Brad Bogus

Employee Spotlight: Sean Balogh

Happy Cabbage has indexed high on attracting some of the most interesting and unique humans to work with us; Sean Balogh, our mindful Marketing Manager, is definitely no exception.

He might be the most unique person I’ve ever interviewed.

Traditionally in our culture, we describe who people are by what they do. If one were to try describing Sean in such ways, you’d say any of the following:

  1. Indonesian Gamelan musician
  2. University-educated in poetry
  3. Prolific gardener
  4. Citizen of the world

But, perhaps more interestingly, Sean refuses to use such a framework to describe himself. To the question of “how would you describe yourself?”, his answer is far more enlightened and simple:

“You know, I don't make it a habit of describing myself. I don't know what other people say about me because it doesn't really confront me. All I can do is conduct myself a certain way that I think should exist in this world. And if it's something people respond to, cool, I'll keep doing it. And if not, well, that's kind of an indication something should be revisited or changed, right?”

In fact, this part of the interview became deeply philosophical, as Sean is a studied hand in Buddhist teachings. He cited the Eight-Fold Path and the Four Noble Truths as guiding principles to his life.

Put simply, “having established the truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, and freedom from suffering, the Buddha teaches us the Eightfold Path that we can follow to liberate ourselves from suffering and achieve enlightenment.”

The path is a nonlinear way of experiencing the world. The “folds” consist of steps one takes to increase Wisdom, Ethical Conduct, and Mental Discipline.

In Sean’s words, walking the path is the only constant in his life. His interests can change from day to day, but no matter what they are at the time, he continues walking on the path.

From Teenage Angst to Cannabis Ritual

Sean’s origin story will resonate with many children of divorce and familial instability. From about 6th grade on, his family would experience relocation due to his father’s job, followed by layoffs, cramped living conditions, hard work and very little time with his father.

Like many of us deprived of time with a dedicated father figure, he developed a lot of angst, became confrontational and lost interest in school. Also, as an intelligent artist, the format of public education didn’t fit his style of learning.

They say that teenagers are a product of the people they hang out with more than their parents, and in this regard, Sean found himself in a group of others with similar disrupted family relationships. Drugs and truancy ensued (even broke a school truancy record, an honor he’s lukewarm on accepting).

During this time, Sean and his cadre of friends had a cannabis smoking ritual and location they created that sounds very similar to the 420 origin story.

7 23 - this was the name of the spot his friends and he would convene to get high. It was in a lemon orchard, 7 rows in, 23 trees down. At that location stood a weeping willow of a lemon tree, beneath which they arranged defunct car seats, shoddy bongs and other accouterments to make for a haphazardly comfortable smoke spot.

Even to this day, when Sean sees the clock hit 7:23, he thinks of this spot, visually transporting himself back to the orchard. This is what solidified his mind on cannabis being about therapy more than recreation.

He also knows that had some of his friends at that time had better access to cannabis instead of oxy or harder drugs, their threads might have been a bit longer and not unraveled. 

Sean decided it was time to make something more of himself.

The Path to Enlightenment

Picking the path of least resistance, Sean set out to get a degree in writing, a skill he has always possessed in his life. University education fit him far better than K-12 and the culture of UC Santa Cruz was far more welcoming.

His first creative writing teacher, Gary Young, influenced him to study poetry. Young was a famous poet in his own right but perhaps more famous in Japan for his fine art printing and woodcuts, an artistic medium that deals with the economy of expression; cutting away the fat to reveal the imagery of the wood beneath.

That philosophy was also true of Young's poetry and teaching style: it was an expression of the economy of language, saying the most in the fewest words possible.

Sean shared some of his favorite works from a group of poets known as The Imagists. They wrote not about ideas but things, not lofty ethereal concepts but letting common things take the place of those concepts.

For instance, take The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens

“Going through those simple lines, you're expanding the world that you're seeing made by them. And then after you see the picture itself, you're like, oh shit. What is this? Is it a homestead? What all depends on this simple tool? What falls apart without it? Being able to pull out from a very concise and constricted image a lot of information, I think that's really cool.”

Becoming an Indonesian Gamelan Musician

While studying poetry, Sean lived with a group of musicians, and found himself recruited into a music group on campus in need of players. It was an Indonesian Gamelan group, a traditional form of spiritual music from the island of Java.

2 years later, he was eligible for the Dharmasiswa Scholarship, which sends 2 people from every participating country in a cultural exchange between Indonesia and the rest of the world to study their arts and go back home to share it.

Sean got the scholarship and found himself on a plane to Java 3 months later. He showed up on Eid, everything was closed, he didn’t speak any Indonesian, he was just a white dude with a big ole backpack. Thanks to the generosity of the people, he found his way to the university a couple hundred miles away from Jakarta in Bandung.

For 7 months Sean studied Gamelan at the university, worked as an English teacher and copywriter, and even became something of a local celebrity, greeted by name on the street, waved down as he walked through the city.

World Traveler

Instead of moving on to grad school, Sean was offered a full time writing gig to move to Israel in 2011. He took it and moved in with his friends Ethan and Hila.

At this point, Sean keeps us interested by becoming a small-time YouTube celebrity with Ethan and Hila. His channel is a lot of fun and all over the place, much like the breadth of Sean’s life experiences. You can see some of the many instruments he plays along with other antics like gardening, traveling, and cooking.

The company he worked for in Israel was in online casino gaming, particularly poker. He did the marketing for the company, coming up with promotions and events. One such promotion was so successful he was sent to the Battle of Malta, the biggest poker tournament in the world at the time.

It was a predatory industry, however, and he sought to get out of it.

During this time he met his partner Jessi, an equally interesting human that had traveled the world: born in Germany, grew up in Spain, lived in Florida, St. Maarten, Israel, and eventually back to the US with Sean.

They both settled in North Carolina right at the last good time to try and own a home in the US. For the first time, they would settle roots.

Gardening and Cannabis

Sean hilariously states that getting into gardening was born out of laziness because he didn’t want to mow his lawns. He soon learned that actions taken out of laziness often lead you to more labor in the end.

Growing became an addiction to see “how much good shit can I fit in this land?” Jessi and Sean’s garden now hosts over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, and herbs. They have even been recognized by their city for their prolific garden.

His family also grew plants. His grandfather kept a tomato garden in Van Nuys, CA back in the 1970’s, and he let his kids (Sean’s parents) grow weed in the garden. Cannabis was never taboo in his family, something many of us could only dream about growing up.

Sean was always fascinated by watching the cannabis plants his parents grew go through all the various stages of life and harvest, how it was always handled so secretly.

In Indonesia and Israel, Sean was disconnected from the cannabis plant. Upon arriving back to the states, however, he saw how much had changed around the stigma and mainstream acceptance of it, as well as the evolution in product branding and packaging.

Sean hopes the industry doesn’t become corrupted and putrefied through big business' influence. “I don’t think anything an individual can produce with sunlight, water and soil should be cloistered or restricted to such a degree. If you can tell me I can’t grow weed, fine, but are you going to tell me I can’t grow potatoes or peppers or tomatoes one day? What justification can you concoct to make me further dependent on a system I don’t really want to support?”

Sean’s Ideal Vision of the Industry

The largest emphasis he places on his ideal vision of the industry is on exploring the multitude of uses of the plant itself. “We all know research has been so restricted and the plant vilified for so long to such an intense degree that people don’t even want to invest the time and money into uncovering those possibilities, even though the minuscule amount that has been studied shows so much potential.”

He wants to see that research explored first and foremost, to let the data do the talking. That way people don’t have the ability to fall back on fear or hyperbole to manipulate public perception and policy.

“I want people to be safe, I want transparency, equity and equality throughout it. I don’t want to see blocks that only open a path for people that can afford it or already have influence in industry.”

He believes cannabis can support a small family’s livelihood, like a neighborhood craft brewery (or perhaps more appropriately, a local apothecary or convenience store). Cannabis retailers and producers can and should be their neighborhood spot and support themselves, their employees, and make their contribution to their community.

He also envisions how Jessi and he will make their impact in their community one day.

“We have a dream of a small farm for survivors of abuse to seek therapy, born out of our connection to the land and plants and how much we get out of it. Jessi and I care very deeply about trying to help those survivors.” 

Interacting with plants is a therapeutic activity, and can connect us back to where we originated from. It can help us grow through our trauma.

The world needs more Seans and Jessis out there, digging in the dirt and digging into themselves to find the right path to enlightenment.