The Grad School Gospels – Part 4: On Grad School Goggles and the Cult-Like Nature of Grad School

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstThe Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

In this, the fourth, installment of The Grad School Gospels, I speak to how I – a person who had long prided himself on his advanced critical thinking and research abilities – could have fallen into what, for many, amounts to a Grad School Trap. Continue reading

The Grad School Gospels – Part 3: Academe Can’t Be Your Everything

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstThe Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

As with Part 2 – Passion, Fear and Indifference – the present installment was inspired by a set of quotes from Hayhurst. After a few disappointing seasons Dirk was having his best season in years. His pitching coach was curious as to how Dirk had made such a turn-around. Hayhurst ventured the following explanation (my edits bolded in parentheses):

“…I (formerly) put so much stock in what it meant to be a baseball player, I became afraid to fail at it. I’d be out of a job, and out of an identity. I thought I’d lose everything without it.”

“…I wasn’t able to get to this point (i.e., his recent success) until I was okay with the idea of baseball coming to an end.”

Analogous to Dirk, I put so much stock in what it meant to be an academic. I couldn’t afford to fail at it. If I did not eventually become a professor, I too would have lost everything. Continue reading

Is belief in God a choice?

The following satirical video, “Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene”, pokes fun at the concept of a “gay gene” and religious opposition to homosexuality.

The proportion of people who believe that homosexuality is chosen is decreasing. That’s not to imply that homosexuality is the phenotype expressed by a “gay gene”. Just that whatever makes one gay – e.g., some range of interactions between genetic, hormonal, neurological and/or social/environmental factors – it’s not the sort of conscious deliberations a teenager makes when choosing which college to attend.

Part of what makes the video above funny is that it suggests that being Christian is not a choice. To me, this invites the question (ignoring the particular religion)

Is belief in God a choice?

Can you simply choose to believe or not believe? Continue reading

The Grad School Gospels – Part 2: Passion, Fear and Indifference

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstIn The Grad School Gospels: On Professional Baseball, Academia, and My Shared Experience with Dirk Hayhurst, I juxtaposed Hayhurst‘s pro baseball journey – which he recounts in his first book, The Bullpen Gospels – with my journey through academic psychology.

Several factors conspired to make our situations alike. We both laid most of our eggs in one basket, deriving identity, strength, purpose, livelihood and self-esteem from a single source. We were accustomed to success, praise and the ability to live indefinitely off of success in our chosen field. For a while this worked out swimmingly. Intrinsic passion and well-fed appetites for success and praise made for well-oiled machines. To succeed, one needs drive. Few things are as motivating as having one’s livelihood, reason for living, identity and dignity all riding on one high risk, high reward gamble. But it wasn’t terrifying. It was mostly fun, because passion, success, praise and positive expectations ruled the day. Continue reading

The Grad School Gospels: On Professional Baseball, Academia, and My Shared Experience with Dirk Hayhurst

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstIn The Bullpen Gospels, author and former professional baseball player, Dirk Hayhurst, takes readers through his lived experience in the cut-throat world of professional baseball. As I read Hayhurst’s story, I find myself impressed by his talent as a writer, sympathetic to his hardships as professional baseball player, and connected to him by analogous personal struggles.

A few years prior to returning to school in 2009 to train to be an occupational therapist, I was a research graduate student in Cognitive Psychology.  Back then, in many ways graduate school was for me what professional baseball was to Dirk. I was not alone.

The purpose of this post is to juxtapose excerpts of Hayhurst’s struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball with my prior struggles to build a life, self-esteem and respectability through the academic world. Continue reading

Buddhism for Skeptics of Religion

I’m not a Buddhist. I subscribe to no traditional religion (though as I argue here, like everyone else I am religious). I am an agnostic atheist who values secularism, science, reason, mindfulness, and the pursuit of individual and collective wisdom and wellness. As an expression of these values, I would like to highlight key aspects of Buddhist philosophy and practice that I believe can be palatable, useful and positively enriching for even the most ardent skeptic.

Concepts to be addressed:

  • Monism
  • Atheism
  • Impermanence, Emptiness and Dependent Origination
  • No Self (or No Soul)
  • Attachment as source of Suffering; Letting Go as source of Freedom
  • Pursuing Wisdom, not Happiness
  • Mindfulness as a path to Wisdom and Wellness
  • Reincarnation and Rebirth
  • Karma

Continue reading

Kicking Addictions: Commentary on What It Takes and What Helps

A few weeks ago, Daniel Fincke did a post on what it takes to  kick an addiction such as alcoholism. Factors considered include self-discipline, humility, support and substitutions (i.e., replacements to fill the life-space previously filled by the addictive substance). Based on education and experience gained via an undergrad degree in Psychology, years of practicing and studying mindfulness meditation and related philosophy, a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy, and an outpatient mental health placement in which one of the focuses is on assisting people in managing addictions (e.g., smoking, alcohol, marijuana, hard drugs, impulsive spending, self-destructive sexual promiscuity), I would like to offer additional perspective on the issue of what it takes and what can help in kicking addictions. Concepts to be addressed include:

  • Reasonable goal setting;
  • Commitment and discipline;
  • Tolerance for lapses;
  • Support;
  • Substitutions, Distractions and Strategies; and
  • Mindfulness and insight into the nature of one’s emotions and thought.

Continue reading

Atheists are Differently Religious – and No, Atheism is not the/a Religion

A main focus of this blog is to consider and compare different political and ethical philosophies so as to promote better understanding of one’s own worldview and those of others. I frequently focus on progressivism/liberalism and libertarian conservativism, arguing that these incompletely overlapping moral/political philosophies each have their own internal logic and validity, but that when viewed from the perspective of the other, each is libel to look stupid and/or even evil.

Close to a year ago, I posted Atheists are Religious. Here I re-post it with modifications. In this article, I argue that while lack of a belief in this or that God is not itself a religion, any value system that an atheist may hold is ultimately ungrounded in any sort of empiricism. Rather, these and all value systems rely on circular self-validation and assumptions and assertions that are themselves unscientific. As I will argue below, this doesn’t make them wrong or deserving of dismissal; it just means that subscribers cannot claim that their values are rooted in nothing but reason and logic. Reason and logic, in these value systems, are applied based on unempirical values, which can be conceived of as faith claims about an implied moral/existential reality. Continue reading

Talking to political adversaries: Tips on reaching across the aisle

Reaching Across or Reaching Around?

With corrupted campaign finance and limited oversight and regulation over the intersections among government agencies (e.g., The White House and The Pentagon) and between government and private industry, big finance and media, one could easily argue that genuine ideological debate in America has taken a backseat to public-to-private reach-arounds masquerading as Republican-Democratic reaches across the aisle.

If the Republican and Democratic parties were mixed drinks, they would be glasses of corporatism with small shots of ideology.

Of course, whether the bartender was George Bush, Barack Obama, John Boehner, or Harry Reid, the patron would be led to believe that they had just bought a straight triple of their ideology of choice; likewise, they would be told that the reason that the other drink tastes so bad is because it is a straight triple of that other, yucky ideology. And almost none of the Senators, Congressmen and women and members of the mainstream media who would be the alcohol regulators at the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) in this metaphor would call any of these bartenders out on this, as they’ve been at the bar drinking for free since lunch time. They are typically too drunk and too hooked on the free drinks to do anything but uphold the lie. This often leads to the trusting patrons of The Establishment being unnecessarily divided. While Republican drinkers and Democratic drinkers do have different palates, they are often mislead into believing that the corporatist solvent in the other Party’s drink is the ideological shot, or solute.

Often times, it would appear that members of each drinking group don’t mind the qualities of the other group’s shot as much as they think; they’re just confusing it with the flat, tainted corporate coke that it has been deeply diluted in.

How do we get past this? Just drink shots. Continue reading

Why Obama and Democrats are Less Trustworthy than Bush and Republicans

It might seem hyperbolic or facetious that a left-leaning blogger would argue that Obama and the Democrats are less trustworthy than Bush and the Republicans. Part of this impression can be done away by me immediately disabusing you of what your first impression may quite reasonably be: I am not saying that Bush or Republicans make better, more desirable leaders than Obama or the Dems. What I am arguing is that Republicans can generally be trusted more than Democrats to do what they say they are going to do. In a nutshell, the reason is that interests of the stakeholders and influencers of the Republican Party (i.e., voters, donors, lobbyists, and party elites) are far more aligned than those of the Democratic Party. As a result, it is far easier for Republicans to walk their talk than it is for Democrats. Continue reading