Cutting through the crap

October.19. 2016

To live in the twenty-first century is to live with crap.

Crap from politicians, crap from teachers, crap from friends, crap from strangers, crap from well-wishers, crap from evil-doers.

But I’ve found a helpful way to cut through the crap.

The trick is to focus on results.

Ignore the hype, the clever words, the excuses, the alibis, the rationales.

Focus on results and on actions.

So if a certain religion insists that theirs is a religion of peace, look at the results of their teaching. If all you see is death and carnage, well, that’s a hint right there.

If a guitar teacher insists he has the keys to guitar heaven, look at his playing. If he can’t play for peanuts, that’s another hint right there.

If a life coach tells you he has all the answers to your problems in life, and he’s going through a third divorce, that’s a clue right there.

If a certain politician tells you she’s for the middle class but she’s hobnobbing with the upper class and getting paid quarter million dollar fees for opening her mouth, that’s another strong clue.

Cutting through the crap involves recognizing that Truth exists and it is non-compromisable.

And that Truth resides in actions and results, and you can’t hide behind clever words  (otherwise known as crap).

It’s based on that famous axiom, don’t tell me, show me.

If yours is a religion of peace, show me.

If you have the keys to guitar heaven, show me…

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

July.13. 2016

The Chilcot report came out last week, and it was interesting to see Tony Blair’s response.

In a statement, he takes full responsibility and ‘apologizes sincerely’ for taking the nation to war.

It reminds me of an incident a few years back in another country.

It was a case involving a few men who attacked another man. They bludgeoned him with every weapon they could find and beat his body into a pulp.

There was a huge outcry and the men were caught.

In front of the judge, the men were very contrite. One of them said to the judge, “Sorry Sir, we won’t do it again.”

Yes, sure.

That’s what Mr. Blair forgot to add, he won’t do it again.

Judging a book by its cover

July.8. 2016

People often say, don’t judge a book by its cover, but I’ve found that the reverse is true.

The best way to judge a book is by its cover.

There’s a reason it’s called a ‘cover’—it’s there to cover up something.

For example, I’ve found that people who pray a lot are the most dangerous.

Why do they need to pray so much?

Is it to cover up some unholy intentions inside?

People who are overly generous with their time and money—why are they so interested in helping other people?

Well, there’s a reason, which I call the Sandusky principle.

(This particular principle applies to older people who like to help young people, but you can change it to the Bill Cosby principle, in which case the target of the interest would involve a different segment of the population.)

Why the strong desire to help young people? Why not older folks who need the help more?

I find people who like to have titles appended to their names interesting too. (This seems to be a popular practice in some parts of the world.)

It used to be only politicians who sought these honors but now every Chong, Dick, and Ali with enough cash on hand are getting into the act.

Why the need for all these titles?

Is it to cover a lack of self-worth?

This is the ‘manufactured wood principle.’ If all you have is sawdust (and other crap) inside, better cover it up with some nice looking veneer outside.

Back to books.

These days, I never buy any book with a slick and overproduced cover.

That’s one sure indication that the contents are going to be pretty vapid.

If the book is really good, why would they need that fancy cover to try to sell it?

Got come got go

July.7. 2016

Every human relationship is a transaction. An old Chinese saying sums it up perfectly, “Got come, got go.”

This means if something comes in, something has to go out too.

If you give me something, I must return in kind.

This may sound like a calculative and cynical approach to life. Is this the only reason for relationships, so that we can take advantage of one another?

But let me give a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you have a good friend (or so you think), and every birthday (his) you send him a gift but when it comes time for your birthday, he conveniently forgets it.

How long do you think will you keep on sending him those gifts?

Or you have another friend, (again so you think) and one day, you need his help with a certain problem but at that critical moment (for you) he is nowhere to be found.

Will you still call him a friend after that?

In my business, people are extremely touchy about supporting each other.

The operative phrase is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

So if they give a concert, be sure to show your face because if you don’t, don’t expect them to show up at yours either.

(In the event that you still expect them to come to your concert even if you don’t show up at theirs, you’re either an egomaniac or a fool. What makes you so special that people should come and support you if you don’t support them?)

Blogging thrives on this ‘got come got go’ mentality.

If someone comes to your blog and post comments, be sure to return the favor, otherwise don’t expect them to be back.

I had a few people who used to come to this blog and post comments. At first I made valiant efforts to visit their blogs and return the favors too. But there is only so much of their cute kids that I could take and need to know so I stopped going after a short while and sure enough they stopped coming to my blogs too.

Which is perfectly fine with me.

This leads to a corollary to the law.

To be sustainable, the ‘come’ has to match the ‘go.’

If the ‘go’ comes at great cost to you, the ‘come’ may not be worth the effort.

In other words, if the required investment in time and effort is too great, then sometimes, it’s better to dispense with the return altogether.

So why is this good to know?

It puts you in the driver’s seat. You get to decide how much ‘come’ you want in your life.

First, despite what you may think, you’re not that special. Ultimately, the only person people care about is themselves, otherwise known as ‘Number 1.”

If you want people to care about you, start caring for them first.

And weigh the effort versus the return.

If it costs too much to perform the ‘go’, then forget about it. But don’t feel bad if you don’t receive the ‘come’ one day.

The heart of lightness

July.1. 2016

Summer is a good time to be stuck in the heart of Borneo with not much else to do.

The dry season doesn’t help, too hot to venture outside, best to stay indoors and practice, and ponder life’s great mysteries and wait for moments of enlightenments.

And enlightenments there have been aplenty.

Not of the spiritual kind but more the mechanical kind.

As in aligning certain fingers to produce moments of magic, effortlessly rippling in perfect harmony.

A wise man once said, “Knock and the door shall open.” This same wise man also told of the patient old man who waited for his prodigal son to return and was rewarded in the end.

Well, in the heart of Borneo, the door did open wide, not once but three times and the prodigal son returned too, after thirty years in the wilderness.

A summer of endless discoveries.

As I find myself penetrating deeper and deeper into the heart of lightness.

The difference

June.30. 2016

If you take two plants, same species, about the same size, but one is dead (perhaps the owner forgot to water it) and one is alive, and if you cut into them, you will see the same molecular structure.

Both plants essentially the same except for one difference.

One has an energy inside, the other one doesn’t.

One has the ability to draw water and nutrients through its roots and stems and produce photosynthesis while the other one doesn’t.

What is this energy?

It is best described as a life force.

I prefer to call it spirit.

No, this spirit has nothing to do with the supernatural, or the paranormal.

It is simply the life force within all living things that gives it life.

Scientists, of course, would laugh at the idea of a spirit that resides in living things.

That’s because the concept is beyond their understanding.

(And that’s why to date, science still can’t create life. You can’t create something you don’t understand.)

Think about it.

In an age where science has been able to travel to the stars and predict quantum and string theories and come up with massive weapons of destruction, no one has as yet been able to make a dead plant come back to life.

Simply amazing.

This life force is the key to our very existence and yet no one has any understanding of it.

Yes, you can sometimes zap a dead person with a jolt of electricity to revive him, but can you send a jolt of electricity into a speck of dust to make it come alive as an ant?

That a life force exists within all living things is indisputable.

Otherwise you and I would not be here writing or reading this.

We all have the life force running through us.

Religions have tried to explain the life force as the soul. (Which can pose certain problems because it implies all living things including plants (and ants) which are possessed of this life force have souls too.)

Perhaps language can provide us with the best clue in understanding what this life force is.

We say someone is “highly spirited”

Or “down in spirit,” or someone has a “broken spirit.”

All these references point to that energy within us.

Keeping the energy strong and alive is key to survival. You might have heard of people who after suffering great personal loss would sometimes succumb soon after themselves.

It’s their broken spirit that’s made them lose the will to live.

When your spirit is broken, that life force will be quickly extinguished too.

So how does one keep the spirit strong and alive?

Having a purpose in life.

Being surrounded by love and goodwill.

Having a good positive outlook on life, filled with hope and anticipation of good things to come each day.

In other words, living a good positive life.

The yardstick

June.25. 2016

I had an interesting conversation with a Sufi master a few years ago. (I make it a point to visit him once a year.)

We were discussing certain spiritual teachers and so-called holy men and he made a point which made complete sense to me at the time.

He said, “True teachers never ask you for money, instead they give you money.”

What a revelation.

Especially in light of all the teachers and pastors out there who’s always begging you for money and more money. (So that they can do God’s work, they claim. Sure and a fancy mansion doesn’t hurt either.)

(And their failsafe rationale, that old 10% tithe. Yes, even if God wants your 10%, why give it to them? They’re not God.)

I believe this is the yardstick to measure all would-be “spiritual teachers” by.

Beware of all self-proclaimed prophets and random “Appointed Sons of God” who’s constantly got their hands outstretched begging you for more money so they can maintain their lavish lifestyles.

Those outstretched hands are immediate disqualifiers.

Instant red flags indicating they’re complete phonies, scam artists, frauds, preying on your need for more spirituality and meaning in your life.

But what is this about giving you money?

No, not literally of course, but you can probably figure this out yourself. Took me a while too.

A beautiful moment

May.27. 2016

I just saw the news today. Our great President at the site of the world’s first atomic bomb detonation in a populated area.

Very touching, very moving, very beautiful.

Now how about the Prime Minister of that country going to Nanking next and acknowledging the bloodbath that took place there a few years before that horrific event.

Because horrific events will set off other horrific events.

I think they call that karma. I prefer to think of it as part of the inner workings of the universe.

If you want to do dastardly deeds onto other people, expect dastardly deeds to be done unto you.

No point whining about it.

The slippery slope

May.26. 2016

You’ve probably heard of the ‘slippery slope.’

The Merriam Webster defines it as “a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences.”

In current usage, the two words are often used in the context of defending some right-wing agenda (such as that of ‘traditional’ marriage).

Lately, however, the words have taken on an entirely new meaning for me.

Take those stoplight cameras.

Are they there as a safety deterrent or are they just revenue enhancers?

I’m sure the original intentions behind them were good until some lawmaker discovered that the financial benefits were not too bad either.

How did a safety issue turn into a revenue bonanza?

Through the slippery slope.

I read about some prison guard association in some supposedly enlightened state in the country. For the past thirty years, they’ve been at the forefront of getting more people incarcerated for life, even for non-violent crimes, like shoplifting.

Why? Because they need inmates. Without inmates, they’d be out of a job.

Job security over people’s lives—criminal justice, American style.

The slippery slope.

You start out with one set of intentions (usually good but not always) and end up in a completely different outcome.

A few more examples.

Perhaps you’re a doctor, and you want added convenience for your patients, so you buy an X-ray machine and install it in the back room. But now you’re stuck with those monthly payments for the machine. What to do but to require all your patients to have an X-ray whether they needed it or not.

What started out as an added convenience is now a potential hazard for the patients—radioactive and financial.

Or maybe you’re in academia, you’re a college professor and you can’t wait to share your incredible wealth of knowledge but soon you find out that if you don’t have enough students, you might lose your position so what to do but to get students to take your classes whether they needed it or not.

(Sad but true and it happens more than you might expect.)

From sharing your knowledge to preying on unsuspecting students.

Or maybe you’re a woman (or man), and you feel empowered by your new sense of freedom, so you give yourself freely to everyone, because it’s fun, and plus, you have a right to use your body in any way you choose, and then one day you realize, hey why not charge them for it instead of giving it away free?

Personal emancipation that leads you on the fast track to the world’s oldest profession.

(What’s wrong with the world’s oldest profession? Nothing wrong. Just ask a certain politician who believes in selling herself to anyone who can pay the quarter million speaking fees she commands.)

Or you’re a manufacturer—your specialty—combat killing machines.

But world peace is bad for your bottom line so what to do but find a good excuse to create some combat zones in some far off corner of the world.

Shock and awe that quickly turn into skyrocketing stocks and profits.

Never mind the collateral damage, as long as you’re making those big bucks, it’s all good.

But no, those far off conflicts are still not enough, you need more customers. Why not market those killing machines as sporting goods! And of course, you have a certain amendment on your side too. (Never mind that the amendment was passed at a time when those killing machines have to be loaded one projectile at a time.)

You can probably see a pattern emerging. All these examples have one common denominator.

Yes, you guessed it.

Money makes the world go round. (And sometimes down a slippery slope).


The process

May.8. 2016

The process of enlightenment is the process of ascending to higher levels of understanding, to penetrating to the heart of things.

So for instance, in religion, there was a time when different forms of natural phenomena were worshiped as gods.

Then greater understanding prevailed and God became one entity, but one that was of a jealous super being who kept on interfering in human affairs.

Then even greater understanding, and he became a benevolent father but still referred to as a king (because people were living in monarchistic societies).

And that apparently still describes the current situation for many people.

But what is the real truth of the matter?

No one can say but I have a feeling it’s probably going to be none of the above.

Not the old thunder god or sun god, nor the concept of a jealous god nor that of a god-king.

(The word ‘jealous’ refers to a human emotion and its use to describe God reaffirms my belief that Genesis had it backwards. God did not create man in his image. On the contrary, the reverse is true, man creates God in his image.)

But back to the subject at hand.

The thing about enlightenment as being a ‘higher’ state of understanding explains why it’s so hard for a person who’s attained it to explain it to those still stuck at the lower levels.

In fact, it’s well-nigh impossible.

And that’s why it’s all the more amazing that the great teachers of the past had been able to convey their enlightenment to their less enlightened counterparts.

Let’s say for example that you decide to go and meditate in the desert.

And after maybe forty days and nights, you begin to understand the true meaning of life. You begin to see the interconnectedness of things, and you begin to understand the great energies that exist in the universe.

And you return to civilization.

You’re fired up with the knowledge of what you’ve discovered. But how to explain such lofty ideas and concepts to simple peasants and fishermen?

(Concepts such as that of God as the source of all things, or love as the positive energy that elevates us, or the ultimate purpose of life being to live to our full potential, just to name a few.)

You reduce them to their level. And you tell stories to illustrate them.

And that’s the genius of the man who lived two thousand years ago, that he was able to explain such deep philosophical concepts in such simple terms.

And that’s why he’s still such a powerful force these days. Because the stories he told are human and timeless stories that we can all relate to.

And I can’t help but think of how many other people throughout the ages had probably attained similar levels of enlightenment and understanding about life and the universe, and either through a lack of desire to share what they learned or the genius to elucidate them so others might understand them, had let their knowledge and enlightenment die with them.

In the novel, “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that a warm man cannot understand a cold man.

I would say the same is true of enlightenment—an unenlightened man cannot understand an enlightened man.

Unless of course if you reduce it to their level, but even then, it’s not the real thing, but a diluted and sometimes rather distant version of it.