Friday, July 30, 2010

Sustainability and Uncertainty

Sustainability is both a question and an answer, a challenge and a goal. I don’t know how we’re going to get there, only that we must get there. Redefining what we ‘need’ to live worthwhile lives, is a good place to start. Embracing both the certainty of the goal and the uncertainty of how to achieve it, is cool, after all, it’s the truth. There are lot’s of things we can try, but until we try them (after having rigorously thought them through, without falling back on cliches and dogma), we won’t know how well they’ll work.

Denial of the non-negotiable need for sustainability and its cousin global climate change, though very popular is some segments of the American political spectrum (the same segments that don’t believe in evolution) in the name of ‘jobs’ and religion or too much government control, is bull shit and not really an option. After all, what jobs will there be and what will religion do and how can we have too much government control if the planet will no longer sustain human life?

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Adults are supposed to ‘know’ and be sure; and even if they know they don’t know, they’re supposed to act as it they do. What bullshit, what horrible bullshit! That way of being is, unfortunately, the norm and it has brought us all the trouble we know (pun intended). Uncertainty as to means, but certainty as to ends is a fair definition of faith. In this instance, my faith is that given our strengths, we human beings can achieve the goal of sustainability, even if we’re uncertain, now, as to the means. But we must commit to the need for sustainability. Once we do that, the how will become clear.

In this regard, Katherine Saux quotes Masahide, “Barn’s burnt down. Now I can see the moon.” The barn burning down seems like a difficulty, but it allows us to see the moon. The need for sustainability seems like a difficulty, but who knows what great and wonderful things we will experience, once we commit to it? Sustainability is an opportunity in disguise. The barn represents our ‘normal’ thinking about sustainability, that it’s not really an ‘issue’, that jobs, economic growth, political victory, living the good life and having the next Iphone are more important.

When the barn burns down, as it is now, when it becomes clear we can not sustain our way of living for many more generations, we can let go of what we thought we needed and see the moon, the real source of our good. We can see past the transitory, false securities of our current relationship to the planet and to one another, and see the moon, the opportunity, the pattern of perfection that is inherent in embracing the need for sustainability along with the uncertainty of how to achieve it.

“We always stand at the point of limitless opportunity. Who says bad news has to be bad? Maybe its time to go out and look at the moon.” – Katherine Saux

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Sustainability. Global Climate Change. Work on sustainability, and global climate change is included. Sustainability means living, as individuals and as a nation, on a pay-as-you-go basis, having a small foot print, not taking more out of the planet than we put back. Yes, ‘put back’, all that coal, oil, soil. How long can we continue to extract all of that before the planet is irreperably harmed? One generation, two, three? Forever? There are many unthinking, selfish individuals and groups that actually think we can go on as we are, extracting ever more, as China, India, Korea, Brazil and all the other rapidly growing nations seek and achieve their versions of the American Dream, more cars, more paved over land, more people, more consumption. How sustainable is this? One generation, two, three? Forever?

Technology. Technology will save us. Science and technology will find new and better ways so we can keep on living as we are. Science and technology will help, no question, but at best, they will only buy us time. With all our science and technology, the rate of extraction continues to soar. How sustainable is this? One generation, two, three? Forever?

The good life, the American Dream, what we ‘need’ to live worthwhile lives are psycho-social constructs – thoughts, ideas, feelings, not physical facts. We can change our psycho-social constructs, we can not change the physical fact of our soaring depletion of the planet. We can develop psycho-social constructs that value sustainability. We can develop psycho-social constructs that value the preservation of our beautiful, one-of-a-kind, blue-green world, more than we value the next version of Ipod. We can redefine what we ‘need’ to live worthwhile lives. Can’t we?

Where will we go when the planet can no longer sustain us, when the oceans are all fished out, the forests are gone, we can’t grow enough food, can’t generate enough electricity, or its too hot or cold to go out; when civilization has broken down because of these failures and there’s no law and its really a dog-eat-dog world with every man for himself? Most mainstream science tells us the planet is dying now and may be beyond repair. We can redefine what we ‘need’ to live worthwhile lives. Can’t we? Difficult as that is to do, it’s the easiest more intelligent thing to do, isn’t it?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

God and....

Even more thanks to Katherine Saux in SOM for this Daily Guide for July 24 which is so good I want to quote it and share it in its entirety.

“Until we have God, we have nothing; but at the very moment we have God, we have all there is in the world. There is no such thing as God and….” Joel Goldsmith

“How much of this Infinite Good is ours? All of it!” SOM, p 50

“One of my favorite mantras is, ‘I am the honored guest at the banquet of life.’ It reminds me that God’s goodness is constantly and generously available to me. It also reminds me that God is my host, the source of all, who continuously urges me to eat my fill of blessings and joy and other good things.

“Joel Goldsmith takes this thought even further. He chalenges us to know that in having God, we already have all that is. Jesus said the same thing when he patiently explained to his disciples that the Father know we need things like clothing and food and shelter. Jesus went on to urge us to seek first the kingdom of heaven, then ‘all these things’ would be added to us. Truly, Spirit supports its own expression.

“This does not mean that we do not have to work for our good; remember that God can only do for us what It can do through us. Not even the Lord of the Universe will force us to partake of Its banquet. Sitting at the table and helping ourselves to the feast means doing what it takes to manifest the feast in the world of humanity – things like getting an education or honing our skills. So pull up a chair, unfold your napking and dig in. There’s more where that came from.”

Affirmation: Today, I remember that I am the honored guest at the banquet of life. God is my nourishment and my source of all. God’s grace bestows all good things on me even before I ask.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taking Responsibility

Take responsibility and go for more of what works for you and the world and less of what’s not working. Embrace and embody the good, the vision, the ideal. Wrap yourself around it, go deep into your heart and mind, allow the wonder, compassion and vision that’s already a part of you to flow. Nothing less than complete alignment will work. Taking responsibility grudgingly, while still feeling entitled, or sorry for yourself, or like a bruised, innocent victim, will not work. “The word which carries power is the one which has conviction back of it,” Ernest Holmes wrote.

Words and most thoughts, are less important than the feeling behind them. “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart,” Gandhi said. Taking responsibility means deep conviction, that you experience no separation between words and thoughts and feelings. After all, God is singular, unitary, one. When we talk about the ‘one God,’ it means a single force, undivided, not a god of feelings, a god of thoughts and a god of words. If feelings, thoughts and words are unaligned and going in different directions, we are confusing god, dividing our power, being irresponsible and will stay stuck where we are.

Taking responsibility means getting our shit together and focusing, not forcing things together, or using guilt to motivate us, but rather connecting things in our hearts and minds first, then praying. The prayer of power – the parayer that will ‘work’, is the prayer that comes from being totally, confidently and unwaveringly convinced of the truth that the words express. There’s no hoping, wishing and maybe in it. Spend some time going within to commune with God before opening your mouth.

Thanks again to Katherine Saux in SOM.

Monday, July 26, 2010


We have difficulty understanding, appreciating and using the concept of God, because we are It and It is us. It’s like trying to see your own eye, you can’t without a mirror; we can’t see what we’re seeing with. Our experience is the mirror that enables us to ‘see’ God. “The only God man knows is the God of his own Inner Life,” Ernest Holmes said, “he can know no other.”

Our experience, tells us who and what God is and means to us. Once we get that each one of us is one with God, right now, not when we die, but right now, one with all the power God is, then we have to acknowledge that we are responsible for what’s showing up in our lives. It’s not the old, Anglo, guy in the sky who’s using the power of the Universe to manipulate our lives, it’s us.
“I Am that I Am,” God said to Moses from the burning bush, when Moses asked how he could be sure he was talking with God. “I Am that I Am.” Simple, beautiful, direct. Whenever you say, “I am….” You’re saying, “God expresses Itself through me as….” When you say, “I can’t….” You’re saying God can’t, that I don’t believe God can. God can give only as much as we can accept. God is not limited, we – our faith, self-talk, ideals and aspirations, are limited. We have artificially separated ourselves from our God Selves. It doesn’t have to stay that way. We can change, choose again and accept more; and when we do, ‘God’ will celebrate, just like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son.

The underlying beliefs about ourselves – our sinfulness, unworthyness and fear of punishment, go quietly and inexorably out-picturing in our lives. The more our unexamined habits of thought separate us from God, the more skewed our expressions of God become.

To check your understanding of the nature of God, look around at your experience. If your experiences are good and contributing to a world that works for everyone, then God is smiling. If your experiences are unhappy and unsatisfactory, evil or hellacious, God is frowning.

But truly, use your experience as a mirror to see how you’ve been using your “I am”, God power. Take responsibility and go for more of what works for you and the world and less of what’s not working. “The only God man knows is the God of his own Inner Life,” Ernest Holmes said, “he can know no other.”

Again, thanks to Katherine Saux in SOM.

Friday, July 23, 2010


The previous post about involving India and China in building a viable, tollerant and democratic Afghan state, makes me think about the win/lose paradigm at the heart of the Sports Metaphor. I’m too lazy to go back and re-read my series of sports posts, so I’m not sure how I said this before, but the win/lose paradigm is dangerous. To me it’s the win/lose way of looking at life and the world, that keeps us from seriously considering the very common sense strategy of involving India and China in building a viable, tollerant and democratic Afghan state.

Aren’t there a whole range of experiences between winning and losing? Aren’t those experiences valuable and meaningful too? What about the idea of “win some, lose some”? Or the idea that “you can’t win ‘em all”? I remember a commentator saying a couple of Olympics ago, when the athelete who was cracked up to be so great ‘only’ won the Bronze and was sad and the media were crying foul, “When did winning the Bronze at the Olympics become something to be ashamed of?” And for the folks that do win the Gold, what becomes of them? Do they go on to live charmed lives on Mt. Olympus? No, they go on to become dentists in Peoria.

It’s good to go for the Gold, but keep a sense of perspective. If billions of dollars that might go to actually improving peoples’ lives is being siphoned off by drug lords and a corrupt Afghan government, perhaps it’s time to consider the Bronze.

How might a new perspective on win/lose apply to our electoral/political system? Currently we have a winner-take-all, zero-sum system – either you win or you lose, no middle ground. And the winner is considered ‘wrong’ to talk to the losers, think about the loser’s ideas or represent the loser’s constituents. So if someone wins an election by 51%, she feels no obligation to consider the ideas of the 49% that lost, talk with them or bother to represent them. After all, they lost, too bad, so sad.

This zero-sum, win/lose, winner-take-all, way of doing things has brought us to the current, worst in 120 years gridlock, polarization, fear mongering and wastefulness in DC. Thank goodness the current, awful ways of DC have not trickled down to the local level, though they are being more and more manifest at the state level.

Our political/electoral system is designed to run on win/lose. If we’re not happy with they way things are going, and nobody either on the left or right seems too happy about it, let’s consider redesigning our political/electoral system to be less win/lose oriented. That’s doable; there are a number of nations that run their systems differently. But we won’t be allowed to consider it, or serious consideration of it will be ridiculed, because the political class and their big economic supporters, like the status quo and want things to stay as they are. In spite all the noise to the contrary, the wealthy are continuing to not only hold on to their wealth, but accumulate more.

The new government in England, a veritible model of miracle cooperation across seemingly intractible differences in party rhetoric, is offerring a ‘constitutional’ amendment to the voters that will allow them to decide on a new form of proportional representation. Proportional representation will shift the system from win/lose to something more in the center. With proportional representation the 49% that ‘lose’ would not go unheard, unrepresented and ridiculed. They would not even lose.

I’m not clear on the British proposal, but basically with proportional representation, voters would vote for their first, second and third choices, see:

The benefits of shifting to proportional representation are immense:
• Incumbants and the special interests that support them would be weakened
• Third and perhaps even Fourth parties would be encouraged
• It would be clear to voters that their vote and their active involvement count
• If we believe in democracy, we’ll have more of it
• If we believe democracy results in better decisions for more people – a move towards a system that works for everyone, then we’ll have more of that, too

The transition to proportional representation might be messy, but to me, it seems worthwhile. We seem to have reached the limits of effectiveness with our present way of doing things; it works well for fewer and fewer Americans and concentrates political and economic power in the hands of a few. The name of such a system is Oligarchy, not Democracy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Why can’t India and China, which have vast, well equipped militaries, cultures more similar han ours, and are actually in the region, be involved in establishing a viable, tollerant and democratic Afghan state? Why are we and NATO – two powers way outside the region and with extremely different systems and cultures, doing it?

I know the usual answers, we started it, we’ve got to finish it, or lose our credibility. The next answer, we don’t want to give India and China the opportunity to flex their muscles and build their credibility as international powers. We’re #1, the world’s only super power and we want to stay #1. Sounds good to some, especially the people in charge, but to these folks I ask: given the state of our own economy and the many un-met needs of our own people, does this approach make sense and is it sustainable?

Both India and China have the necessary resources and because they have fought two wars against each other in the past, might benefit from an opportunity to cooperate. They also have a serious interest in pacifying and containing Afghanistan’s extremists, before these extremists inflame their own extremists. In fact, most legitimate governments in the region, indeed, most legitimate governments period, have an interest in containing extremists and terrorists.

Couldn’t our diplomacy and subsequent military involvement be oriented to this ‘new’ strategy of involving the two biggest powers in the region? They have much more to gain than we do. The logistics would be less expensive and easier to implement. There are vague cultural and class similarities, at least more similar than the West’s. For all these reasons, India and China’s involvement might bring a better chance of success and if that’s what we’re really after, success – building a viable, tollerant and democratic Afghan state, as we say we are, and not staying the world’s #1 super power, as we don’t say, but probably the real goal, then common sense suggests we involve India and China. Involve, not hand it off to them, but involve them. We have a lot to gain by involving them, and probably less to lose than we fear.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We take the aches, pains and miseries, the dissapointments and setbacks of everyday life as a given, as ‘normal’. Happiness, joy and a feeling of accomplishment and self worth seem to be the rare exceptions. What if we’ve got it upside down and backwards? What if we’re litteraly looking at a photographic negative, not the final printed picture? What could be more normal and natural than health and physical and emotional well-being?

We are in God and God is in us. The same power that makes the sun rise, seeds grow and the tides flow is in us. If that power can do all those big things perfectly, how can it not do us perfectly? It can’t; God is perfect, all the time. God’s will for us is perfection, health, peace and joy. It’s when we use our God power to miscreate fear, doubt and evil that those things manifest. It’s not God’s choice, it’s ours. The power is completely responsive to our use of it. God does not contradict Itself and there is no power oppositte God. When we align with God and seek to be perfect as It is, the very best we can be and make our own unique contribution to a world that works for everyone, we are aligning ourselves with the law and power that holds the universe together.

Experiencing the presence of God - the all that is, eliminates any concepts of being less than whole, perfect and complete. If we could stand aside and let this one perfect life flow through us, Ernest Holmes said, we could not help healing and contributing to a world that works for everyone. The presence of God is the truth of our being and underlies every human experience. The pattern of perfection of which we are apart, is always present, ready to reveal Itself.

Einstein said we can live our lives as if everything is a miracle or as if nothing is a miracle. I choose to look upon the world and see the wholeness of God animating and radiating through it. I am part of this, I am one with this and it is good. Miracles surround me this day. As I heal any sense of my separation from God, I bring blessings, comfort and healing to all. What’s true for me, is also true for you and all of us. Say it, feel it, “I choose….”

Thanks Katherine Saux in the July SOM magazine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The So-called 'News'

A world that works for everyone is a world that works for both Republicans and Democrats, rich & poor, etc. It doesn’t penalize some at the expense of others, rich to help the poor. It’s an idea that suggests a balance, some kind of Aristotelian ‘Golden Mean.’ That some should have 90% and the rest 10%, is clearly not a world that works for everyone.

How terrible would it be if those with 90% had to get by with less, so that those with 10% might have more? Would one less Rolls Royce or yacht or trip to the Riviera really be that painful, if it meant that other people might have one plain car, a descent place to live, meaningful work and health care? Wouldn’t innovation, creativity and productivity increase if people didn’t have to struggle so painfully? Would drug abuse and alcoholism decline if people had less pain to numb? Besides, cocaine use is most prevelant among the wealthy. Would our prisons be full – we’re #2 in the world for percentage of citizens incarcerated, if people had less pain and less struggle, less need to steal and less need to abuse drugs?

Dumbing down is relative. Dumbing down to someone with a Ph.D. is probably not dumbing down to someone with a high school diploma. To a certain extent, dumbing down has been a necessary and successful coping mechanism as American and world populations have soard and diversity has increased. A certain degree of dumbing down to increase inclusivity, keep up with the growth of numbers, the wide range of demographic and psycho-social differences, changes in technology and economics, and deal with them in a cost effective way, it has been necessary to flatten and broaden standards to a certain extent.

When I began high school in 1957, calculus and Latin were considered necessary and viewed as the standard. By the time I graduated in 1962, neither were required. Some might consider that dumbing down, I consider it sensible.

Dumbing down has had a negative impact on the news as I said last time, but to me, in some respects, it’s no worse now than it was in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Then there were only three networks and they all pretty much covered the same news stories. The only choice available back then was who you wanted to read the news, whether you preferred Walter Cronkite to Huntly and Brinkly. I always wondered who chose those stories and how that decision was made - what were the criteria, what interests were considered? Were stories chosen because they helped build a world that worked for everyone? Have you ever wondered about that, about what is considered “news” or “newsworthy”? Remember, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’? Seems like that’s still a good criteria for what’s newsworthy. A story that contributes to a world that works for everyone seems not to be newsworthy.

Now, there’s a zillion e channels for info and supposedly more choices. But despite popular opinion, too much choice becomes overwhelming, people shut down, become less open and analytical, and fall back on their prejudices. Do you see that happening? Do you see and hear more extremist nastiness and rhetoric? Are the radical fringes actually getting more airtime than they ever did, and by virtue of that, seeming more legitimate?

And who decided terrorists should now be called ‘militants’? Did you notice that change? Check out your print and e media and you’ll see more ‘militants’ talked about than terrorists. I think the change happened five years ago or so, maybe ten. Who decided on that label change and why? Obviously some powerful interests didn’t want us to think bad things about the terrorists and the countries, religions, groups and nations associated with them, so the nicer, less threatening word, ‘militants’ has replaced the nasty, scary word, ‘terrorists’. What does it take for a so called, ‘militant’ to become a terrorist? Are there any terrorists left? Who decides?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dumbing Down

Look about you and see who benefits from the status quo – the dumbing down and constant litanny of fear and hate. Are they compassionate, peace-loving, inclusive souls? Are they seeking a world that works for everyone or only a world that works for them and theirs?

‘Dumbing down’ - to "revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence," first recorded in 1933 as movie slang. The simplification of culture, education, and thought, a decline in creativity and innovation, a degradation of artistic, cultural, and intellectual standards, the undermining of the very idea of a standard, and the trivialisation of cultural, artistic, and academic creations. See, grade inflation.

Media consolidation and monopolies such as Rupert Murdoch’s, are major contributors to dumbing down. By reducing both the breadth and depth of stories covered by mass media as a way to increase profits by reducing costs through eliminating foreign bureaus and correspondents and relying instead on biased so-called ‘news’ releases by political parties or businesses; and by relying on ratings and audience tracking, media consolidations promote the most simplified content with the widest possible interest. This often means celebrity gossip, entertainment marketing, and sensationalism. Complicated argument is made as simple as possible in order to sell it and communicate to the largest number of people as cheaply as possible.
• Pop group The Divine Comedy sing about "mindless fluff" on television in their song "Dumb it Down" from their album Regeneration.
• American hip hop trio Ugly Duckling lambasts the trend in American discourse of "dumbing down", with their song Dumb It Down.
• American rapper Lupe Fiasco attacks dumbing down lyrics on his song "Dumb It Down" saying "They told me I should come down cousin, but I flatly refuse, I ain't dumbin' down nothing."
• American rapper Jay-Z was quoted on the song "Moment of Clarity" off of his "Black Album" saying, "I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars / they criticize me for it; but they all yell 'holla!'"
The dumbing down of America, the methodical destruction and purposeful elimination of the means by which a society educates and enlightens itself is destroying the middle class and ushering in a new dark age. As the American middle class which grew and succeeded on education, merit, skill, community, fairness, and hard work disappears, because the values and systems that built it are disappearing and being dumbed down, we are moving to a third world medieval system with only two classes - serfs and masters, rich and poor.
Dumbing down, the evisceration of a system that extols accountability and dialogue, opens up the gates of opportunity with the keys of ability, questions authority and seeks debate, creates a wealth of knowledge and illuminates talent and that births an informed citizenry by creating free thinking, analytical minds has been slowly but inexorably implemented over the last several decades, continuing unrelenting and unhindered, squashing the middle class and the masses for the benefit of the elite.

Dumbing down, often in the name of the mistaken compassion called political correctness, eliminates, systematically and without remorse, a giant threat to the system of unfettered, dog-eat-dog Capitalism, making America and its citizens yet one more cog in the engine called capitalistic exploitation of humanity. Gluttony and materialism have enveloped all corners of the United States. The principles of consumerism and greed are all-encompassing, and have replaced the virtues of the middle class. Hidden in the joblessness for many, and the ever-longer working hours for others, is a clandestine enslavement.

Legitimate outrage and the ability to question authority have vanished in a haze of indifference, as the American mind drifts into delusions of grandeur. Right before our eyes, government has been transformed, becoming not democracy but corporatism - the marriage between the corporate and government elite. Our freedoms and liberties are in shambles, now a fragile porcelain being decimated by rich, and powerful special interests that are dumbing things down.

I would like to thank Wikipedia and Manuel Valenzuela for many of the idas in this post. To see more of Manuel’s thinking, please go to:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A World that Works for Everyone

Some future topics: dumbing down, the so called news.

Clarification of my definition of a ‘successful’ democracy as one whose citizens strive to live in such a way as to make a positive contribution to a world that works for everyone. I think Americans have had an inclination to do that. We give foreign aid and we fight lot’s of foreign wars, allegedly to spread peace and democracy, often at the expense of our own domestic needs and fiscal solvency.

But peace and prosperity and a world that works for everyone, begin at home. If we cannot create a family, community or nation that works for everyone, if we have poverty, disease and great inequality, if we have no peace in our own individual hearts, if we are full of anger, hate and fear, how can we take care of others? Eventually our hollowness and lack of faith and commitment to our own ideals, the Bill of Rights, for instance, will catch up with us. We are living from a “do as I say, not as I do” place and people will catch wise.

A world that works for everyone is one in which I count, but am not the only one that counts. It is one in which I am aware of how my choices impact my family, community, nation and the world, and I live my life from a centered place. It’s not that I am alone or only I am responsible for the whole world. It’s that I realize that I am part of something bigger than myself; that I have an ego self and a spirt Self; and I consciously choose to be aware of my ego self then chose again to be aware of my spirit Self. And going within where my spirit Self resides, I can be guided, guarded and protected and can choose and act from that place of inner peace, wisdom and faith and thus will be doing my part to build a world that works for everyone.

If I am concerned about my pride, afraid of what people will think, worried about America’s place in the world, about being #1 and being the world’s only super power, if I’m afraid other, somehow lesser, illegal people are going to take what’s mine then I’m choosing and acting from my ego self. Fear has a place, a small place, right there besides the sports metaphor. But faith, faith that God is good all the time, that we are always connected to spirit, that all we have to do is ask – ‘Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, ask and ye shall receive’ – faith in the power and presence, is greater than fear.

Faith is a weak muscle that needs exercise. We have been too long with trumped up fear and dread. Let’s try faith in God and our ideals for a change. What have we got to lose? Things are already going from bad to worse. Let’s build the muscle of faith. Shift to faith and notice that there are good things happening and we do have time to make things better. But only is we shift and choose differently.

Look about you and see who benefits from the status quo and constant litanny of fear and hate. Are they compassionate, peace-loving, inclusive souls? Are they seeking a world that works for everyone or only a world that works for them and theirs?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Think, Not What to Think

What do YOU think? Self awareness is critical. Are YOU making the choices, or is some deep, old, unconscious pattern inherited from your family or culture making the choices for you? Are you perceiving life in the present, or are you a zombie, sleep walking through a dream of the past, on automatic piolet, destinations set for you by someone outside you? What do YOU think?

To me, knowing what you think and how to think is critical, especially for a successful democracy. ‘Successful’ defined as a majority of citizens contributing to a world that works for everyone. ‘How to think’ means, making choices, reasoning, logic, analytical skills, verifying facts, sorting sloppy, superstitious, wishful thinking from disciplined scientific findings, balancing short term instant gratification and long term fulfilment, and individual and group needs. There are many democracies out there, but very few are successful and contributing to a world that works for everyone.

If I know what I think and I know how to think and I have the goal of being a meaningful part of a successful democracy, I am able to make wise, balanced choices that contribute to my goal of a world that works for everyone.

But if I don’t even know what I think, if I’m constantly reacting to fear and hate without thinking, plus I don’t know how to think, I’m just a zombie being manipulated by those who do think and know how to think. Do you know what you think and how to think, are you contributing to a world that works for everyone, or are you a zombie being manipulated by fear and hate to live a narrow, selfish existence?

And what about our society and educational system? Are we teaching young people what to think or how to think? Are we teaching dogma and traditional orthodoxies disguised as ‘fact’ – what to think, or are we teaching how to think - reasoning, logic, analytical skills, etc? Teaching what to think instead of how to think, binds individuals and society to the past, and as other societies live in the present, improving and growing by taking advantage of current opportunities and challenges, we stay the same and ultimately loose our edge and advantage.

As with everything else, success requires a balance of what to think and how to think. But in case you couldn’t tell, I think we’ve been drifting towards the what to think and need a conscious effort to get back to the how to think.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sports Metaphor II

The bread and circuses effect is not limitted to pro sports; Lindsay Lohan has replaced Brittany Spears, who was co-champion with Paris Hilton, as the current champion and media sweetheart. And of course, the so-called ‘news’ in all its forms: print, radio, TV and internet, feed and thrive on the bread and circuses thing. I’m planning a rant on the so-called ‘news’ down the road a piece.

Anyhow, Lindsay Lohan shows that sports isn’t the only bread and circuses thing, but sports, in all its forms, is probably the most influential. After all, there’s no ‘Lindsay Lohan’ metaphor, and people don’t go around talking about ‘the Lindsay Lohan of life.’

Again, sports has a place, going to a game or watching one is no better or worse form of entertainment than going to a movie. It’s the unconscious dominance of the sports metaphor, how it trivializes and oversimplifies the important life challenges and opportunities by encouraging us to think about and compare them to a game or sports event that is a problem.
Yes, there are aspects of living, politics and business that are like a game. But life, politics and business are bigger than a game, more complex than a game and require more from us than watching a game. There are mysteries, spiritual depths and cosmic consequences to life, politics and business that games simply do not have. We miss these when we use the sports metaphor and compare life, politics and business to a sports event.

We tend to stay on the surface of things when we use the sports metaphor, making things simpler than they are, having a short attention span and wanting instant gratification. We want the game or life event to be over in two-four hours, we want snarky comentary, we want instant replays, we want to speed through the commercials. And because of our unconscious addiction to the sports metaphor, we want those things in life, politics and business as well. We have no patience or tollerance for the long run, strategy or thinking things through. We want snarky comentary and instant replays.

Combine this, the sports metaphor effect, with the bread and circuses effect and you’ve got the current state of affairs in the USA. When the bread and circuses effect became one of the factors that destroyed the Roman Empire, it was a big deal, but not the end of the world. But now, as the bread and circuses effect and the sports metaphor effect contribute to the decline of the USA, it’s not just the decline and fall of the American Empire, but possibly the end of life on earth as we know it.

Now, I know this kind of talk and this kind of thinking is terrifically unpopular, that there’s a deep hundred year streak of anti-intellectualism in the USA. Please note that I’m engaging in this unpopular kind of intellectual critical thinking out of love, hope and optimism, not to tear things down.

As I’ve said, we can have both pro sports, the sports metaphor and healthy lives and a healthy society if we wake up now, become aware of what we’re doing and choose differently. Remember, if you always do (think & feel) what you always did, you you’ll always get, what you always got. So if you’re happy with how things are going here and in the rest of the world, just keep on doing what you’ve always done. But if you’re not happy, it’s time to change.

Here are few things I’ve encountered in the last week that make me think it’s time for a change. The Sierra Club reports that the USA fell from 39th (not so good) to 69th (worse) in our ability to reverse global climate chane. NPR reported that researchers found that 40% of high school graduates were unable to name the country we won our independence from. Exxon/Mobile made 52 billion in profits and paid not one dollar in Federal Income Tax. Rush Limbaugh in addition to having Elton John sing at his fourth wedding, just sold his NYC penhouse for $11 million. Four million people will no longer receive any unemployment or health care support, because one Republican, a different one every time, has blocked the fourth Senate vote to extend benefits. The President’s Commission on the Deficit reported that annual tax revenue covers only three Federal programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A summary of all the research into the state of the world’s oceans, found that the oceans are dying at a rate higher than previously thought and probably can not be restored.

In spite of all this, I still think we can change – change the direction of our individual and collective lives. The change needed is easy because it starts in your own heart and mind and in my heart and mind, and believe it or not, it’s my heart and mind (as yours is yours), and nobody can make me do anything with them that I don’t choose to do; see Victor Frankle’s Final Freedom.

The change we need is an inside job. When I take responsibility for my thinking, feelings and behaviors, become aware of their effects and choose other thoughts, feelings and behaviors, I’ll know what to do to make things better. Inside-out.

But if I continue as I have with the sports metaphor and bread and circuses – Outside-in, looking for short-range, non-systematic, quick fixes, blaming others and not taking responsibility for myself, things will continue as they are and get worse.

Inside-out or Outside-in; long range or short range; blaming or self-responsibility. Both pairs have a place, of course, but it seems to me that we, as Americans, have tilted to far to one side and need to get back into balance. What do you think?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sports Metaphor

There’s no question that sports bring us economic, social and cultural benefits. Sports also bring un-intended economic, social and cultural side effects and difficulties, beyond the bread and circuses effect, that are too often ignored, pooh-poohed, down played or actively suppressed. The sports metaphor is the most dangerous of these un-intended side-effects.

A metaphor is simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. For example, the seargeant barked out the order, makes us think of the seargeant as a vicious dog. Metaphors serve to facilitate the understanding of one conceptual domain, typically an abstract one like 'life' or 'theories' or 'ideas', through expressions that relate to another, more familiar conceptual domain, typically a more concrete one like 'journey' or 'buildings' or 'food'. For example, “the game of life” implyies that life is like a game, usually some kind of sport. More examples:

Food for thought: we devour a book of raw facts, try to digest them, stew over them, let them simmer on the back-burner, regurgitate them in discussions, cook up explanations, hoping they do not seem half-baked. Theories as buildings: we establish a foundation for them, a framework, support them with strong arguments, buttressing them with facts, hoping they will stand. Life as journey: some of us travel hopefully, others seem to have no direction, many lose their way.

Metaphors are colorful, exciting and thus more mememorable and have greater impact. Using a metaphor, the communicator puts ideas or objects into word containers, then sends them to a listener who takes that idea or object out of the container and makes meaning of it. The container is separate from the ideas themselves. Because metaphors can communicate a great deal of meaning with just a word or phrase, they can encourage people to reflect, think and question or they can encourage people to stop thinking and think they understand when they really don’t. For example, life as a sports game – “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”; “he who dies with the most toys, wins”. Great ways to think about living, right? About raising a family, loving your spouse, building a community?

A metaphor is a comparison that shows how two things not alike in most ways, are similar in another important way. Metaphors are pervasive in everyday life, not just in language, but also in thought and action. The most powerful metaphors deal with vital, abstract difficult to communicate experiences and operate below the level of conscious thought to be accepted as Truth, unchallenged and un-critically.

The sports metaphor is a popular, powerful metaphor embeded deeply in our collective unconsious. It has some value but in most cases it reduces difficult, complex life challenges and opportunities to oversimplified cliches. Instead of encouraging people to reflect, think and question their own lives and how society is working, the sports metaphor encourages people to stop thinking and think they understand when they really don’t. Among other things, the sports metaphor, especially the glitzy glamorous big bucks pro sports metaphor, encourages people to see and experience life as a spectator sport, un-involved, watching from a distance.

For example under the dominance of the sports metaphor, democratic politics is not about actually voting, “my vote doesn’t count,” just like rooting for your team in the stadium or in front of the TV doesn’t count. It’s not about the substance of the debate or the real challenges and opportunities we need our democratically elected leaders to deal with, it’s surfacy bull shit about who’s winning and who’s losing and why. On the job for example, everyone gives lip service to team work because teamwork is critical and does matter in sports, but in real life the ‘teams’ if there are any, are not like the sports teams but more diffuse and inner directed. There is no coach and no referee and the playing field is not level. There’s only you and whatever you think God is.

Many people work real hard to make the sports metaphor reality and they feel like failures when real life intrudes. It’s not your fault real life is the way it is, no matter how much you wish it was like a pro-sports game that you could ‘win,’ (in a ‘sportsman-like’ way, of course, no cheating), claim your prize and go home victorious, it’s not that way. Life doesn’t end after the season’s over. You have to live it out moment by moment, day after day, month after month, year after year until you die. And, according to some religions, it may not even be over then, when you die.

The sports metaphor has a place, but it’s a limitted place. Wouldn’t our individual, community, national and international lives be better if we became aware of the effects the sports metaphor has on our lives, controlled for those effects, sought out and used other metaphors to deal with our challenges and opportunities? How about, “life is just a bowl of cherries”….?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bread and Circuses

I am not a big pro sports fan. I’m not even a little pro sports fan. In fact, I think the time, energy and money invested in professional sports is criminal. Sports in school, even college, can be very valuable. I think it has a place and should be nurtured there. The trouble is, that love of sports in school, seems to mature into addiction to pro sports later in life, and schools are used as feeders for the pros. I’m aware that following sports is a way to unwind, relax, channel and release aggression. But following sports also has a dark shadow side that too often goes unnoticed and un-remarked, except by the power brokers and so-called leaders in politics and business.

The dark side can be summed up as bread and circuses, the phenomena that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Bread and circuses. As the Roman Republic, became an Empire, Roman citizens stopped acting like citizens – stopped taking an interest in their community, stopped being actively involved in politics and in many cases even stopped working. To divert the mass of the population and keep the public’s mind off the collapse of the Republic and its values and ideals of Justice, the concentration of wealth and power and the abuses of power – the leaders of Rome gave the population bread and circuses. Bread to feed them, circuses to amuse and divert them. Arenas were built in every large town, and wheat was imported from Egypt. Once hooked, the public’s appetite for free food and entertainment grew and grew until circuses weren’t enough and bloody battles between gladiators and feeding Christians to the lions were required. As long as the elite rulers provided bread and circuses, they could do whatever they wanted. That was bread and circuses.

I thought about bread and circuses as I watched the faces of the World Cup winners and losers on the so-called news last night. Did you see the faces? The faces of the Germans whose team lost – the grief, deep sadness and actual mourning? It reminded me of the pictures of the faces in the crowds when Jack Kennedy died. Hey! I shouted at the TV screen, it’s only a game! And the winners in Madrid? Thousands and thousands of people jammed together yelling and screaming, actual tears of joy running down their cheeks? And I thought, too bad just a little of that energy and enthusiasm can’t go into saving the planet, and seizing the opportunities masquerading as the problems of poverty and injustice. Instead, all that energy is bread and circuses.

The usual response is, hey, give us a break! Those people needed something to celebrate and it also gave them a moment of national pride and unity. Oh, yeah? And what about the Germans? And all the other teams that have lost, and have you noticed the way the sports system is designed there’s always more losers than winners, that’s real healthy isn’t it - where’s the national pride and unity there? And even for the so-called winners, how long will the pride and unity last? Will it carry over into their everyday lives? Will their everyday lives be better for the ‘victory’?

It’s all a momentary diversion, bread and circuses. But, its not just ‘momentary’ any more, pro sports is a year round, heavily marketed, designed to be addictive, trillion dollar business, a constant diet of bread and circuses. And everybody’s in on it, from the President to your next door neighbor.

But think about it, what if only a small part of that energy and enthusiasm could be channeled to dealing with the real life threats and opportunities surrounding us? Only a small part; pro sports wouldn’t have to go away – much as I’d like it to, I realize that’s impossible. It’s not an either/or, zero/sum, winner-take-all thing (as the sports metaphor would have us believe), but a both/and, win/win thing. Couldn’t we do both, have sports and seize the opportunities in our seeming problems? Aren’t we capable and competent enough to do that – to figure out a way to channel a small part of all the energy and enthusiasm that goes into pro sports to dealing with the real life threats and opportunities surrounding us?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Experience of a Moment

So, OK, let’s say we’re knowing its all good and all God and we have a serious car accident. Not only are you badly hurt, but the car is totaled. You’ll live and recover completely, but will miss lot’s of work and have to go through the whole hassle of filing an insurance claim, buying another car and keeping up with work from home. Does all this mean that you’ve pissed God off, that you’re not spiritual enough? No! You’re as spiritual now as you were before the accident, and as spiritual now, as you’re ever going to be, and there’s no way you can piss God off – at least not the real God. The ego God gets pissed off all the time and would be happy to punish you. So what do all these seeming troubles mean?

They mean we’re spiritual beings having a human experience. It is not easy, is it, Ernest Holmes wrote in SOM, to turn from trouble and disease, even when we know very well that there is no trouble and no disease in spirit, and that what we’re experiencing is only the experience of the moment.

No, its not easy to turn from trouble. The choice to turn away from that “experience of the moment,” is difficult. We all face situations so challenging that the drama claims front row center in our consciousness. It helps if we can find someone or read something or experience something that reminds us of who we really are - spiritual beings having a human experience. We have not pissed God off, we are as spiritual right now, as we will ever be. We just need to be reminded. As Katherine Saux said, “I am grateful to know that my perfection is never diminished by my human experiences of the moment, and I allow the universe to support me as I travel my life’s journey, accepting and giving help whenever it is needed.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Suffering is Optional

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I’ve tried to live a full life and avoid pain, but I couldn’t. Shit happens. But I have learned that suffering – dwelling on the pain, worrying about it, feeling sorry for myself, looking for a pattern and blaming myself and others, is not inevitable; it’s a choice. I suffer, but when I become aware of it, I try to let it go and ask for spirit’s help to see it differently. SOM says, “the Universe does not demand suffering! Someday [like a reformed drama queen] we shall decide we have had enough suffering.” And Hafiz, the wonderful, beautiful Sufi poet says, “All your pain, worry, sorrow will someday apologize and confess they were a great lie.” Isn’t that peacefully glorious? The “someday” Hafiz speaks of can be now. Why wait, it’s our choice - pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

But, as Katherine Saux points out in this month’s SOM Magazine, “our culture is replete with beliefs that we must suffer in order to get better.” For example, “no pain, no gain,” is one of our most popular sayings and most people believe women must suffer and sacrifice to be beautiful and that artists are supposed to suffer to be great. It’s true that challenging situations contain the potential for growth. But the growth comes when we understand that God never gave a challenge without also giving the tools and support to overcome it, if we are aware and attuned. As Ms. Saux says, as “I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death – I don’t have to pitch a tent and linger there. I can allow myself to feel the emotions that need to be felt, then more easily lift my eyes to the power within and leave the valley for the mountain top.”

It’s all good, all god, all designed to help us wake to our reality as spirit. What is grace? St. John of the Cross, asked God. And he said, ‘All that happens.’ From my ego bound, human perspective, it too, often appears that ‘evil doers’ thrive, while goodness, Truth, Justice and the American Way – did I wish you a happy Fourth of July? And, do they have a Fourth of July in England? – are overwhelmed by darkness. But I am heartened by the idea that as Ms. Saux says, my “human understanding of how the great law of cause and effect works its way through time and space is very limited.” Besides, if God is perfect, and She is, and it’s all good, and grace is all that happens, then there’s no punishment, per se; those that do harm only face the consequences of their own actions. The key word is ‘appearances.’ I so agree with Ms. Saux when she says, “Appearances can be deceiving. It is a wonderful spiritual practice to spy God’s presence in places where appearances shout and wave their arms and point to illusion.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ignorance and Light

Ignorance, honest not knowing and not being exposed to facts and information, is something I sympathize with. After all, I’m ignorant of many things. But willful ignorance, choosing not to know after being exposed to facts and information, is something I do not sympathize with. And that’s putting mildly. I hate such ignorance, even fear it. Such ignorance is dangerous, it hurts people, places and things, it even hurts the poor fools who cling to it. How can things be improved if people refuse to acknowledge the possibility of alternatives and the need to improve? I despair for our ideals and our very lives if people can not be reached and helped out of their ignorance. A few ignorant people is no problem, but a majority of ignorant people drags me down, too.

I know peace and success are not about changing others, only about changing myself. I know that as Audre Lorde says, “when I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid,” but I let the ego in the form of the so-called news, drag me down. I want to use my power and God connection to see ignorance as simply meaning unaware and as I accept myself as the place where God comes to a point of individualized and personalized express, I will see others that way too, will not see ignorance as the ego sees it, and know what to do, if anything, about it.

I want to see ignorance as another opportunity to let go and let God. Surrender brings real power. As I release blame, shame and the need to control, spirit shines through me, revealing so much more than I ever could have imagined, allowing me to get my bloated nothingness out of the way of the divine circuits. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” acknowledging his oneness with God and light, so I too, acknowledge the light within me, knowing my faith determines the wattage and amplification of my light. Though it pisses me off, in my right mind, I know that ignorance is unawareness of this light and when I encounter ignorance it is an opportunity not only to acknowledge my oneness with the light but to seek in others. Happy Fourth of July!