Friday, February 9, 2018

What Rhymes With Aphrodisiac? An Interview with Rob Brezsny

Found this brilliant interview with ROB BREZSNY - multidimensional genius without portfolio - conducted by Sarah Phelan for Metro Santa Cruz in August 2005. I just have to blog it, if only because Brezsny comes pretty close to saying it all for me, and probably a lot more elegantly too!

GRAVE ENCOUNTER

In which we bury a symbol of paranoia in an effort to break on through to the other side with astrologer Rob Brezsny

By Sarah Phelan
Photographs by Dina Scoppettone

It began with an email from Rob Brezsny, that renegade genius whose syndicated Free Will Astrology column runs in 130 newspapers nationwide, including Metro Santa Cruz. Only this time Brezsny, who lived in Santa Cruz for 14 years and has since moved to Marin, wasn't writing horoscopes, but pushing his newest book, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (North Atlantic Books; $19 paper).

"Reading it is interesting and helpful, too, but a lot of good stuff can happen if you just let its edgy benevolence seep into your dreaming mind," wrote Brezsny, who urged me to sleep with a copy of Pronoia under my pillow for at least three nights.

At 296 pages thick, the copy of Pronoia that happened to be sitting on my desk didn't strike me as a dream pillow—even in softcover. But Brezsny's email did get me leafing through his weighty tome, whose cover (a flaming heart at the center of a labyrinth) and optimistic subtitle (How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings) had already piqued my curiosity. And once inside its pages, I was unable to resist the "dear gorgeous genius" love letter, or the "luminous tease page," which in typical Brezsny fashion exhorted me to "rebel against your horoscope," and "sip the tears of someone you love." And then there were Brezsny's miribilia reports, which reportedly come "live from your repressed memory of paradise," and include freeing gems, like the uplifting news that "black sheep have a better sense of smell than white sheep."

Promising to place my copy under my pillow (beauty sleep be damned), I emailed Brezsny my request for a face-to-face interview—something he deemed "so 20th-century, but fun, too."

He ended up suggesting that we meet at the Evergreen Cemetery in Harvey West Park to carry out a ritual burial of my share of paranoia, cynicism and snark.

"Not that you have any more than the rest of us; we all need to bury our load of psychic garbage," wrote Brezsny, adding that if I wanted to bury my paranoia then I should bring a symbol of it.

And so it was that after deliberating on paranoid symbolism for the next two weeks, I found myself standing beside the white picket fence that delineates Evergreen Cemetery, a picture postcard of George W. Bush in my hands. Brezsny says he chose this graveyard for our meeting because of many fond associations he has with the place, including meeting the love of his life, Ro Loughran, who he first spied "flailing like a whirling dervish on top of a sepulcher during a performance art event called "A Happy Birthday for Death."

Oddly enough, my first impression of the historic site, which contains the tombstones of some of Santa Cruz's earliest movers and shakers, was of a lover's quarrel, thanks to the pasty-faced goth couple with matching jet-black hair, who standing beneath the cemetery's metal archway were hurling poisonous insults at each other, as I approached.

Not wishing to invade their space and with Brezsny nowhere in sight, I wandered between the cemetery's white entrance pillars and up the redbrick path that meanders into the hills that flank Harvey West Park. Halfway along the path, I encountered a woman whose body was silhouetted by a blinding sheet of white light. Temporarily disoriented, I was just beginning to wondering if this lady—and the goth couple for that matter—were ghosts, when the apparition stepped out of the sunlight and into the shade, revealing herself to be Metro Santa Cruz photographer Dina Scoppettone, who told me that she had just found an old headstone inscribed with the name "Sarah"—a site she thought might be perfect for my paranoia burial ritual.

Just then an exuberant gaggle of school kids caught our attention as they entered the cemetery screaming happily and followed by a man with windswept silver hair, who was wearing a white lab coat over black clothes and carrying a clipboard and pen. As the sun glinted off the man's Harry Potteresque spectacles, I recognized him as Rob Brezsny, "the master of rowdy bliss" as he calls himself in Pronoia, who was here to help me bury my postcard of Bush "without hate." And so we spent the next hour, sitting on the some cold stone steps that led to a nearby grave and talking, as solitary yellow leaves drifted down from the tree canopy and onto the trails, where wind swept them along in dry rattling rustles.


METRO SANTA CRUZ: What can we do about paranoia in light of the fact that Rove is still roving and Bush just got, er 're-elected'?

BREZSNY: The worst thing is to let any of our responses to Bush make us like him, like the fundamentalist virus, which makes us believe the way we see things is correct.

Confess your fundamentalist virus.

My daughter is always busting me when I'm prejudiced against rich people. The mark of a fundamentalist take on things is that it's totally serious, literal and personal. Those are the three death grips.

How long have you been assuming your lab coat identity?

About six years, part time. I like some of the ways that scientists look at the world, how they shed their personal biases, how they don't jump on a little bit of data and make up stories, but just deal with what's there. One of my hypotheses is that the world is conspiring to give us exactly what we need, not from my ego's, but from my soul's, point of view. I put on the lab coat to inspire me, mostly. To remind myself that I'm a scientist, a researcher, not a know-it-all. I like to say I'm looking for the answers so I can destroy them and think up better questions.

Grave New World: Both Rob Brezsny and George W. Bush share the same astrological signs - Cancer with Libra moon - yet only Brezsny adheres to the ancient Spider-Man koan:
'With great power comes great responsibility.'

Do you think that people sitting there, saying, 'Bush is our greatest teacher,' even as bombs keep killing people in Iraq, can lead to dangerous apathy?

I think the answer is to try to live in both of those realms and maintain a dual perspective. Yes, everything is going exactly as planned, but from the perspective that we as small egos can't see, it will work out in a way that may be immediately difficult and painful, but will be good for all. So you can sit there, but also be prepared to fight fiercely for beauty and justice and harmony, to be absolutely devoted to kicking ass in the most tender way possible. Being a pronoiac doesn't make you passive. There's a lot of fierceness in my particular approach to creating goodness and truth and beauty.

I notice you say 'pronoiac' and not 'pronoid.'

Pronoiac rhymes with aphrodisiac. Pronoid rhymes with paranoid.

By rhyming with aphrodisiac, pronoiac emphasizes a love of life?

Yeah, this pronoia is celebration. It's not a passive optimism. It's not an "ignore the darkness" kind of optimism. This is not a shopping-mall-in-Indianapolis kind of pronoia. This is not a gated-community kind of pronoia. It's a let-the-chaos-in kind of pronoia, because the Goddess is bringing us chaos over and over again. That's how she creates. So, pronoia's got to thrive on chaos. It can't be afraid of it.

A woman with a heavy Spanish accent called our paper a few months ago from Watsonville, and said, 'Rob Brezsny, he hates Aries.' She claimed your column always bashes Aries. Do you have a secret hatred of Aries?

(Laughs rowdily.) No, I love all the signs equally, but as you can imagine, I'm a huge projection screen for people. In general, that's probably pretty good. They can project onto me their inner teacher. They can imagine that I'm somehow the source of this information, when it's actually coming from them, because it's all in how you interpret my work. I think when I'm working at my best, I'm standing in for each person's inner teacher. Since lots of people don't know they have such a thing, I can provide a service, I can materialize it in the outer world.

Your work, then, is all in the interpretation?

I try to keep my intentions extremely clean and pure and loving, because I think that's the only thing that's going to work to ensure that people take what I say and use it in the best way. It's so important that your intentions don't get subverted, or appropriated by the ego or your desire to be loved or please other people. Not that those are terrible motivations, but to do what I do best, I have to give without any strings attached, with the smartest love I can summon.

What made you leave Santa Cruz?

My wife was going to grad school in San Francisco. I also had that sense that as long as I lived in Santa Cruz, that because I resonated so deeply with the starving artist archetype, I would remain a starving artist. I don't think everyone who lives here does that, to the contrary, but I felt I'd remain insular, if I stayed. And within a couple of years of leaving, my column took off and got syndicated, and I made a lot more money.

Do you pray for clarity?

I do. Most of my prayers start with gratitude, asking Goddess what I can do for her, rather than what she can do for me

Is Pronoia a character in Greek mythology?

In Greek mythology, Pronoia was the consort of Prometheus, the divine rebel who stole fire from the gods and brought it to humanity. Pronoia is an ancient word that's been used in different contexts, but used to mean providence, or the abundance of spiritual gifts.

Do you see Pronoia as a female figure, or as a belief system?

I like to say it's a mode of perception and try to take out of realm of belief. I do like to see it as a muse, though, as a somewhat elusive but generous muse, which for me, because I'm a heterosexual man, tends to take a female form, and a muse that bestows an abundance and surprise and clues to me as a researcher. ... It's critical that what we call the archetype of the Divine Feminine returns in full force before we kill the world — or kill the world as it's inhabitable for us.

In 'Pronoia,' you call yourself Global Village Idiot and Fool Czar?

Right, although the president hasn't responded to my request to be appointed Fool Czar.

So, as Fool Czar, how would you exhibit compassion toward George?

I'd love to kiss his ass. I even offered to kiss Rove's butt without his underpants on, but I haven't had any response. And I'd love to talk about the fact that George W. Bush and I share astrological signs. We're both Cancer with Libra moon. I'd like to talk about ways we're similar.

What are those ways?

We're both good at touching into the collective imagination. However, in my opinion, he manipulates that for the powers of greed, of elitism, of militarism and materialism, whereas I'm trying to, I suppose, manipulate it in the name of beauty and truth and the elimination of hierarchy, of pure democracy and feminism. I'd like him to consider creating some new holidays. One of them would of course be the Bliss Blast.

As part of one of the exercises in your book called 'Rank Your Favorite Doomsday Scenario,' I went on the Internet, typed in 'paranoia' and got tons of hits. Waco. Men in black. The Bay of Pigs. The Bermuda Triangle. Chemtrails. Black helicopters. UFOs. Tinfoil Hats. The missing WMDs and 9/11. Bin Laden. Seems like it's a pretty good time in the history of world to be paranoid.

A pretty interesting time.

So, you're swimming against the stream with your pronoia?


I'm not gonna claim that the news is 95 percent good, but I would like to work on the hypothesis that maybe it's fifty-fifty. I think that the absurd domination of bad news is curious and suspicious. It seems to suggest that those who identify themselves as educated and elite communicators in our society believe the opposite of what the poet John Keats said, which is, 'If something is not beautiful, it is probably not true.

The media and a lot of politicians seem to say the exact opposite, which is, if something is not ugly, it is not true. And that's a cockeyed view of world. I'm not advocating that we ignore the darkness and pretend, for instance, that we're not living through a mass extinction event. For example, biologists say we're living through the greatest extinction of species in 65 million years. However, in my opinion we're in the midst of tremendous abundance as well — tremendous beauty and joy and pleasure. The apocalypse is not happening sometime in the future, it's already under way. It's a slow motion apocalypse and it's both apocalypse in the current sense of word, which is a collapse, a degeneration of things falling apart, but also in the ancient sense, which is an awakening. So, right alongside all this collapse and degeneration is awakening and birth and fountains of incredible creativity and reinvention. To be honest, as educated intellectual people, we need to report on the other side.

Tell me about the homeopathic medicine spells in your book. Do you put the bad, negative stuff inside them?

Yes, you recognize the negative. You put it in its place and surround it with blessings, with a spell of protection, so it won't reach out and grab some part of our subconscious mind and say, "This is true. You are like this." So, in a sense, these spells protect us against our temptation to resonate with ugliness, evil and ungenerous anger. Jung talked about the shadow, that part of ourselves that is wounded, sick, that never grew up right. So, we have to have a relationship with our shadows. If we try to deny or ignore their existence, they will bite us in the ass, subvert our good intentions, undermine what we're trying to do. We need to make sure that before we go out and ask the world to change, that we're in very close contact with the ugliness in ourselves and that we're working to redeem that and transform it.

We take a break, during which Brezsny retrieves a long-handled shovel from his car for our burial event. But as he poses beneath the cemetery's metal archway, and I dig a hole safely away from the graves, including the "Sarah" headstone — a police car turns onto Evergreen Road and slows to a crawl, its uniformed occupants eyeing our merry trio with detached curiosity.

Immediately, my paranoia, which I have not yet buried, springs back to life, taunting me with questions, such as, 'Is it illegal to bury a photo of the U.S. president, especially if you're an immigrant on a green card?' Not knowing what else to do with the evidence, I jam it into my pants, with the unintended consequence that Bush's photo ends up kissing my ass. (Hey, maybe the exercise is already working!) And the minute the cop car passes by, I hastily dig a shallow grave, lay Dubya's picture in it with as much kindness as I can summon and cover it up with soil, moments before the cop car cruises by again and Brezsny and I resume our interview.


In 'Don't Think of an Elephant,' George Lakoff warns against framing the debate in the opposition's language. Are you dancing around on the philosophical side of that equation, with your vision of pronoia?


In the Jewish magazine Tikkun, almost immediately after the November election, Rabbi Michael Lerner began talking about how the left can't keep ceding spirituality to the right. We have to add a spiritual aspect to our perspective. That's why a lot of people just gravitate de facto to the right, because at least they recognize or include the element of spirituality. But there are people on the left who represent the spiritual side of left. We do have a moral vision, a very powerful vision about what's good for most people.

As the aftermath of 9/11 showed us, clearly our fears can be manipulated. Is there also a button for happiness?

Right now we as a society are addicted to fear. We need an intervention, to talk in 12-step language. We're so accustomed to being motivated and moved and fascinated by fear that we've lost the capacity to even imagine that pleasure and joy and regeneration and integrity can be interesting. I think it takes a retraining, on a personal level... The first step is to have the intention to be happy. Who'd have thought of that?

What do you believe in?

My personal belief is that there are many other dimensions besides this particular one and that there are beings that are not physically manifest: some are stupid, some smart, good, some bad, some in between, just like in the material realm, but I believe the caricature of angels, kind of a New Age parody, if we look back at John Milton and William Blake, who consorted with angels and many great literary and intellectual minds who took angels very seriously, seriously, not just as a metaphor, not as some empty hope, but as literal entities. I believe in angels, angels who are working full-time to create beauty and truth and love in the world. Unfortunately, they want and need us to identify and ask for what we need, and most people don't do that.

Why do people need to ask?

Because this is a collaboration, not a fascist regime. Contrary to what fundamentalist Christians would say, this is a collaborative effort. The whole point in free will is to participate in a collaborative effort, not leave it to some all-knowing spiritual forces. In a greater sense, I believe in God or Goddess, a single divine intelligence that animates the universe and is simultaneously aware of 500 million galaxies and their function and the six kittens that were recently born to you. From the ego side, that sounds impossible, but I don't think a belief in angels and divine intelligence is required. Some of the greatest spiritual workers on the planet are atheists, but they are supremely ethical, their spiritual work having firmly to do with improving conditions on earth.

In 'Pronoia,' you write, 'I'm allergic to dogma. I thrive on riddles. Any idea I believe, I reserve the right to disbelieve as well.' So, after 'Pronoia' has been out for a while, you're not going to tell us you don't believe in it anymore, are you?

My policy is to believe in the things that inspire me about 75 to 80 percent. I say that about astrology, too. I would never think of saying that I believe in astrology 100 percent, or in feminism or in the perspective of psychology, or leftist politics. All those things, when you identify yourself so entirely with them, that there's no "you" outside of those ideologies, then I think you lost, you're upset, you're possessed by ideas. That's always dangerous, even if the ideas are great ideas. So, I think it's important to maintain skepticism about pronoia. Some people have written to me in a critical way that I expected. Most people resonate pretty well with the philosophy of pronoia, but some say, "You are deluded, you are helping to spread stupidity and laziness." I can understand the fear that if we work at seeing things optimistically, we might lose sight of everything that's wrong with the world. I don't think I'll do that, but that's a valid fear, so in that sense, I'm skeptical of pronoia and I'm not going to promote pronoia as a cure all.

What about the flaming heart in the labyrinth on the cover of 'Pronoia'?

It's the heart on fire, the heart inflamed with the desire to bring beauty and truth and love and justice and harmony to the whole world. Pronoia is not a passive thing. It's fierce, it's filled with strong intention to bring that message that life is much better than it's being portrayed right now, that there's a lot we can do to emphasize what works, and we have to do that aggressively.

William James, the philosopher, talked about how we need a moral equivalent of war. What I take that to mean is that we all have this martial force within us. It's an inherent part of every human being. Unfortunately, it's usually expressed as war and conflict and anger, but there are other ways to express that martial force. As aggressiveness expressed in the name of feminine values. That's my particular angle. That's why I call myself a macho feminist. I want to bring the message of relationship, of intimacy, of love, of caring for other human beings with the same force that a macho dude might use in his struggles to take over the oil fields in the Middle East. This has macho force behind it, but it's done in the name of joy, peace and harmony. That's what that image says to me.

What was your motive for writing 'Pronoia'?

When Henri Matisse started his work, critics said he threatened to undermine civilization, that's the power artists had in some eras of history. It's hard to imagine anyone saying that about a painter or an artist today. It's been demonstrated that art has the power to remake the world, whether to subvert existing values and/or create new ones. I'd like to return to the Henri Matisse kind of place.

So ended our interview, and shortly thereafter, strange stuff started happening. No, the Bush regime did not immediately crumble to dust under the weight of its lies, like vampires in full daylight. Instead, things I thought I'd been paranoid about for years in my personal life turned out to be my angels whispering in my ear all along. And when I confronted the truth it turned out to be more beautiful than the ugliness of living in a lie. So, be advised: burying your paranoia may change your life, not necessarily in the way you were expecting, but in a way that will free you to see the truth and beauty in your own life—perhaps even with humor. As for the bigger picture, I'll leave you with a vision that Brezsny describes in Pronoia's "I Have a Dream" section:

"I'm the president now ... and so are you. I am the supreme Commander of the United Snakes of the Blooming Haha ... and so are you. And what we proclaim is that in the New World, we will love our neighbors as ourselves, even if our neighbors are jerks. We will search for the divine spark even in the people we most despise, and we will never dehumanize anyone, even those who dehumanize us. I have a dream that sooner or later, every one of us will become a well-rounded highly skilled, incredibly rich master of rowdy bliss—with lots of leisure time and an orgiastic feminist conscience."

Metro Santa Cruz © 2005

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.
" ~ Ernesto Che Guevara

[First posted 30 November 2007]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Facebook Interview (revisited)


Recently, a Facebook friend named Adam Lee (pictured right) asked me a couple of questions about Facebook. Said he was writing an article on... well, Facebook! Thought I'd share my response with you...

Where do you think Facebook is heading?

Consider the unimaginable ways young people can find themselves becoming billionaires in the digital age: back in the mid-1990s Larry Page and Sergey Brin were 23-year-old computer studies undergrads at Stanford U when they stumbled on a new algorithm for a faster, more free-associating search engine called Google. Today each is worth USD16.7 billion.

Then there's Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook in February 2004 as an interactive social networking website for the campus crowd while he was in college. I hear Yahoo! offered Zuckerberg USD1.7 billion for Facebook last year - and he turned down their offer. Last I heard, MSN estimates that Facebook is worth USD15 billion.

My point is: these youngsters have been able to turn a simple idea into a complex income-generating engine by identifying two basic human needs, viz., the desire for information and the desire to feel connected. These desires are very much in alignment with the incoming frequencies of the Aquarian Age (the Water Bearer symbolizes the dissemination of wisdom acquired during the Capricornian phase of introspection and consolidation, and the Piscean phase of dissolution and disintegration of ancient taboos).

Today more and more people regard a laptop or tablet (and now smartphones) as an essential personal accessory. Instant messaging, virtually free text-messaging, Skype and a whole array of connectivity tools has been facilitated by advances in satellite communications that would leave our grandparents scratching their bald pates. This is what I call the age of server-assisted telepathy when a planetary mind is emerging from the preceding centuries of technological development. Buckminster Fuller, thirty years ago, called it "accelerating acceleration." By this he meant that quantum advances in technology would soon hurl us beyond the gravitational pull of the tragic past into a comic/romantic future.

Take Facebook's burgeoning popularity: within two years just about everybody I know who owns a computer, tablet or smartphone is on Facebook. My daughters and their far-flung network of cousins are now on my Facebook friends list. For the first time ever, the separate realities of family and friends are merging in cyberspace. And I just saw an interview with Zuckerberg taped in May 2007 where he quoted the figure 45 million as the total number of Facebook users - that was almost 6 months ago. I figure at least 250,000 new users sign up every day. In June 2017 Facebook hit 2 billion monthly users, making it the world's largest virtual community.



Where is Facebook heading? Who da fuck knows? Right now everybody complains that they're wasting too much time on Facebook (and a few months ago I was bitching about the same thing too) - but the reason Facebook is distracting people from work is that they're having more fun just playing with each other in harmless ways (try throwing a sheep at me in real life!) Friends I hardly get to see in real life are poking, tickling, cuddling, and loving me - albeit virtually but it sure feels nice! Hotties I've long wanted to meet give me cheap thrills by appearing in my inbox and adding me as their Facebook friend. Faces I haven't seen in 25 years are suddenly among my Top Friends! Wow... why ask where a party is heading when it's in full swing?

What's in it for you in Facebook? What's your story?

I live a long way from the city. In my younger days I was a real party animal. For me Facebook is a 24/7 party without the hassle of driving 3 hours, finding a parking space, and worrying about not getting laid. On Facebook you KNOW you're not gonna get laid because it's all make-believe, all a buncha pixels - but you can let go and sink your virtual teeth into that plump backside on some hottie's profile photo without getting slapped (except virtually of course)... and you can bite five pairs of buttocks at one go if you like. This is something I've long dreamed of doing. I've stopped cursing Facebook. In fact I've just written Mark Zuckerberg a thank-you note. Hope he responds with a $50-million deposit in my PayPal account.

On re-reading the above in February 2018, the whole world has shifted into a different set of probable timelines. Recent revelations have unearthed the distinct possibility that digital megacorporations like Google and Facebook may well have been created by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an offshoot of the US Department of Defense). In effect, they could be products of the "Deep State" designed to effortlessly keep humans under electronic surveillance while our behavioral patterns are closely monitored by ultra-secretive agencies like the NSA, CIA, MI6, Mossad, ASIO and so on (ultimately these covert agencies transcend political ideologies and national boundaries and they all serve the same Central Nervous System (variously called Yahweh, Allah, God, Ialdabaoth, Artificial Intelligence, or the Archons of Fate). 

To me, Google and Facebook serve as useful tools - and tools are either benign or malevolent, depending on who uses them and towards what agenda. If you're paranoid, as many of my friends are who refuse to use social media and insist on sticking with email (even though they must realize that even text messages and phonecalls can be routinely intercepted and stored in gigantic databases like Prism (and now Palantir) - indeed, it is now known that software giants like Microsoft and Apple are ultimately extensions of DARPA and they all come with sneaky backdoors into their operating systems, allowing personal computers, tablets and smartphones to be turned against their owners as spyware.

[First posted 28 October 2007]



A poem in Manglish written 23 September 1994


Aiyah You Holaif Wankain One!


waffor you worry man aitelyu
no money, got money, still got ploblem
even your farder 'tan slee' yuting can asscape ah?

laif is laif man aitelyu
no wife, got ten wife, holaif still fraskes
even your chewren all pee-hedge-dee you still can be pokai

take my advais lah brudder
doan believe wat peeple tell you
dey all tokkok only
you arsk yourself istru ornot
only den you decide
i doan booshit you man, doan be skad
i learn how to suck eggs from my granmahder
yutingwat, i born yesterday ah?

nonid to consult fawchoon teller, brudder
fewcher all in your own hands
wat yuting, everyting oridi FATED one ah?
bladi nonsen lah, doan be a blinking foo
and believe all dose kok-and-bool story
trust me man i am old enough to be
your ahngcle oridi

wat you need is CONFEEDENS, man
dat is da way to suckcess
worth it to buy nice cloats, got label one
wear good shoes, real ledder lah, not smelly plastic
ting about your IMAGE -
and you nid lawa punya calling card lah
doan go on LRT and den visit your customer's awfis
stinking like stale sotong
better get loan and buy ploton
ting big man!
doan be takut only
you will end up nowhere, man

oso very importen
you must eemploof your ENGLISH
nowdays got so many kolesponden course
no ploblem lah!
at home oso ken learn
yuwan i lekomen you my flen's language school in taman tun -
mebbe get speshul diskaun -
yuwan ornot?



*Linguists, take note: Manglish is a mangled form of hybridized English widely spoken in Malaysia, just as in Singapore, many still communicate in Singlish. The term was coined in 1988 and first appeared in print in my 1989 bestseller, ADOI! First posted 3 March 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An Exercise in Stress Management



Picture yourself near a stream.

Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air.

Nothing can bother you here.

No one knows this secret place.

You are in total seclusion from that place called "the world."

The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

The water is clear.

You can easily make out the face of the person whose head you're holding under the water.


[Roy Hilbinger sent me this, author unknown. First posted 18 January 2007]

Monday, February 5, 2018

OPEN SEWERS AND DARK CREVICES

Of late I've noticed a lot of photos in the local dailies showing officials peering into suburban drains - either looking for dengue-bearing mosquito breeding spots or accumulated garbage exacerbating worsening flash floods. Now that it's become fashionable for public officials to show a keen interest in open sewers, I would like to draw their attention to the overnight proliferation of shopping and office complexes in Rawang, which provide shelter for quite a number of shady enterprises.

If you don't know where Rawang is, consider yourself fortunate. Until thirty years ago, Rawang was a charming little one-street town - surrounded by rubber estates, vegetable farms and orchards - located about 18 miles north of Kuala Lumpur. Owing to its unhealthy proximity to Malaysia's only megalopolis, Rawang has since grown like a malignant tumor into a perpetually congested, dusty, noisy, utterly graceless, tasteless, concrete conglomerate of housing estates, workshops, factories, shopping complexes, and nondescript offices. That's right, folks, Progress and Development have begun to consume the rural heartland!

And wherever "progress and development" go, you'll encounter a new breed of born-again entrepreneurs and their pyramid scams. Consider this: in the course of one week in December 2006, my dear illiterate spouse Anoora received two fantastic offers she couldn't possibly refuse.

The first was from "Merlin Distributor" congratulating her for having been picked, out of thousands of names, for a lucky draw from which she might take home a selection of attractive prizes. The leaflet showed a whole range of electrical appliances ranging from an ornamental wall clock to a vacuum cleaner, iron, fan, TV set, and DVD player.

She was requested to collect her prize in person before January 9th 2007. Well, our DVD player was starting to misbehave, so I figured it would be timely indeed to get a free replacement. So on January 8th we drove to Rawang and spent a good half hour looking for Merlin Distributor. We finally found a first floor office in a newly built business complex and were asked to wait while the assistant manager finished her tea. When she emerged after five minutes, she announced that Anoora had come too late for her prize - they were all out of lucky draw coupons! She showed me a stack of used coupons each bearing an image of one of the featured prizes. "You should have come yesterday," she said.

"According to your leaflet, the last day is tomorrow," I reminded her. Her excuse was that too many people had shown up during the first few days and used up all the lucky draw coupons. Then she smiled and said, "But we do have a mystery gift to thank you for coming all the way!" Anoora was handed a gift-wrapped package that looked like it may be a clock. I decided to open it on the spot - and it turned out to be a glass bowl worth about fifty cents. I was tempted to say something sarcastic, but I thought we'd already wasted enough time at Merlin Distributor. As we turned to go, the assistant manager said: "Wait! You can also sign up for our sub-agent plan and get very special discounts on a wide range of electrical goods - but you have to buy a minimum of five units each." She showed me a plastic card and added: "The annual membership fee is only RM285 (about US$80)!"

Believe it or not, a similar episode occurred within a few days. The phone rang and some stranger asked for Anoora. I said he could talk to me but he insisted I pass her the call, so I did. After ten seconds of hearing Anoora go "Hah? Haaah? Haaaaah?" - he was quite happy to talk to me instead. He said he was calling from Etno-Aktif - a distributor of Malaysian-made goods headquartered in Penang, and announced very excitedly that my wife had been awarded a Toyota Avanza. How so? I asked. The guy said it was part of his company's application to the government for tax-exempt status. They were giving away 15 Avanzas to 3 random names in 5 states. All they required were Anoora's particulars, photocopies of her identity card and driver's licence, a passport photo, and a handful of sales receipts. Could Anoora please go to Rawang the next day and meet a certain Encik Azman bin Mohamad.

I really should have hung up when I heard the name "Rawang" - but by now I was fairly intrigued and open to the possibility that our good luck fairies had decided we deserved a new set of wheels. After all, four years ago, I won the Grand Prize in a Berjaya Lucky Draw which included a 34" TV, two tickets to a dinner show, and a night's free stay in a luxury suite.

So the next morning we packed into my van and drove to Rawang... and, guess what, Etno-Aktif was located just a little down the road from Merlin Distributor! Well, long story short... after filling out an official looking form with Anoora's banking particulars and so on, Encik Azman (who was all dressed for Friday prayers) announced that it would take anything from six months to a year to deliver the Toyota Avanza. "That's okay," I said, "we can wait."

Encik Azman continued: "Just one more thing: we are currently in the process of applying to the Ministry of Trade for special tax-exempt status, and we need to show that the vehicles have been delivered. So we'll issue you an official receipt for the Avanza, which we shall reclaim from you when you collect the car - end of June or, at the latest, December this year. Meanwhile, to ensure that you keep the receipt safe, we require that you give us a small cash deposit, fully refundable when the car is delivered. If you don't have sufficient funds for the deposit, Etno-Aktif is prepared to offer you an interest-free loan."

The "small cash deposit" requested by Encik Azman bin Mohamad amounted to RM7,500 (about US$2,100). I asked for Anoora's form back and walked out, vowing never again to respond to any "free gift" or "lucky prize" offered by anyone based in Rawang.

"Good day to you, Encik Azman," I said as I left his office. "Enjoy your Friday prayers!"

[First posted 26 January 2007]

What's The Point?






[First posted 9 January 2007]

DEPRESSION (revisited)

Subject: World-Action...... DEPRESSION
Date: Wed, 31 May 2000
From: "World-Action"

Someone who does a HUGE amount to help the world has just written to me telling me how depressed they get. I have replied saying I get very depressed too. Last weekend several hundred World-Action e-mails of various types were zooming all over the world. My feeling was that these e-mails contained significant information and inspiration. In fact, very important information and inspiration. Out of a possible 1,000+ people who read them, I received about four good responses. Quite frankly I feel depressed. Depressed because myself and Rory Winter put a lot of effort into sending these mailings about. And depressed because I am very concerned about the state of the world and I felt these ideas were important. Now, I am wondering if others feel depressed too. Do YOU feel overwhelmed by the world situation?

CLIP

Best wishes,
Michael
World-Action and Rainbow Dream Vision
http://www.world-action.com

MY GOOD FRIEND ANTARES FROM MALAYSIA WROTE:


Date: Wed, 31 May 2000
From: Antares
Subject: DEPRESSION (The Rainbow Dream Vision Revisited)

Dear Michael,

Of course we're all depressed, even I the Eternal Optimist, or we'd be zombies. The only ones who aren't depressed right now are either zombies or Zombie Masters (the ones who increase their own power by turning others into remote-control zombies!) Someone I loved through and through turned into a zombie after the Grand Stellium... the hologram of heaven on earth, Magick River, is now a giant construction site... the tribe I married into has become hysterical and retreated into alcoholism and xenophobia... those who threaten the political status quo in Malaysia are still languishing in jail with zero hope of justice because all the honorable judges have been fired or retired... while the zombie-in-the-street continues to worry about "the next meal" and "the next pay rise" and "what the neighbors are going to say."

MY FRIENDS, WELCOME TO WORLD WAR THREE!!!

The battleground is your psyche. The weapons are ideologies, misconceptions, and constrictive thoughtforms. The enemy is invisible and lurks in Inner Space... is, in fact, your own hardwired circuitry, your tampered-with genomes, whatever makes you prone to depression, self-pity, and despair. 


I recommend that everyone re-read THE MIND PARASITES and PHILOSOPHER'S STONE by Colin Wilson (1968/1969): he foresaw that the Greatest Danger facing Humanity was an enemy that existed only in our wildest paranoid anxieties - but could so easily demoralize the visionary in each of us to the extent that we collapse, like Winston Smith, into an even deeper level of apathy and numbness, content to watch the screen (whether telly, laptop or smartphone) and sip our Victory gin...

How do we fight back??? What use is Shadow Boxing??? Can we possibly hope to destroy Evil forever??? Has the Dark Brotherhood emerged the victor in the aeons-old battle between Light and Dark???

Take it easy, Michael... take it easy, Dear People... take it easy, Antares! Lao-tse, my once and future favorite sage, always advised: "If you don't know what to do, do nothing."

Doing nothing is not apathy. It is the passive phase of a cycle that includes activity and festivity. We have been very active for several centuries... or at least decades. The seeds we planted and sowed on our journey are now germinating, but the seedlings are very tender yet. The Shadow of Nothingness fears Oblivion and will do Everything Possible to delay or thwart the inevitable paradigm shift, the quantum jump, the ascension of Lady Gaia, the New Golden Dawn. We must allow it to exhaust itself, while responding instinctively, like veteran tennis players, to the to-and-froing of our mental focus.


Meanwhile, the apocalyptic horrors will pile up around us. Let them. Just keep the Inner Light glowing within, remember we are Perfect Holograms of the One, of All That Is, and that means the Darkness, the Evil, the Disease are all within us too. They are the outward manifestations of our collective petty ego fears and jealousies. The shadow self that feels shame and guilt and profound unworthiness - that could buy an unlikely story like Original Sin - the traumatized inner child programmed to believe it will never be good until it has become Rich and Famous!

Yes, Michael, I am indeed troubled by the swift change in polarity that happened in the last two years: since June 1998 positive trends have turned negative. A powerful sign was the lack of funding interest in Jean Hudon's Earth Rainbow Concert 2000 Project. Now I ask myself: have I not experienced exactly the same sort of disappointment with my own visionary schemes? And is disappointment not due to expectation? But is it possible not to expect? Not to hope? Not to desire? Not to visualize a new heaven on a new earth?

We have to continue anticipating, desiring, hoping, visualizing. But we must let go of the outcome. We must surrender that to the Supreme Indifference of the Void. For that is indeed our Briar Patch - whence all Being originated, that Infinite Potentiality out of which the Finite Universe actualized itself. Whether we win or lose or draw... it's just another Cosmic Poker Game. True, this time the stakes are incredibly high. But whether you're playing in rand or rupiah, euro or US dollar, it's just Monopoly money!

Undaunted & Undeterred,
Antares


[First posted 3 December 2006]