Since writing to you in early July, I’ve had several more opportunities presented to me. In my last essay, “Are the current U.S. fiscal and monetary policies a ticket into the grave?”, I mentioned Mark Skousen, PhD and his annual conference at Las Vegas known as “FreedomFest”. Mark reported back to me that they had 2,500 attendees for the three-day event and that it was very successful. John Stossel of Fox Business News hosted a panel discussion on this year’s theme, “Are We Rome?” (Clink on link). Mark was so happy with my introduction of him and FreedomFest in this previous essay that he’s asked me to come to next year’s FreedomFest, July 9-12, 2014 to speak. This year’s theme will be “Is Big Brother Here? (See trailer.)” What’s part of your job description to lecture in the classroom to students or at conferences is something that puts the fear of God in me. I’m, both, excited and very nervous. I’m taking steps to improve my public speaking skills.
In July, I was asked to appear on the Grace and Grit Radio Show, on blogtalkradio.com, by its hosts, Jennifer Meadows and Josh Bernstein. It was my first radio interview as a writer and to my surprise I liked the experience, so much so that I’m starting my own radio show to support my written commentaries, this fall. The radio show or podcast will allow this audience a chance to hear me explain the thinking behind my work in an interview format. I will post the link to the interview in the following essay. I’m hoping to monetize the podcasts, if possible. http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com/2013/07/interview-with-jennifer-meadows-and.html
In August, I began adding faculty to my audience, once again. This time, I picked up professors at Australia National University (ANU) College of Law, ANU School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and at the University of Hong Kong before turning my attention to the state of Iowa. I saw in the news where former U.S. Senator Scott Brown (MA-R) was in Des Moines, IA attending their state fair. With Iowa being the first state in the union to hold a caucus, politicians with any aspirations of becoming the next president make numerous trips to Iowa to test the waters by shaking hands, kissing babies and giving speeches. I added faculty from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa and Drake. I printed out several maps of the Hawkeye State to study including cities and major highways, by county, as well as, creating a poster board-size map with the state’s capital, major cities and the interstates connecting them. I also printed out some thirty pages on the Iowa off Wikipedia.com.
I’ve long had a personal interest in presidential politics. Given the fact that we’ve gone from considering attacking Syria several weeks ago to shutting down the federal government, last week, I’ve lost interest for 2016. I’m ready to bail out of the country. I’m planning a trip to Panama after the first of the year in search of a safe haven until this all insanity plays itself out. Washington is insane and Americans are tuned out. My usefulness as a viable presidential candidate will only come about upon the bankruptcy of the United States, a nationwide revolt by Americans and closer study of my written work. I think America’s breaking point is a lot sooner than most realize.
Having written my last essay in early July, I had hoped to have this next piece finished and ready for a September 1st distribution, but that deadline has come and gone. In August, I had three different situations of great importance, to me, all end in unforeseen disappointments contributing to this delay. Each one stood to provide me with projects that I was looking forward to right here in my community. Individually, they weren’t big enough to stop me in my tracks or make me question my purpose in life, but collectively they did just that. Like red flags rising up in the air my instincts began to ask, “Why do I still live in the United States given the seriousness of our political and financial problems and the degree of apathy expressed by most Americans?” The idea of leaving my country or better yet fleeing from it, which sounds completely crazy to most people, had previously served as just fodder for me to chew on and something to discuss with friends over coffee. Now, it no longer seemed like a silly idea. I wanted out. With an expired U.S. passport and some legal matters still hanging over my head, I was quickly feeling like a caged animal desperate to escape. An unfamiliar sense of urgency and anxiety started growing exponentially from within me and rising to a degree of sheer panic.
N > 17,000
See attachment: Maturation
Note: The following was intended to be part of the introduction, but due to a month-long head cold and an inability to pull my “essay” together in a timely fashion, I’m only able to offer you the appetizer, at this time. I hope its filling. You may or you may not see the essay in the future. We’ll see. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy what I have to offer.
October 9, 2013
To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.
– William Arthur Ward (1921-1994, author of Fountains of Faith)
America has become a culture that’s under great pressure and stress where an individual’s value is based on what we’ve done lately, on how much we’re producing and not based simply on our human existence as a child of God. The latter doesn’t seem to be good enough maybe it never was. We’re told that weren’t even good enough in God’s eyes unless we believe in this theology or pray a particular way. We’ve got to be something or become someone or do something in the eyes of somebody or else we’re seen as being worth little or nothing. We look at the homeless, the incarcerated, the unemployed, the elder, the sick and dying in this same light – our fellow man. I got the message early on, as a child, while in church and in school. I felt the pressure leading up to my breakdown, at the age of 32. This wasn’t always the case.
A hundred years ago, three or four generations living in the same one house or on the same property and they looked after each other. The young showed respect to their grandparents and they even stopped long enough to hear the stories of hardship and wisdom. Today, respect isn’t given or shown in our man-made society, it has to be earned and repeatedly. We live in a “what have you done for me lately” culture. Most of us were pushed through the early years of life like convicts busting rocks on the chain-gang at the pleasure and to the satisfaction of our guards, to the system or systems, to the satisfaction of our parents and our family, our church, our schools, this team or that club…
As individuals, we’re always here to serve the system, never the other way around. School never waited on me to get ready to take a test. I was expected to be in church, and on time, every Sunday. We’re never allowed to serve ourselves, to seek our own source of water and nutrients, to grow and develop at our own pace in an environment free of society’s phony demands. This dynamic led to us getting pushed around like a bunch of disgruntled cattle on the way to the slaughter. We’re always getting measured and re-measured, tested and re-tested. It’s no wonder that children start rebelling at home and bucking in the classroom over clashing personal values and the system’s demands. If you can’t pushback against the school system then bully someone your own size like another child – in the classroom, on the playground, in the neighborhood or on the Internet. The system is always “right” – never the student, never the parishioner, never the citizen, never the soldier, never the line worker, never the convict… Our egotistical society doesn’t trust the natural process of growing up. It must be involved always taking credit for what goes right while denying all responsibility for any wayward children.
In our rush to become adult-like, we forgot how to live in the moment. We never learned how to solve real-life problems just the ones in math class and we stopped pursuing new opportunities with age out of our growing fear of our unpredictable real world, so we invented our own. The adults in our life were callous to our own pain and suffering. We became callous to that of others including our own children. We get set in our ways and grow old because we’re no longer allowed to just be kids, to play and to discover. Most of us grow up without all the tools required to live a happy and healthy life and it shows. Our inability to communicate effectively with those living under the same roof often makes work or our weekend hobbies the perfect escape and our drug of choice. As someone who writes for free and shares my work with this audience, I’ve made a conscious decision, early on, to learn to live out my best life on a modest budget.
Rather than become a one-man paper mill after getting so many accolades for my writing, I deliberately pause between pieces allowing for a month or two to pass before working on the next one. My financial situation allows me to write on my terms and on subjects of great interest to me. I’m very fortunate to have this luxury and not be at the mercy of an editor who assigns the stories of the day for their staff to cover. I feel lucky that I don’t write for a daily or cover the same one soulless beat, year in and year out, at the exclusion of my own life. Working under this current arrangement allows me to go live life, to face life – to face my pressing problems, as well as, any opportunities — thus be open to change by these events. It’s to have slowly evolved to some degree or to make a sudden leap in thinking before firing up my computer, again. Hopefully, this leads to my worldview changing and expanding, continuously. Like everything in life, this situation is temporary and it could change tomorrow. I accept that.
Putting up a front to those who come into my daily life or to this audience isn’t a goal of mine nor is keeping my life in the background. I do have core values that I try to live by. I want to write about my life when it’s appropriate rather than simply cover the lives of others, cover subjects like American politics or some other beat while deliberately avoiding and/or denying my own life and reality. If I don’t give value to my own life while I’m alive then who will? Will the first person to speak on my behalf be the last to while delivering my eulogy? I think about these things. I’ve got more to say than what can be covered in a 15 or 30-minute talk. What if that person gets it all wrong, then what? I’m not leaving it up to chance and you shouldn’t, either. Tell your story!
Within this audience of 17,000 contacts, I have a smaller group of some twenty friends who get copied on a variety of matters in-between these commentaries which isn’t logistically possible to share with everyone. They range from new actions or challenges that I’m undertaking to some drama or the latest trouble that I’ve gotten myself snared in. I’m pretty good at doing, both, taking new actions and getting into trouble. I don’t want to simply show the world my best side. It’s easy to do and so predictable. I’m a being human with a bark and a bite. I’m not interested in spinning anyone to increase my popularity; I prefer to present complexity (a contradiction) and force the public to figure it out. Make them take a closer look.
I’ve long been a skeptic to the statements or claims made by others – be it among family members, friends or acquaintances. I want to see some tangible evidence to back up their claims. I hate when others in my company embellish a story that I’m familiar with when telling it straight up would have been just as effective. It undermines my confidence in them. I don’t want to be seen in that same questionable light and unknowingly get dismissed. Therefore, I go out of my way to show “the goods” in hand.
Having a history of mental illness makes me all the more sensitive to the issue of credibility. I take myself, my work seriously and thus I want to be taken seriously. Most Americans really don’t believe in themselves. In my community, I have my fair share of critics who think less of me for having bipolar disorder or misconstruing my leisurely lifestyle that I thoroughly enjoy as a philosopher and a writer. They don’t read my work and thus they don’t know what I’m saying or who’s getting it. I’ve been told more than once in public that I should “go get a job” or that “there’s nothing wrong with you”. Somewhere in their irritating advice is a compliment to my general character and to the state of my mental health. However, they don’t understand what they’re looking at and/or they don’t want to. I consider this to be a great gig – pay or no pay. You might be surprised to know that no one in my family or extended family (my mother and some 40 aunts, uncles and cousins) cares to discuss my work with me, supports this endeavor much less celebrates my newfound success. Old friends and classmates who get these same emails and essays have proven to be no better. They think that I’m crazy as I, now, know they are. We’re unanimous in one thing – we all believe that we’re right! At the age of 42, the situation has left me feeling like an orphan. This is my reward for trying to live an honest and free life, in America. After the first 36 years of struggle, this wasn’t the reception that I was expecting or hoping for from my very own blood. Being transparent is and has been very important to me when my father, a Vietnam Veteran, wasn’t. Maybe it’s natural or just so liberating. I believe it builds trust and respect among the more accomplished.
I’m a big fan of Carbon copying (Ccing) and Blind carbon copying (Bccing) friends in emails often for strategic purposes. It keeps me honest when a problem crops up while demonstrating that I’m taking the necessary steps to resolve it. I want witnesses to my journey, to my life given the fact that my work hasn’t been recognized in any official capacity. Given my bipolar disorder and a lack of family support, I find myself in a tight spot. Having gotten more police escorts to jails and mental institutions often in response to the mind-blowing actions of others, I find myself always being on the losing end due to having the illness. In America, we don’t naturally place a high regard for honest people otherwise we wouldn’t slander those out in public and in court. That’s a true and sad statement. It probably explains why things are in a mess.
Living and growing as an adult into full maturation has become something of great interest to me – it’s the ultimate goal of our DNA. We all start out as seeds that germinate into a fetus before we become infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, teens… Mentally, physically and sexually, we grow into our adult bodies, but I’m not so sure about our emotional and spiritual development. Our society has put such a low regard on our emotional and spiritual health. Insurance carriers barely pay for these kinds of benefits compared to physical health. It’s not the two-foot, the four-foot or the ten-foot tall tree that amazes us, but instead it’s the ones that are hundreds of years old with a full crown of green leaves at the top and a solid, wood trunk that’s several feet thick. Along the Gulf Coast, we have trees of that description, which convey great strength, safety and wisdom in all their grandeur for the world to see standing proudly in someone’s front yard, in a city park, standing prominently out in a field or while walking through the woods.
Their presence is undeniable, striking and when standing next to them the experience can be quite humbling. The one’s that come to my mind, in Alabama, are the Live Oak, the Longleaf Pine and the Southern Magnolia. Trees with any real age have weathered many rain and wind storms, maybe some wildfires and a few hurricanes. They’ve stood the test of time when all others haven’t. They have something to offer to the world besides their shade – a lesson in growing old. In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit Muir Woods National Monument, outside of San Francisco, CA, home to the Redwoods and named after naturalist John Muir. These Sequoias have trunks with diameters the size of a typical American living room and they stand several hundred feet tall. They can’t be fully appreciated by photographs or video, alone. They’re an awesome sight, a must see in person.
Mature trees stand out in nature while smaller ones don’t, but within humanity that’s not necessarily true or so obvious to discern the leaders from the followers, the wise from the fools, those with direction and purpose in life and those who are lost and wasting everyone’s time. It’s not easy for gullible children and even for “lost” adults looking up to someone to solve their latest problem who holds a position of power or authority to look for or to test for these same honest attributes seen in nature. Not all teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, judges, salesmen, generals, senators, presidents are built the same way, made of equal character.
Just like within the plant and animal kingdom, there’s competition within humanity. Some authority figures can be helpful while others can be downright dangerous. This can lead to all of us getting hurt or wounded by our own families, friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers stunting our personal growth and our transformation into adulthood, if we let it, while altering our course through life away from our original purpose and destiny. It’s like a smaller tree getting its crown topped by mans’ saw or sheared in a windstorm. The tree never grows back its same crown with a single new growth coming from the point of injury. Instead, the tree may have multiple shoots coming from its’ top or none at all.
“If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it.”
– Carl Jung (1875-1961, Swiss psychiatrist, psychotherapist)
If we don’t heal properly from our emotional and spiritual wounds, we’ll continue to experience pain and suffering. Any new growth that feeds the ego is simply masking the pain. All drug addiction, defined in the broadest terms, while anesthetizing our pain is also stunting our development and transformation as human beings and our entire society, with prolonged use. Chronic drug use becomes a personal health and a national security threat. As individuals, we’re avoiding life’s natural challenges that lead to our evolution with each successful conclusion. We remain insecure children in adult bodies.
Those currently at the helm of society’s major institutions – academia, business, entertainment, government, legal, media, military, non-profits… lack the intestinal fortitude, the maturity to lead us through the current storms and to get us back on course. Everything is following apart. Our heavy consumption of goods purchased with debt to cope with life has softened us up, has spoiled us and has threatened our basic integrity, dignity, sanity that only comes about by growing up, by doing the tough stuff, by developing discipline and taking full responsibility for our lives otherwise we’re still behaving like teenagers and twenty-somethings. Unlike our physical injuries, our emotional and spiritual wounds can last for years or for a lifetime, if left untreated. Our culture tells us to solve these internal problems “the easy way” with one of its many external solutions that are always “on sale”.
The latest purchase medicates temporarily, but never cures in the long run. The thrill always wears off requiring a lifetime of purchases to cope. It becomes an expensive way to live life on an emotional roller coaster. With age and having sold ourselves short, we use our money and our place in life to a project an image of the day that’s valued by our crippled society. We’re faking it and so is everyone else. What we all want is to be one of these respected centuries-old Live Oaks or Redwoods, but, at every opportunity, we refused to put in the work necessary to make it happen. Instead, what we become is just a tiny old scrub oak. We confuse perceived power that comes with a job title for real personal power borne out of experience and wisdom. Plants and animals constantly fight each other for food, water, sunlight and turf. Humans fight each other for much of the same. We play our own survival games. We have our own basic needs (Maslow Hierarchy of Needs) and then there’s our material wants… food and drink for the ego.
By society’s values, those that have the most are deemed the most successful and worthy of our admiration and trust. Generally speaking, they have lots of money, fame and power or some combination of the three. They’re held in high esteem regardless of whether or not their personal life is in order. In society’s eyes, it’s simply the ability to project an image, to fill some role on the stage for public consumption – their beauty, their job title, their wealth until they disappoint us with their flaws. I call this professional success. It’s tantamount to having pretty leaves and bark, showing off one’s talents, window dressing for eager buyers. Too many, both, young and old in our society pursue professional success at the expense of developing personal success, first – daily happiness, good health (balance) and contentment, in order, to get the material trappings that come with working in a particular field or position. They figure that the emotional and spiritual pain and suffering is only temporary and that happiness and contentment will follow along or, at the very least, that they can be purchased.
As a dying society, we’ve become a forest of trees lacking roots. We’re unable to draw water or nutrients from out of the ground, in order to grow. What comes to mind are match sticks standing on end. We’re easily blown over or engulfed in flames by the latest public scandal playing and replaying in the media. Our ability not to react to this storm or that one is nonexistent. Don’t believe me? Here’s my one and only example, I hope it makes my point – Miley Cyrus’ performance on the MTV Video Music Awards, in August. Did you watch it? Were you one of “those” who was “all hot and bothered” by the young singer’s conduct? We’re like loaded pistols that are cocked and ready to fire. All we need is a reason to go off and a target to aim at! We lack the wisdom to see an opportunity coming and to know when trouble is brewing. The concept of “history repeats itself” means nothing to a nation with some of the best universities in the world and more college graduates as citizens then at any other time in our history. There’s a spiritual thread that runs through all of life that connects the world, that connects everyone and yet with our superior education we simply deny it.
We get all hung up on our differences when our cultures were created for just that purpose to separate us by religion, by language, by apparel, by cuisine…, but spiritually we’re all the same. I’ve heard the stories from Americans traveling around the world. Most of them happened to be members of Alcoholics Anonymous attending meetings abroad where they saw and even felt a connection while looking past the differences (in appearance and in language). They saw with their own two eyes, felt in their heart what their ears didn’t understand. It’s in spirituality that we can grow new roots to feed us and allow us to begin growing, again, to reach our full potential, to reach our maturation in spite our years of addiction, destruction and self-destruction, failures, insanity, scares, pain and suffering that everyone experiences on our journey through life.
My wish for myself is to grow to become one of those mature trees that stops everyone in their tracks at first sight and leaves everybody standing in awe. It’s to have self-respect and to garner the respect of my fellow man. I hold a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Auburn University. It seems like a pretty irrelevant degree for someone who writes about American politics. However, I think I just finally got to tie that unrelated education to my profession in a meaningful way.
Facebook – Jung, Carl quote, “If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it.”
Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved. “Maturation” by Ted Burnett.