General and Psychology and Relationships and Therapy05 Aug 2019 08:51 am

The following is an essay I wrote for the staff at a transitional living facility for which I consult.

In general one is able to avoid shaming another person by using descriptive strength based language. Vague terms even when not highly critical of another can be shaming if they have a person feel labeled, pigeonholed or judged. Since our initial and primary goal is to have our students feel better about themselves, shaming is best to be avoided whenever possible.

Embarrassment, on the other hand, can be an acceptable and sometimes valuable therapeutic experience/tool.  Psychology has long recognized that embarrassment, while often not a comfortable experience, contains elements of pleasure and validation.

In our meeting yesterday both Abe and Cal gave examples of the possible positive aspects of embarrassment with the students. Abe gave a marvelous impersonation of Russ responding to one of Abe’s insightful observations/teachings in a therapeutically beneficial fashion. One of the skills we are working with Russ is to have him identify his being able to use his chess master prowess in other areas of his life, both in finding ways to use his chess acumen in other areas of his life and social interaction, and to find additional hobbies and interests that use a similar skill set.

Abe, while standing next to Russ noticed/sensed that Russ was using his chess mind while observing/socially integrating with the other guys. He leaned over and said to Russ, “so you’re doing that chess thing with the other guys right now aren’t you”. Abe physically modeled for us Russ’s response which we have all seen before. It was a perfect exhibition of pleasurable embarrassment, in which Russ showed a bit of discomfort with being found out, with the joy and pleasure of feeling seen and understood by Abe.

The “hidden pleasure” and therapeutic element of embarrassment often centers around this basic primal need for children/people to be seen, found, understood and appreciated. One of the first games children learn to play is peek a boo. In this game they get a jolt of endorphins and oxytocin rush almost each time mom reappears after being temporarily out of view/lost. 

This seen/not seen scenario gets played out primarily in games such as hide and seek, red light, Simon says, mother may I, etc. and secondarily in game such as tag, duck-duck-goose, 7 ups and red rover. The thrill of being seen is maybe even surpassed by the thrill of mom or dad chasing and catching you, or capturing you when you were an infant in the cradle and making noises that they were “eating you up” of snuggling and making noises into your stomach. 

There is a local middle aged Asperger man in Asheville who makes some very poignant observations of life on the spectrum and, therefore, human life in general. He likes to talk of the fact that he “never got” the true meaning of tag during his early of even teen years. He always felt that he was great at tag because he was never it. He ended each game feeling like he was the winner and was baffled at how often other kids were “it”. It was only in his late 20’s and 30’s that he realized that the whole purpose of the game was to be chased and caught by someone who wanted to chase and touch you and make you be it. Being “it”, was, as he discovered, a sign of being “caught” in friendship the same way that a child is chased and caught in mom or dad’s loving arms.

So, tag is the joy of being sought after and chased. Being “it” shows that you are desired and your friendship bond is appreciated. In peek a boo you are the treasured object to be cradled in the gaze of your parents and loved ones. 

Often times in psychology the emphasis of peek a boo is on an infants development of object permanence. In early perceptual stages infants do not understand that objects hidden or currently out of view continue to exist. So, in peek a boo, the child sees mom disappear and miraculously reappear every time she hides and shows her face.

Yet, the relationship aspect of peek a boo is often ignored or minimized in the analysis of the significance of peek a boo. As mentioned above the infants squeals of delight and writhes of joy are due not to only seeing mom, but by her seeing him. Even before a child understands the words, they definitely gleefully feel the meaning of “Peek a boo, I see you”.

No matter how old a person gets it is important for them to feel seen and understood in a supportive loving fashion. Many of our young adult’s joy of being seen has been injured by trauma, predatory behavior of peers, or by receiving a disproportionate amount of angry criticism  over praise and recognition.

This is why many of our kids are initially skeptical or resistive to our observations and teaching. Wariness can quickly escalate to power struggles when we replicate their experience of receiving an ample amount of criticism and frustration over a lack of functional proficiency. 

Strength based teaching where we focus our attention on Catching Them Being Good begins to reestablish their innate joy in the fulfilling of their basic need to be seen, understood and validated. The more therapeutically sensitive the skills and central messages are, the more powerful the impact on raising their self-esteem and sense of connection. Skill work that is observational and fun is in the best possible tradition of peek a boo, hide and seek, and tag. 

The better we are at noticing and valuing their well intentioned, respectful and compassionate behavior the more lasting will be their improvements in positive self-regard. Similarly, the more frequent the repetition the easier it is for the student to incorporate (inculcate)   these new habits, attitudes and activities (hobbies and interests) into their daily life.

Our basic needs of belonging and being recognized as a unique and special human being are tended to in the games of childhood listed above. Those basic needs never go away, and our skills teaching becomes an excellent means to restore the joy and validation of being seen and valued. 

Yet, one’s ability to enjoy being seen, to overcome the risk and vulnerability “of becoming naked to others”, involves many factors such as trust, comfort and safety. One always must respect a person’s need for privacy and personal boundaries. Therefore, we should always move cautiously and with our observational eyes wide open and not try to push through resistances with an iron will. 

The more we create positive experiences for our students in the areas of mutual respect, positive self-regard and competency the increased likelihood they will be open to our invitations and guidance to replace old self-sabotaging habits with newer more efficient and life affirming ones. The hidden pleasure of embarrassment is only present when they want to be seen and found, and they take joy and solace in being known and appreciated by us.

General03 Oct 2013 10:17 am

When you look at actions rather than rhetoric it is easy to conclude that the US government is all about control and not about caring for its citizens. US economic and political policy can be summed up in two old fashioned board games, Monopoly and Risk. It all comes down to economic and political domination, and one achieves those objectives through control and power and not through care and freedom. 

If freedom exists at all it is highly compromised when there is no privacy, and we are all painfully aware that we have no privacy. The Great Society has been replaced by the Great Surveillance Society which imprison a higher percentage of its populace than any other nation (maybe for all human history). Despite our government not trusting us and jailing us at a record rate, they claim that we Americans are the moral beacons of the planet and that we are exceptional.

Our government has shut itself down due to its inability to successfully deal with the “budget crisis”. Much of the focus of the “debate” is on whether to repeal or implement a new health care law referred to as Obamacare. While the cost of health insurance is a very significant financial burden for citizens and some smaller businesses it is not a major player when it comes to our national debt and budget.

In many ways the entire debate on Obamacare is a very useful political smokescreen producing many benefits for politicians. One, it is a way to avoid any real discussion on the true culprits of our ever escalating debt. Two, it is a way to shift the entire dialogue towards an attack on all “entitlement” programs, many of which have come out of our paychecks and have nothing to do with the national debt since they are funded by workers salaries and income tax. 
 A third aspect of the smokescreen is accomplished by “both sides” mutually agreeing to refer to it as Obamacare. Labeled such it makes the debate personal and partisan. The discussion really isn’t about the actual healthcare law which no one really understands anyway, it is about whether you support Obama or not, or whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. Forget substance, this is all about ideology, racism and counter-racism.

Lost in all the “debate” is the fact that there is no health insurance plan on the table which is inexpensive and able to insure all US citizens. Such proposals, though implemented by the rest of the “industrialized” world, is considered to “socialistic” by the players of Monopoly to get a fair look. While such health care programs have existed at a fraction of the cost in many other nations for decades, they would curtail the profit margin of corporate America. Well, logically, and reduction of cost for medical care would reduce the profits and profit margins of corporate America. Yet, this is precisely what can’t happen.

The whole idea behind Homeland Security and the Surveillance State is supposedly to protect us citizens from all forms of terrorism. The government wants us to believe that they are willing to spend trillions of our tax payer money to help protect us and make us safe. Yet, the actions of our government undermine every aspect of this supposed intent to protect our freedom, safety and welfare.
 First, during this shutdown whose safety, welfare and health are being better taken care of or improved. No one. In fact many lives are being endangered by the shut down.

All of the watchdog, consumer advocate and protection agencies which make sure our food and water is safe, as is our work environment are shut down, making us increasingly vulnerable to terrorism or just plain corporate negligence regarding our health and welfare. During this hiatus the ranks of the under and uninsured are swelling on a daily basis. One has to question the sincerity of our government’s humanitarian pain over the death and suffering of children in Syria and elsewhere, when now programs supplying food, shelter and often vital health care to US children have now been completely shut down.

In an environment where the combination of those under and unemployment are at record highs it makes no sense from a fiscal or humanitarian perspective to lay off 800,000 workers, the majority of whose jobs directly impact our health, safety and protection. During all this “bitter debate” between Democrats and Republicans there was one bill they passed unanimously. It was nicely framed by the national media that our government has “pledged” to fully fund all “military personnel” during the shut down.

The wording focused on “personnel” for obvious reasons that once again deflect us from reality. We are likely not just fully funding personnel but all our military operations. One wonders if all veterans benefits will continue and their access to health and medical care which is already not meeting the needs of vets. In essence our government is too invested in its game of Risk to reduce or funnel any funds to the citizens for whom they are supposedly fighting for, to protect their quality and standard of life.

The biggest culprits which are causing our national debt to rapidly escalate paralyzing and burying our national safety and welfare is both the corporate game of Monopoly and the political game of Risk. The captains and barons of these two games are enjoying our choosing sides on a debate which is actually aiding them in their desire for conquest and domination.

No matter who wins the current debate of health care, the corporate and political barons and captains will continue to raid us domestically and conquer those internationally. Their investment is always in what they don’t own and have yet to conquer, that which is already in their possession is always a lower priority.

My prediction of the resolution to the budget and health care crisis is rather simple and not very dramatic. The health care issue will be resolved in a way which delays any real reform or truly beneficial impact on health care. Both Republicans and Democrats will claim a certain measure of victory, and admit a certain amount of compromise. The proclaimed victory will appease their support base and allow them to campaign in the future, and the admitted compromise will be used as a means of blaming others for the fact that nothing will really change. This is the basis of our modern two party system, claim responsibility for success, and blame the other side for continued failure. In this way true reform can be delayed forever while allowing the players of Monopoly and Risk to continue to run the table (board).

The net result is and has been for sometime that our superpower addicted government will continue to use all resources to dominate the entire globe, and the financial/corporate world will continue to devise new and more efficient ways of sucking every last penny out of out pockets and into theirs.

The old statement that “the more things change the more they stay the same” has a new spin on it. Medical intervention services are being dominated by parasites and leeches, and yes we are strategically being bled. Economically we once again are becoming serfs on the lord’s estate, giving everything and owning nothing, all for the promise of a little safety.

Jim Guido

General03 Feb 2011 11:34 am

Many years ago I adopted Groundhog Day as my favorite holiday. Most of the others either celebrated something potentially divisive such as a religious holiday or had become extremely commercialized. Though I’m a person who enjoys all four seasons, I prefer a long spring and fall, and a shorter summer and winter. While I do enjoy a dose of brittle cold and the bareness of the trees, I do so look forward to the bud of spring. Therefore, a holiday during the depths of hibernation which celebrates the eventual return of spring is something I can really get behind.

My wife, likewise, adopted Groundhog Day as our main holiday to send letters out to friends. Though we appreciated the slew of Christmas cards and letters we got from friends we decided to break up the winter doldrums with a Groundhog Day family newsletter to all our friends. Like most holiday letters we included life updates of ourselves, but we also added games, humor sections, and stories. Most of the stories were political or social parodies of current events somehow involving the Groundhog. The following are excerpts from previous letters.

To Flee or Not To Flee (that is the question)

“Just what is this fascination with the Groundhog?”, Dr. Blarney asked me rhetorically while we sat (ironically) in his cozy wooden den. This is a topic for which Dr. Tumuch Blarney is famous for wanting to sink his teeth into. In this interview, a shameless promo for his new book, “Looking Beyond the Shadow”, Dr. Blarney outlined the basic premise of his attack on what he refers to as, “the cult of the Groundhog”.

According to the good doctor the “myth” of the Groundhog has deep psychological roots, unhealthy ones to hear him describe it. He claims that the spring ritual myth represents a “deep seated fear” of knowing oneself. The “shadow” of the Groundhog represents on one level, one’s real self and the unconscious on the other.

He claims this is obvious considering how it is logical the Groundhog seeing his shadow would usually be a sign of good weather and, therefore, an indication of an early spring. The fact that the Groundhog seeing his shadow is a sign of six more weeks of winter shows that a deeper interpretation is needed.

“The Groundhog’s fleeing back to his winter hideaway is a fleeing from the self”, Dr. Blarney pronounced while puffing on an over sized cigar. “Without the benefit of a mirror the Groundhog’s shadow is the only available view of himself. His running from his shadow demonstrates a fleeing from himself, don’t you see?”

Though this may be the case i couldn’t help wondering how Dr. Blarney was able to see anything through glasses the thickness of skyscraper windows. I mean hasn’t he even heard of laser surgery.

Dr. Blarney became increasingly animated as he talked for hours (the prospect of six more weeks of winter started to seem comparatively short) on his interpretation of both the Groundhog “myth” and its burgeoning “cult”.

The Dr.’s conclusion is that the underlying meaning of the story is very unhealthy. He feels that one should rejoice in seeing one’s shadow and embrace the quest to know oneself. “Fleeing solves nothing”, Dr. Blarney pointed out, “finding oneself is consistent with the true nature of spring.”

The Dr.’s book is a challenging read, and the debate rages on. Dr. Smarmy says that Dr. Blarney’s conclusions reflect a significant ignorance of the thought process of the average rodent. “Rodents are very patient and reflective creatures,” he claims. The Groundhog’s retreat after seeing his shadow makes sense to Dr. Smarmy who states that winter is the time for retreat and reflection and that the seeing of the shadow encourages the Groundhog to continue his quest for self-enlightenment. Dr. Smarmy claims the Groundhog rather than fleeing from himself is actually retreating from society to better focus on, and learn about himself.

I guess the debate can be best summed up by the tagline for the old radio show, “Who know where evil lurks…….only the shadow knows.”


In an election year I decided to make the Groundhog a secondary character and used Chilly Willy (the cartoon penguin) as way to parody the dot com bubble burst.

Chilly Adds to Winter Woes

It was just last year that our newsletter featured the meteoric presidential campaign for the honorable Chilly Willy. Last week a tearful Willy, with his trademark ice cubes falling from his eyes, gave the political world the cold shoulder when he announced the end of his presidential run.

Willy’s downfall was not due to any scandal, but rather the desperate economic conditions that have ravaged “celluloid valley” and the other animation hubs. Well over 70% of the high tech animators at Warner Bros. and Disney have been laid off since the peak of the bubble in 2001. Chilly’s campaign manager had to cancel a series of speaking engagements due to Chilly being insufficiently drawn.

Many supporters of Chilly have been despondent over his decision to pull out of the race. One young lady summed it up when she said, “When you can’t trust the word of a beloved fictional character it seems to undermine our entire political system”.

The Groundhog added his feelings of remorse in a recent interview from his winter burrow. “Though Chilly was from the far north, he forged a strong bond with us Woodland creatures. He wasn’t just concerned about issues of his district like drilling for oil in Alaska, but also was willing to lend a fin in support of the anti-logging campaigns in the eastern and western forests”.

While the Fed’s excessive printing of money has caused the US dollar to depreciate by some 30% in a little over a year, it pales in comparison to the devastation caused to the fictional dollar by the reckless printing of cash in animated cartoons. Willy’s presidential campaign was a notable casualty of the animator’s splurge to print $$$$. In the last few weeks Willy couldn’t even rent a hotel room with van fulls of animated cash and gold bars.

In a related story reported by the Olympian on January 4, workers at Northland Furniture owned by Roy P. Disney (grand nephew of Walt Disney) were fired and paid with checks with more rubber than Goodyear tires. The workers were called into a meeting shortly before Christmas and instead of receiving bonuses, they were fired and paid in checks which bounced. Neither Mr. Disney nor his accountant have answered reporter’s calls.

With the shortage of funds it was only natural for the animation industry to look for cheap labor. In primary classrooms across the northwest, teachers were assigning students to draw Chilly. Since animation takes hundreds of drawings to execute the simplest task, entire classrooms would have to be mobilized to get Chilly to a podium to deliver a speech. Ms. Grey, a first grade teacher, pointed out that even when children were handed color by number pages, “it’s almost impossible to get the children to all draw Chilly the same way. And even when that’s done, it’s hard to get them to stay in the lines”.

Soon the US student’s nap time made the workload unmanageable. In the end the animation industry turned off shore and outsourced their labor to the far east. Since these children had never seen Chilly, he began to morph into something unrecognizable.

In the last weeks of the campaign, Chilly began to appear in public wearing sunglasses and an overcoat. Chilly, a shadow of his former self, decided to call it quits since he could no longer live up to his former image.

So there you have it. The economy turned Chilly from a national hero into a national tragedy.


In Jim’s Corner, the section picturing me sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap I wrote the following:

Through trial and error I’ve learned there are certain descriptive terms one should not use with one’s spouse (wife). Here are some mistakes and their replacements.

Think/ Say

nosy/ Inquisitive
gossipy/ informative
bitchy/ hormonally challenged
insincere/ tactful
controlling/ nurturing
vain/ self-assured
irritating/ playful
bizarre/ creative

Now, you can see why I’m sitting in the corner.

Jim Guido

General12 Jun 2010 01:11 pm

According to web tracking devices such as Firestats the number of daily visits to this site are increasing at a noticeable rate. I’m always surprised at the number of nations finding an interest in my posts, books and music. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read my thoughts and perspectives on such a wide range of concepts.

I’m always confused on the exact number of readers I have on any given day because so few nations URL’s are ever listed. So, lets say on a given day my stats show I had 30 visits. If I click on the visits I may find almost all of the hits show up in 3 or 4 nations yet the stats indicate a large percentage of recent visits are coming from a nation that isn’t represented. In fact, often times I find countries such as Germany, China, Italy, Indonesia, India, Israel, Spain and Iran listed as high visitors yet I have never found a single individual URL from any of those nations. Just as a point of interest, additional countries that are frequent visitors to this site are Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Britain and Ghana. If I didn’t mention your nation, well tell your friends so that you can get into my top 10.

Recently I thought it would be fun to Google some key words based on blog titles and subject matter to see if any of my posts were listed. To my amazement I not only found many listed, but a sizable portion were listed in the first few pages. In just 10 minutes of typing in some key words I found about 6 or 7 of my posts ranked number one on Google. I’m not exactly sure what this means, but it definitely makes me feel like I’m being read a bit.

Though the bulk of visits to my site are listed as views of posts a growing number of people are reading my lyrics, listening to the music and reading my books. I really am excited by the prospect of more people getting some exposure to my art.

The number of comments left on posts remains scant which I find disappointing. I love and long for fruitful dialogue. I also yearn for feedback to help me hone some of my ideas and see how my words are being interpreted.

Yet, overall I’m amazed how such a simple site with no bells or whistles run by a complete technological incompetent has attracted an audience.

Let me know if there is anything an old school guy such as myself can do to make this site more attractive and interesting for you.

In the meantime I’ll still be trying to write stimulating and thought provoking stuff on a variety of topics including politics, economics, ecology, philosophy, psychology and popular culture.

Oh, by the way go Italia in the World Cup.

Jim Guido

General and Social Issues18 Mar 2010 12:34 pm

After writing the last post reviewing this website, I thought it might be a good idea to let you all in on the goal, purpose or intention of this site. As I mentioned in the review post a major goal of the site is to offer readers free access to my lyrics, music poetry and books.

Yet, I did not start the blog portion of my site with any specific intention. Yet, now some two years into the site I can offer some insight into what I’m doing and why.

My philosophical loves are phenomenology, existentialism and taoism because of how much their ideas, observations and questions affect the quality of my day-to-day life and experience. My art and this site are generally an attempt to share my observations about what it means to be a happy human being enthralled with life, perception and experience.

Many of my posts are intended to point out current myths or preconceptions which may dilute, distort or even limit our ability to experience joy and meaning through our experiences. When I look at the world’s such as politics, economics, religion, spirituality and psychology I am amazed at the number of misconceptions and assumptions that are just blindly accepted. I myself have always been skeptical of any assumptions and prefer to reflect on issues to determine their actual functional validity.

This desire to experience things as they are and to immerse myself into the wonder that is human experience and perception anchors all of my thought in visceral life. I enjoy the process of personal development and figuring out portions of the endless puzzle that is human existence.

When I offer an observation or self-revelation the goal is not controversy or an attempt to prove my opinion. My goal is to find and share what we have in common.

It is very popular today to express observations as opinions designed to spark debate and controversy. The goal usually is to win while insulting the opposing viewpoint. This is prevalent in almost all social/discussion and has become almost synonymous with modern entertainment. It almost impossible to see or read any movie, TV show, book, play, newspaper or comedy routine etc. without being asked to choose sides in the endless war of us versus them.

My goal is to highlight what we have in common while also expressing my uniqueness and individuality. Being immersed in my humanity, and focused on human experience and perception I am keenly aware of how people often deny or escape their humanity.

Instead of embracing and marveling at the transitory and finite life world of being human, many seek to flee their humanity through seeking absolutes. Instead of accepting and reveling in our transitory existence, they seek refuge in Eternal Truths and immortal non-finite beliefs.

I enjoy discovering and growing, and this being so, I have no need for Eternal Truth. For me life is an endless process in the sense that I will never exhaust its possibilities and truths. What is true today, or even true for as far as I can imagine, is not necessarily true forever? While much in life stays the same, there will always be change and new growth.

At this point in time I can say that humans need oxygen, water and food to exist, yet there may come a day when this isn’t so. The scientific truths of yesterday are seldom the same as the scientific truths of today. How boring would it be if we truly knew everything, if we found every Eternal Truth?

I personally enjoy knowing more today than I did yesterday. I enjoy sharing my discoveries with others and having them share their insights, observations and wisdoms with me.

The last statement is as good a summation as any to the goal and intention of this website. I want to share with you the thoughts and perceptions which enrich my experience and appreciation of life, and yearn for you to join in this dialogue.

Life is full of options and opportunities, and while no one can be perfect, I enjoy exploring how we can make our immediate real world into a better place. Who out there wants to help me in this endeavor?

United in Compassion
Jim Guido

General15 Mar 2010 07:14 pm

I would like to thank everyone who has been taking the time to read my posts. This site, despite its no frills approach, averages between 50 and 80 visits a day. I am happy to see that most of my 250+ posts have been read by a number of people from all over the world.

The US, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany are often at the top of my reader list. The first two months of 2012 are being dominated by Israel and Poland. Yet, I’m happy to report readers from all continents except Antarctica.

The most disappointing aspect of this endeavor continues to be the lack of comments and discussion this site has generated. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that many of my readers are not primarily English speaking people, or if the topics are too varied and not presented in an antagonizing manner.

I would love for there to be more dialogue amongst the readers.

One of the major reasons I developed this site was to offer my art to the public for free. Over the last year there has been quite a substantial improvement in the number of people listening to my music and reading the lyrics. A few of my books, notably A Twist of Faith and Public Relations are enjoying an increased readership.

I am very proud of my lyrics, and I find it hard to believe you would be able to find many others with as much feeling and introspection as I put into mine. My music is a bit different and varied. As I’ve said before my music is art posing as music. It is lush, intense, and meant to be digested slowly and ruminated over. I expect to post one to two additional CD’s per year for the foreseeable future.

The feedback I’ve received from my books has been very positive, and I would love to hear more people’s responses to my lyrics, music and books.

Over the last four years I’ve covered many topics on this site. We’ve covered gender issues and male sexuality, the stock market, social issues, personal development topics, the nature of human experience, pleasure, and meaning to name a few.

I’m pleased to report that a number of my blogs are rated fairly highly when googled.

Thanks again for reading some of my thoughts.

Again I want to invite you all to visit my book and music sections to browse through my art.

Let me know what topics you want me to expand on, and how I can make this site more interesting to you.

United in Compassion,

Jim Guido

General04 Mar 2010 05:03 pm

The following is an email I sent to my sister on her birthday. It’s nice sometimes to just sit back and marvel at the very experience of life.

Happy Birthday!!

Honoring and celebrating our birth is a way for us to recognize how special life is. Living on a planet teeming with life it is easy to sometimes forget how special and rare life is.

Yet, when you consider how vast the universe is and how up until this point we’ve still not found “life” on other planets then you can truly appreciate how much of a gift life is. Any gift you receive on your birthday pales in comparison to the gift of life.

Someday soon we may find life on other planets, but very few planets hold the promise of life. Yet, we are not just alive, we are conscious of being alive. And though it may be true that a number of animals may have a form of consciousness, we humans are extremely conscious of our existence.

This consciousness makes life even more rich and fascinating. We are able to live in the present, benefit from our past and anticipate our future. Truly amazing isn’t it?

Even though our planet is teeming with life, the vastness of the universe is a stark reminder of the uniqueness of our existence. It is probably safe to say that the number of planets in the universe far exceeds the number of humans since recorded history. This means that every person who has ever lived if spread across the universe could have their own planet. In fact current science states that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on earth, therefore, each human ever to have existed could claim hundreds of planets as their own.

We are rare and so is life.

My birthday wish for you is that you take advantage of this day of celebration, to truly appreciate and embrace the uniqueness of being you. I also hope this short note encourages you take a few moments to reflect on the beauty and richness of human experience and the wonder that is life.

Since we were both raised in the same garden, we deserve to assist each other bloom and blossom and admire each others beauty.


General08 Oct 2009 12:21 pm

The following is the remainder of an essay I wrote some 30 years ago which I recently found while getting rid of old notebooks.

Studies of human infants appear to replicate in the individual what has happened in primitive societies. The infant, like primitive cultures, starts from chaos and slowly forges a sense of having a world, a cosmos.

At first it appears that a newborn is a float in a sea of undifferentiated sensations. Bombarded with sights, smells, sounds and sensations all without a distinct form or meaning. Eventually patterns emerge and a child is able to isolate and identify objects and sensations. At some point in time he becomes aware that he is separate from the world of sensorial objects which stimulate his perceptions.

The ability to isolate sensations and identify and focus on specific objects creates a world out of the formless sea of earliest life. Once the baby begins to overcome chaos with order, he begins to take pride in his ability to make associations amongst objects. Quickly he jumps from identifying his specific dog and stuffed bear, to understand the concept of dog and stuffed toy. The lamp becomes a lamp and the entire world of generalized objects opens up to his awareness.

Since the word often makes a thing spring into life for a child, often young children have difficulty separating the object from its name or the word used to identify it. This is the stage of word magic when the very naming of the object seems to create its existence. Until the word was learned, the object eluded his perception, but once the sound (word) found its association the object sprang to life.

The very possibility of having a world seems to be structured in language and the ability to have perceptions settle into differentiated objects. Like primitive societies the individual and his world come into existence out of initial chaos. Slowly we see snapshots of the world about us. Out of these snapshots we construct an organized world and universe. We seldom see an entire object, or a room and definitely not the entire planet or universe, yet our mind quickly learns how to fill out large pictures such as our room or house piecing together and filling out the voids left by separate and incomplete perceptions. This is how we sense, structure and live in the world.

The primitive felt meaning and the world very fragile things. The power of the Word was something revered by many cultures. Not only children, but early societies had a hard time separating a word from the thing named. The name of an object was not arbitrary but essential and in many cases the object came into being the moment it was named. People believed if you knew the correct name of an object you could call it into existence.

In ancient societies the object and its name were one. The naming of a child after a father or grandparent was not just a sign of respect and honor, but a way of insuring the continued existence of the name (person). This explains the fact that many cultures cite people living hundreds of years in their earliest history. As long as the name lived on so did the spirit of that person. A person only died when the chain of the name handed down from generation to generation got broken.

I mentioned these things to emphasize how central the quest for cosmos and the fear of chaos has been in the functional history of man. Man created the sacred as a way of giving life meaning and significance. Each increase in the realm of the sacred was an increase in the ordered world of meaning and a victory over chaos.

The desire and need to fabricate meaning through expanding the realm of the sacred continues in modern man. For modern man life can not be left on the level it is experienced. It cannot remain temporal, transitory and fragile. Life for most has to be grounded in purpose and meaning.

Ironically the more life was experienced and defined as a historical existence situated in real time and space, the more man relied on placing the essence of life beyond temporality. Both science and religion portrayed the same basic view of life. Even though life was experienced as temporal and finite, its essence is eternal.

Religion had Truth, God, the absolute, eternity and other trans-temporal superlatives. Science had law, Truth, infinity and its similar superlatives. In fact, the possibility of making a scientific or religious statement demanded both certainty and dogmatic truth. Neither science nor religion would view any temporal functional reality as worthy of credibility.

Rationalizing Pain

The struggle for survival has been a constant companion of human history since its earliest memories. His fight to survive his battles with the elements, drought, plague, animals, other tribes, ice ages, fires, etc. have caused man to suffer and left him puzzled and hungry to find explanations for life’s cruelty.

Man used to spend the bulk of his existence barely meeting his basic needs of food and shelter. Often the life of the average person was painful and fragile.

Man had to rationalize his pain, to find reason for existing. Without such reason man would find it hard to continue. Much of mythology and religion is focused on giving man hope and having him deal with pain and suffering. God and Truth are two ways of rationalizing pain and giving life meaning.

For ages pain and suffering have been prominent realities of human life. The search for meaning has likewise been a way for man to deal with his pain and suffering. In a world of incessant change it makes sense that man sought something constant to ground his life in.
This desire to find a non-changing basis for life gave birth to Truth and God. These ultimate and eternal truth’s gave man comfort and provided his life with meaning. Since the early mythic ages of man life’s purpose and meaning have been predicated on the eternal laws of God and Nature.

Life, Then and Now

Not many would argue with the belief that an individual goes through many stages of development. Actions, thoughts and activities deemed appropriate and beneficial at one age may be detrimental or restrictive in another. Mankind, like an individual, develops and grows through time. Where is mankind now in his development, and do his thoughts and actions match his stage of development? Are our lives filled with suffering and do we need absolutes to provide life with meaning?

I personally do not spend the bulk of my existence fighting to survive and do not experience my life as being predicated on suffering and pain. My life is not free of pain, but it certainly is not dominated by pain. I do not feel meaning fragile, but rather meaning is something almost impossible to remove from my experience.

In fact life is so saturated with meaning that I can look at a single event from a host of perspectives which all endow my life with meaning. I am free to see events from a biological, chemical, psychological, historical, economic, mystical, systemic, spiritual or anthropological perspective (just to name a few).

For millennia the possible arbitrariness of life was a source of vexation and despair for man. He looked to Truth and God to help him through the night. Yet, now I find then concepts of infinity, eternity and Truth to be sources of imprisonment and not comfort.

The very ideals that many found necessary to lesson the pain of man’s tenuous if not futile existence now feel suffocating. I find life to be a challenge and not a struggle or fight. I enjoy being temporal and find great pleasure in the finitude of experience. I like . being able to have choices and to see life from a host of perspectives. I find so much meaning in human experience that the arbitrary is no longer a demon. The fact that I a finite and will one day die gives my life meaning and significance. The thought of living forever or having an afterlife seems to make my time alive here seems to strip each moment of its importance and significance.

Castles in the Air

When we adopt a perspective we are giving meaning to our experience. If I take a ball and thrown it at a metal hoop extended 10 feet inn the air supported by a backboard little meaning is achieved. Yet, if I construct an entire game involving a complexity of rules, objectives and priorities I give the activity meaning and significance. If I give the activity which allows for success, improvement, creativity, and expansion I will have a better chance of funding this stimulating and rewarding.

I yearn to the the world from a host of perspectives. I want to experience the world, chemically, biologically, poetically and mathematically. I’d like to view and feel the world from the perspective of 16th and 17th century cosmologists and well as that of the 20th century astronauts.

I also want to build my own sand castles and have my children and grandchildren feel the world from my new forms of meaning. I want to give them the gift of enjoying and basking in our humanity and yearn to see and feel the world from their eyes.

Lived meaning is neither absolute or arbitrary. It is what it says it is, lived. Human life does not need absolutes or gods to become fulfilling and amazing. Every moment is both magical and real, full of meaning and capable of personal poignancy.

I enjoy a life of building castles in the air. No experience is fully captured by one truth or one reality. Absolutes and ideals cannot exist in our world, for our world is sensual and finite. This is not to say that one cannot use or be motivated by absolutes. Yet, being dependent on them seems to be such a waste of human potential and a restriction to the richness and quality of human experience.

Jim Guido

General06 Apr 2009 06:11 pm

In the US there have been two truisms regarding home ownership. One is that owning a house is the American dream and the other is that it is the major asset and investment of average US citizens.

During the last real estate boom a record percentage of US citiezens were labeled as home owners. Most home ownership estimates hovered around 70 percent.

Yet, this type of statistic is highy misleading. By homeowner they are saying anyone with a mortgage. Yet, as recent events have clearly demonstrated no person truly owns a house until the mortgage is paid off. Until such time the bank or finance company is actually the owner.

Now, the current home ownership as defined as anyone having a mortgage has declined over the last couple of years. So it would be safe to say that somewhere between 60% and 2/3 of the populace have a mortgage. Yet, statistics also claim that over 2/3 of people who have a home, have a mortgage. This means that somewhere between 75 and 80% of people in the US either do not have a home or do not officially own one until they pay off the balance of their mortgage. That being the case it is really more accurate to say that one in five, or 20% of Americans own a home.

When you consider the fact that the majority of people who own their home did so by successfully paying off a 30 year mortgage you logically have to reduce the percentage of people who live in a home owned by its inhabitants. The majority of homes in which the owner’s of the home paid off a 30 year mortgage are typically one or two person abodes. Such people are retired or are near retired couples or individuals whose households are relatively empty. The younger families who have children seldom own the home outright and are saddled by larger mortgages. Therefore, when you factor this into the home ownership equation I would say that less than 1 in 5 people live in homes with no mortgage. In other words, it would be more accurate to say that less than 20% of Americans are truly home owners, or inhabitants of privately owned homes.

This is a far cry from the near 70% home ownership that our government and media claim exists.We have never been the nation of home owners that we have espoused to be.

Though this exaggeration has existed for some time, the escalating rate of foreclosures and mortgage defaults is highlighting this fact.  We are a nation of bank owned homes, not a land of privately owned homes.

The other misrepresentation is in how profitable of an investment a home is. The sale of a mortgage free home is not the golden egg that it is cracked up to be.

A 30 year mortgage is more the rule than the exception, and the typical 30 year mortgage is usually a steep expense. In most cases a home buyer will have spent over three times the original purchase price of the home in principle and interest over the life of the mortgage. This means that a person who takes out a mortgage on a $100,000 home will spend over $300,000 over the course of the 30 years of the loan.

This is not being said to imply that home ownership is a bad financial decision, but rather an attempt to put it in perspective. Home ownership is more about being able to get a majority of the money you spent back, rather than being a terrific investment vehicle.

Yet, the goal of this blog was just to point out something that is often missed, and that is that home ownership occurs at the end of a mortgage and not at its beginning. This post also encourages its readers to reconsider viewing home ownership as a potential investment gold mine. Yes, one can take advantage of hot real estate markets and flip houses as their prices rise. One can also make a solid income by buying older homes and making substantial improvements that selling the homes for a nice profit over what you put into it.

Yet, for most of us, and for most sane real estate markets buying a home is about making a life and not about making a killing.

Realizing all this long ago I made sure I paid off my house in 10 years rather than 30. Even in this poor real estate market, we would still be looking to make a profit if we sold our home. Yet, we love our home and the thought of selling it is not something we ever really consider.

Jim Guido

General01 Apr 2009 02:08 pm

If we break capitalism down to a single transaction we are oversimplifying it. Yet, it does allow us to get a look at its basic dynamics and shortcomings.

Profit and the amassing of capital are both the goal and the driver of capitalism. This means that in every transaction the seller of objects and services goal is to make a profit off of the consumer. If the businessman were to lose money on the bulk of his transactions his business would be non-profitable and fail.

It is, therefore, not surprising that a higher percentage of money has been going to a smaller percentage of people almost the entire life of modern capitalism.What this means  is that a growing majority of people in the US and the industrialized world are becoming relatively poorer every passing day.

Succinctly put, this means that capitalism is generally a competitive system in which win/win situations are rare and generally undesirable. The goal is to raise capital, to capitalize on each transaction by maximizing profit or ensuring future profit.

Economies are generally close systems in which wealth is measured by the percentage of money an individual has in comparision to all money available. It’s kind of like playing a board game in which all money available is represented by the bank. When playing the game your wealth is assessed by what percentage of money available you possess along with comparing your assets versus the others playing the game.

How much money you have, therefore, is measured against two variables. The comparative wealth of others in the society and the amount available to all. A society which regularly prints money is constantly raising the bar to wealth.

For simplicity sake let’s say I lived in a society of 100 people. Let’s also say that there are 100,000 dollars in print. This would mean that I would have to have 1000 dollars to be right at the average. Let’s go on to say that instead of owning one percent of the wealth, which would be the norm for 100 people, I instead owned 5% of total wealth. My 5000 dollars would make me 5 times as wealthy as the norm, and most likely tens of times wealthier than the poorer people.

If the state were to add to the money supply by printing an additional 100,000 dollars, than my 5000 dollars would fall from 5% of total wealth down to 2.5% and my relative wealth would have been cut in half. In the real world we call this process of adding to the money supply inflation. In such circumstances while the number of dollars in a person’s pocket may be increasing their relative and functional wealth may be decreasing. When the rate of inflation is quicker than growth in wages the relative wealth of a person shrinks as does the purchasing power of his money.

Somehow we’ve been successfully brainwashed to believe that this system which lives by the adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, is making all of us wealthy and improving our standard of living. Though it is true that the US experienced a few decades of great growth in the standard of living and the quality of life, it is deceptive to make capitalism solely responsible for these positives.

Much of the illusion of wealth came from inflation while an overwhelming 90% or so of citizens experienced a relative decrease of wealth. Improvements in the standard of living and quality of life had more to do with improvements in medicine/health care, science/technology, transportation/communication and infrastructure/agriculture. When you consider these and the fact that the US and its cohorts used other cultures resources and labor while borrowing from future generations and you can see how we made capitalism look like the golden calf.

So, how much did capitalism play a part in the growth of science and technology and in the inventions which most positively impacted our improvements in quality of life. One could easily show ways in which capitalism fostered and encouraged meaningful invention, yet one could also show many instances in which functional capitalism impeded or even prohibited progress in areas of invention impacting quality of life. Likewise, one can show ways in which capitalism fostered practices and industries which harmed the quality of life and individuals health.

I think it is important to note that many of the US’s finest contributions to improvements in the quality of life were accomplished and introduced into society by state run projects and non-profit entities. These socialistic contributions are often demonized by the most vocal proponents of so called free market capitalism.

Most people who work in industrialized nations are not their own boss which means their pay is just one factor in the businesses profit picture. The labor of the workforce is a component of overhead. Overhead is an obstacle to making a profit. Therefore, if a business is to be profitable, labor cannot be profitable. Labor is a process in which one’s relative wealth must decrease compared to the owners and management of the business. When this is not the case a business will not only not flourish, but have trouble surviving.

I know there are exceptions to every rule, but it is fool hearty to try to make exceptions into rules. A system based on profit will never make the majority wealthy or be efficient. Inequality and wastefulness are as integral to capitalism as the idea  of winning is inherent to competition.

In many ways capitalism is power’s way of saying, “April Fools”.

Jim Guido

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