Skip to content

Fixing a broken prison system

An inside perspective…
Part 10 – I did my first bid in the Florida Department of Corrections during the 1990s, a grueling 10-year odyssey that began at age 18 and ended at age 28. I didn’t have to serve all those years. With gain time I could have been home after serving less than half of my sentence. But I was young and hard-headed and I liked to smoke pot.

Since the introduction of the random urinalysis program in 1994, the department of corrections has aggressively gone after incarcerated drug users. The penalty for a failed urinalysis carries 60 days in disciplinary confinement and 180 days loss of gain time. I failed a total of seven drug tests over that decade, costing me 1,260 days. In other words, I spent three-and-a-half extra years in prison because I stubbornly insisted on smoking marijuana despite the mounting negative consequences (cue the definition of insanity clichés). Then I got out and graduated to bigger and better drugs.

Today, I am 13 years into my second prison sentence. Substance abuse is no longer an issue. Writerly aspirations have transformed me into a paranoid hoarder of my remaining brain cells. Still, every few months, my name is called for a random urinalysis. My biggest worry is no longer failing one of these things, but rather failing to submit in the rigidly allotted one hour. This is considered refusal and thus carries the same penalty as a sample that comes back dirty.

Here’s the rub: no one ever tests dirty anymore. Not because the entire prison population has experienced a spiritual awakening, not because we’ve been rehabilitated, not because we now refuse to indulge in counter-productive, self-destructive behavior. But because the most popular, most prevalent and most dangerous drug in Florida prisons doesn’t register on the urinalysis. I’m talking about spice (See my post titled The truth about spice).

Once legal and deceptively marketed as “synthetic marijuana” because it mirrored the effects of THC and was sprayed onto a green leafy substance, the drug has morphed into something far more potent and sinister. Think PCP, acid, meth and roach spray. Every day I watch my fellow inmates vomit, seize, flop, howl, and bang their faces against steel and concrete on this scary and highly addictive substance. This is the state of the Florida Department of Corrections, 2017. The new normal. You never see or smell marijuana anymore. Even its nickname is telling. Nobody calls it weed or pot or reefer or bud these days. They call it “180” for the amount of days one loses if he fails a urinalysis. Why even bother when you can smoke spice?

But again, this is not some harmless, synthetic marijuana we’re talking about. People are dying after smoking this stuff. Two in the last month at my prison. It’s gotten so bad that legitimate epileptic seizures are being scoffed at by responding staff who assume that a convulsing inmate is merely high on spice. Gangs are now battling to control the lucrative market, there are more assaults, more thefts, underpaid officers are being persuaded to supplement their income. Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Corrections doggedly continues its random urinalysis program, spending untold amounts of tax dollars on archaic five panel track tests each year while catching no one. The only inmates ensnared in this trap are those who can’t urinate in the designated hour. Mostly awkward, shy bladder types and old men with bad prostates. The spice smokers show up wasted and pass with flying colors.

I bet the department longs for the days when its biggest drug problem was marijuana.

[This is Part 10 of an ongoing series, Fixing A Broken Prison System, which has its own tab on this website, where you can read Parts 1 – 9.]

Fixing a broken prison system

An inside perspective…
Part 9 – For all the murders, rapes, untreated mental illness, rampant drug abuse and historically inhumane treatment of human beings over its 150 year history, one problem the Florida Department of Corrections hasn’t shared with other bloated prison systems across the U.S. is gang activity. Aside from the obligatory hate groups masquerading as religions, the Sunshine State’s inmate population has always divided itself along county lines as opposed to America’s more color coordinated criminal empires. Dade rolled with Dade, Broward with Broward, Duval with Duval. That’s about as organized as things got. For all their notoriety, the gangs of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles could never seem to gain a toe-hold in Florida. All that has changed over the last ten years.

When I look around my dorm, I count members of six different gangs. I would name them by organization but I prefer not to be jumped, stabbed, or “buck-fiftied” (the facial slash that is growing in popularity in Florida’s correctional facilities). And since I’m a neutron – meaning neutral, non-affiliated – this could happen without repercussion. Maybe I should join a gang. I’m being sarcastic, of course, but for the hundreds of young men being bussed from county jails into Florida’s four reception centers every day, this is a very real dilemma.

Prisons make for fertile recruiting grounds. Every yard is full of inexperienced twenty-somethings with time to do. Many are hundreds of miles from home, broke, scared, surrounded by strangers in a hostile environment. This year, at the facility where I’m housed there have been more than 20 stabbings. Gangs offer safety in numbers, provide brotherhood, demand respect, and give an identity to those struggling to find themselves. Many have prominent rap stars as the faces of their respective franchises. Plus, gangs control the flow of dope into most institutions. For the average street kid coming into the system, the decision to bang can be a lucrative one.

This is a dangerous situation. Dangerous to the non-affiliated inmate population who want to better themselves or just serve their time – even their life sentences – in relative peace, dangerous to the already outnumbered guards who work in Florida prisons, and dangerous to the society that is sending away these uneducated young dope dealers, drug addicts and small-time criminals, only to have them return to their neighborhoods a few years later as focused and fully indoctrinated organized crime members.

This recent rise of gang activity is a complex problem with no easy fix. One solution may be segregation, designate a few prisons for known gang members and give the most gung-ho guards in the state hazard pay to work there. This would at least slow down recruitment. Maybe have mandatory classes that show the catastrophic consequences of gang violence, i.e. children caught in drive-bys at school bus stops, illiterate teens in bandanas with AR-15s, reformed OGs with redemptive messages. Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries has done groundbreaking work in this field, the department could seek his wise counsel. Maybe men could earn their way out of a “gang camp” through good behavior, renunciation, and a commitment to speak out against gang violence.

As with any bold move, I’m sure there would be logistics to explore and legal ramifications to consider. But if the Florida Department of Corrections does not address this dire situation now, by the year 2025, Florida won’t have a gang problem, it will have a gang crisis.

[This is Part 9 of an ongoing series, Fixing A Broken Prison System, which has its own tab on this website, where you can read Parts 1 – 8.] 

The universe has a sense of humor

Besides my books, the crowning achievement of my middle-age years is the fact that I haven’t received a disciplinary report (DR) since 2009. A major feat, considering that my prison history is littered with rule infractions: contraband, fighting, multiple positive drug urinalyses, disrespect. I’ve probably been to the hole 50 times (my last stay was for eight-and-a-half months). I’ve lost all my gain time, been sprayed with gas, roughed up, cased up, stripped, shipped, and most painfully, had my visitation privileges yanked. It’s been a long journey.

And even when I started focusing on changing my thought patterns and behaviors, even when I committed to reinventing myself, there was still no guarantee that I could remain DR-free. The wrong guard in the wrong mood on the wrong day could result in a 30-day trip to the hole. There’s no such thing as innocence here. Every inmate is guilty “based on an officer’s statement.” This is not some injustice I’m lamenting. This is just part of the prison experience. This is life.

So it was a minor miracle that I made it seven years without incident. Unfortunately, that streak came to an end last month.

There’s this new rule designating the showers “off limits” from 7:45 to 8:00 p.m. for everyone except transgender inmates. Whether enacted from genuine kindness or some future lawsuit paranoia, I’m not sure. But even if it is a heavy-handed reaction to what’s going on out there in the real world, it’s probably a good rule. I mean, if it stops even one person from being assaulted or gives them a few minutes of peace and security in this hostile and violent place, it’s a good rule, right?

The reason I violated it is simple: I forgot. As I said, the rule is brand new and anyway, there were no transgender inmates living in the dorm. So at 7:55, fully soaped and mentally entrenched in the epilogue of my latest novel, I was confronted by a guard and informed that I was being written a DR for entering the shower during the transgender-specified time frame. How did he know I didn’t identify as transgender? Training? Expert analysis? He had a lip full of tobacco and a Confederate flag tat. I’m pretty sure he’s no expert on the subject.

But that’s not the story. Neither is the story my historic run of years coming to an end. The interesting thing about all of this is that the DR raised my custody level, which changed my housing level, which means I am now in a new dorm. My neighbors went from those with release dates within the next 15 to 20 years to mostly lifers. There’s an amputee to my left doing a mandatory 40, a blind man to my right who’s been in since 1986, and the dude across the aisle is fresh off death row. Ironic because the book I just finished writing includes an amputee, a blind man, and a death row subplot. Either the universe has a sense of humor, or its satellites are delayed. Where were these guys while I was researching On the Shoulders of Giants?

[This post originally appeared on http://www.malcolmivey.com in May 2016.]

Mental illness in prison, why you should care

I have a friend who struggles with depression. She’s had a rough decade. In 2007 she was in a horrific car accident that killed her husband and left her with numerous broken bones, as well as two young children to raise alone. When a highly addictive painkiller finally ran out, heroin filled the gap and in 2012, she found herself in a women’s correctional facility serving three years.

As happens with many Americans struggling with depression, the doctor recommended Prozac and this, coupled with meditation and exercise, allowed her to begin to put her life back together. A pivotal part of her plan was work release, a program that allows nonviolent inmates to work in society during the final year of incarceration. With an 8- and 10-year-old at home already down one parent, she would be starting all over with nothing and needed to save some money. But in the end, she was denied entry into the work release program because she was prescribed a mood stabilizing drug which raised her psych level within the prison system. Once she became aware of this, she attempted to refuse her medication but it was too late. So a year later, she was released from a maximum security prison with nothing but a Greyhound bus ticket and a $50 check. So long, farewell, we’ll leave a light on for you.

Question: How many of your co-workers are on Zoloft, Celexa, or Prozac? I would guess that a substantial chunk of the American workforce is on some type of SSRI or MAO inhibitor.

I’m sure the Florida Department of Corrections’ intentions are well meaning. Nobody wants a bunch of Thorazine-soaked, shuffling, criminal psych patients drooling over the deep fryer at the local KFC. But there’s an obvious difference between a violent offender on anti-psychotic meds and a single mother struggling with depression.

This lazy, one-size-fits-all policy is a contributor to the recidivism cycle and only hurts the same society it is trying to protect. In addition to the beatings and gassings that have been showing up in the news over the last few years, this is yet another example of the department’s ineptitude regarding the mentally ill population. A complete overhaul is in order.

By the way, the girl? She’s kicking ass out there, despite the odds.

[This post is Part 5 of Malcolm Ivey’s series, Fixing A Broken Prison System, which appears under its own tab on this site.]

The opinionated voice in my head

I don’t know about you, but my brain came equipped with a paranoid, self-conscious backseat driver who is constantly bumping his gums about every catastrophic and humiliating potentiality that is mathematically possible in a given situation.

This is probably part of the reason why I continued getting high long after the party was over — silencing the inner noise, separating self from brain chatter. Although sometimes this backfired and the dope was like giving the voice in my head a bullhorn.

But this isn’t another of my anti-drug rants. I don’t even consider myself anti-drug. I just can’t use them. For me, drugs come with the curious side effect of landing in the back of police cars. In fact, I’m currently 11 years into a 30-year sentence for actions resulting from my voracious, insatiable appetite for mind-altering substances. But again, this is not about the drugs. This is about the voice.

If you’re thinking “Malcolm is a psycho, he’s got a voice in his head,” that would be the same voice I’m referring to. We’ve all got it. This highly opinionated, ultra-sensitive, threat-assessing, judgment-casting inner narrator who edits the inflow of the world through the senses with various degrees of inflection. Mine happened to be squawking this morning. I’ll explain…

I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a while, ever since I read Bo Lozoff’s We’re All Doing Time. I’ve been incarcerated for most of my life and I grew up hanging from the pull-up and dip bars on rec yards across the state of Florida. These sorts of exercises are a given, as routine as chow and count. There’s a reason why your crackhead nephew gets arrested skinny enough to hide behind a pine tree, and gets out with pecs like Lou Ferrigno. We get buff in here. It’s part of the prison experience.

Yoga has a different draw: flexibility, supple internal organs, reduced stress, increased energy, focus, concentration, peace of mind. At 42 years old, these things seem more important to me now than having massive biceps. So this morning I woke up, brushed my teeth, slammed a bottle of water, and settled into the Corpse pose in the space beside my bunk.

Almost immediately, the voice piped up: “You look weird, man.” I ignored it and climbed to my feet to attempt the sun salutation. The voice was silent for a moment, but by the time I reached downward dog, it was back with a nervous vengeance: “Dude, what the hell? People are staring. They’re gonna think you’re soft or gay or crazy.” The voice was right. Yoga postures aren’t exactly the most prison-friendly exercises. The last thing I wanted was some rapist checking me out while I attempted the plow.

I couldn’t help it. I opened an eye and surveyed the dorm. The guy across the aisle was zoned out on psych meds, another had toothpaste slathered over his face, the old man behind me was in a heated debate with an invisible opponent. No one was paying any attention to what I was doing.

I had to laugh at myself. Why was I sweating appearances when I live in a crazy house? Probably because my paranoid backseat driver convinced me yet again that my reputation, manhood, and very existence depended on it. Here’s hoping your voice is more laid-back than mine.

[This post originally appeared on http://www.malcolmivey.com in June 2016.]

The Behemoth and the Snowflake

They say that upon finishing a manuscript, writers should do something outside their comfort zone. Learn a foreign language, pick up a musical instrument, take a cooking class. Something that causes a different part of the brain to light up. I chose to learn Silat, an Indonesian fighting style that focuses on blocks, strikes and grappling.

The dude who’s teaching me is my polar opposite. A 330-pound, former powerlifter, military historian, ex-bouncer, Limbaugh-loving, NRA conservative who is always talking about the liberal media, fake news, and politically correct safe-space snowflakes.

Full disclosure: I think I’m a snowflake. Especially if that means I’m into human rights, civil rights, common sense gun legislation, clean water, clean air, and kindness. I even have a letter from President Obama in my photo album. Doesn’t matter. Through Silat, this neo-con behemoth and I seem to have found common ground, and after a little over a month of drilling, training, and sparring, I am excelling at the art.

It feels good to be excelling at something because lately I’ve been questioning my ability as a writer. My Amazon author ranking is hovering around two million (are there even two million authors in the world?). Literati industry snobs ignore my existence and, worst of all, my magnum opus, my Pillars of the Earth, my life’s work and beautiful child, On the Shoulders of Giants, has failed to place in a single contest this year. Crushing. I know… I sound like a whiny snowflake. Whatever.

So it was with a fair amount of hesitance that I passed my novel to this gruff, Fox News defensive tackle. I would have never considered doing so had he not already proven to be extremely intelligent and well read… almost to the point of arrogance. I wanted to earn his respect.

He smirked when he accepted it. “You wrote this?” I knew I was setting myself up for failure. On the Shoulders of Giants is a novel about race, addiction, lost love, gun violence, foster care and the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. Even the title is a nod to a famous President Obama speech. Not exactly required reading for Republicans. To further lengthen the long odds of his acceptance, dude is a sci-fi fan. I had already spotted Frank Herbert’s Dune series stacked on his bunk. Our literary tastes are as diametrically opposed as our politics. The question was not so much would he like the book? as it was would he finish it? Apparently my sadomasochistic snowflakery knows no bounds.

In the ensuing days, I watched him from across the dorm. He’s about as rough on a novel as you would expect from a sausage-fingered, powerlifting grizzly bear; dog-earing pages, folding the book back on its spine, setting his morning coffee on the cover. About midway through, we were sparring one day when I asked him how he liked it so far. He rolled his eyes. “Laden with white guilt.” But he read on.

It took less than a week for him to knock it out. One night he came and sat on my bunk, coffee-stained, dog-eared novel in hand. “You know,” he said, “what happened to Scarlett was…” He couldn’t finish his sentence. “Did you like it?” I asked. Tears streamed down his face. All the answer I needed. I placed a hand on his massive back. Humbled. Honored. Screw the contest snubs and academic cold shoulders. This guy’s emotional response was all the accolade I needed. A supreme compliment from the unlikeliest of readers.

And, by the way, it’s Mister Snowflake to you. Don’t forget, I know Silat.

Paradox and reluctant compassion

Every writer loves a good paradox. Our brains are trained to sniff out life’s Catch 22s and spin them into plot points:

A doctor must decide between saving a pregnant  mother or her unborn child. A cop with a drug dealer son must choose between loyalty to the job and loyalty to his family. A general has to decide between bombing a village or letting an international terrorist slip away…

These agonizing decisions are the beating heart of good fiction. They keep the pages turning and the reader engaged. But in real life, such dilemmas are a lot less fun. Consider the most recent in my world…

You’ve probably heard me talk about the blind man. He’s been in prison since 1986. I met him a couple of months ago when I moved into my current dormitory. He challenged me to a game of knock gin with his Braille playing cards and we’ve been cool ever since. I walk with him to the chow hall for meals, and most evenings we listen to Braves games together.

For the record, I am not friendly and I don’t require camaraderie. I think of myself as fully self-contained. I could do years on this bunk without speaking to a soul and be perfectly fine. I really prefer the conversation in my head to the conversations around me, and get cranky whenever someone interrupts. But I was intrigued by the blind man. Although my latest novel, On the Shoulders of Giants, touches on a form of blindness called retinopathy, I’ve never actually hung out with a blind person and I was curious to learn how accurate my assumptions were. Plus, this dude has a sunny disposition in spite of his handicap and I admired his self-sufficiency.

The more I got to know him, the more I liked him. He told me stories about riding bicycles while flanked tightly by his two brothers who kept his course true, about the one time he drove a car (!), about his proficiency at the sport of wrestling as a kid in the 50s. When I asked him about the school for the blind where he lived from ages 5 to 18, his usual smile faded. “There were some nice people there, but some were just plain evil.”

I shouldn’t have looked him up. I usually don’t. Nobody is in prison for going to church, and I’d rather not know the sordid details of people’s criminal histories. But there are a couple of exceptions: 1) if we’re cellmates; and 2) if we’re friends. Then I need to know.

In hindsight, it was pretty obvious. What else could he be in prison for? Racketeering? Arson? A blind armed robber? I think I just assumed it was murder. I mean, he does have a life sentence. Turns out, it was something much uglier. Sexual battery. The worst kind. On a child younger than 12. Enter the paradox.

I know what you’re thinking: What paradox? He’s a diaper sniper. Case closed. I feel you. In the hierarchy of prison, child molesters are at the very bottom of the food chain, just below punks and snitches. During my quarter-century in the joint, I’ve witnessed them get turned out, pimped out, and traded like baseball cards until they eventually either commit suicide or check into protective custody. Those who manage to escape that fate are still robbed, extorted, or at the very least, slapped around and relentlessly ridiculed. Although I don’t participate in the abuse, I don’t have any sympathy either. I see it as karmic law in action.

I’m sure there are parents out there who take small solace in the fact that these men are being tormented in here. I know if one of my nieces or nephews were victimized, I would transfer to every prison in the state until I found the predator and punished him for his actions.

But this blind man… I can’t make myself hate him, or even be cold to him, in spite of whatever he did thirty years ago. This is a big-time conflict of interest. No self-respecting convict would ever treat a cho-mo like a human being. I keep rationalizing, maybe he’s innocent. It seems like the only thing worse than being a child molester is being an innocent man wrongly convicted of those charges.

And then there’s the evil he alluded to at the school for the blind. They say most predators were once victims. The idea of a little blind kid, hundreds of miles from home, being abused by some twisted staff member is as sickening as it is heartbreaking. I couldn’t hate that kid, even though he is now pushing 70. The best that I can do is this reluctant compassion. But see what I mean? Paradox.

[This post originally appeared on malcolmivey.com in July 2016.]
 

A transformative craft

“If your life were a book, would you like your character?”

These words have been nibbling at my conscience for years, surfacing at the most inopportune times – while cheating on a girlfriend, stealing from a family member, cooking cocaine in a spoon… The answer was always the same: “No, I would not like my character. I would HATE my character.”

There are few things in this world as unsustainable and soul-sucking as drug abuse. This is far from breaking news. The hard math states that someone in your orbit is suffering right now, be it your child, sibling, significant other, friend, neighbor, co-worker or yourself. For most, the needle and the crack pipe are a life sentence of enslavement. However, there are exceptions. Some find Jesus, others escape through a 12-step program, and I would never underestimate the healing properties in the love of a woman. But for me, the way out was through the written word.

When I first began Consider the Dragonfly I did so in desperation. It was a Hail Mary, a half-court buzzer beater, my last shot to escape the quicksand of my old patterns and do something honorable. The universe gave me the bonus plan. Barely a few pages into the first chapter, the characters shimmered to life. Protagonists and antagonists whispered backstory into my heart, explaining why they were the way they were, confiding secrets and fears and dreams, drawing me deeper into the world of story. And while I was busy being a conduit, head down, scribbling furiously, a sort of alchemy was taking place in my own world. Impulsivity was converted to discipline. Recklessness was exchanged for structure. I was suddenly protective of my remaining brain cells and mournful of those I had squandered. The craft was changing me.

There is something empowering about writing a novel, something spiritual about plugging into the collective consciousness and transcribing the flow of words from the ether, something transformative. I’ve been clean for a few years now. My second book, With Arms Unbound, will be out this summer and I’m presently knee-deep in a new project. Some will say that I’ve merely swapped addictions. Maybe so. I’m cool with that. Because today when that old question pops into my head – “If your life were a book, would you like your character?” – the answer is a resounding “HELL YEAH!”

[This post originally appeared on malcolmivey.com in June 2014.]

 

 

Think of yourself as a nation

There is a villain in my second novel, With Arms Unbound, with the unfortunate name of Festus Mulgrew. He’s a meth cook from central Florida with a pet spider named Junior and a problem making eye contact. Like any decent villain on the page or the screen, Festus wasn’t born bad. There are reasons why he is the way he is. But that doesn’t make him any less dangerous. If anything, his humanity makes him even scarier, or at least more believable.

I can’t do the mustache-twirling bad guy any more than I can do the square-jawed, puppy-saving hero. I’ve never met anyone like that. My heroes are flawed and my villains have at least a couple of redeeming qualities. Just like in real life.

When sketching the character of Festus “Methlab” Mulgrew, in addition to giving him a backstory rife with abuse and abandonment, I gave him a personal philosophy for survival under harsh conditions. That philosophy is also my own. The difference is that while Festus used it in a negative way, it has helped me to quit drugs, adhere to a strict workout regimen, manage money, develop discipline, be assertive, and focus long enough to write a few books.

If anyone within the sound of this pen is struggling with self-mastery, this may help: Think of yourself as a nation. I am the United Federation of Malcolm Ivey and like any other sovereign country, I am composed of the following:

~ Borders: These are my boundaries. Thou shalt not cross.
~ Allies: My homeboys. Every nation has alliances.
~ Enemies: Other hostile nations. In my world there are many.
~ Military: My defense system. Keep strong and confident through regular exercise and stand ready to protect my borders and allies against any threat.
~ National Debt: The money I owe.
~ GDP: The money I earn.

You can even give yourself a national bird and your own anthem if you want. The point is to take a hard look at all the various agencies that make up your nation and ask yourself if they’re being run efficiently. We ultimately have the power to mold ourselves into nations with robust economies, plentiful natural resources, and solid foreign relations. We can eliminate our deficits, strengthen our alliances and win our wars. Whether we choose to be a super power or a third world country is entirely up to us.

[This post originally appeared on malcolmivey.com in July 2014.]

Botox for the soul

We’ve all known loudmouths. There’s one in every hood, every club, every schoolyard, every basketball court, every prison dorm. They’re everywhere, beating on their chests, threatening, bullying, shadowboxing, trumpeting their own toughness. And most of the time, we believe them. So it’s always surprising when someone comes along and knocks them on their ass. They were all form and no substance.

How about that dude who’s constantly spouting off about politics? He’s brilliant and he wants to make certain that you know he’s brilliant. What’s this guy even doing working a 9 to 5 job? He should be hosting Face the Nation. Yet when engaged in conversation with him, it becomes clear that he’s merely repeating the opinions of others, that he’s woven a mask from the words of Fox News analysts and talk-radio blowhards. And underneath there is no substance.

Have you ever met a beautiful person whose good looks were nullified by a selfish, shallow personality? An intellectual with no common sense? A loyal church-goer with no compassion? Form is vinyl siding; substance is a house’s foundation. Form is candy paint and chrome rims; substance is a V8 engine. Rippling muscle, hairpieces, tats, piercings, boob jobs: form. Courage, honor, faithfulness, 16-hour workdays during Christmas: substance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing form. There’s something to be said for a nice body, a sparkling white smile, a sick tattoo. But if there’s no substance, then all the shiny outside stuff is basically expensive wrapping paper over a pair of tube socks.

How would I know? What qualifies me to speak on this subject? The short answer is: I’m a master of form. I am all of the above (minus the hairpiece and boob job) and after spending the better part of 40 years creating “the illusion of” instead of being, my chameleonic ways have left me feeling empty, phony, insubstantial. That’s what has led me on this fantastic journey of self-exploration, of spinal fortification, of reconciling inner with outer.

Form never lasts. Pretty words evaporate. Skin sags, teeth rot, hair eventually falls out. It’s inevitable. When I’m 90, do I want to be a miserable clot of fears and complaints and regret? Or a beacon of light? The relentless pursuit of character is Botox for the soul. Choose substance.

[This post originally appeared on malcolmivey.com in November 2014.]

 

1 4 5 6 8