Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Accident or Wake Up Call

I was 24 years old. I was married with a three year old son. I was totally broke. My wife and I were living with her grandmother in Columbia, Pa. We had just returned from a four month adventure during which we had traveled across the country to California to visit my parents and then up the Pacific coast to Vancouver, B.C. We thought we would live in Canada and start a new life for ourselves. When we got to the border they would not let us into the country. It seemed my hair was too long and they viewed us as hippies escaping from America who could bring nothing positive to Canada.

We traveled back to Chicago. We split up there. My wife and son went back East. I went to California to see if I could make a little money. I was there for about six weeks and worked three or four different jobs including selling Fuller Brushes, pots and pans, and dating services. I couldn't make any money and missed my family so I came back to Pennsylvania to Grandma's house.

As payment for rent Grandma gave me some chores. I had never done any chores growing up in the projects of Brooklyn to a doting Jewish mother who required nothing of me.
Grandma made me mow the lawn. It was the size of a large postage stamp but I was proud of being able to do it. I was growing up and needed to learn these things. Even though I was married I had never taken work or responsibility seriously. My mind was on philosophy and religion and what I considered to be more important things.

I desperately needed a job. I applied for thirty-nine jobs in a two month period and was rejected for every one. I was either over qualified or under qualified or second best or something else was wrong with me. I didn't know what to do. Finally I was hired by Combined Insurance Company to sell accident and health insurance to businesses door to door. They hired anyone who breathed and they promised me fifteen dollars a day for food money during a weeks training session. I figured I could get by on five or six and send the rest back to my wife.

The training was an interesting experience. I roomed with a mormon who told me he had tried every religion and teaching until he had finally found the one true religion in Mormonism. This set the stage for my later inquiry into the Mormon religion.

I also met a full blooded American Indian who could out fight, out fuck, and out sell any man he met, or so he said. He was a gentle soul actually and introduced me to spiritualism. He was a true believer in our ability to communicate with the dead and his wife was a medium who had been Cleopatra in a previous life. I took him seriously and spent five eventful years investigating the Spiritualist religion. That's a long story for another blog or two.

On the business front the week was devoted to memorizing a presentation, word for word, intonation for intonation. Everything had to be said exactly as they taught ,if we were to qualify to sell their insurance. We also learned the philosophy of W. Clement Stone the founder of the company and one of the earliest sales and motivational thinkers. His basic philosophy was that success consisted of three elements. 1- activity knowledge 2-know-how through experience and 3-PMA or positive mental attitude. We could all make millions like he did by applying these principles.

After a week of intense brainwashing and motivation I was psyched to get out and sell. I was also deeply depressed that my life had come to this point. My first assignment was in northwestern Pa., in a small town called Warren. It was the middle of winter. I had to drive there with Benny, my spiritualist Indian friend, in my volkwagon on a Sunday, in a blizzard, to begin my first day of work on Monday.

We were told that a sales manager would be sent from the home office to work with us on our first day and that we would receive the commission from whatever was sold. It could amount to a couple of hundred dollars. I needed the money. My sales manager, however, did not arrive until late in the day on Monday. I was a little discouraged as we did not hit the road until it was dark. On our way to our first presentation my volkswagon was broadsided. I woke up in the hospital with an anesthesiologist staring down at me. He had a kind face and told me that I would live. I had my spleen removed, kidney damage, and some other internal injuries. I spent three weeks in the hospital, most of it in intensive care. This was a turning point in my life. I realized that I could not let myself get into this situation again. This was not an accident. It was a wake up call. I had to now consider what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Motorcycles, bicyles, and balance

When I was 23 I was selling motorcycles parts to motorcycle gangs. I actually was a marketing consultant for International Motorcycles Incorporated whose main customers were Warlocks and Pagans. IMI was selling chrome parts, front end extensions, fancy sissy bars, comfortable leather seats--anything that was needed to convert an ordinary motorcycle into a chopper. IMI was a profitable business; the company only started to have problems when the government cracked down on what they considered unsafe vehicles. Choppers disappeared; so did our business.

The owners of the business were a psychiatrist and his son. The father had financed the business to keep his son out of trouble, which was nearly impossible under any circumstances, but especially difficult since our primary customer base were some of the leading suppliers of illegal drugs on the East Coast. Interestingly, the other leading suppliers were some of the people from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn.

When the motorcycle parts business tanked we made a decision to go into the bicycle business. We did a little marketing research to see whether or not conventional motorcycle dealers, (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha) might be interested in adding bicycles to their product line, especially for the Christmas season. I went out into the field and in a month sold thirty or so dealers over a thousand bicycles. This impressive performance convinced the owner that we could make money selling bicycles; we placed orders for nearly 10,000 bicycles to be imported from Sweden, France, Japan, and Columbia, S.A.

This was in the early seventies when gas prices were booming and ten speeds were gaining popularity. The bicycle business was booming, too, and I became somewhat of a legend in the business by selling thousands of bicycles to dealers throughout the East. However, as I later learned, bicycles are a cyclical business. When they're hot, they're hot, when they're not they're not. The business dropped off quickly.

What added to our problems was the government was suspicious of our business. First of all, we had been involved with some of the sleaziest degenerates in the motorcycle business. Secondly, we were importing products from Columbia. The government actually seized one of our shipments, about two thousand bikes, broke into the boxes looking for drugs they thought we might be smuggling. They found nothing but claimed no responsibility for the damage they caused to our product.

We were stuck with thousands of bicycles in a declining market and many of them were damaged and unusable. The owner was under some serious pressure. He had invested hundreds of thousands to keep his son out of trouble and now the investment was very shaky. He announced he needed to get away and think about what to do. On a Friday night he left on a vacation to Tahiti. On Saturday, the next day, our warehouse with thousands of bicycles burned down. Not one bicycle was left.

No one, including me, was the least bit suspicious of this. We hired an insurance adjuster who did an incredible job of marketing the loss, getting the owner most of his investment back. Watching this insurance adjuster operate was an eye-opening experience. He led the insurance company's claims adjuster to value the loss in such a way that the maximum possible amount of money was paid out.

The thing that motivated me to write this blog and tell this little story was that I was thinking about whether or not a life of balance made more sense than a life of fanaticism.

Balance is boring; fanaticism is exciting.

While I was working at IMI, I was also pursuing my spiritual interests. I began an ongoing conversation with Norwood McTootle. They called him Woody. I was studying Indian philosophy at the time. Woody listened to my explanations and said very little. Finally he said he was going to tell me the secret of life. He said it could be summed up in one word. He would tell me the word when he thought I was ready. Finally after the warehouse burned down and the owner returned from Tahiti, Woody told me the secret. The word was BALANCE. I never forgot that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Betting On The Future

If you believe that the world wasn't created one second ago with us having a memory of a past that didn't really happen then you must accept that there is such a thing as history. If there is such a thing as history the question becomes what can we learn from history. The main lesson of history is that the world has changed. Whether it has been for the better can be debated, although for most people life has improved. What can't be debated is that if someone was transported through time from a hundred or a thousand or two thousand years ago the world would be nearly unrecognizable to them.

If we continue along this line of thought we may also surmise that not only has there been significant change but that the rate of change has been accelerating. The 1776 years from the birth of Jesus to theAmerican Revolution resulted in minor changes. It was still difficult to travel long distances and communicate quickly. Most people lived and died within a few miles of their birth. There was a small aristocratic class and the rest of the people worked their whole lives just to survive.

From 1776 to the beginning of the twentieth century there was an increase in the rate of change. The industrial revolution resulted in many significant inventions including the telephone, automobile, airplane, radio, and the electric light. These inventions expanded our ability to travel and communicate. Life was not just about work. Our awareness of the planet and our ability to experience new and different things greatly increased.

In the last 100 years life on our planet has changed more significantly than at any other time in our history. We have the ability to instantaneously communicate to any place on the planet and the capability of destroying ourselves through the creation of nuclear weaponry. We also have the potential to dramatically increase our life spans and reduce the amount of time we need to work to produce the basic necessities, food, clothing, and shelter, that we need for survival.

History has taught us that we are progressing. Our lives are improving. Unquestionably, this is a difficult time and there is plenty of fear and confusion. However the probability is that we will figure it out and in fifty years from now we will be living in a world that is nearly unrecognizable from today. Although there are those who can make a case for armageddon, that's not the way to bet. If you bet on our destruction you lose either way.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sources of Good and Evil

It surprises me that so many people think they're logical, that they make sense, when in fact they are clueless and misinformed. It also surprises me how amazing our world is and how much technological progress we have made. How can we create computers that process and access billions of pieces of information, planes fly across the world, tv's that transmit images across space, buildings that reach the sky, and artificial body parts to replace real ones when we can hardly get along with each other.

Life on earth is enigmatic, a real mystery. We slaughter each other by the millions; at the same type, we develop cures and medical advances that prolong life and save millions from lives of pain and suffering.Our cruelty, prejudice, and ability to fool ourselves into believing we know more than we do is only equaled by our talent to create incredibly beautiful art, music, and theater.

To me, West Side Story is incredible art.

Some believe there is evil on our planet, that Satan actually exists, and his influence causes the bad things that happen in this world. Some feel man has an uncontrolled animal instinct, a legacy from our apelike ancestors, and that this aggressive, selfish, part of our being, when let loose, can cause unspeakably horrible actions.

We don't know for sure why bad stuff happens. We do know that it does happen. We also know that good stuff happens, real good stuff. If we are explorers of truth we might identify traces of evidence left behind in all action--this can lead us to understanding the sources of good and evil. When we explore evil, remnants of vanity and pride appear in all their many manifestations. When we investigate beauty and good we find kindness without expectation, humility, and an openness to change. The trained observer and spiritual seeker cultivates discrimination and discernment to recognize what path to follow, what to avoid.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waifs & Return to Paradise

I spent the last two days with my friend Cathy. She's from California, somewhere in Silicon Valley. She's forty-nine. I met her when she was twenty-0ne. I mentioned to her that she was a waif when I first met her. We looked it up on Google.

Waif (from the old French guaif: stray beast) refers to a living creature removed by hardship, loss or other helpless circumstances from his or her original surroundings. Cathy agreed: she was a waif. Now she is a powerful women. She has done a lot of work on herself and it's paid off.

I was thinking, though, about this idea of waifs. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as others who express it slightly differently, the first humans were born into a paradisaical setting, a Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect, no problems, no unmet desires, no longing or restlessness, just peace and contentment. Then, because of some transgression, we were cast out
of our paradise and thrust into this world that we now live. From this point of view we are all waifs trying to return to where we originally came, a place where we can live happily ever after.

If you are honest with yourself you might begin to recognize that, although life is not terrible, and is often wonderful, there is great room for improvement.

I went to a workshop once with Harville Hendricks who said that most of us see life as a constant struggle, interrupted by moments of happiness and fun. He believed it could be the opposite: constant happiness and fun interrupted by moments of struggle. Is it possible that it could be even better than than the Garden of Eden? There is some truth behind all fairy tales and there is a lot we don't understand. Who really knows what is possible?

What is true for sure though, is that our existing situation is problematic and can be improved. It will not be improved unless there is significant change. We are trying to hold on to our old ways and our old habits, hoping that the stock market will go up, that our jobs will be more secure, that our health will improve, that our relationships will flourish. But perhaps we should embrace the crumbling of the old, so that we might create the possibility of the new, and better. This may seem a little risky, but in my mind, we have very little to lose.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Communication Problems

Since I can remember I have been attracted to philosophy and understanding the world. I have never been very good with my hands or with anything that has to do with mechanical work. I also grew up in a household in which business was never discussed and the only conversations about money were arguments between my father and mother (about who should control the finances.) Each thought the family's financial situation would be improved if they were the one in charge. The problem, obviously was that they had no money. My father worked for the Post Office and my mother hardly worked at all. When she did work as a sales clerk at Martin's Department Store she ended spending more on travel, lunches, and shopping; she quit in order just reduce the extra expenses.

I never worried about money as a child and always thought I would make a lot. My initial goal was to be a lawyer. But, after getting married and having a child at twenty-one, I had to abandon my plans for law school and try to support my family. I worked in a number of sales positions. I worked for three insurance companies, sold chemicals, burglar alarms, dating services, fuller-brush, and cemetery property. I was always a good talker and was not afraid to speak to anyone. These traits enabled me to get commission sales jobs, to survive.

Only after I started working in the consulting business for a company started by a New Yorker who had moved to Lancaster was I able to combine my interest in ideas with my need to make money. (By the way, the guy who started this company was the one who threatened to kill me as I mentioned in my last blog.)

Consulting especially marketing consulting allowed me to consider what influenced peoples' actions and how to present ideas in a powerful way. What I came to see after years of studying these questions and working with hundreds of clients was that an important element in business success, maybe the most important, was the ability to see things clearly and to express what you see in a clear and direct way.

Whenever I am confronted with a situation that requires strategic thinking or one in which I am dealing with people who are hostile to me or my ideas my first thought is to determine what is the truth that I want to express. I then consider what is the best way to communicate this truth. Oftentimes what happens is that I don't express my thought or idea in the most diplomatic or gentle way. I then need to scramble to explain myself, to dig myself out of the hole I have created by my directness. It helps me to have a partner in these moments who knows me, who can say "what Ira meant by that was" and then soften my words, or express them so that they will be more easily accepted.

The reason I am writing this blog is that I just was eliminated from a deal that I had been working on for fifteen months and invested thousands of dollars. My partner and I received the following e-mail ending the relationship:

This is a final notice that we will not be moving forward with our joint venture. After N. and Ira spoke in private I questioned her to find out what was discussed and learned that Ira was completely out of line and disrespectful to me and the organization. There is no possible way that I can work with Ira on a team especially now that I do not trust him at all. Completely unprofessional and for that reason, we are finished working with him. If you have any questions about what was said, feel free to direct them to Ira.



Based on this e-mail my partner believes I cost us the deal and he wants to end our partnership. In my mind I said nothing in the meeting to justify this type of reaction. What I know is that I don't disrespect B. or his organization and that my intent was only to communicate with N my concerns about B's lack of experience. I also stated that since their business had declined fifty percent they needed this deal to help secure their future.

These types of miscommunications and overreactions happen all the time in business, in families, and in international relations. It is unfortunate that oftentimes good relationships are ruined because of minor issues. However I need to look at this in the right way. First of all I can't get too upset with myself, my partner, or the executives in this company. Secondly I need to recognize that after forty years of trying to be a better communicator I still have a lot to learn. I am not going to give up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

trust vs. suspicion

I have always been very trusting. There are those who might say I have been foolish and others who think that I have been lucky. I have walked in places that weren't very safe, including "Needle Park" in New York, the back alleys and drug dens of Morocco, and the after dark areas of the sleaziest parts of most of America's biggest cities. I never had any problems or even felt vulnerable except when I look back on some of the situations and wonder whether I might have gone a little too far.

I have investigated and infiltrated cults, offbeat religions, and weird fanatics of all types. I spent years penetrating the spiritualist church, participating in wiccan rituals, befriending self-proclaimed teachers who believed they had special powers or connections with higher authorities. I was never cursed, or voodooed or harmed in any of these explorations.

I have had numerous business dealings with psychopaths, schizophrenics, criminals, and a host of unsavory characters. Matter of fact I have been in two business partnerships in which I've had to visit my partners in mental hospitals after they were committed. One of them, one of my best friends ended up killing himself, and the other one ended up threatening to kill me. In spite of these misfortunes I have had several long term partnerships with good friends that were very profitable in which there were never any major financial or personal problems.

I have hardly ever worked with a contract and in over forty years of business and hundreds of various deals have never been sued or had to sue anyone. I have lent small amounts of money to people who never paid me back, but I would have given them the money even if they had not promised to return it.

I have always felt more comfortable in the underground than in the mainstream. I am not especially proud of this or have any romantic belief that "street people" are more real or can be more easily trusted. I do feel though they are less hypocritical and you know where you stand most of the time.

What I do believe is that for most people the world today is a place where you need to be in constant fear and always protecting yourself against the unknown and unseen. This has created tremendous business opportunities for those products, services, and individuals who claim they can protect us. Lawyers, accountants, home security specialists, financial advisors, insurance agents, realtors, vitamin salesmen, identity theft protection services, religions and a host of other industries are all capitalizing on our fears, insecurities, and unwillingness to trust ourselves and each other. Is this the type of world we want? A world dominated by fear does not offer us much hope for the future. This issue of trust vs. suspicion is critical for any one serious about creating a new world.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Atlas Shrugged and The Third Eye

One of the first books that impacted me was Atlas Shrugged. I was sixteen when I read it. The first book I remember that effected me was The Third Eye, by T. Lobsang Rampa. I was thirteen and read this on a train going to California. My parents had given me a choice of having a Bar Mitzvah party or a trip to California.

These books describe very different perspectives of reality. Atlas Shrugged is in the Aristotelian tradition of a=a, what you see is what you get. There is no reality other than what we experience and it is up to each of us to create our own world. Our first responsibility is to ourselves and it is only in meeting this responsibility that the world can prosper.

The Third Eye tells the story of an Englishmen who begins having dreams about Tibet and feels drawn to go there. When he does go there he remembers a life in which he grew up in Tibet, was trained in a monastery, and a hole was put into his head that enabled him to have psychic powers. He was taught that he must use these powers to help others. This book is in the mystical tradition, favored by Plato, that believes there is a reality beyond our senses. The path to freedom comes from our recognition of our insignificance and our willingness to submerge our selfish interests for the greater good.

What to do? What to do? How do you determine what to believe when both sides make so much sense and each point of view is backed by the thoughts of history's greatest minds? On one hand we are told that there is a virtue in selfishness and on the other that we must transform our desires to receive for ourselves alone into the desire to receive for the purpose of sharing.

After many years of contemplation of this philosophical dilemma I have come to see that both points of view are valid. We cannot help others unless we help ourselves. We must live in the world and respect the things of this world but also recognize that there is something more. We need to listen and observe with attention and go about our lives with a respect for both reason and magic. Truth is revealed in different ways at different times to those who don't already believe they know. When we can simultaneously accept opposite points of view as equally valid we are beginning to understand life in all its fullness and variety. There is no requirement to take a stand except against that which blocks our progress.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A constant source of frustration

For anyone considering starting a business one of the biggest challenges is how to get prospects. For years this problem has disturbed me. I know that I have a valuable service to offer but I need to meet with owners of companies or decision makers to present my consulting and seminar services. For many years my primary focus, other than referral, obviously the best method, has been telemarketing.

There is nothing more frustrating than making hundreds, even thousands of calls, and not being able to speak to one qualified buyer. Woody Allen once said that "Hell is being trapped in a cell with an Insurance salesman." I believe that having to do telemarketing is even worse. I just can't take it and I'm really good at it.

In order to deal with my distaste I have hired people to do this work. I feel sorry for them; this makes it difficult for me to motivate and train them. Last year I hired three intelligent, well-spoken individuals, all of whom needed extra money, to contact companies and try to make appointments for me. The results were less than spectacular My pain in watching them and questioning them about their results was greater than their pain in having to deal with people who did not take them seriously, showed no respect, whose only goal was to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

After three months with only one appointment I decided that I needed to get on the phone myself and let them watch me struggle and make a fool of myself. Within two hours I had made three appointments (one of which turned into a consulting deal worth $108,000.00). I was more depressed than ever upon realizing that I could do this, but it would be nearly impossible to find someone else who was as good at it as me.

Within the last two hours I just learned that a deal I was working on to market 401k plans had suffered a critical blow. One of the partners in the deal, who had a base of 500 401k clients decided they did not want to continue in the deal. It seemed that a conversation that I had with one of their key employees was misinterpreted and the twenty-seven year old president of the company concluded that I was disrespecting him and that he could no longer trust me. Our source of appointments was now gone and I am now faced with this same dilemma that has plagued me throughout my business career, how to make appointments.

I think I am going to drink some vodka and play poker.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mormonism and ice cream

My wife and I just finished watching Big Love, a T.V. show about polygamy and Mormonism, one of the more interesting religions. It is thriving throughout the world. It is one of the fastest growing religions. Mormons are accepted and respected as part of the American mainstream. Also, it is a modern religion founded in the 1800's. What this means is that its history is documented and verifiable.

The Mormons believe God and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in upstate N.Y. and told him that the exisiting Christian religions were off track, that he would restore the true teachings of Jesus to the world. He was then directed by an Angel, Moroni, to dig up plates that were buried on a hill in New York. His translation of these plates became the Book of Mormon, which is the story of Jesus' ministry in the new world. Because his teaching came after those that he delivered in the Middle East, the Mormons believe that their information is the most updated and valid--that it represents the latest views of God and Jesus. The Mormons also believe that the bible and god's teachings are continually updated and that the twelve apostles are in contact with God and Jesus and are receiving all these updates.

In 1964 I went to the worlds fair in N.Y. I visited the Mormon pavilion and was introduced for the first time to Mormon teachings. I am open to everything. I believe in everything and in nothing. For many years I was attracted to the Mormon teachings. What attracted me most was the idea that "From their fruits you will know them." What this meant to me is that if you wanted to validate the truth of a religion you just needed to observe the followers of that religion. When you observe the Mormons you see a good looking, hard working, family oriented, healthy, and always smiling group of people who seem to have achieved a very high level of contentment in their lives. This is very appealing, very attractive.

When you dig deeper into the Mormon religion, as I have, (don't ask me why), you find that Joseph Smith and most of his claims are bogus and that many of the fundamental stories upon which Mormonism is based are highly questionable. It seems that the Book of Mormon is not original; it has sections which have been plagiarized from other writings of the time.

I had considered at one time converting to Mormonism. When I expressed an interested in doing this the Mormon Church in Lancaster introduced me to a Jewish man from New York who went to the same high school (Tilden) and college (Brooklyn College) that I did. He told me his story and that he was completely convinced that Mormonism was the one true religion. He invited me to the Church to become converted. While I was waiting for the conversion ceremony I was sitting in a room with my fellow Jew and we were offered apple pie and ice cream. (Utah eats more ice cream per capita than any other state). I enjoyed my piece. I observed however that my cohort requested seconds and thirds. I watched him down these large portions and it hit me. He was completely brainwashed and was sent around the country to convince and convert Jews who showed an interest in Mormonism. When they came to get me, I asked if I could leave and didn't look back. I never again considered joining any religion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Barack Real

I never was interested in politics. I never watched the news. I had no idea who Sean Hannity was or Bill Maher. I was somewhat familiar with Rush Limbaugh, although I had not heard him speak. This all changed with Barack Obama. Although i liked Hillary and felt she would bring something new to politics I was intrigued with Barack, his meteoric rise, and the potential that he truly might be a politician who would be honest and could be trusted.

I did not believe that politics mattered. It seemed to me that the Democrats and
Republicans were basically the same. I believed that the primary difference was the way they marketed themselves. They did market research to determine what the American people wanted and then geared their appeal to telling the people what they thought they wanted to hear.. I did not see in any of the presidents or presidential candidates anyone who showed any spark of creativity, sensitivity, or commitment to a higher level of thinking and being. There was no one who inspired my imagination, who motivated me, or gave me a sense that there could be real change.

I am hopeful that Obama is real, that he has some grand plan and that he has surrounded himself with a team who actually know what they are doing and can get things done. He has been in office now for almost two month and it seems to me that he has set in motion a number of different plans to help stimulate the economy and improve the overall financial picture of the American people. Whether they will work or not we will see.

I would like to believe that that there is something to believe in. It has been obvious to me for many years that there are fundamental problems in our society and that most of those in positions of power and influence are more interested in what is in it for them and and how they can maintain their position and its benefits without taking much risk. The results of this is that we have gotten ourselves into a real mess, that we have devastated our economy and that now we are vulnerable to significant struggles and suffering in the years ahead.

The reasons for our troubles may be normal cyclical declines that have always occurred within great civilizations or they might be the culmination of continuous abuses of our resources, our money and credit, and the constant brainwashing that has turned us into consumption machines. If Barack Obama is going to gain my confidence he is going to have to confront these abuses and point out the obvious truth about how our leaders have let us down. If he does this I will get behind him 100 percent and contribute any way I can to helping and supporting him. If I see he is the same old politician without real vision or courage I will sink back even more deeply into my hermetic existence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seeds Of Change

The last few days has seen an upturn in the stock market. Market analysts are now proclaiming that we have seen the worst of it and whether or not we go straight up from here, we finally have reached the bottom. It is now a good time to invest.

I don't believe too many people believe this B.S. I don't even think the ones who are saying it actually believe it. If these statements weren't so self serving and actually harmful they could be laughed at. It reminds me of some story from the bible where God asks Noah to find one good man and he will save the world. Noah can't deliver and God unleashes the Great Flood. Where can we find today someone we can trust, someone we can believe in.

Actually I am beginning to think that there are a lot of good people. They are not the ones who are doing most of the talking. The skills and abilities that have enabled people to get into positions where they can express their ideas are not a commitment to truth, a desire to dig deeply into issues, a spirit of openness, or the willingness to admit weakness or infallibility. They usually are good looks, an eye for fashion, an ability to entertain or communicate with flair, and an out of control ego that desires followers.

Their are a few exceptions and there are those who are willing to fight against the system for the right reasons and without concern for their own image or personal gain. More importantly there is a growing mass of of average individuals who are tired of being lied to, who no longer are willing to put up with the ridiculous treatment that prevents them from getting the simplest things accomplished within the maze of corporate bureaucracy. If Thomas Paine was living today he probably would write Common Sense, Part 2. The seeds are being sown for another revolution, a non-violent one, that will transform the society as we know it. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Results of 45 years of inquiry

There are times when it seems that no one understands what I am saying, I hate to admit it but these times are frequent. This does not include those times when I am communicating with my wife or kids or friends about practical matters or reporting about what is going on in my life. These communications are usually successful.

What I have difficult with is communicating the results of my spiritual, philosophical , and psychological studies. In studying these area, including religion I have encountered many theories, ideas, opinions, imaginings, and other speculative viewpoints that require some level of faith to accept. What I am looking for is to narrow my searching to those ideas that I know are true, those that do not have to be accepted on faith but can be proven by observations and are duplicated over a period of time. Here are a few of the ideas which have been proven to me.

1- There is a limitation to what we can understand through logic. The most obvious proof of this is our inability to logically imagine how we were created. We then must ask who created our creator and on and on. There is no logical conclusion to this critical question and yet we exist or we would not be asking this question.

2- It appears that the answer to our inability to logically answer the creation creation is that we are thinking dualistically and linearly, as if everything has a cause and one thing follows another.
There is another way of thinking or observing that perceives the world as a unity where all things are connected and there is no time as we usually know it. The past, present, and future are all occurring at the same time. This idea cannot be communicated but can be intuited or experienced.

3-I'm not positive of this one. But since logic is limited and there is another way to look at our world that is different than logic, there must be a way to develop ourselves or free ourselves from the shackles of logic. All mystical traditions speak about states where we are free to see the world in an unobstructed or expanded way. There are teachings which give us practical methods to awaken ourselves from our limited state and connect with a higher state where logic is transcended and the universe appears in its non-dualistic reality. I have had enough experiences, through LSD, meditation, yoga, moments of consciousness, and unique energetic shocks to conclude that there are other states available to us.

The result of these three points is that there is hope for our future. There is the possibility that we can learn and grow and that our actual mechanism of perceiving the world will change. When this happens to enough of us the nature of our planet will be different.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Utopia or post-apocalyptic

Robert Heinlein, science fiction writer, and author of cult classic, "Stramger in a Strange Land". views science fiction writing in general as a good predictor of the future. When we study science fiction writing we are introduced to a multitude of worlds and scenarios that describe where our planet and mankind are heading.

There are the utopian views that depict a world of peace and harmony where the purpose of society is to enhance the lives of each of the individuals. These books include "Vril, the Power of the Coming Race.", by Bulwer Lyton, "Island", by Aldous Huxley, "The Republic", by Plato, and the classic "Utopia". by Thomas Moore. None of these societies might be places where you would want to live but they all express a positive outcome for humanity.

Then there are the post-apocalyptic novels which describe a world in the future where mankind is nearly wiped out by either a nuclear holocaust, plague, environmental breakdown, or cosmic disaster. These include, "The Stand", "The Day of the Triffids", "On the Beach", "Lucifer's Hammer, and "The Last Man", written in 1826 by the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. These books focus on a group of survivors who must bank together to survive and create a new world.

In addition to these extremes there are tons of other books describing a future in which we continue to exist as a species with all our weaknesses and problems, fighting with each other, and scrambling greedily to achieve material wealth. The main differences are that we are now doing this on other planets with tremendous technological advances that enable us to live hundreds of years and travel to all parts of the universe through worm holes or event horizons.

"The Reality Dysfunction". a four thousand page four volume epic, describing a world in which the dead, led by Al Capone are coming back through some type of time warp to battle and take over the existing universe is one of the better ones.

"Ender's Game" and its sequels are also an interesting depiction of our future. The works of Philip Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Silverberg, and Frank Herbert are all imaginative attempts at glimpsing the world to come.

If Robert Heinlein is correct, and science fiction offers a window to our destiny, how are we to know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic. How are we know whether we are moving into a world where we will all live to 250 without any problems, or be struggling under the most horribly difficult conditions. Or will life just progress in an orderly fashion, with more of the same except for better quality cell phones, T.V's and video games.

Jane Roberts, in her books about Seth, a channeled entity and philosopher talks about the idea of probable realities. What he means is that at any given time, there are multiple courses our lives can take depending on what we do. These realities all exist as possibilities and can be known to a trained observer, real psychic, or advanced computer model. They represent the results of our "free will". The future is not fixed. It is fluid and changeable. In order to create the one we want, the one we deserve ,we need to raise our consciousness and begin to take responsibility for not only our actions but our thoughts. This is very exciting to me. We are all in it together.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bernie and Marty

Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty and was sent to jail. I had no money invested with Bernie. I know only one person who was affected by Bernie's scam. My friend Marty is a limousine driver in South Florida. One of his regular clients, a 78 year old eye surgeon, had advanced Marty $240.00 to pay for future trips to the airport. Marty had needed the money to play the ponies.

Marty has a unique financial life , especially for an intelligent Jewish guy from Brooklyn. First of all, he usually has all his assets in his pocket. If he makes a hit in gambling he keeps the winnings in a box in his kitchen. He has written less than 10 checks in his life. He's 62. He has never had a credit card. His expenses are $1200.00 per month plus cigarettes and herbs. He smokes two packs per day. All money above expenses is used for gambling or entertaining his classy girl friend (daughter of a Navy admiral) from New Hampshire.

When Marty has a few extra dollars in his pocket or in his box he is very happy. When he is working he is very happy that he's working and earning money. When he's not working he is very happy that he's not working. Marty is happy most of the time. He lives his life under the radar of society and likes it that way.

Marty's eye surgeon client was worth thirty million dollars. He had all of it invested with Madoff. On the day after the Madoff scandal surfaced Marty got a call from the surgeon asking Marty if he could please return the $240.00 he had advanced him. Marty did not have the money and had to borrow it from his mother. So he was a real victim of the Madoff scheme.

His eye surgeon client and his wife (she's 77) have had to sell most of their possessions, and go back to work. Marty thinks he is working as a security guard and his wife as a waitress. Although Marty took a small hit he has bounced back quickly. I spoke to him today. He had six hundred dollars in his box, He couldn't decide whether to take a few hundred and go to the casino or save the money for his girl friend's visit next week. I don't know what he did, although he was leaning to trying to make a hit. He sounded very happy, though.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Starting with our children

I just spoke to my son, Seth, and my daughter, Katie. Children are a great pleasure in life, although, obviously they also provide challenges that can be difficult. Observing my children, I try to see how their childhoods impacted them; and I wonder how they might overcome certain patterns of thought and feeling imbedded in them by the unique circumstances of childhood.

As I write I'm reminded of L Ron Hubbard who speaks of clearing ourselves of the engrams which are programmed in our being and bodies by our life experiences. The process of dianetics and the religion of scientology is devoted to accomplishing this. Although I am not a student of scientology, it does seem that a fundamental idea of all spiritual, psychological, and religious teachings is this idea of cleansing, of giving up the past, of moving on, of being "born again," of letting go of those ways in which we have been programmed.

I think it's important not to judge our children or be disappointed with them. What is valuable is to continue to nurture, to see your children as clearly as possible, to help them with the difficult task of freeing themselves from the negative influences that have impacted them.

Each child is different and needs a different type of help. Some require space, others require a direct intervention. I don't feel it is appropriate for me to give others advice on what to do with their children. I do believe that we should not give up on them and that we should continue to improve our ability to see them clealry.

We are moving into a time and a world in which families are going to need to stick together, to work together, and to support each other more than ever. For many years we have been moving in the opposite direction. Families have become splintered, separated, and isolated from each other. Petty arguments and judgments have resulted in avoidance and disconnection.

We can't afford, financially and emotionally, to continue in these ways. We must learn to get along first with our families, and then move on from there to get along with each other. We must break down the barriers that separate us: religion, race, geography, political views, gender, and all the other imaginary ways that we classify and stereotype each other. This may seem a little idealistic, but the stakes are high, and the consequences are serious. We need to make progress each day in little ways until we reach the threshold where we will be creating a new world. We can start with our parents and children.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dreaming of world peace

I had a dream last night: I was eating dinner in a fancy N.Y. restaurant with a group of Arab and Jewish professionals. I was thinking there must be a way to get Arabs and Jews to get along and possibly avoid devastating war. Everyone was laughing, enjoying themselves in a lighthearted manner. I wondered whether or not it would be appropriate to bring up the subject of what we could do to improve relationships on a global level, especially in the Middle East.

"Gentlemen, I said, "We have gathered here tonight a distinguished group of sensitive, successful, worldly, and intelligent guys. Let's experiment a little and see if we can come up with some solutions to improve Jewish/Muslim relations. Maybe we can make some real progress if we put our collective minds together."

"Abdul," I said, "What do you think?"

Abdul responded, "Although I am not in the mood to discuss this right now my overall thought is that many Muslims believe that the Islamic religion is the hope for the future of our planet and that it is our obligation and duty to bring the teachings of Mohammed to the world. This is a very noble purpose, and in a world where it is hard to find happiness, living a life in service to the highest possible truth is very appealing."

David chimed in, "The Jewish people feel they have been chosen to bring Gods law to earth and that after suffering persecution and hardship for thousands of years to maintain our culture and beliefs we cannot give up our homeland or our ideals. We must continue to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves and most importantly our future generations."

Moshe added, "Yes we do want peace. We are waiting for the age of Meshiach when there will be world peace, immortality, and happiness for all mankind. Until that time comes, and we don't know for sure when that will be, we must continue to study and learn, but mostly we most survive as a people. We cannot be weak and allow another Holocaust which destroyed six million of our people.

I was a little surpised at the serious tone the conversation had taken, but was curious to see what Gamal might say.

"Gamal, what are your thoughts."

Gamal, who was digging into what looked like a delicious rack of lamb, put down his chop and with a little exasperation in his voice said. "Look guys, we have been fighting for thousands of years. We have never been able to get along with each other, and I am not sure whether it is in man's nature to get along. When you look around and are honest with yourself, you can see that even in families we fight, and hold lifetime grudges. What makes you think that it is possible to change history and teach people to respect and trust each other, when this has never been done, and that a strong case can be made that the only way we can keep any sort of peace is by intimidation and threat. Let's forget this subject and enjoy our meal. Who knows what will happen tomorrow."

I don't remember exactly what happened after that. The dream gets a little fuzzy. I think,
I called over the waiter and asked to see the dessert menu.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oh My God!

I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with Wells Fargo trying to determine whether or not I qualify for the new government mortgage modification plan. I was cut off twice. I was transferred, finally, to five different people before I got to the right person; she couldn't help me because the plan was too new and she really didn't know much about it.

My head is hurting. I have stomach cramps. My sinuses are starting to bother me. I should be used to this by now, after dealing for years with Comcast, Dell, and my arch-enemy Verizon, but it's still hard to take--when you can't get a straight answer, when you have to listen over and over and over again to "This call is very important to us. Please hold for the next available representative."

Adding insult to injury: I was writing this blog while on hold, giving an interesting play by play, which I thought was pretty humorous, although painful. I was speaking to the fifth person who supposedly was the expert. I asked her specifically whether or not I would have to use up all my money before I qualified for a loan remodification or if my low income was enough to qualify me? When she didn't know I told her I had read on financialstability.gov that you had to warrant that you did not have sufficient liquid assets to qualify. I was wondering what "warrant" meant and what was the definition of sufficient liquid assets. She had not heard of this and asked if I could find the exact place in the website where this was stated. While looking for this, I went to my favorites and lost all I had written in my blog.

Which increased my head and stomach pain.

I don't want to whine, but oh my god, how tortuous.

And now I am writing this with an intent to be inspirational and motivational and feel like I was just beaten up. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Monday, March 9, 2009

excessive talking

I was on the phone today for five hours discussing various business situations. It cut into my tv and poker time and I'm not sure whether any of the conversations moved me closer to making money. There is always more talk than action in business and most of it is wasted. I'm usually good at limiting talk and cutting to the heart of matters. I find though that most people need to talk more than necessary because they're lonely, insecure, bored, or addicted to hearing themselves speak.

I talk a lot myself at times, and theoretically there is nothing wrong with talking if you are expressing yourself clearly and accomplishing something with your words. Useless and excessive talking are problematic though. They waste your time and the time of those who are listening and even more importantly drain energy from you and your audience.

Anyone who is interested in personal development should be aware of their talking and its effects on those with whom they are communicating. When you talk too much or talk without consideration for the feeling of your listener, it is harmful to your business and personal relationships. Developing your communication skills requires real honesty with yourself and the ability to objectively assess your impact on those around you.

Becoming a good or great communicator begins with being a good listener. Being a good listener requires the ability to pay attention, to be in the moment, and to look beyond the words to get at the real intent of the one who is speaking. Women are usually better at this than men, although it doesn't have to be this way.

Most of us feel that we are the way we are and there is not much we can do about it. If this was true there would be little hope for improving our personal situations, our family lives, and our world. We can be better communicators. We can listen with more intention, with more effort, and a desire to truly understand. We can speak with more sincerity, which is at the heart of all successful talking. Real sincerity comes from a commitment to being open and expressing how we really feel and what we really want. Sincerity combined with clarity and directness is very powerful.

To have real conversations with real people to explore important questions in a spirit of caring and sharing is what I want in my life. I always envisioned myself sitting in a cafe with Socrates and his friends discussing the meaning and purpose of life as the ideal way to spend my time. Until I can find out how to achieve this I guess I'll have to settle for tv and internet.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What do we want

Very few people ask themselves what do they want. Not what their parents want for them or their friends, or spouses, or children or the society, or the media, or the government. We are constantly being barraged by messages telling us what we should want but very rarely get the clarity, courage, or time to truly consider what it is that we really want in our lives.

What we are good at is justifying or accepting what we have. As long as it not too bad and their are enough moments of pleasure and something to look forward to, it is easy to become comfortable and accept our lives as they are. There is nothing wrong with being happy with what you have, with being grateful for what you have accomplished and acquired in your life. There is though, a certain lack of freedom in never deeply considering what it is that would enable us to tap our deepest nature, to live in harmony with our essential nature, not with the personality, or mask that we have acquired over our lifetimes.

This line of thought may seem a little impractical or even unreasonable in a world in which most of our energy is used up in just trying to survive. I've never been able to feel comfortable believing that we were created or evolved to spend our time in activities that we have not chosen but have been foisted upon us by influences beyond our control. In investigating this dilemma I have come to believe that that there are at least three levels of influences that effect us.

The first of these influences are the influences of ordinary life which work to keep us in line, to prevent us from harming ourselves and each other and which enable the society to function in an orderly fashion. The second types of influences are those that we can get from studying the great minds of the past, from listening to the music of the great composers, from being in the presence of great art and architecture. They stir within us a sense of something higher than our ordinary lives and can lead us to living with creativity, nobility, and a purpose of creating a better world and life for ourselves and our children. These influences remind us of a possibility that we often forget in our mundane existences.

The third influences are those that come from some unknown source within ourselves. It is these influences that are the source of the creation of all the worlds great religions and connecting with them are the goals of all mystical, and spiritual teachings. These influences directly connect us to the forces from which we have been created. They are difficult to interpret or explain and it is this difficulty that has resulted in the variety of religious and spiritual beliefs. We must learn to reconcile these differences by realizing that words alone cannot describe these influences and that we are all connected in a very fundamental way . It is this realization and the results from living with this view that will truly enable us to know and get what we truly want.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Reading, T.V. & Poker

I spent the morning reading an interesting book, The Outliers. The book investigates the reasons that certain people rise to very high levels of accomplishment. It seems that intelligence is important, but only up to a point. What is equally or more important is the circumstances in which you were raised, the time in history you were born, the access that you had to pursue your talents.

Bill Gates, for example, was able, from the time he was thirteen to spend thousands of hours on the computer fooling around with programming. If he'd been born a few years earlier it would have been impossible to do so, considering the limitations in time one could actually use a computer. Also he was raised near a university that enabled him to pursue his interests more easily.

The Beatles incredible level of success, according to Malcolm Gladwell, the author, can be attributed to the time the band spent in Hamburg where, because of unique circumstances, they were able to play together for six or more hours a day refining and perfecting their music. If they had stayed in England, they would not have had this amount of time together hindering the development of their special chemistry.

After reading a few chapters, wondering what special circumstances impacted my life, I moved on to my next activities of the day: television and internet poker. I watched an episode of the Tool Academy and then caught up on the last three episodes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

After eliminating ten tools, the Tool Academy is down to the wire. There were only three tools left. In case your not familiar with the show the tool academy is a reality show; it determines which of thirteen horrible and abusive boyfriends has the most hope of actually establishing a meaningful relationship.

Each week one of the guys, the biggest tool, is eliminated for proving that he has no hope for reforming. His girlfriend then must make a decision about whether or not she wants to stay with him. I'm looking forward to the final episode next week.

Secret Diary is an English show (beautifully filmed) about a high priced, intelligent call girl with a big heart who loves her work and is also trying, so far unsuccessfully, to live a normal life. She is willing to do almost anything for money but keeps on getting herself into situations which cause her to question her life style.

The sex scenes and situations are stimulating and well done which is a problem for me because I am simultaneously playing no limit hold em poker on the internet. This requires a high level of concentration, and the pots run into the hundreds of dollars. I am a good poker player, The circumstances of my life meant I started playing at the age of eight, in the hallways of my building in the projects, and have spent thousands of hours over the past fifty plus years honing my skills. I won forty dollars today. I have been playing on the internet for five years and have managed to hold my own, although I can't say that it has been really profitable. Combining poker with quality reality T.V. makes me feel better about how I am using my time.

In case you know me personally, and are reading this blog, and are concerned about my choices, I am planning on making some lifestyle changes. I would like to make some money . I may need to start playing live poker or try to develop my own reality show.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stock Market Woes

The stock market reached a twelve year low today. The average investor with a stake in the market through their retirement plans or brokerage accounts is frightened and confused. The professionals (who have profited tremendously over the years by convincing us that, in the long run, the market is the best and safest place to keep money) are now scrambling to call a "market bottom," to point out how most stocks are greatly oversold. Blame is being thrown around like confetti on New Years Eve; the truth is no one really knows what to expect.

It makes me ill--to hear the so-called professionals say that the rising yield curve is positive, that the markets discounting mechanism is predicting Armageddon, that we are near a bottom, that stocks are trading below book value, that the overall negativity is positive, and that there are tremendous opportunities in these markets for those with patience and good judgement. Give me a break. They have been saying this for the last six months; those who have listened have lost an additional thirty percent over and beyond the initial thirty percent they already lost.

Wall street is blaming government and government is blaming wall street. What is going on is that the old rules no longer apply. The stock market may not be a predictor of the future economy. The entire financial services industry including banks, stock brokers, and insurance companies have been exposed as being either corrupt or incredibly inept. The American automobile industry has been making poor decisions for years. Consumers have been out of control in their spending and gullibility. Government has been more concerned with promoting their own interests and getting reelected rather than what is best for their constituents. Those who do care don't really know what to do and can't admit it.

We will get through this and we will be better off. Hopefully the degree of pain and suffering won't be too great, although there needs to be enough so that we won't want to get burnt again. We have the potential to make life on planet earth everything we have all wanted. Through cooperation between countries and governments especially in the areas of science and technology we can figure out how to support the worlds peoples so that everyone will have a comfortable and healthy life.

What we can't do is let these difficult times go by without collecting for the payment we will all have to make. Although there are no guarantees, we are closer than ever to making real breakthroughs. We need to stay strong and not listen to the B.S. We need to see the ridiculousness of the ridiculous and not be afraid to express ourselves and believe in ourselves. Real hope lies within the individual, but not by following blindly those who are trying to control and manipulate us for their own interest. It will be interesting to see how we do. I am cautiously optimistic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How I spend my time

I've been spending my time lately in three activities: reading, watching t.v., surfing the internet. My reading includes a historical account of the forty year battle between Gandhi and Churchill regarding the independence of India; also, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

The story of Gandhi and Churchill describes a classical philosophical and political struggle between two great and sincere leaders. Churchill believed that the hope of the world lied in maintaining Britain's role as a world power; inevitably, he believed, the values of British civilization would lift the state of all humans on the planet. In his mind this could only be accomplished if Britain maintained a strong military presence; he wasn't shy about using force when required.

Gandhi believed that hope lied in the development of individual character, integrity, and personal responsibility. He felt that no political system or government should set the standards for all people; only if the British Empire gave up control would the world and India progress. Nothing could be gained through physical force or violence. Non-violent protest (Satyagraha) in the quest for freedom and truth was the most viable and reasonable course of action.

Both Gandhi and Churchill repeatedly failed in their attempts to implement their ideas, lived very difficult lives, and gained their status as true heroes only after they died.

In Confessions of a Shopaholic the hero views the goal of life as acquiring brand name merchandise and rewarding herself by purchasing everything from moisturizing cream to kitchen utensils to all kinds of useless junk. She gets herself into deep debt, creates tremendous stress for herself and her friends and family, and then finally triumphs by exposing an investment fraud. In the process she learns important lessons about honesty, humility, and self-confidence.

I'm not sure which of these books is more instructive or valuable. I suffer the same conundrum in my t.v. viewing. I spend part of my time watching Fox News, CNBC, the History Channel, and Wayne Dyer infomercials. In contrast to these intellectually stimulating educational shows, I watch: Tool Academy, Real Housewives of Orange County, Millionaire Matchmaker, and The City (a tremendous show). It's unclear which group depicts a more truthful picture of life in the twenty-first century, and mostly it's unclear which is a more productive use of my time.

Surfing the internet is equally confusing. In my search for truth I google. I read tremendous amounts of information. Just recently, I have spent time researching Aristotelian Ethics, The Multiverse, The Ottoman Empire, the Mustang Ranch. I also, out of curiousity, googled "the meaning of life"and found one hundred million sites. I spent a few hours going from one to another.

Finally, I play chess and poker for hours. I sometimes feel guilty about the amount of time I devote to playing (and mostly losing) games of skill. I easily rationalize my guilt, though, when I compare myself to Gandhi and Churchill and see how they spent their time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creationism vs. Big Bang

If you believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny after the age of five you might be considered at best imaginative, at worse delusional. But fifty percent of Americans believe we were created in seven days by a super being and his son. Then there are those who don't believe in anything that can't be seen or proven by science. They tend to think that the earth was created from a microscopic ball of energy which exploded billions of years ago and through a process of random development based on the law of probabilities on nearly an infinite number of galaxies, stars, and planets and natural selection produced our world in all its complexity.

The truth is we don't know exactly how we got here. There is the possibility that there is a rational scientific evidence for our existence, or that there is some unseen, unexplainable, mystical or spiritual force behind what we perceive as our reality. My view is that both explanations are true but that our present state of consciousness and evolution is incapable of integrating both points of view.

What is important it seems to me is that we maintain a level of humility and admit that we don't know while at the same time working on developing our understanding and ability to see things more clearly. We must continue to remind ourselves to question everything we think may be true. At the same time we need to act in a way that supports life and growth so that we at least have a chance to penetrate the mystery of existence.. We also must do it in a light hearted way.

One of our big challenges now is our economy. There are so many opinions be given everywhere you look. The liberals want more government interference. The conservatives want to allow the problems to work themselves out. The optimists feel that the American spirit and culture will prevail. The pessimists project a doomsday scenario in which we will be jobless, homeless, and there will be rioting in the streets. The rationalists believe we are in a cyclical downturn and that like all downturns it will turn around. The mystics believe that it is the end days and the world will never be the same.

It seems to me that there is no clear understanding of what to do or of what will happen. It is obvious though that we got ourselves into this mess by acting without regard to the future, without regard to maintaining any balance. We borrowed too much. We spent too much. We allowed those without any conscience to make decisions for their own personal gain without questioning or monitoring their actions. All we can really do is work on ourselves and support those actions that seem to be motivated by courage, love, justice, compassion, and humility. I am rooting for Obama. I hope he at least is motivated by the right reasons.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Change and Hope

Just got back from seven days in Florida. Average temperature was 75 degrees and every day was beautiful. Looking out my window at ten inches of snow now. What a difference. My initial instinct is to complain but living in extremes is required now.

We stayed on Singer Island which is in Palm Beach County, one the richest areas in the world, and Madoff country. We did a little sightseeing observing no evidence of financial stress at all. Matter of fact the level of conspicuous consumption was staggering. We went into an art gallery on Worth Street, the Rodeo Drive of Palm Beach where we saw an Andy Wardhol print of Marilyn Monroe, one of 250 just like it that was selling for $170,000.00. I mentioned to the owner that I thought this was a little high for a print. She was completely offended and told me I was just unaware of art prices. This print had been selling for $235,000.00 a few months ago. This print was a great bargain. Although I still have fond memories of Marilyn if she told me it was $170.00 I probably wouldn't have bought it.

There is definitely a shift occurring in our world. The question is to what degree will our lives be effected and whether or not the change will improve or worsen our situation. I happen to think that so much has been out of control for so long that there is some payback required, although I am hopeful that the shock and chaos produced will lead us to new values and ultimately a better life.

It is actually exciting to see that the old guard is deteriorating, that arrogance, greed, false bravado, rip-off thinking and reckless speculation are being exposed for the negative results that they have ultimately produced. It is encouraging to see that what we always knew was ridiculous, even if we went along with it, has proven to be ridiculous. There is no way that buying things we don't really need can make us happy and that the people who profited from convincing us that this was to our advantage should continue to prosper.

If we can resist our fear of change, maintain a commitment to fairness, personal development, and seeing things more clearly there is real hope that we can create a better world.