The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disney Blogging

Reading “Conservatives without Conscience” by John Dean. His position is that the Conservative movement got hijacked post-Watergate by Republicans desperate to regain the White House, and that Devil’s Bargains were made with some truly ultra-Rightest fanatics, to the point that he has a hard time recognizing the movement any more. He also makes a point about the fact that it is very, very difficult even to define what “Conservatism” is. I’m enjoying it because he speaks of Conservative values that I recognize and appreciate. Because I don’t believe that either side has an exclusive on intelligence, compassion, integrity, or patriotism, it’s been hard to watch some of the stuff going on, because my very real tendency is to come to conclusions that are opposite to my basic position. Looking at the “Big Tent” that Republicans created to bolster their constituency makes big, big sense.
By the way, are there books on the Conservative movement that my readers would recommend? And I mean books by responsible, non-hysterical conservatives. Not interested in anyone who considers Liberals evil: that kind of thinking automatically drops the thinker into the “deluded” category. The same, of course (in my mind) for Liberals who consider Conservatives evil. Just looking to educate myself a bit…
Got called at 6:00 this morning by someone on the East Coast who forgot that there’s a 3-hour time difference. I’d like for readers on the East coast to tell me if they have comparable problems with West Coasters calling too late…
The Disney black Princess thing gives us another opportunity to turn over the flat rock of the human psyche. Do a web search, find blog talkbacks, and count the percentage of talkers who specifically
1) Complain about Disney going “PC”
2) Complain that if there is a black Princess, why not an Irish princess, a German princess, etc.
3) Specifically complain that blacks are whiners who should just shut up.

One of the three of these makes up about 1/3 of the chatter. White folks like to say that this is a tiny percentage of people doing lots and lots of posting. Really? What if it’s only, say, twice the actual percentage of white Americans who think this way. Wouldn’t that explain voting patterns across the country, really? And the percentage of people who say they wouldn’t vote for a black President? In other words, are you so certain that, given the anonymity of the Internet, these attitudes are far more widespread than you’d like to believe?
Let me rebut, please:
1) Disney has always been “PC.” Just to the other side of the issue, excluding people of color to a remarkable degree from their animation.
2) The logical fallacy here is laughable. This is like saying you have nothing but meat on your plate: how about some fruit and vegetables? And you reply: but there’s no Turkey, either! And no ham!
3) I can understand this one. But believe me, anyone who thinks this would make a horrible black person. They would never have survived the almost daily assault on our sensitivities, and in fact, any white person who thinks this, if they’d been born black, would hate white people. I know the type.
Understand something: Disney would 100% have the right to have nothing but white people in their live action or animation. Absolutely. And we, as consumers and observers, would have 100% of a right to call people's attention to this, to deny them our money on this basis, and to label them racists--which they would be, since making decisions on the basis of race is the dictionary definition of the term. If they want to be "America's Entertainment company" they must reflect America as it is. Otherwise, they could honestly be considered "White America's Entertainment company," a label I doubt they'd be proud of. If they were that lesser label in the 20th Century, they have an opportunity to make up for it now. But it behooves us to call a spade a spade (as it were) and acknowledge that their 20th century decisions were made through a regrettable filter...unless that filter is NOT regrettable to them. They are welcome to be as racist as they want. And Americans who think in other fashions would be 100% right in withholding their dollars and approval.

Isn't that the American way?

Fasting today, and did Bikram Yoga this morning. My body was screaming for food afterwards, and I shut it up with a Hoodia, thank God. But my energy was great—the room was blisteringly hot, and I never really suffered. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, though…

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bad morning mood, and last night's "South Park"

Last night, I watched “South Park” for the first time in about a year. I’d damned near forgotten it exists, and last night I remembered why, and unfortunately, it ties together with my feelings around racism and the right. Remember my comment: racism is a disease that lurks on the right, as an excessive egalitarianism and moral relativism lurks on the left. My opinion, o.k?
Hillary Clinton comes to South Park for a rally. Her assistant is black. As they began to make jokes about Hillary’s vagina, I realized that they’d had a point in making her assistant black: I intuited he was going to have some kind of humiliating sex with her. I’ve seen them do this before. By the end of the show, he had thrust his head up there, and exploded. Hmmm. You know, that by itself doesn’t make them racist. One might suggest that they were deliberately playing against social stereotypes. But over the years, I’ve developed a test for attitudes: look at the background characters. The people just walking down the street, out of the animator’s direct window of conscious attention. And on South Park, whether the episode takes place in Colorado, New York, or California, blacks are grossly underrepresented. In essence, the usual time a black character shows up is in a negative or stereotypical context: sports, crime, or making a joke about Affirmative Action.
Those on the right can justifiably scream that it is unfair to associate this with their side of the political aisle. They might say that racism is equally distributed across political lines, or even that there is more of it on the Left. Fine. That has not been my experience. As I’ve said, certainly not all Conservatives are bigots, but most bigots I’ve met HAVE been Conservative. If I hear a talk show host complaining about “forced racial quotas” on Sesame Street (and I have), guess what his politics turn out to be? Or singling out black politicians, rap artists, black “welfare queens” etc…in other words, if 80% of the time a racial reference is negative, I’ve learned over decades of observation what the rest of their political orientation is likely to be, and almost never been wrong.
The boys of South Park doubtless think themselves above this crap. I believe they’ve been described as a kind of neo-Liberarian or something. But around the edges of that, I really smell something. When the only time they have a black character is to make a point about their blackness, and they exclude black people from the unconscious background of their world, sorry…I take that as a sign.
On the other hand, apparently Disney is finally doing an animated movie with a black princess. After (as they said on The Daily Show last night) an Asian princess, a native American princess, and countless animal “princesses.” Good for them. But please note the difference between this and the entire 20th century output of the studio. Arguably BILLIONS of character animation images, and not a single one, in a single frame, of a black person. Yes (as I’ve had people point out) there was Uncle Remus. Live action, not animation. Yes, there were crows in “Dumbo” (voiced by white men. I’ve seen film of the recording session, and it wasn’t pretty). Yes, there were purple Muses in “Hercules” apparently voiced by black women. None of these fit the bill, and if you look at it, this crap falls into the “South Park” category.
Conservatives often complain about Liberals pushing a social agenda, forcing minorities into quota situations, etc. In my experience, Liberals are certainly likely to include blacks in a dramatic or comedic work with a bit of compulsion—but rarely above their actual statistical presence in America, if you average out the works. And when I had a chance to speak to animators who worked at Disney in “the old days,” yes indeed I heard stories of racism. It was not benign neglect to have no black people in the two theatrical films to actually take place in AFRICA for God’s sake: “Tarzan” and “The Lion King.” It is, in my mind, a revelation of a mind set in which the unconscious simply doesn’t grant equal humanity to the “other” and doesn’t think about it. This is natural. Point it out to them, and they’ll shove a black person in next time. See? We’re not racist…
Human beings are tribal. But not all human beings are equally likely to define “tribe” along racial terms. That’s what we’re seeing here: the unconscious assumption. The revelation of what someone feels comfortable about. The hatred of Hillary Clinton implied that they would humiliate her sexually—by insulting her body, and having it touched by something disgusting. Animalistic. A dog would have worked. But I guess they have too much affection for dogs, and used the next worst thing.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Evolutionary psychology and human adulthood

I have to correct 100 pages of my new book today and shoot it off to Marco Palmieri at Pocket books before I go to bed tonight. Also have to pack to fly to Philadelphia tomorrow for an Octavia Butler tribute. Then when I get back, I have to re-write a script, break down a book into a film treatment, and get ready to fly to Seattle for Norwescon next week. Then, if I’m lucky, my life slows down to a more normal jog…
Today is a fasting day. Start the morning with tea, Hoodia, some vitamins, and a bit of the Amrit Kalash Ayervedic nectar I’ve taken for 10 years. It has a bit of honey and ghee butter in it, but just a spoonful total…don’t think it will have much impact.
I’ve noticed that my dreams are much more intense these days. Hmmm. I think I’ll start working on lucidity again. That’s tons of fun.
I like evolutionary psychology, but don’t limit myself to it. I’ll start with the premise that human behavior relates to genetic survival, but not absolutely, and there are definitely short-lived behaviors that are evolutionary dead-ends. Societies evolve based upon human needs, but sometimes go off in the wrong directions. The successful strategies are maintained more often…but then, I’ve seen fabulous human technologies dead-end, while inferior ones thrive. Then again, there are differences between individual and group survival, and limitations to how much of all of this I can grasp. I try to remind myself that I’m probably wrong at least 20% of the time. Minimum.
Here’s another view of adulthood, though, based on EP: “that state in which a person can produce (sex), raise (job and security), provide for (short and long term planning) and educate a child in the morals and technologies necessary for THAT child to turn around and do the same thing for the next generation, and for the next generation to, at the least, maintain the values lifestyle and progress of the previous generations.”
Whew. That was clumsy, and should probably be refined. And I’m not implying that if you don’t have kids, you can’t be an adult. I DO believe that having kids is a maturing experience, but not absolutely. Plenty of people with kids are big children themselves—but then, they were before, as well. And plenty of people without children are impressively mature. But they would be CAPABLE of raising kids even if they have chosen not to, or chance has denied them that opportunity.
All I’m saying is that the state of adulthood must relate to some of the biological necessities, and a core one would be the proper care and feeding of the next generation. In fact, if it doesn’t, it would conflict so strongly with biological necessities that I’d have a hard time believing it has anything to do with the deep, balanced needs of the organism.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just heard that the Senate voted for an Iraq withdrawal next year. Don’t know much about it, but I hope it’s an excellent plan, and am heartened that at least two Republicans were willing to vote with it.
I sincerely hope that it’s a good plan, that Iraqis will take their fates into their own hands, that other forces in the region will assist them. I also hope that the British sailors captured by Iran will return home, and that we don’t buy into what feels like an obvious attempt to create a conflict.
What do I mean by that? There are a couple of patterns that emerge: if you want a war, you insult the country involved, rattle sabers, and then park a military vessel juuuuust off their borders, zig-zagging closer and closer, holding “exercises” at the edge of their territorial waters or fly-bys over what they consider their territory. It is probably also useful to fund or otherwise support dissident groups within the target country to increase tension. Eventually, any self-respecting country will take the bait, and you have a war.
My understanding is that our own intelligence agencies say that Iraq has five years of development on their nuclear programs before they would be a threat. In two years, the present administration will be gone. WHOEVER is in next, Democrat or Republican, I would trust far, far more to deal with a situation, both in terms of competence and just sheer honesty. I just don’t trust these people. At all. They’re the worst I’ve ever seen.
Bush, Cheney, and Rice are all hip-deep in the oil business, and coincidentally we find ourselves in a war in a country with the 2nd largest oil reserves AND oil company revenues are at an all-time high AND oil prices are at an all-time high? How many separate answers need to be swallowed not to assume perfidy? Occam’s razor suggests that, at some point, we flip that flat rock and instead of assuming innocence, assume guilt. If there is manipulation on a grand scale, would it explain much of what we’ve seen? And if you combine that with people who hate the concept of "Big Government" and want to cripple it and give that power to Big Business, would it explain even more?
Unfortunately, it requires less imagination to see how the negative scenario could be true than the positive one. Easier to assume a confluence of greedy ideologues than a bunch of accidental events happening to good people who are victimized by fate.
And here’s the rub—even if they have been victimized by unusually negative circumstances, it is outside the realm of common sense to extend trust but so far. Throw them out, get new folks in…and then if the problems repeat, well, it’s the situation, not the people.
The connect-the-dots on this is difficult. If you’re smart enough, you make sure that the agreements are made on golf courses and in board rooms with no stenographers present. You assume that your business dealings will be examined, and you make handshake deals that can’t quite be proven.
An analogy to the situation in Iraq can, in my mind, be found in the way America dealt with the Native Americans, Eskimos, Hawaiians…and I would bet that similar patterns can be found in Africa, New Zealand…anywhere a powerful, more developed group comes in contact with a less developed group sitting on desirable land or resources.
So the current administration/ruling class is resistant to your entreaties? Support an opposition group, prop them up with money and power at the same time that you undermine the pre-existing government. Kill, remove or dismantle the old government, then promote the new as the “legitimate voice of the people.” This new voice, coincidentally, is far more amenable to the needs of the Colonizer.
The only game older than this one is to send missionaries and merchants who begin to push HARD at the “natives,” taking their land, insulting their religions and impregnating their women. Predictably, the “natives” will push back. Oops! We have to send in troops to protect them! Before you know it, you have a war, you’ve taken over, and you have a colony.
Yuck. Where ever a colonizing power has taken root, their actions are always legitimate and legal and moral—in the eyes of the colonizer.
I remember the last time I was in Hawaii, and went out of my way to speak with native Hawaiians. I honestly believe that, being a person of color, it was easier for me to get them to open up. And right under the surface, if you spoke quietly and empathetically, was an ocean of resentment, feeling like second-class citizens in their own land. Employed as a servant class for an oblivious tourism that swallowed the party line whole, never considering the implications of the fact that, on Maui for instance, the family of former Missionaries now owns most of the island.
To assume that human greed crosses all color and culture lines allows one to see these patterns without pointing fingers. To assume that in all of these cases them grateful natives were just happy to accept Christ and hand over their land…well, I’m afraid that I could only believe that if there really is a serious differential in intelligence and worth from group A to group B. That is a legitimate point of view, but one I disagree with, and one that is rarely stated explicitly...although obviously many believe it.
If I have lost faith in this presidency, and see too many of their friends and associates getting filthy rich, seen the theories of “trickle-down economics” operating to the benefit of a tiny upper class while the poor suffer in New Orleans…
I’m sorry. The simple answer may not be the right one, but I’m out of reasons not to view the situation through that lens first. At this point, no, I’m not willing to give Bush any more chances. Yes, I’d be in favor of impeachment. Anything, anything at all to get to the next guy…or gal…and see if the situation improves.
God help us if it doesn’t. A slippery slope indeed.
I do love kettlebells. No form of weight training has ever attracted me as they do (with the exclusion of Clubbells, which I consider a specific tool for the development of strength and leverage along sports-specific planes of motion. I know people who are using them for general fitness to fantastic effect, but to a certain degree any tool is eccentric to the needs and inclinations of the individual. Very high recommendations for Coach Sonnon’s invention, but I do use them for Specific Physical Preparation rather than General Physical Preparation.)
At any rate, there are interesting criticisms of KB’s on the internet, and some of them are quite legitimate. The best of them suggests that what makes Kbs efficient is the WAY they are used, rather than the tool itself. That dumbbells and barbells can do anything KB’s can do. There is a lot of discussion about centers of mass and so forth to counter these, but the truth is that the major differences really ARE the fact that the training systems are different: there is no isolation exercise in the world of Kettlebells. For instance, a sitting dumbbell Preacher curl is an isolation exercise (to the degree that isolation is even possible. We’ll accept that it is a matter of percentages, not absolutes). A sitting dumbbell curl without the bench involves more of the body. Do the same exercise while standing, and even more of the body is involved. At this point, you are beginning to impact actual sports performance, not merely rehabilitation or appearance. But by the time you are doing a “Clean” movement (which is a “cheat curl” taken to its extreme) you are coordinating the entire body to get that weight to your shoulder. NOW you’re talking about a movement that has applications to every aspect of daily physical motion as well as sports, a general whole-body integration that truly rocks.
KB type movements are sort of “poor man’s Olympic lifts,” and Olympic lifts: Clean and Jerk, Snatch, Squat, Deadlift—are all true whole-body movements with massive carry-over to sports and life.
Not so much the Bench Press (I can think of damned few situations where that particular type of strength: on your back, pushing up, not using the legs or arching the back), even though it is one of the “Big Three” lifts, and develops a truly powerful upper body.
It would certainly be possible for someone to popularize weight programs based on whole-body movements. They’ve been around for centuries. But please note that this just isn’t what happened with body building. One can create a body that “looks great!” with isolation exercises with far greater ease than the same level of appearance with whole-body work. The trick is that the whole-body work is affecting every aspect of fitness: cardiovascular, coordination, balance, strength, basic flexibility…the whole thing. So the isolationist would have to put together an entire package of exercises to equal the same effect.
And of course, most people seeking fitness know what they see in the mirror, which is great, but not all there is.
At any rate, for some reason Kbs have specialized on these whole body approaches. For the first time in my life, I’m really digging iron. Feels good.
In the third week playing with Intermittent Fasting, I’m experimenting with truly alternating days of eating and not eating. I used Hoodia to control the hunger yesterday, and it worked fine. No mood swings, no real irritability that I or my family could detect. Woke up this morning feeling randy as hell, after sharp, clear, full-color (and very sexy) dreams. Hmmm.
And I’ve lost almost three more pounds. So…that’s almost six pounds in a little over two weeks. I’d been stuck at about 184 for a while, but boy, that’s over.
Tell you one thing: I’m being VERY careful on eating days to make certain I have all the high-quality, high-nutrient food I can get. Vitamins, fresh vegetables, Ultimate Meal smoothies…I’m making sure that I get all my body needs. My energy level was great—worked yesterday from nine until nine, pretty much constantly before I felt like I had to slow down and get a little entertainment.
Don’t know what I’ll think about this in a few weeks or months, but right now, the thought of increasing health, energy, longevity, cutting fat, saving time and increasing clarity of thought all simultaneously (the thought clarity thing is interesting. If you are healthy aerobically, fasting seems to trigger what might be called a “Predator Response,” a hyperalert state designed to enhance the chances of hunting success. Very cool, and a little spooky. Be interesting to spar in that state…) is just too tempting not to put serious time and research into.
More later.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Shooter" (2007)

Tony Snow’s cancer has spread to his liver. That’s not even slightly funny, and politics aside, prayers are in order. I wish him well.
The question of the stages of life as they relate to gender are certainly fascinating…and potentially divisive. The following thought I found useful, though:
“I think the old woman needs to learn to separate herself from her role as mother, grandmother, etc. To gain some distance from the family. Not to love them less, but achieve some equanimity with respect to the relationships that defined her. Difficult to negotiate and achieve. To learn how to be alone without being lonely.__I believe these two stages of the journey are mostly for women.”
Phrased this way, yes they are. However, all human beings must learn to separate themselves from all roles. Men have traditionally taken care of the things OUTSIDE the home…and with retirement, and simple age-related incapacity, must learn to cease identifying themselves with those roles. Those who cannot die within a year of retirement. Ultimately, all external definitions fail.
Saw “Shooter,” Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua’s new action thriller with serious political overtones. I thought it rocked, but had very definite anti-government leanings that might prevent some from enjoying the fantasy of a lone Marine fighting to clear his name. Interesting that Fuqua is the third black director Wahlberg has worked with: F. Gary Grey (“The Italian Job”) and John Singleton (that odd “black exploitation flick with a white star” “Four Brothers.”) Must be that old Marky Mark magic. Interesting, in the light of our discussions about black sexuality in film, that in none of these does Marky get laid. It’s almost as if the directors are saying: “O.K.—if I can’t have black men having sex, and have to pick up my big paychecks with white stars (directors get approximately 5% of the budget) then I ain’t showing your pale ass either.”
Kinda funny…

At any rate, "Shooter" deals with a Marine sniper (an intense Wahlberg) who is pulled into a web of intrigue, and set up as an accused assassin. He spends 9/10 of the movie trying to clear his name, and that's about all I'll say. Great fun, well-staged action, and some hilariously satisfying conspiracy theory stuff. Tananarive and I were howling. Give it a very solid "B"
“24” was great fun last night. I have to admit that if Wayne Palmer dies, my interest in the show decreases. Two seasons ago, “24” had three really strong, intelligent black male characters. Then they killed David Palmer. Then they killed CTU agent Curtis Manning. Both with throat shots, both episodes broadcast on MLK day. That was tasteless as hell. Now Wayne is near death. If he dies, it is impossible for me to look at this as other than deliberate insult. I grew up watching movies where black characters died protecting white people. Maybe I’m being too sensitive…but can anyone out there remember a television show in which every white male character died? Anyone? Ever? In 60 years of television?
How much time does the average person spend preparing food and eating it in a day? It occurred to me that the whole IF thing, if it pans out, doesn’t include another fascinating statistic: if the average person spends, say, 3 hours a day eating and preparing food, then that person would save 45 hours a month by going IF—another work week, which is great if you love your work. An additional 12 work weeks a year is another 3 MONTHS every year. That’s 25% increase in useful time on top of the 30-40 percent increase in life span, in addition to the increase in health, energy, healing factors, sexual energy, decreased obesity…
Of course, the IF program is not for children, so some of the benefits of saving time are lost if you have a family. But this is looking spectacularly interesting, if the data holds up. Actually, this is looking like the single most exciting development in health I’ve ever seen.
On the subject of adulthood, Wikipedia (God, I love it!) lists the following attributes of an adult:

. Self-control - restraint, emotional control.
. Stability - stable personality, strength.
. Independence - ability to self-regulate.
. Seriousness - ability to deal with life in a serious manner.
. Responsibility - accountability, commitment and reliability.
. Method/Tact - ability to think ahead and plan for the future, patience.
. Endurance - ability and willingness to cope with difficulties that present themselves.
. Experience - breadth of mind, understanding.
. Objectivity - perspective and realism.
Look at the following:
1) A career that brings personal satisfaction, financial reward and social contribution.
2) A healthy, energetic body that YOU would find sexually alluring (modified for age, of course. But I can think of no good reason not to be in the top 5% of your age group in fitness and health!)
3) A healthy, passionate relationship with a mature adult Significant Other.
4) A bountiful inner life of prayer and meditation as a daily pattern.

I would think that a person who can accomplish those four things is an adult in almost any meaningful sense of the word. Certainly, a woman who negotiates with her partner to remain home with the kids is exactly as contributory as the one who makes the living—I’m not trying to put down Domestic service at all. A man who stays home while his WIFE goes out to earn a living will have a bit more trouble being respected by the world, however—I’ve seen some real problems crop up there. In multiple cases, the problem was that the woman stopped being attracted to him, and started affairs with a dynamic man at work. Ah well…
I keep trying to zero in on the most critical aspects of this whole “The young person grows up, and the old person faces death” (satisfied, Suzanne?) aspect of the structure of myth and fiction. I can feel pretty confident on the first aspect. I would say that if you have the following things, you’ve made it:
1) An accurate reality map, and a way to test it to failure.
2) An accurate assessment of where you are in your life’s journey.
3) A clear set of balanced goals.
4) The ability to tell the truth.
5) The ability to keep your word…especially to yourself.
6) Empathy for other human beings.

I think that children rarely have any of these things. And by inference, working to develop these attributes is a gateway to adulthood.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Letter and Answer

I just received a letter asking for help on some specific, and very common issues. Here are the queries, and my responses. All of my answers are based on my current understanding of organizing life to produce Adulthood--the first major gateway. My answers are marked "Steve"

"I think the best way to describe what is bothering me is I feel stuck.  I'm talking about life as a whole, I just feel stuck.   Maybe I am lacking a sense of direction?  I recently graduated college.  I have goals and dreams but no clear way to get there, at present.   My energy levels are down.  My drive/desire sky-rockets for a brief time, a day or so, and then it is almost none existent.   I feel like I'm a slave to procrastination or laziness.  The things I want to start get no further than off the ground, if they get that far.   The things I want to quit always seem to creep back."
STEVE: You need to have WRITTEN goals in all three major areas of your life: career, relationships, fitness. All three. Then plot out your first 1-year's worth of work to accomplish them. Start moving. Inevitably, one of the three will be a bear. But the more clearly you define what you wish, and what there is to be done along the way, the easier it is to begin.
" To be completely honest, I have become afraid.  I'm not really sure how to get myself away from it.   I have some friends that tell me I am selling myself short.  The sad part is I know that's true.  I've read books upon books about ways to beat procrastination or how to increase your output.   Once I do manage to start something I never maintain it to completion.  As a child I used to feel I could accomplish anything.   Surprisingly, I would prove myself right regularly.  Somewhere, somehow I lost that innate belief in myself and I don't know how to get it back."
There are only a few really basic approaches to maximizing your efficiency as a human being (from my humble POV):
1) Balanced, written goals.
2) The ability to act despite the voices in your head (!)
3) Scathing honesty about where you currently are, your strengths and weaknesses
4) The ability to keep your word
5) At least one ally you can share your dreams with.
Energy is critical. It can be most rapidly increased through clarity of goals. Most people with "low energy" wouldn't know what to do with the energy if they had it. After that, energy is probably most clearly seen as a confluence of several factors
1) Fitness. Especially aerobic fitness. But Stretching/relaxation exercises like yoga can help teach you not to waste the energy once you have it.
2) Diet. A major energy killer. Most people take in entirely too many simple processed carbohydrates, and not enough fruit and vegetables. And their water intake is WAY too low.
3) Rest. I can't believe how people get 5-7 hours of sleep and then complain about being tired all the time. What the #$@@ do they expect? If you can thrive on this little sleep, good for you!! But if energy is an issue, this can be a damned good place to look.
And never, ever, underestimate the power of fear. It will lock your emotional emergency brakes on, and you'll burn yourself out fighting just to creep forward. Fear can often be defeated with clarity, and clarity can be obtained through a regular meditative practice. "Heartbeat Meditation" is fantastically powerful for those with the ability to stick with it. Journaling is also great, but make no mistake: your personal garbage will come up. All of it. And it will feel like hell, believe me.

This is where you have to have faith, and solid allies.

Good luck!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Detox and Human Adulthood

Intermittent Fasting note: A little feeling of “detoxification” this morning, as if my body is burning more fat, and some fat-soluble toxins are dumping. Have to increase my water intake. I’ve dropped two pounds in four days, and that wasn’t my intent with this new plan…
Prayers to John and Elizabeth Edwards. I’m not sure about him continuing on the campaign trail, though. Fighting cancer is hugely energy-intensive. On the other hand, seeing her husband in the White House might be the kind of goal that energizes the lady. I trust they’ll make a responsible choice.
More thoughts on the “Human Adulthood” thing, which keeps running around in my mind. There is a saying in writing circles that there are only two stories: “the young man grows up” and “the old man faces death.” Interesting. Growing up, and Enlightenment? If Growing Up is taking complete responsibility for yourself in all major aspects, and Enlightenment is opening the perceptual doors ordinarily only unsealed at death, then applying the structures of the Hero’s Journey to these would be valuable, I’d think. We’ve looked at the first one: accepting responsibility for yourself, dealing with the fear, setting out to learn the skills of adulthood, gathering proper allies, confronting failure, learning who and what to have faith in (including self), and teaching others.

What would the other half be? Accepting the inevitability of death (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s final step?), dealing with the fear, working to cast aside illusions, gathering mature and/or spiritual allies, confronting crisis, destroying the ego-shell while maintaining faith that something…even if it is beyond your current understanding, will remain. Then, if you make it through before physical death, if you choose to communicate with ordinary humans you have to put the tatters of your ego-shell back on and try to teach that which cannot be taught. Fascinating…

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday Morning Thoughts

Hmmm…I was asked how to prevent getting crabby at the end of a fast. I’m still a neophyte at this, but I know that Hoodia, for instance, has a mild euphoric effect that seems to work well. You might try some Chamomile tea, for instance. On the other hand, it might be interesting to specifically, especially monitor your behaviors for the last two hours of a fast, just as an exercise in control and balance…
I've noticed some energy irregularities. Went to bed early last night, even though I had a short nap in the afternoon. And my digestion seemed a bit gassy. Could be coincidence...
David Brin’s post on the Bush administration implies that he is running out of motivation to believe that what they are doing is the result of “mere” stupidity, and is now shading into evil. Wow. David’s one of the brightest guys I know (we went to High School together) so I can’t wait to sit him down for dinner and get him to explain that one more fully.

Me, I think that they have an a priori set of reality maps. This includes America at the center of the universe, absolute evil, essence preceding existence, and the willingness to trade on fear and hate to solidify a political base. Their trust in business seems to rise higher than their trust in government, that’s for sure. And that old devil Military Industrialist Complex seems to be headed for record growth. Also, we’re getting a good look at what happens when a big chunk of the administration has ties to Big Oil.
There’s a theory I came up with years ago that any organization that grows large enough that the members can no longer recognize each other by sight will take on its own identity, with its own needs and desires. (I’ve heard that there’s an economist who posited the same thing, by the way, but haven’t read his work). This would apply to both governments and businesses, by the way. It is just as insane to believe businesses will solve everything as it would be to think governments will do it. Some balance is needed, and I think everyone agrees with that—the disagreement is primarily in what that balance would look like.

But I think that somehow, this vile stew, combined with America behaving in a typical two-dimensional fashion post 9/11 (I mean typical for ANYONE who’s been attacked, not typical for America) and playing “follow the leader” created an absolute nightmare. Combine this with the fact that Bush is barely competent as a chief executive, and you have a situation where the emperor not only has no clothes, but seems determined to wag his penis at the world and expect them to bow in shock and awe. Evil? I don’t think so. But since these guys seem to believe in absolutes, I’ll say that if I was of their mind set, yes, I would think them evil.

Even if they started the war to get Iraqi oil, it’s possible that in their hearts they just believe they’re doing what America wants and needs. Of course, the fact that these actions put money in their and their friend’s pockets is an accidental by-product.

Man, the Cheney situation is a perfect example. No, I don’t think there is a “smoking gun” proving he is a Halliburton mole. Hell, there doesn’t need to be. Any deals were made on golf courses and over brandy at the club. He would enter the Bush administration (after nominating himself), and work to steer mucho business their way. After he leaves the administration, he will be fully, completely taken care of for life. Nothing on paper. Nothing prosecutable. Right out in plain sight. Plenty of no-bid contracts, and nothing but an “understanding” to tie it all together. That’s the way to do something like this.

But God in heaven…if there is a single piece of evidence tying together all of this death and misery… I just don’t want to go further in my thoughts in a public forum. Let’s just say that I think America let the Fox (network) guard the hen house.
That Obama attack ad on Hillary is hysterical. No, I don’t think he had anything to do with it. But it does indicate that this next election cycle is going to be mucho entertaining. Right now, he has my vote—his apparent clarity on Iraq is a chunk of it. Much of the rest is just the fact that he actually sounds like a leader, a man with ideas and a philosophy. A politician to be sure…but if he wasn’t he wouldn’t stand a chance, and it would be foolish to back him. Saw him on Larry King Live and I think he was tired…fumbled a bit on some questions, until he found solid ground again.

The race issue is interesting, for sure, but I never even considered voting for Al Sharpton or Jesse, so I don’t think that factors in much. One way or the other, this is going to be fun to watch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Morning Thoughts

Up at 5 this morning for my time with Sensei Tim and his madmen. Interesting thing about that: the hypnogogic state is alive, man, and I can hear my subconscious roaring at me, all the reasons why I should just roll over and go back to bed…
I think that one of the reasons the Intermittent Fasting thing catches my attention has to do with the differences between it and the Caloric Restriction approach. CR has been on my radar for 15 years, and I figured I’d get around to it one day…but REALLY didn’t like what seemed to be an OCD level of planning and denial. IF is so much simpler it’s spooky. Doesn’t make it easier, though…especially if you have emotional associations with food.

And this is one of the ways I find it interesting. Clearly, one must have a mature attitude toward caloric intake. The Child part of our personalities will scream and hop around on this one. I want! I want! I’m uncomfortable! I suspect that anyone who can actually handle the every-other-day eating program, in whatever way it is tried, is already miles more conscious than the average person. What a wake-up call! I would be tempted to call it a potential way to facilitate adulthood by learning to override unconscious behavior patterns intended to help us to full growth as children…but lead to obesity and illness in adulthood. More thought on this later, of course.

I’m trying the “Eat only after six one day, and then until six the next” approach. This gives 24 hour fasts, but you’re still eating every day. I may switch to the simpler every-other-day program. After all, THAT’S the one that has been experimentally verified. Can anyone think of a reason that the 6-6 program might not work as well?
I think the Bush administration definitely can sense a trap when they see one. Their reluctance to let Rove or Harriet Meyers testify under oath makes me think they fully remember what happened with Clinton, where a minor offense became an impeachable offense due to lying under oath. In my mind, the Republicans used that trap well. Let’s see what happens when it’s turned on them. Especially since I have the very bad feeling that this administration will go down in history as the most corrupt and inept in a century. And no, it isn’t my opinion that matters a damn. I think this will be the judgment of history, and of political pundits on both sides of the aisle. I have never, ever, ever seen so many blunders and bad doings under one roof. This is appalling.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More on Caloric Restriction

“Caloric restriction every other day works on people? Wow. I'd only heard of it before in rats.”

I’m not saying it works the same way. Here’s what I know.

1) Caloric restriction (30-40% reduction in average calorie intake while preserving all nutritional values) increases remaining life span by about 50% in all warm blooded animals it’s been tested on. It also has a positive effect on cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and of course obesity. When rats are kept on such a diet from birth, you get small skinny rats that are abnormally healthy, and live a very long time.
2) If you start such a program after the rats have matured, you increase their remaining life span by 50%.
3) Human experimentation, begun (perhaps) by Roy Walford Phd, produces skinny people who claim great healthy and superior biological markers. For instance: 55-year olds who have been using CR for over a decade had blood chemistry comparable to 20 year olds.
4) CR represents the ONLY life extension approach with this level of scientific backing: both experimental and theoretical.
5) Rat (or mouse) experiments were conducted by feeding every other day. Someone wondered if it was the meal spacing, rather than the caloric restriction, that gave them the positive results. They tried feeding every other day, but allowing the mice to eat all they wanted on those days. The result? The mice ate as much as the uncontrolled mice, but lived 50% longer, and were at least as healthy (and larger than!) the CR mice.
6) Humans who have tried “Intermittent Fasting” report blood chemistry changes similar to CR testing.
7) Several methods of IF have been proposed: eating every other day. Eating in one 3-hour block at night (“The Warrior Diet” for instance). Eating until 6pm one day, and not until 6pm the next. Some preliminary, anecdotal data suggests that all of these have some positive effect.
8) There are various theories about the mechanisms involved in CR and IF. These include: decreased obesity contributing to health. Decreased caloric intake makes people more careful of the calories they DO consume, increasing overall quality of nutrients. Fasting allows the digestive system to recover from the stress of digestion (and the ph in the mouth to stabilize, protecting tooth enamel!) Fasting places stress on the system, triggering a health/fitness response to improve hunting ability. Fasting simulates EXTERNAL environmental stress: your hindbrain believes there is a famine or war, and decreases the “death drive” to protect tribal population levels (!!)

This is all really fascinating. I remember reading “The 120 Year Diet” by Walford, and thinking that the CR theories made perfect sense, but it felt like too much deprivation, and the people who practiced it looked scrawny and weak. Wasn’t interested.

But frankly, IF sounds doable, especially if the benefits are anything similar to those gained by lab animals in controlled experiments. A pill that provided the values would be the hottest drug in history. A single technique that increases lifespan by up to 50%? Cancer? Heart disease? Obesity? Diabetes? Increases energy? Good Lord—it’s the magic bullet.
Now, as to hunger pains. Drinking tea or diluted juice could handle some of this. An herb like Hoodia could deal with more. My suspicion is that COMPLEX carbohydrates and proteins are the things to be avoided on “fasting” days. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if fruits, light salads, and vegetable juices were just fine.

But time will tell. I’m fascinated, because I’ve always had the number “120” in my mind in terms of life span, and something like this actually puts that number in shooting distance. So…until (and unless) I find a good reason not to, I’m experimenting with the “eat until six, then only after six) approach while I continue research. Any of you who find more data, please send it in. Meanwhile, I’ll report back what I’m experiencing.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Intermittent Fasting?

Was doing some research on diet, which led me to Roy Walford's caloric restriction (the 120-year diet), which is based on the only legitimate, experiementally backed-up life extension approach I know of. But that led me to something called IF--intermittent Fasting, or eating every other day. More on this later, but right now I'm shocked. It seems to have all of the health benifits of caloric restriction, without the caloric restriction. Mice allowed to eat every other day ate as much as rats given free access to food--but lost weight, and were healthier by a dozen different markers. If this is legit, it implies a pretty safe, simple approach to health, lifespan, and weight. Has anyone out there heard of IF?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reply to Frank

“Supporting the troops” means supporting the war.__Here is my position on this, having served in the military myself:"

Frank, I appreciate your service, but you aren’t qualified to answer this question, really. I asked if anyone had data about what ACTIVE servicemen thought on the issue of bringing them home, and debating bringing them home: whether such a discussion equates to “not supporting” them. On the other hand, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to suggest that a survey of FORMER servicemen might be valuable on this issue as well, in which case, your opinion would be pertinent. Even then, however, you didn’t answer the specific question. So then it would have been appropriate to propose a different test, asking a different question—in which case your response would be valuable. Even so, thank you.
I would suspect that one aspect of “supporting the troops” would have to be getting them home alive to raise their sons and daughters and love their wives and continue their lives. I think it would be fair to ask active servicemen if they would be offended if we discuss this option.
“Now if you try to say "supporting Iraqis" means supporting the average Iraqi; and if you conclude that the average Iraqi "wants us to go away" are you also saying that the average Iraqi wants to live under another Saddam?”

No, I’m saying that the average Iraqi might well believe that they are capable of sorting this situation out, and might also believe that we are making it worse, not better. We may disagree…in which case are YOU saying they haven’t the right to decide?
“ Are you saying that the average Iraqi doesn't want political and economic freedom? If we conducted a tally by plebiscite, are you saying that more people would vote for dictatorship then freedom? It may seem an absurd choice, but perhaps you do believe this. “

My, that straw man you’re building is looking kinda shakey. I’m saying that the average Iraqi probably wants freedom and security, and may well doubt that Americans have their best interest at heart. And if this is what the majority of them think (and I’m not saying it is) and you believe that they haven’t the right to decide this, isn’t that the kind of paternalistic attitude that, at the core of it, is saying “we’re better than they are.” And “we know better than they do?” And it isn’t even “we,” Frank, because much of America now disagrees with you. Which puts you in the position of saying that the 37% of Americans who want to stay (if that number is right) know what’s good for the Iraqis better than the Iraqis do…AND the majority of Americans do. All right, that's possible, but that’s a mighty big load of hubris, isn’t it?

“So if you decide that the vast majority of people are choosing freedom in Iraq,and you know that to construct such institutions you need to first provide security from those who are ideologically against freedom, then clearly supporting the Iraqis means doing whatever is necessary to see that their wish for economic and political freedom is fulfilled.__”
What? Even if it is against their will? Even if they believe that we’re making the situation worse, and they’re capable of providing their own security and running their own country? This is, in my mind, not supporting them. It is infantilizing them. And I fail to see how you can respect someone enough to think them capable of managing a democracy, and simultaneously be willing to disrespect their wish for you to GET THE HELL OUT OF THEIR HOUSE.
If the position was reversed, and someone said they were “freeing you” and you did not trust them, and asked them to leave and they would not, you would probably consider yourself within your rights to kill that person to get them out. That’s the position that we have placed our men and women in, if the average Iraqi wants us out.

By what right do we say we’re correct, and have the right to tell them, against their wishes, what to do? If that isn’t tyranny, I don’t know what is. IF WE SAY THEY DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK US TO LEAVE, our claim to be “supporting freedom” looks shoddy.

“What's more, I feel we have a responsibility to fix what we broke.”
Now, here is where I think the moral rubber is meeting the road. I believe that many who hold your point of view are good and moral people. Who grasp that their support of the war, has created fantastic damage and disruption. If we leave now, there is an inevitable negative balance at the Karmic bank. But if we can just, somehow fix it, then we can hold our heads high. But this is almost exactly the kind of reasoning that compulsive gamblers use when they’ve lost the mortgage. Let me stay at the table just a little longer. Just let me dip into the college fund…
So, yes, if we stay there is a chance of straightening things out. If we leave, there is a chance that the Iraqis may straighten it out for themselves, perhaps with the help of their neighbors. Of, if we stay, things might get worse. Or if we leave, things might get worse. Here’s an apparent difference between you and me, Frank: I would be willing to trust the Iraqis to decide. Apparently, you would not. I interpret that as I accept that they are adults, masters of their own fates. You seem to want to think they are children. And you know what? If the people who agree with you on keeping our military there also think they are children…well, then, by God they are children sitting on the world’s 2nd largest oil reserves, and it is mighty, mighty hard for me to believe that we’d let “children” keep control of it. It makes it easier to believe that those who would profit by controlling it would LOVE you to have that belief, Frank.
I don’t know what is true…but I do know I’d be willing to trust the Iraqis to decide their own future. And if we don’t, regardless of the stated intentions, we’re just another dictatorial power saying we’re doing what we’re doing “for the people.”
“We start by intending to change the equation in the Middle East by undermining dictatorships (which abound) and instituting Democratic institutions. We start with the biggest bully on the block, because everyone knows that if you stand up and take down the big _bully, others will respect you”
No, Frank. We started by believing we were retaliating for 9/11 and preventing an attack on American soil by WMDs. Everything else you’re saying is the excuse tacked on afterwards, when the Emperor proved to have no clothes. Isn’t your memory a bit short here? I don’t blame you though—the Right Wing noise machine has been repeating this 24/7 for years.
“Now I have to ask, how did you come by this insight? I mean what evidence did you use given that all major intelligence organizations believed he did have WMDs? You know, recently I went back to the discussion groups I was involved in around the time of the beginning of the war (I wasn't blogging back then). And you know what I found? I found that everyone who opposed going to war also thought Saddam had WMDs, and that US troops would get slaughtered in Baghdad as a result. One prominant member who held such a position predicted what would happen if we invaded__""What's next?" indeed. Wait for the UN to decide upon a mandate, refuse to concur, launch a unilateral invasion, kill thousands of civilians, storm Baghdad, become exposed to a cocktail of chemicals, bacterium and poisonous gases,"__

I found that everyone, right and left believed he had them.__Of course now, all of a sudden, no one believed it. And especially the politicians who voted for war are all now claiming they were misled by Bush, even though there is a record of them stating the opposite before anyone even knew who Bush was.__But not you.”

Frank, you’re being frantic here. You have said two things that are simply not true—and I’ve come to expect better of you. First you say “Everyone, left and right, believed he had them.” You don’t literally mean this. You mean “the majority.” Then you say “now, all of a sudden, no one believed it.” That is also untrue. You mean to say “now the majority of people claim they didn’t believe it” or something of the like, correct? You’re forgiven. But I'm guessing that this is actually how you feel, that the world really does seem so black and white to you. If so, lighten up guy.
But as to how I “knew” Saddam didn’t have them, it was based on psychological observation, not evidence, and I FULLY admit that I knew I could have been wrong, and know that even though I was correct, it might have been a coincidence, all right?

And here was my reasoning: He was born in 1937, and in 2001 was 63 or 64 years old. During his last expansion push, in 1991 (the first gulf war) he was 53-54. He got totally spanked, just ass-rammed and told to put Kuwait back. Ten years later, he is completely over his testosterone flush, really on the downside. He was no longer in his prime empire-building risk-taking phase. It’s the age and ass-ramming TOGETHER that say this to me—not either of them separately. Why in the world would he want to screw with the U.S. like that? I figured he knew he had no hope of really hurting us. The only thing that would happen is getting thumped even worse. This man was no religious fanatic, trusting in rewards in Paradise. He was a greedy, violent, power-hungry murderous bastard, with the fears that all such people have at their core. He was a bully, and like all bullies, is afraid of the bigger kid who has already kicked his ass. At his age, having just had his ambitions thoroughly destroyed, I figured he would be more interested in enjoying his declining years as a comfortable billionaire, rather than beginning an action that could go no where, and do nothing except lead to his sons’ death, and him being dragged out of a hole and hung. The man wasn’t an idiot. So…I sat back and watched the U.N. inspectors. Saddam blustered and protested—of course. Hell, he was a Strong Man dictator. There was no way he could just roll over for us without seeming weak and thereby exposing his throat to rivals. (Frankly, I think we had people smart enough to know that, and that that reaction was part of the plan—to force a confrontation by humiliating him into acting “guilty.” Predictable, predictable, predictable. Like doing fly-bys over his territory, trying to tempt him into taking a shot. Here, doggie doggie…nice piece of meat….oh! Surprise! He snapped! Rev up those missiles!) That seemed basic psychology to me: expect him to posture. But the more the inspectors moved around and found nothing, the more confident I felt in my original assessment.
I know that many, many good and intelligent people (some certainly smarter than me) believed WMDS were there, in BOTH parties. But not “everyone.” I am not suggesting that only wrong-headed or stupid people did. I know that my reasoning might have only accidentally led me to the right conclusion. I get that. But that was exactly, precisely, my thought process on the subject, and in the spirit of full disclosure I offer it to you warts and all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Is it possible to find any objective truth about Iraq?

I find it disturbing that so much is said about our situation in Iraq, using painfully loaded language and hidden assumptions. There seem to be three basic Conservative positions about the war:

1) “Supporting the troops” means supporting the war.
2) “Supporting Iraqis” means supporting the war
3) Supporting the “war on terror” means supporting the war.

I’m not certain it is possible to prove or falsify these positions. I do know that some positions are capable of such clarity, and some are not. And some people are capable of rational thought on political issues, and some are not.

In partial example, take the WMD debate. Prior to the beginning of the war, I did not believe that Saddam had WMDs. However, if they had been discovered in any of the forms discussed prior to the invasion, I would have been inclined to believe that I was wrong, and that the invasion was more justified than I thought. I knew Lefties who had already made up their minds that, if WMDs were found, they would assume that it was a fake, a fraud. In my mind, these folks were succumbing to illogical conspiracy theory.

But after none were found, there were those on the Right, desperate to justify the invasion, who said that degraded nerve gas that the Pentagon did not consider “WMDs” and the White House was forced to admit did not constitute the threat described by pre-war intelligence, were indeed WMDs. In my mind, this was equally illogical. In other words if you hold a belief that cannot be reasonably falsified, it is reasonable to say that your mind is locked primarily into a “faith” or “emotional” pattern, rather than logic.

I would take the position that such people are thinking like children, rather than adults.

Applying that reasoning to each of the three basic tenants, then…

1) “Supporting the troops” means supporting the war.

Really? According to whom? The Left takes the position that bringing them home safely is also supporting them. Has anyone made a confidential survey of American combat troops, asking if they would consider bringing them home to be a betrayal of their actions? Do British troops brought home consider themselves betrayed? I know that soldiers are sworn to do what they must, and wish to support their buddies. But I would think that they are praying that we at home are discussing the situation clearly, looking at both sides, including the possibility of bringing them back. Does anyone have data that the average soldier considers this a lack of support?
And…IF the average soldier does NOT consider bringing them back to be a ‘lack of support’, does that answer the question? If not, doesn’t that mean you’re saying the soldiers don’t know what’s good for them? And if the majority of soldiers say something to the effect of “the only way to support us is to keep us here until the insurgency is crushed” are you willing to believe that that IS the only way to support them?

2) “Supporting Iraqis” means supporting the war.

Really? According to whom? Does the average Iraqi want us there? Is there any substantial group of Iraqis with a majority wishing an American presence? Sunnis? Shiites? Kurds? I literally don’t have this data at my fingertips. If there are none with a majority wanting us to stay, doesn’t that mean that our continued presence there is not “supporting” them, or are we saying that they don’t know what is good for them?

And if there is a substantial group (I say substantial, because you can ALWAYS find some tiny fringe willing to say “yes” to anything) that desires a continued American military presence, can you accept that, in these people’s minds, supporting (this group of) Iraqis means supporting the war? If there is not a relatively easily proven or disproven contention at the core of your argument, is it really logical?

3)Supporting the “war on terror” means supporting the war. Here’s one I’ve never heard in open debate. There are intelligent opinions from our own agencies that our actions in Iraq have increased the danger, increased the number of terrorists and the numbers of those who hate us. There are others who point to the lack of terrorist acts in the U.S. since 9/11 and say this is “proof” Iraq has been effective. I’m not certain this one can be settled with any real clarity, but it would seem that there is room for intelligent disagreement.

Except…I do not believe anyone who says they simultaneously hold both #2 and #3 beliefs, if we re-state #3 as: “we’re fighting them over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here.” You cannot convince me that you believe and agree with that, but that we are simultaneously in Iraq to help Iraqis. That one I just cannot buy. I could see someone fighting in Iraq not to fight over here…and to hell with Iraqis, man! Better them than us…

I could see that. I might consider it loathsome, but at least there is a certain logic there. But to believe you’re in Iraq to help Iraqis, while simultaneously triggering a gang war in their front yard so that YOUR grass doesn’t get mussed, strikes me as the kind of self-serving, torturous logic that balances on the thin edge of irrationality, a desperate need to extract something of value out of this horrible situation. As I’ve said before, during Viet Nam, I was darkly amused to see that those who talked about “freedom” for the Vietnamese to justify the war and those who objected to “freedom marches” conducted by American citizens, tended to be the same damned group. I find it impossible to believe that they really cared about freedom for non-whites overseas while denying it for non-white citizens at home. I just don’t believe it. What I DO think was happening was another “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” scenario. But that rough justification doesn’t jibe with “Christian” beliefs, so you have to sugar-coat it with “we’re there to help the Vietnamese.” Oh, I’m quite certain that many, many soldiers felt that way. But again, I find it FASCINATING that so many of those who claimed we were dying and killing for liberty “over there” savagely criticized Martin Luther King and other civil rights workers here at home.

And as I’ve said, the disease of the Left seems to be an excessive egalitarianism and moral relativism that can lead to, oh, say Communism and an “anything goes” mentality. The matching disease of the Right is an excessive hierarchicalism which can manifest in racist, sexist, homophobic attitudes. While I would never say that “the majority of the Right” is racist, I would say that the majority of Racists are on the Right, and that the creation of political “tents” means welcoming in some odd camels indeed. So justification #2, and #3 are held by very very different people. But in order to create a coalition, especially at a time when Bush’s policies and popularity are under savage assault, the Faithful try to bundle #1,#2, and #3 together as if they spring from the same organic root, and I just don’t believe it.

When you hear people talk about “towel heads” and “camel jockeys” and other dehumanizing terms, and “bombing them into the stone age” and “killing their leaders and converting them to Christianity” and so forth, need we wonder whether their politics are to the Right or the Left? And such people might well believe #1 and #3, but it will be a cold day in hell before I believe they really, truly believe #2 no matter how many times they say it.

You can believe #1 and #3. You can believe #1 and #2. But asking me to believe that one person believes all three...I seriously question that person's...let's say clarity, shall we?

Anyway…I’d love to see some answers to the following questions:
1) in #1 and #2, I proposed some relatively simple means of determining if the troops, and Iraqis, would define “support” as it is being defined in political discourse. Are my proposals reasonable? Would you accept the outcomes of such surveys as definitive? If not, why not? Are there other clear standards you could suggest?
2) Does anyone have data in these arenas right now?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Clear on Draft

I want to be crystal clear that I am not advocating a return to the draft. What I am saying is that
1) I think there are a LOT of people who would have been less enthusiastic about Iraq if they or their children had been at risk.
2) It is bullshit to advocate a war you would not be willing to die in, or for your children to die in.
I am not interested in leveraging either of these positions into public policy. However, I would be happy to live in a world in which no one started or supported a war without taking personal responsibility for the pain and death involved. I think there is grave moral peril for a nation when the burden of violence and injury can be abstracted onto "someone else." While it serves "civil liberty" to have a volunteer force, I ultimately think that it also serves the interests of ruthless men who would war for profit, and want the general public as drowsy as possible about the moral implications. There, that's what I think, and I have no hidden agendas around it.

Kisses, Heroes, and Adulthood

By the way, one of the odd things that my mind does is count kisses on television. I just kinda wanted to see, based upon my viewing patterns, how many times I’d see white guys kissing women before I’d see a black guy kiss one. I didn’t count every kiss—if there were multiple kisses in a single commercial or television episode I counted that as “one” just to be super-fair. I got up to eighty-six before, on an episode of “Heroes,” a brother got a kiss. Cool. Started counting again. I’m up to twelve.
Oops! “Jericho” last night had some serious Afro-smooching. Hmmm. That’s a change…
More on human adulthood. If you have a lingering fear that your emotions and actions are not those of a mature adult, you might want to look at the breakdown of the family structure in America. If you weren’t raised around responsiblte adults, how were you to model their behavior?

Grandparents, uncles, aunts, a mother and father…if you had all of them (or most) the chances were that some of them would be fully mature, responsible, aware. You’d be able to see the difference in their business dealings, personal relationships, physical health and habits.

The very flip-side of this is the “Baby Momma” phenomenon, where 15 year old kids are having kids, and shoving them off on the grandparents to raise. Gosh, babies look so cute, shouldn’t everyone have one? Until, of course, that 3 o’clock feeding. “Babies raising babies” is a way of talking about it, and the damage is ghastly.

Boys used to be trained to be men by their fathers, uncles, and grandparents. Girls trained to be girls by mothers, aunts, and grandmother. When 13 year olds are taught to be adults by 16 year olds, there is something horribly wrong.

“Relationships” are replaced by casual sex.
“Jobs” are replaced by making money—any way you can.
“Being a parent” is replaced by “having kids…somewhere.”
“Personal responsibility” is replaced by “grandma…or society…will take care of my mess.”

Back to the question of the Hero’s Journey. If you want to become an adult, then, there are doubtless many roads…but one would definitely involve taking responsibility for all three aspects of your life. I would suggest to you that it is virtually impossible to simultaneously develop a career, sustain a healthy primary relationship, and protect health and fitness without accelerating the maturation process.

1) Accept responsibility. You should aspire to be the sort of person who others look up to. Who children are safe around. Self-sustaining, balanced, happy, with energy to share.
2) Accept the fear. If you see no fear connected with this process, you probably aren’t looking deeply enough…or you have completed this cycle.
3) Clarify the path ahead. For this, look to those you admire who have actually balanced in these three arenas. Note the ways that they differ from those who are not. Check the ways they differ from you—their actions, beliefs, and values.
4) Begin the work. Divide the work into component parts that can be addressed at the rate of about 1% per week. Start eating that elephant.
5) Find Allies, gain skills. Look for mentors, people further along the path in the desired arenas. Offer value-for-value exchanges to gain access to their knowledge. It can save you years, or decades, of thrashing about.
6) Accept that you will fail over and over again. This is a part of the process. Learning to deal with failure and disappointment is one of the most valuable things in the entire cycle of work.
7) Accept the fact that you will hit massive walls of depression, fear, anger, hopelessness. It is an absolutely predictable part of the process.
8) Find faith. In your role models and friends, in your own deep worth and potential, in a Higher Power. Cultivate this faith daily with meditation, healthy interactions with mature, healthy friends, journaling, prayer. NO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS STEP. Without faith, when your ego vomits up all of its fear and emotional poison, you will “drop back” instead of stepping forward—and find yourself in a loop that could last a lifetime.
9) If you have accepted the challenge, defined the territory, found role models, moved forward with faith…you’ll make it.
10) Turn around and share what you have learned with others. BUT BEWARE if you haven’t made that progress in balance—the chances are that your B.S. is hiding in the corner of your life where you don’t want to go looking. Be very, very careful about this…the world is filled with teachers who cannot do. All they can do, therefore, is regurgitate reality maps they’ve learned from other teachers…who may not be accurate, or may have been misquoted, mistranslated, or out of date. Be very, very careful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Allies and Powers and reviews, oh my!

Here’s a good rule of thumb for you: if you currently possessed the skills necessary to accomplish a new thing, you’d already be doing it. Not always true, but it will keep you out of trouble, and point you in the direction of serious, sustained growth.

Want to write a screenplay? Want to write a novel? Great. Assume that it will take you three years to develop the skills, and you’re on the right track. After all, if you wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a real estate broker, you’d assume that you needed to educate yourself, acquire component skills, and study until your brain turned to puree of bat guano, right? So why exactly should writing be any different?

But for some odd reason, people think it is. They’ve seen movies, and read books, and assume that their ability to appreciate or criticize a finished work bears some relationship to the creation of that work. And usually, they crash and burn.

Most of the time, it is difficult for Newbies to even quantify what is missing from their projects. I have on my desk right now a script written by two guys who have been around the industry a very long time, in various capacities. They have collaborated on a script, and although they are intelligent men, the script…sucks. They have no idea what they’re doing. Their dialogue is…all right. And on an individual scene basis, there’s nothing horribly wrong. But the underlying structure just doesn’t hold, and the characters are balanced purely on the basis of author convenience: “I want X to do Y” I can hear the writers saying. WHY the characters do what they do is beyond the scope of their understanding. Why these particular characters are appropriate windows into this particular world is a mystery. Events take place, people move about, credits roll.

And they probably have no idea at all what is wrong. Here’s a hint: these writers did not find the proper allies to help them understand what “powers” they need to properly create a script. They needed professional writers, or perhaps a director, or a development executive to walk them through it. My guess? They talked to their friends, and spouses, and maybe a lawyer or two. Feh.

A shame, because there is rather obviously a lot of work and intelligence in the script. But it doesn’t matter how classy the external shell of a car looks if the engine doesn’t work. And if your only experience with storytelling is seeing the finished product, in essence this is exactly where you are: familiar with the “shell” and ignorant of the “engine.”

What a pity. You MUST find allies who will give you an accurate, no-b.s. opinion of your skills, and can direct you in converting your intelligence and energy into salable product. Otherwise, you are just spinning your wheels.

Without an engine.
“300” is a terrific fanboy movie with a mild “Sambo” warning. A totally mythologized version of the battle of Thermopylae, when 300 Spartans and their allies stood against a gigantic Persian army (how large? Hard to say, but certainly 100,000 wouldn’t have been out of the question) and held them off for critical days, allowing Sparta and other Greek states to make preparations for a more sustained war. Based on the comic book by Frank Miller, “300” was shot almost entirely on a sound stage in Canada, using blue-screen as did “Sin City” and “Sky Captain in the Adventure of Tomorrow.” Better than “Captain” but not as good as “Sin City,” 300 boasts formidable beefcake and bluster, and some of the greatest sword-battle sequences ever put on film. It also does the typical fantasy routine of all the good guys being light skinned, and the dark guys are villainous and easily killed. What fun. It’s terrific to fantasize about being a Spartan, so long as you aren’t one of the under-sized babies they killed, beautiful girls raped by old priests, or slaves hunted and slaughtered for entertainment. Fun place. But anyway, “300” is great fun, and I give it a “B+”
I did see an “A” movie this weekend: “The Host,” a Korean monster movie that has to be seen to be believed. Instantly leaping into that very exclusive club of “giant monster movies that ask, dramatically and creatively, to be taken seriously”: “Godzilla”, “Them”, “King Kong” and…well, what else? “The Host” deals with a giant pollywog thingie (yes, I’m serious) growing in a river in Seoul, Korea due to an American military error. When it grabs the daughter/niece/granddaughter of a dysfunctional Korean family, they have to band together to try to rescue her. That’s all I’ll say. The monster is GREAT, the effects totally effective. But it’s the family relationships that make this movie work, and it does. Big time. Simply, one of the great Creature Features of all time. Gonna own this one.
Frank posted stats from the Heritage Foundation suggesting that a volunteer army doesn’t place weight disproportionately on the underclass. I answered that they compared the current composition to the general population, rather than to a draft army, which I would have considered the correct comparison. It is quite possible that this comparison would have made his position even stronger, of course. But I remembered that the Heritage Foundation has…hmmm, shall I say a real political position, and it’s somewhere to the Right of Rush Limbaugh (in my opinion.) Didn’t they bankroll “The Bell Curve,” one of my personal favorite examples of the difference in Conservative and Liberal thought on the issue of race? Now, this doesn’t make their stats wrong, but I have to admit that it does make me automatically more suspicious. If anyone has contrary data, I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ten point plan to an immortal aristocracy...

The following was sent to me by Jenni. Thought I'd share it...


1. The Right to be here. To take up space
2. The Right to need something. To be assertive about your needs.
3. The Right to separate and be yourself.
4. The Right to speak your own Truth and to move from Truth to Truth
5. The Right to autonomy with Support
6. The Right to follow your own bliss. To be sensual and lovable.
7. The Right to find your own spiritual path.

Cindy Carter, Ph.D.(2004)
This secret memo crossed my dream desk last night...
How to get an near-immortal, hereditary aristocracy…

1)Today I heard a news item about a bill that would allow prisoners to take time off their sentences in exchange for tissue or organ donation. Great! Can't let China take the lead here! Combine this with
2) Differential legal treatment based upon income (more money, less time or sentencing)
3) Keep the “War on Drugs” going strong. Great for filling prisons!
4) Cut social services that provide a safety net for the poor. It might be useful to bankrupt the country to make this inevitable. A nice, endless “war on terror”would work well, especially if we attack the wrong countries. Zowie!
5) Trim or eliminate inheritance taxes.
6) Privatize schools on a broad scale without testing the intermediate steps to make sure it will work.
7) Gut College aid programs. Those with money are thereby guaranteed a permanent advantage.
8) Keep the army volunteer. In this way, the burden will be disproportionately carried by the poor, and the psychological damage of warfare will continue to destroy the lower class.
9) Fight like hell to prevent a National Health Care system. Even with such a system, the wealthy would have advantages. But with it, Wow! Gigantic advantage, once again multiplied across generations.
10) Keep people angry with each other, so they won't notice how powerful and "life-like" corporations are becoming. For instance, by focusing illegal immigration reform on the one thing guaranteed NOT to work (stopping the flow of people primarily through direct apprehension. This is a perfect example of the "War on Drugs" mentality.) And avoiding the one approach that would probably be most successful: penalizing employers on a graduated scale. But reducing demand for the "product" would penalize the wrong social class. Better to concentrate efforts on what WON'T work, then throw up your hands and say "we're trying" while simultaneously focusing useful voter anger.

WE NEED THAT PERMANENT UNDERCLASS! And darn it, those pesky Negroes just won't cooperate enough!

Once we have the medical breakthroughs that will allow people to stay alive as long as they can pay big bucks, we’ll also have a permanent underclass we can control with unfair drug laws, lure into the military with promises of education, deny quality education based upon income, deny health care based on income, and all kindsa other fun stuff. Then once they are frustrated enough to break the law, we can harvest their organs to keep the top 1% alive. This should work great!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lifewriting and Adulthood

Noting that so many people are interested in this question of adulthood, I want to go back to the beginning, and try to lay down some more thoughts.

If an adult is to be differentiated from a child, then certainly we can define an adulthood in opposition to typical childish behaviors, and in response to what we know of children’s needs. Note that having or raising children is not necessary to become an adult. And that one can certainly have them and be a child oneself.
Remember: these are just morning thoughts, regurgitated for your entertainment. None of this is written in stone.

1) Self-reliance. If you are dependant upon others for room or board, you may be a child.
2) If you think that others have to give you permission to follow dreams which are in true alignment with your values, you may be a child.
3) If you lie to avoid confrontation, you may be a child.
4) If you don’t earn enough money to support yourself and one other, you may be a child.
5) If you believe your emotional states are determined by what other people say or do, you may be a child.
6) If you believe your body is out of your control, you may be a child.
7) If you believe your past controls your future, you may be a child.
8) If you still blame your parents for ANY current conditions in your life, you may be a child.
9) If your children can manipulate you by calling you a “bad parent” you may be a child.
10) If you give to your children in expectation that they will give back to you, you may be a child.

So then, back to the Lifewriting concept. The First Step of the Hero’s Journey is Confrontation with the Challenge. And it looks to me as if the first cycle of the journey has to be to grow the #@$$! Up. Without that, you can accomplish little in the adult world.

So: those of you who have any doubts at all about this aspect of your life, commit TODAY. Yes, it can be frightening. But say that “I commit to take full responsibility for my actions and emotions. To the limit of human capacity, I take responsibility for my results. It no longer matters who my parents were or what they did. What happened to me in the past, or what happened to my ancestors might have been brutal and horrible. But if I am to have a happy life, if I am to fulfill my dreams, if my children are to walk the world safely, I must take ten steps forward for every glimpse backwards. I will strive to see the full and complete humanity in all others, and put no one else above or below me in any meaningful way. I will become an adult human being of my species, and demand that others treat me with the respect and dignity that deserves. Unless the adults take their proper place as adults, the children are not safe. And by God, children are safe with me. Period.”

Remember: you don't have to know how you'll do it. FIRST CAME THE WORD. Commitment creates miracles.

Anyone who can take that oath is a friend of mine.

Sayings of the Jewish Buddhist

Robert Stadd (who is himself of the Tribe), one of the maniacs I train with in the mornings, sent me this:

Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

Drink tea and nourish life;
with the first sip, joy;
with the second sip, satisfaction;
with the third sip, peace;
with the fourth, a Danish.

Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health,
or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?

The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single Oy.

There is no escaping karma.
In a previous life,
you never called,
you never wrote,
you never visited.
And whose fault was that?

Zen is not easy.
It takes effort
to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?

The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Forget this
and attaining Enlightenment
will be the least of your problems.

Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as a wooded glen.
And sit up straight.
You'll never meet the Buddha
with such rounded shoulders.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical sensation
is a symptom of a terminal illness.

The Torah says,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Buddha says,
There is no self.
So, maybe we're off the hook.

Black Snake Moan (2007)

“Black Snake Moan” (2007)

Well, I can feel that I avoided this one for almost a week, but finally couldn’t resist. It simply screamed “Sambo Alert,” with America’s favorite badass eunuch and an advertising campaign ripped out of an unreleased 1971 Roger Corman exploitation movie. A white woman chained up by a black man…oh boy oh boy…

But something told me I wasn’t quite right about this one. That, yes, America has a real problem with black Male sexuality, and yes, setting this movie in the South meant that they were consciously playing with cultural image dynamite, and yes, it positively REEKED of “Spiritual Guide,” where a poor black Southern farmer, abandoned by his wife (neutered) would put everything on the line to “save” a nymphomaniacal white girl who, of course, would have sex with everyone but him, or anyone black…

But that’s not quite what happened here. I don’t want to get into exactly how they confounded my expectations, but let’s say that Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) the old farmer, has his own agenda, his own needs and hopes and dreams, that have been ground into dust by life. That Rae (a fabulous Christina Ricci) is as horribly wounded a creature as I’ve seen onscreen in many years.. And that somehow…this movie is about how they heal each other. The palliative quality of simple, selfless love. Of the wounds inflicted by weak or corrupted parenting. Of the value of discipline. And the unifying and revelatory power of music, especially The Blues.

Man, Craig Brewer, writer of “Hustle and Flow” gets on my nerves. There was a pimp movie where the pimp never got laid. A perfect example of a white dude who thinks he’s “down with the brothers” and understands, but is a victim of his own unconscious prejudices. Yes, I’m sure he is. That he would be many times more likely to present two white people making love in a simple, elegant two-shot than two black people. And would be oblivious to his own preferences in this regard.

But he’s more than that. This film could have been made with Lazarus played by a white actor, and the entire tenor changes. Or Rae could have been black. Or the races could have been reversed. Or it might not have been placed in the South. But by doing what he did, and then flaunting it in advertising across the country, he knew he was directly, and fearlessly, plucking the tripwires of some of the most volatile imagery in the world: slavery, interracial sex, the terrifying black male rampant.

He knew how his audiences would squirm. And there are at least a dozen moments when Brewer, as director, deliberately positioned camera and actors to suggest sexual poses or relationships contrary to the emotional or textual content of the scenes. Messing with the audience. This reminds me a bit of “The Great White Hope” where the black champ is in bed with his wife, and they are engaged in playful, verbal foreplay. And I knew, just KNEW that in audiences across America, white folks were squirming. Then…the police break in and arrest him. And those same white audiences both sighed with relief and felt disgust at the fact that those cops, unjustly arresting James Earl Jones, had performed them a service: helped them avoid watching something they couldn’t admit really, really didn’t want to see. The director turned their own emotions against them. Brilliant.

There’s some of that going on here. Brewer is almost certainly not aware of how much the poison runs in his own veins, but he definitely knows its running in other people’s. And his intent, I think, is pure.

He understands the tortured, twisted history of race relations in America. The damage done to both sides. He is an artist, and one with his eyes relatively open. This is a lurid, sensationalistic film, an old-fashioned exploitation film with an amazingly moral core, a 60’s fable that could never have been made in the 60’s.

And I’ll be damned if I didn’t love it, all around. Fabulous work by Ricci, new actor Justin Timberlake, and America’s favorite badass eunuch himself. I’m gonna buy this one. This, I have to see again.

An “A”

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Note on accepting the Challenge

I just got this note:


O.K. I understand accepting the challenge and being honest with myself and losing fear. I have dealt with that. How do you deal with others claiming your work as theirs, personally putting up barriers to keep one from getting ahead, oh, and not being able to respect the privacy of thought or space?



Honesty and dealing with fear are not things one “has dealt with.” They are daily struggles this side of the grave, and if you think otherwise, you may not be peeking in the right parts of your psyche. Other people may try to take what you create, as thieves may try to steal your possessions. Understanding your rights (registering scripts with the Writer’s Guild, etc.) is a part of this, but it all, and always boils down to a flat-out commitment to protecting yourself and your family in all ways. When you talk about people “putting up barriers” and “not respecting your privacy” then you are saying that the power to create your dreams is dependant on other people. If this was true, no one would ever reach their dreams. YOU are responsible. People will respect you as much as YOU demand. YOU must set the boundaries and barriers. YOU must negotiate your relationships so as to navigate whatever obstacles are presented to you.

No one is going to give it to you, J.M. So you must be stronger, and clearer, than the forces that oppose. This starts with a commitment to taking one hour a day back from the world. In that single hour, you can exercise, read, clarify goals, write 3000 words a week, meditate. Yes, the world will try to interfere. This is true for everyone. Everyone. Unless you bare your teeth and force your friends, family, co-workers, whatever to BACK OFF for a few precious minutes a day, you’ll allow your dreams to be eaten by the endless flow of life. The people around you, however wonderful they may be, will take all of you that isn’t nailed down. And then try to guilt trip you if you demand some personal time. That’s the way people are—unless you stand up to them.

And this is where we come back to the first statement. The only reason you don’t stand up to them is fear. Fear of rejection, of being labeled a bad daughter or mother or wife or employee if you don’t give everything you have, every hour of the day.

But look around. Who are the people who are really most respected and loved? I promise you that they are people who respect THEMSELVES, who take time for themselves, who have actualized themselves and are manifesting their dreams. They are people who are not afraid of pointing fingers, and wagging tongues. The crazy thing is that if you demand time for yourself (one hour out of 24? Hardly the height of selfishness!) you are giving others permission to follow their own dream.

But your first step is to never again expect people to “give you” this space. Children are “given space.” Adults take it for themselves.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More on Maturation, Primitive Gestalts and stuff…

My, Ann Coulter certainly knows how to sell books, doesn’t she? In case anyone out there really doesn’t understand why her use of the word “faggot” is offensive, please grasp that the meaning of a word is the reaction it gets in the listener. An English-speaking person doesn’t get to define what a Spanish word means against the protests of Mexicans. The first time you use it, you get a pass. After you’re informed, if you use it again, it was a deliberate attempt to evoke a response. One might protest, as with the word “nigger,” that members of the offended group use it amongst themselves, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is…wait for it…permission and context. Within a group, such words mean something quite different than the exact same word used by someone OUTSIDE the group. If permission and context are not issues, then what is the difference between you having sex with your wife, and ME having sex with your wife? Permission and context. One is legal and presumably consensual. The other is grounds for divorce or prosecution. Arguably the same physical act. Completely different meaning.

Annie knows this, and all I can say is that she must be one sick and twisted puppy to walk that moral tightrope over and over again. Especially since her side of the political aisle makes political hay of homophobia. This is disgusting.
Back to primitive gestalts. This natural process of maturation can be interrupted by conflicts early in life, and until those conflicts are resolved, they remain fractured. Much therapy tries to give the individual a chance to bring old conflicts up to consciousness, communicate between aspects of personality, communicate with family members or surrogates, etc.

Imagine that white light is needed to move from one “chakra” up to the next. Trauma (or life experience in general) is like a prism, splitting white light into component colors. One must re-combine those colors to get back to the white light, and make progress.

As an individual, it would be useful to march up the chakras conceptually, and be very certain that your foundations are clean as you move forward. The first four would be:
Survival, Sex, Power, Emotion. If there are blockages or fractures in any of these “lenses” your personally evolutionary “white light” cannot progress—only component colors. I am terribly sorry for the clumsiness of these metaphors, but I am simply unaware of any knowledge base or language pattern in the West that really covers these concepts effectively.

It might be useful to look at the following arenas:

1) Survival. What were you afraid of as a child? Were any of these fears in your home environment? Were you forced to repress any healthy aspects of your personality to survive or gain approval? What fears currently stop you from full expression of your personality, hopes and dreams? Were you given any beliefs or values that played upon your fears to control or limit you? Do you take responsibility for your goals, dreams, actions, and emotions?

2) Sex. What was the attitude about sex in your home? Would you consider it healthy? Were your first sexual experiences healthy and consensual? Have you crossed any boundaries in your sexual experiences that should not have been crossed? Do you have apologies to give or accept? Do you have a full and healthy expression of this aspect of your life? Do you exchange sexual energy in a relationship (single or plural) of mutual respect and affection? Have you ever bartered sex in a way that you would want your own child to avoid? Were you legally self-supporting when you first had sex? If not, are you certain that the interaction was healthy and non-exploitive? When you look at your body, do you consider it sexually alluring (according to your own values)? If not, are you dishonest about your emotions when others are not attracted to you? What stands between you and developing a body that you WOULD find attractive?

3) Power. Do you make your living doing something that you enjoy? Are you able to create the resources to provide comfort and safety for yourself and one other person? Do you have healthy boundaries—can you prevent others from stealing your time, energy, ideas, etc? Do you allow yourself to be manipulated into doing things contrary to your goals and values? Can you trust yourself to keep your word? Can you accurately predict your own actions in most cases? Is your energy level high and stable?

4) Emotions. Are you emotionally stable? Do you go through long periods of depression or anger? Can others manipulate you into anger or sadness? Do you love yourself totally? Can you forgive yourself and others? Can you see the world through the eyes of others without assuming they are better or worse than you? Can you put the needs of others ahead of you from time to time? Can you protect your own emotional needs against the demands of others?

Those are some of the questions that, in my mind, arise from this concept of the shattered Self. Clearly, the Self, an ego-construct, must be healed before Maturation can occur. Then, paradoxically, it can be safely destroyed to approach Enlightenment. Spooky, huh? I would NEVER suggest the kinds of deep meditation that lead to this state to an unstable personality.

My best guess is that “Enlightenment” is an opening of the perceptual doorways that ordinarily only open at the moment of death. For those who are ego-bound, this would be a moment of ultimate terror and loss. For those who are prepared, this would be a moment of freedom, power and wonder beyond compare.

Now, this doesn’t mean that enlightened masters have no ego. Seems to be another contradiction, but envision it thusly: you shed your ego-skin to become free. If you remain in freedom (and there’s a linguistic problem here: there IS NO “YOU.” That’s a part of the cosmic joke) you cannot operate on this plane of existence. So if “you” choose to hang around this world, the ego-skin is slipped back into, and you can communicate with us slobs. The song “what if God was one of us…” comes to mind here, heh heh.

At any rate, the unhealthy, unbalanced individual could never go through this process and return in any form other than raving insanity. In fact, I doubt seriously that most people on a “Spiritual” path REALLY want to know what’s out there. They want to feel warm and fuzzy and loving and God-realized and Unification Consciousnessed and all that other stuff. They want Kundalini experiences and Mystical revelation and psychic sex and to Save the Whales and be Reborn. Fine. But at the core of all world spiritual traditions seems to be this same truth: Die before you Die. And that path is not for sissies, and it isn’t for children.

But a nation of children works great for the political forces that be, be they Left or Right. And it works great for Corporations, trust me. If I ever hit upon a perfect formula to crack this nut, I’ll almost certainly be killed, trust me. This is as dangerous as it gets.
In my mind, a true adult could not, for instance, own a chattel slave and then enslave that slave’s children as well without deep and painful conflict. Could not sexually abuse children. Could not gain pleasure or power from the destruction of innocents, or take pleasure in devising ways to hold himself or his culture as superior to others. Is capable of embracing the future without dragging a fossilized past with him every step of the way. Does not accept outside authority above his own experience. Could not do many of the things we have to legislate in our culture. In seeing the deep humanity in others, concepts of charity and compassion barely even need to be voiced. Guilt is replaced by honor and “right action.”

Guilt, blame and shame are for children. Right Action is for adults.
How do we heal, then? Looking at the Hero’s Journey, it starts by making the commitment to GROW UP. To be Awake to the proper sequence of life. We’ll touch on this more, but my good friend Mushtaq taught me to awaken within dreams by asking the question “am I dreaming NOW?” often enough that a habit is formed. Eventually, you will ask yourself that question in a dream, and awaken.

And he had one of his students do the same thing, on this meta-level. In other words, to ask himself: “am I awake NOW?” over and over again during the day. And after some time (weeks? Months? I don’t know. Mushtaq?) he had the experience of “waking up” in THIS world. Awakening from this “dream” so that for hours he had an experience of hyper-awareness.

Awakening within a dream gives you power beyond belief. And awakening within this world has much the same effect.
Give it a try.