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11/11 Make a wish

It’s Veteran’s Day and I’m glad I’m off. Many things to celebrate. No. 1, I am grateful for all our veterans who have sacrificed themselves so that others can live in peace. While war is a complex issue, sacrificing one’s self is, I find, truly admirable. I am in awe.

So, I am utilizing the day to scan pictures that I’ll use for my first published work. I’m finally going to publish my first book! I’m doing it Walt Whitman style, in the sense that I’m doing it on my own. No publishing company to spoil it – the ones I contacted didn’t want to do it, so I’m just going to go solo on this one. I have to tell you, I was a bit saddened when the publishing companies didn’t want to lend a hand, but now I feel better. I’m empowering myself. Well, now that I’m writing about this, I better put this book out there. It’s coming soon – I promise.

Photoshop here we come! I’m scanning at 400 dpi. It may seem small but Amazon requires 300 dpi. I’m scanning 100 more for me to keep higher-res copies, but I will use the 300 ones in the work, and since the pictures will be smaller size than what I’m scanning, all will show fine. Trust me.

While Photoshop does its processing, I’m doing this typing. It’s rather relaxing to do. Even if I have to break while a picture is done. At this point I’m almost doing a paragraph during each picture scan. Up, there goes another one.

Now it’s time to play with my 4x4x4 Rubik’s Cube.

Ok time to scan again…

11/11 make a wish I finish this soon!

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Reflections

Every four years I get addicted to this

My bartender, P-, at Jim Brady’s says the final is going to be Argentina versus Brazil. I say “my” only because I’ve become a regular at this fine Irish establishment that has 3 big flat screens displaying the World Cup, the object of my coming there. Of course, now I’ve formed bonds other than fútbol there: I’ve made amiable acquaintances with the owner, M-, a very courteous Irish gentleman, the bartenders and the wait-staff, who are all a delight.

During the second week of the group phase, when two games were shown at a time (presumably a good FIFA trick to increase excitement among the teams and dissuade them from second-guessing their chances for the next round and instead play!), I positioned myself strategically so that I would be able to see both games at the same time – there are a few spots where you can do that at Brady’s where you can see the two screens without too much neck twisting, just use your left eye for the right screen and right for the left (and old left/right brain trick).

Ah, maybe P- is right, about the final, but I can’t concede. Though I'm much dissuaded by my statement by what I saw from the Brazilian defense which was stronger than a concrete wall against Chile. The Rojas could not break that wall even if they had 20 Mack trucks and a demolisher. The giants are prevailing and no revenges have been settled. Brazil beat Chile as always. Ghana beat the US like in 2006. Argentina beat Mexico in the same phase, four years ago. Germany beat England the way it did in 1990 and other times; the story's a bit mixed in their encounters with the Germans more effective than the Anglo-Saxons. Will Germany beat Argentina this weekend in the Quarter-finals? I almost, almost doubt it, but who knows… What if Ghana triumphs over Uruguay and Brazil over the Netherlands in the Quarter-finals, such that the Five-time champion meets the last African nation left in the tournament at the Semis – would Ghana avenge it’s 2006 loss against A Seleção.

España sent Portugal packing home with a perseverant rebound goal by Villa, No. 7 of the team, who shone much better than his team-mate Torres, but, more remarkably than his Portuguese opponent with the same number, Ronaldo, so much for all his Nike “write the future” commercials. Portugal was great…against weak teams and not so great against strong ones: Facing Brazil, it was a disappointment, in fact, Brazil was disappointing to see when both Portuguese speaking nations fought in the field, playing safe instead of giving it all, which makes me wonder that maybe Brazil won’t be in the final, but who knows…

Drama, drama and art. Did you see how high the American goalie jumped in the Ghanan area in the last few minutes of the second extra time? The scene was so captivating that it reminded me what the Latino announcer in Univision said about another golden moment, “who says you can only see art in a museum – sometimes you can see such moments with a ball (of fútbol).” It was the last few minutes of the game and the Americans had secured a corner kick against Ghana. US Goalkeeper Tim Howard went over to the Ghanan section. He was going to head that ball if he could, right into the opponents. The assist came. Howard jumped. Kingson, the Ghanan, goalkeeper jumped. His arms were stretched so far in the air and he hit the ball, and by a few centimeters Howard almost hit it with his head. In other words, Howard jumped as high as his opponent’s arms stretched high above. It was a duel. Wouldn’t it have been amazing if he had hit it with his head?! Even so, it was amazing to see them jump so high. Such are real moments of beauty. Pelé was right, it is the beautiful game.

And why do some few people want to change it with “replays” and “reviews” and “challenges”, “use of technology”, and blah blah? Have we had referee error here? Yes and we’ve had it at every other Cup. Who says life is fair? Who says soccer has to be either? Put in “replays”, “reviews”, “challenges” then it’s no longer soccer/football/fútbol/futebol. You might as well divide the darn thing in 4 quarters, put in time-outs and take the magic out of the game. Not a good enough excuse. The fact that there is human error is a strength, not a weakness. Imagine that, accepting human error. In sports! What a concept!

I root for the Underdogs: Paraguay celebrated the first time they’ve gone to the Quarter Finals. Good for them, bad for the Japanese, whom they beat. But, there’s always a next time. Slovakia couldn’t defeat the Netherlands but they defeated Italy, the defending champs, just to show you that anything is possible in fútbol. The US showed it too, England surely felt that tie sting; unfortunately, they would wake up in the second half of games and that eventually caught up to them against another Underdog, Ghana. Don’t forget Mexico crushing France—that was classic too. The secret to winning does have something to do with what team demonstrates its winning desire out in the field. Of course, there’s always that bad luck that the Spaniards had against Switzerland, but the Swiss are gone and Spain’s still in, and the Spanish can smile and thank Honduras because the tiny Central American nation tied the strong tri-lingual Swiss, thereby denying them the 3 points to challenge the Iberian peninsula’s biggest country. Go Underdogs! Go! Locals do have a place in my heart too. Most of all, though, I root for the game itself.

I wish I would have entered a pool like the folks at Jim Brady’s did, well, all their staff really, and I think they let a few locals in it, but they had been seeing the games there since they started. I was away that first week in Lake Tahoe, with my esteemed gringo family, who I am happy to report became my comrades by enjoying and watching the games with me in the mornings of Pacific Coast Time. Thank God(s) for satellite TV when there’s no Univision. The tournament will be in Brazil in four years and the time zone won’t be the tricky issue it has been for the past 3 Cups, including this one. I remember waking up at 6am for some of the Korea/Japan games in 2002, including the Final! And I did get up at 4am to watch the great Paraguay v. Slovakia game this time around, but of course, we were leaving to the airport at 6am that day and what’s wrong with waking up a little earlier, a most convenient excuse…Though, I have to say, there is something specially comforting in going out for a late lunch at Jim Brady’s to watch these games, during the work-days.

Maybe once the final comes, I’ll bet who wins with my Irish bartender and stick to my guns, the way I did in 1998, when I bet my Portuguese barber that France would upset all odds by beating Brazil. My prize was getting a free haircut, which I relished that summer. P- can’t cut hair but he can make drinks. Hmmmm.

¡¡Gooool!!

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Reflections

“Get me some accounts!”

Stephen said to me, sneeringly, “How many accounts do you have today?”

Today, I would finally give him an answer he would like. For this day, I had a savior’s touch. I ended up opening 5 accounts, something unheard of. I was lucky if I could open one account a day at our little bank branch, but the expectations for our branch campaign was such that each banker had to open at least 2-3 accounts a day.

The most desperate Branch Manager at Sax, Stephen, was in super-joy hearing about my five accounts. He had been saying that life sucked. He hated his job. He hated his alcoholic girlfriend. He was balding. I felt sorry for him. He was in the middle of pressure. He got it from Damon, the district manager, who got it from David, the borough manager, who got it Damian, the city manager, who got it from Dirk, the regional manager. All D’s, all geo-divisions, and all pressure. Dirk was in corporate; he would get spreadsheets telling him that the Bank’s numbers needed rising. He would push Damian to push his district managers to push his branch managers to push their bankers to sell as much bank portfolio as possible, but the most important thing was to sell more checking accounts than our system was able to open, which was a lot, since we controlled the numbers and we would never run out of numbers, and if a sequence of numbers on an account was ever fully used up, randomly, then the system, we were told, would create longer account numbers, from 5 digit to 12 digit account numbers. We were told, and I paraphrased really, that we needed saturation of not just our market, but all of the US. It was too bad, some district managers reasoned, that Sax was not in all 50 states, but 37 and a half states was not that bad either (Dirk would brag that we were in half of Minnesota; that was the kind of guy Dirk was.)

I still thought of Stephen as being in the middle. Damon made him nervous each time he called him and extremely nervous when he would do his surprise visits at our branch. Then Stephen had to hear it from us; I mean, he would have to be there nagging all of us and what could we do if we had no accounts. Yet, my confidant colleague who became my best friend, Linda, thought that pressure was something he got and gave away to us.

Linda was a bit disconcerted about the over-saturation of checking accounts – especially because it was hard to open up more than one. See, not everyone who needed an account came in. It was summer and people were on vacation. And, contrary to our Customer Service Associate (or CSA[1]), Jules, him and his supreme Saxy beliefs, not everyone needed three checking accounts – Jules had drunk the Sax Kool-Aid. He loved where he worked and he enjoyed selling customers 4 to 5 unneeded accounts. It made Linda call him a '”deuce-bag,” something refreshing to hear in our corporate world.

Her down-to-earth quirkiness and many other characteristics made me fall in love with Linda, among them, the way she’d make me laugh, her sexy blond hair and curvaceous body, her pleasant warmth, and her love of punk rock, which was already classic by the end of the zero digit decade. I would give her chocolate candy; she would buy me coffee at the store next door. We’d exchange books, which was unheard of in our branch circles, for some reason. We became two peas in a pod or peas and carrots, though I’d be a carrot and she, plenty of peas. We’d joke around we’d have children together even though she was unfortunately already engaged to someone else, and we’d also make fun of our lecherous fellow business banker, Jim, who was really cheating on his wife and quite openly so, with customers too! It kept us sane in our little crazed bank branch.

Wrong or not, Damon made sure that Stephen would make sure to make us sure that every customer out there needed at least three accounts. Since I could not swallow that, I only sold to customers what they needed. If they really needed three, then three it was, if only one, then one. For some, a savings account was better, but that was hell for Stephen. He’d scream once in a while, “We don’t make any money on Savings Accounts. Get me some real Accounts!!”

The gentleman I once opened an account for was from Mexico. His name was Helchor. During account opening time, I asked him if he was a US resident.

He said, “I have no green card and it’s harder to get one if you come from Mexico. It’s easier for South Americans to get green cards, but it’s harder for them to get Visas. It’s easier for us Mexicanos to get Visas, but to limit the number of Mexicanos from living here, the US Immigration Department doesn’t issue visas as many green cards.”

We still opened the account for him and we applied for a credit card, what he really wanted. It made Stephen happy, that I was able to sell this guy a checking account, when in fact, he just wanted a credit card. We applied for the credit card, but who knew if he would get that card. Our credit department was not issuing credit cards easily.

However, Stephen would argue “the credit department would consider you more for a credit card if you have a checking account relationship,” which was bogus and he knew it, but it was possibly true. I never did find out. Either way, I remember I had at least 7 clients who applied for credit cards, who also opened checking accounts, and they were turned down for credit. One guy was so annoyed that he closed the checking account. One other customer told me, “Jesus, you can’t give me credit because of a bill I didn’t pay back when I was eighteen?!” He was forty now. Apparently, he needed medical services when he was 18 for a broken arm. He had missed being in his insurance plan by a couple of months; he had just turned 18 and his mother’s coverage ended at that date, but his accident happened two days before he was 18 and the treatment, which included a surgery because he needed a bullet implant in his arm bone, went past the date he turned 18, so the insurance company only paid until that date, the other treatment, which he thought was covered, was not covered, but he never got a bill, all he got was a statement saying, ‘this is not a bill.’ The statement explained all the services rendered to him at the hospital and that the insurance company had paid. Little did he know that the treatment two days past his eighteenth birthday was never paid. He never got notices. He finally received a notice from a credit collection agency, ten years later, when he was 28 that he had to pay $300 for arm surgery treatment. He questioned it and when he got the run-around by the credit collection agency, he decided to pay it. Little did he know that this little blip in his credit history would cause Sax to deny his credit application, 12 years later.

“You people are crazy,” he complained. But he did not close his account. Unlike the other customer, who politely told me, “Well, if I am unable to receive credit from this bank, I am afraid I have to close the checking account. I pray you understand. Forgive me, Mr.…how do you say it, your last name?”

“You can call me Tony.”

“Tony, as I was saying, I really needed the credit card, not the checking account. However, I was rather convinced by you I should open the account when you explained the features and benefits; however, these features are useless if I do not have the credit card. Please close my account.” His sincerity destroyed any notions of me charging him the fee for closing the account. Yes, the bank would charge you $30 for closing an account that you had opened in less than 50 days—even if Stephen would yell at me for refunding the fee, this customer deserved to not be charged, or so was my judgmental analysis, besides I thought, Linda would do the same thing; she became a moral compass to me.

Another confidant banker of mine, Franklin, would tell me that it cost the branch $300 to close an account, whereas if we open an account, the branch profits by $150. Yet, Stephen, Damon and the entire system didn’t care how many accounts we closed, just how many we opened. I was in the lobby one time waiting for customers to come into our little branch. No one was coming so to make conversation, I asked Stephen, “Is it true that Seema is coming back?”

“Yes,” he said giving me a look that said, why are you talking to me when you should be talking to customers coming in? But there was no-one coming..., so I continued:

“When?”

“As soon as I fire one of you guys. She’s the banker who gets me accounts in five minutes, not like you guys who tell me ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’.”

“Yes, she would easily get 20 accounts one week and the next, I’d have to close them because these accounts were secondary accounts and these customers did not want them to begin with.”

“That doesn’t matter. We’re in the business of opening accounts. I don’t care if we close them.”

“But doesn’t it cost money to close accounts?”

“You’re starting to sound like Luke.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t get tied up in philosophy. This business is about showing positive numbers; who cares about the negative ones!”


[1] Sax had plenty of acronyms for its job positions.

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Stories

Old man tried to kiss me

His name was Pierre, lived in this huge penthouse apartment upon the 7th Arrondisement He had seen my ad at the church. He called me. We agreed to meet at Vavin, just outside the metro station the 4 line on direction to the Eiffel tower, which would be my way of getting there.

It was raining as I got out of the station. Out I came and he was there. A big umbrella all opened, his glasses got some drops of water, complete grey hair with black highlights. He and I looked at each other; I was squinting from the water falling. He said, “Tony?”

I said, “Oui, c’est moi.”

Ici, Jean-Pierre.” He extended his hand to be shaken.

His long trench coat touching his legs, shaking with the wind. He said, “Allons nous en. Let’s go, I have a vehicle.”

I walked next to him as he led. He pulled out his button keys, pressed the button, no beeps, just the thump sound twice, coming off a Peugeot, his car, a huge car as big as the American ones, maybe too big for Paris, new leather interiour, it smelled, comfy, yes a new French car, my first time in such in Paris.”

“So Tony, where are you from; what are you doing in Paris?” Strong French accent and he stops to hear me.

“I’m studying here. I’m from New York.”

“Is yours a typical New York accent?”

“Well, I’m from Nicaragua, but in New York now for 12 years I am—“

“Here we are.” We come turning the corner and he pulls over. He presses on a button hooked up to an apparatus on the dashboard. A garage door opens, so small, too small for this car to go in there, but Pierre moves his car in , claustrophobics not needed here.

We spiral around in the tiny parking garage. He parks within inches, sandwiched between 2 tiny cars. WE get out, go into an elevator that only allowed 2 people to go in, space surely a delicacy here, only t2 people could fit in this oval shaped cylindrical, the tiniest elevator I’ve ever experienced. He stands close to me, behind me; I can feel his legs and everything else of his body. His arms reach out almost to hug me – he was just pushing on the number 8 button which was next to me; I felt his chin brush my forehead as he reached for number 8. Blink, there was the 8th floor. Off another vessel for us to get out.

He opens the door. The living room pops out at us, huge, at least 30 feet by 20, packed with vintage-like furniture, had a loft in the background. The centerpiece was a white sofa with Japanese pillows, the cylindrical type.

“Take off your jacket; it’s wet.” He says

And my jacket comes off. It was only a long sleeve shirt with buttons. Then I had a t-shirt. He asked I take my shoes off too, no shoes in his place.

We sat on the sofa with the Japanese pillows.

He brings from his liquor cabinet a bottle of Irish whiskey, asks me how I’d like it but before answering brings out a can of coke and a glass of ice, I guess that was my option, he says, “Wait, but first try it like so.” He pours the whiskey in a glass just for me. Takes good, then he drops the ice, pours the coke, but before all this mess we toast.”

Santé!

Santé, Salud!

Salud?

“Yes, that’s Spanish.”

Voila, oh la la, ca marche bien!” The words go like water and waves. He then brings a book, big and fat, an encyclopedia, “Now Nicaragua, how big is your country?”

“Population wise?”

“And area”

He comes over next to me.

“Well, Pierre, there are about 5 million people, but books always tell you less, the books like for the most part., but I do like La Rouchefoucauld.”

“Well, see, here it is Nicaragua” He looked the page, wrinkled hands, white trimmed nails, manicured last month.”

“5 million inhabitants and 130,000 square kilometers.” He reads the captions.

“Yes it’s a small country.”

“You just said, La Rouchefoucauld? You like him.”

“Yes, the maxims are special to me, like the one that says, ‘we’d be supremely embarrassed if others knew the intentions behind our finest actions.”

“Hum” He hums.

“I like the anonymous ones like that old one about history being written by the winners.”

“Yes, but books are important.”

“Surely and the losers may disagree.”

“So, what did you say you were doing in Paris?”

“I’m studying, just taking two courses, one in conversation, the other in phonetics…” I talked more but my mind was mixed with thoughts about the rain I saw and Pierre’s grin, his smile and his huge space in the building with a tiny elevator, the cylindrical pillows, all seems like a dream now, but then it was happening with him and I as actors, what a show, I felt like a poor little young boy in a rich businessman’s castle, which was exactly what it was, his designer pants, my Bugle Boy jeans I had gotten for less than $10 two summers ago, like a dream…

He moved closer on that sofa with the Japanese pillows. He said, “All right Tony, you talk to me in English and I speak with you in French, but you correct me.” His body language spoke more loudly as he got closer, extending his arm towards me. Did I welcome it? I just said, Oh, no, the wrong idea you have.

He thought we would do other things than speak. He thought I was playing hard to get and that was lost in translation. My ad said, “Young man seeking work as a translator. Knows French, English, and Spanish. Inquire at 43 65 89 85,” just the way the French phone numbers were back then, only 8 numbers and I had my answering machine. He had called it. And here we were.

Somehow we got through the night. I slept on the couch with the Japanese pillows, him on his bed.

The next morning we traded underwear. He said it was the custom in Paris.

Le Fin – The End.

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Stories

In defense of Valentine’s Day

Pre-empting the senseless bitching that’s going to come in the next few weeks, I thought I’d muse on how special the Fourteenth of February is. I like V-Day. I love celebrating it. I don’t care if businesses commercialize it. I say good for retailers and store-owners. They get to sell; they get to move our economy. For coupled folks, it gives them another* special day to celebrate their zest for one another. For the single people, it gives them a chance to find someone. Heather would not have found me if she didn’t look at the Pen-pal personals on one V-Day night, 1999. If I were in the party business, I’d make a special singles only event that day. There is no reason to feel like a loser this day. And, if romantic love’s not your thing, then treat it as a day you can appreciate your friends. I love seeing the lines of people forming at chocolatiers and flower stores. It means they’re going to treat their special person. And, just for a moment, we are all in a cadence together: A ritual! And I don’t only love people buying things for others. I also love it when people get creative about their offerings, like when my wife made me a heart-shaped raspberry cheese-cake on V-Day 2004. You don’t need to get the same dozen red roses, teddy bears and chocolates…though my wife would never say no to chocolates…and I don’t know about teddy bears, but they are cute for the innocent-minded and if that makes them happy, so be it! To the sordid ones who want to get rid of this holiday, I say, how would this help our society? Should we also get rid of other holidays, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve…? Holidays are what you make of them. If commercialization is your problem, then don’t shop and start making something, like a poem, a song, a game, a cake, or hug the person you’ve always wanted and dress kinky. If you feel societal pressure, you’re feeling in the wrong direction! If you’re pre-occupied with historical interpretations of the holiday, then make up your own happy story (or tragic, if you prefer), but don’t go messing it up for all of us who want to have a good time!

* I say “another” because you should try to celebrate your loved one at least every other day, for why else call them “loved” ones.

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Reflections

Retreat

I was at this spiritual retreat in New England. It was in Massachusetts, to be exact. I was looking forward to this experience since my busy banker life in Manhattan keeps me away from stimulating the spiritual side of me. There were about two dozen people at this retreat. They came on their own accord. I had no idea who they were really. I found out about this place through Retreats-R-Us.com. I know I didn’t do full research, but I just wanted the bare basic retreat and in some country-like place like the western half of the Puritan State or some other quaint commonwealth.

The 2 dozen RetreatAnts, as we were called, were doing just fine. The Retreat Head Mistress gave us this name because she considered her retreat headquarters to be an ant colony where we, the RetreatAnts would collectively meditate for the thriving of our own spirituality. The queen ant, therefore was our own self-improved spirituality. Our Head Mistress had plenty of meditations for us to engage in. Some of us were put to doing Sanskrit meditation, a form of relaxing the wrists by writing in Sanskrit. They did not know the language, were not even East Asian, but they did a fine job of copying the scrolls. One of the retreat coaches concluded this was a fabulous way to achieve a clean head, which is what meditation was, according to the blonde girl who sat with me on the train as we headed there. I suppose it was impossible to not have run into a fellow RetreatAnt on the Amtrak. Oh, but, this girl was so wrapped up in love for meditation. She was a hippie’s daughter raised in the hippie ways, loving the hippie-zeitgeist. Now, I’m a banker, that is true, and I do have my conservative tendencies, being a no-hippie sort of individual, yet I must say what she spoke about relaxation of the mind really made me look forward to this adventure. Her name was Starchild, according to her.

Other RetratAnts practiced toenail clipping. Not your regular clip the toenails with a toenail clipper kind of thing, no, this was a ritual whereby it would take you five minutes to clip one toenail. There was a breathing meditation break of a minute during clipping such that it would take an hour to do all 10 toenails of your feet. You also had to keep your eyes closed throughout this exercise.

There was also the headstand meditation participants; they would stand on their heads for hours. If there were people who wanted to join them, but could not do the headstands so long, they would do foot stands, and so, would stand next to them. It was an interesting sight to see. I didn’t think much of that trick. I felt like saying to one of them, “Don’t you feel like saying: ‘Here, I’m standing. Look at me meditate’.” At least the real head-standers were doing something different.

As much as I thought I was getting something out of this experience, I was just sleeping in. Yes, would marvel at my fellow RetreatAnts, but on the whole I was just baffled by my lack of activity that I slept in almost every day, until Starchild made her way over to my bed quarters and scandalously woke me up.

It was 6AM. I must have been snoring and dreaming. Yes, I know I was dreaming, and my dream was about a praying mantis eating me alive, and yet, I was sound asleep. When the mantis was about to open her fangs, Starchild woke me up by throwing a bucket of cold water on me. I didn’t even have time to get mad as the shock almost killed me and for a moment I thought I was in the mantis’ acid filled stomach. To my surprise, it was just the cold water that came out of the bucket that Starchild threw at me.

Shocked with a loss of vocabulary, I said, “What the—!?”

She said, “There’s a fire! We must leave!”

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Stories

Our Soporific Sofa

We have this sofa that has soporific powers. I lay there and I'm gone, sleeping that is. I tried reading a sonnet there and I couldn't get past the 4th line as I was rhyming with snores. I’ve tried reading any book and as soon as I get past the 1st page, my ZZZ’s are all over our apartment. Anytime I'm hyper and I want to lowdown, this is where I go. Quinta-espresso or Yerba maté cannot break this sofa's powers, nor Red Bull.

When we have guests and they sleep over, they find that they sleep past their normal wake up times, even with the train noise outside and the light coming from our living room windows – we have light curtains, which let the sun's rays. To be fair, we face the west, so the sunrise doesn't cook anybody's feet or heads, but the light of the sun, ever present can be felt, but with mushroom wood underneath them, that’s just not enough to awaken the toughest early bird – the worm will get away.

The soporiferous power lies in the mushroom wood of which the sofa is made. Although you would not tell it has any wood – for it has the softest cover – there is a material underneath all the softness that gives it structure, and most importantly, its sleep-inducing qualities.  This wood was cultivated in Indonesia, timbered with splashes of anti-caffeine agents, little dashes of sarsaparilla, half-wormwood and plenty of owlapiccitus, a stimulant-chemical-based plant only native to that part of the world. Treatment of the wood was done at night when only the owls and other creatures abound freely hunting or escaping the chase, like some cute and furry rodents. It was thought that night-cultivating would have the effect of creating awake-inducing wood, but the opposite happened. When the Indonesians figured this out, they no longer produced this wood because they were looking for the most work-inducing sofa that ever existed, but by this point in time, about 167* sofas had been made. What else to do but sell them. They distributed them all over the world. The distribution went as follows: 21 to Europe; 14 to Africa; 15 to Australia; 28 to India; 39 to Los Angeles; 30 to Chile; 17 to Saudi Arabia and 3 to New York. The distributors discovered that Gotham did not want its workers to spend too much time sleeping, since it is supposed to be the City that never does it, hence the low sales numbers there. L.A. was no surprise, being so laid back, got the highest numbers. Though they were surprised that Europe had awakened from the work to live (not live to work) comma; yes it was surprising, but then again, this happened in the wake of the EU, and we did see the high Euro low Dollar effect. The Chileans, it was said, loved to drink their wine while sitting on sofas, so they bought as much as they could; the effect was, of course, that their next door competitors, the Argentineans, were now producing more wine (they did create Yerba maté, it was said). As for the Chinese, who did not want to be left out of the action, ended up buying some from the Indians, and they were both happy.

All of this may seem displaced or scarcely unbelievable, but it is the truth.

PS: Our sofa was a gift from a friend of of a friend of an acquaintance who was traveling from Madagascar, on her way to Melbourne, after having spent sometime in Bombay.

* Add 000 to this figure, i.e., 167 = 167 thousand

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Stories

Reflections On My First General Assembly, 2009

Believe it or not, it was the appeal of going to Salt Lake City, Utah, that made me desire to attend my very first General Assembly (G.A.). I get to shoot two birds with one stone I SandyTracks said to folks who asked me “Why Salt Lake City?”, “Why G.A?”. In obscene shorthand, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations General Assembly is the big Pow Wow of all Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations – I would not call it our Mecca trip, though I almost think it ought to be. Most UU churches send members, called delegates, who gather together each year at different locations throughout the United States for a four day meeting (by the way, this trip is not paid for by the churches, though some assist somewhat, for instance by paying for the registration fees—mostly, though, the members pay for their stay and travel). They usually hold these gatherings in cities that have ample convention centers and where the rent is affordable; such a place was Salt Lake City, hosting G.A. from June 24th to 28th this year, and such a place will be Minneapolis in June 2010.

V&H-SLCSP

I admit Salt Lake City was an attraction for its Mormon history, but it was also a place I had not been to. The wise say you ought to visit a new place you’ve never been to each year to enrich yourself, for travel is a better education than any Ph.D. any day, and I don’t really admit any apologies for my overly educated Brahman. 

In any case, I found Salt Lake City to be rich. It is a booming town. You can tell because of all its construction cranes. Investors put money in building because they know it’s a good investment. Though, our taxi driver from India, on our way to the airport did tell us that the hotels were empty – blame the economy. The truth is Salt Lake is happening. And I don’t say that just because it has ample nightlife, though don’t go try to go out to a restaurant on a Sunday night – most restaurants close by 7pm that day and 10pm all other days, with some exceptions, but hey, mass transit is free in the very center of the city and the cable cars are very clean as are the sidewalks. The LDS Church will build a business school too. The Mormon complex is something you have to see. It is something to admire. I admire the Mormons. Their evangelical tenacity. Their love for architecture and beautiful things. Their nice-ness. Heather and I took a tour of their grounds at Temple Square. I simply adore their open-ness to show you their way, their system of belief and thought. I felt like they were Unitarian Universalists, with a different theology and dress, more money and much more evangelism.

So…the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations General Assembly (UUA G.A.), what I started writing about:

I had no idea how big we are. I had no practical idea how small we are. It didn’t occur to me how spread we were; we are really all over this mosaic called the United States and Africa too (!). Hearing numbers at your local congregation, ratios, percentages is not the same as seeing them live, as hearing them talk and speak their minds and cause controversy, shake up your upper middle class status.

Our denomination is small and diverse. It is also large and not diverse. It is complex and at a critical time it is the most powerful answer to the changing world we live in. We have great opportunity and we are finding it hard to grasp it. Perhaps we are focusing on the lack. Perhaps this is a good thing, for how boring to find we were on top – a challenge is more welcome.

Our “movement,” which is not a good term, by the way, for movements come and go, but the truth is Unitarian Universalism is here to stay and develop however we want it to be. It is a religion – a lot of us better get used to that if we are to make it big or at all.

I perhaps digress, but the truth is we focused on those issues more than you can imagine. Although I had felt that at All Souls in New York City, which is an anomaly by the way, the congregation I attend religiously, I was not aware of the urgency, to put it mildly.

I guess when you hear the numbers and when you see the evidence, then you might get it too. Here are three interesting statistics I learned at G.A.:
* No more than point three percent of the United States population (0.3%) declares itself as Unitarian Universalist.
* Our congregations have less than 9% of people who consider themselves as people of color. 
* Across the board, our percentage of monetary giving is about one to two percent (1-2%) a person. Monetary giving, what is sometimes called “stewardship” – one percent (!). Sad.

Clearly we are missing a ton of vibrancy.

Let me step back a bit on the great things that we have done, for we are a quintessential American faith, and let me be humble as I say truths:

The Universalists, as early as the 1800s, were some of the first supporters of non-sectarian schools, and they also worked on social issues including the separation of church and state, prison reform, capital punishment, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights – this was before it was the acceptable norm to follow. In 1863 the Universalists became the first group in the United States to ordain a woman with full denominational authority.

But let us not forget our Unitarian brethren too: They spoke out on issues such as peace, education reform, prison reform, orphanages, capital punishment, moderation in temperance, ministry to the poor, and the abolition of slavery (also in the 1800s). When both the Unitarians and the Universalists merged, they continued to strive forth in the direction of social justice. We are Jesus embodied. Why do you think I, a former Catholic, feel closer to Jesus of Nazareth now as a UU than when I was being confirmed by a priest – the parallels of UU and Jesus are really striking, when you think that Jesus wasn’t trying to conform people to a religion and how UUs don’t want to convert you and just do the right thing. Well, my friends, the times have changed and I believe the message needs be spreading:

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Our newest campaign is Standing on the Side of Love. We do that for immigrants who search for a better life, for gay and lesbians who desire marriage, for atheists who are unaccepted, for Catholics who do not believe in hell, for Jews who also believe in the Goddess, for our Earth plagued with our pollution, for all oppressed people... But we are not some foolish people. We are a religion. Until we realize that, we might always be a margin of .3%.

While at G.A., we stood on the side of Love on Friday, June 26, 2009, as we organized an interfaith rally in support of immigrant families – the Salt Lake City Tribune was happy to report it. In fact, we were supporting the immigrant wife of a US citizen, member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. At our rally of over 1000, he told the crowd of the ploy the police used to get into his house and forcefully arrest her. The police agents used a trick of wanting his wife to identify a woman in a picture, but they arrested her instead, handcuffed and shackled, treated inhumanely. See, there is a law in Utah that authorizes police agents to become Ice agents, which means that the police can arrest and detain people based on suspicion of immigration violations, and the treatment they inflict on these people is sadistic and unkind. To show you that we UUs are really changing our ways, we held this as an interfaith rally, having had speakers from the Catholic and Episcopalian denominations and let us not forget that it was a Mormon family we were supporting. This was UUs in action. This is what we do.

Had I not gone to G.A., I would not have learned about the Standing on the Side of LoveLove campaign. It was proposed by our very own Bill Sinkford, who just ended his term as president of the UUA. I would not have learned about it because our church of All Souls is, I’m afraid, isolated in some ways from the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the UUA. In my cynical view, I wondered why we were there, for what is it that we really bring back to a congregation who is not as involved in denominational affairs as it should be.

Had I not gone to G.A., I would not have felt a certain power of Love. It definitely is affirming to be with so many UUs and from all over the country. We are not alone. If I were to move outside of New York City, I could easily find a church; granted, I would miss All Souls, but life would go on at another UU church, and for that I am not only proud, but relieved.

Victor-BannerI tell you what indeed gave me a rock star feeling: When I held the banner. I know it can be classified as rather cheesy, but I was a rock star! Let me explain. Aside from orientation, the first main event is the Banner Parade. This is the event where each congregation is represented by a banner at the main hall where all the three thousand G.A. attendees have gathered. Of the two members of a church walking together, one carries the congregation’s banner. It is the notorious nature of delegates to assign this job to the newbie. Since this was my first time at G.A., I was the one holding the thing, which is really not heavy at all. It used to be a job not many loved because you would miss most of the service entailing the parade, but the way it’s handled now, as far as I hear and experienced, is that any speeches are held until all banners have marched and there is time for them to sit back down and enjoy the service that comes about when the last of the banner marchers has marched. There’s a certain evangelism that goes along with displaying one’s congregation.

Bill Sinkford was the first minister who taught me about true-evangelism. He said we need to spread our message because it will help people. We cannot be too egotistical in thinking this is a good thing only for us. We need to help others; we cannot simply see this as a quest of numbers.

And Rev. Sinkford was munificent once again as he gave his words on Compassionate Witness titled “Truth and Reconciliation”, but it was the homily of Angela Herrara, a ministerial candidate and student at Harvard Divinity School, whose ministerial poetry remain in my mind. She started with the words from the poet Antonio Machado, “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar.” “Traveler, there is no road. One makes the path by walking.” She made a metaphor of her early life, having been raised as UU child, thinking that “what set her faith apart was that you could believe in whatever you want…that you don’t have to believe anything.” And as she grew up, so did her faith. When it came time to fend for her own and “other’s inherent worth and dignity let me to realize it’s not true that you don’t have to believe anything.” She said, “We’re not preaching the gospel of disbelief. We are a community of believers. And what we ask you to believe is that you are already holy.” But it’s not that easy, as she affirms:

[For] to believe you are already holy takes courage. It raises the bar. To be holy no matter who you are is to subvert traditional expectations—low expectations—and it calls you to something higher, better. This kind of faith wants not just to soothe the troubled spirit; it seeks to restore wholeness to what is continually broken. Relationships—the interdependent web. They are broken by human brokenness. By alienation, fear and systems of oppression so pervasive they can only be called evil. This is hard work. It’s big work for an imperfect, holy people.

She really spoke right on to what I have felt each time some of our members (myself included) say as we invite others to our faith. How dare we tell newcomers that they don’t have to believe in anything should they join our faith? Can we possibly look ourselves in the mirror and say we don’t have to believe anything as UUs? There is no excuse. You bet we accept the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and for the fourth principle to be achieved as we know it, we must believe. I thank Ms. Herrara for preaching these words.

Let us step into some other magick moments:

G.A. was not just about worship services. There were also official business to take place. Issues of Governance are important. Our faith is most democratic, perhaps the most democratic procedural of all. We govern our congregations pluralistically. And so, to agree on what is to bind us together requires dialogue with ourselves. We conduct these exercises in the Plenaries. I had to look at what plenary meant in the online versions of several dictionaries. The crux of the word means “full” “complete” “what is required” “important” “attended by all qualified members” “pertinent for all to attend”. And it was important to attend and just being UUs is qualified, but you need to be a delegate in order for you to vote and churches are assigned numbers of delegates based on their membership numbers. How pertinent is it to attend these Plenaries? Very! For we decided whether we should change Article II of our bylaws, what language to use, even changing a word in the 7 principles, the stuff that we all UUs stand by. How could it not be pertinent to attend and cast your vote? This faith gives you a firm responsibility: The search and responsible quest of truth and meaning. This is live democracy in your religious faith. Why wasn’t I told about this at All Souls…my pet peeve, as you may have guessed, why aren’t we as a congregation informed enough; my voice repeats, why are we not involved in denominational affairs as we should, for this really impacts us all UUs (?!?).

GiniArm Ok, but who makes this process fun? The Moderator. And her name is Gini Courter. She is the Lady of the Hour who makes Plenary happen. She stands at the microphone on the center stage of this conference room where at least two thousand people fit. She is there recognizing people at the Pro, the Con, the Procedure microphones. She is there to communicate which item is next to be voted on and debated. And to top it off, she’s entertaining. UUs make the democratic process really fun. T’is no wonder Gini’s a public figure with her own Facebook fan page. Naturally, I invite you to become her fan, and then you can friend me, or friend me first!

G.A. is also a place where music is felt under your skin. One thing we UUs do well is creating music. Because our faith is cosmopolitan, our tunes are so versatile. Yes, I do love Walter Krauss’ classical repertoire at All Souls, but I wholeheartedly say it was refreshing to hear world rhythms from Africa, Spanish songs—that is songs sung in Spanish, Hungarian cantatas, New-World, Folk, Gospel, Rock, you name it music. We need that diversity. I thought, gee, why don’t we have the Teal Hymnal Supplement at All Souls again??? I must speak to Wally. And Galen. But, as Jim Moskin said, firstly to Ann Gorycki, for she knows where the money’s to be found, if that’s the real issue…or is it…? I wonder. I think Music is really the language of diversity and of the soul. Love is its embodiment, no doubt, but if there’s a life after this, Music has got to be in there. I’m thanking John Hubert & Matt Meyer, who introduced such an eclectic and comforting repertoire of musical innovation to our souls at G.A.

InTheMoralesBus

Speaking of Diversity, that is G.A.! A diverse-full of folks! They come from all walks of life. But, as you may have heard in the earlier paragraphs of this reflection, our denomination is tiny when it comes to diversity of folks who are not Middle-Class Euro-American Caucasians. That is true. Being in this group, I am an anomaly, but not so at the same time: I, a Latino who passes as White without even trying, because of his seemingly fair and fawn skin, his Master’s Degree, his Caucasian wife, his white collar job, his former immigrant status, now being a privileged citizen of the United States…ah, but I still got an accent, and yet, no one can tell where it’s from, so I’m an exotic and so, there goes me being a representative of what is deemed “people of color”; I’m just a delicacy... I guess I’m a poor example of this. Or am I? I am still Latin American. Some call me Latino or Hispanic. That isn’t terrible; Latino sounds better, later 90s terminology. Hispanic sounds early 90s. But: Don’t you dare call me “Spanish”! O te mato con palabras…

Still, people perceive my diversity and that is good and because the good also has the bad, there are the awkward moments. In fact that is the problem, and I don’t say that for UU circles, but for all the sake of being welcoming in any situation or place; the real issue is awkwardness, not racism, for me, not that I’m denying there is ethnocentrism, racism, culturalism, classism, accentism, many-other-isms, but that with respect to our world (and faith), we are so awkward when it comes to communicating to a person of color. I yearn for a time when I won’t be assumed to be voting for a candidate called Morales because I am Latino (yes, this incident did happen at G.A.). I don’t think people are really racist in the way of wanting to do harm to the “other” at our denomination; we are just awkward and behave that way. In fact, I want to get rid of the anti-oppression jargon that exists in the Multicultural speak. It’s awkwardness that defeats the majority and the minority. Instead of respectfully asking questions that spark our interest for the sake of us understanding differences, we end up making asses of ourselves with assumptive language and our intent is not malicious, but the person of color ends up perceiving it as an awkward mess because it is dumb and awkward. Without blame and with reason, the person of color will think “why go to such a church if they can’t handle that I’m different…” It’s not at all that the upper middle class white UU is really racist or means harm; it’s that some of our brethren act as assumptive, and not all I remind you, it’s some. In this regard, I say to those who have fallen into the awkward trap: It is far better to ask, “What did you think of the candidates?” instead of saying to a Latino/Hispanic/Latin-American, “I assume you voted for Morales, I cannot see you vote for Laurel” Imagine how it would sound had I said that to an African American or White American at the time of the US presidential elections last year – between McCain and Obama, to a White, “oh of course you’re voting for McCain” because he’s white? Think about this. – this is what I’m talking about. Controversy. But it’s 2009 and it happened to me. And why cannot it happen anywhere else in your local congregation or city?

Well, on the second day of G.A. the Reverend Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed gave us most impressive lessons to be learned about how to deal with our diversity problem. His powerful conclusion can be summed up in four parts:

1) “Lecturing and controlling is not the way. Guilt deals cruelly with vision. Trepidation encourages timidity.” Speaks to my awkward reference; don’t blame the majority, but don’t tell people what to do either (from either perspective).
2) Be honest about who we are. “We are an ethnic faith.”
3) "Appreciate the diversity we have achieved.” Women and LGBT people are well represented in our ministry.
4) Accept that we are caught in a conundrum. “We don’t really want to change.” We yearn for stability, so we find comfort. We don’t want too much change. We yearn to be whole, but change equals discomfort. We need to see change as an open and adventuresome undertaking. We need to recapture the excitement of our forebears. And, accept that change is going to come, whether we like it or not. 

And change has come to the UUA again:

MoralesV&H I alluded to Morales and I was not making him up. His name is Peter Morales and he won the election, becoming the first Latino president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (why not say it fully; must we always use acronyms? UUA? Be proud of who you are. Great names are supposed to be challenging, mine is Victor Fidel. The name of our faith is Unitarian Universalist; though many a times I could go for Universalist Unitarian…). We voted at G.A. in this historic election. 

For this presidential contest, we had two formidable individuals. Laurel Hallman and Peter Morales. For me, it was not hard to choose after hearing their speeches and debates. But I can understand how it was for others. These were fantastic speakers and had visions, and their intent was not different. I mean this was not like McCain versus Obama, nor was it Obama versus Hillary. Both candidates had positions comparable to the values of all us UUs. It had to do with whose vision you supported. Morales was instrumental in communicating clarity and urgency. Laurel had passion of eloquence. Both were fantastic. Morales’ sense of urgency for our faith won. His clarity of aspirations will take us to where our desires exist, if we all work for it so. One thing I appreciate about him is the way he presents himself. At the Candidates Forum, he was not reading a script he wrote: He was reciting it. Yes, I am sure he memorized it and that feels better than somebody reading to you (not that I don’t appreciate the sermons that all my ministers preach to us – they also read them and in ways we don’t think we’re reading them, and as I said, Morales had to have memorized his speech and he was natural at it). He was looking at us as he spoke. But that isn’t everything; it’s pin-pointing the four areas that UUs need to work on that made it most palpable for me to vote for him, and this is my blog, so I can come out and say who I voted for. He said we need to work on:

1) Our low numbers. We must be the moral equivalent of feeding the religious and spiritual hungry.
2) Disciplined management of the UUA. We need to do more with less. Our numbers being low, so is our budget; therefore we need more efficiency.
3) Build on Sinkford’s Public Witness. We need to lift Unitarian Universalism into the public square. Standing on the Side of Love is the start. UU must be a major player on the public stage, a major moral voice.
4) Unitarian Universalism must speak to the new America we face, which is multicultural, multigenerational and complex. This is serious work for us, lacking in diversity. 

He really got me convinced that he will work so that Unitarian Universalist will be the religion for our time. He affirmed that religion is more about what we love than think. This may strike some UUs because we are used to being haute thought. We have broad appeal religiously but our relational ties need honing. I welcome his challenge and charge. In addition, I would like to propose what Reverend Abhi Janamanchi told us in the Sunday morning worship, that “we are boldly going where no faith has gone before.”

I think, in order to do those things, we need to look to ourselves and understand our past and present, reconcile our differences. We need to value the past we’ve had. Most of us come from other religions. We need to deal with that before we can engage the in any community outside our own. I got to hear ways on how to do that at G.A.: One of our distinguished members who is deeply involved in the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, Marilyn Mehr, led a moving address titled “Lessons of a Mormon Childhood – LDS to UU-UNO.” She was raised Mormon in Utah and later in life became a Unitarian Universalist. While she is happy to have found a religious and spiritual home in our faith, she learned many important lessons from her childhood. She said three of them are:

1) “Value being different” – having been Mormon, she had to deal with prejudices from other religions. We UUs should value our differences and be proud to defend them, but love our community in the process.  
2) “Importance of Community. We must have commitment to each others existence.” Let us wholly support our interdependent web that binds us together. 
3) “Importance of Families.” We ought to not forget our brothers and sisters from other religions and interchange in more dialogue.

I will add my personal 4th lesson to all you UUs: We need Tithing! As I stated earlier, we UUs give about 1 to 2% of our income to church. That is obscenely piddly and simply unacceptable. If we want our faith to grow in different ways and do the justice work we aim to fulfill, we cannot do it on pennies. Maybe 10% is too much: Don’t worry, then you can do 5%. That’ll at least more than double our resources. Don’t tell me that you are young and cannot afford it. Yes you can! Yes we can! The youth, especially, must feed the church, for they shall inherit this great faith. What would they like to see in the future? The future is now. It will be far wiser for us young adults to skip on that occasional Sunday brunch and give that money to the place that nourishes our soul and feeds our spirit, for our churches are of this Earth and have bills to pay – I not only speak for an expensive lot on the most expensive zip code in the world, the Upper East Side of New York City, where All Souls is, but also all over the regional spectrum.

Ah, what else can I say, General Assembly shook me, but it also comforted me. G.A. affirmed my spirituality and religion with inspiration. I am proud to be a Unitarian Universalist, and I am grateful for what it means to be of this faith.

JackMormon

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Reflections | All Souls

The Alchemist: Achieve Your Personal Legend

Sometimes you need the right story to teach you that it’s all the worth in the world to never give up on your dreams. The book I am referring to is The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. The first time I was introduced to it, was when Heather read it to me at night. Reading is one of the things she does to put me to sleep. The second time I experienced it, was today when I read it, and how glad I am to say I was immersed in it again. Framed in a most beautiful and accessible prose, The Alchemist teaches you about life, love, religion, spirituality and your soul.

It is the story of a boy who had a dream and he dared to pursue it. Santiago was his name. In pursuing his dream he went out to find a treasure that he himself did not know what it was. Life is non-scripted. He met people along the way who helped him achieve it. These people were his guides, his signals. He listened to the signals and he followed their advice. Even when he himself questioned whether he should follow his journey, because he was in tune with what he calls the “language of the world,” he was able to find his treasure. And how fortunate was he, when he found his treasure was always his all along.

I won’t give away the plot details or the actual ending because just as Santiago did, you have to achieve your own Personal Legend. Besides, I bet a lot of you have already read this book – it’s the best selling novel in Brazilian literary history and has been translated into 67 languages, and according to Wikipedia, it has won the Guinness World Records for most translated book by a living author, so with 65 million copies in more than 150 countries, this is but a tiny review and just another crystal wave in the sea of Alchemist lovers…

I will, however, give you some quotations from the story, which cause one to ponder:

“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise [people] are able to understand them.” (pg. 16)

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” (pg. 17)

About the Personal Legend: “It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.” (pg. 22) – Do not give up on your dreams!

“Never stop dreaming…follow the omens.” (pg. 63)

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (pg. 24) – I find the best way to let this happen is to not doubt the possibilities of your dream, to be open-minded, so that you can listen to the signals and make the right decisions that will get you to where you want to be, what you want to do, achieve your Personal Legend.

If you haven’t read this book, I am glad because now you have something really exciting to look forward to. Go out and get it. It must surely be at your library, or you may order it from the link on the left or here. If you have already read it, experience it again – I found more meaning the second time around.

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Book Reviews

Psycho-Cybernetics: A Personal Review

I have just finished reading The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, as updated by Dan S. Kennedy and The Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation. I must say this book brings all of the self help books together to a fruitful conclusion. Psycho-Cybernetics summarizes self improvement teachings in the most effective manner because it gives a practical course of action in so few words: “Change your self image to attain your desired results.”

Sheer will and that “no pain, no gain” attitude is not enough to conquer obstacles. You have to be able to see yourself as the conqueror, the winner, the victor, before you can tackle anything. This is not just true of the champion but also of the person who is in a slump. You may be depressed. You may not have any passion. You may think you are a failure. You may hate your job and your spouse and your kids and your mediocre middle class life. You may be getting there. I could be considered in a slump. I am on crutches because of a stress fracture. I am a soul who thrives on physical activity. I have run three marathons and several triathlons. And now, I’m stuck at home; I cannot even move one city block without some pain. I cannot carry my own glass of water because I can drop the water all over the apartment I live in. I could be depressed. I could go “stir-crazy” in this little space, which while comforting, is still a small space. I could continuously listen to the negative messages coming from others, that I should no longer run because look at what has happened to me. Or, I could choose to listen to the positive messages. Either of these messages does not matter as much as the course of action I take, but ultimately how I imagine my situation to change. If I see myself as being healed, that is half the battle. The body itself will begin to heal.

In Psycho-Cybernetics, according to Maltz and Kennedy (M&K), when we imagine what we would most likely want to be, the mind and body begin to follow. The important thing is we can change our self-image. Once we start changing our image, our mind and body, which M&K call the “servo-mechanism,” will take over the details. They will guide you to your desired results, but you must “see” yourself win. We do not know the hows; we start changing our situations by letting the process take over. It may be you getting that new job or asking out a new sexual partner. We will not attain desired results unless we first erase the doubt of achieving our goals and imagine that it is more than possible. And we can do this consciously: As M&K write, “Conscious rational thought selects the goal, gathers information, concludes, evaluates, estimates and starts the wheels in motion.” We need to let go of some control here. This can be problematic if you are used to worrying. It is easier said than done, but worrying about how you are going to get out of your slump is useless, futile, and only gets you deeper in the hole of your depression. In order for you to really dig yourself out, you need to replace your current gloomy picture of yourself with a picture of yourself that has riches and happiness, whatever a picture of happiness seems to you, whether that means being in a yacht with beautiful people, writing the great American novel, being a successful minister, having a great relationship with your son, etc.

Consider these inspirational quotes:
Page 160: “Thoughts and feelings grow together. Feelings are the soil that thoughts and ideas grow in.”  -- You can reason as much as you want that it is your right that you should get over a divorce, for instance, but until you actually feel yourself ready, you’ll be stuck in a rut and not be able to find someone new.

Page 78: “The truth about you is this: You are not inferior. You are not superior. You are simply you. You as a personality are not in competition with any other personality simply because there is not another person on the face of the earth like you or in your particular class. You are an individual. You are unique.” – It sounds like something you would find in a fortune cookie, but the truth is we fall into the trap of competition against others. Our mentality delves into keeping up with the Joneses or even with a friend, and we may not even know we are doing it. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and become our own beings. Only each of us knows what happiness is to each of us.

Page 198: “You cannot see your future with optimistic eyes if you cannot view your present and past with kind eyes.” We cannot go forward if we are always stifling ourselves with regret and guilt. We make mistakes. Life goes on. Life is long. But when you beat yourself over the errors you have committed, you cut your present and future possibilities. So you failed at your job. Forget about the failure. Use the lessons to get you over the hump to get a better job. So the object of your affection rejected you. Get over it. Dwelling on the past keeps you fatally stuck loveless. 

I cannot recommend this book enough. I don’t think you have to be depressed or have reached a low point in order to find it useful. In fact, because of the very nature that life is about ups and downs, happy individuals can certainly find it formidable when the tough times come, as they do. There is plenty of usage for everybody. As the authors put it succinctly, “I believe that there is one life, one ultimate source, but that this one life has many channels of expression and manifests itself in many forms. If we are to get more living out of life, we should not limit the channels through which Life may come to us. We must accept it, whether it comes in the form of science, religion, psychology, or what not.” (p. 295). As a believer of a faith who believes in pluralistic religious expression, this statement could not touch me more. I believe there are many pathways to goodness. Whatever your path may be, make it true for yourself; let it give you meaning and be happy.

Here is the citation: Kennedy, Dan S. and Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation, Inc. Ed. Maxwell Maltz. The New Psycho-cybernetics. New York: Prentice Hall, 2001.
So go to your local library or you can also order it through the link on the left.

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