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.

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.

Ferguson

Ferguson.

As in Ferguson, Missouri. That last time I witnessed such huge a racial divide among Americans was the O.J. trial with Rodney King just a few years prior.

Unfortunately, Ferguson and these other deplorable events only symbolize and brings to light what brews in the minds and hearts of some people 24/7, 365.

It seems that everyone has a strong opinion on the shooting of an unarmed African American young man and the subsequent rioting and pandemonium -along with the ultimate finding of innocence for the police officer who shot Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson.

I will offer you my take in a moment, though allow me to meander a bit here, first. I will Golden Snake, if you will.

I have “friends” (Facebook has really changed the meaning of the word thus I use quotation marks to qualify the meaning) who are on both sides of this issue. My more conservative friends tend to side with the police officer while my more liberal friends tend to side with the victim of the shooting –I find this disturbing.

This is all so predictable. The gun toting, law and order, ‘US-of-A-is-number-one-crowd’ so predictably sides with the police. The bleeding heart, ‘Give-me-your-tired-your-poor-USA-is-evil-crowd’ so predictably sides with the rioters and the victim in this case.

I find this bias all so VERY troubling…it is as if our ability to view reality is skewed by our deeper philosophical beliefs and predispositions and, subsequently, we have collectively lost the ability to critically think, discern, and evaluate such instances in a fair and objective manner.

It would seem we want to make events fit our reality rather than allow events to inform and guide our reality.  We will stretch, reshape, and contort pieces of such events and shove them into the puzzle of our personal mental schema in order to create a simple and uninterrupted map of our values and beliefs. In other words, we interpret events to fit our personal predispositions, bias and prejudices.

Critical thinking can be such a bitch.

Of course, we all have our own personal biases and prejudices. I, for one, am not a fan of law enforcement –I think you would only have to read my blog for 5 minutes to figure that out. It has been my experience that law enforcement in America has turned into an aggressive, bullying, “us vs. them” system that is running amok and out of control. Are there good cops? Of course.  Yet I contend most are not and have little to no concern for the greater public interest and welfare.

There. I said it. Now back to Ferguson. Appreciated the opportunity to meander.

You might think that I would obviously then side with the victim in this case given my prejudice. Perhaps, but it is not due to my prejudices. Acknowledging my personal beliefs and prejudices does NOT automatically mean I believe that an asshole cop overstepped his bounds in this instance. In fact, I believe he did not. First we have to be able to place our own personal shit aside and judge cases based on their own merit.

So what is my opinion in regards to Ferguson? I thought you would never ask.

We do not have a law enforcement racial problem in our country nearly as much as a law enforcement power problem.  Does racism in law enforcement exist? Of course it does. When one of my old neighbors told me they were quitting their lucrative job to join the LAPD, specifically in the city of Compton, I curiously asked him why. His EXACT response? “Cause I want to kill some niggers.”

Yep, racism exists. Particularly among hot headed, testosterone-driven, suburban white dudes.

Yet, it has been my experience that police officers love to use their guns, batons and flashlights –on anyone at anytime and therein lies the problem –racism only exacerbates a more fundamental problem.

One might opine they are assholes first and racists second. They seek violent opportunities first and foremost. By the way, I do not buy the “few bad apples” argument. This is a systemic problem that is growing worse.

Countless numbers of non-African Americans have either been killed by law enforcement or just gotten the shit beat out them (please do not click link if you have sensitive sensibilities) for no good reason. Whether it be cops high-fiving each other after punching out a Caucasian women or killing a Caucasian homeless man with their fist (while he was crying out for his father, no less) many police officers use their badge to work out their personal dysfunctional anger issues.

Tell me, and if you are in law enforcement, please respond. Why in the HELL did the police officer have to shoot and kill and a young unarmed man, hands in the air, EVEN IF the police officer felt threatened?

Could not a stun gun have been used just as effectively and save a young life? Pepper spray? If I have an ant problem in my home I purchase ant spray and solve the problem…I do not blow up the damn house. Both would work, yet the latter is entirely unnecessary.

We do not solve problems by utilizing the most extreme measure first. If my car breaks down I don’t run out and buy a new one…I fix the problem.

Not to equate a human life with ants or a car, but I think you get the point

I am not suggesting the officer was not following protocol…apparently he was.  Yes, I side with the victim yet I also side with the officer in that he was doing what he was trained to do. My point is that this shooting protocol is what needs to change. The entire system needs to be changed. Officer Darren Wilson was doing what his training taught him to do. But come now, death in this instance? Absolutely pointless, meaningless, and unwarranted.

In another case of police violence, the officer who killed Eric Garner in New York City with a choke hold, was exonerated while the person who shot the viral video of this chokehold was found guilty of an earlier gun possession.  Hmmmm.

I guess police officers do not like it when you film them doing their job…poorly.

A racial problem? Perhaps, but far and away it is much more a power problem.

A couple of years ago I had a former California Highway Patrol Officer in one of my courses. After listening to one of my rants concerning law enforcement he claimed that I had no idea how hard a job it is. To which I responded that I agreed with him –it is a very difficult job -which is why I believe all officers must have a Bachelor’s degree and/or be at least 26 years of age before we give them one of the most powerful positions in society.

Will this solve the problem? No, but it certainly would be a good start.  It is very difficult to be EDUCATED and a power hungry racist.

What saddens me is that most protestors see the problem as skin color first and power second. If we all wait for members of our personal ethnic background to be viciously attacked to have our voice be heard, the problem will never be solved. White people need to stand up for black victims and vice versa. We all need to stand up for reasonable and civilized enforcement regardless of the ethnic background of the victim. Until then, our numbers will be weak and ineffective.

I was having a conversation with a friend last night who said she has had nothing but positive encounters with police in her life…which thrilled me.  As one who has needed protection in her life, I get it and am so grateful to hear that. Yet, why have I -a hardworking, tax paying, law abiding citizen (and one who apparently does not need much protection)- NEVER  had a positive experience with a police officer?  When we see a police car on the street our reaction should be one of relief and solace; why the hell is it the other way around? I see a police car and I feel they are out to get me for some chickenshit reason.

We are a crazy gun loving culture and law enforcement reflects this. Did the Ferguson officer do something wrong? Morally yes, yet legally no.  It is this type of “shoot first, obtain facts later” protocol and policy that needs to change.

As much as I hate to acknowledge it and wish it were not so, rioting works in the short term. It gets people’s attention and is an outlet for people so frustrated they feel they have no other alternatives. And until law enforcement changes their “shoot first, ask questions later” policies, I am afraid Ferguson is just the beginning. With new videos of police brutality popping up everyday, the problem is no longer hidden behind the closed doors of the good old boys club. We now see you and we are appalled.

Things That Go Bump In The Night. Oh. That Was My Head.

Life. FCBEdamned life. Perhaps Forrest Gump’s mom was right, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was scheduled to leave Europe on Monday and head back to Los Angeles after several months abroad. Bittersweet? For sure. As much as I love the conveniences of home and the safety of routine, traveling is a drug and I am an addict (please read my next still unpublished blog…written but not yet posted, coming soon).  Alas, it is a Tuesday evening and I am still here in London.

Missed my flight and all.

On Sunday evening, the evening before my flight home, I went to bed and woke up in a UK Hospital Emergency Room.  I do not remember most of it. The story goes that I woke in the middle of the night, fell right over a coffee table and face planted right eye first into the corner of either the coffee table or radiator (blood spatters are currently being investigated by Dexter). I was staying with my daughter Rosie and her man Nathan when they heard a thud. Thinking I was just getting ready for my early morning flight in a loud (and rude) manner, they thought nothing of it until they looked at the clock and saw it was 2am…4 hours before I was to get up.

They jumped out of bed and saw me leaning against the radiator with blood everywhere, while kneeling in a pool of it. I was out of it…as if I was the recipient of a circa 1995 Mike Tyson blow to the face. I do not remember the paramedics arriving, nor the ambulance ride, nor the emergency doctors examining me. My first recollection was when I felt a needle go through my skin over my right eye, 17 or so stitches to close up a bleeding and gaping wound.

I lay in a hospital room as I begin to come to consciousness.  I recollect the man across from me was screaming in pain. Dejected, sick and hurting people were all around me.  As the morning progressed, I began to make sense of things. As my eyes first opened I saw my daughter Rosie and her man Nathan, gently touching me and loving me, the look of concern on their faces. I looked them squarely in the eye and told them both how much I love them

What you must know is it is not necessary for Rosie and Nathan to see Rosie’s dad in a puddle of blood to come to life and nurture and assist. Since my September 5 arrival in London, they both have been here to serve, assist, love on and just hang out with me. The fact that they were both there for me in my hour (minute?) of need is only symbolic of who they are as people.

Do things happen for a reason? NO ONE can know the answer to that question though I tend to be on the “no” side of that equation.  However, if events do have purpose (after all I have been known to be wrong from time to time) I have a pretty good idea of why this happened -please indulge me on this one.  The last few months are a time in my life when I have come to the stark realization that I am in a major life transition.

I blogged about these things before, yet this week’s events confirm all I have said.

Life is coming full circle. It seems the first third of our lives -or so- we are dependent on others for nearly everything. Of course that changes greatly from the first part of our first third to the last part of our first third….but I think you get the point.  Our second life third is the time when everyone is dependent upon us: Partners, children, aging parents, etc…yet the final third of our life we begin the reverse process: We begin to become reliant on others once again. Like returning from whence we came.

Now, to be fair, I am not quite in the process of my final third -at least I hope not- and many still do depend on me, yet that corner is turning and I see it as clear as day.  On the final night of my 3 month journey of discovery and change while teaching and traveling throughout Europe, I made myself completely vulnerable…literally bleeding out to death…with the only hope of salvation becoming completely dependent on the actions of others.  My blood representing spilled life -my life energy gushing from body- with only the hope of others. When the others are your offspring and her partner, you realize the wagons have turned and here you are.

I hear the inner voice, “Get used to it buddy. And thank FCBE you have the good fortune to have the others in your life.

I now look in the mirror and see a broken -literally- man with a black and red eye, a swollen forehead and a look of defeat -at least physically. Yet if you look deeper you see a man who is changing, knows the change, feels the change, and, yes, even welcomes the change.  I welcome the beauty of a new season and the challenges it shall bring.

Oh, and did I mention I am deeply in love with my daughter and her man? Deeply, and man I mean freaking deeply.

I read a meme on Facebook today that said, “Crying is not a sign of weakness, it is sign that you have been strong far too long.

The last 24 hours I have lived that meme. I have cried. Not due to any physical pain but due to the realization that my love for some people in my life runs deeper than I could ever have known.  Or imagined. Or realized. Wow do I love Rosie and Nathan. Wow do I love my family. Wow do I love my life partner. Perhaps crying is perceived strength leaving the body while the tears make room for the real strength of love and humility.

Sure in life we never know what we’re gonna get, yet I know what I got in my family. And, at this vulnerable moment in my life, nothing else really matters.

I am still in the UK attempting to get clearance from the medical authorities stating it is ok for me to fly.

So I wait…at Rosie and Nathan’s London flat of course. Feeling overwhelmed, in some physical pain, but full of love and gratitude.

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(Afterward: I am now back at home in Santa Clarita both waiting to have my stitches removed and for Rene’ to get back from the UK as she came out to check on me. I look forward to her return on Tuesday. Damn life. You just never know what you’re gonna get. And maybe that is why I love it so much.)

The Art of Reflection

Reflection: Such an important part of the human experience. I believe it is through the process of reflecting back on our lives, seeing what we have done, that works to help propel us forward and see what is coming ahead.

This is why near the end of each semester I ask my students to reflect back over the course of the previous months and provide me with the “Top Ten” things they have learned during that period.  These “Top Ten” items can be a theory, a concept, a particular course discussion, interactions, literally anything they may have learned and found helpful, beneficial, important or just interesting…anything at all.  Most students do not really have ten such items (can you remember even two things you learned in a particular course? Didn’t think so) yet most have a least a few legit experiences that academically wooed them in some fashion.

So now, as I near the end of my semester abroad in London, I am challenging myself with this same type of reflection.  My “Top Five,” as it were. With journeys to Spain and Italy still ahead, I’m certain there will be more experiences to be reflected upon. Yet in the nearly 3 months I have been here I have learned a few things, from the humorous and the mundane to the more serious and personal.

First off…

5.  I like to have ample water at the base of my loo. I know this sounds odd but everywhere I travel in Europe the toilets have about a cupful of water at the bottom of the john.  I really cannot explain why, but I appreciate a good water barrier between my “contents” take off and landing.  In the US we have a couple of buckets worth of water making for smooth, enjoyable, delightful and rather peaceful loo experiences.  Ahhhh, the little things we take for granted. While taking a walking “loo” tour of London (it was my daughter’s boyfriends idea…I swear) I explained my loo preferences to our guide when she stated that one can tell a great deal about a culture by their toilets. Without going into detail, in America everything is bigger and more mellow, as the contents can buoyantly rest within the large and luxurious serene water currents. Hmmmmm….something to think about.  Think that’s bad? You should of heard her take on German toilets.

4.  No matter how non-judgmental and accepting we may think we are of other people and cultures, traveling reveals our prejudices and bias.  I am coming to terms with the understanding that I have this self-perceived notion that I am a very accepting person, who does not stereotype or judge others customs and practices, to be highly untrue. It is as if traveling holds up a mirror that we must see our true reflection. I am as guilty of “bias confirmation” as anyone, meaning we tend to see life they way we prefer to see it, not how it really is. We pay attention to only those select experiences that confirm our prejudices.  If my stereotype of Europeans is to be rude, my biased perception will only pick up on rude acts while filtering out acts of kindness -as these do not coincide with, nor confirm, my bias. Traveling helps us to see life, including our self, as it really is, not how we prefer to see it.

3. Britain is our parent while the United States is its rather immature adolescent child. What do I mean by this? Britain is so much more mature than we are, period. I suppose if you look back into history this makes sense. We were the teenage kid who rebelled and ran away from home.  Yes, we struggled to gain independence and get our feet on the ground -and we are doing quite well for ourselves about now, but make no mistake: Britain remains our more mature and wiser parents.  Brits can drink openly in the parks here and no one gets too drunk, acts belligerent and wants to fight outside.  Most of their street police officers do not carry guns. I also think of Britain as remarkably more secular as they have come to find out what America is only beginning to find out: You do not need the fear of punishment nor the promise of reward to be kind, decent, and civil with each other. They are polite, respectful and appropriate –the way my grandmother used to be –well, not really, but you get the point. They have matured. They have figured things out.  We are adolescents with zits on our face by comparison. One day we can only hope to be as grown up and grounded. One of my favorite comedians, Adam Carolla, frequently asks the question concerning the British, “Why are they so much better than us?” Maturity, Adam, maturity.

2. There is no doubt my calling in life is to be a college educator.  I feel as though when I teach I am completely and totally myself. Now perhaps some of my students may disagree with me on this, and believe my calling should be a prison guard or something far worse, yet I just love what I do. Having now had the opportunity to really bond with these young people as they are thousands of miles from home, is an experience like no other. They are old enough to be treated like adults, yet young enough (most of them) that they are still trying to make sense of the world around them. Like a child touching a hot stove, they are experimenting with what they can and cannot do, finding their limits, their boundaries and themselves. They are open and accepting of new ideas- I love that!  An old friend of mine, Craig, a Florida State graduate, once told me that the biggest thing he learned in college was how to drink correctly -and we was not joking- to learn that there is a time and place for everything, how much you can handle and so on.  This is not to say everything is professorial flowers and fairy dust…not by a long shot. This has been one of the most difficult semesters I have ever taught and I am as ready for this semester to be over as any of my students. It is just the good so outweighs any bad, leading me to….

1. I do not know how to grow old. Well, I do know how to grow old year wise -I am doing a splendid job with that, thank you.  I guess I mean more like acting old, or even older. I have always had this notion that as you age certain “things” must follow.  Things like you must dress differently, as in wearing your pants somewhat higher over the belly. Or that you must hate the contemporary music that the kids like. You must be disgusted with new fads and youthful practices as you gain an overall more discriminating and mature palate in life for the finer things.  You should be content with simply smoking your pipe (tobacco, of course) while reading the New Yorker in your living room chair on a Saturday Night. Nope. Does not work for me. My calling to teach college is due to the fact I really love being around young people. I have a lot of friends my age, who are great and I must confess it is quite nice to be able to use the full range of my vocabulary, but the exuberance and energy of youth is electrifying and cannot be compared. A student, Jessica, recently wrote me and said, “I learned this semester that a professor can be genuinely cool.” And the great part is I am just being me. I don’t care about cool. I believe all people are cool when they are completely themselves, no matter the personality or traits.

A couple of years ago another student, Patricia, who observed me at an end-of-class get together at Johnny’s Tacos interacting with students, asked, “So, tell me the truth. As you interact with these guys is that really you or are you just bro-ing it down?”

I had never heard the term “bro-ing it down” before but I knew exactly what she meant.

I was not “bro-ing it down.” That was me.

And as I soon head back for the States, I will continue to reflect on life and all that I learn from it.  From loo’s to life’s calling to “bro-ing it down,” this thing called life can  be such a kickass adventure.

Reflection. Just do it.

Cheers.

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