Game Plan

Introduction

Having recently entered the Septuagenarian crowd, I have begun to contemplate, (after all, that’s the name of this website), about how this blog is going to keep me occupied going forward for the next uncertain number of years. To be honest, I’ve been more concerned about the direction I want to take the various topics I hope to write about here. Soon, this blog is coming upon its fifth birthday. Simultaneously I want to broaden its coverage, yet also take it to some deeper levels. In thinking about how that can be done, I have concluded that Hanna Arendt has it right when she addresses the human condition. That’s always something worth contemplating. More to the point, I really want to explore some areas that I think will be both interesting and fun for me to pursue, whether or not they’re related to counseling in any way. This also means that the direction in which I’ll take this blog will shape some things I look forward to reading over the next several years. I have formulated my interests along these lines: mindmeaning-makingthought/actionhumility/finitude, and worldview. In one way or another, I have touched on these themes or topics over the nearly five years I’ve maintained this blog. My thinking now is to give some thought to these areas with a more concerted effort. This month’s blog gives a little teaser for each theme, laying some groundwork for what is to come.

Mind

Because I’ve worked as a counselor and professor of counseling for a number of years, obviously various conceptualizations of the mind interest me. I’m not sure that we’ll ever nail the coffin shut on what all contributes to human nature and exactly what mind is. Such a vast territory to explore, however, is exactly what makes this question a fun undertaking. So what is mind? Some exciting work is taking place now in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience; in neither of which do I come close to being an expert. But no doubt over the next several years, we will watch these fields explode and expand our understanding of human nature. Over the centuries the mind has proven to be a magnet drawing the surmising efforts of philosophers, scientists, and other researchers and writers to entertain how they might explain it. Although the newest kids on the block are cognitive scientists and neuroscientists, for my purposes, I will draw on historical as well as contemporary approaches to the understanding of the mind.

Meaning-Making

From the time I read Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, I’ve been interested in the notion that human beings are meaning-making creatures. From a counselor’s perspective I’ve seen how people struggle with the lack of meaning and purpose in their lives. The day-to-day struggle of seeking to make meaning of our particular lot in life is one of the truly existential battles that we encounter. How and why we make meaning in our circumstances are interesting questions. What is human fulfillment? What tells individuals that they are living life in such a fulfilling way that gives them meaning and purpose. As Os Guinness puts it, individuals have a calling that is somehow unique to them alone. How do we go about coming to grips with what our individual callings are all about? Was I called in some sense to be a counselor? A professor? An educator? Are there many paths we can take that would lead to a fulfilling life, or do we as individuals have one set path we should find and follow? And then, addressing the work that Frankl did, following his internment in Nazi concentration camps, how do we make meaning of the difficult struggles, pains, and heartaches we face in life? Although we will not find a necessarily assuaging answer in all situations, we appear to be creatures that ask why we experience the things we do. This has been called the why-ness of being human.

Thought/Action

I think if you ask people what is one of the toughest battles they face in carving out a day-to-day fulfilling life, many times they will say it boils down to how they assess the way in which their actions align with their beliefs and values. We say we believe something, and then supposedly our actions follow suit. Many times, however, we note how our actions appear willy-nilly in terms of what we claim to believe. What do my actions out there in life say about what I truly believe? Such assessments challenge us to explore what we believe and value. To align our actions with our beliefs can bring a sense of fulfillment that we are living life on the terms we have set out for ourselves. Philosophers and theologians have explored this notion for millennia. The quest to understand how we align our beliefs and actions so as to live out what we claim to believe and value is a quest worth much reflection.

Humility/Finitude

Though many philosophers have stated this, I first remember the statement impacting me through my readings of Karl Popper. In his autobiography, he stated that what we don’t know is infinitely greater than what we do know. So going forward with these thematic interests, one of the things I hope happens is to simply raise more questions. There are good reasons that these themes have been explored and written about for thousands of years. Add to this the reality that whatever we’re pursuing, we have a finite amount of time to get it done. From my Christian perspective our finitude is ever before us, and humility is something to embrace due to our need of grace. The excitement around pursuing these themes and topics revolves around the notion that we are treading where angels fear to tread in areas that have been explored, discussed, and waxed eloquently over for millennia. We may want to pound the final spike in the railroad tie called answers, but these themes represent a journey that has been and will be ongoing for finite and humble minds.

Worldview

The Christian writer, James Sire, authored a work more than three decades ago that has impacted me since my first reading of it – The Universe Next Door. The book explored how the world and our lives in it are understood from a variety of perspectives spreading from East to West, perspectives that we call worldviews. What is a worldview? How is a worldview shaped? Are we totally so enclosed by our culture that culture totally defines the worldview we each of us will hold? Can we legitimately alter, change, and even revolutionize our worldview? Much has been written about worldviews to which I will not come close to adding, but it is an area that I think fits beneath the overarching theme of mind. How do we construct our worldviews, and how do various experiences lead to our changing them, anywhere from tweaking them to radically altering them? A personal journey worth taking is to become aware of our personal worldview. Only then, can we begin to consciously critique how we perceive and act in the world.

Conclusion

Obviously, the areas of mind, meaning-making, thought/action, humility/finitude, and worldview overlap and intersect in countless ways. No one would proffer, as far as I know, that these areas are totally separate and discreet modes of explaining existence. My starting point, for now, is that I understand mind as an overarching umbrella, beneath which the other four areas are filed for exploration. In one way or another they all speak to an understanding of the mind of the human being. Also, in one way or another, these areas address the human condition. As a Christian, I will bring my own worldview to bear on these future discussions. I have set out on this task, not to necessarily revolutionize any thought in these areas. I don’t believe I possess enough gray matter for such a task. But I set out on this journey to have fun, fun, fun, as the Beach Boys once sang. They are entertaining and interesting areas to explore and discuss. Hence, over the next few months on this blog, what I have set out here will be my game plan. It will most likely change. So get over it. (Just kidding.) I’m sure I’ll exit the game at times and come back to it later. But these ideas give some old codger like myself something to think about and knock around given that the autumn and winter of my life hangs in the air.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/May 14th, 2018

GENERAL ESSAY

Bringing in the Sheaves

Introduction

When people reflect upon accomplishing goals, living in a way that’s fruitful, and creating a meaningful life, what often comes up regarding such pursuits is the notion of developing habits that in the long run help individuals achieve such milestones in their journeys. James Sire’s book, Habits of Mind, addresses the kind of habits required to pursue what he recognizes for himself as a calling to the intellectual life as a Christian. He describes what he designates as the intellectual virtues and the intellectual disciplines.

What I want to discuss in this blog article is more of a general and wider frame of reference regarding how people might think about and then pursue their paths toward what they hope to be a well-lived life. What I’ve recognized in working with clients over the years, as well as in myself, is the human tendency to want to expend the least amount of effort as possible to obtain what one hopes to achieve. Though that’s not all a bad thing – such a mindset has led to the development of technologies that allow us to accomplish more in less time – this inherent tendency can also lead to some bad habits. In talking with people about the notion of moving from A to B, what I see is that they want to be at B without having to do the nitty-gritty work it takes to cross that nether land between A and B. They simply want to be there – now. Whether it is educational institutions, businesses of all sizes, or sports training, one critical comment that appears to be a common denominator from those who head up these institutions is that people deplore delayed gratification. The old adage, you reap what you sow, is still an uncomfortable reflection for many of us. Indeed, it can be a scary proposition for more than a few people out there. Sowing well leads to wisdom, but it’s done through consistency and in time. Unfortunately, most definitions one reads about wisdom appear to equate it with learning, knowledge, and erudition. But I believe the Biblical books of the Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes get it right when they speak of wisdom being the application of learning and knowledge to the living of life in ways that lead to fulfillment.

So what are some general habits of the mind we can develop that will help us sow for the kind of harvest we hope to bring home?

Honing Your Craft

My mom worked as a nurse for over thirty years. She wanted to be the best nurse she could possibly become. That attitude led her to work in the emergency rooms of hospitals for most of her career. She said working in such a setting made her not only stay on top of her knowledge and skills, but it also showed her she needed to constantly hone her skills. Are you an accountant? Do you write code? Are you a chef? Do you own and run a business? Anyone knows that these types of work call for constantly staying on top of your skills, whether it requires dealing with accounting law, keeping up to snuff with computer programming languages, or knowing the market for a particular business. In fact honing one’s skills is requirement for a good work ethic for any type of work. Musicians, painters, writers, and other types of artists know this all too well. And it is true for any work we pursue, even that job that might be a stepping stone to somewhere else. Learn to do it well and right.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, proffers the 10K rule. Gladwell believes one must pour ten thousand hours into developing a skill to achieve what he calls  greatness. Both Gladwell and Cal New Port, who authored So Good They Can’t Ignore You, emphasized that developing skills is not merely putting in the time, but it’s also about how one puts in the time. Practice and practicing well is the key. And good practice requires feedback mechanisms to let you know how well you’re doing at something and whether or not you’re getting better at it. Whether one is going after greatness, or just simply trying to be good at what one pursues, the idea of constantly developing one’s skills and efficiency will serve a person throughout life. Whatever you are doing, whether it’s in the pursuit of a particular career, or whether it’s that first gig you land, learning and continually developing the skills it takes to do what you do is a key to fulfilling work, be it a career or hobby. It’s a simple mindset that if something is to be done, do it well. This habit of mind will put you in good stead throughout your life.

A Stitch In Time

The notion of being slow at something is not necessarily one that’s high on people’s list. Slowness brings about images of someone who can’t manage things. We’re into speed these days, quickness and getting somewhere first. I’m not anti-competition at all, and there is nothing wrong with getting to a mark before others. The notion, however, of slow but steady progress doesn’t describe lethargy; it describes patience, consistency, and sticktoitiveness. This takes us back to the notion of delayed gratification. There is no doubt that we want to get places in a hurry, and that includes reaching our goals. But skills and good work do not develop overnight. Sometime back, I decided I wanted to pick up on my study of Koine Greek, the common ancient Greek in which the Bible was written, as well as other ancient letters and treatises. I got so far and then I quit. Recently I’ve picked it back up again. But the first time I decided to revisit this study was late 2007 or early 2008. That was ten years ago. I don’t even like to think about how well I might be doing in this language if I had stayed consistent with it. Moreover, the first time I began my study in Greek was over thirty-five years ago. I for sure don’t want to think about what I might be doing with the language had I remained consistent at it all these years. If I truly wanted to develop the skill, such passage of time is called a waste. And there’s no reason to shy away from that assessment because I do wish I had been more consistent with my study.

A patient hand speaks not only to consistency, but also to the idea of delayed gratification. Think about moving from A to B again. B looks great, a wonderful place to be standing, and a place that requires a magnificent set of skills. But there’s no leaping over the ground that lies between A and B. A lot of people want to be at B, but they don’t want to walk the ground between A and B, the nitty-gritty, nasty work called taking your time to develop and build your knowledge, skills, and wisdom. When you think of the notion that individuals want to be viewed and known as really good at what they do, but they don’t want to take the time to make it so, then you can readily see that we’re getting into some immature thinking here. I’ve been there; I’ve done it. Many good things in life come about only in time. It’s a hard lesson to learn many times, but learning it creates a habit of mind that will keep you working steady and consistent toward whatever it is you might want to achieve.

He Who Hesitates . . .

Curiosity may have killed the cat; but hesitation lost the rat.

Starting on your journey toward a fulfilling life requires some amount of planning. Good planning is wise. It can save you that stitch in time. But another phenomenon I recognize in working with people over the years is what I call the freeze zone. People looking to take risks naturally want to know if the risks they take are going to pay off in some way. There are two types of action (or inaction), however, whereby people become stuck in the starting gate with the possibility of never starting their journey.

First, people can plan, but then they plan, and they plan, and again they plan some more. One is reminded of the old adage about getting all your ducks in a row before stepping out onto a venture. Though planning and getting things in order are definitely good and wise things to do, there’s a point where one has to say – it’s time to step out. There’s no way to line up every duck, no way to know every contingency, and no way to perfectly predict how everything is going to pan out. This may sound the exact opposite of the need for patience I discussed above, but it’s not. Patience comes once you’re on your journey. But you have to begin the journey. Yes, planning takes time also. It can especially be time well spent. But in taking on a life journey, no one can own the picture frame that portrays and spells out the beginning from the end. The over planner who spends an inordinate amount of time lining up all his ducks is simply evidencing a fear and aversion to risks.

Second, and closely tied to the first, I’ve witnessed the tendency of individuals to pull on others for a guarantee. Someone tell me (promise me, guarantee me) that everything is going to work out all right. The pull can be very strong, especially if it’s a good friend or a family member. Without said guarantee, some people will simply not step out and take the risk. It’s a fool’s play if you offer people any inkling of guarantee. First of all, you don’t know any more than they do how things will turn out. And secondly, if you’ve comforted someone with any level of a guarantee, guess who is going to get the blame if things fold? Encourage them, yes. But don’t offer a guarantee. The best one can do is plan wisely, do the research, get feedback on how realistic the venture is, act accordingly, and step out there. Plan, but don’t hesitate too long.

There’s a difference between stepping out after wise planning and simply throwing caution to the wind without an idea of a plan. One skill to hone for certain in pursuing a fulfilling life is wise planning. But the starting gun has to fire. And don’t call on others to promise you what they can’t possibly offer. It’s a habit of mind that will allow you to get out of the starting gates with some solid direction, which is much better than no direction at all.

Conclusion

There are many other habits of mind that one can develop in pursuing a life of fulfillment. Reading and reflecting on Sire’s intellectual virtues and intellectual disciplines is a good starting point.

Embracing your own freedom of choice and responsibility is another habit of mind to get into. In so doing, when things get tough, and there are some down times and sink holes, you’ll be less likely to play the blame game.

A tendency we have as human beings is to deceive ourselves. Self-deception can be a deadly trap into which to fall. First, self-deception is somewhat out of our awareness at times. On one level we know we’re not being honest with ourselves, but on another level, we’re suppressing the fact that there are things we need to know and do, but we’re not doing them, and we’re not obtaining the necessary knowledge we need for a smoother ride. Pursuing a fulfilling life is not an easy ride in the first place, so there’s no reason to make it rougher than it is.

Feedback from others is a good way to combat self-deception. But not just any feedback will do. Get it from people whom you trust, people you know who will be honest with you, and people who are skilled in those areas where you want to be skilled.

The challenging but truthful adage is always before us. If you want to bring in the sheaves of a well-planted and ripe harvest, you must embrace the truth that you reap what you sow.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/April 14th, 2018

GENERAL ESSAY

The Power of Words

Words, words, between the lines of age

Neal Young

Introduction

Words are powerful things. They can build, heal, or destroy a relationship. They can cure a hurting soul, or they can sicken someone bringing them as low as they might possibly reach. They can bind, they can separate, they can strengthen, or they can cut one to the quick so that it feels one’s soul is letting out blood. As powerful as words are, as creative as human beings can be with them, what they do not do is create reality itself. That is not to say that their power in any way should be diminished or discounted. Indeed, their power allows us to get in touch with the reality of living that we must confront every day of our lives. They reflect and accent one’s love for another. They do not create that love, but they sure can celebrate it in beautiful ways. They accent and disclose one’s hatred, but words flow from hate; they do not create it. Love, hatred, personal and interpersonal pain and ecstasy are what humans show and do. The power of words used in beautiful and passionate ways, especially by those who are skilled at using them, reflect the multitude of human experiences we undergo. It’s always a magnificent experience to read those who can use them so majestically. In fact, from my own belief system, I strongly believe that the power with which human beings utilize words emerges for the Imago Dei stamped on human and natural existence. Therein, lies their power whose source is the Word.

Words and Thought

I enjoy reading poetry. I neither claim nor desire to be a critic, so I’m not sure what an expert in reading poetry is all about. I simply know that there are those poets and poems that I stumble across and find interesting, enjoyable, and thought provoking. For me such discoveries are quite by accident. Have you ever come across some words that the way they’re put together strike a chord in you that just makes you think about things? You find yourself pondering those words again and again, particularly how they speak to your experience of things, what they may describe, or what emotions they bring up in you. I want to talk about that experience in this blog. There will be a couple of passages from some poems I’ve been reading that I will discuss authored by a poet I came across whom I enjoy and spend time reading, both his poetry and his essays on writing poetry. But more to the point, I want to talk about the experience of the ways that words can impact us, sending us off on journeys in the mind that we may not have travelled if we hadn’t come across some specific writings.

Words are powerful things that can carry joy, humor, pain, and a host of other experiences. They can also paint a picture and carve a trail of thought that we use to trace out the meaning of things. I’m sure that some poetic passages lead us to think about things that the author never intended. Perhaps the author simply intended to make us think about whatever. Nonetheless, I enjoy the experience of coming across a passage, or even a line of a writing, that sticks with me and carries me on a journey within my own thoughts. Having been a therapist for the last twenty or so years, I think poetry can grant us some insights into human struggle and existence. I know that sounds odd in these days of empirically validated treatments and insurance panels, but a lot of the fight that clients are carrying on when they enter therapy are the ones that make up what Hannah Arendt called the human condition. Whether or not they need medication or some other sophisticated treatment, the struggles that make up life are there to be faced. I think artists in general, and writers and poets in particular, have ways of giving us a peek into human experience through words they use that reflect on this reality we call living.

William Stafford (1914-1993)

William Stafford is one of my favorite poets whom I’ve come across since I’ve become interested in reading poetry in recent years. Again, I’m neither a critic nor an expert on poetry. All I can say is that when I first read Traveling Through the Dark I was hooked and have since picked up several of Stafford’s compilations of poems along with a couple of his collections of essays where he talks about writing and working with students who want to become poets. He was Native American, and in World War II, he took the position of a conscientious objector. For those who like credentials, he was Oregon’s Poet Laureate in 1975. I’m not going to get into an explication of any particular poem as though I’m doing a class assignment. I’m simply going to offer a couple of lines from two of his poems that have struck me in a way that led me to reflect on things. I’ll ask you, if you so wish, to reflect on them for yourself as well.

In a poem titled, Reporting Back, Stafford ends the poem with a couplet:

Is there a way to walk that living has obscured?/(Our feet are trying to remember some path we are walking toward.) Both lines are meaningful to me, but it’s this last line in particular that he put in parentheses that I want to talk about.

In a poem titled, Vocation, Stafford describes a scene (real or not, who knows?) where he is standing between his parents and hearing his dad give this charge to him that makes up the last line of the poem:

Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.” I find these lines from these two poems to be powerful ones, particularly relating to such questions as: why am I here? Has life given me something specific to carry out? Or what is my personal calling?

Of course, a few lines from Stafford’s writings don’t do him justice, so before getting into my discussion, I want to say that I would strongly encourage anyone who likes poetry to delve into reading his works, both poetry and prose to see what you think. A few words about his life will shed some light on Stafford, the man.

As a conscientious objector, Stafford, for all practical purposes, was sentenced to working in Civilian Public Service camps, consisting of forestry an soil conservation in the states of Arkansas, California, and Illinois. For this work he earned a wage of $2.50 per month. His career as a poet began late, relatively speaking, at the age of forty-six. His first publication of poetry, Traveling Through the Dark, came out in 1963, for which he won the National Book Award for Poetry. He cites William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson as major influences on his style. His work has been compared to Robert Frost. In 1975, Stafford was named Poet Laureate of Oregon. For a number of years he taught poetry and creative writing at Lewis and Clark College. He retired his teaching position there in 1990. Robert Bly was a close friend and collaborated with Stafford on some writing projects. In 1992 Stafford won The Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement in poetry. Stafford’s style is conversational, his poems typically short, and he focuses much of the time on the earthy details of a specific setting. Working in the public service camps, he developed the habit of getting up early in the morning, writing poems before the beginning of the workday. He felt he needed the solitude for writing in those early morning hours before the sun rose. He continued this work habit for the rest of his life. In one interview, he described his life as a writer in the following manner:

I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know. Whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.

Reporting Back

At different levels and with various intensities, we all set goals for our lives. We seek to establish some values by which we live out our lives. Some of us may think harder than others about the achievements we hope to accomplish. Whatever those goals, hopes, and aspirations we possess may entail, life has a way of throwing obstacles in our way. If those barriers to where we’re trying to head become too large and difficult, we can lose sight of our original goals and hopes for our lives. No doubt, life’s vagaries can help us clarify things and hone our thoughts in how we’re going about life. Other times, we can completely lose our vision while we’re tracking all that it takes to merely navigate the circumstances that surround us. We suddenly realize that we’ve been trudging through the world with blinders on. In a sudden clarifying moment, we may ask the question: how did I get off track? Simply through living, the way we wanted to walk – shape our lives – has become obscured. Something in our mind and body tells us that the way I’m going now is not the way I intended to go. We find ourselves standing before the universe trying to remember the path we hoped to carve out for ourselves. I think it’s interesting that Stafford says, .  .  . trying to remember some path we are walking toward. It’s not necessarily just some specific goal we’re shooting for, but a path we feel we’re supposed to be on. Perhaps a path indicates some journey we hope to take; it’s the way we want to live. While our journey will entail goals, accomplishments, and achievements, a path moreover entails a way of living, that is how we want to live. Stafford may be speaking to the values we hold, as much as the goals we accomplish. He was a witness for this idea in the way he lived, choosing public service labor for four years at $2.50 per month rather than serving in the war. His relatively late age at becoming a published poet indicates that Stafford found that way to walk and the path toward which he was walking. Some have reported that Stafford wrote some twenty-thousand poems, of which only about three-thousand were published. He maintained a diary into which he wrote daily, penning thousands of poems. Whether we are a writer, some other kind of artist, or whether we’re pursuing some other kind of work, I believe the path mentioned in the poem is less about our specific vocation, and more about how we go about living out our calling. I also believe that the question that Stafford poses in this poem is not one that we ask ourselves only once. It may be a question that is indeed a daily recollection as to where we’re heading and how we’re getting there. In the midst of any accomplishments I may achieve, any goals I may obtain, or any aspirations to which I aspire to reach, the resounding question is – Am I living how I want to live? It’s a constant daily struggle of awareness to keep in mind – to remember – that path we are walking toward. For Stafford it was a hidden river that he followed along trustingly. It carried him to the writing of thousands of poems, of which only a small percentage he sought to publish.

Vocation

What is the world trying to be? Stafford sought out that question through various ways, not the least of which included his writing. There’s a take on life that holds that each of us as individuals have a specific calling we must find and embrace if we are to discover what the world is about. Others view the notion of calling in more general terms whereby one’s calling can be filled out in numerous ways. In this latter view, one’s calling is more about how one wants to live his or her life. I see these lines taken from the two poems cited as having similar takes on life. First, trying to comprehend what the world is trying to be is a difficult enough task, even when one is aware of what he is trying to do. But what we call the world has a way of knocking us about. We can become consumed by worldly things in a way that obscures how we truly want to live our lives. We can get caught up in the countless rat races that life and human interaction afford us. The world can do things to us that we weren’t expecting. Then it becomes our task to work through what happened to us. In doing so, we develop the ability to stand back from the world and observe it, even while we are still caught up in it. This ability to observe and develop our awareness allows us to question what events and circumstances are all about. People across the world are engaged in some kind of struggle to understand, to comprehend, and simply to stay alive. There’s a reality out there (not a popular notion these days) which we all must confront. There are ways in navigating that reality that are better than others if we want to live genuine and fruitful lives – another unpopular notion. We can take on the task of trying to find out what the world is trying to be or not. We can take on that challenge through our own personal calling and in our individual ways. Of course, we can move through life not giving a damn one way or the other. That’s a way of walking as well. But does lack of awareness have consequences? I believe it does. Does avoiding rather than taking on what life throws at us have consequences? I believe it does. In a postmodern age where rhetoric trumps reason, we are beginning to see those consequences. I believe the calling to be aware of how one wants to live is one of the most important challenges that face us. What is the world trying to be? How are people choosing to live? And what are the consequences of those choices?

Conclusion

Is the discussion that I offered here on Stafford’s writing what he had in mind for these two poems? I have no earthly idea. Stafford appeared to experience the consequences of living in alignment with his views as a conscientious objector. He also appears to be one who followed out that hidden river of his life. On the last day of his life, Willian Stafford rose early as he had developed the habit of doing in the Public Service camps, and wrote his last poem titled, Are You Mr. William Stafford? Some people call the poem prophetic. One of the lines in the poem has Stafford’s mother speaking where she says, You don’t have to prove anything. Just be ready for what God sends. There are a lot of good things that can be said about William Stafford if one chooses to know them through reading him and reading about him. One thing can be said for sure. Stafford was called to be a writer. And he lived out that calling to the end.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/March 14th, 2018

GENERAL ESSAY

Looking Back

Introduction

I work to get this blog ready for publication for the fourteenth of each month. Presently I have a blog going that I’ve been working on for the past few days involving my reaction and response to some poetry I’ve read by William Stafford. But today, I’ve decided to let that blog wait until the March publication. As I thought about completing the blog I was working on, I decided to write about something else because today, 02/13, is my mom’s birthday. Had she not died in 2007, today she would be eighty-eight years old. So what I’m going to write here today for tomorrow’s publication is somewhat off the cuff. It may be a little rough-edged for a monthly blog. So be it.

Remembering Parents

Today (02/13) is my mom’s birthday. If she were still alive, she would be celebrating eighty-eight years of living. As it is, she died eleven years ago at the age of seventy-seven. She contracted esophageal cancer, most likely due to over fifty years of smoking. In the end, she blamed no one. Indeed she said that having smoked so many years she couldn’t think of a puff she didn’t enjoy. Though I wish she hadn’t taken up that habit, seventy-seven years is still a fairly long life that she lived full until the last year or so when she became ill.

This notion of her not blaming anybody for her illness and taking responsibility for her own actions says much about both my parents. They were hard working people who labored, scraped and saved, and were financially responsible. And they thoroughly enjoyed life. I can’t think of having two more fun-loving parents and all the things we did as I was growing up. And that was on a laborer’s salary for the most part. When I think about them, I recall what the Book of Ecclesiastes says about how one should enjoy the fruit of his labor that is worked for in an honest manner. This describes my parents to a jot and tittle.

The lessons regarding life that I could have garnered from them are endless. I’m fortunate and blessed that there are enough waves of wisdom that they possessed so that some of them could wash over my stumble-bumbling way of living. At the same time I know that there are many of those waves that I didn’t catch, missing much more than I should have. Work hard, save your money, don’t be wasteful, and don’t blame others for the problems you bring on yourself. Those charges are full of enough wisdom to flow over the brim of just about any size cup.

Mom’s Passion

My mom once told me that from the earliest age she can remember she had the passion to become a nurse. She also described to me the times in which she grew up, having experienced the Depression at a young age and then W.W. II as a teenager and young adolescent. People tended to grow up fast during those times. My mom was first wed to a guy who was killed in the war. She was 16. She married my dad right after the War when he returned home from the navy. She was 17. Interestingly, she spoke of the times surrounding the War, and how nurses were looked upon by the culture. Her mom and dad told her that proper women did not become nurses; it was not a field for respectable women. I had never heard this growing up at anytime in my experience regarding anything pertaining to the various medical fields, so I really don’t know how widespread this sentiment existed. But it was the message that mom got for sure. I always thought the study, training, and skill that goes into any kind of medical training captured the respect of anyone. I would like to read up on this some more to see how widespread this sentiment was regarding the field of nursing.

In 1960, when mom was thirty years old, she decided to pull the trigger and pursue her LVN. I was twelve years old. In her late forties during the seventies, she returned to school and obtained her RN. She never grew tired of the work. She experienced the field and its growth from the time when nurses were paid little to the point when the field became financially attractive to many. Nurses also garnered more power in the places where they worked. She was adroitly skilled in the field she passionately pursued. In fact, she sought out working in the most difficult and challenging areas of the hospital, which for most of her career meant the emergency room. She told me that it was fast paced, challenging, transforming a ten-hour shift work into minutes and seconds. More importantly for her, she knew the ER meant having to stay on top of one’s skills. No one could slide by in the ER. She worked in that setting until the day she retired. She is one who truly lived out her passion and pursued the kind of work she wanted to engage. She worked as an ER nurse for over thirty years.

Seizing Opportunities

For those who grew up in the Depression, to have the opportunity to go after one’s love for particular work was indeed a blessing that was an experience that no doubt appeared far off and unreal while living through those years. The postwar era brought about open doors that people had not dreamed of during the Depression. My dad always loved tinkering with things. Though he never went to college, he was a whiz at math through trigonometry and calculus. Having served in the Navy, he utilized the G.I. Bill to train as a machinist, taking advantage of the oil-boom years in East Texas. He worked his last twenty years for Schlitz Brewery , claiming he got paid most likely too much, but he loved the twelve-hour shifts and four-day workweeks. Both my parents were pearls of wisdom, providing me with a home that hard and loving parents can pull off.

There was so much I didn’t learn from them that causes me shame. I feel in many ways that I’ve disappointed them by the style of life I’ve lived at times. Having grown up in the 60’s and rebelled against the so-called materialistic world, I’m ashamed of how I reacted against them at times, simply because it seemed to be the thing to do at the moment. Materialism served no part of their thinking. Escaping from dire straits that they had known at times during the Depression, even as young kids, was their ultimate goal. Hence, they were wise with how they handled money. We were simply middle class, not wealthy by any means. They just knew how to handle finances, a lesson I wish I had learned from them, but instead had to learn it through my own stupidity. And like I said, they were people, though good with finances, who were not miserly, but lived life full, enjoying all they had worked for. I miss them everyday. And at times when I think about how I want to pursue the things I still want to accomplish, I realize how much they are still a part of me.

Conclusion

So when their birthdays come around, or the holidays – especially Christmas, which they both thoroughly enjoyed – and anniversaries of other family get-togethers, I remember them more than just fondly. I recall their lives with a deeply felt thankfulness that I can never repay. And I reflect on a way of living they embraced that provides a take on life to which I’m still trying to match up.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/February 14th, 2018

GENERAL ESSAY

New Year’s Resolutions & Personal Development

Introduction

There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, they can be kind of fun. If we leave them in the fun column, they can even be quite humorous and playful. We can do three, six, nine, and end of year assessments to see how close we came to actually fulfilling them. The problem is when we turn them into weighty goals, they somewhere along the line begin to pull us underwater. This blog article will emphasize the personal growth development side of the title. I will also speak to the notion of long-term thinking and here-and-now action. But in so emphasizing, I’m not saying the two ideas are necessarily antithetical. In fact, I believe that day-to-day and here-and-now awareness can be both a comfort and a pathway to our long-term goals and personal development.

New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, ’tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions. I like the idea of planning and having goals. I think personal goals are an important component of who we are as human beings. Goals allow us to have some understanding on an individual level of how we want to shape our lives, what things we want to accomplish, and to establish some idea about the different place we want to be at this time next year or whenever. As so many people come to realize, however, resolutions are nothing but promises we make to ourselves that, in-and-of-themselves take us nowhere unless we put some kind of shoe leather on them. Doing something about New Year’s Resolutions is where here-and-now thinking comes into play. I have experienced the pitfall of resolutions myself, as well as having seen them in some of my friends. Typically what we do is set high-level goals without any idea of the steps it takes to get there. And in some cases, we might even come to the realization where we admit, yes it was a cool sounding goal, but quite frankly I really didn’t care about getting there. Moreover, I believe it is a common human experience to want to be at some peak, but not really look into what it takes to reach the acme of desire. And in many cases, we may really admire the goal, but not the nitty-gritty grind of what the goal calls for in its achievement.

I love reading. Several years back I made a New Year’s Resolution to read a ton of books. I even made a long list of many of the books I hoped to read. The list was idealistic to say the least, and if I had figured out how many pages I had to read each day to accomplish my goal for the year, I would’ve caved in right at the start. Though I love reading, that goal was not something I really wanted to do. There were many books on that list that I thought I should read, but in fact didn’t care about reading at all. Then I have to look at my method of reading. I don’t particularly care about planning out most things I read. I like to discover them accidentally, or thumb across some book on my bookcase that I haven’t thought of in a while and think, hey, I want to read this one. In other words, I like to have fun with my reading rather than turning it into a chore. So when I think about my reading goals, I keep those facts in mind now, but I do think about genres. For example, over a period of time I might plan to read some poetry, fiction, and non-fiction as a general plan. And then each day over that period of time, I let whatever strikes my fancy that day hit me, and I proceed. I also don’t have any problem once getting into a book and finishing it. Likewise, I don’t have any problems getting into a book and deciding it’s not as worthwhile as I thought and tossing it aside for another one. What I refuse to do now is to let a reading list become a weighty plan that makes me feel like I didn’t live up to something – and probably something I couldn’t have lived up to in the first place, and didn’t want to live up to in the first place.

Skillful Planning

Fun is one thing and should not be antithetical to personal development. But setting and reaching important goals is not necessarily fun all the time. If one thinks it should be, then some disappointments are lurking in the shadows. I’m the last person to talk to anyone about skillful planning, though it’s a subject in which I’ve become quite interested over the last few years. Unlike my reading, some goals can’t be left willy-nilly based on what strikes my fancy at the moment I get up in the morning. For example, I want to learn a new language. I’m thinking about Spanish because I took it in high school, and I still have some rudiments of knowledge, particularly the pronunciation of words. First, learning a language thoroughly so as to converse with it requires building a skill. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10k rule comes to mind, though I’m not sure I have 10k hours to depend on at this stage of my life. But building a skill requires time. If one wants to believe it doesn’t, if one feels better by believing it doesn’t, quite frankly, such deluded beliefs do not comport with reality, no matter how hard you want to believe differently and feel about it. Likewise conjugations and declensions are not fun all the time. Learning a new language can be a New Year’s Resolution. But what does the resolution mean for one’s actions on a day-to-day level? What does a resolution like learning a new language require for living in the here-and-now? Obviously, there is not single answer to these questions for everyone. The answer depends in much on how serious the goal is for each individual, what time frame each person wants to put on the goal, and how willing each person is to spend time day-in and day-out to accomplish the goal. For some people, like my reading, learning a new language might simply be something fun to piddle with now and then. That is one way of learning something. For other people, it might be a job requirement, a personal growth goal, and something that some people are truly serious about accomplishing. The problem with serious goals, like my long list of reading, is that the goal itself can become weighty, discouraging a person at the outset. Such discouragement is why a focus on here-and-now living is important. As people delve into developing a particular skill, they will learn what pace of learning is the best for them. In other words, they adjust their goals. People can’t adjust their goals unless they get started on them in the first place. There is wisdom in establishing short, concrete steps that one can engage to see how well such steps help one reach a goal. In taking the steps, people can come to realize how they can either slow down or pick up their pace toward their goal. The major thing is not to let a long-term goal disappoint so that no steps are taken at all. On the other hand, at points in time, disappointment and failure serve as important signals about reaching one’s goals. These experiences tell us how well we’re doing and what we need to really work on to develop a skill at the level we’re hoping to develop it. If you want to say, I know Spanish, but you can’t carry on conversation with anyone or read a Spanish text with some skill, I’m not sure what your claim is all about. Getting real with self-assessment is part of skillful planning.  There is something to the comforting nature of knowing today is today, and tomorrow is tomorrow. And I would add, even with serious goals, have fun with them anyway. Who ever said that serious goals shouldn’t be fun and enjoyable? I do believe skillful planning, while projecting something into the future, is pulled off by living in the here-and-now. Accomplishing plans takes action. Action allows for assessment, reassessment, and adjustment. Assessment and adjustment require humility, whether it’s being real about our skill level or not sticking with an over-zealous plan that was unreal in the first place. The personal efficacy of reaching certain goals is a reward in-and-of-itself. And it’s a personal reward, not something done for someone else or for recognition from others. Personal development is for each individual.

Long-Term Goals

For me personally, long-term goals are ones that I know will take me a chunk of time to accomplish. For example, there is a book I want to read by Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State coupled with Power and Market, that totals specifically to 1369 pages. I have no idea how long it will take me to read it, or if I’ll ever get through it. It’s one of those kind of books where some parts of it read easy, and other parts of it read more difficult (for me anyway). I’ll only know how to get through it by starting, and then see where my reading takes me. Like mentioned, I have a goal to learn Spanish on a conversational level. The desire to be conversational in Spanish will require time. I know that there are possibilities of immersion out there, but I have neither the time nor desire to do take a month out of my life to do that right now. Additionally, I have set a goal this year to self-publish some poems I’ve written over the last few years. That goal includes several sub-goals. One, I want to find someone to design the book cover the way I want. I also need to learn some ways to at least on a simple level market the collection. I have no idea how many steps and how much time will be required to complete this process. Searching out people who have accomplished such things is another way to get started on reaching one’s goals. That plan is in the workings for now. Another goal is increasing my part-time counseling practice by a few clients. I already have irons in the fire for doing that. And then I have what I would call a vague goal of doing more writing. the vagueness of that goal will only clarify as I start delving into some things I want to write. I list these goals here because they are personally important to me. They represent personal development I want to accomplish for myself. Will they all get done? I have no way of knowing. But I do know this, if I don’t prioritize them, which is another important skill for accomplishing several goals, and get at my personal method for working on them in the here-and-now, they for sure will not get done.

Conclusion

New Year’s Resolutions do not have to be antithetical to personal growth development. But the notion of personal growth takes more that just wishing something to happen. Personal development requires work, energy, and action. Such a requirement, however, doesn’t mean that it has to be empty of fun and enjoyment. It does, however, require personal assessment if one wants to be real about what skill level one has reached. And when one does reach the goal one set out to accomplish, the efficacy that comes with that achievement is powerful indeed, even if just on a personal level. And the personal level can be, and often is, as important as any recognition that might come along the way. And everything gets kicked off in the here-and-now. So have an efficacious year ahead of you.

 

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/January 14th, 2018

GENERAL ESSAY

Meanderings 2017

Introduction

As the year comes to a close, I always like to look back, pose some questions, and offer some reflections that simply allow me to meander rather than create a clean, structured, and poignant essay as I always do 🙂

Age & Transitions

I’ve said more than I want to about retirement on the blog because I have been looking that transition in the face up close now for the past year. Though I’m still on the payroll until May, my professorial duties at St. Edward’s University are now done. Nothing more really to add, other than I’m looking forward to the change, more time to myself, and creating opportunities where I can. I have established many contacts on Facebook who are high school friends, and it’s weird (and rather comical at times) to hear all of us discussing our entrance into the Septuagenarian crowd. One friend said, Just imagine! In ten years we’ll be 80. Hold on, Pal. Let’s take it a day at a time, not a decade in one full sweep. Another friend offered that he is now only fourteen-years-old because he was born on February 29th. Whatever helps you get by.

I now reflect on what being seventy-years old meant to be when I was kid. I can hear myself saying, Wow, that’s old. And now I say, It’s not all that old. Is it? My grandfather died in 1959 at sixty-four-years old. Of course I was only eleven at the time, but I remember his looking old. The reason for that is obvious. He worked the oil fields, roughnecked oil rigs, farmed, and didn’t have that many vacations and holidays. He, in addition to my parents, didn’t want that kind of life for me. As I look back on things, they were more right and loving than I gave them credit for while in my twenties. I have worked several dock jobs while in school and thought I could do this for a long time without any problems. Yeah, right. My dock jobs were summer jobs between school years and did not take place anywhere near the conditions in which my grandfather worked. My dad as well endured some harsh work conditions. When he was a kid, dad had worked those oil rigs with granddad. Then he graduated to being a machinist, working in oil manufacturing plants, fifty to sixty hours per week. He didn’t want that kind of life for me either. It’s not that parents were wrong for wanting their children to have better opportunities. In fact, those who thought that way were indeed very loving. But they may have doted on us Baby Boomers a little too much. And man, did we soak it up.

Speaking of Age & Retirement: Social Security

I watched a short video from Prager University the other day, discussing the concerns with Social Security. Whether or not we want to admit it, concerns do exist. The statistic they mentioned is alarming. When Social Security was initiated, there were over 500 people to every retiree. The average life expectancy at that time was 60. Today the average life expectancy is 79. There are now 2.8 people to every retiree. One cannot help but wonder how long Social Security can hold up. Individuals has best carve out their lives the best they can without depending on government programs. The problem with Social Security is that the money that may go down the drain is money that people worked for.

Christmas

I wrote a blog sometime back on making sure that I want to celebrate Christmas and what it’s all about, separate from the commercialism that has overtaken this time of season across the decades. I love the Christmas season. First, I believe in what it’s about. Second, the time of year is a joyous one for me. I’ve learned to avoid the madding crowd of shoppers, while at the same time finding ways to take from the festivities in ways that I enjoy. Peace, quiet, and reflection is what I hope to accomplish during this time of year. I believe in my need for a Savior because I know of what I’m made. By my actions I remind myself much too often of that fact. So Christmas is a time of year for me to worship, read, reflect, meditate, and find the calm and rest. I’ve let too many Christmases go by without adhering to that call. So I welcome this time of year and what it’s about for those of us who believe in what it’s about.

Work & Productivity

I’m not sure what the future holds for me as I move forward now, giving up professorial duties. I like the sound of that phrase, professorial duties. I know my private practice will be part of that future. But I’m not sure just how much I really want to expand that practice as it sets now. Writing appears to be on my mind. What would be my dream scenario, throwing out all reality checks and delving into the most extreme of wish fulfillment? I would like to get about eight hours of sleep per night, get up at about six o’clock in the morning, have my morning coffee, and prayer and meditation time, and then write the entire day with a break for lunch and dinner, working until about ten o’clock at night. I would use the weekend to buy groceries and run other errands. Yes, that is unreal. Reading, social connections, and exercise time needs to make their way into that schedule, as well as giving the brain a rest. Since I am a Septuagenarian, my brain may need more rest than it thinks. All that I want to do with my writing forms a good blog article in-and-of-itself that I will put down in writing one of these days.

Politics

No Comment. No comment, other than the notion that I would love to see the day when politics are totally unimportant.

Philosophy

Most everyone already thinks that philosophy is unimportant. They prefer politics to philosophy. Oh well, yes there is a hell on earth. Presently I’m getting set to delve into a reading titled, How to Be a Stoic, authored by Massimo Pigliucci. It sounds like a rather self-defeating title to me. How can you read about how to become a stoic and then become one? However I love the subtitle of the book: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life. There are components of stoicism that I like. It meshes well with meditative readings like the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, and the Book of Proverbs. And modern life with all its divisiveness, lack of reason, and the politicizing of all life needs some help. Or better put, those of us trying to live through modern life without getting scathed by it need some help. So I need to schedule in some reading, studying, and reflecting during that day between six o’clock in the morning and ten o’clock at night. Somebody please help me.

For all practical purposes, I’ve already nixed television from my life. I rarely have the boob tube on anymore. When I do want to relax, I kick back and listen to some Jazz, particularly the Cool Jazz era of Coltrane, Getz, Davis, and others. Uh-oh! Something else to schedule in the day – relaxation time and music. I see now why it’s so hard to take time to write. I keep finding things I need to stuff between the hours of six a.m. and ten p.m. But at least television is fading away into the netherworld of my life. What a gift to sanity that is.

Future Blogs

I’m making no promises. But as I look back over my past blogs, I think I want more of a consistent theme regarding what I write about on this page. Perhaps yearly themes that do not tightly structure what I write, but provide what I write with some kind of substantive framework. Maybe? Who knows? I want to delve somewhat more into neuroscience, but I sure as hell don’t want to write about topic for an entire year. That tidbit will have to fit into a larger scope. A few more book reviews are in store. And perhaps some short biographies will make their way onto this page. These are all just meandering thoughts right now. After all, that’s the title of this blog.

Since not all of my blogs refer to my work as a counselor, I’ve been thinking about separating this blog from my counseling page. I haven’t come to any conclusions as yet. Past blogs have ventured into several thematic areas, and maybe a cafeteria style of blog is still the best. What hits me at the moment about which I want to write? That’s something I’ll weigh out over the next year. What’s fun about the direction of my blog is that it’s my blog. I can do with it whatever I want. Creativity is a theme that interests me, and as such, I will move forward, continuing to create this blog. Now that’s a good positive thought on which to wind the year down.

Back to Christmas

Peace to you all.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/December 14th, 2017

GENERAL ESSAY

Giving Thanks

Introduction

No doubt people’s responses to the holiday season run the gamut from dread to ecstatic. I fall with the latter because I love the holidays. For me, it all kicks off with Halloween marking the last day of October that opens up to the month of giving thanks, followed by the Christmas season. It’s a time of memories as well. Although many of my thoughtful reflections back to earlier holiday seasons entail missing a lot of people who are no longer here, they are nonetheless pleasant recollections. Such pleasantries are due to having been blessed with a wonderful family and good friendships growing up. Unfortunately though this is not true for everyone, I nevertheless do not apologize for such blessings. Instead I embrace them hardily and whole-heartedly. And I’m glad to have had the family, loved ones, and friends that I did indeed experience growing up. Regret is a strong word, and I use it sparingly. There are things I wish I would have done more of through the years, and one thing I wish is  that I would have more deliberately taken stock of the blessings I did have. I suppose in a month of giving thanks, reflecting on those times and blessings would be a good thing to do.

Family, Work Ethic, and Nonconformity

I have come to realize that this particular blessing can be a rarity. Indeed parents who understand a work ethic and the nature of money are indeed a blessing, not that I readily embraced these values as a kid growing up. I did try to get away with as much as I could. But getting that first job so that I had my own money in my pocket hit home right away. I also remember opening my first savings account. My dad was a laborer most of his life. He used the G.I. Bill to train as a machinist after he got out the Navy, and worked in machine shops that supported the oil boom that kept East Texas alive for many decades. There were times he worked six days a week, as many as twelve hours a day. The people he worked with, though they would rather wind down the week with normal work hours, embraced the extra work though it wore them out. I was too young to realize the foundation that dad was setting from which I would benefit in later years.

My mom had been a stay-at-home mom for the first several years of my life, but when I turned twelve, she decided she wanted to go to nursing school. All her life, she had wanted to be a nurse. She had been told by her dad that only questionable women went into the field of nursing. This was a bias that stemmed from the two world wars. But when she turned thirty in 1960, she left all the doubts and conformity behind and studied for her LVN, later obtaining her bachelor’s degree and becoming a full registered nurse (RN). She worked in the field she loved for over thirty years. She passionately worked in the emergency facilities of hospitals because it was exciting, and the skills she developed there honed her competencies as a nurse. I remember when I was around seventeen, she asked me, what do you want to do with your life. The question scared the hell out of me. I learned from her to go after what I wanted, but that it would take time and hard work. It would also take shaking off the pressure to conform to what others may think about my choices. Both mom and dad had rather rebellious spirits, and thankfully, I took that over from them. Unfortunately, viewing them in traditional terms as I grew up didn’t allow me to recognize just how much they didn’t conform to their cultural contexts until I reflected upon it years later. They were anything but traditional. Hard work, understanding finances, and common sense are great tools, not for conformity, but for rebellion. I’m thankful that I got such a spirit from them.

That spirit continued, and the years that followed with all the holidays spent with relatives and friends carved out memories for me of which I’ll never let go. The value of family is one that will always resonate with me deeply. Most of the old photographs I have now depict holiday times together with mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are times that are gone now, their value being learned at a deeper level years later down the line. In the last twenty years of his career, dad worked for Schlitz Brewery. I don’t think most people now would remember Schlitz beer. What I do remember is dad’s loading up my car with a couple of cases of beer every time I came home for the holidays. He would just say, don’t tell your mom, which of course was a joke.

Valuable Friendships

I attended the same school from the first grade till the time I graduated my senior year. Those long twelve years ensured some solid friendships that have lasted for a lifetime. Some people regret (there’s that word again) being born and growing up in a small town. There were some times that I surely question small-town life, but I have come to realize how important that fact is for my own development. Don’t get me wrong. When I moved to Dallas to get my first job, believe you me, I had a blast. I also had to relearn some of those lessons I had learned growing up. But more than anything, the friendships that I developed over the years growing up served to help me develop more good friends as I moved on, entered university life, and finally engaged the work world. Since I’m talking about giving thanks as we enter this month of November, another memory surfaces for me. Just a week ago, November 7th, commemorates the birthday of one of my best friends from school days. In fact, Jimmy and I struck up our friendship in the school year of 1959-1960, our sixth grade year. Elementary and high school friendships come and go, as most of mine have. We all drift apart after that senior year because that’s simply how life plays out. Though most of my close friends now came about during my college years, Jimmy and I stayed in contact, for the most part, through our adult years. We had one of those stereotypical school day friendships that lasted from elementary school to our adult years. We managed to navigate dating life with the girls across town, discovering that we were anything but football players in Texas, graduating the same year, and facing Viet Nam years, both of us being lucky to avoid that hellish nightmare. One particular memory consistently hangs on that occurred during our junior year in high school. We became swept up in a romantic whirlwind with two gals we fortuitously met at the local skating rink one night. Fortuitous for sure. They were older than we were. They were from Mississippi. And they entered the skating rink looking for Disc Jockey they had heard on the radio. All this transpired over a two week period during the Christmas and New Years holidays. We learned a few things from these mature women during that time. Jimmy fell head-over-heels in love with Donna while I enjoyed merely being infatuated with Sheila, who was nineteen going on twenty (or thirty) to my seventeen. Well all good things must come to an end. Sheila’s fiance entered town and swished her back home to Biloxi. Jimmy and Donna hung on for a little longer, but it too eventually faded. But it was a two-week ride about which we always liked reminiscing into adult life. I still think of Sheila now and then to this day.

Another memory regarding Jimmy and I involved a movie we both saw on one of those late night old movie rerun stations on television. It was a biopic about Mark Twain. As the movie has it, he was both born and died under the passing of Hayley’s Comet. (I have no idea as to the accuracy of this depiction.) The movie was shown on a weekend night, so when all the kids got back to school on Monday, everyone was talking, not so much about the movie, but about Hayley’s Comet. Jimmy and I consulted an encyclopedia, and we calculated that the next time Hayley’s Comet appeared, we would be 39-years old. When the time came in 1986, I was living in Denton, Texas, and called Jimmy about the appearance of Hayley’s Comet. He remembered our looking at the encyclopedia and said he was thinking about getting in touch with me.

I mention this particular friendship as one of several that shaped my life growing up. It was such a simple life in a small town with a small town outlook. Many of us during our high school days had but one goal – to get out of that small town and do something with our lives. I did that in Dallas, Texas. But now I wouldn’t change that small town upbringing for anything.

Like family, deep friendships are a value that resonate strongly with me. As a convinced and convicted introvert, I can count on one hand the number of close friends I have. And that’s the way I want it. But the meaning I apply to friendship started back there in elementary school.

Faith & Change

I don’t write that much about my spiritual beliefs on this blog, nor will I at this time. But for sure, my faith has played a large part in the memories I hold regarding my family and friendships. Faith is something that has waxed and waned over the years for me. That nonconformist spirit I talked about above doesn’t allow for an easy fit for me into institutional settings or organized religion. I’ll own that for myself. But in the many changes that occurred over the decades, my faith has been one constant. The 1960’s were most definitely times of change. I wouldn’t exchange those times now for anything, as tumultuous as they may have been at moments. In my small-town setting, I remember during my high school years, 1963-1966, that people tended to part and go one way or the other – with or against the changes that the 1960’s were bringing. The 60’s have been both touted and blamed for a lot of things. I don’t believe that over-generalizations applied to a decade mean all that much, and such generalizations tend toward sloppy thinking. Those times, however, did bring a lot of questioning of traditional values on which we were brought up. For me, looking back, it’s a both-and thing. I’m glad for the values on which I was raised, and I’m glad to have experienced the changing times. They both lay a foundation for me that, again, I wouldn’t exchange for anything.

Conclusion

There are so many things for which I can be grateful and thankful over the years. Family and friendship are two of them. The years take their toll. Many of us lost friends and acquaintances in Viet Nam. Over the decades, accidents and diseases have claimed others. My dad died in 1999 of coronary heart disease. It was the month of February. All I remember is that he wanted to live until 2000. He let go a few months early. At the time I was living in South Dakota. I flew home for dad’s funeral. The day after the funeral, Jimmy called. It had been several years since I had talked with him. We met for lunch at Luby’s Cafeteria, a thing we did several times over the years when I would come home for the holidays. We talked, did a little reflecting, but not as much as I would have liked. I went to his house and met his new wife, and we had a very pleasant day. I moved from South Dakota to Austin in 2001. Over the next several years, I lost contact with Jimmy. Then one day I decided to Google him to see if he was still living in east Texas. I could never find any info on him. Finally, I befriended his brother’s wife on Facebook. I contacted her to get the scoop on his address, phone number, and what he had been up to. That was in 2008. She informed me that Jimmy had died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer. I never knew. We had met for that last lunch at Luby’s in 1999, so it wasn’t long after that he died. As I stated, I don’t like the word regret. I do wish I had engaged a few more conversations with him. I wish we had had one more opportunity to sit around and reminisce about the years we grew up and our other friends – even Donna and Sheila. We didn’t get to do that. I don’t consider that a loss, nor do I regret it. But it reminds me of how time passes more quickly with surprises and shocks than we can realize. Rather than regret, however, I am thankful for the mom, dad, loved ones, and friends that I’ve had along the way to help shape my worldview. They remind me of ways I continue to live in alignment with my values. And they help remind me when I fall short. I have let people down more times than I want to remember. They also remind me of the ways I’ve changed. Though I have, I maintain that precious tension between the changes I’ve gone through and the blessings I will hold onto from my growing up. Indeed there are many blessings I have experienced. These days the politically correct notion of privilege is draped over such experiences. On top of despising politicizing life, it doesn’t take much to provide what my family and friends provided in our context. It doesn’t take money, power, nor status. It takes one simple thing we all look for.

This is the season for thankfulness. Count the blessings if you believe is such things. If not, count those experiences for which you can be thankful, particularly in terms of what others have lovingly provided for and taught you that you have taken with you to carve out a meaningful life for yourself. This is a good time of year to remember such things.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D, LPC-S/November 14th, 2017

GENERAL ESSAY

 

 

YIKES: It’s Friday the 13th

Introduction

Superstition: a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge; irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious; any blindly accepted belief or notion. – – Dictionary.com.

Very superstitious/writing’s on the wall .  .  . You believe in things/you don’t understand/then you suffer/superstition ain’t the way – – Stevie Wonder

Actually it’s Saturday the 14th because this blog is updated with a new article the 14th of each month. Given that it is Saturday the 14th, that means yesterday was Friday the 13th. On top of being Friday the 13th, we’re in a month where we will have a full harvest moon, headless horsemen, and Halloween. But like Stevie says, superstition ain’t the way. One way to deal with superstition is to have fun at it’s expense. So I’m going to have some fun with this blog this month.

Are You Superstitious?

Well, are you? I’m not. In saying that, do you feel that little tingle in the back of your brain that warns that you shouldn’t be so cocky? C’mon now, admit it. At times you do. When it comes to headless horsemen and haunted houses, it may be easy to respond, pfff. But what about those habits we develop that we have to follow like a rule? Professional athletes have more rituals they go through before and during a game than you can shake a stick at. And speaking of shaking a stick, where did that idea come from? Why do some buildings not have a 13th floor? They do have a 13th floor if math applies to reality and counting, but the floors are numbered from 12 to 14, skipping the number 13. Never mind that if you actually counted the way you were taught in elementary school or kindergarten, you would know whether or not you were thirteen floors up. But since the floor on which you’ve reserved a room is called the 14th floor, all is rosy.

A friend sent me an article yesterday about an airline that is flying into Helsinki, Finland, and the tickets read Flight AY666 to HEL. Now that’s brassy. The airlines and the people boarding the plane are shaking their fists at superstition because superstition ain’t the way. How many of you out there wouldn’t take that flight? Be honest now. Interestingly, however, the Flight number AY666 is being retired. It will no longer be used. Superstition? If you step up and spit in the face of superstition, let me ask you this. Have you ever put off doing a task, knowing the consequences that would occur if you keep putting it off, but hoping against hope that said task and resulting consequences would simply disappear and go away? Wishful thinking? Superstition? Read the definition from Dictionary.com once again.

Did you ever carry a rabbit’s foot when you were a kid, or wear one on a black leather jacket? Have you ever thrown a coin into the fountain, knowing on one level you were having a good time, but secretly hoping that what you wished would come to fruition? Have you ever chanted a saying when you were at the Black Jack table or the one-armed bandit in Las Vegas? Have you ever thrown salt over your left shoulder when you accidentally spilled some on the table? Or is it the right shoulder? Up-oh! Well, anyway. Have you ever rubbed a talisman before taking on a challenge? Have you experienced the weird thrills of the Ouija Board? You better be real careful of that one. What about those chain letters that have been around for decades, now popping up online, especially FB? Saying you don’t believe in them, have you ever passed them on anyway – just in case? If you did, Very superstitious/writing’s on the wall.

In reading the definition from Dictionary.com, many would hold that any religion or set of spiritual beliefs are superstitious. After all, you say a prayer and hope that it is answered. Such dialogues now move from having fun to something more serious, which I don’t want to do in this month’s blog article. But for those of us who live in faith, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask when one might cross a line to the superstitious use of his faith. But there are other forms of superstition that are not harmless. Even as late as the early part of the Twentieth Century, the U.S. had a list of censored books that were not to be made public or sold on the market. After all, if you read a certain book, it might get in there and twist your brain, and before you know it, you’re howling at the moon. Or worse, you have come to question any conformity you might have been a part of. And what about those politically correct speech codes. Aren’t they superstitious? Or is the saying sticks and bones a superstition?

Most of these things are harmless. While we may want to avoid taking them too seriously, there’s little reason to get over-concerned about rabbit’s feet, lucky charms, or good-luck coins. For many years, my dad carried around a 1899 penny that he considered his good luck piece. But when he was offered over a hundred dollars for it – in the late 1950’s no less – he took it without the bat of an eye. After all, much of this playing around with funny ideas can be just that, fun. And if we realize such things are fun, then don’t sweat it. I’ve correlated several times that when I turn off the television, I get something worthwhile accomplished. Given that anecdotal correlation, each day I think I’ll turn the television on for a few minutes and then turn it off. Why not? Well, though it’s a funny act, I don’t do it because it would feel just plain weird to do so for obvious reasons.

There are acts that I would cast in the camp of superstition that are not so harmless, like those that lead to different forms of censorship and attacks on free speech. That’s another discussion all together and perhaps another blog article.

In the meantime, I hope people got out there and enjoyed Friday the 13th. I actually had a massage. Nothing weird has happened yet. And yes, let those kids – and adults too for that matter – enjoy Halloween, dressing up in costumes, taking on the roles of monsters, ghosts, and ghouls, and having a blast Trick or Treating. After all, kids are kids only once. Have fun watching those horror movies. I’m not a big fan of contemporary gore – e.g. Friday the 13th, Jason, Chainsaw Massacres, Saw and their countless sequels. But I love those old film noir horror flicks from the 1930’s and 1940’s – Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula (nothing against Gary Oldman), Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman, Clive Colin as Dr. Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as his tragic monster, who also made a good Mummy, and of course Claude Rains as Phantom of the Opera. If you want to have some real fun, read Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Alan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, and Gaston Leroux. I actually like Anne Rice as well. Spit in the face of superstition, make it fun, and have a blast.

But stay away from Ouija Boards!!

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/October 14th, 2017

GENERAL ESSAY

 

Transitions: “Retirement”

Introduction

Retirement is one of the words that does not fit my vocabulary. But then again, it’s not a bad word at all. Retirement is a concept that people can and do interpret in many ways. It has its cultural baggage as well as its pictorial images. Sitting in a rocking chair, floating on a boat fishing, spending time just to pass the time. Of course, these are all images that are fully stereotypical. Traveling, starting a new endeavor, doing those things one has put off for some time, and taking on new challenges are images that I like to associate with retirement.

Presently, I’m in my very last semester of teaching graduate students at the university level. I first began working with university students, both undergraduate and graduate, in the Fall semester of 1989. My gosh, Miami Vice was entering it’s last year of showing. So twenty-eight years later, I’m still doing and enjoying this work. Yet the transition out of it does not shock me. The gate of time through which I’ll be walking come December is both exciting and sad. I still thoroughly enjoy working with students, which has always been the plus of the work I do. (Now faculty meetings, that’s another thing all together.) So not being around them all that much will be something I miss. Simultaneously, I’m expanding on a part-time private practice I’ve developed over the years while I have taught. I also thoroughly enjoy working with clients, which is the road on the other side of that gate I mentioned. I hold a supervisory status as a counselor, so I supervise new graduates as they pursue their full licensure in counseling. So I’ll maintain contact with people fresh out of counseling programs. Though there’s some changes coming, some things will remain somewhat the same. But there are other exciting opportunities ahead.

Travel, writing, new business endeavor with my counseling practice are images that I associate with retirement. And what about thinking? I love to sit around at times and just think. I’m weird like that. I envision January and February of 2018 as a couple of months that I’m going to take to just think. What about, you ask. I have absolutely no clue. And that’s exactly what will be fun about it. Perhaps the best answer to that question simply is – whatever.

My private practice, Contemplations, targets clients who are going through transitions. Hopefully, I will be in a good place to do more of that work with clients. But the word retirement for me does not generate the image that comes with the cultural baggage.

Smooth Transitions

My dad worked hard all his life. One of the roles he took on for himself, common to many men from his era, was that of a provider. He took seriously that responsibility that whatever happened, providing for his family was a rock solid value to which he held. I never saw him back off that role. That is, until he retired. I was hoping retirement would be fine years for him. And for the most part they were. He and mom had worked hard to own their small but comfortable home on a small lake in East Texas. But I also watched him grow bored. He was a worker, a laborer, and a floor supervisor valued by the many people with whom he worked over the years. I think the idea of merely sitting around the lake house grew old to him fast. I observed that he ceased doing the things that could have made his transition stronger. He loved fishing. But he reached a point where he never went out on the lake anymore. He was a tinkerer who loved maintaining the house, working in the yard, and keeping the boathouse in good shape. Slowly but surely, these activities fell off one-by-one. I alway wondered if he believed that because he wasn’t working, he had actually lost his purpose and aim in life as a provider, and he just didn’t know what to replace the roll with. I don’t know. Health was another issue. His heart problems began to take a toll on him, and he lost that zest he had for life and didn’t like the idea of being so weak he couldn’t do things. Much of these details are nothing more than surmising on my part. The one thing that dad didn’t lose was one hell of a sense of humor. He and mom over the years had one hell of a great time doing the things they enjoyed. So the sadness I felt in watching him in his years after work simply came in understanding he couldn’t do a lot of the things he wanted. His first heart attack came not much longer than a year after he retired. He was most definitely for me a role-model. So I hope to keep that zest going as long as I can into retirement years.

My private practice feels good as a segue into my post teaching years. There are several things I’ve been writing on which I can put more focus. Goals: traveling, learning a new language, becoming more technologically savvy, and of course my standby – reading my ass off. Next year around this time, I will have returned from a trip to Scotland, which I’m much looking forward to. Presently, my health is holding up. I’m a paleo-dieter, which reduced considerably my cholesterol numbers. I do Pilates at least once a week, so I feel pretty good right now. In such transitioning, one never knows what time bomb is ticking away inside one’s body. Seize the day – carpe diem – is not a bad line.

Reflections

I can’t say that I had any philosophical framework for entering the world of teaching twenty-eight years ago. My approach has developed over time, and is continuing to do so. There’s always something to learn in working with students. The primary thing I hold regarding being a prof is simply providing a pathway for students to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions about things. When I exited my doctoral program, theoretical concerns were still pretty big in the counseling world. Now I see that more in terms of providing a space where students can think about how they see this work for themselves. That doesn’t necessarily entail that they choose a theory and slide into it. It’s more about how they see themselves, their beliefs, and their values that they bring to the field. Hopefully, I’m just one marker on the road to their becoming who they are, getting at their core identity, which will be a life-long process.

I for sure didn’t have a philosophy of work when I set out on my career. I wasn’t thinking necessarily in terms of what work means, how it might add value to my life and others, or how it plays in the big scheme of things. Wish I could say I was thinking about all that stuff. More than anything, I was thinking about getting a job, paying bills, and having a savings account for once in my life. That stuff is okay too, and more valuable than we tend to think. Work for me now is valuable, not just in terms of doing something, but doing something I feel is worthwhile. I hope I’ve built relationships over the years through teaching in ways that I’ll never really know or need to know. I just hope some influence and encouragement is there. At this juncture, I do believe work is about a calling, a purpose, and finding meaning. None of that pursuit or search stops with a job. I love putting thoughts and ideas into words, so writing is something that will keep me busy. There is something fulfilling for me in looking at the consequences that ideas hold. I wrote a blog article earlier on areas I want to pursue going forward in terms of the themes mindthinking/doingmeaning, and humility/finitude. I hope to see where working with thoughts around those themes carries me.

So yeppers, as we say in East Texas, I have some plans that do not involve merely ceasing to work. I’m sure, come December, I’ll be writing about this transition again. But for the most part, it’s simply a bend in the road. And I’m looking, God-willing, to what lies ahead. Having said that, my faith definitely informs me on these things, though I confess at this point, I’ve wandered quite a bit in terms of my beliefs. That’s another thing to settle into over the next few months and years.

Conclusion

There are no conclusions. JUST KIDDING. But why did these thoughts come up for me now in writing this blog article? I’m sure most of it is due to the fact that as I meet with each class this semester, I’m approaching an end to something with which I’m very familiar for nearly three decades. But that’s okay. In fact, it’s exciting. In terms of the theme, humility/finitude that I listed above, I’m fortunate to have done this work with the students with whom I’ve worked over the years. They are the best of it. I remember sitting in a history class with one hell of a professor back in the early 1970s, and in that particular class thinking, this is what I would like to do. And I’ve gotten to do it. I’m blessed now with good health still. But finitude – well that’s part of the formula. Approaching seventy-years old means the fuse is shorter. That’s the simple fact of it. But as Dylan Thomas charges, I’m not going gently into that good night.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2017

GENERAL ESSAY

Serious Aphorisms Wrapped in Silliness

APHORISMS

Well today I’ve got this deadline for my Contemplations blog. So when I got up this morning, I thought I had to come up with some seemingly in-depth thought fairly quickly. Such a thought sounds, not only like a paradox, but also like an outright metaphysical contradiction. Given that I don’t want to fall into the black hole of such a contradiction, I’m coming up with some serious aphorisms wrapped in gaiety. Maybe they’ll work; maybe they will not. But here goes.

Monday .  .  . Monday .  .  . Not really. Over the years, I’ve actually come to embrace the notion that Monday is indeed nothing more than a state of mind. Many of us can most likely relate to school days and work weeks over the years where we began every Monday looking forward to Friday. I’m to the point now where I don’t care to wish the days to pass by. They’re doing that quickly enough as it is. Someone told one time that in his later life, he got to Friday looking back to Monday because he didn’t like the way his time was slipping away. At sixty-nine years old, I like neither the sound nor the feel to such a declaration.

Bob Dylan once wrote, you gotta serve somebody. I think that’s true, but not in the way that most people think. The  virtue signaling of the day is wearing thin for most people. Dylan is not a virtue signaler. A sense of life transformed into a conscious philosophy is hard work. Most of us probably rather avoid what it takes to make such a transformation. If you gotta serve somebody, it’s a terrible thing to be serving that of which you’re unaware.

Outlook for the week includes, reading, writing, but no ‘rithmetic, though I wouldn’t mind boning up on some geometry, algebra, and trig just for the hell of it because I used to do well in those areas. And for some odd reason, I actually enjoyed those subjects. When I ran headlong into derivative and integral calculus, however, it was like hitting the proverbial wall in a Ferrari, wide open, petal to the metal, and no seatbelt. I think it was more simply that I didn’t possess good study habits at the time I enrolled in those subjects, which in turn led to a disastrous conclusion that followed me through life for several years. If I’m to do something worthwhile, I thought, then it must come natural to me. Substitute for the word natural the word easy. You can guess the ramifications of such a belief when engaging difficult tasks in life.

I just finished a delicious cup of coffee to open up Monday morning and the week ahead. I have come to believe that caffeine is indeed the elixir of life. Whatever it was that ancient cultures deemed as the fountain of youth, Shangri-La, empyrean, nirvana, or utopia, well-brewed coffee had to figure into such experiences as a major factor. Not only does the magnificent taste send you up into the O-zones, the smell alone can transport you into an altered state. The neuronal effect remains ineffable.

What was I writing about? Oh yeah, serious aphorisms.

Speaking of neuronal effects, recently I read a book by Sam Harris, a well-known neuroscientist and philosopher, where he discusses the scientific fact that we have no free will, but given the psychological fact that we’re seemingly always making decisions and choices, we might as well act and believe as if we do possess free will. I couldn’t help but wonder which particular neurons led him to conclude, which means a choice among alternatives, that he nor anyone else possesses free will. Calvinists would ecstatically agree with Harris, other than he’s an avid atheist. I tried to ferret out how he chose to write, or came by writing, the book in the first place. And then I wondered about the motivation to persuade people that truly they do not possess the powers of choice. If other people’s neurons determined that they do possess free will, does that mean they would be right? I also wondered how one comes to know which neurons manage all the others and tells everyone that they need to give up on the notion of free will. My neurons on coffee appear to be completely different than without the wonderful elixir. Does that mean I’m determined by my neurons or by caffeine? And then I speculated on the notion about writing a book telling people that if they would choose to read the book, then they would conclude – choose to believe – that they don’t possess free will. What if they choose not to read the book? Or better yet, their neurons determine that they don’t read the book, or anything else about free will? What if they read a book that persuades them that they do have free will? Does any of this make any sense whatsoever?

Sam Harris is a brilliant neuroscientist and philosopher, and an excellent writer as well. I wouldn’t want to debate him on these issues. The book, Free Will, is a worthwhile read as well as his other works. His books, The End of Faith and Open Letter to a Christian Nation are well worth a critical read and inquiry.

In the news today, Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys has been suspended for six games for allegedly committing, what most people would call, thuggish activities. I don’t know the facts, so I don’t care to comment one way or another as to the veracity of the charges. He’s one individual among many of numerous cases where professional players across the sports world have been suspended, fined, arraigned, or sent to jail. I don’t want to make the common logical error of over-generalization when speaking about professional sports. Personally, however, I will own the fact that I’ve grown tired of the entire hype around college and professional sports. It’s taken much too seriously. There was a time that I too took it much too seriously. Every time my team lost, I would descend into the kind of depression that wreaks of the netherworld of darkness, Goth, and the walking dead. It would take me several days to climb out of the hole and see daylight again. Somewhere along the line my body told me enough. Thank heavens! No telling where I would be if determined by the state of those neurons.

All our hype over sports translates as well to other forms of entertainment. Movies, TV, big stars, red carpet photo ops, and all the paraphernalia that goes with having reached that magic moment in getting to a place called there. Only a few people are there. The rest of us applaud in a mad stupor, believing secretly that one day we too could be there. 

On just about any given afternoon, I’d rather read a good book or listen to some Jazz rather spend three hours or longer imbibing in mass media, NFL or otherwise. NFL Commish Roger Goodell publicly displayed his remorse at the ratings of NFL games plummeting over the last couple of years. He might as well look at Network Television all together. With Hulu, streaming, Netflix, and all the other ways to obtain personally specified entertainment, no one wants to be held captive by the major Networks. Who could blame them? Isn’t free market technology wonderful? It gives people choices – or more determinations from the neurons. Whatever the case, more bandwidth of experiences can lead to a better afternoon for many individuals.  And guess what? They’re taking it on. Yet mass media is here, appears to be here to stay, so we might as well use it to our advantage, even if it’s using it to block ourselves from that barrage of inanities that are thrown at us on a daily basis. Besides, I would rather choose my own inanities.

News, news anchors, and public information – does anyone trust these clowns these days?

Back to coffee. I just finished my second cup, and the week is looking up. I would go for an effect on the entire month, but I know there’s a point of diminishing returns. Too much caffeine gets those Sam Harris neurons firing and writhing like worms on a fish hook. At least at this very second, that’s what some neuron, according to Harris, had determined that I believe and write on this page.

H.L. Mencken – There is no record in human history of a happy philosopher. First, if that’s true, it says something as much about the field of philosophy as it does about any individual  philosopher. Second, I can understand why, if those who enter the field of philosophy are in search for the perfect system. Human beings tend to get in the way of such goals. It can be a downer every time you talk to someone else who thinks for himself. One gets a picture of poor philosophers drinking their Scotch after a hard day’s critical inquiry, seeking to come to grips with how no one truly listens to them, understands them, or even cares what they have to say. On the other hand, Nietzsche laughed. And Camus told us that we must imagine Sisyphus as happy.

Politics – no comment

Albert Jay Nock – Live superfluously. Now that’s an idea worth searching out.

Frank Chodorov – Economics is not politics. Now THERE’S an idea worth living out.

Bitcoin – Should I invest in Bitcoin, particularly given the way the dollar has been ripped seemingly screaming bloody murder from it gold standard? One would hope it’s a last resort. But who knows when resort reaches its last leg?

I’m here to tell you that these are serious aphorisms within the framework of silliness. I questioned whether or not I should write a Contemplations blog draped in such a mindset. After all, this Website is devoted to professional counseling and critical inquiry. I’m not sure that if some prospective clients read these words, they wouldn’t run the other way rather than contact me for an appointment. I am certain that I wouldn’t blame them. I am on the fringe in a lot of ways, and it’s fun dancing out there. Did I say that Nietzsche laughed? He did.

Alas, it’s too easy to take even serious matters too seriously. Give yourself a break. You’re not the only one who hasn’t designed the perfect system. You’re not the only one who for years wished your weekdays away for Friday. You’re not the only one looking back to Monday from Friday to slow that train down. Is it true that you gotta serve somebody as Dylan proffered? Probably. If you don’t like Dylan’s question and his answer, then talk with him about it. If you find yourself taking too many matters too seriously, then .  .  .

Drink some coffee.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2017

GENERAL ESSAY