Friday, March 4, 2011

How I Became Addicted – 2.0

With all the talk of Charlie Sheen, star of Two and a Half Men, I thought it appropriate to speak because there are better things to be addicted to than Charlie Sheen. I know this blog has its roots in science fiction, culture and writing, but with the hullabaloo about Charlie being addicted to Charlie, I just have to mention some of my addictions. Yes, non-celebrities have addictions too. Fortunately, mine are positive, and I hope you’ll share one, or more, of them.

The first time I wrote about addiction, “How I Became Addicted” in 2008 Visit How I Became Addicted! , I spoke of how reading entered my life and became an obsession at eight years of age. Since that day, I’ve developed several other obsessions: exercise, writing, writing science fiction novels, problem solving and strategic thinking. Now, I’m hopelessly addicted to learning, especially online. No body of knowledge is safe.

How potent is the Internet as a learning resource? It’s magical.

The Internet is a potent resource for learning because supplies education at the PhD, Masters and undergraduate levels. Further, it offers courses for nearly every subject imaginable just for general edification. And the web provides professional development for medical practitioners too.

Since I began taking online courses, I’ve discovered how wonderful adding knowledge to the brain makes you feel. Don’t forget, scientia potentia est, or Knowledge is Power.

In addition to earning a Master’s degree, I learned about things I could not have imagined, at least not before the Internet came into vogue. Here are a few classes I’ve taken online:

• How to create a three-act outline
• How to write a short story
• How to write a novel: John Dechancie taught the class. John’s works include Starrigger, Red Limit, Freeway, Paradox Alley, and the Skyway Trilogy. I would recommend his course to any aspiring novelist.
• How to write poetry
• How to write science fiction
• How to create Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
• How to use Intuit Quickbooks
• And more

I’ve even found a college, Marylhurst University, that allows certain people to audit online classes. There are universities that offer “free online writing courses.” That you can’t beat.

What’s more, the Internet offers classes in playing chess and drawing. For the art classes, you’ll need a scanner.

Just as the medical professionals don’t understand why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol, I don’t understand why I became addicted to the things I did. But I do know that there are great benefits associated with my obsessions.

The grey matter, known as the human brain, controls all human activity. It consists of the brain stem, the limbic system and the cerebral cortex. According to the National Institutes of Health, the stem controls our basic functions, the limbic system regulates emotions and the cerebral cortex handles the senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—nothing worth jeopardizing. And this magnificent three-pound computer comes free of charge with the human body.

Things such as drugs interrupt the communication between neurons, and present a danger to the long-term health of the tiny skull-encrusted orb. On the other hand, things like exercise, writing and learning improve communication between neurons and increase the number of cells in the cerebral cortex.

The Franklin Institute states on its website, “Physical exercise has a protective effect on the brain and its mental processes, and may even help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Based on exercise and health data from nearly 5,000 men and women over 65 years of age, those who exercised were less likely to lose their mental abilities or develop dementia, including Alzheimer's.” Pay attention baby boomers.

While writing is its own reward, it also provides a forum for self-expression. In addition, it improves listening and speaking skills. After all, you must organize your thoughts to write a coherent paragraph. According to Jill Taylor, PhD and author of My Stroke of Insight, the right side of the brain helps create and the left tells the story. Doesn’t that make it a good idea to make the brain as healthy as possible?

Remember, a brain is a terrible thing to waste! OMG, I don’t believe I said that.

Take advantage of the Internet and develop you positive addictions. Good luck!
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