Saturday, March 4, 2017

Anger and Fear



I was once at a Paul Vunak seminar and he said there are two things that will make you not do what you have trained to do in a fight. Those two mind killers are fear and anger. That is not to say you are not going to win necessarily, but you are not going to do the efficient practical things you trained to do if you fly into a rage or freeze up in terror. Bear in mind this is not the same as aggression. You can be aggressive without being angry. A lion taking down a zebra is not angry at the zebra. It is very aggressive but it is not mad at the zebra, that zebra is dinner and lions love dinner. Michael Jordan was very aggressive on the basketball court but he was not angry about it. When you get angry or scared it is difficult to act rationally and intelligently. It is easy to do something you will regret when you are in that mind state because your primal instincts and id takes over.

I feel like we are presently as a culture acting almost completely on fear and anger. Listen to all of our political discussions and policies that are being proposed. They are almost exclusively coming from places of fear and anger. A lot of them seem to be based more on feelings and emotions, rather than facts and what is actually going on. People are exceptionally angry and we are also very afraid. It is hard to make decisions in those moments that are going to be very strategically sound or intelligent. We need to somehow find a way to take a step back and get to a place of reason. There will be times we have to be aggressive, but being angry does not usually help. Anger can also escalate things to points of no return. Many times we seek revenge instead of justice. Justice by definition must involve truth. Revenge does not care too much about the truth, it wants release and any kind of retribution without much concern of finding the truth.

It is a dangerous path we are trodding. I will choose the path of reason and courage and i hope as a culture we can find our way back to that path.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dawn



Sleep is an amazing thing. I love to hit the bed and fall into a deep and heavy sleep. It is pretty easy to get out of that routine though, one day of sleeping in, however awesome it is at the time can send you into a whole different rhythm of the body. Often times in the deep watches of the night after waking up late, sleep is very difficult to find and the harder you search the more elusive sweet sleep seems to be.

But, thanks to a student i teach three days a week who got a new job, our morning sessions now begin at 6 AM. This has actually been wonderful. After the first day of it, i find myself back on a healthy rhythm. When the pillow hits my head and a few chapters of a journey toward the Dark Tower, the lights go out and new states of consciousness emerge. Not only that, but i am present for the Dawn. All of her glory and most beautiful gowns dress the sky. There are those elders who to this day stand outside and bear witness and sing up the sun for all of us. It makes my heart smile to know that they still do this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

In Faith.... i Do Believe



My beliefs have had an interesting journey throughout my walk here in this great unfolding play of life. Somewhere on my journey across the country the topic of what my religion is came up. I do not really think i have a religion anymore. For the most part in our world i think religion causes more problems than it fixes. That is different than people's day to day spirituality or belief in divinity. But world religions strap themselves on to people and walk into crowds and detonate. They do this both figuratively and literally and have been doing this since religions began. I have a hard time getting behind any of those. There are good things about them and they sometimes do good things. If that is your particular path i hope it feeds you and gives you meaning and it helps you create some light in the world. But, the question of what i believe in stopped me in my tracks a bit because it is an interesting concept and one ultimately i have not thought about for a long time. My path is a path of action, and i spend most of my days trying to be the best person i can be in this world. For the most part, i really care a lot more about what you do than what you believe. What kind of person are you in the world?

I used to go on a yearly retreat with my church youth group to a place called Paradise Lake at the roof of Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania. Those waterfalls were my religion there. It was their voices that fed my soul and recharged me. Their eternity drove the blood in my veins and renewed my spirit. One year the head speaker said a thing that was profound and also motivated me. He said you should be a Christian not for what will happen to you when you die, but for how it transforms your life today. That should be true of whatever you choose to believe. In my eyes that was profound thought and transformative. I think a lot of people do their religion because they think some future reward is waiting. That is a true opiate of the masses. Shut up and do your job and someday when you die then you get good things. Wage masters love this way of thinking. I actually heard a Christian radio station on a drive to York, PA say that you should work at your job not for what it does for you, but to the glory of God. They claimed they were taking the word "slave" back and that we should be happy slaves to our bosses and masters because God is watching and that is what he wants. When you get your days off their purpose is to recharge you so you can do your work which is the real reason for our lives here. What??? I will get to what i believe soon enough, but i know that the list will not include that i should be a slave or a sheep to anyone. I also am sorry if God does not like it, but if i have a job it will not be because i am hoping to help IBM more than i care about time with family or the quality of my life. They were able to say this without any laughter and i think they really believe it. That is a bill of goods we have been sold my friends. Don't get me wrong, i work really hard and when working for someone do the best job i can as hard as possible. I have a pretty strong work ethic and take pride in a good job, but i am not your slave and your company is not the most important mission of my life.

At any rate... i digress. So what things do i believe? What are some of the things i have come to find as true in the universe? Bear in mind, i also have a lot of ideas about a lot of things. Ideas and beliefs are different though, watch Dogma and you will get the concept of ideas versus beliefs. These are things that through years of study i truly believe to be true. The numbers are the core belief and the letters represent ideas i am not as sure of but think are probably right as well.

1. We are made up of stars and color. Life is light. That is a scientific fact. Everything we eat and actually everything we are is made up of stars. All energy that motivates life on this planet originally comes from the sun. Some ideas that come of this: A. The chakras are also a rainbow of color and coded as such, ROY G BIV. The chakras make sense to me because of the fact that the order of color is also the order of light. B. A diet of lots of colors is a healthy diet. Every wavelength of light has different energy so eating lots of multi-colored food is a pretty good indicator of a healthy diet (vegetables and fruits and such... not different colored M&Ms). C. We are all connected to everything else, part of the stuff of stars which are the real building blocks of everything.

2. Sacred Math. You can find the Golden Ratio in everything. Ideas that come from this: A. There is a fingerprint of something in the universe. B. We are all connected to everything else, part of the same stuff.

3. Music. There is something magical in music which is the sound expression of number 2. Ideas that go with this: A. Sound has the power to affect things like emotion and mood. Sound has the power to change the universe. B. Music is the expression of the connection and the voice of the gods. C. We are all connected to everything else, part of a universal chorus.


Now, the beliefs here, the 3 above are really pretty basic and you can actually scientifically verify them. I have had conversations with my friend Micah who got me interested more thoroughly in the Golden Ratio and sacred math and we asked what it means that we believe these things are true. When you really learn about the Golden ratio and sacred geometry, do you get cool spooky powers? Is there an enlightenment there? Boy i hope so. I am waiting on them. I imagine what happens is that things really don't change that much. The ideas that sprout from those 3 core beliefs are what affect how i go about my life.

The core of all three of those things is that you and i are ultimately one. You are separate from me in lots of very real ways, but on a deep level we are part of the same thing. The real unified field of all of this is probably another deeply held belief, and even though it is not scientifically verifiable, i know it to be true to the core of my being...

4. In spite of all its ugliness on occasion, the universe is beautiful. She is a work of art, a dance set to light and music. I believe that to be true and can feel it to the core of my being.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Defensiveness

I have not written a blog in a long time. The world has changed in many, many ways. We won't go into all that, but i think this topic is something that definitely relates to our general situation in the world.

I find a lot of people tend to live their lives crouched in this defensive posture waiting for someone to wrong them. They are always on guard and alert for the slightest attack waiting for anyone to give them even the slightest offense. You can see this clearly whenever any issues of race or bias against women comes up. We have some serious issues in this country, the world in general actually. Women for example go through a lot of things. In this country alone 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Every woman i know who works at festivals, OK, actually just every woman i know, has lost track of the amount of times that she has been made to feel uncomfortable by a man or approached with attention she was not interested in. I have been working in interactive theater since 1997 and i can remember the one creepy stalker i had. One... since 1997. Every woman i know who works at these same shows has lost track of the amount of times this type of thing has happened. This is a bigger problem for women than it is for men.

When you bring this up however, there is always a response from a pretty large segment of the male population to tell you that they should be allowed to talk to women and that they are not like this. They also are quick to let you know that men go through this stuff too. Men do get raped sometimes and sexually harassed. But, in this area, it is something that is easier for me in my life because i am a guy. I do not live my life thinking about the fact that someone may be trying to assault me in every interaction i have with a stranger. I am not sure what the impulse to get defensive is with these things. For some men, i would imagine that they are probably a guy who does some untoward things and this is a guilty reaction. I have also seen this response from men who i am pretty sure are not the type of guy who does this sort of thing. They often times are looking out for the "good and decent guys out there." I imagine they also have felt rejected at times and that that was not warranted.

The problem with this reaction if you are not someone who believes it is all right for women to go through this on a daily basis is, when you point out that decent guys should be able to talk to women, you are giving support to the jerk who is reading you or hearing you. If you are a decent human who respects people, you are not who we are talking about. You don't need to feel guilty, you don't need to diminish what women go through. When someone tells you that they are going through a thing and you chime in saying that you go through thess things too, or "it is not me!" you are belittling their concern, their pain. Don't play devil's advocate. Don't chime in to defend the guys who do not do bad things to women. They don't need you to. They do not do bad things to women. You don't have to tell us you don't do bad things to women. When you start getting very defensive about it it sounds like you think it is OK and we start wondering if maybe you are a guy who thinks a woman owes you her time or her body. One thing you should feel guilty about is feeling that you being upset because someone turned you down is what you think about and not the fact that the reason why women often are on their guard is because 1 in 3 of them will be assaulted in their life. Your bruised ego is not as bad as that! Bear that in mind when you complain about the friend zone or the fact that someone did not want you talking to them.

This is an area where we do need to be a little less thin-skinned. When someone is talking about people who are sexist or racist or bigoted against a religion, they are not saying you specifically are. If your child comes into the house bleeding, don't get defensive and say, "I did not cut you, i get cut too. I have had a lot of really bad cuts in my life so yours is not really that bad. Stop whining about being cut." Some people have had experiences you have not had and when you start being in a defensive mode and dismissive you are rejecting their experience and pain.

My parents had great parents. My grandfather came back from World War 2 and was able to get the GI Bill, because he was a white guy, and lived in a great neighborhood with good schools. He had an awesome house and steady job. This put my parents in a great position. A black man coming back from WWII would not have had that same option. That man might have wound up living in an area with drug problems and been scraping to get by. His kids might have had to work extra hard to stay away from drugs and gangs. I was able to get through college without debt, partially because of what my grandparents left me, partially because i was able to get a good job. The grandchildren of the black man from WWII might not have had that same luxury. This does not mean i am a bad person or did not work hard, but i had some privilege. It is OK for me to see that. I don't have to diminish what another person had to go through and let them know how bad my story was too.

I have worked incredibly hard to create my business, to get through college and earn my credentials for martial arts teaching. That is another story though and i won't pretend i don't have bonus points over someone who grew up in the inner city in a family that was scraping by. I also do not need to justify that when someone tells me what other people go through. Black people have it harder than me in this country. That is a fact. Women have it harder than me on a daily basis. That is a fact. LGBTQ people have it harder than me on a daily basis in this country. That is a fact. I can understand that and not take it as a personal attack on me. It does not mean i do not have hard times. It does not mean that there might be a day where a woman has a better day than me. It does mean that in some significant ways, i have bonus points. They exist.

We also need to remember that we are a part of this thing together. If we want to say we fought off the British in the Revolutionary War, we won World War II, we put a man on the moon... then we also have to say, we had the worst system of slavery the world has ever seen, we committed a genocide in the West and put bounties on the heads of Native men, women and children, we don't take care of our veterans, etc. We have done all those things as a country. It is still an amazing country. Better than most for sure. But we have our demons and it is all right to acknowledge them. It is necessary to acknowledge them or we do not get anywhere.

I am also very deeply sorry for the heinous things we have done. Not sorry in the sense that i did this to these people. But sorry in the sense of the Spanish lo ciento. I feel it. I am sorry people had to go through these things. I feel a common bond of human suffering with you and i will do what i can to be an ally and make it right.

So in the future... if you see a post from a woman or a transgender person, or a black man or someone who says that they go through some shitty things.... don't tell them that it is not you or let them know how hard what you go through is too. They are not personally attacking you. Unless that is you... then maybe your response is guilt. Think about it. Take 15 minutes to let this sink in before you respond.

Friday, January 15, 2016

We are all a mess


"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" ~William Shakespeare

It is so easy sometimes to look at the issues of others and wonder why they don't just get over it. Sometimes they even tell you they know what the problem is and it looks so simple from the outside and we get frustrated or turn our backs because they should really just stop doing what they are doing that hurts them or move on or get over it. Just that simple. But then, then we come across some of our own demons and our issues and if we are honest we realize that we have those issues too and it is not that simple. We are all flawed and have our things that are so ingrained in our beings that they seem like a part of us and we cannot ever imagine ever going past them. We don't even try because looking in the face of our own demons and admitting the flaws that define us is not something we like to do. I don't let people get close. I know i do this and that it is silly but i do it anyway. Logically i can tell you how silly it is but in the thick of it i have a thousand mechanisms to keep people on the outside.

We all have something. We have all been hurt and made promises to ourselves throughout our lives that make us keep doing the same things to ourselves over and over and over again. Sometimes we let people hurt us, berate us or strike us because we somehow feel that we need to be punished because of our flaws. Sometimes we push those who love us away because we don't even want to look at our own dark side, let alone let someone gaze openly into our abyss. Sometimes we make whatever excuses we can to drive off all of those that try to love us because inside of us their is a child that is insecure and believes that this amazing person could not possibly love me because i am not worthy of love with all of my flaws and failings. It is often easier to drive good people away and leave a wreck among our friends and relationships because we do not want to risk rejection. It is often easier to seek the fix of a new relationship than to work on and maintain one that has grown and nurtured us because many of us feel like we are not worthy of nurture. Many times it is easier to blindly follow a set of ideas than to open our minds to something new. We can rage and anger and stand behind a fortress of our own devise to protect our need to be right. We can become frustrated and pout to our friends when things don't go just the way we want even in things that in the grand scope of everything do not really matter. We often times cannot escape the grasp of our issues because in some deep and primal way, it feels like an essential part of who we are. We cannot imagine any place outside of the darkness and the negativity and the self doubt and the anger and the sadness.

This is the conundrum of our species and an irony of our nature. We are so advanced in our thinking and thoughts that we get in our own way. Our consciousness shuts us down and sends us to the bottle or to therapy. We believe the darkness. But there is also the light. It is easy to spiral onto a wave that tells you a beautiful life with love and friendship and health is not possible. But that is not the case. It is possible to face down our demons and move on. Sometimes i am there. Sometimes i look out at a river in the middle of the night in a cool winter rain and realize that it is all going to be all right. We are all the same and part of something that flows through all of us. When we are quiet sometimes we can hear the hum of the universe telling us it is going to be OK. Health is possible. It is rarely where we think it is going to be or down a path that we expected but it is possible for all of us; we small, small apes walking about this beautiful green and blue ball hurtling through space, to find peace and move in tune with the rhythms of everything. Truth is we do it anyway, there is really no other choice. It is only in our consciousness that we think forces conspire against us and all is sickness and pain. In the grand scope of everything, the great dance goes on.

But the truth is, in some ways at least, we are all a mess. I have seen beautiful amazing people that i care deeply about in the throes of it and they have taught me it is not a matter of just getting over it. I have been in that spiral myself and when you are there, it is not an easy task to climb your way out of it. Remember this. We are all a mess. There are no easy fixes. Sometimes love has to be tough and if we want to help we do not have to coddle, but do not believe that these things are just easy to throw off like an old jacket.

Also remember this, the most valuable things in life are the most difficult and i have also seen people who have clawed their way through and past their insecurities and these are some of the most powerful people i have ever met. We are all a mess... and what lies beyond that mess, through it, understanding it and not letting it control you... is something wonderful.

I write this because i want you to know i feel it too. Just because i do not understand your particular issue does not mean that i do not have my own. I am sorry if you have ever felt unheard or disregarded. I have been there where you are and i think when people are honest most of us have as well. Our own things feel real to us because they are our things. But yours is real too, and if you are reading this and you know what i am talking about, i am sorry if there has ever been a case where you were not heard or cared about. You are so, so worthy of love, each of you reading this.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This is our bar



In class the other day at Gracie United in Hammond, Louisiana, Professor Rafael Ellwanger said something that really struck a chord with me. "One of the things i miss about training in Brazil was after every class we would all go out to eat and spend time together. We did not go out to the bar; no smoking, no drinking. This is our bar, here on the mat. This is where we like to be and the people we like to be with." I have never voiced that so succinctly but i have always felt it. Training in the dojo, working on the martial arts has always been where i feel the most happy and at home.

I have never been one for loud parties and huge groups of drunk people. It is hard to vacation with me because i really do not like to sit around and do nothing. When i have a day off what i tend to do is work out or work on skills or projects i have for one of our varied business ventures. That is what i choose to do on my time off. I have a hard time when i have days off in a row and nothing to do. I would rather be on the mat. That is indeed my place of community and where i go to unwind after a long day. It is more vacation than most of my vacations.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Students days, kids and the Renaissance Faire

I have been working at Renaissance Faires and festivals for quite a long time now. Nothing seems to strike fear into my fellow performers and merchants hearts like kids' days. Whenever they are coming up and we have meetings invariably people want to roll out their horror stories and talk about ways to protect yourself from these monsters we have to suffer through. As someone who owns a festival myself and has also been through over 10 years of faires and student days, i have to say to those people who preach the fear and loathe these "horrible" days... shut up.

I have never had a bad kids' day in all my years working as an entertainer and even a few times as a vendor. I think the problem a lot of people have on student days comes from the attitude that they bring with them. There is an expectation that the kids are going to be awful brats and the day is going to be a battle to protect merchandise and feelings against these young humans that are coming through the gate. I watched someone just the other day yell belligerently at a group of students, "Get out of the way, the rickshaw is coming!" The rickshaw was behind them. These students were just walking and laughing with each other, but the attitude thrown at them was one of anger and the seizing of authority. This group of students did not do anything untoward and yet this worker at the faire assumed he had to be hard nosed with these young people. Most people who work at faire are having an awful student day even before it has begun. If you ask someone how they are doing before the day you will here all kinds of negativity about a day that has not even begun yet. People... STOP!

Our perception definitely shapes our reality. If you go into anything with expectations the universe is probably going to give you back what you are asking for. This is especially true when dealing with children, they are sensitive creatures and they can feel your loathing seeping off of you.

Here are some things that i do, and mind you, i have never had a bad kids' day. Try these things. They work.

1. Do not patronize kids. Talk to them like people because they are. Just like we laugh when hearing about patrons who believe that actors or people behind a counter are, "Almost like real people", the idea that every kid who comes to the faire is some kind of mini-monster is just as laughable. Treat them with respect and talk to them like a person. Do not expect them to be "bad" and you will be amazed at the amazing experiences you will have, let alone what they will take home from meeting you.

2. At the same time, they are children and don't forget it. You are an adult or at least you are supposed to be so know your boundaries. If you remember that these are young people and not criminals you can handle almost any situation you encounter.

3. Here is the big one, and the number 1 reason to not hate these days... most of us like what we do and enjoy that faires exists so we don't have to work in a cubicle somewhere... well this is the future of our business! If these kids get hooked now, they are the ones who are going to be coming back and bringing their kids here in the next generation of people. Our music director in NJ fell in love with Renaissance Faires when she came to a student day many years ago. If you can't figure out a way to sell things the kids are going to buy, consider it advertising for the future of your business. Make them love it!

4. Go into the day expecting to play. The students that come on kids' days are ready and willing to play in your world and i don't care what age group you are talking about. If you do not see each interaction as a battle but an opportunity you will be amazed at the fun you can have.

Student days at faire are to me some of my favorite. We are done at 2 in the afternoon and we spend all day with a bunch of people who if you do not send waves of negative energy at them will find you to be a hero by the end of your interaction with them. Some of them can even learn something and some of them may wind up working for you in years to come.

Stop hating on the kids' days everybody.

A public service announcement from the Lords of Adventure. ;)