I have had another change in blogging environment. I am still using here for now but I have also got my own domain now. www.geekrastinator.com as long as I have spelt that correctly. Eventually I plan to hit the road on the last freedom mountain bike out of nowhere city = well nowhere village, anyway. Some of the reasons for this are inscribed in the blog below, taken from my site. More reasons will inevitably be posted on said site and sometimes here as well. I too have a dream. A dream that one day mankind will understand the laws of nature. Not in a “look what I’ve charted on this graph” kind of way. but more in a “I can’t see my feet, I think I’ll pass on that next doughnut” kind of way. Maybe I am a wild eyed fantasist but I can’t help feeling that developing intelligence should give us an ability to make intelligent decisions about things that matter to us. That much seems logical to me. Anyway, this has been brewing for a while but today is, or was, a part of it. All that lies below matches the title that lies above.
You will of course recognise the words above from the cover of the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. Supposedly these words enabled it to sell more copies than the Encyclopaedia Galactica. These words and the slightly cheaper price. Arthur C Clarke is reputed to have said that it is the best advice that humanity could be given. When you put it in big capital letters with a number of exclamation marks its effect may be the opposite of what you might be hoping for.
It is also the advice which would have been absolutely no use to me this afternoon. When you are panicking the words “don’t panic” are not a great deal of help. Not panicking is exactly what I was putting my mind to already with no success whatsoever.
I’ve had panic attacks before. Not a great many. Maybe once a year, or perhaps less, going back as far as I am able to remember. Today was different though. I had to rush out a hastily typed one finger email to summon help from the office of the administrator. Lying on my back on the floor I was unable to lift my head, my whole body was tingling, I could barely move. I had managed to gain control of my breathing but only while I lay completely still. As soon as I tried to move or speak I would lost control of my breathing again.
As I lay there I couldn’t help wondering if it was possible to die from a panic attack. A stupid thought perhaps. I am still not entirely sure of the answer. I believe shock can be very dangerous. Surely panic and shock are kin. Possibly not the most positive thing to be wondering in the middle of a panic attack. I have a considerable wealth of knowledge stored in my noggin that tells me one does not die of a panic attack. However, there is always a first time. What’s more perhaps it is a massive rarity that nobody wants you to know about to avoid making you panic. Ignore the fact I said that. Stop panicking.
When I got home a couple of hours later I was exhausted. In four decades I have never had such a scary experience despite undoubtedly having come far closer to death on several occasions. Before I could rest I wanted to find out a bit more. So I turned to google and found the following blog: http://www.nerdist.com/2009/01/tell-panic-attacks-to-go-suck-it/comment-page-3/#comment-85921. Many of you will be familiar with Chris Hardwick, writer of the Nerdist website and creator of the Nerdist podcast. Occasionally I used to see him on Attack of the Show before the networks decided that AoTS was too brash for cultured English sensibilities. I tell myself that is what they were thinking. It is nicer to think they were trying to protect our delicate feelings rather than they were just being mean and cutting us off for not supporting their sponsors.
What I didn’t know is that Chris has had trouble with panic attacks himself. It can happen to anyone. One of the things he pointed out in the blog was that our brains had evolved over millennia to protect us from death in the kind of wild situations that arise when things are trying to eat you on a daily basis, or twice daily basis if they are concerned about managing their diet properly. As this network of neural pathways has grown up in such an environment it will face situations of worry and anxiety by giving you two options. Either run away or kill the problem. The primal brain doesn’t really do making an action plan, analysing the likely issues that may be involved in approaching that action plan and working out methods to overcome them. Unless those methods involve running away or killing something anyway.
So with this in mind it struck me that the problem I was facing was exactly the sort of thing that the geekrastination philosophy was all about. Certainly I like to surf the net and certainly I like to write blogs and research things, etcetera, when the primal brain floods your system with adrenalin and tells you that it is time to run away or kill something then that is not a lot of use in an office. Unless the problem is Windows freezing up, in which case there might be an argument for using the kill approach.
This made it press home all the more urgently that the time has come for what I am focussing on in this blog to actually go somewhere. We have evolved for millions of years from tiny little mammals into apes and eventually homosapien. At almost every stage in this journey it has been our job to run around in the fresh air getting exercise and moving around. I noticed towards the end of last year that I was getting chest pains. A lot of people would say this might be a heart problem so I asked a doctor. I told him that when I sat in an office I felt the chest pain but when I climbed a mountain or raced a bicycle I didn’t. He told me that it was not the heart. It was just stress. I asked him why it should cause pain then. He told me, and I am paraphrasing here, “buggered if I know”.
It struck me at this point that while we may not have to fight for our lives anymore because we have built houses to keep us safe, the things that we were keeping locked out are largely all gone now. Yet we stay in these houses as our arteries thicken up and our hearts pump harder trying to clear cholesterol from our veins. And while we do this, everyone that ever has a panic attack is experiencing their primal brain telling them “run away”. Mental health is in such a state that huge numbers of the population are prescribed anti depressants in order to face the next day. The ones who aren’t prescribed anti depressants are mostly too drunk or stoned to know whether they need them. Of the rest of society huge numbers of people are miserable and unhealthy, wobbling around in stumpy fat bloated bodies.
Yet people say that panic attacks and the fight or flight mechanism are a throwback to our evolutionary past. I am not sure that our brain is so out of tune. I think our brain is perfectly in tune with our body. It is our personality, the bit shaped by our culture, not our evolution, that is out of tune. When the brain and the body say run, they know what they are talking about. They have been escaping danger for millions of years. They know far better what is a threat than your personality that may only be 3 or 4 decades old.
I am going to run. I will only run a few hundred yards at first but when I get this philosophy of geekrastination worked out I am going to run and I am going to keep running. I have access to the world’s libraries on devices I can carry on my back. I can carry a nylon roof on my back. I can carry anything I need on my back. As soon as I know where the safest place is to run I am going to listen to my brain and my body. They have a subconscious ability to recognise a painful and miserable death and tell you to get the hell out of there. That is an ability that took a long time to evolve. I think it is worth using.