From the Archives: What We Can Learn from Animals

This week, August 12-16, I’ll be standing trial for fraud in Florida, and thus unable to bring you new words each day. In the meantime, please enjoy reposts of some of my best work. I’ll return Monday after these absurd charges have been rebuffed. Please do not hesitate to send me money in any amount, and it will help you more than it does me, and it shouldn’t need to be restated that the greater the amount, the greater the help to you will be.

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No doubt, human beings are the most important creatures on earth. We shouldn’t hesitate to admit it. Nor should we avoid helping ourselves to whatever it is, on this blue planet, that we need. Or want. Or merely want others not to have.

power words

Class struggles in the animal world. But uh, wow bird really does look great.

  That said, there are still lessons we can take from other, lesser creatures. Take, for instance, the hedgehog. What do you think of hedgehogs? Well, if you’re like most people, you think about hedgehogs hardly at all. Could you even pick one out of a lineup of small mammals?

  In case you didn’t know, the hedgehog is an adorable, small rodent that can be found all over the world. Hedgehogs are very honest about how they’re feeling.  In moments of contentment, the hedgehog can be heard to purr and whistle softly. These creatures puff and snort when mildly displeased, but loudly hiss and click when angry. Hedgehogs have never been observed to ‘pretend everything is fine’ to avoid conflict or not make a situation uncomfortable for others.

  What does all this mean for us? Well, the hedgehog, according to evolutionary science, has changed hardly at all over the last 15 million years. He’s a survivor, and wearing his heart on his sleeve, the hedgehog has seen his way through broad changes in his world. Anatomically modern humans, by contrast, emerged only about 200,000 years ago.

  How good a shot do we have at lasting? We’re smart enough to invent weapons that could obliterate our species, but still too stupid to avoid drowning in the pool or being electrocuted to death near public transportation without signs that contain both words and pictures.

  So the next time we feel an impulse to call an animal stupid, why not take a look in the mirror, and focus on our own flaws? Just be careful not to slip on the bathroom floor and kill yourself, moron. Water can cause surfaces to become wet. We’ll get a sign made for you about that right away.

Power Words:

Today I will be like the hedgehog, and speak my mind without thinking about it first, and I will realize that if my species is doomed, I am to blame.

From the Archives: Who to Judge

This week, August 12-16, I’ll be standing trial for fraud in Florida, and thus unable to bring you new words each day. In the meantime, please enjoy reposts of some of my best work. I’ll return Monday after these absurd charges have been rebuffed. Please do not hesitate to send me money in any amount, and it will help you more than it does me, and it shouldn’t need to be restated that the greater the amount, the greater the help to you will be.

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“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” said somebody not important enough to warrant credit whenever this ideal is stated. And stated it is, frequently in modern day, despite its being something like 2,000 years old.JudgingJohn

  We can all see the logic in the idea. Nobody is perfect. To look our fellows and shake our heads at their flaws is to guarantee our status as hypocrites, when the time comes to exhibit our own defects of character, and soon we all do.

  What is largely unstated, however, and innately understood, is that this (definitely true) idea functions in degrees.

  Example: If our neighbor is observed to be at loud conflict with his wife and children, complete with screaming matches and clothes strewn on the lawn. Sometimes the clothes are set afire. We might say, “Boy, Jim’s not a very good husband.” Soon though, perhaps our own spouse commences to drink to excess daily, while our daughter simultaneously becomes an active participant in a local crime-based motorcycle club. Would our interactions with them remain always cordial and reserved? One would have to be superhuman to pull off such a task.

  But let’s imagine a different situation for Jim. Imagine Jim has a loud, raucous party for many days in a row, audible from our own house. Upon investigating, we learn that Jim has paid for the celebration by selling his own children to the aforementioned motorcycle club, and is free to continue it for so long because his wife seems to have disappeared as well. Later, it is revealed that Jim murdered his wife, and served her as steak tips at the party.

  What do we possibly have to lose by judging Jim’s actions in this situation? Nothing. We haven’t done, nor will we do, anything that approaches Jim’s pimping, murder, and cannibalism. Thus, anyone who would advise us from the judge-not-lest- perspective would appear ridiculous.

  So, if we learn where the boundaries of our own evil lay, we can be free to disdain, malign, label, and pass judgment on all of our fellow men, knowing the situations where we are safe to do so. We can even pick and choose. We may outline Jim’s crimes as stated above, but leave aside his blackout drunkenness and accidental driving on his lawn, remembering our own behavior on Memorial Day. Or something similar.

Power Words:

Today I will look at my life honestly, and see how I am like those whose actions I judge. But I will also see what I have not done, and be able to know who I am safe to judge, blame and label as a demon.

Power Words for August the 8th: Don’t Take it Personally

We are all sensitive people. This was clear to Marvin Gaye when he said so in the classic song Let’s Get It On, and its clear to each of us when some event in our lives inspires some strong emotion inside us.

Sometimes these emotions are positive. We feel joy and love and laughter. Often though, perhaps too often, our sensitivity makes us feel hurt or angry. The things that happen to us, especially the behavior of others, can injure our pride.

What good does pride do us? Taking pride in who we are might be okay, but it doesn’t change who we are. We merely are who we are, pride or no. When we become obsessed with our sense of self, and feel as though actions by others toward us always reflect our worth, we start down a slippery path. We approach the world and its people always with the attitude of, “Don’t you know who am?”

Most likely, they do not. Other people just do what they do and often don’t take notice of who they’re doing it to. Children who raise their middle finger toward me when I drive my sedan on my street don’t know that I’m Brad Feiling, or what all of my traits are, positive and negative. They just want to give a rude gesture to an adult who visibly out-earns their parents. Similarly, whomever scratched my sedan’s driver door with a key in Santa Monica last month likely didn’t know I was the owner of the car.

This is why we must not take things personally. Our tendency to this is natural, but it is a grave liability. When challenged by these things, we need only take a deep breath, and remember that these people are sick, just as we once were. We should be grateful we’re walking a spiritual path now.

Once we’ve done that, we can focus on our revenge. The universe is a place forever seeking balance, so we’ll need to harm the offending person slightly worse than they have us, in order to correct the error. A good way I find, lately, is to smear animal feces on the property of such people. Animal scat can be found almost anywhere, in great quantities, usually the product of dogs (large dogs are best). For example, those neighborhood kids I mentioned? Recently, under cover of night, I visited their homes and smeared the siding and front doors with elaborate murals of the aforementioned substance.

Here again, my pride attempted to jump in and stir up trouble. I was upset that I was not going to receive credit for the feces painting. The victims would not know who did it, or for what reason. I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that this isn’t personal, and continued to wipe large brown circles onto the white, painted wood of the Masterson’s front door.

Power Words:

Today, I don’t need to make anything personal. When I don’t react emotionally, I can even scores with other people using cold, calculating effectiveness.

Power Words for August the 7th: A Proposition for Cats

Animals are therapeutic. Most of us would agree with this statement, and as a therapist I always advise my clients that a pet can be a great help in steadying the self and cleaving negative feelings. Except in cases where I believe the client may cause, usually through negligence, the death of the animal.

I have certain misgivings though, about a particular pet choice my clients often make. I refer, as some may have guessed, to the American house cat.

Cats are adorable. I don’t deny this. When we pet them, and they purr, and slink here and there, we feel pleasure. However, can any of us honestly say we have a found a cat to be reliable? “I can always count on my cat when I get home.” Some people might feel this way, but they’re wrong. This is a false belief. Cats are hit or miss. They tend to emerge when they want something. Food, typically.

I have worked with many men of middle age who found themselves unable to connect with a partner in a meaningful way. These clients tended to flee relationships when trouble arose, but equally as often when they merely found themselves beginning to feel attached or reliant to the other person. Many times, these people bemoan their own loneliness and express the want for something lasting, but they are unable to overcome their natural inclination otherwise. This is what I see, when I look to the behavior of cats. Cats are natural commitment-phobes. So, what to do with them?

I would never advise anyone drown their cat. Unless supernatural forces are involved. So we will need another solution.

Thus, to the cat world, I submit the following offer:

Dear cats, we enjoy your company and the touch of your soft fur. We care about you and want you to be happy. But neither of us are going to live forever. Right, cats? Life is short. Especially yours. So, all cats, in the world, I challenge you. I challenge you to take a step you are afraid of. Come near to us, and not just for meat byproducts and back-scratching. Don’t run away from your feelings, or ours. I want this to be a spiritual journey for all of you, and hold your paw as we take risks together. Please understand though, this offer isn’t forever. It’s now or never, and we, the people of earth, won’t hold our breath.

If you can’t meet us halfway, we will have to move on, and you will have to return to the wild where you’ll live only by your wits and ability to compete with other animals.

And we will drown at least some of you.

So, think about it. The choice is yours. We’re opening our hearts to you, and want nothing more than to welcome you inside of us. We do love you, cats.

Power Words:

I want to love cats, but I need to protect my heart too. I am strong enough to make the right choice.

Power Words for July the 30th: Truth

Concision is the soul of brevity, a paternal candidate for wit. Hence, a concise lesson today.

We have spoken about many facets of the human experience on earth, and the soul’s experience eternal. We have looked at ourselves and other people and tried to summon conclusions about both, without seeing ourselves falsely, or putting our insecurities on others, or casting judgment on either unfairly. However, some truths are independent of designations like these, and exist eternal. Here is one to ponder:

Beyond a certain size, shirts just shouldn’t be striped.

Power Words

Oh, no, no you shouldn’t wear that…

Power Words:

I have a mission from my creator to tell the truth. Look out, other people.

Power Words for July the 18th: Schadenfreude

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Schadenfreude. A German word for the sensation of taking joy in the misery or failings of others.



  At one time or another, we all do this. We get passed on the highway at dangerous speeds by a sports car, only to discover it pulled over by the police a ways ahead. We watch a person who once bested us fail, and grin inside, even if we pretend to be sympathetic. We see a fat person drop their oversized ice cream cone. All the better if they pick it up and try to continue eating.

  It’s often the case that this feeling is served with a condiment of guilt. What cruel, unfeeling beasts are we, to amuse ourselves with people’s pain. Shouldn’t we seek to help our fellows in their worst moments?

  No. The truth is, tomorrow we may wake up and step in dog feces, find we’re the subject of a tax audit, or be diagnosed with a terminal disease. If the people we ridicule want to turn the tables and laugh at us when these things happen, have at it. Life is short, and someday when our hearts stop and we become dead, no amount of sympathy shown during our lifetime will reactivate our bodies.

  So for now, when we hear of a senile, old person who became confused and wandered miles from home into the desert, or watch a drunk girl trip on her heels and land mouth-first into a curb, let’s let our laughs come loudly, knowing that surely life has plenty of similar tricks up its sleeve for us!

Power Words:

Today, I will look around my world and laugh with malice at the pain I see others feeling, all with no shame in my game!