Thursday, February 27, 2014

A View from a Half-Jew's Shoes

   This morning I read, 30 Of The Most Powerful Images Ever (linked at the bottom of the page). The photos captured the best and worst of the human-condition; all from different places and times. As difficult as it was, I pictured myself in each individual image. Though all of them were extremely powerful, a couple in particular drummed up some incredible personal emotions and insight. The capacity of vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another person is called empathy. The phrase, "..putting yourself in someone else's shoes..", is a figurative expression perfectly explaining it. That being said, I don't want you to understand my post today... I want you to FEEL it.
   I am half-Jewish and damn proud of it. There has always been an ongoing debate about the differences of Jewish ethnicity and religion. This is arguable on so many levels, it's not even funny. Well maybe a little bit because most of the Jews I know, have a great sense of humor. Regardless, it's my heritage and I love it. I have in the past and will always stick up for the Jewish people in this world. Now let me show you one of the pictures that moved me, from the article I mentioned.

This is the inside of a gas chamber at Auschwitz (Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp) - Poland
   I saw this picture and my heart stopped, my eyes welled up with tears and an anger started to burn deep in the pit of my stomach. Some of my Jewish ancestors immigrated from Poland at the beginning of the twentieth-century. Though it's inconclusive, I imagine some of them stayed right there. If you can't tell what those lines are on the wall; they're fingernail scratches. They signify the final desperate actions of people fighting for just one more breath. As I stared at this photo, I started to think that some of those death marks on the wall could easily be from my own relatives' hands. Then I imagined myself clawing at the concrete, wearing my bloody fingertips down to the bone and praying for a miracle... suddenly I flashed back to sitting here in front of my computer, overwhelmed with helplessness.

BEAR JEW (photo not from mentioned article)
   If I were presented with the opportunity to fight in that war; I would have done indescribably horrific things to the opposition. Let me put it like this, anyone that has watched the movie Inglorious Basterds remembers the "Bear Jew", right? What you saw him do in that movie, would've been just the tip of the iceberg for me. I would have been legendarily more cruel than Hitler himself. It's strange that we justify punishing cruelty with more cruelty; and of course we base that on the phrase, "Well HE started it!". This is one of those things where my empathy is getting the best of me and I am beyond grateful that none of this was my calling in life.
   Sorry about that everyone. That was rather revealing, but as you all can tell it's a sensitive subject for me. In my past, I have literally been in fist-fights over my heritage. I don't go in search of these situations, but on a few rare occasions it has come to that. Most people are just being ignorant when they say something offensive; a few gentle words about their offensiveness and that brings them back to an embarrassing reality. However, some people take embarrassment as the ultimate insult and others are literally just full of hate. It's schmucks like this that are hard to walk away from because they will usually try to punch you in the back of the head. This is where the term "Jew 'em down" isn't about money to me, but about a Jew knocking you down on the ground. Plain and simple, it's just ridiculous.

These are the graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband in Holland circa 1888
   The picture above, to me, represents a very true form of love. They did not live by the status quo and they even found a way to stay with one another for eternity. When I saw this in the article, it immediately made me think of my failed relationships of the past. Those iconic hands holding one another made mine feel rather empty. Twice in my life, I have had a girlfriend's parent share with them their discomfort about me being Jewish. Which in turn creates a whole new set of challenges that I have never been able to overcome. The first time it happened, I chalked it up to being young. When it happened in my last relationship, I did my best to navigate through it. We never fully came back from that. My girlfriend even had the nerve to say, "I want my parents to like you.", but what was that supposed to take, going back in a time machine to prevent my Jewishness? You would think the people of the 21st century could let those things go, but I digress. In all reality, these women lacked compassion and empathy almost altogether. My own parents are very much a future version of this couple in the picture and I'm certainly never going to trade in who I am for anything.    
   According to the research at Hebrew University, there is approximately 14 million Jews on the planet. Which amounts to about 0.2% of mankind! The fact that my Gentile mother fell in love, married and had two sons with my Jewish father is absolutely incredible to me. This, even after both of them suffered the pain and anguish of divorce from previous marriages. Talk about overcoming some serious adversity in this world; they are an amazingly beautiful couple. They are the first to tell you that relationships can't always be 50/50; life happens and that can bring you down sometimes. They willingly communicate and prove their love by inspiring, motivating and supporting each other in their own personal quests. Also, they always make time for an adventure together. Just the two of them. I don't use the word cute a lot, but they really are the cutest. They may never read this, but I love the example they set for the world.

This where all of my good looks come from, right here!

   Now I only used 2 out of 30 pictures from that article because they hit closest to home for me. They reminded me of who I am, where I come from and the infinite possibilities of my future. There are some photos in that article so incredible, you will literally lose your breath. They will conjure some of the most intense thoughts and emotions of your human spirit. They portray fatherhood, famine, appreciation, genocide, love, devastation, relief, commitment, compassion, happiness and tragedy (among other things.). This article was not for the faint-hearted. Personally, for me, it made my heart grow bigger. Anyone out there who does read that article and cannot put themselves in these peoples' shoes; this is what I have to say to you... 
   Those who typically lack empathy suffer from the woes of jealousy and envy. You spend your lives turning supposed loved ones into puppets for your own benefit. You are master manipulators, selfish with your emotions and have no regard for the people who move mountains for you. It's people like you that contribute to our decay. It's people like you that are responsible for a lot of the darkness we see in this world. It's people like you that force tragedies on others. It's people like you that make me glad to be me.

I'm just trying to speak up for my fellow half-Jews out there!
   Being half-Jewish may have hindered me with others at times, but has genuinely taught me about appreciating love in itself. I certainly would not be here without it. Thanks Mom and Dad! The closet anti-Semites of the world used to hurt my feelings, but now are completely laughable. They can't be themselves because they can't stand themselves, it's hilarious. No matter what anyone wants to argue with me, I hold my heritage close to my heart. The Jewish people have thrived among adversity and fought against oppression for thousands of years. We have done great things for humanity and we love to coexist in this world. Back one of us into a corner though, you better be prepared to get all 14 million of us up your ass. SHALOM!

Scotty J ~ "Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it's probably shit."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mid-Winter Break - A Rather Forward Reminder

 Needless to say, we've had a harsh winter in West Michigan this year. School closings, canceled events, tragedy-causing road conditions and sub-zero temperatures have been affecting regular everyday life as we know it. My Facebook feed has never been uglier with negative comments about our beautiful home. Let's try to get past that, my friends, and take a look at the bigger picture.

Embrace it, don't hate it!

   I drove a plow truck for a handful of years; claiming that I hated the snow and loved getting it out of peoples' way. Today when I look back on my snow-plowing years... I realize that it wasn't "hate" for the snow that kept me out there, but the adventure Mother Nature had waiting for me. I braved countless storms, helped stranded motorists and cleared a path for the "worker-bees" of my community. Ahhhhhhhh... what a refreshing and grand perspective. The winter of 2014 (alone) has offered an array of valuable life-lessons for me to not even dare continue hating something of which I have no control. 
   Mother Nature has done an incredible job of breaking up the monotony of our daily lives this winter. She proved that, no matter how much we try to defy her, SHE is in charge. She does not care about what time we have to be at our cubicles, when our next deadline is coming or catching flak from someone generically named "Management". Simply put, none of those things are natural. All we do when we complain about these things is prove that humans are capable of being much colder than the weather itself. We deserve to get snowed-in, we deserve an occasional leak in the roof and we deserve feeling helpless about it all. Many of us are desensitized from a true connection with the outside world. The fantasy that we are above all other things on this planet has been shattered by Mother Nature this winter... and it's fucking gorgeous.

"I hope you take the road less traveled and I hope you find the courage to grow." - Rebelution

   Last week I made a Facebook post that asked, "If you could take Mother Nature on a date, what would the two of you do?". The replies were adventurous, loving, honest, humorous, sexual, violent and some even sought forgiveness. I'd say the reply that made me smile the most was, "I would snow plow through her pillowy mounds and then travel south to hit golf clubs off of her well manicured fairway.", because who doesn't love a good sexual innuendo??
   If it were me, I would grab her by the hand and thank her for The Great Lakes. Together we would forage the land for the freshest bounty, head to the beach and prepare it over an open fire. She would teach me about Earth's mortality and I would write her a poem. We would spend the rest of the night laying in the sand, counting the shimmering stars overhead and letting our dreams dance together. When the early morning sun breaks over the horizon; I would gently touch her face and kiss her with passion. Our actions would speak louder than words and at that moment... I would be one with Mother Nature. Intimate, I know.
   Intimacy is a close, familiar, affectionate personal relationship. We owe that to Mother Nature - every moment of everyday. In actuality, her heart revolves around the sun and her spirit is moved by the moon. We can see it in the tides, taste it in our gardens and feel it in the air. Instead, we're too busy blaming her for our misfortunes. This is all due to a lack of intimacy with the outdoors. She doesn't blame us for being human, come on now!!
   Every season has pros and cons, but if we focus on the latter we are only conning ourselves. Here is my response to all of those shitty Facebook posts... Teachers - enough of being bitter about having to work into your summer. Be grateful that your students and co-workers are safe and sound on snow days. Snow Removal Specialists - you signed up for this, accept the glory of winter. Road Ragers - you deserve to be in the ditch. Think about the safety of your friends and family before you ride our asses and cause legitimate danger. Fake Winter Enthusiasts - you waste our lives twice by saying (in the late fall) you can't wait to hit the slopes, but when the snow actually comes you say you're "over-it". Let me be the first to correct you assholes... you're "under-it" and you probably always will be too.
   It has taken me twenty West Michigan winters to finally gain this perspective. The snow was always a love-hate relationship over those years. Now, I know in my heart that I love it here and to "hate" over being inconvenienced by something, is a waste of life. Those of you who really can't stand dealing with the snow, move. You can do it, I believe in you. I would think that's much easier than spreading hate for a few months out of the year anyway. 
   Mother Nature challenges us everyday to be better human-beings and that's because she is the boss. Every time we complain about her, we fail this challenge, we fail our fellow humans and we fail ourselves. Love her, respect her, praise her and only expect her to be unpredictable. Everything we know is because of her. She makes life, in itself, possible. One last thing... Shout-out to all of those true Winter Warriors carrying the torch out there. Your passion lights the way for the rest of us, thank you so much for leading by example!

That's a Winter Wrecking Crew right there!

Scotty J ~

"If I really wanted to stick my dick in Mother Nature, it's simple. I'd just take off my pants and walk outside."

Frozen or thawed, Lake Michigan always makes me smile. (PHOTO CREDIT: Clark Jansen - Holland, MI)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Saving Scotty Jacobs - Feeling huMAN

   Alright, in the past two weeks I tied up my remaining loose ends from last year. It drummed up the kind of emotions that made it tough to think clearly and stay positive. The kettlebell, however, refused to let me down; it always stays true, regardless of the circumstances. This in turn kept me honest with every routine and had me dig deeper into my true self.
   I don't want people to think Hardstyle kettlebell techniques are some figurative light at the end of some dark tunnel. Hardstyle is the guiding light that illuminates our surroundings, our strength and our lives; no matter what path we choose to walk. Everyday that I pick up the kettlebell it always teaches me more about myself, how I understand the world and what I can do to make a difference in it. Hardstyle builds my self-worth and empowers me to live honestly. Hell, I usually train in my boxer-briefs!! A lack of clothing (for me) always provides a massive influx of productivity.
   This gives me the perfect chance to honestly tell you a little bit about myself. In my youth I wore "husky" sized jeans, sometimes swam with a t-shirt on and would get embarrassed about my body. I also know, I'm not the only man out there with a past like this. Fortunately I still maintained an enthusiastic lifestyle of socializing, playing sports and making lifelong friendships. Then eventually, I grew into being a man (and maybe part black bear.).
   I am a real man, covered in hair; with salt and pepper on my scalp, bushy squirrel tails over my eyes and a beard that loves to muff dive. I have dark curly fibrous man-threads draped over my shoulders, flowing down my chest, back and the rest of my entire body. I sweat from every single pore and I'll go to war with an ingrown hair. My musk is woodsy, natural and passionate - with a healthy pinch of Kosher salt. My wide frame is heavy with muscle, fat and love. My scars tell stories. My big feet stink sometimes. I fart. I burp. I snore when I sleep. I make no excuses for being this way. In fact, I truly embrace it. If I could put it bluntly... you would find a man like me stark naked, finger-painting a cave wall faster than you would see me featured in GQ Magazine.
   Well men, I know there are a ton of you out there just like me. Enough is enough already! We let the "pretty" people have their moment; now it's our job to help the world FEEL HUMAN! We have to rock what we've got and put the kibosh on any social stigma that prevents us from revealing our manliness. Like we really give a shit if the slender guy with the 8-pack of abs and the thighs that don't touch looks comfortable on the XXL sized underwear package. Seriously, I mean what the fuck are they trying to tell us? If we wear their underwear, we'll look like that guy?? Fuck off, put a real man on there... pussies. I would love to see a a big, hairy fitness model land the lead role in the next BowFlex commercial. Big natural men need to be featured more in the spotlight. We are the "norm", not the underwear models of the world. Any one of you who feels embarrassed by being your natural self or showing off your natural self, this post is for you. I am going to go ahead and lead by example here:




   I had an awesome correspondence with a friend over the weekend, that literally left me smiling. She said, "I don't think we would be where we are or who we are without facing some adversity along the way.", and it's so true. Life passes by regardless of us living it up or letting it happen to us. How we live through each experience is what defines us along the way. I know what it's like to be embarrassed of myself, afraid of myself and disappointed in myself - it's no way to live. The only way to overcome those obstacles, is to believe in yourself!! (recurring anecdote - I hope you're all catching on!!)
   Before my "man rant" I mentioned how Hardstyle kettlebell training has helped me to develop a genuine sense of self-worth. I am 45 days into training and have the rest of my life to go! This is my journey and I'm not interested in just showing you some pictures of what I look like a year from now. The self-worth is forged in the actual work, not the outcome. The one consistent outcome in life, is death. Results are meaningless if you can't celebrate the energy it took to reach them.
   There is unfathomable value when it comes to Hardstyle training. I don't spend my days in a gym that costs an arm and a leg, I don't pay some guy to accost me over my shoulder - telling me to "try harder" and I don't have to buy a bunch of gimmicky "fitness" bullshit that tells me how I progressed for the day. My investments are the kettlebell itself and the education I need to maximize its use. Strength, health, longevity, endurance and peace of mind grow with every single repetition. I've learned that these things are most important: Truthfully redefine yourself as often as you need, allow yourself to feel human, endorse that feeling everyday and LIVE YOUR LIFE!

Take action.

Scotty J ~

"Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words."
- D. Wood