The Power to Say “No”

Disclaimer: Entire books have been written on this topic, so my handling of it may seem shallow to some. Sorry, but I don’t feel I’m supposed to write such a project, but I do think it’s worth discussing here.

The most important aspect of human life is consciousness and, especially, the mind. The human mind is the command and control mechanism for all of the systems, processes, and behaviors that make us human. Science doesn’t go here, because it requires grappling with human nature and things that cannot be measured in the scientific way. All we have is anecdotal evidence, and no scientist worth her credentials would be so foolish as to give their stamp of approval to such. Even the science of the mind — also known as psychology or psychiatry — admits as much, and this is across the widest possible slice of the à la carte menu of mental health treatments.

I recall when Sandra Seich and I put together our company ANSIR (A New Style In Relating), we spoke to a great many psychologists, both clinical and counseling practitioners about our instrument. This spectrum is fascinating, for one relies entirely on science and scientific theories, whereas the other offers a more holistic approach. What we discovered was the counseling psychologists are patient-focused and, therefore, open to all kinds of ideas and options. Clinical psychologists, however, are driven almost entirely by scientific methodology. As several people told us in analyzing our personality test, the more scientific the test, the less useful it becomes in counseling actual people. This is because science demands broad, provable categories to study, while counseling psychologists tend to see each individual patient as unique within the symptoms presented. You can judge for yourselves which is for you.

The point is we don’t “know” much about the human mind, even though countless investigators have tried. For this, we must turn to other practices including religion, pseudoscience, countless non-religious yet spiritual institutions, such as New Age thinkers, and even the anecdotal experiences of professionals within the field. This of course fits nicely within the realm of quackery and deviance, which is another reason science wants nothing to do with it.

Even what can be considered breakthrough schools of thinking receive skeptical responses from those colleagues who stick to their scientific guns in defending against the relentless growth of mental health issues within our culture. While mental health is tricky to navigate — and for whatever the cause — those poor suffering souls I’ve known in my life (self included) all seem to have lost the ability to say “no”. The real mystery is why and, perhaps more importantly, what to do about it.

Knowing that it’s not good for us, why do we sneak that piece of cake just before bedtime? Why do we “just have to” gaze at the beauty of comeliness and covet possession of the same? After awhile on the river of alcohol consumption, why is it that the first thing we think of upon awakening from a spree with a hangover is doing it again? Why do we allow friends to convince us to do things we know we ought not to do? And, why do we get so defensive when observers of our behavior try to help us, and why do we agree with those who say that regardless of the cause (if there is one), modifying behavior is the only process that can help.

We do so, because the alternatives are considered beneath our dignity. Perhaps our problems are not the problem but rather our inability to reject a course of behavior that will eventually lead us to ruin. The Apostle Paul wrote that he was perplexed by his own behavior, in that he would do the things he knew he should not do, and that he would not do the things he knew he should do. “O wretched man that I am,” he wrote. “Who can deliver me from this bond of death?”

Trauma only makes matters worse, for our reactions to trauma seem to set us up for future mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression. Why does this effect some and not others, or does trauma have a way of forcing an escape from reality? Is it not all wound around an inability to say no, whether it’s forced or assumed? And, is the cause at all related to the cure? Do we simply just need to say no?

Bob Newhart’s wonderful skit about a psychologist who’s only treatment is the use of the words “stop it” is a marvelous illustration of the foolishness of such thinking. That’s because we think of these problems in terms of ownership, and it defies logic to give up what we have. “My” illness. “My” condition. “My aches and pains. “My” anxiety. “My” relatives. “My” ex. “My” helplessness. “My” upbringing. “My” uniqueness. “My” cancer. “My” fibromyalgia. My” suffering. “My” affliction. “My” thorn in the flesh. “My” depression. And so forth.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times no!

Look, afflictions are real. Diseases are real. We’re not talking about the things of the flesh. However, when we take ownership of such, we’ve entered dangerous territory, for such things do not actually define us. If that were the case, we should all hide our heads in hopelessness. The truth is that these things stand in the way of self-discovery, and that is a spectacular piece of self-deception, one that’s based in our senses under the sun. Healing, therefore, is found — is often found — in the here and in the now, for that is the time and place of life, and life rejects all forms of artificial death, e.g. “poor me”. Like many other things in life, it isn’t the affliction that causes our suffering, per se, but rather our reaction to it.

It’s time to talk about the Biblical devil, for evil is always the outcome of self-deception, whether big or small. If the devil is the “father of all lies,” then his realm must be the human ego, for that is the person within us that often makes the decisions for us — for our protection, of course — especially in times of stress. For purposes of this discussion, let’s define evil as that which draws us from the here and now with its incumbent rejection of any life that exists beyond the sun. This results in all forms of inhuman behavior, including those events that seem to lead our news reports hour-by-hour. Man’s inhumanity towards man ought not to dominate our minds as it relates to life, for this is a profound limitation to our lives under the sun. There’s absolutely nothing “new” about it, for the matter of evil is part and parcel of our nature.

Are babies born innocent and later “learn” selfishness? That’s illogical and provably so, because crying when hungry is most certainly a form of self expression. To argue that a baby learns this through trial and error is to deny the first screams and tears. Yes, she learns that it works, but where does that initial behavior originate? The senses demand to be heard, but at the same time, they send false signals of satisfaction that are never enough. Satisfaction may last for a season, but eventually, it requires more and more and more. As Olivia Newton John asked a musical question, “It’s never enough, never never enough. Why is all that we have simply never enough?”

Absent our ability to actually study the matter, for a very large group of people, the devil is an answer that’s sufficient. Creative attempts to offer a different perspective have come from enormously talented and curious people, especially those who’ve taken the time for individual study of what is commonly known as the human ego. If you are human, you have an ego. He exists to provide answers where none seem possible, and it’s to him that we often turn in times of distress. Thoughtful, intriguing, and soaring books have been written about such things as “ego states,” trauma bonding, and other manifestations of ego study. They deserve our attention, because they come from minds with a lifetime of deep diving when it comes to understanding the human mind. Adam and Eve had egos. It was Eve’s ego that led her to the Tree of Life (“You don’t really think that God would kill you for eating it, do you? I mean, it’s not poison.”). Jesus faced and defeated his own ego in the wilderness. His stomach was growling during the 40-day fast, so the voice of his ego rose to tempt him to turn rocks into bread. It wasn’t a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork. That is the stuff of myths. Hell, we don’t need a devil when we have such an intimate enemy as our own ego.

One of the things that was so different about Jesus is that he recognized the voice of his ego and said a resounding “no”! So, it seems to me that we can do the same. Otherwise, we are most to be pitied, especially for Christians who say they “follow the ways of the Lord.” The first deception of the ego is that he doesn’t exist, and that gives a great multitude an excuse to give up without even trying. After all, their discomfort is greater than any earthly solution, and therefore, we should all just suffer while bearing our own personal thorns in the flesh. Nonsense. Either that, or Jesus was not “the firstborn among many,” and the gate he claimed to represent leads to nowhere.

I fully appreciate the potential for mischief that’s presented with this missive, for we still see through a glass darkly. However, in order to talk back to our egos, we must first learn to recognize its voice, even during times of panic. “You’re going to be abandoned” was a constant, almost unspoken message that I heard throughout my life. Think about that for a minute. It was a marvelous deception foisted on me as the result of an episode of what seemed to me an abandonment in my youth. A mind incapable of separating such a voice from the situation that brought it about is impossible for a 5‑year old, and so it became an essential part of my thinking about myself. I fought it, and I fought it, always to lose and try again.

I learned through AA that what I thought made me unique was all bullshit and that I needed a miracle to overcome it. I got my miracle, and the most obvious evidence is in my sleep. When we give up fighting the deceptions that dominate us, it is an enormous weight lifted from the shoulders of our souls, and the problem of sleeplessness disappears. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous contains the stories of many people who had found recovery from the addiction that drove their lives for sometimes a very long period of time. These stories are filled with addicts trying to explain their drinking to themselves and others. Example episodes of their perplexity often begin with “I had this thought” or “it came to me that I should.” These triggers were, in fact, the voices of their own egos attempting to rationalize or make an argument for drinking.

So, we know it’s important, but how exactly do we learn to recognize the voice of our ego? It’s actually very simple. Deliberately place a temptation in front of yourself. Don’t do anything but listen. Trust me; it’ll be there, perhaps even in thoughts that are profoundly familiar. Listen anyway. We KNOW what the outcome will likely be, so it’s very important that we hear those thoughts as they pass across the horizon of our minds like so many wild horses.

Redemption is what gives us the power to say no to that which is pretending to be us. You might be amazed at how effective a simple “shut up” can be in a conversation with what you think is yourself. As we say in AA, “My mind is a dangerous place, because I’m not alone in there.”

How true, my friends. How very, very true.

Can/will the Virus Open Eyes?

The deception that is Fox News grows more dangerous to our republic as time passes and more and more people are bathed in the lie that it is a news organization. It is warping our sense of unity and pitting American versus American at a scale that wasn’t even present during the Civil War. Add to this the omnipresence of so-called “conservative” commentators who mix news events with their propaganda, and we have a monster storm against “peace and good will” on this Easter weekend.

Well, Terry, but they’re no different than those on the other side of the aisle.

And this, my friends, is the essence of the lie. It’s perhaps too late to fix it, but let me explain.

The news doesn’t care about political affiliation. It is neutral in that sense, because it’s always based upon that which is “new.” If “new” drives the news agenda, “old” drives the conservative point-of-view. This was evident in Donald Trump’s Make America Great AGAIN slogan. We can’t go back as a culture, and everybody should know this, for to run with a perspective that pushes only the good from yesteryear without considering the alternate pressures that were also in play is foolishness gone-to-seed.

Political coverage is certainly a part of any “news” agenda, but only to the extent that news organizations can speak to new events or trends in informing their audiences. It’s very easy to accuse, but when the accusation is required to justify one’s own existence, it ceases to be relevant to the very concept of news. Simply stated, it’s just propaganda. Contemporary marketing is very often a form of propaganda, foisted upon us in the name of commerce. The same is true with conservative “olds”, and that’s the point.

If news organizations spent as much time trying to shape those thoughts as they are accused of doing, we would have left-wing propaganda groups sharing their views in the form of news. We don’t, and ANY attempt to shape a narrative that says otherwise is pure and self-serving folly. It’s simply absurd, so the argument that “both sides do it” is specious, at best. Survey any group of citizens, however, and this is exactly what they’ve been taught to believe, namely that the news industry’s players are either left or right. Nonsense, and I know, because I was there when we created the concept of “conservative news” in the early 1980s at the Christian Broadcasting Network. We wrote the playbook that Fox copied.

A key part of this effort was to position ourselves alongside existing news organizations and claim that a liberal bias was the same thing as liberal propaganda. Hence, we saw no problem with presenting our conservative propaganda as a participant on the same level as CBS, ABC, and NBC. We spent our money on technology and especially graphics to make ourselves look no different than the rest. We were selling this to an audience ripe for the taking by stating our abhorrence with what we felt was a satanic effort to destroy America.

Conservatism is not at all associated with the news except to provide a “side” to developing stories. News organizations have an ethical governor that demands presentation of all sides in any issue relating to political points of view. The organization itself has no political point-of-view, except perhaps from their editorial boards. As anybody who has worked in the news business knows, there is a vast separation between a news organization’s newsroom and its editorial side. But ownership is ownership, and there are plenty of stories of owner pet projects that find their way into the content presented.

The point is that the bias of news is towards that which is new, and if that is seen as political, the only response can be propaganda. It cannot be expressed as “news”, because that would require a bias towards something else. It also requires looking the other way when events — take, for example, the gender identification movement or political correctness — weaken or destroy its propaganda. Again, this is why we cannot use the term “news” in describing something that isn’t “news”.

I was ridiculed and mocked during a talk about this subject with a group of Colorado right-wingers. When it got too uncomfortable for them, they retreated to the gospel to end the discussion. Open minds, these were not. I knew that going in, but the overwhelming and defensive response revealed that the matter is far more important to their worldview than most observers really imagine. Why else use the Bible to talk back to me, the former Executive Producer of the TV program that created the thing in the first place?

This is why I often reference religion in my writing. White evangelical Christians are completely convinced of their righteousness in this or any other argument.

Methinks they doth protest too much.

A New World Order is at Hand

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert Kennedy

DISCLAIMER:
Normally, I have difficulty with those writers who feel it necessary to sell readers on their qualifications before presenting their argument. The strength of that argument ought to be able to stand on its own, but this pandemic is changing all the rules and will continue to do so. Therefore, I feel it’s necessary to provide a little personal background before proceeding. Hence, this disclaimer.

On Wednesday, February 20, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 29,348.03. Earlier that morning, I posted this on Twitter:

I’m no prophet, but I have a pretty good track record of listening and then reporting. I could literally feel the breaking and crumbling, along with all the pain associated with it. I’m like many other sensitive souls who value their connection to the cosmos above the rewards of this life. We are scattered throughout the arts community, where the concept of muses is taken pretty seriously.

Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music and a prolific song writer, once told me, “I never wrote anything. I just heard them first.” This statement of humility says much about the creative process and Mr. Monroe’s steadfast commitment to it. By his own admission, Bill Monroe was a better listener than a writer.

I was a good assignment editor in my TV news career, because I could manage to get myself ahead of my competitors simply by paying attention. In my career as a consultant, I helped — along with many others — in understanding and defining disruptions and innovations associated with the internet and the news community.

My work on defining the pieces of a cultural swing that I call “postmodernism” is used to teach others around the world. My essays can be found in university syllabi in many places, which is a pretty high honor for a guy who never went to college. I taught media ethics for the postmodern era for several semesters as an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas.

Despite all that, I still tremble when I put my ear to the wind, because most people judge this as foolishness, and I know that repeating it is an invitation to rejection, which is something I really don’t handle very well. Nevertheless, in uncertain times, I’m comforted, because I believe that there’s a bigger picture regarding life than most people can see. Caveat emptor, however, as you read on.

WHAT’S AHEAD
So, with that lengthy disclaimer, let’s put our long-term glasses on and try to reasonably discuss life after the quarantine, when the threat is over and leaders get back to work. Nobody really knows what’s ahead, but that should never stop us from thinking about it anyway. As with every crisis of human life, there will be opportunity and there will be loss. As a result, it’ll doubtless be a season of innovation as we search for a new normal. This is a good thing, because the West prior to the virus wasn’t exactly headed down a sustainable path.

The normal will be new, because this event can’t help but reveal inefficiencies, sloppy thinking, and errors within the old culture, and we will move to correct each one of them. For example, Macy’s announced that it was closing all of its stores for the duration of our crisis. Does anybody really think all of those stores will reopen after this? Not a chance. Macy’s wasn’t in the greatest shape before, so we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly find piles of extra cash to throw at an archaic business model. Reinvention will be the biggest challenge ahead for the business community.

We are all together in this vast lifeboat, and this is what may produce the biggest changes, a more utopian and less dystopian global culture. We know for a fact now that the 1% care only about themselves. We’ve also learned to recognize the voice of propaganda and that there’s no such thing as a stupid question anymore. We know for a fact that we are the only ones who truly care about ourselves, and we must not underestimate the power of this enormous shared survival experience and our frightful journey in our lonely lifeboats.

There will be an immediate rush to restore the status quo, but this will run into a wall of those who survived in spite of the rug being pulled out from under them earlier. Do we really think people will welcome back the same set of fundamentals that put us in this situation in the first place? They, the thinking will go, drove us into this, and we’ll not be so foolish again. Mark these words, for there’s no way we’ll ever again be satisfied with that particular status quo. We’re going to demand something different. Already, thinkers such as Henry Kissinger, who helped create our world order, is urging nations to protect that order above all (The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order). It’s a fool’s errand.

Stores like Macy’s, for example, are going to lose their best people during or after this layoff. You think those folks will happily return? That $1,200 is going to seem like a very small “bonus” for having their lives completely turned upside down. We’ve never had so many people out of work, and at a time when American businesses have been artificially propped up by corporate welfare from this White House.

Moreover, the cultural shifts we’ll face have already been underway for a great many years, and we’re ripe for something different. Will it be opportunity for you or loss?

Which religions will fade and which will be exalted? Many think the 21st Century will be the epoch of Islam, because other governing concepts have all failed. Democracy doesn’t work absent internal governors, because otherwise corruption is inevitable. Our culture is based on oaths and promises, which mean very little anymore, and this needs to change. Religion offers such guidance, but which religion? Everything is on the chopping block.

Then there’s the great divide, an awful season of extreme fringes and their takeover of our political system. The truth is that most of us aren’t fringe, and we’re really sick of being forced into either extreme political box. I’ve bent over backwards to inform everybody that tolerance assumes the power to not tolerate. Otherwise, it’s not tolerance; it’s a bayonet at our backs. No American truly pissed about what’s happened to us — since Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell assumed control of the Republican Party — will ever wish to go back. The Democrats have been delivering their “progressive” agenda for many years. Neither speaks for the huge middle that represents the vast majority of us, and until this is articulated and shared, uncertainty will remain.

Our attitudes about ourselves and each other will be the most underreported aspect of what lies ahead, for this isn’t the stuff of mainstream thinking. We will have survived a shared disaster! Think about that for a minute. While no one can say for sure what this means today, it certainly suggests a culture more interested in unity than before.

It may sound foolish, but the great middle needs to unite as a lobbying organization with the power to swing elections. Our choices would force people back to our turf, where we have the muscle to force political unity. Elected officials will have no choice but to respond. Our platform would begin with our willingness to vote for whomever we think we need at the time, regardless of ideological affiliation. We’ve no use for the political system that has a bayonet at our backs forcing us into choosing extremes. Black and white are forced upon us without the opportunity to investigate shades of grey.

Despite the cynicism that I realize is present here, my glass is always half-full in looking downstream. We see through a glass darkly anyway — especially when that glass is pointed downstream — but fear is a rotting and corrupting influence that extremists find easy to manipulate for their extreme purposes. Those who use fear for political gain will be seen as transparently self-centered. I mean, what are “they” going to do to us? Take away our jobs? Put us in quarantine?

Christianity will win the battle with self-centeredness in its midst, and the heresy of prosperity will be formally dismissed as such. The money changers will, once again, be thrown out of the temple. Those who prosper have their reward, and the expectation that their narrative is the ultimate winner will be unceremoniously tossed into the dust pile of history.

It’s even possible that eyes closed shut for years will be opened. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment, for example, was based on his favorable views of business and not because he’s pro-life. The right response to this is going to have to come from the church, even those caught up in the evil we’ve experienced these last four years. Good people — yes, good — have given themselves over to reprobates whose life goals involve profit, not the unborn. The church must fix this, for we/they are being deceived.

There will remain for many years a strong skepticism about what got us into this, which will lead to a strong call for reinventing a great many things. We may see the most significant shift in our trust, and the technology exists today to create a new political narrative that includes everyday people not driven by ideology. Gone is any idea that any individual group will act in the best interests of others. We now know for certain after four years of Trump that business cares first and foremost about profit, even greed. There can be no argument here, not anymore.

The emphasis continues to shift from the seller to the buyer, because the ability to fool people with illegitimate claims has been seriously weakened. Pay attention to the work of Doc Searls. He’s leading the thinking about buyer-generated commerce, which is quite the opposite of the relentless bombardment of marketing that the status quo has perfected in the modern era.

We will increasingly move in the direction of a more hip population, as the Evolving User Paradigm (the longer users use the Web, the greater the acceleration of the disruptions they create) continues its advance. The gap between intelligence and foolishness will be increasingly noticeable, and ventures targeting early bullshit detection will create a new community of those who want distance between themselves and status quo marketing. If I had any money, this is where I’d put it.

Emphasis on money will be impacted as other forms of currency begin to take shape. Barter is a currency. Love is a currency. Ego is a currency. Respect is a currency. Choices are a currency. Influence is a currency. We use these often, but they will eventually become creatively commodified. It will be very difficult to horde these forms of currency.

Leaders are wanted and needed. Managers, not so much.

Thumbs up for Reddit and other discussion formats.

Every home will be connected — and armed.

Pay attention to the arts and artists who flourish, because their efforts will resonate the new.

It’s going to be harder and harder to make war based primarily on business interests.

When J.D. Lasica coined the phrase “Personal Media Revolution” over 20 years ago, none of us could’ve even imagined how profound this “revolution” would be. We are now our own media companies. We make movies. We make TV. We make radio. Links are still the currency of the Web, and smart people like Dave Winer keep exposing us to new methods of linking that aren’t controlled by a single platform. We may have bumps and bruises along the way, but the internal drive to connect that’s within each of us — even introverts — has unlimited capability to drive us together despite — and maybe because of — the inevitable greed that arises from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms.

If information is power, the Evolving User Paradigm will keep empowering the masses, and that won’t work well with the modernist idea of top-down command and control. And the modernist managers will be way too busy expressing fear of chaos as the status quo crumbles to actually notice what’s taking place around them.

Media companies will continue to collapse due to debt and ever-shrinking audiences. One can hope that these people will discover how they gave up way too early on the web, because its entire marketing position (top-down) couldn’t stand up to the precision offered by the geeks online. The only logical reason that, for example, the New York Times couldn’t have become Google in the online advertising game is their insistence that they were in the content business. They aren’t and never were. Their business is making money by placing ads adjacent to content. Targeting individual browsers? That came from minds that didn’t give a crap about content. Whose fault is that? Consider the overwhelming popularity of ad blockers, and you can more easily understand where their bread is buttered. There’s nothing quite like following a link only to be told you must disable your ad blocker or whitelist the site before being shown what’s at the end of the link. This is a form of unintended suicide.

New growth centers for people will be built around residents caring for each other. The new currency of choices will be based on human development, not jobs, because people can work online and live wherever. Migration patterns will be interesting to study in the years ahead.

Sociologists will examine the issue of white flight through the lens of business profit, just as was the advancement of women a century ago. White flight is a problem that’s far bigger than anyone chooses to state. White Evangelical Christians have fled along with those who wanted to distance themselves from potential conflicts, mostly racial. This is selfishness gone-to-seed in the name of personal protection. It’s one thing to wish to protect my family, but when that’s turned into any form of group think, it ceases to be a personal choice, because it is such an easy way of life to manipulate from the outside.

Political correctness will be seen rightly as a luxury that we cannot afford. No longer will we tolerate special interests who use modernist tools to convince us of their rights at the expense of our own. Blanket acceptance or toleration of others isn’t an absolute moral perspective that is above all investigation. Again, toleration is based on the assumption that we can just as easily choose not to tolerate. Not all lifestyles, whether chosen or natural, can be considered equal. It just doesn’t work that way, because we need the freedom to draw lines for ourselves. And tolerance doesn’t have to include completely embracing every lifestyle.

Mental health is going to be a thriving medical concern, due in large part to the guilt and shame that we’ll all feel at some point during our isolation. It’s not good for man to be alone, and this Biblical reference doesn’t refer to gender.

Corporate greed has been internally voted down for most of us. It’s so transparent these days that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to pull it off without repercussions. Corporations will closely examine remote work to administer cost savings. We may even see an end to hourly pay, for it’s a holdover from the Industrial Age and doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s likely that everybody will be put on a predictable salary with perks assigned to make it life easier for employees, such as daycare, healthcare, food and supplies, tax deductions, and even shelter.

New special interests will develop and grow, based on our different views of what’s important. These will likely begin as social movements before becoming institutionalized.

Finally, I want to make it very clear that whatever happens, Life will be on our side. In order to function as such, however, we’re going to have to cut away any supposition that this is evil work foisted upon us by the devil. The coronavirus is God’s virus, because theology teaches us that the fallen angel has no power other than what God allows. Is this an act of God in trying to defend our planet? It’s a pressing matter that we must ALL examine with our own hearts, because outside sources are caught in a zero-sum game about planetary resources.

Repentance is the act we all must be willing to make. Sticking with it will be our universal challenge.

Mo Mo Gotta Go Go, Coronavirus Edition

Rep. Mo Brooks with his Master

Oh, Mo. Sigh.

On March 5th, you gave us bullet points on the congressional briefing regarding the virus. You emphasized positives for the USA. Then, on March 9th, you gained publicity for yourself by urging Congress against recessing. These are YOUR words:

Yes, COVID-19 is highly contagious. But, unless you are old or have immune deficiency, the threat is VERY low.

Congress must stand strong as America’s example, not cut & run like snowflakes!

Snowflakes, BTW, is a pejorative term used to describe Democrats. It’s one of those words you’ve been taught to insert wherever you can, but it’s so inappropriate here.

Then on March 10th, you did a radio interview saying that the media was “overreacting” and that the virus was not as serious as some are making it out to be. You were glib and sarcastic in mocking the panic (your word). You chuckled as you told your radio hosts they needed to “get with the panic” and not be gathered together in a radio studio. Laugh? I thought I’d never start.

Here are more quotes from you during that interview. I should add that Matt Murphy and Andrea Lindenberg did a great job in asking the right questions. You, however, were a major FAIL! Remember, this was March 10, 2020.

“It is not novel. It is not new. And yet the public is being beaten into a panic mode by the mainstream news media. You just talked about four thousand people dead. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of people during the same period die from the flu. Hundreds of thousands worldwide. Why are we panicking over four thousand versus hundreds of thousands that we see on a regular basis every year?…

Question: Why is government now creating commissions and getting involved?
“To try to address the panic that the mainstream news media and the Democrats are drumming up. That’s not to say it isn’t serious. It’s not to say you shouldn’t be taking precautions, but they’re the same kinds of precautions you should take every flu season…

“This thing is being blown all out of perspective by the mainstream news media, and it’s causing damage to our economy and damage to our lives as a result…

“If you’re under age 60 and your immune system is functioning as it normally does, you really are not at risk any more than if you’d caught a cold or the flu…

“There is risk, but at the same time, you have to keep the risk into perspective. And the best perspective I can put it into is compare it to the normal flu and what happens every year with that flu…

“The rest of us need to go on with our daily lives and try not to interact with those who are in one of those high risk categories…

The Democrats and their allies in the mainstream news media are trying to create a panic. They are trying to tank the American economy because their hatred of Donald Trump is so great. They’re willing to risk American lives and risk the American economy in order to defeat Donald Trump in November 2020, and that’s no different from what the Democrats do to border security. We know that Americans are going to be killed as a result of the lack of border security, but that doesn’t stop the Democrats from continuing with an open borders policy that’s going to result in 2,000 dead Americans each year, people who have died at the hands of illegal aliens, and that’s the average…

So they’re willing to, for political gain, to do what they do at the southern border. They’re also willing to, for political gain, do great damage to our economy, because that has been one of Donald Trump’s biggest strengths as President of the United States.”

Honestly, Mr. Brooks, you do not represent me or any of my friends with this kind of thinking and behaving. You have aligned yourself tightly with Donald Trump, and as he goes, you will go. We need somebody with the mettle of a Doug Jones to represent North Alabama in the House, and, as I said the last time, I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.

Mo Mo Gotta Go Go.

Thinking About Death During the Great Quarantine

What a better use of time during this isolation than to talk about human death and dying. After all, isn’t that what’s really on our minds as we sit in our own homes awaiting the all clear? We can’t help it. We’re afraid of our own deaths, so as best we can (which is probably not much), let’s take a walk down the path of what that means.

We’ll begin with life, that misunderstood and grossly underestimated aspect of being human. In the Bible, there are several words defined as “life,” including the remarkable book of Ecclesiastes, which describes life “under the sun.” This is the world of our senses, and this book describes it as “meaningless” or “vanity.” Within this marvelous scripture are thoughts of great wisdom for our lives within the context of living here on planet Earth. It describes seasons of living that go far beyond Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. It’s often referred to as the book for cynics, because its wisdom is confined to life under the sun, the world we understand only through our senses.

It’s important we begin with life, because, in thinking about our own deaths, we can only consider that which we know, and that means leaving everything familiar — no matter how good or lousy it is — to move into the unknown. Religion complicates things by attaching future meaning to present behavior and dangling a rich and wonderful afterlife to those who follow. It’s the most manipulative game in town and has been for a very long time, for it asks that we believe only that which our religion teaches, and this can be a serious trial for the very logic and reasoning that life has given each of us. The choice that religion offers us in the West is an afterlife in heaven or its opposite, hell. If offered a deal that connects our current behavior with one or the other, who would choose the latter? Nobody, of course, and that’s the plan to recruit others to our religions, where they pay tithes and offerings that benefit the religion in the here and now. It is impossible to take religion seriously when representatives of the institution benefit so greatly in the process. This ate away at my soul during my years of service at CBN and The 700 Club and eventually led to the writing of my book, The Gospel of Self.

We must train ourselves to seek that which is beyond life under the sun. The problem is that science gets in the way by insisting that the ability to measure something is what gives it meaning or “reality”. Therefore, that which we can’t measure doesn’t belong in our studies. The entire “Make America Great Again” thinking — while fully embraced by White Evangelical Christians — actually gives life under the sun preeminence by wanting to go back to the more ordered times of the past. In so doing, it refuses to acknowledge the prophets of today who are leading cultural progress. We err when we do this, because we’re suggesting that we have the power to control our own lives, and this is quite contrary to our religious teachings.

It’s a part of being human to question, to ask about those who don’t know or believe our religion. What happens to them at death, if we’re all going to “heaven”? If our God is both just and merciful, how does it follow that eternal fire is the end of those who don’t know? This is the fuel that evangelism, regardless of the religion that practices it, uses to motivate people to convince others of their rightness or righteousness. This is sold as an act of love, but benefits to the evangelist include that which profits the evangelist, and this cannot be set aside in our reasoning. We humans can be a sneaky bunch.

It’s important here to note the division in Christianity between those who follow the red words and those who prioritize, for example, the writings of Paul. Muslims question Paul’s contributions to the faith, for the New Testament was penned largely by him. They argue that we only have his word that he ever even interacted with Jesus, and for some, that’s just fine. In asking questions, however, it’s an important perspective for our consideration. Regardless, the words attributed to Jesus, to me, carry weight beyond the other writings, those deemed holy or otherwise.

For example, we learn so much about this “Christ” in three verses of the The Gospel According to John.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:9–11

People of faith can argue as they wish about these words, but let’s just take them at face value. Jesus describes himself as a door or a gate, which is a powerful spiritual metaphor. He equated entry through this door to being saved from the thief. This is because, he said he had come to provide life to those who passed through Him. But “life” here doesn’t mean the same as the word used in Ecclesiastes. The word in this passage comes from the Greek word Zoe, which means the life of God, terribly translated in English as “eternal life”. This is then taken to the extreme by religion to mean the afterlife in heaven, but with these words, Jesus himself describes a life that’s here with us today thanks to the sacrifice of the Son of Man. In this passage, he says nothing about belief in him as a prerequisite for the results of his sacrifice. It’s simply the mission he was given, which has little to do with our response. We — as in humanity — are spiritual sheep who need this sacrifice in order to put an end to the rules and regulations of the church — even God Himself — because we could never fulfill them on our own. Such is the depth of our fallen nature. In this case, Jesus is referring to Judaism, because God knows the heart of man has an evil core and cannot be trusted to love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

Our views of death are many. They’re reflected in our art, our literature, and especially in our music. Here are the first two verses of the bluegrass tune “Someday” by Blue Highway:

Some day when my last line is written
Some day when I’ve drawn my last breath
When my last words on earth have been spoken
And my lips are sealed in death
Don’t look on my cold form in pity
Don’t think of me as one dead
It’ll just be the house I once lived in
My spirit, by then, will have fled

This is a very common view of death, that we are spiritual travelers who’ve left our human bodies to return to the source of all life. I can’t tell you how this narrative has influenced my own life here on earth through the process known as recovery. I’ve been sober over 20 years, and I’ve learned much in that time. Like, I’m a spiritual being on a human journey, not a human being on a spiritual journey. I can’t do anything in this life to make myself any more spiritual than I already am, but there’s plenty I can do to become a better human being. This knowledge will absolutely change your life, if you’re open to it. It puts everything into a proper perspective, because if it’s true, then we actually are “going home” upon human death, and who could possibly be afraid of that? Known or unknown, we’re going back to the place from which we came, the world of the spirit, no longer prisoners of time and space.

In so doing, all of our happiness, travails, lessons learned, wisdom garnered, truth known, ideas we’ve shared, love that we’ve known, all that we are as individuals separate from our source, gets thrust back into the entity known as life, and everybody else gains through what we bring back with us from our journeys as human beings. That’s because, life, too, is ever evolving and growing, and those who are ignorant of all this tend to stifle that growth by returning prejudice, hatred, lust and the other deadly sins — and above all arrogance — to life, which speaks loudly about the need for us to be more human when we’re here and not trying to be more spiritual. This knowledge would change the world, but there are powerful forces at work under the sun that prosper through this arrogance. They prove a formidable foe in this life.

My most intimate encounter with death occurred in the Spring of 2006, when my beloved Alicia died from an accidental overdose of opiates. It was the worst experience of my life, because it was so unexpected and she was only 41 years old. On my knees next to her empty body, the 911 operator instructed me to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and pump her chest. If you know what the “death rattle” is, it’s not something you’d wish for anyone to experience. It’s what comes back from a dead body after deep breaths and chest pumping. Her body lay there before me, but Alicia was already gone and not coming back. I couldn’t even grasp what that meant for me, and I was very afraid of that particular unknown.

Those first few days afterwards were filled with pain and God’s grace, for I was suffering the most awful pain humans can know. Two things happened during the first 24 hours that helped me greatly. The first was the strong smell of sulfur coming from the vicinity of her pillow on our bed. It was also very strong on her mother’s pillow just beneath our bedroom. I can’t describe the feeling of awe when I was later told by a friend with deep roots and connections in the occult that such occurrences are common when someone dies before their time. It’s deemed an attempt by the lost loved one to reach out back to this life to express that they are alright.

The day after her death, Alicia’s family gathered in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee to mourn. I was outside on this otherwise beautiful day crying and in pain. I was arguing with God and begging to know that she was safe on the other side but mostly fearful about what was going to happen to me. “Just tell me it’s gonna be okay,” I repeated over and over. After a period of grieving, I went back inside and sat in a recliner alone in the dining room with her pictures everywhere. Two of her nieces that she dearly loved, ages 8 and 10, came into the room and sat on my lap. As they cried with me, the 8‑year old whispered in my ear, “It’s gonna be okay.” In that moment, I knew she was with us and trying to comfort us. That event led to my eventual acceptance that she was gone, that I’d never hold her and kiss her again, that I’d never again read the Bible to her as she snuggled up against me, and that I’d have to go forward without her.

I also had to forgive her for leaving me alone, and that was made easier by my acknowledgement of her presence despite being on the other side of the veil.

It also helped shape my views about death and dying. For one, I don’t believe we lose our individuality in the process of reuniting with life. In this life, we call it consciousness, through which we accumulated the wisdom and experiences that life needs to advance. Any other view is a stretch for me, because life wastes nothing and our lives under the sun matter. For example, life is currently defending itself against our selfish intrusions into the sanctity and real power of life’s leadership. Think global warming is a hoax? I feel sorry for you and your progeny. Life will protect itself.

When Israel’s first king, Saul, badly needed Godly advice in his battle with the Philistines (I Samuel 28), he tried ungodly means. He traveled to meet a woman known as “the Witch of Endor” to conjure the dead prophet Samuel to advise him. According to the story, Samuel “came up” and was not happy with Saul. He told the king that he and his servants would be killed the next day for disobeying the Lord, just as Samuel had prophesied when he was alive.

This story is remarkable and controversial, for it reveals that the dead don’t lose their individuality or consciousness; they are simply transformed, and this should provide a great sense of comfort to the living. Will I know Alicia after I’m gone? I think yes, although the senses, which are bound to life under the sun, won’t be a part of it, and that has to include emotions. Even the word “comfort” is a word we can only understand as part of our human experience.

This leads us to two important warnings about death and dying, our own and that of others. One, life doesn’t want us to play in this realm, because it’s a path to danger, for deception is likely and we’d be led right back to knowledge gained while under the sun anyway. Hence, it’s a self-centered act, always, and life abhors selfishness. Two, our tendency as humans is to anthropomorphize when we don’t have actual knowledge. This is why we give heaven “streets of gold” and mansions for a dwelling place. We were built to handle the comforts and discomforts of life under the sun, and it’s a fallacy to assume that human methods of living and communicating are even a part of life beyond.

We’re not here to understand fully the things of death, because we were created to serve and rule in the realm of life, human behavior under the sun.

One of the greatest riddles of human existence is why our understanding of life under the sun reaches its greatest depths just before the end comes. This seems such a waste to those in their senior years. It’s also the primary reason Hollywood gives us fantasies of going back to relive our lives while retaining the knowledge discovered in later years. The allegation is that we’d then be able to “correct” mistakes made through those discoveries. This is nonsense, because the purpose of life is to advance life. Everybody gains for our individual knowledge and experiences, and this cannot occur until we leave life under the sun. That knowledge and those experiences are what advances life for future generations, and why we seem to always be struggling with the same struggles as those before us.

Life is waiting for us to learn.

So, everything that’s living comes back through life, and we know so little about what this means. In writing about my experience with a Questionmark Butterfly, I noted the impossibilities of the same butterfly returning to my Louisville balcony a year after I’d first seen the little guy perform, and the only explanation defies logic. These types of occurrences are all around us, but we’re much too busy just surviving to notice. Life is preeminent.

Death is the enemy of human existence, but it is not the end of life.

I don’t believe that readers here will find any of this out of line with their own deeply-held beliefs, but the reality of this doesn’t depend whatsoever on your belief or faith. Death is the way of life, but life under the sun is for us to build towards tomorrow by acting according to the proposition that we’re already joined together throughout our individual journeys here on earth. The author C.S. Lewis understood this more than most, which is why his writings are so useful for all of us. In The Screwtape Letters, he writes that humans are like amphibians, able to live in two completely different worlds at the same time.

This understanding is the gift of people of the moment, for we know that the only place that the present life meets the life beyond is here, and the only time they meet is now, for even time and distance under the sun are vanity.

A Lesson on the Coronavirus and Media Hype

In 1998, I published an essay called “The Lizard on America’s Shoulder.” I strongly recommend reading it, because it contains a lesson on how hyphenated markets tend to produce newscasts that are highly crime-focused and misleading.

In North Alabama, for example, the TV market includes communities that are spread out by many miles. To properly cover such disparate communities and their parochial mindsets, we needed news bureaus in several places in order to cover everybody. Since, “if it bleeds, it leads,” the stories coming from each of these places are very often crime-related, because, well, crime is easy to cover and a sure thing.

However, the result is a veritable waterfall of bad news, and this taints the minds of viewers who see it all as one, gigantic reason to be terrified. I called this “the lizard on America’s shoulder” as a reference to C.S. Lewis’ terrific book, The Great Divorce. It’s the tale of a busload of misfit ghosts from hell who are being taken to the pearly gates for a second chance. Only one survives and makes it into Heaven, and he’s hounded relentlessly by a red lizard that does nothing but speak filth and trouble into the poor ghost’s ears. He complains to the angel guard that it’s been that way his whole life, but when the angel attempts to kill it, the guy steps back to say, “Don’t touch my lizard.” It’s a metaphor for how evil thoughts can block the way into Heaven.

Eventually, the angel transforms the lizard into a white horse that the ghost rides through the gate in victory.

TV news — and especially when the same story comes from many different places — is the Lizard on America’s Shoulder.

Now, consider the necessary coverage from around the world on the subject of the Covid-19 virus. It’s the same no matter where the story comes from. Even if it’s a nice story of our ability to care for each other and survive, it carries the same coverage weight of any story from the battle zones around the world. The effect is cascading, and no lectures about hype or who’s doing what to whom is going to matter, because it’s the nature of news to scare people.

The role the press plays here is to underestimate its audience, and I don’t think this is something that news people generally think about. In an effort to continue producing archaic, finished-product news, we keep repeating things over and over, as if the audience is somehow unaware.

Last night during my viewing of the CBS show “Bull,” I called my local affiliate to complain about the continuous crawl at the bottom of the screen advising viewers of school closings. This had been going on for at least two full days, but the crawls contained significant repetition. Instead of a simple crawl listing all the school systems that were shutting down on the same day, each school system was treated as its own story and contained the identical language as the previous system. The font was way bigger than necessary, but the real annoyance was the broadcast assumption that THEY were the only source to which people could turn in order to find out if their child’s school would be closed. By Monday night, this was a real statement about how the manager of the station assumed nobody knew. In today’s day and age, this is a ridiculous reason to continue the hype across the station’s programming. The idea that a single media outlet must carry the weight of informing every last viewer was killed and buried long ago, and it’s just another illustration of how the people who manage TV stations are out of touch with reality.

In light of the hyperbolic effect of this lizard-like practice, bulletin-like uses of the press to state or mostly restate the obvious is not only foolish but downright dangerous. These practices have become so automatic that news people aren’t required to actually think about what they’re doing, and it’s one of the reasons they’re becoming useless and obsolete.

Let’s save the news for, well, the news.