Fellow Students and Educators...welcome to this second and final page of my introduction letter, this virtual message in a bottle I'm casting into the internet to see what might come of it, throwing a Hail Mary as it were. In this second page, along with its many attachments and demonstrations, I say more about me and my work while anticipating other questions you might have. That said...
For starters, what qualifies me to spearhead this effort?
I often ask myself this question given a number of reasons that might disqualify me for this ambitious task. But let's start with the qualifications.
Besides the fact that I’ve written the textbook, one may consider my academic background and training in science and pharmacy; my 28 years as a thoughtful cannabis consumer, philosopher, and writer; my experience as a hospice pharmacist, activist, and educator. A snapshot of my portfolio demonstrates these efforts: creator and publisher of Manitou magazine; committee work to preserve rec-MJ sales in Manitou Springs; my master’s thesis on educational reform and its follow-up pilot project, the Manitou Movie School; my many public presentations on cannabis given over the past decade, including two presentations at CSU-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research Conference (2017 & 2018), plus the creation of the Conference for Cannabis Fitness in Manitou Springs in 2016.
All this and more is the result of over three decades of personal and professional exploration and experimentation. I cover much of this in the second session of the Cannabis Fitness Challenge #4 course. For now suffice it to say, forging my own way in a wilderness of uncertainty, nonconformity, and endless possibility has been the story of my life, at least since dropping out of grad school back in 1986 (it was a doctoral program in biomedical sciences at Wright State University).
A misfit from the start, my unconventional path goes a long way in explaining what I’m now doing, including the what and how of my classroom and the kind of folks I think would be well-served by what I’m offering.
To be clear, I claim no expertise in the realm of cannabis, or anything else for that matter. I’m a philosopher by nature, and a practicing one at that. And while I’m obviously the inventor, initiator, and leader/facilitator of this endeavor, I’m no less a student than anyone else in my classroom.
Admittedly, because I love to learn, and I have so much to learn, I’m doing this as much for myself as anyone else. Indeed, my great love and desire for learning is what prompted the subject and purpose of my master’s thesis (dedicated to “life-long learning”) and all I’ve done since.
Beyond this personal motivation, there’s the obvious and sometimes crushing reality that we are not simply living in the Information Age, we are in the midst of an information explosion, one that is challenging us on numerous fronts; from sifting through the mass in the first place--differentiating fact from fiction, fluff from substance, meaning from nonsense—to simply keeping up and adequately informed on things that are important, which of course leads to all sorts of questions regarding what’s important and what’s not.
In any event, that’s one of the main reasons for cinema-based education (instruction through motion pictures), as well my conception of the Colorado Center for Creative Studies, to help us with this information explosion and all the challenges it brings.
What is the Colorado Center for Creative Studies?
The Colorado Center for Creative Studies, or simply 'the Center' as I like to call it, is a virtual alternative school at this point, an ideal place whose main mission involves pioneering education from the ground up. I see it as an oasis of higher learning and living. Serving many functions and endeavors, the Center is a grassroots, person-based organization that offers a variety of unconventional courses and programs through a dozen innovative departments. There's a lot more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.
What else can I tell you about my textbook without trying to explain the whole shebang?
Movies, Marijuana, and Mind is categorized under the heading Education: Experimental Methods. So that’s what we’re ultimately doing here, exploring new means of educating ourselves, applying and practicing new ideas and methods of teaching, including re-evaluating the why and how of learning; which in the case of my classroom initially translates into each learner finding and following their bliss (to borrow from Joseph Campbell), as well as exploring their unique intelligences and learning styles.
That said, my first job in the classroom is to assist students in this journey, that is, to promote thoughtful exploration of self and world, while encouraging critical and creative thinking.
Beyond this, my textbook, my courses, and my classroom are ultimately about bringing people together in a comfortable setting and cooperative educational environment, building healthy community through honest dialogue and positive exchange, fostering life-long learning that is affordable, enjoyable, and adaptable to learner needs and changing conditions.
I would also mention that a major part of my textbook and its three courses includes thoughtful consideration of human drug use, including a prolonged honest-to-goodness look at what drug education might look like to meet the demands of the times. For reasons too obvious and numerous to cover here, such assessment is more imperative than ever.
All told, this is what I mean by reinventing education from the ground up. But ideas and words can only do so much. Actual demonstration and practice must do the rest, which is the reason for the Cannabis Fitness Challenge #4, to implement and test the ideas and methods in my book, or at least begin to.
How does the Cannabis Fitness Challenge #4 work? How do I plan to carry it out?
The Challenge #4 course will be implemented in a series of 4 steps, or 4 class sessions spread over four months, September-December 2020. In taking these initial small steps the process can be tested, evaluated, and adjusted along the entire path of the course. This stepped approach encourages gradual investment with easy opt-out and minimal risk. As indicated in the flyer, the first of these four "mind-expanding" sessions is titled The Philosophy of Cannabis Fitness and Its Ten Basic Tenets. In addition to discussing this topic, I’ll offer a very brief introduction to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which basically involves cultivating the practice of mindfulness, along with developing skills in regulating emotions, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. This bonus topic is something I think we can all benefit from, cannabis consumer or not, especially in these challenging days.
How do I see cannabis as medicine?
I would first say this. Clearly cannabis can have many beneficial effects simultaneously on both mind and body. But cannabis is no mere pill and shouldn't be treated as such, even as we more fully understand its chemistry and effect on our biology. That said, I would add that failing to do our part, personally and collectively, in the human-cannabis relationship can only increase the risk of side effects and dubious to deleterious outcomes. In other words, if we're not adding to the process or otherwise attending to our consumption of the plant, we're gambling with the result.
This is what intention, along with mindset and environmental setting, is all about, going into the trip as prepared as possible in order to make it a worthwhile, if not always easy and enjoyable, learning experience with an overall beneficial outcome.
Importantly, we're not just talking about personal intentions for personal trips here. We're talking about collective intentions for the collective human trip. As more and more of us around the world embark on this exploratory journey of altered states of consciousness, what is our collective intention? What are we doing here as a species? What are we trying to accomplish?
In accord with my textbook's dedication, I suggest this collective intention is found in the Great Work of the alchemist; not that experimenter of matter who seeks transformation of lead into gold, but that explorer who seeks transformation of the human condition within and through life's more subtle aspects of self, mind and spirit. In this regard, I would lastly say there are many intriguing questions and lines of inquiry regarding the growing prevalence and importance of cannabis in our lives.
Now what about those "disqualifications" I mentioned earlier?
If we would call them that, more often these days I feel a misfit in a world gone mad. Perhaps I have a learning disability when it comes to the predominant way (can't help but wonder if my left-handedness and its neurological source might have something to do with this), and/or I'm too much the solitary creature, often more at home with movies, books, trees, and rocks than with people. In general I like to take life slow and simple. Huge crowds and complicated scenes are not particularly appealing to me. Immediate immersion in busy and/or unfamiliar territory can raise my stress and leave me speechless. I can usually mitigate these reactions if I carve my own niche, go at my own pace, and generally do things my own way; in other words, be myself.
As this appears the case for particular situations, so too it applies to my life in general: When I do things my own way at my own pace, I'm at my best; this applies to my education and learning pursuits as well.
Indeed, this was the whole impetus behind my master’s thesis. It began with the question of what would be my ideal learning environment, along with a prolonged consideration of the type of learner I am, my unique intelligences and strengths, my unique learning styles and methods, including pace and approach, as well as lifestyle preferences and goals.
Thus it might be said my work for the past 20 years, especially the past 10, has been motivated by an overwhelming desire to carve out and create a bit of reality that better suits my styles, tastes, and inclinations. This is no escape from the present but a personal reworking of it. I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit where I don’t, and I'm done with that fight.
Finally, my verbal skills need some work, as do other areas of communication, expression, and modes of relating. I'm not particularly tech savvy, my social media game is next to nothing, my diet and tastes can be somewhat brutish and unrefined, worldly I am not, and, much as I see myself ahead of the curve in certain areas, I'm a caveman when it comes to popular culture and mainstream society. It remains to be seen if this is a bad thing.
What else can I say?
Obviously, I can always say more. So let me just say in conclusion that so far as my teaching, I see testing of my textbook through implementation of my three cannabis courses as the most rewarding and challenging of my endeavors. And yet at the same time I see things easing up quite a bit as I follow my bliss teaching film & philosophy courses; which, as I see it, eventually amounts to playing host and director more than instructor and task-master.
Now enough of me and my work. What about you and your work? Where have you been, what are you doing, and where are you going? What's the status of your life and dreams, and are you satisfied with the progress of these? What's your resolution for the new decade, more of the same, something new, a bit of both?
Finally, what do you think of this site and work? Do you resonate with what I'm saying here? If so, where and why? And, most directly...
Would you like to support, help produce, and/or participate in this project?
Please give a shout...