Author Archives: gentlemanmystic

An Uncomfortable Verity

You are a killer.

The above statement is neither metaphor nor hyperbole, it is FACT. No matter how much you might protest to the contrary, regardless of any positions of pacifism or non-aggression you hold, even should you have been a strict vegan and staunchly rejected the use of animal products in any fashion, you are directly responsible for the death of more individual lives than you can possibly imagine.

How can I be so bold in my proclamation and so completely certain of my stance? You are reading this dispatch, which means that you are ALIVE. The very fact that you live means something, some 10 trillion or MORE somethings, had to die. Plants, animals, insects, microbes, and likely multiple lifeforms we have yet to even discover or identify are gone. And you killed them.

The purpose of this dispatch is not to heap upon you guilt or blame or to induce shame. My point is to bring to your attention the Giveaway that so many others have made so that you and I may live. It is to share with you the recognition that the carrot is no less sacred than the cow. If we are to live then something else must die for that to happen. It is The Way of Things.

Every morning before I leave my home I stop just outside my door and speak aloud the following words:

To all those Life forms which today I will kill,
Those which I kill knowingly and those which I kill in ignorance,
I ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me.
I grieve for you and I Celebrate you.
I honor you and I thank you.
I shall live my Life today in such a way
That your loss is not in vain.

This prayer does not negate the fact that I will, that I MUST kill in order to live. What it does is bring to the forefront of my awareness the awful cost that others must pay so that I may live. It helps me to recognize the importance of my Life being lived to its fullest and appreciated for the Gift that it is.

It is Sacred Law that Death gives Life. In this universe, it can be no other way.

©Billy Red Horse

Yoshi

This past weekend I made my yearly pilgrimage to Stone Mountain Park to partake in the festivities of the Stone Mountain Highland Games & Scottish Festival.  My lineage through my mother’s side of the family sees me as a member in good standing of Clan Buchanan and I always enjoy immensely taking in many of the activities the Games provide.

One of the activities I like to observe is Scottish Country Dance.  Not to be confused with the more athletic Highland Dancing, Scottish Country Dance (Cèilidh) is traditional social dancing for ladies and gents and is very similar to square dancing.  This year I had the good fortune to attend the pre-event gala that took place offsite the evening before the Games officially opened, where an informal dance was included as part of the schedule.

I entered the room where the Cèilidh was already underway and sat down on one of the many chairs provided for observers that lined the wall.  Watching the dancers, my attention was immediately drawn to a kilted gentleman who was, in my less than expert opinion, the best dancer on the floor.  His movements were precise and he danced without hesitation and with obvious pleasure.  Then I realized that the gentleman in question was undoubtedly NOT Scottish or even European.  This gentleman was Japanese and I learned later that his name was Yoshi.

Delighted by what I saw, after the dance ended I introduced mySelf and told Yoshi how much I enjoyed his dancing.  He accepted my praise with typical Japanese humility and quickly excused himself.  The next day at the Games proper, I again saw Yoshi, this Time dancing with a group of less than skilled participants.  Regardless of the proficiency of his partners, Yoshi still shined in his performance and his demeanor.  The man undoubtedly loved what he was doing.

It subsequently occurred to me that, in the current climate of rampant political correctness, there are those who would be very happy to deny Yoshi the pleasure of participating in Scottish dance, just as they would like to deny a young lady of European descent from wearing a traditional Chinese dress to a high school prom.  The culture police, though generally well-intentioned, are very short-sighted regarding both history and the potential consequences of artificially enforced cultural segregation.  Bloodlines that do not intermingle, whether physically, intellectually, or culturally are ultimately doomed to a sort of inbreeding that is detrimental to all.

The Sun does not shine only on those of European descent.  Water is not solely for the First Nations Peoples of the Americas.  The Air does not belong only to Africans.  It wasn’t so very long ago that great pleasure was taken when one foreign culture showed interest in another.  What is now thought of as appropriation used to be considered recognition and respectful appreciation.  In fact it was not uncommon to view the rejection of one culture by another as not only rude but outright bigoted and a sign of ethnic elitism.  It is my hope that clearer heads will eventually prevail and we can all get on with being more like our ancestors, discovering, sharing, and appreciating one another’s traditions and ways without concern for condemnation and retribution.

How Yoshi came to be a Cèilidh dancer I never found out.  If I see him again next year, I will most assuredly do all that I can to learn his story in detail.  For now, the memory of his enchanting dancing is enough to make me smile.

©Billy Red Horse

To See

Oh, if only I could see…

Is there something wrong with my eyes? Am I blind? No. A doctor would tell me that my eyes are perfect. (Well, okay…maybe not perfect, but there’s nothing wrong a pair of eyeglasses couldn’t remedy.) Nevertheless I still do not see that which I look at. There is no obstruction, yet I cannot see. There is no neural malady, yet I remain sightless.

I raise a hand before my face. Bone covered by meat and sinew and skin. Blood brings forth liquid life, the pulse quickens in my veins. Muscles contract, tendons respond. There is movement. Shadows, the color of the flesh, nails at finger’s end. I want to see my hand, dammit!

This thing we call sight, what is it really? Colors and shapes and movement all register in my eyes. There is focus. There is comprehension. I am told that this is sight. Though the organism is sound and there is a perception of colors and shapes and movement and focus and comprehension I CANNOT SEE WHAT I LOOK AT!! Do not lie and say the hand is seen! Do you lie or is it…is it that you do not know? I am not the only one. Do you think that you have truly seen anything you have ever looked at? You have not, my friend, you have not…

Are my words the babbling of one cut loose of reality? No, my words speak of things as they are. You have never seen grass. You have never seen stone. You have never seen water. You have never in your life seen your own hand.

I challenge you: Before you go to bed tonight look at your hand under a light. See its form, note its function as you flex your fingers. See the lines and the hairs and the nails. Once you are convinced that I truly am mad, turn off the light and look at your hand in the darkness of night. You cannot see your hand, you cannot see anything, for the light is gone. The only thing you have ever seen when you looked at your hand is the light reflected by your hand. The only thing you have ever seen with your eyes in your life is light and its reflection.

What does a hand really look like? What does anything really look like? If we are so mistaken about our sight, what other misconceptions do we labor under? What else do we believe we know that we do not know? I wish to see things as they are, not just their reflection…

©Billy Red Horse

The Company You Keep

Be conscious of your associations.  Rightly or wrongly, people will judge you by the company you keep.

If you have worked to build in others a confidence in your integrity, your abilities, your understanding, and your kindness, be careful not to damage that confidence through the absentminded or indiscriminate interaction with or association to those that might not themselves demonstrate the same concern and diligence you have cared enough to cultivate.

Such dubious associations need not be confined to the material world to foment pernicious or even devastating repercussions.  In this age of instantaneous virtual interaction, in the eyes of many, if it’s on the Internet, it MUST be true.  We now live in a world where, to one degree or another, everyone finds themselves in a glaring spotlight.

Even the very best work you do will no doubt be questioned by some, challenged or outright discredited by others, based in no small part on the associations you have or the attendant views you advance.  Don’t give the cynics and naysayers more fuel for their spiteful fires by handing over to them the very materials which they will use to immolate you.

The most universally regarded currency we share in our relationships with others, whether they be close at hand or half-way around the world, is the reputation that precedes us.  Our credibility is both our cachet and our cash; if your credibility is important to you, you would be wise to guard it jealously.  Nothing is worth a needless and easily avoidable aspersion to one’s good name.

It is never in poor form to take the high road.  It is never questionable to demonstrate manners and decorum.  It is never suspect to repudiate distractions and focus on that which matters. It is always wise to think before acting.

Remember: the world is watching.

©Billy Red Horse

#MysticOffTopic

In my Life generally and in my work specifically as The Gentleman Mystic, I speak to the creation, experience, and expression of Beauty.  I teach that the reason we are born into this Life is to know the Joys of living.  For me, this manifests through Self-awareness and the process of continual personal refinement.  My work has absolutely nothing to do with providing commentary on the cultural distractions of politics or its attendant machinations.  Hence the title of this present dispatch being #MysticOffTopic.

My concern is not with any specific political stance, party, or affiliation.  Believe what you want, support whatever candidates or positions speak to you, it makes no difference to me.  What motivates me to write this piece is what I perceive to be the proliferation of throttles and downright suppression in the marketplace of ideas by the gatekeepers of the Big 3 social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube/Google.)

I understand that the Constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of speech are in place to stop the government from using its power to limit expression by the citizens of this nation.  I also know that the private sector is not bound (nor should it ever be) by those sacrosanct constrictions.  If the aforementioned Big 3 wish to limit the type and tenor of discussions and interactions on their platforms, they are absolutely within their rights to do so.  What disturbs me is the unevenness with which these platforms choose to dole out their restrictions, suspensions, and outright bans to certain individuals that could be viewed as libertarian, conservative, or otherwise right-leaning, all the while protesting that they are showing no favoritism and are simply abiding by their own previously established terms of service.  Even more troubling are the number of accounts I have observed to be suspended or banned which, though not political per se, do not fall within the present zeitgeist of political correctness, yet are otherwise not even remotely incendiary or maliciously provocative.  Conversely, there are accounts (many belonging to well known celebrities) currently active on Twitter that routinely tweet out all manner of vile and inflammatory rhetoric with no consequence.  The difference?  Those in the last group are openly and vocally left on the political spectrum.

(Lest anyone accuse me of declaiming that my personal “preferred” ideology is being unfairly victimized in/by social media: 1) Unless you have spoken with me personally, you very likely have no idea what are my political leanings, and 2) I would be just as concerned with what I perceive to be unequally meted out redactions if it were the right which were the beneficiaries of such actions.)

The Big 3 platforms will undoubtedly trundle on as they see fit.  Certainly, market pressures can be brought to bear but, until dollars (or the loss thereof) supplant ideologies, there is little reason to expect a lessening of the affronts to the right or the non-PC center, or parity with the left being more stridently scrutinized and admonished.  So what to do, then?

I have never had a reason for any of my social media accounts to be censured but, as I have already alluded to, reason is a sometimes nebulous and flimsy thing in these matters.  (For all I know, the contents of this very dispatch could be sufficient provocation for an audit of my social media presence if word of my position somehow made its way to the proper inquisitors.)  It is my intention to remain active on Twitter with it being my primary social media outlet, along with my extant Instagram account.  This does not mean I have any degree of confidence that my anodyne gentleman’s voice is in any way safe or above misguided reproach.  It is with this in mind I have opened accounts with two current alternatives to Twitter: Minds and Mastodon.  Should I one day “disappear” from any of my customary outlets without warning, you will have a way of tracking me down.  And, of course, I can always be found here at GentlemanMystic.com.

Two of our greatest freedoms are those of expression and of choice.  I hope you will use both wisely.

©Billy Red Horse

Dignity

I speak often of the importance of basics. The consistent and energetic application of Life’s fundamentals are the surest way for a person to stand out among their peers, to be an example to others of what is possible, and to set the table for the personal experience of Joy, day in and day out.

Perhaps the most basic element a gentleman should seek to cultivate is a sense of personal power. The power of which I speak is evidence of Self-awareness, of Self-confidence, and of competency. A singular trait of the legitimately powerful is an abiding and unshakeable sense of dignity.

A man possessed of a genuine dignity is able to be calm in the midst of chaos, to be unfazed by the slings and arrows of antagonists, and just by his very presence is able to serve as a guiding light in a sometimes dark world.

The dignity of which I speak is unmistakable, evident whether a man is dressed in a bespoke suit, driving a miniature circus car and wearing full clown regalia, or standing naked and exposed as the day he was born. Dignity is not beholden to circumstance or to condition. This is how you recognize it whenever it is present.

Like most things in Life, dignity can be inborn or it can be cultivated. It should be reassuring that the latter is far more common than the former. How, then, do we generate and sustain this Magical capacity?

Competency and confidence are essential. Those who would deflect their own dignity are apt to point out that they are imperfect and, perhaps, beneath a deserved dignity. Fortunately, dignity has no need of perfection. In fact, it is in the acceptance of one’s imperfection where dignity can find its most fertile soil for growth. Discarding the fruitless pursuit of perfection frees one to focus on the real and achievable work at hand. Be honest in one’s assessment of oneSelf and one’s limitations and strengths. Get better every day. This is how it’s done.

Which comes first, dignity or competency and confidence? The equation is not linear but is circular. They each build one upon the other.

I can say much more on this and, at some point, I shall. For now, this is enough to be getting on with. In the meantime, nurture your own dignity, demonstrate it in your Life for all to see. Let it be such that strangers will address you and say, “I don’t know what it is you’ve got, all I know is that I want it!”

©Billy Red Horse

Expectations

Expectations can be problematic.  Because of the challenges inherent in expectations, there are those who label them as “bad” or “undesirable” and suggest that, as such, they should be jettisoned in their entirety.  The fact is that expectations (in their purest expression) are neutral and have have no ethical component or character, one way or the other.  The difficulty with expectations comes when we are attached to the way in which these expectations must be realized or fulfilled.  “Any deviation from the way I expect things to be is painful and unacceptable.”  Indeed, this perspective truly is fraught with peril.  Another point of impingement is when we impose our expectations on others without their knowledge or consent.  This, too, is a sticky wicket.

A meritorious and efficacious expression of expectations is to consider them to be not unlike routes.  Think of it this way: you have a destination in mind.  You have a good idea of where this destination is in relation to your current position and, in order to move toward this destination, you plot a course that will take you there.  This course may be the most direct, it may be the most scenic, it may be the most leisurely or any of a number of possible permutations.  This course is your expectations.  The problem arises when it is thought that there is only one “right” way for the route to be followed, only one way to reach your destination.  If there is flexibility in your expectations (your course), then you have options and are not attached to outcomes.  Flexibility leads to discovery.

There is usually more than one way.  Expect it…

©Billy Red Horse

A Matter Of Convenience

I grew up in a time and place when telephones were quite common.  TELEPHONES, not cell phones and certainly not smart phones.  The telephones I speak of were dependable and utilitarian.  In the 1960s of my youth, almost every house had a telephone, ONE telephone, that is, a single phone for the entire household.  This telephone had a rotary dialer (anyone under the age of 35 will likely need to Google the term) and a handset that was permanently attached to the base of the phone by a thick and curly cord, a base that was itself permanently tethered by wire to a wall or baseboard, lacking even the more “modern” feature of being wired with 4-prong phone jack which could allow a phone to be unplugged from a wall outlet in one room and moved to another room.  There were no answering machines, either.  If you missed a call, well, tough.  They’d just have to call back if it was that important.  And this was enough.

Now our new wireless handsets put us at the beck and call (pun intended) of, potentially, the entire world.  How many times have you been engaged in a face-to-face conversation with someone, only to have their cell phone ring and interrupt?  “I’m sorry but I really need to take this call.  It’ll only take a minute.”  Or the times that a serenade of cute/vile/witty/obnoxious/ad infinitum notifications announce the arrival of a text or an email or a social media status update?  How invasive.  How rude.  And how unnecessary.

I will admit with no hesitation that my own smart phone is customarily within easy reach (though almost never on my person) in a location where I can quickly retrieve it should I need it.  And, as often as not, the phone is on airplane mode, whether day or night.  Therein lies the point of this entire dispatch – my phone is for MY convenience, not for the immediate access to me by anyone else with the technology required to do so.  The instantaneous incursion of the rest of the world into my space is something I no longer tolerate or allow.  “But what happens if you miss something important?” people will ask.  My very comfortable response is a smile and a gentle reminder that, if it’s that important they’ll leave a voice mail or call back.  It is the artificial urgency technology permits that engenders so much stress in our bodies and our minds.  FOMO – fear of missing out – is a menace that is both insidious and destructive.  This is a stress that is completely within my power to reduce greatly if not eliminate entirely.  All that is required is the flip of a virtual switch.

Lest there be any confusion as to my intentions and ultimate goals, I am not a Luddite.  I don’t think technology is inherently dangerous or a threat to all that is good and right with the world.  It is my aim, however, to not be swayed by the priorities or narratives of a culture that does not have my best interests at heart.  To put it bluntly, my phone is for my convenience and no one else.

Those old telephones (with their features as well as their limitations) were a convenience that served me well for decades.  Using new tech in an old way serves me quite well now.  It is, for me, enough.

©Billy Red Horse

Zen Is

Lurk about any establishment where Zen is rumored to occur and you’re likely find a bunch of uncommonly quiet (and, usually, very pleasant) folk struggling diligently with everything from reducing their levels of daily stress to the admittedly ambitious search for universal personal enlightenment.  For a spiritual discipline that is perceived to be, at its very core, a minimalist endeavor, Zen is possessed of quite a number of ways and means to pursue the practitioner’s goals, whatever those might be.

Koans, sutra studies, techniques and approaches are all valuable and have their place in a vibrant Zen practice.  That being said, each of these systemic cogs is, regardless of how much importance the zensu might choose to attribute to them individually or as a constituent, very often something our practice could just as easily do without.  All you really “need” is yourself and a place to sit quietly and do nothing.  Fancy zafu and zabuton cushions are all the rage (and quite nice), but a simple folded blanket will do in a pinch to support one’s backside during seated meditation.  For that matter, a piece of ground to sit on and a tree to lean against will often yield more results if the practitioner is willing to focus on the practice rather than divertissements.   Can you still your mind?  Will you still your mind?

Through the years I have often encountered those I classify as “Runner’s World” Zen students.  Who are they?  Think of the runner that has the latest in high-tech foot wear, a drawer full of moisture-wicking attire, a pair of $180 Julbo Ultra sunglasses with photochromic lens, a digital heart monitor and, of course, a subscription to Runner’s World magazine.  The problem, though, is that  they never run.  Forget the bells and whistles – just run.  Or, in our case, just sit.

Zen asks nothing of us but our focus and our intent.  Zen is greater than the sum of its parts.  Walk through the woods.  Listen to the song of a bird.  Sit quietly.  Do nothing.  Don’t fret that you can’t remember the second of the Four Noble Truths.  They’re written down.  You can read the Noble Truths anytime your heart desires.  What do you mean you can’t focus because your mind is too scattered?  Let it be scattered!  Sit anyway.  Or stand.  Or recline.  Or chase your tail.  Sooner or later you will tire and maybe then you will focus on the moment.  Zen is.

©Billy Red Horse

An American Woman

 

A guest essay by The Lady Mystic
(Originally published on July 4, 2014) –

I am an American Woman … and I am free.

I own a home because I live in a country where I have property rights, and can have as much stuff as my check book and credit score enable me to have.

I dress in the manner I choose because I live in a country that does not dictate I must cover my legs, arms or face or suffer consequences … or death. But if I choose to dress in this manner, I am equally as free to do so.

I work for a woman who owns her own business, and makes more money than most men I know, because I live in a country where opportunities ABOUND for anyone who will take advantage of them, regardless of their gender.

I live in a country where I am an Ordained Minister, ordained by another female Minister. And while there are a few men in this country who may have a problem with that, I live in a country where my God does not.

I am in a relationship with a man who I am not married to, yet I live in a country where I can engage in sex with him without worrying that the local sheriff or religious “leader” will arrest me or brand me a “harlot” or “adulteress.”

I also live in a country where if I want to ditch my man, and find a woman with whom to have a relationship with I can. And I live in a country where slowly but surely, the beauty of that relationship is as accepted as the one I would have with any man.

I live in a country where it is not unusual or out of the ordinary for me to have an education, use my mind, excel in my chosen field, or be whatever I desire to be. And in this country, if no one encourages me toward those endeavors, then I am free to encourage and motivate myself.

In this country, I am not forced to have unprotected sex unless I choose that route. The choices for me to control the reproductive cycles of my body are endless and as close as my neighborhood pharmacy or doctor.

I also live in a country where forced sex is not condoned by law, and I can seek justice and redress in a court of law against anyone who violates that most sacred space in me.

And in this country, I am not forced to have a baby I do not want to have, and am free to debate the moral and ethical issues of this with legislators, neighbors, doctors, clergy or strangers.

I live in a country that produced the amazing mother and grandmothers who raised me, who taught me how to cook, sew, clean and maintain a home; not because those things were “expected” of me as a girl, but so I could survive, and live a happy and productive life. (By the way, my brother was also taught these things.)

In this country, my father taught his “little girl” to fend for herself by showing her how to change a tire, unclog a drain, use duct tape, recognize dangerous situations, and how to use a .32 Smith and Wesson properly so I shot the bad guy and not myself. (And yes, my brother was also taught these things because they served him as well as they served me.)

I live in a country that is not perfect, founded by men who had revolutionary ideas about freedom and liberty, and did what no one thought they could; they defeated a world power in order to have the opportunity to live in freedom and liberty.

But I also live in a country founded by men with flaws; men who had life-affirming ideas about personal liberties, but whose social consciousness had not risen to the height where they could extend those liberties to all peoples. Yet, I recognize that my country, more than any country during the same time frame, has fought, and struggled, and at times ripped itself apart, in order to extend that same liberty to everyone … and continues to do so.

In my country there is equality of opportunity; and while some may disagree with that statement, I live in a country where I am free to say that, and you are free to prove me wrong.

Yet, I live in a country where many of my Sisters say they are not free, feel they are not “equal” to their male counterparts, feel they are “trodden” upon, or that they have no power or influence.

In this country, the most beautiful symbol of her majesty and nobleness is the Statue of Liberty … a Woman, the Sacred and Divine Feminine. Not a man, not a warrior … a Woman.

I am, and all women who live in all countries, ARE the embodiment of Liberty and Freedom. We are the bearers of Life, the vessel through which all human Life must travel. We embrace this freedom not as something to be ashamed or disgraced by, but as the most Holy of Holies. We are Life.

Through us is the wisdom of Life, the illumination of Life, the forward motion of Life. We can stand in the midst of great vastness, and stand confidently and proudly. We birth children, ideas, wisdom, beauty and humanity. We stand in this space with total control and freedom over our bodies, our minds, our hearts … and our destinies

Yes, in this country many a man has tried through force and law to “put us in our place,” defeat us, regulate us, control us, or humiliate us. Yet, like that great Lady in the harbor, we have never stopped shining, never stopped keeping a watch out for humankind, and – while temporary stifled – have NEVER LOST OUR POWER.

So, on this Independence Day, I am in gratitude for the women of this country who met oppression, domination, and inequality head on. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rosa Parks, Florence Nightingale, Betty Friedan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart – and multiple thousands of other women whose names have escaped the notoriety of history – those women who faced discrimination, and laws or social structures that limited their opportunities, I honor today.

These pioneers lived in a world with little opportunities for women, in order to create the country I live in today, a place where the opportunities for me are LIMITLESS.

Today, I declare MY Independence, in a country where it is only MYSELF that holds me back or keeps me down.

Today, I declare there is no “war” against me, save the one I battle against myself.

Today, I declare there is no “discrimination” against me, save the discrimination I bring to myself because I discriminate against others.

Today, I declare ownership of my own body, and I alone decide who touches it. I, and I alone, have responsibility over my body.

Today, I deny the cultural norms that dictate I must have a particular body size or shape in order to be desirable, and declare that I have the “perfect” body type, as do my Sisters, as do all Women.

Today, I declare that I am smart, intellectual and capable, and it is not necessary for me to hide my intelligence, for it threatens no one and only serves to empower the world.

Today, I make the commitment to know my own mind, my own heart, my own desires, as well as my own challenges, and embrace all of these as the greater nature of who I am.

Today, I acknowledge Prince Charming never existed … and only I can save myself.

Today, I honor my Sisters … the young Women, the mature Mothers, and the Grandmother Crones from whom all Life flows through. I support them in their journey, and am grateful for the full measure of Beauty and Wisdom that is inherent in all of them. May we work together for each other’s good, and not create division among us.

Today, I honor the men in my Life, for without them Life would be less than.

Today, I honor Life and all that she is.

Today … I am an American Woman. And I AM FREE.

© Robbie Dancing Sun Cat Hunt