Tag Archives: wisdom

Go With The Flow?

Picture this –

You find yourSelf in a bucolic countryside, a fantastical setting that is a cross between Tolkien’s Middle-earth and something akin to Dahl’s Willy Wonka world. Standing there, you know there is a place you must visit which is quite a few steps to the South. Setting off, you walk for only a short Time when you encounter a meandering ribbon of water, one too large to be a stream but not quite substantial enough to be a river. Your eyes trace the course of the running water and see that, far off in the distance, this deep blue being empties into a lake which is situated right next to your ultimate destination. If only you had a boat or skiff which would allow for a leisurely yet temporally abbreviated journey…

Now, lest it be so quickly forgotten, this setting IS fantastical as previously described! No sooner does the thought of waterborne conveyance arise than an enormous and variegated leaf, one as big as a man and sturdy as any raft, floats into view and comes to a stop right next to where you stand. Though the invitation and implication are obvious, you nonetheless gingerly test the capacity of the leaf to safely transport you and (not surprisingly) find it more than equal to the task. Stepping aboard, you sit carefully as the leaf is drawn once again into the subdued but persistent current.

The sun is warm on your skin, the delicate scent of aromatic flowers enchants and makes for a soothing state of calm and comfort. Lying back on the leaf, you let the fingertips of one of your hands glide along the surface of the water. Looking up into a cloudless sky, your lids soon grow heavy and you are transported into that magical space between waking and dreaming. Even in your state of delicious repose you reckon you should arrive at your destination in less than half the Time it would have taken had you continued on foot. How fortunate! How delightful!

Though whimsical visions come and go you are still mindful of the movement of the leaf along the water and its wetness that still caresses your fingers.

Yet, something is not right.

Even in such a tranquil state, your perception of Time’s passage is such that you feel long overdue for arrival at the terminus of your journey.

Though the gentle rocking and bobbing of the leaf conspires to assure you that all is well, you finally manage to open your eyes and recognize immediately that, while you are indeed moving, the leaf long ago drifted off course and found its way into a rather substantial eddy where you have been circling endlessly for hours.

The End.

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The moral of the story? –

Just because you are moving doesn’t mean you are actually going somewhere.

©Billy Red Horse

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

OPEN TO INTERPRETATION

A trait common among humans is the tendency, when presented with radically novel or disquieting information, conditions, or circumstances, to interpret what has been presented as something dramatically different from what it actually is. We are quick to jump to conclusions and view things from a place of fear rather than as a challenge or even an opportunity. Instead of acknowledging our ignorance and then attempting to discover the reality of the thing, we are just as likely as not to fall prey to wildly convoluted theories or erroneous assumptions.

The extent of the human capacity to misinterpret, misunderstand, or outright misidentify events came to me in full force at precisely 2:30 PM EDT on Monday, August 21, 2017. It was at this exact moment in the Time/Space continuum that I found mySelf standing in an isolated pasture just outside the small Tennessee town of Etowah, looking up at the sky and a ring of fire surrounding a disc of pitch black, a total solar eclipse.

For the preceding 20 or so minutes the sky had been changing, morphing into something close to unrecognizable, given the Time of day. Using the safety glasses I had brought along for the event, every 90 seconds or so I would monitor the progress of the moon as it slowly began to eat the sun. At about 2:24 the very atmosphere changed. The typical sounds of a hot Southern summer day stopped abruptly, as though someone had thrown a switch, only to be replaced immediately by the typical sounds of a hot Southern summer night. Yes, the night was singing her song at 2:28 in the afternoon.

At 2:30, peak totality, I could no longer see the event through the glasses, so I pulled them away from my eyes and saw a terrifying Magic. This was the stuff of dreams. And nightmares.

I KNEW what was coming. I had intentionally traveled more than a hundred miles to be in a location where I could experience the eclipse in its totality. I knew the science of what I was observing. I knew what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, where it was going to happen, how long it was going to happen, and why it was going to happen. Yet and still, standing there in that pasture, looking up with my naked eyes at one of the most awe inspiring sights I ever have ever seen, it was at that moment that I felt, at the very core of my Being, a fleeting taste of the fear and confusion which countless of my ancestors knew when they, without warning and without understanding, observed just such an event. No wonder they thought it to be a sign from the angry gods, no wonder they thought it to be a portent of some apocalyptic upheaval. I knew better yet I still felt it.

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If you don’t understand something, don’t be in a rush to read meaning into it based on your suspect comprehension or your fears. If you don’t know, someTimes it’s best to let things reveal themselves organically. Meaning will come in its own good Time.

©Billy Red Horse

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 which 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