Puncturing the Cynicism of Our Age

The motivations of any professional include supporting themselves and their family. In being drawn to a new career in hypnotherapy, I am somewhat unique at HMI in that I have no dependents, and no expectations that I will have a comfortable retirement. In contrast, many of my peers-in-training are openly concerned about financial success, and some among the instructors project aspirations of personal wealth.

The conversation I walked into during workshop break went a little farther than that. Three students and the facilitator were agreeing that “you can talk about love, but ultimately everything is about money.” I guess that my reaction was incongruous, for they all turned to look at me. I tried to soften the pregnant silence with a jocular “Speak for yourself!”

The retort came from the man lazing in the recliner on the stage. I had to turn to see the subtle smirk on his face after he said “It’s all about money to you, too.” I tilted my head to the side in a manner that I am certain appeared calculating, and he reiterated his assertion. Stepping closer to him, I firmly asserted “You don’t tell me what I think.”

Turning back to the astonished triad, I explained:

“It’s all about power. There are two kinds of power: some power you can store – that’s what money is, in fact, a way of storing power. And there’s another kind – the kind that has to be about the world doing work. In my experience of life, there’s far more of the second kind of power than there is of the first.

“And that is why I love unconditionally: because I like to see power at work.”

The other students opened their mouths, but the facilitator closed the conversation with “Very well put, Brian.”

Disassembling the Sith Lords

When I was working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2004-5, I was housed in an uncleared “holding tank” while waiting for my security clearance to be approved. Many of my office mates were foreign guests that had come to pursue research projects as part of the Department of Energy’s effort to build an international non-proliferation community. Among them was a Bulgarian post-doc that swam aggressively through the psychic pool, claiming the talents of others as his own.

In a social gathering one evening, he found that he couldn’t gain any purchase on me, and instead attacked a close friend of mine. Understanding the ways of the world, I didn’t get upset, simply getting a good bead on him so that I could deal with him later.

That night, when I entered REM sleep I found myself having a series of dreams about the Russian mafia. It was like watching clips from movies. After being bounced through that psychic chain, I came suddenly awake while reading a sign that said “Hard Men.” I was in the presence of a man, deep in Russian, who visualized placing a gun against the top of my head. I could literally fell the pressure on my crown. Pausing to let fear take hold, he then pulled the trigger. I simply refused to accept the visualization, and felt the psychic energy flood out over the top of my head and along my skull.

He paused then, and I led him into a future possibility: “Do that again, and I’ll simply bounce the energy back on you. The visualization of harm is forming in your mind, and so you’ll be unable to prevent its affect from appearing in you. Do you want to go that way?”

He removed the gun and walked off into the psychic mist.

I was diagnosed with situational depression in the course of my divorce, and so couldn’t afford health care for myself when Kaiser identified it as a “pre-existing condition.” I regained my Kaiser enrolment as an LLNL employee, and on my calendar that next week was my first annual health exam. The doctor refused to do the physical assessment, offering only this elliptical explanation: “My father had a massive stroke last week.”

This was my first confrontation with the psychic network used by Vladimir Putin to project his will across the world. I started calling him “Mama Bear” in those encounters. While I can’t penetrate his control of Kremlin, I’ve been working the process described in my book Ma as the “Battle of Sequia.” Every time he reaches out to beat up on good people, I connect with the peace-loving birds and animals of Russia, and take another chunk of land away from him.

In the review of my book Golem, the writer avers:

[Dr.] Balke has a Ph.D in particle physics, so he understands better than most of us the true potentialities of the forces he describes in this paean to our own little piece of green, the planet Earth. Surprisingly, perhaps, for a scientist, Balke gives final and absolute credit to Yeshua, an obvious stand-in for the messianic father of all.

This is true, to a point: the community of particle physicists no longer accepts me. The understanding that Love has allowed me regarding the structure of the universe is uniquely my own. So I possess visualizations of psychic processes that no other does.

The efficacy of these visualizations gives me the confidence to respond pithily to threatening figures such as Stephen Bannon, who yesterday told the liberal press to “Shut up,” claiming that “they didn’t understand how Donald Trump became president” before referring the himself as the “Dark Lord of the Sith.” On the NY Times site (copied to my Facebook timeline) I responded:

Lolz. Dear Bannon, you’re so cute. Trump was elected because his voters wanted to throw an IED into our constitutional system. Unfortunately, IEDs are consumed in the course of manifesting the intended effect. Enjoy the ride!

There is a strong bond between Trump and Putin: I perceived it clearly when watching a clip of Ryan and Trump trying to suborn the will of Chuck Schumer. Ryan smirked like a viper in the background while Trump loomed bearishly over the victim. So Putin (“Mama Bear”) was in the wings when Bannon came to confront me last night.

Psychic parasites achieve their power by using their emotional apparatus to project fear into their victims. But that apparatus was patterned on God’s image: it thrills to the touch of love. So when Bannon came at me, I simply used my visualizations to peel away that part of his personality, telling it:

Come over here where you won’t be abused.

Republicans probably take offense at my political commentary, most directly characterized by Jesus’s edict:

You cannot love both God and money.

But I have been here before: in the aftermath of 9/11, when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove played at being Sith Lords in the psychic field of another poor little rich boy president. In that era, I was again threatened with physical and psychic violence. My response was to pull forward the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Death Star:

Destroy me now and I will become far more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

They perceive the endpoint of my visualizations, and walk away. I am less powerful alive than I would be dead – principally because I am still restrained by hope.

If only Hollywood understood the potentiality of love. I’ve done my best to explain it to them, but they are in the habit of trying to turn understanding into money. It is repulsed by their greed, and slips away. So the public is left without empowering visualizations. Instead, when they gather in hope, as at the Women’s March last Saturday, love stretches out to them as a warm affirmation and comforting bond in which they gather the power and will to resist fear.

You are undone, you Sith Lords. You are undone, you bears, eagles, lions, hawks, leopards, vultures and wolves.

You just haven’t yet resigned yourselves to it.

Power Seeks Truth Through Love

A friend from yoga started following my blog recently, and yesterday we were chatting about it before yoga class. I was surprised by his statement that he always understood the Christian message to be that humanity was the focus of healing in the world, rather than a virus to spread corruption. I was about to ask him about the source of his understanding when a stranger interjected and began to tell me that I was wrong. He kept at it, point by point, until I got frustrated and told him, “Look, I am doing the work.”

This was the framing for Rachel Maddow’s profile of Steve Bannon’s career as a video producer. His recent work includes a metaphor on global warming – a crazed scientist locks a bunch of steamy bodies in a sauna and slowly raises the temperature, causing an unnecessary panic.

In the context of this blog, the more outrageous offering is a reality series that recasts the male protagonist of Duck Dynasty as the prophet of the Second Coming. Some would be outraged by this travesty, others would be frightened, but I see it as an opportunity.

Bannon, like many in the media industry, understands the power of dreams. Shared ideas are spiritual points of contact that link a target community. Seeding people with phrases and images allows other kinds of thoughts to be projected into their souls. This is something that I trained my sons to resist. When they complained that an unsettling thought wouldn’t leave them alone, I offered “Close your eyes, calm your thoughts, and form this question in your mind: ‘Where is this coming from?’ Now tell me whose face you see.”

Bannon has co-opted the conservative message with his alt-right media machine. People that celebrate freedom and independence now subscribe – sometimes violently – to his program that seeks to deny those rights to minorities. It appears that he now wishes to do the same to Christianity, whose political messaging is currently diffused across competing denominations.

But as one among a growing number that believes that Revelation teaches that the returned Christ is already at work among us, I must consider how much Bannon’s power play will affect that process of manifestation. I am happy to share that I have powerful reasons for believing that it will further it.

You see, people may subscribe to an illusion such as the one that Bannon is constructing, but ultimately their concern is for the actual conditions of their life. This is the huge difference between Christ and illusionists such as Bannon: Christ actually loves his community, and is invested in their strength. This means that the community builds strength through relation with Christ, rather than losing it.

But how does Christ break through the barrier of illusion spun by Bannon and others? Because his investment in truth gives him focus and strength that the illusionists cannot rival. Illusionists are lazy people, seeking to take power without giving anything in return. Christ focuses only on service to his community, and so disciplines himself to act in a way consistent with their benefit. There is no pause in his determination, no rest until he has manifested his will for service to them.

What killed him made him stronger.

So all that Bannon will succeed in doing is to create a nexus in spirit that will allow Christ to send fulfillment all the more rapidly to those that are held captive by illusion. Once that message is received, Bannon will lose his power over his captives, and be cast aside as irrelevant.

This is just a specific example of a greater principle: spiritual power is conscious and intelligent. It seeks conditions under which it can anchor and spread. That means that it must work in concert with truth, for without truth its anchor will not be firm. Truth is perceived fully only by those that love unconditionally – that is to say, without thought of personal reward. For, if we think of personal reward when seeking the truth, people will seek to protect themselves from our appropriations by hiding from us.

This then, is what makes Christ inevitably the most powerful person on earth: power seeks truth through love. As the avatar of unconditional love, eventually all power will accrue to him.

Folding into Sorrow

It some ways, it is getting easier. When the weight settles during the Agnus Dei, I’ve decided to simply go with it. With “takes away the sins of the world,” I raise my hands to my shoulders and push it away into the void. And with “grant us peace,” I motion for the powers to descend from heaven into the space prepared for them. I know that the gestures must seem odd to those around me, but at least I’m not weeping any more.

Still, there are these irrational and inexplicable waves of sorrow in response to the elements of the Easter story. It’s not the crucifixion that causes my throat to clench and my chest to lock against grief. Rather it’s in the middle of this verse from In Christ Alone, which I’ve been looping on the car stereo:

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

It’s in the declaration of victory that sorrow overwhelms me, accompanied by a sneering voice in the back of my head.

Having gained a certain sense of control over the experience, I am now able to stand back and analyze it. It’s not in the past that the grief lay, not on the Cross. It’s in the future.

And with that realization come to mind those mysterious promises. Of the Law [NIV Matt. 5:18], Jesus says (emphasis added):

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Only to announce the New Covenant in the Last Supper.

Of the End of the Age, Jesus promises [NIV Matt. 24:34] (emphasis added):

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

And on the cross to the repentant thief [NIV Luke 23:43]:

Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

Finally surrendering life with [NIV John 19:30]:

It is finished.

In Tyranny Vanquished by Love, I explain that the dimming of the sun on Good Friday was not an eclipse, it was the sun pouring its power into the Savior. What was that power used for? The only way to reconcile these statements above with the iniquity of modern human existence is that Jesus was unbound from time. The power he was granted was guided into the future by his mercy and love, seeking relentlessly for an opportunity to realize the kingdom of peace.

So Easter was not two days later to him as it was to his followers. Rather, as Peter suggests [NIV 2 Peter 3:8-9]:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

So now I understand: the reason that I feel so much grief in the Resurrection is because we are at the turning point in his journey. The wall of pain stands right in front of us. The final resistance of sin, having consumed all the available resources, is flagging. It is ours to walk the narrow path, to pierce that veil with love, and bring him home to us.

And then send him back to rise from the grave and celebrate love’s victory with his dearest friends.


Tyranny Vanquished by Love

As an advocate of the healing manifested in the world through divine love – that is to say, as an apologist – the most painful apology is that offered by those that justify violence in the defense of received truth.

In modern America, those justifications are flavored with desperation. For many years, Christian culture was synonymous with the dominant Caucasian culture. The twenty-first century promises an end to that dominance, but that eventuality was clearly forecast in the last century. The misguided hope that change and accommodation can be avoided breeds irrationality, manifested in the religious extremism that spawned death-threats against doctors that prescribe chemical abortions or that drives parents to resist education in evolutionary biology. Fundamentalism bred in the military, where “Warriors for Christ” sometimes coerce religious conduct in their subordinates, and issue death threats against leaders in organizations (such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation) that oppose that unconstitutional practice. In each case, the instigators see the tenets of their faith as justifying imposition of their values upon others, and therefore implicitly justifying a broader defense of inherited social privilege.

In both Judaism and Islam, this tendency is heightened by the intervention of God in martial struggles against those seeking to subdue the faithful. It is only in Christianity that radical non-violence is upheld. That the bookends to Christianity both deny the divinity of Christ may be symptomatic of a pragmatism that makes violence inescapable.

In Islam and the Destiny of Man, Eaton explicitly upholds this principle. A Sunni scholar, his survey of Muslim history after the death of the prophet concludes with the observation that the practical realities of maintaining control of an Islamic culture meant at least paying lip-service to its theology, which was often solidified by investments in public works that facilitated its spread. Through that means, tyranny was turned to the service of faith. But it goes beyond that – Eaton makes a deep statement that truth cannot survive in the world unless evil is divided from it, and that division requires violence. Indeed, the hypocrites of the ruling class in the Umayyad and Abbassid dynasties were short-lived.

In discussion with my Shia colleague at work, I have been slowly establishing the validity of the contrasting proposition of Christian faith: Jesus demonstrated that the pragmatic truths of this world are dust in the hands of those that manipulate them. What is known to be “true” is far less meaningful than what is possible. While the common reaction is “good luck with that,” I keep on pointing out that far more power is available to us than is required to solve the problems we face. A billion times as much energy leaves the sun as reaches the earth. It is not allowed us for the same reason that parents don’t give matches to children – one selfish miss-step can destroy us all.

But, you see, it wasn’t a solar eclipse on Good Friday. It was the sun pouring its power through him.

I discovered Lauren Naigle through BJ out at The River Runs. The compositions on Lauren’s debut album don’t rival those found in the secular (and often profane) debuts of Ricky Lee Jones or Norah Jones, and subscribe to a simple lyrical formula. But they encapsulate the fundamental truths of Christian experience: it is the loving heart that bled for humanity that demonstrates the preconditions for true power. Surrender self-concern and trust that all those that you love ultimately will love you in return.

Lauren is young, and among her tracks are jingles that might be dismissed as overly exuberant. But she has not been without suffering, losing two years of high school to an auto-immune disorder and a beloved grandfather. In How Can It Be’s closing homage, she pleads for self-surrender:

There is victory in my Savior’s loss
In the crimson flowing from the Cross
Pour over me, pour over me. (Yes!)

Oh let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified.
Be lifted high, as my kingdoms fall
Once and for all, once and for all.

Oh Lord I lay it down.
Oh Lord I lay it down.
Help me to lay it down.
Oh Lord I lay it down.

Bad things happen to good people not because they are weak.

Evil walks in the world, and hungers for the power that originates from love, but love recoils from its grasp. In Richard Nixon, the great lesson of abused power was visible when he bade farewell to his staff, tears streaming down his face as he juxtaposed his experience of political life with the love he had received from his mother. That is another way of reading Lauren’s lyrics: “Be lifted high, as my kingdoms fall. Oh Lord I lay it down.

There are those immune to these realizations – Beria, Stalin’s security chief, spat on the corpse just moments after his master’s death. But Stalin has already been forgotten by history, replaced by Vladimir Putin, a man who justifies his power by promising to allocate money for road repairs left undone by the local governments impoverished by the corruption he organizes.

Putin’s political aspirations were conceived when unrest in East Germany paralyzed the embassy staff. Stepping in with a firm will, he saw people galvanized to action. It is this strength of will that he relies upon, but the lesson that is demonstrated by history is that the will to power is no match for the discipline required of those that love unconditionally. Tyrants can concentrate spiritual power, but they cannot hold it in any confrontation with a wise and loving adversary. The tyrant simply serves as a dark well in which light shines more brilliantly into the spirits of the oppressed.

The mistake of religious fanaticism is to believe that the institutions of tyranny must be dismantled, for that strategy only justifies oppression. The truth found in Christianity is that we don’t need to destroy the institutions of tyranny. Instead, in service with he that died once and for all, we can dismantle the personalities of the tyrants.

Oh, Lauren, what an joy it is to celebrate your wise old soul!

A Matter of Character

In his final State of the Union address, Barack Obama eschewed partisan politics and stretched for the heights of statesmanship. Frustrated in his most heart-felt passions by the institutions that foment mistrust of government, his program of political renewal is built around appeals to cherished notions of our national character. While composed of practical steps – among them redistricting and campaign finance reform, voting rights, and extension of public education by two years – its illustrations were drawn not from  isolated instances of specific lives transformed by those benefits, but from abstract descriptions of relationships transformed when we act from hope and trust.

Obama supported the authority of his prescription by outlining the results of seven years of quietly doing what was possible while his opponents trumpeted doom. This includes enhanced international cooperation to isolate and weaken the agents of violence, improved terms of trade to protect workers and the environment, enhancement of personal security with health care reform, and revitalization of America’s manufacturing and energy sectors.

His restrained rhetoric is set against a collection of voices that trumpet conflict. This is not limited to the field of Republican presidential nominees – the growing strength of the Sanders campaign is fueled by harsh rhetoric targeting the financial elite. I believe that the popularity of those voices reflects the sense that for the average American, security is precarious. This is supported by polling that reveals that as regards their condition, 49% of Americans have become more angry over the last year.

As wages stagnate and costs rise, inevitably every choice faced by a working family is fraught with consequence. Any single error can set us on the hard road to poverty. In that state, our natural desire is to make our choosing less difficult – in much popular political rhetoric, to remove the impediments imposed by the state. Unfortunately, this logic appeals to the interests of those that siphon financial energy from the system. One of the Koch brothers, after the federal investigation of climate science racketeering by Mobil-Exxon, appeared in public to state that in many ways he is a liberal – he believes that businesses are most successful when the individual worker is free to make his own choices. As “success” to Mr. Koch translates to “higher profits,” what history has shown is that a family man will accept lower wages when facing competition from a younger, unburdened candidate. “Freedom” as understood by Koch translates to a lack of security that eventually pits every man against his neighbor for the benefit of owners.

In his book The Guardians: Kingman Brewster, His Circle, and the Rise of the Liberal Establishment, Geoffrey Kabaservice argued that the American century was birthed on the battlefields of WWII. For the first time, the American elite went to war, and came back appreciating the strength of the brotherhood that leads men to sacrifice their lives in service. It was this brotherhood that motivated the Veterans’ Acts that opened college and home ownership to the lower classes. And it was the clawing back of those gifts by that generation’s children that steadily weakened the lower classes as we entered the 21st century.

The fragility of the post-war Golden Age must lead us to ask: is Obama right? Is our national character one of quiet service, or a narcissistic struggle for privilege that slowly grinds down the weak?

Against the cynicism of the realist, Obama marshaled the words of the man that prophesied his presidency. In his last public address, Martin Luther King, Jr. promised his audience that they as a people would see the Promised Land. Obama borrowed not from that speech but from King’s Nobel Peace Prize address, in which the prophet heralded the ultimate victory of “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”

That may sound like another flimsy basis for policy prescriptions, but it actually leads to an analysis that shows the inevitability of our exit from this era of untrammeled selfishness. Throughout history, when economic activity expands into a new scale (from the city to the state, from state to nation, from nation to globe), those managing the expansion are able to erode the rights of those that created the technologies and products that allow the expansion. They do that by transferring knowledge to impoverished labor markets (or by importing cheaper labor). By selling goods back into the originating society, owners are able to reap enormous profits.

What ultimately happens, however, is that as wages equalize, poor workers motivated by the hope that they, too, would achieve the rights of their richer cousins gain the courage to organize to secure those rights. Having played out the cheap trick of producing in cheaper labor markets, the elite is brought under ever increasing pressure to actually increase the value of labor through organizational strategy. They then confront the truth that a competent and creative worker is the best source of operational improvements, and that personal security is essential to avoid fear that distracts her attention.

This has been played out again and again through history, in each of the transitions listed above. We now face the last transition to the global stage, and growing economic instability in  China suggests that the cheap trick has just about played itself out.

So if the morality of Obama’s appeal doesn’t resonate in the pragmatic mind, I believe that it yet reflects the wisdom of historical experience. His prescriptions are the investments that we need to make now to ensure that when the burden of poverty is leveled, we as a nation are prepared to lead the charge into a future of common accomplishment safeguarded by international compacts of economic and environmental justice.

While the elite may create panic with rumors of “one world government” and “black helicopters,” the past proves that the lower classes will eventually recognize their common experience, and organize to ensure that the government that creates the rules by which power is allocated will do so in a way that ensures that power servers that greater good, rather than the whims of the elite. All the lower classes need do is to marshal the courage to believe in the commonality of their experience (which is the root of all truth) and recognize that when they invest in each others’ power (loving unconditionally), they strengthen themselves.

This is Power

in 2002, Time magazine published a cover article that related the scientific consensus regarding the end of the universe. It was a terribly depressing outcome, with iron planets and neutron stars scattered across intergalactic space, all except the matter that was vacuumed up in black holes.

I was going through a really depressed stage of my life, and faced the strong urge to rebel against that outcome. One option was to take the day off from work to lie in bed. The other was to reach for another alternative. It came to me in this way: at the core of almost every galaxy is a super-massive black hole – an “Active Galactic Nucleus.” We know that galaxies are bound together in clusters, and every now and then pass through each other. Over a long enough period of time, it seemed to me that the AGN’s will eventually collide, spewing out the matter they have absorbed to initiate a new cycle of stellar evolution.

Then I thought: “Well, if that’s how stars get made in the end, maybe that’s how they got made to begin with. Maybe stars don’t come first, and then collide to form black holes. Maybe the black holes are made first, and the quasars we see in the earliest age of the universe are the signature of the light and matter created in that process.”

Scripture offers us three kinds of wisdom:

  • Regulation, the accumulated wisdom of what does and does not work in relationships.
  • Situational ethics, describing how the Divine presence led our ancestors out of trouble when they made mistakes.
  • Meaning, revealing the evolutionary process that provides understanding to guide our investments in the future.

When I look at the situation in Congress today, I see a terrible perversion of this process. I see:

  • In our penal code and permissive gun laws, a process that segregates our population into camps based upon fear, undermining relation.
  • A “survival of the fittest” mentality that insists that poverty is a sign of unfitness and wealth a measure of greatness. People that fall ill are consigned to misery, those that cannot master rapidly changing technology are pushed aside in the workplace, and those that do not subscribe to predatory management practices are ostracized.
  • The unchecked politics of terrorism, where those that resist the changing future throw legislative Molotov cocktails, threatening their opponents with impeachment, harassing civil servants and not-for-profit leaders, and obscuring or simply denying objective truth regarding the consequences of their policies on global climate change, economics, international relations and campaign finance reform.

I would like to be able to corner Rep. Chaffetz to ask, “Mr. Chaffetz, did you ever withdraw during ejaculation? Did you ever avoid sex while your wife was ovulating? If so, then you intentionally prevented the birth of a child. When do you intend to turn yourself in for manslaughter?”

I would like to be able to confront the Biblical literalists with the insight that the whole experience of the nation of Israel from Noah to Jesus was to demonstrate the inefficacy and injustice of fixed systems of laws. The Law of Moses was authorized by God, but it is not “God’s Law” because it condones murder, contrary to the experience of Cain and the teachings of Jesus. The only law that binds a Christian is the law of love, and when you attack and demean those that serve the disadvantaged, you violate that law.

He walked up the sidewalk, his mind whirling with the pattern of creation unfolded from beginning to end. But at the periphery of the beauty were the people that brought him forth but rejected him, and the women that he would serve but that had resolved to force him to comply with convention. Those stains threatened to spread.

In his mind’s eye, a light entered the atmosphere, rushing downwards, clouds rolling away from the super-heated air in its wake. It passed over his shoulder and slammed into the hills ahead, a huge cloud of dust engulfing the spring day that he walked through. In his mind, a great cry of fear arose.

“No. No. I choose that spring day. I choose life.”

Two months later, in the home of a woman that loved him, he found a newspaper open to an inside article that documented that a planet-killer asteroid had passed between the earth and the moon two months before.

That is power. It is power that arises from looking into the things that are wounded and seeing the possibility of their healing. It is to forgo destruction of that which is broken and ugly. It is to serve those that serve, rather than to be a servant to convention.

Rather than seeking glory, it is to be regulated by the sorrows of the world.

All males are created to change things. It is far easier to change things by breaking them that it is to create something new. We indulge the former in boys. It is time for you to be men. If you don’t like tet way the world is, give us concrete and documented demonstrations of what does work.

Otherwise, get out of the way.

Curating the Treasure

I was at Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon, plowing through the examples in Troelson’s Pro C#, and a large gentleman waved his derriere in my face as he sat down at the adjoining table. I kept my head in the work, but he interrupted to offer “Sorry to stick my butt in your face like that.” I responded, “It happens,” and kept on grinding.

The place began to thin out at five, so I shifted to the counter against the wall, as the tall chairs allow me to open up my abdomen and breath. He followed a few minutes later, actually pointing out that he was following me. Trying to make it clear that I wasn’t avoiding him, I explained that I preferred the bar seats.

What followed was one of these interesting negotiations that I recognize as attempts by concerned spirits to engage with the work that I do. I remarked that I had noticed his interest in cosmology (he had been perusing a shelf copy of Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time). Through a process of disconnected association – in which the same words were repeated with different meanings – he revealed that he held a patent on a new electrical motor drive method.

Along the way came this story of how he had found a card for a $10,000 invitational for venture capital funding. He thought that was an interesting message from the universe, but when he called the number on the card, the responder just hung up again and again. Not to be deterred, he went to his Ninja master who advised him to print a fake business badge and gain entry to the venue on the pretext of inspecting the air conditioning. Changing clothes after entry, he made his way to the meeting. Identifying a British peer among the investors, he waited at the exit as the body guards passed before reaching out suddenly to grab his hand.

Intrigued by this intervention, the peer invited him to have lunch with another group of investors. The locale had a Japanese temple gateway, which my new friend understood required him to remove his shoes and bow before passing the threshold. He was followed by a group of Japanese investors, which marveled at his sophistication. Into this milieu came the peer, who congratulated him on having “married” the Japanese, who were considering a $400 million investment with Lloyd’s, the British reinsurance group.

After lunch, the peer took him aside to determine his interest in the VC meeting. My acquaintance offered the idea of laying a motor design out flat, as was done in a large accelerator facility. When asked how the idea was originated, he had offered that it came from a privileged supernatural source.

The story wrapped up with the observation that Thomas Edison had succeeded with direct current power because he knew the ins and outs of politics, while Nikolai Tesla just wanted to play with alternating current.

By this time, I had returned to typing in Visual Studio, prompting as I did so with questions just to let him know that I was paying attention. Story concluded, he pressed a business card on me and left.

There are people of influence, such as the British peer, who wander the world casting the net of their wealth around them to attract opportunity. They don’t understand the mechanisms by which it works, they just rely upon it as a privilege. The peer rewarded my acquaintance because he was a sensitive and responsive tool for facilitating the acquisition of wealth.

And then there are those that submit to the purpose of that talent – the goal of joining all of life in a web of mutual concern – to whom that actual mechanisms of the process are revealed. They are given possession of the treasure of the fields, of which Jesus said [NIV Matthew 13:44]:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Lack of money isn’t the problem. The problem is the injection of selfishness into a process of co-creation that makes the participants (both biological and ethereal) incredibly vulnerable to exploitation. Once we learn to discipline ourselves, we’ll find that there is far more power available to us than is required to solve the problems that we confront.

Planning Your Mid-Life Crisis

To be blessed is to receive gifts before knowing that they are needed. I’ve survived several mid-life crises thanks to wisdom I received from Delorese Ambrose back in my mid-forties.

Ambrose wasn’t speaking about mid-life crisis, although the context may have warranted it. My employer, a large national laboratory, had discovered that scientists might be motivated to master project management, but very few of them mastered human relations. During an era of declining budgets for basic science and a reduced role for nuclear weapons in national security, people needed to learn how to work together so that new missions could evolve.

Ambrose came in as a management consultant, which in part involves providing an organization with a framework to facilitate selection and support of leaders. In a plenary session, Ambrose spoke about the cycle of power. Her model had six stages, each stage involving a ground-breaking shift in perspective that made it almost impossible for people at one stage to understand the behaviors and priorities of those at the next. In many respects, the structure echoed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but the cycle as Ambrose presented it illustrated the dependencies of those at the upper reaches on the strength and success of those below.

When I sent Ambrose an e-mail, I was given to rue that I had passed the “sexy” part of the arc she described. The cycle begins without power, an existence in which almost every waking moment is concerned with the basics of survival. It ends with wisdom, in which enormous influence is contingent upon the continued success and good will of the community we serve, and thus power again is (paradoxically) elusive. The “sexy” stage – the stage at which we can be assured of getting things done – is at the half-way point of personal achievement.

Achievement evolves from association when our peers recognize that we have unique skills and traits that can be supplemented to create a competitive advantage for the community. This is the first true stage of leadership, and the leader often believes that it is due to their initiative that the organization succeeds. But the reality is more subtle. Success grows from the meshing of behaviors acquired through years of adaptation and compensation. The uniqueness of the leader’s innovative drive requires that others adapt that urge to the rest of society. In that process, they gain unique insights of their own, and become qualified to take their own turn in the sun.

When that time ripens, the leader feels abandoned. I observed several people wandering through this period of their lives, and the experiences were terrifying. It is to watch an individual in the prime of life, at the full height of their powers, watching the end of a life that they have struggled valiantly to obtain. It is like dying, and some will go so far as to destroy others in their attempts to avoid the inevitable. Among our commercial captains are those that are masters of this art, methodically exploiting middle layers of management in order to sustain reputation and position.

The end, when it comes against such resistance, is crushing. The individual is left without support or purpose. Those that studied their methods no longer need them. Lee Iaccoca was inspired to run for president while thus adrift, wandering the halls of his mansion. My mother spoke of retired businessmen who, working as fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, had never learned to book their own travel.

The exit from this stage is self-knowledge. It is, ultimately, the realization that it wasn’t simply the things that we did that brought us success. It was rather our ability to adapt to the constraints of success. When first mounting the ladder of achievements, that process happens organically. The changes in ourselves occur one step at a time as needs are presented. We often fail to recognize that those changes were indeed choices. We could have chosen to take that second honeymoon, rather than flying to Singapore to open a new market. We could have coached the little league team, rather than staying late in the lab to perfect a new fuel mixture. While these choices may have been formed under pressure, our decision to respond and adapt to those pressures was our choice, and the outcomes reflected our capacity to control ourselves.

Self-awareness is a taking stock of who we are, with the purpose of preparing ourselves to become the person that we want to become. From that place we enter the last two stages on the path of power. Given that we have complete control over ourselves, what is it that we want to do? What purpose do we wish to serve? And once we have entrained a community in the wake of our purpose, they then turn to us for wisdom.

So my advice to those entering mid-life crisis is, “don’t fight it.” Yes, resist it. Get as much as you can for your achievements. Allow people the time to envision a future without you. Force those that replace you to become as good as they can be.

But attend also liberation from the tedious requirements of a life that chose you into a life that you have chosen. Take advantage of the good will that surrounds you to ask “What moments with me were most inspiring to you?” Trace the evolution of those moments to recognize the strength of the choices you have made. Prepare yourself to enter again into the furnace of self-creation to rediscover and reclaim all the passions and dreams that were surrendered so that others could share in your success.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t succumb to the sad spectacle of trying to repeat your unreflective youth!

Who Is in Charge Here?

A common motif in corporate management is the analogy of competition as a sport. A certain visceral energy comes into a community of people when they stand over their fallen enemies.

One of the challenges employers have in managing me is that I recognize the fundamental nature of that experience: the energy comes from feasting on the spirits of our foes. It’s literally vampirism. It’s wrong, and I refuse to participate.

A survey of the lives of prominent business and political leaders reveals a trend – not universal, but powerful: many of them crave attention. They are needy. They are unable to bring energy from within, and so must consume that produced by others. This creates conditions in which the culture of our organizations is not controlled by the needs of its constituency (workers and customers), but by the personal needs of its psychologically neediest members.

This is not an abstract problem. It severely damaged America during the terms of Presidents 42 and 43: Clinton hungered for the attention of women, and his indiscretion led to wasteful impeachment proceedings. W hungered for a father, and his need to outdo Bush Sr. in the Gulf lead to rash decision-making that cost the nation trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of ruined lives.

Why does that happen? Why do we allow these men (in many cases, empower them) to run our lives?

This is, in fact, the central conundrum of the Bible, starting with Cain and ending with Christ. Some women think of Christianity as a “men’s club”, but I don’t see it as something to be proud of. The Bible focuses on men because our weakness is the greatest problem to success in the mission we have been given.

When John is invited into heaven (Revelation 4), he encounters twenty-four “elders” celebrating the presence of unconditional love in their midst. Twelve are identified as the patron angels of Israel; the other twelve are encountered in the tiara of the holy mother who comes to bring the savior to humanity. So in heaven, there is a balance between the masculine and feminine angels.

Why don’t we feel the presence of those angels? The intimacy of their involvement with the doings of Earth is described so beautifully by John [Rev. 4:9-10] (emphasis added):

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever

In reading this, I have the image of a great welling up from all the living things of the Earth: the animals, plants, fungus, even the bacteria. This welling up travels up through the souls of the elders where it literally forces them to their knees in praise.

But after Eden, humanity was placed under quarantine. We are not allowed to participate in this upwelling, for as it says [Gen 3.24]:

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Being cut off in this way, our experience of life is dominated by the material world, and predominantly by the fear of death. When wielding fear to control others, men, whose natural participation with the creation of life is so distant, have less compunction than women. Too often, those that cherish life submit to the terrorism of aggressive men.

What Jesus demonstrated to us was the power that is available to us when we relinquish fear. It is to enter again into that upwelling, and with disciplined minds not only not to pollute it, but moreso to help to channel it. In so doing, we are embraced and sustained by it, just as Jesus was. It is this channeling, and not physical control, that was meant in Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

In that divine relationship, the power of love sweeps all else before it. I once had an employer tell me that I was a “free spirit.” Not at all: I am constrained to avoid the use of fear, which in this world is to surrender power over people. But in surrendering that power, I have submitted to the purposes of a power that overwhelms all others, and so I cannot be turned by fear as others are turned.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matt. 7:13-14]