Is There an Afterlife?

 

Spoiler alert: No, there is no afterlife. Don’t listen to the religionists. It is a comforting fantasy to believe there is life after death (which is a contradiction in terms), but to me, it is a philosophical question (with a logical answer).

I think secretly most of us know the obvious truth when it comes to the extraordinary claims of religionists, mystics, and spiritualists, but it is very difficult to stand against so many years of tradition and social training. Most people I have met would, frankly, just rather not think about or question long-standing traditions that have provided a sense of comfort or solace throughout their lives. Yet, these are some of the most important questions and beliefs that should be challenged (indeed, the question of whether there is an afterlife is literally a question of life or death).

What would the purpose of dying be if we just kept living, but in some magically and eternally better place? Nobody, then, would wish to live. If we really (and I mean really, to the core of ourselves) believed in heaven or the afterlife, then wouldn’t we ask our friends to kill us so we could take the shortcut to eternal happiness? Who would rather wait 60 to 80 years, watching friends and loved ones disappear, living through difficult times, experiencing wars, ill health, injuries, trauma, drama, racism, political turmoil, natural disasters, etc…?

In fact, if we really believed such claims as Heaven and Hell from the people who espouse them (and again, I mean if we really, truly, all the way down to the core believed), then wouldn’t it be the smart choice to kill babies as soon as they are born so that our children would never be tempted or coerced to condemn themselves to eternal damnation? In essence, it would be better to send them straight to heaven rather than risk their going to hell. Yet, of course, the very thought is abhorrent and nobody would do that. I think the reason why no one kills their babies at birth to send them straight to heaven is because somewhere deep down we are people of reason. We understand that Reason and Logic are our tools for survival and somewhere in the core of ourselves, I think we know bunk when we hear it (but we like the fantasy and comfort of religion and mysticism–and of course we do; it is very appealing to believe in magic).

The bottom line is this: accepting religious, mystic and spiritual notions without using Logic or Reason to challenge beliefs robs Man of  responsibility over his own life and removes any need or desire to appreciate the sanctity and preciousness of only having one life to live.

To me, that is evil.

 

Besides, if we keep on living and never really die, wouldn’t the afterlife just be called… “life”?

 

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Why I Stopped Celebrating Birthdays and Holidays

I understand why people like me are perceived as cold and insensitive for having strong moral fortitude. It is not always easy for me. However, it is, I think, the burden of becoming Human—of seeing something which others choose to ignore because it is less difficult to live a dictated life than a consciously chosen one.

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HAPPY(?) BIRTHDAYS

Birthdays are an obviously ubiquitous ritual most everyone accepts (or even demands) conformity to, but I rarely meet people over 30 who authentically look forward to birthdays and growing older.

We complain about the stress of gift-giving (for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, bar-mitzvahs, etc.) while at the same time we are told holidays are joyful, merry, and happy. I know I am not alone in saying it is often difficult—maddening—to find a gift for your parents, in-laws, or spouse. There is fear of judgment, criticism, or suspicion of false platitudes. Will they really love the gift? Is it the right size? The right brand? Are they going to think you are cheap? If you have not spent “enough”, will they worry you are in financial trouble or think you are ungrateful for all they have done for you? If you spend too much, will they feel bad about their (cheaper) gifts to you? Will they return the gift or tuck it in a drawer never to be seen again, or will they feel obligated to display the gift in case you visit? Do they already have this gift, or did you buy them the same thing last year? Did somebody else already think of this gift and beat you to the punch?

Children and young adults aside, I think most people are not particular to holidays. I have often secretly resented having to stretch my budget for gift-giving to friends, the children of friends, my family, in-laws, co-workers, bosses, etc… It can be made worse when several holidays or birthdays occur in the same week or month (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is a quadruple whammy to the budget for many families). I have dreaded my own birthdays for the stress I know they have afflicted on others (budgetary and otherwise), and knowing my gratitude can not match their sacrifice. Let’s face it. If I was that excited about a gift, or if it was that important to me, then I probably would have bought it already.

 

OFFICE PARTY

Consider the office workers who either barely know, or barely like, their boss but are inclined to pander compliments on birthday cards filled with generic non-substantive prose (“Have a great one!”; “Happy B-day!”…even though the card already implies that…, or my favorite—the simple, nondescript signature of someone whose face will not be remembered when the card is dug out of a box ten years later). I know some people will protest, but I firmly believe the boss does not really care about the office gift, the office party, or getting older as the life he dreamed of disappears into the career void he probably accepted over following his dreams. The employees, mostly, do not really care either. Employees are pressured to share their money for a collective gift that will likely be unappreciated, except in false graciousness by the boss—“Thank you everybody; I have always wanted a…one of these… things. That’s exactly why… I… never bought one.”

It seems trite to point out the money the employees pitched in was earned by sacrificing time out of their lives to pander to the whims of the boss and his peers. That is not gift enough?!? Are we bosses so vain we require a material token of worship on top of taking their very lives from them? I do not accept that or want it over my head. I do not want gifts from my employees. I employ them to make money for me in exchange for helping them make money for themselves. It is insane that I should then expect them to spend their money on me.

I am sure many employees who are genuinely friends with their bosses do give thoughtful gifts. The same is true of family and friends, but it is, to me, shameful this sort of obligatory worship is required on top of whatever we do to express gratitude, camaraderie, or kinship every day. Setting aside that holidays like birthdays should be deeply personal and private affairs, why should anyone else know (or care) on what day I was born? It is really only a matter between me and my parents–and frankly, I am not that interested to be reminded each year of how I came to be born.

I say by conforming to the ideology of birthdays and holidays, we let a very large and out-of-control media machine dictate how we live our lives.

 

Celebrating birthdays and holidays obligates me to allocate time for Love and Family the same way I make time for tasks such as laundry and buying groceries. Should I let Hallmark and Walmart mandate when and how I show affection or appreciation for others? Should I let a national jewelry chain declare how much money sufficiently shows my love for my companion—is it 3 months salary? If I only spend 1 month’s salary, does that mean I only love my mate one-third as much as I should?

This system of blind tradition diminishes precious time to being no more than mandatory social proceedings. I resent being told when and how to love others, and how much is an acceptable amount of my hard-earned money to spend on someone. I resent being told how much time I am expected to spend proving my love in worship of other people. Why should I celebrate a birthday instead of a birthmonth or a birthyearMaybe I can decide how much time I wish to spend celebrating somebody’s life, on my own, and why on earth would it only be one day, once per year?

 

In short, I resent assumed control of my life. Everyone should.

Because I care for my family and friends, I wish them to be successful. I wish to see them enjoy the rewards of their hard work by spending their precious money and time on themselves, as they see fit.

 

A MARKETING MEDIA MACHINE

Holidays and birthdays in this context are a sham to fleece pockets and swindle people of what they have legitimately earned. Businesses and marketing media push holidays and birthdays to promote their profitability. They have no interest in protecting yours.  However, if I save up and buy for myself what I want when I can afford it, and if I do not obligate others to buy things to please me, then everyone’s  profitability is protected. I get what I want (because I have more of my money to spend on myself instead of buying gifts for others). Others get what they want (because they have more of their own money to spend on things that are most important to them without having to buy me and everyone else gifts). Businesses get what they want (the money keeps coming in, and even better, businesses can focus on creating and marketing things people really want instead of the hordes of plastic junk tchotchkes that fill stores every season–who really needs, and is hoping somebody buys them, an electric tie rack?).

When your time and money belong to you, and my time and money belongs to me, nothing more is expected or required of anyone… as it should be.

 

BESIDES, WHAT ARE WE REALLY CELEBRATING?

Most people and businesses do not know the origin of  the holidays they are celebrating or promoting (or, let’s be honest, pushing). The public is willingly conned through inducement of guilt and status discrimination in the name of altruism, for the profit of one party—whoever is pushing the event.

Personally, I would rather not spend time with friends or family who insist on “caring” for me by making me share in a cult dictated by something they never sought to understand. Think about this… if you really cared for someone, would you expect to trade trinkets whenever Target runs a bunch of commercials, or would you instead plead with the person you care about to keep the pay she earned rather than spend it frivolously on gifts you probably do not want or need? I wish my friends and family preferred to spend their hard-earned money on themselves and would allow me to enjoy watching them relish in the fruits of their own success, rather than giving their pay to me. What could make me happier than watching my loved ones enjoy their own success? I will take that over the electric tie-rack, another bottle of cologne, or a pair of plaid socks and matching underwear any day.

It is rare to meet people who understand the actual origin or meaning behind a given holiday. It is rare because people who learn the history of holidays often choose not to celebrate a holiday once they realize what they are actually endorsing.

 

Birthdays, for example, are supposed to be a celebration of the day a person is born. Of course, people are born long before they exit the womb of their mother. Forgiving that, at best a birthday is celebrating a random day when someone’s would-be parents probably had casual sex. Our parents had no intention of producing, specifically, the child or children they have (if they were hoping to produce a child at all).

To expect others to celebrate my birthday is essentially asking them to celebrate my parents’ young, and possibly stupid, act of casual sex.

Any other reason I can think to celebrate my birthday is narcissistic. Should anyone have to celebrate the fact I somehow managed to bumble my way this far through life without getting killed? Should I think I am so great, for no reason other than I have not stepped in front of a bus by accident, that everyone I have graced with my presence should be subjected to idol worship of me for at least one full day, every year?

I do not impose the expectation on anyone to celebrate my love of myself. I do not need them to validate my love for me. It saddens me, though, that we are taught it is wrong to love ourselves, and we are bullied into worshiping everyone else.

 

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM… THEY’LL BEAT YOU.

Nonetheless, many friends, family, and acquaintances will insist on wishing me well on my birthday and other holidays. Often, there will be some trickery to have me acknowledge a holiday against my will, dismissing that it is MY WILL (“Just come for the family dinner—no one will mention it’s Thanksgiving to you, we promise…”; “I know you don’t celebrate Christmas, but… Merry Christmas!”; “Here is a hug–not because it’s your birthday or anything…it is just a random hug that happened to occur on the same day as your birthday, tee-hee…”).

I understand the sentiment and the desire to share affection for me, but I nonetheless consider this behavior bullying. I understand what people intend when they wish me Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas. Of course, they believe their intentions are loving, or even pious. However, forcing me to acknowledge birthdays and holidays is not an act of love. It disrespects my conscious value choices and dismisses my intelligence altogether. The intent may not be to insult me, but I am insulted.

 

No one likes to feel bullied.

I certainly understand why people like me are sometimes perceived as cold and insensitive for having strong moral fortitude. It is not always easy for me, either. However, it is, I think, the burden of becoming human—of seeing something which others choose to ignore because it is less difficult to live a dictated life than a consciously chosen one.

 

THE BURDEN OF BECOMING HUMAN

When I first chose my moral stance around holidays, I celebrated the birthdays and holidays of others, but dismissed my own. Celebrating holidays only for others, I thought, did not impose my values on them but still let them have their birthday cake and eat it too. I thought this was respectful to both their value system and mine. I learned there is a critical difference between our value systems, however. Unlike mine, the values of most people in this regard are not consciously selected. Their values are handed-down and accepted without investigation.

I think if a person can not logically defend his or her moral character, then it is not disrespectful if I, having deliberately chosen my moral code, do not acknowledge their lack of one. Clearly, there is no real Easter Bunny. I should not have to pretend there is but I also do not have to point out the logical fallacies of a child who believes in the bunny.

Still, I came to realize that for me to celebrate the birthdays and holidays of others (but not my own) ultimately violates the values of  both  systems.

I am not concerned about violating a fake value system. If I choose to accept the values of my acquaintances and family, though (meaning I celebrate their birthdays but do not allow them to celebrate mine), then it leads to inducement of guilt and unfairness for them. I find people feel it is not fair when you buy them gifts but do not allow them to buy you gifts. Thus, it violates their social premise (everybody gives to everybody). Quickly, the door to a creeping acceptance of their system is forced open. They feel compelled to provide, somehow, gifts or favors in return for my gifts.

The problem is the bullying never stops in this system. It can not stop because we are well-trained to feel guilty about receiving without giving in return.

A violation occurs on my side, as well, because I accept the bullying (I still do, sometimes, because it is simply too taxing to fight it on all fronts, all the time). It is so ubiquitous I must eventually allow small tokens of appreciation, if for no reason other than to relieve family and friends of their sense of debt. This means indirect submission to the bullying on my part, and again, opens the door to creeping acceptance.

There is another difference regarding trying to uphold my values while not violating theirs. The difference is I do not bully others to accept my values. I do not insist people stop celebrating their birthdays and holidays if I do not celebrate mine. I do not push my philosophy onto others; in fact, I am typically reluctant to explain my choices, except in brief quips to move a conversation forward, or in essays like this. Most people are not that interested (it is too much effort to stand against a tsunami of tradition).

It is interesting to me, however, that in the broadly accepted system of piousness, it is okay to bully me into following the whims of others, but in the deliberately chosen values of my philosophy, I do not demand the religious or altruistic to check their belief in holidays or God (Allah, Vishnu, Jehovah, whomever) at the door when they visit me. I do not demand or expect a token gift of worship if they happen to visit on the day I was born, however many years ago that may have been and whether they were actually at my birth. There is an irony to the preaching of togetherness, kinship, and tolerance by those doing the most bullying.

Of course, I recognize the challenge clear and logical thinking poses. To be fair, I took more than 30 years to come to these very basic conclusions and guidelines I now use to remind me (how) to live. That said, birthdays, holidays, ritualistic and religious traditions deserve to be tested and judged.

 

It is up to each man to bear the burden of becoming human or walk blindly into tradition and circumstance.

 

Happy (_____)day to me.

 

 

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Nice Guys Finish Last; Good Men Finish Right.

 

I hear women say, “There aren’t any good men left; all the good ones are taken.”

Not true. However, many women I know seem to have a difficult time distinguishing what a “Good Man” is, that he should be taken (and taken by what?). They confuse good men for “nice guys”.

 

Here is the situation. Dominique messaged another man and invited him to her bed. Howard, her husband, intercepted the message.

When confronted, Dominique alleged the message did not mean anything to her and insisted she never intended to go through with her proposition.

Reacting to Howard’s anger, Dominique attempted a defense of the other man, Peter. “You don’t even know Peter,” she said, “You don’t know anything about his moral character that you can sit here and judge him for what I did. He is actually a very nice guy.”

Howard, stunned by her brashness, gathered his thoughts. Then he said:

“No. YOU don’t know anything about his moral character. Without having met him, I know two things about him, Dominique. I know that, 1—he makes very bad decisions, and 2—he has NO moral character.

“I know he makes bad decisions because he knows you are married. Clearly he thinks with the wrong head. I know he has no moral fortitude because he not only knows you are married, but also is willing to cheat with a married woman. If he will cheat with a married woman, then it is safe to assume he will also cheat on a married woman. That makes him the lowest scum there is—a man with no morality, pretending to be a man with morals. You think he likes you? Cares about you? Is interested in you? Is that what you think? I believe you when you say you think Peter is a nice guy. Hell, I might even have liked him had we met under different circumstances. We may have been friends, but just because he is a nice guy does not mean he is a Good Man.

“Dominique, life offers simple answers but we sometimes don’t want to accept them. A Good Man does not cheat. Simple. By every right, I should show up at Peter’s doorstep and break him down like kindling, but I won’t. I can’t, because, unlike your nice guy, I have a moral code that I live by. I value life and practice every bit of what I preach. What does he value? How fast do you think he would turn around and trade you in for the next bit of action he could score? What is your body, and your mind, actually worth to him—he, who is willing to break the greatest moral sanction of fidelity, just to sleep with you? Did you think his porn lust said something different about your value to him? Is a moral shell of a man enough to lose an actual Good Man over?

“Being a nice guy is not enough. It takes more than saying nice things and telling you how pretty you are, and paying attention to you when you are pissed off, or horny, or lonely.

“It takes more than getting in your pants to be a Good Man. And it takes more than letting any moral scum do so… to be a Good Woman.”

 

The story of Howard and Dominique has a happy ending, but it takes a long time to get there, and it is very sad most of the way, until Dominique realizes her self-worth and the value of Howard’s love. Before then, Howard and Dominique divorce. She simply can not live on his terms and values, and he will not live on hers. But we can learn from their example without going through their pain.

The women I know, and have met over the years, like to be what they think of as “romanced”. That is, they like to be told they are pretty. They like getting flowers and chocolates, and hearing sincere apologies and feeling their body is the destination of some man’s indiscriminate leer. I am certain many men like this type of “romancing”, too. The problem is we are swept away by this Hollywood version of what romance is dictated to be and we forget the temperance of Reality.

I want to suggest Romance is not any of those things seen on television. Romance is knowing you are the center of someone else’s universe; chocolates are optional.

Romance is loyalty and trust that has been earned in partnership, not flowers that will die on your counter. Romance is having someone come home to you every day because they can not wait to talk to you. It is having someone who cares how your day has been—for real, and not just as prelude to getting in your pants—and who you know, unequivocally, will still care how your day has been for the next 30 or 40 or 50 years. Romance is having a true partner who values you above all others, who can only see you in a crowded room, and who can turn down a flirt with ease because he knows there is you to come home to or go home with… and what flirtatious bimbo can compare to that?

Romance is acknowledging and respecting and celebrating the Value of the person you choose as your companion and partner.

I define that as romantic, and say further romance is not forsaking that value for something or someone of lesser value. Flowers die; chocolates rot; Romeos come and go; romance does not. Candy and trinkets are bribes—bribes at best. What is a greater or more valuable gift than the body and mind of the partner you choose—the companion you choose only and above all others? Being honored like that, frankly, is what should make us hot. It breaks my heart, in a way, to know it usually does not work that way.

I wonder how much we are taught by Hollywood and media to believe absurd fallacies of love… those films, stories, and commercials that relentlessly tell us romance is supposed to be sappy and emotional, all the time. Romantic stories end always where they should begin—at the start of the relationship. The assumed rest of the story is “…And they lived happily ever after.” Movies never go on to say, “…And then, seven years later, with two kids, a job loss, a sick parent, and never-ending work… Prince Charming no longer brings home flowers, the princess has gained 30 pounds, they haven’t made love in three weeks, she’s on her period, he’s always out with the boys, and the stress is driving them both nuts…”

Love is not like the movies.

 

Love is probably not even like what your friends tell you it is (because they are trained to believe love is supposed to be like the movies).

I think love is powerful and long-lasting but at times the romance ebbs, sometimes for a long time; life is difficult and those difficulties can get in the way of partnership. In reality, we are not star-crossed lovers destined to find our one and only soul-mate and live happily ever after, dramatically but effortlessly. No. We are moody and needy, and we always want more, better, or different. In reality, Love takes Work. It is a second full-time job that often demands overtime and offers little pay in return; love is itself, I assert, a “labor of Love”.

Nice guys do not know this; they believe love is whatever or whoever pleases them in the moment. A Good Man, however, understands reality. A Good Man accepts it and bears it as he must. He does not give up easily and he makes the best of it, always. He has a definable moral code by which he lives and he makes no exceptions to his strictly held values—“It just happened; I was drunk; it won’t happen again,” is never a Good Man’s excuse—these phrases are not in a language he speaks.

A Good Man treats his chosen companion as the most valuable asset he has. He enjoys material possessions in life when he has them, but he never puts such things over the partner with whom he chose to spend his life. The gifts that most satisfy him are her body and mind, and he covets those madly, selfishly and righteously, as he would covet a priceless piece of art. He takes it on himself to bring out the best in her even when she does not want to be her best.

He is always his best for her, and strives still to be better. In short, A Good Man values his companion-in-life as he values himself.

 

You can throw a rock and hit a nice guy. But if you recognize your own value, then I say nice guys are not worth your time. Dominique may have lost Howard, and may find the world seems full of Peters ready and willing to devalue her until they can trade her in for the next lease. It is true that good men are very hard to find, but I submit they are worth holding out for. If you know one that is taken, don’t waste your time. You can not sway a Good Man.

If you find a Good Man that is not taken, chase him to the end of the earth. He is more valuable than gold. If you should catch him, never let him go. Value him; satisfy him; understand what real romance is and work to keep him. Forget the rest and don’t look back.

Let the nice guys finish last.

 

Note: This was originally written as a follow up to The Truth About EveryBody – what I consider to be the most important thing I’ve written to date. Please go back and read it or re-read it if you liked this one, and share it with anyone you think will “get it”. Thanks.

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Why I Stopped Celebrating Holidays

 

Part of constructing a philosophy by which to live includes having a conscious and logical understanding of why I do what I choose to do. The result, on occasion, pits my philosophy against my social life, as in the case of birthdays and holidays.

 

Birthdays are an obviously ubiquitous ritual most everyone accepts (or even demands) conformity to, but I rarely meet people over 30 who authentically look forward to birthdays and growing older.

 

HAPPY? BIRTHDAYS

 

We were told birthdays are supposed to be joyful, and so we say birthdays are. We play down or jokingly complain about the stress of gift-giving (birthdays, weddings, Christmas, bar-mitzvahs, etc.). I don’t think I am alone in saying it is often difficult—maddening—to find a gift for one’s parents, in-laws, or spouse—there is fear of judgment, criticism, or suspicion of false platitudes. Will they really love the gift? Is it the right size? The right brand? Are they going to think you are cheap? If you have not spent “enough”, will they think you are poor or ungrateful for all they have done for you? If you spend too much, will they feel bad about their gifts to you? Will they return the gift or tuck it in a drawer never to be seen again, or will they feel obligated to display the gift when you are around? Do they already have this gift, or did you buy them the same thing last year? Did somebody else already think of this gift and beat you to the punch?

 

Children and young adults aside, I think most people are not particular to holidays. I have often secretly resented having to stretch my budget for gift-giving to friends, the children of friends, my family, in-laws, co-workers, bosses, etc… It can be made worse when several holidays or birthdays occur in the same week or month (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is a quadruple whammy to the budget for some families). I have dreaded my own birthdays for the stress I know they have afflicted on others (budgetary and otherwise), and knowing my gratitude could not match their sacrifice. Let’s face it–if I was that excited about the gift or if it was that important to me, then I probably would have bought it already.

 

OFFICE PARTY

 

Consider the office workers who either barely know, or barely like, their bosses but are inclined to pander compliments on birthday cards filled with generic non-substantive prose (“Have a great one!”; “Happy B-day!”…even though the card already implies it…, or my favorite—the simple, non-descript signature of someone whose face will not be remembered when the card is dug out of a box of mementos ten years later). I know some people would protest, but I firmly believe the boss does not really care about the office gift, the office party, or getting older as the life he dreamed of disappears into the career void he probably accepted over following his dreams. The employees, by and large, do not really care either. Employees are pressured to share their money for a collective gift that will likely be unappreciated, except in false graciousness by the boss—“Thank you everybody; I’ve always wanted a…one of these things. That’s exactly why… I… never bought one.” It seems trite to point out the money the employees pitched in was earned by sacrificing time out of their lives to pander to the whims of the boss and his peers. That is not gift enough?!? Are we bosses so vain that we require a material token of worship on top of taking their very lives from them? I do not accept that or want it.

 

I am sure many employees who are genuinely friends with their bosses do give thoughtful gifts. The same is true of family and friends, but it is, to me, shameful this sort of obligatory worship is required on top of whatever we do to express gratitude, camaraderie, or kinship every day. This sets aside that holidays like birthdays should be deeply personal and private affairs—why should anyone else know (or care) on what day I was born? It is really only a matter between me and my parents–and frankly, I’m not that interested to be reminded each year of how I came to be born.

 

I say by conforming to the ideology of birthdays and holidays, we let a very large and out-of-control media machine dictate how we live our lives.

 

Celebrating birthdays and holidays obligates me to allocate time for love and family the same way I would for tasks such as laundry and buying groceries. Should I let Hallmark and Walmart mandate when and how I show affection or appreciation for others? Should I let a national jewelry chain declare how much money sufficiently shows my love for my companion—is it 3 months salary? If I only spend 1 month’s salary, does that mean I only love my mate one-third as much as I should?

 

This ridiculous system of blind tradition diminishes precious time to being no more than mandatory social proceedings. I resent being told when and how to love others, and how much is an acceptable amount of my hard-earned money to spend on someone. I resent being told how much time I am expected to spend proving my love or worship for other people. Why should I celebrate a birthday instead of a birth-month or a birth-year? Maybe I can decide how much time I want to spend celebrating somebody’s life on my own, and why on earth would it only be a day, once per year?

 

In short, I resent assumed control of my life. Everyone should.

 

Because I care for my family and friends, I wish them to be successful. I wish to see them enjoy the rewards of their hard work by spending their precious money and time on themselves, as they see fit.

 

MARKETING MEDIA MACHINE

 

Holidays and birthdays in this context are a sham to fleece pockets and swindle us of what we have legitimately earned. Businesses and marketing media push holidays and birthdays to promote their profitability; they have no interest in protecting yours. However, if I save up and purchase for myself what I want when I can afford it, and if I do not obligate others to purchase things to please me, then everyone’s profitability is protected. I get what I want (because I have more of my own money to spend on myself instead of buying gifts for others). Others get what they want (because they have more of their own money to spend on the things that are most important to them without having to buy me and everyone else gifts). Businesses get what they want (the money keeps coming in, and even better, businesses can focus on creating and marketing things people really want instead of the slew of plastic junk that fills stores every season–who really needs, and is hoping somebody buys them, an electric tie rack?). When your time and money belong to you, and my time and money belong to me, nothing more is expected or required of anyone… as it should be.

 

WHAT ARE WE REALLY CELEBRATING?

 

Most people and businesses do not know the origin of  the holidays they are celebrating or promoting (or, let’s be honest, pushing). The public is willingly conned through inducement of guilt and status discrimination in the name of altruism, for the profit of one party—the business pushing the event.

 

Personally, I would rather not spend time with friends or family who insist on “caring” for me by making me share in a cult dictated by something they do not even understand. Think about this… if you really cared for someone, would you instead plead with that person to keep the pay she earned rather than spend it frivolously on gifts you probably do not want or need? I wish, instead my friends and family preferred to spend their hard-earned money on themselves and allow me to enjoy watching them relish in the fruits of their own success, rather than give their pay to me. What could make me happier than watching my loved ones enjoy their own success? I’ll take that over the electric tie-rack or a pair of plaid socks and matching underwear any day.

It is rare to meet people who understand the actual origin or meaning behind a given holiday. It is rare because people who learn the history of holidays often choose not to celebrate a holiday when they realize what they are actually endorsing.

 

Birthdays, for example, are supposed to be a celebration of the day a person is born. Of course, people are born long before they exit the womb of their mother. Forgiving that, at best a birthday is celebrating a random day when someone’s would-be parents… probably had casual sex. Our parents had no intention of producing, specifically, the child or children they have (if they were hoping to produce a child at all).

 

To expect others to celebrate my birthday is essentially asking them to celebrate my parents’ young, and possibly stupid, act of casual sex.

 

Any other reason I can think to celebrate my birthday is narcissistic. Should anyone have to celebrate the fact I somehow managed to bumble my way thus far through life without getting killed? Should I think I am so great, for no reason other than I have lived, that everyone I have graced with my presence must be subjected to idle worship of me for at least this one day, every year? Of course not.

 

I do not impose the expectation on anyone to celebrate my love of myself. I do not need them to validate my own love for me. It saddens me, though, that we are taught it is wrong to love ourselves, yet we are bullied into worshiping everyone else.

 

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM… THEY’LL JUST BEAT YOU.

 

Nonetheless, many friends, family, and acquaintances will insist on wishing me well on my birthday and other holidays. Often, there will be some trickery to have me acknowledge a holiday against my will, dismissing that it is MY WILL (“Just come for the family dinner—no one will mention it’s Thanksgiving, we promise…”).

 

I understand the sentiment and the desire to share affection for me, but I nonetheless consider this behavior bullying. I understand what people intend to mean when they wish me Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas; of course, they believe their intentions are loving, or even pious. However, forcing me to acknowledge birthdays and holidays is not an act of love. It disrespects my conscious value choices and dismisses my intelligence altogether. The intent may not be to insult me, but I am insulted.

 

No one likes to feel bullied.

 

I certainly understand why people like me are sometimes perceived as cold and insensitive for having moral fortitude–it is not always easy for me, either. However, it is, I think, the burden of becoming human—of seeing something which others choose to ignore because it is less difficult to live a dictated life than a consciously chosen one.

 

THE BURDEN OF BECOMING HUMAN

 

When I first chose my moral stance around holidays, I celebrated birthdays and holidays for others, but dismissed my own. Celebrating only the holidays for others, I thought, did not impose my values upon them but still let them have their birthday cake and eat it too. I thought this was respectful to both their value systems and mine. I learned there are two critical differences between our value systems, however. Unlike mine, the values of most people I meet are not consciously selected; their values are handed-down and accepted.

 

I think if a person can not logically defend their moral character, then it is not disrespectful if I, having deliberately chosen a moral code, do not acknowledge their lack of one. It is the equivalent of me refusing to acknowledge the existence of the Easter Bunny–clearly, there is no real Easter Bunny; I should not have to pretend there is.

 

I came to realize, though, that for me to celebrate the birthdays and holidays of others (but not my own) ultimately violates the values of both systems.

 

I am not concerned about violating a fake value system. Nonetheless, if I choose to accept the values of my acquaintances and family… that is, if I celebrate their birthdays but do not allow them to celebrate mine–it leads to inducement of guilt and unfairness for them. I found people feel it is not fair when you buy them gifts but do not allow them to buy you gifts. Thus, it violates their socialistic premise (everybody gives to everybody). Quickly, the door to a creeping acceptance of their system was forced open. They felt compelled to provide, somehow, gifts or favors in return for my gifts.

 

The problem is, the bullying never stops in this system; it can not because they are so well trained to feel guilty about receiving without giving in return.

 

A violation occurred on my side, as well, because I accepted the bullying. I had to eventually allow small tokens of appreciation, if for no reason other than to relieve family and friends of their sense of indebtedness. This meant indirect submission to the bullying on my part, and again, opened the door to creeping acceptance.

 

There is another difference regarding forced compliance. The second difference is I do not bully others to accept my values. I do not insist people stop celebrating their birthdays and holidays. I do not push my philosophy onto others; in fact, I am typically reluctant to bother explaining my choices, except in brief quips to move a conversation forward, or in essays like this.

 

It is interesting to me that in the broadly accepted system of piousness, it is okay to bully me into following the whims of others, but in the deliberately chosen values of my own philosophy, I do not demand religious people or altruists check their belief in holidays or God (Allah, Vishnu, Jehovah, whomever) at the door when they visit me. I do not demand or expect a token gift of worship if they happen to visit on the day I was born, however many years ago that may have been and whether they were actually at my birth.

 

I recognize the challenge clear and logical thinking poses. To be fair, I took more than 30 years to come to the very basic conclusions and guidelines I now have that remind me (how) to live. That said, birthdays, holidays, ritualistic and religious traditions deserve to be tested and judged.

 

It is up to each man to bear the burden of becoming human or walk blindly into tradition and circumstance.

 

Happy Birthday to me.

 

 

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The Truth About Every Body

Download The Truth about EveryBody.

I am offering something very counter-culture in this writing. It is one of the most important insights I have to offer, and I am honored to share it. I hope it transforms your life as fundamentally and immediately as it did mine.

Understand your body is the only REAL property you own.

Your body is the only thing of any REAL value in your world. Gold, money, real estate, jewelry, all material possessions…none of these have actual value; they are not worth anything only by virtue of existing. We are taught gold is valuable because it is gold, but in truth, any material you possess holds only the value you and another person can agree to place on it in a particular moment… An heirloom gold ring is only worth what you and someone else agree it is worth during the moment of negotiation. If you are someone who does not value gold or place emotional value on heirlooms, then the ring is not worth as much to you as it is to the seller.

Your body is the only thing that requires no negotiation of worth. It has all the value in the world to you, because it is the only thing of actual intrinsic value to you. When you die, everything loses all value; there is no value in seeing, smelling, touching, or hearing the world when you are no longer part of it. It is too late, then, to realize the only thing of any importance all along was your body—the very tool by which you experience and interact with the whole universe. In fact, your body is the only thing that really, truly belongs to you. Everything else—your clothes, your car, even the words you speak… everything outside of your body belongs to other people, to creditors, to governments, or the Earth.

Only your body is wholly yours and it is the only thing in the universe that is so.

This means if your body is the only thing you truly own, then it is the ONLY gift you can truly give another person. Everything else given must be borrowed from credit, from factories, from ideas, from the Earth or the Universe.

Do you see? Your body is the only REAL gift you own that is yours to give.

If you understand this, then you understand why you should never give your body casually to others. It must be earned, just as any extraordinary and precious material possession must be earned and treated with care. Honor and treat your body for what it is—the most valuable possession you have, or ever will have.

Understand there will be few, if any, people in the world that will ever deserve the most valuable thing you have…the only gift that is yours, and only yours, to give.

Before giving something so uniquely precious, consider the value of nearly any material gift is measured by a simple formula: the fewer people who have it, the more valuable it is.

An original painting by Rembrandt is virtually priceless because there are so few original Rembrandt paintings available, but a postcard of the same painting is worth virtually nothing because anyone can get one of those. The same principle is seen at most any high school. The most valuable prize to sexually active young boys is a virgin saving herself for “somebody special”. Boys practically trip over themselves hoping to win the virgin’s first sexual encounter. They talk about it lewdly, in hushed tones, and scheme to gain her glory. And what of the girl who has a reputation of giving herself to anybody that pays her attention? She is labeled a slut, a whore, and assumed worthless because of her alleged promiscuity.

The fewer people who have your body, the more valuable a gift your body is. Therefore, it must take an extraordinary person to deserve such an honor. “Extraordinary” means the person that deserves your body will honor your body before all others, will choose it as the most valuable gift he can ever receive, and will treat it as the most valuable thing in the Universe, next to only himself (because it will take someone who knows his own value to recognize the value of another, just as no one appreciates art more than an artist).

If you understand this and you have not, in your life, honored the value of your body as you should, then start now. RIGHT NOW, in this moment.

Understand no man or woman deserves a glimpse of your body if they have not earned it from you. Anyone honored enough to see your body should be in reverence to see all of it. An extraordinary person will look upon your bare figure for the hundredth time as if he were seeing an angel reveal itself to him for the first.

Paying attention to you, showering you with trinkets, and simply telling you things you like, or want to hear, is not enough. Flirting and being nice to you is not enough. He must honor you as he honors himself. He must see you as more than a commodity for a night or a month, or until a prettier product comes along.

If the person you consider sleeping with does not see you with reverence, then know he has not grasped the value of your body and he does not deserve to see your body a moment longer unless (or until) he honors and cherishes it properly, as the gift of highest value he can ever receive from another.

To put it simply, if a man (or woman) does not treat your body better than he treats his most expensive, important, or favored possession—his precious car, his hand-me down gold heirloom, or even his weekly “poker night with the boys”—then understand he puts you beneath something that is of obvious lesser value than you.

If he cheats on you, understand his actions say you have no value. To him, you are not even worth the unscrupulous behavior he chooses in favor of you.

Understand how you treat your body is an exact reflection of your self-esteem. Any time you wish to raise your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth, treat your body in kind (perhaps as you should have treated it all along). Care for your body and honor it as the only real property you own, the only item of actual intrinsic value in your life, and the only gift that is truly yours to give another—another who must prove he is absolutely worthy to be bestowed such a holy gift and will put no other gift before it.

It is that valuable.

Your body is the physical extension of your mind, your will, your Self. Taste, touch, scent, sound and vision—the body is the tool by which you are able to interact with the world and connect to another person, matching value for value. When your body is gone, these things are gone—value is gone.

You only own one thing in life and it is the most valuable property in all the world.

Be sure the person in whose hands you place this property is worthy to care for it.

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Why Should I Compromise?

“SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO COMPROMISE.”

This was advice from the head of Human Resources where I used to work. I built a reputation for being uncompromising in my values there, and this was his gentle reminder that I had better start toeing the line. I hear variations of this phrase often: “Let’s meet in the middle”, “Nothing is black and white”, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

These phrases share in common the “Lesser of Two Evils” mentality.

As I see it, choosing the “lesser of two evils’” is a cheap way to avoid responsibility… a cop-out to keep from facing challenges to your ideals or facing a fear of standing up for what you know is right. Some people in leadership roles secure their positions due to their ability to compromise, but such people are not necessarily leaders; they are just adept at playing politics, and sometimes bullying.

Exceptional leaders, by contrast, are characteristically uncompromising. Consider what kind of business Apple might be today if Steve Jobs compromised his vision for his products or company. (Actually, we do not have to consider; we know because during the time he was not leading Apple, the company floundered, until Steve Jobs returned and built the monolith the company remains today).

A great example of Jobs’ uncompromising values and vision can be seen in the way he lured Pepsi executive John Sculley into becoming Apple’s CEO with this famous quip: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

That is a boldly uncompromising argument to convince someone to leave one of the biggest brands in the world for one that, at that time, was not.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

When I am logically and morally right, I do not back down to placate someone else’s team or pander to people in powerful positions (and yes, not kissing up to bosses is sometimes to one’s detriment; you must define the relationship between your values and you).

I do not accept “the lesser of two evils” proposition because I understand such compromise attempts to belie the fact that both options are inherently evil, or wrong. I choose not to allow my values to be corrupted, even a little, for the sake of a vague notion of “common good” (which is commonly not good for either side). One of the best bosses I ever worked for put it succinctly, “Eating a little bit of rat poison instead of a lot of it… is not okay.”

HOW CAN I GET AWAY WITH IT?

Here is the dirty secret compromisers try not to acknowledge (even to themselves). Compromising for the “common good”, “finding middle ground”, “meeting half-way”, and other idioms are ways of expressing the same question:

“How can I get away with it?”

How can I get away with doing what I want to do, while making you (or the other person or team) think you are getting away with something as well?

This is the essence of how people strive to conceal immoral intentions under the guise of somehow doing others a favor, even if they strive to do so unwittingly or unconsciously.

Rather than working to compromise, try this: If you are wrong, accept it. Then find a way to support the other option on the table.

However, if you are right, you have no reason to compromise; don’t. The person on the other side is brought into light this way, forced either to demonstrate the vile truth they are attempting to hide (possibly from themselves) or instead nudged into being courageous and doing what is virtuously evident.

When you hear, “Sometimes you just have to compromise”, remember this:

“No, actually I don’t.”

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Volunteer to Make Your Dojo Great.

 

Angela helps a guest at Mizudo. 

 

When I am not training at the dojo, I am training at the dojo.

That is to say, when I am not training, I work as a volunteer at the dojo. I have a career in Communications, but when I volunteer my time, I do whatever is needed–from developing marketing strategies to cleaning restrooms or taking phone calls. You have probably seen me around, working behind the desk or vacuuming. You may be surprised to know my volunteer time is (gasp!) unpaid and (double gasp!) highly rewarding. How can that be?

I consider volunteering to help around the school as just part of my training, like learning self-defense or kata. Through volunteering, I practice the philosophy behind the martial arts I have learned.

 

Martial Arts is about Discipline and Self-control.

I demonstrate both self-control and discipline by focusing on the needs of the dojo and keeping my commitment to make my dojo the best school around. Because it is volunteer work (not paid), it is my choice (not my job), with no outside incentive to push me to do it. That means I have to rely on myself to keep my word. I must truly practice discipline and self-control to honor my commitment to be there.

 

Martial Arts is about Responsibility.

By volunteering, I take responsibility for my training. I take responsibility for the success of my dojo also. I understand my dojo is a reflection of me. That means when guests or family visit, they are not only observing Sensei and the walls. They also watch and judge my ability and my seriousness about training when I am on the mat. Visitors observe how seriously we students take our training on and off the mat, and they notice the dojo’s appearance and cleanliness.

A potential student considers the students currently in class and the general conduct of the dojo (including my conduct). When I think of that, I have to remember it is my dojo; it is where I train; it is up to me to make it great. My dojo and my training are my responsibility.

Martial Arts is about Hard Work and Skill.

Nothing happens without effort and this is certainly true in martial arts. It takes practice, practice, practice. Then it takes more practice, and as with any skill, you get out of it what you put into it.

If all someone hopes to achieve with martial arts training is to know how to intimidate others or beat people up, then I would tell that person they can save a lot of money by going to a schoolyard and watching how bullies do it.

If you want to be something more than a bully, I recommend volunteering as much time helping your dojo as you spend training there. Volunteering is an opportunity to build other martial arts skills. Even things that seem small are an opportunity to show respect to your training area. Washing the windows and helping to clean floors honor your dojo as much as developing a strong counter-attack (perhaps more so because these things also require humility and teamwork).

It may sound crazy, but volunteering allows a chance to put as much effort into perfecting your window-washing and floor-cleaning skills as you put into perfecting your side-kicks and punches.

Through volunteering, you learn how a dojo is actually run. You can build or refresh your business skills. You can become better at working with teams or, if you are a career manager like me, you can seize the opportunity to re-connect with the work you normally direct others to do.

That is why I say, when I am not training at my dojo, I am training at my dojo (as a volunteer).

When you commit time to helping your dojo, you train yourself not only to be a better fighter, but also to be a better person.

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

It is my honor to train with Shihan (Master) Montise Peterson at his highly esteemed school, Mizudo Academy of Martial Arts in Dearborn, Michigan.

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A Martial Life

 

When people hear the phrase "Martial Arts", what springs to mind is usually something violent: kicking, punching, gouging, chopping, etc. The first thought is probably not of meditation, concentration,  book-study, or Philosophy. That is to say, most people focus on the "Martial" instead of the "Arts".

 

To be an exceptional Martial Artist, we can not have one without the other. The Martial Arts are inclined to both war ("martial") and beauty ("arts"). The inclination to war obviously lies in the fighting–martial arts were created to help people protect themselves and their families from attackers. The inclination toward beauty is in understanding martial arts does not only teach someone how to fight.

 

A student of nearly any fighting style will surely learn to use his or her body to its best potential. That is only part of the beauty, though. A great master ensures his students learn the Philosophy of the art, as well. It is as much a part of the training as kicking, punching, and blocking.

 

Martial arts teach us not only how to fight properly, but also how to live properly.

 

I am lucky to learn under a great Master and from my fellow students. Thanks to that and a lot of studying on my own, I see as I learn to discipline my body, I also learn to discipline my mind. This principle has a cumulative effect. When I learn to discipline my mind, I also learn to discipline my body.

 

Think of a basic punch. Learning to throw a proper punch disciplines the muscles required to do so. Remembering the principles of a proper punch disciplines the mind, which, in turn, makes a stronger punch and further disciplines the body, which makes it easier to concentrate on the punch, thus disciplining the mind, etc.

 

Through martial arts, I gain focus, patience, control, confidence, self-discipline, strength, and personal power by learning to use my body to its best potential. I retain youth, endurance, flexibility, and stamina, which I am able to apply in other areas of life. For example, I need less sleep than I did before starting Karate, and that leaves more time for studying, training, or just relaxing. I feel healthier and more alert which improves how well I do my job. I am able to be more physically active with my family and friends whereas before I avoided strenuous activities.

 

In Ancient times, this was called, "Sit Mens Sana in Corpore Sano"—the famous Latin phrase for "A sound mind in a sound body". It means total health is about more than physical exercise. That is why martial arts is the perfect path to fitness–physical, mental, and even spiritual fitness are available to anyone willing to learn and train. Through complete and proper studying of the martial arts (which means learning the physical elements as well as the philosophical), you benefit by getting regular exercise, learning new skills, finding new approaches to life, gaining personal power, and no doubt making deep, personal friendships along the way .

 

Through study and physical training, I become a Martial Philosopher as well as a Martial Artist. To me, that is a thing of beauty.

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