- Love yourself
- Love one other person
- Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
- Protect your tribe. Let the sleepers sleep, avoid snakes, be strong enough to slay monsters.
- Win with integrity and compassion.
The implications of #3 are vast. They ask you to extend the love you feel for yourself to others, to have compassion.
I cannot say that you should model my answers. I can say that my answers make sense of the world without guilt or “blame” (this is tricky–there is responsibility. Let’s say pointing your finger and screaming) or shaming people. I am sometimes asked if I’m trying to make people feel guilty on certain subjects. Not really. I generally just ask what people believe, and point out that their point of view doesn’t align with stated beliefs.
When I teach writing, I don’t want people to see plot, character, and poetics the way I do…I want them to ground their own attitudes and positions on these things as thoroughly as I have.
The same is true of relationships and physicality. Don’t parrot my positions, have your own that you are prepared to defend at any time. Life is a constant testing of your attitudes toward it.
So with that caveat, I am happy to present my own basic position:
We have to understand that most of our negative behaviors stem from fear. So much human misery can be traced directly to:
Fear of death or injury.
Fear of being out-bred, or being denied access to reproduction and sex
Fear of losing power and control
Fear of losing love
Fear of being unable to communicate and speak your truth
Fear of having a reality map or belief system overturned or proven flawed
Fear of damnation or spiritual guilt.
I’d say that those seven are pretty primary, and might cover about 80% of all the problems human beings face. The fact that we can future pace and time-bind means that our memories of past problems extend into an uncertain future. Memories of hunger in childhood can easily lead to overeating in adulthood. Tribes remember when they were almost wiped out by war or hunger or drought, and fight for resources.
We do terrible things as individuals until we awaken to the fact that other beings have inwardness. The larger the society, the greater the inertia, the slower it awakens to a need, especially if that awakening causes the society pain.
There are aspects of math (repeating, expanding fractal patterns) and physics that apply to groups of human beings: equal and opposite reactions. Love him or hate him, its pretty clear that Trump was selected at least partially as an Anti-Obama. No comment on the specific aspects or values, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see the reaction.
Looking at your own heart, loving another, will familiarize you with the lies, exaggerations (“why do you ALWAYS…” is a favorite), deletions, constructed memories and tangled values we all experience looking at our own histories, and in interacting with others, and watching children grow and develop.
Extend these things to the world as a whole, and there is no aspect of human love or fear, sacrifice or predation, that you cannot see. It is direct or indirect, positive or negative…but it always makes sense to you, and the more human behavior fails to make sense, IMO the less you can be said to understand even yourself.
Understand yourself, and you understand others. It is hard work, but creating an integrated view of history, politics, sociology, anthropology, psychology and so forth, so that you sense the patterns of human life, is one of the most important tasks an adult, aware, awakened human being can undertake, and one of the most valuable.
The construction of such a philosophy involves constant testing: can you PREDICT most behaviors at the group level? Can you EXPLAIN behaviors in retrospect without excluding the actors from the human family? Is your sense of negative behavior discontinuous with the spectrum of positive behavior? Do you have a raft of splintered answers for human behavior, or do they converge?
Every day you should be testing. Observing. Studying. Thinking.
It is amusing that people who haunt social media will see the endless useless, vile and emotionally violent arguments taking place every hour, but think Washington is some special sewer. Even worse is when their personal threads and pages are filled with anger and insult…but then, again, they blame “the politicians” for gridlock.
Such nonsense. There is nobody out there. We see ourselves, writ large. If the world seems alien, you are an alien to yourself. If it seems hateful, you are filled with fear.
If you love yourself, and extend your own essence to others, you will be with all the world.
“Geostorm” re-acquainted me with an old and dear friend: the Matte line. Wow, some really bad, grainy FX for such a big-budget movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film where I could predict the plot points more easily, or had to swallow as many absurdities to enjoy the fun. A single film violating the laws of logic, physics, governmental structure, human psychology, cinema and story-telling all at the same time is sort of genius, isn’t it? Have to admit that I really did enjoy it. As someone said, the only box they failed to tick was: where’s the Sharknado? A “D” if you aren’t in the right mood. If you ARE in the right mood…maybe a “B.” But I’ve never missed Rifftrax half so much.
And yeah, Gerard Butler makes the least-likely scientist since Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones. At least his “blockbusters” only come once a year.
2) Love one other person.
3) Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame.
4) Protect your tribe. Don’t wake the sleepers, avoid snakes, and be prepared to protect children from monsters.
5) Win with integrity…and joy.
Is that a catechism for social transformation? Sort of, I guess. I keep coming back to it again and again…I love unpacking this stuff. Once you hit a certain critical mass, all of your thoughts cross-reference with other material, so that your instinctive “hits” have structural integrity and generative capacity.
Take the second principle: “Love one other person.” Ummm…could we spend a lifetime dissecting it?
What is love? Some would say it relates to that “Num” concept of “one soul looking out through many eyes.” The recognition of a deeper connection.
What is a “Soul Mate”? One of the best definitions is that a “Soul Mate” is someone who, when you meet them, you can see your future opening before you. A person whose values, beliefs, and life goals are sufficiently congruent that you actually understand YOURSELF better when you are with them. A beautiful thing.
Not all love leads to romance, of course, but that is the basic unit of human society: a man and a woman. A great deal of current stress results from people freaked out that this unit is no longer critical, or considered the exclusive option. Too bad. Life goes on, and things change.
Now, if we look into that romantic unit, sexuality is often a factor. And I remember learning something fascinating about orgasms: that the intensity of an orgasm is directly proportionate to the amount of your ego you release at that moment. It is a fusionary act. In other words: if you can remember your name, it wasn’t very good sex.
Back to “Num”, right? And as you begin to experience that, you stop seeing humans as individuals only, and see them as part of a mycelial mass that manifests as individual mushroom stalks. See this, feel this, experience this enough times, in enough ways, and you start to change.
How about if that connection results in children? BOOM. There are two common human experiences that change you forever: the first time you hold your newborn child, and witnessing the death of a parent. You feel the connection to something deeper and broader and older than any human being. It is an awakening. Childhood’s end. The beginning of a new level of maturity.
All flowing from “Love another person.” All the wiring that takes us beyond simple ego and illusion, right there in the simple beautiful act of loving, caring, holding.
Wisdom has never been gained so pleasurably.
There are so many other things that arise from this I’d spend a week listing them. What occurs to you that I’ve forgotten to list?
I have been going through the original 101 program, and breaking it down into five-minute chunks for the new FIVE MINUTE LIFE HACKS program. I’m at day 55 now, and it is definitely bitter-sweet about the process. It feels like a summation of my life, and I realize that I’m no longer looking for new teachers or teachings at this point. I’m testing what I already have, teaching what I already know, and cutting away everything that isn’t powerful and direct.
Oh, I’ll still “learn” things, because life teaches you whether you are looking for the lessons or not. But moving out of the “student” position is hard. I love it so much.
Anyway, looking at this massive amount of material, I feel a bit like a Frankenstein monster, a patchwork of ideas and concepts that could have been puree of bat shit crazy had I not chosen the three tests of martial arts, writing, and relationships. If I got off-track, I got my head smacked pretty fast, pretty hard. Not fun, but necessary.
And if I found a principle that worked in all three arenas? Clung to it like a drowning sailor with a piece of drift wood. One piece at a time, I gathered those pieces, looked for the connecting threads. And over the decades, wove them together.
Most days teach a chunk that can be performed and experimented within five minutes. Others take five minutes to learn, but you’ll need more time to apply them. One piece came out of DAY FIFTY TWO of the course, which looks at our spiritual self. There are a couple of sentences that caught my eye, in the middle of a larger paragraph:
“Now, most of the world’s religious teachings boil down to `Be loving. Be gentle with each other. Tell the truth, protect the children and honor the elders.‘ Wow. If we actually did that, how much better a world would this be?”
Man oh man, could we spend a year focusing on just this notion? A lifetime? How about five minutes, then?
Remember the Creed?
- Love yourself
- Love one other person
- Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame
- Protect your tribe. Don’t wake the sleepers, avoid snakes, and be prepared to protect children from monsters.
- Win with integrity…and joy.
If you love yourself, you will be able to forgive your transgressions, appreciate how far you’ve come, and also commit to protecting your heart.
Love another person, and you begin to extend your humanity to others, the core of empathy.
Understand history and you see the patterns of human behavior separate from your personal involvement in it. If you can grasp that you and yours would have behaved much the same way, given the same circumstances, you can commit to making the world a better place…to improve the circumstances, so that we can behave better.
If you grasp that you will make a better world by loving your children than fighting with your neighbors, you will focus your time and energy into protecting those who speak your language. If you also live with joy and power, extend your humanity to others, but tell truth without asking people to feel guilt, you will find sleepers awakening and even snakes shedding their skins. In my experience, monsters continue to shamble in the outer darkness, and you can pity them, but cannot let them hurt the children or elders. Elders, by the way, often were programmed in childhood so thoroughly that you cannot reach them with any tool but love.
Love is the only tool that cuts through the bullshit, but it MUST be accompanied by strength, or it will be seen as weakness.
And victory…well, yes, you have to plan to win. But WINNING DOESN’T REQUIRE THAT OTHERS LOSE. If you are dealing with someone who defines winning that way, help them awaken to the fact that they may have a corrupt definition. But if you ask someone to exchange comfort for pain, you will have a fight on your hands. If you can go deeply enough into yourself (which requires love) to resolve dualities, you will be able to help others do the same. To go deeper than political slogans into the questions of “what are we really trying to accomplish?
What do people really want? To move away from pain and toward pleasure. To be happy. That’s it. Help them do that, and you can help them dissolve their chains. If your ultimate mission benefits all, then even if there is temporary conflict, if you focus on helping yours rather than hurting theirs, you will win. Time is on your side.
Love plus strength is a very very difficult combination to beat.
Anyway…I know I’m on the right path when damned near every sentence triggers a string of thoughts like that. Its all interconnected. I’ve spent over half my life gathering this knowledge…and I can’t see how I have anything more important to do with my remaining days but share it.
I remember being at a SF convention in Texas maybe thirty years ago. There might have been a panel on ethnicity in SF (a subject I try not to speak on any more. Done my bit). Maybe an hour later I saw a young white man who had been attentive during the panel sitting by himself, looking dejected. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
He hemmed and hawed and I coaxed it out of him, concerned.
“A white man doesn’t have a chance any more!” he blurted out.
He seemed so sincere, and so agonized, that I frankly felt compassion mixed in with the cosmic absurdity,a nd I found myself wanting to comfort him.
I opened my wallet and pulled out a handful of bills. “Look,” I said. “Every picture on every denomnation: white people.”
I went on. “The governor of every state…white. Every president…white. Every member of the Senate…white (with the exception of Hawaii…maybe”
I went on and on. The star of every movie currently in release. The star of every dramatic television show. The owners and quarterbacks of every football team. The CEO of every Fortune 500 company…
And with everything I said, I watched his spine get a little straighter, his eyes a little brighter, he began to grin. Why, yes! It’s great being white!
Finally he stood up, shook my hand with a sincere thanks, and bounced away with new spring in his step.
I felt a little dazed and absurd, as if I’d stepped through the looking-glass. Steven down the rabbit hole. That’s me.
The writing concept I’m working on for this new novel (working title: “Traveler”) is called “Vertical and Horizontal integration”. “Vertical” integration is the thematic core as expressed in human behavior: what am I saying about human beings? One way or another, every action has to reinforce or challenge this notion. “Horizontal” integration is the recapitulation of structure from one sequence to another. “Structure” is an expression of the writer’s view of reality itself, the “ethical structure of the universe”: how does the world respond to our efforts? Again, while the reader simply enjoys the story, the writer is taking them on a journey, and after several cycles of engagement (a little like the loops of a roller-coaster) the reader begins to feel the ebbs and flows, rises and falls of tension, and relaxes into them and absorbs.
This repetition, recapitulation or coordination of deep structure is NOT for beginners. You have to have your characterization and plot at “unconscious competence” before you start screwin’ with this stuff, or you’ll get paralysis by analysis. But…this ain’t my first, or thirtieth, rodeo.
If the thematics of the vertical echo the structure of the horizontal, my theory is that you have to be saying something valid and deep. The reader will “feel” it. If I dig and smelt materials, design and assemble the machinery, and test and polish the surface…all the driver knows is that that BMW sure drives sweet. They relax into the experience. I have to do the work for them, but the level of deep trust enables you to touch them on a deeper level.
I think that more “literary” writers do this with call-backs to other books or films or plays that the reader or viewer has absorbed over the years. I am making a guess I can do this by coordinating the levels of structure and meaning.
It’s a fascinating game. I started my career just wanting to write adventure stories. Somewhere along the way, I decided I wanted more. Much more. We’ll see if I can pull this off…
Does this sound cool? Do you want to hear more about it (actual plot details remaining artfully vague of course) as I proceed?
Write with Passion!
At dinner with the Clarion group last Thursday, I was asked if stories always had an obstacle, an objective. After all, the classic “Hero’s Journey” is about someone who wants something, and their efforts to achieve it which take them into a deeper and steeper journey until some peak moment of revelation.
Well…yes, and no. The truth is that “story” is one of those things where people know it when they see it, but the definitions can be a little slippery. It varies between cultures and eras, seems slightly gendered, and whether you focus on the events or the lulls between them.
In discussion of the difference between literary and other fiction I said: “If there is a Typhoon on Wednesday, and an Earthquake on Friday, the literary story occurs on Thursday.”
Through allusion, metaphor, elegant use of language, description and deep psychology, the literary story seems to delight in seeing how extensively they can “string out” the time between events, the exact opposite of a typical Bruckheimer blockbuster, where it is all about the action itself.
But stories certainly CAN have action, with the lead-up to the action sizzling and building, and be considered the height of literature. No writer in the English language ranks higher than Shakespeare, and no Shakespearean play ranks higher than Hamlet. While the inciting incident (murder of his father) takes place off screen, the entire play is a build-up to an explosion of violence in the final act.
What of stories in which there is no single protagonist, no focused goal, no solid resolution or moment of change? They exist, certainly, and you can find them more often in some cultures than other.
It would be interesting to compare cultures to stories, see if there are different levels of social organization, “patriarchal” structure, technology, history of conquest, body comforts and so forth relating to different levels of focus on the “Character-Objective-Obstacle-Outcome” equation. Instinct tells me there would be, judging by the reading and seeing of thousands of stories from around the world.
But…as I didn’t travel to those countries and absorb the stories in their native language, I am unavoidably influenced by the cultural filters of the people who distributed the movies or chose and interpreted the stories.
So this is what I will say: let’s forget about trying to define “story” as some absolute thing separate form the perceptions of the people involved. This is what I will say, with confidence:
THE CLEARER THESE FOUR ELEMENTS (Character, Objective, Obstacle, Outcome) THE LARGER THE PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO WILL RECOGNIZE THE SERIES OF EVENTS AS A “STORY.”
That would be the difference between a “mere” series of events, and a drama. A series of snapshots, and a photo-montage organized so that people say “Ah! I see what is happening here…”
Temporal sequence. Rising emotion. Desire. Pleasure and pain. Conflict.
Now, every writer will have their own formula for this, and every ARTIST will create a new design for every story that reflects an inner web of meaning beneath the surface events. But…its flexible and deliciously subjective.
But if you start with CHARACTER-OBJECTIVE-OBSTACLE-OUTCOME, you really can’t go wrong.
Write with passion!
(join me at 6pm Pacific today to talk about “Writing a book a year in a sentence a day!” on my Facebook page. www.writerwebinar.com)
There is a story about Jesus preaching to a trio of fishermen. After he preached, he stepped out upon the water and walked. Astonished, the first of the fishermen followed…and walked on the water. The second fisherman did the exact same thing. The third screwed up his courage and took a step…and promptly sank, and thrashed madly.
The first fisherman turned to the second and said: “Gee, Ralph…do you think we should show Morty where the rocks are?”
At the Clarion gathering on Saturday, I was asked about the genesis of TWELVE DAYS. It started with THE KUNDALINI EQUATION, where I asked myself what would be true IF body-mind disciplines like yoga and the martial arts were fragments of some older, more powerful discipline that perhaps faded due to modern technology.
The fun thing about it was that after it came out, some very interesting people came forward and asked me where I had gained my knowledge. Well, it was mostly speculative and extrapolative. I’d certainly studied yoga, meditation, and multiple martial arts, but no one had ever tied it together for me. But…what happened then was fascinating. KUNDALINI EQUATION opened doors for me, and the knowledge on the other side of that door was specific to the very questions I’d asked in speculative form in KI. Wow.
So, years later, I wrote TWELVE DAYS, basically asking the same question with a new knowledge base. And the question I was asked about that was: how much of the stuff in THAT book had I actually experienced? And I said…about half. That sounds accurate.
Let me give you an example of the strangeness I encountered. Patric Young was my brother in law, and practiced Shorei Chito-Ryu karate with Terry Letteau (the man who taught me the “glitter” technique for clarity.). He came down to Los Angeles to stay with me and his sister Toni, and while here I got him a meeting with Harley “Swift Deer” Reagan, who had been one of Terry’s teachers.
Patrick told Swift he wanted to perfect a flying, spinning back kick. He asked what exercises he should practice to “nail” it. Weights? Plyometrics? Basketball jumping drills?
We were in Swift’s garage gym, and as usual, Swift was sitting on his throne, smoking clove cigarettes, and looking bemused. I wondered what the guy was going to say. He certainly wasn’t going to step down and do a spinning, flying back kick. I’d seen him do things that his body shouldn’t have been able to do, but I kinda figured that one wasn’t on the menu today.
I wasn’t wrong. What happened next was even stranger. He said: “Forget all of that. You have three energy centers. Belly brain, heart center, Head center. The Belly Brain controls movement up and down. The heart center controls movement back and forward. The head center controls it left and right. All you have to do is imagine what combination of those three centers will trigger the technique. Do that.”
Patric looked confused for a moment, but then nodded. He focused–
And with no appreciable effort, jumped into the air, spun, and kicked perfectly. Landed with perfect balance. A look of total astonishment on his face, while Swift chuckled.
WTF? What precisely did those mentalizations accomplish? Why did it work? I couldn’t tell you. But it worked.
That was one of those moments when I realized that there really were secrets, that if you understood them some very difficult things became as easy as pulling on a door marked “pull” instead of trying to push it off its hinges. Sure, that works. But pulling is better, easier on you AND the door.
Like knowing the combination to a safe instead of blowing the door open. Like having the key to a lock.
ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY IS INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM MAGIC. No, it’s not a denial of physics. It is some interaction of mind and body, probably what I’d call a “complex equivalent”–a way of representing a task that is more efficient than visualizing a dozen separate components. Think about it simply enough and BOOM, the machine responds.
There are so many notions like this, and while I realized that they were important, some even critical to certain aspects of life, what I didn’t realize is that most of them were also reducible to components that can be learned or applied in less than five minutes.
Perfect. The beautiful thing about that is that a tiny little piece which genuinely opens the door to excellence…or mastery…can be performed by anyone with a minimum amount of interest. The ONLY reason not to do it, not to at least TRY is that you have resistance, negative beliefs, some part of you that doesn’t want to get better.
Some twenty-five years ago, when my first marriage dissolved, I was stuck in Vancouver Washington with no friends or resources. “All I had was a bed, a television set, my dog, and a gun” is the way I put it. Not a good combination.
I was in desperate emotional state, and I called a close family member and said I was in trouble. Deep trouble. And this family member LAUGHED at me. “Oh, Steve,” they said. “You’re so strong. You’re fine.”
I stared at the phone. WTF? It had taken EVERYTHING I had to make that call, humbling myself and admitting to weakness. And…I was laughed at. They just couldn’t, wouldn’t believe I was shattered.
Over time I pulled myself together, but never forgot that. Jesus Christ…it was easy to see why so many people preferred being weak to being strong, if they needed sympathy and empathy from their support structure. You can be PUNISHED for being strong. Better to be weak, and surround yourself with a pity party willing to reinforce your belief that nothing matters in life, and the world is unfair, and…
Screw that. No. If I have to, I’ll go it alone. I remember clearly hunching down in that one-bedroom apartment, and thinking: “I don’t see a way out of this. But…I know that I’ve been in such situations before. I’m going to define the path ahead to the degree I can. Take a step, and then another step, and then another. And if I come to the edge of a cliff…I can’t see anything. Its all fog. So…I’m going to leap. Please,” I prayed. “If there are rocks down there, let me hit them before I see them. But please, if there is anyone or anything listening out there…catch me.”
There simply are moments like that. When you have to leap out on faith. Find the right teacher, and they can “show you the rocks under the water.”
But you have to take the step. You have to use faith. And you know what? You’ll get wet again and again until you find the right teacher, with the right map. The beautiful thing is that we just aren’t so unique that no one has been in our predicament before. And no one with the resources to read this can plausibly claim that no one has ever been worse off and not done better.
Decide what your outcome is. Connect with your reasons to do it. Then go searching for the people who have accomplished your outcome, and do what they did. If it doesn’t work, find someone else. And someone else. And someone else…
Until you find the rocks. My attitude is simple: if ANYONE has ever done what I intend to do, starting from roughly where I started, I can do it too.
I won’t always be right, but I’ve noticed that, over the course of my life, I get wet less and less frequently.
(I’ll be teaching a single “rock” tomorrow at 6pm Pacific: how to write a book a year in a sentence a day. Join me on FACEBOOK LIVE!)
One of my students (call him “Bob”) recently announced that he was deleting the dating apps from his phone. My partners wondered what this meant. Was he giving up? Was he in a relationship?
I had the chance to see Bob over the weekend, and asked him directly. And his answer was beautiful. Using the techniques of the FIVE MINUTE LIFE HACK system, the “Soul Mate” equation was shifting for him, so that he was dating a nice young lady. But the thing I liked the most was his thought about what would happen if that didn’t work out.
“I keep working on myself”, Bob said. “Then, the relationship will happen organically.” That’s right. In fact, it is EXACTLY right. When you are clear in what you want in a relationship, you know what your heart yearns for you do be. If you want a lioness, you must be a lion. It is breathtakingly simple.
I remember speaking to a very dynamic lady who claimed this process doesn’t work. She had diagrammed out everything she wanted from a relationship: passion, shared values, creativity, beauty, sensuality, and so forth. And she had actually attracted several relationships…and none of them had lasted.
And I asked a question that stunned her: “When you created your relationship design…did you ask for a relationship THAT WOULD LAST?”
She was silent. And after thinking, had shaken her head. No, she hadn’t. She looked at the beliefs that drove her actions, and realized that some core part of her simply didn’t believe in lasting relationships. The instant she realized that, she could ask the question: “is it true that relationships don’t last?”
She KNEW people who had been married for thirty years. So she couldn’t lie and say ‘no.” But could a relationship with PASSION last for thirty years?
And here is where it gets trickier. The early days of a relationship have a “heat” that will never exist again. Not more, not better, but DIFFERENT. Designed to knock your socks off and create a bond. Remember when you first fell in love, and couldn’t think about anything else? Can you see how that kind of obsession would kinda sorta interfere with the simple daily tasks of life?
The nature of relationships CHANGE, and if you aren’t aware of that, you will sabotage your relationships one after the other, starting new ones, constantly seeking that limerence you had in the first three months or so.
Remember the model of mastery? How most people never achieve it because they
- Have an unworkable definition of the state or process
- Have no patience with the apparently “fallow” periods where the deep structure is refined, but it can seem nothing is happening.
Jumping from relationship to relationship is like jumping from martial art to martial art, experiencing fast growth until you slow down…at which time you move to something new.
In relationship, this transfers to
- Having an unworkable definition of a healthy, lasting relationship
- Expecting things to always feel the same as they did in the first few months
- Not realizing the degree to which WE ATTRACT WHAT WE ARE, such that if we want healthier relationships, WE have to become healthier.
There are other things, but in combination this means that once you define what you want, simply by concentrating on the process of healing, growing, changing positively, you become more attractive to the kinds of people you can actually sustain a relationship with. You will also find yourself in the environments where such people congregate.
It really is like magic. “Bob” has his head on straight: if he simply stays on a path of healing and growing, seeking happiness and an honest expression of himself, HE WILL BE HAPPY WHETHER HE FINDS SOMEONE OR NOT.
And you know what? It is EXACTLY this attitude and process that makes it most likely to find someone. Man, that feels unfair. But it is as fair as it can be: if you want a healthy happy relationship, you have to be a healthy, happy person. Boom. That’s what it is.
Make your peace with that, and you have a major piece of the puzzle. Deal with that reality, and you are putting your hands on the controls of your life.