Dennis Brown

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Isn't it ironic that in order to be free and successful at anything in life, you first have to put yourself in prison?

What do all inmates have? Time. It's what they do with it that matters. With that time, they can reflect on their lives and improve themselves to not make those bad choices anymore. They can also read, and exercise. This stucture is basically forced upon them because there's not much else to do, and many times, the things that are forced upon us we grow to resent. so upon release, that strcture many times isn't maintained by that individual... The only way to succeed is to learn to adopt that structure for oursleves. When we take the time to read, exercise and reflect on our lives, we instantly become better and improve our odds of success in any field.

When studying to become, say, a doctor there's a certain isolation from everyday things that you have to endure because this process takes up so much time. With that isolation, you are in fact an inmate, in a good way. The "prison" structure has been placed upon you. You don't completly live in isolation, even people in prison have contact with other inmates and get visits from family, but you do want to have this stucture, and when you do, your mind becomes the prison guard that keeps you from bad choices, and propels you to the successful completion of your goals.

I hope this makes sense to you, and helps you in whatever journey you may be on.

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    Dec 3 2011: What you are speaking of is called DISCIPLINE ... NOT PRISON. As much as I get your point... when it comes to American society and in particular African American males... I would refrain from using the expression "put yourself in prison". First of all too many white Americans believe that is the best place for African American males and on the other hand too many African American males have accepted prison as a right of passage for becoming a man. Prison has too many correlations to slavery to offer it as a positive thing... especially coming from a African American male. Please visit my blog entitled "BEYOND THE STEREOTYPES" http://raymapp.blogspot.com/2009/04/miracles-beyond-stereotypes.html it helps to make my point. DISCIPLINE IS REQUIRED TO BE SUCCESSFUL ... I AGREE.
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    Dec 4 2011: @ Ray ~ To address what you said about whites wanting to see us in prison: The fact of the matter is that if a certain sector of people feel as though another sector of people should be incarcerated than that belief is there no matter what, not going to change based on me using that metaphor, nor is me using that metaphor the cause of a person or people feeling that way. Nor does it perpetuate how they feel because in the context I use it, it runs counter to how they feel. So I disagree with you there.

    You’re right when you say too many black males think of prison as a right of passage, which lends more of a reason for them to look at it differently, and use the knowledge to put a structure in their lives.


    Let's keep things in perspective. When you bring race into a discussion such
    as this where it doesn’t play a role in the overall lesson, you take away from the validity of your argument. The incarceration rate is disproportionate, and that is a racial topic, but that’s also a different discussion, and has no place in what I’m referring to as far as a person putting structure on themselves. Again, let's keep things in perspective.

    I’m all for a debate, but I put this in the "idea" section and not the "debate" section for a reason. If you can benefit from what I wrote, then use it and apply it to your life to become better, if you have no use for it, then simply pass.

    @ Victoria ~ In prison it is not complete isolation, and you’re not completely locked away. You’re physically locked up, but they can’t lock up your mind, that’s a choice by the person… this is why I know, and come in contact on a daily basis with people who are physically free, but mentally in prison, a dynamic that really needs to change. It’s simply a metaphor for the need of mental elevation.

    @ Asgar ~ Good point

    @ Robin ~ Hope you don't mind if I borrow that analogy.
  • Dec 15 2011: Say hey, Dennis.
    I'm not going to say I understood what you were saying (I think I do), but I am going to say that your words carried to me a message of "rising above" or gaining more than one kind of freedom, a freedom that is both literal and metaphorical, and well said.
    Wherever they may have come from and however they may have come, we all have deep-seated convictions that we live by and many times we don't even know what they are. But, in the word "convictions" is the word "convict" and we are, and may remain, a prisoner to our own beliefs. We are fighting for our freedom from them and for a real freedom in the world. The biggest battle is with and over ourselves, as you said it.
    Make no mistake about it, those who are not in real prisons are as much "institutionalized" if not more so, than those inside real prison walls. If they weren't, in the case of white people in my opinion and I am white, they wouldn't support the "criminalization" of so many others simply by the use of laws, poverty, inequality, slavery, racism, bigotry and other "false beliefs", as gospel that they have had dumped upon them for decades and decades.
    There is no way to study a so-called "criminal mind" until it is done so in a society in which there truly is, NO REASON TO BE A CRIMINAL. We can achieve this, but many do not want to because they cannot envision a world such as this. They are prisoners to their false, embedded, and very deep-seated convictions and then go about imprisoning others!
    Those who disagree with you seem to me to want their truth acknowledged but they won't acknowledge yours and how you framed it with your words. Nothing wrong with what you said and how you said it. How it works for you is right and true. How you understand the world, how to change, how to grow is up to you. Hopefully, to grow will not only be
    "grrrrr...ow!"
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    Dec 4 2011: @ Thomas Brucia ~ It takes a lot of courage to thrust yourself into another culture. That would be a great opportunity.


    @ Dylan ~ keep us all up to date on your film projects.
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    Dec 4 2011: @Victoria: "The person in prison does not have themselves to answer to; they answer to the rules imposed upon them. "

    Doesn't "they answer to the rules imposed upon them" describe all societies? It certainly describes all the ones I've lived in (U.S., Spain, Thailand, England...) Not to mention working in any corporation.....
  • Dec 4 2011: I see the irony in your statement, but for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, it first has to cocoon itself.
    I also agree wholeheartedly with your statement. Input is equivalent to output.
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    Dec 3 2011: It did make a sense to me. Confinement helps a person to reflect and depending upon his mental set up, when released he comes out as a better human being. Just read a News report on A. Raja the telecom Minister and prime accused in 2G scandal, who has insisted that he would seek bail only after all other accused with him are set free. According to him after comforts as Minister - jail has brought parity now. There many thousands of such stories, this is just one that I read in today's News Paper.

    This is actual prison for the wrong does, but for our betterment and growth, we can create our own prison, we can confine our selves within some set and proven parameters, whose benefits have been established, and work with due diligence and focus. This will greatly help and at the same time like a fortress, protect us and our endeavor from negative influences.

    When the sage Diogenes was overpowered by some ruffians and bought to the slave market to be sold, he walked ahead with such demeanor, that one who did not know thought that he was the 'master' and his captives were the slaves brought to be sold.

    For me personally this 'life' is prison, but a good one where if I do my best, in spite of all the obstacles, if I am honest with myself, one day I will be handed the 'key' to my freedom (death) and I will be for ever free, of which I am sure, but all the same I will wishfully think of 'my time' well spent in the confinement.
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    Dec 28 2011: @Laura Ladd
    Anyone can change,anywhere, at any time. It only requires the want and conviction to look within yourself and stop believing the lies we tell ourselves. Many lecturers say that all the answers are within ourselves and that's 100% true. We may lie until we believe it ourselves, but we still know the truth, it's always there. True change come when we walk within ourselves and confront the hard stuff, deal with it and learn from it. Anyone who will not do that is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again until they decide they've had enough and do something about it. My motivation was that I wanted a family one day, but who would want me the way I was? I did everything I needed to to become a man that I could be proud of and that was capable of handling the responsibilities of a family as well as the difficulties. Find your reason, your need, then work for it, if not, then you obviously don't want it bad enough or are still blinded thinking there is nothing wrong with you, that everyone else has the problem. It's a simple question of "Do I, or Don't I?"
  • Dec 18 2011: I highly recommend you (and everyone else) watch this documentary (see URL below). It shows you that lives can be dramatically changed for the better- even behind bars! It's truly amazing and inspirational. What these men learned changed their lives forever!! It was the only hope these inmates had. Murderers and rapists found answers in their darkest hours. Victims found peace. You'll be in awe of these true stories!!

    It's from 2008, yet timeless in relevance:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/255596/the-dhamma-brothers
  • Dec 17 2011: I guess it depends on how we view accomplishing things in our lives. Randy Pausch said in his last lecture that "brick walls are there for a reason." I sort of live by this kind of philosophy; I feel free overall, but there are still confines that I want to break through, and I have to steadfastly work to take them apart. However, I can also understand that with hard work comes blocking out certain distractions and knowing that you want to achieve a goal to the fullest.
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    Dec 16 2011: It sounds ironic indeed, but maybe you just need to find another analogy that doesn't induce such a negative feeling.
    I personally prefer to compare life to aspects of physics or chemistry. They seem to fit quite often.
    For example the conservation of energie. Energie can't be created or destroyed. Only converted into other forms of energie.
    In this case it would mean to take parts of your time and social life and convert them into knowledge, which will be of more use to you later in life than the fact that you spent your time drinking in your early twenties.
  • Dec 15 2011: i agree that knowledge is freedom, and knowledge comes with time. but knowledge also comes from experience, and inmates do not have the freedom of experience and exploration like the rest of us.
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    Dec 15 2011: all those that enjoys theire comfort zones never succeeds in their doings. It is true one has to be aprisoner of his work or business or an idea or even proffeson. if one expect good future, a future that has no stress, a future that earns you happyness you must be aprissoner of the current activity. The lezy people always ends their lifes with lots of troubles and sorrowness. This is true.
  • Dec 14 2011: I am currently having the problem that this conversation addresses. I already know this idea, I've seen or heard a thousand forms of it but I still have this problem. Thank you for posting this. I don't know if reading yet another form of this has actually helped me, but thank you anyway.

    My favorite form: "Eating chocolate every meal keeps you from appreciating it."
  • Dec 10 2011: This is so even my Mom tells me that but (there are always but), in those moments I remember the Eddy Murphys Show "Raw" when he tells that he will take a woman from woods, with bone on nose and who rides on some animal, and so on how the woman changes during the friends and so..I think the most important thing is Your dignity (I think that men understand that, after all we live in mens world), no one, no where can not take it if You do not let Your self down-the dignity for men comes I think form home, Mom gives it to You when she tells You that You will be a great man, a man with respect, when Mom tells You that no matter of what she loves You and You are very important to her and Father too he has to be the man who tells kids that some things are natural and some are not-sadly many Moms nowadays think only them selves, even Dads not love kids so much -so I think that this the knowing that You are needed and loved, will save You from the bad. My music teacher told me that if You learn to play some instrument it will save You from bad (prison and all). In my opinion troubles come form lack of parents care, love and all-sometimes parents have to do things not for them selves, but for kid because it is important for the kid-maybe the kid needs that You have to cheer hem/her now -You have to find time-it is not the same after 5 minutes 5 year or more, some things must done now-this what is good or bad we everyone feel that-the question is do we like or want to feel it? Do I want to be better or do the right things-the prison is in Your head not the world....Well after all it is normal to think that way it shows that You are grown up (that is how my Mom tells me) So welcome to the grownups world!!!!!! :)))
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    Dec 10 2011: Almost everyone needs to find inspiration, a reason to create change in their lives, the catalyst. Prison is the place you get stuck in until you recognize the need for change and actively pursue the means to create the needed change. At 19, I was sentenced to 7 years in prison for assault. After 5 years, I saw my friends dying around me, I saw them missing the lives of their families and refusing to admit that they had a problem and it needed fixing. That day, I found my catalyst. However, I knew that I didn't have any answers, any idea of how I could affect a permanent change in my way of thinking to become the person I wanted to be. I enrolled myself into therapy groups, read as many books as I could find on morals, self-help and psychology. When I left, I was told that they would be holding a cell for me, because statistically speaking, anyone doing such a long term for a violent crime had a 90% return rate within ten days. It has been 12 years now. Prison didn't make the changes, the psychologists didn't make the changes, I made the changes, that is the only way it works. Anyone physically in prison, is also mentally in prison. The vast majority not physically in prison are mentally in prison. The only difference is the place and the limits we have morally placed on ourselves. Anyone can change, anyone is capable of creating a better life for themselves, of being happy, but it starts within. You can join therapy groups, go to conferences, see shrinks, but unless you internalize what you learn and apply it 100%, you will never see results and will continue to blame everyone else for that failure. Take responsibility, find your direction and do it like your life depends on it, because it does.
  • Dec 9 2011: Discipline should not feel like a prison if it does you're not doing what you really want to be doing...that is the brutal truth!Metaphors are just another way to poetize our lives that we in truth hold most of the control over. It all comes down to choices...You used prison as a metaphor... well allow me friend to dispute this... while in prison the guard and the warden will force you to remain in order, but that doesnt mean you will achieve the necessary goal, which should be to never be placed in jail again. It might take you out of it for a while it does not guarantee success, what does is the will, the passion, the drive to achieve your goals and nothing else, that alone will keep you straight, that alone will keep you out of "Prison", there is no need for walls or guards or chains...
  • Dec 9 2011: My friend what is this prison you speak of? Time? My friend you make time... you do not need to be imprisoned to actually have time to do something. I work long hours, I hang out with friends and family but I always make time for what is important for me...writing. I sleep less, I use up every small gap I have to do what I want. To state that one needs to submit him or herself to a prison is something I simply cannot understand or accept. Look at your life, look at it hard, be honest with yourself, and then finaly ask the question... could I be using my time better? And if so what sacrifices will I need to do in order to change this?
    We all have time, too much of it, the time it took for you to write your peice here on this web site and share your frustration with us was enough time to be doing whatever it is you want to do...and yet you chose to write this piece.
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    Dec 8 2011: There is an important distinction to be made here. In the prison (actual jail) scenario it is (normally) involuntary confinement. Short of going into witness-protection, most convicts are there against their will. In the studying to become a doctor, it is more like voluntary fortification. The isolation is similar but the structure of the walls are different. Confining one's self to a purpose (any purpose) is very different than being confined against one's will. In many ways the former is harder than the latter. When in jail, the only way to escape is to escape a secured facility with armed guards...extremely hard to do and that's not a surprise to anyone. So if someone says to you, hey let's get out of this prison, you can look at the realistic chance of success and either fight long odds or stay put. You are just the prisoner. When confining yourself to a purpose, you are the only one who keeps you in place. In many cases people around you, including those who support and care about you, will try to pull down your walls and it is up to your resolve to keep those walls in place. You are the prisoner and the jailor.

    This is an interesting way of looking at confinement/fortification/solitude and its effect on personal success (in some endeavor).
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    Dec 8 2011: Thank you, Dennis, for a very interesting insight.
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    Dec 4 2011: I’m wearing a white shirt right now. I’m sure there's no shortage of people who are willing to debate me as to this truth... some may say it's eggshell or coconut or whatever other way people want to describe it. “Putting yourself in prison”, “discipline”, “structure”, the conclusion is the same and the fact remains, that it's needed... no matter how you label it. I chose to use a metaphor that many people that I know can relate to. Others may relate to "discipline. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as they relate, and improve.

    I know people who when in prison have the time to reflect on their choices, change their ways, read and get in shape. Only to be released and give in to the temptations of things that’s no good for them. The point that I’m making is that it shouldn’t take going to literal prison for a person to have that structure for themselves. When people come home and I explain that to them they completely understand. When I speak of “put yourself in prison” It’s a metaphor, not a literal thing, that has a lot to do with what is needed for success.


    @ David ~ I agree with what you said. To add though: You can stare at the stars and the moon and dream all you want, but if you don’t have the structure to do what needs to be done, that’s all you will ever have is a dream. Anything taken to an extreme can have negative backlash on one’s life. Total isolation and forsaking ones relationships is not what I’m getting at, relationships should be maintained, but you can’t hang out all the time like you may want to if you plan on accomplishing worthwhile things. I agree with what you said about being happy, what good is life if you don’t enjoy, not just the success, but the journey on the way there.
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    Dec 4 2011: I very much like the metaphor you are using to explain what basically is a good work ethic. Right now I am getting into film making and I have found that I have cut myself off from the outside world. I have practically buried myself in my projects. I often envy extreme introverts that thrust themselves into their passions.

    But couldn't you say the reverse is true? After all, don't we have to limit parts of our personalities in order to become socially successful?
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    Dec 4 2011: What you say makes *perfect* sense to me. I went to Spain as a student (many years ago!) and isolated myself as much as I could from English-speakers. (I had friends from France, Peru, Puerto Rico, Germany, etc). Our lingua franca was Spanish. I carried my Spanish-English dictionary wherever I went, along with a plastic-sheeted 'grammar guide'. I read Spanish novels -- from Unamuno to Pio Baroja to Valle-Inclan. I read Spanish poetry from Gongora to Garcia Lorca. I read Spanish newspapers from ABC to El Pais. In short, I left the cell-block marked "America" and voluntarily threw myself into the cell-block known as "Spain". I spent a year in Spain (and many years later another year, much less confined....). I don't regret a day of it, though it was very tough, lonely and challenging.
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    Dec 4 2011: The two scenarios are different. One is absolute, the other is relative. In a real tangible prison cell all you have is time and you are in fact an inmate. There is a structure around you, a very physical one. Whereas when somebody is studying as an academic, or to become a doctor the single-mindedness one has to appropriate is not a given. Not every student becomes single-minded and focused in isolation. Some people lack that discipline, some people simply cannot work that way. Some need music, some need noise on the periphery and some as you correctly deduce need pure silence. However because every individual is different and therefore the way in which they process information is different and thus the work they work is different the two scenarios are not comparable. When a person only has themselves to answer to, they tend to function in the way they find most comfortable. In this scenario, that is the academic, or the person studying to be a doctor. The person in prison does not have themselves to answer to; they answer to the rules imposed upon them. Thus the rigidity of the prisoner versus the fluidity of academic choice means that the two scenarios will never be congruent.
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      Dec 8 2011: I agree to a point. You're absolutely right about the difference between rules thrust upon you as opposed to those that are self-imposed. However, isolation is also largely in the mind. Although they are different in some respects, one who participates in mental isolation is isolated regardless of the environment. I'm perpetually amazed by world spiritual leaders who demonstrate this by separating themselves from their physical situation through various practices. I'd be interested to see any research on the effects of these two different approaches to isolation (sabbatical and incarceration) on one's life after the isolating experience.
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    Dec 2 2011: I understand, in principle with what you're saying, and I agree with it. I would say the truly successfully people in the world tend to spend some times just wandering outside the walls looking up at the stars, though. What you describe reminds me a lot of stoicism, which I'm a big fan of, learning to use your brain to control the darker, more irrational, emotional responses of human nature. To try and deny short term vices, and pleasures, and social relationships, for long term goals... I think it's one of those things that can go too far though... It's important to remember that the warden makes the rules, and you're the warden now. I think often successful people in todays world have to wall themselves off a bit too much, and they would be more successful, if they were a bit more playful, and happy. All walls are in your mind, there's always a way out.
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    Dec 2 2011: The greatest form of control is when you think you're free when you're being fundamentally manipulated and dictated to. One form of dictatorship is being in a prison cell and you can see the bars and touch them. The other one is sitting in a prison cell but you can't see the bars but you think you're free.

    Vinnie Paz-"End of days" song