Saturday, November 23, 2013

The End of Neurosis

During days of quiet reflection at the Shed, one of the most powerful insights that comes back to me time and again is that you can never change other people.  They will stay crazy right up until they decide to change all by themselves.

Oh, sorry, did I use a non-PC word there?  Crazy?  You are correct: therapists strongly dislike the word "crazy."  It makes it sound like any fool can become a therapist without years of medical, scientific and psychiatric study and training.  Now, that actually is the situation, but they still don't like it to be generally known.  That is why they prefer to call crazy people by a another name that makes it sound as though they knew something meaningful about it:

Borderline Personality Disorder

Therapists also do not like to work with crazy - uh, I mean individuals exhibiting Borderline Personality Disorder, because they know that there is nothing they can do to "cure" them.  Because you can't change other people; people can only change themselves when they decide to.

Stop Whining about the noise and sparks,
and let Angle Grinder Man cut your chains off.
And crazy people (just get over it, ok?  It takes less time to write and amounts to the same thing) never, ever change because part of being crazy is that they are utterly convinced that they are not the ones with the problem.

I don't have to define crazy (or BPD) because you know it when you see it.  Everyone knows someone with wild swings of emotion, likely to bite the head off of anyone at the slightest whiff of what they believe to be an attack on their self image, or people that get mad at you and sulk for weeks over something you don't remember doing or saying.  We label them drama queens, rage-a-holics,  people with issues, narcissistic, co-dependent and so forth.  But really, they're just plain-old straight-up Crazy.

(I'd like you to immediately, right now, buy and read this book: Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder.  Do it now.)

The most important thing you can do now to ensure that your life is not infected with crazy is to stop hanging around crazy people.  You'll be glad you took this step, and the sooner, the better.  (I know a good divorce attorney if you need one.)

The next step is to swallow the bitter pill and look in the mirror.  How does a person who consciously chooses to no longer be crazy actually make the change?  Perhaps you're not full-on bat-shit crazy, but just, say, a little on the neurotic side.  Maybe there's just a touch of some social phobia, anxiety, anger, brooding over past bullying or trauma, or a wee bout of addictive tendency.  If that's the case, then you're actually pretty normal.  Therapists love people like you!

Crazy people never question for a moment the existence or meaning of their emotions.  They have intense emotions set to explode on a hair-trigger.  Ordinary neurotics have less intense emotions that underpin their various behaviors, and the trigger isn't as sensitive, but in principle, it's all one of a muchness.

The whole thing, the entire spectrum of human irrationality, suffering, self-sabotage and discontent, hangs on just one thing.

The one thing that allows all of this stuff to exist is your unquestioning belief in and unwavering devotion to the illusion of consciousness.

Break that illusion, that spell, that waking, life-long trance of the mind, and all forms of neurosis vanish like smoke.  If you can crack that facade even just a little, you can begin to do things that make an enormous difference to your happiness, success, suitability as a marriage partner, sense of fulfillment in life and rankings on Google.

For example, you can begin to understand that emotions are not actually real.  This admits the possibility of questioning your emotions.  As the observer of the mind, whenever you discover an emotion forming within you, always ask this question:

"What would a person have to believe in order to actually choose this emotion?"

You can also begin to question the validity of your experiences and the people that inhabit them.  Your mind, based on what it senses and what it unconsciously believes and assumes, pieces together the objective world around you and the people within it and projects a simulation of this onto your consciousness.  That is in fact the only possible way for a conscious being to experience anything at all.  While there most definitely is an underlying objective reality outside you, you only ever experience a subjective, carefully-filtered and not-100%-accurate simulation of that reality.  That is why people in your reality sometimes say, do or think things that they did not actually say, do or think.  Crazy people fly off at shadows and imagined threats; non-crazy people discipline their mind not to make those assumptions without first considering the illusory nature of consciousness.

When people moan and say they can't change, that means they are still 100% convinced by the illusion of their own mind. Pain still exists, insults still cut deep, fear and past trauma keep the unformed future and the unchanging past alive within them at all times. Suffering goes marching on.

But as soon as you know how the magic trick is done, the show is over.  The veil is lifted and it is the End of All Neuroses.

Monday, September 9, 2013

New Music for your Dancing and Dining Pleasure

I thought I'd give Audacity another try.  The last time I tried it was about five years ago, and the sound quality was hopeless.  The laptop I was using at the time may have had something to do with it, but recordings using other software on the same machine sounded much better.

This time the sound is pretty good, if you can overcome the latency problems that cause tracks to be shifted out of sync with each other.  I've decided to blame all the problems and mistakes in these two numbers on that issue.  However, once again the hardware has a lot to do with it.

On my older XP machine I could play the keyboard instrument straight through the soundcard and out the speakers.  With this newer, larger and more expensive computer running Win7, the latency is so bad that I cannot even play a few notes: the delay between playing a note and hearing the note drove me bonkers.  The issue was so bad that I bought a second pair of speakers just to avoid ever experiencing it again.  When I play the Nord (which being a stage performance instrument has no built-in speakers) into the computer, I must disable the computer speakers and monitor myself through the second pair.

And so, when Audacity is playing and recording at the same time, the resulting tracks are so far out of sync it sounds like there are two different songs playing over each other.  I had to manually, meticulously nudge them back and forth until they matched.  Of course that was impossible, because my playing never matches from one track to the next, so the best a mathematically-minded musician can to is to minimize the error in the least-squares sense.

Or just keep fiddling with it until it sounds OK.  Yeah, that's actually easier.  It helped to magnify the waveforms and line them up visually.

In any case, the first song takes advantage of the fantastic backing accompaniment available on the Roland FP-80 instrument.  The three piano parts you can hear are me in live performance.  Just not performed all at the same time.

This is a Gospel-style blues that makes abundant use of 6, 9 and 11 chords.

The second, conceived and recorded all about a half an hour after finishing the previous track, was meant to be a showcase for the amazing and deeply satisfying Nord electric stage piano sounds that I have been enjoying privately for some months now.  There are three piano parts, no drum or backing track, and it's all me.

I've known since about 1986 that simply dashing off a musical number and committing it to a recording in multiple tracks is not as easy as it sounds, particularly when it's being improvised on the spur of the moment.  And if your sense of rhythm and tempo are as abysmal as mine.  Virtually non-existent.  Plus, each time you rewind and lay on another track, you have to remember exactly what you did previously and when exactly you did it.

I didn't accomplish that perfectly this time, but I really enjoyed giving it a go!

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

How To Kill Australian Bugs

There's a clever cartoon circulating on the web which we need to discuss:

I wish I knew who created this so I could credit them.  This person is obviously a far, far more talented artist than I will ever be.  How do they draw such straight lines, I wonder?

While the creator may well be the Rembrandt of our age (such as it is), he or she is an amateur when it comes to killing bugs.  Yes, these are all acceptable ways of defending your home and homeland from invading insects and aggro arachnids.  But they are only the beginning.

I used each one of these in only my first week here in Bugland (aka Australia).  Since then I have expanded my repertoire to match the challenge:

  • Fire.  Did you know that insects are flammable?  So is insect spray, rubbing alcohol, acetone, turpentine, spray cooking oil, and lots of other handy household items. This requires certain precautions, however.  Such as not living in a flammable structure.
  • Flood.  When a bug goes down the drain, it almost NEVER comes back!
  • Burying Alive.  Actually, this one is not always effective unless you have access to a backhoe/excavator.  Then, it is pretty effective.
  • Rubber Band Archery.  This takes practice.  Fortunately for me I delivered newspapers as a child laborer, and my co-child-laborers and I had access to thousands of rubber bands and hours of unsupervised time in which to shoot at all sorts of targets: flies, ants, each other . . .
  • Ballistic Projectiles.  I once bullseyed a mouse (basically a large mammalian insect) using a lemon thrown sidearm.  While seated.  At the dinner table.  While eating.  (You get extra points for each element of normalcy maintained during the kill.)
  • Shovel Bisectioning.  100% effective.  "But," you say, "how often do you have a shovel handy when there's an insect around?"  Let me put it to you this way:  Every time I have had a shovel in my hand, there has sooner or later been some sort of critter that required bisectioning with it.
  • Rake Multipokery.  This is an advanced tactic that requires specialized training.  And a rake.
  • Vehicular Bugslaughter.  This comes in two varieties:  Premeditated Bugslaughter and Involuntary Bugslaughter. What's the difference?  Legally speaking, with one of them you have to have good aim and good timing.  Either way, you have to wash your car later.
  • Utensil Stabbery.  This is a good one to know because you almost always have access to dining utensils.  Just remember to ask your waiter for clean utensils afterwards.
  • Wooden Stake Through The Brain.  This works extremely well on almost anything, not just bugs.  It's probably the only thing effective on Zombie Vampires and certain species of cockroaches.  
  • Death by Riverdance.  Got boots?  Got bugs?  Then you too can do this.  Very little practice and no Irish heritage required. Or any of that annoying jig music.  Just stomp away!
  • Flattening To Death of Small Bugs Using Your Bare Hands.  Sometimes it comes to this.  Do not attempt on anything that can bite, sting, pinch, poke, or that has a large volume of guts inside it.
Good luck!  You'll probably need it.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keyboards, keyboards

As a wee lad I had little interest in music.  I attribute this to the cognitive dissonance between what was defined to be music in my parents' home and my internal experience seeking expression.  I just didn't feel inside the way classical music, least of all opera, sounded.

My interest in music was born the day I heard Blues for the first time.  Prickles on the back of my neck.  Now that's what I'm TALKIN about!  That's MUSIC!  That's MY music.

At around 22 years of age the need to actually make Blues music was growing impatiently.  So I bought my first keyboard.  It looked exactly like this:

Mom's piano, a Baldwin
Acrosonic, still in the family
and still being played.
Really.  No joke. Obviously, there was already a piano in my parents home and always had been: a very competent Acrosonic console from the early 1950's, my mother's personal piano that she owned since she was about 11.  (I later learned that she was an accomplished classical pianist, but I did not know this at the time.)  So why did I need this tiny Radio Shack novelty?  Well, I couldn't be seen and especially heard to be laboriously practicing the piano, so a tiny, plastic, portable, electronic gadget that I could play through Walkman-style headphones was just the thing.

And play it I did.  Unbelievably, on that ridiculous toy I learned all the major and minor scales, practicing them endlessly.  I learned jazz scales, and most importantly, the blues scales.  I learned a few songs, too. I also learned that the piano wasn't beyond me, and this tentative step, this dipping of the toe so to speak, was rapidly superseded.

My next keyboard, purchased second-hand a short time later, was the legendary Casio CZ-1000 phase-distortion synthesizer.  Yep, it even has its own Wikipedia page!

I had a lot of fun with this and a 4-track cassette recorder.  The sounds were primitive by today's standards, but it sounded great at the time.  It was also fun to fiddle around with the oscillators and create new sounds.  Years later I gave this keyboard to a family I thought could really use it.

In the mean time, I was hungry for more, and the big thing in the 1980's was Polyphony.  How many notes could an electronic instrument produce at the same time?   My first tiny toy keyboard had a polyphony of one (is that monophony?) The CZ-1000 had a polyphony of 4 or 8, depending on how many oscillators were needed to produce the tone.  So I could actually learn chords now.

But I wanted to use the new MIDI standard and play ALL the music!  So I needed this:

The Roland D-10 multi-timbral workstation.  It was 32-note polyphonic, and 16 of those could even be completely different sounds!  This was the first Orchestra in a Box.  I had some great times with this, including the following completely digitally-sequenced track I produced using this machine in 1989:

(Bach's Prelude and Fugue in Am BWV 543)

and this performed by me, aptly titled, "Don't Laugh,"

My first real piano, bought very second-hand in about 1998 for $200, was not so much a piano as it was a sort of piano-shaped box of assorted piano parts.  It was really more of a piano kit.  I spent two years building a piano out of it.  It was an English birdcage action upright, and had one hell of a big sound when I got done with it.

When I moved to Australia in about 2000, I was keyboardless.  I had a harmonica, that was all.  It took about 8 months before conditions were ripe for me to have a piano.  This is what I bought, for about $2500:

When things went non-linear a few years later, I would again be without an instrument (not to mention a home, a family, friends, a job, a sense of identity . . . .)  But the keyboard situation was ONE problem I could do something about.  I went to the music shop, said, "I'd like a portable digital piano, please.  That one, there."  The sales clerk blinked twice, collected what wits were at his disposal, and said, "um, OK!"  It was a Casio Privia Px-300.  All in all, a good machine.

But playing at home and getting up on stage to perform are two very different things.  I realized after the Bridgetown Blues Festival last year that I was at a serious disadvantage, but one that could be addressed.  Specifically, I needed the Nord Electro 3/73 professional instrument.

And, lo, I beheld that it was good.

Update:  August 2013.  I have acquired possibly the most advanced digital piano in the world, and possibly the first one in Western Australia.  It's the Roland FP-80, featuring an advanced piano engine that models the hammers, dampers, strings and even the cabinet of a concert grand.  Its simulated ivory key tops look, feel adsorb and respond like real ivory, and the internal hammer action gives keys the right amount of inertia for a genuine playing experience.  Do I sound a bit like an advertisement?  That's because I'm in love with this instrument!

Except for one small thing:  There seems to be a housing/case resonance right on A3.  It disappears when I use the headphones or play through external speakers.  I'll be asking Roland for a tech note on that problem.  Meanwhile, let's enjoy it:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Tesla Effect

Portrait of a Moron
When you meet someone for the first time, how do you know if they actually possess a rigorous grounding in the "hard" sciences and engineering disciplines, or if they are only pretending to have one?

They may wear glasses and know words like "entanglement" and "wave function collapse" and "nonlinear phonon scattering," but do they actually know what the flip they are talking about?

Here is a simple test that works 99% of the time.  Ask them what they think of Nikola Tesla.  If they say something like, "He was a misunderstood genius that science is still struggling to catch up with," then that person is a moron.

The Tesla Effect

Chances are that such a person will also think that perpetual motion is possible and is being actively suppressed by the government, that aliens are currently snooping around our planet and the government is suppressing this information, and that oil is generated through geological processes unconnected to paleo-biology and the government is, well, you get the idea.  They march in step in the ranks of the Cult of the Willfully Ignorant. They are often also much enamored with Creationist beliefs of the most absurd and demonstrably false sort.

Therefore you would be pretty safe, once someone expresses any kind of admiration for Tesla, in ignoring anything else they may happen to say.

The truth is that Tesla's understanding of physics in general and electromagnetism in particular was a hundred years behind the science of his day.  He had no real idea why some of his "inventions" accidentally worked and why most of the rest of them did not.  Most of his so-called "accomplishments" are merely urban myth, hyperbole, and straight-up fantasy.

The more a person's understanding of things comes from empirical science and mathematics, the less interest one has in lame things that are well behind the curve and superseded by fact.

Tesla was an accidental inventor at best, a self-deluded kook at worst.  Get used to it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another Perfect Day For The Blues

I get these a lot for some reason.  The sort of day no goddamned good for anything except playing the blues.

I call this the Sunnyland Blues because it takes certain liberties with the 12-bar Blues Form.  But it does so with authority, specifically that of Sunnyland Slim who used it to great effect.

In a 12-bar in A, one normally hears only A, D and E.  Listen carefully for the odd F and B that sneaks in there.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Most Important Thing I Have Learned

The most useful thing I've learned since coming to Australia is probably the importance of always having a stick with you when you go to the outhouse.

This weekend I was reminded of that timeless lesson, and of a photo album I created about six years ago from the construction of the outhouse at The Shed.  It explains how to build your own outhouse in just 83 easy steps.  The incident that reminded me also happened to involve this very dunny.

It had been about a month since I last made it up to The Shed.  This is May, and for some reason, this year Western Australia has decided to hold Winter in May.  That means that it was dark by the time I got up here.  Dark, wet and cold enough to warrant bringing in a bunch of firewood with which to warm up The Shed.  But by the time I arrived, I also had an urgent need to, uh, meditate upon the porcelain.

So I picked up a flashlight and a handy stick and headed out to the dunny.  Approaching it with caution, I opened the door and poked the stick inside.  It caught on something crackly.  The stick caught hold in a large, stiff web.  A messy, disorganized web that practically filled the entire space inside the dunny.  Though the responsible party was not to be seen, I knew.  Redback.

I closed the door, willed my bowels to postpone the evening's scheduled activity and went back inside the shed to get a fire going and something to eat.

The next morning I returned to the dunny with a bigger stick and a can of spray.  And an even more urgent "need."  I knocked down all the webs I could see and put down some surface spray along the walls.  When I came to the crevice under the sink I believed to be concealing the redback, I gave it a good shot and stood back.  Right on cue, about 10 seconds later an enormous, fully mature redback came scrabbling out and began the writhing and lashing that I've seen hundreds of times in my life. American Black Widows and Australian Redbacks share a lot of DNA and a lot of similar behaviors.

Since using a dunny puts one in a rather vulnerable, immobilized position, I prefer to wait until there are no deadly poisonous creatures within inches of my person.  I therefore waited another hour or so before returning to find the venomous spider well and truly dead.

The wisdom of always bringing a stick with you to the dunny once again proved its worth.  No, there weren't any more spiders, but due in part to the repeated delays, my visit created a temporary plumbing malfunction.  A good, solid stick is useful for sorting out that, too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

If You Really Want Something Then Don't Want It

This is a subtle concept and requires some close attention to fully understand it.  Let's take it one easy step at a time:

1.  The word "want" inevitably develops some emotion around it for most people because of the way it operates in the context of your early life.  Before age 7 the developing mind has no ability to disbelieve anything to which it is exposed.    We were told what we can and can't have, and why, virtually every time the word "want" escaped our lips.

Don't negotiate, just ignore.
2.  "Want" is therefore emotionally connected to how "worthy" we believe we are; the things we believe we are ultimately "allowed" to be, do and have; and what kinds of things are fundamentally unavailable to each of us specifically.  E.g. "You can't do that because that's something only boys do, and you're a girl."  Or, "You can't  have that because We Are Poor."  These beliefs are mostly below the conscious level of awareness and therefore influence our default Standard Operating Procedures.

3.  As an adult when you say or think that you "want" something substantially different to what you now have, those beliefs and procedures are unconsciously re-activated.  They tell you "no."  They tell you that you are not worthy, not allowed, can't afford it, it's only for people who aren't you, or that it will probably end up harming you in some way.  They make you operate in ways that actually move you away from the thing you want. Your Standard Operating Procedures are keeping you fat, poor and lonely because that's what is familiar and therefore what is safe.

4.  Willpower is of no use here or anywhere, because it is a nonexistent thing.  That thing that people call willpower is just conflict between the conscious mind and the unconscious one which believes that only it knows how to keep you safe.  The unconscious mind ALWAYS wins.  Every time.  The moment the conscious mind gets distracted, tired, stressed or doubtful, the unconscious slips back into Standard Operating Procedures and behavior reverts right back to normal.  The addict returns to his drug or device, the overweight diabetic returns to her fetal lifestyle, the victim returns to his self-pity.

4.  Therefore to consciously "want" something translates into the experience of forever wanting something and never obtaining it.  Especially if it is something we were programmed never to have through these deep, unconscious beliefs that we don't usually even know we have.

5.  But these beliefs are easy to expose and root out.  For example, your unconscious beliefs about how much money you believe you are "allowed" to have is accurately reflected in your current bank balance.  Is that a jagged pill to swallow for you?  It is for all of us, mate.  

6.  Exposing and eliminating bad beliefs can be done through years and years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in psychotherapy with a 5% chance of success.  Or you can use NLP, hypnosis, or other techniques to operate on the mind and transform it into something that works better for you within a few hours.  And if even that is too hard, there is a shortcut.

7.  The shortcut is to avoid the word "want" altogether.  Do not "want" the thing you want.  Do you want money?  A healthy body?  A great relationship?  A Moto Guzzi V7 Classic in white with fairing, fuel injection, electronic ignition, electric start and shaft drive?  Or do you simply want happiness?  Then stop wanting it.

8.  The Buddha cryptically said that desire was the source of all suffering.  He may have been onto something if children in his day were also accustomed to "wanting" out loud every damn thing they see in the supermarket.  Personally, a lot of my suffering happens when I foolishly enter a grocery store outside of school hours.  Why do kids want so much crap?  We want a thing not for the thing itself but only for the feeling that we think the thing will give us.

9.  We have also been duped by our culture into thinking that the things we want will actually give us those feelings:  significance, security, connection, freedom, joy; and that having them is the only way.  The truth is that we can have the feelings anytime we want, with or without the thing.  But it's not wrong to still want the thing or to still get it.  Only our own sense of unworthiness, our own identity/destiny story, or our disbelief in the possibilities prevents it.

10.  Therefore if there is something you want, then stop wanting it.  Replace the feelings of wanting with the feelings you imagine the thing would give you.  Now, simply "choose" the thing.  Say "I choose to have a lot of money."  "I choose to have a healthy body."  "I choose to have a deeply fulfilling marriage relationship."  "I choose to have Filet Mignon or a nice t-bone with baked potato and sour cream any time I'm in the mood for it."  Now you no longer want it, because you already feel the way you would if you had it.  Because you no longer feel "want" for it, you no longer feel unworthy or incapable of having it.  Because you no longer want it, you are now allowed to have it.

11.  Persistent repetition of that choice re-writes your Standard Operating Procedures and overwrites those useless old "worthiness" and "destiny" beliefs.  It takes as long as it takes, but infinite patience brings immediate results.  The more your unconscious mind trusts you, the faster it works.  Build trust with your unconscious mind just like you would build trust with anyone else: keep your promises and deliver the goods for as long as it takes. And relax!  Be happy!  When your unconscious mind observes you happy and relaxed, it reckons you must be onto something good, and will finally follow your lead instead of resisting your attempts to change.

12.  Of course this practice pre-supposes that you have some degree of mastery over your conscious mind.  That's no small feat in itself, but it is as simple as gradually developing the ability to stop your thoughts at any point at which they run wild and diverge from your true choices and desires, and replace them with thoughts that support you and your goals.  Your free will only exists at the level of thought, and that is the level at which your determination and choices can have an effect. Start by seeing if you can have no thought for even one second, and gradually extend the time.  Then see if you can think of something specific of your choice for up to 15 minutes.

13. Of course in the long run you can always go back, expose and eliminate the old unsupportive beliefs that you have accumulated.  We all have them.  But they aren't who you are.  They are someone else's discarded thoughts that don't work, or were simply misunderstandings to begin with.  Deleting the word "want" from your vocabulary, however, is a great shortcut to use in the meantime.  It works.

How do I know?  My own experience with this concept is the following.  For years I "wanted" to earn a living doing something that I love. I "wanted" and "wanted."  And all the wanting brought only one thing:  more wanting.  It was only when I re-wrote the piece of paper that was taped to the wall in front of me and that I looked at every day.  I crossed out the word "want" and wrote, "I CHOOSE to earn a living doing the things I love."

Within a few days I was doing exactly that.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Had A Spider In My Hair

It had to happen eventually.  This is Australia, after all.

It must have dropped onto me while I was pruning some trees.

What did I do?  The only sensible thing that could be done.

I wrote a song about it.

I had a spider in my hair.
A real-live spider crawling in my hair.
It was awful
but not the worst thing I've been through.

I had a tick once, in my navel.
A big fat tick right in my navel.
It was really gross
but not the worst thing I've been through.

You let a centipede loose in our tent.
A real live centipede was in our tent
while we were camping that one time.
Boy, we sure got out of there in a hurry.

You moved away and never came back.
Far away, and never call or write.
For any dad who's been through that
who cares about some little tiny spider in his hair?

I used to be afraid of being eaten by sharks.
I used to worry about drowning at sea.
When the worst thing has already happened
Even dying doesn't matter to me.

© 2013 John S. Jacob

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Why Religious Equality Doesn't Exist

Freedom to practice the religion of one's choice (or none) rather than having a religion chosen for you by the government is one of the central guarantees made in the US constitution. But religious equality isn't guaranteed for one simple reason:

People of all religions are finally united . . .
in their abhorrence of South Park.  
It doesn't exist.

Religions are not all equal.  A person cannot legally be discriminated against on the basis of his religion, and correctly so.  However, it is not necessary to afford all religious organizations and religious ideas the same level of respect or privilege.  Some religions are worthy of general praise and respect, while others deserve all the public derision and general disregard that we can muster.   Religion can be a useful thing, but some religions harm people, harm the environment, oppress people, even abuse people.  And sometimes they tell lies.

Catholicism, for example, has been institutionally abusing children for probably hundreds of years, and has used its organization, political power and wealth to protect kiddiefiddlers.  In places where a robust secular judicial system exists over which the Catholic church has no power or sway, things are starting to get cleaned up.  But wherever it still holds significant civic and political power, you can bet that the Catholic church will continue to abuse that power and the people within its reach.

Also, any religion that makes testable claims is simply not the equal of the good religions.  When a claim is testable using any objective means, including making measurements of physical quantities, repeatable observations or experiments, mathematical or numerical analysis, then those claims are no longer the property of religion, but now belong entirely to science.  Science will decide whether the claims are true or not.  It may take a few decades and scientists may argue vociferously about it for a while, but that's how it works.  Eventually, the irrefutable truth emerges through persistent unrelenting empirical testing.  If a claim can be proved or disproved,  it has nothing to do with religion.

Examples of testable claims that are sometimes made by sub-par religions:

  • the nature of disease, both physical and mental;
  • the age of the earth, its size, shape, and position in the cosmos;
  • the nature, size, origin and location of objects that can be seen in the sky;
  • the nature, size, origin and age of the universe;
  • how living things function, live, reproduce, and die;
  • how living populations respond genetically to environmental or competitive pressures over very long periods;
  • anything to do with the weather;
  • anything to do with geology, paleontology, archaeology or politics;
  • anything to do with probability, statistics, chance or randomness; 
  • the meaning or nature of numbers and mathematics;
  • the properties of information, sound, light, minerals, M&Ms, geometry, or language.
Not to pick on Catholics too much, but they used to make testable claims about the earth in relation to its shape (flat), age (young) and location (center of universe).  Even the most rudimentary observations were able to show that these claims were false.  The church was able through the abuse of its power to suppress this information for a while, but was eventually forced to change its religious claims.  The religion either had to disband, or change beliefs to accommodate verifiable objective facts.  It chose to continue to exist.

Many prominent religions today make claims about the age of the earth and how living things operate that have been proven false, yet they continue to insist upon them.  They are bad religions, and you should feel free to ignore anything else they may say.  If a religion can be proven, it's not a religion. If a religion can be proven false, then it is a false religion.  Either way it can't help you, and it should either change its beliefs, or disband forthwith.

Many other religions make testable claims about their god which turn out to be false.  Generally, claims about god are un-testable and therefore religions are free to make any claim they wish (e.g. his name is Gary, he has a mustache and likes Mountain Dew and cow smoke, and other such claims which are inherently impossible to test empirically).  But religions that claim that god has a property they refer to as Omniscience are making a claim that CAN be tested.  

Basically, for information storage or "knowledge" to exist, a persistent means of encoding information is mandatory.  The persistent means provided by this universe is matter.  To encode all information about all matter in the universe using matter in the universe would require more matter than the universe contains, with nothing left over for the information to be about.  Therefore the concept generally understood to be "omniscience" or "knowing all things" must be dismissed as containing its own falsification, and is therefore meaningless nonsense.  Unless the universe and everything in it IS this god person . . . but that usually isn't what is claimed. 

The power and benefit of religion comes from having beliefs that, while unable to be proved or disproved, often cause a person to act and live in a happier, more beneficial way to themselves and to those around them. In that sense they are testable, but only in the context of application by each individual.  I can test my beliefs for me, and you can test your beliefs for you, but my test of my beliefs proves nothing to you, and your test of your beliefs proves nothing to me.  Unless your beliefs are testable by objective means.  And in that case you do not have beliefs at all; you have hypotheses.  

Objective, verifiable facts all belong to science, which is just our name for the systematic process of determining the status of objective facts.  Religion is our name for claims that cannot be tested by any objective means whatsoever, but which improve one's mortal experience subjectively.  Religions that fail to do that are bad religions and should be ignored.  

Substandard religions DO NOT need to be physically fought or persecuted, because evolution will eventually take care of them for us.  On the other hand, there is no need for society to give equal space, equal respect or equal status to religions that are demonstrably either harmful or false.

But if you absolutely insist on believing in and practicing a bad religion (in other words, practicing a failed Science), then for heaven's sake make sure you tell everyone about it!  The internet is running out of cat pictures.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Worst Mexican Restaurant in the Universe

I am pretty confident in making that statement, in spite of the fact that we have not thoroughly explored the entire universe yet.  Because "That Little Mexican Place" in South Fremantle isn't even Mexican food at all.  It's Food Wankery.

Food Wankery is when you put pretentious gibberish on the menu that you KNOW damn good & well that your customers cannot possibly understand.

Food Wankery is when the name of the restaurant makes an implied promise of Enchiladas, Tacos and Burritos that are at least a facsimile of actual Enchiladas, Tacos and Burritos; but instead delivers the following sort of bullshit that I swear I am NOT making up:

"Corn truffle (cuitlocoche) empanadas with guacamole (vegan) (gluten-free)"

"Crab albondegas in chipotle broth"

Roasted poblano chile with pork and apple, toasted walnut sauce (gluten-free)"

We quizzed the waitress for ten minutes on what any of this stuff could possibly be.  Upon hearing the waitress mispronounce "tortilla" phonetically instead of "tor-tee-ya," we decided this so-called Mexican restaurant was complete Food Wankery.

We left without ordering.

"The owner has been to Mexico a couple of times" protested the waitress.

Really.  She totally said that.

The awesomeness of Mexican food is in inverse proportion to the distance between the restaurant and Tucson, Arizona, this planet's epicenter of Mexican food.  Perth, Western Australia is about as far away on this planet as you can get from Tucson without starting to sneak back th'other side.  That puts me at a distinct disadvantage when my craving for Mexican food causes me to wander into pretentious snobby establishments serving pretentious, snobby food that has never even been heard of in Mexico.

Food Wankery is when customers are afraid to call Shenanigans on pretentious food snobs for fear of being labeled un-hip.  I have been eating Mexican food for almost half a century, sometimes right inside the Tucson city limits!!!!  So I am totally hip to what Mexican food is and ain't.

It ain't "Squash blossom quesadillas with pumpkin seed salsa," "Lamb Shank cooked barbacoa style with Mexican rice and salsa fresca (gluten-free)" or "Pork posole with red cabbage, radish and salsa roja."  I'm pretty sure simply adding red cabbage to anything disqualifies it from being Mexican food.

Mexican food is unpretentious rough peasant fare made from corn, beans, and whatever meat they managed to kill the day before.  Mexican food is spicy hot, with lots of peppers, onion, cilantro, and whatever cheese and sour cream is at hand.  Goat cheese will do, but orange store-bought cheddar is fine too.  Mexican food is steeped in spicy, saucy gravy for days, not minutes, so the complex flavors are well blended.

And Mexican sure as HELL ain't vegan or gluten-free!  Go back to Mexico one more time, you wanker, and this time try to find out how REAL people eat over there.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Revealed: Engineers' Secret Fitness Plan

The Engineers' Secret Fitness Plan contains three basic elements:

1.  At some point in your life, decide what size you are.

2.  Only buy clothes that are your size.

3.  If your clothes feel tight, that means you are not hungry.

It really is that simple.  But non-engineers (i.e. Complainers) always manage to find something to complain about:

"But my stomach FEELS hungry!"

Oh, right.  Which organ are you going to believe?  That paragon of intelligence and good decision-making: The Brain, or some gurgling bag of acid and gas that never knows what's good for it?  Your Brain is the only organ that you should allow to make decisions for you.

The one problem is that most engineers become aware of what they are by about age 15.  Some people claim that this is too early to decide what size clothes you buy for the rest of your life.  This may also be the reason that when you look at an engineer, you can usually see his socks.

Myself, I was still lengthening out my arms and legs well into my university years.  But being a Western Reformed Engineer, I was allowed to select my clothing size upon graduation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fake Things Are Stupid

Have you ever owned a fake Rolex?  It's worse than not owning any sort of Rolex at all, because every time you look at it or feel it on your wrist you are unconsciously reminded that what you have is a fake.  Not the real thing.  Worthless junk.

The unconscious mind for all its vast power and intelligence can be a simpleton at times.  If it tries to process the thought "I own worthless junk" too often it will  make a false association and begin to process "I AM worthless junk" as well.

And if you have ever tried to do anything whatsoever without your unconscious mind on board such as lose weight, get fit, wake up early, stop smoking, practice a musical instrument, get a university degree, pass an algebra class or stare down a creepy disgusting spider, you know that it is virtually impossible to make yourself do something that the unconscious mind refuses to let you do.  You need it to be 100% on your side.

That's why allowing it to believe that you are worthless junk is a disaster in the making. And that's why my advice has always been, that if you must own something, then own as close to the very best that you can obtain.  No junk, no rubbish, no fakes.

Fake ideas and ideologies are also just as damaging to you, both in mind and body.  The following are some particularly destructive fake ideas, things that are not actually real in spite of the many fake examples out there, that I encourage everyone to discard permanently from their minds and lives.

Ass-trology.  The basic premise of "astrology" is that there are twelve signs of the zodiac (the annual path across the stars that our Sun takes, or at least appears to take from the perspective of the surface of the Earth in its yearly orbit) and that these "star signs" fixed your personality and destiny at the moment of your birth, and not a moment before or after. The truth is that there are really 13 zodiac signs and that their positions relative to our calendar have shifted significantly since their identification some 3,000 years ago.  At best, ass-trologers today are all getting the wrong answers.  But in fact your personality was neither fixed by the stars at the moment of your birth, nor has your destiny been pre-determined at all.  Your personality is actually the product of your conditioned neurology, and people can and do change their neurology whenever they want.  It is not fixed from the moment of birth or from any other time.  The random arrangement of stars visible from our solar system exert no influence whatsoever on the earth or its inhabitants except through the beliefs (neurology) of said inhabitants.  It is the conditioned mind that determines your destiny, not which stars were behind the sun when you were born.

Numb-erology.  The premise behind numerology is that certain numbers associated with your birth and life determine your personality and destiny, in particular your name and your date of birth.  Practitioners assign numbers to letters of the alphabet in your name to find out your numbers.  The reality is that the alphabetic order of letters, even the existence of an alphabet, is not a cosmic, universal or fundamental thing but an arbitrary random convention.  Many languages have a different alphabet with varying specific letters and orders, and some languages even lack any kind of alphabet entirely.  Numbers are not mystical things, but simply names of quantities invented for counting.  Those names are not cosmic, universal or fundamental in any way, but are arbitrary words and symbols the meaning of which depends on the numbering system used, e.g. base-10, base-8, binary, sexagesimal, or roman numeral (tally) systems.  The date of your birth is also arbitrary.  Only by random, meaningless convention is January the "first" month instead of, say, the fifth month.  Even the existence of months and their numbered days is also an arbitrary convention containing no meaning or significance whatsoever, nor is the date of the start of the year significant in any way whatsoever, even astronomically.  In fact, the calendar as we know it is a recent invention, and if birth dates were ever meaningful at any time in the past, then they can no longer be so after the introduction of our modern calendar.  Your name was given to you by your parent(s) and not by some universal cosmic force.  The meaning and significance of your name is only relative to your local culture, and is not universal or cosmic.  Just try moving to China and see how meaningful your name is. As with ass-trology, numb-erology is a fake external factor that has nothing to do with your personality or destiny, both of which are actually determined by you internally in your conditioned mind, which you are at liberty to re-calibrate any time you wish.  You do not need to change your name to be a successful person.

Psych-icks.  There's no such thing as a psychic.  There are people who will try to deceive you or deceive themselves, or both, but none of them are really "psychic."  It's all magicians' parlor tricks.  People do not talk to the dead, nor do they read your mind or see or feel your future.  The fakery of psychics has been proven beyond doubt many times.  I refer you to the work of The Amazing James Randi and the excellent recent documentaries made by British non-psychic Derren Brown .

Chiropractic.  The basic idea as postulated by the 19th-century American quack who made it all up it is that all disease is caused by constricted nerves, and that misaligned vertebrae are responsible for these constrictions.  Modern chiropractics still assert that vertebral misalignment causes some if not all disease, and that they can cure everything from asthma to AIDS.  The truth is that the basic premise has not only failed to be proven, but it has been positively proven to be false.  Pure fantasy.  Nothing in it whatsoever!  Disease is not caused or even made worse by compressed nerve fibers.  What is more, misaligned vertebrae DO NOT ever come close to compressing nerves in any way that affects their function. If you have had a beneficial outcome from visiting a chiropractor, then you would have had as much if not more benefit from visiting a qualified remedial massage therapist.   Chiropractic is also not without risks, as people (perhaps as many as 200) have died as a result of completely unnecessary spinal manipulations.  Don't waste your money or risk your life.

Spin Doctors: The Chiropractic Industry Under Examination

Chiropractic the Greatest Hoax of the Century?

At Your Own Risk

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How Money Works V: The Final Question

The final question about how money works is the obvious and only question on most people's minds:

"How can I get rich?"

Answer:  Easy.  Just do the following.

1.  Understand what money is.  Money is no more or less than a container of value, enabling you to store or exchange the value that you create.  Don't have enough money?  Simple: beginning today, start creating more value and making smarter exchanges.

2.  Throw out those tired old superstitions.  Money, being merely a container, is neither good nor evil.  It is not dirty, nor is it corrupting.  While power can corrupt, money has only the ability to make you more of what you already are.  Being rich is great and being poor sucks.  There is nothing honorable about burying your talent and staying poor.  Rich people are for the most part caring, generous, wonderful and spiritual human beings.  Ignore the occasional rare but loudly publicized "airplane crashes."

3.  Get the Big Secret:  Use money to acquire the sort of assets that make making money easy.  Never spend that sort of money on anything except productive assets.  Your goal should be to use more and more assets and less and less of your personal labor to create a living.

4.  Acquire the following books.  Read, study and re-read them.  Make them an integral part of your thinking.  "Oh, I can't afford all those books!"  Can you afford a free library card?  Rich people are resourceful.  Start being rich (resourceful) right now and stop looking for excuses.

The Richest Man in Babylon

Think and Grow Rich

How Rich People Think

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

The Magician's Way: What It Really Takes to Find Your Treasure

Now, Discover Your Strengths

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

5.  Begin managing your money in the following way:

a) Take your weekly take-home pay (welfare check, or whatever), and divide it into 10 parts.
b) Take 10% (one tenth) off the top of your income and give it away.  I prefer to give mine to organizations with a proven track-record of doing the maximum good with it, but it is your choice whom or what to give it to.  Almost every wealth "expert" I've ever studied has this step as their  #1 action for getting rich.  Surprised?
c) Take another 10% of your pay and put it in an interest-bearing account or a CD term deposit.  Never touch this money.  When there is enough of it, start investing it in sure income-producing assets (stocks, bonds, rental property).  If you have a viable, thriving small business, you might invest this money in proven income-producing assets for the business, but not on any speculative ventures.
d) Take another 10% of your income and save it in a special, separate bank account for something you determine ahead of time like a new fridge, a second-hand car, a vacation or a down payment on a house.  Spend this money only when your pre-determined goal is achieved.
e) With the rest of your income (70% or seven tenths): find a way to meet all your regular expenses with this amount. This includes rent, food, gas, electricity, water, and clothing.  Cut out all non-essentials, but include a small celebration, outing or special treat each month.  It is valuable to set aside a few percent of your household budget as a "contingency" fund in case the kitchen blows up or something.  If this isn't enough money to live on, start looking for immediate ways of increasing your income: a better job, overtime, a sideline business, window washing, taking in laundry, dog-walking or grooming, handyman work, etc.  The possibilities of things you can do evenings or weekends are unlimited.

If you do this for the rest of your life, there is no possible way that you can remain a slave to poverty.  This works 100% of the time when it is used consistently.  When your income goes up and you are able, you might decrease your living expenses percentage from 70% down to 60% or even to 50% of your take-home pay.  This allows you to take an additional 10% and invest in yourself through education, books or courses, and to invest even more into income-producing assets.

Of course all this and more you will learn from the books on the recommended reading list, and from others besides that you will doubtless find.    Rich people never stop learning, as you will also discover.  Your brain is always your best investment.

How Money Works IV: The Big Secret

Anything that can hold value and be traded or exchanged is money.  Your time is money.  Your life is money.    Your skills, knowledge, beliefs and actions are money.  Your tools, resources, possessions and property are all money.  But the most important thing about money is that it can be created at any time.  The difference between people who create money and people who don't is not as obvious as you might think.  They can look the same, act the same, and even sometimes have the same bank balance.  What the rich and the poor don't do is think the same.

Consider farming for a moment.  Working on a farm can either make you wealthy or keep you poor, depending on how a person thinks.  If you accept no more than a daily survival wage in return for your labor on someone's farm, then you are poor and will probably stay that way.  If you own the farm, working on it could be making you rich.  Yes, the exact same activity can have two opposite results!  The rich always get richer and the poor always poorer because the poor simply don't know how to a) get the most value out of their time and abilities, and b) use their existing wealth to make more wealth.

"But," you say, "thinking and owning are not the same thing!  You claimed thinking made the difference, but your example showed that ownership is the real cause poverty!"

Wrong.  Ownership is not the primary cause of anything; it is merely a result.  Ownership is both the long-term outward manifestation of rich thinking and the principle that creates all employment opportunities.  Ownership or lack thereof always adjusts itself to match the mental activity of the individual.  If the land-owning farmer didn't understand the secret of money and the worth of his own land, his ownership would be a temporary thing.  If nobody owned farms, then farm laborers wouldn't have jobs at all.  On the other hand, if the landless laborer understood exactly how money works, then sooner or later he would manage to arrange things differently.  He would gradually convert to using money to generate an income rather than his back.

The reason many poor and middle-class folks don't do that is because they are missing this secret about the nature of money.  This is it:

There are two kinds of money:  There is money you never, ever worry about trying to save, and money that you never, ever, ever, never never NEVER EVER spend.


The money that must not be saved is that which meets your everyday needs.  It's like perishable food: you either eat it, share it, or throw it away.  Trying to save a scrap of lettuce here or a crust of bread there consumes more resources than it is worth.  (Pro Tip: if you hate to throw food away, get yourself a chicken.  They eat almost anything left over from your table and convert it into useful eggs.  Way better than dogs, which do nothing more than convert your valuable wealth into useless noise, hair and poop.)  If your budget is to live off of 70% of your weekly income, then spend all of that 70%.  Spend it joyfully and without flinching or scrimping.  It is money that must not be saved, because it is what you and your family live on. You are exchanging it for priceless life, and it's a bargain at whatever the price.

The money that must never be spent under any circumstances is that money which is enabling you to continue to earn your living.  If a farmer gets hungry, does he exchange his plow, cattle, or land to buy food?  Of course not - he uses them to grow his own food.  Who would consider for a minute selling a finger or a toe every day in order to buy food?  Far more sustainable and preferable in other ways is to use your limbs to earn your living.  Eat the eggs, not the chicken that lays them.

A carpenter does not earn his living by selling his expensive and valuable tools.  If there is a market for tools, there must be an even greater market for what those tools can produce in the hands of a skilled and efficient craftsman.   Those tools are money, but the kind one never spends.  They are the kind of money that earns money.

Many people refer to this kind of money as assets or investments.  If you can exchange one asset for an asset of even greater value to you, then do so.  A sewing machine may be valuable, but not so much in the hands of a carpenter.  A planer is likewise of little use to a seamstress.  But an exchange of these creates tremendously greater value for both.  Both are able to earn a living from these assets once they are in the right hands.

The fundamental difference between an asset and any other form of money (exchangeable wealth) is that an asset produces or allows you to produce value on an ongoing basis without itself being consumed.  An asset  enables you to produce far more value than you could without it, even working twice as hard.  Or even ten times as hard, in many cases.  Some assets allow you to do things of value that would be absolutely impossible otherwise.

But the poor often don't value their assets.   The middle-class often do not recognize them for what they are. The difficulty is that today we have an extremely liquid economy in which practically anything can be converted into cash value at any moment.  This makes it difficult for people to spot the difference between money that must be spent every day and money that could be earning them a living.

If a middle-class individual manages to get a job that pays well, they are often unsure about what to do with the money once they have spent as much of it as they can on daily requirements.  They don't know what an asset is, and instead exchange their stored labor for bigger and faster ways of consuming their wealth.  Boats, cars, TVs that rapidly depreciate in value, clothes that are out of fashion before they leave the store, food, drugs or drink that make the body unfit for either work or play, or artificial significance/connection/purpose  in the form of vast piles of "collectible" rubbish sourced on ebay or at yard sales.

Worse still, the poor aspire to be middle-class by copying those behaviors, thus ensuring their continuing poverty.  The only difference between poor and middle class is just one little temporary, fleeting and uncertain thing:  a job.  The vast majority of Americans are no more than two paydays away from being out on the street, homeless and under a mountain of soul-crushing debt.

The thing about being poor is that even if you give a large amount of money to a typical poor person, in five years they will be right back in the same poverty situation if not a worse one.  You see, it was not the lack of money making that person poor.  Rich or poor is determined not at all by a bank balance, but by what is happening inside the person's brain.

Even with no cash, a "rich" person sees opportunities, knows how to value his labor, and understands that using the right assets can make earning a basic living a matter of no more than a few hours per week, with the rest of the time spent building more assets.  Because everyone is free to change what happens inside his or her own brain at any time, anyone can become rich whenever they want.  The change of thinking can happen very quickly, although the bank account can sometimes take longer to adjust itself to the change.

Once the secret of assets is known and its full implications are appreciated, poverty becomes optional.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Money Works Part III: Rich and Poor

~       or       ~

Poverty Is Stupid

In this series, what do we know so far?

  • Money is nothing more or less than a container for Value;
  • Value is placed on anything that people (or any living organism for that matter) needs or wants for itself;
  • Ownership of value is a natural and fundamental property of Life;
  • Every willing exchange of value creates more value and hence increases wealth.

Many struggle with the idea of Money because some people seem to have it and other people don't.  It doesn't seem fair.  We see misery and suffering and assume that it's somehow the money's fault. Numerous solutions to the problems of happiness and poverty have been proposed, but most take the unreasonable and illogical approach of focusing on re-arranging the money.  This is ridiculous because, as Douglas Adams so insightfully puts it, for the most part it is not the money that is particularly unhappy.

Poverty is a serious problem, and as we now know, problems are stupid because most of them have already been solved.  Anyone who clings to his problems and ignores the perfectly well-known solutions out there does so because he is unconsciously in love with his problem while vehemently denying that this is the case.  A problem-haver will fiercely defend and justify his problem to anyone who will listen, particularly if they challenge him on it.

That is why I say poverty is stupid.  It is a problem which has already been solved countless times over.  As soon as someone really understands how money works, decides to stop loving problems and commits to giving up poverty and all its stupid little ways, it is impossible for them to remain poor.  Yet there are two main reasons why people are poor.  But before we discuss them, we have to pause for a moment and define poverty.  To do so we must extend our understanding of how money works to take into account the passage of time.

There are countless ways that people can create value for themselves and for others, and countless more ways of increasing that value by engaging in commerce and trade to deliver the ideal value to the ideal person at the perfect time.  As in the example of the fish and the egg, the person who needs an egg gets an egg, and the person who needs a fish gets a fish.  Value is always increased through a willing exchange.

But what happens when the fish and the egg have been eaten?  Does not the value disappear forever?  Of course not.  For one thing, at the very least the value enters the body of the consumer and is potentially converted into labor or other value-producing activity.  If food is not eaten but becomes spoiled, the possessor still experienced the value and security of at least having had the food available. Stock options eventually expire too, but that does not mean they were not worth having.

And still, the value has not been entirely destroyed,  In fact, it may have even increased.  Here's how.

The value we consume (figuratively or literally) allows us to live and survive.  A day's worth of food, shelter, clothing, security, etc. allows us to live for another day.  Now tell me this:  What is the value of one day of your life?

Whatever you consumed yesterday that enabled you to live till today, you just might consider it, upon sober reflection, to be the absolute bargain of a lifetime.  Talk about increasing value in a willing exchange! You exchanged a few hours of stored labor, a couple of paltry coins' worth of bread, for an entire day of life.  Irreplaceable, priceless life.  It's an incredible increase of value and wealth, and one that makes every living human already rich beyond belief.

If you were lucky enough to stay alive yesterday, then today you have a whole new day's worth of value-creating power, including but not limited to labor and commerce, with which to negotiate another day's worth of life.  If you were able yesterday to store more of your labor than you consumed to stay alive, then you  increased your negotiable wealth by even more than one day's worth.    That additional stored value gives you even greater ability to negotiate and create more value, and if carried on in this manner more or less consistently, it gets easier and easier to create enough value to live on every day.  You become what we will call Wealthy.

Wealthy is fantastic, because it can extend your life in the event of "hard times" in which creating value in the accustomed ways becomes difficult.  You and your family can live off your stored value until things return to "normal" or until normal becomes re-defined.

Wealth also enables you to support others to become self-sufficient and produce not merely enough value to live on themselves, but enough to support others still.

But when people perpetually have to fall back on each day's labor to survive, and often at a not very abundant level, then we say that they are "poor."  They are living poorly.

I define poverty as people who are dying.  Winding down, losing steam, not keeping up with life.  Benjamin Franklin said, "Poverty quickly overtakes the man who rises late or moves slowly." For decades researchers have been puzzling over why poverty is the one of the biggest risk factors for every major disease.  Also, they notice that the lower one's income, the lower a person's average life expectancy.  This comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone who understands what money really is and how it works.

I said at the beginning that there are two main reasons why people might be poor, and now that we have defined poverty, here they are.  But I should also clarify that I am talking about able-bodied people, and not those individuals who must inevitably be supported by family members or by the community due to age or disability.

Reason A.  Mismanagement of a person's daily value, whether labor, stored labor (cash), goods or property.  This falls into two categories: the poor-by-choice and the poor-by-ignorance.  Mismanagement includes undervaluing one's own time and labor, causing one to either voluntarily or ignorantly exchange their time and labor for not enough to live on.  It also includes ill-considered exchanges where the value of items for which one's labor was exchanged are grossly exaggerated.  Therefore anyone who voluntarily gambles, smokes, does drugs, drinks to excess, over-eats or wastes their money in any number of other ways MAY NOT EVER complain to me about being poor.  They are being poor (i.e. dying) by choice, and they love it.  Only the ignorantly poor are allowed to complain, but as soon as they are informed how to manage their wealth, complainy time is over, baby.  At that point, they can either implement the solution or voluntarily remain poor.

Reason 2.  Artificial distortions of the Laws of Money.  Sometime a society gets so f*&#ed up and out of touch with Life that they attempt to re-write the natural laws of life and wealth.  One example is when the concept of Ownership is interfered with, and individuals' wealth is forcibly and institutionally removed from their control.  Excessive taxation, forfeiture of assets, serfdom, slavery, rampant crime and communism are examples of attempts to artificially re-define the meaning of ownership.  This forces people into poverty because they cannot with any certainty store the value that they create.  When that happens, creating value never gets any easier and people can do little more than survive day by day while Death gradually overtakes them.

Another common example is the attempt to meddle with or control willing exchanges.  A willing exchange always creates value, but when an exchange is either forced or the price point is artificially manipulated, value gets lost and people become poorer with each exchange.  A prime example of this was in the 70's when the populist Nixon attempted to order a hold on the spiraling price of gasoline, thinking that this would finally make people like him.  What happened?  People stopped selling gasoline, or sold as little of it as they could get away with, because each sale at the artificial price point was making them poorer.  This resulted in long queues at filling stations and people hated Tricky Dicky even more than before.  Most attempts to artificially fix prices, dictate to the labor market or require certain exchanges by decree result in value being lost to society.  When people are forced to make an exchange which is of no value to them, value is destroyed.

Fortunately, these attempts to work against the laws of wealth tend to blow up after a while and the natural laws eventually re-assert themselves.  In the long run a nation has no more success in attempting to distort the natural economy of life than they would in repealing the law of gravity.  But if you find yourself in a Reason 2 poverty situation, what can you personally do about it?

Many people in that situation do whatever they can to undermine and circumvent the system.  The so-called Black Market for example.  Other people confront the system directly and try to change it through political or military action or in some cases comedy.  Still others learn the system's hidden rules and play along to the best of their ability.  Another option is to attain a higher level of consciousness above the plane of suffering and problems, to live entirely in the moment and thoroughly enjoy every day of life as the wealth beyond measure that it actually is while anticipating the inevitable end of life with complete and perfect serenity.

So there are many options. The old and popular refrain that some people have no choice but to be poor is therefore clearly nonsense.  And one must always question the assumption that the "system" is entirely responsible. It is the oldest and most worn-out excuse used to justify and defend Reason A poverty.  Where there are poor people living (more or less) next door to rich people, is it really the system that is at fault?  Or is it the individual conditioned mind that is causing poverty?  If anyone can be rich, everyone can be rich.

Poverty is not the natural state of life. One way or another it is the result of the improperly-conditioned mind of individuals and of the collective insanity of nations living at too great a remove from life, which is ultimately the Divine.  Poverty really is stupid, and God really does want you to kick the habit and be rich instead.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Problems Are Stupid

I have a brother-in-law who is an extremely sincere unpaid lay minister for his church.  His responsibility as head of his congregation covers the spiritual and physical well-being of about 450 people.  Even with more than a dozen volunteer assistants in various roles, this task occupies him from 6 AM to 4 PM every Sunday, half the day on many a Saturday, and two or three solid evenings during the week.  It's like being CEO of a small corporation.  This is in addition to his actual full-time career and raising a large, extremely active family. How the hell does he do it all?

I don't think I could. I mean, aside from the whole religion thing, I don't think I could be bothered to spend that much time and energy at it.  He can do it because he's interested in people.  He's compassionate and cares about their problems.

I care about people too, sort of.  That is, when I'm not consumed by my own little projects.  I try to help people when I am able and if I happen to have a solution to their problems.  But that's the thing:  I don't really care all that much about most people's problems, because a problem that has already been solved once is no longer at all an interesting problem to me.

Whatever problem you have, it is almost certain that another person in a worse situation than you with fewer resources, less support, poorer health, more kids, fewer limbs and greater disadvantages has already had your problem.  And they have either solved it, or come to realize that it was never really a problem to begin with.

Your problem has already been faced, many times over by many people. So why are you still wasting your time with that problem?  Here's why.

People love their problems.  Their problems gives them a sense of identity, a feeling of significance and a sense of community with those havers and lovers of similar problems.  People love getting together to compare, magnify and complain about their problems.  The bigger, more complicated and intractable the problem, the more significant and attached to that problem community ("problemmunity") they feel.  If you love your problem, you will NEVER be rid of it.  It will always be a focus of your life and creative energies.

People who love their problems will always defend them.  If you offer them a solution, they will counter with all sorts of reasons why the solution will not work.  They will come up with many detailed and closely reasoned arguments for why their problem is quite impossible to solve.  A great deal of imaginative effort goes into making their problem as air-tight as can be.

People who identify themselves through their problem feel angry when anyone shows the slightest doubt about or disrespect for their problem.  Many of them are probably angry at me right now just for writing this.  If you are feeling angry now, then you are probably problem-identified too.

People with chronic problems often don't realize that they love their problems. But their responses always give it away.  Do you justify your problem by taking any opportunity to explain why it is someone else's fault?  Why it is impossible to solve?  Or how the bad ol' government, church, school, parents, ex, neighbors, kids, cops, drugs, booze, food, genes, germs, leprechauns, corporations, aliens, lasers, immigrants or cats did this to you?  Then you love your problem.  I know, because I used to do it, too.  (It was my ex, who I once suspected of being an alien leprechaun cat sent by the government to drug me.  With lasers.)

All human behavior is in response to need.  If any of your behavior, voluntary or otherwise, planned or not, conscious or unconscious, prolongs or intensifies the problem you have, or at least does not actively implement the well-known, proven solution to that wholly unoriginal problem you have, then you are doing it because of something your unconscious mind thinks it needs:

Sympathy.  Significance.  Community.  Identity.  Validation.  Punishment.  Familiarity.  Excitement.  Security.

You unconsciously love any problem that gives you these things, and you will never get rid of it in spite of your loud protests and bellowing indignation at my words.

"You are wrong!  I don't want my problem at all!  But there's nothing I can do about it."

Aha!  You are justifying and defending your problem again.  Will you please say that again, except for the last bit?

" . . . I don't want my problem anymore?"

Good. Thank you.  Now, if you please, . . . Prove it.

Prove it by first understanding that there are no problems, only opportunities.  What opportunity does this so-called "problem" give to you?  What opening is it creating for new things to enter your life?  How might it allow you to grow, expand, increase, and learn?  How is it eventually going to make you a better, more resilient person, more enlightened, joyful, fulfilled and happier?  Oh, yes it will!  If you only stop coddling and nurturing the problem long enough to put it down, see its true nature and get on top of it.

The fear of change alone keeps many people clinging to their "problems."  Don't let such a filthy lie as that keep you weighed down.  Anyway, only your old problem-loving brain stuff is afraid, not you.

Now adjust your conscious and unconscious beliefs about your identity as distinct from your current situation.  Do this in any of the many well-known ways: prayer, meditation, hypnosis, affirmations, brain plasticity, visualizations, NLP, cognitive behavioral therapy, and so on.  This will begin to alter your behavior.  That behavior will implement those well-known solutions to the so-called "problem."  Most people already know what to do; they just don't act because they're too busy defending their problems and remaining dependent on them.

As your mind wakes up out of that problem-centered trance you will begin to doubt the doctrine that other people or things are to blame for your "problem" and start to believe less in their power to create or control your identity.  You may need to forgive certain people who have hurt you, or whom you have hurt.  You may even need to forgive yourself.  As you do, you will discover that you have more and more power to design and control your own life.

You will begin to accept the current situation as just that - a situation, nothing more.  It is no longer an identity or a problem.  You will begin to accept each new situation as it emerges out of your new behavior.  Fast or slow makes no difference, because they are all just situations, never problems. Time is also not a problem.

Finally, look back at that horrible old "problem." It's the one that caused so much pain and suffering and pushed you right to the brink until you were ready to try anything - ANYTHING - no matter how bizarre it sounded or how indignantly your brain stuff reacted at first.  Realize now that the "problem" was actually the greatest blessing of your life because of the place to which it has brought you now:  the end of all problems.

The people who don't do this and who decide to keep their problems have simply not had enough pain and suffering yet.  When they have finally had enough, then you can show them what to do (but you can't do it for them).  Until then, all anyone else can do for them is to help them continue to have the stupid problem.

Some people think I must be devoid of all compassion to say that Problems are Stupid.  Problems are not required for true selfless compassion to exist.  When you no longer have problems, you will still have situations.  They will often be fewer in number, however.  It is nice to have compassionate friends who know how to help you with various situations without turning them into problems or without being motivated by selfish feelings like guilt, obligation or fear.  Helping your friends out of an occasional uncomfortable situation is also a fulfilling thing to do, when you can do so without drama, attachment, suffering, or problems.

I suppose that is how my super-awesome brother-in-law is able to cope with the problems of 450 other people who depend on him.  Though he might not use quite these words, he probably knows that problems are indeed stupid and is able to treat them as nothing more than situations at worst, great blessings and opportunities at best.