Tag Archives: philosophy

Awareness of Intention

I love blueberries. My mother used to make me a blueberry pie for my birthday instead of cake, but nothing exceeds wild blueberries plucked from the bush.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

My Army Advanced Infantry training was at Fort Dix, NJ, and the machine gun training was at a range camp in the Pine Barrens. I found wild blueberries which I ate in joy to the dismay of some of my brothers who thought I was crazy for risking eating wild berries. Years later I spent time at Tom Brown’s Tracking, Nature, and Wilderness survival school and found the high bush blueberries standing ten to fifteen feet high, but I still preferred the wilder flavor of the smaller low bush species. But I ate both and some Huckleberries besides.

In 1998, we bought our acres of open forest in Florence County, WI, and I was intent on preparing an area for our camp. After selecting a beaver-cleared spot overlooking the stream valley, I set about plotting a path for a roadway connecting to the logging road that would be our driveway. I contacted a local man to come out and look at the job and I told him I hoped to find some blueberries, which are common in that neck of the woods.

He looked at me and said, “I think there are some right over there.”

Yes, right along a game trail from my camp to the stream was a patch of short blueberry bushes I had walked by dozens of times. Why had I not seen them?

Well, they had no blueberries—and they still haven’t. Oh, I have a patch elsewhere in the woods that produces berries, but this patch seems to drop the flowers or berries most of the time.

No, that is no excuse. I had not seen them because I had not been looking for them. The focus of my intention at that time was to get this road installed. To be fair, an eyeball to eyeball encounter with a large black bear earlier that season right in my camp spot had convinced me a road to get my truck back there was a priority. Yes, that’s my excuse.

“Our intention creates our reality.” (Wayne Dyer)

Any of us can Google this or other quotes on intention and find volumes written about their meanings. I prefer to keep it simple. I tend to attend to what I intend. When I set my intention to focus my attention on an object or phenomenon, I am looking for it. I am then more likely to see it, to become aware of its presence, even what it is doing.

How does that work?

I have a friend who quotes one of his teachers: “Prayer is the sincere desire of the heart.”

I have no person to whom I may ascribe this quote, but we can find similar sentiments. Whether we investigate philosophies of the East, the Native West, or the Middle East, we are sure to find something very similar expressed. I find credibility in that universality.

Meditation is safer and more effective when we are sentient of our intention before we begin. We live in a big world, an immense universe, too big to find what we may seek—unless we choose deliberate awareness of our intention to find. But don’t take my word for it. Try some significant research.

The effectiveness of our meditation is directly proportional to the sincerity of our intention, and the less selfish that intention, the safer our journey in meditation.

If you sincerely desire blueberries, look for blueberries; but, don’t hesitate to build your road to safety, first.

Seek the goodness at your center, and Happy Tracking.

Simply Seeing

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” (Helen Keller)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

Have you ever watched the dawn paint colors upon the forest, slowly, as the sun rises behind you? A world of black and gray turns as perceptibly as Earth itself into a world of color.

Have you ever wondered why people have favorite colors? Why do all people not love blue as much as I do? Perhaps we do not all perceive blue the same.

Last week I heard a story on NPR about an artist whose paintings have a unique vibrancy of color. It appears she sees about a thousand times more hues of color than almost all other humans. The gene for color vision resides on the X chromosome, and most of us have three different genetic codes for cones in our eyes. She has four (tetrachromacy). In addition to the common red, green, and blue cone receptors, she has another. Where I see many different kinds of blue, all of which I enjoy, she sees a thousand times more.

I wonder if that kind of sight is a distraction. Concetta Antico has said so. A morning glance out her window may fascinate her as she pauses to sort out nuances of color.

Tom Brown, Jr. teaches tracking and I have studied a little with him. Learning to find animal tracks in fields and forests, in grasses, pebbles, or even on rocks, opens a new window of the mind. Tracks are literally everywhere. Once a person has opened the mind to subtleties of such tracks, the world is never the same. Any walk in Nature is complicated.

“What we perceive depends upon what we believe as much as what we believe depends upon what we perceive.” You might find that statement or something like it in some things I have written over the years. I am probably not the first person to state something like that, but I believe I invented it. Until we believe we can find tracks on rocks, we cannot. And, until we are shown that it is possible to find tracks on rocks, we probably believe it to be impossible.

No, I am not good at tracking animals; however, I know people who are. It seems like magic until they show you how it is done. Then all it takes is dirt time, years and years of practice. If you have the Vision to become a tracker, you can learn to perceive tracks everywhere.

Be careful what you ask for. It can be distracting. Check your Vision, first.

So, should you become good at finding tracks everywhere, like Concetta Antico who sees millions more colors than I, you will face the challenge of simplifying what you see. If tracks are everywhere, how will you follow the one track of most interest? How do you follow your track among all the others?

How do you perceive the still small voice within you among the cacophony of modern life or even the symphony of Nature?

Simplify. There is a focus of attention grounded in intention that allows us to hear one instrument in a symphony (well, not me, but some friends), that allows us to see beauty surrounded by apparent chaos and confusion. I shall address these in the next two posts.

In the meantime, sshhh. Go within.

Happy tracking.

Simple Choice

There was simplicity of a crisp, stark January morning of my youth that I miss, today. It was not that mornings on a WI dairy farm of the fifties were easy, for life held to a thread of shelter from the cold. It was that necessity simplified the choices: Certain things had to be done without exception or equivocation. We simply did them.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

It has been my goal since youth to simplify my worldview (long before I knew I had one) to a form I could understand. I do not wish to simplify the universe. I choose to simplify my model of the universe so that it makes sense to me. I have done the same with the meaning of life.

“The meaning of life is choice.” To the dismay of many students and the amusement of others, this statement has appeared and continues to appear on many of my exams. Students are free to choose “true” or “false” for their answer, and therein resides the meaning of the test item.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Simplicity is not easy and the choice of simplicity is not often the easy choice to make. It is routinely easier to choose the common, culturally accepted, trendy way of material complication and social drama. It is easier because we do not have to dare individuality. That is where the complication begins.

The laws of the universe are simple. We make them complicated looking for ways around them. We waste the years of our lives searching for ways to extend the years of our lives. We waste time and material trying to protect time and material. We waste our passion looking for the passionate.

Live. Today.

Simple, yes. Easy, no. That is our choice.

There is profound simplicity in acceptance of the personal reality of our present. Acceptance is abundance, and abundance is absence of poverty.

A spiritual person is never alone. Solitude is grandeur, Nature is cathedral, and reality is blessing.

Solitude and people are not mutually exclusive. By simple choice, I can enjoy solitude in a crowd. Also by choice, I can share the peace of solitude with willing others.

Simplicity undefines poverty for simplicity is its own abundance. There is need for neither material complication nor social drama.

Acceptance of simplicity undefines strength as competition for status and stuff evaporate. There we realize power—true, personal power.

Can you ignore the still, small voice inside you that mutters agreement with my claims?

Can you deny the tracks and traces of joys remembered of simpler times?

Seek the evidence within.

Happy Tracking

Generosity of Spirit

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” (Elbert Hubbard)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. November investigates gratitude.

An old man I call friend has survived multiple wives afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. He told us of his gratitude through the process as his wife and friend of over thirty years slipped away, gratitude for the years shared and for his opportunity to care for her through their ordeal. When I grow up, I want to be so grateful.

Grateful people are happy. At least, that is my observation. Unhappy people are ungrateful.

Generosity seems to be the key to happiness through gratitude.

“Minds, nevertheless, are not conquered by arms, but by love and generosity.” (Baruch Spinoza)

Sometimes, the mind to be conquered is my own. When I feel I need a little love, may I remember the power of generosity to give love away. There lies the way of happiness.

And, happiness, according to some, is the meaning of life. (I will leave it to you to find such quotes. Quests are good for the soul.)

This is just my opinion, of course, but I believe there are two basic views of human existence: #1) our world is dangerous and stuff is scarce; #2) our world is gracious and stuff is abundant. How we live our lives depends upon which view we choose.

Traumatic events tend to nudge or shove us toward view #1, a theme of danger and scarcity. We expect bad things to happen, people to be dangerous, things we need and want to be hard to get. Naturally, we are unhappy and our unhappiness perpetuates our belief.

Funny thing about belief and this self-perpetuating phenomenon. When we approach view #2, a theme of grace and abundance, we notice it in our lives. When we feel fortunate, we believe in abundance. When we accept the grace of generosity, we feel blessed. When we feel loved, we love others.

My old friend has a favorite saying when asked how he is. “Never had it so good.”

That always gives me pause, and I admit (often reluctantly) that the same is true for me. I am blessed. Feeling so, I become a little nicer, more inclined to share love, to give it away freely. It always comes back to me.

Is that all there is to life? If we are generous, we become happy?

Well, there is this little problem of waking with a feeling of dread, and feigning happiness just does not work. So, which comes first, feeling loved or giving love?

That’s your problem. Do a little work to discover your answer. Look to others for advice, if you wish, but look inside yourself, also. Look deep inside. What evidence can you find in your heart?

War and other trauma may scar our brains and hearts, but love leaves tracks there, too.

Happy tracking.

Gratitude Untied

Mornings bring the blues and Veterans Day is no exception. I sit here writing about gratitude and feeling sad at the same time. How is this possible?

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. November investigates gratitude.

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” (Helen Keller)

Strange thing, gratitude, when we feel it at the grace of less fortunate.

When I see my grandchildren born to a daughter conceived after I came home from Vietnam, I am grateful beyond measure for my survival.

Then I remember more than 58,000 names engraved in black granite and over 150,000 wounded comrades. I think of the hurting souls in my combat PTSD group, my friend’s hot flashes from hormone treatment for Agent Orange induced cancer, my brother-in-law and the husband of a friend both also lost to Agent Orange. I remember my Khmer friends and wonder if they survived “The Killing Fields”, and I think of a former student killed in Iraq.

My gratitude slips away like a poorly tied knot…from pulling it too tight, I suppose, from trying to own this gratitude thing.

There are those who belittle gratitude: “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” (Joseph Stalin)

Well, I like dogs. I trust them more than I trust people, and I would rather emulate most any dog than a lot of people—people like Edward Gibbon who said, “Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.” He also said, “The courage of a soldier is found to be the cheapest and most common quality of human nature.” Yup, I like dogs better.

Would you believe that scientists actually research gratitude? “Social scientists have found that the fastest way to feel happiness is to practice gratitude.” (Chip Conley)

Practice? So, gratitude is not a thing loved by all, especially arrogant despots. Gratitude is not a thing that can be owned—or a thing at all—but a process I can practice.

Yes, I will have this thing called happiness, and if gratitude is the way, I choose to practice gratitude.

Oh. How do I do that? How does one practice gratitude so that one might become happy?

I am a mess. When I go inside to look at myself, I see messy tracks for which I am not grateful. Still, I must look inside, honestly, to track my feelings. Such a dilemma.

One key is service to others. Yesterday I began writing this blog on Veterans Day, a day when I had no obligations before 6 pm. Today, on the other hand, I must go to work. Service. Today I have the opportunity to be useful, to be relevant.

Not only do I have the opportunity to develop programs to help teachers teach our young people in Yuma, but today I get to serve others in very specific and personal ways. A young Marine veteran is coming to get advice on her academic future, on her major, on her career. I don’t give the advice, but I serve as the connection for her to get to the advisor. That allows me to think about her needs instead of the mess that is me.

Later, today, I get to help a student teacher struggling with academic language in his second tongue so that he may finish his major writing assignment standing between him and his certification. I have the privilege of helping someone, and that is something that not every old veteran has.

I am grateful, again. For this guy, the process of gratitude is finding ways to be helpful to others. Practicing gratitude is searching for ways to serve, tracking opportunities rather than my own mess. May you find your own ways of getting outside yourself so that you may unleash the power of gratitude to lead you to your happiness.

Happy Tracking.

Love Dilemma One: Generosity or Parsimony?

The problem with caring is that behavior matters. Ask any parent. Or, teacher.

A teenage son wrecks his car. No one is injured, but the car is totaled. He now has no car. His car insurance will go up. He has no job. Money is a concern in the household. As a parent, what would you do? What should you do?

Is there a rule book for parenting?

Let’s assume that you are a parent that really loves your teenage son. You want what is best for him and you want to see him happy. So, are you thinking long-term or short-term here? Is a life lesson with payoff years down the road worth a few weeks or months of misery, now?

Perhaps the generous thing is to buy your son another car—not necessarily a great car, just a car. License it, insure it, and present it with no strings attached.

No strings?

Is such generosity a true act of love? Or, is parsimony more responsible.

So, here is the thing. That accident means insurance goes up, way up. If the teenage son has a cheap car, insurance on that car can replace more expensive insurance on other household vehicles.

Is the decision still about the teenage son? What is best for him? Or, did it just become what is best for you, the parent? And, if so, is that bad parenting, meaning that you don’t really love your son?

Can a parent be too generous? I am asking if it is possible for a parent to give too much to a son or daughter, so much that it actually makes happiness more difficult for her/him in the future. Perhaps, parsimony is a more loving practice for parents, to mete out resources with a stingy hand.

We could explore the same dilemma between spouses, I am sure: whether ‘tis more loving to be generous with one’s husband or wife rather than frugal. I wonder if intent really matters—you know, the thought that counts. I guess I am just postulating in print what love might actually look like in human behavioral matters of the material.

Is it more loving to give a student an A than a B? Given that high school teachers now have one or two hundred students at any time, and assign many grades or scores to each student during a semester, and these grades become permanent records that affect students’ graduation, acceptance to college or military, scholarships, and even future employment, is the loving thing to do to give higher grades?

I’m sorry if these are easy questions for you. I am sorry because they are not easy for me. If you have the answers, I would like to know the reasons and rules. Because, I think love is hard, parenting is hard, marriage is hard, teaching is hard. Living a life grounded in love means living, always, on the razor’s edge of dilemma.

Maybe that is love, choosing to live on the razors edge, willing to make mistakes and bleed, and going back tomorrow for another chance. And, maybe that is the hard part of life for a survivor of traumatic stress, the vulnerability of love’s razor.

What Is a Story?

By definition, a story is an account of real or fictitious events (as history) usually narrated (told) as by spoken or written words, pictures, symbols, and/or artifacts. History is the root word from which story is derived. Narrate is a term grounded in a word meaning knowledge or knowing (as Gnostic). So, a story is some account of events told by someone having specific knowledge and point of view. Yeah, well…

A story is trouble for somebody about whom we have some care and concern. At least in the American Novel, there is some expectation of conflict escalating to climax and resolution. We might say there is a kind of recipe or format. A specific pattern of format for story expectations might characterize a literary genre. Readers look for very different plots in Romances, Mysteries, and Erotic Novels.

A story is a promise (Bill Johnson, www.storyispromise.com). The author presents a situation in which one or more characters face personal conflict which escalates to seemingly impossible conditions. Action and tension increase. Trouble abounds. Defects in personal and/or group character traits complicate the troubles. Outcome is not certain; however, the audience demands satisfactory conclusion.

Oh, one more thing. The story must stretch the audience’s belief without breaking it. Genres differ, here. I cannot become a fan of Horror or Science Fiction because it is very difficult to maintain the suspension of my disbelief (I am a skeptic). Erotica and Romance escape my naïveté. Military and Nature milieu stories must be accurate or true to my experience else I stop reading.

One example is a famous book that claimed the moon was visible in different phases at different places around the world simultaneously. I set up a sun-Earth-moon model in my living room and learned that the author was wrong. I discounted everything else in the story. It became unbelievable to me and the author not credible.

Similarly, characters must be believable. Fortunately, the range of normal and abnormal human psychology is so vast in my experience that little could be more extreme than historical accounts of real Wisconsin residents. Still, a character must stay in character unless that kind of abnormal psychology is part of the story.

Plot trajectory must also follow some generally predictable patterns with a few surprising specific twists. Random conflicts and resolutions (strangers appearing, magic events, unexplained coincidences) are believable only within limits of context. It breaks the story promise.

A story is a promise kept. The writer offers a promise of interesting characters with believable traits including defects, a milieu of setting and circumstance offering trouble, and a sequence of events with plenty of building conflict. The reader/audience has a right to expect all of this with some unpredictable events and a satisfactory outcome. And, the promise must be offered in the first few pages. That’s all.

In fairness, I remind you that my views come from on-the-job training. I have no formal education in narration or novel writing. You can get your own training by writing, reading, and searching views of successful writers you appreciate. You can find all sorts of discussions of story, narration, myth, and symbolism online. One topic I am interested in investigating is the range of emotional appetites of various audiences with regard to characterization and story structure (plot or conflict curve). We read to experience emotions.

One last thing: Feel free to teach something, to make a statement of observation regarding the meaning of the experience of life. You can tell a story that adds something to the great narrative of human history.

With all of this formulation, remember to be original. Keep writing, and enjoy the journey.

Mind Wind: Honor in Duty

This is a tough topic for me. It is emotional; therefore, I am choosing to write a letter from the heart rather than crafting some argument. I present it now in honor of all Veterans.

Some years ago, I watched “Saving Private Ryan” in a theater. Later, I heard a highly regarded movie critic review some of the shortcomings of the film on TV. He missed the point. Now, I don’t know what the director or author intended the main point to be, but the message I received was duty.

There is honor in duty.

(Note: I am going to discuss the film with some detail of ending.)

Tom Hanks’s character lost his life doing his duty. He was an Army Captain just trying to get back home to his wife and his teaching career. His purpose was to do whatever it might take to get him home sooner. So, he did his duty to the best of his ability for personal reasons. There is honor in that.

Private Ryan was found, but he chose to stay with his brothers on the battlefield rather than run out and go home to his family. He did his duty for his reasons. There is honor in that.

It was a tough choice. They all knew that staying to help the ragged unit meant danger and probable death. They chose to stay. Many of them did die, but Private Ryan lived a full life. That was his duty. His prayer was that his life honored the Captains’s life lost finding him.

My good friend, a Vietnam Veteran of a battalion recon team in the 173rd Airborne, the only unit other than Special Forces to be on jump status in Vietnam, has never visited The Wall of the Vietnam Memorial. He once told me he couldn’t go there until he felt he had done something with his life. He believes it is his duty. There is honor in that.

The meaning of life is choice. Courage is duty in the face of fear. So, how do we define duty?

I got nothin’, here. I mean, there are no rules for me. Oh, people make up rules, and group leaders like to use rules to tell us what to do. But, in the end, duty is a gut reaction. It is emotional. It is spiritual. Something deep down inside tells us the right thing to do.

The best I can do is work hard to keep fear, prejudice, resentment, and a whole lot of  other selfish stuff out of my mind, heart, and gut so that I might make the honorable choice when I am called upon to do my duty.

God’s Art: Heroes in Nature

Willie Nelson sang, “My heroes have always been cowboys.” It makes a nice Country Western song, and it may be a common sentiment, but it is not a philosophy for life. It does not really illuminate the elements of character that guide us through the maze of human experience. Who are our role models?

We faithful at the University of Wisconsin sporting events sing, “If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me.” Now, there is a role model. Pound for pound, a badger is as tough as any creature in Nature, just about as tough as our neighbors’ Wolverines, and certainly tougher than Gophers. Never mind that the badger became a mascot of Wisconsin because of the Cornish miners living in caves like badgers in holes. On second thought, the badger was a role model for these industrious diggers of the Earth.

We have totems. One of my former students is still called Bear. He sports pictures of many different kinds of bears on his Facebook page. I don’t recall how the name came about, but he is identifying himself with this powerful and attractive creature. Another Bear in my life was a spiritual teacher given a four-part name that included Bear Medicine. His logo was the track print of a bear’s forepaw. The black bear is one of my totem animals.

Animals, plants, streams, rocks, and even air can be role models. We can learn quiet power from wind, relentless pursuit from water, patient resolution from rocks, adaptive flexibility from willows, stoic acceptance from oaks, and duty from all sorts of animals. Yes, duty. Each animal species has a role within the community of its ecosystem and biome, and every individual has a role within the family of a tribe, pride, herd, or colony. They do it. Animals live their duty.

We can spend a lot of time and energy debating whether an animal’s response to duty is learned or inherited. We know it is both. Learning is predominantly through a form of inheritance called culture. Through hunting experiences, I know much behavior is inherited. I know where to find deer and ducks because I know their behaviors. Never in my wildest dreams would I use a cat to hunt ducks. Some dogs like water and love to retrieve. It’s genetic. You know what my Yellow Lab did when she saw the stream in the picture, below.

I am a hunter. I don’t even like killing and I hate handling bloody meat. I like eating game, but I love hunting. I can’t help it. When I don’t hunt, something is missing from my soul. It’s genetic—or, at least inherited. My role model is the cougar. I camouflage myself like the cat whose name means “false deer” so that I might get close. I watch trails and areas where deer are likely to appear. I prefer a quick, clean kill. Cougars are my hunting heroes.

Most of my heroes are animals, but I do try to model my social behavior after some people. My father is one of my heroes, and I regret never telling him that. A younger me tended to focus on what I saw as shortcomings rather than strengths. That tendency was unlike my father, patient and tolerant most every day. It pleases me to be growing more like him in my senior years. I hope I live long because I have a ways to go.

My heroes do their duty. Labrador Retrievers are especially good at that, particularly because they are willing to choose when their duty is other than the most recent command. They will disobey to follow a superior duty somehow remembered and reasoned. It makes them especially useful as helper dogs. That is precisely the behavior I look for in human heroes. It’s hard to find—no, it’s hard to see right under our noses.

My daughters are my heroes because of the ways they care for my grandchildren. Likewise, both my sons-in-law are my heroes for the ways they care not only for my grandchildren, but for my daughters. Like a lot of parents, they make their personal sacrifices for the welfare of their families. People do that—a lot of people—and we seem to overlook it. I guess it is my duty today to point out these everyday heroes as the role models they should be.

My life is blessed because I am surrounded by heroes after whom I can model my behavior. It is probably a major reason I have found health and happiness that can be called success. Now, it’s time to go kiss the hero in our kitchen.

Black Hills Stream

Re Quest: Everybody’s Choice

In all of human existence, there is only one choice necessary.

That’s the good news.

The perceived tyranny of freedom—the necessity to constantly make decisions that affect my life, the lives of family and friends, and the lives of strangers around the world consequent to my ballot box choices—is less paradox and more illusion. When I feel overwhelmed with the burden of deciding if, how, and when to publish, I need only go back to that one choice and I am, again, free. Not choosing is not an option, it is a choice. I must choose. How can I be free of that burden without being a slave?

I cannot. I am a slave except for one major fact. I have the freedom to choose my master.

“I am the Captain of my soul,” ( William Ernest Henley, “Invivtus”). Okay, who’s the Admiral (or, General)?

Hopefully, many of you disagree with me right about now. Good. I do not want to be your master or general. I hope you will choose for yourself.

Do you ever wonder why so many people are cranky in this land of freedom? Why are people angry? I don’t mean what they say about why they are angry, I mean the real underlying cause of the anger.

We are afraid. More than anything else, I am afraid of being wro…, wro…, not right. I am afraid of being responsible for my choices. I am afraid of being ridiculed and ashamed. There is a way out.

I wait for somebody else to make the choice, and then I ridicule him or her. I manipulate situations so that others must choose. I don’t run for office. I blame those who do. I don’t make laws. I blame those who do. I don’t judge—wait. I don’t accept the responsibility for legally judging, I blame those who do. It’s not my fault, really. I’m scared.

I do not need to be scared. I can simply adopt a set of rules for making decisions. Then, I don’t have to decide for myself. I simply follow. I can join a gang, political movement, military unit, church….

Okay, by now most of you have to be in disagreement. Very good.

The more complete the set of rules adopted, the fewer decisions I have to make. I don’t have to think anymore, and I don’t have to be responsible. I know which hat to wear, how to place it on my head, and when (for whom) to remove it. I may even know what my haircut should look like. Oh…should I have earrings? I better check the rules.

If you are still reading this, I’m guessing you can see a flicker of truth. Rules are comforting. Anthropologists call it culture.

How do we react to other cultures? I better check the rules. False religion. Human rights violations. Indecent grooming or attire. Inferior genes. Ugly language. My affinity for conformity to avoid ridicule and shame drives me to ridicule and shame those who choose to adopt a different set of rules. Desperate otherness.

If you choose to be your own master, you are responsible for all the consequences. If you think that is easy, watch the political debates. Where are the individualists? They can’t get elected.

There is only one choice required in Earthly human existence: Choose your master. You cannot have two, only one. All other choices are mere extensions of that one choice.

If there is bad news, it is that this choice must be made over and over, constantly, moment by moment. The other good news is this: If any person makes a personal commitment to a master, that master facilitates all the subsequent choices.

For those of you who have seen me (or really looked at a picture) recently, have you ever wondered why I wear two different colored earrings? Biblical slaves who chose to stay with their masters after being set free branded themselves with earrings to identify the masters they chose to serve.

No, I do not have two masters. The left is my reminder of the source of power for my choices. The right is my reminder of how to use that power in service to others.

Who is your master?