by Jake Block
People see the statement “I am my own god,” and struggle with it, often torn between language in reality and in metaphor, desperately trying to find a way to link the two in their minds, so that it’s meaningful in reality, but maintains a bit of the mystery and wonder of metaphor.
One thing I’ve used to illustrate for people how we see ourselves as “our own gods,” in the Satanic sense, is to look at the world in two camps. There are those who choose to look outside for answers… always to some power greater than themselves. We can call these people “outward facing.” They constantly look for reasons that don’t include or center on man and his responsibility for his own life, things around him that affect his world, and other reasons why x, y, and z happen. Seldom will man be in charge or control of his life, and always at the whim of others (gods, fates or “THEM,” who tend to make their life difficult.
The Satanist, in becoming his own god, is unlike the gods that others cling to. He is an “INWARD facing god,” looking within himself and what he is capable of for answers to questions regarding his own life. He has no need for external validations or approvals from external gods. They can tell him nothing that can’t be explained by inward perspectives. There’s no laying off of bad fortunes to the malevolence of some hairy thunderer who has it out for you. The insular nature of the Satanist tells him that bad things happen. They happen to you and the happen to me, and what matters is not so much HOW or WHY, but how we handle the situations presented to us, and how we turn them to our favor, not with the aid of gods and devils, but by our own brains and personal efforts.
by Jake Block
Most of the world sees the stereotypical Satanist as some moody, angst-ridden curmudgeon who distinguishes him/herself by their singular disdain for any form of amicable social interaction… unkempt, argumentative, foul mouthed… you know the type. There are certainly plenty of those to go around, as you can see on just a short excursion through the wonderful world of the world wide web. They overshadow those who are, by nature or by design, crafty enough to be different, even in a herd of nonconformists conforming to stereotypical archetypes.
Adolf Hitler once said, “When my generals cover themselves with medals, I shall distinguish myself by wearing none.” Now picture Hitler in most of the historical films in which you have seen him. He is generally a serious looking man, and elegantly understated in his manner of dress. There is no doubt in looking at this man, who is in charge. He epitomizes control and authority in his actions. But even in his often stern visage, he is quick to smile and seemingly sees humor in the world around him, and affection for those he holds close.
The moral? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Many Satanists are like that as well. Their image and reputation precede them, like lightning before the thunder’s crash, but once you get past that thick shell they often cloak themselves in, there is often an tender and intensely flavorful core.
There are some qualities that I find common in most successful Satanists. Some possess them to greater or lesser extents than others, but I’ve found that those who possess them epitomize what LaVey spoke of when he wrote about Strength through joy. This isn’t to say one HAS to have these qualities, but they seem to be those that allow them much more leeway in the world to work as they will, while confounding those around them who see that they don’t fit the mold of a Satanist, from what they had been led to believe.
Humor is one of the things that I have found often is a hallmark of the Satanist. I’m not talking about the kind of humor that those who posture as Satanists seem to find necessary to splash across any available website or page. Yeah. You think a dead baby in a dumpster is funny. We get it. Move on. What I am talking about is the ability to see the humor in a situation that could be serious enough to many people, and applicable to their daily lives. An old joke comes to mind.
A man was told by his doctor that he had about 24 hours to live. So he called his wife and said, “Honey, I’m dying and the doctor tells me that it will be tomorrow. It’s sad, but tonight, we will try to forget it and live. I will take you out to the best dinner of your life and we’ll eat gourmet foods and drink fine wines, and then we will go out dancing and make love until dawn…”
“Hey, buster, you just wait a minute!’ she said, “That’s all fine for YOU, but I have to get up in the morning!”
It’s a Joie de vivre that, the seriousness of daily existence cannot extinguish, in contrast to simply proving to people how outlandish and antisocially humous one can be to prove a point; giving people a show, whether they want one or not. It’s an acknowledgement that life can be cruel (to Satanist and non-Satanist alike,) but in that acknowledgement, not forsaking one’s humanity, but embracing that “it could always be worse.”
Intellectualism is another trait that I have seen amongst the most successful of Satanists, being able to look at the world around them and logically evaluate the circumstances and the practicalities that make things the way they are. By doing so, they are better able to understand the world around them and find ways to mitigate any adversities that arise from day to day life. Education is the key to unlock such powers within one’s mind, and that education can come from traditional tutoring in academic skills, for sure, but also from experience gained during one’s life in working and dealing with people on a daily basis. But even then, one has to have the ability to apply what one has learned to their daily lives and “do the math,” of “if I do THIS, I can reasonably expect THAT.”
Many Satanists these days seem to think that education is a wasted effort, and that the only thing that they will ever get out of formal education is a piece of paper saying they attended classes for “x” number of years. That could well be the case if one attends that schooling with the idea that they are somehow going to gain knowledge simply by being there, as if they can sit on the books and osmosis will eventually carry that information up to their brains. They’re missing the point of education in that it’s not about rote memory and being fed facts that seem to make no sense or have any relevance in today’s life. It’s about training the mind to think in ways that will allow them to gather and sift facts to determine situational relevancy.
Speaking to the intellectually challenged is akin to trying to explain to a kid why an arch is one of the key architectural features that allow for the building of cities, bridges and more. They have no frame of reference for the scientific or factual basis of most any subject, so their untrained minds are susceptible to magical thinking and short, easy answers offered to them by charlatans who ascribe any action or reaction to some supernatural being or diety. “You don’t need to think for yourself… all the answers are here in this book (you name it), but why read it for yourself or delve deeper? I can tell you what it all means.” Like Cliff’s notes for life.
Successful Satanists I have known share a love of learning and knowledge with successful people I have known from any walk of life. They never let their curiosity die, and insist on finding the answers to riddles that confound and excite them. A person with an active, inquisitive, challenging mind is extremely difficult to control, because his natural nature will always be to ask, “Why?”
Along with this comes a life-long sense of wonder at the world we live in and the ever changing and ever expanding pool of knowledge we as a species are amassing, but at the new questions that each of these advancements put forth for us to ponder. There is an old adage: “Just when I thought I had all the answers, somebody changed the questions.” Life should always be like that, and those successful Satanists that I have known embrace that paradigm joyfully. It’s not a challenge to their intelligence to say, “I don’t know.” It’s an invitation for them to kick that sense of wonder into gear and find out, exploring the truths and the foibles of every aspect of life as it applies to them, certainly, but also to look into the “what ifs,” indulging their minds in exploration and possibility.
What a sad life this would be if we had all the answers. There would be no need to strive, no need to progress and no need to look into the stars at night and let the mind imagine galaxies far away, or even what lies over the next hill on that long road out of town. That sense of wonder is definitely a trait of a successful Satanist.
Successful Satanists that I’ve had the pleasure to have known also are adept at interpersonal relationships, even with those they can disagree with on a daily basis. I’m not talking about being an ass-kisser or shying away from confrontation, but choosing one’s battles wisely and well, and being prepared to wage them in a way that reflects credit upon them for their skill and their knowledge. Arguing a point when it matters takes a degree of finesse and knowing human nature. Arguing to argue takes a mouth, a closed mind and time to waste on trivialities.
We all know people who will argue that the sky isn’t blue… that the Bible is the word of God… that there are cities on Mars… that there is a vast conspiracy of… They may not believe what they are arguing for or against, but they must argue. They MUST be seen as relevant and an authority on every subject and every idea put forth, often changing their positions midstream when the weight of facts contradicts what they “believe to be true.” Corner them with fact or logic and they will fall back on high school debating terminologies as a way to diffuse the situation and pivot to a new point of contention. Fail to indulge them in their manipulations and inevitably, and in pretty short order, they will fall into name calling and personal insults. Next stop, the tactic of playing the victim, bemoaning your bullying of them. You won’t let them talk. You twist their words… it can go on and on and on, longer than even this paragraph. Do you really have time for them? If so, you need a hobby.
Personally, and speaking for others I’ve known who are successfully navigating the world as Satanists, I just don’t have time for it. The time one wastes in arguing with an idiot or some self-appointed zealot for (you name it) can always be used for more important things, and is time one can never recoup. So my advice is simply not to fall into the game of eternal adversarialism. Say what you mean, mean what you say and leave it on the table. If someone doesn’t like what you have to say, they don’t have to read it or listen to it. Simple as that.
Zach Black once said something in context that, while humorous, is accurate. The most powerful two words you can have when someone doesn’t agree with you and wants to waste your time in arguing incessantly are, “Fuck You.” Sometimes you just have to move on and not allow others to commandeer your valuable time to fill up the empty spaces in their lives.
Diane LaVey once said, “Satan always was and IS a gentleman.” Gentlemen can disagree, but class and dignity will often carry the day, leaving blustering fools to be seen for what they are.
These are but a few of the traits that I have found to be common denominators in the successful Satanist, and indeed we could expand that list far beyond this short essay. It’s not my intent to define what a Satanist ultimately IS, because as has been pointed out over the years, defining a Satanist should be like trying to nail Jello to a wall. The nature of the beast is to ultimately confound definition, forcing people to rely upon anecdotal evidence provided in the third person, and stereotypes that the more visible (and almost always most pretentious) display. Like mining for treasure, the bits and pieces of wisdom they gain become further episodes for their own sense of wonder in trying to figure it all out and KNOW.
I wish them luck.
I wish US luck in further confounding them.
by Jake Block
One thing that I am going to suggest to you as a Satanist… or anything else, for that matter… is that you ALWAYS have more than one iron in the fire. There is strength in diversification or one’s interests, and in not becoming a “one trick pony,” well versed in one subject, but neglecting others, your mind can be free to wander and to pick up on other interests that will make you not only well rounded, but much more likely to see other avenues… other sides… even in your own area of expertise.
We all know of those individuals in real life and on line who can pontificate for hours on the virtues of “X,” but seldom have anything to contribute to any conversation unless they can somehow bring the topic back around to “X,” whether their comment is pertinent or not, and then derailing to the subject to fit their agenda. They’re a lot like the AMWAY salesman who asks you, “How’s your mother’s diarrhea? Well, you KNOW, AMWAY has a product that makes cleaning out those soiled panties sooooooooo much easier.” They will find some way to let you know they are THE go to guy for whatever cause or theory they have, no matter what the cost. Pretty soon, your conversation about how to cook your turkey dinner is long forgotten, and all you want to do is get away from the clod.
Now, I’m sure you have been in a chatroom or a real life conversation where several of these types have come together in a perfect storm of bombastic verbosity. They no longer talk WITH each other, but AT each other, with their one-sided, one-scripted tirades of what they KNOW, which is all that they know, and all they can talk about. It becomes gibberish. It becomes boring.
To my mind, the most interesting people are the Jacks-of-all-trades, who know a little about a lot of things, and can hold their own in a conversation on subjects from politics to crafting, or painting to photography. You may not learn the history of any subject from them, but invariably, you pick up on some of the tricks of the trade that they have managed to glean in their well-rounded life. Seldom boring, and usually equally interested in what you have to say, rather than hearing the sound of their own voice, their diversity of knowledge is always refreshing, and sometimes they can relate their variety of experiences to a subject that you might need a fresh perspective on.
We all have hobbies, interests and experiences that we can share with others and break out of the doldrums of stale philosophies and ancient truths that we can often find tedious to try to adapt to our world of today. How many times can you hear a retelling of Schrodinger’s Cat before you just don’t give a damn if it’s dead or alive? Pretty soon, you want to scream, “JUST OPEN THE BOX AND LOOK, YOU DAMNED JACKASS!”
There is a time and a place for deadpan seriousness, for sure and there are times when one’s voluminous knowledge of all things Satanic or Scientific or Philosophic are much appreciated. But we have people who go from page to page, saying the same damned thing, trolling for attention, with never a care that people might just not be all that interested in what they have to say. And then you have the E-book authors who post their magnum opus’ on some free site and plug them as validation of their personal theories, expecting people to feel that in doing so, they are experts in that subject. Call them on it, and they will always come up with, “I’m not asking anyone to agree with me, or even care what I have posted at www.bombasticbastard.com.”
If you want to be seen as an interesting person and a good conversationalist both on and off-line, diversify. Read about things other that your main interest, and you will find that conversations with others about their interests without trying to push your own agendas can be quite fulfilling and might even lead you to find new interests that can enhance and illustrate your primary focus in life.
Consider this. You go onto a chat room or bulletin board dedicated to the baking of chocolate cake and post something like “You MUST use two eggs or it is NOT chocolate cake, because that’s how I was taught to make it, and that’s simply the way it is done.” You can’t really be all that surprised when you get your ass handed to you but pastry chefs who might know a dozen recipes for delicious chocolate cakes that show you can indeed use more than two or less than two or even none at all, given the right supporting ingredients.
It happens every day. Someone reads a book and VOILA! They are an expert at whatever skill or philosophy they claim as their major interest. “What is an expert on the interenet? Most often it’s a kid with access to Wikipedia.”
by Jake Block
There are people I know who read everything that comes out by every new guru, and wonder at their genius, how their words have touched their souls and how this man or woman would be the one to change their life. I sometimes wonder why these people need such inspiration, when the knowledge is within them all along…perhaps they simply needed the words to act as a catalyst to their own genesis of thought.
Truly, if one is a free thinker, they must know that their thought is as valuable as that of those whose words lead others to the light of knowledge. Nothing that has been said before is of greater value than the words that spring from free, original thought. It matters not one jot that that original thought is a result of catalytic reaction. The stimulus itself was at one time stimulated to action.
A common thread among free thinkers that I’ve known is that they tend to know what is best for them, despite the conventions of society. When they read a book, they glean bits and pieces from the general theme, but tend to build their own sub-plot that weaves its way through the original text. They cue in on an essence that may be lost to others, but to them, it becomes a world in microcosm…the atom viewed through a powerful electron microscope. But it is from their microcosmic view that springs inspiration, and it is from their inspiration that springs potential for greatness. Once one understands that one can indeed dissect the very essence of thought itself, then one knows the divinity of man.
In the beginning, man created his own gods to suit his needs for survival and to explain the unexplainable world about him. After a millennium, a few unique men began to question the legends and lore that had been inculcated at their mother’s knee, and knew. They knew that in the reality beginning, MAN had created the gods but then, in the dogmatic beginning the GODS had created man. The dichotomy of the man/god relationship became known to them, as a flash of inspiration, and they instinctively knew the power that that knowledge afforded them.
The earliest wisemen were in fact the original free thinkers who knew that man’s place in the universe was not due to the lightning bolts that sent them scurrying to their caves and shelters. They knew, but they were wise men. They knew that to disclose this knowledge to their fellow citizens was to court disaster. So they kept their knowledge and thoughts to themselves, and paid lip service to their unseen gods.
Those who are seen by society as eccentrics and “kooks” often are free thinking individuals. It is sometimes sad that those who have the ability to think for themselves and who are usually intelligent and innovative people are often shunted aside by the herd mentality of society. Think of the natural resource that are lost in the cultural depravation that arises from this isolation. How many advances, theories and pearls of wisdom have been lost?
In this world of instant communications, instant credit, and instant cocoa, is it any wonder that we find that there have become instant experts? One can become an “expert” at any thing by virtue of having one’s name appear somewhere in print…or by having a book in print…even if that book is only marketed through “vanity” presses at the expense of the author. It’s mental masturbation. While the words in the book may have little meaning, the concept of “being in print” carries weight. It shows that the writer has something to say. The message may be garbage, but still, there is a book…authority…to back it.
There’s an old adage that says, “lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.” This, I think, applies.
There are those who are leaders, be it in the world of business, politics, metaphysics or any other field you care to mention. They are the free thinkers who, through sheer force of will, create that spark of insight that can be drawn upon by others. Their fresh and innovative ideas breathe new life to a world that has gone stale. Quite often, they are seen as charismatic and a bit “odd” or “out of step” with the norm. This is how it should be, for as I have often said, what good does it serve to come as a wolf, disguised as a lamb? They are revolutionaries of the spirit and bringers of change. They have something to say, and what they have to say has validity through demonstrable action.
There are those who are followers. They are quite adept at what they do, but need inspiration from above. Who and what they follow might change from age to age, generation to generation and, in some cases, day to day. But they are happy in the knowledge that they have something and someone to follow, as a ship drawn to a distant beacon in the night.
They may never create a beautiful sonata, or perfect a mathematical equation, but they have value in their support for those who can. It is their loyalty and their support for the leaders that gets things done in this world. They bear the cross and know that their lives hold meaning.
But then there are those whose shallowness and whose self-doubt condemn them to a life of perpetual vacillation. Like human weather vanes, they go “whichever way the wind blows.” Watching their lives is like watching a shot of the grandstand at a tennis match.
These are people that salesmen love to find. They are the mass audience that TV commercials are geared for, the much-touted demographic swale in any age group. Their colors are bright reds, greens and blues, found on the “eye level shelves” of every grocery store. Their kids eat Goo Goo Bears and Choco-Chunks instead of good, healthy breakfasts. The newest movies and the latest fads will find them standing in line.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re the lubricant of the economy…the stuff that keeps the country going. You really wouldn’t want one RUNNING the country, but they spend and they produce offspring that carry on the tradition, and they in turn spend and produce new generations that carry on the tradition. They buy the books that jump off the shelves with punch words like (fill in the blank) POWER and GOD’S PLAN FOR (fill in the blank) and CONTROL YOUR (fill in the blank), and think that by reading the words of some hack writer with a “mystical name,” they’ll be just as powerful as he. The wisdom of the universe for $3.95 from Bantam Books.
Now, the fact is that some of these “gurus” are formula writers. They can hold forth on any subject for hours, pushing the right buttons and feeding on the need of the masses to find some meaning, any meaning, for their dull and drab existence. They’ve been around forever, and as long as there are those dim enough to swallow what they have to say, there will always be a market for their crap. A fool and his money…
I’ve come to believe that the only people who really are worth a damn in this world come with a streak of outlaw in them…people who march to the beat of a different drummer, whether that beat drives others crazy or not. Those who finally get up enough gumption to break away from the herd and live their lives on their own terms may never be the richest of men in an economic sense, but when you learn that you can actually think for yourself without having the “brain police” hunt you down, you’ve found true freedom.
Think, damn it!
When someone asks, “What is your rank within the organization,” I am sometimes taken aback, as if they associate my worth as an individual with my position within an organization as the primary measure of my value as a person. Titles become more important than deeds. Deeds become indicative of one’s positioning for “power” in their social or philosophic associations. It becomes stratification by image, rather than ability or the acceptance AND APPLICATION of that group’s core principles.
by Jake Block
An old joke on how I learned to mind my own business.
I was walking past the insane asylum one day and heard the inmates chanting, “13, 13, 13…” so I tried to see what they were doing. I found a small crack in the bricks and when I looked through, one of them poked me in the eye with a sharp stick and they all began to chant, “14,14,14…”
Sometimes it takes a sharp stick in the eye or a punch in the face to make us realize that not everything in the world falls within our personal sphere of influence and that sometimes, we should just keep our nose the hell out of other people’s business. Still, we seem to think that we have the right to know everything about anything and spout off, telling people how they should live their lives, as if we are some expert on their emotions, finances or any other aspect of their lives that you’d care to name. We might “know them,” or have interacted with them on occasion, but KNOWING them still gives us no right to make value judgements. At best, we are mere observers and interested parties, and at worst, simply meddling busy bodies.
I make no apologies for being well read. I make no apologies for being well travelled. I make no apologies for thinking critically. I make no apologies for being intelligent. I make no apologies for being well off. I make no apologies for my art. I make no apologies for my loves. I make no apologies to you, and I make no apologies to a god.
Whether anyone approves of my life, I live it as I will, because it’s my life and I alone can make the choices that I do on how to use it to my best benefit. It might not work for you, but then, who ever said that it had to? We all live within the bubble of our reality and carry a sharp needle. Some think the needle is to burst our own bubble, freeing us to move on to another and another until we’ve explored all of the options we care to, and some of us think that the needle is for us to burst the bubble of others, forcing them to our will.
Life is a personal thing that we need to live, not defend to others. I can see how someone might not agree with what I do in my life. They may see me as too loud, too free or too sexual. There are a million ways to pick apart someone’s life because it isn’t to your liking, but in doing so, one should ask oneself, what the hell makes me so damned sure that my life is beyond reproach? Who the hell am I to tell anyone else how they are supposed to live? WHY am I so cocksure in the belief that I know what is best for another person, anyway? Most people will ask, if they want your opinion, and then will consider what you have to say, but for the vast majority of people, the way that they live their lives is nobody’s business but their own and resent other people sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.
We give our advice when asked, but fail to realize that that is where our responsibility in the situation at hand ends. From the moment you put that period on the sentence about what you think about the situation, the ball is no longer in your court. From that point on, it’s the other person who has the necessity to evaluate what they have heard and then make the best choices for their lives, based upon the information that is given. If that choice is to reject your opinion, then let it go. It’s THEIR life, not yours, and while you might think that every word of opinion uttered from your lips is golden, others assign value to them in the currency of their lives. To them, your gold might be of ultimate value, but then, it’s just as likely that its value is minimal at best.
Each of us lives in a personal bubble, and while we might interact from time to time, those bubbles are our individual worlds that others might see and admire or perhaps even copy, but in the end each bubble can sustain only one person, perhaps merging and separating with other bubbles along the way for a time. But our bubble is our world, inviolate and sacred if only to us. We may be influenced by all of those other bubbles and their inhabitants, and we might even be changed from time to time, but woe be unto those who would ever think we would — or could — relinquish control. So then, why would we think that anyone else would relinquish control to US?
Here’s an interesting concept from the ancients… yes, even as far back as the 1950s. We heard it from parents, teachers and even those whom we might offend. “Keep your hands to yourself”, or “Keep your eyes on your own paper,” or “Mind your own business.”
Unless you are ready and willing to share in a person’s life’s pain as well as pleasure on a very personal level, let them handle their problems. If they need help, they will ask for it. How much of a different world would it be if, when someone told another person, “I would just not worry about that lesion on your nose. Rub some (insert product here) and it will go away. You don’t need a doctor,” and they took your advice, BOTH would suffer the loss of a nose when that little lesion turned out to be cancer? How quickly would you interject yourself into the life decisions of others?
If you don’t like what another person is doing with their life, you have two choices… either live with it, or don’t associate with them. Unless their life choices and/or interests affect you directly, in a way that you can’t disentangle from, why is it that their choices are so damned important to YOU? Their life will go on… or not… with or without you. Unless your are the model of perfection, you’ll get more bang for your buck in paying attention to what is going on in your own life.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
by Jake Block
Any competent mystic guru will tell you that in order to be a competent mystic guru, you’ll need four things, being a philosophical concept, a rather strong ego, the ability to meditate and a really neat mystic guru suit. While the neat guru suit is probably more of an option than a necessity, the remaining three items on our shopping list are definitely prerequisites.
I’ll assume that by the time one has established that he or she would become a mystic guru that the conceptual aspects of the discipline have been accepted and that the ego has been developed sufficiently to allow for “inner peace and enlightenment”. That leaves meditation.
Rama Krishna, Baba Ram Dass, Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, Baba O’Reilly and others not withstanding, one must develop a personalized meditational ritual that allows escape from the problems and cares of the day, the mind expanding in consciousness to become open to the forces of nature that actually allow one to “be a mystic guru” in the first place. Some may choose traditional postures, such as the lotus position, while chanting the ancient “OM.” If this works, great. Use it. It’s all up to you.
I’ve known people who’ve had some rather unusual methods of meditation. One gentleman meditated in a bath of warm water, surrounded by a tape of “mother sounds,” symbolizing a return to the womb. A woman of my acquaintance meditates regularly by engaging in strenuous sexual activity while blocking out the physical sensations for as long as possible, willing herself to find relaxing comfort in her mind before finding sexual release. Minnesota Fats meditated while playing pool.
Having benefitted from the practice of meditation for many years, I’ve refined my meditational practices and have set aside a period of meditation each day. During this time I insure that I will be alone for the prescribed period of time, disconnect the phone, darken the room, relax, just think, and work intensely on the strengthening of my “psycho immune system”. It is during this time that I am normally most receptive to my surroundings and the inner rhythms of my being.
But there are times when this alone is not enough to release my mind from its burdens, and I know that I am in need of some “psychic intensive care.” There are times when I must totally retreat from the world and find a place of solitude. It as at these times that I lose myself in the roar of engines and the sting of wind.
I dress for the ritual in leather as black as the night through which I hurl myself. There is a momentary rush as I straddle the beast of steel and chrome, my motorcycle, and gun it to life, feeling the vibrating throb of power from the 1000cc engine in my loins and my hands. My destination is a speck of light far, far into the distance, beyond my line of sight and always somewhere over the next hill.
I meditate alone, so I choose roads where there is less traffic…country roads that lead to nowhere, a quiet strip that runs a nearby mountain ridge, servicing the high voltage electric lines providing life for the city far, far below. Even with the wind in my beard and my hair, I can still imagine and feel the humm and crack of electricity, merging with the engine’s throb.
After a short time, my mind begins to clear and the hypnotic effects of the road take effect. The dashes of white line fly by as I allow my mind to drift…to wander and fold thought upon thought, image upon image, all the while mindful of everything around me. I clutch, I throttle, working gears and leaning, but it all becomes part of the ritual, taking me deeper and deeper into my world of inner solitude.
In the Spring and in the Fall, infrequent lightning and thunder storms will find me rushing to their centers. I find myself drawn to the highest point above the valley, up treacherous roads made slippery by the rain purifying the air and washing oily grime from the roads. Higher and higher I climb, speeding through the twists and turns that, like in life, often are the most efficient distance between two points.
Atop the mountain named “Twin Sisters” by some long forgotten wise man of some long forgotten tribe of Indians, I watch as the lightning flashes. The stroboscopic effects of the lightning are therapeutic for me, and the crash of boom of thunder lulls my senses. Far below, the city is illuminated by a flash. I hear the sounds of thunder…sometimes the sounds of a siren in the distance, carried by the wind. I am aware of the rain pouring over me, through my hair, down my face and into my beard, dancing off the leather that covers my body. It is all part of the meditation. It is part of becoming one in this ritual of intense concentration.
As the storm subsides, I again gun the beast to life and retrace my journey along quiet and darkened streets. Now more relaxed and at the same time invigorated by the wind and the rain, I return to my home and relax, resuming the normal rhythm of my life, out of “intensive care,” until I again feel the need to commune with the elements of nature and share her power aboard my beast of steel and chrome.
by Jake Block
We tend to applaud greatness in others, but for some reason feel that we are not quite up to the same standard of excellence. Whether it be in academics, vocation or avocation, we look to others to aspire to and achieve, thinking that we somehow lack that special something that keeps us from doing the same…or better…job as our heroes. While it is true that most of us cannot be Olympic medalists, heart surgeons or President of the United States, there is little doubt that we can be the best at what we do. Problem is, do we want to be?
The concept of comparable worth has made the rounds in the last decade. Equal pay for equal effort. That’s a laudable and equitable goal that I can support. It makes no difference whether a person is a male or female, what color they are or whether they subscribe to any socio-religious doctrine. If they do a job they should get paid for it.
Superior performance demands superior compensation. Just as there are 25 watt light bulbs and 100 watt light bulbs, there are different calibers of people. Some people naturally work better than others and produce more. Today’s lock-step world of commerce tends to ignore them. Some say that this is for the good of the whole. Those who subscribe to the team concept of Deming would say that since this individual is a part of the team, then all members of the team should profit equally by that member’s individual efforts.
To deny the individual recognition for superior performance not only negates that performance, but sends a clear message to others. Accomplishments mean nothing. This is a reversion to the slave mentality and corporate grayness that Fritz Lang attempted to warn us about in the epic film Metropolis.
There’s nothing wrong with being better than the next guy at what you do. The “old folks” used to tell us, “Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket.” We never knew what they were talking about…hell, we were kids! We couldn’t understand. Our world was play and heroes and villains and King of the Hill. How could we understand that life itself is like a game of King of the Hill…the stakes are just higher.
In the world of business, it’s somehow become gauche to be successful. We apologize for our affluence. At a recent shareholder’s meeting of Chevron, the Chairman of the Board took great pains to explain that while the company had indeed made billions of dollars in profits, this was down from banner years…and Chevron had given much of its profits back to society in the form of environmental and educational grants. It was if he was saying, “We made X number of dollars, but this is what we are doing to atone for our sins.”
Being a stockholder, I would be more interested in the growth of a company, rather than what the company is doing to mitigate its success in the eyes of the country. A successful company is good for the economy…it provides jobs and social services, bolsters the economic growth, insures investment capital for further growth and allows for charitable donations on the part of the corporation. People just don’t seem to realize that unless a company is successful, it can’t afford to donate millions of dollars to charities and to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Successful companies mean an expanded tax base and an expanded tax base provides for more social services.
We make much of those whose generosity shines like a beacon in the night…the man who gives a hospital wing to fight cancer…the anonymous hero who donates $100,000 for a stranger’s bone marrow transplant…the shy multimillionaire who divests himself of many of his millions in some shining cause. We feel that this is altruism at its finest. This is generosity, humanity and fidelity to the highest natures of man. While this is true, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that these magnanimous examples of “altruism” could happen because these individuals could afford to make them happen, in doing so, gain some level of acclaim or personal satisfaction. You must have before you can give.
This applies in all arenas of human life, from business to love. If you don’t have what is in demand, or you have only enough to support yourself and those around you, you simply cannot give it to others. Love of oneself is a prerequisite to a healthy love for another. Adequate food on one’s own table is a prerequisite to providing food for others. The “old folks” had an axiom for this one as well…”Charity begins at home.”
We all like to help others. It makes us feel good, provides a boost to our ego and makes us shine in the eyes of others. I support the volunteerism that we’ve seen of late in America, and would encourage all who can support the charitable organizations that need your help to do so. But if you are working to live and living to work with little satisfaction on either end, the chances that you will want to…or be able to…are slim.
Since the chances that you or I will be better able to help if we’re successful, I also encourage each and every one of you to make the most of your life. Give your personal best to get ahead, to survive…to prosper. Here’s a simple experiment that those of us who’ve ever been poor can relate to. Try living for one week with nothing…I mean NOTHING in your pockets, only the barest necessities in your cupboards…no munchies in the fridge. Now, the next week, provide adequately for your needs. Don’t splurge, but be generous to yourself. In which case do you think you’ll be better disposed to helping others?
I know of a person on the East Coast who has a wealth of knowledge at her fingertips, and who wants to share that information with others. Problem is, she somehow feels that if she makes any money while doing so, it somehow degrades and cheapens what she has to offer. I can relate to that. But let me put it this way…if you write a book that helps thousands, rather than perhaps the dozens that could be helped individually, isn’t the scale going to tip in your favor? So, you make some money from writing the book. Is that all bad? I say no. Money is a tool, and used wisely, it can fix a multitude of problems.
We’ve all heard of the concept of “seed money.” The TV evangelists always tell us that if we line their pockets with “seed money,”GAWD WILL REPAY YEW TEN-FOLD!” While I am loathe to give them credit for anything, I will have to admit that the concept is sound. When applied not to the religious ramblings of carnival hucksters, but to the essence of one’s life, the same concept can be stated as, “You have to give before you get.”
So, while we should strive to succeed without shame, we must also remember that there are dues to be paid. Truly successful people know that we pay our dues in two ways. Prepayment is the time and effort we put in to actually become successful and competent in our chosen fields. Retro-payment is representative of what we “give back” in real terms, or in the form of assistance to others that we could not have provided, had we not become successful in our endeavors. Each is equal in importance.
Life is not easy. We work to survive and to supply what luxuries we can for ourselves and those we hold dear. When we give life our personal best, the rewards are there for us to enjoy and to share. In the long run, life is like a banquet in which we can invite our friends and neighbors to share in the joy of our successes. The more we have, the more we can share. It’s as simple as that. If we don’t try, we don’t succeed.
by Jake Block
There is a saying that goes something like “If you’re going to tread on thin ice, then you might as well dance.” While it’s cute and its trite, it’s nonetheless true. If you’re going to go for it, then go for it. Damn the torpedoes…full speed ahead.
I’ve met a lot of people who’ve been out to impress me with their knowledge of the occult, from Grand Masters of Inverted Lodges, barely able to spell the magical processes they’d claimed to master, Gifted Psychics unable to function without “spirit guides” who never quite make it when challenged, and the inevitable “witch” claiming powers that would be more convincing if she were able to make ends meet. They’ve all fallen short of the mark, and have always had a reason for their failure. It’s joss, fate, kismet or just bad luck. “I’ve tried everything, Mr. Block, but you see, the world just isn’t ready for me yet…maybe in another life.” Hell…why have another life if you aren’t going to make use of the one you have?
While we like to think about our world as an ordered sphere in which one can get ahead by plodding on hour by hour, day by day, it’s the chance-taker who usually wins the rat race. Those who sit and wait for their chance at life to come usually never get it. They are the wannabes of society. They may be eager and possess the skills to succeed, but with out a good healthy dose of chutzpah, forget it.
Billionaire Donald Trump once related a story about his days as a young entrepreneur waiting for his chance to make it in the construction game. He was nearly broke, and knew that his small business would fold without financial assistance. He brought his potential backers to a “construction site,” and the sight of Trump’s work crews hard at work inspired them. “Gentlemen,” he said, “This is where I will build my biggest and most impressive building. You can be part of it.” They jumped at the chance to help this dynamic leader to achieve his goal. Trump got his financial backing and the rest is history.
What Trump didn’t tell his backers was that he had yet to buy the land. The crews were his, but he had no money to pay them. Trump had mustered all of the manpower he could manage and told them, “Look busy.” It was a sham…and damned impressive. And it worked. Chutzpah.
The world is a place in which everything can be manipulated in favor of the bold. All that is required is that the individual be capable of manipulation. Being able to warp time and space to one’s advantage is no mean feat. It requires a great deal of self confidence, sometimes bordering on “cockiness,” a desire to exert one’s will over that of others and a somewhat fatalistic attitude. I know of one highly competent entrepeneur whose personal motto is, “Expect the worst, hope for the best. Tip the scales whenever you can.” My personal motto has been lifted from Friedrich Nietzsche, “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker.” Loosely translated from the German, “What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger.”
A great many people wear their hearts on their sleeves, accepting whatever indignities the world may heap upon them with a mournful sigh and a look that says, “This too will pass.” They take the sorrows of the world to their graves as companions and friends, for they quite often have nothing else. They use the negatives to outbalance the positives in their lives, providing a ready-made excuse for failure.
“I could’ve been rich,” they cry, “but I was born black…or white…or green. You know ‘they’ won’t let us get ahead.” These same people tend to be experts at everything from astrology to mahjong and are willing to teach you the secrets that made THEM successful.
They’re a lot like the wannabes bikers run into everywhere they go. A guy in a plaid shirt and blue jeans wanders up and cocks his head to one side. He nods his head once or twice and says, “Yeah. That’s some bike, man. I used to ride an OLD HARLEY when I was a kid. Yeah, but I ain’t rode in years, y’know, ‘cause I lost it over on Stateline Road.” I’ve always wanted to toss him my keys and say, “Go for it, man. Show me what you’ve got.” For those who’ve special talents or skills, and have ever been a victim of the kibitzer bird, you know what I mean.
Those who can, do. Those who can’t kibitz those who can. I’ve never been impressed by wannabes that seem to gravitate towards those who can. Those who can are a special breed that are close to my heart, for they’re the type that will take a chance in one great all or nothing run for glory. They’re gamblers and rogues, renegades and revolutionaries, hustlers and flimflam men. They know the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line, but a series of twists and angles that eventually gets you to where you want to go.
These are the true magicians of the world as we know it. Most will never step in a “magic circle,” wave a sword or deliver an incantation in flawless Latin. Their litanies are magic still. They control their own destiny and quite often that of those around them.
My advice to anyone who would become a master, either in the world of business or any world of their choosing, is “Go for it.” Have the guts to take a chance. Follow your instincts whenever possible and most often you’ll find that they’ll serve you well. If things don’t pan out, go at it from a different angle. Keep trying. If the goal is worth the effort, the reward is sweet. “If we’re going to tread on thin ice, then we might as well dance.”
by Jake Block
Coda, n. [It., from L, coda, cauda, tail.] in music, a final passage, which brings a composition to a definite, formal close.
Imagine, if you will, a funeral…yours. You will be the center of attraction as a eulogy is read by one incapable of speaking anything but the truth. Good, bad or indifferent, the speaker will lay your life out before this final gathering in your name, and by what is spoken shall you be remembered evermore. And during this eulogy, you will feel the pride and shame of your life, although frozen in death.
Were this the way that one is actually put to rest, then how many of us would lead our lives as we do? I’ll be the first to admit that while I’ve led an enjoyable life for the most part, there are moments that I have been less than proud of, and I certainly wouldn’t want my mother to have a front row seat at my eulogy! A line from Eric Burdon and the Animals 60’s tune Good Times comes to mind…”When I think of all the good time that’s been wasted having good times…”
Born to live and to die, man is given life without a technical manual. We can study the errors and missteps of the past, but in the long run, it is up to each individual to accept or discard what has been learned. We know that it is better to tell the truth than to lie, but sometimes a lie is not only prudent, but necessary. It may be “more blessed to give than to receive,” but we receive with pleasure and sometimes give less than we should. We are sometimes vain, sometimes irreverent, sometimes covetous and sometimes we kill. Yes, we sometimes bend or break the laws, and that makes us human.
There are some individuals who try to live life by a book of laws, be it the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud or a hundred other books of societal or religious canon. They strive for the perfection of an archetypical savior and feel disgrace when they fail, knowing in their hearts that unless they can “measure up,” they will be doomed to eternal punishment for their crime…that of being human. By those standards, were one to believe in a heaven and hell, “Heaven” would be a peaceful village and “Hell” would indeed be “standing room only.
So we know that we’re not alone in our iniquities and that as we have sinned, so too have those who’ve trod this path before and so too shall those who follow our lead. Ok, we all make mistakes and we all have felt the sting of bitter tears for errors that we’ve made. It doesn’t make us bad people.
When I hear “bible-thumpers” of any religion regaling people with the assertion that their laws are supreme in the universe, I cringe. My mind goes back to the wars, death and destruction that the world has known, mostly because god was on the side of one faction or the other, and that made it perfectly fine to kill the inhuman slime on the other side. Meanwhile, on the “other side,” leaders were certain that god was on their side and they exhorted their troops to kill with the knowledge that their cause was just. In the end, did it matter?
“Good and Evil” being subjective terms at best, who among us is qualified to state what is categorically good or evil in absolute terms?
Certainly each of us is flawed in our judgements and our dealings with others, and as we judge, so too must we be judged. And this judgement will not be by some god who weighs our lives on scales of some eternal balance. We will be judged by those we leave behind; those who keep us alive in their memories. This being the case, is it not prudent that we not steal, not cheat and not harm those around us without provocation? You don’t need a book of laws to tell you how to live in harmony.
I know that I try to do good, but in doing good for myself and mine, there is always a possibility that what I am doing may be perceived as evil to another. I can’t help that, so I try not to worry about it. You simply try to live your life as best you can, helping those that you can along the way.
Very few, if any, individuals are motivated solely by altruism. While it might be wonderful to think that the world could be peopled by Mother Theressa clones, we know that it’s not a realistic vision. Man is acquisitive and, despite our protestations of grandeur, predatory as well. Survival instincts must be followed and satisfied before altruistic indulgences can be entertained. It’s as simple as that. We take care of ourselves and those who fall within our rather small circle of family and friends first and then allow others to draw from our economic or emotional reserves. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the way all creatures are, from man to the lowest species of animal life.
Where we as a species tend to stray is when we become mean-spirited and self-centered enough to believe that we can say or do anything we damned well feel like doing, simply by virtue of being. We feel that our rights are somehow sacrosanct and take precedence over the rights of others, and if they don’t like it, then it’s too bad. The me generation spawned a cross section of humanity that has become repulsive in its inhumanity towards others. Greed and self promotion became the sole motivations for this cult of the selfish. There can be no leader of this cult, since to acknowledge the greater power or ability of another would be the antithesis of the cult’s persona as a whole.
There is no perfect person and no perfect philosophy. People are by definition flawed and prone to errors of personal prejudice. Those who would tread the path of perfection soon find that path to be perilous. We all make mistakes and we all fail. It’s human. But we try, and that’s commendable, so long as we don’t try to place more emphasis on our efforts than they really deserve.
If you ever run across someone who tells you that they’re helping you because they’re just wonderful and generous, get a good handle on your wallet. People will help you, don’t get me wrong, but there has to be something in it for them. The reward may be tangible, or it may be in the stroking of their ego, but there is a reward in there somewhere.
Be kind to one another and, as possible, understanding of the needs of individuals. Just because their needs may differ from yours does not mean that they are at odds with you. It simply means that their survival needs and needs for acceptance are satisfied in other ways. Their goals and values may be just as valid, just as positive and just as important to them as yours are to you. If you invalidate them out of hand and condemn them as wrong, so too do you give others the same license to invalidate you and yours.
Perhaps if you follow the rules of common decency and sociability with your fellow man, your eulogy might not be quite the traumatic experience depicted at the beginning of this essay. Living a good and decent life actually boils down to one simple concept. Respect. What better epitaph could any of us have than “Respectful and Respected”?