- Presently, I have a multitude of opportunities laid out before me. However, along with each opportunity also comes greater responsibilities. The benefit of this situation is that I am in a position to choose which opportunities are best aligned with both my short and long term goals before I fully invest all of myself into any one of them. It's highly unusual to experience such an advantageous situation within this environment (prison) and I am determined to make the most of it. Clearly, my future lies in my own hands.
"What's the right action?"
- One of my favorite quotes/statements on this subject, which is really about integrity and accountability, comes from a well known Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT named Noam Chomsky. "Sometimes we have to do the wrong thing but for the right reasons (like invading a foreign country to depose a genocidal leader but killing and displacing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in the process - for the greater good of the country/people) What's most important is that we acknowledge our wrong-doing and not try to convince ourselves, or others, that what we did was the right thing."
- For me personally, the "right action" always has to include consideration of everyone and everything outside of the immediate situation. The "big picture" must be considered or else the immediate action could prove to be much more harmful in the future. Often times, choosing the right action requires some considerable sacrifice in the short term in order to achieve a the best long term result for everyone. Simply stated, the right action, in my opinion, is always going to be much larger than one's self.
"What decision would you make from a place of abundance?"
"Abundance has been a difficult concept for me to fully embrace because I have lived from month to month for so many years. I've endured periods of incarceration when I didn't know if there would be anyone willing to accept my call or if I'd have the money to purchase the bare essentials (soap and toothpaste) from the prison commissary. Over the years, as I have learned to "allow" myself to live from a place of abundance I have been rewarded with increased love, money, and resources...but occasionally that fear creeps in and reminds me that it could all vanish within an instant. Thankfully, that fear is fleeting and it is quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all that I have and that is what keeps me living in a place of abundance. My life is exceptionally good right now and it continues to get a little better, even more abundant, each and every day.
"What other choices do you have?"
My choices are infinite. The greatest mistakes that I have made arose out of desperate moments when I believed that I had no other choice to make. It was the story of Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp who survived and later wrote about how he chose to deal with his experience as it was taking place, that made the greatest impact on my own perception of the choices available to me every day. Simply choosing which thoughts to entertain and which to dismiss was a foreign concept that, once employed, helped me to reshape my life. However, since initially acquiring that knowledge there have still been a few "lapses" of practice, sometimes lasting years, when I regressed and had to experience the perilous results. So now, each day I silently remind myself that I am in fact the master of my own fate...and my future is the result of every little choice I make.
"What are the greatest influences in your life right now?"
My circle of influence is comprised of individuals both near and far and it is my intention for each of these relationships to be mutually beneficial. The people that I choose to interact with daily are my greatest influence and it is my hope that they are also positively influenced by me in some way. Whenever I notice that one of them is feeling down I try to lift them up and whenever one of them is flying high I'm inspired to spread my own wings and take flight beside them. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have so many positive and inspiring people in my life, especially when you consider the fact that I live in prison where negativity generally thrives. However, this place, at this time, is full like-minded individuals who are all genuinely interested in shaping a brighter future ourselves, each other, and all those around us.
"What do you really, really, want?"
A shot of Redemption with a chaser of real-world success. That "success" includes a wife, 2 or 3 children, pit bulls named Achilles and Athena, a couple of cars, a nice home someplace warm, a thriving family business and the respect of all our neighbors, friends, family, and community members.
"What aren't you telling me?"
The one thing that I refuse to comment on anymore is the negativity of this environment (prison) because I believe that it would only serve to give that negativity greater power and influence. Instead, I choose to live above it and keep my eyes focused on the because..."I believe that if one always looked at the skies, one would end up with wings." (Gustave Flaubert) What I've witnessed over the years in here has taught me to be cautious but, surprisingly, it hasn't made me either cynical or pessimistic. Instead, I've chosen to leave the past behind and remain focused on the future, so the parts that I'm not telling you really aren't worth mentioning since they won't do any of us any good by speaking about them.
"What haven't I asked you that I should ask?"
The question that everyone wants to know, but few people ever build up the courage to ask, is..."How did you end up with 213 years?" The simple explanation is that I refused to cooperate with the government. And in all fairness, the government never wanted to impose this sentence but they left themselves with no choice due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Their intention was merely to threaten me with hundreds of years in prison so that I would cooperate with them and provide the information they wanted about another criminal enterprise. In reality, this scare tactic works 99% of the time and criminal defendants provide whatever statements the government requires, regardless of whether or not they are even entirely true, in exchange for leniency in their own criminal matter. Admittedly, I committed a number of crimes and should be held accountable for those acts. However, I refused, and have no regrets about doing so, to exchange another person's life for my own by implicating them in a crime so that I might walk free. Unfortunately, that is the way our criminal justice system now operates but few people are aware of this reality. Hopefully the front page article in the USA Today for 12/14/12 helped to begin a long overdue discussion about the way our criminal justice system has come to operate. As for me personally, I'm confident that common sense will prevail at some point, thesedraconian mandatory minimum sentences that shackle me will be overturned and I'll be set free. Just ask me what my plans are for the future and I'll tell you.