Who and Why

Hello, I am JJ ODonnell.  This post is about who and why I am starting this blog.  I have two main reasons for starting it. One I hope this can be a form of therapy for me and hopefully can help others with this blog.  Second is to practice my writing skills.

When I was young I used to like to write.  I would write poems and short stories, unfortunately many of them have been lost in my many moves over the past two decades. Then for some reason I stopped in my early 20’s, most likely I just got to wrapped up in the chaos that was my life for so long.  I have been diagnosed and dealing with Major Depressive Disorder.  I have a hard time finding enjoyment in many things,  I am always tired and I hated myself and others. I have secluded my self in my home, except for work and even that is hard at time and of course the really bad thoughts about myself.

Over the past couple of years I have been trying to get stuff together.  Before that my depression had taken a large toll from me.  I had 2 hernia surgeries in the span of 2 years. My family had moved back home to Minnesota from Florida, where I was still living with my with and step daughter.  This is where I really felt trapped I loved my wife and step daughter, I still do care for them dearly.  I also despised living in Florida  and missed Minnesota so bad.  I ended up moving back to Minnesota and filed for divorce.  She was not a greedy person despite what some people would have you believe.  All she wanted was for me to be happy and get the help that I needed.  The only material thing the divorce took from me was the lawyers and court costs.   I could go on but I will save the rest of the details of my descent in future blog posts.

Fast forward 2 years, In 2014 I here on the internet about this Young woman who stood up to the Taliban in Pakistan so that girls had a right to an education.  Malala Yousafzai’s story stirred something in me.  “With all the death and destruction in this world here is this kid at the age of 15 was shot and came back a couple years later to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”  I said to myself.  ” This young woman can take on a ruthless extremist like the Taliban. Look at me I am almost 40 and have not done?” I asked myself again.  So I decided to make a loose plan to get me on the right track.  What am I good at? What inspires me? And what do I want to do?  I realized I wanted to go back to school to become a teacher, specifically Social Studies.  I also realized I want to try and help people as much as possible.  So, I also want to join the Peace Corp and help out around the world. I also feel if you are going to teach about other cultures I should at least experience a few other cultures than just the American Culture.  This way I can be able to put context into my teaching tool chest.  I also had to get help to battle through my depression and went to the VA.

Which leads me  to here. I just finished up a group counseling class at the VA (Veterans Administration) Hospital here in Minnesota.  The class was called CBSST (Cognitive Behavioural Social Skills Training). In this class we are taught how to think of things in different way using critical thinking skills.  I started this class 3 months before I started back to college, in September of last year.  Now I am About to go into my Third semester of college at the end of August.  I use school as a form of therapy for me.  It is a place where I can exchange ideas with people and become a custom to more social situations.   Instead, of hiding from the world.

I am doing this to learn as much as for therapy.  So if you have constructive criticism it is welcome.  If you have questions or need clarification about anything do not be afraid to ask.

Philosophies of a Humanist

As a self proclaimed Humanist  I do not believe in a God or gods.  I believe in the power of humanity in and of itself.  I have been to many churches and they all seemed strange to me, even the Catholic Church in which I was loosely raised in.  The whole sit, stand and kneel ritual was quite irritating along with the sermons and the Bible.  They all just rubbed me the wrong way.  When I got in to my twenties I read the Bible from front to back and the contradictions within it drove me nut as well as the whole lineage stuff.

It was when I was introduced to Bruce Lee and his philosophy of martial arts  that I started developing my own system of beliefs.  I liked how he took the best parts of other martial arts and combined them together to create Jeet Kune Do.   I liked this and wondered why no one had thought of doing this with religion or faith.  So, over the years I started developing my own philosophies.  I did not just stick to the ideas of religion though I also took from themes within fiction and movies where religion lacked.  I try to live by a code that promotes peace and harmony without being hypocritical to my beliefs like many do with in religion.  Some may think it is naive but I see the world as it is and I aspire to make changes with in myself, so that I may help change the course of humanity in a positive way.

I strive to eliminate hate from myself, for to hate I feel is to give power to that person or group over me.  This is no easy task.  I may get angry at someone but I will not hate them.  Anger will only last as long as I let it.  I do not hold grudges anymore, for this only hurts me.  It darkens my heart and breeds discontent in those around me.

I remind myself fear can be both a good and bad thing.  Fear can keep me safe from the dangers of the world.  Remember not to let fear control me, for if I allow it to have control it can hinder my journey through this life and lead to hate.  When fear becomes too strong I must face it by putting myself in uncomfortable situations, this way I understand what I am afraid of, henceforth stifling hate.

Be kind to those around me.  This is can also be hard to do especially if I am angry.  I am not perfect and will not claim to be.  We all make mistakes so, we must own up to them and learn.

Love everyone no matter the race, religion, sexual orientation or any other way society deems to separate us.  I have come to the realization that I may not be able to love in a romantic sense,  because my heart is filled with love for all humankind.  I am fine with that.  In some ways it is lonely and I crave the affections of someone but this may hinder me from the mission I have taken on.  I vowed to not be with anyone until I have finished my Bachelor’s Degree that was almost 3 years ago.  I have almost allowed myself to fall back into the old routines, of mistaking sex for romantic love.  I do not wish to do this again.

I put my heart into my goals.  This is why I think I am so good at being an Educational Assistant and why I will be a good teacher.  I put the kids I work with first, this is how I am.  I want to make sure that children no matter where they are where they are from.

Do no harm is another principle I try to live by as well.  This means I will make sure to exhaust all methods of nonviolence.  I would rather die than to physically harm someone.

These are some of the principles I try to live by.  But, I am not perfect and I will never claim to be.  If I do please call me out on it.

Depression: The Invisible Killer

The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade this week brought have to the surface my own battles with Depression.  I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and been battling it for the past 24 years.  Those who do not suffer from this condition can have a hard time understanding why those with the affliction can not just cheer up.  I have been told to cheer up numerous times and that it is just an emotion.  Well, I am here to tell you it is not just that.  Yes, there is the emotion of depression but this usually lasts a couple of day or may be weeks.  When you are dealing with the condition it lasts for 6 months or more.  It continues day by day and year to year.

Let me ask you have you ever felt alone in a room filled with loved ones?  Have you battled just to get out of bed asking yourself what is the use? Have you ever looked around and thought of different ways of ending your life? Have you ever spent weeks or months or years not taking care of your personal hygiene?  Wallowing in your own filth only cleaning yourself to keep up appearences? Thinking no one cares or tries to understand you? Have you ever felt like if I were gone no one would miss me or that they would be better off without me? This is what depression the condition feels like.  I continually feel this way.   It is a constant struggle fighting yourself for a glimmer of hope.  I have attempted suicide before, a couple of times actually.  Thank goodness I never owned a gun or I would not be writing this blog right now.

It is difficult living with depression as you can see, but it can be done.  It takes time, patients, medication and talk therapy for the person who is dealing with depression.   For those who love them it takes understanding, acceptance,  and empathy.  Never looking down on them because you think that it will pass.  Too those who love someone with depression you must learn the differences between the emotion and the condition.  I have been told in the past by friends and family that “you just need to think positively and this will pass.”  It is not that easy.  That to a person dealing with depression pushes them further from you and leaves them thinking, you just do not want to deal with them.  Which increases their chances of taking their own life.

This part is for those who suffer from depression.  Your friends and family can only do so much to help you.  You must be willing to work on yourself.  I know many do not want to take prescriptions, hell I hate being dependant on them myself, but they can help.  Make sure you are telling you doctors how these drugs are affecting you.  This way they can change the script or rise or lower the dosages.  You will also have to work on changing the way you think.  Understanding the things that set you off is key to this as I have found out.  This way when the feelings come back you have the tools to stop the unhealthy thoughts.  This is not easy and takes a lot of practice.  You must be vigilant in your own mind.

I was fortunate enough that I had the Veterans Administration to help me understand and train me how to change some of my thought processes.  It was through a class called Cognitive Behavioral and Social Skills Training  (CBSST for short).  I know many people do not have this type of support because of insurance costs, lack of employment or any other hurdles that may stand in your way.  Please know this my brothers and sisters out there that there are people who are willing to help.  That many people are pushing to get healthcare for all which would include mental health.  I know for me forcing myself out into the world more and more has helped me.  Also, find something you are passionate about.  If first thing you try doesn’t work try something else.  Me I like photography, learning and helping others.  This is why I have gone back to school to become a teacher and am working as an educational assistant dealing with special education students.  Left me tell you this path is not for everyone.  It is one of the toughest jobs I have ever held.  But, to see the look in a child’s eyes when the when they finish a project or realize that you are there for them it fills my heart with joy.  Even though they can drive me mad at times.

In closing if you are someone who has or is considering suicide please get some help.  Below I have a list of websites and phone numbers to call.  Please remember if know one else tells you this that you are loved and, we are all brothers and sisters and we should care about each other in this manner.  Life is worth living and we all matter.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org                                                                                         tel:1-800-273-8255

https://afsp.org                                                                                                                                 Toll-Free: 1-888-333-AFSP (2377)

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml                              1-800-273-TALK (8255)



Repayment Campaign

I am Currently running a Go Fund Me Campaign to raise money so that I can get myself back in school by next Spring.  If you would like to donate here is the link to the site.  Below is the introduction and general summary of the campaign.


Hello I am JJ ODonnell.  I am currently raising money to pay off some student loan debt, so that I can continue my education.  I have recently graduated from Normandale Community College with an Associates of Arts degree.  Now I am stuck with a dilemma because this was my third attempt at getting a degree I have some outstanding debt from previous attempts.  I have defaulted on these loans and need to pay one of them off before I can continue on with schooling.   The first two times I went to school I my living was not stable, I did not know that I had any veteran’s benefits, I had no in school support system helping me through the way student loans worked or how to get grants and scholarships.  The reason for me to do the crowdfunding is so I can pay off a loan from the state of Minnesota that way Normandale can release my records to Metro State University, where I will go for my BA in Social Studies Education.

How I Got Back to School

Four years ago, I finally, after years of dealing with depression, I went to the VA to see what I qualified for as a Vet.  They helped me to get my mind thinking in a healthier way and to stop dwelling on the things I cannot, change in the past.  And to start creating goals, then focusing on what I can do to make those goals a reality.  I applied for Vocational Rehabilitation through the VA.  They approved me for study to become a Social Studies Teacher.  So, this is how the current chapter in my life began.  Since then I have accomplished a lot.  I was on the honor roll or the Dean’s list most of the time I was at Normandale.  I made it in to Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society.  I was awarded TRIO Scholar of the year for 2016-2017.  I was part of America Reads and Counts, which helps tutor kids in math and reading.  I took part in a few trips with the Cultural Exploration and Travel club, because I like learning about other cultures and travel.  I worked at both the Diversity Center and the Student Store.  I was awarded a scholarship from the Normandale Foundation, in which I returned the favor by giving a speech about my life and experience which brought me to Normandale.   I also, Graduated with honors from Normandale.


Current Occupation:

I am currently working as a Substitute Educational Paraprofessional for the Burnsville/Eagan/Savage school district.  Currently, working with special needs kids as a long-term Sub.  This is no easy task dealing with all sorts of issues, most notably behavioral issues.  This job is not for the faint of heart and takes a special type of person to stick it out through the rough parts and see the accomplishments these kids make.  There have been times where I just wanted to through in the towel, but I stay because I love to see their faces when the kids do something that they, thought they could not do.  I try to help inspire the kids with my story and what I have accomplished over the past few years despite my fight with Depression.

Life Goals:

My overall goal is to get my Teaching degree and join the Peace Corp.  Then, bring what I have learned from the Corp about the other cultures I worked with to the classroom.  It is my belief that the more we know about other cultures the less we fear them and provide a start to a lasting peace in this world.


How Much and When:

I need to raise the money by no later than August 31 in order for me to enter back into school by spring of 2019.


I will be doing weekly shout out videos for all my donors.

Every $500 raised I will do a live stream where people can ask me questions about anything.





Birthday Fundraiser

March 19th is my birthday and I have decided to do a Fundraiser, Not for me but for the Malala Fund.  I am looking to raise $200 by  March 31st.  I have set up a Facebook page in order for people to donate.  It does not have to be much just what you can afford.

The reason I chose the Malala Fund, is because Malala was my inspiration to go back to school and become a Social Studies teacher.  Since then I have started studying cultures and world history.  It was because of her that I chose for my History of World Civilization project the Arabic or Muslim Empires after the fall of Greece.  I learn how they contributed to Astronomy. Navigation and Medicine.  I knew virtually nothing about there culture and in my younger years fell prey to misinformation about the middle east and Muslims in general.  Now I see the contributions they have made through history.

If you would like to help me and donate the link is below:

I thank you in advance for any help.


It has been a while since I have posted anything here.  Many things have changed in my life in that period.  I graduated from Normandale Community College and now have my first degree.  My brakes went out on my car and I had to struggle to get the money together to fix it.  I am thankful for my brother in law and his friend for helping me with the repairs.  I have started a new job this week as a educational paraprofessional substitute.   I am working to pay off a student loan before I can go for my B.A. in Teaching Social Studies.  So, I am currently not in school for the time being.  I hope to have that all paid off before June, that way I can get back to work on my degree.

The next few months are going to be tight but I believe I will be able to make it through.  If I do not make my deadline of June I will head back to school by next spring.  It is good to have goals but they should not I believe, so rigid to the point that if you do not make it with in a time frame it kills your motivation.  This is what does happen to me a lot.  I sometimes push myself, to the point where I start to question my own worth and get down on myself.  Then I let everything go and just give up.  I have to make sure I have a secondary plan of action, because shit happens.

Things happen in our lives that change us for better or worse.  The thing is when we are in a down spin we have to gain our composer and level ourselves off and change direction accordingly.  There is not just one way to get where you want to go in life there are many.  Some are short and sweet, and others may take a bit longer but you will still get there in the end.

Why Should We “Shit Hole Countries”

Over the past few weeks I have been hearing and seeing people talk about want Mr. Trump calls “Shit Holes”.  Did he even think about why these countries are the way they are or does he just assume like many others that it is just the people.  Most of these countries were colonised by white european countries like Britain, France, Denmark and Spain, also the United States of America.  Over the past 200 years or more the pure capitalization of the world have raped and pillaged these countries for their resources.  Giving little regard for the people of these countries.   We have built a world on the back of the less fortunate and people like Mr. Trump are personally responsible for these crimes against humanity.

They care little about anyone but themselves and how they can exploit people for their own personal gain.  They destroy the potential of people who could help develop the next big enhancements to the human condition, all for the a piece of green paper that if we were not around would not contribute anything to this world.

So, why should we help out the people of these “Shit Hole Countries” and Mr. Trump puts it.  We should help them out of the kindness of our hearts.  But, the real people who need to help them are the extremely wealthy and those whose money has been handed down from generation to generation.   If it were not for them exploiting these people they may have developed much differently.  Hell, their quality of life could be much better and we may have actual peace in regions that are now in a state of perpetual conflict.

It is time for us to grow as not just a countries or continents, it is time for us to grow as a species.  We must learn to not take advantage of each other and build a better world together.  It can be done, maybe not in my lifetime, but it can start with in it.  I am not naive to think it will happen overnight or it will be easy.  It will be a long and hard change and there will be many who will die before we evolve to that level as a society.   But as long as we push for the change and leave the world better than when we found it.  We have a chance.

A Reaction to the “I’m Not Racist” Video

I posted the “I’m Not Racist” video yesterday on my Facebook page.  Knowing that many will find it offensive.  It was actually in brought to my attention from a person I worked with at the diversity center at school. The video uses the N word a lot from both a white and black man. It was made to make people feel uncomfortable but you must watch it all the way through in order to get the message that the person is getting at. I left the diversity center because I was hearing the N word being thrown around a lot and it disturbed me. But, it is not up to me or anyone else to tell someone what they can or can not say. It is only when we listen and wait till the person is done talking that we start to understand what they are saying. This is one of the hardest parts of living in America. We must listen to the other person and not try to formulate our responses to what they are saying while they are saying it, even if it is hard to hear. This is how we become better as Americans and as human beings. It is through being willing to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations that we learn and grow as people. Those who know me, know that I help to defend the rights of others especially the right to free speech which in my opinion is the most important of all our rights as Americans. This is why I feel we are having so many issues in our country no one is listening to each other. I have the same problem. I have a tendency to start thinking up a rebuttal without listening to what the other person is saying completely. I have also had it done to me as well. Most of us do not even realize that we are doing it, it is just a natural reactionary response that we have.  I have posted the video below.  Please watch it all the way through before passing judgement.

Minneapolis Institute of Art Floor 3 Part 2

Top right photo

Madonna Enthroned in Majesty with the Christ Child, Late 12 century


Top Left Photo

Virgin and Child, 14th century

Stone, Polychromed


Large-Leaf Verdure Tapestry Fragment with Birds, 16th century

Wool, Silk Tapestry weave

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Circle of Gil de Siloe

Virgin of the Milk (Virgen de la leche), 1500

Poly Chromed Wood

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Signed Saomotome Iechika

Helmet, Early 17th century

Iron, Gold, Wood, Lacquer

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Giovanni Battista Caccini

Bust of Emperor Hadrian as a Young Man, 1590


Richard Stankiewicz

Untitled, 1954

Iron and Steel

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Ship Of Virtues, 1528-1540

Wool, Silk, Tapestry Weave

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Asa Ames

Portrait Bust, 1830-1845


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Lucille Corcos

Macy’s Parade, 1942

Tempera on Masonite

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Henry Koerner

My Parent II, 1946

Oil on Masonite

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Andrew Wyeth

Christmas Morning, 1944

Egg Tempera on Gessoed Board

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Gaston Lachiase

Woman in a Chair, 1924

White Marble

Elie Nadelman

Draped Standing Woman Figure, 1907-1908


Edgar Degas

Dancer Putting on Stockings, 19th Century

Bronze_MG_3831 (2)

Anders Zorn

The Girl from Alvdalen, 1911

Oil on Canvas

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Franz von Stuck

Portrait of Beethoven, 1902

Parcel Gilt and Polychromed Stucco

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Paul Signac

Blessing of the Tuna Fleet at Groix, 1923

Oil on Canvas

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Theodore Rousseau
Autumn at St. Jean de Paris, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1846

Oil on Canvas

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Aime-Jules Dalou

Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794), 1891


Randolf Rogers

The Lost Pleiad, 1874 (modeled)



Minneapolis Institute of Art Floor 3 Part 1

William Edmondson

Ram“, 1938-1942


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Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clesinger

“Bacchante and Satyr”, 1869


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Antoine-Louis Barye

“Theseus Slaying the Centaur Bianor” ,1850 (Modeled cast, 1891)

Bronze, Caster: Ferdinand Barbedienne

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse

“Pair of Torches”, 1862

Bronze, Gilt, Silver, Black Onyx, Red Marble

Henry Bannarn

“Cleota Collins”, 1932

Plaster, Pigment

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Jean Hanau

“Pueblo Indian Group”, 1928

Oil on Canvas

Harry Jackson

“Stampede”, 1958-1959

Bronze, Wyoming Jade Base

Wenzel Friedrich

“Platform Rocking Chair and Stool”, 1880-1890

Horn, Ivory and Glass with Ocelot Upholstery

Herman Atkins Macneil

“A Chief of the Maltnomah Tribe”, 1905


“Writing Desk”, 1760

Wood, Paint, Gilt, Gilt Bronze

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Bertel Thorvaldsen

“Ganymede and the Eagle”, 1817-1829


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Nicolas de Largilliere

“Portrait of Catherine Coustard, Marquise of Castelnau, Wife of Charles Leonor Aubry with her Son Leonor”, 1699

Oil on Canvas

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After Gaspard Marcy

“Boris Abducting Orithyia”, 1700

Bronze (Reduction cast)

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Joseph Venache

“The Borghese Gladiator”, 1680-1685



Pierre-Phillippe Thomire

“Clock with Vestals”, 1790

Bronze, Gilt Bronze, enameled dial, Marble

Fernandi Tacca

“Satyr and Nymph”, 17th century


Unidentified Designers and Cartoonists

“Waiting the Chase”, 1650

Wool, Silk, Tapestry Weave

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“Funeral Torch”, 1620

Gilded and Painted wood and wrought iron

Attributed to Jose Montes de Oca

“Saint Benedict of Palermo”, 1734

Polychrome and gilt wood, Glass

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Aaron Spangler

Songbird”, 2006

Carved bass wood, black gesso and graphite

Hans Schaufelein

“Roundel Set”, 1500

Stained Glass, Lead


What Type of Society Would You Like to Live in?

What type of society would you like to live in?  Collectivist or Individualistic?  This is a question we were asked in Pillars of Leadership program at school this week.  This is a very hard questions to be asked and takes a lot of thought as to not give people the wrong idea.  If you say you want to live in a collectivist society people in the states think China or the former USSR.  If you say Individualistic people think of America and the corporate plutocracy that runs it.  I would chose a combination of both a more socially individualistic and economically collectivistic society.

In America we have been traditionally a socially collectivist and economically individualistic society.  This means socially if you were different from the group you were labeled the outcast, different, freak, ect…  If you are are not white, Christian, hetrosexual you were the other and have historically been segregated against in one form or another.  Yet, if you raised have money, and power you were held in high regard even worshipped to some extent.  This paradigm has been hard for me to live in because I do not think the way I was taught to think.  I do not view wealth or power as a success factor.  I also see people as individuals and judge them on there actions not race, gender, sexual orientation, ect…  I view happiness and empathy as how successful a society is in the grand scheme of things.

I do not think that it is up to the government or corporation should  decide what you do as a career or job.  I feel we help people to reach their potential in the field they enjoy and are good at.  Yes, this is would not be a nice and ordered society but it plays to people’s strengths and move society in a more positive direction.  This allows people to find out who they are and what they are passionate about.  This also breeds a much happier society and less conflict.  I feel that when a society reaches a certain level of development that the government can not only help it’s people militarily but making sure that the basic necessities are taken care of like food, clothing, housing, ect… They would not get to chose these thing for them, but, helps people to afford these items making sure no one is left behind or falls through the cracks.  This way the economic schizm does not grow so great that a few people control the rest of the society against their will.

People will ask, “But, if we don’t have money to use as an incentive how can we motivate people to do the work?”  To them I answer ” There are many ways to motivate people like their passions. some people like helping others, some like to create things like art, science, or music..  Think of all the artists that have died in poverty, like Van Gogh, yet, after their deaths the pieces would have made them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  Think of people in the scientific realm like Nicola Tesla who died in poverty not to be respected till well after his death.”  How many minds have we wasted because of the greed of our society?  How many more will not have the opportunity because others think that because they are wealthy they are the best?  How many ideas will be stolen because of greed and pride?  These are questions I asked myself when people ask me “What type of society I want to live in?”

I feel we need a combination of both in our societies and no pure system will ever work in a world full of differences.

Peace and Love To all who read this and even those who don’t.