The Threat of Heaven and the Promise of Hell

“So Rob, tell me; are you a God-fearing man?”

Almost twenty years ago in Nashville, I was having lunch with one of my rep agencies.  There were about eight of us.  When my salad came, I began to eat it while conversing with the group.  As their salads came, they waited for everyone to get theirs and when they did, they all bowed their heads, while one of the guys said a prayer, blessing the food.  Out of respect, I paused and remained quiet.  Cool?

Mmm, not for that guy.  This “man of God” had a bit of a superiority complex.  A self-righteousness that gave him a higher human status than others.  Pretty common.  You know this guy.  He’s on your HOA board, always the one talking at school events, and he’s letting eight cars go in front of him, because he’s being “nice”, while holding up an entire line of traffic that has a green light.  Yeah, that guy.

He knows better than you.  He’s smarter too.  He’s a parent; your parent; everyone’s parent.  He talks at you, not with you.  He’s fucking annoying.

Back to the salad.  Just before he took his first bite, he asks across the table with ultimate smugness, “So Rob, tell me; are you a God-fearing man?”  Yep, the table is silent and all eyes on me.  I simply responded, “I have no reason to fear God.”

Nice try. And what a shitty thing to do.  I dropped them as an agency and life went on happily ever after.  I have no room for that kind of shit in this life and no amount of business is worth it.  I don’t think God’s a fan of it either.

I don’t need the threat of heaven or the promise of hell to be a good person.

If we’re practicing good behavior, because of the promise of a prize or punishment after death, then that goodness isn’t genuine.  It’s not real.  It’s deceptive and it’s value is shit.  Authenticity is important.

True goodness comes from within; from the heart, or soul.  As it goes, I think the vast majority of us are good or genuinely want to be.  And good people do “bad” things and vice versa, given the dynamics of a situation, circumstances, and variables in real time, multiplied by how many people are involved, each with their various levels of influence, philosophy, beliefs, education, background, life experience, hormones, current mood and a myriad of other things.  But, in the grand scheme of things, general goodness is a genuinely inherent trait.  But with 8-billion people, we’re gonna have some bad ones and we treat them accordingly.

But, viewing God as a punisher to be feared, so that we keep ourselves in line?  I thought that was the Devil’s job.  Am I getting this backwards?  I can’t keep up.

Hey, my theories are just as weird as the next guy’s beliefs, but I don’t believe mine are right and anyone else is wrong.  Because, we don’t know.  No one does.  And if your beliefs and way of being doesn’t purposefully infringe upon others; mad respect.  And I’m not so insecure to try to get you to believe what I believe, to make me feel righteous.  And I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to try to make anyone feel inferior because they didn’t praise God before eating a bowl of salad.

I don’t believe in the personification of “God”.  I don’t do religion. Each one has THE answers, when no one knows shit. I’m more of a seeker.  If God is great, then what is greater than the entire universe?  So … yeah, I guess I lean towards Pantheism as a concept.  If we’re truly made in His (sorry ladies; I didn’t write the book) image, then we are the universe, made up of the same elements as ancient stars, some 4.5 billion years old: carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms as well as other heavy elements.  And it’s not just humans.  No, it’s other animals as well.  Even the earth itself.  We are energy, experiencing existence, as we have before and will continue to do so, again and again.

What is us will once again and always be the Universe.  Thank God.

As I sit here, I’m becoming aware of the music playing in the background: Ronnie James Dio is singing Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, “The lover of life’s not a sinner.  The ending is just a beginner.  The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you’ll know that you’re dreaming.  So it’s on and on and on.  It goes on and on and on …”

Thank you for sharing your energy and being a part of who I am.  Peace.

Using What We’re Good at For Good

Through a series of unfortunate events, surviving two decades in a violent, volatile, crime-ridden neighborhood and one particular incident where I had two guns pressed into my head, I realized something: what is taught and practiced in a dojo, doesn’t really translate to the street.

Reality isn’t so neatly packaged.

For 17 years after the gun thing, I sought out, researched, practiced, studied, read, and trained with some of the scariest, most intelligently dangerous people on the planet.  I formulated a program and taught private clients how to survive violent confrontations.

No.  Not fairy tale “self-defense”.  Real life violence is ugly, brutal, bloody, injurious, fast, painful, unexpected, and mentally, psychologically, and emotionally incomprehensible in real time.  I taught violence.  I taught war.

It’s a dark atmosphere and teaching this, living in that realm, can take its toll.  But, I was good at it; good at delivering knowledge, wisdom, insight, and instruction in such a way that they got it.  They felt it, adopted it, and embraced it for real.

One of my clients, an Air Force Intelligence Specialist wrote this on my behalf; “I spent one month under the instruction of Rob Wilson prior to a tour overseas.  I would personally recommend attending his instruction to anyone seeking to learn reality-based personal defense as effectively as possible.”

The day before he left, he asked me, “What brought you to teach war?”  Hmm.  I wasn’t expecting that.  After some quick mental inventory, I replied, “It’s because I love peace.”

And he said, “Then why don’t you teach peace?”  And he left.  Mic … dropped.

There’s a line in the movie, Hotel Artemis, where Nice (that’s her name), a highly sought-after female assassin says, “You can’t pick what you’re good at.  This is what I do.”

There are guys out there, some whom I learned from, who make their living teaching tactical violence.  It’s who they are and I’m so happy they exist.  Not great at parties, but when evil happens, they’re your best friend.

For me though, my client’s question punched me in the chest.  I love peace, but I was living in the yang.  I felt it and people around me started to feel it too.  If I love peace, why not live in the yin?  And so, here I am.

There’s a thin line between war and peace, love and hate, yin and yang.  Actually, the line is only perception.  There is no physical line, but a sharp transition between the darkness and the light in a continuous swirl, with a bit of one inside the other.  You know the symbol.

Back to Hotel Artemis: When Acapulco, played by Charlie Day, offered to hire Nice to use her dark skills to protect him, she replied, “That’s not what I do”.  What a shame.  Maybe we can’t pick what we’re good at, but we can use what we’re good at for good.

Namaste.

How to Be a Yogi Without Being a Chump

“I try. I try to be a righteous man. I try to give love all over the world. But I’m tired of being used!” – Charles Bradley: Ain’t It a Sin

Such passion that you know came from a hard-earned life.  The Screaming Eagle of Soul passed away just two years ago and way too early.  May he rest in peace.

He continues, “Sometimes this world can do me wrong. Keep to the path, won’t go astray.”  Even after life has beaten him down, industry thieves stole from him, as he tried to make his way as Charles Bradley and not some knock-off of James Brown, he’s still trying to be a righteous man!  Not easy sometimes, in this world.

As he performs this song, you can see the real anguish on his face.  The years of blood, sweat, tears, hard times, tragedy, and taking shit are all pouring out in the lyrics.  He’s trying hard to continue to walk a righteous path, but the frustration is coming to a head.

And then … “If you ain’t gonna do me right … I might just do you in. Ain’t it a sin.”

Yep; there it is.

In an interview with Mojo Magazine, Bradley said, “Everybody was thinking I was being very aggressive, but I was saying ‘don’t do me wrong, I won’t do you wrong. We all gotta make things right.”

Damn straight.

Most of us have an inherent goodness within us and we want to live a peaceful life, giving love and being loved.  But, then there are other humans that seem to go out of their way to make that shit almost impossible.

So, here’s the thing; throwing up an Anjali Mudra (prayer hands) gesture is bullshit, if it doesn’t come from the soul.  Namaste, bitch! Right?  We don’t need to do that.  Peace, forgiveness and seeing past a person’s transgressions is inner strength and understanding. Very yogi-like.  But there are times and people who don’t deserve that and neither does our soul.

There comes a point sometimes, where trying to be a righteous person and being a fool cross paths.  Part of nurturing our soul is keeping it from being a chump.  Our soul is our house.  Mi casa es su casa, but if you kick my door in, you will not be greeted peacefully.

Ain’t it a sin?

We cannot be righteous towards others, if we’re not righteous to ourselves.  Hang on; Mr. Bradley is still singing … “I try to find a certain style, to keep my soul from runnin’ wild.”

Seriously, go to Spotify, iTunes, wherever you get your music and get that song right now.

Namaste.  Sincerely.

The Case for Care in the Face of Sympathy

I come from a rough neighborhood; that’s no secret.  Where I grew up, people were gruff, rough, and tough.  In fact, here’s a typical greeting; and seriously, no bullshit, verbatim: “Joe!  How the hell are you, you fat fucking bastard?  Life treating you good or what?”

Realness.  You know this guy cares about Joe; asking him how he is with a not so subtle reminder that he should probably eat less pizza and start walking more.  And, to get on ancestry dot-com to find his father, because all bastards should know who their dad is.

Ah, I miss that.  No fake, pretentious, politically correct, empty, hoping I’m better than you are, kind of shit greeting: “Oh, hey Joe.  Good to see you.”  No it’s not.  Shit, I hope he doesn’t talk to me.  How long does it take to make a latte?  Come on!

Yep.  The atmosphere just got a bit shittier.

Down south, you could be on the side of the road in the rain, changing a flat tire and people will drive by and say, “Oh, bless his heart.”  Useless.  Meanwhile, in Philly, they’ll pull over and help you change that tire, cursing you the whole time, for getting them wet.

How about this from Anthony Jeselnik?  I think this really hits the nail on the head.  He says, “People see some horrible tragedy in the world and they run to the internet.  They run to their social media; facebook, twitter, whatever they got, and they all write down the exact same thing: ‘My thoughts and prayers …’.  Do you know what that’s worth?  Fucking nothing.  Your’e not giving your time, your money, or even your compassion.  All you’re doing is saying, “Don’t forget about me today.”

Funny, but there’s a good bit of truth to that.  I get it though.  When there’s nothing you can actually do, you want to offer some words of sympathy.  However, put some thought into it, instead of some canned bullshit words.

Now, at this point in my life, I’m about 50% removed from inner city Philly, so I’ve come to understand that most people are fragile, easily offended, and will gossip about you to anyone who will listen about how bad of person you are, because you use “Fuck” as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, and pronoun and anywhere else it’ll fit.  Everyone has some kind of an accent.  Cursing and sarcasm is part of mine.  But, in many places, it scares the shit out of people, so I try to curb the accent a bit.  I fail, a lot.

But!  But, I cannot bring myself to say empty things, like “Prayers”.  Ugh!  No, I’ll say things like this: “I’ll mow your lawn, you can stay at my house, I’ll pick up your groceries, I’m on my way over with bourbon, I’ll walk your dog, take your trash out, change your tire, pick up your kids from practice, give you money, and sit with you at the hospital.”

The weird thing is … I often get silence or a blank stare as if people don’t recognize honest sincerity and care.  Remember Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, when Stan (William Shatner) asks, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?”  And she responds with what is truly important to her, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.”  Crickets.  To break the awkward silence, she finally says, “And … world peace.”  To which, everyone cheers.

We’ve taken the care out of care and replaced it with, “Hugs”, “Prayers”, “world peace”, and “Bless your heart”.  Sympathy with no actual help.

It’s like, if I say “Bless his heart”, I’m excused from all guilt of not doing anything.  It’s like saying four hail Mary’s or something.  Not sure how that works, but I’ve heard things.

Sometimes we can’t help or simply don’t want to and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  It is what it is.  We’re not obligated to the universe in any way.  Sometimes we help and sometimes, we don’t feel like getting wet or putting our lives in danger or on hold to help someone.  It’s okay.  We’re human.  No worries.

But please, instead of “hugs”, say something real or nothing at all.  And please don’t hit the “like” button.  My fucking dog just died, dumbass.  He was an ugly, fat fucking bastard, but we loved him.

With all sincerity, Namaste.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

A Joyful Explosion of Humanity

Right around this time every year, I’m riveted, mesmerized, and lost for about three hours in front of my television.  No … not that show.  Not that one either.

This show is an eclectic mix of genres, backgrounds, and styles, mixing together like a well-blended cocktail of only the best unrelated ingredients served in a chalice that is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It tastes refreshing and makes you feel good.

The atmosphere is one of love, respect, and positivity.  It’s a nullification of boundaries, lines, divisiveness, hate, ethnicity, religious beliefs, politics, and human drama; which is all based on bullshit, as far as I can tell.

Is it the soulful words in acceptance speeches?  Is it the introduction speeches, because they’re written and given by a fellow artist who just happens to be a big fan of whom they’re speaking of?  It’s not just some presenter and a teleprompter, you know.  In Brian May’s speech, when he was inducting Def Leppard, he said, I wouldn’t let anyone else do this. He’s a fan and a friend.

Is it the music?  Yeah, I turn that shit up to eleven.

But, that’s not what captivates me.  Actually it’s all of that, along with an appreciation of the artistry, talent, skill, effort, writing, sacrifice, tragedy, triumph, risk, and the drive to keep going, producing beautiful music in the face of all adversity.

No, that’s not quite it either.

It’s what I see that could be.  I see Janelle Monae genuinely enthralled by the performance of Def Leppard; dancing and smiling.  It’s when I see Stevie Nicks hanging on every word of Janet Jackson’s acceptance speech.  I see an audience full of highly accomplished artists, all in their own right, cheering for one-another with appreciation and respect.

That time when Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison’s son, and Prince all played together, performing “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”.  Or when Bono, Mick Jagger, Fergie, Will-I-AM, and The Edge all performed “Gimme Shelter” together.  Harry Styles performing with Stevie Nicks.  Brian May, Susanna Hoffs, Steve Van Zandt, and Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople (what?!) performing together, “All the Young Dudes.”

Yes!  It truly is a joyful explosion of humanity.

It’s like Robin Williams once said about music; “… a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.”

Photo by Israel Palacio on Unsplash

World Peace?

Can we save the planet?  No.  It’s a damn planet!  If the sun eventually wants to engulf the earth, there’s nothing we can do about it.  It was here before us and it will be here after us.  So, when we talk about saving the planet, we’re really talking about saving ourselves.  It’s about optimizing our living conditions on this rock and improving that quality far into the future.

But if you watch any movie ever made about the future, it’s a grim setting.  Post-apocalyptic landscapes, famine, poisoned waters, poisoned air, death and destruction.  Maybe zombies or Skynet takes over.  You never see a movie where the future is bliss and beautiful for us humans.  No, we don’t like stories like that, do we.

Save this country?  From what?  That other country?  Those other 194 countries?  That’s a lot of countries, each with its own politics, religions, and philosophies, and beliefs. Territory, power, control, and … money.  It always comes down to money.

Save ourselves?  From what?  Well … ourselves for starters.  We can be our own worst enemy, personally and communally.  We have turmoil and drama within our own selves, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and psychologically.  How can we trust others, when we don’t trust ourselves?

Besides, we humans get bored easily and our first go-to is conflict.  It’s in our DNA.  As the T-800 said to John Connor in Terminator 2, “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.”  So, how the hell can we even entertain the idea of world peace?

We never hear about the FBI taking down a notorious peace dealer.  You know? The bust happens on a shipping dock at 2:00am.  Two black vehicles.  A duffle bag full of bliss and self-acceptance is exchanged for cold hard cash when the feds burst from the shadows to arrest these illegal peace dealers.  No.  This is not a thing.  But, weapons of war?  There’s money in that.

When we say “World Peace”, we’re really talking about the collective peaceful interaction of almost eight-billion people, throughout 195 countries, and according to some estimates, over 4,200 religions.  Even those religions and religious leaders fight among themselves, in terms of their beliefs, rules, philosophies, and approach.

So … is world peace even possible?  Yes, but not probable.  The math is against us and so are we.

However, I think we can make the math work in our favor if each of us can get out of our own way.  I know; it’s a big ask, but we gotta start somewhere and that somewhere is inner peace.  Without that first, there’s no shot at outer peace and we can just forget about world peace.

Hey, I’m not a hold-hands-in-a-circle while chanting kind of guy.  It makes my “spidey-senses” tingle and I just want to run.  Still working on that.  No; yoga is a personal journey inward, where we reacquaint our soul with peace. From the time we were born, we’re inundated with social division, war, hatred, and negativity, because that’s what sells.  It’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in it.  It’s sold to us and force-fed to us.  Eat it!  Now, pick a side!

World peace isn’t about a one-world religion or no religion at all.  It can’t be.  It’s not about one giant country.  It’s not about one set of beliefs, laws, or language.  It’s not about a single, all-encompassing culture.  That’s impossible, nor should be even try.  What a miserable existence it would be if eight billion of us where all the same.  Ugh.

But, with everything considered, if each of us could find inner peace; peace within ourselves, then our outward interaction would be so much more peaceful and positive.  We’d be more conscientious.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not delusional.  The sheer math and close proximity to each other, multiplied by circumstance, equals friction.  Things will naturally heat up, but the lubricant is inner peace.

The world has a fever and the only prescription is more Yoga.  Or … cowbell; whatever.

Peace, peeps.  And get on that mat.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash