|There are many joys in my Life. One of the simplest of these joys is going out to eat. And when I dine out one of the delights I enjoy most is interacting with a considerate and attentive waiter or waitress. Even if I am patronizing an establishment which I will likely never visit again (while traveling, for example) I do everything I can to interact with and engage those directly charged with taking care of my needs during the meal.
Some Times, my efforts yield little results. The waiter may view his position as merely a job, and one that he dislikes at that. The waitress might have earlier had a bad interaction with an unreasonable or unpleasant diner before my arrival. Any number of situations or circumstances can impact how I and my party are served once we sit down at the table. But when the waitstaff is genuinely happy to see me and legitimately concerned about the experience I will have, that is when the Magic can happen!
When I place my order with an accommodating waiter or waitress I will very often say as I hand over my menu, “And please bring it with extra love!” Occasionally, even a congenial server will think I’m making a joke or otherwise not understand what it is that I am requesting. More often than not, however, the server will hesitate for just a moment, smile knowingly, then say something akin to, “You got it!”
What I want is literally for the server to think loving thoughts as they prepare and deliver my meal. Energy flows. Energy is contagious. I would much prefer my food be prepared consciously and with loving-kindness rather than being absentmindedly readied and served like just so much animal feed.
I live my Life from the perspective of a mystic. The type and quality of Energy I consume impacts all areas of my Life: Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual.
Does it really make a difference if the food has “extra love?” Is the food actually better, more flavorful? Is it healthier?
It makes a difference to me and that is quite enough.
©Billy Red Horse
In this Life there are very few things which can be objectively described as “the best.” Certain athletic achievements come to mind. In most arenas, though, consideration as “the best” is at best (pun intended) a wildly subjective undertaking.
For instance: which company makes the best wristwatch- Rolex or Omega? Or is it Vacheron Constantin or perhaps Patek Philippe? By what standard is a timepiece judged to be “the best?” The watch manufacturers previously mentioned have offerings which vary markedly in price with Omega starting on the “low end” at USD ~$2,000 with all four companies selling watches that are well into the six-figure range. Is a yellow gold Patek costing USD $150,000+ featuring a tourbillon complication the best wristwatch? If by “the best” one is speaking of accuracy in timekeeping, it is a most embarrassing (and objectively verifiable) fact that there are watches on the market costing less than USD $100 that are far more accurate (down to the second in A DAY) than watches costing more than some three bedroom houses.
If a watch having a platinum case and a waffle face set with diamonds and containing a precision automatic Swiss movement with +/- 5 second per day accuracy is of highest importance to its owner then this watch could reasonably be considered “the best.” (Personally, I tend toward absolute accuracy as a priority, along with robust construction, combined with a visually appealing design. While my watch preferences are well above the aforementioned discount store price point of $100, I suspect I would never encounter a $100,000 or even a $10,000 watch that I would feel to be a better choice, a “better” watch, than my “best” Oceanus Cachalot.)
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This post is not about wristwatches, it is about value. That which provides the greatest value is typically the greatest determiner of that which is “best.”
It seems we live in Times where many have forgotten the importance of value. It is not about the amount of money you spend, it is about the value you receive. Value is more than cost; value speaks to worth. Quality, durability, aesthetics, and desirability help to describe the experience of worth and, thus, value.
Now for the big reveal – This is true in all realms: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual, and Creative/Self-Expressive.
It should be stated that what is “best” today may not be the “best” tomorrow. It is not without good reason that The Gentleman Mystic’s motto is “There Is Always More.”
©Billy Red Horse
Money. Other than, perhaps, a comparable craving for sex, is there anything in this world which has so enticed and beguiled, corrupted and confused, engendered as much envy and rage, or stoked the fires of creativity and advancement more than the ubiquitous human desire for money? And, as is likewise the case with sex, are we not daily bombarded with continuous multiple and conflicting messages with regard to money and its proper place in our lives? “(The love of) money is the root of all evil” is but one example of just such a message that shares the same literal and metaphorical space in the cultural consciousness as “A penny saved is a penny earned” or, as the quote attributed to businessman Ted Turner says, “Life is a game (and) money is how we keep score.”
No area of human endeavor has been successfully immunized from the effects, both good and bad, of money’s influence, not even (perhaps even especially) the institutions and individuals that purport to service the needs of humanity’s spiritual health and needs. And churches, temples and the like are host to some of the most emphatic as well as ambivalent and contradictory messages concerning money; as such, they can be ripe targets for suspicion concerning their own motivation for its acquisition and use. Perhaps it is the ferocity of the denouncement of worldly riches that itself causes a wary eye to be turned when, at the end of just such a sermon or teaching, the collection plate is passed around.
Interestingly, the more mainstream and firmly ensconced in the local community a religious organization is, the less likely, generally, it is to be a lightning rod for controversy about matters of a fiscal nature. The church itself can be quite opulent (it does, after all, represent the glory of God, doesn’t it?…) and the pastor can dress nicely and drive a decent car (it wouldn’t do for the Man of God to go around representing the Almighty looking like a beggar, now would it?…), just so long as he’s not too demonstrative in his exhibition of the congregation’s largess.
While member organizations of the predominant mainline traditions and their leaders might on occasion be subjected to the scrutiny of a bothered parishioner or a concerned third party’s auditing eye, it is the more unconventional groups and those individuals who walk decidedly non-conformist spiritual paths that are the most likely to be on the receiving end of bluster and condemnation over their relationship to money. Oddly enough, this noisy disapproval more often than not arises most vehemently from within their own ranks.
There have been many teachers and practitioners of meditative, yogic, pantheistic, and Earth-centered disciplines who have historically disparaged money as worthy only of loathing and contempt. Their general stance is that one should be above such trivial and petty concerns. Then there are those within the community who accuse certain other spiritual teachers of selling the Dharma, or of being plastic Medicine people, or of operating pay-to-pray schemes that prey upon the ignorance of people in a time of need or distress. The farther one ventures from the prevailing winds of orthodox religion, it seems, the more apt is one to encounter the voices of resistance to what is perceived by the owners of those voices as the selling of spirit.
(As a momentary aside, it should not be necessary for me to acknowledge here that confidence men and women exist and operate in the world but, for the sake of due diligence, acknowledge their existence I shall. The unscrupulous and the fraudulent can be found everywhere and in all arenas; crooks, however, are not the present topic of discussion. As for those who have been or might yet be taken in by such scoundrels and their ilk, I will paraphrase and reword an old saw: “Let the seeker beware.”)
To substantiate their position that “real” spiritual teachers and/or healers would never require or accept payment for their services, detractors often point to examples of holy persons* of the past that seldom, if ever, traded in currency. What these detractors fail to consider (or at least publicly acknowledge) is the age and culture in which these teachers of note lived. One must ask, what was the coin of the realm at that time, in that place, and in that culture?
In many tribal societies and cultures of old it is very true that what we would recognize as money was never used, but that does not mean that a value-for-value exchange was never a part of the spiritual teacher/student (or healer/patient) equation in the past. Food, drink, clothing, livestock, and other objects of value given in support of and as compensation for a holy person’s work were quite common and often far more practical (and of a greater real worth) than any transfer of gold, silver, or paper bank notes. And as is frequently the case today, much of these materials were then summarily redistributed within the community as charity to those in need. But that was then and this is now. Today, money is the modern equivalent of the milk cow or the blanket.
It is a hard and cold fact that modern “civilized” societies would likely cease to function without some variant of capitalistic monetary exchange, and this fact does not suddenly become null and void when one crosses the threshold of a contemporary temple or church or meditation hall or other venue where activities of a spiritual nature take place. Money is not a necessary evil because money is not evil at all. Money is a tool. Money is a symbol, a place holder for value and it is this latter truth that is a central theme of this missive.
The sensible person would never demand that a physician or teacher give of their talents, knowledge, wisdom and skills without remuneration, yet the “spirit doctor” is very often castigated if he or she requests compensation. What follows here next is not a poorly disguised attempt at diversionary semantics, but a simple statement of fact: for the sincere and skilled spiritual teacher and healer, it is not the information or the healing proper which is being compensated. It is compensation both for the time spent during the actual healing and/or instruction provided and (as it is most unlikely that any teacher or healer is born gifted with an expertise so fully matured that training or an investment of their own personal resources has never been required) in recognition of the diligent effort and expense (in all of its definitions) the holy person has put forth in the past to acquire their knowledge and sharpen their skills. It is a value-for-value exchange. Such reimbursement allows the recipient to continue their work and their ongoing assistance of others. The same holds true if the direct recipient of the compensation through gifts or tithes or special event fees is a sponsoring body (a temple, zendo, etc.) for the reasonable upkeep of facilities, fixtures and support staff. (Yes, “reasonable” is admittedly a moving target and a legitimate topic for debate. Perhaps a good unwritten rule is, if you have to ask “is this reasonable?” then there is a very good chance the answer is self-evident.) One thing is for certain: no sincere (there’s that word again) holy person will ever turn away someone in need solely on the basis of an inability to pay.
Even with all this, there are those who will persist and demand, “Is there really any good reason at all that so-called ‘holy people’ should profit from what they do? If it’s their calling then is it not their sacred duty?” As was just explained, yes, it is only right that there is a compensation for time and space and effort. It says something very pointed, however, about the culture in which we live when people are willingly and without hesitation paid multiple millions of dollars to portray characters in a world of total fantasy but when organizations or individuals that endeavor to bring others to an unobscured awareness of the Real seek compensation or other support, they are as often as not castigated and vilified as greedy and perverters of the Way.
It is useful to now revisit in greater depth a concept contained in a previous passing comment. If the point of contention one has is with the notion of being expected to “pay-in-order-to-pray,” then I am steadfastly in agreement with such a contention. Stated bluntly, the day of the traditional religious institution and its self-appointed monopoly role as a place of worship and communion with Source is over. As a Dharma Teacher I have expressed stridently in the past that it should be the function of every modern religious establishment to seek earnestly its own immediate demise. I hold to the position that temples and the like should be centers of spiritual education and development, contemplation, and healing which long ago should have jettisoned their designation as sites for the worship of all makes and models of divinity, celestial or otherwise. Likewise, the job title of priest or minister (as is generally practiced and commonly perceived) delineates an occupation that should have in antiquity gone the way of the lamplighter. Giving monetary support to such as this is, in my view, a ridiculous and senseless waste of valuable resources. Being expected to support and sustain something which, by all measured reason, should be as extinct as the pterodactyl is an affront to good sense. This view does not in any way reject the Holy; it does, however, express a more sophisticated refinement of both the means to acknowledge and to commune with the Sacred. This is a return to things as they once were. No structure, physical or organizational, is required for one to engage in an act of worship, should one choose to worship. The Divine is quite capable of receiving any reverence and oblations you might choose to offer anywhere and at any time without the need of priests or intercessors or regal structures of any sort. All that being said, there will forever be a need for Educators and Healers. So long as an organization remains focused on healing and teaching, then it is good for that organization to abide and be supported by those who benefit from the Medicines to be found therein.
Historically, I have wrestled both with giving and being on the receiving end of payment with regards to spiritual undertakings. Looking back, I find that the times I was most concerned about paying were when I was adding to the coffers of those organizations or individuals which I came to suspect were not operating from the best of intentions, i.e. those I perceived as out of balance in their focus on the accumulation of money itself. I also have felt disquiet regarding my own receipt of money; consequently, I strive earnestly to be certain that I give people a value greater than what might otherwise be expected for the services I perform. A maxim I coined many years ago and have applied ever since concerning whatever fee I may ask is, “I’m not saying that this is all it’s worth; I’m saying that this is all I require.”
But what about those numerous occasions when I have paid (and many times paid handsomely) for teaching and/or healing of a spiritual nature and left feeling satisfied and contented that I had been enriched by the experience? Those were the times when I recognized a palpable benefit from the exchange between myself and the holy person in question. Those were the times when I invested in myself and received in return, at the very least, as much as I had given. More often than not, in cases such as those, I was the recipient of tools and insights, methods and mirrors of a value far exceeding what I had expected to encounter. And at those magical moments, had I been able, I would have gladly paid a hundred times more for the information, wisdom, and training I received. If the information you are seeking is not worth that then, perhaps, you might consider whether you are seeking the right thing in the right place with the right adept. This is a most excellent standard by which to judge the merit of a teaching or a teacher.
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Regarding this pecuniary quandary, it is doubtful that any uniform consensus will ever be reached between all the divergent camps. The best that can be hoped for may well be the agreement to respectfully disagree. It is incumbent upon the spiritual seeker to never let their judgement be clouded by unbridled emotion or bedazzled by assertions or promises that don’t align with ones goals or needs. What is right for others may not be equally as right for you. Due diligence, self-honesty, and personal responsibility should always be the compass that guides our choices in matters of spirit. Only you can with any certainty determine if the nourishment you receive is worth the price you pay. No one else can make that assessment for you. Even if they could, no one else should have that kind of power over you.
A final point worth considering: there is a saying among the Tzutujil Maya of Guatemala- “never trust a skinny shaman.” That such a shaman is “malnourished” is often viewed as compelling evidence that the shaman in question is lacking in skill or is otherwise not well regarded (and consequently not well rewarded) by the community for the quality of their work. This perspective certainly shines a very different light on the merits of reward for a job well done.
*Variants of the term “holy person” are used in this essay to signify those sincere and skilled spiritual counselors, educators, and/or healers whose bailiwick falls outside the boundaries of contemporary orthodox religion or healing arts. The adjective “holy” as used here should not be interpreted to imply any status of divinity or infallibility.
©Billy Red Horse
No one of sound mind can with a straight face dispute the fact that the times in which we presently find ourSelves living are nothing if not remarkable. In recent years all of the difficulties, conflicts, and disagreements of the past have taken on a new immediacy and increasingly frenetic tenor. Differences in political and philosophical ideologies have been amplified and multiplied, and “coming to blows” has become much more than just a colorful saying.
In a world where battle lines have been drawn and “us-versus-them” is the order of the day, it is beguiling to think of a scenario where animosity has somehow been sidelined and strife permanently transcended.
Everyone has a position, everyone holds an opinion. Just imagine, though, of how peaceful and harmonious things might be if only we all could agree. If only there were some way to engender such a change immediately, without harm, and without resistance…
I have for several years given much consideration to a button. The imaginary button of which I speak has a single function: to change the world’s mind. Though the mechanics of this change are unimportant, the results would be far-reaching and absolute: whoever encounters the button and chooses to push it will instantaneously and irreversibly transform every single member of every society on the planet into a traveler of like mind, like attitudes, like persuasions, like philosophies, like outlooks. This miraculous change would occur without any violence or harm wrought upon anyone. The world and the button-pusher are in total accord.
If offered the opportunity to push such a button, to have every other person on this Earth agree with me, I would refuse.
Though the factional enmity I presently observe saddens me, despite the persistent violence of word and of deed, regardless of my mistrust for long-established institutions and the machinations of unseen powers and principalities, I still would not push the button. I simply could not do it. I hold the position that the forceful imposition of my will on another, no matter how painless or even pleasant such a conversion might be for them, would still amount to an implicit act of coercion. I would not wish to be converted by another. I can only consider others through the same lens. My teachers and their teachers before them have held as sacrosanct and unassailable the Self and the free will present in every Human born. This respect for the Choice of others is no less sacred to me.
Though the button could reasonably be regarded an elegant solution to a perennial problem, I would judge such a solution to be at least as corrupted as the havoc it could in a single moment replace.
Not surprisingly, I know several people personally who would without consideration or even a moment’s hesitation press the button if given the opportunity. They would do so from the perspective of it eliminating conflict and being for the greater good. And, to my way of thinking, they could not be more wrong.
For me, the only viable and acceptable remedy is found in civilized discourse, rational Self-interest, critical thinking, unflinching Self-honesty, and mutual respect for the agency of others.
We don’t need a button. We just need to employ those tools which we already have.
©Billy Red Horse
It is my position that the Life of a well-mannered gentleman is the superior Life. I find it most unfortunate that many equate kindness, consideration, patience, tolerance, courtesy, and respectful behavior with weakness.
Understand that the manners of which I speak are not merely a perfunctory etiquette, behavioral mores observed solely to facilitate routine coexistence. As postulated here, manners go much further and speak more to a genuine and expressed dignity demonstrating a profound appreciation of and respect for Life, Self, and Others.
Metaphysics speaks to first principles. To my way of thinking, there is nothing more fundamental to the Human Experience than the refinement demonstrated through and by the considered and genuine display of decorum in our interactions one with another.
When drilling down into those first principles at the heart of my affinity for gentlemanly conduct, it might surprise you to learn of the motivation underlying my appreciation for and expression of such propriety. I don’t live as a well-mannered gentleman for the benefit of others. I do it solely for mySelf. I do it because it makes me feel good. I do it because it engenders a feeling and experience of power unlike any I have ever known. That others are able to profit from my unvarnished acts of Self-interest is a tangential (and delightful) bonus.
Those Times in my Life when I have comported mySelf as other than a gentleman, whether through ignorance or intentional animus, I have always and without fail been the lesser for it. AnyTime I have acted in an unmannered way, no matter how justified or righteous such behavior might have been, I inevitably walked away from the encounter feeling somehow soiled, contaminated by an Energy that I, ultimately, found repulsive. An Energy which I created.
Manners do not mean cowardice. Civility does not mean capitulation. Kindness does not mean weakness. Firmness, resolve, and determination are more than capable of sharing the same space as gentility. Some of the most mannered gentlemen I have ever encountered are capable of expressing great violence should the situation warrant it. And they can do so without ever losing their dignity or their gentlemanly gravitas.
How people interact with others is telling of how they interact with and think about themSelves. I speak often and at length about the value I perceive to be found in the process of Self-refinement. I wish for my actions and my interactions with others to speak volumes about those things which I hold dear. The joy and satisfaction I find in a mannered Life is reason enough for me to carry on, regardless of possibly being viewed as an ambulatory relic.
Manners maketh man.
©Billy Red Horse
Over and over again (at least in the limited social media circles that I frequent) there is the encouragement to take good and respectful (and properly vetted) online relationships into the real world whenever practicable. Over the past couple of years, several gentlemen (and two ladies) have gone out of their way to visit with The Gentleman Mystic, enjoy some good food and drink, and engage in what has always been stimulating and pleasurable conversation.
I had looked forward to meeting Alexander Cortes (@AJA_Cortes) almost from the first moment he and I began interacting with one another on Twitter back in early 2018. When I learned late last Spring (2019) that Mr. Cortes would a few weeks hence be attending an event in the Atlanta area I immediately reached out to see if he would be interested in making the short trek north of the city to spend some Time together before turning his full attention to other things. To my delight, he responded immediately and in the affirmative; arrangements were quickly made to meet at my favorite steakhouse the evening after his plane touched down.
Arriving fashionably late (in all fairness it wasn’t his fault; Atlanta traffic can frustrate and delay even the most seasoned local, much less an out-of-town visitor), Alexander greeted me with a broad smile and a firm handshake. Taking a draw from the adult beverage I had waiting for him, we sat down and began to chat.
Where many would start a first Time conversation with small talk, we immediately began to expand on topics we had discussed previously via direct message channels, in effect getting “caught up” though we had never before met. Next, our shared interest in old-school physical culture was given its due and soon our dialogue settled into a pleasant rhythm, new topics and directions commingling effortlessly, one with another.
If I feel a certain level of comfort and mutual ease with someone and if I think they are open to subjects less in the mainstream, conversations can get very heady and very arcane very fast in my world. As Alexander was putting the finishing touches on the appetizer he had ordered, I directed his attention over his shoulder and upward to the waxing Moon that hung like a golden and somewhat lopsided wheel in the sky above. Through my action I was looking for something and Alexander did not disappoint. Rather than dismissively acknowledging the “pretty” Moon and quickly returning to our conversation, his gaze lingered. He drank in the fullness of this ancient orb that so many take for granted. The Moon was beautiful and he consumed her fully before reluctantly returning his attention to me.
What happened next gave me a profound Measure of the young man sharing my table. Our dinner arrived; Alexander had ordered himSelf a bone-in ribeye steak with a side order of corned beef potato salad. As my similarly laden plate was placed in front of me, Alexander excused himSelf and made a quick visit to the facilities. I sat fork and knife down until he returned; my wait was not to be long. Reclaiming his seat, Alexander cut into the steak and nodded approvingly at what he saw. Whatever words he may have thought to speak stopped abruptly as he put the first bite into his mouth. Chewing slowly, he looked at me and then leaned back deliberately in his chair, an expression of rapture in his eyes. After swallowing the bite of steak, he then grabbed a fork full of the potato salad. His reaction was the same. Without uttering a word, he looked at me and shook his head slightly as if to express his disbelief at the repast before him.
The entirety of our meal was consumed in silence. No words needed to be spoken; the silent joy we both shared spoke louder and clearer than any words ever could.
After we cleaned our dishes of every morsel of food and they had been taken away by the waitstaff, our conversation then resumed. We chatted at length about our shared appreciation for Beauty in all its forms, enjoyed some key lime pie and coffee (both of which were received with the same ardor as our main course) while broadcasting via Periscope to the Twitter community at large. After the ‘scope was concluded we carried on talking about Important Things for close to a half hour more before finally ending our Time together with an obligatory selfie.
Much was discussed that should not be removed from the context of the moment. It is enough to acknowledge that I have nothing but the highest regard for Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes and expect great things from this young man. He gets it. That Real Life matters. That Life is to be savored. That Beauty is the highest attainment.
It was a good meal.
©Billy Red Horse
On a bit of a side note, something I have experienced in my more than 31 years in the arena of spiritual refinement is the tendency of so many gurus/teachers/masters/whatever to obfuscate the whole thing, needlessly complicating and mystifying what is already complicated and mysterious enough on its own. I have been labeled a heretic more than once in my Life across multiple disciplines, told I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, even having my own insights and experiences dismissed as trifling and unworthy of consideration. As a teacher and healer mySelf, I take a very different approach: I go out of my way to hold people accountable for their own growth, experience, and state without qualification that nothing I share should ever be taken at face value or accepted as true.
To the uninformed, the ability to create is something only artists or people possessed of unique talent have. It is this erroneous mindset which is at the root of a vast number of maladies and miseries experienced by humans the world over and throughout Time.
For human beings, the compulsion to create is both a defining characteristic and an absolute necessity for Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual balance and good health. This is because the human imperative to create is literally encoded within the matrix of our DNA, its fountainhead residing first and foremost in the primal urge to procreate.
What separates humans from other animals is when we move beyond simply making copies of ourSelves and use creation to express, communicate, and to bring value into the world. That which we create expands our reach and influence into the world and upon those in it; what we create can make us bigger than we are. Our creations can be our legacy.
Creation is a form of expression. Creation is communication. Our creations are mirrors which at once reflect back on us and refract out into the world.
As children of creation it is only natural that we ourSelves should seek to create. The imperative to create is nothing less than an acknowledgement of our urge to be like God/Universe/Life ItSelf.
Over the years I have come to recognize the devastating impact that dubious creation can have on our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Unconscious or accidental creation leads regularly to unintended consequences. This is why conscious creation is so important.
Failure to create is evidence of an ignorance to the withering effects to be found in the absence of Self-expression. To create is to find a way to express yourSelf, to bring something into existence that would not exist had you not created it. This is why what YOU create is so important.
The most obvious avenues of creation are the arts: painting, sculpting, writing, playing music, and singing; creation, however, is not limited to the arts. Think on this; how can you create if you don’t consider yourSelf an artist?
Those who fail to create only consume. We lose our Self if all we do is consume that which was created by someone else. Fortunately, our Life does not have to be a binary either/or proposition. We can (and should) do both.
Certainly much more can (and likely will be) said on this subject. In preparing the contents of this short post I have noted dozens of avenues of creative possibility regarding this topic and my own work. Perhaps a longer form consideration to be posted at some point to my blog is in order?
Give the world a gift. Go and create something.
©Billy Red Horse
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.
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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
You are going to die.
After you pass, your family and, perhaps, some close friends, will be tasked with the responsibility of distributing the earthly possessions you have left behind. Some things may be retained by the aforementioned family and friends, some may be given away to others, some sold, some donated to charity, and some will very likely end up in the local landfill. As one who has been called upon to disperse the belongings of a departed family member I recognize the burden that such a responsibility can bring.
I recently found mySelf thinking about my own “estate” and what I will leave behind once I return to The Great Round. Though I have absolutely no intention of leaving this Magical world anyTime soon, I recognize that my departure will come soon enough and, when it does, I don’t want to leave an undue mess that someone else will have to clean up.
So I decided to have an estate sale.
Now, the sale of which is speak is more metaphorical than it is literal. The act of releasing my Life’s accumulated impedimenta has been an ongoing process for the past several years. Even so, I still have more stuff in my world than I wish to maintain or that I wish to obligate others to administer once I’m gone. Progress in the reduction of my material excess has been ongoing and shall continue for the foreseeable future.
(Lest anyone mistake me for a recent convert to minimalist, anti-materialist, or an outright ascetic approach to Life, nothing could be further from the truth. It is simply that part of my continuing practice of personal refinement has been to jettison that which no longer serves or brings me Joy while keeping only those things which delight and enchant. This goes for the immaterial as well as the material. Read on…)
It has taken a diligent effort on my part to limit and then reduce the accretion which for decades has been emblematic of my younger Self. Clutter (in all its forms) has proven to be one of the biggest distractions and Energy drains of my adult Life.
I don’t think most people realize just how oppressive clutter can be, whether that clutter be tangible or intangible. Clutter is magnetic, it has a gravitational pull all its own; the more there is, the more it attracts. And a cluttered mind can hold far more odds and ends than a cluttered closet or garage ever could.
So, dear reader, perhaps you will consider joining me by holding your own estate sale? Lighten your load, clean your slate, get rid of those things you no longer need or want or that are nothing more than an energetic anchor around your neck. Having a Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual estate sale while you are still alive (and, perhaps, still young) can also make for a much more enjoyable Life in the long run.
©Billy Red Horse
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
Real Magic is not make-believe.
The average person expects more of Magic than Magic can possibly deliver, which is why so many discount that Magic can even exist at all. The problem arises when people expect the Hollywood representation to be an accurate depiction of how real Magic functions. Something from nothing is not possible and is not how Magic works. A real and efficacious “spell” or “potion” requires that certain elements be present for the Magic to come to fruition. “Magic” is when all of the required components come together in the proper sequence in the proper amounts at the proper Time and are enlivened by a metaphysical component which no science, no philosophy, and no religion has ever been able to accurately account for. Magic is not now (nor has it ever been) something which operates outside the boundaries of natural, physical, or Energetic Law. Real Magic is the fulfillment of Cause-and-Effect (no magic wand needed.)
Magic requires action. Magic requires effort. And Magic typically requires patience. Owing to its grounding in the Law, Magic will never permit itself to be rushed.
Magic is not infallible, as is no other attribute of Life. Magic is subject to the consequences of random influences as is everything else in Creation.
Magic is not supernatural; in fact, real Magic is the most natural thing in all of Creation.
I have encountered many people over the years who, once exposed to my theories regarding Magic, are quick to assert that I am either playing loose with semantics or attributing to Magic that which is nothing more than the basic processes of Life and Creation.
Guess what, folks?- Life IS Magic and Magic IS Life! The refusal to acknowledge and accept this critical verity is what deprives so many of the benefits and wonder of Magic in their lives.
Forget Hollywood. Step outside and take a good look around you. Wherever your gaze may fall, rest assured that you are seeing with your own eyes Real Magic of the highest order.
©Billy Red Horse
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
“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.
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
“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
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
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
Greetings, Young One!
During a recent conversation we shared, I spoke of the Life-affirming benefits to be found in learning to dissipate and transmute your anger rather than turning it outward or, worse, turning it inward. You asked for any recommendations I might offer to help you process anger in a way that benefits rather than harms, whether you or others. Please consider the following –
Anger is a caustic. Never forget this. And like all caustics, it degrades and destabilizes everything organic that it touches. Anger is the product generally of misunderstanding or of fear as often as it is the result of righteous provocation. Regardless of its origin and its validity (or lack thereof), anger is best experienced quickly and released as soon as possible. Anger which festers or is improperly handled is an all-consuming fire which is an inverse multiplier, that is, anger which persists has exponentially negative effects that are further reaching and of greater impact than just the moment in which the anger initially arises. Unresolved anger is a ticking time bomb.
Now, I do not for a moment suggest that it is possible or even desirable to completely eliminate the experience of anger from your Life. Just like pain or any other discomfort, anger is an indicator that something is amiss and in need of your attention and, quite possibly, your corrective action. That said, anger cannot be allowed to linger or to become a constant traveling companion. It will bend your Spirit and age you far beyond your years. If there is any merit to be gained by its appearance in your Life, let it announce its presence, make you aware, and then be on its way as expeditiously as possible.
Before considering strategies to neutralize anger, I think it important to impress upon you the value in mitigating the triggers of and for anger in your Life. Start by taking an inventory of the persistent environmental conditions, circumstances, situations, and relationships which routinely lead you to experience anger. If you will identify the patterns that typically precede your anger, you can take steps to modify or even remove the offending provocateurs from your space. The less stimuli you have that predictably lead to an anger response, the less likely anger is to manifest in the first place. Better than resolving anger is to not have anger which requires resolution at all.
Another important factor: most of our emotional behaviors and triggers are learned which means that they can also be unlearned or, at the very least, altered if they are ones which do not serve us or promote our greater well-being. Just because a parent or other image-maker demonstrated a hot temper doesn’t mean you are destined to carry forward the tradition.
The preferred strategy many often employ to address their anger is to suppress it. There is no reason to even consider this as a viable strategy. Suppressed anger will destroy you from the inside out. Bottom line: don’t do it.
Which brings us to dissipation and transmutation.
Dissipation comes first through recognition followed by release. Anger, like all emotions, is experienced in the physical body owing to the release of chemical signals into the bloodstream. The quicker you can dilute or remove entirely those chemicals from your bloodstream, the quicker will the affects of anger be assuaged.
The most immediate connection we have with Life is our breath. The power of focused and controlled breathing cannot be emphasized too strongly. I suggest you research and learn a technique called Box Breathing. This technique can be done anywhere, anyTime, and in almost any circumstance. Directed breathing alone might well be enough to resolve anger-related distress.
If breathwork is surgical and immediate, bodily movement in the form of strenuous exercise is a potent analeptic of a generalist nature. To employ exercise as a remedy for anger has the triple benefit of functioning as a sort of meditative Time to examine and mentally process the anger and its causes while simultaneously clearing the bloodstream and even fueling the exercises themselves.
A surprisingly effective (if somewhat more esoteric) remedy is to hold a mental image of yourSelf standing tall, your legs slightly greater than shoulder width and your feet firmly anchored to The Mother Earth, your arms raised and spread wide overhead. Inhale deeply into your abdomen and then expel the anger up through your hands and out your spread wide fingers as you exhale steadily and powerfully. Do this several times to clear away the unwanted anger in its entirety. If the mental version of this exercise is effective (which it is), doing it for real in the physical is even more so.
Another tool is to establish what importance your anger will have in a hundred years. Or in twenty. Or next week. Getting worked up over something that is, in the grand scheme of things, of little or no real consequence is a waste of your Energy and your Time.
There are those who will state that anger can be a positive in that in can be a motivating force for change. Perhaps it is engaging in semantics on my part, but I maintain that anger is, itself, a net negative and should not be sought out, encouraged, or otherwise artificially sustained. Certainly, anger can be a catalyst for positive change, and this is where transmutation comes in.
Use your anger as a cue, an indicator that you are being provided with an opportunity to seek other, more Life-affirming situations and circumstances. Let anger be an agent of change, a motivating force that, when directed with positive and conscious intent, increases your agency rather than limits or weakens it. Be an alchemist and turn the lead of your anger into the gold of possibility.
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A more clinical analysis of anger and its causes would do little to help with the matter at hand, so I think I’ll end here. My final thought is as follows: though not something I take pleasure in saying, I must remind you that there is only one constant in your anger: you. The place to start is to change you.
It is my hope you have found benefit and merit in these words. Never forget –
There Is Always More,
Billy Red Horse
The Gentleman Mystic
©Billy Red Horse
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?
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?
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
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