Whenever I’ve asked someone, “What do you believe in?”, I’ve almost always received an answer that runs along religious lines. They’ll either tell me about their current denomination, their birth religion, their lack of either (agnostics) or their rejection of the whole lot of them (atheists).

When I explain to them that I wasn’t asking about those kinds of beliefs, they look puzzled. “What other kinds of beliefs are there?” is the gist of the questions I get back.I have an unfinished list of answers, too numerous to count, but here are a few examples  that I have used:

  • Do you believe in the kindness of strangers?
  • Do you believe you have the right to be wrong or incorrect without punishment? (I’m strictly referring to personal matters, not legal matters)
  • Do you believe in fidelity?
  • Do you believe that if the traffic light is green in the direction that you are driving that all the other traffic at the intersection will obey their respective signal?
  • Do you believe everything you read? What about everything you see?
  • Do you believe that quantum physicists have really discovered particles that blink in and out of existence or that particles can be in two places at the same time? (Hint: the quantum physicists do).
  • Do you believe that someone you don’t know very well can phone you simply to talk,  to develop the relationship, and not to want anything from you more than that?

I believe that I’ve at least pointed your attention in the direction I intended. (wry smile)

Underneath many of our daily activities and choices, there seems to be a multitude of beliefs that are shaping, pulling, influencing the very nature of our experiences. What we believe forms the filters through which and by which we create our reality.

This is true even in science. A scientific theory or hypothesis is a hunch, an idea or a belief about something followed by experiments designed to prove or disprove whatever object or explanation was proposed. Whether proven or disproven, the scientific method always leads to additional questions or further beliefs, which, in turn, are put to the test through experimentation. This has come to be called progress. Scientists believe that something exists or would be a valid explanation for a phenomenon and then they construct an experiment to measure or confirm their belief. As I stated, even if the initial belief is disproven, the experiments still lead to refining and developing additional beliefs. “Scientists now believe that they have discovered…(fill in the blank)…a new planet, a new cure, a better explanation…” The whole process of science is rooted in the belief that physical reality exists and that it is capable of being reduced to a form of understanding by our brain.

There is no way of confirming that belief.

Here’s what I can confirm, humans share beliefs. We express them, adopt them, adapt them and then manifest them collectively. We do this so often and so pervasively that it passes almost without notice.

It would serve us better to take more notice of our underpinning beliefs.

There is much to be said about the power of belief.

What we actually believe in matters a great deal.

In times like these, I believe it is wiser for us to turn towards one another than it is for us to turn on one another.

What do you believe in?



Upon further review…

The 2016 Olympics were winding down. It was time for me to fact check a story I had once been told concerning elite athletes. There was an intensity and singleness of purpose that I saw in expression after expression on so many of the competitors’ faces that I wanted to separate urban legend from misremembering from what the truth was.

As it turns out, there actually is something called the Goldman Dilemma. Back in the 1980s a researcher named Bob Goldman asked world-class athletes in power sports this question: “If I had a magic drug that was so fantastic that if you took it once you would win every competition you would enter from the Olympic Decathlon to the Mr. Universe, for the next five years but it had one minor drawback, it would kill you five years after you took it, would you still take the drug?”

He found that more than half said they would take it. This result was consistent in his findings over a period from 1982 to 1995. (He asked every two years during that period)

Before anyone gets twisted up here, there has been subsequent research which claims to blunt Bob’s research and his conclusions.

Personally, I suspect that what changed from the time of the initial research until the latter studies wasn’t human nature. I suspect that the athletes learned to answer less candidly. The truth was unflattering….ok, the truth was downright disturbing.

The level of dedication and sacrifice that is demanded of these elite athletes can hardly be exaggerated. The reward, for most, is meager. Even for medalists. Non Hall of Famers in any sport very often need to have second careers.

Athletes know this . (You do realize that they do talk amongst themselves.)

On the faces of these Olympians, there is evidence of more than a desire to win.

There is a need to win.

To win is to be validated and justified. To not win is to be tossed into the dust bin of ‘also rans’. Earlier television coverage hammered home the emotional images of the ‘ecstasy of winning’ and the ‘agony of defeat’. There is no glory ever given to ‘trying’.

Alongside a person’s natural physical abilities, there is a mind-set that is cultivated through coaching and competing that grips these athletes. It is easy to understand how personal values can be compromised and state sponsored doping flourish.

Athletic competition is introduced to children as a path towards developing character and abilities, a form of self improvement through dedication and perseverance. At entry level and mid level events, this is more true than not. At these levels, there is still the joy of trying, the love of the game and the opportunity for self-discovery.

Beyond these levels, however, the genuine value of competing becomes distorted. Money, pride and ego, obsession, compulsion and a person’s sense of self-worth combine to drive these athletes, coaches and programs towards unhealthy choices.

Competition, as a motivator or as a way of life, ultimately does not bring out our best. Time after time, for the sake of ‘winning’, we are often making choices that reflect ourselves at our worst.

Upon further review, I simply stopped watching.




Cleverness and Wisdom

You can encounter clever people anywhere, in any profession, sometimes every day. There are hours of and hours of clever videos that you can watch on the internet. Cleverness seems to like to stand out, to draw attention to itself, to be on display (or on YouTube) and to be acknowledged, if not applauded.

Wise people, though, seem to be camouflaged. They blend in. Wisdom is mostly understated and uses a quiet observation, a subtle suggestion, a soft reminder.

Cleverness can mask itself as wisdom. Cleverness can surprise, delight, entertain and intrigue…as can wisdom.

Cleverness, however, grows old and stale quickly whereas wisdom only ripens and deepens with time. Cleverness is situational specific and often times a once and done event. Reusing a cleverness isn’t clever anymore. It’s only repetition. Wisdom, on the other hand, is often timelessly refreshing.

The goal of cleverness bears no resemblance to the goal of wisdom.

Cleverness looks to impress and, in doing so, usually aims to convince others towards a course of action or beliefs. There’s the clever sales pitch or commercial, or a clever solution to a problem, or a clever preacher, rabbi or imam working with their respective Good Word, or a clever come back that drops mic and ends that line of conversation. We all can appreciate cleverness in the moment.

Wisdom looks to expose and to invite others towards a truth. We rarely appreciate the voice of wisdom from others or from within our self. Wisdom often makes us uncomfortable, partly because it calls for us to have enough courage to heed it and partly because wisdom prompts us in counterintuitive ways, away from our initial knee jerk reaction, away from what we’ve tried before unsuccessfully.

We would gladly be thought of as clever. To be thought of as wise is almost embarrassing. At best, one seems boring. At worst, pretentious.

When you tell someone that they’re clever, there’s a twinkle of satisfaction in their eyes and smile of recognition towards you…that you were bright enough to notice what they just said or did.

When you tell someone that they’re wise, there’s a slight shrug of their shoulders and a gentle shaking of their head from side to side along with a heart felt sigh and disclaimer.

A person can practice being clever, although for some, it’s seems to be more of a innate talent such as dancing, doing math or having a good sense of direction. But learning to be clever isn’t really learning much about life or yourself.

That is the realm of wisdom.

And by the way…

Some believe that we are born spiritually awake and aware, and that the experience of being human lulls us asleep.

Some believe that we have come here with an understanding and agreement beforehand with certain other souls, but that we wouldn’t remember it with any degree of clarity, merely have a strong sense of it whenever we met those other people.

Some believe that by taking on a corporal self (a body) we automatically lapse into a spiritual amnesia of sorts, completely forgetting where we were before we were here, in order for the human experience to feel utterly real…and that our challenge as spiritual entities is to break through that illusion of separateness from one another and to awaken ourselves to what is true, the One of it all.

Whether any or all of these are true is not for me to say, what is clear to me, however, is that the vast majority of people are still living with their eyes squeezed shut, wandering through life, bumping into and breaking things.

And, yes, there are skillions of other people who are believing in a myriad of other things besides the three I started with, but none of them seem the happier. They may feel superior because of their particular beliefs but not the happier for them. Living in the constant judgment of others is terribly tedious and exhausting. It’s a heavy burden that no one has asked them to carry, but carry it they will, complaining all the while.

And for the record, zealots are a glum lot. Few in number and perpetually misunderstood and unappreciated, it’s a thankless job. If they do not die young for the cause that they’re too young to possibly understand, then they die old, bitter and disillusioned by their misplaced fervor. A lose-lose situation if ever there was one.

For myself, when I sensed how much of my life was spent sleep walking, I ached for something more and couldn’t even tell you what that was. But when I did catch a glimpse it, when something in a situation struck a deeper chord, it always felt strange and familiar, both and at the same time. Like I was remembering…

And as I continued to practice noticing myself, to awakening and becoming more aware, it became easier to recognize and appreciate those people who were aware and awake in their lives as well. Most often, with a simple nod and quiet smile, people who are awake in their present moment are saying hello to one another, acknowledging and appreciating the joy of being here.

Nothing fancy required. Yet the heart warms.

I’m so grateful people loved me enough to show me how to open my eyes.





If not now, when? (Zen proverb)

Survivalists have a 100% failure rate.

As such, the term itself, ‘survivalist’, is completely misleading.

The very best that they could claim to be are prolongists. Their goal is to be among the last humans standing after whatever calamity they’ve imagined…and they imagine lots of them. If they live one more day, one more month, one more year than most, they will have won in their mind’s eye. Then they die too. Some strategy.

In the meanwhile, pre-calamity, they live in constant wariness, in perpetual preparation for newly developing threats, focused into a fictional future and overlooking whatever goodness is surrounding them today. Like a said, some strategy.

When I pointed this out to a friend who was considering adopting an ‘end of days’ attitude towards the current situation in the world, I was given the hairy eye ball. Apparently, I am unaware of the headlong plunge we have taken into the abyss. There are an estimated 3.7 million “preppers” in the US today (an alternate top 1% to the economic elite). They hold their own rallies and conventions. They are deadly serious.

They put their money where their fear is. The food, guns/ammunition, clothing and sheltering expenses that are needed to support this ‘life’ style choice run into the billions of dollars collectively. It’s a thriving segment of the economy with many enterprising individuals and large corporations catering to every whim and nuance.

Perhaps I am missing something.


But I don’t seriously believe that.

There have been people predicting the ‘end of the world’ for as long as there’s been a language and a world to deal with. Yet, the world is still here.

What I do believe is that we are continually plunging into the unknown and the unknowable. This is an element of our human condition. This has been true for every person and civilization that has come before us. There are no crystal balls, no way of knowing for certain…but listening to the voices that are spouting fear does have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we look at the world through fear colored glasses, the more fear we see.

Every single day and every single situation involves and creates something we have never encountered before, specifically, this moment. And while certain situations or persons may seem similar to something or someone from the past, no two situations or persons will be identical…not even the same two people in the same situation will have the same conversation…moods change, perspectives shift, behaviors modify. It is a fact of life.

We are forging a new national character in response to our changing conditions. The  immediacy of the information available to us through our current technologies is no longer allowing us to pretend, to hide or to delay facing these conditions. We are being bombarded and shocked regularly into reevaluating our attitudes and responses towards one another.

This isn’t about blaming someone else or ‘the system’.

This is about taking responsibility and choosing how we will participate in changing those things that we now see have been broken for so long.

If we rise to this challenge, we will thrive.

If we retreat from it, what good would it do to survive a tad longer?