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.

Integrity: According To The Blog Of Jimmy

(Warning: This is a blog that will get deeply philosophical on your ass and probably should be the summary of a book and not a blog.  If you are of the non-philosophical variety, you may want to forego this one and do some fun reading with this one!)

I always attempt to be as blatantly honest and forthcoming as possible in my blogs. I believe that people resonate with what is true, realized by the use of specific examples (names, dates, situations, etc.). An “intense” issue has been strong and central on my mind recently and I REALLY want to openly write about it -complete with names, dates, and situations. However, writing about the topic in a totally honest and non-discreet fashion may put some others in a potentially negative light. I realize I have no trouble making myself look bad or like an ass when the truth needs to be realized, yet my personal value system (yes, I have one of those…we all do) dictates that I not put others in such a potential negative light -I have the right to make myself look bad, and, unless you are a traffic cop, very few others.

Therefore I write the following as specifically as possible without the use of any specifics. By omitting names I accuse no one of anything and, not coincidentally, any libel suits from happening. You will just have to trust me this is really happening.

I will break this down as simply as I can.

I serve with a group that currently needs to make a very important decision in the near future. This decision will affect lives and, potentially, a lot of people. In a recent discussion with another member of this group that also plays a part in this important decision-making process, I asked “him/her/it” how “his/her/its” (from now just lovingly referred to as “it”…it could be an alien) decision may go if we had to make the decision today.

I asked “it” this question because “it” is a purveyor/believer of all things “ethical.” It is a religious it with a strong moral code and its opinion was of great interest to me. I not only really like this it a lot and have great respect, I really desired an honest and reflective opinion.

When it responded that it is not going to play a part in this decision process by recusing itself, this was of great surprise as a lot of people could be affected by the decision. Though I paraphrase when I write its reason for recusing, “I cannot be a part of it because it may jeopardize my job,” I was taken aback.

“So,” I thought to myself, “You are not going to take part in an extremely important decision that may affect MANY lives because it MAY have negative implications for you personally?”

Wow. I mean, I get it. I understand it. Yet I would empathize far more with that response from the local narcissist who cared little for the universal whole, but from this “it?”…an “it” with morality and integrity?

This has me thinking about the larger underlying issue at play here. Thus, I blog about the issue of integrity. What is it? Who has it? Is it contextual? This situation really has me thinking.

At the risk of a dangerous oversimplification, it seems to me the world breaks “integrity” down into two general areas -and the two have only slight concentric overlapping.

“Personal Moral Codes” integrity vs. “Public Moral Codes” integrity. In other words, the former are those who would place their personal belief system as their guiding light for decision-making; while believing this personal system would also be best for society at large –usually a personal system driven by a code of conduct, holy book, philosophy- as the basis for public decisions (i.e. personally I am against homosexuality therefore I will vote against gay marriage). The latter would be the group who would put public interest first and foremost -a philosophy called Utilitarianism- before personal conviction (i.e. I am against homosexuality though I do not want to deny basic civil rights to a large group of law abiding, tax paying citizens of this country, thus I am for gay marriage).

I believe both processes are ethical and have their merits.

Perhaps the issue of legalizing prostitution is a good example to distinguish between personal vs. public integrity. One with a set of personal moral codes may believe that prostitution is wrong and should remain illegal because of a set of personal moral codes generated by said religion, personal conviction, or a general set of personal values. However, one who views the collective, public welfare first and foremost may see this as the “world’s oldest profession” and that consenting adults have the right to engage it in a professional and lawfully protected manner, though they personally do not engage in it or believe in it.

Do I judge one any better than the other? Hell no. Though I personally take the “Public Moral Codes” position, I completely respect both views of integrity as they originate by a sense of right and wrong and what is best for this world; perhaps for different motivations and with strong different orientations to how they perceive the world, though both sides practice thinking beyond self.

The lack of integrity issue arises when thinking beyond the self is lost and things go terribly selfish.  So, let’s say, prostitution becomes legal and subsequently it is very lucrative to be in the business of whoring. I would take issue with the person who has a personal moral code problem with prostitution yet, if and when legalized, elects to open a brothel because it may benefit them financially—at the expense of their own personal convictions or even voting record.

That is called hypocrisy…plain and simple.

I also would also have issue with the person who believes prostitution would be good for the larger whole of society (safer working conditions, less sexually transmitted infections, etc…) though elects to vote against it because there is word they may open a brothel next door to their house if legalized. He or she concedes it may be good for the whole…though not in their backyard.

That is also called hypocrisy…plain and simple.

To crystallize another scenario, I personally experienced such a conflict of interest. In the 2012 California election there was Proposition 30, an initiative that proposed to raise taxes to help fund public education. Personally, I am fiscal conservative that possesses the conviction that the government wastes a shitload of money and raising taxes only exacerbates problems. However, I am also a California Community College professor who would personally benefit greatly from the passage of this proposition –not only might I see a raise I would also be granted some nice job security for a time.

I like to think I am a person of integrity thus I voted against this initiative. Sure it would have benefited me personally though I believe it would have damaged the public whole…thus I needed to be consistent.

It is consistency, even at the possible expense of self-gain and benefit, that is the cornerstone of integrity.  It is thinking beyond self and doing what is best for the whole. I believe both personal and public moral code individuals can both practice integrity as the morality of both is ultimately driven from thinking beyond self. The “beyond self” for the private person may be in the form of God or religion, while the public code individuals are driven by what is best for society at large.

quote-integrity

Do I have an integrity problem with one who voted for the measure who believes that raising taxes is generally a good and healthy course of action? HELL NO. Why? Because they are consistent…even if I may personally disagree with them.

The initiative passed (hey, nothing I could do about how others voted) AND my conscience was not violated because I voted with my “Public Moral Code” first and foremost, even at my own potential personal expense. I could sleep at night…and, fortunately, still have a job to go to in the morning as well.

Please know I am not tooting my own horn (well kinda) but realize that is the way I interpret integrity…and I am open to competing points of integrity views.

Therefore that is the problem I have with “it.” As an advocate of public morality, I find it hypocritical and self-centered to potentially harm the public good for the sake of keeping the self safe and secure…i.e. covering your own ass at any price.  Yet, to be fair, I have not yet had the opportunity to have a follow-up discussion with it over this issue as I am sure it will offer me a sound philosophical reason why this action is justified…we shall see.

I also believe the great majority of people stand for what benefits them personally first and foremost; therefore I do not find this position at all unusual. The world is full of the, “I’m-fine-with-it-just-not-in-my-backyard” crowd as well as the “I’m-against-it-unless-it-benefits-me-personally” contingent.

I guess I have always held a different definition of integrity, and most things I suppose, throughout my life.

Well, I warned you I would get all philosophical on your ass. At least I’m consistent.

Spirituality and Porn: Insights On Religious Terminology From A Porn-Again, Materialistic Blogger

Having grown up in rather lavish religious contexts—Roman Catholicism as well as pastoring in evangelical churches for 13 years—I am well aware of the various monikers and terminologies faith-based systems use to define themselves.

With this wealth of experience I have come to the conclusion that labeling true spirituality is like pornography…but more on that later.

It has been my experience that evangelical, born-again types do not like the term “religion” and would prefer to call their experience with God a “relationship.” I should know…I used to say the same thing myself…for decades. I now realize this is far more a manipulative tool of effective brand marketing than it is of real value or truth.wpid-religion-vs-spirituality

Why? If you look at a rather pervasive definition of the term religion, what about it does NOT fit the evangelical faith or just about any religious system for that matter?

“A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe (Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life), especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies (For God so loved the world), usually involving devotional and ritual observances (Christmas, Easter, Communion), and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs (Do not murder, commit adultery, etc…).”

And what part of that “relationship” is not a religion?

I really do not care what a religious system wants to call itself, though I do know the hallmark of a bad relationship is when one partner is always asking for money…and with relational friends like that, who needs enemies?

It seems Mormons, Jews, Muslims, and Catholics really do not mind the term “religion” to describe their faith-based endeavors. I completely respect the  acceptance of the word to define these institutions while not attempting some niche’ marketing in their branding…just call things what they are.

The other phrase I hear frequently by those non-church, non-doctrine adhering, non-religious types is the sentiment that they “are not religious, they are spiritual.”

Well, in the words of the late Chris Farley, “Whoop Dee Freaking Doo!” It is as if these people have transcended that shallow religion stuff and are miring in the pristine, true blue waters of ultimate experience of all things divine. Yet, in reality, they really are tending to their personal gardens of their own religion, at least in the way we define it above…not to mention being accountable to others in a “religion” can be a real bitch.

Another rather laughable phrase is when one contends they do not like, nor appreciate, “organized religion,” to which I respond, “Would you prefer unorganized religion?” Since when is being organized a bad thing? Give me an organized religion over an unorganized one any day of the week…at least there is an accounting of where the money goes and there are probably enough parking spaces.

So it is with this background and understanding that I approached the lecture of “Materialism vs. Spirituality” that I gave last Wednesday afternoon to my cultural diversity course. While discussing Robert Kohl’s “Values Americans Live By,” I pondered in my own head the difference between true materialism and true spirituality when a couple of things dawned on me

(Yes, the porn analogy is coming -no pun intended).

First, though I have always known this cognitively at some level, true materialism (the desire and love of “things”) and true spirituality (the desire of love of all things non-material) are mutually exclusive understandings—one cannot truly exist in the presence of the other. A truly spiritual person may possess material things, yet they cannot be truly materialistic as they hold on loosely to all things temporary. A materialistic and spiritual person both may own, say, a car—however the spiritual person uses it to fulfill their need of transportation while the materialistic person uses it to fulfill their need for recognition. Just as fire and water cannot complete their intended mission while in the presence of one another—water puts the fire out while fire evaporates the water—so it is with materialism and spirituality. A spiritual and material person may both own “stuff,” yet with the material person it is more the “stuff” owning them.

Secondly, it dawned on me that THE most spiritual person I have ever met, in real life or otherwise, resides in my very own family. If one defines spirituality as the utter deference of self for the betterment of others while holding on to no material desires or possessions in the quest to serve the universe, my oldest son, Jordan Urbanovich, is the pope, prime minister and president of spirituality.

Jordan is currently roaming through India, Bangladesh and many other places I am unable to pronounce and food I cannot stand with nothing more than, essentially, a camera and a backpack. Visiting and raising funds for orphanages, sustainability farms, and other philanthropic organizations, Jordan is a contemporary Ghandi-like figure who cares the least bit for any material goods—save for his camera and computer to create videos for these places, and an accordion to provide good cheer for many.

The only money he accepts are for those things that will continue to fuel his mission: Food, drink, transportation, and the like.

When I expressed this spontaneous revelation to my class last Wednesday, Jordan as both Ghandi and Mother Theresa wrapped into one, I realized I may have sounded like the proud dad boorishly droning on and on about his son…though this was not even remotely the case. It was a revelation of truth, not pride. I literally have never met anyone like Jordan. I could NEVER live the life he does, nor do I desire to…I am far too materialistic.

Yes, my Camaro owns me. If true spirituality wants that bad boy muscle car, she will have to drive it away out of my cold, dead, steering-wheel-clutching hands.

I am pleased when people recognize this aspect of Jordan’s life. So when a student of mine recently flagged me down in the school library and handed me $200, I was initially confused. I then found out she had recently started following him through facebook and stated that she would much rather tithe her hard earned money to someone like Jordan, who is single-handedly going out into the world and making a difference, than donate to any other church or organization with whom she is familiar.

I think I speak on behalf of Jordan and those many Indian organizations he is assisting when I say this is greatly appreciated.

So be it a religion, a relationship, spiritual, organized or not, take your choice of the bullshit labels as it is all a divine mockery of words.

And now, finally, I am reminded of the infamous words of Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart in a 1964 ruling when attempting to define hardcore pornography: He declared he could not intelligibly do so, yet “I know it when I see it.”

Perhaps true spirituality is lot like porn in this regard—not terribly easy to define but we all sure know it when we see it.

So, in the words of another great (and slightly altered) mind, The Doors Jim Morrison, “…dance and save us from the divine mockery of words.” At the end of the day, whatever we want to call ourselves pales in comparison to who and what we are.

True spirituality is experienced, not defined. If you have a minute, check out the experience below…and feel.

Jordan in Nepal

A Nation Of Pussies: Court Storming And Other “Dangerous” Activities

“Court Storming” is the latest troubling aspect of contemporary American society. I realize this is not a sports blog and I have no intention of making it one; yet, in the world of NCAA college basketball, the latest controversy is this “ugly and dangerous” fiasco of Court Storming- better known as the practice of the occasional occurrence of college kids running onto the court after an upset victory or big win.

Apparently this is a BFD (Big Fucking Deal…I use the acronym cause I refuse to be crass)…at least if you listen to sports talk radio.

“It is only a matter of time until someone gets hurt,” I recently heard a sports pundit lament, “It is going to eventually happen. And then what?”

And then what? Go grab a band aid or an ice pack and get over it? Holy shit.

Sooooooo,” I asked myself, “This has been going on for 50 plus years and very few have been hurt? What seems to be the problem? It would seem a rather minimum to low risk event.

Don’t get me wrong…I appreciate proactive, as opposed to reactive, thinking. Yet according to my reasoning, thus far we have zero to low risk…at least if precedence plays a role in our thinking. Worst case scenario? Outside of the above mentioned cut or bruise, probably a stubbed toe or fisticuffs every now and then.

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We are crafting a society that is so inoculating us from all hurt or potential injury that it is impeding our ability to live a full and content life…and I am sick of it.  We are outlawing any and everything that might pose the slightest risk of injury. It reminds me of the time I was at a Chargers football game and they had to dispose of the cap on my plastic ($14) beer bottle. When I asked for it back, she informed me that it was stadium policy to dispose of these caps because “someone might get hurt.”

Really?

Or what about the couple whose children, ages 10 and 6, were picked up by police officers when they were found walking home alone from school…only to drive them home and admonish the neglectful parents for their “free range parenting” –and were later investigated by Child Protective Services.

Huh? I suppose it could have been worse as they could have been running on the school playground; a dangerous practice that was banned at my kids elementary school once upon a time.

Now this is the point in the blog that I am tempted to declare that we are becoming a nation of complete and total pussies; yet I will not make such a declaration because I respect vagina too much. Someone once observed, “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” Agreed. Vagina rocks.

It just does not sound right to suggest we are a nation of balls because we are so damn sensitive (and perhaps unsightly), though I know we are becoming a nation of paranoid, cowardly, risk free, passive and effeminate people. Yes effeminate….notice I did not use the word “feminine” as there is a big difference: Just as “macho schmuck” is the worst things of all that is masculine, think effeminate is all the worst things of all that is feminine…the softest, passive, non-assertive aspects.

No, old man Urbanovich is not gonna rant about how he never wore a bike helmet or seat belt growing up; or how he used to ride a mini-bike at the age of 12 through the streets of Burbank; or how he liked to jump off the roof of his garage just for shits and gigs as a kid…no, I will not mention any of that. Today our puss, er, ah, effeminate culture is attempting to create a risk-free experience…and at what price?

One of my favorite books, “Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon” puts it this way: “But for American society in general….we have domesticated ourselves. We train and hire specialists to do everything for us so we do not have to take the risk of doing it ourselves…We’ve laced our social lives into a network wherein rights and wrongs are defined by hundreds of thousands of laws….we have airbags, parachutes, orthopedic surgeons, seat belts, life vests and helmets to protect us if something does go wrong. We have become a nation of sheep. Baaaa.”

Sheep? Pussies, er, balls…same thing.

And what is going to happen if we squeeze all the risk out of life? We will transform into a mediocre society that is safe and sound…and miserable.  Risk makes us feel alive, on the edge, and empowered.  I am a firm believer that there are no great rewards without great risk; even if the reward is simply knowing you did something you never thought you could.

Sure, getting up and out of bed in the morning is a calculated risk on our behalf, yet I wonder how long until that is finally outlawed? When is enough enough? When will the risk-free madness stop?  Thank FCE (I have since dropped the B) I had parents that let this kid wander the neighborhood and walk home from school in kindergarten.

Of course our paranoid, effeminate society is concurrently highly illogical. Those children walking home from school would have risked a much higher probability of injury/harm if they were driving in a car over, say, potentially getting kidnapped as they walked. We fear children getting shot with a household handgun or getting shot at school while far and away the number one killer of children are swimming pools.

Where’s the no swimming pool lobby?

Our risk-free advocates do not even make any sense. These are probably the same misguided, short-sighted softies who do not vaccinate their children because it is too dangerous. Would not the greater risk be listening to anything Jenny McCarthy says?

The ban on “Court Storming” is merely a microcosm of what is happening on a much larger scale in this country. My advice? Storm the court of LIFE everyone. Live life. I am not suggesting doing anything beyond stupid or deathly dangerous to self or others; I am suggesting to celebrate the hell out of victory. Storm the court, cut the nets, raise the coach and remember this: It’s going to be impossible to storm the court while simultaneously pushing up the daisies…which is an inevitability for all of us.

Carpe’ diem my friends. None of us know how many storming court days we have left to seize.

 

 

People Are Strange, When You’re A Stranger: Why I Love Weird People

“When pregnant people swim, they are a human submarine.”

I love different, strange and weird people. Why? Perhaps I am projecting a bit of myself onto others as I do consider myself a somewhat odd and eccentric type of person. Yet, the thing that I like most about strange and weird people is they are not caught up in the cultural mill of sameness and conformity. In an age where technology can do a lot of our thinking for us -many of us have google mental processors and Reddit, Yahoo, or Huffington Post perceptual filters- it is refreshing to hear of a person who processes, thinks and looks at life differently then the rest of us internet lemmings. In fact, I never really thought about the idea that:

“Beef jerky is like a meat raisin.”

Thus, whenever I may refer to one as weird or strange, make no mistake about it -that is a positive euphemistic gesture on my behalf…I cherish those who think differently. I am not suggesting I have a thing for, say, crazy homeless derelicts, rather for functioning and sane individuals who are not like me, or the rest of humanity for that matter.  They just process thoughts differently. They march to the beat of their own weird-ass metronome. You might say they pedal to the speed of a different bike. Speaking of which:

Bikes are acoustic motorcycles.

Perhaps the quality I appreciate most in strange people is that embracing quality of self-acceptance. Some are different and strange while being uncomfortable in that different and strange skin. The strange people I prefer are those who are strange and they not only know it, they accept it as part of their very being. They do not run and hide; they take that weirdness and call it their own. They can even be eating a simple bowl of rice and see the world differently:

Rice is great when you’re hungry and you want to eat 2000 of something.”

So I introduce you to my weird friend and strange former student, Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki, who from now on I will lovingly refer to as JLBV. JLBV is unlike any student in my professorial tenure. She is one of the sanest and smartest, yet different, students I have ever had. I have had plenty of dangerous “crazies,” of which JLBV is not a member. Insane former students of mine have taken a knife to the artwork at a college art show (as one painting dared to reveal a naked breast), while another threatened to shoot up the school campus and was later arrested for having an apartment full of ammunition. Yes, this armed student was in my class and he did not appreciate the grade I gave him on all his overtly, fundamentalist religious speeches. The point is this: I know weird and I know crazy. JLBV, somewhat like myself, is just weird. A good weird. A very, very good weird. She has paid the devil his due…or has she?

If you don’t pay your exorcist then you get repossessed.”

Jill-Lima Bean-Vikki has 3 names because in the first class she took with me everyone in class agreed she looked like a Jill…so she gladly went with it. In a second class she took with me I had students give me the name they preferred to be called…she chose Lima Bean. Finally, I guess Vikki is her parental given moniker, her Christian name you might say. All this being said, if you were to try to find her on facebook, it would be under the name Thrill-Seeker. Ah the many faces of JLBV! Regardless of what you call her, she cannot even go grocery shopping without thinking of something weird…really weird:

When you go food shopping you are just buying supplies for this week’s poops.”

I guess I never really thought of it that way before.

If you have not guessed it so far, these italicized quotes are “JLBV-isms” coming straight from the mind of her strange self.  Not surprisingly, JLBV works in the circus among other freaks just like her. She is a delightful, chill to-the-max, mellow young lady who is pleasant as all hell to be around.  You cannot NOT like her, as there is nothing about her to dislike…unless, of course, you dislike weird…and those who can play fun games with words:

French pancakes give me the crepes.

I have always found this “A” student to be a different type of delight. Then, in an Interpersonal Communication course one day last year, she revealed to the entire class, in one of the most interesting and informative speeches I have ever heard, that she is asexual… meaning that she has no sexual desires for either males nor females. In other words, if she were at a restaurant serving sexuality, when it came her turn to order she would tell the server, “I’m good.” She also knows how to ask the right questions:

Do you think babies get cold? Or are they womb temperature?

There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths surrounding the orientation of asexuality that this article and accompanying comic clear up.  Yet JLBV is the first one who will clear things up for you as she is open and honest about her orientation. Personally, I believe asexuality to be a really sweet orientation in terms of simplifying one’s life—as sexual attraction can be the knife-in-the-heart, really fuck-your-life-up activity that carries great reward at often times a very steep price. Frankly, her asexuality is neither here nor there in terms of what makes her unique and special, it is just another cog in her wheel of being different as she constantly questions what is and what is not socially acceptable:

Apple sauce is just baby food that is socially acceptable for everyone to eat.

So, with my tribute to the one and only JLBV, it may seem she is in some sort of trouble or has a life ending illness or some shit. Nope—at least none that I am aware of. She is good. Healthy, happy, hardy and hip…she is doing just fine.  Much better than some chemicals, because:

“When chemicals die, they barium.”

So why do I write of her? I think we all can learn things from interesting people. From JLBV, we can learn the importance of being our unique self, embracing our unique self and offering our unique self as a gift to the world. To 858690_10202219558478576_3050842345386289969_oaccept self is the greatest gift we can give to our self…this is not to suggest we do not all have some sort of character deficiencies we need to work on and fine tune, though the very essence of self needs to be embraced, loved and nurtured. JLBV is a great example of this.

OUR CULTURE NEEDS WEIRD!! We are turning into Social Media robots…save us JLBV!! Perhaps my final JLBV-ism sums up good advice for the rest of us:

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it… I just don’t think being an adult is gonna work for me.”

Sage advice my friend. And my advice to you? Stay weird…we love it and need it.

We need new and original thought forms. So perhaps it is ironic that I summarize this blog with a particularly poignant quote from another brilliant mind:

“To thy own self be true.”

 

 

 

 

Hedging Your Bets In The Gamble Of Relational Probabilities: The 7 Do’s And Do Not’s Of Finding The Right Person For You

Towards the beginning of each semester, I lecture on the basics of the communication process (one semester I even did it with a go pro on my head).  Each time I give this lecture I am reminded of a very basic communication principle – a principle that if followed, will do everything but ensure a successful long-term relationship.

Fine, there are no guarantees and perhaps that last sentence is a bit too “headliney” and advanced to sell papers, yet who would not like to hedge their long-term relational bets a bit in their favor?

The key is experience; as in, similar and shared experiences.

If you should drop me off in the middle of China and demand I communicate with someone, I would fail miserably. For starters, I do not speak the same language and, outside of the fact that we would both need to eat, drink, and defecate, there is very little else that I would share, experience-wise, with this other person.

It is no different with our relationships within our own culture.  We may all share the same dominant culture experience (I am an ‘Merican), yet there are great experiential differences among all of us. For example, I may share the same denotative, linguistic language with another person in my ‘Merican culture yet that does not mean we share the connotative language.  I may share the same grammatical principles with, say, an 18 year-old dude, yet that does not mean my utterance of the word “sick” means anything close to his definition –I use it to address an illness while he uses it to address something very cool and nice.

Language is just one small part of everything that constitutes our varying experiences, be it schools, religion, travel, family structure, or educational level -the list goes on.

Therefore, I have created my list for increasing your chances of long-term relational success, based off the principle of shared experience. Hence:

The 7 do’s and don’ts of long term relational success:

The 4 Do’s:

1. Do commit to someone close to your age. Yes, I have blogged in detail about this before, though allow me to summarize that blog right here and now: The further away you drift in age from a potential long-term partner, the less likely you will experience long-term success…and vice-versa: The closer you are in age with a significant other increases the chances of relational survival. Now, like with all the rest of my do’s and don’ts, I must qualify each one with the  term, “probability.” Please do not tell me that you married someone your exact age and it failed, of course this can happen and often does. We are talking increasing chances of success, not guaranteeing it. Frankly, there are so many studies that support this “no brainer” suggestion that I do not know where to begin. How about here? Or here?  The explanation is rather simple when viewed through the lens of shared common experience: Those of the same age simply share more of the same experiences together. I was alive for John F. Kennedy’s assassination (yes, I was 6 months old though you get the point), Richard Nixon’s impeachment, Jimmy Carter’s peanuts, Billy Beer (google it), John Lennon getting shot, and much, much more. My students today tell me they barely remember 9/11. Is it absolutely necessary to share the witnessing of all these events? No, though it certainly does increase our shared field of experience and decreases our chances of miscommunication, which is the budding seed of relational dissatisfaction.

2. Do commit to someone who grew up within 5 miles of your childhood house. Alright, perhaps in this transient age this may be next to impossible for many, yet I hope you get the idea. When you commit to someone who grew up within 5 miles of your house, or at least in a similar neighborhood to your own, you likely share the same schools/types of schools, perhaps many of the same friends, similar socioeconomic status, community values, and shared stories. Why 5 miles? In my hometown of Burbank, CA. we had two high schools; one was for the flatlanders, John Burroughs High, the Indians, and one was for rich kids in the hills of Burbank, Burbank High, the Bulldogs. Yes, we all grew up in the same city yet my group, the flatlanders, shared a far different socioeconomic experience than our hillside counterparts. We would work at the businesses the Burbank High kids’ families owned. The distance between John Burroughs and Burbank High Schools? About 5 miles, give or take.  Am I suggesting a Burroughs High School person cannot have a long term relationship with a Burbank High snob? Of course not. I would bet my last bitcoin there are many inter-high school successful relationships. However, if you are a betting man? Take the Indian-Indian and Bulldog-Bulldog relationships over the Native American-Canine one.

3. Do commit to someone who shares your deepest philosophical views about life. The key word here? Deepest. Life has a strange and mysterious way of making unspoken beliefs and issues surface into the forefront sooner or later…and it is usually later. For example, the fact you may be a hardcore atheist while your significant other is a moderately strong believer in a higher power may not mean a whole hell of a lot in the early and mid-stages of a relationship, yet eventually these fundamental differences are going to meet and collide head on. Another example of deeper, stronger views individuals typically held (yet usually do not realize it till a child comes along) concerns parenting styles.  Now this may not mean a lot during courting and the early stages of relationships, but can be complete deal breakers once the little ones are conceived. When it comes to parenting, most of us resort back to the dreaded, “That is the way I was raised and look at me, I’m fine,” bullshit philosophy that assumes that what your parents did was the right way and you are currently the best person you can be because of it. People, parents are often wrong. Why? Because they are people first and parents second. It is healthy to have differences in opinions and beliefs yet the deepest and most sacred values are best shared with the other. Two people can only negotiate the dynamics and aspects of their relationship to the extent they share the same fundamental values.

4. Do commit to someone whose parents you have taken into consideration. I remember back in the day when Rene’ and I were starting to get serious and seek counseling. At that time we would often be counseled that you are not just committing to each other, rather, you are committing to each other’s family as well. I not only committed to Rene’, in addition, I am committed to her mother and father. I am not certain how much I adhere to this philosophy presently, still I agree with the spirit of the sentiment, which is, “Parents Matter.” I tell my kids that if they want to know what their significant other is going to look like in 25 years, check out mom and pop for a fairly good indicator. Likewise, temperament is not a whole hell of a lot different. Am I suggesting we are all helplessly locked into our own parents’ mindset? Hell no. I am saying that if you are having doubts about whether or not this person is for you, a quick parental evaluation may tip the scales one way or the other, particularly the younger you happen to be. Parents are not to be ignored.

Now on to the negative: The 3 Do Nots:

1. Do NOT commit to someone solely because you share similar interests and have fun enjoying these activities together. Sure enjoying activities together is fun and exciting, yet, like sex and attraction below, they are not relational priorities you can hang your long term relational hat on. Often times it is more exciting to possess dissimilar interests not only for the purpose of maintaining healthy autonomy in the relationship, but also to expose each other to your various worlds at times. The worst thing in the world for me would be to have a partner as obsessed about working out as I am…that would spell disaster as we would drive each other crazy. Imagine if I played piano? Don’t get Rene’ started…

2. Do NOT commit to someone because the sex is off the charts. A healthy and exciting sex life is awesome and inspiring though not a prereq for long term commitment. I look at good sex as frosting on the cake, a bonus for a relationship gone terribly right. Often times poor sex is an indicator that something else is askew in the relationship…you cannot blame the sex. Good sex can come and go; loving companionship is the gift that keeps on giving.

3. Do NOT commit to someone because they are exquisite, mysterious and intriguing. We spell these kinds of relationships this way:  D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. The strong, silent type can morph into the uncommunicative prick in very little time while the man of mystery turns out to be a loser with some really weird ass secrets. And the exquisite lady whose eccentric preoccupations have you smitten? In 20 years she is one of those weird cat ladies with 100′s of felines with fecal matter running about her house. In the same way I counsel people not to own the special, pure bred, shitzu-something-or-other canine pet and to stick with the tried and true retriever or lab; a life partner should be selected with the same strictly vetted process. Exquisite pure breeds vomit and have massive amounts of diarrhea, while the tried and trusted mixed breed pups can eat shit for breakfast, lunch and dinner with no digestive problems. So, unless you really want to clean up after someone else’s excrement… you get the picture.

That is my lecture for today kiddos. And this one is on the house. Like Vegas, there are no guarantees though you can hedge your bets with the house’s money.

Your future happiness may depend on it.

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A World Of Possibilities: Ramblings On Ambition And Contentment

If any of my readers know me personally or have ever read my blog, they know, with certainty, I love my job. I feel like a fish in water or a pig in slop. My job is just so, well, meeeee.

When anyone asks me how to find out what they would like to do for a living – and I do get that question quite a bit- I respond with another question; “Who has a job/career that are you jealous of?” By jealous, I do not mean the horrid relational and destructive type of jealousy; rather I mean who has a job you would really like to have -a job you covet. When you answer that question -provided the job is at all realistic and not respond with stating you want to play center for the Lakers as an overweight, 5′ 2″ 36 year-old, well, then, you have the answer. (On second thought, have you seen the Lakers record this season? I may have to rethink my unrealistic job example).

Since the age of 18 I have envied Communication Studies (then Speech Communication) professors. When I sat in their classes, I would think to myself  ‘they are teaching the stuff I absolutely love and center my life around while GETTING PAID.’ Bastards, I thought -easy money for hanging with me. Yet make no mistake…they were teaching me loads in the process.

Then, years later, after wading through the waters of “other” endeavors, I became one. A verified and certified true Speech Teach.

This was a dream come true as I always thought I was not qualified.  I had to pinch my new speech ass to make sure I was living in reality.  I never lacked self-esteem though I did lack self-confidence. I suppose I loved and believed in myself yet somehow always seemed to set my goals and expectations far too low, never believing I actually possessed the skill set for such a position.

Damn was I wrong. I do. I really do.

So I have enjoyed the position of a full-time, tenured Assistant Professor for about 10 years now. I have heard it said that the occupation of professor has one of the highest job satisfaction rates. Duh.

On a personal level, we, essentially, have an empty nest as well.  I now have time in my life I have NEVER had. No more kids to run to games, coaching, parent-teacher conferences, etc…the list goes on. So now I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, tension as it were.

Do I now just lay in my deep tub of professorial contentedness and wallow in the waters of safety, comfort, and security? Or, should I extricate myself from the lovely tub and begin striving for bigger and better things, even within academia? I have blogged on similar topics before, yet this time I am specifically referring to the seemingly contradictory state of contentedness versus the process of creating some ambitious goals and objectives for life.

I am a firm believer that those who accomplish some of the greatest feats of humankind are those that possess an intense drive and hunger to succeed. They have internal motivational motors that dwarf the normal person. They are never satisfied with what they have and continue to strive and drive for more.

I am not that guy. Not even close. Never will be. I love being in the moment far too much.

Yet now I find myself asking the question as to whether or not I should take take one foot out of that aforementioned warm tub of contentedness and begin creating some more ambitious goals for myself.  Can one be both completely content in the moment and simultaneously ambitious and eager to strive for bigger and better things? Let’s face a hardcore truth about human beings: The more comfort and security one has in life, the more difficult it is to set ambitious goals that risk upsetting the contentment cart. Why eat when your not hungry? Why run when you are happy walking? Why wake when you can sleep?

I have heard countless stories (I guess ’cause I was not counting) of people who tragically lost their jobs…and it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Why? Cause it got them off their ass to begin the process of finding comfort and security once again, and they usually end up in a better place.

Now, hear me out. The last thing in the world I would want to happen to me is to lose my job -a job I love. Yet can I, can WE, have the gumption and fortitude to strive and drive while being so comfortable? I suppose every individual has to answer that question for his or her self.

In his excellent article on the same subject, blogger Brian Kim suggests that when we find ourselves in a state of personal contentment, a state I currently enjoy, it is time to take it to the next level and begin the process of striving to help others in need. He observes and asks the rhetorical question, “What if Ghandi strove for a million dollar paycheck and a beach house in Hawaii?”

Point taken. I guess we would have one less movie (I’ll be here all week!). It is time to be ambitious in a quest to make the planet a better place.

I like that.

I will now begin my journey to discover what ambitious role I can play in healing the planet. I realize I am only one small man in a vast universe and perhaps my role may be considerably small -even if it is just continuing to train others how to use their voice. Who knows?

In the meantime, it is a blessing to bathe in the warm tub of professorial contentedness as I begin to seek out a world of possibilities. My suggestion box is open.

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Women Are Crazy And Men Are Assholes: A Closer Look At Logic, Emotion, and The Human Antenna

I have experienced strange phenomena nearly my entire adult life.  It seems whenever I have a female friend who has just broken up with a male significant other, the reason is due to the fact he is an asshole of some variety. Yet when I have a male friend who has just broken up with a female significant other, it is because she is crazy- though the word is typically preceded by the adjective, ‘batshit.’

So, if my relatively small gender sample study logic is correct, according to women, men are generally assholes while, for men, women are typically crazy.

Why?

Hmmmm. Just coincidence? Do I just happen to attract female friends whose exes are jerks and male friends whose exes are virtually insane? If so, what does that say about me and the people I attract as friends?  Perhaps you may disagree, though I will assume, for the moment, that my experiences in this regard are quite the norm. Please understand, I realize not EVERY female or male describes the opposite sex in this way and I only refer to my personal experiences- understanding the limitations of my myopic life.

Let’s take a closer look at those words.

The word ‘asshole’ is an interesting one.  Technically, of course, it means an anus or rectum. We all have one and some of us actually are one. The way most people use the word in describing the essence of another person is defined on dictionary.com as “a stupid, mean, or contemptible person.” Therefore many men are assholes or jerks or mean. I guess.

Not so fast women, your description may even be worse.

The word “crazy” is fairly straight forward as this word has no literal corresponding body part.  The dictionary describes crazy as “1. mentally deranged; demented; insane. 2.  senseless; impractical; totally unsound.” And if I take many a man’s word for it, many a woman fit this definition to a tee (just imagine if we met a crazy asshole and then tried to figure what they would call their ex).

I am in tension…why is this?

During a recent drive to Las Vegas I thought long and hard about this interesting social labeling practice while gazing out at the long stretch of Interstate 15…I knew then I had to write a blog –and I may have discovered the answer…or at the very least a half ass theory.

Most masculine men are wired to value reasoning and intellect over the touchy feely stuff generated by women. Can men be emotional? Of course.  Yet, consider when you ask the typical man the typical therapist question, “How does that make you feel?”  you will get the look of a “deer in the headlights” or a golden retriever with head cocked to the right and ears up, nonverbally asking, “Huh. What…the hell?” We male assholes just love to trump and beat the bejesus out of our high- feeling crazy female counterparts with our reason and logic –because we are defenseless in the war of identifying emotions.

Most feminine women are wired more for relationships and nurturing. Do they possess logic and reason? Of course…and in many cases much more than men. But why is it when I have an issue, particularly of a relational nature, and I really need to talk to someone, I will ALWAYS turn to my female friends? It feels to me like women actually care and practice empathy while men are just trying to figure out a logical answer to the problem…if they are listening at all.

I have said it before and I will say it again. The left brained, logical doctor may know how to sustain physical life, but the right brained and high feeling artist knows how to make life worth living in the first place.

A friend of ours, Geoff, was over the other night and he had a very interesting observation that got me thinking. I was discussing with him the fact that I instruct my Critical Thinking courses NOT to think of everything in a strictly logical sense. We all have what I call a human antenna, or that part of our brain that may sense something is wrong, off, or askew but our reason and logic cannot explain why. Should we ignore the antanna as we cannot back it up with formal reason? My answer is no, rather listen to it.

Our human antenna needs to inform our logic.

This is when Geoff, a very successful Hollywood sound designer who owns a sound studio, and who knows a little sumpin sumpin about electronic signals, said that we may all have antennas but every antenna is wired to pick up different signals. For example, my Chevy Camaro antenna picks up signals that, say, my Ipod antenna is not wired to pick up. My car picks up Sirius XM signals while my Ipod picks up FM radio. All antennas are not created equal. Our personal human needs drive the signals we pick up with our human antenna.

For example, if I have a deep need for acceptance by others, I will probably pick up signals that either affirm or negate my great need for acceptance.

So it goes with the sexes. Perhaps the female is wired (or socialized, no matter) for nurturing relationships and picks up sensitive signals concerning behavior that do not fit and are incompatible with her wiring.  When logic and reason trump nurturance and relationship, the antenna interprets asshole.

When the man, wired for logic and reason, observes behaviors that suggest relationships and emotions come before intellect, then the man’s signals go off as “batshit crazy.”

So, men, perhaps some women are not as crazy as you think they are and, women, some men are not the assholes you make them out to be.

But what do I know? I’m just some crazy asshole with a blog.

Scrooge THIS: The Five Reasons I Do Not Celebrate Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. It sends the wrong message to children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections On Culture From A Travaholic

Traveling is a drug and I suppose I am a mild addict.  The thrill of the unknown, the independence, the not knowing all the whens, wheres, whys and hows; the challenges, the adventure…my name is Jimmy and I’m a travaholic.

I am actually afraid to go back home.  Seriously. It will be a forced sobriety for which I am not prepared. I fear ruts. I fear mundane. I fear the known. I fear certainty.

I keep wanting to push my departure date back yet I know I am just putting off the inevitable: The support group called Reality and facing my addiction.

Please do not get me wrong—traveling can be very stressful and difficult, particularly when you are among non-English speakers. I happen to be in Italy at the moment where the people are quite understanding and help you as much as they linguistically can—as they withstand my fumbling ciaos, gratzes and the occasional arivederrcis (I am quite certain I am not spelling those words correctly but I don’t say them correctly either and I appreciate consistency).

I find the best part about travel is watching people and observing how they live.  I am not a “places person” rather I am a “people watching person.” I would rather watch the people going in and out of, say, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, than actually go into the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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When you watch people who live quite differently than you do it provides a point of comparison and contrast. For many years now I have understood the concept of culture as a somewhat arbitrary system of customs and rituals that are neither inferior nor superior to others—culture is just a way to do things and then we call that way of doing things “normal”—which is our bad. Nothing about a culture is truly normal. In fact, no social behavior is totally normal.

When you travel it brings this reality much more into focus.

Hence, I cannot separate out the “cult” in culture.  Back in my religious days I threw the term “cult” around with reckless abandon. Essentially, any doctrine that was not consistent with my own was essentially a cult. Was I really once that narrow-minded? Yes.  And call me whatever derogatory slang you will today though I highly doubt narrow-minded would be one of them. Traveling not only expands us in a geographical sense, it opens and expands our minds as well.

I am coming to realize now that EVERY culture is a cult.  It manipulates and brainwashes one into believing what is “right” and what is not. In fact, if  you were to examine the Latin roots of each word, cult and culture, you would find the same basic idea –CULTivating and tilling while preparing to be grown.  Each and every culture provides a basis for meaning, relevance and importance for each of our lives and then we come to really believe in these things as truthful.  It is as if we are the growing seeds in the fields of culture and come to expect a certain way to be watered, tilled, pruned and nurtured. The fields of culture and its farming rituals then permeate us as we become one with the field of culture. It is then not difficult to understand why our own culture can be so invisible to us as it is us and our everyday reality.

Anthropologist Ernest Becker went so far as to say culture is a complex symbolic creation of humanity to distract us from our awareness of our ultimate demise.  In other words, we create a bunch of bullshit (please understand my definition of this word)—and assign importance to it—to help us forget the fact that all of us are going to die and no one knows what happens next.  Thus, we create religious systems, designer jeans, status cars, entertainment, athletics, consumerism, etc…for the simple sake of helping us momentarily forget the fact we are all going to die—and dying frankly sucks.

Culture provides a background and narrative that offers meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence.  I observe this all the time when I see, read or hear of an untimely demise and the survivor’s struggle to find a meaning as to why this may have happened.  Scholarships, trust funds, “Amber Alerts,” or even “Megan’s Laws” are created to provide a context and framework for these types of deaths. Yet, the reality is this: The person just died.  No rhyme. No reason.  It’s going to happen to all of us eventually. And if there is a purpose? We could not possibly know it so what would be the point of trying to figure it out?

Death happens. So don’t smoke and wear your seatbelt…hedge your bets so we can make this thing called life happen for a while.

The creation of culture is actually a rather elaborate and reasonable strategy to help humanity cope with this problematic issue.  Culture can distract us and soothe us. We can get lost in movies, athletics, and entertainment and come to believe it actually means something – the fact is it’s just all bullshit – that is, it appears and acts to be something much more than what it actually is.

“Wow Jimmy, so cynical.”

Not at all. Not even close. When you travel and watch how others live and realize it is all just one big arbitrary system of ways to do things, you are now FREE from the shackles of culture. You can recognize what is important and what is not for yourself.  You can fully appreciate each and every moment like you never have before.  You can appreciate your loved ones like you never have before. You can take advantage of what cultures have to offer while realizing the ultimate meaningless of it all.

I am quite certain we are all familiar with the term “ethnocentrism,” meaning one believes his/her own culture is superior to all others.  I would love to declare a new word in the English language that is defined as, “Believing all cultures to be human creations designed to assign value and meaning to our lives, with all being both equally effective in some respects, as well as problematic.

I am accepting suggestions.

Afterward: I am now back from Italy in the lovely confines of Santa Clarita dealing with my domestic sobriety and traveling addiction. However, this travaholic looks forward to squeezing out every last drop of adventure and pleasure all the different cultures have to offer in the very near future.

Ciao…for now.