Exercising Calm

I get off of work for the military and travel an hour north to do another job. I am usually early to the second job and have some time to kill and will stop by a Starbucks for a little bit to work on one of the many projects I have going. Seeing that I shouldn’t change out of my uniform on the side of the road, I am usually in uniform until I arrive at my final destination and I can change. Now this particular Starbucks is well known to me. I’ve stopped here on most Tuesdays for a little over two years now. The peopel that work here are nice and it is one of my favorite Starbucks.

I am sitting at a small table, I have my laptop open and am focused on a variety of things on my computer. Which projects are stalled, which ones are progressing, and I am also looking through a writing project I am working on, opening up a program for research, and so on. I am near a window and have a great view of the world around me. I am aware of the barista, a long time regular here, emtying out the trash. It is one of those trash cans that has a large cover that hides the actual trash can underneath. She picks up both and is emptying them, changing bags around, is five feet away from me, when the empty aluminium can drops onto the floor.

BOOM!

I am ripped from my concentration with the things before me, I half stand out of my chair, both arms are up in a fighting position, fists are curled, and I let out a muffled grunt sound. The two teenagers to might right are only slightly alarmed, but go back to their biology studies. The barista smiles at me while continuing to change the bag. She never slows her movement, smiles a little, and I grunt to her “I don’t like loud noises like that”. She never says anything but continues taking out the trash.

Now, I consider this, thus far, a major win. I used to have a very large, very pronounced startle response. In the past I would have likely spilled my coffee, knocked over my laptop, jumped out of my chair, and yelled curse words and obscenities. But I didn’t here, because I’ve done the work over time to get here.

I brought my hands together, closed my eyes, and just breathed. At first I was not aware of anything with my body, my attention was focused on what was outside of me, my thoughts were interpretting her smile as a smirk, that she never said anything to me as her non-caring. I ignore all these negative thoughts and focused only on my breathing….

In….

Out….

And I started to pick parts of my body that I was aware of. It started to dawn on my that my arms were very tight. I loosened them. Then I noticed that my legs were tight, then my chest, then my back, my stomach… back to my breathing. I started moving around my body, eyes still clsoed, and consciously feeling and releasing tension. I’d come back to a body part that I had just relaxed and would find out that I had only relaxed it partially. It took me several sweeps to relax my self. I noted my heart rate was quite high, but that it started to settle.

In….

Out….

Eyes still closed, hands before me, sitting at the little table, I was unconcerned with the world around me. In the past I would have felt embarassment and anger at other people seeing my reactions. But this time I did not concern myself with it. If concern did enter my awareness, between breaths, I gently told myself “let them see a Soldier in uniform exhibiting self control and gaining peace. Let them see a Soldier worthy of this nation.”

In….

Out….

After perhaps 2 or 3 minutes, I opened my eyes, felt the ease of being that I’ve worked so hard to learn how to develop. I cherish my combat reflexes, I do not want to get rid of them, the time may come to use them again. But I am not the slave to my passions, to the automatic reflexes of my nervous system, or the negative thoughts and mistaken perceptions rising from paranoid beliefs.

It could be that she didn’t know how to react to me. Perhaps she thought it best not to poke the bear with a stick. Perhaps she felt bad. Perhaps she realized that space and time were enough for me. Perhaps next time she’ll be nice (again, she is always nice). Perhaps a million other things other than where my mind wanted to go at first, and that is attributing selfishness and uncaring onto a person who has only ever done nice things for me whenever I stopped her for coffee.

And besides, had she meant to be rude or did not care or thought the affair amusing, I am a better version of my self for not reacting out of proportion. I am a better soldier for maintaining my self control.

In….

Out….

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Pork Trash

I try not to do things I don’t want to, and if I have to do something I try to delegate it or automate it. Cooking, for the most part is the same. I’d rather be reading or playing guitar than cook something. But I have to eat and protein shakes are not all they’re cracked up to be. So, besides the occasional meal that I go all out for, I like to streamline it as much as possible.

Fortunately the Paleo diet helps in this. When I go shopping I basically stay out of the middle of the store, hang around the edges, and buy a lot of meats and vegetables. The hard part (for me, as I’m learning) is finding good sources of fat (avocados, coconut) and such.

I also like to cook 99.9% of everything in one stovetop iron skillet. The other 0.01 percent is when I bake bacon, which is faster and I can cook more at a time. I also like to cook batches that I can then divvy up for another day or two (leftovers).

Today I had 16 ounces of ground pork (grass fed, no growth hormones, organic). So I decided to make some ‘trash’, which is just what I call it when I take whatever is in the refrigerator and toss it together in a skillet. Easy, no thinking, just mix it and eat.

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After I cooked this, I cooked a large broccoli head in a tbs of Irish butter.

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After this was cooked, I cooked a red bell pepper and Italian squash with a couple tbs of Coconut oil.

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When it was all done I added a very liberal sprinkling of himalayan salt. Seriously… don’t eat the white stuff that comes in the cardboard. Not the same.

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I divided it up into a serving for now, and 3 servings for later.

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Looking at the nutritional data, my lunch today is 400 calories.

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Proportionately it is a little high on the fat, I’ll tweak the coconut oil that I used (because the butter on the broccoli was amazing).

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But overall, not a bad lunch for just throwing something together.

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I’ll save this one as part of my regular meals. It comes out to around $4 per meal, most of which is the grass fed organic pork that I used. But the taste was great, and it is MUCH BETTER for you in the long run.

 

Courage-NelsonMandela1

Courage

Tonight I am reading some psychology text and it is mentioned that virtues are actions and happiness is a feeling and not to confuse the two.

This reminds me of Aristotle and I had to stop for a moment and get some thoughts out before continuing my tea-fueled reading.

It is common to hear someone say (and I have said is on many an occasion myself) that to be fearful and still do something, is the height of courage. In reading and thinking on Aristotle, I’ve come to believe that he took the opposite stance.

The virtuous person feels good in doing virtuous actions. Some people do them because they have a strong will, though they aren’t jazzed in doing it. They lack virtue, even though they are doing the actions. This is easy to understand in many examples, the person who gives a gift to someone, but who is thinking “I wasted money doing this”.

Take out the language and put in values of X and Y we see the formula that Aristotle laid out… that a virtuous person does something and feels pleasure in doing it.

Now, the same holds for the notion of courage. If a person is stands up and speaks zer mind, surrounded by antagonists, the courageous person will feel good in saying something, in acting with virtue. The person who does not feel this, though standing up for beliefs anyway, is not at heart a courageous person.

And I find that I have need to remind myself of the Golden Mean, the Middle Way, and a concept that many people have correctly said as nothing in excess (half true) but then misunderstand when they advocate for some numerically middle ground between extremes.

Golden-Mean

If a person must stand against several, it is natural to feel a sense of fear or anxiety or something, however brief. Our brains are wonderful at throwing a universe of ideas into the mix, most of which never stick to anything. For example, driving a car beside a cliff and the thought of “drive over the cliff” enters the mind. This is an absurd thought and it passes without consequence, never sticking to anything in the perception. So too the fleeting sense of anxiety in the mind of a courageous person, it comes and goes without any further ado because the person is filled with virtue.

An important part in this equation, in the balance for which we seek to find, is that of rational thought. Without this we are doomed. Allow me to illustrate. Suppose a person were to never act against the transgressions of others? It is relatively easy to see how this person is a coward. Yet in talking with people, the opposite is true, that a person who always acts against transgressions is not viewed as rash. It might be conceded that they can be a jerk, but never that they are not courageous. Herein lies part of the misunderstanding, we are confusing the action with the emotional feeling and back to the action.

It has been the case that I’ve been faced against one or more people and have felt afraid. It has also been the case that I’ve been in far greater danger and have gleefully entered into the fray. Without counting Iraq, I can count several instances where I have moved toward the sound of chaos. Shots fired, cries for help, harassing strangers, smell of fire, auto accidents, and more, I’ve moved forward. Truth be told, many times I’ve run dark streets (I’m a marathoner and train a lot) and I’ve asked the Universe that if there was a mugging, raping, shooting, theft, assault, to please let me have the good fortune to come upon it so that I might act upon it. My rational thought approaches a situation and weighs different values and questions. The mere feeling of desiring to go forward and fight someone is not courageous. Perhaps I’ve interpreted the situation wrongly and will now do harm to someone by mistake. Suppose I interpret everything around me as transgressing against me. Such we have the actions of many veterans I’ve worked with (and myself) where they are always eager to go into a fight. This, again, is not courage but instead is rash. Seeing things correctly (as correctly as we can) take wisdom, and wisdom is developed over time, with experience and thoughtful approach to each situation as it is. That is why Aristotle says:

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.

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Another example. Recall the movie 300 where the Persian army is on the beach below and some of the Greeks feel despair while looking down on so many, whereas the Spartans were laughing and grinning. Both groups fought in the battle, both groups did the actions required (the miser giving the obligatory gift), yet only one group was joyous in their actions… the Spartans. The first group thought of the ensuing pain, the second thought of the glory and honor afforded to them. This is a central point raised in some discussions on heroic societies and the role of honor in that it enables the warrior to willingly, gleefully, move forward into battle… it helps to build courage.

Thus the person who trembles, but gets up anyway to declare an unpopular (but needed opinion) is not courageous. What can be said of them is that they have power of will. They didn’t want to rise up and speak, they didn’t want to cause undue attention to themselves, but they recognized something compelling them to do so (whether it is rules, strategy, politics, or other).

This is an unpopular position today, because everywhere you look there are definitions that say only the person afraid can show courage. It is in texts on military combat and PTSD, on communication books, on social justice commentary, and more. Again, I’ve used this phrase many times in my own trainings, to which I now recant.

This is not to say that the person of will is to be condemned because they do not have courage. Funny how many people take that meaning when discussing the virtue of courage but not with other virtues. Courage is connected to our sense of self mastery and we have deeply personal reflections on the term. If the person displays force of will and is able to act without courage, the doing so is necessary to develop courage. The first punches and stings from being tested hurt, yet we soon realize that the fear of pain is often worse than the pain itself. Through training, over time, and with growing experience and rational thought, courage can be developed, as can the other virtues.

Bill-Nye-debate

A fault with Creationism

I watched with interest the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham debate at the Creationism Museum yesterday.

Mr Ham tried resting his #Creationist position on what he called ‘historical science’ and asserted, though poorly, that because you weren’t there, you don’t really know.

If he had taken the time to unpack this argument, it does have some traction to it because it goes into what we think is causality and how we come to conclusions. However, he might have realized this as a poor strategy because what science does is assert the best answer to something until a better answer comes along.

For example… there are crazy circles in the crop. Some people (non scientists) will readily jump to “it is aliens”. Scientists will not automatically dismiss that idea, but will first ask “what is the more plausible explanation” and then test against it. In the case of crop circles… its hooligans with planks and rope.

Now, what Mr Ham has seriously erred with his stance is that his fall back position cuts both ways. If he says that all claims by science as to the age of the Earth are ultimately suspect because nobody was there to see this happen, and then he turns around and says that his position of creationism and a young earth did have someone there to witness God) (though not that one, ze is pretty cool) there is simply NO PROOF that 1: God exists, and 2: that we have proof of a record of such.

This is where he falls back onto his ultimate position, that “there is this book that tells…” Now, the question is, how do we know that this book (the King James Bible, as was referenced in the debate) is accurate? The paper it is written on, how do we know how old it is? The text it comes from, with historical accounts (witness statements) of it being transcribed under the command of King James, how do we know the earlier translations were correct? Is anyone from then alive now? Why should I take someone’s word? It isn’t like anyone has ever lied to maintain power and control before? Pardon my skepticism. Going further back, how do we know the Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew, Egyptian, and so forth, texts… that were a varied collection of texts by different authors, with different versions, with different ideas about the nature of God and Jesus and Mary… how do we know that any one of them is legit and which one, of all the variations and differences and disagreements between the texts, is correct? Nobody alive now was alive then? And how do we know any one of these texts that are transcribed are more than a hundred years old?

The error in using the ‘there are no living witnesses to verify an old Earth hypothesis” also work against the Creationists idea. I say it is an idea, because it does not fulfill the requirements of a ‘theory’.

The truth is that there was no one Bible that was created, but many different texts with different spins, authors, errors, viewpoints, that were consolidated 300 CE, which have been translated and changed since then. There is no proof of any great flood, many other mythologies have a myth of a great flood (read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, check out some African myths, and others), there is no proof of the Christian God, there is no proof that any portion of the Bible is anything other than written by men. Period.

What would convince me otherwise? Evidence. Creationism has no evidence. It is a myth. As long as some Christians continue to treat it as a word-for-word account, they are actually stunting their spiritual growth. Mythology has a deeply important role in the human psyche (or soul if you wish) to the extant that facts and figures do not. It is a great impoverishing to cut down the mythic themes in the particular set of myths known as the Bible (one of MANY sets of mythic realms around the world).

You can call it ‘truth’ all you wish… but it doesn’t make it so. Truth is not merely an emotional state of certainty… there are schizophrenics who are absolutely sure that bugs are crawling under their skin, or the dog is talking to them, but this does not make it true. There are people who are absolutely sure, feeling deep conviction, that their government is corrupt or noble, and this conviction does not mean that it is true. Conviction does not equal knowledge. The streets are filled with firmly convinced people of ignorance.

Many of the convinced Christian believers would be, if born in a Muslim country, be devout Muslims, or Hindus, or whatever. There is GREAT pressure to socially conform to the normative beliefs and behaviors of those around you. It ‘feels’ good when one fits in… it ‘feels wrong’ when one is outside of this system of beliefs.

Try it sometime… tell a complete stranger that you are something that is opposite your beliefs. For many of my friends who say that their anti GLBT bigotry is “just an opinion”… if this is the case, then it should be easy to show that opinion to a stranger. Tell a stranger that you are gay and notice how you feel. That feeling is the emotional pressure to conform. That is the basis of your belief… not rational thought. But don’t take my word for it… study psychology for a decade and come to your own conclusion using rational thought.

Ask questions, ask for evidence, and that will be a much better guide to finding any truth than trusting the word of one man or group of men in a religious sect. As Bill Nye made clear in his position… ‘we welcome evidence that proves us wrong’. Why? Because we are searching for TRUE knowledge, which is more than a fuzzy feeling.

espresso

espresso for the mind

Espresso for the mind

Born and raised in Arkansas in the 70’s and 80’s, I was not exposed to coffee. And for that matter, so was most of the U.S. I might have tried the horrid concoctions that passed for coffee, but it never stuck. When I went to the Marines and underwent the dry, tortuous, boring training that was avionics at Millington, TN, I was forced to drink coffee to stay awake. I’d take whatever coffee was made and add massive amounts of sugar and cream to it in order to stomach it.

Fast forward a few years and I am out of the Marines and living Irvine, CA. At this time I started going to bookstores and libraries and reading philosophy and psychology, though at a very beginner level. I started to going to cafes and, aside from listening to whatever poetry or music event was occurring, I wrote a lot. I have stacks of journals where I am clumsily jumping around all the new ideas that I’d never been exposed to when growing up in Arkansas. It is my opinion that if you do not know who Kant or Whitman are, your education is severely stunted.

The coffee I drank at these cafes around Orange County and later Houston were still sweet mochas. Another couple of years and I moved to Eugene, Oregon and I was also learning more about the Beatniks, Kerouac, Miller, Ginsberg, and espresso kept coming up in satelite. My favorite coffee shop, the old Theos Coffeehouse (before they moved to The Strand) had a great mixture of people, humanists, atheiest, calvinists, protestant, unitarians, catholics, buddhists, pagans, and more that would visit the shop, sip coffee, play chess, peruse books, and strike up conversations. I’ve had several good, decent, and respectful conversations there. I believe that if they had stayed at that location, the fertile ground and environment was such that something great might have bloomed in the mind of someone there. As it is, it moved to a location that is much too noisy, busy, and so forth to allow this unique fertile ground. I wish them the best, however.

It was at a coffeeshop in Eugene that I sat down with an espresso and tasted it. It was bitter and my mouth instantly rejected it. This wasn’t the mochas that I drank a lot of. But I knew that what was going on here was that I had an expectation of what the taste should taste like. And like many things in life, when we place a should in there… things get pretty messed up quickly enough. I knew that at a low, subconscious level, I was expecting the taste to be wildly different and, because of such, I disliked the difference. That should was problematic. So I sat there on the patio, a bright summer day and sunshine was beaming down on me. I had a stack of books on the table, an open notebook before me, and this small cup of espresso. I breathed in the present moment, accepted the life around me, and asked myself why I wanted the espresso to be something it wasn’t. It really sounds strange to write it, but this is how the brain works. Once I was able to set aside my expectations, I picked up the espresso and took a sip. Instantly I tasted the complexity, the caramel and smokiness. I cannot stress just how much the flavor was dramatically changed by my being open to the experience. The bitterness was still there, but instead as a negative it was now a signature aspect. I embraced it and welcomed it.

That experience changed my coffee drinking forever. Today I seek out good roasts, prefering it black much of the time. I look forward to my morning coffee. It is true that I go through the motions on many morning, making coffee in a cup to go and heading to work. But some days I am mindful of the cup, the taste, the presence of mind to drink what is in my cup.

Compare this to driving in traffic. I’ve never been great in traffic, but not terrible either. Though it could be a source of frustration (L.A., Houston), it wasn’t a source of pain in my life until after my deployment to Iraq in 2004. After this I found that any drive in traffic was enough to set me in a foul mood, even the 2 miles from home to work! I went through brake pads on my truck quickly, and a few times down to the rotors. I drove angry.

Therapy and personal effort to change my behavior and peace, resulted in my becoming less and less frustrated with traffic. This was put as a priority when I got a job as a coordinator for a 7 county area and entailed me travelling hundreds of miles a week. My blood pressure was up, my stress was up, I knew that if I didn’t change things, I’d have a heart attack in a year. And I did manage to make great strides. However, the notion of a roadtrip was synonymous with insanity to me. Why would anyone do this to themself?

Then I put my truck in the shop and was loaned a 2013 Mustang convertible. I was so thrilled at its driving, the way it handled the road, the steering, that I was filled with joy with every mile. I got stuck in traffic, in construction zones, and more, and came out the other side happy. Why? Because instead of focusing on what should be (me driving without hindrance) I focused on what is, (I was sitting in a fun car). After a few days I traded my truck for that car. Some people have told me I was nuts, most have said it was cool. But the quality of life has gone up a lot for me with this purchase.

It is important to note here that it isn’t the car that is making me happy. I could do all of this in a Prius (and I have, while driving around Klamath Lake) but I am a human, and I sometimes need a boost. Just like the ritual of making my tea and sitting in the window helps me become more present, many times driving the Mustang is the environment where I find it easier to enter into a present state.

And so I search for those things are are espresso for the mind, that are tools that help me let go of my frantic life of shoulds and expectations and instead live with mindfulness.

A different kind of lonely

A different kind of lonely

When I was young I had fallen victim to the Hollywood ideal of love. You know what it is, our culture is saturated with the message the true wove is an essential quality of some thing, that you either have it or you don’t, and once you do discover it, your moral stature is determined by whether or not you stay loyal to it. You know… soulmates. And I went from one to another, one deep love to another, each one crushing, but all the while I was questioning and learning. Because there was an underside to this myth that was deep in the darkness and harder to find. But I remember where I was standing when I finally uncovered it.

I was beside a small pond in Eugene, Oregon and I was watching swallows fly in the air. I was enraptured at the sight and I felt very lonely (again, as I was most of the time). Yet as I gazed at the birds in the twilight, I realized I wanted another person with me that could recognize that I appreciated the sight. I had realized that what I had been looking for was a mirror to prop up my self worth. This is not a lasting reason to have someone, it does not foster a genuine love for the other person. It was quite a blow to realize that what I was identifying as love, was selfishness.

I had been looking for someone who essentially tell me that I was worthy. And whenever anyone would, I have no shortage of friends (even today) ready to tell me these words, they have the opposite effect. The more I hear it, the less it sinks in. And this was the sole reason for another person.

You are very good alone”, my therapist would tell me years later. Yes, I’ve worked hard to be good alone, to not need anyone to give me my sense of worth. This was very difficult because my mother had thorougly posioned this well. I worked on my anger, my thinking, my perception, my balance, everything. I was always an introvert, and with many others, very self conscious about many real (and imagined flaws) that kept me from reaching out to other people. But now that I had worked so hard to rid myself of the need to have someone there to bolster me, that I was self sufficient in my hermitage, what little motivation there was to propel me forward is gone. This is not a travesty, because I am genuinely a happy person. Decades later I have scratched the surface of an individualized existence. I will reinterate… scratched… because I sense there is an immensity within which I’ve yet to tap into, but which will add so much more color and breadth to an already blessed and luminant life.

While driving through a winter road, dusk falling gently on the forest, the song Waiting for the rain plays over my radio. I am, as is so commonplace for me now, filled with contentment and peace. I am happy and I take pleasure in so many things around me, that each breath is a gift. And I look to the empty seat beside me, and I feel it, a new loneliness before now unknown to me. I wish there was someone there that I could say “see those spruce trees” and share the beauty that I see around me. Whereas before I wanted a mirror… now I want to be a mirror.

It is a dull ache, but it is one that I am so very thankful for. To many times, and for stretches of time too long, my heart has turned to ice, and I’ve had no more awareness of loss or love as I could levitate a rock. Too many people, wonderful people of such goodness, have been treated unfairly by me, that I am much hesitant to test my health upon theirs. I am happier this way, for now.

My mission

A couple of years ago I took a Positive Psychology class at PSU. This class was a game changer for me, it shifted paradigms. I did very well in the class, enough to make an A+, only I ended up with a C+. I did well on all my assignments and tests, save for the end. I was supposed to do a paper with 5 articles on using positive psychology in some manner of our lives. At this time I was in the middle of therapy and my own reintegration work and I chose veterans. So I started reading up on veterans, PTSD, reintegration, and such. I think at one count I had over 50 journals alone. Instead of writing out the paper, I was reading and doing a lit review.

Hours before the paper was due, I forced myself to write it out and print. It was ghastly. It was beyond rough. It was not edited. My printer had a malfunction and it took me 30 minutes to troubleshoot it, which pushed me into the deadline hour for turning it in (and I still had to drive to the campus and do so).

Finally, after printing it out, I glanced over it and couldn’t do it. It was horrible. It was a rambling, filled with errors, had no central thesis, and was something you might hear me say were I to drink some whisky and strike up a conversation about the material. I had a small window of time left in order to turn in the paper, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it because the paper was absolute crap.  So I didn’t drive to campus and I didn’t turn it in. And so I went from an A+ to a C+ in the class.  A year later, talking with the professor for the class, he was surprised that I wasn’t an A student and he chastised me for not turning in the paper.

For the past four years I’ve done my own therapy, read more books and studies, worked in group work with other veterans for domestic violence and PTSD, was employed as part of the Reintegration Team that helps veterans in the state, went to the Army’s Master Resilience Trainer school, given close to a hundred Crisis Intervention Training with various police departments, attended Suicide Intervention training and handled suicidal calls, became the program manager for the State’s resiliency program, and have given several weeks of training in resilience skills. I conducted 3 days of training last week and the comments on the class afterward were very positive. I add so much to the training, citing studies, stories, examples, and more. When it comes to working in that nebulous field between masculinity, military culture, combat training and experience, domestic violence, anger, control, resilience, and psychology… I think and feel that I have become that SME, subject matter expert.

I kept that printout and filed it away but last night I dug it out and tried to read it. It was painful to read. So many thoughts were colliding on the page at right angles to each other, sometimes in mid sentence. But I do see the tentative first steps in major themes that I would investigate over the next few years. And I have so much more to learn, the questions are still out there, finding that spot that Archimedes referred to as the fulcrum in order to move the world. And always more questions.

For example, it is said that the presence of guns in the household increases the chance of suicide up to five times. The age group with the highest rate of suicide in the military is the younger ones, 18-25 year olds. When I was at that age in the Marines, most of us were single and lived in the barracks on base. I’m sure some had weapons, but most were told to keep them in the base armory. If it is the case (and I am unsure of this now) that most young military live on base do not have immediate access to their weapons, is there a difference in rate of suicide between those that live on base and those that live in housing or off base (and presumably have access to their own weapons)? I do not doubt the efficacy of limiting weapon access for suicidal patients, but I am not willing to bet the farm on it. This is not the fulcrum point. At least that is what my gut is telling me. Looking at suicide statistics of veterans in Oregon, veterans are almost twice as likely as non veterans to commit suicide but if we removed that younger group it is close to the same with veterans slightly higher. Is it merely war, as so many non military like to point out? Is it merely military culture that makes us insensitive, as some have said? Is it that younger soldiers are more sensitive to the exposure to war? Is it that the younger soldiers are more susceptible to picking up the military culture and the combat useful traits of ferocity and fearlessness? Reading Thomas Joiner’s book, I see how younger soldiers could especially fit into his model.

I don’t know the answers, but the problem, though getting better (the rates have dropped in Oregon) it still needs some work. Looking at my rough draft of the paper I did not turn in, I wrote “my question at the end was a very real question, what can I give to the soldier that agrees to meet me at a bar late at night because his life is going to hell? What positive difference can I make, other than the proper use of tactics and weapons, that I can give to soldiers before they deploy next year?”.  I still have some answers to those questions, some things that I can offer, but I still have a lot to learn.