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.

It’s Over…Good. Crafton Hills College Now And Into The Future

Each year our school hosts by far my favorite event of the year—graduation.  Every third or fourth Friday in May we celebrate the day with a breakfast in the morning and a wonderfully, positive, high-charged ceremony in the evening.

Not so much this year. Just wasn’t really feeling it.

Normally we faculty members have to scheme ways to beat the heat and the blinding, terrible glare of the late afternoon sun—so much so that the faculty purchased matching yellow and green sunglasses to sport during the outdoor celebration.

Did not need them this year.

Rather, the entire day was cold, rainy and downright gloomy; in retrospect it was actually the perfect weather conditions for a rather down and downright gloomy school year.

It was just one of those kind of years.

For me personally, the academic year began with teaching for a semester in London. Yes, the experience was overall very much worthwhile, highlighted by the fact my daughter and her man Nathan reside there and I could spend copious amounts of time with them, yet it was quite taxing as well and I am quite confident when I say I will never do it again.  The students were entirely disinterested in studying (as I would be); the program was not particularly well-run, and my experience ended with a trip to the emergency room (you can read more about that here).

Needless to say, when I arrived back in California in early December and drove my convertible home from LAX on a bright, cheery, eighty degree Saturday, even the traffic on the 405 was a welcome sight…ANYTHING but the cloudy, dark and rainy London days, crowded tube rides and masses of humanity—everywhere at all times. Some people just love that stuff…just not my cup of British tea.

It was when I arrived back to teaching in the Spring was that the parade of gloom hit the campus. The semester essentially began with a report by the state accreditation commission placing our campus—and the entire district—on “warning.” Having written a large portion of the accreditation report the year prior, I, particularly, was pretty bummed out. The infractions that placed our campus on warning were relatively minor and, for the most part, very easy fixes.  The general consensus remains that we were placed on warning due to some very problematic issues with the District Office…all issues that have, essentially, nothing to do with our campus. But, hey, it takes a village, right?

What was particularly demoralizing about this was that previously there was a sense of positive, growing optimism on campus. The school was, and is, growing in terms of both students and buildings. We were one of the few colleges in the state selected to offer Bachelor’s degree’s in certain fields. Prior to this “warning,” overall feelings of camaraderie and community were at all time highs.

As a result of this status, the school held a number of additional meetings (meetings I personally was a part of) to determine if we should give our current District Chancellor a vote of no confidence. A number of negative, contentious and overall yucky meetings later, we did.

Then the real tragedies struck. A very popular and well-liked student on campus, Adam, who had just been accepted into UC Berkeley, died in a tragic car accident. Just a couple of days later, a beautiful and intelligent young student, Amanda, was found dead.

The entire campus has been grieving these losses for weeks.

So, the campus community sat in the cold and rain on this Friday evening in May fairly exasperated. Tired. Happy it’s over and certainly ready to move on.

Yet something hit me as I sat in the gloom and the cold rain hit my face. Something that just snuck up on me as if out of nowhere. I just looked around and there it was.

I really love these people.

These people -staff. faculty, students- are my family. I really care about them. Perhaps by collectively mourning together and dealing with negative circumstances, we reached a new level of care and concern for each other that, perhaps, we could not experience in any other way.

I realized Crafton Hills College is not just a job, a paycheck and a place to do what I love. It is home to my family, my friends and the people on this planet I care deeply about.

I am quite certain that we, together, will rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes and become bigger, stronger and tighter than ever.

We carried on with our traditional end of the year faculty and staff party after the graduation. Our President, Dr. Cheryl Marshall, was particularly festive and far more gregarious than usual. It was little wonder why. It was very easy to see the pain and burden she has been carrying these past few months…you can read it on her face as easy as a pop up children’s book.

It was just one of those kinds of years.

Her festive and gregarious spirit screamed one thing: It is over—and it is time to move on.

Yet, now we move on stronger in spirit and community. We cry together, we mourn together, we party together, we dance together and we work together.

And it’s over. It’s goddam fucking over.

Good.

Now it is time to rest and get ready to rise out of these dirty ashes.

Together.

Crafton-Hills-College-01

 

 

4 GREAT, Foolproof Reasons To Use Profanity In Your Everyday Life. Hell Yeah.

Let’s get to it. I recently heard through the gossip grapevine that one student of mine did not like me. Why? I apparently used too much profanity for his liking in one of my classes.

Well la tee freaking dah.

Of course this is not the first time one has not appreciated my colorful and free-range use of the English language, nor will it be the last. Yet, there are reasons behind my profanity madness. My use of profanity is neither flippant nor without deep critical thought and consideration -it is quite calculated. So, today, I share with you these reasons and perhaps you will be enlightened to the reasoning behind my profane ways. Thus, I bring to you:

Four reasons why I, and why YOU, should use profanity.

A wise person once told me that when delivering a potentially controversial message, it is important to begin with what you are definitely NOT saying before you address what you ARE saying. Soooo…

First and foremost, I am in no way suggesting the use of profanity is good for everyone, all the time. Like everything in life, there is a time and place. Context is everything.

Secondly, I am vehemently opposed to hateful, vengeful, mean-spirited words and speech intended for ill will. However, such speech knows no specific words, only motivation and intent. One could be mean spirited with or without profanity -there are plenty of “non-profane” words that are obscene in intent. Isn’t it interesting how our culture delineates between words that are profane and words that are not while the “profane” words may be kindly and gently spirited in intention, while the non-profane words are acceptable-yet full of ill will and contempt? Ah, such tension. And hypocrisy. Now let’s get reasonable and get started.

1. When prohibiting yourself from using profanity, you are limiting your word choices to most accurately communicate with others. Communication is a difficult enough process -why make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the full arsenal of vocabulary choices available to us? Good communication is all about knowing your audience and/or the person to whom you are communicating. In many contexts, profanity is going to be the best language choice available. In other cases, one might argue that profanity might be the worst possible choice –talking to a classroom of preschoolers, let’s say. However, even if the person/group you are communicating with does not use profanity, what better way for them to get to know you than by using words that you feel most comfortable using? I have found that using profanity in normally formal environments brings about a tone of realness and genuineness to the occasion while making others feel more comfortable and able to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues. You might say it serves to breakdown the bullshit formality that exists so often in life.

Again, am I suggesting to always use profanity? Of course not. I am saying that sometimes the intense  beauty of a finely placed profanity is an unparalleled and wonderful experience and should be considered a communication option.

2. Profanity has a positive, relieving effect on your psyche when used in the proper context to let off steam and/or decrease your feeling of pain. In June 2009, researchers at Keele University in England sought to determine why the automatic response for so many people in pain is to blurt out profanity. You know, like after stubbing your toe, a good “FUCK ME!” is usually in order. In snippets taken from this article, researchers found 68 college-aged students and asked each to submerge one hand in icy water for as long as they could possibly stand it. They were trying to test if students could keep their hands submerged longer if they used curse words or non-curse words.

During the first trial, the students were permitted to swear out loud as often as they needed to see if it could lengthen the period of time that the hand could stay submerged. During the second trial, the students submerged their other hand in the icy water and this time, they were permitted to say whatever they wanted, as long as it did not contain swearing. It was determined that, on average, swearing students could hold their hands in the water over 40 seconds longer than when they did not swear. Why were the swearing students able to keep their hands in icy water longer? These researchers have found that the amygdala, a gland that makes the heart speed up and the resistance to pain stronger, as the key. It is basically responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. The theory is that using actual cuss words somehow activates deep primitive negative emotions, which somehow triggers the amygdala to choose the “fight” response. The fight response then raises your heart rate and decreases pain sensations, just like swearing after feeling pain.

So, even though cursing is often thought of as reflective of inappropriateness, it may be that profane language has the power to decrease pain that general speech does not. Keele University psychologist, Dr. Richard Stevens, summarized his findings and offered this sound advice after the study was over: “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.”

And you all thought it was just me. Fuck you. ☺

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3. Like Marlita Hill contends in this brilliant speech concerning the word, “nigger,” (if you have never watched this 11 minute speech, treat yourselves to this gem) words only become profane when we deem them profane and allow them to be such. Using “profane” words only serves to demystify their meaning and decrease their social power and control.

I recently had a student write me an email describing her anxiety concerning an upcoming speech assignment. In her words, she was “sh#$ing bricks” and “scared off her a$$.”

Hmmmmm.

She then went on to say that she does not like profanity and cannot even write the profane words out. Poor f#@king girl.

Ugh.

I would suggest this “camouflaging” of “profane” words only serves to heighten their social taboo and perpetuate their power and intrigue. Seriously, are you all aware that some strands of Judaism are forbidden to write out the word, God? They must camouflage the word to G*d, for example, with this or some such other replacement symbol. I understand the reasoning behind this idea –it is all about giving God the highest amount of reverence and respect while not cheapening the nature of an eternal, infinite and all powerful G@d by simply being able to write out his (yes, his) name.

Using such logic, do you realize that all of you “profanity camouflagers” are elevating profanity to a deity-type status? You are providing profanity both reverence and respect. Your camouflage is providing the exact opposite effect of your intentions while continuing to perpetuate the perceived power of certain words. It is not necessary to use any variation of profanity, written out phonetically incorrect or not…just use a non-profane equivalent. And while you’re at it, stop with the substitute freakins, goshes, darns, cruds and fudges. Stop the madness –cuss for G%d’s sake. These words also serve to make you look like a pretentious d^%k…whoops.

If you want to deflate and cheapen the power of profane words, use them, in excess.

And, lastly…

4. Because we can! This is America, correct? The land of free speech, correct? Why would we metaphorically shit all over our founding fathers by not using what they fought so hard for us to attain? Fuck yeah Thomas Jefferson and hell to the yes George Washington! I, for one, will not give in to this very un-American madness of not using profanity.

So, for the sake of good communication, our health and wellness, our society and our American right to free speech, cuss away my friends. Again, I am not suggesting to use it all places, all the time, without good reason -it simply must be an option in our vocabulary arsenal.

As for all of you “holier-than-thou” douche-bags who want to restrict and ban others use of their G*d-given right and very American right to use profanity -grow a pair and well, just grow up. If you don’t want to use it, don’t. Just don’t tell me and others what we should or should say in terms of our own self-expression.

Now ask me how I really f*cking feel.

Relationship Survey: Please Take A Minute And Provide Us With Your Response!

A student of mine is currently doing some original research in regards to relationship type measured with satisfaction. This is a very quick one minute survey. We would really appreciate it if you could contribute this blippet of time for the sake of academic research. Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to take it. Thank you in advance for your assistance! All responses are 100% anonymous…guaranteed.

www.relationship-satisfaction-survey.com

The Practical and Political Implications of Death: The Podcast with Kevin Collins

Jimmy sits down with a funeral director who deals with death on a daily basis. With over 55 million deaths each year (2 people die every 1 second) listen in as Jimmy and Kevin discuss the psychology, cultural practices and politics of one of the biggest businesses on the planet. They discuss grieving, death/humor, religion and the political ramifications of all things death. A pretty eye opening podcast on a subject most rarely think about…until faced with it.

Language’s Little Lies: The Evolving Nature Of Words And Phrases That Make No Cents

After a heavy week, I needed to write something to lighten the mood. Thus….

I am not a big fan of language. I believe it to be skewed, imperfect and wrought with potential dangers. Unfortunately it is all we got to connect with each other in our global village. So, in that spirit, this blog intends to clear up some frequent misuses, or at least inconsistencies, in the English language.

Having traveled to many non-English speaking countries while having some friends whose English is a second, or perhaps even a third, language, I possess a heightened sensitivity to English phrasing and colloquialisms.  We have so many inconsistencies in our English vernacular it must be very difficult for anyone who was not born and bred into the language to gain a “firm grasp” (though I’m not grasping anything) on its use. In fact, it must be “hard as shit” to learn…never mind the fact that I could think of a thousand different substances that possess far greater hardness and density to express this level of difficulty…even for the most constipated among us.

I think you know where I am headed. I understand slang (i.e. sick, dope, bling, pimp) yet what I am talking about are words or phrases firmly embedded in our everyday, somewhat informal, lexicon…at least for some of us.

So what do you say we “get this party started” (ironically it’s a blog, not a party) with a bang?

Speaking of bangs, we all rightly say that we “shoot” or “fire” a gun though why do we also “shoot an email,” or, now, “shoot a text?” I suppose it is no different from when we “shot a picture” as both phrases make absolutely no sense. If we literally either “shoot a picture” or “shoot an email” we would end up only with a nasty mess of celluloid bits and/or small chunks of microchips and metal.

Consider Rene’s favorite phrases (and she knows how I feel about them), “pop the trunk” or “pop the hood.” We do not pop these things -we open or even “release” these things. We pop a balloon, pop a bubble and even pop our corn. Hoods and trunks? These mechanisms are highly resistant to popping…and, in fact, I would argue are quite unpoppable.

What about those phrases we use as a sign we do not care for something?  Consider the phrase, “I don’t give a shit/crap.” If we really want someone to know we care little for something, would we not want to give them our crap as a sign of its largetotal lack of value? Conversely, if someone does not care for something of mine, why would I claim, “You do not give a crap?” If someone is not giving me their crap that is a good thing…like monkeys with their enemies, we would throw our crap at bad ideas. I suppose one could argue that you care so little for something you would not even give that them your least valuable possession -your crap- I would contend that giving them your crap is a far worse fate than not giving a crap.

Closely related to this-and the more accurate phrase- would be, “I don’t give a fuck” -and this makes perfect sense. Why do we use shit/crap and fuck as if they are synonymous? Last time I checked crap was quite unpleasant while “to fuck” is, well, awesome. If I tell someone “I do not give a fuck,” it means I am not going to part with something quite valuable in my life. If I tell someone they do not give a fuck, they are not willing to offer up something valuable for my idea.

I hereby resolve that it is high time we all stopped giving a fuck and started giving a crap when we hear a bad idea.

And speaking of crap, none of us ever “take a crap,” we all, “leave a crap.” For that matter, unless you are remodeling your bathroom and are in the Home Depot looking for prefab shower installations, no one ever “takes a shower” either. We experience, perhaps even enjoy, a shower or bath, yet we never “take” one.

I really do not mean to harp on bodily functions, though the next time you are “going to vomit,” could send me vomit’s address and perhaps I could join you? Perhaps they live next door to their close cousins pee and poop. Often times when our body is preparing to do something we mistake this for a location we are going to…no, the bodily functions come to us and we await their arrival, we do not go to it. You are never “going to pee or poop” as the pee and poop pleasantly comes to you.

There are just some phrases in our language that reflect something we do not do anymore yet we would never know it based on our language use. The next time someone tells you they are writing a book, ask them what kind of pen they are using. The fact is, they are not “writing” a book; they may be typing one, creating one or even constructing one. The last author to write and/or “pen” a book was probably Charles Dickens.

Our language needs to keep up with our expanding technologies.

Technology is quickly changing the way we use language. Five years ago if someone told me they wanted to “Facetime” me I either would have been disgusted or delighted, pending the hotness of the requester -and don’t get me started on someone who wants to “Skype” me.

In regards to evolving technologies, back when I was raising kids, if you told me you bought some nice ear buds, I would have thought you purchased dogs that can play football.

Some phrases I understand in practice, yet if you really think about them in the theoretical sense, they are “hard to swallow.”

For example, would we ever want someone to really, “lend us a hand?”  If we desire someone’s help I am quite certain we would prefer they use two hands. If anything it should read, could you please “lend me both hands?” Speaking of needing assistance, why do we need to “pick up the slack?” Would it not be better if we were to tighten the slack?  At the very least “slack” should only be picked up for the purpose of discarding it.

And please do not get me started on the “I am hungry” thing. You may feel hungry or desire food, but rest assured, you are not hungry or famished or starving or full, you are (insert first name here).

It is now time to start “winding down” this blog. Of course this blog has no levers or cranks, but I think you get the idea.

And speaking of down.

A friend informed me the other day, anyone who gives a good “blow job,” should be fired. Last time I checked, there is absolutely no blowing involved in a BJ “worth its salt.”

But you knew that.

And probably don’t give a shit…or was it fuck? Whatever.

 

 

Why? Adam Yahel Diaz: A Man Of Peace, A Man Of Community. R.I.P.

Sometimes you search and find something to write about, while at other times the writing finds you. Such is the case with this blog entry, as yesterday I woke up to find that a young man, 26 year-old Crafton Hills College student Adam Yahel Diaz, whom I had just seen the evening prior, had passed away in car accident while driving to San Francisco early Friday morning.

During the entire day on Friday, I received Facebook messages, phone calls and emails from the Crafton Hills Community, both students and educators alike, all with the strong need to process the tragedy that just unfolded before us -processing that took the form of planning events, recalling memories and telling stories of our personal relationships with Adam.

At the outset, please understand that I knew far more about Adam, from friends and colleagues, than I actually personally knew Adam. I was not a close friend nor confidante,  just a person who had occasional informal encounters with him and who frequently heard others speak very highly of him.

It seems everyone knew him.

Crafton Hills is a community college. The nature of these institutions is generally one of transience, in that most students juggle work, school, family, while finding little time to work on building a sense of community as “real life” is just too demanding.  This is what set Adam apart from the majority of students, he not only strove to build community, he embodied it.

Unlike High School, where you have the “popular” crowd, the community college has no such social stratification. However, if you were to choose the “popular kid” at Crafton Hills, it would have been Adam Yahel Diaz. He was that guy everyone seemed to know from somewhere. Why? Because you did not go to Adam, he, eventually, came to you.

And he seemed to go everywhere. I know because Adam came to me.

Adam was involved in school governance, the arts program, campus life and just about any event that worked to build community on the campus. I had never met him, though knew of him, until early March when he approached me about delivering a speech for our campus wide event, Day of Advocacy, with a topic entitled, “Securing the Blessings: On a Healthy Relationship Between Church and State.”11061203_10155840126605131_5553587300401995126_n

This speech was so Adam. It was about building bridges between groups -in this case church and state- coming together and putting aside our differences for the sake of unity—for the sake of community. Adam had never been my student so I never really was able to coach him up in a way I would have liked. The speech itself was not always terribly clear…but that mattered so little, if at all.

Why?

Because, as I quickly learned with Adam, it was about who he was…not necessarily what he said. His spirit reverberated enormous positive energy and brilliance of light. You might not have known exactly where he was always going with an idea but, wherever it was, you wanted to go with him. We wanted in on that positive energy train—his spirit was strong, captivating, genuine and undeniable. If only all my students could tap into their inner charisma the way he did, our campus, hence, our world, would never be the same.

As my dad used to say, Adam was the kind of guy that could probably sell snowballs to Eskimos—but Adam was not a salesman. Rather, he freely gave away his positive and powerful energy to all those in his presence.

His smile was pleasantly and permanently etched on his face.

When such a tragic passing takes place, many begin the struggle to “make sense” and attempt to answer life’s deepest question: Why? It is, perhaps, the ultimate tension.

Yet, such a question might only lead one down the road of false hope, at best, and, at worst, utter frustration and bitterness.

It is not time to focus on the “why” but rather the “what”—as in what are the gifts, the lessons, the blessings that Adam graced us with and how we can we, the community of Crafton Hills College and beyond, carry these on in his honor and on his behalf?

I respect faith. In fact, I respect faith so much I would never cheapen it with my frail interpretation of how it plays out in life…and death. A wise friend of ours once told us a saying that resonated so deeply we keep it permanently displayed in our home: “I would never worship a God I could fully understand.”

Is this passing part of a universal plan? Whether it is or it is not, it makes little difference. I am the type of person who focuses on what I do know and not things I cannot possibly know -at least with any degree of certainty.

And what do we know?

I know that shortly after finding out this news, a colleague called me up in tears. “I just wrote him three letters of recommendation for three Ivy league school this past week,” she said. This only testifies to the fact he never waited for colleges or life to come to him, he always went to them. I know this.

We know Adam was a builder. He proactively built relationships, bridges, and, above all, community –a nice touch for a community college.

And now we find that real life has come to us in a tragic and powerful way. We know that we must now accept and live with this new reality that Adam is no longer among us, physically. Yet, we also know he leaves all of us with a bevy of powerful gifts, lessons and blessings that we have the duty to carry on. We have an obligation to come together as a community, express our love and concern for one another, and live in a manner that Adam desired for us all.

We will miss you Adam.

You came to us…and now none of us will ever be the same.

(A memorial will be held at Crafton Hills College on Tuesday, April 14 at 1:00pm in the LRC building. Perhaps this will be a good starting point in continuing to build the community Adam so jovially worked towards)

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.

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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.