Faith

I am in the middle of a weight-loss program. I have been overweight by up to 50-pounds for over 3-years and I finally developed enough disgust and screwed-up enough will-power to start doing something about it. What I am doing is of my own design and not assisted by any commercial weight-loss business. I am also well aware that what I am doing is “Not Recommended” by either the medical industry or nutrition experts, but then I have always been rather contemptuous of “experts” in any context. I am engaging in a severe Extreme Diet where I am eating an average of less than 500-claories per day (in the last 24-hours for example my grand-total was 370). My weight-loss efforts are not, however, the point of this post, though perhaps I will recount more detail about it some other day.

As of this writing I have been on this diet for 8-days. No, I have not yet lost more than a couple of superficial pounds, and although I can hear The Experts snickering at me, I am not at all surprised by this. I am aware that during an Extreme Diet like this the human body goes into a state sometimes called the “starvation response” where metabolism slows and the body uses several mechanisms to try to conserve its “emergency reserves” of fat as long as possible. This is just a natural survival mechanism and without it the human race might have died out a million years ago. The reason that I am doing this however is that weight is not a matter of mystical hocus-pocus, it is a simple math formula where

pounds = (f) calories-consumed – calories-burned

If that equation is positive you gain weight, if it is negative you lose weight and if it is zero you have reached equilibrium and you maintain your weight. This is a matter of physics and biology and math and it is as inevitable as having a glass fall to the floor when you push it off a table. The “trick” with weight-loss however is that there can be a significant lag between the eating (or lack of) and the number on the scale – in both the up and down directions. In this way it is like temperature. The strongest sun at the June-21 solstice precedes the hottest days of the year by maybe 4-6 weeks, and the weakest sun at the winter solstice on December-21 precedes the coldest days. Nevertheless, despite the delay, the cause and effect are inevitably linked and it happens because it has to.

The real point of this post is that although I have not yet seen major weight-loss from my Extreme Diet after 8-days, I have FAITH that I will eventually, and I am not discouraged. Maybe I am just a tad disappointed, but not discouraged. It is impossible for an adult human male of 220-pounds engaging in moderate every-day activities to not lose weight when consuming less than 500-calories/day. My physiology may try to resist it, but the weight-equation is negative and my body simply can’t hold on to that fat forever.

The thing is; this is “Faith” in a very literal way because faith is believing that something is true without having direct knowledge or experience of it. I have faith in the science and math that tells me that 500-calories/day will produce a negative number in my weight-equation and that therefore I will lose weight on this diet eventually. This is exactly the same kind of faith that deeply religious people hold too. I am always amused to hear humanists and radical rationalists decry faith and say that they don’t need faith because there is not and never will be anything that science cannot explain. Uhh –dude – that is faith, you know. You have faith that science can answer all questions (someday) because even though it hasn’t yet, you believe that it will without having any direct knowledge or experience of that state of total-understanding yourself.

I do not share the beliefs (and faith) of the deeply religious, but I do have respect for these people. It is not a matter of viewing them as foolish for having faith in something unknowable – because we all do that – even the radical rationalists whether they admit it or not. The rationalists just choose to put their faith one place, while the religious choose to put their faith someplace else, but ultimately it is all the same thing. The other reason why I can respect religious faith even though I don’t share it is that validation of religious faith, by-definition, takes a lifetime. My faith that I will lose weight on my Extreme Diet is something that will be clearly validated or refuted within another few weeks, and then I really will know for sure. It is hard enough for me to hold onto this faith in the weight equation for just 3 or 4 weeks, and I can only imagine how hard it must be to hold onto an unprovable faith for an entire lifetime.

Why I LOVE Winter Driving

You well know that I am a critic of humanity. The term “curmudgeon” is one that I would embrace and be proud of. There are a few times though when I am pleasantly surprised by the human race.

I live in Pennsylvania (USA). This is not the coldest place on earth, but in the winter it snows and road travel can be affected. Sometimes there is even enough for us to get “snowed in”, although I realize that this is a relative concept.

When it does snow, my wife always debates with herself whether to go out early (to avoid the later traffic) or late (to allow the cars and road treatments to make conditions better). For me there is no debate – driving in bad weather early in the day is far better than late because the “problem” is never the road-surface; the problem is the cars and their operators.

I am usually at my job early, but in bad winter weather I always try to leave extra early, meaning that I am usually on the road by 5:30AM. I find that not only is there less traffic volume at that hour, but the people who are out there at that hour seem to be of a much better caliber too.

My theory is that at that early hour the people who are out driving in the bad weather are those who have to be out – meaning those who have done this before and have experience with these conditions because they have been forced to. I find that in these early hours other people are much more reasonable in their driving than they are later in the day. They neither zoom down the road like it is a summer afternoon, nor poke along at 10mph white-knuckled and scare-to-death of their own shallow breathing. In early-morning bad weather the traffic may be a bit slower, but people maintain a healthy respect for both the road and each other. The result is that the traffic flows very smoothly and easily with comfortable gaps between the cars and without any of the difficulties caused by someone trying to beat a light or jamming on the brakes in terror of a patch of snow 50-feet down the road.

Altogether, I would much rather commute at 5:30AM wrapped in a deep blanket of February snow, than on a Friday afternoon in July. The class of people out there is so much better.

Two Knights

I’ve got this image that just came into my mind. I don’t remember where it is from, or if maybe I just imagined or invented it myself – or maybe I dreamt it.

I see two men together on the edge of a Medieval battlefield with banners fluttering in a cool breeze and the clash of fighting in the distance. There is a young man, standing strong and assured. He is eager to be off to the fight and proud of himself in a new suit-of-armor. The armor is clean, freshly polished and so shiny that it reflects like a mirror. There is also an old man in armor too – or what was once armor. He is sitting on the ground in the dirt. His face is worn and scarred, his hair unkempt and graying and the remnant of his metal shell is dented and filthy. His eyes are empty and his head hangs in exhaustion.

I am both of these men at the same time, and I can see both of my selves through both sets of eyes but with a single consciousness. I once was that young man, but now I am the old one. I have fought the world for too long and taken too many blows and my sword is hopelessly chipped and dull. My armor, the same armor standing new before me in the bright sun, is now rusting and falling apart. My limbs are so sore that I cannot move and all I want from life now is to quit this battle. I see my young former self standing over me with the self-confident and patronizing air of the inexperienced – both noble and naive at the same time. I wish I could tell him what I know – knowledge purchased at the cost of all that beauty, youth and strength, but weariness steals my voice away. I can hear my young self pity me in his mind and tell himself that he will never become this thing lying in the dirt before him – but we are one and he already is me.