The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catching My Balance

A good day yesterday. Finished our new spec script and sent it to our agent. All I'll say publicly is that it is a Dramady, and unlike anything Tananarive and I have ever done. And the timing of the completion is a hint. And we sent the script we just got back from Fox Searchlight to Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance. So there.


Next week, I'm going to see my first karate instructor Steve Muhammad, working with him for four days on a video project. He is the fastest human being I've ever seen, a gentleman, scholar, and father-figure to three generations of kids. Elevated by an international MA committee to "Sijo", which is a level above "Sifu", and means one who has created his own system of martial arts. One of the three most important men in my life, alongside my father and Larry Niven. You can glimpse him playing Jim Kelly's karate instructor at the beginning of "Enter the Dragon." Damned video thing should have been done thirty years ago, but late is better than never. And I haven't wanted to talk about this...a little afraid to jinx it, but Steve and I worked out together two years ago, and he was not at all unhappy with my progress over the years. In fact, he told me two weeks ago that he intends to promote me to 4th Degree black belt. I was stunned. I've spent so much time in Indonesian, Chinese, and Filipino arts that I had completely lost track of where I was as a martial artist. My inner "pretender voice" tries to invalidate this, but can't find traction: Steve is notoriously stingy about promotions. I am humbled, grateful beyond belief, scared, and as happy as a little kid. It's like getting a PhD from Harvard--presented by your dad. I never thought this would happen. I'd rather have this than an Oscar and a million dollars, I kid you not. I just want to be worthy of such a singular honor.


Watched "Martyrs" last night. This French film is not "torture porn" but if "Hostel" made you run from the theater, this one will peel the skin off your eyeballs. "Martyrs" makes most horror look like Bo Peep. It reminds me of what they said about "Videodrome": it's dangerous because it has a philosophy. NOT for casual viewers. But in its bizarre way, an art film, and a very fine film. Yow! It deals with a young woman who was hideously abused as a child. Fifteen years later, she seeks revenge, and along the way discovers the reason for the abuse. Dear God! This isn't for everyone, but honest to God, it has a deadly serious intent, and is ultimately as thought provoking as any movie I've seen in a year.'s not perfect. I think that even at 95 minutes it's a little padded, and I think some of the violence could have been more restrained. But NOT the most intense portion, which comes at the last 20 minutes. It could have been a perfect episode of the "Masters of Horror" Showtime series. It is hard-core horror raised to the level of art, I kid you not. For those of the same twisted sensibilities I have, this is an "A-". For ordinary filmgoers, an F. For the art-house's hard to imagine a film that would divide audiences more strongly. If you don't run for the door, you'll probably detect a thread of genuine brilliance here.


Been playing more with Scott Sonnon's "Prasara" yoga flows, and as I said before, I think he's created something of genuine value. Now, a lot of the Rmax boys are treating it like gymnastics (did you know that kinestheologist Michael Yessis called gymnastics the world's toughest sport?), and I think that's fine, but not the real value. The value is in looking at the dynamic transitions BETWEEN poses as being as important as the poses themselves. This is the science of flow carried to the level of physical/spiritual union. To control your breathing, or rather let the movement control your breathing during the flow called "Spider Monkey" or "Tumbleweed" is to enter a meditative state that would laugh at most life stresses. Anyway, one intent of the five Prasara series "A" flows is to prepare you to create your own patterns, and that's exactly what I'm doing. A weakness in my own home practice is my abdominals. I like to work them in coordination with other body parts, rather than in isolation. But I also have enough vanity to enjoy being ripped when I lift my shirt. The other thing is that the five "A" flows are a little light on inversions, and the Headstand is one of the most powerful poses, sometimes called the "King of Asana" (the "Corpse Pose", complete rest, is actually considered the most important pose.) Any way, I'm working on a series called "L-Train" which combines the Ashtanga jump-through, the mulabandha anal lock, a gymnastic "L" position, and an inverted version of the 4-way stretch at the beginning of the Bikram yoga sequence. It's clumsy and stiff right now, but I've only played with it for three days, and woke up this morning with my Abs and core feeling "connected" in a way they haven't since I stopped practicing Ashtanga (I love Ashtanga, but you really have to spend 1.5 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, to be able to progress. Just don't have the time.)

IF, and that's a big if, this works, then I have a yoga that requires about 20 minutes a day to get the same results, and can be performed in 3-minute chunks through the day. (Five Minute Miracle, anyone?)

Furthermore, because it is in motion, it teaches the muscles to sequence their movement so as to create a kind of coiling energy. In addition, sport power, whether the ability to swat a ball or deliver a right cross, is a matter of transferring energy from one section of your body to another, utilizing various levers and torques, "funneling" momentum through smaller kinesthetic apertures like water squeezed through a smaller hose nozzle, increasing velocity. To do this (as well as transferring rotary to angular momentum) creates not just power but tremendous sheering forces. Ask any Tae Kwon Do guy who has had his hips and/or knees replaced. Prasara allows you to really feel every half-inch of some exquisite motion sequences. When you run into a problem, you can put your body "up on blocks" with static Asana, checking in with your body at a level even Tai Chi has a hard time matching. Yeah...I think Scott's done something very special here. Love that guy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Faith, Atheism, and Death

The recent posts concerning funerals and faith opened the door to some interesting questions. I'm wondering about various traditions and attitudes concerning death. Watching a huge church service for a deceased child, I felt extraordinarily happy for the family that they had such support, and wondered what type of support atheists have in the same situation. In addition, there are a thousand non-Christian traditions from around the world, and I wanted to invite readers to comment on their attitudes or ceremonies surrounding death, burial, mourning, and so forth for those who are non-Christian. Comments please?

More Torture Thoughts

The question of torture and the war on terror certainly struck a nerve. Because I saw nothing but polite (well, ALMOST nothing) discussion on this incredible topic, I thought I'd add my two cents.

1) First of all, it is impossible for me to think about this without imagining myself, members of my family, and friends in such a situation. You might think I have too much empathy, but there are things I am certain of, and one of them is that no legal system will ever exist that does not scoop up the innocent as well as the guilty. I am also certain, based on my life in this country, that when the penalties are imposed upon those who look, speak, or act differently, we behave as if they are less human, and that we have the right to define and control them. The insane disparity between the penalties for powdered cocaine ("us") and crack ("them") is a classic instance. Incarcerated? Killed or executed? Those things I can wrap my mind around. Torture? I don't think so.

2) Does torture work better than other interrogation techniques? This is a critical question. The Straw Man version is: "torture doesn't work." I'm sure that people say this, which opens the door to saying "torture has never produced actionable intelligence" which is absurd. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. If you try to defend a comment like that, the opposition needs only find a single instance in which torture techniques have "worked" to invalidate your entire position. Easy. In my mind, the consensus is that torture is LESS EFFECTIVE than other techniques, as well as actually increasing the resistance of the enemy, and making their recruitment easier. This would seem to be obvious, IF you extend equal humanity to our enemy. On the other hand, if your position is that Islam, or Arabs, or Brown-skinned people are inferior, then of COURSE you mock this idea. "They" are all just subhuman death machines with no respect for human life. The rougher you treat 'em, the better I like it. Yeah, right.

3) Does the inclusion of torture hamper or improve our attempts to make our nation safer? This is a better question. Remember that the end goal isn't breaking wills or bodies. It is making our country safer and freer and better. You don't protect America by destroying the very values most Americans hold dear. On the other hand, it is critical that we be able to protect ourselves, and accurate information is one of the tools we need. Another is the emotional image of America in the eyes of the world. If I'm a customs officer in, say, Egypt, and I suspect a crate has a nuclear weapon headed for America, and my cousin was tortured by the CIA, I think that I'd have to be a saint not to have an urge to turn a blind eye.

4) If torture isn't efficient, why does it continue to be used? I think that you have a variety of reasons. Ignorance, vengefulness, honest difference of opinion. And simple sadism. What percentage of the human race enjoy the infliction of pain on other people? Five percent? Don't you think some of those people get into positions of power?

5)The ticking time bomb scenario. This is just the worst. How about this: "if someone put a gun to our son's head, honey, and said if I don't screw this blond he'll die...would it be O.K? Yes?" Citing the extreme example to justify non-extreme cases (there has, to my knowledge, NEVER actually been a "ticking time bomb" case) is just jerking the emotions of those who are easily frightened. Here's a better question: if there was a "ticking time bomb" that would kill your family, and you had a person under your control who could stop it, and you believed torture was efficient...why in the hell would you need the law to approve? Given that situation, I'd torture the hell out of someone. Throw my ass in jail? Fine. But I WOULDN'T WANT MY ACTIONS TO BE LEGAL. In fact, I would be less likely to want to protect, die for, be jailed for, a country that DID legalize it.

7) The natural human instinct for revenge, and the sense that "we" are more human than "they" is incredibly powerful, and mostly unconscious. I grew up on the wrong side of this one, in a world in which dark-skinned people were considered naturally more criminal, less intelligent, more disposable. All my life I've dealt with that, and still see traces of it. We'll never get rid of it completely. And if you don't take into account that the hissing, coiling horrors of the human heart can be marginalized but not destroyed, if you don't grasp that those monsters are waiting for good and decent people to say: "sure, go ahead", then you see a very different world than I see. And remember: they aren't going to say it. They will use the most reasonable arguments imaginable. But what they want is a reason to do it. If, and only if, torture was the only way to get quality information, it might be necessary to turn suspects (and remember that they are suspects. Torture advocates never, to my knowledge, say "alleged" or "suspected.") over to the men in hoods. To our shame. There is a story by Ursula LeGuin called "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" about the cost of paradise. If the cost was the misery of one innocent child, would you take it?

That just isn't my idea of paradise. And remember: once it's on the books, it could happen to you, or your children. And if you don't think that's true, I can promise you that you aren't black, or gay. You'd know better.

8) The most bizarre thing about politics is the "strange bedfellows" aspect. The fact that under the same tent you have Christians who speak of the sanctity of human life, and the primacy of morality, and those who approve of torture. The "who would Jesus torture?" question is a valid one. Now, the left has just as much hypocrisy, but in all honesty this one really gets to me. If you want to be utilitarian about it, so be it. But to hear some of the same people claim moral superiority and simultaneously stump for something every civilized country condemns...this is loathsome.

9) All my life, I've heard dictatorships and fascist states justifying their grotesque treatment of the helpless as state business, what they needed to do to protect themselves. And rejected those arguments. And my teachers, politicians, preachers, and everyone else ALL condemned what they said, and said it was cowardice and subhuman. And that that was one of the things that made America great. And that distinction was and is one of the things that made me think that, yes, this country was exceptional, and worth dying for. And now, just because we got bitch-slapped on 9/11 we're supposed to throw all that away? Do we now say "oh! I understand why Nazis did what they did! We were wrong to persecute those Japanese!" No. It's different because we NEED to do it. We're not just like every other empire or country or Mafia don who needs to extract information from the unwilling. Not at all. And by the way...if you think that the only techniques we use are the ones we've admitted to publicly, you are, not to put too fine a line on it, lying to yourself.


So there are my thoughts. A country has the absolute right to defend itself. Torture is less effective (but not non-effective). It is also corruptive, and aids recruitment efforts. Some say that people who flew planes into buildings to kill innocent people don't need reasons. That strikes me as being such a basic misunderstanding of human nature that I have no words, but here are a few anyway:

a) The people who flew planes into buildings are DEAD. What we have to deal with now is the people who might do it in the future.

b) If you don't think that the suicide bombers had reasons to do what they do, you are probably harboring negative feelings about the entire class called "Arabs" or "Muslims." "They" are just crazy and evil. You need to announce your beliefs honestly and clearly. The natural people for you to speak to are Arabs and Muslims who believe that Europeans and Christians are naturally evil. You guys should all go into a room together and lock the door behind you. You're basically the same. The rest of us, white and black, Christian and Muslim, who believe that human beings everywhere are basically the same and that those who believe in both strength AND compassion will work it all out--but radicals on both sides have to be marginalized first.

And frankly, the people who think "they" are less than us overlaps strongly, STRONGLY, with the group that believed blacks were inferior. That gays should be denied basic human rights. Octavia Butler believed that there were two things that could doom the human race:

1) The tendency to believe that humans are arranged into hierarchies of basic quality.

2) The tendency to believe that we and those who look/think like us are higher on the hierarchy.

It is the seed of bigotry. If it was absolutely necessary to open that door to protect our children, I would regretfully open it. But I see no evidence that it is "absolutely necessary." I think that the good and decent people who support the use of enhanced interrogation should be very aware that there are monsters who are delighted with their decisions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dillan, we hardly knew ye

My little cousin Dillan Cade died last week. Only eight years old, he'd been battling a rare form of cancer, and was on his last chemo session, his very last, when his heart failed. I found out about it just days before I was due to drive to Phoenix to visit my aunt Margaret, who is 92 and very frail. This was all after a major upset with another person in my life, and frankly, I was pretty tapped out after driving to Phoenix on Friday and back on Saturday (Nicki did most of the driving on the way back). Sunday was a blur, thankfully all Jason wanted to do was swim and play Playstation. I woke up feeling like hell this morning, drove Jason to daycare , then took Nicki out to UCIrvine, then turned around and drove to the funeral. There is just nothing, nothing in the world worse than the funeral of a child.

The church was packed wall-to-wall, and the service was wonderful. Family had flown in from around the country to support Beverly Cade, daughter of Oliveen Clavon, one of my very favorite people in the world, and daughter of my mother's uncle. This was the kind of church service where people shout, stand up, raise their hands, testify, and let their emotions flow over them in a healing river.

We've brushed on questions of faith and atheism in this blog, and this is all I want to say: I would wish anyone the kind of supportive community that the Cades had today. I would fear for anyone who felt their child had simply fallen into an endless abyss. The atheists I know are, in general, the same kind of good people that my Christian friends tend to be. I don't know how they grieve, I really don't. I hope that they have their philosophies and attitudes and supports in place before the unspeakable strikes. Life can seem so savagely cruel at times, and it seems sane to take solace where we can.

Dillan. I saw him in passing at family holidays, and only really remember him from last Thanksgiving, when we had everyone to the house. He was a quiet child, beginning chemo, who finally opened up and started playing with Jason toward the end of the evening. He didn't really rip and run with the others, or play Rock Band or whatever. But he was an intelligent, gentle boy with wise eyes and tremendous courtesy. And now I'll never know him any better. Never...oh, crap, I'm tired right now. Just a little much in too short a period of time.

I don't know about anyone else, but right now I'm quite happy for my certainty that the universe makes sense, even if I can't understand it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

State of Play (2009), Oldboy (2003)

State of Play (2009)

Was in a bad mood last night, and went to see this Russell Crowe/Ben Affleck vehicle, and it was just what I needed to take me out of myself. This is one of the most serious films I've ever seen, while simultaneously structured as a crackerjack (showing my age there!) thriller about the death of a Congressional aide, and how it derails the investigation of a Blackwater-type "private security" firm. The movie simultaneously warns

a) of the growth of these mercenary organizations (who was it who said that a country is dying when it hires soldiers rather than recruits its own citizens?) and the way they can be used to circumvent posse comitatus.

b)the death of newspapers and the growth of irresponsible blogging.

Trust me: the entertainment value here is almost as high as "All the President's Men." It has action and genuine suspense. But, adapted from a six-hour BBC production, "State of Play" (and I still have no idea what that title means) is concerned with forces that could actually destroy our nation. Doesn't get more serious than that.

Now, as for blogging versus newspapers, I think that eventually this will be moot. Print isn't frickin' sacred. The real advantage newspapers have is a traditional structure for error-checking, collaboration and mentoring. And blogging will eventually develop the same thing. There will be sites with the reputation of the New York Times, and they will link to, or stream (I don't know the right term) blogs that have been proven trustworthy. The future isn't as hierarchical, but in many ways that egalitarianism, once tamed, may be a force for good that is absolutely mind-blowing. At least, that's my take on it. "State of Play" is a B+ as a movie, an A+ for intent.

Oldboy (2003)

I hear that Steven Spielberg and Will Smith want to remake this Korean suspense film. All I can say is that it is WAY out of the zone for both of them, and I have a hard time imagining what in the world they're thinking of. Supposedly, they want to film the original Japanese Manga, not "remake" the movie, which apparently added some (no spoilers here) rather controversial elements to an already bizarre premise.

Here it is. An alcoholic businessman is kidnapped and locked in a hotel room for fifteen years. Yep, you read that right. Then he is finally released, and given a limited period of time to figure out what the hell happened to him, or even more terrible things will occur. Violent, funny, sexy, suspenseful, existential, filled with bravura filmmaking (CNN called it one of the 10 best Asian films ever made) and heartbreaking almost beyond belief, "Oldboy" isn't like anything else you've ever seen. I don't want to say too much, except that it does all make sense in the end. And at the end is one of those choices no one should ever have to make. Lord God, Billy Bob...what a movie. Oh, and at least one octopus was DEFINITELY harmed in the making of this film. An "A." Strong, strong stuff, but if you enjoy bizarre suspense, or Asian cinema, or wonder what Spielberg is smoking these's your answer. Yow. Think I need some mental floss


Does anyone out there know a "crazy maker"? This is a person who cannot get their life together, and if you associate with them, their nuttiness starts creeping into your life. Even worse is that they have belief systems or world-views that are toxic, or distorted. Buy into them, see the world from their perspective, and your life stops working. Getting into a relationship with a CrazyMaker can be intoxicatingly first. But it can make you question your own reality after a while. It's worse if its a member of your family, someone like a mother or father who you want to please and connect with, but who is just flat toxic. Seems to me that about the only thing you can do is center yourself, and refuse to be defined by their emotional outbursts. Anyone know someone like that? How did you hook up with them, and how did you deal with it...or are you still dealing with it?


As the torture memos come out, I feel a need to say something that I really believe to be true. The experts seem to be unanimous that torture is less effective in extracting valid information than other interrogation techniques that require building rapport. But there is a catch here: to build rapport with someone, you have to respect them. You have to be able to see their essential humanity, and not place yourself above them. Torture basically strikes me as the attempt to wring information from the body of someone for whom you have absolute contempt.

To the degree that I am right, then it makes sense that those who think Islam is inferior to Christianity, Arabs are inferior to whites (or "Americans" as it is politely put), etc., would gravitate in that direction. If there is anyone who supports the "enhanced interrogation" techniques who believes in equality between these groups, please stand up and correct me. But the same radio shows where torture is supported has equal numbers of calls explaining why Islam is horrible. They really do seem to go together.

Again, please...if there is someone who can offer a dissenting opinion on this, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can we control our lives?

Marty S. said:

"Steve: We have less control over our lives than we like to think. Today we found out that our 6 year grandson has a potentially devastating leg disorder. He may have to be hospitalized and put into traction. The disease could leave him wheelchair bound by age forty. No amount of knowing yourself or balance can prepare you for dealing with something like this."

Marty: I respectfully disagree. No amount of knowing yourself or balance can stop terrible things from happening in the world. We all die. We lose everything we love. Meteors hit our car. That was the deal from the moment we were born, and we have no control there. But we DO have control over the way we react to the things that happen, and the way we react influences the way we deal with things. In your case, your grandson needs people to help him place his disease in context, so that he can live a happy life. Most of the world's spiritual philosophies, at least those that have endured, have encoded within them the way to deal with tragedy, death, famine, war--horrible things that one might easily say: "how can we have any effect on what happens to us, or how we react? We have no power at all."

Sorry, but no two people react to an emergency, disaster or tragedy the same way. And the ones who don't lose their heads, who remain powerful and centered in the midst of chaos, are the ones who lead the rest of us out of the woods.

I have a relation who is always over-stressed. He gets overwhelmed, and panicked, and my core suggestion is to meditate. He won't do it, saying that he just needs an answer to the problem right now, and that "there is no answer." But his very stress reaction prevents him from seeing all the possibilities extant in the moment. And those same stress reactions make it certain that more problems will happen in the future.

Your grandson needs your strength and centeredness and self-knowledge, your understanding that the physical body is just a vehicle, and not the essence of who and what he is. Raised with that clarity, he will be able to deal with whatever happens with joy and even gratitude. To put it more simply, staying calm doesn't stop your house from burning down, but it does enable you to take the most efficient actions, which may well lead to reduction of damage and/or loss of life.

We have control over the filters through which we perceive reality. We have control over our reactions. We have control over our inner worlds, if we have the courage and strength to take it. Most don't. I'm committed to surfing the waves of stress in my life--I can't control the waves, but if I stay centered, and bring all of my skills to the fore, I have a hell of a ride.


Please understand when I talk about the weight issue: no one should jeopardise their health to try to fit a cultural model. Some people will find it impossible to healthfully lose weight because of very real metabolic and joint problems, or other, deeper issues. But that is, according to data I've seen, only about 5% of those who are obese. The rest got hit with massive changes in the way we earn our living (a desk job as opposed to cutting trees?), changes in eating patterns (supersize that!), the decline in active entertainment (Playstation, anyone?), the desperate need to work multiple jobs just to stay afloat, emotional stress stored in the physical body, and so forth. I speak to those people.

"Fat Acceptance" is excellent if it guides us to being humane, loving, non-confrontational, etc. I think it's absurd when it argues the right of the obese to have two airplane seats, though. But they are no more absurd than other advocacy groups: every group seems to want special rights and privileges. When it becomes a place where people can hide from the truth about themselves, that is when it turns ugly. Civil Rights organizations that demand its members have the same rights as everyone else is one thing--but when I heard black people trying to blame whites for decisions they themselves had made, I had to retreat from such childishness. I've seen no political group that doesn't do this, so I'm not singling out round folks. As I've said many times, my only interest is in speaking to those who are looking for a way out of the boxes they find themselves in. And yes, I do believe that fat can be a box, once there is enough of it to diminish ease of motion, energy, or attractiveness. As I've said many many times: if you're happy, really happy with where you are, I ain't talking to you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cuba and Calibration

I'm trying to stay away from political stuff now, but I do have a question for someone knowledgeable: what in the world is the purpose of our non-engagement with Cuba? I mean, it can't be that it's a dictatorship. We do engage with dictators. Is it just to satisfy the last generation of Cuban-Americans in Florida? I mean, there is no evidence that the embargo has hurt Castro at all. He and his brother are said to be two of the richest men in the world. Then what exactly does it accomplish, other than hurting Cubans? When you try something for thirty years and it has no observable effect, what's wrong with trying another tactic? Do we engage with China because we need their resources? In which case our attitude toward Cuba would be simple bullying: we can do it, so we do. I really don't get it. There's a part of me that wonders if forces that be hold Castro responsible for the JFK assassination (it would make sense: after all, we tried to kill Castro multiple times. Would make sense for him to retaliate.) and we can't ever tell anyone, 'cause we'd have to go to war with Cuba and its puppet master the U.S.S.R.

Which doesn't exist any more. Damn, I'm actually confused. I just don't understand what all this is about. Can anyone help?


I've received email from three different people over the last week or so, from people trying to justify their belief that their bodies disobey the laws of physics. In other words, that they can decrease their caloric intake, maintain the same caloric output, and not lose weight. This is important to consider for reasons that have nothing to do with weight loss. It goes to the very heart of why human beings can have so much difficulty getting to their goals.

Let's get to it: I take the position that physics supersedes biology. That you simply cannot reduce calories below caloric output and not lose weight. Cannot happen in a universe that obeys the basic laws of physics. Anyone who honestly believes they can should present themselves to the local biophysics lab at the local university and collect their Nobel prize. Here is what's true: it seems that way. You reduce calories, keep your activity level apparently the same...but don't realize your body is slowing down to conserve energy, believing that you are in a famine. Wouldn't you realize it? No, not if your mind is affected the same way. It's kinda relativistic, in the same way that if you're in a sealed airplane traveling at a constant rate, you can't tell you're moving. Or, you aren't conscious of the calories you're taking in. Considering the number of times I've watched people munching their way through the day and then claim that they ate only at meals, I think that this is a very very common human flaw.

And a flaw it is. Because any hole that gapes in one arena should be assumed to gape in others as well. While the body responds to basic physics (losing weight is difficult because of the physiological, cultural, economic and psychological factors, not the physics) the other two arenas are much more difficult to nail down. The Beauty/Power axis isn't physics. Beauty isn't quantifiable, and neither is power, really. But still, I believe that if you have a little conceptual flexibility, you'll see how this impacts relationships, and can open the doorway to personal growth and success in love. It isn't an absolute, but about 90% of relationships fall right into it.

Finances are even trickier. Remember: losing weight requires your action and resolve, and you can do it with zero cooperation from anyone else in the world. But you simply CAN'T have a relationship without the cooperation of at least one other person. So whatever tendencies we have to delude ourselves, to ignore what we know to be facts (I've had people with degrees in math make the same mistake in relation to biophysics) are DOUBLED, if not squared, in a relationship. Two people, each with their own agendas, their own wounds, their own hidden value structures and negative emotional anchors. If a serious percentage of intelligent, educated and otherwise perfectly sane people can believe something that is disprovable with a calorimeter, no wonder relationships seem like Chinese algebra.

Making money requires the cooperation of dozens of people. Sometimes hundreds or thousands, each of whom has his or her own agendas, etc.

So: body is easiest, then relationship, then finances. The basic building blocks of perception, discipline, passion, ability to force yourself to do things that aren't fun (balance the checkbook, anyone?) and so forth are similar from arena to arena. You want to be very, very careful: if you find yourself believing something that logic says cannot be true, then the only thing that makes sense is to assume you do it in places where you HAVEN'T found it yet. That whatever creates that one little brainfart is going to spread to other arenas, and breed in the dark.


There are only two things to write about. Maybe only two things to really think about: what is the world? Who am I?

Cosmology. Epistomology. Deep identity. How do you know what you know? How do you check for errors? The calorie thing is fascinating not because everyone should lose weight. No. If you're happy with the results you're getting in life, GREAT!!! But relationships and finances are incredibly complex in comparison. Look at the simple arenas, where you can see basic math at play, and can't blame your results on the economy, other people, whatever. And you'll see that even with that minimum level of outside interference (in comparison) we are not a species that is honest with itself. Maybe that's the cost of consciousness. Meditation is important because it forces us to ask the question What Is? What Is? Over and over again, digging deeper and deeper, throwing away comfortable excuses, until we reach bedrock.

This is one of the foundations of thought, maturity, evolution, human communication. What is true? First, look at the beliefs you hold that simply aren't accurate, and ask yourself why your perceptions are flawed, why we live in illusion, why our emotions subvert our intellect. This is serious business, people. Your ability to reach your goals depends on having an accurate map, as well as an accurate compass.

Use body, relationship, and finances to calibrate, and you can find your way out of the woods.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Letter from a reader

I think that in one sense the "Power" of human beings is in direct relationship to the degree to which they identify with spiritual forces rather than anything operating on the normal human level of existence at all. But in terms of relationships, in 99% of the cases I've seen over the course of my life, if men gained more financial stability and/or wealth, women found them more attractive. And as women gain more of an hour-glass figure, THEY become more attractive to men. So when I encounter people who are lonely, or wondering why they can't attract the people they themselves are attracted to, that's the first prescription. Nothing, of course, works every time, and simplifications are just that--simplifications. But it's a lot like: "are you taking in fewer calories than you are burning up?" in that if you haven't handled the basics, it's not surprising that you aren't getting the result.

Why do I believe this so strongly? Because it's most of what I see. Because statistics show that the best thing a guy can do to improve his chances with women is own his own house. Because of the dozens of women who have told me that for various reasons they wanted to reduce their attractiveness to men--and gained weight to do it. And that they became invisible. I can only hear those stories so many times before I begin to factor that in.

I'd guess there were more cases of women who found MORE men attracted to them as they gained weight than you'll find guys who believe they are more attractive when they are broke. But don't bet on either state increasing our attractiveness to the opposite sex, if your happiness and emotional health are at stake. It's a sucker's bet.

Now, the more evolved will simply walk their spiritual life path, finding partners along the way. That's great, and a pretty high-level performance. Graduate school in life, where too damned many people never made it out of junior high.


As for the feminists who said that all sex is rape--that's just pain, rage, frustration, and sheer manipulation of naive and guilt-ridden males. It is simply asinine to suggest that no woman is as powerful as any man. The AVERAGE woman has less Yang power than the average man. And the ignorant can be persuaded not to look at the other forms of power. In essence, they are blinded and intimidated into believing that men control everything, have everything, and are engaged in some bizarre conspiracy to control women.

The funnier thing was when some of these women wanted me to believe that, as a man, I was personally responsible for this. Odd how they, as white people, weren't personally responsible for racism. They are just using the weapons they have to try to dominate the discussion. Like everyone else. Women who want to dominate men seem usually to use guilt. Like men who want to dominate women generally use fear. (And when women are larger than their male partners, physical intimidation does indeed seeem to creep into the equation.) It's equal bullshit. It's been my experience that most "feminists" I've met don't actually believe in equality of the sexes. They believe in female superiority. What I mean by this is that I found it absurdly easy to lead them into enumerating why women were superior, as long as they didn't realize that's what I was doing. This is opposed to women who are successful and powerful who don't particularly take a political position about gender. It is equivalent to most of the "black power" folks I knew. They weren't interested in "equal," even if that's what they talked publicly. Get them in private, and they'd laugh about how blacks are smarter, more spiritual, better athletes, better lovers, etc.

I personally think that happens whenever you find someone who has a political bent--they have staked out a position and believe their position is superior. And use either guilt or fear to try to get their way. I guess what this boils down to is that I just don't like politics much. I think it warps perception just as much as religion: there has to be a "right" and "wrong", something to push against, and the establishment of just who is which always seems to make winners and losers, forcing black and white value systems into very gray zones of human behavior.


Jason Statham fascinates me. He really is a B-movie throwback. I try hard to appreciate him without letting the little pixies in my head wonder how, with fewer martial arts skills than Jet Li or Jackie Chan, he's turning himself into a bigger action star. I still think Wesley should have had his career, but while there is room for justification of this attitude, it also doesn't take into account that every actor is a unique package of qualities. In my mind, Hollywood isn't looking for "the next great action hero." They're looking for the next great action hero who is the same skin color as most of the audience. Different thing. THAT hero can be powerful, sexual, smart...the whole package. And that is the role Statham is easing into, and he fits it very very well. Looks great with his shirt off, too.


Great note today on beauty and power from a reader who can identify herself if she chooses:


(All names changed)

The reader said:

"I don't, really, think women have it worse than men, or have less power, or
anything, if I confine my analysis to who has the most dating and
relationship choices, in countries like the US where there's relative equality
(as opposed to places where women's families arrange their marriages, and
sometimes men have more choice over what gets arranged for them). At
most I think that some men have the delusion that women hold all the cards
and have all the sexual power, and need a reminder that the ability to say
yes or no isn't more power than the ability to pursue or not, etc.

But what I do think is: If I look back at my own choices, any "power" that I
looked for wasn't *that* much. I never demanded that a guy be tall; the
Mark I actually married is quite tall, but the Mark I didn't marry, and Jim,
were only my height, which is short for a man. I never demanded he be
strong. Pete worked out, but the Mark that I didn't marry was a computer
nerd who did no visible exercise (and was young enough to be thin
anyway). I didn't insist that they come from money, or be headed toward
obviously wealthy lines of work; guys who were taking a chance on a
creative profession were fine by me. What I did make my bottom line was
that the guy have or be headed toward a decent college degree, that he not
use drugs or alcohol to excess, or that he have *some* ambition
(professional, creative, activist, whatever) that I respected.

Now compare that, not necessarily to what men actually want, but to what
women get told men want. The pretty super skinny models, the articles by
one set of people that urge you to get married right away in your twenties
because you're chances will fade almost instantly, the articles from another
set of people assuring you that men want your body but never your heart,
the articles from yet another set reminding you of some imperfection in
your appearance that you absolutely must lose, and the ones which urge,
not win/win beauty ploys that will also make your body healthy and strong,
or even win/meh ploys like make up, that don't make your body strong but
don't hurt it, but weight or shoes or whatever that actually *aren't* good
for your health and comfort. And, if you do the comparison *that* way, it's
easy to come away thinking women have it way worse in the relationship

Of course, if you're coming from the perspective of someone like Andrea
Dworkin, who was raped, suffered domestic violence, and was an exploited
prostitute for a while, then there's quite a different set of reasons to see
women as having it worst, but I'm not really talking about those reasons
here, but the more illusory ones, the ones that are the result of comparing
your own desires, which usually don't involve demanding a millionaire, with
the messages you get about what men want you to be, which often *do*
come across as if men demanded unreasonable perfection. Even actually
*getting* pursued by men doesn't always shake that, because there's also
the "men are dogs and only out for one thing" message, and if he wants
"just sex" it's not supposed to count to your credit."


First, I think this is all very sane, and points to a problem with the way human beings sort information. In general, body, power, and emotional balance are the basic human qualities we offer each other in relationship. They are also what we bring to our careers (physical energy and appearance, motivation/focus/clarity, and ability to bond and empathize) and the determiners of our physical fitness. So it is hardly surprising that these factors are so controversial and misunderstood.

In general, I think that our bodies hold the animal energy, our emotions and intellects are our human space. The illusions that women buy into (be as skinny as an anorexic model) are great for the diet industry, the fashion industry, and anyone who doesn't want to compete with a juicy hourglass-figured body. The illusion that men buy into (be rich as the only way to attract women) is great to keep society's grindstone moving. However "rich" is measured in a given society, I promise that only 1% of that culture can actually be "rich." Which means that about 99% of the men who believe this myth see themselves as failures.

So women diet and stress themselves to death, men work themselves to death, both sides think the other has the best bet. I think that the belief that men are in control is used to motivate men to higher and higher levels of aggression and work, even if it kills them. Both men and women promote this idea, just as both men and women collaborate in the projection of illusions about what men find sexually attractive.

It really is sick, and all I'm trying to do is to discuss what the world looks like from the position of: nobody is in control. Men and women are being used by our genetics, and societies are mostly the product of our unconscious drives writ large. That "calorie in/calories out" is roughly equivalent to "beauty/power" or "make more money than you spend" in terms of basic rules for managing wide aspects of body, relationship, and finance. That until you have these handled, or at least taken into account, chances are very very good that you are running in circles. If your car isn't running, it may be true that your plugs are out of timing, or your oil is low. But if your tank is freakin' empty, look at that FIRST, before you worry about the brand of gas, the octane, or whatever else.

These things are basic. Ignore them at your own risk. If you ignore them, and you're happy with your life, GREAT! But if you lack energy, love, freedom, or joy, and one of these three is out of whack? Before you look for more complicated and oblique answers, let alone a quick-fix, please look here.

And never, ever, ever take a course of action designed to "attract the opposite sex", "lose weight" or "make money" that conflicts with your values and core identity. It is my belief that our animals selves, human selves, and spiritual selves can all work in harmony. And I believe that you do NOT have to sell yourself out to make anyone happy. You have responsibilities to the child you were, the adult you are, and the old man/old woman you will one day be.

Anyone who tries to get you to put them first is automatically unworthy of the honor.