Jake Block

Rituals of Revelation

by Jake Block

“They’re gonna teach you how to meditate

Read your horoscope, cheat your faith

And further more to hell with hate

Come on and get on board”

The Games People Play — Joe South


There used to be a party game we played as young adults.  Everyone would be gathered around in a circle and one person was asked to sit in the center of the circle.  This was usually a good looking woman with a killer body, and a sheet was draped over her, covering her completely.  The host would then say, “You are wearing something you don’t need.  Take it off.”

Most times, the person under the sheet would take off pieces of their clothing, trying to appease the crowd and end the game.  Shoes, blouse, skirt… it would all come off until all the person was wearing was the sheet, and then it dawned upon them that THE SHEET was the one thing they were wearing that they didn’t need… but now they DID need it, because in the end, it was all they had left.

Occasionally someone would immediately realize that the sheet was the thing they didn’t need, but most people were eager to please their host and give them what they thought that the host wanted, so the game would usually play out as described.  I’m sure we never thought about it at the time, but the sheet game could show us something about ourselves on a local scale and our society and culture as well, thinking globally.  It was a game in its simplest sense, but in  the greater sense, a ritual of revelation that taught us a lesson.  The best and most effective rituals almost always do.

As people, until we become self aware and autonomous in our thinking, we often take on the sheets that others place upon us, usually a product of their own insecurities or prejudices that they feel that we as friends or members of the society should take on ass well, sharing the burden and sharing our support.  We accept these sheets, one after another, because we want to fit in, to be a part of the fabric of our society and culture; not to feel out of step with all of the others around us.  If we took a moment to look at our situations, we would see that these sheets are every bit as irrelevant and almost as silly as the white sheet with blue flowers covering the “victim” in that party game.

We know we don’t really need to be lockstep with our neighbors on anything, but we often go along with their prejudices and their traditions because we don’t know what else to do.  We might justify it by calling it tradition, and while we don’t really believe in it… be it racial intolerance, political correctness, religion or any other cultural sheet. We play along to get along, and in doing so, we teach this same thing to our children.  Play along… don’t make waves.  We find ways to make the distasteful more palatable… we celebrate Christmas, but call it Yule, because well…you know.  We call ourselves Atheists, but spend the religious holidays in church with the relatives… for family unity, don’t you see?  And then we wonder why people don’t take us seriously.  We’re free thinkers, damn it.  We aren’t part of the herd!  But when it talks like a wolf and acts like a sheep, you can easily understand why there’s a lack of credibility.

We all need to play the sheet game where the stakes aren’t simply a little embarrassment over taking off all of our clothes in the middle of a party and having to do the walk of shame with that floral sheet wrapped tightly around us.  We should look at this as our ritual of revelation and see what it actually does reveal about us and the sheets we have taken on and can do without.  There certainly comes a cost for one’s freedom, and sometimes tossing off those sheets will mean that you have to pay a toll in friendships, relationships… maybe a bit of societal ostracism.  But when people see that you are willing to pay that toll to be who you truly are, you can look that most important critic in the mirror, eye to eye and say, truthfully, “Now I am free.”

Coming To Your Senses

by Jake Block

One night over coffee, a group of my friends and I were talking, and eventually the topic came around to death and just what we would actually miss if we died tomorrow.  There was nothing we could do about it.  We all die, and then we begin the “great abstinence,” and I thought about what it would be like to spend an eternity remembering what having five senses was like, and the things that excited them.

So we sat in silence listening to music, and thinking about each of our senses; sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.  We limited our musings to those five, as they are pretty much universally accepted.  We didn’t consider emotions we would miss or any metaphysical aspects of death, and limited the conversation to just these.

Needless to say, the lists we came up with were individualized, and told us something about the others in the group, and ourselves as well.  So think about it.  What one thing for each of your senses would you choose to be the one thing you could remember with crystal clarity during your own “great abstinence?”  Mine were:

Sight:  I thought about what I like to see, from the beauty of a sunset to the female form, to what I see inside my camera’s viewfinder before I press the button and take a shot.  But somehow, none of these spoke to me as something that would stimulate those senses forever.

I finally decided that I would like to see the view from my driver’s seat at night on a lonesome highway, with the blue dashboard lights glowing softly in the dark and seeing through the windshield, one set of tail lights, far off in the distance, always ahead and always beyond my reach.  It’s at these times in traveling that I have always felt the most comfortable, being on the journey, but never quite there.

Sound:  We live in a world of sounds, with some being harsh and grating upon our ears, like a jackhammer splitting concrete below our window as we try to sleep, and some as soothing to us as a cat purring or the sound of birds chirping in the trees outside.  I thought of the sound of a woman’s high heels clicking on the pavement or tiles as she comes into my arms… rhythmic and evocative, with the promise of an erotic and sensual night to come.

But my choice was the sound of Procol Harum doing “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”  The song was layered with musical textures and images that always set my mind in motion.  Eternity hearing it would not be that bad at all.

Taste:  A thousand foods, a thousand tastes… ambient tastes in the air… the taste of a woman’s warm skin; so many excellent choices.  Only one fit could fit the bill completely.  In the end, it came down to a choice of two:  Bourbon and Rock Salt Cooked Prime Rib or a fresh, hot cup of Columbian Supremo coffee.  

Most of the time, you will find me with a cup of coffee in my hand, and this choice was one that most people had figured for me.  An eternity without coffee?  I think I might have to pass.

Smell:  Jet fuel.  No question about it.  The smell of jet fuel wafting through the air is something that was with me in some of my most memorable adventures.  I came to associate it with going and doing and a touch of danger that I knew was inherent in the career I chose.  Soon that scent would lure me to another plane where my crew and I would load up and be on our way.  We never really knew what we could find when we got there, if we even knew where “THERE” was as we set out on our journey.  But we would handle it together.

Touch:  For me, this proved to be one of the more difficult of sensations, because i enjoy touching THINGS… anything that has a texture can stir my imagination and set my mind off in all kinds of wonderful directions.  I recall the feel of a cat’s fur, or gritty sandpaper or shaving cream.  I recall the feel of my lips touching those of another, first with softness and more firmly as passions rise.

Have you ever felt the silkiness of a woman’s thigh in a pair of sheer stockings?  It’s soft as hell and erotically charged with hopes and expectations.  But as your fingers reach the top of those stockings on your lover’s lovely legs, that instant when your fingers transition from the silken smoothness of nylon to the warm and softly giving texture of her flesh… that does it for me.   I could easily enjoy that as my sensation of touch during my “great abstinence.”

There are my choices.  They may or may not resonate with you, and that’s ok, because as individuals, we all have our own likes and dislikes, and none more profound as the ones that make us tick.  So when you’re lying in the darkness, perhaps drifting off to sleep, think of those things that you would miss and what you would choose as ultimate sensations to your five senses.  You might be surprised at what you come up with.



by Jake Block

One thing that I have noticed about younger Satanists is that they seem to have a need to blaspheme.  You see all kinds of X rated or R rated pictures of religious leaders, naked nuns, pedophile priests… you name it.  They post them on boards where other Satanists congregate.  Perhaps that’s because they don’t stop to consider that the purpose of blasphemy in its most effective forms is to shock and infuriate, to intimidate and denigrate.  Posting such outrageous images on the Vatican home page, or on a social forum for the Young Christians of America might approach the desired effect, but posting the pictures on a Satanic or “Left Hand Path” forum is not only counterproductive, but very much “old hat,” in that we’ve all been there and done that… over and over again.

To be effective, blasphemy has to do things.  It has to be timely, it has to shock the senses, it has to be relevant, and it has to make the viewer think and consider.  Therefore, you should consider that if you want to get a message across, you have to know your audience.  A blasphemy for targeting, say PETA, might be a picture of fur wearing debutantes smiling and happy, with the caption FUR IS MY FRIEND.  That might get their blood boiling, but post that same meme in the Fur Fancier’s Forum and you’re preaching to the crowd.  Their response might well be, “Yeah… and your point is?”

A lot of fledgeling Satanists look to the Black Mass that was famously enacted by the young Church of Satan and figure that it has to be done to be a Satanist.  It’s in the book… “one MUST follow the book”… but they’re missing the point.  The reason that the Black Mass, more or less in its traditional format was chosen was that in 1966 – 1975 America, somatized by Christian propaganda and programming, it would be taken as an outrage by those who were in control as the religious power structure of the time.  Christianity held sway in America, so that was an appropriate target to blaspheme.  If Islam was in power, perhaps a ritualization issuing a fatwa against Mohammed might have been in order or, if Judaism was prominent, a joyful reenactment of life in the concentration camps of Germany, complete with Jewish kids with Easy Bake Ovens and Hitler mustaches might have raised some eyebrows.  The point is that in order to be effective the proper stimulus must be ruthlessly applied to the right audience.

Consider the same Black Mass today.  There would be some outrage, to be sure, but on a far less effective scale than in a time when Christianity controlled the lives of the vast majority of people.  Today, even the most devout of Christians pay lip service to their religion and most free-thinking people just couldn’t care less.  And let’s face it… the media of the age has portrayed blasphemies against this once supreme power in ways that would make your efforts seem amateurish by comparison, and they have done it over and over again for decades.  The overkill of media saturation has had a numbing effect on your intended audience… sort of like posting a picture of Jesus engaging in anal sex would have on the Church of Satan’s Letters to the Devil site.  Been there… done that… people lapse into the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) effect, seeing, but not registering.  The message goes “in one ear and out the other.”

Now… if you want to raise some Catholic (and other) hackles… try posting congratulatory notices on their pages praising the pedophile priests who got away with it, and link it to the organization as a whole and indict anyone who identifies as Catholic, supporting the church and its priesthood with donations and tithes as co-conspiritors.  Go one step further and brand parents who offer up their own children to be altar boys as panderers and enablers of child molestation.  But still… if your posted this blasphemy on an anti-Catholic site or a site that condemns the practice, you might get a chuckle, but not outrage or THOUGHT.

Now, a word about your target of choice.  Picking on Christians is tantamount to hunting cows with a high powered rifle and scope.  You come off like some psycho kicking a crippled kid while he struggles to get back into his wheelchair.  You have to choose an enemy with TEETH.  Someone or something that people fear or suspect that can affect them in their daily lives.  A good horror writer knows his audience and knows that the most terrifying of adversaries can be the common, mundane, every day things that one counts on for life.  When those things turn against you… you have reason to fear.  They have access to you.  You trust them… and life without them or where they can hurt you can be a living hell.

Now, lets take the example of the Westboro Baptist Church.  Blaspheming them is like shooting that cow, but doing it while a million other hunters are blasting away at the same time.  Do I like them?  No.  Do I think they should be protesting military funerals and those of gay people?  No.  But damn… they do such a fine job at blasphemizing themselves, how can you even hope to do anything more than spit in the ocean of contempt heaped upon them, which is exactly what they want.  It’s kept them in the news.  In this, there’s a kind of blasphemous effect in NOT blaspheming them.  Blasphemy doesn’t work well on popular targets.

This is key.  A devastating weapon used sparingly is a weapon used effectively.  This can easily be demonstrated in history.  The most devastating of military weapons is the nuclear option.  These weapons obliterate whole cities in the blink of an eye, with hundreds of thousands of casualties and deaths.  They are so effective that only one country (America) has ever used them and then, only twice.  The reason?  After that, they didn’t need to.  Just the threat of annihilation was enough, from that point on.  No one wanted to press their luck.  Other countries of power rushed to obtain their own nuclear weapons, but don’t use them because they simply need to have them to bask in the power that being a member of the “nuclear club” confers.  You get them so you don’t have to mess with every piss-ant little nation that wants to take you down… you have the hammer and they are the nail.

My British friends will remember The Blitz, during WWII and the German bombing of London and other cities.  At first it was terror from the skies.  People lived in fear of the droning engine that stopped and became a deadly bomb, or the V2 missile slamming unexpectedly in their midst.  But Hitler overused his hole card.  Soon it was played way too often and the British people began to expect it and took precautions, when they could, to mitigate the damage to life by retreating to the underground tubes of the subway systems.  Then instead of being fearful, they hunkered down and got angry… and then decided that there was no way they were going to allow some petty German tyrant to force them into submission.  The powerful weapon became almost impotent in the face of resolve.

So it is with blasphemies.  They work when applied sparingly, but use them too often and they just become something to be accepted as your normal way of fighting what you oppose, giving the weapon less of an effective impact and making a hero of your enemy when he fights against the bully.  Remember. “Blessed is the man who has a sprinkling of enemies, for they shall make him a hero.”  (A.S. LaVey — The Satanic Bible)  Unfocused, your enmity could be another’s salvation.

Once your enemy has you pegged, they can work on effective countermeasures to use against you.  They should never be lulled into a state of expectancy or acceptance.  They should know you’re out there, but when you strike against them, it should be fresh and effective, and they should never see you coming.  Blasphemy can be an effective tool if you treat it like any other form of communication, in that you study your audience, know their weaknesses and target your message to that audience in a calculated and targeted way.  But be aware that over use can backfire on you.  All weapons, be they physical or verbal are two edged swords.


Did You Hear The One About…

by Jake Block

I once read an article that angered me.  In the August, 1992 issue of The Pryor Report, Regina Barreca wrote on the offense of an “off color joke” to a woman.  It is Barreca’s contention that such jokes “often expresses, in masked form, hostility toward the listener.”  Now, I don’t know what Ms. Barecca’s credentials are.  She probably has more degrees than a thermometer.  I assume that she’s an intelligent woman…she wrote a book called “They Used To Call Me Snow White…But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor.”  But degrees don’t necessarily mean that you’re able to think…and a book doesn’t necessarily make you an expert.

Now, I collect jokes.  I enjoy a laugh as much as anybody, and I know that there are jokes that can get under anybody’s skin…if it’s thin enough.  There are jokes that are corny and there are jokes that are too bawdy for the younger set…not because they’re bad; because a youth might not understand a reference due to limited sexual experience.  But a joke is a joke is a joke.  Laugh and the world laughs with you, but cry and you cry alone.

It’s come to the point in society today that you can’t say anything without offending someone.  I remember when it used to be a compliment to tell a woman that she looked good.  Now it borders on sexual harassment.  Satanic women are expected to look good…translate: feminine, yet with an air of confidence that marks them as a force to be dealt with.  Who says a woman can’t “look sexy” and still have a brain?

The biggest joke played on women in the 20th Century has been the de-feminization of women in the name of the “feminist movement.”  While women of groups such as NOW advocate the right of all women to find employment in any field that they choose, how quickly they change their tune when a woman chooses a field that is not to their liking.

I watched one of the “tabloid TV” programs, and there was an “attractive” but stern-faced woman, flanked by the familiar NOW shields, lambasting women who would have the audacity to pose for pin-up calendars or become strippers.  The women in question countered that this is what they wanted to do.  No one was forcing them, and in fact, they were having fun and harming no one.  The NOW spokesman was adamant.  Women had no business allowing men to look at them.  To be honest, she had little to worry about.  An unattractive attitude tends to make for an unattractive individual.

I agree with NOW on many points…and I find that I am in contention with them on others.  But I believe that women (and men) do have the right to find employment in any field that interests them, so long as they have the ability to do that job.  If that means posing for a poster or being a stripper, more power to them, so long as they are happy and they apply themselves to their chosen field.  It really doesn’t matter in this life whether you’re a doctor or a trash collector, so long as you’re the best doctor or trash collector that you can be.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change professions if you want.  I know a lovely woman  that worked her way through college as a stripper and now is a practicing psychologist with two (count ’em) offices in northern California.  Does she regret her “less than feminist employment?”  Quite the contrary.  She feels that she gained quite a bit from it in terms of “people skills.”  Aside from that, she paid for her college education and is beholden to no one for her life today.

Today, she’s a well respected member of the medical profession.  She dresses “sexy,” and turns heads when she walks by, and is seldom insulted if she garners an appreciative whistle.  She has the lithe body of a dancer and an IQ well into the “genius” range.  She feels good about herself and the life that she’s managed to build for herself.

Now, this is not to say that you have to be beautiful or sexy or even a dancer to be a success.  It’s in the attitude, pure and simple.  And if you have a good attitude, feel good about yourself and apply yourself to your chosen profession, you will be a success.  An attractive attitude makes for an attractive individual.

Given the choice of a “beautiful woman” with an “ice queen” attitude and any other woman with a ready smile and a sense of humor, I’ll take the latter.  If you like yourself, others will like you.  That has nothing to do with beauty, politics or wealth…it’s all ATTITUDE.

Too many of us walk around with a sour expression and feel that there’s just nothing to laugh at in life.  You’re born, you work and you die.  Well, just as there are plenty of things to be angry about in this life, there are plenty of things to bring us joy and plenty of things that are just plain funny.  All you have to do to find them is to relax.

Those who go through life with little or no sense of humor are pathetic in their wretchedness.  They find that they must drag others into their dour world of bitterness and genuinely detest those whose hearty laughter fills the air.  The saddest thing is that the only joy they gain from their lives is in the misery of others, and the only joy they give is in their passing.

The sharing of a joke can be a bonding mechanism for the teller and the listener.  It can provide insights into the psychological makeup of either…or both.  It can relieve tension, it can stimulate thought and conversation.  A joke can do many beneficial things.

Now, there must always be a butt of the joke…the schlimazel to the schlemiel.  Politicians and religious leaders make great butts because their pretentiousness and outward displays of pomposity already make them comic characters against the backdrop of world affairs.

Some of the funniest jokes, told by consummate comedians are self-deprecating jabs at one’s own foibles and eccentricities.  To find the humor in your own life and share it with others implies humanity and the ability to understand that even in the darkest of times, life can sometimes be humorous.

Even in times of tragedy and darkest catastrophe, people joke.  Jokes were told in the concentration camps of Germany and the “detention centers” of the United States.  Jokes are told by soldiers in the quieter moments of war, and at times when death stares them in the face.  I have even heard anecdotes cross the lips of those about to die.

I can associate with people who have no sense of humor, but I don’t think that I could ever “like” them.  I want to be able to see a person’s eyes light up with mirth from time to time and hear them chortle when something strikes their “funny bone.”

So when I read an article that equates my noble friend the joke with a weapon, I am angered.  But I am saddened as well for those who have no sense of humor or lost it for one reason or another.  Without the ability to laugh and to find humor in one’s life, one might as well be dead.


Entitled To Nothing

by Jake Block

The new guy gets hired on as a full time worker in any job, any where.  The first day on the job, he decides that someone is taking advantage of him, because he’s making $10.00 an hour making widgets, and Jim over there is getting $11.50 and Mike is getting almost $20.00!  And look at this.  They both have preferred parking and two more weeks vacation… and even more benefits!  This is wrong, decides our new guy.  I should get the same thing as everyone else.

To someone who has a sense of entitlement, it just wouldn’t matter that Jim is getting paid more because he has almost seven years on the job, and Mike has close to twenty.   And that also reflects in their perks and benefits.  Unfair?  They have the experience and loyalty to the company that brought them well deserved rewards.  The new guy is just going to have to prove his worth before he begins to see rewards but, if he works hard and contributes to the success of the company, surely they will come.

The phenomenon of those who feel they are entitled is nothing new, but the way we have coddled people into believing that everyone is a special little flower that deserves to have it all with as little effort as possible has spawned a generation that sees entitlement as normal.  The world owes them for simply being there, rather than earning the perks they covet in others.  They want the best of everything upon demand and, when they find out that this is not only impractical, but impossible, they bristle.  Who are YOU to deny ME?

Back in 1963 there was a song by the Kingston Trio called DESERT PETE, that told of a guy who was dying of thirst in the desert, and he came upon an old, dry pump.  Next to it was a jar with just a little water in it, and he was tempted to drink it… but he read the note attached.

“You’ve got to prime the pump, you must have faith and believe
You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive.
Drink all the water you can hold, wash your face, cool your feet
Leave the bottle full for others, thank you kindly, Desert Pete.

Well I found that jar, and I tell ya nothin’ was ever prettier to my eye

And I was tempted strong to drink it, ‘cuz that pump looked mighty dry
But the note went on “Have faith my friend, there’s water down below;
You’ve got to give until you get I’m the one who ought to know”

Now, sure, the song can have some religious overtones with this talk of faith and belief, but it also teaches us a valuable lesson in life that each of us really needs to learn, lest we fall victim to the vanities of entitlement.  In every job and in every situation, you have to pay your dues before you get anything of value out of the endeavor.  That goes for a job, sports, even friendship.  Unless you are willing to put something of yourself into it, you might eventually get some reward for just hanging around, but the feeling of receiving it will be hollow and unsatisfying.  And you will scarcely see the respect that others who DO work to achieve, vs those who simply work for the check.

We see this in the right and left hand “path” that we’re on, where we see people who declare themselves to be a Witch or a Druid or a Shaman or a Satanist and they think that because they have read a book or two and declared themselves to be… you name it… they automatically become the recipient of all of the power and wisdom that everyone before them garnered from years and decades of study, practice and dedication.  I can’t begin to tell you how many 15 or 16 year old Magisters and High Priests I have encountered in my 40 years in Satanism, or how many “Lady this or thats”… Red Mages (whatever the hell they are), etc., who can scarcely spell the grand grimoires that claim to have mastered.  But they all want that respect and recognition that they feel they are entitled to because, well… they’ve got the book, so obviously, they’re qualified!

Take The Church of Satan for example.  I used to tell people that if they called the Black House and got to talk to a Priest, it was an occasion.  If they talked to a Magister, it was a god damned holiday!  The reason is that titles weren’t just handed out.  You had to earn them and show your worth to the organization, and that had to go far beyond buying a black shirt and carrying The Satanic Bible around.  A person who simply read The Satanic Bible and decided that he was fully versed in all things Satanic would have been seen as a clown at best.  Practical application of satanism… getting somewhere in life… being “your own god,” in being responsible for your own actions and gaining more and more autonomy in the world “out there” because you were moving into positions of authority and becoming financially viable were prerequisites to being a power “IN HERE”.

Look.  There’s book learning, and there’s real learning… the kind you get from being punched in the face by a bigger and better boxer.  You eventually learn to bob and weave and dodge the fist coming toward you.  Experience can be a painful teacher, and if you ask anyone who has EARNED their successes and their respect from others, they all will have a story that will indicate the risks they’ve taken and the pains they have endured to get to where they are.  The DIFFERENCE, is that they don’t need to.  They seldom find the dolt who will question them and say, “Well why do you deserve so much?”  Their actions and their bearing usually answers that question before it is asked.  They have the confidence of experience.

The Second Lieutenant who comes into the military straight from the academy of his choice is a professional soldier by virtue of his degree and his Commission, which make him and officer and a gentleman.  THEORETICALLY, they can wage war, command troops and make life or death decisions with skills that would make Eisenhower or Patton blush at their own incompetence.  Well… theoretically… yeah.  But theory doesn’t show you what is going to happen the first time that a bullet whines past your head, or you are dodging incoming mortars or artillery shells and still trying to do your job.  A piece of paper only shows that you’ve been shown the theories, but character is shown in how you handle things in real life situations.  It’s the wise officer who looks for the weathered old NCO with a few scars on his face to bounce ideas off of… and isn’t offended when that war weathered veteran tells him where problems in his plans may lie.

Whether you get the corner office or a cubicle, you have to show your stuff before others will respect you and THEN things will indeed come your way.  Until then, talk little, listen much and don’t demand the things you have not earned.  Your day in the sun will come if you deserve it, but there is no free lunch in life.  You aren’t entitled to it.


Now go get me a cup of coffee.  Sorry… I couldn’t help myself.

War Games…

by Jake Block

I remember participating in one of the many war games in the military… an Operational Readiness Exercise… where you basically went to war with an invisible enemy.  You engaged it as if it were real, launching hundreds of troops and massive amounts of materiel in a deployment, just as if you were actually going out to confront this enemy and fight to the death.  There were long hours.  A “working day” was 36 hours long, and you worked building pallets of munitions, spare parts and food, loading aircraft with everything from field kitchens to tanks, marshaling the troops and getting them loaded on their planes and then grabbing your gear and getting on the plane with them.  Then, your ADVON Team was on its way to — where?   You seldom knew.  You just knew that in a short time, you would land and you would  have to unload this mess, this armada of twenty planes, and set up a forward airstrip, ready to receive the endless stream of planes to follow.  So, you slept for what seemed to be moments until the plane touched down at some southwestern desert location.  And you got to work.  Your thirty six hour shift was now half way done.

And that was the way it went for seven consecutive days.  Food when you could eat it on the run, water once in a while, and you would die for a cup of coffee.  And when you thought they couldn’t work you any harder, it was time to do it all again, but in your chemical warfare gear and gas mask in 110° temperatures.  Your four hour sleep periods were scarcely enough to keep you from hallucinating, but then, gratefully, you loaded the last plane and were preparing to go home.  “The war” was almost over, but then you and your crew are called to the aircraft just before loading and told, in all seriousness:  “Look guys, here’s the problem.  We are the last plane out of Dodge, and if we make it into the air in 30 minutes, we pass the ORE.  If not, we fail and we do it all over again in 3 months.”  Just as you began to breathe easy, the commander got serious.

“The plane has a SERIOUS problem.  There is a problem with the front landing gear, and the pilot tells me that it could be a sensor, but if it’s not… and we have no way of checking it here… there is a 60% chance that the plane will have to belly in when we reach Travis.”  He scanned our group and then answered the unspoken question…”No, this is not an exercise, this is real world.”  He waited for a moment to let that sink in and said, “OK.  We either go or we stay, and that’s YOUR choice.  If we go, we take that risk, but we will pass the ORE.  If we stay, we wait for a replacement plane to bring in the maintenance crew and we fail the ORE.  This is a serious decision, and I won’t hold it against you if you decide not to go.  Think a minute and…”

One by one, without saying a word, each member of the crew picked up their bags and threw them onto the aft ramp of the plane, then walked onto the giant C5 and began to strap them down.  We lifted off with 27 seconds to spare and flew from the desert to Travis AFB with the landing gear down, hoping it would function when we got there.  The drag was terrible, and the plane was buffeted badly during the 4 hours it took to get there.  But we slept when we could and then, the captain’s voice came across the speaker.

“Travis tower tells us that they have emergency equipment in place and we are number one for landing.  I am going to try to land the plane on its rear wheels and power it down the runway, keeping the nose up until the last moment.  If that works, we should be ok.  If it doesn’t and we have to belly in, (land with no wheels, sliding on the belly of the aircraft), all I can say is hang on tight, and when the plane comes to a stop, pop the emergency doors, get out and run like hell to at least 100 yards from the plane.  Now, make sure your seat belts are fastened.  We’re going in.”

The next 10 minutes lasted two hours.  It was as if everything was in slow motion as the plane landed, nose high, and slowly decelerated on the runway, finally, when the plane was almost stopped, lowering the nose of the plane.  A sigh of relief as the gear held and the plane was down.  We unloaded as calmly as we could and grabbed our gear as we exited the plane, nodding and smiling at the pilot who looked a lot younger than he sounded over the loudspeaker in the plane.  The red flashing lights of the emergency equipment were everywhere as we made our way through the dark to our wives and friends who were waiting for the plane to arrive.

There are times when there’s an easy way out, and there are times when, despite the danger, you do what you have to do.  This, I think, separates the wannabes from the real deal; those who simply do what they need to do to get by and those who do what they HAVE to do despite the risk, honoring their commitment to do what they set out to do.  No, there’s no extra pay in laying it on the line, maybe some measure of respect from those who wonder if they would have made the same choice, but the real payoff comes with that feeling inside when you know you faced the abyss without blinking.

Make no mistake about it.  “The Abyss” is there for us all, whether we work in retail or combat related jobs.  Sooner or later, you are going to face a crisis that will require you to put up or shut up.  It’s a time when all of the theories of how you are going to react meet head on with the stark realities of the situation at hand.  Some will rise to the occasion and some will falter.  Some who thought they would back down from a challenge will surprise themselves and take it on without blinking an eye, and some who felt that they could handle anything will crumble.  It’s life.  There is no sure thing, and especially when it comes to your philosophic, financial or physical survival.

Everything you do in life is in preparation for the day you will have to face that test of strength and inner fortitude.  The way you interact with others, the way you project yourself, and the way your character is molded by handling situations and learning from your mistakes all come into play.  If it happens… WHEN it happens… you’ll find out if you’ve been well trained and well seasoned to complete your tasks and emerge victorious.  Sometimes you’ll win, and sometimes you’ll lose, but that’s ok.  There are a lot of potential abysses in our lives.  Each will test you in one way or another.  It’ll be totally up to you as to how the adventure ends.

Life is like training for those war games we had in the military.  You might not be carrying weapons or facing death, but the tests will teach you a lot about yourself.


All The Lonely People

by Jake Block

“Ah, look at all the lonely people…”Elenore Rigby” — The Beatles

The world is a crowded place, with billions of souls inhabiting every nook and cranny.  There are over 300   million people in America alone.  Isn’t it surprising that in this ever-growing mass of humanity there are so many lonely people?

While raised to believe that we will find that “certain someone” to love and share the rest of our lives, we are never told that as fulfilling as this might be on one level, there are other levels within our multidimensionality as people that will also need to be fulfilled.  Our mates might satisfy us sexually, but they might be deficient in other areas that need to be satisfied as well.  We might need intellectual stimulation, or a physically challenging relationship that transcends the normally accepted boundaries of marriage and companionship.

Quite often these needs are filled by friends and associates we spend our time with in addition to the time that we spend with our mates.  These people become a part of the fabric of our lives, and enrich us through their participation in our lives.  But there are times when even this is not enough and, while intellectually we know that the “perfect” mate probably doesn’t exist, we pine for the individual who will be all things rolled into one.  He or she would be our lover and friend, our mentor and student, our helpmate and child.  They would mirror the multiplicity of our own personality and compliment our existence with their own.

If you’ve ever felt that way, take heart.  You are not alone.  Even the most successful and gregarious of people are lonely at times.  There are times when we all lie in the darkness and wonder why we feel isolated and alone, despite good families and close friends.  We all get the feeling that somehow, there must be more to life and relationships than the day-to-day sameness  of it all.

“Okay,” you say.  “What’s the answer?  Where do we go from here?”

I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t know.  If I did, I’d be the wealthiest man on earth.  Truth be known, I’m just as lonely as the next guy.  I may cope with it better or hide my loneliness with a little more success, but there are times when I am lonely, even in a crowd.  I think the difference is that I’ve found that it’s all right to be lonely.  In fact, I think that it might even be necessary for people to be lonely from time to time.

People need to search for that elusive something  that is missing from their lives.  It’s a quest for knowledge and understanding that I believe is inborn and part of the grandeur of the human spirit.  Our search for the “perfect” mate, the “perfect” job, the “perfect” house, and all of the other quests on which we find ourselves are, in actuality, holy quests for “the grail.”  We are searching for the “godliness” of our existence, not in the religious sense, but in an effort to define our lives in terms of self-realization.

We meet others in the execution of our quest that bolster our resolve and give us the strength to go on, yet in the final analysis, life is a quest that is ultimately traveled alone.  We are born alone and we die alone, and in between these ultimate mysteries is a sharing of consciousness that leads us inexorably to the goal of self-realization.

I am of the belief that each of us “finds ourselves” at sometime during our lives, unless we are taken by some quirk of fate or circumstance before we reach that realization.  The discovery may not always be to our liking, but we are what we are, despite what we ultimately might wish to be.   We all wish to be “perfect” or “perfected” in some way, and therefore, long for a person that will be our “perfect” compliment.  What we are actually seeking is our ultimate self in the narcissistic guise of another.  While in theory it would probably be wonderful to find someone who is like of mind and spirit, equal to our expectations in every way, in actuality, it would quite probably be the ultimate in boredom.

We are multidimensional in our own right, requiring stimulation on several important levels in order to grow.  It is not logical to expect that any one individual could possibly be all things to us, any more than we could ever expect to be all things to all people.  Nature has constructed a world in which we need to socially interact with a wide variety of people, to mix and meld, becoming an ever changing species.  It is necessary for our survival.

Human beings need to be stimulated.  We require mental stimulation to grow as thinking individuals, emotional stimulation to grow as nurturing individuals, erotic stimulation to grow as sexual individuals, and aesthetic stimulation to grow as creative individuals.  In this list of needs is shown the reason that we are seldom, if ever, totally satisfied by that “special someone.”

My personal method of coping with the loneliness of life is to live each day as if there are no tomorrows.  This is not to say that I’ll squander my resources, living a hand-to-mouth existence, but I try not to become obsessed with my personal needs as they relate to interactions with others.  Instead of thinking how another person’s life might augment my own, I try to think of how our mutual association might enrich our lives.  I ask nothing, and try to accept genuine friendships graciously, returning mine as genuinely as I am able.

Looking into the lives of others, I try to find things about them that are similar to traits I possess, but I also seek out those who lead “interesting but different” lifestyles.  Eccentricity, to my way of thinking, is a virtue.  Mostly, I like to associate with people that like themselves.  It doesn’t matter to them whether the world approves of them or their lifestyle.  They only ask to be left alone to enjoy life on their own terms

If you spend your entire existence mired down in woeful despair, sitting on the sidelines of life, you’ve only yourself to blame for being lonely.  But if you open yourself up to new people, new opportunities and new ideas, the loneliness factor becomes less and less in your life.  Interesting people attract interesting people.  It’s hard to be lonely when you are with interesting people.

Here’s a little exercise.  When you are alone in the house, stand in front of a mirror and meet yourself for the first time.  Take a look at yourself as others see you.  Improve what you see if you are not pleased.  Straighten your posture, smile and keep good eye contact.  Now, sell yourself to the image in the mirror.  It’s okay.  You’re alone.  Nobody will think you’ve gone bonkers.

Tell the image something about yourself: who you are, what you do, things that you are proud to have accomplished.  Be proud of yourself.  Remember that you are the sum and total of all that you have been and what you hope to be.  You’re a unique individual and one that people would like to get to know.

Okay, exercise completed.  That wasn’t so bad now, was it?  If you can stand up to your own worst critic and lay it on the line, you don’t have much to fear from people who are interested in meeting you.  You might just find that they have the same fears and worries as you and that they are just as lonely, looking for someone like you to fill a gap in their lives.  Maybe you can share your unique talents and interests as new friends.

Loneliness is a condition that can be mitigated in your favor, but as in everything that has value, you have to put in the leg work and get it done yourself.


The Law of Diminishing Returns and Me

by Jake Block

“The tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved.”

This is a basic principle in economics and in a nutshell tells us that throwing resources at something isn’t always the answer to productivity and growth.  “Ceteris paribus, collocationes declinet in efficacia.” (All things being equal, investments decline in effectiveness.)  You get less bang for your buck.

I’ve applied this to various business models, and have found it to be an effective tool in managing costs and a good indicator of when it is time to “get rid of the dog” and move on, allowing someone else to see what they can do with the business, but protecting your assets to apply to a project with a greater chance of success.  And you’ll find that quite often these “laws” that we have in business and in math and in science also apply to life as well.  One can look at one’s intellectual and emotional resources much the same as his cash resources, but in a different form of currency.

As people we are like millions and billions of tiny countries, each with our own monetary system.  Here in the Kingdom of Jake, we use Jakian Dollars.  Now, Jakian Dollars are good, strong dollars that I can use to invest in others, or I can save to do other things with.  If I want to do business with  you, you have a choice.  You can either accept the transaction in Jakian Dollars, be it for friendship, for services or for advice, or as your own little country, you can negotiate for another form of currency.  Let’s call it the Sectarian Mark.

In the Realm of the Sectarians, the Sectarian Mark is a good, strong currency, and like the Jakian Dollar, can be used as exchange for goods and services.  A deal is made and the Kingdom of Jake and the Realm of Sectarians agree to trade equal for equal in value.  My time, support and intellectual input for their time, support and intellectual input.  Quid pro quo (this for that).  It’s a fair and equitable exchange and the crowds all cheer HUZZAH!!!!

This same kind of commitment is made between people every day.  They agree to support and enrich each other’s lives, sometimes with little more than a smile or a handshake.  They assume that their dollars and Marks or Zlotkys or Fazoozas are all equal and each will contribute equally to the wellbeing of the other.  It’s a great system.  It works.

Now, we come to a different transaction, where one feels that their little country is interested in another.  They share some commonalities, and those are good, but there are other things that country A has that country B might be lacking in, and country B wants to make a deal to take some of country A’s assets (be they physical or emotional), but country A sees that what country B has to offer is less than they feel their assets, either in time, energy or emotional support is worth.

In this case, one party feels that there is no equity in the exchange, so they feel that in order for them to honor the request of the other, they will need something added to their side of the bargain to make it more fair and balanced.  For example, my country has a large supply of grain and your country barely produces enough for the needs of your ever growing population.  You want my grain… thanks, pal!  WHOA, bucko… I appreciate being appreciated, and while I LIKE you, I have to ask, “What’s in it for ME?”  You want my grain… I worked for it.  It has value and I need that value to be met in one way or another.  In essence we ask, “who stands to gain from this transaction?”

As individuals we all have the right to determine our personal currency for emotional, intellectual or materiel support of another, be it in kind or in services, but no one gives for free.  It doesn’t happen.  If you go to the bank and you take the check, you pay interest and you thereby support the dealings and growth of the bank.  And like it or not, the bank then has an interest in YOU… you owe.  You pay them back and the deal is over… you regain that amount of autonomy you surrendered in the economic exchange.  Same thing applies in interpersonal reactions.  In investing my time and my intellectual or emotional capital in YOU, I will naturally expect something in return, either in YOUR intellectual or emotional support, or if you are unable to provide that… perhaps in loyalty or in some other method of reciprocal support.

Now… the law of diminishing returns.  There comes a time when we can invest in someone or something and support that entity to the best of our ability, but things change.  They begin to need more and more of our intellectual, emotional or time assets, but we see less and less in return for that investment.  You can try to get things back on track and use your leverage to suggest ways to change this situation that could be mutually beneficial.  You can look to see the weaknesses in a friendship or cooperative exchange that are somehow inequitable.  You can even make your displeasure known… tough love.  But if things remain the same, the inequity you feel will continue and the dissatisfaction with the partnership will eventually fester and cause its demise.

The key to mastering the Law of Diminished Returns in business and in people is to learn to recognize the tipping point at which things fall into negative gain.  Mostly it’s a gut feel, but the gut feeling is there for a reason, part of an ancient “cybernetic response system” that is a holdover from, and a throwback, to times when our senses needed to be keener and our self defense shields always up.  Todays threats are seldom as deadly, but can be financially and emotionally devastating if left unchecked.  And I know the feeling that one gets when you realize that it’s time to cut your losses, because we all hate to think that we have wasted our time and/or energies on a person or project we felt such hope for, but realities have to prevail.

I once bought a stock called the WWW.FUND when the internet was just taking off, and I sunk a thousand dollars into it, because like most people I could see that the internet was going to boom, and there could be a lot of money to be made on this type of fund.  Well… my stocks DOUBLED in three days.  Not bad.  So I sunk in another grand and watched as the stock prices slowly slipped away with the dreaded insolvency level getting ever closer.  But I held out hope… and the prices dropped.  I figured, just another two days.  I probably could have gotten more bang for my buck in Reno.  The moral… invest in whatever you feel is right, but don’t be a sucker, and don’t let them take you down with them when the thing or person you supported goes bankrupt.

When the returns on any investment show steady decline and nothing changes to turn that around, chances are, it’s a sinking ship.  Wish them well and protect your emotional or financial assets.  Be there with a shoulder to cry on if you have to, but at least you’ll still have it after the fall.


Tough Times

by Jake Block

There are times that weaken our spirits and urge us to throw away all that we have felt was worthy of our devotion.  Almost instinctively, we feel that the way we live our life is somehow to blame when we fail…and we all fail…yet, in the long run, even failures can be positive.

A wise person once told me that we learn nothing from our triumphs, only our mistakes.  Therefore, we should learn to love our mistakes as much as our victories, for only through them is true wisdom gained.  Well, she is wise, but I don’t know if I can totally buy her theory.  I’ve had some incredible highs in my life, and some lows that were pretty incredible as well.  I would like to think that I learned something from each…although the stronger of the lessons might well have come from trauma.

Pain is a great motivator and teacher.  It motivates you to get out of situations that can hold you back and stifle your creative energies.  We all get into them…a bad job, a bad relationship, one-sided friendships and business deals from hell.  Given the natural tendency for time to warp situations, most things work themselves out in the long run.  But there are times when we are so enmeshed in the drama of our own lives and entangled in the webs of the lives of others that time’s therapeutic power is thwarted.  Against all sense and against all sanity, we plunge ourselves again and again into psychological and emotional situations that we know in our hearts can only lead to more of the same.  Eternal optimists, we think that we can somehow make things different and affect a change for the better.

I’ve had some bad jobs and have always managed to make the best of them.  I was a hospital orderly and cleaned delivery rooms when I was 16.  After that, working in the dark, sweaty, and rat-attended spaghetti factory seemed like a promotion.  I worked as a janitor in a strip joint in St. Louis.  The pay wasn’t too good, but the fringe benefits were awesome (would you believe free popcorn?)  But if you really want to see the seamier side of life, try working as a Motel 6 desk clerk in a blighted inner-city.  Here was an education that will stay with me forever…believe me.  Compartmentalization allows me to deal with it, and whenever I get PMS (Poor Me Syndrome) I pop open one of those “Motel 6 files,” and I know that there places where the grass is a yellower shade of green than wherever I might be at the time!

You might say that I made mistakes in taking bad jobs.  Mostly, I worked where and when I could to keep body and soul together.  I needed to provide for myself, and an honest dollar is, to my mind, honest pay.  I had the chance to make money in less honorable ways, as do most people, and I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t think about it when half a cheese sandwich stood between me and a can of cat food (which you can take from me isn’t half bad if it’s all you have), but something inside told me to stick with it.  It could be worse.  Sometimes it was.  But after a while, it got better.

Things can’t get better unless you allow them to.  Simple as that.  I know people who bemoan their existence as a total waste of life and wallow in the depths of their despair like a fakir in a viper pit, and think of it as some sort of noble penance for past lives and past deeds.  They watch life slip through their fingers because they don’t understand that they don’t deserve to have tough times…it’s just their turn!

I’m often reminded of the joke about the man who lost his job and moaned, “Oh Lord, why me?”

His car was towed away and he moaned, “Oh Lord, why me?”

He took the bus and found his home ablaze.  He cried, “Oh Lord, why me?

A deep voice from above boomed, “Some people just piss me off!”

However you perceive him/her to be, it’s certain that god has a sense of humor.  Just look around you.  But then, it’s just as certain that there are days when god’s in a snit as well.  Sooner or later, it’s going to be “your turn in the barrel,” and all you really can do is smile through the good times and bolster your reserves for the hard times that surely will come.

A popular book told us that “Bad Things Happen To Good People.”  Not earth shaking news.  Anyone who has had a life knows the routine by rote!  Good things happen to bad people as well…a cosmic Yin/Yang that is repeated a million times a day.  It’s not that anyone is any better than anyone else.  Like the bumper sticker says, “Shit Happens.”  It could happen to me or to you…then again, we could be left blissfully unscathed by the traumas of life.  “You roll the bones and take your chances.”

The trick is not to get caught up in the whole “karma” shtick.  When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, it’s very easy to link incidences of “bad luck.”  We begin to think that perhaps this is some cosmic payback for some deed we’ve done (and we’ve all done things we aren’t particularly proud of.)  But look at it logically.  Things happen.  If it isn’t happening to you, it could be happening to me…and like you though I may, I would rather have my days in the sun while they last.

Tragic indeed are those who allow themselves to become stuck in the muck and mire of self doubt and self pity.  There are people that I know who have had a run of bad luck and have given up.  They carry that stint of trouble around their necks like an albatross, always ready to justify their failures with the past.  “Why try?  We tried once and failed.”  Why try indeed?

It’s a statistical fact that Babe Ruth held the world’s record for home runs.  That’s a proud feat.  But it’s also a statistical fact that the man who held the strikeout record at the same time was that same man.  Why?  You don’t get a “homer” unless you swing at the ball.  He tried.  Sometimes he failed.  Sometimes he swung so hard at the ball that he twisted himself into the dirt at home plate.  So what did he do?  He got back up, dusted himself off and took another shot at it.

It’s not an isolated story.  From Babe Ruth to Orville and Wilbur Wright, to Thomas Edison, and all the way to Donald Trump, winners win because they know what it takes to win…and they know the bitter taste of defeat.  They know that to win, you have to try.  That’s the hard part.  Losing is easy.  Just ask anyone who’s lost for lack of trying.  They can give you a million reasons why they failed…seldom will that list include their own deficiencies.  But it should, in glaring letters, right at the top.  Like I said, the shame isn’t in failing, but in failing to try.

We as a society have found that the path of least resistance is often the shortest way between two points.  Those who’ve lived near the “Mighty Mississippi” know that as well.  Every so often it decides that it’s just tired of meandering through the heartland and decides to go from point A to point B via the most direct route.  It’s a real headache for the lives of the thousands that she devastates in her impatience to reach the sea.  People are like that as well sometimes.  When their lives become stagnant and less than they would like them to be, they try the path of least resistance, causing havoc in the lives of others and throwing their own further off kilter at the same time.

Those of us who’ve been around the block once or twice know that, in metaphor, the shortest distance between two points is seldom a “straight line,” rather a series of twists and turns that eventually gets you to where you want to be.  What today seems success may one day seem like a plateau in life, and a good life well lived is a series of plateaus reaching ever higher.

I remember as a kids that we considered “success” being able to find a job — any job — to make enough money to move out of E. St. Louis and into St. Louis.  To our mind, that was the place to be.  Now, decades later, I’ve been around the world a couple of times, and St. Louis is no longer first on my list of places to live…in fact, it’s slipped off of the list.  I’ve seen Chicago…and New York, and Paris…Istanbul was a wonderful city, as is San Francisco.  I can afford to live just about in whatever city I choose, but I live in a relatively small city and feel just fine…success for me now has a somewhat different meaning.  And as I write, even that is beginning to change…age and situation change expectations.  Time and circumstances dictate life’s choices.

The late Reverend Robert Schuler said, “Tough times seldom last.  Tough people do.”  While I never thought I would hear myself say it, I’d have to agree with him on this one.  The gambler in me knows that the deck sometimes runs cold and, given time, a favorable shuffle, and the financial wherewithal to hold out, fortune will often shine again.

Tough times are like that.  Given time, a favorable shuffle and the guts to stick it out, things will usually get better.  Life is flux and flow like the tides and the sea.  Even the highest promontory can be brought down by the erosion of tide.  It’s the wise beach-dweller who keeps a dingy next to the car in the garage.


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

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