Jake Block

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Practical Applications of the Concept of “Being Your Own God”

by Jake Block
Pretty much as soon as someone finishes The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, or reads the concept of being one’s own god on some webpage with stereotypical graphics including gothic arches, cowled figures and images of black flames and lightning, they begin to picture themselves as some kind of demonic omnipotency, and invincible, while everyone else around them is somehow inferior to their magnificence and grandeur. I suppose it can be a comfort when one’s up to their knees in sewage or bulldozing trash in the stench of some trash pit. But they know that they are superior, because they have read the words.

All well and good, I guess… after all, Christians know that they’re assured of going to heaven because they have read the words in their holy book and believed. So they spend their life in “sure and certain hope of the resurrection,” and know that no matter what the difficulty, “this too shall pass.” But you are superior to these louts, as YOU are a GOD. They just believe in one. As you both sit in the dingy lunch room and unwrap your bologna sandwich, I wonder, “who’s fooling who,” as you look at each other in certainty that the other is wrong.

I suppose that one can’t expect people to fully understand the concept of being one’s own god when they don’t have… or care to find… the whys and wherefores of LaVey’s conceptualization of the term. Most people out there seem to think that all LaVey ever wrote was encapsulated in the Satanic Bible, The Satanic Rituals and The Complete Witch (The Satanic Witch), but he wrote The Satanic Bible in 1969, with The Satanic Rituals and The Compleat Witch following in 1971. Between then and when LaVey died in 1997, he wrote many other things in essay form in the Pages of The Cloven Hoof, the official newsletter of The Church of Satan. For those of us who were members of The Church of Satan and kept our subscriptions current, many items of interest and enlightenment greeted us month after month and year after year.

It’s from this font of knowledge that I will try to distill the essence of what LaVey meant when he said, “you are your own god.” Now, eccentric as he was, he was no fool, and knowing him as I did, I can tell you that he in no way believed that by reading The Satanic Bible you would be somehow imbued with godlike powers, as those ascribed to the omnipotent “hairy thunderers” of antiquity. What he was getting at was that a “god” controlled his life in the reality of the here and now, amidst a world of sheep led by religious, cultural and political shepherds. In order to actually DO this, one had to break away from the herd and take control in ways that were tangible and sound.

“Being your own god” (which is the code for having one’s life in order and under control) is something that I would think that all serious Satanists would aspire to. As simple as the concept is, it’s very common to see people muddy up the waters into a murky muck with talk of the universe and adversarial power and all of the buzzwords common on the web today. Everybody’s got to go through that exercise, it seems, but being that we’re ostensibly creatures of the carnal and of earthly existence at the center of things, we don’t need the muck and mire of metaphor to cloud the simplicity of it. I’ve known a lot of “gods,” and have yet to meet one casting lightning bolts and communing with demons on a practical and demonstrable basis.

The point was to make yourself as independent as possible, so that the winds and whims of change and control had as little effect on the Satanist as possible, so that when the herd blindly reacted to the dictates of control, the Satanist had ability to resist, survive and thrive within a culture and society hostile to his/her very existence. LaVey would be the first to tell you that he had invented nothing new, and that the powers behind the power had long before been practicing the black arts of manipulation and control. The difference is that once THEY had found them, they kept the methods to themselves. LaVey now freely gave them to “the Devil’s Own.”

I’ll break them down here in easy to digest chunks. They’ve worked for me and for others and, if you try them in ways meaningful to you, chances are that they will work for you as well. Like any other tool in the box, efficiency depends on the skill and motivation of the craftsman. Someone who is dedicated to getting what they want out of life and will sacrifice the time, effort and in some cases money to get there will fare better than the average Joe who thinks that life and success should be their birthright because they are… well… they just ARE. Not likely, because the world and the universe don’t give a damn about anyone. They are simply environments that are to a greater or lesser degree, survivable, but requiring manipulations and skills to produce the best crops once the soil is tilled and fertilized. We must provide the seeds of success and tend our gardens well. One thing to remember is that being a god is all about having options. Options give you power. A “god” needs options.
Let’s start out with securing our place as our own god. This is going to require a good deal of effort on the part of those aspiring to the goal, and it’s going to be a life long effort. The best way is to build one’s personal knowledge and skillsets to allow them to become successful in the career of their choice. Making a good living gives you choices. One of those choices is in the saving and investing some of the money that you earn, vs the hand-to-mouth existence that over 90% of the world experiences. Trust me, my friends, you’re going to need some of that money in the not too distant future, so make the most of your peak earning years. Gods can take care of themselves and are not beholden to anyone for their lifestyle, and that takes financial security. By financial security, I mean sustainable income, property, stocks and of course cash that’s going to last you a while when you need it. Enough to weather storms or at least keep your head above water… and that includes your immediate family as well.

My personal method of cash management started out with one year’s pay in the bank, another $10,000 in my personal checking account, and a back up of stocks in mutual funds and company funded savings in stocks. Now, that’s not an easy thing to do without self-discipline, and as a broke-ass kid from East St. Louis, money was hard enough to come by, and harder still to keep. Now, as your chosen career progresses, and your salary rises, attaining and maintaining that goal becomes easier, as you have more income to work with. Always remember to “pay yourself first,” meaning, put something into your savings and retirement accounts. With care and a little luck, you can manage to amass quite a bit of money, and money gives you options.

The next thing that a god needs is a place of his/her own. I’m not talking about renting, or renting to own, but a place that you OWN, free and clear, where you can live in a manner that is pleasing to you and that you control, there in your own place. Remember back when you were younger and, exasperated because you painted a pentagram on the wall of your room, your parent said, “When you own your own house, then you can do any damn thing you want to with it!” There will come a time when you’ll realize that your parents were right.

LaVey took those words to heart when he occupied his residence in that Victorian house on California Street in San Francisco. Each and every room in the house was a reflection of his personal, dark aesthetic, and he didn’t give a damn if anyone else liked it or not. It became his sanctuary, his “Batcave,” his “Fortress of Solitude,” his own personal Pleasure Dome as envisioned by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem, “Kubla Khan.”

“Kubla Khan
— by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedern cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw;
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.”
If you own your own home, you can own your own world. This was a concept deeply explored by LaVey, and his home became a sanctuary, where he could lock the world he detested outside. Here, he was in control, with a capitol “C.” For someone who was allowed to visit his home for the first time, it was like either being in a home in the 1940s or a museum dedicated to that time. It was LaVey’s vision of the world as he had known it, and reflected his personal aesthetic, which could run along the lines of 1940s film noir. Furniture, paintings, lighting and even the often bizarre bric-a-brac you found on his shelves were all hand picked for his personal enjoyment and nostalgia. Outside, he had little control of the rush and bustle of the modern world, but here in his little slice of the past, he was king. He was “god.”
It was in this “owned world” his alternative reality, that he was able to be his most creative, because since he owned the property, he could do pretty much what he wanted to. It was indeed his own world, and if he wanted to paint the walls black and the ceiling red, he could do that. If he wanted to build “The Den of Iniquity” in the lowest level of the house and people it with “manufactured people” of his own creation, he could do that. If he wanted to own exotic pets from a cheetah to a black panther to a lion, he could do that. If he wanted to paint murals of Tchort exploding from a volcano, or demonic figures on the walls of his “kitchen” area, and then move in six synthesizers that he played in the night until dawn, he could do that. And yes, if he wanted to open and start The Church of Satan, converting his living room into ritual chamber, complete with skulls, a huge Sigil of Baphomet, naked altar, and a thundering Wurlitzer organ, that too was something he could do.

LaVey was an epicurean consumer of life, on his own terms. He was reclusive by nature, but also as a means of controlling his world and those who entered into it. People just didn’t “stop by for a visit,” unless they were high on LaVey’s list of people with whom he had formed some level of kinship. He felt that most people were a drain on his time and intellectual reserves. He had a mental exercise from which I developed my personal system of interpersonal relationships and the theory of diminishing return. One of LaVey’s personal analysis questions always on his mind was “Who gains in this?” If you could offer him something in financially, intellectually or in mental stimulation, you might get an invitation of a visit. In his personal world he was “god” and peopled it as he saw fit. He once wrote:

“There are many who take my time.  I shun them.
There are some who share my time.  I am entertained by them.
There are precious few who contribute to my time.  I cherish them.”

In the “rented world,” you might get away with painting a room black, and you might even have a landlord who might allow you to put a nail in the wall to hang your small-scale Sigil of Baphomet, and you might be able to have a party once in a while where people might come in costume. But you’ll never have the same freedom of expression that comes from owning. You’ll always be under control of the landlord or the finance company. That deed of ownership allows you to do what you need to do to be who who you are in your heart and soul.
Owning the land on which you live and the dwelling and outbuildings upon it also gives you standing. It also gives you personal wealth that grows with every passing year. Owning more than one home makes YOU a landlord and can provided a steady and meaningful income for many years to come and, if at some time you want to retire, it can be liquidated for cash. Ownership gives you options. A “god” needs options.

So now, we’ve covered two of the three things that you need on a practical basis to have some form of legitimacy to your claims of being a “god.” But what makes you so special? I mean, really, we all know a lot of people who have money and a home or two. They might be generally nice people and we’re glad that they’ve got it a bit easier than most. But what motivates them on an intellectual level? What is it that they have learned and put into practice? What is the “magic” that turned the lead of mundane existence into the gold of elevated enlightenment?

Intellectualism and power… they go pretty much hand in hand, because when you have the skills to handle yourself intellectually, deftly using knowledge and personal philosophy to tip the scales in any transaction, you become a force to be reckoned with. Why? Because you can concretize ideas in the minds of those you would wish to convince, control and manipulate to make your position dominant. That might not seem to be an important point, but when you are establishing personal control, you will find that you will have to deal with others “on the outside” to secure your control of your personal realm.

Additionally, a “god” needs to have a firm understanding on where his philosophy of life rests for his own peace of mind and for those who look to him or her for inspiration and guidance. Part of being one’s own god is being true to oneself and to the face he presents to the world. We can easily cite examples of the most “satanic” of “gods” here on the web, but once one meets them face to face, they’re not quite what they are cracked up to be. If a god can’t even be straight with themselves, how can they ever expect anyone to take them seriously?

In law, the concept is “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” meaning “false in one thing, false in everything.” In common law, it is the legal principle that a witness who testifies falsely about one matter is not credible to testify about any matter. You can have that personal world, a castle of one’s own creation, behind whose walls one is sovereign and secure. But unless one is true to oneself and one’s stated vision, there will always be a fatal flaw in the foundation. It may remain unexposed for many years, but eventually, truth will always shine through, and has ever been the bane of charlatans and mountebanks.

In the old western movie Ride The High Country (1962), you’ll find the line, spoken by one of the heroes, Steve Judd, “All I want is to enter my house justified.” Justified is right, justified is earned and justified leaves you beholden to few, if any. What you have in your world will not be given to you, and if it’s real, won’t be taken away. A god is justified in his own house.

Take care of the basics of your divinity, and you’ll still have time for fantasy and magic, but the experiences will be even more enjoyable, knowing that their cost is covered and you’re security and standing as a “god” is secured.

The Koan of Jake

The Koan of Jake
“Koan (Ko-an) — a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.

Origin: Japanese, literally ‘matter for public thought,’ from Chinese gongan ‘official business.’”
– Webster’s Dictionary

In Zen Buddhism we find uniquely enlightening and sometimes frustratingly elusive pronouncements by the masters called “koans.” These are teaching tools that the master might pass on to the student, that he might meditate and contemplate their meaning. Some can be humorous, some pithy and some brilliantly insightful. We’ve all heard the koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Here are a few examples of koans by Zen Masters.

“A monk told Joshu: “I have entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten?”
The Monk replied, “Yes, I have eaten.”
Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.
— The Washing Bowl Koan

A Zen student arrives at a temple and finds an audience with a Zen master. He asks the master how long it will take him to become enlightened. The master tells him, “Ten years.”

With that answer, the seeker says to the master, “If I work very hard to achieve enlightenment, how long will it take?”

The master’s response is, “Twenty years.”
— The Enlightenment Koan

“Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth.”
— The Diamond Sutra Koan
“Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

— The Cup of Tea Koan

The “Eastern Mind” is culturally acclimated to accept wisdom as it is, and to search for the meaning of a seemingly meaningless pronouncement by one seen as “holy” or “personally enlightened.” In the Jefferson Starship song, Ride the Tiger, there is a line that illustrates this point, and could easily be seen as a koan by a western “master.”

“It’s like a tear in the hands of a western man (will)
Tell you about salt, carbon and water;
But a tear to a Chinese man —
He’ll tell you about sadness and sorrow or the love of a man and a woman.”

Now, the “Western Mind” might not see the significance of a koan in the same way that those acclimated to their use as a teaching tool. This might be due in part to our over emphasis on the scientific methodology. We are taught to break it down… to see what makes it “tick,” as in our academic training in English, we are taught to diagram sentences and analyze them to minutia; to visualize how the different parts of a sentence fit together.

In this koan by John Tarrant, director of the Pacific Zen Institute, we might tend to “read western” into it, but it’s a simple and evocative koan that stands well on its own without diagramming or over analysis.

“The coin lost in the river is found in the river.”

Let it roll around in your mind for a while and see how it brings images of that shiny coin there, where it might have been for a thousand years, waiting for the lucky person, one in a thousand who have passed this way before, to notice it and pick it up. Thoughts and ideas can be like that. Every now an then, was will read something in a book of philosophy, or hear something in a song, or a few suddenly meaningful words jump out at us from the pages of a magazine, and we, like the ancient Buddhist monk, find wisdom and enlightenment. Ten thousand others might read the same book or magazine, or hear the same song, and nothing registers with them. Or they see something else entirely.

And indeed, there are times when someone does find that elusive coin in the river, but for some reason, loses it in a moment of fleeting thought, or simply tosses it aside as not worth the time or effort to continue. Perhaps their mind, like Nan-in’s guest’s is already full of ideas and speculations and he is simply not ready for the insights or wisdom that can be attained through this simple coin, carelessly lost by others.
The koans of many Eastern Zen Masters are often eloquent and erudite. The words can be flowery and flowing or as deceptively insightful as the seemingly throw-away lines of some of the great thinkers of our time. Here in the Western world, and specifically in the United States, our development is full of home-grown koans that began in the earliest days of the nation, with our founding fathers. Benjamin Franklin, for example, was known for his homespun homilies, such as:
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Fish and visitors stink after three days.”
”We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
“Well done is better than well said.”
“The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason.”

As “civilization” moved west, the wit and wisdom of the few traveled with it, and in the time following our great Civil War, a plain-spoken and humorous man named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain wrote new western koans, like:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

“Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. “
“It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”

“The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.”

From the wild west, we can see a lot of wisdom in the throw-away lines of cowboys. They come to us through the works of early writers who penned “dime novels” about life on the western plains. You could read the western drawl into the character’s voice on the page, and read the words:

“If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.”

“When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’.”

“Don’t mess with something that ain’t bothering you.”
“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back.”

“When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.”

Later, one of these western characters would come to life in the guise of a American stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator named Will Rogers. Will Rogers (1879 – 1935) was born in Oologah, Oklahoma, and was a Cherokee Citizen. He arose to be a prominent American citizen, and wrote over 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns. He had the ear of the “common man,” but was a beloved character who could walk just as easily with presidents. Some of his wisdom and wit lives on today in quotes like:

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

“It’s not what you pay a man, but what he costs you that counts.”

Typically, “American koans” of the past tend to be in the self-deprecating and introspective vein. This is often at odds with the sometimes bombastic realities of our nature in the current era. But there can be wisdom still if we learn to strip away the hyperbole to which we have become accustomed in our speech and writing. Wisdom comes in knowing that we don’t know everything, and we can learn even from those we feel are wrong.
I’m sure we’ve all employed koans of our own to enlighten and to entertain. And the wise man knows that one can only make their statement of fact as they know it, and it’s the responsibility of those who read and hear them to either accept or reject them as befits their own sensibility. Our personal influence is quite a bit less than we believe, and we would be deluding ourselves if we were so gauche as to think that we have any right to impose our personal philosophies or preferences upon others.

And so, I leave you with The Koan of Jake. Take it for what it’s worth. There’s a box of salt in the cabinet, in case you need it.

“What we too loudly declare ourselves to be, and what others have to do, we probably aren’t, and they most certainly don’t.”

Cogito Ergo Somnium (I Think Therefore I Dream)

By Jake Block

“Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
 Fantasy will set you free.”
— Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)

Cogito Ergo Sum is the postulation of Rene Descartes, translating to “I think, therefore I am.” Every philosophy student learns it from day one and it is considered the “gold standard” of philosophical self realization. This, however is a rephrasing of Descartes’ original statement in the French, “Je pense, donc je suis,” (I think, so I am), as stated in his work, Discourse on Method (1637). Descartes reasoned that even if an all-powerful demon tried to deceive him into thinking that he exists when he does not, he would have to exist in order for the demon to deceive him. Therefore, whenever he thinks, he exists. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Of course Descartes lived long before the current era when those on the left hand path would extrapolate the kernel of thought expressed in “Cogito ergo sum” to the idea of personal deification. And as we’ve learned over the past 50+ years, as Porgy sang to Bess in the American opera by George Gershwin, “It ain’t necessarily so.” We might THINK we are gods, but proving it through demonstrable superiority is another thing altogether.

I think that often disregarded as fantasy or mind manipulations, dreams are also key to man’s exaltation to godhood. One must dream to be a god. Without dreams, a god is nothing… he/she has nothing to strive for and nothing to accomplish to lay claim to superiority over the dull masses who, at the end of their lives, might as well never have lived at all.

Children have dreams. A child has dreams that allow them to fly, to have adventures and do wondrous things. They can see themselves as astronauts or cowboys, doctors or lawyers, baseball players or rockstars on the worldwide stage. They have their entire lives ahead of them and choices to be made. But all too often, they get overly involved in life at a young age, surrendering their youth and innocence to the herd… and there are many herds from which to choose. They might give up their dreams for the fairy tales they are told in church, or they can surrender them to the fairy tale of a career in sports, never realizing that of the millions of others vying for that Monday Night Football career, only a tiny fraction of those who strive ever reach the goal and the rest succumb to daydreams on the sideline where those who couldn’t make the grade are nevertheless on “the team.” And far too many answer the siren call of peer pressure to waste their vital essence in a blur of alcohol and noxious substances that dull the mind while giving the illusion of revelations as gossamer and fleeting as the sands of a time wasted, substance sotted wasteland. There are dream-killing traps at every step along our lives, and even the most well-balanced and potential-filled can find a reason to put their dreams on hold. Dreams have a way of fading away when left on the shelf.

In this world of billions, there are a few who manage the herculean feat of managing life effectively AND maintaining their dreams and goals. In the midst of serious adulthood, they can still see themselves in a less serious and less trapped way where they still feel that they can do anything, as long as they can manage to keep their “soul” from being crushed by the weight of a life surrendered to survival at any means. Through their dreams, they manage to maintain a sense of wonder and joy that marks the dreamer from one who simply sleeps. Their waking dreams are guides “from here to there,” and working becomes less of a drudgery and more of a tool to help them get to where they want to go. They see their jobs and the pay they receive as a means to get just a bit closer to the life they wish to lead, and look for ways to advance within their jobs, gaining promotions and perks to give them more time to dream and then work toward that dream.

Today, while getting gas for my road trip, I glanced over at the mini-mart and saw the Lottery sign. The Powerball game was up to $660 MILLION, and the Mega Millions game was sitting at about $350 MILLION…all tolled, over ONE BILLION DOLLARS for the cost of a ticket. Now, we all know that the chances of winning are slim. I think the odds of winning the jackpot are roughly equivalent to being struck by lightning twelve times while skinny dipping in a vat of chocolate. But SOMEBODY wins. If somebody wins, why can’t it be ME? Why can’t it be YOU? Better us than the guy we’ve all seen on TV who does win, and says, “It won’t change me none, and I’m still going to be on the job Monday at Joe’s Bait Shop.” He’s apparently living his dream, such as it it. You can bet your ass that I have dreams on a far grander scale!

Now, I’m not saying to live in dreams and let your waking life go to hell, but consciously strive to dream of something better. When I was a kid on the streets of East St. Louis, IL, there were times when I saw no way out of that hell hole, but I had dreams that one day I would leave that place far behind and travel, and have a good job, and a nice car and a woman by my side and money in my pocket. I worked my way out of the hole I was in, and as things got better in my life, I maintained my dreams, tweaking them as reality either provided them through my efforts, or kept them from me when I wasn’t YET up to the task of attaining and maintaining them. It was a long time, coming, but eventually I got everything I dreamed of, and more. And as a bonus, I got them while I was still young enough to enjoy those dreams of a broke kid on the streets, come to fruition.

And you know what, I’m still dreaming. Against all odds, I have two tickets in my hand for this week’s lottery drawings. I’ll be waiting for the lightning to strike… but I’ll never stop dreaming! Cogito ergo somnium.

It May Be Life, But Is It Living?

by Jake Block

I got my “wellness check” this week, when I went to the doctor for a horribly wrenched shoulder that I have been fighting with for the past month. We all get them when you’re old enough for Medicare, so I sat in my doctor’s office in the blue smock of shame, a nurse checking out my feet, answering the “100 question assessment,” and going over my list of medications in preparation for Dr. C to come through the door.

So, all in all, I’m as well as you could expect an almost 69 year old man with arthritis and polycythemia to be. And after being put into shoulder holds that reminded me of the pretzel twists used by the late wrestler The Iron Sheik, getting two shots into the joint of my shoulder, and getting my shirt back on, Dr. C had me come into his office, where he sat at his desk and opened up my file. He leaned back in his leather chair, as he touched a button on his CD player. Humble Pie. Always a good choice. 30 Days In The Hole. His desk is full of files, a few “toys” and on the wall, diplomas and family pictures, and one of my infrared photos of Reelfoot Lake hung on the wall to his left.
He withdrew my “Living Will” from beneath the red sheet of paper and glanced through it. He looked up from his desk and asked, “Any changes?” Now, my “living will” is pretty simple. If I go into surgery and die on the table, I have a standing DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), unless he could guarantee my Power of Attorney, with 95% certainty, that reviving me would not leave me dependent on tubes, wires and technology to live. End of story. I assured him that it was good, and he asked if my wife would want to review it.

Now she and I have been on the same page regarding our end of life agreements for many years. I know what she wants, and she knows what I want. Neither of us is so in love with life that we would agree to spend any time in a limbo between life and death, supported my machines, or drugged to the margins of life. And we have both lived a good, long life with some pretty great highs and a few trips to the abyss that were traumatic, but learning experiences, in the long run. As my father used to say, “Live hard, die young, and leave a good looking corpse.” He was a mortician, so if anyone should “get it,” it would be him.

There are some that would quote Dylan Thomas’ (1914-1953) poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” For those who don’t know it:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Yes, there are those who, no matter what the pain or ignobility survivability might demand, would beg the doctor for just one more wire, one more tube… one more cut of the scalpel to keep the blood flowing, the breath circulating… keeping them “alive.” I can, on some level, appreciate their desire to survive at all costs, but I reserve the right to disagree, at least as far as my personal life is concerned.

I, for one could not be so self-centered and egotistical that my waning life should take precedence of those around me, when the intervention of medical technology might buy me a scant few months or perhaps a year of “life,” hooked up to machines that, in sustaining my life, can drain the emotional and financial vibrancy of my loved ones. So, when I spoke with Dr. C, who was not only my physician, but my friend, he understood where I was coming from. He knew that there were many situations where he could keep me alive with technology and his medical skills, but knowing me, he understood that for a man like me, just being alive wasn’t necessarily “LIFE.”

We all must, at last, come to grips with our own mortality for certain, but to do that, we must examine our existence on this earthly plane and what we require to make it worth staying. For me, I would have to be viable as a man, and able to function in a self-sufficient way, be able to exercise my creative side with my photography, my intellectual side with my writing, and my erotic side as well, to provide the emotional support that my partner requires with me. Now certainly, as we age, these facets of our lives require some modifications based on our physical attributes. Much as we would like to think that we can be the men and women that we were in our teens, twenties and thirties, reality eventually shows us the weakness of our personal equations. Or, as the immortal Dale Grabowski, explainer of things, once told me, “You may not be as good as you once was, but you can be as good once as you ever was.”

So sure, hang on to life and drain every drop of personal enjoyment and pleasure that you can until your cup is empty, but then, realize that we all must at one point lay down the sword and shield, because like it or not, age is the one battle you will not win in the end. Many fear death, but I am not one who does. It’s simply another damned thing you’ve got to do. I still have time to rage against the dying of the light, but when the sunset comes, it won’t find me cowering and begging to stay.

I remember one day when I was undergoing phlebotomy for the second time in the same week, and lamenting the nurse ripping through my flesh, shoving a sharp 16 gauge needle into my vein, trying to draw off a pint of the thick sludge that was my blood. I’d just been diagnosed with a fairly rare condition called polycythemia, in which, for some reason, your body begins to make way too many red blood cells, increasing the amount and thickness of your body’s blood. Like forcing more and more water into a balloon, unless the excess is drawn off, the results are always less than good. Ultimately, the condition causes clotting and stroke, or internal gangrene, or other less than pleasant and ultimately deadly conditions.

In the chair next to me was a older gentleman, a man in his late 60s, who was hooked up to a machine and three separate bags of chemicals… chemotherapy… attempting to stave off the inevitable ravages of a particularly aggressive cancer. The cancer, at this point was winning, but he fought on vowing to reach the goal of seeing the birth of his grandchild. He told me, “My goal used to be living to see 100, but then it became 75, then 70.” Now it was the birth of his grandchild, but by the time he was finished with this four hour procedure, he laughed and said, “bedtime. I know I can make it until then!”

His lips moved from time to time as he sat there, shivering under his blanket and trying to concentrate on the group TV playing in the cancer center’s treatment room. I asked, “praying?” He looked at me, kind of sideways and tired, and said, “No, I don’t pray anymore. I think about the poem “Invictus” by William Ernst Henley (1849 -1903). When I get sick from the chemo, it helps to take my mind off of the nausea.”

I told him that I wasn’t familiar with the poem, and he smiled wanly, eyes closed, and quoted:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

I sat there, watching my thick, dark blood oozing into the bag marked BIO-HAZARDOUS WASTE. I said, “Good words. Glad they help.” Then we chatted for a few moments and he drifted off to sleep. He was still sleeping when I left, once my treatment was complete. On my way out, I remember touching him on the shoulder and whispering, “Beat that bitch, man.” I learned that he indeed made it to bedtime, but died before the birth of his grandchild, a boy, they named after him.

I’m still kicking, a few years after then, and that big-ass needle isn’t nearly as hard to take as it used to be, and thanks to the doctors and nurses there at the Cancer Center, I’m enjoying the condition “in remission.” I’m thankful for the small doses of humility that being in the company of people who were fighting their losing battles with dignity, offered me. They’ve given me insights into my own life and outlook on death I’ve found enlightening and supportive in times less pleasant.

Death is inevitable, but we choose how to face it. It’s a bitch we’ll eventually lose to, but while we may end up broken, we sure as hell don’t have to be defeated. I sometimes think of the words of Invictus, but also those of Death Be not Proud by the poet John Donne (1572 – 1631):

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

We’re living, so we live, and we alone should be able to choose the manner and time of our passing, when we can. We may not inevitably be able to “beat that bitch,” but however we decide to leave the ring is our own choice. We have no one to impress but ourselves.

Attitude and Altitude

by Jake Block

I’ve lived long enough to know, and have screwed up enough to confirm, that your attitude has at least as much, if not more to do with how far you will go in life as skill. I’ve seen instance upon instance of circumstances where people who were brilliant in their jobs, with the potential of rising to the top of their field failing miserably because of their attitudes. They are so caught up in their own sense of self that they make the fatal error in thinking that “this company would be nothing without ME.” Soon, the rules don’t apply to THEM, and they become arrogant, thinking that they are in control. They push, when cooperation would serve them better, demand when requesting will get them what they need, and they’re always taken aback when they get that Friday afternoon appointment with the corporate boss who thanks them for their service, tells them to clean out their desk by the end of day, and are escorted by security out the door.

They were good… they were productive… but they became a disruptive element in the corporate structure and corporations don’t do well with loose cannons. Like the weapons for which they were named, unless adequately harnessed and controlled, they can careen across the deck, leaving havoc and destruction in their path. Sometimes, when a weapon is too bulky or powerful to be restrained, it’s better to just shove them off the deck to sink of their own weight into the sea. Human “loose cannons” too must sometimes be let go, for they fail to remember the “corporate golden rule.” Simply stated, it’s “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Failure to follow the rules or simply “fit in with the corporate culture” can and will get you fired.

“A bad attitude from a chronic complaining employee is like a cancer; it will only spread and infect others. This can take your business down in a nanosecond. You must cut out the cancer and invite them to seek employment elsewhere. Quickly.”
— Beth Ramsay

In the military, we called it “affected attitude.” A display of bad attitude could result in loss of your days off for 30 days. If that didn’t change your attitude, then an Article 15 (Non-judicial punishment) could put you in the slammer for a “short tour” of 30 days and/or take a substantial portion of your pay away and even a reduction in rank. If THAT didn’t work, you could be discharged with a Bad Conduct Discharge, which is bad, but if your behavior was bad enough, a Dishonorable Discharge, with harsh penalties that can follow you for a lifetime.

Those with a bad attitude seldom rise though the levels of employment to positions of authority and trust. You might be the best thing since sliced bread, but the employer (or person in charge) has to ask themselves if keeping you around is worth the aggravation that you cause. Part of that is simply that they don’t NEED the aggravation, and part of it is, in part, purely financial. If you are a recently hired person, do they want to put up with your bad attitude as you become more involved in the workings of the company and, inevitably, quit the company in a fit of pique, taking the knowledge that you have gained with you to benefit the competition? And if you have already “risen through the ranks” and have attained corporate skills, is it more cost effective to keep you and your disruptive attitude around, or would it be better to let you go and hire on someone to train at a much lower pay rate, saving money and getting rid of an irritant at the same time.

In my military and civilian careers, I have dealt with the problem of bad attitudes several times and, after attempting to get their attention through counseling and remedial training without success, found that it was both operationally and financially most efficient to send the bad actors on their way. “Thank you for playing, please pick up your lovely parting gift as you leave the building.” I could tell you I felt badly… but I didn’t, because the needs of the group and its success always come first. I would much rather send the bad actors packing than allow their bad attitudes to lead to disruption.

Conversely, those who displayed a good attitude, kept their noses clean and enhanced the group’s efficiency and productivity found me most willing to help them succeed in any way possible, with promotions and pay raises commensurate with their contributions to the group. It wasn’t altruism, and it wasn’t because I’m just a good guy. In being a team player and not “making waves,” their efforts and enhanced production made me look good to my superiors, resulting in promotions and pay raises. My attitude played into my advancements as well, because in well organized and maintained corporate cultures, while it does occur, managers with bad attitudes are often worse for the company’s bottom line than the bad actors in the workforce.

While there are some people who wear their bad attitude like a badge of honor, and find it a ready made excuse for their failures in life, most people find it a detriment to their success and satisfaction and work hard at changing it. Overcoming a bad attitude is a process that requires work, personal effort and admitting to oneself that their attitude is a significant impediment to success. Most often, one has to learn to curb one’s impulse to negativity, sarcastic response, and vengeance for every perceived sleight. Until one gets those traits under control, they will remain a disruptive element, doomed to eventual failure.

There are people for whom a bad attitude is a badge of honor. “Macht nichts” to me. And from the viewpoint of an employer, they don’t really care either, because in the long run, it’s the business and the bottom line that matters. They aren’t going to employ someone who is simply unwilling to work harmoniously with others and the public. In my experience, the person who most considers their bad attitude an asset is the person who will complain the loudest when that bad attitude costs them their job.

War of the Worlds

by Jake Block

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

I was talking with a friend one evening about the “close approach” of Mars recently, and he remarked that he’d always liked looking at Mars in the night sky with his Celestron telescope, and that as a kid, he remembered the original 1953 movie War of the Worlds, staring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, with the fantastic Martian war machines rising from the crater, spewing death rays, impervious to our most devastating weapons, inside their protective bubbles. The Martians themselves were weird little creatures with their “trinary” eyes and suction cup fingers.

As we talked, I thought about T.S. Eliot’s quote about exploration, and remembering what we have since come to know about Mars and the possibilities of life on that cold and barren planet, it occurred to me that maybe… just maybe… if we ever did go to war with Mars, we might actually be going to war with the descendants of our own species. Fantastic as the idea might seem, we need only look to our own planet to see that it’s not only possible, but probable, given our nature as borne out in human history.

Consider. Mankind has spread across the planet since its earliest beginnings, possibly in the equatorial regions of what would one day be called “Africa.” Along the way, tribal units began to settle in various areas along the path of migration, perhaps finding the hunting sufficient to sustain them, or perhaps because they were too weak to travel further. Others of the original group moved on and settled further along their journey, small groups at a time. Meanwhile our original group began to breed and grow larger, necessitating further colonizations within their area, finding new resources and new opportunities for hunting and gathering and, later, the growing and harvesting of crops for sustenance and trade. Still later, a portion of those groups began to form militias to protect the individual towns against other groups. And eventually, the individual cities became co-ops and then regions, and finally a nation, with trading and agriculture and an army to protect it all.

So it was with the others who had continued their exploration until they to developed along the same lines, and built their own cultural identity. Then came trade amongst these emergent nations, and, so long as the bargains were equitable, harmony reigned.

Eventually, one side or the other developed “greed.” And they wanted more than their fair share from any bargain, and eventually decided that bargaining itself was a waste of time, so they sent their army to take what they wanted. Crops, treasure, slaves… all could be taken at the cost of blood, and the nation most determined took the spoils of war. Once independent nations became vassal states under control of the victorious. Laws were passed to control the conquered, and they served under threat of violence and death. So it went on, age upon age, eon upon eon, until today, where stand almost 200 countries, armed to the teeth, more or less at odds with one another. And even though they spring from the same seed, thousands of years of separate acculturation makes them think and react differently, and assume that they each have “right” on their side.

So now, here we are, on the cusp of change from planetary culture to becoming interplanetary in scope. And Mars is first in sight as our most likely and most accessible off-earth colony. To be sure, our sons and daughters will rely on their earthly origins to survive and to obtain everything they will need to develop any kind of self sufficiency, but given time, skill and a great deal of luck, Mars will eventually be peopled by those who will at last, view themselves not as “Earthers,” but as Martians, having never seen their ancestral home. They’ll form their own government(s) and laws to protect their property, rights and culture. They’ll look to their flag and honor their own sovereignty.

They will develop agriculture, and they will mine the wealth of their planet for raw materials for growth and trade. There will undoubtedly be trade, much as there was between Europe and the “new world,” and expected allegiances between the “home planet” and the new Mars colony. One can predict, without much effort or fear of failure, that the new Martians will eventually come to resent any element of control that those on Earth might demand, and reject demands to comply, or taxation from control some 34 million miles distant.

Then will come a time when the the old will issue a challenge to the new. Comply or face consequences. Honor your origins or be brought under control. Tariff wars will begin to strain relationships, and diplomacy will fail. Eventually, as it always happens, one of the upstart Martians will say “NO” to demand and claim independence from the Earth and its control. Mars for Martians. The demand to disarm, met by the words of Spartans… “Molon Labe” — “come and take them.”

And we all know where things go from there.

To quote the immortal Pogo (old American comic strip), “We have met the enemy, and he is US.”

The Future Is Not For The Faint of Heart

by Jake Block

In the 1964 movie The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (based on the book The Circus of Dr. Lao, by Charles G. Finney), staring Tony Randall, the Mysterious Dr. Lao comes to Abalone, Arizona, bringing his circus and sideshow with him. In one of the carnival tents, we find the town spinster, Mrs. Cassin having her fortune told by the ancient Apollonius of Tyana.

“Apollonius of Tyana: Tomorrow will be like today, and the day after tomorrow will be like the day before yesterday. I see your remaining days as a tedious collection of hours full of useless vanities. You will think no new thoughts. You will forget what little you have known. Older you will become, but not wiser. Stiffer, but not more dignified. Childless you are, and childless you will remain. Of that suppleness you once commanded in your youth, of that strange simplicity which once attracted men to you, neither endures, nor shall you recapture them.

Mrs. Cassin: You’re a mean, ugly man!

Apollonius of Tyana: Mirrors are often ugly and mean. When you die, you will be buried and forgotten, and that is all. And for all the good or evil, creation or destruction, your living might have accomplished, you might just as well never have lived at all. I’m sorry, but you see, it is my curse to tell the absolute truth.”

It’s a pretty well known fact that a large segment of humanity is obsessed with the future and spend a lot of time and money in trying to determine what their future will be as seen in the cards, crystals, tossed bones or even the palms of their own hands. While many would think that only the gullible or addled might be on the phone to their psychic for advice, the clientele can be anything from the lonely woman looking for love to politicians, scientists, business people and beyond. Some great minds have looked to the psychic services for answers. Among them were Sir Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein and Carl Jung.

Colonel Harlan Sanders, the Kentucky Fried Chicken mogul routinely invited his psychic to the corporate board meetings to offer insights. Nancy Reagan, wife of the 40th President of the United States was known to consult psychics and to pass on their advice to her husband. Presidents who themselves were known to have sought the advice of psychics are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been said to have used psychics… if I were them, I would ask for a refund!

Across the pond, Queen Elizabeth I consulted psychics, as did Napoleon III. Princess Diana was fond of astrologers and psychics. Prime Minister Tony Blair regularly consulted with spiritual advisors and psychics.

Hollywood and show business stars? Brad Pitt, Patrick Swayze, Angelina Jolie, Denise Richards, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore, Kenny Rogers, William Shatner, Regis Philbin, Suzanne Sommers, Ed McMahon, David Hasselhoff, Dick Clark, Ashton Kutcher, Liza Minelli, Madonna, Taylor Swift, Linda Evans, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez, have been clients.

Billionaire J.P. Morgan once said, “Millionaires don’t have astrologers; billionaires do.” Andrew Carnegie was only a millionaire (340 million) and he had a live in psychic on his estate.

Billions is where it’s at, according to the IBISWorld Report. Established in 1971, IBISWorld provides fully researched, dependable and up-to-date industry intelligence and statistical analysis. They wrote: “One curious US industry has been growing along with the rest of the country’s economy: psychic services.” While psychics’ business got hit by the recession, the industry been expanding steadily since 2010. They noted that “those in the industry — including people involved in palmistry, cartomancy, mediumship, aura readings and astrology — have about $2 billion in revenue a year. Roughly 85,000 people work in psychic services and make about $1.5 billion in total wages a year.” They also note that there has been as steady growth of +/- 2.2% per year.

So many people want to know the future and, as we can see by the statistics on “psychic services,” they’re willing to go to some extraordinary lengths to see that future in advance. Believe in the idea of clairvoyance, or write it off as some one who is highly intuitive and able to extrapolate possible outcomes from the facts provided, there’s little doubt that there are millions of people who, in the absence of a “scientific” method, will choose (and it’s their right to choose and to believe) an option not available elsewhere. If the advice they receive through the counsel of “psychics,” or “life coaches,” if you will , satisfies them, it’s their money… their time. If not, then they will vote with their wallet not to patronize the provider of that service. They might find another provider or they could try another option to find the answers they seek.

It’s not such a far fetched notion… humans being able to foretell the future. Businesses and governments pay “big bucks” for people who do just that. They’re called “futurists,” and their mission is to take what information they are able to glean on trends and possibilities, based on current policies, and see where they think that things will go in the future. Stock trends, consumer trends, government trends, fashion trends, cultural shift; all these fall within the purview of the futurist. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong, but If the advice they receive through the counsel of “futurists” or “trend analysts,” if you will, satisfies them, it’s their money… their time. If not, then they will vote with their wallet not to patronize the provider of that service. They might find another provider or they could try another option to find the answers they seek.

Now, I’m not arrogant enough to say that I know all of the answers to to what is in the future, nor am I closed minded enough to say that all “psychics and life coaches” are simply charlatans plying their trade to the gullible and easily conned. The reason is that I have seen people who can indeed intuit very possible outcomes from information given and be successful at “X” level of accuracy. Sure, it could be “dumb luck.” But they’re advice is acceptable enough to those who seek their counsel that they manage to stay in business for decades. Could it be that they do, on a human basis, what computers do… work on a “go-no go” set of options? Could it be that some people actually do have an ability to tap into areas of their brain that allow them to intuit with a greater degree of accuracy? And certainly, they do make mistakes… errors in judgement or extrapolative logic. But then, so too do computers, from the basic desk PC to supercomputers, hence the computer age adage, “garbage in, garbage out.”

We have computer labs… basic to advanced… in which the operation and capabilities of computers are dispassionately analyzed in a systematic way, without preconception. Computers fail… and those failures are analyzed and cataloged. Computers succeed, and those successes are researched, codified and tested again for replication. Scientific methodology works for such things, as data collected can be analyzed and accepted or rejected based on numbers that can be tested. The human mind, a bio-electric machine might be tested as well, through brain scans and the tracking of brain wave activities in those who seem to possess an elevated level of intuition. Perhaps with a longitudinal study of the minds of “futurists, psychics, etc.,” we might finally come to some logical consensus as to the efficacy of mind-based predictability.

We can see that “science” mimics and in some cases improves upon the traditional and even ancient methodologies of divining the future. But the need is still there. People want to know for a variety of reasons, some personal and some professional, some for monetary gain and some for enhancement of the “soul.” Tarot cards become logarithmic chains, crystal balls become binary sequences, and sheer intuition becomes “dead reckoning” and clinical trial. In the end, “as above, so below,” it all boils down to guesswork, and as we learned in the military, there are “guesses,” and “wild ass guesses.” It’s a gamble, either in low or high tech, but the wise man learns that the final determination of acceptability remains in the personal domain. In a brave new world where the mind and machine can both both be used as precognitive tools, only time can truly tell the future, and its impact on us all.

Busted Flush

by Jake Block

Like Kenny Rogers once told us, “Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser.” That might be true, as we know that Doyle Brunson, known as Texas Dolly on the professional poker circuit, once won a massive pot and his second World Championship of Poker bracelet with what is considered to be one of the worst initial two card draws in the game of Texas Hold ‘em. Most gamblers, being dealt a 10 and a 2, would toss the hand and just take the loss and try again with the next hand. Brunson “gutted it out” and played, not knowing that his chief opponent, Gary Berland had received a 10 and a 5.

At “the flop” (3 community cards dealt by the dealer) they had 10-8-5 to work with. Brunson was holding the losing hand with one pair, versus Berland’s higher hand of two pair, 10s and 5s. There were two more cards yet to see, and Brunson stuck with his hand as the “turn card,” a 2, gave him two pair…then “the river” card came into play and the dealer eased another 10 into the line of community cards, giving Brunson two pair. Berland immediately called “ALL IN,” (betting all of his chips) assuming he had won the hand, not knowing that the 10 card had given Brunson a full house, the winning hand. Brunson called Berland’s all in bet and won the World Championship of Poker with what had initially appeared to be a losing hand. His gutsy move netted him a cool $2,808,945.

Amazingly, it was the same hand with which he had won the World Championship of poker the year before. To this day, when one is dealt an initial 10 and 2, it’s known as the Doyle Brunson hand.

Most people don’t have that kind of luck and experience, nor do they have the innate skills that Doyle Brunson possesses, and probably not the financial wherewithal to make this “just another day at the office.”

“Everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no one is consistently lucky.” — Doyle Brunson

I’m not a world class card player, but I can hold my own. So I ante’d up and took my chances, there at the red-covered table. The cards came down in front of me in Spades. Seven, Four, Three, King and… Five of Hearts. Not even a Doyle Brunson hand, but a “Busted Flush.” It looks good in your hand, but really does nobody much good. Money down the hole, with nothing left to do but fold the hand or bluff.

A busted flush can cost you a lot of money if you’re playing poker in Vegas, and only the ballsiest of players will try to bluff it out with an all in bid. The dramatic showdown that’s been the money shot of gambling themed movies (has he got it?) seldom happens in real life, because professional gamblers are keen money managers and odds players, and their viability in the game is dependent on making good, strong bets and not throwing money at “turkeys” just to make a point.

A busted flush can also be applied to person, organization, or thing that at one time held great potential or influence but that ultimately ended up a failure. A start-up company that promised investors big returns, or an individual who talked a good game, but failed at every practical application where success was expected, or someone who surrenders their successful life to become addicted to alcohol or drugs can be seen as a busted flush. Quite simply, in human terms, a busted flush is someone that has not, despite potentials, fulfilled expectations; a failure.

We all know people to whom this term might well apply. They’re common in business, in the military, and in pretty much every endeavor in which skills, knowledge and common sense are prerequisites for success. And yes, you can and will find busted flushes traveling the Left Hand Path. Most often you can tell them by the “vehicle they drive”… all flash with little real power under the hood. Tooting their horn at every opportunity and desperately trying to get others to climb in and take a ride with them. It might be an interesting ride for a while, but sooner or later, they wind up running out of gas, and you realize you would have been better off on your own or taking a bus.

Now, many of these people have potential in whatever life-path they choose. And there’s no shame in folding the cards if you’ve been dealt a losing hand. It’s part of the game according to Hoyle. But too many want to win at all costs, chasing the final spade, even if they are 99% certain that it’s in someone else’s hand, and they are never going to get it. They’ll ask people with the least investment in their life to stake them to “just one more hand,” promising big returns, but some people are just unlucky, and some are unskilled, and some just throw even the viable hands away. They live their lives in wretched desperation, square pegs in round holes, when with a little effort, a little knowledge, a little reinvention and a little luck, the might just make it big and then go all in, and with a Royal Flush, at that!

Small Miracles of Discovery

by Jake Block

Today, I had a contractor over to my home to get his advice and a quote on some work I wanted to have done. It was about lunch time, and I was munching on a sandwich with a glass of ice cold milk. He smiled and asked, “What’s for lunch.”

I mumbled, “PB&J,” and he asked, “PB&J… what’s that?”

I almost dropped my glass of milk and must have stared at him like he was from Mars. This was a man in his late 40s or early 50s, looking at my sandwich as if he had never seen one before. That look continued after I had explained that “PB&J” was just peanut butter and jelly. I took a sip of milk, put my sandwich down and asked, “You’ve never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” He said, “No sir… never heard of it.”

I said, “You poor, deprived child,” and had him sit down at the table in my dining room. I went into the kitchen and grabbed a loaf of bread, a paper plate, a jar of peanut butter (extra crunchy… I knew it might send him into shock, but it was worth it), some concord grape jelly, a glass and a quart of milk, then brought them to the table and sat down. He stare intently as I took out two slices of bread, then slathered on a thick layer of peanut butter, a glob of jelly spread over that, and then the top piece of bread. Then I poured a tall glass of milk, topping mine off as I did. I slid the plate with the sandwich in front of him and said, “PB&J… that’s it.”

He picked up the sandwich, sniffed it and said, “Here goes,” then took a bite. After a few seconds, a smile crept across his face, and he took another bite. Then a swallow of milk. Within a minute, he was munching on the last of the sandwich, which he washed down with the rest of his milk. “Damn,” he said, “That was GOOD. Where has that been all of my life?”

I smiled and told him to help himself, so he made another sandwich, had another glass of milk, and then we discussed the project. He took his measurements, some notes, and then said, “I’ll email you a quote later today. I need to go to the store and get the stuff and then I’m going to go home and make one of these for my wife… maybe with strawberry jelly she likes strawberries!” He left my house with a big smile on his face and enlightenment that he’d waited nearly 50 years to attain.

Every now and then, we’ll see someone post something on the web regarding something new that they have found in Satanism, some area of metaphysics, or “the occult,” and someone will belittle it, saying, “DUH! I mean, that’s common knowledge. Get a clue.” And it might be, for those of us who have been “at this” for decades, but for someone young, or even someone with some age on them who’s just begun their journey on the Left Hand Path, concepts that might seem simple and rudimentary to us, might affect them profoundly.

Like me, you might find peanut butter and jelly just PB&J, after all these years, but try to remember when, in your youth, you tasted it for the very first time.

The Master Complicator

by Jake Block

The “Master Complicator” is the thing, and it could be anything in your life, that intrudes into all other things and situations, demanding to be addressed before one can continue along the emotional or psychological path that one is on. One could see this as either a prime motivator or a prime inhibitor; the ultimate enhancement or the ultimate detraction. One could see this as the result of an addiction, in which one must consider the satisfaction of that addiction before they can hope for any semblance of balance in their every day life.

Love can be a Master Complicator in the lives of most people, especially if it develops into a dependency as strong as any addiction, that becomes unhealthy in it’s intrusiveness.

Lust can be a Master Complicator in that it can become obsession and “muddle the mind” when dealing with pretty much all other aspects of one’s life. Obsession and compulsion go hand in hand and easily take over one’s mind and body connection to deal with lust. If you have ever been obsessed with a man or woman and spent most of your day pining over them and wanting them, you’ll understand.

Money can be a Master Complicator, either in a positive or negative way, because one’s want or need of money can become an obsession that can be even stronger in some people than love or lust! It you have money, more can always help you to be more self sufficient and bring to you the “good things in life.” If you don’t have money, you have to work your ass off to get it, or continually placate your flagging ego with rationalities that tell you there’s nobility or honor in being poor.

Pride can be a Master Complicator, and again, in a positive of negative way, and we all have our share of it… and in many cases, and abundance of it. Pride can lead you to do great things for yourself and your family, your community and nation. Pride can make you look like a fool when you are unwilling to realize that always being right, even when you are wrong, is a sure sign of an individual with low self esteem. That’s when counterproductive pride adds insult to injury, and you fail to accept failures (and we all have them,) and learn.

Anger can be a Master Complicator, especially when it is one’s default state. The person with the well practiced and permanently applied “resting bitch face” earns their reputation as someone who would simply keep everyone at an arm’s length, or greater. It’s not that they don’t want to be friendly, but that takes effort in putting your heart and ego on the line, and these people would rather appear untouchable than take the chance that their pride can be challenged or their heart can be broken.

How does one limit the effectiveness of any master complicator that might be affecting their life at any given point in time? The most simple way is to develop an attitude of “Never sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff.” — Richard Carlson, Ph.D. It’s the little stuff in life that will drive you crazy, send you into a rage, and make you lose perspective, especially when, as we all see from time to time, it seems like the universe is targeting us personally. We feel like there’s someone out there with a cosmic voodoo doll that has our likeness, and it keeps jamming those painfully irritating needles into our ass. Complication after complication after complication and we soon begin to feel like that is the normality of our lives. We forget the good times in an onslaught of temporary insults. Anyone who has had to navigate their car through a major city using a Garmin GPS system will surely understand!

I recently used one in Kansas City. I punched in where I wanted to go… just across town… and it routed me “over hill and over dale,” and every goddamned dusty trail until it deposited my ass in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, 35 miles away. It became a comedy of errors, and, if I had been carrying my gun at that point, I would surely have blown that irritating little piece of crap to hell on the side of the road. At that moment, when it had me in a rage, being subjected to insult after insult of misdirection, I forgot about the loving and caring lady beside me, who tried to bring me back into focus, even though I had let that Master Complicator of rage find its way out of the bottle, and there was no recorking it until we arrived, safely at our intended destination. Clearly, I need to work on that.

And that’s the point. We ALL have those Master Complicators in our life that we succumb to on occasion. The monkey wrench in the gears of our “wa,” as the Japanese call it… our “harmony.” When our sense of harmony is shattered, it can be very difficult for us to concentrate on anything else. The problem is, unless one remains in a constantly stoic state, sublimating all emotion and all reaction, there’s not much we can do to eliminate stressors and complicators from interfering in our lives. In my case, that loving and caring woman by my side HELPS, but in helping me, she then becomes part of the dissonance, which then invites another complicator, that of shame into the mix. No one wants to force their “baggage” to be carried by someone they care for.

Knowing one’s triggers can assist one in limiting the influence of Master Complicators in their lives, but is there any practical way of eliminating them without becoming a desensitized, unemotional and pretty much unhappy individual? I think not. Perhaps the key is in knowing what one’s Master Complicators are, mitigating their effects when one can, and realizing that they are a temporary distraction from an overall good life. If we can learn to roll with the punches and move on, we can once again find our sense of “wa” and return to harmony in our lives.

And don’t kill the Garmin.

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The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God

The Order of Pan
The Order of Cernunnos
The Order of Prometheus
The Order of Dionysis
The Order of Shiva