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.








  1. Steve:

    “*Proportional representation in things like government, business, entertainment, law enforcement, incarceration, life expectancy.”*

    This article from the BBC suggests that your dream of equality, as defined above, is merely a matter of time, here in the U.S., given current projected birth/death rates.

    On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 11:05 AM, Steven Barnes wrote:

    > Steven Barnes posted: ” Recently, 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 ” >


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