Coming Attractions


The Wisdom of Empathy

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San Diego Oasis, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive Suite 269 , La Mesa, CA 91942

If empathy is the ability to understand and feel the feelings of another, how is it different from sympathy? Is empathy innate or is it learned? Was our capacity for empathy selected by Darwinian evolution as a desirable trait that enhances our survival? Or was empathy built into human nature by a benevolent Creator? Why do some people seem to have so little of it, while others effuse empathy through their every pore? What role does the consciousness of empathy play in the establishment of moral norms, and even our political stances? And what’s up with Narcissists and psychopaths? Join us for this fascinating and timely investigation into the nature of empathy.


The Great Philosophers: Kierkegaard

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San Diego Oasis at Rancho Bernardo, 17170 Bernardo Center Dr., Rancho Bernardo, CA 92128

Any discussion of Existentialism begins with Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Weary to his bones of the pointless and ineffectual ramblings of Western philosophy, Kierkegaard turns his incisive gaze on the subjective, personal realm. The meaning of life cannot be explained by grand and allegedly objective metaphysical systems—it is only to be found in the subjective details of our own personal choices and actions. Watch how Kierkegaard explodes the malaise and superficiality of 19th century European culture and sets into motion the intellectual revolution of Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and all who follow him.


The Great Philosophers: Socrates

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San Diego Oasis, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive Suite 269 , La Mesa, CA 91942

Here is where "The Great Philosophers" series begins. In “The Great Philosophers” series we explore the most influential luminaries in the history of Western philosophy, from Socrates to Sartre. And it all began with Socrates (470-399 BCE), the “gad fly” of Athens, teacher to so many, including the young Plato who would go on to devote his career to writing the most important philosophical dialogues in the Western canon, nearly all featuring his long-dead teacher Socrates. Against a backdrop of moral relativism, destructive self-interest, and political chaos (sound familiar?) we find Socrates cajoling his fellow Athenians, and us, to devote our energies instead to the care of our soul.

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My Story

I was born in the small town of West Paterson, New Jersey, the third son of Dutch immigrants Hilbert and Amy Bolland. At the age of four our family moved west, settling in the quiet coastal town of Ventura, California -- golden hills, lemon blossoms, fog horns, oil derricks, train trestles, and long, empty beaches. My friends and I divided our time between surfing, playing guitar, hiking the back country, and arguing philosophy. The die was cast.

After a few years at Ventura College, I transferred to the University of California at Santa Barbara, eventually earning a BA in religious studies, quite a feat considering the fact that I lived right on the beach and endured the never-ending distractions of college life in Isla Vista. After graduation I drifted, paying the bills with a grocery store job, renting a house in Santa Barbara with a few roommates, and focusing on my primary tasks -- surfing and playing guitar. All under the grip of a growing restlessness.

Then I fell in love with Lori. When we got married in 1985 something shifted in me -- the boundaries of my little life began to dissolve. I heard the call to do more, be more, and serve more. I decided to become a philosophy professor.

We moved to San Diego in 1987 so I could go to graduate school at San Diego State University. I earned an MA in philosophy in December 1990 and began teaching at Southwestern College a few weeks later in January 1991. For the next ten years I would be an adjunct instructor at various community colleges throughout the San Diego region.

Then in 2001 I was hired as a full time professor at Southwestern College, where I have been ever since.

All the while my artistic life continued to expand. I kept writing songs, playing in various bands, and performing as often as possible. I was in an acoustic duo called Jackson-Bolland with my friend Mark Jackson in the early nineties, a time of great foment in the San Diego singer-songwriter scene. We released a cassette of original material in 1993, recorded live at a coffeehouse called A Better World. We called that album Live at a Better World. It made sense at the time. Now that the Better World coffeehouse is long gone, people just think we have bad grammar. Then in 2002 I released my first solo CD Frame, recorded and produced by Michael Krewitsky. Michael really encouraged me to take it to the next level, and like any good producer, believed in me more than I believed in myself. He taught me all about making records -- it's because of Michael that I finally started taking music seriously, and began to believe I could do something really good. That atcplbum earned a Best Americana Album Award nomination at the 2003 San Diego Music Awards. And to support that album I had to form a band. For a few weeks we were called Peter Bolland and Broken Hills. Then we became The Coyote Problem.

The Coyote Problem would eventually go on to make two albums, Wire in 2005 and California in 2007, both produced by Sven-Erik Seaholm. Both albums earned the Best Americana Album prize at the San Diego Music Awards in their respective years. The Coyote Problem had a great run and an eclectic sound, opening for acts as diverse as Son Volt, Jason Mraz, and Blue Oyster Cult.

But running a rock and roll band isn't easy. Rehearsal, booking, marketing, media, management, and long bar gigs late into the night began to take their toll. It was difficult to integrate that life into the increasing demands of academic life and my growing call to write a book. I had to let it go, so I fired myself from my own band. The Coyote Problem was a real creative high water mark in mychair lo res life, and I'll always be grateful to the good people who shared that path with me, both on stage and off.

Seven years after California, a lot of songs piled up. It was time to make another album, this time under my own name. I went back to master producer Sven-Erik Seaholm and together we made Two Pines. Drummer Bob Sale and bassist Jim Reeves brought their formidable talent to bear on these 14 songs, and I played everything else. The result is my most intimate, most honest album yet. We went for a warm, spare, muscular sound. And we got it.

My immersion in the San Diego music scene led to the opportunity to become a columnist for the San Diego Troubadour, a monthly independent music magazine. My column there called "Stages: Philosophy, Art, Culture, and Music" has run for nine years. This led to other writing opportunities, including features and a column about world spirituality in Unity Magazine called "A to Zen."

In addition to my academic teaching at Southwestern College I also lecture extensively on a wide variety of philosophical, spiritual, and mythological subjects throughout the community at venues like The Chopra Center, The San Diego Vedanta Monastery, The Osher Institute of Life Long Learning at San Diego State University, Oasis San Diego, St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living, First Unitarian Universalist Church, and many more. And despite being rather free-range in my own religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, I'm often invited to be a Sunday morning guest speaker at many New Thought and Progressive Christian churches. 

Fourteen years in the making, my book The Seven Stone Path: An Everyday Journey to Wisdom is finally available on Amazon and other online retailers. It's a book about wisdom--what is it, and why do we need it? Read it and let me know what you think!

In my mind, all of these various modes of expression root back to a common core -- the hunger to understand and the passion to connect. To me, philosophy, spirituality, and art are healing modalities -- we turn to them to salve our wounds, bind our broken places, and cultivate our growth. Whether in song, in prose, or in oratory, I simply want to open up to the grandeur and depth of being alive. And when I look out into an audience, whether at a show, or at a talk, or in Satsang, I see in their eyes and hear in their questions the same hunger that drives my work. There is great joy in gathering together around shared inquiry, and great healing in the space we create when we step out of our busy lives to share a song, a question, a meditation, our laughter, or a perennial truth. What we cannot do alone we can surely do together. This is why we gather -- to feel the wisdom welling up through the cracks of our own lives. That is what all this work is about.