How to Love

 

It’s been over 6 months since my last post. I am not sure what happened, maybe the wind knows. I have recently made some changes in my life that have put a lot of free time in my hands, so, I’m back. To make it perfectly clear, I have no creds in this area, so keep that grain of salt handy.

First, I would like to start with a couple of quotes to set the mood:

“Each day, we make a new decision about how to spend our life’s energy over the remainder of our life. Like it. Live it.”

“The rules/beliefs that define us are mostly a product of our mind and it is our duty to change these when appropriate.”

I recently finished reading three books: The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love by Ruiz and Janet Mills and The Voice of Knowledge also by Ruiz and Mills. Most of the thoughts in these three books were not new to me, nor would they be new to most people, but they brought them all together and often referred to them by different names. For example, the third “agreement” is to not make assumptions about what other people are thinking. I always referred to that as “don’t put your thoughts in other people’s head”.

This post is a distillation of the three books and my thoughts on the subject. I didn’t always agree with them. I highly recommend reading these books in the order given. My thoughts on the subject will win because this is my post, so I win.

Now it begins.

One thing that has always puzzled me is: what is love? I’ve always been looking for that neat, compact definition. Philosophers think they have it. Poets think they have it. Well, maybe not. As Ruiz says, love is not an abstract, definable concept, but just exists everywhere, it is the natural state of being. Overthinking life is one of the things that puts a damper on this. It makes sense to me and explains a lot. To take a little license with some of his definition, I am going to posit there are essentially three kinds of love. Self-love, love of the contents of the universe…all the creatures and plants, the air, it’s basic existence, and romantic or partner love. The difficult part, the real rub, is to experience the last, one should first master the first two. Not an easy task.

Learning to love yourself can be the most difficult of all. It can take some time and effort, but a lovable person is there. You are perfect the way you are. Don’t allow the expectations of others to cloud your self-image.  You are smart enough, handsome enough, beautiful enough, witty enough. It’s their problem if they can’t see it. Don’t let the voice in your head rule you, you are better than that. The only person who abuses you is you because you allow it to happen. Most of the time there is no awareness of the process. I have a whole truckload of stupid I’ve collected over the years. Dragging it around is exhausting. The solution is to cover it with a tarp and forget about it. It seems to be slowly working. When you start to love yourself, you can start to live an authentic life, be the real you without concern for what others think, for that is their problem. To be authentic is to peel away the layers of other peoples’ expectations and be the real you. I call it being unfiltered. If you are always unfiltered, there is no need to remember what you said, because you will always be right in the moment. Be free. Allow yourself to roam.

To love humanity, you need to start with self-love, then don’t make any assumptions about other people. Don’t put your thoughts in other people’s head. If you are not sure of the answer, ask the question. Eliminate misunderstandings and confusion. The almost too obvious flip side to this is never assume anyone knows what is on your mind. Tell them when appropriate. Never try to change anyone, lasting change only comes from within. Sure, people can “fake it” for a while, but the truth always comes out. The truth always wins. Accept everyone for who they are. If it doesn’t work for you, just move on. Don’t confront it. Life is too short. You can still love them as a part of humanity.

Once you have mastered the first two, the last part can be deceptively easy. There are a lot of “old wives’ tales”, that simply aren’t true. First and foremost, find someone that doesn’t need to be changed. They can be accepted exactly the way they are. They accept you the way you are. Sure, people change, but the change is evolutionary and not likely in the direction hoped for. If the change happens during the relationship, neither party is likely to notice. A partner must be acceptable “as is”. Second, both people should experience self-love. A person who loves themselves and is happy is easy to love. We all must feel good about our self. A relationship shouldn’t be all that difficult. This will reduce the likelihood of at least one side being a needs-based relationship as opposed to one based on mutual respect. If you respect each other’s life dream, love can be lasting. You have entered the “happy place”. Life is good. Of course, there will always be some issues to be worked on, but the difficulty level will not be too high.

MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE, PART 5: EDUCATIONAL REFORM

This is the 5th in a series of 17, to be published every 3 days.

As an investment in the future, education can’t be beat. We should do everything possible to fully fund the best education known. We need to make post-secondary education tuition free for public institutions. Balancing state and federal budgets by reducing funding for secondary and post-secondary education is so short sighted. It reduces future economic expansion and saddles those who do get a college education with student debt, while their increased education is a benefit to society.

The junior college system should be made more accessible with things like books provided free. It should be more mindful of the needs of many of the students to work while attending. It should offer a dual path. One for students who will be ending with junior college and one for those definitely going on. Those successfully completing the college prep curriculum should be guaranteed admission to complete their four year degree. We need to get as many people as possible beyond a high school education. The world is getting complex. We need people that can cope with a rapidly changing paradigm.

Our educational system was designed in the early 20th century around a pragmatic philosophy. It teaches practical knowledge. This is very important but is short of what is needed to prosper in the coming century. We need to spend more time on fostering thinking skills and critical reasoning. Problems that we have previously been unable to conceive of will confront us at an accelerating rate. If we don’t want this Tsunami to wash over us, we must be prepared to deal with it.

Somehow, we need to reduce the inequality of opportunities among various schools and districts. I know it’s hard to get a good educator to move to a district 100 miles from the nearest Costco, but we must deal with this. It’s not just a matter of money, but that is a huge factor. Maybe visiting lecturers or rotating duty assignments, or anything else you can come up with. Maybe more remote learning or better education software. It seems a travesty to waste a good genetic foundation with inadequate nurturing.

We must hold educators in higher esteem. They must be better trained in motivating students. Many other countries of the world do a better job at education than we do. There is no reason we shouldn’t be number 1.

 

MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE: PART 4

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM

This is the 4th in a series of 17, to be published every 3 days.

I will be updating the BIBLIOGRAPHY as installments are published.

This is a bomb ready to explode. There is a good idea of when and as time goes on, the fix becomes ever more difficult. A small tweak to the rates would fix the problem and most people wouldn’t notice the change in their check. Social security was not originally intended to be the cornerstone of retirement, but over time it has taken on an increasingly larger role in the functioning of society. As part of our slow progress towards a better world, Social Security becomes a bigger factor. We take on the responsibility to provides a progressively higher minimum standard of living for all our citizens. We should be looking at a small increase at the minimum levels of payment to provide a better life for those dependent on this, who weren’t fortunate enough to work at a job that would entitle them to a higher benefit.

I understand this can be a political hot potato, but our Representatives and Senators need to get off their asses, screw up some courage and do it. The explosion probably won’t have a big impact on me, but I can’t just sit here. To do nothing is benign complicity and there are consequences. The current estimate is about a 30% reduction in benefits in about 15 years. The majority of people receiving Social Security benefits need them to maintain some semblance of a quality life. As a society, how can we consciously decide innocent people don’t deserve a reasonable quality of life? This can easily be prevented with small tweaks in the system if we act now. Why haven’t we moved? Our legislators are theoretically in office to serve the needs of the majority of the people. They need to do their job.

 

MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE, PART 3

TAX REFORM

This is the 3rd in a series of 17, to be published every 3 days.

I am adding a Bibliography that will be updated as more installments are published.

Some people might argue I don’t have the right to speak to tax policy. Because of my circumstances of low income, mostly from Social Security, I haven’t paid taxes in several years. I have paid my share and in the years I was paying a lot, I didn’t think about it much because I was left with enough to live a good life. I’ve seen both ends and know how they feel.

Tax reform is an emotionally charged issue, but it shouldn’t be. There are many good avenues to be explored. Make no mistake about it, tax policy is about social policy and trying to elicit certain types of behavior. The following list is some of the items that need to be addressed along with some potential solutions. The growing national debt will be addressed in a later installment.

PERSONAL TAXES:

The top marginal tax rate needs to be increased to 70% for income over $10M per year. The current top rate is 37% for income over $600K for a joint return. This should increase to 45% at $1M, 50% at $2M, 55% at $5M, 60% at $7M, 65% at $9M, and 70% at $10M. Raising the marginal tax rate will increase the amount of charitable giving because it won’t “cost” the giver as much. The 10M threshold for the 70% marginal tax rate is 300 times earnings if the minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour. The incentive to produce is still there and society is benefited.

Medicare tax should be extended to the value of stock options granted and other non-cash compensation for service, including company cars and residences, memberships, etc.

The maximum limit for IRA’s should be increased to $20K per year and not limited to just earned income. They should not be used as an estate planning tool. Except in a transfer to a spouse, their value should be included in the estate of the deceased.

Student loans have been a drag on our economy and stressful to those paying them. A tax credit of up to $500 per year should be granted for tuition paid in the last ten years to a public post-secondary school until it has been recovered.

There should be a wealth tax on net worth in excess of $20M. This should start out as 0.5% in the first year in effect and increase by 0.5% each year until it reaches 2.5%. It should include offshore holdings.

We must close the door on aggressive tax loopholes. The value of options should be added to net worth to calculate wealth tax.

The estate tax should be eliminated. Instead the estate should be added to the income of the recipients, with a per person exemption of $50K to shield small estates.

Stock buyback programs are merely a disguised dividend to the shareholders who don’t sell their shares and should be taxed to the beneficiary as such.

Corporate tax rates: For the years 1951 through 1986, the corporate marginal tax rate was above 45%. The current marginal corporate tax rate is 21%. To get things back on course, we need to go back to a 45% marginal tax rate on corporate income. The rate should be graduated in the fashion of the personal tax rates with the top rate kicking in at $5,000,000.

Our legislators need to understand they are representing people not money. A plan like this, with rates set to eventually ease the national debt situation, will benefit the vast majority of the people of the United States.

There should be no differentiation between full and part time workers for any tax or benefit. Everything should at the minimum be proportionate, so as not to create a sea of part-time workers who have to work two jobs to make a living.

 

MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE, PART 2

INCENTIVE: THE CORE SOLUTION

This is the 2nd in a series of 17, to be published every 3 days.

There is a popular movie titled “The Theory of Everything”. I want a new one titled “The Solution to Everything”. I had an epiphany this morning while brushing my teeth. (A very philosophical time). I recently Tweeted: “Incentive is the key to an efficient system.” I think it may be the answer to almost everything that needs fixing. Think of Capitalism and its success as an economic system. Sure, there are a few rough areas, but the system does work. If it was to be summarized in one word, that would be incentive.

I don’t believe changing our tax structure will disincentivize our system, just make it more fair. There were plenty of ambitious people when the top marginal tax rate was 90%. With a reliable social safety net in place, people will be encouraged to take risks, to innovate. It may be considered crass to imply that nothing will happen without some form of incentive, but think about it for a minute. In capitalism, the incentive is mostly monetary, but in other situations, other incentives can work. We need to find a way to reach everybody. This will require a multipronged approach. Some will be incentivized by monetary rewards, some by fame, some by internal satisfaction. We must appeal to all these motivations and any others that come to light. The economics and psychology of human behavior often takes peculiar detours. We must be cognizant of the consequences of our actions and take action quickly to correct deviations from our intended course. Keeping the carrot in front of the donkey is the answer to making it move. I know it’s cliché, but don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

Many of you might be better at coming up with motivational ideas than me. I would appreciate any comments you might have.

 

MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE, PART 1

INTRODUCTION: Toward a better and more livable life.

This is the 1st in a series of 17, to be published every 3 days.

We have a need to create an enduring, humane social safety net, without stifling the benefits of capitalism, so people will be allowed to flourish, develop their full potential and live a meaningful life. We need to eliminate all of the inequities rampant in our country. Many of the ideas in this manifesto are borrowed from two sources: The Green Parties “Green New Deal” and AOC/Markey’s “Green New Deal”. Some of the points in these two sources are too radical, even for me. I have filtered out what I think is unreasonable. I’ve added in some ideas from other outspoken, forward thinkers, and even added a thought or two of my own. I have tried to come up with something more comprehensive than either of the two plans, something that will further our society and pay for itself. Many people are crying the blues about how much social change will “cost”. My position is it will cost very little. What will change is when the price will be paid and who will pay it. Since the beginning of Reaganomics, we have been borrowing from the future at an increasing rate. Trickle down doesn’t work. We need to get in a pay as you go mode and not push this huge bow-wave of debt in front of us.

I would be disappointed if many of the ideas presented in this series were new to you. I consider them a starting point. I challenge you to do better, but do something. All the ideas presented in this paper integrate together and are synergistic. We must push a comprehensive plan of reform. This is a manifesto on what government can do to improve the country we live in and thereby improve the world. Our country is currently very flawed and needs fixing. In writing this, I am not representing any group. While many of the ideas are borrowed, this is my own work. I don’t have all the answers, it’s hard enough coming up with the questions.

A long time ago, I was a worker bee on a negotiating team. We were presenting our strategy to upper management. About half way through the presentation, the manger interrupted and said words to the effect: “you are approaching this with a scalpel when you should be using a meat axe”. While an approach this aggressive is not always the right way, sometimes it is necessary to attain a workable goal. We need to come at this hard.

There are a total of seventeen posts in this series. The length of each post is not indicative of the import of the subject covered. Nothing should be left out. I expect some of the content will irritate a certain portion of the population. I may receive some irate comments. I expect that. Let’s try to find some common ground in a calm manner and solve these problems for the good of our country. We need a focused, unified approach.

I want our country and the world to be a better place. The list of things needing to be done is almost endless. Starting from any base, it is possible for the average human to imagine only so much. I have come up with a list of things I see as needing to be addressed to get to my current definition of a Utopia. This is a constantly moving target, but we must start somewhere. There will always be more to do.

The topics I have chosen to cover in this manifesto should not be considered everything that needs to be addressed, but tackling all of them would create a dramatic change in the way we live and make this country a much happier place to live.

I realize the problem is higher than MT Everest, but if we start and keep at it, we can get to the top. Any problem, no matter how large, can be broken down into pieces small enough that something can be done today. We should try to make some progress, no matter how little, every day. If we start accomplishing things and keep track of our progress, our enthusiasm for change will grow and self-propagate. I believe all the issues should be put on the table at once. People using special leverage or rules to stymie progress should be called out. This should be sold to the general population, the majority. I’m a firm believer in the economic system being able to adapt. Phase some of the changes in and the system will take care of itself.

One of the reasons for having much of this done at the Federal level is to give some help to areas of the country not as economically advantaged, but with good people, able to make a contribution.

A satisfaction with being a part of a new social order. Thinking of new ways to approach the problems of our country. That’s why I’m writing. If you have comments or suggestions, please include a comment.