Parable of the Shmoos: Violence in America




This is a very strong article on gun violence in the United States read it.


Because of the thousands of hours of research and thought I’ve put into racism, always careful to relate EVERYTHING to universal human traits, it feels as if some of those conclusions can help to peek beyond the “Matrix” of illusions driving human behavior, the “emergent strategies”, simple commands that lead to complex results.


I could be twice as smart as I am, working with a team of a thousand people even smarter than me for a decade with a billion-dollar budget, and still not get to the end of this. I don’t pretend that I have.  I cannot imagine a simple statement of such a complex subject that won’t be argued with. It is knowing that I could write a library of footnoted textbooks and still not cover my ass that allows me to say what I’m about to say. I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE.  MEA CULPA.


But I do think that it is worthwhile for me to risk making a fool of myself and say what I think I see here.  Why?  Well, I’ll probably put that below.


(A “Matrix  notion ‘ is a lie or fabrication so deeply engrained into our consciousness that it seems to be self-evident truth.)


And here are the core “Matrix” ideas that seem relevant.

  1. Men and women are basically of equal worth and value
  2. They are  complementary, based on different biological/genetic functions and priorities
  3. Anger is fear
  4. Neither men nor women have ever been in control in the world–our genes have been. The real emergent instruction is: “get the maximum number of grandchildren into the next generation.”
  5. These instructions prevented extermination over the 250k+ years of our history, and have been deeply encoded in social principles, religions, and more, and explain much of the rigidity of social roles and principles about sexism, racism (tribal warfare), homophobia.
  6. There are two different basic human motivations: avoid pain, and gain pleasure.  Most of our behavior, for most of our history, has been “avoid pain.”
  7. We have new options.  But we have to forgive the past to embrace the future.



So…the best way to try to say this is to imagine a fantasy story.  Imagine a world in which “humans”   used to be a somewhat  different being, call it a “Shmoo”, undifferentiated into gender or race.   Each of these Shmoos was capable of reproducing, fighting enemies and animals, or living anywhere on the planet…more or less.


But just as a single Shmoo who made all his own clothes will own a single suit and a single pair of shoes, assembly-line specialization allows us to own a DOZEN complete outfits.   Similarly, the Shmoos discovered that specializing into baby-makers and hunter/fighters was more efficient.   The sexual dimorphism was relatively slight on a biological level, but social rules and fantasies reinforced and exaggerated the differences. Religions and laws evolved over time separated them even further.


The “males” and “females” were really pretty similar, except “females” could carry babies in their bodies, and “males” were more disposable on an individual (not a reproductive) level, which made it possible to kill off 90% of them without crashing the population.    We could send them off to die fighting Lions and Mammoths, or march them into cannon fire.  Over time, this dimorphism produced the maximum number of grandchildren, a situation that worked for everyone.


A problem, however: females and males selected each other for secondary sexual characteristics and willingness to play roles: nurturance, aggression, power…all sorts of things.    As males grew larger (due to breeding) and more capable of aggression and repelling aggression, they would naturally begin to ask: “why the hell should we be the ones to go off and die?

(And here allow me to step out of the storyteller voice. If you Google “have men always had shorter life spans than women?” you will get about ten times more agreement than disagreement.  As this notion, that due to both natural, social, and behavioral factors male primates have shorter lifespans on average than females, makes sense to me on every level.   You are of course welcome to believe the opposite contention: that women living longer is a relatively recent phenomenon. I believe you have to employ more epicycles to explain that one, but if it makes sense to you, so be it. This speculation simply won’t make sense to you.

So what happened?  What became convenient?  For males to consider themselves primary.  More important.  “We’re more important so its our obligation to die” is the really interesting contradictory set of instructions.   Literally “we’re more important so we’re less important” is the functional  result.)


I digress.



The rule that produced the maximum grandchildren is “men’s lives and women’s dreams are disposable.”  Both kept in their boxes, in a rather nasty game that really benefitted neither.  One of the results is that the measures of racism and tribal domination include life span–the dominated group lives a shorter life, and dies more often due to violence.


That’s men.

On the other hand, the dominated group also has less access to power, earns less, and so forth.


That’s women.


What are YOUR priorities?  I cannot tell you what they are.  But if life is more important than money, I suggest that the claim that men are in control doesn’t wash.  But neither does the notion that women are in control.


But it make perfect sense if NEITHER is in control, but we are designed to see direct rather than indirect power. Karate makes more sense than Aikido.    “Positive Space” in art is easier to perceive than negative space. “Jazz is what happens between the notes.”  We can’t see the Yin aspect with our eyes and intellects. We have to feel the pauses in our bodies.  Our HEARTS can “feel” both.


Back to the story of Mankind.  Created by Shmoos to make more Shmoo grandchildren, and damn the results to the “men” and “women” caught in the machine.




For a ten thousand generations, men and women, bifurcated versions of the Shmoos,  built up civilization.  Living, dying, having children, loving, fighting.   Concentrating on the DIFFERENCES between them, even though babies and old people are pretty much Shmoos.    Vive La Difference!


And we spread around the world, developed different phenotypes, and different cultures, each of which developed mythologies that they were the best.  Just as men think they are the best. And women think that THEY are the best.   It’s a big joke, and it keeps us asleep, and at odds.  And serves our genes, but not us.




But there are two basic drives, remember?   “Avoid Pain” and “Gain Pleasure”.   Most of our history has been about avoiding pain…survival.   Alcohol was a great co-evolved technology, because it serves both.   Jewish culture has a great, really GREAT saying about this “Drink to be happier, not to be happy” is the basic rule. In other words, it is healthy to drink when you are already happy. But if you are in pain, WORK your way out of that pain, don’t drink your way out.  Pain is important.  It is a signal to do something different.   If you take a drug to numb that pain, you won’t take the proper actions, and that will catch up with you one day.


The above is germane: we have rules that say that work is sacred.  Necessary.  Vital.  Because it is related to survival.  The tribe will starve if we stop hunting, freeze if we stop chopping wood.  So we evolved rules that said idleness is EVIL.   That’s the avoiding pain stuff, right?


But once we moved beyond hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, we had whole seasons where humanity could pause after the harvest, and as a group ask an important question: what is it all about?  Oh, we probably always asked that question, but about thirty thousand years ago, human beings started putting themselves into their cave paintings, and I kinda think that might represent a sea-change in our thought patterns.


The “I am” woke up. Who am I?  What is true?


As these bifurcated Shmoos, programmed with useful lies, began to build sustained colonies and begin trade, those most directly on those trade routes began to exchange memes and genes most rapidly, develop the greatest complexity.  And of course, because that’s how humans roll, they also claimed that complexity is superiority. No, it is complexity, that is all.  Cultural bigotry was born.


But the questions about “who am I?” and “what is true?” were codified, written down, debated across cultures. As some members of those cultures became more specialized, philosophers and artists became separate classes, and could spend all their time asking these questions…and the notions of freedom, and democracy, the notion of human dignity and so forth became very real things.   Power had originated from the root, humans selecting leaders. But in time the leaders became their own class, and like all other human beings began to believe their own bullshit, and claimed divine privilege.


Why were so many of these leaders men?   Perhaps because those who organized most efficiently for hunting and war survived better, and the traditional way men choose leaders on the most basic level is “Who can kick my ass?  I’ll follow him”  (the more cynical would say that was actually “I can kick your ass.  Follow me or else.”   Because everyone has to sleep, and throats are easily cut, I choose to belief that there HAS to be collusion between leaders and led, or it simply doesn’t work.)     The wrestling circle is one of the most universal human institutions.  And the village’s best wrestler either became the leader or helped choose him/her.   That’s just basic stuff.


But as the notion of human freedom began being debated, lurking just offstage was the fact that much of this world-spanning complex of human societies was based on lies: “men and women are vastly different.   Different tribes are vastly different.  God loves MY group best.”


Useful for the grandchildren, horrible for individuals.




Once upon a time there was a country called the United States.   It represented one of the last major human migrations, to one of the last major chunks of fertile land, with such a difference in technology between the new and old immigrants that the natives were crushed.  Of course, the new immigrants ascribed this to genetic superiority and “God loves us best” rather than the fractal nature of progress and innovation.

Humans are like that.


And these new immigrants felt they needed labor, and stole human beings from one of those “technology differential” areas, and hauled them in chains and misery to the new land, and declared them sub-human.


Setting up a basic conflict.   Because this country was based on the mythology of human liberty, freedom, and equality.  Oops.   And the gap between the illusion and the reality blossomed into an incredibly violent and bloody war.

Waking up is hard to do.

The problem is that change effected through force doesn’t change the heart. The “losers” were able to continue to project their mythologies on the racial level.  Why couldn’t these illusions be maintained for as long as the gender-based illusions?

Because “Gender Lies” benefit both males and females with their most basic programming of genetic and/or  personal survival.  Tribal or Racial lies do not.   Men and women CANNOT exterminate each other.  In fact, I would maintain that the actual drive is to connect, to once again become that undifferentiated creature with both attributes, and that explains both the energy of sex and the power of love.


But tribes?  Can tribes actually exterminate each other?   Ummm…have you seen any Neanderthals lately?


So racially, there was fantastic motivation to destroy those lies. It was survival. And it has been horrifically difficult, fought against at every turn.


But lies are interwoven.   And once you begin to ask “what is true?” about one aspect of this, you either stimulate or join forces with other  questions, questioners and questionings.


  1. Must women stay in their social boxes?  Why or why not?
  2. Is homosexuality an ‘evil’ or merely labeled that way because of reproductive and social/psychological imperatives?
  3. Do we even need every female to make babies?  If not, how does that change what we are and have been?
  4. Do we need every human being to work?  What happens when our technology reaches the point where fewer people are needed to till the fields and work the factories?
  5. Does the notion of nations even make sense in a world with instant communication?  Wasn’t that notion just a geopolitical convenience?


And if you start with a country that speaks of human equality, and we start telling ourselves that limiting human options is evil, but people have associated their identity with particular roles…what happens when that starts falling apart?  Who am I?  What is true?


The ego thinks it is us.  If the ego is a construct, then when it begins to crack it responds as if it is dying.  That triggers fear.   We fear fear, so we mobilize and disguise it as anger.  Anger leads to violence.  Even the NOTION that anger is fear causes fear. The next time you are in a political discussion, and some politicized person says: “Those X’s are full of anger!” Ask:

“What are they afraid of?”   And watch the most politicized refuse to accept the possibility. They cannot. Because the instant they do that they have to humanize their opponents.   And acknowledge their own anger might be…ummm…that four-letter word that dare not speak its name.


See where this is all going?




Male violence. That was the subject. For tens of thousands of years, men have operated under the illusion that they were in control.  It blinded them to the fact that they were programmed for self-destruction…and that women were complicit in that programming.  Oh, yes.


Women aren’t more peaceful.  Look up the domestic violence statistics in lesbian relationships.  Or when women are larger than their male partners.

Nope, Shmoos are Shmoos.

Remember that pesky “equality” thing?   That means you can’t take yourselves off the hook, ladies. You can’t say you weren’t involved in the decisions and actions.  White people couldn’t keep black people in chains for more than 400 years before the lie broke down, even though they had a 10-fold power advantage.

Do you really think males could keep females in chains for THOUSANDS of years with a mere 30% upper-body strength advantage?   Really?  When men are just as afraid of death as you?  Really? Remember that thing about people having to sleep, and throats being easy to cut?

The real rule is that we’ve been playing a game: women have pretended to be weaker than they really were. Males pretended to be stronger and braver than they really were. 


It wasn’t good for either men or women. Great for the grandkids, though.




In almost  ANY boxing match, equally matched contestant will trade winning rounds. If you ignore all the other rounds, you can say “We’re the best!!!” because you’re living in round 8, ignoring that you lost half the previous rounds and are likely to lose half the rounds to come.   For hundreds of years, a blink in human history, Europeans were able to think themselves superior.   Ding Ding!

Here comes round nine.

Yea, Team!   Now…the largest single motivation of the Civil War was the gap between dream and reality, a dream that had existed for only a few centuries.


Guess what, lads and lasses…we are now dealing with a much, much larger illusion.  One all tied together in a rotten bow. One that worked GREAT until now…but is coming to an end.


It’s that dream of male superiority.  Of the primacy of the Working Man as the epitome of power, the exemplar.   Of America as the ultimate nation, the richest, best, most Beloved of God.

Get that dollar, attract that female with impressive secondary characteristics (Melania Trump was asked if she would be with Donald were he not rich.  She responded “would he be with me if I weren’t beautiful?”    That’s more honesty that some people can handle, right there)




If I was a white, heterosexual male tied to what has worked in the past I’d think the sky was falling.  All the rules that kept my ancestors alive are being challenged.  If women are my equal, and can compete with me for jobs, and get those jobs, I just became less attractive. Less able to convince an attractive female to mate with me.  Or, you know, come home, have a few drinks, and bump uglies.


If blacks are my equal, then they are going to want payback.  So I have DESPERATE motivation to

  1. Believe they are not equal.
  2. Keep them in a position where they can never retaliate.


If we no longer need all human beings to reproduce, then those pesky homosexual impulses I’ve fought my entire life can come bobbing closer to the surface, triggering guilt and fear and questions about who and what I really am.


If not every worker is needed (globalization and automation)…but we still guilt-trip people for not having jobs…and that leads to people insisting that things like welfare and UHC and a social safety net are actually BAD for people…then what happens when America is the last country to implement a medical safety net for its citizens?

Could there, in other words, be a clue in that very fact? That “Lack of Safety Net” X “Income inequality” X “social upheaval” X “lots of Guns” might equal a problem?

Just maybe?

Not all people will become violent, but…violence is caused by anger.  Anger is a mask over fear.  What “stuff” connected to basic shifts in our world could cause America to have an epidemic of violence, then…?


  1. The belief on both gun and anti-gun people that their position makes them safer (every shooting, “second amendment” people scream “the victims should have been armed!” and the gun control people scream “there should be fewer guns!”)  Core disconnect, and they end up screaming at each other.  Both afraid.  That fear masking as anger.  Tragic.
  2. The shifting role of women, destroying the balance of power/sex that has existed since…well, forever.
  3. The shifting role of minorities.  Not the lip service about equality, but the implications of the reality.  Whether you think “the monkeys are taking over the zoo” or “payback’s a bitch” if you have fear in your heart, it isn’t a pretty picture.
  4. The shifting role of workers as there are literally fewer jobs, while net wealth remains constant…but more collected at the top.
  5. The shifting role of reproduction in human survival.   Rational arguments against homosexuality are just…well IMO non-existent.


Fear.  Survival fear.  Genetic fear.  Sexual pleasure fear. Power fear.  Ego fear.  On every level, plus the utter terror that all you believe may be a lie.   Surrounded by enemies who take from you everything you thought you were. Combine that with the availability of firearms, and America is in a uniquely bad position.



That’s where we are.  Is there an answer?  Of course there is, unless you are so egotistical you think you are important enough that you happen to have a front-seat at the end of the world.  Oh, please.

From a billionth of a second after the “big bang” the history of the universe has been connection and complexity, with bumps along the way.

So it is easy for me to envision  a world on the other side of ALL these current problems. One with gender and racial parity, one in which both men and women are functioning not “moving away from fear and pain” but “moving toward love and pleasure.”   A world in which mankind, humankind is moving out of its adolescence and toward an intellectual and spiritual maturity.


All we have to do is love ourselves enough to admit to our flaws. Forgive ourselves for being driven by fear, however it masks. Forgive our ancestors, who were doing the best they could with the resources they had.  For man and women, black and white, gay and straight…to love each other…while remaining strong enough to resist the violence of frightened people.

There is an amazing future out there waiting for us.  If this generation of black folks is “the hope and the dream of the slave” then this generation of human beings is the hope and the dream of every ancient Shmoo  terrified by the natural world, fearful of diseases and predators and weather, bifurcating into a separated being to fight back more efficiently, misunderstanding the gender opposite just as we rarely understand the Yin and Yang of our own personalities.  Driven to work from fear rather than drawn by joy: the War of Art between management and artist.


America is in the Dark Night of the Soul. The way through is, as always, the Leap of Faith: Faith in ourselves, faith in our companions, and faith in whatever higher power or patterned universe you choose to hold sacred.


Faith that, if this is correct, freedom for women means freedom for men as well.    There is nothing to fear, once we throw off the chains that bind our thoughts.  It is possible that everyone born before effective birth control will have to die before we are relatively free of sexism. That everyone born prior to 1970 will have to die before racial equality is the real, dominant principle. Everyone born before a wide acceptance that the planet has reached peak population die before homosexuality is no longer stigmatized. Everyone born before Buckminster Fuller proposed that we accept a new paradigm for work and life before a Universal Basic Income becomes a human right.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, and the “Protestant Work Ethic” all make sense if they INCREASE survival.  But the instant they DECREASE it, lead to more pain than pleasure our brains will “flip the switch” and the new possibility will seem less and less crazy.


I submit to you that that switch has flipped.   But if you were born before the “flip” you may not be able to see it, feel it.  But…I trust those grandchildren. The Shmoos always knew it was about the grandchildren, remember?  And I think they’ll be just fine.


After more ugliness.  Oh, yes.   There will be more violence. Because people are angry. Because they are afraid. The world is changing.

Waking up is hard to do.

I see it, so clearly.  And hope that however flawed these thoughts might be, they’ve served their purpose…and you see just a little more clearly as well.





Are you “worth it”?

At the end of this essay, I’m going to give you the secret to having anyone you want. No kidding.   But you have to read the whole thing for it to make sense…so don’t skip ahead.



On another thread, Anasa Troutman proposed a “new rule” for relationships: “you get to interview the last two people they dated.”


Someone mentioned that T and I had done that, and when they tagged me, it brought the post to my attention.


I answered that we’d not QUITE done that, but close enough.   The first time she came to visit me in Vancouver Washington, I sat her in a room with my ex and my daughter, told them to talk about anything they wanted, and left for an hour.


I wanted T to have all the information she needed to make an informed decision.  She had that right.  More, I loved her enough to want her to be happy.


Anasa said:

Steven how did you get to that kind of selflessness? So many of us want to hide the things we think will drive the ones we want away. For many being vulnerable is still difficult after YEARS of marriage much less before the journey is hardly underway. Did you do this for her or did was that kind of transparency something you did for yourself because of some personal commitment or practice?”


This struck me as a question I needed to slow down to answer.  I’ll answer it from the framework of storytelling:  Here is what I call my CHILD’S STORY:


Once upon a time there was a boy who wanted three things when he grew up.  He wanted a writing career. He wanted to be a martial artist. And he wanted a family to love.  He was afraid he couldn’t have these things. Everyone told him he could not.  But he decided to try, and work a little harder every day, and never quit.  He found wonderful teachers along the way, and learned things. And still fell on his face. But every time he did, he found the faith to keep going, and got back up, changed his approach, found someone who knew better than him and followed their lead, and tried. And tried. And…one day he got it all. 



THAT’S my story.  The one I tell myself every day.  And this is how it applies to the specific question of finding a mate.  Let’s start with the failure.



When my first marriage went south, I was devastated. I had screwed up.  Totally, and swore I wouldn’t do that again.    I wanted a partner, a love, someone I could really share my life with, and would settle for nothing less.



I knew that the woman I desired was smart, ambitious, beautiful, sensual, creative, fun, fierce.  I wanted a lioness.   The natural reality is so damned simple people don’t want to look at it: A  LIONESS WANTS AND NEEDS A LION.  Bam.  No excuses.  Simple.


So…the question is: am I a lion?    What about all my fears and doubts and damages. Could I be a lion despite my doubts?





There is a story about a lion cub who was adopted by a flock of antelope.  He grew up, believing he was an antelope. Then one day the flock was attacked by a pride of lions.  They fled, and several were caught and killed. The lion cub was cornered, and trembled, awaiting death. The lions looked at it with curiosity, and the chief lioness suddenly realized what the problem was. She took the cub by the neck, and dragged it down to the river.  “Look at yourself!” she said.  “You are not an antelope!  You are a lion!”


 The cub looked…and was transformed.




What your heart craves is the mirror of your soul.   Meditation, going deeply into your essence and asking: “what do I crave?  Desire?  Want and need?” separating “wants” from “needs”, short-term pleasures from long-term joys…this is the process.


You have to know what you want. Believe that you can and should have it.  Love yourself enough to believe that there is a gift within you worth anything anyone could offer.


The group “Fifth Harmony” has a song called “Baby I’m Worth It.”  My son loves that song.



“Give it to me, I’m worth it

Baby I’m worth it

Uh huh I’m worth it

Gimme gimme I’m worth it


Just gimme you, just gimme you

Just gimme you, that’s all I wanna do

And if what they say is true

If it’s true, I won’t get mad at you

I may talk a lot of stuff

Guaranteed, I can back it up

I think I’mma call your bluff

Hurry up, I’m walkin’ out front…”



And all I think about when I hear it is that EVERYONE should feel that way about themselves–that we have a treasure in our hearts, worth ANYTHING anyone else could offer.


If they don’t see it?  Fine. Go with God, have a wonderful life and find happiness with someone who’ll be better for you.


You have to believe in yourself enough to see NO ONE ON THIS PLANET as above you. You know what the cost of that is?  To give up all sense that you are better than anyone else.  That’s it.  Think you’re better than others?  You will always fear there are others better than you.


Knowing that you are “worth it” doesn’t mean others aren’t. Can you grasp that?


So my task was to find that sense of self-worth.

What if the person you want isn’t interested? Well, either my judgement is off, or theirs is.   In either case, it’s nothing to stress about, AS LONG AS YOU ACTUALLY LOVE YOURSELF.  The “friend zone” stings a little, but its fine. I’ve “friend zoned” plenty of ladies who were interested in me, but weren’t the right fit. Only fair for it to happen in return. Nothing personal at all. We just didn’t fit.


If Tananarive looked closely at me and saw that we didn’t fit, it was her OBLIGATION to back away.  Hella better now than down the road ten or twenty years, don’t you think?




But to have that clarity, you have to start with the sense that you are precious.  You are “worth it.”   Perhaps with the sense that there is a precious child within you.  Why is this so powerful?    We are wired to protect children and see them as beautiful and filled with infinite potential.  THIS is the feeling we get when we go into our own hearts, find the light within us, and form it into a child-self.  And adore that child.   It might take time to do this, especially if we were not treasured as children, or if we have betrayed ourselves. We can do that by selling out our dreams, being in inappropriate sexual relationships, allowing people to treat us as less than precious.


It is a form of “inner child” abuse.  I did that once, and it took me a YEAR of daily meditations to heal.  But it was worth it.  A story for another time.


What if you are attacked by your culture, if the majority broadcasts images that say you are not as beautiful, wonderful, brilliant, sexy, valuable–the images they offer themselves and their own children a thousand times a minute on ever movie screen, television screen, video, song, and in every history book and billboard?


Well, then, you have even MORE work to do.   No, its not fair.  If you want “fair” you’re looking at the wrong world.  Stand on the shore and say it isn’t fair for the tide to come in and make your shoes wet.  You’ll get wet shoes.   SCREW “fair.”

You have to be willing to fight for your heart the way a mother lion fights for her cub.  Period.  Or that cub will look at you and say: “why, Mommy?  Wasn’t I worth fighting for?”

Hell, yes, that child is worth fighting for.  No compromises.  PERIOD.


If when you close your eyes and ask what you want and need in a mate you see someone fierce, ambitious, passionate and strong…you are dreaming of a lion.


Who wants and needs a lioness.  Or vice versa.

And here’s the beautiful thing: if you love yourself, and are working on yourself, you will grasp that you’re doing the best you can with what you have, and it is wonderful. And…you will be attracted to those at the same point in THEIR journey, who are as far from THEIR “perfection” as you are from yours. You are climbing the same mountain, at the same rate, on the same trail.   That feels miraculous, once you experience it.

The work to do is intense. You have to be willing to shed the illusions, dig down into your heart, ask that inner essence what you really desire and if it is in alignment with your conscious hopes and dreams and values…


Get to work.  Here’s a couple of game-changers:


  1. Admit what you really want. Stop compromising.
  2. Commit to becoming the kind of person who can attract and hold that kind of partner.
  3. Love yourself enough to forgive yourself for not being perfect.  No one is.  But the instant you REALLY accept yourself…you will open your heart to someone who is as far from their “perfection” as you are from yours.
  4. Find allies. Talk to people who are in love, and have been long enough to produce grandchildren (say twenty years or so).  THEY are the “winners” of the mating game whether they have actually had children or not.
  5. Talk to people who are as close as possible to your “ideal partner”.   Ask what they are seeking in a partner.   If you have chosen carefully, what they describe is what your heart truly wishes to be.  Not for “them”–but for you.
  6. The best meditation that is BOTH powerful AND safe is simply sitting quietly and “listening” to your heartbeat.  Keep bringing your thoughts back there, again and again.  All there is is love.   All other thoughts are the “stuff” you have to move beyond to connect to your essence.



In other words, believe you are worth it.

Oh,  I promised the secret to getting anyone you want.


Simple.  Can you see it?  Think about what I already said and try to guess what I’m going to say next.







The secret to having anyone you want?   DON’T WANT ANYONE YOU CAN’T HAVE.

No, this isn’t a word game.   By knowing yourself, you know your tribe.   Then simply look for members of your tribe who have their “green light” on–they are looking for partners.


Go deeply enough, know yourself enough, and all you’ll see in the world are wonderful human beings…and a few wonderful human beings with green lights shining.  Approach them.   If you don’t get the right response, you weren’t perceptive enough.  It’s YOUR issue, not theirs.  Do more work.


Here’s what I promise you…if you do enough work, you’ll hit a point where you stop making mistakes.  Do that, and it feels like the world is filled with people who want you, in the same way that if you buy a new car, suddenly you see that car EVERYWHERE.


Maybe you’ll play the field a little at this point. I sure as hell did, and it was fun.  But…I got tired of it.   Realized that what I really wanted was a partner, someone I could share my life with, who I could really BE with, without masks or games.


And I literally dropped to my knees and prayed for it, asked God or the Universe or whatever was listening that I “got” it, understood the game, understood how it all worked…and didn’t want it.  And was willing to wait for the rest of my life, if necessary, to find the right woman.


And…the very next morning, I met Tananarive.






“He bleeds too”


What is your empowering story?



Last Christmas, I gave myself the single best gift I’ve ever had: three hours of private instruction with a man who, for various cultural   and practical reasons, might well be the greatest martial arts instructor in history, Danny Inosanto. He was Steve Muhammad’s Kempo  instructor, Bruce Lee’s lead student, and considered the world’s greatest authority on the beautiful and devastating Filipino martial arts.  He’s eighty years old, travels the world teaching every weekend, and is still blur-fast and kinesthetically as perfect as a human body can be.  He moves more stiffly now than when I trained with him in the early 80’s, but when performing his beloved arts he moves like a teenager.  He is always training in something: currently Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Russian Systema, and Capoeira, I believe.


We worked sticks, knives, empty hands, push hands,  kicked the bags together, worked Capoeira footwork, talked Bruce Lee and training after fifty (a classic comment: “you can stay in shape as you get older, Steve…it just a little harder to motivate yourself every year”) and how I could continue to improve despite a busy life…specifically, daily training and taking frequent workshops.   He said that some of his very best students no longer attend weekly classes…but they work out at home, and come back to the school for intensive training a few times a year.




He is a master of masters.  No slightest question about it, and it is always fascinating to get close to such people.  In EVERY case, what I’ve seen is daily focused play, real love for the thing they’re doing, performed over decades combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of their field.   The only “talent” I see in common, ever, is the ability to maintain that focus and enthusiasm long after most people have given up and pretended they didn’t care.


This is why the concept of “talent” is such poison to me: I never see it lift people up.  Only to excuse why people quit: “I didn’t have the talent.”


But how do you do that?  Keep going over decades?  First, a clear outcome.  WHAT do you want.  Then, you have to have reasons to do it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it even after everyone else has gone home.   And that means you find something you LOVE and put everything you have into it. But…we are motivated by both PAIN and PLEASURE.  So the best of the best of the best will and do use both.


One of the things I do is to speak quietly and carefully to Masters, and discover what the core memories might be, the “Epiphany Bridges” that made the light bulb go off in their heads and realize that they had found a path to knowledge andpower which, pursued, would bring them joy in life.  “The purpose of life is to be happy” said the Dalai Lama.  Not just to “not hurt” or “not be afraid” but to be HAPPY.  FORGET “to do” lists until you are clear on your OUTCOMES and the emotional reasons you MUST have them.   Have enough “whys” and the “hows” take care of themselves.


So…what was I really about with Danny?  Why did I really want those three hours?  I wanted to know what motivated the master, that’s what.   (I’ve done this with Elon Musk and other ultra-performers, by the way.  Stories  for another time).


So…what is his core motivating memory?   He was in elementary school, and there was a bully who terrorized the playground.  Like everyone else, Danny was afraid of him. One day, this bully attacked a friend of his, and Danny jumped into it and got pounded.  The teachers pulled the two of them apart, and for a moment the bully was restrained and Danny was not.  Danny jumped in and punched him in the nose. Blood squirted and the bully howled.  As the teacher pulled Danny to the principle’s office, he thought to himself:  “he bleeds too!”


He bleeds too. That single image, of an apparently invulnerable bully who could be stopped, or hurt, by skill and courage and timing, has motivated Danny his entire life.    Wow.




Do you know the first time YOU got excited about the possibility of your chosen area of mastery? And if you insist you aren’t interested in mastery of anything…why not?   Why settle for “being good” or “being expert”?   Why not find the thing you love, put your energy behind it for a lifetime, and produce the results that would really make your “inner child” happy?  Because you can’t make money?  Money isn’t skill at your art…it is skill at marketing.  And a good marketer can market ANYTHING.   All that requires is 1) belief that you have something of value to offer the world and 2)lack of fear of rejection, 3) modeling successful marketers.  Develop these, and then decide what you want to do with your life, AND DO IT.



So…in your “Morning Ritual” you should have your “outcome” but also connect with the DRIVING EMOTIONS that give you power.    You can always tell when people do their job “for the money” as opposed to being fascinated and committed and passionate about the project.


If you want to make money, remember that money comes from sales and marketing, and sales is “a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another.”  This is why people in business meetings so often say “we’re really excited about X…” because through practical experience they KNOW that they have to get excited in order to make things happen. Sometimes they’re just going through the motions, of course. But if YOU can be genuinely excited, you have a chance to infect THEM with that enthusiasm. And then there is no sales resistance, and the project can cook.




So…for me, three things are primary: family, writing, martial arts.  That means that the first thing when I wake up in the morning, I can remember the MOTIVATING FORCE OR IMAGE behind each of them. Tap into the emotions, the “why”.   Love and passion connect to the moment I realized that a lioness needs a lion.  T is a lioness.  If I want the fun and passion and contribution of being a worthy mate to her, I must be at my best.  I connect with yummy reasons to hold this energy.


Writing?  I remember the moment I realized I was born to be a writer, standing in front of an audience at Pepperdine University, having won a short story contest and reading it to the group, watching the Alumni smiling and applauding.


Martial Arts?   Remembering when I backed the worst bully I’d ever known down because I was willing to die and he wasn’t.  Stepping out into the middle of the street on Washington boulevard, inviting him to join me to continue the fight. And…he blinked.


The peace and power I felt, calm in the midst of danger, transformed my life.  The joy of holding the attention of these successful people transformed my life.  The memory of watching beautiful women walking with powerful men as hunting pairs transformed my life.


And there is another level.   If I rotate between these visions, these feelings, sometimes I can find a place inside me that resonates with all three.  I cannot quite tell you what it is–it is not a thing of words. But when I find that place IT IS HUGELY GENERATIVE.


THAT is the place I seek in morning meditation. In Tai Chi.  In writing. In connecting with my wife, or my son.


When I find THAT place I know I’ve hit something special, and when I tap that spring, it connects to everything else in my life.   It is amazing.


But it all starts with WHY DO YOU DO IT?


What is your “he bleeds too!”


Find that…and the door to mastery opens for you.





Embrace the Sun






I remember as a kid,  being at a gathering of relatives, and the subject of racism came up.  Feeling in an evil mood, I very carefully led the discussion into sports.  And proposed, carefully, that blacks were superior physically. Took about thirty seconds to start getting agreement.   And then discussions of American history.  And yes, it was quickly agreed that blacks would not have done the terrible things whites had done in regard to slavery.  And then that the greatest, earliest civilizations were in Africa, and that the rest of the world had stolen their knowledge. WE were the natural geniuses…


Oops. Physical, spiritual/moral, and intellectual superiority, all in one package, all with about five minutes of probing.




In college, I was often the only guy in the room around a group of women often enough to try another experiment.   Pull in my energy. Start apologizing for the evils of men: the wars, the violence, the domination and sexism.   Why, the world would be a better place if women controlled it.  Women have more empathy and wisdom. Even endurance and strength!  The apparent differences in performance are all social constructs.


Two things became pretty obvious: one that it took about ten minutes to get those heads nodding.  Second: I got laid a LOT.




And not to put too fine a line on it, I’ve also performed the experiment of being in a room filled with white people, and quietly, soberly being “forced” to admit that, well, black people have a long way to go…that most of us were…well…very good at, you know, entertainment and sports, and SOME of us were pretty damned smart (tears sparkling in my eyes.  Pats on the back) but…well, you know…


And gotten the “oh, Steve, its all right. You’re not one of THEM.  You’re one of US.”




And of course, the experiment of being in a room filled with guys, and gotten them to chuckle along with how we’re being really nice to let women consider themselves equal. But if they ever went too far, they’d reap the whirlwind…


Nods, agreement, and hand-slapping.




Done this with gays and straights. Christians and Muslims.  Believers and Atheists, Liberals and Conservatives.  Same damned result every #$%$% time.


Meaning: everyone thought they were superior. Everyone also blamed their opponents for thinking they are superior.  Everyone discounted the humanity of everyone else, and everyone would be an oppressor given the opportunity.


There was no safety anywhere.  I’d been hurt by everyone, rejected by everyone, offered safe harbor only if I lied and distorted…and knew that the instant I stopped agreeing, they’d turn on me.


If there is no safety in the external world…what do we do?




Octavia Butler said it: that the thing she found most troubling about human beings is that


  1. They have a tendency toward hierarchicalism
  2. They believe themselves to be higher on that ladder than others.


And no matter where you look, you’ll find this to be true.    And it was easy to see the trap as the pendulum swung back and forth: oppressed becoming oppressors, and either exterminating their opponents, absorbing them, or being oppressed in return.


An endless cycle of misery.  How to avoid either being oppressed OR becoming an oppressor?


How do you step off the carousel?  And if you do…how will you survive?  Because SURVIVAL, personal (death and pain) or genetic (sex and pair-bonding) are the two most powerful drives in human nature.   They trump everything else 80% of the time, and people willing to put love or truth above survival are so rare they become heroes of legend.


How to find your way out of the trap?


By controlling the STORY you tell about the human race.  Remember the five-step process:


  1. Love and nurture yourself.  The story: “I am worthy of love and protection.”   So long as you are in pain, or feel threat, you cannot help but thrash out in fear and anger.   You’ll numb that pain with drugs or powerful negative emotions…or all embracing “love” that is actually a plea for mercy.  Be strong.
  2. Love another human being.  The story: “Love is the most powerful transformative force, and I can have lasting love in my life.”    If YOU are not strong, you can give your love to someone who is, who needs that softness, and trade it for protection. We do this with equals all the time, trading strength and love even-steven. But you can also go Yin-Yang, finding someone with great emotional/intellectual/physical strength and offering them genuine affection and healing in exchange for protection. You stand together, and are stronger as a team than you would be individually.
  3. Understand human history without guilt, blame, or shame.  The story: “Human beings are basically just creatures moving away from pain, and toward pleasure. Capable of great good and great harm. And the greatest sin is harming children, or using people as means rather than ends.   We all do this at times.  I commit to a different path.”     This CANNOT be done unless you love and forgive yourself enough to look deeply into your own soul and ask why you have not achieved your dreams, broken promises to yourself, lied and distorted and blamed.  Take responsibility. The instant you do, you will understand why history has been what it is. As long as you operate in the delusion that you are above this, that you have not been driven by fear and anger, not lied to yourself and others, you will hallucinate that “the other” group, whether they are defined by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, politics, wealth, or whatever are the “evil” ones.  Grasp that the problem is in the mirror, but LOVE that reflection as well as hold it responsible, and everything changes.
  4. Find your tribe.  The story: “though I may walk alone for a time, if I speak my truth, I will attract others who see and feel the same reality.  They are looking for me now.”   Don’t waste time arguing with trolls–they will tag-team you into exhaustion. Instead, support those who see the world as you do, and let those who do not go their own way, in peace.
  5. Win. The story:   “If I clearly define success in my own terms, and it is aligned with natural law, victory is living every day on my own terms.”    With compassion and consideration, by the same sense of fair play and sportsmanship you would like others to show toward you. But win.  Be healthy, happy, and successful.   NOTHING attracts attention like walking your talk with joy and power.


We invest enormous energy maintaining the separation.  One of the most fascinating things that I ever learned was from the discipline of sexual magic. The cultures that look at this powerful force without winking and simpering (although there IS a lot of laughter and giggling and sighing!) say something to the effect that “the intensity of an orgasm is in direct relation to the amount of ego released at that moment.”


In other words, if you can remember your name, it wasn’t good sex. Or to put it another way, as in a nuclear reaction, when two particles fuse, part of the mass is released as energy. When two human beings fuse, the degree to which they release their separate identities is the degree to which they release the energy bound up in their egos.


We carry a huge amount of energy bound up in our labels and self-justifications, our prejudices and the lies we tell to protect us from admitting we have them, that we are often the mirrors of the very bigots we decry.


The secret to life is to just…be.  As opposed to carrying all that armor, and separating human beings into categories of greater and lesser worth.


The energy released is immense, almost incalculable, similar to the energy released in deep creative thought, the “flow” state when a reader sinks into a book, or a writer dissolves into the story.


This is a new opportunity, to change the story that you tell about yourself, your partners, the world, so that you can achieve the only goal you’ve ever really had–to be happy.  Everything else, EVERYTHING else, was just a means to an end.


And every time you resolve a duality, TELL THE STORY of how you did it, what happened, what you have seen when others either evolve or remain trapped at their current level…or most tragically, devolve under the weight of their lies. Tell the story to your friends, your children, your readers, the world.  Every word is an action. Every action changes the world.


Lies are shadows, cast by our egos blocking the light.


Embrace the sun.





The “Stories” about beauty and power

(from 2009)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great note today on beauty and power from a reader:

(All names changed)

The reader said:

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Steve Barnes

How did YOU learn to love yourself?

Almost everything I talk about comes from one of three complementary perspectives: The Hero’s Journey, the martial arts, and the Soulmate process.   They cover about everything in life.  The following thought relates to nurturing love .


We had a host of excellent answers about dealing with a devastating betrayal.  Most of them had to do with anger, fear, connecting with friends, allowing time to heal.  One of my own personal suggestions had to do with actual survival and financial issues connected to the breakup: that this person sit quietly for an entire day with a pad of paper and work out how they would survive if the worst happened.  Once you know you can survive the worst, SURVIVAL fear is no longer part of the mix. There are still other fears: loneliness is major.  If you KNEW the love of your life, the best lover you’ve ever had and the greatest adventure of all time was right around the corner, that betrayal wouldn’t hurt as badly, would it?


I remember many years ago, having dinner with a friend who was having an affair with another woman at the table.  His wife (call her Madge)  was forced to make polite conversation.  It was awk-ward.   Madge excused herself to go to the bathroom, and another lady at the table encountered her there.


Later, she told me that Madge  had been staring trance-like  into the mirror.   I asked what my friend thought Madge had been thinking.  I wanted a woman’s perspective.


It was a fascinating response. Not just anger, and betrayal, and a sense of being destroyed by the social mask she was forced to wear (after all, she couldn’t PROVE that the other woman and her husband were having an affair…) but a sense of personal loss. She had given this man children. And what we call “the best years of her life”–the years of peak sexual attraction, which are different for women than men.  (In a horrible genetic  symmetry, older woman and younger men are similarly disposable.)  Who would want her now?  Her husband, for all his failings, could look at her and see the girl she had been when he first desired her, see past the badge of honor and endurance that the body’s resistance to gravity and time signals.    That by aging together, they understood things about themselves, and each other, younger people do not yet understand.


Who would be her lover..?


I think that was one of those moments when I had a little “bump” in understanding of the process of life.    Much of the pain of loss of another human being is the loss of their love, the fear of loneliness.


Not much simpler, more understandable, more HUMAN to be found anywhere in life.


This is why the first challenge is to love yourself.   Protect yourself.  Learn to commit to your own well being the way you would (PRECISELY the way you would) for your own most beloved child.


Please: I ask that those of you who have learned to do this, share your stories of HOW you learned to protect and care for your own hearts.   You could be saving lives thereby.


Thank you.



“Excuse me, ma’am…may I borrow your baby?”

#Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.” – Wayne Dyer


I have the makings of a monster. I really do.  I could have been one of the great, manipulative lying sons of bitches God ever let live.  Let me give you an example of how I know it.  And why I believe I’ve dodged that bullet.




When I first met Tananarive at the “African Fantastic Imagination” conference at Clark Atlanta University in 1997, I heard her tell a story about how she got Stephen King to give her a cover blurb for MY SOUL TO KEEP. She used her position on the Miami Herald to talk to humorist Dave Berry’s wife. Berry played in a band, “The Rock Bottom Remainders” with King.  They’re a bunch of writers who live out their fantasies by playing at book fairs, and T told Mrs. Berry that she’d like to play keyboards for them.   It turned out that their keyboard player was going to be singing instead of playing, and there was a position for her.  She used this (and the fact that she looked great in a leather skirt) to catch King’s attention, talked him into looking at her book, and the rest is history.


I sat in the audience and was transfixed.  We’d met two days before, and I’d been impressed by her energy and aliveness as well as her intelligence and writing skill, but hadn’t responded to her on a personal level.  Treated her like a little sister. But the instant I realized how calculating she was, how she had used a lifetime of preparation to CREATE an opportunity for herself (writing since the age of 4, keyboard skills, her Miami Herald column, personal courage. And looking great in a leather skirt, of course)  I said: “WOW!  She did a three-wall bank shot on him!  She’s REALLY smart.”   And then, as if noticing that gave me permission to notice something else, I thought: “and she’s REALLY cute, too.”   And a chill ran down my spine. A chill runs down my spine EVERY time I tell that story.


And I said to myself: “oh, Steve…you’re in trouble.”

I’d never felt anything like that before.  Something very special was happening here.  I knew that mentally, emotionally, and physically (she danced great, and had terrific shoulders and a tight little waist…ahem)  we shared the same values and were on a similar wave-length.  Could we actually be a couple?  I didn’t know. What I DID know was that she lived in Miami, and I lived in Vancouver, Washington. It would have been difficult to be further apart in the continental U.S.  Our trains were going in opposite directions, and just crossing at the station.  Pulling out the next day, in fact.


I had just hours to make some kind of a connection with her, or she might be gone forever.    I looked frantically around the room as T came down from the stage and started signing autographs.   What could I do..?


And sitting in the front row of the audience was a woman with a baby in her lap.  A light bulb went off in my head.  I walked over to her and said: “excuse me, ma’am…may I borrow your baby?”


She looked at me, startled. She knew who I was, of course, but my request was a little strange. “I don’t want to take her out of the room.  I’d just love to play with her a little. Right here in front of you.”  Still a little startled (I definitely got some side-eye, but after all, I was a Famous Author!) but she agreed. I got down on the floor right there between the mother and Tananarive and started playing with the baby.


Oh, that was dirty pool.  I KNEW that there was no way in hell a professional black woman in her 30’s could observe an available black man play with a baby without her hind-brain going “DING!”

It just wasn’t fair.  Totally bypassing her forebrain.   Twelve hours later we were sitting in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport holding hands, leaning our heads against each other like a couple of kids, talking about how we could build an empire together.


If I hadn’t been sincere, hadn’t been 100% open to an actual lifetime with Tananarive, what I’d done with that baby would have been horrific.  Actual evil.  I had nuked her reproductive circuitry.

Given something like that, how can I claim that I’d played fair? That I had HER interests at heart, and not just my own?




We courted via internet, telephone, and me flying down to Miami to see her.   Months later, she was on a book tour to San Francisco, and I met her there and we drove up to Vancouver together.   At the time I was living in a side-by-side duplex with my ex, Toni.  The reason was that we had a daughter to raise. When Nicki came home from school she came to my side. When Toni came home from work, Nicki would go there.


The very first thing I did was introduce T to Nicki, who ran up to her and hugged her (nope, I hadn’t bribed her.  She’s just that kind of kid)  Then I walked her into Toni’s house, sat the three of them down, said: “you guys talk about whatever you want” and left the house. Went over to my side for an hour.


I wanted T to have a chance to ask whatever she wanted to about me, talking to the people who knew me best.  Either Toni would say good things or bad things.  Let’s say she said bad things (probably after sending Nicki out of the room!)  That would mean one of only a couple of things:


  1. I was a bad person. She should not trust me.
  2. I was a STUPID person, a bad judge of character to have married Toni.   She should not bond with me.


But if Toni said good things?   Well…that would be a big vote in the “take this relationship to a whole ‘nother level” category.   I desperately wanted T to make a solid decision. To know what she was dealing with. To have ALL the information she needed to be as certain as possible.


Because I could see and feel that she had her own destiny.  She had, and has…force. She is a lioness, and a lioness needs a lion. Someone who would not be intimidated by her, not try to slow her down or stop her, not sabotage her efforts.  She deserved to have a wonderful life, and damned if I would stand between her and that destiny, no matter how much I wanted her.


Hell, Harlan Ellison thinks she’s a better writer than I am, and you can imagine how much THAT stings someone with my ego.   I have to deal with THAT, under my own roof.

And if I cannot…I don’t deserve her.  Period.

Yeah, I’m a manipulative bastard.  I go after what I want.  No slightest question about it.

But I also want people to make the  right decision for THEM.  THAT’S who I am.  And she needed to know both sides of that.  And if that was what she was looking for…


There I was, open heart and arms, saying: “let’s do this.”


I believe that selfishness is not a problem.  Defining “self” as ending at your skin is the problem.


I believe in love, but that you MUST start by loving yourself.


I believe in Soulmates, but you have to know your own soul to recognize them.


I believe that loving another person is the second step to changing the world, to living a wonderful life in alignment with your values, one of the Big Three things we must admit we crave to be in honest communication with our own hearts.


That’s MY story about love, and life, and how it fits together, and how Tananarive and I found each other.

Love, storytelling and martial arts  are the absolute core of my life and teaching.    If this path speaks to you, please join us at  Get your free copy of THE ANCIENT CHILD and start a journey that starts with healing your heart and ends with changing the world.


We’re all alone in this…together.




Walking away from Omelas

One of the most brilliant stories ever written is THE ONES WHO WALK AWAY FROM OMELAS, by  Ursula Le Guin.  This three-page tale describes a golden city filled with brilliant, beautiful people, and asks why you don’t quite believe it.   More description follows, even more glory and splendor.  And then again, a query: why don’t you believe? And then finally the story takes you to a dungeon beneath the palace, and in the deepest depths, crouching in his own feces, is a deformed child.  Utterly in misery. And if anyone in the city of Omelas ever comforts him, the city will die.




A long time ago, I loved a woman who, I felt, betrayed our relationship.   I took something she did very personally, when the truth is that what she did was a step along her own path, with no direct connection to me at all.  But…I saw myself as a rescuer, and tried to “fix” it, and could not.  But couldn’t stop, either, and over the days and weeks that followed, tore a hole in my own heart.  A few other painful things followed, until I was completely knocked off balance.


For the first time in my adult life, I felt lost.  I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted.  My “life story” seemed to have been totally destroyed, leaving me floating in a void.


It was horrible, hideous.  I was filled with feelings of fear, loss, betrayal, defeat.   This was connected to the events that led to the creation of the Soulmate Process, where you find the closest approximation of your perfect partner, and ask what they are looking for in a partner.  Well, I sat a very lovely lady down and asked her just that question.    And to my astonishment, what she described was very close to who I was.  But there were telling differences


  1. She was a professional dancer, and wanted a man with less body fat than I was carrying.   I realized the wisdom of this: a healthy fit body is the result of countless small actions made over months or years. Actions are the result of decisions and discipline. Those are the result of beliefs and values operating without emotional interference.   She had the right…no, the RESPONSIBILITY to partner with a man who was on her own energetic level, or else he would sabotage her, be jealous and grasping.    Life is like climbing a mountain in some ways.  You need to climb with someone interested in the same path on the same mountain who can climb at the same rate, or you’ll tear each other apart.


I realized that in my depression I’d stopped running.   As soon as I started again, I was back on the path.


  1. But the second thing was more important.   She wanted someone more spiritual, on a clearer spiritual path. And I realized I’d stopped meditating.  Depression had done that to me…or to put it another way, I’d done it to myself.  Why? Because whenever I tried, whenever I turned my attention inward, it felt as if I’d dropped into a cess pool.  An endless morass of mental and emotional sewage.  Horrible.


I remembered what my spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy had said, that the experience of meditation is connection to the divine.  ANYTHING BUT A SENSE OF LIGHT AND LOVE IS ILLUSION.  But until  you have experienced this, it will seem nonsensical.  The ego cannot survive direct contact with this (oh, don’t worry.  It heals up and re-constructs itself as soon as you re-engage with the world.   Resilient bastard, scuttling away from the light.  Like a roach.) and will do everything in its power to stop you.


I had allowed my external circumstances to control my internal state. TO PUSH ME AWAY FROM THE VERY THINGS THAT WOULD SAVE ME.


Wow.  The STORY I told myself was that I was a rescuer, could save her, SHOULD save her. That what she had done represented a betrayal, rather than just choices that related to HER values and needs.   Mistakes?  Quite possibly. But another person’s life is never about you.


I ran. I meditated.  I began to re-connect with my spiritual community (that’s another story, and a good one!) and it felt as if I was cleaning out the basement of a house built over a septic tank, with the basement floor oozing poo.   Every day.  Day after day.   Visualized vacuuming, scooping, shoveling, dumptrucks of much.


Finally, it was clear.  Took months.   The floor was still cracked, and crap still bubbled up, but now only about a bucket a day.  Easy peasy.


The running gave me the energy I needed. My desire to find a relationship helped with the external motivation to act. I knew my OUTCOME–to reach clarity.  I knew my MOTIVATIONS: to find love, sex, fun, a lifetime partnership. To do this I had to crawl through the muck. And my faith was that there was something precious at the end of the journey, like Andy Dufresne in SHAWSHANK crawling through the sewer pipe to freedom.


And then one day…the basement was clean enough to see that crouched in a corner was a crying child.   Shuddering.  Fearful.

It was me.


Swiftdeer once told me that rescuing other people is self-pity.  You are indulging your ego by draining away the energy you need to propel yourself forward.  This is especially effective when you are rescuing someone who doesn’t want to be rescued, and the entire thing is really none of your business in the first place.   When I looked back over the last months, I realized I had spent, wasted, thrown away VAST  amounts of energy, derailed my own progress massively.


My ego had won, big time. And the biggest pay-off was ignoring the one person I can actually save.   The only one who needed me, and no one but me.  Myself, symbolized by my own inner child.


Once I made that connection, my daily meditations were about cleaning this mental “basement”, which was that child’s bedroom.  And then cuddling and sitting with him, and listening to his whispered advice.  This was the beginning of healing, and led to the clarity that resulted in finding my Soulmate, Tananarive.




The beginning of healing was clearing away all of the muck, realizing that too much of my life was a lie.   Oh, I could easily have healed the externals: created money, and gotten in shape again. But if I’d ignored my heart, all of that external wealth and success would have been at the expense of my heart.  The ultimate “poison pill”, the kind of success that resembles one of those houses at Universal City that look great from the front…but from the side is revealed as an empty shell.


I could have written “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” if I had seen as deeply as Ursula. That is a WISE story, a true story about what we do to ourselves and each other.  As societies, we push our weakest and most needy citizens out of sight, and pretend the injustices don’t exist.  As individuals, we ignore the damage we do to others to achieve our dreams…or, even worse, we ignore our own wounded hearts, distracting ourselves by doing busy work or rescuing people who are not our responsibility.  Rescue yourself first, and you have far MORE resources to help others…including, most powerfully, the way to help them help themselves.


Of course if they do that, you don’t get to be the conquering hero, do you?  If you give up your need to rescue others, you can save yourself, and provide REAL help to all the world.





(the Ancient Child meditation came out of this process.  You can get a free copy if you’ll give us a chance to demonstrate a new way of artistic living.

Step #3: Accepting the Challenge

(I know, I know. I go over and over and over these basic patterns. But repetition is the mother of skill!)

The Third Step of the Hero’s Journey is acceptance of the challenge.   And here, the challenge is to be either an awake, aware, adult human being…or an awake, aware, adult ARTIST-type human being. One who communicates this state through stories.   And since everything we say is a story, these are just people who do it consciously.


Everything you say or think is a story.  Think about that.


Being awake, aware, and adult means not being a sleeping child.  What does this mean?  It means that you cannot blame your life circumstances on how your parents treated you as a child.   Your childhood, negative or positive, was a real thing.  And so what?  If you are to live a happy life, you have to take control.


You cannot blame your circumstances on luck.  “Luck” is one of the most unuseful concepts in the world.   Except for people briefly thinking “I was lucky to meet X” or “I was unlucky to have Y happen…” luck is just part of the flow of life. Good things happen. Bad things happen.   But the majority of the people you have ever admired, heard of, created anything you find useful or amazing, had HABITS very different from the average person.  They spend the maximum amount of time actually engaged in the DOING of the thing they love.   If they pop up at the peak of human success, the golden 1% of the 1% of the 1%, did they have “luck”?  Sure.  But absent some specific and grotesquely ugly BAD luck, you can get yourself into the top 20% of almost any field by obsessive work.   Are you in the top 20%?  Then the question of “luck” is IRRELEVANT to you.    “Luck” is an excuse, a belief that masks the fact that you are too afraid to focus and commit.   If you did, you could get into the top 20%.  If you’re there, and you love what you’re doing, you’re too busy to spend much time worrying about who hit the lottery.


It means you take responsibility for your emotions.  If you have a clinical issue, you get to the doctor.  Otherwise, you know that what you focus on, what you say, and the actions you take control how you feel.


And please hear this: you know that you are responsible for your dreams, your safety, your welfare.   It isn’t fair, but it is real. There is no one else to do it.  Children can scream for their parents to come and rescue them.   ADULTS HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES.


Now, part of this can and should be building partnerships with others, value-for-value transactions: mentorships, masterminds, social fabrics, teams.  That’s all great.


But you are the bottom line. There is no one else. If you get whiplashed by the existential loneliness of that, then have a good cry, then get to work.


You cannot let yourself be hypnotized by the social Matrix of lies and mythologies about race, gender, religion, nationality. Human beings are human beings. The differences between us as groups are slight.


You don’t let yourself get dragged into pity parties.  You accept the universality of humanity EVEN IF YOU SOMETIMES CANNOT UNDERSTAND how some inequalities, cruelties, or abuses happen.  You know that you and yours would do the same things given the same pre-conditions, in approximately the same proportions.    The only reason to fail to see this is lack of understanding of yourself, your own emotions, the way your actions create your results, your emotions create your actions, your perceptions create your emotions.


How do you know if you are off target?  Look at your body, your relationship history, your career.   Animals are in balance with their hunting-gathering, they mate, they either avoid or combat predators or die.


If you are not the thinking version of animal drives, SOMETHING IS WRONG. The only reason not to see this is fear of what it might mean, fear that there is something corrupt or evil about you.


This is why we have to start with love.  Loving yourself so deeply that you can see that any problem is a distortion in the system, an illusion, and commit to awaken.   All that really exists is love.


What is the STORY you tell yourself about your career?  Do you think that you have something of value to give the world, but that money, sales, or marketing is less than a positive service?  How precisely does that work?  That “luck” keeps you out of the top 20% of your field?  Then you’re saying everyone in the top 20% is just “lucky”?  Really?  How exactly does that work, unless you’re doing the exact same things but getting very different results?


What is the STORY you tell yourself about your body?   Do you tell yourself that it requires money, exorbitant amounts of time, impossible effort to discipline and align yourself with your own values?  World-class genetics, or that genetics have somehow shifted massively in the computer age?   Come on…you know damned well the kind of men or women who catch your eye. Make you say “yum.”   Are your actions in alignment with that level of health and energy?  The entire ZNT (“Zero Net Time”) system I laid out was about shattering the comforting myth that you have no time or money to change.


What is the STORY you tell yourself about your relationship history?   If you are like 99.9% of humanity, you have the same urge to love and be loved, hold and be held, as the entire genetic line of beings who created you, back to our ancestors on the veldt.  If you don’t have that urge, I suggest that it is the result of specific damage, negative experience, pain and fear and horrible role models.   If you know no healthy models of happy couples, gay or straight, you are self-selecting for pain.  We’re out there, legions of us and you have deleted us.  We may not be perfect, but we honestly love each other and stand together in life.


If you don’t believe in success, if you don’t believe in health, if you don’t believe in love…you have to either take RESPONSIBILITY  for happiness in these arenas, commit to CHANGING those emotions and perceptions, or life will run you over.  You may not know HOW you will reach these goals, but you may have to look at the cycle of storytelling to step #8: FAITH.  Faith in yourself.  Faith that people like me aren’t lying to you about the chance to be happy, and the path to joy, if only you can love yourself enough to forgive yourself, commit to protect your heart, and make a vow to be an ADULT in your own life, to nurture and protect your “child” and childhood dreams.  To be your own mother, your own father.  Faith that you are not so out of alignment with your animal nature that you are being outperformed by the average chipmunk.

I mean…come ON, people.


Those are the basic things.  Look at any story you’ve ever loved.  One way or another, all of them involve someone seeking to move away from pain (survival) or toward pleasure (success) in the arenas of career, physical health, or love.  Write your own story.   Your challenge is to ACCEPT the challenge.


If you are a storyteller, you’ll have an additional challenge: to COMMUNICATE what you find once you set down this road.   If you choose to accept it, I promise you’ll find allies.   Promse that I won’t let go of your hand while I have a breath of life in my body.


But YOU must decide to take responsibility.  No one else can.






Sex is for adults

There is a gentleman who has been reaching out to me for some time.  His problem is that his girlfriend is far more sexually experienced than he is, and apparently talks about it more than he likes.  He complains in pretty ugly terms about it all, and here are my thoughts, in general.

  1. In this context, in this instance, the numbers of her sexual history  means no more to me than how many people she’s played racquet ball with.  The more important question is: why does it hurt you so much?
  2. You are both attracted to her sexuality, and repulsed by the realization that it existed before she met you.   There are two broad possibilities, neither of which requires any real change from her.  One, that it is greatly positive, in which case you are responding from your Needy Wounded Abandoned child (wahhh!  Mommy’s hugged someone beside me!)
  3. The other is that it is greatly negative, in which case you have to ask yourself a serious question: the relationship you are in is what you can afford. The best you can do.  If she is such a mess, you are an equal mess.
  4. In either case, the ONLY thing of importance is: you are a bleeding mess.  Your only task is to stop hurting. That means either healing yourself to the point that her words about her past are irrelevant, or healing yourself until you can attract and hold a woman  more on your wavelength.
  5. I don’t know her, and only have your comments about her, which will be deeply prejudicial. She might be an avatar of sexual love for all I know.  Or, she could be greatly damaged and lurching from abuser to abuser.   No neutral data. The only thing I can be sure of is that she should NOT trust you with her heart.  If I was her, I’d rub it in your face too.  Why?  Because I’d KNOW you were judging me, and would want to watch you twitch and jump, to remind me not to trust you.
  6. 100% certainty: if she trusted you, opened her heart to you, surrendered to the relationship…one day when you were angry, you would call her a slut.   100% certainty.   I don’t know why she is in relationship with you, but she is wise to keep you at a distance.
  7. You have money issues, serious ones.   The easiest “fix” for you is to heal this wound.   You will be a different man then, more secure and self-contained.    From that place you will have fewer exposed nerves, more centeredness, less desperation. The other men she has related to will be less intimidating to you.  To do this you will have to produce goods and services your community finds valuable, learn to risk rejection through sales and marketing, and make adult value-for-value transactions with them.  Right now, emotionally, you are a child.  Children shouldn’t engage in reproductive behavior.
  8. The truth is that your best bet is to consider her to be above your level.   Let it go.  Spend a year healing yourself.    As it is, you are trying to overhaul your car while driving it on the freeway.
  9. THE PROBLEM IS YOU, NOT HER.    Can there be issues with “too many” sexual partners?   Sure.  Or too few.  Or none.  It is not my place to offer the slightest judgement: I’d need information I cannot get from you, and she hasn’t given me permission to look into her in that way.  No interest in it.
  10. The “little boy” inside you is desperately unhappy. You have abandoned him, and expect her to pick up the slack. She may be thinking that if you can grow the @#$$ up you’d be a good man.  I think she’s right.  But you are not that man today, and won’t be tomorrow.  Right now, you have to learn to take care of yourself, provide your own inner resources, and stop demanding things you have no right to ask from another human being. Maybe then you’ll be worthy of a good, mature, alive female of the species.  But not today.