Let’s Face It, We Are All Pretty Jacked Up: #Unafraid To Speak Out

I must make a confession and come clean.
Several years ago I could not understand why so many of my friends and acquaintances were on some form of medication for some type of emotional/mental health disorders -in most cases for depression.
I would wonder, often aloud, why nearly everyone is so damn depressed.  We live in an age in which everyone one is well fed, possess some form of shelter and is safely out of harms way for the most part. There is no black plague or killer virus wiping out the masses.  We have our 42 inch plasmas, smart phones and tempurpedics. What is there to be so depressed about?
The worst part is I proceeded to judge these people as a type of weak and frail human being, perhaps just a little too brittle to deal with all the wonderful entitlements afforded coddled 21st century North Americans.
Bad move.  I did not follow my own frequent advice to not criticize that which you do not understand. Not that you should criticize what you do understand, well, you get the point.
It was approximately 2 years ago when it happened. After some incredibly emotional and soul-searching conversations over a period of days with Rene’, I experienced my first bout with anxiety.  I was in a Coco’s eating lunch on July 13, 2012 when my mind completely lost control.  Thank goodness I was with Rene’ who completely recognized what was happening -having experienced a few of these herself- and successfully guided and coached me through the painful process of this attack.
A couple hours later I was fine…but oh so scared. I did not know what happened. As one who always had complete control over my mental faculties, controlling my emotions like a skilled master pilot maneuvering a 747, this turbulence seemed to come out of nowhere and left me helpless to its tossing and turning powers.
I just knew this could never happen again. Yet it did, not with same vengeance and force of the initial one, but happened nonetheless.  Thankfully with some additional education and lifestyle changes, namely completely eliminating all forms of caffeine and decreasing my alcohol intake, the anxiety has all but disappeared.
As a result, I judge no more. I get it.
I realize it is precisely because we live in an age of our basic needs being met -and often exceeded- that our minds have the time and space to land in the mental swamps of emotional illness. Of course, emotional illness has been around since the beginning, in times of both feast and famine, yet with our contemporary society more worried about our body fat percentage over having potable clean drinking water, our cerebral activity far exceeds our physical activity -resulting in more people landing in the dark waters of emotional disorders.
My suspicion is that if we did have to wake up each morning designing strategies how to feed our self and our loved ones, the only anxiety we would experience would come in the form of how to successfully chase down our food supply.  Today, with the world at our fingertips and our food delivered directly to our door and nearly directly into our mouths, we are completely out of touch with the basics of life and have time to think and ponder while spending copious amounts of time within our own heads.
In athletics, we tend to injure the parts of the body we overuse. As a former marathon runner, I know first hand the results of overuse injury and how these will sideline you for quite some time.
Why should the human mind be any different?
I am not referring to the overuse of the human mind in the intellectual sense, as in figuring out problems or writing blogs, rather I refer to the overuse of the human mind in the emotional and spiritual sense, as in spending large amounts of time pondering our own identity and meaningful relationships, our personal meaning and relationship to the world, our self-worth and self-esteem, the reason for our existence and how we measure up to the standards society has created for us. These are quality and necessary mental endeavors, yet too much time spent in earnest dissecting these things can potentially land us in some pretty dark places.
When we have time to deconstruct the illusions that keep us sane from day to day, watch out -anxiety and depression ahead.
I am not suggesting this abundance of cerebral brain activity is the sole cause of an increase in mental health disorders, of course not. The frenetic pace of a technologized world and the constant multi-tasking of activities must have something to do with our mind’s ability to juggle and competently keep it all together; not to mention simple brain chemistry gone awry – of which we have absolutely no control.
So, Jimmy, what’s your point? In the same sense we are not afraid to discuss our broken legs or sprained ankles, we must be unafraid to discuss our mental illness, our “sprained brain” if you will.
#unafraid
If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, check out #unafraid. Show your support by liking or subscribing to this great cause. #Unafraid is a movement to change the negative stigma surrounding issues of mental health today–in society, on TV, on the internet, and in conversation.
And, of course, in our digital age of comfort and control, it is only a mouse click away.
 

The Gay: A Progressive Approach To Instructing The Conservative Mind

I must say that I am getting both simultaneously softer and harder, accepting and rejecting, in my old age.  Softer and accepting in the sense I really love people of all different varieties yet harder in the sense of catching a serious case of the TOFTS (must read that blog if you have not) as in, “Too Old For This Shit.”

 

This soft/hard dichotomy was never more evident than just a few days ago while teaching an online course for a private University. Each year I teach this persuasion course (which I have done for many years), within the first five online minutes, many conservative students will voice his or her strong aversion to homosexuality. Did I ask for their opinion on this matter? No. Did I bring up the subject at all? No. Do I ever talk about any sexual issues of any kind in the course? Believe it or not, no.

 

I strongly suspect it may be a case of “thou protesteth too much.” But what do I know? I do know anti-gayness seems to be, no, IS, the rallying crowd favorite issue in many conservative religious circles.

 

I have seen this trend for many years yet for some reason this year I have had enough of this crazed, obsessive, homophobic slander.  At first, I just wanted to log-off, send in my resignation and say “sayonara” to some mean-spirited, gay haters–-yet that was the TOFTS side of me thinking as I do not have any more time in my life for narrow minded ignorance.

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However, that softer and sensitive side of me realized that ignorance does not necessarily imply mean-spirited nor that those who might disagree with my take come from a place of meanness, even if it does result in oppressing a large group of people. So I guess I did what any decent educator should try to do: Educate. Share some ideas and understanding.

 

Today I want to share with you my attempt to educate conservative religious students on the issue of homosexuality in America. Look, I know some think it is sinful behavior and all, yet this is America and we all retain the right to engage in legally protected sins, thank God; outlawing all sin would have a devastating effect on the economy, not to mention my personal life.

 

So this is a letter I included in my lecture last week. Keep in mind these are are extremely intelligent students, most of whom are professionals and older than the Community College crowd. They have good hearts and intentions…I think.

 

Hello All…
I must say that each year I teach this course the issue of homosexuality gets brought up within the first few strokes of the keyboard, like clockwork, and I ask myself why? I never bring up the subject. It is not provoked. Why it is always homosexuality first and foremost served up as the primary example of corruption in American Society?  It would seem like we are quite selective in the “sins” we want to rail against and the “sins” we do not. Why do we not first and foremost rail against the corrupt Wall Street investors who steal billions of dollars of people’s hard earned retirement money? Or the sleazes that engage in underage sex trafficking? Or even the bully politician who shuts down a bridge for corrupt political payback while making stressed thousands late for work? What about the pimps who mistreat women?  The murderers and thieves? Why are not some these groups first and foremost? No, it is the gay.
I am so pleased to hear a few of you bring up the idea of love. I am a person who believes in love first and foremost. As one who has family members who are gay and have seen the discrimination up close and personal, the last thing I would want to do is hurt or marginalize any minority community, whether I personally agree with them or not. If one is against homosexuality then do not practice homosexuality; it is that simple. I am far more interested in railing against those who would steal from me, hurt me or exploit the weak than those with a different sexual orientation than my own.
It is important to keep in mind that we live in a pluralistic, democratic society that is built on free speech and tolerance of diverse groups and opinions. It sounds to me like some of you are claiming—and dreading—that we are evolving into a closed, intolerant society as you simultaneously speak out against the rights of the homosexual community. Can we see the irony here? If we fight for the rights of some and not the rights of others, are we not part of the democratic problem instead of the solution? Again, we live in a democracy (of sorts) not a theocracy. When do we realize that homosexuals have as much right to their lives (democratically) as anyone else? It sounds to me like it is THIS thinking that is promoting a closed and intolerant society. So society should/can discriminate against the homosexual but absolutely cannot discriminate against the Christian? What is the logic behind this?
It was written in a response, “As  a result the bakers were placed in a very precarious position since to agree to bake a cake for this homosexual couple would be to support and facilitate the mockery of true of true biblical marriage.” We must remember that many in our country are not interested in “true biblical marriage” and they have every right not to be interested in true biblical marriage. As a US citizen, this is their constitutional right.  In addition, I fail to see how baking a cake for anyone supports anything except the flour and sugar industry, and eventually Jenny Craig, even perhaps the insulin makers–but the gay community? The baker’s job is to bake a cake, not take a moral stand for or against anything. One could even argue the baker and his cake is far morally worse for society as it serves to fatten us and clog our arteries leading to obesity and heart disease. The gay is, well, just gay.
As this is a course in persuasion, we must get to the heart of the persuasive process in American society. Persuasion is all about enacting change in others towards our purpose and objective. As a critical thinker, one has to look at the strategies engaged thus far concerning homosexual rights and have an honest self-reflective dialogue on the results. As more and more states legalize gay marriage, we must consider if these anti-gay strategies –such as California’s Prop 8 in 2008, the overall vehement anti-gay dialogue, and situations like the baker refusing to bake a gay couple a cake, have been effective.
I think most us would agree they have not.  Homosexual rights are only the rise.  
Gays do not flock to Christ because they are refused a baked good.
Therefore, what is a good persuader to do? It seems to me we have several options: First, reexamine the strategies we have been using and seek more effective ones; secondly, keep doing what we have been doing yet likely only to yield the same results; or finally, reexamine the overall nature of the objective in the first place. What is the great threat of gay community? If the objective is to “win” all people to Christ, how does denying a group their rights assist in that process?  It would seem intuitively to me to have the opposite effect.
I certainly do not expect everyone in this course to agree with me; in fact, I would hope not. Disagreement and having different understandings of people, concepts, ideas and issues are what make this country great. Engaging and being open-minded to different ideas are the foundation of critical thinking skills.  The important thing is that we stand up for the rights of these concepts, ideas and issues to be expressed and heard. If we want the right, we must fight for the right for all.
Sincerely,
Prof

As a professor of Critical Thinking at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA, my entire academic life I have been constantly receiving similar feedback on my observations and opinions, something along the line of, “I have not really thought of it that way before.” Jimmy’s intention is to develop critical thinking skills, look at things a different way and to question everything. I speak and write of all aspects of life, from Buddhism to twerking, from the spiritual to the profane, from meditation to pornography. It all makes for great conversation and analysis.

So sit back, read and/or listen, and question me as we learn in the tensions of life.

Club Rush at Crafton Hills: The Podcast!

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Please join Jimmy at the February 12, 2014 student club rush in which he is able to interview faculty members, student club presidents, and directors as they discuss their very exciting clubs from dance and art to health and science.  Enjoy the centerpiece interview with new CHC Philosophy professor Jeff Cervantez , who discusses some of the most pressing questions life has to offer. Enjoy!

The Power of Positive Hiking: Tales of The Smug, Phony, Bullshitters

I used to hate positive minded people. You know, the smug “power of positive thinking” types who would smile, pat you on the back and ask how you’re doing all the while acting like they really cared.

So full of shit. So phony. So unrealistic. Vomit.

I never considered myself a pessimist or a cynic; in my own self-estimation, I was a “realist”—as everyone can clearly see that life ends up in death and there is ample suffering and misery in the world. Hell, even my religion told me I was a sinner deserving of hell and there was nothing good about me while most of those on the planet were going to burn in an everlasting fiery pit.

And that message was entitled, “The Good News.” Huh? What was there to be positive about if THIS was the good news? And what is the bad news again?

Then life did what it always tends to do when lived properly and we give in to the power of the universe: It slowly changes and evolves you in the same slow and tedious manner the Colorado River carved and created the Grand Canyon. I tell people all the time never to mock anyone’s beliefs as one day you might just be believing the same thing. Life has a way of slapping us in the face in the most ironic ways, and, like the Grand Canyon, this change is never overnight.

It was Saturday, February 8, 2014 on a hike for “positive minded people” when it struck me that I was no longer the “realist” pessimist, cynic…I realized that I have evolved into a genuinely positive person. I guess you could say it was a type of coming out party for my life as a closeted positive optimist.

And how did I end up on such a hike?

I teach a course entitled “Communication in a Diverse World.”  This class travels to local Southern California locations to experience diversity and make us a bit uncomfortable as we explore new and strange digs.  As a person who loves novelty, I seek new and culturally “weird” events that myself, and my classes, had not done before.

After a furious google search, I found a Los Angeles “Meet Up” group, aptly named “Positive Minded People” that caught my attention. It seemed very different, very strange, and would likely be a totally trippy experience for “normal” people like me. I mean, hiking up to Mt. Hollywood with a bunch of people absolutely committed to positive energy, thoughts and behavior? How weird is that?

Apparently, not that weird.

I found my people.

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How do I know I found my people? I knew the experience would be different from anything I had ever done, yet, something deep inside me suspected I might meet up with the aforementioned smug, phony, bullshitters. As I hiked up the canyons, stopping only to wait for others and dance the wobble (not to worry, it was videotaped and I am sure it will social media surface somewhere soon), I felt completely comfortable and resonated with these people without a hint of awkwardness.  We laughed, danced, encouraged and assisted each other… it was beautiful. I did find the vat of Kool-Aid at the top of the hill a bit sour, though other than that….

Now I am faced with a couple of possibilities—either I have become a smug, phony, bullshitter and am with my smug, phony, bullshit tribe, or there are just some people who consciously commit to positivity in their lives. On this hike, I realized I have become one of those people who decide that we have a choice of attitude in life and positivity is a great way to go.

For those of us who choose to see the glass half full, we still remain fully aware the other half is quite empty. Yet embracing empty is equally important as embracing full. After all, the true beauty of the Grand Canyon is not found in what is full, it is found in the empty space.

As I smiled, patted people on the back and asked how they were doing, there was not a disingenuous bone in my body. I cared.  These people were very genuine, normal people just trying to get through life in the most optimistic way possible—to live a rich and satisfying life through whatever means necessary.  Isn’t that what we are all trying to do anyway?

In the meantime, keep allowing that mighty Colorado current to continue shaping your attitudes, thoughts, perceptions…your very essence -and what is the unthinkable today may become your reality tomorrow.