Vengeance is Mine

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. — Romans 12:19

I shall never forgive him as long as I live!” She bawled at the judge, then took out a small, white hanky from her designer purse, unfolded it, and in trembling emotions, wiped away tears. “He ruined my life! How can I ever again walk down the street at night without fear of being robbed!”

Her attacker, the man who stole her purse—the black designer purse, not the red one she carried into the witness stand with her, sat quietly in the accuser’s box, head bent, avoiding eye contact with the judge.

Although the above scene is fictional, it’s analogous to cases of near theatrical drama played out in society today of people who feel they have been seriously wronged or insulted. All one has to do is listen to the evening news or watch popular television’s court dramas to realize that we’re obsessed with hate and vengeance—and our need for justice!

I don’t have any official, peer-reviewed studies to quote from to back my findings, but I’ve lived long enough and witnessed many cases where the incidents often were more drama than real injustices.

Although the following story is loosely based on a true story about a couple I once knew, I embellish highlights to emphasize some important points.

For the first year of their marriage, this couple were madly in love with each other. They were like two pieces of harmoniously locked Lego©. They had the same interests; they went to the movies together; they went shopping together, they even enjoyed mutual friends.

Gradually, however, the husband got involved in activities and interests that did not involve his wife. He even started drinking. Five years later, the husband finally approached his wife and asked for a divorce.

Call it rage, indignity, or plain fury, but the wife did not accept the husband’s request for a divorce lightly. She felt extremely hurt and humiliated and vowed that she would do everything in her power to see that that “unfaithful rat” (her husband) gets totally ruined and humiliated.

The husband finally got his divorce, although the court battle was steamy and expensive. The husband was willing to concede much of their joint property—just leave him with some dignity. But the wife would have none of that. The rat had to be completely ruined!

In her bitterness, what the wife did not realize was that the long-drawn-out court proceedings and lawyer fees not only financially ruined—now her ex-husband, but also ruined her: the lawyers were the new owners of her once-beautiful home, their Daimler sports car, and their once-joint bank account.

Long-suffering and patience are a virtue

If the wife would have been more patient and thoughtful, if she would have waited just two years, her desire to see her ex-husband ruined would have come true, naturally, with any effort on her part. And she would still be living in her beautiful home, and possibly still driving her Daimler sports car.

It ended up that the woman at the center of the reason for the ex-husband’s divorce changed her mind about marrying him, so in frustration and disappointment, he took to drinking—heavy drinking, ending up penniless and homeless.

Perceived injustice is everywhere in society. Who cannot find at least one person in their life who has committed an injustice to them? Unfortunately, to carry the anger of unforgiving injustice in your heart for the rest of your life only weighs heavily on your own health. It’s like drinking a cup of poison to hurt your accused. You end up hurting yourself!

The good news is, there really is justice. It’s just that we’re often consciously so busy carrying the burden of our injustice, we don’t see the complete picture. I’ve shown one example of justice in the above story about the husband and wife who, in the first year of their marriage, cared deeply about each other. But later, their marriage turned very dysfunctional.

Taking into consideration the complexity of almost any situation in life, it is difficult, if not impossible, to lay the fault on either person or an event. Negotiation, where possible, is a preferred option. However, like in the above situation where one member refuses to negotiate, it is often best to leave ‘justice’ in the hands of a Higher Power.

Creation is too complex to believe that life began through an unconscious series of events. To even consider such a possibility, my question then would be, who brought into existence the laws of physics and metaphysics to even give stability to life as we know it?

Thus, given the possibility that an intelligent ‘Super Mind,’ is behind creation, it would only seem logical that such this Mind—God, would care equally for both the antagonist and the recipient of the antagonism, and that metaphysical law would ensure justice prevailed.

To forgive a person for an injustice that they might have done to you is not to “let them off the hook,” so to speak. They are still responsible for dealing with their own actions. You are forgiving yourself for any anger you may have felt during the incident, thus clearing your own conscience and “leaving the details of justice to God.”

Making Moonshine, and how to Hide it from the “Revenuers”

There is an interesting and colorful connection between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the many “entrepreneurs” of the day who turned to making moonshine to feed their family and entertain themselves during those depressive times. Later, we’ll get to the interesting part—what this story is mainly about the moonshine story. But, first, …

Let’s start with Canada and the “Dirty Thirties,” as they were referred to. They were called the Dirty Thirties because, along with the Great Depression that plagued the world at the time, the Prairies were also stricken by very dry and dusty weather conditions.

Let’s start with Canada and the “Dirty Thirties,” that plagued farmers at the same time the depression hit. The Canadian and American mid-west was experiencing a severe drought with accompanying sinister dust storms that gave the area its sarcastically descriptive name, The Dirty Thirties, or The Dust Bowl.

In the United States, they called it “The Great Depression.” The stock market lost close to 90% of its value. Approximately 11,000 banks failed, wiping out many depositor investments. Unemployment rose to 25% and average household wages dropped by 40%.[ii]

In 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States and not only promised but pushed through 15 major laws during the first 100 days he was in office, the Social Security Act being one of the best-known ones, and he also founded the March of Dimes program. Route 66 became a popular route for Americans traveling west to California in hopes of a better future.

In Canada, it was a common sight to see empty railroad box cars filled with men traveling from Ontario to Alberta and British Columbia in search of work. I grew up on a farm in Southern Saskatchewan near an east-west cross-country rail line, and it was not unusual to have “migrant travelers” leave the empty rail cars and visit our farm, offering to work for a meal.

Like everyone else in the community, we had little money, and could offer no pay for labour, but we always had plenty of vegetables from our large garden and meat from butchered cattle and poultry, so we were happy to feed these hungry migrant travellers, and while they were eating, they would tell us interesting stories about depressive times in Ontario.

As can be imagined, an event like the Great Depression had an enormous effect on the mental, emotional, and physical lives of the people caught up in this trauma. Desperate times often called for desperate measures. Entertainment played a vital role in their lives, for it offered a means of escape—even if only temporarily, from the dreariness and pain of life. Dancing, moviegoing and social gatherings were especially popular, being the cheapest form of entertainment available and easiest to organize.

The price to buy liquor to ‘supplement’ the buoyancy of a party from a regular government vendor was out of reach for most partygoers, so people innovated: they made their own liquor; moonshine!

The government really hated moonshiners! It could be safely said that the government was more concerned about the loss of excise revenue from its normal imposed tax on the sale of liquor than it was in the welfare of its citizens. They doled heavy fines out to those unfortunate enough to get caught in possession of an illegal distillery, or ‘still,’ as they were more commonly referred to. To make it even more enticing for ‘snitchers,’ to inform on their neighbors, the government offered rewards of up to $200 to anyone reporting their neighbor to “Government Revenuers” who would then come and raid the distillery shutting it down. Remember, in those days, an average man’s non-unionized wage was $30 and $40 a month.[iii] A two-hundred-dollar reward for just picking up the phone and snitch on a neighbor was an attractive incentive! To make it even worse for the moonshiner, the police kept names of the snitchers a closely guarded secret so you could snitch in confidence and know that your neighbor would never find out who the ‘judas’ was.

The police targets were mostly farmers. Farmers had more ingenious methods of hiding liquor from snooping government revenuers than their city cousins did. One farmer I knew hid his ‘stash’ in a cattle manure dump next to his barn. Surely, no ‘revenuer’ would think of digging into a manure pile to look for illegal liquor! Good idea! And it worked for quite a while until, unfortunately, the neighbor who ‘squealed’ on the guy, also got to know of the hiding place, so part of his ‘information to the police’ included the location of the moonshine. Bragging to your ‘friends’ about how smart you are at fooling the cops wasn’t the best of ideas!

Lesson learned. Never brag, publicly, about how ‘smart’ you are. But it seems like many of us are slow in learning that lesson, because here’s another example of what not to do.

Whenever the police pulled into this farmer’s yard, the farmer would quickly hide the moonshine under the blankets in his daughter’s bed. The daughter would play sick for the occasion. When the police approached the bed, the farmer would, in an anxious tone, beg that the revenuers not disturb the girl since she was very sick and should not be disturbed. The police compassionately backed away from searching that area. This trick worked for several times until, again, the farmer was stupid enough to brag about how he fooled the “revenuers.” Naturally, the next time the police ‘called’ with a search warrant; they did ‘disturb’ the ‘sick’ daughter!

However, sometimes knowing the psychology of how police conduct their search—and what they don’t search, can prove helpful. This farmer really knew how to hide moonshine in the open, in plain sight of the police! He simply hide his ‘stash’ in the farmhouse attic among his wife’s empty Gem canning jars. As any connoisseur of good moonshine knows, 100 percent pure moonshine is crystal clear and, naturally, blends in perfectly among the clear, empty canning jars. Either it just didn’t dawn on the police how brazenly open, something could be hidden right in front of their noses, or they just didn’t want to bother to, singularly, examine every canning jar in the attic.

What a frustration! The police knew that this guy was one of the biggest moonshine distributors in the area, but even after several frustrating raids, each time they had to leave, mission unfulfilled! Although I knew all along where this farmer was stashing his moonshine, he never revealed to me where he was hiding his distiller, a very important piece of equipment in the making of moonshine. And not being able to locate the distillery was especially baffling and frustrating to the police. However, like his moonshine, I’m sure his distillery was also hidden in plain sight!


[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression_in_Canada

[ii] https://www.ducksters.com/history/us_1900s/great_depression.php

[iii] https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112032654953&view=1up&seq=935

A Sunday Chat with Myself — 11 February, 2018

“No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” — Lord Chesterfield

Life can have its boring moments if I don’t keep busy, but, to me, that raises  a question: is the idea of boredom a penalty for idleness, controlled by societal forces that have instilled in me the idea that I must always be busy? As the proverb says, “Idleness is the root of all evil.” Therefore, can I assume that idleness I sin, as many of our preachers try to convince us? .” We’re taught that “idle hands create mischief for the devil.” There are a whole bunch more sayings like this so, to me, it’s obvious, society has a serious concern that we citizens don’t fall into idleness, and furthermore, what is boredom? Is one the consequence of the other?

I have noticed mild forms of boredom in higher forms of animals, but not as intense as in humans. For example, my cat can lay on its soft blanket by the window all day long, stirring only when it’s hungry or needs the litter box, and not get bored at all. Life seems peaceful for my cat, but when I get bored, I become restless, and life is anything but peaceful! My mind, my fingers, are itching for something to do!

I also see yogas sitting cross-legged for hours on their mats and not be bored.  The only conclusion that I can come to that my boredom is conditioned; purely a state of mind. Boredom does not necessarily have to be a product of idleness.

In an article that I recently read by Jessica Leber, she claims that there are five types of boredom. I was especially interested in her first three categories of boredom. The first is Indifference. If I understand her correctly, indifference is when I watch the entire evening news hour while eating my sandwich, and come away feeling unmoved by all the negative events that took place in the world this day. In a sense, my mind was idle, but I wasn’t bored: my passive mind was being entertained to a point of indifference.

The next is calibrating. Calibrating is an unpleasant situation one might find himself in,”characterized by wandering thoughts unrelated to the present situation.” It’s like in my youthful days when I still went to school. The scene: an algebra lesson. My teacher would drone on in his monotone voice something about “a” plus “b” minus “c” equals”d” (unpleasant situation) while my mind was dreamily gazing out the window, preoccupied by imagining animal forms in the fluffy summer clouds above.

The third type of boredom Jessica Leber defines as Searching. Searching is like a “person might do to ease the discomfort of a situation one find himself in.” like, I remember once when I was still in the military standing guard in front of our Captain’s office where he was conducting an important training meeting. To relieve my boredom, I counted, then recounted, every one of the hundred plus (I forget the exact amount) of ceiling tiles that ran the entire length of the corridor! I was searching for something better to do, but military discipline demanded that my mind stay in the present moment of being ‘on  guard.’

Boredom: God’s way of telling me that what I’m doing is not interesting. I should occupy my mind with interesting, constructive “stuff.” 

During that military time I was condition not to think: just obey, that all my thinking will be done for me. “Hurry up and wait” was another common military conditioning, while not trying to be bored in the process–not having interesting, personal thoughts–was all part of that routine.

But all that was in the past; they were my life’s experiences. So, is that it? is idleness that causes boredom given to us as a gift that we inherit along with birthright, so that we’re guaranteed to move forward and have experiences?

The yogas have an interesting practice that addresses idleness. It’s sort of a yoga conundrum!  They ask you to try and make your mind blank and still so that you have no thought in in at all. It can’t be done, because, even if you should accomplish that impossible feat of not thinking, the very act of forcing your mind not to think, is a thought! Plainly stated, my God did not create me to have an idle mind, and boredom is the ‘kick in the pants’ for me to find something to do.

For all creation, thinking is mandatory! Contrary to the hum-drum experiences in the military, or what I didn’t learn in school, life forces one to think!

But, I do have a choice: I can fritter away my time in daydreaming, or tightly center my thoughts on a specific topic or action and accomplish something that I’m desirous of doing. Act positive, as work ethicist’s might call it.

Which raises another interesting thought. Many companies have a special department, usually headed by their CEO, called a “Think Tank.” The purpose of the Think Tank is to come up with new or innovative ideas that the company can use in giving it an edge over its competitors. I’ve known people who had pleasure and honor of being part of a company’s Think Tank and one thing that’s decidedly absent during a session is concentrated thinking! Everyone seems just idly doodling and exploring all the possible “what-ifs” centered around the problem/topic of the day. It seems that our subconscious mind works best when our objective, conscious mind stays out of its way, and great ideas—solutions to vexing problems—often pop up seemingly out of nowhere when the mind is idle.

In conclusion, both an idle mind and an active mind are special attributes that we inherited  from our Creator. It is wise for me to know the difference of when to be idle, and when to be active!

“Focus on being productive, not busy.” — Tim Ferris

 

 

A Sunday Chat with Myself

“The sad thing about Artificial Intelligence is that it lacks Artifice and therefore Intelligence.” — Jean Baudillard

In a C|Net article titled, “As AI and robots rise up, do humans need an upgrade too?” the author continues, “Forget hacking a computer. Some researchers want to hack the brain (italics added) to create human superintelligence to compete with AI.” In this article, the author makes some convincing arguments in favor of a better brain, and in its  prescribed aspect, I agree with her. Many of us could drastically reduce the calamities that befall us if we’d “upgrade” our thinking capacity, like upgrading our skills, education, and my favorite, playing professional Brain Games like Lumosity and Brain HQ. but aren’t we putting the cart before the horse?

We talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) taking over, but forget that AI is a human–a mind/brain creation–something that we’ve usefully invented through the use of our brain, and then, instead of taking pride in our accomplishment, we limit ourselves to think that the brain did it all, that we’re just a brain. No more!

“Before we do something about Artificial Intelligence, why don’t we do something about Natural Stupidity?” — Steve Polyak

We are much more than a brain. We’re a Soul! In other words, we’re a thinking, reasoning, eternal, feeling being that has somehow–still largely unknown to us just how we did it– created a brain–an indispensable tool–to help us create even greater things. As such we should celebrate our infinity, rather than degrade ourselves into believing that we’re only a brain that has somehow developed a mind, and that’s all we are.

Like a carpenter with his hammer, what does it prosper me to upgrade my hammer, as this article suggests,  but remain clumsy and continue to keep hitting my thumb with it every time I try hammering a nail into a board? Doesn’t it make more sense to upgrade my spirit–my soul, and therein eliminate  from clumsiness?

In this same article, Bryan Johnson is quoted as saying, “Looking at superintelligence for me is like when you’re on the motorway looking so far out ahead that you crash into the car in front of you,” and I believe this is exactly what we are doing by accepting brain improvement over Soul improvement.

Improve our spirituality and our brain will automatically work better for us to our interests, because it is only a tool–a beautiful, wonderful, powerful tool–of something in us that’s much, much bigger!

“Artificial Intelligence has the same relationship to intelligence as Artificial Flowers have to flowers.” — David Prnas

If it hurts, learn from the experience!

Two days ago a scammer called me—I think he said he was from Microsoft, and said that he needed to get into my computer and clean out some corrupt files. It only took a minute’s conversation with him for me to realize that he was new at the game of scamming. In the scamming game, this guy was a “junior”–just learning the trade, the one who casts the bait by making a zillion random phone calls,  and as soon as he gets someone who will talk to him—a “sucker,” he would hand the phone over to the professional scammer to do the damage. I know the routine because I’ve had these guys call before, and I’ve come to understand their techniques. Now, most of the time I just hang up, or don’t even answer the phone,  but this time, decided to talk to him. Here’s roughly the conversation that we had:

Me: “You’re a scammer. Why would I let you into my computer?”

Scammer: “No, sir, you don’t understand. I’m from Microsoft and I need to get into your computer to clean out some bad files that are corrupting your hard drive and—”

Me, bluntly: “You’re a scammer. a parasite on society. Why don’t you get yourself a decent job and contribute to society, rather than scamming people out of their money?”

Scammer: “But, sir, I need to—”

Me, getting impatient: “You’re a scammer,” I repeated. “Get yourself a decent job!”

Scammer: “And how am I going to get a job, sir? Are you going to give me one?” (those were his exact words, and this is why I recognized him as a greenhorn at the scamming business). Professional scammers don’t ask dumb questions like that, so I admit, for the moment, his questions came as an unanticipated surprise.

Me, at this point, I completely lost my cool: “Now, why in hell am I responsible for  getting you a job?” Get your ass down to the employment office and see what’s available, like the rest of us have to do! Go back to school, if you have to! Get a trade . . .”

My  haranguing continued like that for a few more minutes. He listened in silence, then, finally, I hung up on him.

A bit later, after I calmed down to  a more human level of impiousness, I sort of felt sorry for the fellow. Life certainly had not been kind to him in order for him to have to resort to   scamming for a living, so I sent him a silent prayer, asking God to let someone come into his life and give him some proper guidance concerning the responsibilities of being human. Also, I needed him to forgive me for being so rude.

He obviously had some education—at least enough to know basic computer lingo, so,  at least to a point, he must have chosen, or easily been lead into the scammer’s way of life. Maybe, let’s assume he was raised in a good family that taught him right from wrong,  but he lacked moral principles.  Was his brain twisted enough to make him a sociopath, a person with an antisocial personality disorder who didn’t care whether he hurt another being? I’m not sure that he was a sociopath because, you will remember his question to me: “And how am I going to get a job, sir? Are you going to give me one?” A hard core sociopath—scammer, in this case, isn’t interested in your opinion nor how he can ‘improve’ himself.

On the other hand, if we—society are at least partially to blame for our “misfits,” where are we failing them? I’m a great fan of TVs Dr. Phil show. What I’ve observed so far by watching him is that, in many of his cases where people come to him for help, they’ve already been through at least one other professional source that failed them. Is there a factor in our attempted care to help the less fortunate that we’re leaving out of the equation? I think there is, and I’d like to turn our attention to our King James version of the Bible, Genesis 3:22, for a suggested answer: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” In other words,  Man can progress to eventual godhood, but, if he wants to continue his upward evolution, he had  best learn to benefit from the opposites in Creation!


The black nefarious agent and the white angel are both equally my teachers.


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The Power of Prayer

As a committed philanthropist I often like to add a personal prayer to help fulfill the desired need of my ‘targeted’ person or group.

Prayer, if managed correctly, is one of the most powerful tools ever given to us by a loving Creator! Sadly, many of us don’t know how to pray properly, therefore we dismiss its effectiveness and its ability to help ourselves and others. Thus, unfortunately, many considered prayer to be no more than religious hocus-pocus–superstition.

To make prayer effective, the first point to consider is, how unselfish is our request? Praying for your spouse to make lots of money so that the two of you can all live the lottery dream is not praying unselfishly, and your chance of getting there by praying in this manner are one in tens of millions. Again, it is this type of prayer that far too many people pray and when they see no results, they dismiss prayer as useless in their lives.

Unselfish love is the prime mover in making prayer effective. Our problem then becomes, to understand what “unselfish love” really is. Let’s say you have a friend who is quite sick, so you’re going to pray that s/he gets better. On the surface, sounds like an unselfish act, and if the friend continues to be sick, we dismiss prayer as ineffective. But, if we really had true, compassionate love for our friend, it might be more proper to first ask, why is that friend sick? Is s/he living an unhealthy lifestyle? If so, our compassion then should focus on helping that friend to live healthier so that the body can repair itself–oh, and confronting the friend and ‘point out’ their unhealthy lifestyle and insist that they change, isn’t exactly ‘compassionate love’ either!

Humanity is unique in that each and every one of us have been given the Universal Power to make our own decisions, and reap its consequences. Therefore, not even the Power of Prayer can force an idea or thought onto that person. But, what Prayer can do is surround that person in an aura of influence–that influence being not what we think is best for the person, but what actually is best, and let our prayer, our aura of love, become a shield that, when the person is ready to receive, will then benefit from that prayer.

Let’s go back to our sick friend, and let’s assume that it’s from living an unhealthy lifestyle of eating too much junk food. All the arguing and insisting (and praying) is not going to change your friend’s lifestyle until s/he, on their own accord, desires to make a change. At that moment, when the desire is there for change, there isn’t another power in heaven nor on earth that can prevent that aura of compassionate love –that Prayer that you offered,  to manifest itself and have a positive influence on your friend. It may take a month, it may take a year or most of a lifetime, but manifest, that prayer must!

“… Be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity…” Doctrine and Covenants 12:8

And one should include patience. As Julius Caesar said, “It is easier to find men who are willing to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.”

And, herein lies the undefeatable power of Prayer!

 

Loneliness

My brother acquired polio when he was only 18 years of age.  Outside of the restricted use of his limbs, he was able to get around fairly well and expressed a relatively positive outlook on life. He had a lot of friends, loved to travel, loved to join in fireside sing-alongs. In short, aside from his handicap, he enjoyed life more than many other people that I know. Unfortunately, as he got older, his polio worsened and eventually had to accept the fact that he needed more care than his family could provide, so he was placed in an Extendicare Home in Regina, Saskatchewan. Even there, we communed by telephone at least once a week, and even more often as time went on.

My brother had a sharp, thinking mind and we enjoyed hours of conversations on most topics, especially religion and politics. But, in time, I could tell that, although he and I communed often, loneliness was becoming his greatest enemy. Real conversation with other human beings is what he missed in his new Extendicare home. Not that there weren’t other people in the home besides himself: there were lots of them. Unfortunately, most of them were there because their minds were deteriorating, either through dementia or Alzheimer disease, robbing them of any attempt at meaningful conversation.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” This is what was happening to my brother. As he sat at the dinner table and watched others around him, some of whom were so far gone mentally that they had to be spoon fed, he saw his own future: humanity–himself,  slowly dying.

My brother passed away last year. I’ll miss him!

Loneliness, if not the greatest enemy to mankind’s well being, certainly ranks high in its destructive power. That’s why we have church organizations, YMCAs, YWCAs, community centers. They are all there to help us combat loneliness. Rare is the individual that does not need the companionship of another human being. Man is a social being. We need each other to survive!

 

 

Spells, Curses and Magic: there is always a price!

The first time that I saw magic performed on stage was in our small town hall when I was about six years old. I was absolutely captivated by the magician’s trickery and, at the time, believed that what I saw was real.

So many things in my childhood were magic–and seemingly, real. The sun magically rose every morning, bright and warm; clouds could hold only so much moisture, then I’d watch these huge, sometimes scary, rumbling thunderheads approach and release their moisture magically back to earth as rain; I imagined that the colorful northern lights were God dancing with his angels among the stars; thunder was God scolding someone in heaven–sometimes He seemed especially angry! It was a fun time for me because I had a vivid imagination, and I loved to believe that many natural phenomena really were magic.

That was childhood magic. now I’m grown up. Regretfully, like Leonard Lipton’s “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, I also was forced to sacrifice my childhood fantasies and replace them with what we adults call, cold logic. But even to this day, I often wonder if we really stop believing in magic. Yes, we no longer believe in tooth fairies and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and who isn’t fascinated by a good, entertaining magic show. But have we replaced our childhood magic with a dark, more sinister  love/fear relationship with magic that exists deep in our subconscious that can actually do us a lot of harm? For example, a few days ago I was parked outside a local bank in town that just happened to be near one of those Payday Loan offices. As I waited in the car for my wife to return from the bank, I watched a middle aged lady enter the Payday Loan office and, a few minutes later, exit with a small amount of cash in her hand. Was this lady aware of the high interest that was already tacked onto that small loan before she even was expected to repay it? Did she believe that, somehow, magically, she’d be able to repay that loan in a few days without adding interest upon interest to that loan? Sadly, I shook my head and couldn’t help but feel that that lady obviously believed in primitive, subconscious magic that somehow, “Puff, the Magic Dragon” would manifest in her life and give her enough money to pay back that loan.

Another form of primitive magic can be found in some of our religious practices of the day. There are many documented cases where so-called God’s evangelists preach hocus-pokes–send me your money and I’ll magically petition God to remove your pain, your sorrow, and make you whole again. Like that dear lady who fell for the hollow promises of that Pay Day loan shark, many of us fall for the false preaching of a ‘God’s disciple’.

To claim that one is without a religious belief is a lie. Atheism is a religion every bit as much as Christianity or Hinduism is. We all believe in something, and sadly, too often, we condemn the other person for believing different from us. So, is there a magic–a religion, that isn’t harmful to creation? Like the dear lady who trusted that some god, somewhere, would magically give her the money to pay back her loan, or the elderly gentleman who gives his last dime to that gospel preacher who promised, if he did that, God, magically, would take away his rheumatism, life can be very disappointing and painful. Yet, trust, pain, hope are but three of several attributes that a forward-looking God has endowed us with in order to help us to become more mature souls by making life a learning experience–a school of the highest order.

C. S. Lewis probably summed religion best when he said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Religion–magic, wasn’t meant to make us happy. It was meant to eventually mature all of us into vibrant, living souls and become the very reflections of our Father-creator ourselves!

Magic and false prophets–teachers–are but a price God is exacting from us for the privilege of becoming gods some day ourselves.

Let’s Define Death

An acquaintance of mine and I–we live in the same cul-de-sac– both have cancer. Since cancer can so often be a terminal disease, the thought of death naturally  became a topic of our discussion. Sadly, my friend has since “graduated,” as he liked to put it, but the memory of our many discussions, especially about death, still lingers strong within my mind.

First, what is life? O.k., there are many philosophical opinions and definitions of what constitutes life, any of which can be correct wrong, or ill-defined and worthy of further discussion. But, one that had the most meaning to me was where I likened both life and death to an iPad, or Smart Phone. We all have one, so this makes an easy comparison.

The Smart Phone is a very powerful and useful tool in our lives that can perform some remarkable things like let one talk to your neighbor or a business acquaintance on the other side of the world, solve math problems or let you write letters, listen to music, and so on. But, what happens when you pull the energy source, the battery and memory card from your Smart Phone?

That’s death! Your Smart Phone has died! It still has the appearances of being whole, it still  looks like it did before: you give it a shake, “come on. Wake up!”–but something is missing: it’s missing its energy and its missing its memory. The thing is dead, completely lifeless! Without its battery (energy) and memory card (awareness), no matter how much you prod, shake or try to resuscitate it, your attempts are futile. It’s dead! You can throw it away–or bury it, like we humans like to do with our bodies.

And, in similitude, this is exactly what happens to a human when he dies: his energy, his battery–his soul–his Self– inseparable from his memory, has been ‘pulled’ from his body. An ‘Upper Room’ decision has been made to ‘upgrade’ the Self to a new realm, leaving a dead, lifeless body behind for the undertaker to dispose of.

The next question, of course, is, who, and what, exactly, is the Self? That part of us,  that decided to ‘pull’  itSelf–the energy and memory card from our ‘Smart Phone,’ that we were having so much fun with, and where does it go?

In humility, we must admit that we’re more like a computer, albeit a very sophisticated computer, than we sometimes care to admit.

Arguing …

“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.” — George Bernard Shaw

I love to argue! Some of my colleagues refer to this, my passion, as a barbaric sport. If I must argue, then, instead of arguing, why not debate like civilized people do? Debating, they say, is more civilized and, since Man is the only creature that we’re aware of  that can reason, why not help him reach for higher stratums by reason of ‘civilized’ debate, rather than ‘barbaric’ arguing?Argument

Hogwash!

Troubled by the restrictions and shortcomings common in formal debating, many years ago two friends of mine and I organized our own “Arguing Club” in order to satisfy our penchant to exercise our minds.  But, instead of adopting the many rules found in a formal debate, we had only one rule that mattered: the person who got angry first, lost the argument! We did, however, add an addendum to this rule–an “Escape Clause” that we knew  at some time we’d need, should one or all three of us become disinterested in the subject being argued and wish to just drop it, and call it “a draw.” Also, unlike a formal debate where opposite teams are given time to research their point of view, our topic for argument was mutually decided upon at the moment, allowing for no time for either parties to do research. Ours was a spur of the moment thing, and we had a reason for doing so, which I’ll get to later.

So, before I go any farther into proving the superiority of arguing over formal debate, let me state that, to stubbornly argue about anything— little things– and insist that you’re right gains you nothing. Many friendships–indeed, many marriages have suffered simply because one or both members just refuse to give in, afraid that their ‘error’ might expose a weakness in them. To the contrary. Be assured, to admit error is not a sign of weakness. In fact, to stubbornly insist on being right against all odds can show you up as being ‘brilliantly’ clueless! Instead, if you find yourself cornered where you face superior reason, take advantage of the moment and listen: open your mind to learning something new from your ‘opponent’ that you didn’t know before. In the end, that little bit of humility will thank you for it: you’re now truly on the road to getting smarter!

So, back to my ‘argument’ that arguing is superior to formal debating. Spur of the moment arguing, like my friends and I had set up, can be compared to driving peacefully along a straight stretch of road when suddenly you hit an icy patch. You can’t stop Father Time so that you can dig out the driver’s manual from your glove compartment and quickly brush up on what to do in such a slippery emergency. All that you have at your disposal now is a very heightened awareness. You’re suddenly more awake–desperate– than you’ve been during your trip up to now. Good driving habits–instructions– long forgotten, stored deep within your psych, pop up front and center as you wrestle with the emergency.

The same mental awareness happens when you properly prepare yourself for an argument. Like a crack platoon of  battle-hardened troops, all your heightened senses now are front and center, ready to defend your views! Bits of information–maybe something from years back that you had glimpsed on a billboard, or heard a high school teacher say, crashes through your brain’s cobwebbed time barrier and rolls off your tongue as if it’s always been there, fresh and handy. You’re a sudden genius!

No, I don’t promise that, overnight, you’ll become a famous battle-hardened arguer, feared by all opposition. Oh, if it only were that simple!  First, it’s not that simple and, like all worthwhile skills, it can take a while before you become a real challenger in the argument arena, and like the skills of any Learned Grand Master of any trade or profession, it takes a lifetime to make your opponents fear and/or respect you. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Arguing and formal debating can be compared to a speaker and a listener. As in all meetings that we attend, the one giving the talk can be compared to the arguer, because he has to be more aware than the listener. The listener, for all that it matters, can fall asleep. Awareness plays an important role in turning on all your senses. Because of this heightened awareness, the speaker will always end up knowing more about the topic than the listener, no matter how much the listener concentrates on the topic.
  • A true Arguer is a person who desires to learn more than the average person, and to learn it fast.
  • Although we “Three Musketeers” had one rule: he who got angry first lost the argument, not once do I remember any one of us getting angry during our many sessions. That rule was just sort of a decoration that we added to help keep our arguments fun and in line.
  • Did I mention that our argument sessions were designed to be fun? A lot of studies have shown that the brain learns better, and retains more of the information, when it is fun to learn.
  • Back to the topic of speaker and listener, have you noticed that a good speaker, one that the public flocks to, enjoys speaking and, over the years, that makes him ever more proficient in his speaking skill, and develops a broader span of knowledge? The key here is, have fun and it will all come to you!
  • Don’t be shy about taking the opposite or disliked view when a topic is presented. It’s usually easy to win the argument if you take the ‘popular’ side of the view and one that you’re familiar with, but just spewing out a bunch of known information does little in sharpening your quick-thinking skills, nor will it help broaden your knowledge-horizons. Taking the opposite view in discussions, especially unpopular ones, is a common practice among lawyers when learning their trade. That’s why the good ones seldom loose a case! Besides, it’s taking the opposite view that brings out your platoon of crack self-awareness troops.
  • Be selective in choosing whom you wish to engage in an argument. There are far more people out there who are more interested in picking a fight with you rather than engaging you in mental competition! Not heeding this advice can even put you in physical harms’ way. If your opponent shows any sign of anger, quit the discussion! Believe me, an angry or frustrated person cannot be swayed to accept even the most simple truth. That is why politicians rarely go out and meet with a demonstrating crowd. An angry crowd is a closed-minded crowd!