Teacher’s Spree


I was reveling about humanity’s determination to put a person on the moon in a decade roiling with assasinations and crises in urban riots, far-off war, and civil rights, when I got this private message.

[Specifics changed for obvious reasons]

Many many months ago, a little boy was waiting in the car as his mother was inside, robbing a human being for $500.

Here’s what that little boy did today, in the words of his school teacher:

“…Absent for 3 weeks, we thought his dad packed up and went back to Missouri. He showed up today. Hair tossled, dirty clothes, looking tired… didn’t have his laptop or even a pencil…I gave him a hug and asked where he had been. He said they went back to St Louis to ‘get a car’ and then had to ‘wait for it to be ready’… At the end of the day, I told him how glad I was that he’s back. And he said, ‘I have something for you.’ He reached in his book bag and pulls out a wallet. He opens the wallet and pulls out a single piece of unwrapped candy. Possibly a Spree. Now this boy knew he had this candy in his wallet. It’s not like he had to look for it. He just spent three weeks traveling half way across the country and back. His mom is in prison. His dad is shacking up with a a known criminal… He didn’t have his laptop or pencil today but he had a piece of candy for his teacher. It might not be a trip to the moon. It might be harder than a trip to the moon.”

Teachers do God’s work, hugging God’s own. And sometimes a Spree is a pretty decent wage.

Neil D. 2022-04-21


Beware: Why popular therapy programs fall short

Popular therapy programs fail in the end; they start, but cannot finish. The truth is too dark for toxically positive self-improvement or healing recovery.

Why be wary of popular self-help books and recovery/therapy programs? Because they are popular! That means they appeal to mass markets, and what mass markets want is, fast and easy. Like a Big Mac and fries. That will satisfy hunger, but is it nourishing? Transformative?

Popular programs will satisfy your hunger. They supply a vocabulary to express what you may have previously had trouble recognizing / expressing. Words like “codependency, dysfunctional, narcissism, people-pleasing”…

This new vocabulary enables you to enter a game. The “name game.” Now you can put a specific name to how you have been victimized or manipulated, how your relationships have been dysfunctional, how you have been mistreated. And a good label for the people who have mistreated you. The name game.

The name game ALWAYS, by necessity, includes a second game. The Blame Game. But this is far less explicit in popular therapies. Why? Why does the Name Game of popular help resources dance around or altogether neglect the implied blame?

If the veiled Blame subgame of the popular Name Game were more explicit, those programs wouldn’t be so popular!

Talking about blame is a negative topic. And popular programs rely on toxic positivity. They cannot talk about any fixes that would be hard, or slow, or drawn out. And they can’t involve potentially negative topics like blame. Yet, popular programs are always incomplete when it comes to transformation. Popularity dictates avoidance of the dark or negative in the reader or participant. It’s too risky as a turn-off. Too hard.

Our culture conditions us to want the Big Mac as a fast fix to our desperate hunger. We dismiss our endurance capability for many, small healthy salads instead of a Big Mac, and salads rarely taste as good. So they don’t appeal to masses that are quite as massive. They can’t be quite as popular. They might include some dangerous elements of hypocrisy or shame, and those topics are too dark when what we want is an escape from suffering.

If we want to escape suffering, we want to avoid the smallest risk of encountering suffering, so we cannot *talk* about suffering (unless shallowly, as caused by someone else, and we are the victims). Too risky. The potential market might narrow.

The farthest they will dip into that direction is to elicit from you a confession that you are not perfect. That is usually as far as the masses are willing to go.

“I’m not perfect, but…” my victimizers are less perfect; I win. They’re bad; I’m less bad. In fact, I’m practically good. And as I practice more of my program’s programs – which I’ve already begun just by using their vocabulary and granting intellectual assent to their premises, which has practically fixed me already – I will be more and more good. I will be on an irreversible and infallible trajectory toward healthy healing and recovery. I will be fixed. And my victimizers will remain losers, while I win.

Cynical? Test it out with some brutal honesty.

Try it out with the prayers or affirmations that conclude each section of your favorite popular self-help resource. Prayers? Of course. We need God’s help for something we cannot achieve on our own. And, “I have God on my side, but my victimizers are judged negatively by God.”

“They are more broken or fallen than I am, so my sins will be fixed and redeemed – I know the vocabulary and exercises, and how to word the conclusion – but they’re going to hell.

“Ego” according to a non-affiliated psychospiritual source

Though I can’t explain entirely why, I’ve become fond of this non-affiliated psychospiritual writing duo. Here is their perspective on “ego.” I’ve become a bit obsessed with the differentiation between soul and ego, and myself describe the ego as our “sensor of separateness, uniqueness, individuality.” I’m pretty convinced that life’s purpose ( esp. therapy’s) is balance between our sensors of separateness and our sensors of connectedness (the latter is my simplification of “soul.”). If this interests you, this article is a good starting place. https://lonerwolf.com/what-is-the-ego/ I’d be very intrigued to hear any of your perspectives.

Virginia hippie

Brian is 40. That’s not his actual name. But just in case.

There were not more than 3 or 4 seats out of about 40 at the bar at Buffalo Wild Wings at some average strip mall outside Glen Allen, Virginia. He has long hair but erudite glasses. He could be a hippie or a professor; or I suppose it’s not uncommon to be one and the same. Or he could be a paramilitary white supremacist who drives a monster pick up truck in the parking lot outside. No way to know.

He remarked about how hot the habanero sauce was on his wings.

Brian went to a competitive public high school for engineering. But he dropped out at age 17. Joined the Marines after 9-11. Served in Falluja.

He was a math and history A+ student in high school, and a mechanic in the Marines. He serviced vehicles driven by the MPs. Those weren’t police enforcing laws or being diplomats in Falluja. They were people trying to find parties who constructed IEDs and killed young foreign soldiers as they drove by typical suburban streets. Some of those MPs and Marines, for some reason, also wanted to kill.

Brian teaches autistic people. He doesn’t have a college degree.

His students range in age from 16 to 22. You can be 22 years old and still in high school.

His mom is from a small rural town in Virginia. Clarksville. Baptist? No. Traditionalist Catholics. Mass in Latin.

He just got back from backpacking in the Shenandoah wilderness. That’s how he spent spring break. By himself. Shivering. Eating beef jerky and freeze-dried apricots. He likes waterfalls. He has wanderlust; his own word for it. He loves Utah and Colorado, too.

He wouldn’t tell me about any of the names of his students. Unethical. I said, think of a theoretical guy named Billy.

We talked for three hours.

A few months ago, I met a retired guy named Bob who was in Del Mar, north of San Diego, to see the Breeder’s Cup horse race. Bob was from Virginia. We talked for two hours about how interesting I thought that commonwealth is.

Brian has no sense of taste. He was born that way. I can’t remember the name of the congenital trait.

God’s children are fucking remarkable.

Like you.

Passion


If I’m remembering correctly, the group’s discussion topic was,
What inspires you?

Mike II’s response was something like,
Watching people with passion.

Seeing them do something they love passionately.

I thought to myself instantly, That is when the soul is most naked – clear of ambiguation by an egoic mask or defensive wall.

And nothing matches the inspiring beauty of a soul.

Fred was the team’s best player, without question. His unmatched skills were an inspirational delight to watch. He was quick and precise, but artistically so.

His size was neither imposing, nor exceptionally small in the way that would make him stand out as a delightful surprise.

Like celebrity athletes, his charm wasn’t boastful, his prowess was readily evident, his physical stature was average, but his generosity and teamsmanship – when added to his exceptional skills – was the root of his charisma. When he was involved in the play, you couldn’t take your eyes off him, anticipating what genius might transpire.

Fred had that balance that threads the needle successfully between pure humility versus pure lust to be a playmaker. He believed in himself.

That is inspirational.

That raises teammates to their better – at least, the inspired ones who cared to perform better; this was a high school sport, so each had their own motives for participating, especially since they were a newly formed club, and their predictable (and mounting) losing record meant the members weren’t there for the glory of championship. Not at all.

So the soup of motives was predictable. Camaraderie, self challenge, social popularity for being part of a novel venture, a more promising alternative to other sports of the season in which satisfactory playing time was unlikely, a remedy to boredom, another friend who wanted to play, a coach’s son, recognition… And perhaps a sprinkling of passion, as Fred exemplified.

You could see Jenke’s confidence wax and wane in a moment – after an errant fail, as his shoulders deflated or his head sagged or shook to and fro. A moment later, he hustled to recover, re-tapping his passion – instantly recalling that he was here not to win, not to play perfectly, but simply, to play.

For the joy factor alone.

Passion.

Inspiring.

If his team recovered possession, he was recognizable, sprinting the other way. He was large – not the largest on the team, but above average. And he was fast. Notably faster than others of his size. It was effortless to spot him in the game.

He had a presence.

Surely attributable to his large stature and foot speed.

A few were larger.

Few were faster.

But there seemed so often to be space around his presence, making it easier to spot him.

You could sense that – in moments when opponents invaded his space – they did so with a slight hesitation.

These hesitant challengers did not seem to cower from the threat of his skills.

His size and strength, indeed, commanded some respect for his space. But it was more than that.

Yet Jenke did not have an aggressive personality. And the efforts of coaches and others to encourage more aggression from him were largely unproductive.

Were he more aggressive, he perhaps would have commanded more fear within his space.

But that was by no means certain.

His presence was already commanding, and his aggression only average.

I came to believe that – although his strength could make a challenger pay – that was not the deepest or full explanation for respect of his presence.

It was clear that his fury or aggression were not directed at other players.

It was his passion.

His passion is what was felt by challengers.

And seen by onlookers.

He was not a fearsome threat. That is not what caused an instant of respect from his space invaders.

Would-be invaders paused for an instant not because of the specter of personal aggression directed at them. Instead, in the air around him, it seemed those invaders could smell his passion: He was there, doing whatever he was doing – because he wanted to be.

Because he loved it.

Inspiration is infectious – demanding notice.

Only challengers with passion equal to his own would dare.

And that is what Mike II was talking about. Jenke had an aura of passion noticeable to our sixth senses. Like the mad skills and charisma of celebrity athletes, his whereabouts in the arena was felt, even distant from the action.

Inspired teammates, coaches, and fans willed him to do better. As did I.

[Disclosure: I was biased. I did not in the least mind traveling to see him play in the rainy cold, or scorching sun. Jenke was *my* brightly-burning solar soul, inspiring, passionate sun, and my son, Joseph.]
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Neil D. 2022-04-04