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Bad Mojo – a podcast, plane crash, and two murders within weeks



Some strange shit had been going down in my office building. A handyman who ran a wood-working shop below my office got arrested for killing a cult leader. No you did not read that wrong. It’s a weird sentence to write. The dude’s name was Sorek Minery. And he was a dude, a seemingly laid back dead head type. Seems he was caught up in a cult called The Work started by a scary fella his followers called Julius Christ. He thought he was God proper. That was crazy enough, but then some weeks later a clerk at a local grocer was arrested for murder too. He reportedly raped and killed a woman on the bike path that ran just past our office. I talked to this oddly friendly fella daily, so that hit home too. So two big wtf moments. I called up my buddy Shannon Cason to get his take on this weirdness. He hosts and produces Homemade Stories and The Trouble for Chicago’s WBEZ radio.  Both are killer shows. Anyway, at that point I was considering making it the subject of a podcast series called Bad Mojo.

He liked it the idea of talking to the phenomenon of bad shit glomming together. He’d run into bad mojo. He’d lived on hairy edge as a gambler. He knew there was something real there. I told him about some of the other strange shit that’d been going on, like our office manager had lost her partner in a local plane crash a few days before Sorek’s arrest went down. My life had also been going sideways too. So bad mojo was in the air it seemed. “Could this stuff came as a package deal,” I wondered? Seemed like a good question to ask, although not an original one. Shannon agreed.

After our chat, I realized this idea of bad mojo is pretty complicated. When bad shit happens nobody really wants to deal with it. People prefer to avoid anything bad. It’s easy to see this because people start asking weird shit around difficult stuff like “why is this happening to me?” This is silly, because it’s really just life they’re talking about.  It’s like a spell. The truth is everybody knows there’s up and downs, good and bad in life. If you’re human you know there’s going to be shitstorms. But the moment a person is confronted by the darker side of life a different version of the person comes out. This version acts as though bad shit was never supposed to happen. It’s like a prejudice for the good stuff gets unleashed, or perhaps it’s more a delusion. The person is saying “it’s ok if bad shit happens to other people, but not me.” Perhaps this is the Maya the Buddhist’s are referring to. Most of us prefer to let our mind’s determine what’s real, and it does. Reality’s too painful. 

I’m not going to lie, this bad mojo shit took me for a spin. I was looking at this phenomenon from the eye of the hurricane to speak. But bad mojo is really just the unexpected. But the darker side of it, the stuff that amplifies our uncertainty and pain. The truth is life is mostly good stuff. More days than not the fucking sky’s not falling, so that’s easy enough to see. So the phenomenon of bad mojo is a situation where the script gets flipped. Suddenly we’re knocked out of comfort zone. We live on our assumptions that the good stuff will just keep going forever.  But it won’t, and when gone we’re exposed to the stinky underbelly of life. Bad shit is real. And worse, when it’s bad mojo, it’s like a hose gets turned on the bad keeps coming.  It’s jarring when you see it happening, and way worse when it’s happening too you. Perhaps a good analogy is like you head to a church for a church breakfast but when you open the door you get punched in the face. Nobody expects bad when you assume the good. Bad luck, hard luck, or whatever you want to call it, when bad clumps together it creates a whiplash effect. The weirdness pumps a disquieting fear into our suffering. It inspires a sort of disturbance. You can watch it happening. People start asking questions they might have preferred ignore their entire lives. Like “why do some people get more good in life than bad,” and “why’s all this shit happening too me or them?” Those are examples of people assuming prejudice. It’s like bad is unreal.  

What’s bad about bad mojo is you quickly realize the stories you’ve clung onto in life may not be enough. Beliefs about about reality, free will, faith, fairness, and destiny, may fall short. We may turn to science, psychology, religion, family, or wisdom stories. But the experience of bad mojo is high strangeness. It’s so jolting it asks more than our stories can offer. When it persists around people caught in tragic incidents like wars, epic illness, or in cases like the holocaust, the misery can twist humans into something no longer recognizably human. It takes humans beyond human. Perhaps that’s why people like Victor Frankl are true studies in miracles. We want life to make sense, and when it doesn’t, we are forced to make sense of ourselves. It’s a rare person who can survive life truly turning upside down.  

I wondered if that’s what happened to the guy below me, Sorek. Had misery twisted him into something beyond human? The day I gotten the news I went down to his workspace to poke around abit- you know research. And damned if I didn’t run into the guy’s wife! She was getting his equipment appraised. Her husband was the bread winner apparently and she had kids to feed. It was a sad and awkward moment. We’d locked eyes, and I was frozen for a brief moment. I felt for her. I was struck by how seemingly normal and pretty she was. I then felt silly that somewhere I was carrying an expectation that I’d be able to see why she’d married a monster. I’d apparently also already judged this guy as a monster too. Perhaps this guy wasn’t a monster at all, but just another confused man that fucked up big time. Is every murderer a monster? Maybe bad mojo had run loose in his life for god knows how long. Who knows? 

I’d been caught in bad mojo. My life had gone sideways before, and recently even. So I wondered why him and not me?… Why I am the guy mixing podcasts up stairs and he’s the guy who got caught up in a cult and murder? 

This is a creepy question. We’ve grappled with the notions of good and evil probably since we popped out of the ether. And it’s unsettling. We all like to believe we know we’re capable of.  And more, who we are. But what if bad mojo took up roost in your life?… Like it not just visiting, but rented a room in your home and stayed just screwing up your life daily? Like Job in the bible. It’s a impossible question to answer until you’ve experienced bad mojo yourself. It’s a perspective that can only be earned the hard way. When life turns upside down, who will you be?…






The Almighty Wipeout

One upside to my crazy life is I’ve got to know some pretty cool folks along the way. Great adventurers, questioners, and super-powered weirdos just gobbling up life. Basically relentless truth seekers that often fire my hope. 
So I got to chat with buddy John Allen on his OA Podcast. He’s a former Navy SEAL and now CEO of Elite Meet and newly launched Nacho Media. We talked about failure, which is a normal and buzzy enough thing to do now adays. But we talked about my quitting Navy SEALs training (aka BUDS), a flipside which oddly doesn’t get addressed much anywhere, let alone in the spec forces commmunity. Besides whisking me back to a screwy check-in day  (I’d gotten robbed at the bus station before I arrived) I got the chance to wax poetic about the power of the almighty wipeout. And I’m talking big pic life wipeouts here folks, not just the military kind. 
Hmm, combo life + wipeout you get “Lifeouts.” Maybe that’s a good word for them.
Anyway, I got to revisit some of the flimsy but seemingly “great” ideas ambitious young men like moi hang our hats on when launching into manhood. My 19 year’s hero’s journey was riddled with fear. Fears about failure motivated just about everything I did. I was a true wanabee super hero, and no shame in that. I’d guess that description fit most of my fellows at BUD/s. But training, ironically, would teach me oodles about how to undo such hero bullshit. But that’s nuance and more psychology than I’m willing to air out here in a blog post. 
The short story is I couldn’t handle the pain. I was a noodle on a superhero’s mission. Pain – real gut-wreching pain- brings out every niggling weakness you carry. And I was encountering pain I never imagined possible. So I made lots of new discoveries about my weaknessess. And I did not like it.
I think for most it’s easy to sidestep pain in everyday life. Pain isn’t constant, especially if you’re lucky to live in an America or another free market economy. It comes in spurts and cycles. Pain has become something to avoid, plan for, and control. And that’s sensible because pain sucks. But eventually everyone gets whacked by a shitstorm they couldn’t see coming. Then we do the next best thing with pain – we cover it up. Could be with food, drugs, pain, sex, religion, entertainment, whatever. This is just another attempt at control. We even dose for pain. We plan on how much pain we’ll allow into our lives. We do this through exercise routines, or controlled exposures to “growth” experiences like psychedelics, or silly amounts of time in the sauna or ice baths, or family dinners (I’m joking on the last one). We do this because pain exposes our vulnerabilities. All our shoddy parts become visible for all to see. Well I tell you folks there’s no hiding from pain in BUDS.  And it’s not the kind you can plan for or hide from. It’s uncomfortable. Pain is just coming at you every which way but loose. With a firehose. Consequently there’s no hiding from yourself, and I for one had alot to hide from.
Like many if not all 19 year olds, I was selfish and insecure. But I had some wounds too. So my dream of becoming a superhero wasn’t built on anything of substance. Truthfully, it was held together by bravado, bullshit, and bubblegum. Oh and shitty action movies. It was a cover up for stuff I wasn’t prepared to change. Perhaps that’s another reason for the high failure rate in BUDS- pain causes people to lose sight of their strengths and deal with their weaknesses. Perhaps weakness is a poor choice of words here. It’s more like work that needs completing but hasn’t been started yet, call them starting points. Anyway, when you’re beat down and weak you’re suffering, and real suffering makes you lose sight of freedom real fucking fast. Either you take action and find a way to avoid becoming a victim or sink. In other words, you’re forced to create freedom on the inside. And by freedom I mean reasons to keep your dream alive and keep going. And that’s hard work. The truths of lessons like these still speak to me daily.  I think it’s partly because BUD/s felt so close to a living hell the lessons sank in like traumas. The really bad and good stuff get seared into your memory. So the insights have just kept on giving.
But quitting BUD/s led a genuine crisis of purpose- and that was priceless. We live in a culture so devoid of legit purpose we typically have to manufacture our rites of passage. Consequently the whole purpose thing ends up being a crap shoot for young adults. I think that’s what motivated a Gen X’er like me to consider SEALs. I knew I was going to get my ass beat, for real. And that I’d be held accountable for an adventure I couldn’t possibly prepare for. This rites of passage issue doesn’t seem like it’s disappeared. People are as lost as ever. Suicide’s up. Perhaps that’s one reason for the rise of Spartan Races, and video game becoming a sporting event, collegiate overdoses, and the resurgence of entrepreneurship with young and old, etc. Who knows. But the well of sorrow I dove into into made for a big slash. I had a major wake up call to discover the who, what, and where behind the person I am today. It was messy too. I can tell you as 19 year old I didn’t go into special forces training expecting to get a existential lesson on freedom. Truthfully my plan was real fucking simple. I’d become a globe trotting super hero and hopefully later an astronaut.  Zero jokes here folks. But a lesson on freedom is what I got. 
When you check into BUD/s training there’s the Creature From The Black Lagoon and a sign that reads, “the only easy day was yesterday.” It took me 10 years or so after quitting to realize that sign wasn’t only about BUD/s training. It’s also a reference to life. There is no easy way. There is only freedom, and whether we get a good spin or bad, we all will ultimately will have to learn how to transform our struggle to understand how to use it. Personally I think the day we understand what to do with our freedom is the day the real adventure starts. Life is a school that rewards mastery it seems. 
So if you want to check out our chat, click this link to >> The OA Podcast 
And here’s a link to John Allens instagram profile.
He’s prolific, and writing daily. So if you’re looking for warrior wisdom, John’s got a solid but approachable take.
And if you’re interested in my early dipshit adventures, I did a story on my spin out of BUD/s called >>Almost Hero <<. It was a shitshow of shitshows for awhile, and a special kind of misery that’s funny when you’re 20 years past it. Not that I don’t have shitshows now, because I still do, they’re just easier because I’m more aware and resilient now.
Also, John was featured on the episode titled >>   “Gamer.”  << The dude was the world’s top ranked player in the EAS video game “Skate” before signing up to become a Navy SEAL hopeful. The combo of gaming and SEALs stories made for a bang on episode. John’s just awesome too.
Ok, that’s a wrap. Stay true in the meantime folks,