Saturday, August 29, 2009Are there any adults in the room?
In past posts I have explored the idea of "getting ready." There is the game the world plays. It is a difficult game to win because inherent within it is the compromising of values and dishonesty, and we are certainly seeing more and more of that everyday.
And what is it to win at the world's game anyway? The world is run by a negative power that is a master at the game.
So we must play a different game and follow another master, hence this blog outlining the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity which require one essential step--connecting to the divine. Not through words but through action. It is a winnable game because it is not a worldly game. It is a game of consciousness.
If I would name the game I would call it, "Can You Let Go?"
The below is one of the best articles on the economy I have read in a long time. It is non-technical and clear and free of invective. PLease take the time to read it. I have reproduced it in full. It is by John Maudlin.
An Uncomfortable Choice
As our family grew, we limited the choices our seven kids could make; but as they grew into teenagers, they were given more leeway. Not all of their choices were good. How many times did Dad say, "What were you thinking?" and get a mute reply or a mumbled "I don't know."
Yet how else do you teach them that bad choices have bad consequences? You can lecture, you can be a role model; but in the end you have to let them make their own choices. And a lot of them make a lot of bad choices. After having raised six, with one more teenage son at home, I have come to the conclusion that you just breathe a sigh of relief if they grow up and have avoided fatal, life-altering choices. I am lucky. So far. Knock on a lot of wood.
I have watched good kids from good families make bad choices, and kids with no seeming chance make good choices. But one thing I have observed. Very few teenagers make the hard choice without some outside encouragement or help in understanding the known consequences, from some source. They nearly always opt for the choice that involves the most fun and/or the least immediate pain, and then learn later that they now have to make yet another choice as a consequence of the original one. And thus they grow up. So quickly.
But it's not just teenagers. I am completely capable of making very bad choices as I approach the end of my sixth decade of human experiences and observations. In fact, I have made some rather distressing choices over time. Even in areas where I think I have some expertise I can make appallingly bad choices. Or maybe particularly in those areas, because I have delusions of actually knowing something. In my experience, it takes an expert with a powerful computer to truly foul things up.
Of course, sometimes I get it right. Even I learn, with enough pain. And sometimes I just get lucky. (Although, as my less-than-sainted Dad repeatedly intoned, "The harder I work the luckier I get.")
Each morning is a new day, but it is a new day impacted by all the choices of the previous days and years. Tiffani and I have literally interviewed in depth well over a hundred millionaires, and talked anecdotally with hundreds over the years. I am struck by how their lives, and those of their families, come down to a few choices. Sometimes good choices and sometimes lucky choices. Often, difficult ones. But very few were the easy choice.
What Were We Thinking?
As a culture, the current mix of generations, especially in the US, has made some choices. Choices which, in hindsight, leave the adult in us asking, "What were we thinking?"
In a way, we were like teenagers. We made the easy choice, not thinking of the consequences. We never absorbed the lessons of the Depression from our grandparents. We quickly forgot the sobering malaise of the '70s as the bull market of the '80s and '90s gave us the illusion of wealth and an easy future. Even the crash of Black Friday seemed a mere bump on the path to success, passing so quickly. And as interest rates came down and money became easier, our propensity to acquire things took over.
And then something really bad happened. Our homes started to rise in value and we learned through new methods of financial engineering that we could borrow against what seemed like their ever-rising value, to finance consumption today.
We became Blimpie from the Popeye cartoons of our youth: "I will gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
Not for us the lay-away programs of our parents, patiently paying something each week or month until the desired object could be taken home. Come to think of it, I am not sure if my kids (15 through 32) have ever even heard of a lay-away program, not with credit cards so easy to obtain. Next family brunch, I will explain this quaint concept.
(Interestingly, I heard about a revival of the concept on CNBC radio, coming back from dropping Trey off at school this morning. Everything old is new again.)
As a banking system, we made choices. We created all sorts of readily available credit, and packaged it in convenient, irresistible AAA-rated securities and sold them to a gullible world. We created liar loans, no-money-down loans, and no-documentation loans and expected them to act the same way that mortgages had in the past. What were the rating agencies thinking? Where were the adults supervising the sand box?
(Oh, wait a minute. That's the same group of regulators who now want more power and money.)
It is not as if all this was done in some back alley by seedy-looking characters. This was done on TV and in books and advertisements. I remember the first time I saw an ad telling me to call this number to borrow up to 125% of the value of my home, and wondering how this could be a good idea.
Turns out it can be a great idea for the salesmen, if they can package those loans into securities and sell them to foreigners, with everyone making large commissions on the way. The choice was to make a lot of money with no downside consequences to yourself. What teenager could say no?
Greenspan keeping rates low aided and abetted that process. Starting two wars and pushing through a massive health-care package, along with no spending control from the Republican Party, ran up the fiscal deficits.
Allowing credit default swaps to trade without an exchange or regulations. A culture that viscerally believed that the McMansions they were buying were an investment and not really debt. Yes, we were adolescents at the party to end all parties.
Not to mention an investment industry that tells their clients that stocks earn 8% a year real returns (the report I mentioned at the beginning goes into detail about this). Even as stocks have gone nowhere for ten years, we largely believe (or at least hope) that the latest trend is just the beginning of the next bull market.
It was not that there were no warnings. There were many, including from your humble analyst, who wrote about the coming train wreck that we are now trying to clean up. But those warnings were ignored.
Actually, ignored is a nice way to put it. Derision. Scorn. Laughter. And worse, dismissal as a non-serious perpetual perma-bear. My corner of the investment-writing world takes a very thick skin.
The good times had lasted so long, how could the trend not be correct? It is human nature to believe the current trend, especially a favorable one that helps us, will continue forever.
And just like a teenager who doesn't think about the consequences of the current fun, we paid no attention. We hadn't experienced the hard lessons of our elders, who learned them in the depths of the Depression. This time it was different. We were smarter and wouldn't make those mistakes. Didn't we have the research of Bernanke and others, telling us what to avoid?
In millions of different ways, we all partied on. It wasn't exclusively a liberal or a conservative, a rich or apoor, a male or a female addiction. We all borrowed and spent. We did it as individuals, and we did it as cities and states and countries.
We ran up unfunded pension deficits at many local and state funds, to the tune of several trillion dollars and rising. We have a massive, tens of trillions of dollars, bill coming due for Social Security and Medicare, starting in the next 5-7 years, that makes the current crisis pale in comparison. We now seemingly want to add to this by passing even more spending programs that will only make the hole deeper.
Frugality is the New Normal
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The time for good choices was a decade ago. It would have been more difficult at the time, so that is not what we did. And now we wake up and are faced with a set of choices, none of them good.
Reality is staring back in the mirror at the American consumer, and especially the Boomer generation. The psyche of the American consumer has been permanently seared. We are watching savings beginning to rise and consumer spending patterns change for the first time in generations. Even as the authorities try to prod consumers back into old habits, they are not responding. Borrowing and credit are actually falling. Banks, for whatever reason, now want borrowers to actually be able to pay them back. Go figure.
Frugality is the new normal. We are resetting the underpinnings of a consumer-driven society to a new level. It will require a major overhaul of our economy. The normal drivers of growth - consumer spending, business investment, and exports - are all weak, and it is only because of massive government spending that the second quarter was not as bad as the two previous quarters and that the coming quarter will be positive.
But what then? How long can we continue with 10%-plus GDP deficits? We have an economy that is in a Statistical Recovery, fueled by government largesse. In the real world, we are watching unemployment rise, and it is likely to do so through the middle of next year. Deflation is in the air. Capacity utilization is near all-time lows. Housing numbers are only bouncing because of the government program of large tax credits for first-time home buyers and lower home prices. It will be years before construction is significant.
We will be faced with a choice this fall and early next year. If you take away the government spending, the potential for falling back into a recession is quite high, given the underlying weakness in the economy. A few hundred billion for increased and extended unemployment benefits will not be enough to stem the tide. There will be a groundswell for yet another stimulus package. Another 10% of GDP deficit is quite likely for next year.
As I (and Woody Brock) have made very clear in these e-letters, deficits that are higher than nominal GDP cannot continue without dire consequences. Good friend Richard Russell writes today:
"The US national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars. The interest on our national debt is now $340 billion. This is about at 3.04% rate of interest. In ten years the Obama administration admits that they will add $9 trillion to the national debt. That would take it to $20 trillion. Let's say that by some miracle the interest on the national debt in 10 years will still be 3.09%. That would mean that the interest on the national debt would be $618 billion a year or over one billion a day. No nation can hold up in the face of those kinds of expenses. Either the dollar would collapse or interest rates would go through the roof."
That would be at least 30% of the national budget. How would your household do, paying that much as interest? How can you operate when interest payments are 30% or more of the budget? Do you borrow to pay the interest? And the Obama administration openly admits to deficits of over a trillion a year for the next ten years, under very rosy growth assumptions. Anyone outside of Washington and rosy-eyed economists think we will grow 4% next year? I am not seeing many hands go up.
And Then We Face the Real Problem
If we do not maintain high deficits, it is likely we fall back into recession. Yet if we do not control spending, we risk running up a debt that becomes very difficult to finance by conventional means. Monetizing the debt can only work for a few trillion here or there. At some point, the bond market will simply fall apart. And it could happen quickly. Think back to how fast things fell apart in the summer of 2007. When perception of the potential for inflation changes, it changes things fast.
The problem is that we are now in a very deflationary world. Deleveraging, too much capacity, high and rising unemployment, falling real incomes, and more are all the classic pieces of the formula for deflation.
Let's look at what my friend Nouriel Roubini recently wrote. I think he hit the nail on the head:
"A combination of higher official indebtedness and monetization has the potential to yield the worst of all worlds, pushing up long-term rates and generating increased inflation expectations before a convincing return to growth takes hold. An early return to higher long-term rates will crowd out private demand, as lending rates on mortgages and personal and corporate loans rise too. It is unlikely that actual inflation will emerge this year or even next, but inflation expectations as reflected in long-term interest rates could well be rising later in 2010. This would represent a serious threat to economic recovery, which is predicated on the idea that the actual borrowing rates that individuals and businesses pay will remain low for an extended period.
"Yet the alternative - the early withdrawal of the stimulus drug that governments have been dispensing so freely - is even more serious. The present administration believes that deflation is a worse threat than inflation. They are right to think that. Trying to rebuild public finances at a deflationary moment - a time when unemployment is rising, and private demand is still contracting - could be catastrophic, turning recovery into renewed recession."
There are no good choices. Nouriel, optimist that he is (note sarcasm), suggests that there is a possibility that the government can manage expectations by showing a clear path to fiscal responsibility that can be believed. And thus the bond markets do not force rates higher, thereby thwarting recovery.
And technically he is right. If there were adults supervising the party, it might be possible. But there are not. The teenagers are in control. Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future-deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.
I mean, seriously, does anyone think Pelosi or Reid are going to lead us to fiscal constraint? Obama talks a good game, but he has not offered a serious deficit-reduction proposal, other than further tax increases. And by serious, I mean we need cuts on the order of several hundred billion dollars. The Republicans lost their way and their power (deservedly, in my opinion). Just as at the high school prom, the very few adults are being ignored.
It is the proverbial rock and the hard place. Cut the stimulus too soon and we slide back into a deeper recession. Let the budget spin out of control for a few years and we will see inflation return, with higher rates and a recession. Raise taxes by 1.5-2% of GDP in 2010 and we are shoved back into recession.
There are no good choices. If we do the right thing and cut the deficit, it means very hard choices. Can we keep our commitments to two wars and our massive defense budget? Medicare and Social Security reform are not painless. Education? Research? The "stimulus"? But cutting the deficit by hundreds of billions while raising taxes by even more than is already in the works, is not the formula for sustainable recovery.
Have we grown up? Are there adults in the room? Sadly, I don't think there are enough. We are still a nation of teenagers. We will do whatever we can to avoid the pain today. We will kick the can down the road, hoping for a miracle. Will we grow up? Yes, but the lessons learned will be hard.
There are no statistical signs of an impending recession. We are not going to get an inverted yield curve this time, which made it relatively easy for me to predict recessions in 2000 and 2006. We are in a deflationary, deleveraging world. A far different world than in the past.
I see little room for us to avoid a double-dip recession. It would take the skill and speed of former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett hitting a very small hole in the line to break us into the open. I see no running back in our national leadership with such ability. As I have outlined above, recession could be triggered again in any number of very different economic environments. It all depends on the choices we make. But the choices lead to the same consequences, at least in my opinion.
As I wrote in August 2000 and August 2006, I write again in August 2009: there is a recession in our future. I was early both of those times and I am early now, maybe two years early, though I doubt it. And as I pointed out both of those last times, the stock market drops an average of over 40% during a recession. When I was on Kudlow in October of 2006, I was given a hard time about my recession call and prediction of a bear market. I think it was John Rutherford who dismissed my bearish vision. And he was right for the next three quarters, as the market proceeded to rise another 20%. I looked foolish to many, but I maintained my views.
You have choices. You can buy and hold (buy and hope?) or you can develop a strategic alternative. The next bear market, as I wrote in 2003 and in Bull's Eye Investing, will likely be the bottom. (It takes at least three of them to really take us to the bottom.) But the next one will change perceptions for a long time. Valuations will drop. Savings will rise even more. And a generation will grow up. The adults will return. Chastened. Scarred. Shaken. But we will Muddle Through. That is what we do. Even my teenagers.
John Mauldin, Best-Selling author and recognized financial expert, is also editor of the free Thoughts From the Frontline that goes to over 1 million readers each week. For more information on John or his FREE weekly economic letter go to:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009Go Revisited
In past posts I have spoken extensively about the Game of Go. Chess is about win/lose and is mostly tactics. Go is more about a longer range strategic approach, in which even the loser usually ends up with some territory. Chess is primarily played in the West. Go in the East.
This interesting article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard highlights what I was attempting to convey:
Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that are produced only in China and play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons.
A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs.
China mines over 95pc of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.
Alistair Stephens, from Australia’s rare metals group Arafura, said his contacts in China had been shown a copy of the draft -- `Rare Earths Industry Development Plan 2009-2015’. Any decision will be made by China’s State Council.
“This isn’t about the China holding the world to ransom. They are saying we need these resources to develop our own economy and achieve energy efficiency, so go find your own supplies”, he said.
Mr Stephens said China had put global competitors out of business in the early 1990s by flooding the market, leading to the closure of the biggest US rare earth mine at Mountain Pass in California - now being revived by Molycorp Minerals.
New technologies have since increased the value and strategic importance of these metals, but it will take years for fresh supply to come on stream from deposits in Australia, North America, and South Africa. The rare earth family are hard to find, and harder to extract.
Mr Stephens said Arafura’s project in Western Australia produces terbium, which sells for $800,000 a tonne. It is a key ingredient in low-energy light-bulbs. China needs all the terbium it produces as the country switches wholesale from tungsten bulbs to the latest low-wattage bulbs that cut power costs by 40pc.
No replacement has been found for neodymium that enhances the power of magnets at high heat and is crucial for hard- disk drives, wind turbines, and the electric motors of hybrid cars. Each Toyota Prius uses 25 pounds of rare earth elements. Cerium and lanthanum are used in catalytic converters for diesel engines. Europium is used in lasers.
Blackberries, iPods, mobile phones, plams TVs, navigation systems, and air defence missiles all use a sprinkling of rare earth metals. They are used to filter viruses and bacteria from water, and cleaning up Sarin gas and VX nerve agents.
Arafura, Mountain Pass, and Lynas Corp in Australia, will be able to produce some 50,000 tonnes of rare earth metals by the mid-decade but that is not enough to meet surging world demand.
New uses are emerging all the time, and some promise quantum leaps in efficiency. The Tokyo Institute of Technology has made a breakthrough in superconductivity using rare earth metals that lower the friction on power lines and could slash electricity leakage.
The Japanese government has drawn up a “Strategy for Ensuring Stable Supplies of Rare Metals”. It calls for `stockpiling’ and plans for “securing overseas resources’. The West has yet to stir.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009The Economy
Just back from New York City on the Spiritual Warrior circuit where I did a workshop/booksigning with J-R and Jsu, featuring Serving and Giving, Spiritual Warrior, and The Rest of Your Life. We'll do a reprise in London in October, by which time I hope I will get it together to give some some reportage and show some pictures on this blog.
If you still do not have a clue with what has going on with the economy this paragraph from Rolling Stone may make you feel better (well, not really):
As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system- transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.
The big financial debate is whether we are going to have inflation or deflation. Actually probably both as, after all, when have you known prices to go down in our lifetime? Nevertheless, the backdrop may be deflationary which, as we say in MSIA, is going to be interesting. Fortunately, it need not concern us as we practice the principles of abundance and prosperity, however it doesn't hurt to be aware of what is out there. You may find these two extracts helpful:
1) From Niels C. Jensen
The point I really want to make is that the inflation v. deflation story is the single biggest investment story right now and being on the right side of that trade will effectively secure your investment returns for years to come. If I am wrong and inflation spikes, you want to load your portfolio with index linked government bonds (also known as TIPS for our American readers), gold and other commodities, commodity related stocks as well as property.
If deflation prevails, all you have to do is to look towards Japan and see what has done well over the past 20 years. Not much! You cannot even assume that bonds will do well. Recessions are bullish for long dated government bonds but a collapse of the entire credit system is not. The reason is simple - with the bursting of the credit bubble comes drastic monetary and fiscal action. Central banks print money and governments spend money as if there is no tomorrow, and all bets are off. Equities will do relatively poorly as will property prices. But equities will not go down in a straight line. The market will offer plenty of trading opportunities which must be taken advantage of, if you want to secure a decent return.
All in all, deflation is ugly and not conducive to attractive investment returns. It is also not what governments want and need right now. With a mountain of debt hitting the streets of Europe and America over the next few years, as the cost of fixing the credit and banking crisis is financed, one can make a strong case for rising inflation actually being the favoured outcome if you look at it from the government's point of view. The problem, as the Japanese can attest to, is that deflation is excruciatingly difficult to get rid of, once it has become entrenched. I am in no doubt which of the two evils I would prefer, but we may not have the luxury of choosing our own destiny.
2) From Van R. Hoisington and Lacy H. Hunt, Ph.D.
The combination of an extremely overleveraged economy, ineffectual monetary policy and misdirected fiscal policy initiatives suggests that the U.S. economy faces a long difficult struggle. While depleted inventories and the buildup of pent-up demand may produce intermittent spurts of growth, these brief episodes are not likely to be sustained. In several years, real GDP may be no higher than its current levels. However, since the population will continue to grow, per capita GDP will decline; thus, the standard of living will diminish as unemployment rises. These conditions will produce a deflationary environment similar to the Japanese condition.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009Demographic Collision Course
Great summary from Nielsen on the the demographic collision course we are on. Best parts below. If it is any comfort, it's a lot worse for Japan and China in the years ahead.
The recession of 2007–2009 has placed a great deal of strain on marketers and retailers of consumer products. Price and value have become more and more important, challenging marketers to rethink product and distribution. Everyone just wants things to get back to normal, but will they? While discretionary spending will return to moderate levels as markets rebound, the economy of the United States—as well as the rest of the more developed World—is well on the road to longer-term difficult times. The economic hard times to come do not stem from the misuse of arcane investment instruments that can take a degree in calculus to understand, but rather from simple demographics. The emerging marketplace will be very different than today, and filled with wide-ranging challenges.
Since the early 1970s, birth rates in the United States have been at least 40% lower than at the heights of the Baby Boom. When a falling birth rate is combined with a very large generation like the Baby Boom, the effect is a gradual aging of the population. The median age of the population increases as the large group grows older because there aren’t enough babies being added to balance them out. For much of the large group’s life cycle, they are typically a boon to the economy—especially when they reach their prime economic productivity years (usually from the early 40s into the middle 50s). However, as this large group continues to age, they stop being an economic asset and begin to become a burden—as the Baby Boom generation will become over the next several decades.
Aging populations place stress on an economy in two ways. First, if the generation is sufficiently large, retirement can lower the size of the labor force—particularly its most skilled and most experienced component—lowering overall economic productivity. Starting in the next two years until 2030, the number of persons who reach the retirement age of 66 will increase by over 100,000 each year throughout the Baby Boom retirement years. For many of the early years in that period, the number of persons who reach the age of 19 and enter the labor force will actually decline by more than 40,000 per year for the next decade.
The second impact of an aging population is perhaps larger—the costs incurred by society to care for a large number of retirees. Social Security will begin to run at a deficit in about eight years and will deplete its trust fund by 2041 unless changes are made now. At that point, money coming into the program would only cover about 70% of the money paid out each year. Medicare and Medicaid will deplete their trust funds in only about ten years and will be the largest component of all U.S. government spending by 2030.
Additionally, many private pension plans are currently under-funded, and given the current economic difficulties, may not have time to recover adding more people to the public dole. The Baby Boom generation has suffered a disproportionate share of the $11 trillion in lost market equity and $3 trillion in lost real estate value from the current recession and they will find it near impossible to retire and sustain their current standard of living—particularly the 38% who will be eligible to retire in the next ten years.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009Three Important Trends
Last year, for the first time ever, the developing world consumed more energy than the developed. And this year, the US, Canada and Europe will generate less than half of global economic output, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The emerging markets have come of age. We now need some new tag to describe an admittedly vast region that in many respects has better fundamentals than the West: better growth prospects; larger foreign reserves; less sovereign indebtedness; better GDP per capita growth; a stabler banking system; superior household finances and savings rates. Resurging markets, perhaps ?
Tim Price PFP Wealth Management Newsletter
American children have it easier than most other children in the world, including the supposedly lazy Europeans. They have one of the shortest school years anywhere, a mere 180 days compared with an average of 195 for OECD countries and more than 200 for East Asian countries. German children spend 20 more days in school than American ones, and South Koreans over a month more. Over 12 years, a 15-day deficit means American children lose out on 180 days of school, equivalent to an entire year.
American children also have one of the shortest school days, six-and-a-half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. By contrast, the school week is 37 hours in Luxembourg, 44 in Belgium, 53 in Denmark and 60 in Sweden. On top of that, American children do only about one hour’s-worth of homework a day, a figure that stuns the Japanese and Chinese.
Americans also divide up their school time oddly. They cram the school day into the morning and early afternoon, and close their schools for three months in the summer. The country that tut-tuts at Europe’s mega-holidays thinks nothing of giving its children such a lazy summer. But the long summer vacation acts like a mental eraser, with the average child reportedly forgetting about a month’s-worth of instruction in many subjects and almost three times that in mathematics.
From Paul Kedrosky:
There is an important story in England’s Daily Telegraph about the increasing likelihood that some economically devastated U.S. cities may have to be partially bulldozed in order to survive. With cities like Flint, Michigan, having lost much of their rationale for existence, this should not come as a complete surprise. Nevertheless, this will be a difficult pill for "things will come back" America to swallow.
The government looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.
Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.
The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.
Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.
Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.
Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.
In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.
"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."
Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.
"Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.
Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009Bits and Pieces
Human character is revealed in how we live our lives. It is revealed by what we devote our lives to and how much love we put into what we do.
Quote of the Day:
Now I am not a professionally trained economist or banker, merely a historian of the reasons why Great Powers seem to have risen over time, and then steadily collapsed some generations later. Yet it appears to my non-scientific mind that if a particular national government decides on the one hand to issue more and more Treasury debt, and on the other hand to have its national bank purchase large amounts of the same, it runs a serious risk of scaring investors about its long-term credit- worthiness.
Interesting fact from Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters:
It takes a fertility-rate of 1.5 in order for a nation to maintain a stable population. No nation in Europe has a fertility rate as high as 1.5. Japan is drying up; it's become a nation of geriatrics.
The nation with the lowest fertility rates are Poland, Ukraine, South Korea, Belarus, Hong Kong, Macau.
The highest fertility rates are in Mali, Niger, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Burundi.
For those of you following my Middle Game series of posts (under Getting Ready on the right hand side), this article may be of interest under The Battle for Influence. Excerpt:
Beijing has bolstered its presence without bombast, perhaps out of an awareness that its relationship with the United States is still of paramount importance. But this deference may not last.
“This is China playing the long game,” said Gregory Chin, a political scientist at York University in Toronto. “If this ultimately translates into political influence, then that is how the game is played.”
And finally, this is a lesson in how abundance comes in many guises. (it's become so popular they didn't allow me to embed the actual video so here is the link):
Friday, April 3, 2009The Middle Game--Part Eight--Summing It Up
Spirit is not worried. Your Soul is not worried. It knows the perfection.
The most effective meditation I have ever seen is worrying. Unfortunately, it goes the wrong way, and I have not seen too many changes made because of worrying. But I know that holding a positive focus on what you want and taking continual small steps towards it is the way to bring it about.
(From Fulfilling Your Spiritual Promise by John-Roger, DSS)
Whichever model one uses it certainly appears that we have chosen to be in a time of immense change. Readers of this blog will know that my personal opinion is the extent of these changes will be made abundantly clear within the next 5-7 years. It is likely that these changes will come in surges—it will be peaceful and a quiet, a lull, and then a sudden unexpected surge.
I have also outlined the nine challenges we will be facing. My metaphor has been the ancient game of Go and in that metaphor that we have entered the Middle Game, the most active and dynamic phase of the game.
What does this all mean for us? To me, and please be clear it is purely my personal opinion, it means four things:
1) Get your affairs in order as best you can. Pay off as much debt as you can, save a little, use good money management, own a few gold coins, and be frugal. If you own property that is a plus and if you have a garden start experimenting with growing your own food as much as is practical.
2) Be as healthy as you can. If nothing else, walk a few minutes a day. Move your body. It is the best thing you can do for your health and it doesn’t cost anything.
3) Follow the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity. They will keep you close to God. They involve giving and gratitude, and grace. Joyful Givers consistently report miracles of protection.
4) Start developing a community of people in whom you can trust. Being trustworthy is going to be one of the biggest assets a person can have.
With the above in place start to develop desired positive outcomes and create ideal scenes, know what is most important to you, and develop a positive internal dialog. Do NOT lose in any kind of fantasy you create.
Understand that service will be the only game in town. You’ll be serving someone.
Monday, March 30, 2009The Middle Game--Part Seven
The fear of losing control is the strongest human motivator. Control is the master addiction. It is not lack of courage that keeps us from moving forward, as most people think; it is the fear of losing control. We want to control, and when we feel we can’t, we freeze; we stop. The person who fears loss of control is like a deer caught in the headlights: Instead of running off the highway to safety, it stops in its tracks.
To some extent we are all control freaks. We want to control events, so that we can always be certain of the outcome. We put pressure on ourselves to master the events of our lives. But this does not give us control; it just gives us pressure.
What you are really saying in this struggle for control is, “I’m fearful that I won’t succeed.” In a very subtle way, that fear is a form of atheism because it tells you, “There’s no God to help you.” You move into doubt, and you freeze again.
When we doubt, we are saying, “I don’t know.” And our fear whispers to us, “It is unknowable... you are out of control.”
Spiritual Warriors turn doubt into a tool. They don’t attempt to control it, but they refuse to let it control them. They use it the same way you use a guard rail when you are on a highway running alongside a steep cliff: To mark the boundary between the road and the void. As soon as you feel doubt, move back in until you find yourself once more on firm ground.
(From Spiritual Warrior by John-Roger)
The Go player attacks the other player's territory with a view to building a base so they can live and make the territory their own.
8. The Battle of Trust
This is the single most important thing going on in the world right now. Who can be trusted at a personal, local, and global level.
9. The Battle of Battles
One thing we can be sure of--the U.S. will always be looking for the next war. It is geared to fight. Eisenhower was not kidding when he predicted the Military-Industrial complex.
So there have it, the nine stone advantage that the U.S. has given the world. I'll sum it up tomorrow, then we'll get back to creating abundance!
Saturday, March 28, 2009The Middle Game--Part Six
Spiritual Warriors are open to the world, not shut off from it. They do not ask to control it but accept it as it is and seek inner guidance in order to respond to it in ways that are aligned with their highest intentions. They know that the fears, aggravations, and confusions of life aren’t accidental; instead, our Souls can take advantage of the particular opportunities they offer—opportunities to learn, grow, and share.
Life is not a matter of avoiding the tough lessons, but of extracting all we can from them for the advancement of our spiritual selves. The difference between a Spiritual Warrior and a lot of other people who wander around waiting for success, or love, or abundance to happen to them is that the Spiritual Warrior acts, not reacts.
(From Spiritual Warrior by John-Roger, DSS)
What makes the game of Go interesting is that an experienced player can play a less experienced one and still get a good game. This is done by handicapping the experienced player. He gives the lesser player up to nine stones to start. This is huge because with nine stones the lesser player can occupy the main strategic positions on the board.
I can't help but think that the U.S. has given the world several stones as it attempts to climb out of this financial mess. And with their new found "strength" the world is beginning to flex its muscles.
5. The Battle for Influence
The big players in this game will be Russia, China, and Iran.
But at home in the U.S. two battles are being fought that are equally as vital.
6. The Battle of Values
We've talked a lot about values in this blog. It's what defines our spending habits. The battle in the country is being fought over consumerism--spending versus saving. Extravagance versus frugality. It's a battle for what is important and where to put our energy. So far our energy is going into the banking system. I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.
7. The Battle of Entitlements
We partially covered this yesterday when I spoke about healthcare, but the Government has been running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history by taking in money for Social Security and spending it on other projects. Consequently when the baby boomers retire the money to pay them is just not going to be there. Hmmm, interesting.
Despite all the challenges, I am confident that the U.S. will emerge strong and intact. It's influence and size is too great. Nevertheless the world is changing and it is important that we are prepared inwardly, and as best as we can outwardly. The spiritual principles are there to assist us navigate through it all with Grace.
Friday, March 27, 2009The Middle Game--Part Five
When you are attuned to the law of empathy, it will work through all of your levels—physically, emotionally, financially, mentally, and sexually. Empathy will not even permit you to err against another human being because you will pay the price immediately. In empathy we live in the Beloved, the living love of the spiritual heart, for that is our true freedom.
In that living love, empathy comes as an involuntary action, without thought. (Sympathy has a different quality and comes as a voluntary action, for example when we say, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you.") When empathy comes forward, it moves the soul, it moves the body, it moves the mind and the emotions, and completes the action at hand— fulfilling the spiritual laws of acceptance, cooperation, understanding, and enthusiasm. For empathy is based upon these spiritual laws.
Those of you who are living these spiritual laws and learning from them and loving with them will rapidly enter into this empathy in which all things will be made known to you. For God is pouring forth the Spirit into these days that are with us now, and even though we may see starvation, floods, wars, and countries going bankrupt, we will know the law of empathy. For if we don’t know starvation and we have no empathy, it will be brought to us to experience it. God bless those who can move to the law of empathy, for you sidestep the lessons that would be presented to you otherwise.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, with Paul Kaye)
In the game of Go when the stones are placed adjacent to each other they are strong. Several stones placed in this way begin to exert influence across the board. The more stones placed together in this way the greater the reach of the influence.
The reach and influence of the U.S.A is huge. It's Gross Domestic Product (GDP)--the market value of all final goods and services from a nation in a given year--is over three times that of the second nation, Japan. The U.S. defense budget exceeds the defense budget of all the countries in the world combined.
So one of the most important battles in the Middle Game is:
3. The Battle for the Dollar
Already there are rumblings these past week that first China, and now a committee at the U.N. want to challenge the reserve status of the U.S. dollar. This is a clear attempt to weaken U.S. influence. Without this status the U.S. could not print its own money and still have it universally acceptable.
Then there is the great internal battle in the U.S. itself:
4. The Battle over Healthcare
This affects all of us who live in the U.S., particularly us baby boomers. Oh my goodness what a long drawn out battle this is going to be. Our best recourse is to stay as healthy as we can.
As I have mentioned, so far the government solution to our monetary and debt problems has been to spend more money and get into more debt. What can we do? The only thing I keep coming back to is to follow the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity. As I mentioned to someone I was talking to today, it is not about us getting money rich, although that certainly is a possibility, but it is often what does not come to us. It is like we are surrounded by Teflon. Things come towards us but don't touch us. It is living a blessed life, by placing God first.
I am still awed by John Morton saying, “If I tithe, I know God.” And then J-R saying, "It’s very true that if you tithe you know God, but it is also true that if you want to know God, you tithe."
I mean, what more do we need to know about abundance? And we can feel blessed as we send Light to the Battles of the Middle Game and observe them with neutrality and empathy.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009The Middle Game--Part Four
A person who is going to work in soul transcendence must only engage in ruthlessness. Never self-pity. Ruthlessness is the opposite of self-pity. It's called, “Ask no quarter and give no quarter, I'm on my way to God.” Self-pity is, "Oh, I stubbed my toe and I can't go today." Ruthlessness says, "I stubbed my toe, I'm going to be walking funny until it's well, but I'm on my way to God."
The Middle Game will have some fierce battles. Some will be moral struggles, some will impact us directly, others indirectly, and others not at all. However, the critical factor is for us to stand as spiritual warriors and invoke the law of empathy regardless of the impact.
In empathy there is identification. Perhaps I would have done the same thing in your place. I do not judge you nor hold you guilty. I see you with respect. I can touch to you through my warmth and loving. I can share, I can participate, and I can identify, because this me and this you reside together in the Beloved. We have just separated this oneness into the physical form to look at each other.
You will, through empathy, have the freedom to stand and lovingly face the conditioning that is not only yours but is in the world. Laughter is an expression of empathy. Tears are also an expression of empathy. When you understand empathy, you move into the consciousness of “You are one with me. We are walking in each others’ shoes.” And it becomes a really great, great day.
(Quotes on empathy are from The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, and Paul Kaye)
Let's look at some of the battles that will be fought and which we have the opportunity to observe with neutrality. I see about ten of them, we'll break them down two at a time.
1) The battle against deflation
This is why so much money is being pumped into the system. The U.S. government wants to avoid deflation at all costs. If you owe money deflation works against you. The U.S. government owes a lot of money.
2) The battle against protectionism
While deflation is being fought in a corner, protectionism is a huge battle being played across the whole Go board. In involved countries wanting to protect their industries and economies. It involves the raising of trade barriers. World trade depends on these being removed which they have been for the most part over the last 25 years or so. To resurrect them would have huge implications for prosperity worldwide. Keep your Light and awareness on this one.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009The Middle Game--Part Three
When you observe, you just state what you saw take place.
You say, "I saw this and this and this."
Somebody asks, "Was it that?"
You say, "I didn't see that."
They ask, "Did they do this?"
You say, "I didn't see that."
There is no need to even say, "I don't know," because that moves it out of the state of observation.
The statement of observation is only what is, not what you know or don't know about the situation.
The power that comes from that, internally, is tremendous. It becomes so nice that you just want to stay in that place. And that's not a state of "do nothing."
The statement of neutrality and observation is an active place; it doesn't carry any negative weight or positive weight for outcome.
(From The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
For us Joyful Givers who live by and with the Grace of God, it is now a time of observation. The Middle Game gets nasty and it requires us to be on our toes. As anger mounts towards the system, it is a time for us to send Light. As readers know I have been outraged these past few months, when I saw little outrage from other quarters. Now that there is enough, I am curiously quiet and at peace with the situation.
The Opening is crucial because it determines the course of the Middle Game. We see that the opening solution to the crisis which was based on overspending, debt, dishonesty and corruption has been for the Government to overspend, get into more debt, which will lead to more dishonesty corruption. It doesn't take a psychic to see that this will not work and that the situation must get worse over time.
Change is not easy. People will fight for their comfort zones even at the expense of their own health and well-being. So what do we do? That's where the teachings come in and why we stay close to them. We also put on the armor of the Spiritual Warrior and live by the principles of ruthlessness and impeccability.
Whichever angle you take or whatever lens you look through, this time has been predicted well in advance. We certainly must not play victim and that is where the Spiritual Warrior comes in. Time to re-read the book. I'll put some quotes up for the remainder of this week.
Although I have spoken about the game of Go, the game of Chess also has an Opening Game, a Middle Game, and an Endgame. I prefer the game of Go as a metaphor, nevertheless here's what the game of Chess looks like:
Chess is win/lose and is mostly tactics. Go is more about a longer range strategic approach, in which even the loser usually ends up with some territory. Chess is primarily played in the West. Go in the East. Have you noticed the Chinese quietly buying up critical strategic interests while the U.S. fights wars for no reason that anyone can fathom (Go)? Have you noticed that the U.S. owes China $2 trillion and has been extraordinarily nice to them these days and that human rights issues have taken a back seat (Chess)? Have you noticed that Russia is building up its military (Chess)?
Welcome to the Middle Game.
Monday, March 16, 2009The Middle Game--Part Two
When I first started this blog in July 4 of the last year the financial meltdown was in its nascent stages. We were told that we were headed for a recession. I tried to make it clear that it was much more serious than that and the were were in a once in a lifetime, generational change.
In the process I have come off as being pessimistic, and as the pessimism in the mainstream press, the news, and the Internet has gathered momentum, I have realized that the last thing you need is more down news from me. So I am attempting to be more solution oriented as we all know by now what the problems are.
Here are three interesting and diverse solutions which show that a little creativity and vision can go a long way.
1) Solution to power cars in the future (From Dow Theory Letters)
Flash, a new battery technique using lithium batteries will recharge instantly and may revolutionize the battery industry.
2) Creative traffic solution (From VeryShortList.com)
This May, New York City will close off two of its busiest blocks to traffic. But can you really ease a city’s traffic congestion by closing down key roads? Scientists such as the Santa Fe Institute’s Michael Gastner say yes.
According to a recent Scientific American article about Gastner and other scientists who study traffic patterns, closing down especially busy thoroughfares can circumvent Braess’s paradox — which holds that the most efficient route from A to B can create congestion by attracting too much traffic. Everyone wants the fastest route, which then becomes the slowest. Remove that route entirely, and traffic is far more evenly distributed among remaining ones and runs more smoothly. Cities in Korea and Japan have already solved traffic problems by closing down certain streets, but Broadway — which zings diagonally through Manhattan’s grid — may be a defining test case. The city’s traffic geeks are giddy with anticipation; its cabbies, not so much.
3) Possible solution for ADD (via MSIAer Judea)
Sunday, March 15, 2009The Middle Game--Part One
The board game of Go is often looked at as a metaphor for life. It also can be used as a metaphor for our current financial situation. The game is easy to learn and the rules are simple, however it can become extremely complex due to the many possible moves and their permutations which mathematically are more than the atoms in the universe.
The game has three phases. The Opening is where the important strategic points are taken and the areas of potential territory outlined. The Middle Game follows the opening and is when the real fighting starts. The Endgame is when things are wrapped up and completed but it still requires a lot of concentration because carelessness can lead to losses.
In terms of this generational historic period in which we find ourselves, we have now completed the Opening, from my perspective. We have just entered the Middle Game and this is when the fun begins. The Opening took a couple of years, and I see the Middle Game taking 5-7 years.
As I have mentioned to a few close friends, and no I am not talking about the 500 or so on Facebook, I believe the world that will emerge in the next five years will be an entirely different one that we are in right now. It is indeed a very exciting time. We are already seeing a change in values. It's early days but it appears from reports that Church pews are being filled again and I expect a surge in interest in spiritual groups, too. In other words there is a return to what really matters.
I will re-visit my posts on getting prepared, because I think it is important that we continue to be connected in a deeper way to God as our Partner while also keeping our eyes open to the changing world around us.
Anyway that's the theme for this week. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009In the Midst of the Meltdown 4
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
If I were to sum up the purpose of this blog it would be: Be Prepared; Live Well.
Living well is following the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity and of course staying healthy. It is difficult for me to imagine truly living well without a spiritual focus coming first in life.
Being prepared is what I have been mainly posting about recently. We are in a time of enormous change. It will take us a generation to absorb it all and adjust and so we adopt a new mentality that isn’t based on consumerism and consumption and winning at all costs. That mentality is mostly absent from our current leaders. I do believe that Obama gets it, but he is dealing with financial system and a congress and senate and state legislatures that are more partisan, divisive, corrupt, and just plain stupid as they have ever been. In simple terms they all need to move on—retire or die, so a new leadership can take place. And that takes years not months.
The above should be of no surprise. Several years ago I was on my way to Nigeria and I asked John-Roger whether he had anything for the MSIAers there that I could pass on. He asked me to pass on his love to them. He then said to tell them that most people say that power corrupts. J-R said that it wasn’t true. It was that corrupt people sought power.
There is a lot to be grateful for, blessings abound, and this is a very rich time of growth and learning. The milennial generation (born 1980-2003), many are in their twenties and are very technologically savvy having grown up with computers. They are very connected, and consensus based and much less partisan than prior generations. (They are also spoiled and floaty, but that is another matter).
I’ll have more to say tomorrow, but meanwhile read this NY Times article from Tom Friedman. There is a lot to be optimistic and hopeful about. It is a little idealistic, but I think a little idealism is healthy particularly when the reality is that humanity has all the resources it needs.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009In the Midst of the Meltdown 3
In the midst of winter
I discovered within me,
an invincible summer.
— Albert Camus
I am no financial genius. Quite the contrary. I believe in working for a living and not having expenses exceed what is earned. If money is borrowed then the use of that money should earn more than the cost of borrowing it as well as generating the money to be able to repay the loan.
As you can see with this philosophy I have been entirely out of kilter with the economy for most of my adult life. I have never really got how a consumer society could be sustained and how increasing amounts of leverage can be applied ad infinitum. Each time I thought the economy was going to collapse, property values went higher and the stock market went to new highs. I thought I was going crazy as I experienced a mismatch between my personal values and what I knew to be sustainable, and what was actually going on. Friends and acquaintances achieved wealth that I couldn’t imagine with relative ease. I felt left out and a little stupid.
Give the above you can imagine that the current financial insanity is to me a return to saner times. Things now make sense again and I feel in tune with the times for the first time in over 30 years.
That’s why I know that this stimulus package is doomed to fail. It may have short term benefits but how can you possibly cure financial irresponsibility with even more ramped financial irresponsibility? How can you cure a drug addict with more drugs--unless of course you are trying to kill them?
And how is this debt going to get paid off? With whose money?
It's going to be a long and winding road involving economics, geopolitics, the environment, and social factors. But at least I feel sane for the first time in years. It really is a great time to be alive.
Sunday, February 15, 2009In the Midst of the Meltdown 1
When I started this blog, I had no idea that I would be writing so much about the economy. I felt, and still do feel, that it would be silly to be talking about the principles of abundance and prosperity and ignore what was going on around us and very much affecting our financial lives, directly or indirectly. The irony of course is that the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity have very little to do with money. Money is a functional illusion, and many times a dysfunctional one. The spiritual principles endure regardless of currency or Government. And it is the spiritual principles that we must turn to again and again as we face the current situation.
For those of us who live in Southern California we know that a big earthquake is imminent. Not the Northridge one that took down the roof of Prana and part of a freeway. That was 4 seconds. But a larger one that lasts over a minute or minutes. We don’t know how long or how big or where we will be or how it will affect us, we just know it is coming. And so we prepare as best as we can. We are drilled in what to do and what supplies to have on hand. And it is not negative to talk about being prepared.
We are in the midst of a financial meltdown/earthquake. The extent of it is still unknown. The leaders charged with handling it are clueless, and I really mean clueless, on how to handle it effectively. The only thing that they can be depended on to do is protect, and in some cases further, their own self-interest. No one knows where this is going, except that it is going to get much worse.
So, we need to be prepared. I have blogged about this before and I will be blogging about it again this week. This crisis is on a global scale and it will not be going away for many years. In terms of the world it will define how we live in the future and a lot of good will come out of it.
In terms of our inner lives it shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. We are trained to live from the inside out, why allow outside circumstances to define our inner state? (He said, running screaming from the room shouting "No mas, no mas.")
By the way, if you thought I was being a little cynical above check out the interview between Bill Moyers and Simon Johnston that took place on Friday. The link is below. There is a transcript with the link if you prefer to read it.
Here is the link and here are some excerpts:
BILL MOYERS: Geithner has hired as his chief-of-staff, the lobbyist from Goldman Sachs. The new deputy secretary of state was, until last year, a CEO of Citigroup. Another CFO from Citigroup is now assistant to the president, and deputy national security advisor for International Economic Affairs. And one of his deputies also came from Citigroup. One new member of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board comes from UBS, which is being investigated for helping rich clients evade taxes. I mean, is that what you're talking about with this web of relationships?
SIMON JOHNSON: And that's exactly the right way to think about it. That web of interest is not my interest, or your interest, or the interest of the taxpayer. It's the interest, first and foremost, of the financial industry in this country.
BILL MOYERS: I mean, when I watched the eight CEOs testify before Congress at the House Financial Services Committee earlier this week, I had just finished reading a report that almost every member of that Committee had received contributions from those banks last year. I mean in a way that's like paying the cop on the beat not to arrest you, right?
SIMON JOHNSON: I called up one of my friends on Capitol Hill after that testimony, and that session. I said, "What happened? This was your moment. Why did they pull their punches like that?" And my friend said, "They, the Committee members, know the bankers too well."
BILL MOYERS: Last year, the securities and investment industry made $146 million in campaign contributions. Commercial banks, another $34 million. I mean, American taxpayers don't have a flea's chance on a dog like that, do they?
SIMON JOHNSON: It a massive problem, obviously. These people are throughout the system of government. They are very much at the forefront of the Treasury. The Treasury is apparently calling the shots on their economic policies. This is a decisive moment. Either you break the power or we're stuck for a long time with this arrangement.
Friday, January 2, 2009Illusion Within Illusion
You are worthy of God because you are one with God. You have never been separate; it is only the illusion of this physical level that causes you to think so.
So don’t be ashamed of what or who you are. You are divine. You are perfect. If the human condition doesn’t always reflect the perfection, that’s because there is no way to manifest the perfection here. So don’t worry about it.
Any negativity is just pointing out the next thing for you to work on and to bring across into the Divinity, until one day, and truthfully so, it will all be divine and you will know it as that. There will still be negativity, and there will still be positivity, and you will see it all equally as the Divine. That is your heritage.
(From: Timeless Wisdoms by John-Roger)
Well if you hadn't gotten the idea that this level is an illusion, hopefully the last few months have helped you out. Take money, for example. Dollars are printed out of thin air. I am not making that up. It's no wonder they have "In God We Trust" written on them, because you had better not put your trust in the Federal Reserve which, by the way, to add illusion within an illusion, is not "Federal" at all, but a private banking cartel.
I have been paying an average of $40 for a pair of pants (trousers to our English readership) for about 40 years. (I adjust my standards to my budget--or buy less pants). In that time the Government has gone from talking about millions, to talking about billions, and recently is now talking about trillions!
What is a trillion?
A trillion dollars = $1,000,000,000,000.
That's 12 zeroes to the left of the decimal point. A trillion is a million million dollars.
One trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills.
In short, a lot of money. Here is another way to look at it:
1 million seconds ago was December 22, 2008. (12 days)
1 billion seconds ago was 1976 (32 years)
1 trillion seconds ago was 30,000 B.C. (32,000 years)
But that's ONE trillion. In the last 5 years American debt has grown by SIXTEEN trillion dollars. That's mostly money that has been spent--not invested in business.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008Bringing Out the Best in Us
Just back from the webcast in Santa Monica. Lots of hugs and beautiful people.
We're actually celebrating our own birth. We're celebrating our own resurrection. We're celebrating triumphantly our own movement back into our true self or Christ Consciousness.
In fact, many of us are just rushing into it, arms and hearts wide open, full of love, and knowing that not one thing is coming our way that we can't handle.
The Christ Within & The Disciples of Christ by John-Roger, DSS
A nod to Lisa. Love that last line.
I liked this quote from a reader of Fuller Money Daily Comment.
As the boomers begin to sell off assets to use for retirement this will put most assets on offer...while, the next generation (that's me) is ill prepared to purchase them. We have been thru stock market bubbles, housing bubbles, and now a credit bubble. There is clearly no pent up demand for speculation in this generation. They have played and lost. Repeatedly. I envision some downsizing and saving which should put a lid on most longer term rallies.
No More Lies?
Had enough of lying and deceit by those in positions of power? Read this. New Year’s resolution anyone? Who among us is going to throw the first stone?
I wish Tom Friedman was right but I really think the system has to fall before it can be rebuilt on a new solid foundation. Excerpts:
For all these reasons, our present crisis is not just a financial meltdown crying out for a cash injection. We are in much deeper trouble. In fact, we as a country have become General Motors — as a result of our national drift. Look in the mirror: G.M. is us.
That’s why we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history. Because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama has the bipartisan support to spend $1 trillion in stimulus. But we must make certain that every bailout dollar, which we’re borrowing from our kids’ future, is spent wisely.
It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants.
Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.
PK: The money will mostly go to the people who got us into this mess in the first place. Fraud is endemic in the system. I was going to begin the sentence with “sadly.” But why should I say sadly when from a spiritual perspective it is all perfect. Last night driving home, I recalled what J-R had said at the booksigning in San Francisco when asked about these times. As I remember it he said that sometimes things have to be at heir worst for us to be at our best. Maybe that is this blog’s new mantra.
An Amazon reader's review on Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food.
In all this, Pollan insists that you have to save yourself. And he makes a good case why. Our government, he says, is so overwhelmed by the lobbying and marketing power of our processed food industry that the American diet is now 50% sugar in one form or another --- calories that provide "virtually nothing but energy." Our representatives are almost uniformly terrified to take on the food industry. And as for the medical profession, the key moment, Pollan writes, is when "doctors kick the fast-food franchises out of the hospital" --- don't hold your breath.
Seems like saving ourselves is going to be a theme for the next few years.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008"Us Band of Brothers" (and Sisters)
My blog readers are a small bunch. There have been times where I have thought of giving this up only to be told by someone that they are an avid reader and they have gained great value from it. So I am going to continue with my daily posts for another six months to complete a year of doing this. After all, this is the craziest time of our lives.
As I have said before, you certainly don’t need this blog to get a take on the teachings—there are plenty of J-R books and cd’s where you can get that straight from the source. This blog is a reflection on the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity plus my personal opinion on the world financial backdrop. It is not the opinion of J-R or John Morton. I don’t know if they agree or disagree. I say this because I am going to be getting increasingly direct, starting with this post. It is my opinion. Please feel free to share yours in the comments.
I love this quote from J-R that I posted recently:
“What is the work that you’re here to do? The most immediate thing in front of you, and there are two choices: either live under the law of karma or live under God’s grace of loving. You can have your choice. And the grace of God did not say for one minute that you won’t have any pain. It just said you can live in the Spirit while you walk through this world.”
I love it because it says clearly that we can have our choice. And we will have the opportunity to choose. The system is collapsing. We need to be strong to keep choosing and being open to the grace. Who the President or Prime Minister is really doesn’t matter at this point in the big picture. We all need to do our best to prepare. And nothing is better than what we already know--s.e.’s, service, tithing and seeding. The things that direct us to God—where there is endless love, endless supply.
I do strongly believe that what will emerge out of this will be a better, more enlightened world—a Golden Age if you will. But to get there we need to do things differently—very differently. Since, as human beings, we tend to be reluctant to change when we are comfortable, change is being thrust upon us. But don’t feel like a victim as what stood as a system was a fraud and a grand illusion. A mockery of what was put in place by the enlightened Founding Fathers of this great country. Principles were thrown out the window. Now we face the music. Our Light, our neutral loving, and our empathy will be the most wonderful assets to assist ourselves and others.
Blogger and innovator Robert Paterson went to the John Boyd Conference and came back with a summary that is both disturbing and fascinating. I have excerpted his post below because I agree with, not all, but most of what he is saying:
Boyd 2008 - My Overall Conclusions
So what in summary did I take away from this amazing weekend?
That there is no soft landing. We are not in a recession. We are not even in a depression. We are at the end of an era. The Tipping Point is of course the financial collapse. The Vast Ponzi Scheme of our financial world - with the vast sums in the Derivative Market and the Credit Bubble are all in effect lost – they cannot be saved. There is not enough money in the national accounts to pull this back.
The search for efficiency and the urge to consume has set us all up like a row of dominoes - there is no buffer, no resiliency. As one problem rises it causes another. As one solution is tried it drives another problem. We all pull back and the consumer economy stalls. The auto industry and credit firms feed the media (40% of conventional advertising). Papers and TV and Radio networks, many subject to LBO's (Levereged Buyouts) will have to fail as per the Tribune. Every sector will be laying people off. Sales of all things fall off a cliff - driving more business failures and layoffs. Cities and states that depend on sales tax and property tax and the credit markets can rely on none of these. So they too will have to lay off millions - thus making all the problems worse. National governments will be asked to save us all and of course cannot. As States and Cities get squeezed and cannot borrow, they will too lay off millions - teachers, firemen, police.
The world food system is exceptionally connected and tightly coupled. High fertilizer prices in 2008 will drive a food shortage in 2009. Inventories of grain are already low. The collapse of commerce and credit may risk food supplies in 2009. The 2008 rice problem was a harbinger for what is to come.
The problem is our mindset - the Newtonian Machine view of reality. It has outlived its value and become its dark side. We have given up all our power to it and those who control it could not help themselves from looting it.
The solution is a new Mindset that of an interconnected world with organizations and a leadership model that fits this new reality.
The goal for us all to work to is clear - that we have to build back into the system Resiliency. This means that each region has to work to become largely energy, food and financially self-sustaining and that each region needs to network into the others. In effect we shift from an efficient machine to a resilient network.
That the leadership model is no longer the dominant hero but the egoless servant.
That we cannot wait to be saved. We have to all do our part to make our place "Home."
Many are desperate that somehow President Obama save us and importantly turn the clock back. Take us back to consumer heaven of 2006. Even if he could, would this be the right thing to do? To take us back to a world that is a fantasy?
What got us to this place?
The Dark Side of a Mindset. The Machine/Institutional/Newtonian/Engineering Mindset that created most of the wealth of the 19th and 20th century tipped over into the dark side. Where not only did we give up all our power to institutions but gave the few that ran them the license to use these institutions for their own benefit.
So we spend nearly a trillion on defense but not on what the troops really need. We spend billions of health and America is on a par with Cuba. We spend billions on education and more than 50% of Americans are functionally illiterate. We spend billions on food and we eat crap. We make no progress toward energy independence.
The problem is how we all "saw" the world/reality. We gave up all that was important to us to faceless bureaucrats. Our energy, our food, our health, our education, our security and our wealth. We ended up like peasants in the middle ages who gave up their soul and their chance of salvation to the Bureaucrats who ran the church - who made a business - indulgences - out of our naive faith in their ability to act on our behalf.
So what can we do? This was a huge focus of the conference.
We have to shift the Mindset and hence the design of our world from Efficient Machine to Resilient Organism. We have to shift the mindset of the leader from the hero/Savior to the servant leader.
Above all, each place has to be largely self-sufficient in:
So the Boyd Conference was both depressing and exhilarating. It seemed clear that there was no way back but that the way forward could be wonderful - if we chose it!
(Full post here.)
Friday, November 14, 2008Return to Manifestation
We humans are experts at making negative assumptions: I’m unworthy; I’m terrible; I’m a failure; I’ll never get anywhere; God doesn’t love me. You can be equally successful at holding to your true direction and overcoming whatever distracts you. Here is how this practice works: whenever you experience a distraction—let’s say, feeling unworthy—go back to your center, find the clarity within, and say, “Right now, through invoking the Law of Assumption, I assume that this feeling of unworthiness is gone and will stay gone. I’m busy doing other things. I don’t have time for this distraction.”
The part of us that keeps the spiritual Law of Assumption from working is the ego. The false self uses the power of the mind and the emotions, backed by willpower and the power of the body, to prevent us from manifesting wonderful things in the world. But there’s a bigger will, the Soul. Once you connect with the Soul, the ego seems like nothing. You wonder why you allowed your life to be run by such an inconsequential thing!
If you start assuming that you are Soul, you will become Soul, the Beloved. This is not something that will happen in some future time and place. It is true right here, right now.
(From: What’s It Like Being You by John-Roger, DSS, and Paul Kaye)
After a few weeks of writing about the financial meltdown, I think we have a good idea of where we are, the context for the whole thing, and indeed the context for the times. It now has to play out and as it does we have spoken about the inner and the outer preparation needed to deal with the consequences.
So enough about all of that for now. Let’s return our focus to the good stuff—manifestation. Living the life we aspire to, regardless of circumstances, meaning that we are not dependent on materiality for our fulfillment.
We start such a journey by asking ourselves what we want. That is the key to this. So let’s begin there. And what we come up with can be evaluated and measured against the values we have as individuals. (If you are new to this blog see “Values” tag on the right).
Clarity is important. I know what I am looking for to create. I have thought about it, and written it down. Most importantly, I have a clear picture of what it is, and I can clearly see myself doing it.
What do you want to manifest, for the highest good?
Ever wondered what you would do if you had to start from scratch? I enjoyed this review of Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard.
And who are the happiest at their jobs? According to Yahoo Hotjobs it’s Clergy, 67.2% of them. The second happiest were firefiighters.
For a good financial read see David Brooks' Op-Ed in the NY Times. Some very difficult decisions are up for the new U.S. Government. There are no easy choices. Which means we send the Light.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008Consumerism
You can return to the Beloved on your breath, on your gratitude, on your loving, and on your unconditional giving. There are many ways into the Beloved when you are prepared to let go and let God. Your reward will be the enthusiasm you have for your life regardless of your circumstances. You will walk in Grace. And the Grace of God did not say for one moment that you wouldn’t have any pain, or that you won’t meet any adversity. Its only promise is that you are going to live in the Spirit while you walk through this world.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, and Paul Kaye)
One of the more extraordinary things that I have heard was when George W. Bush, in the wake of 9/11, told us all to “go shopping.” More recently he gave us our own money back in a Government stimulus package which was aimed for one purpose—for us to go shopping. As some cynics have pointed out, not completely erroneously, we got money from the Government so we could buy Chinese goods, so that they then could lend it back to us, so we could then afford to pay unfriendly countries for their oil.
In actuality, none of this is surprising when you consider that 70 percent of the U.S. economy is consumer driven. In other words the economy depends on us spending money on things. Now some things we need, food for example. But a lot of things we don’t. In other countries they save money. In the U.S. we don’t. Consumerism is built into the American psyche. Indeed, in his bestselling book Dumbing Us Down, award-winning educator John Taylor Gatto argues that our current education system is designed to make us into compliant consumers.
How we got into all this is beyond the scope of this blog. How we are getting out of it is the drama unfolding before our eyes. Are we learning? I hope so. But if we really learn, as a nation, to live within our means, then that is going to mean that the U.S. is going to be turned upside down. So Light to all that. I have had my dealings with the I.R.S. and while everything turned out spectacularly well, thanks to grace, I can tell you that basically they are unforgiving. The Government encourages you to spend as much as you can, but do not depend on them to help you out when you enthusiastically take their advice.
But we will leave the world to unfold as it must. The approach of this blog is to live our lives in accordance with our values, spiritual and otherwise, and spend our money in accordance with those values.
Giving to God is the first step--that opens the channel. The money magnet is the second--that gets the very important relationship with the basic self on track. Gratitude is a major key to feeling, living, and representing the fullness. Living within our means engages the conscious self. Seeding, the fast way to personal abundance, brings in the High Self. We then tap into the endless supply of our Source, and Grace Tithe on the overflow we experience.
The path to abundance has been clearly laid out for us, all we need to do is walk it—lovingly.
Frugal Tip of the Day from The Simple Dollar. Great post on what his readers have found to be their "25 Best Actions for Saving Money." A really good read.
And Very Short List gives us good reason for paying off more than our minimum payment on our credit cards.
Financial Quote of the Day
But the U.S. economy has now lost jobs ten months in a row, while wages and incomes have been stagnant, all of which suggests an economy that’s basically been in neutral or heading backwards for almost a year now. In other words, one could make a case that we’re well into the recession rather than near its start. Normally, that might make you think we’re also closer to the end than the beginning. But the worrisome thing about this downturn is that the bottoming process may be a long and drawn-out one, rather than anything resembling a quick snapback. Which is yet another reason for the government to think bigger when it comes to a new stimulus package.
JAMES SUROWIECKI from his New Yorker blog
Wednesday, November 5, 2008Change is Coming
For the last few weeks I have, from time to time, spoken about the change that is coming. That we have crossed a generational line. In Fourth Turning terms, we have completed the “Unraveling” and we are now in the “Crisis” era that will last a generation (20-25 years). Of course the problem with expressing these kind of things is that I have not only sounded negative but also like a raving maniac. None of which, of course, was my intention.
I am glad to report that in the last day or so two items have come to my attention that I think every reader of this blog should see and read. It expresses the ideas I have mentioned above in far more articulate and relatable terms than I have been able to muster.
The first is this article by David Brooks in the New York Times. Please read the whole thing, but here are two key paragraphs:
On the boomer generation:
Despite decades of affluence, longstanding issues like health care, education, energy and entitlement debt have not been adequately addressed. The baby boomers, who entered adulthood promising a lifetime of activism, have been a politically undistinguished generation. They produced two presidents, neither of whom lived up to his potential. They remained consumed by the culture war that divided their generation. They pass their political supremacy today having squandered the fat years and the golden opportunities.
On the post-boomers: (Gen Xers and Millenials):
Raised in prosperity, favored by genetics, these young meritocrats will have to govern in a period when the demands on the nation’s wealth outstrip the supply. They will grapple with the growing burdens of an aging society, rising health care costs and high energy prices. They will have to make up for the trillion-plus dollars the government will spend to avoid a deep recession. They will have to struggle to keep their promises to cut taxes, create an energy revolution, pass an expensive health care plan and all the rest.
And for a hint at what this new generation looks like and is up to, go here and watch this four minute video.
Regardless of our new President-elect’s statement about representing change, change was already on the cards and in motion. It has been this blog’s view that we need to be prepared for this change, which will be of a magnitude we have not experienced before, and that following the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity are going to assist us a lot in maintaining our balance and being of service in this new era we have just entered.
Thursday, October 23, 2008The Outer Game Has Changed, The Inner Game Stays The Same
Empathy is a saving grace. You will, through empathy, have the freedom to stand and lovingly face the conditioning that is not only yours but is in the world. Laughter is an expression of empathy. Tears are also an expression of empathy. When you understand empathy, you move into the consciousness of “You are one with me. We are walking in each others’ shoes.” And it becomes a really great, great day.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS and Paul Kaye)
1) What I’ve been trying to say in this blog is that the outer game has changed. This is the game of the world. We have had a fantastic run, a wild party if you will, and now the party is over, the DJ has gone home and the tidying up begins. And it is going to be a long cycle of tidying up.
The inner game, however, remains the same. This is the why we are in MSIA to discover the nature of the soul, live in it as best we can, and transcend it. So while the tidying up goes on we can be joyful, ecstatic even, empathetic, and, increasingly, of service.
2) If you have been reading the press or listening to the news you have probably heard about deflation. We have all experienced inflation but deflation is another thing. Here is www.bluntmoney.com/what-is-deflatio... from Blunt Money:
I’ve started seeing headlines like “U.S. deflation fears surface”, and reading about the possibility of deflation elsewhere, and I’ve got to admit that I have no idea what that is. Or, why or whether I “should” be afraid of it. (It seems like we’ve got enough to be afraid of already — I don’t want another thing!)
Since I was constantly confronted with “go look it up!” when I wondered what something meant as a child, I hit up the trusty dictionary first. The definition that applied there said, “a fall in the general price level or a contraction of credit and available money”.
Well, ok. According to that definition, we’re already IN deflation since there has been a contraction of credit and available money. (I don’t just mean that it’s harder for a person to get credit, I mean it’s harder for BANKS to borrow money overnight, and therefore for businesses to expand or to stay in business using their typical methods of operating.)
But what about the fall in the general price level portion? What would that mean to me? On the surface it seems like it might be a good thing. (Great! I can spend less money to buy the stuff I need!) But when you dig deeper, there are other effects.
Housing prices drop, and people can’t move without taking a loss. (Which is fine if you don’t need to move, but not so fine if you do.) Businesses get less for their products and services, which means they are less profitable, which means they start laying people off. People who do remain employed might not get raises or might take pay cuts, which is unpleasant. People who are in debt struggle even more to stay afloat.
In general, people spend less, which creates a vicious cycle.
I hate to be an advocate for wanton spending; I don’t think that’s good either by any means, but it would be nice if we (and the economy) could find some middle ground where things are satisfactory and reasonable.
3) Frugal Moment of the Week (kind of):
Tampa Bay Rays Ride Second-Smallest Payroll Into World Series
By Mason Levinson and Justin Gilbert
Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The Tampa Bay Rays enter their first World Series tonight after six months embodying the phrase ``more bang for your buck.''
The American League champions, who face the Philadelphia Phillies for the title, tied for the second-most regular-season Major League Baseball wins and slugged their way past the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox with 22 playoff home runs, all with the second-smallest payroll of the league's 30 franchises.
4) Smile/Zen of the Day
Many years ago I was a piano major at Oberlin Conservatory. I was a very good student; not outstanding, but very good. And I very much wanted to study with one teacher who was undoubtedly the best. He'd take ordinary students and turn them into fabulous pianists. Finally I got my chance.
He taught with two pianos. He didn't even say hello. He just sat down at his piano and played five notes, and then he said, "You do it." I was supposed to play it just the way he played it. I played it—and he said, "No." He played it again, and I played it again. And he said, "No." We had an hour of that, and each time he said NO.
In the next three months I played about three measures, perhaps half a minute of music. Now I had thought I was pretty good; I'd played soloist with little symphony orchestras. Yet we did this for three months, and I cried most of those three months. He had all of the marks of a real teacher, that tremendous drive and determination to make the student see. That's why he was so good. And at the end of three months, one day, he said, "Good." What had happened? Finally, I had learned to listen. And as he said, if you can hear it, you can play it.
Charlotte Joko Beck, from Everyday Zen
Wednesday, October 22, 2008Staying Positive
As long as you believe in and give power to the illusions of this world, you will get caught up in them. This isn't bad; it may be that the cause and effect with which you are dealing is going to hold you into the earth plane for a few more lessons, for a few more experiences. Love them. The key to breaking free is to love yourself and to love each experience that comes to you whether it appears to be negative or positive. Love it all equally.
(From: The Way Out Book by John-Roger)
1) More on Inner Preparation Four: Stay Positive, Opportunity Abounds:
Check out this great post from Seth Godin, or read it below (my bold):
Your career is not a boat. Neither is your business.
A boat with even a small leak is going to sink. You, on the other hand, don't need to be perfect to succeed. Imagine that you have a 4 x 4 grid to fill with assets. If it's a business, it might be location, reputation, staff, offerings that are in high demand and a sector that's robust... if you're doing it for yourself, it might include your resume, your network, your skill set, etc.
When someone chooses you or your products, they're considering everything you have to offer. Whether you're looking for a job or trying to make a sale, there is rarely only one thing that makes the difference.
That's why human nature is so enraging. When something is going wrong, when the economy is out of sync, we panic. We obsess about just one of the sixteen boxes and ignore the others. We talk ourselves into hysteria about how, "none of our customers have any money," or, "in this bleak economy, we'll never make a sale." Instead of using the relative downtime to build up the other 15 boxes, we just sit in the corner, keening, worrying about that one box that's out of whack.
By focusing on the red box, the sore one, and ignoring the other elements of what makes our product or career worth marketing, we cause two problems. First, our attention does no good at all on the problem at hand, and second, the other boxes suffer.
The problem with whining is this: human beings like to be right. If you persuade yourself and your friends that times are really tough and that you're bound to fail, you'll probably do the things you need to do to make that true in the long run.
2) Financial Overview
This excellent graphic is a great overview of the financial condition of the U.S. since 1920. There is a lot of good information in it. I expect the graph to now go parabolic, i.e. vertical, as the U.S. government enters into a massive spending binge.
3) Smile/Zen of the Day:
“The first interview was with an elderly man whose job was to make lox sandwiches in a Manhattan deli. He spent his entire day slicing salmon—that was the extent of the challenges he encountered at work. One might have expected him to have found his task boring, but he discussed it with the enthusiasm of a poet or a surgeon.
He described how every fish he picked up was different from its predecessor. He would hold the fish by its tail and slap it against the marble counter, looking at it and felling it ripple until he developed a three-dimensional mental x-ray of its anatomy. Then he would pick up one of his five knives—which he sharpened to perfection several times a day—and go about the business of slicing the fish as finely as possible with the fewest moves, discarding the least amount of good meat. It was an excellent illustration of how by paying attention one can transform even the least promising task into a complex, satisfying activity. For that man cutting fish was not a job, but an enjoyable vocation.”
From: Good Business by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
4) Financial Quote of the Day, from Wall St Journal interview with Anna Schwartz, 92 years-old, and co-author with Milton Friedman of “A Monetary History of the United States:
“Firms that made wrong decisions should fail,” she says bluntly. “You shouldn’t rescue them. And once that’s established as a principle, I think the market recognizes that it makes sense. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich.” The trouble is, “that’s not the way the world has been going in recent years.”
Instead, we’ve been hearing for most of the past year about “systemic risk”—the notion that allowing one firm to fail will cause a cascade that will take down other healthy companies in its wake.
Ms. Schwartz doesn’t buy it. “The [government] doesn’t have to save them, just at it didn’t save the stockholders and the employees of Bear Stearns. Creditors are no more worthy of being rescued than ordinary people, who are really innocent of what’s been going on.” It takes real guts to let a large, powerful institution go down. But the alternative—the current credit freeze—is worse, Ms Schwartz argues.
Well said, and that is the reason that the whole world financial system has undergone a seismic shift. When principles are compromised, trust is lost as the foundation has disappeared. More on trust in upcoming posts.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008Opportunity Everywhere
1) Smile of the day:
Two beggars are sitting on the pavement in Ireland. One is holding a large cross and the other a large star of David. Both are holding hats to collect contributions. As people walk by, they lift their noses at the guy holding the star of David but drop money in the other guy’s hat. Soon one hat is nearly full whilst the other hat is empty. A priest watches and then approaches the men. He turns to the guy with the Star of David and says, "Don't you realize that this is a Christian country? You'll never get any contributions in this country holding a Star of David." The guy holding the Star of David then turns to the guy holding the Cross and says, "Hymie, look who's trying to teach us Marketing."
2) Financial Quote of the Day (From Richard Russell’s Dow Theory Letters):
For months I've insisted that no nation can run an empire and fight two wars on borrowed money. Sooner or later something has to give -- the nation's credit standing or its currency. Now the dreaded subject is beginning to emerge. The demise of the US's world standing. Today, in The Wall Street Journal of all places, we see a featured piece on the op-ed page entitled, "The Dangers of a Diminished America." A diminished America? How can that be? It be. The US has been getting away with it all by owning the unique advantage of printing the very money that its huge debt is denominated in. Yes, I'm talking about the reserve status of the US dollar. This is the Achilles Heel of the US. The US dollar will possess its reserve status as long as our creditors continue to accept Federal Reserve Notes, paper with nothing behind it accept the "full faith and credit" of the United States.
Which is why we hold gold. Gold needs no faith and credit of any nation behind it. Gold cannot be ground out by any central bank. Gold represents pure wealth, and it has before Biblical times. Nobody has ever challenged the intrinsic value of gold. Sometime in the future the world will challenge the worth of all fiat money.
Fiat money is money because a government decrees by fiat that "this is money." Is that logical? Every fiat issue of money has been destroyed going back in history.
3) Inner Preparation Four: Stay Positive, Opportunity Abounds
This is on the heels of expanding in the midst of contraction and is exemplified in this great lesson from venture capitalist Paul Graham (excerpts below). So whether in this new environment you get awesome dividend returns on your stocks, or you start up a new company, or you use this time to clean up your act, there is opportunity for learning and growth everywhere. So be relaxed and aware and have your eyes open.
The economic situation is apparently so grim that some experts fear we may be in for a stretch as bad as the mid seventies.
When Microsoft and Apple were founded.
As those examples suggest, a recession may not be such a bad time to start a startup. I'm not claiming it's a particularly good time either. The truth is more boring: the state of the economy doesn't matter much either way.
If we've learned one thing from funding so many startups, it's that they succeed or fail based on the qualities of the founders. The economy has some effect, certainly, but as a predictor of success it's rounding error compared to the founders.
Which means that what matters is who you are, not when you do it. If you're the right sort of person, you'll win even in a bad economy. And if you're not, a good economy won't save you. Someone who thinks "I better not start a startup now, because the economy is so bad" is making the same mistake as the people who thought during the Bubble "all I have to do is start a startup, and I'll be rich."
So if you want to improve your chances, you should think far more about who you can recruit as a cofounder than the state of the economy. And if you're worried about threats to the survival of your company, don't look for them in the news. Look in the mirror.
Monday, October 20, 2008Expand in the Midst of Contraction
Q: How can I continually expand to hold the spiritual energy?
A: Laugh and smile in the midst of contraction. Be more bold–not in terms of risking, but more bold in terms of trusting yourself, trusting more to the Lord, and following the Inner Traveler guidance, not your emotional feelings about things.
(From: Fulfilling Your Spiritual Promise by John-Roger, DSS)
Here is a quick re-cap for new readers (greater detail covered in past posts see Getting Ready tag on right side of blog).
1) The context for the current world financial climate is:
a) This planet is a classroom
b) We are in the midst of some important large generational cycles.
2) It is my opinion that the next 20 years are going to be enormously challenging at a national, global, and planetary level. How it is handled at a personal level depends on many factors, but we can be inwardly and outwardly prepared.
3) Practicing the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity gives us a great opportunity to grow personally and spiritually during this upcoming period.
a) We tithe, as a clear statement of placing God first in our lives
b) We keep a money magnet to take of the very important, and often ignored, basic self level
c) We seed to create greater abundance, prosperity and riches
d) We Grace Tithe out of gratitude for how well all these principles are working
e) We double tithe....well, we’ll save that for another time
4) We have been identifying steps in preparation:
a) Learning Outer Lessons
b) Inner Preparations
5) Outer Lessons
i) Live Within Your Means
ii) Track, Track, Track
iii) Stay Well
6) Inner Preparations
i) Maintain Your Sense of Humor, No Matter What
ii) Let Your Abundant Joy Overflow
iii) In the Midst of Contraction, Expand
7) This is a daily blog and each weekday I like to include a Smile of the Day and a Financial Quote of the Day.
Hope that brings you up to date.
Smile of the Day
You have to go here but it is well worth it. No. 14 is my favorite.
Financial Quote of the Day:
If some of you have been mystified by the financial goings on, don’t worry. No one seems to understand it. Here are two quotes from a Barrons interview last week. It is with Jeremy Grantham a very well respected institutional money manager:
Q: Do you think we will learn anything from all of this turmoil?
A: We will learn an enormous amount in a very short time, quite a bit in the medium term and absolutely nothing in the long term. That would be the historical precedent.
Q: Where do you see all of this going?
A: I want to emphasize how little I understand all of the intricate workings of the global financial system. I hope that someone else gets it, because I don’t. And I have no idea, really, how this will work out. I certainly wish it hadn’t happened. It is just so intricate that all I can conclude, by instinct and by reading the history books, is that it will be longer, harder and more complicated than we expect.
Friday, October 17, 2008Preparation - Day Five
Our bodies build their form around the energy we place out. If we misuse our energy by putting our attention in the wrong place, the body will build its form around it. For example, if you worry a lot, it will be reflected in your tense shoulders and your tight stomach. When we start to use our energy correctly, our shoulders loosen, the stomach relaxes, the energy starts moving into the areas that have been blocked or closed off, and the body starts aligning itself spontaneously. Correct use of energy makes everything liquid, relaxed, and smooth. The body will line itself up and re-form itself according to your conscious thought and pattern of behavior.
The lesson is that if we don’t change our behavior, the body will go back to its previous condition. If we are willing to listen and watch, we’ll find that the body is not only educating us in how to get well but also showing us how to change the condition that produced the sense of imbalance or illness.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS and Paul Kaye, DSS)
Outer Lesson Three: Stay Well
In life there are factors we cannot control and to a certain extent that is true of our bodies. We have genetic factors at work, and the environment we live in or were raised in, and of course our karma. However, we do our best with what we’ve got and there are things we can do to enhance our health.
Why I am talking about it here? Because health expenses are a major part of our budgets and if we can keep them down, without depriving ourselves of care, we will be in better financial shape.
In simple terms, health revolves around three areas: movement (exercise), nutrition (food), and rest (sleep). We have control over all three areas to a large extent. All three when properly applied reduce stress, and help us renew. See if you can a small thing to improve each area. The benefits will be both short-term and long-term, on your well-being and on your pocket book.
Smile of the Day:
I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
Financial Press Quote of the Day: (From Warren Buffet OP-ED in the NY Times)
The financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.
So ... I’ve been buying American stocks. Why?
A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. Fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.
Let me be clear on one point: I can’t predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.
Today people who hold cash equivalents feel comfortable. They shouldn’t. They have opted for a terrible long-term asset, one that pays virtually nothing and is certain to depreciate in value. Indeed, the policies that government will follow in its efforts to alleviate the current crisis will probably prove inflationary and therefore accelerate declines in the real value of cash accounts.
Equities will almost certainly outperform cash over the next decade, probably by a substantial degree. Those investors who cling now to cash are betting they can efficiently time their move away from it later.
Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.
Thursday, October 16, 2008Preparation - Day Four
Outer Lesson Two: Track, track, track
As mentioned before, tracking your finances is an absolutely essential part of managing your money and builds a solid foundation for practicing the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity. All we are essentially talking about is awareness. Being aware of how you are spending you money. Being aware of whether you are living within your means. Being aware of what expenses you can cut should the need arise. Being aware of where your assets are and in whose name.
Sounds obvious, but you won’t believe the numbers of people not doing the above. I was at a very intelligent friend’s home a couple of years ago, and she took her unopened bank statement and threw it in the trash. Forget about the security risk, she didn’t even look at it! Yesterday I got a call from a long time MSIAer who lifetime savings were down to zero. She didn’t even know what her money had been invested in! And I have heard many stories of people being unwilling to look at their investment statements in this downturn.
This is one of the lessons of the financial meltdown (I’ve stopped calling it a crisis), no one knows the extent of it—even now! Well, maybe it IS a crisis! (This is a very exclamation point heavy post). No one was paying attention. Yes, they get to walk off with golden parachutes for not watching, but we don’t. So it is essential for us to be aware in order to have an edge on this increasingly tough game. And tracking is the best awareness process I know.
A bit of good news--Quicken Online is now free.
See this article for a review.
Smile of the day:
In Dokusan (private interview), a student repeated something that Suzuki Roshi had said in a lecture.
Suzuki shook his head.
“No?” the student asked, “but you said...”
“When I said it, it was true,” Suzuki answered. “When you said it, it was false.”
-- To Shine One Corner of the World: Moments with Shunryu Suzuki
Financial Quote of the Day (From frugaldad.com):
"So how does one ultimately decide whether or not to invest in the market, or in cash? The answer lies in determining your tolerance for risk. If you are a risk-taker, and have time on your side to ride out some of these short-term storms, then you are probably safe to invest in the market. However, if you are not a big risk-taker, or are already nearing retirement, cash may be the most attractive option. Of course, you may miss some growth when the market rebounds, but at least your capital will be relatively safe in the short-term."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008Preparation - Day Three
We are all of God. There is nothing and no one that is not of God. The spark of God individualized within human beings is the Soul. The Soul is the basic element of our existence. The Soul is forever connected to God. That connection is perfect and intimate; it is the source from which we draw our life. The nature, the essence, of the Soul is JOY. It is joyful because it is wholly of God, is aware of that, and has total knowledge of that.
(From: The Way Out Book by John-Roger)
As readers of this blog know, it is my personal opinion, for reasons that I have outlined as clearly as I can, that this next 20 year period will be replete with challenges the nature of which has not been seen in many decades, at both a national, international, and planetary level.
The personal level, how we respond to all this, is up to us. The MSIA teaching is clear—use EVERYTHING for your upliftment, learning, and growth. (My caps). Therefore I am looking down two tracks as we approach the coming 20 years. The first is an inner one, where we are inwardly prepared for what is to take place. The second is an outer one--what we can do in our worlds to cope and benefit from what is to come. We will be doing this from the perspective of living the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity. This perspective is ideal because it has a large spiritual component while also embracing a large practical and worldly one.
Inner Preparation One was to "Maintain your sense of humor, no matter what." In that vein, here is the smile of the day:
Darwin Awards – 4th Place (True Story):
After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn't discovered for 3 days.
Inner Preparation Two is Let Your Abundant Joy Overflow
Keep the quote at the beginning of this post as inspiration and remember that someone truly following the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity IS a JOYFUL giver. No one reading this lacks for joy. So it is important to access it, fill yourself with it, and let it flow over to others.
Financial press quote of the day:
It’s always possible, of course, that some bit of good and unexpected economic news is just around the corner. The situation also seemed pretty dire in the mid-1990s, until the Internet boom came along and incomes then started rising at their fastest pace since the 1960s.
But you would have to be a pretty zealous optimist to forecast a repeat of that story. For two decades, consumer spending has been an enormous driver of economic growth, thanks in good measure to a long bull market, a housing bubble and a boom in consumer debt.
The bull market, the housing bubble and the debt boom have all ended — and now paychecks are shrinking, too.
At some point, the next big economic engine will indeed arrive. It always does. This time, however, it’s going to have some stiff head winds to overcome.
By DAVID LEONHARDT
Published: October 14, 2008 (NY Times)
Tomorrow we'll look at Outer Lesson Two.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008Preparation Mode - Day Two
1) Outer Lesson One: Live Within Your Means
Regarding tracking your finances, something we covered in an earlier post, not only does this useful New York Times article speak highly of Mint.com but it also has these clear concluding paragraphs:
The point is simply to do something. Start small. Tackle a troubled category or two. Make a bit of progress. Add more categories. Pretty soon, it may become addictive to watch every dollar. And then, well, we’re keeping what begins to look like an actual budget.
These are small steps. In the coming months, some of us may need to take a real hatchet to our spending, as the economic impact of the financial crisis becomes clear and unemployment rises or bonuses and commissions fall. And if that happens, those of us who know where our money is going and how easy it is to cut back just a little will be in a good position to react.
2) Financial Press Quote of the Day: (From: Strategic Forecasting)
The announcements have been decisive, but details are not nailed down and won’t be for several days at least. Even when they are in place, the management of the international dimension of the crisis remains unclear. We had wondered whether equity trading would be suspended for several days while these things are worked out, and that apparently isn’t happening. So what we have is a global commitment to guarantee aspects of the financial system, at least temporarily, with a variety of modalities to be used. But there is no administrative structure in place, nor are many critical questions answered. One question has been answered: There will be international coordination, but not an integrated international solution.
The one thing that comes out of all this is that nationalism has trumped globalism.
3) Inner Preparation One: Maintain your sense of humor, no matter what
Two cannibals are eating a clown.
One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"
"Doc, I can't stop singing 'The green, green grass of home'."
"That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome."
"Is it common?"
"It's not unusual."
Monday, October 13, 2008Preparation Mode
If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. --Frederick Buechner
Okay, what have we learned from this financial crisis? The government has chosen to spend its way out of the mess, which is a luxury that most of the people reading this blog don’t have. I’m not saying retail therapy doesn’t work, it is wonderful and blessed relief, it just doesn’t seem to have a long-term positive effect, particularly if you are broke.
I have read and heard that people have identified the root of the financial crisis as greed. I don’t buy it. Greed has always been part of the human condition. It’s a basic survival instinct. Not up there on the scale of higher vibrations, but nevertheless part of all of us. As I have written at length, it is the times, the cycles, and the generations, that were the fertile soil in which the greed could flourish. But enough of that. Let’s learn the lessons and start to move into preparation mode.
Outer Lesson One: Live within your means.
Do not follow the government’s example. In fact, ironically, it will be the law and the government that will come knocking if you do not fulfill your responsibilities to this level.
Inner Preparation One: Maintain your sense of humor, no matter what.
Try to find something funny at least once a day. Here’s a start (from Zen Judaism by David M. Bader):
The Torah says, “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” The Buddha says there is no “self.” So maybe you are off the hook.
If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
Perhaps you can start to prepare your own list of lessons you can apply, together with inner preparation tools, that will get you in shape to meet the next 20 years.
Sunday, October 12, 2008Getting Ready (Part Seven)
The basic principle of abundance is that you tithe on the “first fruits of the harvest.” If you’re not, then you are thwarting yourself of receiving the abundance that comes from tithing. Some people say, “I don’t have enough money to meet my bills, let alone tithe.” That may be very true, and it may be like that all their life because they do not have God as their partner. They have themselves as a selfish partner.
(From: God Is Your Partner by John-Roger, DSS)
Shelley and I are just back from seeing Suspended Animation a live show by Phillip Huber Marionettes. After seeing Being John Malkovich in 1999, the opening scene has stuck with me all these years later. When I found it on YouTube, one of the comments mentioned that the puppeteer was Phillip Huber. As luck would have it he made a very rare appearance in Santa Monica, as part of the Puppet Festival, this weekend. The theater and audience was small and after his superlative performance he came out and chatted and showed us the puppets. Needless to say I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. An intimate moment with one of the finest puppeteers in the world--wow.
I started out this series of Getting Ready posts with the idea of giving the present financial crisis some context. I hope the one thing you got out of it is that it is not an isolated event. None of us need to feel a victim of it, anymore than we need to feel a victim of being cold in winter. We know it is going to be cold so we prepare. We heat our home if we can afford to, or in Shelley and my case, we wear increasing layers of clothes as it gets colder in order to survive in our loft.
In a similar way we can look out and see that we are heading into a different time and a different mood than has prevailed for the past 25 years or so. It’s easy to point fingers and blame, however each generation corrects the excesses of the previous one, and so the balancing act of life and society goes on. Once we know that we are in a cycle, we accept it, and prepare ourselves to receive it along the opportunities, both inwardly and outwardly, that it offers.
The Dow topped out in early-September 1929. On November 1954, 25 years later, the high was exceeded. Gold hit a high of in 1980. In January 2008, after 28 years of decline and lying dormant, gold bettered its old 1980 high. So when will the Dow better its high of October 2007? Your guess is as good as mine, but if history is any indication, it may be a while.
And then of course there is the issue that no candidate of politician wishes to address—how are we going to pay for Social Security and Medicare as the boomers retire? One choice for the Government is to borrow the money. But that involves payment of large amounts of interest. The far easier choice, and the most likely, is to print the money.
Unlike you or I the U.S. government doesn’t have to earn money, they can just ratchet up the printing presses, and voila—money! The consequence of such an approach may help the government pay off its debt but it doesn’t help you and me. I mean by that that the consequence is likely to be rampant inflation. It is therefore no accident that people are loading up on gold coins and thus they are in short supply. Gold protects against inflation and the decline of paper currencies.
Gold doesn’t earn interest and its price fluctuates wildly with people’s emotions and it can be manipulated for a while, but it has stood the test of time since it was first discovered. So one way to be prepared is to own a little gold and to have some cash on hand.
However, very best way to be prepared is inwardly. One of the great gestures we can make to show our faith that God comes first in our lives, is to tithe.
This week my posts will be about looking at the opportunities in the next 20 years. Plus I will be letting you know my list of things I am personally doing to prepare for this period—inwardly and outwardly. The idea is not for you to buy into my approach, but to stimulate you into making one for yourself.
Saturday, October 11, 2008Getting Ready (Part Six)
Our life reveals to us what we have to learn next—not to reveal our failure to us, but to reveal to us where we lacked preparation, where we really weren’t thoroughly up on what was going on. So realize that there are valuable lessons to be learned from and in the “games” of the world—and if you were not still in the process of learning and growing, you would no longer be here in a physical body.
(From: Timeless Wisdoms by John-Roger, DSS)
The Fourth Turning is where we enter into what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis. Yes, I know it sounds rather foreboding, but there is a very positive side to it. Well, frankly, it’s a stretch to find the positive, but it is there if we look very closely, ignore reality, hold our breath, and read our discourses and nothing else.
In a Fourth Turning, institutional life is torn down and re-built from the ground up. This is done almost always in response to a perceived threat to a nation’s survival. In the past, if history doesn’t produce a threat, some leader in a Fourth Turning will find one or create one in order to mobilize collective action. Cyclically, this is what happens after the Third Turning.
In this time of Crisis people tend towards becoming part of a group action (dropping the individualism that had dominated the two prior turnings), communities come together and find a greater purpose, families become more important in the culture, and family life returns to the center of people’s lives. Trust in Civic authority revives and very often a Fourth Turning involves a new founding moment in the nation’s history as people re-define their national identity.
Are we coming up into a Fourth Turning? I would say yes. In my own opinion the financial crisis was closure on the Third Turning (Unraveling), and we are entering the doorway to the Fouth Turning. What does this all mean? Well, I like to answer, “Lots of service opportunities.” And for sure for those of us who stay healthy and live the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity, there will be.
A crisis can come in many forms, we are seeing one of them now in the financial area. We have the possibilities of wars, ecological catastrophe, earthquakes, and more financial crises. Am I being a gloom and doomer here? Well it certainly looks like it but that is not my intent. It’s important to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and as J-R says, “shoot down the middle.” The reason that many people are having difficulty now, is that they didn’t prepare.
How long is this going to last? In generational cycle terms, about 20-25 years. That means that if the Fourth Turning has started it will last until approximately 2025. It’s not all downhill, there will be plenty of up moments, and with the right attitude the whole period can be an up moment.
Listening to J-R over the years, and attempting to get a handle on his various predictions over a long period, I would say that he has pointed to the period between 2012 and 2020 as being particularly challenging.
So what can we do? Plenty. And will be exploring that in future posts. Meanwhile, stay optimistic and the one thing not to do buy into, or create, is fear. As Hamlet says "The readiness is all."
Friday, October 10, 2008Getting Ready (Part Five)
This physical level is the most insecure, the most doubt-ridden, and the most frustrating level, but that’s because it is the classroom. The earth is one of those places where the Soul can get the most experience in the shortest period of time, so it chooses to come here as often as is necessary for the correct and useful experiences and to clean up incompletes from past existences. The Soul needs these experiences so it will know how to be an effective and efficient creator.
(From: Timeless Wisdoms by John-Roger, DSS)
An Unraveling according to Strauss and Howe is a period opposite to a High. In an Unraveling institutions are weak and distrusted (think banks, Congress, and the President), individualism is strong and flourishing (think divorce rate, partisanship, and outright nastiness in politics). There is a lot of cynicism, bad manners, civic authority is felt as weak, social disorder is felt as pervasive, and individual life is felt as frenetic. The happiest and most upbeat books are about me, myself, and I--how I can remake myself and what an incredible person I am. The downbeat books are about the end of society, the end times, anything with an “end.”
So in this generational model, we are following a natural cycle of events. For example in the uber-big picture, global warming is followed by a global freezing which then creates the foundation for a next warming. Of course, this takes place over millions of years. The generational model is more accessible and useful to us.
Please understand that I am trying to put things together so we can come to a greater understanding and clarity and ride this next period of time out in a graceful way, placing God first. As we live the spiritual principals of abundance and prosperity it is pointless to put on blinkers and ignore what is going on, anymore than it is to cross the road with our eyes closed because God is our Partner. So let’s look at all this with awareness and openness and, of course, knowing that it is all perfect.
Anne, commenting on Wednesday's post, wrote: “I may be crazy, but what I am hearing in me is that what is going on in the world just now is a ‘storm in a tea cup.’” In the context that this life is just a blink in the eye of God, you are absolutely correct. Meanwhile back on Planet Earth, yes, you are crazy. The world financial system is literally on the point of imploding, and though I have no doubt it will right itself, it is not without immense consequences, which I will be going into and which is actually is a good segue into what follows the Unraveling--the Fourth Turning. We’ll look at that tomorrow.
Thursday, October 9, 2008Getting Ready (Part Four)
Your job on this planet is rather well laid out for you. It is to keep your attitude, your consciousness, in a favorable condition for your self-growth. And much of your ability to open to new things, to be able to incorporate new ideas into your life, to change your patterns of behavior, and to grow depends on your attitude towards the situations in which you find yourself. If you can keep a positive attitude, you can learn from any situation. You can continually grow and lift in consciousness, and life can be a beautiful experience.
(From: Timeless Wisdoms by John-Roger, DSS)
In 1997, William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote a book called The Fourth Turning. It followed their 1993 book called Generations. It is in their analysis of Generations that we find a very interesting context to place the times in which we are living. Strauss and Howe go back to the mid-1400’s to track their generational cycles. That level of depth is outside our mission, which is to relate and elucidate the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity. If you are interested in exploring history you can go here.
The generation that you are undoubtedly most familiar with are known as the Baby Boomers. They are commonly thought to have been born between 1946 to 1964--although Strauss and Howe (S&H) place them between 1943 and 1960. Each generation has their role and their place in time. The boomers came of age in a period of great revolution in consciousness. S&H refer to this period as an Awakening. It is one of the many awakenings that have taken place in the past few hundred years.
The Awakening period, in the generational cycle model, follows a period call a High. A High is characterized by strong institutions and where society is confident about where it wants to go, however, the individual is weak. An example of this is the U.S. after World War II. The country was feeling greater than the sum of its parts and there was a great trust in big institutions.
Of course, it was against this backdrop that the boomers rebelled. As society was reaching its peak, in a material sense, institutions were attacked as people craved higher values, more personal and spiritual autonomy, and a desire to regain some sense of personal authenticity. Hence this Awakening, also called the Second Turning, from the mid-60’s to the early 80’s, was the time when boomers were coming of age--a creative throwing off of social and political obligations through campus revolts, tax revolts, cultural revolts, and various other revolts. In this environment, gradually, the individual returned to prominence.
A generation generally has span of between 17 years and 25 years. Thus an individual will see all four cycles in a life of 80-90 years. A person of this age will have literally “seen it all.”
According to S&H, the period from 1983 to the present time is called the Third Turning, also known as the Unraveling. I think you can see where I am going here. More tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008Getting Ready (Part Three)
We say to you that this land that is reflected is not a land that can be defended nor attacked, for it is merely the schoolroom in which we come forward to partake of the teachings and to observe the testing as a delineator for future progress.
(From Blessings of Light by John-Roger, DSS)
I like the big picture. I like knowing the context into which things fit. I need to have a context in order to function. I was lost for many years until I found J-R. In fact, that’s how he describes meeting me. “You walked into Nicholas Brown’s flat in St. John’s Wood and I took one look at you and said to myself, ‘he’s lost.'”
John-Roger provided me with a spiritual context into which I could fit my life and into which I found found purpose and direction.
I am presently learning the game of Go. My sensei (teacher) is Ron Beimel, who also happens to be the technical wizard behind this website. It has taken me months to get my head around this game and only just recently has it begun, even remotely, to make sense. It has taken me a while to understand the context in which the moves are made. Not necessary for most, but essential for me to understand in order for me to move forward.
All of which brings us to the world events taking place at this time. What the on earth is going on? What is the context for all this change? After all things were going swimmingly for so many years. Sure there were ups and downs, but it was relatively stable. Then we had the dot.com bust, followed by 9/11, followed by Katrina, the Iraq debacle, egregious human rights violations by this country, and now the present financial collapse.
The President has one of the lowest popularity ratings in history, and Congress is at he lowest. One by one our trust in the things we held dear—security, stability, human rights, capitalism, and our own political system, are being eroded and in some cases even derided.
The first, and most important, context for me is that this world is a classroom, a school. We come here to learn. And learning isn’t comfortable. After all what’s the point in learning what we already know? And Earth has been so brilliantly constructed that we get to learn whether we want to or not, positively or negatively.
Of course most of us are slow learners. When someone told me that J-R had said they were an old soul, I jokingly replied, “That’s nothing to be proud of!” The people who have really learned are no longer here, or are here to teach us. Boy, are we slow learners. Look as far back as history goes—we are doing the same things, over and over.
It’s that “over and over” that I want to address in the next few posts because the second context that has helped me is the nature of cycles. It is cyclical nature of things that has provided me with the greatest insight into understanding the nature of this world. I covered some of this in Getting Ready (Part One), on October 2nd. Now we’ll be going into some more depth on this.