctors are even doing research into the use of fecal bacteriopathy for the purpose of treating anxiety and depression. That’s an amazing though to me: the idea that you can feel better about life by sticking someone else’s poo up your ass in order to acquire nice microbes that will whisper sweet things to your brain through your nervous system.

I think about the antibiotics that swept through my intestines as a child and throughout my life, all the sterilized foods I ate, the disagreeable dairy products (especially cheese, which I will probably never eat again)—and then I think about my lack of control over my rebellious guts, and the pain and suffering that I’ve endured because of it—and I feel pretty sure that there’s a connection there.

The peak of my bad relations with my guts was when I developed hemorrhoids at 22. Hemorrhoids, those painful little fuckers, are the only proof a creationist should ever need that our bodies were not designed. Mine were the result of a terrible diet consisting of way too much dairy, lack of exercise, and probably dehydration caused by marijuana use. Not a great time in my life.

(Interesting side note: when the doctor told me about drinking more water, he mentioned that people in the desert/dry states actually have larger assholes than people from the mid-west and east coast because our shits are of a higher caliber. It’s a medical fact.)

People can search all they like for the perfect diet, but I doubt there is such a thing. I don’t think there was some paleolithic golden age of human digestion in which we ate only what we were “meant” to. Since our ancestors ventured out of the trees and onto the savannah, our evolution has lagged slightly behind us. Our digestive system is actually pretty adaptable and omnivorous compared to most other animals. This gave us a huge edge in spreading across the globe.

All this isn’t to say that I’m not going to experiment with paleo-esque eating. The downsides are nil and the potential benefits are huge. All I’m saying is not to expect me to give up bread, sushi, or beer.

I’ll have to end it there because I just cleaned the bathroom, and my hypochondria is telling me that the chemicals in the completely non-toxic cleaners I used have gone to my brain and made me stupid.

That, or I’m not exactly sure how to end this entry because I didn’t even have a premise to begin with. Since it has no real beginning and no ending, I’ll just have to hope this entry was good as a big fat middle of something.

Sorry, my brain cells are undergoing a psychosomatic mass die-off.

/endofline

This is the sort of woman who makes you want to believe in God just so you can thank Him for making you a man.

Only twice ever in my life has fortune graced me with the wondrous privilege of an intimate moment with a woman of such womanliness. Just knowing that this incredible specimen of femininity exists is enough to keep me from suicide.

Look at those hips! Look at her ass! There is a God and he loves me!

Girls will never understand.

You can be paranoid about some things all of the time, or everything some of the time, but you can’t be paranoid about everything all of the time. Unless you’re me.

The newest thing I’m paranoid about is touching electrical cables (especially extension cords and Christmas lights) because their PVC insulation is laced with lead. There’s enough of it in there that most of these things carry a warning that the user should wash his/her hands after handling the cable. This is enough to get me wondering what other cables and wires in my place are shedding lead dust all day long, exposing me to a chronic microdose of the stuff, slowly killing my brain and making me hard of hearing.

I’ve never been examined by a mental health expert—I couldn’t be, anyway, because I’d never talk about the really important things—but one thing this expert would find out about me is that I am probably a closet hypochondriac.

One class of things I’m paranoid about is chemicals. Let me give you the short list of chemicals I obsessively avoid:

  • BPA—which means avoiding plastic containers in general, and canned food especially. I also avoid touching thermal receipts.
  • Polystyrene—I hate eating from styrofoam containers. Little flecks of that stuff get into your food whe you scrape at the sides of it with your plastic spoon. Some of it dissolves into hot food or boiling water.
  • Car exhaust—self-explanatory. Especially hard to avoid when I’m biking through traffic, and actually impossible to avoid in a city altogether.
  • Aerosolized solvents—spray paint, workable fixative, etc.

What do all these toxins have in common? They affect (or are purported to affect) the central nervous system, especially the brain. What I’m really paranoid about is losing the brain cells I’ve got left.

I’m 27. This is the year my brain stops growing and starts shrinking. My brain is in peak condition right now. It will never again be able to learn as fast as it can now, or remember facts and events as efficiently as it does this year. It will never be this good again.

I’m also an atheist. My brain is my soul. Every aspect of my personality, all of the memories and neuroses and fetishes and obsessions, all the music I’ve memorized, all the books I’ve read, all my intellect, all my individuality, is stored in a wet lump of low-voltage matter inside my skull.

But it’s more than that. My understanding of the world is my microcosm, my perception of the world outside my head is my private theater, and for me it is all that will ever exist. My being and my world are restricted by the chemical functionality of my brain.

It is true: Man is the microcosm:
I am my world.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein

If I retard my brain with heavy metals or endocrine disruptors or solvents, I am retarding my world.

Thus the terror I experience at the thought of a low, steady intake of chemicals that will alter the function of my brain. It’s at the point now where I can look at tap water in a glass and wonder how many parts per million are poison.

This, from a guy who’s passionate about pale ale and Irish whiskey.

I wish I could go on about how silly all this is, about how exeedingly paranoid my worries are, but I can’t. I can’t step outside this mindset. If I could, I would have a foothold out of it. But I don’t. The best I can do right now is find compromises and just fight the paranoia with brute force, making myself do things I absolutely do not want to do—like eat canned tomatoes.

Even if all the rest of the world told me not to worry about it, the thought still lingers: what if they’re wrong?

Our mind is all we’ve got. Not that it won’t lead us astray sometimes, but we still have to analyze things out within ourselves.

—Bobby Fischer

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