Tag Archives: choice

Lamentation For A Dream

“My hope (is) that we have not labored in vain, and that our experiment will still prove that men can be governed by reason.”
Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1791

It seems The Great Experiment has failed.

Two-plus centuries ago, the thing of greatest importance in the lives of most of the people that populated the Thirteen Colonies was their freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of the King, his taxes, and his church. Not a government sponsored retirement plan, not a government subsidized medical system, not government supported arts programs. They just wanted to be left alone. Even now there are those living in America who still long for the very same thing. Sadly, it appears that this longing shall never have reason to abate.

The founding fathers of this nation had as their goal the establishment of a republic characterized by limited (which is to say, minimal) government and maximum personal responsibility and liberty. The founders felt that the maximum amount of government should be the minimum amount required to perform only those tasks called for and authorized by the Constitution. These men took a very different view from today’s politicians regarding the scope and function of government. Over time the concepts and institutions imagined by those great men of vision have been corrupted and bastardized almost beyond recognition. Even the most liberal politician of the late 18th century would be shocked at the nanny-state that has taken hold in this country. What began as a nation of law has transmogrified into just another fiefdom of the mob, a land where elected despots mainline the nectar of personal power and worship at the altar of reelection. Power and position are maintained and the peasantry soothed by the indiscriminate opening of the public coffers to any who will trade their vote for a few dollars worth of consideration. The spirit of revolutionary independence that characterized the establishment of this nation is evident no more.

“The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it. Habituated from their infancy to passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests, they are not qualified when called on to think and provide for themselves; and their inexperience, their ignorance and bigotry make them instruments often, in the hands of the Bonapartes and Iturbides, to defeat their own rights and purposes.”
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1823

The people of this nation will make halfhearted protestations affirming their love of freedom yet, each time the polling places are opened, most will dutifully enthrone (either through their action or inaction) the ones least likely to champion a vibrant and enduring liberty. Though the democratically elected lords and the obeisant masses will both offer arguments to the contrary, the United States of America has become little more than a neo-feudalistic society. The electorate labors obediently for their masters, hands outstretched in expectation of the largess their overseers have promised. And with each generation that passes through those government indoctrination centers that are public schools, yet another layer of habituation is instilled to insure the “passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests.”

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1779

A benign tyranny truly has emerged in this country, the Tyranny of Indifference. The prevailing view is that the system is what it is and little can be done to change it. Those in control certainly have no reason to refute this belief, for indifference is the greatest ally of the power monger. Personal liberty and personal responsibility are mutually inclusive. One cannot exist in the absence of the other. Likewise, it should be known that indifference and liberty are mutually exclusive. Freedom must be in receipt of the constant stewardship of those who declare themselves to be free. As a garden is tilled and tended, so must the fields of freedom be nurtured and weeded of any growing thing that would overtake and suffocate the fruits of liberty. Be warned: as surely as day follows night, a benign tyranny will inevitably become a tyranny of violent oppression. When such a tyranny takes root there comes a point where the recourse of the ballot box is no longer an option. The only way to be rid of such a tyranny is to rip out its roots forcibly through acts of willful rebellion.

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787

Freedom cannot survive where freedom is not wanted. It may be that most of the citizens of this nation truly have no desire for anything so demanding as an abiding liberty. Being free requires an effort greater than most are willing to exert. The few remaining souls who view personal sovereignty as the only acceptable course have a limited number of options available to them if they wish to continue living in America. The first is to live “under the radar,” shunning all but the most unavoidable contact with The System in an effort to outrun (that is, expire before the arrival of) the coming oppressive Tyranny. The second would be to attempt to win the hearts and minds of the indifferent majority to the cause of freedom. (A challenge worthy of Sisyphus if ever there was one.) The third and final option is the instigation of a revolution by force, a futile course of action doomed to summary failure. The overwhelming might of the Tyranny allied with the indifference of the masses condemns a Second Revolution to an end most wretched.

The most prudent course of action for those whose bones ache for liberty may well be the abandonment of the very laboratory where the Experiment failed. Unfortunately, if America is not free, the remainder of the world is even less so. Perhaps necessity may cause members of some future generation to go so far as to colonize the ocean floor in an effort to realize the dream of independence that has so far eluded humanity’s grasp. Wherever lovers of liberty may congregate there will forever be a need for constant vigilance. Freedom is fragile and will always require that its beneficiaries stand at the ready to rise to its defense against the minions of the kings and priests.

“Men can only be governed by reason if those men are reasonable.”
Billy Red Horse, 2003

©Billy Red Horse

THE BUTTON

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

Estate Sale

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

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

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

A Good Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May yours be as well.

©Billy Red Horse

AN OPEN LETTER TO A YOUNG SEEKER

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

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

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

#MysticOffTopic

In my Life generally and in my work specifically as The Gentleman Mystic, I speak to the creation, experience, and expression of Beauty.  I teach that the reason we are born into this Life is to know the Joys of living.  For me, this manifests through Self-awareness and the process of continual personal refinement.  My work has absolutely nothing to do with providing commentary on the cultural distractions of politics or its attendant machinations.  Hence the title of this present dispatch being #MysticOffTopic.

My concern is not with any specific political stance, party, or affiliation.  Believe what you want, support whatever candidates or positions speak to you, it makes no difference to me.  What motivates me to write this piece is what I perceive to be the proliferation of throttles and downright suppression in the marketplace of ideas by the gatekeepers of the Big 3 social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube/Google.)

I understand that the Constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of speech are in place to stop the government from using its power to limit expression by the citizens of this nation.  I also know that the private sector is not bound (nor should it ever be) by those sacrosanct constrictions.  If the aforementioned Big 3 wish to limit the type and tenor of discussions and interactions on their platforms, they are absolutely within their rights to do so.  What disturbs me is the unevenness with which these platforms choose to dole out their restrictions, suspensions, and outright bans to certain individuals that could be viewed as libertarian, conservative, or otherwise right-leaning, all the while protesting that they are showing no favoritism and are simply abiding by their own previously established terms of service.  Even more troubling are the number of accounts I have observed to be suspended or banned which, though not political per se, do not fall within the present zeitgeist of political correctness, yet are otherwise not even remotely incendiary or maliciously provocative.  Conversely, there are accounts (many belonging to well known celebrities) currently active on Twitter that routinely tweet out all manner of vile and inflammatory rhetoric with no consequence.  The difference?  Those in the last group are openly and vocally left on the political spectrum.

(Lest anyone accuse me of declaiming that my personal “preferred” ideology is being unfairly victimized in/by social media: 1) Unless you have spoken with me personally, you very likely have no idea what are my political leanings, and 2) I would be just as concerned with what I perceive to be unequally meted out redactions if it were the right which were the beneficiaries of such actions.)

The Big 3 platforms will undoubtedly trundle on as they see fit.  Certainly, market pressures can be brought to bear but, until dollars (or the loss thereof) supplant ideologies, there is little reason to expect a lessening of the affronts to the right or the non-PC center, or parity with the left being more stridently scrutinized and admonished.  So what to do, then?

I have never had a reason for any of my social media accounts to be censured but, as I have already alluded to, reason is a sometimes nebulous and flimsy thing in these matters.  (For all I know, the contents of this very dispatch could be sufficient provocation for an audit of my social media presence if word of my position somehow made its way to the proper inquisitors.)  It is my intention to remain active on Twitter with it being my primary social media outlet, along with my extant Instagram account.  This does not mean I have any degree of confidence that my anodyne gentleman’s voice is in any way safe or above misguided reproach.  It is with this in mind I have opened an account with one alternative to Twitter, that being Parler.  My handle there is the same as my Twitter handle.  Should other viable options present themselves I will certainly give them due consideration.

Two of our greatest freedoms are those of expression and of choice.  I hope you will use both wisely.

©Billy Red Horse

Expectations

Expectations can be problematic.  Because of the challenges inherent in expectations, there are those who label them as “bad” or “undesirable” and suggest that, as such, they should be jettisoned in their entirety.  The fact is that expectations (in their purest expression) are neutral and have have no ethical component or character, one way or the other.  The difficulty with expectations comes when we are attached to the way in which these expectations must be realized or fulfilled.  “Any deviation from the way I expect things to be is painful and unacceptable.”  Indeed, this perspective truly is fraught with peril.  Another point of impingement is when we impose our expectations on others without their knowledge or consent.  This, too, is a sticky wicket.

A meritorious and efficacious expression of expectations is to consider them to be not unlike routes.  Think of it this way: you have a destination in mind.  You have a good idea of where this destination is in relation to your current position and, in order to move toward this destination, you plot a course that will take you there.  This course may be the most direct, it may be the most scenic, it may be the most leisurely or any of a number of possible permutations.  This course is your expectations.  The problem arises when it is thought that there is only one “right” way for the route to be followed, only one way to reach your destination.  If there is flexibility in your expectations (your course), then you have options and are not attached to outcomes.  Flexibility leads to discovery.

There is usually more than one way.  Expect it…

©Billy Red Horse

A Matter Of Convenience

I grew up in a time and place when telephones were quite common.  TELEPHONES, not cell phones and certainly not smart phones.  The telephones I speak of were dependable and utilitarian.  In the 1960s of my youth, almost every house had a telephone, ONE telephone, that is, a single phone for the entire household.  This telephone had a rotary dialer (anyone under the age of 35 will likely need to Google the term) and a handset that was permanently attached to the base of the phone by a thick and curly cord, a base that was itself permanently tethered by wire to a wall or baseboard, lacking even the more “modern” feature of being wired with 4-prong phone jack which could allow a phone to be unplugged from a wall outlet in one room and moved to another room.  There were no answering machines, either.  If you missed a call, well, tough.  They’d just have to call back if it was that important.  And this was enough.

Now our new wireless handsets put us at the beck and call (pun intended) of, potentially, the entire world.  How many times have you been engaged in a face-to-face conversation with someone, only to have their cell phone ring and interrupt?  “I’m sorry but I really need to take this call.  It’ll only take a minute.”  Or the times that a serenade of cute/vile/witty/obnoxious/ad infinitum notifications announce the arrival of a text or an email or a social media status update?  How invasive.  How rude.  And how unnecessary.

I will admit with no hesitation that my own smart phone is customarily within easy reach (though almost never on my person) in a location where I can quickly retrieve it should I need it.  And, as often as not, the phone is on airplane mode, whether day or night.  Therein lies the point of this entire dispatch – my phone is for MY convenience, not for the immediate access to me by anyone else with the technology required to do so.  The instantaneous incursion of the rest of the world into my space is something I no longer tolerate or allow.  “But what happens if you miss something important?” people will ask.  My very comfortable response is a smile and a gentle reminder that, if it’s that important they’ll leave a voice mail or call back.  It is the artificial urgency technology permits that engenders so much stress in our bodies and our minds.  FOMO – fear of missing out – is a menace that is both insidious and destructive.  This is a stress that is completely within my power to reduce greatly if not eliminate entirely.  All that is required is the flip of a virtual switch.

Lest there be any confusion as to my intentions and ultimate goals, I am not a Luddite.  I don’t think technology is inherently dangerous or a threat to all that is good and right with the world.  It is my aim, however, to not be swayed by the priorities or narratives of a culture that does not have my best interests at heart.  To put it bluntly, my phone is for my convenience and no one else.

Those old telephones (with their features as well as their limitations) were a convenience that served me well for decades.  Using new tech in an old way serves me quite well now.  It is, for me, enough.

©Billy Red Horse

An American Woman

 

A guest essay by The Lady Mystic
(Originally published on July 4, 2014) –

I am an American Woman … and I am free.

I own a home because I live in a country where I have property rights, and can have as much stuff as my check book and credit score enable me to have.

I dress in the manner I choose because I live in a country that does not dictate I must cover my legs, arms or face or suffer consequences … or death. But if I choose to dress in this manner, I am equally as free to do so.

I work for a woman who owns her own business, and makes more money than most men I know, because I live in a country where opportunities ABOUND for anyone who will take advantage of them, regardless of their gender.

I live in a country where I am an Ordained Minister, ordained by another female Minister. And while there are a few men in this country who may have a problem with that, I live in a country where my God does not.

I am in a relationship with a man who I am not married to, yet I live in a country where I can engage in sex with him without worrying that the local sheriff or religious “leader” will arrest me or brand me a “harlot” or “adulteress.”

I also live in a country where if I want to ditch my man, and find a woman with whom to have a relationship with I can. And I live in a country where slowly but surely, the beauty of that relationship is as accepted as the one I would have with any man.

I live in a country where it is not unusual or out of the ordinary for me to have an education, use my mind, excel in my chosen field, or be whatever I desire to be. And in this country, if no one encourages me toward those endeavors, then I am free to encourage and motivate myself.

In this country, I am not forced to have unprotected sex unless I choose that route. The choices for me to control the reproductive cycles of my body are endless and as close as my neighborhood pharmacy or doctor.

I also live in a country where forced sex is not condoned by law, and I can seek justice and redress in a court of law against anyone who violates that most sacred space in me.

And in this country, I am not forced to have a baby I do not want to have, and am free to debate the moral and ethical issues of this with legislators, neighbors, doctors, clergy or strangers.

I live in a country that produced the amazing mother and grandmothers who raised me, who taught me how to cook, sew, clean and maintain a home; not because those things were “expected” of me as a girl, but so I could survive, and live a happy and productive life. (By the way, my brother was also taught these things.)

In this country, my father taught his “little girl” to fend for herself by showing her how to change a tire, unclog a drain, use duct tape, recognize dangerous situations, and how to use a .32 Smith and Wesson properly so I shot the bad guy and not myself. (And yes, my brother was also taught these things because they served him as well as they served me.)

I live in a country that is not perfect, founded by men who had revolutionary ideas about freedom and liberty, and did what no one thought they could; they defeated a world power in order to have the opportunity to live in freedom and liberty.

But I also live in a country founded by men with flaws; men who had life-affirming ideas about personal liberties, but whose social consciousness had not risen to the height where they could extend those liberties to all peoples. Yet, I recognize that my country, more than any country during the same time frame, has fought, and struggled, and at times ripped itself apart, in order to extend that same liberty to everyone … and continues to do so.

In my country there is equality of opportunity; and while some may disagree with that statement, I live in a country where I am free to say that, and you are free to prove me wrong.

Yet, I live in a country where many of my Sisters say they are not free, feel they are not “equal” to their male counterparts, feel they are “trodden” upon, or that they have no power or influence.

In this country, the most beautiful symbol of her majesty and nobleness is the Statue of Liberty … a Woman, the Sacred and Divine Feminine. Not a man, not a warrior … a Woman.

I am, and all women who live in all countries, ARE the embodiment of Liberty and Freedom. We are the bearers of Life, the vessel through which all human Life must travel. We embrace this freedom not as something to be ashamed or disgraced by, but as the most Holy of Holies. We are Life.

Through us is the wisdom of Life, the illumination of Life, the forward motion of Life. We can stand in the midst of great vastness, and stand confidently and proudly. We birth children, ideas, wisdom, beauty and humanity. We stand in this space with total control and freedom over our bodies, our minds, our hearts … and our destinies

Yes, in this country many a man has tried through force and law to “put us in our place,” defeat us, regulate us, control us, or humiliate us. Yet, like that great Lady in the harbor, we have never stopped shining, never stopped keeping a watch out for humankind, and – while temporary stifled – have NEVER LOST OUR POWER.

So, on this Independence Day, I am in gratitude for the women of this country who met oppression, domination, and inequality head on. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rosa Parks, Florence Nightingale, Betty Friedan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart – and multiple thousands of other women whose names have escaped the notoriety of history – those women who faced discrimination, and laws or social structures that limited their opportunities, I honor today.

These pioneers lived in a world with little opportunities for women, in order to create the country I live in today, a place where the opportunities for me are LIMITLESS.

Today, I declare MY Independence, in a country where it is only MYSELF that holds me back or keeps me down.

Today, I declare there is no “war” against me, save the one I battle against myself.

Today, I declare there is no “discrimination” against me, save the discrimination I bring to myself because I discriminate against others.

Today, I declare ownership of my own body, and I alone decide who touches it. I, and I alone, have responsibility over my body.

Today, I deny the cultural norms that dictate I must have a particular body size or shape in order to be desirable, and declare that I have the “perfect” body type, as do my Sisters, as do all Women.

Today, I declare that I am smart, intellectual and capable, and it is not necessary for me to hide my intelligence, for it threatens no one and only serves to empower the world.

Today, I make the commitment to know my own mind, my own heart, my own desires, as well as my own challenges, and embrace all of these as the greater nature of who I am.

Today, I acknowledge Prince Charming never existed … and only I can save myself.

Today, I honor my Sisters … the young Women, the mature Mothers, and the Grandmother Crones from whom all Life flows through. I support them in their journey, and am grateful for the full measure of Beauty and Wisdom that is inherent in all of them. May we work together for each other’s good, and not create division among us.

Today, I honor the men in my Life, for without them Life would be less than.

Today, I honor Life and all that she is.

Today … I am an American Woman. And I AM FREE.

© Robbie Dancing Sun Cat Hunt

What If I’m Wrong?

This question can elicit from deep within us a terror of the worst sort, for it requires a forthright examination of our suppositions and suspicions and shines a light on dark places that we would much rather remain shadowed.

What if the ideas and hopes, the positions and assertions we hold dear are shown to be flawed or otherwise unreliable? What if those things in which we have invested our Energy, that we have defended and even promoted, turn out to be a house of cards? What, then, do we have? What, then, do we do?…

It is certain that we hesitate to question our beliefs because our culture preferentially rewards the “right” answer or the “right” action and summarily castigates and sanctions those which are “wrong” or “unacceptable.” It is this inculcated aversion to incongruity that can lead us to avoid the difficult work that may well reveal that which we would prefer to not acknowledge concerning our most cherished convictions. To put it bluntly, we find it embarrassing to be wrong. Embarrassment, however, is insufficient reason to cling doggedly to our inherited cultural mythologies or the mythologies we have painstakingly formulated and collected about ourSelves.

Then there is the doubt.

Should we discover a breach in the ramparts of our certainty, it is then that we may find our confidence is shaken and the poison of doubt has started to seep into the crevices of our Self-esteem. Doubt can be the most caustic and debilitating of adversaries.

The antidote to doubt is the recognition and acceptance of the verity that, so long as we are willing to be proven wrong, we can find peace (and even excitement!) in the knowledge that there is always more to see, always more to feel, always more to experience, always more to learn. “Wrong” does not have to be forever. Being wrong or mistaken or misguided is not an irreversible condition.

To ask “what if I am wrong” is a daunting question. It is a question, however, that the Self in search of integrity and a Life grounded in mindfulness of the Real must be bold and courageous enough to ask, over and over and over again.

©Billy Red Horse

Choice

“Far more than our abilities, it is our choices that show what we truly are.”
– Albus Dumbledore

To be called a heretic is an experience I have long savored and over the years I have had many opportunities to indulge my perverse enjoyment of being thus maligned.  No matter what spiritual discipline I have learned and taught, there has always been someone close by to wag a finger in my general direction and tell me just how wrong I am, how I am corrupting the teachings. It must be said that, when the textbook definition of the word heretic is considered, I truly am one!  A heretic is a person who holds controversial opinions, especially ones that publicly challenge officially accepted dogma.  That’s me all over!  It should therefore come as no surprise that I identify strongly with the Greek root of the word heretic.  That root is hairetikos, which means “able to choose.”

In the final analysis, everything comes down to choice.  The great motivational speakers all state that the quantity and severity of challenges we experience in our lives is of little importance.  How we choose to perceive and respond to those challenges is what matters.  Where others might choose to be victims of circumstance, it is the Spiritual Warrior who responds with life affirming choices (and actions) rather than reacting as though everything is beyond her control.  It is the simple choice between being at the cause or at the effect.

Most every choice we make is a point of departure that will lead to an inevitable destination.  The demand upon us to make choices is as incessant as it is unavoidable.  To quote a line from lyricist Neil Peart, “[Even] if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”  To claim the power inherent in conscious choice is to simultaneously shoulder the burden of responsibility for the consequences of those choices.  It is this burden of responsibility that so frightens the average person and the reason so many prefer to let others make their choices for them.

We do not live alone in this world and no matter how considered one might be with regards to choices made, it is certain that those choices can and will be effected by the choices of others, those we know and those we don’t.  Is it not fair to ask that those who, as associates, friends, and coworkers, have the greatest access to (and, therefore, influence upon) us be at least as concerned with making conscious choices as are we?  This should give a person all the more reason to be selective about the company one keeps.

It may seem that in trying to consider the myriad of possible outcomes each choice could bring one could be easily overwhelmed, even to the point of mental and/or physical apoplexy.  This doesn’t have to be the case.  Gentle persistence is generally the best course when learning a new skill.  Learning how to make wise choices is no different.  Be aware of your choices and don’t be afraid to follow your instincts.

All humans are possessed of a dual nature that is equally adept at expressing the utmost love or manifesting lurid villainy.  What separates the killing fields from Elysian Fields is choice.  Whether we determine to Love or to Fear, to act or react, create or destroy is a function of how we use Energy.  It is our choices that send us down the infernal path and it is our choices that can redeem and Awaken us.

The meaning of Life is really quite simple:  Life is about choice.  Nothing has more influence on our lives and our happiness than the choices we make.  We are here because we choose to be.  Our life has the meaning we choose to give it.  Whether we live in the awareness of our elemental nature as a part of the world we inhabit and our spiritual nature as the offspring of Creation, or as victims of circumstance who are out of balance and out of control can only be decided by the individual.  Creation gives us sovereignty.  It is we alone who abdicate that sovereignty.  The Choice is ours.

There is so much darkness in the world, so very much pain that it often overshadows the Joy.  This does not have to be.  We are not condemned to the mire.  Beauty is but a choice away.

©Billy Red Horse