Think / Able - and Check out My Parkinson's Facebook Page

Think / Able - and Check out My Parkinson's Facebook Page
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Friday, February 3, 2017

Camus, Beckett, Kobe Bryant, and My Dad's Friend Marty on Living Life

            In my college writing classes, I used to ask my 18-65 year old students if they would lose a game intentionally to encourage / teach a young child how to play it. There was no right answer; it was simply what they could prove based on their facts, which would confirm their opinions. Questions like this, I found, were great for discussions since they got people thinking about real life instead of theoretical concepts.
            That being said, the important thing in this theoretical question is to remember that choosing not to throw the game against your child doesn’t mean that you choose to Kobe dunk on your kid while educating him or her to the techniques of basketball. Obviously, you won’t pimp yourself either when you win while doing the “I win so I’m great / you lose so you suck” dance. If you choose not to throw the game, it’s about playing one level higher to give the kid a chance to work to get better to get the skills to win and to have a chance if he or she rises to the occasion. When he or she does, then the win means so much more.
            Different people have different theories on teaching competitive sports. Encouraging a win here and there might keep the child’s interest in going forward. Fair enough, but sadly, in life, there are things that have no empathy, and because of this, we are forced to deal with their hurricane of strength as is.
            In this, it should be said that Parkinson’s disease is one of those great equalizers that doesn't give a crap what you think. It doesn’t give a hoot whether you’re afraid of it progressing and deteriorating you or if you think you've got something for it. It’s going to do its job either way. That is the nature of this devil. You can take your meds, eat healthy, be positive, get energetic, and donate to Michael J. Fox or any other organization, and it’s still going right to left on your sorry ass. In between, it will make your head tremor, stiffen your muscles, tire you out, give you nightmares, confuse the beejesus out of you, constipate you, make you feel like you’ve gotta “piddle” all the time, depress you, trip you, instill you with fear, make you drool, give you hearing issues, make your voice softer, stop you from smiling, eliminate your sense of smell, make you dizzy, make your muscles involuntarily contract, freeze you to the floor, and cause you to want to give up.
But here’s the thing: you need to push on, so when you’re given a choice, you need to be sure to choose to win, even if the odds are against you. Remember, other than eating well, exercising, and having positive support groups (like my awesome family), you're all you've got to make this work.

Currently, I am teaching about different theories on happiness in my 100-level writing class. The first week, we talked a lot about motivation. The second week, we talked about meaningless. These are neat topics, and what’s more, the whole class is themed writings. If you want to see what we teach, just go here. We get to either look at happiness (my choice), food (I don’t know enough about it), or immigration (too argumentative) to write a definition, personal experience, community understanding, research paper, and 3 analyses of other people’s writings. It sure beats research, research, research, though I admit to enjoying that. However, many people aren't ready for that, so our school is looking at things a different way.
With regard to teaching, this is the first time I’ve discussed any philosophy with students, other than in an individual paper or discussion here or there since I punished high school kids with all of the philosophy that went with the mandatory literature we had to read. Granted, some students liked it, but many weren’t ready for it, and well, I’d never do it like that again.
We live and learn.

This week, though, we discussed meaninglessness from the existential dilemma (Who am I? Why am I here? What happens when I die? Why is there so much pain in the world?) through to coping with self-motivated ideals (hedonism / Satanism) to getting consumed in meaninglessness (absurdity / nihilism) and dealing with absence of God (atheism / agnosticism / humanism). As we are adults in college, the rules of theology are simple. If your state of happiness is generated from theology, fine. Just don’t tell others they’re going to Hell for not being the right religion or try to convert the heathens. The book we have does feature theological writing, and many ideas (“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”) have universal meaning. Why not open these things up to anyone who can use them?

I have a lot of great people in the classes who offer a lot. Generally, the older people offer more life experience and desire to learn while the younger people offer more experience with literature and uninterrupted learning. It’s so nice to see so many people participating who might not be interested in getting down with independent and dependent variable discussions, let alone answering what a gerund phrase is.

It was so nice to be able to talk about things like the Myth of Sisyphus, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, Samuel Beckett, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, humanism, Freud’s Theory of Personality, Maslow, overcoming grief, the 3 Mexican stages of death, the incident at Awatovi, Thanatopsis, Sartre, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and the move to Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching (though we got so consumed in personal discussions, we ran out of time in the second class with an addition 45 minutes of personal reflections and questions – this is learning!).

In this, there is a sense that many of us, especially those inflicted with incurable / hopeless conditions are our own Sisyphus. We are condemned to push the boulder up the hill, and each time we get to the top, the boulder rolls down again. We must start over. Camus’ existential hero, then, is forced to consider death instead of going through this crappy existence over and over. However, he has seen death, and he is restored with life and purpose here. Thus, the goal for him is to push on and to be great, even if only in the hope of being free from the boulder again. In life, we may never fulfill our adventures, but we must try hard to achieve them and to know, like in the Pixar movie Up, the meaning of life is to enjoy the journey and the things we can learn in it. It is not about joy in itself, but in getting something out of the process we go through (See Fully Human, FullyAlive).

As Albert Camus said, “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

I’m not sure if anyone thought of Parkinson’s making someone happy, other than Michael J. Fox, who talked about how lucky he is, but I too feel like I have an opportunity to share my happiness, failures, success, sadness, and life with people to make myself and them better. There will be good days and bad days, but for every day I get to roll the rock, I’m happy. The other choices suck pretty bad.
In the end, as my dad’s friend Marty said, “Every day is a happy day. Every day you get out of bed.” He would know something about that since he kicked back at cancer’s butt for years until he couldn’t kick anymore and there was nothing to help him kick with. Through it all, he used his time.

Can we say the same about us?

ALSO: more info about my writings will be here, so please consider liking my Facebook writer's page if you want to be a part of other thoughts like this as I gear up to write and revise my book on my experiences with transferring from a bull in a china shop to someone finding meaning and strength in his life through the process of enjoying the journey and the sights, despite the challenges along the way.

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