Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Good Death

Ask the average person if they have planned for their death and, assuming they are even willing to discuss such an unpleasant topic, they will likely answer back, “well, I probably should get a will” or “I’m good; I have a detailed estate plan and a nice amount of life insurance to take care of the family after I’m gone.”

When I ask this question (and I do so more often than one might expect) I am seeking something very different. I’m not talking about wills or insurance policies; what I want to know is, have you planned for your death, that is, HOW will you die? WHEN will you die? If you are like most people when they discover my meaning, you will very likely exclaim, “well how the hell should I know?!…”

The average person is content to operate from the supposition that death will find them when and where it finds them, and that there is nothing which can be done to affect this inevitable rendezvous. While it is true that our ultimate fate is unavoidable, the manner and timing of that event need not be left solely to chance.

With the day-to-day events of Life being first and foremost in the minds of the typical person, it is the uncommon individual who will not only contemplate their demise, but actively consider and even choreograph the thing. (Lest there be any incorrect inference that I am speaking of planning and implementing suicide, I absolutely am not! I view the experience of being born into this Life as the greatest of gifts, and it is the reality of death which makes the conscious and intentional embrace of the process of living so important and vital. I will never encourage anyone to end their race before the finish line has been crossed.)

My thesis is simple: if our living is worthy of goals and forethought and direction, should not our dying be given comparable importance and consideration?

How you live your Life can in great measure influence how you will die; the quality of your Life will most likely determine the quality of your death. Choices and actions today and tomorrow have very real downstream consequences. Life style is a very accurate indicator of ones death style. It is with this in mind that one can begin to understand just how death can be approached consciously and with intention.

An archer does not draw back and haphazardly release his bow, hoping against hope the arrow lands somewhere favorable. The archer has a target. YOU should have a target. You must ask how would you prefer to die? Some will say, “quietly and in my sleep.” Others will want to be in Nature engaging in an activity that brings them Joy. Whatever your preference, this is a preference you would do well to articulate. Once you have considered the how, then think about when. Is eighty years of Life enough? Ninety or more? Decide but realize that you need not be held to your decision. Things can (and likely will) change.

More than once I have encountered cynics who disparage my contention. They like to point out all of the variables that might come into play to counteract the best laid plans for a triumphant dénouement. Yes, it is true that not even our next breath is a certainty. Accident, disease, or violent mayhem of all varieties could befall us at any moment. For all this uncertainty, the first step in living a long, healthy, and fulfilling Life is to HAVE THE EXPECTATION OF LIVING A LONG, HEALTHY, AND FULFILLING LIFE! Returning to the analogy of the archer, the simple elegance of the logic escapes some people: you are far more likely to hit a target if you recognize the target and if you make the effort to aim at it.

Should you and I ever have the opportunity to cross paths in the non-virtual world (and if you ask) I will be happy to share with you the plans for my own return to The Great Round. It will be dignified and it will be the final Ceremony to conclude a LifeTime filled with Ceremonies. My death will be a good death. My death will be Beautiful.

May yours be as well.

©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

Good At What I do

I have a dear friend who is equal parts muse and sparring partner. For as long as I have known him, Thomas has been on the cutting edge of personal refinement and Self-development.  In his more than 20 years of practice as both a healer, teacher and entrepreneur he has had the opportunity of interacting with literally thousands of people. One of the skills he wields so expertly is the ability to draw information out of individuals through his masterful use of insight-inducing questions.  He recently told me that such a question he routinely asks of clients and students is “what makes you good at what you do?”  I found his query to be intriguing and worthy of a well considered response; below is mine –

1. I make me good at what I do.  I have to; no one else can do it for me.

2. My Life experience makes me good at what I do.

3. I am not always good at what I do.  It is beneficial (and Real) to admit one’s shortcomings, failures and weaknesses.  This Self-honesty helps to make me good at what I do.

4. My failures have helped to make me good at what I do.

5. The physical world around me helps to make me good at what I do.  Natural Law is my ally.

6. I am curious.

7. I try to stick to fundamentals.  Far too many people seek the fancy and are fascinated by the complicated.  Showy filigree, however, is always suspect without a solid elemental foundation.  Basics, basics, basics.

8. I value my Time.

9. I strive always to define my priorities and use wisely my power of Choice.

10. I recognize that there is always more.

+ + + + +

So, dear reader, what is it that makes YOU good at what you do?

©Billy Red Horse

A Single Sentence

I very often procure new reading materials from the fine folks at amazon.com.  When researching a title I am interested in, but don’t already know a great deal about, it is my custom to consider any attendant reviews of the book that are posted there.  As a rule I tend to immediately eliminate from consideration the 5 star (highest) and 1 star (lowest) ratings and focus on the remaining 2 through 4 star appraisals.  (The 5 star ratings often tend toward giddy hyperbole in the positive while the 1 star reviews, should they be even remotely germane, skew regularly toward a cynical hyperbolic opposite.  I find neither suitable to the making of an informed purchasing decision.)  Depending on the genre and topic of the title in question I weigh, among other things, the relative merits discussed regarding the author’s grasp of the subject matter and ability to elucidate their understanding, readability and writing style, and the reviewer’s overall impression and comments on the book.  While I might over the years have deprived myself of some otherwise satisfying reads by rejecting them on the basis of a generally unfavorable aggregative assessment, I cannot recall ever being particularly disappointed in a book chosen intuitively and with the aid of an assemblage of lucid favorable critiques.

I have noticed of late a tendency in many lower-rated reviews to include the seemingly disparaging assertion that the message of the book under consideration could be distilled down to a single sentence (or two) and that the book is, therefore, not worth the price of purchase or even the time required to read it.  Though the intent of the reviewer might be to sound a warning, such a pronouncement engenders a likely unintended response in yours truly; rather than serve as an automatic disqualifier, a book that can be accurately described as reducible to a mere sentence or two appeals greatly to my sense of appreciation for fundamentals.

In my own work I take great pains to stress the basics in all that I do.  While they may not be sexy or glamorous, experience has shown me time and time again that core practices and fundamental principles are nothing if not efficacious.  A book that can have its central theme stated clearly and with brevity is a book that I can relate to and usually learn a great deal from.

Our contemporary Western culture seems to confer undue merit upon the notion of complexity.  The more involved and Gordian (or so the thinking goes), the more significance and intrinsic value an object or thought holds.  Is this always true?  Time and experience would suggest otherwise.  Sophistication does not demand complexity.  In fact, true sophistication often dwells in the realm of the subtle.  Simplicity and sophistication are not mutually exclusive.

Returning to the succinctly-themed discourse under consideration: how well does the author elaborate and explain their theme?  Is the explanatory meat on the bones of concision lean in constitution and plentiful in amount, or is the greater portion fat, the likes of which truly does do very little to warrant purchase or consumption?  Rather than whether the work is elaborately realized or not, it is these concerns that truly matter.

All things are composed of constituent elements.  The elemental is the foundation upon which all movement, intricacy, and complexity is built.  To find a comfort in and with the elemental is to better position oneself to witness magic.

©Billy Red Horse

Neither Do They Spin

I am certain you know one, probably more than one, in fact; those souls who walk through life, head held high, eager to demonstrate to anyone within close proximity the purity and steadfast conviction of their belief that all is in Divine Order and their unwavering confidence that Spirit will provide, always and inevitably.  Whether fundamentalist Christian or new age adherent to the Law of Attraction, all that is required is “the faith of a mustard seed” and the willingness to stoke the fires of certainty which will guarantee all manner of bounty and good favor.

*COUGH*

The mantra “Spirit will provide” falls incessantly from the lips of those who seem to view the Creative Energy of the universe as some one-stop welfare shop which is all too willing to supply our every need if only we will display the proper amount of faith mixed with copious quantities of 101 octane positive mental attitude.  “All I have to do is believe. . .”

*COUGH*

This line of thinking must surely have as its fountainhead a few lines found in the Christian New Testament:

“Take no thought for your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink; nor for your body, or what you’ll wear.  Look at the birds: they don’t sow, they don’t reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much better than they?   And why worry about your clothes?   Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.  And yet even King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Don’t worry saying, What will I eat? or, What will I drink? or, What will I wear?  Your heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things.  Don’t worry about tomorrow: for tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Nowhere in the above quote is there even a hint that there might be something expected on the part of the reader to help secure the food or the drink or the clothing.  In fact, it seems quite apparent that the Big Guy Upstairs is going to take care of everything!  All I have to do is sit back and wait faithfully for him to take care of it all!  That’s it; all that is required is faith.  I’ll just sit here and polish up my positive mental attitude and wait for Federal Express to drop off my weekly sustenance care package.  Oh, by the way God, while you’re at it, could you stick a winning lottery ticket in amongst the loaves and fishes?

I can think of few things more flaccid and nugatory than a positive mental attitude detached from action.  Belief without exertion is, at best, shortsighted folly and, at its worst, dangerous.  Those who cling tenaciously to the position that the wealth of the universe (be that wealth spiritual or material) is only as far away as our focus of belief in that position are deluded.  Is this blinders-on conviction or ignorance or just plain laziness?  Methinks it may well be comparable measures of each.  To state it bluntly, those who point to the biblical exhortation that the flowers and the birds toil not and hold this passage up as the basis for their position of sitting and passively awaiting their portion are fools.

Those deceptively idle flowers extend their roots deep into the soil and actively draw nourishment from therein.  Except when very young, birds forage to meet their needs, be it a mate, food for their belly, or materials for a nest.  Should either flora or fauna wait around for Spirit, they die.

Then there are those who take the more reasonable approach that we are co-creators with Spirit.  This position assigns at least a portion of the responsibility for attainment on oneself. These are the folks who say you have to meet Spirit halfway.  Well what happens if Spirit has more important things to do that day?  You’re stuck only halfway to your goal.  How about this: you’ve proven that you have the wherewithal to get to the halfway point; why not go all the way and just give Spirit the day off?

If there truly IS co-creation, Spirit’s part is and can only be to inspire us to action.  As proof of this assertion I offer the verity that both words, Spirit and inspire, have the same root word, “spirare,” which means “breath” or “breathe.”  Spirit may well breathe the inspiration into you.  It’s up to you, however, to act on that inspiration, not sit there like a hatchling with your pie-hole agape demanding to be fed.

Think of it this way-  no matter how he might hope and believe and pray otherwise, an architect’s blueprints do not spring to life and magically give substance to the construct the ink lines on the paper represent.  Confidence in the possibilities inherent in Life is analogous to the blueprints.  If you want those possibilities to be made manifest it is YOU who must do the manifesting through efficacious deeds.

Either way, don’t credit or blame Spirit; credit or blame yourself.  Get up off your backside and do something!

©Billy Red Horse

Where Have The Elders Gone?

There once was a Time not so very long ago when, across cultures and across traditions, the elders, the Old Ones of the People, were held in the highest regard, respected and valued for their knowledge, insight, and decades of Life experience.  This was before advertisers had succeeded in convincing us to embrace all things young- the bright, the shiny, the smooth, the new.  Today, in this regard it seems, old has become synonymous with worn-out.

Make no mistake- not every mature member of societies past carried transcendent wisdom or had access to the Secrets of The Universe.  For some, it was enough that they had accumulated a lifetime of experience and were magna cum laude graduates of the School Of Hard Knocks.  These venerated seniors typically enjoyed reputations as hard workers in their youth who generally were kind, patient and observant, very often irreverent and, on occasion, subject to joyous bouts of childlike silliness.  Even if they couldn’t tell you the meaning of Life, they usually could tell you how to live a Life that had meaning.

Our elders are disappearing.

Owing to advancements in modern Western medicine and despite the corporate provender industry’s most heartfelt and diligent efforts to the contrary, we now have a population with a greater percentage and sheer number of aged citizens than ever in recorded history.  Statistically speaking, elders should be anything but a vanishing class.  In a search for the disappearing elders, however, it is not quantity that is the issue, it is quality.  Though we have more people of advanced age, where we are found wanting is in actual elders.  An elder is more than just the sum of their years.  These days, instead of elders, we just have a lot more old folks.

So where have all the elders gone?  Have they faded away, casualties of the aforementioned propagandist oligarchy that so graciously tells us what what we want, where to find it, and how much we will happily pay for it?  To a point, yes; the full might of Madison Avenue’s juvenescence-lauding leviathan is indeed persuasive.  Due to the omnipresent saturation of the young-is-best message, so many contemporary seniors cling (almost to the point of absurdity) to their youth.  Overpriced and overpowered cars, the surgeon’s scalpel, make-up and hair dye, designer clothes and all manner of potion and (in the case of Botox®) poison are symptomatic of a rejection of the natural order of things and the cycles of Life.

(To be clear on a very important point: there is a marked difference between being youthful and trying desperately to stay young; one is a viable strategy while the other is nothing more than a cosmetic band-aid.  To be youthful is to acknowledge and accept the reality of things as they are while seeking to maximize the potential of things as they can be.  This can, of course, involve nutrition and exercise and all sorts of efficacious strategies that seek to expand the quality, the joy, and even the duration of Life.  The difference is found in the acceptance of the state of things and the intent with which these things are considered and addressed.  Trying to remain forever young is the mark of one who is little more than a chronologically advanced adolescent.  Just as two objects cannot occupy the same space, it is not possible to abide in the delusion of youth uninterrupted and simultaneously accept the challenges and responsibilities of an elder.)

Although the machinations of Madison Avenue are legion, the progressive disappearance of our most well-seasoned demographic has yet another and far more powerful agent at its source that is twofold in its makeup, characterized by attrition on the one hand and a self-absorbed inadequacy on the other.

Firstly, our longest lived echelon is simply dying off.  The ranks of what has come to be called The Greatest Generation find their numbers dwindling steadily with each passing day.  Death is inevitable and natural and there is nothing about its effects that adds anything new to the topic presently under consideration.  This points us to the second and more troubling aspect of the case: those who are passing on are not being replaced at a proportional scale.

The rising generation of would-be elders either, in their attempts to maintain a death grip on their fading youth, reject entirely their status as seniors or, as a foregone conclusion, thinking that the world owes them something, expect to be esteemed as elders solely by right of succession.

To be considered an elder requires meeting qualifications more rigorous than simply having managed to avoid dying for the longest time.  Incubated in the hothouse of instant gratification, many of today’s emergent elders lacked the discipline, patience, and accountability in their youth that is required to forge and temper a rich character and abiding insight.  Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you’re wise.  The current senior class gives strong evidence of this verity.

For the members of the aged class that actually seek to embrace the status of elder, many are generally seated on either end of a less than august spectrum, with one extreme populated by the power-hungry (personified stereotypically by politicians and plutocrats) and the other occupied by the “powerless” that wait (as they have for all of their lives) for someone to tell them what to do or, better yet, to just do it for them.

The quality of an elder has a direct correlation to the quality of that elder’s youth.  Perhaps the most important point distinguishing today’s senior citizen from elders of the past is that yesterday’s matriarchs and patriarchs respected their elders.  The current crop of ascendant “elders” were, in their youth, the first generation that exhibited a wholesale brazen and undisguised contempt for THEIR elders, rejecting their experience and wisdom as unnecessary, out of touch, or just plain “not cool, man.”  Now, they are the ones for whom respect and regard is in short supply.  Karma swims quite comfortably in the waters of irony…

While dignity for all should be a given, respect is something that must be earned.  Elders of yore were respected because they were WORTHY of that respect.  Certainly, not all of today’s children of the ‘60s and ‘70s find themselves now numbered among the ineffectual; some paid attention in their youth and got it right the first time, others became aware of their impetuous and impudent proclivities in sufficient time to make adjustments.  Sadly, far too many did not.  As a society we have arrived at a Time in our history when we MOST need the wisdom and guidance of well-regarded and highly-respected elders.  Communities are pitched one against the other and outright battle lines are being drawn.  If we are to remain strong and viable as a People, this course cannot stand uncorrected.

So what needs to happen?  Will the incoming senior class somehow find a way to manifest in their golden years that for which they never adequately prepared in their youth?  This is certainly possible for a few but, for the greater portion, not likely.  What, then, are we to do?

It is undeniable that the load which will of necessity be shouldered by the thinning number of genuine elders will be onerous.  But, like their antecedents, they, too, will persevere.  Perseverance is the mark of an elder.  As for reinforcements, it is doubtful that any will arrive in sufficient quantity from the ranks of the as yet to mature fully 50-somethings.  Yet, while the situation may appear dire, it is not irremediable.  Paradoxically, our hope lies with the most unlikely of champions: the young.

It is not unheard of for children to care for their parents as those parents age.  Today’s youth are after a similar fashion being asked to bear the standard while they are still young and onward further still into their own golden years.  It’s not fair to have to pull double duty. It is, however, necessary.

I speak now directly to the Millennials and to the members of Generation X who are not yet too far gone down the path clearcut by the Lost Ones- if there are those among you who will persist through the onslaught of our exponentially advancing and distracting technologies, considering and acting with a regard for the future rather than for just the moment, ignoring the urgings of the mandarins who seek only to bolster the status quo and further entrench their own shortsighted and self-serving status, if you will recognize that it is entirely possible to be self-interested without being self-absorbed or self-obsessed, if you can do all of these things now and in the decades to come, then all is not lost.

The waxing tide of partisan divisions (political and otherwise) must be supplanted by mutually agreed-upon outcomes rather than methodologies.  The temptation to be right rather than satisfied is both alluring and insinuating; don’t fall victim to this folly as so many others before you have.  If you are unsure of the gravity of my warning, just look around you and witness the plight of those you are now being asked to bolster and, ultimately, replace.

It took the better part of three generations for us to arrive at our current state.  It will likely take at the very least half again that much for you to help undo the damage already done and to rectify that which is yet to manifest and to implement any turnaround of substance.  Do this with a kind heart and a prudent mind, be observant and restrained.  Learn to listen.  Be honest but don’t be cruel.  And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Learn to be a counselor and confidant, a friend and a teacher.  Practice discipline and accountability.  Be joyful and share your joy with the world.

Admittedly, a lot is being asked of you.  But it is not without precedent, and having been done before is proof definitive that it can be done again.

Don’t accept this challenge because you want respect.  Do it to be WORTHY of respect.  There is a subtle but incredibly powerful difference.  Your children and their children’s children will thank you.

©Billy Red Horse

Mob Or Me?

With each passing day our society becomes ever more homogeneous.  This continues to happen because of the diminishing value placed on the individual.  Those in positions of authority, the elected and the influencers, the mandarins and the mass market industrialists who masquerade as capitalists, each share the same preferences: they like predictable, measurable, and controllable.  Consequently, everyone is expected to fit in and follow, to conform and consume, to comply or suffer that greatest of indignities – the shame of being ostracized and labeled a dissenter.

The puissant take our inherent desire to be a valued member of the tribe and twist it in the extreme, turning a great strength into a corrosive weakness.  Our legitimate interconnectedness with one another and with Nature is corrupted into something most un-natural.  “We know what’s best for you,” they suggest.  And while few of these overseers are ever so bold as to express the sentiment explicitly, the undercurrent of their implication is clear: “We want you to do what WE want you to do; don’t you understand that you are too stupid to know or do any better for yourselves?”

It is a sad verity that we have long since become interchangeable and easily replaceable cogs in a soulless machine.  It should come as no surprise that the politicos and the plutocrats find this very much to their liking.  But it does not have to remain this way.

It has long been said that our greatest challenge and our greatest reward are both experienced through knowing the Self.  Self-awareness, Self-inquiry, Self-understanding, Self-acceptance, and Self-refinement, these are the marks of the courageous spirit not willing to be counted among the untold faceless.

The Self-aware seek to discover who they are and to experience the fullness of Life – the joys and the hardships and all points in between.  These individuals strive to be at ease not only within themselves but also among the collective.  Those who are confident and comfortable in their sovereignty as an individual are those who make the powerbrokers and the mob most anxious and uncomfortable.

The greatest act of rebellion is to proclaim “This is who I am!  This is me!”

Who are you?…

©Billy Red Horse