“Better Call Saul” is amazing

Monday on “Better Call Saul” Jimmy took another step toward becoming a professional criminal.  He extorted a guard, enabled a drug dealer and committed an insurance fraud.  Meanwhile. His mentally ill brother is being kicked out of the firm he created because in a previous week, Jimmy “accidentally” revealed the depths of his illness in a fit of pique.  Let’s see…what else did he do?  I don’t even want to go into it.    But I thought that, as he makes his progress toward being “Saul”, the fixer and middleman to genuine monsters like Gus Freng and Walter White, (Jimmy is a puppy in comparison), it might be useful to devise a model of Jimmy’s internal state, so that we can see how he step by step becomes what he ultimately becomes…a hugely “likeable” Igor.


Jimmy starts life as a kid with a brilliant older brother with whom he constantly competes, a strong strain of likability, and little moral compass. He is “clever”, not really smart.  In other words, he can see ways to cut corners, but could never build anything himself.   People who burn buildings down can feel superior to the people who planned and built it.


Like all human beings, he wants to avoid pain and gain pleasure.    Clearly, he associates money with pleasure, but the only things we EVER hear about in terms of his money-making is scamming and stealing.  Always with a smile, of course.


Meanwhile, his brother Chuck, brilliant but emotionally damaged, almost certainly resents the fact that Jimmy is such a little thief, but PEOPLE LIKE HIM BETTER.  Get this?  They respect Chuck. But they LOVE Jimmy.  Jimmy has that plausibility.   So Chuck doubtless does things to undercut Jimmy, including the worst thing that we know of: he doesn’t tell Jimmy their mother asked for him on her death bed. That is terrible, no question about it.


But don’t take your eyes off the ball–and Jimmy is the ball.   Jimmy continues to desire the respect Chuck gets, but cannot change his habit patterns–continues to cut corners, lie, and steal, and then acts surprised when people see through his “who, me?” act and actually TREAT him as if he is a liar and thief.


And this is where it gets interesting. Where “Breaking Bad” is a tragedy of a genuinely amazing human being who is destroyed by the discovery of his power, “Better Call Saul” is the story of a little man who wants to be a big man, and is destroyed by the gap between his dreams and his reality.


He attends a cut-rate law school.  There are THOUSANDS of occupations he might have chosen.  Does anyone doubt that he is specifically competing with Chuck, who built a mighty law firm on the strength of his knowledge and intellect?


Does anyone think that, having established that Jimmy cheats at EVERYTHING, he didn’t cheat in law school?  Anyone?


One of the really amazing things that Vince Gilligan achieved with both Walter White and Jimmy is the degree to which people justify their behavior.  I can only figure that they are thinking “under those circumstances, I would do the same thing.”   Brrrrrr.


Because no matter what Jimmy does, the excuse is: “he HAD to do that!” I mean, what choice did he have to extort a guard and enable a drug dealer for seven hundred dollars?  He needed the money, and his back was hurting.


Why did he need the money? Because he lost his ability to practice law for a year and was on “community service.: Why? Because he broke into his brother’s house. Why?  Because his brother had evidence Jimmy had stolen and fabricated legal documents.  Why did Jimmy do that?  Because because because.


Why did his back hurt? Because he faked an injury to blackmail a store owner. Why?  Because he needed the money. Why? Because that store owner refused to buy commercials from him, and Jimmy considered this unfair.  Why?  Because he desperately needed money.   Why? Because he’d lost his license…


Because he wanted to compete with his brother, and fabricated documents to do it…


Because he wasn’t smart enough to compete with Chuck without cheating…


Because he HAD to be a lawyer, to both get Chuck’s respect and to drive him crazy like little brothers do (“this law stuff isn’t so tough…”)


Because his ego is based on getting a specific acknowledgement from Chuck and the world.  With a thousand other professions, a million other places to live, he had to do that, there in New Mexico, even though he simply doesn’t have what it takes.


Watching Jimmy McGill is watching a slow-motion car wreck.  He could probably own a car lot and be a success. Any number of other things. But he has to do THIS, even though he simply doesn’t have the problem-solving ability to do the job without lying and cheating, then doesn’t have the moral strength to take responsibility when he is caught.


But man, is he ever LIKEABLE.    He will enable thieves, drug-dealers, killers. Will be complicit in death and destruction on an impressive scale.  But every step is tiny.  He CANNOT awaken to the reality of the path he is on without questioning his core identity: Slippin’ Jimmy.  NOT a good person.  NOT a smart person.  “Clever” yes.   He can see holes in the structures others create, and wiggle through them…but couldn’t create anything himself to save his life.


Watch him drag down anyone who ever loved him.   Watch him justify any level of nastiness because he HAD to do it.


But he’s so damned LIKEABLE.


Now…look around you.  If YOU justify Jimmy, I have to ask: do you have “Jimmy’s” in you own life?  People who are plausible, and “nice” and “warm” and break everything they touch and corrupt the people who love them?  Are YOU ever a “Jimmy”?


I think we all have a bit of “Jimmy.” We all want to believe we’re as smart as anyone else, and if we have to cut corners, well, if we don’t get caught, what difference does it make?  Who gets hurt…?


Musashi’s first principle is “Do Not Think Dishonestly.”   Jimmy might, just MIGHT have an epiphany and finally understand what he is, perhaps later in life.  He might, just MIGHT understand all the damage he has done, after it is too late to do anything about it.  And chances are that he will NOT have the strength to admit, genuinely regret a wasted life, where all he had to do was set his goals a little lower, and he wouldn’t have had to lie and cheat.  He lied to himself, he lied to the world, and he is responsible for every bad thing that happened.


All he had to do was tell the truth. Jimmy won’t wake up.


But will you? Will the audience? Can we love this show, love Jimmy, and still see what he is?  Because if we can, BETTER CALL SAUL is an AMAZINGLY moral show.  As was BREAKING BAD, viewed from a distance.   It is less blunt than “The Shadow” with his “the weed of crime bears bitter fruit” but it is the same thing.   And all we have to do is look at the fascination with such characters, the tendency to justify them, and even our own love of such scoundrels and ask “why?” and we can understand human life more clearly, from politics to “gaslighting” relationships.


THIS is fine drama.   BETTER CALL SAUL  and BREAKING BAD are  so far above most of what passes for drama on television that it is pretty clear, in mid-series, that we’re watching a modern classic unspooling before us.  But…it’s up to us whether it is just “entertainment”…or “art”: the revelation of deep truths about the human condition, told with such craft it can be mistaken for triviality.


Man oh man, do I love this show.


He is so LIKEABLE!!






Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women. But smile.

My primary intent is philosophical: “who am I?” and “what is true?” rather than political, which I interpret as “how can we win?”


That intent is about personal evolution, awakening,  advancement for the species.   Unfortunately, only truth can take you there. And “People will thank you for making them think they are waking up, but they’ll hate you if you actually do it.”  There is that risk.    But my commitment HAS to be the actual awakening.  Some of these things can be proven logically. Others have to be taken on faith.


Hopefully, the only thing I’m taking on faith is a basic belief in human equality.  While it may not apply in all instances, I find that the other path, believing your group is superior, is FAR more likely to produce pain, oppression, and feed domination and ego games, as well as the utterly poisonous potential to damage someone and then blame them for the damage.


The rest of predation is just animal. But that?  Blaming THEM for what YOU did to them?  That’s like a child molester claiming their victim was “the most seductive child you ever saw.”


Or a mugger hitting you in the head, taking your wallet, pissing on you as you lay in the gutter, and then laughing and claiming you are just genetically indolent, broke, and stinking.  THAT is not simple predation. That is evil.




Need I be more specific?   THOSE WHO PROMOTE THE NOTION OF INEQUALITY ARE, AT THE VERY LEAST, CARRYING WATER FOR MONSTERS.  That is the clear corrollary for my core belief.


Are we crystal clear?


Where do I apply this “basic equality” notion?    Not universally–clearly some people are taller than others.  It would be absurd to say otherwise.  I apply it to large groups in certain ways, NOT BECAUSE I THINK IT IS 100% TRUE, BUT BECAUSE IT IS TRUER THAN THE OPPOSITE, MORE OFTEN. And because it forces a different kind of thought.   I find that it leads more naturally to thinking of human beings as “ends rather than means”.  The opposite, thinking of people as “means rather than ends” is, again, a road to human evil.


If I’m going to make an error, I’ll make it on the side of love.    I can deal with that.




So I START with the assumption of basic equality in capacity and moral worth between:


  1. Men and women
  2. Gay and straight
  3. Different races
  4. Different major religions


There are others, but these stand out.  In other words, when you see problems, start with nurture over nature, and ask if there are things in the environment that could create this issue. ESPECIALLY if your own group is in opposition or dominator position.




Because the natural human tendency is to blame others for the damage we do to them.  We don’t like to feel guilty.


BUT…if you are the oppressed group, you also have a responsibility–to NOT take the position that the oppressors are inferior to you morally.  I see this one done by the “undergroup” all the time.  But when they have power, they use it the same way.


No…if you are going to say the difference in performance (things like life span, income, incarceration rates, education levels, political power, life satisfaction etc) are caused by environmental things, you have the responsibility to understand the “oppressors” the same way.   And grasp that if you had the power, you’d do the same thing…or maybe even have power you don’t acknowledge and DO create your own chaos and damage.


There is a classic Jules Feiffer cartoon.  In it, a black man and a white man are sitting across the table from each other.  The black man says: “you have your history.  White history.  Written by white people, to promote white power.  We want our history. Black history, written by black people,to promote black power. Our demand is separate but equal lies.”


DAMN I loved that!


Separate but equal “stories” might help us understand the reactions to “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther”–both the celebration and the venom (check out the comments on Youtube or “Aint It Cool News” about the films or their trailers.   No matter how fast the moderators take down the racist and sexist comments, they still pile up.  If you haven’t been aware to its presence in our culture, it will horrify you.)




If my primary interest is spiritual awakening, why do I speak of the flesh? Sex?  Exercise? Success?


Heck, why talk about things like race?


Look at the Chakras.   They are a model of human growth, similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, but predating it by thousands of years.    Survival, Sex, Power, Emotion, Communication, Intellect, Spirit.  The lower levels are foundational, and must be healed before the “energy” rises to the next level and can be invested in dealing with the problems THERE.  When you resolve the duality, awaken from the illusion, you free up the energy used to bind you there, and can rise to the next level.


It is HARD.  I had no support for this as a child, even though I could see the path. So…I ignored certain levels of the conflict, the illusion.   Those dealing with race were not dealt with healthily in my environment: my mother was terribly conflicted, believed that if she’d “passed” for white, she would have had a better life.   Trapped by a lie (that she was “black” even if she was phenotypically white, an absurd notion supported only by a cultural lie and racial politics) she was torn to pieces, and died in horror.


I “wired around” that stuff, deliberately projecting my personality strongly enough to force people to consider my individual personal characteristics as more primary than my racial characteristics. But…I always knew it was an evasion.   Would hear the “you’re not one of them.  You’re one of US” comments.  I was accepted, as long as I remained silent about certain issues.   And it felt damned good.  I wasn’t trapped.  As long as I shut up.  And tacitly agreed that “well…ahem…it’s not their fault, but…you know…black people just aren’t as smart…”


I was warned that as long as I was “Steven Barnes, science fiction writer, who happens to be black” I was safe. But if I spoke up, I would become “Steven Barnes, black science fiction writer” and would suffer for it.  Hell, I was BLACKBALLED from a major SF magazine on racial grounds (according to two different editors, who approached me separately after the death of the publisher) so yeah, I’m not blowing smoke.


By odd coincidence, these same people also denied slavery had been any more painful than, say immigration. They HAD to, don’t  you see?  They can’t have their “inferiority doctrine” AND believe the testimony of slaves, witnesses and logic that the institution was destructive.


Its one or the other.


So…they choose the one that absolves their ancestors of guilt, and allows them to avoid the fear of retaliation. A retaliation which has never come.


Why?  Theory: black people who would be inclined to retaliate for the horror were killed out of the population, the genes and memes destroyed.    Where might we see a bit of evidence of this..?






It is disturbing to me that even black exploitation directors don’t seem to be as hostile to whites  as mainstream white directors can be to blacks. Logic would suggest that they sure as hell have more motivation.   In other words, I can produce DOZENS of examples of white movies killing all black people.  But I cannot find a single example of the opposite, even with black directors.  They MUST exist, but wow, couldn’t have had much distribution now, could they…


I remember lecturing at a white college, and someone made the mistake of asking me why black people are so angry.  I had to laugh at the obliviousness, but took the question seriously.  “What if we had done the same thing to you?” I asked.   “What if we had kidnapped you from your homeland, put you in chains, shipped you to the other side of the world. Stripped away your religion, language, culture, autonomy.  Raped your women and sold your children. Beat you to death if you didn’t work for us, and then stole the fruit of your labor.  Did this for generations, then brain washed you into believing you were DESERVING of this treatment.  Then…gaslighted you into believing nothing had happened, that “Gone With The Wind” was an honest representation of the institution, then claimed that the political party favored by the descendants of those slavers, the people more likely to believe you were inferior, were actually better friends than the people who tried to help you, however clumsily…?”


Oh boy, we were having some fun now!


You should have listened to the room getting quieter and quieter.  The women drew back and crossed their arms over their chests.  The guys leaned forward, baring their teeth, clinching their fists, cheeks tensing into “predator face”.  War face. They knew DAMNED well that, under those circumstances…they’d want to kill us all.


Oh yeah, baby.  Make no mistake.   THAT’S the truth.


And that is why the lies have been so important, the images in film such a naked revelation of unconscious desires and values.  Why there is so much anger around images like “Black Panther.”  Remember: ANGER IS FEAR.  ATTACKS ARE DEFENSES.


But also remember: under the same historical circumstances, you and your group would do the same thing.  If you can’t see that?   If the circumstances were reversed, you’d be one of the racists you hate.  You are part of the problem. You just haven’t had the chance to act out yet.  You are an oppressor-in-waiting.




Because I’m assuming that the death of all black characters in films is an unconscious expression of values–it NEVER happens in reverse in an American film. The only examples of this I can find internationally are in movies like “The Chinese Connection”, which are specifically expressions of anger and fear toward “foreigners” (Russians and Japanese, specifically, who had dominated China),


Theory: Wiping out every member of a group in your film is an expression of your values and fantasies.  In most naked form, it is raw anger and hostility.



If that’s true, then are there any supporting datum?  Well… (and this has to be rubbery–I’m not doing formal social science research, but DO know a lot about film images and their acceptance at the box office level…)


Remember that little thing about black men having sex in movies, and how white audiences reject it?   That until the movie “Creed” not a single film with a non-white actor having a love scene had cracked the 100 million mark?


It isn’t about a blanked aversion to phenotype, certainly–there are plenty of non-white FEMALES boffing above the 100 million level.  Always with white males, of course.


So what might be going on?  Well…if we look more closely, we are in dangerous territory. We are piercing the “Matrix”, beliefs and values held so deeply that they just seem   reality. To look through them risks danger, frankly.    These are uncomfortable thoughts for those who benefit from the lie.


And I suggest that the lie is, at best simply the universal human lie: “our tribe is the smartest, strongest, sexiest. God loves us the most and made us the best.”  Simple.  Universal.


And at worst: As Conan said:  “Crush images-1.jpgyour enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women.”   Kill the men, rape the women.  That’s about as primal a core genetic programming as you can get.


IF that is true, how would I put this all together?


  1. Males do not take pleasure in watching reproductive behavior in males they feel themselves to be in competition with, or fear being outbred by.
  2. The primary rule is “kill the males, rape the females”.    More politely, have the males die or be denied access to sex. Seduce the women.    It has ALWAYS been safer for white men to have sex with black women than vice versa.
  3. The disproportionate deaths, and 100% extinction images (all black people, or all black males, killed) reflect this cinematic expression of tribal warfare.
  4. One reason You NEVER see the opposite because almost all “black exploitation” movies were financed, produced, directed, or distributed by white people.  There was a white person SOMEWHERE in that chain. And a film that killed all white people would at the least “feel wrong”.  (Remember–if the situation was reversed, black people would pull the same shit)
  5. And the other reason…is that black people who translate that fear into anger, and that anger into action…were killed over the centuries.  Their memes destroyed.   What we have instead  is tolerance, patience, Christianity, philosophies of peace and unity or isolation.  Anything else would have been suicide.   We were always outnumbered, always outgunned.



Why do I speak about this, if my ultimate goal is spiritual evolution? Because you can only evolve from love. Fear and love compete. And I see massive fear boiling among whites…because black people aren’t as scared of them as we used to be.  Oops.



What is frightening? Why are people scared?  The people who believe in equality are NOT as scared.   They can afford to have faith that things will work out.    Those who trade in stereotypes, in the belief in inequality, have much to fear.


If they hate and fear, and think black people are equal, then they are afraid of being treated as they have treated others.


If they believe whites are superior (and make no mistake: I’d estimate 10-20% of human beings believe this about their racial group.    That means that there has been one hard-core racist for every black person in the country.  One needs look no further than this to understand everything you need to know about why blacks have suffered in America)  then they fear that “the monkeys are taking over the zoo.”


But, of course, what about the third possibility, the one so seldom discussed?  That blacks are actually SUPERIOR?  In that case, the fear is ravening: like a bully who beat up smaller kids in grade school, they fear those kids getting their full growth, and maturing to own the town factory such that one day they stand in front of those they used to abuse, asking for a job.  Or kneeling in a back alley, begging for mercy.


Consider THAT fear.  That humiliation.   That extinction terror.     Massive.  So massive it is hardly ever even considered.   People will imagine the world dominated by robots, aliens, apes or zombies before they’ll consider black people in charge.


Seriously.  Wait.  Maybe the SF people were right.  Maybe robots, aliens and apes really DO represent….






That’s what we’re actually dealing with in America.  The chickens coming home to roost.  Slaves were simply human machinery. But you needed an entire system of lies to keep that machinery in place, and the lies outlived the institution.


There is a layer of existential terror that keeps those with hatred and fear in their hearts from asking “who am I?” and “what is true?”  They dare not.  But they must.


If America is to evolve, if people both white and black are to evolve, we have to move beyond fear, and that requires that we face truth, no matter how bitter it initially seems.


What is the way through all of this?  The same five principles I’ve discussed over and over again.


  1. Love yourself.   When you do, you don’t need the opinions of others.  But you also can examine your own flaws and failings and admit them. This is CRITICAL if you are to see the failings of others and see that you could have been that person, given a different world.  But we’re not talking foolish optimism. If you REALLY love yourself, you tap into your natural defensive circuitry, the same way you would if someone threatened your child. BE SAFE. But be loving.
  2. Love one other person.  This teaches us empathy, DEMANDS that we begin to engage with the world.  Selfishness is only a problem if your sense of “self” ends at your skin.
  3. Understand history and humanity without guilt, blame, or shame.  This continues the process of expanding empathy.  And if you start with the assumption of equality, you must understand the relations of differing races, genders, religions and even nations as natural emergent tendencies: fear and love and unconscious drives and self-justification played out on a world stage for 250 thousand years.  Its quite a show.   And the puppet master has always been our drive to survive and reproduce.
  4. Support your tribe.  Don’t waste your time on sleeping children and smiling monsters.  “Tribe” doesn’t need to be a nasty word.  My “tribe” is defined by those who have FAITH in human equality. Others can be friends, or neighbors, or students, or even teachers. But they are not of my “tribe” in this sense.  Because my faith is unshakable, I believe anyone on another path is simply blinded by self-interest. They are asleep.  And a few are “smiling monsters” who will pretend to be friends, but are really trying to seduce you into their twisted view of the world.  Be careful.
  5. WIN with honor.  Treat others as you would wish your children to be treated: fairly, honestly, compassionately.  When they come at you with anger, remember that they are afraid.   Attacks are defenses.   When you come from love AND strength, you will be able to stand your ground, speak your truth, and withstand the “whirlwind” they promise you.  But play to win.



I care about fiction because those who control the narrative control consciousness.  The world is in turmoil, America is in turmoil because, I believe, we are finally asking the real questions.


We PRETENDED to believe in equality–as long as it was on comfortable terms.


I concern myself with film images because they BOTH lead and follow. Are both symptoms and causes.  When I know what you like to watch…I know what is in your heart.  But I can also help you see that the future is nothing to fear, unless you believe you need fear to survive.


Now we’re dealing with the reality.  Needless to say, there WILL be smiling monsters who try to corrupt this process (“hey!  What about us pederasts!   Love is love, right..?”) and the oppressed WILL become oppressors, if their hearts are dominated by fear rather than love.


But…love will win.  I believe that with all my heart. And all we have to do is START from the position of equality, rather than the other way around.


Love and fear compete for the same place in our hearts.  Come from love




(I am searching for storytellers who want to come from both love AND strength, and speak truth.   If this sounds like you, join us at www.lifewritingpremium.com)

What do all these movie have in common..?

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Wrath of Khan
  3. Damnation Alley
  4. Kingsmen
  5. Magnum Force
  6. Sudden Impact
  7. The Unforgiven
  8. Freddy Versus Jason
  9. Ice Station Zebra
  10. Dirty Dozen
  11. RED
  12. The Shining
  13. The Green Mile
  14. Night of the living Dead
  15. Alien
  16. Aliens
  17. Terminator
  18. Terminator 2
  19. Prometheus
  20. Conan
  21. Conan the Destroyer
  22. Predator
  23. Commando
  24. Return of the living dead
  25. Life



What is the connecting thread between all of the above movies?





Well, there may be several, but one is that in every one of them, all the black people, or all the black male characters (people with at least one line of dialogue) die.  (Note: it is the pattern I hate, not necessarily the individual films.   Some of them I flat-out love.  But the fact remains that there isn’t a single American film in which all the white characters die while non-white characters survive.

Not a single one.

There are some Asian films where this happens, like Bruce Lee’s “The Chinese Connection” where Bob Baker plays a Russian Lee kills with a chop to the throat.   Only white guy in the movie.  Chinese feeling mighty antagonistic toward Japanese and Russians in that movie.   Hmmm…you couldn’t think that killing all the members of a group is symptomatic of antagonism and fear, could you?

Naw.   Couldn’t be.

But you do have to wonder why it’s never happened in reverse.  Not once.   Couldn’t be because they FEEL that this would be anathema, could it? That it would doom the success of the film?  That THEY wouldn’t want to see something like that..?


Nah.  Couldn’t be.




I got an email today from a guy who was apparently disturbed that on a “Writing Excuses” podcast I listed “The Green Mile” as a movie I loathe and will never watch again.  On the other hand, I thought the BOOK (published in chunks) was actually quite fine.   What was the difference?


In the book, the Tom Hanks guard character THINKS that John Coffey is innocent, and tries to free him. Fails. It is tragic, and the book’s title “The Green Mile” is a metaphor for life itself.  Coffey dies, as do we all.


But in the movie, Tom Hanks KNOWS that Coffey is innocent (gets a psychic vision of exactly what happened) and does NOTHING to try to save him. Has one conversation (“what should I do, John”) with a severely depressed man who just wants to die, and accepts that life is just too hard, too cruel, for such a perfect spirit…sob sob.


Apparently, the gentleman who wrote me disliked the fact that I didn’t find this inspiring.  That no, if he is the only black man on the screen, he isn’t a symbol, he is a human being wrongly accused, arrested, convicted, and executed by white people.   A human being who is black, as the culture defines me.  The only one.

And while this may provide some kind of epiphany for white audiences, it is just another in a long, long series of images that make us other than human.  Less than human (I just recently had to ask another racist not to comment on racial threads) or more than human…it doesn’t matter, because what is clear is that in the minds and hearts of the audience and the filmmakers, we aren’t like them.


And that is lethal. It justifies violence and oppression. On the other hand it triggers guilt and overreaction, which leads to resentment, which leads to anger, and back to violence and oppression we go.   Put us down in a ditch or up on a pedestal and the result is the same.


So no, I don’t consider being a Sacrificial Negro, or a Spiritual Guide to be a good thing.  Dying to protect or uplift white people is not my idea of a good time.   All of this crap is part of the same Matrix of false beliefs that was necessary to build a nation, and justify what was done, but stands between us and a healthy future.  I won’t be silent about these things–they cost lives.


Still like “Aliens” though.






“Naigung” and the inner art of Sijo Antwione Alferos

I realized at a very early age–perhaps seven–that the reality I was offered by family, society and church organizations was not the real world.  That realization caused me endless grief, and probably was the origin of my interest in fantasy, the stories that we tell ourselves, and others, to define, empower, control, or destroy.


I knew that if I accepted the stories others gave me, I’d be limited by their concepts and goals.  Deciding to find my own, I asked “where can I find the role models and knowledge to create a different path?”


I was raised by my mother and sister. The question “what is it to be a man?” was paramount: without that, I couldn’t get the kind of reactions I craved from either men OR women.


The answer I came up with was that those lessons were most fully encoded in the disciplines traditionally operating in the male sphere: martial arts and similar “protect the community” disciplines.  And the men who I encountered who were most fully “male”, who got that “male” response from men and women, were most often fighters, police officers, veterans, martial artists.  So I went in that direction.  As time went on, I realized that most American martial arts wasn’t like Kwai Chang Kane’s experience in the Shaolin Temple: a congruent mix of culture, philosophy, meditative,  health advice, fitness, and self defense.


In fact, that would have been IMPOSSIBLE in 70’s America.  I’m not sure its possible now…but maybe.  Just maybe.


So what I did was seek a school that had the “fighting” aspect, and then find the health, meditation, philosophical and other aspects in other places.  Man oh man, did that require I look far and wide into Yoga, Meditation, hypnosis, NLP, and other disciplines.   I did gain martial skills, but they were a shell around my fear, and that fear kept breaking through to the surface.


I remember a fine young black belt who once asked me: “Steve…when will I stop being afraid?” and I had no answer for him.   A few months later he committed suicide.  I’m not saying I could have saved him, but I swore I’d never be without an answer again.


My doorway to that inner world came when I met Terry Letteau, Shorei-Shito-Ryu instructor who taught me a meditation that helped me gain clarity, to see that the fear was just a natural response, and not a sign that there was something wrong with me.  That took me to Swiftdeer, who taught me to connect the physical and spiritual realms, so that Yoga and martial arts and meditation all started becoming the same thing.  Later, Scott Sonnon’s “Flow State Performance Spiral” gave me Western analytical terms to understand these eastern mystical concepts, and the whole world changed.


Now, I simply practice the arts for the fun of it, and because your body needs a discipline. Self defense?  I’ll either talk my way out of it or pick up something and hit you with it.   But what I love, and I mean LOVE, are the men and women who have the “Warrior” aspect of the arts (often they have martial skill, have served in the military, train military and police officers) but also exemplify the philosophical aspects, are gentle souls who teach lethal arts.


I met Sijo Antwione Alferos of the Whipping Willow Association through Steve Muhammad.  He is an easygoing man who teaches largely Filipino arts, usually weapons-based.  His knife work is particularly impressive.  But he also treats his students like family, generous to a fault with his knowledge, and just a good and decent human being.


Having realized that I am unlikely to  attend a formal school with regularity again, the idea to seek out a  seminars every month seems like a good substitute.  Sijo Alferos’s “Whipping Willow Association” meets at least four times a year, and Saturday morning  I drove down to Buena Park to his house to join a group of twenty students gathering in his back yard for training.  I take such pleasure in that, the simple pleasure of being a student among other students, just learning.


One of his black belts, a lady named Gigi I’ve seen in his circle for ten years, taught us the use of the Sarong as a flexible weapon. That was fun–Danny Inosanto taught that same tool early this year, so I felt less of a complete Klutz.  When they broke for lunch, I knew I had to head home (the last AFROFUTURISM webinar was yesterday at 3pm) but before I did, I engaged in conversation with  Sijo about different subject…and the question of what it takes to age gracefully in the martial arts (hey!  I’m sure that subject will be of interest to me one distant day.  Ahem).  He said that he knew many serious badasses in the arts who had not been able to handle the loss of their strictly physical abilities.  I suspect that because his emphasis is on blade and weapon work rather than how strong his body is, this particular issue was not as much of a problem for him.


Specifically, he refers to the spiritual path within his discipline as “Naigung”, to be considered differently from “Chi Gung”.


Roughly, Naigung means “No one knows who I am better than myself.” This is definitely what I sought as a child.  The “Who am I?” I speak of.  As a child, you get your definitions of self from your environment.   By the time you marry and have children, your search to be self-sufficient forces you into the “what is true?” and by the time your parents die, most of us are dealing with the “who am I?”


The sooner you start engaging, the better off you are.  While life itself provides you with the lessons you need, the Sufis and other spiritual groups seek to “die before you die”, to face and examine these realities before they are thrust into our faces.  Perhaps while your brains have more neuralplasticity.  Eventually, almost all of us “get there” but there is definitely advantage to buying your ticket before showtime.


Sijo Alferos spoke of a core philosophy of Naigung: the “Three phases of Consciousness”.  I recently acquired a Boocosa digital recorder keychain (I found that the “steath” USB recorders didn’t seem to function cleanly with my computer: they didn’t always show up as disks when I plugged them in) and have the intention to capture more of these Pathways to Power when wonderful people like Sijo share with me. With his permission, I captured the following statement, and share it with you:


“There are  phases of consciousness: the Awakening, the Treatment, and the Dispersement.    The awakening is like the first time you are first introduced to a thought. The first time a thought is introduced to you.  The first time a concept is introduced. It is an Awakening.


“Now as you start to think about it, and you start to speculate, on different ideas from that, that becomes the “treatment”.  Its what  you do with it. What your mind does with it, your body does with it. I showed you a technique,  and you’re saying “what if I did it this way?  What if I did it that way?”   If I stepped back a little, or if I stepped forward?  All that is the awakening, because you’re coming into understanding of what it is.


“The Dispersement is when it becomes YOU, and it is fluid.   You disperse it and so now you can teach it.  Now you’re the end conclusion of it.  The first time that you experience the treatment, that’s the awakening to the treatment.  So there’s an Awakening that results from the treatment,   but the first time you experience the Treatment that’s also an Awakening.  And the   the first time you experience the Dispersement that’s an Awakening.”


So awakening, treatment and dispersement  are not a straight-line or a vector, but a triangle, with each pointing at the others and feeding into them.


He also said that “At first, you serve the art.  Then, the art serves you.”  Meaning that at first, you enter a discipline and simply “serve” it by doing precisely what your teachers say.   Later, you internalize, and “the art serves you”–informs your actions without conscious thought.


See how this relates to the Competence Continuum:

  1. UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE ( you don’t know a bicycle exists)
  2. CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE (you know they exist, but cannot ride one)
  3. CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE (you can ride one if you concentrate)
  4. UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE (“look ma!  No hands!)


Art is self expression.  CRAFT is self expression plus the specific technique that represents the language of dance, or pottery, or writing, or martial disciplines.   Craft must be integrated to the level of “unconscious competence” before you can really express yourself, in the same way that you cannot dance as long as you’re saying “one two three one two three” in your mind.


The path to master, right there.  Moreover, the path to self-discovery.  You can and should apply this to a movement art, an intellectual art, AND the path of interpersonal relationships.   Do that, and you maximize your chances of genuine personal evolution.







Writer’s Block and the Writer’s Journey


The advantage of looking at The Hero’s Journey is that we have absorbed MILLIONS of stories. We already understand the pattern.  As a tool to plan or organize resources, I’ve never seen anything like it.  Yesterday, I was asked about writer’s block–is it a real thing, and how to deal with it?  Let’s walk through this, using The Hero’s Journey.


I teach this stuff because I believe there is something inside each and every one of you that can change the world with your stories.   If I can get you to that point…we can change the world together.


First, let’s assume  we’re writing a story about someone who is engaging with “the Machine” and writer’s block is kicking their butt.  Ugh.  But…we know that at the end of the story, they are publishing stories and books and having a happy career!  Wow!  That means that whatever problem they are suffering now is TEMPORARY.  And given that, the rest is just strategy.


  1. Hero confronted with a challenge.  The challenge is to finish and publish n Can’t do that sentence a day.
  2. Reject the challenge.  The fear is that it means their efforts are doomed.
  3. Accept the challenge.  Commit to having your career, engaging with the fear, doubt, faux fatigue and guilt.
  4. Road of trials.  THE MACHINE, a daily process of writing a minimum of a sentence a day, 1-4 stories a month (or, if you’ve already published 10 stories, that minimum might be 1-4 chapters a month).  Day after day.   It can feel like grinding gears, like driving with your brakes on. That nothing is working, all is lost, that your work is crap.
  5. Allies and Powers.  You seek a teacher who is sympatico with you, preferably someone who is actually a writer himself.    If that writer is Steven Barnes, then you ask what writer’s block is, have I experienced it, and how to defeat it.    I then reply that writer’s block is ANYTHING that stops you from writing, finishing, polishing, submitting, constantly improving your work.  Any breakdown in “the machine.”  I hit that point when I was working on stories and not publishing anything.  I mean, rejection after rejection.  And I thought my stories were crap. But other writers said that their early work was crap, and they just had to keep reading, keep writing, keep submitting and getting feedback.  I was working all day and coming home at night and writing.  The only person who believed in me was my wonderful girlfriend Toni.  And I had that voice in my head saying: “you’ll never make it.   You don’t have what it takes.”  I felt sick in my guts to think that the one thing I wanted most in life was impossible for me.  Just give up, that voice said.   Do something else.


But…Ray Bradbury told me that there were two entirely different parts of your head: the “flow” self where you are just writing like a madman, running barefoot through the grass…and the editing part where you look at the first draft and prune and work it over.  And that the editing “adult” part will always have a louder voice than the child “play” part.  Always.    And that you just had to tell it to shut the @#$$ up.


Flow. And Editing.  Two different “powers.”  Confusing them is the source of all “writer’s block.”


So I trusted Bradbury, and myself, and kept writing.   Actually studied “flow” as a separate thing, with Tai Chi and Yoga and Meditation and sixty beat per minute Vivaldi string music and other things.  NOT DRUGS OR ALCOHOL.  I believe that to be a MAJOR mistake.   NEVER “get yourself in the mood” to write with drugs or alcohol.   That’s like using a winch to lift your weights in the gym.  You are SPECIFICALLY trashing your ability to do the work, and it will catch up with you.


(that said…if you wanna celebrate at the end of the day?   Mazel Tov.  You’re an adult, with the right to make adult choices!)

6.  Confront Evil–Fail.    Probably the worst single moment of my early career was the night I got a call from Harlan Ellison telling me my first solo novel, STREETLETHAL wasn’t ready for publication.

7.   Dark Night of the Soul. It was raining that night.  I was living alone, my relationship with Toni on the rocks. And I remembered curling on the floor and crying my eyes out.


It was too late to pull the book back.   I had to keep going, keep writing, despite the fact that this was a disaster.

8.  Leap of Faith. The “Leap of Faith” is always one of three things: faith in yourself, faith in your companions, or faith in a higher power.  For me it was remembering  what Bradbury had said: there is writing, and there is judging what you have written.  The two must never be confused. I was allowing Harlan to influence the “editor” part of my brain, allying his voice to the monster in my mind that wanted to stop me.


I could not allow that to happen.   I had to FLOW.  Create text. Keep going.   I trusted my “companion” mentor figure, and I trusted my own heart.

9. Confront evil–succeed.    IF you take the other steps, deal with fear, keep learning and growing, finding new mentors, don’t let despair stop you…you grow and change and get the goodies. And one day I gave Harlan a VHS copy of my Outer Limits episode “A Stitch In Time” and a few days later he called me and said: “THAT was good, kid.  You made it.” And again, I cried. But the tears were very different this time.

10.  The student becomes the teacher.  And this is critical. When you hit that next level, you learn most by sharing with others.  Don’t create a pedagogy, just document your process.   I still struggle. Get rejected.  Get bad reviews. Feel despair and discouragement…


The difference is that I’ve walked this path again and again and again, and recognize the steps, and know that it’s a Superchicken world: “Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”


Yeah, I did.  THAT’S the value of Lifewriting.






(if this story resonates with you, please join us in the journey.  I promise to take good care of you.  Imagine being part of a supportive community, getting new LIFEWRITING prompts weekly.    You can have your writing dreams…just see it and commit to doing the work!   www.lifewrite.com)


A sentence a day to a book a year

A long time ago, I watched a  writing student struggling with all the usual excuses (“I don’t have the time! I don’t have the energy!  I’m not talented!   I don’t know how!) change completely as soon as he thought of himself as a character he was writing about in a story about the early days of a successful writer.


Bang.  Instantly, he understood EVERYTHING that can stop accomplishment, and began to organize his imagination to see how he could turn problems into advantages.


He could take his lunch to work, and write at his desk. He could trade household chores with his wife, swapping intensity (heavy work) for time-intensive work.  He could get his kids turned on by the idea of having a published writer in the family.


Suddenly, it became an adventure.   I mean…if you remember ANY movie or story about someone who succeeds, you know there will be twists and turns, setbacks, betrayals, fear, fatigue, moments that they almost gave up.  THAT’S STORY.   That’s the big cycle of story–each of these as “major moments”.


In “Wonder Woman” there are major moments of threatened defeat, loss, betrayal.  But most of any story…and most of our lives…is just “the road of trials”, which is this larger cycle in smaller form, repeated again and again.


Wonder woman arrives in London

Her goal: to reach the Front so she can kill Ares

Her obstacle: Steve Trevor has to take the journal to the high command.

Her reaction:  She feels betrayed, reminds him that a promise cannot be broken

Her ally’s reaction: He promises to take her to the front as soon as he fulfills his duty

Her reaction:  She agrees.

Next obstacle:  She cannot walk the streets of London dressed as she is.

Her ally’s reaction: Let’s get her appropriate clothing…


And so it goes.   EACH of these steps could be turned into a major problem just by expanding or deepening the intensity, swinging the story this way or that.  Here, they are just moments, exchanges of dialogue.


They are the dynamics of story, which means the dynamics of life.  Micro-cycles within macro-cycles.


The advantage of writing short stories is that each of them is a micro-cycle of a full macro-cycle novel.  EVERYTHING you need for a novel is there, but in the smaller form you can focus on smaller things without being overwhelmed by hundreds of pages of text.   It is dealing with a single tree rather than an entire forest.


THIS is the strength of the “Machine”, the idea of starting with writing only a single sentence a day, the smallest practical micro-cycle.  If you can write a sentence a day, you can springboard this to a book a year, because you will run into every possible obstacle, internal and external:

  1. I don’t have time
  2. I don’t know how
  3. I don’t have anything to say


And on and on.   Master your internal voices, you produce the external result. Produce a sentence a day for a few days, you automatically begin to produce more.  BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO.  No guilt connected with not doing that.


Your ego will go crazy trying to find a way to stop you, sabotage you. But because there is NO logical reason not to write one sentence a day, you will meet the lies that have stopped you in every arena of your life, and begin to make the internal/external connection.


Try it!





Hidden Figures/Ancient Secrets Part 3: Katherine Johnson

(Note:  This is the third essay connected to the “Art of Science” class I am preparing with project manager and 3rd degree Judo black belt Victoria Whitlock, designed to apply martial arts principles to women in STEM fields.  The feedback we’ve been getting is gratifying.)



Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this….For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”  Sun Tzu


All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.   Do not repeat the tactic which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”  Sun Tsu.




To repeat: I am fully aware that “Hidden Figures”, like all dramatic films, took license.  IMO it is impossible for dramatic films to avoid that charge.

People who complain about this are either misunderstanding the point and method of drama, or are deliberately attempting to damage a useful metaphor.  With that in mind, the following thoughts…



Katherine Johnson was a child prodigy, a math whiz from girlhood. She takes a job as a “Computer” at NASA, and when the call goes out for an expert in Analytic Geometry, she steps up.


She suffers indignities on BOTH the basis of gender and race: given piles of scut work, faced with open disrespect, men not wanting to drink from her coffee pot, forced to travel for twenty minutes to reach a toilet.


Somehow, she kept focus on her goal.  What was her goal, so far as we can see it?


To express her mind fully.  To play with the “cool stuff” and the “cool kids”.   To support her family at a higher level.  To “uplift the race”.  To help America be first into space.  To conquer the stars.


Do you see, again, how her goals were larger than ego?  That she had reasons that would empower her through indignities and insult?  SHE KNEW WHAT SHE WANTED AND WHY SHE WANTED IT.


The “Wall” standing between her and her goals were racism and sexism.  When she got into that room, she saw that her mind was just as good–BETTER–than that of the white men who were supposed to be so superior. She saw a new opportunity, to make her way on the basis of pure skill, talent and drive.


If you believe men and women are equal, then you cannot believe that all men are against you, because not all women are against men.   You need only seek the right time and place to prove injustice, and suddenly an adversary becomes an ally.


Kevin Costner’s character may have been a racist. We don’t know (he was an amalgam, a symbol, not a specific human being).  But what was his primary interest?  Keeping black people down?  You think that’s what he thought about when he woke up in the middle of the night?  Hell, no.


HE DREAMED OF THE STARS.   That was his dominating characteristic, his peak value, beyond anything and everything else.  Help him with HIS dream, and everything else becomes irrelevant in comparison.  HUMAN BEINGS ARE SELFISH.  APPEAL TO THEIR NAKED SELF-INTEREST, AND YOU WIN.


Katherine became an invaluable part of the team, capable of doing math no one else could do.  Her ability to serve the team was limited by the fact that she lost 40 minutes of work time every time she had to take a pee.


She NEVER directly complained about this. That was not in her personality.  She didn’t grab opportunity like Dorothy.  Nor did she directly confront like Mary.  She just did her work, and even though there was no sense that she deliberately chose the moment, when she boiled over and told her story it was devastating.


“There are no colored bathrooms in this building, or any building outside the West Campus, which is half a mile away. Did you know that? I have to walk to Timbuktu just to relieve myself! And I can’t use one of the handy bikes. Picture that, Mr. Harrisson. My uniform, skirt below the knees and my heels. And simple necklace pearls. Well, I don’t own pearls. Lord knows you don’t pay the colored enough to afford pearls! And I work like a dog day and night, living on coffee from a pot none of you want to touch! So, excuse me if I have to go to the restroom a few times a day.”


It couldn’t have been more powerful if she’d planned it.  Her PHILOSOPHY was one of equality.  Her BELIEF was that she could absolutely do this job.  No doubt allowed.   Her REASONS were too important to allow doubt, any more than a mother focused on saving a child from a burning building can allow doubt in her mind.    Her STRATEGY was to be like water, to seek any opportunity to show who she was, to keep her eyes on the stars NOT on the mud around her.


And that means that the tactics, the specific application of general strategic principles, evolve on their own, spontaneously, in the moment, a by-product of total engagement.  ART.  Self-expression.


Manifesting in a perfect speech. Devastating.  Declarative.  Not a single word that any white man in that room could deny.  In that moment, when they had admitted they needed her, they were faced with a challenge: WHO WERE THEY?  WHAT WAS TRUE?


What was more important, being white, or getting the job done?


They were confronted by an irresistible force:  a woman who knew who SHE was better than they knew who THEY were.


They thought they were scientists. But they were behaving as if being white was more important than doing their jobs.  Consciously, that creates a conflict: they were NOT that thing.  Racists don’t think they are bad people–they think they just know something unfashionable to admit, that group X just doesn’t have “The Right Stuff.”  But Katherine Johnson did, inarguably.


She hoisted them on the horns of a dilemma.  And “Mr Harrison”, representing the whole of white male America, made the only sane choice: to take a step forward and declare HIMSELF free of the chains of past decisions.


In context, he could be a racist, or he could be a scientist.  He could not be both.  He had to choose.


He chose.


Some have complained about the moment when “Mr Harrison” tore down the bathroom sign.  That the moment didn’t happen.  That he was a “white savior.”  I say just the opposite.    She used DEVASTATING “yin” indirect force on him.  Overpowering. Crushed his ego shell.  If you don’t think that people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King didn’t set up similar dilemmas, asking America “who are you?  What is true?” you don’t know your history.


If you think the women should have torn the sign down, then you think burning cities and direct fighting is the only way to win.  You are missing 50% of the equation, and half-blind, half-deaf, to an entire mode of human operation.


There is direct force. There is indirect force. This was a BRILLIANT example of the latter.



Use direct force when appropriate. Use indirect force when appropriate.  Don’t be black or white, male or female.  Be human.


Be like Katherine Johnson.





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.







Hidden Figures, Ancient Secrets 6/2

I am working on the “STEM for Women” project, and central to the free webinar we’ll be doing is analysis of the movie “Hidden Figures” using principles from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War” to create a framework to understand the emotions and behaviors exhibited by three exemplary women.   Here is what I wrote today:



“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this….For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”  Sun Tzu


“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”  –Sun Tzu


Dorothy Vaughn was an unofficial supervisor who seized an opportunity to display her programming skills on an IBM mainframe. In other words, she “captured” her castle by educing flawless performance from her employees, knowing that an opportunity would arise eventually.  Crisis appeared: a new computer what would replace hundreds of women. But instead of being consumed by fear, she saw an opportunity: someone would have to operate the machine. Why not her?


A quote from Wikipedia:

“During her 28-year career, Vaughan prepared for the introduction of machine computers in the early 1960s by teaching herself and her staff the programming language of FORTRAN



(WARNING:  I am perfectly aware that the film was not totally historically accurate. But the major players agree that the SPIRIT was correct, and we will take them at their word.  No film is, or ever can be, perfectly accurate, and I have to suspect that people who nit-pick obsessively are specifically attempting to destroy the value of the metaphor, for personal reasons.)


Dorothy Vaughn grew up in a time of segregation and racial terror, when the old system fought to maintain control over the descendants of slaves. Both the mythologies (inferiority) and fears of social upheaval and retaliation were a part of this.


Combine this with the insistence that women remain within carefully defined social boxes, and you have a nightmare scenario for an ambitious black woman.   One barrier was the dishonesty of the controlling system.   The rule of the day was “separate but equal”, but she knew:

Separate and equal are two different things. Just ’cause it’s the way, doesn’t make it right, understand?”

So she had motivations that ran up and down the scale, from the personal (self expression)  to the social (uplift the race)  to the cosmic (conquer space).  That left no room for excuses or resentment: she had to Win.


Have enough “whys” and the “hows” will present themselves.


OUTCOME: to operate as an equal, and to LEAD within NASA.

EMOTIONAL MOTIVATIONS: everything, from the personal to the cosmic.

ACTIONS: to do her job impeccably, never letting herself rise to the “bait” of anger and resentment (which would be briefly satisfying but destroy her career), and wait for the right opportunity to “pounce”.


The ability to care enough to shatter your ego scars (known colloquially as “butthurt”) was essential.   She was fighting for her heart, her family, her mind, her people, her country, the world.  She was COMMITTED TO A CAUSE BIGGER THAN SHE WAS.


And she saw that the people around her were, as well.  This is one of the reasons that war is such a leveler. When you fight the larger cause, if you PROVE you can help the person to your right and left survive, THEY will fight for you, unless they are insane.

Most people, even gender or racial bigots, are NOT insane.

They are programmed, asleep, willing to go along with society’s rules.  But they generally obey those rules because they think those rules protect them. The instant they stop believing that, they will no longer protect the rules.


By being impeccable on a personal level, as well as providing unique resources on the project level, Dorothy Vaughn’s her PERSONAL characteristics trumped her racial or gender characteristics.



  • The project was the most important thing
  • The computer was necessary to complete the project
  • She was the only one who knew how to use the computer.
  • Therefore, they could not stop her unless they wanted the project to fail.



All she had to do was find the people more interested in the PROJECT than maintaining the racial/gender order.   Remember: prior to women or blacks entering NASA,  advancement was based on who the people within the project believed would best serve the project.  They had to have VASTLY greater than average investment in reaching the stars.  On the other hand, on average, they would likely have only an average amount of bigotry. As you go up in the organization, you are more and more likely to find people whose commitment to mission outweighs their bigotry. Because most of excellence at anything is obsessive focus, over time.  the instant you find someone who is an “8”in focus on the task, but only a “7” in focus on race and gender, you have someone you can enroll on your side–IF YOU ARE READY.


Look at that again: the better people are at a particular thing, the more likely they are to care more about the thing than about oppressing YOU.   You just aren’t that important to them. What they care about is their OWN advancement, their own pleasures and pains. The instant you become an asset to them, they will start protecting you.  But they have to believe that they gain MORE by protecting you than they get by maintaining social order or personal prejudices. Again…aim high in the organization. That’s where the more obsessive people are.   Love what they love, and they will love you.


THESE PEOPLE ARE YOUR POTENTIAL ALLIES because for their own naked self-interest they will overlook the fact that you belong to a group they are uncomfortable with.


In my own career, I noticed that pitching in Hollywood had an odd twist to it. All the people I pitched to were white.  If race came up in the conversation, I almost never got the job.  I had to keep their attention OFF race, and used the Aikido technique of redirecting their energy: I got them to think about the wonderful project we were going to do, together.  And got the job.


Every time I felt the discussion drifting toward “him and me” (a possible point of racial enmity) I metaphorically took them by their shoulder and turned them to look at the mountain we were both trying to climb. If you’re climbing a mountain, and slip, and someone throws you a rope, do you care what color they are?  What gender, so long as you believe they are strong enough to anchor the other end of the rope?  If you do, you will die.


Simply choose the people who want to live. Find the things more important to them than their bigotry.  Remain impeccable while you look for the chance to pounce.


Then…fall on them like a thunderbolt, and they’ll never know what hit them.


Dorothy Vaughn had a clear outcome. She had enough reasons to keep her going, no matter what the indignity.   And when the opportunity came…she pounced.

WHAT do you intend to accomplish?

WHY do you want it?

Only then, bother with “how”.  “How” is just details.

Be like Dorothy Vaughn.