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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A Walk Down Memory Lane. “Scrooge This: The Five Reasons I Do Not Celebrate Christmas”

2020 marks my 8 year anniversary of blogging. As a result, I have been going back and reading some blogs from my earlier years for the sole purpose of using these as a benchmark for determining my own personal evolution as a human being. Do I still agree with the Jimmy of 4, 6 or 8 years ago? As I read some of these earlier entries, I noticed that I largely still agree with myself, yet now tend to possess slightly more nuanced opinions. For example, I have written a couple of blogs on the subjects of relational cheating and monogamy in the past, and largely still hold to those previous positions. However, as I shall post next month, my position has been modified and somewhat crystallized when it comes to these subjects (read: teaser).

For this month, I take a trip down memory lane, December 2014, to be exact, to read of my thoughts towards the Christmas Holiday. As I present to you the article below, untouched from when it was written 5 years ago, I still stand by every word. I suppose the only thing that has really changed is that with each passing year, the notion of Christmas becomes a more distant and unrelatable memory. Frankly, though I still stand by sentiments, in 2019 I’m not sure I even care enough about Christmas to waste my time writing a blog about it.

This being said, I still find people intrigued by my complete Christmas apathy. I would love to read any pro-Christmas arguments you may have as well as any thoughts to contribute to the matter.

Now, Tis the season…to read this blog blast from the past.

Scrooge This: The Five Reasons I Do Not Celebrate Christmas

Now that Christmas is over I feel free to write the blog I have felt compelled to write the entire month of December –though did not do so because I did not want to rain on anyone’s Christmas parade and harp on the negative– and then subsequently be called what I have been labeled for many years, “Scrooge,” followed with an insulting, “bah humbug.”

Our family does not celebrate Christmas–nor Chanukah, Kwanza nor any other kind of December holiday. No lights, no tree, no manger scene, no Santa, no presents, and, above all, no stress –and I love it. So what is the point in writing this blog? I am not out to change anyone’s mind, even if I could. Yet, since I get the question all the time by perplexed and surprised people as to why we do not acknowledge this holiday, I will now put my sentiments in written form and when asked the question in the future, I can simply point to my blog.

In my last entry, I explained how we are like seeds in the fields of culture and it becomes very difficult to objectively be critical of that which is literally a part of us. For many, there is no cultural practice more ingrained into our personal and collective psyche than Christmas –to question it is ludicrous and so iconoclastic as to be completely off the critical thinking table. Christmas is the untouchable sacred cow of the masses, I realize this. So, that said, I encourage you to hear my 5 reasons for not celebrating Christmas with an open mind. Again, I am not out to change anyone’s mind, rather, at the very least, promote understanding that there are legitimate and beneficial reasons for not observing the holiday –and perhaps some take it easy on those of us who choose the Christmas avoidance route and understand we are not awful people, ie. Scrooge.

1. Christmas is great for the economy though very dangerous for the soul.

I believe we all would agree that for the great majority Christmas is about gift giving. At its face, gift giving is a wonderful and edifying practice that nourishes the soul. Yet when we culturally mandate compulsory gift giving, it sucks the spirit and heart right out of the practice; frenzied, tit-for-tat gift exchanges zap any genuine life right out of the otherwise healthy custom.  Our shopping malls turn into crowded, soulless bastions of bargain shoppers robotically hunting for the best deals after they have fought tirelessly for a parking spot –only to typically purchase crap that no one really needs. But, hey, this comes from a guy who believes a part of his soul dies every time he waits in line at a Wal-Mart. I love meaningful and relevant gift giving, yet it means so much more when it comes at unexpected times, motivated by none other than love. I realize not every activity in life will feed the soul, though it is important to avoid activities that will drain it.

2. It goes against the goal of living an emotionally balanced and healthy life.

Things are never as good, or bad, as we think they are.  Perhaps I am only speaking from personal experience, though I have found that whenever we get too emotionally high we can expect a crash landing into the emotional lows of life shortly thereafter.  If we were to compare holidays to drugs, Christmas would the crystal meth…on steroids. “The most wonderful time of the year” is frequently the emotional peak time of the year for many.  I do not blame Christmas and the holidays for depression (contrary to popular belief, depression and suicide rates are not higher during the holiday season; they are highest in Spring time) rather I am suggesting it certainly does not help those of us in the quest of living a life void of major high/low swings. Observing the Christmas holiday contributes to a ‘bipolaresque’ type of up-and-down existence as it embodies the manic stage -at least it did for me.

3. It sends the wrong message to children.

I believe we all know this and acknowledge it -we even make movies about this phenomenon, I am thinking “Jingle All They Way” among others. Like the insane person who never learns from her mistake, we continue to engage in creating spoiled, entitled and materialistic children, instructing them to write letters explaining everything they want to a fictional figure. Can I be blunt? That is just plain fucked up. Why are we messing with our children’s minds in such a way? Is this not a mild form of abuse? I realize culture is so ingrained in us that it is often difficult to be critical of it, yet if one can stand back and objectively observe this practice, just for a moment, it is just wrong; I, for one, do not want to perpetuate this practice. The practice of Christmas teaches children that, above all, we are soulless consumers first and foremost.  When will the consumerist madness stop? We buy things we do not need for the things we do not need. Christmas teaches children we should strive for what we want –not what we need. Christmas has become much more a venture capitalist holiday than a spiritual one.

4. The entire Christmas narrative of Santa, elves, the North Pole, etc…is a lie.

no-christmas-yetMost theological scholars would even agree that December 25 is not the birth date of Jesus. Please understand that I am all for cultural myth and ritual. Totally. Myth plays an important part in the process of understanding ourselves and the human condition…but call it for what it is, MYTH. Can anyone explain why we take a perfectly healthy tree, cut it down and bring it into our house?  I didn’t think so. What is the lesson from myth we can learn from this practice? In the case of Christmas, we blatantly lie about the whole thing. I told our children from the moment they could understand my words that Santa is a lie…that simple. People can go to jail for lying yet we encourage it toward our most vulnerable and gullible of society…and for what reason? I am all down for lies that might protect someone from hurt, yet we perpetually, albeit innocently and with good intentions, lie with the outcome of creating false expectations as we set children up for disappointment at some level.

5. It trivializes and demeans Christian-based religious faiths.

When I used to be a pastor many moons ago, I despised Christmas (which may explain, in part, why I was such a shitty pastor) much more than I do now –presently, I essentially just forget about it altogether.  I could never speak for, or on behalf of God, Jesus, Tom Cruise, Mohammed, or any other deity-like figure, yet, something inside me believes even Jesus himself would condemn the practice of Christmas –for all the ethical reasons I have mentioned.

I collect Jesus junk. Thus far I have Jesus duct tape, a Jesus action figure, Jesus T-shirts, socks, etc… I do this as a reminder how our culture has taken that which is to be sacred, revered and honored and morphed these entities into unholy and profane trivial commodities. Christmas, as we practice it today, trivializes the holiness and reverence of a religion’s most sacred event.  I used to find this disturbing yet today I find this more amusing -as these things act as a constant reminder of the culture I am dealing with on a daily basis.

So these are the five reasons why I choose not to celebrate Christmas. Agree with me or not, I have arrived at these conclusions through analysis and reasoned observation. In fact, I am quite certain many of you agree with me –at least in part on some things. Then, why is it when someone asks me about Christmas and I explain these things, I am then insulted for my calculated decision? Scrooge was not calculated, he was just an asshole. Contrary to some people’s opinion, I am not an asshole. I choose not to partake in the, what I respectfully believe to be, irrational, materialistic, unspiritual endeavor and I get questioned? Our culture has done a really good job of creating this illusion –to the point that the free thinking ones, not taken in by the smoke and mirrors of the holiday, get criticized for their sane and logical conclusions. Again, I am not out to change anyone’s mind, even if I could, but please do not disparage those of us who do not see this holiday as you might see it.

I am very proud to proclaim we have raised four very strong, independent, passionate and free thinking children who all have a very different take on Christmas today. They not only survived an, essentially, Christmas-less upbringing, they have thrived. We all live life to the very fullest.

I guess I just rained on the Christmas parade. Not to worry. You have nearly an entire year to recover.

The New Childhood

Reviews.

Having written just a few, I rarely write blogs concerning the specific content of various media.

I prefer attempting to come up with my own ideas rather than spending a lot of time critiquing others’ ideas. If I am a critic at all it is of culture-at-large.

However, regarding the current book I have just completed, The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World, by Temple University Professor Jordan Shapiro, I cannot help myself. Shapiro has an amazing ability to view the world through an informed lens of human history as opposed to confining his understanding of the world through our current cultural context alone.

When one views the world historically, and I do mean from the beginning of human history as we know it, it becomes apparent our species practices a very consistent behavioral pattern concerning, well, just about everything.

This book is a history, parenting, philosophy, technology, sociology and psychology book rolled up into one cohesive outlook, critically analyzing our current relationship with technology from multiple points of access.

I have typically understood our culture’s relationship with technology through the lens of the dystopian/utopian continuum: that is, there are those who either believe the internet, and technology in general, are leading us onto a path of great dystopian destruction or to a wonderful utopian place of enlightenment and progress…with every view in between these two extremes.

No more.

Shapiro has challenged my thinking in this regard. Yes, both dystopian and utopian views exist, yet I would create a new category for him, perhaps called, a “realist-ian” or better yet, a “justdealwithit-ian.” He has convinced me that this dichotomy is misguided and unhelpful in 2019.

Shapiro looks at human history and examines the invention of the child’s playground sandbox, family dinners, the family hearth, television, clockwork mechanics, the Dewey Decimal system, even penmanship, among other overlooked cultural phenomenon, to assist us in better understanding the human condition and the monumental change technology is having upon contemporary global culture.

Just as with every innovation in human history having its fair share of naysayers, it is not long before the “back in my day” crowd slowly dies off and humanity progresses forward without the irritation of the OFD sufferers (not to be confused with prophet-like critics whose warnings are a needed and necessary aspect of moving forward with discretion).

Engaging in the dystopian/utopian discussion is akin to still giving those who refuse to get a car (“my horse works just fine, thank you very much, the world is too damn fast anyway”), or a computer (“nothing wrong with my Royal typewriter”) or even a phone (“if someone wants to talk to me they can put forward the effort to get on their damn horse and knock on my door”) some credence and validity, as if they possess reasonable objections to these contemporary conveniences.

In other words, “Dystopians, (in my richest Italian accent) get over it already! It’s called progress.”

Shapiro examines historical human innovations and details the strangely similar human reactions have been toward such innovations.

“What is it with these mechanical clocks? Was something wrong with the sun dial?”

He has convinced me that blaming the ills of society on a technology is simply misguided. Rather, any negative outcomes we believe a technology may result in, rests in our incorrect and misguided use and application of it.

“Air bags, shmare bags. I would prefer the old fashioned way of enduring accidents. Death.”

Speaking of which, imagine when the automobile became mass produced and we were driving for the first time as a society en masse: it was some time after that when we figured out stop signs would be a really good idea (1915 to be exact), that speed limits needed to be imposed while a universal lighting system consisting of green, yellow and red would really help us apply this new technology most safely and effectively. It took a while for us to figure out that, say, crosswalks and limit lines would be nice…but that took some trial and error as well, perhaps an accident or two, before we got there. These better ways to apply this new technology did not happen overnight.

Like in the application of most technologies, there is a learning curve. (As an aside, whoever thought of the left turn, red light arrow was just a flat-out mad man who should have been kicked out of the traffic meeting).

Therefore, we need to best figure out this internet technology thing as we are still in the infancy stages of its use.

How do we best apply new technologies? What new “stop signs” do we need to employ? How do we invent digital versions of crosswalks and limit lines? Shapiro asks these questions and more.

So, for a good read, I would highly recommend The New Childhood. Like myself, you may find yourself at odds with some of his extreme progressive positions on certain applications of technologies (for example his strong encouragement for his young boys to engage in, what I would deem, excessive video game play), yet his points are very well taken and his message very much needed in an age when there is no turning back.

But be warned, Shapiro can either be viewed as a utopian on steroids, or simply a person who recognizes that there is no putting the cat back in the bag nor the toothpaste back in the tube. Technologically, it is what it is and this is what it shall be until our next great innovation, at which time we will have to figure it out best practices all over again.

Now, enough reviews. I need to come up with some of my own ideas.

In the meantime, you can find the book here, among other places.

 

 

 

Legacy

I think every family has that “weird” uncle, right? I am quite certain, that in my family of origin, I am that weird uncle to certain nieces and nephews. In fact, I know I am.

However, if you believe this moniker of “weird” is somehow unflattering or disrespectful, you have no idea about my thoughts on “weird.” If interested, you could read about those thoughts here.

In short, I really like people who are different. How boring this planet would be if we did not have eccentric, strange people inhabiting it.

Enter my Uncle Les. My 87 year-old uncle recently passed away from lung cancer. As the one who presided over the funeral while delivering the eulogy, I had a chance to sit back and really reflect on my strange uncle. Though was he really that strange? You be the judge.

Uncle Les never married. He rarely dated, at least to my knowledge, and I was around for 56 of his 87 years. He never had children, or if he did he performed a stealth-like job keeping it a secret. He lived alone with his two pooches in a modest house in the hills of Burbank.

While recently cleaning out some of his belongings in his home, a neighbor came over and informed us he was very territorial and, allegedly, threatened gun play when someone dared park in front of his house or trespass on his property. I do not think he was a violent guy, you know, he just, like, didn’t appreciate unwanted trespassers I guess.

I have plenty of Uncle Les stories, like the time when I was a kid and my family was driving home one night and we watched as police officers were giving a man a field sobriety test…lo and behold it was my uncle.

But that was a long time ago. Uncle Les stopped boozing sometime in the mid 80’s.

Yet perhaps the strangest thing about him was his relationship with money. In our Hungarian family he was known as an “ocho sheggi,” (please do not hold me accountable for the spelling of this phrase) which is Hungarian for “cheap ass.”

To illustrate, often times for Thanksgiving he would eat at the local Salvation Army to save a few bucks. He was generous enough to will me his car upon his passing, and though Uncle Les had plenty of money in the bank, several properties, and a home worth damn near a million bucks, he left me a 2011 Toyota Yaris with crank windows.

I had no idea they still manufactured cars with crank windows in 2011.

You could say he was a “no frills” kind of guy. He actually enjoyed being extremely cheap, saving every penny he could whenever he could. He would brag about how little he paid for things…if he even paid for it at all and was not picking it out of a local dumpster.

But dammit, I loved the guy…a lot. I really did, particularly as he aged. His relationship with money was endearing in a strange kind of way. We would often take him out to lunch or dinner and I would pick up the tab. As I swooped up the $32.49 check to pay, he had a look in his eye like I just bought him a new Tessla Roadster or 14 carat diamond watch.

And, to be fair, he would treat on occasion as well…even if it was the greasy spoon called Harry’s Family Restaurant in beautiful downtown Burbank, where the omelettes are 4.99 though the cockroaches come for free.

But this is not why I write today. I write because Uncle Les is remnant of a bygone era whose values are sadly dying with it. Born circa 1930, a depression era baby, Uncle Les and his ilk did not run out and by new socks when one wore a hole through one – you stitched it back up and off you went.

You valued hefty savings accounts not expensive cars; a “rainy day” fund over fancy clothes. Uncle Les had enough money to do whatever he wanted to do: buy a bigger house, a nicer car, a vacation property or two, but, no. He had developed a lifestyle that he was content with and lived life on his own “ocho sheggi” terms.

So now I, along with my siblings and cousins, am left with what Uncle Les refused to spend and I feel really weird about it. Really weird.

Perhaps my biggest take away is the old adage, that money cannot buy you happiness. Or that a man worked his entire life and saved damn near every penny for the sole purpose of leaving it for the next generation – a next generation that did not include any children of his own.

Uncle Les lived in an age where character mattered and the legacy a person leaves actually meant something.

As we buried Uncle Les we did not bury his legacy nor our gratitude for his profound generosity. As we lowered him down his legacy rose like a phoenix out of the ashes along with our love and appreciation.

I now realize Uncle Les is in many ways a role model for all of us and I am now challenged like never before to consider what legacy I can leave the next generation when my number comes up.

I guess sometimes (Uncle) Les(s) is more…than you could have ever imagined. Thank you. Your legacy lives on.

Heterodox Academy and the Community College System

Below is the published version of my Heterdox Academy blog. Since I have written it a little over a month ago, I have grown in my conviction that it is the community college that resembles the real face of a diverse country.

I encourage each of you to check out the Heterodox Academy website and let me know what you think of the organization in general. From where I sit, it seems to good to be true, though would love to hear your opinion!

 

Heterodox Academy and the Community College System