Monthly Archives: January 2012

Living Life Over Again

Living life over again is a recurring fictional theme. It’s a grand daydream, taking another run at life and making some changes. But would we truly make those changes? Or if they did, would they be the right things for us?

In Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, P.D. Ouspensky put forward the idea that if we had the chance to change our life, we’d do the same things over and over again. If we would make changes, then we wouldn’t desire to live our lives over again: we’d accept the mistakes of the past and live the rest of our lives without being trapped in fear. I understood that through my own moral filter: if we repent of our sins, it is as if they are undone and we need not re-live the pains of the past.

But what about decisions that weren’t revolving around our sins? What about correcting simple mistakes that could change everything?

Back in 1995, a member of the Dallas ISD administration committed defamation per se against me and some of my fellow teachers. We sued, but we mistakenly sued the district instead of the person. Had we sued the person, we would have had the potential to have a major settlement. By suing the district, we wound up with nothing. Change that one thing, and I change my entire life…

… but I thought about that, and I asked myself, “Would I have forgiven that man?” I have forgiven that administrator in this life. That burden does not trouble my heart. After the lawsuit fell apart, I started seeing him at my neighborhood grocery store. He was now a neighbor, and if I had really forgiven him, I reasoned, I should be able to smile and wave hello at him when I saw him at the store.

So I did. And I realized I had to force myself at first – the forgiveness wasn’t yet complete. It took about a month before I could honestly offer up that smile and wave without hesitation. More important to my soul was the forgiveness, not the money.

And so, in my brief daydream about changing one term on that lawsuit, I went back in time and changed nothing.

What happened in my past, had to happen. It is not for me to wish for ways to change it, but to instead seek how I may be enlightened by it.

A Brief Reflection

While it would be nice to have a life of material ease, it is more important to have a life of spiritual struggle and growth. This life is a chapter in an ongoing story, the beginning hidden from us as surely as is the end. What we attain to in this life means everything in what is yet to come. Worldly riches are not important for that next phase. Our spirituality, fidelity, and humility are what we take with us to the next experience and those found lacking in those qualities will have their progress hindered.

Yes, we need things of the world to survive in the world, but only just. Should we amass too much of the world for ourselves, we risk denying it to others in need of those resources and then our spirituality is in jeopardy. Should we covet the riches of others, we fall into the same jeopardy. Should we instead strive to gather more spiritual experiences, to be more charitable, to live more with faith guiding our actions, then we take on the challenges of the spirit and enjoy what can unfold to be the most fulfilling moments possible of our lives.

Yes, it is more difficult to live in the middle of a spiritual challenge. It demands of us study, contemplation, meditation, fasting, prayer, and faith. It demands of us that we surrender our priorities and accept that what we ultimately want is not necessarily something we know best at this point in time. It means we await the clarity that comes with divine inspiration and then make the sometimes difficult choice to trust in that revelation with only faith to go on – not a shred of proof will shine a light on our path.

So be it: Our faith leads us to a greater light. It is a personal journey and one person’s steps are by no means the same as another’s. For those who choose to walk in faith, it is like passing through a dark and rough landscape, with only an iron railing to hold to as we press forward to our hoped-for destination. There is no proof that the rod will take us to where we want to be, only an assurance from someone who says he knows it will work out. We don’t even know for sure if that person ever got to where he wanted to be by holding to that iron bar. We have the choice to hold on for our own sake or to let go to see what happens to those that choose to wander off in the pitch blackness that surrounds us. Some head into the darkness and emerge in a vast building, clothed in rich apparel, bedecked with the tokens of great wealth. They mock those who hold to the iron in the wilderness. At the same time, they do nothing to help anyone trying to join them. They also have nothing more than those riches. Those who hold to the iron railing retain their faithfulness, which will be so important to them in the tests that lie ahead.

The search for spiritual truth is not easy, but it is worth doing.

The GOP Hates Itself

Why are the Republicans hating on Mitt Romney? He’s exactly the sort of man they helped to create. By rolling back regulations and getting rid of government interference in the economy, he’s the very man the Reagan Revolution wanted to see standing on the national stage. Mitt Romney is the Frankenstein Monster of the GOP. You guys created him, and he’s aliiiiiiiiiiiiive!

It’s so very ironic to see the GOP candidates not named Romney complaining and moaning about the unfair advantages that Romney enjoys because of his wealth. It’s such a twist of fate to see them cajole Mr. Romney for firing people and corporate raiding. You were the ones that brought that to the USA, so own up to it. You were the ones that put the judges into the Supreme Court that ruled in favor of Citizens United and allowed as much money into campaigns as superPACs could stuff into them. You were the ones that extolled the virtues of free enterprise as the rich gutted companies and moved their acts to Mexico, China, India, and points beyond. This is all your mess, and now you’re in the thick of it.

Ludwig van der Mises once said that those who criticize capitalism as immoral do not understand what capitalism is. It never purports to be a moral system, like Christianity or Islam do. It is an economic system that holds at its core the idea of individuals making all economic choices, free of government interference, as the most efficient means of addressing everyone’s needs. The GOP has long embraced that ideal, even if they did dilute it with some government involvement. Now the product of that ideal has stepped to the lead of their primaries, and the party complains. The GOP hates itself and needs a serious re-think if it’s going to remain consistent.

If You Want to Understand the Economy…

… follow the real interest rate. The nominal rate, what banks and other lenders quote, is only part of the story. Subtract the rate of inflation from that rate and what you have left is the real interest rate. The real interest rate controls the availability of money to borrow, the strength of our currency, our balance of trade, and the severity of the national debt.

The real interest rate also measures the rate at which income disparity is growing. In simpler terms, the higher the real interest rate, the faster the middle class disappears. While we may look at the real interest rate as it pertains to the prime lending rate or the interbank lending rate (also known as the Federal Funds Rate, in case you’re in AP Economics) and see a very low real interest rate, those rates don’t apply to the poor and the middle class. They’re paying the real interest rate as it pertains to credit cards and consumer loans, and those rates are quite high. They’re higher than they used to be in the 1970s, which explains why the middle class has been on the run since that decade.

Even with a very low real interest rate for one and all, the money still flows from borrowers to lenders and the income/wealth gap continues to widen. Whatever other benefits borrowing may provide, the iron rule is that it will enrich the lender and impoverish the borrower, unless the borrower can pass his costs on to his customers via prices. Therefore, borrowing with interest will further impoverish the poor as sure as the moon goes around the earth.

Romney Wins Iowa. So Does Santorum. And Paul.

Considering he was supposed to have been massacred there, edging Santorum by 8 votes is a huge win for Romney. Of course Santorum’s sudden rise is also a victory for him and Ron Paul actually getting mentioned is a huge victory for him. Those are the winners of Iowa.

Gingrich needs to quit whining if he wants to get more traction. He’s not out just yet, but soon will be due to his lack of organization. Perry is wisely considering an exit. Bachmann was supposed to have tromped over everyone in Iowa, but came in last. Proving she’s insane, she’s gone on to campaign in South Carolina.

After winning Iowa, Romney enjoyed getting an endorsement from John McCain. I see that as a quid pro quo for Romney’s endorsement of McCain in 2008. At the end of the day, Romney’s going to be the GOP nominee. He can win elections and he can negotiate with the Democrats. The GOP may split over this, but it’s time the “Anyone But Romney” group learned that American politics has to be about compromise if it’s going to succeed.