2019: The Year in Review


Well, another year has gone by. Somehow, this one seemed to fly past. Why, it seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing last year's "year in review" post! So, what's happened this year?

The thing that's been taking up the majority of my time, energy, and mental space has been work. Mostly, that has involved personality research, though it's also included some web development and design stuff. I've learned a ton in the research vein — mostly in terms of linear algebra and statistics — but I've also improved a lot as a programmer, I think. The only downside is that I haven't spent as much time working on personal projects this year because I've wanted to be away from my computer any time I'm not working.

I also finally started dealing with my mental health issues. I went to the doctor and got on some antidepressants, which have worked very well (aside from continuing insomnia). I should still probably take up something like meditation, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. And that brings me to a more general observation: I had hoped that the antidepressants would suddenly give me the motivation to exercise every day, eat right, and take up other healthy habits — but that hasn't happened, unfortunately. I desperately need to lose weight, but I haven't been able to get back on the intermittent fasting train (which is the only form of dieting that has enabled me to lose weight effectively so far in my life). So, although I'm glad that I've gotten back a lot of mental and emotional stability, I still need to figure out the whole diet and exercise thing.

Speaking of diet, I've been trying to switch to a vegan diet and lifestyle. I suck at it so far; a lot of the time, it's more like vegetarianism than veganism and involves eating tons of carbs, the latter of which is contributing to my recent weight gain. But anyway, I've been convinced by the arguments around the ethics of animal consciousness, suffering, and value that we shouldn't use animal bodies or labor for anything without their informed consent — and since we can barely communicate with most animals, it makes sense to me that animals likely can't be properly informed and can't properly give consent. And, of course, because humans are animals, I believe that we also shouldn't use human bodies or labor for anything without their informed consent. With humans, we're better able to inform them and request their consent, but too many people are still used and abused against their will. I think that, where humans and animals differ, they only differ in degree, not in kind; which means that human rights and animal rights seem to me to be virtually identical.

But it's interesting that, as I've started paying attention to veganism, I've also started noticing how much hate it receives. I really don't understand that at all. How can a movement founded on alleviating the suffering of conscious beings warrant such rage? I get that not all of veganism's evangelists have been great people; some of them have done really awful and even violent things in the name of veganism. But, of course, any movement has lunatic leaders at times, and I'm not so unsubtle as to believe that the Westboro Baptist Church represents all of Christianity or that ISIS represents all of Islam. So, once you get past the vegan crazies, surely the movement itself is one founded on the most central of ethical concerns — that of reducing suffering — isn't it? I'm inclined to think that most people who object to veganism do so for one of two reasons: either (1) they have seen crazy vegans do crazy things, or (2) they don't want to give up the comfortable lifestyle of eating fried chicken and hamburgers and bacon. I knew a guy in college who used to joke: "Battered women: sounds delicious, but that doesn't make it right." Dark humor aside, I feel the same way about eating animal products: of course fried chicken and hamburgers and bacon are delicious, but that doesn't make it right to eat those things. Okay, enough rambling about that for now.

As far as religion goes, I've already mentioned that I'm agnostic; but this year, I think I've drifted even further away from religion. I'm not really sure why that's the case, except that it maybe just feels like I'm seeing the world more clearly than before. And I think there was once a time when I missed certain parts of religion, but now I guess I don't miss those parts any more. I didn't leave Christianity so much because I was ashamed to be a part of it, but I sure would be ashamed to be a part of it now. American Christianity has absolutely lost its mind. Even though Christianity isn't part of my identity any more, I nevertheless feel a deep sense of embarrassment every time I see giant billboards reminding people that they're going to hell when they die if they don't believe in God, or when I hear Republican politicians reference the Bible in their speeches, or when people try to re-convert me. And I am still utterly incapable of understanding how anyone would vote for Trump, let alone Christians who profess to believe in the Bible. The Bible doesn't directly say who people should vote for, of course, but it does have a lot to say about how lying is bad, how whoever wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all, how the poor should be fed and clothed, how the sick should be healed, how immigrants should be treated with kindness and dignity, and so on. Of course, the Bible says some crazy and inconsistent shit too, which I guess is why there are almost as many interpretations of it as there are people. In any case, I'm glad to be away from it all. I just wish the wall of separation of church and state in America was much, much thicker. Sorry that this came out in such a negative tone. I guess I'm just so sick of the lunacy. To be consistent with what I said in the veganism paragraphs, I should note that I'm aware that the most radically fundamentalist voices of Christianity are the ones making all the noise in America right now; and I'm aware, at the same time, that those people don't represent all (or maybe even the majority) of Christianity. So I want to clarify that my own disbelief stems primarily from my criticisms of the mode or style of religious thought, not so much my worries about the actual doctrines espoused by any particular sect. (Though, of course, I also think that religions can be more or less morally good depending on which sorts of tenets they embrace and which sorts of behaviors they condone.)

Anyway, I think those are the main things that happened this year. I'm probably forgetting some. I'll come back and add them if I think of any more. Thanks for listening to me ramble! I hope you have happy holidays and a happy new year! See you in 2020!