Friday, December 18, 2009

Judging Tiger Woods

I have read many a comment in different places that condemns Tiger Woods for his escapades with various women. Sure, looking at the results, his behavior was clearly a mistake. But there is a big trap for onlookers: It is the implicit assumption, "If I were the Tiger, I would not be so stupid as to have fooled around with those women because I am on a higher plane morally." It is a claim that you, with your experiences, would have acted differently. It assumes that had you found yourself in the same situation you would have been able to resist the temptations he yielded to.

You cannot justify making this assumption--chances are that given your life and background you would not have gotten Tiger Woods' success and fame, not just because you were not as gifted, but simply because you are you as a result of your own very different personal history and nature. This being so, it would not ever be possible for you to experience the same reality. Why? The content of any reality is determined by the nature of the individual and the situation s/he faces. If either of these two components is different, another person's reality is not the same as yours. This being so, it is wrong to assume a moral superiority allowing you to judge the star who has fallen from grace.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Understanding the Tiger Woods Scandal

Why was Tiger selected as a role model for big corporations to advertise their products?

In the first place it was his fame as a winner in a field that seemed to be closed to minorities. That made him newsworthy in and of itself. The media covered him as a new type of champion. And as any product struggles to get more attention than the rest, being associated with a winner, if not "THE WINNER," makes the product appear as a champion by association.

What qualities make a star more valuable as an endorser of product?

First, the better known a star is to the public the more valuable s/he becomes. The simple reason: A star in the eyes of hundreds of millions is a star with greater candlepower than one with just a few millions. The math is simple: the more people become starry- eyed, the greater the number of viewers who want to buy the products associated with the star.

What about controversy? Doesn't it make the star even more interesting?

Yes, as a news item per se--people at the moment pay more attention to Tiger than before, but his usefulness for sponsorships is lessened. Where before the scandal his pristine reputation in all respects made him appear as a total winner, his endorsement is no longer effective with anyone to whom "moral standards" are important. And with the "flawless" reputation lost, many viewers would longer identify themselves with him.

Was it wise for him to give up golf for the moment?

Undoubtedly. Had he stayed, he would have been hounded every time he appeared in public, resulting in an ever greater hunger for paparazzi and tabloid writers to get material on him. It's much less interesting to keep his story in the headlines while he is not around.

Will his scandal do damage to the golfing industry?

Probably little. People who take up golf because of Tiger have done so already, and it is highly unlikely they will lose interest because of a scandal involving the biggest star in the sport. Sports, whether as a participant or a spectator, are habits, and most habits are not easily broken.

What can we conclude from it all?

Stardom is about money. Prizes for the star's performance, product endorsements and the fame that opens doors are the star's rewards. Publicity surrounding him is food for the tabloids who make money by "exposing the star's flaws." There is money to be made when the star gets brighter and stays brighter, and there is money to be made when his light is darkened by scandal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Woke up super-early this morning realizing how incredibly much I have to be thankful for--big things, little things and what-not-else. The world's film industry is among the many examples. Saw an unbelievably brilliant DVD two nights ago. It is the story of "Bruno", a lesser known member of the Austrian fashion industry. The hero, played by the inimitably talented Sascha Baron Cohen, goes on a global journey in quest of world fame but runs into one flabbergasting obstacle after another. Not wishing to spoil the plot for those who might see the film, I will not go into further detail. Suffice it to say, this is the second time within a little more than a year that Cohen managed to rattle the cage of America's social conventions. If nothing else, he deserves an Oscar as best actor, but I'd be surprised if the academy would have the nerve to step up to the plate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Obama and the New Kid on the Block Syndrome

[I posted this article a few weeks ago, but removed it temporarily pending further developments]

It is wonderful that President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize and the world may become a better place for it. At the same time, when it comes to domestic reforms that would save the American middle class from extinction Obama appears to be stuck. Why? He may be a victim of the New-Kid-on-the-Block Syndrome.

I remember that, when Clinton ran for his first term, I was so impressed when he described his background of poverty where, among other things, he had to stop his drunken stepfather from getting violent. In that same talk, I was moved when he said "I'll never forget where I came from." I took it to mean that he would always keep in mind the needs of people who struggled with poverty. But when he was well into his presidency he appeared to have forgotten that promise, as he permitted changes in laws that made it easier for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

What happened? The Clintons, who started from humble backgrounds, as they increasingly came in contact with the wealthy and powerful came to feel very much at home among those who do not associate with the poor. Once they found themselves to be on the right side of the tracks, they were not at all unhappy to enjoy the satisfaction of being separated from the lesser folk. The rich and powerful now treat them as "friends," and they feel honored. Sharing the sentiments of the wealthy has made the Clintons think and act like the oligarchs with whom they associate, and the interests of old acquaintances from their more humble past have simply become less important.

In terms of social adaptation Obama has followed the Clintons' footsteps. Also born into humble circumstances, like the Clintons he went to an ivy league university and ended up in the White House. As president and holder of the politically most powerful position in the country, he is now much closer to the corporate chiefs and the wealthy than he is to the progressives who helped him win the election. Where he may have been the new kid on the block with ideas for change when he first took office, he is now one of the good ole boys that include the Wall Street and banking elite. 

From his speeches we know that President Obama still means well; it is very likely that the reforms he once promised are still on his mind, but as he now sees the world through the eyes of his old pragmatic advisors and his new "friends," their priorities have become his: the ugly duckling of earlier days is now the adult swan who soars with his peers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

To Take or not to Take the Swine Flu Shot

I saw some interesting videos about the swine flu. One from the seventies is especially worth checking out: :
> I did the math on it: 46 million people were inoculated against the flu and there were 4000 lawsuits by people who contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which means about one in eleven thousand suffered enough to file a lawsuit. The question that's not answered is how many lives might have been saved among those who would have gotten the flu if they had not been given the shots. As always, it's a crap shoot. I once got very sick from a smallpox vaccination, but thank God I'm still around to tell about it.

A little info from the front lines. My daughter who is an attending physician working full-time in a Portland hospital told us she got a swine flue shot a few days ago. The shot takes about three weeks to become effective. According to her a lot more cases are beginning to show up day by day, and you can do a google on "frequency of swine flu cases" to see what the bigger picture is. Two women across the street from us came back early from a road-trip in their RV because one of them had contracted the swine flu. (She's recovering slowly.)

Of course, it always pays to be suspicious as long as somebody somewhere is out to make a buck, and there is money to be made in vaccine sales.

So what's the answer? The better informed you are from as many sources as possible and the more willing you are to do a little detective work, the better the odds you will make the right decision. It goes without saying that staying in good spirits is always conducive to your health. If things are getting you down, get in touch with a life coach.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Logical Support for Homeopathy

A sudden epiphany: My daughter Brigitte has been struggling with allergies for most of her life, and during a conversation with her I suddenly realized a simple reason why homeopathy is a valid approach to medicine. Allergies can be set off by minute quantities of a given substance, so minute in fact that a food product that was in contact with machinery used to process peanuts can cause a serious reaction for someone allergic to peanuts even after the machinery has been cleaned. Based on this one can reasonably conclude if the trace of an element of a substance can cause harm in someone in instances of allergies, trace elements of substances in homeopathic remedies can promote cures.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Will the Boomers Go Bust?

What Will Happen When the Baby Boomers Retire?

A retirement avalanche is about to descend. The baby boom began shortly after the end of World War II in 1945 and continued well into the 1950s. Numerically the boomers represent a work force of around 70 million, and those born earliest will be sixty-five in 2010. They are old enough to retire, but will they have the money for a living standard beyond that of the homeless?

The answer is no for most of them. Why not? Their parents for the most part retired in comfort as they could rely on company retirement plans. In those days, whether people worked for large or small companies, employers and employees felt they were part of the same family--employers held the role of ship captains and employees participated as loyal crews.

The picture began to change in the mid-seventies. A new breed of managers took over the leadership of corporations. The new business philosophy was for a company to make greater profits regardless of the means. Where once employees were part of a family engaged in a business venture, they now became nothing more than a cost factor, and costs are there to be cut. Now seen as nothing more than a financial burden, they can be eliminated by shutting down factories where they made a decent living and opening up plants in other countries where slave labor wages are the rule.

If a plant stays open, employees soon get the message that they had better accept cuts in health and pension benefits or lose their jobs. If a union threatens a strike, the employer lets workers walk out. If they don't buckle under, whatever service they provided is outsourced

Simply put, a good part of the baby boomers have by now either lost their jobs and/or retirement benefits, or if they are still working, had their benefits reduced so that they cannot possibly retire at any level above poverty.

Why Did the Baby Boomers Allow Themselves to be Reduced to Cost Factors?

The Cold War had broken out, and the power struggle between the communist authoritarian regimes and the militarily superior regimes of the west brought the world closer and closer to war. War needs anger, greed and hatred to thrive, but an unimaginable turn of events took place. As the east-west conflict heated up and America became increasingly involved in Vietnam, the baby boomers, rather than respond to a patriotic call to arms, answered with a message of love and peace. For a large segment of the population in their twenties and early thirties goals of acquiring wealth and career building were replaced by a quest for a peaceful and harmonious world.

When the Vietnam War was over and most civil rights goals were achieved, the generation that had pushed for change took a rest. This was not true, however, for a minority of boomers who had continued to pursue primarily careers and money. Without the distractions of idealistic goals, the acquisition of wealth for its own sake became fashionable and got increasing support from the media through programs like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." While the former hippies and war protesters did not necessarily join in the chase after money, they did not do much of anything to stop the greedy from their ever-greater worship of wealth and power. In a setting of general public complacency, it was easy for the power seekers to climb the corporate ladder by squeezing the incomes of all those on the rungs below them. Once they ruled the corporations, they got salaries and bonuses in the millions while others quietly lost their jobs and were too embarrassed to say or do anything about it.

No Work, No Money, No Retirement: Where Can You Go? How Can You Hide?

People are ashamed of being unemployed. Being broke may get you sympathy, but it won't get you respect. Having no retirement income will leave you either homeless or at the mercy of a relative. Civil servants, teachers or the career military are among the few who survive the race to the economic bottom. But those of the baby boomers who are neither wealthy nor part of a retirement system suddenly find themselves as part of a new underclass having to deal with the contempt of those who are better off. They now find themselves as outcasts much like the racial and ethnic minorities and women were before the civil rights movement.

So it becomes an irony of history that the baby boomers who did so much for the rights of the disadvantaged and in addition stopped a war, are now themselves confronted by a reality that they successfully defeated forty years earlier. Without jobs, no longer part of an "active society," they have little choice but to tap resources they have not drawn on since the early seventies. They cannot fail to recognize and face the fact that they can neither find jobs nor retire because the money they earned over their lifetimes is in the pockets of those addicted to power and greed. Considering that they are a generation of courage and innovation, they will through social and political action find ways to get back what has been taken from them. Given that the baby boomers are far better educated than earlier generations, given the fact that in their youth they were never afraid to challenge gratuitous authority, and given the fact that their personalities were developed in the period of greatest creativity, they will find the way to bring about the change needed for survival with dignity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Letter to a Friend re Gun Confiscation

Dear D,

Yes, I feel compassion for gun owners. When we had the riots in 92 I drove out to the valley to buy an M1 carbine at a gun shop. They had a seven day waiting period for hand guns, but no waiting period for the M1 because it was considered an antique. Also, I had learned to fire it when I was in the military. A couple of years later it was ripped off when we had a burglary. The cops recovered it some time later, but I never retrieved it because they told me it had been mangled by the burglars.

As to my take on gun ownership, I see both sides of the issue. Guns, like cars, are potentially deadly weapons, and deadly weapons carry with them a grave (no pun intended) responsibility. The problem with car ownership is that cars kill people in accidents, not forgetting that cars can shorten the vehicle owners' life spans because they do not get enough exercise. Similarly, there is a major drawback to gun ownership. While car ownership creates problems by making locomotion all too easy, gun ownership often leads people to solving problems by shooting their opponents rather than calmly communicating with them.

Beyond that, I do consider it a serious problem that the government and big corporations stick their noses into citizens' business to the point where little privacy remains. It is my belief that privacy is a necessary element of freedom.

What's the answer? There needs to be a lot more dialog between those who want to keep guns and those who want to ban them. Underneath it all, I believe most of us want to make this world a better one.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Should We Love Our Greedy Neighbors?

Let's face it, there are some pretty nasty people out there, and for anyone following a Christian value system it is one's duty to love one's neighbor. Neighbor doesn't just mean the guy next-door but all human beings. As a Unitarian Universalist I admit that I may get into the Christian mode some of the time, but that other times I get into a mode where I want nothing more than to see justice done. This means that a part of me is waiting for that gleeful moment when one of the world's creeps, scum bags or douche bags gets a taste of his or her own medicine. Specifically, it may mean fantasizing about a healthcare CEO going to prison and suffering because he or she gets medical care no better than what other prisoners are getting. Can vengeance taste any sweeter?

It is easy to see people as villainous who become fabulously rich while finding ways to pay less and less of their fair share in taxes as they contribute next to nothing to society. Another good example might be a Wall Street charlatan who made millions gambling away people's retirement money, and who now struts about showing how proud he or she is because he or she lives in a fabulous mansion and drives the most expensive cars. Should one consider this kind of rip-off artist as evil as any thief or bank robber?

Whatever our moral appraisal of the well-heeled rascals may turn out to be, is it right for us to detest them? They may not at all be aware that they are doing wrong. They may believe it is right to take money from a public made up of fools who deserve to be ripped off. Is this kind of rationalization a sign of criminality or of a special kind of insanity? It depends on how you define the crime of theft. It depends a lot on a person's motive. Say somebody steals food or a small amount of money to feed a starving family. Yes it is wrong to steal, but it may be even more wrong to let someone die of starvation. Say someone steals money to buy drugs because he or she cannot bear the pain of withdrawal. Yes, it's wrong but understandable--people have limits as to how much pain they may be able to bear.

But what about multi-million-dollar rascals who pilfer ordinary people's money by means of the schemes and tricks of Wall Street? Are they ripping off the public in order to avoid unbearable pain? Yes and no. The experience of pain is relative: physical pain is undeniably direct. But the pain that the greedy may be trying to avoid is emotional: They avoid the pain of not being able to keep up with the Joneses, who they see as even richer than they. If the avoidance of pain is an emotional psychological affliction, and if the misappropriation of money crosses the boundaries of criminality, does it mean that the thief is an ordinary criminal, or that he or she is the victim of a newly discovered form of criminal insanity?

If multi-million-dollar scoundrels are indeed found to be suffering from a newly recognized form of criminal insanity, it would be very wrong to hate them because it is wrong to detest people who are afflicted with an illness. On the contrary, they deserve our feelings of compassion. But just as with other more commonly recognized forms of criminal insanity, such as killing committed by someone truly delusional, you cannot allow the individual in question to continue his or her misdeeds. Such people need to be stopped and institutionalized until the proper medical authority determines they have overcome their illness. As to the money taken by criminally insane multi-million-dollar rich and super-rich thieves, it should be returned to those that it has been taken from, and once this has happened we should not forget to think of them with the greatest possible compassion. And lest there be any doubt, compassion is a form of love.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Anything Goes for Profit?

I recommend that after you read my last post about not worrying about putting "healthcare providers" out of business, you check Bill Maher's discussion on

Monday, July 20, 2009

At the Center of the Healthcare Battle

What's at the basis of the health-care battle? It has become crystal clear that those intoxicated by greed do all they can to get their hands on more money. Universal healthcare means less money for private healthcare providers because a government-run program does not have to support an incredible load of pay going to executives nor does it have to pay out profits to investors. It would mean an extreme threat to corporations that take as much profit as they can by giving as little health care as possible for the fees and premiums they take in.

Healthcare costs have increased because hospitals and health insurance companies that existed to keep people alive and healthy have now became little more than a means of making money for corporate profiteers. When privatizers took over non-profit hospitals and insurance companies, they channeled cash to investors and corporate officers by cutting operating funds to doctors and nurses, eliminating necessary procedures whenever possible, and raising insurance premiums and fees to patients. Money that was used to heal the sick in non-profit systems, was now put into the pockets of corporate executives and profit-hungry investors.

True, non-profits have administrative structures in which those who are higher on the administrative scale get paid more. But for the most part, those on top of the ladder don't get the obscenely high salaries and bonuses customary in the corporate world. Instead, compensation with non-profits is roughly similar to that of the civil service system where those on top primarily get paid in accordance to a scale based on greater expertise and/or more experience. The civil service system is proof that managers who don't get outlandish compensations accomplish far more than those in for-profit corporations. Looking at the overall picture, corporate health-care executive pay is an unnecessary overhead, and eliminating it will benefit the essential components of health care, doctors, nurses, technicians and above all, the patients.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the Lighter Side

On the Lighter Side,

Yesterday I got a ride in- and a quick test-drive in an Equinox from Maurice, our good friend and computer consultant for many years. The Equinox is a GM prototype of a hydrogen propelled SUV with mileage standards roughly equivalent to the much lighter Prius, 0 to 60 in nine seconds. We took it for a completely effortless climb up Mt. Washington. But the greatest advantage is that of having zero (and I mean it) pollution in its emission. With the engine running, you check the exhaust: No fumes of any kind, only a few drops of water. Hello, fresh air in the L.A. basin! Check it out at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How the Economy Tanked and How It Could Be Saved

In the Good Old Days

How did the American economy go into a nosedive? In the fifties and sixties it was easy for anyone to get a job, a mortgage and to support a family. Just about anything you could see, hear or touch was made in the U.S.A. Manufacturers, buyers and sellers were American. You could make a living just about anywhere in the country, whether you had a small business, practiced a profession, worked in a factory or as a salesclerk. Whatever was produced in factories could be sold in stores or dealerships and there were plenty of buyers for no-matter-what. As almost everybody's credit was good, business kept up a steady pace. Producers could rely on a steady stream of consumers, and consumers were comfortable living within their means.

Mutual Respect and Loyalty

Going into retirement was no problem. Companies large and small had pension plans. Unions had made sure that the employees of large companies would get decent retirement packages, and smaller companies followed suit because they wanted to be competitive. From large corporations down to local businesses, management knew and appreciated their staff. In general those on top respected and valued the loyalty of those at the middle and lower levels. Workers and white collar staff trusted their supervisors, and they were proud of working for their employers whether their company was GM or a local hardware store.

Dog-Eat-Dog Comes into Fashion

Then, what happened? Even though the country began to be polarized through the Vietnam War by the end of the sixties, basic underlying values of decency were still in place in business, social and political arenas until the late seventies. By then a conservative cloud began to settle over the country. By then a steady drumbeat blaming all social ills on the power of the unions filled the airwaves. A dog-eat-dog philosophy became more and more popular. People on welfare were labeled as parasites. And for the first time since the great depression there was ever-increasing homelessness. Where earlier it was considered against the law for someone to sleep on the streets, getting the sleeper arrested for “vagrancy,” for the homeless to sleep on the streets was now considered unfortunate but inevitable. Food and shelter were once considered a right based on American tradition. Everyone could still be fed because of the food stamp program, but shelter could now only be guaranteed if people managed "to measure up." Those who insisted it was only decent to house the homeless were dismissed as "bleeding-heart liberals.”

Getting Rid of Unions

The dog-eat-dog mode also became prevalent in business and industry. Where previously corporate management would at times be annoyed by the ways of unions, management now fought to destroy unions where they already existed and to snuff out anyone who dared to start unions in places that had none. The annihilation of the air traffic controllers' union by the Reagan administration is a key example of the destruction of a union. Wal-Mart's hostility against the formation of a union presents a perfect example of how a corporation prevents employees from having a collective representation in the first place.

Corporate Raiders Take People's Retirements

But dog-eat-dog behavior became commonplace not only between the haves of the corporate world and the have-nots outside of it, it also became the keynote among corporations in dealing with one another. Before the mid-seventies there were few if any hostile corporate takeovers. Such takeovers were no more acceptable than stealing gardening equipment from a neighbor. Now a company would take control of another simply to get the targeted company's assets, and if an employee of the acquired firm lost his retirement as a result, the loss would be recorded as nothing more than a victory for the bottom line of the raiding company. By any standard of decency, before this time taking people's retirement money would have been considered nothing less than an act of theft. In the gangland of corporate competition, however, it was now considered to be nothing more than well-earned spoils going to a well-deserving victor.

Eliminating Cost Factors

Today, the rich and/or famous have become role models for the population on the whole; anyone wealthy is considered more worthy of respect than anyone less so. In the never-ending quest for their version of “greatness,” the world's greediest stop at nothing. And this is the source of America 's economic decline. In an endless pursuit of money, corporate captains look for ways to cut costs benefiting only themselves, their peers and investors. How? By simply acting as if employees, regardless of how long they have been with the company, are nothing more than expenses, and they feel they are doing the world a service as they eliminate these "cost factors” by sending American workers' jobs and equipment to China, India or the Philippines. Having done so, corporate officers take millions and millions in salaries and bonuses. To add insult to injury these executives are treated like stars by business and investment media.

Building Mansions

What does the monied elite do with the cash they save by laying off American workers and replacing them with quasi-slave labor in China ? If they don't use the money to buy up other companies where the same cycle is repeated, they use it to build themselves ever larger mansions, or they place the money in overseas tax shelters, cheating the American public out of much-needed tax revenues.

Fewer and Fewer Jobs

Now what about the employees who are out of work? A small minority is lucky enough to get new jobs. During the past eight years there have been other “lucky” ones who could survive because they could get home equity loans as long as the real estate market continued to go up and up--until it collapsed. Others kept looking for jobs only to find out there is no work because most other companies are also sending jobs out of the country. The result: Fewer and fewer jobs and fewer and fewer houses bought. The job market collapses, so does the real estate market, and people who were living on borrowed money suddenly find that banks are demanding that they pay up. Without cash reserves they either end up with a foreclosure or a bankruptcy or both.

When the Money Runs Out

How do people manage without an income? Some rely on unemployment benefits until they run out. Then they exhaust their cash savings. Next they empty out their 401k retirement accounts, and when these last reserves are gone they move in with friends or sleep on the couch of close or distant family members as long as they are welcome. And in the end they have no choice but to sleep in cardboard boxes on the streets. Can the government help them out? As long as there are funds, federal, state and local governments can create jobs through programs like public works projects or through the improvement of existing services. But governments lack money because the people who were laid off no longer pay taxes, and without taxes government cannot do anything.

So how do we cope with fewer and fewer people having an income? If anybody could help it would be those on top of the pyramid, the rich and the very rich, including the same corporate chieftains who have given themselves eight figure annual salaries while cutting their employees' jobs.

The Rich Give Advice

But when asked, mighty money-men tell politicians that they shouldn't ask the rich to give up money to put the economy back on its feet. Stop government "giveaways" to the poor, they say. Cut "entitlements" like Medicaid, housing for the poor, subsidized bus service etc. They point out that they, the executive class, succeeded in becoming more prosperous by reducing costs by cutting salaries and benefits of lower ranking staff. Government can do the same! All that is needed is to stop "handouts" to the needy, the losers that lost because they did not "measure up?"

The prosperous may mean well, but as misery spreads and more and more become anonymous and homeless, it becomes impossible to take anything from those who have nothing. Maybe you could save money by stopping the food stamp program or by refusing emergency medical care to the uninsured, but could you get enough of the public to accept increasing numbers of people dying of disease and hunger in the streets?

Can the Rich Do with Less?

True, not all of the prosperous are hard-nosed conservatives--there are some "bleeding-heart liberals" among them-- but most may not want the one workable remedy that could put the economy back on its feet. They don't want to see that the only way to turn the economy around is to tax those who have money. You cannot get taxes from the middle and lower strata. They have been squeezed to the limit. True, as those who have plenty always want more, it may be painful for them to have less. While it may hurt everyone to give up anything at all, is it more painful for one with twenty million a year to give up eighteen than for a family with less than ten thousand to lose the roof over their heads?

After the Fire

But it is an illusion for the wealthy to think that the decline in living standards of the general public will not affect them. Once people have given up health-care, police and fire protection, it is doubtful that the privileged, living in their enclaves, will be spared from the worldwide pandemics, rampant crime waves or merciless fires raging out of control that are likely to occur. Dwellers of enclaves may realize they are still part of the larger community. Imagine yourself as one of those dwellers. Imagine you have a home and a major fire has broken out. When the fire has ceased to burn, you learn that all homes but your own were destroyed. Though you are happy your place was saved, would you enjoy looking at the charred remains of your neighbors' houses?

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Is there such a thing as immortality?

Immortality in the religious sense is a matter of belief and cannot be proven empirically. But what about the stamp left on reality by artists and writers? Those who have become stars in their lifetime or shortly after their death will be remembered through their works and the experience brought forth by the artists' creation will continue to "live" every time anyone listens to a recording, looks at a painting, or reads the writing that was produced during the artist's lifetime. The artist's soul thus survives through his works. So John Lennon lives every time we listen to one of his songs.

How can one make sure to be remembered?

The creation of a memorable product whether it may be a work of art or an invention generally is not the result of the creator's wish to make his mark on history. True creativity does not concern itself with getting recognition whether in the creator's lifetime or in posterity. Creativity lives in the moment--it never concerns itself with "what will they think of my work now or in the future." As for recognition on a grand scale, it will happen or not. More often than not it comes as a result of nothing more than luck. As for recognition and remembrance on a smaller scale, let's say family and friends, they are determined by what chords are struck by what we have produced, and chances are that our control over the impact that we make is limited at best.

So is it worth it being recognized and remembered?

That's a tough one. Yes, as long as one does not worry about it. In fact, caring about being recognized and/or remembered may well be useless if not counterproductive. Even if immortality is achieved, is it real? If so, it would mean that a manifestation of someone's incarnation would continue forever and forever, and it would seem logical that since no one remembers what happened millions of years ago, it seems rather unlikely that anyone living now will be remembered millions of years in the future. If one asks oneself how long one wants to be remembered, one is not really interested in immortality.


Live in the moment, enjoy the moment and create in the moment. Let this be what matters and consider all that which results to be nothing more than a byproduct of lesser importance.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What Does It Mean to Be Authentic

We are what we have. Are we what we have? If we have a flashy, expensive sports car, people may see us as materially successful, an exciting risk taker and fun-loving. If we drive a mini-van, there are other expectations: family oriented with kids to drive around. Dressed in a suit? --a professional or perhaps a life insurance salesperson. Living in a mansion? High net worth and enjoying all the privileges that come along with it, such as that of being picky about the very finest restaurants or the ability to travel around the world.

Other people react to us in terms of what we have or appear to have. A girl's interest may perk up when she meets a guy with a sexy sports car. Showing up in a restaurant in an expensive suit may get the waiters to be more careful about the service and to expect a better tip.

Other less tangible things like an impressive resume that may open career doors. Having memberships in exclusive clubs may bring us connections that make it easy to get what we want because we know the "right" people.

So how do the things we have influence us? They put pressure on the way we act. Once admitted to a private club it does not take long to be and act like other members and to be very comfortable acting like the rest. By contrast, if we are visiting a church to please a friend, chances are we will be very cautious about all our movements. What can we conclude? In general, the things we have, whether they are material property or social connections, have an incredible influence on the way we walk through life.

Are we then nothing more than what our possessions have made us become? Is our true, authentic being nothing more than what we own and what we can do with what we own? Strange as it may seem, it may be true for most. In times of economic setbacks people begin to feel they are less when they have less. It explains why some who have lost most of their net worth jump off buildings. They assume that when their money is gone they no longer have value as human beings because money was all they respected and valued.

For those whose identity is nothing more than their economic reality, the loss of property means a loss of heart and soul. But for those who live authentically, the loss of what they have does not spell the end of a meaningful life because they were not just a construct of their possessions but rather an expression of their core being.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Personal Experience

The Parable of the Answering Machine

A man woke up one morning and wanted to start his day with making phone calls on his to-do-list. Surprise: No matter who he called, he got nothing more than an answering machine. As he went on his way he made every effort to start conversations, but no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to get beyond the usual "Hello, how are you--I am fine, how are you--Good-bye." He finished the day with an incredible feeling of isolation--Why, oh why can't I have a real response?

That night he awoke from a dream and in that dream, he was at a party. But no matter what he wanted to say, his own words sounded like a generic voice mail message. It was déjà vu – he heard himself saying the same things again and again and again. He thought: Am I nothing more than an answering machine? And are the people talking to me nothing more than voice mails set to an automatic response?

He went back to sleep. When he woke up again, he realized that his was a world of voice mails and answering machines. Everyone he heard and all that was said was prerecorded. It was a livable reality, comfortable, safe and secure as that of cattle grazing in a meadow.

And yet, it was not the peaceful, natural life of cows in a pasture. It was a robotic existence suspended in an electromechanical web of endless recorded messages.

He realized that his life had been little more than that dream, and that it was a dream he was saying good-bye to. He knew that now he was at the beginning of a journey of heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul communication.