“If all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads. But if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must not bow his neck to any dictatorial government.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America

I want you to re-read that quote.

Done?

Read it one more time.

Now I would like to take a moment to talk to you about the state of individual liberties in this country, and the effect that it will have on you, Dear Reader.

This post has been a long time coming but I felt extra compelled to discuss individual liberty after all this talk about Obama and the UN trying to take our guns away.  What you have to understand is that this removal of rights did not start with and will not end with guns.

Let me give you a brief lesson on the mental development of human beings from the standpoint of a parent and now-former teacher.  There are many techniques that one can use to modify someone’s behavior, but they can all be classified into four categories: Type 1 or 2 reinforcement and or Type 1 or 2 punishment.

Type 1 (positive) reinforcement refers to the application of a desirable stimulus as a reward to a desirable behavior.  This is pretty much a reward system; you get a treat when you do the right thing.  In children, this tends to be an external reward, like a toy or a sticker.  It is a very common method used in classrooms across the nation.

Type 2 (negative) reinforcement is when an undesirable stimulus is removed when a desirable behavior is performed.  An example for this would be applying ointment to a bug bite or a scratch.  When you take care of your body, you will not feel discomfort.  When you clean your room, your parents will stop bugging you to clean your room.  If you get your term paper written during the week, you won’t have to work on it over the weekend.

Type 1 (positive) punishment means that an undesirable stimulus is being applied when an undesirable behavior is displayed.  Spanking, traffic fines, and being yelled at by someone are examples of positive punishment.

Type 2 (negative) punishment refers to the removal of a desirable stimulus when an undesirable behavior occurs.  This is also a common form of behavioral modification and takes place in the form of time-out (or, to a higher degree, jail time) and the taking away toys/privileges/cell phones/computer time (/gun rights/personal freedoms)/etc.  Type 2 punishment is also called removal punishment and is more or less based in fear.

[click here for the Wikipedia article on psychological reinforcement which I’ve paraphrased here]

Parents magazine has an article called Top Ten Toddler fears that, as you can imagine, lists the most common fears that young children face.  The five that apply most to our discussion are: the Dark, monsters, strangers, separation,and Being Alone.

 I can remember the one or two times that I got separated from my parents in the store when I was little.  I can remember it because it was one of the most terrifying experiences ever. I can also pinpoint times in my childhood where these other fears have stood out, at times dominating my psyche.  

[I am still, to this day, weary of strangers, especially ones in vans because of the whole Stranger Danger thing in the 80s.]

Anyway, the core of the negative, or removal punishment is fear of removal. It is said that time out generates in a child a fear that they are being separated from their parents. Taking toys and things away can generate a similar response of loss or separation. This is referred to as a fear of removal. Our government has, ironically, used fear to convince us that removal is the answer. 

The state of our union is no doubt a fearful one. We are inundated with news coverage of violent, gun-related crime against the innocent citizens of our country. We are quietly and repeatedly told that taking away is the answer. That people’s safety is more important than their freedom. But freedom keeps us safe from the people that really want to hurt us: the ones in power that want to put restraints on the citizenry.  The ones casting the shadows in Plato’s allegorical cave so that we will sit chained and accept a reality that is nowhere near real.

It is a falsity that we fear. 

A falsity that robs us of our dignity. 

A falsity that we must reject and replace with the natural truth that was bestowed upon us not just by the fathers of this great nation, but also and more importantly by our Father in Heaven. 

The Truth is that we stopped being slaves the day we followed Moses out of Israel and that we must stop bowing out heads to the kind of dictatorial government that would lie to us because it thinks that we cannot handle the Truth. 

But we can and we must. If we want to shake free the chains of our fear-mongering  oppressors and demand solutions that do not sacrifice the freedom that we were given at birth.

Read that quote one more time.

Then ask yourself what’s more important.

Freely,
Glass

“I understand the large hearts of heroes, the courage of present times and all times.” – Walt Whitman

I found this quote tucked cleanly between the introduction and first chapter of a collection of American Tall Tales that I found in my childhood-ish closet.

Let me explain.

I spent the night at my parents’ house this past Thursday night because I was accompanying my parents to my dad’s doctor’s appointments on Thursday and Friday. I couldn’t sleep that night so I went through the closet in my childhood-ish room and reminisced and threw a bunch of stuff away (and found several interesting trinkets along the way).

Let me explain further.

Last Tuesday, I started the day with a call from my dad.  In that phone call, my dad informed me that had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

The news was devastating.

Somehow, the last 8 days have felt like 8 years and 8 minutes.  Time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  This whole situation doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’m trying to wrap my head around of this and do as much as I can to help.  But I’ll get back to that.

My dad is the toughest guy I know.  He played high school football.  He served in the Navy for seven years.  He was a mailman for a while when mailman were still called mailmen.  When my brother and I were born, my dad continued to work his way up in the retail realm to provide not just the food, clothing, and shelter that we needed to live, but also whatever basketball stuff my brother needed or musical stuff I needed for band.  At one point, he started his own company out of our house.  He put us in good cars and taught us how to fix them.

Everything I fix with my own two hands is thanks to the spirit that my dad instilled in me.

Every truly manly thing I’ve ever done is thanks to seeing my dad do it first.

This whole cancer thing is scary because my dad was still operating in Beast Mode prior to being diagnosed.  My parents babysit my niece and nephew while my sister-in-law is at work, so he was still being called upon to be the main positive male role model for those two for the majority of their week.

[I think that’s pretty awesome though and good for everyone involved.]

We all still need him around.

My dad had surgery on his neck when I was a teenager.  I remember it not just making me nervous, but really shattering my worldview, because I began to see really see my dad as a human being.  While I understood the glory and infallibility of his enormous heart, I remember the realization that my father’s body, like mine and everyone else’s, would be eroded by the sands of time.  It was a total mind-cuss and has kind of lingered in the back of my mind since then.

{I have shared this story somewhat recently with my best friend in El Paso, whose dad has also undergone multiple back-related surgeries and he felt/feels the same way.  The impact that a man’s father poor health/injury can have on that man is, it seems, staggering.  He and I are both younger brothers, though.  I wonder if that might have something to do about it.  I should investigate.}

Through it all, through different jobs and parenting teenage boys and good times and bad, my  dad has shown the overwhelming size of his courageous heart.

What amazes me now, is that he is, in many ways, staring down this diagnosis like it’s a flat tire or a leaky faucet.  Not in the woe-is-me way that others might, but like it is just another problem that needs to be fixed, so where do we get started?

My own coping has developed from four different sources: the courage of my father, the courage to put this and everything else into God’s hand, the power of knowledge and credible research, and the love and support of my wife (who is always there for me, even when I’m not feeling very courageous at all).

This has been the longest short road so far and we’ve still got a ways to go.  But we will stay courageous, ever courageous.

I’ll keep you posted.  Please keep us in your thoughts.

Courageously,

Glass

Five-Minute Betterment: “I’ve been on swims where people have freaked out about sharks. You have to think about something else, otherwise it will absolutely paralyze you. I do math problems, anything.” – Lewis W. G. Pugh

I really got a kick out of this quote when I first read it.  I tend to do math problems in my head from time to time.  I used to do it more when I had less on my mind, but still find it kind of relaxing.  What I realize now, especially after re-reading this quote, is that now might be a good time to start it up again.  For, maybe, five minutes at a time?

FIVE MINUTE BETTERMENT!

Today’s #FMB assignment is to brush up on your math facts.  It may not seem like we need many of our basic math skills these days, with our fancy calculator watches

or whatever other gadget we may have, but math is the key to so many of our worldly processes that at the very least it wouldn’t hurt to have a few extra math facts rolling around in our heads.

I would like to share a game with you.  The very one, in fact, that I play in my head.  Here it goes:

Look at the clock.  What time is it where you are?

This post will go live at 3:32 so I’ll use that.

You’re going to take the numbers in the time and try to make equations for as many numbers as possible.  I like to start at zero and go in ascending order.  For instance, using 3, 3, and 2, I can do the following:

3 – 3 = 0

3 – 2 = 1 or 3 / 3 = 1

3 – (3 – 2) = 2

3 x (3 – 2) = 3

(3 + 3) – 2 = 4

3 + 2 = 5

3 x 2 = 6

etc.

You can make it harder by making yourself use all three or four numbers in each equation, or try to get higher each time.  Play it however you want, but play it regardless.  You might be surprised how much nerdy fun you might have.  And you might learn something along the way.

Calculatingly,

David Glass

“Men have become the tools of their tools.” – Henry David Thoreau (Part Two of Two)

[Good morning, Dear Reader!  I would like to start by thanking you for taking the time to stop by and read this.  I would, as always like to encourage you to follow my blog, and please like it or comment on it as you see fit.  I am also on Instagram @thatmanglass and on YouTube (click here).  Thanks again.]

In the last post, I talked about multi-tools and how handy it is to have a variety of tools at your disposal.  It makes it easier to finish a task.  It can be a real lifesaver.

My brother is in recovery right now.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, but I will say that his abuse of drugs and alcohol (along with considerably bad decision-making) wreak havoc on his life, ultimately costing him his (respectable, high-level) job and his marriage, and badly damaging his relationship with his two kids and the rest of his family.  He has now been to treatment multiple times and is now (fingers crossed) beginning to rebuild his life and repair those broken relationships.

It has been a hard year and a half in that respect.  My brother used to be my idol and my best friend.  But over the last several years, things have changed and our lives have gone in different directions.  He chose to stay in our hometown and follow the usual pattern: go to college, get a job, buy a house, get married, two kids, bigger house.  I, on the other hand, took a more.. adventurous route, so to speak.

[I’ve always enjoyed a less-than-conventional approach, believe it or not, and while I am not quite where I want (us) to be professionally (pronounced ‘financially’), I know that it will be more satisfying knowing that the road I took was a tough one.]

Anyway, the first two times my brother went to rehab, he went to places that were based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program.

I don’t agree with a unilateral 12-step approach to substance abuse therapy.  If it has worked your you or someone you know, I’m glad, but I have issues with the program as a whole.  I don’t really like the rhetoric and the merit system among other things.  I don’t like that 12-step rehab facilities are severely lacking in therapy aimed at solving the root causes of the behavior that manifests as drinking and drug use or other ‘addictive’ tendencies.

I think that a better approach would be, you guessed it, a multi-faceted (like a multi-tool!).  So-called ‘addiction’ (not sure how I feel about the overuse of that word, either) is not cut-and-dry.  Or universal.  It is a very individualized experience that requires an equally individualized treatment program.  It requires flexibility, openness to a variety of therapeutic techniques, and a support network.  Multiple tools for a complex job.

I think that this kind of thinking translates well to other situations.  Job-hunting?  Don’t use one website and make multiple versions of your resume.  Parenting?  Not every kid is the same.  Be flexible and find what works.  There are countless areas of your life that will benefit from flexible functionality.  I encourage you to explore your life, find an area that seems rigid or stuck, and take a multi-tool to it.  You might be surprised at the outcome.

Metaphorically,

Glass

P.S. – I wish you all the best on your journey to self-improvement, no matter what stage of the journey you’re on.  If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or other addictive behaviors, I encourage you to find what works and if it doesn’t work, keep looking.  There are so many outlets, so many tools to help you through this, you shouldn’t have to stick with one that isn’t working.

P.P.S. – I am going to do another list of book recommendations soon.  Non-fiction most likely.  One of the books on my list will be The Sober Truth, which delves into the world of 12-step programs and evaluates their structure and success.  I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in recovery.