My name is Paul Martin. I am a writer, who happens to be a Christian.
I like writing about the intersection of family, religion, and politics.
Recently, I launched a peacebuilding organization called The Christian Muslims Alliance.
I have three children: Bree, Edison, and Elliot. Bree is a senior in college. She studies psychobiology and is thinking hard about med school. Edison is a college freshman and wants to study economics then work on Wall Street. Elliot is 16; he rows and likes to hang-out with his friends.
I’m the child of a Mexican-American father and an Italian immigrant mother. Dad grew-up in Orange, California. He still talks about the “no Mexicans” signs in the town center. He remembers the segregated schools — how he got lucky because he was a light-skinned Mexican. His dark skinned friends had to go across town to the schools for dark skinned kids. Mom’s parents fled post-WWII Italy, where their village had been pillaged by the Nazis.
My last name should really look like this: Martín (look at the accent over the i). There was about a two-week period not too long ago where I thought ladies might appreciate the Latin in me, so I introduced myself, in my deepest voice, like this. “My name is Paul Mart-een.” I might have even rolled my R, but only slightly because my tongue can’t really do that. Both ladies shot me awkward grins. I’m sticking with Martin.
My parents bought 6 acres in Orange County, California when I was five years old and for the next 15 years or so we murdered chickens and cows and pigs and every Easter we’d slit the throats of the cutest lambs. One time my dad graced my mom with a brown cow for her birthday, as one does. Mom named her Florentina, as one does. A few months later Florintina choked and died. My parents never wasted a dime. So for the next 12 months, to my sisters’ respective chagrin, I took advantage. For a year I’d refer to our porterhouse and fillet mignon steaks by name—“Can you please pass the Florentina?”
Life on the ranch as a kid was full of adventure, but the grass is always greener. I envied all of my friends who got to live in tract homes.
I held a solid 1.8 GPA all the way through high school. I don’t remember completing a homework assignment. I do remember, year after year, failing to pass the “English Proficiency Test,” a writing exam required for graduation. By my senior year, I was one of four seniors enrolled in what coach Owens referred to as “Bonehead English” — a class for the kids that couldn’t write.
I also vividly remember, year after year, paying my brainy friend, Jim Vanderbilt, large sums of cash to change my grades. With surgeon-like meticulousness, Jim would slice the envelope open with an X-Acto knife. He’d carefully erase the D’s and F’s and type a B instead. It was providence that a B could look so legitimate juxtaposed on a partially erased D or F.
On the morning of high school graduation, Mr. Anderson asked me to stay after class. He seemed happier than ever. Grinning, he informed, “Paul, you are failing this class. You will not graduate today. And you have no business graduating.” I cried and begged and he kept on grinning and shaking his head, and informing me of the many options, including his summer school accounting class.
I ran to the office and by some cosmic act of divine grace my counselor, Mr. Yim, drummed-up three credits somewhere. I graduated that day.
I dropped out of college weeks into my first semester. Dad had made a killing in real estate. Why couldn’t I? I subscribed to that immoral belief that education exists for the purpose of making money. I stooped into the gutter and read Trump’s Art Of The Deal. I watched “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas. I got my broker’s license. I finagled my way into one of the top commercial real estate firms in Orange County. I wore Nordstrom suits five days a week. I sat in a cubicle “bullpen” with 30 young and hungry business majors. Many of them were making six figures a year. Many were in their mid-twenties. We wore headsets. We made cold calls for hours. We didn’t deal with purchasing agents or executive assistants or vice presidents. We dealt with the CEO’s, the landlords, the decision makers.
I never fit in. The small talk around the water cooler killed me. I remember this tangible feeling inside me, like when you’re stuck in a conversation with someone who just won’t stop talking about a subject you could care less about. Cap rates, the weekend parties, golf handicaps. I tried but was a fish out of water.
I sold a few industrial buildings in my second year. I made a chunk of money. I bought more suits. Georgio Armani. I ate out more often, and nicer restaurants. I played more golf. Then I had this harrowing thought: If I keep this lifestyle I’m going to need to make more money to pay for it which means I’M GOING TO HAVE TO DO THIS FOR ANOTHER YEAR!
The life of money-making wasn’t for me.
Around that time, the kid that barely graduated high school stumbled upon a few C.S. Lewis books. I remember Lewis referencing Milton. Then Plato and Aristotle. Then, Descartes and Kant. So over the next five years or so, I read those guys. The more I read, the more I realized how little I knew.
I realized I needed help. I eventually sat in on a few classes at University of California, Irvine. Then, UCLA. This was one of the major shifts in my life. I enrolled in UCLA’s prestigious Department of Philosophy. I recall sitting in my first course with Professor Calvin Normore.
I will never forget thinking, as I studied Aristotle for the first time, “I am learning as much about life and reality than all those church sermons, combined.”
I didn’t realize that, 500 years earlier, Thomas Aquinas had thought the same.
A bachelors wasn’t quite enough, so I got a masters degree. Again, philosophy.
My jumbled relationship with faith goes back to being baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, to being pinched (hard, with a twist) as a toddler by dad as I squirmed on those hard wooden pews during those endless masses, to a happenstance meeting with an African American Pentecostal preacher named Frieda who had an afro the size of San Fernando Valley and who was a Jesus Freak by every measurable measure and who insisted that this 15-year-old “get saved” (and I did), to becoming confirmed as an Anglican/Episcopalian and later coming very close to becoming an Anglican priest, to losing my marriage and home and becoming a single dad, to, today, questioning the outlandish fantasy that God’s “perfect plan” is that we be happy.
WHY I STARTED PAULOSOPHIA
A few years ago I started posting my thoughts on Facebook. Haphazard ramblings about parenting, religion, politics. Thoughts about life. To my surprise, dozens thanked me. In person and through Facebook messages. Month after month, they flattered me with the kindest words of encouragement.
Many told me I should take my writing seriously. I thought I might start a blog. Paulosophia is a blend of my Italian name, Paulo, and the Greek word for wisdom, Sophia. It’s translated, if you will, as Paul’s Wisdom. I’m not sure about my wisdom, but think there’s a right way to live and I’m going to write about that. To start, PARENTING, POLITICS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELIGION and TEENS.