Praxis: What I Wish Existed When I Was Younger

I have a love/hate feeling towards my time in college. I met some of the most amazing people and had some great times, and the networking with faculty and students put me directly on the path I am on today. I love my life, and I don’t think it would exist in this form if I had not gone to Horry-Georgetown Technical College and College of Charleston so many years ago. But, I feel like I was sold a lemon in a lot of ways. The information I gained from being an Econ student wasn’t worth the $65,000 of debt and took more years of my life than it should have. In order to graduate I was forced to take a variety of general ed courses that have created almost no value for me, the worst offender is the foreign language requirement. I had to take four semesters of the same foreign language, which is basically a waste of time. You can’t learn enough in four classes to be anywhere near fluent, or even remember the basics of the language a couple of years later. I wish when I was in college there was an alternative.

Luckily, I believe things are improving. With free programs like Coursera and Khan Academy you can feel out subjects, and even get mastery in them, without spending any money. And, of course, programs like Praxis are leading the way in providing a true college alternative. When you enroll in college you are told it is a bundle of goods that will provide you with life experience, networking opportunities, and the skills you need to get a good job, but colleges are failing students in getting the skills necessary to get a job. Praxis actually provides training and an education so that students can prove their worth and be given some freedom to explore their passions.

As a military vet I think Praxis would have been perfect for me. I started college at the age of 23, much later than most of my peers, and I really only went to college because that is what you are supposed to do. If something like Praxis existed when I ended my service it would have been incredibly appealing to me. I hope Praxis can reach out to veterans when they get out of the military, I think many of them would be ideal candidates. They tend to have some life experience and maturity, as well as discipline to get work done. They also won’t be in a rush to the classroom again, it is sometimes tough to become a student again after 4 years of working for a paycheck and going on adventures. Besides, they won’t have much to lose. It is unlikely they will be dependent on parents for support, they have an easy college fall back if Praxis doesn’t work for them due to the GI Bill, and soldiers tend to have a high risk tolerance for travel and new experiences.

The world is getting better and institutions are being forced to evolve. It is a slow process, particularly for any industry that the government has so many tentacles in, but it is inevitable. The internet changed everything and we are just starting to see the effects. Education, from Kindergarten through College, is beginning to undergo a revolution. It is creative destruction, and may be painful for many who are entrenched in the old way, but it will be beneficial to individuals, society, and our species as a whole.

If you are interested in learning more about Praxis just check out their webpage at www.discoverpraxis.com where you can find testimonials, blog posts with their values, podcasts with their founder, etc.

Advertisements

Saying Good Bye

To be honest, I thought someday I would get used to it. You think after all the transitions in my life… Oregon to military, military to college, college to Washington DC, Washington DC to Los Angeles… I would get used to saying good bye to new friends. It still isn’t fucking easier. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be. Maybe the difficulty, the held back tears, the moments of second-guessing all are a testament to the love I’ve found and the bonds I’ve formed. Maybe it is a good thing that it is hard… it still sucks though. 

Yesterday I want to a Game of Thrones party at my best friend’s house. It was the last opportunity to say good bye to a lot of the friends I have made while in Los Angeles. And the good byes aren’t over, this weekend at Lucidity I will say good bye to another group of beautiful souls who have helped me learn to love myself and others. These are people who I have come to look forward to seeing, people I meet with a warm embrace, people that I can open up to (even though some of them would rather me not). I wish I would have spent more time with them, made them more of a priority, and tried to build a stronger friendship and forge more memories. But alas, what’s done is done. There are no more days for new memories in LA, at least not for a while.

While it hurts to leave these people, I am not sad about the future. Because I have been through this before I know that many of these friends will be in my life forever. Hell, my best friend and I have known each other almost 25 years and have only lived in the same city for about 10 total. I hold on to people who mean something to me, thanks to Facebook and the internet that is easier than ever but it is more than convenience, it is in my nature. I may not talk to them much (hell, I don’t talk to them much now) but they are always in my heart and they always pop into my head at the best times… “Oh man, I have to call Josh, he has got to hear about this”, “Hey, Dagny would love that”, “Oh Blayne… if only you could mow down on these cheesesticks with me”, “Damn, where’s James when I need him?”, “I wonder what Emmett would think of that?”… I wish I contacted them more than I do. In a very real way they are part of my family and when thinking of them I am home.

Home isn’t geography for me. It is where I can be unapologetically me. It is where honesty, love, and peace prevail above politics, social status, or religion. And the people I say good bye to as I start the next chapter of my life will always be my family and home. I know that if I need them they will be there. I love them and will miss them… but I know that any physical separation means nothing when our minds and spirits are connected. They are my ka-tet and that is a bond that doesn’t break, no matter how far I roam. 

CTRL – P

We live in a wonderful new world where knowledge and information can be sent at nearly the speed of light across the globe. The Industrial Age is giving way to the Information Age and with that revolution there are bound to be forces that fight this evolution. Government, as always, is one of those forces. Government thrives off of the status quo and control of information, every tremor caused by new technology gets the bureaucratic machine moving to slow things down and those in power fight to maintain it. But in many ways the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t stop the internet or exchange of information except through tyrannical restrictions that are nearly impossible to impose on an armed, diverse public spread over a large geographic region. That doesn’t mean the state won’t try though.

I believe that 3-D Printing will revolutionize the world. From ears, shoes, art, human organscars, homes, and guns the ability to input blueprints into machines will change the economy in ways unknown since the internal combustion engine, assembly line, and printing press. It is the idea of a 3D Printed gun that has sprung the state into action, but the ramifications could be far reaching. The government has utterly failed in the past at restricting information, from copyrights to state secrets it seems that the truth will always get out as the market moves faster and can adapt to changes than bureaucrats can fathom.

What I find interesting about the current demand from the State Department to take files offline (files that have been shared 100,000+ times already and are being hosted in countries around the world) is that they have not accused the creator of a crime. They are ordering the restriction of spreading information, a right protected by the 1st Amendment, while they investigate if a crime was even committed. They are enforcing punishment without even the accusation of a crime, much less the conviction. If the government is allowed to control what people talk about and what ideas are shared online they have rendered freedom of speech void.

I have always been curious how far gun control advocates are willing to go. I’ve heard some say we should ban all guns, but that raises some practical questions that could have far reaching effects on individual rights. If I can’t buy or own a gun can I build one? What constitutes “a gun”? If I can’t build one can I draw diagrams and write down how to build one? If not, can I discuss building them with my friends? How much speech are people willing to censor when the subject is something that is uncomfortable for some but causes no harm? It appears the state believes that blueprints sent in electronic format should be stopped… that information should be stopped… that discussions should be stopped… I wonder if they will be willing and able to send agents with guns to stop “free” people from talking about guns.

Hoisting the Flag

 “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed.” – Terence McKenna

I think it surprises some people how quiet and reserved I am when they first meet me, particularly if they were Facebook friends with me first. I sometimes fear my introverted nature may actually come off as stuck up or something, but the truth is that I just am not comfortable in person when I first meet most people (I’ve actually noticed a “three day rule” where I am not truly comfortable with someone until I’ve interacted with them meaningfully three times). That is very different from my online presence where I tend to very openly share my views and activities, even things that most people would likely keep secret. I’ve been thinking a bit about why I am so open online, I hate to admit it but I think a lot of it has to do with other people.

First, being open online allows me to let my thoughts known in a comfortable atmosphere. Whether I am sharing sex-positive links, thoughts on drug use, polyamorist and open relationship experiences, or anarchist memes it is relatively harmless to put them online. The internet is a place where I won’t need to see any discomfort I make others feel, which is really my greatest fear. Rejection does not scare nearly as much as the idea that I made someone else uncomfortable.

Secondly, online forums allow me signal to similar people that I exist and am an ally. I have had several experiences where people have approached me online or in person to discuss issues that I have posted on Facebook. This has allowed people to more comfortable approach me to discuss sex, drugs, polyamory, or libertarianism and how our society portrays each of these. The dialogues have advanced into deep conversations and shared stories that would not have happened without a willingness to share my thoughts and not hide behind social norms. The willingness to challenge has built communities.

Lastly, it just feels right. It feels like I am being true to myself when I don’t try to be one person in public and another person in private. I can’t imagine the internal stress that would come from trying to keep up a facade like that. Being open online also allows me to bypass small-talk (which I find exhausting) and filter out negative people, in the same way it attracts like-minded individuals it also shields me from those who would put me down for my peaceful choices. I have an amazing network of friends who love me for who I am. I am very thankful to live in a time when billions of people can connect and there is always someone a mouse-click away that feels similarly. The world isn’t perfect but we live in a time when people have more ability to be true to themselves than ever before.