All Good Things

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Face the Future

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On the whole of it all, I cannot blame the individuals whom I supervise, for being mentally or socially inept. Many of them were likely reared in a poor social environment, having parents who were never there. Drugs are the primary plague on American society, but there are also a myriad of other factors that come into play. Education in poor or rural neighborhoods throughout America has been dismal. The lure of joining a gang and selling drugs for children in these circumstances must seem too appealing, for many fall into the lies that so many rappers convey through their vile noise.

The impact of this part of society is mirrored and then increased tenfold in prison. Gangs, drugs, prostitution, gambling, smoking, making and drinking intoxicants, and all kinds of racketeering have a foothold in prisons. The wort part, perhaps, is that all of this is generally accepted as the norm by prison officials. It is expected, and rarely confronted head on. The American prison system is an abysmal failure, and it must be completely reformed in order to save America from the ground up.

Yes, I believe that prison reform, is one of the greatest ways in which we can preserve our Constitutional values. There must be a reform that calls for more psychologists, doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, chaplains, and teachers, and less, often poorly trained, correctional officers. The men and women in America’s prison systems are very broken individuals. Individuals in prison often have no genuine purposeful direction in life to steer them away from criminal behavior and recidivism. Perhaps, worse still, is the fact that most of the American population has no idea what goes on behind the prison fence line. Does anyone even care about the incarcerated men and women in America?

We need to care. We must show compassion for these unfortunate individuals, because many of them have never been shown any genuine care. There is no incentive to change if all one desires is to continue on treating them as trash. Human beings, that’s what they are, and many of them are very psychologically damaged people, and many of them are physiologically damaged from drug or alcohol abuse. The men and women in prison are a reflection of American society, and it shows us just how ugly and selfish we really are as a nation.

The bottom line is that the prison industry is a business. It is a business that prospers tremendously from grievous crimes of human beings. I cannot honestly state that we should not pay professionals to care for the approximately 2,266,800[1] incarcerated individuals throughout the United States; rather, I am stating that it should not be the primary motivation. None the less, the very idea of turning a profit at the expense of other human beings should seem unethical; especially when the efforts made to rehabilitate incarcerated persons is often mediocre at best. No, there simply has to be a better way about all of it.

When it comes down to it, education has the power to genuinely alter the world perspective of a human being. Sir Ken Robinson wrote, “Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.[2]” Individuals who are incarcerated are often not able to see any future at all; they are not capable of mapping out a positive life course, filled with educated decision making. This is one of the tasks of an educator—to help guide each student as they prepare for life. Somehow, many of the individuals who are in prison missed out on that process. At those critical junctures in life no one cared for them, and so, they stopped caring about their future as well.

As I have quoted many times before, “The unexamined life is not worth living.[3]” We, as Americans, cannot idly stand by men and women waste away in prisons across the country. We must be able to show children now how to properly go through a course of introspection, so that they will be able to make positive life decisions later in life. Every single one of us must do this in order to protect the future of humanity.

[1] Bureau of Justice Statistics

[2] Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2009).

[3] Plato, Apology (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988).

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A Contradiction of Ideals

I am a wanderer and a seeker. Foremost, I am a philosopher, and I am the first to admit that I certainly do not know or understand everything. I desperately want to help my fellow human beings, yet I am often appalled. Much of the issues that plague society today lie in our inability to properly educate every person in an effective manner. This is the root of America’s problems. There is also something to be written about desire, for desire drives the person to want something that he or she often does not even need.

We believe that we need the object because we are told that we need it. Every day we are inundated with millions of advertisements through television and Internet—we are pigs led to the slaughter of capitalist America, which slowly cuts our throats as we dangle upside down, smiling in a zombie-like state of ignorant bliss. I am sadly aware that I am a pig. I know that I do not need much of what I have, yet I often fall at the feet of deceit. But is it wrong to want more than what we really need?

I suppose to some degree this is somewhat like comparing Sartre’s concept of being radically free to Augustine’s concept of free will. To be radically free is to go outside of free will. We are no longer dependent on a God to offer us free will or take it away, rather, we step outside of free will and we realize that the will rests entirely upon our shoulders. There is transference of power of the idea of God and all of his associations, to the human. We then realize the utter gravity of responsibility that has fallen upon us.

In order to get out of our situation, we must view it in a completely different way. True freedom must not be held as the one who has the most wealth or power, for those who are wealthy and powerful are slaves unto their own vices. True freedom comes through knowledge that becomes wisdom in the light of actions. When we pull ourselves away from the entrapment’s of modern society, then we can start to experience freedom.

A caveat to this knowledge is that many of us will not be able to do this alone. We need like minded individuals to act as a support group through which more and more can experience a freedom from the entrapment of our capitalist society. I am not calling upon anyone to give up everything they own. I am merely attempting to create an awareness of the disease that has plagued our society for too long.

The Evolution of Religion

The Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard wrote that our faith is something that must be renewed each day.

An interesting question is, would human beings have even accepted the person of Jesus Christ if he had come later in time? What is Christianity? Quite simply, Christianity is a belief which states that Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnate Son of God, among other things. Being a Christian means that one must live with the heart and mindset of the Christ–emulating him as much as possible.

This true form of Christianity is very rare, and nearly dead in our world today. Genuine Christianity never called for us to hate or put down our enemies–rather, it called us to love our enemies, and bless those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Christ continually demonstrated this attitude in ministry, but he also added, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). There was to be no attitude of despair or contempt. Christians are to believe that they are empowered with the divine Spirit of God; they must live with the attitude of, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

So what has happened to Christianity in the modern era? Certainly we can state that capitalism is one thing that plagues much of western civilization (I Timothy 6:10), and American Christians are certainly not immune to this. There is also a self-centered attitude that has been circulating around Christian churches for quite some time. This is one of the things that disgusted Kierkegaard. He also believed that Christians simply put on a really good show, like actors, at church, but then went back to being as though they had no spirit of Christ whatsoever apart from church.

This is still very much a problem with modern Christianity, and it is why, like Kierkegaard, I stopped going to church. What Christianity really needs right now, I believe, is to go through a major reformation. Christianity must evolve past its current form.

Prisons of the Mind

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We are all prisoners. We create our own prisons – from our minds, from society, from drugs, from capitalistic ideology. We want things that we do not even need, and we get sucked into the idea of thinking that we need it. I have given in. I am in my own prison right now as I write this. I was free. I was guided out of Plato’s Cave by another philosopher, but I chose to go back.

Why would I go back you ask? Security, I suppose – but what is security when your sense of freedom has been taken away from you? To some degree I feel Cypher – I am betraying what I believe in so that I can get jacked back into the Matrix. None of this is real. It’s all just some sick, twisted illusion of reality.

No one is helping anyone here – not really. All the days just blur together, one after another, like a dream. I feel as though this reality, or whatever you want to call it, is more like a nightmare though, and I can’t wake up from it. Do I even have a choice – can I even wake up? How did I go from proclaiming truth and liberation to sucking in lies, and believing  that it would actually make me feel better?

Jean Paul Sartre wrote about profound freedom -something that was beyond free will, but this is the antithesis of even free will. I have chained myself to the ugly lies of this capitalistic society, and not I must strive to cut the key in order to break my mind free from this sickness.

Skeptic of Faith


It is reasonable to state that we should only believe in information that we can empirically prove through scientific means (perhaps barring quantum mechanics). Beyond this mindset, there is no reason to believe in anything else. Quite obviously, this places nearly all religions at a disadvantage since most religious belief requires faith; more specifically, faith in the supernatural that which cannot possibly be explained through empirical means. A caveat to this logic would likely be that there are some types of evidence which has not yet been discovered. When Charles Darwin finalized his scientific theory of evolution through natural selection, he did not have any knowledge about deoxyribonucleic acid, which has tremendously advanced Darwin’s theories.

We should move on from supernatural beliefs. I have no problem with those who promote a sort of Social Gospel, but let us not tarry any further down the road of unnecessary belief, which requires us to often alienate our fellow human beings. Far too often do I hear or read of groups (Christians in particular), displaying their utter disdain for their fellow human beings who happen to be Muslim, gay, or atheist. Bigotry does not win the heart of anyone, and I cannot imagine why Christians even believe that it is actually alright to even write or say such words of hatred when it is the very antithesis of the person of Christ. Once again, I am reminded of the words of Brennan Manning, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Why should anyone want to follow Christianity, when there are many humanists, atheists, and agnostics who have a better sense of moral reasoning and passion to help their fellow human beings than many Christians do? Sadly, it seems that Christians are tripping over the ideals of society rather than finding solace within Christianity. Is it too much to ask for social justice? Allow gay couples to marry, and transgender persons to use a restroom as they wish. Stop imposing your religious mindset on those who do not believe in it, and let them be.

 

 

A Philosophy of Health


Hippocrates once said, “Let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” As a child, I often had meals that were very healthy. I have my mother to thank for that, but in my teens I admittedly ate a lot of fast food. This unhealthy habit blew up in my face once I turned twenty-five. Ironically, I was in the U. S. Navy at the time, and I was eating a lot of McDonald’s; as a result, I gained around thirty pounds.

By 2012, I weighed just over two hundred pounds, and I developed high blood pressure. Certain major life events caused me to re-evaluate my life, so I started running. I started off running six miles (which I had never done before), and to my surprise, I didn’t have any problems. I kept on running, and I lowered my weight to 168. I moved to the coast and I ran almost everyday. In 2014 I finished the LA Marathon.

As humans, we tend to move in circles. We perform conscious actions that deteriorate body and soul. Worst of all, we want a quick fix and there are plenty of diet programs and pills that promise to help us lose weight fast. When we are diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol, we look to synthetic drugs for treatment. Barring the fact that there are millions of human beings who need severe medicines to stay alive, many others do not need it, rather, they need to change their lifestyle.

A change in lifestyle is often the critical component needed in order to live healthier, and ultimately, longer. It also changes our attitude about ourselves and about others. Rather than being a potential cause of downfall, we must be a builder of healthy habits and positive self esteem.

We Have a Problem


America is the most obese nation in the world. The sad part is, many people simply do not care about what they eat, nor do they make any attempt to exercise. Currently, obesity is second only to smoking in terms of our national health epidemic. If you’ve seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead or Super Size Me, then you already know what I’m writing about here. We cannot afford allow fast food to control and overtake our lives.

 
I challenge you to take a stand and care about your body because there are those who care about you and want you to a live longer, healthier life. When I was twenty-five years old and in the Navy, I ate fast food every single day. Over time, I gained a lot of weight because my metabolism changed. To tell you the truth, I still don’t eat all that health, but I’ve been off soda for 32 days.  I have also been exercising more in the last three and a half years than I ever have before.

I run an average of 15 miles per week, and I’ve even completed a marathon- something I never dreamed I could do before. We have to really want to be better, to live better. This is my challenge, and it is also my challenge to you as well.