Jimmysintension The Podcast: Special Guest Lindsey Johnson (with a word or two from Jordan)

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Family friend and wonderful conversationalist Lindsey Johnson was over on Friday to ask me a few questions about Communication Studies and I asked her if she would want to guest on a podcast. Without hesitation she agreed. On went the headsets. Jordan later chimed in a bit. Join us as we talk about the field of communication, the dating scene, marriage, jealousy, sex, among other fascinating topics.

Jordan’s blog can be found at www.hashtaghologram.com.

Single and Want To (Christian) Mingle?

While partying last Friday Night with some of my students to celebrate the end of our 9 week course together (thank you Johnny’s Tacos!!) a commercial came on for “ChristianMingle.com” -the website where Christians can “find God’s match for you.”

christian-mingleThe ad’s tag line, taken from the bible, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart,” is prominently featured in the commercial.

As the commercial played, a student Vince, a very loud and devout atheist, leaned over and playfully suggested, “That should be your next blog topic.”

At first reaction I believed I had nothing to opine about such a commercial and/or site. “What would I say?” I responded, “I have no opinion.” Then I thought further, probably a split second further, and continued, “Other than the fact that it represents everything that is wrong with religion, society and our culture as a whole.”

I guess I really did have something to say.  Then again, I could probably blog about the fresh paint drying in our new empty nest guest rooms.

My last blog concerned a website for married cheaters, AshleyMadison where some might sloganize that site as finding Satan’s match for you -and I do not want to risk overdoing the subject of online relationship issues.  Yet, as I think about it, that blog was not about dating websites at all, rather it was about the preponderance of cheating in traditional marriages. Likewise, this blog is not about a Christian dating website per se, rather it is a blog concerned about the packaged, superficial, trivialization bullshit of nearly everything supposedly somewhat sacred in our culture… and critiquing ChristianMingle in addition.

It would seem that anything that is deemed worthy of our respect –or at the very least institutions that carry important consequences for society- must eventually become the victim of trivialization, or worse, utter bombastic defacement. 

Be it religion, education, news, or politics, we have taken these serious areas of serious concern and seriously transformed them into bastions of serious farce.

Perhaps this is the result of a capitalist system in which ideas, sacred or not, must be properly designed and packaged to be most expediently sold to the masses –usually via the mode of entertainment to satisfy our hedonistic life styles and turn a profit for the profiteers?

Maybe it is as Neal Postman contends and it is the consequence of an image-based society now bent on the verge of amusing itself to death.

Probably. Both. Yes. Both.

In any case, the “godsploitation” in society is at an all time high yet sincere sheep still fall for this utter sacrilege.

What do I have against Christianmingle.com? A couple of major things and a few minor ones as well.

First, it trivializes a “Supreme Being” (FCBE).

Seriously, if I were Jesus, I would be so pissed off at Christians.  And just imagine how his dad feels. Whether it is the implication that I need a damn website to spew my will on people or that some have seen fit to create Jesus duct tape and Jesus action figures in my image (I swear… I have both in my office right now because I am fan of cultural symbols that represent everything that is wrong with it) I would just be flat out angry. 

To think that a being often described as all powerful, all knowing, omniscient, eternal and infinite would need a Christianmingle.com is just flat out insulting and a far worse “sin” against an almighty being than all the married cheating put together. I suppose most of us have become so jaded to so many speaking such bullshit on God’s behalf we no longer lift an eyebrow. Hell, if the Westboro Baptist Church can do it, why can’t everyone -even those exploiting an eternal being for profit?

I am left with the question of which is worse -exploiting the name of a FCBE for the purpose of making a few bucks or having a site designed to match consenting adults in order to engage in a legal activity.

At least AshleyMadison does not pretend to be anything other than what it really is. It is honest. ChristianMingle is not.

Secondly, it worships and idolizes technology. If we need a website to find out God’s will for our lives, that website is now on a par with God, check that, supersedes God because God is apparently powerless without it, insofar as matching life partners is concerned.

Yes, I know, your God can use anything, including Christianmingle. Yet said God can also certainly use Christianmingle to exemplify everything that is wrong with western culture as well.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart?” I am certain that when this bible verse was written the author definitely had in mind finding a hott, cool Christian chick on a dot com who likes long walks on the beach, puppies and warm fireplaces- I mean, that is obvious.  There is no way that verse could possibly mean attempting to live a pure and moral life and attain a level of spirituality in which God’s desires and the person’s desires come together in perfect sync.  No way.

To be clear, I have no problem with a website that wants to match up people of the same faith and earn a profit in the process; the problem I have is dragging in the name of a deity, twisting a sacred book and somehow implying this whole capitalist endeavor is operated and ordained by a God.

Please. As we used to say in junior high, “scummy.”

Dammit Vince… see what you got me into? Last time I listen to a loud atheist.


First Trial Podcast: Special Guests -Rene’ and Jordan

Join us as we discuss my latest blog, ChristianMingle.com, traveling, psychedelic drugs, the nature of podcasting, metaphysics and the dynamic of the Urb fam.

Please read more (click the title of this post) to listen!

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You can check out Jordan’s blog at hashtaghologram.com.

Sex! Nudity! Cheating! This and Other Affairs….The World According to Ashley & Madison

Recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the quite interesting and provocative guest for the hour was AshelyMadison.com founder and owner, Noel Biderman.

For those of you unaware of AshleyMadison.com, (good for you!!) it is essentially a dating website for “cheating” married spouses. The site assists those wanting an extramarital affair in the process… akin to secretly opening up the textbook for people taking a closed book examination.

AshleyMadison.com unabashedly proclaims to be the “most successful website for finding affairs and cheating partners,” boasting over 22 million members in 25 countries.

Ashley Madison

I can only conclude there are a  lot of people taking closed book tests who prefer to secretly use their cheats sheet underhandedly.  Humans just like cheating. Sneaky devils.

The first reaction of many towards Biderman and AshelyMadison.com is one of disgust.  The name Noel Biderman and words such as scum, repulsive, sick, and messages relating ideas of how decadent the world has become are frequently found in the same sentence.  Is that fair? For this is why I blog…to ask such questions. In a world where so many seek out extramarital affairs and one comes along to provide an easier and more efficient means to achieve it, well,  are such labels warranted? Hmmmmm…

Let’s take a looksee  at this among other things, shall we?

According to Biderman, “We can’t create consumption like most businesses. We can’t convince people to have an affair. We don’t try.

But we can provide a credible, confidential, avenue for people who want to have an affair. think about it: The traditional ways people went about have affairs were definitely not effective. They were having affairs in the workplace. Or they were having affairs within their circle of friends. Think about how well those tend to work out.

So our mission was to say that if you’re thinking about having an affair you’re not alone. It’s part of the human condition. We’ll help you meet someone and not get caught. If you want to be clandestine, we’re an intelligent choice.”

So Mr. Biderman, you are married with children, what if you caught YOUR spouse cheating on you?

“I would be devastated. But I would not blame a website or inanimate object.”

Touche’ oh soul less one. Or is he?

Damn there are so many different ways to go with this topic; we could discuss business ethics, sexuality, monogamy, marriage, polyamory, the list goes on people.

What I find most fascinating (and I find a LOT fascinating regarding this topic) about AshleyMadion and Biderman is the response he receives from so many.

As mentioned, emotionally charged words such as sick, twisted, reprehensible, etc… are used to describe this whole endeavor. And that is what fascinates me most….the self-righteous, indignant, disgusted response. Can’t we even think about it rationally for a moment before the indignation?

Here are a couple of examples of such responses taken from a blog after an interview with Biderman:

“…to all his followers/people who have signed up to Ashley Madison, hope karma comes your way very soon. This sort of thing just shows how messed up the world is becoming.

Or, even more succinctly:

“This guy is scum. You shouldn’t promote businesses that promote infidelity. Pathetic.”

Ok, I get it.  “Cheating” sucks and devastates marriages. 

Perhaps we can look at it from an analogous perspective. Heroine also sucks and devastates lives…no one, including Biderman, is arguing this point of it sucking and being devastating.

So just because we are against the use of heroine does not necessarily imply we are against giving clean needles to drug abusers to help stop the spread of disease.  Likewise, we may not be for minors having sex yet it would be reasonable in the “real world” to want teenagers to have access to birth control. So does it not stand to reason that an argument can be made that people are going to cheat regardless -so Biderman provides a safer and, arguably,  less destructive way to do it?

Can at least we have a discussion before everyone gets all high and mighty on our ass?

This final blog comment reflects everything I love in a critical thinker. It is not for nor it is against; it asks the questions to promote a civil and rational dialogue:

“Very interesting indeed, and on the business front, certainly much to take away from it. Market segmentation and niche are essential business survival tools nowadays.

Though within the business culture, there does remain a question of what is acceptable. If people are going to make the mistake all the same, is it alright – and I dare say, moral – to profiteer off of it? The ends of the spectrum are too far apart for one standardized answer, but it certainly raises a question when boundaries of social dynamics are breached and when such an act is legitimized, better yet, facilitated. I would not argue for or against at the moment, but I would simply struggle with the CEO dismissing the issue so indifferently.

Great post indeed! Food for thought.”

I freaking love this guy, or gal, because dialogue is so damn important.

Can’t we all approach all issues in this same level-headed manner? Or would that just make  us to “Spock-ian?”

Ashley Madison ad

So, my take:

I would tend to agree with the overall tone of this last response.  The respondent asks some very good questions riding the tension between business ethics and consumer demand. However, if the problem is cheating and millions of people do it all the time, perhaps there is a far more fundamental problem in society… AshleyMadison.com is just a symptom of deeper more socially cancerous issue. It has 22 million members in 25 countries and this is just one of THOUSANDS of such sites; it is only the tip of the cheating iceberg,  Now if we include all those who still prefer to cheat the old-fashioned way, the cheating non-techies by way of pool man, cabana boy and those old schoolers who still put the secret in secretary, we have an epidemic on our hands.

Maybe we need more civil dialogue about relationships, fidelity, sexuality and realistic expectations?

If cheating is the problem (effect), a certain dissatisfaction -at some level- must be the cause. What is that dissatisfaction and let’s TALK about THAT.

Perhaps we need to reexamine traditional marriage as so many see it? To learn how to become satisfied and honest partners in a relationship?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves what the roles of complete transparency and honesty mean in a relationship.

Maybe we need to be asking why society keeps accepting the tradition of marriage as we know it, when it fails so miserably at so many different levels for so many different people.

Perhaps we need NOT be discussing the social acceptability/morality of an AshleyMadison, rather we need to be asking WHY so many people want and do cheat.

Perhaps we need more classes with open book tests?

Get to the bigger issue and sites like AshleyMadison will eventually go away. All they are doing now is exploiting and feeding off society’s dystopian vision and dysfunctional view of love and relationships. What is that dystopian vision and dysfunctional view? I will not address that (at least in this blog), yet all the evidence points to something gone terribly wrong.

Above all, these types of questions need to be discussed amidst a conversational context and tone of reason, openness and honesty without judgment. Or we will just continue the insanity and keep doing what we are doing with the same miserable results.

Transitions. Or, Be Careful What Homework You Assign

The Class: Communication Studies 111, Interpersonal Communication

Self-concept: (noun) the idea or mental image one has of oneself and one’s strengths, weaknesses, status, etc.; self-image.

The Assignment: Please write a short, 500-700 word essay concerning your self-concept. What informs it? What factors have played out in your life that make you or define you? Do you believe these factors to be accurate? Do you believe you possess a healthy self-concept? How might you go about changing your self-concept?

I decided to take on this assignment myself. Not sure now if that was a good thing or bad thing. Maybe it’s just a thing.

It is not earth shattering news when I mention that a huge foundation of our self-concept is built during childhood. However, I learned a few years ago while attending an elementary school reunion, that it is not necessarily what happens to us during childhood that primarily informs our self-concept rather how we perceive ourselves during this time.

I thought of myself as an overweight, below-average-intellect, ugly kid whose only salvation was sports, as I was, quite fortunately, a very good athlete. However, as I spoke with classmates at the reunion, apparently I was the only one who saw me in this light. According to a group I was speaking with, I was the tough bully-type who thought his shit didn’t stink.

Wow. They were not even kidding. Yet it is not uncommon when insecurity comes across as pomposity.

Why did they think of me that way? Why did I think of myself in the other way? Well, some kids did call me “fatty” and a few used derogatory names at times—which never helps a self-image. However, a day did not go by that my father did not tell me I was very smart and handsome…problem was I just never believed him.

I realize now at age 50 (I am a slow learner I know), that what happens around us—all life experiences such as tragedies, promotions, interactions with people, everything—is only understood through the perception and meaning we assign to these experiences. While in a meeting with one of our excellent school counselors, Deborah Bogh, I was lamenting to her how difficult this empty nest transition has been for me, when she provided some excellent insight, “Nothing has really changed in your life at all, only your perceptions on how you view things,” this included how I viewed myself.

What seems like a “no shit Sherlock” comment that is worded just right, in the right context at the very right time, blossoms into a golden proverb of wisdom. My ears were ready to hear what my mind was ready to absorb. Such was this moment.

Do any of us really see ourselves for who we truly are? How can we?

We select, we determine, we decide how we choose to see ourselves. 

The last 25 years I decided to perceive myself, and the value of who I was, through the filter of being a father. Now, since that lens of self-perception is essentially over—at least on a hands-on, day-to-day basis—I struggle now to define myself.

I realize I cannot complete my own assignment. Or at least I cannot pass it.

We can be captain of our own self-concept ship and determine through what filters we see ourselves. During some periods in our lives we transition and change our filters to determine our self-concept. One might say I am in between filters at the moment. And they have a name for this.

Can you say crisis? Can you say mid-life? What many treat as a joke, you know getting the red convertible, dumping the spouse and dating people your kids’ age, is actually a real and important condition.

According to Dr. Dan Jones, “A midlife crisis might occur anywhere from about age 37 through the 50s, he says. By whatever term, the crisis or transition tends to occur around significant life events, he says, such as your youngest child finishing college, or a “zero” birthday announcing to the world that you’re entering a new decade.”

Damn. I am now realizing that the last few years were not mid-life crisis at all…it was just pre-game for the real thing.

I understand a crisis can be fairly debilitating and people act out all the time -yet I am fairly certain I am not going to destroy the few things working well in my life.  When I hear of men and women reaching this place and walking away from all they know and love, well, that ain’t me.  You might say I am pretty conservative crisis-er. 

I have already purchased the mid-level sports car and that is likely as far as the midlife madness will take me. Hell, it’s all I can afford.

So, let me give this self-concept thing a try. What informs it? I don’t know. Good  question. What factors have played out in your life that make you or define you? I no longer know. But good question. Do you believe these factors to be accurate? Yes. I guess. Because it is what it is. Great question. Do you believe you possess a healthy self-concept? It is hard to measure an unknowable quantity. Fair question. How might you go about changing your self-concept? I will write a book when I find out and let you know. Good question. Who wrote these? Brilliant.

I think I may have just failed my own assignment.