Unhappy Men, Happy Men and Happiness by Kyle Phoenix

                I’m tired about 3% of the time.  And from years of teaching and counseling I recognize that by tired I mean sad or depressed.  Not a heavy blanket of deep ennui but a film, a mild sadness at a host of things.  I’ve noticed this in the past couple of years in relationship to my work, to the people I work with and to the outcomes from that work.  For quite a few years I worked with MSM around relationships, sexuality, identity, and personal advancement.  Now unfortunately there are issues, institutional systems, that affect MSM and pointedly people of color but ultimately, all people.   The agencies I worked for are somewhere between handcuffed and willingly bonded to focusing on HIV funding, exclusively.  Yet a lot of the issues---lack of education, unemployment, poverty, health related issues, psychological health issues and dealing with the social construct (the delusion) of race.



                It can be tiring to experience these issues and it can also be exhausting to experience them as a facilitator/guide/teacher trying to get people to move along to the next level, whatever that might be for the individual.  That’s where I come from, I want advancement for everyone without barriers.  I think such simply that more fulfilled people would be happier and happier people would create a happier society.  Yet I’ve had the work experience for years (totaling thousands of men) to see that MSM, particularly of color, are unhappy.  And that unhappiness leads to destructive behavior, such as Barebacking, drug addiction, impoverishment, because we all want to feel better, however we define “happiness”.  I watch so many good men, along a continuum of reasonably intelligent to brilliant, constantly absorbing the concept of oppression in their words, their actions and the, outcomes.    I often listen to MSM talking about the conspiracies of what they can and cannot do; what the unexperienced world is like; attributing the actions of one (or a dozen) men to ALL men.  God, what I’ve heard about ALL men when a few men have hurt the feelings of an MSM.  They never consider that the Good Man that they pine for is often sitting (or online, viewing) their rant and upset about, dismissing them as the men to avoid.  But because Good Men get to “goodness” by learning to avoid these upset men so the upset men never get the feedback of what isn’t working.  The upset men then get left to only experience Not Good Men because they’ve given off the plague-smell.  No one in their right mind wants to take a chance (or being trapped on a date, much less in a relationship) on this upset man.
                I started The Kyle Phoenix Show online and cable TV to translate my workshops that I’d done with thousands of men (hopefully helping some of them) because I wanted to heal their upset.  My workshops tend to fall into two major demographics: upset men and Good Men (which I went on and titled a book Good Men for Men) and helping them to navigate their lives, wants, desires and such, I’ll say pointedly, without the lessons that women directly and intimately teach men about relationships.  (More of that in my forthcoming book He Is Not You.)

                Personally though when people wonder why I’m a bit of an introvert or sporadically attend parties and events or send missives and cards but not show up all the time it’s because of the fact that I’m pretty happy.  Like 97% of the time unless I see something pointedly sad, I’m pretty much having a red and gold balloon party in my head.  That other 3%, which I believe is natural and levels of empathetic feelings and wistful memories, is rarely hardcore unhappy.  Like when I eat, I tear up.  No, really.  Last night I wanted a small meal and not to cook so I stopped at 7-11 and bought a burrito and put some of the free salsa on it, got home about 10 minutes later and began chomping down on it and my eyes welled with tears.  It was just the right level of warm (I’m not big on very hot food), it was shockingly spicy, it was soft, I could taste the beef and it struck me as a good thing.  Earlier I’d had a big twelve ingredient salad and that too made me tear up.  There’s a deep gratitude and pleasure in food for me.  Ironically I don’t eat emotionally, by that I mean if I feel distressed (rarely) or upset, I don’t reach for food as a salve.  I just like food.  It doesn’t exactly make me happy as it supports my happiness with a gratitude at being a chewing, tasting human.

                Here in NYC, on the trains, in the streets, particularly in Manhattan, I see various people in levels of distress, pain, homelessness and I make it a point to look at them full on, whether I’m going to give money or not.  Because I believe people should be seen.  IF you’re ever with me, and someone approaches asking, depending on a variety of reasons and observations (I’m somewhere between Detective Columbo and Dr. Cal Lightman of Lie to Me in reading people), I might tell them “No, thank you.”  Particularly if they speak to me/ask for money.  Because I believe that person is still a human being who should be eye to eye acknowledged, even if it’s a no and treated with courtesy.  At the same time I believe that I have the self-human right to say yes or no to that which is presented to me to participate in or with.  “No, thank you (I don’t want to participate in your energy.  Why?  Because I have the intrinsic right to decide the yeses and noes for this body and its’ resources.)”

                But I also pray for people.  Sometimes the prayer is thanks when I see people who’ve had some hand---drugs, alcohol---in their bad circumstances---“But for the Grace of God go I.  Thank you, God for my being this way instead of that way.”  Other times it’s “Thank you, God for giving me the resources I have that I’m not in that situation and the reasoning capability to keep myself form that situation.”  Then there’s: “Thank you, God for not putting me through that right there.”  (Sometimes that’s someone with a handicap or an affliction---it can get a little Lord of the Rings make-up cast truck in the NYC subway system.  Years ago, at least 10, Richard Gere on The Oprah Winfrey Show talked about a prayer taught to him by the Dali Lama that I’ve practiced regularly since, when looking at someone, anyone thinking to one’s self: “The Light of God within me, salutes and blesses the light of God within you.”

                If you’ve read my blogs or books you know there’s been death, disappointment, abuse, pain, drama, foolishness, madness, racism, imprisonment, betrayal and bad customer service in my life so far.   I expect there will be more…because that’s life.  But when people are ragging on about the world, about the Them who are destroying every little corner of possible hope and happiness (yet amazingly people can recognize this vast conspiracy yet kind of standstill for the rape, I notice), I notice the lack of gratitude, generosity, and a new thing I learned, but had been practicing form the book The Presence, suspension.

                I often suspend myself with you, others, the world.  Like I’m not a big political person (no, I haven’t watched any of the debates; mainly because I see it all as theater.  Grand theater.  Political theater.  But theater all the same.) I think it’s more important that I go somewhere and teach a class to immigrants or people in poverty or to geniuses in the evenings.  Or that I volunteer to feed people or cook for a few hours for them.  But I decided to listen/watch Dr. Ben Carson (I’d seen the biographical movie on him a few years back) on Charlie Rose.  I like Charlie Rose (and Tavis Smiley) but I don’t watch TV (I own a giant flat screen but use it for expanding my pc/laptop monitor capacity so I can type without contacts or glasses on) so I watched his interview on Hulu.  There were things I agreed with and disagreed with.  Then I watched Peter Travers interview Michael Moore on his show Popcorn.  Then I watched him interview George Miller (the first movie I’d seen in theaters in almost two years was Mad Max: Fury Road, so I was interested in the director.  I didn’t know he used to be a medical director and had directed all the Mad Max films, Happy Feet and the Babe pictures!  I saw Happy Feet in the theater as an animated lark and went out and bought the Earth, Wind and Fire collection right afterwards because of wanting their music after seeing the film.)

               I thought of Dr. Carson and where he was at within the context of Clare Graves / Don Edward Beck’s Spiral Dynamics theory (whom I discovered through Dr. Ken Wilber’s Theory of Everything book) and then I thought about the Future Files by Friedman paralleling some of Carson’s thinking on foreign policy. Then I watched Shonda Rhimes on Charlie Rose. 


                While eating my lunch, fried chicken from Popeye’s (I try to limit it to once a month because my family are the not only the poster children but the graphic designers and delivery team for heart disease) and writing this piece up.  Yes, I’ve meandered through things that make me happy and unhappy and no, I haven’t given you any magic serum for happiness because the truth is: it’s a choice.  You either choose to be happy, to be optimistic, to think well of people (even the shitty, dumb acting ones) and to wish ugly, mean people well and to accept attitudes (I have a customer service feedback rant in me ready to spring out---but I’m going to channel it into a vocational book) and the literal unfairness of life.  Because only children (and the juvenile minded) expect fairness from the universe---ask nature, beautifully embodied in the lion and the gazelle about the fairness of slaughter vs. starvation---and you’ll discover the truth.  Happiness does not feel like a party all the time.  Just 97% of the time.  The rest, you’re a little saddened by stuff.  But grateful to have had the experience because you know it could be worse or is worse for others.

Enjoy!!!

Thank you for reading.
Email: kylephoenixshow1@gmail.com
Thanks and enjoy!
You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter!
Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on
Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon)
Fridays at 11pm simulcast on MNN.org and http://kylephoenix.com/.

All books by Kyle Phoenix are available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Sign up for the mailing list on my website (I’ll never share your information with a 3rd party) and you’ll receive the E newsletter and alerts about new products, books, and Special Reports.

Copyright © The Omni Group, Inc , 2016

Keep Calm, It's Just Melanin, Part 1 by Kyle Phoenix


                 I’ve written a lot about race.  Examining it and sexuality as two sides of an identity coin as I try to make sense of two categorizations that to the audience say everything about a person but to that person, the subject, reveal very little.  I live and work on the island of Manhattan, moving through millions of people every day who fall into such myriadical categories that I have a hard time sometimes discerning what language, much less dialect of that language is occurring next to me.  As I try to mature my work, through reading and research and talking to people, I find myself torn.  Torn between the concept of racial solidarity and human evolution.  I know that both exist but I suppose I want validation form the world, or definition from the world that one is a road trip to the other.

                While teaching I am often challenged by either the topic or sometimes even the students to define race or two give a back story to it.  If I’m teaching about the Cuban Revolution then I have to define some aspects of the culture, the relationship to Western powers, what it means to be Latino, where the concept of Latino came from.  If I teach about the Haitian Revolution then I have to answer the classifications and injustices that sparked off such a vicious and lengthy struggle for liberation from the French, English and Dutch empires.  I’m literally forced to explain what I can only personally perceive as insanity. 
                By insanity I mean the lining up of people, in America, and based upon 4 arbitrary characteristics (lips, hair, nose and amount of melanin) creating a whole social system with deep stratifications.  Daily I watch the world around me revolving, pushing against, struggling with, railing at these arbitrary assignments.  Whether it’s young people routinely, and loudly, calling each other nigga or Black and Latino people attributing racial bias to everything that occurs negatively from someone who we would consider White, I see the roiling manifestation of this insanity.  While we’re able to track overt racism and the impact it has on individuals in terms of violence or the prison system or employment ias, I often look at the softer, deeper impacts.  Simply the stress of constantly carrying race as a burden, as a targeting system, as a weapon---whatever classification, Asian, White, Black, etc. you might fall into.  I remember when I was a teenager and I was experimenting with writing, figuring out plots and characters to explore, stories to invent and situations to imagine when race became an obstacle for me.  I’d written a ten notebook opus, The Hemmingways, a twisted ode to shows like Dynasty and Knots Landing and soap operas like One Life To Live.  As an exercise I can say that good parts were in the doing, trying out language and how to describe everything from clothes to the look of a room.  How to build and hold tension.  All the aerobics a young writer needs to go through with.  Suddenly I was confronted within my handwritten script by some characters being White, some Black, some Latino, a couple Asian and what did that mean?  I’d found that characters could attack each other and suddenly racial epithets became available but by their use I had to deal with the fact that meant that my characters, in their bubble micro-verse, had carried in racism.  And if they’d carried in racializing others then what did that mean for their characters?  Suddenly I was further confronted with the fact that I hadn’t done a very thorough job of dealing with race and the situations I was proposing in my fictitious world.  Okay, I thought and continued plotting and designing lives and plots and soon I realized that every time I introduced a character, race was either assumed or had to be explicitly stated.  By that I mean suddenly my characters seemed all White unless I said they weren’t.  And if they weren’t White (or worse if they were) I suddenly had to deal with race.  I found that I couldn’t have a multi-ethnic cast of characters without dealing with race.

                The game over the years in my writing has become when designing a character to consider his or her race and then build a character appropriately.  But if I build them and they don’t fall into White then part of their inherent existence is dealing with race.  I then found that this translated off of the page as well, suddenly I too was conscious of dealing with race, experience race, considering race or purposefully not considering it, shutting off my racial barometer.  It’s possible but difficult.  In fact I wouldn’t call the shutting so much of off as a hypersensitivity to seeing people, seeing the potential for racial classification and trying to experience them beyond it.  For instance, young people, in their early twenties and below, especially women, I’ve noticed, are loud in public and on the train.  When I glance over I have to upbraid myself for racializing that general observation.  Often it’s Black or Latino people but sometimes it’s White ones too.  But I have to catch myself. I have to edit the idea that it’s just Blacks and Latinos.  That the Blacks and Latinos are loud because they’re Black and Latino.  I also notice that White people get negated, are treated like a necessary evil, pushed to the background of reality like white noise or static, unless I have a personal relationship with them.  Is that what they do to people who aren’t White, I wonder?

                I spend a lot of time forgiving people nowadays.  It has a lot to do with understanding that race is a social construct and to my thinking an unclassified mental illness/delusion.  The delusion swings both ways though.  Recently with an invitation form a friend, I started attending a book club.  A Black book club.  She’d mentioned reading some interesting fiction and I thought it was going to go there, that it was going to be more fun fiction rather than the intense non-fiction discourse it became.  It happened right around my own school break from being a student and teaching so I had some mental hard drive space to do some really critical thinking about a text.  What discovered was that we could all agree that we were looking at the world but often times there was a racial prism that we saw through and that prism deposited us in only two possible spaces---us vs. them.  The them were the enemy, the enemy was White people.  Don’t get me wrong there were places and spaces socially and historically where we were reading about overt racism and prejudice but when we rounded ourselves up to the 21st century, I found a distinct lack of cogent thought.  I found myself throwing out a challenge to the anger and frustration and mental desire to rearrange reality with White people, I challenged the group: What do we want?  What do we really want?  Do we want to create systems and structures or recompense that is the equivalent of prejudice against White people?  Is that the greatest, deepest lesson we’ve collectively learned from oppression?  To be prejudiced?  Did we want to change White people or did we want to become them?


                On the intellectual surface the questions seem salient, even incisive but in the group they became incendiary.  Why?  Over the years of doing workshops and teaching classes and being in classes, I’ve learned that people exist on two wavelengths at the exact same time.  They believe things which they don’t believe.  Or their deeply held beliefs that they use to construct their identity, don’t make sense, aren’t fruitful nor empowering but are viciously defended.  The answers to shifting social power to how to dismantle oppressive structures disintegrated to “…let me tell you how wrong they (White people) are today…”. It became a sort of victims topping game where seething anger and frustration was levelled at anyone who wasn’t seething and frustrated.  I’d hoped to not be in such an arena where I had to defend radical and progressive thinking (that somehow in spite of a truly disturbed and entangled history, we must find a way to dismantle this social delusion for the betterment of all humans) that it wasn’t aligning to White people or just as bad, denying Black people.  But any questioning or non-militant stance or seeking to evolve is often seen by Black people as collaboration, as if there are only two modalities within race.  We’ve adopted the oppressors concept of anything that questions the system is inherently opposed to it and therefore villainous and anyone that doesn’t vehemently deride the  ”other” group is a collaborator with them and a “race traitor”.

                Ironically we’ve learned such tactics and perceptions from the very oppressors we label as oppressors.  We’ve found the enemy and he is us.
                I wish I could tell you that it got better within the book club, it didn’t.  In fact, I watched as others fell out of the group for extremist reasons.  They felt the rhetoric was too extreme or more interestingly some felt it wasn’t’ extreme enough.  But a consensus amongst the people who left was that we were going around in intellectual circles, we were textually revisiting a closed past, we weren’t learning new skills to deal with the oppressive system we found ourselves in at varying levels, we weren’t sharing personal strategies and networking.  We were commiserating and definitively placing blame.  I bring this inclusively full circle to sexuality because I’ve been in groups that did the same but that notably in Black mixed sexuality groups, non-heterosexuality bias/homophobia and misogyny/patriarchy eases it’s way in, nibbles at the edges, offers to become a rallying cry or a standard.

                White people don’t know completely what racism is because they project it but don’t always experience it.

                People who aren’t designated as White think they know accurately what racism and prejudice are and use the value of their being racialized as a measurement of their ability to identify the bias.  “White people label me Black therefore I know what prejudice is.”
                But do we?

                Case in point.  I sit typing in a classroom on the Columbia University campus on a snowy day.  I have a few haunts on campus, buildings where I know classes are over, closer to food spots, closer to the train, that I frequent for my long sessions of editing and typing.  The system here is that if a classroom is free a singular person or during finals sometimes small groups acquire classrooms but if you want it definitely exclusively to yourself, you have to reserve it.  Everyone is trumped by an incoming class.  On this snowy day after three hours of typing, sitting in a hard wooden chair and having pulled a muscle slipping and sliding in the snow, I laid out on the carpeted floor, just to pull my back muscles, to relax them in something other than this crunch I’m in in the seat.  I even found it was warm on the floor by the gentle heating system and I could read by the floro level windows or glance out and muse on passing students.
            Then two officers arrived.
Was I okay?
Yes.
Was I a student?
Yes.  And an employee.
            The public safety officers left. 
         
            Now when I thought about it I wondered had someone spied me through the frosted glass door in this 16-person (pretty small) classroom by myself for the past few hours?  Had they see me lay down and stretch?  Were they concerned I was having a heart attack?  Or was I just a Black man not doing what Blakc men are supposed to do?  The public safety officers were both Black, male and female, and earlier a Latina maintenance worker stopped in, checking to see if she had to clean.  Suddenly I’ve become racially alert or self-conscious.  Have I don’t something wrong?  Did a passing White person think I was out of pocket in my actions?  What can I do or not do besides sit and type?  AM I under video surveillance in the classroom?
            
           Now here’s the rub.  I sure as hell know and notice that the White kids ain’t thinking this deeply about the whole situation.  In face when confronted with these racial-maybe situations I imagine myself “White” to check reality without my sense of Black identity and all the suspicion that goes with it.  (Harshly I want to get one of those shirts that’s says Keep Calm and add…It’s Just Melanin.  Or Keep Clam I won’t Be Raping You Today.  Or Keep Calm, I Won’t Be Asking for Money.)   Aside from my dark thought digression what I do see is that I regularly tour through about three different buildings, on various floors, midterms and finals increasing my visitations, to get blocks of time to work in relative quiet, in a safe, clean environment.  But race, the social delusion can make me crumple into either a frothing Black warrior wronged by the invisible White gaze siccing the Black proletariat workers on me, their brother!  Or Herbert Marcuse’s thoughts about the societal subject taking on the internalized paranoia of the “being watched by Big Brother” stance whenever challenged so as to self police.  Or suddenly uncomfortable in a room I’ve been coming to for years, when it’s free and have gotten an immense amount of work done.

                What if, as I think about, as has happened in the past, they were just doing a routine touring of the building, saw my stuff on the table---laptop, books, Pepsi, coat and wondered where I was?  What if they were checking on me to make sure I hadn’t had a heart attack or some sort of genius mental stroke out? 

                Has race gone so deeply into our collective psyche that one has to literally sit back and do a five-minute critical self-analysis to figure out reality?  And what becomes of those who can’t critically think this reflectively, this calmly, present back to public safety I’m fine, my back just hurts?


                I’m evolving.  I know race doesn’t exist.  I know it’s an illusion.  But in order to know that I literally have to wage psychic war, mainly on myself.



Enjoy!!!

Thank you for reading.
Email: kylephoenixshow1@gmail.com
Thanks and enjoy!
You can Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter!
Don't forget to watch The Kyle Phoenix Show on
Channel 56 (Time Warner), 83 (RCN), 34 (Verizon)
Thursdays at 1130pm simulcast on MNN.org and http://kylephoenix.com/.

All books by Kyle Phoenix are available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
Sign up for the mailing list on my website (I’ll never share your information with a 3rd party) and you’ll receive the E newsletter and alerts about new products, books, and Special Reports.

Copyright © The Omni Group, Inc , 2015