As a professor of Critical Thinking at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA, my entire academic life I have been constantly receiving similar feedback on my observations and opinions, something along the line of, “I have not really thought of it that way before.” Jimmy’s intention is to develop critical thinking skills, look at things a different way and to question everything. I speak and write of all aspects of life, from Buddhism to twerking, from the spiritual to the profane, from meditation to pornography. It all makes for great conversation and analysis.

So sit back, read and/or listen, and question me as we learn in the tensions of life.

“Want A Friend? Be A Friend.” Or, “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Or, “Jimmy’s About To Get All Buddha On Your Ass.”

I have just returned from Edinburgh, Scotland where my friends Laure and her fiancé Vincent, both hailing from Paris, hosted and toasted me for a couple of days.

It is nice to have international friends in international places, for all parties involved, because, as a loving father once said, “If you want a friend, be a friend.”

Allow me to explain.

It all began with Laure’s plan to pick me up at the Edinburgh/Waverly train station at 11:30pm on a Thursday night as I arrived to my Scotland destination by way of London’s King’s Cross station. However, like most of life, things did not go as planned.

An undisclosed “incident” happened on a train in front of ours and we just flat out stopped…for about 2 hours. Of course I contacted Laure, via Facebook, to let her know that I would not be there at the time planned. Long story short, she kept vigilant about keeping up with the situation online so she could time her 35 minute bus ride to the train accordingly. As I arrived, about 1:30am, greeted by Laure’s smiling, welcoming and friendly face, one could never tell by her demeanor she was completely put out and her life disrupted by this American -and now had to take another 35 minute bus ride home just hours before dawn.

I stayed with her and Vincent until Sunday morning. During this time, I was wined and dined, not to mention given first class tours of the city, including Castles, forests and, of course, a Scotch Whisky distillery (the Scots dropped the “e” from their Whiskey as to distinguish themselves…see what you learn when you drink?). In short, I was treated like a Scottish king as I slept in my own room with internet, a down comforter and a teddy bear dressed up like Obi Won something or other from Star Wars.

It cost me nothing.

I suppose there may be a bit of personal payback involved for a trip Laure took way back in 2008 to California when she stayed with us for a few weeks. Yet, then again, when she handed me the keys to her condo in Paris and left for a few nights in 2011, literally giving up her entire home for me, I believed that “debt” to be completely paid: Karmic transaction complete.

Laure and Vincent are, what Rene’s father would call, “good people.” Yet, I keep meeting “good people.” Why?

I have had a fairly pervasive theme in my life lately, namely the idea of what goes around comes around, reaping what you sow, or the energy you send out to the universe will “Karma-cly” metabolize the energy you receive back in (as a side note, the notion of Karma for some is about what awaits each of us in the next life via reincarnation…I am using the term in a more liberal Buddhist sense). Perhaps it is the act of travel that allows the curtain shielding this universal truth from sight to be pulled back and revealed. This reality of Karma is always present -yet it is frequently hidden by the rote scheduling and banality of our daily existence.

Just as an aspirin will cure a headache or water will quench your thirst, travel exposes life’s truths in a way no other medium could possibly reveal.

Travel brings about both vulnerability and strength. To travel as a stranger in a strange land, at least for this sojourner, brings about powerful feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. I typically live in a world full of control, my surroundings quite familiar and my routine as set as they get. Yet it is vulnerability, brought about by a break from routine and the known, that precedes every victory in life. Be it the prizefighter who is the object of incoming strikes and blows from unknown locations moments prior to victory or the marathon runner whose cramping legs seemed impossible to overcome just prior to crossing the finish line, we come to understand that we only become stronger when we subject ourselves to both risk, even calculated risk, and vulnerability.

It is the one who fears and avoids vulnerability at all costs that never grows and expands: Just as muscle needs to be brutally torn and stretched in order for it to grow bigger and stronger, so our psyche needs to be splayed and challenged in order to expand our minds and be introduced to life’s often clandestine and clouded, yet beautiful, offerings.

Yet there is another major benefit to vulnerability, via travel, as well. When we become vulnerable we come to realize that self-sufficiency will not be enough -we must reach out to others in humility and trust.  It is a difficult for this self-sufficient man to admit, but needing others is a good thing…a really, really good thing. When we need others it connects us to humanity in general and we learn people can be really, really good.

Then when we reach out to others who are in need and vulnerable, we are sending out that cosmic energy that will return back to us in our most tender and susceptible moments.  I read somewhere that is better to give than to receive, but make no mistake- both are necessary in life and both offer us sweet rewards.

So as I expand and “vulnerable-ize” myself, I allow Laure and Vincent to give and add some currency to their universal cosmic bank account –perhaps I should have charged them for my stay? (Even Buddha can’t get in the way of good, capitalist principles!)

Want a Friend

As a wise man once said, “Want a friend? Be a friend.” It will result in more than just companionship and international friendships; it will open up a world of discovery and some new found cosmic kindness -this time by way of Laure and Vincent.

 

The London Professors: When Communication and Psychology Collide

episodewhateverPlease join the podcast for a discussion with fellow London and Human Sexuality Professor, Dr. Ken Guttman, as we discuss sex (duh!), education, studying abroad, and what students should call us…amidst many other topics.  Though you cannot tell, his eyes are beautifu, believe mel. Help me Jordan!

 

The Lovely Trickles Of Life

There are some major challenges many of us take on in life.  In my experience none has been so daunting as taking on the challenge of parenthood some 26 year ago.  I suppose it would not be quite as daunting for those who care little for wanting to be a present parent who strives for excellence, yet this is not the case for neither Rene’ nor I: We wanted to be as good as we could be…still do.  This is not to say we were excellent parents, it is only to say we tried to be excellent parents, it was important to us –and I suppose our children’s therapists will have the final say about that.

Now, 4 adult children later, we are starting to see trickle in, ever so slowly, the fruits of our labor, the product of our efforts. These trickles generate from a circular and flowing life spring, identified by many a philosophy or religion as karma, cosmic justice, or simply reaping what you sow.

I have heard it said that you can determine  -in the majority of cases- whether a parent was good or bad parent based on whether their adult children like them or not (key word being ADULT as every 13 year old girl on the planet is obliged to hate their parents for a sizable amount of time).  Chances are if your adult children want to either avoid or even do physical damage to you, well, probably not such a good job in the nurturing department. If, on the other hand, your adult children still want to hang with you and even serve you, job well done. And, of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this.

That being said, as I share the following it is in no way presented as a self-aggrandizing means of arrogance or boasting in the parental department -quite the opposite. It is shared with my readers from a man who is not getting any younger, not getting any stronger (though, dammit, I am still gonna try!) and finds himself more dependent on life’s little crutches, be it reading glasses or hand rails, while starkly realizing his dependence upon the assistance of others is only going to increase in the upcoming years.

It comes from a humble and thankful place. It comes from a needy place. It comes from a place where trickles of love, kindness and assurance are not wanted, they are truly needed.

So last night when my daughter Rose, who is “babysitting” me during my nearly 3 month stay in London, observed that it was a ridiculous £4 to do a load of laundry at the local launderette, continued to promptly fling a 10 lb. sack of my sweaty socks and underwear on her back to take on her 30 minute bus ride home, where she could more inexpensively do my laundry herself, well, I felt a trickle of family love and kindness.

When I received the following short and sweet Viber message yesterday from my daughter Tess who is currently studying in New Zealand: Dad, thanks for quizzing me on every book I finished reading when I was little. Short, sweet, and touching -and I felt an oh-so-slight, yet ironically strong, trickle of love and appreciation.

When my son Jordan recently recognized me in a social media update another trickle of assurance was felt: Jimmy is on his way to live abroad in London for a few months and to potentially follow in his sons footsteps by doing some continental hitchhiking afterwards. He gets to step out of his comfort zone and meet a new part of himself, maybe even get to a Rainbow Gathering. At the same time he’s got a cool blog and podcast he has been consistent with updating for well over a year now, something I have been trying to do since the seventh grade.

Of course, I must mention, that the cool blog and podcasts would have never have been possible without his brilliant technological trickles of assistance.

And, of course, when my youngest Stevie says he want to be rich by age 30 and he  will be able to take care of his mom and dad with no worries, even though I will not hold my breath -I still feel the trickle of happiness and love.

These observations are written by a man who is watching his 81 year-old father, hardly able to get out of bed anymore, negotiate his final time on this earth. Observing his growing frailty acts as a mirror for my own life as this may be my fate and destiny as well – should I have the good fortune of many years on this earth.  I consider that perhaps enduring the suffering of growing old is an equitable trade off for a mere few more breaths.

Why? The trickles make it worth it.

My observations are written by a humbled man who is still desperately searching for his own identity in his post parenting days. It is written by a man whose affinity for the good things in life –travel, dance, good food and good wine- does not mask the realities of what awaits each of us in the long haul.

And, in the end, it is the family and friends we all love that hold it all together for us and with us. May I be so fortunate as to feel the trickles for many years to come.

The trickles are far worth the daunting challenge of parenthood.

photoJordan, Rene’, Stevie, my 83 year old Uncle Les, Rosie, her man Nathan, Tessa, and me.

 

 

Some People Find Happiness, Jesus or Themselves: I Found Ro

I found Ro. That’s right. You heard me. I found him. And I feel damn good about it.

Let me explain.

I am currently in Paris, France.  (It seems weird to add “France” to the word “Paris” as the city has a unique way of standing on it’s own with no need for identifying its larger boundary -as opposed to Perris, California I suppose).

This time around I am with a group of about 20 twenty-somethings yet, ironically, in the context I find myself I am merely a fellow traveller along with them. I am not their “boss” or leader – I am, in many ways, a type of peer with them. I strangely feel like Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School” or Will Ferrel in “Old School” as I travel on a pretour trip through Europe before I begin teaching for the semester in London (do I have to add England?). In any case, here I am while our leader and guide is all of 25.

Though the old man of the group, I feel in many ways I am as vulnerable and as very much a travelling “newbie” as they are.  This came to light this morning.

We arrived last night and I had some dinner with some French friends (and 5 twenty somethings, btw) and actually had a rather pleasant first night after not sleeping for nearly 35 hours.

It was when I awoke this morning and decided to go visit my French friend Ro, who lives on the outskirts of Paris –only a mere 40 minute train ride from where I am staying- that I realized my traveling vulnerabilities.  As I found myself straying from my twenty something tour package and opting to venture out on my own, I was in essentially the same place I was about 3 years ago when I visited Paris for the first time- alone, in a strange city, with a strange language, with strange geography of which I knew absolutely nothing about.

I experienced some moderate anxiety concerning my traveling to see Ro.  What if I get lost? How can I communicate with anyone?  I then realized I am in a big city with civilized human beings and a train system that is very internationally friendly. What is the worst that can happen? I am forced to eat bread and cheese until an English speaking French person can give me a hand? It is not like I am in the deserts of the Sudan – not knowing how I will survive Ebola and have to decide which insects to eat for survival.

Thus I put on my big boy traveling panties and off I went.

I safely made it to my final train exit when things got a little tricky. The directions provided went like this: “Exit on the right through the tunnel.”  Wait…did that mean the several tunnels that encounter each stop immediately when you get off the train…meaning I would have to go the far right immediate exit? Or did it mean enter any tunnel and when you exit the train station to go to the right? So, like any good grammatical contextual analyzer, I decide to read on and see if it offered any additional clues:

“Then pass the glass building while following the street on the left.”

Fine. I will exit the train station and look for a glass building and just head that direction.

I looked left. A glass building! Well, kind of. It was definitely more glass than your average Paris building but could it really be considered a “glass building?”

I could only guess what a “glass building” meant to a Frenchman in comparison and contrast with what it means to me…a California surfer-type with little interest in building design yet has seen his fair share of Los Angeles glass buildings.

Just look for a glass building, Jimmy, do not freeze with directional analysis paralysis,” I informed my meta-self. “Just go with your gut.

The problem was that only in Paris are most buildings made of 100 year-old bricks and cement with very few windows –as if windows were designed as an afterthought by engineers who decided that a small view may be a good idea, for some much needed ventilation at the very least. I determined that if you find any building that has more than a few glass panels in Paris it could be considered a “glass building.”

Yet still, was I looking for a building with a few extra windows or the damn Crystal Cathedral?

So I followed this glass building with suspicion. Again, I did what any good contextual analyzer would do, I read on for the next clue.

“Turn right at the bakery,” it read.

Great. Every corner in Paris is a bakery with mouthwatering carbohydrates and fattening cheeses. However, I became wary of the suspicious “glass building” I was following as it appeared to lead me to a residential area hence, no bakery. So I walked back to where I came out of the train station and went the other way. And, alas, I saw THE glass building. There was no mistaking this one –glass from bottom to top.

I guess glass buildings are like porn –hard to describe though you know it when you see it.

Now where was the damn bakery? I walked a couple of blocks not knowing at which bakery to turn right at. So I looked for more clues:

“Just past the hotel,” it read.

I do not know the word hotel in French though I saw a logo on a building that seemed “hotel-ish” and, lo and behold, a bakery just beyond it.

I am freaking Columbo mixed with Sherlock Holmes with a dusting of Hardy Boys,” I thought with smug satisfaction.

Not really. But I was pretty proud of me as I continued to successfully avoid the potential of Paris Ebola.

But my work was not done. Not even close. I had to meander a few more turns and buzz a door that had the number 11 on it, walk in, go up the stairwell on the left to the second floor and knock on the first door on the left.

I did all of this successfully…or so I thought.

When the door opened it was an old Frenchmen with a filthy apartment who did not speak a lick of English.

“Ro? Is Ro here? Do you know Ro?”

“Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” I heard…or something like that.

It is so strange how when two people do not know each others language keep talking to each other as if repetition will bring sudden linguistic enlightenment.

“Ro,” I repeated. “Ro. Is he here. Where is he? Do you know Ro. Ro. Ro Ro.”

My nonverbal skills kicked into full gear. It is at times like this I wish I was a feminine woman –trained in the art of nonverbal subtleties- searching for some universal nonverbal common ground and understanding.

He appeared a very kind man as he knocked on the neighbor’s door and a woman answered. He then again said, “Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” to the woman. I spelled out Ro’s name on a sheet of paper he provided and she smiled and pointed up another floor.

“Thank  y ..ahhh…Merci,” I proudly told her, quite proud I could finally use one of the three words I know in French.

As it turns out those weird French people consider the first floor the ZERO floor and our third floor is their second floor.

I went up and knocked –on the third floor door, not the second, as some things Americans just have flat out right- and out walked Ro.

I did it. I survived the rough jungles of Paris.

I am that good.

An hour of conversation later, I departed and just went back the same way I came.

So this 51 year-old did what any 20 something admittedly could do much better –navigate through a strange city with a strange language with strange people- yet I feel so accomplished and satisfied as if I told my 51 year-old neurons to quit carving that neural rut. I told my neurons to live a little, to carve new paths.

Damn, I want to make my neurons my bitch.

I feel younger already. Watch out twenty somethings –you have a match. Why?

Because I found Ro.

 

The Israel-Palestinian Conflict: Peace-ing Together My Argument

Several friends and acquaintances have asked my opinion on the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, in particular the current conflict between Palestine and Israel.  I have been extremely reluctant to share my thoughts on this matter as the emotions and tensions that accompany this long history are so strong as to be often out of the realm of reason and sound logic (ironically both sides seem to want to break it down very simplistically); rather the positions of both sides are held with such a zealous, religious-like fervor it makes objective, critical thinking over the matter next to impossible for those involved, or so it would seem.
Having spent several weeks in Israel a little over a decade ago, I felt through first-hand experience the thick tension in the air -of course the armed military with machine guns on nearly every corner did not help this perception.
Like the situation itself, this blog has been one of the most frustrating and difficult ones I have ever written for reasons that will become clear as you read on.
Please know I am not out to change anyone’s mind (even if I could) or read “preachy” responses to this blog as both sides minds are as closed as a Sherman Oaks delicatessen on a Friday evening during Shabbat.
To begin, a few opening observations:
Many in this country have been taught that righteous people support Israel while unrighteous people support Palestine.
This troubles me greatly. By assigning religious connotations to political positions we are concocting a toxic elixir of rationalized and unrepentant hate mixed with staunch fervency topped off with a dangerous heaping of eternal justification.
I do not speak for God (FCBE) yet if I could I’m sure her sentiment would be something along the lines of, “Could you all please, please leave me out of this?”
Insofar as religion in general, I read somewhere that the common man believe religion to be true while the wise man considers it to be false. The rulers, however, find it to be useful…perhaps this is partly in play here.
I have no Jewish or gentile dog in this fight; I have no allegiance to a particular ideology that demands I take a position one way or the other.  Of course I was raised with a Christian theology that says good people support Israel and bad people support Palestine; even threatened with eternal damnation if I didn’t.  Yet, as I became older and realized I have my own reasoning brain -along with the fact that same book said to stone to death homosexuals and adulteresses while condoning the slaying of “heathens” – I am currently an independent Middle Eastern free-agent that is in no need to sign on with either side.
Finding objective, impartial information concerning this matter is nearly impossible.
I haven’t seen positions held this strong since practicing the The Kamasutra as a younger man in my 20’s (let’s see you think of a better one, Jews and gentiles).
Reasonable and informed opinions and arguments begin with some credible information and research. What I quickly came to find out is the concept of  “credible information” on the internet concerning this conflict is rich with the latter and nearly non-existent with the former. In other words, there is no shortage of information and research, however there is a gaping shortage of information that is NOT rife with a prejudiced and immutable point of view, not to mention an agenda ridden with propaganda.
Each side vehemently argues they are not being properly portrayed in the media.
Well, since Jews have very little influence over the media in America (read sarcasm) I can  understand this side of the argument.  And since we have a pro-Palestinian socialist currently in the White house (again, read sarcasm) I can see this point of view as well. Just stop. If anyone is ever going to take a position on an issue over what they see in the mainstream media, that position is worth as much as, well, uh, something with little to no value anyway. Does misinformation exist? Of course. And it is equally dispersed on each side of the argument.
Now, this is the part of the blog where I have some important editorial decisions to make.  If I start to get into the details of the conflict, I will be clearly shot down because I will not have my facts straight, as both sides have their own convenient set of facts. If I begin to explain what I believe to be fair and legitimate positions and concerns for both sides, I will open up a Pandora’s box of history and issues that centuries of discussion could not answer -thus this pathetic, pitiful thousand word blog stands no chance.
So what’s the point of blogging about this at all?
Through writing on this issue, I realized what my position is, and has been, all along. Often times through writing we realize what our soul has been trying to express all along.
Perhaps my occasional lighter tone is masking my deep and intense frustration with this entire conflict. Good, innocent people are dying. Not Israeli or Palestinian people. Just people. Good, innocent people. I know, I know, I know…these are all like the kids fighting on the playground who claim, “Well he hit me first.” My question, does it even matter at this point who hit who first? Should both sides just keep killing each other so both sides are completely wiped out?
It seems many of those individuals who are emotionally, and perhaps culturally, invested in this conflict are far more concerned about being right over being empathic. They seem to care about the why the bombs over the tragedy of bombs.  They appear to care more about principle rather than the carnage.
I have never been about being on the right side of an issue, rather I have always been about being on the people side of the issue, which actually makes me the worst person in the world to have an opinion on this matter. As I started to write this blog, I realized it is not my place (and by my place I mean MY PLACE, Jimmy Urbanovich specifically)  to have a position over the rights and wrongs, the heroes and the villains, or the morally more acceptable side. In the words of Johnny Cash, if you want someone to take a side, “it ain’t me babe.”
I realize this position of taking no position appears idealistic as I am on the side of peace. Do I realize that sometimes war is a necessary evil on earth that sometimes must take place? Yes, I do. Which explains why I am not in the military business nor desire any position which would force my hand on involvement in war.
Can’t we all just get along? No, apparently we can’t. But that sure as hell should not keep us all from trying.
A facebook friend of mine, Gizella, posted this meme the other day that really helped me put my own thoughts in perspective:
Israelblogpic
Ah. So Simple. So well stated. So completely captures my sentiment.
Perhaps surprisingly, I found this blog, written by an Evangelical Christian who hails from a Jewish heritage and, like myself, felt pressured to tow the Christian-Israeli line, to be very closely aligned with my conclusions and my thinking.  I respect all people who can think for themselves and not believe all things influential people and books in their life tell them to believe.
So go ahead. Tell me how misguided and wrong I am. How ignorant and out of touch I am. I am certain both sides would tell me they are on the side of peace as well. But, hey, I’m not the one dropping the bombs now, am I?
I will stick with my side.
Peace to all.
Peace to the Palestinians.
Peace to the Israelis.
Peace on earth.
Peace out.

 

 

Jimmy on the News: Flying Solo

In his quest to find the best format for mildly entertaining and educational “podding” Jimmy sits alone in his mancave and opines about today’s headlines. He discusses the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet, a celebrity “package,” rogue police officers, the types of people who use facebook and the overall general absurdity of today’s news. Once again, you can now find all Jimmy’s podcasts on Itunes so you can listen anywhere at any time. Just type in the key word “jimmysintension.” Enjoy!

 

Mishka Mikk Podcast: Pakistan Through A Progressive Woman’s Perspective

What is it like to be a women in Pakistan? I sat down with Pakistani native Mishka Mikk and we discuss life from an American and Pakistani perspective. Find out what she thinks about America, women’s rights, and hear about her days as an undergraduate in Gender Studies. All guided by a rude, ignorant, arrogant and entitled ugly American.