Tag Archives: wisdom

AN APOLOGY FOR THE OLD WAYS

“The good old days.”

This phrase has been known to send eyes rolling and elicit sighs of quiet exasperation for decades.  Are the “good old days” really all they are cracked up to be?  In my estimation, maybe.

Probably, even.

When I allude to the good old days, what I speak of is not based on a nostalgia for the world in which I grew up.  Trust me, the ‘80s, ‘70s, and even ‘60s of my own youth were really not all that worthy of being pined for again.  No, what I am speaking of are the Times before I was even born.  I remember seeing the photographs in history books.  I remember as a child hearing stories from those older than me who spoke of the much simpler days of an earlier era: the ‘50s, ‘40s, and even earlier.  As an adult I have often watched movies from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, seeing a world in many ways markedly different from today.  (Be advised: I labor under no delusion that the silver screen representation of any given moment in Time is ever a complete or even remotely accurate depiction; such representations do, however, leave clues.)  Those bygone eras had a certain innocence and character which I find most appealing.

Though they are but evanescent memories from my past, I want to say some of the Old Ones of my youth were 80 and 90 years of age and, thus, had personal recollections of Life as far back as the late 1800s.  Times then were different and, in many ways, better.

Manners, decorum, accountability, dignity, and resilience seemed to be far more in evidence and in vogue.  The importance of the family structure was still recognized and fostered, and hard work was seen as both a responsibility and a reward.  In short, values were valued.  Yet even more than these things, there was something which was a defining characteristic of those bygone days: an unflagging sense of optimism and genuine hope for the future.

Despite two world wars and a massive long-term economic depression, there seemed to be a pervasive expectation that the bad was going to eventually become good and the good would only get better.  I know I haven’t observed such an expectant and genuine positivity in the world around me in decades.  This is what has been missing for so long and what we must reclaim if we are to extract ourSelves from the current myriad of predicaments which we have created.

It could be argued that our grandfathers and great-grandmothers were, in their youth, simply naive and ignorant.  I would argue pointedly to the contrary; I say it is WE who are betrayed by our naiveté.  Our ancestors understood and accepted things which are perilously close to being discarded absolutely and lost in perpetuity by we who live today.

Present-day society has an unfortunate tendency to wait for an outside influence to “fix stuff” and set things right.  Instead of looking to politicians or some other messianic enterprise to put conditions in order, it is well within our capacity to cast an investigative glance rearwards and rediscover what it is we have lost that can make the Present the “good old days” once again.

I will close this short apology by stating that I am not a Luddite.  I have no desire to be without climate controlled buildings any more than I wish automobiles, computers, telephones, or air travel to vanish.  I don’t at all support a homogeneous culture nor do I advocate for a compelled monolithic form of religious expression.  I say we must cast off the Life-negating aspects of culture, regardless of their vintage, and nurture the Life-affirming aspects to give rise to something truly better.

An admirable goal of a transcendent humanity is to seek to continually refine and positively develop the Self (and consequently the community) while cleaving to the traditions and conventions which have been Time-tested and shown demonstrably effectual.  A forward looking optimism should never go out of style.

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*I will assume that readers of this blog are possessed of an above average intelligence and a commensurate ability to discern intent; even so, considering the present zeitgeist of pervasive social outrage and engineered melodrama, I will state explicitly the following:  I do not for one moment suggest that Jim Crow laws, unsanitary living conditions, monopolistic robber barons, or any of the unpleasant human relational dynamics of Times past should in any way be applauded or pursued as worthy of reclamation.

That this disclaimer needed to be included is a sad commentary on our present Times and an ironic reinforcement of the general thesis of this essay.

©Billy Red Horse

THE AUTOMATED HUMAN

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
– Henry David Thoreau

In author Tim Ferriss’ bestselling debut THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, one of the pillars of his approach included the concept of “automation.”  His basic premise was to put as much of ones work-life as possible on autopilot so as to have more Time and more Energy to focus on those things of greater importance and/or interest.  This is a most beneficial approach that can be transferred into Life in general and to the area of personal refinement specifically.  The confounding thing is that most people already automate a tremendous amount of activities and responsibilities in their day-to-day existence; the problem arises when, for most, those things automated are the wrong things.

Eating: automated.  Exercise (if done at all): automated.  Human interaction: automated.  These are examples of automation done wrong. We must identify those activities and tasks in our Life that demand the least attention and find ways to automate them so as to have more mental and emotional bandwidth available to consciously engage in those activities that make Life worth living.  Eating, exercising, and interacting with others are but a few of the activities which are deserving of our full and undivided attention.

Automation is not conducive to eating and enjoying a well-prepared meal.  Put away the cell phone and taste your food!  Stop repeating banalities to co-workers and other people you encounter.  Have a real conversation!  How to automate properly? Create systems and be disciplined in their execution so that you can focus on the good stuff!  Simplify your Life so that you are not being pulled in so many different and conflicting directions.  Simplification will give you a better perspective on what can and cannot be automated and how best to order your days for maximum enjoyment and delight.

Only you can determine what is worthy of your attention. Stop prioritizing the unimportant and give your awareness to those things that matter.

©Billy Red Horse

Coherence Of Message

If your goal is to impart a message and to have it taken on board as valid and worthwhile, one of the surest (and quickest) ways to have that message challenged or discounted outright is to not be an obvious practitioner of exactly what it is you are promoting.  Overweight dietitians, pallid physicians, broke financial advisers, and temperamental meditation instructors are just a few examples of those who present a face-forward that screams, “do as I say, not as I do!”  And any sane person would be well within their good senses to beat a hasty retreat from such as these whenever and wherever they are encountered.

Very rarely is there only one right way to do something.  But whatever behavior or methodology is being promoted (and usually charged for) should be consistent with the herald bearing the message.  There should be evidence to support the claim.  If you are one who has something to say, a product to sell, or an idea to spread, then it is in your best interest to be a walking and talking billboard for the value you purport to offer; there must be an obvious coherence of message and demonstrable results if you are to be taken seriously in this day and age.

It is challenging enough to persuade others to consider what it is you might have to offer without sabotaging your efforts.  Don’t make the task all the more difficult by presenting a message that appears to contradict the facts.

Walk your talk.

©Billy Red Horse

Loss Of Control

It is the height of delusion to presume that one has control over anything. Anything. Not the actions of others, not even the actions of Self. Certainly not emotions in any form. “Well, at least I can control what I think,” says the dedicated meditator and earnest spiritual wayfarer. Really? Then control your thoughts right now and don’t think about a purple elephant. Don’t think about a terrible smell. Don’t think about your greatest fear.

Is it my assertion, then, that we are little more than pieces on some grand celestial chessboard, moved about willy-nilly, simple victims of circumstance and chance?

Absolutely not!

Rather than being possessed of some nonexistent control, we have at our disposal something far more genuine and accessible but something which requires diligence and mindful finesse to employ effectively. What is this mystical elixir?

Influence.

We cannot control our thoughts but we can influence them. Though we cannot control our conditions and circumstances, we can influence them. Because the delusion of control is unreal, the verity that we have the ability to influence is, ultimately, a far more profound and efficacious capacity than some alleged faculty that is, in truth, nonexistent. And our influence has a far greater reach than control (real or imagined) ever could.

To be effective, influence requires skill. Effective influence requires understanding. Effective influence requires compassion and kindness. Effective influence requires a clear perception of things as they are and as they could be. These requirements apply whether the influence is to be brought to bear within ourselves or in the world around us.

Influence is a noble trait worthy of a transcendent humanity. Befriend your influence and use it wisely…

©Billy Red Horse

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