Tag Archives: wisdom

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 METAPHYSICS OF MANNERS

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

ON TRANSCENDENCE

People focus on the concept of awakening or the mystical event as though it is this god-touched experience, the be-all and end-all of spiritual development; it is not. Walk with me for a moment –
 
You and I are sitting together in a very heavily populated bar enjoying a fine Macallan Scotch and discussing all sorts of interesting things. Look around us, my friend. It is my position that very likely 50-60 percent of the people present in this bar with us have at some point in their lives had what could accurately be described as an enlightenment/awakening experience. Unfortunately, this is something we in the West are never told about and never prepared for. So what happens? Some folks think that what has happened to them is just some form of mild psychosis that will pass if they just ignore it; so they ignore it and any benefits they might have gleaned are lost to Time. Others actually go a little nuts as a result. Still others have no point of reference so they think that they have experienced some sort of religious awakening and they cleave to whatever religious mythology is comfortable to them to explain what has happened. The last group recognize that something Important has happened and they simply roll with it. So what, then, is enlightenment/awakening? It is the onset of potential spiritual adulthood, the innate recognition that all things are interconnected and interdependent, that Life is composed of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction at a cellular level and that this realization is beyond explanation by mere words.
 
So what’s my point in all this? Awakening is simply a developmental stage in what it is to be human, nothing more, nothing less. It has been my position and I have taught for years that there is something beyond awakening, and that something is TRANSCENDENCE. The highest adepts and spiritual masters are those who have attained to transcendence. To transcend is to go beyond the limitations imposed by Self and society, to, within Sacred Law, move beyond the fetters of Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual, and Creative constraints and to experience a fullness of Life beyond description, beyond explaining, beyond imagination.
 
Awakening is an event; transcendence is an ongoing experience an ongoing experience an ongoing experience an ongoing experience an ongoing experience an ongoing experience….
 
Enlightenment/awakening is a peculiar thing. Far too many people labor under the Hollywood version of what this most natural state is. To be awakened does not grant one omniscience or omnipotence and you are not automatically endowed with the wisdom of a great sage. In fact, it is not uncommon for one such to turn into a babbling idiot.
 
What so many fail to recognize is that if you were an asshole before an awakening event, afterwards you’re more than likely just an awakened asshole. This is why so many who have experienced this shift don’t seem that different to an outside observer. Now, that being said, the awakened asshole DOES have at his disposal a new tool kit that can assist him in divesting himSelf of any Life-negating tendencies he possesses should he choose to avail himSelf of it. This is where transcendence comes into play.
 
Enlightenment and the subsequent ongoing process of transcendence are both ineffable. Awakening is more like a noun and transcendence is, indeed, a verb; a process that is never ending. It is this demand for persistence that makes transcendence at once so challenging and so fulfilling, a thing of Beauty.
 

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.

As much as I may know, I don’t know it all. I am wary of anyone that makes claims to the contrary.
 
Remember: There Is Always More.
©Billy Red Horse

Go With The Flow?

Picture this –

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

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

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

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

Yet, something is not right.

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

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

The End.

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The moral of the story? –

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

©Billy Red Horse

STUPIDITY AND BELLIGERENCE

You’re driving down the highway, minding your own business, when some knucklehead talking on a cell phone and driving a tank cleverly disguised as a SUV almost runs you into a ditch.  You scream insults and floor your accelerator in an effort to catch up with the offender.  Pulling alongside the tank-driving nincompoop, you offer the one finger salute while shouting at the top of your lungs about how difficult it must be to drive such a large vehicle while one has one’s head shoved so far up their own ass.  As you begin receiving the return volley you notice your SUV (which, in your opinion, is much smaller than a tank) has almost run two motorcycle riders into the same ditch.  And so it goes.

Common courtesy and common sense appear to be two of the least common commodities in existence.  In a world where people forever complain of the lack of consideration and forethought exhibited by their fellow man, it is amazing (but not surprising) how often those doing the complaining are the biggest jerks of all.

The vicious circle of stupidity and belligerence is enduring and apparently without end.  Somebody does something stupid that affects you, you respond in kind out of malice, tempers escalate and the next thing you know someone has a bullet hole where part of their heart used to be.  Two wrongs don’t make a right but they do occasionally make someone dead.

Fortunately, extreme cases such as the one mentioned immediately above, while not uncommon, are not the rule.  Garden variety stupidity is plenty irritating enough.  Lazy shoppers that won’t walk an additional 10 feet to put a buggy in a parking lot cart corral.  Young “artists” that love to decorate every square inch of a building’s outer surface with spray painted graffiti.  Smokers that throw their lit cigarette butts on the ground as though the world is their personal ashtray.  Gullible…oh, for crying out loud… what’s the use?  This could go on for days.

Unintentional stupidity happens and preemptive stupidity prevents nothing.  Before you rise (or sink) to someone else’s cognitive lapse, stop and consider for a moment the ultimate repercussions of your actions.  Life ain’t fair, but your acting all bellicose ain’t gonna make it any less so.  Stop it!!

©Billy Red Horse

OPEN TO INTERPRETATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Billy Red Horse

AN APOLOGY FOR THE OLD WAYS

“The good old days.”

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

Probably, even.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Billy Red Horse

THE AUTOMATED HUMAN

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

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

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

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

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

©Billy Red Horse

Coherence Of Message

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

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

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

Walk your talk.

©Billy Red Horse

Loss Of Control

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

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

Absolutely not!

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

Influence.

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

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

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

©Billy Red Horse

An Uncomfortable Verity

You are a killer.

The above statement is neither metaphor nor hyperbole, it is FACT. No matter how much you might protest to the contrary, regardless of any positions of pacifism or non-aggression you hold, even should you have been a strict vegan and staunchly rejected the use of animal products in any fashion, you are directly responsible for the death of more individual lives than you can possibly imagine.

How can I be so bold in my proclamation and so completely certain of my stance? You are reading this dispatch, which means that you are ALIVE. The very fact that you live means something, some 10 trillion or MORE somethings, had to die. Plants, animals, insects, microbes, and likely multiple lifeforms we have yet to even discover or identify are gone. And you killed them.

The purpose of this dispatch is not to heap upon you guilt or blame or to induce shame. My point is to bring to your attention the Giveaway that so many others have made so that you and I may live. It is to share with you the recognition that the carrot is no less sacred than the cow. If we are to live then something else must die for that to happen. It is The Way of Things.

Every morning before I leave my home I stop just outside my door and speak aloud the following words:

To all those Life forms which today I will kill,
Those which I kill knowingly and those which I kill in ignorance,
I ask your forgiveness. Please forgive me.
I grieve for you and I Celebrate you.
I honor you and I thank you.
I shall live my Life today in such a way
That your loss is not in vain.

This prayer does not negate the fact that I will, that I MUST kill in order to live. What it does is bring to the forefront of my awareness the awful cost that others must pay so that I may live. It helps me to recognize the importance of my Life being lived to its fullest and appreciated for the Gift that it is.

It is Sacred Law that Death gives Life. In this universe, it can be no other way.

©Billy Red Horse

Yoshi

This past weekend I made my yearly pilgrimage to Stone Mountain Park to partake in the festivities of the Stone Mountain Highland Games & Scottish Festival.  My lineage through my mother’s side of the family sees me as a member in good standing of Clan Buchanan and I always enjoy immensely taking in many of the activities the Games provide.

One of the activities I like to observe is Scottish Country Dance.  Not to be confused with the more athletic Highland Dancing, Scottish Country Dance (Cèilidh) is traditional social dancing for ladies and gents and is very similar to square dancing.  This year I had the good fortune to attend the pre-event gala that took place offsite the evening before the Games officially opened, where an informal dance was included as part of the schedule.

I entered the room where the Cèilidh was already underway and sat down on one of the many chairs provided for observers that lined the wall.  Watching the dancers, my attention was immediately drawn to a kilted gentleman who was, in my less than expert opinion, the best dancer on the floor.  His movements were precise and he danced without hesitation and with obvious pleasure.  Then I realized that the gentleman in question was undoubtedly NOT Scottish or even European.  This gentleman was Japanese and I learned later that his name was Yoshi.

Delighted by what I saw, after the dance ended I introduced mySelf and told Yoshi how much I enjoyed his dancing.  He accepted my praise with typical Japanese humility and quickly excused himself.  The next day at the Games proper, I again saw Yoshi, this Time dancing with a group of less than skilled participants.  Regardless of the proficiency of his partners, Yoshi still shined in his performance and his demeanor.  The man undoubtedly loved what he was doing.

It subsequently occurred to me that, in the current climate of rampant political correctness, there are those who would be very happy to deny Yoshi the pleasure of participating in Scottish dance, just as they would like to deny a young lady of European descent from wearing a traditional Chinese dress to a high school prom.  The culture police, though generally well-intentioned, are very short-sighted regarding both history and the potential consequences of artificially enforced cultural segregation.  Bloodlines that do not intermingle, whether physically, intellectually, or culturally are ultimately doomed to a sort of inbreeding that is detrimental to all.

The Sun does not shine only on those of European descent.  Water is not solely for the First Nations Peoples of the Americas.  The Air does not belong only to Africans.  It wasn’t so very long ago that great pleasure was taken when one foreign culture showed interest in another.  What is now thought of as appropriation used to be considered recognition and respectful appreciation.  In fact it was not uncommon to view the rejection of one culture by another as not only rude but outright bigoted and a sign of ethnic elitism.  It is my hope that clearer heads will eventually prevail and we can all get on with being more like our ancestors, discovering, sharing, and appreciating one another’s traditions and ways without concern for condemnation and retribution.

How Yoshi came to be a Cèilidh dancer I never found out.  If I see him again next year, I will most assuredly do all that I can to learn his story in detail.  For now, the memory of his enchanting dancing is enough to make me smile.

©Billy Red Horse

To See

Oh, if only I could see…

Is there something wrong with my eyes? Am I blind? No. A doctor would tell me that my eyes are perfect. (Well, okay…maybe not perfect, but there’s nothing wrong a pair of eyeglasses couldn’t remedy.) Nevertheless I still do not see that which I look at. There is no obstruction, yet I cannot see. There is no neural malady, yet I remain sightless.

I raise a hand before my face. Bone covered by meat and sinew and skin. Blood brings forth liquid life, the pulse quickens in my veins. Muscles contract, tendons respond. There is movement. Shadows, the color of the flesh, nails at finger’s end. I want to see my hand, dammit!

This thing we call sight, what is it really? Colors and shapes and movement all register in my eyes. There is focus. There is comprehension. I am told that this is sight. Though the organism is sound and there is a perception of colors and shapes and movement and focus and comprehension I CANNOT SEE WHAT I LOOK AT!! Do not lie and say the hand is seen! Do you lie or is it…is it that you do not know? I am not the only one. Do you think that you have truly seen anything you have ever looked at? You have not, my friend, you have not…

Are my words the babbling of one cut loose of reality? No, my words speak of things as they are. You have never seen grass. You have never seen stone. You have never seen water. You have never in your life seen your own hand.

I challenge you: Before you go to bed tonight look at your hand under a light. See its form, note its function as you flex your fingers. See the lines and the hairs and the nails. Once you are convinced that I truly am mad, turn off the light and look at your hand in the darkness of night. You cannot see your hand, you cannot see anything, for the light is gone. The only thing you have ever seen when you looked at your hand is the light reflected by your hand. The only thing you have ever seen with your eyes in your life is light and its reflection.

What does a hand really look like? What does anything really look like? If we are so mistaken about our sight, what other misconceptions do we labor under? What else do we believe we know that we do not know? I wish to see things as they are, not just their reflection…

©Billy Red Horse

The Company You Keep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember: the world is watching.

©Billy Red Horse

#MysticOffTopic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dignity

I speak often on 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

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

Zen Is

Lurk about any establishment where Zen is rumored to occur and you’re likely find a bunch of uncommonly quiet (and, usually, very pleasant) folk struggling diligently with everything from reducing their levels of daily stress to the admittedly ambitious search for universal personal enlightenment.  For a spiritual discipline that is perceived to be, at its very core, a minimalist endeavor, Zen is possessed of quite a number of ways and means to pursue the practitioner’s goals, whatever those might be.

Koans, sutra studies, techniques and approaches are all valuable and have their place in a vibrant Zen practice.  That being said, each of these systemic cogs is, regardless of how much importance the zensu might choose to attribute to them individually or as a constituent, very often something our practice could just as easily do without.  All you really “need” is yourself and a place to sit quietly and do nothing.  Fancy zafu and zabuton cushions are all the rage (and quite nice), but a simple folded blanket will do in a pinch to support one’s backside during seated meditation.  For that matter, a piece of ground to sit on and a tree to lean against will often yield more results if the practitioner is willing to focus on the practice rather than divertissements.   Can you still your mind?  Will you still your mind?

Through the years I have often encountered those I classify as “Runner’s World” Zen students.  Who are they?  Think of the runner that has the latest in high-tech foot wear, a drawer full of moisture-wicking attire, a pair of $180 Julbo Ultra sunglasses with photochromic lens, a digital heart monitor and, of course, a subscription to Runner’s World magazine.  The problem, though, is that  they never run.  Forget the bells and whistles – just run.  Or, in our case, just sit.

Zen asks nothing of us but our focus and our intent.  Zen is greater than the sum of its parts.  Walk through the woods.  Listen to the song of a bird.  Sit quietly.  Do nothing.  Don’t fret that you can’t remember the second of the Four Noble Truths.  They’re written down.  You can read the Noble Truths any Time your heart desires.  What do you mean you can’t focus because your mind is too scattered?  Let it be scattered!  Sit anyway.  Or stand.  Or recline.  Or chase your tail.  Sooner or later you will tire and maybe then you will focus on the moment.  Zen is.

©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