There is a WAR going on

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…if you haven’t noticed. And that is a WAR ON CHRISTMAS.

Well, no. There WAS a war on Christmas.

And Christmas lost.

It lost when the consumer market got us into the habit of buying a gift rather than giving our TIME and ATTENTION to someone.

Actually, I’m wrong again. We didn’t lose the war. We lost a battle.

We can still change. Every day is a new day. A day to be better and do better.


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.

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Lose your clothes, find your self

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My morning started like most others. I woke up, qued up my yoga dvd and quickly sat down to follow the instructor before I got distracted. I finished the session, and by the time I made my food for the day, I was pressed for time, and scuttling about for my socks. After a few minutes, I grew frustrated and stopped looking for the lost blue mate to the one in my hand. I was irritated. I might even say I was suffering. Bourgeoisie suffering.

When I wear pants that sit just right, with a fitted shirt that looks, well, fitted, instead of looking like I’m swimming in it like a small child, I feel good. I’m sure you feel the same when you get something stylish, sexy, and professional. It doesn’t seem right if we don’t look right, and there’s a gigantic market of stores with lines of clothes that are going to make our day. I will feel better in those pants. You will feel better in that dress. And that’s the curious part.

Why do we like dressing well? It would seem it’s for others, to look good. But really, it’s not. We dress a certain way, because it makes us feel good. Not because anyone else is going to give us a high five, or an appreciative nod, or even a compliment (at least from my experiences this is an uncommon event). And if we are dressing fashionably to get some sort of of external recognition, well, it’s still being done so that we will feel good.

You might be saying, “So what, Captain Obvious. Of course we do everything to make ourselves feel good, we don’t do things to make ourselves feel bad.” And you’re right. (Although that argument can be critiqued, given how many people end up in situations of suffering, with all their starting good intentions to be happy.)

My point here is, if we’re dressing a certain way, if we can’t leave the house without matching socks, what else are we prioritizing, more specifically, what else are we de-prioritizing? Time or money spent shopping or picking out clothes or searching for a matching sock is time/money that’s not used doing something for ourselves. I mean, our self, that soul inside, under the layers of the mind that want these clothes, this house, this car, and that perfect dinette set from the Pottery Barn catalog, picked up after perusing so many dinette sets, and asking, “Which one of these defines me as a person?” (Hat tip, Fight Club).

What does your self need? Maybe nothing, and if so, kudos to you, my friend, because you are truly enlightened. You’ve accept the world and all its randomness, and your faulty self, your big ass, big nose, or small boobs. You have gratitude for what you have and a curiosity for what you don’t know. You have friendships that support you and which you give back to, you have creative endeavors that promote you, and a job that stimulates you..and if you don’t, you’re well on your way to those things. Why?

Because you’ve put your self-development over form development. You may very well be looking good, too, fit and dressed to a T, (and truly, I hope you do, because I definitely prefer seeing stylish fit people rather than a swath of blue jeans and obesity when I step outside.) Regardless, you have your priorities in place. You know your personality will trump even the best looking outfit. You know that being confident, making something useful, and showing interest and care to others are much more important than what silly fashion you’ve covered your meatbag with. You know that the finite form is nothing more than a facade, and any happiness it may bring is as fleeting as our short time on this earth…a short time spent worrying about making more money or finding matching socks.

So I picked up that black sock and put it on, staring at my blue one on the left, and the black one on the right. I wiggled my toes and evaluated them, and then I smiled. Maybe I could flip my priorities more towards building my self over my form, and this would be a step in that direction. One comic, vulnerable step toward the organized chaos of happiness.

TED Talk Tuesday: Graham Hill says “Less stuff, more happiness”



Graham Hill gives one of the best TED talks I’ve seen. We have three times as much living space as 50 years ago. But happiness has flatlined since then. Why? Because more stuff doesn’t make you more happy. The right stuff does.

It’s all about turning our paradigm on its head. I’ve been there. I’m in the store, and that ‘As Seen on TV’ car window scrubber looks really useful. So I grab it. And I do use it. Maybe a handful of times. But then I think about how a simple towel would have worked just as well.

“We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?” By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just.. stuff.”

Less stuff means more freedom, means more time. When I go camping, somehow my worries are reduced, which relates to having everything I own for that trip in a backpack. My day is wide open and free. (Seeing a sunset over the Appalachian mountains helps prioritize things too, of course.)

“We’ve got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn’t worn in years? It’s time for me to let it go. We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow.”

What stuff do you think you could let go of in your life?

What stuff truly makes you happy?

Remove the money gag

How would you rate the following in importance?

-Tax breaks for gay and straight married couples
-Wall Street banks paying fines a fraction of the $30 trillion the government loaned them to keep their collapse from taking down our economy.
-Government money to cover contraception

What do we need to focus on? All of these involve controlling money. Is that the problem?

The money isn’t the problem. It’s how the government is engineering the country as if money is our only motivator.

Good leaders trust the human spirit, not carrots and sticks

Good leaders don’t use regulations and incentives. But our leaders are doing so today. They’re trying to regulate Wall St bankers to prevent their recklessness from hurting us again in the future. But regulations restrict us and push us to find a way around them. That is why three times since 1990, the banks have almost collapsed and why the government bailed them out each time. If you knew you were going to get your money back, would you be more or less careless when spending it?

And incentives? Incentives bribe us. Research shows that when you start giving rewards, people are pretty predictable. They stop doing for the sake of doing, and shift to doing for the reward. When you start going to work so that you can get money to buy stuff, the stuff becomes the reward and the job becomes less of a choice.

We’re not animals. But if you use carrots and sticks on us, we will tune our motivations to that type of environment

How can these two things be the foundation of leadership, of government, of a community?

They can’t.

Are there any leaders today that inspire you? Most leaders of today aren’t going to be the people in government. Those who seek power in a system that has been compromised have compromised themselves. Granted, they may change some things. They may nibble at the fringes. But that cancer still grows inside.

Despite what media and culture tells us, leaders aren’t special. They aren’t chosen by divine providence or fate. They don’t have abilities different than you and me. Do you empower others? Ask people what they think? Do you encourage people? Then you’re probably a leader, or you can become one now that you see what it takes.

Leaders make things happen, yes. But:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

This Taoist quote tells us it’s about us doing something. It’s always been about us. And I think we can do this. It’s going to require us to remove the gag of money that has both silenced and motivated us. It’s going to require looking past the “I want to get mine if they’re getting theirs”. It’s going to require stopping the consumer train, and looking at what we’re feeding the engine. It’s going to require putting our heads together and not letting party or social class or emotions divide us and distract us from doing the right thing.

Let’s kill the noise and start listening to reality

Elections are where we can flex our muscle. But we’ve got to do our homework before then. Listen to what’s being reported. Do you think it’s important? We’ve got to talk to people and not be afraid to ask them why they believe what they do. Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy, and neither are you. Politics isn’t personal. It’s what a community depends on for its survival! And if we think one party or one person can fix this country, we’ve missed the point. This country is here because people had the courage of their convictions to join together and risk everything for what they believed in.

I think we can step up and be leaders again.

TED Talk Tuesday: Surrounded by people, but alone on your island



Daniel Goleman talks about the importance of noticing others.  He takes us on a journey, starting with how seminary students help a man in need, to the mind of a serial killer, to the feasibility of compassionate consumerism.

“There’s a saying in Information Science: Ultimately, everyone will know everything. The question is, will it make a difference?”

Take the time to swim off of your island. Our connection with others and the mindfulness of where our purchases come from determines whether we are a collection of privileged consumers with the information of the world in our hands, or a grateful nation of responsible human beings, with the information we need in our heads.