Appreciating connection (oh, also cult stuff?)

My friends have joked on me about my fascination with cults. It’s even influenced some of my art at times (like this music video.)

The whole Jonestown horror and the film The Sacrament by Ti West. The Invitation is another good one. The music video for “Premonition of the Hex” by Circa Survive. Bizarre belief systems like Scientology. (Watch The Master if you haven’t already.) Warren Jeffs, the child rapist and leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I was reading the Rolling Stone article “Children of Scientology: Life After Growing Up in an Alleged Cult”, and it talks about people who were raised in that system as children and then leaving it. Of the many interesting aspects of that article, one thing kind of stood out to me – the differences between adults and children when it comes to cults, specifically leaving them.

The article talks about it thusly:

“People who join and leave as adults have the luxury of connecting with their past selves, [a cult expert and therapist] says. ‘For them, it’s about reconnecting, rediscovering, re-everything. But SGAs don’t have that. Their identity is the cult.’”

The term “SGAs” in that sentence stands for “Second Generation Adults.” Basically, a first generation adult leaves their family to join a cult. For the SGA, the family is the cult.

If you had to start over and relearn almost everything as an adult, how difficult and terrifying would that be? (For a non-cult documentary where someone had to start over in a different way, the film Tell Me Who I Am is good, maddening, and heartbreaking.)

All of this got me thinking about the idea of connection. Our connections with friends and family. Our past familial histories and how they can affect us. Even some of the nature vs. nurture argument.

Part of that comes from the same Rolling Stone article above where one of the former Scientologists is aware that her mother is Jewish, which means that according to tradition, so is she. The article mentions that “it’s one of the few things that she was before she was a Scientologist.” That’s the connection she was trying to explore.

There have been times in my own life where I have felt somewhat disconnected, not nearly on the level the people in that article must be dealing with by any means, but at least a little. There is so much I don’t know, even about my own family history.

But even with those moments of disconnect, I never had to start over from scratch. I never had to explore aspects of a previous identity that I never had. Even when I left the belief system I was raised in, I didn’t lose everything. My family didn’t disown me; my friends didn’t stop talking to me. (Many of my friends left belief systems as well though – some before me, some after.) 

But I’m lucky in that fact. I can be my authentic self without it costing me those connections. I understand that not everyone can say that.

Since we’re wrapping up the holiday season of such a strange, trying clusterfuck of a year, connection seems so important. Some people skipped out on seeing family during the holidays (not enough to slow this fucking pandemic apparently, but still…) More people are dealing with isolation, loneliness, depression, along with anxieties about whatever else is going on in their personal lives. It’s been rough for a lot of people.

I guess in this last bit of 2020, maybe it’d be nice for us to take a moment to appreciate the connections we have – to the friends and family that love us, to the strangers that show us kindness, and to the memories of those gone before us.

I hope you and yours have a happy new year. Thanks for reading. Much love.

-Josh

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Oh looky, another rambling post just in time for the holidays

Hi, and welcome to another blog post where I try to get my thoughts “on paper” in the digital sense of the word.

Sometimes I wonder how I come across to people. Not in an insecure kind of way, but in a curiosity kind of way. I saw something a while back on Facebook that talked about how there are literally multiple versions of you, and none of them are the “you” that you think you are.

Does that make sense? The person you think you are, the person you see in the mirror, that person only exists to you. Others see “you” in their own way, and that may not line up with who you see in the mirror.

Multiple times in my own life, I have had people look at me and say, “I wish you could see yourself how I see you.”

While I’m still not there, it did bring up a couple of things:

  1. It made me think of the saying “What others think of me is none of my business.”
  2. It made me think about authenticity – another subject I talk about regularly on here.

Damn, I use the word “think” a lot on here. Anyway…

For me to be authentic, I have to live by and act on my core principles and values. How that is perceived by others is not really my business. I think? (Did it again.)

That got me to thinking about an article I read a while back called “How to Grow the Fuck Up” by Mark Manson. In that article, he talks about three stages of life: child, adolescent, adult.

Basically, as a child, we do things for pleasure. As an adolescent, things are transactional; we develop principles and values, but we also try to make sure that we get pleasure at the end. We’ll do something to get something in return. (If you’re thinking that you know adults like that, he does argue in the article that many people never get past this stage their whole lives.)

Then we have the adult stage where we do things based on our principles without regard to pleasure. We do something simply because it’s right.

Now how does all this tie together? Good question. All this stuff floats around in my brain, and trying to make it all intersect into a post that makes sense can be daunting at times. But here goes:

I think principles are important. I care about people. I don’t show that I care in order to get something in return. It’s not transactional. I just care. When I think or know that someone is struggling or hurting, I try to check on them. Not for any reward, but because I care. I don’t want or expect anything in return. (And I’m not religious, so I’m not concerned about some post-earth reward either.)

But… I don’t always know how that comes across. Do some people think that I want something in return? Do they think that I have some ulterior motive? Do they think I’m being transactional instead of principled?

In the end, however, if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do (principles), then I’m not being the authentic version of myself that I think I am (that person I see in the mirror.)

Hopefully that made sense. [Insert shrug emoji here.]

Anyway, this year has been a shit year for a whole lot of people, and this time of year can exacerbate that with holidays, stress, seasonal affective disorder, oh, and this whole fucking pandemic that JUST. WON’T. STOP. So check on your people. Spread some love. Live by your principles and be your authentic self.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe, connect, follow, all that kind of stuff. Much love.

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‘382: Organizing for the Future’

In November, I had the opportunity to be part of a film crew working on a documentary celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The film debuted Saturday evening at a drive-in event at Montgomery’s Paterson Field, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sent in a video introduction for the film.

Many thanks to Khari Creative and WK Media for allowing me to part of such a great project!

The film, titled 382: Organizing for the Future, is available on the city of Montgomery’s YouTube channel. Enjoy!

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