The Apocalypse Might Not Kill Us All

Normal body temperature fluctuates daily from 98.5 to 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. When you contract the flu, you will feel terrible. You’ll have a sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headache, or muscle aches, but your body temperature will also elevate way beyond its normal range, causing you to feel like you’re burning up and that you’re on the brink of death.

Fevers are triggered by chemical agents known as pyrogens, which flow in the bloodstream. Pyrogens activate special receptors in your hypothalamus that signal to your body’s immune system that is has to work overtime, and thus raise your body temperature enough to kill off hostile bacteria and hopefully eradicate the sickness. As unpleasant a fever may be, it serves a critical survival function in that it helps your body combat a potentially life-threatening infection.

So why the science lesson? Because a fever, no matter how bad it makes you feel, is an inherently good thing.

In my previous post, I introduced this idea of “good and bad” thinking—that if you incorporate perspectives that you hadn’t previously considered into your attitudes, you can begin to convert every inconvenience into an opportunity. This week’s post is about putting that idea into action so that you don’t have to feel like the inconveniences that do spring up in your life have to be treated as though they were end-of-the-world catastrophes. While practicing this strategy of thinking, that fever of yours could be treated as a welcome addition to your sick day, assuming that you drink plenty of fluids!

If you still don’t believe me, I’m going to provide three examples of objectively classifiable catastrophes, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the bombing of Hiroshima, to further demonstrate that beyond all of that large-scale destruction is an opportunity for positive change.

Disclaimer: I am in no way neglecting or dismissing any of these disasters. I am merely using them to illustrate the point that, in spite of the inconceivable destruction and enormous loss of life, they still brought some good.

September 11th

9/11 is thought of as profoundly devastating because it was an attack on American people and most of all, an attack on American values, or the very fabric that once made America so highly esteemed. Over 3,000 innocent people, many of which were mothers, fathers, boyfriends, and girlfriends, lost their lives while two of the most iconic towers in New York City collapsed in just 102 minutes. What further exacerbated this tragedy was a growing hatred and gross misunderstanding of the Islamic faith (Rose, 2013).

Those who were directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lived to see the next sunrise could never truly let go of what happened to them. At the same time, many participated in what was one of the greatest coming-together occasions in all of American history, while multiple foundations were established that appropriated funds toward other causes like hurricane relief and the assisting of emergency respondents (Davis, 2013). The attacks also motivated the Federal government to upgrade security measures and conceive of the Department of Homeland Security, which has since been responsible for multiple counter-terrorist operations.

It just demonstrates that while terrorists can destroy all of the buildings they want, they can never destroy the American spirit.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was an event of destructive proportions. The storm, with winds stretching over 50 kilometers and blowing 40 mph on average, caused the deaths of an estimated 1,833 people and a whopping $108 billion in total property damage (Zimmermann, 2015). It is ranked as the sixth strongest storm in recorded Atlantic hurricanes, and has sent the city of New Orleans into social, political, and economic disarray. Thousands of people were left without homes, stripped of all hope and a will to move on.

However, even Hurricane Katrina had positive effects. Juan Williams (2010) uses the example of former New Orleans resident Josh Levin, who wrote in a post for Slate Magazine saying “[Katrina] gave New Orleanians an unprecedented opportunity to remake a city that wasn’t working.” According to Levin, Republican Joe Cao and Democrat Mayor Mitch Landrieu used the storm as an opportunity to tackle rampant poverty, crime, and education issues, inciting major reforms that would set the city in the right direction and essentially hit the reset button. Williams also states that interestingly enough, Hurricane Katrina lifted the stigma off New Orleans’s widespread poverty and improved upon previously tense race relations.

Right now, New Orleans is still in a very tight spot, but even if it takes another 10, 50, or 100 years, I believe that someday that town will be better off than before Katrina first made landfall.

Hiroshima

Unlike the 9/11 attacks and naturally based Katrina disaster, the bombing of Hiroshima was instigated on American prerogative in an effort to put a stop to WWII and therefore save countless lives. Harry S. Truman was faced with the hardest decision a president has ever had to make: force Japan to surrender unconditionally, or suffer hundreds of thousands more American casualties by allowing the war to continue. Finally, at 8:15 A.M. on August 6th, 1945, the decision had been made, and the United States dropped an A-bomb on the heart of Hiroshima. Most if not all people within a two-kilometer radius were instantly vaporized while the city had become leveled and shrouded in atomic fire.

Overall, around 140,000 were killed or died in the following months, either by burn damage or radiation poisoning. Yet as much of a stain on our history as Hiroshima is, it was necessary to end a war that claimed, and would continue to claim, millions of lives. In fact, the total amount of prevented casualties is roughly as high as 1,237,980, not counting for conservative estimates (Vespa, 2016).

The argument as to whether the bombing of Hiroshima was morally and ethically justifiable remains unresolved, and like other moral grey areas, there will never be a single answer that everyone agrees with. One thing is for certain: it was preferable to the alternative.

Final Word

9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hiroshima are evidence of how all life is a double helix of good and bad; that all bad has to lead into good and vice versa. I’ve found this way of thinking incredibly helpful not because it promotes positive thinking, but because it promotes critical thinking. It allows you to get creative and actually use your brain to arrive at an accurate conclusion of the universe’s complex dynamics.

Anyone can curl up in a ball and cry when the world’s about to end, but to stand up and smile in the face of imminent annihilation? That takes character.

 

References

Davis, L. (2013, September 12). 9 Ways 9/11 Inadvertently Sparked Good In The World. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/9-ways-911-inadvertently-_n_3909148.html

 

Rose, S. (2013, November 11). Since 9/11, Racism and Islamophobia Remain Intertwined. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/steve-rose/911-racism-islamophobia_b_3908411.html

 

Vespa, M. (2016, May 27). Yes, Dropping Atomic Bombs On Japan Was A Good Thing. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2016/05/27/no-america-dropping-atomic-bombs-on-japan-was-a-good-thing-n2161273

 

Williams, J. (2010, August 27). Even Katrina Has a Silver Lining | Fox News. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/08/27/juan-williams-katrina-brookings-new-orleans-gulf-coast-black-poverty-pew-poll.html

 

Zimmerman, K. A. (2015, August 27). Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html

The Dangers of Seeing Black & White

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the narco world, it’s that life is more complicated than you think. Good and bad, they’re relative concepts.”

Narcos (Season 1, Episode 1), Steve Murphy

I used to think colorblind patients literally saw the world in black and white, like their lives were an unending 1940s noir film that lacked in depth and quality. Later, I realized that colorblindness is actually a deficiency of the retina’s cone cells to properly differentiate between colors. It is, of course, still possible to see in black and white, but not in the way that you would expect.

Disclaimer: I take no credit for what I’m about to say here. The purpose of this article is to put my own spin on what’s been known for the entire course of human existence.

You do not need eyes to see. I was introduced to this concept when I attended therapy last year, as I wanted to get a better feel for how the process worked. I only went a couple of times because I didn’t see the value in talking about my problems to a stranger whose job was to more or less regurgitate much of what I already knew. My therapist, by her grace, brought up an interesting point that I will never forget.

She told me, “Well Marc, you seem like an all-or-nothing kind of guy.”

Her statement struck a chord with me because it identified a personality trait that I wasn’t previously aware of. It appeared that my understanding of the problems I was discussing ad nauseum was the real problem, and not external forces. Perhaps if I viewed them as opportunities and not impossibly unreachable obstacles, they wouldn’t be so problematic anymore.

I felt transformed and revitalized, but as time had come to pass, I reverted back to my age-old ways of interpreting reality. Nonetheless, my understanding of what my therapist told me that day became further solidified upon listening to the audiobook Positive Intelligence (2012) by Shirzad Chamine. There was a particular chapter in that book where Chamine referenced an ancient Taoist parable that is also my now-favorite philosophy.

The parable chronicles 5 days in a Chinese province. On the first day, a horse jumps a poor farmer and his teenage son’s fence, causing major property damage. However, by the terms of the local law, the boy and his father were allowed to keep the horse, meaning they would become wealthy and prominent. On the second day, the horse gallops back to the mountains and leaves the farm behind, yet returns on the third day with a dozen more wild horses. On each of these three days, the father dispassionately asked his son, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

On the fourth day, the boy gets violently knocked off one of the horses and breaks his leg. His father, noticing that his son is in tremendous pain, asks him once again with his usual indifferent tone, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” Finally, on the fifth day, the province goes to war, and Army recruiters arrive at the town where the poor farmer and his son live and begin drafting able-bodied young men to go off and fight. Every young man in the town is sent away to certain death except for the farmer’s son, and all because of his broken leg from the day before.

This old but gold parable led to the creation of an idea I call Noir Syndrome, with noir being a reference to the film genre that was traditionally shot in black and white. Noir Syndrome proposes that all of our anxieties originate from our tendency to view life as falling on one extreme or another without taking into account deeper meaning, contrary evidence, and alternative perspectives. All or nothing.

We’ve been conditioned to view life in this way because it is effortless and requires very little additional thought. However, this manner of thinking is dangerous in that it harbors the delusion that everything is always operating on a good-bad dichotomy, when it is anything but. Chamine talks about the same thing in his book. Again, I am not the first person to think of this, and neither was he.

How do you even define what is good and what is bad, or what should fall on one extreme end of the spectrum and the other? The poor farmer could only ever ask this question because he was wise enough to know that it didn’t possess an answer. Technically, every “bad” thing in life is nothing more than a momentary inconvenience, while the extent of this inconvenience is the primary determinant for how “bad” it really is by our standards. Life is a double helix of sorts, and not a straight line; all good eventually leads in to bad and all bad eventually leads in to good, creating a self-contradiction of sorts since the two cannot be categorized independently from each other. They are two sides of the same coin.

You have to search for some shred of good in every tragedy or setback you experience. In fact, you don’t even have a choice in the matter. This is because if you constantly view things as the best or worst, good or bad, all or nothing, you’re setting yourself for unimaginable heartbreak if they fall somewhere in the middle. By that logic, you determine your reality by setting the parameters for how it’s supposed to look in your eyes.

Start seeing grey, and the world becomes a whole lot more colorful.

Are Multiplayer Videogames Dehumanizing?

“To rend one’s enemies is to see them not as equals, but objects—hollow of spirit and meaning.”

―Destiny (2014), In-game description of Exotic weapon Thorn

Thorn used to be one of the most loathed Exotic weapons in all of Destiny’s multiplayer. The Hand Cannon was so detestable that people felt offended whenever they were killed by it, complaining that it was a “noob’s weapon” that took no real skill to use. They would send you hate messages, rant about it on the forums, and even use the weapon itself to stoop to the level of its offenders. You would know when you were killed by Thorn, too, as getting hit by it twice to the head or three times to the body would cause your screen to turn into a mucky greenish color while your character slowly died from the weapon’s damage over time effect.

Bungie’s Hell spawn that was the Thorn was unarguably the most obnoxious weapon to ever plague the fronts of competitive multiplayer, but I couldn’t help but think that this obnoxious quality was what made it so enjoyable to use in the first place. During the five months when Thorn was in its prime, the time when everyone used the weapon to their sadistic pleasure, I too derived profound enjoyment from the poison effects and inevitable slow and humiliating deaths that would follow.

The widespread abuse of the Thorn brought to mind a broader question regarding the nature of online competition: do multiplayer videogames unknowingly cause people to lose touch with their more compassionate sides? In other words, do they diffuse empathy to where people become indifferent to the pain experienced by their virtual opponents?

Multiplayer videogames practically dominate the market right now—Halo, Battlefield, Call of Duty, TitanfallDestiny, and Overwatch are among the most popular and widely recognizable of the bunch. To answer the question of whether these types of games decrease empathy and increase indifference, I inquired as to why they’re so popular and how they affect perceptions of human emotions beyond just the immaterial game world. I arrived at a couple of interesting conclusions.

First, multiplayer videogames have gained traction as both an entertainment medium and as a way of relieving stress because they satisfy a primitive urge to compete against and weed out the weaker members of our own species. They appeal to man’s darker qualities such as greed, selfishness, and aggression.

If you are unfamiliar with Skill-Based Matchmaking, the idea is that if you adjust matchmaking parameters enough so that weak players get matched up against other weak players, and the strong against the strong, you appeal to a more generalized audience of casual players and thus sell more copies of your game. From a business standpoint, this makes sense. However, SBMM is actually counterintuitive to the principles of intraspecies competition (competition that occurs within a species as opposed to between two species) since the strong will always prey on the weak. In evolutionary terms, this is comparable to killing a weaker member of your own hunting tribe just so you can eat that extra piece of meat and stay alive yourself. It’s an intrinsically motivated act of selfishness.

Another explanation for why people are so drawn to multiplayer videogames as an outlet for aggression is that, plain and simple, they don’t have to worry about the consequences of murdering people in cold blood. Think of it this way: when you defeat an opponent in a multiplayer match, to you they are nothing more than an avatar stripped of virtually all human qualities. They are a cheeky and elusive moving target, or a bundle of pixels generated by your television screen. They are a virtual punching bag that you can slam on, beat, stab, humiliate, demean, and degrade to your heart’s content, and all without a single consequence to bare. Who wouldn’t take sick pleasure in that? I know I certainly have.

Yet when we give it a second thought, we start to realize that in control of that avatar, that cheeky moving target, that bundle of pixels, is a real person. A living entity with thoughts, feelings, memories, goals, dreams, aspirations, and heartbreaks. Have you considered that, beyond all of that bloodshed and mass chaos in Battlefield’s “Conquest” mode, someone is feeling a little hurt, even if they’re thousands of miles away from you?

By now, you probably think this article is a glorified criticism of multiplayer videogames. It’s far from it. Personally, I’ve invested hundreds of hours into Halo Reach, Destiny, and the Modern Warfare series. I have no qualm with these games; I love them. At the same time, I do have a few regrets about how I’ve treated my opponents over the years. I have tea-bagged, viciously wailed on corpses, and shouted vile obscenities over the microphone. Even today I display these behaviors out of compulsion but not intent. Nonetheless, I’m writing this article to attest to how our treatment of strangers over the Internet, despite the anonymity, still matters and that we should practice better sportsmanship. Just because they live halfway across the world doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated any differently from you or me.

And so, coming back to the question of whether multiplayer videogames decrease empathy and increase indifference, the answer is yes they do, but only if our behavior is left unrestrained. We can easily lose touch with our compassion, but we also have to remember that we can activate it when it’s needed.

I think I’ll just stick to RPGs.

Will Pot Ever Shake its Schedule I Status?

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, and has frequently been subjected to heated controversy regarding its erratic legal nature. Its main psychoactive constituent, delta-9-tetrohydrocannibinol (THC), accounts for much of the surrounding controversy. Regardless of the plant’s rough legal edges, people derive profound medical and recreational value from it that simply cannot be understated.

The politics behind the drug reek of corruption. Following a lengthy revision as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana remains in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The DEA has even had the audacity to claim that marijuana has “no accepted medical use,” despite it being legal for medicinal purposes in 25 states and Washington D.C. as of June 2016.

No accepted medical use, are you kidding? It has been consistently proven that marijuana is remarkably effective at suppressing nausea induced by undergoing chemotherapy and treating arthritis pain, or treating pain in general. And that’s barely scratching the surface (Welsh & Loria, 2014).

I have never been able to fathom the logic behind legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in 25 states, legalizing it for recreational purposes in 4 states and D.C., yet keeping it illegal in the rest of the country and withholding it from patients with legitimately severe health conditions; patients who would prefer not to suffer through the added side-effects of the powerful drugs that are used to treat them. What is more, a drug such as alcohol, which has been legal since 1933, is responsible for nearly 88,000 deaths and a 2.5 million year reduction in potential life lost every year between 2006 and 2010 in the United States (“Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health,” 2016). Alcohol not only erodes personal and professional relationships, it also presents a much higher abuse potential than marijuana does on its own, and there hasn’t even been any marijuana-related recorded overdoses. So I will pose the question: does marijuana truly have no accepted medical use, or is the DEA up to something?

Not surprisingly, major pharmaceutical companies, or “Big Pharma” manufacturers, have an immense grasp on the DEA and legislators at Capitol Hill, and that is not a paranoid conspiracy. It is simply the only explanation that exists for why a select few states have legalized the plant for medicinal and/or recreational purposes while others have condemned it to its Schedule I status. Big Pharma runs the law as much as it does its very own market.

The pharmaceutical industry earns billions of dollars every year through its marketing and shared distribution of prescription drugs and state-of-the-art medical technology, and is present in the majority of the world. It’s no wonder that marijuana is illegal in dozens of countries. According to Mike Ludwig (2015), the global market for pharmaceuticals amassed a total of $1 trillion in 2014. Companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Roche, which are the top 3 distributors in the world, took in combined profits as high as 174.1 billion in 2013 and 182 billion in 2014. I am not an economist, so I cannot provide an exact reduction figure, but I can assume that federally legalizing marijuana would prove calamitous to these companies. They would lose an enormous cut of total revenue generated by prescription medications while smaller-scale companies at home and abroad would be forever driven out of business.

While Big Pharma swims in a pool of hundred dollar bills, the rates at which people die from opioid drug overdoses are growing. Nora D. Volkow, M.D. (2014) explains how, given their almost effortless accessibility, opioid pain prescriptions are among the most widely abused drugs in the United States, with a 131 million increase in prescriptions like Vicodin and oxycodone from 1991 to 2013. In addition, cases of emergency care involving the use of illegally obtained opioid analgesics increased by upwards of about 161,300 between 2004 and 2008.

So, what can we do? There’s nothing we can do except wait and hope for the best. The legalization of marijuana would never 100% eliminate the escalating drug crisis facing America right now, but it could at the very least mitigate the crisis by promoting a safer way for individuals to treat their diseases and, if necessary, satisfy their curiosity.

There are two ways we can insure marijuana gets legalized in the foreseeable future. One way would be turning against the government for its futile War on Drugs. A war that is, mind you, not even really considered a “war.”

George Carlin (1992) perfectly illustrates my point, saying, “We love to declare war on things here in America. Anything we don’t like about ourselves, we have to declare war on it. Don’t do anything about it, we just declare war on it. It’s the only metaphor we have in our public discourse for solving a problem. It’s called “declaring a war.” Got a War on Poverty, The War on Crime, The War on Litter, The War on Cancer, The War on Drugs, but you ever notice, there’s no War on Homelessness, is there? You know why? There’s no money in that problem.”

The other way we could insure that marijuana gets legalized is by getting the government to recognize that more people are dying every year from opioid drug overdoses, and that the problem will not be solving itself anytime soon if marijuana remains illegal.

In the meantime, money will supersede public health.

References

Carlin, G. (Writer). (1992). George Carlin live at the Paramount: Jammin’ in New York [Video     file].

Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health. (2016, July 25). Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Loria, J. W. (2014, April 20). 23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4

Ludwig, M. (2015, September 30). How Much of Big Pharma’s Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians? Retrieved August 26, 2016, from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33010-how-much-of-big-pharma-s-massive-profits-are-used-to-influence-politicians

Volkow, N. (2014, May 14). America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. Retrieved August 26, 2016, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

Why You Might Be Self-Destructing Without Even Realizing It

Almost every scientific textbook teaches us of the placebo effect, a tactic used by researchers in which their subjects are provided with treatments that they expect will elicit certain reactions. Depending on the nature of the control treatment, subjects may react in ways that confirm the researchers’ expectations, providing contrast to the experimental treatment so that a conclusion can be drawn. The same can be said for the rest of us in that our behaviors, like the reactions subjects have to the placebo pills, are nothing more than projections of our inner beliefs. This phenomenon is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, and you might not have known about it before. Or you might have already known about it, in which case you should probably stop reading this article. What knowledge do you possibly have to gain here?

That right there was a micro self-fulfilling prophecy. I assumed that because you already possessed knowledge on the topic I was covering, there was virtually no value to be gained in continuing to read about it, which might have prompted you to close the page without giving the article a chance. That is, either you knew about the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies, or you didn’t know about the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. The end result is the same: you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve learned anything new. At least if you stuck around long enough to finish reading the article, you might have learned something of interest.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are defined as beliefs we have about ourselves that cause them to become true in reality, oftentimes unknowingly. My favorite example of the self-fulfilling prophecy is the journey of Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars fans like to condemn the prequel trilogy because it pales in comparison to the original and was incompetently directed. You wouldn’t know it, but Revenge of the Sith (2005) is actually one of my all-time favorite movies. I find that it explores Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader quite adeptly, and is an intriguing character study.

Anyone who is familiar with the Star Wars universe knows about the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin fell victim to the self-fulfilling prophecy upon dreaming of his wife, Padme, who died in childbirth. His visions eventually became so disturbing, and his fear so paralyzing, that he went to extreme lengths to prevent his dream from ever happening. He joined the Dark Side, murdered children, and betrayed his long-time mentor, who was basically a father figure to him for more than half of his life. Padme ended up dying in childbirth anyway, and Anakin became the infamous Darth Vader who would go on to destroy entire planets. His transition from Jedi to Sith is an exemplary demonstration of the self-fulfilling prophecy because his fears about his wife’s death are what caused his wife’s death.

Every day, self-fulfilling prophecies can either undermine or nurture the relationships we have with ourselves and others. We might not be aware of them at all times, but we can be certain they are lurking somewhere in the far background, regulating our attitudes toward the world and guiding the behavior that follows. This creates a positive feedback loop of action and reaction, cause and effect, which invariably manifests itself in the real world.

Another example of the self-fulfilling prophecy is the difficulty people experience in trying to find dates and cultivate meaningful, long-lasting relationships. A multi-billion dollar industry was founded on the idea that the dating world is overwhelmingly complicated, and that the average person can no longer find love by conventional means. People contemplate why love has eluded them for so long, endlessly convincing themselves that the standards for beauty have reached enormous heights and that it would be impossible for anyone to ever like them. And yet, have they not stopped to consider that their notions of what constitute beauty and glamour are what inadvertently cause them to appear as unattractive to outside observers and therefore experience difficulty in finding dates? Maybe if they stopped believing they were so unattractive, they would become supermodels.

Since our moods are so strongly affected by our internal self-beliefs, the next time this article comes to mind, I would advise you to take note of something. Focus on your mood in the moment and observe how it is affecting those in your presence, looking for any slight change in people’s behavior toward you. You’d be surprised that how you view yourself deep down goes a longer way in getting others to like you than the façade you spend so much energy sustaining.

Be less like Anakin and more like Luke. Don’t murder children!

5 Universal Truths Society Never Taught Us

Growing up, information is deliberately withheld from us, either because the truth hurts or because we’re not ready to hear it. We were taught that there are no winners or losers in life, real beauty can only be found on the inside, and that good things will happen to good people. Somehow, it is considerably more complicated than that. The same could be said for that one disgruntled office worker of 20 years who was denied that much deserved promotion, only to walk in on his wife cheating on him with his boss. He, too, discovered that perhaps the world isn’t as friendly as he was lead to believe, and that his life could be uprooted in any instant. For this reason, I have devised 5 universal truths that society was either too afraid or unwilling to teach us as children.

1.) If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.

As someone who is now undeterred by disappointment, I cannot even begin to delve into the number of times I was confident that a wish of mine would come true, only to get severely burned. I just couldn’t help myself.

You do not have to make the same mistake that I did. Question not just the bad, but also the good things that happen to you, understanding there is always more to the story than the first few pages. That way, you will be prepared for any abrupt change in circumstances that might arise, like walking in on your boss who denied you that much deserved promotion courting with your wife.

2.) Expectations do not always correspond to reality.

I’ve always said that it’s better to be a pessimist than an optimist, because at least the pessimist can take solace in knowing that the future event he or she expects to turn into a disaster…turns into a disaster. Although you shouldn’t view every opportunity as a potential train wreck, you should nevertheless remain skeptical and most of all, cognizant. Expectations of future events more often than not take unexpected turns in the present, and not always for the best.

3.) You can’t cry when the forest is reduced to nothing but ash when you were the one who started the fire.

If you’ve ever been through the five stages of grief, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How could this have happened to me?” The question you should have instead asked yourself is, “How could this have not happened to me?” While this might be difficult to hear, we are always the cause of our own suffering. It is the premise by which many self-help books have based their entire platforms on. Of course, it is easy to default culpability to another person or some inexplicable, all-controlling and ubiquitous force in the universe, but really we should be coming to terms with how even our deepest wounds are self-inflicted. Only by changing our attitude toward these wounds can we ever allow them to heal.

4.) Humankind is the architect of its problems.

This one extends from the previous point, albeit on a larger scale. You always hear stories on the news of corrupt governments, degenerative societies, and terrorist attacks, yet one thing these stories do not cover in much depth is that all of these depravities are instigated by men and not natural forces. The greatest problems mankind face, like climate change, war, genocide, famine, and poverty, can all be traced back to none other than mankind itself. Imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if everyone got along and had their ways. Talk about a real pipe dream.

5.) People don’t change. They grow.

Sometimes I hear from people that, “He’s changed. He would never hurt me again.”, “I’ve changed.”, or “I can change.”, when they’re really excusing themselves for tolerating blatantly abusive and destructive behavior. Actual change, at least from a personality standpoint, is not possible. No matter how many times we attempt to adjust some aspect about ourselves that we do not like, we always revert back to the state we were in when we made the adjustment. The reason I substitute change with growth is because growth implies some degree of permanence, whereas change assumes that we could end up the way we were. Everyone is the sum of all their experiences, and every experience stays with us.

And there you have it. 5 universal truths society never taught us as children. Are there any you are guilty of denying on a regular basis? I’m guilty of at least two.

Music as a Form of Emotional Therapy

Music serves as the pinnacle of cultures across the world, using words and phrases, sounds, tones, pitches, rhythms, and beats to establish both meaning and feeling. I personally find it therapeutic to come home after a long day to listen to countless hours of music on YouTube without any end in sight. Why is it so enjoyable?

Music is the definitive form of emotional therapy. Even if you normally experience difficulty with managing or expressing emotions, you’ll definitely revel in the occasional tune. By stimulating the part of your brain known as the cerebellum, the “little brain” responsible for helping you to regulate your emotions and maintain balance and coordination, musical cues elicit various emotional responses. These responses range from the “feel good” sensation you’d experience from a Sugar Ray song to the almost melancholic sensation you’d experience from parts of The Dark Knight OST.

Although there is a biological basis for the pleasure derived from music, our taste in it is very subjective. Sometimes we flock to it for entertainment purposes, other times we use it as a means for introspection. After all, when you’re locked in dark room with nothing but your earphones and racing thoughts, there isn’t much else beyond a little self-discovery.

When you listen to music, it can generate feelings of euphoria or foreboding based upon the kind of day you’re having (or had). Melodies capitalize on our moods and allow us to gain a deeper understanding of their origins. Think of your mood right now. How are you feeling? Might you perhaps want to listen to a certain song or band that best suites your current state-of-mind?

Now that you know why music is so effective, what are you waiting for? Start up some tunes already! There is never any shame in enjoyment, unless you’re listening to Nickelback.