Monday, March 29, 2010

The Antidote to the FOX Toxin

Prescription: Colbert

In my last post I highlighted the transition from greed to fear in those who seek to retain the status quo. My point was that since greed has stopped working, fear has become the next stop; the status quo needs you to be afraid in order to sustain itself.

There are very active supporters of the status quo, and they are fear-mongering regularly. Are there things "out there" that might be worrysome? Of course. Are they the ones the fear-mongers are pointing to? Mostly not.

How do we know this? Well, the old fashioned way - by picking apart their arguments and examining their basis.

Fortunately, we don't have to work too hard to accomplish this task. We have folks who will do this for us. Pre-eminent among them is Stephen Colbert. In case you haven't discovered him, Colbert has a 30-minute television show on Comedy Central that is a frightfully funny parody of the "Right Wing Agenda". It's especially useful in scrutinizing the tactics of the Right because it unapologetically and enthusiastically reiterates the talking points of the Right, under the spotlight. What emerges is a (painfully, tragically) funny illumination of the role of fear in the storyline of the the Right. (And if you watch it long enough, you'll see the waning influence of greed in that canon as well.)

Colbert takes the talking points (at 10:00 or so for a simple example, and again at 13:00) and extends them into absurdity. Unfortunately, he doesn't have to work very hard to get there. Often times he just needs to say them verbatim, back-to-back, and with an undisguised "patriotic" arrogance. He exposes the talking points as the worst form of propaganda, and shows how ordinary, less-educated Americans are hoodwinked into accepting this foul wind as Truth. Fear is easier to instill in those who haven't lived among diversity, those who haven't experienced a big slice of the breadth of human experience. Arrogance is the insulator that enables us to avoid looking carefully at our own perspectives, prejudices, and foibles.

If you look honestly at the agenda of the Right, it's heavy on Arrogance, a champion of Ignorance, and funded by the wealthy. Suddenly, the source of "The Ugly American" becomes clear: Ignorance and Arrogance, combined with wealth.

Colbert exposes both Ignorance and Arrogance as tools of the Right, and while at times I feel sick to my stomach by the revelation, I laugh. Hopefully, laughter is the best medicine.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The FOX Toxin

When Greed Fails, Turn to Fear

(Warning: Rant, no pictures.)

These are terrifying times. Particularly terrifying for "The Establishment", because the world that was built on the old foundations is passing away.


Because greed isn't working any more. Not like it used to. Greed used to feel good. Greed used to produce "growth". Greed used to help us raise our standard of living.

And make no mistake. It worked for a very, very long time. It worked throughout the vast history of western civilization (with brief interruptions where, it seemed, nothing worked very well at all - but that's another story). It was the fundamental force in the emergence of agriculture, domestication of animals, clearing of forests, etc., etc. Thom Hartmann makes this point in his tour de force, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.

And it was certainly the fundamental force behind the industrial revolution, mass production, and modern western capitalism. (Any arguments there from FOX?)

But the seeds of its destruction were sown at the very beginning, and we have The Epic of Gilgamesh as its seminal cautionary tale. The oldest (known) story set down in writing, it tells of Gilgamesh, a king in Mesopotamia, and Enkidu, a fierce and powerful "wild man" side-kick, who is seduced into abandoning his wild (primal) nature and power to join Gilgamesh's world. He becomes entangled with Gilgamesh's wild schemes, leading to tragedy and disaster.

It's a great read on its own, but here's the point: Gilgamesh decides that he needs more fulfillment, so he convinces Enkidu to go with him to the great cedar forest and chop down ALL the trees, bring them back, and enrich himself with fame and fortune.

The result is a brief period of fame for Gilgamesh and prosperity for his realm. But very shortly thereafter, Enkidu gets the shaft, and in the end curses the forces that tempted him away from his wild nature.

And Gilgamesh? He becomes filled with fear of death. His kingdom falls apart, and goes off looking for a way to become immortal.

Gilgamesh's greed is the source of all his troubles. It works for a while, but then fails.

When a culture strips its resources in the name of unsustainable growth (greed), the inevitable result is that the limits are reached, and the whole scheme stops working. What comes next is fear.

Here we are. The greed mongers are up against a wall of their own making. We've been operating unsustainably for a very very long time. But the planet has now gotten VERY small. There's no place left to rape and pillage. Or, perhaps more accurately, we're starting to feel the hangover despite the fact that we're still drinking heavily. The cedars are chopped down; the reckless partying is over.

We're all on one hellacious bender, and many of us are realizing we have to stop. That next drink just doesn't satisfy. We're getting (in every way imaginable) sick of it. But the FOX-aligned take their addiction very seriously. They would rather black out, because the alternative is too frightening. Their way of life might have to die.

So to make sure they can keep drinking, they're trying to fill the rest of us with fear. If we STOP drinking, everything we know will pass away. "We can't stop or we'll all DIE!"

Their fear of loss has become a fear of death, and they want you to feel it too. Nobody that tortured and afraid faces death with equanimity. And once the collective hallucination - the illusion - is broken, they can't pretend that their addiction is "normal". They'll have to change.

So they will keep trying to make the rest of us afraid. Greed, their former currency, has lost its value. Fear is the new coin of the modern realm, and Gilgamesh walks among us, rending his clothes and seeking immortality.

Me, I'm trying to resuscitate Enkidnu, and see if I can get him to remember how magical his life was in the woods.

Next: The Antidote

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Practicing One's Craft for the Sheer Joy of It

Ready...Set...OK, GO!

I'm neck-deep in a project, so I'll (try to) be brief.

I'm working really hard to learn Final Cut Pro because I want to produce some video shorts and expand my efforts at self-expression to include film. As with any worthwhile endeavor, there's a learning curve. And with any passion, there's a willingness to commit long hours.

I pulled an all-nighter last night trying to master FCP. I want to create a finished-looking DVD of Romeo & Juliet from the multi-camera filming we did on consecutive nights last week of the performances. Broken Box Theatre Company did an AMAZING job. Kudos to the players and their fantastic director, Ms. Nancy Moran.

I know what I'm doing, but I don't really know what I'm doing -- yet. It's been quite a challenge to master the complexity and power of FCP, but I'm really in to it. It's cool, even though it's painful. There's an old French saying:
Pain is the craft entering the apprentice...


But the payoff is quite joyful. To wit, here's a music video. I defy you to watch this video and not be both fascinated and tickled.

It's an absolute certainty that these folks worked hard on this product. Its, what, four minutes long? But I bet they loved every hour of the days and weeks it must have taken, and the four minutes of finished product, along with the joy of practicing their craft to create it, makes it all worthwhile. We should all be so lucky (or so committed to our passions to pursue them con brio).

Back to the editing station, because it's a labor of love. There's no better kind.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Of Cards and Bridges...

King of Hearts beats Jack of Diamonds Every Time

Jack, Jack
I can't go back
To riches
from pain.

King, King,
My heart must sing,
My Destiny
to gain.
It appears that this is resolve testing week. And not a moment too soon.

I have received several indicators (not exactly offers; let's call them invitations) to walk back into my previous life. A friend sent me an email regarding his newly established high-tech company, and he asked me to lunch "if you'd like to talk about it."

I also received an email from an outfit that has invited me to be an "expert resource" for their clients to call and discuss high-tech stuff in my areas of expertise. Paid by the hour, name your rate.

Both of these offers play to my long and established record. I could bring value, and I could be compensated.

So what's the problem? I thought at first that it was because they played to my ego. I looked at the "application form" for the consulting gig for about 20 minutes yesterday, considering how I would characterize myself.

But last night, as I went to bed, I was unsettled. Something was still bothering me. And then the little ditty popped into my head.

"Jack, Jack, you can't go back..."

One of the problems with a bridge is that it works in both directions.

In past attempts at striking out on my own, I always new that if I wasn't successful, I could fall back on the demand for my skills in high-tech. And in some way, that option sabotaged my efforts. It allowed me to be lazy and unfocused. Undisciplined. I watched it happen. My resources were spent, often with little to show for it. My attitude seemed to be, "Eh. Easy come, easy go. When it's gone, it's gone."

But it wasn't "Easy come..." It was just "Easy to go back."

This time feels different. The bridge is still there, but when I look back over it, I get sick.

The Norse rune Kano, reversed, counsels "gladly giving up the old and being prepared to live for a time empty. Develop inner stability and do not be seduced by the momentum of old ways while waiting for the new to become illuminated in their proper time."*
Much as been said of the King of Hearts. He's supposedly "The Suicide King", because it looks like he's plunged the sword into his head.

Is it suicide we're seeing? Or is he silencing his rational ego, his internal critic, so that he can listen more closely to his heart and his intuition?

I know that burning bridges behind you is not supposed to be smart. But right now I'm looking for gasoline and some dynamite.

*From The Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Everyday Choices

To Pie, or Not to Pie...

Every day I'm confronted with choices. Sometimes a few, sometimes hundreds.

I say that I want to do "the right thing". And if I listen honestly to myself, usually the right thing is pretty easy to figure out - I'm talking about on the most basic level.

And yet it's so easy to ignore the messages.

My lungs say, "I need you to take us out for a run." And all the other parts say, "Yeah, great idea, but...later."

My muse says, "Write!"; my mind says, "Sure, after you do a virus scan on this laptop. It sure is running slow."

Somehow, things seem to sneak in to make "the right choice" just a little bit harder. In the end, it really is my choice, and there are no excuses.

Not that I have anything against pie, mind you -- in fact, quite the contrary.
I just wonder, why is it that the choice always seems to sneak around to become, "Lemon pie, or cherry pie?",

when it starts out as "Pie, or no pie?"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do I Have Enough? Of What?

The Way of Power

I'm ready to be doing something; something different and soulful and genuine. But I'm having a hard time, because I'm scared.

I left my "regular" life/job in November, to embark on a new journey.

I sense with a great surety that I'm supposed to be here, in this moment. I've consulting my spiritual guides and tool kits, and I've been given the high sign to invest in my true self, my higher purpose.

I've been through a crucible of transformation; a ferocious tempering forge, from the events of the last few years.
I've been taught great lessons about my own personal sovereignty by the Monarch Butterfly and by the Deer.
They tell me it is time to ascend to the throne of my own life, and take responsibility for all of myself.

Through deep conversations with Fear, and the counsel of my spirit teachers, I've been taught great lessons about mastery; that control is an illusion, and the only true protection is to choose "right action", and dance the dance of my life with the impeccability of a warrior.
I've been shown by the beautiful Power Deck tarot how doubt destroys intuition, and how creativity needs a garden in which to thrive.
Dagaz, the rune of transformation, and The Blank Rune, the rune of the Unknowable, have counseled me accept nothing less from myself than an empty-handed leap into the void.
The Hopi prophecy counsels us to let go of the river bank. To float down stream and see what and who we find there.
From Carlos Castenada writings, I have learned that there comes a time, when you are truly prepared, that you look upon the great book of your life. The page on the left is filled with the gifts of your life experience. Filled with training. Filled with learning. Filled with experiences and guidance and strength and discipline and techniques and skills. This page represents your "reason".

And the page on the right -- the next page -- is blank. This page is your "will". And to truly step into one's power, one has to leave the left page behind. To own it, accept it, appreciate it, breathe it in. And then to breathe it out, let it go, and leap.

I think this is where I am. I'm staring at the book. The left page is full.

Do I have enough? Enough tools? Enough experience? Enough skills? Enough mastery?

Enough money?

What if I can't do it? What if I'm a failure? What happens if I have nothing to show for all of my efforts?

What if this exercise brings me ruin?

There is no way to decide that one has "enough". In the end, it's not about having enough of anything.

I think it's about deciding where to place one's trust. Trust takes courage.

I think this is how a fledgling hawk feels when it no longer fits in its parents' nest.

I'm going to trust that I'll learn to fly.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are You Open Minded? Are You SURE?

Hearts and Minds, Swords and Mirrors

According to Christopher Joyce of NPR, in his article Belief In Climate Change Hinges On Worldview, we're not as open-minded as we'd like to believe.

From the article:
Dan Kahan, a law professor at Yale University and a member of The Cultural Cognition Project says people test new information against their preexisting view of how the world should work.

The operative word here is "should".

"If the implication, the outcome, can affirm your values, you think about it in a much more open-minded way," he says.

And if it doesn't?

It's headed for the trash can -- mostly out of fear. "Basically the reason that people react in a close-minded way to information is that the implications of it threaten their values."

Huh. Isn't that interesting.

Whether the world actually works the way you think it does or not, you fit the data to what you believe about the world. Not whether it fits your (or anyone else's) empirical data or even experience. Your VALUES.

To quote Mark Twain, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

This finding sheds some interesting light on why trying to change people's hearts is more effective than trying to change their minds.

There's another side to this coin, too.

The saying,
"I'll believe it when I see it,"
is actually the wrong way around, because the truth is,
"I'll see it only after I believe it's possible."
A double-edged sword, it cuts both ways. We can be deluded by our values into seeing what isn't there. And we can be prevented by our ignorance and prejudice from seeing what really IS there.

What's even more interesting to me is that how you see yourself impacts how you see the world. That may sound abstract, but here's where the rubber meets the road:
The participants tended to believe the message that came from the person they considered to be more like them.

So, how do you see yourself? As open? Closed? Certain? Doubtful? Are you kind and compassionate? Are you afraid? Are you aggressive? Are you weak?

Here's an interesting test. Take a look at what you believe in. Take a look at who you listen to on those topics. Then look at the messenger, and make an assessment.

That's an interesting mirror, now, isn't it?

The article ends with a "what to do about it" theme, which is useful enough. Kahan says, "The goal can't be to create a kind of psychological house of mirrors so that people end up seeing exactly what you want. The goal has to be to create an environment that allows them to be open-minded."

That's a challenge in dissolving dualism, so that we don't see ourselves as "different" or separate from one another or the universe. (A topic for another day.)

But I'd like to end somewhere a little different.

It's not about them and what they believe or what they do to try to get you to believe. No sir. It's about you.

Find the mirrors that enable you to see yourself clearly.

Then decide whether you like what you see. Change what you don't like.

And when you change yourself, you'll change the world.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Girl Effect

The world is a mess. Most of us feel powerless to change it. But we're not powerless, and there are those out there who can show us what to do. You and I can join them, and it's easy to do.

I'm going to be brief, and encourage you to visit The Girl Effect and learn more.

In October, I read Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. It had a huge impact on me.

I then requested Half the Sky (Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn) as a Christmas gift. It's gripping.

I've also been researching micro-finance, (see Mentors International, Kiva, and MicroPlace. I discovered that the most effective use of micro-loans (in terms of creating positive social impact) and the most reliable way to lend it (in terms of getting prompt repayment) is to lend the money to women.

If you are interested in really changing the planet, visit The Girl Effect. Browse YouTube starting here.

Read all the facts. Here's just one: When girls and women earn income, the reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40% for a man.
See development through the prism of gender, and be stunned by how much can be done with how little.

Women hold up half the sky. Are we allowing them to?

Are we helping them to?

If not, we cause the sky to sag, indeed to fall.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What the Weeds Whispered

The other day I was meditating, in my shamanic way, and the oddest thing happened.

My vision was filled with weeds. Little ones. Big ones. Bunches. Weeds standing off by themselves.

And I saw them like you see below - the weeds that have taken up residence in between my back patio paving stones.

(OK, so there are a LOT of weeds in my patio pavers. It's that time of year in California, where the water comes out of the sky, and not out of the little black tubes that are on the timer, so things get crazy and a little out of hand out here.

But, I digress...)

The point is, in a shamanic journey, one sees weeds only if there is a message in them.

Ponder, ponder, as I stare at the waving weeds. WHAT am I supposed to learn? I see these scraggly scavengers, these insistent interlopers, and my first reaction is, "GOD, there's so many of them. How can anybody keep up?"

Tenacious weeds. Fiercely clinging to life, like Rambo holed up in a cave with a torch and an attitude.

And then, I get my own attitude adjustment.

They're not like Rambo. Not at all. They're not fierce or tenacious, really. They just "are".

They're doing their own thing, being their natural selves. They're enjoying the opportunity to express themselves. Practicing their craft, so to speak.

And here's the important part:

They don't ask anybody for permission.
And they don't need anybody's approval.

They do their thing with a simple joy and a community attitude of live and let live.

Sure, some get whacked, some get pulled, some get chopped, chipped, and chafed. But, to borrow from DH Lawrence, I never saw a wild weed sorry for itself. And an awful lot of them do OK. They grow, they flower, they leave a legacy. Without ever asking somebody more important for permission, or groveling for approval. They just go for it with a simple joy.

The lesson was suddenly clear.

The next day, I almost found my self rooting for this little guy. "You go for it, little buddy!"

He courteously replied,

"Why, thankye, Cap'n. I don't mind if I dooo!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Valentine

It's February; almost Valentine's Day.

The day is clear and cool in the valley.

But up on the ridge, it's misty, and mystical.

I plan a walk with a friend, although I often go alone.

Into the woods I'll go; always there,

There are friends that greet me.

Soothing trees. Rich, green moss. Open-hearted Mother.

Lots of Faery Folk, helping spirits, and wood nymphs.

And mushrooms. My little guiding friends.

Mushrooms with their crazy colors and happy demeanor,

Doing their work of breaking things down.

Time and again I start off along a trail, and am pulled aside by one of this colorful characters.

They lead me away from the beaten path, and into the woods, to surprising riches and secret treasures.

Today, my friend is late. I will be alone for a while.

I choose to explore down a trail as I wait for company.

And, lo, I am already not alone.
The Faery Folk are delighted to see me,

Peeking out from behind moss-covered stumps.

Riding the mist between the pine boughs and needles,

Their sheer joy and enthusiasm and acrobatics fill me with wonder.

And I walk along the trail some more.

And they catch my eye,

My little guides.

I follow one, off the trail, in my usual way,

Expecting a surprise, glee filling me like a child

(but never disappointed by what I find;
a child can always find treasure).

And there – in the distance, just there...

I go to investigate.

It is almost Valentines Day.

My lovely, loving spouse deserves a special gift.

And here it is...

The mushrooms and the Faery Folk say,

“Happy Valentine's Day,”

They would love to meet her, they say.

I will let her know.