COMMUNITEA BOOKS BLOG
On numerous occasions I've used this platform to talk about the things that interest me: art, psychology, movies, music & c, over the past few months I have been thinking a great deal about the albums that have not only had the greatest impact on me but that are, in their entirety, the best full length albums from start-to-finish. I've been working on putting together a list, and though it's not yet complete, and will likely never be, because I have not yet published a blog this month due to my SEO project, which is very, very nearly complete, I need to publish something so here we are:
While I was living in Santa Fe my girlfriend and I were invited to a small intimate show at High Mayhem studio; that particular night I wasn't in the mood to go out and though I tried to weasel out of it my girlfriend persuaded me to make the exception. It was the first time I heard the music of Brown Bird, David Lamb and MorganEve Swain. They were touring to promote the new album Salt for Salt, it was phenomenal, and over the night the band became my favorite with songs like Bilgewater, Blood of Angels, Fingers to the Bone, and Thunder&Lightning, every song on the album, from start-to-finish, is incredible. David Lamb passed away in 2014 after a battle w/ Leukemia, MorganEve, his widow, continues what they started together with her band The Huntress and the Holder of Hands. Brown released 10 albums, and all of them are unbelievable.
The summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school I was one of 17 students that went on an environmental science trip through the American Southwest. It was an awesome trip and I'm grateful to have been selected. On the trip I started crushing on one of my classmates, Lindsay. I had known her for a few years, but it wasn't until then that I really started getting to know her. She introduced me to the Hardcore Punk Band AFI or A Fire Inside. They had just released what would be their final album with Nitro Records before signing with DreamWorks, The Art of Drowning. The album was en-genius however the album released prior, Black Sails in the Sunset is one of the greatest studio albums ever recorded, and remained my favorite well into adulthood.
I was in middle school when my best friend Jason and I started to develop our musical identities; until then most of the music that I listened to I had grown up with, it was an extension of my parents though it continues to remain important to me even today. The music of The Rolling Stones, The Doobie Bro., Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Jimmy Buffett. The first time I can remember sitting down and having a conversation about music, well, about a band and specifically about a single album, the first time that the concept of a great studio album occurred to me was when Jason and I started talking about Eve 6's self titled album; the album that included Inside Out. Most people are familiar with the album, or at the very least a couple of the featured songs, however in it's entirety the album is amazing. It was unlike anything that I had heard up to that point, and it changed the way that I looked at putting together a record.
I cannot remember where, or when I was introduced to Andrew Bird. It just feels like his music has been a part of my life forever, though I'm fairly certain it wasn't until after high school that he first showed up on my radar. I'm grateful that he did. There is not a single album of his that I do not like, though The Mysterious Production of Eggs released in 2005 holds a special place in my heart. I have seen Andrew Bird multiple times, including one pop-up show at The Guggenheim Museum while I was living in New York City, The Twilight Concert Series in while I was living in Salt Lake City, and The Lensic Theatre while I was living in Santa Fe. He puts on an incredible show.
There is not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said about Fleetwood Mac's album, Rumors. In many ways I feel like including it on this list isn't fair to those that haven't been so collectively discussed, nevertheless Rumors is in incredible album.
In high school my friend Rick and I used to exchange music, we spent a great deal of our free time digging deeply into the world of Indie music and when we returned from the abyss we were better for it. It was in one of these trips that I discovered Bright Eyes, now a household name Connor Oberst exploded from the Omaha music scene with incredible haunting lyrics and brilliant yet simple guitar riffs. No one had heard anything since Elliot Smith, in the wake of lyricist Oberst is a member of a very elite list. His album I'm Wide Awake It's Morning is immeasurable, and genius.
My sister introduced me to Sufjan Stevens. Come on Feel the Illinois had just been released and he was the most discussed musician at the time. I was overwhelmed in awe. His music remains one of the most influential of my life, and he is still a favorite. I saw him play at The Paramount in Austin, Texas several years ago he and his band came out wearing wings, and Stevens was the Majestic Snowbird himself. It was an incredible show. My Brightest Diamond opened for him, in part because a number of the members My Brightest Diamond were also playing with Stevens—they were an introduction to an entirely new genre of music for me.
Thank you for sticking with me this far, I'm going to save the rest of the last for another blog on a later date. I was hoping to have this list published in January but time has become a very, very precious and scarce commodity. Look for upcoming continuations of both this list and my series on Communication.
There is something that feels uniquely American about harboring severe judgements of radical intent which, I suppose, is to say that we have a tendency to lean fiercely towards the extreme ends of the spectrum, regardless of the spectrum. Once labeled you are the stereotype, as well as the many pendulous archetypes that follow. In the fall of 1994 my sister, mother, father and I would sit down weekly to watch the new Star Trek incarnation: Voyager, not one of us could be considered a Trekkie, however each of us could enjoy the series—and others like it—for any number of reasons: the outrageous plot lines, unilateral character development, and the exceptionally—and intentional—“B” status, among other reasons. It’s the same appreciation that would allow me to enjoy myself at a Star Trek convention while simultaneously gawking at the satiric humor of Galaxy Quest. Some people might clarify the mental wherewithal by suggesting to, “…do everything in moderation.” Though I make every attempt to avoid the particular aphorism. We enjoyed the show, but we were not consumed by it, and there has been little—if anything—in my life that has consumed me to the point of behavioral dissonance. Suggesting to, “…do everything in moderation,” sounds, to me, like the temptation otherwise might be great, though I struggle to accept moderation. In reality I am capable of enjoying something for what it is, and I generally don’t extend more to that appreciation than that of an intrinsic piece of entertainment.
Last August when I starting building my online bookstore and found myself sitting for hours uploading books, individually transferring relatable information for each and every one of my greater than 2,000 book collection I also discovered a renewed interest in television. I had previously stopped watching TV. I am not one of those obnoxious pseudotrites aspiring only to judge and condemn anyone whom acts, interests, or believes differently and in this case I did not quit watching TV because I had been elevated to a higher level of humanaic consciousness, for me it could be considered a general addiction, I stopped watching television because I likely wouldn’t have done anything else—I would posit, as well, that our pseudotrites are actually more like “us” than they would like to admit. As it turned out sit-coms were a convenient backdrop to my work once music, in that particular setting, became suddenly nettlesome. There were of course a number of shows that I had been “meaning” to watch for an exponential number of years, and so I thought, “What the hell!” I watched the Office, Parks & Rec, The Killing, Sherlock, Numb3rs, and Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit as I was browsing for a new show, recently—I still spent a great deal of time working in my living room, uploading new books to communiteabooks.com, and Instagram, and Pinterest and diving deep into marketing and learning new marketing techniques—I discovered Star Trek Voyager on Amazon Prime, and so I have been re-watching it, and it has taken me back to a different time. I am almost finished with season 3 and I’m feeling nostalgic in a very healthy, and seemingly physiological way. I was nine when I first started watching this show, needless to say it was a simpler time, in many-many more ways than the one.
I am appreciating the nostalgia: the characters, the music, and remembering how differently members of my family would react as the story would unfold. The music, especially during the first two seasons, really struck me; the opening sequence would begin and as the solar flare passed and the shows name would appear—I smiled every time. I couldn’t help it. I have also noticed a few differences in me: how I would react to the show; how I would react to the characters; something similar happened to me when I watched Numb3rs: I had originally started watching the show years ago—I forget the circumstances exactly—and I never finished it, I made it through a season, maybe some of two. I remember thinking how bad Don Eppes was to his brother Charlie the first time I watched it. The second time around, however, when I picked it up again sometime last year I didn’t feel the same way. Their relationship was somewhat turbulent but not nearly to the extent that I had previously felt, but the show hadn’t changed—I did. I’m noticing something similar re-watching Voyager. When I was younger a nine, ten, eleven year old boy my Star Trek Voyager celebrity crush was on Kes played by Jennifer Lien, however this time around, as an older man, I find that I would be more interested in Lt. B’Elanna Torres now, played by Roxanne Dawson. The two characters are fairly different from one another, at least in respect to their worldviews and, it’s funny, I just realized that Tom Paris played by Robert Duncan McNeil also had an interest for both Kes and B’Elanna Torres, and although I like the actor Paris is one of my least favorite characters.
Communitea Books had a great week last week, and I’m enjoying the thought that returning to a more childlike place emotionally and mentally may be, in part, responsible for that. There was a lot about my childhood that I have been grateful for inasmuch as there has been a great deal about my adult life that I have been grateful for, however those two people had never really met—my present and former self. I was ripped out of my childhood and spent some time in kind of an emotional purgatory before allowing myself to become an adult. This time while I am re-watching the show I am learning to allow those two people to meet, by exploring my childhood and Star Trek Voyager is allowing for some previously dormant feelings and emotions to become wakeful and relevant again. I do believe that too often people lose sight of who they are by forgetting who they were, and the shadow of some warped belief that it’s necessary to give up part of your childhood, to adopt a kind of mutual cynicism, and accept some illusive, senseless, and insidious truth. It is that childlike purview that allows you to enjoy something simply for the sake of enjoying it. To enjoy Star Trek without worrying about the obscurities of stereotypes, and to rediscover a childlike sincerity that will only strengthen your efforts throughout life without concerning yourself with an over involvement of moderation.
I have always envied people whom are capable of speed reading, and retaining all of the information, the extreme side of the spectrum is an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Many scientist agree that you cannot develop and eidetic memory, but I am not so sure about that. I read an interesting fact about eidetic memory that I shall share with you is that: the memory does not rely upon visual input, but rather it utilizes the capacity of the other body senses (Koka, 2016). And, with that in mind, there are exercises that you can do to improve your memory, such as: working on visualization skills (e.g. memory recall in greater and greater detail), playing card games (learning to count cards, etc.), encourage active reading (reading something with intent to discover information), chunking information into smaller bites, learn to make [memory] multi-sensory (explore your surroundings with all your senses, consciously), the ‘Duel n Back’ game (which can be found at brain scale), and the method of loci, or ‘places,’ which is spatial memory (walking around your home with zero light using only your memory to guide you without running into anything).
Another method that presented itself one evening while I was watching Road Trip with Sean William Scott, Amy Smart, Tom Green and others: a key to learning, and retaining information quicker and with greater ease comes by relating new information with information that you already have.
“Rubin: “What Class is that again?” Josh: “Ancient Philosophy” Rubin: “Well I can teach you ancient philosophy in 46 hours.” Josh: “Really?” Rubin: “Yeah, I can teach Japanese to a monkey in 46 hours. The key is just finding a way to relate to the material.””
Many of us do not realize however that we actually do have to teach ourselves how to learn, and memory, as most of us were fortunate to realize at some point in high school, is a huge part of learning, and understanding that we are capable of stretching our memories to retain information that we do not really want to have. We never have a problem remembering things that we are interested in—those things that intrigue us—but all that other crap, all of that everything else, that we would rather not deal with—do we really need that? And why does it so often stick with us anyway? When I was growing up it was easier to separate the two, however now, with Facebook and our media—having changed as dramatically as it has—useless crap is spilling out of our ears. I, for one, have no interest in political memes, although one did help me to recall the correct response at trivia last week, nevertheless it occurred to me that if my brain has to retain that one piece of useless information that popped up on my Facebook feed that I could not care less about, I would much rather my brain simply remember everything that it sees, reads, and hears all of the time, exactly.
I watch Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit and, for those of you who are also fans you already know where I am going with this: Dr. Spencer Reid is an f@$king badass. Dr. Reid has an eidetic memory; the especially fantastical episodes or scenes are when he hits a switch in his brain and we watch him recalling information, even conversationally, verbatim. I want that! I read two books fairly recently that were incredibly fascinating, and I would like to come back to them once that I have made certain deductions about memory, I have a feeling I will get more from reading it with [those] in mind—you know by employing that thing I mentioned earlier called active reading—they were How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a book which many people are familiar with, I think that it is required reading now in many college courses, and Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.
I dated a girl not too long ago that could open a book and within hours have finished it, and I am not talking about one of those pleasant ‘one sitting’ novels, I mean a novel that is, on average, three- to four-hundred pages and I suppose that she remembers a good bit of it, probably because in those hours she allows it to consume her. And now that I am thinking about it that thought, actually, might explain a lot. I envied that about her, but it was all that I envied about her, and now knowing that a novel, in as many ways as is possible, became, for those few hours, her reality and she became, for those few hours, whichever character she deemed fit, and as she would come out, many of those characteristics, those that she either shared with a character or wish she had, would become a part of her, and after a time, and many-many books, she had become a puzzle of a collection of pieces each of which allowed her to experience something about this world she was afraid to actually touch.
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” William Gibson
My memory is unusual, I cannot make sense of it. I remember behaviors well, and intentions, and ambitions, alongside useless facts, and where at a table people sat, however there are some things that my memory does not seem to have an inclination for and the reason escapes me, but probably only because I am looking for it. The ultimate irony is how can I look for a memory that is behind me, and only in shadow?
“We take it for granted that life moves forward. You build memories; you build momentum. You move as a rower moves: facing backwards. You can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way.”
I think, when it comes down to how I perceive the world, in our humanity, and as emotional creatures it seems obvious to me that we are bound to our moods, and our feelings, and our emotions too entirely they affect us profoundly in a moment and then in the next moment that feeling is fleeting, and we are different. Memory, which lives in such high regard, as if memory in-, and of itself was a being of our own creation that we are indebted to and that follow us, and yet our memories are as fluid and fleeting as the feeling that inspired our behavior in the first place, I think that is why eidetic memories are so intriguing to me, because they are balance; imagine a space between logic and emotion that collects the pieces that are left behind, and that space is neutral—remembering everything as it was, exactly and not how our emotions wanted them to be. From my humanist perspective that would astounding, but, on the flip side of that it would also be pretty great to locate a single passage from War and Peace on a moments’ notice just for the hell of it from my head.
I have an idea:
Regardless of the influential scale of your impact, regardless of whether its effects are great and wide, or individual and minute, regardless of whether you're concerned you might look bad to your peers instead of consistently looking for someone else to blame for (y)our problems—personal or societal—why don't you focus on what your role is in creating those problems. The political price tag has gotten to be too high, because whether or not anything on C-span directly affects the majority of our lives, we are allowing it to affect our lives, and, of course, in cases of school and workplace shootings and other senseless deaths we really are beginning to experience a phenomenon that will not be remedied from the top down.
It is way too easy to blame others, to focus on the misdeeds or irrational understandings of those that we might disagree with, and to justify our behavior with our own developed sense of social morality. The American party system has become so manipulated and so divisive, and that divisiveness has become so commonplace that we do not even recognize that our ship is sinking. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell or Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton—nothing. We are too focused on blame. Somewhere along the line the American people became convinced that our way of life, and our society, our American dream no longer existed, and instead of actually looking at it, instead of stopping to say, “Well, sure it does.” We started blaming each other. It’s the Democrats, it’s the republicans, it’s the African Americans, it’s the immigration issue, it’s the gun control issue, it’s the LGBTQ community, and it’s that George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump—it’s not, it has always been us. Our indifference and our lack of accountability.
I liked Obama, I voted for him, twice, but a lot of his policies did ignore the intentions of the constitution; however, I am quite certain that when most conservatives argue in favor of that point they have no idea what they are actually talking about, they are simply repeating sound bites that they happened to hear making the rounds through the social mediasphere, and if they do [claim to know what they are talking about] then their indifference now completely outweighs their sense of social service. I am a proponent of social liberty—for everyone. It’s nonsensical to say that, “I am a proponent of social liberty, well, except for blacks, and homosexuals, and the transgender, and…” with that said, it’s not the place of the federal government to decide for the American people what your sense of social liberty is. Racism and sexism and other prejudices are a form of ignorance, there is no doubt about that, but if the United States is going to establish law in favor of-, or against various social liberties—though it’s something that the U.S. should never do—it can only be done at the state level. Obama did ignore that. Is that prosecutable? No, I’m sorry, it is not, and neither is it forcibly divisive. As I have mentioned, that personally, I do understand the frustration of ignorance, and the desire to force a sort of…re-education, but it cannot be done, forcibly; that is a fine line to cross, and we have to maintain the distinction—and if for no other reason that we are sometimes too different in our perspectives from one another.
I can appreciate the necessity of the 2nd amendment though I cannot, for the life of me, understand why conservatives are fighting so hard to keep semi-automatic guns available to the public, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. The argument that you can keep it simply because you have the right to, is, I mean, it’s apathetic and careless, and borderline dangerous, actually, at this point, it is beyond borderline. There are more than enough alternatives available to the American public without the ‘freedom’ to unload and unreasonable amount of ammunition sailing towards a deer or a target attached to a barrel of hay. You don’t need it. Even the Founding Fathers disallowed weapons in some situations and institutions, too many people conveniently ignore that, inasmuch as they ignore the language, “A well-regulated militia…” the first lines of text in within the amendment for, “…shall not be infringed.” When it is undeniably clear that the act of infringement, in this case, refers to the amendment in its entirety, and how not regulating gun control is in actuality an infringement on the amendment. Yes, we do need a 2nd amendment, people do need the right to “bear arms,” but some of y’all need to be reminded that there is a difference between pride and freedom.
I am pro-life. Do you know what that actually means, to me at least? It simply means that I am against death, well premature, unnecessary, and senseless death. It means that I am against the acts of “police brutality,” abortion, and the death penalty—and I have a sleuth of issues with our judicial system, specifically the correctional department, and how people are imprisoned for life for non-violent drug crimes, I mean come on—isn’t that what healthcare’s for? Oh, wait, we can’t even figure out our healthcare system either. But, why? It should be simple: we have a capitalist economy, right? Well then why isn’t healthcare privatized? Only then would the sick actually get the quality of healthcare they deserve. The United States is too big for Universal Healthcare, especially if our federal government is focused on making everything a federal issue.
And look, no, I don’t agree with abortion—I’m prolife—however, I’m also male, which in-and-of-itself kind of eliminates me from having any sort of practical understanding, and therefore opinion on the issues, especially considering that I am prolife, not just pro-birth.
The point that I’m making with all these personal political confessions is, well, 1.) That there needs to be a distinction between our social and our political lives, but more important 2.) Most of your opinions are based on sound bites that mean nothing, if you established some sort of linear “How Did I Come to these Conclusions” outline for your political beliefs system it wouldn’t make any sense, because it’s not based on anything.
And although it seems that I am using republicans as a series of examples of what not to do (I'm about to do it again), I am, by no means, only referring to republicans, this is a bipartisan problem, democrats are just as responsible, you are a mirror image, only, to your political counterpart.
I mean a major aspect of Republican Dogma is moral family values based greatly on the teachings of Jesus Christ, while there are 11,000 immigrant children that have been removed from their parents and locked up in warehouses across the southern most part of our country. Congressman are not even aloud to tour these facilities. And you shrug your shoulders and whine about immigration? And that’s justifiable to you? Jesus was Middle Eastern, why don’t you try Googling “People Born in Bethlehem,” and after weeding through the various paintings of Jesus and pictures of American kids recreating The Nativity, tell me what you see.
And I’m even a proponent for having, and enforcing better immigration laws, but come on, let’s do things the right way, hmm?
So instead of getting on Facebook and sharing fake news articles, or real news articles and expressing your feelings of intense distaste towards something completely irrelevant to our everyday lives, why not stop and think about what you really want your role to be, and what your role actually is, and through this exercise maybe you’ll learn to take some accountability. Because is it really Obama or Trump that’s dividing this country? Or is it us?
So, let’s try that, and were that takes us.
For a running number of years now I have wanted to pack a backpack with a few essentials, design and buy a sailboat out of Hamburg, Germany, then hop on a freighter from some undisclosed point on America’s east coast and disappear, at least from anything that I am familiar with.
I imagined that I would end up somewhere along the southwestern coast of France. In my novel, Between Transitions, Jonah, the protagonist, started his journey in Paris then headed north by train to Brussels, Belgium then east to Cologne, Germany followed then by Leipzig, Berlin, and, finally, Hamburg. Where he too had commissioned a sailboat. Between Transitions ends with Jonah sailing up the Elbe towards the North Sea, leaving in an open-ended journey towards whoknowswhere, as Jonah sails away.
I, however, would like to visit the shores or Bordeaux and backpack inland to Lyon, and wander upwards to Geneva, Switzerland before making my way to Paris. Or to find myself in San Sebastian, Spain and then to walk south to Pamplona, and then west to Santiago de Compostela completing the walk--The Way—Camino de Santiago, before heading to Bordeaux and then east towards Lyon.
I was driving earlier this morning, listening to music, and singing along, I don’t remember to what exactly, and this feeling swept over me: how badly I wanted to get out of the car and just walk away. In that moment I could picture my sailboat, and I could see me sitting on the deck, with nothing but the sea surrounding me, and, in the distance, there was a faint hint of land, but still I could be mistaken, it could very well be nothing, only a mirage. I might be reading, or writing, or fishing perhaps, there is a glass of wine on the deck next to me, a small crimson puddle gathers around the edges of the circular base of the glass stem; or maybe I’m doing nothing at all, I’m just staring off into the distance, until I’m distracted by the warmth of the sun on my arms, and the salt in my hair, and the smell of seawater, of the sea completely consuming me, “you would think I would be used to it by now,” a thought likely to have crossed my mind: the smell; while also being consciously grateful that I’m not yet used to it, and here’s to hoping that I would never be.
I could go anywhere at all the world is as big or as small as I allow it. I could eat cheese with wine at a café in Barcelona, after running with the bulls, and smoke hookah with old wise Turkish men on a patio near the port of Istanbul, and swim in the pale blue ocean off the coast of Santorini, Greece, and walk through the castles and the hills of Croatia, jog from coast-to-coast on the tiny island of Zanzibar, and after docking in Mumbai, hike through India towards Nepal: Tibet: China. And, this would be the beginning, only.
What keeps me, I wonder. Here. Projects, different dreams, love? All of which are consuming day-in, and day-out, and yet all of which are still just slightly out of reach in their entirety. So, again, what keeps me; here.
I had let go of my fear of the unknown, and of the familiar long ago. I packed up my 99’ green Honda Civic and drove west down I-10: Pocatello, Idaho; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Salt Lake City, Utah; New York City, New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico. All of which came and went as easy to me as picturing myself sailing up the Elbe, towards the North Sea.
When I was younger I had an unquenchable desire to experience life. In the mornings, as my eyes slowly opened, I thought only about what I had already missed that day, and what I would not allow myself to continue to miss if I didn’t get out of bed. And so, I was up, and I was out, waiting to experience whatever opportunity I was able.
I know when that changed. When my lust for life left my body like a cold soul being lifted towards the heavens prematurely. It was during those same series of moments when everything else left me, and I was numb. I was a shell of body that contained only the hope of revival. It’s funny how the subtle manipulation of someone who claims to have loved you will slowly rip pieces away from you, it’s not so funny when you look back at a younger version of yourself remembering that you once had a lust for life, but to not remember what it felt like. It’s gratifying slowly developing it again. And then again the promise of sailing away is postponed because of dreams of opening a bookstore, the determination to see it through, and the limbo of a love that’s an unspoken, mutual, idea…only.
Do you ever think about that kind of stuff, and then you look out the window, and you see the sun reflecting off of the innumerous shades of green—my favorite color—and feeling only the passion, again, to experience…everything? Perhaps I would not have found that lust again without the direction of a dream, and the fulfillment of unrequited love: like pieces being put together, but differently, a puzzle that slightly resembles you. “You don’t know this new me, I put back my pieces differently.”
It is so easy to let the mistakes of your past dictate the direction of your future. In very small, unsexy ways, it builds up: more, and more, until it is all you can do just to get through the day, and then the next day, and the next, and the next.
I was driving earlier this morning, listening to music, and singing along, I don’t remember to what exactly, and this feeling swept over me: how badly I wanted to get out of the car and just walk away. In that moment I could picture my sailboat, and I could see me sitting on the deck, with nothing but the sea surrounding me, and, in the distance, there was the faint hint of land, but still I could be mistaken, it could very well be nothing, only a mirage. I might be listening to music, or dancing, or cooking perhaps, there is a glass of wine on the deck next to me, a small crimson puddle gathers around the edges of the circular base of the glass stem; or maybe I’m running along the beach, I’m not even sure what country I’m in, the silhouette of my boat anchored just off shore, the course, uncomfortable feeling on the pads of my feet from running in the sand drifts in and out of my thoughts, “the sea is cold this morning,” a thought likely to have crossed my mind: the ocean; while also being consciously grateful that I’m not yet used to it, and here’s to hoping that I never will be.
I keep a handful of books shelved at my bedside, standing upright between a candle and container of really cool rocks that I’ve found here and there throughout the years, my keeping the books next to the bed like this is a new happening; we all know that most of us do our best thinking and processing as soon as our heads hit the pillow and we’re trying to fall asleep, so I keep them there for reference for a wandering mind. There is a copy of Swann’s Way, Meditations with Dante Alighieri, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, and The Element by Ken Robinson.
I first discovered Ken Robinson on TED.com, he was giving a talk about creativity, and education, and how schools, at least in the way that they are currently formatted, actually “kill our creativity.” I reference him several times throughout my blogs, because he deserves to be referenced. Ken Robinson is an education reformist, he recognizes that our school systems are creating thoughtless ‘monikers’ of the human race; Robin Williams, I think, said it best as John Keating in the Dead Poets Society, and “…the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, business, law, engineering these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.” Our school systems are devolving more, and more, and away from teaching children how to be desirous about their passions, and therefore their pursuits.
Reform makes me nervous because instead of recognizing where the foundation of our problems actually lie we are simply attaching or amending, applying an adhesive in attempt that our fix might mend the swelling dysfunction within the institution. Unfortunately, the flaw within the education system is the system, the point at issue lies at the foundation of the design of the way the institution was structured. I mentioned in a previous blog that our current education system was implemented in late 20th century, and was constructed for farming families and industry work, but, you know, like, what does that mean? Well, our education system is procedural, and is formatted systematically: course, semester, season, etc., and every year students spend the first semester reviewing what they studied the previous semester, and then in the second, and final semester students are more extensively examining what they reviewed the semester before—the same five or six courses year-after-year-after year—for twelve years. The institution was set up this way because the majority of students were averaging five to eight years of schooling before they were removed from school and expected to work on a farm or in industry to help provide for their families, it allowed for a quick exercise and review and overview for a number of subjects within a short period of time, and if children were able to continue their education they would dive a little deeper into familiar subjects and increase their knowledge base. It made sense for the average lower and middle class families, which, at the time, outnumbered the upper classes significantly, only the system became our only source of education, and it continued much, much longer than it should have—you know, like, it somehow manages to exist even now, as our primary public educational means; which is, obviously beyond me.
In Ken Robinsons’ book The Element he discusses how, because of the lasting curse that is our education system, we elevate certain subjects over others, we think of them as more important or more relevant in our day-to-day lives, subjects like math and science are revered when the vast majority of us don’t really employ either of them that often, and when we do it’s when acknowledging time and going over finances, things that are not actually taught to the majority of us during our primary schooling anyway, and other aspects of each that we employ daily we experience unconsciously when we confront them naturally—in the natural world, in the way that math and physics are the “language of the universe,” but, you know, like: “Cool!” Yeah, it’s awesome how the Fibonacci Sequence, The Golden Ratio, and Fractals apply themselves in nature. And Pythagoras, and his relationship with math, and music are undeniably intriguing and influential; a number of my favorite musicians (David Bowie, Andrew Bird, Josh Ritter, The Flaming Lips…) utilize math and science in their songs. Otherwise, I mean, math and science are as relevant as dance and literature depending, only, on whom is actively applying them. Meanwhile, in school, subjects like art and music and dance are ignored or belittled, subjects that far more people employ not only on a day-to-day basis but professionally, and with more passion. Because the simple fact is that far less people think and process like a mathematician or a scientist than the number of people who think and process the world like artists, and musicians, and dancers, and writers. So why is our education system designed not only to create scientists, and mathematicians, and college professors but to do so as if we all process the world in the same way that scientists, and mathematicians, and college professors do?
Ken Robinsons’ The Element challenges people to find what their Element is, and suggests that once you do figure it out your relationship with the world will change dramatically, because it is not only possible to learn math, social sciences, geography, and language through the lens of a dancer—or any Element—but necessary in order for some people to actually understand, and relate to the world. In his book Robinson gives the example through a number of ‘case studies,’ he tells the stories of Mick Fleetwood, Faith Ringgold, Meg Ryan, and Others, of how our traditional education systems very nearly secured a world without the music of Fleetwood Mac, or the acting of Meg Ryan, or the choreography of Gillian Lynne.
I would go as far, even, to acknowledge our general lack of understanding when relating to our emotional selves. People have a series of emotions and moods that affect us, and our relationships every single day, and yet we dedicate zero time to learning how to acknowledge and relate to those emotions. I cannot find the sense in that at all, in fact it’s systemically dangerous. And, quite likely, the reason for our present devolving moral and political situation. I mean, we have a difficult enough time actually surviving in the world, let alone becoming an adult, being expected to handle a career, bills, taxes, relationships, and people without the underlining stress of dealing with erratic, sensational, and seemingly unpredictable emotions and moods; and then we die. We got all that going for us, while behind the scenes there are people creating budgets based on a foundation of education that we, generally, accept as a sensible standard, but why? For all intents and purposes there is no sense at all for these people to continue looking for ways to get rid of art, and theatre, and music, and dance in school.
My idea of a healthy and formidable education system would be as follows: imagine a system where we spend the first few years of our lives learning how to relate to those reoccurring, and unpredictable, and overwhelming emotions that we experience, sometimes without any apparent reason, so that we might recognize what we’re feeling, when, and why, and in various situations and then knowing, as adults, how to go about behaving. And then, in the years following, after having spent the previous few years of education learning, not only about our emotions, but simultaneously, and unwittingly, ourselves, and, as a result, we have a better understanding of our own Elements, and then being taught those, seemingly, core subjects through the best lens that we have in order to relate to our worlds, ourselves, and one another. The best way to educate yourself about a topic is to relate to something that you’re interested in, and the best way to others to educate us is to do exactly the same, because we cannot assume that we all think and process theories, and facts, and ideas the same way—because we don’t. If you’re still on the fence try reading The Element by Ken Robinson and Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet.
Does anyone remember that documentary What the Bleep Do We Know!?? The film that brought quantum mechanics, and human consciousness into mainstream society. A commercial interest in physics exploded in the newly evolved social mediasphere and it took all the Millennials with it. I really enjoyed it, the film, as did everyone my age that went through the “Rabbit Hole,” but there was one aspect of the film that really intrigued me: a brief interjection of commentary discussing the writings and experiments of Masaru Emoto. Now, for those of you whom are unaware Masaru Emoto is the author of The Secret Life of Water, Hidden Messages in Water, The Shape of Love, and other fantastic books. Emoto believed that water was, essentially, a blueprint for our reality. The frequencies and vibrations of our world could be channeled and enhanced by water, and that water is a conduit of energy. The idea is…OK, take The Law of Attraction, for example, and the concept that our thoughts affect our reality, now consider for a moment that there might be a scientific, physical explanation of the idea that our thoughts are capable of affecting water through vibrations, and that because everything is made up of water molecules that water might be a conductor of thought which allows for the manipulation of reality. Are we all on the same page? Because if not I will be explaining it further momentarily.
Masaru Emoto is most commonly known for doing vibration experiments with ice crystals. When you freeze, and then unfreeze water there are very, very brief moments before thawing when the water creates crystalloid shapes. Masaru Emoto thought to photograph these crystals, and he applied the idea that different non-physical variables might affect the crystals, for example: different types of music playing, speaking with both negative and positive intention and tone, writings, etc., basically what I’m talking about the is epitome of New Age bullshit, you know, how our feely feelings affect our surroundings, but when perceived from a scientific perspective. I suppose that another way of putting it is to say that I have reached the point in this blog where if the GOP cannot kill it, or eat it, and it cannot be explained metaphorically somewhere between Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark then it’s quite possible that I have become a dangerous liability to the illusive American standard.
Masaru Emoto discovered that when being expressed positive thoughts or intentions in the form of positive verbal, auditory, and written stimuli it would affect the vibrations and frequencies traveling between ‘the source’ and the water crystals, and they would form stunningly beautiful crystalloid shapes, and when expressed negatively the water crystals would appear misshapen and deformed. As a result Emoto discovered that our positive thoughts affected water in a very real way through measurable vibrations and frequencies that travel through all things, and he therefore began to express urgently how important positive thoughts are, and when you consider that the human body is made up of more than 70% water you might rethink the way that you live your life. See, for me, these concepts provide so much more insight, and a more logical framework for the genesis of our existence, and the development of our reality. And to be completely honest I do not understand how anyone could possibly disagree with it. The physics of quantum mechanics, the conception of spiritual evolution, and at the concentration of human connection can be expressed collectively by the discoveries of Masaru Emoto, and, as far as I’m concerned, where the three of these concepts meet we find a pinnacle understanding of our humanism.
I read Emoto’s books and found so many profound connections between the most difficult political, spiritual, and relationship questions that have challenged a belief that I had always felt, and yet I could never quite explain, and not just between one idea and another, but Masaru’s writings offered insight to various connections between ideas that I never even considered might connect.
Religion is deeply personal for the majority of the people on the planet, in one way or another, even atheism is responsible for strong stigmas regarding religious, or spiritual ideas for some of us. As far as my own beliefs I cannot deny that my upbringing was a case study of spiritual ADD: my parents were both raised with strict religious contexts: my father’s family was devout in Southern Baptist, which, from the 1950’s through the 70’s, you know, “the severity of American religious idealism,” especially among Southern Baptists, was pretty scary. My mom went to an all-girl Catholic school for twelve years. And as a result of their childhoods my father, being an intellectual, but not much of a humanist, now considers himself agnostic, while my mother spent years looking for spiritual enlightenment, and stumbled upon a religion called Eckankar, which is a young western philosophy similar to Hinduism that has adopted also a variety of other eastern philosophies, and I have attended many of the religions Sunday services. My mother gave me the option as a child to either attend service or to spend the time studying different religions—more often than not I took her up on the study. Throughout my years of practice it became quite clear to me that the two most prominent problems within our religious purview also happen to be the same two reasons why many religions still exist today, and exactly as they did centuries ago: stigmas and money. Modern religious institutions have created stigmas against their religious counterparts, which has been both sustainable, and dangerous. For example, according to the Qur’an anyone who follows the teachings of a religious text is not, technically, what some Muslims might consider, an ‘infidel’ and, for those of you whom are unaware, religious texts include the Torah and the Bible, as well as others, it would appear that a sect of Islamic 'believers' simply disregarded that creed, but no more so, and inasmuch the way that Christians tend to ignore much of their own doctrine—many people form a belief on baseless hearsay.
Masaru Emoto and his writings—his books—have helped me develop many ideas, within our belief systems, that others are taught not to accept, or that they have been disallowed the means to see through various stigmas and dogma. It would seem that the unusual aspects of my upbringing have made it easier for me to distance myself from the manipulation of emotional reactions when necessary. For example: I was reading a copy of Indigo Sun Magazine many years ago, I picked it up while working at Borders Books, Music, and Café, and came across an article in which the author describes sitting with a group of people discussing the different ideals and perceptions that shadow God, and in the middle of the discussion someone said, “Oh! I get it, so God is like water and we are like fish.” The author goes on to describe how no one among them seemed to understand how profound a realization that was. It simply went over their heads, or the idea did not fit into the systems that they have created for themselves because of their religions.
But, think about it for a moment, "God is like Water and We are like Fish." As a foundation, the principles itself, when developing ideas from that particular foundation, the places you are capable of reaching, I mean, it’s astounding where that one idea can take you.
And, of course there are obvious similarities between this sudden burst of spiritual clarity and what Masaru Emoto was writing, but there is a deeply-rooted hidden concept within this spiritual understanding that exists as well, and it’s an idea worth expanding upon, and that I urge you to develop on your own. I have gone on to develop my own understandings surrounding spiritual enlightenment over the years. But whenever I’m asked about my own ideas I share one or both of the following: “God is not the Creator but instead the Act of Creation,” and, again: “God is like Water, and We are like Fish,” because I do recognize how deeply profound they are, and how uniquely they can be interpreted, they also fit comfortably within the dogma of any belief system that YOU might presently accept, because thinking of your belief system in ways that you have not yet considered can be paramount to perceiving the world around you in a way that might be less threatening.
For years, even since developing, what I thought, would be an open-minded all-inclusive system of ideals I realized that I still had my own stigmas, of which included the belief that my ‘pillars’ listed in the paragraph above were antithetical to those of Christian or Muslim doctrine, until I was sitting in a café in Salt Lake City one evening talking about religion with a friend of mine. We stayed there until 4 in the morning discussing different ideas and belief systems. My friend was raised Mormon and when I mentioned that “God was like Water and that We are like Fish,” and, then went on to suggest that “I don’t believe God to exist as a personified being, but rather as a collective,” he agreed with me completely. I asked him, “Well, I thought you were a Christian?” to which he responded, “I am.” “So, then how can you believe God to exist as anything other than as a personified being?” his response was that- “That idea is not mutually exclusive to Christian Doctrine.” And, aside from accepting Jesus as the Son of God, he was absolutely right. We have a very basic, and limited understanding of our own spirituality, because we have collectively refused to understand it, as a result most of us would immediately reject the idea that God could have a ‘Son’ while not actually existing in the image of man. Allow yourself to imagine, for a moment, the idea that we may not be created in the physical image of God, but rather the emotional image; what would that look like? And how would that connect with, not only, other belief systems, but other aspects of our humanity? Science, Politics, Relationships, etc. I thought about Masaru Emoto and the differences that we establish between creating a narrative and developing a belief, and recognized that my stigmas regardless of their foundation were the inherent problem.
At its root we do not understand religion and spirituality beyond a narrative, a collection of stories that we’ve been told in order to perceive certain ideals or feelings in a way that we are able to make sense of. Unfortunately, when applied, those stories don’t exactly mesh with other narratives that we tell ourselves as humans. Unless we strip that narrative to the fundamental connections, but not just between us and our belief systems, but the belief systems of others, and of our scientific and political communities. Once we allow ourselves not to force our connections, beliefs systems, and stigmas but to recognize-, to be conscious of how the connections exist around us, just as Masaru Emoto has done with the simplicity of the harmony between nature and our humanity, we’re capable of recognizing the simplicity of our own connections and we’re left with the freedom of our perceptions, which are influenced by both our physical understanding of our world, and our emotional. Masaru Emoto helped me to bridge the gaps that, before reading his books, seemed much too far to connect.
This is off the general topic, I know, and I apologize for that, however with it being such an important, and encompassing debate it’s difficult not to address it if you own a blog. The topic of Gun Control, or as I prefer to acknowledge it: Gun Safety. The conversation, as I have witnessed it, has become so overwhelmingly flout with sound bites, that there is no linear direction, or understanding of the topic, or as it is widely understood in the reflection of what the imposed intention is of either party. In other words, we are not having a conversation at all, but rather an uncontrollable debate of the surrounding misunderstandings, and misdirection that surround the conversation.
It’s frustrating, to me, because the influence of the NRA is clearly effecting the political debate. You might think that, based on that statement alone, you have an idea of where I stand in the conversation, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or accept me.
I believe in the necessity of the 2nd amendment. I understand its purpose, and I believe in individual rights of the American citizen. The intention of the 2nd amendment was to allow an oppressed population to stand up against a corrupt and overbearing government. The same corrupt and overbearing government that we’ve had (and has steadily grown worse) since the 60’s. With that said, and with the apparent lack of understanding for the protection of our rights, what purposes, really, does the 2nd amendment serve today?
Gun Safety and Gun regulations are a common sense step for a country as deeply impacted by the problems that we experience, in regards to gun violence. And neither Gun Safety nor Gun Regulation are an infringement on our rights. If you believe that they are then you are living with a misunderstanding of what it means. There are a lot of facts and statistics that I could waste my time listing here, but they are all available, if you care enough to actually look. However if you’re not compelled to do a little research, I ask that you question whether your lack of interest is a result of political sound bites such as, “Guns aren’t the problem,” and “People will still be able to get guns if they are banned (or regulated),” “Guns are as dangerous as cars,” and “Guns are a tool, like knives,” because, I would suggest that if you are influenced by these arguments that you are being apathetic, if, for no other reason, that regardless of if either, or any argument against better Gun Regulations were indeed accurate, it would still not be enough of a reason to do nothing. I’m not going to lecture, really, however I do implore you to do a little research.
The intention is not to ban guns, or, well, actually the intention is not to ban all guns, I mean there really are a couple of guns that nobody needs to own, despite some arguments it’s simply a fact. You don’t need a semiautomatic rifle (what is commonly, but inappropriately referred to as an assault rifle). It might be fun, and the act of owning it might impress on you some semblance of freedom that you, for whatever reason, feel like you don’t already have, but do you have to own a piece of everything to feel free? There are so many things that exist on this planet that are not available to you as an American, and still you’re not taken aback or affected by those, why?
I believe that in order to buy a gun there should be a few simple requirments, and I might be persuaded to remove or to add to this list, but from my perspective the following should be agreeable.
If you want to buy a gun:
It is too easy to get a gun. Period. And there is simply not enough of a basic familiarity and understanding of how, when, and why to use one, once you have a gun. There is, of course, an issue surrounding mental health, but that argument in, and of itself is more of a reason to establish better Gun Regulations that not to. And I would posit, even, that the issue of mental health is more of a foundational one that exists within the systems of our societal constructs, which is to say that our mental health issues and our gun control issues might be one and the same, and we are spending too much time and effort trying to disassociate the two. I believe that there is an oblique misunderstanding of our systems that intrigue us to sit around and debate that the problem is, "this" or "that," and a separate political problem exits when we find ourselves arguing between arbitrary ideas. Guns kill people, people kill people, and crazy people kill people. In reality Desensitized people kill people. This is not entirely a gun control issue, and it is not entirely a mental health issue. However it would be inappropriate to suggest that it is not at all a gun control issue, and not at all a mental health issue. Creating better Gun Regulations is just common sense, and, again, I’m not talking about banning guns, but developing better Gun Safety systems. In the same way that continuously developing better practices when understanding correlations between our mental health issues are pertinent. The requirements above are not unreasonable requests, and for most of you that own guns, or that would like to own guns you would be more than capable of passing the required regulations.
Every time there has been a mass shooting in this country, or at least in the last decade, we have had the same conversation, and gun rights enthusiasts are consistently coming up with new, and completely absurd arguments to maintain their position—for the American people to maintain a position. They are changing their story, because every time an act of mass gun violence occurs the people that are affected are no longer willing to listen to the nonsense. This time around, after the deaths of seventeen students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida it’s becoming more and more difficult not to listen, when students like Emma Gonzalez and Cameron Kasky are making incredible efforts, and unbelievably impassioned speeches calling out the hypocrisy that our country is facing, and the unfortunate disregard of our politicians to admit there’s a problem. Especially considering that no one, not a single politician is calling for the ban of all guns, but when there are 300 million guns in the United States, enough for nearly every man, woman and child in this country the means in which we come about getting our hands on guns, and the intention behind the trigger is an issue that we cannot continue to overlook.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.