because cool kids are boring

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The Cathedral and the Bazaar is a software engineering book that Eric S Raymond wrote back in the 90s. The book advocates the design metaphor “release early/release often” that is preferred by the open source movement over the more traditional method of completely planning out a release, fully coding and testing it, and then releasing the fully complete application at once. The former is highly adaptable to a changing environment, but has a higher possibility of buggy code being released or the project having to backtrack from bad decisions. The latter will give you more stable releases with more obvious benefits between releases, but runs the risk of becoming irrelevant during development.

I remembered this book as I started to put together my thoughts for this post, a status update of sorts on the over arching project. The idea of release early/release often is an apt metaphor for how things have started to work our for myself. My initial plan for my healing was a three pronged attack focusing simultaneously on the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of my self. I had big plans for all three areas. A slow re-reading of the New Testament that would let me digest the meaning of each passage as I went along, followed by other scriptures. A diet and exercise regimen. And time carved out of each day’s schedule to focus on coding projects I’ve wanted to do.

All of the plans were quickly abandoned. In every case the initial expectation of how I wanted this to work, did not match up with where the path was leading me. I mentioned before that to walk this path, you have to be willing to go where the path takes you and not just where you want to go. My grand plans betrayed my preferences for where I wanted the plan to go, instead of clearing space to allow the path to present it self to me.

Luckily I recognized this situation early on (I’ve made this mistake before) and that’s why I abandoned my plans. Instead I took a very basic approach to my diet to just get things started, and instead focused on a process of making small changes, observing the outcomes of those changes, and then making other small changes in response to them.

Here’s a breakdown of what that looks like over each area.

Physically, it’s all about putting together a toolset that allows me to track what I’m eating and correlate that with changes not just in my physical state, but also my mental and spiritual state as well. What we eat is much more then just providing energy for our day or how much we weigh.

The toolset I’ve put together is a modified version of the Hacker Diet that I’m using as a framework for my tracking. I’m also using a Withings Scale to track my weight on a daily basis, the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track what I eat, and a Google Spreadsheet for tracking all of the data points. Using this toolset, I’m not just blindly following what some “expert” has told me to do and hoping that I did it right and it’ll work. Instead I’ve been able to take control of the process. And the more control over the process I have, the more I find myself taking a holistic approach to this process.

At this point I’m giving a lot of thought to what Rastas call an Ital diet. There isn’t any universal definition of what Ital entails though and I doubt it would take if I just suddenly switched over to it whole sale. So instead I am taking my time to understand what this diet looks like for me and making subtle shifts in my diet to bring me closer to this ideal. I’m not where near where I want to be at the moment, and I’m not sure what this will look like when I finally get there, but that’s kind of the point.

My initial idea here was to get back to my roots and reconnect with being Catholic. It’s where this journey started and is the path that I’m most comfortable with, so it seemed to make sense that that was the right way to go. I realize now though that it is also the path with the most baggage for me. It’s safe because I know what person I was when this was a key component in my evolution. I’m not that person anymore though and in trying to recapture that, I’m limiting my current growth. As I said, luckily I recognized this situation early on and so abandoned this plan. I figured I would shelve this part of the project for now and come back to it later to see if I could come at it with a fresh viewpoint.

The thing is though that I didn’t actually shelve this part of the healing. I shelved my plan, but I kept thinking about spirituality. I found myself thinking about the implications of different teachings (both Christian and other faiths). I found myself teasing the ideas out and marveling over how the arguments were constructed. Recently I’ve discovered Sounds True and have downloaded some of their recordings of Ram Dass and Alan Watts, with an expectation to download more later. And I’ve been listening to these recordings now and then and considering the implications of the ideas that are presented.

I like this approach. Perhaps something more formal in nature will seem like a good idea later, but I think the small step here of just opening myself up to the divine and taking the time to ponder my thoughts now and then is the right way for me to proceed now.

I realize now that I never really had a grasp on what I meant by the mental element of this project. The initial idea was one of intellect. I would take time to learn new things. When that didn’t work, I walked away from it and put it out of my mind. As I teased out elements of the spiritual side of things though I found a desire in myself to start working on personal elements of my being. How I saw myself and where I saw my place in the world. This is not an easy area for me to work with.

One of the things I downloaded from Sounds True is a course on self acceptance. I haven’t sat down and really focused on completing the course, but I have casually listened to the first two lectures as I was driving around running errands. In the lectures I’ve listened to so far Tara Brach, the teacher of the course, talks about acknowledging our emotions without judgement, instead of trying repress them or label them as “bad”, and asking ourselves where they came from.

I’m trying to do both things on a daily basis, and I can see what she is getting at, but the implications of this process are not easy. I’ve spent a number of years pushing my feelings, especially negative feelings, out of my mind. Now that I’m letting them manifest, it’s leaving me with the kinds of depression and self doubt that lingers for much longer then I’ve dealt with for quite awhile. The kind that you find becoming part of your daily routines and becoming an extension of how you see the world. It is important to let these thoughts and emotions manifest so that I can understand what their causes are and address them; but the process of doing this isn’t always obvious or easy.

You’ve probably noticed that I’m posting these essays on a pretty set schedule now. The truth is that I’ve put together a buffer of posts and just queued them up. This way I can keep the posting consistent instead of being a flurry of activity, followed by periods of nothing. At least, I did have a buffer. I’m writing this post the morning before it will be posted. And I acknowledge this is more a stop gap then anything else so I have something to post. Last weekend when I sat down to write another post I just lost all confidence in what I was writing. Everything felt like narcissistic drivel. That I was writing with my ego to show the world how smart I am and how great I am. And that just felt wrong. These are the kind of things that have been pulled up.

So that’s the state of things at the moment. I do have ideas for future posts and hope to have something for next week. I just need to figure out how to write from a place where I feel like I’m doing more then just stroking my own ego. If anything I’ve written, either since the relaunch or before, has appealed to you, I would love to hear your comments. Hopefully that will help me find a voice that I’m comfortable with.

Written by Matt

February 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized