My Newest Book is Here! – Chapter 1

I am happy to announce that the second installation of the Tackle the Library series is finally here! This book took me five months to write and I am thrilled to have the project completed. Plato is a tough dude to study and I read over 4,000 pages of text to write this tiny book. Do not fret, I guarantee that you will be able to understand Plato’s philosophy in this easy-to-read narrative. Below is the description.

Plato’s philosophy, political theory, and scholasticism shaped our modern day world. His ideas and writings are both important and honestly confusing. Have you ever wanted to learn about this crucial man but felt overwhelmed by the number of books on the subject? Have you tried to read dry Wikipedia articles on the “Forms” or the “Philosopher King” which soon made your eyeballs glaze over? Do you simply not care that much about Plato to commit a lot of time in dissecting his complicated beliefs? 

The Tackle the Library series takes the top 5 books on a subject and turns them into a cohesive story that is not only interesting to read but highly informative. Plato is one of the greatest philosophers of all time and is worth learning about because he attempted to understand topics which impact our everyday life: ethics, desire, virtue, wisdom, love, politics, and purpose to name a few. This book makes nonfiction a painless process – no other text naturally explains the background, the evolution, the application, the history, and the paradoxes of Plato’s philosophy in a way that keeps the pages turning. Stop staring at that dusty shelf of nonfiction texts in the library and crack open a book that you’ll actually want to read.

If your curiosity is piqued, please give this book a try. It will take you a couple hours to finish and you will gain an entirely new understanding of the world. Just like my last book, We’re all Chihuahuas, I am having a special weekend sale where you can download it for free. Please click this link or any link you see on this page to download. For the next three days, I will post the first three chapters as a thank you to my readers. I hope you enjoy and gain something from the experience.

Without further adieu…

Chapter 1 – The Cave

“The beginning is the most important
part of the work.” – Plato

The path seems to meander in the distance and turn hazy in spots from shimmers of light-reflected heat. You’re on a hiking trail and slowly ascending a steep hillside during the peak days of summer – magnificent in beauty but sweltering in humidity. A quick glance off trail reveals a shaded spot and a possible resting place before the final push upwards. Sitting under the shade, you set your bag down and notice a small opening. It is a hole that emits cold air – what appears to be the entry to a natural cave. After an arduous dig, the gap widens to a large opening that teases the curiosity. Slowly you descend until your eyes adjust and all of the surroundings become discernible; this is no ordinary cave but rather one with a group of mystified inhabitants staring at a particular wall. These inhabitants were born in the cave and were forced, since birth, to watch the shapes and figures on the stone – created by the tiny holes of light behind them. They believe these shadows are actual objects and there is no more to the world than what is observed on that slimy edifice. You tap a few on the shoulder and break the spell of their imprisonment. You turn them towards the light source and show how the images are created; they are stunned and cannot believe that their reality was just a mirage.

Exalted in your good deeds, you try to lead them further out of the cave. Surprisingly though, you see the inhabitants turn back to their familiar wall and continue in their most comfortable state – ignorance. The truth is too much for them, and they prefer to look at the shadows instead of understanding their outer and inner worlds. Frustrated, you grab a few by the arm and you force them out into the summer day. The cave dwellers’ eyes sear from the brightness and they are unable to see. You slowly get them use to their new reality, and eventually, they grow in their belief and reason of what the world entails. They go back to the cave and try to get more people – only a few more decide to step out – most remain steadfast to the wall. Having done your job, you continue on with your hike and immediately tap your phone and post about your experience. You get to the top of the hill and check the news, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and various other media outlets; looking up for a second you see the horizon and have a weird thought pop into your head – “Am I also looking at the wall of a cave?”

The idea of “The Cave” is one of Plato’s most relevant and endearing metaphors. In today’s world, we no doubt would have an easy time finding “cave dwellers” who propagate stupidity and selfishness – just imagine Plato reading the comment sections of an internet post. Plato was not pretentious in his view of humanity but hopeful that man could turn from ignorance and reach a better life through active reasoning; Plato wrote, “Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, you cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation.” This cultivation begins with the belief that wisdom is something worth pursuing and that we can climb above our “sense perception” to a greater realm of understanding. Plato’s highest goal in life was not understanding the physical realities of the world – which our cave eyes could quickly ascertain – but rather the light source itself. The sun in the Cave metaphor is the source of all things good in this life: virtue, happiness, love, justice, courage, beauty, and loyalty are a few examples of the “goodness.” Plato wanted to understand a universal standard for the “Good” and a level of knowledge which would allow us to fully grasp our inner self – ultimately leading to a greater appreciation of life.

Plato made it clear that most people will never leave the wall in the cave and few will cross over the threshold of understanding the highest truths. The journey out of the cave is a lifelong process and I wanted to give the ascent my best shot. Like Bilbo Baggins exiting the Shire, I soon realized that my path towards truth was not an easy road and not a solitary pursuit. To understand Plato, I enlisted the help of others and decided to read the top five books on the subject: Plato: Complete Works – edited by John M. Cooper, Plato’s Ethics by Terence Irwin, Preface to Plato by Eric Havelock, Plato: The Man and His Work by A.E. Taylor, and The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman. These books were challenging and entailed 4,000 pages of cave-exiting illumination. My eyes are now turned from the wall and it is my job to help you understand how beliefs morph into knowledge and how knowledge morphs into wisdom. We will climb through the mountains of Plato’s philosophy and cover subjects which have perplexed humanity since the beginning of time: the soul, desire, virtue, wisdom, love, politics, and purpose. Plato lived over 2,400 years ago, but his teachings seem more relevant today than any other time in history – our world sinking further into a “virtual” reality. Ultimately, we study Plato to open up our perspective of our inner self and our humanity so that we can live a better existence and help others to cross over the bridge of ignorance. So let’s turn our heads from the wall and take a step towards the light – let’s TACKLE THE LIBRARY.

A Sweat Band for the Brain

Can you workout your brain to make yourself smarter? Can you flex your brain and make your memory grow like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hulking biceps? These questions were indirectly answered in the book, Smarter by Dan Hurley. Intelligence is made up of two distinct components, fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is your ability to reason, make decisions, and think abstractly. Crystallized intelligence is your factual knowledge and practiced abilities which are learned throughout life-1+1=2, George Washington is the first president, and your reading speed. Think street smarts for fluid and book smarts for crystallized. Another definition, working memory, is your ability to manipulate things you are trying to remember. If I asked you to add 25+27 you would most likely add 25+25=50 first and then add the remaining 2 to get 52-that requires working memory. Alright, the painful part is over and we can mull over the main concepts of Smarter. Cognitive psychologists, are currently having orgasms over the new idea that we can increase our intelligence through simple brain training games. These games incorporate some sort of working memory task and are recommended to be done 30-60 minutes a day on a regular basis-think Lumosity. Overall, studies showing a positive effect for these types of games on cognitive function number 75, while there are only 4 studies that show no effect at all. This may seem like a lopsided and resounding, “Duh this stuff works, let me get my credit card and start playing falling numbers on my Lumosity profile-SmartestManAlive2014,”…but lets take a step back. These studies show improvements on the specific games played, but the real question is whether that translates into an improved fluid intelligence and consequently an improved brain that makes life easier? In my opinion, the verdict is still technically out in the scientific community but the common-sense benefits are real and translatable to everyday life. I like to use the analogy of squatting in the gym. Squats use primarily your legs but that single movement improves your concentration, discipline, balance, and overall strength. Lumosity may make you better at specific games but that brain training can translate to improved memory in everyday tasks, concentration, and quickness in decision making.

Alright, Lumosity helps, but are there any other ways to make my brain glisten with sweat? Sure there are you frick, studies show that exercise (both aerobic and weight lifting), learning an instrument, mindfulness meditation, caffeine/coffee consumption, nicotine, and low electrical brain stimulation all have positive effects on improving markers of brain function. Nicotine, I learned, is not harmful or addictive on its own, and the brain actually has nicotinic receptors. Nicotine is only addictive in combination with chemicals found in cigarettes and is currently being researched as a drug to help those with Parkinson’s Disease (the nicotinic receptor positively effects malfunctioned dopamine receptors in Parkinson’s). The effects of brain training are most profoundly seen in those with cognitive disorders, such as, ADD, ADHD, age related cognitive decline, autism, and Down Syndrome. In healthy adults, the degree of benefit is less pronounced but still apparent and helpful in creating cognitive reserve which is shown to delay age-related cognitive decline. Most of us design our life around things we are good at so we can be comfortable and happy at all times. If we try to be comfortable in everything we do, we are going to have a weenie brain and a weenie body. Do something that challenges your brain and your body and don’t squander the gifts that God gave you. IQ is only a number, what you do with that number is what matters most. If my IQ is 150 and all I do is go home, watch TV, and check Facebook each night then my intelligence is essentially worthless. Go out use your blessings, get smarter, learn an instrument, critically think, pick up a heavy weight, run really quick, and read a book. Don’t waist that beautiful brain of yours-make it glisten like one of Arnold’s biceps.

Words that I did not know:

Incredulity: a feeling that you do not or cannot believe or accept that something is true or real
Erudite:having or showing knowledge that is gained by studying
Egregious: conspicuous
Abhorrent: not agreeable

Summed up learning sentence:

Training your brain can only improve memory/fluid intelligence if your willing to challenge yourself and the best way to train is with an activity that your most likely to stick with over the long term.