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 August the 6th: Challenging Conventional Wisdom

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

This we often hear, and a wealth of evidence underpins its credibility. Example: someone you don’t know invites you to enjoy a sandwich at no cost. Upon arriving, you begin to eat. Ham and meatballs let’s say, your favorite in this hypothetical. The stranger is very friendly, and you enjoy his company initially, but he begins to ask leading questions about where you take your vacations and what you pay for them. Soon it becomes clear that this person is attempting to sell you on the purchase of a time-share property in the dregs of Florida. You pass on the offer, but the lunch has proven to be anything but free. The time you’ve spent listening to the pitch, making your objections, then remaking them, has unquestionably been a cost.

That sort of situation is clear to anyone, and very likely the origin of the saying we’re examining, but here’s another. A friend you like very much invites you to lunch at a sit down establishment. When you’re done eating, and the bill comes, the friend grabs it and insists he pay. You say he doesn’t have to, but he won’t hear of it, and gives his credit card to the server. You think nothing of it, besides what a good friend he is. His name is Ralph, one of your favorite names in this hypothetical, but that isn’t necessary to remember.

A month later, Ralph invites you to lunch again. At first nothing is any different. You discuss various things and share some laughs, and eat your respectable dishes. However, when the bill comes, Ralph makes no motion to look at it. It almost seems he’s ignoring its presence. Your best judgment indicates that he’s expecting you to pay. You want to hold to the notion that free lunches exist, so you pay only for yourself, and with some histrionic sighs, Ralph finally adds money.

Only, you don’t hear from Ralph again. Several weeks later, you try calling him, but he doesn’t call back. You suspect this is based on your behavior at the second lunch, and you’re right. In this scenario, the first lunch has cost you one friend. You seek another friend name Ralph and learn very few men of your generation have been assigned that name. You may never have another Ralph in your life.

Both of these are clear examples of the inability to obtain a free lunch. However, we cannot grow and change unless we challenge our own status quo, and that often means challenging widely held believes. So let’s take a look at a third scenario:

You bring yourself to dinner at a local chain eatery. In this hypothetical let’s say it’s TGI Friday’s, but it can be the Olive Garden or P.F. Chang’s if that’s easier for you to envision. You sit at a table for one and eat an entree. Perhaps an appetizer too. Dessert Even. When you’re done, ask for the check. Only, while the server is preparing it, you flee the restaurant and drive away in your car, which you parked in another parking lot so that it would not be seen, because the chew-and-screw (as we called in this author’s darker days) was your plan all along. Was the meal not free? Perhaps the scheme might appear work-like, but in term’s of its motions it’s just the same as if you had payed, only without the paying step.

Even if you become enamored with the technique and try it many places and are eventually caught, you will likely pay (either in money or justice dollars, which involves fines, community service, or incarceration) only for that particular incident. You will not be held to account for most, or all the other times you pulled off the trick. Hence, those are, free lunches.

And viola, we have proved wrong a staple of conventional wisdom in just a few paragraphs. The careful reader will also note that we have disproven another fallacy, that which states “Crime doesn’t pay.” Crime always pays in situations where one is not caught, and if the amount of crimes you’ve gotten away with outnumbers the amount for which you’ve been caught, this designates a profit. Thus, it is better to the bottom line to commit the maximum number of crimes.

Power Words:

Today, forget conventional wisdom! I can throw all the old rules out window, along with several laws, if doing so benefits me.

Power Words for August the 5th: Social Skills

How shall we interact with our fellow human beings?

To some of us, the answers to this question make it scarcely a question at all. Those lucky few are innately programmed with knowledge of what to do and say, and how to get along.

For others, the lack of this knowledge, or perhaps the questionable knowledge holding its place, can be a terrifying liability.

I am such a one. At a dinner party in 1990, an attractive, young woman began to interact with me through behavior I would today deem as flirting. At the time, my abilities with women, what I frequently hear on modern television to be termed “game”, was sorely inept. The attraction between the woman and I was mutual, so, I fast began to sweat and turn a bright red hue. I stumbled on my words, trying to construct clumsy sentences and failing repeatedly. Being a kind soul, the woman continued to talk to me without remarking on how nervous, or soaked, I was becoming. Others at the party were a different story. I began to feel as though everyone present was staring at me. They were careful about it, sure, but looking at them for sustained intervals, I repeatedly caught them taking visual account of me. This amplified my anxiety ten fold. The pressure built and built. Then, I couldn’t stand it.

I stood abruptly up from the table, rattling it and spilling a glass of wine. All eyes were on me now, and making no secret of it. Then came the real trouble. I screamed at the room, “What the fuck are you looking at!? What!? Stop fucking looking at me! Stop laughing at me!” They were silent, but clearly shocked. The silence became unbearable and I started to question the wisdom of what I was doing. I had to stop that thought fast, so I turned my anger on the young woman. “Stop humiliating me, you horsefaced bitch!” The silence persisted. The woman, who I should explicitly state was attractive and faced like no farm animal whatsoever, began to cry. What to do now? I took a glass of water from the table, and poured it over her head. A large man at the end of the table stood, and began approaching me. I ran for the door. Just before crossing through the doorway, I turned, and without a plan of what to say, uttered in a stuttered scream, “You! I- You all should die of disease!!!” Then I was gone.

That was many years ago. I never spoke to anyone present again. Since they were mostly work acquaintances, I did not return to my job at the telephone book company on Monday morning. Nor ever. I took only the shame I’d brought on myself, and resolved to start over somewhere new.

My behavior at the dinner party demonstrated poor social skills. The sad truth is that these were the only kind I had. Because of that, I can share the event with you today, free from the shame. When I was awakened, and began my spiritual path, I was able to look at myself honestly and start the slow path of change. Slow it has been, but steady. Today, I can interact with all manner of people, including women I’m attracted to, without explosive behavior. I am not perfect, and do sometimes make mistakes, but I am accountable for my behavior today, and when I err I take actions to correct it. I don’t need to hide from anyone. For example, I returned to a Denny’s in Sioux Falls last year and made restitution of $672 for a destroyed booth and portion of carpet, some results of my behavior in the restaurant three days prior. However, I proudly can say that such incidents are now rare.

Power Words:

Today, I can approach people and situations without fear. Or panicked violence against strangers. This is called social skills.

Power Words for August the 2nd: Something Better for Our Children

It has been suggested that the best thing a parent can hope for is a better life for their children than theirs. This is why the American dream is so often characterized by economic mobility, and the idea that a person can grow up to be anything they want.

Many of us have benefitted from that idea. My people traveled to the northeast from Ireland on a raft made of empty liquor bottles, and lived in hay amongst the animals they professionally cleaned up after. That was the late 19th century. Less than 150 years later, I am a unique voice in the personal growth industry, heard worldwide and universally recognized as a visionary.

As of this writing, I have zero acknowledged children. While I aspire to spread myself into the next generation, (I contend that) I have not yet done so. On advice of counsel, let me clarify that I have no children. That said, I realize that any potential children of mine, may not have as good a life as I have. Subtracting my early struggles, how could any son or daughter of mine hope to achieve the unique balance of enlightenment and material wealth I’ve accumulated?

Whatever our place in society, it’s not permanent. Individuals and cultures have ups and down. No matter what, some generation of our descendants to come will live worse than we did. This could be due to poor financial planning or a genetic “dud” in the microcosm, or a generalized apocalypse in the macro analysis. Either way, the idea that every generation will better (a little or a lot) than the preceding one is unrealistic.

Taking this into account, I propose the following. We should live for today, and living for today means living for ourselves. We should splurge on the luxury car or vacation home we want, rather than concern ourselves with sending a kindergartner to a fancy private school. Let that child make its own way, and live its adulthood the same way I’m suggesting. People living this way are no more vulnerable to success or failure than those in the old system. The only difference is that we can win or lose by our own merits, and enjoy the fruits of a better life in real time.

If, on some hypothetical day, my son and daughter lack my attention because I’m pushing my speedboat to its limits, all the better for them. They can spend that time pondering how attain their own .25 million dollars to purchase a similar watercraft, or whatever else they desire. And so the road shall travel on, into history.

Such thinking doesn’t make for bad parents, but more realistic ones. We meet our children when we are already grown, and by the time we reach our senior years, they’ve grown, and for all intents and purposes they’ve left us. This period is just a fraction of our lives, and since that is so, they are just temporary acquaintances. I will own my speedboat until I intend otherwise.

Power Words:

In my life, I’m priority #1. My family shouldn’t take it personally, and I refuse to care if they do.


Power Words for August the 1st: Keeping Clean

In my writings, I sometimes mention being clean, usually making reference to periods in my life journey where I could (or could not) be described this way. When I do so, I am speaking of my long, sticky road traveled with an addiction to intoxicating adhesives. Today, we will again discuss being “clean”, but in a more conventional sense.

The great spiritual teachers have always seen the benefits of personal hygiene. Our images of the Buddha show a smiling friend, attractive for his clear skin and hairlessness. Christ washed feet while spreading his message, as I recall. On television, I have seen muslims wash their faces somehow in connection with their religion. The results are clear. Looking our best is part of living the spiritual life.

Like all of our other character defects, we’re not always the best judge of our own filthiness. We rush to get ready in the morning, eager to munch the day ahead, and sometimes don’t take the most careful self appraisal. So, we might benefit from little checklists, just occasionally, to examine each part of ourselves. Here is an example, for our hair. Let’s try it. We can look in the mirror, and ask ourselves these questions…

How is my hair? Is it neat? Trimmed? Is it getting mulletty in the back? Are my sideburns beginning to look like grass on an Alabama lawn? Women- do you have split ends, or flatness (again, hair). Do you look ready for the Husband Lounge, or the Cat Adoption Pavilion?

How did it go? Did you learn or realize something you’d missed before? Good. You can travel south across your body, developing your own questions for all remaining parts. If you’re satisfied with what you find, start over, and try harder.

Power Words:

Just because I’m good enough the way I am, doesn’t mean I can’t be better, or that I shouldn’t worry a lot about it.


Power Words for July the 31st: Hard Work

“I believe strongly in hard work.” said practically everyone. We all believe in hard work. Hooray for hard work!

How true is this idea? Surely, we appreciate a person doing their best in whatever profession, when we’re in the consumer seat. Likewise, we feel best about ourselves when, in our career, we fully apply ourselves and refuse to sit idle. On the other hand, hard work is perhaps, an oversimplification of the real world metrics of what a person does. These thoughts may, however, be rooted in my specific experience.

My father was an ardent defender of the virtue inherent to hard work. “Boy, a man can move mountains, as long as he’s trying hard enough!” he’d say, in enthusiasm or anger depending on the events of that day. This was not simple philosophy, but a design he applied to everything he did. My father was never a religious man, but still insisted upon using the stairs in any tall building on the grounds that elevators were, “The work of evil forces.” Though he understood certain limitations (such as our inability to manage our home as a self-sustaining farm) he had very strict rules. He refused to purchase pre-sliced bread. When my brother once came home from college with a load of Wonderbread, my father beat him severely with it. Then made him eat each slice.

Of all my father’s rules and notions of hard work, one remains particularly tragic. Far ahead of modern day environmental concerns, he saw the automobile as a wasteful, needless machine. Eventually, when his “career” made local travel necessary, he went to his workshop and emerged five days later with what he termed the “Feiling 500.” It was a wooden box, with four wheels, that approximately resembled a car with room for six passengers. However, the vehicle had no floor in the places where the legs or driver and passengers sat. It was capable of steering, but the thing had no motor or transmission. It was to be powered by good-old-fashioned-foot-work. In other words, the occupants would move the car by pattering their feet on the exposed road. If this technology sounds familiar, you perhaps remember it from television’s The Flintstones, though my father would enter into rage blackouts anytime somebody made the suggestion that this was his inspiration.

One Sunday, we children all climbed into the vehicle to go to the grocery store. We were all under 12, but one did not require a license to operate the thing. Another benefit, according to my father, who labeled child labor protections as “Pussyism.” It was raining, and the car had neither windows nor a roof, but luckily my father saw being soaked in rain as admirable evidence of one’s toughness. On the way home, the vehicle began to slide on a muddy hill. My sister Katechelle, brothers Tortoise and Showman, and I, wildly beat our feet against the ground trying to reclaim it, but it was no use. We rolled off the road and down a rocky slide. When the car slammed to a stop, and I had my bearings enough to look around, I saw that my sister’s right leg had been crushed, and my brother Tortoise’s left had as well.

That was the last day we used the Feiling 500. My father never repaired it. As a show of goodness, my father now only assigned one child’s work to split between the unipedal Katechelle and Tortoise, but also treated them as one person in all other respects, such as food rations. They were happy just the same. His rhetoric about hard work went on, unchanged, as though the disaster had never occurred.

When I hear my fellows sing the praises of hard work, I often reflect on this story. I wonder if my family had been derelict enough to have engaged in the gluttony of Buick ownership, would my kin and I have a greater total of limbs today? But again, this is only my experience. I can offer only that.

Power Words:

Today I will excuse myself from working so hard, and diffuse or intimidate my critics with sad anecdotes.

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 29th: A Useful, Almost Certainly False Belief

Whether it’s evolution, archaeology, the Holocaust, or the continued success of reality TV, we can all look around ourselves and see countless reasons why, nearly definitely, there is no God.

  As an experiment, we can go through our day with this beginning to a question in mind, “Why would God make a world where…” and see just how many different endings we can put on it. It shouldn’t take long before we’ve lost count, and become sad.

  But so what? Don’t we believe in a lot of things that are probably fake? We tell ourselves things that are probably false all the time, for a million reasons. When our favorite politician gives us hope by promising change, we suspend certainty that he or she is a self-interested jerk who will betray any promises made to win our vote. If we want to sleep with somebody purely out of lust, we might tell ourselves that person is kind, that we really connect with them on a personal level, or that they are not a lunatic, all so that we can justify this choice to ourselves. What has reality got to do with it? Didn’t a magic feather make an elephant fly?

  Why should God be any different? If we are helped to be better, more ethical people, with positive outlooks and values, simply because we believe in an all powerful, magical, bearded lord, a fat and bald wise man, a strange animal creature, a loving hippie, or a vague spirit-of-the-universe that we dreamed up in college because we wanted to reject our parents’ religion while maintaining its values without feeling like hypocrites… why should every observable truth get in the way?

Power Words:

Today, I will be a person of faith, and show love to the world accordingly, but without being annoying and preachy or doing any genocides, at least not ones with religious motives.

Power Words for July 26th: Time, Time, Time

Listen to Post  Power Words – July 26

We’re just in time. We’re having a great time. Time to get going. We’re going through tough times. The time has come.

And on goes the list. There are a lot of things we have to say about time. Although, could any of us really say we have the answer? What is time? When did it start? How long will it go? Most importantly, how much time have we got left? In truth, there are no answers. So what shall we do? What if we could stop time, as Zack Morris did on our beloved Saved by the Bell? This is unlikely to happen for most of us. For us, time is a constant.

On the spiritual path, we speak a great deal about living in the moment. When practiced, this ideal can be key to a happy and peaceable life. Unfortunately, living by this philosophy is much easier said than done. We think of regrets and disappointments in our past, or about fears and dreams for the future. These things can consume us, as might a giant monster who would eat us like so many snacks.

What can we do? How do we shuck the shackles of a mind trapped everywhere but in the present time? Here again, our affirmations are the key to opening the door of light which will bathe us in showers of peace.

When we worry about these things, we need only remember that the past is unchangeable. If we had to do it over again, we’d surely make the same mistakes, because we’re only ourselves, forever subject to our own limitations. Of the future, we can expect that whatever happens, we’ll encounter more disappointments, but what is more relevant is that no matter the triumphs we may have, we’ll ultimately grow ungrateful for them and focus on what we want our next future to be. Such is the nature of man and woman.

In short, all time is indistinguishable from the present time. If we feel discomfort, we have likely felt it before, and will feel it again in the years to come, without much significant change. There’s no use getting our hopes up. As a wise Eastern teacher once advised me, “Put down the shovel.” Years later, when I had stopped sniffing glue and other inhalants, I reflected on this and realized it was an analogy that implied I was digging a hole for myself. Though I was often observed to be carrying a literal shovel in that period of my life.

Power Words:

Time is not my master. I am free to choose living in the moment, and I should. Any other moment is surely just as unremarkable. What shall I have for lunch?

Power Words for July 25: What’s Up in the Stars?

As a boy, living in a small town without much going on, I had only my imagination to keep me warm. At night, I would gaze into the clear sky at distant space, and imagine all the wonders that might exist beyond this planet. What marvels lay on other planets, stars, and galaxies? Was there a space-boy somewhere, staring right back?

  As I grew, and came into receivership of my adult brain, I learned all about science. Centuries of astronomy, cosmology, and physics; all the work of the learned scholars, awaited me. I couldn’t wait to jump into the deep end of this pool.

  Sadly, these fields held more disappointment than anything else. Those wise scholars spoke of how the heavenly bodies I had once yearned to reach were nothing more than wastelands of icy rocks, clouds of dust and gas, and sometimes mere tricks of light entirely. These, like so many other revelations of adolescence, killed parts of my innocence that would never live again.

  It could’ve been avoided though. Or, if we fail to avoid these things, the damage can be healed. What if I had never learned of the facts being taught in our universities? Would I be any the worse off for it? Once I had begun my path to enlightenment, and looked at the world with new eyes, I learned that perfectly happy people were wandering around all day, choosing to be ignorant of certain facts. A person can choose not to believe their spending is forsaking the whole of their nation’s future for their children. A person can choose to believe that their favorite celebrity is not a murderer, a pedophile, of a sexual orientation they fear, or a Republican. A person can say, with confidence, “Evolution, Schmevolution!”

  Thus, I chose something new to believe. I now gaze into the night sky, and choose to know in my heart that just beyond the clouds is an entire Cloud Kingdom. In this fantastical place, where clouds meet space, Cloud Kings race and battle on chariots of ice, armed with tridents that fire ultraviolet lasers. That’s why we, down on earth, sometimes incur sunburns. Some Cloud Kings are good, and others evil. So I live my life by day, and stare into the sky at night, wondering when I’ll be summoned up to the Cloud Wars, so that I can fight for the side of good.

Power Words:

Today, I won’t let anyone’s sheets of data rain on my parade, and I will await my ascension into the Cloud Zone with dignity and patience.