The Most Frightening Thing In The World

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You know what’s the most frightening thing in the world?

I’ll tell you.

It’s the troubling fact that evil is brought into the world by ordinary people who think they are doing good. That’s terrifying because you can’t fix it. Or learn from it. Historically speaking, it’s our attempt to rid the world of a perceived evil that is in fact how evil is brought into the world.

For instance, take the Holocaust. It wasn’t homicidal maniacs with overwhelming hate in their hearts who murdered the Jews in concentration camps. No, no. Rather, it was the church-going, middle-aged, working-class family men. It was ordinary people like you and me who killed tens of thousands of Jews.

These people weren’t evil on an individual basis. They obeyed laws, prayed, loved & provided for their families. It was out of duty to their Fatherland and this misguided notion of obedience to authority figures that caused them to participate in one of mankind’s most atrocious slaughters.

How frightening is that?

Under the Communist experiment in the Soviet Union during the early part of the 20th century, the ordinary bureaucrats, under the false belief of the “common good”, went farm to farm confiscating properties. Families were driven from their homes and forced into the wilderness in below freezing temperatures with absolutely nothing to their name. Millions of people lost their lives in the process. Millions. The officials, working under the notion of the “common good”, truly believed in the virtue of their actions.

In our time, a good example is the “war on terror.” The United States’ unending mission to rid the world of terrorism is also the root cause of the growth of terrorism. This is why since 9/11 terrorism has grown exponentially in spite of the trillions of dollars and many lives spent to destroy it.

How can this be?

Most of the bombs dropped by the US in the Middle East kill innocent civilians.  In their eyes, they endure a 9/11 type catastrophe every single day.  So as we in the US believe we are right in dropping bombs in the Middle East, terrorists believe, on the other hand, that they are right by killing innocent people in the Western world in the name of retribution.

It’s an unwinnable situation on both sides and senseless deaths on both sides will inevitably continue for years to come.

These examples– and there are much more– showcase the extreme dangers of ideologies and the collectivist mayhem that usually spawns from them.

History has undoubtedly shed light on the perils of dividing ourselves into groups to give expression to our ideals. The danger lies in the fact that when we throw ourselves into group identities or hide behind a flag or a cause, it allows us to shed personal responsibility for our actions. “I was just doing my job” and “it’s the policy” becomes our self-justifying chant we use to defend our reprehensible actions.  And we believe it, truly.

Christopher Browning, in his incredible book on “how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews”, writes:

“I fear that we live in a world in which war and racism are ubiquitous, in which the powers of government mobilization and legitimization are powerful and increasing, in which a sense of personal responsibility is increasingly attenuated by specialization and bureaucratization, and in which the peer group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. In such a world, I fear, modern governments that wish to commit mass murder will seldom fail in their efforts for being unable to induce ‘ordinary men’ to become their ‘willing executioners.'”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a historian, and brilliant writer was thrown into a Russian Gulag prison camp in the mid 40’s for criticizing Stalin in personal letters that he’d written. Fortunately, he lived to write about the wickedness under the Soviet Communist experience and all the vile and debauched things he witnessed in the gulag camps. In his most intense and important book called, The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn writes:

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”

So what is the answer to eliminating the amount of evil in the world?

There might not be one. But I think one of the main things we can do to start tilting in that direction is to strengthen the individual and stay away from the poisonous concept of group identity.  Self-development and a sense of self-ownership are, I believe, the first steps in overcoming the collectivist madness we see today.

We must learn to live well, live our own truth, take responsibility for our own actions or lack of actions, and quit cowering away from our own greatness.

Or as today’s unrivaled thinker and teacher, Dr. Jordan Peterson concludes – it’s the integrity of the individual. That’s the answer to the violent animosity that infects humanity. The integrity of the individual. He writes:

“We need to wake up, individual man and woman alike, and we need to do it now. Each of us must take the world on our shoulders, insofar as we are capable of that, and adopt individual responsibility for the horrors and suffering its existence entails. In that we will find the Meaning without which Life is merely the suffering that breeds, first, resentment and then the desire for vengeance and destruction. We need to take responsibility, instead of incessantly insisting on our rights. We need to become adults, instead of aged children. We need to tell the truth. We need justice and compassion, conjoined; not judgment and pity, which crush and devour.”

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Stay Far Away from the Crowd

Can you imagine how beautiful the world could possibly be if people actually were wise enough to think for themselves as unique human beings, rather than kowtowing to the fuckin’ group they identify with?

This goes for politics, nationalism, race, religion, and yes, even a silly flag-waving protest. And counter-protest.

The crowd, my friends, is the gathering place of the weakest. There’s no truth there, no honesty, no integrity. You’ll only find such things in the individual; if, of course, they haven’t sold their soul to the multitudes of like-minded nincompoops.

In Our Time

lost-in-crowdIn our time, groupthink triumphs.

Individualism is chipped away.  Everything is politicized even our way of thinking.  Intelligent dialogues are hushed or labeled hate speech. Pointing out biological differences between genders will get you fired from the great companies. Diversity is god.

Victimization and oppression are predicaments sought after rather than circumstances to overcome. Higher education is indentured servitude. Consumption exceeds production. The truth is relative, they say.

The people — mostly weak-minded and deprived of basic cognitive skills — have divided themselves into compatible congregations. In debt and greatly medicated, they flock to groups to deflect responsibility for their own lives. They are envious of the strong, full of resentment towards the great producers of society. And name calling and ridicule are hurled at those who refuse to dance within the narrow confines of their conditioned narratives.

It’s a hell of a time, this postmodernist netherworld we live in.

Among the Daffodils

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My face is beginning to show
the battle scars of time. My heart
seems to care less for things
I once held as relevant. As the years
unravel, things make less sense.

The hangovers last a few days now
instead of a few hours. Beautiful
dreams once lucid are now blurred.
The idea of God weakens with every
atrocious deed I see in the world.

Politics is a hopeless endeavor
just like our obscene habit
of obedience. The debt bubble
we’ve swallowed as “prosperity”
is on the verge. The wars have
grown tiresome, nobody cares
about them anymore.

Everybody is trying to sell
a lifestyle; they want you live
like them; they want you to buy
their life-changing product
or get behind their great cause;
they have the secret, they say,
just follow them.

The church wants confessions but I think
we’re all out. The witless hipsters ride
vintage bikes on Brooklyn sidewalks
to coffee shops that were once
brothels and asylums.

Overmedicated & indebted men
find it difficult to have conversations
beyond their jobs or college football.
Women do yoga on weekends and gossip
on long walks about husbands
who’ve lost that intestinal fortitude.

The 88-year-old man, with his retirement
and dignity wasted away by inflation, bags
groceries at the corner supermarket
to pay for his myriad of medications.

The dogs have grown bored of their masters.
The cats gave up on us long ago. The sparrows
flutter higher in the sky than they used to.

The books of Whitman, Emerson
and Thoreau sit dusty on bookshelves
as the television scorches and burns.

Where’s the promise of victory?

We’re being led somewhere
by the outside far away
from the treasure inside.

As the tribes’ march in lockstep
to their ordered destination,
I lie in the meadow
just beyond the bloody streams
surrounded by golden daffodils,
as the rain rinses me of oblivion
I’m lifted from the hollow abyss
into the universal radiance
where the five senses
become one.

Between the Voids

 

_DSC3294“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Just imagine an endless void,
infinitely dark and bound by no space
and time. A perpetual midnight
with no stars or moons. An
eternal blackness.
Then a flash.
A light, a breath, a life.
Milliseconds later another flash.
The last gasp, darkness, death.

Back into it.

This is our life and our death.
A mere flicker in the spectrum of time.
An instance in eternity.
What do we do in between
the mysterious voids?
What do we do
with the fleeting miracle
of the light?

After the first spark,
we soon realize that the second
spark is swiftly approaching
and we fall to our knees
in angst and fear
of the looming darkness
rather than celebrating
the impossible odds
of the first spark.

In the face of the dying
of the light, we’ve
allowed ourselves to be consumed
by the masses
succumbing to a maddening
9-5 routine lifestyle
of work, TV, bed, repeat.
With weekends filled
with other predictable normalcies.

No creation,
no exploration,
no diving into the depths
of the great works of
wisdom and art.
No effort to taste
the world beyond
the recognizable margins
of our own lot.

It just seems like an evil hoax,
a bad dream,
a soulless way to spend
the fleeting days
of a brief
accidental
life.

Most live it, or are conditioned to live it,
or at least endure it
because we have bills to pay,
cars to drive, and mouths to feed.

It’s an honorable feat.

But deep down we know
it’s a killer. As Thoreau once observed,
“the mass of men lead lives
of quiet desperation.”

We’re running around mad
in our own little mad world, always doing
something that brings no joy,
darting here and there
with no time to think or reflect,
no time to just sit under a sycamore
and ponder on the mere chance
of our existence.

The late great mythologist
Joseph Campbell recognized that
“We’re so engaged in doing things
to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget
the inner value,
the rapture that is associated
with being alive.”

Maybe this explains the lunacy and self-ignorance
we see around our bankrupt country.
Seems we’ve politicized our minds
and neglected our souls
to the point of hysteria
while hiding behind worn-out ideologies,
mindlessly swallowing the nonsense
we hear from empty suits
in positions of power.

We cling to the buoy
of politics
and religion
and cheap entertainment
to stay
afloat in the whirling
sea of anguish.

We know nothing
but our mouths
reason otherwise

It’s like we’re trapped in a theater
playing constant reruns of a bad melodrama
with no exit.

It’s a hell of a predicament we find ourselves in.
Sartre just might’ve been right when he said that
“Everything has been figured out
except how to live.”

Or as Oscar Wilde once said, “To live
is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.”

Maybe we’ve lost what it means to be alive.

We’re not our jobs or the labels society pins
to us, we’re not the daily routine,
the lunch breaks, the clock-out time,
the bitterness, the lifelessness.

We’re so much more.

Life is a rapture, my friends.
It’s creativity,
the yearning to create something
of value or beauty,
like an average poem
or a photograph that captures
a moment in time, or a stunning piece
of furniture. It’s being
intoxicated on books and dreams,
staying infatuated with the mystery of it all.
It’s seeing things and going places, journeying
alone under burnt-out skies,
finding out what you’re all about,
and what its all about.
There’s just too much to know & experience
to settle down
in a little pocket of the planet
doing mediocre things,
thinking ordinary thoughts,
and speaking in common ways.

As Carl Sagan reminded us,
“Somewhere,
something incredible
is waiting to be known.

a lifeless shooter

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There’s no one more dangerous in American society
than an aging man
who has come to realize
that he pissed away his whole bitter life
waiting on politicians to save him
from his own discontent in life.

The shooter. A hollow man with weak ideas.
His brain politicized to the core.
Never became a self-made man,
or created something of value or
even conjured up an original thought
outside of progressive talking points.

He never possessed the courage
to be the man he wanted to be.

His deep-seated bitterness was amplified
over the recent election,
over politics-
that great delusion
that fills the void of the empty.

His discontent became rampant
as he looked to his redeemer—
the state — who, in his eyes,
has utterly failed to penalize the fruitful
at the expense of his failures.

On a midweek summer morning,
with nothing left, he finally took it upon himself,
aiming a gun as pathetically as he lived his life.

Humanity

Somewhere along the way we get tricked.
We fall victim to this conditioned idea
that humanity is divided up into teams.

This being nationality, race,
politics, class and religion.

We join a team,
usually one our parents or communities
have passed down to us.
And we become proud of our team.
We cling desperately to our team’s
philosophies & principles.
Traditions & symbols
become our security.
We hide in them.

And because we are led to believe
that our team is noble, we either ignore
or justify all the evil things our team does
while at the same time demonizing
the other team for their vices.
Even minor ones.

We will strongly deny any truths
that challenge the dignity of our team.

That’s when the essence of our individualism
dissolves like ice cubes in our morning coffee.
We begin to hate the other team.
We deplore their actions, right or wrong.
We want to abolish the other team.
We become bitter as our hearts fill with disdain.

This is the abbreviated story of humanity.
This is why the world is a constant battlefield.
This is why it’s so important to teach our kids
to read poetry, drink beer, travel often, hike mountains,
and most importantly–never ever watch the news.

This will shatter the deadly illusion of teams.