What do most of us want…we want to live in a better, kinder and more loving world; a world where peace-of-mind and inner-joy prevails. This is a good desire for a world that is historically so hateful and, in so many instances across time, so unimaginatively cruel and heartless.
When I think of the constant flow of war, torture and so much else that arrives from man’s inhumanity to man I am reminded of what Gandhi told us. He said that each of us must become the changes that we desire for the world. In light of this, the material that will be unfolding on this site is a lot about change. Changing ourselves, yes, but also to make positive change in our society and so in our world!
In this regard there is a great advantage that I have learned along my way. That advantage is in the knowing that by changing our minds we change the Universe. (If this sounds a little too esoteric for you, don’t despair, I will be showing you, all along our way, how truly magical you can be. I will be sharing with you how you can start at rock bottom and rebuild your life to reach the summits of your goals and I will also be revealing to you those changes that need to occur so that our world really becomes a happier, more peaceful and loving place).
And now you’re wondering who I am to be saying all this, to be making all these statements and promises of positive, practical change.
My name is John Polk. I’m a felon.
I am also founder of The Love Factor. Please…don’t be repulsed by the name because you think you’re about to embark on one mare preachy, moralizing voice that wants to convert you to some gooey reality and the trappings of one more ideology or zealous religion. Far from it!
Included in my goals is to return the power of individuality to those who have lost it to a bias and callous social system and to do this by reopening your heart as opposed to narrowing your mind.
Before going further, however, I will share a little about myself so that you will know more about me.
I was lucky because I was raised in a fairly typical middle class family. I went to school, had a car just about the same day that I turned sixteen, was well fed and clothed and even went to college. As a result of these favorable conditions, I turned out well too! What I mean by this is that I became an extremely successful businessperson or, in other words, I made a whole lot of money and at a very young age. By the time I was in my later twenties the world, so to speak, had become my oyster.
At that juncture of my life I was much like every other young, white protestant American but also I had the American Dream and lot’s more. I was, in a term, rich. Nevertheless, like most others who were raised in that sanctuary called the middle-class, I had plenty of prejudices and false ideas that, then, I believed were basic truths.
Amidst those prejudices and ideas that were included in my socialization was the usual garbage that most kids grow up with—most certainly racism and sexism was at the top of the heap. But there was other stuff too—all the rhetoric that most middle class children grow up with. People who live in ghettoes or are homeless are in those situations because they are dopers, drunks or lazy…white people in general have an edge over other people because of their whiteness…anyone can pull themselves up by the bootstraps if they really want to…The United States is about “rugged individualism” and so much more from the mythologies of our past as a Puritan-based nation. And, of course, I believed that the reason everyone was in prison is because they belonged there. I guess you might say that I believed in Superman and everything that he stood for, *Truth, Justice and the American Way.
If there was one thing that I was sure of when I was growing up is that both truth and justice prevailed in my world as an American.
Then one day a knock came at my door that was destined to change all this. I was accused of breaking the law and consequently I was sent to prison. Because of my background I went through all the fears and tears of being caged.
*It is sad but interesting that when the motion picture Superman Returns was made thisfamous slogan or motto was changed to “Truth, Justice and all that stuff. What doesthis say to you about the basic consciousness of the entire nation?
It didn’t take me too long, however, to adjust and so to beat the depression, anger and aloneness. I began used my time reading a lot and trying to figure out the (actual) truth of things. I read thinkers such as Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins and topics that ranged from quantum physics to religion and even politics. I was searching for truth because I was convinced that the truth sets us free. Freedom becomes very important especially when your world is behind bars.
While I was behind bars I evolved as a human being in that I realized that much of the rhetoric that had been drummed into me while I was growing up wasn’t true—it was all myth, and legend passed down to me through social engineering and memes. I began recognizing that I had lived much of my life not as my own person but rather as the person people told me that I was; not as a thinking human being but, like most everyone else, a person that merely replicated his parent’s and teacher’s values; the values held by the authority in one’s life!
Really, before prison I had never questioned the basic premises of The American Way, it never dawned on me that we are NOT as free as we should be in a land called, “Liberty;” that the courts can be bias and yes, in some instances even corrupted…it had never dawned on me that black, white, brown, what-have-you, are all in connectedness; that we are all the same only in different circumstances…
I also realized that many hundreds of thousands men, women and children were unfairly incarcerated; that there really were such things as coerced confessions, false arrests and other faults and frailties within the system itself. Don’t take me wrong, I am not saying that there are no inmates who should be locked up—there’s a virtue ton of them and we all know this. Incidentally, I have a rule of thumb here: With few exceptions any person who commits crime that has a victim or victims should go to jail. A society without laws of course would create a society of terrible chaos and that is a simple and blatant truth. So, it is a given, prisons are necessary until we find a better solution for people who do harm to other people.
But it is not only the judiciary and prison systems that need repaired and so changed. Our entire country, as the world, needs a new view, new paradigms and finally to leave the precarious Dark Ages behind. So this too is what this web site is all about.
No pun intended when I say that I had lots of time to think about these issues when I was incarcerated. I did, but also I’ve spent nearly another decade studying, meditating, contemplating and working toward formulating, if you will, a philosophy that would/could truly impact people collectively and individually in a positive and productive way. My motivation then is to inspire you to learn about the Love Factor to become Love Factor Philosophers and apply your philosophy to the real world of your daily life and to the lives of others. If you do, I believe heart and soul that you can truly become the cornerstone to making the changes that you desire for the world. And, when we remember what Gandhi said, we are reminded that each one of us has the power to effect the entire world in either a positive or negative way.
Some readers of this material may doubt this of course but I tell you that I will be showing not only that this is true, but why this is true as the Love Factor unfolds more and more for you while visiting this site.
In regard to all this I have been asked at least a few times why I dwell so intensely on felons since most folks in that odd-arena called The silent majority believe that the prison communities are, by and large, filled with the dregs of society and the evil-doer. While it is true that there are some vicious, angry and dangerous people behind bars there are also hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in prison that absolutely should NOT be there.
I have said this many, many times to many, many people and there is a common response that I hear from most. In their arrogance they say things like, it’s a simple concept: if you don’t want to go to prison, don’t break the law…
On the surface this view seems accurate enough—break the law, go directly to jail, right?
Well, it isn’t right. There is a vast and deep chasm that separates the law breaker and the criminal. But in case someone doesn’t comprehend this, I will be talking much more on this very topic. In fact, this is one of the positive changes we should all desire for the world. Yet, here in the United Stateswe keep hearing a boast from leadership that tells us (gallantly) that we are a country of laws. We should NOT be …all dictatorships are countries of law and so a FREE NATION necessarily must be a country of justice…
What is perhaps most destructive about our current system is that within the framing of its very constructs is the impossibility for anyone sent to prison to ever pay their real or so-called debt to society. Indeed, an eighteen year old boy who has done time, let’s say, for some drug charge and is released after a year or three is NEVER freed. Even after he fulfills his parole obligations he—like every other human being who has landed in prison—will be branded “the felon” for the rest of his life.
This must change if our society is to ever, in a term, to walk as it talks; to take on the character of a nation of liberty where the pursuit of happiness really does prevail.
We will be covering all these issues and others at this site. Issues such as the dehumanization of prisoners and ex-prisoners in our country (and other country’s as well). And, whyAmerica, the very country that boasts being the freest place on the planet has become the prison nation of the world.
Keeping the above in mind, I once heard someone say that the way to know the conscience of a country is to visit its prisons. I believe this to be true. And because I deem this to be true, I want to begin spreading the Love Factor throughout the workings of the entire planet—big ambition I know but I return to Gandhi again—we must become the changes that we desire for the world (if we are to change the world and make it into a better, safer and more loving place)
If you are not a felon and are reading this, I want you to know that The Love Factor is also for you. What I want you to understand is that in order to make all of our lives better, freer, happier and more loving we must NOT continue to make prisoners inconsequential.
They are, after all, also our brothers and sisters. As for those of you that are doing so much better in your lives than they are, I remind you of what Henry David Thoreau said: “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”
We are all one, you see, and our differences are only apparent.
It is upon this stone that I build the entire Love Factor philosophy. And I believe without a shadow of a doubt that when the felon rises above the conditions of his or her life, is able to exchange despair for hope, sorrow for joy, failure for success and yes anger for love than our entire nation will be all the happier, richer and more loving too. When this occurs—and it can—the entire world will prosper and become so much more of what we desire it to be…
*Read the John Polk interview in our free e-magazine.