I got an email from one of the elders, not quite as elder as I, but still, long in the tooth and possessed of that glassy-eyed “1000 yard stare” of one who’s been there and done that. He wrote that he just wanted to vent because he had just been in a thread where someone with bright eyes and an undeserved swagger had lectured him on some subject that he had just read about on a web page somewhere… boils down to Satanism 101… and that the youngun had told my friend that “you old people just don’t get it.”
Prefaced with a “LOL,” the old timer assured the kid that not only did he understand it, but he had indeed written the paragraph that had fired the youngun up. I explained to him that it has happened to me as well, and that I understood how he felt. Quite often, when it happens, oldsters like us can be tempted to snap back with something like, “Looky here sonny or missy, I’ve forgotten more about that subject than you are likely to learn in a lifetime.” Most of what people write on the web is something that has been written and plagiarized over and over before, but to someone, somewhere, out there, it’s all new.
In his song “A Pirate Looks At Forty,” Jimmy Buffett sings:
“Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late.”
For my magician friend and I, we’re looking at seventy, and I can understand how those who are relatively new on the Left Hand Path can possibly get the idea that maybe we just don’t “get it,” but get it we do, and probably have for a long, long time, so forgive us if we sometimes seem less enthusiastic than those sitting there with their pdfs or even their fresh, new paperbacks of books we bought in hard back decades ago… books now worn with age and use, with dog-eared pages and pages tinged yellow with age. It’s not that we don’t appreciate your enthusiasm, even if we might have a little doubt at your presumed expertise in your advanced age. We’re willing to give you the enthusiasm of youth, because you know, at one time, we had it too. But do us a favor and realize that just because we are so much older, we’re most probably not the doddering old farts you imagine, sitting there behind your screen.
I’ll give a shout out here to a well respected musician, humorist and master magician, Lon Milo DuQuette and refer you to his song, Don’t Write Me Off. Those with ears to hear and minds to understand might find wisdom in his little ditty…
by Jake Block
I was talking to a man the other day, and he told me that he’d really like to go see a Jackyl concert, but his wife told him that he couldn’t go.
I looked at him like he was from Mars and asked, “She told you that you couldn’t go to a concert?” “Yeah, Jake,” he said. “She doesn’t want me to go to concerts. She won’t let me do a lot of things, and you know what they say; happy wife, happy life.”
Now, I’ve heard the saying before, and while it makes some sense, because we would all like our wives (or husbands) to be happy, I have this problem with someone telling me “I CAN’T,” because I’m a grown-assed man. You MIGHT request that I don’t do something, and I MIGHT take your concerns under consideration. Perhaps there’s something that I have a previous commitment to… perhaps there’s a more pressing need for the money I would expend… maybe locusts or vampire bats are scheduled to ravage the town… you might remind me that I really don’t care much for Jackyl. But “I CAN’T” just ain’t gonna cut it. If I’m “paying the freight,” that goes double.
There are things I shouldn’t do. I know that and I understand that. But in my life, it’s up to me if I am going to accept my limitations or go against “what I ought to do,” in favor of “what I WANT to do,” so long as it isn’t hurting anyone else, taking food off of their plate, or money out of their pocket. If I WANT a new piece of camera equipment, and I have the money to pay for it without severely impacting the financial state of my household, I’ll buy it. If I want to go to the casino for a day’s recreation at the blackjack table, and I don’t have anything on my schedule that I should be home to take care of, then you can leave a message for me on my answering machine, because I won’t have a phone on me when the dealer’s asking me if I want another card. If I’m in the mood for sex, and the lady in my life tells me I’m cut off because I did A,B or C, and she felt I should be punished, well… the door is that large, upright slab with a knob on it. Walk through it.
You don’t get to tell me what I can eat or drink unless you’re paying for my dinner and it was part of the agreement for me being there, and if that was a prerequisite for me having dinner with you in the first place, I would rather eat alone at McDonald’s.
You don’t get to tell me where I can stay when I’m traveling. There are times I might travel on the cheap, but mostly I stay in 3-4 star hotels. My dime… I spend it as I see fit. Now if YOU are paying for my room, I might accept a two star hotel IF you’re paying for meals too.
You don’t get to tell me what I can do with my talents. A fellow photographer was once engaged to a woman who told him, “and after we get married there will be no more nude photography.” She lives somewhere in Ohio now, I think. Probably married to someone who never has an opportunity to come into contact with women. My photographer friend is thriving in San Francisco and shoots who and whatever the hell he wants.
I spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars learning my craft as a photographer and if I am freelancing, I will decide what, where and whom I will shoot. If I want a boss, I will take a job, and then he or she can decide what I shoot… during the hours they’re paying me! I don’t think anyone, anywhere could pay me what I would want to be paid for that kind of artistic and intellectual confinement. So, I’ll shoot what inspires me, or is enjoyable, vs what anyone else feels is a proper photographic subject. Jake’s rules of photography are no kids, no shake and take (awards ceremonies), no wedding or family party shots. If that doesn’t match up with someone else’s desires, I suppose it’s a sad state of affairs… for them. My art comes first when I am inspired to work with it.
We all have times when someone feels that they should have the right to restrict us, not for cause, but “just because.” Most often, they would never accept the roles to be reversed, and if you tried, you would surely be accused of abusing their friendship or trust. LaVey once famously opined, “It’s too bad that stupidity isn’t painful.” It’s hard to disagree. But it’s also hard to disagree that if you give up your personal freedom of thought and actions to someone else who you otherwise want in your life, you have to be willing to accept responsibility for a good deal of the pain you feel as a result.
Now, this is not to say that you should, as a rule of thumb, reject the advice or informational input of others. Sometimes it’s needed and it’s a vital thing to have. But in the final analysis, what you do in and with your life if your own business, and you and you alone have to live with the consequences, so one’s own counsel should and does carry more weight than even the most well intentioned advice from others. And no matter how comfortable the cell is, or how appealing the cell mate might be, I’m not going to imprison myself just because someone else thinks it might be good for me!
by Jake Block
by Jake Block
Building a room is simple, actually. All you need is a floor, four walls, a ceiling and a door. Anything else is a modification. Add windows… add a bed, and you have your basic bedroom. You want a bathroom, you can either put it into that basic room or cut a small door in that basic room and attach 3/4 of a room structure and put it there… compliment it with a toilet, a tub and shower, wash basin, certainly a water source, heated and cold, of course, decorate it nicely, and while we’re at it, let’s cut in a door or a pass-through to another smaller 3/4 structure, add shelves and drawer units….you can put your clothing there and whatever accessories (modifiers to your style) that you might enjoy and (voila) the room becomes an “en suite.”
If this is as far as you go, you can build individual shacks or elevate that structure to share the same glories as your average 1950’s style strip motel somewhere out on some lost highway winding through the southwestern U.S.; of use to no one, save the occasional transient, rat or wino in search of shelter for the night. Two dimensional thinking at it’s finest, to be sure, but consider the glory to be gained in thinking in THREE dimensions.
Thinking in three dimensions is the domain of physical and mental architecture. Going UP in one’s architecture and one’s thinking can lead to new vistas, new horizons and new dreams beyond that which can be seen or even comprehended by those who are content with the simple (and safe) world. When one reaches up and out, one must confront age old cultural and personal fears, using and even inventing tools to build secure structures for further growth and exploration. One’s mind must then expand and fortify itself to handle the new parameters and new boundaries, realizing that in recognizing them requires still further expansion and fortification, as one step begets another and another and another. Soon, the mind recognizes that there are no limits, so long as one can envision alternatives to any status quo and the tools to make a new vision and a new reality come to pass.
All the while through this endless round of physical and mental expansion, the wise learn to bolster their structures, their foundations, with facts and with truths that can be trusted to stand yet another round of building. As well, one must learn to recognize the need for reevaluation and change without egoism, when current wisdoms and examinations prove that there are cracks and faults in the foundation that must be remedied before further expansions upward and outward can be put into place. Perhaps one might reach the extent of their physical and intellectual abilities, based on what they have been taught or what they have discovered and it is time to rest and let another with fresh eyes and ideas take the lead.
One thing that we must resist is the urge to stop our building and expansion, for there lies stagnation. There likes inertia. There lies the tyranny of “can’t.” The Tower of Babel threatened the realm of God because man had the vision and drive to make it so.
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”
— The Bible, Genesis 11 5:9
Learn and grow, but speak your vision and your method to those who share the will and the drive to succeed. You all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. Honor their wisdom and vision, because they did not accept the limitations placed upon them, but found the strength and the wisdom to move onward and upward. Keep them in mind as you work to finish your section of the tower, because in reality, as long as there are those who will not accept limitations and have the drive and intellect to keep on building, the sky and heaven itself is no limit.
While thinking in three dimensions is the domain of the Architect, thinking in the fourth and beyond is the domain of the Magician.
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.
by Jake Block
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.
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.”