Social Media Is Not The Problem.


I’m an introvert, and I’m happy.  I’m comfortable with my own company and don’t ever feel the need to be entertained. Why others need to is a mystery to me. Sometimes, that lack of understanding is a disadvantage, but I am most of all happy with myself.

Recently, as I have watched the news, I have been struck by how needy people are, especially those in power. The need to be noticed and to be seen to be noticed is in my opinion perverse. However, coming from someone that prefers his own company you may not agree with my analysis. We are social beings and have a need for company and companionship. There is research to show the benefits of our social nature. I am not so naive as to discount the work but I have concerns about the direction of our community building. I’m not sure we are building the communities we need. Your smartphone should not be the limit of your social group.

My favorite pastime is walking in nature alone, and I have spent hours walking alone listening and observing the life around me. I don’t pretend to have any greater skills of observation than others, but I find peace in those moments I’m alone.  Like most, I have my smartphone connected at all times and within easy reach. I am connected and enjoy the ability to interact when needed. I just don’t think I need to interact at all times. In recent years I have paired back and have tried to live more “in the moment” than via my connectedness. Yes my phone is connected but my notifications are off. There are no email notifications, app notifications are off too. Only those who may need immediate responses are allowed.

I hear the complaints about social media making us less social. Social media is not the problem, we are. Smartphones, tablets, and computers are excellent tools. The problem is the workman. The connected world is still new, and society is still learning how to manage these tools. We need to teach our children how to use technology to enhance their lives while also not being overwhelmed. The commercialization of the tools, including the internet, is a push to make you the product.  Social media is a tool, don’t be the product. Use these tools to make your life easier, use it to your benefit. Use the internet as intended by its inventors, a means to communicate over unbridgeable distances. If we direct our children to see computers as a means not an end we will all be better for it.

As I see it, this intersection of valid use and addiction to connectivity is where we need to intervene. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I would suggest the answers must start with us being able to be alone without being bored. We must learn to be with ourselves.

The ability to introspect and to self evaluate is essential to loving and accepting who we are. Loving ourselves and accepting our flaws is the beginning of understanding and acceptance of others. Acceptance of others does not mean we acquiesce to their opinions, but it allows us to be comfortable with our differences and not be stressed.

If we first learn to accept ourselves then we can more easily accept others. If we can become more comfortable with silence and our own company we will not need the approval of people we don’t know or will never see. Let’s spend some time with ourselves and unplug a little. I’m going to follow my own advice.

GONE, BUT NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN.


When was the last time you looked up at the night sky? The beauty of the natural world seems well hidden from us. This weekend I had the opportunity to send my auntie off to the land of painless rest. The sadness and joy of the occasion was not lost on us. Her relief had come. I love my extended family for how we show up for each other in times of difficulties. We came from near and far. I am proud to be a member of the extended James family. I continue to be amazed by the strength of the children of Wilhel and Clarence James. They are my heroes. What does the traditions of a funeral have to do with the night sky? It is about the beauty of the universe and the short time we have to enjoy it.

The night before the funeral is ‘set up’. It is a festive party send off before the day of mourning. As we drove to the setup at the home of my deceased auntie I noticed how dark the roads were. The darkness was intensive and reassuring. No light pollution to distract. It was a wonderful contrast to the intense sunshine of the daytime. Once we arrived at the destination we parked about a third of a mile from the home and walked. As my practice I looked up at the sky and noticed the depth of the darkness. as far as I could see there were stars and the their brightness seemed many fold brighter than the night sky I had grown used to in Florida. I looked up at the Pleiades and counted 8 sisters as opposed to the 6 I usually see in the Florida night sky. I felt an excitement to be under a truly dark sky. As I arrived at her home I hugged many family members and got introduced to some new arrivals. I love my family, because at times like these we are pillars of strength for each other.

The band arrived after 10 PM and the party went into full effect. The street was blocked off and the music rang loudly through the valley. All joined in the dancing, old and young danced. The elders seemed most enthusiastic and I noticed many in their 70’s who danced all night while the youngster exchanged social media details. This was a time of cheer and remembrance. It was a celebration of life. It was the celebration of a wonderful mother, auntie, cousin, grandmother, wife and child of God. The melodic voices of the male and female lead of the band kept us all engaged. The key board player and drummer were excellent compliments. The band played until well after 1 am and we all danced and enjoy the company of family and friends.

A wonderful night and festive remembrance came to a close and we all need some rest before the continuation of auntie’s send off. As I walked back to the car I looked up and again and there it was, an awe-inspiring star filled sky. It reminded me of how often we take life and the people who share it with us for granted. The older I get the more I understand my mortality. The older I get the more I appreciate the wisdom of my elders. The older I get the more I love my family. The older I get the more I realize that my family is not perfect, but that we make up for that with commitment to each other. The older I get the closer I get to the end of my time and the more time I want with my family.

Another one gone but never to be forgotten. I love you auntie Peggy.

LET THEM FLY.


As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.

My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.

We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.

My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.

I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.

I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED


It has always been dangerous to be a black man in America and it continues to be. One day it will change but I am not likely to see that day. The most recent expressions of the disregard for my life as been expressed. This was a predictable outcome. Some will be perplexed and angry but for my survival I cannot be. The stress of trying to survive is enough to make me sick but I will continue to be respectful of those who are respectful of me. I will only indulge in practices that will give my family a chance to survive the maze we live in as people of African heritage.

I will not waste my time getting offended by show trials, because I know enough history. Our experience has not changed from sixty years ago, except that there is pretense that it has. The system now provides us with a trial, but will never provide us with a conviction. As a black man I know I am expendable, I know no matter what I think of myself I will always be viewed as less than. My ideas will be disregard, not because they are without merit, but because I am a black man.

In spite of the attempts to steal my life and my ability to progress, I will continue to strive for that 40 acres. I will not be intimidated nor will I allow my daughters or my nephews to be. No one needs to tell me that I am as good. I know I am better that most. I know I can compete. I know that my family will continue to compete and win. I know this because it is what my grandparents made me believe. I know because it is how my parents lived. I know I am equal because Darwin is correct. We have survived in spite of the attempts to eradicate us, because the fit will survive.

The opportunities provided by the American system are numerous and we must take advantage of them. Academic, professional or financial successes are no guarantee of survival or respect, but these are the routes to continued survival. I will always be distrusted by the majority, but I will not allow the small-minded and backward to derail my goals. I will not get angry and fulfill their ideas of me. I will channel my anger, because in the long view of history we have won.