Jack Nicholson, “What I’ve Learned”, December 28, 2007

Esquire magazine, Jack Nicholson

Photo by Esquire Magazine 

I’ve been a fan of Jack Nicholson’s movies for years.  Most of the best movies I’ve seen have featured him as a lead or a supporting actor.  However, I’m not one of those people who idealizes entertainers and I know little of Jack’s personal life/likes other than what stares at you from the checkout counters of supermarkets.  I just don’t care about their personal lives or philosophies.  I simply want to be entertained.  I found the below opinions by Jack in an article in Esquire magazine entitled “What I’ve learned.”  It is, of itself, very entertaining and a glimpse into a character, who although is diametrically opposed to what I believe, I was pleasantly surprised to find some kinship with the man.  Maybe it’s my penchant for admiring people who are genuine, agree with them or not.  I just can’t abide by people who’re full of shit.  Anyways, I’ve pasted the article here but you can read it from the source at:

 http://www.esquire.com/features/what-ive-learned/ESQ0104-JAN_JACK 

“They’re prescription. That’s why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you’ve experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can’t look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can’t emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor. 

I hate advice unless I’m giving it.  

I hate giving advice, because people won’t take it. 

I love discourse. I’m dying to have my mind changed. I’m probably the only liberal who read Treason, by Ann Coulter. I want to know, you understand? I like listening to everybody. This to me is the elixir of life. 

I don’t think many people have a very good understanding of leisure and the importance it plays in our lives. People today are too competitive about leisure, as if it needs to have some other value in order to be able to fit into our puritanical view of the world. But if you’re playing golf to get a loan, it ain’t golf, you know what I mean? 

I was particularly proud of my performance as the Joker. I considered it a piece of pop art. 

The camera photographs what’s there. 

Right now, I’m upset because I was supposed to have the weekend to play golf. I just flnished, like, two straight years of work. I thought I’d take some time for myself. I flgured that this weekend I’d be able to get out there on the golf course. And then, boom! There goes my hamstring. And here’s the rub: Rather than just give myself a break and say, “Okay, you have every excuse in the world to lay on your ass this weekend and watch the ball games,” I have to be a Calvinist. I have to complain: “Son of a bitch! I’m here. I’m inside. When’s the hammie gonna get better? I’ve already tested it too early and hurt it again. How long is it gonna take to heal? Have I already ruined the next two weeks?” 

After September 11, I held my tongue. All of the public positions had been taken — for, against, good, evil. I had nothing more to add. So I thought, Bring in the clowns, you know what I mean? That’s why I’ve done a coupla years’ worth of comedies. 

I’m pretty well ashamed of this, but I only read the sports pages. 

The fuel for the sports fan is the ability to have private theories. I’ve always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn’t the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. I always said, “Batman and basketball. Night games and night comics.” Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going.  

I’m the age where we didn’t have television as kids. So when I saw my nieces and nephews watching Howdy Doody, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and so forth, I thought the world had gone mad.  

If you think about those old shows, they all had puppets. And somehow I think, symbolically speaking, that has contributed to a generational lack of ability to accept personal responsibility. It’s why the baby boomers are such conspiracy theorists and I’m not. It’s why everybody thinks we went to Iraq to get the oil and I don’t. I see that as a minor, symbolic generational difference that all adds up to mass movements. People are so frustrated. They don’t want to take responsibility for their failures. There’s always an excuse, you know? It’s always, “I’m this and that’s why” or “This happened to me and that’s why.” Everyone has the impulse to point their fingers elsewhere. They point at the puppet: He did it! Not me!  

I always hesitate to say things like this in interviews because they tend to come back to haunt you, but if I were an Arab-American, I would insist on being profiled. This is not the time for civil rights. There are larger issues for Americans. 

Lately, I’ve been de-emphasizing what actors think of as character work. The limps and the lisps, the accents — I don’t want to be bothered. You gotta make it come from the inside. It’s all about who you are. That’s all you can really contribute. I feel autobiographical about whatever I do.

 I was talking to Sean Penn on the phone today. I told him it was interesting that they managed to leave me off this long list of Method actors they’d published in some article. I told him, “I’m still fooling them!” I consider it an accomplishment. Because there’s probably no one who understands Method acting better academically than I do, or actually uses it more in his work. But it’s funny — nobody really sees that. It’s perception versus reality, I suppose. 

Believe it or not, I supported Richard Nixon on the issue of presidential privilege. How could anyone conceive of being the president of the United States and think that every single thing that you say or do can become a part of the public record? It just seems so stupid to me. A man needs a private life. With no ability to have a private life, one thing leads to another, and before you know it we have Bill and Monica. We need to get real about things. Humans are humans. Why should we expect more? 

My motto is: more good times. 

I think I’ve done okay. I take responsibility for my successes as well as my failures. But when I look at my professional mistakes, I’m always left with the feeling that maybe I should have done more. These are my private musings. I’m such a perfectionist. I always feel overpraised or whatever. In the abstract, I know I’m a good person, a good professional. But it’s nice to be noticed a little bit, ain’t it? 

I’m certainly not as tough as people think. I’m not a fighter and so forth. I’d just as soon go home.  

Children give your life a resonance that it can’t have without them. 

I certainly knew my father. He just didn’t happen to be my biological father. 

That is correct: I didn’t know that my sister was really my mother until I was thirty-seven years old. But life has taught me that there have been a lot of things that I didn’t know. If I start giving that more weight because of the half-digested view of an analytical life, it’s working against you, you know what I mean? Accentuate the positive, that’s what I say. It’s a trick, but it works. 

Here’s another old actor saying: It’s very easy to go down, so always live up. Incline yourself upward. 

I’d prefer if people had no impressions of me. As a kid, I had to tell my own family, “Please, just don’t talk about me!” Because they always got it wrong. Always. I just didn’t want them to tell anyone anything about me. God knew, they had a great opinion and they loved me and meant well, but it was like, Please, you don’t have this right. You know what I mean?

 Men dominate because of physicality, and thus they have mercy where women do not. 

When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal. 

There’s a tacit agreement in the nation today that the white male is the only legitimate target for any and all satire, criticism, and so forth. And we pretty much just accept it. 

A lot of people in the middle of their lives have a secret yearning for more romance. 

I don’t know if this is a true statistic, but I heard somewhere that there are three times as many single women over forty as single men. That’s what we got from the women’s movement. The chickens have come home to roost. 

I respect the social graces enormously. How to pass the food. Don’t yell from one room to another. Don’t go through a closed door without a knock. Open the doors for the ladies. All these millions of simple household behaviors make for a better life. We can’t live in constant rebellion against our parents — it’s just silly. I’m very well mannered. It’s not an abstract thing. It’s a shared language of expectations. 

If I had to list the most prominent highlights in my life over the last decade or more, the things I’d write would pretty much involve moments with my children. You know how it goes: They write an essay or a poem and your heart is in your throat. They give such stunning love. Lorraine won her soccer tournament. Ray is becoming a big guy. Jennifer has her own boutique; it’s called Pearl. She’s also designing clothes. I have to tell you, I did more glad-handing and arm twisting for Jennifer’s fashion show than I’ve ever done for any picture of my own. That’s what you’re driven to do when you have kids. 

I have to keep myself in check when I go to the kids’ sports events. I sit waaay in the back. I make sure I don’t do too much cheering, you know what I mean? I’m still not quite adjusted to this modern school of thought: Oh, it doesn’t matter who wins. I’m not all the way there yet, but I accept it from the back row. 

I think the Greeks invented sports as an antidote to philosophy. In sports there are absolute rules. It’s not, What about this? What about that? Either you’re safe or you’re out. It’s ten yards or it’s not. It’s in the hoop or out of the hoop. It’s certain. 

I’ve grown out of talking like I know something when I don’t. I’m a pretty liberal Democrat, but I’m not after Bush the way all the rest of them are. I was alive in World War II. We turned off all the lights, as if people might come running up the beach. In that climate, what else were you going to do? We didn’t have a choice then. And we don’t really have one now. I don’t know what else Bush can do. We just have to see how it goes. 

Why can’t somebody use modern intelligence and relate it to traffic? 

What would it be like to fuck Britney Spears? I can answer that question: monumental. Life altering! 

My daughter is thirteen. Lately, all I’ve been thinking about is, Would you please get a pair of pants that’s not, you know, down below your navel? What do I do well as a father? I’m there all the time. I give unconditional love. And I have a lot of skills in terms of getting them to express themselves. I’m good with handy hints — if they can tell me what their problem is — ’cause I’ve had a lot of problems in life myself. I make an effort to expose them to things. I want them to have a deep, inner feeling that it’s all right to be happy, that you don’t have to be constantly manufacturing problems that you don’t really have.  

A lot of my life lessons were learned as a child gambler on the boardwalk. 

I resist all established beliefs. My religion basically is to be immediate, to live in the now. It’s an old cliche, I know, but it’s mine. 

I envy people of faith. I’m incapable of believing in anything supernatural. So far, at least. Not that I wouldn’t like to. I mean, I want to believe. I do pray. I pray to something…up there. I have a God sense. It’s not religious so much as superstitious. It’s part of being human, I guess. 

Do unto others: How much deeper into religion do we really need to go? 

I would never want to vilify somebody who considered abortion murder. I was an illegitimate child myself. I may not have existed today. 

Liberalism is the right to question without being called a heretic. That’s what America did for the world. 

There are major influences on us that people are not aware of. There are big lies that nobody’s willing to discuss. 

A question you always ask in acting is, Where were you going if this scene didn’t interrupt the movements of the character? 

For a long time, I was afraid to be alone. I had to learn how to be alone. And there are still times when I think, Uh-oh! I gotta talk to somebody here or I’m gonna go crazy! But I like to be alone. Now I do. I really do. There’s a big luxury in solitude.

A lot of times, you gotta be there even if you don’t wanna be. 

I was influenced in golf by a plaque I read in Kyoto, Japan. It’s on a wall of one of the temples. It tells about this Zen archery tournament that had been held there. It’s this long colonnade. At the end is a four-inch square. The participants would sit in a cross-legged position, and they’d have to shoot the arrows all the way without hitting the wall. And the world record in the event was something like 180 straight arrows. Knowing sports in the poetic way that I do, this impressed me. So I started thinking of golf as Zen archery.

 I don’t play golf competitively. I tell everybody that I cheat so they won’t gamble with me. That’s why you can’t watch football. Everybody’s gambling. They don’t want to watch the game; they watch the spread.  

I get peevish, sure. Nobody yells or screams any more than I do. But the toughest days are when I get home and realize, Holy shit! They were right! Oy, I’m an asshole! And this happens at least once or twice every picture, where you’re just — you’re just so sure, you’re such a big-time guy, you know what I mean? And then you get home and you have that moment of holy shit. The pro game of acting is very difficult. You go into that editing room and there is empirical evidence of what you’ve done. And no matter how good they say you are, well over half of what you do is pure shit. You can be totally self-annihilating about it if you want. 

I love working with women directors. They don’t mind making you cute. 

I’m very fortunate in the sense that outside of cohabitating relationships and so forth, I’ve always got on just as well with women. 

I always ask myself a theoretical question: If I had started out today, would I have wound up doing porn pictures to make a living? 

The less people know about me, the easier my job is. 

Always try in interviews to avoid the cliches about the problems of public life. 

Always try to avoid interviews.” 

Kangaroo Farts and Other Scientific Breakthroughs, Dec 6, 2007

KangaroofartsIt appears that the Global Warming hysteria has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. There have been many examples of this, but the following report just took the freaking top prize! 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,315586,00.html 

Kangaroo farts?????? Kangaroo farts????? (I didn’t need to repeat it, it’s just funny!) 

Kangaroo farts are gonna save the planet??? I don’t know who these Australian “scientists” are (or if they’re on Al Gore’s payroll), but it seems to me they could be working on something with just a little more substance. Or at least something they can tell their kids they do when asked to come to their schools on career day. 

Child: Daddy what do you do for a living?

Australian Scientist: Why I’m studying how Kangaroo farts will save the planet!

Child (laughing hysterically); No seriously Daddy. 

Come to think of it, that would be perfect for a kid’s career day! This scientist would be a smash hit!  

I can see it now. “Well God, no worries mate! We have figured out how to save your Masterful Creation and reverse whatever plans you may have. Kangaroo farts!” (See? Told ya it was funny). 

I don’t know what these scientists look like either but I’m willing to bet they’re the spitting image of Harpo, Chico and Groucho Marx!  

As of this wasn’t bad enough, I watched a video on foxnews.com about experimenting with cats in zero gravity. I ask you, what in the name of kangaroo science could this serve. We’ve been going into space for sixty years now. Did we really need to know how cats would behave in zero gravity? I’m a high school dropout and I could have clued them in. Duh, they float. HELLOOOOO!!!! 

Ahhhh! How far we have come in the field of scientific research. Louis Pasteur, Galileo, Marie Curie et al would be proud!!

Islamo-lunacy Part II

militantmuslim1.jpg

Just when you thought the lunacy had peaked and now this update from the “religion of peace”:

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8T83I300&show_article=1

I was actually holding out hope that some reason would prevail and someone in that government would say, “Okay, technically what Ms. Gibbons committed was an offense against our holy prophet, but her complete absence of malice is a circumstance we’ve considered and therefore have decided to simply deport her.”

Hah! Sharia law makes no such accommodations for reason. This is the law that flogs a gang rape victim for getting into a car with an unrelated male.  Now we have THOUSANDS of the populace, armed with clubs and knives, demanding the death penalty for this woman.

I’m still waiting for those feminists and women’s advocacy groups to come forth in Ms. Gibbons defense, but all I hear are crickets chirping. Where are you Sean Penn? Sally Field? Danny Glover? Susan Sarandon? The National Organization for Women? At this point I’d like to hear from the “women’s candidate” (and no I don’t mean John Edwards). C’mon Hillary, make a statement here. Show the cojones you supposedly usurped from Bill.

What? This case not sexy enough for y’all? Or is it that your true yellow stripes are showing? Yeah, I thought so.

How about the “reasonable, moderate” Muslim organizations? CAIR? ADC?

HAH! Fat chance! Know why you won’t hear from them? Because they cannot go against the rules and criticize the leadership. If this were truly an abomination and a misinterpretation of the prophet’s laws they would be the first ones lighting torches. But while they are trying to convince you that they are the “moderate” ones they turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this travesty. I’ll let you in on a secret. They too believe this woman has committed a heinous offense and should be punished severely. They just won’t say it publically lest they show their true colors.

Oh yeah, and we simply don’t understand Islamic orthodoxy. This is why we’re being attacked right? I’m sure the sufferers of BDS can even spin this to lay the blame at the President’s feet, proving that extremism is the true cause of all lunacy, Islamo or Liberalism.

Sigh! Don’t worry, the President and our Masterful Forces will protect you from Islamo-lunacy, as they have for the last six years. Protecting you from liberalism and apathy is harder. It requires a trip to the ballot box and conscious effort on the part of sheeple who would rather tune into Dancing with the Stars or Britney Spears latest foray into self indulged debauchery.

Anthony D. Hubble

Author, Protecting Nahir

Islamo-lunacy

militantmuslim.jpg 

An often ignored aspect of the lunacy that is radical Islam rears its ugly head periodically such as this report on Fox News:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312895,00.html

This teacher appears to be guilty of nothing except possible ignorance of the extent of the lunacy of religious intolerance and extremism. I can only hope the self-righteous talking heads in Hollywood and the feminist organizations are moved to take up this teacher’s cause and storm the gates with their ever so publicized protests.

This is wishful thinking. There will be no protests or movements for support for this poor teacher from these elitist morons. That would require intestinal fortitude. As we say in Puerto Rico, monkeys know which trees they can climb. Easier to take on Christians who don’t retaliate by killing those who dissent or are critical of Christ and Christianity. Here’s an example; Muhammad’s life contains volumes of documented travesties and atrocities committed by the prophet himself. How many movies have been made on these subjects? Bestselling novels? Yet Dan Brown conjures a mythical conspiracy of Jesus secretly marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering an heir and this book becomes a hugely successful bestseller and a blockbuster movie. Devout Christians responded to this ridiculous conspiracy with logic and reason by debunking the story with facts. Islam’s response to this kind of depiction of Muhammad would be worldwide violent protests where hundreds would die as a result. We’ve already seen this with the publishing of cartoons depicting Muhammad in an unflattering light in a Danish newspaper. Ms. Gibbons, the teacher arrested in the above report simply named a Teddy bear Muhammad. She did not even select the name herself. It was a name her students voted on out of three names THEY submitted. It’s not like the name was intended for a stuffed pig!

There is another thing that has mystified me from the start of our war against Islamofacism. The complete absence of support from the feminists. You would think this fight would appeal to them as our success has freed more women from oppression than their own efforts, which have resulted in freeing mostly men. Of course the lunacy of femenino-fascism is equally without reason as its Islamic counterpart and just as dangerous. Both dogmas require blind worship at the altar without dissent. Dissenting voices are the DEVIL and must be crushed! Those who say that the feminist movement has not killed anyone are not taking into account the thousands of unborn babies killed every single day. Legally and sanctioned by our own Supreme Court. As Ann Coulter has said, all so they can have sex without consequence with men they would not want to marry or father their children.

So this British citizen is jailed and possibly faces forty lashes for simply attempting to give her students lessons in civics and biology. This is the type of lunacy and extremism our masterful Armed Forces are beating back every day of the week with their sacrifices and blood. Hollywood repays their efforts with movies depicting them as savages instead. The irony is mind bending!

Anthony D. Hubble

Author, Protecting Nahir

Fear to Fail

Fear as an emotion has received its fair share of critics and defenders. Often it’s not fear itself that is the harbinger of doom. Fear, physiological fear that is, is a good and empowering emotion. It brings about physical changes to the human body and mind that makes them, like the six million dollar man, faster, better stronger. It narrows the focus, causes the body to excrete life saving hormones and changes (producing adrenaline and increasing the production of blood clotting agents). These amazing changes  are ancient life-saving formulas that have guaranteed the survival of mankind from its early walks upon the planet. Fight or flight stuff. True fear is an innate, instinctive emotion that requires absolutely no conscious thought to tap it. You don’t have to train the human body to feel fear or react to its effects. Place a person in front of a charging, rabid dog and it knows exactly what to do. Stories of supposed magical feats of strength, endurance and speed are all as the result of those changes (e.g. the diminutive mother lifting a car off of her child).

Psychological fear on the other hand is a crippling, irrational emotion. It has no basis in logic or reality but its effects can be paralyzing. Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear coined the acronym for this emotion False Expectations Appearing Real or F.E.A.R. In other words, you fear that which has not yet, or may never happen. From deeply felt inexplicable phobias to simple irrational fear, this emotion has quite the opposite effect of the real one in terms of action.

I’ll give you an example. Many people have a supposed natural fear of spiders and snakes, venomous or otherwise. If you think logically about this, you would wonder how you could fear an animal you can a) squash with your shoe, or b) outrun? The fact that neither of these animals considers us to be natural prey and avoid us as well, striking only when they feel threatened, underscores this point. So what are we afraid of? Simple. We’re afraid of that which has not yet happened; namely, the poisonous bite. There are countless actions we can take to avoid this once we’re conscious of the animal’s presence but often the psychological fear will paralyze us into inertia.

I’ve faced fear ferociously in almost all aspects of my life. I’m a bit of the T personality; adventurous and risk taking. I’ve held firm to a philosophy to not let fear dictate my life’s decisions, but even I have not been immune to its crippling hold along with its strongest motivating ally, uncertainty. Fear of the unknown. Is this a real fear? Of course not. Yet, it will stop us dead in our tracks when it comes to leaping out of our comfort zones.

The fear of rejection and ridicule stopped me from finishing a novel for the early part of my life. Sound familiar? I’d get a brilliant idea for a story, began to write it, lovingly shaping the big lump of clay into a semblance of the story and then somewhere in the process, stop abruptly. I was very clever in talking myself out of finishing the work. Lack of time, the idea was no longer “topical”, its focus is too narrow, too vague, too oblique, not funny, not exciting, wouldn’t sell, blah blah blah. None of these were the true reasons for not finishing it.

In taking a brutally honest assessment as to why I did not finish a book I had started I discovered quite by surprise that the reason was simple. The psychological fear of rejection and/or ridicule. It’s a toughie isn’t it? Putting yourself out there. Sink or swim. There’s a certain warm fuzzy coccoonish feeling of writing just for you. I actually know two people who have written more than three books apiece they have no intention of publishing. This I really don’t understand as once my book was finished I couldn’t wait to put it out there. When I ask them, they very quickly rattle off similar reasons to the ones I listed above. They were just more diligent in finishing the work.

Once I honestly accepted my reasons for not finishing, I was able to slay that dragon very easily. I decided that everyone has at least one book in them and by the same token every one has an audience, no matter how small. So I would just tell the story my way. Put one word after the other until I could come up with a logical place to put (30) or The End.

 

Good thing too because before I decided to self-publish I received 148 rejection slips from my queries and submissions to conventional agents and publishers. Nonplussed I settled on self-publishing and the results have been extraordinarily rewarding (well, I haven’t bought that Viper yet. I’ll keep you posted). My new challenge is to finish the second, third and fourth ones I’ve started so I won’t be just a “one book wonder”.

I’ve received many positive reviews for Protecting Nahir. Two of my favorites have come from people who know me. What they say is that when they read it, they could hear me talking. This is important to me. It means I’m not mimicking or copying anyone. I have my own writer’s voice. Like it or hate it, it is my own.  As wildly successful as James Patterson is, I’d hate for anyone to say that I write like he does. Or anyone for that matter (of course, maybe that would get me that Viper).

Writing a book is not an elite, obscure talent only a select few of us have inherited from God. Writing of itself is a skill I still work on improving, but telling a story is as innate to people as talking. Some are just more enjoyable than others and it’s all subjective isn’t it? I simply love the stories of authors who were rejected countless times until that one story ignited a spark that spread like brushfire! It’s all a matter of conquering that fear isn’t it? Okay it’s not that simple but that fear is more daunting than anything that may stand in your way. A famous writer once said (I forget his name and I’m paraphrasing here), “Writing is simple. All you need do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” I have one of my own. Writing a book is easy. Simply put one word after the other until you’ve reached a logical place to put THE END.

                                                         THE END

See what I mean?

 

Anthony D. Hubble

Author, Protecting Nahir

http://www.amazon.com/Protecting-Nahir-Anthony-D-Hubble/dp/1594535000/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-5384234-0766251?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187709660&sr=8-1

Parental Butterfly Effect

     While attending a weapons seminar over the weekend in Phoenix, I witnessed an exchange between a mother and a young boy of about 8-10 that disturbed me very deeply. It being Saturday night, I was sitting outside a restaurant waiting to be called to a table (there was a 20 minute wait). As I stood by the entrance, a short distance away from the small groups of patrons who were sitting outside on benches smoking (in Arizona, restaurants are smoke free zones) I watched the young boy who was a few paces ahead of his parents and siblings walking up one of the sidewalks leading to the restaurant.

     Suddenly, his mother screeched for him to stop and come back. Her intention was to stop him from walking along the path of people smoking. At first glance, her actions would seem to be commendable; a mother protecting her child from the evils of second hand smoke. Although there was just a handful of smokers out in open air sitting on benches that were separated by this approximately 8’ sidewalk, it can be argued that in the 2-3 seconds it would have taken for this child to traverse this evil gauntlet to the front door, he may have breathed in some minute particles of cigarette smoke. I’m not trivializing the damage this could presumably have done to this young child’s seemingly healthy lungs. For all I know, he may have a medical condition that would have been greatly affected by this brief exposure. This is all beside my point.

     It was the WAY the mother yelled at her child and how she continued to berate him even AFTER he was out of the “danger zone”. In an angry contemptuous tone, loud enough for everyone to hear she called him an idiot 5 times. The boy, in the face of this assault assumed the behavior and posture I’ve seen too many times to count; the perennial submissive abuse victim’s posture. My heart went out to this poor child and I took a glimpse into his future development, through adolescence and adulthood. It looks pretty grim.

     I like to avoid snap judgments and this brief exchange was obviously not enough for me to judge this young mother or the totality of her relationship with her children. However, the ease with which she completely stripped her child of self-dignity and worth in that brief public moment spoke volumes to me. I’ve a pretty good feel for these things. I’ve been teaching martial arts to children for more than twenty years. I’ve seen the product of this soul destruction. I’ve also seen self-esteem get rebuilt and blossom into a confident young adult. It’s not an easy path and often the wounds never heal.

     The irony here is that when this child as an adolescent, or an adult, begins to make the wrong choices in his life, his mother will probably find other forces to blame. Society at large, the school system, MTV, CRap music (yes I added the C), drugs, poverty, peer pressure etc. Everything, but her own failures as a parent during the years when she could have made a difference.

     People often scratch their heads in wonder at how others take the downward spiral into the abyss of negative behavior. From passing on this abusive behavior (often physical), to tolerating an abusive lover/spouse/friend, to sinking into the pit of drugs and alcohol or to the extreme of taking an automatic weapon to school or work and indiscriminately killing innocent people. 

I’m no one to judge other parents and I don’t offer unsolicited child rearing advice (or relationship advice for that matter). For one thing, I’m not qualified. I believe there is only one true judge and we’ll all meet Him soon enough. 

     My own parents were far from the ideal. I could tell some stories that would stand your hair on end. I will however say this for my mother. She was, and is, my greatest fan. In her mind, my siblings and I were the smartest, handsomest, funniest, most talented beings to grace the planet. Amazingly, we never had to DO anything to deserve these accolades.  I never heard her utter a negative or denigrating name to us. Don’t get me wrong, as a Latin Roman Catholic woman, she had honed guilt to fine edged sword and she could rant and curse with the best of them. But in her reprimands, it was always about the behavior and not the person. What we DID may have been idiotic, but we ourselves were not idiots. You get the point. When she addressed our character and physical being her reviews were glowing with compliments and pride. They still are. We remain her life’s greatest achievement. I have retained this particular parenting skill and I use it on my own children. It is the most powerful tool in my toolbox. It helps that I actually believe it and mean every word of it. I cannot overstate the impact of this type of positive reinforcement.

     I firmly believe that a person’s self-esteem is a reflection of their parent’s assessment during their developing years. I’m not talking about having unrealistic expectations and putting pressure on performance. I’m talking about self-worth. We as parents are the custodians of this trait. They are dependent on us for this as they are for food, clothing and shelter. We can give it to them either positive, negative, or not at all and they in turn will meet our expectations no matter how low we set the bar.

For those who believe they can balance out the negative attacks with positive comments I offer that the things your children will remember vividly are the negative. They will outweigh all other things. The positive will have an effectively subtle, often unconscious effect, but the negative will have a devastating, vivid long lasting one. Try it sometime. Think how long you carried an aspersion cast against you by someone as opposed to the myriad of compliments you’ve received. See what I mean? When you add the significant need for approval of a parent to a young child the effect is magnified even more.

     It is amazingly simple to not engage in destroying your child’s self-image. It’s not even highly advanced child psychology. You don’t have to read Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil or any other Dr to learn this. It’s a matter of tapping into that moment you first laid eyes on them when you held them in your arms shortly after they came into the world. Remember? They were perfectly formed angelic creatures who were screaming their newborn heads off. It would have never occurred to you at that moment to shout, “Stop being a wimp and shut up!” Nope. Your pure instinct at that moment was to hold them close, fiercely protective and glowing with pride. Your child will provide you with myriads of opportunities to give them this positive reinforcement. If you don’t see them doing it, then create them yourself. The benefits are like compound interest for the soul.