My Dear, Dear America: A Crude Perspective on a Complicated Affliction

By: Joel Lawrence

 

Many times I’ve wondered what kind of example I’m providing today’s society and if I’m living up to the standards I’ve set for myself.  And within each reflective moment, I’ve experienced numerous faults and failed attempts at meeting or exceeding those expectations and have become quite remorseful as each one of those thoughts sunk in.  Is it because I entangle myself within the web of distractions that you have to offer or am I just plain lazy?

There’s plenty of accusation to go around I suppose, but honestly, I’m distraught over the devaluing of necessary functions and misrepresentation of actual virtues once held in such high esteem.

For example, let’s look at the decline of literacy using some statistics I located off of Straight Dope Magazine.  In 1945, the average American grade school student knew approximately twenty-five thousand words as opposed to the ten thousand words of today’s student.  That notion is quite alarming and should send any proper society rushing to the nearest dry erase board, but kids aren’t the only ones suffering.  How is an adult supposed to instruct or teach a child when they themselves don’t take the necessary steps in developing a strong foundation in reading/writing?  This isn’t coaching or an attempt at badgering, but a mindful observation in one area where our culture lacks the awareness and social aptitude in improving itself.

To gain more perspective and quite possibly an angle if I’m honest with myself, I web-surfed over to Rolling Stone’s online magazine to once again be disappointed with the subject matter it covers on a routine basis.  Very few articles held any real depth and hardly any weren’t concerned with celebrities.  No real surprise there, but I hadn’t checked it out in a while and was bitten with a sensible curiosity.  Sure, it’s a pop magazine, but with the weight that it carries within such an ignorant civilization, you would think that it would offer up much more on the metaphorical plate for us Americans to fill our grossly obese faces with.

For me and the rest of a disturbed bunch of humanists in the ever-growing populous, I surmise that there is a trivialization and dilution of publications for writing and that is where the laziness is directed to for many folks in the U.S.  So basically, it makes it somewhat convenient to give in to the unfocused popularized media.  In the past, I too have been victimized by my energy deficiencies, but even that is an excuse for my lack of forethought.  Despite missing a certain amount of credibility, Rolling Stone is only one of many magazines that recycle the garbage that people of an overly abundant culture request.

But I’m not picking on you America, just feeling like I need to highlight the severe diseases you are enduring and putting into motion.  I’m becoming like a bastard child of you and less and less like an actual citizen these days.

My perception isn’t growing any more hopeful now that I’m noticing three high school girls gushing over their cell phone selfies.  And to think, I didn’t even own a cell phone till I was out of high school.  Not sure if this open-faced rant makes me plain old, judgmental or hypocritical, but in either case it reinforces my own train of thoughts and free way of thinking.  Can’t wait to hear back from you!

 

Your loving bastard son,

Joel

The Affordable Moneyless Life

In the past few decades, a popular philosophy and lifestyle has taken root, usually in combination with one another.  Where money ceases to be the answer for many of the key issues involving problems on a personal scale.  Sounds pretty amazing huh?  Well it is in all actuality, but it doesn’t come without its share of sacrifices and struggles.  I’m referring to moneyless living.

If you’ve been residing in an oppressive economy that cycles through people and places price tags on naturally occurring resources (like water), then the practice of this idea might appear to be overly austere and pointless.  But I guess it is if you aren’t entirely certain of the reason you’re devoting yourself to it.  However, with an empathetic spirit, it’s at least easier to develop a principled understanding of this way of life.

Two very big proponents that champion this type of lifestyle are Daniel Suelo and Mark Boyle.  Suelo hails from these United States and Boyle spends much of his time in England.  Two similar approaches to living, but two different parts of the world.

Daniel Suelo has “quit money,” a phrase that stems from his own teachings and lifestyle.  In Autumn of 2000, Suelo walked away from money and to this day hasn’t looked back.

Based off of a gift economy (freely give, freely receive), the system that he has instilled in his daily life is supposed to represent a balance between others and to some degree it appears to be working.

The only chink in his philosophical armor that most people criticize him for is the assistance that he receives from people who do use money, but that seems like more of a reach than an educated opposing view.

Find out more from Daniel Suelo here, http://zerocurrency.blogspot.com/?m=1.

Mark Boyle, known as the “Moneyless Man,” has also given up on the idea of using money as a vital tool for people to acquire services and goods.

Instead, he believes in the concept referred to as the “freeconomy.” The freeconomy is set up to where people exchange only goods and services, but no currency of any kind.  It’s supposed provide a more meaningful and cohesive existence within a community, very much like Suelo’s philosophy.

A one time professional that was involved with major organic food companies, Boyle eventually decided to tackle this systemic issue on a greater level.  Mark has several books to read over about himself and his philosophies on , https://m.facebook.com/pages/Just-for-the-love-of-it-The-Freeconomy-Community/189405547773897 and http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/.

So, now that you’re a little more aware of the two movements that I’ve written about, what do you have to offer the earth, the public, and yourself?

An American Style Addiction

The modern Mozart.

Addiction, the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity.  Upon reading the definition of addiction, it doesn’t appear to be as unhealthy as one person might think.

In fact, some of the most prolific musical composers could be considered “addicts.”
At just the age of six, Austrian musician and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  began his addiction rather early.

Despite all of his charitable work and exquisite musical compositions, Mozart struggled with what he described as “black thoughts” and severe bouts of depression.  This could be considered a theoretical link between eccentricity and those experiencing addiction.  Although Mozart’s depression might be more representative of a chemical imbalance, the example of addiction is fairly clear.

But not all addictions will lead to fame or to an accrual of increased wealth.  Lots of us will succumb to personal and societal pressures which might very well be destructive for our mental, emotional and physiological states of well being.

Take something as beautiful and natural as sexual intercourse.  Sure, some of us might kid and make harmless remarks about abusing this pleasurable activity, gloating over sexual conquests and such, but it too can be misused and cause harm to someone.

Sexual addiction is defined specifically as the inability to control cravings and urges, while also causing problems within interpersonal relationships and impairing someone’s emotional responses.  And being that we’re consistently bombarded with extreme amounts of sexuality, most of us are consumed by this biological impulse to unhealthy degrees, even if it is a short lived experience.

A study held by The Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is about 18 million to 24 million people.  Find more about sexual addiction here: http://www.addictionhope.com/sexual-addiction

There are many things to be addicted to in this world and many people disregard the possible effects that addiction can have on someone if left untreated.  So if you or someone you know might be going through a severe addiction, it’s important to at least address the situation, especially before it gets out of hand.

Coyote

My dog Simile and I…

The fallen leaves bring lots of color to the grayish, cold and dull ground.  Pieces of trash are covered up now which makes it seem like the no littering campaigns are working.  But us natives know better.
At the moment, I’m walking in a park with my dog, Coyote.  He’s a mix of some sort, a mutt, but whatever the breed is, it resembles that of a wild dog.
Coyote constantly buries his nose in various trash piles that we pass every so often.  I’m not completely sure, but I think something may be wrong with him.
I let Coyote off of the leash, so he can stretch his legs and follow somewhat in the distance.  It’s a dog park, so I’m not completely worried that he can manage to escape the confines of the park, but he is very clever and is known around our neighborhood as an escape artist, something I’m not necessarily ashamed of, nor is he.
An hour rolls by before I notice another dog inside of the park.  It is a brown and white colored boxer that is trotting goofily around with his tongue dangling on the left side of his jowls.  It’s owner appears to be in his fifties, but seems like he is in good health, not coughing or obese and his physical features aren’t sagging like most elderly Americans do.  The elderly man and the boxer look nothing alike.
It isn’t until I call Coyote over to the rusty water fountains that I begin seeing more and more dogs and their owners, most of the dogs running as if they hadn’t tasted such freedom in a while and the owners seem to be chasing down once tightly gripped leashes.
It is simply amazing how each dog is managing to sidestep the piles of shit they leave behind.  Yet I believe most, if not all people, are eventually discovering the moist and smelly unwelcomed surprises on the bottom of their shoes.  Only dog shit is able to find every groove in the sole of a shoe, which makes me wonder about the pliability of a dog’s fecal discharge.
But luckily for me, Coyote is obedient, at least whenever I’m around.
Currently, he’s being a perfect little angel, sitting on his hind legs and occasionally staring up at me, but there is a bit of wiggle to his waggle, as he keeps readjusting his seated position in hopes of me noticing his anxiousness.  So I undo the leash, but chase my own freedom.

The Category of Man (Written by a Man)

Spiritual guru and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

From comparing penis size to flaunting your overly abundant gift of impressing the opposite sex, society’s view on masculinity tends to fall short in many ways.

It’s actually very difficult to categorize a particular gender, but it tends to happen within every society in a marginalizing manner.

Men are instructed to be strong and silent, to repress emotions that are needing to be expressed; basically denying sensitivities every man possesses.  A serious dysfunctional construct society has built for men everywhere.  So why does our culture reinforce this troubling practice?

Sarah Fader, a parenting blogger for The Huffington Post, offers a really fresh perspective on how parents should encourage their boys to cry and not shy away from expressing themselves in this way.  Something as a sensitive male I can truly resonate with.  Find her blog entry here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4879829

But obviously, there is more that men should be able to share with the world.  And I believe that’s to show a strong commitment to an idea or relationship.
Since when was it okay to be defeated so easily in regards to life?

Maintaining your discipline to a goal or devoting yourself to someone is an important test that as men we can’t run away from.  Whether it is telling someone you love them despite them offering up only hatred or not having your dreams realized, your attitude towards the failures will sum up what you represent in this world.

I’m in no way a shining example of what embodies a great man, but I’ve had many hardships on the road to pursuing my passions.  At times I’ve spent not eating for days and there were situations that left me homeless.  But as a man, I couldn’t allow these circumstances to portray me as a victim.

Now I did receive help along the way from some really special people, but my disciplined attitude towards pressing situations is what has allowed me to pick myself up and start over.  As a matter of fact, as I write this entry, my life is still a struggle, but I’m in no way ready to give in.  Why?  Because that’s what men do, we try.

I’m aware that this entry doesn’t define a man in totality, for each man will have his uniqueness and individuality.  Just something to think about.

Have People Failed Writing?

Imagination plays a vital role in how we interact with the world around us.  This creative process is the primary function in which natural evolution molds and transforms life’s inevitable outcomes.  So, why is the written (or printed) word becoming more of a rarity in these modern times?

Go to almost any website and you’ll be confronted with a barrage of advertisements, some that involve videos aimed at pulling people’s attention in various directions; so much that you even forget the original reason you were there in the first place.  Like others, I too have fallen for these misdirections many times and usually end up regretting the time wasted on this type of drivel.  It’s like having breakfast in bed, only you have it every day and what you consume instead of granola and orange juice is a pointless television series marathon or countless movie trailers.

In 2011, a test known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the national report card) was given to approximately 24,000 eighth graders and 28,000 twelfth graders.  From this test, it suggested that 24 percent possessed proficient writing skills while only 3 percent were considered advanced.

Even though this test was four years ago, it is still considered to be somewhat current and gives us a better insight as to what obstacles the educational culture of America is facing.

Things such as Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are indeed a valuable tool in effective advertising, but in the manner and rate in which Americans consume such frivolity is unhealthy.  Something most Americans tend to succumb to on account of laziness.  It actually requires effort to think now doesn’t it?

And that’s the problem the written word is encountering currently, this lack of fortitude to want to be inspired by the thoughts inside of your own head.  So long as kids remain on their phones and adults stay glued to their television sets, reading and writing will stay in a continuous state of decline.  So who’s up for a game of television set bowling?

An Excuse for Hire

It is two-thirty in the afternoon and at the moment, I am in the middle of an interview for a job as a business analyst consultant,  which is supposed to jump start my career.  At least that’s what my career counselor at The Second Chance Career Center kept telling me.
“You’re a winner Mikel, there’s nothing that you can’t do or won’t do to get where you need to be, right?”  A phrase of hers that was repeated often to me that was intended to spark some passion and right my wrongful attitude towards the job market.  Although, I’d seen bumper stickers with more creativity.
I had been let go at my last job due to downsizing and a budget miscalculation on behalf of the business solutions department (a department title that seemed arbitrary to me, since the entire operation was about business), which in their defense was due to inexperienced office personnel and the fact that most of the employees there were twenty-two and more concerned about what different dicks and vaginas felt like as opposed to performing their job duties, so things like my situation didn’t occur.
But it did, and oddly enough, it was more of a relief than a burden.  I hated what I was doing every day, filling out statistical inquiries, advising over PLA’s, the basic crunching of the numbers you might call it.  They even tried hiring me back, but I was over it by then.
It had been three months since my last workday at that job and all I could do was think about working.  Wondering why it was taking me so long to climb that metaphorical ladder to the sky.
And here I am, seated in an office wearing a charcoal colored freshly-pressed suit, attempting to convince a complete stranger that I’m a team-player, a go-getter that is proactive enough to become a vital contributor to a company that specialized in buying and selling off personal and student loans.
“If you look at paragraph three Mr. Livingston, you’ll notice that my company observed a steady increase in profit growth the last three years of my employment, some of that due to loans I’d approved and oversaw.”
Mr. Marshall Livingston, hiring manager and department coordinator of One Source Loans, is fiddling with a red metallic pen that shaking the tube of ink inside which makes it have a whooshing sound that I imagine drives most people nuts, I’m thinking I’m one of those people.
“I see, I see,” he says rather blahzee.
I’m not convinced he is interested at all.
He thumbs through a bit more of my resume and breathes out really loudly, which I also find mildly irritating, but I keep up with my obsequious enthusiasm.
“Everything seems in order Mikel, I just have one question to ask you and then I’ll have my mind made up about you.”
Without giving me a chance to respond he continues.
“I’m afraid I don’t feel that you are the right candidate for this job Mikel, but maybe there is a position for you here, although it might not be the one you’re after.”
I’m a bit perplexed and also somewhat irritated.  I can’t accept a smaller role in a company, which would definitely result in a pay cut.  I scratch my head and make a noticeable sigh.
“Sir, I’ve been in this business in what seems like forever, I just don’t think I could keep my sanity if I worked below my capabilities.”
Mr. Livingston clears his throat.
“Mikel, have you ever worked security?”
“Uh, no, never.  I’m pretty sure it would barely pay enough to keep me floating in the filth.”

“You’re a big guy, about 6’5″?”

“6’6″ exactly.  Is that supposed to intimidate people or something? ”

“Well, quite frankly yes.  Physical attributes alone, I would say you’d be a good fit for what I need you for.”
Livingston leans in, smiles and continues.
“Mikel, I’m not referring to some small toy cop role where people snicker at you for owning a rubber gun, I mean taking on a professional position as my personal bodyguard.”
“Well, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting you to say that.  Why me though?  I mean, I’ve got no experience with this kind of thing.”

“Mr. Livingston, your three o’clock is here and ready to vent.”

Livingston turns his head to the intercom sitting on his desk and presses a round button that makes a clicking sound.

“Thank you Janette, Mr. Fetters was just leaving.”

“Well, it looks like this interview has ran its course, but please think it over.  I think it could be a great opportunity for you and for me.”

I smile back, weakly.

“Sure thing.  We’ll be in touch.”

“We’ll be in touch” is American business talk for a politely put “no thanks.”

The next day I’m rifling through the paper, pleading with the universe for a sign, a hunch, anything really.  But a fragile headline grabs my attention instead.

“Charitable businessman Marshall Livingston gunned down in uptown apartment building.”

I’m too late.