Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The "Truth" About Morality, OR Would I Lie to You?

            Before answering questions about moral behavior I believe it’s important to define what we consider moral in order to provide context for the answer. In my mind, for this exercise let’s say moral behavior is behavior that causes no harm to self or others, outside of that of microaggressions. The reason I am defining moral behavior this way is due to the fact that in general most people take part in mildly immoral behavior everyday. This may be simply to receive a desired effect from another person or to spare another’s feelings (Ley, 2017). Essentially, most of the immoral deception we engage in has its roots in some misguided altruism. As one might expect, this low-level type of immoral behavior is inconsequential, even if dishonest.  

            I absolutely think that most people (myself included) believe that they behave morally “most” of the time. To add to this point, Ley also notes that most liars truly do believe the lie as they tell it, or at least wish it were true (2017).  There is a famous quote that has been attributed to many, but it is something to the effect of “We all believe ourselves to be heroes of our own stories.” This is due to our typically egoistic nature, as we view the world, and our actions through our own lens, and it is difficult for many to step outside of this. Summarily, most of us can find a reason to justify even the poorest of moral behavior. Hence, the lack of empathy we see in many corners of our modern world. When viewed through this stripped down real-world perception; there are no heroes or villains, just those with different agendas[1].   

           I believe most people decide what is morally just based on their own internal rationalization. As alluded to earlier, it becomes easy for us to justify action (or inaction) based on our feelings and interpretations of what is going on around us or happening to us. This personal opinion is also shored up by Tsang who concludes immoral behaviors are decided upon through multifaceted cognitive processes as well as environmental or situational pressures (2002).

          In conclusion, what is moral is different and even ever-changing for each of us through the course of our lives. What makes up your moral code?

[1] Yes this is a quote from Daredevil, not academic in nature but still worthwhile for this discussion.

Ley, D. J. (2017, January 23). 6 Reasons People Lie When They Don’t Need To. Retrieved January 16, 2019, from Psychology Today:

Tsang, J.-A. (2002). Moral rationalization and the integration of situational factors and psychological processes in immoral behavior. Review of General Psychology, 6(1), 25–50.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Reflection: Being Cordial

My wife and I were recently (like today) stuck in Santa Rosa, New Mexico on our way back to Arizona from Oklahoma. Due to inclement weather and adverse road conditions on the interstate, secondary and even tertiary roads, we decided to stick around this town and actually enjoy it. Versus jumping on the freeway just to sit, or getting on a state highway only to be faced with snowy and icy roads.
We encountered a lot of folks that lived in town, and the one thing that astounded me was that everyone, either directly or indirectly, was nice to us. I suppose I shouldn’t be as shocked about that as I am, but I can’t help it. I think it’s for a few different reasons…

(Cue my writing out the reasons in a convenient list, because well I share through writing, and I certainly don’t aim to leave you hanging.)

I live in a big town.

Phoenix is pretty damn huge. I can go most days never encountering the same people twice. I don’t walk into the QT everyday and talk to Marc behind the counter. He doesn’t ask how my morning’s been so far, I never ask about his kids, and I don’t dare bring up the fact that he spells his name wrong. I don’t see Sam buying his morning coffee everyday, nor Lena rushing in to grab a sandwich for lunch. The truth is based on traffic, I may stop at any number of convenience stores. As a result, instead of Marc, Sam and Lena, I may see Frank, Wendell and Hanna. Or I may not.

No Social Consequence.

This ties into the above as it relates to never having to see these people, Literally. Never. Again. If I decide to grab the last Hershey Gold bar before Sam can get to it (I would never do something like this by the way, but it serves its purpose for illustration), he may give me a dirty look, he may even cuss me, but both of those responses would be both justified and rare. Frank may be pissed, but he will likely go on about his day without calling out my selfish action. This means that I get what I want, while inconveniencing a total stranger. Therefore, I never have to see that person again, or deal with their presumed retaliation / response.

Time is a luxury.

Or it seems to be. The fact that I don’t stop and chat with Marc, isn’t personal- it can't be-because I do not know him in the slightest. Realistically speaking though, that early morning QT stop is just the latest in a long line of things to get done in the day. All these things have a timeline attached to them, which means Marc (despite having the potential to be my newest and greatest BFF) gets overlooked. Every hour of my day is already earmarked, and Marc didn’t get penciled into the schedule. This is sad, because I (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) only minimally see Marc as even being human most days. He’s just a button, one that gets pressed so that I get my morning energy drink.

Don’t Get Me Wrong.

Now for those of you that actively label yourself a “people person” you very well could be reading this and thinking, Wow this guy is an asshole! Admittedly, I can be, no denying that. In crowds I’m socially inept, in groups I can be socially off-putting, and one-on-one (save for those that I am closest with) I can be socially awkward. All that being said, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I am nice to my those hat fill the peripheral space off my life and do actively listen to what they say and even engage them in conversation.

What to do?

I don’t rightfully know at this point, not exactly anyway. However, I am a firm believer that everything happens to everyone for a reason. Yes including that, and yes that, and yes even that horrible thing, no we may not always know why. One day in a small town, that values personal relationships over time, at least has me questioning some of the day-to-day interactions I have with people, which I suppose is progress of some kind.
At the very least I think I’m going to try and remind myself to approach life as though there’s not a timer running above my head, whether self imposed, or otherwise.

So, like-minded anti-socialites, live like you were in a small town, do so in a manner that allows you to make connections, and don’t let time have its way with you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Platform

The lean man stood nervously on the train platform, idly referencing a pocket watch affixed to a paisley vest. He already seemed to be well aware of the time. Looking out into the distance the lean man saw an empty set of train tracks that spun off to the east, disappearing into a mountainscape miles away. The tracks were absent of any sign of a train. The sun was setting on the dry plains, but the sad sticks of scrawny cacti could still be made out despite the increasing absence of light.

The lean man returned the watch to his pocket and looked up and down the platform. Seeing other people walking to and fro seemed to do little to ease the man’s tension. At the same time, the man gently nudged a beaten leather bag at his feet, reassuring himself that it was still there.
“Howdy stranger,” a short man in a bowler approached and held out his hand.
Not startled, but wary, the lean man shook the outstretched hand.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance I’m Francis Stillwater.” Stillwater was pale, even against the weakening pink-orange of a lowering sun.  
The lean man just nodded, noticing Francis spoke too fast. Francis also had a tow sack slung over one shoulder.
“You a salesman?” the lean man asked.
“Not exactly. Why, you looking to buy somethin?”
“Not from you. I’d be obliged if you just occupy a different part of the platform sir.”
“I didn’t catch your name friend…”
“You’re awful persistent.” The lean man paused, “Not a salesman exactly...carpetbagger then? I don’t know this town well, but folks ‘round here don’t seem thrilled at the idea of a centralized government, or elected officials.”
“Sir, I’m simply askin’ your name. I’m tryin’ to be polite.”
The lean man growled a bit, stroking his beard, “You aren’t very good at it. Can’t seem to take a hint,” he concluded the sentence by tapping his right hand on the handle of a revolver that hung high on the holster at his waist. The lean man narrowed his eyes at Stillwater, “You don’t seem armed friend?”

As the lean man finished his statement, he noticed the few would-be passengers that were also waiting on the platform drifted from view. Some walked out of sight, disappearing beyond the threshold that led back to the ticket counter. Others still were wandering off towards the stagecoach that was parked beyond the tracks, waiting on the fares of new arrivals. The lean man absently noted the ticket counter held no attendant and there was no train yet, so no new arrivals would be present.
“Hints,” Stillwater laughed, throwing back his head in a way that should’ve made the bowler topple from his head. “Do you see what’s happening around you?”
It drew darker. Not in the way it would from a gently setting sun, but rather in the way that it might before a major storm.
The lean man failed to answer. Without giving tell he glanced beyond the platform, seeing how much fog had rolled in. He could barely see past the platform on which he stood. The mountains were obscured, the sticks of cacti were no longer visible in the distance. The lean man thought it was most unsettling that the sun had not set, but rather faded away. However the moon had not taken its place. Instead the platform’s immediate area was illuminated by an ethereal light. Shaky, and flickering inconsistently this new luminosity reminded him of a picture show he had taken in during his time in Dodge City. At one point during the film he had looked back at the projector and saw the dancing beam that made the show possible, it dazzled his eyes. Although this light was more yellow than white, it made his stomach sour and he suddenly felt the need to sit down.
“Manchester McCloud,” Stillwater laughed again. “That your given name?”
The lean man looked up, he had nearly forgotten about Stillwater, until he again saw the man’s sallow countenance.  McCloud nodded slowly.
“Would’ve sounded great in the papers.” Stillwater dropped his burlap sack on the platform, the fog lapped at its edges, but ultimately let it alone. He held up his hands as though they were framing a headline; “Manchester McCloud, robs the First National Bank of Broken Arrow.”
McCloud, confused, waited for more, like the man waiting for a punchline to a bad joke.
“Too bad you didn’t get away.” Stillwater gave the sack at his feet a sharp kick, its top slightly peeking open.
McCloud’s face turned down, he attempted to exhale. It might’ve been a gasp but apparently it caught in his throat and died.
“Sheriff Loveland put together a posse...any of this comin’ back to you?” Stillwater paused, “No? Ok, you let me know…Anyway, you lost most of ‘em after your ride to get away. But one of those upstanding citizens who was particularly dedicated to the law, pursued you here.” Stillwater stopped himself, looking around, “Well, not here exactly, but in Temple. You decided to lay low at the inn, Vernon Wellston, that upstanding citizen I mentioned, decided to sneak in and shoot you while you slept.”
McCloud’s eyes glossed over.
“I mean, the wanted bill did say dead or alive. And he gave the innkeeper a dollar.”
“That’s, that’s madness.” McCloud struggled for words, “I’m here, I paid for a train ticket out of town, out west. I’ve got enough money to get to California, and then some!” McCloud indicated the leather bag in front of his boots.
“Do ya?” Stillwater asked.
The dreadful churning of a train could be heard in the distance. The air became thick with the sound of twisted metal screaming against itself, but somehow the sound, and whatever was making it, lurched forward.   
McCloud bent over in a fit, looking as though he was about to dive headfirst into the bag. He clicked apart the thin metal clasp. As McCloud pulled open the satchel and saw its emptiness, only a wail escaped. McCloud thought it sounded alarmingly like him. The sound seemed to travel up and into Stillwater’s now open burlap sack.  
A train blacker than coal then ripped a hole through the fog. McCloud peered at the conductor’s booth, but saw only a dim green light coming from where the train’s operator should have been.  
“Say son, how many people you kill during that hold up anyway?” Stillwater asked, though it was clear he already knew the answer.
“I had to dynamite the safe because the damn attendant said he didn't have the key.” McCloud’s eyes, which had been sharp and hard, softened as he began to cry. Through sobs, “Cut the fuse too short. Had to get to cover.”
“But that attendant didn’t get to cover, aye McCloud?”
McCloud couldn’t speak, he looked catatonic, but managed to slowly shake his head.
The train hissed to a halt in front of them. It’s edges rippled as though you were gazing at it through the heat from the top of a fire. McCloud saw it, traced out of shadow flecked with sickly green and blood red. He gulped, it was all he could do.
“All aboard son.” Stillwater asked. It was the friendliest he had sounded since appearing on the platform.
Dual doors on the train car slid aside, allowing a murky light to spill from its insides. McCloud knelt to retrieve his leather bag.
“Eh, leave it, you don’t need it anymore.”

McCloud, compelled to listen, did as he was told. When he was completely free of the platform the malevolent light seemed to envelope him and the doors closed silently.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Catalyst for Change: The Law and What to Do When Disagreeing with It

This blog was taken word for word from sa recent discussion I had in an Ethics class regarding what the term "law" stands for. I was pleased with the way it came out, even if I may have strayed from the mark as far as defining what the law stands for.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I was pleased with it.

Good day all, 
            The realm of law has always interested me. One of the aspects of the subject that I find so intriguing is the somewhat fluid adherence and relationship counter-cultures can have with the legal system. As I also mentioned in my discussion post, the law is typically born out of societal values. However, these societal values are often governed by the majority. This idea forces some counter-cultures to essentially pick and chose the laws they follow, or at least agree with. In many ways this dissent can also bring about change. One example of this is the idea of civil disobedience brought to the forefront of our culture by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King can be paraphrased as stating, “Riots are voice of the silenced.” King himself did not practice violent protests, as he knew that peaceful protests were a revolutionary way to get people’s attention (and backing) in a positive manner. This is captured by Kevelson when she states that it becomes the obligation of citizens to ensure their own rights when an oppressive government has overstepped its bounds (2002). As a result King was able to be a catalyst for change in Civil Rights and in the corresponding federal law.

            Summarily, the law governs the land, but it is clear that in trying times, citizen’s devotion to these laws may wax and wane.

Kevelson, R. (2002). Dissent and the anarchic in legal counter-culture: a Peircean view. Ratio Juris, (1), 16. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Dog Beat Me Up

We waited there together, only I knowing her fate, her looking at me with trust and devotion. They came to take her away, an examination they said. She didn’t want to go, and she clung to me, climbed in my lap. No easy feat for a 50 pound dog.
                “No, go with him Bella, its gonna be okay.” I almost lost it right there. In social work they tell us never to say that to anyone. Don’t make statements you can’t guarantee, and all that. I wondered if that applied to dogs.
                Then I was alone. Thinking maybe they wouldn’t take her and we’d get to go home together anyway, for at least one more day. Internally: Maybe there was a chance I didn’t have to betray her after all. I secretly hoped that would be the case. Despite her bull-in-china-shop demeanor, despite the hours of potty training, despite every shouted “No!” I grew to love that dog. Because it wasn’t all bad, not even close, mostly just annoying at times. Moreover, her goofball personality and mischievous nature reminded me a lot of…well me.
                I looked at the clock, time had gotten away from me. I had been in the waiting room at the shelter nearly 25 minutes.
                The voice tried again, “David, we’ll take her. She did great,” said the shelter manager.
                Oh shoot, almost lost it again. I nodded, afraid to speak.
                “All we need is the surrender fee, unless you have any questions?”
                Again, no words. I shook my head and stood.    
                Oh hell. I realized I had to say goodbye. I knelt, repeating in my head; Don’t you do it, don’t you do it. I scratched behind her ears and patted her face. Ok still didn’t lose it. Keep it together. The shelter manager thought I was done, but no. I held her head and looked her in the eyes. Oh hell why’d you do that?  I stroked her muzzle one more time. If she would’ve understood, I would’ve said, “Sorry, I let you down girl.” Of course, that’s a lousy thing to say to someone knowing you’re not going to speak with them again. And certainly, understanding English, and understanding the sentiment behind that sentence are two different things.
                I turned away to go to the counter in my shame. A young man approached me, “Oh man why you givin’ up your dog?”
                I lost it. The tears came and I imagine much like during a bank robbery when the tellers signal the police, the customer service women at the counter probably triggered the “We’ve got a crier” alarm. Hurriedly, I paid the surrender fee and wiped my eyes and nose. As I hit the door I was already thinking about Bella. Where is she? Is she scared? And what got me the most is that I could guess, but I wouldn’t really know. All I could do was hope she was okay. It didn’t feel like enough, still doesn’t.
                In reality her greatest fault was she just being herself – a goofy puppy that had no idea how big she is, just needing attention. Hopefully, now she will find someone that can give her the time she needs.
                If you are in the Phoenix area and know of anyone (including yourself) that is looking for a fabulous puppy (shots up to date, crate and potty trained) then please keep an eye on:

@HALOresQ - Facebook

But also look for this cutie once she's posted-

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mental Health Defined & Discussed

           I started my new master's program last month and as such, I haven't had much time to free write. However, this is a response to a discussion question from week one in my current course. I thought it was interesting (and written well enough) to show you all here. Enjoy, and I will hopefully catch up with a true rant soon!
             “Mental health” as I would define it would be “contentment”. Of course that word alone falls far short of a comprehensive definition. If I were to elaborate I would state that “mental health” is the ability to have homeostatic functioning of the mind particularly in the areas of cognition, and behavior defined by age appropriate socioemotional maturity. This definition would also encompass normative traits such as resilience, stress tolerance and typical response to both positive and negative stimuli.  
            Certainly there are stigmas within the field of mental health. To this day mental health still exists as both terror-invoking and grossly misinterpreted by the public (Kinsella & Kinsella, 2015).  Unfortunately, these stereotypical labels fall on both patients and practitioners. For example, those who are in the field who are all too often referred to by such colorful nicknames as “shrinks” or “quacks”. Most people probably think a counselor who bills competitively for their rate is “money hungry” or “playing the insurance company”.
            Moreover, there are also stigmas attached to those seeking treatment. Such as anyone suffering from addiction issues being labeled a “junkie”, “boozer” or “methhead”. Along with these names come the ideas that addicts are inherently bad, criminalized and deemed by many to be destined to fail. Many authors have pointed to this problem as being one that spans the globe and causes real damage to those that have to cope with the negative connotation their disease brings (Henderson & Gronholm, 2018).
            What I have found personally interesting regarding the idea of stigmas, is that they exist in varying dimensions amongst substance abusers as a sort of “pecking order”. During my undergrad at a treatment facility I met many an alcoholic that would shake their heads in disgust and say, “At least I’m not that guy, he’s got real problems, he’s a heroin addict.” Or the opiate user who lost their job judging another that had their house foreclosed on as more severe, and thus worthy of disdain.
            In reality, I believe we all carry around some measure of these disorders. There might be a gentlemen who has to check to see if he shut his garage as he pulled out of his driveway 3 times before actually leaving for work, and then there’s the gentlemen who has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.  The only thing that’s separates “us” from “them” is severity and impact on quality of life. The idea of negatively rooted stigmas being associated with mental health is therefore cumbersome.  After all, we are all walking around with the same grey matter between our ears.
            As far as “why” these stigmas exist, it is simply due to misinformation and ignorance. Often times people fear and thus misconstrue what they do not understand. This of course leads to falsehoods being believed as fact. As professionals in the field of mental health it is a small part of our job to help dispel these myths as we encounter them.

Image result for mental health
Used from

Henderson, C., & Gronholm, P. C. (2018). Mental Health Related Stigma as a ‘Wicked Problem’: The Need to Address Stigma and Consider the Consequences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 1158,
Kinsella, C., & Kinsella, C. (2015). Introducing Mental Health, Second Edition : A Practical Guide. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Where Were You?

The year was 2001. I can see it vividly. My back doesn’t hurt the way it does now. I know because I was slinging pallets and cases of Coca-Cola back then like the young man I once was. Hell, I might have even had a little bit of hair on the top of my head.
Tuesday morning, and I was in the backroom at the Kroger’s grocery store in Piqua, Ohio receiving area which was buzzing with activity.  You know where I mean; that mysterious veil of retail some of us know all too well. The place marked by those dual swinging doors with tiny square windows no one can see out of, or thick flaps of industrial grade plastic that turn yellow and brittle with age. The immediate area smelled of overripe vegetables and a trash compactor that had been used to dispose of them daily since the seventies.  
 Vendors stood impatiently next to their stacked deliveries, while salespeople ran here and there punching in orders on electronic devices, long before anyone ever thought of an iPad. It was the sweet hymn of organized chaos.
I was right in the middle of it. I had recently taken over a new merchandising (for those not ‘in the know’ that means glorified stockboy) route. My goal was twofold: correct the stuff the lazy guy before me hadn’t done right, and to start doing the stuff he wasn’t doing at all- you know important stuff like rotating product.[1]
At any rate, I was absorbed by my work. But not too absorbed to notice a majority of the vendors shuffling quickly outside. I wasn’t invited, but had to bring those empty pallets and shells outside to rot in the Ohio weather, so I decided to join them.
When I exited the oversized garage door that led to the back of the dock, I saw a strange site. Gathered around the Wonder-Bread vendor’s truck was every food vendor you could imagine in the Midwest. They were all huddled around the Wonder-Bread truck, leaning in as close as they could to the cab.
As I approached a UPS guy, drove up, hopped from his van with a couple boxes and hollered, “Boy look at this, a real meeting of the minds.”
“Jerry,” the Wonder Bread driver yelled at UPS, “You gotta hear this; they are saying some lunatic flew a plane into one of the twin towers.”
Jerry from UPS didn’t even slow his walk, “Whatever, you’re full of shit.” He continued inside with his delivery.
I approached Wonder-Bread van, and everyone else, trying to figure out if it was an insanely stupid joke or something else entirely. My mind immediately flashed to the original War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938, wherein people were supposedly whipped into mass hysteria because the production was interpreted as a newscast.
I got in as close as I could to the cab. I recoiled almost as eagerly.
I remember going from a 21 year old newlywed, who had lost his dad early that year, but still had everything figured out, to a speck, who knew nothing.  “Why?” marched through my head, and all its friends followed, rattling me in a way that I never have been, before or since. The world no longer worked the way I thought it had. And that was just the beginning, because my phone rang.  No wait, I didn’t have a cell phone. I had a pager. So…
My pager vibrated, I walked to the phone at the front desk and dialed my wife[2].
“Oh my God baby where are you?”
“Kroger Piqua.”
“Did you hear what happened?”
“Ya I just heard over a radio outside here.”
“Are you coming home?”
“No, I have a delivery to work.” Realizing how ridiculous that sounded I tried to shore it up, “Besides they aren’t going to let us come home.”
“Ok, get home as soon as you can, and you call me at every store!”
I didn’t and in fact, I worked my full shift that day, just as all my peers did. Perhaps, if I would’ve had more of the wisdom age has bestowed upon me, and less of the unquestioning desire to “get-ahead” that would’ve been different.
Fact is; I did get home to see my wife, as you all know I was lucky, because many Americans didn’t get home at all that day.
It was a day that shaped the world we lived in more than we’d like to admit. Or perhaps we’ve forgotten over time, even though we promised we wouldn’t. Even today, the aftereffects of its tragedy ring in our ears.  
That is not to say those responsible “won”, or even gained any ground- assuming there was ground to gain.
It could be said that single act did more to define American zeitgeist than the Kennedy assassination, the Great Depression, or the World Wars.  Of course, every generation has its defining moment.
They also managed to spread a consuming flame of hatred and confusion related to anyone that wears a turban, prays to Mecca, or has a beard longer than Chris Hemsworth (and a number of other details, accurate or not). Unfortunately, that might be the legacy that 9/11 offers to us most glaringly; cultural assumptions that lead to chaos. This maladaptive thinking proves dangerous to both sides, as it does nothing more than raise awareness for the things we can judge the other against.

[1] By the way, fuck you Bill you lazy bastard!
[2] “At the time”