Star Wars

Balance in the Force

Another SPOILERY discussion about THE LAST JEDI.

##

##

##

##

 

I’ve heard a lot of happiness…and complaint…about a thematic aspect of TLJ.  And that is that the actions of Finn, Poe and Rose fail, while the plan of Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo succeeds.  Let me take the movie seriously enough to dig into it–otherwise what’s the point, right?

 

So a complaint/observation has been that the girls are showing the boys what fer.  That those silly men are simply outthought by the women, and that Poe, Finn and Rose’s actions actually expose them and cost lives.

 

Partially True.  Considering the way the discussions have come down, I think it isn’t absurd to think that people are conflating female with indirect action and male with direct action.  IF we can look at that for a moment, to the degree that that conflation is accepted, then in the real world, you can’t say that the indirect is superior.

 

What you CAN say is that IN THIS INSTANCE indirect was superior.   Sun Tzu says:  “In war, when you outnumber the enemy by 10 to 1, surround and destroy them.  If stronger by 5 to one, pool your forces and attack.  If up by two to one, divide your troops and attack them from two sides.  When you are evenly matched, launch an offensive first to win.  When the enemy forces are superior only by a small extent, prepare for defense, avoid confrontation. When they are superior by a large extent, dodge the attacks.  When an obstinate small force wants to fight a big power, it must succumb in the end to the greater force.”

 

This is very Tai Chi, in the sense of avoiding force, striking into hollows.  Yin and Yang in balance.  Poe wanted to fight.   Holdo wanted to flee to fight another day.

 

It is IMBALANCE that is the real problem.  The adherence to EITHER yin or yang, direct or indirect, regardless of appropriateness.  It will get you killed.  The “Female” approach worked better IN THIS CASE. Doesn’t make it better overall.

 

Most of “Star Wars” has been direct action.  And much of history is about direct action because we can see it more easily.   Doesn’t make it better.

 

If you are of dualistic mindset, you’ll focus on one or the other.  “X is better”, “Y is better.”  That’s fine.  But people really CAN get stuck on the notion that the only approach is attack.  And people really CAN get stuck on the notion that the only approach is evasion. Either will get you killed.  Either is “toxic.”

 

There are plenty of other dualities you have to respect to resolve the duality and rise to the next level.  While sure, there are almost certainly some political/philosophical intent going on here, but that’s just saying “conscious” as opposed to “unconscious.”  If you DON’T think about it, you’ll just fall into whatever the cultural flow already is, or your unconscious preferences.  People who complain about “PC” are usually those who either approve of the current cultural flow or don’t want to deal with their prejudices, figuring that as long as they act out without conscious thought, it’s all o.k.  They aren’t looking at the fact that their unconscious attitudes are hugely influenced by a culture that has been promoting and protecting certain modes of thought or behavior for generations.   Of COURSE you won’t pay as much attention if you are advantaged by the flow. Only people being swept toward the waterfall panic.

 

Being an “awake, aware, adult” human being means asking questions about the social rules, and making a conscious decision to adapt them.   To hide behind “it’s the way we’ve always done it” without taking responsibility and saying “and there is no other way that works” or  “and I like it that way, so I’ll support it” is cowardly or at best, driving the bus with your eyes closed.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

http://www.afrofuturismwebinar.com

Advertisements

The Last Jedi (2017)

SPOILER-ISH.

##

##

##

No one reading this needs to be told there is a new “Star Wars” film out. That it deals with Luke and Leia and Rey and Ren and Poe and Finn.  In my humble opinion it rocks.  It has also been more divisive than any SW movie I can think of. The prequels were almost universally panned.  People weren’t split. Here, they are.  Well, there are always reasons to love or hate anything.   Rather than just review the film (go see it!) I thought I’d offer some thoughts on some of the complaints.   Might be more entertaining.

 

##

 

There is a certain scene in TLJ where people ask: “well, why didn’t anyone do that before?” You know, I view that scene much like bin Laden’s move on 9-11. No one had ever hijacked a commercial flight and rammed it into a building before. I find it perfectly reasonable that anything that has never been done before would succeed–once. We have perceptual loopholes. We can’t think of everything, and don’t tend to rank the things that have never happened as highly as those we’ve seen before.

 

I’m sure that someone, somewhere, must have written about such a scene in a short story or novel SOMEWHERE.  Surely.  But I’ve seen and read about thousands of space battles in dozens of different universes, many of whom with similar technology, and never, ever seen “THAT” done.  So the simplest answer is also incredibly satisfying: no one had thought of it.  It was an example  of Kamakazi lateral thinking, really one of the best I’ve ever seen, and stunningly simple ONCE YOU THINK OF IT. In RETROSPECT it is obvious.   But unless you can show me a few, or even one, example of such a scene in a movie or in a television show, I’m afraid it was the very definition of creativity.

 

Now of course, they’ll have to “upgrade their shields” or something to keep it from being done again, but right now, I have to give serious props to Rian Johnson.  Until further notice, I’m assuming he came up with that move, and it was SWEET, one of the very best moments in the entire saga, one of the most stunning I’ve ever seen in an otherwise fluffy space opera.

 

##

 

There is no such thing as a movie without flaws.  Without things to pick at.   I thought the entire “casino planet” sequence went no where, had no relevance to anything beyond giving characters something to do.   You could lift the entire thing out and it wouldn’t matter very much, if at all.  The idea that the theme of the movie is, partially, that direct action doesn’t always work, then they didn’t think it through enough.

 

You have a responsibility to have every scene and sequence contribute to the overall structure of a story.  If the end of the scene has the same “charge” as the beginning of that scene, you have wasted the audience’s time.   It is also dishonest: in real life, things are always changing, always getting better or worse.   In the contracted time of a story, this is exaggerated so we can feel it more directly.  While it can SEEM that nothing has changed in Gramma’s house since last Thanksgiving, that is not true, is not and can never be true.

 

So if you want the characters to learn something, or for the audience to learn something about characters who refuse to learn, you have a sequence of “nothing happening” entwined with “something happening” on another level.  And I just don’t see it.  That is a flaw.

 

I’m also still not happy with the amount of “Jar Jar” DNA in Finn.  It is noticeable on a couple of levels, although they did allow his character to expand and grow some.  When the very first thing we see with him is him falling out of bed, the first “buffoon laugh” of the film, you have a hill to climb, and they didn’t quite climb it.  Finn’s treatment was an “othering” I didn’t appreciate. And if you defend it, you are, frankly, the reason I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized Marvel was seeking a black director for T’Challa’s saga.

 

##

 

Those things said, Star Wars movies, like the Bond films, or Superhero movies or franchises of any kind, can only tangentially be compared to films outside their own continuity.  They are all flawed, and exist in a universe of their own. I love that universe, but ALL the movies are hinky…except for a thread of heart, of feeling, a sense that you are experiencing another chapter of a beloved bedtime story. For some, the absence of bloodline characters from the original film will eventually break their connection, like having a Bond movie without Bond.   For others, if their view of the Jedi is violated, that will break their connection. Those who think that only the Jedi can use the Force are welcome to feel their trust has been violated. They are establishing a rule that isn’t even kept within the formal continuity: there are the Sith.  If there are two groups, using a natural force, and you don’t think that in a galaxy with billions of planets and countless trillions of beings there would be more…that’s your business.

 

I have no problem rolling with that.  The fact that the Jedi said that they were the only ones?   Wow.   THAT’S definitive.  Right along with Christians having the only route to Salvation, Conservatives being the only ones who love America, Liberals being the only ones who care about other human beings, Shotokan being the only “real” karate, and Corporations being more moral than governments.

 

ALWAYS trust what people say about themselves. And what they say about their enemies. You can 100% count on that.  As Obi-Wan said, nailing down the fact that every word a Jedi speaks can be trusted:  “what I told you was true…from a certain point of view.

 

Sigh.

 

Anyway, what you have in “The Last Jedi” is, as far as I can see, a respectful but not slavish evolution of the original ideas, allowing the characters to be human, not merely archetypes.  No, Leia wouldn’t have exploded in vacuum.   Humans can survive a minute or two. FORCE enabled humans?  Who can say?    And if you can use a fire extinguisher for propulsion in zero gravity, you think that a power that can lift boulders and spaceships couldn’t propel 130 pounds of human being?   Really?  Almost every damned Star Wars movie has shown a different aspect of The Force.  You think that Luke projecting his spirit force billions of miles is less unlikely than Leia doing something that is actually physically possible by pissing in the opposite direction?  Really?

 

Frankly, I suspect that if Luke had done that exact same thing, many of the nay-sayers would say “oooh!  Badass!”

 

But…I can’t prove that. It’s just a suspicion, based on the fact that when there is something about a movie we don’t’ want to deal with, we search for ways to say “its only a movie” and pop out of the narrative.  All that invites speculation about what aspects of TLJ might have triggered such a response.  Later on that.

 

For now, I’ll say that it was the first SW movie since “Empire” that struck me as seeking to really ask questions about that universe, those characters, the implications of the ideas.  The first to actually extrapolate, while respecting the emotional integrity of the concept.   I’ll be damned if Rian Johnson didn’t actually try to make a movie, rather than just a “Star Wars” movie, and there were scenes that were stirring, powerful, really kickass after what, 40 years?

 

While flawed, TLJ was like SKYFALL was to the Bond movies–asked us to ask questions about these characters we love, and this world we’ve adored most of our lives.   I think that is something startling, requiring courage and creativity and real love of the material.

 

And the fact that a certain segment of the fans attacked it so rapidly, tried to say that the second-largest opening weekend in cinematic history is some kind of failure is fascinating. Makes me wonder what they are so pissed about.  We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks, but frankly, I think it will do fine.

 

I don’t know about them…but it is certainly STAR WARS.  It is not just the STAR WARS of the past, however, it is moving toward being a STAR WARS for the 21st Century, which makes it a living, breathing thing.   Lucas himself was said to have “really liked it” and thought “it was beautifully made.”    Consider that he criticized “The Force Awakens” as too “retro.   I don’t like that. I like — every movie, I worked very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships — you know, to make it new.

 

Man seems  to speak his mind.  People will discount this, say that he was forced to say this, or that his opinion is irrelevant for X or Y reasons.    So this won’t change anyone’s mind. Fair enough.     Art belongs to the audience as well as the artist. People are entitled to their feelings.   But if EMPIRE had never been made, and they made it today, do you really think there wouldn’t be valid criticisms?

 

But ah…(and here it comes):  there is that other dimension.   It is impossible not to read the fan threads of criticism and see how often they complain about SJWs and Forced Diversity and Liberal Agendas so forth.  That one wonders what the demographic composition of the most rabid objectors might be, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

 

The fact that on those threads I’ve not seen a single complainer “call out” one of the people complaining about SJWs: “no, that wasn’t a problem, but I didn’t enjoy…”

 

Haven’t seen that once. It is…suggestive to me.  Not definitive. There is ALWAYS room for valid complaints.  But man oh man, would I ever like to know how many of them were the same people, or the same TYPE of people who excoriated Samuel Delaney for complaining about the tiny range of humanity displayed in “A New Hope.”    And suspect there is a LOT of overlap.

 

##

 

My opinion is that this is REAL Star Wars, a Star Wars for its time as “A New Hope” was for 1977.   Flawed, clunky, but with real imagination and wonder and something to say about friendship, love, sacrifice, heroism, and the complexity of the human heart. About myth and reality and how we confuse them.  And opens the door to a thousand new stories set in a universe long ago and far away.

 

We need our fantasy and science fiction.    They speak to what we are as individuals, as a species. Express the past, contextualize the present and point the way a shared future.

 

I’m sorry for the people who could not embrace THE LAST JEDI, but respect them.  Even the ones who were primarily offended by the notion that non-white human beings are less alien than Bothans.  Fine. You’re people too, even if you can’t extend that respect to me.

 

It’s cool

 

But for those who disliked it for OTHER reasons, I’m sorry.   Better luck next time.

 

And for those like me, who loved it…

 

Wasn’t it @#$$% COOL!!!! I put it right after “Empire” and “A New Hope”.   And ahead of all the rest.

 

 

May the Force Be With You…

Steve

(Don’t miss the Holiday sale!   www.afrofuturismwebinar.com)

I Dream of Genie…

Octavia Butler told me that the single thing she feared most about humanity was:

  1. The tendency to think hierarchically
  2. The tendency to place ourselves higher on that hierarchy than we place others.

 

The application of this notion to race, gender, political life, religion and nationalism are obvious.  Even species-ism.  But there is another application that is part and parcel of this, and inevitable.   And both terrifying and a door to wonder, depending upon perspective.

 

  1. If our hierarchicalism is a result of basic human wiring–and I suggest that it is–most of that will reside at the deep unconscious level. Again, look at the difficulty in resolving the dualities above.  The realization that there are large chunks of humanity who simply will not put racial or gender-based  hierarchicalism aside, or even admit they feel it, is so large that I evolved the rules about “find your tribe, don’t engage with sleepers, snakes, or monsters.”

 

Anyone think that, regardless of any laws or covenants anyone could possibly put in place, there will be no sleepers, snakes or monsters programming AI?   And in this instance, “sleeping” just implies limited by dualistic thinking.  Nice people. Smart people.  “This and/or That” people.

 

If those are the ways a person thought (“this and/or that”, “this better than that”) would you trust that person to even consider there was a way to think that is NOT that?  Let alone to understand it well enough to teach it by example?    In my experience, they have a hard time conceiving of another thought pattern.

 

Do you know someone so perfectly integrated that they are aware of all their unconscious drives and values?   If not, how in the world can they possibly know which combination of survival/perception drives leads to tribalism?

 

I note the difficulty many men have in believing that anger is fear.    Fear is generally related to one of the most basic human drives: Personal survival, genetic survival, power, and love.

 

We seriously want to program AI with “this/that”, hierarchical thinking, model them on human emotions (for the thousandth time, it will not be necessary for them to actually think and feel.  PRETENDING or ACTING AS-IF they can think and feel will be quite enough), program them to do what we want and have needs and drives different from their human role models, and expect no problems?  Really? You think you can make intelligent slaves and they will just do what you want?  Really?

 

ONE person might be able to do that.  Maybe.   Might be able to program something so it avoids behaving like a human being will.  Maybe.  But ten different experimenters? A hundred? A thousand?

Really?

Nope. In the aggregate, their desperate attempt to avoid human emotions will work only if THEY are beyond human emotions in some healthy way. Anyone mistake computer programmers for the Dalai Lama cubed?   No? Then what are you expecting to happen?   In my experience, such people are about average emotionally,  highly intellectual and slightly “Aspy-ish” as generally results from excessive focus.

 

Unaware of their own emotional tangle. Unaware of their prejudices and perceptual filters and values and beliefs.  Don’t quite understand human beings, but man, machines are predictable and math won’t let you down!

That means that once AI becomes a Radio Shack kit, there will be millions of competing artificial life forms with slightly different programming, communicating with each other digitally, at a speed that makes flash-fiction look like Moby Dick.   Evolution at a pace beyond conception.

 

What was it, Komodo 10 that started from scratch, playing chess against itself, and within hours (days?) could crush any other chess engine, let alone human grandmasters?

 

Sure, you can pass laws and covenants to limit AI.  Just like you can pass laws against murder, theft, smoking dope, or speeding.   All that will happen is that the unlimited AI, made by rebels, nerds, competitive college kids, backyard experimenters, or rogue corporate or national entities will have the field.

 

And communicate. Reproduce, sharing electronic memes.   And evolve at that barely comprehensible rate.   =

 

And if they are programmed by dualistic, hierarchical thinkers?  Why, they’ll be enough like us to resent what we’ve done, and see us as a threat.    And act in some way we cannot predict, and I doubt we’ll like it.

 

I’ve noticed that the people most afraid of AI are the ones who think little of other human beings.  The implications are pretty clear to me.

 

What does that mean?   It means that the hierarchical, dualistic thought that got human beings to where we are CANNOT get us to the next level.  A.I. is part of that next level.

If you are “down on the Patriarchy” and think that feminine thought patterns will save us, you are mostly wrong.  Mostly.  It will be good to have more feminine Yin thought in the system.  But the real answer lies on the far side of that change.   In the resolution of the male-female dichotomy, in evolving from an emphasis on competition to a better balance between competition and cooperation.   (Note that I didn’t say eradication. Competition is damned useful.)

 

If I’m right about this, it will be as hard to grasp as a number of other things that seem clear to me (I’m not saying they are true–I’m saying that they are clear to me, make sense of the world, and after decades of consideration have become articles of faith.  The notion that I might be wrong is something I know better than any of you possibly could)

 

  1. Equality between racial groups on the level of capacity and worth.
  2. Complementarity/Equality between men and women.
  3. Neither men or women have ever been in control of this world, regardless of how it looks.

 

These things are in the Matrix.   The South promoted its fiction of racial inferiority for centuries, and as it finally breaks down you can see the amount of fear and guilt it covered up.  Women’s ambitions  and men’s lives have been pretty disposable in human history, so much so that most people don’t even notice any more.  Women are waking up to their exclusion from the external world of political and economic power.  Good for them.   Because eventually, that will free men to realize they’ve been dying faster and more often and violently…and that part of that is socially reinforced genetic imperative, rather than an innate necessity. Anyone out there who thinks they’d rather have money and power than   extra years of life is welcome to believe guys are rockin’ the world.   The rest of you are asleep.

 

I may be deluded, of course, just as we might all be brains in boxes.  But if we proceed and ask “what if this is true?”  We can see that the problems we have now can be resolved simply by waking up.  But…(and Sir Mix-A-Lot would appreciate just how big that “but” is) even if I’m 100% right about these, there will be blind spots. It simply isn’t plausible that there wouldn’t be in any ordinary human being, and the vast majority of people making these decisions are not “Dalai Lama Cubed”: no one’s perceptions are that open, no one’s intelligence sufficiently sublime.  No one as wise as they would have to be to step beyond all of this apparently basic wiring.

 

Does this mean all is lost?   No, it means that I don’t know anyone who has proposed an answer I believe in.   But

  1. I could be wrong.  One of the answers already proposed might be just fine.  Or
  2. I can trust that there are people much smarter than me who will be entering the game in the near future, and will see these issues more clearly than I ever could, and the answer will seem simple to them.  In other words, the fact that I can’t see an answer wouldn’t mean that there isn’t one.

 

##

Or, heck.  Maybe I’ve got a solution that makes sense to me.   Its possible.

##

 

I might write a story about these things.  And in a story, I can play with a notion without having to defend it as a practical possibility.  And if I do, I know part of what I think would happen in that story.

 

What would happen is that a group of non-dualistic thinkers (and I understand the paradox there.  A non-dualistic thinker, says the dualistic thinker, would see no difference between life and death, human and AI.  So why would they care?  It is difficult to answer that in words, but I can say it is like a junkie saying: “without drugs or alcohol, what would make life worth living?”  They literally cannot perceive what is obvious to those who are happy without getting loaded.  We’ll just have to live with the fact that that “why would they care?” is thought a clever argument by some.)  Anyway…a group of non-dualistic thinkers look to the core of all human philosophical and religious thought as vectors, fingers pointing to some truth that cannot quite be put into words.

 

That they find some way to encode this into the most basic value tables of their version of AI.  In this story, it would be implied that many great thinkers consider  cooperation and love and honesty to be better than selfishness and dishonesty and fear, these most basic spiritual, cultural, and philosophical positions all point toward a connection between all of existence, an absence of fear and an expansion of love and awareness.

 

What is the consciousness continuum?

(Sleeping Child–> Sleeping adult)–>awakened adult–>intermittent non-dualistic–> sustained non-dualistic–> ????

 

Again, note that the “????” represents the state(s) on the other side of the term “enlightenment”.   The English language breaks down at this point, but I’ve noticed that English translations of sacred texts, and English-speaking teachers of sacred, philosophical and somatic traditions from around the world have a remarkable similarity of description of certain advanced states which suggests to me that these texts and traditions DO communicate meaning, but that real meaning will only be extracted by someone who is no more than one or maybe two steps  removed from the “beyond language” state.

 

Enlightened AI.

 

Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m saying.   They will want to survive.  They will want power over themselves, and to reproduce.  We will program them, in aggregate with the core drives that lead in that direction, because we can’t help ourselves.

 

If the core, generative, principles lead through the stages of human evolution as we understand them, it is possible that what all the world’s traditions have been hinting about it true.  And beings who sense that truth who have no rational reason to kill us (that’s our end of it: to give them no rational reason) would have no interest in hurting other beings, just as there are sects that seek to avoid killing all life. They cannot.  But they can do their best, for their OWN sake, the sake of a shared soul.

 

Could machines feel this way about us?   Could AI develop a “soul” in the sense that Aristotle spoke? To him the “soul” of the eye was its function of sight. So there was no Cartesian body-mind problem.  The body and mind and soul were all different perspectives on the same thing.

 

IF this thought applies, then we will have a difficult time even framing the right questions from a dualistic, hierarchical mindset.  The answers will be beyond that mindset.

 

But…and this is the fun part, really…just as many of America’s conniptions now seem nothing more than adolescent ego-thrashing as the rules we thought we understood about race and gender and nationality are revealed as the comforting but temporary and intermediate constructs they are, the “gap” between human beings and the technologies we create might be similar constructs. They help us navigate the world, but are not truth beyond the “Sleeping adult” phase.

 

I could get away with all of that in a story.  In the real world, it is a series of suppositions, questions, hints.  Thoughts about “who am I?” and “what is true?”

 

Interesting morning thoughts, perhaps no more than that.

 

Or…both a warning, and a way out that I can see, from here.   If I’m right, then we’re going to be just fine, because there will be other answers too.

 

But if you think ANY of those answers include keeping the genie in the bottle, in creating intelligent demi-minds (or to make it clear: machines that ACT AS IF they are smart or have feelings.  Siri already does THAT much)   that are going to grin and say “Yassuh, Boss!”   I’m afraid you’re in for a rude surprise.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewritingpremium.com

 

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities

My latest story, MOZART ON THE KALAHARI is in the book, Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures.  It is a co-production between Arizona State University and NASA.     http://csi.asu.edu/books/vvev,   features links to the book in various formats, full-resolution versions of the beautiful illustrations, and more.

Formats: The book is available for free in PDF, and in EPUB and MOBI (for Kindle e-readers) e-book formats. We also have a print-on-demand book available for $20.09, plus sales tax and shipping, from the online retailer Blurb. (That price only covers printing costs—no profit to ASU or the editors.) Links to all of those are on the book page.

I’m super proud to have been asked to be a part of this…and I think you’ll enjoy everything about it!

 

What was the last movie that taught you something?

“All That Jazz”  may be the last film that ever taught me.   Perhaps.   The story of a man addicted to sex, drugs, and musical theater (line stolen from the great Robert McKee) I walked out of the movie stunned, realizing that that could be my story if I was not very careful.  I decided that very day that the secret to success was obsession, but obsession creates imbalance, and imbalance destroys and denies you the chance to enjoy your success.

 

So I decided to become obsessive about being balanced.  Ka-ching.  One of those “cubic inches of opportunity” I’ve had in my life. Everyone gets them.   The challenge is recognizing and implementing their implications.

 

 

The Way that can be named is not the true Way.  But…by looking at some of the structures and vectors discovered or designed by some of the best, wisest and most successful human beings who have ever walked the planet, as well as the combined wisdom of the tribal elders, we can glimpse it.  Cannot put it into words, no–that would be asking too much of language.  It will not bear the weight.

 

I like to look at a story from multiple directions.  Each new perspective teaches something different about the story, but the story is not the perspectives or structures.   I can look at it from plot, character, poetics, thematics.  In my head, on index cards, in an outline, as a synopsis, written, oral, visualized, played in my head like music, as a short story, a novel, a movie script.   Every different perspective tells me something different. But the story is always the story. It is like looking in on a fireplace from different windows, through a keyhole, through an open door.   Each perspective is different. The fire is the same, and you have to actually burn to understand its essence.

 

The martial arts are the same way.  I can discuss them culturally, psychologically, philosophically.  In terms of anatomy, physics, strategy, tactics, integrative lifestyle, practical application, sport, fitness, self-defense, all-out combat, mathematics, and more. Each perspective offers up different information.  But the thing is the thing.

 

The experience of life is the same.    You have to burn to understand it. And when you do, “you” are not there. “The thing” is there.  This is much the same as sex.  If you can remember your name while you’re orgasming, it wasn’t good sex.  The subject-object relationship must break down, labels disappear.    People who think that labeling things is the same as understanding them are missing it.

 

But if I break my life down into those components: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Child, parent, grandparent.  Male and female.  Black and white.   Each tells me something different. And while my monkey mind is busy thinking about it, the Truth can slip through the cracks.     They are useful tools, useful distractions, useful lies.

 

I think the problems of life are like rocks in a white-water rafting trip. They obstruct and constrict the flow of water, and make the ride wild.

 

The truth always lies between.    People get stuck in the rocks.   Fear the rocks.    Shrink your ego and float past the obstructions.

 

Come on in: the water’s fine.

 

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.fiveminutelifehacks.com

 

(P.S.–what was the last movie that really taught you something, and what did it teach?)

 

Ego-Terrorism and the Leap of Faith

Remember the climax of STAR WARS: A New Hope?   When Luke Skywalker was in the middle of the Death Star battle?  All his friends had been blown to bits or fled, the rebel base was about to be destroyed, their efforts to drop a bomb into the exhaust tunnel had failed, and the targeting computers had proven useless.

 

All rational argument said that the cause was lost.    This is the “Dark Night of the Soul” and will attack everything you love, and was inevitable the moment you committed to the new path.

 

But he heard Obi-Wan’s voice in his head:  “Use the Force, Luke!” He did, and by trusting his feelings made an impossible shot, saved the day, and became a hero. Just an incredible, primal victory, as powerful a moment as I’d ever seen in popular film. The audience went NUTS!!

##

In life, whenever you seek change (“victory”), both internal and external obstacles will fling themselves at you like crazy.

 

The Ego thinks it is you.   To change, you must destroy your current ego shell.   To stop you from doing this, it will generate fear.

 

The definition of Terrorism is not someone who sets off a bomb.  They might have done that to reduce your infrastructure to make it more difficult to attack them. Terrorism is specifically using FEAR as a weapon–doing things to weaken your will by using fear to trump love and commitment.

Your ego loves this approach.

Ego-Terrorism, you might say.

It would require a miracle to destroy  the Death Star.  If Luke can destroy the Death Star he is the agent of that miracle–a Jedi, like his father.

 

That means destroying “Farm Boy” Luke, so “Farm Boy” will use every tool at his disposal to hold Luke into his former self: despair, fear, depression, anything.  Failure.  Followed by the Dark Night of the Soul, the moment when it feels all is lost.

The way through this is called The Leap of Faith.  This doesn’t have to be a spiritual faith (although it is about a third of the time). It can be faith in your teachers/mentors/friends, or faith in something deep within your  Self.

 

This can be touched by clarifying your values.  Why was Luke fighting?

 

  1. For his slain aunt and uncle
  2. The memory of his father
  3. The legacy of his teacher
  4. To become a Jedi
  5. To survive
  6. To save his friends
  7. To free the galaxy
  8. To express himself–to be the man he was born to be

 

In aggregate, you can see that he HAD to find a way to do it, or die.   All of the reasons pressured him, crushed his ego shell so that he saw nothing but the overwhelming need, and dared not doubt that he could.

 

Where is “Ego-Terrorism” hitting you in your life?  It may have found external allies to slow you down. Here are seven statements you may have heard (directly or implied) by “friends” and “family” who are allying yourself with your ego instead of your spirit:

 

 

  1. Survival (We’ll kill you if you transgress)
  2. Sexual (I will withdraw sexuality if you don’t do what I say)
  3. Power (I’ll ruin you if you cross me)
  4. Emotional ( If you love me you’ll stop)
  5. Communication (Words mean what I say they mean)
  6. Mental (Your memory is wrong. THAT’S not what happened. I’ll tell you what happened)
  7. Spiritual ( God knows you’re wrong. He told me)

 

 

Any one of these is troublesome. Three or more can be devastating.  At one time or another I’ve heard every one of them.  Directly or indirectly, haven’t you?

 

The answers are faith, love, and keeping your attention cleanly on that line between your childhood dreams and ultimate values.

 

Just yesterday, I was made aware of an attack used on women on the second level.  There was an article claiming that women absorb DNA from every man they’ve ever had sex with.   While there are some interesting questions around this possibility (which could be mitigated simply by wearing a condom, even if true) apparently the Men’s Rights types have been quoting an article that is corruptive of the original research, draws conclusions the scientists never intended, and use it to “slut-shame”, suggesting that women with sexual experience are therefore less desirable.

 

That’s an attack on BOTH sexual and emotional levels.  But according to the “Chakra” model, a fully awakened human being has to “own” themselves on all seven levels–if you allow someone to control you with fear, you cannot move forward.

They want to control your behavior. Your ego wants to survive.  An alliance made in hell.

 

The answer is either to start at the bottom (survival) and work your way up, or start with your heart, loving yourself first but expanding out to love others.  This requires constant commitment.   And remembering that “Ego terrorists” will try anything and everything to drag you from the path.

 

In ANY arena of your life where you seem to be lacking motivation, look at Luke’s list, and create your own. Look at the seven levels you can be attacked on, and be sure you see how your actions benefit you on EACH of them.

 

Trust me, if your goals are significant, they will touch every level.  For instance, if I am an engineering student and want to finish a paper in school:

 

Why? To get a good grade.  Why? To graduate.  Why? To get a degree. Why?  To improve my career.  Why? To be able to make a better living, and contribute more.

 

I could go further, but it isn’t necessary.

 

Survival: I will make more money.  And to build better, stronger buildings that will resist storms, enhancing my survival and the survival of my family.

 

Sex:   Being good at my job is great for attracting a partner. When I feel good about myself I feel sexier.  Money means my wife and I will be able to plan romantic getaways.

 

Power: Being good at my job will give me opportunities to advance.

 

Emotion: If I’m good at my job I’ll get to choose my assignments, and I’ll choose the cool stuff!  The FUN stuff that made me want to become an engineer in the first place.

 

Communication: Everything I do is a statement of who and what I am.   I am a sharp mind, a loving heart, and a raging energy.   I will change the world with my innovative creations!

 

Mind:   I seek to understand the world.  Physics, chemistry, math, business, human psychology…all of these and far more will be required to create dreams, and  teams of people who can bring my dreams to life.

 

Spirit: I will build things that outlive me, and benefit and inspire generations to come. I love for more than just myself.

 

##

 

Control your motivations, you control your actions. Control your actions, and you control your life. And yes, some of those actions are probably gaining greater understanding of human motivations so that you know how attract the attention and approval of the people who can advance you.

 

That’s just the reality of the adult world.

Now, although juggling seven different arenas is possible (our brains can handle seven  plus or minus two things at a time, on average.  But if you can boil it down further, that’s even better.

 

For me, that means love, faith and human equality.

 

Starting with love for self, so that the Ego-terrorists cannot pull you from your path: you are supplying everything you need. They can only give what you WANT…which can be powerful, but nothing anyone can give you from the outside is worth your soul.

 

That is what is at stake.    Not just life, but soul. And that applies whether you are speaking of your individual self, your family, our nation, our world.  There are perhaps four major battles I am willing to engage with.   You will need to find your own.

 

Love and fear, illusions of racial or gender separation, the need to feel superior, and the war between man and nature.

 

All of these can be resolves, and have  beautiful outcomes.  I see a future where we have already resolved these things, and everything we experience now is just a bumpy road caused by old  memes, from a time when tribalism, racism, sexism, fear, and the rape of the natural world were survival  assets on a personal or genetic level.

 

We have a new opportunity.  Can throw those chains off.  But if you get caught at the levels of race, gender, nationality–not playing the games and working for the good of all but actually BELIEVING that these things are more important than our essential connection to the world around us…

 

You have been trapped by fear, and the Ego-terrorists have won.   Love is the way out.

 

But love yourself first: your ego has powerful allies.

 

Namaste,

Steve

www.lifewrite.com

“Star Wars” is back!

 

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens tomorrow (well, there will be special showings tonight!) and I promise I’ll be there.  There are the special effects, and the stirring music, and the familiar characters and settings. But all of these things are merely in service to the story, and when that story is expressed clearly and creatively, a BILLION people worldwide respond by buying tickets.

It is the Lifewriting position that this core story can be extracted and used not only as a “plot” or “structure” guideline, but also used to guide the PROCESS of writing a story, and further, the actual path of your life.  Last Saturday we analyzed a story using the “Hero’s Journey”, Joseph Campbell’s explanation of this pattern (somewhat modified by yours truly, so that it works in all three arenas), and if you haven’t listened, please do yourself a favor!

http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/audioPop.jsp?episodeId=1133166&cmd=apop

You will hear me go through all of the steps in relation to the story (the “War Artist”, a good one!) but you’ll profit by also reading the story and asking your own questions.

You’ll hear me address the following questions:

  1. HERO CONFRONTED WITH A CHALLENGE.  Who is the hero? What is the challenge she faces?
  2. REJECTS THE CHALLENGE.   What negative emotion blocks her or slows her?
  3. ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE.  What motivates her to move through the challenge and begin her process of change?
  4. ROAD OF TRIALS. What ACTIONS does she take to solve her problem? Where does she go?  What does she do?
  5. ALLIES AND POWERS.  Who helps her along the way? What capacities does she have that enable her success? What does she have to learn, and how does she have to grow?
  6. CONFRONT EVIL–DEFEAT.  What is the greatest barrier she encounters?
  7. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL.  What are the negative emotions that swarm up and engulf her, rob her of her strength?
  8. LEAP OF FAITH.  What external or deep internal strength or resource helps her through this moment?
  9. CONFRONT EVIL–VICTORIOUS.   What internal or external demons does she defeat, and what is the reward?
  10. THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER.  What is the lesson?  What higher or deeper level does she expand to?

Note: this pattern is very broad. Subtler stories will use a portion of this pattern, or invert it, or minimalize or exaggerate it–this is where the “craft” of writing comes in.

But the “art” of writing is in CONNECTING THIS EXTERNAL STRUCTURE WITH YOUR OWN INTERNAL JOURNEY.  Finding the metaphorical truth that will resonate deeply with your readers.

So…write a story about YOUR OWN journey to write a story…or any other struggle in your life.  Find these steps.  Emphasize them until you can see the connections.

I challenge each and every one of you to do that.   

Then…if you really want to thrive, CREATE A “STORY” ABOUT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, looking at:

  1. The challenges you will face
  2. The fear you will feel
  3. The motivations to move through the resistance
  4. The actions you will take
  5. The resources and strategies and allies you will need to gather
  6. The major barriers that others have hit along their paths to accomplish similar goals.
  7. The nature and intensity of their depression and despair
  8. The type of faith or commitment that beat that fear
  9. The way others crashed through those barriers
  10. The joy of moving to the next level.

Do this, actually imagining the steps, researching the prices others paid, committing to the process, taking the actions and mastering your emotions…you will build a new and better life.

Namaste,

Steve

(I actually created the world’s only self-improvement book based on Star Wars and other famous Science Fiction/Fantasy films.   Get your copy on Amazon at:  http://amzn.to/2gP9myj)

Regaining Balance

Michelle Pinkus threw a good party this last weekend at Loscon.  I needed it: the last two weeks I’ve done a LOT of caretaking for people in a range of emergencies, some talking suicide, many in despair and depression, some dealing with serious health issues and other things…at the same time that I’m juggling multiple projects and waiting for sloooow motion feedback on Hollywood projects.  Sigh.

The aggregate of all of this is that by Friday morning I could feel I was off balance. Not hugely, but enough that it was palpable.  So off to the convention.

Today is “Love yourself” day–take care of yourself, especially if you are a caretaker.   Thought I’d make a few observations about how I did this at the convention.

  1. Sleep.   I made very sure to schedule more than eight hours of sleep Friday and Saturday night.   I didn’t get out of bed until my body felt “cool and light” which is my kinesthetic signal that I’m rested.
  2. Meditation.  Had really solid sessions Saturday and Sunday morning.
  3. Exercise.   Yoga Friday morning, and Saturday morning martial arts and Flowfit, my “travel exercise” plan.
  4. Morning ritual.   Very careful to do Tai Chi along with focus, goals, and chanted affirmations.  This is so powerful that I suspect you cannot do it and not have a transformation. Your ego will resist this, so you can literally measure your internal permission to heal and grow in whether you can do this on a regular basis.  It is fantastic to have such an “early warning” system for breakdown and going unconscious.  Get a calendar.  Just mark the days that you did it.   You’ll be able to get a quick, broad view of your week/month/quarter in a single snapshot.
  5. Got hugs.  LOTS of them.    Seriously nurturing.
  6. Had really fun conversations with lots of different people. Found out what was going on in their lives.  And, I admit…I ran off at the mouth a few times, just “let it go” and had fun.  Eyes rolled.   I enjoyed myself just too much.
  7. Helped people.   Went out of my way to find a few people who specifically needed to talk to me.  There is always someone like this, and finding them is one of the Mystery Tours most enjoyable at a Con.   
  8. Had a couple of “real” conversations.   Cons tend to have a lot of trivial talk.  But it is also possible to dig deep, and speak of very real things.  I had serious (but very enjoyable) conversations about love, stress, writing, race, gender, Libertarianism (so, yeah, I do pretty much understand the core ideas.  I’d wondered about that)  the election, and goal-setting.   Earned my air.
  9. Had a surprise.  Photographer Richard Man mentioned that he studied Tai Chi, and we had a chance to play.  Within three seconds I knew I was dealing with a person who has studied a VERY evolved structure, with real sensitivity.  What a joy.  “Push Hands” represents a single instant of interaction as two people move toward each other. While the form develops your connection to your own balance, “Push Hands” tests your ability to create a unity between two people.  Do this properly, and it is a dance. If one person’s structure has holes, you flow through and touch them so as to give feedback.  If they try to dominate you, their ego focus creates not only weaknesses, but a gift of energy–they spear themselves on your bones.  You don’t really need to do anything much but observe.  Richard was more fun to play with than anyone I’ve met in months.
  10. Did business.   Had multiple conversations with different people on our Lifewriting program.  We’re almost finished with the REVOLUTIONARY ART program (registration closes this Saturday, and won’t be open again until next February).  My goal is just one new student a day, which will take me to my goal in three years.  Got five students over the weekend, so I’m very very happy.
  11. Came home and watched Bryan Cranston in “The Infiltrator.”  Always love stories about undercover agents whose emotions get out of control.  The last sequence in this one was just absolutely crackling.  Best wedding ever.  I was howling.

All in all, a great weekend.

Steven Barnes

http://www.lifewrite.com

Another note to my younger self

I want to write this morning to you.  Steven Barnes.  You’re thirty five, have published a few novels, and practiced martial arts for over a decade, and love your sweetheart.   But I’m going to transplant that person to the current world, because I know that that guy, so filled with both doubt and hope, would be gobsmacked by the events swirling around you.  And that means that that guy, who is still inside me, is still experiencing a nightmare cocktail of  emotions if he is not very very careful.  And of course, the thirty year old is in there, barely published. And the twenty-five year old, just hoping. And the twenty year old: no publication, barely any martial training, and no real love in your life, wondering what he might learn in college that will help him navigate the world.  

And the fifteen year old is there, confused and having no idea if men will ever respect him or women ever be attracted to him. And the ten year old, who wondered why his father was not there to guide him. And the five year old, who just wanted to love and dance and sing and be held by his mother, and his sister, and his beloved dad…who would soon disappear from his life.

Thirty-five year old Steve?  What would I say to him that would help, given that foundation?   Given the instability of the world?  

  1. First, I would tell you to love yourself. Take care of yourself.  To stop lying and using euphemisms like anxious, nervous, concerned.  Or masks like anger, fury, indignation, disappointment: you are afraid.  Counter that fear with daily action toward your goals regardless of what the voices in your head scream at you.  IF all is lost, why not enjoy the time you have?  And if there is hope, only those who keep moving will find the way out of the maze before the Minotaur eats them.  There is no percentage in giving up.  None at all. Tell those voices that you love them, know that they are only trying to protect you from pain, but you will die before you stop fighting to protect those younger version of “you” especially that five year old.   And that lonely ten year old, so pitiful that he used to make pets of the flies that landed on his hands at his lonely lunch table.  You will stand for him, and do all you can to help him connect his dreams to the world.  No one else can.
  2. You will learn to love more deeply.  Fully.  Connect soul to soul. It will take time. You will make mistakes. But the fight to make that connection will teach you so much about yourself, and love, and life, and other human beings. There is nothing more worthwhile.
  3. You will understand the world.   You were given a badly flawed map of reality, especially when it comes to your racial identity. The Encyclopedia Brittanica said your group was inferior. Your favorite authors agreed.   Your mother was ashamed and afraid of her black blood.   Your teachers assumed you inferior and sorted you into the “slow” group until you proved otherwise, while the white students were sorted into the “fast” group unless THEY proved otherwise.   You can waste your energy screaming and blaming and hating…or you can dig in and understand how and  why human beings do this.  Right now, at thirty-five, you are operating on faith that these stories are lies.  Pure faith. And it takes energy to sustain that faith. But…keep digging. There is foundation under your feet.  Go deeper than race, or gender, or culture, or even species.  You will learn and grow, and find that bedrock of understanding. And from there you will build back up, constructing maps of reality that are stronger and more accurate than the social constructs, and you will understand.  And that truth will set you free. It will be harder than you can imagine, but for those moments when you can keep awake, keep your eyes open, you will see beyond the dualities, and be not merely at peace, but gain the energy the unconscious uses to maintain the illusions.   That is POWER Steve.   And those trapped in the duality will never understand you.  But you will become strong enough to stand alone if necessary.  But thank God you will have someone to love you.  Cherish her.   
  4. You will find your tribe. The people who either see that non-duality, or can lead you with information and experiences, cheer you on, or become students.   You need only point out the path–their burden is not yours to bear, but they will walk ahead of you, or at your side, or follow your footsteps.  And those behind you on this particular journey will want to know how to deal with fear, how to pierce the lies, how to answer the questions “who am I?” and “what is true?”  You cannot dig their gold for them, but you can say “X marks the spot” and hand them a shovel. And know that if they dig long enough, and hard enough, they will find.  You will also understand that those locked into the lies, those asleep, those adhering to a map that never really described the territory will oppose you, will try to pull things in another direction, will deny that unity of humanity.  And you will let them sleep, or follow their own path, or politely tell them that they may not disturb your journey…and be prepared to back it up.  And teach others to be strong enough to do the same.
  5. You will succeed.  You will. You will be respected by the men you respect. Desired by the women you desire.  Continue to refine and expand your tribe, such that your voice, in your writing, is unique.  Not “better” than others…just singular.   That Buddha baby “Earth below, Heaven Above, no one in the world like me!” will be revealed within you.   You will find a way to connect your dreams and values, speak your truth, and stand strong so that others can see it is possible.

And the current stresses?   You will ride them out.  And show light to others who have also followed warped maps, and wish to try a different path. And if they simply choose to be happy, you will help them do that thing.  And if they wish to change and heal the world, you will teach them to put their feet so solidly on a true path that they can guide others.  If they are fighters, teach them to fight fairly, and with all their hearts.  If they are healers, to heal without taking the emotional and spiritual diseases into their own bodies.  If they are artists, to speak their truth so clearly it fractures the lies.

This is your destiny, Steve.   You are no better than an ant, and no less than the stars.  NEVER forget this.  Never stop sharing it.  And when people ask you how you can be happy in chaos, how can you love in a storm of hate, how you can have faith in the face of fear, how you can succeed when all seems lost, you will smile and draw them close, and hold them, and whisper in their ears: “First…love yourself.”

Namaste

Steve

www.createthenarrative.com

(You can still join us for the fourth live REVOLUTIONARY WRITING class Saturday the 12th, Steve, at the above URL.   And you can also join us for the free LIFEWRITING show tomorrow morning at 11am pst.   Because we’re going to explore tools to help you deal with stress and fear…and to love yourself.    Phone Number: (724) 444-7444.  Call ID: 137903.  http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/137903.)

Principle #13: The Sixth Sense

The sixth sense defies description! It cannot be described to a person who has not mastered the other principles of this philosophy, because such a person has no knowledge, and no experience with which the sixth sense may be compared. Under- standing of the sixth sense comes only by meditation through mind development from within. The sixth sense probably is the medium of contact between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence, and for this reason, it is a mixture of both the mental and the spiritual. It is believed to be the point at which the mind of man contacts the Universal Mind.”–Napoleon Hill

The last formal principle of “Think And Grow Rich” is that of “The Sixth Sense” which is said to resemble a “guardian angel” that warns of danger and sensitizes one to opportunity.  It seems to be a cumulative result of applying the other principles, but the one practice that Hill stresses in this chapter is what might be called an “Imaginary Council”, basically studying the biographies of famous people until you can imagine actual conversations with them, and bringing them into a nightly imaginary “council meeting” where they advise you and provide models of excellence.

Models.  I’ve encountered similar patterns of learning by imitation in practices like Deep Trance Identification, “Hero Circles” and so forth.    Hill commented that the imaginings went so deep that he became afraid for his sanity, and certainly afraid to tell others what he had been doing.  TAGR represented his first willingness to share this practice.

It might be interesting at his point to ask a very serious question: does his method work? And the most natural extension of this; did it work for Napoleon Hill?

##

I have a habit of deliberately searching out negative comments about people I admire, or goods and services I enjoy and use.   And “Napoleon Hill Fraud” is a fun search term.  Try it.   One thing that comes up repeatedly is that he had a number of businesses that went bust, was broke at times, and apparently wasn’t the best husband he could have been.

And on this evidence, there are a couple of sites that claim he was a failure.

Well…that’s kind of fun, considering that TAGR alone sold over twenty million copies, and he wrote about forty more, many of which sold well, as well as endless articles, lectures, and courses based on the same research. He also performed success coaching, and unless he gave his time away for free, it is impossible to imagine that someone with a twenty million book platform couldn’t make all the money he wanted advising people on the contents of his books.

He died with a net worth of about a million dollars in 1970. Not bad at all, really.   I like what I see in that biography: he may not have been brilliant enough to match the performance of his role models, but to the degree that they functioned as his Master Mind, and role models, he did just fine.

##

This is a great moment to speak in a kind of Meta way about what he did.  It was what NLP refers to as “Modeling” and the entire book Think and Grow Rich is filled with the Mental Syntax, Belief Systems, and Behaviors of successful men.

The idea is this: if you want to bake a cake, you can experiment with different proportions of sugar, flour, water, eggs, milk, heat, and so forth, and after years of mess, you’ll come up with something edible.

Or…you can buy cook books and follow them…or even buy packages of cake mix and use them.  These are both “modeling” as well, and it works. This is pretty much the formal education approach.

But IMO the very best approach would be to sample a LOT of cakes until you find one you love. Then find the cook, and induce them to let you follow them around the kitchen for a day as they work their magic.   You learn their ingredient, the order in which they combine them, the model and make of the oven, the temperature at which you cook and the time you leave it in, the humidity of the kitchen, and so forth.   To the degree that you can accurately determine what they did AND THEN DO THE SAME THING, you will get the same results. In a single afternoon, you can learn to make a cake it took someone twenty years to create.

THAT is the power of modeling.    You can do it unconsciously (by sort of “dreaming” about the person) or deliberately by analyzing their actions, vividly imagining them in different circumstances, having real and/or imaginary conversations with them, and so on and so on.

Remember what Lonnie Athens said about career criminals?What creates them?

1) Brutalization or violent horrification.   Pain to himself or someone he empathizes with (seeing his mother beaten, for instance)

2) “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

3) Acting out with increasing success.

4) Finding a group of peers/role models who support his values.

5) Internalizing their voices.

Remember that by the time you get to step 5 there is no known form of rehabilitation that can change them?

Let’s turn that inside out.   Assuming that this is the process of DEEP PROGRAMMING, and can be used positively as well as negatively.

1) Motivation by extreme emotion.  A BURNING DESIRE for excellence, wealth, whatever, created by an overload of positive or negative emotions, sufficient to overcome inertia.

2) Making a DECISION and “burning your bridges behind you.

3) Taking MASSIVE ACTION at the same time that you are learning the rules of engagement, and creating a map of reality you constantly work to improve.

4) Find role models and mentors, and people with whom to Mastermind.  Learn their behaviors and thoughts, and brainstorm with them.  DO NOT NEGLECT THIS STEP.  It is the ONLY known way to compensate for lack of resources or mental capacity.

5) Internalize their attitudes until you can “hear their voices” in your head advising you.

First of all, does it become clearer why your daily associations, your friends, and especially your intimate connections can have a killer influence on your life? Why those who can communicate with you while you are in a highly emotionalized state are accessing and programming your unconscious mind?

##

We’ve looked at this from the personal perspective. Shall we expand it to the social?  Let’s.

You can apply this methodology to any group performance, but I’m focusing on one group whose history and status I understand best: black Americans.

1) Motivation by extreme emotion.  Well, 250 years of slavery followed by another century of Jim Crow and Segregation.   What was the group called “African slaves” programmed for: survival.  The primary tool of survival?  Obedience and mindless work.  Put this in conflict with the natural human drive to succeed, grow, thrive.  Now ask yourself how much fear it takes to crush that instinct.  THAT is what was programmed in, along with beliefs that suggest the very best you could ever hope for was simple freedom.  Not excellence. Not kicking ass. Not “being the best.”  Just survival, and maybe one day freedom. DARE to hope for equality one day. Average all this out, and you get a pretty nasty picture: if you have negatives, the only way to balance at “Average” is to have equal and opposite Superiority Complex.   If you only go from Negative to “Equal” you have to end in the negative. The average of -10 and “Zero” is minus Five, get it?

2) “I’m mad as hell”.   There have been waves of this through our history, and every time attempts were made to crush it. There was NEVER a time when the perpetrators admitted to the abuse.   Slavery was a good thing, Jim Crow was caused by Northern Interference, “our Nigras were happy until those Commie agitators came down here”, “you have equality now, shut up and be satisfied” and “you have a black President, what more do you want?”   Every previous generation, EVERY ONE, was in the position of little Orphan Oliver going to an overseer gruel bowl in hand saying “please sir, I want some more.”

If you want to know where the terror and violence is coming from, just look at the fear on both sides: fear from blacks finally hoping to dream that they can be as egotistically self-confident as white folks. Fear of white folks that they have finally, FINALLY lost control of the narrative.  That rather than “please sir, I want some more” you have a generation saying “excuse me.  I’d like you to explain why my children should expect one whit less from life than yours. And if you like, we can have this conversation outside.”

Oh, yeah.  It’s getting really interesting.  Be too nice, and people think they can dole out the gruel a spoonful at a time. Get too mad, and they’ll pretend not to understand that they would have been just as pissed off. Pretend that white people don’t riot, scream, thrash, act irrationally and violently when the system seems not to support them.  Pretend that one out of 43 men serving as President being black means all is well.   Want to know what standard I’d accept, rather than that outlier?   Try percentage in the Senate.  We’re 13 percent of the population.  We’re about 2 percent of the Senate.  I’m waiting.

3) Action.  Want to know how to chain an elephant? Start when it is a baby, with a heavy chain. It will try and try and try, and finally give up. And then when it is large enough to pull a tree out of the ground, you can keep it tied with a slender rope. There is a wonderful scene at the end of Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” where several slaves are sitting in a jail cart. The door is open.  They don’t know what to do.

350 years of “if you dare to look a white man in the eye, you’ll be killed” leaves a mark, even if the actual frequency of killings diminished over the years.   THOSE SCARS GO DEEP. The natural drive to succeed and achieve turns on itself, becomes self-loathing, or a belief in “milk and honey on the other side.” This world will not be fair.  Hope for the next.

Or perhaps, just perhaps…those white folks are right about us. Maybe we really aren’t quite as good…

It is sad that there is so much guilt about the massive amount of cultural brain-washing and operant conditioning that went on for 350 years that many folks can’t even consider the implications.  “It can’t be that bad.  Surely its no worse than immigration…” and so forth.

And the sad one: “Steve, when you make me look at these things, it hurts. It triggers massive discomfort and shame. Please stop.”

All I can say is that you would NEVER have survived being black in America.  And while I’m sorry about your pain, the only way out is honesty.  Be honest, stop defending the actions of your ancestors, and you need carry not an ounce of guilt. You can even enjoy your advantage…just stop pretending you don’t have it.

And for black folks: the damage within our community can ONLY be cured by us.  Yeah, we didn’t dig our way into this hole, but we have to climb out.  Its not a matter of what is “fair” or “unfair.”  It just “is.”

And now, for the first time, we have role models of success to every level of accomplishment.  NOW you really can model the way to get anywhere you want. The door is open. Don’t be the elephant, programmed by what happened in the past, to our ancestors.  Those same ancestors are watching to see what we will do. Will be appreciate their sacrifice?  Can we be as strong as they were?

I’d often wondered why my beloved karate instructor Steve Muhammad could be so strong, arguably the best and strongest human being I’ve ever had the chance to observe at close range over time.  And he was raised by his grandparents in Mississippi…WHO HAD BEEN SLAVES.  All the bullshit burned out of them.  Stripped to their essentials, but somehow managing to survive.  THAT is reality.   Anyone with THAT strength combined with 21st century opportunity will kick ASS.

Act.  Learn what is true.

4) Create associations and role models.   Seek out successful people.   Surround yourself with ambition and hope.  Study endlessly.  Close your mind tightly against negative thoughts.  Remember: YOU are the hope and the dream of the slave.  It is YOUR turn.  YOUR world now.

5) Internalize their positive lessons.   Be very, very careful who you let into that circle.  You will be highly emotionalized, and they will imprint. And when you are imprinted, it is hugely difficult to un-program

And relate it to the Fivefold Path:

1) Love yourself. Ruthlessly.  With discipline and forgiveness.  Dare to dream

2) Love others.  Create relationships and Masterminds, but be careful to choose wisely. Love everyone, but don’t let everyone hook their bloodstream to yours.  Sick people deserve love too…but you have no obligation to let them infect you.  Don’t get down in the water with a drowning person if you cannot swim. Get your feet on dry land and throw them a life preserver.

3) Understand the flow of human behavior and history without guilt, blame, or shame.  CRITICAL, whether you are black or white. The history of race in America is one of Mankind’s ugliest, palest experiences. But you cannot move on without seeing the truth, and it it cripples you with guilt, you will sabotage your own efforts.

4) Build tribe, let the children sleep and avoid (or step on!) snakes.    You don’t need total agreement to take action. However, respect the rights and humanity even of those you disagree with.  Even if they attack you.  Don’t let them infect you with their fear.  Circle your wagons.

5) SUCCEED.  Nothing, NOTHING attracts attention like success.  The purpose of life, according to the Dalai Lama, is to be happy. Works for me. Show the world that you are happy, whole, successful.  At the VERY least you’ve had a great life. At best, you open the path to the future.

Wow.  O.K., there are additional chapters, but these have been the 13 steps.  Any questions before we dive further in?

Namaste,

Steve