I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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Netflix Original Docuseries: Our Planet
NARRATED BY DAVID ATTENBOROUGH
It's not that we don't care, we all care, a little bit, some more than others, in reality, it's just that it's hard. It's all just so hard. We have jobs, and relationships, and emotions to work through every day, and now we're having to fix the mistakes, the political and environmental and social mistakes that we created while we were to busy trying to find some way to make it all just a little bit easier on ourselves, you know, more convenient; and while there are some people who would like to pretend that some of our problems are elaborate illusions and pretense rhetoric so they don't have to actually worry about, geezus, something else, and while others are so busy pointing fingers and trying to diagnose some fundamental root we're all ignoring the very real truth that there is something that each of us can do, some minor changes to our every day lives that will have a very real impact on everything. If we'd only just discipline ourselves to be aware of our individual impact...
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Sometimes when you trade a sure thing for the possibility of something unknown, and when the unknown is grasping to the veiled promise of distinction, when the bust fireworks of the commonplace, or contemporary comforts, are subconsciously expected you are more than likely to miss out on the subtleties of life. So now, with an intro like that, how can you not continue reading this blog? And although this intro might be a little heavy handed considering the inspiration for this thought was roasted and steamed and sipped from the saucer of an Spicy Aztec Mocha from Mildfire Coffee off of Huebner Road in San Antonio, Texas. I am inclined to defend my position with fierce veracity...
I spent the morning at Local Coffee at the intersection of Military Highway and 1604, it was packed, hardly a seat left un-millennialled, Starbucks would have been put to shame, if they were to be bothered to look up from the happenstance of their political dark roast; I ordered a house drip, the Guatemala, it was, um: coffee. The internet however was quite reliable, which was essentially the reason I was there. I wanted to get out of my cluttered living room and observe our species in their natural habitat while pushing through the monotonous droning work of SEO, but after the trendy muzak and metaphorical poo throwing in the unconscious arrangement of thoughtless commentary I began to Google “alternative coffee shops near me.” Fortunately, and only a short 8 minuets away, was the small coffee roaster Mildfire Coffee Roasters.
It was quiet when I walked in: five people including the two baristas, whose suggestion (the Spicy Aztec Mocha, remember?), was fantastic. The small square tables were tiled, there were bags of coffee beans on the floors, and various couches and armchairs anywhere that it seemed remotely plausible. The walls were red and yellow. Oh, and the internet, even after confirming the password, did not work. I wouldn't be able to continue monotonously reworking the SEO for Communitea Books. However, I also probably would not have enjoyed the several settled moments of quiet humanity that followed. What is it really, then, that we sacrifice when our expectations crumble beneath us?
While I was there I nurtured a minor crush on the barista because the atmosphere demanded it, and she had a nice smile—she wore flannel. I like unique, and it's situational. The smell of the entire coffeehouse changed several times while I sat writing this—that's cool. I couldn't help but be reminded of the aroma at Local, there was only the unbalanced steeped residue of an overly-ambitious state of pseudo progressive conformity in the air, and yes it was stale. Like the chalky thud of an old fire pit after tossing a rock to put a dying ember out of its misery. Local, unlike Starbucks (generationally I should think, Starbucks belongs to the mistakes of an ignored generation, my generation) is the patchouli habitat of under-developed progressive trend setters. My attitude towards such characters, when perceived through my fine tinted primrose Starbucks impulse bought sunglasses (Disclaimer: I have never, nor will I attempt to buy any such thing, especially at Starbucks), is, at its foundation, a product of subtle irritability ignited by my inherent misunderstanding of being driven by the deeply-rooted construct that "cool is sexy," for all intents and purposes I'm afraid of them; though, honestly, I have nothing against these young idealistic plighters beyond my own stereo-typically unexplored trepidation of their socially vogue agenda and, having developed and fought for idealistic progressive sensitivities myself, I, and maybe with a degree of unfairness challenge their motives. You see, from my perspective developing and standing up for ones ideals is one thing, but it is quite another to be progressive for the sake simply of being progressive, you know, as if fighting for a persons rights was trendy—like the eighties—or a way to “let off steam,” cause it might get a few hundred likes on Instagram. Caring about ideals vs. looking like you act like you care about ideals, in even an ideal world, would normally be the same thing, because someone might even accidentally change something for the better, however, and not without a few hours of sleepless directive thought towards the contradiction, I've discovered that somehow that is just not the world we leave in; When I overheard "I'm a sapiophile. Intelligence is so f$&king sexy," at Local, and the way that it slipped from their tongue without any apparent regard, just irked me a little more than it probably should. Intelligence should not be sexy for sexy' case.
Shit, where was I going with this?
I heard a song on Pandora a couple of weeks ago, some of the lyrics caught my attention and I thought, after the song had ended, I should post that on Facebook. Only, I didn't post it on Facebook. I forgot. I heard the song again a few days later and I thought, Oh, that's right I was going to post that on Facebook. Only, I didn't post it again on Facebook. The third time that I heard it, tried to remind myself, and then again forgot to post I decided to go hunting for it. Although I couldn't remember the song title or the band, I did know that it played multiple times on the Brown Bird Pandora radio station (is it still called radio?) I took this search as deep into the rabbit hole that I could fathom, well as deep as Google would allow me, and guess what, after all of that I still have no clue what it was that I wanted to post on Facebook, just a few simple lines from a song that played on Pandora. I've been listening almost all day today hoping that it might come on, it hasn't, or I simply missed it, again. But, you know what, I can still remember the smell of Mildfire Coffee Roasters, and the feel of the tiled tables, and the taste of the Aztec Mocha.
Do you ever get the feeling like you're imploding, but you can actually foresee it as if the impending implosion is being organized unobserved from beyond you; the recreation of an explosion that has already happened but you are only becoming aware of it as the reaction returns to your center? Meanwhile you feverishly fight to disarm the detonation which has, for all intents and purposes, already taken place, and you watch as time counts backwards and, knowing the simplicity of disarming this device you offer yourself as a means to "make things better," only to watch time conclude and then proceed to reset itself, over and over again for eternity? No, yeah me neither...
The point? Pssh, I have no clue. I know only that it started with a Spicy Aztec Mocha which, for me, seemed to stop time, if only for a little while...
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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.
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I was sitting on my couch last night listening to the rain, and reading; something that I read distracted me from what I had been reading, although I did continue for several paragraphs before I realized that I hadn’t actually retained a word of anything that I read after losing myself in thought. I started thinking about my life, and more specifically how I live my life and the day-to-day routines or anti-routines that are the makeup of my waking hours. A great deal of my time is spent working on communiteabooks.com, on my website. If you’re wondering what that actually looks like it is: ordering books to build my inventory, uploading books to the website, looking for new ways and new platforms to market, as well as maintaining, and building on my current marketing and social media marketing strategies, coming up with new creative design ideas for the website and implementing them, reading and studying up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, learning to write code--not very well, or at all really--in order to create the best possible website that I can—I am currently working on figuring out a way to alphabetize my inventory by author instead of the first letter of the product title, because that is a bit of an issue for browsing, and overall customer experience on the website, I’m kind of losing my mind trying to figure it out—writing blogs, and taking, packaging, and shipping orders (I may have overlooked a few things).
I’ve been feeling anxious lately because...well I thought it has been because I have not yet seen the same return for the work that I have done on the website, as well as a growing anxiety that includes, but is not limited to the idea that I am not meeting certain expectations that some people might have of me, or that I have of myself—in my family and social life. I have kind of thrown myself into this project, well, this career head first, and entirely. The only consistent social experiences I follow through with during any given week are my workout schedule—which in, and of itself is a solo activity, I just happen to be surrounded by people while working out—and our Monday night Trivia game at Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and I haven’t been enjoying that as much as I once did. It’s not the game, or Cibolo, or the people really it’s just that the intrigue is fading a bit. Also, for the last few years I’ve been thinking about the things that interest me, and I may have covered this briefly in a previous blog, but I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything that I actually enjoy doing, like given the scenario: “what would you like to spend one evening every week doing?” I think about bouldering, camping, hiking, biking, reading, making music, painting, photography, writing, I can think of a dozen or more things that I have enjoyed at different points throughout my life but I’m not currently doing any of them, for example: I have a nice cycling bike, when I lived in New York and Santa Fe I would commute by bike (and train), but it was a significant part of my life, my bike currently has two flat tires, and changing the tires on one of these bikes is not exactly as straightforward as changing a tire on a Huffy, still I could do it—I just don’t.
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, last night I realized that I have been sabotaging my own happiness. Not to an extreme or anything—partly because I don’t really do anything to either extreme of any spectrum—but, sabotaging it nonetheless. Here’s another example: I spend a lot of time uploading books to the website. When I first built the site I spent three months (at least) eight to ten hours a day doing nothing but uploading book after book after book after book. When I upload books I type in the title, the author, a synopsis, add a picture, write some SEO, figure out an accurate representation of the condition of the book, decide whether it’s new, used, remainder, rare or collectible, and the genre, and determine a fair (or better than fair) market value price and I save the finished product to the site. I do this for every book. At the time I also watched all of The Office, Parks & Rec, Numb3rs, and something else, I can’t remember. I took a break from uploading books to the website and started developing Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Buzzfeed sites, and working on technical stuff and marketing for the website. I recently came back to uploading books, and I’m only doing maybe twenty a day, unless it’s Tuesday because I’m uploading my own books as well as the New Releases of the week (new books are released on Tuesday’s). Anyway, I realized that I actually really enjoy uploading books! I love going through each book, figuring out the condition, researching the price, discovering again if it’s signed, just everything about why I love books in general I get to do every day. I also love building the website! I love developing new design techniques, figuring out SEO, and all that crap—I’m not much for technology but the design aspect of it and coming up with new ways to direct people to my site, it’s so much fun. What I don’t actively like, granted, is that I do all of this on a computer, which I’m reminded of constantly when the damn thing doesn’t want to load something, or the internet randomly stops working, or if I move from one tab to another and when I return the first tab has to reload again often causing thirty seconds of anxiety riddled silent belligerence. Nevertheless, I am really enjoying the creativity and the experience. And, I never noticed how much I enjoy until now. Instead, I worried only about the tens of thousands of people that will one day visit Communitea books someday...
I related a number of things in my life currently to this sabotage of happiness, and it clearly affects me in a number of ways, all of which are easily recognizable but unconscious nonetheless: attitudes, behaviors, choices, thought processes, actions and more what I do and do not do. it's present in almost everything that I thought about, in some way. Do you know that feeling when you are putting so much thought and effort and intention into an idea or a dream or a goal and you’re applying yourself actively in the process in as many positive ways that you possibly can, but that goal always still is just out of reach?
I've begun to correlate the concept to developing an open-mind. You know? Like, how do you do that, really, how do you train your brain to be open-minded? A lot of people out there think they know, they just simply accept all progressive ideas and tendencies as truth in the extreme form, and unabashedly argue the merits until they’re blue in the face. However, I don’t believe that the unconscious demanding of compassion is actually acceptance or understanding, your just think that you might want it to be—"fake it till you make it". I was watching some stand-up special on Netflix the other day and the comedian was telling a story about something that I cannot repeat in a blog aimed to market for a small business, but it challenged the way I thought about something. A lifestyle that I didn’t have an issue with before, and I still don’t, and yet the way I consciously thought about the idea—that I have been a proponent of anyway for as long as I can remember—provided a new perspective, and a new understanding. Basically, I don’t think you can develop an open-mind until you really stretch an idea in favor or against as far as you’re able, you know, until you have reached the furthest point of your own level of acceptance that you are personally capable, and then to stretch your mind further until the idea itself is stripped of meaning entirely. It’s like actively thinking about the universe expanding, allowing your mind to stretch itself into a space that you were previously unaware of.
I have put so much intention into developing something for such a long time that I never really stopped to let it expand, or to see what it was capable of expanding into. I was just going through the motions, and so monotonously that I was no longer aware even that I was enjoying myself.
And then, of course, I started thinking about how long I’ve been doing this to myself, and the obvious answer is sense my last serious relationship ended while living in Santa Fe, and that’s true in the sense only regarding how intensely I have been sabotaging my own happiness but, in reality, I have been doing some form of this for years, and ultimately it goes as far back as when I decided to drop out of college. Coming to that realization was interesting because I do believe that our society has learned to ignore the efforts and creative developments of the individual in exchange for a system of machine-like functionality.
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, which prevent us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell
I left university in response, largely, to the very concept. I didn’t want to be another cog in a machine, I didn’t want to think with narrow-minded un-intention, and therefore blindly falling into that possibility made me nervous. However, simultaneously I could not ignore the fact that I was, nevertheless, a part of this system. I couldn’t just will myself out of it. And I didn’t have enough guidance or understanding of that system to maneuver in or around it, at the time. Unfortunately I spent the next five years systematically destroying everything that would have allowed me to create exactly what I would eventually need to create. I essentially lived somewhere between the systems of man and of nature, like a little mouse scurrying about looking for food. I believe that I began to sacrifice my happiness, but I cannot be sure exactly what I was sacrificing it for. Somewhere through my short string of very memorably bad relationships I sacrificed sacrificing my happiness for the more adult like, and responsible action of sabotaging my happiness.
Are you familiar with Time Release Therapy? The idea is that you consciously, and unconsciously let go of certain behaviors or emotions, such as depression or anxiety, by going back to before when they took root in your psyche and you allow yourself to feel what you felt, and then to “come back to the present,” with those negative behaviors or emotions having never existed—that’s somewhat of an oversimplification but the idea is getting across. I had a conversation not too long ago with someone who referred to Confirmation Bias as pseudo intellectualism, I think he even went on to list several other negative adjectives, and I have not yet been able to get that out of my head. I have, of course, come across people with ideas like that before, especially living in Texas but for some reason this one conversation affected me a great deal. If he thinks Confirmation Bias is pseudo intellectualism he would have a field day with Time Release Therapy. What do people actively do then to work through their issues, you know? I mean we live in a society where we are taught--whether directly, or indirectly--that we have to actively do something in order to change or fix it, but we’re also taught what it means, and looks like to actively do something, and it correlates with disregarding what many would consider pseudo intellectualism. Affirmations, for example. The act of affirming is actively doing something, but I was thinking last night as I was reciting some affirmations, “what the f&$k am I doing?” And, thinking about where the belief that an affirmation would not work came from, like why did my doubt of affirmations even cross my mind? So I started affirming to affirm.
“Affirmations do make a difference.” ~ Me
…and then I started laughing, because I realized that “It’s OK for me to happy...
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Communicating with each other—how we develop and maintain relationships—envelopes so much more of our day-to-day lives than most of us really realize. In general the intention of communication is to convey a thought using verbal and nonverbal techniques the meaning of which describes your idea in a way that you can only assume I will understand, and you maintain the assumption that I have both heard and understood your intention—what you intended to express—from the cache of information that I keep based on my own experiences without having been misled or misunderstood in order to develop the same understanding of the thought that you intended to convey.
If, for whatever reason, I don’t understand the concept that you have tried to express in the way that you have tried to express it you might assume that the fault is mine, and I will likely assume the same; and that’s only if we both realize that the thought was unsuccessfully expressed. A circumstance that Psychologist Cordelia Fine has coined as Vain Brain in her book, A Mind of Its Own, where Fine also points out that, “when asked, we will modestly and reluctantly confess that we are more honest or better at something, and we rarely consider ourselves at fault…”—this is also known as a Self-Serving Bias (an idea that some might consider pseudo intellectual bullshit—psychology is not counterintuitive to religion). And, also assuming that our moods, triggers, and stigmas have not indirectly influenced your intention, as well as how well you might have expressed yourself nonverbally.
Aristotle in his work The Rhetoric suggests that talk is about persuasion, about influencing people. Most of us simply express ourselves in some manner of small talk much of which is supported only by the means of whomever we are communicating with decides—whether consciously or unconsciously--to interpret, and accept as our intention, and we continue throughout our lives as if very little has happened, or with the assumption that we were understood exactly as we intended. However, more often than not, we weren’t. Osmo A. Wiio, a Finnish professor of communication, humorously suggests:
How many times can most of us recall while engaged in conversation a happenstance where we’ve finished speaking, and the other starts talking about something that is so outlandishly bizarre, at least in regards to a response, that we accept that they could not have possibly understood what we might have been trying to express? It has happened so often in certain friendship circles of mine that my friends and I have coined a term for it: Organic Conversation. It’s kind of like playing Telephone and trying to make sense of how it is that we went from Orangutan from Jungle Book to Orange Peel Lemonade; though we all know that there was, at least, one person in the group that intentionally manipulated the direction, otherwise the game of Telephone is a lot like the redundancy of playing tic-tac-toe.
I have read about-, studied, and taken courses on Communication because, along with understanding our emotions, I cannot fathom a more important, and more necessary tool to have than being a good communicator. Our society, well the nature of our humanity is to change; we change, or grow, or develop, or evolve, or learn, or transition, however you are willing to recognize it without being triggered. Throughout the course of a single lifetime—my lifetime for example—I cannot express to you how many times my surroundings have changed, the people around me have changed, my careers have changed, my perspectives, and my beliefs they have all changed, and it’s true for most of you, even if, say: you were born, grew up, lived and plan to die in your ‘hometown,’ everything else that you knew, with the one exception, has changed. In fact the only thing in any one of our lives that will never change is that we will always be surrounded by people, the specific people will likely change, but nevertheless there will always be people; we will always be interacting with someone in some regards, and, for that reason alone, the ability to communicate effectively is profoundly important. Still, many of us maintain the Self-Sealing Belief about our role when trying to communicate with someone: when something is going well we take credit for it, and often unconsciously develop the idea that because we facilitated or communicated something well in the past or situationally that we have a talent for it, while if something does not go well we fault the situation, blame someone else, or claim that it may not really be worth out time.
The National Communication Associate did a study titled, “How Americans Communicate.” In which 62% of us claimed that we feel comfortable communicating in general, while 87% of us felt that we were comfortable communicators in our personal relationships, and with our significant others. However, only 42% of Americans felt that we were effective communicators. 42% felt that we said what we meant to say, in the way that we meant to say it, and yet we’re not positive that our intention is getting across. We feel less effective than comfortable. 53% said that a lack of communication was the most frequent cause of a breakup, while 29% said money was the most frequent cause (I mentioned money only because it’s a considerable factor for many of us in our lives). One of the problems is that most of us are not conscious communicators, and we do not often allow for the time to understand what gets in the way of communicating to one another.
When it comes to communicating with one another simple may not always be better, and it’s important, I think, to allow ourselves to address conflict—in the best way possible—without brushing it off as drama as a large number of people are beginning to suggest. It’s important to learn to be more conscious when we are speaking with one another about how we are talking to each other, in order to avoid hardwired reactions, and Self-Sealing Beliefs that will inevitably make things worse—especially if you effort to ignore them.
Since I started writing this blog I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the direction that I would like the blog to take and, I think, because there are so many things that interest me I have accepted the fact that the blog is just going to be more broadly approached then some, and I have to live with that. Though, it has also occurred to me that Relationships and Communication have had a major, and lasting impact on me throughout the course of my life, most of which I’ll explain in some detail throughout a series of blogs that I have decided to attempt regarding Communication. I will be indirectly joined by Professor Dalton Kehoe of York University via his The Great Courses Lecture on Effective Communication Skills, I have watched this course a couple of times now and it remains fascinating to me that regardless of how important I do find academia there is an obvious disconnect between practicality and academia, and the way that people live, and interact, and communicate does not always parallel with the science of it, at least not comfortably, like solving a math proof. I think the way that some professor teach something as practical as communication makes it come off as more of a science—an idea—than an active part of our day-to-day lives, and I hope that these blogs challenges and creates that assumption.
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In point of fact America has always been great.
I believe that it is insulting to the American people to suggest otherwise, regardless of whether it is in the form of a media debate or a campaign slogan; however, America was never great simply for the sake of being great. Many Americans allocate greatness for convenience in order to validate something, or themselves; attributing our greatness to a flag and a pledge, in honor specifically of a military that may or may not feel contempt for the manner in which Americans express themselves. Our greatness does not rest entirely on the shoulders of our military, our politics, or our sociopolitical perspectives. Our greatness is not the contract that is our constitution, the foundation of our greatness is within the written resolve for which the constitution has allowed us to be, and to become.
America is great because we aspired to do great things—because we aspired to greatness. The American people never waited for the government or the media to tell us what to think, or how to act, or who we were; we did not need everyone to agree with us. We are not great because of our personal ideologies but, rather, because we have been idealistic. America is great because we aspired to be educated, to be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness in people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding.
“We stood for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars…We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easily. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step to solving any problems is recognizing there is one.”
America is great because we stand for one another, not against; we did not paint right and wrong as a portrait of personal preference or belief—we became one despite of our differences, and stronger because of them. We discovered greatness in humility, and intelligence; for a time we allowed religion, science, and intellect to coexist and to develop not as one, or together but besides one another, because we were accepting of one as well as the others. Our scientist did not do things just to see if it could be done, we did so for the sake of our development or survival, and we didn’t use or conceal our advancements solely for profit. We admire artistic endeavors, and stand suspended in awe at our achievements; regardless of the medium. We found integrity in our identities complete only if accomplished, and educated in the arts. We found dignity in drawing, painting, photography, dance, writing, and music and more—and we continue to, only we disparage the education of the arts.
We are more than capable of greatness, because we have never ceased to be great; Americans have always adapted to-, and felt empowered by challenge: we are twenty-second in scientific achievement, with intent and direction—we have the means to be better. We are third in median household income, because are idea of what work is, and what it means to work hard has been influenced—we have the means to be better. We are seventh in literacy, because we belittle education, and don’t recognize the need to reform and develop—we have the means to be better.
Many Americans have allowed the intention of a powerful few to dictate their morals and their beliefs; we have been exploited in exchange for our convictions, governed to direct our own authorities towards one another; pitted against unity, and detached from our purposes. We are not manipulated by a specific party affiliate, as American we are being handled by our government in its entirety as they use the intent of our own greatness, and capable passion against us. Our affiliated parties have many of us believing that they alone are the means to better our situations—that is not true. As Americans our liberation is not in disunion. America is great, and always has been great because we stand for one another.
People develop as a product of their time believing their childhood years to be among the best of their, and therefore anybody’s life. It is easy to look back on a time with the imagination of a child and see greatness, and that greatness may not seem to exist during any other point in our lives. I believe that our present is one of the most difficult times for America, there have been periods of struggle throughout our history, when many people could rely only on hope—many had nothing; I know that today we have more than we have ever had before, the benefits of developing technologies and sciences, but still so many people belittle and discredit our sciences in reaction to a perceived threat against their religion. I cannot help but to feel trapped in-between a culture of fear and/or invalidation, but for what? To what end?
I cannot understand why someone might listen to another human being offering philosophical or psychological guidance or direction and it being brushed off as, “pseudo-intellectual bullshit,” or “bushwa decadence,” why are we so dismissive of information? Why can we not accept one anothers perspectives in open-minded understanding? Whatever concept of greatness that any of you have come to revere about America our greatness is, and always has been a representation of our ability to concurrently be artistic and analytical, to be compassionate and resolute, challenging and supportive, and to be open-minded and critical. America discovered greatness people and our ability to connect with one another in our compassion and our understanding. America is great, because we have always managed to find cohesive contrast in our understanding, and perception of our world, and ourselves.
We have never before been so eager in our absoluteness and judgment of another as we are today, and regardless of whatever reason you may think you have to predicate and undermine those that behave or believe differently than you, it is not enough of a reason to dismiss the characteristics that help to define, and allow to endure what American greatness tenaciously is.
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It feels as if I have written a number of these, but never quite like this—I suppose—at least not how I might intend for this to come across; losing someone to death is difficult for people to understand and to cope with, especially when someone so young leaves us, to the point at which our common response is to offer condolences for our loss. To me it just seems to be more, I don’t know, comprehensive than that, aside from the unusually acquisitive the typical response discerns, I don’t know I think I take more exception to the idea that someone might actually be lost. I’ll return to more about what I mean by that later.
A number of people that I went to high school with have passed away, and it seems like an unusually high number of people to lose from a single class. I knew all of them, however there were only a few I knew well. I remember very well when Ben Shrear, Marina Becker, and Mary-Beth Farmer passed away, and very distinctly, and the three of them—until last year—affected me the greatest; last year Heather Vogt passed away, and I knew her fairly well, in high school, though we didn’t speak much afterwards—I moved away and rarely spoke to anyone from home (an unconscious decision that I now regret). There is a Boerne High School Class of ’03 Facebook group, and one of my classmates maintains a collection of people that have passed away, and it seems as if we lose someone every year, and every year for the last five or six years. Last week I learned that another of our Boerne High School class of 03’ classmates passed away, Christina Welch. And her loss kind of hit me, again. Not as hard as Heather, but it was enough. The thing is-is that Christina did not like me—at all really, and I had never been too understanding of her either. Her memorial was today, and actually it continues presently, as I type this. I wanted to go, however I felt as if it might be inappropriate, and still I knew that if I didn’t at least make an attempt I would regret it. So, I drove to the Ye Kendall Inn, where Christina’s memorial is being held, and I stood in the doorway for a few moments, and I looked around the room—the memorial was beautiful, but still it felt too intimate for me; someone who, as far as anyone else there might be concerned, was there only for the recognition of having been there, and the free food—so I paid my own respects from the doorway, and I left.
I knew someone many years ago who remained close with Christina, and one of the first thoughts circling through my head when I learned that Christina had passed away was of Christina’s friend, this someone who I had once known, I wanted to reach out to her, and to express my own compassion—in some way other than “I’m sorry for your loss.”—really just do acknowledge what she, and everyone else would be going through. I could not do it. I thought about reaching out to her for days, and even came close a number of times, but in the end I couldn’t.
I think differently that many people do. I process life, and people, and ideas, and situations, and death very differently than is normal, and throughout my adult life I have made it a point to develop what I consider a talent out of the way that I process things, and as I develop it more and more, fewer and fewer people make sense to me, although the few people that do hold a more profound and essential place in my heart, and in my life. The same process has allowed me to recognize that regardless of how well I may have been able to understand Christina it was still important for me to acknowledge her, and her life, and those that will be continue to be afflicted by her loss.
Those of you who are reading this that know Christina or Heather or Mary-Beth or Marina or Ben and for those of you that did not, and yet have inevitably suffered loss I ask you to consider that they are not lost, but that they will continue to exist, and not just in our memory or our hearts, but quite literally within us. We knew them in one way only, a way that allowed us to see them, and to hold them, and to laugh with them, but now we have to learn how to know them differently: imagine how you felt when they were around, at the best times, or the worst, when one of us suffered and the other brought solace all you have to do is think about those moments and the feelings will resurface and with that you will feel them again, as well. Imagine if their feelings, in the way that they only were capable of feeling and understanding and relating to them was shared with your own every time you thought about them.
If that is difficult for you to do try considering the possibility that we made a mistake when accepting the idea that we were created in the physical image of God, and that instead we were created in the emotional image of God, and that we’re capable of relating to-, and experiencing those that we lost exactly as they were—in their emotional image. I am affected by death but I rarely feel loss and I rarely feel sadness, because were some people cannot learn to relate to someone that has passed away differently, and in that place where they once occupied they feel emptiness, I still feel them, and I know that we are all capable of finding people that we thought were lost if we are willing to relate to them a little differently. I take comfort in knowing that Christina is still here, and I hope that the idea might offer some comfort to those of you whom are having difficulty finding it.
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Those of you whom follow my blog likely recognize that I am fascinated by human behavior. The way that we interact with one another; what we communicate; what we choose not to communicate; how we communicate; how we choose to perceive others, and why? Every one of our interactions and the people that we disregard and befriend and fall in love with all of it is based entirely in the foundation of a simple choice: whether we want the good to outweigh the bad in our perceptions of another, or not. As our various relationships develop more seriously we do begin to focus on how the behaviors of another might affect our own, and whether or not a person is more likely to bring the good out in us than the bad, however by that point we more often than not have established an intellectually abiding perspective of a person that will only be intermittently affected by how we might sometimes feel.
Most people do not recognize our interactions—whether positive or negative—to be a cognizant choice, we have a tendency to acknowledge the insight that our emotions offer without really understanding why we might feel a certain way about something, or someone. In essence few of us are capable of consciously acknowledging our emotions and the affect that they might have on us—our emotions are not built-in sages or an oracle subliminally ushering us through life’s incalculable isles leading us towards one’s eventual, and metaphorical ‘seat,’ as many of us innocently accept. Our emotions are only, and quite simply emotions and they are as easily influenced by our experiences as our political affiliations or a propelling intrinsic desire to play golf after you retire (regardless of the fact that you’ve always hated it).
I suppose this thought is why it is recommended to try to avoid worrying about whatever it might be that people think of you. It’s such an encompassing rabbit hole. Perhaps there is a healthy medium somewhere in the middle, and no, no I do not, by any means, mean to imply that you should find its moderation, I cannot stand the idea—there is a terribly fine line between moderation, what some might call reason, and inherent objectivism—don’t lost yourself to “the middle.” Unless, it’s the middle-of-nowhere in which case I’ll meet you somewhere in the middle.
I do think about what people might be thinking about me; or, more to a point, what people might be saying about me. Although I do not necessarily worry. And I do not think that you can overthink something as long as you preserve direction. However there is a pygmy of a setting located an inch or so below my solar plexus that revels in frustration over the thoughtlessness of a person negatively influencing my reputation over misconceptions, or anyone for that matter. I cannot stand listening to people engage in pointless banter about the hypothetical's of another's situations without the direct acknowledgment or rebuttal of said person. The negative influence is proliferated by means of the ripple effect that outlasts a collective, and truth, as well as time. I believe that it is immanently and intellectually irresponsible.
There are a handful of accounts throughout my life that I do kind of dwell on, none of which were considerably impactful these accounts were nothing more than events which I have accrued over the years like any other, but for one reason or another there are a few that have stuck with me. The senselessness of the preoccupation is irrefutable, and I know this because I have, at one time or another, returned to them intently to reconcile, if you will, the matter. And, more often than not each account reveals itself inasmuch the way that the following unfolded:
“So, several years back now, and I mean like many, many years ago you asked me if I would like a few of the Goosebumps books for Christmas; at the time I was reading them, and you were very excited, like you had put some thought and effort into this. And, for reasons that I still cannot understand, my response was, “I like Goosebumps, but I’m not sure that they would be, like, a good Christmas present. You know?” I’m not really sure what that even meant. And you just burst out crying. I felt so bad. I have felt bad about it since then, I still feel bad, and I’ve thought about that multiple times every year for the last 25 years, at least. Do you remember that?" ... "Nope.”
The most recent of my accounts that will likely haunt me for many years to come is slightly different and when it comes to mind I physically shake my head, as if to say “Geezus [email protected]%$ing Christ what the hell is wrong with you [me]!” I had a pair of friends not too long ago, and I fell unabashedly in love with one of them, though she was—and shall forever remain—inconveniently unavailable. Throughout the course of a particular happenstance I had either succumb to jealousy or was plagued by an unfortunate knowing about a new friendly party to us all—or it was quite possibly a mish-mash of the two—and I made quite the ass of myself, however I did venture to redeem myself, and was fairly successful until, that is, one evening when I boomingly exemplified each and every negative characteristic that I had accused our new friendly party of. The characterization was almost artful, as if I was intentionally wisping myself away like a leaf in the wind, blithely making myself irrelevant in a single flourishing display of indifference. But, of course, what I was really guilty of was overcompensating, which is something that I occasionally do when I feel something—an emotion—that I am momentarily unable to recognize, or that I am suspicious of. The inconvenient love began to ignore me after that, and shortly after the pair adventured towards new and pageant things. To be quite honest I’m not entirely sure that-that is why she stopped talking to me, but it seemed a reasonable inference to me, and furthermore it has contributed, like many things before, to developing a better and socially unique understanding of my emotions.
And, now to bring this insight full circle: I suggested before that our emotions are not some kind sage-like oracle providing angelic guidance from…wherever, but, I don’t know, maybe that’s not entirely true—however I would posit that unless you are capable of acknowledging and recognizing your emotions they will be more likely to lead you blithely into irrelevance than they will inspire some artistic and creative means to channel our inner hole-in-one.
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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.
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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 [email protected]$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.