Hello, friends. How have you been? …Pretty good?… I’m glad!
Oh — how have *I* been?? Well, funny you should ask, actually, because there’s a LOT going on in my life right now.
While I suppose we are all busy all the time these days, last Sunday, I completed a move out of Washington, DC, to my (temporary) new home of Atlanta, GA. Why the change?
Hmm, how long do you have? …Not long, you say?
Meh, I’ll skip it. It’s a long story, anyway.
But in my one week here in Atlanta, I’ve managed to finish the final round of edits on Paradise (yay!!!) and plan to publish it on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Yippee! It will start its life at 99 cents and will eventually go up (so get it while it’s hot). It will be free for those of you who are Kindle Unlimited readers.
When is Good Evil? When is Evil Good?
Paradise deals a lot with questions of right and wrong, good and evil. It’s quirky and silly (like me), but it also has a thick streak of seriousness to it (also like me).
The most serious question Paradise asks, I think, is: Is there ever a time when doing the “wrong thing” can actually be the “right thing”? Perhaps there’s another way to phrase it: In certain situations, or at certain times in our life, is it even valid to make a black-and-white distinction between right and wrong?
(Read the excerpt of Paradise here, if you haven’t seen it. Also, I changed this first section quite a bit, so I’ll be curious to hear what you think of what’s posted versus what the final version is.)
Here’s where body fat percentage comes into play.
Another thing I did this week was to join a gym (oh, and while on my latest health & fitness kick, I also discovered this site I really liked called Nerd Fitness, which sounds *perfect* for me).
[ Aside: I went to my first group fitness class today. It was called BLAST, and basically consisted of me trying desperately to figure out what the hell the instructor was doing while not tripping over either my own two feet or the step prop in front of me. ]
When I joined, they offered me a Free Health Assessment, which sounds great until you realize that it’s basically just the gym’s sales pitch for personal trainer services. Still, it was worthwhile. I learned a few things and figured out what my health goals should be.
As part of the assessment, they tested my body fat percentage. Then JW, my helpful local personal trainer dude, explained to me about “active” calorie burning and “passive” calorie burning.
“Most people,” he said, “only focus on active calorie burning. Like coming to the gym.”
He whipped out a calculator, started plugging in numbers as he continued to talk. I could tell he had his pitch memorized, as the numbers went into the calculator before the words even came out of his mouth.
“Now, let’s imagine we have Joe Blow, who’s twenty or thirty pounds overweight. Joe decides to come into the gym five days per week, an hour each day, which means he is actively burning calories five hours per week. But five hours per week” (calculate, calculate) “ends up being only three percent of Joe’s total time that week. Which means that ninety-seven percent of the time, he is not actively burning calories.”
JW went on to explain that when you are resting, your every pound of muscle burns (what did he say? fifty calories? I think it was fifty) calories per hour. Calculate, calculate: “Which ends up being 18,500 calories burnt per week.”
The moral of JW’s calculator-aided tale? The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when you aren’t doing anything.
…But Back to Good & Evil
“Wait, Eliza,” you say, “where the hell are you going with this?! One minute, you’re telling me about your new novella and launching into this philosophical exploration of good and evil, and now somehow we’re talking about active and passive calorie burning?”
Wait for it. It’s all connected, my friend.
With all the changes going on in my life, I’ve been looking into the future, and asking myself,
“What is the most meaningful and beneficial thing I can do with this next phase of my life? For myself? For others?”
And this is where JW’s lesson on active calorie burning and passive calorie burning came back to me.
Just as there are two ways of burning calories — through active work or passive work — I think there might be two ways to be a good person — through active work or passive work.
* Actively being a good person, to me, means that you are actively out there Doing Something to make the world a better place. For example, you might volunteer at a pet shelter, give money to charity, or work with disadvantaged kids.
But there’s a problem with that model of being a good person, because how often can you really do that? It’s like JW’s point about Joe Blow only burning calories for only three percent of his week. Even if you volunteer as much as you can, you give as much as you can, there are still huge swaths of your life when you are NOT volunteering, and huge swaths of your bank account that do NOT go to charity.
On top of that, what if you have an amazing job, like you’re an emergency room nurse, but you are a complete a**hole to all the people around you? You’re still helping others, but are you truly a good person? Are you not still leaving a trail of destruction behind you everywhere you go?
JW’s personal trainer sales pitch all boiled down to this: If you really want to make a difference in your level of fitness, focus on more than short bursts of calorie burning. Focus on building muscle. Because the more muscle you build, the more calories you will burn off, even when you are at rest.
So, thinking about how to live a meaningful and beneficial life within the constraints of our busy, modern lifestyle, how can we *passively* be a good person? How do we put good into the world even when we are “at rest,” make a contribution to the lives of others without a major lifestyle change?
This is the question I’ve been pondering for myself, and I don’t have a definitive answer for you; this is one of those things that all of you are going to have to work out on your own. But I do have some ideas to share. In no particular order, here they are:
Meditation is about a whole lot more than just Calming the F*** Down so that you don’t become a stressball and have a meltdown / anxiety attack. Personally, I’ve been meditating for almost twenty years now, and my conclusion is that meditation is mostly about two things: (1) controlling your mind and (2) developing a good heart. And by the way? Those two things are very much related, because when you control your mind, it’s a lot easier to have a good heart, and when you have a good heart, it’s easier to control your mind.
You know what the world needs now? Love. Sweet love.
No, don’t laugh — I’m being serious, you guys! It’s soooooo easy to be angry with the state of the world right now (*cough* withdrew from the Paris Accords??! WTF?! *cough*), but c’mon, it’s like Yoda told you:
But maybe you aren’t the nerd I am and don’t base your life around the wisdom of Yoda as much as I do, so here’s someone else you might prefer:
I get that a lot of people are angry right now, I really do. I mean, look, I’m a visibly queer woman. I’ve been harassed. I’ve been denied service. I’ve been the butt of plenty of mean-spirited jokes. So I *get* that being angry is easy, and that finding space in your heart for love, especially for people who don’t love you back, is hard.
But do we want the world to change, or not? Did I mention how much I like that Gandhi quote about “be the change you want to see in the world”?
Someone has to love, despite all odds. Why not *be* that someone? Work on loving a little more every day, and you’ll definitely make a difference in the lives of others, just through your daily interactions with them.
3. Don’t worry, be happy.
What is worry? In my experience, worry is usually looking at an unknown future and becoming preoccupied with its possibilities. Worry quickly eats up time and energy. Worst of all, it’s so self-absorbed.
Guilt — my own worst enemy — carries with it the same futility as worry. It doesn’t make the situation better, simply drains our energy and pushes us further into self-absorption.
Here’s an interesting question to ponder: While consumed with guilt and/or worry, do we even have space in our heart for love? For the peace gained through meditation? I would say that, if we do, it’s a very small space. A Harry Potter who lives under the stairs space.
You will do the world a favor, your friends and family a favor, and yourself a favor if you drop worry and guilt and instead try to keep a happy, positive, peaceful state of mind.
You do that, and you’ll be a “passively” good person, regardless of how much time you spend volunteering at the pet shelter.
“But Eliza! *How* do I keep a happy, positive, peaceful mind?”
DUDE. See points #1 and #2. Meditate. Practice loving others, even if they position themselves as your enemy. Do those two things, and make an effort to stop spending so much time with worry and guilt, and a happy, positive, peaceful mind will come naturally.
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