“It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way”
A few nights ago, after a long night of partying with some friends we were sitting in a circle when I was posed the question, “Jimmy, what is the secret to life? I mean you have lived a lot longer than the rest of us.” As I appreciated the former question, the latter comment felt entirely unnecessary, thank you very much.
Granted I was not in the finest mental condition to wax philosophical on their asses, still I needed to come up with something really wise, really fast. I felt like the Village Elder Shaman pressured to evoke wisdom upon the younger and impressionable warriors.
I proceeded to explain that the secret to life is happiness and in order to be happy, you have got to be doing in life what you WANT to be doing in life…or else you really do not stand much of a chance in the quest for happiness. The conversation did not proceed much further from that point, yet the question really got me to thinking.
I think, therefore I blog.
“Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”
I have touched on happiness and contentment in life in other blogs, particularly those concerning my thoughts on Buddhism; yet I have never really thought of happiness in the context of the way it was posed to me on this evening. So I explain…and hopefully my young warrior “grasshoppas” will read like good young warriors at the feet of their elder.
If we ever find ourselves in the dreaded state of mind that says, “I will finally be happy once I am (fill in the blank)”—we are missing out on true happiness in the moment. Happiness is never found in the future. It is only found in the moment.
If your goal is to one day be a firefighter yet are not happy as a fire sciences student or as an Emergency Medical Technician, the chances of finding happiness once achieving firefighter status are rare indeed.
“Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time”
It is vital that we need to find happiness in whatever we are doing NOW. Happiness is a state of mind, not a physical destination, and is the child of contentedness; you might say happiness is housed in the base camp of contentment.Hence I provide you my simple 5-step plan for life happiness.
Create a path toward your ultimate destination in life. What is the old adage? I remember, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” How can you reach your goals if you have not properly identified them? The hindrance with most people is that they never stop to consider what it is they believe will provide them happiness in the long term -as so many simply settle for so much less than what they really want. Setting an objective and goal for your life is paramount in eventually reaching it. You cannot reach for something that does not exist.
Never sell out to the almighty dollar in the quest for the ultimate destination. This is such a common theme. Trust me young warriors, what is “good money” at 20 is nowhere near “good money” at 40. The problem is that you can get addicted to 20 year-old good money and eventually those who sacrificed and practiced some delayed gratification begin passing you up. Money is awesome and brings a lot of nice wonderful things in life…it is just that happiness is not one of them.
Be prepared for the path and ultimate destination to change at any moment. Speaking of old adages, one of my former favorites was, “Want to make God laugh? Make a Plan.” Why should we plan when we frequently do not end up where we originally wanted to land? Here is the thing about planning—so many of us end up nowhere near where we intended, yet with a plan at least we have something from which to deviate. I never set out to be a Professor of Communication Studies…yet I then recognized when I needed to deviate from my path and life led me to a differing opportunity.
Be ready for the unsought and unforeseen opportunities to arise and snag them. As I mentioned above, when our path deviates—and it will—be ready and flexible to twist with the turns, rock with the rolls, and shake with the bakes. This roller coaster is what makes life fresh and exciting. I am currently performing a task in my job that is very uncomfortable and finds me well out of my skill zone…writing a 300 page technical report for the College, very grueling. Yet this was a great opportunity for me. True, it is difficult and sucky, yet my need for a fresh challenge, desire to learn new skills, and find out more about the running of the entire institution make this opportunity second to none.
Find whatever contentment and happiness you possibly can in whatever you are doing at the moment. This is central and arguably most important. When someone asks me what is the best exercise you can do, I typically respond with whatever exercise you love doing most…cause then you will stick to it. For those who detest all forms of exercise, I suggest making a game out of it. If you despise running, attempt to create some happiness out of it by setting little goals for yourself, i.e. try to make it from your driveway to the fire hydrant in under 5 minutes or run in a beautiful park -in other words, whatever possible happiness can be extracted from any given situation, extract the hell out of it. Squeeze that happiness juice box until not a single drop is left.
“Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said (let me tell you now)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down”
Thus the wise Village Elder Shaman has spoken. And one can only hope all your asses feel properly philosophically waxed. You may now rise and go about your day young warriors and I shall go about mine.
Cause I’m happy. And happiness is the truth.
Recently a friend, Shelle, requested that I write a blog concerning my thoughts on Affirmative Action. My first thought was how 80’s of her. Then did a bit of research and found it is still a very prevalent issue. It is probably not a subject matter I would ever selected from my own strange head filled with floating weird ideas; yet it is important and since extremely white dudes like myself are often the ones most adversely affected by it, I might want to be armed with an opinion and give this one a shot. For those uninformed, Affirmative Action is an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, particularly in relation to employment or education. In other words, it is giving favor to those who have suffered from discrimination in the past while affording them preferential treatment. It is the interviewing white firefighter who scores a 90% on the exam yet is passed over in favor of the Hispanic interviewing firefighter who scores an 85%. As I think about this issue, I realize that what drives my various opinions and political leanings are my attitudes toward people in general. I generally really love people (not all, trust me, though most) particularly the underdog and those really in need of help and assistance. I place people far above what I call general principle or policy. In other words, if there is a law or a policy that wrongs a group of innocent people, to hell with that law or policy. I am the guy who would steal a loaf of bread (break principle) for a starving family (people). My blog readers may have already surmised that I am far from a black and white, letter-of-the-law type individual. Duh. Yet why? I do not respect the law. I somewhat respect the spirit of the law. I do respect people. And if a law hurts people, to hell with that law. Laws are boundaries we set up, essentially, to make our lives better and more functional in a civil society. We need some of them yet I do not respect them as in and of themselves they are nothing but constructs created to work in a specific cultural context. Life is far too ambiguous to respect a law as we all need to break them every now and then. Be it breaking traffic laws to take your asthmatic child who could not breathe to the emergency room (it has happened) or simply parking in a no parking zone because you see the street sweeper already made its pass, (by the way, those policy-first asses will still give you a ticket even though you clearly did not violate the intent of the law) laws prove to be suspect and susceptible if enforced with a “policy” mentality rather than a “people” one. I do not respect that which can readily change and mean absolutely nothing if not applied contextually. When I see a sign that says, “Buckle Up, It’s The Law” -I shudder…stop threatening me assholes! It wasn’t a law 20 years ago though was still a good idea to buckle up. How about, “Buckle Up, It’s a Good Idea.” Be nice. It’s a tough life. And I was not always this way. I used to be a “p&p” guy, a principle and policy follower. Now I am just a “p” guy, people. And much happier. Take my position on Undocumented Students (read: illegal alien students). If I were driven by principle or policy, I would take the position that anyone undocumented should be deported from this country. There really would not be much to discuss. Yet, alas, I am not driven by “p&p”, I am driven by my love for “p.” To think we would take a group of people who were brought up and have always lived in this country since a very young age and deny them certain civil rights is just mean. Our current immigration laws are fundamentally flawed…am I supposed to respect them? I don’t think law first, policy first, or even America first…I think people first. All people. All people all over the globe. I am not sure what that makes me politically. I do know it makes me sympathetic toward the issue of Affirmative Action as it gives back to those groups who have historically suffered…and that is good thing. “But, Jimmy, is that policy not hurting a group of other people, namely white people?” Thanks for asking white man. The question assumes fairness is a fundamental right afforded every human being. It is not. We live in a screwed up world with a lot of very flawed people and flawed system. If whitey now has to take a back seat to people of color as pay back for centuries of hurtful behavior toward minorities, do not blame Affirmative Action, blame your forefathers who now screwed it up for you. Those who might call Affirmative Action “reverse discrimination” would be akin to calling your dentist a masochist because of the pain she inflicted while extracting a long rotting tooth. Life is not fair. Just ask any older southern African American who was not even allowed to drink out of the same water fountain as whites, let alone get a decent job; no, life is not fair…never has been and perhaps never will be. Yet I do see Affirmative Action more as a temporary corrective measure to remedy a solvable problem. And once that social ill has been cured? I would opine that it makes no sense to provide medicine for a healthy patient. Are we there yet? Have we solved the problems of prejudice and discrimination? That is a different blog for a different day… I do think we are closer than ever. If more people would be “p” people we perhaps would already be there. And if you would like to make blog suggestions and add to a head filled with floating weird ideas, you know where to find me.
One of the most frequent questions I receive from people pertains to why Rene and I prefer to be regarded as “Life Partners” as opposed to husband and wife. If you want a quick correction from me, just call Rene’ my “wife.” I’ll show you. The label makes me cringe. Whenever I tell people about my “Life Partner,” Rene’, they automatically assume I am hooking up with a gay Spanish dude. I do find it ironic that as gay people are fighting for their right to call their same sex partner husband or wife, I prefer we all call our significant other a “Life Partner” as it rings more genuine, authentic, and is an accurate description of what most of us really are, or perhaps, should be. However, I am not out to change anyone or to convince one that “Life Partner” is the superior term, cause who am I? I believe two people should call themselves whatever they would like to call themselves according to their belief system. Do you like the terms husband and wife? Awesome. Have at it. So why do Rene’ and I prefer the term Life Partners? This is a very reasonable question. I have done some light research (read: a google first page search with shitty key words) into the origins of the terms husband and wife and the findings were ambiguous. No matter, I hold a fairly strong opinion that finding out the origin of terms (which is nearly an impossible task, by the way) is essentially irrelevant as words are constantly evolving and changing. Does it really matter how it once was used? I suppose at some level it could be interesting, but for no other reason than for brain candy, and for some bullshit perceived credibility. What follows are the six basic reasons we prefer the term “Life Partner.” The terms “husband” and “wife” reek of unevolved, centuries-old notions of people ownership. Just as they used to pronounce a couple “man and wife,” giving the man his identity and leaving the woman to be known only in terms of her relation to the man, justifies that language must constantly evolve as humans constantly evolve. We no longer have bondservants, spinsters, or bastards, in the same sense we used to have them. Let’s move forward and evolve our language choices in step with our social changes. I am unsure why the gay community fights for the “right” to be referred to in such an archaic term. As stated, I like their term much better. The term “Life Partner” identifies us first and foremost in terms of our individual self and not the other. Please do not get me wrong—to share your life with somebody and to share it lovingly and honestly is a joy unparalleled in life. Yet we enter the world alone and we leave the world alone. It is our individual self that we must deal with first and foremost; we are “selfs” that come into a sort of union with another—which part should we identify as? That is a personal decision. We would rather see ourselves as Jimmy first and Rene’ first versus what we have together first. She is Rene’, she is not MY wife. When one says “my husband” or “my wife,” they are suggesting, in essence, that the other is a possession. At least when one uses the term, “my Life Partner” it carries a connotation of complete egalitarianism. Think about it, if someone called the other “my life husband” or “my life wife” it would seem rather odd; because most of the time it is not for life. “Life Partner” dares to proclaim that you are in this for the long haul. A lot of “life husbands” or “life wives” are now referred to in a different term, “my ex.” If we are to create labels that are going to define us, that label should reflect the nature of the arrangement. Rene’ and I have a partnership…that is precisely what it is. Just as in any partnership, business or otherwise, you have an agreement and each accepts certain roles in said partnership. Since our arrangement does not include many of the conventional roles of husband and wife, we use a term that more accurately defines who and what we are. I am off to teach in London for the Fall of 2014. Is Rene’ going with me? No. She intends to visit, yet our partnership allows for extended periods away from one another. Like, if you love someone set them free man. Peace. Dude. Marriage is a failing institution as most end up in divorce. Why label two people coming together in a committed relationship something after failure? If we labeled other things after failure, we would call our cars “Edsels,”movies can now be known as “Ishtars,” and our presidents can be labeled, “Jimmy Carters.” We both question all cultural conventions and do not want to carry on traditions for the sake, of, uhm, well, tradition. Culture is a man-created (and I do mean primarily people with penises, yes) construct that is as viable to error, prejudice and bullshit as any existing ideology. In fact, culture is one vast ideology that constantly needs to be reexamined and questioned. We were both very young in the 1960’s and barely of elementary school age, yet we both possess very strong “hippie like” sensibilities. We question everything and do not accept cultural convention because that is what “the man” says to accept. So, in a sense, we use the term to convey our overall disposition towards life in general. So, yeah, part of us does it just to be rebellious assholes. “Life Partner” does not recognize the gender of the individuals. In a show of solidarity with the gay community, why use a term that identifies the gender of the individuals choosing to do life together? I love it when I call Rene’ my Life Partner and people assume I am gay. To break century old traditions, changing language is a good start. It will be a beautiful day when one says they have a Life Partner and one will not know the gender of the other…or even care. We are all humans in need of each other. One planet, one people, bitches. The term “Life Partner” implies a tacit understanding that partnerships are flexible and negotiable whereas husbands and wives have to live up to rigid expectations. I have heard it said that the country of Mexico was considering enacting “marriage contracts” in which participants agreed to specific terms. After a period of time, they could contractually sign an extension or opt out. I like this idea…though I am not sure the Catholic Church in Mexico is too hot on it. If we see ourselves as partners first and foremost, it relieves one of the traditional burdens of husband and wife. When one says, “I need to go home to the wife,” versus, “I need to go home to my Life Partner,” I hear something very different. The former implies this is a burden placed upon him by a demanding bitch, while the latter carries a connotation of mutual respect. At least that is how I hear it. Hey, call yourselves what you want to call yourselves. I am just relieved because from now on when I get the question, I can answer with, “read all about it at jimmysintension.com.”