Legion and a Correct View Towards Mental Illness

David Haller and Lenny Busker, aka. Amahl Farouk, The Shadow King

David Haller and Lenny Busker, aka. Amahl Farouk, “The Shadow King”

“That’s the trick, the mind-killer; your disease convinces you you don’t have it.” – David Haller

When Legion premiered on FX this February, critics were quick to deride its interpretation of mental illness. Early reviews jumped to conclusions of the show’s “mental health shaming” by trivializing it or using it as a cheap narrative tool to talk about superpowers and comic book absurdities with the fake veneer of something more adult and mature. Perhaps that’s true if you sat through the first couple of episodes and then got so offended that you refused to keep going.

The opening shows David Haller grow up as a troubled teen who later attempts suicide. We then see Haller in a mental hospital produced as a sort of highly medicated prison rife with unhelpful therapy sessions, a montage of pills in cups, and unnervingly dangerous looking or totally comatose patients leading completely unproductive and secluded lives in an environment pulled straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest via A Clockwork Orange (and the place is called Clockworks interestingly enough). As the first episode progresses, we learn that David is retelling the experience at Clockworks to a government agent who is investigating the extent of telekinetic powers they believe David has on behalf of something called Division 3. Their goal is to determine the extent of those powers and then to control them, or use them. The first episode ends with an action packed rescue from a group of mutants who are hidden in a retreat called Summerland. We later learn that they are protecting mutants from Division 3. The story is straightforward enough, but what happens inside of David’s head is not. Right when the viewer is convinced of one set of facts about what is real, the next episode opens with another version of something whether it’s the image of a leisure suit clad Jemaine Clement trying to explain some out-of-place philosophy while seated in a giant ice-cube or everyone in Summerland seated in Clockworks in the middle of a therapy session. In every episode we have to start over which is why the early criticisms were so wrong about what was really happening.

Throughout the show, David exhibits symptoms of a schizoaffective disorder. He hears voices, can’t distinguish between reality and mental projections, he’s paranoid, and talks to a series of characters that only he can see. He is ashamed of all of this and believes he is crazy no thanks to Clockworks reinforcing that belief. But we are presented with the idea that he is not insane, and rather has extraordinary mental powers that he has only confused with a mental illness because he can’t control them. Summerland is there to help him understand that he is not insane, but truly very powerful.

The first metaphor for mental illness we are presented with is “you are not sick, but unique and gifted.” This is a well-trodden path in the X-Men comics, the world from which Legion derives. In the comics, David Haller is Professor X’s biological son who he gave away at birth. There, David deals with dissociative identity disorder (split personality) where each of his mental powers takes on a different identity in his head. A major draw for kids to the X-Men is that in the mutant world the thing that makes you feel different or odd is also the thing that makes you special. People will always find a way to exclude. Foucault argued that the age of reason saw the confinement and casting out of the mentally ill or “mad” from society through political and social mechanisms which only lends mental illness a perfect canvas on which to paint the X-Men mythos. Even if having really amazing powers that should astound people can make you an outcast, think of all the little things about you that don’t conform to the world that will cause people to exclude you. The solution: find other oddballs, be yourself, and cherish your uniqueness in the world in a healthy community that respects you.

I get it. If Legion stopped there, it would sanitize mental illness with a nice message for kids struggling to fit in, but would be a weak exploration of the issue for a decidedly grown-up audience. It cleanses mental illness to where it does not really harm us, but makes us stronger. It’s a nice, temporary coping strategy, but it hardly respects the reality that metal illness can kill you if you don’t do something about it.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there. We learn that David didn’t know he was adopted, his sister kept that secret from him, and even if all of his mental illness was just a manifestation of his powers, he still had to work through all of the same issues that any person with schizophrenia would have to work through. He still has issues that he has not worked out and they keep manifesting themselves throughout each episode. And then it goes one level deeper. What we learn is that David’s cohort of imaginary voices – a beagle, a creepy children’s book character, a blob with yellow eyes, a frenetic woman named Lenny Busker who goads him to misbehave – are all manifestations of the thing from which Professor X tried to hide him – the powerful mutant Amahl Farouk also called the “Shadow King.” This being lodged itself into David’s brain when he was a baby in order to siphon off his power until the day when he could overtake David’s whole mind and body. The cause of David’s mental illness symptoms is not something that is naturally part of him – it is a parasite.

Health comes from overcoming the struggle and that means not identifying with one’s mental illness.

This is the grownup moment in how the show deals with mental illness. No responsible psychologist or psychiatrist should ever tell you that to treat a mental illness you should just take drugs and accept it as a part of your identity. They will tell you that you also need to be social and find a community of healthy friends, eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and sleep among other strategies like meditation or yoga. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches you strategies to mine your brain for those negative messages that you tell yourself and rather than accept them, reverse them and change them through action and practice. It’s like playing table tennis against a champion. You need to learn how to return the ball and reverse its spin in order to keep playing the point. This requires practicing a set of learned skills. It’s difficult. But make no mistake, mental illness is an opponent in your mind and body that you have to work hard to compete against daily in order to be healthy and happy. The struggle with mental illness should always be a temporary event like a runner who struggles with soreness and exhaustion or a scientist who needs to step away from an experiment that keeps failing in order to let it all simmer for a new insight to emerge. Life is never healthy when it is a constant struggle. Health comes from overcoming the struggle and that means not making one’s mental illness the core of one’s identity. Counselors want their patients to get to a point of accepting that they have a mental illness rather than they are identified by their mental illness.

One method of therapy similar to CBT is centered around “self-directed neuroplasticity.” In short, this is grounded in the theory that patterns of thinking and action not only change habits of the mind and body, but literally transform synaptic patterns in the brain. Therapies have been developed around this theory grounded in research at UCLA and the clinical data supports it as a way to think and act your way our of destructive patterns of behavior. Clinicians have used this method to treat patients with even severe OCD issues. What emerges from these therapies is a focus on retraining the brain and body to act in ways counter to their mental illness symptoms in order to produce healthier, happier, and more whole people. No mental illness is permanent in the way that it currently is believed to exist in the brain. Also related is the argument that emotions are not hard-wired in the brain and sit there latently until some external stimulus provokes each of them into being. Rather, a more nuanced theory is that emotions develop as concepts that we learn to associate with certain stimuli. This view, supported by research from Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University, means that we have far more control over how we feel the world around us and how we make sense out of those feelings. What we believe literally shapes our feelings, relationships, and perceptions of the world. Correcting beliefs that produce unhealthy feelings and behaviors can change much of how we understand mental health conditions even when some of those symptoms benefit from medication.

Those times when I least want to do the things that will make me the most healthy are the most important times to do them.

As someone who has had a mental health diagnosis, I understand that interpreting mental illness as an immovable facet of one’s identity is both alluring and destructive. It’s nice to know that others struggle with it and that you are not alone. But accepting constant struggle as something permanent is a miserable way to live, if we can call that living at all. At the root this is a belief that produces learned helplessness, and it’s not true.

After many years of struggle, I refused to continue to believe that I had to accept my illness as a part of my identity. But I had to change my thinking and my behaviors dramatically in order to reverse the spin. It required patience and discipline to develop a new set of habits. I was playing table tennis with a master of deception and I had to study all of the things that made it powerful. I had to practice new ways to challenge the messages it was tossing at me knowing that early on it would be difficult. But with enough time and practice I would eventually master it. I had a parasite in my brain. It was my Shadow King, my Amahl Farouk, my Lenny Busker. Cunning, deceptive, and powerful with years of practice, I had let it kick my ass. It was only when I accepted that I had something in my brain that made me unhealthy that I learned a set of strategies to make me healthy.

This is why I identify with David Haller’s narrative arc of mental illness. But unlike Haller, I can’t just trick my unfriendly mental resident into leaving. It lives there permanently and even though I know how to lock it away in a tiny little corner where it won’t bother me, once in a while I forget to check the locks on the door and it sneaks out. So I will run, sleep, eat healthy, spend time with healthy people, walk the dog, get some sunlight, clean my living space, etc. This toolbox of strategies that I have found to work are my ways of reversing the spin on the ball and acing the serve almost every time. To be healthy, I need to accept the challenge, play the game, and win. There are many times when I don’t want to play table tennis with this parasite, but I have to do it anyway. Those times when I least want to do the things that will make me the most healthy are the most important times to do them. When I do, I kick its ass and it leaves me alone for a good while. Not accepting a mental illness as a natural part of my identity took patience and discipline to achieve and it was, and still can be, exhausting. But I have tried all of the alternatives and they just don’t work. What I know for sure is that identifying with the very thing that makes me sick is about as unhealthy a strategy I could ever devise. I wouldn’t do this with pneumonia. Why would I ever do it with Bipolar II. Kudos to Legion for getting it right.

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A Banner Day for Yoga but Not Satan in School

satanology

Two cases dance on the fence between a protected expression of religion, and a government endorsement of religion. One has to do with a school’s inclusion of yoga practice in the curriculum. The other surrounds controversy that erupted from a fake “Satanology” student club. Both demonstrate how the courts take religious establishment on a case-by-case basis.

Previous cases that have worked through the legality of religious displays on government property by arguing context. In short, it’s fine to display Santa or a nativity if Rudolph, Happy Holidays, or a Menorah is nearby. Display a nativity with “Happy Birthday Jesus” and it won’t be there for long. The Ten Commandments are acceptable as a general moral document on a courthouse. To convey a specific religious idea like God is the source of wisdom for government, again, it’s probably coming down. With that said, if your locality allows religious displays that have religious intent, the real problem comes when you forbid the presence of a competing religious display near it.

The first case asks when the practice of yoga is religious in its context and goals versus when it’s a secular practice adopted by Americans in general. When a California public school was given a grant to teach yoga to its students, conservative Christians challenged it as a religious practice. Those concerned Christian parents lawyered up, and the evangelical Alliance Defending Freedom took up the case. The court decided the case with a peculiar ruling saying that in the case of the class, yoga was not religious secular in nature. However, at the same time, yoga is indeed a religious practice. Light is both particle and wave; General Tso’s chicken is both Chinese food, and yet definitely not Chinese. Like displays of the Ten Commandments on public property, the context matters. Where students were practicing yoga and the purpose of it had nothing to do with its various religious purposes found in numerous traditions. A practice’s historical association with religion does not mean that the practice is inherently religious.

In the second case, an activist requested to post a banner for the “Church of Satanology and Satanic Activism” club along a fence on school grounds. This followed an English teacher at Boca Raton Middle school who erected a 10 foot pentagram display next to a nativity scene in a local park. The reason was not to begin an actual club, but to test the school’s approval of banners for an organization promoting Christianity. The location where the “Satanology” banner was to be placed was a place where churches and synagogues had posted their banners for a fee paid to the district. As soon as Chaz Stevens, an atheist activist, proposed the banner, the school instituted a ban on all banners until further notice. After pressure from the Freedom from Religion Foundation to change the policy permanently, the Palm Beach County School District capitulated. The site for Satanology is part of a campaign by The Religious Liberty Project which “is an advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of speech and religion, especially the separation of Church and State.” The use of Satan as a polarizing figure to raise awareness on church/state entanglement is not new, but it is a recent strategy by secularists to clarify separation and how it is applied through the 1st Amendment norm.

The issue that connects both of these cases has to do with the ramifications of insisting on the superiority of one religion or group of religions over other faith claims in any context that is a publicly-funded entity. Evangelical legal groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom hide their true intent of reintroducing Christianity as a distinctly superior, American religion behind language of religious freedom. Would they not also seek to defend the equality of other religions’ not-specifically-Christian concerns? The evidence of their case load is an emphatic “no.”

Whenever an activist group insists on the superiority of its religion rooted in whatever jurisprudence that argues for that superiority, it opens up an interpretation of the 1st Amendment as protecting religions through “equal regard” in which religion is not given any particular favored position in these decisions, but it is neither viewed with any disproportionate contempt. As the demographics of society are trending less religious, the idea that religion ought to have some favored status according to the 1st Amendment could fall out of favor. This means that when activists encourage the debate now, they open up their own interests to a deeper secularizing effect in the future. They could allow people to enjoy local favoritism towards the dominant religion while they still can, but outside organizations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom are on opposing missions to change the ways that the 1st Amendment is interpreted everywhere. So, before that happens small town America, please enjoy your live nativity this Christmas before the giant Baphomet statue comes to peer over your shoulders to judge whether you’ve been bad or good this year.

Reading Religion and American Education

religions_and_american_educationIt’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment when religion and schooling turned from a dance into a WWE match between mortal foes. Most may point to the “Scopes Monkey Trial” where local laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution were publicly questioned. Others may go back a bit further to the Harvard Presidency of Charles Eliot who eliminated compulsory chapel and instituted sweeping curriculum changes that are today observed across universities worldwide. Or, one might go back to the heyday of the Enlightenment itself where reason and observation began to push God out of the way as the necessary agent to understand the world and humanity’s place in it.

Regardless of where you locate the start of this conflict, the disciplines of science and philosophy, educating for professions rather than vocations, and the emergence of a truly public, state-sponsored education system have always created friction with proponents of the old curriculum that put the Bible and Christian devotion at the center of the curriculum. Today the ACLU, Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State have been central to maintaining a strict interpretation of non-establishment of any kind of religion in public schools against organizations that promote a weakening of that “wall” from groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, American Center for Law and JusticeChristian Educators Association International, and other groups like conservative denominations and political action committees. Activism on both side of the issue has been gaining strength and financial resources in the past few decades. The legal rulings have favored those who argue for a stronger interpretation of the 1st Amendment keeping religion and state funded schooling as distinct and unrelated as possible. Yet the conflict persists unabated.

News about this tension pour in daily. Just this week there have been reports of schools whose doctrines are at odds with LGBT student rights. The voucher program promoted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos may create constitutional problems not only with entanglement of state and religion, but with how religion impacts equal protection regarding admissions policies. Recently, Donald Trump said before the Faith & Freedom Coalition, “Schools should not be a place that drive out faith and religion, but that should welcome faith and religion with wide, open, beautiful arms.” One questions what faith he is talking about and how schools should practice that welcome. It’s a relevant question given his audience of conservative, evangelical Christians. Surely they would not applaud the wide welcome of Hinduism and Islam on equal footing with their own idea of Christianity, would they?

Legal issues abound with these ideas. But at the center of all of this are the students, our kids. What is school here to do for them and for society? What are kids supposed to learn before they get to college? At what point do federal and state funding of not only the public school system, but of the public tertiary education system get entangled? Where do Constitutional amendments start to conflict with each other and what has happened in the courts to sort these complicated issues out?

Part of my “research reboot” this summer is to take a step back, catch up on the latest research, and to sort through some of the older texts with fresh eyes – especially those that I have only read in part while working on my dissertation. The first of these that I am going to work through is Religion & American Education: Rethinking a National Dilemma by Warren A. Nord. It was published in 1995 and while there have been titles since then which I will follow with, none of them go into the depth of this book from the time up until Nord wrote it. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to put what comes next in context. My goal here is to offer a short post on each chapter in three sections which will sort of be a template for future books I go through.

  • The Gist – The main argument the author is making.
  • The Idea – I want to focus on one interesting idea that might be applicable more generally or might spark a research question.
  • The Relevance – This is the trickier part where I want to find a connection with what is in the text, especially since its older, with something happening today.

This is something I do through the typical research process anyway. I thought, hey, want not put it all here and if it is interesting to someone else, or if there are other ideas out there I have not seen in relation to it, sweet.

More to come.

Secularization is Happening, and Liberals are in Trouble

exit

A narrow definition of secularization goes like this: “First, modernization induces people to lose faith in God and religion. Then, as religion is no longer meaningful, they stop identifying with it” (Hout & Fischer, 2014). In the mid-twentieth century, this was a common understanding of how the world would become less religious.

The evidence has consistently shown the contrary.

Throughout the twentieth century into the twenty-first, the world did not seem to become any less religious, but regions in South America, Africa, and Asia, became more religious leading some sociologists to argue that Europe’s secularization is an “exceptional case.” But this has left the United States something of a puzzle. There are parts of the country that are less religious while parts of it appear to be more religious, and there has been a sense that political alignment maps to this pattern. At the same time it seems that fewer and fewer Americans are enjoining themselves to any particular religion with each new generation.

In a recent paper, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer conclude that both politics and generational succession have real effects on religious preference and have significantly contributed to why fewer and fewer people are identifying with a particular religion. One-in-five people expressed no religious preference in 2012 compared to one-in-fourteen in 1987. They argue that secularization along the definition they use, did not have an observable effect on this trend which helps to account for the rather stable percentage of people who believe in God without doubt (61%) and life after death (81%). In several statistical models, secularization did not hold.

Religious disaffiliation is explained primarily in two ways. The first is that as one moves from a moderate to a more liberal political stance, they become less religious. This is in part because of the marriage between conservative politics and Christianity caused moderates and liberals to distance themselves from religious organizations, hence, the “backlash.” It’s not a reaction to religion per se, but leaving religion because of its perceived association with conservative politics, in general. The second and greater effect is generational succession. Each generation that replaces the previous has been less affiliated with religion in general, especially among liberal households, and the proportion of unchurched is growing. Moreover, those not raised within a religion are less likely to join one in the future. There was far less a change over time in affiliation among political conservatives who tend to enjoin themselves with conservative religion. However, given the decline in membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, we may be seeing the cracks in the conservative foundation as well.

This looks like a double-whammy for liberal and progressive religious organizations. Not only is there a general distaste for religious organizations among those who identify as liberal or progressive in their political, social, and cultural beliefs, there will be an increasing likelihood that they have never grown up in a religion and therefore see it as having little or no value in their lives. If we push this up against other explanations for secularization, it looks bad for progressive, God centered organizations. Religion is but one means of social bonding among many competing choices that happen on the weekday evenings, weekends, and holidays. Youth sports is one draw even though it has seen a recent decline in participation. It is also part of a wider trend of civic disengagement as argued by Robert Putnam.

Reclaiming the political position of the left might be one vehicle to reverse some of these trends. The position of Trump has caused a new vigor among religious liberals and progressives who feel threatened by right-wing policies and even betrayed by Christian evangelicals who overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, who is ostensibly the least Christian looking candidate and President in a very long time. Religion used to be an important means to gain social capital in Western and American societies. During presidential campaigns, it has been normal for candidates to enjoin themselves to denominations and traditions because of their influence. Eisenhower joined the Presbyterians for this reason as Trump courted the evangelicals in 2016. We may see a liberal candidate hook up with progressive Christians with the same idea that religion feeds social capital even though the politically progressive have moved away from religion and continue to do so. But even if a reversal of political trend helps galvanize those in religions and attract people to religion, it will not move the downward trend on religious participation all that much. There is still a massive problem with a growing population in the country of people who have never been involved in any religion and are not likely to join one just because it seems to share a few political views and activities with them.

This is why Hout & Fischer’s narrow and linear definition of secularization needs to change. It is true that we have not seen people lose faith and then leave religion. Right now, leaving religion is happening first. Moreover, it might not be just that the modern ideas of reason and scientific progress are enough to dislodge belief in God from young peoples’ worldviews. It might be that with endless war, famine, economic inequality, murder, and oppressive political systems, that any doctrine of God does not come out looking all that loving, powerful, or knowledgeable about human affairs. It could be in the cultural disconnect between ancient texts and societies that look absolutely nothing like them.

Without a regular involvement in a religious community to help make sense of old doctrines and texts utterly alien to the people and events of this world, faith in them will not survive. This is a theological claim made in most Christian traditions where the center of worship is in baptism and communion. These are vehicles to nourish faith and without them, faith dies on the vine. Without these social constructs to nourish faith, we are left with vague spiritualities and temporary communities of interest that rarely gain enough momentum to act as vehicles for lasting spiritual practice. As Hout and Fischer conclude, “Time will tell if personalized religion is sustainable or if belief fades without public profession and community practice.” If this continues to happen, and it looks like it will, what is left to nurture or reinforce the notion of God or spirituality in any shape?

Caught Between Should and Am: Fixing My Writing Problem

shoes beside word lux

Running and light

Ever since I finished my dissertation, almost 5 years ago, I have been caught in a weird head space where I haven’t figured out my identity as an academic, a professional, and even as a person. I’ve had a few starts on blogging that usually stops after a couple of months. I get distracted by something else and totally lose interest. Why?

At first I thought it had to do with marathon training. Doing this is so time consuming and tiring that I would usually post about starting the process and then do nothing until the result. The fiction that I convinced myself was true is that I can’t write and train at the same time. If I am going to perform at my job, maintain my relationships, and be mentally healthy, I can either run, or write. I have told myself this even though I knew it was total bullshit. Great writers all have parallel obsessive habits from drinking and smoking to running. Telling myself lies to avoid doing something is a deep-seated character flaw. I’ve learned much about how this mechanism works, but this time it had me caught. The real question is not why I stopped writing, but what I was avoiding.

It was last night when I was catching up on Supergirl that a little sisterly advice hit me that freshly out of the closet Alex Danvers gave her sister Kara (Supergirl):

Look… sometimes, you know, in our life, when one part is really confusing, we will pour way more attention than necessary into another.

I started running for very good reasons that still hold. It was to improve mental and physical health. It is still the single best tool I have in my toolkit to maintain mental and physical health and stability and I can’t ever see myself stopping. However, I have poured a lot into it. Challenges are really effective to have in front of you to stay motivated. But at what point do you become obsessed with it to the point that you are avoiding something else? I went from at most running one marathon a year, and last year that was enough. This year I am not only running two marathons, but running 2017 miles which is about 700 more than the previous year, and I want to train to get a Boston Qualifying time which would shave about 5% off of my finishing time this past May. Have I crossed the tipping point where running has gone from healthy activity to obsession I am using to avoid something? I might be there.

I have struggled with my identity as an academic and as a professional since finishing my dissertation in 2013. For a very long time, my religious identity as a person of faith was my central obsession academically, emotionally, and socially. At the time I gave that up, a story I have not yet fully told, running filled the void. I traded one preoccupation with another. But my life as an academic sat hollow. If faith is no longer what I want to be doing, what should I be doing?

I have this theory that confidence in what we do is not something we are born with, but something we learn over time. As we become more competent in something we become more confident in our abilities and that alone builds our desire and drive to do it more. So, if I could just find out what I should be doing and become more competent in it, then I would resolve my confusion.

Well, it didn’t work. The experiment failed because my fundamentals beliefs were wrong. I believed I needed to become competent in what I believed others wanted to read. I focused on what others might find helpful like focusing on life hacks and self-help that I think works. How about something in my professional field that others find interesting? What about lessons I have learned in life that others might find useful? After a few tries, I got bored and stopped. None of that was very fulfilling. That material is all out there written by people who are singularly passionate about it. I am not one of those people. The entire theory of becoming competent got derailed by the one thing that all of these ideas has in common: doing what I think I should do based on what I believe others want. It’s like all that advice from successful writers went right through my head – do what inspires you, not what you think will inspire others.

If I should’t do what I believe I should do, what is it that inspires me or consistently interests me? That’s the real question. My answer has been that no one is interested in any of the stuff that interests me, so who cares? Another lie. Keep running. Today I’d rather run on truth than the bullshit I tell myself. Walking the dog last night, after that little moment from a cheesy TV show that struck me, I found an answer. The question was how these things were related. And they absolutely are.

My academic interests have always been first, in how to teach the whole human subject based on an understanding that it is the relationship between teacher and student that is the most revolutionary and fundamental aspect of human learning and progress. The second is related to it. My dissertation focused on secularization and higher education which is tied to patterns of belief in American society, the policies that both respond to and shape those patterns, and how historians tell that story. Both of these are looking at the dynamic relationship between faith, belief, and knowledge in society and in the student.

My professional interests are about how we can help college and university teachers be better teachers. What habits, programs, and behaviors can we improve as teachers to help students learn more effectively? Right now this is about designing a program of teacher formation through critical reflection to find areas of improvement and to experiment with different online classroom behaviors to help students learn more effectively.

My personal interests have to do with the connection between physical and mental health and supporting pragmatic behaviors that help improve health with scientific evidence. I have many friends who have been in long term recovery from addiction who have thrown themselves into physical activity as an integral part of how they manage their sobriety. I know of runners and other athletes who have traded their obsession for drugs, sex, and body dysmorphia for clean living, even without the aid of prescription drugs.

How are these tied together? Anyone can look at these three areas and find things in common: human progress, the nature of belief, evidence-based living, etc. But those aren’t what hit me as interesting. Instead, it’s this idea:

I am fundamentally interested in how groups of people form relationships that support and cultivate healthy patterns of belief, knowing, and action, and in relationships and ideas that do exactly the opposite.

So… that’s what really interests me and the three ways I look at it. With that, it’s time to stop thinking about what I should write for an imagined group of others out there, and just do what I find interesting. Someone out there has to be interested in this stuff too, right?