Conversations with God: The (Next) Transfiguration

Apparently, God’s marketing plan for Jesus wasn’t going as well as he had hoped. So, he did what any self-respecting spiritual entrepreneur would do, he held a promotional event.

Jesus just wasn’t getting the traction God wanted. His tattered and worn smock-like and ill-fitting robes together with tread-bare sandals and unshaven un-coiffed appearance tended to diminish the influence of his otherwise godly words. The modern-day rule, that the medium is the message, had yet to be realized. In today’s parlance, he had been trending but as an influencer his popularity was waning. It was time to rebrand Jesus.

In the gospels we learn that Jesus took a few of his pals including his disciple, Peter, James (son of Zebedee), and James’ brother, John the Baptist, up to the top of a mountain. (Mountains are always impressive venues for big promotional events.)  This is where Jesus’ rebranding through transfiguration takes place. Matthew 17:2 suggests that Jesus was “transfigured before them. His face shown like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” Two other important pundits of the day, Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (representing the law) also arrived just in time to witness what the disciple Luke described as Jesus’ new and obvious glory (Luke 9:32). “Spreading the Good Word” as is the calling of any dutiful Christian today, meant for that particular event these important opinion leaders would later provide street-cred for Jesus’ rebranded magnificence.

In Christian theology, the Transfiguration becomes a pivotal moment in the transcendence of Jesus’ stature as a divine philosopher placing him at the top of the charts among those focused on hearts and minds until the ultimate event—his crucifixion and resurrection—would complete the pillars of a belief system that has survived now for more than two millennia. The Transfiguration is widely held as the moment between what Dorothy Lee described in her 2004 monograph, Transfiguration, as the connection of the temporal and eternal placing Jesus as the bridge between heaven and earth. A whiz-bang promotional event, indeed. God had nailed it.

Fast-forward to today. God, I have a suggestion. And, don’t act like you can’t hear me. Turn up your hearing aids if you must.

Behaving ourselves—living up to the Good Word—is, as I understand it, a prerequisite to pass through the gates of heaven, which apparently now-a-saint Peter has the gig of guarding. However, like the allure of airline frequent flier miles to affect loyalty, the incentive of be good and live forever in heaven is wearing a bit thin today. (I know you don’t need frequent flier miles, God, but have you seen how hard they are to redeem lately?) Maybe modern medicine is to blame keeping us alive way longer than in Jesus’ day, but being good in a world where so few are is starting to take on the odor of Black Friday deals where you pay more than you would have on Thursday. Today, it seems the path to wealth and power depends on how bad you can be. So, how about another trip to the mountain?

This time, let’s do one better. How about a new plot twist: how about heaven on earth? How about you let the really good ones enjoy nirvana without having to endure death and St. Peter’s pesky entrance exam? Maybe give Pete a rest? I hear he is growing a bit grumpy in his role, anyway. Just imagine the world-wide buzz: “God’s New Plan!” would go viral. (That’s a good thing.) Don’t just transfigure one dude, transform all of humanity! Ambitious? Maybe, but what do you have to lose? Let’s face it, the old scheme isn’t playing out very well. Even your Holy Land isn’t so holy these days, brother. (Apologies, I know that “brother” reference is perhaps too familiar of me. Kinda like a kid tugging on your beard?)

Anyway, what do you think? You’ve no doubt read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice by now so tell me, what pound of flesh do you demand?

God speaks (in an appropriately thunderous reply): “Your ego! Give up your damn egos! Sit in the seat of your soul. That’s where eternal wisdom—the essence of heaven—resides anyway. (Harrumph.) Knuckleheads! Heaven on earth is available to you today as it always has been. Just rid yourself of your egos! Jesus didn’t have one, or I would have made him give his up on that mountain too.”

Taking that last step to transcendence—giving up our egos—is hard, but as hard as it is, it’s better than dying to get there. Doing it while alive is uncomfortable, to say the least. It means shedding yourself of the self that got you to where you are today. It means giving up notions like quid pro quo, or an eye for an eye, or the scarcity mindset of the win-lose paradigm. It means stepping off the treadmill of endless desires; of I wanna this, or I wanna that. It means as the Gods of all religions suggested long ago: forgiving others and ourselves for all of our wrongs. It means finding value in every being—human or otherwise. It means respecting the sacred connection between humans and nature—accepting that Nature is God.

To be certain, transcendence is a messy and uneven process. Glimpses of nirvana will be accompanied by moments of setback and yes, new transgressions that must be met with forgiveness all over again. But I believe it’s worth a try. Humanity today is facing its endgame. Our better angels are hard to find, but they are there. Not in the preening politicians, or screaming headlines and newsfeeds; rather, the person in the seat next to you on the bus; standing behind you in line; sitting quietly on the park bench. Goodness, like the potential for evil, resides in every human being. The good news is that doing good is much easier than doing evil. The rewards may not come as fast, but the outcomes may just save us all.

We all have been witness to the peril at home and abroad in the last few years.  The in-your-face pain and agony are heart-wrenching. To cope, and perhaps even flourish, I composed a page of verse to keep myself in line and on track in my own pursuit of heaven on earth. Perhaps you will find it useful too.

Heaven on Earth

Settling into my core, the inner citadel

Aware, centered, and balanced

As a noisy world rocks,

tranquility prevails


All doors are open

while energy flows with ease

Unencumbered by worldly concerns

Humanity is history’s pawn


Home with all the love I have received

Home with all the love I have given

Home is where I am, wherever I may be


Battles left to fade in the dim light of yesterday

Victories and defeats become one

Regrets are now irrelevant

It is time to move through


Angels dance as I embrace surrender,

welcoming me to the other side

The urgency of life yields to calm transcendence

Serenity—my new lover


Clarity of mind is pure and easy

No more fear, no more anger

Losses appear like stepping stones on the path

to resilience and deliverance


Dignity thrives in the mercy of presence

The final liberation begins

where suffering ends

Pure love is all that remains


Alone but not lonely,

swaddled by a life well lived

Days marked by glory and grace,

nights by peace


Home is heaven

Heaven is home

Heaven on Earth

As light is hard to come by in this season of Winter’s solstice, my wish for you is to find solace in the darkness. To set aside fear in favor of hope. To find strength in the depth of resolve your ancestors provided as your special inheritance. To find mercy around every bend. To be there for what you believe and for whom you love.

To set your ego aside and settle into your soul.

By |2023-12-01T15:37:53+00:00November 26th, 2023|Current, General, Recent, Spiritual|0 Comments

Imagination Nation

America has always been a nation driven by the unbridled imagination of its citizenry. In our first two centuries when we saw something we could improve, we acted to do so often without asking permission. The declarative mindset was, “We the people” can do better. Of course, there is a fine line between ambition and hubris but, for the most part, our unique and enduring concoction of courage and optimism—expressed through our imaginations—has served us well. This particular elixir of positivity—that all things imagined are indeed possible—has contributed mightily to a special brand of exceptionalism that produced the greatest empire of the modern era that has led the cause of freedom in the world for seven decades.

In the last twenty years, there has been a slow degradation of this national disposition that made America the imagination nation. It began with the ill-fated War on Terror in 2003; a fear-based reflex to 9/11 fueled by hubris and justified by lies or, as those inside the Beltway might prefer: “politicized intelligence.” Then that skinny black guy with the funny name—Barack Hussein Obama—tried to lift us back up to the pinnacle of hope and imagination only to be sidelined by fearful old pudgy white guys with common names who felt they were losing control of the America where they pulled all the levers and turned all the dials across politics, economics, and society. Fear of dispossession is indeed a powerful thing.

Then, as if on cue, arrived a reality TV show host with fabricated hair, tan, and wealth to convince us, as he claimed in his inaugural address, that the America that had led the world as a beacon of freedom since World War II was in a state of “carnage.” And, as he would remind us over and over, only he could fix it as he lined his pockets and those of his family members and closest allies with ill-gotten financial gains. His Republican predecessor president, George W. Bush, tried to warn us as he left the inauguration that January day from the east side of the Capitol when he suggested, “Well, that was some weird shit.”

The carnage that Trump envisaged did indeed arrive during his presidency. He promised it and he delivered. No democratic institution escaped his wrath culminating in an attempted coup d’état in January 2021. Of course, during this time America and the world also endured one of the greatest existential threats in a century: the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic was indeed a crisis but, as with all crises, it also represented an opportunity for America to exercise its courage and optimism to lead the world to contain the virus and heal its victims. But, thanks to Trump and those who had found new power based in fear and anger and division, America took the low road abdicating its position of leadership in the world and propelling the American empire into a tailspin. Meanwhile, adversaries like Vladimir Putin saw an opportunity in America’s meltdown to attempt to reestablish of the long-ago Russian empire. Unfortunately, we all—including both political parties—have largely embraced this simplistic, binary, and highly toxic disposition of us versus them, zero-sum thinking, which is completely contrary to what truly made America great during its first two centuries.

So, here we are. What now?

In the last six years, the American character has collapsed in on itself; it has imploded. Rather than rising up to face our many challenges we have allowed the spirit that made America great to be driven into a ditch by selfishness, deceit, and hubris.

We cry, “Why me?” when we should be exclaiming, “Why not?”

We accept the status quo when we should be forcing our so-called leaders to follow us to a better tomorrow. Very few Americans want either Trump or Biden as their next president but, as of today, most of us shrug our shoulders as if there is nothing we can do. We express outrage as Putin annihilates Ukrainian innocents then watch with a stunning sense of hypocrisy as an ally, Netanyahu of Israel, does the same to innocent Palestinians with American weaponry. We watch as drug companies extort profits while causing the premature opioid-deaths of thousands of Americans and we blame the dead. We have the most expensive and least effective healthcare system in the developed world and we sit in the waiting rooms of medical facilities across the country and just take it. We allow our children to be slaughtered by assault rifles and instead of addressing the obvious problem of way too many guns in America, we express our concern for the protection of an archaic and poorly worded amendment to our Constitution. All while Nature is screaming in our faces that she will rid the earth of us as soon as she can if we don’t act to curb our addiction to fossil fuels, and to the growth we have wrongly convinced ourselves is essential to our continued well-being.

The time has come to dust ourselves off and get out of the ditch. To accept nothing less than what our imaginations can conjure. To reject outright those who spew fear and anger and division. To hold each other and ourselves to the standards of the America that looked slavery in the eye in the mid-nineteenth century, and fascism in the eye in the mid-twentieth century, and fought with undaunting determination to claim the higher ground of freedom—not only for ourselves but for all of humanity. Yes, we can do hard things.

Today, I would like to declare a National Look-in-the-Mirror Day. Now is the time for every American to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Why not?”

By |2023-11-26T14:30:41+00:00November 19th, 2023|American Identity, General, Recent|0 Comments

Altered States: My Road Trip West

When I last road-trip reported in May from my first extensive windshield-time since the onset of the pandemic (“Healing the Heart in the Heartland,” May 21), I had cruised through nine states in the Midwest—the American Heartland. For those who missed it, or have forgotten its message in the ether of a glorious summer, I observed that “What I found was a paradox of prosperity and fear; both inspiring and heartbreaking.” I also found “lovely people” who “treated me as nicely and respectfully over eleven days of travel in a very long time—perhaps ever.” I also noted they had “suffered what is the biggest con in the modern era: Trumpism” that had left them in a state of perpetual fear, principally of communism and transsexuals. Their hearts were wide open while their minds had been slammed shut.

I recently completed another trip, this time to the West where I was born and spent my formative years. From my home in Colorado through Utah, Nevada, Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and back; seven states in eleven days. Given my history of living more than a third of my life there (albeit several years ago), I expected a similar if not higher level of comfort that I experienced in the Heartland during this autumnal excursion. That is not at all what I experienced. If the Midwest is a monolith of homogeneity, the West has become a perplexing and unsettling compote of heterogeneity. Translation: diverse and disparate bordering on unhinged. And, passionless for most things other than the self.

The beauty and intrigue are mostly still there, but the spirit of opportunism and reinvention—that had attracted fortune seekers to the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century, to the glamorous icons of the film and television industry of the mid-20th century, to the digital entrepreneurs of the late-20th and early-21st centuries—has been largely crushed under the weight of too many people, water rights fights, and a complete lack of cohesion around a values-based sense of common purpose. The great heritage of the West—that anything and everything was possible there—was nowhere in evidence, while its great cities are a depressing hollowed out version of their former selves. One young woman from Napa, California advised me to “stay out of our cities” on my road trip. I remember growing up in Seattle years ago thinking cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York City were dangerous places to avoid; now Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco are cast in the same grim light. The mid-sized western towns and communities I visited retain their charm and a modicum-sense of community, but rural and urban areas left me bewildered—at times crestfallen.

I was expecting to be not only reconnected, but reinvigorated with the hope that the West could bail out America from its current malaise. Rather, I found a place profoundly different than the Heartland, but no more ready or willing to contribute to the renewal of the American spirit. Will America’s next leaders come from the West? Maybe, but my guess is probably not.

More specifically, the West remains younger and much more diverse racially, ethnically, politically, and religiously than any other part of America. It also embraces open-mindedness and tolerance unmatched throughout the rest of America. However, I observed an odd and discomfiting twist to these characteristics that defined an underlying paradox: while westerners value open-mindedness and tolerance, they practice it at a distance. They keep to themselves. Warmth and intimacy seemed to be considered inappropriate, perhaps even dangerous. The great irony is that the same warmth and intimacy that people in the Midwest and, even more so, the American South practice as foundational to their particular culture are accompanied there by close-mindedness and intolerance. It’s a head-scratcher. One would expect higher open-mindedness and tolerance would lead to higher civil intimacy, and lower to less intimacy, but the inverse appears to be so.

Perhaps it is the West’s historical subscription to its myth of rugged individualism and libertarian values—based in a sense of introverted humility—that requires a less friendly, more standoffish set of social practices, but I didn’t sense their reservation was born from humility. Not like the puritan Yankee New England reserved nature that has its roots in priggish humility; rather, a guarded sense that everyone and everything may be a threat at any time that suggests keeping one’s distance as a best practice. Unfortunately, this condition of detachment introduces a slippery-slope slide into what I call pinball syndrome: an unsettled state of fatalism—a passive resignation to gloom. Like the pinball that has no sense of agency, one just careens from one bumper to the next while fooling themselves that they are simply going with the flow when they are, in reality, sliding past the flailing flippers into a trough of forlorn indifference.

This syndrome is further supported by my next observation: when westerners talk about their concerns there are few common threads like in the Midwest where communism and transsexuals were nearly universally seen as the most imminent threats (thanks largely to Trump and FOX News). Instead, the world before the westerner is considered only in very personal terms—not in terms of community. Their fears mostly fall under the categories of political and security, but expressed as personal rights and personal security. They see themselves as living in the places they live, but not of the places they live. Again, I suspect this gives them a false sense of detached agency like a pinball that has convinced itself it is in control, or engaging willingly in the flow when, in fact, it is bouncing out of control. I observed this being further complicated by an odd and unhealthy mix of high entitlement and victimhood that is exploited very creatively and cynically by politicians like the congressperson from Washington, Pramila Jayapal. She deploys the same game as Trump—manipulation through fear—just at the other end of the political spectrum.

Like many Americans, westerners have grown wary of government and institutions. And their nature is to be less rooted and more restless; consistent with a population that has a high composition of immigrants from both out-of-country and from across the country. Westerners view the rest of America as disconnected from reality and woefully unenlightened—especially the federal government which routinely sends their eyeballs rolling up into the back of their heads—seen as both incompetent and irrelevant. I must also point out, however, that this shallow-rooted restlessness makes the West much more willing to accept change, which may be why it can be credibly characterized as the land of radical geniuses. Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Steven Spielberg and many others all either started there or wound up there due to the West’s culture of creativity and acceptance of pursuing technology-enabled altered states of being, establishing new multidimensional platforms of human activity from commerce to social media to artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, more recent radical geniuses include the biotech con-artist Elizabeth Holmes and crypto-conman Sam Bankman-Fried. Hopefully, they don’t become the new trendsetters of the West.

This condition of creative destruction and reconstruction excludes, however, the volcanic Trumpy intellectual potholes of Eastern Oregon and most all of Idaho (ex-Boise). Volcanic as in antediluvian, volatile, and toxic. At times, driving through these regions reminded me of the Appalachian Highway in West Virginia that while beautiful, also had a vibe of “keep driving.” It is no surprise Eastern Oregon is seeking to secede its state to join Idaho. Regressive isolated dullards exist in the West too. There were places in Northern California that also had that “keep driving” vibe, where people still promote a separate “State of Jefferson” to exit California.

To be both clear and fair, notwithstanding the Eastern Oregon/Idaho exception, the West has a significantly higher consciousness of the environment and the effects of climate change than the rest of the country. Nature also offers greater appeal in the West than most of our country to affect human engagement. Yet, westerners are still struggling to transition from climate-aware to actively committed. The “covenant of reciprocity” to reconnect humans and Nature advocated by botanist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass) remains an ambition. Most practice a performative mode of activism, which is to say for appearances rather than effect. They are advocating but not activating. Social media posts seem sufficient for many—especially millennials. But I registered a much greater sense of urgency among younger Gen Z folks. This may not generalize to the rest of the country, but I suspect millennials may fall into the same relatively irrelevant generational category of the Silent Generation that came between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. The next great generation may well be Gen Z. Millennials take note: you now outnumber Boomers.  Being in the long shadow of Boomers is no longer a valid excuse to sit on your hands, although Gen Z may seize political control soon anyway. Your choice!

A final note on a condition that seems to be plaguing the West more than other regions of the country and that is the tourist-ification of nearly everywhere, which has gone into hyperdrive since the pandemic. State and national parks have been hammered by humanity. Tourists are both a blessing and a curse. I will argue here that the tourist-ification of the West is similar in terms of consequence to the industrialization of the East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some western towns are so dominated by tourism and/or in the case of ski towns, a ski resort company, that they are beginning to take on the characteristics of the Andrew Carnegie steel towns of the late 19th century. Integrated dependencies within local economies do create strength, but such dependencies can also turn into vulnerabilities if the dominant industry or a large company falters. The reality is that tourism, like the years-ago production of steel, is a dirty business. It has a high carbon footprint (fossil fuel-driven travel), imposes surge impacts on community infrastructure, provides mostly low-wage seasonal jobs, creates seemingly unsolvable housing issues, exacerbates income inequality issues, and subjects fulltime residents to the tourist persona of surly entitlement. In short, tourism is inherently unsustainable. I expect a backlash coming soon. The stress between fulltime locals, second homeowners, and tourists is at an all-time high. Policymakers from national to local need to start working on economic development alternatives to tourism sooner rather than later.

Western states are, like much of America, at a crossroads. The dream of the West has become nightmarish for many. I expect western states will either burst forward in a fit of genius innovation, or spiral entropically into collapse. A moderate midway regression to the mean seems improbable and profoundly out of character. As with the rest of the country, the next fifty years are full of uncertainty for the West. It may be my birthplace prejudice, but I bet—I hope—the West will find its footing soon and regain its prowess as a venue of innovation, opportunity, and inspiration.

Now, it’s time to start a fire in my wood stove. Winter has arrived in the Rockies with snow on my doorstep.

By |2023-11-19T13:52:18+00:00October 29th, 2023|American Identity, General, Recent|0 Comments

And the Winner is: None of the Above

What was most remarkable about the second Republican debate of the non-Trump presidential aspirants and the almost-but-not-quite shutdown of our federal government was how few Americans seemed to care. According to the Nielsen ratings service, viewership in the second debate dropped 38% from 12.8 million to 9.3 million—the lowest viewership since Trump became a candidate in 2015. As for the prospective shutdown, people were much more interested in the budding romance of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. (Creepily, they do look like siblings.) And, somewhat disconcerting to Democrats, a YouGov poll showed Dems (in Congress plus Biden) were blamed for the looming shutdown as much as Republican members of Congress, although more—44%—blamed both.

In an admittedly somewhat twisted manner, the current disinterest Americans feel toward presidential candidates and Congress warms my heart. I will take it as a sign they are now doing what I have long advocated: turning their attention toward their own lives and their communities to pursue their welfare through means other than our federal government. Building informal neural-styled networks to focus instead on the development of stronghold communities and looking only occasionally at the circus in Washington D.C.—principally as a masochistic form of entertainment. If “Traylor,” “Tayvis,” or is it “Swelce”(?), transform their romance into a presidential ticket, my money is on them. And yes, Ms. Swift would be at the top of the ticket.

After I did watch the second Republican debate, which reminded me of a bunch of kindergartners just before a much-needed nap time, and observing the complete dysfunction of Republicans in the House of Representatives who are controlled by the pervy and peevish Mr. Gaetz, it is apparent the only plausible prospect for new inspired leadership resides on the Democrat side of the political ledger.

If you are Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Asa Hutchison, that guy from North Dakota, Marianne Williamson, or Cornel West, you actually share something in common besides running for president: the majority of Americans do not want you to be the next president of the United States.

Get over yourself and get off the stage.

Nor is a “No Labels” or other third-party candidate what America needs because that would virtually assure a Trump election inasmuch as it would dilute the vote for whomever the Democrats put up against Trump—presumably Biden. What we want are new candidates in both parties; preferably under 60 and not under indictment.

Is that so much to ask?

In my post of September 10th, “Let’s Get Really Real,” I called for Biden to step aside, give his blessing to a new roster of Democrat presidential prospects, and allow a process of debates, primaries, and the convention to sort out a new nominee. Several others—from pundits to columnists to scholars—followed with the same plea, but to no apparent avail. It turns out Biden, who promised he would be a “transition president,” has an ego, too.  Since then, the data for his prospects of reelection continue to be highly uncertain, especially if there is a third-party candidate and in the face of growing discontent of younger voters who may just sit this election out. Notwithstanding the fact that millions of older Trump voters have passed on since 2020, if younger voters don’t show up that potential advantage for Democrats is lost.

I would not be at all surprised if neither Trump nor Biden were inaugurated in January 2025. I know it seems improbable today, but both are weak and getting weaker.

There is another way to save the 2024 presidential election, although it will be messy. The old-time brokered convention. Smoke filled rooms. Arm twisting and enemies who magically become friends, or at least temporary political allies acting in the interest of a majority of their party. This is the way we named nominees for decades. Convention delegates actually arrived at their conventions as free agents once the first ballot resulted in no clear winner. Eventually, this process was seen as undemocratic and the parties schemed to rid themselves of the cigar-smoking arm twisters like, for the Dems, creating so-called “super-delegates” (which itself is highly elitist and undemocratic). The move to a more transparent and ostensibly inclusive process was heralded as an advancement for democracy. It (sort of) made sense but, today, does it? Might it be relatively more democratic today to let delegates duke it out, especially with the level of burnout/apathy amongst the broader electorate?

Furthermore, the stranglehold the geriatric class of politicians have on America today, coupled with their insatiable appetite to stay in power, including Biden, Trump, McConnell, Pelosi, and Grassley—collectively the dentured not-so dynamos—there is an obvious oligarchy who represent a form of political constipation that today threatens democracy more than the party convention arm-twisters of yesteryear.

Our federal government needs an enema.

The last time a candidate was selected in a contested/brokered convention was Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, after which he served as president for two terms. Before that it was FDR in 1932 who served for twelve years. Generally, though, the concern at the party level has been to unite the party after such a contentious process. Yet, today, we need more choices. We need to have a pathway for as-yet undeclared candidates to see that it may be worthwhile to throw their hat in the ring, or be drafted by delegates. My expectation is that once one does others may follow if only to claim they are positioning themselves for 2028. Furthermore, it allows the party to (at least) force the incumbent—Biden in this case—to consider other alternatives for his choice of running mate which, in the case of Kamala Harris, allows the party to replace her with a stronger backup to Biden and enhance his chances next November.

Based on today’s polling that shows a high dissatisfaction with declared candidates, it is simply too early to lock-in candidates for either party. Incidentally, the Republicans may be forced into a brokered convention if Trump’s legal woes manifest into higher uncertainty as to his capacity to serve another term. If that occurs, it is even more critical that the Democrats open up their process to have an equal advantage to consider all the possibilities.

We are thirteen months out from the general election. Neither party is served well with their current frontrunners. Strategically, openness and flexibility in the nomination process fits with periods of high uncertainty and long lead-times. Many, like Obama’s former advisor David Axelrod, argue it is too late; to which I—as politely as possible—respond, bullshit. The American electorate is hungry for more and better choices and is quite capable of turning quickly in favor of new intrigue—as in Traylor/Tayvis/Swelce from the world of celebrity couples. The party that understands this first may significantly improve their chances later not only with a better candidate, but with a reinvigorated electorate—including independents who will likely decide the winner, anyway.

It will take some courage but that is, after all, a foundational characteristic of leadership.

By |2023-10-29T12:42:38+00:00October 6th, 2023|General, Leadership, Recent|0 Comments

The Rule of Impermanence

It is a great blessing to live where apps connect but no one responds. Want a ride? Drive yourself. Hungry? Cook. Something broke? Fix it. Lost? Look at the sun, moon, and stars. Many folks don’t understand a life without apps while I can’t understand why anyone would give their life over to pernicious algorithms and phony social media-curated friends. One day, years from now, we may come to the realization that the promise of “there’s an app for that” was actually the beginning of our end.

Where I live the Milky Way is not a candy bar; it is celestial magic that sings like a chorus of hope against a canvas of wonder. Want some awe? Ditch the apps. Flee the land of lights that fool us into a false sense of security. Go where IRL (social media slang for “in real life”) actually is real life. Head into the wilderness to embrace the greatest mother of all: Nature. She will hold you, humble you, teach you, and if you are lucky, she will let you stay.

I live where what the “Dean of Western Writers,” Wallace Stegner called “the native home of hope.” Where, he suggested, we have the chance “to create a society to match its scenery.” Not through a mythical sense of rugged American individualism; rather, through inspired cooperation by and between ourselves and the nature that surrounds us. Where the index-finger wave above the steering wheel from the passing rusted-out pickup truck means “I see you, I know you, and I am here for you.” Where Sundays are still meant for rest and gratitude. Where Mondays are met with strength and optimism rather than dread. Where deceit will send you back to the land of apps.

Where I live, the change of seasons still matters. They mark one of the greatest lessons we can ever learn: the rule of impermanence. Whatever has the capacity to arise will subsequently also pass away—whether good, neutral, or bad. The only permanent condition is impermanence. Further, grasping and clinging serves no purpose; it only assures suffering. Where I live, we not only embrace change, we honor it. Where attempting to defeat reality is a fool’s errand. Yes, we have our pretenders too, but they don’t last long. The pandemic brought thousands to the Mountain West, but an authentic life is not for everyone. Many have already left.

If you live where the change of seasons is unremarkable, or where bright city lights obscure the magnificence of nature, I offer you a reminder with the verse, below. Trust me, there is a better world and tomorrow out there. Just put down your smartphone and let all your senses come alive again. Bathe yourself in the candescent wisdom of awareness. Your senses—moderated by your soul— will guide you better than any app ever could. Take the big leap: trust in yourself, again.

Summer’s Farewell

The sun tilts lower each day casting

golden shadows and earlier nights

Shooting stars fall quiet now

as our galaxy calls for autumn


Tan lines and calloused feet

reveal a summer well lived

Wildflowers tilt their heads

to deposit their seeds of renewal


Bears fill their bellies with berries

while trout gulp tasty hoppers

Bulking up for the big pause—

the long ’n lazy winter slumber


The deer and elk choose their mates

Nature at work on spring babies

Antlers will fall once the loving is done

and the snow piles high mid-winter


We all return to the earth after

soaring on the breezes of deliverance

We inside, seeds to soil, sap to roots

a flourish of leafy radiance waves goodbye


Soon we will stand close to the fire

before the embers of sweet piñon

To shake off the cold that clings

like an aimless lonesome drifter


Closer to our souls that remind us

of what remains after summer’s glory

To center ourselves again in the

humility of a frigid January night


We bid a melancholy adieu

until we round the bend of spring

Clutching memories of early sunrises

and praying for the grace to return anew


The best way to honor impermanence is to consider the cloud filled sky. The question is, should we be as the clouds, or the sky?


Heaven (Only) Knows

Clouds come, clouds go

White and fluffy, dark and dreary

Tall, round, flat, wispy

Painting the sky with pleas for attention


Each of curious character

Happy, sad, generous, or dangerous

Always becoming

Billowing an identity all their own


Beseeching the earth

Throwing thunder and lightning

Casting nourishing rain

At times clever, at others confused


Always passing by

They scuttle east towards obscurity

The blue sky implores

the wind to push the drama along


That big blue screen

The sky varies only a shade or two

Blue to bluer to bluest

A canvas of knowing stability


Unshaken by volatility

The sky laughs at the moody clouds

with a big wide grin

while it peeks around the vapor


The Buddha knew

Should we be as a cloud?

Or be like the blue?

A choice between the ego and soul


An easy decision, yet so hard to do


Finally, consider this time of seasonal change as an opportunity to let go of things that cause you mental and emotional disturbance. As the Thai Buddhist monk, Ajahn Chaa suggested, “If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace.” Let go and join the flow. Then, of course, the trick is to not grab again!

Have a wonderful autumn wherever you may be. We’ve had our first dusting of snow but the leaves are only starting to change. But change they must; change they will.

Impermanence rules.

By |2023-12-01T15:38:16+00:00September 24th, 2023|General, Recent, Spiritual|0 Comments

Let’s Get Really Real

That sickening feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you think about (or perhaps are forced to think about) the 2024 presidential election is, unfortunately, based in reality. Most sickening feelings are. And, like all things that bother us—from little mental disturbances to sickening feelings—we summon all manner of coping behaviors to rid, or at least quell, the trepidation. In this manner, we are only guilty of being human. But in this case, the stakes are simply too high for coping strategies. Action must be taken, and soon.

As one who has studied the American presidency well beyond what might be considered normal (let alone healthy), trust me when I say my concerns regarding 2024 are rising each day new data comes out. Although I routinely comfort myself as you might with the old axiom “in a democracy you get the government you deserve,” to grant myself a false sense of cheap absolution, the presidential election in 2024 may be the grand finale of a process underway since 2016 when the American experiment of a democratic republic could ring its final bell—its death knell. Like you, I can argue endlessly about why this shouldn’t be so, but data suggests the risk is real.

Yes, I am pulling the fire alarm.

It is time now, before it is too late, to get really real. Here are the ‘reals’ today.

  • The vast majority of Americans do not want to see either Trump or Biden run for president again. If they are the nominees, watch voter turnout plummet—more so for Biden. Not even lightning-rod issues like the Dobbs ruling are likely to affect turnout unless associated with a state-level initiative. In a Biden/Trump rematch, apathy will receive the most votes.
  • Less than 50% of Americans see either Trump or Biden as being “mentally capable” of holding the office of the presidency (only slightly more than one-in-three for Biden). For Trump it’s a character issue, for Biden it’s an age issue. Neither are seen as worthy.
  • Whomever holds the spotlight the longest has the greatest chance of winning. For reasons that should probably be left to psychoanalysts or crystal gazers, dominating media airtime and social media feeds today—regardless of message content or veracity—leads to victory.
  • If the election were held today, it’s a 50/50 tossup; it’s a coin toss on who returns to the White House. Yes, a twice-impeached former president with 91 felony charges against him is running neck ‘n neck with the incumbent president who probably has never had a parking ticket. A Trump/RamaswamyMTGLakeNoem administration will make Putin’s regime seem flaccid, except that under Trump the victims will be mostly innocent Americans.

To my Democrat friends, I know, it doesn’t seem fair. I have heard all your “Yes, but …” arguments regarding Biden’s accomplishments and vitality. But the game of politics is seldom fair. Get over it. Get real. And, demand a change of course in your party before it is too late.

Being elected president in the United States is no longer based in a substantive evaluation of the candidates. Today, it is largely performative. In the elections of yesteryear, it was also performative to a lesser degree, but since 2016 it has become nearly completely performative, which is to say facts regarding policies and their actual or expected outcomes—the substance—doesn’t matter; neither does the truth. When was the last time you heard Trump take a policy position? His legal troubles are his campaign and it’s working! Thanks to MSNBC, CNN and, ironically to a lesser extent, FOX, he is constantly the lead story. Presidential elections have become a clown show of grandiosity and while the electorate is growing tired of stale popcorn and the putrid smell of cotton candy, let’s get really real: this is the way it is today.

If Democrats want to win, here is what they should do for the good of their party and America. I also have suggestions for the Republicans, but why waste the ink? Sadly, their cowardice is beyond reproach.

  1. Joe Biden should immediately announce he will not run for president in 2024.
  2. Further, he should take the next 60 days to evaluate candidates to replace himself concluding in his recommendation about who should be considered as the next Democratic nominee. A baton passing that respects Biden and his administration. Care should be taken to involve respected thought leaders in the process and to maximize media coverage by giving frequent updates. Push Trump off American’s screens.
  3. A series of debates should immediately follow with all viable candidates (regardless of Biden’s recommendations). I can see a stage with candidates like Buttigieg, Whitmer, Newsom, Polis, Harris, etc. Young(er) aggressive candidates who can attract media attention and generate turnout from key demographics, especially 18–34-year-olds and African Americans who can make the winning difference next November.
  4. Then, the primaries as scheduled, followed by the convention next summer. Let the cream rise to the top and retake the spotlight from the Trump-MAGA sh*t show.

This process completely changes the cringe-worthy prospect of another Biden/Trump election, pushes Trump and the possibility of a third party No Labels candidate (which would assure Biden’s defeat) further from view, and might even return focus to the needs of Americans and America’s place in the world—back on the table where they belong. (Perhaps even reestablish the value of substance.)

In my view, this is America’s best hope. The Democrats need to put the future of our country in their hands. As of today, I fear they are sleep-walking into a catastrophic outcome from which America may never recover.  Are taking these steps risky? Of course they are. Not as risky as what the Founders embarked upon in 1776, but yes, risky. The reality is a coin toss is not acceptable given what is at stake. If there was ever a moment failure was not an option, this is the moment. If you have anyone’s ear in the Biden camp and/or the Democratic Party, please speak up.

Time is of the essence.

By |2023-09-24T13:34:42+00:00September 10th, 2023|General, Recent|0 Comments

Lean into Integrity

As I watch our country today—from Instagram and TikTok thirst traps to presidential mug shots—I find comfort in taking leave from these egoistic perversities, settling back into the seat of the soul, and reminding myself of higher forms of human dignity. On this Sunday, of the simple yet resolute strength of integrity.

Woven from virtues

as strong as braided steel

Anchored by truth and humility

integrity is the spine of character


Like the rock in the river

unmoved by the torrent of water

Standing steadfast against the current

that often prefers vice to virtue


Centuries old and yet rare today

integrity seems a quaint reminiscence

Foundational values faithfully tended

transcend wealth and idolization


Integrity nourishes the ascetic

whose frailty is an alluring mirage

Made invincible by devotion

his knowing eyes lay artifice bare


The greatest compass of all

is the one with a needle of integrity

Where should I go, what should I do?

Each step is a rung made from virtue


As when rhythm and harmony meld

the resonant vibe clutches the soul

Like a choir of impassioned angels

upon whose wings integrity sails


Today’s dystopic severities

are no match for virtuous character

Deployed in the spirit of mercy

to rescue the future of humanity

I wish each of you a sense of calm today before Monday ushers in a new array of disturbing fits of orange outrage and petulant narcissism. My advice: let it rise and let it pass. Notice, but do not engage. If we lean into the strength of integrity in our own lives (and demand the same of our leaders), Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” may prevail again someday.

By |2023-09-10T12:30:03+00:00August 27th, 2023|General, Recent|0 Comments

Enlightenment II: Our Next-world Operating System

In the long history of the world—with and without humans—issues both simple and complex have been solved in due course by Nature. Prior to the current era of the scientific human, one looked only to Nature to find a solution since it had surely solved the exigent dilemma (however unfamiliar in the moment) many times before.[1] In our modern enthusiasm for identifying dependent and independent variables to make causal findings and promote Nature-defying alternatives, we humans attempted—often successfully—to subvert the laws of Nature. In the last couple of hundred years during which the scientification of everything has been underway, human welfare has flourished. Life spans have increased dramatically and the generation of wealth and welfare increased at increasing rates.

During this same period of time, the operating system that enabled humans to flourish together which had once been tribal, then monarchical and religious, was the nation-state. Since the Peace at Westphalia in 1648, when the nation-state system was born to solve trenchant conflicts by and between monarchs and religious leaders that killed around eight million people in what is now Europe, the concept of sovereignty applied to a geographically bordered area became predominant. And, notwithstanding the anarchical nature of the new nation-state system that provides no highest or central authority to oversee the system allowing conflicts to persist, this international system has prevailed for nearly four centuries. Every human on earth belongs to a nation-state that has geographic borders and sovereign governments that, at least ostensibly, exist to serve the interests of their members.

The time has come, however, to recognize that the international system is past its sell-by date. The very notion of sovereignty that served to foster the security and development of nations now appears to support more conflict and impediments to cooperation when we need it most. Current realities require new organizing principles and new systems to serve the interests of humans and, for that matter, all beings and Nature. The international system is not only unsustainable, it is nearing obsolescence. As more resources and efforts are inserted into the system today, total human welfare is now tipping towards decline. In the terms of an economist, incremental costs are exceeding incremental benefits suggesting a point of diminishing returns. Due to climate change, authoritarian regimes that insist on a zero-sum mindset, and capitalist regimes that while extremely efficient at creating wealth, but also equally proficient in its concentration, the growth that once lifted all boats is now putting the entire human flotilla at risk of sinking.

The good news is that technology now offers alternatives to reimagine a new operating system. The bad news is we cannot look to, or rely upon, today’s leaders of society—including political, business, and spiritual—to affect a transformation. Nevertheless, it is time to reinvent the world as we have now known it since 1648. I know it sounds impossible, but so seemed the Peace at Westphalia in 1648, which included some nine hundred warring factions. As the design wizard Buckminster Fuller argued, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

In the contemporary era, many thought the world had its best chance to enjoy global peace and prosperity after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991. Pax Americana and the promise of liberty and justice for all was expected to sweep the world beyond the Americas after the failure of communism and authoritarianism more generally. The American scholar Francis Fukuyama (now infamously) called it “the end of history.” In the decade that followed, the world did, indeed, become a relatively peaceful place notwithstanding the Yugoslav/Balkan Wars and the Rwandan Civil War. Then, technology also stepped in to offer a boost to prosperity with the shift from analog to digital technologies. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman predicted in his book The World is Flat (2005), the digital economy and globalization would lead to an even playing field between industrial powers and emerging economies. Surely, a new global egalitarianism would result.

However, the hierarchies endemic to the nation-state system proved more stubborn than the rapid technological advantages offered by the transition from MS-DOS to Windows to iOS. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the leaders of society, who stand at the top of the power/wealth hierarchy, are quite reluctant to diminish their relative position for the benefit of others. A borderless flat world never got much further than graduate level seminars in schools of international relations, or the salon in the Bethesda, Maryland mansion of Thomas Friedman. This was further complicated by the hubris of neoconservatives in the Bush/Cheney administration who enthusiastically and recklessly sought to remake the world in the image of America. Although the world does prefer Levi’s and Coca-Cola, it was not ready to give up its own cultures, traditions, and sovereignty. The result: the United States squandered its superpower status slowly imploding and devolving to the low point when President Trump puckered up to kiss the backside of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018. In that moment, the hegemony of the United States ended, and with it the opportunity for global peace and prosperity in the international system contemplated under the thesis of Pax Americana.

So, where do we go from here?

In light of the peril facing the world today, five new principles must be recognized and incorporated as fundamental tenets in any new operating system. Those principles include:

  1. Existential threats to humanity are no longer confined to national or regional effects; they are transnational. The pandemic was a huge wake-up call to this reality. Global contagions do not respect borders, let alone sovereignty. The nation-state system proved not only incapable of dealing with the pandemic, in many ways it exacerbated it. Further, to believe that it will be another hundred years before we see a pandemic again is simply foolish. The interconnected reality of our world today assures a recurrence of something similar to Covid-19, or worse. Then, of course, there is climate change. A more gradually unfolding disaster, but it too is transnational. We have also seen how ineffectual our ostensibly common-good international institutions—controlled by nation-states and more recently the fossil fuel industry—have been to affect a solution to climate change.
  2. We do not need more wealth in the world, what we need are better distribution systems to get the fruits of wealth in the hands of all humanity. Although my younger capitalist self would have recoiled in horror at that statement, I have come to understand that the principal driver to the existential threat of climate change is our addiction to growth to create new wealth. In other words, it is actually now the interest of wealthy capitalists and oligarchs everywhere (as it is for the rest of humanity) to immediately transition to focusing on the distribution of food, energy, goods and services in as broad as possible manner to drastically reduce our addiction to growth and the fossil fuels it requires.[2] It turns out that sharing the wealth and the power that goes with it—today and for the foreseeable future—is our best hope to save all of us regardless of stature. I have written before about the transition from scarcity to abundance that occurred in the 1990s and our failure to realize its effects to change our ways.[3] This reality begets this new principle. Empowerment must replace coercion as a primary modality of governance. Plus-sum thinking must replace the traditional zero-sum (for every winner there is a loser) model.
  3. As humans, we are not independent from Nature; we are simply a small but important part of Nature. One of the effects of the scientification of everything that began in earnest in the late 19th century during the ramp-up to industrialization is that it drove the separation of our sense of self from being inextricably linked to Nature to being a wholly independent agent.[4] We were, therefore, able to disconnect the consequences of our actions from the consideration of anything other than other humans. (And, in even that we failed.) Nature became, simply and tragically, a resource pool to exploit for the benefit of humans alone. Subsequently, we aligned all human incentives accordingly, from which we have arrived in our current state of climate peril. In time, one way or another, Nature always prevails. In her consideration of humanity, it seems clear she is preparing the earth to cleanse it of us. With a sense of humility, we must realize that she gets to play the long game and that the presence of Homo Sapiens is little more than a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a split-second in universe time.
  4. We must re-think our concept of democracy from one-person, one-vote, to every person must act. As I mentioned above, existing leaders of society have no interest in seeing their power or wealth decline, even if only in relative terms. They will fight hard to maintain the status quo even while continuing to extol their undying and patently false commitment to our well-being. The nation-state system has been corrupted over its four centuries to protect their desires over our interests. Exhibit #1 is our own federal government that is completely out-of-step with the needs and desires of Americans everywhere. Does anyone really believe that politicians like Trump, Putin, and Xi, or business elites like Zuckerberg, Musk and Bezos, have any interest in anyone but themselves? Even Biden, who probably does genuinely care about Americans, faces tremendous obstacles in the Supreme Court, Congress, and the MAGA domestic terrorist organization more broadly, who have collectively hijacked our republic. In the future, to claim to be an American will require much more than voting once each year, or two, or four. We must each become active participants in solving both big and small problems to assure not just our prosperity, but our survival.
  5. We need to make technology our best friend while subduing its application for destructive effects. The promises Freidman envisioned for a “flat world” still exist and can be greatly enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI). However, as with all sources of power, they can be used for both good and ill. We have observed this phenomenon twice before with the development and deployment of nuclear power and also with social media. Hopefully, we have learned from both their great benefits and the equally devastating effects they can produce. Unfortunately, our biggest technology companies have every incentive to race to dominance and will do—in spite of their assurances to the contrary—whatever they have to do to establish the predominance of their particular AI offerings first. Safety be damned. Neither will industry associations nor our hapless federal government protect us from peril even while efforts will garner much media attention for political purposes (as they already have). As with much of the data security industry innovations that have occurred in the last two decades, I expect it will be dark-hacker actors in good-guy capes who will protect us best. Warnings aside, the connectivity of the Internet and the integration of AI holds extraordinary promise for enabling new power structures to replace the nation-state system.

These new principles must look to Nature for a solution. Structures to affect collective action for the production of public goods must be nimble, organic, durable, and fast. Moreover, they must not be susceptible to being corrupted by legacy hierarchies; they must stay as flat as possible. They must view the world as borderless and be amenable to being layered beneath and between each other aimed at specific objectives. The structure I found that best illustrates this comes from Nature in the form of neural networks. In effect, the development of objective-specific networks targeted at particular public goods where the participants who form the network include human actors and associations (public or private) to participate in and negotiate for desired outcomes. Collectively, they form a brain or operating system for our next world. In the spirit of Buckminster Fuller, a new model to force the obsolescence and ultimately displace the nation-state system.

Beyond Nature, there are a few real-world examples today that come close to the new power structures I am suggesting. Organizations/networks that are designed to circumvent traditional authority and affect connections for the development and distribution of resources to achieve a desired outcome. If we look to organized crime, cartels, terrorist and para-military organizations we will see what are, in effect, neural networks that are indeed nimble, organic, durable, and fast. All we must do is flip the objective from criminal, coercive, and destructive to empowering people for the common good. After all, as in the brain, neural networks can support both sanity and insanity. With proper connections and purposes, anything is possible.

Maybe John Lennon had it right in 1971 when the Beatles released “Imagine” even though those in power ignored him. In part, he sang:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one …

Today, maybe it’s finally time to heed Lennon’s plea. But to save ourselves we will need more than imagination. We need to seriously consider new principles and new power structures and pursue them with smart determination. We were able to transform our world in the 17th century to the nation-state system and to the value of reason in the Age of Enlightenment. We need the modern-day Voltaires, Rousseaus, Lockes, Kants, and Humes—the philosophers and poets—to guide us toward an Age of Enlightenment II.  It is time to make the world new again. We must assure that the edge of light we see on the horizon is that of a glimmer of hope, rather than the reflective rim of the edge of a cliff. We have a choice, but time’s a wasting.


[1] Occasionally, we do look to Nature to solve current problems. An inspiring example is how an office building in Houston adopted principles from the Bayou ecosystem in its design. See

[2] Just look at the air quality in China from 2019 to 2020 during the pandemic lookdown of industry there.

[3] See “The Tragedy of Abundance,” February 16, 2022,

[4] See Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (2013).

By |2023-08-27T13:06:51+00:00July 30th, 2023|General, Recent, The New Realities|0 Comments


A friend recently asked me, “What are your plans for the future?” Since my late teens, I have been able to answer that question with bullet-point clarity and precision leaving little room for either interpretation or negotiation. An objective-driven life. A master of my destiny. This disposition served me well through the preparation, achievement, and actualization phases of my life. But this time, in response to her question, I couldn’t provide an answer that was more than a day-and-a-half into the future. I expect it surprised both of us; I know it did me, and probably didn’t satisfy her query. I, however, was left feeling weirdly wonderful. Rather than feeling deficient, I felt light and at ease. I felt liberated.

Throughout my life, I subscribed to the maxim, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” A pejorative dismissal of what I saw as the un-compassed losers—the aimless wanderers. There comes a time, however, when striving must give way to thriving; when just being is more satisfying than becoming. To be clear, my near-maniacal focus and determination served me well to a point. It generated great successes and set me up with enough financial resources to afford my current luxury of just being. I understand and am grateful for this last-quarter of life capacity. In addition to many victories, my objective-driven life has also been accompanied by many setbacks and sacrifices for myself and others, but alas, here I am now staring at a path of transcendence—the fourth and final phase of life.

In the last three years, I have zeroed-out my life. Much more than a Marie Kondo closet cleaning. Rather, a whole-life cleansing. This was as much an accident as purposeful, ushered in by divorce and disease; one devastating and the other deadly. It seems a bit early to feel grateful for these events—to characterize them as beneficial—but they have been catalysts of transformation. And, in the case of cancer, I certainly don’t want to tempt or taunt fate. While the pain of divorce has passed, the cancer still lurks. As anyone knows who has been through it, that sword of Damocles seems perpetually perched above the back of your neck; one abnormal blood test away from sucking you back into the gauntlet of radioactive imaging, toxic drugs, scalpels, and all manner of wires and tubing that make you feel like Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians. I do not wish the pain of betrayal or cancer that I have endured on anyone. Fortunately, I have always been one to persevere—to find opportunity in the rubble of catastrophe. Of that I can indeed be grateful, and most of all recognize my mother in me. I thank her for that. She was a stoic’s stoic. When she passed a dozen years ago, it was with no regrets and on her own terms. She was truly transcendent.

As with many things in my life, I have made it through with a dogged determination to learn. Knowledge is everything to me; it facilitates that essential capacity to process the world. In this case, to figure out how to turn devastation into liberation. Yes, to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear. I took a deep dive into philosophy and spirituality. Many books and many teachers and many hours of contemplation and meditation. The cleansing process is, I think, the most critical. Without it, clarity is not possible; it is a prerequisite to awakening. Discarding, purging, and disentangling are key. Of not just possessions, but of desires, obligations, dependencies, conflicts and—perhaps most especially—of toxic relationships that diminish rather than enhance your life. Among other things, it has affirmed for me a notion I have long entertained: that wealthy does not mean being able to buy whatever you want, the wealthy among us are those who want what they already have. Once you arrive at that place where mornings are a moment of wonder about what the day will bring—and you embrace that—you are on the doorstep of deliverance. The only thing in front of you then is transcendence.

Along the way, I wrote this piece of verse, reading it to myself over and over until it was etched on my soul. I titled it, “Declaration of Liberation.”

Needs and wants and desires fade,

discarding what was or might have been.

Unconcerned about every tomorrow.

Today is what matters—a gift to tend.


Attention has space to savor the now;

no demands nor conflicts to disturb the moment.

No grasping, no clinging, no clenching, no suffering.


Just look around in awe.


Time stands still—no wait, no hurry;

clarity in presence of mind.

Unseen beauty lurks around every bend.

Breathe it in, then out.


Let it be, let it go.

Just this, just now.

Relax, release, and rise.

Notice how the poem moves from cleansing to a cadence of flow, savor, and flow. Only once you have cleaned your slate and largely discarded your old identity is flow even possible. Flow is that state of mind that allows life to move with the prevailing natural energy in a relatively frictionless manner, which allows awareness to thrive while accepting the reality of the impermanence of all phenomena, whether good or bad. It sets the demands of ego aside in favor of tranquility. Savor is the discipline to let the good land; to capture the moment of beauty—however it manifests—with any or all of your five senses. (Savoring is something I rarely did during my objective-driven life.) The big payoff? In a state of flow/savor/flow, it is simply not possible to be disturbed, let alone slip into a spiral of despondent rumination, which are both principal contributors to psychological despair.

Here follows another bit of verse to bring it all together, titled “The Last Quarter.”

Standing now, on the footings of wisdom, this last quarter of life is mine.

Preparation, achievement, and actualization have passed.


Reflection is lost to manufactured memories that loop and fade and deceive.

A different future beckons that neither dwells nor dawdles.


I accept all that I am; granting short shrift to sorrows.

Becalmed on the waters of tranquility, I neither fix nor scorn.


Time is limited, but undivided by obligations and dependencies.

Demands fade in a culture that easily dismisses the grayed masters of yesterday.


Never mind. My grin leaves its own trail of knowing.

Just let it be.

And, to close, one last piece: “The Fading Light.”

My wake, once deep and frothy, recedes now—ripples to glass.

Wisdom swells in its place, washing the stains of life away.


Hands hardened by toil and conflict give way to a softer heart,

beating to the delicate rhythm of tranquility.


Alone with thoughts both grand and small,

mediated by memories of triumph and loss.


Cast as a voyeur now to the victories and defeats of others.

Eyes fixed on the tumbledown of humanity.


Will they find their way, or consume themselves?

Time knows but remains, for the moment, silent.


My mark fades now into the twilight of obscurity.

Just enough light to find my way out as the curtain falls.

This post is my offering to those who may be struggling as I did over the last few years, or who just want a life upgrade. For my readers younger than sixty, I recognize it may be largely irrelevant to your life today, although others would argue this path of enlightenment can be pursued at any age. (I am not so sure.) If you are young and living an objective-driven life as I did, you might want to put “transition-to-transcendence” in your long-term goals and save this post in your tomorrow file.

For those of you in or nearing the last quarter of life, I highly recommend spending some time to affect a thorough cleanse. I see too many of my contemporaries clinging to their old identity and becoming intellectually and emotionally sclerotic, which is a clinical way of saying mired knee-deep in their own doo-doo. Bitchy and/or cantankerous are not how anyone should spend their last decades but, sadly, many do. It is a tragedy when the final phase of life is marked by a slow incremental descent into suffering, rather than the uplifting radiance of transcendence. There is no reason why the rest of your life shouldn’t be the best of your life; perhaps as joyful or more so than your youth.

On this Independence Day, maybe consider a little personal liberation. Start by getting out of the way of your own self. You might just discover a whole new world.

By |2023-12-01T15:38:46+00:00July 2nd, 2023|General, Recent, Spiritual|0 Comments

It’s About Stability, Stupid!

The allegory of the fish in the tank seems appropriate here. You see, the fish swimming in the tank of water has little to no effect on the nature of the water, but the water’s effect on the fish can be profound, even existential. Will it allow the fish to survive and prosper, or not? We are the fish, and the key to our future is more dependent on the water in which we swim than we may be willing to admit.

If history repeats, or at least rhymes, the water Americans will be swimming in for the next fifteen to twenty years is different than any since 1945 to 1961 and, the fact is, only the eldest among us have any recollection of that era. The vast majority of us have no clue what that water was like unless, of course, you are a student of history. And, no, you can’t learn this on TikTok.

We are entering the fourth post-crisis era in the history of America, which I illustrated more fully in Saving America in the Age of Deceit, called the “objectivism” phase. The last three periods of objectivism were the periods following the American Revolutionary War for Independence, the American Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II. Today, we are emerging from the crisis which began in 2002 (which I call the “Age of Deceit”) marked by the War on Terror, Great Recession, the Covid pandemic, and a whole lotta lies.

Periods of objectivism are times in American history when we value stability, predictability, reliability and, most of all, a return to what we perceive as normal. What is decidedly out-of-favor is anything that rocks the boat—anything that includes upheaval or radical change. Collectively, we’ve had enough of that. Fatigue has taken its toll.

If you are in the persuasion business, which one way or another includes all of us, the next several years will require a keen understanding of these values and resulting trends. From politicians, to fashion designers, to filmmakers, to investors, to homebuilders, to ministers, and even actuaries, the water we are swimming in will affect both strategic and tactical decisions.

As a group, the first thing to notice about these values are that they are quite conservative. Like 1945-61, during the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower, boring displaced exciting (unless one considered television’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet an actual adventure). Notwithstanding the “Red Scare” manufactured by the Catholic firebrand Father Charles Coughlin, the young Reverend Billy Graham, and Senator Joe McCarthy, Americans spent most of their attention on getting back on their feet following America’s third crisis establishing new households, neighborhoods, churches and communities with little upheaval or excitement other than the birth of lots and lots of kids—the Boomer generation. Making babies and mowing lawns was excitement enough. In fact, other than the Midwest roots shared by Missouri’s Truman and Kansas’ Eisenhower, the characteristic both men shared most obviously was the fact they were, indeed, boring!

In consideration of the forthcoming presidential election, both major parties and all candidates should study Truman and Eisenhower. Perhaps instead of Make America Great Again (MAGA), it should be Make America Work Again (MAWA). “Shit don’ work!” has become an unfortunate mantra in America as our fourth period of crisis ends. Planes don’t fly when scheduled, trains fall off their tracks, housing, childcare, and healthcare are a nightmare for many, nutjobs are roaming our streets with assault rifles, and children are behaving like adults while adults are behaving like children. It’s enough to wear a person out.

Before my Republican readers get too confident about these new waters, it is important to understand that the conservative label here is in the traditional sense of the term, the root of which is to conserve. Not the bastardized whackadoodle version of conservatism the red-cappers promote. After all, Trump is definitely no Eisenhower. That said, I wonder how long traditional conservatives—like the boring Mitt Romney—will continue to sit back and watch their party implode at the hands of a narcissistic maniac? The water is now flowing in their favor. At some point, the shame is not on the orange one, it’s on them.

It is time to return to basic American values based in the fundamental tenet of self-determination and a renewed sense of personal responsibility for ourselves and each other. It is time to CONSERVE our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Although a Democrat, Biden is probably best positioned to capture this hill of values, as long as he sets aside the impulse to engage in rhetoric that is perceived as too left-leaning in the direction of progressive idealism and can keep his feet beneath him on the campaign trail. He is, after all, Truman-like boring and actually has enough of a record on several of the relevant issues to argue for building on that record in a second term. Issues like climate change can (and must) be repositioned as a ­conserve-ative issue. Who knows, maybe even make our federal government relevant again. To my liberal friends, fear not: progressive idealism’s time will return someday. (Note that Kennedy followed Eisenhower.) However, that time is not today.

Despite Biden’s perceived advantage, don’t count Trump out. He could pivot from MAGA to MAWA (assuming he can stay out of a prison jumpsuit) and these periods do have room for the appeal of conservative authoritarianism. That’s what the Red Scare folks in the 1950s were all about. Lurking boogeymen will still be promoted by fearmongers. But, also as in the 1950s, scare tactics may get tiresome too. Trump may go the way of Joe McCarthy. Yet, conservatism does include a preference for tighter controls and clear unambiguous guardrails. Some—perhaps many—will prefer authoritarianism to reestablish a sense of stability and calm that could include oppressive and regressive regimes. Like the Germans in their post-crisis era after World War I who took a shine to a young political brawler in Munich named Adolph. America today is not the Germany of the late 1920s and early 1930s, but the natural attraction of authoritarianism among otherwise well-intentioned people should never be passively dismissed.

A related argument for a lean toward conservatism is well developed by the University of Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen in his latest book, Regime Change: ­­­­­­Toward a Postliberal Future. Deneen’s argument is that we in the West would be better off replacing the current liberal elite with a new conservative elite to reestablish traditions and institutions to affect a more genuine populism like that he fondly recalls from his own childhood growing up in Windsor, Connecticut. In his view, progress and dynamism have indeed proven disruptive but, on net, also too destructive of social, economic, and political order. The outrage of many progressive reviewers indicate Deneen has certainly touched a nerve, and while I can find holes in his analysis, and expect that his predicted destination of conservative authoritarianism will never occur, history suggests his compass is pointing in the proper direction.

For anyone who has studied the history of human progress for more than a minute, one thing inevitably becomes crystal clear. Progress is not linear, nor is it predictable. It proceeds in fits and starts; two steps forward, one back. Surge then purge. It is random and chaotic, reflecting the array of human dispositions that characterize our civilization.  What the cycles of American history affirm is that during certain periods of time, progress for the sake of progress is not preferred. There are times when good-ol’ stability becomes fashionable. The foreseeable future is one of those times. For this moment in our history, folks will likely prefer stability to change, unless it’s a change back to normal.

To co-opt Bill Clinton campaign strategist, James Carville’s, admonition in 1992 that, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Today, our history suggests, it’s about stability, stupid! The next fifteen to twenty years won’t be exactly like 1945-61, but they may be more alike than different. Who knows, Netflix may even bring back Ozzie and Harriet. Or, not.

By |2023-07-02T13:11:42+00:00June 18th, 2023|Recent, The New Realities|0 Comments
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