Drowning in Content

There is a famous story in Hollywood about a young director who approached a seasoned Hollywood producer for advice on how to complete a movie he was working on. The producer said, “Live for ten years and then do the movie.”

Most young people have no stories to tell. They have no context to shape stories and no depth to give them life. How could they? They haven’t lived long enough. Are there exceptions? Sure.  Wendy Shalit, who wrote her seminal book “A Return to Modesty” about sexuality, is impressive given that she was in her early twenties when she wrote the book. Or, Ryan Holliday who, at age 20, wrote his expose on the media in, Trust me I’m Lying. Its insight into the tricks used by the media to manipulates the public. However, Shalit and Holliday are the exceptions not the rule.

Generally speaking, lasting creativity require years of living and introspection to mature. Steve Martin’s autobiography “Born Standing Up” provides great insight into the journey of a comic and how Martin became a master of his craft. He spent years living in motel rooms while doing stand-up routines all over the country. He reworked and refined his jokes while performing in thousands of venues before he finally made it. When the public finally heard of Steve Martin, they called him an “overnight sensation” after appearing on Saturday Night Live. What they did not see were all the years of dedication, trial and error to hone his craft.

Most great work and analysis takes time. Yet, given the advent of the web, there is an increased demand for content the likes of which we have never before seen. Newspapers, blogs, media sites must produce insightful and relevant content for eyeballs, clicks and advertising dollars. I suspect that the administrators of these sites are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they need to come up with on a daily basis. Combine this with an educational system that focuses more on political correctness than facts… and you have a recipe for disaster. An insatiable  demand for content, a Left leaning educational system and a lack of general history is the baseline for the content we see.

The pressure and rush to create content sublimates the need for truthfulness and accuracy. It does irreparable damage and is making us a less civil society.  Check out these three reports that got it wrong:

Story 1

A  few years ago, CNN reporter Erin Burnett did a huge story on the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage and the resultant decrease in church attendance as a result. Burnett’s position was that people like her would never join the church, and its former members would never return to the church, unless it became more modern and adapted to the prevailing culture. I guess in CNN’s mind it was a valid viewpoint and worth the resources to develop.

But Catholics with any religious foundation understood the juvenile approach to Burnett’s perspective. The Church does not endorse gay marriage because it believes marriage is a sacrament where a man and woman are joined in matrimony for the creation of life. It’s that simple. The Church has taught this for over 2000 years and continues to do so. Erin Burnett thought she had hit upon what reforms the Church needed to enact to become more relevant. Instead, what she displayed was a total lack of understanding of the Catholic Church. The Church does not care about change. It cares about teaching the Word of God. For the Church, the truth is not determined by polls or popular opinion, it is self-evident and found in Scripture.

Story 2

The last eight years was filled with reporting on the “do-nothing” Congress under former President Obama. The story was highlighted every day, ad nauseam, how handicapped Obama was due to Congress’ obstructionism. The obstruction got so bad that Obama’s only real piece of legislation, Obamacare, was passed only when he had control over both houses. Even then, the bill was never reconciled in the Senate.

To those who prefer to forget, Scott Brown was elected Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts solely for his promise to cast the one vote that would stop reconciliation of the bill. But Brown was never given the chance. Obama passed the bill by circumventing the legislative process.

The actual reason President Obama was barely able to pass any bills is because that was how the system was created over two hundred years ago. It had nothing to do with President. The Founding Fathers so mistrusted the political class, and career politicians, that they designed a system that gave all of its power to the people…not the politicians. Anyone with a basic understanding of civics knows this. However, the media did not report it as a systemic fail safe because they wanted Congress to capitulate its role and give in to Obama whose political agenda synced with theirs. For eight years, the media tried to convince the American public that Congress was at fault. To the contrary, under our  Constitution, the Executive branch simply failed to bring along the Legislative branch for consensus.

Story 3

We have seen the complete removal of the Confederate Flag from our national history. Southern war heroes, as well as Confederate solders graves, have been desecrated. The media has a narrative, lacking in subtly, that the Civil War was fought by the North against the South over slavery. Southerners were racist, had slaves and wanted to keep that way of life intact. Northerners were noble, pure and thought the cause was important enough to fight the South to abolish it.

The Civil War occurred between 1861-1865. Slaves in the North were not freed until 1863, or two years after the war had started. If the North thought it was so important, why didn’t they free their slaves prior to the war? The fact is that although slavery was a major issue,  it wasn’t the only issue that drove the Civil War. The South wanted to secede from the North over taxation and other states’ rights issues, including slavery, and the North was not going to let that happen. The Civil War was a manifestation of the ongoing debate over states’ rights versus a centralized government. That debate, which began in the 1700’s, rages on today. The issues affecting the Civil War are complex; but, the false narrative promulgated by the media pushes the narrative of a racist South while never shining a light on the culpability of the North.

Our youth are most vulnerable and easily manipulated because they lack the necessary perspective and critical thinking skills that come from an understanding of history tempered with one’s own life experiences.  When Al Gore tells young people, “There are some things about our world that you know that older people don’t know,” Why would that be? Well in a period of rapid change, the old assumptions sometimes just don’t work anymore because they’re out of date,”  is no different than handing democracy to a nation that has spent hundreds of years or more under dictatorship. You need a period of transition and perspective. Without those, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Such is the damage done by a media driving people to civil unrest through revisionist history and misinformation. We are more connected than at any other time in human history. It is ironic that content for its own sake lacking truthfulness and integrity is doing as much harm, if not more, than when we knew less.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Houston: Tragedy and Opportunity

I believe in God. If that offends you, or makes you question my sanity, read no further. But if you’re open to the possibility, or you already get it, then it’s worth hearing me out.

People who know me will tell you that for at least six months I have been saying “We are about to experience a natural disaster.” Why? Because I find the Bible instructive, if not literally then figuratively, as a means for understanding how the world works. This includes people as well as nature.  So, as I observed the disintegration of our values and confusion amid our priorities it seemed to me that God, in the form of nature, was about to intervene.

When we humans so lose our way that a return to our highest selves appears to be almost an impossibility, nature has a way of grabbing us by the throat and screaming, “Yo!”

Enter Hurricane Harvey.

Believe me, this is not to make light of the tragedy that continues to occur in Houston. I live in Austin, just outside the range of devastation and havoc wreaked by this storm. My heart is pained by the suffering and loss of both human and animal life. I cannot imagine the horror of trying to, literally, stay afloat as water rises waist high and beyond or the terror felt by those who are incapacitated or elderly and reliant upon rescue.

Now think about Confederate flags and statues.

How much time, energy and resources have been spent on issues that divide us? How long have the Democrats and Republicans been battling it out? How long has the news media been manipulating you and reporting lies as truth? How angry and violent have a sufficient amount of extremists become, on both ends of the spectrum, to have actually engendered talk of a civil war? How many hours do you spend on your iPhone, iPad or computer? How much of your life is lived on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? How hard are you working to make ends meet at the expense of time spent with your family or cultivating human relationships?

Disintegrating values and confused priorities.

Pharaoh had a similar problem as did the Israelites. So did Noah’s neighbors, residents of Lot and the builders of Babel. The lesson we are to learn from those “stories” is that when we humans get so far off track that we are no longer willing to find our way home, God steps in and uses one of the many tools at His disposal. Plagues, locusts, darkness, pestilence, blood, hail, fire. These and others are the means by which we become focused and redirected back to the path we are intended to travel. It’s the path of compassion, sacrifice, service, and love.

Such is the opportunity presented us in Houston. It is the moment when we are turned back to our highest selves. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t painless. It’s just necessary.

Look at and read about the individual acts of heroism. The selfless acts of giving. The outpouring of love and compassion that we are hardwired to perform. They all reminds us, albeit by way of suffering, that we are in this together and without one another we do not survive.

This week, the petty political agendas and false idols (media) have been exposed to reveal themselves for their malice and the divisions that they foster. Houston can and may be a turning point if, and only if, we realize that hurricanes are but one example of what God is capable of when we devolve into our lower selves and abdicate living lives that exemplify our oneness.

God began with turning the Nile into blood but it was only the beginning. It took nine more acts of nature to get everyone’s focused attention. Let’s not go there.

Should Mnuchin Resign?

 

Yesterday I received the following message from someone at my high school:

“To my fellow Riverdale Country School alumni. I am inspired by Yale alumni asking Mnuchin to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and White Supremacy. I believe many of Mnuchin’s fellow Riverdale alumni feel the same. I’m collecting feedback from this post. Looking to see if there is interest–or if anyone has any great ideas on how to get a message through.”

Steve Mnuchin went to my high school and is the current Secretary of the Treasury appointed by President Trump. He also went to Yale and his University is asking him to resign. Now, alumni of our high school are asking him to do the same as a sign of protest over Trump’s comments and lack of response to the Charlottesville violence.

I wanted to post the following on my friend’s timeline: “I must have missed Trumps quote , can you please provide the quote that Trump supported the Nazis and white supremacist groups.” But, before I did, I was stopped by an old friend. He is a very outspoken black conservative radio host in Atlanta. He told me, “Steve, the real crazies are the ones we grew up with back home in NYC (Northeast Liberals). Even I wouldn’t ask that right now. The Left is totally unhinged.”

The argument over Trump’s statements are not that he did not condemn the protestors; but, that he did not do it forcefully enough. Therefore, he must be a racist.

During the same period, ESPN pulled an Asian announcer from one of their  football broadcasts because his name is Robert Lee.  Apparently, ESPN is worried that some people may confuse Robert Lee the football announcer with Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General who has been dead for over 100 years. This is insane. But, it won’t stop. Even NYC Mayor de Blasio has said he may pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus because of his dubious past. Columbus Circle, where the statue stands, is the epicenter of New York City. It stands at the cross roads of Central Park and is at the intersection between the East and West sides of New York.

ESPN, De-Blasio, and others are merely following the same path that the pitchfork mob has set. There is no logic and no reason driving their behavior and it won’t stop until we collectively all stop.

The Left and Progressives are getting on the band wagon to remove our history. The first thing that being assaulted is free speech. The reason I did not comment on the post was because all of the people on that thread would have targeted and called me a Nazi sympathizer for asking a simple question: “Please show me the text of Trump’s comments supporting the Nazi’s and White Supremacists.” The Left marches on….erroneously claiming the high ground while tearing down a public forum for civil debate.

This is not the first time I have experienced this type of silencing.

A few years back I had a similar experience when I  was invited to comment on a friend’s “entertainment lawyer’s” blog regarding the stance of the Catholic Church on contraception. (I was invited because of my understanding on Catholic doctrine so as to foster a robust debate.) What I wrote on that blog was only two sentences long explaining church teachings. Yet, within minutes, I had hundreds of comments and direct messages calling me the most vile names for those two sentences. I literally had to block numerous agitators who would send me threatening messages for weeks on end, all for stating the church’s teachings. The Left did not want to hear the rationale. What they wanted was  to silence and intimidate me.

This whole movement is an exercise in power. Power by the Left to control society.  While free speech may be first, they have larger goals in mind. The destruction and annihilation of our history followed by a new society unconstrained by our Constitution. In a relatively short period of time, the Left has been able to remove the confederate flag, southern iconic statutes and now the desecration of confederate soldiers’ graves.

This is only the beginning.

The Left does not seem to understand that, in the end, all revolutionaries eventually eat their own. There is never anybody remaining who is pure enough. It is a standard no man can meet. Look at what happened to the leaders of the French Revolution. They were killed by same the movement they started.  So what started out as removal of confederate generals’ statues could end up with the removal of the Washington Memorial and worse.

If you are a new reader to this blog you know I work in conjunction with Carole Gold. On the face of it, the Left would immediately label us as two white people who write this blog and thus our opinions don’t count. Yet, Carole is female and Jewish. I am Latino and Catholic with an immigrant mother. By all traditional definitions we are part of that special cabal called “minorities.” Yet in the Leftist world, our opinions have no value since we are “white.”

Pamela Geller, the Conservative activist,  has warned her readers for years about the cultural march by the Left. Geller has warned that our silence in these matters only emboldens the Left. She believes we are in a culture war on the verge of a civil war and that those on the Right will no longer be able to remain silent. In the future we will no longer have that option. We will have to choose sides. So I write this blog and post my articles on Medium so as not to remain silent.

In the end, I opted not to post on my friend’s feed, because the truth of the advice I was given hit home: the Left has become totally and absolutely unhinged. They have lost the ability to reason. They would not have been able to read my comments as thoughtful and provoking but rather as an attempt by another “white nationalist” defending Trump.

The Left has gone insane but marches on. God help us all. Yet as I write that last sentence I know that we must stand for what we believe in and help ourselves or there will be no Divine assistance. God is back-up for the correct use of our Free Will to stand and be heard for what is in the highest good for all humankind and not be intimidated by the violence of a few.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

Long Live The Memory of the Confederacy

There is a reason Auschwitz stands. There is a reason Jews and non-Jews visit the site. There is a reason no one leaves it untouched, shaken and forever changed. Auschwitz stands as a historical reminder of man’s inhumanity to humankind. To have leveled it would have been to erase history and lose the opportunity to learn from human error.

This is why destroying Confederate monuments, or any U.S. history, are very bad ideas. The monuments are not the problem but rather the false history we have been taught regarding what they represent.

We each know, in our own lives, that when we feel shame about behavior once participated in…well, it’s the best way to assure we won’t do it again. It is no different with our national life.

We need to let those monuments stand as testimony to the inhuman political and social perspective that they represent. The Civil War wasn’t about States’ Rights. That is simply a lie. To teach that it was is to perpetuate the lie. The Civil War was about the Confederacy’s attempt to mandate slavery not only in the then Confederate states but in any future state that would join the Confederacy. And it was an attempt to institutionalize slavery in perpetuity. If you doubt this, read the Confederate Constitution; but, at the least read these two excerpts:

Article IV Section 2(1)

“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.” 

Article IV Section 3(3)

The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states. 

As with President Trump’s statement that at the Charlottesville protests there was wrongdoing on both sides, let’s teach the truth about our history regarding both sides.

President Woodrow Wilson, the first Progressive, has perhaps more elementary and middle schools named after him nationally than any other President, including the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Wilson was an indisputable racist who segregated the U.S. Army a half century after the Civil War. Economist Bruce Bartlett writes the following:

“Similarly, when U. S. forces entered the “war to end all wars,” President Wilson may have wanted to “make the world safe for democracy” but as commander-in-chief he did so with a segregated military. World War I brought no improvement in Wilson’s policy towards blacks. They were put in segregated military units, mostly relegated to support positions, and kept out of combat.”

As for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, consistently named as one of the top three most revered U.S. Presidents, his response to Nazi Germany was to ignore the documented atrocities of the Germans until he was forced to enter World War II. Further, Roosevelt’s response to that war was to establish his own camps here in the U.S. to round up and imprison innocent German and Asian U.S. citizens.

It isn’t history that is our enemy but false history.

How do such things happen? Well, prior to Barack Obama, Wilson was the last academic elected to the Presidency and so academia honors its own. A member of the tribe had to be portrayed as a hero not the despicable person that he was. Progressives have reigned supreme over academia ever since, at all levels of education. Hence, revisionist history as a fact of American life.

Let us teach the truth about our history. The good and the bad. There is a plethora of both. Let us glory in our good deeds and allow ourselves to fully feel the shame of those that were…well…shameful.

As a Jew, I want Auschwitz to stand. As an American, I want statues to the Confederacy to stand as well. But above all, I want the truth taught..the good, the bad and the ugly.  For it is by recalling and teaching the truth that we are liberated and uplifted, not by symbolic acts of tearing down memorials that represent revisionist history or, worse, deny it altogether.    Carole

 

Less Is More

The place has not changed since 1950. It was clean and had a spartan feel to it. It was old and dated and yet we were proud of it.  It was to be home for the next six months. It was the training  dorm of The Basic School, the Marine Corps campus for training officers.

We learned quickly that every service of the military had nice facilities. Except the Marine Corps. Money that is allocated in the Marines is meant to supply fighting Marines; everything else is secondary. The Marine Corps is the only government department that returns money every year to the U.S. Treasury and tries to make due with 90% of its allocated budget. The main reason for this approach is to instill the ethos that “less is more.”

From the very moment you become a Marine the attitude is always to look for ways to make due with less. For example, even as a second Lieutenant making less than $20k a year, I had to buy my own uniforms. This cost me close to three thousand dollars. The Marine Corps did not care about the uniforms. It cared about the point: make due with less.

This philosophy has served me well throughout my career. When I worked in sales for a bank I was given a territory that had been abandoned by everyone who worked it before me. The consensus feeling was there was no money to be made with that particular region. As salesman retired, my peers inherited the best accounts while I was given the dregs. So, every two weeks I traveled to far out places all over the world  in search of bank deals. On one particular flight I was stopped by the flight attendant and warned about flying into  my destination city given the dangers. But, as I traveled I made good connections and, within a few short years, I was one of the top performing sales people on the desk. I had succeeded from  an area that “had no money.”

The “less is more” philosophy has also been the creative spark for some of the best businesses in the world.

In the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the author goes to great lengths to explain how Jobs first started building Apple computers. Jobs had no money to pay anyone. So, he would enlist family and friends to help build the computers by hand.  It wasn’t just the assembling of computers. This philosophy of less pervaded everything Jobs and Apple did. One of the reasons Apple computers have no fans is because there was no place into which to put them. Jobs also hated the noise fans made so he contacted an engineer who figured out a way to keep the circuit boards cooler. They discovered that by having the circuits work quicker they could could shut down quicker, thus reducing heat buildup. This philosophy of less enabled Apple to become one of the leading computer companies of all time.

But the “less is more” philosophy is also prevalent in the arts.

The acclaimed film director Robert Rodriguez made his directorial debut with the movie El Mariachi. He filmed it with family and friends on a shoestring budget. Upon completion, Rodriguez made a trailer and pitched it himself to movie studios. The executives were impressed that he was able to make such a good trailer with only $7,000 dollars! Since he was so new to the business, he was afraid to tell them that the whole movie had cost him that amount. Because he had made such a good movie for so little, offers poured in to make more movies and his career was launched.

Marie Kondo, author of The Japanese Art of Decluttering, writes of the benefits of having less. She is paid to go into houses and, literally, throw way stuff.  As she states, “People accumulate so much stuff during their lives that they have little time for anything else.” Her clients are not hoarders but rather have become dysfunctional in their lives due to clutter.

There is an old saying, “Be careful of what you own because in the end it might own you.” I witnessed this first hand when my parents got older and owned a large house in the country. They became like slaves to the place. They had to constantly work to maintain it leaving little time for anything else. Similarly, when I traveled to Europe, I witnessed the same thing. It is not at all uncommon to travel throughout European countries and see large castles and chateaus in states of ruin, all because they were too big. Too big to own and too big to maintain.

Yes, one of life’s paradoxes is that having less can lead to a richer life.

Although millennials have gotten a bad reputation, they appear to have forgone the “bigger is better mantra” preferring rather renting smaller homes as opposed to owning larger ones. In addition, the tiny house movement can also be traced to their wishes to own more affordable and potentially mobile housing. The millennials seems to understand that experiences, friendships, and memories are the basis for a truly blessed life…things our ancestors knew but we have forgotten.

Religions teach the same message. The New Testament warns, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Why? Because the material world is very seductive and the more you possess the more you are enslaved to your possessions.  Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism teaches that when you see something you want to purchase, never do it until you have walked away, thought about it, and returned later to make the purchase…if you still feel you need or want it. Otherwise it owns you.

True wealth, and success that matters, can’t be purchased. The Marine Corps has it down. The best of religion has it down, too. Try and take an honest look at your life and its “things” in order to reevaluate whether you are free or enslaved. It the latter, all you have to do is let them go. Now that’s freedom.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

Trump Isn’t The Problem He’s The Excuse

There is a lot of noise drowning out the truth about the protests that turned tragic in Charlottesville. The truth is that there was hate in Charlottesville from both the Right and the Left. Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists are the equal but opposite side of the spectrum from Antifa. The former are Fascists. The latter are Communists.

While so many are voicing condemnation of the President for not immediately condemning one set of protestors…they are willfully or negligently ignoring the other set.  In fact  Antifa and other Left protestors were, in many instances, hired help (oops..is that not PC?).  Yes, an LA based company called “Crowds on Demand” placed a Craig’s List ad seeking “actors and photographers” who would be paid $25 an hour for showing up to protest in Charlottesville.

I think we are going insane but its voluntary insanity born of the lack of critical thinking.

You know who Donald Trump is and why so many seem to be jumping on the collective bandwagon to hate him.  But do you know who Richard Spencer and Alexander Dugin are? Probably not.

So let’s take a moment.

Richard Spencer is a White Supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. He was kicked out of the Republican CPAC annual convention. His wife, Nina Kouprianova, is Alexander Dugin’s official translator. Alexander Dugin is Vladimir Putin’s political advisor and known Fascist.

Paying attention yet?

Spencer has been skyping Dugin into U.S. universities to speak and further brainwash already co-opted U.S. college students who think that there is a something wonderful and nirvana-esque about the Bernie Sanders/ Hilary Clinton Left. You know Socialism… aptly described as “10 minutes ahead of Communism.”

If you think that the Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and KKK elected Donald Trump, do the math. There are 200,000 registered KKK members in the U.S.  There is actually no way to know how many Nazis or White Supremacists there are because…well…they don’t register.  But let’s give them a huge benefit of the doubt and say that there are as many of them as KKK members. That makes all three groups combined total 600,000. That’s isn’t enough votes to elect anyone President.

No. Donald Trump’s “base” was and is millions of fed up, middle and lower class Americans who had tired of the lies and manipulation by both parties. Now, those who cannot control him have combined with those who opposed him and they are hell bent on removing him from office.

The Republican hierarchy, the Democrat Party, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists; the KKK, Antifa, Putin…a group of really strange bedfellows…but with a common goal: destroy the United States and eradicate the U.S. Constitution. The Left thinks it will prevail and impose Communism. The Right thinks it will prevail and impose Facsism. Until then, they are happy to band together in organized chaos and perpetrate fear through violence.

I received an email hours ago from Hadassah, the Womens Zionist Organization of America. It was a call to action to stand against the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists of Charlottesville. I replied to them as follows:

Hadassah,

I suggest you take a long, hard look at Antifa…they are the Communist Left which is the equivalent of the Nazi Right and they were in Charlottesville too… armed with bats and other weapons.

By the way, many of them were actually recruited and paid an hourly rate by an LA firm that HIRES PROTESTORS for events.  

Here is the proof http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-16/why-was-crowd-hire-company-recruiting-25-hour-political-activists-charlotte-last-wee

Let we Jews not be played by either side. Any extremism is deadly and there is plenty to go around among both the Right and the Left.

Yes, America, we are being played. But it’s hardly a game and the outcome isn’t measured in tokens or chips. It ends with concentration camps or gulags…bedfellows today, tyrants and mass murderers alike tomorrow.

So let’s not allow the continued and deliberate manipulation of our psyches by a few…even arguably 600,000…when we are a nation of 325,000,000 free willed individuals who have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Can you hear the thump, thump, thump of the tires? You’re headed off the road and straight into a wall. I got out of the car a ways back. You’re out of time. Wake up! …thump…thump…thump…

Soccer Hacks & Life Hacks

My daughters play soccer. I used to hate the sport until I saw what it teaches about life.

My girls aren’t big or fast but they are super tricky with the ball. A coach once watched them play and asked me, “Where are they from? They don’t play like Americans.” He knew by their style of play that they were playing at a deeper level. When I told him that my wife was Ecuadorian he said, “Ah, that explains it. The Latino players know how to feel the game.”

That coach was from Spain. He told me it is always easy for him to spot these types of players. His theory is that Americans know the game and can play the game well. They are just too mechanical. To the contrary, Latin players play with spirit and tend to look for the angles and tricks to make the game easier. “Soccer is not a game only of mechanics but of spirit as well.” The same way any musician can play a melody yet a song only takes on true power once the spirit is involved.

My girls play with spirit.

The spirit is what invokes joy of the game and an understanding of where the ball is going. Having been around athletics all my life, I have come to realize how two players in a sport with equal ability and talent can learn the game; yet one person “will get the game” while the other won’t. The issue is not one of merely skill but of being open to allowing the spirit to flow. Being open requires both suffering and expression but along with them comes understanding.

My daughters have a move called the nutmeg where you pass the ball through the other person’s legs. It requires astuteness and an understanding of how the opposing player moves and defends. Most advanced players know the nutmeg but few use it. My daughters use that move at least once a game. For the opposing player, it is quite embarrassing to have a ball pass through their legs. However, once it is successfully done, the player who has watched that ball travel right through their legs knows she has been outclassed and will tend play more timidly. It takes a lot of time to learn the nutmeg but, once mastered, it is devastating because it goes represents a sublime comprehension of the game.

In my own life, I have witnessed the phenomena of studying something and never getting it. When I first started training in Aikido, there was a brown belt who had trained and studied for years but never advanced.  Ten years later, I was awarded my black belt before he reached the same level. Why? He understood all the techniques and could execute them proficiently but, at its core, he never truly understood Aikido.  Aikido is really about blending your energy with your attacker’s energy and redirecting that it all. In Aikido, if you are too severe with your techniques, you become immovable. If too soft the moves don’t work. So Aikido is learned “between the space” of hard and soft. You have to go into that space to learn it.

Here’s an example. I trained with a man named Andy. His techniques were so hard that he was essentially immovable. When I trained with him it was like being in a wrestling match to the death! One particular day, we trained together with a very senior student who broke Andy’s wrist and arm when Andy tried to out-muscle him. The senior student broke Andy’s arm  because Andy left him no other alternative. Andy’s Aikido was so rigid and strong that in the end he broke his own bones.  Had he been lighter and more flexible…more willing to blend with his opponent… he would not have suffered such devastating injuries. He got hurt because he was unable to become soft and vulnerable.

Most the activities that I have tried to become proficient in have involved learning the mechanics of the trade but also understanding the spirit of the endeavor. I’ve begun writing regularly. The only real traction I get is when I write something that stems from some type of deep insight. Yet to write anything that evokes insight takes years of reading and studying to understand the depth of realization. In the book ” One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s  the author conveys that writing is mystical and sublime in nature. The book revolves around a family in Latin America and its multiple generations.  Marquez is able to capture and explain the magical realism of Latin life in a way that seems true to life. Having spent many summers in Ecuador, I can assure you that belief in the mystical is quite real in South America.

The book is able to explain and connect with readers in ways that few books can. Had Marquez been too timid to write about the spirit and mysticism that many Latinos feel, his words would have had the profound and vast impact that it has. Many Westerners mock and laugh at this way of looking at life. While I am sure Marquez knew this he pressed on anyway risking scorn and ridicule.

All of life requires risk whether it be personal, recreational or professional. Many people spend the time to master the task while only a select few take the great leap of surrender, vulnerability and trust and to become great. A simple turtle can live its entire life in its shell but in order to move, walk, eat and procreate it needs to literally “risk it’s neck” to survive and prosper. We humans are no less obligated.

sleeclark@gmail.com

How To Stop The Russians

The Russians hacked the DNC. They also played the Trump campaign. What is going on here is beyond obvious. Yet our partisanship is blinding us to the Russian infiltration of our political process. This is exactly what the Russians want.

The Russians want internal fighting. They are fomenting conflict and uncertainty. They want to foster mistrust between and among Americans. They want chaos. They are masters of disinformation. They have perfected it over decades, if not longer, within their own political system and culture. They bred out religion. They fed totalitarian techniques through fear to bring the populace under centralized governmental control. Its what they are aiming for here.

We Americans, in our lack of experience with such subversive tactics, are sheepishly and all too willingly cooperating with the Russian agenda. It is no coincidence that immigrants from formerly Communist and Socialist countries identify exactly what is happening. They know because they have been there, wherever their particular “there” was, and they made it their mission to get here! Here, to the United States. However, instead of banding together to stop this silent and subversive invasion, we are at each other’s throats, feeding the hatred and fear that emboldens and sustains the invader’s agenda.

I know many on the Left who believe that this country has been the bane of the world’s existence through efforts to manipulate, dominate and control other nations. They also believe that in so doing we have caused the death of millions, if not hundreds of millions, around the world. This is what drives them, their disdain for our apparent greed and disregard for others with different cultures, as well as our similar disregard for the planet. I also know many on the Right believe who the United States is all that is good and true in the world and that we are the most charitable nation on the planet. The home of liberty and the benefits of capitalism for the many, both here and around the world.

There is some truth in both beliefs just as there are self-serving agendas in both. These opposite perspectives are each right and are each wrong, at different times and on different issues. However, while fully acknowledging our shortcomings and mistakes, this experiment in human freedom and its resulting advances are unprecedented in human history. It should be what binds us to one another and causes us to support and defend the perpetuation of the nation…not what sets us at each other’s throats.

In our current state of rabid blindness, we are failing to see that we have never produced what our adversaries have. We have never provided the cultural and political petri dish to grow a Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini, Fidel Castro, Marx, Mugabe, Kim Jung II, Kim II, Idi Amin, Hirohito, Brezhnev, Chiang Kia-shek, Kaiser Wilhelm, Ho Chi Min, Saddam Hussein, Czar Nicholas II or a host of others.  So, before we jump to praise the attributes and benefits of our adversaries and their forms of governance thereby committing national suicide by a thousand internal cuts, perhaps we should find more of what we Americans have in common.

Perhaps we need to stop hating our differences and understand that independence of thought is the ultimate diversity. Through the give and take of opposing ideas is how, and where, we come to find otherwise undetectable truths.

Unless we wake up now and identify real adversaries, who present a clear and present danger, we will soon be their slaves. Then, in hindsight, our petty infighting will be revealed for what it truly was, the tool and end product of evil.

Russia is within our media, our culture, our government and our institutions. North Korea is on the verge (or already capable) of delivering an EMP on the warhead of a ballistic missile that will destroy our power grid and cause the death of millions through panic, starvation and loss of emergency services.  Do you think the Chinese aren’t readying themselves for conflict?

The answer and the cure is not more hatred. It’s more understanding. Perhaps we need to reevaluate and re-prioritize what we value. Find common ground that matters. Universal healthcare or Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting calendar won’t be our top priorities in a Gulag or North Korean prison camp.

Loneliness and Virtual Reality

In N.Y.C. its not uncommon to live alone. I know because I lived there for many years.

The city is packed with people but many of them live lonely lives. In apartments and condos, its not uncommon for 40% or more of the residents to be single and living alone. Its understandable, since most apartments in N.Y.C. are 1 or 2 bedrooms. People who want to build a family inevitably move out. So, those remaining are single and live solitary lives.

I always thought this problem was more prevalent in N.Y.C. but Japan has struggled with the problem of solitude and loneliness for quite some time. “Nearly 1 in 4 men and 1 in 7 women in Japan were yet to be married at age 50 in 2015 in a clear sign that Japanese are increasingly shying away from tying the knot.”

It’s almost the result of the age in which we live. Although we have created many more ways for people to connect loneliness has actually increased. In the West, cultural markers such as marriage and birth rates are steadily in decline. Its as if, on some level, we’ve given up. Yet, as if that thought was not disturbing enough, I think things are going to get worse.  The advent of virtual reality, combined with porn, is a deadly and self-destructive mix. It will wreak havoc on relationships as well as how we function as a society.

Delivering porn by way of virtual reality will enable people to have entirely new experiences all within the confines of their mind. Human contact will no longer be needed. The virtual porn experience will be able to meet all of an individual’s sexual expectations.

The way virtual reality works is similar to the way visualization works. Part of the reason elite athletes use visualization is because they know that the brain has a hard time differentiating between something imagined and something real. Listen closely when a runner is interviewed following a winning race. He or she tends to say things like “the race went just like I envisioned it would.”  Visualization techniques are powerful; yet, they pale in comparison to what virtual reality can do to the mind.

This combination of porn and virtual reality will be the equivalent of a nuclear blast that will destroy whatever remains of the best of our culture. Even the medical field has begun to look at the damages of pornography. Dr. Judith Reisman called porn an “erototoxin,” theorizing that the brain itself might be damaged while watching porn. She speculated that future brain studies would reveal that the surge of neurochemicals and hormones released when someone watches porn has measurably negative effects on the brain.

When a reporter from Mashable went to test out a virtual reality clip from a porn distribution company, this is what he had to say: “Even though I was conscious that the two porn stars weren’t actually there and that the guy’s body wasn’t really mine, I still thought they were real. [emphasis added]. The more the porn girls jiggled their breasts in my face and rubbed their butts against me, the more I internalized being the VR porn guy. I felt my face get flushed as they showed me their, ahem, skills. Things got really weird, that’s all I’m going to say. I’m an advocate for all new technologies that push video mediums to the next level, and after trying out VR porn, I don’t think anyone who experiences it will be able to go back to 2D porn. It’s that realistic.”

Oddly enough the topic of addiction and the damage that virtual reality can inflict was explored in the 90’s film Strange Days where people bought and sold illegal virtual reality tapes of sex, murder, and rape with some of the tapes being so toxic that they had the ability to “fry” the brain. The lead character, played by Ralph Fiennes, spends countless hours reliving the sexual encounters with his former girlfriend, perfectly mirroring the behavior and mannerisms exhibited by a drug addict forever needing to get a fix. It is amazing to realize that a film so prescient was created before virtual reality was developed yet addresses the moral implications and destructive effects of the misuse of technology.

I am a firm believer that what most plagues our culture today is the destruction of the nuclear family. With the proliferation of virtual reality porn, whatever remnant of the nuclear family remains will be finally destroyed. Many males will elect to completely drop out of relationships, and therefore society, addicted to the thrill-on-demand of subservient and compliant virtual “women.”  (The data shows the majority of porn viewers are men.)

The widespread solitude and loneliness that is now so prevalent in our society will grow exponentially as people have the option, via their v.r. devises, to opt out of the complexities, demands and responsibilities attendant to human interaction. What will be gained is technologically-induced self-gratification. What will be lost is our humanity. As a former Wall Street trader, it seems like a bad trade.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com