Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Stuff and Bad Stuff

Ted Haggerd, evangelical minister of the New Life Church of Colorado, preached to thirty million followers during his career. He was loved and respected by his followers and his wife and children. He spoke of the necessity to follow the teachings of Jesus and resist the temptation to sin. His sermons were passionate and eloquent appeals to let the power of the Holy Spirit guide your actions and to allow Jesus into your life. He was a poster child of the new wave of Christianity which presently impacts tens of millions of Americans. At the height of his power and influence he was accused of and later admitted to using crystal meth and to having homosexual relations with his massage therapist amongst others.

When Pastor Ted was asked how come he did not tell his flock or his family about his actions he replied, "I didn't think they would respond in a positive way." Good thinking, Ted. After being banned from ever entering his church again and kicked out of the stae of Colorado he went on the road with his family, in exile as he called it. He tried to get numerous jobs but was constantly rejected. When asked about whether some one would hire him or not, his response was that it depends whether they Google him or not.

Finally after a year on the road and a three week counseling session he announced that he was cured of homosexuality. When asked about this experience his take on it was that when one sheep out of a flock of a hundred goes astray, Jesus takes the other ninety-nine to find the one lost one. He was the one lost one, the one that Jesus' teachings were primarily meant for.

It's not hard to see what's wrong with this picture. What is hard is to not judge, but recognize that to one degree or another we are all like Pastor Ted. This is probalby an unpopular view. I'm sure that this level of hypocrisy makes your skin crawl. It is hard to see that what this story is about is an extreme example of a level of being that is rampant in the world.

We all have secrets that we are afraid to reveal. We all have thoughts that we can never admit even to our closest friends. We all act in ways at times that would not stand the scrutiny of a jury of perfect humans. I mean lets be real. We all have weaknesses, flaws, and imperfections. Some of us gain positions of power or influence that magnify the effects of these flaws. Most of us only effect the ones closest to us.

The real story here is that Ted Haggerd is actually not a bad guy. I probably wouldn't want to hang out with him, but after watching a mini-documentary about him and doing a little research I can see that he has some good stuff. We all have good stuff, and some bad stuff. There is a race going on in the world right now between the good stuff and the bad stuff. The more honest we can be with ourselves and the less judgemental we can be about others, the greater the possibility will be that the good stuff will win. Take a moment to consider this. I mean really consider this. It is a good starting point for personal development.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Vs. Vitamin D

I would love to be able to write a humorous blog about the Swine Flu; how it is just another example of the endless brainwashing that we are constantly subjected to. However, I am too superstitious: maybe there really is something to worry about; and if I make fun of it I will be more susceptible to getting it and becoming one of the early casualties.

Matter of fact, I'm thinking about going out tomorrow and getting a surgical mask. I heard there was a case in N.J. I have been out of my house on occassion in the last week or two. More significantly, I have been working on a consulting assignment with a company that has an employee that reportedly lives with a Mexican woman, although her exact origin is unknown. What is definite is that she speaks Spanish and looks Latina.

This has triggered a long forgotten memory of my earliest childhood. I was living in Coney Island, about a block or two from the beach. My mother was afraid to let me go to the beach because she was afraid I would catch polio. I live a block from the beach now. This weekend was beautiful, close to ninety degrees and I spent a little time on the beach. I have been feeling a lot of anxiety. I wonder if this has anything to do with my mother's attitude and her instilling in me at this early age the fear of getting caught up in some life threatening epidemic.

My hypochondria has actually gotten better, although last week I thought I was a goner because of high blood pressure. I went to the doctor. He gave me an EKG. Everything was fine in his opinion but to be on the safe side he wanted me to monitor my blood pressure for a week. I had bought a blood pressure machine about ten years ago so I was already equipped. He said, Don't get fanatical. Take my pressure once or twice a day. I took it a minimum of fifteen to twenty times a day. I was so out of control with my blood pressure I couldn't think of anything else. After a few days of not getting a stroke or having a heart attack I began to relax a little. My blood pressure started to go low. I panicked again.

I finally went to the doctor to get the results of some blood work. I brought in my notebook with my blood pressure readings. He didn't even bother to look at them. He said my blood work was good, except my Vitamin D was low. He recommended I take a vitamin every day to supplement this. I instantly became worried and went home and googled the consequences of inadequate vitamin D. I can't understand how this happened but then I remembered I had been staying in my house after hearing these reports about the Swine Flu.

So now I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I risk Swine Flu or should I brave going out so that I can get enough Vitamin D. This whole thing is starting to affect my blood pressure again. Plus I feel a tickle in my throat.

What is the purpose of a surgical mask?

Does it really make a difference?

I think I'll google it, maybe get some real answers. I am trying to establish some credibility with my blog. I hope this post doesn't give anyone the wrong impression.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Community Action, Esoteric Ideas, and Eavesdropping

I just got back from a meeting of a community action group whose purpose is to train inner city kids in life skills. In attendance were two black muslims, two women, and two community organizers. I was the only white guy. I had previously met with the organization head, one of the woman. I had seen a sign outside her building advertising life counseling. I was cold calling on businesses to introduce my consulting services and decided to check out whether there might be an opportunity for me to get some work. After explaining my background to her (I was a social worker and teacher in the ghettoes of Brooklyn) and giving her a copy of my book she decided that I might be a good addition to her board. She thought I could add diversity so she decided to invite me to the board meeting. In the spirit of not having anything better to do I decided to check out the meeting.

One of the first things I noticed was that I did not feel at all like an outsider. I had spent the entire day at another business discussing the communication and personal problems of the business owners and the employees. The environment at this center seemed a little more upbeat, friendly, and positive much more to my liking than the business I had just left or the average businesses I observe. These people were optimistic and hopeful, opposite of what you might think would be the case in a ghetto business devoted to solving the most difficult of family and children problems

I did notice from the amount of Obama pictures on the wall and from eavesdropping on some of the conversations as I was waiting for the meeting to begin how significant Obama's elections was to the world view and attitude of the members. By the way, I am a professional eavesdropper. After years of practicing this little known art I have perfected it and have learned to eavesdrop on multiple conversations simultaneously. What I have noticed is that most people talk about nothing of relevance.

The easiest and most fruitful places for eavesdropping are restaurants and security lines in airports. These conversations for the most part are nonsensical. Restaurant conversations are mostly about gossip, health problems, or the state of the participants material possessions, especially their homes. Airport conversations are usually boring recounts of places that have been visited or worst of all businessmen checking in with their offices to make sure that assignments are getting done or that arrangments have been made. What annoys me most about these conversations is the urgency and importance that are being attached to these conversations even though most of the products are non-essential and evenly irrelevant. I mean people act like shipments of corkboard or specifications for lampshades are critical to the planets survival.

When the board meeting was actually started one of the Muslims, Juwanda, was asked to present his background and how he felt he could contribute to the board and the organization. He was about my age and told his story about his life on the streets as an activist dealing with prisoners and drug addicts and how he had developed experience in life skills training especially from the prisoners. He mentioned that people in prison have the time, space, and will to actually think about things and because of the this are often in the best position to come up with good ideas about self development and helping the community. The women leader objected a little to this saying that even though she was tremendously busy she found the time, space, and will to come up with good ideas also, and had never been in prison.

I was then asked to tell my story. I explained to the group without the slightest bit of nervousness or even self-consciousness that I had spent the last thirty years working in the business world attempting to bring spiritual values to business. I mentioned that in order to do this I had to understand what were spiritual values. I expressed my view that at the core of all religions was a similar truth, that we were all created from the same source, that we had lost our connection with this source, and that spiritual work in all religions involved returning to the source from which we came. This return began with self-study and getting to see the truth about ourselves and our condition. I said that I believed that all effective self-development programs had to include this element of self-awareness training.

I also expressed the idea that the world was changing and that the old ways of running businesses and becoming successful based on greed, competiveness, and aggression were no longer working. What was needed was a more sincere, sharing, and caring attitude. This leveled the playing field and provided an equal opportunity to motivate ghetto kids and rich kids from white suburbia. They liked this point. One of the muslims pointed out to me, though after I finished my talk that he was not willing to take money from the casinos, no matter how much they were offering. I had no idea why he even said this. For the first time though I had a little self-doubt that he might know about my gambling background, although I had never met him before.

When I got home and reflected on what had happened at the meeting I was happy with the way I presented myself and saw that I can impact people with my ideas, although I wasn't sure that I could really help this group or that I wanted to. I woke up though, in the middle of the night with the idea that a way to help these kids was to create workshops in which the kids are asked to present basic esoteric ideas through art, theater, dance. poetry, song, and story telling. I thought of the Wizard of Oz , the Emperor's New Clothes, and West Side Story as examples of performance and creativity being used as vehicles to express deeper lessons about life. This is not a new idea and has been incorporated within most traditions since the beginning of history. The hard part is to organize it and develop a structure and process through which the kids can be motivated to spend their time creating and expressing themselves in ways that will enable them to get to know themselves better.

I think I'll send an e-mail to the director telling her about this possibility. I'm still not sure whether I want to get involved or not. I'll have to think about it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Are We Afraid Of?

Some people are fearful of the possibility that computers some day will be smarter than humans. People who know about these things predict that if technology continues to advance at the same rate we will reach the point, in approximately 2035, when computing power will be greater than our brain. This is called the singularity--a singular moment in history when the world will change forever. What will this mean to our lives?

First of all, in order for this to occur we must still be in existence. This likely will be the case. Secondly, technology must continue to advance at the same pace. Odds are that it will continue to advance; most likely at an even faster pace. As computing power increases, artificial intelligence becomes faster and smarter and then finally reaches the point where it is 50% as smart as man, then 75%, then 99%, then equal, and then slightly smarter. Once A.I. is smarter than humans it takes over the development of computing power and develops computers smarter than itself. This can accelerate geometrically so at first it will be twice as smart, then four times, eight times, and ultimately millions of time as smart as we are.

This is not speculation. This is very real and we most likely will experience this in our lifetimes if we are fifty or under. Why are we afraid of this? At the very least it will enable our physical lives to improve significantly. There is no limit to what we can imagine can happen. The progress that can be made in health, mortality, travel, communication, energy, and the ability to improve the standards of living of the world's population will be incredible. War for acquisition and control will no longer be necessary where everyone has what they want.

Actually we cannot imagine what the world will be like when we have the availability of an intelligence level that is beyond our comprehension. Immortality, space travel, penetrating the mysteries of death and sleep, creating fantasy parks in which we can experience our most secret and deepest desires are just the tip of the iceberg of what may be possible

Again I ask why are we afraid of this? What is there about living in a world where war, disease, poverty, and unfulfilling work no longer exist that stirs an uneasiness within us. Is it that we are attached to our suffering, that we need to struggle in order to feel meaning in our lives. Are we afraid of losing control to machines whose motivation will be to enslave us and destroy us? Are we so frightened of change that even when it offers us the hope of everything we have ever wanted we cannot accept it.?

This scenario of our future world is not science fiction, although it is hard to imagine and take seriously. If humans are without souls or without the possibility of higher consciousness and a connection to beauty, love, and truth, then the picture I am painting still offers something to look forward to. If we are part of a creative process and more than just physical beings than we have nothing to fear from the delegation of the chores of our lives to machines or computers. This question about why we are afraid of this is an important one. We need to explore it carefully.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

American Truth

I heard this story about a women whose husband died on the day she was supposed to pay her utility bill. She had to make funeral arrangments so she paid the bill the next day, one day late. When her credit card company heard about this outrageous irresponsibility they raised her rate from ten to thirty percent. My friend Rochelle called me last week crying. Her credit card bill was lost in the mail. Her rate was raised to twenty-nine percent. These are not isolated stories.

This is what's going on today in a country that supposedly espouses Christian values, especially from corporate America and the banking industry whose executives extol the virtues of truth in lending, whatever that means. Obama talked to the credit card companies yesterday to tell them to be a little more reasonable in their actions. "Unbelievable," was the reaction of CNBC analysts. How could Obama interfere in the free market system. This was a direct threat to the American way of life. Capitalism was under attack. Are you serious?

There is one thing about America that will not change. There is one thing about America that is the essence of our culture and that no matter how much rhetoric there is to the countrary we do not have to be concerned about. America has been, is, and will be a nation of wheeler dealers, entrepreneurs, and free spirits whose primary focus is to make a buck and spend two on whatever the latest fad or gadget might be.

No matter what you read on the internet or hear on TV the American people give lip service to ideas, dogmas, or belief systems. What we believe in is whatever is to our financial advantage in the moment. There is no way Americans will become suicide bombers or fly planes into buildings, or fast for long periods to protest unfair practices. We may have theoretical conversations about higher ideals, or write books, or even produce moving documentaries and movies that support saving our environment and feeding the poor and homeless. But at the bottom line, these are all money making ventures.

Whenever I hear Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity harangue us about the deterioration of America and the growing threat to our freedom I think about going to Burger King for a Whopper or maybe McDonalds for a Big Mac. Or maybe I should watch Bret Michaels Rock of Love, or reruns of LA Law or any one of hundreds of other choices always available to me. Or should I play chess on the internet, or watch the latest porno e-mail sent to me by my sixty-six year old conservative friend ? How about taking a walk on the beach or a ride in my car? No one is telling me what to do or what to think.

America is a great place to live. There are definitely flaws and room for improvement. But the critics on the left and on the right can't be taken too seriously. They are allowed to express their ideas and make money from disagreeing with whatever they find bothersome to them in the moment. In my opinion, they are entertainers, for the most part. who have found a shtick and are capitalizing on it. That's fine. Let's not get carried away though, unless we want to and find it pleasurable, with any of the glib talkers who have all the answers and are totally sure that their point of view is not only right but sacred. I'm really not worried about it though. I have to decide whether to watch the Sixers or the Phillies tonight after I determine whether I should call in for Italian or Chinese. When that changes then I will become concerned. But I don't see it happening.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Women vs. Men

My sister and I have a lot in common. This is not surprising since we shared the same small bedroom until I was twenty and she was sixteen. One of our shared traits is that we both have had a number of long term close friends. Interestingly her friends and my friends would be hanging out in our bedroom at the same time and there would be no interaction or recognition of the other's presence. It was if we were in entirely separate locations.

I think her friends were aware, at least of the presence of my friends. My friends who were four years older did not acknowledge the exisence of my sister or her friends. There are definitely differences between men and women. My sister knows me better than anyone. This is because of the closeness of our living conditions, her nature as a people person (she is presently a therapist in Hollywood) but mostly because women pay more attention to personalities and feelings while men pay more attention to the physical and to things.

I once went to a workshop with a teacher, whom I respect, about the differences between men and women. The question that was being discussed was what do men and women want. What do they really? It seems that women want to be in service, to nurture, and to take care of others. What men want is orgasms. When women wake up in the morning their first thoughts are about their children or about what they need to do to take care of others. The first thoughts of men are about what they need for themselves.

There is no question in my mind that women are overall smarter than men and are on a higher level. In the Jewish religion there are something like 611 laws that need to be followed by a practicing Jew. 608 of them apply to men and only 3 apply to women. Men need to be disciplined more than women. They need more rules to help them do what is right. Women are more inclined to create and support. Men are more inclined to destroy. Men need women more than women need men.

In spite of the obvious superiority of women, most of the great achievements of the world have been accomplished by men. It might be that on average women are superior to men but that the highest level of men are on a higher level than the highest level of women. Or it may be that men had more opportunities to develop themselves while women have had to take care of the home or family. This could be changing though.

It seems that if we are going to survive women need to given more power. There is definitely a masculine orientation in today's world. Our society is essentially patriarchal, controlled by men. The consequences of this are that we are more vulnerable to war and to destroying Mother Nature by our lack of discipline and inability to control our greed and lust. It would be to our advantage to enable women to be more in control. This probably won't be accomplished by a conscious effort on the part of men. Women are going to have to take the bull by the horns and demand the power for themselves. I definitely would support this. It would also be very interesting to observe how this unfolded.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spending Time Wisely

I used to be addicted to craps. It was a very expensive addiction. I never kept records, but I estimate I lost over $150,000 during my twenty year career. This is about $7500 per year, $150 per week. During that time my average income was $2000 per week or more. I am not justifying my losses. Just stating the facts.

I remember nights visualizing the roll of the dice, imagining different scenarios in which I would win hundreds of thousands of dollars. This relaxed me and helped me sleep. No matter what I was doing during this phase of my life I'd constantly think about heading down to Atlantic City. It never was an effort for me to drive two or more hours at any time of day or night to satisfy my craving.

Today I live under six minutes, if there is traffic, from the nearest casino. I have no desire to shoot dice at all. Matter of fact, I don't even enjoy going to the casinos. I'm addicted to poker. I play on the internet; I don't have to leave my house. I don't lose much money either. I don't win, but I estimate my losses are under a thousand per year. The main cost is the amount of time I play, forty or more hours per week. Actually, this is a little misleading. I'm usually watching TV or listening to music on TV at the same time. If I wasn't playing poker I might just be watching or listening to TV.

I'm addicted to poker. When I can't sleep I visualize hands I've played, or hands I imagine I'll play in the future. It helps me relax. The reason I need to relax is because playing poker puts me under pressure. First of all, especially on the internet, there are a lot of bad beats, hands that I am positive I am going to win but lose. Secondly, when I am not playing I feel compelled to play. This puts additional pressure on me.

What helps me relax is to not to play poker at all. When I take a few days off, maybe a week or two, I feel terrific. As if a large burden's been lifted; I'm free to do whatever I want.

Which eventually leads me back to playing poker.

(Even writing about it, looking forward to not playing is beginning to relax me.)

I know, this is a little ridiculous, but I don't think it's much different than the way most people spend their lives.

I could be living in a monastery and spending ten or more hours a day in prayer or meditation. I could be working in the Post Office, boxing mail. I could be in Africa with a spoon carefully digging forty to fifty hours a week with the hope of finding a bone or two. Or maybe I could be a doctor treating sick people sixty hours a week. Many doctors play poker on the internet to relax. What's keeping me from being a doctor is not gambling. I was never good at organic chemistry.

How about trading stocks, writing greeting cards, selling pocketbooks, counseling addicts or neurotics, driving a limousine, training race horses, making important decisions, fixing roofs, or walking across the Appalachian Trail? Would any of these activities be better ways to spend my time? My mother would probably think so. I'm not so sure. I just read that there are more blog writers who make money than lawyers. They spend fifty to sixty hours a week writing their opinions about sports, politics, sex, health, investing, exercise, or how to spend your time wisely. I wish I knew how they get paid. I'm not sure I'd want to do it anyway.

What I would really like to do is sit around with a group of wise men and women in a cafe discussing the meaning and purpose of life. Now that I think about it, though, I'd rather have these discussions in my house while I'm on the internet playing poker. If there are any wise men and women who are reading this and want to come to my house they are more than welcome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reversing Financial Momentum

There were 20 criminal proceedings announced today against banks, bank officials, and others who received money from the TARP (Toxic Asset Relief Program). These criminal activities included insider trading, bank fraud, mortgage fraud, illegal payouts, and other illegal activities associated with the seven hundred fifty billion dollar bank bailout program. When gigantic sums of money are thrown around some people get greedy and grab whatever they can. Are we surprised by this? I don't think so.

What is funny to me is how critical the financial pundits are of the governments attempts to help us out of the financial mess. They view these criminal actions as evidence of the governments inability to manage any large scale financial program. They have quickly forgotten that what caused these problems was the inability of the financial sector to manage its business profitably from the get-go.

There are debates raging throughout the media today about whether we should blame unfettered capitalism or the lack of government regulation for our financial problems. Are we moving towards socialism? Will we destroy incentive? These arguments are totally meaningless and don't address the real problem. The problem is complex and is a combination of the types of people who gravitate towards positions of power, especially financial power and the cyclical nature of our society. What this means is that as societies progress they continue to overuse and abuse the systems that have enabled them to prosper.

What has enabled the existing system to prosper was the increasing desire for more material possesssions, the creation of complicated investment techniques that produced money without requiring labor, and the increased dependence on credit to finance all of these abuses. The bottom line is that we become addicted to what feels good and do not consider the consequences of escalating this addicition. There are those who did not participate in these out of control activities and were more balanced in their lives. But there are two many of us who bought into the dream and many who were completely out of control both as consumers and as greedy beneficiaries of the results of our addictions.

We can no longer depend on mainstream thinking to bail us out. There are no real bailouts without real change. What has to happen now is a fundamental change in the way we relate to money, materialism, and what we want in our lives. This will require continued significant suffering or a Black Swan event that we cannot imagine. A Black Swan is an event that could not be predicted, that changes the nature of our world, and then is explained afterwards by the experts using logic as to why it should have been predicted.

What I think is needed now is the creation of a movement whose primary goal is to take a break from implementing any new programs or initiatives in the financial arena. All advertising and promoting should be stopped. All purchasing except for necessities should be postponed All talking, debating, and politicking in the media and on the internet should be ended for at least a month or two. Maybe if we quieted our minds and had a little time to work on our personal health and improving our relationships with friends and family without spending much money we would be able to see things more clearly. I am open to other suggestions. We need to do something different, though.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Sad Day

I just learned tonight that my cousin's thirty year old daughter died. She went to the doctor a few days ago with a headache. They did a scan of her brain and found a giant inoperable tumor. She was put on life support for a day and then the plug was pulled. She leaves behind two kids, eight and two.

I feel bad writing about this but I can't think of anything more important or meaningful. It seems that if I wrote about anything else, I'd be insincere. What makes the story interesting and more sad is that her mother, my cousin has AIDS. She has had full blow AIDS since 1981, has had a number of near death experiences, but has survived and thrived for the most part for all these years. Two of her children now have died. I can't imagine how difficult that must be.

My cousin, the one with AIDS, is the daughter of my first cousin, the one who called me last week with the tip on the horse. The horse lost. I lost a couple of hundred dollars--obviously insignificant when you compare this to the loss of my second cousin.

The stock market was down almost two hundred ninety points today. Billions of dollars lost. I'm sure it caused more collective aggravation than almost anything else that happened today. My cousins, I'm sure couldn't care less.

It is getting hard for me to get away from this theme of loss. Once you start in a certain direction a momentum builds and it is difficult to reverse. I did hear a good joke today but it would be inappropriate, I think, to share it and it doesn't seem very funny right now. There are times, more than we acknowledge, when there is not much to say. I would like to point out some meaningful insight or positive lesson that we might gain from this young girl's death. I can't think of one, though. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Esoteric Path

It's hard to know what advice to believe or who you can really trust. I read today that it is not good for you to stand on your hand. It puts too much pressure on your eyes and can contribute to causing glaucoma. I have been standing on my head everyday for thirty three years. I have also read numerous articles about the dangers of fasting. I have fasted at least once a year for over thirty five years. It seems to me that no matter what I read about these practices or what people tell me I should value my own experiences. I mean after all this time I should know for myself how I feel when doing these things.

One of the major challenges in life is developing confidence in yourself so that you can trust your own instincts, feelings, and thoughts. It is especially difficult when we are contstantly being told what to do and what to think. From the time we are very young, almost immediately after birth , we are constantly being programmed to perceive the world in ways that will enable us to get pleasure and avoid pain.

As we get older and we begin to think for ourselves our attitudes and behaviors are influenced by our parents, teachers, friends, and the media. By the time we have reached adulthood, unless we are very lucky, and have been isolated from the mainstream and exposed to a belief system that promotes personal development and an open-minded skepticism we will be severely limited in our ability to think for ourselves.

It is important to realize the reality of our situation. Hypnosis is real and is usually defined as a state of hypersuggestibility. There are ten levels or stages of hypnotic trance from a very light state to the deepest or somnambulistic state. In the deepest states, the hypnotist can create both negative and positive hallucinations, We can be told that an object that is in our presence does not exist and we will not see it. We can also be told to see an object that does not exist and we will imagine that the object is present. Each of us to some degree or another is subject to the effects of suggestibility. What this means is that we are all hypnotized to some degree and our view of the world is impacted by this hypnosis.

The goal of our life, from the esoteric point of view is to free ourselves from this state. In order to do this, though, we must develop a sense of necessity or it will never become important to us.
We will be happy living in our dream state. This necessity is developed when we recognize what is called "The Terror of the Situation". TTOTS becomes more apparent when we study ourselves and see the degree to which we are not free. The more we study ourselves the more it becomes apparent that only occassionally do we have "free will." As we study ourselves and begin to see the truth about our existence we can begin to see the cause of the world's problems and the degree to which things are out of control. This path of self-study and deprogramming ourselves is a It is called "The Warriors Way". It is the path to freedom and consciousness that I alluded to in my last blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Doorway to the Esoteric Path

I'ts difficult to believe in an all powerful, all knowing , all loving, god when you consider the weaknesses and shortcomings of our physical bodies. You can justify our mental and emotional anguish as a result of our free will. It's easier to rationalize that the problems of our mind and heart are created by lessons that we need to learn. But what is the purpose of our needing to eat, of growing old, or of the need to sleep. It seems that a God of greater wisdom would have considered these factors when he created us.

Now it could be that God acts in mysterious ways and we just don't understand the big picture. It also could be that we are a work in process and that we are evolving into more perfect and efficient machines. Maybe we are an experiment of an advanced species who are observing how we adapt ourselves to the limited equipment they gave us. The miracle of it all is that we are capable of analyzing and trying to understand our situation.
The majority of people either believe that it is a waste of time to speculate about these matters or that the stories they have been told about god, creation, the Garden of Eden, heaven, and hell are acceptable explanations for the meaning and purpose of life. There are a few who don't accept the traditional stories and myths, and also have an interest or a desire to investigate and discover what is really going on. I don't think those in this ladder group have a choice in the matter. They are driven, by some inner force , which no matter how much they try to ignore, keeps driving them to find the answers to these unanswerable questions.

There is much that can be discovered and uncovered by science. Scientists take the view that if we can't observe or measure a phenomenon it doesn't exist. What they have succeeded to do in thousands of years of observing and measuring is put together a pretty good picture of our world and its components. They have also helped us advance in our abiity to control our lives and change the physical world so that it is more accessible and easier to navigate.

What scientists have not done is research that which can't be measured, that inner force that drives us to find the deeper reason for our existence. It is a little naive and even illogical to believe that the scientific method is our most advanced tool for understanding. Where does this leave us? It leaves us at the doorway to what I consider the esoteric path, the hidden path that leads to a higher form of awareness or consciousness. We are now on the threshold of making a breakthrough to this new way of being and perceiving. It will change the world in ways we cannot imagine.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Waiting for Kilderry

My cousin Marvin called me today with a tip on a horse race: Kilderry in the fifth race at Santa Anita. Usually these tips don't pan out, but Marvin called me last year with one which went off at 10-1 and won easily. I won over five hundred bucks. Since there is three hours difference between here and California the race won't go off until six o'clock. I'll head out to the Borgata around five. During that time I'll probably speak to my friends Marty and Campy three or four times to hear their thoughts about the best way to bet this horse. There is an incredible amount of options in addition to the traditional Win, Place, and Show. There are the exotic bets including exactas, trifectas, superfectas, rolling doubles, and pick threes which make the process of betting a little more complicated these days.

I'm writing about thos now for a few reasons. If the horse wins I will have written documentation that I had the winner before the race. Also, I have been writing about a lot of philosophical and speculative ideas. Gambling is much more concrete. Either you win or lose. In a world where most things are unclear one needs a straightforward activity. Finally, gambling, especially horse racing, brings me back to my youth.

I lived fifteen minutes from Aqueduct Race Track. During the racing season, starting when I was fifteen (I think the legal age was eighteen) I hitchhiked to the track at least twice a week. I usually went with ten or twenty dollars. I remember how excited I was, the thrill of walking into the grandstand, eyeing the track. It was awe inspiring. And most importantly, there was always the chance of making a hit.


I did make a few hits. One time, I won over a hundred dollars. It was the first time in my life that I had a hundred dollar bill. I think it was the first time I ever saw a hundred dollar bill. I folded it in my wallet in a certain way that made it look like a thousand dollar bill. I showed the folded bill to my mother; she almost had a heart attack. When I told her that I had won it at the race track she panicked even more. She immediately thought that I needed to go to a psychiatrist. This was her response every time I did something she didn't understand.

After calming down she called my Uncle Dave. Uncle Dave was a legend in our family. He was one of the original founders of Gamblers Anonymous. Everytime my mother worried that I was becoming a compulsive gambler she brought up how Uncle Dave how ruined his life gambling, lost his first wife, and alienated his children. Uncle Dave had an experience which changed his life and made him give up gambling forever. He had gone to the race track every day for thirty-seven consecutive years. He followed the ponies around the country going to Florida in the winter and Saratoga in the summer. One evening after an especially tough losing day he was eating a spaghetti dinner in an Italian restaurant in Saratoga with some of his fellow gamblers.

One of them looked at him and said, "Dave all you have to do is drive the get-away car, we'll handle everything else."

Upon hearing this Dave said he became sick; he realized how low he had sunk and how miserable his life was. He stood up and pulled the table cloth off the table spilling the spaghetti all over everyone and walked out of the restaurant. He never gambled again; with a few other guys, he founded Gamblers Anonymous based upon the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. He spent the last days of his life crusading against gambling.

This story was always interesting to me. It never affected my attitude towards gambling, though. I have always enjoyed gambling and probably always will. My main concern right now is Kilderry at Santa Anita. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Finding the Good

It's encouraging to me how much good there is in the world. Its much easier to see the bad. Most people are experts at seeing what's wrong with their friends, family members, their companies, the government, and any groups of which they are not members. What is more difficult is to find the good in things.

Recently, there have been some examples of good. First of all, there was Sully landing his plane in the Hudson River without any injuries and then not appearing on any talk shows. Then were was the Captain of the pirated ship who gave himself up to save his crew. When you think about it this action was really heroic. These pirates do not seem like nice guys.

And yesterday I received an e-mail with a link to a video on You-Tube that showed a women singing on a British Show, Britain's got Talent. Simon Cowell, of American Idol fame, was a judge on the show. The women was 48 years old and frumpy. She had never sang in public before. The audience and the judges did not seem to be taking her seriously. However, when she began to sing I Dream a Dream from Les Miserables it was incredibly beautiful and inspiring. It actually made me cry. She was so umassuming. She seemed like a real life Mary Poppins.

If you pay attention and are open minded there is good all around. What I consider to be good are those things that are done or created without any desire for personal gain. What distorts the picture and makes it appear that there is so much bad in the world is that most of the good gets unnoticed. The reason for this is that the world is controlled by people who desire power and money. They are the ones who get the most attention. So what happens is that most of the impressions that we get are from those who are aggressive, self-serving, and persuasive. The humble and compassionate exist in the background. The world presently rewards those who are more desirous, competitive, confident, and strong in their belief that they are right.

This is changing though. I don't think I am being naive about this. It has to change. If you believe that good triumphs in the end and you are honest with yourself about what really is good you will come to the same conclusion. Progress is about progressing. Progressing is about getting better. Getting better means that there will be more good than bad. We just need to begin to appreciate and see the good so that it will be nurtured and allowed to take its rightful place.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Buddhism 101

My wife has been studying the teaching of the Dalai lama. This has sparked my interest in his teachings and in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama, in my opinion is pretty smart and deserves some respect. He represents a tradition of supposedly reincarnated buddhist masters that goes back hundreds of years. When the existing dalai lama dies a search is initiated to find his successor. This search involves buddhist monks scouring Tibet with relics from the dead dalai lama. When they find a young boy who recognizes these relics, they assume that the dalai lama's soul has passed into this young boy and that he is the successor. In the past when more than one boy recognized the relics there was a lottery where the names were put into a bowl and the winner was drawn and named the next dalai lama. The existing dalai lama wants to change the system and choose his successor while he is still alive. I am not sure if this is a good idea or not, although I accept the existing dalai lama's thought on the matter.

The Dalai Lama teaches Buddhism. Buddhism is not considered a religion. It is a philosophy of life. There is not much discussion of God and its principles are very basic. What is interesting to me is that there are thousands of books and billions of words written about Buddhism or by Buddhists explaining the teaching when the ideas can be simply stated in a few paragraphs.

The first main idea is expressed in the Four Noble Truths. 1- Life is suffering. 2- Suffering is caused by unfulfilled desire-we don't always get what we want. 3-There is a possibility to overcome suffering and become happy. 4-The way to do this is through the eightfold path which involves doing the right things. The right things are those that don't harm yourself or other people.

A second main idea is that there are two truths. The first truth is conventional truth and the second truth is ultimate truth. Conventional truth is what we need to get through everyday life and communicate with each other. Ultimate truth is the deeper meaning of life which can be arrived at through study, prayer, and meditation. It is obvious that there is a conventional truth or we would not be able to describe the world or meet our basic needs.

It is less obvious that there is an ultimate truth. The only way we can know for sure whether there is one or not is if we discover it. If we do discover it we can't communicate what it is because it is beyond words. The only way the one who is hearing about it can know if its true if he or she discovers it for him or herself. No amount of communication or words can describe the ultimate truth. Because we cannot know for sure whether there is an ultimate truth or not we need to be very cautious in assuming that we know anything beyond conventional truth. This viewpoint is very healthy and fosters compassion, tolerance, and kindness in our relations. These are fundamental Buddhist values.

There have never been any wars fought over Buddhism. Buddhists have never invaded any countries, gone on any crusades or jihads, and in general have been pretty peaceful in their approach to life. There is a lot to be said for there track record and their teachings. I still am more attracted to the image and personality of Jesus than I am to Buddha. I believe that if they were together in the same room, they would be probably be great friends and agree on almost everything. Their goals are definitely the same. I believe they are both serving the same boss. What is different is what makes one person like Pepsi and the other like Coke. We are different in our inclinations and in the types of things that attract us. There is no reason to fight over what ideas attract us or how we choose to approach our understanding of the meaning and purpose of our lives. We really need to learn this lesson, and quickly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thoughts on Aging

I worry sometimes about getting old. It helps that my father is almost 97 and that my cousin seems young at 85 but there are certain unmistakable signs that I am getting up there. I always was one of the youngest ones at most business meetings. Now I am usually the oldest. I find myself going to bed earlier and never thinking about going out at night. Also, I find it hard to plan for more than two or three years ahead. I remember when I was younger thinking in terms of five or ten years into the future.

Physically I feel fine, although I am more conscious of the need to take care of myself, watch what I eat, and in general treat my body more gently. Actually, I am a little more lenient with myself than I was in my thirties and forties when I felt more urgency to keep my weight down and exercise vigorously. I felt more pressure to not have any physical problems, or aches and pains. Now I accept them more easily without as much concern. I still have hypocondriacal tendencies, but they definitely have moderated.

Mentally, though, I feel that I have not aged but am seeing things more clearly. I don't have the mental stamina that I once had to work day after day in a concentrated way. However, I am able to get things accomplished more quickly with less effort. I feel like I have less clutter, interfering with my thoughts, and that I can more easily penetrate to the heart of situations. It has helped me to recognize in all areas of life that things are not always the way they seem to be and that I cannot know for sure that I am right even when I feel confident that I am. This has prevented me from becoming too judgemental or set in my ways. I am not as impulsive or impatient and am able to step back a little from problems and look at possible solutions from different angles.

My goal in these writings is to be as honest with myself as possible, not to glamorize or exaggerate except when I am obviously or subtly being a little humorous. As I read this I am starting to feel a little better about this aging process. There are downsides, to be sure, but there are also advantages. A big advantage is that the pressure to produce significant results from my actions to prove to the world and my parents that I have value has been replaced by a desire to have productive days and make progress where I can.

It is interesting to me also that as I have become older I see more clearly the problems in the world and the degree to which things are screwed up while at the same time I am less concerned about fixing them. This does not mean that I don't care or that I have given up. I just don't have the same anxiety or frustration about things that I had when I was younger. Now there might be those who have a different experience and find themselves with more anxiety and frustration as they get older and realize how little impact they have on the state of the world or how little they have accomplished in their lives. I am not troubled by this at all.

I have come to see that there are very few absolute truths. There are choices, though. We make them every day. One of the ways to improve our lives is to learn to make better choices, and not to repeat the same mistakes. As we grow older we can choose to free ourselves from our past attitudes and behaviors so that we can enjoy the remainder of our lives or we can remain entangled in our past and give up the possibility of freeing ourselves. We can age gracefully and unburden ourselves, or we can take on more clutter and weigh ourselves down. In reality we can begin making this choice at any point in our lives. I would recommend doing it sooner rather than later.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus, Judaism, Myth, and Belief

I am not a fan of organized religion. For the most part I am not a joiner of any group and I believe that organized religion has caused much more problems that it has solved. I do believe in the teachings of Jesus and that in some important way his presence was important to the development of our world. You cannot easily dismiss someone who lived two thousand years ago and whose message and life still impacts billions of people worldwide.

Growing up Jewish, Jesus was never viewed by my Hebrew school teachers as someone we should study, admire of even look upon favorably. In many ways he was viewed as the enemy. It is a little difficult to see Jesus objectively when you are brought up with this viewpoint. It was only when I moved to Lancaster and escaped from the influences of the predominant Jewish culture in which I was raised that I was able to investigate Jesus and who he really was.

I don't know for sure whether Jesus ever lived or not. Matter of fact I went to a workshop by a religiious scholar, Timothy Freke, from Glastonbury England who with his partner Peter Gandy has written a number of well researched and clearly thought out books explaining in a very convincing way that Jesus was a mythological character and that the "Jesus Myth" has been part of many other traditions that preceded Jesus . The idea of a spiritual master being born of a virgin, baptized by another spiritual bigwig, killed by his enemies, and then resurrected is a common story existing in many other traditions.

Whether Jesus actually existed is not as important though as what he represents. First of all what began to make sense to me in my spiritual searching was that the Jewish people at the time of Jesus' supposed incarnation were off the track in their views and beliefs. They had drifted off the path of spirituality and were putting too much emphasis on the letter of the law and not enough on the spirit of the law. Their God, the God of the Old Testament was a wrathful God, not a very attractive or inspiring one. Jesus came along and tried to wake up the Jewish people to a new and more attractive view.

His main message was that it was not important to follow six hundred or more laws that for the most part were trivial in their intent. What was important was to love your neighbor, love God,( an idea that needs to be understood through deeper study and personal development) and to cast aside your old ways, your old beliefs, your old personality, and be born again into a higher, more compassionate and more loving nature. This rings true to me.

What has happened though is that like all great teachings Jesus' message has become distorted and used by power seekers for their own advantage. In the name of Jesus, there have been an incredible amount of atrocities committed. You could look them up very easily if you have the inclination. This does not in any way take away from the value of Jesus's teaching. The message of Jesus or the "Jesus Myth" is a powerful life changing one. What I have done at times is close my eyes, visualize my image of this man called Jesus, and then try to fill myself up with the love, or agape that I imagine was the essense of his being. This has helped me during difficult times.

I still consider myself Jewish. I don't believe that Jesus' teaching are the only valid ones that have been give to us. I just don't believe (as I feel Bill Maher did in his movie Religulous) that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because we see a lot of wackos and hypocrites in the many Christian sects and denominations doesn't mean that there isn't something valuable that can be gained by exploring this man called Jesus.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cultural Shock and Assimilation

When I first moved to Lancaster, Pa. from Brooklyn, at age 22, I experienced cultural shock. It seemed that I had moved to a different country and I wasn't quite prepared. Our apartment was on the outskirts of Lancaster, in a small town called Leola, which is in the heart of Amish country. This was not the touristy part of Amish country, but the center of Amish life. Horses and buggies were commonplace; most of the businesses were Amish owned.

There were hardly any Jews or Catholics. Brooklyn was nearly all Jewish, or Irish, or Italian Catholic. I had not met many Protestants.

In my first few days in Lancaster I met a guy who introduced himself to me by saying, "Hi, glad to meet you, but I would like to tell you, there are three things I hate: Jews, people from New York, and people from New York who move to Lancaster."

I did not know quite what to say.

Also, there were no poor Jews. They were all business owners. In Brooklyn, the Jews were mostly lower middle class. No one owned their own home, let alone their own business. I felt totally lost in this new environment. I remember I stayed in my apartment most of the time smoking hashish, which I had brought with me to ease the transition.

My next door neighbor, from Reading, Pa., considered himself more streetwise, less of a hick than the average Lancaster native. He was sociable. He asked me to go with him to a Conestoga Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting. He thought it might be a good experience for me: to get more involved in the local community. I had no interest, but he was persistent. I smoked an extra amount of hash to prepare. I was totally stoned.

When we got there he introduced me. He told the group I had just moved from New York, that I had been a teacher in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, one of the toughest ghettos in the country. It seemed that one of the concerns of this conservative group was the rising drug use among teenagers. The JCC was committed to a project whose goal was to stamp out drug problems in the Conestoga Valley. They immediately realized that my experience in New York with problem kids who probably used drugs (they did to a degree that was unimaginable to these people) would qualify me to head up this committee. They asked me if I would be willing to get up in front of the group and share my experiences and the ways we dealt with the problem in Brooklyn. I could hardly stand.

I politely declined. I was just readjusting to the area; I did not want to commit my time until I was sure of what I was going to do. They understood, let me off the hook.

This all occurred in the first two weeks of my seventeen year stay in Lancaster. During this time I came to appreciate the area, make many friends, and see that beneath the surface all people are basically the same. I continued to verify this during many other adventures and experiences I had in other countries and with a wide range of people.

What I learned was that when you first meet people and evaluate them you can easily see how different they are. However, when you get to know them better you begin to recognize how similar they are, especially in their problems and fears. When you go deeper still you begin to notice the subtlties of their differences and that even though most people are similar in their desires they approach life with different atttitudes, behaviors, strentgths, and weaknesses. At the deepest level though, we are all the same. We are all connected and we are all derived from the same original source. I can't verify this scientifically but I am confident that it is true and that the key to our survival as a species is the realization of our connectedness and our learning to get along with each other.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Daughter and Economic Theory

Every time my daughter calls I expect it's going to cost me some money. For years I never said no to anything she requested. I told her though that when she calls me she should get to the money part first and skip the niceties . I also told her never to use the word "loan" when discussing our financial arrangements.

Some of my friends thought that I was a pushover, that I should cut her off. I didn't think so then, and I don't think so now. I believe that you should help your kids as much as you can. I don't believe you spoil your children by giving them too much. It's more complicated. I don't think that having no money makes you value money more. I also don't think that giving people things for free causes them to be less motivated to work.

I don't think that work is necessarily a valuable or productive way to spend your time. Matter of fact, God punished Adam in the Garden of Eden by requiring him to give up his life of leisure and work for his sustenance. So work, from a biblical point of view, is a punishment It's not a great thing, though, no matter how you look at it, especially if you don't like your job. An important question to ask yourself is "What would I be doing if I didn't have to work?" The whole concept of the "work ethic" and the nobility of putting in an honest days work are, in my opinion, part of the brainwashing that have been promoted so that we will work whether we want to or not.

I am noticing lately that there has been a lot of talk on TV, radio, and internet about the relative merits of capitalism vs. socialism. Capitalism refers to a system in which the means of production are controlled by individuals with the goal being profit. Socialism refers to a system where a group or government controls the means of production and profits are shared or given to the people for their benefit.

It seems to me that in our world today, there are no pure capitalist or socialist countries. The distinction between these two economic theories have become blurred. They probably were never, in their purest form, realistic ways to run a society. In order to determine how our financial system can function in the best way, we need to by-pass outdated labels and look more deeply into what is most practical and will create the best possible world.

Those who are motivated to work to make more or get more should absolutely be allowed to do so. We should encourage everyone who wants to have their own business and earn a profit to do so. But everyone in our society should have, without working, a house fully furnished with all appliances including TV, computer, food , clothing, health care, and a vehicle to get around. If everyone in the world could be given these basics a lot of our problems would be over.

This is not an unrealistic goal. A few advances in robotic technology and discoveries of new sources of energy can combine to enable us to produce all the stuff we need for these basics without much manpower. Everyone then would have the opportunity to use their time in ways that would make them happy. Isn't this what we are all striving for? This would not be socialism. It doesn't matter what you call it anyway. This will happen, if we survive as a species, at some point in the twenty-first century. Then, our biggest problem will be to determine how should we spend our time. I see nothing wrong with this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Update on my Father

Since my last blog my father sank into Code Blue. I don't know what that means and I didn't Google it, but when my sister reported it to me from the Emergency Room in the hospital, it didn't sound good. Matter of fact, I immediately went on-line to make plane reservations so I could leave immediately for California to be with my sister and mother.

That was yesterday. Today my father called me from the hospital to tell me he was OK. He was completely coherent and very matter of fact when he explained to me that he had felt a little weak yesterday before his caretaker had taken him to the hospital. He was feeling a lot better today. Amazingly, once again he had escaped death. His heart actually had stopped. His kidneys failed but he survived. They operated on him last night, replaced the battery in his pacemaker, and are now monitoring his recovery.

I don't know what to think or even what to feel. I am a little confused about what actually happened and am still concerned that the situation could worsen again, although things do seem a lot better. In talking to my sister I am not confident in the doctors. She does not believe that they really understand my father's condition or that they handled the situation in the best way. However, my father is still alive. Is it a result of modern medical magic or my father's unique attitude and will to live? Is it a combination of both?

Life and death are very mysterious. There are forces at work that we don't understand. There is a scientific way to look at things. There is a religious, spiritual way, and probably many ways in between. It seems to me that we need to continue to move forward on the scientific front to discover and develop everything we can to improve the quality and longevity of our lives. At the same time we need to be open to the existence of a spiritual reality and its intersection and influence on our physical lives.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Concern about my Dad

My sister just called me. Whenever she calls my heart races a little. She lives close by to my parents and has been responsible for their care. My parents are 89 and 96 years old and have had some health problems--needless to say, I always worry my sister is calling with bad news. Today she told me that my father was in the emergency room. His heart rate had slowed to thirty two beats a minute; he was going to have to have surgery to replace his pacemaker. She was concerned and wanted me to share this concern with her.

I never appreciated my father until he was eighty years old. I always loved him and saw that he was a good person, but I felt that he was a little close-minded and narrow in his view of life. It seemed to me that he judged people based on two criteria: net worth and political leaning. His description after meeting someone might be "he is worth a lot of money but I think he is a Republican." There was nothing worse to him than a Republican, except maybe a Nazi, but they were close.

I came to see that my father actually was a special person. First of all he loves my mother dearly. They have been married for sixty-seven years. They were both virgins when they got married and I am sure they have been faithful to each other. By itself this is an impressive achievement.

Second, he was never stopped working on himself. One of his main beliefs is to do something each day to improve himself. When I was young he would come home from working in the post office after riding on the subway for over two hours (which I swore I would never do) and spend the evening studying vocabulary development or spelling books. No reason for this except he believed in constantly learning and growing.

He also studied history and philosophy. One of his heroes was Arnold Bennett who wrote a book about How to Live Each Day. My dad would quote from the book and it would immediately cause a rebellion within me. It was only later after I had found a system , the Fourth Way, that I believed offered the most sensible and clear description of life and tried to introduce it to my father that I came to realize that Arnold Bennett teachings were very similar to the Fourth Way. My father through an entirely different path had come to the same place that I had. This was very eye-opening to me.

It wasn't that I grew to respect my father because he had come to believe some of the same things that I did. I saw that in his own way he was seeking the truth and trying to become a better person. These are good things, really good things, and everyone would be better off if they lived with these two goals.

Although my father looked up to rich people and saw them somehow as being superior, he achieved a financial success in his own right. He retired from the Post Office after 30 years and a second time after 10 years as a medical stenographer. This enabled him to get two pensions and social security that have allowed him and my mother to live comfortably for over thirty years.

I am waiting nervously now for my sister to get back to me with an update on my father's condition. I have been preparing myself for the worst for the last few years during which time he has had a heart attack, a couple of strokes, and brain surgery. Amazingly he has pulled through each time and continued to work on himself.

One of his main goals now is to be able to walk by himself up and down the hall outside the door of his assisted living facility. He takes exercise classes everyday. On a recent visit to his doctor, he asked the doctor why he was so tired. The doctor responded that this was not unusual for a 96 year old man. My father wanted a second opinion.

I have asked myself many times over these past years if I have any unfinished business with my father. Is there anything I have wanted to tell him that I haven't? I don't think there is. He knows I love him and I know he loves me. I hope he is OK, but whatever happens he will continue to be an inspiration to me and my family and to everyone who has come to know him. You can't ask for much more than that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Do We Control our Thoughts?

If you spend any time observing your thoughts you will probably be shocked at how mundane self-centered, and repetitive they are. Almost all of us have a limited range of repeating thought patterns that takes up most of the time of our thought life. I have been told by people who know about this stuff that each of us has seven primary thought patterns. These may include food, sex, money, family, work, health, sports, or some derivation of any of these.

Since we usually don't think about what we think about (think about that fact) we live our lives, for the most part in a partial dreaming state in which we are constantly being barraged by a stream of repetitive thoughts. If you don't care how you spend your time and your thought patterns don't trigger a negative reverberation within your being this is not a problem. Matter of fact it keeps you out of trouble and enables you to get through the day without having to put any effort into thinking.

However, if you become aware of the quality of your thoughts while you are alone, which is most of the time, you may begin to recognize that you have very little control of your thoughts. They are primarily influenced by external stimuli or habit. You have been programmed to think in certain ways and it is very hard to escape from this condition. So your thoughts are controlled by what is going on around you and by your programming or both.

Now this entire conversation might sound like mumbo-jumbo and your reaction might be so what or what is he trying to say. What I am trying to say is a few things. First of all, most of the problems in the world are caused by this easily observable phenomenon that for the most part we don't control our thoughts and that most of our actions and feelings are influenced by this limited range of thoughts that we don't choose. Secondly, except for the very few, we are all equal in this situation. Even though who appear to be more together or more organized or more successful are usually that way because of circumstances rather than conscious choice. Thirdly, there is a possibility to overcome this. We can begin to observe our thoughts and then we can begin to choose what it is we want to think about. If we can learn to be more conscious in our thinking our decisions will be more objective and our lives will improve. This is the one of the main lessons that I have gotten from my spiritual searching. There is the possibilityof thinking on a higher level, one in which we are more free and have access to a greater intelligence. This makes a lot of sense to me. I wonder if I explained it clearly.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grandchildren and Monsters

My grandchildren spent most of the weekend here in Brigantine. I'm exhausted. Their favorite game is monster and I am the monster. It takes a lot of energy to be the monster. It takes a lot to be the victims of the monster, too. My grandchildren have the energy; that's their strength. My strength is my ability to make a fool of myself without regard to how I appear. I've always had this strength. It's one of the reasons I'm a good salesperson. I have never been too concerned with people's opinion of me.

People who don't know me mistake my lack of concern for my appearance for not caring about myself or other people. I don't think that's the reason. My priorities are different. I do care about myself and others; I'm just more interested in what's inside. This might sound like an excuse for laziness, and maybe it is, but it's hard to be good at everything.

My three year old granddaughter cried for two hours because she did not want to change her dress. She didn't think she would be pretty enough in her new dress. I finally got her to stop by acting totally crazy. I brought her up to my bedroom. We pretended that my bed was a boat and that you were safe when you were on the boat; if you walked on the floor you might get eaten or bitten by the monster . When the monster bit you you went crazy until someone touched you. She continued crying hysterically.

I started to yell and scream and run around the room flailing my arms, jerking my body in all directions, and making the most bizarre and distorted faces. It was a contest: Would I be able to keep it up long enough to penetrate her mood or would she continue crying until I passed out from exhaustion? After a few minutes or maybe ninety seconds, she could not control herself any more. She started to laugh and jump on the bed.

My willingness to be out of control without regard to how I was acting overcame her wanting to look pretty or her desire to get her way. There is a big lesson here, someplace. I have been trying to teach this lesson for years. It's a tough one to accept for those of us who pride ourselves on being polite and politically correct. I don't think that either of these two attitudes produce good results. I can understand if you disagree with this and I wouldn't argue strongly about my point of view. I wonder whether those of you who disagree with me can see my point of view.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Limitations of Logic

Logic is definitely overrated. It is useful at times but it has limitations. If you can understand the limitations of logic that is a big first step, in my opinion, towards personal development and happiness. Experience is more valuable than logic. Objective observation is more valuable. Intuition is also more valuable. The biggest problem with logic is that it fools you into believing that you know more than you do or that you have a greater understanding than you actually have. It prevents you from investigating the possibilities that might be considered illogical.

It is logical to assume that people will act in their own self-interests, but oftentimes they don't. It is logical to believe that when you make sense people will understand you, but they don't. It is logical to assume that if we work hard and do the right things our lives will be positive. However our experience doesn't bear this out. It is logical that our physical reality should consist of physical components that have substance, but the results of quantum physics has taught us that physical reality does not have solidity but shifts back and forth between a wave and particle depending on our position of observation.

Shit happens, and logical outcomes, especially in the big and important events in our lives are rare. Where does this line of reasoning lead? It leads to a softening of our views, a more fluid, lighthearted, and non-attached approach to life. We need to lower our expectations in any individual situation but maintain the less logical viewpoint that everything will work out in the end. Where logic is most valuable is when we realize that the world in which we live is unpredictable and much of it still remains a mystery. When we come to the realization that we do not know and that no one knows for sure what will happen tomorrow then we can begin to enjoy our lives.

I want to be clear about this. I am not against logic as a tool in our arsenal for trying to understand our lives and make the world a better place. It is only one tool, however. We need to develop others, those that enable us to hold opposite opinions simultaneously. We need to be more creative in our thinking, emotions, and actions. We need to cultivate our intuition so that we can take risks that make sense and offer us the opportunity to make real breakthroughs in our relationships and businesses. Our major enemies are fear and habit. I have no question we can do it, although this view is quite illogical.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Who are the Good Guys?

I grew up believing that the "good guys" always win. First, we won the American Revolution, freeing ourselves from the tyranny of Great Britain. Next, the North beat the South in the Civil War ending the evils of slavery. The U.S. won WWI and WWII defeating Germany and Hitler, the epitome of "bad guys." Then the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series and I knew for sure the world was a fair place. Everything seemed clear in those days. The movies always had happy endings and I believed that I would meet the girl of my dreams and find a job I loved that would make me rich.

I look at it a little differently now. I am not always sure: who are the good guys? When the stock market goes up does this mean that the good guys are winning? Are the democrats really the good guys, as my father totally believes? Does it really matter what party is in charge? When we outsource tens of thousands of jobs to India and China are the good guys the ones who want to keep the work here, at home; or are they the ambitious, efficient, and reliable workers who are capable of doing the work for less money? Are the good guys the ones who preach the Gospel of Jesus and the requirement to "Love our Neighbors?"; or are they the ones who warn us against the evils of superstitious belief systems?

Are the good guys the ones who want to do whatever it takes to keep America safe including torture and limit our rights to privacy, or are they the ones who protest against war even when our enemies are clearly evil and want to destroy us?

What about Global Warming? Are the good guys the ones who want to save our planet and protect our environment; or are they the ones who want to protect us from overreacting and overspending to unproven theories or speculation?

I am not sure we can divide the world into good guys and bad guys. I am not even sure that we can determine who is right or wrong on many of the issues facing our planet today. When you listen carefully, both sides usually make very powerful arguments supporting their point of view. We can't predict the future; if we are honest we must admit that we really don't know the right course of action in many cases.

I think the good guys today are the ones who are interested in doing two things: promoting personal freedom and eliminating pain and suffering.

I think the good guys are the one who are willing to keep their mind open to both sides of an issue, who approach a problem not with the goal of convincing others that they are right but whose primary motivation is to explore the question with objectivity and sincerity.

In some cases it is clear what is right, but in most cases it is not so clear. This does not mean that we should do nothing or not move forward unless we are sure what to do. What it does mean is that we must always be open to the possibility that we may not be right, that many things are not the way they seem to be, and sometimes we need to do the exact opposite of what we have done in the past. It is only through flexibility, willingness to change, and openness to admitting that we are wrong that we can navigate the complexities of today's challenging world.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Discipline or Addiction

I now have written my blog conscientiously for 37 days. I've only missed one day except for the time I was in Florida. I'm proud of myself. If I continue on this pace for the next ten years I will have written over 3000 blogs. That's a little scary since I will have to come up with 3000 different thoughts, stories, or ideas. Actually, that's not a problem.

The problem is keeping myself motivated to believe that I actually have something to say, that there is some value in doing this. For years I have been disciplined in ways that very few people are. What I consider discipline might also be addiction or neurosis based on guilt of not following through or giving up. Let me give some examples.

#1- When I was nineteen I went to a lecture given by the Maharishi. My mother went with me. She was supportive of my interest in spiritual pursuits. The Maharishi said that if I meditated twice a day for twenty minutes each time I would reach bliss consciousness in five years. I did this for five years, hardly missing a session. My wife would get irritated with me at times for disrupting the family schedule, bit I did not want to miss my twenty minute session.
After five years I did not reach bliss consciousness. I went back to the Maharishi and told him that I had not achieved the goal. He said, "Do it for another five years." So I did and after five more years, hardly missing a session, not reaching bliss consciousness, I decided to try something else.

#2- Every day for the last thirty two years I have been doing Yoga. I've missed on average maximum of ten days per year. I stand on my head for four minutes every single day and do at least six or seven other postures. It usually takes me thirty minutes. I can't leave the house without doing my exercises. My new wife sometimes gets irritated with me for my fanaticism and that it takes me so long to get ready in the morning.

#3- I walk thirty minutes a day. I have been doing this for eighteen years. I remember the first day I did it, thinking it might be a good idea to get some exercise now that my basketball career was winding down. I haven't missed many days during this time except when my back goes out and I can't walk (which happens once a year for four or five days.) No one seems irritated by this except myself. I get a gnawing pain if I haven't walked; I feel pressure each day until I have completed my walk.

#4- For the last thirty years, no exaggeration, I have fasted at least once a year for a minimum of five days and as many as twelve. Fasting is horrible and tortuous. I dread these fasts. During the entire time I am fasting I dream about food. My wife gets more than irritated with me. First of all she thinks it's harmful; secondly she doesn't like to eat alone. Also I don't smell too great during these fasts; everyone who comes into contact with me suffers.

I think I have benefited from these disciplines. Matter of fact I'm almost sure of it. I wonder if I'll feel that way after 3000 blogs.