Category Archives: gentleman

STUPIDITY AND BELLIGERENCE

You’re driving down the highway, minding your own business, when some knucklehead talking on a cell phone and driving a tank cleverly disguised as a SUV almost runs you into a ditch.  You scream insults and floor your accelerator in an effort to catch up with the offender.  Pulling alongside the tank-driving nincompoop, you offer the one finger salute while shouting at the top of your lungs about how difficult it must be to drive such a large vehicle while one has one’s head shoved so far up their own ass.  As you begin receiving the return volley you notice your SUV (which, in your opinion, is much smaller than a tank) has almost run two motorcycle riders into the same ditch.  And so it goes.

Common courtesy and common sense appear to be two of the least common commodities in existence.  In a world where people forever complain of the lack of consideration and forethought exhibited by their fellow man, it is amazing (but not surprising) how often those doing the complaining are the biggest jerks of all.

The vicious circle of stupidity and belligerence is enduring and apparently without end.  Somebody does something stupid that affects you, you respond in kind out of malice, tempers escalate and the next thing you know someone has a bullet hole where part of their heart used to be.  Two wrongs don’t make a right but they do occasionally make someone dead.

Fortunately, extreme cases such as the one mentioned immediately above, while not uncommon, are not the rule.  Garden variety stupidity is plenty irritating enough.  Lazy shoppers that won’t walk an additional 10 feet to put a buggy in a parking lot cart corral.  Young “artists” that love to decorate every square inch of a building’s outer surface with spray painted graffiti.  Smokers that throw their lit cigarette butts on the ground as though the world is their personal ashtray.  Gullible…oh, for crying out loud… what’s the use?  This could go on for days.

Unintentional stupidity happens and preemptive stupidity prevents nothing.  Before you rise (or sink) to someone else’s cognitive lapse, stop and consider for a moment the ultimate repercussions of your actions.  Life ain’t fair, but your acting all bellicose ain’t gonna make it any less so.  Stop it!!

©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

Putting Pen To Paper

Witness the fountain pen.  Elegant in design, functional in performance.  A precision tool when paired with fine writing paper.  Why is it that, in the hand of one person, this pen is the radix of an all but illegible chicken scratch while in the hand of another it is a tool for creating exquisite Beauty?  The pen is still the pen, the paper, too, remains itself.  What, then, is the difference?  Is it in the skill?  Is it in the vision?  Is it in the ability to execute?

And what shall we make of words that, though less than pleasing to the eye, are capable still of touching the soul?  To further confound and confuse, consider when the words dance with calligraphic rhythm in appearance yet cut deep and painful swaths as they go, at once agreeable to behold but bruising to the heart. The presentation can be beautiful but the content can be laced with the poison of spite.

Beauty knows many levels and subtleties, as does pain.  There is far more here than the obvious.

You are the pen, your Life is the paper.  What will you write?…

©Billy Red Horse

Manners

What is it that separates humans from animals?  This is a question I have mulled often over the years, but revisited more intently in recent months.  While there are certainly many differences which can be observed, there are two distinctions which I would class as primary.  Firstly is the degree to which humans are capable of abstract thought.  Though members of the animal nation demonstrate a rudimentary (by human standards) competence at abstraction (witness crows and simians that can use tools, for instance), it is the depth and breadth of the human ability to abstract which has led directly or indirectly to every technological breakthrough and artistic statement in the whole of the history of our species on this Planet.  The second trait distinguishing homo sapiens from all other life on Earth is our capacity for impulse management and civilized interaction which I refer to simply as manners.

The human ability to abstract can be considered a calculating and cognitive left-brain process. Our capacity for manners can be seen as a function and emotional component of the right-brain.  Each attribute serves as a compliment and counterpoise to the other.  As our ability to abstract continues to develop, so too does our capacity to interact with and influence our physical surroundings.  And it is the degree and the extent to which we evidence our manners that demonstrates the progress of our evolution both culturally and as individuals.  It is in manners where is displayed our highest refinement as a species.

It should be understood that the manners of which I speak are not merely some perfunctory etiquette, behavioral mores observed solely to facilitate routine coexistence.  Manners, as postulated here, go much further and speak more to a genuine and expressed dignity that demonstrates a profound appreciation of and respect for Life, Self, and Others.

Over the course of recorded history, the development of these two attributes have more or less paced one another in a dance of give and take with, generally speaking, neither outstripping the other by very far for very long.  It could be argued that the Golden Age of our twin natures was from the mid-18th century until the dawning of the 20th.  By the start of the 20th century’s second decade, something began to change.

Fast-forward to the present.  Technology rules the day.  If there can be consensus that our abstraction and its now ubiquitous computerized offspring has taken such a commanding lead, even a cursory appraisal would suggest that the continued development and utilization of manners is currently, at best, stunted or, at the worst, regressing at an exponential rate.

As technology has advanced to its current state of the art, we find ourselves able to communicate with one person or, potentially, millions of people instantaneously around the world with no more effort than is required to tap a few characters into a keyboard and then press SEND.  We have come to use these products of our abstraction as a means to debase our manners.  The root of the problem, however, is not with the technological fruits of our left-brain intellect per se; technology is just the vehicle.  The conundrum that is the assault on manners arises from a deficiency in and of the very manners that are themselves under assault.

The present vector of our faltering manners is one that self-sustains and self-proliferates.  The attrition of a refined Lebensweise and cultivated self-expression is a consuming and spreading fire that with enthusiasm adds fuel to itself.  Essentially, withering manners are contagious and pathological.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, internet chat forums and the like have become contemporary virtual equivalents of the parlor or drawing room of old, but very often playing host to precious little of the civility and decorum customarily exhibited in those antiquated chambers.  In these incorporeal analogs, modern discourse has been reduced to the inorganic limit of 280 characters or to digitized photos and cartoons regularly overlaid with snide paralogisms.

The technology that facilitates this widespread interaction has the added simultaneous effect of fostering the monolithic comfort and impulsive daring of anonymity.  This implied and inferred veil of anonymity provides copious opportunities for the drive by insult and the spiteful zinger, which are but two of the manifestations of a waning sophistication.

Even should a factual personal profile be posted and no alias ever used, there is still the inherent element of being one step removed and thus at least marginally anonymous.  It is in the incubator of anonymity where bad manners are most likely to breed.

This is not to say that anonymous animosity is the sole source of unchecked impulses and less than elegant interaction in the virtual world.  Often, ignorance or a distorted perception as to the clarity with which one’s message is presented and/or will be received is at fault.  Many honest and sincere attempts at self-expression and the communication of heartfelt ideals are derailed by poorly considered and ill-mannered assertions.  What the author/poster imagines to be insightful, witty, and clever is more often inciteful, snarky, and mean-spirited, which results in doing absolutely nothing to forward dialog or civil debate. Ultimately, no one’s mind is changed and the trenches of division between contrasting positions are only dug deeper.  The only ones to consider and applaud such a post are those who are already in agreement with the author’s position, thus, an opportunity for constructive discussion is effectively jettisoned in favor of what could be interpreted as nothing more than a display of tawdry and caustic self-satisfaction.  Regardless of whether the boorish dispatch springs from animus or ignorance, the result remains the same.

It is a matter of course that what we express should be important to us; if it is not important, then what is the point of expressing it at all, beyond the shallow satisfaction of hearing or reading our own words?  It is, however, critically important to be aware that, due to the nature of the way humans communicate, how we express is equally as important as the sentiment itself.  For the mannered person, there must be integrity and consistency between intent and expression, between thought and deed.

As an extreme example, consider that I can say to an acquaintance “you are important to me,” but if I do so with loathing in my eyes or a measure of acid in my tone, then what I say is and always shall be overridden and overwritten by the way I say it.  This was a lesson yours truly learned the hard way.

In the early days of the internet (way back in the mid-1990s) I created and maintained a personal web presence that could be considered a forerunner to the contemporary blog.  In expressing my opinions there, I was crass, inconsiderate, impudent, immature, and ill-advised in my approach.  It saddens me very nearly to the point of shame when I consider the times past when I displayed the grace of an ogre, the tact of an ingrate, and the skillful means of a halfwit when trying to share an opinion or convey a truth.  I have since often wondered how many people discounted what I had to say simply because of the way I chose to say it.

Fortunately, the virulent nature of my ignorance did not prove itself to be incurable.  Over time and with much contemplation and reflection, I was reminded that I was a teacher of a discipline (Zen) that extols the merits of, among other things, reasoned interaction, peaceful coexistence, and the enduring certainty of cause and effect, that is, the inevitability of Karma.  I recognized the gravity of the fundamental proposition that, even in something as apparently anodyne as a personal editorial, what I gave out would be inextricably woven into the fabric of that which would return to me, very often multiplied.  It took much longer than it should have but, through the years, I managed to find a mature and mannered voice in spite of myself.

Lest there be any confusion, I do not discourage anyone from sharing an opinion, any more than I suggest that opinions themselves are bad things.  It should also be understood that I do not call for the evisceration or abandonment of one’s heartfelt positions or passions on any given subject.  To presume that passion and well-mannered expression are mutually exclusive is to presume in error.  To have manners is not to quash or otherwise enfeeble one’s passion.  The interesting irony is that a restrained passion is often the more powerful passion.  Certainly a well-mannered passion enjoys the greater prospect of receiving a fair hearing.

I now strive continually to carry myself with the comportment and grace, that is, the manners, of a respected elder.  Sadly, in this effort I do not always succeed.  I can, however, say with a clear conscience that any lapses I experience are unintentional and are no longer the product of intent as they so often were in the past.

Bad manners breed worse manners.  It is fortunate that the converse is also true.  As with all things in Life, that which is given energy is that which grows.  It is a simple matter to restore a more balanced equilibrium and bring our right-brain manners back into parity with our left-brain abstractions.  We have a choice.  Be nice!  Think before pushing the SEND button.  Let this new (old) perspective become “viral” and spread, not only in the virtual world, but in the real world as well.  It is the evolved and civilized thing to do.

©Billy Red Horse