Tag Archives: dignity

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

DINNER WITH ALEXANDER

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.

Magic!

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

+++++

(This LINK will take you to the Periscope we recorded over dessert.)

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.

+ + + + +

*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

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

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

The Company You Keep

Be conscious of your associations.  Rightly or wrongly, people will judge you by the company you keep.

If you have worked to build in others a confidence in your integrity, your abilities, your understanding, and your kindness, be careful not to damage that confidence through the absentminded or indiscriminate interaction with or association to those that might not themselves demonstrate the same concern and diligence you have cared enough to cultivate.

Such dubious associations need not be confined to the material world to foment pernicious or even devastating repercussions.  In this age of instantaneous virtual interaction, in the eyes of many, if it’s on the Internet, it MUST be true.  We now live in a world where, to one degree or another, everyone finds themselves in a glaring spotlight.

Even the very best work you do will no doubt be questioned by some, challenged or outright discredited by others, based in no small part on the associations you have or the attendant views you advance.  Don’t give the cynics and naysayers more fuel for their spiteful fires by handing over to them the very materials which they will use to immolate you.

The most universally regarded currency we share in our relationships with others, whether they be close at hand or half-way around the world, is the reputation that precedes us.  Our credibility is both our cachet and our cash; if your credibility is important to you, you would be wise to guard it jealously.  Nothing is worth a needless and easily avoidable aspersion to one’s good name.

It is never in poor form to take the high road.  It is never questionable to demonstrate manners and decorum.  It is never suspect to repudiate distractions and focus on that which matters. It is always wise to think before acting.

Remember: the world is watching.

©Billy Red Horse

Dignity

I speak often of the importance of basics. The consistent and energetic application of Life’s fundamentals are the surest way for a person to stand out among their peers, to be an example to others of what is possible, and to set the table for the personal experience of Joy, day in and day out.

Perhaps the most basic element a gentleman should seek to cultivate is a sense of personal power. The power of which I speak is evidence of Self-awareness, of Self-confidence, and of competency. A singular trait of the legitimately powerful is an abiding and unshakeable sense of dignity.

A man possessed of a genuine dignity is able to be calm in the midst of chaos, to be unfazed by the slings and arrows of antagonists, and just by his very presence is able to serve as a guiding light in a sometimes dark world.

The dignity of which I speak is unmistakable, evident whether a man is dressed in a bespoke suit, driving a miniature circus car and wearing full clown regalia, or standing naked and exposed as the day he was born. Dignity is not beholden to circumstance or to condition. This is how you recognize it whenever it is present.

Like most things in Life, dignity can be inborn or it can be cultivated. It should be reassuring that the latter is far more common than the former. How, then, do we generate and sustain this Magical capacity?

Competency and confidence are essential. Those who would deflect their own dignity are apt to point out that they are imperfect and, perhaps, beneath a deserved dignity. Fortunately, dignity has no need of perfection. In fact, it is in the acceptance of one’s imperfection where dignity can find its most fertile soil for growth. Discarding the fruitless pursuit of perfection frees one to focus on the real and achievable work at hand. Be honest in one’s assessment of oneSelf and one’s limitations and strengths. Get better every day. This is how it’s done.

Which comes first, dignity or competency and confidence? The equation is not linear but is circular. They each build one upon the other.

I can say much more on this and, at some point, I shall. For now, this is enough to be getting on with. In the meantime, nurture your own dignity, demonstrate it in your Life for all to see. Let it be such that strangers will address you and say, “I don’t know what it is you’ve got, all I know is that I want it!”

©Billy Red Horse