Community Responsibility (Response to Waking Life Scandal)

By now it is national news that Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens, owners of Waking Life Coffee have done some pretty fucked up things. For those who do not know the backstory you can learn everything you need to know here.

Naturally, Asheville residents are outraged. Apologies are not being accepted outright. This thriving Asheville business is destroyed overnight, and the prospects for a new location dismantled as well. All of this is well and good.

The response thus far has been apt; these men need their lives to crumble around them. National media has picked up this one. The severity should be complete.

And yet, who will be there ready to pick them back up?

We live in a society that is ready to tear anyone to shreds who displays social illness such as the misogynistic vomit of these two. However, as furiously as we can tear these two apart, we have lost the threads of compassion that allow us to eventually build them back up again.

We have lost our faith that people can change, grow and learn. This misogynistic illness is a part of a much bigger social illness in our society.

Yes these men have lost their trust. They have lost their career.

Do we just extricate them from Asheville? Do we as a community dump these two men on some other community elsewhere in the country? Or are we better than that?

In a world where so much of humanity is confronted with so much atrocity, it is each community’s responsibility to not only hold its members responsible for their actions, but to give them a chance to prove themselves, to change. Some of the biggest assholes can become some of the most invaluable and supportive leaders if shown enough compassion.

To those who are ready to tear them apart and throw them to the curb I have some news to break to you:

We are all in this together.

While these gentlemen need to have the world torn out from under them in a big and powerful way they also need to be lifted back up.

I see the outrage. I see the disgust. But I see very little of the balance necessary to be a healthy, strong and balanced community. I see an opportunity.

If we simply extricate these men and wipe our hands clean of them then we have done ourselves a disservice. We have lost an opportunity to function, holistically as a community. We have become the angry mob and have given our essential humanity over to blind rage to the loss of our true power.

My question is this. How do we rise up as a community to show that we are truly strong? We don’t need to be saints to understand that compassion is the ultimate path to a healthy vibrant world. If we do not balance rage with compassion then we are no better than the rest.

I believe in you Asheville, not only to take a stand against such disgusting behavior but to show the world that we can support each other at the same time.



Rob Lenfestey is an educator and innovator in the world of radical, creative, superhuman self-empowerment through his practice of Creative Integration. Thousands, including CEOs, celebrities, athletes and some of the top innovators on the planet look to Rob for expert advice and inspiration in health, creativity, personal empowerment and fitness. He is an accomplished Pianist and Composer and has worked on Grammy Award nominated musical projects and published two albums as his genre-bending musical project, Amorphos. Rob has played with musicians ranging from members of Rock band Ween to Bluetech to Burning Spear and George Clinton and The Parliament Funkadelic. Rob is an accomplished entrepreneur in superfood distribution as Mandala Naturals. Rob has met with world leaders in South America, India and Nepal; and has been given personal audience with H.H. The Dalai Lama and H.H. the Karmapa. As a board member of the Cloud Forest Conservation Initiative, Rob works with indigenous communities in Guatemala to help conserve one of the last, greatest unprotected virgin cloud forests in the world. Rob’s passion is to give the gifts of knowledge, empowerment and health to all.

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  1. Nina T

    It’s a little early to speak of forgiveness and restoration. These “gentlemen” truly need to feel the sting of their atrocious behavior. They need to experience consequences and they need to make amends beyond a self-serving and smarmy (non-) apology.

    I agree that, in the long run and in a most grace-filled world, people can demonstrate that they repent, make amends, and be restored into community. But that’s a long, hard road, and the journey needs to start with THEIR steps.

    • stephen


      I think we should all take great care in deciding that we know when and where it is appropriate to show care and love while at the same time knowing when and where to dole out hate. This blog is disgusting. The approach to women and sex inexcusable. All that said, the mortifying and horrible things people have said about them remain mortifying and horrible. Beauty is not a zero-sum game, filth does not need to be repaid with filth.

      If everyone feels that there is no valid thing they can say, that they cannot apologize, stop calling them out. Don’t demand they donate to our voice (requested over 100 times on WAX) and then shame them with blissful joy when OUR VOICE refuses their money as blood money. I hope Asheville has a community as strong in the growth of beauty in the evil as it has defense of the victimized.

      • Maria

        I am obviously in a different world regarding this issue. For the most part I am reading things written by women on how this even came to be . . . about the whole concept of ‘red pill’ society and pick up artists . . . that whole world. And I am reading about women waking up and becoming wiser and there are a couple of groups that will be meeting to discuss this. I have not seen the hate that is being written about here (not just hinted at by you but in the main article here and elsewhere). Again, I do not know everything that is going on in Asheville regarding this, but I do know how I have felt hurt by it and how I am trying to heal. I am a survivor of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse and I am appalled especially by how they use these types of situations to use a woman’s vulnerability against her. I am not the only woman in Asheville who is still reeling from this. The focus should be on the community healing, not on the perpetrators at this point. If they do sincerely want to make amends, they will have plenty of opportunities. I wish them no ill.

    • Caroline

      Thank you. They need to make the steps forward.. And yes, it will take time.

    • Hannah

      I wholeheartedly agree that it is far too soon for forgiveness for these two. There is NOTHING that indicates to me they have had any sort of legitimate change in their demeaning and, to me, disturbing behavior/mindset. The only thing that has changed is that they were found out and had to close their doors due to protesters and boycotts. Without this whole ordeal they would have never just decided to seek help or stop behaving this way on their own!
      Their “apology” was solely for personal gain. It is a perfect example of how they put on a façade (in this case one of humility) which is how they were able to con these women in the first place!! And that is the root of this is that they are con-artists preying on women in the most disgusting way. A con artist is not someone to be trusted. They may deserve forgiveness, but certainly not before they have proven beyond a doubt that they won’t be coming back asking forgiveness for the same thing again.

  2. trish young

    this is what i’ve been saying all along and i knew i wasn’t the only one!!
    it’s time for healing now. for everyone.
    no more destruction.
    hate begets hate.
    let it end.

  3. Asheville girl

    Thank you for writing this Rob. We agree with whole hearts.

  4. Sabrina

    I don’t hate them, but I don’t want their shop in my neighborhood. I am not responsible for their healing. I have plenty to take care of in my family and at my job. For them to heal, they need to seek counseling, and probably they need to reach out to those they injured. For us to heal as a community, we need to talk about raising healthy children and how to be in healthy relationships worth each other. We do not need to take responsibility for fixing, helping, or otherwise enabling them. They have responsibility to take steps tointerested in a witch hunt but I would not support financial ventures of these men ever.

  5. Pam

    Do they really understand what they have done? Are they willing to express to a community their understanding by turning their behaviors around to advocacy against such behavior by others. Do they understand that they have treated people as objects – objectification – as subhuman?
    Trust is earned. Forgiveness – is given by the one willing to forgive and benefits the one doing the forgiving. But trust – once breached is hard to regain. They made this public. They chose to flaunt their behavior. They bare the shame. They can choose to do the work to regain anything they are willing to try and regain – to work as hard for good as they did to gain notoriety.

  6. Kevin

    This cry to pick them up is way too early. These guys played their games with women, posted their hate filled blogs, and spouted their podcasts for YEARS!!! “Putting the sweet D in the Tender V since 2013”. What the fuck??? They loved what they were doing – reveled in it, even. The only thing they are sorry for is getting caught. These guys are predators in the truest sense and people like this don’t change. They just move on… So Jared and Jacob – just move on. Only next time just know people will know who you are.

  7. BM gal

    I dislike to the description of the “angry mob” in the article. It’s only been 4 days or so. I’m pretty okay with still feeling angry and PROTESTING. People are twisting a protest into something with pitch forks, torches, and people foaming at the mouth. From what I saw it looked pretty darn civilized. I’m also okay with seeing them fall even a bit further before the community, family, friends, themselves, can be picked up again. How about some police investigation? One of the guys straight up admitted to raping someone. Is it okay to hold them accountable for their incredibly damaging actions for a little bit longer before we start pointing fingers in the direction of the community and insinuating that we’re lacking empathy and are a part of the problem and not the solution. Something about the timing of this article doesn’t feel great to me. It has a positive message but it almost pushes guilt upon a community that is taking really amazing action in saying no to misogyny and rape culture. ” I see the outrage. I see the disgust. But I see very little of the balance necessary to be a healthy, strong and balanced community. ” I actually see a very strong and balanced community. One that is taking a very brave stand for women…..seldom places do this. Overall, I understand the writers message and I agree with him in terms of looking at the larger picture and the future for these men. It’s something to keep in mind and discussions should certainly be had. It’d be great if they could seek counseling, meet women who have survived rape and hear their stories, find meaningful connections with women and hell….i’d love to see them help to combat the “manosphere”. They’d be good at that being that they’re so familiar with it. But hey, let’s not jump the gun here…..let the community own their grief, outrage, disgust……we women and like-minded men deserve that much I think.

    • Maria

      I agree wholeheartedly with you, thank you for wording what I could not. I wrote a comment but was not as eloquent as you were. You are so right in terms of the community not having balance – what was that about? I must be missing something because almost all of what I see is women (and men) writing about real relationship and about the further implications of these two men’s behavior and how it relates to not just male female sexual dynamics, but also the spiritual Feminine and the spiritual Masculine and how we can all start awakening to a more balanced place within that. So, I see people taking a bad situation and wanting to grow from it. I do not know what the author of this article/post is referring to. I know he has some pretty remarkable credentials (the author, that is) but I’m not sure that he is looking at the situation in a holistic manner. Again, I might be missing something. But thank you for what you wrote!

    • AG

      BM Gal, Brava!!! I could not agree more. As a former sexual assault crisis worker, I am SO proud of Asheville’s response. As we all know, the vast majority of cities would have “practiced compassion” towards the Waking Life men in the form of a “slap on the wrist”. I am glad Asheville has not done that and has instead stood up and said NO and refused to accept misogyny (plus racism and homophobia!) in their community. If the reaction seems overly strong, it is only because as a society we have become accustomed to rape culture being accepted. It is too early for absolution. How dare any guilt-tripping be directed towards the wounded community right now! Let them feel what they feel. It is not anyone’s place to judge the healing process of victims. I have no doubt that given enough time to heal and if/when Jared and Jacob genuinely make true amends (which will undoubtedly take a LOT of time), the people of Asheville will offer compassion, not because they “owe” Jared and Jacob it, but because that is the kind of community Asheville is. I don’t live in Asheville anymore, but I went to college there and lived in the area for a while after graduation. I lived there for a total of 6 years, from 2006-2012 (and yes I did go to Waking Life, it was my favorite coffee shop when I lived close by in 2010. How creepy to think of that now.). I am still so proud of Asheville.

  8. Thoughtful

    While I have seen a little of the hatred/bashing/tearing down you refer to , I have to agree on the point that restoration is a process that is earned, not given. In addition, most of what I am seeing is spreading awareness. We do have to remind others that this is not about spreading hate, but awareness. But we don’t need to keep brushing these acts aside when we grow tired of hearing about them. NO, shout it out from the tops of mountains until everyone knows….because misogyny boils down to rape culture….. power controls. The only way to take this power away from them and break the cycle is to make everyone aware of who they are. It is only then that they can come to terms with themselves and start taking the correct steps to heal. Therefore, the first necessary and critical action taken towards someone who was deeply wronged their community in such a way that these men have is exposure…..awareness. In continuing news stories and protests, public shaming is utilized to the max. If we don’t act as a community to bring this exposure to others, then we fail them and our fellow communities when they simply move on and find a new preying ground to continue the cycle. (Likewise we fail them if we force them to leave through hatred instead of letting them heal…..thus also allowing them to start with new preying grounds and continue the cycle) However if we continually speak out to near and far, we can demonstrate that no one will tolerate this behavior and we create a solidarity to fight against this type of behavior everywhere. This then can eventually lead them to heal and restore themselves into their communities and society when they are forced to come to terms with themselves —being left with no other options or power. After all, they started a power game, and their community banded together to remove all of their power. In the end, there is no set time line for healing; and the exposure will go on as long as it takes.

  9. Hungry J

    The screaming mob, the close to Puritanical head-long rush to a hanging in the public square, and the phenomenally fast piling-on from many who honestly know nothing of these guys, is what is most scary and should give us all pause. Period. Full stop.

    I believe there are counselors who might be willing to work with you or others who have fallen victim here to this righteous “their lives need to crumble” bandwagon, and I hope you have the ability to find them. Thanks.

  10. Thanks Rob! How right you are! It is too easy to become part of the mob mentality! We all need to practice compassion!

  11. Thank you so much for bringing us back to light. As much as I love Asheville, and as despicable as this behavior is, we don’t evolve by treating illness with hatred.

  12. Adam

    According to the podcasts, and by the owner’s own admission, he sexually assaulted a woman in a local hospital. If true, he has much further to fall before forgiveness.

  13. Asheville Anne

    Dear Author, I’d appreciate your thoughts on what exactly that would entail or how do you suppose, specifically, that we should proceed? Interesting suggestion but extremely vague. They’ve broken our trust and wounded our community, how can we feel safe around them? And I agree with the other comment that says it’s THEIR responsibility to start taking steps towards any sort of healing. Victims of sexual violence have every right to put their energy into healing themselves rather than trying to facilitate the healing of grown men who thus far have displayed no concrete attempts to grow or change themselves.

    • Thank You Anne for the question. I think that they should sit in a council and listen to people speak their grievances (in measured time so it does not drag) and then the community, not they, should decide what it wants in return from them. i imagine their business continuing to exist. the jobs they create continuing to exist, and all proceeds beyond the mere minimum of survival to go to reparation the community decides. This is what I see. This should go on long enough to build trust. Keep them in business, in the active eye of the community, fully adherent to the will of the community. This seems like a powerful way to rise up as a community in this situation.

      • Maria

        I don’t think the communities will is in keeping their business alive . . . and I don’t think the community should be blamed or called hateful or out of balance for this. What they did was fairly horrific, there is even an indication of the non-consensual sex with a sedated woman! As a survivor of sexual assault, I, myself, have had old wounds opened up and most of what I have been following in writing is in the area of how we can all heal from this. And, perhaps, come out of it all the wiser and more engaged in genuine relationships (of all sorts). While I wish these two young men healing and evolution, I don’t think this is the time to call on the community to halt the healing that it is undergoing to attend to their needs. I think that they need to seek that out for themselves. I think that if there is an avenue that doesn’t involve their victims directly (or those still reeling in pain) then it should be opened to them. Perhaps a compassionate group of men who actually know how to communicate honestly would be a possibility. As far as their business, there are some people interested in buying it . . . maybe the previous employees can get jobs there (I think I may have even seen a suggestion that the previous employees would be welcome). But as for the owners, I feel that there the breach in trust is far too great for that business to continue under their leadership at this time. Perhaps in the future, if they are successful in regaining trust, they might consider another business.

  14. Elizabeth

    Community responsibility? Really? It is their responsibility to drag them self back into the light. And then and only then is it the “community’s responsibility” to respond. And that response should reflect the character with which these “gentlemen”choose to attempt to do so. So far, with reflection on published apology, etc. , I am not impressed and my response will be less than positive. I am supportive of helping pull someone back up after they have chosen to go to such a low level, however, they need to feel the pain and wallow in it and experience it and give themselves time to feel it and learn what they have done. There has not been nearly enough time for an atrocity such as this.

  15. Interesting take on the story, though I highly doubt that the howling mobs of Asheville are going to give these guys another chance. I will literally be shocked and amazed if Atown practices the tolerance it preaches, but that is still to be seen.

    What’s most interesting to me is that everyone acts as though the women involved had no agency, no responsibility for the sexual interactions these guys described. Part of the howling reaction is because these guys exposed just how many women were ready to jump in the sack with these average looking guys simply because they learned a little bit of “game”, which essentially teaches that bold assholes win over nice guys with the ladies every time. And apparently a little bit of asshole went a long way when it came to attracting and having sex with local women. Or is there some other reason so many women in Asheville lined up to hop in the sack with these two?

  16. asdf

    While I agree with the other comments that maybe it is too soon for a healing I also believe this whole thing would be pointless without some sort of public forum. My concern is these guys leaving town and doing the same thing somewhere else. Right now they probably haven’t learned much and are really mad they lost their business because of a bunch of “stupid feminists”. It scares the crap out of me to think about these idiots having kids and passing all their hate onto some innocent kids and thus perpetuating misogyny . If the goal is to shut down a business and run two jerks out of town then we achieved as a community. If the goal is to end misogyny we are about half way. It is in my opinion that people’s minds can not be changed from being yelled at, fired from their job from online comments, or through force. When you force ideas onto someone they often become more charged in their original thoughts. Emotional connection and empathy is a very effective way to bring about positive change.

  17. Thank you for your wise words Rob. Regardless of what additional consequences these two men will incur, they will feel the emotional sting of guilt, shame and failure for the rest of their lives. And, at the same time there is much justified anger from our women who have, and are carrying deep wounds from how they’ve been treated. Even still, the road to healing is through compassion, understanding, and service. Not judgement, ridicule and abandonment.

  18. Maria

    I am not aware of all the details, but I do feel that what has happened concerning these two men are events that they have brought on themselves. I feel that the boycott was appropriate and I felt good about the way the community responded – I do not know if this is what you object to. There may be other details that I don’t know about. I don’t think they are being foisted on another community, but that they are being confronted with their own behavior – a mirror that they may not want to look into.
    I might add that many women (and men) are still reeling in the wake of the Tsunami of pain that these two have wreaked on the community. For many, myself included, old wounds from sexual assault or sexual mistreatment have been opened. Right now the community needs to pull together to heal those who were victimized. I do wish these two men growth and evolution and compassion . . . I do not wish them ill. It is up to them to regain trust and to change their own behavior and outlook. The community can choose to accept them back at some point. But now is the time to heal those damaged and hurt by them. And what some may be perceiving as hate towards these men is actually many who are awakening and who are realizing their worth and who are loving themselves enough to want to avoid people who behave in this manner. Even in the peaceful Buddhist traditions, one can transform anger into right action. The right action now is for the community to heal and to understand this. The issue is more widespread than these two men or than Asheville – it is beyond boundaries.

  19. Robyn

    Repel. Disarm. Heal.
    Aikidoka medicine.

  20. Suzanne

    Please withhold my recent comment from publication. I am not ready for my thoughts to be published yet. Thank you.

  21. Hungry J

    Is there any proof of any criminal behavior whatsoever? I understand he knew and was dating the woman in the hospital, and they began consensual sex before she blacked out from her medications.

    Is someone’s kinky private sex life my business, in any way whatsoever? Some people are pigs or jerks with regard to how they treat the opposite sex, and it sure appears these guys are a good example, but personally I find the public take-down to be embarrassingly Puritanical, and the downright zeal shown towards their full and complete destruction seriously troubling.

    • Maria

      Hungry J: Here is what the mother of the woman with whom one of these two had non-consensual sex with (while she was sedated) wrote on Asheville Blog: “Jacob, you mentioned in your podcast that you had sex with my daughter, while she was medicated, while in the hospital.. Your words are she could not have consented due to her medicated state.
      One question- do you have a lawyer?
      Another reader commented to Mountain x-Press (about the non-consensual sex): “The joke was made that it was illegal in California, but I am guessing they didn’t think it was illegal in NC as well. The young woman’s parents have come forward and it looks as if this is being investigated now.”
      And, does it really matter if she was dating him or not, you can be raped even if you are married to someone. They also routinely used a great deal of pressure and shaming to coerce women into having sex. Another woman writes about her experience with one of the two: “went out on a few dates with him. He told me that because I said I wasn’t ready to have sex with someone on the second date that it was ME who was the misogynist because I opposed women being sexually liberated.”
      And, one of their phrases that bothered me greatly: “95% of women are just fucksocks.” I was unfortunately married to a violent abusive man and he also came up with the most horrible names (such as their term) to call me. No, they did not just have their kinky private sex life exposed . . . they had their deep hatred and disregard for women exposed!

      • Hungry J

        Hi Maria,

        I’m not an apologist in any way for what may likely have been their regular bad behavior as sex-crazed adult mammals in a free society. If they broke the law then they need to be held accountable — but held accountable in court, where last I remember one is innocent until proven guilty. A disappointed mother’s reaction (“do you have a lawyer”) is moving and all, but it’s just that, and is not a conviction. I’m sorry some people were hurt. People are hurt all the time when sex gets involved, and there are players and those who use poor language on all sides.

        My concerns, sometimes amusement but mostly embarrassment about the grandiosity of this most public take-down, remain. Those who joyfully hop on the bandwagon of public stoning here, as if they **wished it were all true** even, might best gain from internal reflection or professional help. It scares the shit out of me, honestly.

  22. #RestorativeJustice cannot be rushed. #MakingAmends is not making apologies. In the 12 Steps making amends is step 9. Not step 1 or 3 or even 6. It’s Step 9.

    #RestorativeJustice & #MakingAmends includes accountability, natural consequences, integrating impacts of one’s actions w/ self-forgiveness.

    It’s not my job to take Jacob and Jarod’s personal inventory. It’s their job. (Step 4 – Made a loving and fearless inventory of ourselves.) This whole community has been injured to some degree by Jarod and Jacob’s actions. It would unreasonable to ask those who are injured to reconcile before the truth has been heard or before they are ready.

    And … with all of that being true… if Nelson Mandela can walk out of prison after 27 years a truly free man having forgiven his oppressors, then that kind of freedom is possible for all of us. Grace is like that. When Jacob and Jarod take one step, Grace will take 10,000.

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