The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Increasing energy

"Steve, what advice do you give to thin people who have problems with their knees, backs, and/or energy level?"


First, be certain that there are no medical problems that need to be addressed. This is vital. Assuming you have a clean bill of health, then I would suggest yoga for the joints and back. Something slow and gentle, leading you to real kinethetic awareness, working the body through all basic flexions and twists. This nourishes the connective tissues, as well as helping you understand how your body really works. Glucosamine and Chondroitin and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) supplements are highly thought of in many quarters, and I take them myself.

Energy is one of my favorite subjects. I address energy from four different directions: if you have these handled, you should make a good impact on your energy level.

1) Exercise. Both progressive resistance exercise to provide a positive balance between muscles, fat, and skeletal structure. Postural correction so that your body is carrying its weight on the skeletal structure, rather than exerting muscular tension. Proper breathing to allow enough air for proper CO2/Oxygen balance. And aerobic exercise. Walking is terrific for this. The aerobic zone is the place where "you can talk, but you can't sing." A light sweat for 20 minutes three times a week is a miracle for boosting energy.

2) Diet. In general: 3 parts fresh fruit and vegetables to 2 parts lean proteins to 1 part complex carbohydrates, with VERY little processed sugar or fats. Again, speak to your medical provider for specific assistance to your case. I have found Intermittent Fasting to be terrific for energy, but opinions vary.

3) Rest. If you aren't getting eight hours a night sleep, look no further for your energy drain. There are people who thrive on 5 hours or less...I ain't one of 'em. Make sure that your sleep time is restorative and deep. Is your sleep space peaceful? Doe it smell good? Do you take emotional stress with you to bed? Any problems here can trash your energy.

4) Clear goals and plans. In other words, you need to have SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE ENERGY once you have it. Something that will make your life better, that is in alignment with your values and beliefs. I know people who are afraid to have more energy, because they believe their families or bosses will just demand more of them: in other words, there is a pay-off for being tired. Be very certain that you are cool with having a geyser of energy at your fingertips.


Anyone out there have questions, or comments, or suggestions?

Monday, November 24, 2008

On the way home from Portland

On the plane flying home from Portland, I sat next to a guy with salt-and-pepper short hair who evidently was off his meds. At one point he complained about my arm on the armrest between us, and I moved it away trying to give him room. I noticed that if I sat in the middle of my seat, he would puff up his shoulders and flex his arm muscles against me. Perhaps trying to intimidate? I put up with it for most of the flight, while he listened to music on his headphones, tapping his feet strongly, pushing against my foot. Hmmm. Finally, he turned to me angrily and said "stop crowding me." Amused, I said "please arm isn't even on the arm rest. You're taking up more room."

"Good." He replied. "And stay over there."

My goodness. "No," I said. "I don't think I will."

"I don't want to be touching you."

"Then don't."

"Don't piss me off," he said.

"That's not my decision," I replied. "Whether or not you get pissed off is up to you."

"I'll call the attendant," he said.

"Please do," I replied, trying not to act as if my adrenaline was spiking. The rest of the flight, I had the distinct feeling that he was fantasizing about driving my nose-bone into my brain, and as I read my Kindle, kept one hand on my chin, near my center-line, wondering if I was about to end up in the newspapers. Remembered that story about the guy stabbing his seat-mate on the Greyhound bus as the passengers screamed and fled. The rest of the flight concluded without incident, but I remained in my seat (I was next to the window) and gave him a chance to get off first.

My sense is, in retrospect, that he had some kind of mental disorder. Guy needs to buy two seats from now on.


Aside from that, I had a wonderful Orycon. Saw lots of friends, and had a number of excellent conversations, including my first real public discussion about the "101" program. The music at their dance seriously sucked, but I guess that's normal now at conventions: declining to play anything that has ever appeared on a radio, with the possible exception of "Love Shack" (which is actually great fun to dance to.) Maybe I'm just getting old.



What is your worst airplane travel story?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moaning Stones


If you look at all three goal areas, and can find a single accomplishment that would affect all three arenas, you may have found a blessed "critical path" For instance: there is a publishing company interested in the "101" workbook. They spoke of video and web-based supplementation. Video and static photos tend to add weight to the subject, so I need to lean out maybe ten more pounds. My morning visualization in the physical arena revolves around a "six-pack" right now, for that reason. But the truth is that if the project is successful, it will lead to a number of very positive changes: financial, familial (I have a relative with some financial stress. It would be good to help more) and being a physical role model (in general, if your abs are toned, the rest of your body tends to be fit as well. This is why the abs are called "the window of health". It's quite possible to be strong as hell, and flabby in the middle.)

So a single accomplishment could, quite possibly, have impact on my family, my fitness, and my finances...all at the same time. What other single "critical path" can have such wide-ranging effect?

1) Keeping your word to yourself.

2) Writing your goals out every morning

3) Learning better stress-coping techniques.

4) Improving visualization

5) Learning to cope with fear.

6) Telling the truth

That's just off the top of my head. If/when you can find any single goal/accomplishment that can move multiple areas, that's a critical path, and any effort you put into it will have multiple pay-back.


Picked up a "600 Cartoon" set while in Florida for Jason, and some of the stuff on it is just wonderful. Cartoons I haven't seen in decades: Calvin and the Colonel, Colonel Bleep (!), Gumby, Little Lulu, Little Audry, George Pal Puppetoons (early Ray Harryhausen!). I also got my hands on the "Real Ghostbusters" episode I wrote back twenty-five years ago, "Moaning Stones." Fascinating how my basic beliefs about race and identity were well-formed, even before I could express it in my books. Basically, it's this: for the average person, it is quite valuable to have a sense of your ancestors and what they accomplished and struggled for. One of the great strengths of the Jewish community is a cultural myth that connects them directly to God. Black Americans don't have that in the same pure, direct way, and it can be crippling.

Personally, lacking any sense of tribe at all, I was forced to cut through that bullshit: as a child I felt I wasn't black, wasn't white. Boys mocked me, and girls beat me up. America lied about who I was, and couldn't care less about me. My mother resented my birth, and my father couldn't be bothered to be there to raise me. (All of this is the way I FELT AT THE TIME, not necessarily "reality.") The only option I saw was to try to answer the question "who am I" separate from all these identity markers. I guess it took about thirty years of work, but it was worth it (and there are much more direct routes). But the plot of that old Ghostbusters deals with Winston Zedimore fighting a demon first conquered by his ancestor, a great witch-doctor. Unless Winston can believe he is descended from greatness, the demon may destroy the world. Fluffy stuff for a morning cartoon...but then I was never a comedy writer.

The truth is that racial identification is quite useful in a tribal sense, but can be counter-productive when trying to build nations or international community. It is fascinating how racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia all seem to cluster together: people with one have far more tendency to have others. In other words, it is just a tendency to really buy into the "us-them" dichotomy. And resolving those dualities are a necessary step to increasing consciousness and awareness.


I know I'm in a good mood. Just had a knock on the door. Someone noticed that my driver's side car window was smashed out and someone stole my GPS. My attitude is: "hmm. Always something, isn't it. More shit to shovel." And back to blogging. Fuck 'em. Today is going to be a good day, and no one can take that from me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Wow. From one of the very best Bonds in the series (Casion Royale) to one of the worst, in one fell swoop. But curiously, I'm VERY optimistic.

Don't get me wrong. "Quantum of Solace" (and yes, the title makes sense) has a fabulous Danial Craig, sexy women, a nasty villain, stunt work the equal of anyone's, anywhere. Decent music (the title song by Alicia Keyes actually works better than I'd feared, and a basic plot that I grooved to.

The problem? Something I never thought I'd say: too much action. By the time you have the fourth major action scene in the first 30 minutes, I'm damned near yawning. I place the fault cleanly in two camps:

1) The Bond Machine. Broccoli Inc. needed to strike while the iron was hot, and get this film in the bag. The problem was that Paul Haggis, the writer who breathed new life into the series, had to rush to finish the script--he was up against the writer's strike. As a result, I would think that the script was two drafts away from perfect. The dialogue isn't as sharp, the interstitial material between stunts is so thin that you can feel the blunt mechanics at play. Undercooked script, due to time pressures. Like they say in "Jerry McGuire": it ain't "show friendship. It's show business."

2) The direction. Mark Forster ("Monster's Ball") simply is shit at action direction. The stuntwork is some of the best ever committed to film, but the editing sucks big time. Too much Bourne-ish "shakicam"(no complaint with borrowing from current action tropes: Bond has always done that, and anyone who initials his lead character "J.B." can't complain about being borrowed from. Jason Bourne. Jack Bauer. We understand the game."

But that ultra-close work is intended to convey confusion and chaos. In small doses, it's an excellent approach. Just too much of it here. Bond is master shots, letting you see and understand what you're seeing. Even the chaotic stock car race in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was easier to understand than this. Do these problems completely sink the movie? No. In fact, I can still see clearly where the series is going, and feel it to be in good hands. But they are dis-assembling a formula that has worked like gangbusters for 40 years. Not surprising that they would run into problems.

That said, it has one of the few moments in a Bond film to give me genuine chills: when the nature of the "Quantum" organization is revealed at an opera performance, you realize that MI6 is up against a neural net rather than a hierarchical structure like "Spectre". No Blofeld with a cat here. Can't just drop one guy down a smokestack to solve THIS one. This may be a threat beyond any organization's ability to control. But Bond is only controllable by the tiniest of threads--he is a homicidal sociopath reigned in by NOTHING other than his sense of duty and maternal affection for "M." This is exactly what we'd need against a threat like that the 21st century offers. Pierce Brosnan in a dinner jacket just wouldn't cut it.

Every Bond movie is about the same thing: the revelation that the dinner jacket is just a costume. The real man is a killing machine, the deadliest commando in the world. But when you START with that reality, the movie has nowhere to go. And "Quantum," to a disturbing degree, went nowhere. Damn you, WGA!

A real disappointment joined to genuine exhilaration at what is ahead. "Quantum" is a failure, but a seriously worthwhile one. Compared to, say, "A View To a Kill"--which succeeds at what was better left undone. I'll give it a "C", with real pleasurable anticipation for what is about to come.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back Home

Back home, typically exhausted by vacation (mostly hopping between time zones, and having to sleep and get up on other people's schedules) but you guys have made my job easy for me--there's lots of meat in yesterday's comments.

Suzanne: fire wasn't invented, but the CREATION of fire was. Fire-bows, flint and steel...the ability to create fire on demand was different from the ability to shelter and/or share it when discovered by lightning strike, volcanic activity, spontaneous combustion, or whatever. It is this ability to make fire on demand that I speak of.


Anonymous #1--understand that I don't know you, and am perfectly aware that I could be wrong. But it is my observation after fifty-plus years on this planet that, based upon what people say a couple years down the line, I'm more often right if I trust my instincts than if I pay attention to what people initially say. And it is my instinct and observation that most people do indeed want healthy, sexy bodies, solid passionate relationships, and enough money to pay their bills easily and support the people and/or causes they love. And that, due to programming and negative experiences along the way, they associate pain with the process, and begin to lie to themselves and others about it.

In your case, if you were my student or client, I would say that you have boundary issues. Working in and around Hollywood most of my life, I've known and observed uncounted gorgeous women, and among them are some of the smartest ladies I've ever met. They have resources you apparently do not: the ability to shine male assholes on. The avoidance of the power of beauty would be exactly equivalent to men who don't want money because "people will just steal it" or "my family would pressure me more" or "I won't know who loves me for myself."

Or people who avoid relationships because they "will just get hurt again" or "you can't trust people" and so forth.

My position on all of these things is that you need to acquire the skills and perceptions and balance that make it possible to express yourself fully while remaining safe. There are plenty of incredibly sexy and beautiful women who are taken WAY seriously by men. But they know how to carry themselves, and how to respond to inappropriate behavior in a way that empowers them rather than diminishes or places them at risk. I wouldn't try to get you to "lose weight"--I'd recommend working on on your sense of power, balance and self-possession. As they develop, the natural result is a fully expression of self, which includes qualities of grace, proportion and physical efficiency which are interpreted as a "smokin' hot body"--a simplistic phrase expressing a wide range of qualities related to hunting, gathering, performance, energy, focus, self-love, and presentation.

Yes, there are too many men who see only their sexual fantasies. As there are too many women who see only a man's money. But who and what other people's shortcomings may be shouldn't stop us from being as healthy, happy, energetic and creative as we can be. When I stop hearing overweight people complaining about their backs, knees, energy, blood sugar or lack of success in the mating game, I'll change my opinion about this.


Marty S.--

All organisms try to move away from pain and toward pleasure. When people say "I don't care about money" and then later complain that they can't go back to school, help the causes they believe in, or support their loved ones...I know they're lying. When they say they don't care about physical fitness and then complain about their energy, health, or being "overlooked" by the opposite sex...I know they're lying. When they say they don't want relationships, and then complain about loneliness and emotional isolation and self-loathing...I know they're lying.

"Excellence" is an interesting word, and applies perfectly to your stated values. Certainly, you want to be excellent at producing happiness, contentment, and a lack of tension, right? So when you say "few people need a billion dollars..." I find that curious, since I've never suggested anything remotely like that. Of COURSE you should be more interested "in a healthy body than a smokin' hot body". I've very specifically said that health is more important than appearance and fitness.


Anonymous #2: depression is a serious matter. I would suggest a regular interaction with a professional on such issues. 101, or any "distance learning" version of a self-help program, should be supplemented with the appropriate medical or psychological or spiritual support.


Hospodi: I fully appreciate the value of humility, mercy, and help from above. It is my observation that the process of addressing all three mundane arenas of your life simultaneously automatically guides you toward the higher levels of awareness.


Again, I'm not saying "everybody" wants these three things. I've met a few people who genuinely don't. But it is my belief that most people started their lives wanting the childhood equivilencies of these things, and slowly began to associate their efforts with pain, lost their belief in themselves, and slid into denial and self-deception. Life is about more than is also celebration, growth, and artistry. When I hold that position, and do not allow myself to buy into people's stories, I've found that the percentage of people I help goes WAY up. And that's what it's about for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Many Paths, One Mountain

I'm sitting in a motel room in Jacksonville Florida. In a couple of hours I'll drive three hours up to Quincy to pick up Jason, who has apparently been having a great time with his grandma and grandpa. Then we'll drive to Tallehasse to fly home. Friday I teach three classes at the L.A. Screenwriting Expo. Nicki's mom Toni will come down Saturday, and we'll have a theater party probably Saturday afternoon to see QUANTUM OF SOLACE, for which I just can't wait. I'll probably be meeting with Vin Diesel some time in the next week about Hannibal (the first voice tracks have been laid down, and they sound great!) and next week I'm up in Oregon for Orycon. I'll be having a room party Saturday night for friends I don't have time to sit down and nosh with. Then back to L.A...


Lots going on. And at the center of it is a sense of quiet joy. Forty years ago, somehow I knew the world would change in my mid-fifties. I'm 56, and have just witnessed what may be the single greatest event in the history of black people on this planet. How the fuck did I know? Don't know. But it makes me re-evaluate a number of things.


Was it a Freudian slip when I said Obama's election was "the greatest event in the history of mankind"? Hey, maybe. But I know that would be absurd. My real thought about the "greatest event in the history of black people" would probably be the invention of fire. But that gets into arguments about what a "black person" is, as well as the fact that we have no idea when and where it happened--and at least one definition of "event" includes "a shared experience." In other words, landing on the moon was important as a technological achievement even if no one knew about it. But the fact that an entire country pooled resources and talents, and then the action itself was witnessed by a gigantic proportion of the human race--THAT made it even more significant. I know of no single, volitional accomplishment/event in black history that has more personal, national, or global implications than this one. Yep, he stood on many, many shoulders: but that's part of the point. It's not about him: it's about US. As a country. As a people. As human beings on every corner of this planet. It validated everything I've ever believed about the nature of humanity and consciousness itself. Of COURSE there are still problems--and will always be. This country will never be any better than its citizens. I don't see perfection in MY mirror. Do you in yours? Unless you do, get over it. We're doing the best we can as little bits of protoplasm, and that's pretty damned good.

First, I no longer believe that I have to concern myself with the negative consequences of destroying my ego shell, of actually achieving sustained non-dualistic awareness. I used to worry that I couldn't be certain that I would be a good father to Jason. Yes, plenty of people said I needn't worry. But I couldn't take the chance. Now I know there is no threat. I am what I am, and have been since childhood. I love my family, I love my life, and there is nothing to fear. Love is at the core of me. The road before me is far clearer than it has ever been. I see, quite clearly, the contribution I can make to the world in the next decade. This time, this moment, is what I have prepared for my whole life.


Seeing a thing, and watching people that I love floundering in their lives, blinded with pain and fear, and wondering how in the living hell I could help them...that has led me down some strange paths, to the point where I see this thing that I give lots of different names: "Lifewriting", "I.D.E.A", "The 101 Program"--and so forth. All doorways to the same place.

I am aware of the limitations of any path, or any label. There are genuine risks is walking the path between life and death, and those risks are minimized by managing the intermediate steps and providing balance. A few thoughts:

1) I am obsessive about balance. Without balance, the obsession necessary to achieve excellence can tear your life to pieces.

2) I assume that people are lying if they say they don't want money, a romantic/sexual partner, and a smokin' hot body. I know DAMNED well that these three don't actually apply to 100% of human beings...but frankly, I think they apply to better than 99%, and that's good enough for me. My apologies to those who have genuinely grown beyond the desire for these things...but then, if you've genuinely grown beyond them, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and my intentions. If my statement about what everyone wants causes any emotion save mild amusement, take a closer look.

3) Enlightenment is the door of perception that opens at the moment of death...only you open it before you get there.

4) Enlightenment has no practical value--however, the precursive stages "awakeness" and "human adulthood" are about as useful as anything you can possibly imagine. Every one of us should aspire to these two things.

5) The doorway to adulthood is sometimes called "the point of conation"--a word of relatively recent origin that relates to will, drive, and the ability to take responsibility for who and what you are and do.

6) There are many paths, but only one mountain.

7) My path of awakening is to take TOTAL responsibility for every action you take, and every result you have in the arenas of physical health/fitness, personal relationships, and career. On a Newtonian level, yes, the universe affects us. But how much? Impossible to say. I suggest that you assume that you are co-creating your life with the Universe, take responsibility, and go for it. No excuses...but retain compassion for the child you were. At every moment of your life, you have done the best you can with the resources you have.

8) The core components, boiled down to the simplest components I can find, are:

a) A time frame of at least 6 weeks. We use 101 days.

b) Intermittent Fasting (or eating ONLY fresh fruits and vegetables every other day) during this time frame: to increase energy, free time, and force contact with core emotional truths.

c) The Soulmate Process--looking at relationships as a mirror. And the relationship you yearn for most deeply as a mirror of your own idealized or corrupted self.

d) The Five Tibetans. As a simple, basic "False Physiological Profile" or "Perfect Template" technique, it's the best I've found in terms of accessibility. Anyone who can knock off 21 reps easily doesn't NEED it, that is absolutely true. But for an investment of ten minutes, with free information on performance available all over the internet, the Tibetans are hard, hard to beat.

I use Scott Sonnon's "Be Breathed" technique inside the Tibetans--which creates a doorway to stress management on a grand scale. And if you confront the demons in your life without ever letting stress become strain, you are going to grow at your maximum rate, without ever hurting yourself.

e) Triangle Goal setting. Five times a day, at every hour divisible by a three, you stop and breathe for sixty seconds, while visualizing a triangle. In the middle of the triangle you visualize the end point of your three major goals (body, mind, relationship) that you want in 101 days. If visualization is a challenge, "feel" or "hear" the end points.


And the nifty thing is that I can talk to someone on the phone, or over the internet, and ask them what's going on with their Tibetans, fasting, and meditation/goals and get a snapshot of EXACTLY where they are in the process of their lives. Unbelievable diagnostic tool. I honestly don't know how to make this more available, or simpler.

Can any of you? As a doorway to actually owning your own life--with FULL acknowledgement that there is more we can add to this...have I made it too complicated? Is there anything non-essential here, in creating a human being who makes the world safer and better for our next generation of children? Can you see any dead weight?

I'm listening.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A note from Alice Walker

The author of "The Color Purple" wrote a lovely note to our President-Elect:

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Antigua

Sorry I've been quiet. It would be normal to wonder why I've commented so little this week. Well, I've been in Antigua, and the internet is a little spotty--as is computer power in general. But having a wonderful time. Fascinating to run into tourists from France, Italy, and Britain...and they are SO happy Obama won. And it's because they believe him extraordinary. Most Antiguans are black, and the sense of pride is beyond palpable.

Arguably, Obama's election is the single most important accomplishment in the history of mankind. Arguably. To the degree that that is true, it's incredible to be alive to see it. I mean, the invention of fire wasn't recorded. Emancipation? No "accomplishment"--it was done to us and for us, but not at our own volition. Of course, the dude stands on a lot of shoulders, but he's still pretty tall. And the risk of being disappointed is always huge. I mean, anyone expecting a Messiah is gonna be gravely pissed. He's not that. But he has a chance to be a fine President. And if he is? It's a game-changer. Permanenly. Around the world. IF he can have a successful Presidency, it says things about him, yes...but it says much much more about what America is, who Americans are, and who and what human beings are as a species. I think we're just seeing one of those "21st Century" moments we all knew would happen, up close and personal. Can't wait to get perspective.

But right now? For the first time in our nation's history, there is a route for non-white males that goes from the bottom all the way to the top. Yes, it's harder, but you know what? Winners don't ask if it's hard. They thank God for an opportunity to test themselves againt whatever obstacle. I would suspect that within a generation of Inauguration day, assuming a successful Presidency, we can consider that African genetics have just become another vital strand in the American tapestry, with a strained past, but a vibrant culture that is stronger for having endured it. But that's not up to Obama. That's up to me, and to everyone else who believes in this country, or believes in a future for our children. The door opened, going all the way to the peak of accomplishment in the Western World. In the hierarchy of power, about all that's left is Pope, and they can keep it.

Time to roll up my sleeves. The next eight years, hopefully, will be the hardest and most rewarding of my life.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

O.K., so he's not as smart as I thought

O.K.--so Obama isn't as smart as I thought he was (remember I said that if he was as smart as I thought, he'd win by double digits?) Of course, I didn't say whether that was popular vote or electoral...but it would be b.s. not to admit that I was thinking popular. So...I forget who I made the bet with, win.


What do I think about this? I've always said that we don't have to rely upon the idea of "better natures" or "intrinsic goodness" to believe in the possibility of peace and human growth. Fear and naked self-interest will do it. Steve Perry said that the best bumper sticker he saw was: "Vote for the Nigger--it's that important."

I doubt that the person with that sticker uses that particular word often...but I suspect that he used to, and knows many people who do. And understood that it wasn't a matter of wanting a black man to marry your daughter. It is the question of whether you would want a black fireman to save her life. A black tax prep lady to save you thousands of dollars. A black judge to set you free. In other words, once upon a time there was a belief, held by many, that blacks were globally inferior--that no black man was the equal of any white man. The numbers of people who held such beliefs have dropped drastically, to the point that I see almost no one with such a belief--but there is still a lot of belief that the AVERAGE black man is less than the AVERAGE white man. But you know what I see more of? Simply a sense of "I want my team to win" racism. Not drastic. Not venomous. Just a tribal sense of "us" and "them" that is far more tractable.

When Obama started running for President, he did almost nothing wrong, almost everything right, and worked like I've never seen to create an image of himself as a plausible chief executive. Simultaneously, his ability to communicate--as powerful as I have ever seen--was creating a level of buzz that was pretty remarkable. When I first saw him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, it was because my buddy Darnell called me and told me to watch, that I would be watching the first black President. Darnell went to prep school with Obama, and had two basic things to say:

1) He inhaled.

2) He was the same guy in prep school that he was on the national stage.

You guys know my belief: that you can't get positive results in all three arenas in your life without having your feet firmly on the bedrock of your true nature. So being married to a terrific, smart, accomplished lady...being a self-made multi-millionare...and being an enthusiastic athlete...and having maintained his basic core personality since college...

I knew he was the real deal. You simply can't sustain a lie that long, that consistently.

I'd never had any interest in voting for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. So my interest wasn't based on race. But once I began to listen to the way he formulated his thoughts, naturally "resolving dualities", I was THRILLED that he was black. It was a matter of "good lord...where did this guy come from?"

And where he came from was...America. The story of his mother's courtship with a Kenyan father was the start. America had both the freedom for such a thing to happen, was a beacon that calls immigrants from around the world, and has the vestiges of racism that create pressure.

Under pressure, people reveal their nature. If you are balanced, you collapse your ego shell down to your core and become a diamond--created by heat and pressure. If you are a liar, or unconsciously have a false ego-shell, you crack.

Obama didn't crack. I have no real idea if he'll make a good president, but I do know that I've never seen anyone on the national political scene who has so many of the personal characteristics I personally hold dear. I understood why so many white people were scared by the Jerimiah Wright business. Strongly suspecting that those who were most disturbed knew very few black people, had no context to understand that the black church has been, for millions, the only place in their lives where they could express the crushing fear and pain that they had to hide six days a week.

Would I have remained in that church? Nope. But then, I've never remained in any church at all, so it's irrelevant. William Ayers? Geeze. I would have loved to see a flow chart of each candidate, branching to show all of the thousands of people politicians interact with over the decades. I would have loved to have seen the number of shady characters that popped up on the CLEANEST candidate's slate. That whole business was, to me, absurd.

I could ramble on about this, but my happiness for Obama isn't just about him, or me, or my skin color, or even America. It suggests that under pressure, the human beings in this country were able to see beyond skin to the qualities beneath. To extend hope and faith in a way that has never been seen, to my knowledge, in the world before. A member of a visually identifiable ethnic minority, formerly enslaved, raised to the highest office in the land? Kind of like a Palestinian voted Prime Minister of Israel. When that happens, something has changed.

My son gets to start his life with the role model that every white boy in this country has had--the route all the way to the top. Good lord. It isn't that there is any promise of achievement. There is the promise of possibility, and an open door.

Staggering. America really is what I always thought it was. Human beings really are what I've always believed they were. This isn't Obama's moment. Or America's moment. It speaks to the possibility for all people, everywhere.

I'll be damned. We really are made in the image of God.

I've never been prouder, or more humbly grateful to be alive in this remarkable time, on this remarkable day. Thank you all for sharing it with me.

There are tough times ahead, but you know what? We already know what we really, really are under pressure. Bring it on.