Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Perspective on Jobs

I had an ongoing discussion this weekend with a friend about his financial situation, starting a business, and finding a job. Like me he hasn't worked for someone else for many years and the prospect of getting a job was a little troubling. The whole process of looking for a job can be upsetting and depressing. Part of the problem is inherent in the natue of capitalism which rewards those who are tough enough to withstand constant rejection, have competitive instincts, and the ability to say and do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals.

Those who are sensitive, creative, soft spoken, non-competitive, and unwilling to say and do whatever it takes are oftentimes at a disadvantage. There are those whose main skill are their ability to present a favorable appearance but lack the substance to deliver results over the long run. Corporate America, especially middle management, is loaded with this type of person and is one of the reasons many companies are struggling today. They are staffed by people with impressive resumes, stylish clothes, polished shoes, good manners, a pleasing personality, and an uncanny ability to deflect blame and responsibility.

In my opinion, this non-productive, superficial, insincere, but likable type can be found in all types of organizations including non-profits, education, government agencies, and especially local politics. It is no wonder that anyone with non-conformist tendencies and a desire to engage in meaningful work with "real people" will have a hard time finding a career or work situation that interests or attracts them. What happens is that most of us have to settle for working under conditions that are tolerable but for the most part unfulfilling and slowly destructive to our well-being. The average person finds this hard to admit and convinces themselves that their situation is not so bad and that one day they will be able to break free and do whatever they want. And it isn't so bad when you compare it to prison or slavery or living in poverty in Ethiopia.

My father, for example worked in the post office for thirty years, traveling over an hour each way on two buses and the subway, to a job he barely cared about, It is only recently that he admitted to me that not only did he not really like his job but he didn't really understand what he was doing most of the time. My father-in law worked for RCA for over twenty five years. He was the most gung-ho company man until they transferred him from Columbia, Pa. the town he grew up in and loved to Marion Indiana, the middle of nowhere. Within six months he had a crippling stroke and revealed to me that the company was not what he had thought.

For blacks, women, and many individuals who stand out as being different there is a heightened awareness of the difficulty of finding work that is compatible with their nature. They don't fool themselve and they learn to live with it. Then there are millions of talented individuals who never learn to deal with the system and end up as dropouts or casualties drifting through life without being given the chance to develop whatever skills and abilities they have.

There are those few who do well in the mainstream, who become "masters of the universe" or at least apprentice masters. It is these few who work hard to perpetuate the system and convince everyone else that they have the same opportunity if only they work hard, bite the bullet, and keep positive. The trained observer can see through this and realize that these few are not necessarily the best or most talented but the ones who have been lucky or gifted.

I am not saying that there are not good people running our corporations who do care about their workers and about doing the right things. At the highest levels there are very good people and their are business people, politicians, and entrepreneurs who have made outstanding contributions to our society. I actually look to them to help lead us out of the troubles we have created by what I consider the manifestations of our unconsciousness. We have to expand our ability to recognize talent and not use some of the superficial ways that limit our ability to identify those with talent who are out of the mainstream.

There needs to be changes made in the existing system, We need to level the playing field and enable those who don't feel comfortable playing the games that are required for getting ahead in the existing culture to actually find a way to be productive and respected. These changes will occur. The existing system is being tested now and, in my opinion, is showing cracks. The combination of technological advancement and the breakdown of the system that rewarded appearance, flash, and deception rather than substance will result in greater opportunities for the out of the mainstream personality to find their place.

I look forward to the day when we will be able to go into a voting booth like box, fill out a detailed questionnaire, have our brain scanned, and then receive a printout with the the job and assignment exactly suited to our talents and inclinations. Don't be skeptical. It makes sense. It's possible. It's needed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Obliviousness and Types

There are people who know me well who think I am oblivious to most things. For someone studying consciousness this is not a good reputation to have. It causes my credibility to be questioned. And, as much as I try to rationalize or justify my lack of awareness of the physical world, I must admit that I do have a weakness in this area.

Yesterday I was sitting outside with a group of people. One by one they got up, went into the house and changed their clothes. I was wearing long pants, a long sleeve tee shirt, a long sleeve shirt, sweatsocks and heavy shoes. After some period of time they all came back and we resumed our conversation. One of them asked me if I was hot. I said I hadn't noticed. They had all changed into shorts and tee shirts. I had not noticed they had changed or that it was hot.

Within a few minutes one of our guests stood up and started to walk to the other side of our deck. Everyone seemed a little disturbed. There were a couple of bees flying around and it was annoying them. I had not noticed. We then went into the house to have dinner. Now that I think about it, although it did not strike me at the time, my wife on at least three occassions either wiped food off my face or reminded me to. In addition, she asked me a couple of times to pick up food I had dropped on the floor. Matter of fact, whenever our kids bring their dogs to the house the dogs always hang out at my chair during dinner.

There is no excuse for any of this. I do want to say, though, that during these periods of apparent oblivion, I am listening very carefully to what is being said and noticing intently the emotional state of everyone around me. When I enter a room of people at a party I instantly am aware of the mood of the room. Before too long I have a good handle on the gist of most of the conversations that are occurring and the dynamics of almost all the relationships. By the end of the evening I have formed a strong opinion of the consciousness and intelligence of most of the people at the party, and their level of comfort and confidence in the situation.

My wife, on the other hand, will have noticed much less about the people but will have a total picture of all the home furnishings, art work, room layouts, as well as what everyone was wearing and the color of their hair and nails. She is an artist and her perception of the world is different than mine. Whenever we go someplace she remembers all the landmarks and can easily find her way back to wherever it was that we went. I remember none of the landmarks and have no idea how we went or how to get back.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. We judge each other by what we consider to be important based on how we see the world. There are those who place more weight on appearances, manners, and politeness, and those who care more about authenticity and sincerity. There are those who are attracted to people with high intelligence and bold and aggressivness personalities and those who are attracted to kind and gentle souls.

It is important to understand that there is a physical, mental, and emotional component to our lives. Each of these components has an independent existence. Each of these components has been trained and programmed based on our nature and our experiences. Each of us sees the world and makes decisions based upon whether our primary orientation is physical (our body), mental (our minds and thoughts), or emotional (our heart and feelings).

It is very useful to understand how we perceive the world and what type we are. Neither the intellectual, emotional, or physical type is better or on a higher level. Our lives would be less stressful and more productive if we did not judge but understood our type and the type of those with whom we interact. We need to observe the functioning of our physical, mental, and emotional parts and see where we need work. I need work on the physical. I have been working on it for years. I believe I have made some progress, although my wife and closest friends might question this.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thoughts on Money

I spent the day involved in activities whose goal was making money. When I got home, ready to relax and not think about money I got a call from a friend who wanted to talk to me about money. He had just suffered what to him was a major financial setback and he wanted to share his pain a little. He is presently living on social security. He gets five hundred sixty two per month. He was expecting to get another two hundred fifty bonus this month as part of Obama's stimulus package. When he got his check, though, the $250.00 had been deducted because of a student loan he had taken and not paid back over twenty years ago. He really needed and was counting on that two hundred fifty.

My friend believes that "money is god". It is the most important thing in life and that if he had enough money his life would be perfect. He believes that money would enable him to do whatever he wanted and this would enable him to always be happy. As much as he desires money, though, he has done very little in his life to get any. He has no money at all, spends every cent he gets and works as little as possible.

There is something about the attitude that money is god that rubs me the wrong way. It has always seemed to me that there has to be more to life than making and spending money. However, if I am honest with myself I cannot understate the significance of money or deny how important it is to me. Matter of fact, when I got home tonight, wanting to relax I was thinking about playing poker. Poker would be no fun at all if it wasn't for money.

I don't think that money by itself is the answer to life's problems. I do believe that developing a healthy and balanced attitude towards money is a key to happiness. This is not a simple thing, though. I find myself constantly calculating in my mind my financial situation. I am always considering 1- how much money I have, 2-how to get more, 3-how much more I will be definitely getting, and 4-what to do with my money. Even when I had more money than I needed I still thought about these four things. My level of addiction to the these thoughts about money is high.

On one hand I can't control the endless stream of thoughts about money and my finances. On the other hand putting too much emphasis on money doesn't seem right . I wake up one day with the motivation to make a lot of money and with the atttiude that I can and will do whatever it takes. The next day it seems meaningless to be wasting my time making money when I presently I have enough to survive and why should I worry about the future. I don't beat myself up about this conflict, though, because from my observations of other people this is normal. The fact that I am aware of this battle helps me in dealing with it.

I don't think that there is a correct attitude towards money. I don't think that there are even general guidelines worth following. These guidelines are artificically created by people who want to influence us for there own reasons. We come to believe that our attitudes towards money are our own when in fact they are a result of our being programmed. It is so easy to get trapped in a lifestyle that has been created by following the beliefs, atttitudes, and goals of others, and that is not really based on a clear understanding of what we really want. This is one of the big challenges that we all face. What is important, I believe, is that we try first to understand our present attitudes and behavior in regard to money and then honestly determine what it is that we really want in our lives and how we can use money to best achieve these goals. We might be surprised by what we learn.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Good Book

A book that has influenced my thinking greatly has as its stated purpose, "To destroy mercilessly, without any compromise whatsoever, in the mentations and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world."

The book is Beelzebubs Tales to his Grandson, An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man. The first time I attempted to read it it took me about six years. The second time was a little easier. It took five days of constant reading, probably 14 hours per day. Since then I have been browsing through it occasionally. It's a good book, but it is, I admit, a little tough to read. The author, a Russian gentlemen, intentionally made it difficult. He stated once, "I bury the bone so deep that the dogs have to scratch for it."

Why would someone write a book that is nearly impossible to read with the intention of destroying every belief that we presently have?

He is not going for the mass market.

He is looking for the rare person, who Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy aptly classified as "Wacko," who has been disappointed by every path he has searched and is desperate to find something that makes sense. This desperation creates a level of internal discomfort so great, like the worst itch that you can imagine, that it inpsires someone to attempt to read about a thousand pages that, at first glance, make no sense.

The basic premise of the book is that at some point in the past, because of some cosmic event, mankind lost the ability to see himself and the world clearly. The result is a fear and confusion that continues to plague our existence and prevent us from reaching the level of peace and contentment that we once had. In order to regain what we lost we must relearn everything we believe to be true, hence the necessity to destroy all of our existing beliefs.

This may seem a little radical and unrealistic. However, when you acknowledge the depth of the problems we are facing it does makes sense that the solution is not simple. I don't imagine that we can unlearn everything that we have been taught for the last five thousand years. What I do think is possible and would be extremely valuable is if we began to question many of our beliefs, especially those that we are most attached to. The consequences of this might inspire a series of forces that might begin to enable us to get along with each other a little better.

The message of this book is not to convince the reader of anything but to implant within the mind and heart of the reader a seed of doubt and discomfort from which a new world might be created. This is a big idea. To begin to question the advice of so called experts and authorities. To begin to give up some of the crutches that we have used to enable us to deal with the uncertainty and insecurity of our day to day existence--well, it's tough. But it is freeing and in my mind exciting.

This book is just one of the many tools that are being made available to us now. They actually have always been available, but now more than ever we need to dig our way out of the trap that has been created to test our muster and spirit. We can if we want leave everything in God's hands. But I don't think that this is what He wants from us now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Time as a Mole

I watched the movie "Donnie Brasco" this morning. It was about an undercover FBI agent (Johnny Depp) who infiltrates the mafia. In one of the scenes he and his fellow mobsters go into a Japanese restaurant. Everyone is asked, as is custom, to take off their shoes. Johnny knows he can't do it or the wire in his boot will be revealed. He makes a big scene about not wanting to follow Japanese customs because his uncle was killed in WWII.

The movie reminded me of the time I was recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the radical branch of SDS, the Weathermen. It actually reminded me of an exact moment during that episode. I was in college. It was 1968. I was sitting alone in the campus coffee shop, The Sugar Bowl, (great french fries) when this young, short haired guy sat down next to me. He asked me if I might take a walk to discuss a matter of importance to American security.

"Sure," I said. "No problem."

I figured it had something to do with a potential assassination of the president. Another FBI agent had recently come to my fraternity to question us about some rumors: apparently, one of my fraternity brothers had made threatening remarks about President Johnson.

This young, short haired guy told me me that the government needed my help to infiltrate a dangerous, anti-war group. I had never heard of SDS or the Weathermen. I was pretty much apolitical. He told me to my surprise that a girl with whom I was having a casual sexual relationship was sharing a house, off campus, with two SDS members. He told me I would have to wear a wire, and try to tape some incriminating conversations.

I viewed myself as a loyal American. I accepted the assignment. I did not tell my mother; she would have freaked out. I didn't tell anyone until now. I guess the burden of carrying this secret for all these years has finally gotten to me. It's not easy when you risk your life for your country and can't reveal any of the details.

I had only been to the house one time and had no immediate plans to go back. My only motivation in contacting this girl was sex. She wasn't very attractive, which pains me to say, because all girls are beautiful, especially when you're having sex with them, and she was especially nice. Her parents died. When I first met her she was living with her grandmother. She was happy to have moved out, to have found two likable roommates.

Shortly after my conversation with the Fed, I was feeling a little horny, which was not unusual for me at the time. I called the girl and asked her if I could come over for a few hours. She said there was a meeting going on but it would probably be all right if we stayed in her room. I immediately called the contact number given to me by the agent. I spoke the code word, EGG ROLL, and hung up. I had chosen the word as one I would not forget.

Within fifteen minutes my contact agent arrived at my house. I was living at home at the time, only fifteen minutes from my college campus. I introduced the agent to my mother as one of my professors who was giving me some extra tutoring. We went into my room. Fortunately my sister was out at the time (we still shared a room). He pulled out the wire, asked me to undress and put it on me. He then took it off and asked me to put it on. I fumbled a little but I finally got it right.

He went outside to the front of my building in the project. I spoke normally. He came back and said everything tested A-OK.

I arrived at the girl's house within an hour. I wasn't very nervous. My mind was primarily on sex. She greeted me at the door and quickly escorted me through the living room to her bedroom. There had been eight or ten long haired types sitting around in the living room. There were a lot of papers lying around. No one seemed especially dangerous but I was inexperienced in these matters.

We went into her bedroom and started making out. I began to unbutton her blouse. I then realized that if I undressed my wire would be revealed. How could I not have thought of this before? This was the exact moment I was reminded of in watching "Donnie Brasco today. He handled it cooly and was able to get past the moment without exposing himself. I was not that cool and began to panic. I didn't know what to do. I finally told her that I was suddenly feeling sick and needed to go home. I called my FBI contact as soon as I got home and explained what had happened. I told him this was not for me and asked him to come pick up the wire.

"No problem," he said.

He came right over and picked up the wire. I never heard from him again. I hadn't thought about this much until now. I feel better now that I have revealed this story. Maybe I'll reveal other stuff that I have been holding back.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

George Carlin, Religion, and Atheism

The late George Carlin was a funny guy. His comments were disturbing but for the most part right on. One of his most penetrating insights into religion was his comment that over 65% of the United States population believes that there is a super human being living up in the sky who looks down on us and judges our actions. If we are good he allows us to live with him. If we are bad he sentences us to an eternity of torture and suffering without any hope of escape. And he loves us.

I guess you can spin this many different ways. But fundamentally, this is the basic belief system of both Christianity and Islam. I'm not sure about Judaism. Their concept of heaven and hell is more ambiguous and subject to individual interpretation. Matter of fact the Jews have so many different interpretations of the bible that somewhere in their vast body of commentaries you can find any viewpoint you want.

I feel a little guilty when I criticize religion because it does have some value and I believe that there is a truth and valuable teaching behind all the great religions. However, there are too many aspects of fundamental religious beliefs that are at best problematic and at worst destructive and harmful to our progress.

First of all the emphasis on faith as the final determining factor of belief no matter how illogical or unbelievable are the religious stories undermines logic and science. This type of thinking holds us back and hinders our advancment. It is an antilife type of thinking, although it is ironically called "pro-life" I am not just talking about abortion . I am talking about the fundamental religious view that glorifies death and the after-life at the expense of enjoying ourselves in the here and now.

I also have a problem with the religious emphasis on worship of god. Why would an all powerful, all loving god desire worship? Why does he need to continually remind us of our helplessness and sinful ways. If he emphasized our need to be logical and see things clearly rather than believe based on faith in a supernatural world we would get all the humility we require. Also, why he is worried about putting other gods before him or worshipping other gods. It seems he should encourage us to be skeptical and check out all of his competitors or pretenders so that our ultimate belief would be a result of choice rather than fear.

Although religion in its present form has plenty of weaknesses, atheism makes even less sense. How can we be totally positive that there is no god.? We can't. The reason that atheism is growing in popularity is that the religious point of view alienates those who assume they are scientific and logical. The bottom line is that religion has not marketed itself well and has not delivered on its promises. The world has not gotten better because of religion. It has gotten better because of science and enlightened thinking based on a belief in the power of the individual rather than that of an unseen supernatural being.

None of this means that God does not exist or that there is not a MAPOL that can be investigated and discovered. We need to rethink our religions, probably eliminate all of them that believe they have the whole truth, and admit that at the present time we really don't know why we are here or how we got here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Money Sex and Health

For the average person money, sex, and health are the three main challenges in life. At some point all of us face each of them. We all have issues surrounding making a living, finding and maintaining intimate relationships, and taking care of of our bodies. The challenges are not about overcoming problems associated with these issues but about developing a perspective that enables us to deal with them without becoming overwhelmed, obsessed, or incapable of action.

These three issues are supercharged emotionally. What this means is that not only are we constantly struggling with them but we develop strong viewpoints about how to deal with them or avoid dealing with them. We begin to believe that our viewpoints are the best ones and that they apply to everyone. We judge those who disagree with us or act in ways that are contrary to what we believe are correct. This causes disagreements, stresses, and adds to the pressures that coping with these issues already generates.

Compounding the problem is that we are constantly being lectured, coached, reminded, preached to, and in general bombarded from a multitude of sources about what is the best way to handle each of these areas. Here are some of the titles of articles that I noticed just today:













10 WAYS TO END YOUR MARRIAGE (slip out the back jack,)






HOW TO ESCAPE THE RAT RACE (i might read that)

A BUDGET CURE, MARIJUANA TAXES? (might read that also)







I'm sure you get the picture. If you believe this stuff it can get very confusing. Ira's 1st law of media opinions. For every point of view there is an opposite and equal point of view. What is the answer to this mess of conflicting advice and internal programming? In my opinion its all about freeing yourself from your programming by observing your thoughts and actions without judgement and then committing yourself to learning what do you want. What do you really want? We hardly ever ask ourselves this important question.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Viewing Life and Money Objectively

It's easy to get depressed. Especially when you listen to the news or read the best selling books about the collapsing economy, environmental toxins, terrorist threats, inefficient government, pandemic viruses, and multitude of scams and ripoffs that threaten us every day. But it doesn't make sense to dwell on the negative. Not only does it not make sense but most of this negative stuff are exaggerations of the media to get and keep our attention and justify their jobs.

I mean you can find tons of things that are wrong with the world, with your friends and family, and with yourself . Nothing seems to work the way you think it should and the dreams of childhood are quickly squelched by the realities of making a living and having to take care of yourself.

However, there is a lot of good in the world presently and more importantly there is a lot of good stuff to look forward to. Most importantly much of the negative stuff isn't real. It is our interpretation of what is happening. Yes, you can create negative scenarios and spin events to paint a scary picture. But life, especially in the United States is pretty good. Most of the things that upset us or trouble us only do so because we have unrealistic expectations. If we would just accept the fact that we all have weaknesses and flaws and learn to be more accepting and understanding of the truth of our rather humorous condition rather than complaining and judging, the world would appear much brighter.

One of our major areas of concern is money. However,if we are honest and objective, whether we are rich or poor all our lives are pretty much the same. It is true that if you have money you can eat in better restaurants, drive nicer cars, have bigger houses, and go on more luxurious vacations. It does seem, I admit, that money makes life easier but most of the things that we do that take up our time are not dependent on money. They are dependent on our attitudes and our inner state. All of us, no matter how rich we are have to spend all our time with ourselves and our thoughts. This is the great equalizer.

Everyone has to live with their own thoughts, go to the bathroom, sleep, and deal with other people. No matter how much money you have you can only sit in one chair in one part of your house. If you love your chair and are content in your space no amount of money can improve this. No amount of money can make a dish of ice cream with chocolate syrup any more delicious.

All the money in the world cannot give you more pleasure from reading, surfing the internet, listening to music, watching your favorite sports team, holding your child or grandchild, or expressing your opinion about any subject that interests you. It is very hard to gain a healthy and realistic perspective about money. We are so conditioned to believe that having money is equated with happiness. And when we don't have much money it can be especially hard to feel good about ourselves and our lives.

I've had periods in my life when I've had a lot of money, much more than I needed. It was nice. But mostly what it did was enable me to realize that having money is a little overrated. The problem is not with money. There is nothing wrong with having money, spending money, and having nice things. The problem is what we have to sacrifice to get it and how much of our identity and sense of self worth is dependent on whether we have money or not.

My main point is that life is good. It actually is terrific. It's is the best thing that we know of and beats any other alternative. Why be depressed? Why let the creations of the media or others get you down? Try to find a way to live each day appreciating what you have and doing the things that make you happy. Remember what Socrates said, "Enjoy yourself, its later than you think."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Listening to Socrates

Socrates was a smart guy. If you doubt that you should check out some of his thinking in the dialogues of Plato. He spent most of his time hanging out on the streets with his friends discussing the MAPOL (meaning and purpose of life). It's valuable, in my opinion, to explore some of his conclusions after years of conversations and study. One of his most famous quotes is "The Unexamined Life is not Worth Living". Another famous one is "Know Thyself:" It's worth spending a little time considering these statements.

We need to start any quest for learning about ourselves with the realization that we don't really know ourselves. We ascribe certain abilities and traits to ourselves and imagine that we are one way or another. We live our lives under many illusions. The main one is that we believe that we already do know ourselves. We believe that we have made choices in the past and that we can make choices in the future, when in fact most of the things that happen to us are a result of accident. We believe that we are consistent in our thinking and that we are the same person each day. In fact we are very inconsistent and we have many different personalities, each of which believes that it is who we really are.

The view that we don't know ourselves and that before we can progress in our lives and reach any level of happiness or contentment we need to get to know ourselves is one of the consistent threads of thought that runs through the thinking of all religions and philosophies. All the problems in the world can be traced to this simple and undeniable fact. We don't know ourselves and because we act without any real knowledge of who we are and what we need we are capable of any action, even the most irrational and self-destructive.

When you really begin to understand this about the human condition, you can begin to appreciate the "Terror of the Situation". We are living in a world that for the most part consists of people who are out of control. Under the right conditions they are capable of doing anything, and justifying their actions with some belief system that has them hypnotized into believing that they really do know who they are and what are the right things to do.

I don't want to paint too negative a picture. Matter of fact what I am describing here is usually hidden information. Most people are not ready or willing to hear it or understand it. There is actually the possibility that we can escape from this situation and create a world that enables us to achieve a level of peace and happiness. It all begins with self-knowledge.

Socrates spoke about accomplishing this through his student Plato in "The Republic". P.D Ouspensky spoke about the possibility of creating a new man and a better world in "In Search of the Miraculous." Jesus in "The Sermon on the Mount" points the way towards the possibility of creating a new life and turning our exisiting world topsy turvy.

Socrates, though, more than anything was a realist and gave this advice to those who don't want to think about any of this stuff which I imagine is most of us. What he said was, "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Adventures in Self-Awareness

I just had a little fight with my wife. On my walk this morning while I was thinking about my blog I accidentally stepped into a bucket of wet cement outside the library. Fortunately there was an older woman who observed me and was able to help me out before I fell down. She also suggested that I immediately rinse my shoes off before the cement hardened if I wanted to save my shoes. I probably wouldn't have thought of that but I like these shoes. I wear them every day.

I went into the library, returned two overdue books (which aggravates my wife to begin with since we are on a tight budget) and then went directly into the bathroom. I rinsed off my shoes completely. Surprisingly I made a little mess while doing this. There was water, drying cement, and dirt on the sink and a little got on the floor.

While I was doing this the janitor came into the bathroom. He looked at me. The water was running a little harder than it should have been creating more splash than probably was necessary. My shoes were off and I was cleaning them with a paper towel. There was a pile of dirty paper towels nearby. One had accidentally fell on the floor.

He said to me, "You really made a mess here." Don't you know this is a public place. You shouldn't be cleaning your shoes here."

I responded a little weakly trying to explain to him about the bucket of cement and the fact that I needed to clean my shoes quickly before the cement dried.

He said, "I think you should leave."

I asked if it would be OK if it took out a book or two.

He said, "Maybe you should come back another day."

I said, "OK" and left.

When I got home I told my wife this story and she got upset with me. She feels I continually embarass myself and should be a little more aware of what I am doing. She was in a little bit of bad mood anyway since she was in the middle of filling out some complicated insurance forms. She hates doing this type of stuff. She needed our 2008 taxes to include with the forms. I told her they were downstairs. She went downstairs, got them, and used the information from these taxes to complete the forms.

After a few minutes, I heard her yell "Fuck".

I said, "What's the matter?"

She said she just noticed that she had copied information on the form from our 2007 taxes, not our 2008 taxes. The 2008 taxes were right below the 2007 taxes. She had ruined the forms and now was faced with the task of finding new forms and filling them out from scratch. She immediately blamed me saying that I was disorganized.

"Who puts the 2007 taxes on top of the 2008." she said.

I replied, "You should have looked at the dates before you copied the information." You are just as unaware as I am except in a different way. I stepped in cement and was not paying attention. You copied information from the wrong forms because you were not paying attention. What's the difference?"

"There is a big difference", she said. "You are constantly doing shit like this. '

I started to write this blog to make the point that we all are unaware in our own way and that we see very easily the way others are unaware but not the way we are unaware ourselves. Now that I have completed it though I must admit that my real motivation was to take the pressure off myself and calm my wife down. I think I'm going to have to take her out to dinner.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Baseball, Theoretical Physics, and MAPOL

I was walking on the beach with a friend this weekend discussing theoretical physics and string theory. He had just completed reading a book on parallel universes and was trying to explain this to me. He told me a story about three umpires who were discussing their approach to balls and strikes.

The first umpire said, "I call them based on what they are. If they are strikes I call them strikes. If they are balls I call them balls.

The second umpire said, "I call them the way I see them."

The third umpire said, "Whatever I call them, that's what they are."

This pretty much summarizes the different views of reality. View number one is that there is a reality independent of our existence that we can identify, classify and know. This reality is the same for everyone and it is up to us to learn to see it clearly. This reality is based on Newtonian physics. Newton saw the universe as a machine which acted according to very specific laws that could be calculated and understood mathematically. If we understood these laws and the mathematics behind them we could accurately predict the movements of bodies in the universe and ultimately all reality was knowable and predictable. The theories of Newton helped create a scientific revolution that resulted in the world moving into an age where man began to believe that he could control and influence the forces of nature.

View number two is that reality is different for each of us depending on our point of view and overall peceptive skills. This reality is the one espoused by Einstein in his theory of relativity. According to Einstein there was not a fixed reality that was based on mathematical laws. Reality was relative to the speed and position of the observer. He developed this theory by noticing that the orbit of Mercury did not correspond exactly to what Newton predicted it should. Einstein's thinking enabled us to unleash the power of the atom but also created a level of humility regarding our ability to see the world accurately.

View number three is that we create our own reality and then we name it and act as if it is the truth. This view is embodied in the theories of quantum physics, and especially Heisenberg's "theory of uncertainty' Quantum physics has caused scientists to question whether or not reality exists independently of our consciousness. It seems from a mathematical viewpoint and from the experiments of quantum physicists that there is no fixed realtiy, that there is no solid matter and that reality is created primarily by our observation and perceptions of that observation.

String theory is the latest advancement in our thinking. Although it has not yet gained universal acceptance in the scientific community it is pointing to the existence of a multidimensional reality that intersect and curve in ways that make our conventional definitions of space and time meaningless. The technological possibilities that may come from this level of thinking include space and time travel as well as understanding mathematically the nature of creation itself.

We have continued to progress scientifically since Newton's discovered the basic laws of physics. There is no reason to think that we will not continue to progress and there is high probability that our progress will accelerate. We are getting to the time when spiritual thinking and scientific thinking are merging. Any serious student of the MAPOL must take the discoveries and theories of science and theoretical physics into account in formulating their own belief systems. This is a very exciting time. We must keep our minds open to all possibilities.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ryan's Christening and Ethical Dilemmas

I just got home from my grandson's christening. It was my first christening. Being Jewish I guess this is not unusual. Overall I thought it was a positive experience. Obviously the star was Ryan who after establishing a reputation during his brief life for crying toughed it out and in a period of one and half hours did not cry at all. It made me wonder about the existence of the holy spirit who the priest referenced more than once as being an intimate part of the ceremony.

After leaving the church I called my mother in California. I told her I was leaving church after attending Baby Ryan's christening. Her first response was something about Christmas. I repeated again that I was at a christening. Her next response had to do with something about food. I repeated it twice more and could not get her to either hear or understand.

I finally said, "I was at a baptism in a Catholic Church."

Her immediate response was, "Did they discuss abortion."

I said, "Ma this had nothing to do with abortion."

She said, "I thought you said you were at a Catholic church."

I said, "They didn't discuss abortion. It was a ceremony for Baby Ryan."

She said, "Aren't the Catholics against abortion."

I said, "How are you feeling?"

She then said, "Don't ask, I don't want to upset you, but I had a terrible night?

I said, "What are you doing now?"

She said , "Waiting for Obama to speak. He's going to speak about abortion."

I quickly changed the subject, not because I have any opinion one way or the other, but because it's a little to complicated a subject to discuss with my ninety year old mother who can't hear or understand over the phone.

The abortion question is a tricky one. I am against abortions in general but cannot say for sure that it is against any universal laws so I am pro-choice. One of the more interesting points regarding abortion was one I learned from reading the book "Freakonomics." The author, a well respected economist, basic premise is that we oftentimes misinterpret facts and that in many cases things are not the way they seem to be. Right up my alley. He cites the case of the declining crime rate in New York City. Many people believed this was because of actions of Mayor Giuliani and a general tightening by the police of their vigilance against minor crimes and minor criminals.

After studying the statistics carefully the author's conclusion is that the lower crime rate can be directly attributed to the legalization of abortion. Prior to this, the rich could easily have abortions while the poor unwed mother from the ghetto was forced to have her baby and bring it up in conditions of poverty without any father. Many kids from this type of background ended up as criminals. By lowering the incidence of these births through abortion there was a corresponding decrease in the crime rate.

This issue is one of a few including legalization of internet gambling and legalization of marijuana that is in the news right now. When you listen to arguments about these issues both sides are passionate and make many good points that are hard to refute. I listened to a debate about the legalization of internet gambling the other night. The first gentlemen was in favor of internet gambling. He believed that its popularity was growing tremendously anyway and that legalization would help generate greatly needed tax revenues. I could not agree more.

The second gentlemen said that internet gambling was creating a level of addiction that was greater than had been seen with any previous type of gambling. The ease of having gambling right at your fingertips twenty-four hours a day was proving to be almost irresistible to those with gambling tendencies. I could not agree more.

Obama said today in regard to abortion that we must keep the dialogue open. We need to respect each other's opinions and try to find some ground for compromise, although he acknowledged that there was a fundamental disagreement between both sides. That sounds good but doesn't lead to any solution.

In my mind there is no solution to these issues. The focus about these matters of personal morality and ethics needs to be changed. We cannot change behavior through legislation or through conversation. It has not not worked for thousands of years and does not seem to be working now. What has worked is that our civilization has progressed in a natural way. It is less barbaric and brutal than it once was, although there are those who will argue this point and I must acknowledge that we still have a long way to go.

We spend too much time, energy, and money, focusing on issues that may be interesting but are not clear cut or important, In my opinion it comes down to each of us working on our own personal development and having productive days. There is big change coming. The world that Ryan will be living in when he is thirty, thirty years from now, will be almost unrecognizable to the one that we live in today. The issues that we deem important now will seem petty then. We need to prepare him as best we can, although I have the feeling that he will do it himself.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Night with Slumdog

I watched "Slumdog Millionaire" last night. I enjoyed it. I actually stopped playing poker while it was on. My favorite movies are usually teen oriented like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", "Clueless", "Sixteen Candles", "The Breakfast Club", and "Risky Business." I also like action movies like "Rambo", "Die Hard", "Lethal Weapon", and "The Terminator." This movie though did keep my attention.

I'm sure that those who watched the movie were upset by the conditions for children in India. What I noticed was that, although there was poverty and extreme filth, it wasn't all bad. The kids did seem to have a lot of fun , adventure, and excitement. Those that survived learned to take care of themselves and deal with adversity. India is the first or second fastest growing country in the world. We used to think of it, especially in my hippe days, as this horrible, backwards country, where material existence was sacrificed for spiritual development. Today India seems to be combining Western and Eastern values to produce a successful balance.

The most interesting part of the movie for me was the transcendent love affair of Jamal for Latika. It is only under the most difficult conditions that a love like this can exist. A love that overcomes all challenges, setbacks, and seemingly impossible conditions to ultimately triumph is inspiring. The dreamer believes in happy endings. The cynic thinks they probably ended up fighting and hating each other.

What is true, though, is that the ability to imagine the existence of a love that overcomes all obstacles , by itself, points to man's higher nature. Also, the brother after a life of crime and corruption was willing to sacrifice himself to see true love prevail, and his brother happy. The cynic sees this as "Hollywoodish". The dreamer believes that good triumphs in the end . It is easy to see truth in both points of view. What is hard is to live without being attached to either point.

The question of religion was not an issue in this movie. It seemed that the main characters were muslim, although in the book the hero's identity was left intentionally unclear. His name in the book was Ram Mohammed Thomas a combination of Hindu, Muslim and Christian. There also was no political or ideological viewpoint being expressed in "Slumdog." It was a move that presented the essence of twenty-first century Western game show, "let's made a deal", consciousness uniting with a five thousand year old culture of raw survival. I think that shows some creativity.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tentative Conclusions on MAPOL

If life is a mystery, then discovering life's secrets requires thinking like a detective. Being a good detective requires looking for clues. Where do you look for clues? If there were twenty people at the scene of an accident, only one or two would be good witnesses. What makes a good witness?

I don't enjoy having conversations with people whose sole purpose is convincing me of their point of view. More enjoyable, and valuable, is a purposeful conversation, a mutual discovery. Most people are not interested in discovering the truth; most people are interested in defending their exisitng beliefs.

If you google "meaning of life" you'll find over thirty five million results. If you google "purpose of life" you will find over fifty eight million results. There are a lot of opinions, theories, and viewpoints about the meaning and purpose of life (MAPOL.) If you are a seeker of the truth how do you cull through this mass of information? How do you find quality information, worthwhile clues, reliable witnesses?

Some will claim they can end this search immediately; they might tell me to look in the bible. "All the answers are there," they might say.

Others will agree: the bible has the answers, but only their bible, or their interpretation of the bible.

Some will insist I am on a wild goose chase. There is no meaning and purpose to life. Life is what you make it and it is different for each person.

Any point of view that ends the search for the meaning and purpose does not go far enough. Although I have not found the answer to this question, I have found good clues, better witnesses. Some individuals have spent their life studying these issues; many supply good insights or information that might be useful in solving this mystery of life. Others dabble: power and glory seekers, charlatans, and delusional thinkers--these ideas, too, are included in the millions of results showing up on Google.

A good clue holds up to intense scrutiny, fits with the body of evidence. In regard to the MAPOL, there are constant themes that continue to reappear over thousands of years and across all of the world's population. These to me represent real clues, not answers, but sign posts that lead in a certain direction. Let me try to express some of my tentative conclusions. They are primarily the results of my life experiences. I am also including books, individuals, and general subjects that have impacted me.

1-We cannot determine the MAPOL in our existing condition. We do not have the intelligence or the tools. We have a limited perception of reality. (Plato, Einstein, Gurdjieff, Jung)

2-We have tremendous potential that we do not use. There are methods that can be used to tap this potential. Once we begin to tap this potential the world and our lives change and expand. (P.D, Ouspensky, Cosmic Consciousness by Joseph Bucke, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill)

3-The primary method of tapping our potential requires two activities. The first is to be more present in the moment, less reactive, less controlled by our programming, and more free to witness the now. The second is to learn to get along with each other, to be more kind, compassionate, understanding, and generous--to experience a certain feeling of love for all organic life, especially those close to us. (Jesus, Eckhardt Tolle)

4-Once we begin a real search for the MAPOL, we recognize at all times, in all situations, and all relationships, that things may not and usually are not the way they seem to be. This viewpoint helps keep us more objective and less subject to brainwashing. The greater our objectivity the more free we are to progress on our path. (Theoretical Physics, Beelzebubs tales by Gurdjieff, Khrisnamurti, Buddhism)

5-In physical reality there are laws that govern actions. These laws can be discovered and used to improve our lives. We have not discovered all these laws but will continue to discover more and more. (Theoretical Physics,

6-There is a spiritual reality. This reality cannot be seen by our ordinary senses. There are different laws that govern this reality that can also be discovered and used for our benefit. (Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death by G.W.Myers, Boris Mouravieff, Rodney Collin, The Seth Material, Rudolph Steiner)

7-There is a hierarchy of energy. This is expressed in many ways by different traditions and teachers. What it means is that there are more refined substances that vibrate at a higher or faster level and more dense substances that vibrate at a slower or lower level. It is possible to learn about these levels of energy, how to use them, contact them, or invoke their presence. (Kaballah, Alice Bailey, E.J. Gold, Millie Benoit)

Writing this blog has been a good exercise for me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Having Productive Days

I spent the evening watching T.V. and playing poker. This is not unusual. I spent the day coaching a client, a 40 year old owner of a contracting company. One of the main themes that I tried to bring across was the importance of having productive days. I went into great detail about what it meant to have a productive business day and then I described what it meant to have a productive personal day.

I explained to him that a productive business day for him consisted of three main activities. 1-maximizing cash flow/make sure that everything that could be done to bring in money was being done. 2-new business development/getting new deals. 3-training his staff/ working with them on improving their knowledge of their jobs and improving their being or their ability to get done what they know they should be doing. Knowledge training has to do with transferring information. Training in being has to do with honesty, integrity, discipline, sensitivity, and compassion, those things that make you a better person.

I then explained that a productive personal day consisted of doing at least one thing to improve yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. Mental improvement might involve reading, writing, or speaking with real purpose. Physical improvement consisted of conscious eating and exercise. Emotional work might include doing something kind or generous that was out of the ordinary or appreciating something beautiful.

While I was coaching my client I was convinced that what I was saying was definitely true and valuable. As soon as I got home my main focus was to eat something tasty, fix myself a glass of vodka, turn on the television, and start playing poker. I wonder whether or not I am being hypocritical.

I have thought about this quite a bit. In my mind how you spend your time and what you do each day is the measure of a man's life. It does not make sense to judge yourself too harshly or drive yourself too hard. What does make sense is to be a student of life, especially of your own life. What is especially important is to know what it is that makes you happy and observe how you are spending your time in relation to this understanding. To not let days, weeks, months, or years go by without taking stock of what you want and whether or not you are doing what you want. It does not make sense to me to judge or compare. There are a few key rules that are important to follow in order for us to exist with each other in a safe environment. Other than that we should enjoy, experiment, explore, and relax.

I notice many people around me are struggling with many different issues. It seems that this is an especially difficult time. What is difficult is that some of the values that we had accepted as being important and that gave us our identity, such as success, money, retirement, security, control, and belief in our infallibility are being challenged. We are no longer sure that we know what the future holds. We never did. The only thing that we can do is try to live each day as best we can and think, without judgement, what it is that we are doing.

Tomorrow I will try to do better and have a productive day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Important Book

I just completed an excellent book, Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It is an inspiring story of a Muslim women from Somalia who rebels and overcomes the incredible oppression of her family, religion, and culture. I usually don't like to recommend books or restaurants unless I can give someone the book or pay for their meal but I thought this was an especially valuable book.

Aside from the fact that it was well written and interesting it actually impacted my thinking. After 9/11 I had believed that anti-muslim sentiment was overblown and that for the most part, muslim fanaticism was restricted to a small percent of the muslim world. Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over a billion adherents. It was hard to believe that a mainstream religion could support war, terrorism, suicide bombings, killing of all Jews, and the total oppression of women. It was possible that a small percent of muslims might participate in these practices and even that a larger percent, maybe ten, would sympathize with these ideas. What I didn't think was real was that these anti-humanistic views could be a fundamental part of the basic belief structure of a world religion.

Now I know you shouldn't believe everything you read or see on TV, but this book struck me as being a sincere, accurate, account of muslim thinking. It pointed out that the major theme of the Koran, the holiest muslim text, was that the purpose of life on earth was to submit to Allah's laws, and that life on earth was a test to determine our place in the afterlife. There are constant references in the Koran to the necessity to destroy non-believers and that what happens to us on earth is insignificant compared to the glory of our eternity with Allah in heaven. The suicide bombers, who crashed planes into the World Trade Center were not isolated fanatics but the embodiment of fundamental Islamic thinking.

Ali's purpose, in writing this book, was to make the world aware of the cruel and unreasonable nature of Islam , especially of their treatment of women and of their potential threat to world peace. In her attempt to get this message out she hooked up with a Dutch film maker (some descendant of Van Gogh) to make a mini-documentary. It was called Submission I. Shortly after it was released Van Gogh was brutally murdered. A letter threatening Ali was stuck in his chest by a knife. Since that time she has been in hiding protected by the Dutch secret service.

As I write this I feel a little internally disturbed because it goes against my basic world view that there could be this degree of bad stuff in a religion that is followed by so many people. I have always been suspicious of campaigns that vilify any groups of people. I have come to believe that governments and those behind governments, if they exist, oftentimes create enemies to increase their own power. When there is a clearly defined bad guy, the government becomes more important as a protector. This tactic has been effectively used for thousands of years by governments and power groups. The threats of communism were greatly magnified (according to information released by the CIA) by the US to justify the governments actions and expenditures for the Cold War. Jews, blacks, Christians, witches, American Indians, have all been used as scapegoats to rally the masses against a common enemy and strengthen those in power.

However Hitler was really a bad guy. There have been other wackos throughout history who needed to be stopped and ignoring them was costly. I am not totally sure what is the real threat of Islam. After reading this book, though, I am a little more concerned that this could be a real problem. I am going to do more research to try to get an even clearer perspective. I would like to know what the Dalai Lama thinks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Glenwood Projects

I lived at 1736 Ralph Avenue from three to twenty-one. It was a six story building with five apartments on each floor, thirty apartments in all. There were forty building exactly like this in the Glenwood Projects, 1200 total families. Each family had approximately two children. There were at least 2500 kids in the projects and the homes surrounding the projects. I knew almost everyone of them. And because I was interested in people I knew them more than superficially.

This was a tremendous educational experience for me. I learned to deal with all types of personalities and temperaments. Every type you could imagine was represented in this mix. Brilliant musicians and aggressive bullies. Super athletes and flaming homosexuals. Beautiful women and deformed Mongoloids. There were seven foot giants and four foot midgets. There were those who died in Vietnam, in car crashes, from suicides, or fatal diseases. Some ended up in jail; many more who should have, but never got caught. There were those who dropped out of school in elementary school and others who ended up with PHDs. There were kind and generous kids, mean and selfish ones. There was someone who was talented in every possible activity you could consider; others whose sociopath proclivities were frightening. There were neurotics and psychotics, religious fanatics, and crusaders for all conceivable causes and movements.

My friend of fifty years, Campi, compiled some of the nicknames he remembered that might give you a flavor of the neighborhood:

Toes Fischer- (walked on his Toes)
Arnie the Gangster- (tough guy, or thought he was)
King Anthony- (ruled the lots around the projects)
Corny- (wore a Cornell sweatshirt)
Tuba- (professional gambler; announcer of all neighborhood sports events)
Ocky- (long arms flailing around)
Lennie the Beak- (obvious)
Tony the Bagel Man- (sold bagels; had sex with the project slut)
Mook- (hard core druggie)
Richie King (con man extraordinaire; worth a few blogs himself; real name forgotten)
Killer Cohen- (very gentle guy)
Stinky- (went out with my sister, became Hasidic Jew)
Clarabelle- (fired bullets over Campi's head while he was filming porno film)
Big Took and Little Took- (athletes and gamblers)
Iggy Rats, Piggy, and Puppy
Harry the Horse- (father a cop; became a fugitive, also worth a few blogs)
Buck, Bucky, and Ducky
Beef, Bull, Buffalo, Goose, Snake, Beaver (became wealthy, interested in Roman civilization)
The Mayor- (stayed in his room for two years smoking pot and taking LSD, produced an incredible painting that if ever discovered by a future generation would be revered as a religious masterpiece.)
Walter Stringbean (on the thin side)
Dingleberry (female impersonator at age ten)
Paula Pineapple (nice pineapples)
Shtunk- (became a life insurance exec, probably never revealed nickname)
Instructor- (suspected of pedophilia, probably in jail)
Junior Sirico -(tough guy, frightening, supposedly killed a woman, became Paulie on the Sopranos)

I could go on, but you get the drift. The main point is even in a small one square mile neighborhood, there were all types of people. Our world is made up of billions of individuals. We each are unique but in a fundamental way connected. I learned early on that it was easier to survive when you were more accepting of differences, when you could make fun of each other and not hold on to it the next day. There were those in the neighborhood who were dangerous and needed to be restrained or rehabilitated, but the overwhelming majority were just unique characters with there own views and idiosyncrasies.

We have created a website,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Waiting for The Plumber

I am waiting for the plumber. Actually, my wife is; she's the one who made the appointment. He told her he would be here at 10:00. It's 10:45, no call, no plumber. This is typical. He'll probably get here around noon; he'll actually believe he's on time because he got held up at his last job--the one he should have completed yesterday.

Yesterday we bought a new grill: $300.0 plus delivery. The grill doesn't work. I can't get it started. I called Ace Hardware. The guy who handles the grills wasn't in. The guy who answered the call wasn't sure when he would be in. I told him we bought the grill because we were having a barbecue; we had invited ten people over. He said the grill guy would call as soon as he got in.

I said, "That's not the greatest customer service."

"He will do his best," he said.

Wells Fargo called me three times this week to check up on the status of our refinancing application. The first call, the guy asked, "Is this Ira Pollins.?"


"I'm sorry, I incorrectly dialed your number."


"I'm sorry; we're getting used to a new system. "

The next call was from a women who wanted to know if I had sent in our application.

"I sent it almost six weeks ago."

She paused. "Wait a minute," she said, and then she left me on a hold for seven minutes. Finally, she came back and told me that she saw that I had sent the application and that she was sorry for calling.

The final call was from another women. She said, "Is this Ira Pollins?"

"Yes, why do you keep calling me?"

"This is the first time I'm calling you."

"Not specifically you. Why does Wells Fargo keep calling me?"

"I have no idea. I see here you applied for a new loan. Is that correct?"

"That is correct. Can you please tell me the status of the loan."

"I have no idea. I don't handle that."

"Then why did you call me?"

"I was checking up to see how you felt about the service you were getting."

I didn't know what to say.

I wonder: does this stuff only happen to me?

I don't think so. The degree of inefficiency and lack of organization in business and government is staggering. Hardly anyone can be counted on to meet their commitments . No one calls you back when they say they will. No one shows up on time. No one cares whether or not you are satisfied. I might be exaggerating a little, but not much.

I was having an e-mail conversation with my nephew, Eric, which is unusual for me. I am not used to e-mail conversations. He is frustrated. After graduating from Columbia Law School and working for a top law firm he was laid off after six months of doing nothing. Now he can't seem to find a new job. He's taking it personally as if it were a reflection on him. He is bright, articulate, and personable. He really is outstanding in many ways. I was trying to explain to him that the business world is so screwed up that he should not take it personally. It was hard for him to accept this.

This is why I am concerned about the Obama Stimulus package. Seven hundred billion dollars is now loose in a system that is already out of control, and we've released it to the people who allowed it to get that way. C'mon, how much confidence can we have that this money will be used wisely?

Actually, all this is good for me. I am a consultant. I solve problems. I teach people how to be on time, why it is important to meet their commitments, and the importance of good customer service. Unfortunately, I have a few loose ends myself. In the last hour, while waiting for the plumber, I misplaced my glasses, couldn't find the receipt for the grill we bought, spilled coffee. I can't remember who I promised to call this morning. I think it was an important call.

God help us.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How is Obama Doing

How is Obama doing? I spoke to two close friends about this in the last 24 hours. One felt that the world was in terrible shape and that Obama was a real hope. The other felt that the world is in bad shape and Obama is destroying America. This is a tricky question. How is Obama doing?

First of all one might ask does it matter? It could be that politicians are all the same and that what they do does not affect the future of our society. It could be that there are other forces that are controlling our future and that politicians, including Obama, are influenced by these forces. These forces might include the collective consciousness of the American people and of the world population, forces that are aligned to whatever or whomever created us, astrological or other planetary influences, spiritual forces, evolutionary forces, forces of history and destiny, or other forces that we that we may not be aware of.

If Obama and/or other politicians are just puppets or actors in a theater of some unknown creator than we need to ask another question How are things going in the world? Are they improving? Are they getting worse? I will save this question for another time and get back to the question about Obama.

For arguments sake let us assume that it does matter how Obama is doing and that his actions do have an impact on the state of our world. Lets evaluate him on his economic actions, his foreign affairs actions, and the state of mind of the American people, our mood since he has taken over as President.

The question of the mood of America is obviously subjective and personal. In this matter, from my point of view there is an improved state of mind in the U.S. with Obama. There are many people who don't like him and feel that he too socialist and too soft on terrorism, but, for the most part, I believe that the majority of Americans are positive towards him and what he is doing. This might change if the economy gets much worse or some unforeseen crises occurs, but right now, May 8,2009 at 3:14 PM with the dow up over 150 points, the weather getting nicer, and the Swine Flu fears declining, the American state of mind is improved and improving.

In regard to the economy my opinion about Obama is not as favorable. I believe he has a viewpoint that the Government should help the people. I agree with that. I believe that he feels that the way we can help the people is through stimulating the economy by giving trillions of dollars to various programs and individuals. I also agree with this. What I am not sure of is whether or not he is effectively managing the distribution of this money. I have been involved with two programs that have been impacted by Obama's actions. One concerns mortgage adjustments and the other concerns energy conservation. Both seem a little out of control to me.

I am also not sure how clearly he sees the mathematical impact of his programs on future generations or even of its effect over the next ten years. It is one thing to have the noble idea that we must help everyone as much as possible in the fairest way possible. It is another thing to understand , from a numbers point of view, what is the best way to accomplish this in the long run. Obviously, in the short run, when you give away a lot of money this will have a positive effect, but I'm just not sure of the long term implications.

In regard to Obama's handling of foreign affairs and his effect on the world situation I am more positive. The most important goal at this time in world affairs is to prevent nuclear war. This is an unacceptable outcome. There are other important goals including fighting poverty, disease, discrimination, and crime.

I think that Obama has a deeper understanding of the big picture and a vision of how the world should be that is at a high level. He understands that we must learn to get along with each other. He realizes that the rhetoric about the danger of America showing weakness is true up to a point. We cannot put ourselves in a dangerous or precarious situation where our security is threated. However we must speak to our enemies and try to work out solutions with them until it becomes apparent that there is no hope and that they are an imminent threat to our safety. In addition we must conduct ourselves as a country in a way that commands the respect and admiration of all the world's people. I believe that Obama is on board with this thinking.
And I have some confidence in his handling foreign affairs.

All in all I would give him a B-. I am a hard grader, and he still hasn't proven himself to deserve any higher. He has shown me though some encouraging signs.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Breaking Free from Imaginary Suffering

My wife got laid off yesterday. My sister called; her daughter, my niece, was getting divorced. The big question was what should we tell our mother? Neither of these events were surprising, but my mother has a hard time handling bad news. She would not admit this, but she does tend to magnify problems a little out of proportion. It seems as you get older you should be able to handle whatever happens in life with ease. No one escapes life without pain, suffering, and sorrow, unless they are incapable of feeling anything. The longer you live the more accustomed and experienced you should become in handling difficult times.

One of my most influential teachers, Georges Gurdjieff, a Russian mystic who lived in the early part of the twentieth century, speaks of "conscious labor and intentional suffering" as a means to personal development. He divides suffering into different categories. He speaks of unavoidable suffering that occurs when we we suffer a loss of someone close, or when we or someone we care about is in real pain. We need to deal with this type of suffering as best we can. It's not easy.

Then there is imaginary suffering. This is the most common type of suffering; it's the source of many of the problems in the world. Imaginary suffering is created when our realistic or unrealistic desires are not met. Simply, when we don't get what we want or what we think we deserve. This suffering is part of the programming we undergo as we grow. The amount of imaginary suffering we deal with in our lives is mostly dependent on how we were treated as children and how we were taught to deal with adversity, with not getting our way.

It is difficult to separate unavoidable suffering from imaginary suffering. Both are painful. For some, imaginary suffering is what gives life meaning. It is what makes them feel alive. These people actually thrive on suffering; they love to share it with others. All of us probably have met someone like this or been like this at some point in our lives. But to be happy we need to sacrifice our suffering, our imaginary suffering. Just give it up, see it for what it is.

One of the ways to give up our imaginary suffering is through "conscious labor" and "intentional suffering": putting ourselves in difficult situations; moments when we need to stretch ourselves past our comfort point either physically, emotionally, or mentally. It's putting effort into things that are especially difficult for us. This might include exercise, dieting, gardening, reading, not talking as much, asking our boss for a raise, telling someone how we really feel about them.

The more we choose suffering (activities that force us to break the chains of our existing patterns) the less imaginary suffering we will experience. This is real work, but it has a big payoff. It is a very difficult concept to understand, though, because we love our suffering as much as we love our comfort.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Continuing Adventures of Stanley

Stanley was obsessed with sex. I know most men are, but maybe because of his handicaps Stanley was especially dominated by thoughts of sex and sexual fantasies. Stanley was fearless, absolutely unfazed by rejection. He would ask nearly every girl he met, in the nicest and most unassuming way, if she might be interested in having sex with him. Some did; he asked a lot of women. Not only did he approach every women, he enlisted friends to be on the lookout for any available woman.

Stanley was relentless; he pursued any woman who did not absolutely say, No. If you mentioned you might know someone he bugged you relentlessly about the meeting. Stanley had more than the average number of unusual relationships; not surprising, when you consider that, in many ways, he was not the type who would attract the average woman.

Stanley's mother was his matchmaker. She was totally devoted, as only a mother could be, to Stanley's happiness. She finally found the perfect woman for Stanley. Jewish. Well educated. From a nice family. She had one flaw; maybe a plus for the relationship. She had a rare eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, that made her essentially blind.

Stanley's mother had been working on the introduction for a while. The girl was from Maryland, which made logistics a little difficult. Finally, the girl's mother brought her daughter to Lancaster to meet Stanley. Stanley's primary concern, even on the first date, was how he could get this women alone. He called me and asked if he could babysit for my three year old son, Scott--a perfect ploy for getting the girl alone; alone in a one bedroom apartment with a wall separating the bedroom into two parts.

My wife and I agreed to pick up Stanley and his new girl, bring them to our house, and then announce after Scott was asleep that we would be going out for a few hours. We left the two of them alone, although we did have concerns about Scott. What if he woke up and needed something?

"There's nothing to worry about," Stanley said.

"I can handle anything," the girl said.

We drove around Lancaster aimlessly for two hours. Then we went home.

We walked in. Scott was up; he was running around wildly. Stanley was laying on our bed completely nude. His girl friend, also nude, was on the other side of the wall staggering around. We didn't know what she was doing.

We asked her what was happening. She told us Scott had woken up. He had come into their room, stole their clothes, and hid them throughout the house. She could not get Stanley out of the bed; she could not find the clothes.

We found the clothes, got Stanley dressed, and took him and his girl friend back to Stanley's house. The mothers asked, "How was the date?

"Went well," I said. "This could be the start of something big."

Stanley never saw the girl again. He said the sex was better than average. Which meant to me that not getting together was definitely her decision, not his.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rising Above Handicaps

I met Stanley in 1971. He was about 5'4" with dark black afro; he was also crippled and deformed. He had polio when he was young; his legs and arms were nearly useless. He could walk, but he needed help navigating stairs or standing up. Because of his handicap, his mind had developed in a unique way. For him walking across a room was a challenge; it had to be thought through. Any activity requiring the use of his arms, hands, or legs, needed to be carefully planned. We take movement for granted, give no thought to simple tasks like eating, writing, or getting in and out of a car. Stanley had to consciously determine how to accomplish the most simple tasks. This required a form of thinking much different than the average person. It forced him to see the world differently, in much greater detail, so that he could avoid problems that we never have to face.

Stanley was a self proclaimed architect and builder. He actually was brilliant He could design and build almost any structure in his mind. My wife , son Scott, and I had just moved into a small, one-bedroom apartment. Scott was two years old, sleeping with us in our bedroom. Stanley thought it would be to our advantage to build a wall in the room partitioning it into two areas. It seemed like a good idea. I had no clue how to even begin. Stanley said he would direct me.

For the next three days, one of the most incredible experiences of my life, Stanley and I merged into one person. He was the brains and I was the body. He controlled every movement that I made and this complicated wall actually was built; it was a perfect structure dividing the room.

We went to the lumber yard first. Stanley directed every movement of my hands so that I sawed the exact sizes of lumber we needed. We then went to the hardware store, bought additional materials: tools, nuts, bolts, and screws. Stanley knew exactly what was needed. He then stood next to me for hours and hours, orchestrating every minute movement of my hands. I hammered and assembled the different sizes of wood and accoutrements. I built the wall with an artistic flair.

I am the least mechanical person imaginable. I am absolutely horrible at any form of art or craft. But with Stanley positioning my body and explaining to me exactly how far back to raise the hammer, how to stand at the right angle to leverage my movements, we built the sucker. Everything went smoothly--as long as I did not think. My only effort was an engaged attention, a total subservience, to Stanley's guidance.

I did it. I physically created this structure. And it shocked me. Imagine Leonardo Da Vinci directing every movement of your hands, fingers, and body; imagine you replicated a Mona Lisa. That was how I felt. Magical.

There is a lesson here about what is possible with teamwork, if each team member truly understands their role and trusts each other. There is a lesson about how your life circumstances cause you to see things from different perspectives, how each perspective, although different, has validity and needs to be respected and valued. But mostly for me there was the lesson of watching Stanley, a truly noble spirit rising above the most difficult of challenges time and again in ways that would have seemed impossible to me if I had not observed them first hand.

Stanley died recently. Post Polio Syndrome caught up with him and just prevented him from continuing to breathe. He was married and had three children. He created two businesses. He had travelled extensively around the world. He truly was a remarkable character.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Who Should We Believe

The stock market was up big today, over two hundred points. Many of the economic indicators are showing signs of bottoming. The rates of decline in housing and unemployment seem to be slowing. Consumer sentiment is improving. Is this the beginning of a recovery or just a period of calm before an even bigger downturn? The truth is no one knows for sure.

Why is that? With all our technological wizardy, advanced mathematical thinking, and ability to create economic models that consider thousands of variables why is it that we don't really know what our situation will be three months from now. I believe that there are those who do know but they're not talking and if they are no one is listening to them.

The ones whose opinion we do listen to are those who have an agenda to promote. The stock market bulls tell us that the market will be going up, probably to 10,000 before year's end. The bears tell us we will retest the lows and may even go lower than that. The politicians in power are optimistic and believe that we have turned the corner. The out of power politicians warn us about an upcoming inflationary spiral fueled by the out of control spending of the existing administration. The historians tell us that we have always had these cyclical downturns and that they are always followed by significant booms. Futurists believe that the world is entering a new paradigm in which the old patterns no longer apply.

What are we to do amidst all these confusing and contradictory opinions ? How are we to live our lives? First of all we can't take any of it too seriously. We can look to some of our philsophers and poets to gain some perspective. Einstein tells us that "reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one."

Joni Mitchell sings, "I've looked at life from both sides now. From win and lose and still somehow. It's life illusions I recall. I still don't know life at all."

Mark Twain gave this advice over a hundred years ago. I think it still applies. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail off from the safe harbor. Explore. Dream. Discover"

How about Robert Frost's comment about life. "In three words I can sum up everything I learned about life. It goes on."

Will Rogers adds his two cents. "Half our life is spent finding something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

We do have some choice in the matter about who and what to believe. We can listen to those with an axe to grind with a desire to convince us that they know or we can follow those whose goal was to find the truth. If we look in that direction we see that it is not important to predict what will happen tomorrow but learn how to live today.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Esoteric Decisionmaking

It's very difficult to make decisions regarding important matters. I consider important matters to be those that impact your life, those that involve change. People who easily make decisions usually do so out of impatience, boredom, laziness, or, in most cases, fear of the consequences of doing nothing. This is why most of the important decisions are made when we are young and don't know, don't think, or don't care.

One reason that real decisionmaking is rare is that when we get old enough to make an important decision we recognize how poor we are at predicting outcomes, how afraid of being wrong. Also, we are more content living in known conditions (even if they are less than ideal) than experiencing the unknown. Decisionmaking assumes there is a choice involved; for the most part, as we get older, we become more crystallized in our views and real choice is impossible.

Understanding our inability to make real decisions is critical to our personal development, to our ultimate freedom. Real understanding is not just an intellectual knowledge of the meaning of the words. It is also an emotional feeling that resonates within us, stirs us to want to do something. I believe that if we really understand our situation, and our inability to choose what we really want, except when it is accidentally thrust upon us, then we might develop the necessity required for real decisionmaking. We will not want to live one more moment in a state of slavery.

This is a basic idea within the esoteric tradition. It is fundamental to any understanding of spirituality. Spirituality has nothing to do with God, Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons, or the existence of an afterlife. These are topics for discussion; they may be as enjoyable to some as playing Sudoku or rooting for your favorite team. Spirituality is, simply, work on yourself. This work, in the beginning, requires seeing your existing condition, and then as you understand what you, your friends and family, and the world are up against, developing the necessity, the energy and the will for change.

I believe that we are living in a time that is going to require real decisionmaking. Catering to the whims of the masses, doing what is popular, change for change sake, and seeing possibilites as either/or rather than as parts of a larger spectrum of choices will not help us. We need to break free from our existing patterns of thought and action. Actually, I believe, from what I have been taught, and what makes sense, that only a small amount of us need to become real decisionmakers.

It would be valuable if those that see the truth of this can recognize each other and work together. This transcends geography, race, religion, sex, economic class, age, or any of the other ways we classify each other. It is not about forming groups or joining organizations. Those who are interested in real work and willing to let go of those existing beliefs that separate us can make this happen each day in their own small way, in their own lives, with whomever they contact. The consequences of this can be incredible.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Preakness and the Great Stamp Caper

I was considering continuing my discussion on successful consulting. Then I remembered today's the Kentucky Derby; my mind drifts towards horse racing. The Kentucky Derby's a big deal, the first leg of the Triple Crown, which includes the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. The Triple Crown is special, more than a series of gambling events. Each race has a special significance for me; each brings back a story...

When I first moved to Lancaster, PA. I had very few friends. Lancaster seemed like a different world; being a typical New Yorker, I thought all people from Lancaster were hicks. I thought that people from Lancaster's IQs were at least 15 points lower than New Yorkers'. People from Philadelphia were a little smarter; their IQs were only 5-10 points lower. I later came to believe that people from New Orleans had the lowest IQs of all.

After living away from New York years I now see: it's not a low IQ, but a different a view of reality. New Yorkers have a broader, less superstitious view. They're less naive and their cynicism, although obnoxious, enables them to see the world a little more clearly.

One of the friends I met in Lancaster thought he was more sophisticated than the average Lancaster native. He felt he was more like a New Yorker. I took him into the NYC. He immediately threw up. The energy made him dizzy, disoriented. We bonded, though, on two levels: drugs and gambling. He believed he could make money handicapping. He asked me If I wanted to go to the Preakness Stakes with him, at Pimlico Race Track in Maryland.

We took the bus.

On the way back, after a losing day, he explained to me why today was not a good reflection of his handicapping ability. He then told his plan for making money. He was a truck driver. He drove mostly short term routes in Pennsylvania. One of his assignments was to carry bales of stamps from the Post Office in Lancaster to Harrisburg. Each bale, a giant role consisting of $6000.00 worth of stamps. He told me that the day before, a Friday afternoon, he had intentionally dropped one of the bales on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on his way to Harrisburg. He had noted the mile marker where he dropped it; he later found it, loaded it in his car, and brought it back to his house.

"Do you know anyone in New York interested in buying stamps?" he asked.

Who robs stamps from the Post Office?

And then expects to sell it on the black market?

I tried to explain: it might be difficult to sell "hot" stamps; also, he was the most likely suspect, at least when it was determined that the stamps were missing.

He wasn't concerned. No one saw him do it; they wouldn't miss the stamps. This was Saturday afternoon, a day after he had stolen the stamps.

Monday afternoon he called me. The FBI had just left his house. They had questioned him about some missing stamps. He was the last one known to have had contact with them. He was freaked out. He wanted to know if I would help him. It was a rainy day; he had a great idea. He would drive his truck with the stolen stamps to the Lancaster Post Office late that night, dump the stamps in the back of the Post Office, run over them with the truck, then leave. In the morning someone would find the stamps. Then they would easily figure the stamps had fell off the truck. He'd be off the hook. He wanted me to go with him, to keep him company.

I'm usually a loyal friend. But this was asking a little too much. I told him I couldn't do it. I wished him luck. I didn't speak to him for a few months. The next time I saw him he had become a Jehovah Witness and was going door to door preaching imminent world destruction.

"What happened with the stamps?" I asked.

"God saved me."

I saw his wife about six months later. She was a very nice women and had also become a Jehovah Witness. They had just had a baby. She told me that he had disappeared and hadn't seen him for a while. I never saw him again. I think about this story occasionally, usually at the time of a Triple Crown event.

My story about the Belmont Stakes is outrageous...

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Successful Consultant

I started this blog to build credibility for myself and my ideas so that I could market my seminars. I intended to write about esoteric and spiritual principles; how they could be applied to business situations. However, whenever I sat down at the computer I had other thoughts I wanted to express. Today, I am going to focus on business; I want to offer some of my secrets on how to be a successful consultant (SC).

I've been a successful consultant. Most consultants use consulting as a way to get a job, or as a bridge between jobs. I actually have worked as a consultant for forty years; during this time, I have worked with over two hundred different companies of all sizes. In most of my assignments I've worked directly with presidents or owners of small to medium sized businesses. Most chief executives have similar problems even though they feel they are unique; that they need someone experienced in their industry to understand what is required to help them.

The basic problems I have observed include the following:

1- Businesses do not present their offering clearly.

2- The owners have never considered what they really want from their business.

3- The employees are not clear what is expected of them. They fall into habitual patterns of activity; their results are not nearly what they could or should be but are enough so that they can keep their jobs.

4-The top executives are unsatisified with their employees; the employees feel the top executives don't listen.

5-When things are going well, owners attribute their success to their efforts and skills. When things are going bad, they attribute the downturn to forces beyond their control.

6-Change is nearly impossible because everyone in a company feels they don't have enough time to do their existing job, let alone add more or new responsibilities.

7-Appearances are given more value than substance so that the better looking, better liked and more confident employees are overvalued while the quieter, more reliable plodders are undervalued.

8-More emphasis is placed on seeing what's wrong with each department or employee than searching for hidden abilities and strengths.

9-An incredible amount of time and money is wasted in meetings, programs, projects, initiatives, conversations, and report. There is very little understanding of what is a productive activity. (an activity that actually results in more money being made.)

10-The importance of preserving physical, emotional, and intellectual energy is not understood. In the final analysis, results that can be controlled depend on the collective energy of employees. Lip service is given to physical and psychological health, but not enough effort is focused on maintaining or improving overall health and vitality.

I could go on indefinitely. There is no shortage of problems. Matter of fact, it is surprising to me that companies do as well as they do. The successful consultant learns to point out these problems directly and clearly in a way that doesn't alienate or offend the owners. The SC works shoulder to shoulder with the key individuals to make breakthroughs in their attitudes and behavior. The SC does not present long reports or detailed analyses. The SC does not give the appearance of working long and hard; the SC actually makes a difference. It is rare to find a SC. If you know anyone who needs one have them call me.