Why write? Why think? … Why not?

glowing light bulbI’ve always gotten in trouble for thinking the way I do.

Not necessarily for specific thoughts I’ve had, but the manner in which I think.

While some people think / philosophize / study in order to master a subject, establish their expertise, or carve out a corner of the intellectual landscape as their own, I think to explore.

Life is absolutely fascinating, and there’s so much to dig into… connecting the dots… seeing the correspondences… finding out what leads to what and what else is on the horizon.

Frankly, I’m more interested in asking interesting questions — with or without decent answers — than I am in reaching definitive conclusions. And that’s true, all across the board.

It gets me in trouble. It always has. And it’s probably not going to stop, anytime soon.

Some of my most dramatic troubles used to happen with a guy who’s now one of the up-and-coming stars of American philosophy. He’s published a number of books and a bunch of papers, and he was invited as a guest lecturer at a British university not so long ago. He’s apparently a pretty big deal in certain circles, and I’m really happy for him. The last time I saw him was about 10 years ago, and he was amiable — a lot more amiable than I was expecting, actually.

See, he and I used to really go ’round. Our families were connected, and we ended up in each others’ orbits repeatedly. On good days, we had some amazing discussions. We could talk about just about anything, and when we were on the same wavelength, our exchanges were some of the most invigorating I can ever remember having.

On the other hand, if we were out of sync, he had a bad habit of attacking me. He’d get really intellectually aggressive, pressing me on points, not giving me much room to think… even physically attacking me on several occasions.

Of course we were something like 8 or 9 years old, at the time.

Back in the day, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal when we kids scuffled.  I often tussled with other kids — from the neighborhood or my own family. It was just one of those things we did. But the scuffling that happened with my philosophical compadre was… different. It didn’t seem to happen just because he wanted to horse around. It felt more like it was a direct physical attempt to dominate me, to put me in my place, to establish superiority over me, when intellectual attempts fell flat. If my self-created rival (who I always thought of as a friend) couldn’t win his point with words — because he was arguing to win, whereas I was thinking out loud to explore, and there really was nothing to win — he’d use his larger size and heavier weight to overpower me.


Supposedly, he nearly killed me, once… according to my mother. She said something about him trapping me in a closed space where I could have smothered? I have a faint recollection of that, but it was really just one in an extended series of attacks from him.

He’s famous, now. He’s got a wife and kids, and he’s all set. I’m happy for him.

I’m also happy I’ve gone my own way. Far from that counter-productive sort of exchange, where there have to be intellectual winners, there have to be losers, and anyone who doesn’t participate isn’t worth the breath of arguing with them.

To be honest, I don’t have much use for that approach. I understand how people can be into it. I understand the draw. I’m just not interested, myself. I’d much rather find a meaty problem and dig into it, exploring all the nooks and crannies, ruminating, marinating, celebrating the intricacies of life on earth. A wide open world where there are no absolutes doesn’t intimidate me. It invigorates me. I figure, I’ll find out in the end… or not. Either way, it’s just how life rolls.

And life should be free to roll. No necessarily in ways that flatten others without regard for their well-being (because that would impact my well-being in turn), but in ways that widen the world and expand our options. In ways that add meaning to life and flesh out our purpose, that shine a little more light into the corners of our experience that often go unnoticed or undervalued. We’re learning so much more about neuroanatomy, so much more about biochemistry, so much more about how our “wiring” works — that electrical / chemical network that helps make us who and what we are.

The whole point of thinking and writing and publishing, for me, is to expand. My mind is pretty open, but it could be even moreso.  My options are pretty extensive, but wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what else is out there? My understanding of life is finite and human, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow in all directions. There’s a whole lot else I’m interested in finding out, and thinking, writing, philosophizing, are just some of the ways I have at my disposal.

So, why not use whatever tools and resources I have available, to see what else is out there?

Why not?

Penultimate draft of Beloved Distance is DONE

Beloved Distance proof copy cover
Beloved Distance – coming in 2018

I just finished the next-to-last round of edits on this book. I started it in the beginning of 2016, which isn’t so terribly long ago. But it’s taken me a lot longer to finish than it probably should have.

It’s not a long book. Roughly 150 pages. With a pretty straightforward (albeit radical) premise:

We crave Unity and Connection, believing that Separation is an illusion.

The thing is, Separation and Distance are very much an in-built part of our lives, and we can’t reject them without rejecting our fundamental selves.

But if we look within at how our microscopic neurology handles separation we can learn some useful lessons on how to productively deal with Distance on a macroscopic scale.

Heady, perhaps. Yeah, that’s my thing. But it’s worth the effort in thought and consideration

Anyway, I’m pleased with how the book has wound up. The Conclusion is particularly satisfying for me. It just has a good feel. Complete. Wrapped up. Concluded — with an invitation for where we can go with this new understanding of ourselves.

Now I need to type up the handwritten edits, get the galley formatted properly, and forward review copies to my waiting readers (some of whom have been waiting patiently for months).

But first, lunch and a nap are in order.

And a shower 🙂

Three days to read and write about applied neuroscience… sweet!

Blausen 0843 Synapse Types
Source: Wikimedia

Well, the Thanksgiving holiday has turned out to be a lot busier than expected. I was probably being unrealistic, in any case. If I’ve been too busy to regularly work on Beloved Distance for months, I’ve certainly been too busy to work on other necessary things, as well — which means…


Plenty to do, errands to run, chores to catch up on, in the time I have off for the week.

Which means less time than I’d like devoted to writing.

But I’m probably just being greedy. Jealous of that beyond-my-control thing called Time. Not to mention a little unrealistic.

But truth to tell, I actually have gotten more work done on the book than I’ve done in months — maybe a year. It just doesn’t feel like it, because I feel so far from the conclusion. I’ve got the Introduction and first two chapters (of 8 total) pretty well sorted out. I’m now working my way through Chapter Three — which I have to say is really getting me pumped, because it’s all about what drew me to this work, in the first place.

What fascinates me? Neurology. Neuroanatomy. Biochemistry. I got into this subject over the past 10 years, as neuroscience has leap-frogged ahead in a series of really amazing advances. Technological / imaging progress has been paralleled by an ever-increasing body of scientific literature — some of it even Open(!).  And then there are the kind researchers who have forwarded me copies of their papers, when I read the abstracts but couldn’t afford the $35 to buy the whole thing outright. I’ve had a steady “drip” of neuroscience in my life, for years now, and the fact that I don’t actually make my living at that type of science (I’m a technologist), has definitely freed me up to explore areas that many a self-respecting PhD with a reputation to protect would never dare enter.

Such fascination. There are some amazing brain / neuroscience projects going on, these days, including some very cool free courses available online from places like MIT and Coursera. Of course, you have to have free time, to do a course justice — even the online ones — and with my packed schedule, it just hasn’t been possible to dig deeply into them.

But at least I have imagery. And maybe that’s for the best. Because reading all the words and listening to all the talks points my attention in a certain direction (as it should). But finding the ever-evolving imagery piques my interest in visual-spatial ways that and get me thinking, “Hey! Wouldja look at that!”… and that sends me off in a glorious reverie of ever-deepening appreciation of just how intricately and amazingly we’re put together.

Looking at neuro images, and then thinking about what that tells us about our lives and the way we work — and could work better — has morphed from a passing interest to a persistent passion… a continuously burning flame that never seems to fade. I might get distracted by things like… oh, earning a living (yeah, that)… and I might not have as much time to write about it as I like, but I always come back to it.

And when I do, it lights up parts of my life that tend to go a little dim in the crush of existential necessity.

Beloved Distance is an exercise in this fascination with our neurological makeup, and what it means for our interpersonal lives. It’s about neuroanatomy. And politics. It’s about separation. And connection. It’s about how the dualities of our lives interplay back and forth with each other in an ongoing feedback loop of longing, deprivation, fulfillment, and transformation. It’s about our innermost cellular secrets, and the public dramas we can’t help but stare at like some awful train wreck, shaking our heads, wondering, “Why? Oh, God — Why?!

I find this line of inquiry so fascinating. I’d say my fascination is almost beyond words, except that I’ve got about 150 pages worth of words about it, so far. 😉

Bottom line: The closer we look at things that can only be seen with an electron microscope, the more we can learn about all that stuff that’s larger than life and obvious to anybody who’s paying attention. Beloved Distance is about how we function in relationship, from the smallest scale to the largest. And the more I study the pictures in my Neuroscience textbook (by Bear, Connors, and Paradiso), the more it holds and strengthens my interest.

This is seriously fascinating sh*t, and I really hope I can convey this to my readers.

It’s not just fascinating. It’s essential.

And it’s fun.

Okay, back to reading my textbook and getting my numbers trued up.

More to come…