Ruth Bader Ginsburg And Social Justice

“I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.”~RBG

I lived through the Vietnam War, having been just old enough to watch the evening news as the anchors would speak of the inflated daily number of troop casualties. I watched the related, seemingly daily, protests of this war as well.

I was around for the shooting of students at Kent State (“four dead in O-hi-o”). Be it the 1968 Watts riots, the 92 LA riots, the social tensions of the OJ Simpson trial, the bombing of the twin towers, or several major earthquakes, my 57 years have seen and experienced quite a bit. Perhaps what the physical body loses as one ages is made up for in psychological terms through the vast number of experiences one possesses over their younger counterparts with each passing decade.

Experience means something. As we age, the “been there, done that” events increase while the “I never thought I’d see the day” stuff becomes fewer and farther between. So as I contend that our youth may benefit from those of us who have been around the block a few times, I like to live by the same principle as I look up to my elders.

Enter the 87 year-old Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or as some like to refer to her as “The Notorious R.B.G.” RBG is undoubtedly one of my very few heroes in life. I would argue, strongly argue in fact, that Ginsburg has single-handedly done more for Women’s Right and progress in this country than any other single individual.  Feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, second wavers Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, are often credited with women’s social advancement and have traditionally been considered the face of the movement.

If these women have been considered the face of the women’s movement, Ginsburg is the heart and soul.

Yes, I know it takes a myriad of different voices, strengths and gifts to empower a movement, therefore you might say RBG is the MVP on a really good team. You think the Chicago Bulls would have won 6 championships in 1990s without Michael Jordan? Hard to believe women would enjoy the same status today without the tireless efforts of RBG.

Why? While some have protested and caused waves while making the evening news, Ginsburg was busy changing laws and fighting in court and instituting real change.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” ~RBG

She was accepted into Harvard Law in 1956 and was one of only 9 women in a class of 500. And though I am oh-so-tempted to begin a litany of all her lifetime of accomplishments in terms of women’s right in this country, do yourself a favor and read up on this absolutely amazing human being. Any 14th amendment related issues in terms of gender discrimination have been fought hard by Ginsburg and nearly all have been won. Agree or disagree with her, and for better or worse, she is a person who has changed every person’s life in this country- every man, woman and child.

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” ~RBG

Wikipedia writes that, “in 2002, Ginsburg was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Ginsburg has been named one of 100 Most Powerful Women (2009), one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year 2012, and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people (2015). She has been awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by Willamette University (2009), Princeton University (2010), and Harvard University (2011).”

Yet these are not the top reasons I absolutely adore and respect “The Notorious R.B.G.” Among the top reasons she has earned my deep respect is her civil and dignified approach to very volatile issues.

“Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.” ~RBG

Her best friend on the Supreme Court, before his passing, was radically conservative justice Antonin Scalia. Ginsburg and Scalia would golf together, do lunch together, and, above all, laugh together. These two human beings were as ideologically far apart as two people could possibly be, yet found a way to go beyond just being able to coexist, they were best friends.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” ~RBG

Today we can all learn a life-changing lesson from Ginsburg. A lesson that teaches us that real change is not generated from memes, quippy remarks and snarky social media posts, rather real change is changing the fundamental structure of social policy and law. Additionally, Ginsburg teaches us that we need not be hateful or belligerent in the process. Rather we can be friends and take solace in the understanding of where real change takes place.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” ~RBG

Currently the 87 year-old Ginsburg is not in good health but still remains on the SCOTUS.

Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Ginsburg in today’s rare “I never thought I’d see the day” moments. As one who teaches persuasion, my students know I care very little for the positions one holds and the stances one takes, rather I do care about those stances being articulated with civility while possessing a genuine willingness to listen to others and be open to change.

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” ~RBG

Thank you Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You have taught us that a person may go out on the streets and scream today, yet if it does not change tomorrow, it matters not. All the while sharing my basic philosophy:

“When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.” ~RBG

Thank you for being an elder I can look up to Justice Ginsburg. We need more of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Guide To Police Reform

It is of no surprise to anyone that our country is in dire need of police reform judged by almost any metric. The following is my official proposal for reform that I believe can potentially solve this national crisis.

My Proposal for Police Reform

The Hiring of Police Officers

It is of paramount importance that if real change is going to happen in our country, it begins with the hiring process of potential officers of the law. One may wrongly believe that reforming law enforcement begins with hiring the “best and brightest,” yet you could not be more wrong. The desirable qualifications we should look for in any candidate include the following criteria:

  • College Education

We must do our must best to keep the number of officers with a college education to an absolute minimum. We one gets educated, frequently one becomes less ignorant, more enlightened, and gains new perspectives in both understanding and perceiving the world around them. Such advancement may lead to the unintended consequences of smugness, independent thought, thereby potentially threatening the current groupthink fraternity that exists in most departments. Under no circumstances should a police agency require a college degree. In fact, it must be considered a detriment for potential employment.

  • Age

To put it succinctly, the younger the better. It would be to our collective advantage to hire as young as 18 years old (or younger if legal in certain states). Though it is true that one’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until around age 25, this is precisely the reason to keep the hiring age as furthest away from full brain development and function as possible. By hiring young and impressionable boys and girls, the law enforcement agency can more easily manipulate the youngster’s mind and play a part in the brain’s formation of neural pathways and cognitive development. Like education, this ensures officer’s stay lock step with the department in matters of policy and general cohesion. And studies show these things are important. Really important.

  • Motivation

It is very important to determine the reasons why one would want to become a police officer. If any of the reasons do not include both, “to have power and authority over others” and, “need a stage to play out my violent tendencies,” the candidate must be rejected immediately. We need men and women on the streets who are there to meet their own emotional needs as this will keep officers satisfied in the line of duty. Studies show job satisfaction must always be paramount. If a candidate ever suggests a reason having to do with the “giving to the greater good,” we can be assured they are not truth tellers and will be personally unsatisfied with their life.  As an example, many years ago a neighbor of mine was entering the LAPD police academy, when I asked him why he would leave his lucrative tile setting job to be an officer, in his preferred location of South Central Los Angeles no less, his PRECISE and UNEDITED response was, “so I can kill some niggers.” There is no doubt this man was a proud and satisfied member of the force.

  • First Department Assignment After Academy

Many police departments currently make their young, uneducated, cognitively under developed and emotionally deprived youngsters serve their first two years of duty in a maximum-security prison. This is just genius. All departments must follow this protocol as it serves to give the young man or woman a reality check of what they will be up against, most particularly when they pull a soccer mom over for going 51 in a 45. By demanding these young people rub shoulders with hardened criminals in their first two years of service, they will realistically know what they are up against. Yes, they may get jaded and get a somewhat skewed perception of the world while becoming more aggressive and violent, though this is small price to pay for the “scared straight” lessons that will be learned.

  • On-The- Job Behaviors and Attitude

It is also imperative that departments implement policies that ensure all citizens are treated as second class or worse, while this being expressed both in terms of behaviors and attitude. While recently having my car broken into with over $2000 worth of merchandise stolen, I had to visit the police department 3 times to get a police report at my insistence. This taught me tenacity and great patience. These are good things for society.  I also had the entire robbery on a surveillance DVD with a listing of everywhere the criminal went with my wallet. It was never looked at, nor was a finger ever raised, in potential service to this law abiding and tax paying citizen. Imagine my ego and general satisfaction if the police had actually done something or expressed a positive attitude in one of the safest cities in the country? Big egos and being overly satisfied are not good for the individual. It is critically important for law enforcement to flaunt their power when possible and do as little as possible for the people who pay their salary while being an asshole, this will ensure the power division between police and everyone else, is properly and rightfully maintained. Studies show that a high power distance between the protectors and the protected is a really good thing.

General Characteristics

Some other characteristics to look for are the following:

Community College Dropout: It is always preferable if candidates have dropped out mid-semester of the local community college. Sure, this may demonstrate a lack of willingness to follow orders and submit to the policies of a college course, yet it also shows independence and gutty decision-making.

Failed High School Athlete Who Never Started: This experience only serves as impetus to finally “start” and work out their baggage on the job while making a respectable starting salary in the process. Some suggest this may indicate a way to work out their historical frustrations, yet it also allows a person an opportunity to be good at something. And that is powerful.

So, there you have it. Our reforms must include younger people with a lack of education, under developed brains and are motivated by selfish reasons to get their own personal needs met while being an asshole. In addition, they must rub shoulders with hardened criminals their first two years while preferably college dropouts who failed in athletics.

This proposal will ensure we have the right people in these very important and powerful positions.

Oh, wait…did I say “solve” the problem? Whoops.

Shit.

 

I Hit Submit. What Just Happened?

Well, today is the day. I just hit the “submit” button to turn in the final grades for my class, “Critical Thinking through Argumentation and Debate.” To my surprise, I was absolutely overwhelmed with one of the strangest feelings I have ever felt. I am not even sure how to describe it cause I am not really sure what it is. I have never felt this before in 57 years, 3 months, 19 days and change. Whatever it is, I am feeling it as I write these words.

Sadness?

Deep connection?

Overwhelming happiness?

Love?

Desperation?

All of the above?

I have never bonded with a group of students in the manner I have bonded with them this semester. And I have been at this a very long time.

As we looked into each other’s eyes through the distortion of both varying degrees of resolution and obfuscated pixelation, we really saw each other with more clarity than ever, fueled by the deep desire to connect. To be there for each other. I looked into my student’s eyes and observed a quiet desperation, cloaked in the veil of social and conversational appropriateness. I am certain they likely saw the same desperation staring back at them, albeit a desperation emanating from me, their leader, a positive minded leader, attempting to lead by example.

We can do this!

We got this!

This will all be over before you know it!

Hang in there!

I am so proud of each you!

You all toughed it out!

As I know, and as they likely full well know, I was floating in the same sea of desperation and weirdness. We could all see through everything. Just weirdness. Damn weirdness. Fucking weirdness.

We were no longer in the realm of teacher-student. We were fellow survivors wading in the same rickety and rocky vessel in the sea of weird. When I hit submit, I submitted the final declaration of this strange time. I submitted to saying goodbye to them. I submitted that this leg of our journey is now over. I submitted to the idea that many of these students will be forever etched in memory. I submitted to my connection with them. I submitted to my love and care for them. I submitted to the idea that I will never look at life the same way.

Damn did I try to be the most accommodating professor I could possibly be these past eight weeks. Still, some failed the course, as my attempts at accommodation can only go so far as to not stray too far from the great importance of academic integrity. Pandemic or not, the degree has to mean something.

Many years ago, Communication Theorist Marshall Mcluhan came up with the notion of “hot and cool” mediums of communication, also coined rich and lean. The hottest or richest form of communication humans can engage in is in-person, face-to-face engagement as we can closely read facial expressions, take note of body cues, reach out to touch if necessary and detect the presence of olfaction. In other words, all those things you cannot effectively do in a “cool or lean” electronic classroom. Yet, in a very strange way, that perhaps you really have to experience to understand, what we lacked in limited communication channels, we gained in virtual geography. These students spent the last eight weeks with me at my kitchen table, at my home, my sacred and safe place where I am most me. And I with them in their sacred places.

Weird. Just weird.

I feel privileged to be their educator. Their leader. Their “safe space.” My Zoom students never wanted to leave the class. In some cases, we went over our three hour scheduled class session. Every time I had to press the “End Meeting” button, it felt a little bit like I was letting go of the hand clinging to dear life off the cliff.

These were my quarantine buddies, my friends, my lifelines, my fellow pandemic travelers. How exhilarating it was to have a few hours of time away from the weirdness around us to talk all things critical thinking: love and relationships, social policies, ethics, free speech, debate protocol, how to argue, how to win, when and how to lose, when to quit and when to stay the course and what it means to be a person of character. You name it, we spent several glorious hours talking about it. We transported from our weird reality of social distancing to the land of theories and concepts…ironically drawing us closer and closer together, distancing be damned.

Sure, some classes bonded far more than others largely due to the nature of the course itself. For some courses I did not even have remote meetings. Yet for even those students in which a pandemic bond was never really formed, I long to see them, in person, one day and just hug. Connect. Be humans together.

I instruct all my classes that if you ever have ANY doubt whatsoever about pressing the submit button after writing something that may be, well, potentially unwise, don’t. Just don’t. Bad idea. You can always submit it later though you can never, under any circumstances, unsubmit a message.

So today I paused before I pressed the Webadvisor final grade submission form. I did not want to do it.

But I did.

Moving on.

I love them all.

I will never forget this semester.

 

 

 

 

 

Zoom…Bombing

As we all hunker down in the unique manner each one of us hunker down, there is one hunker down phenomena that has, and is currently, sweeping the globe, the virtual meeting site called Zoom.

Zoom allows face-to-face meetings to take place over the web. One can opt out of being seen or heard if one so desires, unless of course you are in my public speaking course, in which case we must see and hear the person. I have been in meetings with a handful of people as well as meetings with well over a hundred participants.

Speaking of which, I am very fortunate and grateful to have a profession where I am able to work remotely, or at a distance. While meeting face-to-face is always my preferred mode of class delivery, it is not absolutely necessary.

I am Jimmy. “Hi Jimmy!” And I am currently a Zoom addict.

So yesterday, when I heard of a new phenomenon called “Zoombombing,” I was reminded that there never will be a shortage of dumbasses in the world. Zoombombing is a term for online hackers who break into meetings and perform any number of dumbass activities, such as draw scribble, put up pornographic pictures, hurl racial slurs, you know, the stuff of dumbasses. Lest we think this is a rare and obscure activity, it is not. Not only have I been hacked, a number of my colleagues have been hacked as well.

My hack was rather benign as someone mysteriously came on and started drawing arrows and such. However, a colleague of Middle Eastern descent was hacked and was bombarded with racial hate speech.

At first when I heard of this dumbass activity, I was both angry and mystified. As I thought more about it, I tried to look at this a bit more rationally. Who would do this? Why would they do it? I am a big believer that to find answers you must first and foremost follow the incentive trail, typically, the money.

Now, the hackers do have the ability to record the meeting and, if potentially highly sensitive information is exchanged, can potentially be exposed to information that could lead to some type of profiteering, I guess. Though I do not know anyone who goes into these meetings to share personal banking information. I guess if they hack one’s personal therapy session a potential blackmail could be on the table? Maybe. Though this still sounds more Black Mirror than reality.

Then it hit me. Kids. It has to be kids. Who has a desire to be a little dumbass dick and there is nothing in it financially, or otherwise, for them? Kids. And perhaps some developmentally stifled adults who have the brains of a 13-year-old. I was 13 once. And I thought this way. Not that I ever really did anything about it, yet I remember having impish thoughts of how satisfying/fun/hilarious it would be to wreak havoc for, well, no good reason.

When one is 13, hormones and glandular wackiness aside, these emerging adults are going through the ringer. They not only have little control over their own lives, they desperately lack impulse control. And what does every 13-year-old lack that they deeply desire? Some type of power or control in an otherwise chaotic adolescent world. Certainly, there is no financial gain in it for them, yet there is an emotional gain and a weird, 13-year-old type of satisfaction.

So as the Zoom powers-that-be scramble to get their software ahead of the hackers, we can all be reminded that humanity really has not changed.

When I was 13 it was “ding dong ditch,” or a bag of dog poop lit on fire on someone’s porch, or a good “teepee-ing” of your neighbor’s house down the street or a slew of prank phone calls, the list goes on. Sure technology changes, though 13-year-olds do not.

I am not equating hurling racial slurs with lighting dog shit on fire. The former is far more disgusting and revolting than the latter. However, if we had the ability in 1975 for 13-year-olds to say whatever they wanted with the complete assurance of anonymity, these little dumbasses may have spent less time on stranger’s porches risking getting caught with dogshit and more time behind a screen saying dumbshit stuff.

So Zoom, I am not sure you can create enough safeguards to curtail dumbasses from being dumbasses.  At a time when dumbasses were born into a digital age when computer code is practically grafted into their DNA upon birth, it’s a losing battle.

That said, I’ll start using passwords just to be safe. And if I do get hacked, I hope it’s an entertaining dumbass.

 

 

 

 

 

Lineage

Standpoint theory. Typically this concept is used in the context of describing how the rich perceive the world much differently from the poor. Depending on one’s social standing, the world is going to be viewed quite disparately, hence our “stands” will be quite unique pending the point where we find ourselves socially situated.

Perhaps it is because of my belief in this theory that I am reluctant to criticize anyone whose social standing is different from my own. There are just certain things I will never know what it is like to be: a millennial, a woman, a person of color, gay, super wealthy, super poor, socially powerful, socially powerless, etc…However, I CAN tell you what it is like to be a white, middle class, 57 year-old grandpa.

Yes, grandpa.

All this standpoint theory discussion was just roundabout foreplay to say this blogger now has a new standing and reference point in which to view life. And the weird aspect about standpoint theory seems to support my “you-can-never-truly-see-the-world-through-someone-else’s-eyes” belief. Like when trying to retell an amusing story and it is coming out boring as hell, and you utter, “I guess you just had to be there.”

I am learning that in life to truly understand something you really “just have to be there.” Sure I could imagine what it was like to be grandfather, yet that is an entirely different experience than actually being one. Of course my only experience as a grandfather is via Facetime, Whatsapp, and Telegram as my little angel resides 6000 miles away in southern Argentina…and with the world as it is at the moment, I have no clue when I will ever hold that little guy in my arms.

I do know that being a digital e-grandfather, at the moment, is a FAR different experience than that of becoming a analogue father, some 32 years ago. I realize that becoming a dad for the first time is for the young, strong and uninitiated. No one has any idea what they are getting into for the rest of their lives. But this new grandfather perspective brings with it a concept that keeps resonating in my head.

Lineage.

Becoming a father means you have created a new life that you must raise to live in the world.

Becoming a grandfather means you have initiated a new line of human beings to live in the world.

To use an analogy, it is no longer building a single car in your garage, or two, or three, it is the grand opening of an automotive plant. An automotive plant with an assembly line that will keep churning out product long after we are expire.

Or at least that is how it feels.

It offers you an entirely different relationship with the world. We are now true “grandfathered” investors in the planet, while it is now not only the notion of lineage that feels so different, it is also its close cousin, legacy.

As I enter my older years in a very uncertain world (btw it has always been uncertain, today it is just a different type of uncertain) I care far more about what I will leave the planet because I realize there is nothing much more for me to take. Unlike the famous of yore who have statues or monuments built in their honor, I am happy with my simple, 7lb. 6oz. legacy.

Now I gaze into the eyes of Achilles Fitcarraldo Urbanovich and not only see an adorable angel, I see my monument. His little soft cries and cooing suffice to be my statues. No monument or statue in the world could mean more to me.

And I am fine that these signs of legacy be left in the hands of the young, strong and soon-to-be initiated. It is their turn now. When time once again allows it, I will gladly love on my little legacy, and be happy to leave before the diaper needs to be changed.

C’mon people. I’ve earned it.

And from where I stand, I will never see the world the same way.

 

Coronavirus: Threat Or Opportunity?

Just when I thought life could not get any stranger, it did. A mere week ago I had my trip to Cordoba, Argentina planned to witness the birth of my first grandchild. I worked tirelessly to get all my ducks in a row in order to be able to make such a trip during a very busy academic season. Long story short: Did not happen. However, my partner Rene’ was able to grab the very last flight that Argentina would allow into the country by pulling some strings and an American Airlines rabbit out of a hat.

But cross your fingers, as I write this she is still in the air…so who knows. (see the conclusion of this blog)

I dropped her off at a ghost town called LAX. Turns out I’m not the only one cancelling travel plans. As we exchanged our tearful goodbyes, it was amidst a vast sea of uncertainties, including not knowing when I will see her again…when everything hit me like a ton of bricks.

My guttural moans and weeping shrieks bubbled to the surface.

I broke down. Yes, I was guilty of uncontrollably weeping while driving.

I do not consider myself a very healthy emotional person. Unless healthy means hardly feeling anything when the shit goes down for months at a time, only to then let it all out in one giant weep fest.  A weep fest that sneaks up on you whenever it so chooses. Call it what you will, a weep fest or break down, in either case it is a barrage of feeling everything -at the same time.

Yes, a large reason I cried was because the love of my life was leaving for an uncertain period of time, but oh so much more.

The tears of grief, sadness and joy were fueled by:

  • My ailing and dying father.
  • Still grieving and missing my departed mother.
  • The selling of my childhood home.
  • The joy of the rekindling a relationship with my sisters after nearly twenty years of not speaking.
  • Sadness I will not get to hold my newborn grandson in my arms.
  • The joy of knowing I am going to be a grandfather.
  • Sadness I will not be there for my son and his wife in the most momentous event of their lives.
  • My new transition into my twilight years. Grandpa Jimmy.

Of course I cannot discount the Coronavirus social freak out that is happening globally at the moment. I know that was a huge part of the break down equation. But why?

This is now a new season of uncertainty for all of us. Just how bad is this public health crisis? No one knows. I do try to live by the creed that things are never as bad or good as they may seem at the moment. Therefore given this little proverb, things can only look up, cause things seem pretty damn bad.

For those who know me, they will be the first to tell you my thoughts on fear and the media. Fear is to media what gas is to my Honda or what a battery is to a Tesla. Therefore my initial inclination is this whole thing is fear on overdrive derived for profit by a soulless media.  And I still believe this, but only in part. The fear is real though they will take every opportunity to shove more fear down our throats, so long as it increases clicks and attracts eyeballs.

However, I have another fairly fundamental belief concerning the explanation as to why something may be happening: that of simply following the money. People do not turn their noses up to billions of dollars in untapped revenues. Rich individuals do not cancel events that costs them hundreds of millions of dollars for no good reason. And unless there is some mastermind conspiracy for global something or another, I have to believe the threat is very real and not even slightly conjured up. Sorry conspiracy theorists, can’t ride that train on this one.

I believe it is in all our best interests to see this health crisis as both an opportunity as well as a threat. Officials are instructing us to try to stay home as much as possible and, when in public, practice social distancing. This may be a perfect season to now start that novel you have always wanted to write, read that book you seem to never have time for, or watch some of those Netflix shows everyone’s been talking about for years. We can reconnect with loved ones or do those house projects we’ve been putting off. I plan on hiking up our property tomorrow and clearing out space to plant some new fruit trees. I can finish blogs I have started and never got around to finishing them. Maybe now is the perfect time to put away the booze and get sober or start that diet you’ve been putting off. Being as healthy we can be right now is a great idea. Other ideas:

  • Learn a new musical instrument
  • Watch some youtube videos on learning a new skill, perhaps learn how to clean those musty headlights on your car
  • Start the practice of meditation
  • If a student, get ahead on your reading. If not, just read!
  • Take long walks in nature
  • Paint a picture
  • Clean your room
  • Do what I did today…practice social distancing at the beach…while reading the biography of Leonardo Da Vinci (do you know he designed weapons for war?)
  • And the list goes on….

As far as the coronavirus itself? If we live wisely and practice smart sanitary living, chances are we are good. If not, the damn virus is going to do what the damn virus wants to do. We cannot live our lives worried about the “what ifs” in life. If we get sick? Try to get better. Perhaps this is also a time for us to grow as a person, in that we can learn to live amidst higher degrees of uncertainty. It is good thing to be reminded that nature is bigger and stronger than the rest of us. Learn to respect and appreciate life just a little bit more. Enjoy a big slice of humble pie.

I realize this pandemic will cause financial hardships for many. Now is a good time to get financially creative as well as generous for those in need.

Yes, I broke down in the car, though recovered and still realize I live in the same reality. Same issues. However, perhaps this is a time when I can reflect and work through some of my issues and practice gratitude and thankfulness for this beautiful thing we call life.

This is an opportunity to sit back (alone), take a deep breath, and hit life’s reset button.

We can learn a little something from the children of Italy who are painting signs all over the country, stating “Everything Will Be Alright.”

And it will.

One way or another.

Addendum: The day after I wrote this blog, Argentina would not allow Rene’s plane to disembark. She is flying back to Los Angeles as I write these words. At least in terms of seeing the love of my life soon, everything IS alright.

Attraction

Perhaps you know the feeling of walking into a room full of pleasant faces, and although each person appears friendly, only one face stands out. Even despite the fact that there may be a lot of physically attractive people in the room, you cannot seem to take your eyes off of one particular person. You can’t put your finger on the reasons why you are experiencing this, but you know there’s something that feels like a biological imperative driving you toward a specific person.

Today I write because I am fascinated with the concept of attraction: both initial attraction (instant) and derived attraction (over time). I find the idea of attraction deeply interesting. One might say I am attracted to the process of attraction.

Why do we occasionally feel it? Is it wrong to be attracted to someone even though you are “taken?” Who are we often attracted to? Do opposites attract or do “birds of a feather flock together?” Does initial attraction even matter or does the attraction you gain over time the only attraction that really means something? What does attraction even mean?

Attraction Defined

A definition would be a good place to start. According to god (aka google) attraction is defined as, “the action or power of evoking interest, pleasure, or liking for someone or something.”

As I instruct all my classes, textbook (or google) definitions are great though how might we define it in our own words?

Here is my offering: “That compelling positive connection one feels toward something or someone that results in desiring a deeper level of engagement with him/her/it. This feeling may or may not be reciprocated.

At its core, attraction remains somewhat of a mystery, even for those who study it for a living. We have all heard various theories about attraction. One such popular theory is that we are subconsciously romantically attracted to someone who resembles our parent of the opposite sex (perhaps same sex parent if gay?). Or the idea of complimentarity, meaning that we are attracted to someone whose strengths are our weaknesses and vice-versa, meaning we then “complete” each other. But, of course, this does not entirely explain that initial compelling interest we may have towards a particular someone.

I suppose these theories are all partly wrong and partly right as attraction is vastly complex.

And let’s face it, sometimes we just find some other person really hot. The proverbial smokeshow.

Underlying Attraction Assumptions

Let’s continue with several general observations.

First off, the act of being attracted to someone else is not a volitional choice in most circumstances. I recall an experience when I observed a jealous boyfriend sensing his girlfriend being attracted to someone else right before his very eyes, however subtle those clues may have been. Upon hearing of this jealousy, I remarked that attraction is often unavoidable; of course what you do with that attraction is a different conversation. When two people connect there is not a damn thing you can do about it and we cannot hold someone accountable for being a human and vibing with another human. It just happens. It’s a beautiful thing.

Secondly, attraction is certainly not relegated to the realm of romantic attraction. People of all genders, ages, ethnicity, etc., can be attracted to one another on a purely human level for any variety of reasons. As a straight male, I am attracted to certain other males and desire to hang with them. Thus when I use the word attraction, it can apply in a very general sense. There are people I am attracted to, of all aforementioned genders, ages and ethnicity. Rene’ and I call this the “click” factor.

For the purpose of this writing, I refer primarily to romantic attraction.

Finally, I believe attraction to be a great gift and a wonderful human experience. Perhaps because I am attracted to so few, when I do feel an attraction to someone it is a super good feeling. I know when my partner Rene’ experiences attraction I see a spark light up in her eyes and I am genuinely happy for her.  Simply, attraction can be fun and exciting.  It is one of life’s special perks.

How Important is Attraction?

Now here’s the point: Attraction must be taken for what it is, attraction. Attraction does NOT determine future compatibility nor provide an indicator of future relational satisfaction. We can be attracted to someone for a wide variety of extremely dysfunctional (read: fucked up) reasons, ranging from one’s own personal abusive experiences as a child to our love of well-sculpted jaw lines. In either case it does not inform us if the person is in our best interest as a friend or lover, as there exists both healthy and unhealthy attractions.

In terms of long-term relational satisfaction, initial attraction may draw us toward someone yet does not necessarily keep us with them. I am certain we have all had the experience of feeling some initial attraction toward someone and after five minutes of conversation the attraction turns to a mild or deep form of disgust. Or vice-versa. Or somewhere in-between. A person we may not have been attracted to at all can magically become quite appealing after engaging in some dialogue. In the biz we call this Interpersonal Attraction Theory. By having positive and warm encounters with each other we can literally become more mutually attractive to each other.

Now is when I will go all pragmatic on your ass and rip away all the magic of attraction. Any two people in a particular time, place and circumstance have the potential to be attracted to each other. Put me in the right room at the right time under the right situation, and, voila! attraction.

As mentioned, attraction is a fun experience but please let us take it for what it is worth: A tingly fun feeling that draws us towards someone. Perhaps an analogy is in order here. If I drive past a burger joint, say an In ‘n Out Burger, who famously pump out delicious scents of tasty burgers in the air for passerbys, I may be attracted into the restaurant by the lovely aroma. However, if the food is actually horrible and sickens me, the lovely scents mean absolutely nothing. I will never eat there again.

Attraction may draw us in though is no indicator if we will stay or if the food is in our best interest. We have a rational left brain for those decisions.

Yes, when I was 16 years of age I was attracted to a beautiful young girl named Rene’. Now, 41 years later, we have stayed together for over four decades not because she is a young beautiful brunette with a killer bod who can sing the lights out of any song. I am with her because I love her. Yes, our scents attracted us to each other, though it is hard work and perseverance that has pulled us through every challenge and difficulty.

The Triangular Theory of Love

Finally, I would like to discuss a related theory deemed the Triangular Theory of Love. It is a rather straightforward theory that suggests any successful romantic relationship must possess three basic “love” components: Intimacy, passion and commitment.

The creator of this theory, Robert J. Sternberg states, ” The three components of love interact with each other: For example, greater intimacy may lead to greater passion or commitment, just as greater commitment may lead to greater intimacy, or with lesser likelihood, greater passion. In general, then, the components are separable, but interactive with each other. Although all three components are important parts of loving relationships, their importance may differ from one relationship to another, or over time within a given relationship. Indeed, different kinds of love can be generated by limiting cases of different combinations of the components.”

I would argue (and its creator may disagree with me) that of these three, commitment stands out as the most necessary for a satisfying relationship. Why? Attraction, which I would place as a subset of passion as well as intimacy, will absolutely come and go, ebb and flow, be up and down, in any long term relationship. We may have long extended periods of little to no intimacy or passion, yet if we abandon commitment, it is a near guaranteed certainty that passion or intimacy will never be reignited.

There you have it. So the next time you are swept off your feet by that person across the room and feel all warm and tingly inside, enjoy! Attraction is a gift. Just realize that all that has happened is a successful exchange of “scents.” Now the hard work of determining whether to stay and eat or leave and vomit comes to play.

Good luck. Attraction is the fun part. Though if you think you may be in it for the long haul, commitment is the important part.

Another Walk Down Memory Lane: Cheating Revisited

I was perusing through some old blogs I have written (I am in my 8th year of blogging) for the purpose of finding out how some of my views have changed and evolved over the years -if at all. One particular blog that caught my eye concerned the subject of cheating, and not in the classroom exam or tax evasion sense, rather in the relational sense.

This particular blog entry received a lot of feedback…so perhaps it is time to revisit.

Since I wrote that entry back in August of 2015, a couple of things strike me. First off, it has been one of the longest blogs I have ever written -meaning I attempted to take some painstaking steps to truly be understood and not misinterpreted. Secondly, not only did I receive a lot of comments on the blog itself, it raised a lot of conversations in my “non-blog,” real life, as well. In fact, a WHOLE lot.

I would encourage you to read it if you have not done so. But, if not, I now provide you with the “Reader’s Digest” version (google it kids).

It is clearly a subject matter that not only has a lot of emotions attached to it, yet also a high level of relevance as well. It is an issue that has affected most people in some way, shape or form. If we ourselves have not cheated or been cheated on, I am certain all of us know many who have.

If I were to summarize my general argument contained in that entry nearly 5 years ago, the 4 bullet points would be as follows:

  • Cheating is a hugely emotionally volatile issue. Many “victims” of cheating cannot discuss it without feelings of deep hurt and anger. It is a trigger. It is difficult to look at the issue apart from our emotions and discuss it purely rationally. I understand this.
  • Cheating is absolutely pervasive. It happens more than we could possibly imagine and we can never know the real number of this highly secretive activity; yet a bit of logic suggests it is astronomically high.
  • In rare, “though protesteth too much” form, many of those who are most vocal and intolerant of cheaters, likely struggle the most with it. I do not say they cheat (though likely do) they just really want to.
  • Finally, I ask why do we harbor such gross intolerance over a behavior that most everyone struggles with at some level? Many people would rather divorce or break up than to work through the psycho dynamics of “cheating,” which, I argue, is a natural human propensity. Unfortunately for most, cheating is a deal breaker. I find this very unfortunate.

So Has My Position Changed Since 2015?

Yes, somewhat, and now I am a bit more nuanced in my thinking as I do so see some value in attempted monogamy. I now would liken the goal of monogamy to anything in life we strive for, even while confronting the strong probability we will not achieve it, though not due to a lack of effort. Back in the day when I ran marathons, I trained very hard full well knowing I was not going to win, but that did not stop me from trying. Attempting to win made me a better runner. More on this in a moment.

Cheating, Jealousy and Salience

I realize that at the heart of this issue lies the correlating ideas of honesty, healthy communication, betrayal, and….

Jealousy. A shit ton of jealousy. Perhaps even the very existence of cheating is driven by a very unhealthy feeling of jealousy.

Jealousy may be to cheating what overeating is to obesity. Without the former there would be no latter.

Yes, if a loved one promises you they are going to do, or not do, something and violate that something, it hurts. Yet, it only hurts to the extent we give that violation salience (meaning the level of meaning and importance we attach to it, in the sense that, “everything is what you make it”). If your loved one promised they would stop and pick up a loaf of bread on their way home from work and forget to do so, I doubt many of us would harbor deep, ill will towards that loved one. Unless, of course, we gave the act of picking up a loaf of bread great salience in the relationship. And that is our choice. And how we react to anything is ultimately our choice.

The reality is that most of us give the issue of cheating an extremely high level of relevance. It is an issue that stands out above all other potential issues in a relationship.

And it is this salience of “cheating” of which I am most fundamentally concerned.

Because we give this “violation” so much centrality, we will continue to propagate dishonesty, feelings of betrayal, jealousy and hurt.

At the core of such propagation, lies many myths surrounding the human condition. The myth of monogamy as “natural” (no need to repeat myself if you read the original blog); the myth that we are robot-like and lack real human emotion and drives; and, finally, the myth that attraction is self-generated and we are responsible for those in whom we find ourselves attracted (oooo….perhaps the notion of attraction should be my next blog….I am fascinated with it).

In addition, mainstream culture makes the mistake of assuming it. Like every other issue in a relationship, the idea of striving for monogamy (or not) must be a discussed and negotiated aspect of any mature relationship. As an old acquaintance, Cara, once told me when explaining her divorce, “We were in an open relationship. He just forgot to tell me about it.”

Now Back To My Change.

As previously stated, I am not suggesting AT ALL that striving for monogamy cannot be a great discipline and, in many cases could be the gold standard for many couples (conceding that every relationship is different and we must honor the uniqueness for every couple to define their relationship in their own way). It may be the striving after monogamy that keeps us separate from most other animal species. I absolutely concede that there may be a lot of value in attempting it…perhaps this is where I differ most from 2015 Jimmy.

Now, that said, the problem lies not in our attempt to pull-off a feat that is quite unnatural (monogamy), it is our reaction when one engages in an act that is very natural (an extra relational affair). Rather than ending a relationship for attempting something many would consider quite noble, perhaps we should recognize the virtue of attempting it. Or at least we need to be understanding of it. Or, dare I suggest forgiving of it? Hell, maybe we can use it to make us stronger, to help redefine our relational identity and objectives. Yes, navigating the waters of trust building and reconciliation can be very, very difficult yet we can hope that our love will overcome the transgression of a human acting like a human.

Why? Who knows? You may be the next one to succumb to your human instincts. And who will need understanding and forgiveness then?

Alright, I know most of you reading this probably disagree with me. Say what you want, at least I’m somewhat consistent. Now check back with me in another 5 years for, “Cheating 2025.” At this rate, I may be pushing celibacy.

 

 

 

Why?

Why?

Why?

As the reality of the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, begins the arduous journey of sinking into my psyche and seeming even slightly real, I do not ask “why?” as in, “Why did this happen?” No, not asking that question at all.

Bad, terrible and horrible things happen all the time, every day, to many people. Accidents happen. People make mistakes.  I know why bad things happen. It is called the randomness of the universe. Wrong place, wrong time.

Everything does NOT happen for a reason. And even if it did, we could never know why, so what’s the point?

I get it.

Rather, the “why” I ask today is, “Why is this tragedy affecting me so deeply and profoundly?” I have every reason in the world NOT to be affected. Consider that I have never met Kobe Bryant, nor have ever even seen him play in person. I am not at all a “star-struck” kind of guy. As a basketball fan, I appreciated the grit and toughness Kobe brought to the court though I never believed him to be the best. I do not even believe Kobe was even the best Los Angeles Laker in history, as I reserve that title for a Mr. Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Kobe never put a penny in my pocket. He never came up with a cure for some disease that kills children. He was a guy who threw a ball into a hole for god’s sake.  He just happened to be really, really good at it. In fact, Kobe could be the poster child of one who symbolizes everything wrong with our culture. Through no fault of his own, he epitomizes our collective cult of personality while we pay entertainers millions and millions of dollars and simultaneously pay public servants next to nothing in comparison.

I won’t even get into educators and health services.

I believe that many would rather be entertained than be cured of a disease or learn a new skill…if we judged at all by our pocketbooks.

He was, by all accounts, an entertainer.

So why am I so hurt and feel so profoundly sad? Why do I feel like I lost someone near and dear to me? It bothers me how bothered I am.

And why I am I not the only one? Many people are telling me the same thing- that they feel like they have lost a family member and have never felt this way before when someone died in whom they had never met, yet admired.

I don’t know why and it is driving me crazy. I have had celebrities I have really liked who passed at young ages, and never felt close to this type of loss. I loved comedian Sam Kinison for example…though never shed a tear when he died tragically in a car accident on his way to Laughlin, Nevada in 1992. Other comedians have passed, such as Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, John Belushi, Robin Williams and baseball players Thurman Munson, Roberto Clemente, the list goes on. I was very upset when these people passed, yet nothing even close to the loss I feel with Kobe Bean Bryant.

All I can do is theorize why I feel this way so I will attempt to give it a try. I write today as therapy, to figure out what is happening in this brain of mine. So, some theories:

  • I feel like I lost a family member because I have fallen into the cult of personality and have illusory relationships that could be identified as borderline schizophrenic.
  • Deep inside I have a profound respect for Kobe Bryant and truly believe, though many years younger than I, I lost a role model of hard work and dedication.
  • I have underestimated the role of professional sports plays in my life and am simply mourning someone who brought me years of great entertainment.
  • The tragedy included several children, including his own daughter. It is one thing for an adult to die, yet to have his 13 year-old daughter die tragically with him…that is just too much for words.
  • Perhaps there is an unparalleled respect for athletes who pass because they are successful in a pure meritocracy…meaning they are the best of the best with no questions asked. I can watch a great film performance and think in the back of my head that with a few classes and experience, I could MAYBE do that. I have never had this thought while watching LeBron James play basketball -I know with absolute certainty I could NEVER do what he does.

Some say he was a hero and the mascot for not just Los Angeles sports, rather for all of Los Angeles itself.

When I posed the question to my Mass Media class (after all, he was a Mass Media hero) as to my profound sadness, a student, Sean, suggested that perhaps I am misdirecting the grief I possess in my personal life, the passing of my mother a couple of years ago and my very ailing father who is currently in hospice care, and projecting this grief onto the Bryant tragedy. I must hold it together for the more personal stuff, yet I am free to fall apart for a person I have never met.

A good theory. Yet a correct theory? Who knows.

Recently my daughter pointed me in the direction of an article written by one of her college friends, Eric Stinton, who eloquently writes on the same issue. In this article, he states, “Feeling grief or loss over the death of an athlete is not endemic to any specific sport. Whether it’s basketball or MMA or cricket, fans dedicate so much of our diminishing time to the lives of these athletes—celebrating their triumphs, agonizing over their failures—that we feel like we know them, and we’re affected by things that happen to them. We may not actually know them the way we know people in our waking lives, but we still know them in personal ways. We see them at their most supernatural and their most vulnerable. We extract meaning from their existence and inject it into ours like a blood transfusion, absorbing it as our own. The same way songs which otherwise have nothing to do with us become the soundtracks of our memories, athletes’ careers enrich the context of our lives…”

So nicely put. I am so glad to know I am not at all alone in asking this question. Thank you Eric. But what, then, can we conclude?

He continues, “It would be disingenuous for me to arrive at a solid conclusion. I don’t know how to respond to the death of someone I never met, and I’m not sure if I ever will. It’s a process and a discursive, backtracking and contradictory one. The only thing I can say for sure is that there’s nothing wrong with being affected by these things. The beauty of fandom, as well as all its attendant pain, is in allowing ourselves to be affected.”

I also have no solid conclusions. And, unlike many blogs I write, the process of putting my unaccountable thoughts into comprehensible, digestible and accountable words, is not leading me to any satisfactory answers.

Why? I guess it just is. And everything is what it is.

RIP all.

 

 

 

Sisters

I was born and raised in a home at the address of 1014 N. Evergreen Street, Burbank, CA.

With my two sisters.

Today it went up for sale.

Of course any house can be sold to anyone with the necessary funds, though the memories will always be owned by those of us who resided within it.

There were many wonderful memories of 1014 to be sure, far too many to count, yet certainly many memories that were far from idyllic. In fact, I wish I could put some of those memories on the multiple listing service as well, as, one might say, I enjoyed the safe haven and reprieve of functional family enclaves…amidst a vast sea of dysfunction throughout my childhood.

Those memories would be nice to sell with no contingencies.

I never had any doubt for a second that both my mother and father loved me very deeply. Yet as every child eventually figures out, parents are just regular kids who had some fun and together created a younger kid. Not a lot of skill needed. They are not trained professionals, nor necessarily adequate at the job of parenting. Raising children is an occupation that all must learn on the fly- you learn the art of parenting as you go.

We all start as novices. You just go with the best you can with what you know. We may need an official license for constructing pools or building houses, yet nothing required for building human beings. And, I get it, that would be weird, not to mention highly impractical.

My dad was a good dad yet far from a perfect one, a novice to be sure. Though to understand any person one must understand the novices from which they came.

By all accounts, my father’s father (my grandfather) was an abusive, mean, angry, tyrannical bastard who did horrible things to his family, or so I have been told –I never met the man myself. How horrible was he? Legend has it that, so horrible, my grandmother and her family fled across the country, from Buffalo, New York to Southern California- as far as one could go in any one country- to escape the horrors of this supposed monster.

To illustrate, apparently he died in the mid-1960’s and his grown children literally threw a party to celebrate his passing. I would say that is fairly credible evidence of horrible. My entire life I have not heard one redeeming word about this man.

So, when I can recount a handful of my horrible childhood memories, and dozens of wonderful ones, I do so acknowledging the history my father endured from his childhood and the nightmare he had to live day in and day out. We all feel sorry for the man with no shoes until we meet the man with no feet…I may be shoeless though my father had no feet. I could only imagine the failing novice of my father’s grandfather. Oh shit, no legs?

I can recall on a couple of occasions when me and my two older sisters, Marybeth and Julie, only a few years apart, youngest to oldest, would watch as the only stability we had on a drunken Friday evening, my mother, would uncharacteristically imbibe and become part of the problem as she and my dad fought to the verge of physical aggression.

I distinctly recall me and my sisters huddling in a darkened corner of the room hugging each other and crying, having no idea what was going to happen next as we heard the screams and crashes in the other room. We were scared little children who only knew we had each other, all nearly preschoolers, to depend on and have any confidence in.

At these times, we had no one but each other, as our parents were busy bowing to the gods of alcohol and the immature outbursts of aggression.

Thankfully these episodes were very few and, somewhat, far between – and would be followed the next day with grand remorse by both parents.

Why do I write of such dysfunction? I do not write this to solicit pity or elicit sympathy. Hell no. I know many people who had it far worse than I as their childhood makes mine look like the Brady Bunch on steroidal whole milk and extra sweetened cookies. I’m now an old ass man who has done just fine with his life. I write this because this helpless and fearful feeling is now coming back to me…granted in a more stable and refined kind of way.

My rarely imbibed mom passed away October 18, 2017, and my dad is still hanging in there as he clings to life at a 24-hour healthcare hospice facility in Northridge, California.

Me and my sisters, Marybeth and Julie, are once again huddled in the corner as we, together, navigate the unfamiliar waters of caring for and losing parents.

We, fortunately, all have wonderful and loving support structures- solid partners, friends and children. We are not alone by any stretch. Yet there is something that all the support structures in the world cannot provide what we siblings can provide each other: the history we share of knowing what it feels like to be scared, terrified in fact, and without parental protection…and now never doubting we are there for each other.

We, through meetings, phone calls and text messages, are huddling and crying in the corner once again. Not as many tears this time around and not a literal huddle, though we can look into each other’s eyes and detect that all too familiar gleam of childhood vulnerability once again. Regardless of age, some vulnerabilities are just really hard to shake.

Sibling relationships can be very complicated. My sisters and I have had some very difficult and elongated rough patches over the years. Very rough in fact.

Though nothing as rough as knowing we children are closely becoming the only ones left of our nuclear family.

Eventually, it will be just each one of us alone. We all die alone. I’ve never heard of a casket built for two.

I was born and raised in a home at the address of 1014 N. Evergreen Street, Burbank, CA.

With my two sisters.

Today it went up for sale.

(images are of 1014)