Nerdy Dreams and What They Mean
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd my name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr Bray and I am your resident nerd.
Have you ever had a really weird dream? The kinda dream or nightmare that you just can’t shake?
Well today's episode is titled "Nerdy Dreams and What They Mean" and we’re going to explore some nerdy bits about the history, the power and the significance of dreams and what they might mean.
I'd like to begin this topic with a brief introduction to an important figure in the realm of dreams, the Sandman. No I'm not referring to the graphic novel often written by the brilliant author Neil Gaiman. The Sandman is a mythical person that would sprinkle dust over your eyes while you slept to give you good dreams. According to the telling of this myth the leftover residue in the corner of your eyes in the morning was the proof of his visit during the night. The Sandman was the lord of the world of fantasy and the bizarre so hold on to your butts we're in for an exciting and nerdy ride.
Now dreams are kinda like photographs, it's sometimes hard to pay attention to someone else's nocturnal escapades. Example say someone is sharing their weird dream with you about them floating on a ritz cracker in a bowl of soup. Well it’s really easy to check out if you’re not starring in their story, regardless of how interesting their sea faring cracker adventure might sound. Why is that? Several reasons: it’s part narcissistic boredom, part the bizarre events of the dream and part poor telling on behalf of the dreamer. However in my opinion one of the largest reason why listening to someone else’s dream is tough work is fundamentally because we no longer believe in dreams like we used to.
What am I talking about? Well if you’re a student of religious or classic literature, really any ancient script will due, you’ll have observed that the soothsayer, fortune teller or prophet had an uncanny ability of foretelling events, or interpreting the signs and significances through the power of dreams. From the “Ides of March” where Caesar ironically bawked at the prophecy of his assassination to the jewish prophet Daniel famously interpreting the dream of king Nebekenezer’s statue. Nebekenezer had this intense dream of a large statue with a golden head and silver arms and chest, with a bronze waist, iron legs and feet of clay. The prophet Daniel ends up explaining this dream to the king how the images relate to historical kingdoms that were going to eventually take place. Each precious metal resembling a different dynasty of lesser quality from king Nebekenezer's kingdom. Looking back even further to one of my all time favorite myths the Epic of Gilgamesh - “Spoiler alert” when Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the forest cyclops Humbaba, Gilgamesh is told in a dream that his quest would fail and that his friend Enkidu would die. You see it was a universally accepted belief in the ancient world that dreams were a direct line of communication to the gods.
Eventually this idea evolved beyond believing that our dreams have a supernatural significance as they transformed into the Freudian self-actualization era. What do I mean? One of the pioneers and founding fathers of psychology, Sigmund Freud believed that your dreams related to suppressed childhood trauma or repressed sexual desires. Hence Oedipus and Elektra complexes - these complexes are about people that can when looking for a mate sometimes be attracted or repulsed by certain traits in there their parental units. Why there’s some very insightful things to be said about our dreams revealing our inner feelings or past experiences, Freud didn’t really take the idea as far as many of his successors did. Such as say Erik Erickson with his ideas of the stages of psychology. Erickson believed that our experiences were broken up into several unique stages of your life - for example let’s take stage 6. Intimacy vs Isolation: the idea here is that at some point everyone will fight loneliness at the cost of finding intimate relationships and while this might be a powerful reality according to Erickson this reflects a stage in your life. So your dreams will have a shifting significance based on the position of interest in the separate stages of your life. Erik Erickson is also know for coining the phrase personality crisis. He speaks in volumes about our inner and outer struggles. Which it can be argued that our dreams are our subconscious minds attempting to make sense of our emotional truths. I highly recommend spending some time learning more about the psychologist Erik Erikson and his work it's just brilliant stuff.
Anyhoo the last reason I think we’ve learned to check out on our dreams is the shear bizarre nature of them. Which begins a very strange confession time - when I was a teenager I used pride myself with the ability to decode dreams. Yeah I know 18year old me was pretty pretentious and annoying. I may have spent a little to much time being raptured with the topic of dream interpretations. But let me give you an example. My roommate was once troubled by a bad dream he had where he was at the top of a rollercoaster and looking down as he saw if girlfriend and daughter looking up at him. He couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I told him in a confidence that laughably puzzles my present self that his dream was obvious. I said "you're dream means that you're filled with the anxiety of adulthood and the pressures to step up and be a responsible father and eventually a husband", for I knew he was going to be engaged and he was struggling to understand if it was for the right reasons. I think we all have sorta goofy things we think we understand when we're young and I looked at dreams like fun visual riddles. Yet my enigma cracking skills soon came to a complete halt after I had a dream that I died and went to hell. This dream changed everything I thought was so obvious and it shattered to my confidence.
The dream went like this:
I was at a party surrounded by strangers and everyone one was drinking from red plastic cups. With each sip from the red cups my vision got more and more blurry until I eventually tripped backwards into a pool. I saw the party goers circle over ahead laughing at me as I sunk deeper and deeper into the waters. Soon everything faded into the black. A moment later I instinctively know that I am in hell. All I see is blackness yet in the distance I can hear waves breaking. My vision begins to return and I see wooden planks. I now hear the creaking sounds of a ship rocking at sea. As I lift my eyes up I discover that I'm on a massive wooden barge in the middle of the ocean. I rush to the edge of the deck and the boat is towering hundreds and hundreds of feet out of a grey murky water. The horizon is a moonless, sunless twilight and surrounded all around me are people dressed in white tennis clothes listening to elevator music sipping lemonade and laughing. As I approach one of the people in white tennis clothes they freeze like in a picture and I peer into their eye. The facade of the elevator music and the calm soon evaporate as there true form appears. They're true forms are tortured gargoyle like figures wrapped in blisters consumed by flames. I take a deeper look into their eye and I see their sins like clips from a film. One man murdered someone in the heat of passion, a woman beats her children, and so on and so on I'm witnessing the memories of their sins. Then as I pulled back my view from their eyes there tormented true form disappears and they transform back to their serene selves with fake smiles. We're back again floating on the giant wooden barge heading no where listening to the elevator music, in white tennis clothes sipping lemonade, floating in the middle of the sea. Then from the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a passenger running around. I take off in their direction. They scurry behind a wooden booth and I know deep down this creature is the devil. I turn the corner and there was the devil. The devil was an 8yr old little white boy dressed in an all black school uniform. I tried to catch him as he as he drops a black and yellow CD player. I pop open the CD player and throw away the elevator music and feel an urge to reach into my pocket. I find a cd in it so I place it in the CD player. The music is simple but up beat. As the music continues the giant wooden barge slowly morphs into a train peacefully headed towards a bright and gorgeous sunshine. The odd people in white tennis clothes no longer look like strangers but friends and now are wearing regular street clothes as lyrics begin to play over the trains speakers. We all seem to know the song and begin singing along with warm smiles strung across our faces. As the song dies down I can hear the train begin to tread water. I peak outside watching the waters rising higher and higher. In the distance towards the sunset I see a massive wave speeding towards the train. The wave hits the train and everything goes black then a deep murky grey and green. Rising to the surface I'm racing towards a flutter of tiny bubbles not sure of which way is up. As I bob out of the water I notice a wooden dock a few feet in front of me. As soon as I pull myself up I see a rush of bubbles in the water below and I reach down and retrieve a small grey dog soaked to the bone like myself. As I place the puppy beside me I realize I'm no longer my usual self but now I'm an 8yr old boy in a grey school uniform. I look around and I'm all alone in a vast ocean in a horizonless sky on a small dock with a singular light with my small dog. Then the dream ends. Perhaps it was a fourth meal Taco Bell sorta inspiration but it was one of the most incredibly memorable nightmares I've ever had. And that dream officially silenced my cocky obsession with thinking I could decode everyone's dreams. You see dreams are sometimes just odd. And it’s easy to stop paying attention to them. Even when they're sometimes troubling.
Yet dreams are so fascinating aren't they?! The rules of gravity or time don't seem to exist in dreams and sometimes they're not even linear are they. Some dreams are about the past, some are vivid and as vibrant as an actual real life event and some have a sort of cryptic feel to them like walking into a painting. They can make little or no sense at all. And even more strange to me is when we have similar dreams. Take for instance a common dream people have: you're losing your teeth or you're falling many dream researchers will say that those types of dreams reflect that you might be feeling like you're losing control of something in your life. Honestly I could talk about this at great lengths. I just find dreams so intriguing. But regardless of their exact meaning I believe dreams are a big part of what makes life great. You see I'm a dreamer. Always have been. I've got my head in the clouds a lot. So much so that I was convinced for years that the earmark of my friendships were how much of my future or dreams I shared with them. Now while this isn't without a strong importance in my life I came to this realization- truthfully since the creation of the Go Forth & Nerd podcast that it was actually my past not future dreams where I had the most treasure chests. And many of the treasure chest while not filled always with bright and shiny memories they were full of precious experiences and locked shut from the outside. I used to have such intense trust issues about sharing my pasts with others thinking people would try and shame or humiliate me. Thinking that if I shared an embarrassing piece of my past people had some strange hold on me. It's an important thing to note if you're ever speaking with a gifted counselor they'll express how when we're vulnerable in someone's presence we can end up creating false connections with the person you're sharing that vulnerability. Remember sharing your dreams involves trust but it should be about your personal growth first. What am I getting at. Even though memories and dreams are somewhat different animals they can be heavily tied to our personal vulnerability. And this is the powerful revelation I discovered: when I'm dead and gone what use will any of my stories ever have with the world if I never share them? Basically what value is any of our dreams if we keep them locked away and hidden? Sure there's reasons to lock them up but there's even greater reasons to share these profound cathartic experiences, letting your dreams loose on the world. Yes Go Forth & Nerd is part story time part personal therapy, part a plethora of other things as well. But our expression of our dreams is a creative force!
So while dreams might have historically been that lightning rod from God, or the self-actualization of the freudian couch cushion, or fevered Salvador Dali-esque painting I want to encourage you today by asking you a piercing question! What do you dream about? Is it the past, present, future or something even seemingly incomprehensible? And do you have trouble understanding or believing your dreams?
Granted dreams can sometimes be my brain replaying the day's events like a poorly edited reality tv show. I truly believe a defining feature of all nerds is that at our core we’re excellent dreamers! We dream the dreams that others want to dream then eventually read, or view. In my opinion nerds are the leading dreamers and storytellers of our age!
So this week let's explore our dreams together. Start a dream diary, a blog or act on some creative outlet that’s been gnawing at you. There’s no time like the present, so let's dream out loud together!
I want to thank you all so much again for listening. As always please feel free to send me an email or message if you’d like to chat. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Do take care and remember to Go Forth & Nerd!
Teenage Nerdy Ninja Powers
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd.
Today’s episode is titled “Teenage Nerdy Ninja Powers” and if you happen to be a child of the 80s and 90s you’re in for a nerdy nostalgic treat.
From the Karate kid to the Matrix, martial arts has always been a cornerstone of my cinematic imagination. It’s a universal theme in geek culture from arcades to action heroes that good guys know how to fight. It really doesn’t take a further glance than whatever most recent blockbuster that’s rolling to see the leading hero isn’t typically writing sternly worded letters to congress people or lobbying in a suit for the marginalized. Heroes as far as most see them depicted in pop media know how to kick ass, am I right?
Well where am I going with this? I’d like to share some of my current musing I’ve been having about action movies and how I think they can relate to the real world. Also I’ve got a couple personal stories to boot.
If you’re like me you get goofy cravings where you have marathons or benders on say kung fu flix or action movies and it got me thinking I've got ninja fever! And it's obvious I'm not alone.
Firstly, I want to ask you a question. Think of your favorite hero, preferably fictional, and think how do they resolve conflicts? Ok got it? Great! Now to illustrate my idea I’m gonna pick one of people's all around favorites, Batman. Now truth be told Batman isn’t my absolute favorite hero. Don’t get me wrong he’s great but I’ve selected him for a very particular reason. Now Batman can bring it, right? He’s a skilled fighter, has high tech gadgets, and is also a brilliant detective, at least in the comics and the Bruce Timm animated series. Of course Batman can usually handle his own in a fight but unlike say Superman or Wolverine he wasn’t born with these abilities. Batman had to train and train and train some more. Granted he has the cash to spare no expense on tutors but there's no short cuts to his success, at least when Batman is being written well.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because Batman is human and mortal like us. He’s trained his whole life to do what's right and he’s suffered the cost. Sure Gothman is fictional and none of us are sporting billionaire trust funds - but Batman’s story ties into that core belief we have in good winning over evil. If you’ll entertain me for a bit longer. Batman’s story is a Western. Actually practically all Martial Arts stories are like Westerns, even though they’re not based in the west. The rules of a western is like this - bad guys are making life miserable for the good, honest and hardworking folks. Perhaps the law is being bankrolled by the said bad guys and the system is corrupt. But in comes Batman like the new Sheriff in town to put his life on the line. He uses his strong sense of justice to protect people. In a nutshell that’s why we love watching Batman or Bruce Lee work. Watching them hurt bad guys and let good win! And let’s not forget in style too! There’s a reason they call it Martial Arts - it’s both skill and an art form. Which brings me to some personal stories about martial arts.
I vividly remember believing as a kid that knowing kung fu is what really separated me from being Batman. I’ve mentioned this in previous podcasts but as a kid I was convinced you could don a cape and be Batman. Like it was a career choice. Sure I was young but there’s some truth to that. Batman is more than that too - Batman is a peacemaker. All good Westerns end with the hero bringing order to things: sometimes they have to go to war against a gang of thugs but the ultimate goal is peace. In my opinion the difference between a soldier and a police officer is often about focus. A police officer is supposed to be a peacemaker, they’re in the trenches with the people they’re supposed to protect. So Batman is like a self-appointed sheriff of Gotham. While say Superman, though he saves people, often the conflict is far away and the peril is beyond the abilities of normal people so Superman is like a self-appointed soldier for Metropolis aka the world. Sure that’s all nerdy and well but where does the rubber meet the road.
As I mentioned earlier I remember vividly wanting to learn martial arts as a kid, primarily so I could be the next Batman. Well the first time I met a martial arts instructor I was the most solemn and stone faced 6yr old kid you could imagine. I had learned from movies you’re supposed to bow to your Senseii and give proper respect to the dojo. Inside my head I was doing flying round house kicks for joy at the opportunity to be like Daniel-san and learn Karate! However it wasn’t meant to be. Before we could start any lessons we moved again. Fast forward and I'm a freshman in High School and I'm living with my dad. Him and my youngest sister had been taking Taekwondo and they invited me to check it out. I remember kinda poo-pooing the idea but I wasn't really doing anything that evening so I agreed. After one trial class I was hooked! It was so fun! My inner ninja turtle surfaced as I watched an 8yr old kid fly around the room breaking boards. This was so cool and I wanted to learn everything! Taekwondo was awesome! It built my self esteem, I could finally exercise in what was practically pjs at least in comfort and no one was gonna make fun of you if you look goofy doing it like in gym class. I also made some great friends too! Taekwondo was also my one of my first jobs I ever had too. If you know me personally it might be kinda crazy to hear this but I not only loved taekwondo I eventually started teaching classes, even the Nunchucks classes too! Though teaching was part of a requirement for leveling up I actually really really enjoyed it. I love teaching things I'm passionate about. There's nothing quite as fun to me as turning the lights on inside someone that's new to a subject. Back to Taekwondo. Not only did I teach classes I even taught summer camps with my friend and fellow taekwondo buddy Drake. Drake and I had a blast tiring out what we labeled the Tiny Tigers. Kids ranging from the ages of 6-9 and 10-13 yrs old. There was something so deeply satisfying about instructing little ninjas in how to protect themselves from bad people. I remember this one time I was walking to the park with a friend of mine and trying to recruit him to join taekwondo and we literally got jumped by 5 guys. I know I'm bragging but when we walked away relatively unharmed he didn't need anymore convincing, he was ready to join. Because in martial arts your fear of being attacked dissipates when you know how to protect yourself. You don't take pleasure in hurting people but you know how to disarm an attacker or at least how to make them regret it. Fast forward to today and it's been a decade plus a few years since I've practice martial arts but I still love the sense of inner and external strength you gain from the craft.
Sure I'm not Jackie Chan and hardly resemble optimal shape or whatever that is. But I have a reminder every day of my time being a student of martial arts. You see every Friday night we used to spar in the Dojang, it's the Taekwondo equivalent word for dojo since Taekwondo is a Korean art form and dojo is a Japanese term. Anyhoo Friday night sparring was so fun! We'd have both no contact and full contact sparring. When you sparred full contact you were dressed to the nines in gear like a linebacker on game night. There's nothing quite like punching or kicking a friend or classmate as hard as you can knowing that it's all in good fun. Of course there's risks of injuries but that's usually where all the padding helps against that. Well I got this crazy stupid idea in my head. I had been training heavily with this palm strike technique that allowed me to break three cinderblocks. It was impressive at least in my mind's eye. And it was this palm strike technique that seemed from my experience far more powerful than any other strike I knew. So here I was matched against our Sa Bum nim, the Korean equivalent word for Sensei which is a Japanese word. I really wanted to impress him, perhaps even knock him over. Don't get me wrong I loved my Sa bum nim. He was a great guy! His name was Jim and he had a thick mustache and Texan accent. Not gonna lie it was like having a brunette Chuck Norris martial arts instructor, which come on guys that's pretty awesome! Ok so here I was ready to buck up against the chief of the herd and went to strike him as hard as I could. He swiped my palm away before I even got close. However his foot was padded and the strap on the sole of his foot snagged my finger and snapped. In the rush of the match I didn't even realize it til it was over. I had broken my finger. And it was pretty gnarly. My left ring finger knuckle is a third larger than the rest of my fingers and I can't close my fist all the way because of it. It doesn't hurt and it's not really a big deal. However as I've been getting older I realized we collect a lot of scars over the years from the things we go through yet my broken finger is a reminder every day of the joy I had learning martial arts. Perhaps I'll even try and pick it up again sometime soon. Who knows. So all that said martial arts has been a very veritable goldmine for me - from epic adventures of Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China to Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat to self esteem building of an awkward and insecure teenager. I'll always love martial arts and what they bring to the world.
So today I want to ask you a question, are there any martial arts nerds out there? And would you like to chat or share a story sometime? I'd love to hear from you! Thank you all so much again for listening! You're all such awesome nerdy people. Please do take care and remember to Go Forth and Nerd!
Human Monster Manual
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd my name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr Bray and I am your resident nerd!
Today's episode is probably one of the most difficult episodes I’ve done. I’m going to share about how running away from home saved my life. However, like usual I’d like to use some very nerdy illustrations and hopefully a couple upbeat notes that’ll lighten up this episode. I’ve recently come up with this analogy inspired by table top games. I call it the Human Monster Manual. We all have villains in our lives, some far worse than others and some you even love. Whoa hold up, I know just got super heavy there! Let me unpack this nerdy analogy by giving you more details on what a Monster Manual is:
Well if you're a fan of old school pen and paper games like pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons you’re most likely aware of an important piece of literature that really makes the game possible. It's called a Monster Manual. The book contains a mini Wikipedia of knowledge of every character you might encounter in the game. If you're a serious nerd it's one of three core rule books you can easily get lost in. So how does this relate to interactions with real people?
Before I answer that I'd like to tell a story of how I first learned about a Monster Manual. It was really only about 4 or 5 years ago. It was my birthday and I said wanted to do three nerdy things.
- Watch Empire Strikes Back
- Eat Ice Cream cake
- Learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons
Katie and I we’re hanging out with our good friends Brittney and Bracken on my birthday we ended up spending the whole time just building our character sheets while Empire Strikes Back played in the background. I’m not gonna hold anything back from you it’s a ton of work creating your characters, case in point it took hours. However, it’s also equally a lot of fun too! Bracken was our DM or dungeon master and the dude is a savant at games it’s really insane. Bracken is one of the most imaginative minds I’ve ever known. We went on some epic journeys and I can truly say no movies or video games could compare to those intense adventures. I think every nerd at some point owes it to themselves to at least dabble with some table top games. There’s really nothing like it, where the stories are powered by your mind and the quests are a group experience.
And it was here playing Dungeons & Dragons, later Pathfinder that I started to see some interesting parallels to real life. No I didn’t lose my mind and think I was really my half Orc barbarian named Chuck. But I started to see the similarities that any nerd sees eventually. For example take “Leveling-Up”. Going to school or grinding through chores or climbing the career ladder is such a great illustration for trying to level up. Then I saw another thing - NPCs, or Non Player Character. Where in the game you talk to a character, a blacksmith, townsfolk or bar maid that has limited responses and really has little to no effect on the quest at hand. Perhaps this is your cashier, waiter, classmate or co-worker? You’re side by side them in life but you aren’t sharing a quest with them. Ok I know I’m getting really poetic about this but remember this is called Go Forth & Nerd.
Lastly I started thinking about the Monster Manual - by far my most favorite book in the game. It was the one book that if you could translate it to trading cards it would work perfectly. It got me thinking what if life was like this? What if we knew a person’s motives, stats, origin, weakness, the whole-shebang? How powerfully effective would it be to be armed with this knowledge - to cross pollenate nerdy universes but it’d be like rockin’ Professor Xavier’s mind reading skills and instantly knowing if someone was friend or foe.
But unfortunately life isn’t that black and white. Good people do many bad things and bad people will often do good things. We’re all sorta a marbled ice cream cake of good and evil. Perhaps we’re the best we can be in the morning and as hunger leads on we’re a little less good until we’ve eaten a bagel and a cup of tea. I don’t begin to understand why some people are and aren’t the way they are. But I do have a clue of who I am. It’s called my alignment. And if you’re a nerd you’ll know what I’m talking about. Alignment works like this, good, bad, neutral, lawful, unlawful and chaotic. A simple google search will popup these personalities but of the nine different alignments in the game six relate to playable characters while the three most nasty of the alignments relate strictly to monsters and villains. For example: my character is typically lawful good. So is my character in life. I have a nafety for safety and it makes me a bit of a Magoo. Yes I know I’m a square, heck I failed drivers ed in high school for being overly cautious. That’s right I drive too slow, put my turn signal on way too early and am one of the most passive drivers you’ll met. It’s taken a lot of strain off poor Katie’s mind and our marriage to let her more frequently take the driver seat. Yes, I know I’m a dork. But that’s also why I tell these stories to let the other goobers out there know you’re not alone! There’s dozens of us, dozens!
Ok so back to alignments - I don’t want to rob you of the elevatingly nerdy uplifting experience of learning this stuff on your own but eventually, if not already, you’ll encounter people in real life that are monsters. These monsters might even be people that raised you and that you love. But you’ll know a wolf in sheep’s clothing by its diet when you see them eating sheep. What does this mean, well I’ve shared that my mother is a mentally ill and a harmful person to have in my life, so is my troubled drug addict musician brother. I love these people but I know I need to guard myself from them. I had an in-depth conversation with a counselor friend of mine recently and we talked about how cruel parents can leave these lasting scars. We mentioned how our minds as children can be like wet cement so when someone leaves a paw print while the cement is still wet the prints last a really long time. My mother’s was strongly a part of the scars that drew my brother to drug addiction and she destroyed her family. And I was lucky enough to get out. So as mentioned earlier here’s the story of:
How Running Away From Home Saved My Life
When I was ten years my mother was recently remarried and had manipulated myself and my sisters (as she often did) to pull away early from a Christmas break with my dad to visit her during the holidays, despite already agreeing with my dad to this time let him have us that year. That would be the last time I saw my father for over three and a half years. When we arrived at my mother’s place we met her new husband. I don’t currently feel comfortable telling all the details but this man absolutely hated us and made sport of treating me as his personal punching bag. When you’re punched full fledge as a ten year old by a grown man on a daily basis it changes you in a very deep way. So much so to where every day I looked for an opportunity to escape. My mother and my stepfather dragged us all around the US, leaving before the rent was due. My mother seeking odd modeling and actress jobs, many times just odd jobs while my step father got arrested time and time again for owning a chop shop, thefts, fraud and a plethora of other felonies he committed. The Sacramento, California legal system was a complete joke. Not once while they placed him under house arrest did they take notice of our black eyes, cuts, torn clothes, or malnutrition. They were just concerned that he had his ankle monitor on. Which never stopped him from traveling across the US. It didn’t help that our mother was crazy and he hardly laid a finger on her either. This whole time we were often homeless, living in shelters, sometimes tents, or mooching off the generosity of strangers, or church people. Until I finally saw my moment of escape. In the State of Oregon at the age of 14yrs old you can choose which parent you’d like to live with and while my mother continually tried to paint my father into a monster I knew that while that most likely was a lie anything was better than this. So I took an opportunity and got on a train for Klamath Falls the week of my birthday. I was so nervous I kept feeling like I was going to get caught and have to return to my nightmare. So here I was I making my own personal heroic Oregon Trail to freedom. To this day I will always love trains. To my euphoric treks with my Grandfather to the train museum in Yreka, to the once a lullaby as I’d fall asleep in my partially roofed room in the attic of our shack up in Rocklin California to finally my freedom Amtrak train rescuing me from the jaws of my past. Sure this is all pretty heavy stuff to hear but this is part of my history and nothing can change that. However, what I’ve learned is that when you see someone that’s hurting, nervous, or afraid remember maybe there fighting with there own Human Monster Manual, trying to figure out why someone treated them a certain way. So today I want to encourage you to think about the monsters in your life, some you might love and some you might hate and remember it’s ok to place them in the metaphorical Human Monster Manual if they’ve caused you or others pain. And regardless of the strategy sometimes we all need to escape in the middle of the night and never look back.
Thank you all so much again for listening. You’re all such wonderfully brave and excellent people. Please feel free to reach out and send me an email if you’d like to chat. I alway appreciate your messages. And remember to take courage, take care and to Go Forth & Nerd!
How I Accidentally Became a Cult Leader
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd my name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr Bray and I am your resident nerd.
In this episode I'm going to talk about
How I Accidentally Became a Cult Leader
Disclaimers it's not my intent to convert or disparage anyone for or against any religion, faith or particular practice. However it’s my goal in this episode to just share another layer of who I am and where I’m coming from. It’s also important to note I have many dear friends and colleagues of almost all walks of life - from Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans, Atheists, To born again Christians, to Buddhist, Muslims, Jewish, Baha'i, Jehovah Witness,Hindu, Agnostic, pagan and everything in between. Which I hope illustrates I have a broad acceptance of all people. I don’t need to share my metaphysical world views with someone to be their friend.
While I’m sure there are many people that might find conversations like this uncomfortable, truth said I actually really enjoy talking to people about philosophy or religion, even if that is anti-religious ideals. Why? Well there’s many reasons. One of my favorite reasons is I love learning about religious stories. I’ve mentioned this in the past but what I find so fascinating about religious stories is unlike a large portion of movies, books, and tv shows. Religious stories are told with the intent to be believed.
The author and expert on story Joseph Campbell used to say “myth is what we call someone else's religion”. And as crazy as it might seem today but what we call Norse mythology was at one timethe ancient world view of that set of people. You see stories are what connect people and every faith has their core parables, epics, or poems. And stories that are intended to believed philosophical or religious are like a direct pulse into the heart beat of what makes a person tick. Some might disagree with me while others not but I believe you don't need religion to find purpose, unconditional love or happiness. And I’m not going to argue anyone that wants to make the case that religion can bring about just as much evil as good in the world. That’s really not what this episode is about. This episode is about:
How I Accidentally Became a Cult Leader:
Firstly when I mentioned cult you’ll see I’m using it potentially in a liberal, yet real sense. However, there where no snake handling, comet worshiping, flavor aids or group cuddles. This was a Jesus Cult.
Now statistically speaking 70% of American’s consider themselves Christian and with close to three quarters of the world tracing their faith traditions to Father Abraham I can confidently say I know I’m not speaking to an isolated minority here when I mention I’m a person with my own faith and faith experiences.
I often like to compare Religion to like being in a romantic relationship. It really only makes the most sense to the parties involved. You can observe and study all you'd like but nothing comes close to a substitute for real life experiences. When you're in love you'll even have your own pet names for each other and sort of lovers vocabulary that can at times weird people outside looking in. Even when it comes to religions with the most inclusive sects they can inadvertently puzzle those that are uninitiated. That said it's not my intent to poke fun at religion but to point out why it resonates with many people from my point of view.when seen from the outside they can not only puzzle you, but sometimes even turn your head on a swivel. Romance when it’s in your face even for a hopeless romantic can be nauseating.
My religious journey started on a hot summer with a wild eyed red haired red bearded preacher that was baptizing people in a small pool beside the pulpit in their outdoor amphitheater. There was the typical alter call yet this time it was different at 7yrs old it struck me a like a rope connected directly to my heart. I wanted a piece of these afterlife goods. So I ran up there, was plunged into the icy cold water three times. He whispered some short prayers into my ears that I agreed to and then it was done. I hopped out of the pool feeling like a brand new person. It was a strange thing to be a 7yr old kid with the feeling like you had a new lease on life. And this was really the beginning of many euphoric experiences I was bound to have along with the epic grudge matches with paradigms and inconsistencies I discovered in my tradition. There’s a famous joke about a castaway that’s rescued after many years after living on a deserted island all by himself. When the rescues where escorting the castaway onto their boat they asked him a few questions. “So we’re you the only one on this island”. He replied “Yep just me”. They said “but we saw three straw huts, what were these huts then?”. The castaway replied “oh well that one is my home and that one is my church”. The rescuer doing a double take realizing the castaway only accounted for two of the three huts and they said “what about that third hut?” The castaway replied” oh I don’t goto that church anymore!”
Just like earlier how I mentioned statistically I know I’m talking to people with some sort of religious experience or background equally I’m confident that if you’ve spent any amount of time in a church or community you’ve actively contemplated at some point leaving it in hopes for a better experience. Now why is this part of my life important as a nerd? Well you see this church taught me how to be a nerd. This church though ran by goofy hippies sporting flip flops, pony tails, short and Jesus’ beards were fundamentalist, bible thumpers to use a less harsh term. And they instilled in me a nerd for the word. It was this nerdy passion that took me on to attending seminary, becoming a missionary, working in churches and eventually even planting a church which later became a cult, spoiler alert of course which I bailed on before the destruction got too heavy.
Everyone has events in there timeline that help them become who they are today and my personal faith helped me with many of the fires I went through. If you’ve listened to previous episodes you’ll know how I’ve been homeless and bullied and my faith is something that stayed my hand and helped me swallow my hate and frustration. As an adult I like to feel that I can relate to Daredevil in the comics, though I don’t identify as catholic I share many of his ideals about not taking a persons life. I really feel connected to a character that wants to do good no matter what. Daredevil might be Marvel Comics’ Batman but what I really love about him is that he’s a person of faith. Again like I mentioned stories are about connecting with people and there’s a large audience out there of people that have convictions rooted in there faith, like the new Ms Marvel or X-men’s Nightcrawler - though personally I totally dig Nightcrawler kicking ass over his quiet Preacher life. Let’s be honest he’s a super hero and we wanna see our heroes punching out evil not writing sermons, am I right?!
Ok so how did I accidentally become a cult leader. Well if you’re of the conviction that accepts this title I have a very “evangelistic personality”. What does that mean for the layperson/person that thinks that title sounds religious and douch-y. Well put it plainly I love people and I love attention. It's kinda of a classic middle child thing. I’m really good at being friendly to new people and making people feel welcomed. And to continue this silly trumpeting of my own horn I truly don’t feel like I’m better than anyone. I don’t. I’ve had times were I’ve thought I was better only to discover I’m just projecting an insecurity. But to me everyone can be interesting and everyone deserves the time of day. So this is where churches are often like software startups - you need someone that is excited about sharing experiences with people and that are authentic. Problem is I was incredible naive to. Eventually I ended up seeing how the sausage was made in the vein of my bible thumper churches and I realized the path to the pulpit was really just a family business. Not saying all churches or religious organizations do this. Just the several churches that I encountered. After leaving church after church still within my churches “franchise” I saw the gauntlet of horrible things played out before my eyes: from extreme nepotism- people literally having to marry their way in or pastors only ordaining family members, to sex scandals, to extortion. Yet all the while I remained bright eyed and optimistic that this was my calling for my life. So eventually when the opportunity arose for me to have a positive impact on a very small group of hurting people I didn’t need to think twice and plunged right in like my icy cold baptism at 7yrs old. I was convinced this time I would finally help people. There’s an interesting concept in psychology called the wounded healer. It’s where people that are often hurt or suffering can many times make great counselors because they can empathize with their patiences. Well I got hooked into this small group that soon became a not so small group and got completely enmeshed in everyone's life. Then slowly one of the founding families started excluding people as they forced everyone to listen to their megalomaniac sons rantings. They shot down anything and anyone that questioned their authority and they began mentally abusing their group along with kicking out people that they disagreed with. I discovered they this son was manipulating young girls in a very CSI:SVU sorta way while the patriarch was extorting money. It got all sorts of deja vu. What I later discovered after I left was that this particular group was systemically a cult that bred from the personality cults from the Bible thumper churches I was unfortunately involved with. Put another way the same churches I grew up in manufactured people to think and act this way with these isolate Pastor King patriarchs that had zero accountability. If you're sensing some frustration you're correct in doing so. It's incredibly embarrassing to grow up thinking and believing in a way of how the world works only to have it come crashing down around you. It was really only after this last awful experience that I really started to question the views I always had about the world.
i embraced the paradox that science and religion aren’t really in conflict at least to me and that evolution doesn’t topple my metaphyical ideals like some sorta theological game of jenga. I’m also a lot more harsh on people that say that they profess a faith than i am on people that exclude the idea of faith all together. I get it. I honestly wish I could be an atheist but I just can’t. My experiences though not best to share in this episode are just to impacting.
Now why did I ultimately share this with you guys? Well I believe it's important for me to be candid here and I wanted to share something that isn't easy to share. Perhaps I can connect with you on another level that might honestly be hard to talk about. You've heard some pretty heavy stuff about my life but all in the spirit to build community with you guys. And community is at the core the things I value. We all need community and sometimes religion can offer a safe place sometimes it's the furthest from the truth. It's not something I'm proud of but because of my experience dealing with religious bullies I have to admit I have a prejudice about initially disliking preachers when I first met them and that's coming from someone that used to be a preacher. We all need heroes that encourage us to help us not feel alone and for me Kevin Smith is a hero of mine- he made me feel that it was ok to still identity yourself as a person of faith all the while heavily disagreeing with your faith tradition. We need to be free to be our thinkers and follow our own convictions.
And I'm here to say I'm a nerd and a person of faith and if you are too that's great and if you're a nerd sans faith that's cool too! This is a piece of my story that hopefully connects me with people. Thank you all so much for listening you truly are such amazing people. And as always feel free to message me or send me an email if you'd like to chat. Do take care and remember to Go Forth and Nerd!
The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd.
Today I'm going to share some extremely personal details about my life. I'd like to have an open and honest conversation about mental illness. Secondly today's episode's title is from from Eleanor Payson’s book “The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists”.
an excellent book that has truly changed my life. Fyi I'm not receiving any perks to share the this book nor I am I connected to the author.
Ok so back the title of this episode:
The Wizard of Oz & other Narcissists
I read the said titled book some time ago and it has completely changed my life and relationships. The book gives categorically detailed descriptions of how to deal with toxic people and how to recognize them.
Basically the book breaks our behavior into two ideas:
Narcissistic behavior or Codependent behavior. If you can feel your college Psych 101 courses rise up like mental indigestion I apologize. What makes this book so great is that it helps people like myself deal with being codependent.
If you're incredibly privileged to talk with a skilled therapist they'll explain that some things don't make sense while you're a child that maybe the root of your anxieties as an adult or might bubble up as other neuroses. For example.
Here's a silly thing I do:
I have to rinse a cup out three times before I drink from it. Yes it makes me sound nuts but one time I accidentally drank from a cup from the cupboard that had a nasty milk stain in it so I have this weird tick to always want to make sure I'm drinking from a clean glass.
Back to the book, it continues to talk about how if your wounded by a narcissistic person you respond in either a selfish narcissistic way or a selfless codependent way. There are of course varying degrees of both healthy and unhealthy codependent and narcissistic behavior. What does this have anything to do with being a nerd? I think it's really important to be honest with yourself.
As a nerd I believe it's what we like that brings us together not what we hate. Anyone can dislike something while I believe it takes courage to truly like something.
Here's a goofy confession in being honest: Katie and I were recently at target - btw I just love Target t-shirts they're some of the coolest gems. Anyhoo I spot this epic blue golden girls t-shirt and I was like heck yes I want this shirt. Then Katie goes "ok but do you really like that show or are you a poser?" I said "um well I like Betty White!" We both laughed and I passed on my poser apparel.
Sure I could rock that t-shirt but I wasn't embracing something I loved I was just liking it because it was trendy. Not always a bad thing just for me at that moment it seemed like a silly thing to do. What does this have to do with the book I mentioned or mental illness? Well truth is I wanted to warm you up with some lighthearted pictures on honesty and quirkiness before we dive deep.
The book is filled with some very nerdy folk tale analogies such as the Cinderella child and the Rapunzel child complexes totally worth a read!
The Cinderella child talks about the child that runs the gamut of abuse by the narcissistic parent: they'retreated poorly, as the family scapegoat. While the smother mother techniques of the Rapunzel child reflects the abuse of the covert narcissists- a person that is seemingly coddled by their upbringing, aka the golden child will in reality grow to having massive insecurities in life. You might be thinking at this point what the Freud is he talking about when am I gonna get to the personal stuff and how does this relate to mental illness?
Well here's the super personal details mental illness runs in my family. So in the spirit of oversharing here on go Forth and Nerd coupled with the seriously amazing catharsis I get from telling these personal stories I wanna talk about some real stuff most people don't like to talk about. That's crazy people.
In comics crazy is a prop for entertainment- the crazy vixen or the mad scientist these characters are bent and so fun to watch. However real world crazy is not so entertaining.
I think we all have our own sorta cray cray encounters - an example might even the homeless dude that talks to his feet and begs for change or in my case as a portlander the homeless hipster begging for responsibly sourced free trade non gmo organic coffee with almond milk.
I wanna clarify a couple things homeless people aren't necessarily crazy some sadly are drug addicts while many are truly down on their luck. Yet if you've listened to any of my previous podcasts you know I've shared how I've been homeless multiple times in my life. Many times as a kid and even as an adult. The thing is growing up homeless I developed several ticks another one of these tick is for many years I was the complete opposite of a hoarder. Anytime I would feel any sentimental attachment to something I'd give it away. I can't tell you how many times I've purchased a favorite comic or action figure over and over again. I even used to feel guilty when I owned stuff. It's was a strange but tortured complex that I've been slowly healing through. When Katie and I got married I could fit everything I owed in a small corner of the trunk of her car.
I also used to think I should only have best friends. As if I could only keep ride or die pals on hand. It was a unhealthy strain on my relationship since having such extremely high expectations on my friendship I was in reality setting myself for being disappointed. No one can be all things to you. Not even your best friend and spouse, and not even if they're a gifted counselor. It's not fair to you or them.
Now these quirks were part on the peculiar traits of growing up in a constant state of flux. However many if not most of these traits I developed were primarily in response from the behavior of my mentally ill mother. She was a fledgling model and actress, always a dreamer, incredibly likable and very eccentric. She was so immensely likable over time I met lots and lots of celebrities too! Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrel, Owen Wilson, the list goes on and on. People loved my mother. Yet she had a serious ailment bubbling under her gorgeous smile and cheerful exterior- she was incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction. She honestly couldn't tell you the difference between a truth or a lie if your life depended on it. She was a full blown sociopathic narcissistic. Not only was she incapable of separating fabrication from reality she biological couldn't feel an ounce of empathy for a single living soul. Everyone and everything was an extension of her own reality. Your life was just an appendage and if she couldn't use the appendage she'deither attempt to forcefully control it or just treat it as it was dead to her. The evils she committed she would never be aware of and all her Holly Wood friends just ate it up. Basically the whole Zoolander cast were casualties of my mothers lies. My mother was so greedy for the attention she feigned an elaborate lie about having terminal cancer. Yes you heard me right! My mother was so ill in the head she told everyone that she had stage 4 terminal cancer. With her lies she was able to captivate the hearts and minds of the stars that could captivate millions. My mother directly profited from this lie However she eventually had to commit to her story. Which is probably best told in another episode. I understand this is heavy stuff but I share this for three reasons.
- Just as we need to take care of our physical health we need to in many ways take even more care of our mental health
- Perhaps there's someone out there listening to this episode that has felt isolated and dealt with the abuse of narcissistic relationships and I want you to know there is a road to hope
- Lastly I believe everyone deserves to find their zen and bliss in this world- and in the spirit of the late Mister Rogers "I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and capable of loving."
I know this can come off kinda preachy but I'm airing so pretty dirty laundry here. So I think it's fair to tell you some truths that took me a long time to learn.
I want to thank you all so much again for listening! I truly hope this episode has inspired or encouraged you and if you feel this story would benefit a loved one please share this with them. Please feel free to send me an email if you'd like to chat or share a personal story. I know some times we just need to dry out these foul memories or experiences with another soul. Also if you've been on the fence about seeking some mental care please do prioritize your happiness you deserve it! And if you get a chance please do check of the book the Wizard of Oz and other Narcissistic! Thank all you so much again please take care and remember to Go Forth & Nerd!
The Time I was Kidnapped
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray also know as Mr. Bray and I am you’re resident nerd.
So Today’s podcast is somewhat of a intense subject since it deals with a very real and scary issue. And it’s not my intent to freak everyone out with some sorta nightmarish encounter. My hope is in this podcast to have a real conversation about the nature of fear. And I wanna talk about how a He-man toy got me kidnapped.
I’ll jump right into it to alleviate any anxiousness you’re having in listening to this story playing out. Firstly I’m still alive and secondly nothing icky happened to me, thank God!
The Time I was Kidnapped
I have to pause here.. telling this story is 11 out of 10 on the icky creep-o meter! But this story does have a happy ending.
When I was 4years old, my parents, still together at the time took me to the mall. At one point I somehow got separated from them. So here I was a 4yr old fair skinned kid with curly red hair clutching a He-Man action figure lost at the mall. Then along
came this guy that saw me and said “wanna come with me and I’ll give you more He-man toys?” Being 4yrs old I didn’t know any better and my parents hadn’t instilled in me the whole stranger danger mantra. So I took this man’s hand and we walked around the mall for maybe a good 20-30mins. Then eventually we got outside. As we were approaching his vehicle the “nice guy that was gonna give me a He-Man toy” got handcuffed and I was given back to my seemingly upset for no reason parents. This was an extremely close call. And as frantic as my folks were I was too young to understand the fear in there eyes at what just happen. Little did I know that every parent’s worst nightmare was taking place and that I was immensely fortunate to be returned safe and sound to my parents unharmed. When you’re a child you don’t know any better nor that evil incarnate maybe disguised as a friendly voice.
Interesting enough 4yrs old was an incredibly important time for my education in the world. Though I was never scared during the whole mall incident around the same time I did encounter a event that rattled my cage forever and began my life long fear of snakes. The story goes like this I had to go potty. I was a big boy and I didn’t need any help so I went to the restroom by myself. I lifted up the toilet seat to go pee pee then out from behind the toilet was a massive snake! It leaped out to bite me and I ran out of the bathroom with my pants around my ankles screaming in terror! My Grandpa and my Dad took care of the snake and my Grandmother comforted me. It was here that I clearly understood FEAR! I remember even having nightmares for quite sometime afterwards. This is not an uncommon story. Many people will encounter a spider or snake, or creepy crawly as a child and that fear will carry itself far into adulthood. Yet to me I find these two stories an interesting parallel: as a 4yr old I had no sense for the “snake in the grass” so to speak of the creep guy at the mall trying to lure me away with a He-Man action figure yet there were no scales on my eyes when faced the terrifying encounter of the monster snake trying to eat me behind the toilet.
Fear is a powerful motivator - it can drive us to smother our love ones that lack the wisdom of the perils of the real world or it can haunt us for decades from our experiences. I remember one time my Grandfather would sit us kids down and we’d watch these animated bible stories and one particular episode’s story always struck me as odd. It was the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adman and Eve we’re told not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil or they would die. Most people are aware of this story. Adam and Eve ended up eating this fruit and realized they we’re naked, then it was party’s over dudes as the G-man boots them from paradise. However the part of the story that always puzzled me as a kid was the point when Eve spoke with the Serpent that deceives them to eat the forbidden fruit. In my young mind I couldn’t understand why anyone would not completely freak out and run for the hills at the sight of a talking snake! NOPE! I’m out! This freaking snake is talking! There’s another origin tale from the Greeks about the first human woman named Pandora, it also has a sorta blame women for all the woes of the world message like the bible story. Yet in this story Pandora was responsible for a box she was told not to open. When she inevitably opens this box death and pestilence are released. She finally shuts the box concealing that last remnant of good - hope is still left in the box.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to a cross road in my life we’re I’ve asked myself some hard questions. Why am I afraid of something? I’ve shared colorful stories of stomach ailments and homelessness and all sorts of other ups and downs of life but I realized FEAR is an unpopular topic. People don’t like talking about it. But fear is a real part of our everyday life. Some of it rational and some of it irrational. Yet I truly think there is a confident line you can walk knowing the potential danger of a thing yet not be consumed by the fear of it. I like to believe that is called Wisdom. I also see myself in Eve as in the Eden story that perhaps that story is about the braveness of ignorance like myself not questioning the motives of the predator at the mall when I was 4yrs old.
So this week I wanna challenge you to have a real conversation with someone you know, love and trust about a fear you have. That could be of fear of snakes, bees, blood, Clint Howard or a plethora of potentially other obscure things that trouble you. As silly as this sound I have a fear of bees too. Not at old as my fear of snakes - I’ve just discovered for me that is that gingers and bees don’t mix. But this spring I’ve decided I’m not gonna let bees ruin my picnics and enjoy time outside with Katie as rare as sunshine is in Portland. The point is that if we’re brave and openly talk about our scary stories we can grow to not keep reliving them in our minds and perhaps have the wisdom to prevent future events instead of becoming prisoners.
I understand this is a heavy stuff and I thank you for being brave and listening to this episode! I want to thank you all so much being apart of my awesome orbit of friendships! Please do take care and remember to Go Forth & Nerd!
Diet of a Nerdy Kid
Welcome back to Go Forth the nerd my name this is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd.
So in today's episode I'm going to share with you some comical yet personally embarrassing stories -all that said if bodily functions make you malfunction or if you’re currently snacking nows the time maybe to take a break on that grub. So without further delay...
Diet of a Nerdy Kid
I love junk food! Seriously! Always have! I just love food that's bad for me. From 7-eleven taquitos to fourth meal Taco Bell I’m hardly the perfect picture of health. However as I’ve gotten older these foods have caught up with me. Mad cravings for delicious trash food aside myself and my family are somewhat cursed with two maladies. The first isn’t surprising -ye ol’ Diabetes. Yep I have type 2 diabetes plus many of my family members also have diabetes: shoveling in mass quantities of processed fats and fancy corn syrups for decades is bound to take its toll. And my second personal and family aliment of fine American living is IBS aka Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I wanna pause and say this:
Now Diabetes technically isn’t a joking matter, its a real disease that plagues millions. However, since I have Type 2 diabetes I figure I’m free to poke fun at how I caught this thing that no longer lets me binge on easter candy. However it does mean that a suicidal snickers pie is a passive yet real threat.
I’m not gonna lie I wish I could blame it on advertising, like from those single issue comics pushing everything from sea monkeys to beef jerky. But it’s really that I just have an insane sweet tooth. Basically everyone in my family does. But like all things here on Go Forth & Nerd theres a story behind my discovery. I found out that I had diabetes from an insurance agent. Ok let me backup. When I was 28yrs old I had to do some adulting and get a life insurance policy - mostly so my wife and fam could put me in something a notch better than a pine box when I kill over.
Rabbit trail - my dream funeral prep if I ever get the money is to be frozen in a cryo-tank like the rumored Walt Disney or Fry from Futurama. It’s a ridiculous dream but maybe some day I’d wake up and our alien or robot overlords might wanna ask me about pointless Superman trivia. I dunno, a man can dream.
Anyhoo back to discovering I had diabetes from my insurance agent. So I went to get my insurance policy and they required a medical examination something I wasn’t expecting. As in your agent saying great here’s your life insurance policy now pee in this cup oh and lets draw some blood! Short rabbit trail for another podcast I have a uber weird blood phobia but seriously that’s for another episode.
So the insurance agent says we’ll send someone over to your house to do all the medical stuff etc… Well the night before my insurance medical appointment was Halloween, we hung out with some buddies, watched a ton of Mystery Science Theatre and ate a truck load of candy. I ended up eating myself sick - which used to be a common thing for me and you’d think after 10yrs old I’d have learned my lesson. So next morning what couldn’t have been a worse time to check my blood sugars low and behold she said “your diabetic” which entered my whole 5 stages of grief denial, bargaining etc.. and finally acceptance. I didn’t have to look further back than the previous night to know I was partying till I was purple like Patrick Starfish from Sponge Bob square pants. It was a wake up call so I decided to cut back on all the foods stuff I loved and to my wife’s pure jealously I shed the pounds like I was a skinny man removing a fat suit. Now if you’re guessing i’m going to flip this episode into me telling you about the power of carrots sorry dude look elsewhere- to me a carrot is just a crunchy vehicle for peanut butter. Which peanut butter is a whole food group in my book. The point is that I’ve got diabetes. Lots of people do, nerds and non nerds alike. And that’s ok! I’m luckier than most because I found out while young enough that I didn’t cause as much damage than finding out later in life. But here’s the thing: I’ve pretty much never had any pull to chemical addictions outside one time where I got hooked on nicotine when I found a pack of nicotine gum inside my step-grandma’s shed. My brother and I were wondering around the property and we found this odd looking gum. We tried it and it tasted NASTY! However the next day we were like dude where’s that gum?! Anyhoo not to sound too stupid but my ridiculous comparison to my sugar addiction helps me relate to people with addictions to maybe harder stuff. I’m not a counselor or anything but the point is by sharing a silly story about how my sugar lust has upset my health. Just maybe I’ll encourage some empathy when someone has an addiction I don’t quite get. Addictions wouldn’t be a problem if it was without some sorta allure, am I right?
Well now that takes us to the not polite at the dinner table conversation part of this episode.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
You see I used to have IBS, many of my family members still have IBS. Not sure why? Maybe genetic. Maybe because we’re junk food addicts. Maybe. I once saw an episode of Dirty Job’s with Mike Rowe where he went to a factory that makes poo. Mike Rowe asked them “why in the world would you want to make poo in a lab?” They replied that many people when given a gut bacterial transplant can cure or treat certain stomach problems like irritable bowel syndrome or crohns disease. So perhaps there is a genetic component to my stomach problems. But let’s not rule out my diet. It wasn’t as health nuts say “exist in nature” sorta foods. However, let me get into what life with irritable bowel syndrome is like. You’re basically tethered to the toilet. At any moments notice it might be an emergency. Like poop your pants emergency. Sure this is gross but thats what this episode is about. Everybody poo’s but people with IBS have a very real fear of doing this accidentally in public. Now speaking from a person that has caught third world stomach bugs there’s a chasm of difference from getting sick to needing to rush home to use the restroom every time you have a meal with friends. You’re kinda of a slave to your intestines and it interrupts your life all the time - weddings, church, BBQ’s, beach trips, it’s endless, your bowels are a respecter of no person or life events. I honestly can attest to a large portion of my life prayin “DEAR GOD’n Heaven help me find a toilet!.” There’s a brilliant episode of Seinfeld where George lists off all these premium restroom locations, like a map of the greatest toilets. And if you’re a person plague by stomach issues you scour each place for the bathroom like a frantic kid in a haunted house looking for an exist sign. All that said here’s a really embarrassing story. I title it: My Landfill Wolverine Boxers.
So this one year my brother-in-law Ken gives a Christmas gift. Being a nerdy guy I’m kinda of a super easy person to shop for. If it’s nerdy you know I’m gonna like it. However, my brother in law walks up to me with a bag and says “Hey dude I need to say this is really weird that I’m giving this to you but I think you’ll love it!” I open up the gift bag and its Wolverine boxers! I replied “Awesome!” He responded “whew so glad you like them because in my head it felt weird giving my brother-in-law a pair of underwear for Christmas”. We both laughed. But I’m a pretty shameless nerd and I thought these Wolverine boxers were truly AWESOME! Fast forward, Katie and I were eating at one of our favorite BBQ places and I had the leave to use the restroom. A couple minutes later I returned to the table and tell Katie, we need to go! Katie responds “why?” I reply “I had to throw my boxers away!” She was still a bit puzzled. I was more in the mood to just head home and I’ll tell you the story on the way. You see I had to use the urinal. And while like you normally do when you’re relieving yourself sometimes you have a little bit of gas. So like an idiot I trusted a fart. Which went all south on me and I had to throw away my underwear. Yes I’m telling this embarrassingly disgusting story! I pooped my pants at a Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant with my wife on a Saturday afternoon! And I’m sorry Ken ol’ buddy my treasured Wolverine Christmas boxers are lying in a pile somewhere in a landfill. Well what was the lesson learned here -well outside of having ammonium on hand I took a serious health cleanse and had to take away from some of my favorite foods - i.e. bacon, and other pork products - my body just doesn’t like to dine on swine. My point is being a nerd with both diabetes for the past 6yrs and used to having IBS for over two decades I get that what goes in must come out. Some ailments we have control over some we have very little. But I want you to know hey friends it’s ok because Mr. Bray has crapped his pants in public and he’s brave enough to tell the world.
So again as always if you’d like to share with me a nerdy dietary or embarrassing story I’d love to heard it. Thank you all so much for listening and being apart of my extended Nerd family! You guys are just the best! Do take care and remember to Go Forth and Nerd!
To Hell With Bullies!
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! This is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd.
So today's podcast is a pretty heavy episode but it's an all to common issue when it comes to being a nerd, dealing with bullies! And I'd like to say To Hell With Bullies! Now I'm not trying to say that only nerds are bullied and I might be speaking out of turn on this but I've never met a nerd that wasn't at sometime horribly bullied.
We regain our strength through turning the tables via our art, careers, clout or tight knit communities but the truth is these bullies have left both physical and psychological scars. So today I want to share a few personal stories that I hope help you: heal, not feel alone and how to potentially deal with theses people or situations.
This will be some super personal stuff I'm sharing but please keep this encouragement in mind as a person that has been through the fire and can honestly say you're not alone and there's always hope for it to get better.
From trolls to thugs bullies often want an array of things but the one universal thing I've discovered about bullies is that they all want a sense of power. Be that power to take away your dignity, your lunch money, your joy, your piece of purpose on this hurling blue marble, or just to displace their own frustrations on you because of their low self esteem and lack of control in this world.
A bit about me if you've already guessed:
I'm actually a quite even tempered guy. I seldom get physically upset. Even more so I deliberately avoid people that are prone to unpredictable bursts of anger. For good reason but the truth is this has roots into the scars I have from being bullied as a kid. To me angry people have crossed a clear line and have acted very violent to me. And it's these scars some emotional some physical that I have learned to live with.
To illustrate the lessons I've learned I'm going to share three short stories that embody the title of this podcast:
To Hell With Bullies!
I'll start off with a funny story.
There was this one time I was being bullied by a kid in the second grade. He kept hitting me while we were waiting in line after recess, and I kept asking him to leave me alone. Now it's important to mention that for some reason at this school they thought it wise to have recess immediately after lunch. Then it hit me, well while he was punching me my stomach started to turn. So I told him one last time to leave me alone - in a menacing grin he continued his behavior and punched me again so I let him have it! I puked up my entire lunch all over this jerk! It was awesome! He was covered from head to toe with a hot assault of irony. It was fair to say he NEVER bothered me again! Now we can't always vomit our way out of being bullied but this story reminds me that if you can't beat'em at least make them regret it.
My next story gets quite a bit edgier.
Fast forward we were living in Minnesota outside of the 3M Corp - I was middle school aged, short rabbit trail for those writing my nerdy memoirs I actually never went to middle school. I technically missed not skipped but missed 5th,6th,7th and 8th grade. Which I've been told by many people especially my wife that that is prime time for bullying. Back to living in what was clearly a ghetto in Minnesota. I was the only white boy in the neighborhood. Here I was a shrimpy white ginger kid completely surrounded by justifiably so angry and frustrated African American kids. And they hated me! Let me explain why these kids were so frustrated - the only white people they knew were the cops that barged into the neighborhood to arrest or assault their family members. To these kids police sirens and gunfire was so frequent it was like a lullaby. These kids weren't in school, they were poor, and treated poorly. I honestly and deeply hold zero grudges against these kids. They were in a system that crapped on them and they felt it. Nonetheless at the time when faced with having my ass kicked multiple times every single day i discovered that:
- I was never going to be able to out run these kids. Frankly they could lap me three times on my best day.
- I couldn't make them laugh hard enough to forget how frustrated they were - something deep down in them was satisfied in punching out a pale freckled faced red head.
- I had no other option but to fight back. That said even when you fight back when you're on your own unless you're Bruce Lee you're gonna lose in someway!
Here's the single greatest thing that changed for me aside from when we moved:
- My friendship with Jamal - Jamal was the skinniest scrappiest kid I ever knew! He lived on the bottom floor of our apartment complex and I befriended him after giving him a Maxx comic! He was at that moment hooked on comics! So we became bros! Jamal and I loved watching cartoons together, eating fruit loops until our mouths were numbs and talk about our favorite super powers. Then at a hair pin turn Jamal was by my side when the gang of the usual bullies came to harass me for my timely beatings. Jamal was like a hurricane, he flew at the biggest kid in the group often 2 to 3 times his size and would just wail on the kid until he pleaded for him to stop! Jamal's motto was that you always attack first and go for the biggest meanest looking bully and don't stop hitting until your sure they'll never bother you again! I swear it's like this kid not knowing it lived out Ender's tactic from Ender's Game! Jamal was such a bad ass - one time a gang of close to a dozen kids had surrounded me. They wanted to really beat the living crap out of me. Then in a moment of pure insanity Jamal came in - had skewered a basketball size active wasps net on a stick and he began to smash it to tinder upside their heads like it was some sorta stinging mace. It was insane!!! If you remember the hornets nest scene from Hunger Games that was the tame version of what this looked like. Close to a dozen kids screaming and flailing in all directions. It was one of the most violent and heroic things I've ever seen. Jamal and I fled relatively unscathed. Other than a few swings the bullies landed before Jamal showed up and the two I repeat just two wasps stings that Jamal got we were in A okay shape. Though I never gained Jamal's eye of the tiger this scrappy African American boy was my hero! He taught me how to fight back and that power is all about the heart and nothing to do with size.
So sometimes you have to fight back but you need to know your enemy enough to why they want to hurt you if you can. Sometimes fighting back is walking away or ignoring them like I've learned when dealing with internet trolls. And sometimes fighting back is through gaining a scrappy ally that'll march into the eye of the tornado with you like my buddy Jamal. There's strength in numbers and every bully has a weakness.
For my last story I want to throw you a bit of curve ball. Sometimes bullying doesn't look like a direct attack but is part of an underlying mob mentality. And the truth is sometimes people just aren't aware they're being bullies and they're just playing along blindly:
You see I went to Glencoe High school in Hillsboro, Oregon. And like all high schools they had a goofy mascot. But Glencoe high school had by far one of most bizarre mascots I've ever seen. It's called the Crimson Tide, and if you guessed that it might resemble a red wave with a ridiculous cartooned grinned you'd be right. The Crimson Tide was and to my knowledge still is a red cartoon wave of blood. You heard that right BLOOD! Yeah weird right?! My high schools mascot was/is a wave of blood! And not just any blood it's a reference to a specific wave of blood that took place from a historical massacre in Glencoe Ireland. Gross right? I agree. But it gets worse. My grandfather informed that my ancestors specifically immigrated to the US to flee from the brutal genocide of the Campbells clan that was slaying our clan from Glencoe Ireland. So here I was attending a high school that their very mascot was a wave of the blood of my direct slaughtered ancestors! Can you say bloodthirsty? That was my reality from the following!
One particular day I was walking down the hallway and I saw a fight begin to break out. A shrimpy freshman was about to be crumbled by some massive dude! It was kinda of a Marty McFly vs Biff situation. I having had a growth spurt pushing 6ft tall awkwardly towered over both of them and got between them to try and stop the fight. A crowd quickly surrounded the three of us as these bloodthirsty teenagers chanted FIGHT, fight, fight! Well these kids with their Crimson Tide fury were angry that I got in between them and their entertainment so several of them shoved me to the ground so the fight would continue. And then in a moment it was over the massive Biff like kid pummeled this shrimpy freshman. I was eventually able to stop the bully again but I learned a valuable lesson that day. People crave violence. Even when it's a spectator sport people like seeing other people being hurt. And because of that being a peacemaker is NEVER an easy task! After that point in time I used another tactic to stop fights which of course made me wildly unpopular in school. It was to confront the bully head on. There's nothing like locking eyes with a bully and saying not here, not now. It's not easy and it takes courage every single time. And perhaps is was some of the spirit of Jamal emboldening me. The truth is sometimes we need to stand up, walk away or just outsmart these bullies. We can and we're able but we need to fight against the senseless mob, the towering brute or the frustrated and displaced.
So today I want to encourage you by reminding you're not alone, that we all need allies that you can as hard as it sounds there is a way tell the bully NO! Not here not now! As a community of nerds we've got each others back! As always thank you so much for listening you're all such an amazing group of nerdy friends! Please do feel free to say hello or send me an email I always enjoy reading your messages! Let's unite together as we say To Hell With Bullies as we Go Forth & Nerd!
Rock'em Sock'em Fan Script
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd!
So today in the spirit of all things geek I wanna talk about a secret to the nerd life that's got me amped and could do the same for you! It's called a Fan Script.
My good buddy Cody and I have been friends for several years and we've had lots of fun working on each others creative projects from animation to film and tv Scripts. However recently we both tapped into another level of our nerdy bromance by developing an X-men Fan Script. And I have to say it's been awesome! I easily feel like this is some of the funnest stuff I've worked on.
Here's some of the things I wasn't expecting:
- When your righting a script off an established universe and characters it's really liberating! It's NOW this already established world and you can just imagine the adventure while the conflicts write themselves!
- Writing a fan script especially with my friend has been the closet thing to that child like high I had as a kids when you were playing with your buddies with your action figures in your room! It totally teleports me back in time.
- The last unexpected thing I've experienced has been a flood of ideas! It's been like a creative enema! If you've ever had writers/idea block you know how frustrating that can feel. And I really think all people whether professionals or hobbyists crave a good creative outlet.
Now not all of you might have the sudden urge to work on a fan script but it doesn't have end at that! There's fan art, fan film, fan lit! If you can dream it you can fan it! Fan projects are such an amazing way to zero in on that thing that charges your inner nerd batteries!
To illustrate the power of fan art, and for me particularly comics I'd like to share a personal story about my briefcase.
Between the ages of 9yrs-13yrs I obsessively carried around a small leather briefcase. Inside it housed all my prize possessions. Comics, drawing papers, pencils, art pens, and my original and fan art comics. My briefcase saw a lot of adventures and my briefcase was in many was a companion for me. From the time my grandfather gave me this briefcase when I was 9yrs old so we would match when he took me on business trips with him. To the times I would daydream about a superhero girl friend living in an attic. To the time being woken up at 3am because our apartment was on fire, leaping down the staircase clutching my briefcase to my chest all while the ground was covered in a sea of fleeing cock roaches like a scene from Indiana Jones. To the time I was staying in another attic at the Salvation Army shelter and I hide in the bathroom for a moment of privacy to cry. To the endless hours I'd pour into recreating my Wolverine comics frame by frame. To the time after time I would walk to the Sanford Maine library and I'd fill it with as many books as I could handle struggling to latch it shut. To the time that same library had to change their policy on free copies when I printed out on their dot matrix an entire biography on Walt Disney. To the times I would meticulously arrange my art supplies within the inner pockets of the briefcase. To the time I'm embarrassed to admit that I wrote the Pink Power Ranger, to devotees Amy Jo Johnson, a love letter! I was convinced that my words and included fan illustrations would win her heart and it would some day be might morph'n wedding bells! To the time I eventually ran away from home at 13yrs old on the Amtrak train to never return. My briefcase was with me through it all. And looking back my briefcase was kinda like the volley ball Wilson in the movie Castaway. We eventually but not purposefully parted ways. When I turned 14yrs old I had a massively different life and my need for my briefcase companion had changed. However it's these sometimes peculiar things that we do that help us endure the ups and downs of life. For those few years from when I was 9-13yrs old my true life was inside that briefcase while the outside was just a distraction. And while I my true life is no longer contained inside an inanimate object but in my love for my wife, family and circles of friendships. My briefcase is like a metaphor of strength to me. It gave me the power to dream and that's what I'd love to hear and have you guys do! Fan script fan art fan fill in the blank can empower you to dream out loud! To laugh at things only you're clever eyes have noticed. To imagine things that are horribly unmarketable. To explore yourself in the skin of your heroes and to deeply and profoundly live out a slice of what truly makes you and others happy!
So today I want to challenge you to spend sometime being a hardcore fan! Start of fan club, do a fan craft project, comic, script, cosplay, interpretive dance whatever makes you feel alive and proudly wear your nerdy head high please do it this week! I want to thank you all so much for listening. I truly hope you've been encouraged today by listening to this podcast. I'm always interested and inspired listening to your personal stories so please feel free to send me an email. Have a wonderful day and remember to Go Forth & Nerd!
My First Crush
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd.
So Today I’d like to get a little personal, a little embarrassing and of course as always a little nerdy. I’d like to talk about my very first crush. Well the earliest crush I can remember. However, before I begin I want to start off with this statement: Love can hurt, love can be consuming, and love can even be down right dangerous at times.
Let’s begin -
When I was 11yrs old I experience my first real crush. Now I had liked other girls beforehand but it wasn’t until I was 11yrs old that I experienced the sorta puppy crush that consumes your thoughts. Like you know what I mean, you can’t get the person out of your head. You dream about them, you obsess about them and all you want to do is climb to the top of a mountain and profess your undying love for them.
Well herein lies the problem. She didn’t know my name. Worse yet she in fact would never ever know my name. Why? Because she wasn’t human! She was none other than Rogue from the 90’s x-men animated series! That’s right my first crush was with a fictitious woman. This super babe, and member of the x-men, Rogue was the love of my life! Well as far as I understood it. Here I was having awkward dreams of my super powered girlfriend flying me around the globe like a sack of groceries. If this is painful to listen to just imagine how painful this is to tell. However, this is where the story gets really painful. At this point in my life we were living in this dilapidated house in Rocklin, California. Our home was a stones throw away from the railroad tracks. So frequently used were these railroad tracks that I couldn’t roll over and fall asleep until I heard the sound of a train whaling its cacophonous lullaby. To add more necessary details to this story my room was in the corner of the attic - the house had suffered a fire so I was able to the see the stars at night without any sheetrock, shingle or physical roof to hinder my view. My bed was a sleeping bag on a single particle board that connected between two beams. So on this particularly starry night I gazed into the gigantic moon thinking of my lovely mutant crush, Rogue, as the nightly train soared across the tracks. So like a trained animal I fell asleep. Unfortunately I had forgotten to zip up the sleeping bag which kept me anchored in my bed, the safe piece of flat ground between the ceiling beams. So nestled in another romantic dream of Rogue and I flying around like I was Jasmine on Aladdin’s carpet, we started to come crashing to the earth. BOOM! I had rolled off the particle board into the ceiling and away from my sleeping bag and I came crashing through the sheetrock into my sisters room hitting my shoulder on their bedpost tumbling to the floor. Talk about a rude awakening! Love can hurt! Dazed and bruised I tasted the bitterness of reality of falling for an imaginary girlfriend.
Love can be consuming!
Fast forward a decade later and I’m working at an orphanage in a border town in Mexico.
Life at the orphanage was relaxed. Day in day out things were pretty chill. We’d get up early in the morning and take care of the kids, feed them, bath them then go about our day doing odd tasks around to keep the place running. On one particular ordinary day we had a visitor that came to the orphanage that swore he had found the greatest thing ever! He called it “Squeezy-Toes” (most likely a Spanish transliteration of exquisite) they we’re bacon wrapped hot dogs. And he had promised that he would gladly trek anyone of us away from the Orphanage for a visit to this allusive and delicious hot dog truck some 40miles away. Well it was fair to say I was more than a little intrigued, being myself at the time a professed bacon-addict! So on we went to our culinary adventure! These hot dogs were amazing! So I decided on that day whenever I could break away from the orphanage to go on a foodie quest I was gonna headset with this visitor. The next time he arrived he now talked of the greatest tacos he had ever had! I didn’t need convincing! “Let’s go bro!” And like promised these were the greatest tacos I’ve ever had in my life! Honestly still the greatest I’ve ever had in my life! However, this story didn’t have a happy ending. While they we’re the greatest tacos I had ever had they were also the worst gastrointestinal experience of my life! I had caught Montezuma's revenge - basically to spare you the gory details my body was a two way volcano. It was a waking nightmare! I seriously prayed for death! It was awful. But then a little time had passed. And despite almost dying the memory of those life changing and life threatening tacos crept back in. I started dreaming about them both asleep and awake. The tacos we’re like a tune stuck in your head that you just couldn’t shake. They were calling to me… Jesse we love you! I WANTED THOSE TACOS! Looking back as a grown man I have no idea why I was possessed over those tacos. I’ve never before or since ever had this urge before. So the visitor arriving again I demand him take me to those tacos! And like before in my mouth they were heaven wrapped in corn tortillas but in my stomach it was time to pray to my maker to save me from exploding.
Love can be down right dangerous!
Yes falling in love with an imaginary cartoon super heroine or life changing tacos from a questionable vendor in Mexico might not be wise. But they were times in my life where silly as my love for them was that I draw strength from. Why? Because they taught me to laugh at the little bit of crazy we do when we’re in love. So today I want to ask you a question what is a crazy thing you do or have done for the things you’ve loved? Was it something as embarrassing as crushing and crashing hard over a made up character or tempting fate with a tragic culinary crusade? I’d love to hear your own personal stories! Feel free to email me or send me a message on instagram. Thank you all so much for listening, please take care and remember to Go Forth & Nerd!
Wolverine Was My 4th Grade Tutor
Wolverine was My 4th grade Tutor
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! My name is Jesse Bray, also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd!
Today I’d like to talk about one of my all time favorite superheroes, Wolverine.
We’re all familiar with Wolverine, the x-man with the adamantium claws and the ultra fast healing powers. Wolverine is a rogue, a loner, an antihero. Both running from the shadows of his past and from the massive loss in his life. Wolverine’s story is in many ways a tragedy, much like the tale of the Incredible Hulk. Wolverine is destined for sorrow. Similar to our own lives. Not to bum everyone out or anything just to glean from this modern day myth. You see Stan Lee, for those that are not aware, wrote the X-men comics as a commentary on the civil rights movement. Professor Xavier is a Martin Luther King jr. type while Magneto is a Malcom X type. Both sets of people responding to a real world hurt and conflict. Stan Lee has always been an amazing talent for blending the world of fantasy with reality by using human analogs for his characters and Wolverine is no exception.
Wolverine’s story teaches us that it’s ok to be angry when we’re hurt, mistreated or in the sight of injustice. Wolverine’s story also teaches us that it’s ok to be filled with regret by our past sins and that it’s natural to want to run from the image of your former selves. And that life is seldom fair. These ideas might feel bleak and unexciting but it’s this hard reality about the Wolverine that cuts deeper and draws us in beyond the bright primary colors of the comics. Wolverine is the truest hero because he’s like us. We’re flawed and broken and we’re looking for our place in this world. Wolverine is also like us because he can’t sit by and watch injustice even when all he wants to do is be left alone. He feels pain every time he pops his claws. Wolverine’s life is a metaphor for the human condition. Now that I’ve waxed and waned about the poetry that is Wolverine I’d like to share the title story of this podcast:
Wolverine was my 4th grade Tutor
It was the spring of 93’ and I was failing the 4th grade. From the parade of F minuses on my incomplete homework assignments and failed quizzes It was pretty clear I was going be held back another year. However this was no surprise when you looked closer at my life. My parents got divorces when I was 6yrs old which interrupted my schooling quite drastically. Divorce is messy for those that have dealt with it in any capacity. Adding to that my mother moved us around a lot. Her being a fledgling actress and model our lives were in a constant flux. My 1st grade year I missed six of the total nine months of that school year. From 1st-4th grade I switched back and forth to eight different elementary schools. If it wasn’t for my Uncle giving me a spider-man comic, which I mentioned in a previous podcast I don’t think I ever would of got over my fear of reading with my dyslexia. So here I was clearly marching towards having to repeat the 4th grade. Then in stepped my Grandmother. I’m not sure why it was this was particular time she put her foot down and got involved - guess I’ll never know, yet I am forever grateful. My Grandmother was a retired school teacher and she taught me the basics of doing my homework before drawing or playing but more so than that. My Grandmother paid close attention to me. She saw how hooked I was on the X-men cartoon and how much I loved Wolverine. She would take me out after school twice a week to an ice cream shop that sold her favorite diabetic candies and she would help me do my homework. Furthermore she said if I got good grades she would send give me a Wolverine comic every week. One particular time she gave me a Wolverine action figure with retractable claws. The enthusiasm it gave me was the childhood equivalent of lightning in a bottle! This was a turning point in my educational career. I saw an immediate reward for my efforts which out weighed the boredom of school work. And then soon I fell in love with libraries! It wasn’t enough to just read comics I wanted to learned more and more! I especially loved reading Encyclopedias since they contained snippets of myths and other interesting stories I wanted to learn without having to read an entire book. The library became my Xavier’s school for gifted children and where I’d found continual inspiration for my art and personal comics. In less than two months time I went from an F student clearly looking to repeat the 4th grade to a straight A student winning awards in the Odyssey of the Mind club - it’s here I gained my official nerd status! I loved learning! And while it was the hands of my Grandmother that taught me to buckle down and do my school work it was the claws of Wolverine that hooked me on knowledge and I was never going back!
So today I want to ask you a question? What was your nerdy defining moment? Who hooked you of the nerdiness that is you? Feel free to hit me up with an email to chat! I’d love to hear your personal stories. Thank you all so much listening, you are such an encouragement to me and such wonderful people. Please take care and remember to Go Forth and Nerd!
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! This is Jesse Bray, also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd. Today I want to talk about King Kong.
Disclaimer I'm gonna be sharing a poem today - so you're about to hear another level of nerd you might not be aware of. Nonetheless I hope you enjoy!
What drives us to keep telling and retelling this tragic monster myth? I want to breakdown the elements within the story of King Kong that constantly grip my thoughts when thinking about this tale.
But first story time:
It was the 1980s and it seemed like Rod Stewart and Lionel Richie were on every radio station. Saturday morning was the supreme seat for cartoon viewing. However while I loved getting up at the crack of dawn to watch cartoons it was actually Saturday evenings that I loved best. Why because my absolute favorite show, hosted by none other than Grampa Munster - Movie Monsters! This was my first church, before I ever read a comic, even watched a Star Wars movie or even learned to read. Grampa Munster's classic horror movies were my addiction. At 5yrs old this is where I saw Dracula, the creature from the black lagoon, wolf man, Godzilla and my personal favorite King Kong! There was this magic to these films that raptured me! Even better than the bright lights of Duck Tales or Gummy Bears or even ThunderCats. These monster movies were exciting, and technically from my adolescent mind films that were too old for me to watch. However, being a cliche child of divorced in the 80s I had close to no adult supervision. Because of it I watched way way to many quote un quote scary movies. Nonetheless this exposure to King Kong permeated my young mind. Here he was the king of beasts of on a mysterious and hostile island - battling dinosaurs to eventually being kidnapped and brought to New York. We all know the story King Kong grabs his Barbie dolls so to speak and climbs the Chrysler building to only be shot down by cruel bi planes. This always upset me as a kid. For two reasons :
1. I loved King Kong kicking ass on his Dino island - that's where the action was!
2. King Kong falling for the girl seemed forced to me, even as a kid! It felt like someone was trying to make me watch one of those girlies shows my sisters liked so much! Yuk!
Obviously as an adult I've evolved a greater taste for romance, being a hopeless romantic myself, don't believe me ask my wife! Oh and remember there's poetry coming up ahead in this episode.
To me King Kong was this gentle misunderstood beast that though he was the King he really just wanted to be left alone. I could relate this to since I was a bit of a loner as a kid myself. I was always being pranked by my sisters, waking up to them having given me a makeover and dolled me up to them stealing my G.I. Joes and forcing him to marry one of their barbies! It was awful, I had to ceremonially give my action figures a mud bath to wash away all the cudies. Clearly all my 5yr old sensibility of what I thought was manliness was just an amalgamation from tv and films. King Kong to me was the ultimate loner macho man I had envisioned myself being. This was my first impression with the iconic creature and one I'll never forget it.
As I've grow older I started to dissect more about the elements within the King Kong myth that capture my attention. You see it's intriguing its that he's a giant. Giants are amazing! Almost every culture has stories of giants, Goliath from the Bible, to the Titans in the Greek mythology, to my personal favorite giant story from Norse mythology Ymir.
Ymir was a a great frost giant that when he was defeated the Norse gods built the world from his remains. Ymir's blood spewed out and caused a world wide flood, which rabbit trails here there'shundreds of ancient flood stories each having their ownsorta Noah type character. Back to Ymir's death - after the Norse God finished building the earth, hills, and valleys from the remains of Ymir's bones, and flesh there festered in the midst of Ymir's remains formless creatures - some vile and wicked and some gentle and magical. Odin at this point decided to give the beings of goodness fair complexions and bodies such as fairies and nymphs and to those of lesser goodness forms such as gnomes and dwarves to those of ill forms as goblins and trolls. In this myth not only does it encompass the origin of the earth, and its events it also covers the creation of many creatures. I shared this all to illustrate that giant myths are always awe inspiring for two things: Creative or Destructive forces!
King Kong is clearly a destructive force while set loose in New York.
While Ymir's corpse is a creative force used to make the world.
If you're lucky to remember the old Paul Bunyan children's books by Stephen Kellogg they were tall tales with an American backdrop that tell of a lovable giant lumberjack that partnered with his trustee blue ox to create things like the Grand Canyon by accidentally dragging his axe across the ground. Giants are a creative or destructive force! And it's for this reason I believe even when holly wood seems to be shelling out another, popcorn flick we're so fascinated by this power! And power is entertaining to watch!
Before I had ever heard tales about Ymir, or the Titans I used to spend countless hours daydreaming looking out the window while in the car on long road trips. I used to imagine that all the rocks, hills, and mountains where giants nestles under sheets of dirt. It's wasn't hard to construct what looks like figures wrapped in blanket folds laying fast asleep. This was the inspiration of the poem I'm about to share. Truth be told I discovered this poem I wrote almost a decade ago. Rabbit trail - I used to be a crazy beatnik. Seriously I had a pony tail and wore a beret and went to poetry readings. I loved that whole " tip top tatter to the top of the ladder" lyrical stuff. All that said I wrote this poem a long time ago and I dig poetry so without further delay here's most likely the nerdiest mythology poem you've ever heard:
The Giants of Torpidity
Lavishly lazy, drudgingly crazy are the Giants of torpidity
We are the Movers
the out an out doers
with the phlegm-like hurricane of wordsmith passion
God's wonder wall wrecking ball of creation
Next to Him we're the next best thing
to a de-construct construction team
Our lives our hearts our hands
to mold to shape the lands
we live for one and one only purpose
to birth the valleys the hills the moutains
and on this one occasion Our employer He did employ
to re-create from this formless void
to sculpt the dirt gritty and uncoiled
we called it earth, beneath us shake’d and boiled
for six days and six whole nights we did toil
til avarice needs brought us to our knees and lowered us to the soil
while the Master, maker world re-creator was no where to be seen
we snuggled softly ,slowly, gently to sleep
upon His return no subtle, no sly, no thought to condone
the architect remade us, more useful, something made of stone.
so when you look and see a Mount, a rock, a hill, a valley
please stop and think, of the Giants of Torpidity
So this week I want to ask you a question? What's your favorite giant myth? And is it a destructive myth or creative myth? Or do you have a favorite nerdy poem you'd like share? Please feel free to send me an email or message me on Instagram. Thank you all so much for listening! I hope you all the best and remember to take care and go forth and nerd!
Welcome back to Go Forth & Nerd! This is Jesse Bray, also known as Mr. Bray and I am your resident nerd. Today I want to talk about the creature Gollum.
Disclaimer: we're going talk about some potentially graphic and scary stuff in this podcast so if you're listening with your kiddos perhaps preview this one beforehand.
Back to Gollum. Most of us are aware of the character Gollum: from the technical CG marvel, performed by Andy Serkis in the films to the Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings to the books. However I want to talk about the potential influences and origin of this creature. I'm a huge lover of origin stories. It's often why I think many first superhero films are the best tellings. Some heroe’s beginnings are just so much more intriguing than their adventures. Except Wolverine, I love anything Wolverine. Nonetheless the “how” and the “why” is an art form.
Continuing on with Gollum, I'll be making several references to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, however I'll do my best to not assume you're aware of all the nuances beyond the movies. The Hobbit encompasses the story of Bilbo Baggins whose on a journey with a band of dwarves to reclaim a mountain of lost treasure guarded by a dragon and he discovers a magical ring which he won from a creature named Gollum.
Now, the author of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, I believe was inspired by the tale from the classic story, Beowulf.
Beowulf is a marvelous and heroic work! It could be argued as a Scandinavian equivalent to Homer's Odyssey. Many characters, events and locations were inspired from truth.
Now the Beowulf myth begins like this: there once was a king and his kinsmen that were being tormented by a creature named Grendel. This creature was a grotesque and animalistic beast, attacking at night in the great halls by violently consuming and dismembering sleeping patrons. However one night after the arrival of Beowulf the creature Grendel attacked the great hall again. Beowulf, awaiting the monster, confronts Grendel in battle. Beowulf mortally harms the creature by severing its arm. Grendel soon flees away and eventually dies of its wounds. Not long after, Grendel's mother seeking revenge for the loss of her child, retaliates on the townsfolk. Beowulf, asleep in another castle, awakes to the carnage and mayhem left by Grendel's vengeful witch-monster mother. Beowulf immediately takes off to track down Grendel's mother. In an epic duel, Beowulf - almost killed - eventually defeats Grendel's mother. Fast forward 50yrs later and Beowulf is now a king of a kingdom. Suddenly a dragon begins to terrorize the city. The dragon, aroused from its lair by a thief that stole a cup from the dragon's treasure horde. Beowulf of course defeats the dragon in a super hero-like fashion, cutting the dragon in two. The tale of Beowulf is an intensely brutal and epically exciting story!
You might have already seen some of these images that Tolkien borrowed from Beowulf just in my simple retelling. But to break this down a bit more: In the Hobbit, the book that is, Bilbo being the company’s burglar, accidentally awakes Smaug the dragon by stealing a cup from his treasure trove. Paralleling Gollum - the creature Grendel and his mother in the text were called descendants of Cain. This image here takes a few more rabbit trails to illustrate but before I get too side tracked, remember this, Tolkien was a master of linguistics: he invented whole languages for his characters. The original text of Beowulf calls Grendel's mother “modor,” meaning mother. It’s likely Tolkien just simply added an another letter "R" changing modor to mordor. Now back to the Beowulf text that says Grendel and his modor were decadents of Cain. If you're unfamiliar with this story, according to the biblical story, Cain is the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, the first humans. However Cain, in a jealous rage, killed his brother Abel. Cain is considered history’s first murderer.
Jumping to the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Rings (the book), we read the origin of Gollum. Gollum, long ago before he was corrupted by the Ring, was named Smeagol and he spent most of his time with his dear friend Deagol. However, like in both the books and the movies, Smeagol, upon his immediate lust for the Ring, kills his dear friend Deagol. This parallels Cain as the first murderer. The Ring driving Smeagol to slay his “brother” out of jealousy, so to speak.
Now you might think this is a bit of a stretch for Tolkien, but it's an important thing to note that Tolkien was a devoted Catholic and much of his writings reflect Catholic imagery and ideas in some cases even purgatory, but that's for another podcast. Tolkien was also very dear friends with the theologian and writer C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and the Screwtape Letters (a personal favorite of mine). So it's not a far-reaching thought to assume his religious thinking played part in the inspiration.
However I also have a further theory - Tolkien being a fan of literation and the idea that if Grendel and his mother were descendants of Cain, it seems logical to follow the Cain story, Cain's father was Adam. Now according to Jewish folklore Adam was considered a golem being made from the dust of the field before God breathed life into him. The name Gollum and Golem is similar in spelling and sound. And Tolkien was the king nerd for words.
But what is a golem? A golem is different than say a homunculus or zombie. A homunculus was a primitive human that was grown in an alchemist laboratory, a precursor to say, Frankenstein's monster. And well a zombie is usually a necrotic corpse brought back from death via some virus or black magic. However a golem is a creature made from clay like Adam in the biblical story that is brought to life by holy powers. Typically a golem is told to come to life when a rabbi has either etched a mystical letter or phrase in Hebrew on the Golem's head or inserted a piece ofparchment with mystical texts into the statue’s mouth. At this point the golem comes to live in sole obedience to the sacred writing, often times to a literal fault like in the tale the Golem of Prague, where a rabbi created a golem to protect a village but it goes awry. Tolkien would have been aware of this myth, and perhaps a possible cross pollination of ideas happening here with a mix of Adam the first golem, Cain the first murder and Grendel from Beowulf birthed the creature Gollum/Smeagol.
Just because I want to geek out on the details, Tolkien also loves the number 50. In the books both Frodo and Bilbo are 50yrs old when they start their adventures. Side note: Why are we so afraid to cast older people as heroes in film? Societal commentary aside, Gollum is a fascinating creature. He's both a villain and his own worse enemy.
One of my most favorite scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies is when Gollum/Smeagol is arguing with himself. You see this imaginary, yet real conflict. A true identity crisis. However as I got to thinking deeper about my affinity for Gollum and his imaginary arguments with himself it reminded me about my own imaginary friend I had as a child.
Between the age of 6-8yrs old I used to have an imaginary friend. Now by imaginary friend I don't mean like having tea parties with someone who isn't in the room or going on physical adventures on playgrounds wearing capes and fighting crime in your bedroom. Nothing like Hulu's brilliant comedy Moone Boy by Chris O'Dowd. No, my imaginary friend only appeared to me in my dreams. He never spoke and he always wore the same outfit. A black hat, a mask covering his eyes and a long trench coat that touched the ground. He would show up in my dreams but mostly in my nightmares to rescue me. I know this is probably strange or peculiar but so is the imagination of children. I came to refer to my imaginary friend as just The Man. And all I had to do in my dreams was to think of him and he would appear then opening his trench coat, inside was made of stars and he would wrap me in it and then we would be magically teleport from whatever nightmare I was having. Now I'm not sure how well other people remember their dreams let alone nightmares from when they were children but I remember many of them quite vividly. You see I had three reoccurring nightmares when I was a kid. Well to put it better I had three reoccurring monsters that haunted me in my dreams. This is a common thing for kids to be afraid of the dark or to think there's a monster under the bed. I remember an episode of Sesame Street where I think Ernie or Cookie Monster keeps seeing strange shapes in the dark that turned out to just be shadows. Nonetheless back to these reoccurring monsters. Their were three of them. The Ostrich, The Face and the most terrible of them all The Kitchen Man.
The Ostrich would try to reach down your throat and steal your voice.
The Face was a disembodied head that would place you inside an inky black windowless and doorless room. The only thing you could see was an eyeless and scarred face leaping forward at you.
Then lastly there was the Kitchen Man. The Kitchen Man was made of refrigerator parts and would steal children inside his chest cavity. When he walked you could see the faint silhouette and light of children screaming from inside him.
These three monsters haunted my dreams as a child, however my imaginary friend would rescue me from them time and time again. Eventually he defeated these creatures, perhaps I'll share how in another podcast, but it was my imaginary friend that was one of my earliest heroes. Then when I was 8yrs old I got a concussion and I remember seeing my imaginary friend one last time as if to say goodbye. I was never haunted by those three monsters again. Obviously this is a sorta strange correlation to Gollum arguing with himself in the dark or the moonlight. But it got me thinking, be it heroic or villainous, it all seems to start in the mind. Our thoughts can twist us or straighten us and while Gollum is a invention of fiction just like my imaginary friend, there's a temptation and perhaps I'm not alone in this, but a temptation to be reclusive and let your mind run wild. And maybe even be your own worst enemy.
One of my favorite jokes from Futurama, episode titled Jurassic Bark, Fry is talking to his dog Seymour and says, “What I like about you best is you're not constantly judging me.” Like a dog is people watching condescendingly. Maybe there's a little self-hate in all of us like the poor miserable Gollum or perhaps there's an inner hero like my imaginary friend The Man.
So today I want to ask you what's your Gollum or your Smeagol? I know it's silly to personify this stuff but today I want to challenge you to give your Gollum a name if it doesn't already have one. And let's chat about it. Feel free to send me an email or message me on Instagram if you'd like to chat. Also am I alone on my imaginary friend story? Is there any personal stories you would like to share about your own imaginary friend? Let me know I'm not alone in my experiences.
Thank you all so much for listening and remember to take care and Go Forth and Nerd!
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd! This is Jesse Bray, also know as Mr. Bray, and I am your resident nerd!
In this episode we're going to talk about a super old folktale.
Disclaimer, we're gonna get real, like more real than we've ever been on Go Forth and Nerd. So fair warning! We're sailing toward some rough seas ahead.
Rumplestiltskin - is a story about a girl that is forced upon pain of death, to spin straw into gold. However through her bargaining with a magical creature she was able to complete this impossible task.
Now to give a little background before we dive into this myth:
Rumplestiltskin like I previously said is quite old. Some scholars have argued that this tale is a few thousand years old. This story also has many differing cultural renditions from Arabic to Asian countries to the more prevailing versions in the West which originated from the Eastern European traditions.
Side note, I’m often fascinated at the reasons behind a story that causes it to endure. Why do we keep telling and retelling certain stories? Is there something particularly significant that keeps them alive? Keeping that in mind I believe that this story is both a tragedy and a reflection of very real toxic behavior. Which you'll see when we dig into this tale in a moment. Last thing, just another reminder before we begin since we’re usually pretty lighthearted on Go Forth and Nerd I want to point out the power of storytelling and how just like in the real world life is not always rainbows and unicorns. So without further delay…
There once was a Miller that desperately desired the favorability of the Prince. He loved telling elaborate stories attempting to capture the Prince's attention. Until one day the Miller said to the Prince, “My daughter is so talented she can spin straw into gold.” This immediately arrested the Prince's attention so he quickly replied to the Miller, "I demand to have your daughter brought to my palace this evening.” The Miller now both overjoyed for gaining an audience with the Prince also mingled with dread as he realized he had sold his daughter to the Prince on false pretense. The Miller raced home and enthusiastically told his daughter he had spoken to the Prince and that he would like to see her at his palace this evening, of course omitting the details that the Prince will be expecting her to spin straw into gold. The Miller's daughter excited and eager at the chance to prove her quality she wholeheartedly hurried to the palace summons.
However once she arrived the Prince ushered her to a small room filled with straw and a spinning wheel and said to her, “Spin all this straw into gold by morning or I will cut your head off!” He then quickly parted and locked the door behind him leaving the Miller’s daughter trapped inside. The poor Miller’s daughter didn’t have a clue what to do. As the minutes bled into hours her anxiety of the impending doom turned her into a weeping mess. Not long after she had broken down into tears a strange impish looking creature appeared before the Miller’s daughter. The creature approaching the girl said, “Miss Miller, why are you crying?” The girl looked up at the creature and replied, “I was told to spin all this straw into gold by morning or I will be killed! And I have no hope of what to do.” The impish man replied, “What will you give me to spin all this straw into gold?” The girl now puzzled, yet with a new found hope said, “My necklace.” The creature nodded his head in agreement as she handed him the necklace. In a flash of lightning the ugly creature began to magically spin the straw into gold. The next morning the Prince opening the door was temporarily blinded by the light of the reflection of sunlight bouncing off all the freshly spun gold. The Miller’s daughter, exhausted, was asleep in the golden threads while the impish creature had clearly disappeared somewhere into the shadows. The Prince, now thoroughly pleased, ordered the Miller’s daughter to be given a glass of water and a crust of bread. Then quickly she was forced into an even larger room piled high with straw and a spinning wheel positioned in the midst. Cracking a greedy smile the Prince said to the girl, “Spin all this straw into gold by morning or I’ll cut your head off!” Then he slammed the door behind her locking it again from the outside. The Miller’s daughter this time frantically tried to recall the technique of the impish creature to see if there was any way she could replicate his magical skills. Again, like before, her anxieties slowly crushed her to tears as the hours passed and longer shadows were cast across the room. Also like before, the impish creature appeared and asked, “Miss Miller, why are you crying?” The Miller’s daughter replied, “I have to spin all this straw into gold by morning or the Prince will cut my head off!” The creature in response said, “What will you give me to spin this into gold?” The Miller’s daughter said, “You may have my ring.” The impish man snatched the ring from her grasp and wildly began spinning all the straw in the room into gold. Morning arrived and like before, the Miller’s daughter had fallen asleep a midst the golden threads, the impish man now gone, as the Prince burst open the door. Now the Prince's greed being in full control he ushered her into an enormous acre-sized room filled wall to wall and touching the ceiling with hay. The Prince barked at the Miller's daughter, “Now you must spin all this straw into gold by morning or I will cut your head off! However, if you do this I’ll marry you and make you my Queen.” Again like the previous night, the Miller's daughter lost hope and began to weep. And like the previous evenings the strange impish creature appeared saying, “Why are you crying Miss Miller?" This time the Miller's daughter replied, "I have to spin all this straw into gold or I will be killed. However I have nothing left to give you!" Then the creature replied to her, “Give me your firstborn child and I'll perform this task for you!" The Miller's daughter was conflicted but reluctantly agreed to save herself from this present turmoil also thinking that the time when she'd have this supposed child would be long and far off. The impish creature took off like a whirlwind as he wildly spun the monumental mounds of straw into fine threads of gold, like a spider constructing a delicate web. The next morning the creature was gone, the girl again asleep in the golden fibers and the Prince's greed at last satisfied at the cavernous room of new treasure. So the Prince, true to his word, married the Miller's daughter and made her his Queen. Sometime later the Miller's daughter, now the Queen, conceived a child, a boy. Now it happened while she was alone with her infant child the strange impish creature reappeared saying, “The time has come for me to collect what you owe me. Now give me your child!" The Queen, filled with dread, begged and pleaded to give the ugly man anything else in the kingdom. The creature only replied, “Nothing to me is as valuable as a life!" However, the Queen's persistent tears and begging wore the man down and he relented to give her one last chance keep her baby. Saying, “If you can guess my name correctly in three days you may keep your child! However if after the end of the third day you haven’t guessed my name then the child is mine to keep!” So the first day she compiled a massive list of obscure names and read them aloud to the creature, after which he replied, “No, that is not my name!" The second day arrived and having scoured the countryside, she listed off even more peculiar and strange-sounding names. After reading them the impish man replied, “No that is not my name!” The evening of the second day the Queen was in complete distress so she decided to dress herself up in peasant clothing and went door to door requesting names she could add to her list and final attempt at guessing the creature’s name. Feeling defeated, she began to walk home and came across a odd-looking cottage with an enormous fire. As she approached the cottage she saw the impish man laughing and dancing around the fire singing, "I spun straw to gold and bargained for the soul, the Queen’s own son, who never will know that my name is Rumplestiltskin!" Hearing this, the Queen hurriedly snuck out and back to the palace. The next day the impish man presented himself to the Queen, this time in a irritatingly smug tone. "It is the third day and you haven't guess my name so now give me what you owe me! Give me your child!" "Wait, just a moment,” the Queen replied, "I'm still allowed to guess today being the third day.” The Queen looking sheepish said, "Is your name Rumplestiltskin?" The impish man’s smug little grin quickly melted away to rage! "What!!! The devil told you! The devil told you!” Rumpelstiltskin in a rage stomped his foot violently into the ground then in a supernatural strength of chaos he attempted to pull his leg free as he ripped himself in two. The scattered remains of Rumplestiltskin then faded to dust as the Queen was left alone with her child. Finally free to enjoy her life with her child the Queen and her child lived happily ever after.
So let’s break down some of these pictures within pictures here:
Firstly, Rumplestiltskin is the only character in this story that has a name. Now this is a quite universal theme you see in magical stories. Fairies, or magical creatures often have a special power in their name. To know someone’s name has a power to it. This is something that Bilbo Baggins is aware of in the Hobbit when he’s talking to Smaug the Dragon. A name has power and while this is central to this story it is also important to point out that the Miller’s daughter, an almost non-character, does not have a name, just a title.
Secondly there is the necklace that the Miller’s daughter gives as her first payment to Rumplestiltskin - a necklace has a symbolic meaning, this could potentially have been a locket. It is highly likely that this necklace offered a sentimentality to it, or possibly an heirloom. So here we have this girl selling her past to Rumplestiltskin.
Thirdly we have the girl selling her ring to Rumplestiltskin - a ring depending on the exact timing and demographic has a very specific significance. Her ring would be a sign of her identity, status, often there was an anagram on rings that people would use to seal letters with wax. Her ring was tied to her just like her necklace. By giving up her ring she was giving up her present.
Lastly the Miller’s daughter has to sell her child to this creature for her own comfort. In many versions of this story they depict her child as a baby boy, the boy would be the royal heir to the throne. The point here is the Miller’s daughter is now giving up her future to Rumplestiltskin.
Her past, the necklace, her sentimentality! Her present the ring, her signature and identity! Her future, her first born child!
I have more I want to share but let’s take a quick rabbit trail to a parallel idea in Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale The Ugly Duckling. The Ugly Duckling is about inner beauty and the abused. A quick synopsis of the story: a poor, little duckling is regarded as so ugly and undesirable that he is despised and tortured by everyone, even his own mother, who pecks at him, until eventually he runs away. However, the duckling’s luck eventually turns when he grows up to become a beautiful swan. Unfortunately he was treated so poorly that he has immense trouble recognizing that he is now a beautiful swan. I have many particular thoughts about this story. My prevailing point is that true beauty in this tale is not external but internal and the duckling was treated cruel so much that it gave him a complex so strong that he mistook his own beauty. Just like the poor Miller’s daughter, she was most likely mistreated by her father’s sycophantic tendencies - which lead to her codependent behavior, such as being eager to please the greedy prince. Which in turn the Prince being a monster pays her miraculous ability to spin straw into gold with a crust of bread after the first night. Oh and let’s be real if homegirl could spin straw into gold she wouldn’t be making gold for this tyrant! She’d be lining her own pockets with this gold! There’s an excellent Jewish proverb that says, “Truly competent workers won’t work for common people but kings and rulers,” which here means if she really had the said skills she’d be making the terms not taking demands from some monstrous dictator.
Back to the Prince, the third time she was able to complete this impossible task he gives her this sadistic offer - “if you do this I’ll marry you and make you my Queen.” Which come on! What a horrible reality for this girl, lose your life or lose your soul, do the impossible and live to marry your captor. Then finally we have Rumplestiltskin, the covert antagonist. This dude, perhaps he knew all along that the Prince was in financial trouble, or that he could overthrow the Prince’s rule by raising the heir, his son that he’d bargained away from the Miller’s daughter, adding my own subtext here. Either way Rumplestiltskin is no hero. The story ends with Rumplestiltskin dead and the Miller’s daughter now the Queen holding her child in her arms safe to live happily ever after, sorta. Some heavy stuff!
I want to bring this story home a bit with a personal story:
When I was 19yrs old I was homeless. I had enlisted in the military because I wanted to go to college and that was the only door available to me at the time. Then 9/11 happened and my recruiter pushed out my departure date. So I had to wait another two months to leave for my military training. Well being a kid of 19 I hadn't saved much money beyond my date that I was to leave. So my father said I could do some grunt work at his company, to pay for rent while they let me stay at his house for the two months they pushed out my military date. However, about a month into working for my Dad I ended up slipping off a ladder and breaking my arm. That day my dad fired me to avoid having me file a worker’s comp claim, then he booted me from his house since I couldn't work to pay rent. The military getting news of my broken arm un-enlisted me. So having nowhere else to go I went to my grandparent’s and they gave me an old van and some bedding and sent me on my way. So here I was homeless, with a broken arm and I had to live in my van. Eventually a "friend of mine" let me park my van outside his parent’s house and they would allow me to occasionally share a meal with them and even borrow an outlet for an extension cord so I could power a tiny space heater in my van at night because by now it was entering late fall/early winter time. Since I had no money and I couldn't get any work until my arm healed up I was living off animal crackers and dry top ramen. I soon got walking pneumonia and a chronic cough - even to the point where I was coughing blood. Eventually my arm healed but I was still very sick and it wasn't until I received my tax return that I had money to purchase some antibiotics. It was only at this point when the people that let me park my van outside their house they now decided they would let me sleep in their spare room while I healed up via my antibiotics, but it was back into my van after morning. This was one of the saddest times on my life. However, for many years after these people tried to pretend that they were my surrogate family because of the experience and even nicknamed me their number 2 child. Obviously this an uncomfortable story to hear. But it happened and it was my reality. It took me several more years to realize this idea that this "surrogate family" was toxic - they were cruel to me and I was being forced to be grateful for their crust of bread and glass of water so to speak. This is where even though I'm a seemingly privileged white man I can passionately and emphatically relate to the poor Miller’s daughter in the Rumplestiltskin story. There are cruel people out there; some passively cruel like the Millers. Some like the Prince that mistreated you but demand respect, and some covert villains like Rumplestiltskin. Now obviously I've grown and evolved far beyond these incredibly unfortunate and humbling circumstances and I have lots of room in my heart to love people, I've even forgiven my father, and even many other people that have wronged me but the truth is, stories like this happen all the time. And story is at the cornerstone of who we are as people. Stories have meaning!
Stories can give us the power to relate and relay strength, change, courage, heart ache, loss, joy and a plethora of other emotional or personal truths. Stories are so much more than a way for us to be entertained and escape reality- so this week I wanna drop a heavy question on you today: Who is your Rumplestiltskin? Who is the person or thing that's got you down? I don't want to call people out or make anyone feel uncomfortable but just to dial up the real-o-meter, would you like to chat about that with a fellow friend? I may not know the details of what you're going through but I am able to understand your pain. Feel free to send me an email - let me be an ear for you. You're not alone. Sometimes we need to get real! The truth is if you've read the Hobbit (I’ve been a huge fan of the films and I just recently read the Hobbit, not going to lie I infinitely enjoyed the book much much more), the truth is there's dragons in our life sometimes. And even though it's beyond us to imagine how we're going to deal with this impossible monster, that creature is laying on top of an incomprehensible treasure. So let's slay these dragons together and enjoy the treasures of being truly who we are! Thank you all so very much for listening and I hope this particular episode let’s you know you're not alone, take courage and care and remember to go forth and nerd!