Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Joe Omundson


Welcome to this blog! My name is Joe Omundson. I’m 28 as of this writing, and I’m from Portland, Oregon, USA. I am interested in people and I like to examine the ways we exist in relationship to each other and inside the social systems we have set up for ourselves, and how those systems interact with the rest of our planet.

 This blog is based on openness and vulnerability. Sometimes it makes me really nervous to put my thoughts and feelings out here for the world to see. I fear that I will be seen as seeking attention, self absorbed, or like I am trying to appear more thoughtful than I really am. I know those fears are silly, because if you don’t want to read what I have to say, you’re free to leave at any time. I find a lot of meaning in the process of reflecting on my experiences, finding connections, and translating those abstract ideas into the clearest words I can find. So that’s what I’m going to do. My hope is that at least one other person will find meaning in the words that I share. To me that outweighs any embarrassment I might face from being overly honest.

 I titled this blog “self observing universe” because it represents the spiritual core of my worldview. I believe that consciousness comes as a function of the physics that exist in our physical bodies, and not from the attachment of some invisible, ethereal “soul” to that body. I believe that the atoms in our brains obey the laws of physics just like the rest of the atoms in the universe, so in a sense we are nothing more than deterministic, biological computers. Some see this as a bleak outlook, but I feel like it’s beautiful. To me it means that there is really no difference between “me” and the rest of the universe, since everything is made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. And yet I have this amazing consciousness, this perception of choice and autonomy, which is unraveling as this continuous life story. I can only conclude that the laws of physics themselves lead to intelligence and perception in some way, because I am literally a small section of the universe which has become self-aware, self-observing. This thing I perceive as life, choice, awareness, consciousness, is actually a physical quality of the universe, which manifests itself in living organisms. I feel that if this were not so, entropy would not allow the increasing accumulation of complexity that we’ve seen from evolution.

 To give you more of a sense of who I am and where I’ve been, I’ll talk about some of the factors of my life that seem significant to me.

 I was born with aortic stenosis, a condition which restricts bloodflow through the heart. At age 15 I had an open heart surgery and I’ve had several catheter-based operations since then. Long story short, my aortic valve used to be my pulmonic valve, and my pulmonic valve came from a cow’s neck. I had a bacterial infection in my heart once. I’m lucky to have full capacity to exercise, and I am not on any drugs for my heart, so I have it a lot better than some other people with congenital heart defects, but this whole process made me accept my mortality at a pretty young age and I feel like that’s always set me apart from other people.

 I was raised as a Christian and was very passionate about God throughout my gradeschool years. I even went to Bible school for a year after high school. In the 2-3 years after that, my faith went through a process of questioning and inquiry, and I ended up realizing that I didn’t believe it at all. Since then I have considered myself an agnostic atheist, but I think those labels are kind of boring. I don’t feel like “does God exist?” is the most interesting question anymore. What we do with our lives is much more complex than that.

 I got married to my first girlfriend at age 20, and we were married 6 years. We went through the process of leaving Christianity together and it was great that we had each other for that. Since the divorce I have only dated 1 person, so I feel like I’ve had a kind of unusual experience with relationships and romance compared to most people.

 After getting my degree in engineering physics, I worked as an engineer for about 3 years, then I quit my job in April of 2014 to go hiking. I walked over 2500 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, a route that goes through the mountain ranges of California, Oregon, and Washington. I’ve been unemployed since then. The PCT was an incredibly life changing experience. If you would like to read more about that, check out my other blog When I haven’t been hiking, I’ve mostly been living in my car, an ‘81 VW Rabbit hatchback which I’ve converted to a mini camper. I haven’t had to pay rent for almost 2 years and I can’t see myself working dozens of hours every week just to afford the privilege of my own private toilet. I love the fact that so many different lifestyle options are possible. Exploring them is a passion of mine.

 I have had a privileged life. I was born to parents who wanted me, and who cared about being good parents. I never went hungry. I always had what I needed. I grew up as a straight, white, christian, male, in a decent school system, in a safe part of the world, with good physical and mental health. I did go through some traumas, especially with the heart surgery and my parents’ divorce in the 2nd half of my childhood. But I don’t know what it’s like to be mistreated for my race, gender, sexual orientation, or mental health status. Despite that, I have an interest in trauma and abuse, and I have met some people whose perspectives have rocked my world. To me these topics are important, fascinating, and I spend a lot of time thinking about them. Yet I recognize that I’m not an expert so I want to encourage any of you who have been through some of these things to tell me if my perception seems skewed, either in the comments or via email. My email address is and anyone is welcome to write me, even if you’re just looking for someone to talk to.

 I think that’s enough for now. More details will emerge as I make more posts, and I welcome questions. My idea is mainly to create blog entries based on things I write to my friends; I find that my best writing happens within dialogue. I’ll erase any details about my correspondent, and any other information that feels too private, but try to leave my thoughts intact. Expect to see stories from my life, personal realizations, observations about our society, and grand unified theories of how our existence is impacted by all the systems we interact with. Thanks for checking this out :)

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