Myths and mythology for much of my life I found to be ingenuous and unworldly; myths went as far even as to annoy me, and I think that for a long time I saw them as unnecessary childlike guides that were intended to help us to interpret our world, and when it occurred to me that-that is exactly what they were the simplicity of it steadily grew on me, and suddenly I felt as if the necessity of myth was more important for our humanity than I was once able to accept, I began to perceive mythology from an emotionally intellectual vantage, and that changed the way that I perceive myself, and the world around me.
We tell stories to help us to understand ourselves and our worlds in ways more spiritual and emotional than we are--or were--otherwise able to acknowledge, however when we take those tales at face value when we ignore the intention and the power of mythology as it affect us spiritually and emotionally we ignore a guiding principle at the root of the human experience. Some myths we dismiss as fairy tale while others are so blindly accepted that we believe them to be literal and not parabolic, and from either perspective we lose a great deal of understanding, and of purpose.
“People say that we we’re all seeking is a meaning for life…I think what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell
It became abundantly clear to me that we have rapidly abandoned a sense of self for the sake of convenience and diplomatic submissiveness, and we did so, I believe, from a fear of self-reflection, the great professor and writer Joseph Campbell coined the term “follow your bliss,” a modern manifestation of similar phrases such as “Know your own happiness,” (Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; 1811) , “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing,” (Dale Carnegie, quoted by Jill Murphy Long in her book Permission to Play: Taking Time to Renew Your Smile; 2003) and others, and still for one reason or another it can be incredibly daunting being asked to find what makes you happy and then to do it [often], for a number of reasons, if not that people get stuck—we feel stuck. I know that personally I have struggled a great deal with the concept: the idea that once you discover who you are, and/or what you’re supposed to do everything should simply fall into place, which, of course, begs the question: well, how the hell do I do that? And, what if I never actually find out who I am, or what I’m supposed to be doing?
I have suffered from numerous creative blocks throughout my life that have affected me in ways: emotional, physical and intellectual, and every one of them was based the subconscious ideal that I really don’t have all that much to offer, and so I would kind of shut down at first and then that attitude would become a very real part of my personality. Like in the Jim Carrey Movie, Yes Man (2008). I actively sought different ways to change the way that I process thought and that I perceived that world. And yet the incredible healing power of myth has always been readily available, the issue has become that many of us have been conditioned to perceive myth as the childlike fairy tale only, and not encrypted parables developed to model and oversee our emotional and spiritual selves.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, and what they fear.” ~ George Lucas.
Religion is a mythology that wears the mask of its own certainty, a parable which has been denied the possibility of evolution, and the only thing, the only idea since its inception that has been disallowed to evolve. Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll; if anyone adds to them God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. Joseph Campbell said something along the lines of: the narrative of Christianity can stay the same; the myths are based in truth, it just needs to incorporate modern myths in order to successfully associate with a contemporary ideology.
Myths allow us to conceptualize feeling and our spirituality in ways that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible for many to understand. These stories offer us a way to relate exactly in the only way that we are—or were—capable, as a reflection of the physical self. Consider the Roman or Greek pagan Gods, for example, and specifically the fact that there were so many: God(s) of the Sun, God(s) of War and of Love and others, many of us who have been raised with the perception that God is a being the origin of our image, whether we believe in God or not, and we attribute that to the Roman and Greek Gods of myth, but, in reality, these gods were merely vessels, the personification of what we might not understand in order for us to relate to the myth, and to our world. Campbell refers to them [God(s)] as an energy, or a reflection of the Sun or of War or of Love. Myth opens us up to the energies of the universe so that we can relate, and experience our universe on an emotional level.
Unfortunately we canonized the ethos of our myths, the space holders—the characters—and allowed the truths that, “All the Gods, all the Heavens, and all the Hells are within [you] us…” To be appropriated and manipulated and turned into fairy tales and further for our general perception of what a myth is to be distorted.
Have you ever wondered why we accept the standards from which we build the foundation of so many of our ideas upon? Have you ever looked at a definition, for example, and wondered why it was necessary to suggest, as an addition to the definition, that something might be, “A widely held but false belief or idea?”
Myths offer us only an opportunity to relate to our world and ourselves in ways that we otherwise may not be able, by inviting us to explore the energies and the many experiences that we are capable of in our lives, experiences that, without our myths, we may otherwise neglect or be guarded against.
I drove into San Antonio earlier this afternoon to run an errand at my bank. I live in Boerne which is roughly 30 miles north of SA along I-10, though when I make the trip I usually take the backroads, it might be slightly longer, and in part because the traffic on I-10 between Boerne and SA is ridiculous, and there is a considerable amount of construction along the entirety of the route, and the surrounding area is one of the fastest growing in the nation. So, the backroads are nice. The road is surrounded still by Oak and Cedar. I listen to-, and sing along with music from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out. This afternoon I put on a playlist that I haven’t listened to in a while. It was a nice drive.
After my errand I stopped by Half Price Books at The Strand in/or near Huebner Oaks. I often make that stop before taking the trip home. If there is anything I need to pick up for my store I will and I’ll browse the bookshelves for new arrivals, and hopefully a signed copy or a first edition that one of the employees missed that will fit nicely into my collection or I’ll upload to the website, and I’ll browse the DVD’s just in case something catches my eye, but more often than not I leave empty handed. There is also a cute dark haired woman that I occasionally make an effort to speak with. I left empty handed today.
I continued home, and took a little detour out of my way to get back onto the backroads to Boerne, and I finished my playlist on the way. The last song that played was Convenience Stores by Buddy Wakefield which is actually spoken word, it’s “slam poetry.” The playlist ended about two miles from my house. I decided not to listen to anything else. Instead I sat in silence. As I was sitting at the last light before turning on to my street and heading home my mind wandered slightly, and I was enveloped with a thought that I have had, on occasion, when lying in bed waiting for sleep, and that thought was followed, per usual, with me wishing that I would remember this, and ideas similar to this, while I’m wide awake in the middle of the day, only the thought that followed this afternoon was slightly different because I was, in fact, remembering this while I was wide awake, in the middle of the day. I realized that it was contributed largely to the fact that I was sitting in silence, with the exception of the ambient noises of the world, outside the car. We all wish that we would remember various thoughts that pass through our minds late at night while falling asleep. Buddy Wakefield, in point of fact, has a great line in his poem Information Man that reads:
“I know there are times when you will lay your head to rest and have a moment of brilliance that will grow into a perfect order o words, but you will fall asleep instead of painting in down on paper. When you wake up you will have forgotten the idea completely, and miss it, like a front tooth, but, at least, you know how to recognize moments of brilliance, because even at your worst you are f&$king incredible. It comes, honest.”
All of our thoughts, and our ideas, our perfect order of words that we have a desire to hold on to are all still there, rattling around in our heads, but how often—really—do we sit in silence, allowing them to resurface? In a complete and repose stillness without the slightest expectation. I was sitting at the light looking through the window and I was not thinking, no I was listening, and not to anything in particular: I was listening to the sound of the air conditioner which I rarely hear, and how the sound of the air changed as it was introduced to the fabrics of my shirt and the seat that I was resting on, I was noticing the different shades of green in the grass near the intersection, and in my mind I pictured the area devoured in construction as it had been only a few months earlier. In the silence I heard my thought almost as if I was consciously intruding on a conversation with my subconscious and a passing energy, I heard the thought as if eaves dropping on a nearby conversation and entering it midway through, and then I became completely conscious of it.
I suppose you could call it a form of meditation.
That reminds me—bear with me this short tangent—there has been a video recently of Russell Brand practicing Kundalini Yoga, and specifically the Ego Eradicator pose, I have always found yoga to be physical and mentally rewarding, however while Brand was teaching and then practicing Breath of Fire, a breathing technique, and I was mirroring the exercise I could not shake the thought of how unnatural Breath of Fire [breathing] actually was, how can anything that requires an unnatural processes of breathing be anything more than superficially enlightening or beneficial? I’m sure there are a number of people that will blindly argue the point without really thinking about it, but it’s important, I think, to not lose sight of why we meditate or practice yoga, we do not do this simply for the sake of doing, and yoga really is not a “way of life.” We practice yoga and meditation in order to better understand and relate to ourselves, and to our world. It seems apparent to me that somewhere along the way many people have forgotten that, it is incredible important to be conscious about the balance we maintain of our body, our heart, and our mind.
Fortunately, and in point of fact, the problem is the same regarding our attitude towards silence, and not that we are deliberately avoiding it (though I’m sure some folks are), I believe that the simple truth is that we are no longer conscious of the consistency of a resounding noise. I do think about it occasionally, but as Kenny Loggins puts it:
“You say you’re aware, believe, and you care, but do you care enough? To talk with conviction of the heart?”
I’m as guilty of it as anyone. As I said myself, “from the moment I get into my car to the moment I step out” I’m listening to-, and singing along with music. Even now, as I write this, I have Pandora playing my St. Thomas playlist—Sean Watkins’ Starve Them to Death at the moment—nevertheless I believe that there are layers of issues that we’re consumed by, and I know it’s impossible to turn on the radio, or television, or social media or to even get groceries without hearing about-, or being reminded of our inherent problems, and how every day it seems like another revolution claims to understand the root of our problems. And, perhaps, in some ways, the constant noise makes it easier to drown all of that out, the irony of course is that if you cannot live in silence you’re always going to have to fill that space with something, maybe at night, while your mind wonders, you’ll tell yourself to try to remember, tomorrow, the sound of silence.
Writing has been a part of my life for—I’d like to say forever, but I cannot, in good conscious say that—for…a long time. I recognized that I had a talent for-, and enjoyed writing when I was either a sophomore or junior in high school. I had this English teacher, and I know what some of you all may be thinking, that she had a deep appreciation for literature and writing, and she took me under wing and cultivated that talent within me, unfortunately that’s not exactly what happened. She did recognize a talent in me, and would write notes about my papers that would read somewhere along the lines of, “Great paper! I look forward to the next one.” And, “You have such a vivid imagination, and a talent for communicating that vision onto paper.” As a result I enjoyed being in the class, and I waned to learn, and to become a better writer, and to develop a better understanding for the language. However, one morning, coming to class, she wasn’t there, and she would never be there again, when queried it turned out that she could no longer take it, it would be nice if I could say that she could no longer take the immense developing shining light that was beginning to expose itself from within me, but no, she actually couldn’t take the ridicule and humiliation and intense drama steeping from hundreds of testosterone filled teenagers at my high school. That’s right, my graduating class was so unabashedly evil that we were responsible for breaking a handful of teachers. I was disappointed when I discovered that we had driven her away, I had never really had a mentor, and I was looking forward to what the course of that year would have to offer, and what might develop but, you know, eh, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Instead I found myself bringing new AFI albums to class [The Art of Drowning] and spending entire periods laying on the floor tossing a hacky-sack to myself, sometimes I would fall asleep, because our long-term temp apparently had better things to do, I suppose, than to pay attention to his students. It took a few months to find a replacement, and once they did, our new teacher was only slightly more engaged than our long-term substitute.
I would write here and there, on my own, from then on, and the next year, when I took a psychology course that the high school offered I discovered a new topic of interest and when, at first, it was an exciting new thing to write about, it quickly became the focus of my new potential career. I would even attend UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) as a psychology major with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist. After three years of study I became disillusioned by the idea that our apathetic society would aspire only to a fifteen minute 'therapy' session at the end of which a tiny little pill would prescribe itself to the uncertain well-being of said person’s pointless life. It was a difficult time for me, when people were more concerned with the quick fix than they were talking to-, and working through their problems—it made me sad. I did not want to prescribe medication, I am not a believer of medicating psychological disorders, yes, I know, we could talk about exceptions for hours but I would rather talk about writing, and reading, and books, so let’s get back to that…
The prospect of becoming a writer resurfaced late one night while I was driving through the southwestern corner of Colorado, it had snowed so much during the week prior that everything looked the same, although I had never been where I happened to be that night, so I’m not sure that it would have made a difference anyway, and I got lost. I use that word loosely—“lost”—because I didn’t really have a destination in mind at the time, and I’m not positive that you can actually get lost if you don’t know where your going to begin with. Nevertheless it was 3:00 AM I was driving down a snowy dead end road, before I knew it was a dead end, and thought, I should write about this. When I decided to settle(ish) in Pocatello, Idaho, and sat down to write, in my incredible new studio apartment, what would come out had nothing whatsoever to do with that night when driving in Colorado, and still, to date, I haven’t really written about that experience, I have touched on it, maybe, but (similar to how I’m touching on it in this blog) but I haven’t yet written about it—someday. I started writing, instead, about being on an airplane, and about the people on the plane, and how they might relate to-, and with one another. At the time I intended this to be a novel, unfortunately this wouldn’t be a novel. It would become a collection of short stories, and the beginning of my creative writing career. A writing career that was not at all easy to get into, however I have learned over the course of the last several years that we often attribute hard work simply to that of allowing an idea, or a passion the opportunity of the test of time. The only “hard” thing about anything is not giving up, because it is, apparently, a conditioned aspect of our nature to give up if it takes longer than we want it to.
I often think about my childhood and how much I wish my parents would have aspired to find some passion in me, and to help me learn how to pursue it. I think about that English teacher, and how that relationship could have turned into a mentorship that may have filled in the blanks, or offered those subtle insights into having a talent in a professional world that would have allowed me to develop my creativity and my professional success simultaneously. Don’t get me wrong, when I talk about success I am not referring to a Stephen King level of success or even a David Foster Wallace level of success, I am simply referring to having developed the means to cultivate a talent while also building a career. I never had that, at least the mentor that many successful artists do. Everything I know I learned by making mistakes, and by not giving up, but alas I still find myself in positions to, you know, not give up. It would be nice, at this point, to not even have the option of giving up and pursing something else, and that alternative to be an acceptable norm in the eyes of some people (my parents). I find that the difference that that mentor would have made is in the little push over the edge, you know when you're almost there, and you're always only almost there, but that little push; you know, like when something goes viral it was because that one extra person decided to like, or comment, or share, or whatever—that one little push that made the difference.
Don’t get me wrong, hard work makes a huge difference, especially for yourself when you lay your head on the pillow at night, however learning to ask for help, and to keep asking, and to continue doing it, that is what will push you over that edge.
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.
For as long as anyone can remember reading, or being a reader has been synonymous with being smart. As a child if you enjoyed reading in school you were a nerd, inasmuch as being good at math, or science, or what, I don’t know, being able to build a *lamp. I wasn’t this child. I did not have a particularly normal childhood. The dynamics of my schooling did not fit within the confines of the stereotypical Jr. High, High School drama. I was kind of a nerd jock: which is to say that though I played basketball and tennis, and I ran cross-country and track at different points throughout those six years, I was labeled as being smart—though I never understood why. I wasn’t particularly smart. I hated reading the assigned reading. I pretty much hated doing everything that I was expected to do, and as an unconscious result I lived as unexpectedly as I cou…well, as unexpectedly as I wanted, at least inasmuch as the unexpected would fit into the purview of how I thought I might want to live my life, someday—yes, that’s seemingly paradoxical, but if inquired I will always explain the unexplainable when explaining me.
Of course I did, eventually, come to enjoy reading once I had escaped the invisible bubble of the accepted, and expected societal constructs of systemic humanism, which is to say that once I no longer had anyone telling me what to read, how to read, and what to think about what I was reading. Still I could never shake the concept of the synonymic between readers and intelligence. I thought about it for a long time as if working through a math problem in the back of my head over the course of years, and years (I would do the same with religious and political ideas, as well). See, there were adults in my childhood who were apparently intelligent, I mean, based on a series of mutually accepted societal measures these people would be considered, by all means, intelligent. Yet, I could see through them. I thought back to Jr. High and High School and this apparent impression of intelligence that surrounded me, and how I did not actually fit that construct, and then how at the present time, I was an avid reader, I had become synonymous with the construct, and still I could not accept the identity of-, or measure that intelligence granted. I could read every book that I got my hands on, and enjoy it, and want to know more, and still anything that I might learn from picking up a book was equally accessible to everybody.
One day—I cannot remember where, or when, or why—it occurred to me that the way we perceive and measure intelligence itself is simply wrong. I mean, think about our IQ: it’s supposed to be fixed, it’s supposed to never change, but considering how often we change that’s ludicrous, and we base our intelligence on a series of ostensibly calculated questions that have been accepted arbitrarily by an academic minority in order to organize us, but it’s all entirely academic. How can we possibly base the ‘intelligence’ of a persons’ humanity on our hypothetical academic agility? The idea is based on an academic cast system establishing ranks with the understanding that the top tier, at the highest level of humanity, is chaired by college professors. Yet we still put so much stock in the idea. Politically even, the Alt-Right and many Conservatives are not classically educated, they are vocational and business oriented, and they often mock the more classically and liberally educated left while still maintaining the idealism of an academic intelligence, as if they accept IQ as the God of the classic liberal, and they revere Him.
But look, our humanity does not exists entirely in our head. Our bodies are not vessels designed only to carry our brain from one place to another. We are social creatures, by our very nature. Everything in our lives changes: the jobs we keep, the ideas we share, the beliefs we hold, the facts we covet, the environments in which we live, the people that we know it will all change throughout our lifetime, however the one thing that will never change regardless of the extent of our effort is that there will always be people in our lives. This is unequivocally the one thing in life that never changes, so would it then not make sense to define our intelligence by the way that we act, and react towards people?
Daniel Goldman wrote a small handful of books describing the different intelligences that we, as humans, share however Mr. Goldman based it all on the idea that our original measure for intelligence is true, and that academia somehow casts a shadow over us in dominion, but our present education system was designed in the early 20th century to accommodate farming families and industrial workers, it was not designed to develop well-adjusted, informed, innovators, artists, and thinkers. We have let the system dissolve without reform and now our education system is a f%#king disaster, and that is in part because we have developed the belief that our bodies are only vessels to carry our brains from one moment to the next; Daniel Goldman would suggest that basing our intelligence on our ability to interact well with others is Emotional Intelligence, however I would suggest that, if there is such a thing as emotional intelligence that it should be recognized entirely by how well we act, and react to our own emotions, not the emotions of others, and definitely not by the means in which we interact with one another.
I believe that reading is identified with intelligence because the means in which we measure intelligence is based not only on outdated concepts, but concepts that may not have been appropriate to create parallels with in the first place. We inherently recognize a problem with the means in which we base the foundation of our entire society, so we avoid it, and as children, during school, we find ways to separate ourselves from intelligence. We create negative stigmas around ‘smart’ people and reading. And not only has the act of reading taken a loss because of those parallels but are humanity has as well, and it continues to. Until we decide to change the way we perceive the world around us.
Every week a few friends of mine and I play trivia. It started, for me, in Santa Fe when a handful of friends invited me to join their weekly trivia team at El Farol, Geeks who Drink was the group that organized that weekly trivia event, they’re known nationwide. I decided that it was definitely for me when the MC asked “What sport did David Foster Wallace’s protagonist Hal Incandenza play, in his masterpiece Infinite Jest?” Well I was all over that. “Tennis.” I whispered to a friend of mine that had been chosen to write our answers, and then to turn them in.
I had forgotten about those trivia nights, over time: relationships, business ventures, life. I moved back to Texas and was sitting at this new local taco spot—now recently closed—when I heard something about a weekly trivia night that they were beginning to develop, every Wednesday night I was told, and I immediately went to work putting together a team, in my head. This group was not Geeks who Drink, but a competitor of theirs (Jaocb, the MC, hates it when I mentioned Geeks who Drink), Trivia Live. Of course, I didn’t care, and every Wednesday night I started coming for the cheap alcohol, the inconsistently somewhat decent tacos, and trivia—slowly building my team; of the original four of us only two, including myself, are still involved. The team we since put together has been phenomenal. We have our science (SCIENCE!) guy, our TV, animal(s), food&drink, and geography (one of them is Russian—born and bred) girls, we’re all kind of movie buffs, we don’t really have a consistent sports person, but we’re not too concerned about that, and I’m the literature and history guy.
A couple weeks before the taco place closed down Trivia Live started hosting trivia night, on Monday’s, at our favorite Micro-Brewery: Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and we couldn’t have been more excited—we were all growing pretty tired of the taco spot. So we started phasing out taco’s for farm-to-table burgers and Micro-Brewed beer (some of the best I have ever had, and I’ve had my good share of Micro-Brewed Beer). We used to recycle trivia team names, I would come up with a new witty, or funny, or annoying names every night just for kicks, and the Jacob came to know us really well so we were able to continuously change our name and keep are point values (it might not be in accordance with all the rules, but eh). Eventually we did agree on a name that we would adopt with: Isaac Asimov’s great quote: “People who think they know everything are an annoyance to those of us that actually do.” I like it, aside from the obvious reasons of it being perfect for trivia going, I liked it because of its length. A number of my names were long only because I enjoyed the fact that Jacob would have to say it over the loud speaker, and whether anyone else laughed or not I didn’t care, because I always did. One of my favorite names to date was, “Sometimes my mother calls me by my brothers’ name.”
I love it when literature questions come up, obviously. I know that I’m going to get it right. I’ve missed two literature questions over the course of the last year, or longer since we’ve been playing, and I can remember both of them. The first only because I’m ashamed at myself for missing it. It was regarding post-modernism political satire books, and the answer was, of course, 1984, but, for whatever reason I just could not think of it. It’s especially aggravating because I was born in 1984 AND aside from having read it multiple times, and enjoying it every time, I’m aware of the history behind almost all of it, and the details of publication, and the fact that thought the book was published in 1949 it was written in 1948, and the title is simple a reversal of the date (1948 – 84). Arrgh, it still bothers me that I missed that one, and that was months ago. The second is less vexing, however, it still gets to me. The question was asking, “What 19th century author whom created Detective C. Auguste Dupin, is considered to have written the first detective mystery novel?” I drew a blank. If I had a little more time (Each question is timed by a song, we have the length of any given song to offer an answer) I would have come up with, of course, Edgar Allan Poe.
At Cibolo Creek Brewing Co. we are 3 for 4, which is to say that of the four times that we’ve played there we’ve gotten first place three times. We have become the team to beat, and everyone there knows it. There has been the creation of at least one time that competes for the sole purpose of beating us. And, to be fair, the one time that we did not win, they were the team that were responsible.
By the end of the night, after a couple pitchers and extensive competition there’s at least one person on each team that becomes Andy Kaufman, during his controversial wrestling years, when putting on a show wasn’t always so apparent. It’s great! We all have fun with it. Throughout the week if something related to literature and trivia comes up I always make mental notes, but, in Boerne, I don’t know that there is a single person that can rival me when it comes to authors, book titles, plot, or general author knowledge, and the cross-over to Hollywood. I like that, it’s a good feeling knowing that you are the best at something. We’ve all seen how a sense of minor personal pride has shifted from a constructive character trait towards another thing to be ashamed of, or another thing to be judged for, but regardless having that to hold on to, even if it’s just a piece of something that I’ll occasionally pick up and acknowledge and the set right back down, it is nice to have on my shelf. And I’m grateful too for the people that I share that table with, and knowing that they too are able to feel a since of pride and acknowledgment. I know books, and I know people, and I enjoy the helloutta both of them, and having the opportunity to express that—other than here—is so much fun.
What is Sustainable Business? And can a sustainable business find business sustainability? This is an important question, and one that every business owner should ask themselves now, and not necessarily because of our global climate whether societally or atmospherically, but because that focus is where business is headed.
A Sustainable Business is one that has as low as possible an impact on an environment, a society, a community, and the economy. Essentially it’s a business that meets the Triple Bottom Line, a framework to evaluate the outcome of your business in three parts: Social, Economic, and Environmental. Sustainable Businesses are conscious businesses that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the present world without compromising the needs for future generations. Most people, when thinking about a Sustainable Business, automatically think of a Green Business, or a business which focuses primarily on the benefits of the planet. That is an aspect of the Triple Bottom Line, but it’s not the main focus. The Triple Bottom Line recognizes the importance of our social, economic, and environmental impact equally, which is to say that the environmental impact is only a third of the demands of a Sustainable Business.
I do believe in the importance of limiting our impact on the planet, as much as possible, and I appreciate that there are a number of very large, profitable companies that are maintaining Sustainable Businesses. Game Changers 500 is an organization, similar to Fortune 500, which releases a list of Sustainable, Triple Bottom Line practicing companies that are growing, and are massively profitable.
A good example of a great start is that most large, skyscraper-esque buildings being built in the world practice low impact building, while developing buildings that are themselves low impact. A LEED seal or plaque on display within or on the building is an indication of the more modern advanced environmentally friendly buildings. A number of these buildings are consuming CO2 from the atmosphere while actually producing O2, it’s amazing. That means these buildings are behaving like trees!
One of the impacts Sustainable Business focuses on is our social impact, and by that I mean many businesses are helping to provide better lifestyles for people living in underdeveloped countries, they are helping to bring these people up out of poverty, while helping to establish higher income families, that will, over the generations, be able to become consumers themselves. The idea is that helping to bring communities out of poverty will develop consumer friendly, and consciously spending people who may otherwise not have had the money to put back into the economy. When a business is conscious of its market, its environment, its employees, and its impact both now and in the future, it can only benefit the global economy. Our current economic system, and business development, though it is shifting dramatically to that of Sustainability, is one that either keeps people in-, or forces people further into poverty. How does that benefit a business?
There are business of all kinds making these changes: publishing companies, wineries, groceries, coffee and teahouses, banks, construction, and more.
It’s important as a business owner, and a consumer to understand the benefits of Sustainable Business.
As a consuming we must recognize that, especially in The United States, where we spend our money is the loudest, and most demanding vote that we make, and we are making it daily. Where we spend our money will help to provide the foundation of business in the future, and the types of business that will thrive. Be conscious about it.
As a business owner, even a small business, look into the benefits of using local materials, recyclable materials, and look for ways to help your community, to invest in your community, and to invest in the people of your community. Small things really do make a difference. People will go to one coffeeshop over another because of where they get their milk, or whether it’s organic or not. And this is true of every business we shop at, and develop.
There are creative ways of being a Sustainable Business. CommuniTea Books, my bookstore in Boerne, Texas, buys Fair Trade teas, and is constantly looking for ways to better the community where the tea leaves come from—all over the world. Guayakí brand Yerba Maté is giving a large percentage of their profits back to the region in South America where Maté is grown. The tea plant isn’t healthy in the area, and a lot of the forests are dying. Guayakí is helping to restore the regions forests so that the plant can once again grow naturally, and healthy so that not only the region can mature, and develop again naturally and economically, but also so that Guayakí can continue to provide a better product to the companies customers.
When you get the opportunity watch the documentary PROSPERITY. It is an amazing account of exactly what I’m talking about, and provides further insight into the benefits of Sustainable Business. Our current systems are not conscious business, and as a result they do not maintain sustainability. To have business sustainability today you have to be a sustainable business.
Get behind companies such as Collective Evolution, Rodale Inc., Thrive Market, The Container Store, Change.org, Aspiration, Reserveage, and more, and look in New Resource Bank, and demand that your community offers a banking system as conscious, and community friendly as New Resource.
There are 5 ways that you can start making a difference, you as an individual (Via Prosperity Documentary):
Reading is deeply personal for me, the act of-, and the subject has always come from a place of familiarity. It has never mattered, either, what I’m reading, or what I’ve read. There have been a number of people throughout my life whom have inspired to engage with me about books, and stories because I’m a writer, an avid reader, and a book collector. However, I don’t enjoy talking to people about the stories that I read. Even when describing, or explain a plot, I have never felt comfortable opening up to a person about the subject of any book that I have ever read. Still, people try, and they will never not want to converse with me about what I have read.
I will, instead change the subject, slightly, to similar books or authors, and if at all possible about parallel philosophies, anything that will redirect the conversation.
I have been asked many, many times to review books for people. Just today I read a message on LinkedIn from a publisher asking if I would consider reviewing, they have several ARC’s out this month. And I have reviewed books, in the past, and I enjoy it—which is strange. I’m a writer, I enjoy the process, and the means in which ideas, philosophies, and themes come to life from a place within ourselves, and sometimes, depending on who you ask from elsewhere. From above. The Great Creator…from somewhere else.
Sharing ideas, even someone else’s idea in a way that is both illuminating and developing simultaneously intrigues me. I have always preferred expressing ideas more when I write them then I do when I verbalize them. I have had a long-time internal conflict with that process. Our society has led us to believe that there are very specific, and exclusive behaviors that are more acceptable than others, and those that not only accept but prefer those means are rewarded. And though I enjoy talking to people; I love the art of conversation, it can never compare to how I feel, and what I’m capable of expressing when I’m writing.
I recently, watched a TED Talk with Matt Goldman. He described his 3rd grade music class: everyone was brought into a room, with a piano, and the teacher played ‘C,’ the 9 year olds were all asked to sing, to hold the ‘C,’ and after each student stood and sang they were asked to stand in one, of two groups. Finally, after everyone had finished singing, one of the two groups, the group that Matt Goldman was in, was asked to leave, Goldman explains that he did not have another music class until Middle School. Similarly, in an English class years later a paper he had written was returned to him, he received a C+ on the paper, which, apparently, he was pleased with, because it wasn’t a C-, or a D. Except that underneath the lettered grade, written in pen, was the note, “As good as could be expected.” Which, Goldman says, stung a little. Matt Goldman went on to cofound the Broadway sensation, Blue Man Group. Making a career of writing, music, and almost everything else. Sir Ken Robinson gave a TED Talk titled Do schools kill creativity? In which he describes a young girl who was often getting into trouble in school because she could not stop moving. Finally, after trying a number of things, her mother took her to a psychologist. The three persons sat in his office, the girl struggling to keep still, but being very respectful and kind. After several minutes of talking the psychologist asked to speak with her mother outside. The two stepped outside and he explained to the mother that he didn’t really want to talk to her, he wanted to see what the young girl would do once the adult left the room. Inside the girl was on her feet, and dancing away. The psychologist turned to her mother and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your daughter. She’s a dancer. She needs to dance, to think.” That young girl is Gillian Lynne, who went on to earn more than 60 stage credits, most as Choreographer for notable shows such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Neither Matt Goldman nor Gillian Lynne may not have accomplished what they had if they listened to, or were met with an opposition that may have paralyzed them.
When I write I think differently, more creatively, more introspectively, and when I’m reading there is a similar relationship with the subject. People, sometimes, well, often, don’t understand that. When I review a book—with the exception of one situation—the author has met my review with great gratitude, and that’s, most likely, because of how intimate reading is for me. When writing a review I attempt to keep my review as commercial and unbiased as possible, but as a writer and a reader, as someone who feels a deep connection with story, and the written word, it’s exceptionally difficult for me not to relate to something, and in a very personal way.
I love to read, but I do not love to talk about what I read. I don’t enjoy sharing my experience with the book. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard, or maybe some words and thoughts and feelings, for me, are not meant to be shared or expressed. The way I relate to people, in this way, is by putting a book in their hand, telling them to forget the world, and to read. To just read.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.