August 16, 2010

To Arms!

I just wrote the following letter to my congressman. As bloggers and avid users of online digital services, I encourage you to do the same. I will also be writing to my senators.

Dear Congressman Herger,
Let me begin by saying that I have been a consistent voter ever since my first election in 1980, and that I tend to discuss politics with my friends and on my blogs. I am very alarmed by recent developments in the issue of "net neutrality", especially the possibility that providers of internet services and content might make semi-secret deals to accelerate the transmission of certain classes of data at the expense of other kinds of data, and that the speed of transmission might become dependent on the amount individuals, organizations and businesses are willing to pay for their service. This runs counter to the principles on which the Internet was founded and on which it has operated until now. Violation of these principles would do untold damage to the development of democratic society and to the evolution of science and culture, not only in the USA, but worldwide. I call on you to do whatever is necessary, either through legislation or through oversight of the FCC, to ensure that our government does not let this universal resource be distorted into a tool of the privileged few. Please protect the level playing field for all of your constituents.

May 13, 2010

On this historic occasion...














Tomorrow is the first session of Hungary's new parliament. There's a lot of hope riding on the next prime minister's shoulders. He better not screw up.

On this occasion, I would like to offer up an essay-disguised-as-a-story that I wrote three years ago, called The Parliament-opening Speech You'll Never Hear a Prime Minister Give.

Enjoy!

March 29, 2010

The Big Lie

As I was just about to leave for work this morning, my wife pointed to the computer screen to show me the headline to a breaking news story: Suspected Suicide Bombers Hit Moscow Metro Stations.

Here we go again. I left for work, and haven't even read the news in the meantime. I know what to expect. Don't you? Oh come now! It's so predictable. All information will be controlled by the authorities, since they will seal off the stations and commit all officials to secrecy. The news media will parrot and paraphrase and rehash and over analyze the paltry tidbits of disinformation the Russian government spoon feeds them.

Public opinion will be manipulated by emotional interviews with eyewitnesses and friends and relatives of the victims.

The "investigation" will conclude that it was done by Chechen "terrorists". Or, if there is another Russian republic in need of suppressing, it will be Islamic terrorists from that republic, and the whole thing will justify the Russian government: 1. weeding out whatever democracy and freedom had managed to sprout in Russian society 2. sending troops to kick some provincial butts, and 3. increasing the military budget and military influence. Same old story.

Coincidence that this happens days after the US and Russia announce a new arms treaty? That gives the White House cover for not shouting too loud about whatever the Russian government does in response. Wouldn't want to spoil the treaty before it's signed, would we?

I used to scoff at the conspiracy theories concerning 911. Especially because some of the things people said were so absurd. One of the favorites among Hungarian anti-Semites was that no Jews showed up to work in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th, because they had been warned by Israeli contacts. Sure.

But then came the bombing of the London Metro. When I read that on the very morning of the bombing a consulting firm was conducting terrorist scenario exercises in the Metro, rehearsing incidents alarmingly similar to the ones that actually occurred, my suspicions were raised. And the more I read and learn, the suspicions just won't go away.

Don't believe what the news media tell you! Take it all with a huge grain of salt! Also consider that the majority of conspiracy theories are a bunch of bullshit. That doesn't mean that some of them aren't true.

I don't think 7 World Trade Center fell without a little well-planned help.

What does one do with these suspicions? How does one act in this context? That's a puzzle this pansophist philosopher is still working on.

Don't believe me! Think for yourself!


March 28, 2009

Visualization - Personal Observations

The best way I could sum up the previous article is this: visualization is the art of creating in the outer world by creating it in the inner world first.

Once you get the basic technique down, you can move on to more involved and complex techniques. You can influence your world through the creation of works of art (paintings, poems, crafts), through simple rituals, and through other means. But the basic technique remains the same. You use all of these tools to create something in the outer world by first creating it in the inner world.

In this posting, I'd like to talk a bit about some of my own experiences with applying the technique; my frustrations, and my successes.

I'll start with the things I haven't had much success with: money issues. I must have had some moderate success, because I know my finances are much better than they used to be. But this has always been the hardest for me. I suspect... well... no, I don't suspect, I'm fairly sure this is a karmic thing. I grew up in Appalachia, and some of the poverty consciousness stuck to me. That, and the attitude got built into my subconscious-- partially fostered by 60s hippy philosophy, partially by Christian indoctrination -- that poverty is virtuous. I'm chipping away at this, because I realize it's a long-term handicap. But, it can take time to transform the things we've been building up in the subconscious for decades.

What I have had incredible success with is using visualization to influence people's attitudes toward- and receptiveness to my plans. If it is vital that I get someone (usually someone in authority, or with particular powers) to approve of something I want to do, or to give me assistance, I visualize the conversation with them several times before I go to them, and I imagine them listening attentively, nodding in agreement. And I also visualize them actually saying that they will give the permission, or will give me the help I need. The results are astounding sometimes; reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi's interaction with the Imperial Stormtrooper at the roadblock (Obi-Wan:"These aren't the droids you're looking for." Stormtrooper: "These aren't the droids we're looking for"). People I thought would be serious hard sells have fallen all over themselves to tell me how much they agree with me, or have whipped out a pen to sign a document before I was even finished telling them what I'd come to talk to them about.

Now, you might be thinking, "If this works so well, is it ethical?" To which I have two answers. The first is that there are some things in life you definitely want to have the power to push through. Let's say you're an artist and you want to talk to a gallery owner about having a show of your paintings. That's something important. That's your life's work. You've sweat blood for the last two years creating this series. You want to have all the influence possible on making your show happen. The other answer is this: nobody is ever going to be influenced into doing something against their own morals or critical judgement. You can tip the scales if the balance is close, but you can't fight against a two-kilo weight on one side.

The other thing I've had amazing success with is small crowds. My job requires that I occasionally give in-house presentations. Days ahead of time, I visualize the audience being attentive and enthusiastically receiving the message of my presentation (not to mention, that I use visualization to create the best presentation I can!). I see no harm in this, since my presentations are for training purposes, and it's for the attendees' own good that they pay attention and find it interesting. But on more than one occasion, I have unexpectedly received enthusiastic applause, and been told afterward that I "owned the room" while I was presenting. I attribute a great deal of this phenomenon to the visualizations I do beforehand.

This observation has led me to wonder how many other people have discovered that they can mold the behavior of crowds with this technique. (My conclusion: more than most people suspect.) I also wonder how many people do it without realizing they're doing it. Just imagine: the enthusiastic politician is lying in bed after writing what she considers to be a brilliant speech. She pictures herself before an awestruck crowd as she delivers her carefully crafted lines. She feels the joy, the ecstasy of having hundreds of people under her sway. She can hear their cheers. She can feel the energy of their voices vibrate the podium under her hands.

All the ingredients of a successful visualization are there. Thought-provoking, isn't it?

If you consider the last example, you might realize that we influence the world with our visualizations all the time. Whether they manifest or not depends on how vividly we visualize them, and on how consistently we visualize what we want rather than visulizing what might go wrong, or what we fear.

One last observation. I've noticed that it's much easier to get results from a situation that's in flux than from a situation that's well-established or inert. Let's say that you really don't like your office, for whatever reasons. It's too noisy. It's too dark. It's next door to someone who shouts on the phone all day. Whatever. If you visulize getting a new office in that situation, getting that new office might take some time, and you might have to help it along with some manipulating and politics on the material plane. But if the boss has already decided to move some of the personnel around to make the seating arrangements more logical, it is my experience that you only have to visualize the exact characteristics of the office you want, and that is the office you will be given, without even having to say anything to anyone. Once things are in motion, it's much easier to make them go where you want them to.


March 26, 2009

A Short Visualization Lesson

A friend recently asked members of an internet forum my wife frequents whether anyone could give her advice on how to practice visualization. The following is an e-mail I wrote her. It turned out so well, I decided I might as well post it. The text draws from various materials I've read over the years, among them: Shakti Gawain, The Master Key, and, of course, AMORC teachings. I didn't consult anything while I was writing it, so this is (as Joseph Lisiewski would put it) my own "subjective synthesis" of the topic. So, although virtually none of the material is original, this is my own unique way of putting it together and my idiosyncratic way of expressing it.

Dear_______

With the passing of years, I have become wary of giving people advice. Often they misunderstand it. They make you responsible for what happens when they follow it. But most often, they don't make any use of it because it involves doing something.

But in this case, you have actually asked for advice concerning something specific. And the specific thing you ask for is the most powerful tool available to the human mind, and the thing most likely to make a difference in your dire situation: the art of visualization.

I am no expert, and my track record of success is far from perfect, but I use the skill fairly often, and I have convinced myself that it works. At this point, I am perfecting my understanding of this art, and how to use it in my efforts to unfold my being and, simultaneously, in my efforts to be of service to my family, my friends and my community.

The technique of visualization is essentially fairly simple, but there are certain things one has to understand before one uses the technique. I'm sure some of this is familiar to you from Anthroposophical concepts, but it never hurts to review (repetition is the essence of education!).

The mind consists of two "sides": the conscious or objective side, and the subconscious side. In essence they are one, but they are like the two sides of the same coin. The conscious mind chooses, analyzes and discriminates. The subconscious accepts everything that is placed into it, like seeds into fertile soil, and nurtures it, and grows it to maturity. The conscious mind's job is to filter the input into the subconscious mind, so that only those things grow there that are beneficial and in harmony with our life's plan. If we allow fear, hate and doubt into our subconscious, then we will eventually harvest a crop of even greater fears, hates and doubts.

There is one more thing about the subconscious: at its very depths, it is in communion with the universal mind, the source of all things; God. In its task of growing things according to the demands of the conscious mind, its resources are infinite, just as God is infinite.

So, in order to change the world our subconscious creates for us, what we have to do is change the instructions we give our subconscious.

The subconscious speaks a language which consists of symbols. So to speak to it, we have to fashion our message in symbols.

So much for my "nutshell" introduction.

The technique:

1. Decide what you want. This sounds easy, but it's actually the trickiest part. What we want has to be something that not only benefits ourselves, but others as well. It has to be fairly specific, so that we don't send the subconscious a vague, confusing or contradictory message. You need to be able to formulate what you want in one, or at most, a few sentences. It has to be positive. The subconscious doesn't understand negatives. (i.e. You shouldn't say "I don't want to be poor." The only part of that the subconscious will understand is "poor", so that's what you'll get.) Once you have an idea of what you want to have (either a thing or a situation) that will benefit you and at least one other person (the more the better!), you should think about it and test your emotions. If you detect something negative, you need to define that negative emotion and examine it. This is important. If you go into the active work of visualization and only then discover negative emotions associated with your desire, then you will waste your time, because this negative emotion will work against you, since it will enter the subconscious at the same time as your visualization.

Let's say your desire is to get a guitar. The negative emotion that might come up is guilt. "I don't deserve a guitar." First you have to accept this feeling and acknowledge it. Love it, like a little child. Then you have to patiently explain to it why everything is OK. "Of course I deserve a guitar. I plan to use it to make myself and others happy with the joy of creating music. Music is a powerful tool for healing the mind and the body." And so forth. You need to examine this desire, and interact with and neutralize any negative emotions that might arise in contemplating it, until you feel (as you should) that it is the most natural thing in the world that you should have it. If, after this process, you still have lingering negative emotions attached to your desire, you should probably put it aside for a while. It's not really going to manifest for you under these circumstances.

2. Assuming you have worked with your desire and have a positive attitude toward it, it is now time to formulate your "image" of your desire. What you have to do is create a full scene in your mind, complete with elements from every one of the six senses you can work into it. This scene is a vision of what it will be like when the desire has been fulfilled. Let's take the guitar as an example. You picture the guitar in your hands. You see the beautiful gleam of sunlight in the grain of the wood. You feel the smooth surface as you place your hand around its neck and the cool feeling of the metal as you place your fingers on the strings. Smell the fragrant wood scent rising from the sound box! And then you strum the strings and hear the lovely resonance of the chord singing from the entire instrument. Notice that this is not just visual sensations; it incorporates, tactile, aural, and olfactory sensations.

3. Then comes the work of actually doing the visualization. If you are a relative beginner, you need to give yourself the best chance of concentrating by withdrawing to a silent place where you can sit or lie comfortably for several minutes without being disturbed. You need to slow your breathing to a rhythm that relaxes your body. You relax until you have fairly much forgotten about your body, and are mostly a mind floating in the semidarkness. Now you create your "image" of your fulfilled desire. You have to imagine it as already fulfilled. It has already succeeded, and you are overjoyed to have this gift from the Cosmic Mind, from the Universal Storehouse. It is also important that you don't give the subconscious instructions how to fulfill your desire. Don't tell it which store to get the guitar from, or who should bring it to you, or how much it will cost. Stick to the essence of the desire. The guitar. Let the subconscious make the arrangements.

And now comes the SECRET! It's not really a secret, since you'll find it in any number of books, but it's the part everyone forgets, and has the most difficulty including in the visualization: emotional energy! In the visualization of the guitar, the emotional content would be the joy of having the guitar in your hands, and the joy at the knowledge that it is yours to use and to make beautiful music with. You really have to FEEL the joy, and electrify the visualization with that energy. This can be the difference between a successful and a failed visualization.

4. Now comes the really tricky part. Take a deep breath, and as you blow it out, forget what you were just visualizing. Put it out of your mind. Go about your business. Clean the house. Cook. Go grocery shopping. Read a book. Anything. Just don't think about your visualization. If you keep holding it in your objective mind, it won't release into the subconscious, and it won't have the chance to undergo those truly mysterious and miraculous processes of the deepest levels of consciousness.

5. If you feel it's necessary, you may repeat the visualization several more times, but you should wait at least a half day in between visualizations. The ideal time to visualize is right after waking up in the morning and right before going to sleep at night. After a certain number of visualizations, one should decide to let it go for good. When to do that is a matter of feeling and experience. But for a beginner, it would be wise to let go of a visualization after a few days.

6. Once you have visualized, you should follow up with activity in the objective world. Go to the store and find out if there are credit arrangements for buying instruments. Decide to sell something to start saving for the guitar. Whatever. Don't assume the guitar will just fall in your lap. But the interesting thing is that once you start to make the effort, you will often find that you are met halfway, or more than halfway. You save one third of the money, you get another third through some mysterious source (say, a tax refund you weren't expecting) and on the same day you notice the guitar is on sale at a 33% percent discount. Wow! And three weeks ago you thought you'd NEVER get the money together for the guitar. Sometimes it happens like a lightning flash. After visualizing, you get an unexpected phone call from someone who wants you to teach a children's folk music class, and they'll buy you a guitar so you can do it! I once visualized a car I needed because my old car had broken down. The next day I was talking to a friend who was moving to Hawaii and needed to get rid of her car. She hadn't heard I needed a car. She gave me hers, and told me to pay her whenever I had the money.

That's about the shortest I could make this advice without leaving out the essentials. Use it! It works. It can be frustrating, because there are many elements of our own minds we need to have under control before we can get consistent results. The most frequent cause of failure is what is called "cross currents". That happens when you spend ten minutes a day visualizing something, and then five hours worrying and generating negative thoughts that counteract it (i.e. "I'll never have a nice guitar!" "Only rich people get high-quality instruments!" "With all the bills I have to pay, I'll never be able to save money for a guitar!" “I never get the things I need!”) You have to be on your guard that you don't spend time thinking thoughts that counteract your visualization. For that matter, we always need to stand sentry at the gates of our subconscious.

And now I leave it all up to you. In diligent hands, this technique can work seeming miracles.

Love, Theo

March 15, 2009

The Subversive Discourse of Fairy Tales

I have a friend (more my wife's friend than mine) who has lived her life following Thoreau's "different drummer". She speaks several languages, has lived in several countries, trained as a Waldorf teacher, and did her student teaching abroad. She does not lead an oppulent life, and has sacrificed dearly for going her unique path. She works hard to provide the life she thinks her young son deserves. And despite the obvious virtues of her character, I understand that her parents have little respect for who she is or what she has done in life.

I was reminded of her, and of people with similar burdens, when I recently read the fairy tale "The Beauty and the Horns" from The Laughing Prince: A Book of Jugoslav Fairy Tales. In this tale, a rich man tells his only son that he will bequeathe his entire estate to his son as long as the son promises not to go in search of a fabled woman named "Peerless Beauty," no matter how beautiful anyone tells him she is. He should, instead, settle down with a hard-working girl from his own village, like a sensible boy. Well, some time after his father's death, the youth gets more and more curious about this Peerless Beauty, so he begins to ask around. All the older men he speaks to give him the same advice his father had. But that only makes him more determined. He ends up blowing his fortune and ruining his life in the pursuit of Peerless Beauty (who tricks and deceives him, mercilessly). But he persists and eventually wins her over, and in the process breaks the enchantment she is under, and wins back his fortune. He ends up happier than he ever would have been if he'd just settled for what was "sensible."

The message of this tale (and others) is remarkable when you consider the milieu it comes from. Just image Balkan peasants and burghers telling this tale at the hearth on a cold winter's eve. Now these are the very people who would tell their own children to be "sensible," and to forgo what Joseph Campbell famously called "following your bliss." Why were these people telling a story that was obviously in conflict with their conservative values? They didn't want their children running off chasing dreams when they came of age, did they? So what gives?

My theory: this message was planted in the collective subconscious by The Hierarchy. Who is The Hierarchy? They are those human souls who have advanced beyond the level of "normal" human consciousness -- many of them no longer needing to incarnate in a physical body -- and are working in unison for the evolution of the race. The Hierarchy is constantly influencing the actions of the human race through our subconscious, suggesting ideals to be striven for, and giving us inspirations to bring to fruition. These impulses are often expressed in the works of more enlightened artists and scientists. Rudolf Steiner said that fairy tales were retellings of psychic experiences in a symbolic form. They are a form of folk art appropriate for people of all ages and from all srata of society. The perfect medium for The Hierarchy.

This tale emphasizes the necessity of following our inner strivings to attain something we intuitively know is perfect and beautiful (Peerless Beauty). This is none other than our inner self, our soul, our divine spark (our daemon, Holy Guardian Angel, Inner Master, etc., etc). The mundane world frowns on people who pursue their inner reality rather than riches and worldly power. Don't get me wrong! I'm not talking about running off, joining a monastery, and taking vows of poverty. I'm talking about priorities. It's what is referred to in the Gospel of Mark in the rhetorical question "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" In the end, the young hero wins everything back: he gets the girl (his anima, if you will), and regains his fortune and power. How? By answering the inner call; by not giving in to the cowardly desire to stay comfortable and safe, and to sit on the bags of gold his father left him; by not doing what the crowd thinks is "sensible."

I have, myself, done many things that my family, friends and colleagues thought were... well... crazy. Most times they worked out fabulously. Occasionally I fell on my face (or other parts of my anatomy). I recall when I was contemplating a particularly risky move in my life (coming to Hungary with almost no money in my pocket and only vague employment prospects), a good friend said to me, "If you don't do this now, when you have the chance, will you be able to live with yourself the rest of you life, wondering what would have happened if you'd done it?" That was enough to convince me. Living with that sort of doubt forever after sounded like hell itself. (Thanks Geoff F. !)

And there are times I have been more "sensible." When it was the right time to be sensible, it worked out just fine. Other times, I've hated myself afterwards for being a chicken shit. Life is meant to be lived boldly.

The message of fairy tales is often at odds with the values of the people who retold them. But then, most people are innocent enough, or jaded enough to believe they are "just stories."

I think the friend I mention at the beginning of this essay is a brave woman.

September 3, 2008

Getting Coaxed Out of Blog Sabbatical


Well, folks, I still don't feel like addressing the most immediate issues in my life, and I still don't feel comfortable blithely talking about other things either.

But there's a voice out there in Blogdom that won't let me sink into complete silence. Bless her.

In a recent posting, Hellibrarian placed me among the ranks of people she wished to thank for various things, referring to me as her "blogger conscience." I decided to talk a little about the history of our writing relationship, but when I sat down to the computer, I quickly checked my feed reader and discovered that she'd (quite synchronistically) already alluded to our early "writing buddy" days in her posting today. And she claims to not believe in "psychic dialoging."

Hell and I met back in the autumn of 1992, when Budapest was still "The Wild East". We were both on the founding staff of The Budapest Sun, and shared one of the most amazing experiences a beginning writer could ever have. We got paid peanuts, and had more fun than most people can possibly even imagine. There was something about the times and about the mix of characters who worked at that paper that made the experience nothing less than magical: every day we wondered what would happen next.

We both moved onto other jobs (her with Where Magazine, me with The Hungarian Press Agency) but we continued to support each others' creative endeavors, which can quickly get buried in the day-to-day spade work that makes up ninety-nine-percent of all journalism work.

Hell and I would meet at the Astoria Hotel (pictured on her blog), which has a cafe with the most amazing Art Nouveau interior, and for the longest time had very affordable coffee and pastries. And it was the kind of place where they didn't mind if you hung around for hours. We would get comfortable, order coffee and pastries, shoot the breeze for a while, and then get out the notebooks. We'd choose a topic and (Natalie Goldberg style) decide how long we'd write (anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour). And then we'd just let our pens race across the pages with no inhibitions. No talking. No pausing. Just writing. After the session was over, we'd read our essays to one another.

Ah! Fond memories.

In that spirit, when Hell has lagged in the maintenance of her blog, I've prodded her some, and reminded her that people with the writing bug just can't be happy unless they're doing a certain amount of writing. And now, when I'm lapsing into silence, Helen is there to remind me of the same.

Bless you.