I’ve noticed sometimes that the beginning of a relationship is the start of time between lovers. The start of the present being anchored in an imagined future, rather than in what is alive and real. The shift feels subtle, significant, subversive.
A woman recently told me her husband got cancer during their first year together. So, she says, she never took him for granted. That was 27 years, and two children, ago.
In my own experience, even planning together to end a relationship, but not ending it just yet, puts time back on hold again. Unconditional love resurfaces.
Have you noticed something similar? I should mention I’m a fan of relationships, marriage, commitment. I’m just noticing its shadow side.
I think this shadow can be more pronounced when a relationship shouldn’t happen. You see its flaws more vividly when you imagine a future together.
But I think there’s more to it. I think there is an art to keeping a relationship grounded in what is alive.
I was told this in soft exasperation, earlier this week, by one of the most loving souls I’ve ever met, Sara Ness.
In context, it made perfect sense.
Today it makes me think of my stern, repressed stepfather and how hard I tried, as a boy, not to be wrong to him.
It makes me think of cliquish classmates in junior high school, and how hard I tried to anticipate what they would dislike.
It makes me think of how much love I have inside, of the challenge of getting that out fully, into the world. And how useful it is to live and work and grow in loving community.
Something has flipped, inside me, in recent weeks. Receiving feedback about my faults used to strike me as a blow. And it can still be painful. But recently I increasingly welcome it as a vital, irreplaceable form of support.
I cannot see myself the way you see me, unless you tell me. Today I’m mostly very whole, very functional, and surrounded by souls willing to reflect who I am.
I’m as much an individual as ever, self-aware and ultimately self-guided. But I’m an individual in community now, and the feedback I receive from the people I love and respect has taken on an entirely new aspect in life.
Sometimes I do, I make people wrong. Feeling into that, I soften, I love the sweet child I was, and still carry, inside. And I love being surrounded by folks who help me become the fullest version of him.
I love you. And I’ll see what I can do about this making-wrong thing.
Update: I’ve been reflecting with a friend about how this post feels more stern than I’d like. Let’s say I have personal experience, though not yet as a parent. I’m tempted to edit the piece to adjust its tone. But perhaps it would be better to just acknowledge where I was coming from, when I wrote it. I was feeling strongly.
* * *
Reflections on the parent-child relationship, so commonly relevant for single parents, where the line between “friend” and “parent” can be more tempting to blur: What exactly is that line?
Part of the parent role is this: My child is not here to meet my emotional needs. I am here to meet his or her needs. With friends, that relationship is bi-directional. With a child, it’s uni-directional, at least until the child is largely an adult inside. (Then perhaps you get an extra reward for being a good parent — you get a good friend.)
Until then, I must stand on guard against my own tendency to use my child to satisfy my own ego needs. I should meet those needs like any other adult, with someone in my own league. Just as you don’t use a child to meet your sexual needs, you don’t use a child to meet your emotional needs. When you think about it this way, the line gets brighter.
So what else does a parent do that a friend doesn’t? You provide a container, a firm sense of right and wrong, a kind of unconditional love that also comes with clear limits and expectations.
You give the child a sense of living in a knowable world where their relationships to others, especially, are knowable, navigable, manageable. In this way, it can be less like a friendship and more like a job.
When you use a child to meet your emotional needs, suddenly their relationships to others are less knowable, navigable, and manageable. Their sense of self is not yet formed, and here you are requiring them to navigate boundaries of self-and-other that even grown adults find hard to navigate, many times.
When do I say “no”? Where do I end, and you begin? Who am I to trust? How do I know? Answering such questions is easier when your parents didn’t create conflicts of interest while you were growing up, by asking you to meet their emotional needs.
So your child is not your friend. And if you are ever tempted to think he or she is, you should probably think hard about the implications.
On my mind this morning is a scenario many of my male friends will recognize. You meet a woman. She’s in a vulnerable space. Maybe you are too, or less so, or less consciously so.
You feel protective of her, of her hurt, and perhaps toward the men she’s had difficulties with. And there’s chemistry. Maybe you put it off at first; you know she’s vulnerable. But before long, you become involved sexually.
But it’s not really working out. Soon you pull away. You’re both a little disoriented. And she’s hurt.
They say there are sheep, there are wolves, and there are sheep-dogs. Most men I’m close to ultimately count themselves among the sheep-dogs. And when a woman accuses us of behaving like a wolf, or even just being insufficiently caring, it raises feelings.
The more I think about this dynamic, the less convinced I am that anyone is truly a victim. Sometimes in relationships there are real victims. Many times, there are not.
Yet we sense we could have handled things better. That we could have navigated our own needs, and desires, and our genuine wish to care and be cared for, in a way that would have created a more consistently happy outcome.
The experience seems archetypal enough to have touched all our lives at one time or another. I’d love to connect with my male friends around this topic, especially in person, if you live in Austin.
If you’re interested, shoot me a message. Maybe we could arrange a gathering. Or just meet for lunch or a walk.
Often lately I think the most two people have to give one another, in loving connection, is the truth of their feelings in a moment.
“I feel nervous and energized. This post comes from a deep place inside, but I don’t know how well it will be received. Feels like I’m taking a chance.”
In a way, the meaning of life is the feeling of life. By sharing what we feel, we grow meaning together.
We can share not just feelings about one another, but feeling as such — how it feels to be fresh home from an errand, to finish a phone call with your mother, to think about life while I peel potatoes, to step out of the shower and onto the cold tile.
“I’m anxious again about work. I should have sent out invoices today, but I got bogged down answering emails. And I’m judging myself a little for not being more present with you now. Voicing it, though, I’m starting to relax.”
Our feelings ebb and flow, like improvisational life-art inside us. Often feelings pass without witness, even inside ourselves. What if that witnessing became more like shared ritual, especially during those moments when we want to relax and connect?
Sharing feelings is a craft itself. It takes the willingness to be open and known, interested in another’s truth. It takes the grace to find the words in a given moment to describe those private and fleeting brush-strokes of spirit.
“I feel sad. I’ve had this stupid headache for two days, now. Actually, scratch that: I’m angry at God. In a way I want to blow up the universe. But I also feel tender, that you asked. Thank you.”
Today, among my closest friends, we often ask, “What are you feeling, right now?”
We take joy in not just listening to the answer, but imagining what we are hearing, as they answer. As if I felt it inside myself as well. In those moments of shared feeling, the closeness deepens, rises, spreads.
With practice, the sharing becomes less effortful or mechanical. More subtle and rich and interesting.
Instead of just sad, I notice I’m actually grieving in a way that feels young and sweet. Instead of just upset, I notice I’m feeling a growing urge to lash out defensively.
And as we see the feeling in greater detail, we watch its very nature changing before our eyes — our eyes, not just my own.
With more and more detail, and meaning, we know and we are known.
Of course, doing so requires real trust in who we’re with, that they know they don’t have to fix what we feel, that the witnessing itself is transformative. That feelings aren’t silly, or indulgent, or something to be afraid of.
Within that container of trust, the practice comes alive. It becomes connective and sacred.
What are you feeling, right now?
Who has loved with the ultimate depth, and actively given the object of your love back to the universe? Who has experienced that, through this gift, you transcend a broken heart? Who has found this path to having an unguarded heart? That you can fly without wings, fall without landing, hurt without closing, love without losing? To you, your love is my love. Our love is great love.
Over the past fifteen years I have completed perhaps ten fasts, during which I drank only water. They varied in duration from five days to twelve days. This post summarizes what I’ve learned.
I find water fasting to be far superior to modified fasts, such as the so-called “Master Cleanse.” Most of my fasts have been good experiences, with only periodic discomfort. Below I share my tips for making it a more rewarding experience.
Please note, I am not a doctor. Do not mistake anything I write for qualified medical advice.
Find a physician to help supervise your fast. Ayurvedic doctors, naturopathic doctors, doctors of oriental medicine, and other alternative health care practitioners commonly have experience in this area. Conventional health care providers are, as far as I can tell, almost universally ignorant on the topic.
Water fasts vs. modified fasts
Today I do only pure fasts, where I drink solely water. Many people recommend modified fasts instead. These may involve various combinations of juice, tea, syrups, etc. Their reasoning is that, by drinking easily-digestible sources of calories, you still get sustenance. Some people feel this is easier on their body.
My experience is exactly the opposite. Nothing has ever made me feel as miserable as a modified fast. When I tried a juice fast, my blood sugar levels were all over the place, I got headaches, and I had to abandon the fast by the second day.
On a water fast, by contrast, you ingest no calories. After 2-3 days your body switches to a protein-sparing ketone metabolism. You are no longer hungry and your body burns fat to get the glucose your brain needs. Done right, it’s much easier than I would have expected. But it helps if you know how to approach it.
The benefits of fasting
The main benefits I experience from a water fast are that I feel clear headed, I feel more in touch with my body, I have more time, it changes my relationship to food, and I seem to have — and take — more opportunities for spiritual reflection. It often feels like a sacred practice, full of meaning and insight.
It is incredible how much energy we normally spend buying, preparing, and eating food, and then cleaning up afterwards. Remove the need for those activities, and suddenly you have a lot of extra time on your hands.
A similar process takes place inside your body. Digestion, as a chemical process, requires enormous energy. Freed of that burden, your body devotes far more energy to healing and self-repair. I understand, from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s writings, that fasting can be particularly good for the treatment of arthritis and inflammation. It is perhaps humanity’s oldest medical treatment.
For those of us with food sensitivities, a water fast provides a strong and unmistakable “reset” for our digestive tract. Once you resume eating, you experience food in a completely new light. The flavors and textures are exquisite. It feels natural to be selective about what you put in your body, favoring high-quality foods.
I typically lose about two pounds of fat per day. As man who is naturally slender, this isn’t always a benefit, for me. But if I’ve been eating unhealthily and do gain weight, this often feels like a natural time to fast. Once you break the fast, several pounds come back quickly simply because you once again have food in your digestive tract.
Beginning your fast
I begin by choosing a target length for my fast, while acknowledging that I may go shorter or longer, depending on how my body is responding. Then I block out my schedule, so I don’t have deadlines or significant work commitments, allowing me to work only as I feel ready.
Commonly today I fast for five days, perhaps once or twice a year. During my first fast, I fasted for twelve days. During the final week of that fast, I was often surprised by how clear headed I felt and how much energy I had. On other fasts, I’ve abandoned on the third or fourth day because I felt unusually achy or disoriented.
When it comes to choosing a length of your fast and sticking to it, don’t try to be “strong.” Listen closely to your body, take good care of yourself, and don’t require it to do things that feel unhealthy.
Before you start your fast, make sure you have these items on hand:
- Spring water. Buy a couple gallons of spring water for each day you plan to fast. It’s worth buying good spring water since you’ll be drinking so much of it. The taste of inferior water will get old fast, and most tap water has industrial chemicals in it.
If you don’t have a water filter at home, also buy some filtered water for your enemas. You’ll need a couple gallons per day there, as well. This could be reverse-osmosis water, which is typically cheaper than spring water.
- Sea salt. You’ll add this to your water, to make it saline. Do not use table salt, with iodine, if only because of the flavor.
- An enema kit. Available cheaply on Amazon, if not at a local drug store. More about this below.
- A good probiotic. Many people have good luck with Prescript-Assist. You’ll take this after the fast, to help replenish your gut flora.
On the night before you begin your fast, eat a light, healthy supper and get a very good night’s rest.
When you wake on the first morning of your fast, drink plenty of water. Continue this practice throughout the fast.
When you are hungry, take a little swig of water. When you feel light headed, take another swig of water. If you are thirsty, take two swigs of water. When you feel bored or restless or achy, take another little swig of water.
The water is important because your body is metabolizing a couple pounds of fat per day. Fat cells commonly store toxins. As they’re being metabolized, you have a larger quantity of toxins getting released into the bloodstream. Water helps flush them out.
Add sea salt to all your water. Keep it saline. Otherwise the water can begin to feel harsh, perhaps causing an electrolyte imbalance. Add just enough salt to make it taste a little salty, almost like tears, perhaps around a half-teaspoon per liter, assuming you’re using a medium-sized rock salt.
Store your water at room temperature, rather than keeping it in the fridge. You can also heat it up and drink it from a tea cup. This can be particularly nice if you begin to feel chilled, from the lack of usual calories in your diet.
Do not skip putting sea salt in your water. It makes a significant difference.
Enemas are a crucial important component of a water fast. When you stop eating, your digestion stops as well. This means feces stay in your intestines. Your intestines are porous, which means your bloodstream is absorbing these byproducts from your intestines. Without enemas, the toxins will give you strong headaches and nausea.
Add sea salt to your enemas, just like to the water you’re drinking. Use filtered water, rather than tap water. Warm up the water to body temperature, so it feels more comfortable. Avoid putting your enema reservoir (bucket or bag) too high, or the water will enter with too much force.
Lay down on a towel on the bathroom floor. Apply generous lubricant before inserting the enema tip into your rectum. Start by laying on your back, then turn to your left side, to allow the water to rise up your colon. Then onto your back again and eventually your right side, if you can. Hold the water inside for a few minutes, if possible, and then void on the toilet.
Plan on a couple enema sessions each day during your fast, especially in response to any headaches or nausea. Each session may require two or three enemas. Ideally you keep doing them until the fluid that comes back out is relatively clear.
What to expect
On the first day, I often feel surprisingly clear headed, with occasional bouts of wooziness. Toward the end of the first day is a good time to do your first enemas.
The second day is typically the most challenging. You may not sleep as well on the first night of the fast, and your body hasn’t yet switched fully to ketone metabolism. So the second day often produces the most fatigue. Mild headaches may come and go.
By the third day I’m often beginning to feel better, still weak but more clear headed and feeling like I’m over the hump. Ketosis usually has kicked in by the third day, and any physical craving for hunger subsides.
You’ll get light headed, especially when you stand up, and especially in the early days. This is normal. Stand up gradually and take care not to lose your balance.
You’ll notice how much you use food as entertainment. Long after the hunger passes, you’ll see you still think of food, as a habit, often as a way to self-stimulate, when you are bored. This softens with time, typically after about the third day.
You’ll get cold. Since you’re no longer burning calories, you are generating less body heat. Wear warmer clothes, drink warm water, and take plenty of breaks to lay in bed under the covers.
If it’s winter time and you normally keep your temperature relatively low, take extra precautions to keep warm. Staying warm is important, to avoid stressing your body.
You may sleep less. For some reason, while you’re fasting, you often need less actual sleep. Perhaps it’s because the body is working less to digest food.
Without needing to focus on food, you’ll have lots of extra time. Enjoy it. It can be a good time to take up a writing project, read a few books, or catch up on family phone calls. Just be careful, if you set any goals, not to push yourself. Your first priority is to rest as much as your body needs.
Absolutely, positively avoid thinking about food or spending time around food. Once, midway through a fast, I spent an afternoon crafting meal plans for after my fast. Visualizing food that much derailed my fast, however, and I had to end it early.
It’s normal to have light bouts of dizziness, headaches, or nausea. If they get particularly strong, however, here are the most common causes:
- Not doing enemas. You should do a couple enemas, once or twice a day, especially during the first several days of your fast. If you slack off on your enemas, you’ll know it. You’ll feel awful.
- Not drinking enough water. Drinking water is crucial, not only to stay hydrated, but to flush out the toxins released as your body burns fat at an accelerated pace.
- Not adding sea salt to your water. It’s surprising how much more calming the saline water is, to the body, during a fast. Without it, I suspect our electrolytes get out of balance. It feels uncomfortable.
- Not resting enough. Fasting should be a period of rest. If aren’t getting enough rest, your body will become stressed, and the fast will become agonizingly difficult in your weakened state.
You should only work when it feels nearly effortless to do so. Those periods will come and go, and are more common after the first few days. At other times, you should relax and keep your productivity goals to a bare minimum. With frequent cat naps, however, you may be surprised how much (non-physically intensive) work you can do. This is particularly true after the first few days.
If you are doing things right and you still feel quite bad, then it’s best to break your fast and try again another time. Sometimes my body is more receptive to fasting than others. Don’t pressure yourself to stay on a fast that feels wrong.
Breaking your fast
When it’s time to break your fast, choose soft foods that are easy to digest and unlikely to irritate your digestive tract. Cooked food is often better than raw. Avoid anything spicy (such as black pepper) or acidic (such as oranges). Start with small portions, since your stomach will have shrunk.
Great foods for a first meal include steamed squash or easily-digested raw fruits, like watermelon or avocado. Some experts recommend not eating animal protein the first day. I’ve often eaten scrambled eggs on the first day, however, without problems.
Consider taking a probiotic, to help replenish any intestinal flora that may have receded during your fast. I sometimes have a bad reaction to probiotics, however, and have skipped them without noticing problems.
Reintroduce foods into your diet very consciously, paying close attention to how you feel afterwards. Does acne come back when you reintroduce milk? Do you get intestinal bloating again when you eat wheat and corn? You’ve just been on the mother of all elimination diets. Be sensitive to your body’s signals.
And if you want to adopt a truly healthy diet afterwards, and maintain the many benefits of your fast, consider trying the Whole30.
Finally, enjoy yourself. After several days away from eating, food will have an entirely new meaning. Smells and flavors will seem exquisite.
If you find a recorded public appearance by Ed Snowden not listed here, please e-mail the link to me at joshuazader at GMail. Please also notify me if any links below have expired.
Below is a list of all publicly available appearances by Ed Snowden since the original disclosure of his identity as the whistleblower behind Glenn Greenwald’s reporting, in early July 2013. For additional information about Snowden, his motivations, and the story behind his decision to become a whistleblower, I highly recommend Greenwald’s new book No Place to Hide.
2013-07-09 – The Guardian: Interview Part I and Part II (12 and 7 min, respectively) – Snowden’s original reveal as the NSA whistleblower. The interview was conducted in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and filmed & edited by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.
2014-01-27 – German TV channel NDR: Interview with Ed Snowden (30 min) – Snowden discusses the relevance of the NSA’s activities to other countries around the world.
2014-03-10 – SXSW (South by Southwest) appearance (61 minutes) – In a remote appearance from Russia, Snowden spoke on the importance of encryption, and answered questions from the public for the first time, in a talk that was praised strongly by Esquire.
2014-03-19 – TED talk: “Here’s how we take back the internet” (35 min) – Snowden appears from an undisclosed location in Moscow “via a telepresence robot, which he was able to control remotely.”
2014-05-28 – NBC News with Brian Williams: “Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden” (45 min) – Conducted in Moscow, this was Snowden’s first interview with an American TV network since the original revelations. See also the excerpt about the legacy of 9/11 (3 min), not aired in the original broadcast.
2014-06-01 – Globo Brazil TV interview: “Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Brazil” (33 min) – Filmed in Moscow. The reporting is in Portugese, but the interview itself was conducted and aired in English. (Globo also published the original broadcast on their own site.)
2014-06-05 – Personal Democracy Forum comments on the “Save the internet” theme (2 min excerpt) – Snowden discusses Google’s new end-to-end encryption plugin as part of the “reset the net” campaign, and the responsibility for citizens to take responsibility for their own freedom: “We don’t have to ask for our privacy. We can take it back.”
Here are my thoughts on the forced resignation of new Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. I ultimately believe the differences of opinion on this topic come down to the question of civility.
The uncivil perspective: Use ostracism when someone is wrong about something important, and we think we can get away with it.
Problem is, people commonly disagree about what is wrong and what is important. If we use it on them today, they have more justification for using it on us tomorrow.
It creates an inquisition-like atmosphere of fear and conformity on all sides of all issues, because the stakes are higher, there is less room for independent judgment, and honest thoughtfulness and rationality are less likely to prevail inside each person’s mind.
The civil perspective: Avoid ostracism in all but the most extreme cases, such as when human rights are at stake and (not or) a clear majority has been firmly established.
Most of my friends agree gay marriage should be legal, as a matter of human rights. What we may disagree about is whether ostracism should be employed in our present situation, where public opinion has been fairly evenly divided, we are already beginning to win the public debate, it is only a matter of time before we prevail, and the debate has been largely civil and productive so far.
The steel-man version of Andrew Sullivan’s argument is that, by employing ostracism too early — before a majority opinion has had time to settle — and retroactively, at that, we are making honest rational decision making less likely and ultimately lowering our standards of civility.
We also create a society where people of mixed opinions no longer mingle safely. How does it ultimately help us for the CEO of Mozilla to take a job with, for example, a Christian organization? Is it not better that he live and work among people more likely to change his mind? (For the record, I don’t know whether Eich is a Christian or ever has been. I don’t think it much matters, here.)
It is very much like the attempted use of ostracism in the global warming debate. It is employed to prematurely shut down discussion and dissent. Civility requires leaving the discussion open, allowing rational opinions to change due to persuasion rather than ostracism.
I’m trying to express the steel-man version of Sullivan’s argument. And I believe this is the side I ultimately come down on, as a matter of principle. At the same time, I don’t actually know if I could enjoyably work under Eich as Mozilla’s CEO. I experience considerable revulsion against his position.
It really is a question of whether we’re willing to tolerate others, or we just want them to tolerate us.
And I’m on the line about this particular guy. But when I see people pretending that the line is 200 yards that way, I begin to think they only use words like “tolerance” when it is convenient. They want Christians to tolerate gays, but they don’t want gay rights advocates to tolerate Christians.
And that is terribly, unjustly ironic.
I am in the process of creating a new site for zader.com. It will be an online magazine devoted to the theme of living with integrity. I’ll publish new essays periodically, eventually folding those essays into books on key topics — such as integrity, emotions, love, and meditation.
In my lead essay I explore the meaning of integrity. One challenge with the essay has been formulating a good definition.
For my purposes, the best definition (a) is concise, (b) acknowledges the full role of integrity in our lives, and (c) provides a decidedly helpful heuristic for practicing integrity.
Below is a sketch of my thought process so far. I welcome feedback and suggestions for further improvement.
1. Conventional definition
Integrity is the moral virtue of adhering to one’s values.
Pros: It’s the familiar definition, with which virtually everyone is at least somewhat acquainted.
Cons: Fails to acknowledge the importance of intellectual integrity, of updating one’s views in response to new experience. By this definition, a committed member of the Third Reich would have integrity if only he followed orders well enough.
2. Spiritual definition
Integrity is living the truth.
Pros: Concise. Captures something vital about the essence of integrity — namely, consonance with what is real, what is true.
Cons: Vague. Offers little insight about the elements of integrity or where to focus one’s efforts. It relies upon a metaphorical notion of truth, that “the truth” is something which can be lived directly.
3. Experiential triad
Integrity is consistency among what we see, believe, and do.
Pros: Acknowledges the role of intellectual integrity. Calls attention to three key realms of experience which can fall out of alignment. While longer than the other two definitions, it is still relatively concise.
Cons: Fails to acknowledge one of the most significant realms of experience, which is what we feel. Our inner experience provides critically important hints about right and wrong, what we should prioritize in life, and even who or what we are.
Technically, the word “see” is too narrow, excluding the other senses. More accurate words might be “experience,” “perceive,” or “know.” Each carries some baggage, however, such as making the definition feel more like an academic or philosophic exercise rather than a practical rule of thumb.
Analogous to the word “see,” the word “believe” captures colloquially the ways we codify truth, value, and rightness.
I wish I could remember where I first encountered this definition. I admire its incisiveness. I considered using a variation of it, with the addendum: “Feeling is seeing — turned inward.” But this relegates feeling to the status of an afterthought.
It is the working definition I used throughout most of my writing process. But something kept bothering me. When we look closely at how to cultivate integrity on a day-to-day basis, what we feel — the entire realm of inner, felt experience — plays a truly pivotal role. For practical purposes, it should be integral to the definition.
4. Experiential quad
Integrity is the practice of pursuing harmony among what we feel, see, believe, and do.
Pros: Includes a genus (“practice”) which suggests integrity is more than merely a moral virtue. Acknowledges the role of what we feel. Advocates “harmony,” which suggests alignment and mutual reinforcement, rather than “consistency,” which can imply an overly-simplistic ideal. Generally suggests integrity is an active process, rather than a binary state you either have or don’t have.
Cons: No longer as concise. Begins to seem like a list.
* * *
Tell me what you think.
A question I am pondering: Does what we “feel, see, believe, and do” capture our experience in sufficient resolution for a definition — or are there other types of experience that seem equally important?
I can tolerate listing four types of experience within the definition. If there are more, however, then I might want to find ways to consolidate.
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