Monthly Archives: June 2009

Laura’s Mom Learns

Today I would like to share with you the life of Ruth Smith. Ruth was a coworker of mine—she worked in public relations for our program at Kent State University. A wonderful woman with a great sense of humor, Ruth often wrote for local papers. Often times her editorials detailed her experiences as the mother of a handicapped child.

Ruth was able to uplift and inspire many individuals for many years through her essays. These essays have been published in her book “Laura’s Mom Learns.” You can read several of Ruth’s essays through her website

In addition to Ruth’s essays regarding motherhood, are blogs sharing Ruth’s battle with cancer. Sadly, Ruth Smith passed away on Thursday, June 25ruthsmithth, 2009 after a 6 month struggle. We all mourn the loss of this kindhearted, humorous, and talented individual.

I hope that in honor of her memory you will each take the time to visit her site and take a look at some of her blogs and essays. I have included an excerpt from one of her essays below to showcase Ruth’s beautiful writing, I hope you enjoy it.

“My first solo was also my first experience with stage fright. Years ago, because of an inspired performance for my small second grade class, I was chosen to sing in the annual school talent show. I had learned the song from a Mouseketeer record and I sang that song for anyone who would listen.

The day arrived. As I watched the acts preceding mine, I felt my first flutters of apprehension. I turned and looked at the people behind me and during those few minutes I became separated from the rest of the world. The faces, colors, and sounds around me blurred and I experienced the fearfulness of a person about to be condemned.

Mrs. Cross, my beloved teacher, tapped my shoulder and I followed her to the stage door. I walked in front of the drawn, velvet curtain into the brightness of the gym. I turned, faced the room, lifted my eyes, and saw the whole school in front of me. I felt my knees grow weak and warm tears behind my eyelids. The words and music of my song were out of reach.

Down on the floor Mrs. Cross made her way towards the stage. She leaned over the edge and smiled up at me. I lip read the message she was giving me: Sing to me, she said, sing your song for me.

In her kind face I found my song. Looking only at her I sang it, although the enthusiasm with which I had practiced was non-existent. When finished I hurried off stage into Mrs. Cross’s arms. As we made our way down the hallway, I stopped. The audience was applauding.

I listened and could not connect that applause to me – why are they clapping? I thought. I didn’t even sing to them. They were the enemies – I had faced them as in battle, and they had won. I joined my class on the floor, hung my head in shame and cried silently.”

Although your war against cancer was lost Ruth, you have won many battles for all of us. You will be sorely missed by all who knew you.

Ruth’s book is available for purchase via her website:

June 26th, 2009 at 9:17 am

It is with a heavy heart that I take this moment to convey my condolences on Ruth’s falling asleep with the Lord, on behalf of my family to all who were touched by Ruth’s life and especially to all of Ruth’s family. I know that she is in a better place and that she continues to love us all. It is we who are going to miss her laughter and voice and beautiful writing.

Diane and Family

June 28th, 2009 at 5:05 am

Larry and I offer our deepest sympathies to Ruth’s family and many loving friends. A beautiful voice has been silenced but Ruth’s legacy lives on through Laura and the lesson’s Ruth shared with the world in “Laura’s Mom Learns”. The outpouring of love and support we witnessed during her illness was a testament to her gifts as a mother, wife, friend, neighbor, co-worker and advocate for the disabled.

We will miss you more than words can say, Ruthie.


June 28th, 2009 at 6:22 am

David,Laura and the rest of Ruth’s family – my deepest sympathies to you in the loss your family has suffered. These last months have been a test no family should have to endure and you have done it with dignity, compassion, love and strength.

My copy of “Laura’s Mom Learns” is among my most treasured possessions for its beauty, its insight, and its honesty. Ruth’s lasting legacy is so wrapped up in its writing and, certainly, its motivation – Laura.

I am so very saddened by her loss.

Lise Russell

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A flight, a memento, a question

Are people inherently good, bad, or something else? 

I recently (re-)watched Memento and this question – one I have certainly asked myself before – popped into my mind.

The film deals with a man who cannot create new memories after a traumatic incident in his life leaves him with – as he describes it – “a condition.” The events of the film unfold around the people and problems his life intersects with as a result of this condition. And, invariably, the people all try to take advantage of him (the notable exception being the hooker who does exactly what he asks her to do). A guy who won’t remember what you say to him, what you do to him, or what he does? Why not have him kill a drug dealer so that you can make some money? Or charge him for more than one room at your motel? Or kill a crooked cop for revenge? Unless he writes it down, he won’t remember anyways.

That’s the best I can do to describe the film without giving away any of the interesting parts that make an extremely interesting and well put together film (I’m serious, go netflix it and watch it if you haven’t already). But the summary isn’t important other than to give a framework for my question above.

Are people inherently good, bad, or something else?

In Memento, all of the peripheral characters (and there aren’t many – only a handful) are trying to manipulate the protagonist to achieve their own goals. Now, obviously this is just a film, and one in which the goal is to explore the questions of what makes something real or not real, fact or fiction, constructed or concrete. But the fact remains that this man, whose condition leaves him unable to even know how long it’s been since the incident that brought about this change, is surrounded by people who do not try to help him. In fact, what they do makes the viewer feel pretty beaten up over how terrible (and cunning) they are to him.

It’s not the film’s job or intent to answer the question, and it’s not really mine either, with this post. Explorations of the spectrum of good-evil principles is just an interesting topic in general to me (a fantastic read, by the way, to anyone interested in the question of what is absolutely evil is the introduction to the book “Explaining Hitler” – and no, this is not a Holocaust denial book, but one in which the author tries to figure out how to understand such an important historical figure and his journey in this pursuit).

But as the protagonist of Memento seeks to achieve his own goals – misguided but with good intention though they may be – he bounces between these peripheral figures who seek to exploit and coerce him, albeit subtly sometimes, into achieving their goals.

Does this make them bad? The woman who uses him to avenge her boyfriend is technically doing a good thing, in one light. The motel manager who charges him for more than one room to help his boss during a slow season is doing his part for his company, right? Does this make them good?

But everyone, everyone the protagonist interacts with eventually sees him as a tool. And in our interactions with others, we do the same.

Today I bought a flight for my cousin’s wedding – something I did not really have a lot of extra money to cover, but went ahead with anyway. As I did this, I tried to sort out why. While not being distant relatives, my cousin and I have never been extremely close. It’s far away, requires a flight/hotel/feeding myself for a weekend, and is a wedding (never something I enjoy). So why did I buy the flight? Because I’d like her to one day feel compelled to attend my own? A little. Because I’d feel guilty if I expected her to come to my own after not attending hers? Definitely. Because I genuinely wish to share this day with her? Not particularly.

Essentially, in analyzing my reasons – obvious and admissions I wasn’t terribly proud of – I came back to the question Memento had raised – are people inherently good, bad, or something else?

I don’t consider myself a particularly good or bad person. And in looking at buying the flights, I mentally cringed a little, thinking that the reasons weren’t terribly altruistic. But as I looked more broadly, I realized that much of what makes society and interpersonal relationships exist stems from similar thoughts/feelings/interplays of rationales. We do things all the time in order to receive things. Reciprocity is as old as civilization and an important mechanism for continued interconnections.

When we each go out in to the world as part of our daily lives, how do we know the people with whom we interact are any more or less altruistic of decent that those who surround the man in Memento?

Does this make people inherently bad?

I don’t think so. I think it makes us something else. I am not sure what that is, and worse, I don’t know where to draw the line between the actions of the peripheral characters in Memento and my own. Because they’re my own, I like to think that what I do – and buying a flight for the wedding is just one example – is more bent towards good than bad, or at least something else. That, if I knew someone in capable of creating new memories and thus reliant on my own inner decency to help not make his life more difficult, I would differ from those peripheral characters. 

But would I? Would you? And, since he won’t remember anyways, would it matter?


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The Big Dick Hypothesis

America is a nation beleaguered by cultural problems. Homicide, criminal sociopathic behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, abortion, greed, selfishness, apathy, ego-mania… other countries just don’t seem to have these problems; other 1st world countries anyways. The United States boasts the strongest economy and military in the whole entire world, yet we still struggle to suppress these basic, almost primitive actions and behaviors. What is it that’s holding us back?

These problems arise from an infatuation with penises. Large ones. There’s nothing an American loves more that an erect cock penetrating a vagina, ass, mouth, anonymous orifice, whatever, and its even better if its even BIGGER. And why do Americans love such enormous phalluses? Because we’ve got’em.

Message to Kevin Sorbo and Peter Steele: Please stop destroying America.

Message to Kevin Sorbo and Peter Steele: Please stop destroying America.

That’s right; America, the great melting pot, seems to have gotten the best the world has to offer. Why not celebrate your freedom this Fourth of July by hoisting the Red, White and Blue up your gargantuan manhood? You don’t even need to crunch the numbers on this one folks; it’s been lying there, all the while, right in front of our faces.

Ever wonder why the Pilgrims made their way across the Atlantic? It wasn’t their Puritan beliefs, but their most prodigious pipe-laying that had them exiled by penis-envious Anglicans. Soon enough, big dicked destitutes from around the world were embarking for America. And yes, the mass importation of African slaves only boosted this worrying statistic to new heights.

Here’s the raw data:

According to the U.S. Census in 2006, America is 72% White, 14% Hispanic, and 13% Black. Now check out these penis stats:

Average Length (inches)

White: 6.25

Black: 6.9

Hispanic: 6.2

Asian: 5.45

Average Girth (inches)

White: 4.5

Black: 4.6

Hispanic: 4.45

Asian: 4.2

I also found this chart that seemed oddly genitalia shaped... (courtesy Wikipedia)

I also found this chart that seemed rather oddly shaped... (courtesy Wikipedia)

Booyah! That’s some All-American pride there! Although I guess it’s really just excluding Asians. Sorry guys, maybe in the next 100 years you’ll rise to racial genitial glory.

Oh. Oops. I forgot that my entire point revolved around how these big dicks are causing all the problems in America.


Also, here’s a fellow weighing his junk against a sack of gold.

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On Creative Inspiration

There’s a peculiar sort of feeling I sometimes have in which an uncommon mood akin to an altered state of mind slides over me.  A friend of mine calls this a “transcendent experience,” and he, a writer, experiences it as well, primarily when exploring nature.  Talking with my boyfriend, who is very artistic (presently expressing himself through pottery and songwriting), I found that he, too relates to this type of experience, and feels it when in a setting that seems especially powerful or poignant to the senses.  In talking with the various people I know, I realized that this seems to be a trait possessed by those with artistic personalities or an otherwise imaginative, creative nature.  These people not only perceive the world very deeply and strongly, but also allow their perceptions to influence them emotionally, creating strong moods in which one can become utterly lost.  The experience of being lost in one of these moments is like suddenly stepping into your favorite painting, and feeling the lines and colors around you with all of your senses.  I don’t know for certain, but I would suspect that the more pragmatic people of the world, the practical types who stick comfortably to the obvious, do not share this experience with those of us who perceive the world as a living, breathing form of art.  I believe this because, on occasion, I’ve found myself sliding into a “transcendent experience” while walking with a person of this sort.  I quickly became frustrated in my efforts to explain what I found so magnificent in the scene around us, while the other person could not seem to delve beneath the surface of her perceptions.  This disturbing experience is somewhat like having an orgasm in a public place… it is exceedingly uncomfortable, of course, to feel such heightened emotion when others around you seem to be perceptually flatlining.  To them, it seems, a cemetery is just a cemetery, an abandoned amusement park is merely that, a canyon is only a canyon, and the sunset is unworthy of artistic tribute.  There’s nothing to see here, their minds must say to them, you’ve got work to do.  Move along now, move along.  I do believe that such people can learn to sense the deeper shades in the world around them, if they choose.

While I know that I have an extremely artistic personality, I’m not a career artist, at least not presently.  I do enjoy pottery, which to me is more the learning of a skill than a means to express myself, at least in this early stage.  I regularly capture scenes of special interest with my camera, and I appreciate my photography, as Po also said in Capturing Beauty, as a means to capture the fleeting moments of beauty in the world around me.  My preferred means of creative expression is through my writing, and I hope to one day finish a book and get it published.  I am by no means a creative genius, but I live my life very much aware of that additional dimension to my perceptions of the world, a 6th sense, as it were, through which I gain artistic inspiration.  In fact, when writing stories or poetry, I find that I need to visit a highly charged site on occasion, the type of place which evokes strong emotion and feeling in me, in order to set the mood.  As such, I’ll find myself needing to visit certain places at random times, simply to revel in the pure perception of the scene around me.  I would suspect that many people reading this are the same, for my discussions with others would indicate that this is by no means unique.  One of my best friends, who doesn’t call herself an artist, perceives the world around her in an extremely artistic way, generally while listening to music or traveling, and she will sometimes find herself feeling out of time, as though she’s suddenly slid into some strange dimension of pure perception.  These moments are absolute bliss, an ecstasy of the “soul”, as anyone who has shared them would agree.

This week, my boyfriend surprised me by taking me to a salvage shop.  This may seem like a bizarre sort of surprise, but it was wondrous to me.  I’d never been in one before, and in walking through the dusty, dimly lit warehouse, I found myself in the throes of one of the greatest transcendent experiences I’ve had in a long while.  To either side of me stood the contents of gutted homes and buildings: porcelain sink tops, rows of doors and a large bin of doorknobs, personal items (encyclopedias, children’s toys, crutches), dishes and decorative items, dated and dilapidated furniture, and an abundance of hardware items.  I found my imagination spinning in furious circles, utterly fascinated by the sight of seeing all of these items strewn about, many of them things which you would never expect to find up for sale: public drinking fountains, exit signs, and such.  The sadness and eeriness of this place was inescapable, it was everywhere, a palpable feeling of strangeness which seemed to emanate from these piles of society’s flotsam, the cast- off refuse of our modern age.  Standing in the salvage shop and reveling in the experience, I felt the idea for a story beginning to germinate in my mind.  It is this sort of experience that I live for.

I would be extremely interested in hearing the details of others’ experiences with this curious phenomenon.  It is at these moments, and few others, that I perceive “the meaning of life,” or at least, the meaning I choose to grant it: the experience of ecstatic transcendence and true, complete perception of a moment in time, as much as the senses will allow.

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Where does your paradigm come from?

I’m hoping that this post can be an interactive one.  I know the whole premise of blogging implies the opportunity for interaction, but this one in particular needs it.  The purpose of this post is not for me to share what follows, but to induce others to share, creating a collective conversation that is greater in depth, breadth, and quality than any individual contributor could produce.

Paradigms….these are the frameworks, conscious and unconscious, that we use to make sense of our world.  They are the lenses that we see everything else through.  The ideas that guide our thoughts, distort or even create our perceptions.  From our perceptions comes our experience, which further informs our ideas about the world.  It is perfectly circular.  This circle can be sublime or tortuous, or most likely a bit of both, depending on the day. 

I firmly believe in consciously creating your own paradigms.  I reject out of hand that these things are inherited, pre-created, and culturally derived.  That may be for people who sleepwalk through life, but not for me and not for anyone else that dares to take up the reigns of guiding their own evolution.

That being said, I did not create my current incarnation of my constantly evolving paradigm in a vacuum.    Ideas from great thinkers, writers, artists, philosophers, and some everyday people have all contributed raw material to this structure that I’ve built.  So I’m going to attempt to list the top 10 sources of raw material for my paradigm.  As I write this sentence, I have no idea which of the many influences from my life search are about to make this list, but I am about to take the time to hash it out.  I will try and provide a brief intro to each of the items in this list without getting to lengthy. 

Again, the idea is for people to share persons, ideas, books, songs, movies, or any other kind of source that has deeply impacted or informed their personal paradigm.   There is no need to come up with at least ten, or to limit yourself to ten,  it’s merely an arbitrary number I picked for myself to give some structure to this post. 


Ok, I’m back.  This is what I came up with.  These are in no particular order (ranking these things seemed to be a futile exercise)

  • An infomercial for self hypnosis tapes that aired in 1984
    • This was my first exposure to the idea that human potential exceeded what the majority of people displayed in ordinary life.  (I was 6 years old)
  • The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy
    • I found this book when I was 7 years old, and it was really the beginning of my love affair with the genre of books associated with human potential, development, and ultimately spirituality.
  • Louise Burrell-Christe
    • My grandmother taught me about devotion, spirituality, and that the Divine is not just something to talk at, but also something that will talk back if you listen.
  • Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch
    • These books helped me to heal a schism that had formed in my young mind.  I had deep spiritual experiences associated with the ‘G’ word, but so much dogma and rules attached to the word “God” that I couldn’t reconcile the two.  This series of book helped me to re-conceptualize what the Divine is in such a way that it worked well for my evolving paradigm.
  • Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber, et al
    • This is really just my favorite of a long list of books about the integral theory.  It is about putting integral theory into practice, integrating mind, body, spirit, and shadow.  The AQAL framework does a great job of holding all sorts of things and showing the relationships amongst them.
  • Simplified Magic by Ted Andrews
    • I had always been drawn to the meditative science of the Qabala, but this was the first work that seem to demystify the mystical enough for me to finally be able to understand why I was drawn to it.
  • The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life (Volume I and Volume II) by Drunvalo Melchizedek
    • Probably  the weirdest book on the list, but one of my favorites.  It is possibly the most complete information I’ve ever found in a single source about Sacred Geometry.  
  • The band Tool. 
    • Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics speak to my path, what I’ve been through, how I’ve gotten where I am, and the kind of bizarre spirituality that I’ve carved out along the way.
  • The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
    • A simplified explanation of string theory that solidified the foundation left in my consciousness by The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.
    • My Big Picture Theory of Everything (My Big TOE) by Thomas Campbell
      • Helped to smooth the edges in my consciousness between my scientific and spiritual tendencies. 


I could go on.  The list is actually very, very long and continually growing.  And here’s the not so hidden agenda behind this (hopefully) interactive post:  I’m always looking for something new to add to this list, something that will send me reeling in a whole new direction the way each of these ten did.  So please, share.


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Michael Jackson is Dead

MJ1I was halfway through another article today when I got word of the big news.

Ladies and gentleman the ‘King of Pop’ is now dead as a doornail.

That’s right; at 2:26 pm today Michael Jackson kicked the bucket at a mere fifty years of age. There’s no doubt that he was popping far too many happy pills, but it’s still a pretty sad situation. Forget the child molestation charges, the freaky nose job(s), and all of those creepy Neverland interviews for a second. On the stage MJ was a spectacle, a sage, a….God? While his music never touched me personally (excuse the pun) I still have mad respect for his talent. In fact, I’m pretty sure the moonwalk should be universally respected among all mortals; if it isn’t already. My favorite tune of his – Billie Jean, no doubt.

But putting this aside, do you know what we’re in for people? Yup – endless hours of Michael Jackson tributes, pathetic “80’s kids” sobbing on the news, youtube, and their wordpress blogs. It’s not that I don’t feel compassion for the man, his death deserves to have some time in the lime light, but this is going to be something even the likes of Health Ledger has never witnessed.

In other news the world still turns. There’s a revolution taking place in Iran, a genocide still going on in Africa, and Sarah Palin is friggin’ PISSED at David Letterman.

But there are indeed some good things that will come out of this tragedy. For example, the news media’s ratings will soar in the coming weeks. Coincidentally, I plan to use Michael Jackson’s death to promote my blog, Project Groupthink. If you came here looking for a Jackson montage (or a nipple-slip or two) you’re in the wrong place. But if you’ve come here for daily kick-ass content, philosophical musings, and lively debate then do pop your head in and say “hi”.

R.I.P Michael Jackson, you will be missed by many.

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Art, Blood, Catharsis

Admittedly, I am not the most “productive” member of society. I say productive in the most capitalist, meaningless sense of the term, but on rare occasions I do in fact get down on myself for this perceived lack of responsibility. And, during these bouts of turmoil, I console myself by remembering that I am, mentally speaking, bringing food back to the tribe.

Or so I thought. I have noticed, on occasion, that this ideational food is often perceived as bitter, and less than nourishing. As an example, I ran into a girl I knew from high school at a party, the attendants of which were actively pro-drug, and somehow wound up talking about the uses of ketamine in transcending the human ego. Looking horrified, she asked that I not tell her things that would make her think of me in this (presumably negative) light.

This is sort of to be expected, and I’m not really crying in my beer over it (though I am saddened that someone whom I cared about was unable to benefit from my experiences.) One issue, however, seems to evoke this reaction more often than drugs, free love, or nihilist meta-ethics. I am speaking of the issue of masochism.

Barring details, I became acquainted with the art and philosophy of bodily injury on an intimate and spiritual level during the later months of two thousand and eight. I do not practice overt masochism at present, nor do I have plans to resume said practice in the foreseeable future. However, because of the recent nature of these events on the timeline of my life, they have, on occasion, been the subject of controversy of late (such as when a romantic interest found pictures of a particularly brutal work I had crafted in early January – BUZZKILL.) I address this issue because of the frequency with which I find myself pressed to verbally defend my actions, often without having raised the matter of my own volition.

Spiritually and aesthetically, there is something to the masochistic arts that I, a seasoned pursuer of bizarre experiences, found unique. To sit down and tear a knife over one’s own flesh, whether a quickie in the bathroom before class or a thorough-going, hundred cut masterwork, arouses psychical and aesthetic energies on a nuclear level, and does in fact produce beauty for those eyes which have taught themselves to see it.

I am not advocating this path to anyone, just as I wouldn’t hand you a checklist of drugs or sex partners and tell you to emulate the experiences that make my life unique. The point I am attempting to drive home is that much undue shock and chagrin is produced by the mention of a tradition that is as cathartic as it is aesthetic. Quite frankly, I have found otherwise intelligent, open-minded people reacting to the matter much as Victorian society reacted to homosexuality. More disturbing is the fact that, to the masochist-in-practice, those activities which are often symptomatic of deeper concerns are treated with all gravity, while the root problems are overlooked entirely. Not once have I ever truly given a fuck that I was scarred, bleeding, or in danger of some other non-serious biological reaction which the outside world construed as physical jeopardy. What I did care about was the inner blackness with which I found my psyche being consumed – a blackness which the masochistic experience attempted to pacify or resolve.

On that note, I yield the floor to group discussion. Perhaps you have a story of your own, of which I encourage to share as much or as little as you please. Perhaps this article has raised some questions in your own mind, or perhaps you merely think I’m a fucking moron and would like to tell me this in just so many words. If you would like to give feedback but are uncomfortable doing so in a public setting, I welcome responses at

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