The Joy of Caterpillars

One summer my mother had broken her foot and I was tasked with watering her tomatoes. I hauled the hose to the backyard and stood for what felt like hours pouring water on the plants. It was hot and humid and I just wanted it to be over. However, tiny visitors changed my perspective.

Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta)

These charming little worms enraptured my attention. Luckily, my overindulgent parents let them live as long as I kept them away from the tomatoes.

Moth (Manduca sexta)

Ever since that moment I have been obsessed with these little guys. I have kept Wagner’s guide close and have sought out as many species as possible. Recently, I have been trying to culitvate more species of caterpillars by planting host plants.

Early instar of Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The relationships between the caterpillars and their host plants are some of the most fascinating to study. The plants influence their developement to such an extreme degree that the life cycle insect cannot be separated from the plant.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

These little worms are an indispensable part of the ecosystem. For example, 96% of terrestial birds rear their young on insects.  Breeding season for the birds conicides with the emrgences of caterpillars making them a primary food source for breeding pairs.

Caterpillars come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors that their beauty and interesting behavior is inexhaustible.

Monkey Slug (Phobetron pithecium)
Puss Caterpilllar (Megalopyge opercularis)
Saddled Prominent (Heterocampa guttivitta)

Nothing

You’re scared if something happens. You’re scared if something doesn’t. If you are going to be scared anyway you might as well do something.

Failure is still something.

Nothing is what you are scared of. That’s what you are going to get if keep procrastinating. Procrastinting isn’t quite what you’re doing, is it?

You’re running.

Nothing will catch up with you eventually unless you actually create something.



Negative Visualization

Positivty.

Everyone wants to be a optimistic person full of happiness and kitschy inspirational quotes. While there is nothing wrong with positivty or optimism, it doesn’t provide you shelter from the storms that blow through our lives.

True adversity shatters this view. While it is easy to maintain an optimistic attitude when things go your way, what do you when things do not?

Premeditatio malorum

negative

Premeditatio malorum,” is a Latin phrase that means “the pre-meditation of evils.” It was a practice championed by the Ancient Stoics. Instead of minimizing the bad things that can happen in our lives, the Stoics argued that we should periodically meditate on what could wrong and losing what we now have. The practice has found a resurgence, in more recent times, under the more concise name, “Negative Visualization.”

The Stoics, despite advocating thinking negatively, did not spend all their time brooding in the dark being sad. Instead they became more grateful of the things they had and more prepared when adversity faced them.

“It is not that we are given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”

– Seneca the Younger

Gratitude and Joy

negative

As someone who suffers from OCD, I understand your natural reservations on negative visualization. No one likes to imagine the worst befalling themselves.

Since consciously practicing, I have experienced nothing, but good results. The natural restlessness that usually accompanies me has softened, I feel less bored, and I have take more interest in surroundings. Instead of feeling dissatisfied with my situation, I feel grateful to be alive.

“By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent . We will no longer sleepwalk through our life. Some people, I realize, will find it depressing or even morbid to contemplate impermanence. I am nevertheless convinced that the only way we can be truly alive is if we make it our business periodically to entertain such thoughts.”

-William B. Irvine

Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a wonderful 2019.

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Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery by Robert Greene is one of the first books I read this year and it will shape how I will approach the rest of my life. Honest, thorough, and engaging, Robert Greene instructs you how to truly devote your life to your inner calling.

mastery

Real World Examples

“Darwin could have played it safe, collecting what was necessary, and spending more time on board studying instead of actively exploring. In that case, he would not have become an illustrious scientist, but just another collector. He constantly looked for challenges, pushing himself past his comfort zone. He used danger and difficulties as a way to measure his progress. You must adopt such a spirit and see your apprenticeship as a kind of journey in which you will transform yourself, rather than as a drab indoctrination into the work world.”

– Robert Greene

I discovered Robert Greene (like most people) through his book The 48 Laws of Power. I quickly fell in love with his writing style and sought out more of his work.

Greene tends to collect his ideas into a “law” or principle that he has observed during his own personal experience or through his research. Then he codified it with a historical example of that law being played out either in that person’s favor or to their detriment.

The real world examples add an extra dimension to the idea being presented, helping it to be digested, as well as helping the principle stick with you. The laws come alive in his writing with the historical characters acting them out.

In Mastery, Robert Greene pulled from historical examples as well as contemporary sources that he interviewed himself. The figures featured in this book that have stuck with me the most are Hakuin Zenji, Wolfgang Von Goethe, The Carolina Islanders, and Cesar Rodriguez Jr.

Practical Advice

It is not a matter of studying for twenty years and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.”

– Robert Greene

The advice in this book is immensely practical regardless of your interests. Greene stresses that you achieve mastery through hard work and constant improvement. To gain mastery in a field, first you must master yourself.

Conclusion

I would recommend Mastery to anyone who is interested in self-discipline and wants to achieve something great.

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Stillness and Vulnerability

The first fourth of my day is dedicated to mustering up the courage to write, the second fourth is about procrastinating, the third is thinking about what I will write, and the last one is actually writing.

I don’t think the act of writing is very difficult, but looking my own consciousness in the eye is quite the task. I’ve started and stopped Zazen meditation numerous times for that reason. Something about stillness is frightening to me.

I have been a lot more focused lately and I have been trying to become more disciplined. Some of my goals have been to read and write something everyday and to get my sleeping habits under control.

My sleeping habits and my writing habits are very similar.  I usually try to sleep listening to music, movie reviews, or anything really even though it just makes it harder. I consciously put them off as if I am afraid of something, but what am I afraid of?

Perhaps, it has to do with vulnerability? You have to feel safe to both write and sleep. I’m not attacked by predators or criminals, but I do often have a dream where my teeth fall out and I am exposed as something.

That feels right.

There is vulnerability in stillness. Whether it be writing, sleep, or meditation.  I become open to harm whether it be internal (doubt, dreams) or external (predators, weather). I have felt many times when I have written something that I have held back for some reason.

I understand now.

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Don’t Throw Yourself Away

I have a lot of interests. A career path has long been a source of anxiety for me. The world is so big and full all sorts of interesting things, it seems insane to narrow my scope to one particular aspect of it.

The more I learn about one subject, the more I want to delve into another subject related to it and so on and so on.

interests
I like butterflies so I learned more about them, which in turn led to learn about macro photography so I can capture their beauty.

I’m not trying to be wishy-washy and deliberately indecisive. I know what I don’t like. Tedious, repetitive work like accounting or filing I can’t stand, but choosing between interests is really difficult for me. It is like asking whether you like lunch or dinner better.

“Don’t throw any of yourself away. Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don’t worry about unity–what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day you’ll look back and it will all make sense.”

― Austin Kleon

When I came across that line in Steal Like an Artist, I felt relieved. I want to be able to pursue all of interests in life from the tiniest bug to the biggest film set.

When I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative career, I felt like I was betraying something, but when I was pursuing a career in Science that feeling was still there. I wanted to do both, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

We’re taught from such an earlier age to pick a particular approved path and stick with it. You’re either a doctor, a lawyer, or a plumber. That is the end of the conversation.

Now I’m trying to integrate everything I can back into my life and I feel more whole. When you sacrifice a side of yourself to fit into a specific box, be careful because you don’t know important integration is until its gone.

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Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad I got this off my chest. I hope you got something out it too.

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You are the Reason Social Media is Awful

Eternal suffering. Burning flesh. Damnation. Separation from God.

No, I’m not talking about Hell. I’m talking about using Facebook and Twitter.

A photo of Twitter HQ.

Social media is constantly discussed by politicians, preachers, artists, and social activists. The outcry has become so loud that even people like Elton John are willing to suspend speech altogether so he can post photos of his cat in peace.

How could this happen?

This may be hard to take, but it’s all your fault. You couldn’t control yourself, so we all have to suffer for it. Great job.

We all make mistakes, but no one can deny that you really messed up. You tried to use 280 characters talk about complex philosophical issues with @x420blzeit for 4 consecutive hours.

If you wanted deeper discourse than the mainstream media, you could have at least gotten off the toilet and talked to someone.

Also, for someone who hates the “mainstream” so much you sure share the most generic bullshit imaginable. A timelapse of food?! How original!

Enjoy your smoothie, dumbass.

I’ve been in deep thought lately and I’ve come to conclusion that all the whining, the screeching, and the forced memes you post about how “toxic” and “hateful” the internet has become is actively ruining what little joy we have. Maybe if you added something positive to the mix every once in a while it wouldn’t be so bad.

Next time you want to scream about the government, maybe go volunteer and actually help the world?

I hope you all enjoyed this post. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we contribute to the worsening of the world and only we can fix it!

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Do Drugs Make You More Creative?

Approached by something truly creative, someone will inevitably say, “What kind of drugs was he taking?” I’ve heard this ever since I could remember, but I have always found it strange.

Do drugs really cause creativity?

drugs

 

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”

-Salvador Dali

There seems to be a clear connection between drugs and art style and creative people are more likely to use drugs , but the connection between narcotics and producing masterworks is hazy at best. Another study showed that artists used drugs to help regulate the emotions that crop up during the creative process.

In my own experience, drugs have only served as a dampener to creativity. I may feel euphoric, but I don’t do anything. When I do find the energy to create something, usually it is subpar at best.

I will confess that I haven’t tried any drugs that were not prescribed to me. The drug with the most euphoric effect I have taken is Xanax, but I don’t think that invalidates my argument.

drugs

I don’t think screenwriting is therapeutic. It’s actually really, really hard for me. It’s not an enjoyable process.

-Charlie Kaufman

I don’t begrudge anyone that takes drugs for recreational purposes. Life is difficult. Creative people tend to be more emotional and have a harder time regulating that emotion, but the whole idea of taking drugs to “be more creative” sounds disingenuous.

Being creative consistently is difficult. The entire process is filled with doubt and fear. Most drugs dampen those feelings, but those feelings are necessary to create good work.

Without a healthy amount of fear, your work will be filled with embarrassing mistakes. The overall quality will drop and the pieces won’t be an accurate expression of yourself, but an expression of your current mind state.

How sustainable can this process be? Countless brilliant artists’ lives were cut short by this harmful creative process. You can take too many on drugs, but you can’t overdose on creativity.

drugs

“We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality…We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, masters of the small reality we create.”

-Robert Greene

I want to feel something genuine. My whole attraction to art stems from that idea. Drugs aren’t a valid gateway to get the experiences that I crave. I want to be as present as possible and learn from my experiences.

That is Art to me. It is not novelty for novelty’s sake, but an expression of a human experience unique to the artist and simultaneously common to the species.

What do you think about the relationship between drugs and creativity?

Fireworks in My Head

I don’t like to write about this topic. Everyone has their own issues and they don’t need the added burden of mine. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t super rare, but we aren’t the type of people to stand out in the middle of the street and tell everyone about it.

My hope is that by writing honestly about it, that fewer people feel alone. The feeling of isolation is the worst part of the disease.

I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 18, but in hindsight there were signs of it very early in my life. I remember seeing a commercial on the Cartoon Network of Small Soldiers that deeply disturbed me. It is not unusual for a young child to be frightened by a movie, but it doesn’t go on for years.

That was my first brush with Intrusive Thoughts.

An “Intrusive Thought,” is an unwanted thought surrounding an action or image that the thinker finds horrifying. These thoughts can include suicide, murdering a family member, or something else that causes distress. The thinker doesn’t want to commit these acts, he is repulsed by them.

I would go through periods where the thoughts would be an issue, but not long enough for it to stop me from progressing through my life. When high school came around I also started to develop migraines, but we sorted it out through medication and chiropractic adjustments.

Things were looking up for me. I was dating a girl, I went to film school, and I worked freelance on a couple different films. However, the thoughts slowly crept in, taking more and more of time.

I’m aware that Intrusive Thoughts are irrational, unfounded, and outright ridiculous, but there is something enchanting about them. They seem more valid than your other, more measured thoughts.

I would liken them to fireworks. They shoot up in my mind’s eye and steal the show. Then it bursts with all the light, color, and spectacle, leaving me in the dark with the ash.

I finished film school without the girlfriend or the jobs. I feel like I’ve driven everyone way. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I know that I injure people either intentionally or unintentionally.

At some point, I just stopped trying. For two years I just stewed in my own little abyss.

Now, I’m trying again.

Cultivating a Relationship with the Natural World

 

The biggest mistake in the plight for the preservation of the natural world was to create an ideology around it. The well-being of our planet is not a political issue; it is a human one.

I have long theorized that people don’t care about the natural world because they don’t have a relationship with it.  Planting native species at your home is a great step that you can take to develop one. By simply planting species native to your area, you invite all sorts of wildlife to visit.

Green Anole
Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

 

eastern tent caterpillar
Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)

 

Baby birds

Volunteering with citizen science projects is a great way to help in a meaningful way and learn from seasoned professionals. A lot of conservation work is done entirely by volunteers so they need your help!

Indigo Bunting
Bird Banding