So the new statistics are that 1 in 100 American adult citizens are in prison—more than any other country in the world. The spinning has already started: what is responsible? I would suggest that the typical liberal answer has to do with a lack of economic opportunity and differential justice. I would further suggest that the typical Conservative answer has to do with a collapse in moral judgment, damage to the traditional family, violence in the media, etc.
Those who are polarized in terms of specific racial or gender issues will look at the following, and interpret it wildly differently:
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."
The racial disparity for women also is stark. One of every 355 white women aged 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one of every 100 black women in that age group.
Those who believe that the “playing field is level” socially, often point to such statistics as evidence that blacks are inferior either genetically (intelligence) or socially. Those who believe that racism is alive and well point to the exact same statistics as evidence that the justice and educational systems, as well as economic institutions and more, are horribly slanted.
Those who believe women are greatly disadvantaged can point to this as proof of the inherent criminality of men. Curiously, these same people often point to the racial part of the statistics as evidence of the injustice of the system…again, created by white men.
Racists who believe blacks are inferior, and use incarceration statistics in support of this, NEVER take the position that men are inferior, based upon the exact same statistics. I’ve never seen or heard such an argument, even once.
It is true that women are more victimized by men than men are victimized (violently) by women. But on the other hand, men are more often victims of violence than women are. I’ve often heard the response that that is because men are innately more violent. Well, the statistics certainly indicate men are more violent. But statistics also indicate men are more creative and innovative, based upon inventions, discoveries, and works of art world-wide.
A reasonable answer is that women have been denied opportunities. Fine. But the same social engineering answer might then reasonably be applied to the question of higher violence, mightn’t it? That there is something about the system that allows—or compels—men toward greater accomplishment also creates a competitive context in which violence is more likely.
I’m just sayin’.
But if you continue to apply that thought, then you look at the differential in violence or convicted criminality between whites and blacks. If one excuses the higher violence among men on the basis of social conditioning or context, does that extrapolate to the higher violence and convicted criminality along racial lines?
On the other hand, if one takes the “nature” argument to explain the difference (men have higher testosterone, or something) does that imply that black men are…well, more “masculine” than white men? That being more male they might also have more tendency toward criminality?
Frankly, I’ve never read or heard anyone who was willing to take either of these arguments to the “end of the line.” Invariably, they adjust it: taking a dash of social programming here, a soupcon of genetics there…to support their own political agenda.
Radical Feminists will suggest that statistics proving men are more criminal are indicative of a basic flaw, but that stats demonstrating an historical gap in creative accomplishment are social engineering. Racists will suggest that the difference between whites and blacks in incarceration rates are indicative of genetic inferiority, but that between men and women is due to something innately powerful and grittily wonderful in men.
Black radicals will say that the differences indicate racism on the part of whites. I’ve heard some say that the male-female differential is due to the pressure women put on men to compete. Hell, I’ve used a touch of that argument myself.
The point is that everyone twists the exact same statistics to make themselves look good. Such statistics become, in other words, a Rorschach test, or a mirror: What do you believe? Does essence precede existence? Does existence precede essence? Do you extend to others the same justifications you use to cushion your own existential angst?
So…the question of the day is: is it possible to devise a consistent philosophical position that explains both the racial and genderic aspects of these statistics? Or are two different theories needed, and if so, what are they?
Friday, February 29, 2008
So the new statistics are that 1 in 100 American adult citizens are in prison—more than any other country in the world. The spinning has already started: what is responsible? I would suggest that the typical liberal answer has to do with a lack of economic opportunity and differential justice. I would further suggest that the typical Conservative answer has to do with a collapse in moral judgment, damage to the traditional family, violence in the media, etc.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:53 AM
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
One of the readers suggested that the real question is: what did you learn from your mistake? Good thought. In my case, I realized that my entire paradigm of “balance” had to be out of whack if I made a mistake like that. Somewhere, my instincts were just flat wrong. Looking back now, I realize that it wasn’t my instincts that were wrong. It was that I wanted what I wanted, and could rationalize my way to behaviors that satisfied my selfish desires. Simple as that.
My heart has led me wrong less often than my head. However, I’ve seen some pretty wild screw-ups when people follow their hearts, as well. That’s why I pay most attention to the behaviors, attitudes, etc. which are in alignment with body, mind, and emotions simultaneously. People say: “what about spirit?” My observation is that I’ve seen people do horrendous damage to their bodies, relationships, and careers in the name of “spirituality.” Moreover, if someone says they have a spiritual calling to do something, there is no logical argument, even if what they are doing is literally murderous. Delusion can mask as spirituality, easily, because of the fact that there is no way to measure the truth or falsehood of someone’s spiritual beliefs. You can measure whether those beliefs are logical, or doctrinal, or whatever, but ultimately, all real matters of spirit are only tangential to life on earth.
So…you can REALLY screw up your life here chasing what may or may not be on “the other side.” On the other hand, if you simultaneously concern yourself with the root of the tree—body, career, and relationship—the flowerings usually seem to include those behaviors and attitudes which most spiritual disciplines describe as spiritual: honesty, compassion, discipline, etc.
So I go that way. When I screwed up my marriage, I was clearly “off the path.” I had two real choices: blame my wife (and believe me, I had plenty of support from friends who thought I should do just that) or take responsibility and grow the #@$$ up. I chose the second path. It was painful, but more rewarding by far.
The debate last night wasn’t a knock-out for Hillary. Which means that her candidacy is probably over. I read a lot of comments from self-proclaimed Feminists about how this is proof the Patriarchy is alive and well and venomous. Well, if nine women had been running, and one man came in and beat them all, they’d have a better point. But she beat the hell out of the other men, and lost to one other. That doesn’t prove anything, really.
But I’m equally certain that if Obama had lost the nomination, there would be plenty of black people saying “see? Racism is alive and well and venomous…” while ignoring the millions of white people who voted for him and worked to elect him. Saying that would be ignoring the fact that just perhaps Hillary was smarter and /or ran the better campaign. It would smack to me of a bit of sexism.
Likewise, discounting his accomplishment as simple sexism strikes me as whiffing of racism. Isn’t there just a chance that he is just smarter, and/or ran a better campaign? By denying their right to individual differences, not letting them be two human beings, that is a bit of sociological reductionism that…well, is the kind of thinking used by every racist and sexist.
Now, if ten times the more qualified woman was beaten by (what one perceives to be) the less qualified man, that certainly is a better argument. But again, Hillary beat a variety of white males, some of whom had more legislative experience than she.
You know, I can’t swear that, if the position were reversed, I wouldn’t be tempted to complain. I hope I wouldn’t, but can’t swear to it.
Today’s question is: what is the closest you ever came to dying, and did it make any difference in your life? For me…hmmm. Probably when I was trying to get from Vancouver Washington to Los Angeles to see a dying friend. I was driving on the I-5 in the middle of a horrible snow-storm, and hit an ice patch, doing a 270-degree spin. A giant Big Rig was coming up behind me, and I sat there in the car watching it lock up the brakes and slide right at me, and there wasn’t jack shit I could do. I have no idea how it managed to stop on that icy road, but it did, not two feet from the driver’s side door.
I decided then and there that the best thing I could do to honor the dead or dying was to live to the full. And turned around and went home.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:00 AM
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The flap over the photo of Obama in Somali garb is an odd one. First, let me just say that I hope the Clinton campaign didn’t release it. Frankly, it smells of a Rovian tactic—something a really smart RNC guy might do: tar two opponents at once.
Now, as to the question of whether it was actually problematic at all. I was listening to a little Right-Wing radio last night, and the host was being, I thought, disingenuous. His patter was something along the line of “there’s nothing wrong with being Muslim, or African-American, right? That’s what Obama’s campaign has been saying. So why would they squeal if someone releases this picture..? And why didn’t Obama’s campaign release it themselves..?”
What bothers me is that I’m sure that there are lots of people for whom this makes perfect sense. So, here’s my take on it.
Human beings are tribal. Race, National origin, and religion are three major tribes. Obama has built his campaign on an Aikido-like strategy of motivating people to look at the future we can build together, rather than on the fact that he is “different.” He knows that his differences are a losing position.
This is very similar to what I noticed in Hollywood my first time around. If I could keep the executive’s attention on the story, or the project we could create together, I got the job. If race EVER came up in the discussion, I was screwed.
So…the photo itself was neutral. It could have been released by a neutral news organization, part of a “Politician’s in native garb” series showing a dozen different politicos and the ways they blend in with the natives around the world. Kilts, hula skirts, Eskimo garb, whatever. Hah hah. And maybe somebody would have looked at Obama in the turban and thought: “damn! He’s Mooozlem!” and a vote or two would have dropped out. Maybe his campaign would have thought: “ouch. Oh well…” but that would have been the extent of it.
But to my knowledge, campaigns never release information about their opponents unless it will have a negative effect on the opponent, or a positive effect on their own campaign. I mean, they have limited resources, right? So why spend a moment doing something that would have a neutral effect? I would start with that presumption.
Now…IF this was released by the Clinton campaign, I would assume it was released because they are desperate to stop his momentum. And to the degree that they can get people to remember that he is the “other tribe” those who have such problems will definitely waver in their support. Their intention could have been:
1) to ridicule him. (“Funny garb”)
2) To identify him as African. (And thereby get the racial-cultural polarization)
3) To identify him with a particular GROUP of Africans (associating him with a particular ethnic conflict, perhaps. If he is on the “wrong side” of one such, they can make a case for his naiveté. This is unlikely—too subtle.)
4) To identify him as a Muslim. The old “Manchurian Candidate” thing. By the way, I don’t think that this will be an approach used by the RNC. After all, wouldn’t that be cutting their own throats? It was MCCAIN who actually fulfills the Manchurian Candidate scenario, after all. American soldier, captured by commies and tortured/brainwashed, returns to the U.S. and involves himself in politics and eventually runs for President…if you think about it, there’s a pretty nasty little email campaign a DNC-sympathizer could stir up…
Anyway, there it is. The question is one of intent. I hope that this is below the Clinton campaign. I’m afraid that it is quite within the bounds of politics as practiced in the world. Hell, it’s even conceivable that the Obama campaign released it, “spoofing” a Clinton email address, just so they could act horrified. But I doubt it: he doesn’t need it, at all.
What I’m going to do in a week or so is march through the Seven Secrets one at a time here on the blog, and ask people to submit questions. Either your questions, or questions you believe others would ask. These will form the operational kernel of the book.
And the Question of the Day is: What is the Single Largest Mistake you’ve ever made that you’re willing to cop to publicly? For me, it was the series of mis-cues that led to the destruction of my first marriage. Dammit, I knew what Toni really needed and wanted from me, but I just wouldn’t step up unless she made her requests explicit. That was dishonest, and petty, and childish, and cost me hugely. Almost damaged my daughter, and hurt one of the very best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life. I was a fool. Yeah, I know, I was doing the best I could at the time…but I refuse to let myself off the hook for that one.
How about you?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:34 AM
Monday, February 25, 2008
I think that the “Seven Secrets” I’m going to cover in the book are as follows:
1) Lifewriting. The interaction of the chakras and the Hero’s Journey. Gives me a chance to discuss goal setting, SMART goals, Time Lines, the Dark Night of the Soul, and more.
2) IDEA. Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention. The value of balance in developing intuition about life, one’s self, and others. Cross-references with #1.
3) Fear Removal. Fear stops more people than everything else combines. Brings in the importance of aerobic exercise. Topics include the way the body stores emotion, Six Degrees of Freedom, Aerobics, the Neuro-Immuno-Endocrine response, visualization and imagination, negative emotional anchors and so forth. Coach Sonnon’s CST and Yogic formulations fall right in here. The FlowFit/ Body-Flow/ Prasara matrix as well.
4) Intermittent Fasting. Life extension and health, as well as removing all logical obstacles for weight loss, leaving only the emotional trauma, which can be processed with #3 (and a good therapist, if necessary). The amount of saved time and increased energy can be re-invested in your life to a phenomenal degree.
5) The Five Minute Miracle. Cuts through the bullshit. Anyone who says they don’t have five minutes to work on their health and fitness is simply lying to themselves, or to you. PERIOD. It’s like I.F.—you get to see the demon in the cage directly, without camouflage. That said, we also introduce the concept of Neuro-Synaptic Facilitation, the fastest way to learn a skill, or increase strength. And Core Activation—using Grease the Groove protocol to work the abdominals. The Abs are the most important muscles in the body to work, and the core of fitness. You NEVER see anyone with tight abs but flabby arms and legs. You often see people with muscular legs, arms, and chests…but flabby guts. Do the math.
6) Soulmate. Frankly, the core of what I think 99% of people want from life: someone to love and be loved by. And finding a partner is easy if you’d be happy to marry yourself. I mean, REALLY. I think that most problems in this arena are caused by the fact that people don’t REALLY like themselves, and therefore aren’t happy with what they’re attracting. You can’t really expect to attract someone better than you are, by whatever metric you use. This ties into IDEA nicely, reinforcing the theme of balance.
7) Heartbeat Meditation. The safest meditation I know that is powerful. The most powerful meditation I know that is safe. Meditating is like running “the aquarium filter on the fish tank of your soul.” I can touch on other forms of meditation, and Dream Diary-ing and so forth. The fact is that if you try to move from one level of your life to another, your ego shell will crack, and all of the fear and damage and congealed ego it is composed of dumps into your system. This causes most people to believe that personal improvement CAUSES pain. No. It cancels out the emotional anesthetic you’ve used to CONCEAL pain. If you are trying to improve your body, your relationships, or your career, and don’t have some means of dealing with this stuff, you will bounce back to your prior energetic state, again and again, until the outside world gives you a kick in the butt (for instance…the death of a parent. Or both parents. Most people don’t really grow up until this happens.)
There are so many other things, but these seven cover all basic aspects of the Three Biggies. I can cross-reference them, so that someone can start anywhere and end up everywhere. Point to outside resources and alternate approaches. I think that they will be a fine foundation, and within each, I have room to talk about how I came to discover or uncover or stumble across them, the impact they’ve had on my life, pitfalls and cautionary notes, methods of approach, and so forth. They comprise two mental/career paths (Lifewriting, IDEA), two emotional (Soulmate, Heartbeat, Fear Removal) and two physical (Intermittent Fasting, Five Minute Miracle).
I think that would be a fine foundation. Any thoughts?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:24 AM
O.K….(according to the Drudge report) so the Clinton campaign is apparently circulating photos of Obama in Somali garb. Considering that no campaign is going to spread information about their opponent with the intention of making said opponent look better, I wonder what the point was? To remind voters that he is black? To imply he is Muslim? Sigh. I hate politics…
I know that a lot of people think Hillary was faking her “moment” at the debate last week, the “I’m honored to be sitting on this stage…” thingie. I’m not one of them. Truth be told, I think it was one of the most genuine moments I’ve ever seen from her. I think that not only does she respect Obama, but he is, in almost every way, EXACTLY the man she thought she’d married. I mean, wouldn’t he be exactly what she’s attracted to? Intellect, ambition, vision, optimism, energy, etc? What in the hell is there that she WOULDN’T be attracted to? And that attraction is at the belly brain, base chakra stuff, and trumps the ambition chakras, which are higher up Maslow’s hierarchy. I never believed that there was genuine antipathy between them, any more than there is between most boxers, despite the fact that they beat the hell out of each other. Now, there IS real bad blood between Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier, because Frazier has no imagination, and took Ali’s box-office tweaking rantings to heart. Didn’t like being called a “gorilla.” Oops. But George Foreman, Ken Norton and others got the joke, didn’t take it personally, and love Ali. So…Obama and Clinton are heading for the same goal. I don’t believe she’s small-minded enough to dislike someone for wanting what she wants out of life.
By the way, I hardly consider my little “Body-Career-Relationship” rubric to be fool-proof. After all, George W. Bush would arguably be considered well balanced, and that hardly makes him exemplary. I consider his failures of the “Peter Principle” variety—he rose to his level of incompetence. This is where nepotism has problems. Without a father as strategically placed as W’s, he would have been on his own resources. Would he have gone to Yale? Speculated on oil? Been a governor? Etc. etc. The term “born on third base and thought he hit a triple” comes to mind.
Someone who starts with little, and builds a life, on the other hand, is exhibiting their own capacity, not the luck of the draw. This is why I always factor in a person’s origins, and the social context of their gender, race, etc., in their overall accomplishments.
The point is that if a person is balanced in all three, I feel they have a good foundation from which to build a reality map. (My guess? Born to a more modest family, Bush would be once divorced, middle-management, with a moderate weight problem related partially to alcohol.) Just my take on it. If a person is blown out in one area (two divorces and/or a string of failed relationships, serious weight issue, or bankrupted) that should raise an eyebrow. Two areas, and you should take what they say of the world with a serious grain of salt. Three areas? Wish them luck, and listen carefully to their opinions—and then do the opposite. Just kidding. No, I’m not.
So “No Country For Old Men” swept the Oscars. Cool. I’ve loved Joel and Ethan Coen since “Blood Simple.” “Simple” was just funny and sick. “Old Men” was killer, and the ending was about perfect. I remember the killer sitting in that woman’s house, trying to cut her a break, and the best he could do was flip a coin. I remember thinking that we were getting a peek into his psychology and cosmology. That this was a man so damaged that he saw everything in absolutely stark terms—black and white. It was the only way the world made sense to him. He literally COULDN’T do more for her than that. His entire world would cease to be “rational” if he did. The nature-nurture argument has a field day with people like this. I would bet that however he was born, he was also horribly abused, to the point that he had only the most tenuous connection with the rest of humanity. I felt genuine sorrow that he couldn’t offer her more than this.
Contrast this with the merry murderer “Dexter.” LOVE that show. He was born a monster (nature) and trained to be a contributing citizen (nurture) by a father who genuinely loved him. Oops! No, that’s not true. He underwent something early in life that turned him into a monster. So is it all nurture? Only if one assumes that NO ONE who went through a similar circumstance could come out unscathed. In general, most monsters in Hollywood are presumed to have been created by circumstance, evidence of Hollywood’s “Liberality” I suppose.
Eight work days away from being finished with “Shadow Valley.” Printing today. I can review a hundred pages of manuscript a day. Takes about four hours. And then about two hours to input the notes. I’ll count down as the work proceeds. My guess is that finishing this book will put me in a different head space than I have been in in my entire life. It’s tied into too many things, including my marriage, my move to Southern California, money issues, racial issues, chronic stress, and some other stuff. We’ll see.
The question of the day is: What major thresholds have you ever consciously approached in life, and how did it turn out?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:57 AM
Saturday, February 23, 2008
this is just too rich. Apparently, Obama studied Taekwondo in Chicago. The following from the Washington Post:
"The Illinois senator...took taekwondo classes in the early 2000s at the schwanky East Bank Club, whose membership includes everyone who's anyone in the Windy City.
We tracked down Obama's former instructor, David Posner, a financial capital planner who taught taekwondo at East Bank for eight years and still practices and teaches classes at another "dojang." He remembers his famous student as "very disciplined, very diligent."
Posner said Obama "has phenomenal balance, very good foot work" and "really good solid stances."
But because the senator, who is now 45, started studying the Korean martial art at an older age than most, he "was not the best kicker, not the best puncher," Posner said.
Jeeze, I'm having fun. The first and probably last time I'll pay this much attention to an election. If I dreamed this guy up, it couldn't have been much more perfect. If he gets the office, I REALLY hope he can knock it out of the park.
I wonder if all this means that Will or Denzel could finally get laid in a movie without tanking the box office..?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:03 PM
Friday, February 22, 2008
Prejudice and Weight
Yesterday, you guys did me the honor of discussing your prejudices, and I thank you. Predictably, some pain came up. I openly discuss my own wounds, and the way I have struggled with them, hopefully to make it crystal clear that I don’t consider myself a “superior” anything except maybe a superior Steve compared to who I was yesterday. I can live with that.
For the record, here are my thoughts about overweight :
1) Low metabolism. A real factor. It can seem terribly unfair that one’s siblings or friends can eat all they want and not gain. The solution: grasping that life isn’t fair, and deciding “so what?” Some people are better looking than you, or at greater ease in public. You still have responsibility to find love and a healthy social circle. Some people are born rich. You still have the responsibility to balance your checkbook and get out of the trailer park. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to jack up the metabolism. A HUGE amount can be done in 15 minutes a day. I didn’t say it was easy.
2) Ignorance. Not stupidity. I mean lack of real information and clarity about how the body works. This is not your fault—there are so many frauds out there (I simply can’t believe anyone would buy Dr. Phil’s diet book. Would you buy a book on “Stop Smoking” from a chain smoker? On having healthy relationships from someone who’s been married a dozen times? On managing finances by someone broke? Hope to God not.) If you want to lose weight, you must START by controlling intake (food) on one end, and output (exercise) on the other. If you don’t do both, you will yo-yo, or your metabolism will simply slow down. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.
3) Emotions. The voices in your head and the pain in your life. This is a big one, and frankly, this is one of the real reasons for prejudice against the obese. We look at your bodies and KNOW there is something wrong. The body doesn’t lie. Now…that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are healthier…just that we hide it better. We can lie to the world about it. So people who aren’t willing to look at their own stuff reject you because you remind them of the work they have to do. I like the “throwing someone into the deep end of a pool and telling them to swim” example. It is both true that that MUST be what it feels like when people say “just lose it” and also that you have a lifetime to learn the lessons.
4) Lifestyle. We did not evolve to live in a world where an hour of work can pay for a day of food. (The cost of an all-you-can-eat salad bar is lower than the average minimum wage. Eat one huge meal a day, and there you go.) A gram of animal protein is absurdly cheap in terms of the calories you expend to earn it. Sugar was not this plentiful. Our hindbrains work against us. But what do we tell our children? Do we accept from them the excuses we accept in ourselves? "I don't wanna" "I'm not interested" "it's HARD" "It's not fair..." Probably not. But it isn't fair that eagles eat rabbits, either. Either that friggin' rabbit gets hopping, or it gets eaten. Life isn't fair. It isn't unfair. It just is. Get over it, or surrender hope.
Is it fair that people judge us for our failings and weaknesses? Hell, no. But we ALL do it. Don’t tell me that you don’t select your friends for their intelligence and honesty, your lovers for their level of attractiveness. And ANYONE who marries someone without concern for their emotional health is, in my thinking, a fool.
We all make judgments. We all do the best we can. We all have responsibility to take responsibility in our lives: otherwise, we are eternal children. I don’t know a single human being without a perfectly good set of reasons to be a failure and an asshole. And I’ve rarely seen a set of circumstances that SOMEONE didn’t overcome.
It isn’t easy. I was dealing with so much emotional pain it took me SEVENTEEN YEARS to earn my first black belt. I can’t begin to tell you how much pain, and shame, and guilt, and fear I felt. But I kept going, because I knew that if I backed off, I would never confront the scars that bound me, and would have a lesser life because of it.
Weight is, in my mind, the same as bad relationships, or finances. People struggle with all three of these arenas, all their lives. Others succeed. Pay attention to those who succeed. Truth is that the basic means of success in all three arenas are pretty much the same:
1) Have clear, written goals.
2) Find others who have accomplished those goals and maintained that accomplishment for a decade.
3) Model their beliefs, actions, emotions.
4) Take action toward your goals SLOWLY, at the rate of about 1% a week.
5) Expect failure. Keep track of the emotions that come up. Every time you either fail or succeed, keep track of what you learned: what worked, what hurt, what felt good.
6) Develop a method to ignore the negative voices in your head.
7) Maintain flexibility, trying different things and evaluating the results.
8) Never, ever quit
Saying “my habits are sedentary” is interesting. So what? What if the issue was being broke? Would you say: “I don’t like going to work?” How about school? Would you say “I don’t like doing homework”? If you don’t like exercise, then choose an extremely efficient exercise, (like Hindu Pushups and Hindu Squats) so that your entire routine lasts only two or three minutes (at first). If you can’t set fifteen minutes aside, this has nothing to do with your hobbies. You have stuffed a vast ocean of pain into your body, and MUST process it, or you will poison your life. In life, there are reasons, and there are results. You cannot have both.
I have infinite sympathy with those struggling with pain in all three areas. My life is a daily confrontation with my own shortcomings. Every damned day I have to remind my self what I am committed to, who I am, what I live for. What I am prepared to die for. Every damned day.
NO ONE has the right to point a finger at you, and say you are bad and wrong. But we must admit: we all have standards of what is right and wrong, strong and weak, beautiful and ugly. All of us. We have the responsibility to try to succeed ACCORDING TO OUR OWN STANDARDS. What do I think the minimum standards should be (and this is what I believe we all aspire to, not where I think we should “be” )?
1) Earn our living doing something we would do for free. Make enough money doing it to be able to contribute to those we love, and be a force for good in the world.
2) Love ourselves deeply. Be able to externalize that love to include others, to create healthy relationships. To have, if we so choose, a healthy intimate relationship with someone who loves us, mirrors us, and rocks our socks off.
3) To have a body healthy and strong enough to work hard all week, and party on the weekend. When we strip down and look in the mirror, we should find ourselves sexy as hell.
From my position, if you don’t have those things, you aren’t living in alignment with your own values. THAT’S ALL RIGHT—FEW OF US ARE. The problem is when you don’t admit you want it, or abandon hope of having it. The road to creating these three things (as a minimum: feel free to add, but never subtract from this list!) will teach you everything you need to know about life. You spend your life seeking joy, you spread love, you forgive others and yourself, you try to make every new day your masterpiece. You get up early, singing.
But overall, you remain in alignment with your true self, and struggle to keep that alignment strong. When people talk about how much “energy” I have, THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING AT. Harlan Ellison, one of my heroes, said that the definition of success is “to bring into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.”
Well said. The question of the day is: What is YOUR definition of success?
Watched the debate last night. Loved the way Hillary carried herself at the end. That woman, I would vote for in a minute. Pity we haven’t seen more of her. She could still win, but her chances are fading. If she loses Texas, she should make a deal with Obama to be…oh, I don’t know. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare? Supreme Court nominee? Not sure. But I think she has extraordinary capacity, and if she is genuinely committed to service, I hope she gets her chance to shine.
McCain and Torture. It has been suggested that he didn’t want our enemies to know our playbook in this regard. I understand your point. I consider that someone could hold that opinion and be a good person, a good American, and a better person than I. But that is a more utilitarian view of human beings than I could hold and be in alignment with my values. I know the monster inside me, the one who would flat love to kill someone, I kid you not. Who would LOVE to come across someone…oh, I don’t know. How about raping a nun? Yeah, that’s about right. To have a perfect, socially justifiable excuse to let out all the pain and fear and anger I’ve stuffed my whole life, and break someone’s neck, watch the light go out in their eyes. And be praised for it. God almighty, there is a part of me that would love that. And if anyone ever hurt my family or my friends, I’d let it out. I know it’s there. And it whispers in my ear that those who have harmed me are meat.
The whole waterboarding thing is a magician’s trick. “Don’t look at my right hand.” “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain.” As if waterboarding is the worst we’ve done. Bullshit. As if we’ve only done it, what, three times? Bullshit. That’s like accusing someone of stealing, or cheating on his wife. NO ONE admits it until they are caught dead to rights. They have simply admitted to the smallest amount of torture (“a little water up the nose”) that people would believe, based upon the incontrovertible information that has come out.
If you don’t believe that, in my mind you know little of history or human psychology. I believe our country is based on the best set of principles I’ve ever seen or heard of, and we struggle to live up to them. But we are still human beings. The Stanford experiment (I believe it was Stanford) showed how swiftly people placed in the position of “Guards” begin to exhibit cruelty to those perceived of as prisoners. Other experiments show how swiftly people will apply pain to others if they have a “justification.” Combine this with fear, anger, and the hierarchical tendency of mankind (“they are as good, as human, as cherishing of human life as we”), human prejudice and the fact that a certain percentage of us are, frankly, smiling monsters. MONSTERS. And what kind of jobs do you think they will seek out? Sociopathy is a very real thing, and while most of us have a little of it, some have a lot. Combine with the tendency to forget that an irreducible percentage of those we incarcerate or arrest are INNOCENT. You can’t get past this. You can’t deny it, without ignoring history.
Add this up, and what happens away from our sight, in dark cells, behind closed doors, is supposed to be limited by what’s in a book or manual? Bullshit. But we can try. We can refuse to sell our souls to save our bodies. At least, that’s the way I look at it.
So…that is legitimately my position, and I can also grant that I’m not “right.” I’m just clear on my position. And morality is more important than my own life. At some point you have to make a stand. Anyone who knows me knows that I take no shit from anyone, ever, in any way. This is not weakness. It is a refusal to let my fear make me less than the best I can be.
I hope that every decision McCain makes he is making from superior knowledge and perception, and his deepest, clearest values, and not from any mere desire to appease an electorate. If so, he is a good and decent man, and we simply disagree on the shape of the world.
If not, he is damned.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:51 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I not going to spend a lot of time digging into Obama’s legislative record right now (although I might in the future) because I just don’t have the time—if I considered myself more of a political person, I certainly would. I can tell you, however, how I came to the decision to vote for him, and then discuss the arena in which I see his capacity for what I call “resolving dualities.”
I wasn’t going to vote for a Republican. No way. I thought the way they’ve behaved over the last twelve years, from the sexual witch-hunt on Clinton to the excluding and vilifying anyone who dared disagree with them after 9/11 was simply ghastly. Unless the Republican candidate was in some way vastly superior, I could not see returning them to power—that would just embolden them, after they basically (in my mind) followed Bush off a cliff. Everything in me says the country is headed in the wrong direction. I’d rather oversteer in the other direction, then make another course correction if necessary.
The Democrats. Frankly, I kind of liked Edwards and Hillary, and saw few enough differences between their policies that I felt comfortable watching the political game play out.
Obama? I had a vested interest, obviously. Assuming I saw no huge difference in policy or capacity, I knew my tendency would be to vote for him. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have overlooked any flaws more than 1% or 2% in exchange for his skin color. But the hind brain is an odd thing, and I can’t be certain. We’re not really driven by logic.
The first time I heard him was at the DNC, when he did the “We’re not Red States or Blue States” routine. Caught my interest instantly—and the interest of America. Because the Red-Blue thing is purely conceptual, with little relevance to the actual question of how we shall live our lives. Yeah, there are those who disagree with that, but I don’t. That was like someone who sees two people arguing over whether it’s Heads or Tails, and points out that it’s actually a Quarter. The energy released during his talk was remarkable, and I got interested.
Read his autobiography, and noticed that he struggled with his ethnicity, until coming to a connection with his spiritual humanity I found remarkably mature for his age (that first memoir DREAMS FROM MY FATHER was written when he was 21. Astoundingly mature, according to Tananarive. Haven’t read that one yet.)
I liked this guy, and thought that he had found his way through a minefield that I’m still negotiating, race-wise. Like two other people: Will Smith, and Oprah. I now see three people on the cultural landscape who have apparently handled the load I struggle with. Or at least, handled that particular aspect of their lives with greater grace than I can manage. I’m REALLY interested now, because three role models gives me the minimum I need to filter out the critical path from the “noise.”
So he had the edge going into the election, because I know how difficult it is to handle that. That meant that if he could play the game as WELL as the white folks in the race, he was actually smarter than them—he had a handicap (that sack of cement I’ve mentioned) that they couldn’t see. Bigger than Hillary’s? No. I have no way to judge. However, he was starting from scratch, where she had a national organization, 100% name recognition, and the most popular living former president stumping for her. Quite a hill to climb.
And this is where I started having fun. Looking at both of their web sites, I didn’t see major policy differences, and there wasn’t enough difference in records of accomplishment to really care, and their surrogates, people who trusted and supported them, had about equal status in my eyes. No real advantage there on either side.
So I could watch the way they ran their campaigns. Frankly, I was pulling for either Hillary or Barack—I love being a part of history. No matter what happened, I was going to get that “big change” that I felt was critical, and there was NO way either of them was going to do worse than Bush.
And I say that the management of a national political campaign says a gigantic amount about management skills, and overall capacity. Not as much if you factor in nepotism—Bush’s daddy’s Rolodex on one hand, Hillary’s riding Bill’s coat-tails on the other. But I was willing to let that go and let ‘em start from even in my mind.
Obama finessed the Black-White thing beautifully, better than I’ve seen a black politician do it. He just didn’t allow it to be a part of the discussion. Note that his wife Michelle doesn’t have that to the same degree. Her “For the first time in my adult life I’m really proud of America” comment was almost certainly a reference to racial frustration and disbelief that the country would actually embrace a black candidate. Obama didn’t wallow in that. The Clintons KNEW that if they could pull him down into that discussion he would lose.
Hillary has talked over and over again about “A woman in the White House”—playing right into that duality thing. I haven’t heard him make the equivalent comment even once, although some of his surrogates have.
When the subject of Latinos came up, commentators (all of them White) talked about the antipathy between whites and blacks. Obama took the position that the “conflict” has been manufactured, distracting both sides from the real issues. From a racial POV, it was like he was saying that Whites can have Thanksgiving dinner in comfort as long as they can keep browns and blacks fighting over table scraps on the floor. He never said that exactly, but man, the half-dozen comments I’ve heard from him on the subject jumped out at me: he wasn’t getting caught in that game, either.
Every demographic: black versus white, men versus women, old versus young, rich versus poor…that the pundits said would be a barrier, he seemed to address with calls to look beyond the differences to the commonalities. And for those who think Islamic extremism is the great challenge for the 21st Century: anyone who believes this (and I sympathize with it, even if I don't consider it the HIGHEST priority problem) and simultaneously is free of the sense that Muslims or their religion are inferior must grasp that Obama's potential to bridge the divide between Christian and Muslim is absolutely unique. I mean, good Lord, it's almost as if he was custom-made for the job.
Note: NONE of this means he can actually deliver. I get that.
However…his fund raising, approaching a million donars, is apparently unprecedented, and therefore the amounts of money he’s been raising are a direct reflection of his approval and impact. And he’s run a campaign that is boggling the minds of experts, and making the feared Clinton machine look bad. You know something? People are going to say: “he didn’t win. They lost.” Yawn. That’s what ALWAYS gets said when someone embarrasses the Champ. It’s almost always the “he must not have trained” “their defence was asleep” and so forth.
The art of winning in combat is to place enough pressure on your opponent to expose their flaws…and there are ALWAYS flaws. It just isn’t easy to force them into the open. Once they’re exposed, then every bad choice and losing gamble they made looks like incompetence. Of course if they won, it would be a “bold gambit.”
I’ve been watching him bob and weave and duck and dodge--and throw hooks, jabs, and crosses. A few body blows. So far, no low blows, but I see a couple of hidden elbows, and he's probably forced some errors. Debating isn’t his strong suit, but he’s gotten better every time—his learning curve is scary steep. His ability to connect with crowds gives him an EQ that blows my mind. “Just his speechwriters”? Oh, please. He’s been talking that way since college. He obviously guides his speechwriters with an iron hand. Read his books. If you could buy that kind of eloquence, EVERY politician would have his audience fainting. It’s a joke.
I’ve watched this guy navigating the obstacles with an adroitness that frankly puts my jaw on the ground. I still don’t know what he can deliver, I really don’t. There are people who are using the “the country is more ready for a black man than a white woman” and I find that dismissive. If the same thing happened ten times, THEN you have the beginning of a statistical group. Otherwise, Obama beat Clinton. If she’d beaten him, I would have been tempted to wonder the opposite, but as long as he did well? I wouldn’t insult the electorate by assuming racism. I might well have credited the vast and powerful Clinton machine, but leaping to sexism or racism when so many millions have embraced both strikes me as self-pity of the worst kind.
I had ZERO interest in voting for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Zero. So I know that my racial heart-strings don’t tug all that easily. But this is different. Had he been white, I’d have been fascinated by him. But black, knowing what he’s had to overcome (and seen, all my life, the difficulty in finding whites who grasp the obstacles) does give him extra points in my mind.
So his ability to build and direct a 200-million dollar organization from scratch, and smash an established machine? Yeah, I think this guy has executive ability. More, he has the ability to inspire people to try, to believe. Now, if he’s honest, that’s great. So far, he seems more honest than 90% or more of what I see in the public arena. Smart? Blisteringly so. And flexible. That implies that he will learn faster than hell.
My guess? He’ll be an above-average president. Probably a good one. Greatness? Who the hell knows? Part of that judgment will be determined by whether you are Liberal or Conservative. So I will evaluate the quality of Liberal candidates by the judgement of other liberals, or the judgment of Conservative candidates by the judgment of other Conservatives, or averaging the approval levels overall. Otherwise, well, if you are Conservative, of COURSE you’re likely to dislike a Liberal candidate’s platform, overall, and vice versa. And since I think those differences stem from primary existential perceptual lenses rather than actual value (I know of no studies suggesting vast differences in income, education or intelligence between Conservatives and Liberals. In my mind, this means that it can’t possibly be true that one side is “right” and the other “wrong.”)
In terms of my judgment about his apparent balance, as opposed to Clinton. It is true that many women are married to cheaters. So what? Lots of people are broke, or fat. That’s simply a fact, not something that gives a pass on the issue of balance. MOST people are imbalanced, and it’s not something to aspire to. Period. So she made a compromise. Fine. That matches her values, and doesn’t match mine.
I did a fast web search for male and female relative satisfaction in life. Here’s a page with some data:
And you’ll notice that it’s pretty even, with men being happier about some things, women happier about others. On the issue of marriage, men seem to be a little happier, but not much. In other words, in life, both sides make compromises, both sides suffer, both sides benefit.
Equal rights and incomes for women? Absolutely, totally, without equivocation. Evil men with vast advantages? Bullshit.
I find the “are blacks or women more disadvantaged” argument objectionable because you can’t answer it without hallucinating that you know more about the other side than they do. Even the “Ask black women” thing I proposed doesn’t answer it for me---and frankly, about 80% of the answers I got from them said race was the biggest factor. AND I DON’T ACCEPT THAT. I discard it, because I don’t think you can come to a conclusion that doesn’t discount the experience and pain of others. Frankly, I think I’m bending over backwards to be fair here, and therefore feel perfectly comfortable playing fair arbiter and saying: if Obama beats Clinton, PLEASE don’t make this an issue of “man versus woman.” How ‘bout just two people, one of whom was ultimately more appealing? She SLAUGHTERED the other men she was running against. Doesn’t that count for anything?
The question of the day is: What is the largest prejudice you have overcome in your life?
For me, it was probably gays. It wasn’t until I was in High School and actually met some very cool gay people that I began to question the venom that I’d gotten in childhood. I’m embarrassed now to even remember the things I thought. How about you?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:04 AM
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
My terrific mother in law has been visiting for the past week. Unlike me, she actually knows politics, and has been in the trenches her whole life. And she simply couldn’t believe that Hillary didn’t thank the campaign workers who came out in the snow to try to elect her yesterday. Rude, and foolish. Yes, I’m sure Hillary has blinders on, trying not to panic. There was a Saturday Night Live routine last year (they repeated it Saturday night.) where the “All-but-certain-next-President” Hillary Rodham Clinton mocked the campaigns of her opponents. Good lord. Lady had 100% name recognition, a 150 Million dollar war chest, and the most popular living former President stumping for her. She crushed all her other opponents, and Obama is beating her like a rented mule. This boggles my mind. His EQ has to be stratospheric. He may be the smartest (in the way I measure intelligence) person I’ve seen in political life. I kind of agree that he’s playing “above” the level of the game.
Notice that everyone is dancing to his tune, reacting to his words and tactics. It’s a little like watching Mohammad Ali fighting Sonny Liston. No one noticed that he was dictating the pace of the fight, forcing Liston to fight a different game than he was used to fighting.
I watched the early primaries, looked at her advantages, and realized that he could run her ragged on physical energy. If he was running against a two-headed monster, he would have to force them to bob and weave and travel and speak…and if he was what I thought he might be, he had a chance to break them down physically. The fat lady ain’t sung yet, but the Achilles’ Heel that is visible to almost everyone—her marriage—might well end up being the thing that brings her down.
It always seemed to me that she sold her heart for her ambition, tolerated a cheating husband for the sake of ambition. (Question of the day: Would anyone out there wish such a marriage for their own daughter?) I think she appealed to a lot of women who have abandoned their own dreams of romantic love for “realistic” marriages. Crap.
So she has two-thirds of a life. A stellar career, and a healthy body (no one can push themselves as she has on 3-4 hours of sleep without a healthy basic foundation). She should have dumped Bill and built her own career. There would have been more emotional satisfaction overall. When she refused to admit she made a mistake about Iraq, I understood: most would consider that political suicide. But compare that to Obama’s admission of making a “boneheaded” decision about his Chicago real estate doings.
Why do I like him? He reminds me of me, sans some of my personal damage. Healthy body, apparently healthy marriage, stellar career. The full package. And he was smart enough to smell a rat on Iraq. I’d like to vote for someone who is smarter than I am, after eight years of the first President I ever considered LESS intelligent than me.
I am so disappointed that McCain changed his tune about torture. So very sad. He has lost all moral authority as far as I am concerned. I mean, who would Jesus torture?
Sigh. The “More Yoga” program seems to be working fine for me. Woke up this morning feeling great, not that hit-by-a-bus feeling I often have after running 100 reps of the Bruiser. Meditation this morning started with heartbeat, then I used Mulabhanda (anal lock) to ground myself, found the spark of light at the third chakra, and breathed down into these first four until I achieved a solid framework of light.
Then I visualized a triangle at my third eye. And then allowed my heart to extend light up there, and rotated through my three major goals. You have to visualize/represent the end point of your goals, and then feel the emotions associated with successful fulfillment of them.
If you can see the end point of your goals (and no, I ain’t saying what they are publicly right now. But they involve healthy family, moving my career to the next level, and moving my martial arts/yoga practice to the next level) then back away and “ask” the following questions:
1) Are my goals in alignment with my beliefs?
2) Are they in alignment with my core values?
3) Have I any negative or positive emotional charges that will interfere?
4) Can I see the intermediate steps to achieving my goals (what must I do this month, this week, and TODAY to bring them to being)?
5) Will I enjoy the journey, even if I don’t ultimately reach the goal?
6) Will my actions along this path make the world a better place?
7) Are my worldly goals in any way out of alignment with my spiritual path?
Trust me: once you’ve been through this cycle a few dozen times, it gets automatic. You wake up, find your heartbeat, find your breathing, anchor into your body, generate light, align with your goals…all in sixty seconds.
You will need some activity that takes you into flow state. And you need to do it daily. Flow state for most people triggers after about 20 minutes of some steady-state activity: painting, sex, gardening, poetry, writing, dancing, working out, meditating.
If you have stress-related emotional problems, you’re well advised to meditate. Go straight to the source and drink from the fountain, people.
This is preventative medicine at its best. And preventative medicine is ten times more effective than Emergency care. This, by the way, drives me crazy when people suggest that the Emergency room can substitute for Universal Health Care. If you wait until you’re sick…well, you end up with a 60 percent obesity rate, and people who treat their bodies like garbage bags. Of course, that’s the direction too much of America is going in. People, after you hit 35, your body is done with you. Your genetics are programmed to kill you off so that the next generation can come in and clean up the mess you made. After that, all you get in terms of health and aliveness is what you can take and hold.
And that requires PREVENTATIVE maintenance. Otherwise, it’s like not changing your oil. Twenty dollars every three months…or five thousand dollars for a new engine. You take your pick.
And health starts with MENTAL/EMOTIONAL health. Otherwise, you are viewing reality through a skewed lens. How can you know if your lens is skewed? Look at your body, your relationships, your career. Unless you are turned on by all three, your safe bet is that something is wrong.
Do your daily work. No one else can do it for you.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:04 AM
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The interviewer apparently chose the wrong Obama supporter to drill, assuming he would be light on policy and long on “touchy-feelie”
The young man's response to the news reporter's
Video, after a bunch of haters on Youtube accused him of being a plant.
I was sore as hell after a four-hour workout Friday night with Steve Mohammad. Ouch. And it was great: I love that man. Ray Doss, a BKF fifth degree black belt, showed up and worked with me…the footwork shifts are great, and created so much power I couldn’t calibrate it, and accidentally knocked Ray across the room. Ouch.
Ray and I talked until 1:30 in the morning, and I got home at about two. What a night.
Monday, I did 100 cleans to order with the Bruiser, in sets of ten (two sets at each Five Minute Miracle break). I spa’d last night, and then did yoga this morning…and felt pretty darned good. I think that I need to do more yoga, but have to figure out how to organize that. There’s only so much time in the day. On the other hand, I used to do 90 minutes of yoga daily fifteen years ago, and my body HARDLY needs it less today. I mean, get real. So I think that David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga “short forms” are going to get a work-out. I want to integrate Prasara Flows into the 5MM breaks on Yoga days, though. The total time has to be controlled, as well as the amount of intensity. I can control that using Coach Sonnon’s 4X7 program, “waving” my intensity on a 1-2-3-4 pattern, plus taking Sunday off. But always, I’ll pay attention to the subjective experience of recovery: sleep depth, morning pulse rate, joint soreness, energy level, sex drive, and so forth.
I finally made it through Tananarive’s notes on SHADOW VALLEY, and now it’s up to me. I have to go through it and through it until every word sings as clearly as I can make it. Wow. I barely know who I’ll be when this one is done, I’ve been working on it for so long.
You know, every marriage has its costs and benefits. I think that my own experience of Tananarive says that she inspires me to be a better man. Especially in the arena of writing, she has such a sense of grace in her own work, that it inspires me to push harder.
The question for the day is: what is the single most positive influence your husband, wife, or significant other has had in your life?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:25 PM
Monday, February 18, 2008
“Riddle me this, old friend: in a presidential race, how do you weigh the candidate's stance on the issues versus the candidate's abilities? Every election year I print out a list of stances on issues, remove the names, hilight the ones I agree with, count the results (this year the highest was 5 of 13, and that candidate won't make the primary)... Where do you vote if the candidate you most respect and admire as a leader and a person disagrees with you on almost every issue?”
A)I’d look at my record. Let’s say that, in the past, when I admired a leader, he turned out to be worthy of my admiration even if we disagreed on issues. After all—you must have similar values, otherwise you wouldn’t admire them, (I assume.)
B) Let’s also say that you look at your track record voting for (or observing) those who agree with you on the issues. Do they turn out to be trustworthy? Do they keep to their promises? And…how did things turn out, anyway?
Let’s say that both A and B are true. The ones we admire turn out to be good leaders. And the one we admire less, but agree with, implement their promises, and the results are good. I vote for B.
Let’ say A is false and B is true. The ones I admire but disagree with, down the road, turn out to be jackasses or dreamers, but the ones who seem a bit lacking, but I agree with, tend to keep their promises, and the results are good. I vote for B.
Let’s say A is true and B is false. I tend to admire people who turn out to be decent leaders, even though I disagree with their policies. And the people whose policies I agree with (even though they seem lacking) either don’t keep their promises, or it doesn’t turn out well.
I go with A. Further, I begin to suspect that I am sporting damage that warps my reality map—that what I think is “good” isn’t at all, it is some kind of hidden agenda relating to fear or neediness, and that there are unscrupulous politicians who exploit this to get elected. In this scenario, head-versus-heart, heart wins. The person who seems most admirable turns out to be so, even if we disagree—I am flatly seeing the world wrong somehow, but can still trust my basic judgment of human beings.
But what if neither is true? What if people I think trustworthy turn out to be rogues, and people who espouse my own political positions are either liars, or, those positions once implemented suck big time?
Then I am in a state of real confusion. I can trust neither my head nor my heart. I would expect this to manifest in other areas of my life: bad relationships, a distorted body image, a sucky career. I have major work to do. I think I would retreat from the political arena until I got my shit together.
Does that help?
In essence, this is the question: should I trust my head or my heart? I’m asking you to look at your own track record. Which has been correct more often? Ideally, you look for those situations where head and heart agree. If they tend not to, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, and some inner work is called for. More to the point, in Lifewriting, HEAD, HEART, and BODY must all agree to have maximum efficiency in your life.
It is so sad to watch people whose physical, mental, and emotional aspects head in different directions. They can be friggin’ BRILLIANT, and yet still fail in life. I’ve had some real doozy examples of this over the years…and quite recently. We’ll talk about this more, later, but one example that came up last year was a company with a VERY spiritual bent who called me in to consult with them. They had superb employees, a dynamite program, and a client list to die for. And were going broke. I listened to them for about an hour, and then asked a simple question:
“I bet you have a company manifesto, a set of rules and principles and goals for your enterprise. Probably written down, maybe graven in stone, and I bet you have it memorized.” They nodded emphatically.
I dropped the bomb: “I bet that nowhere in the top five goals is `we’re going to make a profit.’” They were dumbstruck. It had never occurred to them.
Why? Because deep inside, they consider money to be unspiritual. And the business had, in effect, been designed to prove this contention.
By hiding their dysfunction in the arena of “spirit” it was unassailable. You can’t question someone’s connection to God, can you? THAT’S why I don’t mess with that arena. Not that it doesn’t matter. It does, more than everything else, combined. But because you can’t measure it effectively.
So I look at the three “Mundane” arenas: body, career, relationship. Trust me, if there is a problem, it will show in one of these. And the “I’m spiritual” cop-out will ring loudly.
Now…let’s back away from that and look at Rory’s question again. When head and heart disagree, I’d go with heart, because the emotions tend to process a gigantic amount of data at light speed and present it as a kinesthetic flash. BUT…if your personal history says that your emotions are untrustworthy, trust your head and get help to heal your heart. If the reverse is true, trust your heart and study to increase your knowledge.
We want heads and hearts to agree. We want intellectual maps of the world that lead to love and light. We want healthy emotions that lead us to doing, instinctively, those things that intellect would have led us to if we had the time for our conscious minds to crunch the data.
And both should lead us to healthy bodies. Does the intellect lead you to neglect the body? Probably an emotional problem. Does the heart lead you to dilemmas that make you feel stupid…hmmm, another emotional problem.
In fact, when head and heart disagree, I think I’d assume that the problem lies in an emotional arena, and that we’ve concealed it from ourselves, and masked it over with hyper-intellectual b.s.
The world is filled with people who want to believe that they are driven by intellect, have no unconscious drives, and so on. They stumble through life making choices that any worm would avoid and when it doesn’t work, assume there’s something wrong with the world. No. The world is perfect.
And in fact, so are they. The trick is that they are doing exactly what our biology programs us to do: avoid pain and seek pleasure. So if you are badly hurt when you are too young to sort it all out intellectually, you end up with crossed emotional wiring, and avoid intimacy, or competition, or hope, or love, or success, and believe that these things are impossible to have.
And delete any data to the contrary.
In general, when I see people who are honorable, and good, and balanced, and have beliefs I disagree with, I assume that they are seeing the same mountain from a different direction. That I need to resolve the duality. Neither of us has to be wrong—we can be honorable adversaries, each an advocate for our own position, class, people, whatever.
But…if I see an honorable, successful, healthy person who has a set of beliefs I consider anathema…if my blood boils when I think about them…if I just can’t believe that a reasonable person could have such beliefs…then the problem is MINE. I have discovered an area where my head isn’t working right, where my intellect has a burned fuse and I’m covering up with certainty.
I guess what I’m saying is that, all things considered, I’d rather vote for someone I admire but disagree with than someone for whom I have distain but holds my values.
Frankly, if the people I admire disagree with me, it’s time for me to take another look at what I believe in.
Of course, it all depends on my history: have I, in general, been a better judge of people? Or of predicting future results based on my reality map?
Only you can say.
So…our question for today is: which do you trust, head or heart, and why?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:55 AM
I find this article to make sense to me. Basically, gender attitudes are more immutable, but racial attitudes are more negative. In other words, you might kill someone because they are of a different race, but if you forget race completely, life can go on, and most people would say it would be a better world. You cannot, on the other hand, imagine a culture in which men and women literally don’t notice gender. Can’t, and never will happen. What we CAN do is deinhibit the negative associations or invalid preassumptions related to gender—and this is the territory we’re currently negotiating.
This weekend, I attended a stickfighting tournament to see a couple of Mushtaq’s students compete. Cole Van Horne and Mariah Moore—just kids (Mariah is 14, I’d guess Cole is maybe 15) but phenomenal kids. Mariah, a leggy blonde Cornhusker type, is so all-American girl it hurts. Gorgeous, smart, a little shy, and an absolute animal in the ring. LOVES fighting, and is damned good at it. Explosive, loose, flexible, aggressive…wow. She’s pretty close to a total package. She completely dominated her larger opponent for the first two rounds, and then lost control of her breathing a bit, and got disarmed twice. Lost, but I’m telling you…the girl is amazing.
Cole won the match I saw, but had to use his reach to do it: his opponent was better conditioned. But Cole has everything it takes to be a champion. Both of them do.
Mariah’s dad coached her to “Breathe! Breathe!” during the match. I think he should have told her to “Exhale! Exhale!” She holds her breath too much. But she’s friggin’ 14! I see nothing but blue sky ahead for this girl. Her family is behind her 100%, and she has something close to a perfect set of combative assets.
So I don’t get Jack Bauer back until January of 2009? Damn, that bugs me. I’m afraid the shiny will be off the penny. I was unimpressed by season six. It felt gimmicky and heartless, more a parody of “24” than the series I’d come to love. And this was after Season Five rocked the house!
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:17 AM
Friday, February 15, 2008
I got the following over at Ain't It Cool News.
HARLAN ELLISON ON THE WRITERS STRIKE SETTLEMENT
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO RE-POST THIS ANYWHERE:
Creds: got here in 1962, written for just about everybody, won the Writers Guild Award four times for solo work, sat on the WGAw Board twice, worked on negotiating committees, and was out on the picket lines with my NICK COUNTER SLEEPS WITH THE FISHE$$$ sign. You may have heard my name. I am a Union guy, I am a Guild guy, I am loyal. I fuckin’ LOVE the Guild.
And I voted NO on accepting this deal.
My reasons are good, and they are plentiful; Patric Verrone will be saddened by what I am about to say; long-time friends will shake their heads; but this I say without equivocation…
THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL. We finally got a timorous generation that has never had to strike, to get their asses out there, and we had to put up with the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse’s asses who kept mumbling “lessgo bac’ta work” over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer. But after months on the line, and them finally bouncing that pus-sucking dipthong Nick Counter, we rushed headlong into a shabby, scabrous, underfed shovelfulla shit clutched to the affections of toss-in-the-towel summer soldiers trembling before the Awe of the Alliance.
My Guild did what it did in 1988. It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGAw folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.
And I am ashamed of this Guild, as I was when Shavelson was the prexy, and we wasted our efforts and lost out on technology that we had to strike for THIS time. 17 days of streaming tv!!!????? Geezus, you bleating wimps, why not just turn over your old granny for gang-rape?
You deserve all the opprobrium you get. While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won’t be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:
You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.
Please excuse my temerity. I’m just a sad old man who has fallen among Quislings, Turncoats, Hacks and Cowards.
I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant.
Respectfully, Yr. Pal, Harlan Ellison
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:59 AM
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Denial or a “Winner”?
Listening to Hillary and her people discounting the importance of Obama’s wins makes me wonder what’s being said behind closed doors. In all seriousness, I believe that what we’re seeing here is the mind-set of a winner, someone who can shut out a negative result at half-time and rally the team to go out and kick butt in the second half.
On the other hand, it also reminds me of what feels like the same blindness inflicting Bush on Iraq. No matter what the news, happiness is “just around the corner.” Now in Iraq, this attitude will allow Republicans to blame Democrats for “cutting and running” when success could have been attained in just another little “surge.” On the other hand, winners don’t quit. On the other hand, winning in a GAME means playing by rules, while in life, you can define the situation more fluidly—winning the “War on Terror” doesn’t exactly equate to “winning in Iraq”—and even if it did, the definition of “winning in Iraq” is open to fluid definition as well—if the kids on the school yard insist that you haven’t “won” a game until you beat them by 100 points, you don’t have to agree.
At any rate, I’m not sure that her attitude isn’t just that of a born fighter and winner. But it can’t be comfortable to be Hillary Clinton right now, having had a goal for decades, tolerated a cheating husband to keep that goal in sight, and now see it on the cusp of being wrenched away by the greatest natural politician I’ve ever seen in my life. And possibly the smartest. Nobody could have seen Barack coming. What a show.
The question of the day is: What does winning mean to you?
“Seven Secrets.” I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I’m going to write a book this year on the seven best ideas I’ve come across, or developed, in almost a half-century of searching for answers to living a happier, healthier, more successful life (yes…I started yoga when I was about six, watching “Yoga for Health” with Richard Hittleman. And Mom was playing “Think and Grow Rich” and “The Power of Positive Thinking” and “Psycho-Cybernetics” on Lps since before I can remember. Ye Gods!)
There are just so many ideas. So…another thing I want to create is a hyperlinked “Encyclopedia of Personal Evolution” here on the web-site. I have at least one entry for every letter of the alphabet (I fudged just a little on this) and will start posting my way through them very soon. I’d love feedback on which entries you like the most…I really don’t want to hold anything back. Hell, I might die tomorrow. Why “hold back” for a second book? Feels like a bullshit marketing ploy. I’m really not sure. But I think we’ll work through it together.
The best Seven? The whole enchilada? Let me know…
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:30 AM
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
“In physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fusion is the process by which multiple atomic particles join together to form a heavier nucleus. It is accompanied by the release or absorption of energy.”
Last Saturday, lecturing at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental college, I told a group that part of the reason for the “energy” people feel at an Obama rally is the fact that he is a “natural” at resolving dualities. Damn near every speech he gives, and everything he represents, is about taking things that seem to be opposite and showing how they are just two sides of the same thing. He is seeing the entire game from a higher level. Now, if you don’t like him, you may disagree with this, or you may agree and consider it to be an unworthy philosophical position. Fine. But I have to get this out this morning—it was the direct result of the morning meditation, and it’s important that I not filter this through too much political correctness. I’m not going to slow myself down by constantly saying “according to some theories…” or “I seriously think that…”
Hopefully, the intelligent reader will take those as given, and not need me to say it over and over again.
Here we go. He aims to resolve, or hopes to resolve, or represents resolution in, or hallucinates that he can resolve:
1) black and white
2) red states and blue states
3) Conservative and Liberal
4) Christian and Muslim
5) American and non-American
Etc. And to the degree that he can, or that people believe he can the energy expended in maintaining the illusion of duality is released, and can be accessed and utilized.
An example is the energy released in “burning away” ego walls. The newborn infant is undifferentiated consciousness. The only hard-wired emotions are fear, love, and anger. The basic sensations are Pain and Pleasure. Subtler emotions and sensations are outgrowths of these, and as the infant begins to learn about those things that produce these emotions and sensations, knowledge of the subjective/objective world is accumulated, and later labeled through language.
A side-note: I find it sad that there are people who really believe you can’t form thoughts without language, or that language contains all experience. It merely means that they have either never experienced something beyond words, or that their minds can’t process anything that is meta-linguistic. Pity.
I’ve noticed for years that I don’t fully process my most powerfully negative emotions. My mother’s death didn’t slow me down for even an hour. It was “oh, well” and I kept going. It’s processed slowly over the years, rather than having a real, deep, thorough impact at the time. I would watch other people grieving with a slightly sociopathic sense of disconnection, and an almost anthropological distance. Hmm. Human emotion. How interesting.
In Hawaiian “Huna” magic, they have an interesting set of theories about human consciousness. One is that the function of the subconscious is to keep us alive, and one of the ways it does this is to create “black bags” of unprocessed emotion, encysting the emotional “toxins” that we are not ready to process.
Often, by the way, this stuff is stored in our bodies. The difficulty many people have in losing weight—especially if that weight was the result of sexual or emotional abuse, is that you MUST process the emotions “held” in the tissue. As it comes up, nightmares and phobic responses are commonplace. This is why therapy, dream diary work, and meditation are critical.
That infant beginning to perceive the world “learns” that there is a difference between “it” and “not-it.” It learns what to touch and not touch. How to manipulate Mommy and Daddy by smiling and crying and pooping. It learns, finally that life makes most sense if it assumes there is an “I” perceiving the world. This is as opposed to many high philosophies that suggest there is a single life force (called, for instance, the “Jowk” in many African cultures) that takes many forms, like mushrooms apparently differentiating from a single mycelial mass.
We invest energy in the differences, because understanding differences promotes “individual” survival. Groups invest energy in their differences, because it promotes group survival. In the 60’s there was a great movement toward believing black and white were not as different as all American culture had been led to believe. There was a great outpouring of energy, as the culture “exhaled” with relief, releasing some of the energy that had been invested in the lie.
In my study of spiritual sexual practices worldwide, those cultures who bother to talk about such things seriously say something to the effect that the intensity of an orgasm is in direct proportion to the amount of your ego that you release at that moment.
It is sexual fusion.
The energy bound up in “this, not that” is gigantic, and we pay the cost. In terms of playing this game, in this world, that cost may be worth paying. But for most of us, the basic opinions we have about race, gender, culture, and religion were formed before we had any conscious or logical functions. We simply absorbed them from our environment. Logic, forming later, then seeks to justify what we believe we must believe to survive.
All data that conflicts with the most basic core beliefs is tucked into “black bags.” I’d bet ANYTHING that the vast, vast majority of those who don’t believe in Evolution got the basic building blocks of those beliefs before they were five years old.
I teach the Fear Removal technique, a phenomenal method for literally removing fear from the human body-mind. Or, rather, diminishing the effects fear has on behavior. I’ve been shocked at how few people will actually try it. I thought for sure that people would jump on it like crazy.
No. Their subconscious feels that it needs that fear. That without the fear, they will be hurt again. Huna suggests that if we learn the lessons, we don’t need the emotions. So the really grotesque “zinger” is that the intellect we pretend to trust so much we actually don’t trust at all. We don’t believe we can actually learn the lessons necessary to navigate our lives without terror. We won’t let go of the fear.
And NOTHING drains our energy, stops our lives, inhibits our passion more than fear, and fear always relates to the ego shell and what it perceives to be a threat: death, loss, injury.
So the ego lies to us through the intellect, gathering whatever information we need to justify the underlying beliefs and ignoring the rest. We get to feel so reasonable and smart, think we are navigating the world consciously, while actually being led around by our emotional noses.
This is one reason it is so difficult to sustain a meditation practice. Or lose weight. Or resolve dualities.
Personally? As my meditation practice takes me deeper into myself, I’m running into all of the emotions I’ve stuffed. Obviously, a lot of it has to do with race.
Reading yesterday, I came across several comments from women about how they were told “if you show boys how smart you are, the boys will reject you.” I’m sure that was devastating to many of them. What was I told? “If you show white people how smart you are, they will kill you.”
Good Lord. Sorry, but First Chakra (survival) trumps second and fourth chakra (sex and emotion) by a country mile. That is seriously fucked up.
And yet in order to reach my goals, I had to be express as close to 100% of my capacity as possible. What a conflict. No wonder I buried it.
Another note on the cost of being black. I think a great number of people would think (although possibly not say publicly, but then I have no sense) that Barack Obama is remarkable, but MORE remarkable for a black man than he would be for a white man. Yeah, I think so. But the differential between those two is exactly the price paid, or the weight carried, by the average black person in America. Obama, being African rather than the descendant of slaves, knows his name, country of origin, language of origin, and faith of his fathers—even if he rejects it. He has visited the village his people came from.
Remember “Roots” and the fantastic outpouring of cultural energy attendant? It dissolved the wall between black Americans and their past. It said “we came from somewhere” and told, in somewhat fictionalized form, perhaps (after a literal mountain of research on Haley’s part—I have personal knowledge of this) the story of a man who managed to, for almost the first time in American History, pierce the veil used to cripple three hundred years, ten-fifteen generations of people to keep them in physical or emotional bondage. A fantastic, incredible, almost inconceivable amount of energy, released in a literary phenomenon.
When a martial artist begins to sense that he and his opponent are one being, he reaches an entirely new level of efficiency…and deadliness. Aikido is built on this. The only problem with Aikido practitioners is that they try to avoid violence, unable to resolve the apparent duality of violence and peace. Ueshiba had no such problems, I promise you.
To find peace, you travel to the center of the storm.
Sigh. This is rambling a bit, but then there are no direct words for what I’m trying to say.
Meditate. Connect breath and visualization and heartbeat to the “Hara” or “Tan Tien” or “Muladhara”, the point two inches below the navel and three inches in. Move from there. Breathe from there. Learn to “Be Breathed” and to express “Perpetual Exercise” from this point. With every step you take, connect to this point.
Notice that when you are fearful, or angry, it becomes more difficult to keep this focus. Regain it. In meditation, go so deeply into it that your flesh and bones melt away. In yoga, follow the breathing there, and release all tensions from the body. In sparring, release the conscious mind and allow the body to express itself, and then release attachment to the results, even at the cost of your own life.
Death comes to everyone. And everything. Don’t wait until you die to gain the greatest gift life has to offer.
Those who think there is some great difference between black and white, Liberal and Conservative, Christian and Muslim, American and non-American, Men and Women, are stealing energy from themselves, congealing it and using it to build ego walls that become prisons.
It is, in the grand phrase from “Terminator 2”, “delusional architecture.” Tear down those walls and free the Force.
In life, you can have a shell, or a spine. The ego fear is that if you tear down the walls, you will be hurt.
Only if you’ve never found your spine. Only if you’ve never found your core. Only if you believe that the “you” that whispers to you is a real thing.
You are not the voices in your head. You are the one listening to the voices. Even more correctly, there is no “you” there is only Jowk.
Infants come from the jowk. And to jowk we return in death. And if you can only get the joke, and wake up, you can gain all the power you lost protecting yourself from fear, while there is still time to play this wonderful game. It is not a game for children, or those who need to remain asleep. There is nothing requiring more courage or clarity.
There is nothing better to do with the days of our lives.
And finally, there is nothing.
This nothing is Everything.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:54 AM
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I was speaking with a lady last week, and the subject of race came up. She felt America was post-racial, that color didn’t matter any more. I replied that the world must look very interesting from behind her eyes, and we got into a conversation. The question of whether black slavery could be equated with the Holocaust came up, and my comment was that I would find it odious to even try to “rank” one over the other. No matter what you said, your opinion would be based upon partial information or evaluation of data, and weighting one level or variety of pain, humiliation, death, or deprivation above another—something that cannot be done in any absolute sense at all. For instance, I’m willing to admit that one of the “benefits” of slavery is that their descendants participate in the American Dream. On the other hand, the Holocaust led pretty directly to the establishment of Israel. How in the world can this stuff be quantified?
But we try. One of the things that has annoyed me this election cycle is the number of women (and men) I’ve seen posting the opinion that “It’s time for a woman in the White House”, “It’s time for a woman to run things” etc. I’m quite certain that there are plenty of black people who feel the same way about blacks, but so far, I can’t remember coming across a post that says it quite so blatantly. I think Obama would be perfectly happy to not be seen as black, but Hillary can trumpet her gender broadly, trying to use it as a tactical advantage. Obama can’t do that…it’s a losing position. Not unfair of Hillary. Just annoys me that she can get away with it, that’s all.
What annoys me worse is people speculating that he might not be tough enough to withstand pressure. I have NEVER heard a black person speculate about this, because (in my mind) they understand that rule that both blacks and women hold dear: “you have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” In truth, I think there’s a bit of unconscious racism about the attitude. It seems to go like this:
1) He wouldn’t have gotten as far as he has if he weren’t black. This presupposes (possibly correctly) that people are having a hard time attacking him without giving in to the appearance of being racist. Yep, there’s some of that. Trouble is, that there seems to me to be a lack of understanding about that attitude. It dovetails with the “affirmative action” attitude that says that blacks somehow have it easier than whites because there are a few entitlement benefits scattered around.
Well…I can’t know the “Truth” about any of this, but I’ll make an analogy that sums up my attitude about people who think that a black man or woman has it “easy” because people cut them slack.
Imagine a roller-skating race, working against a headwind. 90 of the skaters are white, ten are black. The black ones have a refrigerator strapped to their backs. Here comes a hill. Skating up the hill with that refrigerator strapped to your back is absolute murder. Torture. Most don’t make it, and are crushed, exhausted or at best slowed down by the weight on their backs. But the ONE who makes it, and heads down the other side finds that the refrigerator actually helps fight the wind resistance! And the white skaters to either side mutter: “damn! That black skater has an unfair advantage! He has a refrigerator on his back..!”
I admit that I feel there is some unconscious racism behind the attitude that “the playing field is level.” After all, if the playing field is level, then what could be responsible for the differential accomplishment levels of black and white? Hmmm. I wonder.
So I consider that dishonest and self-serving when I hear white folks say it. Frankly, I hear a lot more of that from Conservatives than Liberals, and since the “uneven” model matches my own observations, that partially explains my feeling that there is more racism on the Right (things like the rampant homophobia exhibited during the last campaign cycle certainly help, though.)
What WOULD I consider to be a realistic and honest attitude for a Conservative? How about “it’s not equal, but it’s about as much social equality as it is reasonable for human beings to ever accomplish.” You know something? I could buy that. It is humane, it acknowledges the limits of human aspirations, it acknowledges the pains of the past and future. There ARE limits to social engineering, and there are innate problems with racism, sexism, etc. that make certain things damned difficult to remedy. When I hear something like that I feel like I’m dealing with someone whose eyes are open, who sees the inequality but doesn’t want some Top-Down solution that gives government a power grab. Or doesn’t want to take money from the pockets of one guiltless person to salve the wounds of another. I get that, and consider it honorable and reasonable.
But such people would never say “he’s only considered remarkable because he’s black” or “he’s had it easier because he’s black.”
They see the refrigerator he’s carrying. And while they need feel no guilt because they’re NOT carrying one, they also don’t insult all those who couldn’t make it up the hill. And they understand that the one who carries the refrigerator AND is beating them must be one hell of an extraordinary person.
The Hero’s Journey suggests that the process of growth from one level to another is ALWAYS accompanied by failure and despair, a sense of Hitting the Wall. All of our demons and voices will conspire to keep us small. Now…that means that any reasonable explanation for “why it’s impossible” will be seized upon by our egos and thrown in our face. We can’t have our goal because:
We’re too old. Too young. Too black. Too white (yeah, I’ve literally heard that. Wow.) Too tall. Too short. Too undereducated. Too overeducated. Too poor. Too rich (!). Blind. Handicapped. Too ugly. Too beautiful. Too weak. Too strong. Etc. etc.
We all use excuses, and if we continue toward our goals, will often find that they were just illusions we use to stop ourselves from changing, and shedding our ego-shells. In other words, to keep from dying. So the question of the day is: what excuses have you used to hold yourself back (especially in one of the three core areas: Body, Career, Relationship) and how did you learn it was just an excuse?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:33 PM
I just received this email. Does anyone know if this is true? Please advise...
90# on your telephone
I dialed '0', to check this out, asked the operator, who confirmed that
this was correct
so please pass it on . . . (l also checked out
PASS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW
I received a telephone call last evening from an individual identi fying
himself as an AT&T Service Technician (could also be Telus) who was
conducting a test on the telephone lines. He stated that to complete the
test I should touch nine(9), zero(0), the pound sign (#), and then hang up.
Luckily, I was suspicious and refused.
Upon contacting the telephone company, I was informed that by pushing 90#,
you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which
enables them to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number.
I was further informed that this scam has been originating from many local
jails/prisons DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE.
The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with E
VERYONE I KNOW.
After checking with Verizon they also said it was true, so do not dial 90#
for anyone !!!!! PLEASE HIT THAT FORWARD BUTTON AND PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE
The Alferos Group =
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:22 AM
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Wow. What a weekend for Obama fans. The four-state sweep is just amazing. Watching both candidates on “60 minutes” I was actually impressed by both. I thought Hillary held herself with grace and wit. Now, I’m not at all happy with her pressure to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida. That feels…like cheating. I suppose that the suggestions of a new caucus or primary, funded by the DNC, is the fairest way to work through this, and I can’t think of a better way to resolve it. Seems fair to both sides.
But the most remarkable thing to me is watching Obama beating the Clintons to a standstill, starting from nothing, with their 20-year head start. Amazing. He’d make a hell of a chief executive, in my book. 2008 is just too entertaining for words…
Spoke at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College screenwriting conclave today. It’s fun: a short speech, followed by rotating through tables filled with hopeful screenwriters. I concentrated my conversation on the emotional core necessary to sustain a long, hard slog toward a career goal.
I realized again that when I was about 30, I had a premonition that I would hit my stride in my mid-fifties. That was looking at the culture as well as my own growth curve. Well, I’m there now, and I swear I look out at the culture and am finally seeing the kinds of changes I’ve been waiting my whole life for. No, Will Smith still hasn’t gotten laid, but I strongly suspect he COULD. And with “I am Legend” earning over a half-BILLION dollars worldwide the worldwide resistance to black films is slowly, slowly eroding. Which makes more money available for development stateside. Works for me.
But I had to be willing to wait for twenty-five years. Jesus Christ. If I’m right about this, how did I know? And how in the hell did I ever align myself psychologically to be willing to fight so long to be ready for an opportunity? It kind of boggles my mind, it really does.
To the degree that this situation bears deeper investigation, I think that it was a matter of very clear goals that were in alignment with my core values, having a great deal of fun along the way. And burning my bridges behind me, big-time. For most of my life, it felt as if I had nowhere to go, no line of retreat. It was writing, or nothing.
I don’t recommend a course like that to anyone who isn’t obsessive or half-nuts. Like I’ve often said, I have something of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that would be recognized much more easily if I weren’t obsessed with balance. That seems to fool people quite well.
We all have additive patterns in our personalities. The luckiest among us (I think) are addicted to things that are positive contributions to our lives and our world.
So our question for the day: what is the strongest addiction in your own life?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:46 PM
Thursday, February 07, 2008
You have to remember that I think either Hillary or Barack would be a vast improvement over what we have now, and that I think it critical to swing back away from the Right…so even though I like some things about McCain, I just can’t go there because of the machine around him. So watching Super Tuesday was almost like watching a Superbowl game where you can root for either team.
Yeah, I think that the Clinton’s played a little dirty, but nothing beyond the usual range of politics—one of the reasons I hate politics so much. I like Hillary's most recent incarnations, and have loved Obama's from the beginning. I think he's about as genuine as I've ever seen somebody playing at this level.
I have to say this carefully, so as not to jinx anything. But last week Tananarive and I had a meeting with one of the top VPs for development at a major studio recently flushed with cash due to a SERIOUS money-maker last year. And this executive made it very clear that the studio wants to be in business with us, across a range of projects. Now, usually one takes such talk with a grain of salt. There are special reasons I can’t get into right now (but will the instant anything gets firm) that I don’t think this was bullshit. If not, it means the beginning of everything T and I were hoping for when we moved down here. 2008 is looking GREAT.
We talked about a piece of the technique known as “Mind Reading.” It is based on looking at all three major areas of a persons life simultaneously. If they are an adult, you must assume that they have responsibility for their results. The way to calibrate this is to first apply it to yourself.
1) Fitness. This is not measuring yourself against some perfect-bodied swimsuit model. Even THEY don’t look like that between photo shoots and air-brushings and Photoshop. But you should be energetic, healthy for your age, and when you look at yourself naked in the mirror, should want to screw yourself. Hey, I know how that last part sounds, but if YOU don’t think you’re hunky or juicy, why the hell should anyone else? Shouldn’t you at least live up to your own standards?
2) Finance. You should make enough money to support yourself and one other person, doing something you enjoy doing. Optimally, it should be something you’d do as a hobby, or for free if you won the lottery.
3) Relationship. If you’re in a relationship, you should feel blessed to have the person you’re with. If you’re not in a relationship, you should feel content in your aloneness, and be deepening your contact with your spiritual core through ecstatic living or meditation or prayer. Can you see the face of the divine in your beloved? Do you grasp that the person you live with is an expression of your own self-image and self-worth?
The problem again is the lies we tell. The reason this technique works is that as we dig through the self-justifications, lies and pain that block us from having abundance in these three arenas, we learn so much. And the excuses we tell ourselves aren’t terribly different from those used by others across the country and around the world. For all practical purposes, EVERYONE wants to be healthy and sexy. EVERYONE wants to have the financial freedom to spend their lives doing what they want, and enough abundance to be of service to the people and causes they love. EVERYONE wants love and passion, or at least the inner connection and integration that brings peace and happiness.
Maybe .001 percent of people don’t want some version of these things. You are FAR more likely to be right if you assume they want them, regardless of what they say. Yes, you’ll be wrong sometimes….but less often than if you listen to their stories.
But you must start with yourself. So the question of the day comes back to truth or fiction again, the lies we tell ourselves to survive:
In which of these three arenas have you told yourself and others the biggest lies? And what were they?
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:25 AM