From Octavia to T’Challa–tomorrow

www.octaviatoblackpanther.com

I remember the single most memorable reaction heard from female friends who watched “Wonder Woman”.  It was a reaction to the “No Man’s Land” sequence. And the comment I heard about ten separate times was: “I sat there with tears streaming down my face.   I had never seen anything like that, and I didn’t even realize how badly I needed to see it.

 

I heard a LOT of argument about that.  People (usually men) pointing out different previous female superheroes, saying there was nothing unique about Patty Jenkins’ movie. And…it seemed to me that they were missing the point. They weren’t asking: “why is this movie triggering that reaction?

 

##

 

Same thing happened during “Captain America: Civil War” when T’Challa appeared in an intimate moment with his father…followed by scenes of blistering action…followed by regal poise…followed by “Move…or be moved.”  I saw that movie in a black audience, and know for a fact that several of the black women in my group had NO interest in comic book movies…until that moment.  And when the teaser trailer for “Black Panther” appeared online, it broke the internet.  People went nuts–fans of all races–but black people who otherwise had had little interest in “comic book movies” were suddenly salivating.

 

##

 

Just yesterday a NW fan asked the question “why is fandom so white?” and a couple of answers mirrored things I’ve heard editors say over the years: black people just aren’t interested in SF.  

 

I have this nasty habit on Facebook. When I see people say things like this, I’ll go and look at their friends list.  And invariably, the people who say things like this have a  Wonderbread friends list.   And statistics show that the average FB person’s list is MORE diverse than their actual “real world” friend circle.  Oops.

So they evolved this notion precisely how? And when they actually argue with me about it, I have this odd vision of a virgin arguing sex with Hugh Hefner.

 

Here’s the truth: when I came into SF, there was almost ZERO representation of black people in SF books and films–and there was still a smattering of black fans.  In other words, black people were more interested in SF than SF was in them.   As that representation has increased, movements like “Afrofuturism”, black SF, black comic books and futuristic art and film  have exploded.

 

I remember Will Smith in “Independence Day” piloting that alien ship into space, saying: “I’ve waited my whole life for this.” And I sat there, tears rolling down my cheeks, whispering “damned straight.”

 

To grow up as a person excluded from the circle of heroic action, of intelligence, force, courage…and fight your way to that table despite images of degradation or death (oh, yeah…just how many times did I have to watch Paul Winfield die in SF movies?  Terminator?  Serpent and the Rainbow?  Damnation Alley?  Wrath of Khan?   Geeze!), feeling the pain of exclusion (watching “When World’s Collide” and realize that every human being considered worth saving was white) and craving those movies anyway.

To be such a person, and then have people tell you its YOUR fault that you don’t patronize the very films that discount your humanity, the books that exclude you from the world?

The mind boggles.

How desperate I must have been to continue in the field, knowing that some of the gate-keepers and decision makers justified their choices in such a fashion.  Ugh.

 

Yes, I understood why the women watching Wonder Woman went crazy for an image of a woman who defined herself as a human being, not “in reaction” to men, acting with greater power and authority than any woman I can remember seeing onscreen before.  Ever.  I got it.

 

And yes, I clearly remember guys saying: “girls just aren’t as interested…”  just like I later heard white people saying “black people just aren’t as interested…

 

Without asking if maybe we’re just like them, and want to see ourselves reflected, and have the same heart, the same pains, the same hopes and dreams and fears.   There is something about the notion that MAYBE WE’RE THE SAME that is threatening as hell to a certain kind of person.

 

Here’s what I know: the stories we tell ourselves control our reactions to the world we see. Stories contextualize the past, help us survive the present, and offer hope for the future.  There was apparently a panel at Comic Con where someone said that “Star Trek  is a bad thing, because it offers hope for a utopian future, and current events prove that’s impossible…”

 

That’s his story.   With a fully functional ego but a rather disturbing lack of historical perspective, he has simply decided that humanity is lost, because HE can’t see any answers to current problems.

 

A different person, telling themselves a different story, simply sees the flow of history, the give and take, and that we’ve cycled endlessly before, but that anthropologists tell us that there is less violence now than every before, as well as greater connection and complexity.

 

The story you tell means everything.   It is why we tell stories to our children, why all societies have history, mythology, religion, to contextualize their existence.

 

Those stories were ripped away from Africans, and what was given to them were myths that defined them for the convenience and security of their masters.    Now, finally, after almost 400 years, we’re taking our stories back.  Women, Asians, gays, ANYONE who wants to control their own destiny…we need to examine what this process is, why it is critical, and how we can use it in our own lives.

Tomorrow Saturday July 22nd at 6pm pst, we’re doing a free webinar:  FROM OCTAVIA TO T’CHALLA, discussing the growth and meaning of this movement, and why it is important.   You’re invited to join us at: www.octaviatoblackpanther.com

See you there!

Steve

http://www.octaviatoblackpanther.com

Loving Yourself pt 3: Recap

So let’s stop for a moment and look at what we’ve done.  The concept is simple:

  1. Everything you’ve ever done has been an attempt to move away from pain toward pleasure.
  2. Ultimately, everything you’ve ever done, that ANYONE has ever done, has been an attempt to re-create the sense of connection and joy experienced in infancy, or even prior to birth.  Call it connection to the life-force, or to love, or to God.  Doesn’t matter.
  3. That the damage you sustain going through life can cut you off from this simple, basic source of power.    IF YOU CANNOT REMEMBER BEING TREASURED, YOU HAVE BEEN DAMAGED ENOUGH TO WARP YOUR MEMORY.   Healing this is essential.   The damage will almost always affect your relationships, career, or body.
  4. By visualizing your “inner child” you are beginning the healing.   By collecting the “light” you can find within yourself and seeing how large a “child” you can create from it, you can even estimate the age you were when the damage kicked in.
  5. By daily meditating on your heartbeat, you are connecting with a kinesthetic/auditory anchor for that place of peace you knew prior to birth.
  6. Be aware that your ego will do everything it can to throw you off: making you sleepy, telling you it is pointless, distracting you, making other things seem more important.
  7. The ideal period of meditation is probably 20 minutes twice a day, plus stopping for resourceful breathing 60 seconds every hour.
  8. The minimum is stopping for 60 seconds once every three hours. Breathe, relax, visualize.

 

 

Any questions?

##

There was a man who was hugely successful, but dealing with extreme obesity and a string of failed relationships.   Call him “Troy”.   Troy had no memories of being happy as a child, and therefore chased after money as a symbol of success, as well as surrounding himself with “friends” who were happy to spend and enjoy his financial success. The problem was that he was a human “doing” rather than a human “being”.  He was only of value so long as he produced.

 

And because he was in a creative field, his “little boy” was dancing as hard as he could, and getting no real love and nurturance in return.  This guy almost died pushing himself harder and harder, making huge amounts of money, but the inner world remaining empty.

 

He began to sort through his values.  He had children he loved, and as an abstract, could see how taking care of himself was connected to loving them. That gave him the strength to go deeper.  After weeks of work, Troy managed to connect to pleasant childhood memories.  The trick was that he needed to connect the powerful man he is NOW to the child he was THEN.

 

He used his non-dominant hand (his left) to write messages from that younger self to his current self.   In them, Young Troy asked him for approval, love, acknowledgement.  And the “Older Troy” got to visualize and hold that child, and promise to protect him.

 

There is a problem: the business Troy has mastered is filled with pretend friends, people who are there when you are useful…and disappear when you are not.  It is an ocean filled with sharks pretending to be dolphins.    Navigating it successfully will take everything he has.  Making money? That will be easy. He’s brilliant.   Finding love? Taking care of his body?  Exponentially harder.

The Hawaiian Huna say that the body is a “black bag” where you store your unprocessed emotions. To be healthy physically, he will have to make contact with the ugly emotions: the betrayal, rage, and fear he has buried.  To do that he has to forgive himself for having fallen into that trap.

Can you see the trap?   That he will be tempted to define himself in terms that do not serve him, encouraged by people who do not care, but will extend faux friendship, impersonal sex, and tons of money if he just forgets who he really is?

 

Personally…I’m betting on Troy.

I think he’s smart enough to find his way out, if he can just remember that the real reason he does ANY of it is not to make money…not to make friends…not to be famous…

 

But to be happy. To stop hurting.  EVERYTHING else was and is a means to that end.

 

And always has been, and will be.  Grasp that.

 

Intelligence is problem solving.  Wisdom is knowing which problems to solve.  If you are smart, and unhappy, you may not have ever actually sat down and clearly stated the problem, so that you could begin looking for answers.

 

You want, and need to be happy. To do this, you need to connect with the love within you, your original emotional state.  Do that every day, and you BEGIN with the emotions others chase after.

 

And that is a totally different level of the game.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com

Loving pt 2: The Ancient Child

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand human history without guilt, blame or shame
  4. Find your tribe. Support them. Don’t waste time fighting with trolls.
  5. Win with compassion and integrity…but WIN.

##

 

I still remember the first time I formally applied the “Ancient Child” technique to a client.   Was working at the high-end clinic out in Santa Monica, and a wealthy, famous client came in.  You’d know his name.  This person was a movie star, and a sex addict who had destroyed relationships with his inability to be faithful.

 

My model of sexuality is that it is related first to genetic survival (reproduction) with a strong individual survival component (pair bonding) and health and pleasure benefits.  Very powerful tool.  The Second Principle is to “Love one other person” and the ecstasy of sex, the way love dissolves ego boundaries, the humanizing consequences of having children…all combine to make the experience of bonding with another human being one of the most powerful.

 

This person wanted to be able to love and be loved, to commit to another human being, permanently. I am not a therapist, I’m a coach. I don’t heal broken people, I help people who can already perform perform even better.

 

So my assumption is that there was a part of him that interpreted his current results as “winning”, and all I had to do was get the parts of him that had a better idea to speak to him.

 

That suggested a “parts party”, but I had a different idea.   I first had him take physical actions to anchor him into his body.  The Five Tibetans would have worked fine, but I used FlowFit until he was breathing strongly.   Then I had him sit and face the wall. Close his eyes.  Visualize that he was looking into a mirror.   Imagine the breath and heat in his body to be like light.

 

When he could see the light in his body, I had him gather it together into the shape of a child. As it happened, he could create a “light ball” about the side of a soccer ball.  That means maybe a six month old baby boy.  I had him imagine holding that little boy in his arms, while I told him a story:

 

Once upon a time there was a little boy who wanted to be loved.  He didn’t know how to just love himself, so he learned to judge how good he was by feeling and seeing the reactions of other people.  THEY could tell him how wonderful he was, and it felt good.   He ran after pleasure and away from pain, as healthy boys do.  And he had a problem: there were two kinds of happiness he loved: happy in his heart, and happy in his body.  And as he learned to be a very clever boy, he got lots and lots of chances to be happy in his body, and that was fine…except that what he really, really, wanted was to find a woman who would be like Mommy.  Who would love him and cherish him and be there for him, even when he wasn’t being the Clever Boy. Who would see that he wasn’t just a performing puppet, but needed love.  And that love was a lower, more constant fire than the body’s roaring flame, and sometimes seemed inadequate in comparison.

 

And again and again, he chased the blaze, and forgot to tend the gentler fire. And the women who might have really loved him could not compete with the body blaze, because their fires settle down after a while, to something that can warm a house rather than burn down a forest, that soul-searing heat that says: “Me! Me!  Choose Me!”

 

But all fires settle down. And there will always be a new blaze.   And since he wanted to find someone who would stay for him forever, he had to learn not to be distracted.

 

He had to grow up to the point that he was a father to the little boy within him.  And say: “I’m going to find you a mommy.  Someone to keep you warm.  It’s been selfish for me to chase after the forest fires. And unfair even to them: because each of those little girls sharing their heat knows that their fires will cool too. They have to, or the business of life cannot be conducted. So if they can take you away from another…they know that another can take you from them, as well. And the dance begins with fear, rather than love.”

 

He was crying by this time.  In a very open and vulnerable space.  I chose my words carefully.

 

“But there is a new opportunity.  To realize that every little girl is a woman, every woman a little girl.  That he needed to find a playmate for the little boy, a helpmate for the man.  A woman who could protect the child within him, but also let him protect her little girl. And that meant he had to be worthy of her.  He had to be able to hold her little girl and say honestly: I love YOU.  More than anything in the world.  And I will never, ever walk away from you, if you will make the same promise with me.  And I will keep my word to you. Tell me what you need.”

 

And he knew that the kind of woman he wanted for his little boy would have a little girl who would look at him with shining eyes and say: “be my daddy. My playmate.  My protector.” And her mother would say: “be my lover.  My helpmate. Be the one who will stay with me, after the bloom of youth is gone. Be the one who can see the girl I was, remember all I gave, and all I am.  Be that one for me, and I will be that for you.  And I love that little girl within me enough to settle for nothing less. It is what she, and I, deserve.”

 

And I let him cry for a time, and then I asked if that little boy inside him might have a secret message for him.   I didn’t need to hear it.  And his lips moved silently for about three minutes.

 

Then he was still, and quiet.   Slowly, I brought him back into the room, and we sat, and held each other.  And he thanked me, and went away. I never saw him again.

 

But…I do know that he was married a year later. And is still married to this day, so far as I know.

 

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Loving Yourself part 2: Heartbeat Meditation

 

 

We have identified love as the primary tool of transformation and healing for yourself and the world.     John Steinbeck’s “Once There Was A War” is a collection of his   essays from WW2.  Brilliant stuff, of course. But there is only one scene that totally stayed with me. It took place on a naval vessel, during mess.  A huge rush of hungry human beings, and the food service staff that shoveled calories and protein into their empty maws.

 

An endless tide of appetite.   And Steinbeck referenced the expression on a cook’s face.  The description was priceless: “the expression of someone who suddenly realizes there is no way to feed a man once and for all.”

 

Remember that about meditation.  There is no way to do a “one and done” so long as the ego-shell continues to re-constitute, and for all practical purposes, that means EVER.   If you are going to love yourself, and deal with internal garbage, it will re-assert itself the moment you take your attention off it.  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to constantly remember to keep your focus positive.

 

So…the answer is a daily ritual. I suggest morning.  Morning AND night is better still. And if you are in an emergency?  Dealing with real issues?  The “Five Minute Miracle” notion of taking a short break to balance and focus once every three hours. And if I was in a serious funk?   ONCE EVERY HOUR.  Top of the hour.   At least sixty seconds.  Set your damned watch.

 

##

 

But what do you do?   Well, the single best meditation I know of is called “Anahata” Meditation.  Allow me to define terms, please.  Meditation is a matter of attention.  Consider it tuning your internal radio to a particular station. Sometimes this is focus, and sometimes relaxation, and often a combination of the two.   You can focus on a word (mantra), a sound, a sensation, a visual symbol (mandala), or other things. The intent is to produce a desired state of mind, which might be increased focus, decreased stress, increased energy, dispelled illusions, healing, structuring a new personality, dispelling illusions, brainstorming ideas, improving sleep and so forth.

 

It is the “pure” version of mental or emotional skills you might apply in a vast number of arenas: sports performance, anger management, writer’s block, artistic performance, memory enhancement, and on and on.  Spiritually, dispelling illusions and connecting with the deepest loving sensations or resolving dualities points you in the direction of healing and unity.

 

There are infinite different forms, but the most powerful ones are not totally safe for various reasons I’ve hinted at.  And the safe ones aren’t always effective. There are “placebo” meditations. They don’t take you very far, but deal with some surface effects.   The POWERFUL ones could, taken far enough, unravel the ego cocoon and dispell illusion to the point that that pesky concept “enlightenment” becomes a real potential destination.

 

Trust me: in all probability you don’t want it.  In all probability what you want is either having a nice dream, or what is called being “an adult, aware, awake human being.”   That’s quite enough. Really.

 

The first part of the  “consciousness continuum” goes (SLEEPING CHILD > SLEEPING ADULT) > AWAKENED ADULT

 

Inside the parenthesis is the “dream” state. The “Matrix”.  All racism, sexism, tribalism is inside this structure.  All politics and commerce.  Much human interaction, positive or negative.   Fun place to visit. Nothing wrong with it, innately.

But your first goal is to awaken WITHIN the dream, (which is why “lucid dreaming” is a powerful spiritual discipline: learning that you can awaken within a “dream dream” begins to hint that you can awaken within the “real dream” as well. But…I digress).  Your next goal is to awaken FROM the dream.   That’s a lot harder.

 

Your guilt, fear, anger drain your energy and lock you in the Dream, which is dualistic as hell.  The way out is to start realizing you determine your emotions, chose your action, can control the emotional filters that determine your perception of reality.

Two problems: if you don’t have compassion, you will start blaming others for their life situations.   RESPONSIBILITY is not BLAME.   Assuming you would have done better in their life is presumptuous as hell.   You are not who you think you are.  Most of what you are operates at the level of unconscious competence, a slow accretion of ego-elements gained by bouncing off your environment, mentors, experiences, at different points when your learning centers were ready to integrate the experience.

 

In other words, if you think that “you”, put into someone else’s life, would do better than them…you may be correct. But the trick is that “you” aren’t “you.”   And you have no @#$$ idea who you would have been had you had their experiences and resources.   “There but for the grace of God go I” is a damned fine attitude.

 

But the even worse problem is more primary: if you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to look HONESTLY at what you’ve done in and with your life.

You’ve hurt people. Stolen.  Lied. Broken promises.   Lived in illusion.   Failed to live up to your potential.  Failed to learn from experiences, because you COULDN’T without admitting things about yourself you weren’t ready to admit.

 

Can you grasp the amount of guilt and shame you’ll have to process to reach your truth?

 

But…if you love a child, you will hug them when they fall down and skin their knee. You can change their dirty diaper a thousand times, without blaming them for the stink.  Hey, its just shit.  You can cheer them on as they fall down again and again, because your love opens the door to faith.  You have FAITH that if you give them the room to grow, to fail, while always seeing Mommy and Daddy smile and laugh and speak words of encouragement…eventually they will walk, and talk, and run, and ride bicycles, and navigate the social world, and learn to take care of themselves.  They will eventually fall in love, feel the ego-rocking ecstacy of sex, and have their own children…and/or watch their parents age.  Either of those things teaches the actual structure of life, dispels illusions. And by the time you have children AND lose a parent, most of us begin to see that structure, feel it, and become “restless in the dream” , glimpsing something beyond the schoolyard games.

 

And according to the Sufis, enlightenment is the clarity of perception that comes at the moment of death…the Seeker merely seeks to open that door before their final breath.  To “die before they die” as it were.

 

We all get there.  But sometimes it can be useful to steal glimpses from the end of the path to provide illumination at the middle.

 

##

 

So…that’s meditation. And while there are countless varieties, the one I learned from Sri Chinmoy is both powerful AND safe, and specific to this thing called loving yourself.  Simple, and deep.

 

Sit quietly. Head held as if by a string from above.   Listen for/feel your heartbeat.

 

That’s it.  Call it 20 minutes.  I could teach on this subject…well, forever.  But a few hints to start the conversation:

  1. Yes, you can do it for shorter or longer. But 20 minutes is, on average, the “sweet spot” for most meditators, the minimum recommended dosage.
  2. The first fifteen minutes you are likely to get nothing but mental garbage.  This is both the crap you have stuffed into your system AND your ego’s attempt to slow you down or stop you.
  3. Some days will be better than others.
  4. It will take most people about 100 days to really start digging in.
  5. The voices in your head will try to convince you that ANYTHING else is more important than this.  Cutting the neighbor’s cat’s toenails starts looking mighty good.
  6. You will hear the internal chorus of “this is pointless.  Why bother. This is bullshit…” over and over.
  7. You may have an almost overwhelming urge to go to sleep.
  8. Focus on the beating of your heart. Feel it in your fingers, your throat, your wrists…wherever.   The more you relax, the easier it is to feel it.
  9. Imagine yourself as an embryo, that your heartbeat is the beat of your mother’s heart.
  10. Be patient with yourself.   Your ego will try to tell you that if you don’t get results FAST, you won’t get them

 

##

Let me tell you a story.  When I moved to the Northwest, it was on the heels of a serious heartbreak. I had to lose a chance with the woman of my dreams to wake up to the fact that my damage had thrown me off the path (remember that you have to do your work DAILY?)

 

When I started meditating again, it felt as if I was squatting in a cess pool. Horrible.   Every day, I was dealing with a level of pain and perceived filth and unworthiness that broke my heart every single time.  All that kept me going was that I visualized my little boy in that filth.  “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” comes to mind. I would NOT leave him there.

I would NOT.

 

And every day I ran “the aquarium filter on the fish tank of my soul”.   The sump pump on that bubbling cauldren of emotional feces. EVERY DAY.  Day after day.  Week after week. Month after month. And then…one day I realized I could see the floor.  It was dirty, but I’d pumped out most of the crap. There was a crack in the floor, and up bubbled more filth. But now, by pumping every day, I could stay ahead of it.

 

And then…one day I realized that that little boy could run the pump himself. That he had learned how to do it.  Now when I meditate, the “basement” is clean. Cluttered, yes.  But that horrid emotional filth is no longer there.

 

If I had NOT gone through this, I can promise you:

 

  1. I never would have been worthy of Tananarive.
  2. I could never motivate myself to exercise every day.  Why bother protecting your body if you have a secret loathing of your physical existence?
  3. I could never have kept writing as I have, despite the endless roller coaster of victory and disappointment.  Baby might have tried to walk 100 times, but without the love and encouragement of my internal family saying “good baby!” I’d have given up.

 

That’s the truth. A simple exercise with vast breadth and depth.  Start here.  Every day.  It is a foundation that will affect every aspect of your life.

 

And if you don’t have 20 minutes?  Try 15. Or 10.  Or ultimately, five. If five, space it out to one minutes every three hours.

 

And if you don’t have five minutes?  YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF.  It’s taken you five minutes to read this.    If you’re on Facebook, you are blowing more than five minutes every day. The average television is on some six hours a day.  YOU ARE LYING and you have to get clear on why you are so afraid to look into your heart.

 

It will have something to do with a fear that, deep inside, you are not lovable.  Not precious.  Not wonderful.  In other words, the very poison the medicine will counter.  Your ego DESPERATELY wants to stop you.

 

Its kinda like internet trolls. If you take a strong stance on social media, you will be attacked by swarms of people who have nothing better to do than try to drag others down to their level. The level they THINK they are.  They are limited by their own fears, their own damaged, shar-edged ego shields.

 

In other words, people who need to love themselves, and learn to see themselves in others.

 

The best way to help those who can be helped?  Deal with them with BOTH love and strength.  Show them that it is possible.  And if they aren’t too deeply enmeshed in a walking nightmare…they just might wake up. I’ve seen it. It happens.  They will be tender, frightened children emerging into a new world. Be gentle with them

 

To do that, you must deal with YOUR fear.  YOU must come from love, not anger.  If you can do that…well, you can be the Awakened Adult in the room.

 

The world needs you.  So…love yourself.   Every day.  Then begin to see that your “self” is connected to every other human being on the planet.  And when you see anger, you are seeing a frightened child squatting in the cess pool of their own emotions.    You may not be able to run their pump for them…but you might be able to show them that pumps exist. That it is POSSIBLE to heal, and be loving, and still be safe.

 

No matter what, whether your intents are selfish, or global…start with loving yourself.

 

Don’t ever expect the world to be better than you are.

 

Because ultimately…there’s no one out there but you.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

Boiling it down

To boil down today’s “Lifewriting Live”: committing to love yourself can be the first step in healing, if your family or social context was damaging. That commitment, just SAYING it, is the beginning. You might try writing
“I am my own mother. I am my own father. I commit to being that ecstatic, loving, strong protective parent to the child in my heart. Every day. For the rest of my life.”
And reading that to yourself, every day. Or you might simply look in the mirror and say: “I love myself! I like myself” without the slightest hint of irony, innocent as a child. Then…you earn the right to ask to ask: what kind of life would I want for my most beloved child? And accept only positive inner dialogue.
Then you begin to take those actions, measuring your actual love of self by how joyfully you can accept both joy and discipline. This is the first step. LATER, we’ll refine techniques and find the approaches that work for you best. Then, we work on expanding your sense of self to include others. But this is where we begin.
Sound good?
More tomorrow!
Namaste,
Steve

The Wisdom of Meatloaf

Storytelling  is the cross-referenced answer to “what is life?” by all the world’s elders, trying to convey their life wisdom to the children of the tribe.  The “Hero’s Journey” is an extraction of a core sense of how this all works, in the simplest form I know.

 

But it begs the question “what is the hero”?  A hero is a human being overcoming obstacles to achieve a worthy goal.  The bigger the obstacle, the more noble the intent, the more we admire that hero.

 

In general, the more universal the motivation, the more important I think it is.  Life itself, the urge to survive, generally trumps EVERYTHING, to the point that a human being capable of risking life to achieve a goal, or GIVING his life to contribute to his tribe or adhere to a value, is considered about as heroic as they can get.

 

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends..”  Or family.  Our country.  Or the principles that blend him with the universe.

 

Such a love is the strongest thing in the world.

 

##

The core animal drive is to move AWAY from pain, and TOWARD pleasure.    The adult world is largely a matter of learning to postpone immediate pleasure to avoid future pain.  Major lesson. One we struggle to give our children.

 

We can do this for others. Men and women sacrifice their lives, personal dreams, comfort, and freedom to provide security for their families. Because they love their children.  We can see this, all over the world, men and women alike, if you’ll just take off your blinders.  We will run into burning houses, jump into storm-tossed oceans, cough our lungs out working in coal mines, starve ourselves so that others can eat…

 

And all we ask is a smile, a kiss, a hug, a connection to the protection and love WE received in childhood.  There is nothing sadder than talking to someone abused in childhood, criticized in adolescence, condemned by their own parents as adults. They sometimes have no memories of EVER having been loved, protected, treasured.  That is a lie.  Human children who are not nurtured in infancy don’t survive. It is called “failure to thrive” and they wither.

 

So somewhere in your past, arguably before you formed permanent memories (about 2-3.5 years old, depending on the study) you were the recipient of love and caring. Someone gave you food and shelter and hugs and kisses even though you could not ask for them.  Imagine floating in your mother’s womb.  All needs supplied: warmth, nutrition, shelter. The very definition of being loved.

 

You are born, ushered out into a world of sharp hard things, of cold and hunger, shocking in its intensity.   All positive things relate to “love”, all the negatives are things that can hurt you: loud noises (predators and natural disasters), falling, hunger, cold.   Fear.

 

Two emotions, of primary import.  When you are in total love, you literally or figuratively roll over and expose your tummy.  Forebrain shuts down. Pure sensation.

 

When you are in total fear you can curl into a ball, paralyzed, forebrain shut down..  Pure sensation.

 

There is an expression that there are two wolves fighting in our hearts, love and fear. Which one wins?

 

The one we feed.

 

Why don’t we live in  a state of love, if that is what we are endlessly pursuing (pleasure instead of pain)?  Because over time we learn that if we are too open, we risk emotional or physical injury.   Fear, even if it numbs us to pleasure, keeps us alive. The primary instructions, even more powerful  than “survive” for most  is “get your grandchildren into the gene pool.”

 

Even if you feel no love.  Enabling your children’s survival, for your children, IS a way of saying “I love you.”  In fact, it is a way of saying “I love you” that sacrifices your own hopes and dreams.  How many of you had fathers, or mothers (more common with fathers) who never said “I love you” but when you challenged them later will say “I put food on the table and a roof over your heads.”

 

Unsaid: “I had dreams as a child.   I wanted to explore, and be a hero, and have adventures. Be a cowboy, or an astronaut.   Instead, I had a family, and the instant I held you, I saw the reality of my life, that I had to do everything in the world to protect you. Even at the cost of my own dreams.”

 

And most of those men and women did. Their dreams often rotted within them, poisoned the joy they might have felt, the “care for your family” meme fighting with the “express yourself.  Life is short. Fly free!” meme.

 

If you’re a parent, you’ve felt this conflict, right?

 

##

 

The path to spirit is one of healing the more basic levels, providing your needs on the basic levels. Each journey: to survive, gain a steady supply of sex, control your environment, find and share  love, express yourself, build a map of the world…is a separate and overlapping “Hero’s Journey.”  You can be driven by pain and fear (survival) or by love.  Until you have your basic needs taken care of, it is perfectly reasonable to be MORE motivated by fear.  Simply pursuing what you love can rip your guts out, because the urge is to GIVE EVERYTHING.

 

And that attracts others who want to give everything, yes…but also predators, the halt, and the lame.

 

It is sad to watch open-hearted people limping from bad relationship to bad relationship. When questioned, they’ll often say “well, they deserve love, too.” Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be YOURS.

 

The question is: “would you want your own most beloved child to be in a relationship with this person?  Have this job?   Practice this habit pattern?  Feel these emotions habitually?”

 

No? Then to have a good life, something has to change.

 

There are many “secrets to life” and the most important ones are all saying the same things…

 

 

Once upon a time there was a fertilized egg. It grew in darkness until it developed a complex nervous system, and perhaps an awareness of comfort/discomfort.   It got the nourishment and comfort it needed automatically, and spent most of its time sleeping, at peace.

 

After nine months it was ushered into a world of bright colors, cold, and sharp hard things.  For the first time it knew what would later be called “fear” and “anger”, but all it wanted was to return to that sense of peace. When other human beings provided that sense of safety, nourishment, and connection, it was called “love.”

 

Both feelings come from within us, depending upon the way we interpret what happens outside us.  Pain and pleasure.  Fear and Love.  That’s where it all begins.

 

We grow, and as we do, worship the amazing godlike beings who give us pleasure, or can withhold it to give us pain.   All we want is to spend as much time in the Pleasure space that we can.   But we learn that if we stay there, we actually experience more pain.

 

It is a paradox. And the process of adolescence is learning to resolve it.  To be happy, we must be free to pursue our pleasures. To be free, we must take responsibility, learn how to follow rules in the adult world.  We must accept pain to gain pleasure. Must do what we fear to gain love.

 

What is worse is that we are raised by human beings injured by this very process, who grew as children thinking they would follow their dreams, do what they wished…but then to survive and satisfy their most basic hungers found themselves channeled into a world of discipline and responsibility.  They did what they MUST rather than what they WOULD.

 

In other words, unless they are very clear on what they are doing and WHY they chose to do it, it’s Meatloaf’s wonderful “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights.”  A seventeen year old boy, in response to a demand that he commit to a lifetime of fealty to gain access to a seventeen year old girl’s reproductive track:

 

“--started swearing to my god and on my mother’s grave

That I would love you to the end of time

That I would love you to the end of time

I swore that I would love you to the end of time!

 

Ah, and promises made in haste are repented at leisure…

 

 

So now I’m praying for the end of time

To hurry up and arrive

‘Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you

I don’t think that I can really survive

I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow

But God only knows what I can do right now

I’m praying for the end of time

It’s all that I can do

Praying for the end of time, so I can end my life with you!!”

 

You know couples like this, right?  Who fell into sex love and fought to make a life with a stranger “to protect the children” and keep their vows.   Both men and women are trapped by this…unless they can master their emotions, transform their stories into a tale of choices made for THEIR reasons, and service to those they love.

 

If they can’t, and they end that relationship, their chances of blaming the other person and carrying that mistake forward is enormous.

 

Self-love gives you the strength to tell the truth.  And the truth will set you free. And even if you need to let someone go, to realize they were YOUR choice gives you the power to change, and do better next time.

 

##

 

 

People blaming their children for their own choices.  Incalculable amounts of pain there.

 

That’s you, by the way.  You were those children.  Who, when those parents were not careful, were blamed for the lack of freedom, the death of dreams.

 

You may be those parents as well.   Who, when you are not careful, let your sense of disappointment poison your relationships with what could be the greatest joy in your life.

 

One way or another, everything you have ever done has been an attempt to move away from pain toward pleasure.  Even the things that brought temporary pain.  Even those things that risked your life. 

 

Pain and Pleasure

Fear and Love.

 

All tied up there. And just as social ills like “racism” “sexism” and “homophobia” can be related to the tribe trying to survive, fear and guilt and anger all relate to the individual trying to survive.

 

Trying to recapture the peace of the womb.  Of the cradle. Of the soft arms that once held us, singing, feeding us something sweet and good, so good.

 

##

 

We spend our whole lives chasing that feeling, and the most successful people learn to “eat bitter to taste sweet”: to exert mighty discipline to gain greater and greater senses of accomplishment and peace. The unhappiest people chase accomplishment for its own sake, not realizing that there is no level of external accomplishment that will give you the internal peace.

 

The happiest people START with the sense of internal peace, and then learn to extend it to those they love through protection and contribution.

 

To do that, they often have to “clear out” the junk ideas and corrupted reality maps and broken beliefs and conflicted values given to them by people who may have loved them, but were dealing with their own pain.

 

And if you are the abused child of a society that needs to demean and control you?   You are carrying TONS of psychic garbage.  Brothers and sisters, if you don’t clean it out you are building your palace atop a cess pool.

 

(One of the reasons why I will not allow victim blaming. When you see dysfunctional people, and your first thought is that they asked to be this way, or this is the limit of their capacity, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM if you don’t factor in their childhood.   And when you extend this to groups? When you ask “why do X’s have all these problems?” and don’t factor in their history, you are just as blind. The very worst thing is when the abuser pretends the abuse didn’t happen, and poor little Nephew Willie sleeping in the dumpster giving blowjobs for crack ended up there by himself, that it had nothing to do with those midnight visits.    Anyone who cannot imagine what I’m suggesting on the broader social level isn’t paying attention.  Blindness is just blindness. But if you are complicit, and pretend not to understand…that is evil.  And “complicit” is a very flexible concept.)

 

99.9% of inter-personal problems relate to this war of fear and love, pain and pleasure.  If you want to change the world, heal this within yourself.  If all attacks are defenses, and defensiveness is triggered by fear, then coming from love stops violence.

 

BUT.  To be open hearted also makes one vulnerable to injury and exploitation unless you are also strong, and love YOURSELF enough to turn away those who are not healthy for your “child.”

 

The “child” self should remain open-hearted, loving, optimistic, creative.  For this to happen, the “adult” self must be watchful, disciplined, willing to “eat bitter to taste sweet” and to have “thick face, black heart” if necessary–to stand up to criticism and attack to protect that tender child within. But this can go too far as well, unless that adult accepts that we are NOT individual mushrooms, we are the underlying micelial mass.

 

The child says “I am”.

 

The adult says “I must.”

 

The elder part of you, which has seen the whole game, survived the “roar of the glands” that channels those dreams into family, has seen beyond the drive to own, compete, win, accumulate…that part of you has the secret of existence.  And a the end of life, NO ONE wishes they’d spent more time at the office.  It is “I wish I’d danced more.  Helped more. Sung more. Been less afraid of being myself.  Taken more chances. Told the people I love that I loved them more…”

 

What the elder sees is that all is love.

 

And the secret to life is to have the enthusiasm of a child, the work ethic of an adult, and the wisdom of an elder, who knows that all the things of this world are merely games. Important games, sure. But they will not make you happy unless you listen to that child within you.   And will not ultimately give you peace unless your actions, every day, are also in alignment with your deepest values.

 

Open hearted.  But also safe. Do you want to know how to do this?

 

By tapping into the core “wiring” all humans have not just to survive, but to protect our genetic investment.   Twine THOSE two drives together and you have something amazing. Healing.   With total permission to SURVIVE.  The majority of abuse happens to people who don’t have permission to maim and cripple the ones abusing them.  

 

We KNOW that a parent, male or female, who s a blind eye to the abuse of their children, who would not fight to protect them, is BROKEN.    You may have had “broken” parents.

 

If so…then YOU must be the parent you wish you had had.   One who will love unstintingly, but also discipline.   An undisciplined child is a terror in his house.  And is IN terror. Because he knows that

 

  1. He is not strong enough to support and protect himself.
  2. His parents are not strong enough to control him.

 

 

NOT a good combination. Remember that fear manifests as anger.  And anger causes violence.    Both love AND discipline are necessary to create healthy, happy, children…and adults.

 

It is never too late.  All you have to do to start the process is admit that you are afraid (anger is a mask over fear) and then love yourself.  Totally. To start with a commitment:

 

“I am my own mother. I am my own father.  I commit to being  that ecstatic, loving, strong protective parent to the child in my heart.  Every day. For the rest of my life.”

 

 

A statement like this, written out, read to yourself in a mirror, can produce a flood of emotions.   We are our commitments. We are the degree to which we can trust our promises.   START WITH THIS.  The commitment.

 

The rest is “how?”  You have to start with “what?” which gives direction, and “why?” to give you the fuel.

 

 

WHAT: to love yourself

WHY: so that you can live the life of your dreams. To be as healthy and strong as you are capable of being. To we the wellspring of your own essence, to get all you NEED from within yourself, which gives you then the freedom to love because you CHOOSE to. To be an ecstatic parent or partner, who can give without needing in return.

 

Wanting?  Sure.   Nothing wrong with that. But no one can hold you hostage.  No co-dependent relationships.

 

It starts with WHAT.   Self-love.

And WHY.  What would be different about your life if you had a deep and abiding love for yourself?

 

This is where you begin.   Remember: all you have ever wanted is the peace you experienced in infancy. Or in the womb. Or if you are spiritual, in your original sense of connection to the divine.

 

That’s all you’ve ever wanted.  And the greatest barrier will be the realization that that is all ANYONE has ever wanted.

 

The implications of this are stupendous.  We’ll visit them tomorrow.

 

But for today…just write out what you want.  If nothing else, “I LOVE MYSELF” and hold that piece of paper up to a mirror and/or look into your own eyes and say those words until you can say them without flinching.

 

Because if you flinched every time you said that to your baby girl, your baby boy…

 

Don’t you think they’d FEEL that?  Don’t you think they’d know?    And don’t you think that would matter?

 

So…start there, and we’ll take another step tomorrow.

 

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

The Tao of Popeye

 

 

 

 

Popeye.jpgRecently, I posted some thoughts about an on-line conflict with a person who accused me of racism, but then when confronted by the actual definition was actually terrified by my belief in equality.  I had to chuckle as some of the conversation.   My friend Carolyne Pickup asked:

“What gives you pleasure about toppling the unstable Steven?”

 

I take Chevy’s questions about these things seriously, and see her as a constant reminder to cleave to the path of spirit. She is an ally.  So let me address her question with the weight and time it deserves.  In other words, how does this relate to a “Hero’s Journey” spiral of growth and change, marching up the chakras (ideally, one spiral per level), marching from survival to love to understanding to “enlightenment”?

 

Allow me to explain my position, if you will.

###

 

Spirituality is what is, the perception of the universe, and all humanity and all consciousness connecting.    To that end, then, any perception of separation is a lie.  A useful fiction, perhaps, but a lie.  Spirituality is then the removal of what is “not true” so that “true” can be revealed. This is, by the way, beyond language.  Language can only point the way, “X marks the spot.”  You have to do your own digging. This is similar to the idea that you cannot describe a sandwich thoroughly enough to nourish your body. I can, however, give you instructions to make a sandwish, where to buy the ingredients. Even places where you can purchase a good sandwich.  You, however, have to chew and digest it.  No one can do that for you, no matter how much they might want to .  God, I wish I could learn Jason’s lessons for him. I cannot.  Anyone who says they can it giving you a lie fit for children.

 

Adults have to chew their own food.  We are not baby birds, nourished by our parents up-chucking their experience into our open, straining mouths.

 

##

 

I take pleasure in dispelling lies, which IMO makes the world a safer, better, more loving place.   I don’t try to dispell all of them. After fifty years of study, I have the vaguest, dimmest, thinnest perspective on the entire magilla called “existence”, from the Big Bang to the last election. It all makes sense. Any one piece of it has infinite depth and my “understanding” is as thin as a sheet of rice paper.    But I can sense the shape, by combining a few things like the Hero’s Journey, the Chakras, and a thousand books on the “what is true?” aspect of the way the universe is structured.

 

I bow before anyone with specific knowledge in ANY of the hundred different disciplines I had to stitch together to glimpse that overall pattern, but…I do have that glimpse, and while I know a hundred lives wouldn’t be enough to fill it in, that dynamic sphere of existence and reality rotates in my heart, and gladdens that little boy inside m.   Can’t predict for shit, but everything makes sense in retrospect, and that gives me relative peace in the moment.   It’s all about clearing out the lies, and when I can go “deep” enough in one arena to do that, I find that they are all linked: lies dispelled in one arena have opened the path to understanding in others.

 

Its all connection. All illusions of separation. All increasing connection and complexity, whether speaking of physical reality or social or psychological reality. So beautiful and symmetrical.

 

Some of the lies and manipulations that affect my specific concerns are deeply embedded in our culture and even language, to the point that many good people don’t even understand the end-point of their logic chains, or the beliefs that support them.

 

There is one basic belief “fork” that I’ve identified as a primary problem.   There is no conclusive “evidence” for either side: ultimately it is a matter of faith.  What you think human beings are, and the ethical structure of the universe.  I choose the path that says human groups are basically equal in worth and capacity.

 

Specifically, this is a very different position from those who think blacks are less intelligent, or whites weak and evil.   That’s a different destination.  A question I ask is: could people with this belief have a peaceful, loving meal together?   The answer, yes, they could.  How about the opposite belief? Could a room-ful of black and white people each convinced their group is superior have a loving, peaceful meal?    Could I lock them in a room, giving every one of them a hand grenade, and not expect fireworks.

 

Nah.  Not really.  The room would look like a Jackson Pollack painting pretty fast.

 

Every person I see as a problem in this regard takes the other fork.   For the last 400 years this stuff has been setting like concrete, only really questioned in the last fifty years or so (IMO).

 

You can rarely “win” arguments with such people. They are not debates.  A debate would require a neutral judge.  All I do, ever, is present my reasons for believing as I do, acting as I do. It is not my concern whether they believe.  Why do I do it?

 

  1. To test different argumentation chains.    There ARE some positions that can be effectively attacked with logic. They will merely retreat to another position, however.
  2. There are people who DO believe in human equality, and don’t realize their arguments are from the other path.   These people can be helped just by showing them that their beliefs and positions are incompatible.
  3. Because taking a position on such politicized matters attracts a “troll swarm” of people whose conscious or unconscious intent is to distract, deflect, overwhelm, exhaust, discourage, instill fear through intimidation or force you into angry and irrational response, it is useful to identify them as rapidly as possible.    I estimate that when a logic loop has been traveled three times, you can be confident you are dealing with someone who cannot and will not change.
  4. The arguments are standard.  I’ve identified fewer than fifty (so far) that make up about 98% of what I call the “Current Southern Apologia”, the flow of arguments designed to absolve the slave states of guilt or responsibility.  Some are clever, some are stupid, some are irrelevant.  All are used, and the smarter the people who use them, the more likely they are to use “poison pill” arguments where if you aren’t VERY careful you swallow a logical inconsistency and end up down a dead-end path.  VERY common.  (For instance, accepting the equation of immigration with slavery.  Or “Italian” with “black” where the real comparison might be closer to “Hausa”.)

 

 

So my pleasure in “toppling” an “unstable” person is actually pleasure in seeing a clear flaw in an argument, determining more quickly when someone is down another path.  IF I can demonstrate to them that their beliefs are incompatible with their values, and that they can let them go without increasing their fear, then I can help them.

 

The instability, in other words, is caused by conflicting values and beliefs, or massive fear masquerading as anger.  Their way out of that maze is the truth.   My pleasure then becomes a bit like a scientist saying “EUREKA!” or “AHA!”

 

(Well, part of it is. Another is the petty sense of victory.  “Little Stevie” was damaged by this stuff in 1st grade, when he was sorted into the “slow” reading group by race. I can’t deny him his little victories without holding him to a standard no one can really maintain, short of enlightenment or at least “sustained non-dualistic awareness”.  More on this later)

 

If I believed that my position made anyone, including those mired in lies LESS safe, my reaction would be somewhat sadistic.  But I can mock their disease and simultaneously honor their spirit. When people are driven to attack (motivated by anger, which is fear)  by the notion of equality, they are saying “equality is a poisonous myth!   You will kill us all!

 

And if they are adults, and the core belief (human inequality) was programmed in childhood, it is almost impossible to help them, any more than you can reliably rehabilitate criminals once they have integrated the “inner community” of criminal voices into their value table.  Takes an epiphany.  I got no Shakti Pats for them. Sorry about that.

 

But those who aren’t there yet?  Or have flexibility?  Or are still young enough to have the neuroflexibility to change? Or people who are legitimately searching for answers..?    Then the conversation seems useful, and I get messages every day asking me not to stop speaking of these things.  Even  without those messages, I’d have to, or would be abandoning a war for which my ancestors and their allies struggled and died  for centuries.

 

I see the finish line.  Not in my lifetime, but my grandchildren..?

 

Yeah, I see the end game, and as when you get closer to land you see drift-wood and seagulls, I see the evidence of my approach in cultural shifts.  The evidence that we’ve touched the shore?   Proportional representation in things like government, business, entertainment, law enforcement, incarceration, life expectancy.

 

The very fact that this notion causes anger tells me I’m on the right path.

 

So…I could maintain a purely spiritual position on the whole thing, but I’d be pretending. I’m not a wholly spiritual person. I am also flesh, and emotion.  Can’t pretend that’s not true.   And the situation, which I believe is a threat to the life and welfare of my family, triggers strong emotion: empathetic fear for my son, for instance.  I process that so that I stay out of anger as much as I can, and a sense of humor helps with that.  Even somewhat evil humor.

 

Does that then manifest sometimes as pleasure in identifying or publicly demonstrating the fragility of what seem to be Power Golems of the Internet, the racist troll-swarm?   Yeah, it does.   It’s why in a recent conversation asking why there wasn’t an equivalent term for the “N-word” for certain kinds of  people  I kinda suggest “snowflake”–both because of its political connotations and because it indicates something white and fragile.  Needless to say, that’s not my better nature operating right there.

 

That’s what I have to say about that.   And I’m VERY aware that when I get triggered on this stuff I step off the path to deal with it.   If I was a stronger, better person I could stay on the path and deal with it, and I’m working on that.  But if I have to choose:

 

1)stay on the path but ignore/abandon the struggle

  1. Step off the path, engage, but return as quickly as possible

 

I will choose the second. THAT’S WHO I AM.   One of my most important archetypes, right up there with artist, father, and healer, is “warrior.”   That part of me likes the fight, enjoys the victory, yes it does.

 

Eventually, it will all be integrated together, all the colors of the rainbow available to re-blend into white light, which will accelerate my progress towards a stabilized awakening.  I am not enlightened. I’m what’s called “intermittently awake.”  Next step: sustained “non dualistic” awareness.  And then we’ll see if I can take the next step, to that status for which language can only point the way.

 

Meanwhile, hon…I yam what I yam.

 

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com

The Little Engine That Will

I’ve been attacked for saying that the only social standard that will satisfy me is  statistical representation, diversity among the decision makers.   No, I’m not interested in another generation of going to a group of white people, hat in hand, and begging them to understand American history, or why its not a good idea to have the only black people in your movie die.  It is not worth my time.  Been there, done that.

 

For instance, is it racist to have breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard Ryan Coogler was hired to do BLACK PANTHER?   Not by my definitions, certainly, and if it is by yours,  good luck with that.     Here’s the truth:   I can’t think of a single white director I would have trusted with Black Panther.  He would not only have to have the basic skills, but also demonstrated the ability to deal with black men as if they are human beings, with power, authority, sexuality, intellect, dynamism.   Who the hell would that have been?  Can you name one?

 

This idea, of proportional representation, was certainly understood by our founding fathers.  I suspect that the people bothered by the notion simply believe “their group” is better, smarter, fairer…or that they simply want to keep control.  Understandable.  But that party’s over.

 

##

 

There is no universally agreed upon definition of terms like “Progressive”, “Conservative”, “Liberal” and so forth, and the stupidest thing you could do  is accept the definitions used by their opponents.

 

I look at humanity a little like Watty Piper’s immortal “The Little Engine That Could”.  (All on board!  We’re traveling the Scenic Highway of human history!)    The “Progressive” leading edge  Engine is looking for new territory, trying out new ideas, testing and tasting new track as it moves forward.  The “Conservative”caboose  is keeps a careful eye on  what has been proven to work in the past.

download-2.jpg

(By the way, if you think I’m saying the clown on the Engine represents our political leadership, you may be reading too much to my little story.  Or not.  Heh heh)

When the Engine gets too far in front the whole train s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s out, to the point that the links feel pain and the ride gets shaky.  The Caboose gets scared, and should: most mutations create cancer, not Wolverine.   The Little Train’s Engine can’t see or feel the distress back in the caboose: all it can see is how much further there is to go, and the wondrous adventures ahead

 

All the caboose can see is that it KNOWS that the track behind is safe.   What its grandparents did kept it alive. And that’s more important than growth or change  or charging ahead over untested bridges.   It sees the wreckage of trains that moved too quickly, down in the ravine.

 

Back when my generation’s Little Train was a baby, gays were in the closet, blacks were segregated in large chunks of the country, and women were totally unrepresented in the Senate.   As Commandant Lessard said in “Police Academy”, “Johnsons, as far as the eye could see.”  White Johnsons, too.

 

But man, within the life of MY generation’s “little train,”  gays are not just getting married, and sex change operations become relatively commonplace, but we’re actually debating whether gender has anything to do with genitalia.  Grandpa’s head would EXPLODE.

We had a black President (which doesn’t mean as much as statistical representation in the Senate, but its still an important benchmark) and a woman president seems inevitable within a couple of election cycles.

 

“Not enough!” to the hard-charging Engine.  “Too much!  Too soon!” to the caboose.

 

If you’re in the Engine, all you see is that we aren’t there yet.  But that caboose feels like its in the Twilight Zone.    Like the sky is falling.  Stretched far enough that communication between head and caboose seems to have broken down, and each end feels as if it has the only answers.

Oof.

While change is happening faster, overall, than ever in human history, the war between Engine and Caboose has been going on forever.   Ugh-ugh the cave man had to argue for every change in hunting or exploring, and his brother Yug-Yug had to argue to get the tribe to protect and remember tradition.  “The old ways.”   The Gods will Smite us!

Of course, those who mock the Caboose fail to notice that as soon as there is a change with proven value, accepted by the majority, such change is encoded culturally, and Caboose becomes the protector thereof (in fact, Caboose will forget that he ever objected at all.  Why, I ALWAYS supported that idea!)  And Engine, of course, will conveniently forget all the false trails he followed, and tend to remember only the successes: “I did this!”

 

Yeah, you did.   And the fact that for my own reasons I see the Engine as closer to my own values than the Caboose doesn’t mean I don’t value both.  I can hear the screams of those traveling in the back, yelling “too much!  Too soon!” and because I understand and was conditioned to accept generational change, that’s not crazy to me.

Of course, perception of danger triggers fear, which manifests as anger and breaks down logic, so there are folks in the caboose who are raving mad: read TERRIFIED.   Of course, there are some in the Engine who are willing to embrace untested change by the shovel-load, pouring coal on the fire, racing faster and faster along untested tracks.  How much is too much? How much is too little? Unfortunately, there is no mind outside the system to judge. Just human beings who all filter reality in different ways, according to their perceived self-interest.

 

For the sake of the passengers in the middle, Engine and Caboose have to communicate…and right now…they’re not doing a great job.  They could do better if they remember that anger is fear, and ask what might be so disturbing, without assuming their opponents are fools or knaves.   That, apparently, seems pretty rare on either end.

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So the Little Train That Could continues to chug along, as it has since forever.  And if the ride is bumpy…its been bumpier in the past.    We got through it. We’ll get through this. The Little Train is actually pretty tough and bendy.

 

Some of us shovel coal.  Some work the brakes.  Some argue about which track to take.  Most, of course, just tolerate…or even enjoy… the ride.

I think the view is amazing.

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com

An Infinite Pulse

14 billion years ago, there was a “pulse”, and our universe came into being, expanding outward from a single point of unimaginable density.  For a fraction of a second matter and energy flew apart at a speed beyond that of light…but then it began to clump together into nebulae, and stars, and planets.  Our Earth was born 4.5 billion years ago, and as it began to cool, more and more complex chemical combinations were created, and after a billion years one of those chemical chains had the ability to exchange energy and matter with its environment, to reproduce, and it was called life.

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Some say that that is all there is: complex chemicals and physical interactions.  Others that there is another threshold that eludes categorization or logic, and it is the realm of spirit.  If so, then spirit buried itself in flesh, and would never know itself until it gained awareness beyond needs and desires and fears, because these delicate organisms needed to survive, or would devolve back into the elements from which they arose.

 

More and more complex “life” became, over time, and when those complexities aided them in survival and reproduction,  they were replicated genetically and then, as the organism called “life” moved from the oceans and breathed air, developed into “mammals” and “primates.”   The thing called “life” took on new aspects, of family and tribe and the ability to pass on information through symbols rather than just genetics, and change became more rapid.

 

Six million years ago, the first ancestors of humans roamed Africa.  About two million years ago, they began to migrate to other sections of the globe.   And 200,000 years ago what we call “modern humans”  came into being, just another form of this thing called life, which was just another form of this thing called existence, which had popped into being fourteen billion years ago.

 

This creature, like many others, had the ability to create and use tools, and use symbols to represent what it learned, and thereby pass knowledge to its children.   But its capacity was beyond any other creature on the planet, and this ability accelerated its ability to survive and eventually dominate its environment.

 

Perhaps thirty thousand years ago, this creature made another leap and, instead of just hunting and mating and living and dying…it REALIZED it was doing these things.  And that threshold was one which, once crossed, could never be un-crossed.   “I am here” the creature called Man said.

 

Or sometimes just: “I am.”

 

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Once it knew it was here, it also realized it was going to die, and that led to a search for meaning.  Countless different theories about the significance of life and death evolved and were cast aside, or wound together, taught in stories around campfires, or after these creatures began to actually plant crops instead of gather, to contemplate these things in the period after crops were gathered, where, for the first time in the history of life, living things could simply stop and ask questions, share ideas with others and have whole moon-cycles to contemplate the answers.  To create written language and write down their conclusions, and travel to compare answers with others who had had different experiences.

 

The creature called “Man” began to trade with others from other lands, as that explosion of migration also led to collection and creation of items of scarcity and value.   And as genetic evolution is a matter of many different changes that have advantages or disadvantages, social and technological evolution is largely a matter of many many different variations (because no two people ever do things precisely the same way) colliding after time, and competing, and one or the other surviving the collision.

Progress.

 

Technologies, genetics, and philosophies all colliding.  And the two questions “who am I?” and “what is true” birthed schools of knowledge, and techniques of argumentation to find your way through the maze of conflicting ideas, or enhance life itself.

 

The Scientific Method,    Logic  and Socratic inquiry,   Zen meditation and the technologies of rhythmic motion were among them.  And in the realm of spirit, those who spent their lives in deep meditation developed the ability to see beyond the outward explosion of differences, or the collision of apparent opposites, to see a different reality: that everything came from a single point. And that the universe was expanding, yes…but also seeking to re-connect at higher and higher levels of complexity.

 

That despite all of the tribalism and parochial thinking, there was a unity to all experience and existence. And that somehow, it seemed the ultimate purpose of life to remember this.

 

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Countless paths of inquiry were developed to this end.  But just as there was an urge to connect, there was another urge to separate, and instead of seeing the commonalities between the paths and people and experiences, many humans focused on the differences.   There were powerful forces pulling away from the connection, and those forces had many tools and tricks.

 

Human beings along the path of discovery could concentrate on the unity of things, but in doing so it sometimes seemed  they had to deny the realities of life.  If they did that, they could accelerate their progress, but risked abandoning those who were mired in the world of duality.  It was in resolving those dualities that progress could be accelerated.  Dealing with the dualities sapped the energy you need to continue on the path.

 

Trying to deny human experience was its own trap–it was easy to delude oneself into believing “progress” was being made, just as if you climb a tall mountain the lack of oxygen and food will create hallucination.  And death.

 

But remaining connected to humanity had its own dangers.   The call of fear, and sex, and money, and power, and love, and hate, and ego, could all tear you from the path.  It could be gold: the lure of fame and fortune.   Or it could be anger and fear: the powerful survival drives programmed into us.

 

Some who spoke of a spiritual path taught ways to engage with the world and simultaneously keep your eyes on the destination.   One from a place called India spoke of being a “householder yogi”, to raise a family and deal with the mercantile aspects of life, not renouncing them until elder children could take over the household, then going out into the world with a spiritual vision informed by a life of experience, and find truth.

 

One, a being called “Jesus”, speaking in parables, taught  balancing between mundane and divine worlds: “rendering unto Cesar that which is Cesars, and unto God that which is God’s.”  To take the responsibility to master both worlds while neglecting neither.

 

It is hard for this creature called Humanity.  It can be pulled from the path by both positive and negative emotions.  By stories in the newspapers. By tales of woe OR wonder.   Wars and injustices and riches.   And every time it is trapped in the world of duality: race, gender, politics…it can accomplish something wonderful in the material world, but lose focus on its path.

 

All it can do is deal with the mundane, with the pains and joys of the world around it, and try to keep an eye on the journey.   And as they do, some almost miraculously gain the ability to be “in the world but not of the world”, to help those around them but never lose sight of the goal.

 

And some report back, mark out the path  to this amazing accomplishment.        Some remarkable few speak in metaphor  of unknowable aeons of time, stretching back to that first pulse of existence, and forward to a time when the stars themselves might die, when the expansion of the universe ends and it all collapses back together into another  mass of incalculable density, such that  space and matter and energy and even time itself no longer exists in any meaningful way.

 

And some say that it is possible that, after some incalculable time, there might be another pulse, and an expansion…and it all begins again. And some would say that this expansion and contraction, of all there is or could ever be, is the beating of the heart of what human beings call “God”, for lack of a better word, for lack of the perspective to relate to such things on any but a human scale.

Life and consciousness not as they are, but as we understand them, using symbols that make sense to our limited minds.

 

We have such a tiny fraction of a fraction of a moment in which to live, and try to grasp where and what we are, and there is so much we will never understand, and this is the domain of faith.

Just…faith.

Ultimately we choose what we will believe.  We can choose to believe in a patternless universe…or that the pattern itself is life and mind, of a kind. We can choose to believe in separation, or connection.  In love, or fear. In meaning, or meaninglessness.

 

In the answers created by earlier people, or reject them because we are smart enough to see their flaws…or in the metaphors behind their glimpses, or reject them because of their cultural simplicity.

We can be in awe of the mind of the first hairy creature who looked backwards and forwards as far as he could and asked ‘what is true’?  Or glimpsed her reflection in water, watched babies born and watched the bodies of her parents deteriorate and asked “what am I?” and devised the best answers she could.

 

We can build on the answers of the past. Create better answers.    Stop being distracted by ego, or survival, or race, or gender…but simultaneously deal with their challenges.

 

We can remember that once we were all one. And once again shall be.

 

We can choose love over hate, joy over fear.

 

 

It is our choice. We stand on the shoulders of countless generations who did the best they could.

 

We can, and must, do better, or we dishonor the dead, and steal the heritage of children unborn.

 

 

 

Namaste

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com

On fungus and fellowship

A few days ago a white reader was decrying police violence against blacks.   “We’re next,” he said.   “It could be worse.  It could be us.

 

I like that. It is honest, naked self-interest.   IT DOESN’T MATTER AS MUCH WHEN IT IS “THEM,” RIGHT?

 

I’m not in the slightest offended.

 

But you’d better believe I’m also not offended when black people say it will be  BETTER when more innocent, unarmed, unresisting white people are being killed by the police.  Oh, yes.  Because then, finally, they’ll wake up, and something will be done.

 

Both attitudes are the result of believing there is a “them” separate from you.  Seeing yourself as mushrooms rather than the mycelial mass that sends those apparently individual stalks into the sunlight.   It is ignorance.  Sleeping children.  And it is the cause of incalculable amounts of human misery.  My brothers and sisters identify more with the underground mass than the individual sprouts.  It isn’t easy. I don’t hate people who cannot.  And frankly, if you’ve been the victim, I find it more understandable.  Hard to identify with those who dehumanize you.

 

But I do honor and love those who can.

 

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.lifewrite.com