What can I say? I was absolutely right. Even more disgusting than I had feared. Go back and look at my comments from earlier in the week, and grasp just how deep the rot goes. The second worst moment in this Super-Hero secret agent nonsense starring Ice Cube and Samuel Jackson? When the new XXX gets out of prison and says that after nine years there's one thing a man wants...a hamburger. And the worst moment? When a beautiful blonde shucks him out of his clothes, tells him to take a shower, she'll be right back, and by the way...is there anything she can do for him? "Anything?" He asks. She smiles suggestively. "How about a hamburger and fries," he says, giving an answer that no heterosexual male, black or white, could possibly imagine himself saying, thereby rupturing all rapport. God, it's scary. If you want to count the cost of Melanine, look precisely at the drop in sex between the first and second movie. Then go over to RottenTomatoes.com and see that some critics STILL complained that there was too much girley interaction. What? Just how frightening are we? Apparently, terrifyingly so. The filmmakers should be ashamed. On a comic book level, oh, I guess I'd give it a "C." On the social level, once you understand the racial/sexual dynamics involved, it deserves an "F-" On the other hand, if you're a lover of mindless spectacle, this cartoon version of "Seven Days In May" is possibly the stupidest, least believable, loudest, most insulting movie ever made...give it an "A+." And Sam Jackson made "Shaft," too. I'm starting to get pissed off with him.
Friday, April 29, 2005
I love this blog. I love being able to direct the discussions to questions of balance in the personal, physical, professional, and political arenas. I promise to always be open to questions of my own fairness and courtesy, because I expect that from others.
I am venting here because I honestly believe that I see the path to greatness and mastery, as many others have seen it. The only way I can be certain is to share as much of my thought and process as possible, and let smart, good, energetic people of many persuasions do their best to tear me a new one. Unless I can explain and defend, my "mastery process" concept is a joke.
A student recently asked me to help her find a new spiritual goal, now that meditation was steady. I told her to go more deeply into that meditation, and find her own answer. This is what she just sent me. superb.
My room is the most important thing to my spirit. The night I sent my
husband the e-mail letting him know where we stood I emptied out our
bedroom, threw the queen-sized mattress and box-springs on top of the
derelict station wagon in our garage. I cleared the room out
completely. When he got home I offered it to him because he'd been
bitching that he didn't have a place for his stuff. I told him he
could take it, but if he did I wanted all of his crap out of the office
in a timely manner. If he chose not to take it I would give him the
office and endeavor to get my crap out of the office instead. He
didn't approve of the dismantling of our marriage bed. He refused to
put a thing into that room he felt was a mistake and a tantrum, except
for to possibly help me put the bed back in there. I refused.
Now I have my own room. I put in a twin sized bed underneath the south
facing window and I watch the moon travel its course like I had through
the south facing window of my childhood bedroom. I meditate in the
mornings to the ocean mimicry of wind through the evergreen that shades
me from the rising sun. Now I have a space of my own.
As a child I endured a lot and early. I think I've come out stronger
and healthier than most with that resumé. I attribute my success to
having had a safe home. Neither my mother nor my stepfather were
remotely abusive. I knew I could sleep safe in my bed and the adults
sleeping nearby would go above doing me no harm to defending me from
any threat. Once I was out of the apartment it was another matter, but
my home was safe. Everything I've healed I've healed because I had a
safe place to do so. My husband took that away from me.
He decided when; every fight, every reconciliation, was on his terms.
He would follow me, badger me, bully me until I gave in to him.
Sometimes he'd seem fine and then snap over what seemed like nothing to
me. He's never laid a hand on me, he's a wall puncher and a yeller,
and a master guilt-tripper but he's never touched me in violence.
Still I flinch from him because he gave me no safe place no ability to
predict if it was going to be a good day or a bad day. So I have taken
my safe place. I have my room and I will not give it up until he can
convince me that ours will be a marriage of partners respectful and
supportive to each other. He can lecture me as long as he wants to
about promises of "for better or for worse" but he has not honored or
cherished me, he has chosen to give me worse when he could choose to
give me better. No man is getting into my room again without earning
the privilege. What my spirit needs from me is a safe place. Because
that is where I heal. I don't care if he thinks I've taken too much, I
don't care if the therapist we see this Sunday thinks I've taken too
much. What all parties involved need to understand is that this
marriage is not being pulled out of a nosedive, we're going through the
wreckage to see what can be salvaged. We are not bringing the
therapist into the cockpit we are bringing the black box to the
therapist. My husband does not have me anymore, he merely has dibs.
For now I am my own, but if any man is going to claim me again, he gets
the first chance to earn me.
So it seems a feeble little goal but for now standing strong and
defending my right to a safe place of my own is my goal. I will make
it a room that nurtures me. Maybe someday my husband and I will be
able to build a mutual sanctuary together, but until I can trust him
without question he doesn't get my room. More than anything I have
lost in this marriage I miss having a safe place. I deserve that much
dammit! So there it is.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 12:09 PM
Actually, I am glad that the gentleman took exception to my comments, and expressed that (and I am paraphrasing, sorry) it was not possible to "upgrade the psychological software" because the requisite data is behind a firewall in the other community. Nicely put, but inaccurate.
I will also answer a question here about the younger generation of Black Americans, and some differences, positive and negative, that I see.
In almost any bookstore in America, as well as Amazon.com, you can find the software needed to "upgrade." My mom introduced me to it as a child, and I have drawn on it extensively in these blogs:
1) Spiritual texts from around the world. Don't pay attention to their differences. Pay attention to what they all say in common.
2) Great literature from around the world. Usually dealing with men and women under extreme stress, and the attitudes and actions that help them survive and thrive.
3) Inspirational writing from around the world. But especially texts written over the last century: "the Power of Positive Thinking", "Think and Grow Rich", "Unlimited Power," "the Richest Man in Babylon", "The Greatest Salesman in the World", "Psycho-Cybernetics" and countless others. Or if you think the problems of Black Americans are so unique, try "Think and Grow Rich--A Black Choice" by Dennis Kimbro (inferior to the original, but still good), or the excellent "Unlimited Power--A Black Choice" which flat-out rocks, and was written by a Black man I have met, and admire.
Know something? You don't even have to do that. If you got a hundred Black Americans who have risen from poverty and prejudice together in a room, what they'd have to say would please neither Left nor Right. To the embarassment of Right-Wing talk show hosts, Condi Rice and Colin Powell, their poster children, agree that Blacks have suffered systematic, historical, unique and damaging disadvantages stemming directly from slavery and the 100 years of oppression that followed it. this the right never mentions. But they also believe in focus, hard work , sacrifice and holding oneself to high personal and moral values as a way OUT of that trap. This is rarely focussed on by the Left. Failure leaves clues. Success leaves clues. Those 100 successful black people would have a remarkable commonality of beliefs, values, and actions. Those beliefs, values, and actions would be more or less congruent with the principles put forth in "Think And Grow Rich" almost a Century ago. Ignore what they are saying at your own peril.
I think that the average white person, born into a black skin, would do about 10% worse financially and emotionally than they do currently. I think that the average white person resentful of Affirmative Action would be a ball of neurosis and poisonous resentment of white privilege if they were slipped into a black skin. And I think that the average borderline bigot, you know, the kind who says "black guy" when he means "nigger"? Would, if he'd been born black, want to kill every white man in sight.
I don't believe in Reparations. Not because I don't think Black Americans "deserve" them in some abstract sense. Hell, if I could push a button I'd gladly reverse the relative positions of Black and White in America and in World History. It would be SO amusing to watch white folks, whose barely controlled contempt for Melanine I've dealt with for so many decades, suddenly become aware of the vast ocean of privilege they once enjoyed that has drained away. God, that would be fun. In a heartbeat, they would suddenly understand. No, I'm against Reparations because I see no way to implement it that wouldn't make the situation even worse, create more resentment (and that is an important factor when you're outnumbered 10 to 1), and sell a legacy of 450 years of real agony for a few dollars. No. I play to win, people--not for the appearance of winning. I don't give a shit about symbols. I care about the future of this country, and this planet, and every boy and girl now growing up. Black and white and yellow and brown. I want a world that will work for all of them, or it won't work for any.
I don't know a single person who doesn't have a perfectly good excuse to fail. Let's list some of them: too old, too young, too black, too poor, too gay, too fat, too skinny, too female, too short, too uneducated, too dysfunctional, too handicapped, too Jewish, too Christian, too pagan...are you on the list somewhere? Of course, the more of these you cluster in one person, the more problems they're likely to have. Which is more painful: being black or being a woman? Easy to answer: ask a black woman. If you haven't asked a dozen black women which they find to be a greater problem, I'm not going to tell you the answer. I've done it. Go out and do it yourself, OR YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMMENT. How about Gay or Black? Do the same experiement. And on down the line. Otherwise, you're one of those philosophers who think they don't need to count the teeth in a horse's mouth in order to know how many teeth a horse has. Pitiful.
I am into the basic truths, the things that go beyond race, and gender, and poverty, and abuse, and obesity and all the rest. Strip all of that away and what is left is HUMAN. Strip that away and you have the soul, the spirit itself, manefesting in myriad forms of life. Strip that away and you have existence. Strip away existence and non-existence, and you have the Tao.
I would never say that this or that group hasn't had disadvantages. I have laid my own pain out here on this blog as clearly as I can, and will continue to, because vomiting up our past poisons can be a way of getting to the real tissue of our emotional "guts." It is not that I do not have empathy. but in life, you either have reasons, or you have results. You can't always have both. In fact, the less you look at the reasons, the more time you have to seek and create results. It's not fair. But it's not unfair, either. It just is.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:43 AM
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Here, precisely, is the comment the following reader took exception to:
"And too damned many black Americans are running crappy software. Then again, they didn't write it, did they? Then again, that's irrelevant: it is their responsibility to upgrade."
That's the comment. Let's take a look at the comment it elicited, and I'll give my reactions. Before I do, I'd like to thank the gentleman for expressing himself. Here we go...
He says: "How can a device with faulty software upgrade itself??? Particularly when the current software package was coded to limit upgrade opportunities, the network in which the device is located is set off in a workgroup with a firewall...."
Because we're not just machines, and we're not just our skin color, even if bigots in the majority culture would like to define us as such. We can change, and the only way we can change is by taking responsibility. The exact same argument could be made if we were sexually abused by parents, or physically beaten and jailed by oppressors. The responsiblity is still with the spirit of the individual to find a way. Countless others have risen from any given level of oppression. I do not deny the oppression is there. I just know that, from time immemorial, the individuals who have escaped, risen above and conquered are those who said "enough! I'm taking responsibility for my life." That may seem cold and cruel, but it is a reality across race, gender, or political lines. I REALLY believe in helping my fellow man, but the best advice I can ever give, or I ever got, is to face life as if no one will help me at all. Mysteriously, when you do this, help comes to you. This principle has nothing to do with American racial politics. It is far older than any European culture. It is, I believe, simply a truth of our existence.
he said: "The software packages throughout American culture are faulty." Yeah, but I think that, far more often than whites, Black Americans are programmed to play a game they cannot win. Unfair as it may be, they have to dig deeper. I don't like it, I never have, but that's just the way it is. It used to be phrased as "you have to work twice as hard to get half as far." I'd say that at this point in history it's "Work twice as hard to get as far." Talking to my father and my grandfather about their experiences, that seems about right.
He said: "I work with (Black, White, Asian) folks who make good money, have families and have 'bad' software."
Yeah, but Whites and Asians have vastly more role models of success available in every medium (Asians have Asian television, even if underrepresented on American television), and role modeling is incredibly important to learning on all levels. "Bad" software for them is not as catastrophic. They have their names, language, culture, religions--going back a thousand generations. In general, Black Americans have about six generations of history before they are mired in a swamp called slavery. I am astounded with how much we have accomplished, given that handicap.
he said: "Steve, I take exception to the whole 'Ghetto Black Culture' paintbrush you are using..."
Gee, did he read what I said? "too damned many black Americans are running crappy software." Did I say "whole Ghetto Black Culture"? No, I didn't, nor is that what I meant. Please criticize me for what I say, not an exaggeration thereof.
He said: "there people struggling within these communities to raise children and build a better standard of living with little access to the resources
that many Americans enjoy. It is EXPENSIVE TO BE POOR. One must work longer hours just to maintain,"
Yep, and the way out of that poverty is to take responsibility for GETTING your family out. This is, obviously, above and beyond the call of duty for most people, black, white, or Asian. I never said it was easy. I never said it was fair. Life isn't fair and easy. It is what it is, and either we find the strength to rise above, or we will drown. The average white person, born black, would perform like the average black person. It has ( in my mind) nothing to do with genetics. I speak to the power of individuals. Born with a slow metabolism? You can either bitch and moan and talk about how "unfair" it is (and many do) or you can make your peace with the fact that you will always have to work harder than a "naturally skinny" person if you want to have the advantages of fitting the cultural model. All adults get to make those choices. When I saw the pretty girls going after the athletic, powerful guys, I could have pitched a bitch and said "its not fair!" Instead, I chose to spend the next twenty years healing myself, creating a career and a body I could be proud of, and actually having a woman that was everything I wanted--body, mind, and emotions--because a woman like that needs a man who pushes himself as hard as she pushes HERself. Nothing less will make the grade. Say this five times; LIFE ISN'T FAIR. I've known hundreds of people born in bitter poverty, many under oppression far greater than exists in 21st Century America. Those who created lives of grace and power and fullfillment took responsibility for getting the hell out. Every one of them. Not one of them waited for someone to rescue them. And many, many, many of them--myself included, do as much lecturing, contribution, mentoring, and teaching as we can.
He said: "and despite what you and your cheerleaders think, most folks in the 'Ghetto' are maintaining...legally and without the garbage you see marketed on TV." Hah! You obviously have absolutely no idea what I do or don't think about Black Americans. Where I grew up, what I went through. Again, none of my statements, or to my knowledge statements of people on this blog, could be taken to imply that "most folks in the `Ghetto'" make an extra-legal living, or are not maintaining, or that I get most of my information from television. You do not read well, sir. Oh, and thanks for the chuckle about my "cheerleaders." I invite criticism from any and all, and demand courtesy toward all who visit my blog. I will ask you please to attack or comment on what is actually said, and not your best guess as to my intent or political position. Just ask a question, and I'll be happy to ask it, as long as the question is courteous.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:07 PM
I might as well have called this one: negotiating the reality map. The usefulness of a map, however accurate, lies in two presuppositions:
1) that you know where you are going.
2) that you know where you are.
The second is, of course, incredibly more important (since you can look at a map to DECIDE where you want to go.) Not knowing where you are in the process of your life, not understanding your true resources and limitations, being unable to judge your actions and reactions or evaluate the worth of your allies...all of these things will inhibit your ability to leverage your intelligence and skills to accomplish your goals. But how do you do this? How do you prevent yourself from becoming one of the vast legion of smart, educated people who are downright miserable and unfulfilled?
Remember: any creature, from a worm to a college professor, will attempt to move away from pain and toward pleasure. Whereever you are in your life right now, your subconscious mind has done its level best to minimize the pain. In other words, it literally couldn't see greater pleasure for you out there. If you are stuck, then all it sees is different painful options.
The truth is that there are ALWAYS more options than we see. Always. We are limited by our blinders, preconceptions, cultural filters, fears, beliefs, and emotional damage. Oftimes, the cost of clarity is admitting that we are in pain. As savage as that can be, at least it allows us to set out in the direction of goals. If those goals seem impossibly far away, we can lose steam. This is why our daily activities must have joy and fulfillment as an integral part of the process. If the rewards seem impossibly far away, the "short term pleasure" part of our personality will kick in, and we'll jump back into a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers.
BALANCED GOALS. I keep saying this, because there is no other way I know to zero in on where you actually are. Once you have done this, the intellect can begin to calibrate. If you are in denial, directing your attention to some arena in which you have mastery and ignoring the vast areas in which you suck, you can run your engines at full blast, and get nowhere.
MEDITATION. Going inward until you find a place of peace, a place that is its own reward. I would suggest making contact with your younger self, because this metaphor will allow you to converse with the part of you that remembers what makes you happy. This connection can sustain and inform you through and beyond any external circumstance.
Study the Hero's Journey. In each major arena, where are you on the journey? Still accepting the challenge? On the Road of Trials? if you are slogging, look at hte quality of your allies, and your resources. Do you need to improve either? Are you in the Dark Night of the Soul? In that case, what types of Faith do you need to increase? If you have had a victory in one or another arena, have you given away your knowledge to the world, to make room for new discoveries?
We'll play with Intellect for a while, because it is vital to understand the proper use of the mind. CAVEAT--I come as close as I can to speaking the truth, as I see it, in this blog. Of course, I'm going to be limited by my humanity, and my personal "edges". I engage in these discussions as much to encourage you to clarify your thinking as to convince you that I am "right." ENGAGE. Think. Look at your life and see how you have succeeded and failed in these three vital arenas. Share your thoughts. Let's grow together.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:07 AM
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The following is quoted, with minor additions:
Although Selye was fluent in at least eight languages, including English, and could converse in another half dozen, his choice of "stress" to describe the non-specific response syndrome he discovered, was unfortunate. He had used "stress" in his initial letter to the Editor of Nature in 1936, who suggested that it be deleted since this implied nervous strain and substituted alarm reaction. He was also unaware that stress had been used for centuries in physics to explain elasticity, the property of a material that allows it to resume its original size and shape after having been compressed or stretched by an external force. As expressed in Hooke's Law of 1658, the magnitude of an external force, or stress, produces a proportional amount of deformation, or strain, in a malleable metal. Selye several time complained to me that had his knowledge of English been more precise, he would gave gone down in history as the father of the "strain" concept.
The ability to handle stress is directly related to your capacity to achieve peak performance. Stress is not to be avoided: STRAIN is. biofeedback, meditation, massage, therapy and many other techniques are used in this effort, and I support them all. The approach I personally use and reccomend is;
1) Learn the "Be Breathed" technique.
2) Use it in the "Five Minute Miracle" format, so that your body becomes a walking biofeedback machine.
3) Create balanced goals in the arenas of body, mind, and spirit, taking full responsibility for the results in each. Not guilt, blame, or shame--responsibility. In other words, the ability to respond. Move toward these goals at a rate of 1% per week.
4) Meditate and/or keep a dream diary.
that's it. Simple, incredibly powerful. There are infinite resources available to help you toward your goals--simply cluster them in a balanced matrix, and pay attention to the messages your body, environment and subconscious send you as you do. YOU are the teacher. YOU are the guru. YOU are the therapist. You need only pay attention.
Do yourself a favor. Order the FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE today. Find a buddy, and practise together. It is the cheapest education in the actual structure of your universe that you will ever find. It's worked for thousands of people. It will work for you.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 1:34 PM
I recently did a Google search. The intent was to take a look at the top ten Conservative books, and the top ten Liberal books, and see if there were substantive differences in the ways they sorted information. I promised myself that even if I came up with something I didn't like, I would report it honestly. What I found was a little scary.
When I Googled "Top 10 Conservative Books" I drew up a number of web sites, mostly reasonable and intelligent, with lists of books with non-hysterical titles setting forth Conservative ideas and action plans. Very nice. I was pleasantly surprised. When I did the exact same thing "Top 10 Liberal Books" I found...nothing. Maybe way down fifty entries or so there was something, but there were just no web sites setting forth a list of the books (I know they exist--I've read some, and seen many in bookstores, and on bestseller lists) representing the Liberal position. What the hell? Could Conservatives be THAT much better organized? Yes, I think they are. And that is a major reason for victory of in the last election. In time of war or major stress, people want ANSWERS, not QUESTIONS. And the Right was far better organized in this regard. "This is our position. This is what we will do." It was clear, and black and white. Like it or not, agree with it or not, right or wrong or whatever, the position was clearly stated. And that is what people under stress want--leadership, not more choices. If you don't understand this about human nature, you will lose. And as the Left thrashes to find itself, they had better understand this, and get it together.
As I've often said, I think the health of America depends on a movement BETWEEN left and right. There are dragons hissing and coiling on both sides of the aisle: on the Left, a false egalitarianism. On the Right, a false hierarchicalism. Take either to their extreme, and they shake hands and rip our freedoms away. Be very very careful, America--the balance is in a diseased state.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:46 AM
A reader sent me the following links:
They deal with a theory by Black Conservative commentator Thomas Sewell on the origins of some rather dysfunctional elements of black culture. I don't have the specific knowledge to support or refute his theories, but thought some of you might well find them interesting.
In general, however, I say a resounding: "black ghetto culture contains some horrifically dysfunctional aspects." There. I said it. This doesn't mean that they were not, and are not subjected to damage. If you examined a forty-five year old adult who was sorely abused for the first thirty years of his life, you would expect to find dysfunctional behaviors, negative believes, crushingly distorted self-image. Well, American blacks were enslaved for three hundred years, and free for about 150--the same rough proportion. If there were not DEEP problems, we would be super-people. And we're not. We're just people. My belief is that the primary difference between groups is their software, not their hardware. And too damned many black Americans are running crappy software. Then again, they didn't write it, did they? Then again, that's irrelevant: it is their responsibility to upgrade.
Another comment. On one of the blogs, there is a typical comment about "politically correct" language. I am so disgusted by the hijacking of that term, the implication that language, and news, and culture are only "politically correctly" slanted to the left. This is just an absolute lie. I have seen countless movies where anything non-white or non-American was presented as sub-standard. this is what the audience at the time wanted to see, and that was a clear slanting to some of the more hierarchical elements on the right. Movies where the domination of the environment was presented as good and right, where Biblical story-telling was presented as historical fact, where the founding fathers were presented as flawless paragons, etc. etc. etc.
But the ONLY time you hear the term "Politically Correct" is in a criticism of the Left. For God's sake, people. Both sides have their flaws. Domination by EITHER side would be disasterous. Wake the hell up, or we're in trouble.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:46 AM
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
One of the worst good movies ever made. Not as offensive as "The Green Mile," this story of African political strife and genocide without a single black actor to identify with is suspenseful, intelligently written, beautifully directed, and horribly miscast. By having Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman in the central roles of the Secret Service agent and the United Nations translator who uncovers a plot to assassinate an African despot, and not having a single black character who is not incompetent, villainous or a sitting duck, they transform what might have been a riveting drama into this year's "Mississippi Burning," where issues of deep and vital importance to African-Americans is converted into some kind of chess game for whites, like game wardens overseeing the poor ignorant, violent, helpless savages. Incredibly offensive, especially when I have the definite impression that the Sean Penn role was written for Denzel (it has all the hallmarks, including a perfect excuse for the romantic sparks between SS agent and Kidman to fizzle), and they slid Penn in when they couldn't get him. Did no one in any production meeting consider how this would play? Or why couldn't the Kidman role have gone to a black actress? She is playing an expatriot of the mythical African country. How dare they have her as the sole voice of conscience, if they are unwilling to also speak to the horrific legacy of colonialism? When I think of what this movie COULD have been...if, for instance, they had cast Denzel and Angela Bassett, he as the Black American, and she as an African woman of culture, intelligence, and deep emotional wounds...God, it makes me want to cry. But they missed the boat. And didn't understand how they missed it. And deserve to go down in flames for that. Maybe. Damn, I don't know. These are my personal wounds, and I can't completely get past them. If one or the other role had been played by a black actor, I'd give it an "A". For audiences who want to remain blissfully oblivious to the racial politics that made such a casting decision possible, give it a "B." But I'd say that the blindness that director Sidney Pollack displayed makes every aspect of this film suspect, and, recognizing that I am speaking more to my wounds than to any objective quality of the movie, I'm giving it an "F." Like "The Green Mile," which used the image of a black man as a symbol without ever granting him actual humanity, this is a fine film that I will never, ever watch again.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 3:55 PM
We may have an answer! I sent a request to my dear friend, literary lion, Sanscrit scholar and and long-time Buddhist Charles Johnson asking him about the derivation of the term "Drunken Monkey" and he answered as follows:
and a quite reasonable Chinese gentleman wrote to say that this was not a Chinese concept at all. I was very surprised, and am wondering now if it is a legitimate Buddhist concept at all, or a fortune cookie aphorism I picked up somewhere. Can you help a brother out here?
It's Hindu (India), not Chinese. The great Indian philosopher Vivekananda discusses it at length and with much humor in his book Raja Yoga.
So there we have it. Clearly, it is possible that someone misattributed the expression. Whether the "Drunken Monkey" concept exists in Indian or Tibetan Buddhist thought is a question that will remain for wiser minds than mine. I am, however, relieved to see that my basic thought, that this is an ancient term and not some New Age 60's psychadelic b.s., was correct. Whew!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 12:02 PM
Monday, April 25, 2005
Yes! My most recent opportunity to rant about the state of race relations in America, as expressed in Hollywood images of sensuality.
Well, the movie doesn’t open until Friday, but I’m going out on a limb here, and I don’t think I’m much at risk. First, take a look at the rating for the new movie:
“PG-13 - for sequences of intense action violence and some language.”
Now take a look at the rating for the previous one: “PG-13, violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language”
What’s missing in the second is “drug content” and…and…and what? Can I hear you, please? Yes, sensuality. So we can be pretty sure there will be some big-bosomed babes, and maybe a kiss or two (as shown in the trailer) but no sex, not even sex as mild and indirect as found in the first film (no more intense than most Bond Movies, really). And before any of you try to dismiss this as an isolated instance, please check my previous posts on this matter. ANY movie is an isolated instance. Only when you take a look at a pattern spread over hundreds of movies and dozens of years, can a pattern emerge.
I gave Diesel extra props on the first movie for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, yeah, it was mindless eye-candy, but Diesel had more African blood than anyone who had ever been allowed to be that competent, macho and sexual on screen before--AND ACCEPTED BY THE AUDIENCE (financially successful film), with the possible exception of Richard Roundtree in the unjustly forgotten “Shaft In Africa,” still arguably the most heroic, Bondian depiction of a non-white male ever to be produced by a major studio. Diesel is as light as an Octaroon, and has been smart enough to shave his head to reduce the racial identification factor, and doesn’t comment directly on his heritage, although he will appear in pictures with his darker sister. He KNOWS that the instant fanboys start considering him “Black” his career options will narrow drastically. (The Rock is another case. It remains to be seen whether we will ever get a movie showcasing this phenomenally beautiful and powerful man. Maybe. He’s just exotic enough to not trip the African-American warning bell that seems to go off in so many heads.)
As soon as the sequel was announced starring Rapper-turned –glowering semi-actor Ice Cube, I knew what would happen. No romatic subplot (Asia Argento in the first film). Instead, there would be interaction with male “buddies” turning the entire film into a Yang-Yang testosterone fest devoid of even the illusion of a balancing female presence. And at the end, the buddies would ride off into the sunset together (remember—I’m writing this before it comes out. I may still have to eat crow). When else have we seen this pattern? Try “I Spy” with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. Not enough? Try “Wild, Wild West” with Will Smith and Kevin Klein. Still not enough? “Shaft” with the world’s baddest neuter, Samuel L. Jackson. The pattern goes on and on and on, and I predict the same thing will happen here—because Ice Cube is too dark not to trip the African-American alarm, and make white fanboys cringe in the privacy and anonymity of the theater (to quote a classic old Cheech and Chong routine: “"Oh no! He’s not going to KISS her with those Mambo lips?!”) Sorry. I’ve sat in entirely too many audiences around the country, the only nonwhite in the auditorium, and LISTENED to white males groaning during sex scenes if the male was nonwhite. I’ve done this dozens of times in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, New York, Chicago…and the reaction is constant, and utterly disheartening. I’m not going to pretend not to know what I know for the sake of being politically correct.
So. Without a balancing female energy, expect the mindless bang-boom of the original XXX to escalate to unbelievably absurd levels, to the point where you are looking at nothing but digital effects and bad puns without even the illusion of life. The film may or may not be profitable (Ice Cube has a loyal following). But it would be dishonest not to speak plainly about what I see, and why I think it happens. Again, this is not Hollywood. It is not America. It is not white people. It is the natural human tendency for males of one group to recoil against breeding behavior in males of another group. American blacks just happen to be on the losing end of a statistical and cultural disadvantage. It angers and saddens me, but ultimately there is no one to be angry with, really. All I can really do is wait for the inevitable browning of America to continue, at which point the entire conversation becomes moot, and people of relatively pure ANYTHING will be the minority. I can’t wait to hear all the people who’ve told me I’m too sensitive all these years to bitch and moan as the tables are turned. Heh heh.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:05 AM
If the Ericksonian "Parts Party" technique is valid, then it is possible for the mind to create images that personify different aspects of our personalities: rage, guilt, sensuality, regret, creativity, and so forth. That you can then literally have a “cocktail party” where these different aspects can mingle, and share their resources. Inner communication.
Let me tell you a little story. Some years ago, I trained in Ericksonian hypnosis at the Transformative Arts Institute in Marin California. I got pretty good at it, but after an incident where I helped a gentleman realize he wanted to live, it frightened me how powerful the techniques could be, and how persuasive I could be. I wasn’t clear enough on my own ethical structure to have such techniques wired into my nervous system, so I stopped practicing them. Years passed.
A decade later I once had a student (Call her “Suzy”) studying singing under a very fine very fine Opera teacher. This teacher had her students strut their stuff in biannual “Showcases” at a local Bed and Breakfast—very posh venue—and generally, a good time was had by all. However, this year Suzy freaked out. She wasn’t practicing enough, and I had her come over to the house for a final run-through before her recital. Tananarive was ready to accompany her on the piano, but Suzy just couldn’t do it. She was too frightened. She just wanted to drop out.
I tried everything I could think of to talk her through it. Nothing worked. We tried a technique I’d learned from Tony Robbins’ best friend: put her on a treadmill, had her enter a high-energy physical state, and chant positive mantras. Failed miserably. She was just suffering internal collapse. Her fear was ripping her to pieces. So we came back into the house, and I finally contemplated just letting her drop out of the recital. Then I decided to dredge up some old skills. Last ditch effort.
Getting Suzy’s permission for the attempt, I had her lie down on the couch, and dropped her into trance. This ain’t too difficult: we are in trance all the time. A good hypnotist just helps you to select the most resourceful “frequency” of trance for a given activity. Once relaxed, eyes closed, and deeply centered, I had Suzy imagine herself at a cocktail party. All the different aspects of her personality were there, including Fear, Talent, and Ambition. I said, “Suzy, if the part of your personality that wants to perform in the showcase is there, would you please raise your little finger.” After a moment, the finger raised. “Fine. Now. If the part of your personality that is preventing you from performing is there, would that part please raise your little finger.” A longer pause, and the finger twitched. “Fine. Now. If the most resourceful and powerful aspect of your personality is present, would that part please make itself known.” A pause, and the finger twitched again.
“Good,” I said. “Now…I know that the part of you holding you back is just trying to protect you. That is all it wants to do. But there is another part of you that wants to do this. I would like those two parts to speak, and I would like the most resourceful part of you to join them. Would that be all right?” Again, a positive response. “Good. Let’s just have them speak for a couple of minutes. And if there is a way to work this out so that you would be safe, and know you were safe, but simultaneously be able to do this thing that you want to do, that would be a good outcome, wouldn’t it?” Again, Suzy answered with a twitch.
I waited a couple of minutes, while I noticed her breathing deepen. Occasional twitches of her eyes suggested internal strife. Then relaxation. I asked if those internal parts had come to an agreement, and she signaled “yes.” So I slowly had her come out of it, remaining in a highly resourceful, rested, energetic state. And counted her up.
I was astonished at the result. She jumped up, grinning, has Tananarive go to the piano, and blitzed through her practice. She went to the recital and performed better than I had ever seen her: sassy, confident, excellent. I was blown away, and Tananarive stared at me as if I was a witch doctor.
Can you grasp what Suzy did? She merely improved the level of communication within herself. Desire was at war with fear. When I acknowledged her fear, thanked it for protecting her, and then asked it to consider the possibility that it could fulfill its directives AND let Suzy have this goal, it could relax and investigate the possibility. And find a way. Do I know exactly what the fear was? No, and it didn’t matter. Do I know exactly what the internal compromise was that allowed the positive change? No, and that wasn’t any of my business, either. Suzy worked it out for herself. And that is just another small example of what happens when we improve the quality of our communications. The power can be absolutely remarkable.
And really, I don’t shrink heads or sacrifice goats, or dance under the full moon. Well, maybe that last part…
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:11 AM
Saturday, April 23, 2005
From a student:
Just wanted to share my adventures in the fifth chakra. Last night was
an educational sleep. I suffered a series of dreams that hammered at
my subconscious until I finally got it.
The relevant part is below-
"...I went back to sleep. There I faced a series of less easily
expressed disappointments culminating with the realization that it is
folly at best, and an all around lie more likely, to declare oneself
committed to an improvement and yet continue to inflict damage with the
intention of stopping as soon as it's better- to dance on the roof
because it still leaks, to eat ice cream because I am still fat, to
hurt a spouse because the relationship is still damaged. I have spent
the better part of a lifetime telling myself in one way or another that
I'll act the part when I have it, then wondering why I never get there.
If more people would grasp that this is exactly how we behave, and how damaging it is, the world would be a healthier place. THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE HEALTHIER OR SANER THAN WE ARE. If you want to improve the world, own up to your own madness.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:50 AM
My favorite television show for the past four years has definitely been the real (sort of) time adventures of uber-agent Jack Bauer. Watching Jack winding his way through an assassination plot, a hydrogen bomb threat, a bio-war dilemma, and now a multi-tiered terrorist threat has been a nail biting journey. Interestingly, this season is the first time that Jack (played by Keifer Sutherland) has faced off with Muslim terrorists (Turkish, I believe). Predictably, Muslim anti-defamation groups have protested. Fine--that's their right. Truth is, Fox has bent over backwards not to offend them, concentrating on Serbian terrorists, home-grown terrorists, and I-forget-what for the biowar threat. No reasonable neutral observer could blame Fox for finally getting around to our Muslim brothers. they even went so far as to include two Muslim good guys--gun store owners--in a shoot-out with Corporate mercenaries. Believe me, in all the years I cringed at the depiction of blacks in film and television, such balancing imagery would have salved my emotional wounds big time.
However, there is something else starting to bother me this season: torture. There has been so much torture, and so many different types, that it's almost become a cliche. the Secretary's son was tortured. The Secretary was tortured. Jack's girlfriend's husband was tortured. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone else. And last week a guilty-looking suspect was ALMOST tortured officially, but an "Amnesty International" lawyer (Jewish, no less) stopped the noble CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) officials from doing it. Judging by coming attractions from next week, our cowardly vice-President (newly promoted to the Big Chair) will wilt at the idea of torture, and refuse to sanction more of it. So our hero, Jack Baur, goes rogue and does a bit of free-lance finger-breaking.
You know, there is no level of violence that really bothers me, but I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a bit of an agenda here. Conservatives complain about media and its Liberal bias, but this is starting to look like an attempt to desensitize the public to the excesses at Abu Garib. The fact that this show is on Fox, notoriously biased to the Right, tickles my b.s. detector. You know, I hope we have agents like Jack Baur, willing to die or be jailed to do what is right. But when the President of the United States is basically tarred with the "coward" brush for upholding Constitutional rights (yes, he's painted as a coward before this, but that is transparent Writer's Convenience. Don't bullshit a bullshitter) there is something wrong. If torture needs to be done, it should be in such an extreme case that the torturer WOULD be willing to go down for it. Would I torture someone to save my family? You bet. Would I be willing to go to jail to do it? Yep. But I wouldn't want to live in a country where this was policy, where people wink at the torture of citizens with no criminal records. If the act is done by patriots, they should understand that they are acting beyond the protection of the law. They should be acting with the knowledge that, if they are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of their actions. If it isn't that important, if they aren't protecting the lives of their families and friends, or a country that they place beyond their own interests, then apparently it's not very important.
I have justified Jack's excesses (and there have been many) on the grounds that he was willing to take the same level of risk or damage himself. The last season of "24" seems to me to be coming dangerously close to saying this is necessary, and good, as long as the "good guys" believe that they have the "bad guys." Friends, that is the road to hell. You agree with it now, because we are all frightened by terrorists. But Amnesty International (and their Jewish lawyers) are not the enemy. And suggesting that they are, even in such an indirect fashion, is dangerous as hell. I'm not entirely certain who it serves. I am pretty certain they are not my friends.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:15 AM
Friday, April 22, 2005
I have a friend who has crashed through one career opportunity after another. The failure of the enterprises is always the fault of the other people. In his eyes, they are all fools and Knaves. Really? And why exactly is it that that is the best he can ever do...?
I knew a woman who thought all men were dogs. She was certain of this, because she had been married seven times. Really? And what was the only thing in common in all of her marriages. by the way--she was a therapist. Hope to God she didn't specialize in relationships.
I have a friend who listens to right-Wing talk radio every day, for hours a day. Her marriage is pretty much a dead issue, and the voices of Limbaugh and Hannity and Savage et al are probably the strongest, most comforting masculine voices in her head. She sees the world in black and white, and her emotions are in such a snarl that she fears she is driving her own children away. (By the way--I'd bet a steady diet of Air America wouldn't be much better)
I deal with the voices in my head that say I can't, I shouldn't, I mustn't, it is too dangerous, it is too late, I am too old, I don't have the talent or the ability or the opportunity. They chew at my self-confidence. They attempt to devour me. I must not let them win.
We all must come to grips with the way we communicate with others, with ourselves. The voices in our heads are programmed by our envirnoments. They are the sum total of the experiences we have had, the teachers and critics. The terrible, wonderful thing is that those voices are just trying to protect us, to keep us from harm. You know what? We can't always control the voices. They are what the Chinese call the "Drunken Monkey", the nattering that we can't turn off. Here's an experiment. Try it now. Stop for two minutes and just listen to the voice in your head. Go ahead. Do it.
You know the voice you just heard saying: "what voice? I don't hear a voice!" That was the voice. Meditation helps us calm it. But one thing that you can do to minimize its effect on your life is to take greater care in what you say. The words that pass the gate of your lips CAN be controlled, even if the voices in your head cannot. Any words that add to the sum total of love in the world can be considered empowering. Those that chip away at your self-esteem, that demonize others, that lable people in groups rather than deal with them as individuals ("Those Liberals" "Those rich people" "those blacks" "those whites" "those gays" etc.) are probably the kinds of words that lead to pain, words that project our own insecurities upon others.
My friend who considers all his former partners to be fools and knaves has a raving sense of inadequacy, covered by a superiority complex. The lady who thinks all men are dogs is actually terrified that she is worthless, incapable of attracting and holding a worthwhile mate. She will probably try being a lesbian at some point, and discover that she is creating awful relationships there, too. At which point she will give up and try cats.
I fight every day, every single day, to stay on the healthy, positive track. And I deal with my demons. When things are going well, its easy. But when the checks are late, when the projects don't work, when I can't get the meetings, when the reviews are bad, the voices in my head start up again, and again. I have to stop, breathe. Listen to my heartbeat. Find the light within my spine, and pull it up. Stir up the mud and drain it out of my base chakra, or any of the hundred other metaphors I've created to clarify my emotions and set my mind at ease. To quiet the voices. You must find your own way of doing these things, because ANY time you work to move your life from one level to the next, you will encounter the demons. And they speak in the voice of a drunken monkey.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:31 AM
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Musashi Miyamoto, arguably the greatest swordsman in Japanese history, placed one maxim in life above all: "Do not think dishonestly." Why would a killer, a man who basically lived his life in the shadow of a three-foot razor blade, consider honesty to be so important? Simple. Lying to others means lying to yourself. And when you lie to yourself, your map of reality warps. When your reality map warps, you literally don't know where you are anymore, and then all your education, all your intelligence, all your good intentions go for nothing.
It is so easy to get lost in life. High-performing human beings, especially, can have a hard time. After all, they've managed to succeed at incredible levels in sports, or arts, or business, while being dysfunctional in relationships, or health, or substance abuse. Why change? Some even live under the illusion that their success is DEPENDANT upon their continuing neurosis. That, of course, is the ego talking. It does not want to die, and so will use your very intelligence against itself. We are just exactly smart enough to screw ourselves up. There is no positive relationship between intelligence and emotional health that I am aware of. You can't trust intelligence for anything other than information gathering and correlation. Your spirit must tell your mind what information to gather, and in what way to correlate it.
This, again, is where the concept of balance comes into its own. It is entirely possible to succeed at the very highest levels and also be healthy physically and emotionally. Yes, you can point to some famous artist, business people, and performers who wear their damage on their sleeves. But these are people whose wealth and success has protected them from having to face the truth about themselves. And they are surrounded by people who need them to continue making mega-bucks, in whose interest it often is to remain co-dependant. The work of healing is hard, hard, hard. In the words of Billy Crystal, "it is better to look marvelous than to feel marvelous." Image is everything.
Except...when you wake up in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, it doesn't matter how much you have in the bank. When you realize you've just made love to someone whose name you won't remember in a week, it doesn't matter if your picture is on the cover of the Rolling Stone. When you realize you have a thousand dollar a week (or a day!) coke habit, it doesn't matter than you are adored by millions. In the secret chambers of the heart, we want to be loved for who we are, we want to dance for the joy of dancing, sing for the joy of singing, write for the joy of writing, love for the joy of loving. Anything less than this is whoring yourself. And as soon as that process begins, you are flirting with the death of the soul.
The way out is:
1) balanced goals, and taking responsibility for your results.
2) Moving toward those goals at the rate of no more than 1% per week.
3) Having an excellent stress coping mechanism, like the FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE.
4) meditating or keeping a dream diary to strengthen the link between conscious and unconscious.
That's it. That's what it takes to become increasingly honest with yourself. Lie to yourself, and you are lost. Strip away the lies, resolve the conflicts, dissolve the fear, and all that remains is love and joy.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:11 AM
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Body, Mind, Spirit. Fitness, Career, Relationship. It is perfectly valid for people to criticize my choices, and say, quite accurately, that not everyone wants these things in the way I have defined them. True. But there is, I think, a very good reason why I have based my entire philosophy around them. I think that the simplest expression of my reasoning is that, throughout human history, more than 90% of people have wanted
1) Healthy, fit, energetic, disease-free, attractive bodies (whatever "attractive" is in their culture.) efficient for hunting and gathering and evading predators.
2) Sufficient surplus of resources to provide for themselves and their loved ones, along with the power to resist the aggression of thieves and vandals.
3) A family. A bonded relationship to another human being. Children.
I'd actually guess closer to 98% or higher, actually. Now, then...this doesn't match what people say, does it? Am I saying they're wrong about what they want? That they're lying? Or what?
Well, once upon a time I trusted my instincts. I was a child at the time, and I was told that I was wrong, that I should listen to what people said. I did. And the world went crazy. Because people don't act the way they say they are. They say one thing and do another. They claim not to want relationships, and cry themselves to sleep because they don't have them. They claim not to care if they are fat, then complain about aching joints, lack of energy, zero sex life, and rejection by people they desire. They claim not to care about money, then complain about their lack of resources, how they can't help their families, how they are stuck in dead-end jobs, how they can't go back to school...for lack of money.
In other words, people lie. And somewhere along the way, I asked myself: "what if I stopped paying attention to what people said about themselves, and instead looked at the way they present their lives, what I can actually SEE?" My ability to understand human nature skyrocketed, even as people protested, called me egotistical, sexist, humanist, yada yada yada. And too damned often, after years of protesting, they came to me quietly and sheepishly and admitted I'd been right all along.
But then, I would need standards to measure people against, to have some way to determine when they were out of alignment. Were there any human universals? Well, survival is the closest you can come. And what relates to survival?
1) health and fitness
2) reproductive success (healthy families)
3) ability to attract an attractive mate, and create a healthy, stable, long-lasting bond.
4) Ability to create goods and services so valued by the society that compensation is sufficient to create a surplus of wealth that can then be used to strengthen and support loved ones and family.
There is more, but based upon what I have heard virtually every human being I know say from one time or another, these four are just about universal. But people lie. They lie to themselves, they lie to their friends, and they will d**ned sure lie to me. I know people who legitimately don't care about money--but then they never complain about lack of it. I know people who legitimately don't want a bonded relationship, but not many. Most of these are people who have no role model for one, deep down inside don't believe it is possible or that they could have one, and so substitute pets or children or work or a series of quasi-casual lovers for the intense mirror that a one-on-one relationship inevitably becomes. I know people happy with being comfortably cushioned, but they don't complain about lack of sex, bad joints, lack of energy, or social rejection--they aren't holding pain and fear in their bodies, or using bodies as armor. They just like pancakes more than they like exercise. I can dig that. But by the time that weight creeps up beyond about 20 extra pounds, my bullshit alarm starts going off, folks.
So there you have it. If I believed what people said, I wouldn't be able to help anyone, because EVERYONE has a story about how they're content in the arenas where the deep work actually remains to be done. If you are one of those few enlightened souls, well, great. See you on the mountain. But please excuse me if I don't quite believe you. I can't afford to. I've been lied to too many times. And my commitment to being the best teacher and mentor I can be means that I have to adapt simple heuristics to penetrate through the defense mechanisms. And I believe anyone who is ACTUALLY at peace in these arenas will:
1) never complain about lack in them, and
2) perfectly understand why I have to take the approach I take.
I don't have five years of thrice-weekly therapy sessions to sort stuff out. What I am doing here, I hope, has value for even the casual reader. But it will, admittedly, be most useful to people who can commit to:
1) A healthy, fit, lean body.
2) Being fully invested in a career, or in learning to love the job they do.
3) Finding, having, and holding a fully committed relationship with another adult human being that they wish to keep for a lifetime. It can be an open relationship sexually--that doesn't negate the "mirroring" phenomenon. But it must be primary, and committted, and non-disposable. If it fails, you have to take this as a sign that YOU made an error. It wasn't just, in the words of Bartholomew Cubbins, "something that happened to happen, and was not very likely to happen again."
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:42 AM
There are so many ways to look at the throat chakra: honesty, clarity of communication, size of vocabulary, ability to hear without filters. And more. Let's just say that the quality of communication within yourself will determine your ability to harness your intelligence and energy. The quality of communication in relationships will determine the passion, love, and health within that relationship. And the quality of communication within a society determines the health of the body politic. Note the dreadful communication between Right and Left in America right now. We have serious problems--both sides think they are the only side with compassion, intelligence and true patriotism. Let alone sanity. It's frightening.
And, of course, the quality of communication between nations will determine the future of this planet.
So what can you do? Start with yourself. You have NO right to expect better communication between nations of political parties than you have within yourself, or between you and your primary relationship. This is one of the reasons that I consider your primary intimate relationship to be so important. You can walk away from lovers when it gets tough. But when you have to stay in there and work things out, well, that's a whole different matter. Someone you wake up next to every day is very different from a long-distance relationship. Yes, you can grow and evolve as a human being without this, but you are working "blind" in this one aspect, and you had BETTER have your act together in the other two, brothers and sisters.
There's something I call the "Billy Budd syndrome." It is the fact that, in any prison population, there is an inverse relationship between size of vocabulary and violence of crime for which a convict has been incarcerated. In other words, the more elegant the communication, the lesser the violence. Can you grasp the implication? The better you are at communicating your needs and desires, the less likely the relationship will be to break down. If you have no primary relationship, then you have an awesome responsibility to be SUPER clear on your communications within your own psyche. Dream diaries become vital, as does meditation. YOU must take responsibility if communication has broken down in your life. Don't you dare blame the other person. That is not only usually b.s., but it also makes you helpless.
We'll go into this more in the next week or so, but here's an exercise I learned from Harley "Swiftdeer" Reagan, what Native Americans call a "talking stick."
1) Choose an object that has some emotional significance to you and your partner. any object will do, if you are willing to respect it. (I recently used a fist-sized toy horse. We called it a "talking pony." Ahem.) We'll just refer to it as a talking stick.
2) Partner A takes the talking stick. She says her piece, as succinctly as possible, speaking from the heart. When she is finished, she gives the talking stick to partnerB.
3) Partner B takes the talking stick. He repeats back what partner A said, until partner A agrees that partner B has communicated clearly and accurately the gist of the original statement. If partner B has problems doing this, the stick is returned to partner A, and the process repeats until the original comment IS communicated accurately.
4) Only after the initial comment is communicated accurately, Partner B may make his statement, clearly and succinctly. When he is finished, pass the talking stick back to partner A.
5) It is now Partner A's turn to repeat back what was said, without additions or distortions. Only when partner B agrees that he has been heard or understood may Partner A make her own comments.
6) Repeat this process until the issues have been clearly communicated.
This works phenomenally well. Don't be surprised if it takes multiple attempts to get those first communications clear. If you haven't done an exercise like this, the chances are that the two of you haven't been listening to each other for a very long time, and grotesque distortions have crept into your communications. No yelling. No personal attacks. Just communications of feelings and observations, with the intent to clarify. You may need a neutral observer to keep things under control, especially if there is a LOT of pain in the relationship. Be careful to keep things on track. Don't wander off, don't speak out of turn. Really HEAR what the other person is saying. Otherwise, you have no right to expect to be heard.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:32 AM
Monday, April 18, 2005
We've just finished an extensive discussion of relationships and how they reveal personality. There is much more to be said, but it's more important right now to relate this to the process of writing. The best way to connect the inner and outer worlds of the writer is to look and see what your own personal issues might be, the blockages that keep you from rising to your highest level as an artist and a human being. Then create characters dealing with similar issues, and have those issues exist as background or foreground in your plots. In this way, you are continually creating what Eriksonian Hypnosis refers to as "Therapeutic Metaphors" for your own growth. As you write, you heal. As you heal, you write at higher and higher levels. This will summon the very best writing that you are capable of, and you will probably surprise yourself with the depth and quality of your work. This goes way beyond mere cleverness: "you can run out of clever, but you can never run out of the truth." Trust your own experience, people. You can't get it in books, seminars, or on-line blogs. It is your life, the greatest source of wealth and inspiration you will ever have. Tap into it, and you are on your way to expressing your particular genius.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:21 PM
Sunday, April 17, 2005
"Steven, where is the "Fear Removal Technique" you mention? "
Right here. Learn the Five Minute Miracle's "Be Breathed" technique. Then take it into an aerobic activity that you can perform for at least, say, 30 minutes. Hill walking will do it. "Aerobic" means enough exertion that you can't sing, but you can still talk. You need to be able to go into "second wind"--you know, the perceived exertion level drops, and the exercise starts feeling more like flow state? Invest a few weeks in getting to this level of fitness, if necessary. Usually, this is a simple exercise, using a repetitive, rhythmic motion.
Now. Sit and Spend ten minutes visualizing/fantasizing about the stressful situation or memory. Bring the fear up in your body. Bring it up until the fear or anger is completely present, until you are crying out of your nose, shaking with emotion. (NOTE: if you are dealing with a serious abuse issue, I would suggest trying this with smaller issues first--don't overwhelm yourself the first time.) Wallow in your misery. Really get into it. Then--IMMEDIATELY go and perform the aerobic activity. At between 14-17 minutes, you should go into second wind. After you do, continue the exercise for another 5-10 minutes, at least. After you finish, stretch, lay down and rest until your heartbeat has returned to normal.
That's it. A single session of the FEAR REMOVAL PROCESS should drop your adrenal response by 10-20%. You can practise it about twice a week--I wouldn't suggest more than that, because you might anchor too much pain to the process of exercise. This works incredibly well, and can deal with issues that have resisted years of therapy. Read these words repeatedly, and ask questions.
And to repeat--this is one of the world's Hidden Secrets. Do not underestimate its power.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:39 AM
Is the best stress-buster I know of. If you keep balanced goals, and keep stress from becoming strain, your life will AUTOMATICALLY get better, you will automatically become stronger. but how to do this? The easiest way is through control of your breathing, and the best and easiest way to learn this is the Five Minute Miracle. Once you learn the technique on the DVD, take it into your yoga or meditation. If you don't have such, the Five Tibetans are included, a dynamite way to deepen your practise. In life, they pay you for how much stress you can take without breaking. STRESS-PROOF yourself with the Five Minute Miracle. Release energy, flatten your tummy, improve sports performance, enhance creativity...the list is endless, because all aspects of the human psyche are interrelated. Make a profound and genuine change in any single aspect of your life, and it propogates EVERYWHERE. But it is so, so easy to hallucinate that you've made a change. There is a perfect way to fight this, though--change your body, and you change everything else. Start with the root, and it spreads through the entire tree. Your body is the root. Your breathing is the doorway between the physical and non-physical worlds. And the FIVE MINUTE MIRACLE is the fastest, easiest, most powerful and safest way to learn the connection. Do yourself a favor and order a copy today...and after you've seen the changes in your own life, show it to your friends, family, and co-workers. TAKE YOUR LIFE AND HEALTH BACK TODAY!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:23 AM
Let's finish up on the heartspace for right now, so that we can move on. If you take responsibility for this chakra/aspect of your life, you can probably heal any other damage. Look at it this way: if you have a four year old child, very few emotional problems cannot be healed with enough love and hugs. You need to create a connection to that younger self within you, so that your outer actions connect to yoru inner needs. Some common ways people screw themselves here:
1) Giving everything to their children, saving nothing for themselves. This will lead to the parents becoming grasping, needy, and resentful later, pushing those children away.
2) Expecting other people to know what you need. We can't read your mind, and you can't read ours. You have to communicate what you need.
3) Expecting other people to fill your emotional needs. No. This you must do yourself. I remember a line from a Holly Hunter movie, "Broadcast News" was it? Anyway, this one insecure guy says "wouldn't it be great if needy were a turn-on?" Well, except for the fact that it would turn the entire reproductive game upside-down, yeah, maybe. Strength, centeredness, ENERGY is what is attractive. Men and women modulate this energy differently, but that's the game. Fortunately, energy doesn't belong to us. All we need do is get our egos out of the way, and there is a river of living energy we can tap into . Yeah-- "All we need do." Obviously, it isn't an easy task, or everyone would have limitless energy, not just a few spooky old yogis.
4) Not meditating. Meditation is free, and so incredibly important that it should be compulsary. I feel so sorry for my wounded friends who complain about fatigue, or sorrow, or grief, but won't go into their hearts and do the house-cleaning that would set them free. The door to their dreams is in the last place they want to look--within them.
5) Having their child and adult selves in proper configuration. The role of the adult self is to build the garden walls high, sweep out the broken glass, prune the thorns from the roses, and keep the pumas at bay. The job of the child is to dance and sing. Too many times, we put our children out to earn a living while our adult selves sulk and bitch and moan. This is prostituting ourselves. We must never sacrifice our dream of a happy life. Either do the thing you love, or love the thing you do. Either way works. To do neither is emotional suicide.
Just some thoughts. Next, we move on to the throat chakra, and communication.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:16 AM
Saturday, April 16, 2005
(Unfortunately, the following will have more comments about how women deceive themselves than how men do it. This is probably because women have confided more to me about this—not because they do it more. I would love to have reader comments to fill in the other side more evenly)
One of the most interesting phenomena is the way people in relationships can’t see how they match. “I’m so much more mature than him.” “She hasn’t grown up and I have” and so on. Most of the time, I don’t believe it. People in intimate relationships usually have matching strengths and weaknesses. The things we dislike about others are often the things we fear in ourselves, folks—there’s no one out there. We create the world we experience.
A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation. A very well dressed lady complaining about how her husband was like a child. All he cared about was money. And that her friends had the same problem, that they all talked about it at the beauty parlor. I looked at this lady, beautifully dressed in her flawlessly aerobicized body, Versace jeans, her expensive shoes, her five thousand dollar wristwatch, talking about all the time she and her friends spent at the beauty parlor, and I almost laughed in her face. Clearly, she had chosen her husband for his wealth. She could easily have chosen a poor artist, a farmer, a nine-to-fiver. She could have any man she wanted. But she, and her beauty-parlor friends, found the richest men they could—men defined by their material possessions. And then complained about it. What do you think their husbands complain about? That their wives are babies who understand nothing of the world, who just want to spend money. And that husband will find a younger, prettier wife in a few years. And that wife, if her husband’s business fails, will find a richer man. And so it goes, with both blaming the other, and neither seeing that they are playing the exact same game.
Memorize the following: IF WOMEN WERE MEN, THEY WOULD ACT LIKE MEN. IF MEN WERE WOMEN, THEY WOULD ACT LIKE WOMEN. Neither side is superior. Both sides tend to think they are.
I recently had a conversation with a woman who is more than double her ideal weight. Her husband is not far behind. “For the life of me,” she said, “I don’t see how this ‘mirroring” thing works, Steve. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I could hardly believe my ears.
In some cases, the mirroring is flipped, a legitimate mirror-image: for instance, he works out of the house, she is a home-maker. That is a traditional balance, even if it sometimes leads to exhaustion and frustration on both sides (“he doesn’t help me around the house!” Yeah, lady, he’s exhausted. “She doesn’t help with the bills” Yeah, dude. Kids are a full-time job.) What seems to be a train wreck is the opposite: SHE makes the money, HE stays home to take care of the kids. I’m sure that there are cases where it works, but I’ve had the chance to observe about five of ‘em up close, and in every case it was a disaster. Unless it is a VERY temporary thing, or unless he is working from home, the sexual charge between the two of them disappears like meatloaf in a dog dish. Resentments skyrocket. Both partners start gaining weight (THIS one I don’t quite understand, but I keep seeing it!) And the woman starts acting more aggressive, the guy starts acting more withdrawn and moody…it’s terrible to watch.
The most usual thing I see when people are first confronted with the “mirroring” is to find a way to make themselves look good. “I like to nurture people, and he needed nurturing…” NO! Try instead: “I was too cowardly to work on myself, so I found someone who needed fixing, to distract me.” That fits lots better.
A recent one: “I need to be a hero, so I found a woman to rescue.” NO! Try: “I’m broken, and terrified to be angry with my mother, who damaged me. So I found a woman who reminded me of her, so that I could resent her.”
Another good game. Another recent conversation: “I was scared, so I married a dominant man. Then I divorced him for dominating me. Then I found a guy who I could control. Now I want to leave him because he’s too weak.” In other words, you are now angry for being the people you specifically sought out. Dr. Laura gets ten of these calls a day. No wonder she screams at people.
People, our choices tell about us. Some people deliberately avoid committed relationships because they KNOW that who and what they really are will rise up and bite their asses if they do. So they live alone. I know a woman like that—she had never had a single committed relationship in all the years I knew her, raised her child alone, blamed men for “not being strong enough to deal with her.” Hogwash. She was strong and smart, sure. But there are plenty of men stronger and smarter. She couldn’t attract one of them. She never wanted to learn how to project her femininity in a way to make one of those men’s hindbrain go “yow!” To make one of their subconscious’ say “I’d want my daughter to grow up to be this woman.” So she got casual relationships, married men throwing her sex, or weak guys lurking around. And considered it a badge of honor.
Or another lady: “All men are dogs. And I should know: I’ve been married eight times.” Lady, there is only one thing in common between all of your marriages: you were there.
IF WOMEN WERE MEN, THEY’D ACT LIKE MEN. IF MEN WERE WOMEN, THEY’D ACT LIKE WOMEN. I KNOW that men do the exact same stuff, because they are human, and this is obviously a human problem. Please, please, please (as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business says) if you want to evolve to the next level, LEARN THE LESSON IN WHATEVER COMMITTED RELATIONSHIPS YOU HAVE, OR HAVE HAD. See where you caused it. Folks, it would have been SO easy to blame Nicki’s mom for what happened. And if I had, there is NO chance I would have been ready for Tananarive. And Tananarive has said many, many times that she got countless invitations to join the “Men Are Dogs” club. And if she’d paid her dues, we wouldn’t be happy now.
See the mirror. Accept the responsibility. Then, and only then, will you move on. Otherwise I’ll see you again next decade, new relationship, same problems.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:19 AM
Friday, April 15, 2005
No, that’s not the title of the new James Bond movie (which, for your information, is “Casino Royale”. ) Rather, it is a Sufi saying that relates to the need to shed ego. We are going to start with the specific, go broader to the entire structure of the Mastery Technique, Lifewriting’s highest expression, and then it’s going to end with a suggestion that you purchase the Five Minute Miracle. Fair warning.
We struggle to reach the next level in our lives, whether that represents finding love, losing weight, career advancement, whatever. We struggle to let go of one way of being, and embrace the new. We feel massive fear, discomfort, as we do, and this is no accident. When our goals are genuine, when they involve change of major aspects of our personalities, they represent genuine ego deaths. In other words—try to do something that you cannot do today, and some part of you will feel it will die in the attempt. And it is correct.
But we cannot resist change. Either we wait for life to “kill” us—through loss, or inevitable shifts of fate, or we take those steps to continually reinvent ourselves, which involves death of the old self.
“I” cannot make it across that gap. Ever. You must leave your concepts of yourself on the far side of the gulf. Moses could not enter the promised land. The Prophet Mohammad died before his vision could be completed. Jesus was crucified before his prophesies of a freed people could manifest. “I” cannot make it across. “Die before you die.”
Stress is the trigger for all excellence. But if stress exceeds the body or psyche’s capacity for integration, it becomes strain, and breaks the system down. Physically, this manifests as the triumverate of stress, nutrition, and rest. Get the right amount of each, in the right time, and we grow. Get too much or not enough, and the body breaks down. Psychically this stress, it is much more subtle and difficult to quantify. But psychological stress does manifest on a physical level (as well as an emotional one) and therefore these two arenas provide access to the invisible world. That “invisible world” is what all the sages of the world have been speaking of since time immemorial, and I believe that the knowledge exists now to approach it with greater confidence, if we are prepared to die in the attempt.
Human beings are machines designed to succeed, and evolve. Whatever you are at this point in your life, some part of you defined this as success. Where ever you are stuck, you became stuck while attempting to evolve, change, grow, connect with the divine. Core Transformation, a delightful technology created by Connie Rae Andreas from NLP Comprehensive in Colorado, addresses this beautifully. To unstick yourself, organize your resources: spiritual, psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, so that they are in a balanced matrix.
As we’ve said again and again, Body-Career-Relationship will do fine, and should be the minimum configuration, as this represents health, hunting/gathering, and the family reproductive unit—the basic structure of human life. It is a perfect mirror for life itself.
NOTE: there are other paths. Perhaps better paths. I speak only of this one, which is available to about 99% of the human race, if they are willing to look honestly at their physical health, their careers, and their primary relationships.
To move forward with confidence, gain clarity through meditation and therapeutic practice. Gain energy by healing, purifying the body, and healthful exercise. Gain spiritual strength through prayer and dedication to a cause greater than yourself. These powers, intertwined, will carry you across the gulf into your next level of being.
The secret of mastery is the ability to be intuitively appropriate at all moments: when sleeping, just sleep. When walking the dog, just walk the dog. When making love, just make love. When writing, write. When fighting, fight.
Master your Self, the instrument that performs in any specific context. The key in almost any discipline, anywhere in the world, is the breath, the smallest component of attention. Link this to both the psyche, and the body, and in this way, use the body to reveal the invisible world.
Specifically, the Mastery Technique uses Be Breathed and the Five Minute Miracle to sensitize you to the effects of stress, so that it will not become strain and tear the body down. When you do this multiple times during the day, what Coach Sonnon calls Perpetual Exercise unfolds. More important is what I call Perpetual Peace, the ability to resist high levels of stress. Use the Fear Removal technique (available to anyone who has a moderate level of aerobic endurance, and mentioned in detail elsewhere) to remove fear from the body-mind, allowing peaceful ego death and rebirth.
This is such a radical possibility that its importance cannot be overstated.
If the goals are balanced, our perceptions will become accurate, clarifying the map of our existence. If our “Reality Maps” are accurate, our efforts will either reveal flaws in design, or move us toward our goals. Either way, we win. We resist the process of stress becoming strain. Balanced goals mean we cannot hurt ourselves, our families, or our careers—all are healed and forwarded simultaneously. The true evolutionary nature of the human spirit is revealed. In such a case, progress through the levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy—the Chakras—is smooth. Or as smooth as they can be, given the nature of human existence.
The above, in condensed form, is, the core of what I believe to be true. The Five Minute Miracle is the easiest, fastest, safest way to open this doorway. It blends with all sports, disciplines, philosophies and religions. It merely teaches you how to breathe correctly. Once you learn this, you can adapt it to any yoga or martial art or meditation you wish. It is an insanely powerful technique, totally safe, and immediately effective. I wish I could give it to every one of you for free. Can’t do that, but I can offer an absolute money-back guarantee, and tell you honestly that if I didn’t know the information on the DVD, I’d pay a thousand times the price to get it.
Check it out. Buy it today. You’ll be incredibly glad you did.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:23 PM
You know you want to see it. Damn it, Lucas has reeled me in again. After the so-so RETURN OF THE JEDI, the abysmal PHANTOM MENACE (any film that can make Liam Neeson look like a stiff is a kind of dark miracle!) and the occasionally thrilling ATTACK OF THE CLONES, one would think that we’d had enough. But darn it, the initial whispers about ROTS have actually been exceptional. I now know the complete story, have seen considerable stills and footage, have heard the rumors that a major theatrical writer did an uncredited polish on the script…and I’m excited. I think this puppy may actually play, that Lucas can pull off his thirty-year Science-Fantasy cycle, and I for one am delighted.
Back in the 70’s, when STAR WARS came out, there had simply never been anything like it. The clarity of effects had been matched in 2001, but with static camera angles and relatively staid ship motion. NOTHING like the zooming, sweeping, incredibly dramatic motion of the ships in Star Wars. Then there was the story telling, an application of the Hero’s Journey that literally created a myth for our times from whole cloth. Wow! And it hit down into those mythic levels, too. Touched us on the same fibers that the best SF, Fantasy, and yes, religious fables touch us. Remember my comment that one fo the reasons there are so few black and Asian writers in the field of SF is that it is New Myth, Creation myth, and those always relate to the origins of the group that create them? And that racial identity looms high in that core identity? Well, when Chip Delaney, then a columnist for (I believe) Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine dared to write a review of Star Wars in which, amid the lavish praise, he mentioned the lack of non-white faces, he got a stack of hate mail like he couldn’t believe. How DARE he suggest that blacks or Asians intrude into THEIR story. In retrospect, it is easy to understand how the fanboys felt. At the time, it hurt like hell.
Bless Lucas for grasping that he had made a perfectly natural, and unconscious mistake. The natural tendency of any group is to “norm” themselves, to believe that they are all that there is. Note the crowd background scenes in any animation series made before, say, 1980. All white people. 100%. Bedrock of the Flintstones. The world of the Jetsons (up to and including the Jetsons theatrical film!). This isn’t hatred. It’s subconscious wish fulfillment: “I wish the world was filled with the best part of me, the part I am comfortable with.” “Others”, especially those others identified by racial differences, are where we project our own fears, inadequacies, guilts, and blame. We don’t want to deal. So it was natural for the casting office for Fox and Lucas to ignore the racial make-up of the target audience, or of the acting pool from which even Extras were pulled—and create a universe consisting only of (as I have cynically said in the past)—white people and their imaginary friends.
Lucas immediately corrected this with Lando Calrissian, and the Star Wars myth was on its way to being the universal human story it was intended to be. When Luke Skywalker flew down the trench in the Death Star, John Williams’ music pumping and the speed of those images and effects so overwhelming that your forebrain had simply surrendered to the moment, and Obi-Wan Kenobi whispered in his spiritual ear to “Trust your feelings, Luke” he was speaking to ALL of us. The heart is not stupid. It is the wisest aspect of us. It needs to be properly taught (note the vital importance of strenuous teaching sequences in the films—intuition alone will get you killed! Head, heart, and body must work together) but it is the source of true wisdom, as well as the doorway to higher mental and spiritual powers.
“Try not. Do, or Do not. There is no try.” Anyone who has ever broken a board or a cinder block has heard this from his teacher. It is a core truth. To access your deeper abilities, you must act with no doubt. Doubt before. Doubt afterwards. But when acting, act with confidence. It was amusing to hear critics lambaste Lucas for his “faux philosophy.” Yeah, right. Listen, people—ANYONE who succeeds at a massive level has insights into the nature of reality that go beyond the norm. Yeah, they can be as confused and tangled as poor Michael Jackson’s (who didn’t lose his virginity until 32. Hmmmm. Anyone want to say: “imbalance” here? He had career. He had physical skills at a phenomenal level. But his personal life was a zero. And there, beyond the edge of the reality map, the dragons hissed and coiled.) So the wisdom was expressed by a little green muppet. Wisdom it remained. Prana. Ki. Chi. Pneuma. Num. The Force. Terms for the intrinsic human energy exist in all cultures, in all times and places. Using breakthrough special effects and simple story telling, Lucas gave us a graphic image of the power of the human heart, one that has thrilled a billion people worldwide, and created the most powerful myth of the 20th Century.
He took a long break after the mediocre wrap-up of “Return of the Jedi” (you could smell the exhaustion. This was the only time I met Lucas, at the wrap party. He and his then-wife Marcia were there, still presenting a unified front. He seemed a decent, friendly, tired man.) And came back with “the Phantom Menace”. Man, you could feel the ring rust. It was like watching Ali come back into the game after all those months in exile. Just not the same man. He didn’t have his act together, and by concentrating on the technological aspects, he missed the heart. The fun. Jar-Jar Binks was supposed to be the new Chewbacca, but the audience had evolved so much in the intervening decades that what I believe to have been a harmless cowardly lion archetype was considered by many to be racist and mean-spirited. Nonsense. Lucas had given us Lando, at a time when he could easily have just said “screw you guys, it’s my universe.” Besides, now he gave us Samuel Jackson as Mace Windu, who, as we saw at the Battle of Geonosis, was one of the world’s truly great bad-asses. Jar Jar Binks was just bad judgement, not bad intentions, guys. And fans went to see “Phantom” and pretended not to notice that the thrill was gone. Maybe if we just pretend, the next one will be better…
And it was. Not hugely, but noticeably. As if the Master was awakening from a long, deep slumber. Ah, the battle twixt Christopher Lee and Yoda. Can you REALLY tell me that didn’t blow your mind? Folks, for those of us who remember Lee in his younger days, as the personification of evil (screw Lugosi’s Dracula. Lee WAS that Transylvanian count. And many, many more memorable characters than poor second-rate Bela could ever have dreamed of). And to see him in his evil glory (“it is clear that this will not be decided by our mastery of the Force, but with our skills with a Light Saber…” Yow!!!) and Yoda rise to the challenge…Ever, in cinematic history, had an audience waited 20 years to see a character rise to his full powers as Yoda did there? Ever? I say that was a unique moment, and they pulled it off. And we just flat loved it.
Star Wars, at its best, speaks to what is powerful and decent in us. And also cautions against ego and anger and hatred. Lucas has been accused of over-commercialization. I suspect that is the money people around him. If he could, I think he would make those movies and give away the tickets. Or just make them so that he himself and his buddies could watch them. If it was about money, he could easily have hired someone else to write and direct them. Every writer I know thinks they could have improved those scripts. But as with Cameron’s Titanic, not one of them could have created the films. Not one. The Star Wars sage is is something very special. Singular. Not “the best.” Just unique, and worthy of our respect. Lucas is a giant, and when giants pass, we should note them with respect. An epic is coming to a close. Sure, he might end up making, or letting someone else make, more Star Wars films. ILM and LucasFilm are gigantic entities now, with their own appetites. But the saga he envisioned three decades ago is about to come to a close. For goodness sake—let’s put our cynicism away, and enjoy it for what it is: some of the best popcorn ever popped. Either in this world, or a galaxy far, far away.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:11 AM