This is an intensely personal story--it could hardly get more personal, actually. Because of that, I am going to take the liberty to change some names and obscure some information: while I feel perfectly comfortable telling stories on myself, I have no right to broach the privacy of others.
About nine years ago, my marriage to my first wife, Toni, Nicki's mom, hit a wall. We'd both made mistakes, we each paid for them in different ways. They added up to an untenable situation. For almost two years I tried to make things work, and finally ran out of gas. I mean, I completely crashed and burned.For the first time in memory, I didn't even know who I was any more. Or what I wanted. Or what to do. I was utterly numb.
The wall ha been hit between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the anniversary of my mother's death, and always a tough period for me. This just made things a lot worse. But I decided to give myself a week to come up with an answer, to decide what direction to move in. Many of you might have noticed how much easier it is to solve other people's problems, so I used that approach: What would I say if one of my students came to me with this problem?
The Beauty-Power axis clearly states that our relationships are mirrors. Hmmm. I had said for years that our relationships say a lot about us. Hmmm. So I thought one of the smartest things, perhaps THE single smartest thing I ever thought: "I don't know who I am right now. But I know what I am attracted to. So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to make a list of everything I'm attracted to. I am going to describe the perfect woman, without any compromises. Her beauty, intelligence, sensuality, warmth, emotional health, spiritual centeredness...everything. EVERYTHING my deepest heart desires. Then, I am going to go out and find the woman who comes the closest to what I've described--whether she's married or not (!), sit her down, and ask her what she wants in a man. If I've made my description carefully enough, and chosen carefully enough, whatever she describes is what I want to be--because, in my heart of hearts, what I want is to be a man who hcan have a woman like THAT. And we can have anything that we mirror."
Needless to say, one of the most frightening things I've ever done, as well. What if she just wanted a billionaire? Well, then, she doesn't really match what I had on the list, now would she? A woman attracted to a man with ambition, intelligence and success is onething. But to put a dollar amount on it was another. So I quieted my fears and put my plan into action...
Thursday, March 31, 2005
This is an intensely personal story--it could hardly get more personal, actually. Because of that, I am going to take the liberty to change some names and obscure some information: while I feel perfectly comfortable telling stories on myself, I have no right to broach the privacy of others.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:03 AM
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
The question of celibacy, or sexual abstinence, has come up several times in posts and e-mails recently, so I thought I'd address it. In general, I think that it can be an absolutely first-rate idea, a way of saving energy and investing it in healing and growth. Especially if there have been heart, body, or sexual wounds, the chances of investing yourself in inappropriate, demeaning, meaningless or just plain damaging sexual relationships is substantial. In such cases, it is better to sit out a few innings,take stock, heal, and re-connect with yourself.
After all, our sexual relationships are mirrors of our inner relationships, the balance of male and female within. Sexual promiscuity (seems) to often be linked to inappropriately early sexual activity, or a betrayal in the home space. I've stopped being surprised at the women I've known who were super-hot items in the bedroom, and later revealed that they were molested or raped by family members. Ugh. It's almost as if a hole was torn in their hearts, and they are bleeding all over the bed sheets. With men, well, I know of some cases of abuse there, as well. It seems to manifest in a revulsion of their own body image, a bizarrely warped reality map of their own physical presence, such that they work out like crazy, and still look obese. Heart wounds can have the same effect.
A little closer to home, my own wife, Tananarive, made a commitment that she would abstain from sex until she was in love with someone who would actually love her in return. The result was a happy marriage. There are few things more demoralizing than sharing your sexuality with someone who does not care a whit about your well-being, and few things more healing than healthy, lusty, sweaty, no-holds-barred, Hot-DAMN! Sex with someone who is, at the very least, a genuine friend, someone who cares about you, and genuinely treasures your time together. That should be the bottom line, folks. My own pattern? Throughout most of my life, I've tried to treat women as I would want someone to treat my my sister, daughter, or mother. If I wouldn't take a call at 3:00 in the morning from a past lover in emotional need, then she shouldn't be a past lover. What was I doing with her? Only once (well, maybe twice) did I ever end up in bed with someone where I regretted it, knew I'd made a real mistake. Ah, well, we learn as we go.
At any rate, we're going to start delving into the Soulmate process, the path that brought me the love of my life, a process I have detected in dozens of other successful relationships. The right man or woman can be a superlative medicine for an ailing heart. See you then.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:51 AM
We've gained a lot of new readers recently, and they've been delving into the older entries. Just wanted to say that if you have questions about any of that material, please post them on the 5MM/Lifewriting forum, not in the archives. I never go back and read the old posts, so I won't know that you asked a question!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:48 AM
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Had a conversation with Victoria, a friend and student, earlier today. She was driving down the freeway when an utterly insane driver slashed across multiple lanes and almost caused an accident. Vic felt the flash of adrenaline signaling an anger/fear response, but because she's been using the FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE, just went into her breathing pattern, and coasted right over it! Great going, Vic.
The ability to deal with life's stress without allowing it to become strain is a CRITICAL component of excellence. Coach Sonnon's Flow State Performance Spiral says it flat out: your performance in life is largely determined by your ability to remain in flow state under stress. There are many, many techniques to help you do this, including some involving years of therapy and thousands of dollars of biofeedback. That's great. But you know what? For about six thousand years, techniques of doing this by modifying breathing have been systematized, and proven by millions of students to work just fine. The FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE takes one of the most powerful of those techniques, and teaches it to you in a form so absorbable that it literally takes only...(wait for it!) Five minutes a day. How good is it? We've sold thousands of the tapes and DVD's, and as of today, March 28th, have not had ONE SINGLE REQUEST for a refund. Now, that may change tomorrow, but understand the implications. We're not saying we have the most polished, Hollywood-ized product. In fact, it was shot in my home gym. What I AM saying is that it works. It really works. And that you can integrate it with ANY other sport, exercise, or spiritual discipline. This is a key, folks, and its dirt cheap, believe me. Do yourself a favor--if you haven't ordered a copy, do it now. If you've already got one, and agree with its value, get one for someone you love who is getting their butt whipped by stress. It's never too late to have a happy, healthy, passionate life. Never. Check it out NOW!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:43 PM
Just finished driving four hours to spend 1 1/2 hours with one of my favorite people, the brilliant and wonderful Dr. Al Seibert. I met Al while living in the Northwest, and was instantly blown away by his insight into human beings, as well as his general love of life and infectious energy (something he shares with his lovely and vivacious wife, Molly). Al is a world-class expert in resilience, the human ability to survive adversity. Currently, he lectures across the country, imparting wisdom in the corporate sphere. I'm about ready for bed right now, but wanted to put down one of the things that Al said over dinner. He mentioned a popular lecturer and author who shall remain nameless, and how this person taught a workshop that was pretty much rubber-stamped: never took into account the personalities and needs of the specific participants. What he said next struck me as one of the secrets to this 71-year-old whirlwind's boundless energy and creativity. It also made me envious of the people about to spend two days with him. "It's not enough," he said, "for the participants to say `it was a great workshop' or even `that was the best workshop I've ever attended.' When the workshop is over, I want to feel, I want to KNOW, that what happened in that room was one of the greatest, most authentic events ever to happen in history, and that it will never be duplicated."
I just flat LOVE that attitude. Al, you're one in a million, and the world is a better place for your being here.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:34 PM
Monday, March 28, 2005
Fourth Chakra wounds damage the health, cripple the sexuality, create obesity and anorexia, limit communication, and confuse the intellect. The expression "you can awaken the kundalini from the heart out or from the bottom up, but never from the top down" was making direct reference to the primacy of the heart. In Lifewriting, we use two major tools for connecting with the heartspace: Heartbeat meditation, and the Dream Diary. There are other meditations, and therapies, but in many ways the very best medicine for the ailing heart is a healthy romantic/sexual relationship. For many people, the quest for love is a long, lonely road. I wanted to provide a few perspectives, and then in a day or two we'll re-visit what I call the Soulmate technique, an approach to finding and keeping the love you want.
In this first installment, I'd like you to consider an homilie: "In life, you don't get what you want. You get who you are." If you find that you aren't attracting people who you are attracted to, you may well have an unrealistic self image. Your lovers are mirrors for you, friend. You ARE your husband or wife or significant other, albeit flipped for gender and mirror-imaged. Searching to understand the ways that you and your partner are two halves of the same creature is one of the most fruitful things you can do--as well as one of the most educational. It can free you from anger and resentment. Folks, if you could have done better than your partner, you would have. If you misjudged them, whose fault is that? If you didn't have the awareness, the self-confidence, the clarity, whose fault is that? Every human being does the best they can with the resources they have. You traded your intelligence, your sensuality, your beauty, and your power and energy and mental health for the greatest good you could find in the arena of relationship. When you stop blaming and start grasping that we are all both victims and benificiaries of the human condition, you are on the road to healing.
And what if you aren't currently in a relationship? Well, I've actually got good news...if you're willing to risk your ego a bit. And we'll talk about that tomorrow.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:22 PM
Arrgh. I hate to type this, but we're having to postpone the Mastery Technique workshop, probably until December. This is a decision (and, sigh, probably a responsible one!) by RMAX productions, which is committed to providing the highest possible experience to their clientel. The June date was just too soon to have all the logistics and enrollments in place. Scott felt that, in all good conscience, it was best to move it. I probably would have said "let's go for it!" but the truth is, Scott's attitude is more logical. Ah, well. We'll have the new date nailed down within a couple of days. Those of you who signed up for the June workshop will have your money refunded, and be able to attend the new workshop for 1/2 price (what a deal!)
More soon, and sorry, guys...
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:18 PM
Let's think some more about the heart, and how wounds to it manefest in other arenas. I've known heart chakra wounds to trigger suicide, and a loss of willingness to live. A dear friend was raped, and within a year contracted terminal cancer--It ate her alive within months. Fear, guilt, shame and anger cripple the sex drive, as well as resentments: I know several women who completely withold their sexuality from their husbands, and several men no longer sexually active due to a lifetime of stuffed emotions. And anyone who has read this blog knows I think that people stuff negative emotions into their bodies. Rape, child abuse, fear, disappointment--all can manefest as obesity. I've had women tell me they were afraid that if they were sexually attractive, they'd cheat on their husbands. Men who say that they feel non-existent unless they are huge. Others who hide behind a wall of flesh. And of course heart wounds kill relationships:marriages, friendships, and the most critical relationship, the one with yourself. Heart wounds cripple the chakras above, as well: the ability to communicate is based on belief in self,a nd a sense that it is safe to be honestly expressive. My mother, who grew up in the lynch-happy South during the 30's, warned me that "if you show white people how smart you are, they'll kill you." Can you imagine what this does to a young man's head?
Probably the majority of fine writing is about wounds to the heart, and the ways we cope with them, try to heal them, how they poison our lives. Or about the glory of love. As much pain as love causes us all, the only thing that makes it worth while is the fact that, when it's workin', there is just nothing better. So next time (or, real soon now) we're going to address the question of relationships--how to find one, how to nurture one, how to keep one.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:33 AM
Saturday, March 26, 2005
The Five Minute Miracle is the cornerstone of the Mastery Technique, designed to raise your energy and attention, and increase your resistance to stress. Yes, the minimum level is really only five minutes a day--that's not a joke. It is also a dynamite abdominal exercise, and can be a launch pad to real athleticism by integrating the "Be Breathed" technique into martial arts, yoga, running, or weight training. Wonderful stuff. Please do yourself the favor of reading through the material. Thanks!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:02 PM
Where I was researching spaces for the upcoming Mastery Workshop, June 10-12 (www.rmax.tv/mastery.html). Drove up Thursday, back Friday night. While I was there, I hung out with my dear friend Mushtaq and his honorable Sheik, Taner. While there I took a look at the Fort Mason center, and it looks just fine, so that's my vote. One of the things I did while there was to create a spine of the exercises, concepts, and techniques to be integrated over the two-day span. This blog is both a record of my thinking, and an opportunity for readers to decide if this is something for them.
Let's say that there are nine different basic components at this point. They will each be taught twice, I think--all covered on the first day,deepened on the second. Lots of reinforcement.
1) The Hero's Journey. The basic template of human life as reported by storytellers the world over, from the beginning of time.
2) Performance Breathing. The cornerstone of much of Scott Sonnon's work. Breath, Movement, and structure create each other in an interdependant web. Can be used for health, stress management, or athleticism.
3) The Five Minute Miracle. Use to imprint the new pattern onto your nervous system. By practicing Performance Breathing five times a day, you start moving into the "Perpetual Exercise" zone, where you have re-wired your relationship with the physical universe
4) The Chakras, and meditation. Being able to understand, visualize and feel the different aspects of our energetic existence. Viewed purely as a mental construct, a profound insight into the evolutionary nature of human existence, based on six-thousand year old wisdom.
5) Motions of Mastery. I've tasked Scott with selecting or devising, from his vast and brilliant array of techniques and understandings, a simple daily practise that is:
a) a superset of the benifits of the Five Tibetans
b) available to anyone who can walk and sit.
c) takes only 5 minutes or less at base levels.
d) contains many of the benifits of Warrior Wellness.
e) Is progressive--that is, a more advanced or athletic expression is available as a direct progression.
f) Can be used for theFive Minute Miracle
g) Can be pushed longer and harder during the Golden Hour, and adjusted to produce serious, no-b.s. fitness.
h) can be used by a relative beginner for the Fear Removal exercise.
Scott says that he has just the thing. He hasn't sent me the video clips yet--I can hardly wait. Coach Sonnon has never disappointed me. Never. I think that the Motions of Mastery are going to rock.
6) Flow State Performance Spiral. A clear and rational explanation of the evolutionary potential of sophisticated movement arts: Tai Chi, Yoga, whatever. Once you grasp this, and truly understand it, your practise will never be the same.
7) The Golden Hour. A goal of planning one optimal hour a day of input, exercise, meditation. Designing it so that you are getting optimal benifits. If it takes you five years to carve out that 60 minutes, its worth it.
8) Fear Removal. The theory and practise of managing anxiety through a combination of visualization and physical motion. Unbelievably powerful. My mind is literally blown by its potential.
9) Control-Pause Goal setting. Imprinting balanced goals on the subconscious. The culmination of all the other steps.
These are the nine pieces. The task now is to create a structure in which to experience and share them. Wow. Lots of work in the next weeks. I can't wait.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:45 PM
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
It is clear that the political dogs on both sides of the aisle have gotten their teeth into this tragic case, and are worrying it to death. There are questions of constitutionality, separation of powers and the balance of States as opposed to Federal rights that will resound for years, if not decades. This is a mess. In short, a woman suffering (probalby) irreversible braindamage has been on life support for fifteen years. Her husband, who has testified under oath that he is fulfilling her wishes, wants the support removed. Her parents want it preserved. The courts have sided with the husband, and congress is pulling heroic measures to overturn the courts.
That is, as far as I can see, the essence of the situation, devoid of value-weighted commentary. It is easy to see the basic arguments of the far edges of left and right, and the waythey demonize each other.
1) The Religious Right wants to establish a Theocracy, to have their private morality intrude on our personal lives. To that end they will bend any law, commit any hypocracy,and drag this woman's private hell into the public arena.
2) The Godless Left wants us on a slippery slope to a purely mechanistic, godless world. They have no respect for life, no morality, and are using this case to strengthen the case for Euthanasia.
And what are the positives? What are good people on both sides probably thinking?
1) On the Light. Life is sacred. The husband may be wrong about what his wife wanted, the doctors might be wrong about her chances for recovery. They are fighting for this woman's life.
2) On the Left. Individual choice is sacred. This woman wanted to die if she was ever in such a vegetative state. It is disrespectful in the ultimate not to respect those wishes, and is the intrusion of government into the most important choice many of us will ever make: when and how to die.
You know? I think that you can pretty much remove politics from this one. This is, in essence, a purely spiritual debate disguised as politics. My guess is that you could predict which side of the argument a person would come down on by asking: Is it permissable for a person to commit suicide? Those who believe there is virtually no circumstance under which a person has the right to end his life will probably lean toward the right on this issue. Those who believe the end of life is a personal choice will probably come down on the left.
Me? I think it's a personal choice. But I grasp the arguments and emotional sets and spiritual beliefs of those who think otherwise. They are not idiots, although there are idiots on both sides of this one. To me, the only real tragedy is the way this woman's image has been paraded across the news. I am quite, quite certain that Terri would be horrified at that. If she had any pride, any sense of grace and style and beauty, she would be mortified. And no matter what is right or wrong ultimately, we have dragged her family's private pain through the mud.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:15 AM
I have made a commitment to absolute honesty on this blog, to the limits of my ability. I try to give away everything for free, but there are some products and services that require an exchange of resources, otherwise I am hurting my family, and this I cannot do. But it behoves me to give you the clearest possible idea of what EXACTLY it is that has been created, and why it is worth your time and money.
Fifteen years ago, while teaching a general fiction class at UCLA, I stumbled across the fact that Campbell's model of the Hero's Journey could be used to help people plan their lives in advance. This lead to the "Lifewriting" workshops that I taught for about five years, having great fun,and helping thousands of people with lectures, seminars, and tape sets. I promoted an ideal of balance in body, mind and spirit. When my own marriage broke up, I realized I was out of balance, and that something was terribly wrong. I stopped teaching the workshop until I could determine where I had been blind. Years of soul-searching and research later, I found the blind spot (I hadn't seen the degree to which our relationships are our mirrors. My first wife, Toni, and I had complementary strengths and weaknesses. Because of my own selfishness, I hadn't realized the degree to which our marriage was not serving her, and that pressure built up until it exploded. Never again.)
I became convinced that the difficulty is that most "transformational" workshops are more context than content. In other words, things like est (Erhardt Seminar Training) actually can produce breakthroughs in perception, but you have to keep coming back to them, because they are much better at creating a "space" in which change takes place than they are at laying out a private path for your personal exploration. I wanted something else, and thousands of hours of meditation and study later, came to the conclusion that the change had to be anchored in the physical body. We store pain and fear in the physical body--this is why I push at the weight issue so much:it is so easy to hallucinate personal change. People create warped reality maps and consider themselves wonderfully evolved. But unless you can see those changes in the quality of your relationships, in your finances and in your physical body, you risk falling into illusion. The saying is that you can awaken your Kundalini from the heart out, or from the body up, but never from the top down.
I saw a beautiful example of this recently when I gave a talk on the Mastery technique, and one of the participants, priding himself on his intellect, asked questions in an endless, snarled cascade. Seven, eight, twelve questions all tangled together, roaming around complex body-mind issues, and he thought he was making sense. This gentleman was horrifically confused about what he wanted from our interaction, and couldn't see it. He thought he was being brilliant because I had to hunt for the frayed ends of one question at a time so that I could answer them. And he had surrounded himself with people who were impressed by his interrogatory technique. It was sad. He is obviously a very, very bright man who thinks that he can use that fine intellect to grasp the essence of his life. In fact, he could not even grasp the essence of his own questions. To such a person, the world can be a terrifying place, devoid of wonder. I felt sorry for him. THE WORLD IS BEYOND OUR CONCEPTS OF IT.
What I believe I have grasped is the outline of a Path, a way through the woods. It is not the only path, but it is a safe and relatively sure one. It conflicts with no world religions or major beliefs I am aware of. It uses the breath to open the doorway between the conscious and unconscious minds, and the body to remove fear from the psyche. This is, in potential, the most powerful technique I have ever heard of, and to my knowledge, nothing quite like it exists on the planet. I don't think any one person could have created it. And I think that, in the future, others will devise similar approaches. But Scott and I might be as much as five years ahead of the curve. What we will do in San Francisco will be ground-breaking and life-changing. We will send the participants home with a simple mental/physical technique, performed for only five minutes a day (at minimum) to actually change their lives for the better. I so hope that many of you will ask questions, push me about this, learn what you need to learn to make an informed decision. And then, meet us there. Make us prove what we're saying. If I'm right, this is one of those small bursts of light that, throughout history, have helped hold back the darkness. The combined wisdom of the human race--through all times and nations, is coming together. It would be an incredibly exciting time regardless, but the possibility that I am on the cutting edge of one aspect of that change is humbling and exhilarating. Please, journey to www.rmax.tv/mastery.html. Ask us questions. Make up your own mind. And hopefully, join us!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:48 AM
Monday, March 21, 2005
We're talking about the heart chakra still, and will be for a while. Wounds to this area probably are responsible for more human damage than anything else, but the healing of the wounded heart is the source of our popular love stories (from "Casablanca" to "Hitch") as well as the linchpin that holds together any decent character portrayal. Even in something as superficial as a James Bond movie, the fact that Bond is incapable of forming genuine human relationships has been subtextual in the entire series. Those who don't understand this mistake the glamorized sexuality and gambling for a desirable lifestyle, and miss entirely what Ian Fleming, or fine actors like Connery and Brosnan were doing with the character. YOu must understand the heart, and how it interacts with the other levels of our lives, to be able to write a character convincingly...or to be a writer of any substance at all.
What ARE our core emotional needs? Security and affection rank high, friends, very highindeed. "Everyone feels alone and afraid: is a core tenant of Lifewriting. "The only question is: what do you do with your lonliness and your fear?" For me, a lifetime of martial arts practise helped me to cope with childhood trauma. Some of it still remains. Oh, well. Loneliness? I surround myself with family, and they are the gem of my existence. I am so incredibly grateful to those who have loved and supported me over the years--I have no words. That's me, and the wounds in those arenas have played out over the course of my life in many, many ways.
What are your favorite films? Ifwe measure by box office, GONE WITH THE WIND is an eternal winner, a story of love set against hte backdrop of a nations near-death throes. It is a tragic love, because it symbolizes a dying dream_-the dream of an American aristocracy. That the dream required the subjugation of an entire race of people is never really looked at--we are busy being hypnotised by the trials of Rhett and Scarlett, and so we should be. It is a classic,wonderful story, and I stronly recommend it to either of the two folks left in the world who haven't seen it. What about Titanic, described by James Cameron as "Romeo and Juliett meet an iceberg"? You know, I barely know a writer who doesn't think he could have imporved that script, andthey are probably right. But I also don't know a single one who could have created that film. That Cameron placed a beating human heart athte core of all that spectacle is an astounding and humbling feat. The love between Jack and Rose spans class and time, enables us to see every level of that ship, gives us reason to care, makes us flinchaway from teh inevitable disaster, made millins of viewers feel the pain of Jack's sacrifice. Yet, as with GWTW, there are major problems--Rose drives me crazy. Her self-centered, slutty, arrogant, thoughtless behavior costs Jack his life. All she had to do was sneak off with him after the boat docked. Butno, she had to rub her fiancee's nose in her panty-dropping. When he responded with violence, people all over the world thought him a monster. Really? If her fiancee had done the same to her, and she had slapped or struck him, or even shot at him, audiences would have cheered. There was a massive double-standard going on there, but despite everything, we cared. She was a childish, spoiled little tramp-butwe cared. Her behavior was believable for a woman of her age and inexperience. And as the Titanic went down, because Cameron had us by the heart, we cared.
The heart hooks us. It is a simple as that. Find the heart at the core of your story, and you will hook us too. More later!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:21 PM
Sunday, March 20, 2005
I am bringing this back up because many of the new readers don't go deeply into the archives, and because I want to emphasize the importance of a meditation practice. If you are stirring up old emotional garbage, it is just like going on a fast and dumping fat-soluable toxins into your bloodstream. Your kidneys take a beating. In the same way, if you don't meditate, the emotional pain you are stirring up will cause you to stop your forward progress. You'll just run into a wall, believe me.
The most powerful safe form of Meditation I know (not all safe meditations are effective, not all effective ones are safe) is called "Heartbeat Meditation." It is simplicity itself: you sit and feel your heartbeat in your body. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel. After you've mastered this, you can feel your heartbeat in your yoga, your Tai chi, walking down the street, going to sleep, or any other time. Powerful. Try it for a minimum of 15 minutes a day. It is a darned fine beginning to a personal practice.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:54 PM
"Perfectionism is Procrastination Masquerading as Quality Control."--Steven Barnes
Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first. One of the worst mistakes you can make is trying to be perfect. I know people who routinely deprive themselves of valuable experiences and resources because nothing is ever good enough. People who won't finish projects because they're not "quite right." Now, this is fine for a while, but if you aren't completing the minimum amount of work to make progress, you need to see this for the pathology it is, and resolve to rid yourself of a potentially poisonous habit. You need to get to the root of it, anddecide what level of polish is necessary and desirable for the work or task at hand. If you reject people who aren't perfect, you may be resisting the hard cold look at yourself.
Failure is an absolutely inevitable part of the search for excellence. Trying to avoid failure, trying to look good, has killed more careers than lack of talent ever did. Want excellence? FAIL. Fail a lot.
Many, many times I have embraced teachers who were imperfect. Know why? Because there aren't any perfect teachers. There are no perfect people. All you need is people with different resources than you possess, and the knowledge of how to acquire those resources.
This does, however, raise another question: how do you filter out a teacher's negative characteristics? I had a martial arts instructor who chain-smoked. How in the hell do you absorb the value without picking up some of the negative? The answer is to find your emotional center, and learn to stay balanced there. Meditation is valuable for this. Self-hypnosis can also create a "guardian" personality whose job it is to keep you psychologically and spiritually safe. I would definitely suggest investigating this approach as well. Modeling is one of the most powerful NLP techniques, and Lifewriting embraces it wholeheartedly.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:45 PM
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Well, it had to happen. This sequel to 2003's effective Americanization of the Japanese original is intermittantly scary, but definitely studio work. They're trying to make it into "The Omen," where a cast of characters gets killed off in various creative ways over the course of 90 minutes. In other words, the art is gone, commerse has arrived. That doesn't mean it's a waste--I enjoyed aspects of it, and thought the basic idea--a killer videotape--was still effective. But something about it just seemed a little too by-the-numbers (including one of the most blatant "Leaps of Faith" I've ever seen. Someone should tell these people not to be so literal!) to be able to absorb its story of a woman struggling to save the life of her son. An entertaining waste of time, one that you'll forget by the time you reach the parking lot. Call it a "C"
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:25 AM
The Five Minute Miracle DVD, available now, is an incredible stress-buster! If you don't let life's stress cripple you, stress is the evolutionary catalyst that triggers change, growth, energy! The 5MM can be performed by anyone, at any time (even right in the middle of a stressful meeting!) but can also be integrated into intense exercise for more powerful effect.
The DVD contains:
1) The incredible "Be Breathed" technique
2) The Five Tibetans
3) The Hero's Journey
4) The Chakras
5) The I.D.E.A. technique for developing intuition
And much more! Included is also an exclusive lecture on the "Lifewriting" interpretation of the Hero's Journey, making this a perfect gift for writers, movie lovers, readers, actors, or couch potatoes.
Hey! Here's a great "Non-Drinking" game: while watching television, every time you see a distinct step of the Hero's Journey in a movie, perform one rep of Be Breathed and visualize your Goal Triangle. This is the first self-improvement technique you can use while sitting on your can watching reruns! It doesn't get much better than that.
More seriously, this DVD is the cornerstone of the Mastery Technique, a stripped-down, turbo-charged method of organizing your body, mind, and spirit to accomplish your dreams. It integrates wth any sport, martial art, religion, and most philosophies--we aim to be uniters, not dividers (oops! Where have I heard that?) At any rate, check it out, and also the new MASTERY WORKSHOP--WWW.RMAX.TV/MASTERY.HTML
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:17 AM
In getting up to the heart chakra we've come to the half-way point, and have laid down a foundation that we can work for a while. If you have the first four chakras anchored, and understand the stresses of the Hero's Journey, you can write like a fiend, and also control your own life to a fascinating degree. Not that challenges don't still lash you (I've got some terrific challenges right now as I re-organize my writing life to work in Hollywood!) but you understand that it's nothing personal, and understand the path of growth.
The Heartbeat Meditation (sitting quietly, listening to your heartbeat for 15-20 minutes) is central to the Lifewriting technique because you NEED a way to move the emotional gunk out of your mind. It settles in your body--which is one of the reasons that so many badly wounded people have a difficult time with body image--it's their emotional garbage dump. Survival wounds (poverty in childhood), sexual wounds (rape, abuse, betrayal), power wounds (race, gender, fear) all tear our hearts to pieces, leave us bleeding and unable to understand why life is so gray. You have to grasp that your emotions are legitimate, but also that no one else is responsible for them. Not if you're an adult! Your wounds are likely the result of choices you made, and the inability to deal with this honestly is one of the most devastating problems--its warps the reality map.
Instead of saying "I did this" and taking response-ability (note the meaning: the ability to respond!) we blame others, hold them response-able, and cripple ourselves. We beat ourselves up, thinking that we are punishing the husband,the wife, the lover. What sadness.All of the joy drains from our lives, because we aren't willing to start where we are, with the resources we have, and begin moving forward.
This must cease, if we are to have happy, meaningful lives. Start today:
1) Write yourself a letter, addressed to the younger you, the child you. Promise to take responsibility for your own emotions. Write it as if a letter to your own child. It must be strong,and loving and honest.
2) Commit to forgiving those who have wronged you. This doesn't mean letting them hurt you again. It means not carrying that pain around with you. COMMITING DOESN'T MEAN AN INSTANT CHANGE. It means beginning the process.
3) Begin a daily meditation and/or journaling practise. This is vital as the emotional sewage begins to surface.
4) Move your body daily. Find a physical practise, even if it's just a good, healthy walk. Work up a sweat 4-6 times a week.
5) Find healthy ways to love yourself. Pamper yourself, get hugs,read good books, go to the zoo...dance, sing, pray, write, love life!
We're going to go over more of this.I'm going to tell stories on myself, and censored stories of people I've known over the years. You must heal your heart and body and sexuality if you would move powerfully toward the future. Otherwise, you are losingsome of the most powerful energies in the human system.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:03 AM
Finally, the "Mastery Technique" workshop I've been hinting about is actually available. Scott Sonnon and I have been planning this for almost a year, and it's going to be phenomenal. We're keeping the price down on this first one so that it's more available to you guys, but as soon as we go "public" the sky's the limit. Please check it out at:
I promise it's going to be incredible!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:00 AM
Friday, March 18, 2005
Heard a political ad this morning, saying that California's Governator has stolen two billion dollars from the school system ehre, and complaining that this will hurt our children. Nodoubt there is some truth there, and I don't know the specifics, but I thought I'd comment on my own thoughts on how to fix the schools.
1) Clarify goals. I believe that the intent is to produce students who can become productive, voting citizens capable of re-paying society for the gift of their education. Certainly we want more than that, but this must be the bottom line.
2) Find Role Models. Begin to study those schools and teachers who have, consistently, performed above average in accomplishing the above goal. They are doing something different. What is it?
3) Reward good teachers, punish bad ones. And do it financially. Now understand, I am aware that Teacher's Unions hate the idea of pinning salary to performance. They would rather have it pinned to time in grade. Now, any teacher who believes that grades are useless and tests test nothing can take this position with honor. A teacher who is such a free-thinker can be believed when they say that, in their opinion, a teacher's ability cannot be measured with any set of tests or standards, however carefully designed. I might disagree, but I can respect them and consider them honorable. But a teacher who believes in tests and grades for students, who then turns around and says that a teacher's ability cannot be measured, evaluated, and differentially rewarded is, in my opinion, a liar and a coward. THEY ARE AFRAID TO COMPETE, and in my mind, should be driven from the profession--our children deserve better.
4) The top 10% of teachers should be modeled with great care, and programs evolved to allow less capable teachers to utilize the sophisticated models of the better ones. No insult intended here, but in any profession or art or science, some peopple are just better than others, whether due to innate differences, or environment. Allow the leaders, as proven by performance, to show the way. How do you find the best? A telling thing here is that the teachers I'vespoken to about this immediately leap to the "well,teachers in better neighborhoods would be rewarded because their students are better--" this is cowardly stupidity, their minds literally not working. Are they really so uncreative, so ignorant that they don't know that one can create measurements that take socioeconomics into account? That hold a teacher responsible only for relative change of students, so that slow students brought to an "average" standing is seen quite clearly as a greater accomplishment than exceptional students merely getting another A+? Are they really that dim? I think not. I think what we see here is raving fear that they are mediocre, that they cannot compete. I think they are wrong, that there is greater genius within our teachers than they know how to tap, and that if they can't have confidence in themselves, how inthe hell will they instil that confidence in their students? Can't they see that their fear to stand naked and be judged for their ability is the only thing that they really have to convey to their students? If they don't grasp this, we are in deep, deep trouble.
5) We must teach on more than the visual-digital level. This is the dominant representational system of Europe, and it is a damned fine one. But some students(and cultures!) are more kinesthetic, or more auditory. To craft lessons that allow these students to enter into the world of learning through their natural mode is not just a kindness, but a necessity.
6) Keep English as the dominant language system in schools. When non-English speaking students come in, their first job must be to learn the language. To give them special classes in their native tongue may seem to be a kindness, but it is actually setting them on the path to long-term disadvantage in life, and triggering a cultural war that distracts us all from what we are attempting to do--build a society that works for all of us. It takes maybe a year of focused study to become sufficiently fluent in a new language. It's worth the time.
7) Recruit teachers on the basis of passion and excellence. I remember hearing a teacher complaining about the differential between teacher's salaries and those of professional athletes. I hope to God this teacher isn't teaching economics--his self-serving ignorance was staggering. There are maybe 1000 well-paid professional athletes in the entire country. There are MILLIONS of teachers. What we spend on education, as a whole, completely dwarfs what is spent on sports entertainment--but that money is divided among a much smaller pool of people with short careers and no guarantees. If they went into teaching to get rich, and aren't willing to compete for the top dollars, they are nuts. Teachers could get rich if the very best teachers made hundreds of times as much as the worst--the exact same situation that exists in sports. Are they willing? Hell no. Then shut the hell up!
Anyway, that's my two cents. I LOVE teaching. I owe so much to the great teachers I have had--about six of them, over the entirecourse of my public education. And if those six had been rewarded and held up as exemplars, the entiresystem would benifit, and so would the students. The only ones to suffer would be mediocre teachers just putting in their time, afraid to be evaluated for their worth. Andfrankly? I care about the students, not the teachers. Remember the students? THEY'RE the ones the system was created for. Let's take it back.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:48 AM
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I want to post an overview of the process--new people have joined (judging by posts over on the discussion group) and I want to give them a chance to jump on board.
Lifewriting is a specific tool designed to connect the inner and outer worlds of the writer. You will use short stories to internalize the techniques, even if your ultimate goal is writing novels or plays. For plot structure, begin to understand the Hero's Journey, which we've already gone over at length. It is the only plotting technique that also mirrors the path of our lives, and therefore has special resonance. For characterization, use the yogic Chakras, which I consider to be the most complete map of human psychology ever devised. These two tools form an "X" and "Y" axis bisecting a 360-sphere which represents the total human experience. This sphere can't be painted perfectly in language, but by engaging with the aspects, we can begin to grasp it subconsciously--this is why both writing and life are arts, not sciences.
The Chakras, related to Maslow's heirarchy of human needs, suggests that until lower needs are taken care of, it is hard to evolve to higher levels. Thus, in many ways, stories are about people attempting to resolve issues that are basic in order to move on to higher states of being: survive so that you can love. Conquer fear so that you can speak your truth. Heal your heart so that you can become more spiritual, and so forth. The way to internalize this is to use the Chakras to examine your own life. Where are there holes in your own being? Where has fear crippled you? Where have you lied to yourself? Choose such issues, and build fictional stories about people with similar issues. By helping your characters resolve these issues, you are building bridges between your conscious and unconscious mind, and promoting your own personal growth--as well as the evolution of your writing skill.
It is suggested that you have personal goals in the three basic arenas: physical health/fitness, personal relationships, and career. Only by having measurable goals in all three can you begin to sense the way the world reacts to your behaviors, and begin to calibrate--to create an accurate map of your reality. With such a map, as painful as it may be, we wander in an anaesthetic haze, comforted in our lies about ourselves and the world, until the sands of our lives drain away. I STRONGLY encourage you to set such goals, and begin to notice what happens--both positively and negatively.
I further suggest that you need a way to drain the negative emotions from your life. Two fine methods suggest themselves: meditation and journaling. Meditation is supreme, but can be too confrontive for those with seriously impacted emotions. For those, try keeping a journal of your dreams, becoming sensitive to your inner language.
This is the Lifewriting technique in its baldest state. We zoom in for close-ups, I show how applying the balance model to various issues works for me, I talk about my own life from these perspectives, I invite you to speak back. That's what this blog is about.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:31 AM
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
I'd heard that Hostage was a loser, and was pleasantly surprised. ThisBruce Willis vehicle (actually, its kind of an anti-Bruce Willis vehicle, which means it's like a Bruce Willis movie, only married to your uncle. Sorry) deals with a police negotiator who flees to the hinterlands with his family after a catastrophic failure. There in the canyons of Ventura County, he encounters a nightmare scenario--a family held hostage by crazed whackos. Complicating the situation is the fact that the father of the family has files needed by the Mob, which kidnaps Willis' family to keep him in line...oh, you know the drill. Tense, bloody, mean, and ultimately satisfying in a cheap-thrills kind of way, I'll give this one a B- for most folks, and a B for those of us who like it a little wet.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:31 AM
Monday, March 14, 2005
Because it always generates a certain amount of controversy (and also because I'm addressing the power and emotional chakras), I thought it might be interesting to pause and look at the question of the Liberal/Conservative split. One of the problems, of course, is one of definition. The Conservatives have been so successful at defining Liberalism in purely negative terms that Liberals have started calling themselves "Progressives." But what do these terms mean? My guess is that Reasonable members of both camps have very different definitions from those who are radical on either side. I thought it would be interesting to open the floor and allow readers of whatever stripe to define these terms for us, just to see what comes up.
My personal thoughts on it (and I've addressed some of this before. ) I think that the political schism is actually not political at all--it's spiritual. That it is actually a secular version of the "Nature-Nurture" argument, or even more basically, the "Does Essence precede existence, or does existence precede essence" argument that has been raging in Western philosophical circles for about three thousand years.I'm going to try to define what I see as the differences without coming down on one side or the other--meaning that I'l try to be balanced in terms of what I see as the positive and negative aspects of each.
1) Conservatives. The Right seems to lean toward the "Nature over Nurture, essence precedes existence" position. The soul exists in a relatively mature form before entering this world. Our inner nature determines our actions more than our environments. Thus, abortion is seen as the murder of a human being, and the death penalty is seen as an appropriate punishment: the criminal has displayed his essential nature, is responsible for his actions, and must be punished accordingly. The punishment is sometimes seen as ultimately good for the soul. Social programs for the alliviation of poverty are seen to be of limited benifit--the poor and criminal classes are displaying their innate characteristics, and no external conditioning will have much effect.
2)Liberals. The Left seems to lean toward the "Nurture over Nature, existence precedes essence" position. Our souls are amorphous and unformed (at best) before we enter this world, and the conditions of our upbringing create us. Thus, abortion is the elimination of a bit of tissue that MIGHT turn into a human being, but currently is not. The death penalty is seen as unfair because society and conditioning are partially responsible for the behaviors. Social programming can and does modify negative behavior, and alliviate poverty.
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF EACH:
1) The Right tends to be more "Masculine"--protective, differentiating, wall-building, armoring, us-themism, heirarchical. More religious (although not necessarily more spiritual). In times of war and national stress, almost any society shifts toward the right--it is a survival response, and those who don't have it, didn't survive unless they were living in the marginal areas of the world: atop mountains, in deserts, on islands, etc. Tends to be symbol-based. Believes that wealth tends to accumulate in the hands of the blessed and brilliant. A negative: 90% of the racists I've ever known had right-wing politics. This, I think, is a factor of the heirarchical thought patterns--X is better than Y is better than Z. Talks about the "golden days" of America when there was more freedom--almost always unconsciously refering to a period when there was more freedom...for white males. They often don't even think about the fact that the "golden days" often included lack of voting for women, slaughter of native Americans, slavery of blacks. Ah, well...
2) The Left tends to be more "Feminine"--embracing all, centering rather than armoring, "we're all one family," cultural relativism, spirituality not necessarily linked to religion, little-guy over big-guy, wealth accumulates in the hands of the greedy and corrupt. Talks about a "golden period" of America yet to come--where all are "equal" (but, of course, some animals are more equal than others...) but often subliminally women are considered superior. Tends toward re-distribution of wealth through government pressure. Anarchists, communists, and such hang out in this part of the spectrum.
I have seen no monopoly on intelligence, courage, patriotism, or honesty on either side. The right tends to lable too much--the Left tends to lable too little. The Right indulges in more general name-caling (Liberalism itself turned into a dirty word: liberals are "Traitors, idiots, mentally deranged. Bumper stickers say: If they take our guns, how will we shoot the Liberals." Etc. ) In comparison, Liberals tend to attack individual ideas and persons on the Right, but I don't hear as much blanket condemnation of the entire idea of Conservatisim.
There are two competing views of the world, and the future and past of America. I don't think either side loves our country more, but I think the Right thinks it does. I don't think either side has a monopoly on compassion, but the Left thinks it does.
The litmus test. #1: One overhears the following conversation: "My sister is marrying a nigger. What's this country coming to?" You have to bet the mortgage. Quick: what is this person's likely political leaning?
#2: You overhear this conversation: "America is the worst country in the world. Our so-called leaders are idiots, and so is anyone who voted for them." Quick: what is this person's likely political leaning?
And don't try to tell me you don't know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Yours?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:16 PM
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I haven't written much about physical stuff for a while, and almost leaped over it to talk heart-space. The mention of Nicki seems to do that to me! So a few thoughts:
I'm working out five or six days a week, always taking Sunday off. The Bikram yoga is going well, and I'm going to experiment and see just how good it is at restoration and recovery. The target: a club-bell "Century" workout. I've tried for almost a year to approach Density training with the "Bruiser" clubbell, and found that my body just didnt' want to recover from it. I couldn't get enough work on my joints and stressed tendons to effectively recover. The Bruiser, although weighing only 45 pounds, has a massive amount of torque when you swing the bastard. I was going for a move called a "Gama Cast" which is sort of a figure eight, passing the mother back over your head and shoulder. Killer. The goal is 100 without stopping. A "density" workout, a plan that is popular on the Kettlebell and Clubbell forums, has you doing 200 reps within a 40-minute workout, starting with 40 sets of 5, then 35 sets of 6, then sets of 7, and so forth. It is insanely taxing. Now, Bikram yoga claims to be the biggity-bomb at recovery. I'll let you know.
Aside from that, it's Silat djurus multiple times a day, looking forward to going to the silat family gathering in May. The northwest bunch, headed up by the superb Stevan Plinck, are some genuinely talented and terrific people, and it'll be great fun to play with them again.
So that's my working out for the near future: Yoga, Gama Casts, and Silat. It's plenty, and covers every major (and most minor) fitness components. My workouts take from between 40 minutes and 1 1/2 hours. I guage my efficiency by the amount of energy I have in the day, how my body looks and feels, and how often I catch Tananarive looking at my butt. Hey, everyone has his own standards.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:57 AM
This film, directed by Terry George and starring Don Cheadle, Nick Nolte and Sophie Okonedo, is nothing less than an African Schindler's List. Not quite in the running that that Spielbergian masterpiece, yet and still it is honest, hard, brutal, inspiring, old-fashioned film making, and the fact that it was made at all, let alone that it has achieved the aclaim it has, gives me hope. The story deals with a good and honest man, the manager of a four-star hotel in the East African country of Rwanda. Caught up in a post-Colonial battle between two ethnic groups, his hotel becomes a refugee camp, and he plays an incredibly dangerous game attempting to preserve the lives of hundreds of helpless victims of the conflict. The European powers virtually abandoned them (and, frankly, listening to various right-wing friends prate on about how we're in Iraq to quell a brutal dictatorship when a few years back they were arguing that America shouldn't play cop in Africa...makes me want to vomit) and it was only the personal relationships gained through years of obsequious politeness that offered any hope of salvation at all. Wrenching, horrifying, uplifting. A superb film, with a devastating, quiet performance by the wonderful Don Cheadle. Easily an "A."
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:43 AM
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Measuring by the comments received on the last blog post, the question of: "what is the proper relationship between parent and child? What can we do to influence their behavior? What are the limits of the appropriate, the reasonable, or the doable?" Is of great interest. I wish this was an arena in which I had enormous clarity. The truth is that human interactions are more art than science. But the arena of the 4th Chakra--the heart--is of such great importance in the overall Lifewriting process (note that the only form of pure meditation we recommend is Heartbeat Meditation) that we need to address this, and give a bit more time.
Understand here that nothing I say about parenting is intended to hurt. Our children are their own beings, and will go their own way. Be that as it may, we also know that we have great influence over them. Sigh. How to balance our dreams and the achievable? Further, the 4th Chakra involves more complex relationships--those with our wives, husbands, significant others. These involve sex, power, and survival. Navigating these waters is going to be tricky. I can only go stream of consciousness here, try to speak the truth as I see it, and give you guys a chance to tear me a new one. Together, hopefully, we can peel back some of the layers of social convenience, and get a little teeny bit closer to something useful.
So to get this started, I'll say that, although no behaviors are guaranteed to get a specific positive response from your kids, you can be pretty close to 100% clear that they will NOT respond to "Do as I say, not as I do." So the idea of coherance, of walking your talk, is critical. The best thing about this parenting principle is that it is identical with an approach to a healthy, happy life. And what makes this so great is that it's not something you're doing "for the kids." YOu don't get to say, twenty years from now, "you owe me because I was coherant, because I walked my talk." I think that's another important thing: what you do for your kids, you are doing for yourself. They owe you nothing but respect. Parents can completely screw up their relationship with their kids with the guilt-tripping "what I gave up for you" nonsense. anything I did for Nicki I did because that was the kind of person I am committed to being. If I had left her in the Northwest and gone back to Southern California after her mother and I broke up, few people would have blamed me. But I castigated my father for not being there for me, and it would have been scathingly hypocritcal not to live up to a standard I imposed on that good and decent man. So I sacrificed aspects of my career to be a father. Not for Nicki, you note. I did it for myself, and if I ever hold it over her head, I will have diminished myself.
At any rate, it's almost time for the Daily Show. I'll talk more about this tomorrow. Night, guys!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:27 PM
How to destroy Rap music as we know it? Simple: Send a hundred bus-loads of fathers into every inner-city in America.
I was listening to the radio in my car on the way to Jason's baby-sitter, and Rapper 50 Cent was talking about his childhood. His drug-dealer mother ran away, and he was raised by his grandparents. He went on to talk about how wonderful his grandmother was, and I said to myself: "what about his grandfather?" It suddenly hit me that, for all practical purposes, I had NEVER heard a rapper talking about his father in positive terms. That is, if there was a father there at all. And in their songs? Many, many times I'd heard rappers talking about mothers as if they were saints. And no comments about fathers.
These same, misguided souls who waxed rhapsodic about their mothers talked about other women as if they were toilets. They used them for sex, called them whores, told them to their faces that they meant nothing, but "come on home with me" anyway. Bitch.
What the hell is going on? The rampant "Baby-Mama" phenomenon, which has just about been Normed in the inner city, is one of the most destructive patterns imaginable. It is destroying the black family, and if you wonder what it leads to, just listen to the values in any rap song:
1) dealing drugs, pimping or maybe SINGING ABOUT drugs and pimping (or singing) to make a living. No real jobs, careers, or contribution to community beyond that.
2) No family connections. No thoughts of father, no thought to make a nest for children. How about a college education? How about thoughts of parents growing older? The entire thing has gone crazy.
3) Body as toxic waste dump: for drugs, insanely casual sex, for violence (what is 50 Cent's chief claim to fame? That he was shot nine times. This single fact looms larger than anythign else about him. Wow. There's a set of bona fides for you.)
And there are almost no true emotions at all. No softness. No sense of time passing, of responsibility for actions. Who is about the only rapper who tells something close to truth about his emotions? Eminim. Apply Lifewriting theory and it all makes sense.
Boys and girls need their fathers. Desperately. Girls need them to get that male energy that combines with their female energy to create life. If they don't get it from their fathers in a healthy way, they'll get it in the street. That was one thing that I was certain of: my daughter would NEVER go looking for the love she should have gotten from me.
I was raised by my mother and my sister. I’m lucky I was a dweeb, because none of the gangs wanted anything to do with me: I was just fodder for beating-up. I was desperate for some kind of male role model. Some kind of image of what it was to be an adult male, to have the respect of other men, and the admiration of women. That sent me on a search through action-heroic literature and cinema. You know what I found? NONE of the men there looked like me. The men who looked like me were cowardly and stupid, for the most part, or died protecting white people. And so desperate I was, that I read it anyway. As I put it once, I sacrificed my Melanin on the altar of my Testosterone.
The damage done to me from the simple fact of having no father, no elder brothers, no uncles is incalculable, and lingers to this day. I have fear and stress issues that are like Post-Traumatic Stress syndrome that keep me from enjoying some aspects of my martial arts training as I should, and have resisted decades of therapy, meditation, and other interventions. I can deal with them now, but the simple pleasures of “pushing against” other male energy, such a central aspect of growing up in a healthy family, have escaped me in this lifetime.
Boys have something that rages like fire within them. They need to push, to have someone push back, to have a larger, stronger male figure show them their limits. A single mother must be almost superhumanly strong to provide this without tearing herself apart. I’d say less than 10% of them can do it. And what is clearer is that that Madonna/Whore complex thing, where mothers are saintly, but other women are sexual toilets to be exploited, is a heartbreakingly common effect.
Men not only learn how to deal with other men from their fathers—they learn how to treat women. How to be in relationships. How to take responsibility for their children. How to sacrifice dreams of glory for a lifetime career. In other words, everything you don’t hear in Rap Music.
It seems to me that Rappers are tone-deaf to the melody of life as it is truly lived. They claim that they are speaking the Truth of life in the inner city, and it is a lie. They speak a partial truth. Most people in the inner cities are raising families, working jobs, trying to life themselves up, loving, caring for aging parents, dealing with hope and love and fear. We hear almost nothing about those things, for market reasons—Rappers project an image of black Americans that is infinitely marketable for reasons we might address later.
What is different about Eminim? Why can he come closer to telling the truth about his emotions? Well (from the Lifewriting perspective) if you have no father in your home, Uncle Sam become your daddy. The countless movies and television images of fathers become your daddy. John Wayne becomes your big brother. Clint Eastwood your uncle. That works great for white kids. In comparison, there might, just might be 1% as many positive, strong images for black kids. That’s better than nothing, but not enough. And there are no roads at all to the top. None.
In a cynical mood, I might say that we’ve seen the most powerful black man who ever lived—Colin Powell. After a lifetime of impeccable service, he threw away a massive amount of personal capital serving George Bush. Bush is seen by many as a great President and human being. I won’t argue that. What I will say is that to a cynical observer, a black kid in the inner city, it could well seem that the best you can do, the best any black man can do in America is be second-fiddle to a drunken frat boy. What is that line? “I’d rather rule in hell than serve in Heaven”? Boys want to conquer, to rule the world, to let that gonzo energy within them take it to the top.
They are short-lived fighter-hunter drones, and for an inner city kid bursting with Testosterone, they would rather be the dead “Scarface” than the emasculated, disgraced, Colin Powell (please understand that I am not saying that this is what Mr. Powell is. Personally, I have the highest respect for him. I am asking you to place yourself in the perspective of a bitter young black man desperate for role models.) ‘Scarface” took shit from no one, built an empire, screwed beautiful women, and died with a snarl. For these kids, that’s the best they can see.
It wouldn’t be that way if they had fathers. I am so disgusted with the young “men” who think they can impregnate women and walk away. And just as disgusted with the young women who spread their legs for these trolls and create another generation of broken warriors, whose energy turns in on themselves and their communities in a disintegrating spiral of venom.
This is not unique to Black Americans. You can look among any colonized people and see similar damage. It is possibly worse for us because (to my knowledge) Black Americans are the only group in the entire world cut off from their own creation myths and stories of their Heroes. They don’t know their names or songs or dances or homeland, and they worship a God-Figure who resembles their oppressors more than themselves. They are, not at the center, but at the periphery of their Cosmology.
But if there isn’t a God the Father standing behind them, resembling them, showing the way and giving love, then there had better the hell be a Steve the Father, a Richard the Father, a Mike the Father. Or they are well, and truly screwed.
And if you don't believe me, just turn on the radio.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:58 AM
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
There are many, many different ways to look at the aspects of fitness. I like Coach Sonnon's "Three Dimensional Performance Pyramid" which goes from Health to fitness to skill to competition. The more basic step MUST be established before you move on to the next. But what does this mean, exactly? Let's say that your goal is...ummm...weight loss. That's an issue for several folks here. What you would do to use this model, is find an activity that you want to get good at. Say, Ballroom dancing, martial arts, running...something that has a "competitive" aspect that gets you excited. By the way--not everyone is a competitive person. No sin in that.
1) The first step is to improve the general health of the body. Skeletal system and joints and organs and so forth. There are few exercise systems that work these things. Yoga, Tai Chi, The Five Tibetans (available in the FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE), Chi Gung, and a few other techniques do this.
2) Fitness covers several basic attributes: strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, power, etc. A progressive resistance weight training system of some kind is great for this. Kettlebells and Clubbells can cover this range beautifully. For most people, three-four times a week will seal the deal. Once your fitness has reached an acceptable level
3) Skill. This is where most people make a mistake: they play a sport to get fit. this is how you injure yourself. GET FIT, AND THEN PLAY THE SPORT. Find a good teacher. There are additional benifits, what I call a "Perfect Template." Tai Chi, Silat, Yoga, Ballroom Dancing, Modern Dancing, etc.--all of these are skills that require you to compare your body to that of an idealized form. This may or may not be exemplified by the instructor (a good instructor--or coach--can help you develop better form than he/she has.) The point is that part of your emphasis should be on an idealized, impossible-to-reach Platonic Ideal of a motion, something that will always exceed your grasp. This puts you on the road to constant improvement, tiny adjustments that you will make for the rest of your life. Ego can be suspended. FORM is the conjunction of Breath, Motion, and Alignment. Remember how I said that under stress, form dis-integrates? That means that as your grasp of form becomes more acute, you can see stress coming from a mile away, and keep it from having a negative effect simply by beginning a re-integration sequence (performing a Tai chi or Silat form or two, a few Yoga Asanas, some pranayama, THE FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE, etc.) As you get better, you start learning how to hold yourself in flow state--the secret to reaching your highest levels of excellence. And if you have balanced goals (I.D.E.A.) you will AUTOMATICALLY begin to evolve as a human being.
4) Competition. This is where you place your form under stress. You choose an appropriate level of competition, and go for it. Your coach or friends or teammates or partners report back to you on your external form (video works great) or you teach your unconscious to record the results. Begin to see where your form comes apart, and re-integrate to make it stronger. Competition, then, acts as a metaphor for life, and those you compete against are the best and truest teachers you will ever have in your life.
So consider finding some physical activity to provide a PERFECT TEMPLATE for you to compare your form against. It is another tool for maximum growth in the arenas of the spiritual and emotional...believe it or not!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:10 PM
the "Century" is Scott Sonnon's term for a 100-rep Death march--the performance of 100 repetitions of a motion with the Clubbells. I'm using the Bruiser (45 lbs) in a figure-eight motion called a "Gama Cast" and the method of approach is called a "Density Cycle" where you double the number of the target (200) and then complete them all within 40 minutes, in sets of five, starting each set at the top of the minute. When that can be done cleanly, move to sets of six, then seven, etc.
Well, as I said,t he problem before was that my body wasn't recovering well from the work load (this is a 1-2 X a week maximum load) and I decided to see if I could approach it again, using the Bikram Yoga as recovery work. Monday was the Density cycle. Tuesday was the Yoga. This morning I could hardly get out of bed. I had to, to get Jason to the sitter, but then came home and slept for another three hours. Yow! but I feel pretty good, and the truth is that I stayed up too late last night (past midnight), so I don't know how that factored in. I won't try the next "step" until next week. We'll see...
Posted by Steven Barnes at 3:49 PM
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
There were, of course, aspects of raising a daughter rather different from raising a son. You don't have to worry about sons getting pregnant, for instance. that doesn't mean you don't care about their behavior, but that is a bit of a shift. My thoughts on when sexual activity becomes reasonable (when you can support yourself financially) grew out of these concerns. But in the main, I just wanted a healthy kid, and considered most aspects of her maturation to be of the universal human kind.
When her baby fat was slow to come off, I got a bit concerned, but because she didn't live with me, it was hard to monitor her eating and exercising habits as well as I wanted to. Also, I didn't want to give her somethign to rebel against, or a reason to feel bad about herself--being raised in a virtually all-white town gave her enough of that, believe me. But I knew she wanted to have a bomb body, because I watched the videos she watched, and knew that the guys she was attracted to had muscular, toned bodies. In my book, that means she wanted to be the feminine equivilent of those men: a similar set of values and disciplines would create the curves that balanced their muscles. So, it slowly became possible for me to point out that these guys were attracted to women with similar disciplines and lifestyles. Every time she tried to take the position that body-fat content was mostly hereditary, I gently pointed out that obesity yields quite nicely to changes in behavior. That it can be difficult to sustain those changes in behavior due to emotional problems, but in that case, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that people with weight issues have emotional problems--they're like alcoholics that carry bottles on their belts. Awareness isn't the same as action, however. She fell out of karate classes once they got more difficult, and although I worked hard to get her into shape, it doesn't take a whole lot of bad eating habits to undue a few hours of sweating per week. So the serious work had to wait until she was living with me, down here.
Teaching her to be honest was mostly a matter of being honest with her--that gave me the right to demand reciprocity. The same with keeping her word. There are problems with getting her to clean her room, but then I'm not the neatest person in the world. She's never gotten straight A's, although she tests VERY highly...but she certainly gets better grades than I got, so that's not bad either.
She's been good with her friends (although she had no boyfriends), enjoys working, and has accepted a healthy physical discipline. At this point, then, I can begin to teach her the lessons she will really need, simply by drawing her attention to the connection between causes and effects in her life.
I remember a friend asked me to talk with her daughter, who was having unprotected sex with a boyfriend. I knew that the daughter was steeled to be lectured, so instead I just politely and non-confrontationally asked her what her intentions were. She said she wanted to marry this guy. It came out that she felt that if she got pregnant, he would marry her. I asked her if this tactic contained the level of honesty and integrity that she would want in a marriage, in other words if her behavior would actually get her the result she wanted. If so, great, go for it. If not, she might re-think her options.
It worked like gangbusters. And I think that is at the core of my child-rearing theories. I was never so happy as the day (when she was aobut 7) when I realized Nicki understood logical arguments sufficiently that I wouldn't have to spank her any more. Then, it's just a matter of getting them to CLARIFY their goals, understand the results of their actions, and make their own judgements as to whether their actions will actually take them to their goals. Sometimes they are afraid to dream, and we have to help them. Sometimes they can't see the link between cause and effect, and we have to help them. But by drawing her attention countless times to that body-mind-spirit connection, day by day she is getting a clearer picture of how she can live her life with grace, power, and dignity.
the choices ahead of her are her own. But I will do everything in my power to attune her sensitivity to the connection between the inner and the outer worlds before she leaves the nest. And I thank God for this chance to ease her passage to adulthood.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:54 AM
A confession: I like Vin Diesel. So when I saw the coming attractions for "Pacifier" I was cautiously optimistic. this family-friendly Disney entry looked like a canny career move for the big guy. the story is pure "Kindergarten Cop"--a tough guy learns to open his heart while on an assignment protecting a family of kids. The early reviews were bad, but I went anyway, and had a perfectly fine time at the movies. There are poopie jokes, Ninjas, villainous boy scouts, SUV chases, a mild romance, and an attack duck. I had a big smile on my face during much of it, and laughed out loud repeatedly. Heck, I'll see it again on DVD. A "B."
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:19 AM
Monday, March 07, 2005
As we change, our friends and families can feel threatened, and actually strive to hold us back. I can say this over and over, but a single letter can illustrate this far better. It comes from a female student who is working courageously with weight and other issues. She's one of my favorite people...
The good news- I've lost eight pounds through diet and exercise. My
thighs and biceps are discernibly toned, I'm feeling healthier et
The bad news- I married a man who's de-evolving into such a jerk. He's
getting on my case about dieting like my actions offend him. Saturday
night was cool and funny, we all laughed. I heated up some leftover
french onion soup (made with broth from a beef roast I'd made earlier
in the week and butter sauteed onions, then topped with toasted french
bread slices and melted cheese) for him and a friend of ours to eat.
(HUSBAND) was still hungry so I threw together a batch of samosas (leftover
basmati rice with vegetables, frozen o'brien potatoes, curry powder,
garlic, salt, and roasted cumin seeds, fried in a pan of olive oil then
wrapped in a butter/flour crust and baked to golden perfection served
with mango chutney). I'm a good cook, but these are not foods that fit
in a 1200 calorie a day diet so I got myself a 3 oz., 80 calorie can of
salmon to eat. HUSBAND started to lay into me about my no longer eating,
A FRIEND made a comment about my preference for cat food. It stayed
light and funny. Then last night HUSBAND starts yelling at me because I
had a can of V-8 while everyone else was eating pizza. He goes on in
this superior way about how he doesn't believe in fad diets, or
alternately that it must be nice to have the narcissistic luxury of
diet and exercise, but he's too busy being a grown-up now. He's also
as overweight as I am and looks like a man with one foot in the grave
and in his beautifully sculpted athletic youth he used to look at
middle-aged pot-bellied men as ultimately pathetic. I know that it's
his insecurity causing him to lash out at me, but I have enough
insecurity of my own I don't need his crap right now.
I need to lose this weight. Being a 38DDD (yes, triple) is not easy on
my back, carrying this extra weight around my hard tile floors is not
easy on my knees or ankles. No matter how positive my outlook, obesity
is still linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart
attack, stroke... and I'm sure the list goes on. This isn't the vanity
of ten or twenty pounds interfering with my pool-side strut. This is a
health issue and I owe it to my babies to be strong and healthy and
around for a while.
All that said I also need a friend to tell me that I'm doing the right
thing. So I'm asking you to counter the undermining of my efforts with
a little pep talk if you could. It doesn't need to be personal, you
write plenty in your blog about weight issues. And I write plenty of
stuff "from the bottom of my tank" in my blog. It's just a hard
combination, change and criticism. I need a friend today.
STEVE'S COMMENT: you not only have the right to be healthy, you have the responsibility, for your children, and for yourself. Your husband is filled with fear. The weight is both a symptom and a cause.
If he can tell himself there is no option, that he's doing all anyone can do, he can be at peace with his decisions. But if you begin to wake up, to shake yourself loose, it threatens the hell out of his world view. It makes him feel wrong and bad and ugly and old.
I am so proud of you, and what you are dealing with is as real as it gets. What to do? Continue to journal, and meditate. As the stress ramps up, this will be more necessary. Meet his jokes and accusations with love, and realize that his negative aspects appealed to a negative aspect within you--you and he are one. Loving him is loving yourself. Don't take it personally...it's gonna get worse before it gets better. Fear is a monster. But if you are strong, and slowly, gently move your house toward health, you will find him taking small steps. He is very, very frightened of life. Don't be scarier than you have to.
But above everything else, keep growing and changing. Reach out on the discussion board--get the support of others who are fighting the same fight. And I'll always be here for you, hon. Promise.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 1:19 PM
At this point, you should be writing a story a week, or a story every other week, and sending them out. That is, if you are serious about wanting to be a writer. Most people aren't. They have a dream, a hunch, a misty wish. They think that they have brilliant ideas, and if only they had the time to write them...This is the origin of the "I have a great idea--you write it and we'll split the money" routine. No. Ideas are as cheap as dirt. EXECUTION IS KING. I've yet to meet a single person who didn't have good ideas. the world belongs to those who can discipline themselves to sit down and apply the sweat and blood to create them.
when I teach writing, one of the first things I do is ask people about their television habits. Engage them in discussions about this or that show--until everyone in the class has admitted to watching, every week. At that place I drop the bomb: every single person in the class has admitted to wasting more time every week than would be necessary to actually craft a career. IT IS NOT LACK OF TIME. It almost never is. Drive 2 1/2 hours to work? Get a tape recorder and a headset, and dictate text on the road, transcribe on the weekends. Watch less TV. We have the time--what we don't have is permission to succeed. To be happy.
the most common complaint about my program is that people's ideas come to them in long form. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN IDEA WITH AN INTRINSIC LENGTH. ONLY THE TREATMENT OR EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA HAS AN INTRINSIC LENGTH. You can write about WW2 with a 2-page short story, or tell the story of a single grain of sand with a work the size of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. There is a name for people who can only write novels--perpetual amateurs. Every single professional writer I know CAN write short stories. Novels are where the money is, true, but they CAN. And almost every unpublished writer seems to think I've never heard the "my stories come in novel length" reasoning before. It is sad, and the death of more potential careers than I can say.
Let me tell you a story. Thirty years ago, I knew a girl who wanted to write. She said: "I'm working on a short story." Great, I thought. A month later I asked her how it was going. "It's getting a little long...turning into a novelette," she said. Great, I thought. Two months later I asked her how it was going. "It's getting longer...turning into a novella." Great. Five months later "It's turning into a novel." A year later "It's feeling more like a trilogy..."
Fifteen years later, I was traveling along the East Coast, and dropped in to visit my friend. I asked her how the Trilogy was going. "I got tired of, it, put it away," she said. "But I'm working on another novel. The only thing is, it feels like more than one book..."
This is so sad. This woman has blown her entire working life, years and decades of work, because she never dealt with the emotional issues stopping her from completing short stories and sending them out to be criticized. Developing that emotional armor (or centeredness) is a learnable skill. But she was never honest enough with herself, and now her chances of ever, ever doing anything with a fine and fertile imagination is virtually nil. Don't let this happen to you.
1)Write a story a week, or every other week.
2) Put them in the mail
3) Keep them in the mail until they sell.
4) Don't re-write except to editorial request.And within fifty stories, you'll be a published writer. Guaranteed.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:14 AM
"Functional fixedness" is a term in psychology. An illustration:
A woman cut the ends off of her roast before cooking it. For years she did this, and then one day her daughter asked her "why? Does it make the meat juicier?" "Because my mother used to do it," she answered after a moment's thought. "But why?" She really didn't know, but she called her mother and asked her. "Because your grandmother used to do it," she explained. Well, grandmother was still alive so she went to see granny. "Why did you cut the ends off the roast?" Grandmother thought, and then laughed. "Because our roasting pan was very small," she said.
We inherit maps of reality from our families, our societies, our childhood. Things, ways of addressing the world that made perfect sense at one time (perhaps), but have become out-moded drastically as time goes by. We have to be very careful. "Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results," the saying goes. Ofttimes, we get stuck in a rut, but keep digging. Why? Because digging worked in the past.
How can you tell if you have rendered an old reality map, philosophy, or approach obsolete? It is vital to check the accuracy of your input, and to check it regularly. Remember the core of these teachings:
1) If you are chronically broke, your reality map is off.
2) If you are more than moderately overweight, your reality map is off.
3) If you have a terrible relationship history, your reality map is off.
LOOK AT THIS STUFF. It's your life, and the chances are that you are blown out to one degree or another, in one or another category. It happens to all of us. It is one of the surest signs that we aren't reading reality accurately. It just isn't that hard to make a living, to be in decent shape, to have a loving relationship. Billions manage it. We all want it. When life screws up, WE have to take the responsibility. Look at your habits, and make some hard, cold decisions about whether the ways you have been for years or decades still serves you. If not, make changes. Sometimes a belief or habit is something healthy your parents gave you. And some time, they're just a short roasting pan.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:59 AM
I just got this note from a friend and student...
I'd like to ask you about how you raised your daughter. I've met her(I don't
know if I should refer to her as Lauren or Nikki - I think I remember you
calling her that. Or I'm just mis-remembering things) and, from what I've
seen, she is intelligent, concientious, simultaneously strong-willed and
respectful; and I attribute what I know of her to what I know of you, as a
man, as a human being, and as a father. And not to sound like I'm trying to
blow smoke up your ass, I try apply what I've learned (and continue to
learn) from you to my parenting of both of my girls. You are, in a great my
ways, my role-model, which is why I come to you now.
When she was 12, full of nearly-teen hormones and attitude and
manipulations, how did you relate to her? Was she ever disrespectful or
deceitful, and how did you handle it? I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to
say here, so I'll just end for now, but thank you Steve, for everything.
So I've decided to spend some time this week on the heart chakra. The question of relationships, and family, especially since I take the position that we are responsible for them, and their health.
Anyone who knows me knows I adore my daughter Nicki (Lauren Nicole), and that she is the only child I had with my first wife, Toni. I think she's turning out great, and in order to talk about what my attitudes were in raising her, I have to get into her business a bit--which I have her permission to do.
First, you have to define exactly what you want for your children. How else will you know if you're getting it or not? How else can you adjust your actions and priorities? How will you know when things are going wrong? So let me start with my basic position about parenthood:
It is my job to deliver my children safely to their future.
Nicki does not belong to me. She is not me, re-packaged in younger, prettier, feminine form. She is her own creature. As a child, she was already as smart as she was ever going to be--merely ignorant. I had to help her learn how to learn. To that end, there were three things that I wanted to give her, or to help her find within herself:
1) A love of learning and working.
2) Self-love, externalized to healthy relationships. The ability to form teams of people to accomplish those things she cannot do for herself.
3) A love and appreciation of her body as a toy, a tool, and a pet.
I screwed up in my first marriage. There are things I will talk about there, and for reasons of family privacy, others I will not. Let's just say that some of my asininity contributed to the break-up, and that placed my daughter at risk. Children need both parents, and I was absolutely commited to Nicki having the healthiest life possible. When she found out her mother and I were getting a divorce, it shattered her. Unfortunately, her best friend's parents had had a divorce. Within a year or so the father locked himself in a hotel room and LITERALLY drank himself to death. So, to Nicki, this is what happens when mommies and daddies divorce. This moment, when she was about 11, was a critical one. I looked at Nicki and said: "Nicki, have I ever lied to you?" She shook her head no. "Have I ever broken a promise to you?" Her beautiful, tear-stained face showed strain as she thought. Then she answered "no."
"All right, then," I said. "Here it is. I know that you need your daddy. So, until you are 18 years old, I promise that I'll live close enough that you can see me every day."
Instantly, she brightened up, because she knew I was good for it. I ended up living in Longview, Washington, a tiny town with not much to recommend it except excellent, excellent people. for seven years I gave up my career in Hollywood, lived in a teeny logging town so small it didn't even have a 7-11. A town so white I used to get stares when I walked down the street. And my wife, Tananarive, a big-city girl from Miami, came there to be with me, and we created a home where T, Nicki, Toni and I all lived within ten minutes of each other, and could be together for Sunday dinner, see movies, collaborate on school projects, and whatever else was needed. I will always love Toni with a full heart for making it possible for me to parent the daughter I love so dearly--there was no war zone. We found our way to peace together, and my respect and affection for my ex is through the roof.
There were things about Longview that were problematic for my daughter. She was too exotic, a bit too dark. She never had a single date, the whole time she was there, and she was the only one of her peer group for which this was true. No boyfriends. Nothing. We'll discuss that later. But one thing she knows about herself, and knows it absolutely, and will know for the rest of her life: her daddy loves her. Her daddy was willing to do whatever it took to be there for her. And no one, ever, will be able to take that from her.
I made mistakes in my life, but was damned if Nicki would pay for them. If she grows strong, it will be because she grows from a base of love, with parents she could trust. When I am on my death bed, thinking back over my life, it is quite possible that the single thing I will be proudest of is:
1) I never lied to my daughter.
2) I never broke a promise to her.
3) And when she needed those things the most, I was able to honestly say them.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:59 AM
Sunday, March 06, 2005
There are articles everywhere about the legion of Michael Jackson supporters, who cannot or will not believe that their hero is guilty of abusing a series of boys. Fair enough--he may well be innocent. And there are some who believe O.J. to be innocent. What might have happened if one applied the mind Reading technique to each of them? The Juice is trickier--we had reports of spousal abuse, and his career was bottoming out (remember "Naked Gun"?) but that doesn't automatically mean murder. While predicting his downfall might have been difficult, in his behaviors since that time--when reported publicly, there seems every indication of the smiling monster he would have to have been to kill Nicole and Ron.
Michael is clearer. Indeed, how could anyone not have seen how abnormal this man was? There is an element of our physical carriage that is nothing more than sexual lure. What was he attempting to attract? The entire "Neverland Ranch" routine certainly suggests nothing about interest in adult females. Adult males, perhaps? There were certainly rumors, but who knows. What can be seen is that this is a human being turned inside-out, his child and adult personas reversed, probably from the time his parents pimped him out to support the family. It's all so sick, and sad. And predictable. When will people grasp that the way we carry ourselves in the world says a HUGE amount about who and what we are? Was anyone surprised when Paul Rubins was found masturbating in an adult movie theater? Jeeze! Does anyone believe that Kirsty Ally is "a jolly fat woman" happy with her life? Do you KNOW how much energy it takes to carry around that much armor? NO ONE would do that unless they felt desperately afraid, unhappy or alone. DESPERATELY. When you see people who have diverged hugely from the norm, ASSUME that there is something wrong. Give them a chance to prove you mistaken, perhaps, but ladies, if the guy is fifty and never married--THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG. If his relationship history is non-existent or abusive--RUN. If they have an endless string of failed businesses, THERE IS A REASON. If they chain-smoke and drink a six-pack a day, THERE IS A PROBLEM. If they have a distorted body image--IT MIRRORS THEIR INTERNAL MAP OF REALITY.
Assume these things, however unpopular or politically incorrect it may be. And you will save yourself a huge amount of pain. If only we hadn't loved him so much, we might have saved him. Or someone might have. It is probably far too late now--Michael's life is about to implode, no matter what happens. But we must stop worshipping our celebrities to the exclusion of common sense. We must stop listening to the comforting lies and explanations of our families, friends, and co-workers. The only reason we are surprised by their behaviors is that we aren't honest about our own.
Wake up, people. It's not too late. For us.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:36 AM