• VAT: The Whole is a hole

    The tangible universe

    the whole of it

    is just a surface surrounding a hole.

    The surface ever-changing

    the hole eternal.

    Like the image of God,

    the burning bush,

    its flames ever-changing and its branches eternal.

    Like Swiss cheese

    holes within and cheese without

    mutually dependent

    otherwise it’s not Swiss cheese.

    Like the human eye

    each of us with the same colorless pupil

    and unique pattern and color surrounding the hole.

     

  • Mary Engelbreit

    “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”

    When driving, more than a occasional glace at the rear view mirror is an accident in the making.

    The past is an illusion our mind makes seemingly real. Focusing on the past distracts our attention from the right here, right now and what’s next; limiting our ability to make the best of the present, the present-passed, as it unfolds before us.

  • VAT: Awakening and going back to sleep

    In college I took a philosophy course that was taught by an Indian (dot, not feather) professor. While it was not part of the curriculum, the professor was always encouraging us to get into Transcendental Meditation; convinced it forever changed his life; from lethargic he had became energetic, from careless to responsible. One wintery Tuesday at 11 in the morning, the professor didn’t show up for class. Funny, odd, as there was no notice on the door indicating the class was cancelled. In any event, after a while we realized he wasn’t coming so we left to get on with the rest of our day. A couple of days later, the professor did make it to class and explained his earlier absence: “I woke up early enough to make the class Tuesday morning. However, before class I did an hour of TM. It was fabulous, a total awakening like never before; felt terrific; so good that I decided to go back to sleep and missed the class.”

    Sometimes, when we glimpse enlightenment, we choose to return to the sleep state we inhabit generally, simply because it feels warm and comfortable.

  • Eye Idol, circa 3700 – 3500 B.C., Tell Brak, Levant

    Thousands of these presumably votive “Eye Idols” have been found in a building now called the Eye Temple in Tell Brak. They depict a deity who observes the world but lacking ears and a mouth does not hear or speak. The deity’s view is pure, unadulterated by the words of others which could have the deity see the world as they would wish the deity to see it. Lacking a mouth, the deity knows but does not speak; implying that those who speak do not know and those who know do not speak. In the contemporary world, seeking enlightenment, some monks take a vow of silence.

    To view other eye idols, click here.

  • Ronald Reagan

    “Rather than Communists and Marxists on the extreme ‘Left’ and Nazis and Fascists on the extreme ‘Right,’ I think the political spectrum should be ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ –Up towards individual freedom and Down towards control of the individual by the State. The extreme Up would be Anarchy, no government at all, while the extreme Down, at the bottom of the spectrum, would be all forms of totalitarianism; both Fascism and Communism, Nazism and Marxism, which together in common advocate the abolishment of individual freedom. On this spectrum, I place myself on the Up side, far from the extremism of anarchism, but as an advocate of individual liberty in accordance with a constitutional democracy and rule of law.” (1)

    “Up” is close to heaven and “down” is hell.

    In a constitutional democracy, a republic, a nation is governed by clear laws, generally well-understood, that brave time as they are difficult to change.  A representative democracy often leads to a self-serving government, controlled by wealthy and voting bloc special interest groups; not unlike totalitarian regimes where people in a conference room decide what’s best for all which is generally what’s best for themselves.

    (1) Transcribed by Jack Wheeler, October, 1965 at a speech given by Ronald Reagan at UCLA

  • VAT: Funny and sad

    Most peoples lives are funny and sad. Funny in that they take themselves and their illusions of reality seriously. Sad as that’s their lives.

    The play of life begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce. Initially we take it all very seriously and ultimately we realize the absurdity of having done so.

  • VAT: We’re maybe not whom we think we are

    I am who I am. Otherwise, I am who you think I am which is your trip not mine but may ultimately be my trip as well.

    Most of us perceive ourselves through the eyes of others. Each person perceives us differently and it is for us to chose through which person’s or people’s eyes we perceive ourselves. Those people we aim to please by conforming to their views of the world. When we close our eyes, we think like others and lose our unique identity.

    As children we see ourselves through the eyes of our parents and aim to please them. While our parents are our initial eyes, as we develop we see ourselves through the eyes of others we know or imagine. Thus, if not the ambiguous “I am who I am,” best to chose carefully whose eyes we use to perceive ourselves.

  • Grant Allen

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

    In school we are taught by others and learn to repeat what’s taught us when taking exams. This is the road to success in school. But our education in life comes from observing the universe about us and asking ourselves difficult questions about ourselves and our observations; to which there are many answers, each somewhat relevant or revealing of the truth and engendering further questions.

    “School is very limited. Learning is unending!” William Wisher

    “I always like to learn but I sometimes don’t like to be taught.” Winston Churchill

  • Ayami (Shaman figure), Nanai People, East Siberia

    This shaman figure, made of bone, is depicted wearing a hat with seven heads, presumably representing ancestors, historically important clan members or wise men. The heads are the shaman’s helper spirits or guides in the world underpinning the world of the living; the world before it’s tangible to our senses. The spirit helpers provide the shaman with multiple perspectives which is the essence of wisdom, the stock-in-trade of shamans. The triangular shaped head, pointing down and perfectly balanced on the torso, implies an open mind with no predilections. The figure has a disproportionally large head (40% of its entire body while man naturally is 14%), implying that, unlike others who use their physical body when working, the head plays an outsized role in the shaman’s work.

    Moreover, the figure is sexless as, unlike most work in tribal societies which is exclusively the domain of one sex or the other, a shaman can be male or female. As well, without sexual identity, the shaman’s perspective is unbiased, nondual.

  • VAT: Enlightened or mentally ill

    There is a fine line between those who are enlightened and the mentally ill, especially those who experience a manic episode. Both states of mind can seem indistinguishable in terms of how the enlightened and mentally ill feel at the moment. However, someone mentally ill may feel they are God, the messiah or Buddha; while those who are enlightened know they are God as is everyone, though many are sleeping through life and don’t realize who they are. That is, mental illness is manifested by a sense of being special; enlightenment is the realization that everything is unique, ever-changing and the same, the light.

    Moreover, the enlightened know the past is an illusion, while for the mentally ill the past is reality. As such, we are all at times mentally ill; more or less.

  • VAT: Living

    When our experiences and what we’ve learned (our past) limits our imagination, we are effectively dying.

    A friend was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The prognosis is not good but there’s hope with immunotherapy treatment. However, without a seeming miracle, my friend is unlikely to survive past six months. Most people would say she is dying. (Though in this world no one is getting out alive; everyone is dying; some sooner, some later; some slowly, some more quickly.) However, unlike most of us, she is very much alive and growing, not dying. She appreciates the newness of everything as the world unfolds before her and experiences the wonder of it all. That’s what it is, being alive.

  • VAT: An Eccentric Life

    At 14 I realized that I wouldn’t have much of a life if I approached life like my peers. I thought my best chance at having a good go of life was to differential myself which would likely lead to great success or failure but that seemed a better outcome than mediocrity. Viewing the possible roles in the play of life, I aspired to be eccentric. Eccentrics are care-free of judgement by others as they are non-conformists; find most peoples lives funny; are very curious; find almost everything interesting; are independent thinkers and have a creative approach to understanding the world. Being eccentric seemed a fun way to go through life.

    Now, at 69, I’ve so gotten so comfortable with the role of eccentric, I sometimes believe it’s who I am. But I don’t forget it’s just a role I happen to enjoy, though those who know me or not feel I fit the role. Ultimately, I am who I am which itself is an eccentric self-perception.

  • VAT: The fans

    In the play of life, Terrific, some actors play the fans in the sports stadium and others choose to be players on the field. Those in the stands have chosen the easier role but at the cost of their personal freedom.

    I’m not big into spectator sports, other than pornography.

  • Tailor’s question

    “How do you dress, sir?”

    I was first asked this question when getting fitted for a handmade suit in the 1970s. At the time I didn’t understand  what the tailor was asking.  Seeing me a bit befuddled, the tailor explained that he wanted to know whether my penis naturally lays to the right or the left so he could give me a bit more room in the trousers on the right or left. I hadn’t theretofore focused on my penis’s natural bend, so I told him to proceed as he thought best as my penis is like me politically; sometimes a bit left, something right.

    A bit more fabric on one side or another creates a bit of a bulge in the trousers which implies the presence of a somewhat larger than average penis; a status symbol for some men. I guess if one needs to present themselves wearing a handmade suit, one needs to make certain other statements about themselves.

  • VAT: Who are you?

    I am who I am. I am me. I am Victor or at least that’s the name people use to refer to me.

    I am not white, black, Jew, Christian, Hindu, American, French, Japanese, Democrat, Republican, upper class or any other of innumerous categories. None of us is any of these things, unless we think we are. The categories are empty as no one is simply the person a category attempts to define. Each of us is far greater, one of infinite manifestations of God, than any category into which we or others place us. When we identify with a category we are as empty as the category itself.

    “I am who I am” is how in the Bible God identifies himself to Moses.

    All of us are God. However, we relinquish our god identity when we embrace category identities. God is beyond description and duality. Category identities create a dualistic self-view; that is, if we are in a certain category (say Jewish) then we are not in another category (say, Muslim). Category identities often lead to conflicts between those who identify with one category but not another. Ultimately, when our identities are categories or we view others in terms of categories, we are imprisoned in animal consciousness which keeps us from realizing our divine consciousness.

  • Finnegan Bell in Great Expectations (1998)

    “I’m not going to tell the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I [want to] remember it.”

    Our memories shape our attitude, how we experience the world as it unfolds. Those of us with happy memories have a happy time of it, swaddled in sunlight. For those of us with trauma-filled memories, life at times is a struggle, stressful. The traumas, karma, overshadow our lives. In the shadows it’s cold and we use a lot of energy to keep warm. To replace the energy lost, we often engage others, to tap into their energy, with our dramas and other attention-getting techniques. At some point, it’s exhausting for those we tap into and, if they have any sense to preserve their well-being, they walk away from us.

    Those with happy memories overflow with energy. Their lives are terrific, always good and getting better. They generously share their energy with others, hoping to bring them happiness.

    Those who are happy view the past as an entertaining illusion, like a movie. It is what it is whatever it is and whatever we want our memories to make of it. They know the most important free-will choice we have in life which in turn defines our attitude: how we choose to remember the past.

    For those who hold onto a traumatic past, best for them to remember the traumas are now passed; that there is nothing to forget. That is, the past is nothing but an illusion.

  • VAT: Semordnilap

    We love our dog and our dog loves us. However, we perceive each other differently. To us our dog is our dog. To our dog, we are god. The difference in perceptions is a function of reading “dog” left to right or right to left. Our dog has it right, right to left. It has the better sense of smell; the nose knows: both our dog and we are manifestations of god.

  • VAT: First US Presidential Debate

    When we have a choice for president (or for any job generally) between someone authentic and someone who’s pretending, it’s often difficult to tell who’s who; so we choose whoever best looks the part.

  • VAT: Black sheep

    “Black sheep by 1822 in figurative sense of “member of some group guilty of offensive conduct and unlike the other members,” supposedly because a real black sheep had wool that could not be dyed and thus was worth less. But one black sheep in a flock was considered good luck by shepherds in Sussex, Somerset, Kent, Derbyshire.” Etymonline.com

    Likewise, in society, white sheep are more desirable than black sheep because they (their fleece) can be manipulated (dyed). However, a black sheep in a flock of white sheep is considered lucky perhaps because it implies genetic diversity which makes for a healthier flock.

    I’m often like a black sheep that feels wonderful after a shampoo wash, cleansed of the thorns and thistles that everyday life entwines in fleece. I try to convince white sheep to have a wash but they’re afraid the wash will turn them into black sheep, not as commercially desirable but the last to go to the slaughterhouse.

  • VAT: God is hiding

    God is everywhere but we cannot see God unless we imagine God’s presence. (Actually, we can’t recognize anything our mind has not imagined.) Our mind doesn’t want us to imagine God as doing so would reveal our mind is manipulating us, denying us of experiencing the present which is where God resides. However, our mind does allow us to experience the manifestations of God, the universe. Before the universe is created and underpinning the universe, God is hiding.

    A common perception of God is that God is that which is other than ourselves, that we and God are mutually exclusive. This cannot be as God is all that is and is hiding behind all that is. The universe is how God is expressed; each expression unique but all connected to their source, God (1).

    (1) As above, it all begins and ends with God.

  • William Wisher

    “Unfortunately, most people don’t get it. They will, but they’ll have to die first before they understand that they don’t.”

    We don’t die, just transition from one form to another. That which is alive and that which is not are no different; only differentiated by our mind; all manifestations of God; all unique and all the same. Is the breathing of the ocean and its shattering sound at the shore not as alive as we are? Everything is like bubbles in a glass of sparkling water, appearing out of nowhere and becoming one with everything when reaching the top of the glass and seemingly disappearing.

    Many of us recognize that the only constant in the universe is change; that no one or anything dies, just transitions. Those are believers. But few realize (know) that’s the way the system works. Those who do are the enlightened. This realization protects them from taking their current circumstances, current events and themselves too seriously. They make their journey through life a joyous experience and give their hand to others so that they may join them; though few do. The others just wake up to this reality when it’s their time to seemingly die.

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson

    Once upon a time, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, experts in their respective fields of detective work and science, went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.” “What does that tell you?” Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically , I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?” Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. “Watson, you dickhead. Some bastard has stolen our tent.”

    There are always many ways to view a situation, from the practical to the profound. If not individually funny, when juxtaposed they are funny.

  • Jim Morrison

    “No one gets out of here alive.”

    But we all do.

    If our identity is our finite physical presence, our lives are finite and no one gets out of here alive. When we realize we are not solely our finite selves but one with the infinite manifestations of the universe, there is no life or death; just endless transitions; comings and goings into and out of life; like the sound and the silence between heartbeats; like the breathing and silent pause between breaths. In the silence we are in the present, before our mind distracts us by ever-changing sounds and motions. The silence is eternal. When we realize we are one with the silence, we are here forever.

  • VAT: The Present

    Before the light

    before the sound

    before the motion

    before all there is

    before that which never was

    before all that is manifested,

    all is pre-sent, the present.

    The present is found in the absence of the universe,

    before the universe manifests itself.

    We are given many gifts

    but one present.

  • VAT: The Lotus Eaters

    In The Odyssey, the first island to which Ulysses travels is the land of the lotus eaters. On the island the lotus eaters give a couple of his men lotus fruit to eat and the men soon become intoxicated and bereft of any desire to continue their sail home to Ithaca. The men beg Ulysses to remain on the island and weep bitterly when Ulysses forces them back on the ship.

    Home represents the past. Intoxication freed the men from thoughts of the past and desires to go forward with their lives in the context of the past.  Freedom from the past is one of the keys to happiness, however temporary as in the case of the lotus eaters.

    The lotus flower is symbolic of eternal(1) beauty and purity. In the morning it emerges unblemished from the watery muck in which it lives. At night, it submerges into the muck. Born anew daily, everyday its birthday, the lotus flower is free from its past incarnations as were the men in the Odyssey who ate the lotus fruit.

    Like the lotus flower, we die each night and are reborn the following day. This realization frees us from karma, how the past frames our lives today. Perhaps there is more to be gained reflecting about the lotus flower than eating its fruit.

    (1) Attesting to its eternal nature, lotus flower seeds can hibernate for thousands of years and yet come alive when the opportunity to germinate presents itself.

  • VAT: Curious 1

    Were you ever curious as to why people in China use chopsticks, especially as there are few forests in China to make wooden chopsticks?

    As there were few forests in China, there was little wood to fuel fires for cooking. Unlike Europe where wood was readily available, it was economically prohibitive to cook whole animals or large animal parts for long hours. Hence, animals were cut into bite size pieces for quick cooking (the etymology of the word chopstick is quick) and knives and forks were unnecessary, giving rise to the use of chopsticks. Likewise, instead of cooking on a skillet or spit, food was cooked in a wok which has a large cooking surface that requires less fuel for cooking.

    Curiosity makes things beautiful.

  • VAT: Take it or leave it

    Many years ago I was in a relationship with a girl who one day informed me that I wasn’t good in bed. To that I said, “Ok, what else is on your mind?” She then asked “Don’t you want to know how you can improve?” I said, “Not really; I’m good with things as they are. If I’m to make it better for you, it may not be as good for me. My performance in bed seems good enough for you that we’re still together, so why change.”(1)

    Her suggestion that we could improve our relationship was reasonable enough, a good relationship is presumably based on give and take. My response seemed selfish, essentially: I am who I am, take it or leave it.

    However, the foundation of a good relationship is take it or leave it; a partnership based on accepting each other as you are, connecting in ways best for all and avoiding interacting in ways that potentially create conflicts. Take it or leave it implies each person is a package deal. It acknowledges that no one is perfect and that by buying into a relationship with another person, the totality of who they are (their package) will hopefully always outweigh any aspects that at times could put us off.

    Relationships based on give and take are like a business deal, they’re prone to disintegration over accounting issues. That is, “I did this for you and you haven’t done anything to help me lately.”

    Relationships generally begin as take it or leave it. When they stop working, it’s time to either say goodbye or try to keep it together by negotiating a favorable resolution to whatever conflicts have arisen, a give and take process. Sweet goodbyes are an express train which otherwise is a local that eventually finds itself at the same destination.

    That said, love conquers all. In a love relationship, all is perfect; including each other’s shit.

    (1) The fact is that she wasn’t particularly good in bed either but was entertaining enough to continue with and it’s not my nature to complain.

  • VAT: Authentic or sincere

    Often ideology disguises personal ambition; authenticity disguising the lack of sincerity.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg was undoubtedly an authentic liberal on the Supreme Court. However, her authentic liberal mask hid her lack of sincerity for the cause. As she was for many years in poor health, she was often encouraged by the liberal community to retire during the Obama years so that he could nominate another liberal in her place who would have a significantly higher life expectancy to push the liberal agenda. She simply refused as she liked her job. Her personal ambition trumped her political agenda. Had she been sincere, she would have retired some years back.

    Likewise, there are many who rarely participate in religious activities, yet pray to God in difficult times; not authentic but clearly sincere.

  • VAT: Presidential elections

    The upcoming presidential election in the States is about what you should hold tight; hold your nose and vote for Trump or vote for Biden and hold your wallet as there will be less in it soon enough.

  • Karl Marx

    “If you can cut the people off from their history, then they can be easily persuaded.”

    As reported in the Washington Post on September 1, 2020: “A committee reporting to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has recommended renaming dozens of public schools, parks and government buildings in the nation’s capital — including those named for seven U.S. presidents [and Benjamin Franklin] — after studying the historical namesakes’ connections to slavery and oppression. The report drew a torrent of criticism, especially for its suggestion of adding plaques or other context to some of the most famed federal locales in the city, including the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. After a harsh rebuke from the White House, the Bowser administration removed the recommendations dealing with federal monuments on Tuesday evening. A White House statement called Bowser (D)the radically liberal mayor of Washington, D.C.’ and said she ‘ought to be ashamed for even suggesting’ revisions to the marble monuments dedicated to presidents who were enslavers. ‘President Donald J. Trump believes these places should be preserved, not torn down; respected, not hated; and passed on for generations to come.'”

    Politically correct renaming has been going on for some years. Maine, Vermont and New Mexico no longer celebrate Columbus Day. Instead, they celebrate Native Americans’ Day.

  • VAT: The prism

    Our mind is like a prism taking light that is perfectly clear and disassembling it into component colors to which we pay more attention than to what we can see through the clear light.

  • VAT: Happy New Year

    In the Hebrew calendar today begins the year 5,781 (John 1:1). Typically on this calendar date Jewish people wish each other “a healthy, wealthy and happy New Year.” This implies that health is a key to making a go of life; that health is a prerequisite for realizing wealth and that without a modicum of wealth (freedom from concerns about food, shelter and security) it is difficult to be happy.

  • VAT: Effective Meetings

    The standard format for an organizational meeting is a presentation followed by a question and answer session. Perhaps a better format is to dispense with the presentation as it can be distributed to meeting participants before the meeting for their review. Then, the meeting is solely a question and answer session where only participants with questions and answers attend. This format avoids wasting the time of uninterested participants. As well, in information exchanges, we engage someone’s attention when answering their questions; otherwise, when we are talking to someone unsolicited, their attention often drifts elsewhere.

    Moreover, by not asking questions, the participants are implicitly agreeing with the proposals put forth in a presentation. That encourages them to read the presentation.

  • VAT: No need to fear death

    Each of our lives are seemingly finite and at some point we transition from here. In the transition, we become one with the universe. We need not fear the transition, death as it’s commonly called, as the universe is ever-changing and ever-endless as we are.

  • VAT: Self-serving is the road to self-destruction

    Organizations like governments, businesses, NGOs, unions, etc. get their start by providing customers (or citizens as the case may be) with goods or services at a reasonable price. Once they perceive themselves firmly established, these organizations tend to become over-confident, self-important and self-serving. They view their customers as necessary evils. Soon after, the goods or services go down in quality while their prices go up. While this seems initially tolerable as the customers are buying out of habit rather than conscious choice, at some point an organization loses its customers’ favor. Simply, the customers feel that the organization doesn’t love them, so they don’t love them back. This starts the organizations’s long-term decline until it is no longer.

    Self-serving is the road to self-destruction. While every organization’s demise is inevitable, if an organization can avoid self-destruction it’s likely to live longer.

    Ultimately, organizations are abstract constructs, they don’t really exist. They are simply people working together. The fate of people is not different from that of organizations; serving others is the road to a long life.

  • VAT: Choosing who we are

    For Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, life happens all at once; sequential time is a creation of mind and doesn’t exist independent of mind.

    While our lives happen all at once, we are a different person at each point in our lifetime story.  Each of these people are equally real, equally present. At any moment, we can choose to be whomever of these people we wish to be. While we are an amalgam of all these people, the choices we make each day cumulatively define our experience.

    In the last years of my mother’s life, she was mentally clear but otherwise incapacitated; only able to be carted around in group activities in a nursing facility. Her days must have been intolerably long. I once asked her how she spends her day. She said, “oh, I am busy all day; barely have time to do anything.” What was she busy with? “Thinking about my life.”

  • VAT: The Truly Wealthy

    The truly wealthy are easily identified by their manners not their manors.

    Those who are well-mannered are generous of spirit and freely share their good fortune (however great or small) with others. Thus, they are truly wealthy.

  • VAT: Collectibles

    Art is all that is artificial, man-made. From shoe laces to buildings, trillions upon trillions of artworks abound. Artworks are generally fungible as an identical artwork can be made to replace an existing one. As such, the market price of an artwork over time tends to be a function of its cost of production. When its market price exceeds its cost of production, more artwork are made. When its market price is below its cost of production, none is made.

    However, there is a relatively microscopic number of artworks that are different from all others, collectibles. Collectibles trade at prices that have no relationship to their cost of production, often many many multiple times higher than their cost of production. This price anomaly, between artworks generally and collectibles, has little to do with the inherent visual experience a collectible provides as a perfect copy of a collectible, indistinguishable by the human eye from the original, can be easily produced.

    The price of a collectible is a function of its non-visual characteristics; the celebrated artists who created it, provenance, perceived store of value, self-validation (or bragging rights by virtual of its price), the “hunting instincts of collectors, belief in the greater fool theory and other non-visual factors. Hence, the price anomaly is sheer human folly, experiencing collectible artworks not with one’s eyes but with one’s ears and mind; an illusion, difficult sometimes to see as they’re covered with bullshit.

    At some point, at the moment of mass awakening to divine consciousness, collectibles will trade at prices in line with artworks generally. Then, there will be a Wall Street Journal article with the headline: The Emperor Catches a Cold. Stories of emperors who purchased collectibles and found themselves out in the cold financially because they weren’t wearing any clothes.

    So why buy high-priced/over-valued collectibles knowing that at some point they’ll be relatively worthless? Well, collecting is fun, mass awakening seems unlikely to happen anytime soon and ultimately, as no one is getting out of here alive, everything is worthless anyway.

  • Albert Einstein?/Ray Cummings

    “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”(1)

    The past is created by mind in the form of stories. Each story unfolds sequentially, within a timeline. The timeline rationalizes cause and effect as without the timeline the stories don’t make sense. For example, when we tell the story of a cat’s life, the cat cannot be simultaneously dead and alive. However, everything in the past happens all at once, the moment the mind creates it. Hence, the cat is alive and dead simultaneously.  The timeline is an illusion our mind creates as are our stories.

    In other words, our mind creates the past. The past doesn’t exist independent of mind. As to the present, the true-present, it is simply nothingness with waves of light about. Our mind transforms the light into our reality, the past and its related stories.

    (1) From Quote Investigator: “There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. It is listed within a section called “Probably Not By Einstein” in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press.”

  • Kanako Iiyama

    “What’s the difference between the heart and the mind?”

    Each heart is essentially the same. Each mind is unique.

    The heart connects us to others while the mind often separates us from others.

    The heart is fundamental to being alive; if it’s not working neither are we. The mind distracts us from living as most of our experiences in life are in the context of our memories or karma.

    The heart is symbolic of compassion, connecting with others and trying to help them realize their potential. Our mind can lead us to wisdom, viewing the world through the perspective of others, but is often what separates us from others as we view others as different from ourselves. The mind is the foundation of the ego.

  • William Wisher

    “Life is so much simpler when you lose the desire to think.”

    Our mind is a great servant when we use it to learn from our experiences, simplifying the road forward.  However, the mind is a terrible master. When we desire its stimulation, we are its servant. Then, the road forward is not straightforward as the mind creates distractions, twisted thoughts and additional desires to control us.

  • William Roth

    “It’s easier to choose between black and white than between shades of gray.”

    Unlike black and white, the difference between shades of gray is difficult to remember. Hence, as our memories guide us in the choices we make, we gravitate to extreme, simplistic views.

  • VAT: The road to the present

    I moved last week from New York City to Greenwich, CT.

    In the quietude of the countryside, in a house facing a graveyard and backing up to wetlands, absent is the inaudible sounds of human protoplasm. A meditative space; here, nothing to hear and like a dark night at sea, nothing to see; the road to the present, a place to experience the universe before it’s shaped and defined by mind.

  • VAT: One Mind

    There is only one mind to which we are all connected. Some of us are connected at similar wavelengths and understand each other; others seem to us to live on the dark side of the moon which is how we appear to them and the connection is weak at best. But, whichever way one is, there is only one mind. Recognizing there is only one opens us up to connecting with everyone.

  • Mahir

    “That’s life.”

    This past Sunday a photo was taken on the Upper West Side of Manhattan of a woman squatting, urinating and giving head to shirtless man. I spoke with several people about this incident; some, especially those  who lived nearby, thought it disgusting and others laughed. At a grocery store I frequent, I mentioned the incident to an older Palestinian man who works there tending to the fruits and vegetables.  His apathetic response: “That’s life.” I’m not sure if he meant that the incident is a reflection of the state of affairs in NYC or that he had an enlightened view of it as not a significant event, simply people performing bodily functions which made the scene nothing noteworthy.

    It’s curious as to why some would find this incident disgusting. Clearly they have an abstract view of it; that it is the breaking of a taboo based on community or religious standards. As such, they should find it disgusting and do so.

    As to those who laugh about it, they view the scene as two people harmlessly enjoying themselves and juxtapose that view with the view of others who find it disgusting. It’s funny that some people can see meanings in something meaningless.

    Interestingly, it seems that people living in the nearby vicinity of the incident are much more upset they those living elsewhere. From a far-enough distance, say the heavens, everything seems funny. Likewise, when and old fat woman slips on a banana peal, it looks funny until we realize she’s our mother.

  • VAT: Indescribably Perfect

    As everything is interdependent, nothing is perfect as nothing can exit on its own. As everything is temporary, what’s seems perfect now is only temporarily perfect.

    Only the universe is perfect; not dependent on anything (as there is nothing but the universe), ever-changing and eternal. It cannot be described beyond that it is what it is whatever it is.

    As everything is interdependent, describing something as a thing onto itself is an illusion. As everything is temporary, something can be described only approximately as it changes as it’s being described.

    Thus, everything is unique and the same, a temporary manifestation of the universe which can only be described as it is what it is whatever it is.

  • Aristotle

    “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way.”

    This is an early construct of the aphorism: fake it until you make it.

    In other words, when we pretend to be who we are not, eventually we become the person or have the role in life of the person we pretended to be. If not, well, at least we enjoyed pretending as the person we are is problematic for us to be.

    That said, this saying can be read otherwise. I spoke with a friend today who said that after 6 years of marriage and a 5 year old girl, he and his Ukrainian wife are divorcing. He’s been in a sexless marriage for some time as his wife tells him she is not in the “mood” whenever he approaches her sexually. That seemed odd to him as previously they had a very active love life. However, recently he asked her if she no longer loved him. She replied, “I never loved you.” Apparently marriage for her was a path to having a baby or citizenship. She was true to the adage of fake it until you make it.

    Sometimes people pretend they are what they are not in an effort to transform themselves. But more often to transform how others perceive them. When their masks come off, often what’s revealed is ugly by some measure.

  • Adam Harris

    “In of the most striking patterns in yesterday’s [2018] election was years in the making: a major partisan divide between white voters with a college degree and those without one. According to exit polls, 61 percent of non-college-educated white voters cast their ballots for Republicans while just 45 percent of college-educated white voters did so. Meanwhile 53 percent of college-educated white voters cast their votes for Democrats compared with 37 percent of those without a degree. The diploma divide, as it’s often called, is… a complete departure from the diploma divide of the past. Non-college-educated…voters used to solidly belong to Democrats, and college-educated…voters to Republicans.”

    Seems odd the college-educated vote against their economic interests, assuming as is generally assumed that the Republican Party favors the wealthy which is what the college-educated are relatively. However, today the college-educated are at a considerably lower caliber of educational achievement than those who graduated from college 50 years ago. Maybe they are more college-brainwashed than college-educated.

  • Sigmund Freud

    “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.”

    Life is essentially simple unless we complicate it with our mind.

  • VAT: Who gets to play Norman Mailer?

    In 1977 on a flight from NYC to Dallas, I sat next to a gentleman busy scribbling on his paperwork. Asked him what he was doing, he replied, “working out which bets I want to make” on some football games or horse races. We continued talking and he said he was a magazine writer but didn’t mention his name as he felt I undoubtedly never heard of him. A couple of hours later, I asked him if anyone ever said he looked like Norman Mailer. He said, “Congratulations, it took you a while.” I immediately responded, “Someone has to be Norman Mailer and you’re it; how is it being Norman Mailer, do you enjoy the role?” He replied: ” Terrific role, really enjoying it.”

    Mailer was a novelist, journalist, politician, essayist, playwright, film-maker, actor and painter; married six times; had nine children; numerous affairs; stabbed his wife; wrote 11 best-sellers; and cavorted with the glitterati. Yet, the man sitting next to me didn’t seem to take his role too seriously. Maybe that’s why he was Norman Mailer.

  • VAT: Winners and losers

    Winners are not those most successful at their pursuits; the losers not those unsuccessful. The winners are laughing at the outcomes, the losers not.

  • VAT: Learning from experience

    Some years back I viewed a documentary movie about the brutalities of the “Dirty War” in Argentina (1976 – 83) when as many as 30,000 people disappeared through state sponsored terrorism. One woman interviewed was a rare survivor who resettled in France. In the interview she was asked how she felt about the perpetrators, “you must hate them” suggested the interviewer. “No” she said, “I don’t hate them, I fear them.” She learned from her experience whom to avoid but as she was essentially happy she was free from traumatic memories; able to go forward without looking back.

  • VAT: The eyes of God

    When we truly open our eyes, we see joy and sorrow, times good and bad. When we close our eyes and view the world through the eyes of God, everything is funny; odd and hilarious.

  • Pantheist Star

    Three years ago I was in LA in a shop that sells clothing and accessories. There I found the pendant in the photo above. Store manager said he had found it at a flea market and that it was a “Navajo star.”  While I’m not a jewellery kind of guy, the pendant was sufficiently engaging that I purchased it. Researching after, I couldn’t find a Navajo star like it or another  similar star. But that was of no matter as I liked the pendant as it was, regardless of any associations or stories that often accompany artworks. In time the pendant revealed itself as a symbol of pantheism, the view that everything is a manifestation of God.

    The pendant depicts two stars with a common center. The shorter star ends in points and the longer one ends in heads. The shorter star represents energy/light. The longer star represents matter. Energy and matter have a common center as they are equivalent (E=M*C*C). The common center is God; hence, a pantheist pendant

    The heads at the endpoints of the longer star represent consciousness; five heads, five senses. The longer star also appears like a “spread eagle” cheerleader pose, a celebratory pose.

    When we realize we are one with everything and one with God, we experience the world via our senses, not our mind. That’s something about which to celebrate.

    I’ve made 25 copies of the pendant and give them out to friends who would wear them. Three years later, I still have 15. I suspect none would be left had  I offered them for sale.

     

  • VAT: God and religion

    God is the knowledge that we are all connected. Religion is about rules which connect its adherents and exclude others. That can’t be what God’s about.

  • VAT: Geographic variations in the perception of god

    God plays different roles in Eastern and Western religions. In the East, God is everything. The universe is a manifestation of God. God is a path through which we connect and are one with everything. In the West, God is an administrative law judge.

  • John 1:1

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    The universe is infinite and unique manifestations of God. The living manifestations do not know this truth as they perceive themselves as apart and separate from all other manifestations. Man is no different in his self-perception but has the potential to realize divine consciousness, the realization that he and all manifestations are one; that man and God are one.

    Words are the foundation of a system of understanding and communicating abstractly. Abstract communication and idealization differentiates man from all other living manifestations. The beginning of mankind was when words were first transcribed symbolically, in written form. The word connected man to God as the word is God, the idealization of the universe.

    The beginning of the transcription of words, cuneiform tablets, is currently estimated to be around 5400 years ago. This is not far from the start of the Jewish calendar, the start of creation, 5780 years ago. Prior to that time, our progenitors were manlike but not man.

  • U.S. Motto

    “In God we Trust.”

    “In God we Trust” implies we only trust God and not others. We don’t trust others when we are not trustworthy.

    In finance, trust is the ability and willingness to pay one’s debt. Ironically, the motto appears on US currency which, like God, will retain its value as long as we believe and often beyond the point of credibility. This is the placebo effect, the invisible glue that keeps a chair together after its nails have rotted. Best to be careful when sitting down on it, especially if we are overweight.

  • Heraclitus

    “The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.”

    God is that which is within and unfolds into the infinite manifestations of the universe, the without. We are never lacking (never without) as what’s without is always within.

  • Guiding Lights

    Kanako Iiyama

    Sunset, August 22, 2020, Kaizouji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.

  • VAT: The Suburbs

    I’ve lived in New York City the past five years. The city has slowly decayed over that time and with the virus/quarantine has done so rapidly. At month’s end I’ll be moving to Greenwich, CT.

    A few city-dwelling friends declared: “Wow, I can’t believe you’re moving to the burbs.” This view is hysterically funny; if not to them, then at least to me.

    Greenwich is Greenwich, a certain geographic area. It’s on coastal waters, very green with plant-life and inhabited by people. The “burbs” is a conceptual categorization; ultimately meaningless but for those who choose to view the world in terms of empty stereotypes.  For those people, someone living in the burbs is beneath them economically and/or socially in that the suburbanite has chosen to live in a non-diverse, narrow-minded, pedestrian world which defines that person. That’s funny in that city-dwellers who hold such views are limited in their thinking, narrow-minded and pedestrian. They are below us for the reasons they look down on others. Who is us? The gods enjoying the play of life.

  • VAT: Mitigating Problems

    Anticipating a problem lessens its consequences.

    When we envision problematic events, we can adjust to them before they arrive in full force; mitigating their consequences. When a problem first appears, we can more easily see it if we previously imagined it. In turn, as problems initially unfold slowly and then suddenly, when we identify problems unfolding slowly we can to some extent get out of their harm’s way before they unfold suddenly.

    Many of us fear envisioning potential problems and their consequences as doing so makes us anxious; thus we suffer the consequences of our blinding fears.

  • VAT: The Essence of Everything

    The universe is infinite temporary manifestations of that which is beyond description (it is what it is whatever it is); forever changing, yet unchanged as that which is beyond description is all there is.

  • Idi Amin

    “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.”

    Freedom of speech is the foundation of a well-functioning state, unlike Uganda when Idi Amin ruled it.  Considering many independent perspectives allows us the wisest choices (the wisdom of the crowd).  Today, however, often there is no freedom after speech as unpopular opinions are denied social media access or those who voice their opinions are marginalized and attacked by those uncomfortable with perspectives that don’t comport with their own. This is how a state begins to slide into monolithic thinking and loses its ability to adapt to changing circumstances which ultimately leads to its demise.

  • VAT: The Key to success is luck

    Luck is when we find ourselves in opportunistic situations and make appropriate choices to realize the opportunities which in turn bring us success.

    To “get lucky” we need to constantly be on the lookout for luck. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. Fools often have bad luck.

    Luck happens everywhere but in some contexts more than others. Work is where lots of luck can be had. Hence, best to look for luck while working. The longer we work the longer we look, increasing the chances we will see luck coming. When luck arrives we recognize it immediately as we anticipated its arrival. We then embrace it fully and enjoy a ride to success.

    Those who have been successful and feel their success was a function of their abilities, dismiss luck. Hence, they don’t look out for luck and when luck comes by luck passes them by. This leads them to realize mediocre outcomes at best or their demise at worst. In others words, they become unlucky.

    Those who know their success was more luck than anything else, work long hours and keep an eye out for luck. And they keep getting lucky.

  • VAT: A life in a day

    Live each day as it’s your first and last.

    Live each day as it’s your first day of life. Everything is now new and unique, engaging your attention and arousing your curiosity; observe and experience. You are now present. You are now alive.

    Live each day as it’s your last day of life. Do all you would otherwise regret not having done before you died. Your life now has purpose.

    In reality, each day is the first and last of life. Each night we die and are reborn anew the following day, similar in circumstances but unlike the person we were yesterday, however much we effort to identify with that person. Each day is not a day in a life but a life in a day.

    As the first is the last and the last the first, the first and the last are the same. Hence, such distinctions (as most distinctions) are meaningless.

    Best to make the most of our daily life by living it fully and helping others experience it likewise which in turn enhances our experience.

  • The Mystic

    In life there are always more variables than equations. Hence, there are forever unknowns and a rational approach to solve all of life’s mysteries is a fool’s errand. Only through the realm of the divine can we truly know the unknowable. This is the role of the mystic.

    The etymology of the word mystic is via Latin from Greek mustikos from mustēs ‘initiated person,’ from muein ‘close the eyes or lips.’

    An initiate is someone who has been, often via rituals, admitted into a secret or obscure society or group. Closing the eyes means dispensing with conventional views. Closing the lips means not telling others of your secret society membership as in so doing you might be perceived as mad; as only those who can imagine the mystical experience can see it.

    By definition, a mystic is one who by contemplation and self-surrender seeks to obtain unity with God or who believes in the spiritual understanding of truths that are otherwise beyond the rational.

    In the play of life the role of the mystic is unlikely to win an Academy Award as it’s generally a supporting role with few lines. However, otherwise it’s good to be cast as a mystic as it makes for a fascinating experience and much fun.   While I am who I am, professionally as an actor in the play of life I’m a mystic or at least I hope so as otherwise I must be mad. In any event, it’s much fun.

  • VAT: Peace leads to abundance

    When the world is at peace the fruits we reap we bake into an ever-bigger pie we share by piece. Otherwise, at war, many are fighting over peace and an ever-smaller pie.

  • Ice-T

    “No lives matter.”

    “Black lives matter” is a moral complaint against inequity in the existing social order.

    “All lives matter” is a self-righteous response that implies all people are equal and negates the existence of an inequitable social order. It’s dismissive of the complaint.

    “No lives matter” reflects the reality; the incarceration rate, domestic murder rate and casualties and fatalities in overseas military adventures.

    Those for whom we march and cry “black lives matter” are memorialized with dignity, respect and fancy funeral ceremonies. In other words, respect for the dead but not for the living.

  • VAT: Don’t look backward.

    As we mature, we know to mostly look forward not backward. When underdeveloped, we are backward.

    When I was 12 years old in school in America, one day in class the geography teacher pointed out that many countries are categorized as “underdeveloped” (having unrealized potential) but years earlier were referred to as “backward” or primitive which is more pejorative; to which some girl in the back of the classroom blurted out: “Those countries are strange, I’d rather be called backward than underdeveloped.”

    In the developed world externalities are more important than potentialities.

  • VAT: Closer to death, closer to life

    We certainly experience reality at the last moments at the end of days. When we are viscerally aware each passing day brings us closer to the end, increasingly the nature of reality is revealed. Death brings life to life.

  • VAT: Who’s Who?

    The characteristics we see in others are just a refection of ourselves. Others have no characteristics because they are indescribable, they are god. Thinking negatively of others is sacrilegious.

    In other words, much of life is experiencing oneself in the various forms of others. We are all divine and degrade our divinity by thinking poorly of others.

  • VAT: Gratification, sooner or later?

    On a hot day a cold glass of water

    refreshing now, necessary later.

    Will it evaporate before I need it?

  • Albert Einstein

    “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

    Albert Einstein was identified as having “impostor syndrome,” having doubts about his significant accomplishments and talents and fear that others would ultimately realize he was a fraud, not the extraordinary genius they held him to be. Impostor syndrome is not a mental illness, rather a psychological behavior pattern. Other luminaries with impostor syndrome include Tom Hanks, Sheryl Sandberg, David Bowie and Serena Williams.

    While impostor syndrome may reflect underlying insecurities, in Einstein’s case it reflected his enlightenment. Like Einstein, enlightened individuals have a terrific sense of humor and interesting insights about the nature of the universe. They happily welcome each day as it is the first and last day of their lives; grateful, optimistic and free from karmic prisons.

    The foundation of karmic prisons is the belief that we are the same person today as the people we were in passed days of our lives. (Passed days of our lives is what several spiritual practices refer to as our past lives.) The stories we and others tell about those past people define our roles in the play of life.  Our roles imprison us by limiting our perspectives as we experience the world not as it is but in the context of what we “learned” in previous lives (our stories, characterizations, categorizations and general descriptions about the world).

    The foundation of karmic prisons crumbles when we come to know the nature of reality, that the universe is forever changing, eternal and beyond description as everything is unique. It is what it is whatever it is. We are not the same people we were in passed lives. Our experience of the universe need not be limited by what we’ve learned and our memories but by our imagination.(1)

    Einstein didn’t suffer from impostor syndrome. In describing himself as a willing swindler, he realized that he was simply another physics researcher among thousands in the world; that he was not the genius who long before made the great discoveries associated with him; that he was a fraud by willingly acting in the role assigned him as the greatest mind of the 20th century. That is true genius.

    (1) “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Albert Einstein.

  • VAT: Where’s the Sun?

    The sun is always rising and setting, simultaneously and continuously. In fact, the sun is not rising or setting, it is where it is wherever it is. Our mind’s fixed perspective makes the sun appear to be rising and setting only once each day. Our mind has created the concepts of day and night.

  • VAT: Puns or Pundits

    Puns are more insightful than pundits.

    Puns are a play with words or phrases that reveal certain truths which is what makes them funny; funny as in odd and funny as in humorous. Puns reveal that something can be variously perceived; that something is not necessarily as it conventionally appears. This is the nature of reality.

    Pundits are serious, well-educated, opinionated, and never in doubt but often wrong. We embrace their views as they provide us a sense of certainty, however false, in an uncertain world.

    Puns serve us better than pundits.

  • VAT: Talking Fast

    We can learn more from a talking fast than from someone talking fast.

    In quietude, the universe reveals itself. “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.” Lao Tzu.

  • VAT: Mind is a Prism

    The mind is a prism refracting light into a spectrum of colors,

    each color a mood.

    It’s our choice,

    the color through which we see the world.

  • VAT: Better to laugh than smile

    If you can’t laugh, how can you afford to smile?

    Laughing is a great rejuvenator. It dispenses pain and stress and energizes us. Otherwise, pain or stress consume much of our energy. If we don’t laugh, how can we afford to spend energy on smiling to cover our distress. Conversely, no need to effort to smile if we’re laughing all the time.

    Best to put ourselves in situations that have the highest potential of hilarity and to identify something funny about whatever our circumstances.

  • VAT: To Happiness via Suffering

    The best things in life we take for granted. Suffering awakens us to this truth which can lead us to happiness.

    Suffering is when we desire that which is not available. When we suffer, we have flashes of recall of times before our suffering began; how relatively fortunate we were in those times that are now just a memory of paradise lost. Likewise, we can realize that even in our suffering we have much for which to be thankful as our current circumstances could always be worse. This is gratitude. Moreover, we can take solace in knowing that our suffering will at some point come to an end as all things (our state of mind, our circumstances) are constantly subject to change, hopefully for the better. This is optimism. Gratitude and optimism are two of the three pillars of happiness.

  • Illusionary Mond Road Kanako Iiyama There is light amidst the darkness; a path of our mind’s creation; seemingly real but just a reflection. Walking the path, we will surely drown. The path and the light source form the letter “i,” a head not connected to its body.

    Illusionary Moon Road

    Kanako Iiyama

    Before midnight, August 1st, 2020, Awaji Island, Japan.

    Awaji was the first of a group of islands born from Izanagi, a creator deity in Japanese mythology.

  • VAT: The bitter pit of success

    Our failed efforts can be very valuable, depending on whether we learn from them or blame them on others. If they teach us about ourselves and keep us hungry, we increase our chances of realizing success in the future. If we blame others, our failures are worthless.

    The fruit of success is delicious; best to share it with others, not keep it all for ourselves; best to not greedily devour the fruit as in so doing we may inadvertently swallow its bitter pit, a painful exercise which in turn reduces our chances of realizing success in the future.

  • VAT: Mary had a little lamb

    “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is the name of a 19th century nursery rhyme familiar to most American children. A simple rhyme, yet befuddling to computer systems trying to understand language.

    Objectively, what does it mean that Mary had a little lamb? Does it mean that Mary had a pet lamb; that Mary had a small vagina; that Mary had sex with a lamb; that Mary ate a little lamb; or all of the foregoing?

    It’s a matter of context and relationship. In the context of a children’s rhyme, it’s clear that Mary had a pet lamb. In the context of dinner with friends, it’s clear that Mary ate a little lamb. In terms of relationship, Mary’s father would say Mary had a pet lamb; Mary’s boyfriend, depending on how he’s built, might say Mary had a small vagina; Mary’s kinky friends might talk about her interest in bestiality, sex with a lamb. Computer systems have a difficult time understanding context and relationship; maybe we do as well.

  • VAT: No Regrets

    I’ve done many a foolish thing and made many poor choices; the consequences of which have long haunted me.  Yet I have no regrets. If I was to change one thing in the past, there is a good chance the present would not be the as it is right now. That’s too risky a proposition. Best to take life as a package deal.

  • A Rosy Marriage

    Some years back I attended a wedding in the English countryside. The bride was pretty and ebullient. I congratulated her and wished her the best of luck; adding that she was wise going with an arranged marriage as those tend to be more successful than “love marriages.”  She was a bit taken aback, claiming her marriage was a love marriage, not arranged; her parents had nothing to do with her choice of groom.

    I explained that in times past children married at a young age and didn’t know much about choosing a mate. Moreover, as marriages were a merger of families, parents arranged the marriages of their children. Today, however, children are no longer young and living with their parents when they marry; post marriage family get-togethers are mostly on ceremonial occasions; and there are often great socioeconomic differences between parents and children; thus, children arrange their own marriages and pay lip service to their families’ input.

    The bride and groom were both good-looking, graduates of a top university, Jewish, bourgeoisie, in professional jobs at highly acclaimed organizations and had common life goals. That seemed like an arranged marriage on good footing. Had the bride chosen to marry an ugly uneducated elderly drunken bum with no means of support, that would have been a “love marriage.” When we make choices based on emotional feelings without practical considerations, it must be out of love. However, emotional states of mind are like the weather, they can change unpredictably. Likewise, emotional love relationships often don’t sustain themselves and have a higher failure rate than arranged marriages.

    My view was that the bride was in love with the particulars of the marriage she had arranged, not with the groom. However, I was proven wrong. It was a love marriage. The marriage lasted less than two years and ended with great acrimony.

  • VAT: Irony of Happiness

    Everyone seems to want to be happy. I’m clearly happy. Yet, no one wants to be like me, eccentric (etymology: out of center). People choose to be with their unhappy friends, relatives, associates and drama-filled roles in life rather than to be independent-minded and happy. Most are afraid of parting with their affinity groups, identities and roles for fear of a mental breakdown. The key to overcoming this fear is also the key to happiness: don’t take yourself seriously.

    “One thing I’ve learned about life is that if you really let go, it’s just a joy ride.” Ricky Williams.

  • Randy Armstrong

    “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”

    “Ain’t no need to worry what the night is gonna bring, it will be all over in the morning.” Anita Baker.

  • VAT: God is in the Detail

    “God is in the detail” is an old expression now rarely used which means that attention paid to small matters, details, can produce big rewards.  When we are silent, still and carefully observe details, God is revealed and we realize we and God are one.

    This expression has evolved into “the devil is in the details” which means details can be devilishly troublesome impediments to a successful course of action. When pursuing our goals we objectify the world with which we have an adversarial relationship.

    As we are often busy focusing on our goals, we rarely explore details around us to simply appreciate them and enjoy ourselves. Exploring details, not pursuing goals beyond our needs for sustenance, is the purpose of life. Better to commune with God than negotiate with the devil.

  • Dialectics 1

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Those who accept the biblical explanation of the origin of life believe God created all that there is; hence, the chicken was created before the egg. Those who hold an evolutionary view of the origin of species believe there can be no chicken without an egg, the egg came first.

    Which came first seems a matter of whether we have a biblical or secular bent. However, according to the bible, as God created sea animals before land animals and as sea animals bear eggs, the egg came first regardless of one’s perspective.

  • Richard P. Feynman

    “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”

    If you’re concerned about how other people think of you, you are likely hanging out with people who think likewise. How could you care about how those people think of you? It’s hilarious if you do; caring about the thinking of people who have little else to do but spend time idly thinking about others and accomplishing nothing.

    People aren’t thinking much about anyone or anything.  Caring about how others think of us is a fool’s errand. Doing so limits our freedom to be who we are and by not being ourselves we cannot realize our potential; a wasted life.

    Moreover, caring about how others think about us is a stressful errand which drains our energy and leaves little for us to lead healthy and productive lives.

  • VAT: the future predicts the past

    We cannot predict an uncertain future based on our perception of the past. However, while the present is what it is whatever it is, we can explain the present in the context of the past. Thus, the past is of little value.

  • VAT: Half-full or half-empty

    Whether a glass is half-full or half-empty depends on our attitude; half-full reflects gratitude; half-empty implies suffering which arises from desiring that which is not available. Regardless of our attitude, the glass is always full, ranging from full of liquid to full of air. Something like air is not visually tangible and that we take it for granted doesn’t deny its existence.

  • VAT: Creating a tempest

    Don’t read tea leaves too carefully lest you create a tempest in a teacup.

  • Shawn Nolan

    “There was no reason for the government to kill him…In any case, they failed. The Dustin Honken they wanted to kill is long gone.”

    Shawn Nolan is a lawyer who represented Dustin Honken, 52, who was executed by the federal government for murders he committed when he was 27. Several religious leaders described Honken as someone who today is completely unlike the 27 year old murder; as a compassionate individual who has evolved spiritually.

    Every day we are born again, unlike the person we were yesterday who is now no longer. However, we unconsciously choose to assume the identity of the person whom we once were, living like a dead man walking. When we awaken to the reality that today and everyday is our birthday, the people whom we once were are just an imaginary memory and we are free from the stories that connect us to them. Honken had this awakening and the government did not.

  • Ronald Graham

    “The main obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. You think you know. But no, you don’t. Once you understand that you don’t know, then your mind is a little more open to say, ‘Oh, OK, there are other possibilities, maybe it’s not true after all.’ Even though you wanted it to be true.”

    Humility in the form of having an awareness of our ignorance arouses our curiosity which leads us to fascinating insights beyond our preconceived notions.

  • VAT: Simple Road to Happiness

    Some lives are complicated, some simple. Complicated lives seem more interesting with lots of scenes, emotional upheavals, dramas, complications and details. But as the devil is in the details, complicated lives are a dance with the devil and at times overwhelming.

    Simple lives are happy lives, filled with gratitude for their good fortune of living simple lives.

    When at times our lives become complicated and overwhelming, best to simplify them and realize the happiness of a simple life.

  • VAT: Context

    Black paint in a can

    brushed on a canvass

    and spilled on the floor.

    In the can it’s $30,

    on the canvas priceless

    and on the floor worthless.

    Same paint, never the same.

  • Jim Morrison

    “No one gets out of here alive.”

    While our ineffable soul is eternal, we are forever transitioning through life and inevitably transition from our temporary bodies. Best to make the most of the physical experience of being alive and enjoy its sensuous pleasures.  Otherwise, we may be fraught with regrets at the end of days, regrets for not having lived.

    Jim Morrison died at 27; a relatively short life; over the top full, not half empty.

  • Anonymous

    “If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.”

    If it makes cents, it may eventually make dollars.

  • VAT: Rain is just a memory

    We are but drops of water raining from the sky.

    No need to wonder why,

    as it’s clear when we die

    in the ground, river or sea

    where but a memory are we.

  • VAT: The Past provides a dim view of the future

    We often let the past overshadow the future, making the future hard to see in the clear light of day. It’s hard to see forward when looking back at the past. Those who know the present are best at seeing the future. Those who understand the present in the context of the past know little.

    Let’s say a stock is trading now at a price of $45/share. If we know everything about the history of the stock and how it traded relative to other stocks, relative to its earnings and all other metrics; we will not be as good at predicting the price at which it will trade tomorrow as will the person who knows only that it is trading now at $45.

  • Pablo Picasso

    “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

    A corollary: don’t do anything today you can put off and do tomorrow; tomorrow may never come, so why have regrets of having wasted your time in life doing something that didn’t need to be done; this is wisdom, not laziness.

    Taken together, Picasso’s proposition and the corollary guide us to live without regrets.

  • VAT: City Views

    Those who live in a city and view others who live in the suburbs as provincial are themselves provincial, viewing the world through simple categories.

  • Making Me Blue

    Is the sky blue?

    Is the sea blue?

    Maybe the blue in one reflects the blue from the other?

    Maybe as the blue sea water evaporates

    it makes the sky blue?

    Maybe the sky rains blue water

    making the sea blue?

    The sky is clear and so is the sea,

    everything is clear but me;

    befuddled by thoughts of from where comes the blue,

    making me blue.

  • VAT: Appreciating Nothing

    Between the drum beats of the pulse

    between the motion of breathing

    there is an empty space where all is still.

    When young, I anxiously waited in the empty space

    for the next beat or breath to engage my attention.

    Now, I rest in the empty space where nothingness reigns.

    From here, I can appreciate the wonder of creation.

  • Charles Bukowski

    “You have to die a few times before you can really live.”

    Every evening we die, every morning we are born again; some resemblance to the person we were yesterday. Other than the similar to yesterday’s circumstances in which we find ourselves when we are reborn in the morning, everything is completely new today, unique. This newness stirs us and we can awaken to really live the only life we ever have which is today.

    When we identify with the person we were in past lives (passed days of our lives as it’s conventionally known) and believe that person never died (that we are that same person today), we experience today in the context of our past; a life based on stories our mind has created. Unless we recognize we died heretofore, we cannot really live.

  • Charles Bukowski

    “The problem with the world is that intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

    Those who are fraught with doubt are wise, knowing that much of what unfolds in the world is random. Those never in doubt are often wrong, blinded stupid by overconfidence.

    A mix of doubts and confidence isn’t a problem but a blessing. Doubts move the world forward slower than otherwise, minimizing risks, and allow us to more easily adapt to changing circumstances(1), while confidence allows the world to realize itself.

    (1) As we can’t see what we can’t imagine, the value of doubts is that they arise from our imagining various scenarios which allows us to identify changing circumstances before their widespread realization limits our options of how to deal with them.

  • VAT: Perspective from death

    Wisdom is having and amalgamating multiple perspectives, not solely the perspective from our finite selves, the “I” perspective. Additional perspectives can be had when we truly connect with others and view the world as they see it. However, doing so is not easy. Alternatively, we can view our current circumstances from the prospective of the end of our days, the death perspective. The death perspective allows us insights into the many possible consequences (and how we would feel if they came to be) from the choices we make today; thus, limiting our regrets at the end of our days.

  • Haiku 5

    Leaves and flowers come and go.

    Branches slow to grow,

    only seen by those who know.

  • VAT: From Matter to Energy

    Everything is energy, waves of light and sound. When energy is slowed, it takes tangible forms, matter (E=M*C*C). On a personal level, we can convert matter into energy.

    Our interactions spark energy. When our interactions are habitual or mechanical, the energy sparks are almost imperceptible. However, when our interactions are sincere and authentic, we are awakened by a burst of energy. For example, walking by a mail carrier and nodding our head or saying “hello” is a mechanical interaction. Saying “thank you for taking care of us; it’s not an easy job; god bless you” sparks a burst of energy expressed as heartfelt laughs.

    How does that feel? Terrific, the energy is therapeutic as laughter is the best remedy for pain and stress.

  • VAT: Luck

    Bad luck is better than no luck.

    Misfortune we can attribute to bad luck. Doing so doesn’t diminish our confidence in our abilities, choices or efforts; thus, confidence allows us another chance at whatever at which we failed.

    No luck implies bad luck. But no luck is when things don’t work out and we have only ourselves to blame.

  • VAT: I am God

    I am God. Anyone who doesn’t recognize I’m God doesn’t recognize that they are God.

    God is the creator of the universe. The universe is the manifestation of God. God and the universe are one.

    God is that which is beyond our understanding. But we can know God. We can experience God. But there are no words to describe the experience. Thus, “[h]e who speaks, does not know. He who knows, does not speak.” — Lao Lzu.  That is why God, in the Bible when asked who he is, responds: “I am who I am.”

    Who are you?

  • VAT: The nerve of the nerve cells

    The body’s nerve cells make up 2% of its cells and consume 20% of its energy.

    “I’ve got the brains and you’ve got the money. Let’s go into business. In the first year we’ll be partners, split everything 50/50.”  “What about the second year?” “In the second year I’ll have the money and you’ll have the brains.”

    While the mind does not do hard physical work as do other cells, it creates our reality which saps much more energy.  It is also nimble at tricking others and often ourselves as well.

  • VAT: Discerning or Sophisticated.

    When we purchase something we are in fact purchasing two things, the thing and its price. The discerning buyer knows that. The sophisticated buyer does not.

    Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million on November 15, 2017 at Christie’s.

    The discerning buyer, by definition, has good judgement. The sophisticated buyer has a great deal of worldly experience and knowledge of fashion and culture. However, the sophisticated buyer, as implied by the root of the word sophisticated, is a sucker for sophism, a specious argument used for deceiving someone.

    An artwork is not worth much beyond its current cost of production when we can’t tell a genuine historical artwork from its facsimile as they both provide us with the same visual experience. That an artwork is rare, important and whatever are just magic words that levitate its price as high as the sky in an imaginary world. That’s called buying with our ears not our eyes.

  • Enlightenment

    Enlightenment is simply being one with the light. As everything is light and its infinite manifestations (E=M*C*C), when we are one with the light we are one with everything. We treat others as we wish to be treated because we and they are one. Moreover, those who are enlightened have multiple perspectives on whatever because they can view whatever from the perspectives of others with whom they are one, not solely from the perspective of their own finite selves. The first proposition is compassion and the second wisdom.

    The enlightened  are free to experience the present as it unfolds. They dismiss the past as an illusion whose only purpose is to teach us from our mistakes and successes. Otherwise, stories about our past are stories, an illusion. Thus, the enlightened can experience the present unshackled by preconceived notions.

    The enlightened also realize the transitory nature of  life and as such don’t take much seriously. They get a great laugh when they see others taking themselves seriously. In other words, they are one with the light and take things lightly.

    The last characteristic of enlightened people is that the light they emanate unveils the true nature of the universe . This is the ultimate purpose of enlightenment, to not suffer in life or death.

  • Anonymous

    The more you look the less you see.

    When we look for something, our mind focuses on what we are seeking and tries to identify it as something separate from everything else in our line of vision. In doing so, we are blind to everything else. Likewise, we fail to see the forest when we’re looking for a particular tree; fail to realize we’re unlikely to find a particular tree in a vast forest and more likely to find ourselves lost than to find the tree.

  • The Wise Cells

    We are all cells in one human body; some of us nerve cells, heart cells, fat cells, skin cells, blood cells, etc. Virtually all (other than those on the border) of each specific type of cell lives in a world surrounded by similar cells. These clusters of cells are all essentially identical in their function and behavior. As well, they think alike.

    The most unusual cells are the blood cells. Red blood cells don’t have a nucleus, they are essentially ego-less. Unlike all other cells, the blood cells travel the body and visit all the other cell clusters. Unlike other types of cells, the red blood cells have the most direct interaction with other cells as they bring them oxygen for sustenance and remove carbon dioxide which would otherwise kill them. Other cell clusters recognize the red blood cells as cells of the body but as unlike themselves; they view the red blood cells as eccentric because they think and behave differently. While each cell cluster depends on the red blood cells for survival, the commercial relationship they have with the red blood cells is not like the familial relationship they have with cells similar to themselves.  Each unique cell cluster thinks differently, but likewise as regards red blood cells.

    The red blood cells, unlike other cells, recognize that there are many different types of cells in the body whose experience of being alive and perception of the world is very different. The red blood cells identify with all other cells as they know that all cells do not have an independent existence, they are manifestations of the body. By identifying with all cells, the red blood cells have many perspectives of the world. While the nerve cells might be the smartest, the white blood cells the toughest, the stomach cells the most caustic, the bone cells the most rigid, etc.; clearly the red blood cells are the wisest.

    As their perspectives are many and as they devote their lives to serve others, the red blood cells embody the essence of enlightenment: wisdom and compassion.

  • Ecclesiastes

    “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

    We live in a world (under the sun) of objects (things that have been and will be) and interactions (what has been done and will be done).  Time, in the forms of past and future, is meaningless as the past and the future are essentially indistinguishable in terms of things and interactions; they are solely constructs of our mind’s memory and imagination. There is nothing new under the sun as energy (the sun) is all there is; energy transitioning into infinite forms of matter (E=M*C*C); ever-changing but nothing new.  To seek that which is truly new is a fool’s errand. Best to free our mind from its preoccupation with memory and imagination and open ourselves to the infinite combinations of everything here.

  • VAT: The Lamppost

    Unlike the light atop a lamppost that guides our path forward, generalizations and the stories we’ve created to describe the past are like a lamppost supporting a befuddled drunkard who thinks he’s on good footing and understands the world about him.

  • VAT: Piece or Peace

    When we no longer imagine ourselves as solely a separate piece of the universe we are at peace with the universe.

  • Albert Einstein

    “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

    When the mind is calm it doesn’t engage us in a wrestling match. We can then deploy it to observe the infinite manifestations of the universe and create an order of things that make temporary sense of it all. In the preceding sentence, the second “it” is ambiguous; unclear if “it” refers to mind or universe or both or neither. Maybe all that can be said is that it is what it is whatever it is.

  • VAT: Follow your dreams?

    Follow your dreams only if you keep your eyes open.

    If you’re passionate about a career but lack the talent to make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.

    A singer with a lot of passion and no talent can be successful as a comedian.

  • VAT: Forever

    No thing but nothing is forever.

    The universe is ever-changing manifestations of nothing. Every thing, before and after it is, is nothing.

  • The woman from Tibet

    In the cold of winter, February 1992, I drove with a guide from Lhasa Tibet to Kathmandu. During the four day trip we picked up a couple of hitchhikers. One was a 40 year old woman who looked deep into her 60s. Her skin was very dark for a Tibetan but that was apparently dirt from not having recently bathed. She was friendly and open about her life. She said she rarely bathed since her village home had no running water; had last bathed in a river in the summer; never in her life had a shower.

    Every morning as I shower I think about that woman, imagine how she would feel in the shower with its temperature controls, great water volume and soothing soap melting accumulated dirt, yak candle smoke and caked perspiration. Feeling it’s the first shower of my life, my awareness of everything is heightened, I glow with gratitude; an unforgettable experience.

    When involved in the mundane, it’s easy to fall into automatic pilot mode and oblivion. Imagining ourselves as someone who has never experienced these activities allows us to experience them as for first time which in fact it is as each time is never as any time before.

  • Wayne Dyer

    “Be open to everything and attached to nothing.”

    This concept didn’t sit well with my wife, until I explained it.

    Being open to everything means we realize the universe is endless realities and possibilities. When we are attached to nothing, we don’t take any reality or possibility too seriously or confuse any as the sole expression of reality. This is the essence of wisdom.

    Nothing is what everything is before it is what it is whatever it is. Nothing is the essence of reality. When we are attached to nothing we are one with everything. This leads to compassion as we thus treat everything as we treat ourselves.

    It is wisdom (realizing infinite perspectives and possibilities) and compassion (oneness with the infinite expressions of reality) that open the door to enlightenment.

  • VAT: It’s all downhill from here

    The phrase “it’s all downhill from here” has duel meanings: going forward things will get easier or things will worsen. It’s meaning reflects our attitude.

    For example, through much of our lives we have more time than money and we trade our time for money. However, at some point we crossover; we have more money than time.  It’s all downhill from here as our lives are now relatively easy as we are financially free to do as we wish or it’s all downhill from here if we think our life will progressively worsen as we run out of time.

  • VAT: Year-end Bonuses

    Employees believe the amount of their year-end bonus is a function of their past performance. Employers pay bonuses as a function or whether they want to retain an employee for the upcoming year. That’s why an employee remains an employee and the employer is the employer. The employee only looks back but for looking forward to their bonus. The successful employer looks forward.

  • VAT: Awakened with laughter

    After all the time and effort spent on the meditations, the retreats, the rituals, the costumes, the holidays, etc. and especially embracing the abstract concepts explaining our destiny after death, hopefully we awaken with the sound of our hysterically laughing at the absurdity of it all. If not, our time and efforts have been for little but maintaining the obstacles others face on the path to enlightenment.

  • Heraclitus

    “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

    The only constant in the universe is change; the river, the man and everything is ever-changing. Anything to the contrary is an illusion.

    While no man can step in the same river twice, he can drink from it many times. A man today can remember the experiences of the man he once was and use the knowledge gained from those experiences for his own welfare.

  • VAT: Guiding Those Transitioning

    When you are at the bed of someone who is transitioning, at the point when they will not return in bodily form, the last goodnight, the last sleep after countless thousands of temporary sleeps; hold their hand and play transcendental music like a bell ringing in the empty sky to quiet their mind until they and the waves of sound become one. If the urge to speak arises, what is there to say but “I love you, always have, always will, always and all ways. Thank you for being you. Thank you for having me.”

  • VAT: Every day made purposeful

    The purpose of life is to have a wonderful time of it every day, to realize our potential and to help others likewise. However, some days we are distracted by difficulties and life doesn’t seem all that wonderful. Then, if we step away from what’s engaging us and focus on helping others, we’ll have a purposeful day and at least have a wonderful time vicariously.

  • VAT: Identities

    When we identify with one country, one religion, one political party or one role in life to the exclusion of all others, our experience of life is not unique and we are oblivious that we are one with everything. We are however what we’ve always been: nothing, nothing shrouded by various identities. Nothing is forever nothing.

  • VAT: Funhouse

    Life is surprising, challenging and ultimately amusing. That’s the definition of a funhouse.

  • VAT: What’s Uninteresting is Interesting

    Everything is interesting. If not, that too is interesting as that tells us something about ourselves: that we are not interesting. Much of life is experiencing ourselves again and again in different forms; always the same and always and all ways different.

  • Gary Saul Morson

    “I used to get a laugh from students by quoting a Soviet citizen I talked to once. He said to me, ‘Of course we have freedom of speech. We just don’t allow people to lie.’ That used to get a laugh! They don’t laugh anymore.”

    Today we have freedom of speech, as long as no one is listening.

  • VAT: Idol Worship

    Idol worship is holding sacred a tangible object and interacting with it as though it is god, that which reigns supreme over all that will transpire over time.  The idol negates the sacredness of all else. Everything, however, is a manifestation of god. Holding an object sacred and another not negates the presence of god in everything. Likewise, taking something (other than that which are lives are dependent upon) very seriously is akin to idol worship.

  • VAT: Closing Our Eyes to See

    To see things as they really are, not as a function of our memories or limited perspectives, we need close our eyes; for everything otherwise is an illusion; it’s true nature is nothingness; never-changing and eternal.

  • VAT: The wonder of it all

    Life is always and all ways wonderful, though few so realize as they sleep through it or take themselves so seriously they forget they’re alive. However, at some point we all realize the wonder of it all; hopefully long before the end of days, allowing us to appreciate it all. That’s the essence of happiness.

  • Axis Mundi

    “No tree… can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” Carl Gustav Jung

    Earth is the domain of heaven and hell. Hell is the brutal realm of animal consciousness where all life resides in ever-changing conflict and inter-dependency. Axis Mundi connects hell and heaven. It is a path only man can traverse. Heaven is the light from which everything springs; it is eternal, where everything is one and man is one with everything. However, to exist, our lives are conditioned on having roots in hell.

  • VAT: Happiness and Memories

    Happiness is not necessarily doing that which we enjoy but that which leaves us with happy memories.

  • VAT: One Mind

    There is only one mind to which each of us are connected. Those who think otherwise are disconnected from reality.

    The mind is a reflecting pond. Each of us is stationed at different points along the perimeter of mind and our individual perspectives of reflections of mind are from those respective points. We each tend to take our finite perspective seriously and identify it as reality. However, reality is truly revealed when we have an amalgam of perspectives from infinite points along the perimeter of mind. This is the essence of wisdom.

  • Patrick Mahomes

    “I grew up in a locker room where people from every race, every background, and every community came together and became brothers to accomplish a single goal…Let’s be the world where …we love each other unconditionally.”

    Love is when we identify with each other and serve each other as we wish to be served because we are one with each other; when we work together for the benefit of the whole instead of for our personal benefit.

    “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has first destroyed itself from within.” — Will Durant

    A structure easily collapses when it lacks integrity as when we prioritize our identity with fractional groups rather than with the whole. This is like the disease called cancer.

  • VAT: Hearing or Listening

    Others hear the sounds we make when we express our unsolicited opinions. But to get them to listen, we need them to ask us questions which get their attention to focus on our views. If we arouse their curiosity by asking them questions, they in turn might ask us questions. In that process, we might both learn something. Otherwise, expressing our unsolicited views is an intellectual or emotional bowel movement; feels good but puts off those nearby.

  • Anonymous

    “Sometimes I sit quietly and wonder why I’m not in a mental institution. Then I take a good look around at everyone and realize…maybe I already am.”

  • VAT: Everything is Nothing

    Every thing is everything and everything is nothing.

    Every thing is unique. No thing can be described or categorized as every thing is forever transitioning, a temporary part of everything and one with everything. As every thing does not exist before it transitions into its present form, everything is nothing.

  • VAT: Apocalypse

    When we go to sleep, as when we ultimately transition to death, we become one with everything. Those who know this truth are also one with everything much of the time when they’re awake because they’re awake. Those who don’t are asleep much of their waking time, tossing and turning between memories and desires and seriously taking themselves seriously.

    The apocalypse (revelations) is when we arise from bed and the truth is revealed in how we experience life; some of us awaken and others continue in a sleep state. This is the difference between heaven and hell.

  • Herbert Spencer

    “Survival of the fittest.”

    In the short-run it may be survival of the fittest, the fattest or the smartest. In the long-run it is survival of the ones who can see change coming and are quick to adapt to it. Those who are the fittest, wealthiest or smartest have the inside track in the race to the future. But those who are the wisest are more likely to finish the race which one can’t win unless they finish. The wisest can envision many possible future outcomes; they know who they are and whether they can change to changing circumstances or need to move on to change their circumstances.

  • Oscar Wilde

    “[C]ynic…a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing…a sentimentalist…is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of a single thing.”

    A cynic doubts the value of everything; hence, he accepts values based on market prices. For example, he accepts that a Rolls Royce is worth $400K because that’s the price at which a willing buyer and seller agree, regardless of the relative merits of the car or its cost of production. A sentimentalist values everything based on personal feelings and thoughts without regard to the reality of prices determined in the marketplace. For example, a sentimentalist might be unwilling to sell for $10K a ring received as a gift and replaceable for $1K.

    The cynic values things empirically, it is what it is whatever it is.  The sentimentalist values things based on concepts and theories that on occasion comport with reality.

    Successful traders are cynical. They tend to view the current price of something as the best predictor of its price in the immediate future. Thus, they buy and sell things based on price trends. As something is moving higher in price they buy more and more of it at higher and higher prices. When the price trend breaks, they liquidate their positions at whatever the prevailing prices. Thus they buy high and sell low.

    Successful investors are sentimental. They believe the value of something is a function of its relative value and cost of production. That belief allows them to continue buying something as its price declines while whatever they purchased previously is worth less than they paid. In this way they buy on average at lower prices. Likewise, as prices rise they sell. Thus, they buy low and sell high.

    Both traders and investors can be successful as long as they know who they are and adhere to their respective strategies.

  • VAT: Curiosity

    Our mind is like a muscle, use it or lose it. Curiosity engages our mind with questions. Curiosity identifies anomalies our mind efforts to understand which keeps our mind functioning at peak levels.

  • Hannah Arendt

    “The banality of evil.”

    Evil is not solely the domain of Hitler and the many other thugs in history but commonplace. Evil is the lack of compassion; viewing others as others, not as ourselves which is who they are.

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    “Nothing is worth more than this day. You cannot relive yesterday. Tomorrow is still beyond your reach.”

    Best to make the most of what we have and not dwell on that which we don’t have lest we waste what we have.

  • VAT: Sharing Energy

    An ice cube alone melts faster than many ice cubes congregating together.

    Connecting with others is energizing which in turn sustains us.

  • VAT: Between Birth and Death

    Our time in life is relatively short when compared to the time after we transition to death and before we transition to birth. The time before birth must be long because we can’t remember any of it. But maybe we don’t remember it because before birth we are one with everything and as such, with no mind, there is nothing to remember.

  • VAT: LSD

    I took LSD when I was 16. I can’t describe the experience. It is ineffable. It is what it is whatever it is. Like the Tao, it is nameless; like Moses meeting God in the desert who identifies himself to Moses as “I am who I am.”

    The only memory I have of it all is that I wanted to eat my mind so that my mind and I would be one. Some would say it sounds like I had lost my mind, perhaps so. Alternatively, I realized I was a prisoner of mind and that the only path to freedom was to merge mind and self as mind and self is all there is. That realization, the first awakening.

  • VAT: Divine Consciousness

    What’s good for you is good for me.

    This is the nature of divine consciousness. You and I are one and one with everything.

  • VAT: Killing Time

    Every moment is an extraordinary moment of creation that we should treat accordingly. Otherwise, what goes around comes around, we kill time until time kills us. This happens simultaneously, as killing time is an acknowledgement that we are dead.

  • Delphi

    “Know thyself and thou shalt know all the mysteries of the gods and of the universe.” — Inscription on the Greek temple at Delphi.

    You, I, the gods and the universe are one.

  • VAT: The Pundits

    They understand much and know little;

    long on intelligence, short on wisdom;

    have more answers than questions.

    High on an imaginary pecking order.

    Never in doubt, often wrong.

    The more they look the less they see

    for they cannot see what they cannot imagine.

     

    Following the advice of pundits is the penalty we pay for not thinking independently.

  • Henry Demarest Lloyd

    “Liberty produces wealth, and wealth destroys liberty.”

    The consequences of too much of a good thing are not a good thing for the good thing.

    Liberty allows capitalism; capitalism creates wealth; wealth leads to power which soon concentrates among an elite and in turn disenfranchises all of their liberty.

    “Under socialism everyone (except the leaders) is equal. As in equally fucked” in terms of individual liberties. — William Wisher.

  • P.D. Ouspensky

    “When one realizes one is asleep, at that moment one is already half-awake.”

    Self-consciousness precedes universal consciousness.

  • Terry Lenzner

    “[T]he truth is what you can get enough people to believe.”

    What is commonly agreed upon as the truth has nothing to do with the truth; just a consensus, a group think. If we accept such truths as the truth, we are not thinking for ourselves.

  • VAT: Knowing Nothing is Everything

    You need to know you know nothing before you can truly know nothing which is all there is to know.

  • Mindlessness

    The mind is like a pond reflecting reality. We experience reality not as it is but as reflections. The reflections most accurately represent reality when the mind is calm, undisturbed by motion beneath the water and activity above. Motion beneath the pond is a function of us not having integrity and our reacting to stories of our past we’ve created.  Activity above the pond is a function of multitasking and distractions like desiring that which we don’t need.

    Mindlessness is the purpose of meditation. Meditation is a tool to calm the mind by focusing on, say, solely our breathing. This is mindfulness meditation. Beyond mindfulness, we can advance to mindlessness meditation wherein we focus on the space of nothingness between breaths; that is, the space between when we exhale and before we inhale again. In the space of nothingness we are free from distractions and are ready to experience reality (the present) before it becomes just a reflection from mind.

    In the space of nothingness we experience the present and the nature of mind is revealed. Once revealed, we realize the mind’s reflections are not reality but a derivative based on reality that’s distorted by a disturbed state of mind. This realization transforms our relationship with mind from the mind being our master to our servant. The is the foundation of enlightenment.

    So remember, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. If we forget this, enlightenment will be the least of our problems.

  • VAT: The Now

    When we know the now we know it is beautiful, energizing, wonderful, eternal, ever-changing and we know the now and we are one. But the now is fragile, easily destroyed by distractions of the illusionary past or future which ultimately destroy us.

  • VAT: Truly Wealthy

    Wealth is when we have what we need and don’t need what we want.

    When we have what we need we are free. Wanting imprisons us by demanding our attention. It will never be satisfied as the more we feed it the hungrier it gets.

  • VAT: Unique and the Same

    We are born unique and the same; unique as unlike anything or anyone else and the same as one of infinite manifestations of God. Our purpose is not to be oblivious to this reality and live accordingly.

    When we identify with one group or another (religion, nation, special interests, etc.), we no longer have an independent perspective and are no longer unique; nor are we one with everything as group identities create a world of us and them.

  • VAT: Awakening

    When we asleep we are one with everything. When we awaken we can quickly assume our prior identities and live in the shadows of the past or we can realize we are slowly separating from being one with everything and becoming selves that are apart and separate from everything. The latter is truly an awakening to the light.  Either way, once awakened, the purpose of life is to become one with everything before we temporarily or permanently asleep.

  • VAT: The Big Time

    Our time in this world is small. The time before and after is big. By focusing on the big time and unlocking its mystery our purpose in life becomes self-evident. If we can’t solve that mystery, simply live as you would wish to be remembered.

  • William Wisher

    “No one lies on their death bed and thinks: I wish I had more money.”

    At some point in life we reach a crossover point when we realize we have more money than time. Certainly we reach the crossover point in our last moments of life. But as each of has thousands of lives encapsulated as a life each day, we are at the crossover point soon after we awaken from our sleep.

  • Tupac Shakur

    “Real eyes   realize   real lies.”

    When we see the universe with our real eyes we realize our mind was telling us real lies. We go through life sleeping and seeing our world thru our mind. What we see is an illusion, real lies. When we open our eyes and see the universe through our real eyes we realize we’ve been asleep for much of our lives.

  • Present-passed and True-present

    The past is the past and what we perceive as the present is also the past. We consciously experience the present as “present-passed,” not  the “true-present.” The true-present is reality in real time. It unfolds before we consciously experience it. The conscious experience of the past (the past and present-passed) is our perception of reality as it’s reflected off our pond-like mind.

    The mind is a mnemonic device (etymology of mind: memory). Memories are illusions we have about the past. We perceive the past as memories and related stories we’ve created about it. Again, the reflections are reflections of the past, an illusion.

    The two constants in the universe are change and interdependence. Thus, the true-present cannot be described beyond saying that it is what it is whatever it is. Like God who meets Moses in the desert and like the Tao, it is nameless.

    We experience the true-present when we are in the gap between true-present and present-passed. This is the space of nothingness. It is like breathing. After we exhale we pause before inhaling. That pause is the space of nothingness. When in that space, we are set to experience the true-present as it unfolds. “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” — The Beatles, Across the Universe.

    The true-present unfolds as waves of light and sound energy; visually, like a kaleidoscope. It is overwhelming, like trying to drink water coming off a fire-hose.

    The purpose of the mind is to organize the true-present so that it’s drinkable, not overwhelming.

    Experiencing the true-present is akin to hallucinating. The etymology of the word hallucinate is to wander in the mind. In our everyday life, we experience the world as reflections from a point along the perimeter of the pond-mind. As is our habit, every day we go to the same point on the perimeter which results in us having a consistent perspective of the world. However, the mind often is turbulent (a function of our lacking integrity and other distractions) and its reflections distorted. When we calm the mind (through practices like meditation), we can leave its perimeter and wade into the pond, wander in the mind. It is here we can experience the true-present.

    In experiencing the true-present, we realize that the reality we’ve heretofore experienced was not reality; just reflections, illusions. The true-present is curvilinear and rectilinear cosmic waves of images and sounds that overwhelming come upon us until we drown. Our drowning however results not in our personal demise; it’s the demise of the various identities we’ve created that define us, the various stories we’ve made up about who we are. It is here when we realize that the past was just an illusion; that we are truly one of the waves, one with everything; as we’ve always been from before our beginning.

    Then, we fall down laughing as we realize the play of life and our roles in it are based on illusions. The play starts as a tragedy and ends as a farce when the true-present is revealed.

  • Wayne Dyer

    “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

    We see through our mind reflections of things that have passed. The reflections are not real, just illusions. When we change our perspective or the way we see things, what we see invariably changes as it never had an inherent reality to it.

  • VAT: Is the Sun Moving and Standing Still?

    It seems to happen once a day.

    But endlessly and simultaneously

    the sun is rising and setting somewhere,

    moving and standing still.

  • The Sun God

    The sun is a sacred circle from which everything flows.

    The sun is all that is.

    Matter and energy are one and the same;

    indescribable and nameless,

    it is what it is whatever it is.

    The past and present are finite, finished;

    their only remnants are illusions in our mind.

    The future is infinite, a work in progress.

    The future, the sun’s transitions into infinite forms,

    is visible but for our fear of going blind.

    So we turn our backs to the sun,

    forget its presence beyond as a marker for day and night

    and only see the overshadowed past and present

    as the way the world is.

    That’s an illusion our mind creates

    of a world that is no longer and really never was.

  • VAT: Money

    Money to humans is like fertilizer to plants. Fertilizer helps plants realize their potential, but too much of it can make beautiful roses smell like shit.

    When we have enough money to provide for our needs, we can focus our time on realizing our divine potential. As to our wants, we will never have enough money to satisfy them; thus we can waste our time and upset ourselves desiring that which we cannot have or try to make more money that will never be enough.

  • VAT: Entitlements

    We are given the temporary gift of life and are entitled to nothing else. Realizing that life is not fair and much of what happens is a function of randomness hedges us against disappointments.

  • Taoism and Judaism

    The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao does not complain. The Tao does not argue. The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.

    The Tao is not Jewish because the Tao is the Tao and Jewish is Jewish. Each is what it is whatever it is.

     

  • The Tao

    “The Way [Tao] is ever nameless. Though simple and subtle…As soon as rules were made, names were given. There are already many names. One must know when it is enough. Those who know when it is enough will not perish.” — Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32.

    Names are descriptions and identities. They are essential to the networks of communication and social order. Names are shortcut references to aspects of reality. However, names mask reality. Describing and explaining too much can make us oblivious to reality. While reality cannot be described, it can be known. Those who know reality know that it is one, with no beginning and no end, that they and reality are one and as such they never die as death is also a name.

  • George Bernard Shaw

    “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

    “The greatest communication problem is that we listen to reply, not to understand.” — Anthony Pica

  • VAT: Turning misfortunes into misfortunes

    Those who don’t take responsibility for their misfortunes blame their misfortunes on others or bad luck.  They don’t learn from their misfortunes which brings them more misfortunes.

  • Voltaire

    “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”

    Time heals all wounds, sooner or later. When our time runs out we have no wounds.

  • Sabine Hugueny

    “People are both afraid of dying and living too long.”

    We don’t want to die but we don’t want be around to the point where we can’t live as we do now.

    Those afraid of dying need to realize that every time we asleep we die and when awakened we are reborn with some resemblance to the person we were yesterday who is now no longer. When we die we are as before we were born, one with everything, which is as good as it gets. We need not fear dying as we’ve done it thousands of times.

    Many of us don’t want to live with physical limitations, pain and suffering. However, physical limitations are an inherent part of our lives; e.g., we can’t fly. Finding ourselves in pain is overwhelming unless we are sufficiently enlightened to laugh it off.  Suffering, which stems from desiring that which we cannot have, is not a problem when we make the best of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

    No need to fear dying or living too long as today is the only life we have. Tomorrow we will be someone else, for better or worse.

  • VAT: The Zoo

    Much of our interactions with others is akin to a stroll in the zoo. The lions, tigers and elephants are beautiful and majestic as we view them from afar, roaming in their cages. Surely we would view them differently if we shared their cage, assuming we survive the experience. In the zoo we view them in isolation, superficially; unlike the experience of meeting them in a cage face to face where all we see is their true nature and our own.

  • Voltaire

    “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

    Much of what happens in life is random, prompting anxiety about what’s next. What’s next can be viewed probabilistically which provides some clarity but doesn’t allay anxiety. While definitive prognostications are assuring and comforting, relying on them is absurd as they are rarely right and ill-prepare us to deal with the unexpected which can be more of an overwhelming problem than the anxiety.

  • God Plays Hide and Seek

    Alan Watts in The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are:

    “God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

    Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do.

    He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

    Of course, you must remember that God isn’t shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn’t any outside to him.

    The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as ‘he’ and not ‘she,’ God isn’t a man or a woman. I didn’t say ‘it’ because we usually say ‘it’ for things that aren’t alive. “God is the Self of the world, but you can’t see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can’t see your own eyes, and you certainly can’t bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

    You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn’t really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.”

    Everything is a manifestation of God. When we perceive God as something different than ourselves, we can never be one with God.

  • William Shakespeare

    “The play’s the thing.”

    Hamlet says “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” The king’s guilty conscience will be revealed by the king’s obvious embarrassment as he is watching the play.

    It’s odd that an expression that’s ambiguous to the point of meaningless is well-recognized. It must speak to certain truths.

    In the play of life, our intentions, actions and their consequences are revealed. So while the play is a fiction, it reveals the reality of who we are.

    The play’s the thing; that is, something that cannot be described beyond  “thing.” It is what it is whatever it is. It can be anything we want it to be.

  • Eckhart Tolle

    “Don’t Seek Happiness. If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness.”

    Suffering is desiring that which is not on our menu of immediate choices. When we are suffering we are not happy.

    If nothing on the menu makes us happy, we can choose ingredients from different line items and cook up something that does. Alternatively, we can just laugh off our situation (how stupid, ugly and selfish of us take our desires seriously in light of how fortunate we are). Laughter dissipates pain and suffering which then allows us the opportunity to be happy.

    The foundation of happiness is gratitude for our good fortune and optimism that all will be better.

  • God’s Role

    In the play of life I am who I am. I am god and so is everyone else. The only difference between us is that some realize we are god and others are oblivious to who we are before birth and after death and all times in between. It’s the difference between being one with everything (eternally transitioning manifestations of God) and viewing oneself as finite in space and time (birth to death). It’s the difference between realizing we are actors in a play for our own entertainment and taking our roles in the play seriously. In cannabis speak, it’s the difference between being high and feeling stoned.

    Everything is a manifestation of God. As long as we perceive God as something different than ourselves, we can never be one with God, one with everything.

  • Kanako Iiyama Awakens

    Recounting the train accident in Japan on April 25, 2005: “I had a sense something will happen…and went back to the train. I saw the tragedy of the train snapping in two and the people underneath it. The ambulance didn’t make it in time, so I dragged out the people around me who were breathing. Yes, it has changed the way I live my life a bit. I began to take a narrow, short path. It’s not like before. The scenery around me were all clear and the nature was near there, making for a very beautiful way.”

    A moment of awakening. There is a small gap between when something happens and when we realize it has happened. Before the accident became real, Kanako was in that gap and knew something was happening which called her to the train. When the accident became real she did what she could to help, stepped out of her role as a pedestrian and acted as an ambulance person in triage. (When we awaken we realize any role in the play of life is ours to assume.) At this moment of awakening she realized that right then right there was different than all that came before in her life (“It’s not like before.”).  Moreover, she knew that as life can end in an instant, best to awaken as soon as possible; best “to take the narrow, short path” to self-realization*. Then she awoke to the beauty of everything around her and her path forward as the accident and its ramifications were now long past.

     

    *The narrow and short path to self-realization is the meditation of death. It is setting our mind on the thought that we will die moments from now. Soon, the overwhelming energy of everything is revealed; that we and the energy are one. However, it is a narrow path and if we slip along the way we may very well not make it through. The wide and long path to self-realization is working with an enlightened master, formally receiving his teachings and engaging in meditative/contemplative practices. It is a long path as it involves many years of work until we get it. It is a wide forgiving path as it is walked with the support of the master and other students.

  • Friedrich Nietzsche

    “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

    The victors write history stories as pleases them. When we understand the present in the context of history, we fail to identify the victors of the future. In other words, we often can’t see future possibilities when we imagine them in the context of the stories of the past.

  • VAT: Creation to Cremation

    Black hole
    Big Bang
    Fireworks
    Confetti

  • Why Buddha doesn’t need a guru

    The Buddha’s path to enlightenment is without a guide or guru. On the path he observes the world around him, questions his observations, realizes he knows nothing and that ultimately there is nothing to know. He knows that of the universe can only be said that it is what it is whatever it is. Any other descriptions are illusory. He realizes he is temporarily part and eternally one with the universe and whatever happens to him in this life is of little matter in the scheme of things. As he is one with everything he treats others as he would wish to be treated. This is compassion. As one with everything he can experience whatever happens to him from the infinite perspectives of others. This is wisdom. Wisdom mitigates the affect his personal perspectives have on him. In other words, when we are one with the universe we significantly hedge the idiosyncratic risks in our lives. (1) This has a calming effect and provides us a good laugh seeing others take their personal perspectives seriously. That is why in classic images of Buddha he is laughing. All other truths Buddha realizes stem from the foregoing.

    While gurus can be helpful as guides, they are no substitute for independent thinking. Few who follow gurus ever awaken to the truths of the Buddha. Most simply play the role of follower in the play of life. They will likely learn much but know little. That’s their life.

    (1) Idiosyncratic risks are those that are personal to an individual, like an accidental fire in our house. Experiencing the related losses is difficult but less so when we also experience it from the perspectives of our neighbors and others.

  • Integrity

    The etymology of “integrity” is wholeness. When we have integrity we are of one mind. We can hold disparate perspectives but those perspectives, while they may be diametrically opposite, are don’t give rise to internal conflicts. We are free to make clear choices without ambivalence.

    Many of us lack integrity. While we appear as one person, within us are many people arguing, each telling us what to do. For example, one person in our head tells us to have a cigarette, we’ll enjoy it. Another person says don’t smoke, it’s not good for us. Likewise, externally we may lie to others so that they view us in a way unlike who we truly are, giving rise to two different people, who we are and who we project ourselves to be; again, lacking integrity. That these various people within and without us exist begs the question: who are we?

    Each of us is like a ship with a captain, first mate, navigator and oarsmen. The shipmates often fight over control of the ship’s steering wheel, forcing the ship to change its course.  The captain can assert control through discipline, get each shipmate to perform their respective function and steer the ship’s course. But at some point the captain needs to sleep, the mates leave their stations, enter the captain’s cabin and again start fighting over the wheel to change the ship’s course. As such, discipline is often an ineffective way to develop integrity.

    Love and meditation are an effective way to making us whole, to promote integrity. Love is connecting with others harmoniously, accepting them and their perspectives. Love connects all the shipmates within us and accepts their views and needs. With love, the shipmates work together for the benefit of each other and the whole.

    Meditation is a process for calming the mind. The mind is like a pond. We view the world as reflections off the surface of the mind. When the surface of the mind is disturbed by our different selves fighting within us, the images reflected are distorted and we don’t see the world clearly. Through meditation we calm the mind and its reflections give us a clear view of our world, allowing us to make choices not skewed by conflict. We have courage, resolve and strength of character; grit, the root of integrity.

  • The Experience

    When I was 16, living in Brooklyn with my parents, one summer night I drove to Sheepshead Bay and sat on the rocks along the beach. Reflections from the moon danced on the water, the ocean breathed in the surf and breathed out a roar as it crashed on the shore. The sounds, the motion, the light and darkness felt eerie, a bit frightening as I was infinitesimal before the infinite . I wondered why the ocean, expressing itself and affecting me more than most people I knew, was not considered as alive as are plants and animals. What did it mean to be alive? The “alive” classification made little sense. Other classifications and definitions also seemed senseless. What defined me and not me.

    Now, many years later, most classifications, descriptions and thoughts seem like empty boxes; helpful for organizing and communicating, but empty of the experiences they try to contain.

  • Corona Virus

    The corona virus pandemic is a terrific individual and collective existential moment. (Terrific once meant horrible/terrible and now of course means wonderful.) Like everything else in life the virus can be viewed in multiple ways; however, not viewing it at least in part as terrific implies we take our personal views too seriously and as such have a limited understanding of it’s nature and ramifications.

    It is an existential moment as we are awakened by the immediacy of death as many we know or hear about die unexpectedly and as death rings everywhere with highly publicized daily death tallies. While we know that no one is getting out of here alive, the virus is a constant reminder of that reality. This reminder arouses us to consider our own death which leads us to question why we are here in life and how should we use the time remaining before we die. Is there any value to us continuing from now until our death the same life routines we’ve embraced for years or should we do something more meaningful or of greater value to others? Contemplating this can lead us to a life-changing state of mind and life changes. Helping us make a life change is the quarantine which prohibits us from continuing our habits of socializing, shopping and other routines that devour much of our time. Having a break from these habits makes them easier to break which in turn gives us time for other matters that might result in a life change. This change is likely to be terrific.

    Collectively, it is also terrific. As now in quarantine we consume only what we need. The quarantine shows us that much of our consumption has been of goods and services that we want but don’t need. This suggests that maybe it’s better to have a life based on less expensive experiences than chasing things we don’t need. Moreover, the common threat of the virus solidifies nations and people everywhere which leads to peaceful coexistence. Thus, the virus is terrific as it may re-shift collective priorities to the benefit of all.

    Most of us will receive a reprieve from the virus. This will be a watershed moment for us; a point of reference from which we will judge whether our time from now until the end was well-served or we just killed time until time killed us.

  • Sequential and Synchronous Time

    Now is a time, now is the time.

    Now is a time as a point in time, a way to differentiate between past and future. This is sequential time. Now is the time as the only time that exists is now; past, present and future are all woven into now. This is synchronous time.

    Those experiencing time sequentially have a logical perspective, a narrow focus, start one task after another is finished, are conscientious, organized, punctual, view activities as finite, value time and are careful in how it’s spent and view the past, present and future as distinctly different. They view the future as something that can be organized based on the present and recent past. They tend to often glance at their watch to tell time as time is telling them what’s next. They work at jobs. They fish with a rod and reel.

    Those whose experience of time is synchronous are flexible, multitask and move seamlessly between activities, focus on a project and not on the time it takes to complete it, are more concerned with quality than quantity, develop long-term working relationships, perceive the world as continuous and view the past, present and future as continuous, not segmented. They feel that everyone dead or alive today is present; feel connected to them all, wherever they may be, and have their perspectives. They have careers. They fish with a net.

    Experiencing time synchronously allows us a broad and deep  understanding of our circumstances and opens us up to the many possibilities as the future unfolds.   A sequential view of time frames our expectations within our most recent experiences.  For example, in Germany in the 1930’s Jews with a sequential view of time had no reason to suspect the holocaust was coming. In 1871 Germany adapted a constitution that granted Jews social and political freedoms equal to all German citizens.  However, those with a synchronous sense of time knew of Jews burned in masses in barns in Germany during the Black Plague 600 years back. As such, they could envision a similar outcome with the rise of the Nazis and plan an escape before none was to be had.

    Time is time, whatever that is. We can artificially divide it and use it as a measuring tool or we can accept its ever-presence like a body of water where a school of fish swim.

  • Micro and Macro Love

    Love is having peak experiences as we connect with others and/or the universe.

    Micro or personal love is connecting with specific individuals or experiences.  It is physically pleasurable; intense; dramatic; joyful; sometimes painful. When in micro love we take ourselves seriously as it feels very real as it energizes us. It is an experience of heart and loins. It is finite as it is specific to the individuals or experiences that engender it.

    Macro love is love of everything. It is a sense of being one with everything; a calm, joyous state. It is an experience of heart and mind. It is knowing eternal life.

    While micro and macro love are mutually exclusive, we can experience both. However, those who haven’t experienced macro love only know micro love. Those who have macro love experiences can also experience micro love. Those solely experiencing micro love view those experiencing macro love as having an experience of the head not the heart, as not having truly experienced love. Those who experience macro love pity those whose only experience is micro.

  • Spirit and Soul

    Each of us is a unique spirit with a common soul.

    God is all there is. The universe is the manifestation of God.

    In the Bible, the Burning Bush is the image of God that appears to Moses at Mount Sinai. The flames are ever-changing and the bush is not devoured by the flames as they are light, not fire. The flames represent the spirit, the bush the soul.

    The etymology of spirit and soul is the same, breath. The two words are often used interchangeably. However, spirit and soul are different. Spirit is the animated, vibrating life force. Soul is the sole essence of everything alive or not. All that’s alive has a unique ever-changing spirit and everything alive or not has the same soul.

    We show up in life as spirits; some with high energy, some low; some big flames, some hardly visible; some volatile, some steady; each unique. When we go to sleep, we go to our death(1), our spirit is extinguished and our soul joins all other souls in the well of souls. As soul is the essence of everything, we are then one with everything. When we awaken our spirits arise. Soul is then only visible to those who know it exists and our attention focuses on our spirit and the spirits of others.  When aware of our soul, we can celebrate our common essence instead of finding ourselves distracted by spirits.

    (1) Each night we die, each morning reborn some resemblance to the person we were yesterday who is now no longer.  Each day is not a day in a life but a life in a day.

  • Joanne Parsons: Ain’t Complaining

    “Every morning when I look in the mirror I say to myself.  ‘You will never be younger or more beautiful than you are right now.  Make the most of it'”

  • The Purpose of Life

    The purpose of life is to have a happy go of it, realize our divine potential and help awaken others likewise.

    HAPPINESS

    Happiness is a function of gratitude, optimism and freedom from the karmic prison of our past lives (the days of our life now passed).

    Gratitude

    Gratitude is the realization that even the worst days could always be worse; for that we are grateful. When we are grateful we are “great-full,” full with feeling all is great.

    The etymology of  happy is “hap” which in Old Norse means luck. When we get lucky we immediately feel happy. When we realize how lucky we are relative to most who are here now or who once were and are no longer, we are grateful and happy.

    An antonym for gratitude is complaining. While complaining often feels good as an emotional bowel movement, complaining reflects and causes unhappiness. Moreover, complaining is selfish as in doing so we are oblivious of others who are truly suffering, those who would be very happy living our lives. When we view our lives from the perspective of those who are suffering, it’s clear we have much about which to be grateful.

    Nothing is perfect but the universe which the gods have created. As everything but the universe is imperfect, it is easy to find some aspect of everything about which to complain. Complaining is ugly as it makes this world less beautiful than it would be otherwise. Thus by complaining we risk that the gods hear us complaining and entertain themselves by putting us in harm’s way.

    Moreover, complaining makes it difficult to realize our potential as it engages our time and attention, distracting us from moving forward best we can. Complaining is akin to driving a car and paying much attention to what’s in the rear view mirror, increasing the chances of an accident which would give us something about which to truly complain.

    Optimism

    Optimism is based on the realization that the universe eternal; yet everything that comprises the universe is temporary, forever changing. As what is now will soon be no longer, difficult circumstances will change for better or worse and sooner or later for the better.

    Freedom

    Most of us are locked in a karmic prison. Karma is the intentions, actions and consequences in our prior lives that we’ve woven into generalizations, meanings and stories that affect our experience of the present. Our prior lives are days now passed as each day is a lifetime. Karma holds us in a prison of these preconceived notions and stories that keeps us from experiencing the ever-changing present as it is. To free ourselves from our karmic prisons, we need to realize that our past and all our stories are an illusion. Tangibly, this means that we forgive all who we perceive as having done us wrong in the past as they are now not the person they once were and we are not the person who was wronged. Likewise, we don’t have have feelings of entitlement, expecting those whom we’ve treated well in the past to treat us well now or in the future as we and they today are not the people we were in prior lifetimes; they owe us nothing.

    REALIZING OUR DIVINE POTENTIAL

    Humans are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness. We are born as animals and are socialized as animals. As animals we view ourselves as apart and separate from that which is not ourselves. In that context, we effort to fulfill our needs for food, shelter, security, health and companionship with little regard for that which is not ourselves. However, we realize our animal potential when we fully develop and fulfill our responsibilities to others, like a seed that grows into a fruit-bearing tree whose fruit nourishes others.

    The ultimately human potential is the realization of divine consciousness; the realization that we and the universe are one. This is enlightenment. When we are enlightened, we are one with the light and one with everything as everything is light. As enlightened beings, we treat others as we treat ourselves (compassion) and our perspectives are infinite (wisdom), not solely the perspective from our finite selves. Enlightened, we find almost every situation funny, sooner or later, and know the nature of consciousness which keeps us from suffering in life and death.

    AWAKENING OTHERS

    To awakening others, we need to rouse their curiosity; question them about who they are, why are they here in life, why the universe here. If they are sufficiently engaged by these questions, they will work looking for answers. The work is difficult and frustrating as we need to see beyond ourselves, yet are locked in our karmic prisons. We work hard by meditating, studying, performing rituals and reflecting as though our lives depend on realizing the light.(1)  We work to near exhaustion like a dog endlessly chasing its tail. Then, suddenly, we stop and fall down laughing at the absurdity of our chasing our tail, as we realize we were enlightened from the very beginning.

    (1) In fact our lives do depend on it as only those who are enlightened know eternal life. As the universe has been and will be here forever, the enlightened never die, just transition from one form to another.

  • T. S. Eliot: Little Gidding

    “We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

    Life is a glass of sparkling water.
    Each of us a bubble that seems to come out of nowhere,
    transitioning its way to the top of the glass
    and then seems to disappear.
    We don’t disappear.
    We become one with everything
    which is what we have been from the beginning.

  • T. S. Eliot: The Waste Land

    “I have heard the key
    Turn in the door once and turn once only
    We think of the key, each in his prison
    Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison”

    When we focus on our earliest memories, we imprison ourselves and can only wait for the prison door to open to allow us return to who we were before we were born. This keeps us from making the most of our present circumstances.

  • VAT: Reflections

    All things are reflections, initially reflections of light and then reflections of mind. In the first instance our eyes see the truth, in the second our mind starts lying to us.

    The truth is revealed in the present but we cannot see it when reflecting on what has passed.

  • James Joyce

    “History…is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

    The stories we’ve created of our past frame our experiences in the present. While some of our stories are nightmares, others are happy fairy-tales. Either way, our stories are like the children’s game of Chinese whispers; the stories change as we retell them to ourselves and others over time. Often the stories have little relationship with the past facts upon which presumably they are based.

    Experiencing the present in the context of our stories doesn’t allow us to experience the present as it is;  truly unique, unlike anything we’ve experienced heretofore. Only by awakening from our sleep-inducing stories can we be present.

  • Albert Camus

    “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

    The play of life is a story, a facade beneath which lies the truth; clear to the audience of gods watching the play but not to most of the actors playing their respective roles.

  • VAT: The Truth, Gravity or Levity?

    Never the truth lies. Never the truth stands.  The truth is not subject to gravity as it gives rise to levity.*

    The truth never lies or stands as the truth is not subject to the laws of gravity. As the truth is the truth, it never lies. As societies are invariably lying to themselves, the truth never stands in their way. While for some the truth might initially be of disturbing gravity, as the truth reveals the illusion of falsehoods it gives rise to levity for all.

    * The treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect. In old science (16c.- 17c.), the name of a force or property of physical bodies, the opposite of gravity, causing them to tend to rise.

  • T. S. Eliot: The Hollow Men

    “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”

    While war stirs fears of sudden death and dying, most of us die naturally. A slow process that happens to each of us daily, though barely noticeable to most.

  • Stories We Tell Ourselves

    From earliest days in memory until early teens, my father who had a temper would often yell and hit me for things I thought were inconsequential. One time he even screamed “I wish you were never born.” I didn’t take this personally; thought that’s just the way he was, nervous and easily agitated. He died at 60 of the flu. My mother lived another 28 years. I would often ask her how daddy really felt about me. Her response was always the same: “He couldn’t stand you.” To which I just laughed. What was funny was that he was irritated by meaningless things he took seriously which made them real. For example, if I got home a couple of hours passed my curfew, he would go into a rage; seemed odd to me because at that point I was home.

    My mother loved me unconditionally. Always gave me preferential  treatment; she cleaned my room first, spared no expense in serving only me the best foodstuffs, even when we couldn’t afford much.  However, 20 years before she died she announced her entire estate would be bequeathed to my sister. While my sister was not indigent and likely to die with more money than she’d inherit from my mother, my mother felt that my sister needed it more than me. I shared mother’s news with my children, including my 5 year old son, who from then on would always greet her: “Hi grandma, how about 50/50?” However, she never changed her will. How did I feel? Just laughed. It was funny because others with whom I shared my story were taken aback, vicariously felt hurt. That seemed silly. There was nothing personal to me about this experience. My mother did what my mother did; seemed the right thing to do in her mind.  I was happy for her. (Of course, had she been worth say $10M or more, maybe I would have felt differently.) At her deathbed, I was with her and my sister. I asked her whom she loved more, me or my sister. She said she loved me more. That seemed like a good deal. I got the blessing and my sister got the goats.

    The point of my story is that many of us in situations like mine with my father and mother would have told themselves stories like mommy or daddy didn’t love me, I’m worthless, etc. They might feel wounded, traumatized perhaps. But that’s not really what happened in times past. That’s just a story they chose to tell themselves. Perhaps they might feel better if they change their stories.

  • VAT: Mirrors Everywhere

    Everywhere are two-way mirrors with small holes. The mirrors separate us, allowing only an occasional glimpse of each other through the holes. Otherwise, all we see everywhere are reflections of ourselves.

    Ninety percent of what we see and experience is ourselves. “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” — Anais Nin. However, if we smash the mirrors we can see everyone and the universe as it is and in so doing never see ourselves again.

  • Audrey Hepburn

    “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible!'”

    The universe created things as complicated as humans. Humans have created things beyond our imagination not long ago in human history That which is impossible is just what we accept as impossible. If I’m possible, nothing is impossible.

    “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand

  • IAWIA

    I AM WHO I AM

    An acronym (IAWIA) pronounced: I Y

    A mantra: I Why! I Why?

    A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Mantras are used to focus the mind so random thoughts don’t distract us. When the mind is calm, like an undisturbed pond, we can clearly ponder images of the universe reflecting off its surface. The images, though seemingly real, are an illusion like the illusion we see when viewing ourselves in a mirror. The images are illusions in that they appear as discrete shapes and forms, yet the universe is one and the universe and nothingness is all there is. 

    A koan: I why (why am I)?

    A koan is riddle to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to awaken us to enlightenment. Who am I? I am who I am as I can’t describe myself more tangibly because in the middle of the sentence describing myself the person I’m describing has by then passed and the person I am now is unlike the person I started describing. This is impermanence. Realizing the temporary nature of the tangible universe is the foundation of wisdom. Wisdom is the realization that there is little point thinking about the past, beyond as a learning tool; that we are here now and there are endless possibilities as to what’s next. Amalgamating different perspectives on what’s next is the essence of wisdom.

    All things, including ourselves, are interdependent manifestations of energy. While the manifestations are seemingly independent, they are interdependent as is a circle with its seemingly mutually exclusive inside and outside mutually dependent as each side cannot exist without the other. This is the foundation of compassion: we realize we are connected to a common ancestor or source (energy) and our existence is dependent on the existence of everything; as such, we treat everything as we treat ourselves because we and everything are one.

    A biblical riddle: When Moses asks God (“HaShem,” the name) at Mount Sinai who he is, God says: “I am who I am.”

    In the Bible, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush with its flames not devouring its branches. This is the nature of the universe, ever-changing (flames) and eternal (branches). The flames represent impermanence. The branches are composed of interdependent but seemingly individual plant cells. While appearing as fire, the flames are light and don’t burn the branches. The burning bush is reminiscent of “the fiery ever-turning sword” that guards the way to the Tree of Life. The fiery sword and the Tree of Life are the burning bush, images of God. Moving passed the fiery sword (not difficult once we realize its flames are light not fire), we come before the Tree. It feels familiar and unlike anything we’ve experienced heretofore. We are awakened. We fill with tranquility as we are now no longer an independent piece of the universe but at peace with the universe.  We are present. We realize we are one of infinite, unique and interdependent cells of the Tree of Life and we are one with the Tree of Life. We are eternal.

    The Tao: I am who I am (I cannot be named)

    “The Way [Tao] is ever nameless. Though simple and subtle…As soon as rules were made, names were given. There are already many names. One must know when it is enough. Those who know when it is enough will not perish.” — Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32.

    Names are descriptions, generalizations and identities. They are essential to the network of social order. Names are shortcut references to aspects of reality. However, names mask reality. Describing and explaining too much can make us oblivious to reality. While reality cannot be described, it can be known. Those who know reality know that it is one, with no beginning and no end, that they and reality are one and as such they never die as death is also a name.

    Self-realization: I am who I am

    People are described in terms of personality characteristics, stories and circumstances in their acting roles in the play of life. These descriptions are not who I am. I am who I am, beyond description. I am god and so is everyone (and everything) else. The only difference between us is that some of us realize we are god and others don’t. It’s the difference between being one with everything and viewing ourselves as finite in space and time (birth to death) and otherwise describable. It’s the difference between realizing we are actors in an entertaining play and taking our roles seriously.

     

  • Sequential and Synchronous Time

    Now is a time, now is the time.

    Now is a time as a point in time, a way to differentiate between past and future. This is sequential time. Now is the time as the only time that exists is now. This is synchronous time.

    Those experiencing time sequentially have a logical perspective, a narrow focus, start one task after another is finished, are conscientious, organized, punctual, view activities as finite, value time and are careful in how it’s spent and view the past, present and future as distinctly different. They tend to often glance at their watch to tell time, though time is telling them what’s next. They fish with a rod and reel.

    Those whose experience of time is synchronous are flexible, multitask and move seamlessly between activities, focus on a project and not on the time it takes to complete it, are more concerned with quality than quantity, develop long-term working relationships, perceive the world as continuous and view the past, present and future as interwoven. They fish with a net.

    Experiencing time synchronously opens up our imagination to more possibilities than otherwise. A sequential view of time frames our expectations within the context of our most recent experiences.  For example, in Germany in the 1930’s Jews with a sequential view of time had no reason to expect a holocaust. After all, in 1871 the German constitution was adopted, granting Jews civil and political rights like those enjoyed by all other Germans.  Those with a synchronous relationship to time knew of Jews burned in masses in barns in Germany during the Black Plague 600 years earlier. They could see a similar outcome with the rise of the Nazis and as such were better positioned to avoid

    Time is time, whatever that is. We can artificially divide it and use it as a measuring tool or we can accept its ever-presence like a body of water where a school of fish swim.

  • Aristotle

    “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”

    In our darkest moments, particularly difficult and seemingly overwhelming circumstances, we focus on ourselves. Our self is like a black hole that sucks our energy, weakening us. At these moments, best to focus outside ourselves, on the Big Bang and its aftermath where everything is reflections of light; light as in energy and light as in funny. The light energizes us and gives us hope. What’s funny is how seriously we’ve taken ourselves and our circumstances which are essentially temporary as the only constant in the universe is change.

  • Brene Brown

    “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing. It’s about the courage to show up, when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

    Not much courage is needed in accepting a challenge wherein our abilities are tested and we can come out a winner or loser. The role of the winner is easy to handle; the role of the loser is also not difficult as there are many losers and being in the company of many is comforting. Moreover, as win/lose situations are often encapsulated in time, we can take comfort in knowing when one such situation ends we can try our hand at another.

    Great courage is needed to embrace open-ended situations with random outcomes as those are stressful, like driving a car with our eyes closed. But is that courage or foolishness?

  • VAT: Time heals all wounds

    Times heals all wounds but when we run out of time everything is healed. That is, when we transition from our finite lives (when we die) there are no wounds to heal. Best to heal all wounds before we transition by realizing the victim stories our minds created from our presumed past are not real, just stories with which we burden ourselves. Letting go of these burdensome stories allows us to otherwise spend our time to fully realize our purpose in life and, without the pain and stress of these imaginary wounds, have a bit more time before we transition.

  • Charles Swindoll

    “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play in the one string we have, and this is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…We are in charge of our Attitudes.”

  • VAT: The Present

    As the present is all there is, the present is the greatest present we can receive. Upon receipt, we know we’re alive; that all that was, never was; where we are is where we want to be.

  • Albert Einstein

    “We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness.”

    We are all one but deceive ourselves into seeing ourselves as finite beings, apart and separate.

  • Dan Brown

    “The only difference between you and God is that you have forgotten you are divine.”

    Humans are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness. We are here as humans to realize divine consciousness.

  • Awakening

    Most of our lives are spent in a dream-state; a dream of stories based on memories and imaginations that seem very real. Awakening is the realization that our memories, imaginations and past have little to do with us beyond finding ourselves in certain physical circumstances (our body and the immediate world about us) and with certain network connections (social roles with family, work, friends); that everything otherwise is new, always and all ways new; new from one moment to the next. The newness of everything is engaging, energizing and arouses our curiosity which further engages and energizes us. We then realize that everything is new as everything is temporary, ever-changing. We realize that we are not solely ourselves as defined by our physical circumstances and network connections but are one with everything and temporarily separate from everything.

    The dream is like a movie which our mind makes real, giving it three dimensions. When the theater lights turn on, the screen images fade and we recognize it was only an illusion.

    “Sooner or later we’ve all got to let go of our past.” (Dan Brown). Best to do so before the movie ends.

  • Sigmund Freud

    “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”

    Material things come and go, if not in our lifetimes then when we exit the play of life. The true value in life is life itself, having a wonderful time, awakening to our divine consciousness and awakening it in others.

  • VAT: The Answers

    The answers are everywhere, all around us. But as much as we search for them, we will never find them until we ask questions.

    Questions reveal the brilliance of mind. If they don’t, the questions make evident that we are searching for answers in the darkness, not asking questions. The brilliance of mind makes visible all the answers that are otherwise shrouded in darkness. For example, asking “what happens when one is enlightened?” is searching for answers in the darkness; asking “who am I” will reveal everything.

     

  • Beginner’s Luck to Bad Luck

    Beginner’s luck is an often heard lament by seasoned players in some game or business explaining the success of a novice. Beginner’s luck can partly be explained by the beginner performing better than the low expectations seasoned players have of his performance. Another explanation is that the beginner is less aware than seasoned players of the subtle risks he is assuming, hence he is more aggressive and can reap higher rewards from taking greater risks. Similarly, the beginner is more focused on one or two key variables that most of the time affect outcomes while seasoned players’ attention is more widely focused, distracted. As well, the imagination of beginners is not limited by their past experiences, as is seasoned players, in their views of possible outcomes; hence they can envision as likely, what seasoned players perceive as highly unlikely, extremely positive outcomes from the choices they make and position themselves accordingly. Finally, in a competitive game, the beginners (who are typically a minority of the number of players) have the advantage of low costs for the choices they make as there are few players competing for those choices.

    At some point beginner’s luck runs out as the beginner is no longer a beginner and becomes a seasoned player. However, before that happens, beginner’s luck can easily turn into bad luck as the beginner becomes overconfident and makes unwise choices.

    Ultimately, seasoned players and beginners might both have greater luck if they made choices not solely  based on their individual perspective but the perspective of the other as well.

  • VAT: Boredom

    The universe is an ever-changing manifestation of light and its tangible forms (Mass = Energy divided by the speed of light squared), a fascinating kaleidoscope. Even more fascinating is each of our individual perceptions of it all. However, we can make it boring by sleeping through it all.

    When we find something boring, we are looking at ourselves. Best to awaken, open our eyes and see the dynamic universe with its intense energy and beauty and let our curiosity take us on an uncertain journey. If we don’t see the energy and beauty, we are still asleep.

  • Jim Morrison

    “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”

    When friendships are based on social, familial and commercial networks and context, our interactions tend to be based on role-playing not on showing up as we truly are.  A true friend is someone with whom we are as open and comfortable as when we are by ourselves.

  • VAT: Fooling Around

    A schnauzer with a poodle haircut looks like a poodle but is still a schnauzer and can’t compete against poodles in a dog show.

    An elephant who thinks himself a tiger will chase a wildebeest but never catch up to it. Even if he does, he can’t digest it and will likely starve.

    When we try to fool others or ourselves, we eventually get caught fooling around which is generally embarrassing and at times devastating.

  • Be Careful What You Wish

    All our wishes come true but not in the forms we imagine.

    In 1973 I graduated from college and planned to start working, have a family and take a year at a Zen monastery when I reached 40, like Philip Kapleau who wrote The Three Pillars of Zen. At 40, my family and business partners would not have been encouraging had I taken a year-long sabbatical. However, at 43 my family and 140 friends threw a farewell party for me at the Harvard Club before I left for a 13 month stay at a Federal prison.

    What landed me in prison was my involvement in an “insider trading” case. I personally profited $50K. Legal fees cost me roughly $2M and fines and penalties another $1.8M. Moreover, I was no longer allowed to manage other people’s money, though all of my investors stayed with me until I was prohibited from working. As a result of my not being allow to work, my net worth today is not even a tiny fraction of what it would have been otherwise.

    I didn’t think that my trading was criminal. But others obviously did. In any event, the cost of going to trial, fines, penalties and the sanctions placed upon me undoubtedly were punitive to an extreme.  How do I feel? Pretty good as I play squash 4 – 5 times a week and I play with the prosecutor in my case. Why? Because I was born with the gene of happiness and the prosecutor is a wonderful guy, good squash player.

    I did learn something from this ordeal: best be careful what we wish for as every wish will come true but not in the form we imagine. While I didn’t go to a traditional Zen monastery, monasteries are wherever we are as long as we open our eyes.

    Ultimately, in terms of my experience, “life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it.” (Charles Swindoff)

     

  • Duality

    Duality is the inherent state of sentient beings. At birth, we are separated from having been one with everything in the womb to being finite beings; finite in time (birth to death) and space (our physical form). Our reaction to this separation is crying as now we begin life in the context of duality; I am me and everything else is not me. This sets us up for adversarial relationships between the me and not me which reinforce duality. Duality is stressful and distracts from us realizing our purpose in life: to have a wonderful experience, to realize our potentials as animal and divine consciousness and to help others likewise.

    Enlightenment dispels duality. Enlightenment is the realization that we are one of infinite, unique manifestations of light and we and the light are one. As one with everything, there is no duality. As when the light comes on in a movie theater and the images on the big screen fade and soon disappear, enlightenment renders duality an illusion. Once duality disappears, we can devote our time and energies to realizing our purpose in life.

  • Trust

    Trusting others may lead us at times to costly losses and disappointments that might have otherwise been avoided had we been more cautious and defensive. But the value of the tranquility that comes from trusting overwhelms the costs.

    Unless experience or knowledge informs us otherwise, we naturally trust others when we feel connected with them.  As such, we try to do well by them and assume they will try to do well by us. This sense of connection is very powerful. It is identifying with the whole of the universe, not solely with our finite selves. As the universe has been and will be here forever, identifying with the whole infuses us with a sense of confidence and optimism that everything will ultimately work out well and there’s nothing to worry about as our personal lives need not be taken too seriously. This instills tranquility, a stressless state of mind.

    Those who don’t feel so connected have stressful lives as they are on the watch for others who might do them wrong. While in their over-cautious approach to life they might avoid some undesirable situations, the ongoing stress in their role as a watchdog may be more harmful to them than would have been the situations they were lucky to avoid. In fact, prison guards have significantly shorter lifespans than prisoners.

    Trust however need not be open-ended. Best to trust others while limiting potential risks if things unfold with negative consequences. In other words, if we lend someone $100 and they don’t pay us back, the situation is manageable; less so if we lend them our credit cards.

  • Saint Augustine

    “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

    Best to view the choices before us in terms of what’s the right thing to do to avoid unacceptable consequences and maximize the reward/risk ratio for all concerned taken as a whole, not just for ourselves or any particular members of the whole. Wrongdoing is very common. As such, it is easy to follow others in their wrongdoing and be oblivious of the consequences of such a choice. Moreover, choosing to go along with others’ choices is a mindless approach. The less we use our mind the more quickly it atrophies to the point where we become incapable of thinking independently.

  • Narges Obaid

    “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.”

    We are billions of unique individuals but are cast by society into common roles in the play of life. Our roles become our identities which retard our realizing our inherent potentials.

  • VAT: Hong Kong Questions

    Everywhere people often ask two questions upon viewing something unfamiliar: what is it and how much does it cost. Only in Hong Kong have I heard people ask these questions in reverse order.

    If something is priced beyond its affordability to certain people, they apparently aren’t interested in it’s utility as they don’t want to desire that which they cannot afford to buy. Desiring that which you cannot have is the foundation of suffering.

  • VAT: The Pope and the Zen Master

    The Pope asked the Zen master: “Since you are one with everything, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Zen master responded: “What’s a pin?”

    “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin” is an expression from medieval times referring to the philosophical clergy debating pointless topics. Zen has no interest in angels as it questions the very basic assumptions we make about the identify of anything (say, a pin) as everything is forever in transition and as such cannot be described as it is somehow different by the time one finishes describing it. The point (no pun intended) of this post is to contrast the western religious view that presupposes certain concepts as reality (angels) with the eastern view that questions what we all agree is reality (a pin).

  • Tennessee Williams

    “There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.”

    Sometimes better the devil you don’t know than the devil you know.

  • VAT: The Piano

    The mind is a piano with a finite set of keys with which we can score an infinite number of musical  compositions. The compositions express our emotions. Love is when the piano fills the air with music that connects us to the heart of the universe.

  • Intelligence and Wisdom

    Intelligence is having strong cognitive abilities. Wisdom is good judgement.

    Those who are intelligent do well at analyzing complex data. Data by its nature is historical. The intelligent are good at explaining the past. The wise are good at assessing current situations and determining the likelihood of future outcomes.

    From early childhood our intelligence is measured by tests and school grades. This is a easy measurement as it’s ex-post. Those perceived as highly intelligent are put on fast tracks and given many opportunities to excel to the top of their classes or organizations. They excel at many technical skills like  math and verbal communication. Their minds can be microscopic and/or telescopic, able to view that about which people of average intelligence seem clueless.  They can make sense of an otherwise ambiguous past which gives them and their audience confidence in their ability to predict how things will transition in the future. However, there is little relationship between those who most convincingly understand the past and those who are best at predicting the future. As everything is forever transitioning and everything is unique, using the past as a basis to predict the future puts limits on one’s imagination. This is significant as we can’t see what we can’t imagine.

    The wise are best at assessing current situations and predicting how they will transition over time.  Their wisdom is generally more valuable than the perspectives of those considered intelligent. However, it is difficult to measure and identify those who are wise. To do so would require measuring ex-ante outcomes which would take time for forecasts to be realized (or not) and require many forecasts.  Moreover, excellent forecasters give different scenarios percentage probabilities which is not what an interested audience generally wants as percentages don’t give their audience as much confidence about going forward as do definitive forecasts. Thus, because of the difficulties of measurement and little demand by the general public, identifying those who are wise is not done systematically. However, those in the interested audience who are self-confident want forecasts from those who are wise, not those who are intelligent.

    The difference between the intelligent and the wise is clear as academics are intelligent and successful business people tend to be wise (and/or lucky). Academics are great at explaining the past and confidently predicting the future. But if the value of an individual’s contribution to society is simply measured by the amount of money they earn, academics aren’t highly valued as predictors. Successful business people are paid considerably more for their predictive abilities as they are able to profit from correctly predicting future markets and cost-effectively providing what those market want. They are wise.

    A good metaphor is the hedgehog and the fox. Hedgehogs are best at digging through a hedge. But that’s all they can do well, like an idiot savant who is narrowly intelligent. The fox doesn’t do anything particularly well but can consider many approaches to obtaining what he wants. Ultimately, always bet on the fox rather than the hedgehog to survive.

    Modern society (more so than primitive tribal societies where wise elders are often consulted) are lead by those considered intelligent. This often results in relatively poor choices.

    As our social system doesn’t measure and identify those who are wise, how do we personally identify them? The fox would say to not listen to those most intelligent and best at explaining the past as they are unlikely to be good predictors of the future; best to take advice from those who know the past as a multifaceted amalgam of not necessarily related events and can speak of the future in probabilistic terms.

  • The Clay Pot

    A friend, Bill Wisher, related a Zen story he read somewhere, he can’t recall, more than 30 years ago:

    A Zen master with a clay pot on a table before him asked several students: “What is this?” Some said it was a clay pot; others said that it was a man-made artifact; others said it was a table supporting a pot. A lively debate ensued. The Zen master shook his head and laughed.  Then a student approached the table and threw the pot to the ground where it cracked into many pieces. An audible silence enveloped the room until the student asked: “What is it now?”

    [To this story I added:]

    The silence returned as some students were shocked, others embarrassed by the aggressive arrogance of the student. The Zen master and the student then broke the silence with laughter, for they knew that it is what it is whatever it is.

  • Etymology of Happiness

    The root of the word happiness is “hap” which means “luck” in Old Norse and Old English. When we feel we’ve gotten lucky, we are happy. When we realize however difficult our circumstances could always be worse, we are grateful for our good luck. When we are grateful we are great-full and when filled with great we are happy.

  • VAT: Life Roles

    Each of us plays several roles in the play of life; some difficult, some easy. Difficult roles include having mental and physical health issues, poverty, dangerous situations, etc.; roles that require taking ourselves and our situations seriously. Easy roles are happy, simple lives. Difficult roles can win an Academy Award; easy roles not. Given the chances of winning an Academy Award, best to forgo that chance and go with the easy roles.

    We are born into certain circumstances and with certain potentials. Then our lives evolve through chances and choices. We choose our roles; if not, we are given by society the roles that are vacant, that no one really wants. Best to be proactive and make choices that comport best with our strengths, weaknesses and allow us to realize our potential. Otherwise we are likely to be given difficult roles and have a difficult go of life.

  • The Little Girl and the Atheist

    From Reddit:

    “An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

    The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

    “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

    The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

    And then she went back to reading her book.”

     

    What makes this story funny is that it reveals certain truths and there’s nothing more funny than the truth.

    The little girl is curious as she observes an odd transition in life (as that of the grass). She is reading a book as she has an interest in learning. She values her time and doesn’t simply want to kill it as the atheist suggests they do. As a little girl she may not know much but does know that as the atheist doesn’t know much about what human nature finds repulsive (he doesn’t know shit), he unlikely knows much about spiritual matters. As well, as he thinks he’s intelligent (as he deems himself a good judge of her intelligence) and is adamant about his views, he is not open to other possibilities, lacks wisdom and not worth talking with.

  • Etymology of Bullshit

    Bullshit

    The etymology or origin of the word bullshit seems as messy as bull shit. Unlike what’s indicated in etymology sources, most likely bullshit stems from hunting trips in the western United States in the 19th century. Hunters trailed their game by following the trail of their feces. The hunters examined feces to determine how recently the animals were present and the type of animal they were trailing. A warm pile of bison shit makes us think we’re on the right track until we realize it’s shit from the bull of a nearby farm. It’s not what it appears to be, it’s bullshit. I suppose that hunters going around in circles would soon come upon their own horses’ feces, horseshit (meaning nonsense).

    The forgoing is my view of the etymology of bullshit, to which some might say: bullshit.

  • Osho

    “When Fredrick Nietzsche declared “God is dead,” fuck became the most important word in the English language.”

    There are not many words with the versatility of fuck. Besides the sexual meaning, there are also the following uses:

    Ignorance: Fucked if I know.

    Trouble: I guess I am fucked now!

    Fraud: I got fucked at the used car lot.

    Aggression: Fuck you!

    Displeasure: What the fuck is going on here?

    Difficulty: I can’t understand this fucking job.

    Incompetence: He is a fuck-off.

    Suspicion: What the fuck are you doing?

    Enjoyment: I had a fucking good time.

    Request: Get the fuck out of here.

    Hostility: I’m going to knock your fucking head off.

    Greeting: How the fuck are you?

    Apathy: Who gives a fuck?

    Innovation: Get a bigger fucking hammer.

    Surprise: Fuck! You scared the shit out of me!

    Anxiety: Today is really fucked.

  • Ivy Baker Priest

    “I’m often wrong, but never in doubt.”

    There are almost infinite perspectives on whatever it is we focus. Best to always doubt our personal perspective as it is unlikely to prove accurate. Most accurate is the average of all perspectives, the wisdom of the crowd, as long as the crowd is made of independent-minded people.

  • Carl Sagan

    “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”

    Answers may be stupid but questions are not unless they should have been asked much earlier.

  • Nuriya Khakimulla

    “Silence is the greatest secret in the world.”

    In the silence of meditation the universe reveals its secrets. The secrets are knowledge of how the universe works. Silence is the greatest secret as the knowledge it reveals is beyond words and as such cannot be shared with others; remaining a secret forever. Attempts to share the secrets with others breaks the silence and shrouds the secrets in oblivion. (The person who knows the secrets can attempt to share them with others but such attempts are futile as in doing so the secrets are forgotten by the person who knows them.)

    “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.” –Lao Tzu.

    “Silence is the only voice of our God.” — Herman Melville.

  • Tabitha Balckmon

    “What’s 6 on one end looks like 9 from the other.”

    Our perspective forms our reality.

    In light of 6 and 9 or 69, the word “cunt” comes to mind as it’s a word whose meaning is subject to national perspective. Cunt maybe the most offensive word in the US today (not so in the earlier times) but is often used as an endearing non-gender specific term (e.g., “he’s a funny cunt”) England and down under, Australia and New Zealand.

  • VAT: Questions and Answers

    The foundation of wisdom is asking questions that arise in quiet moments. Hard to ask questions when we busy ourselves with answers to emails, texts, phones and bells.

  • Haiku 6

    So much depends upon

    five baby rubber ducks

    walking behind the red rooster.

  • VAT: Meanings Distort Reality

    Our mind ascribes meanings to experiences which distort reality.

    For example, if it comes to the light of day that our mate is having a mutually pleasurably affair with our best friend, we might be upset as this means we have been betrayed and they both are not trustworthy. However, these meanings are stories we’ve been told, we embrace and frame how we view the world. In reality, our mate and our best friend are simply enjoying themselves. How can we not be happy for both of them.

    This is an enlightened perspective: accepting the world without judgment (it is what it is whatever it is), free from Karmic prisons (the stories we’ve made up and believe about our past keep us from experiencing the present as it presents itself) and happy to see others enjoy themselves.

  • Who are you?

    How do you show up in the first person, as ” I ” or ” i ” or ” eye “?

    ” I ”  like the number 1 suggests integrity but also separates the world into parts right and left (right and wrong) which implies duality. As a capital letter it represents self-importance and a symbol of the ego which is a construct that has us perceive ourselves as different from others.

    ” i ” suggests a separation between head and body; that we experience the world conceptually, not as a sensory experience. ” i ” also looks like a body and a sun or star above it, suggesting man is grounded on Earth and there is an independent spiritual realm above. As a lower case letter, ” i ” implies humility.

    The word ” eye ” as written looks like a nose with a pair of eyes, suggesting we show up as a face and connect with the world around us by breathing and observing.

    ” I ” is an animal. ” i ” is a spiritual being. ” eye ” is a unique being in harmony with the world.

  • VAT: Sand and Stars

    There are 10 times as many stars in the night sky than all the grains of sand on Earths’s deserts and beaches. A few hundred stars have been given proper names and thousands have a formal identity but not one grain of sand has been personalized.

    A grain of sand is rarer than a star, yet surprisingly less noticeable or valuable. Perhaps because we look up to the stars and look down on the sand; or maybe there’s not much at night beyond stars at which to gaze, while during the day there is much engaging our attention; or perhaps we are attracted to the shiny, not to the dull; or the mysteries of faraway stars stir our imagination which allows something to be anything, but grains of sand are grains of sand.

  • Benjamin Franklin

    “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need for masters.”

    Virtuous people think of social issues in terms of ethics and community. They judge issues based on what’s the right thing to do and what’s the best for their nation. Non-virtuous people replace these standards with what furthers their agenda and what is best for the social, religious, political or other affinity groups to which they belong. This is popularly called “identity politics.” This leads to corruption of government and fighting between groups. Non-virtuous people are essentially evil. Their ultimate aim is to burn down the system and rise from the ashes to assume control of their nation as dictators.

  • Ecclesiastes

    “What has been shall be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

    The human experience has not changed since antiquity. Those most excited by new things and developments tend to be oblivious to the essence of the human experience.

    Nothing is new yet everything is unique which makes everything new. As everything is new, there is nothing new.

  • Tree of Life

    In the Bible, in Genesis, God creates man in his own image. Soon after, God puts Adam to work in the Garden of Eden where God has provided him with plants and fruit trees for food.  However, God forbids Adam from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and his mate, Eve, nonetheless eat the forbidden fruit and God declares that they are now “like one of us, [gods], knowing Good and Evil.” As punishment, God banishes them from the Garden of Eden for fear that they will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life which would grant them eternal life. The implication is that man, created in the image of God and having obtained the knowledge of Good and Evil, can become one of the gods and live forever if he eats the fruit of the Tree of Life.

    What is the Knowledge of Good and Evil? That Good precedes Evil suggests that we are initially Good yet become Evil. Before we are born we are in a natural state of Good as we are one with everything. When one with everything we treat everything as we treat ourselves. This is the Golden Rule. Kindness, compassion and generosity is Good.  At birth we become self-serving animals; Evil as we act selfishly, inconsiderate of what’s best for all or how our actions might be of detriment to others. Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is having the knowledge of how to be one with everything. When one with everything, we are God.

    The Tree of Life represents all life that once was, is now and will be.  Eating the fruit of the Tree of Life awakens us to the realization that we are not solely one of billions of unique cells of the Tree, we are one with the Tree; like an individual cell in our body awakening to realize its collective identity is one with the whole body. As the Tree is eternal, being one with the Tree is the realization that we live forever. But as Adam and Eve and their progeny cannot access the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in its center, we need to work to create on Earth our own Garden of Eden with plants, fruit trees and other manifestations of the Tree of Life for the betterment of all; thereby realizing our potential in service to making Earth a better place than it would be otherwise. Then we can cease our work (as God did on the seventh day of creation), feast on the fruits of our garden and meditatively gaze in wonder upon our creation with which we are one.

    The fruit of  the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil gives us the knowledge of how to be one with everything. The fruit of the Tree of Life is the realization that we live forever.

    Ultimately, that God tosses Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden is a blessing, not a punishment, as it is a rite of passage. They were created as the only form of life with the potential to transition from animal to divine consciousness. This life is an opportunity for us to do so.

  • Mark Twain

    “To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth.”

    There is no greater wealth than happiness. Suffering is when we desire that which we cannot have. Happiness is gratitude for whatever little we have.

  • Anonymous

    “Our shit don’t stink.”

    Nothing is perfect as everything has some sort of shit associated with it; some shit is smelly excrement, some shit is our casting shadows on others as we gaze at the sun. We rarely notice our own shit and often are oblivious of how it affects others. But we’re quickly put off by others’ shit.

    The universe (the infinite manifestations of light) is perfect. When we are one with the light, we are one with everything and good with all shit because it is ours.

  • Hank Forrester

    “The more you look the less you see.”

    Searching far and wide blindsides us to what is obvious. Best not to look too deeply as we might miss the bigger picture.

  • VAT: Knowing Nothing

    Until we know we know nothing we know nothing.

  • VAT: Journeymen and Masters

    An enlightened journeyman can help others on their journey. An enlightened master makes the journeys of others into a business.

    In the trades, after some years of apprenticeship one becomes a fully-skilled journeyman. With additional coursework in business, the journeyman becomes a “master.” Unlike a journeyman who can only offer his skill for hire, a master is able to hire journeymen and make a business of offering their skills.  In the realm of spiritual matters, a journeyman may be more enlightened than a master but clearly not so on worldly matters, especially as the general public perceives the master as the real thing.

  • Karma

    Every day is a life in a day, not a day in a life. Each night we die and are reincarnated in the morning.

    Each morning we choose to assume the identities of the person we were last lifetime (yesterday) and embrace the stories we’ve made up of who we were in past lifetimes (days passed). The identities, an amalgam of role-playing and habits, feel familiar and safe.  Others around us reinforce our self-perceptions. This is the foundation of karma.

    Karma is the intentions, actions and the consequences of our actions in our past lifetimes. Karma, living in the context of previous lives, has us living in a karmic prison. Karma frames our experiences in our reincarnated life. Our karmic prison precludes us from experiencing the present as it unfolds.

    As life is otherwise overwhelming, our mind (which is a mnemonic device) categorizes our passed experiences and creates memories and related stories. Thus, we do not experience the present as it unfolds, we experience the categories into which our mind places present experiences.  The categories, their meanings and the stories we ascribe to them are artificial and illusionary.  However, we believe our stories are true and as such we make them real by experiencing the present in the context of our stories. Only when we are freed from our karmic prisons, we can experience the present.

    Good karma, bad karma

    Bad karma is living in a karmic prison of preconceived notions. Bad karma doesn’t allow us to experience the present as it is, unadulterated by reference to the past. Good karma is learning from our past successes and failures which helps us navigate our way in the now and what’s next.

    Bad karma creates a road on which we travel forward. It feels safe, secure, comfortable. Good karma is a light that helps us see our way forward through an ever-changing landscape of undefined roads.

    Bad karma leads us to living habitually, oblivious of the world about us. Good karma helps us navigate in a world in which everything is unique, engaging and has us feeling alive.

    Bad karma has us feeling we understand what we’re doing. Good karma is knowing we know nothing.

    Bad karma is intelligence, the ability to analyze and make sense of the past in evermore complicated ways. Good karma is wisdom, knowing that everything can be viewed from different perspectives.

    Bad karma is why. Good karma is how.

    Bad karma is when the past overshadows the present. Good karma is the light that helps us negotiate the present as it emerges from nothingness.

    The popular view of bad karma is that when you treat others poorly you’ll get your just deserts sometime later. When that happens, people say: “karma sucks.” Likewise, good karma is the concept that when we do right by others good fortune will come our way. There is truth in these views.

    Karma is living in the context of the stories our mind has created.  These stories are like a storyline of a play. As the present unfolds, we view it in the context of the storyline and incorporate it into the storyline. There are several roles in the play. Our personal role is the central actor and to some extent the writer of the play. However, at times there are role-reversals and our role is that of other actors. When in our storyline we treat another actor abusively, we may find ourselves playing the role of the abused actor during role-reversal. This is retribution via bad karma. Likewise, good karma is when the storyline has us treating others well. Then, role-reversals work out well for us as, so to speak, “good things happen to good people.”

    We have great liberty in creating our stories. Our storylines can bend to tragedy or comedy. As a tragedy we risk finding ourselves in role-reversals that are not those for which we would wish ourselves. As a comedy we are likely to be happy regardless of the role in which we find ourselves in the play. That’s the enlightened view; to view the past in comic relief and come what may.

    Enlightenment is liberation from our karmic prison; liberation that reveals our karma was just an illusion.

  • Haiku 4

    There’s nothing new under the sun

    Only ever-changing flames from the eternally burning bush

    And sounds of waves of light crashing on the shore at night

  • VAT: Believing and Knowing

    Our relationship with God defines our age. Children believe in god and the elders know God.

    Those who believe are foolish. Those who know are wise.

  • Faces of Enlightenment

    Human beings are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness. As animals, we are finite in space (our physical being) and time (birth to death). As divine, we are one with the light (some call this God) and its manifestations, the universe; infinite in space and time and eternal. This realization is enlightenment.

    We are born as animal consciousness and as we develop we can access divine consciousness; sometimes for short moments, sometimes for much of the time. However, we cannot be fully liberated from animal consciousness as it is the cost being in bodily form; so we all toggle back and forth. As such, even those who are enlightened much of the time are still animals some of the time. As animals, they may act in ways we don’t associate with enlightened beings. They may get intoxicated, lie, cheat or be abusive to others. Such behavior has resulted in the shaming and dismissal from leadership roles of many presumably spiritual/enlightened masters.

    That said, the faces or characteristics of enlightened beings are:

    Gratitude. They are grateful for their circumstances, however dire, as they know that their circumstances could always be worse.

    Optimism. They know that in time their circumstances will improve as the present will always be better than the past.

    Forgiveness. They forgive all who have not done right by them as what’s past is past. They don’t seek retribution. They may however feel that whoever has not done right by them might not do right by them again and avoid that person.

    Laughter. They find much of how others think and act as funny; funny as odd; funny as laughable.

    Childlike. They are childlike as they experience the present as unique, unlike anything they experienced that’s now past;

    Humility. They don’t perceive themselves as better than others regardless of their talents or whatever good fortune has brought their way.

    Non-judgmental. They accept others as they are, not grading them, holding them up to certain standards.

    Acceptance. They make the best of what comes their way without distractions of what could or should have been.

    Empirical. They learn through observing.

    Insightful. They have interesting insights into the nature of consciousness.

    Wisdom. As they identify with the infinite manifestations of the universe, they have many perspectives. The synthesis of perspectives is wisdom.

    Compassion. As they don’t differentiate between themselves and others, they treat others as they wish to be treated.

    Karmic liberation. Karma, the stories our mind has created about the past, frame our experience of the present. The enlightened experience the present free from the prison of the past.

    Calmness. As they meditate regularly, they are calm and clear and have little internal conflicts in making choices. Moreover, as they identify as one with everything, their lives tend to be less volatile as the universe is less volatile than any of its finite manifestations.

    Integrity. They do not have internal “self” conflicts where, for example, one self inside their mind tells them to have a cookie because they’ll enjoy it while another tells them not to because it’s not good for them.

    Confidence. Clear in making choices, come what may.

  • VAT: The Dumbest

    Some are smarter than others in some ways but not all ways or always. Those who think themselves as all ways or always the smartest are the dumbest.

    When we think ourselves as the smartest, our perspective is two dimensional and we miss the depth otherwise possible with views from the perspective of others.

  • Haiku 1

    Thirsty child drawing with fountain pen

    Drinks from the inkwell

    His parents turn white

  • VAT: Our Identity

    Hard to remember who we were in previous lives when oblivious to who we are in this life, one of infinite manifestations of energy and one with everything.

    Our identities transition but we are eternal.

  • VAT: Understanding is not Understanding

    Those who are certain they understand things and things to come beyond a doubt undoubtedly don’t understand much.

    The only thing certain is that each perspective is limited and much of life is random.

  • Haiku 3

    Translating faces into words

    Seeing my face in reflection

    Strange letters hard to read

  • Haiku 2

    Bell ringing in the empty sky

    Sound bouncing on my face

    Awakening to time passing

  • VAT: Making the Best of It

    It’s all for the best as long as we make the best of our circumstances.

    The present presents us with terrific possibilities as long as we’re not distracted by what might have been or what’s not available.

  • VAT: God and the Fool

    The fool thinks he is God. The wise man knows he and everything is God.

    The fool thinks himself apart and superior to others. The wise man knows we are all different and the same, infinite manifestations of God.

  • Sadhguru

    “When people are alone, they become spiritual. When in company, they become religious.”

    When we are alone and our mind is calm, the spirit within everything becomes apparent. When with others, our mind is often stirring, we seek calming rules and rituals.

  • VAT: Love Everywhere

    I love everyone and feel everyone loves me. Though I realize some people can’t stand me, I know they’ll love me later. At this point I’ve got more love in my future than I do in the present as very few people can stand me for more than short periods. But when you love everyone and feel everyone loves you, everything is terrific.

  • VAT: A Rise or to Arise

    The difference between an eccentric and someone enlightened is the former tries to get a rise out of others and the latter tries to get others to arise.

    To get “a rise” out of someone is to annoy them as happens when you try to “arise” them from their sleep. The eccentric tries to awaken others whether or not they so desire, while someone enlightened helps others awaken only if asked to do so.

  • Animal and Divine Consciousness

    Humans are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness.

    Animal consciousness is how we navigate through the finite world defined by our physical body and its time between birth and death. It is the world of us vs that which is other than us. It guides us through a Darwinian world of prey and predator, friend and foe. It’s essential nature is duality.

    Divine consciousness is the realization that we are one with a universe of endless and ever-changing emanations and manifestations, eternal with no beginning and no end.

    Using a cosmic metaphor, animal consciousness views the Earth as the center of the universe and divine consciousness views the sun, light, as the center.

    Golden Rules apply to both animal and divine consciousness. In animal consciousness, he with the gold rules. In divine consciousness, do onto others as you would have others do onto you.

    Animal consciousness is about living, divine consciousness is about loving. The difference between living and loving is the difference between “I” and “O.” “I” is hierarchical, each of us a point on a vertical line with others above and others below (the Great Chain of Being). It is inherently dualistic,  a competitive stress between points above and points below, as prey or predator.  “O” is continuous, with each of us a point coming together to form a circle. The points along the circle are interdependent and one with the circle.  This is love; connecting, creating and serving a greater whole. The circle is a shape that forms spaces within and without, mutually dependent as one cannot exist without the other; like a bubble in a glass of sparking water. But the spaces within and without the circle are an illusion as a circle is simply a circle, a continuous line with no beginning and no end.

    Animal consciousness is limited, finite and imperfect as nothing is perfect but the universe as a whole. Divine consciousness is the realization our our perfection.

    Humans are born as animals and socialized as animals. Yet, we have the potential to realize divine consciousness.  Often, this realization is as long-lasting as a spark; sometimes for long periods as a guiding light in our life. Ultimately, however, as long as we are in living form we are grounded in animal consciousness; animal consciousness is always in the mix of our consciousness, though not all ways. This is why it’s not shocking that there have been many sex scandals involving highly regarded presumably enlightened Zen masters. Those who are enlightened gaze at the sun, are one with its light and often oblivious to the shadows they cast on those nearby.

     

     

  • Mel Brooks

    “…I will say that if your’re alive, you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy, colorful and lively.”

    Sleeping through life is akin to not to have lived.

  • Bryd Baggett

    “Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror.”

    Dwelling on past matters is distracting and tiresome which in turn limits our ability to make the best of whatever comes our way.

  • Things to Come

    Each of us has a somewhat different perception of reality, i.e. the nature of something. Arguments can erupt between people having different perceptions. Logic and pervasiveness are tools we use to convince others that our perception is more correct and another wrong but those who win these arguments don’t necessarily have them most accurate perception. A better way to judge individual perceptions of reality is by their accuracy in forecasting how reality will unfold, as understanding the nature of something likely allows us the best guess of how it will be over time. Studies of “super forecasters” (people who are much better than most at forecasting upcoming events) have identified the following characteristics these people share:

    Probabilistic thinking. Nothing is certain. There is no right answer, just likely outcomes. Ability to put mathematical weights to possible outcomes.

    No righteousness. What happens isn’t preordained, isn’t necessarily a logical or moral outcome.

    Metaphorical thinking. Able to see unrelated situations as shedding light on the subject at hand.

    Curious. Engaged by thinking about how something works and driven to understand it.

    Open-minded. Realizing that possible outcomes are only limited by one’s imagination.

    Economic. Good at productively allocating time and resources to information gathering.

    Detached/dispassionate. Able to view things from the outside in, without personal prejudices.

    Wise. Able to view things from many perspectives.

    Flexible. Openness to changing one’s point of view as conditions or one’s perception changes.

    Humble. Knowing that one will never really understand something. Accepting that other forecasts are likely more accurate.

    Integrity/confidence. Able to ultimately chose what one believes is the likely outcome.

    While few people exhibit all of the above characteristics, those lacking many of them should be cautious in taking their perceptions of reality too seriously.

  • VAT: Childish/Childlike

    Those who know are childlike, those who think they know are childish.

    Those who know realize they know nothing. As such, everything is new and unique, to be investigated/explored with a childlike curiosity/fascination. Those who think they know have preconceived notions which often leads them to childish choices.

  • VAT: Risk/Reward

    Don’t choose the most attractive option; choose the option with least undesirable potential consequences.

    Best to manage risks than focus on opportunities.

  • VAT: 2020

    Some of us are nearsighted, some farsighted. Hopefully in 2020 our vision becomes 20/20 and everything near and far becomes clear.

  • Across the Universe

    Words are flowing out
    Like endless rain into a paper cup
    They slither while they pass
    They slip away across the universe
    Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
    Are drifting through my opened mind
    Possessing and caressing me

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Images of broken light
    Which dance before me like a million eyes
    They call me on and on across the universe
    Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
    They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Sounds of laughter, shades of life
    Are ringing through my open ears
    Inciting and inviting me
    Limitless, undying love
    Which shines around me like a million suns
    It calls me on and on across the universe

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva

    The Beatles, 1968

    “Jai Guru Deva, Om” is a mantra-like refrain which in Sanskrit literally means “glory to the shining remover of darkness.”

    However, the lyrics seem more reflective of a psychedelic journey than a meditation. Interesting is the refrain “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” Does that mean that my world will never change or that from nothing will come the light that will change my world (the shining remover of darkness)? The ambiguity of the refrain suggests that one’s person experience (“my world”) is as it is (eternal) and yet bizarrely changing with revelations when traveling across the universe.

  • Friedrich Nietzsche

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

    When we don’t understand the thoughts or behaviors of others, we may think them irrational and not worthy of understanding or they can arouse our curiosity which can lead us on a journey to extraordinary worlds.

    Those hearing the sound of distant music inaudible to those living in noisy villages express their creativity as they dance to the beat of a different drummer. Are they happy? Yes. Insane? No. Maybe those who think them insane are simply projecting their own insanity on others.

  • Confucius

    “If a man gives no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”

    We cannot see what we cannot imagine. Imagining difficult scenarios allows us to see them as they slowly become reality. Seeing them before they are self-evident allows us the opportunity to avoid them or make the best of what comes our way.

  • Meditation of Death

    There are times we are overwhelmed by stress, pain, multitasking, internal strife (mixed feelings about choices we need to make), depression, anxiety, etc. Overwhelmed means drowning. Drowning leads to  death as without freedom from that which overwhelms us, we are living in hell. Fortunately, there is a life vest to save us from hell: the meditation of death.

    The meditation of death is setting our minds to imagine we will die in the next 5 minutes. With death imminent, everything transitions from like wallpaper that’s been up for years (flat and unnoticeable)  to three dimensional objects of intense beauty. Ugly, unfashionable Formica kitchen counters become beautiful abstract art. As we are energized by the beauty of everything, a calmness settles inside us and we are free from that which was overwhelming.

    As we continue with the meditation of death, we realize that death is a transition to becoming one with everything as we were before we were born. As one with everything, we view the universe from infinite perspectives (the essence of wisdom) and treat everything no differently than we treat ourselves (compassion). This is living in heaven, as before birth and after death.  From the perspective of heaven,  all that happens on Earth is absurdly funny. Thus, that which was once overwhelming now seems trivial, selfish and funny.

    To avail ourselves of the life vest, the meditation of death, we need never forget it is always near. But as we tend to be forgetful when we’re overwhelmed, best to keep us from oblivion are short periodic prayers (meditations) several times a day wherein we are thankful for our circumstances as we acknowledge that there are many in the world who would love to be in our shoes (especially if they have no shoes).

  • Robin S. Sharma

    “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”

    The etymology of mind is memory. Memory is a wonderful servant as it allows us to learn from our past experiences, successes and failures, to make good choices going forward. Memory is a terrible master when it creates categories for our past experiences and we experience the present not freely as it is but as a function of the category in which we place it. The categories are like a prison. When we cannot experience the present as it is, free of associations with other experiences, we are prisoners of our mind. Prison guards, however friendly, rule over us.

  • VAT: Laughter is Medicine

    Best treatment for stress or pain is laughter as it’s hard to be stressed out or in pain when we’re laughing. What’s funny when we’re stressed out or in pain? It’s almost always funny when we take ourselves seriously which is what we’re doing when stressed out or in pain.

  • Enlightenment is Overrated

    Enlightenment is overrated except by those who are enlightened.

    That’s the essence of enlightenment: non-judgmental, acceptance, humility and joy.

    The enlightened are non-judgmental. To them, the world is flat, not vertical, as they don’t rate their enlightened state as higher than other states of mind.

    They accept each state of mind as it is what it is whatever it is, to be appreciated as it can be appreciated.

    They are humble and as such they don’t confirm the status bequeathed them by others who desire to be enlightened as they view everyone as enlightened, some more some less. Asked if they are enlightened, the enlightened would respond: I am who I am. That is, categories, descriptions and identities deny the uniqueness of everything; the enlightened know that everything is unique; hence, self-descriptions are not an enlightened view.

    The enlightened don’t overrate enlightenment as they know the joy that springs from wisdom and compassion can never be overrated.

     

  • Peter Schjeldahl

    “[T]he years that you spend as a nobody are painful but golden, because no one bothers to lie to you. The moment you’re a somebody, you have your last truth. Everyone will try to spin you–as they should, with careers to think of.”

    When we are unimportant, others reveal to us who we are in their mind. When we are important, others hide their true selves by trying to please us so that we will please them. They will no longer be a mirror for how we appear to them (see “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen). Thus, it is a blessing to interact with those who don’t respect us as it reveals much about their nature and ours.

  • where the gods sit

    Life is a play, we are the actors and the gods are the audience. However the actors experience the play (comedy, tragedy or a bit of both) doesn’t matter to the gods as for them it’s all a farce. But where do the gods sit in the audience? In the front row are the gods that most clearly know the human mind and the deceptive costumes that clothe it. These gods have the greatest laugh. In the back are the gods that don’t completely get what’s going on. However, they are fortunate (or not) to be closest to the exit, wherever that might lead.

  • VAT: Crying at bookends of life

    At birth, the moment one becomes finite and no longer one with everything, newborns cry while everyone else is deaf to their cries and joyous. At death, the dying (who are about to become one with everything) die without a whimper while everyone about them cries. Maybe newborns and the dying, whom everyone views as understanding little at their stage of life, truly know something to which the rest of us are oblivious.

  • VAT: Developing Taste

    Taste is a matter of taste, though some tastes are rudimentary, some highly developed and some sophisticated.

    A small number of us are born with a super-sensitive nervous system and a refined sense of taste. The rest of us have a rudimentary sense of taste; we can’t say more about a sensual experience than that we like it or not; often don’t particularly take note of the experience. We can however develop our sense of taste to highly developed or sophisticated.

    Through “meditative tasting” we can develop taste. Meditative tasting is limiting a sensuous experience to one sensory channel (sight, sound, taste, smell or touch), having many such experiences and articulating these experiences.

    Alternatively, some develop sophisticated tastes which are a mark of a sophisticated people. Sophisticated people, as in the word sophistry, are primarily focused on appearing knowledgeable and having fine tastes but ultimately their sense of taste is rudimentary as their focus is not on the sensual experience but on how they appear.

  • Is marble colder than wood?

    In a room, marble and wood have the same temperature, room temperature. However, unlike wood, marble is cold to the touch. This is an anomaly as it doesn’t comport with our expectations. (Marble feels colder because it’s a relatively good conductor of heat and as such it drains heat from our skin, making our skin feel cold.)

    What makes the foregoing interesting is that while it’s common knowledge that marble feels colder than wood, very few of us are curious enough to find out why; probably because our curiosity is not aroused by anomalies, though maybe it should be.

    Anomalies are funny. Funny as in odd as they don’t conform to expectations, preconceived notions.  Preconceived notions are categories in our mind that organize past experiences. These categories have descriptions and associations. We experience not our experiences as they happen but the descriptions and associations we have with the experiences. Thus, also funny, as in laughingly funny, is when we realize we mistakenly placed an experience into a category into which it doesn’t belong. We laugh at our stupidity. If not, then we are truly stupid.

    Anomalies nudge us to awaken from having mechanical/category based experiences.  While everything is unique, not like or unlike anything else, we fail to experience its uniqueness when we mechanically classify our experiences. When our curiosity is aroused by the uniqueness of an anomaly, we seek to understand the anomaly and in doing so we start on a journey that makes us realize everything is unique; unless we ignore the anomalies.

  • From Pity to Compassion

    We connect with those we perceive as suffering via pity, sympathy, empathy and compassion. Pity is a detached (intellectual) feeling one has for others who are suffering as one imagines themselves suffering if in similar circumstances. Sympathy is when one is emotionally moved by the suffering of others. Empathy is feeling the suffering of another, comforting them and sharing their pain as a means of alleviating it. Compassion is helping someone who is suffering to recover and ultimately realize their potential. Pity and sympathy are self-serving (feeling good about ourselves having these feelings) and require nothing of us. Empathy can also be self-serving and is often potentially harmful to the empath in terms of emotional stress and costly in time and resources. Unlike pity and sympathy, empathy provides real relief to its beneficiary. Compassion is when one is one with everything and as such one treats others as they wish to be treated.

  • Regression to the mean

    The mean is the average as in our average day. When things are going poorly (below the mean), best to be calm as they are likely to get better and regress back to the mean. In calmness we’re less distracted by our mind and more likely to make the most of what comes next; that will bring us back to or above the mean. We calm down when we remember that however difficult our current circumstances, they could be worse; so we have much for which to be grateful.

    When our circumstances are much better than average, best to be anxious as the good times are unlikely to continue forever; at some point they’ll regress to the mean or lower. Low levels of anxiety allow us to imagine (and thereby see before they occur) negative events which often precipitate the regression; thus allowing us the chance to avoid or minimize the affect of those events.

  • Thomas Gray

    “Ignorance is bliss.”

    When we realize we know nothing about that which engages us, we are in bliss as our curiosity takes us on a journey of endless possibilities. When we think we really know something or what we’re doing, we are entombed in the imaginary bliss of ignorance.

     

  • Henry David Thoreau

    “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

    Love is when the means and the ends are one.

  • George Washington

    “We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”

    Other than for refining our risk management skills, dwelling on past events limits our ability to identify opportunities going forward.

  • “Terrific”

    Life is a play named “Terrific.”

    The play begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce. Terrific in the 19th century meant horrible/terrible and has since transitioned into meaning extraordinarily great/wonderful.

    The play begins with the birth of a child which, while perhaps the most joyous moment in a parent’s life, is a tragedy.  At birth, a newborn cries as it transitions from being one with everything in the womb to perceiving itself a finite being, apart and separate from that which is infinite. The transition gives rise to a sense of duality between it and the “other,” that which it is not. This duality causes much of the conflict and stress in our lives as we interact with others to realize basic needs of food, shelter, security, health and companionship.

    In “Terrific” each of us assumes various roles. Roles include career, family, religion, social group identities, etc. We tend to take these roles seriously, take ourselves seriously and forget that these roles are simply roles in a play. We are oblivious of who we are before we are born and who are after we die. Before and after life, we are one with the infinite.

    In taking our roles and ourselves seriously, we attribute meanings to our experiences (our reality) of events, actions and things. The meanings are based on the personal and collective stories of our past that our mind has simply created. We experience our reality not as it is what it is whatever it is but as our reactions to the meanings we attribute to our reality; thus, feeling sad, angry, elated, etc. This is karma. Karma often leads to tragedy (hurting ourselves or others) but is ultimately a farce for those in the audience viewing the play.

    For example, consensual and mutually pleasurable sexual relations between the presiding monk of a Zen monastery and one of the monastery’s  female students may be perceived by some members of the monastery as sexually coercive behavior. The female student is perceived as subordinate to presiding monk and the monk is perceived as taking advantage of his position to gain sexual favors. Some members of the monastery may feel angry or betrayed in that the sexual affair is inconsistent with how they expect a senior monk to behave. They then call for the monk to resign. They are angry because they cannot perceive that the mutually pleasurable sexual relationship is, simply, two people enjoying themselves. Seeing someone getting angry at others who are enjoying themselves is absurdly funny.

    That’s “Terrific.” The actors taking their roles seriously, making the play a tragedy; and to the gods who comprise the audience viewing it all, it’s a farce. We know the gods are watching as we’re told in Homer’s “Odyssey” of a deafening sound of laughter that comes from Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.

    Ultimately, the play goes on forever, though each actor’s role ends at some point when they are written out of the script and transition to death. Once done, each actor joins all the gods in the audience and enjoys the farce on stage. As such, at the end of our roles, it’s always terrific.

    Some enlightened actors realize that life is a play and that we are all gods with temporary roles. These actors, regardless of their various roles, have a good laugh as they make their way through life.

  • Daniel J. Boorstin

    “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.”

    When we think we know something, our curiosity evaporates and we cease exploring to become truly knowledgeable.

  • VAT: Stars

    Our sun reveals the finite world we know. Only at night, when we and our nearby star go to sleep, we realize there are infinite worlds as infinite stars are revealed. Wise are those who before they asleep know this secret of the night and that each of us is a star.

  • Eric Hoffer

    “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

    Those who view themselves as smart and educated often lack the flexibility of mind to adopt to changes. They will ultimately not survive as the only constant in life is change.

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” –Charles Darwin

  • VAT: Casting Shadows

    When facing the sun, energized by the light, we can easily be oblivious of the shadows we cast on those nearby.

    While bathing in the joy of enlightenment, we are truly not enlightened if we fail to see the sorrow we bring upon others. The essence of enlightenment is wisdom and compassion, identifying with everyone and everything.

  • VAT: Crazy

    A crazy society takes someone who is crazy seriously. Individually, we are crazy when they take our own crazy thoughts seriously.

  • Eccentrics

    The etymology of “eccentric” is  a circle or orbit not having the Earth precisely at its center. Eccentric people are off center. As they don’t identify with any affinity groups, they are independent thinkers and view many consensus views as absurd. Moreover, many of their views of human nature are unique and insightful. Often they feel invisible as others rarely take their views seriously for fear they too would appear eccentric and thus shunned by their affinity group memberships. Eccentrics are like Cassandra in Greek mythology who was cursed with the ability to make true prophesies that no one believed.

    According to Dr. David Weeks who has studied eccentrics, the characteristics of eccentrics, most of which apply to me, are:

    Enduring non-conformity.

    Creativity.

    Curiosity.

    An enduring and distinct feeling of being different from others.

    Idealism, unrealistically hoping to improve the lot of others by having others think like them.

    Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations.

    Intelligent, in the upper 15% of the population.

    Opinionated and outspoken.

    Non-competitive, not needing tangible recognition of success.

    Unusual eating habits and living arrangements.

    Not particularly interested in the opinions of others.

    Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy and wit.

    More frequently an eldest child.

    Having an eccentric family member.

    Focused on thoughts, not feelings.

    Feelings of invisibility as they feel others don’t take them seriously.

    Feeling that others can take them only in small doses.

    Dislike small talk or other inconsequential conversation.

    A degree of social awkwardness.

    More likely to be single, separated or divorced.

    A poor speller in relationship to their intellectual capacity.

  • VAT: Our Menu

    Life presents us with an ever-changing menu of choices. Our menu is the best as long as we make the best of it. If nothing on the menu appeals to us, that’s a curse or blessing. A curse if it causes us to complain. A blessing if we create what pleases us by combining the ingredients from the various line items on the menu.

  • VAT: Resentment

    If someone doesn’t love or respect you, you are no different than they are if you resent them. Best to feel badly for them because they don’t get it.

  • VAT: Respect the Weak

    It is funny that we hold in admiration those in roles of great wealth and power as their roles could easily be played by most of us. It is those whose lives are fraught with difficulties whom we should respect for their roles are most difficult. As well, we need to be thankful to them as someone needs to play those roles; if they didn’t then a vacancy might have us enlisted.

  • Keys to Health

    The basic keys to health are food, sleep, laughter, aerobic exercise and energy.

    Food.

    Only eat things that look as you’re eating them as they did when they were alive. Fruits, vegetables, small fish and birds look the same. Large fish, land animals don’t. Neither does bread or pasta as they don’t grow on trees. In other words, avoid eating refined foods and foods high up on the food chain which tend to accumulate toxic waste. Your body is built to eat naturally occurring foods, not man-made refined foods.

    Moreover, be careful to not get into eating accidents. These accidents are caused by overeating and often make us overweight. These accidents happen when we’re not paying attention as we’re eating. For example, there is a 90% reduction in fatal collisions in roundabout traffic circles where stop signs or light signals were previously used for traffic control. That’s because when one approaches a stop sign or light signal one may be on their phone, talking or listening to the radio; but, when approaching a roundabout, one dispenses with multitasking distractions and concentrates on the road ahead. Focusing our attention lessens the chances of an accident. Likewise, when eating, best to focus on what we’re eating. Best not to watch TV, listen to music, talk with someone or read.  If you’re hungry, eat as much as you wish but you’ll notice your stomach is rarely hungry after a few bites. If the food is delicious, each as much as you wish but you’ll find the law of diminishing returns results in each bite less pleasing then the bite before. Moreover, when you’ve got food in your mouth, close your eyes and enjoy the intense and subtle pleasure of the food,  undistracted by your other senses. This is meditative eating.

    Sleep.

    Sleep a couple of times a day, a long sleep of several hours at night and one or two short naps during the day. Sleep is akin to dying of old age and awakening after is rebirth. Sleep allows us to recover from simply being worn out.

    Laughter.

    Laughing is the great elixir for pain and stress. As there is something funny about almost everything, one can find the funniness of a situation to relieve pain or stress. For example, I recently accidentally closed a car door on my finger; then immediately started laughing at how foolish I was not paying attention to closing the car door as I was talking at the moment to a friend. This otherwise painful experience was not painful.

    Aerobic exercise.

    That which is so to speak dead is inanimate, not moving. To be alive, move around vigorously as something that’s alive to the point of getting your heart rate up. No need to go anywhere or use any equipment as you can dance or (if constrained by time or space) engage in sex.

    Energy

    Energy keeps us alive and protects us from malevolent forces like illness. Some people or situations are energizing and some are energy draining. Best to think about what brings us energy and what takes it away and embrace the energizing and avoid the draining.

  • VAT: The Illusion of Time

    Everyone I’ve ever met, whether they are dead or alive today, is right here, right now. I connect to them all, wherever they may be, and have their perspectives. Of this, I have no doubt as I know it cannot be otherwise. Everything happens at once and our mind has created time frames to create the illusion of past, present and future.  It seems strange that most people don’t experience the world this way.

  • VAT: Dispensing with the past

    The past is an illusion we create to entertain ourselves as tragedy or comedy. When we take it seriously we make our present experience an illusion as well. So if the past is not entertaining or we’re taking it seriously, best to dispense with it altogether and make the most of the situations in which we find ourselves.

  • II-WII-WII

    IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS

    An acronym (IIWIIWII) pronounced: I Y Y

    A mantra: I why why! I why why?

    A koan: I why why (why am I, why does the universe exist)?

    The universe is revealed by one (uni) verse: IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

    “W” is “double U.” II-WII-WII is II-UU-II-UU-II.

    The first “I” is me in my finite form, finite in time (birth to death) and space (my physical being). I as I show up in the everyday world in finite consciousness. (The etymology of finite is that which is finished.) It is a world delineated by descriptions (e.g.,the sky is the sky, you are you, etc.) and categories of experiences and stories our mind creates to make sense of  our experience of life. The second “I” is the infinite (the not finished); the ever-changing, eternal I; the I that has no birth or death, just transitions; the I that is one with the universe.  I am the finite and the infinite. The first “U” is you in your finite form. The second “U” is you as a portal to the infinite universe.

    The finite is the face or tangible manifestation of the universe and the infinite the ever-changing, evolving universe. While seemingly dualities (the finite and infinite I, I and the universe, I and U), I and you and the universe are one.

    The universe is like a coin with obverse and reverse sides. The obverse side is what we observe. It represents the finite world wherein we live our everyday lives. It is a world of our head’s (mind’s) creation. It is a familiar, orderly world of memories, role-playing, identities, meanings, symbols, stories and interactions with others; a world of duality as we identify as apart and separate from that which is not us. This is a world of animal consciousness. This world is critical to navigating through the tangible world and engages much of our attention.

    The reverse side represents the infinite, the not finished, evolving universe. The infinite unfolds at speeds beyond our abilities to directly experience it, remember or describe it; doing so is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

    The obverse and reverse sides are mutually dependent as one cannot exist without the other.

    On the coin’s edge, sometimes called the third side, is a double helix with the letters II-UU-II-UU-II.

    When the coin is flipping in the air it rotates too rapidly for us to see its obverse, reverse or third side. But we can simply delight in its movement. There are no words to describe it,  just one verse: IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

    We view the obverse side of the universe through mind. Mind is like a pond reflecting different images depending on where along the perimeter of the pond we are stationed and our state of mind (calm or agitated); thus, infinite images of the obverse side can be observed. For example, when clouds are moving above the pond they appear differently to each of us depending on where we are stationed and our state of our mind.  Moreover, the clouds appear differently from the perspective of the sun, sky, plants, animals and all else.  To view the clouds from infinite perspectives is the consciousness of the universe. When we merge our mind with the consciousness of the universe we are one with everything. Having infinite perspectives is the essence of wisdom. Being one with the universe is the essence of compassion, treating all and everything as we treat ourselves.

    The moment we awaken to the nature of the universe (the realization that we are both finite and infinite and one with the universe) we are present. In the present, everything is unique as at this moment nothing else exists or ever existed. As the presence is unique, it cannot be compared to anything else; it cannot be described; of it can only be said: “It IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.” This is as one would describe God and God’s personification in finite forms such as you and me.

    Thus, as said Lao Tzu: “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”

  • VAT: How to make life uninteresting

    Almost every person’s life is fascinating, entertaining; but that’s often not their experience of it.

    Sleeping through life, a rhythm of habits and role-playing is not an interesting life.

  • Eckhart Tolle

    “You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.”

    We and the universe are one. We are ever-changing, temporary manifestations of the universe.

  • VAT: Enlightenment

    As there are few who are enlightened, enlightenment is lonely unless you’re enlightened.

    For those enlightened, everything is fascinating.

  • Victor Teicher, IAWIA | An ancient statue of multiple faces stacked together.

    Mr. Many Heads

    This surreal figure (wood and pigment, 21 cm) is from the Lega tribe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is called “Sakimatwematwe” or “Mr. Many Heads who has seen an elephant on the other side of the river.” As an aphorism, to see the greatest animal in the jungle (which is not easily seen as it is on the other side of the river) requires wisdom, fairness and omniscience, characteristics of someone who can view things from the different perspectives of many heads.

    This object is in the Tomkins Collection. The collection can be viewed at tomkinscollection.org.

  • Lao Tzu

    “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”

    Everything is unique. No thing can be described or categorized as doing so would make it like some things and unlike other things. Thus, it can only be said that it is what it is whatever it is. He who speaks, to explain or describe, does not know of what he speaks; revealing his ignorance, not knowledge.

  • Alice (from Alice in Wonderland)

    “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

    Every day is a life in a day, not a day in a life. We’ve lived thousands of lifetimes. We die in the evening and are reborn in the morning with some resemblance to the person we were yesterday. So “good mourning,” have a good time mourning the person you were yesterday but don’t take that person too seriously as doing so will interfere with living your life today, the only life you have.

  • Mark Twain

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.”

    When we have regrets about choices we didn’t make in the past, we are living in the past. As such, we can’t make the most of the present which leads us to future regrets.

  • Keith Richards

    “Getting old is a fascinating thing. The older you get, the older you want to get.”

    That’s a typical view of a 16 year old boy. However, this boy, Richards, happens to live in a body that looks like a haggard 80 year old. At 16, much of life is new and engaging and peak experiences are everywhere to be had. We love it all, want more and are excited about what’s next. However, as we age many of us focus our attention on keeping  ourselves looking young, not at experiencing the world as someone young.

  • Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

    “Those who understand only what can be explained understand very little.”

    Little of the universe has been explained. If we don’t understand that, we don’t understand much and are unlikely to understand more.

    To know the universe we need to discover it ourselves, not simply rely on explanations given to us by others.

  • Marcel Proust

    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.”

    Viewing something from different perspectives is more enlightening than viewing different things.

  • Benjamin Disraeli

    “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”

    We recall an infinitesimal fraction of our past experiences. What we do believe we recall we weave into a story that bears little connection to our actual experiences.

  • The Benefits of Anxiety

    Anxiety is a state of mind that in extreme is debilitating, a great impediment to realizing our potential. Low levels of anxiety however can be beneficial.

    Before making a significant decision (almost every choice in life can ultimately be significant if not in itself than in its consequences), high anxiety can cause us to freeze or panic which will unlikely result in us making a good choice.

    Low levels of anxiety however can spur our imagination to envision many potentially negative consequences that can result from our choices. If after imaginable risks are considered and a choice still looks good, it’s a good choice as we can live with the outcome, come what may.

    Moreover, when negative scenarios unfold, they generally unfold slowly then suddenly. As we cannot see what we cannot imagine, unless we envision a scenario before it unfolds, we are unlikely to see what’s coming until it is obvious to all and too late to do much about it. Imagining and then seeing scenarios before they fully unfold enables us to make the best of things to come.

  • Rock-Paper-Scissors

    Are you a rock, paper or scissors?

    Rock-paper-scissors is a game dating to antiquity. It is also a metaphor for the evolution of the universe. The initial forms of the universe were rocks, like eggs of various sizes from a pebble to a planet. Over time, life arose. Paper, which is organic, represents life. Humans, the most evolved life form, eventually created technology, like scissors, to serve their economic needs and empower their aggressive efforts to dominate one another.

    In the game, one’s fist represents rock, an open hand represents paper and the index and middle fingers spread open represents scissors. A fist is a symbol of oneness, the essential nature of the universe. An open hand (like a welcoming handshake) represents openness and cooperation which is an essential element for the development of civilization. The two fingers separated look like a fork, a beneficial and potentially aggressive tool.

    In the game, paper trumps rock, scissors trumps paper and rock trumps scissors. Likewise, civilization trumps nature, technology trumps civilization and nature trumps technology. Civilization from its beginnings in agrarian societies has to its self benefit overcome nature. Technology (while necessary and beneficial in the development of complex civilization) is often a force used in the mass destruction of civilization. Nature, in the form of an asteroid or sun storm flares (see Carrington Event of 1859) hitting the Earth, will destroy technology (electric grid, GPS systems, etc.) and in turn much of civilization that depends on technology.

    So what do you identify with, rock, paper or scissors; nature, civilization or technology?

  • What we see everywhere but rarely notice

    Light

    What we see everywhere is not objects but light reflecting off objects. The light is delineated in shapes and forms of objects with colors and shades.  We rarely notice the light except as glare off a reflecting surface, a car’s headlight or the sun.

    Light is energy as it travels through space.  As it slows, light transforms into physical forms*. Whether as light or as infinite unique physical manifestations, light is light. But the physical manifestations are an illusion, like images from a movie projector onto a screen. The images are made real as independent objects by our mind.  Likewise, our personal/individual identities are an illusion made real by the storyline in our self-created movie with others as actors playing their roles accordingly.

    *The relationship between the physical manifestations of the universe and its light/energy essence is implied by the equation E=M*C*C, Energy (E) is equal to Mass (M) multiplied by the Speed of Light (C) squared. When Mass is accelerated to the Speed of Light squared, it becomes Energy. Likewise, Mass is Energy slowed down (divided) by the Speed of Light squared. In other words, when Energy (light) slows down it transitions into Mass of infinite tangible manifestations. 

  • Life is a Bubble

    Life is a glass of sparkling water.
    Each of us a bubble that seems to come out of nowhere,
    transitioning its way to the top of the glass
    and then seems to disappear.
    We don’t disappear.
    We become one with everything
    which is what we have been from the beginning.

  • Koan: How old is Buddha?

    Part of Zen meditation practice is concentrating on a koan, a question asked of a meditating student by a Zen master to help the student free himself from the frameworks created by mind.

    In a complex world where we can be easily overwhelmed by experiences, the frameworks (categories, generalizations and descriptions) organize experiences. As such, our experiences are not of it is what it is whatever it is, they are an experience of the meanings, descriptions and stories of the frameworks are mind has created.

    I was once asked by an acquaintance, Craig who has been doing Zen meditation for some years, the koan: “How old is Buddha?”

    To which I replied: Buddha is as old as Buddha is. Buddha is old, young and everything in between. Buddha is as old as you want him to be. Buddha is timeless as Buddha is a concept. Which Buddha; as some Buddhas have come and gone, some are being born and some are dying? What is Buddha? Buddha is one day older than he was yesterday. As the only constant in the universe is change, the age of Buddha cannot be determined as his age is forever changing. I can’t say how old is Buddha as I don’t know him in terms of age, do you?

    My responses to the question of how old is Buddha seemed absurd to Craig. His response:  “That’s not it, more zazen [meditation].”

    Then it dawned on me. How old is Buddha? It is what it is whatever it is.

    Likewise, the answer to the often cited koan, what is the sound of one hand clapping? The sound of one hand clapping is the sound of one hand clapping. It is what it is whatever it is.

    An alternative response to how old is Buddha and what is the sound of one hand clapping?  Why do five baby ducks walk behind a red rooster? This answer is another koan.

    The purpose of Zen meditation is Zen meditation. The purpose of a koan is to focus the mind on one thing and let everything else fall away until the koan too falls away as a meaningless, empty construct. One then remains with the meditation alone, in the void between when the unseen becomes the seen. At that point one becomes one with everything.

  • Ten men and the elephant

    The ten men and the elephant is a parable in many variations from the Indian subcontinent, dating back more than 2,500 years.

    In a small village in India there were ten men who had heard of but had never seen the greatest animal in the jungle, the elephant. Determined to see an elephant, the ten men hired a guide to find one. After several days of trekking in the jungle, the guide saw an elephant and called forth the ten men. The men approached the elephant and in their excitement each touched a different part of the it.  The man who touched its tail said the elephant was like a snake. The man who touched the elephant’s leg said the elephant was like a tree trunk. The man who touched the elephant’s tusk said it was like a sea shell. Each of the ten men described the elephant very differently. Soon the ten men, each insisting that their view of the elephant was right, started to argue and eventually came to blows.

    Clearly, the ten men were blind and didn’t know they were. 

    The moral of this parable is that anyone who is certain of the infallibility of their perceptions is blind and doesn’t know it. Don’t take your view of something too seriously as in so doing you will likely make a fool of yourself and at times wind up hurting others or yourself.

    If you can’t view something in at least ten different ways (with at least one way which is funny), you don’t know what you are looking at. In the parable, each man’s view is funny (as in odd) to those of us who’ve seen an elephant; funny (as in laughable) as the men are fools, not knowing they are blind.

    As in Shakespeare’s As You Like It,  “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”  And Daniel Kahneman: “We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.”

    Finally, as to what does an elephant look like, we need to conclude that it is what it is whatever it is and that whatever that is, it is big. The elephant is the universe.

  • Victor Teicher, IAWIA | "Big Bang, Mind Reflections Universe" by Joshua Henderson. What appears to be a black and white macro photo of an eye.

    Big Bang

    Joshua Henderson

  • Two Monks and a Girl

    There is a classic Zen story of two monks and a girl:

    An old monk and a young monk were walking together to their monastery and came to a river with a strong current. As the monks started to cross the river, a young and beautiful girl called out to them asking for help to cross the river as she feared its current. While the monks had taken vows never to look or touch a woman, the older monk picked the girl up on his shoulders and carried her across. Then the girl went her way and the monks continued their walk to the monastery.

    The young monk was shocked by what had just happened but spoke not a word. After a couple of hours the young monk could not contain himself and said: “As monks we have vowed not to look or touch a woman, how could you carry that girl on your shoulders?” The older monk looked at the younger monk and replied: “Brother, I set her down on the river bank a couple of hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

    This is a story about living in the present, not living preoccupied by events now passed. The purpose of meditation and vows is to unshackle oneself from the prison of the past which the old monk has but the young monk hasn’t. The story is about the role of vows, meditations, diets and other disciplinary tools deployed by those on the path to enlightenment. These tools are tools. However, often these tools are held sacred as the means and the end of righteous practice, which explains the reaction of the young monk. The older monk is enlightened. He hears a voice crying for help and does what he can to help. The vows are artificial constructs which ultimately mean nothing to him. The girl is an artificial construct, not a girl but only a voice crying for help.

    Another, more graphic version of this story describes two monks who were making their way from one monastery to another. They had been practicing meditation together for many years and were very good friends. In fact, not only were they close friends, but there was also a teacher-student relationship in place – one of the monks was much older and had been a monk since long before the other monk was born. Their journey involved many days traveling on foot. As the two monks walked through the forests and countryside, they spent a great deal of time discussing various aspects of the Buddhism.

    At a certain point in their journey, the monks heard the screams of a woman coming from a nearby river. They rushed to see what was happening and in the middle of the river they saw a naked woman who was drowning. The older monk swiftly threw off his robes, dove into the water and rescued the woman. He then brought her to the riverbank and proceeded to cover her with his spare robes. After assuring himself that she was safe and well, the two monks continued on their journey.

    The rest of their journey was quite different. The river incident had quite an affect on the younger monk who for the rest of the journey had surly comportment and refused to even speak to the older monk.

    A few days later, the monks arrived at their destination – a monastery they were going to be staying at for the next few months. At this point, the young monk started to ostracize the older monk and refused to even acknowledge his presence. The older monk was rather dismayed and worried about the comportment of his friend and so one day he confronted the younger monk saying: “Please, young sir, why have you changed? What have I done to warrant being treated in this manner? If I have said or done something that has hurt you then I am truly sorry and I must have done it mindlessly and certainly without intention”. The young monk replied: “You are not a true monk – you have broken the vows we’ve taken and as such, I may no longer be associated with you”. The older monk was rather shocked to hear this and asked what rules had been broken. The younger monk replied: “Not only did you touch a woman but you touched a naked woman and gave her the robes of a monk”. “How very true” replied the elder, “I saved the woman and carried her to the banks of the river, I made sure that she was warm and well and then I left her on the banks of the river. However, it would appear that you are still carrying her around on your shoulders! In all these years of so-called practice of the Buddhist path, you have learned absolutely nothing. You cannot live without your rules and regulations – what a small and wasted life!”

    The graphic version of the story provides further insights into Zen. (1) One purpose of life is to make this world a bit better than it would be otherwise; take every opportunity to do so, which is what the older monk did in helping the girl from drowning. (2) Treat others as you wish to be treated which is why the older monk provided the girl his comfortable robes and made sure she was safe and well. (3) Don’t take your view of a situation too seriously as by doing so you will fail to learn from the situation (as the young monk failed), make a fool of yourself or cause the demise of your relationships with others. (4) Don’t be judgmental of others as by doing so you may cause yourself to be indicted. (5) An enlightened monk is one with everything, not conflicted by duality. As such, even though both the monk and the girl were naked, the monk was not sexually attracted or repulsed by her.

  • Mourning and Evening, a life in a day

    Good mourning,

    Yes, mourning. Let’s have a good time mourning the person we were yesterday who is now no longer. Let’s not take that person too seriously, otherwise we’ll be distracted from realizing our life’s purpose.

    The purpose of life is to have a wonderful time, realize our potential of divine consciousness and likewise help others.

    Good evening,

    It’s time to sleep, to transition from consciousness to sleep-death, as the life we lived today has now passed. It is time for the evening, as everyone is now made even; the smart, the stupid, the rich, the poor; all equal as we enter the inevitable sleep-death that awaits us.

    What remains unchanged is our soul. While our daily personal lives are finite, our souls are eternal. When we transition, our souls connects with all souls as one. The soul is ineffable, though some call it god.

    Today is not a day in a life; it is life in a day, birth to death from dawn to dusk. We have lived and died thousands of times as each day is a life onto itself. Each awakening is a reincarnation. Everyday is our birthday, not a commemoration but our actual birthday.

    So let’s have a good mourning and realize our purpose this day which is the entirety of our life. Let’s live today as our first day of life and experience everything as new and unique which is what it is whatever it is. Let’s live today as our last day of life and do whatever we would regret not having done if we are not reincarnated tomorrow. And let’s delay doing anything we don’t need do today and leave it for tomorrow as we would be wasting our time if we are not here tomorrow. Let’s not kill time until time kills us, waiting for evening when everyone is evened out.