"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Post-Portland: Navigating the Rubicon

On the Banks

We all experience moments where we labor over decisions, first weighing, then contemplating and ultimately (hopefully) accepting their consequences: "Crossing the Rubicon" is one of my favorite cliches. Wikipedia defines it as a point of no return and continues, "It refers to Caesar's 49 BC crossing of the river, which was considered an act of war."

As the weekend of September 11th concluded, I was stumbling blindly forward; rushing toward the torrent of my own rampaging Rubicon. From the beginning, events such as the Saturday night's conversation, the preceding conflict with Cody, and particularly Sunday afternoon-and what to write about them-have weighed heavily on me. I ping-ponged on the decision to post in-depth details, having conversations with Chris, The Sage, Laina, and others exploring how I should proceed, with varying opinions. The Sage suggested that I treat Andre as I had Dennis: let things play out before committing & attempting to dissect what I had seen and the conclusions. Always the voice of reason, that Sage! He also was there with the concept of reductionism, which would indeed factor later on and while it's new to me, had a great effect; though not the one I believe he intended! Chris was characteristically non-committal in his commentary, but also characteristically able to add some powerful, unbiased insights of his own; some that I would have completely missed.

But in the end, it was my decision, and it was difficult. This created a dramatic, intense test of what until now was usually a relatively calm, straightforward commitment to honesty, as well as surprisingly forcing me to reevaluate and redefine such basic ideas, such as what it means to be a "friend." This lengthy process and then starting over, second guessing my decision to post an honest perspective, has forced a reliving of this weekend and brought to the surface an idea that once had been primary, but had faded to the dormant recesses of my mind: Singularity. Singularity is a powerful idea that applied to both Andre and I at the same time, and exposed a duality of my own. One that rang the doorbell in the middle of the night, and in stormed the metaphorical unemployed uncle! He was going to sleep on the couch and raid my mind's fridge for a week!

In the end, I obviously decided to be as honest as I could. In the interest of fairness however, it also created another rather daunting task: What you're about to read. Rather than simply lie out The Sunday Judgment, I also sense a responsibility to explain where these conclusions had come from. We generally react to things through the prism of experience, and I am no different. These conclusions, while I believe accurate, were ultimately borne from my own frustration and, as it usually the case, reflect my own experience. An experience that was exceedingly difficult to fight through. I desperately hoped to spare Andre at least some of the difficulties, although I know better. Funny, it never occurred to me to express that!

The Headwaters

As mentioned, I've not yet written on much of the lead up to this Odyssey. While attempting to avoid redundancy, I must point out that I have a history of being hard on myself; even unfair. Prior to my departure in 2008, I had made several attempts to set off, with little success. A few years ago, I read a biography on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which introduced me to an unfettered commitment to truth, and the phrase Vitam Impendere Vero, which loosely translated means "Truth before everything, even at the cost of death." About the same time, I began reading Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Inside was a particular, simple anecdote that shook me to my core. Gandhi openly discussed and verbally bull whipped himself for having lustful thoughts towards his own WIFE! (I have no interest in mentally masturbating over the ethics of marital sex, and if you do, don't expect me to hand you the Kleenex.) Obviously, I'm no Gandhi, but that set an astounding example for me on being honest with one's self. None would have challenged him for hounding after his own wife, seeing nothing wrong with it. However, he did and he would allow himself NO rationalization. He himself believed he was not living up to the ideals he believed, the standards he set for himself, and went to work on it. Truth under all circumstances and at all costs. This lightning bolt added to the burgeoning realization that, in order to live in accordance with one's ideals and beliefs, well... One must know what they are! AND, by extension, must know WHO they themselves are. Nosce Te Ipsum: Know Thyself. Te Nosce. So simple in concept. Complex in fact.

Nosce Te Ipsum is inscribed upon the Oracle at Delphi, and is the foundation of the many ancient of philosophy, from Socrates forward: "An unexamined life is not worth living." As described on Philosophy Pages, "[Socrates] sought genuine knowledge rather than mere victory over an opponent, Socrates employed the same logical tricks developed by the Sophists to ... the pursuit of truth. Thus, his willingness to call everything into question and his determination to accept nothing less than an adequate account of the nature of things make him the first clear exponent of critical philosophy."

I strongly identified with this, and thus began the process of Andre's elusive Inner Dialogue: not merely accepting an internal "victory" through accepting any and all rationalization, but a willingness to identify and annihilate rationalization when possible and accept (then welcome) the personal defeats of falsehood through a bloody, relentless pursuit of truth... internally first. It didn't take long to see that I was regularly employed in the Business of Bullshit, having spent decades bullshitting myself. And, because no one likes being called on their bullshit, the dismantling of this rotted structure was a difficult task! This personal excavation continues; it will never be finished.

I've heard the analogy that first you must "first tear down to rebuild." However, you still need to live somewhere! I equate it as simultaneously building on another piece a ground adjacent to the old. While building the new house on a solid foundation, you must periodically return to the old to find what's salvageable. Despite its difficulty, it is the most rewarding thing I've done... and likely will ever do. I began to see who I had been, who I was, and who I felt I should be. It's was A.A.'s "personal inventory" on steroids, yet with an unforgiving commitment to truth standing as overseer.

What I discovered included a troubling realization that I was always the "victim." This was naturally thinking that stemmed from my childhood rejection by my absentee father. I told myself that everything was the "fault of the fates." Instead of being an idiot for driving drunk, it was, "Why did there have to be a cop there!" I could go on for hours, but I'll spare you. Besides, there's more effective places to shred myself! I was battling a constant, crippling fear and cowardice. There is a distinction. Fear is of the unknown, while I believe cowardice is an cowering to the known. There was a clear disconnect between knowing the path, and a willingness to walk it. I was also subject to an insipid laziness, unwilling to put forth the effort to prepare for and investigate the path's terrain: preferring to mentally masturbate. In short, I seemingly refused to act in accordance with these seemingly high minded ideals that were manifesting themselves on paper.

Allow me to be perfectly clear because it's important in understanding my reactions: I brutalized myself over these shortcomings, yet I would NEVER let someone treat anyone I cared about the way I treated myself. But, I rightfully allowed myself to set definitions to the tunes of these barbaric introspective questions, and savage-yet-accurate answers. I had to FEEL the truth, and I HATED what I was discovering once these self imposed, definitions began to set in. It was only then, through a disgust for the raw reality, that I was able to move forward; to take baby steps to act in accordance with who I was. Only then was I able to move away from the comfort of my concocted, rationalized, yet comfortable Castle of Bullshit, and begin to live in accordance with who I was. Take steps toward singularity.

Make no mistake, this sort of commitment is not always comfortable to share space with. People can sometimes misconstrue my questions as a combative attitude, and sometimes they are. Having periodic blinders in place, I have a tendency to put the acquisition of facts before politely asking for them! I take great care in presenting facts, but not such care in protecting feelings. Perhaps this is a shortcoming that, if altered would afford me more friends, but I quite honestly don't need the types of "friendships" it would preserve. In addition, if you're going to invite me into this realm, I will come fully prepared. This, I believe, is what happened with Andre and his "question." When he applied it to me, I proceeded to dismantle and "reverse engineer" it, finding what I believe are glaring inconsistencies. I guess I could have just... said that!


Singularity and duality are inseparable. Most of us live a split existence, bouncing between one facet of ourselves and another. Many probably having more than two! Duality is a concept at the center of most religions. Christians love to get all dramatic with it, and term it "Good v. Evil," or externalize it by saying "The Devil made me do it!" Ahh, the victim! Horseshit. "The Devil" has no external control; like God, he's you. You are at the helm of your own life, and thus responsible. I prefer the eastern notions on the battle waged within; between the ego/ materialism and the true inner nature of ourselves, as laid out in The Bhagavad Gita. Singularity is the ability to reside within that true, pure nature of ourselves; to both know the path and walk it. The melding of the mental, spiritual, and physical. Beliefs and intentions as one with thought and action. Let's again be clear, no one not named Jesus, Buddha, or Muhammad achieves this as a permanent state. We're constantly experiencing duality; bouncing back and forth in varying degrees. Unfortunately some never leave the lair of ego and materialism... yet wonder why they feel empty, even with that toy chest full! This state of singularity, when you're in tune with who you are and your place in the world, is what I believe Andre interprets as Presence. I also believe it is the state where synchronized events are most frequent because your mind is tuned into the proper frequency.

I distinctly noticed this duality in Andre during my stay, because it was more pronounced in extremes than nearly ANYONE I had ever seen! Compare the differences between Saturday, and Sunday & Monday. I would playfully offer in jest that he seemed to be borderline schizophrenic; from one extremist to the other! Singularity is something that I have spent a lot of time privately exploring, yet it has curiously been dormant for quite a long time. When it rocketed back into my mind, while sleeping, it seemed that what I had interpreted as an obsession may indeed be indications of steps in the right direction.

I've noticed that it is increasingly difficult for me to separate myself from these thoughts; much to the chagrin of many whose company I keep! If I'm asked to separate, I become disconnected and distant. I've also noticed that it has begun to greatly influence whose company I choose to keep. If it's difficult to keep Present, (infer what you like out of this) I choose to sacrifice the person, while Chris, for example will often intentionally disconnect himself from the moment, then try to bring them along. I believe he does that out of egoistic need to save the world:A Christ Complex! He'll argue that...for minutes at least! I believe it's arrogance to think one is capable of influencing all; they have to be open to it first. We've agreed to disagree on this point! That dovetails nicely to...


One of the most confounding topics, and rest assured I wont be quoting Freud! My counselor friend Brian believes I have given Freud a bad rap, and I confess I refuse to read him. I have gotten enough useful mileage out of The Gita's definition and description, and after watching The Century of the Self and learning how Freudian techniques were used to employ public relations (propaganda) as social engineering, I have no use for him. The ego is, again, something we never escape. It can invisibly influence every action we take and decision we make. The ego is visible in every act of self-interest: Whenever we make something "about us." I mention this because wile slapping a harsh indictment on Andre, in fact the very indecision of whether or not to post it was initially based in my own ego! Self-interest. A significant concern in the days leading to the write up were not whether I was fair, but in the end if I was "burning a bridge." "If I tell the truth, will I still be able to work with him? Will I see the story play out? What about the future of my teeth!"

Based on the emails I've received, many of you were asking the same questions so backhandedly understand ego quite well! To my credit, I recognized the self-interest aspect and, in the end, realized that this clearly was NOT about me at all. It was in fact about Andre and his path; about the battle he was fighting with duality. The simple mental fidgeting was proof that the relationship had been reciprocal in the sense that the observations and further realizations, and what I would learn about myself, were as valuable to me as his "$100,000 Lesson." I came to understand that it was my obligation to be honest with and about him, in an effort to show how the ego, duality, and most importantly self-honesty, were more important than noble words and at the core of intention. This duality is something I know a lot about, and let me AGAIN be VERY clear: Andre HAS noble intentions, however, I believe they are hampered by habitual thinking, and a failure to recognize the ego and its influence.

With that said, I saw this situation as a clear choice: Withhold what I've learned out of a simple "what if?" self-interest, or sacrifice that fear at the Alter of the Ego, and offer an honest, blunt perspective as a gift, albeit a bitter one, for him to do with what he chooses. My hope is that it helps carry Andre down his path; his goal is infinitely more important than my teeth! I have long wished someone had risked that kind of honesty with me years ago, thus the decision should have been easy. It wasn't.

The Friendship Paradox

"...the nice thing about Todd is that all he wants is honesty and he's happy regardless of the situation when he gets the straight answer." -Friar Chris
Congratulations, Chris. You've been quoted. I chose to snatch it because it's one of the best, fairest observations of me that I've seen. I also try to operate from the above framework when dealing with my friends, and I consider Andre a friend. I've made it clear that I believe that his intentions are themselves noble, yet they may have been slightly corrupted by something he may not be able to recognize: Ego. In addition I should add that even if so, he is leaps and bounds ahead of where the vast majority of people reside. With that pretext, I have been called an ingrate for "accepting his hospitality, letting him spend all that money, then "turning on him" 3-weeks later." Some readers, (neither Andre nor his friends) believe that I'm trying to crush his "vision and dreams" all together because he "turned my counter-proposal down." I may, perhaps, recommend a reading comprehension course when I finish. But, for the moment I will offer the benefit of the doubt and suggest that these folks are lost in what was previously an unknown conventionality, at least to me. One creating an interesting question!

I have asked a number of times, "Are you more of a friend when you offer hard honesty, or soft encouragement?" To my astonishment, I've discovered that most people believe it's either a "morally relative" question, or feel it's their role to be of unquestioning support, EVEN IF THEY REALIZE SOMETHINGS WRONG! Considering my commitment to "blunt truth," I vehemently reject this cowardly relativism out of hand. It would seem that most people, when they choose support over honesty, are choosing to avoid a risk to themselves: a risk of losing their own friendship, rather than having a primary concern for that friend. I understand perfectly well that there are instances when perhaps silence is preferential, and I exercised that choice myself at Andre's home. However, when silence is not an option, and one must choose between honesty and ambiguity, the choice seems clear unless you're operating out of self-interest; when you're more concerned what that "friend" will think, and how they will react-that's ego driven self-interest

To compound things Andre is, as are most wealthy people, literally surrounded by self-interested people. I was not going to add myself to that list. I believe, in this case, my self-interest needed to be eliminated in favor of his interest, and my integrity. With no expectations or deceit, Andre could then operate from a position of control (whence he thrives!) by knowing the facts as they pertain to me and again, could then apply my experience and insights however he sees fit. I know full well that this likely severed our relationship, but that was known before I hit the "Publish" buttons. At least, with this expansion, I will have done everything I could do, and who knows? Maybe the seeds planted will bear fruit.

Karma As Your Bitch?

I've always held a particular disdain for the book/ movie The Secret. It seems to imply that you can manipulate the Law of Attraction to accumulate wealth, fame, and booty; as though by thinking "happy thoughts" you can have an unfettered ego And spiritual enrichment at the same time. "YOU TOO can make Karma and fate your own personal wench!" If you practice this, I suspect that Karma, or whatever you choose to call it, is on to you.

The shallow hypocrisy of "Charity as a Tool" is the same mentality as that behind The Secret, and is at the heart of my disgust for "missionary" work, and loaded charity of any kind. It's egoistic in nature, and it's my belief that you would be further ahead with "God" by admitting that you either care little for helping people, are primarily concerned with making yourself feel necessary, or kissing His Holy Ass; essentially saying: "Look what I did God, now lemme to the front of the line!" Is your "God" a short-bus kind of Special, or are you perhaps kidding yourself? If that's the case, what about a "vengeful God," and Hell? Well, I would recommend thinking long and hard about who or what you're trying to manipulate.

I've mentioned this several times, but at the heart of my beliefs are that, above words, coerced, loaded action, or any simplistic doctrine and dogma, true intent: what's in a man's heart is the core of his existence. From there, it's an easy step to then hitch the wagon of the aforementioned absolute introspection to this ox of an idea. If accepted, it must therefore be a "mandatory quest" to eliminate external static and know exactly who you are, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs. If you submit to any sort of higher power, yet practice the art of trying to fool "God" or Karma with "tradeoffs"... well, let me know how that works out for you! If I were God, (despite possible impressions, I don't believe) I would stamp your coach ticket to Hell with the words: "Who the fuck did you you think you're dealing with, gnat?" Blasphemous words? Hardly. Thinking you can outwit God, Karma, or the Universe may be the ultimate ego trip, and is itself the silent height of blasphemous arrogance...