Monthly Archives: April 2011

Back in the Saddle

If you exist somewhere outside my immediate sphere of influence, you probably haven’t heard that I have back problems. I hurt myself in the lower end of the spine, and it’s been a downhill slide since. After dealing with a low level of pain consistently since February, I decided to take care of it. I recently had an MRI, and it revealed what I feared most: I have two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The injury is treatable but the treatment is long-term.

Back in ’90, when I was the cocksure age of 18, I made a daredevil jump down a 10-foot ledge onto concrete. Lacking the experience with jumps, the kind that teaches you how to “tuck and roll”, I slid off the edge and stuck the landing straight-legged and flat-footed. The sting of my feet overshadowed the shock of impact that traveled up my body. After a few weeks, the back pain began, and would manifest when I laid down for bed, requiring me to scrunch up as I laid down and slowly release to decompress my spine. After a few years, that too faded and I was normal again.

My health turned for the worse when I took my current job. Having a sedentary work environment, plus the means and social motivation to eat out every day at lunch, are a bad combination; my previous job, at the printshop, paid me just enough to make sandwiches to eat when I took a break from the physical labor. The extra weight gain with the lack of exercise set the stage for my core muscles to lose strength and go slack, which is exactly what they did in March ’09. One slack moment was all it took to tweak my discs while I was seated. I’ve been riding on this rollercoaster ever since.

Essentially, a disc herniation is where the disc, made of a mass of squishy gel surrounded by concentric fibrous rings to hold everything in, gets ripped open and blown out sideways due to physical shock. It’s like popping a stress ball. The gel insides begin to squish out over time and can press against the nerve bundles that run out of the spine. Eventually, with the right treatment, the section of the rings sticking out of the vertebrae dissolve and rebuild. There are several treatments for this, but the most obvious is to change my lifestyle and get more exercise. Walking is the most appropriate form, the more aerobic the better; the bouncing of a normal gait aids in increasing bloodflow which allows it to heal. The exercise also helps strengthen the core muscles allowing me to move without reinjury.

My initial session of physical therapy was two days ago, and the first of four training sessions is Monday. I hope I can turn my life around and put myself back on the mend. I healed after the ’90 incident because I was young and physically active through walking all over the college campus. But not so much exercise now, so healing after this incident will require all the help and lifestyle change I can muster.

On the Agency of God

If god doesn’t directly control your life, but indirectly influences it by manipulating others and shifting circumstances outside of your control, then that’s logically inconsistent. The agents of his control would vary depending on who he was trying to influence. God would be directly controlling you if you were those other people. What about them? This worldview is arrogant and vain, seeing others as the tools by which god rules yourself.

If god directly controlled your life and influenced those around you, then all hope is lost. Laws and societal structures mean nothing because they could be superseded by a capricious deity for the reason of aiming your course through life. It would be impossible to expect you to be responsible for your own actions; the blame would be shifted to an external force. Being nice has no effect. Murder would then be god’s will, and that would contradict our assumptions that he is a benevolent god. This worldview is faithless and cruel.

What, then, about a worldview in which god places absolutely no control on any of us so that we may be free to do and think as we wish? It would certainly align with the ideology many theists maintain about god giving us the gift of choice. So where is god, then? Once he built the system, did he walk away? The deists call this the “absent clockmaker” theory. He put the clockworks together, set the time, wound it up, and let it go to tick away in his pocket. He left us to grapple with our own choices and fate on our own, to shoulder our own blame, to rise above our worse natures.

Only with this worldview can we be truly deserving of the reward of an afterlife. Only with this worldview can we stand before him on judgment (for those that believe in that sort of thing) and declare that we fought through the struggle and bettered ourselves and our world around us. If I were a theist, this would be what I believed. It makes more sense, and it’s more dependable than the other two options. You can make your choices confident that forces outside of this terrestrial plane aren’t fiddling with natural laws or social order just to confound you. God’s not going to intervene when you’re in a bad place, and he won’t contravene when you’re finally in a good place. He won’t be standing back to let the devil test you, because that would be interfering with the clockworks. Being tested is no way to prove your mettle; sticking to your mettle while not being tested is the only way to prove your worth.

With the exception of the question of the existence of god, the deist approach is pretty close to where I am now in my own worldview. Most days I’m an atheist, some days I’m an agnostic. It’s not something I discuss openly in mixed company. I try to not be an evangelical atheist (you know those types), but sometimes I can’t help but froth at the mouth when I hear someone speaking nonsense; I’ll advocate for the devil if the need arises. I’ve had the fortune of being presented, during a younger age, with a panoply of other ways to view the subject of existence, many of which are unpopular with the current regional societal trends, but still worthy of consideration nonetheless. If I can pass those options on to someone else and help them to see the wider picture, my work is done.

Packs Much Back

As a man, I have trouble, physically and psychologically, with the spare tire I carry around. Sometimes I feel like I’m the fattest skinny man I know. When a man has excess fat, biology dictates that his body stores it first around his stomach and waist. If he puts on more, then it forms on his legs and pecks. When women’s bodies put on fat reserves, they’re primarily around their hips, butt, and legs. Biology dictates this.

Now, when a woman asks me, “does this make my ass look fat?” my first response is to check for traps and tread carefully (I’m not walking into that one blindly…again). It’s a strange and dangerous question, and the implications of it, and its answer, are a wildcard. But it can be asked due to insecurity. As someone who can’t control where his body fat piles up, I understand what girls mean when they need some sort of validation for their body shape. We all want to be attractive.

However, the issue with body fat on women is that it’s a secondary sex characteristic. Traditionally, fat on the hips signals to us that they have a diet good enough to support bearing healthy children, and sizable breasts show they have the capability to feed their newborn offspring and keep them healthy into childhood. As such, we men are drawn to women with the right amounts of body fat in the right places. It’s a physiological turn-on.

That being said, can the same be said for women about men? Do guys with fat bellies answer some deep physiological drive? Do they turn you on somehow? Honestly, I don’t think it works quite the same, but I could be wrong. Thoughts?