“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.”
- Little Gidding II


Saturday January 31st, 2009

Do you believe in past lives? Chances are if you're Buddhist, Hindu, or are into so called "New Age" beliefs, you probably do. If you're Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, you probably don't. Either way, I think it's a question worth asking regardless of your spiritual leaning or chosen dogma. Is there an aspect of our being that survives physical death, an attribute of existence that allows us to transfer our consciousness into a new body and experience a new life as another person with the same soul?

In terms of reincarnation I am agnostic. I don't know one way or the other and I haven't found conclusive evidence one way or another. Sure, there's plenty of evidence for it in the form of thousands of case studies. Scientists have interviewed small children who have memories of other lives. Research into these memories has often found substantiating evidence for them. They have accurately relayed information they had no way of knowing via their five senses, that the information shared must be supernaturally gained. While this is strong evidence for past lives there is an alternate explanation. The memories they're wired into are not of a past life, they've psychically tuned into the memories of someone who's still living, now deceased, or alternately they have the ability to communicate with those who have passed over. The last alternative makes sense, especially if we consider that children who experience these kinds of memories haven't yet established a solid personality; they have not reached the psychological stage of development where they can consistently differentiate themselves from other living people so it wouldn't be surprising that they couldn't distinguish the memories of someone in the spirit world from their own. Still, there's no clear answer either way. The fact that these children only seem tuned into one soul that's passed over, not five or ten or a hundred (as is more typical of those who can speak with the departed) adds credence to the past life theory.

Hypnosis has long been a tool used to uncover past lives. Unfortunately hypnosis is misunderstood by the general public (and even mental health professionals who swear by it). While I agree that hypnosis can be an effective therapeutic tool, it is not consistently reliable for uncovering definitive information. It is, in my humble opinion, nothing more than a tool for creative exploration of the human psyche and more often than not does so metaphorically, that is, it provides information no more literal than that gained from our dreams.

Fortunately I remember at least one past life; the memory has been with me since I was a young child. I cannot scientifically prove it to be true, but this memory is as clear as any other I have, so concrete that I have spent many a night trying to remember more, with little to no success.

I'd just woken up. The bed I was laying in was made out of scrap wood, 2" x 4"s that were nailed together and I was wrapped in a single ratty blanket and my pillow was simple, old, and without a cover. For some reason the bed itself was raised several feet off the floor, perhaps because there were shelves or drawers underneath, though I wonder if there was a more functional reason for it's height such as to keep me safe from snakes or other natural dangers. The small house itself was a one room shack built from random junk like sheets of plywood and corrugated metal. I'd woken up because my father had just walked through the door which, needless to say, made a cacophony of noise when he entered. It didn't seem strange to me that he was dark skinned, the colour of someone who was Hispanic, nor did it seem out of place that my own hands and arms were dark too.

That is the memory in its entirety, the single snap shot I still have of another life in another home with another parent in another body. Did I psychically tune into someone else's life? Possibly. One thing is for sure. The likelihood of falsely creating this memory is incredibly low as I had little to no contact or understanding of anything like that. The town I grew up in was almost entirely white. Everyone in my church was white. Ninety-nine point nine percent of my peers were white as well and those that weren't, those few people of Hispanic or Native American background--how do I put this?--since my parents did not raise me to think about anyone in racial terms I didn't think about anyone in them, regardless of their colour (with the rare exception of someone who was the blackest of black as that was hard to ignore on a perceptual level; still, I didn't see them as any different than anyone else). Sure, I once found out that one of my babysitters, who had a son in the same grade as me, was Native American, but I never saw her as anything but just another every day regular Joe (or Joanne, in her case). On top of that I never saw or knew poverty was a reality for others until I was much older. Everyone, in my view, lived a life fairly similar to mine. All children had two parents, a two, three, or four bedroom house. Like me everyone else had enough food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even desert, every family had a tree surrounded by dozens and dozens of gifts come Christmas morning. That was what my life looked like, I had no reason to believe life could look any different.

The memory, this memory of myself as a small child with dark skin living in adverse poverty, was unlike anything I had experienced much less things I've seen on TV or in movies so it's stuck with me, my one little bit of data supportive of a past life. And yet, as I mentioned before, there's also the possibility that for some unknown reason I psychically tuned into the life of another child, alive or passed on at the time I first experienced the memory.

Over the years and in my search for supportive evidence I've asked several psychics, usually friends with special gifts, for their insight. Before I say much more I want to say that as an open minded skeptic I've been extraordinarily careful about what I share up front. I usually say something like, "Hey, I've got this memory of a past life. Would you be able to help me remember more of it or at the very least tune in and tell me what you see?" Only after hearing what they have to say do I share my memory. I do not, in any way, want to influence their words, even on a subconscious level, because I know that if I do I'll always doubt what they say regardless of how much my gut says, "That's right on, man!"

One psychic and therapist nodded her head and told me about another past life where I'd been an Egyptian priestess serving a temple that worshiped the Goddess Baste. Unfortunately the woman knew I had a life long love for cats so it's quite possible that she took this snippet of information and told me something I'd want to hear, something I'd be more likely to believe. Worse, as I got to know her better I saw her use this strategy of what I'd call "subconscious subterfuge" to manipulate me (and possibly other clients), leading them down the psychological pathway she wanted; she didn't seem interested in what was "right" on an objective or ethical level or what was best for me, but changing me to fit her personality (and while all therapists do this on some level I have never seen it so blatantly practiced by a professional in the field). On the other hand I've seen many an historical documentary on Egypt and in one I saw a temple where Baste was worshiped, I saw that long ramp climb up towards the cliff the temple was built into and unlike any other picture of any other place in Egypt, all places I'd love to visit some day, this one temple is the only one that feels familiar to me. The idea of walking up and down that ramp, of standing near the columns with torches burning all around me, lighting the night, does not seem extraordinary or strange. If I were to stand there now it would feel like I'd returned to somewhere I'd been, somewhere I belonged, doing something I believed in. Yet, sadly, I have no memories of this life nor the services I joined to worship that feline Goddess.

I have often wondered if I bought and kept a statue of Baste, would any of those memories come back to me? Perhaps that is an experiment I should try soon. I'll let you know when I do, especially if there's a positive result.

I have another friend who, like me, sometimes has visions of the future. She has another gift, the ability to see spirit guides. About nine years ago I was at her home in Salem and I asked her if she wouldn't mind talking to my spirit guides (I'll tell you about them sometime), see if she could tell me anything about my past lives, especially the one I have memories for. As mentioned my skeptical side prevented me from sharing anything besides the fact that I was interested in knowing more about that past life and what she told me was startling. She said I lived in Central America or Southern America (I don't recall) and that I'd lived in a make-shift shack outside a small village; this supports the house from my memory as well as the colour of my father and I. My mother had died early on and my father was my only family and he loved me more than anything in the world; that also conforms to my memory as I knew he was my only family, knew he would give his life for me; also the most valuable, well built and solid part of the shack was my bed which meant I was the center of his world. She told me I was alive around the time of WWII, but that this World War was a world away, something that I wasn't aware of, that didn't affect my life in this village. The main thing she saw was of me, around the age six, seven, or eight, running with a toy my dad had made for me out of an old bicycle tire and a stick. That was it, my favourite thing in the world, this tire that I rolled around with this stick over rough dirt and mud paths and roads. Interestingly, I'd never seen one of these before in this life, except maybe a picture or two, but I've always felt a strange nostalgia for this particular toy and I've always loved rolling tires. So for example when taking my car in to Les Schwab's to get the winter tires changed I usually roll them, not so much because it's easier but because I feel a child like glee in doing so.

Then there's another life I've been told about. I was a priest in the middle ages. I lived in a small village in central Europe, probably in the area known as modern day Germany. I don't recall if I was a german or a Roman, but if some aspect of our personality survives from life to life I'm apt to believe I grew up in that village and was trying to bring about peace between the locals and the Romans as they were trying to bring us into the empire and many of us simply weren't interested. There was a raid of the village, perhaps by romans, perhaps by vagabonds, I don't recall what they said, but I died standing there in front of the Temple, holding the shaft of a dagger shoved deep into my abdomen. While I have no memory of this, the life portrayed in movies of people like this is familiar to me. The idea of living in fear, of being killed by those pointlessly destroying my home, my village, is also not unfamiliar (watch the first 15 minutes of the 80's film Conan the Barbarian and you'll see what I'm talking about).

So that's it, don't remember any more, haven't been told any more. Perhaps I could spend money on psychics who may or may not be worth the money, who may or may not be able to help me remember, but for now I'd rather see if there are other ways of finding out more on my own. Will meditation and centering myself more lead towards the proper insights? Or could I use some of the strategies suggested by world renowned psychic Edgar Casey who says we should trust our gut when looking at pictures or reading about the past. For instance, if we always seem drawn to antique smoking chairs from the mid-1800's (yet we've never been around them in this life), we should consider that it's a clue that our spirit is giving us via our subconscious.

From time to time I've tried that. Here's something I came up with recently.

In the late 1960's I was a young American boy old enough to be drafted. I was a patriot. I believed World War II had been justified and if my country called on me to bear arms and fight against injustice I'd do so. At the same time, I was a bit of a hippie. I liked the music, played music, I smoked weed and did psychedelics with my friends, but I didn't like how so many with that lifestyle didn't have a direction. No loyalty for the country, little loyalty for each other, it was more about protesting the war and having a good time. I was stuck somewhere in the middle. So when my country gave me the call I went. I learned how to hold a rifle. I learned how to hump past the point of exhaustion. And then I was shipped to Vietnam where I walked in the rain and slept in swamps, where I saw us fighting a poorly defined war against hidden enemies, and I found myself disgusted as innocents were caught in the cross fire, men, women, and children, killed accidently or worse, out of hatred. I became a drunk, I was high on anything I could get my hands on when I went out on patrol. I'd lost any and all faith in the American flag and what it stood for, I finally understood why some of my friends had moved to Canada, these people I had once seen as cowards and new age fools. I was ready to die but had grown up Christian, probably a Catholic, I could not take my own life. When it happened, when I slipped away from my body, I was not upset. I was free.

My name is one of the thousands on that black wall in Washington D.C.

That is one of my past lives, if I'm to use some of the theories espoused by Casey.

As a side note it makes sense that I was born to Americans in Australia. I was born in 1973, just as the war was ending, so the timing works out nicely. Also, since I felt my American ideals had been portrayed it made sense that I wouldn't go back to live a life in the country from my past life, but since I loved it with all my heart I couldn't completely break the bond, I needed to enter into a family where I could remain an American, take a while to breath in a foreign but familiar land, then move back. And I did exactly that.

Sadly, in my current incarnation I think I've bumped into at least two people I fought along side. One is the parent of one of my childhood friends. He was a chopper pilot, a Huey pilot. In this life I've had emotions of fear and respect for this man, always felt like he was someone who I needed to respect if things were going to be okay. And then there was another who I must have known, who in this life seems to have enormous hatred directed at me, and yet in this life I've always felt that he didn't deserve my respect just because he was in Vietnam, that he had to earn it again now, demonstrate some decency, treat me like we're on the same level. While I don't have specific memories of spending time with the man I do have a gut sense that we spent time together. I do not get the sense that we were close friends, perhaps he was my subordinate, perhaps the other way around, but I do know there were times where we'd talked about our lives back in the states, what we'd do once we got back. I know there were times where we both saw some incredibly terrible things together, where that in itself has created a bond so substantial that most civilians will never quite understand. So yeah, beyond this person showing me disrespect in this life there's the added level of knowing, that the disrespect he shows me now is related to something he did to me then, and that to learn and grow as a spiritual being he needs to wake up and make amends for then and now. Sadly, that probably won't ever happen.

So the cycle of death and rebirth continues.

Past lives are on my mind. Perhaps they've been on my mind more than they usually are. It's not just my curiosity that compels me, but I also need to know if I'll get another chance and it's not so much because of the fear of death that I experience from time to time, it's because I've at times been afraid that the chronic pain I have is the bi-product of something worse, that the reality is my time in this world, in this body, is going to be much shorter than anyone thinks. Maybe I have another year to go. Maybe if I'm lucky, a decade. Or maybe tonight when I'm in bed the pain will become unbearable and after hours of tossing and turning I'll fall into a fatigue of miserable sleep and just stop breathing. Just stop, float out, look down on my body with a sense of peace, finally, after so long peace. And then on to another life. Then again this scares me too. There are aspects of this life, who I've become and what I've made out of it, that I wouldn't give up for the world. My childhood memories are precious to me, memories both in Australia and then here in the states. I was an incredibly happy child up until the year of six or seven and recently there's a part of me that wishes I could turn back the hands of time, go back to that young, young, happy age, and start it all over again, and use the knowledge and experience I have now to make things different, just start all over again and make it better in this life and sometimes, like in the shower this morning when some of it hit me head on, I am overwhelmed with tears.

This is how it works.

We are born. We learn. We make choices. We watch the results. And we learn from them (hopefully). And we make choices and we watch and we learn and we keep doing this until the day we die. We choose. We choose to accept reality as it is and work within those constraints or we don't, we fight against it and work within personal delusions of reality. Then we die and then maybe, just maybe, we start the process all over again.

For now I am learning, deciding, observing, and keeping hope alive.

Tuesday January 27th, 2009

The memorization of dates as a means to teach history is one of the most prevailing mistakes in middle and high school history classes. Instead of learning the details of history and gaining the lessons that promise to be so helpful to our shared future, students are expected to memorize date after date, brain cells wasted so they can remember when Custer last stood or when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese or what have you. This form of teaching bores students, numbing their minds, and has created generations of American adults who know little about world (or American, for that matter) history.

Sometimes when I write letters to friends or family or even when writing in my journal I begin with, "It's such and such time on such and such date, I just finished doing la dee da and in a bit I'm going to do blah blah blah." I don't know exactly why I started doing this. It is, after all, a bit silly. That is, however, why I continue to. It's silly. Who cares that it's exactly 3:09pm on Sunday January 25th, 2009, as I type this sentence? What does that have to do with anything?

If I, however, tell you that I'm taking this moment to write because I just finished watching a History Channel documentary on World War II and wanted to commit my thoughts to paper before heading upstairs to finish working on the bathroom, that would have more meaning. If you think about it we generally only refer to concrete times in our day to day lives in order to coordinate our plans. Will you meet me at the theater at 7:30pm? I'll wait for you at the coffee shop between noon and 1, after that I need to head back to work. The team meeting is at 3pm, you're required to be there. And so on and so forth. Otherwise most of the references we make to time are contextual, comparative. Lets get together sometime tomorrow afternoon. Earlier I ate. Lets commit to both finishing the book by the end of this month. Earlier I took a nap. After I eat I'm going to work on the bathroom.

For some strange reason we examine history in the former manner. Actually, it's not so strange. It's easy to pair December 7th, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When quantified in such a fashion history becomes incredibly easy to track. Such and such happened on such and such date at such and such time and so and so were involved. As a result I spent most of my life not only disinterested in history, but disliking it to the point of consciously avoiding it.

I became interested in WWII in 2000 when, living alone in a new city where I knew no one except my dad's cousin and my coworkers, I spent a lot of time alone, watching television. I slowly found myself glued to The History Channel, loved seeing the old film footage of WWII, and, as I repeatedly heard dates over and over, I began to remember a few. Whereas I'd once been familiar with terms such as "Pearl Harbor" and "The Battle of the Bulge" and "D-Day" and "V in E Day" and "V in J Day" they didn't teach me anything about the history of humankind or the lessons our past has to teach us. Memorizing the dates for these events is as useless to me as trying to examine my life on a purely quantitative basis. Knowing the date of my birth, the date I started first grade, the date I first tried to kill myself, or the date I first became engaged, does not really help me understand the cycles and habits that have brought me to the present moment.

Context is the key.

For example, when I was seventeen I was admitted to the child psychiatric unit at Portland Providence hospital. A week or two before that I was in my first high school play. Suppose I gave you the dates: 11-18-1990 (last day of the play) and 12-02-1990 (first day in the hospital). What does this tell you? Anything? Nothing? In fact, one bit of data can be inferred from these days, that nearly two weeks passed between the two, otherwise the dates themselves are irrelevant.

So what can be gathered from this time difference?

Something my therapist told me is that it's very common for people to go into a deep depression not too long after completing a project with a group of other people. The context is what's most important. And it points us in the right direction as well, if we're to learn anything. Specifically, at the time all I noticed was that for a month I'd found myself in a group of people, bonding, having fun, and producing something wonderful for our peers, families, and teachers then suddenly, as if someone had flipped a light switch, these same people wouldn't give me the time of day. Me? It was my belief that once you created a meaningful bond with another human being you did what you could to respect and to keep that bond alive; what I found, to my dismay, is that for many the artifice of a play (or a job or a _______) is just that, an artificial construct forcing people into the same room for a common goal, smiles are put on, social lubricant is applied, but once the construct is removed so are the smiles and friendly support... So there I was, seventeen or so years old having just engaged in one of the happiest experiences of my life, thinking I'd just made a dozen friends, and then boom, none of them would even return my greetings in the halls anymore. My birthday had come and gone. I went from an extreme high to an extreme low and next thing I know they'd locked me up in a cold, bare 10x10 room with nothing but a mattress and a blanket (but that's a story I'll tell you about another time).

Remembering what my therapist told me has helped me as an adult. After having a really good time, such as going to Disneyland last summer, I know there's a high likelihood to subsequently experience a low. It's psychological yin and yang, the ebb and flow of the tides, an up and down that frequently happens for us moody human beings. Knowing how and when and why this happens helps me plan for it and make my way through things like this with very little upset.

Context is everything.

Tuesday January 20th, 2009

Today was like any other morning.  The first alarm went off, my radio cranked up and tuned into National Public radio, the second alarm, my watch, beeping, then the third, my other watch, reminding me that I was pushing it.  I rolled over, looked at the clock, and gave myself another few minutes as I listened to the country welcome in a new President.  Okay, that last bit only happens every four to eight years so other than that it was a perfectly normal morning.

In the shower I listened as Obama was sworn in and examined the day ahead.  The first bicuspid on the bottom, left hand side of my mouth has been causing increasing pain over the last several days so I planned to walk over to the dentist, only a block away, and get that checked out.  Having had similar pain in the past I had a feeling a root canal was in my future and while most don’t look forward to this procedure I’m perfectly happy to do anything that will alleviate pain, especially when it’s as intense and burdensome as a toothache.  So, head to the dentist, get an x-ray, possible prescription for antibiotics, get in to work out, mark half day off as a sick day, another off later for the root canal, and spend the day listening to the historic events thanks to NPR (and yes, I am a member!).

I didn’t realize it until I was in “the chair”, but my super power sense of empathy was in overdrive.  Subtle in its ways, I usually don’t notice right away; indeed, it doesn’t make itself apparent until I’m around people or watching them on the television, as I was, sitting there viewing, sound off, the luncheon being held in President Obama’s honor.  On the screen the image of a smiling Senator Clinton as she hob-knobbed with Washington’s elite.

“God,” I thought to myself, “That doesn’t look fun.”

Hillary stood there amongst a see of people talking to a man on her left.  Neither she nor he was looking directly at each other.  Indeed, with the exception of the jovial grins ritually pasted on their faces they seemed like Secret Service agents, their attention surveying the entire room, analyzing the political weather around them.  Neither she nor he were connected to each other and neither seemed put off when they parted, no goodbye, no thank you I’ll see you later, just the swift movement apart and towards other groups like rubber ducks floating down two different branches of a river, the strong current taking them on their way.

“No,” I thought to myself, “That definitely does not look fun.”

Few understand what this is like for me, this sensitivity, this super power, this sixth sense that allows me to internalize the emotions of others as if they are my own.  Few would believe so few are told and even then, few quite understand.  To be in my shoes is sometimes not easy.  Empathy in overdrive.  I cannot shut it down no more than you can shut out what’s right in front of you when your eyes are open.  Yes, you can shut your eyes, but then how would you get around without running into things, bruising yourself, making a fool out of yourself.  I feel the same way about this.  I could shut my eyes, that is, separate myself completely from people and the constant stream of energy that emanates from them, but then I’d feel the same, that I’d be stumbling around in the social world, blind to the winds and clouds and sunshine and rain of other beings’ souls.  I can choose how to internalize the data but I have never been able to shut it off or establish the intensity.

I understand the plight of the psychopath.  Unlike me, whose mind is wired to experience the depth of another’s soul, the psychopath’s brain is wired in such a way that they are not capable of empathy.  They cannot feel what you feel.  They cannot feel what I feel.  The psychopath, the sociopath, the Machiavellian, he (or she) is my mirror, the opposite of my daily experience, while keenly observant, their observations are to manipulate, a means to an end, they cannot share my joy or your sorrow.  They do not choose to be blind to emotion any more than I choose to experience them in Technicolor, yet we both, the psychopath and the empath, choose how to engage the world with our unique perspectives.

The sociopath would not have seen anything amiss at that luncheon; they too would be looking, scanning, hunting.  Me?  I cannot stand to be surrounded by, to be spoken to, those who are somewhere else entirely.

And so as x-President Bush and his wife Laura exited the helicopter I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss, endings, death…forever.  This is the last time I will call this place home.  This is the last time I will salute a marine as Commander and Chief.  This is the last time our family will enjoy dinners within the White House, the last time we will entertain guests within the walls, the last time I will enjoy late night bowling in the basement when the pressures and responsibility of the job keep me up.  The cameras are on us now, the last time we will take the ride in this helicopter, and I know so many hate me, are glad to have me go, don’t care that I have feelings, that I did what I thought was right, that I was dealt a shitty hand.  I did my best and while I wish Obama well, the adoration and praise he’s getting is overdone and unfair, he’s just the first black President, no more and no less, and people just don’t understand the sacrifices I’ve made to insure the safety of this great country, a country I love with my entire heart and soul.  So I will stand tall but in my heart I am crying.

That, in not so many words, is what went through me within the five to ten seconds I saw Bush walk down the steps of the chopper, those are the intense emotions I felt, as if they were my own, when he saluted the marine.  That is the reality I experienced as he took his wife towards their new life back in Texas. 

(On a side note:  You could argue that I am projecting.  Indeed, projection is the biggest danger for an empath.  I have learned, usually the hard way, to question my perceptions no matter how intense or seemingly accurate they are and back them up with my other five senses, with objective data anyone can be made aware of.  However, as I’ve come to know myself better on a subconscious level, as I’ve learned to routinely question my perceptions, the empathic ability has increased in both intensity and accuracy as occurs, I believe, with any extra-sensory ability.  So while I can describe my empathic experience with words, words will never be entirely accurate, they will never do the experiencer or the experiencie justice, words are a substitute, an attempt, to explain the unexplained mysteries of the human soul.)

The empath cannot hate another no matter how much he or she wishes it.  It is impossible to hate those who we have empathized with.

Mind you, empathizing with Bush is not exactly comfortable for me given my dislike for his policies, my belief that he helped devastate our economy, our military, our standing in the world, and much, much more.  And yet it cannot be helped, he is a human in my eyes, deserving of understanding, compassion, and even love.  Now that I have felt him I can see myself drinking coffee with him, playing backgammon with him, going hunting with him.


Sadly, I was not able to view the video of Obama’s swearing in.  What I would have picked up if I had seen it?  I do not know and maybe never will.  Perhaps later.  I will watch it.  I will imbibe it.  I will gobble it down.  I will suck it up.  It will go through me and around me into the future and the past and I will see something I have always seen and I will see something I never have seen.  What words do I have to explain these things to you but what I have now?

P.S. I feel like I just woke up from a nightmare--an eight year long nightmare!
P.P.S. And woke up realizing last night I'd gotten really drunk and gone to bed with the bearded lady!!! lol

Monday January 19th, 2009

As you probably already know today is Martin Luther King Jr. day. I'm listening to the "I have a dream" speech given by Mr. King as I watch this. I have never listened to the whole speech, however I have heard enough of it to know that the section of dreams pales in comparison to other parts of the dreams.

Today any number of people have given speeches about justice, equality, and the like, so it is not my intention to add one more; in truth, I do not believe my words will add much to the discussion, but I felt it important to note this day as a special one, a day where we all take a moment to thoughtfully meditate on justice, freedom, and happiness for all people.

It is every human being's duty to recognize the divinity in all other human beings. It is your and my responsibility to evolve in such a fashion that we can accept and love all people no matter their colour, age, religion, sexual orientation, or belief. Most of us will never be as influential as King, yet we all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of our friends, our family, our co-workers, and even the stranger we meet on the street, every moment, every day.

And so it is with this simple journal entry that I encourage you to uncover your own prejudices and overcome them, to spot all the hidden "isms" you have allowed to flourish in your life and pluck them from the soil of your heart and mind like the weeds that they are. Challenge yourself, overcome yourself, do better than yourself, and if we all do this, black, white, Palestinian, Israeli, heterosexual and homosexual, if you and I and they all make this silent commitment to ourselves, then and only then will we build a better world for our children.

It must start with you. And it must start now.

Sunday January 18th, 2009

I am a space alien.

No, I don't know my planet of origin but I'm pretty sure I'm a space alien. Been sure since I was five or six years old. Back then, after having lived in Australia from birth to three years old I thought the situation could be rectified by moving back but now I'm not so sure. My place of origin does not seem as clear of that.

I read an article on CNN.com today titled "Why so many minds think alike" (http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/15/social.conformity.brain/index.html). Briefly summarized, there is a part of our brains that goes "oops" whenever we have a perception that differs from that of large groups. The result? Most people's brains are wired to conform to the opinions of larger groups because they are wired for neural rewards when they do, wired for punishment when they do not. Ironically, though this is true most people still agree that individualism, not conformity, is the desirable trait.

My brain, as near as I can tell, processes information in just the opposite fashion. When I'm in a situation where I'm sure of an objective truth that the rest of a group disagrees with I'm apt to voice my disagreement then stand my ground. I actually receive a substantial amount of cognitive dissonance (i.e. "wired punishment") when I go along, even if the matter is a trivial one.

I am a space alien.

Most people are not "good" listeners, at least not from a psychological stand-point, however, most people use a lot of body language and other types of feedback when they are listening.

Me? When I listened I'm all input. Output portions of my brain shut down and the input areas namely sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch, go into overdrive. I am immersed in the words, thoughts, and emotions of another person. I'm not listening in the normal sense, I am internalizing, empathizing, experiencing, being the others' experience (as much as anyone can). It is overwhelming. It is all encompassing. It is overwhelming. It is enlightening. It is further proof.

I am a space alien.

I think about my mortality daily. I talk to my daughter about every aspect of her life. I have a 27 hour circadian rythm. I don't have favourites. I watching things I don't enjoy, eat things I don't like, engage in conversation with people I don't agree with, and write although no one may be reading.

I am a space alien.

In general I prefer cats to people. In general I value spending time alone to spending time in groups. I can never be reading fewer than one book, never have one than less hobbie to be engaged in, never have only one home improvement project to enjoy on the weekends. I do not have blind faith in any politician, any writer, any family member or friend. I do not believe everything I read or hear or even see. I question my reality as often as I breath.

I am a space alien.

I lost the phone number for the mother ship.


Sunday January 11th, 2009

I view heading back to work after a long (and much deserved) vacation as an opportunity to tweak my daily routine. Most obviously when I get up, when I head to bed. Not so obviously, fitting in chores such as the dishes or making lunch. Last but not list, how and when to fit in free time and what to do, what to do? And of course I must always sneak in a little time to keep up on the latest world news.

Here's the latest BBC World News headline: UN agency to resume Gaza aid work

If you're reading this a year, a decade, or a hundred years from now...this probably needs no explanation. Unlike other news stories that occur and then are quickly forgotten, the figurative cluster-fuck in the middle east is an ongoing story that began thousands of years ago and is bound to continue to at least another thousand years (until they nuke themselves and/or grow up). Whether it's the Christians vs. the Muslims or the Jews vs. the Christians or the Jews vs. the Muslims or the Muslims vs. Everyone or Everyone vs. Jews...whatever the case, there is far too much blood lining the rocks of the middle east and it's time we, as a world, stand up and put a stop to the senseless violence.

It has been my sense that knowledge gained in one area of life can be successfully used in another area. For instance if you've read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance you'd most likely agree that the main character's internal monologues about motorcycle maintenance had little to do with motorcycles as much as they were about life, in particular, how we should maintain things and more importantly, that each of us has different ways of maintaining our lives: some, like the protagonist, are hands on, while others are more laid back and would prefer to pay someone else to do the work.

In regard to the ongoing crap-shoot in the middle east two areas bring themselves to mind: child psychology and parenting.

When I look at the State of Israel and the Muslims living in the Gaza strip I see them as two teenage siblings who are a year or two apart in age. Like teenage siblings, they're old enough to have some maturity while at the same time having lived together long enough to have legitimate gripes going back at least a decade, gripes that are better learned from and forgotten...but like most teenagers they cannot let go of the past and worse yet, when a parental figure steps in to the middle of a fight and asks, "What happened? Who started this?" both immediately point fingers at the other, neither taking any responsibility for their role in instigating, starting, or engaging in any given fist fight. Frustrated, a parent may sometimes ask someone else who was around--but unfortunately this is usually limited to peers of the siblings who, when asked, aren't able to share anything more useful, at least in terms of uncovering the truth, than spouting back what their friend, their peer, had already said.

If, like me, you have no bias towards either side, you'll find that this is exactly what happens every time fighting breaks out with these two. Those in Gaza accuse the Israelis of human rights abuses, that they're prevented from getting food, jobs, medical care, and hence they're just trying to get what all people deserve. The Israelis lash back saying they never stop giving the people their human rights, they're just defending themselves from aggression. The news sources, even the best ones such as BBC, do little but spout back what Israel and (in this case) Hamas have said, an official news bulletin which amounts to nothing more substantial than an echo of the finger pointing we're all too familiar with.

I don't know about you but I'm sick and tired of these children beating the shit out of each other. It must stop. It must stop now.

What's worse in these kinds of situations, what often happens is that the older sibling often tries to take the parental role, engendering only anger and resentment in the younger. The cycle just worsens and a parent sometimes has no other option than to jump in and put a stop to it. At some point it's become so serious the parent has no choice but to stop asking who's responsible and forcefully stop hostilities. They recognize that neither child is able to take responsibility for their own part or recognize the validity of the others' complaints. They stop asking questions. Both children are given a time out.

That's the only solution for the tensions in the middle east. Israel, like an older sibling, thinks it has some divine right to tell Hamas how to conduct itself but all the while it engages in human rights violations. Hamas, rightly angry over much of the treatement they receive, acts out in the only way a younger, weaker sibling can, by lashing out incoherently. So it's time, in my view, that the United Nations step in as a parent, put a stop to the fighting, and tell both sides they need to take a time out.

As you're probably already aware the U.N. has done this a number of times already, with little to no success. Likewise, over the years the President of the United States has stepped in, hoping to help facilitate the two siblings in a peaceful resolution. Why hasn't this worked.

Most parents can be defined as either authoritarian or permissive; neither is a universally effective parenting style. The authoritarian parent, for instance, exerts so much control that siblings who fight do not learn to regulate their behavior towards one another when the parental figure isn't around. Worse, the older sibling, when feeling they should fill the role of a parent, is much more likely to copy the parent's style, that is, boss the younger sibling around and threaten them with various punishments when they don't get in line; this, of course, leads to a higher sense of resentment in anger in the younger. A permissive parent, on the other hand, is more likely to believe the children will simply work things out on their own even when there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Nothing gets solved because the children are left on their own with no positive role model to follow, no coach or goalie to help keep them playing according to a set of solid and useful rules.

The United Nations, in my view, is like two parents with highly conflicting parenting styles. As an oversimplification one is authoritarian while one is permissive. When children fight the parents immediately find themselves arguing too. Should they step in and put a stop to it, threatening corporal punishment, or should they stand back and just let the children figure it out for themselves. The end result, as we've seen in the last week, is a statement by the U.N. that amounts to nothing more powerful than the statement, "Please stop fighting." And as in real life in a real home with two parents and two children, nothing gets done, nothing changes, and things continue on as they've done for weeks, months, years, decades...

As with parenting one problem with the U.N. is that it's inconsistent and, while it threatens to use force on a fairly regular basis, rarely uses corporal punishment. The result is countries (i.e. siblings) do not take it seriously. As with children in a similar situations, countries engaged in war or human rights abuses simply engage in a game of manipulating the news and the public, playing chicken with leaders at the U.N., playing political hooky, pushing beyond the limits of what's acceptable because they know nobody will step in until more than a few noses are broken.

Any half-decent parenting guide will tell you two of the most important aspects of effective parenting are first, making the rules and consequences clear and two, immediately and consistently disiplining once the rules have been broken. Parents who cannot engage in these two straight forward behaviors may unintentionally raise children who do not respect or take rules and boundaries seriously, who do not tend to respect authority figures, and who are more likely to push, lie, manipulate, and worse, engage in violence, to get what they want; oh yeah, and if they were able to point fingers without ever having to take responsibility for their own part they grow up to be adults who are quick to blame and slow to say, "Whoops, sorry, it was my fault, I'll take care of it."

Step one to solving things, in my view, is for the U.N. to codify a well defined and unambiguous set of rules regarding warfare. When can a country legally engage in military force against another? When can't it? What is the response of the world body when a country engages in military force outside these constraints?

You see, on a metaphorical level I think we're all still children. More often than not we fight when we feel like it, not when it's necessary, and the group(s) that should be acting as parents sit around quibbling. If we truly were a civilized people no country would be able to engage in physical violence against another without the approval of some world organization that has objectively and with some forethought recognized that it's, at least in the specific case, necessary. And when a country engages in violence that is not approved by a world body it would immediately step in and put a stop to it.

Bam. Game over. We would live in a world where no country or leader or greedy homicidal group of "freedom fighters" could engage in senseless violence without a parent stepping in, grabbing them by the earlobes, and saying, "I said stop and I mean it!"--and this would happen when it needed to NOT only at those times where some country had a vested interest in doing so (such as to continue or improve control over foreign resources such as natural gas, oil, gold, diamonds, or the like).

Let me give a few concrete examples of what I mean and why I believe such a system is necessary for us to step towards (what some scientists refer to as) as Type I civilization:

Our first example takes us back a few years to the time Colon Powell went to the U.N. to make a case for invading Iraq. The U.N. allowed him to share the evidence and then decided it wasn't solid enough to warrant Iraq being attacked, much less invaded. The price of this war to the American people has been the lives of several thousand troups (not to mention the many non-military workers there) as well as billions upon billions of tax payer dollars. The price to the Iraq people has been instability, destruction, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The price to the world has been instability and a lack of trust in the United States as a world leader. Now, if we lived in a more mature world, a world where a military advance could only take place when the global community agreed it was acceptable, the Iraq war would never have happened. Sure, Saddam might still be in power, but the fact is most experts agree the price wasn't worth the outcome. Respecting the vote of the world community would have prevented that war saving countless lives and endless streams of cash that could have been used on other more important things (feeding the starving, housing the homeless, and making sure our countries financial system doesn't implode--and while hind site is 20-20, some of us saw this coming as early as 1999 and knew we needed to keep our grubby little fingers out of the middle east). The other aspect is that if a country attacked another without the okay of the world body their would be immediate consequences. Military use might be taken to stop them. Sanctions would be imposed on their country, regardless of how powerful or big. America's take on Iraq would be much different if the U.N. had said, "Fine, you do that and we'll put all our military and economic power, all of the world, there at the Iraqi border to stop you." Do that and the notion that any country could take unilateral action against another would be a thing of the past, a dark chapter in the story of humanity.

Now take the example of Darfur. A bunch of people in that country started to kill a lot of other people. Clear and unabashed genocide. World reaction? Horror. Yet no one did anything about it. No oil in Sudan. Not in "America's interest" to go in and do a goddamn thing about it. And again the U.N. making the statement, "Please, please, please stop." Here's what I think would happen in a civilized war. First, there would be a world-wide agreed upon definition of what constitutes genocide. Then, if a group is found guilty of engaging in it all countries in the world are, by law, expected to step in and put a stop to it immediately and militarily, if necessary. Do this a few times and the next dictator would think twice befor engaging in ethnic cleansing; they'd know, without a doubt, that doing so would quickly result in the world body coming after them, "dethroning" them, and with the very real threat of loosing control looming over them they simply wouldn't engage in genocide. Another dark chapter in our history closed.

Now I recognize that some are afraid that doing something like this will lead to a "one world order"--but with all due respect, in a world where we could nuke ourselves back to the stone age, in a world where there are billions of people and limited resources, we can't expect to hog food and riches, we can't expect to bully each other around, without finding ourselves knee deep in bloodshed. So it's time to stop, time to pull together, time to unite all militaries behind one body which has one purpose: to bring about harmony, fairness, equality, and justice, to all nations. While it will not happen in this lifetime I hope that some day we will all see that our shared goal should be not to have the most for ourselves, but to share resources fairly, to help each other create a better world, and to share this world in a civilized-evolved fashion.

We have so far to go. Take a step now. Change the way you think. Share. Learn to communicate non-violently. Seek out solutions when it seems the only one is to start an altercation. Listen. Understand. Have compassion for others. Take a leap, don't side with your team but side with the truth, one that recognizes a higher goal of mutual cooperation.

I'd like to hear what you're going to do this year. Write me. Let me know. What are you going to do to help build a better world for our children?

Wednesday January 7th, 2009

My morning routine at work consists of the following:

  1. Arrive in time for the team stand up.
  2. Get first cup of coffee.
  3. Prioritize priorities.
  4. Skim headlines on The Drudge Report and CNN.com
While glancing over CNN I ran into an article titled, “Things that it's okay to lie about” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/01/06/tf.okay.lies/index.html). “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I wonder, are there really things that are acceptable to lie about and if so, can they be quantified so easily?” I opened the article thinking I'd see things like, “#1: It's okay to lie about the pin number on your debit card when being robbed at gunpoint.” Instead I found myself disheartened to find a list of pathetic rationalizations. Was an “adult” really paid to write this drivel?

Let's examine some of the things “it's okay to lie about”:

“2. That you totally just washed your hands.”

Years ago and as part of an unofficial and unscientific experiment I started watching how often men wash their hands after using the lavatory. I noticed two things. First, men are much more likely to wash their hands after...how do I say this politely...after doing a “#2” than they are after using a urinal. Second, nearly 50% of men do not wash their hands after using a urinal. While I can't speak on your behalf I don't enjoy the thought that there's a very good chance that the guy I just shook hands with didn't wash his hands, for all I know they've just gotten back from holding their one eyed trouser snake, for all I know that snake's got some kind of venereal disease. Maybe I'm being a little OCD but the fact is half of all Americans will have at least one STD in their lifetime; fact, you've probably shaken one of those people's hands. So you “say” you've just “totally” just washed your hands? Personally, if lies like this are acceptable in our society I'd just totally wish we'd adopt the Japanese custom of bowing!

“10. That you made that lasagna yourself.”

Are you kidding? Do you really believe you somehow benefit by lying to someone about whether or not you cooked something? Is there really a good side to showing disrespect to the person who actually cooked (or manufactured) it? What's the point of lying about something so silly and superficial, anyway? So you can be complimented and asked to make it again next week? Stupid.

“15. That you didn't just fart right now.”

When I was young my mother taught me two words I've found extraordinarily useful in such circumstances: “Excuse me”. Fairly straight forward, don't you think? I use these two words to take responsibility for my bodily functions and likewise demonstrate civility. Lying about farting is...how can I say this politely?...it's totally like “grade school”.

“17. That of course you floss every day, Dr. Smtih!”

To be honest this is one of the few white lies I've told during my lifetime until one day I realized that Dr. Smith (or Dr. Lee, in my case) spent tens of thousands of dollars to become a dentist hence is pretty smart when it comes to teeth and gums. After years telling this whopper I realized lying to my dentist about flossing was akin to telling a police officer, “I didn't realize I was speeding” after being pulled over for doing 99mph in a 45mph zone! The simple reality is that when our teeth get cleaned our gums tend to bleed, at least for those of us who don't floss regularly, so it's kinda, sorta, totally, a no-brainer for the dentist to assume I haven't been flossing. I can't imagine any dentist appreciating being lied to in this fashion (interestingly I've never had a dental professional go off on me for this “white lie”--but I wouldn't blame one if they did!).

“19. That you just love your friend's boyfriend/husband.”

I love my friends. To me that means supporting them unconditionally. That also means I'm consistently honest with them, regardless of the situation. Now just supposing I didn't like my friend's partner? Should I tell them I don't? Not necessary. As the saying goes, “If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.” Nine times out of ten my dislike for a person is in large my own personal bullshit, not worth bringing up. What about that one out of ten times that I feel I must voice myself? Say, for instance, my friend's partner is a bully who is always putting them down. In this case I would, as a result of me loving my friend, bring it up; this can, of course, be done politely, with tact, and compassion! Do I need to attack the partner or the relationship? Absolutely not. It is, believe it or not, possible to share a concern like this while at the same time being supportive and respecting a friend's innate right to make their own choices, to choose their relationships without their friends acting like parental figures. That's not my place. Also, in such cases honesty allows me to define future boundaries. Say, for instance, I'm invited to go out to dinner with them both--but I can't stand how their partner is regularly critical of my spiritual beliefs. If I'm honest from the get go it's easy to decline pointing to a solid reason for my decision. On the other hand if I said I “just love” them then I've created a situation where to get out of something I must again lie or, if I'm tired of lying, tell the truth and watch the shit hit the fan. In any case, lying forces the need to lie again and again until the friendship has very little basis in reality.

“20. That you really adore that pink sweater and thanks so much Grandma!”

Having been given some admittedly bizarre gifts from family members, especially as an adult, I can truly relate to this one, however again I cannot see a reason for lying. Sure, I hate the pink sweater but Grandma, who I know struggles from arthritis in her wrists and fingers, spent weeks diligently knitting the fucking thing, why not recognize that? “Thanks Grandma,” I would say, “I can tell you put a lot of effort making this pink sweater, it really shows how much you love me and that means the world for me.” A gift, whatever it may be, always has a positive aspect to it, and by exercising the ability to discover the underlying gift we open ourselves to deepening our relationships. By verbally recognizing the positive aspects of any gift, however weird or unwanted, you retain a sense of integrity while building a deeper connection with others in your life.

“5. How much you paid for that (ridiculously cheap) pair of shoes.”

Years ago I moved in with a woman who had been my creative writing teacher at the University of Oregon. We weren't romantically involved, mind you, she had asked if I'd like to share a house she wanted to move in to but couldn't afford on her own and I'd earn some extra money by nannying her baby boy Tristan. It was a purely professional arrangement; she had her social life and I had mine. One day we were both in the kitchen. I'd just pored myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and offered to make her some. She said she'd love some. I pulled out another cup, a simple but elegant white china cup I'd bought at Goodwill for 25 cents, and handed it to her. “Oh my, this is such a beautiful cup,” she exclaimed, “where did you get it?” I might have just as well punched her baby in the face as tell her the truth, as her reaction was one of shock, the underlying message being clear, “I'm too 'good' to be hanging around with people shopping at thrift stores!” One might argue that telling her was a mistake, that the truth damaged whatever friendship we might have had. I disagree. In this situation, as with so many others, being honest allowed me to gauge what kind of person she was. Instead of constantly wasting energy in some vane attempt to get close someone I instead chose to by myself which caused her to be who she was: snooty, judgmental, and “better than thou”. More often than not honesty forces people to show their true colours and allows me to quickly and consciously decide whether or not I'm interested in furthering a friendship with them. In regard to this instance I'm proud of the fact that I found such a beautiful cup for so little; I still own and use it today! I'm also happy to be someone that values reusing old things instead of tossing them in the trash simply because they weren't expensive or don't match everything else in my cupboard.

On a related note, months later she threw a party at the house and though mutual friends would be attending she sat me down before hand and “politely” asked me to stay in my room during the party (some of her female friends, she explained, were shy and wouldn't feel comfortable using the hot tub if a total stranger was in the house). Not interested in starting an argument I grudgingly agreed so during the party I stayed up in my room listening to music and tapping away at the keyboard. Our mutual friends, who were at the party, were somewhat confused as to why I didn't come down and enjoy the festivities; they thought I was “too good” for it all yet I felt it was the better part of valor not to tell them what had been asked of me (after all, they'd been her friend's longer and I didn't want to rock the boat). To summarize this chapter of my life, I have never met someone so elitist and unfairly judgmental. I am still stunned by her behavior, especially given her circumstance as an unwed mother coming from a well-to-do family where such things were not easily accepted. My worst sin, as far as I'm concerned, is not going into credit card debt to purchase the “right” clothes, furniture, and dishes; I think I'll skip the Hail Mary's this time around! :-)

“6. How much you paid for that (ridiculously expensive) bag.”

As with the previous, I could care less what another person thinks of how much I spend on something. Frankly, the only person that will ever have a say, one way or another, is my future wife and then only after we're living under the same roof. Until that time what I purchase with my own hard earned money is my own business. Sure, there are times where I feel (or others might feel) I've gone overboard with my spending. There's the $16,000 motorcycle I bought a few years back, my dream bike and my favourite way to take a vacation. Or how about the $50 (or more) I spent on a DVI cable to hook my projection TV to one of my computers so I could use the internet on an 85” screen. Lets see, there's the $300 I spent on a new cell phone last fall (a purchase I haven't regretted one bit), the $800 I spent on an anachronistic laptop for motorcycle trips (turned out to be a mistake as my dad recently gave me my old laptop which he's used for years, an equally archaic but useful machine), the $200 leather jacket I bought (actually a good buy as it was a $500 Kalvin Klein), then there's the $100 - $200 I spend every year just to host my own website (yes, folks, “GreenPygmies.com” doesn't come free and I've never made a cent from it!). I don't spend as much money on clothes as some people I know and could easily be criticized for how much I spend on “boy toys” when it could be argued I should spent that money paying down bills (it's going there too). Regardless, if I don't owe you money how and where and when I spend mine is no one's business but my own. If, however, you feel the need to judge me based on how I, someone who alone pays the mortgage, spends my money, feel free to do so, I really could care less.

Of course if and when I get married I will include my wife in all budgeting decisions, however, one suggestion I've made to the woman I'd like to spend my life with is that we both put away $X every month; this is our personal play money that we can spend on anything we'd like without prior discussion. Such a strategy gives us the freedom to save up and purchase whatever we might want, however frivolous, while avoiding the possibility of causing tense conversations over purchases the other might view as frivolous.

I was about five or six the first time I was aware I was being lied to and since I have never understood why people lie. Sure, there are often short term benefits from lying including but not limited to:

  1. To appear more attractive.
  2. To avoid punishment, consequences, or judgment.
  3. To gain something (either tangible, such as money, or non-tangible, such as an advantage).
However, I've yet to run into circumstances where lying has a long term benefit, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Take for instance the absolute worst thing I've ever done in my entire life. Yep, you guessed it, I cheated on someone and not just anyone, but my on again and off again fiancé who, I might add, I was living with at the time. If that wasn't bad enough I did it with her best friend. I was, quite seriously, caught with my pants down.

There is no redemption in sharing my greatest sin. Fifteen or so years later I am not free of the shame and dishonor I brought upon myself. And though we are now good friends the person who's heart I broke, who's soul I stuck a knife into and twisted with selfish-serving greed, will forever be wounded by my lack of integrity. I remember being caught and trying to do something quite unlike me, that is, to talk my way out of it. I was ridiculous. I was selfish. I was hateful.

I was a fool.

Admitting my actions right away would not have made the pain any less bearable but it would have certainly demonstrated I had some integrity. Not only that, by taking full responsibility I would have prevented the unnecessary pain of her having to jump the first hurdle that's present the instant a lie has been said, the one that forces the victim of a lie to have to fight simply to have the lie acknowledged for what it is.

Lying about it only served me in the short term. It allowed me to maintain the insane fantasy that she'd believe me thus stick around which would give me the time to figure out how to tell her without hurting her (I'm still amazed how we as humans so often think if we only had the right words we could magically remove the sting from an inheritable painful situation). Long term, though, lying only made things significantly worse. Within days she was packed and was out the door. I spent the remaining week angry with myself, lost, afraid, and trying to get a hold of her, begging, in a way I never have before or since, for forgiveness.

There is, in my experience, nothing more infuriating than being lied to, saying you have a problem with that, then being lied to again, the second lie being used to cover up the first (some people give me the distinct impression that to be a “good” friend I should have accepted their first lie as gospel even if it caused me emotional, physical, or financial damage). As with my own personal example, lying simply caused another level of pain for someone I claimed to love; the attempted deceit was nothing more than an additional and unnecessary layer of pain. Lies, both big and small, create distance. They force others to have to juggle our make believe worlds if they want to include us in their lives. Lies prevent true intimacy, they retard our ability to live full, meaningful lives, and it's so sad too because the only sure consequence of lying is creating a fiction which more often than not results in suffering.

Whats the bleepin' point?

Only the part-time Machiavellian rationalizes their lies. Only the sociopath sees a half-truth as complete. Only the professional liar spends most of their time and energy super gluing their house of cards in place. Only the fool believes their lies effect no one, that there are no long term consequences, that they can merrily go on their way without their choices, their behavior, their karma, negatively impacting those they so vehemently claim to care for and love.

To the author of this article (and the editor that believed it to be worthy of a front page spot on CNN.com): shame on you (and I hope to god when you aren't writing you aren't a teacher or a therapist). To my readers: the worst lie is always the second one; it exists only to insult us (after all, your pants are down, don't try and convince us otherwise, we're not that stupid).

Whatever you may think of lying, one fact remains: you reap what you sow. Put another way, if you're the kind of person that lies on a regular basis you will attract people into your life who share a similar value regarding the truth.

Truth is a beautiful. If we live truly, if we just say who we are and leave it at that, the return is boundless. Those who care for us will care for us for who we are, not what we pretend to be. Those that love us will love us when we screw up, not because we cover up. Those we have just met will show us their true colours and those we have known we will know better. Those who would harm us are deflected by our straight forward nature, those who would not are attracted by our courage to be who we are without reserve. Truth is wonderful, truth is rare, it is exciting, it breeds intimacy, it begs curiosity, it wins hearts, it heals wounds, it sings like a bird on the wing, needing nothing but air and sun to light its way.

May you embrace truth as surely as you breath.

Monday January 5th, 2009

My alarm went off at a bright and early 8am this morning and though the radio's volume was cranked I did not hear it until 8:15am. After two weeks of vacation, a period where sleeping in tends to overshadow many of my days, the requirement of a set wake up time seems alien to my body which, if it had its way, would schedule itself in much the same manner as my cats do, waking and sleeping if and when the need presents itself. As feared, the bodily pain that often resulted from getting up and driving in to work early has returned; it seems that sleeping in on a regular basis is exactly what my body seems to need, perhaps it's exactly what I'd need to do for a month or two to finally heal. As that ancient Vulcan lady said in the Classic Trek episode Amok Time, "The air is the air. What can be done?"

So here I am after what has turned out to be a most tumultuous last few weeks of December (work-wise)--as background, this has always been the quietest time of the year (work-wise). Nothing happens. Nothing. Ironically until this year I've never really taken time off during the Winter. Never had a reason. I'm not someone who skis or engages in other winter sports; would much rather use my vacation time during the summer when I can hit the road on my two wheeled horse. So this year I did things a little different, took two weeks off and found myself on the phone or the computer working at least once a day, pulling up to a water hydrant when necessary, and putting out the fires that had to be dealt with right away, letting the rest pile up, pile up, pile up, pile up, pile up...

Today, after two weeks of attempting to stay away from work as much as possible, I'm in the process of "digging out" from two week and several hundred e-mail messages. "Prioritizing" is what we call it in the business world. My entire day may well be spent in this endeavor, however, it's time well spent: working without a clear direction or well defined goals is, more often that not, a prescription for pain. So met with one of the primary managers, started the "GetAllDucksInARow()" algorithm, and by the end of today I should have the plan neatly organized. Woohoo!!!

And tonight? Lets see, if I'm not exhausted (don't feel tired yet, fortunately) I plan to replace the wax gasget for the master bathroom toilet and get the shower door back in its proper place then install and test the new shower head. Once complete the only remaining work for the master bathroom is calking, trim, and building the new towel rack. As with most other projects I've been taking pictures along the way so I'll post those once everything is done.

I look forward to showering in my bathroom again!!!

After that it's time to work on the art room/den, which is a never ending project. In order to get it done in a reasonable amount of time I've committed myself to doing at least one thing a day, even if that means something as mundane as measuring and cutting one piece of wood or sanding one small section of wainscot. Truth be told I'm enormously impatient and am looking forward to, for the first time in my life, having my own private den, writing room, and art room. It's going to look absolutely fabtabulous and provide a relaxing venue for writing.

Yeah, yeah, I probably talk way too much about home improvement but my house, my home, means a great deal to me and much of the work I've done is squarely in the category of "things I've never done before". Heck, I'd never done much to a toilet besides plunge them and maybe pop the top off before just a week or two ago; now I'm able to easily remove and install a whole new toilet without breaking a sweat (the hardest part, really, is picking the damn thing up!). And while there are still many improvements yet to make (new flooring, for one) I love owning a home and continually having opportunities to pick up new skills that I immediately benefit from and can share with others.

Other than that 2009 is turning out to be an absolutely wonderful year. Though somewhat of a challenge I've kept in touch with my daughter who I love with all my heart and mind. I've been spending a great deal of quality time (though never enough) with my partner and best friend who has worked with me to build the most valuable and wonderful relationship of my life. I have plans to start writing a series of children's books which I hope will be as popular as the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books and likewise have an exciting idea for a new Star Trek program that I firmly believe will, if picked up, reinvigorate the franchise putting it back where it belongs (on par with other successful series such as Battlestar Galactica, 24, and CSI--and yes, not to be cocky but I believe in the fundemental quality of this idea!). I'm looking forward to planning several more motorcycle trips this coming year, at least one to Hell's Canyon, my yearly spiritual retreat to Eastern Oregon, and possibly another to Weed, California to visit my sister and her family. I hope to go camping at least twice with my partner (once to the beach, once somewhere in the Cascade Mountain Range) and likewise renew our relationship at the Silvia Beach Hotel (possibly as a second anniversary gift to ourselves). Once the art room is done I plan to pick up oil painting and likewise, since I'll have more time I plan to rent one of several instruments: a cello, trumpet, and/or French horn. I plan on learning to cook new foods, I plan on hiking in new places, investigating new career options (my two main interests are therapy and teaching), I plan on going out on photographic journeys, I plan on meeting new people and going to the Unitarian church more often, and most importantly, I plan on building the life that I've always wanted but have not, for one reason or another, been able to create. I hope to add enough content to The Temple to transform it into a place where hundreds of people meet and share their thoughts, feelings, struggles, accomplishments, and ideas (hence the Pygmie Forum). I hope to live, breath, and walk the walk that is aching to escape after so many years in captivity!

Wilt thou join me?

P.S. With the exception of calking and a few other minor details I finished the bathroom tonight and will have the photos posted before midnight!

Thursday January 1st, 2009

It is now 22 hours, 50 minutes into "the year of our Lord" 2009. I slept in today then enjoyed a wonderful breakfast thanks to my loving partner after which I took a hot shower then did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. I spent most of the day on the couch reading and chatting then did the bills in the evening. Overall, a great start to a new year.

2009 will doubtless have many of the same challenges as 2008. Work will continue to provide opportunities to learn and improve my skills. My romantic relationship will likewise provide countless chances to evolve as both an individual and a partner. My body will continue to ache and I will do what I can to maintain a quality relationship with my daughter regardless of the arguably unnecessary obstacles I'm presented with.

I cannot claim to be a prophet. I will not pretent to tell you I know the exact challenges this year will present me. However, I am dedicated to doing something I always encourage my daughter: "Do your best!"

I can ask no more of myself.

I didn't make any new year's resolutions. I did, however, commit to trying to sit down and read a book for at least 15 minutes a day (would make a nice break during the work day) and also to continue to improve my diet (which now includes more fruit and vegetables than ever before). I'd commit to working on my relationships but then if I'm not always working on them why the hell am I in them? (if that question doesn't make sense to you--don't ask) Oh, definitely will finish working on the bathroom and art room/den. Finally, I am doing research in order to 1) write a series of books for teens/tweens (which I've always wanted to do) and 2) write the high level details for the first five seasons of a new Star Wars series that's been coming together in my mind (decided if I'm ever going to enjoy ST again I'm going to have to write a series I'd actually want to watch!).

For the present moment I'm watching 30 Rock, finishing off some killer soup my gf made, organizing pictures from my camera, and also reorganizing some folders in outlook...and then to bed!

P.S. And no, Fozzie will not be in the new series, just wanted to draw a parrallel between the death of Gene Roddenberry and Jim Henson, both visionaries whose premature departures had pro-found (negative) long term affects on the franchises they'd created.

P.P.S. And no, I cannot spell.