Health Update.

A reminder came on Monday last week to go to the Pathology Lab for more tests. My how time flies.

I went to the lab to bleed and pee on the very next day.

This afternoon I drove to Woodford to chat with the doc about the results. It was a pleasure to see the happy look on his face when he saw my latest weight and heard my recitation of all the things I’ve been doing in the cause of longevity.

Then he went through my test results with me. My BP is excellent. i knew that, because I monitor it myself. My kidney function has improved significantly. This was a surprise because the expectation was that the best I might do was prevent further deterioration. So that was Good News.

Some acid of concern ( I forget it’s name) in the blood is back to normal. My liver function has returned to normal. Sodium is normal. Other stuff is normal. Too much detail for an old codger. But if it’s ok, I don’t need to remember what it is. So I just keep on doing what I am doing. Take the pills, do the exercise and physio, stick to my dietary regimen, and drink copious quantities of water.

And finally, the itchy mole in the small of my back I was worried about is not melanoma.

In other news, I finally swam 3,000 metres this morning. It took me 2 hours, 47 minutes – plus or minus 30 seconds – It’s hard to see the second hand on my watch without my glasses. It was a sustained, non-stop swim. Breast stroke, mask and snorkel, no fins. Even with my limp and walking stick I could possibly have walked the distance in that time. Or maybe not. In any case, it was a milestone for me. I’ve decided I’m not going out to beat my time but to increase distance. I’m aiming to do 5 km (in one session) at least once a fortnight within a month. It’s the best cardio exercise I can manage, and it seems to be doing me good.

Having established to my own satisfaction that I can keep it up, I now have invested in a weekly concession rate of $11 a week for unlimited pool use. Up until today I have been on a $112 for 30 sessions rate. Tomorrow -or perhaps the next day – will be my thirtieth pool visit. I may have a rest day tomorrow. Unlimited entry starts on Thursday, which is the day they debit my account each week.

Little by little I’m settling in here.

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Swimming Uphill

I forgot my water bottle today, and swam 2hrs and 20 minutes at the pool. Swimming with a mask and snorkel seems to dry one out. I must not make that mistake again. It is stupidly ironic to suffer dehydration in a swimming pool.

I only managed to swim 80 lengths in just over 1 hr 15 mins, a very reasonable 2km distance, except it means my average time per length was 1.7 minutes. That is slow. I started out doing almost 11 lengths per quarter hour and gradually slowed.

I count the number of strokes it takes for me to swim a length. At the beginning it took me around 27 but at the end my strokes were clearly getting weaker and a length took me from 33 to 40.

I noticed one curious thing. Swimming from the deep end to the shallow end took me on average 1 to 2 strokes more than when I swam in the opposite direction. I pondered this as I swam looking through my mask at the bottom sloping up before me. I had a sudden epiphany. I realised I was swimming up hill. Of course it would require a little extra effort.

Yeah, nah. It was really that the kick off at the shallow end gave me more headway at the start.

Now, I am reconsidering my goals. I had hoped to manage 100 lengths – 2.5 km – in two hours. But that would require me to maintain an average of 1.2 mins a length. I don’t think I can. So I shall adopt the ancient adage “Just keep swimming”. I’ll maintain a comfortably steady pace and go for a time record instead. After all, it’s about the exercise. I’ve always been a stamina over speed person.

No Pain, No Gain.

I overdid the exercise yesterday. Too enthusiastic. Even with an electric motor assisting, the bones grind and the muscles strain. Swimming is one thing, pedalling another. I overestimated my ability and rode too far. I went to bed aching with shooting pains down my legs. I couldn’t find a comfortable position, even with a pillow between my thighs. For a long time I could not sleep and when I did finally, I had nightmares. I dreamed I came off my motorcycle. Not the one I have now, or even that I’ve ridden lately, but the Triumph Tigress 250cc scooter I rode for a while as a teenager. I was amongst a crowd of people I used to work with, but none of them would help me up.

The pain in my legs found its way into my dream, and my left arm was paralysed so that I could not move it at all. Sleep was not a surcease. I felt as if I was awake, which I clearly wasn’t, because of the weird things going on around me.

In the morning I could barely walk and after my usual coffee and light breakfast I crawled back to bed and spent most of the day trying to sleep while listening to my Spotify playlist.

It’s Fathers’ day here in the antipodes and I was hoping for a phone call, or a text, or a Facebook post, or something. I remembered to text my own Dad. I would have phoned you, Dad, but I didn’t feel that well today.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll swim and when I get back I’ll just pedal a short way down to the fish shop and back. I fancy some fish as I’ve been vegetarian for a while.

Barramundi, I think. The best fish available here.

This is just a setback. It will not stop me. No pain, no gain.

Slow Progress by Numbers.

Ever since I worked on a poultry farm in my teen years, I’ve had one irritating obsessive compulsive disorder. I count things. This came from the twice daily routine of walking through the sheds and collecting eggs from in, under and around the nesting boxes and the poultry shed. A careful and accurate count had to be recorded of the eggs from each shed.

Nowadays I catch myself counting whenever I’m doing anything that has a hint of repetition associated. Depending on what I’m doing, at some time during the day I discover a number incrementing in my head, and I often have to ponder before I realise what it is that I have been counting. Riding my motorcycle it may have been power poles, or species of animal; driving on the Tanami it was kangaroos and wallabies, or neck-crunching potholes.

In the Bribie swimming pool I’ve been counting the number of strokes it takes me swim a length and the number of lengths I can swim in 15 minutes. Today for the first time I managed to do that and in addition keep count of the total number of lengths I swam. I’m pretty sure I did 50 lengths on Thursday, but I had to calculate it from the number of laps I did per quarter hour. All I know is that I was completely buggered and needed a nap before I could go to the physiotherapist that afternoon for more workout. There I pedalled for 15 minutes with shrieking knees, then 10 minutes pedalling another machine with my arms, and lastly knee bends or squats on a vibrating platform that gave me the weirdest sensation. The efforts of that day left me aching and weary. I treated myself to a lamb biryani for dinner, from the Indian restaurant up the road. The next day I spent quietly at home, napping and reading. And eating leftover biryani.

That itself is a breakthrough. Once, there would have been no leftovers.

Today I kept count again while swimming and was pleased with myself when I completed 40 lengths in just under one hour forty five minutes. That is 1 kilometre. I started out doing two lengths in a little under 3 minutes for a time then settled into a steady 6 per 15 minutes, with enough time spare for a short break every four lengths to do some water assisted chin-ups on the dive podium, and step-ups, squats or leg stretches on the exit steps.

It’s all getting easier and easier. I am concentrating now on breast stroke when I swim, because according to the app I use to record my progress, breast stroke burns the most calories. I know I am not giving it the effort that a fit swimmer would, so I record my swim in the app as leisurely swimming, That is listed as being about a thousand kJ less per half hour. That way, I feel I will not be exaggerating the progress I’m actually making.

On Thursday I was watching the clock, aching and weary long before the time I had set myself, and totally stuffed at the end of my session. Two hours seemed far too long. By the end I was struggling to maintain my determination.

Today I was surprised at how effortless the swimming seemed and how quickly time passed. I could have gone on longer and considered for a bit trying for 50 laps. In the end I chose to finish after an hour and three quarters, while my shoulders were still not aching. Hunger played a part in that decision because I had only had a mug of coffee before I set out. My reward today is a Thai prawn green curry and noodles I am about to prepare.

I swam five out of seven days this week, and I am thinking that four days a week will be sufficient, or perhaps just a regular two days on and one off. Judging by how good I felt today, a periodic rest day is a great idea.

Changes.

At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all Still searching for meaning.

The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.

Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.

There was another influential book I encountered.

In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.

Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.

My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentally of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.

But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.

The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.

If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.

The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.

The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.

But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.

These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.

After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.

The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.

Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications

Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications

Posted Mar 01, 2017 

Although research has examined how world cultures (e.g., independent vs. interdependent ones) each uniquely shaped psychological experiences, few investigations focus on how cultures influence one another in the psychological domains. This issue is important, because cross-cultural information and knowledge exchange, contacts, and influences, though moderate in the past, have transformed all cultures, including the field of psychology. For example, Taoist psychology is one of the main cultural inspirations for Jungian psychology.

In May 1930, Jung gave the Eulogy at a memorial service in Munich for Richard Wilhelm. Jung integrated the Eastern philosophy into his principles of psychotherapy and human psyche through his study of Richard Wilhelm’s translations of I Ching (The Book of Changes), The Secret of the Golden Flower, and their frequent interactions that lasted from the early 1920’s until Wilhelm’s death in 1930 (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung said that Wilhelm “inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit and we found ourselves partaking of the spirit of the East as we experience the living power of the I Ching. It is capable of working a profound transformation of our thought.” Jung said that Wilhelm’s work was of such immense importance to him because it confirmed what he had been seeking in his efforts to alleviate the psychic suffering of Europeans. The book was both a carrier of human experience and a door to the energy of the archetypes. “I heard from him in clear language the things I had dimly divined in the confusion of the European subconscious. I received more from him than from any other man” (cited in Karcher, 1999; also see Goulding, 2015; Stein, 2005).

Jung expressed his deep gratitude for what he received from Wilhelm, because through his translations and teaching, Taoist psychology influenced Jung’s theoretical frameworks by facilitating the formation of his chief conceptions: synchronicity and individuation, in addition to confirming his views about the unconscious and nonlinear or circular psychological development for adult (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung’s comprehension of Tao is much deeper than the conventional translation “the way.” As he commented, Tao is the interaction between the mind and reality. The essential Taoist idea in I Ching suggests that all of the ingredients make up the observed moment. Understanding human experiences involves recognizing a special interdependence of objective events among themselves, as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers (Jung, 1967). In other words, according to I Ching, psychological experiences are determined by the interaction of the mind, time, space, situations, and action or non-action. The mind and reality interaction, rather than being an isolated or independent event, symbolically represents the person’s dialogue with a broad reality transcending a specific moment and space. It is the interactions that serve as the parameter for deciphering psychological experiences.

In short, Jung’s achievements in integrating the East and West demonstrate that psychological phenomena and principles are both cultural and universal.

References:

Goulding, J. (2015). The forgotten Frankfurt school: Richard Wilhelm’s China Institute. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41:1-2 (March–June 2014) 170–186

Jung, C. G. (1967). Foreword. In The I Ching or Book of changes (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karcher, S. (1999). Jung, the Tao and the Classic of Change. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 287-304.

Stein, M. (2005). Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his  psychological theory. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2), 209-222. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00524

Living Alone.

THE MORE LOVING ONE

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

By W.H. Auden

Pushing it.

My visit to the physiotherapist last night was encouraging.

He had made the appointment at the end of the day so I’d have more time with him, and so it was we had our discussion and planning session while I pedalled an Exercycle for half an hour at difficulty level four. I can not deny it hurt. But someone was watching. And I really have committed to doing this, just as I did back nearly nineteen years ago when the Ministry had a gym in the basement. I did it then, I can do it now. I think I may just get that little pedal machine.

I weighed myself, and found I’m exactly a kilo lighter than I was three weeks ago. Nowhere near the kilo every ten days I’ve been aiming at, but progress nonetheless.

I calculated that on this particular day I had so far burned more energy than I had consumed, so I rewarded myself at the Chinese takeaway down by the Bongaree Jetty, and ordered a combination chow mein. When I got it home I found it had no noodles. Just pork, prawns, beef, chicken and a lot of vegetables. Enough easily for two, but I ate it all. Reward for good behaviour, and on consideration something I should do at least once a month, maybe on pension day, for the good of my morale. Because despite the aches I felt good and slept well with a full tum and a clear conscience, in the kilojoules green.

Yesterday may have been a bit over the top, in both pushing myself, and certainly in food intake. But maybe I can make the effort after all to be consistently in the green. This is my memo to self to commit.