3 LAWS OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Because of the economic challenges of the times, I thought I should I share my hard-earned understanding of the world of financial management.

My first law of financial management is extra money generates new bills. For instance, get an extra couple of hundred in the bank and you can predict the future. The car battery will die on the freeway, the tooth you’ve been babying will turn on you like a wet cat, you’ll find that your boss looking at you with an unhealthy speculation, or you’ll find that you added wrong in your check book.

There seems to be some magic point, say about $500, and if you can get over that hurdle without have a major expense, you’re okay for a while. About a year ago I had extra income for a while. I knew that this wouldn’t last but I learned how it felt to be wealthy.  That giddiness was not enough to prompt me, however, into making more money because if I made more money, I’d generate more bills and that is not the way to the black side of the ledger.

Now, my second law of financial management is closely related to the above and is this: no matter how much you make it’s never enough. This has something to do with the cost of living. In other words, the more you make the less you can afford. Now, this does not mean if you make less money, you can buy more. It means that no matter what you make your bills are higher. I think that this law is so self-evident it doesn’t require a lot of explanation.

My third law of financial management is: the faster you spend it the further it goes. I derived this law by careful observation and a little Aristotelian logic. Here is how it came about: I noticed long ago that when I was driving and ran low on gas, a natural tendency arose within me to drive quickly to a gas station.

“What ho!” I thought. What I discovered was this. When I am low on gas and drive quickly, I use less gas and therefore make it to the gas station. If, for example, I kind of dilly dallied, do you think I’d get there without a tow? Not likely! Need more proof?

Pay close attention. This next part is unproven but relying on my mostly infallible intuition I can attest to the following observation: when adrenaline surges within our bodies, an adrenaline of another kind is created within our psychic body in the metaphysical world. It is this astral adrenaline that gets sucked up in the gas tank and gives the car the extra push it needs to get to the station. If you drive slowly and meander along the way you’ve just short-circuited a sure thing.

Applying this same scientific principle to the world of finance and I think that you’ll quickly see the obvious correlation. If you’re running short of money what you’ve got to do is go out and spend some fast. This is an unwavering rule in the in-and-out box of my life. When a check comes in I pay all of the most urgent and abrasive bills and then I go out.

With check book in hand, I pick up a few treats to keep my money-producing engine oiled– a book here, a cd there, a trip to Victoria’s Secret somewhere else. This not only raising my spirits considerably, it makes me feel rich which then obviously feeds that psychic energy reserve in my astral organ and it’s away we go.

That’s enough financial insight for one day. Let me leave you with these final words of wisdom:

“Let us all be happy and live within our means, even if we have to borrow money to do it.”

Artemus Ward, “Science & Natural History”

(From the Archives @ 1999)

REQUIESCAT IN PACEM

I learned the other day that a man I deeply respect and admire has died but it was only this morning when a friend forwarded by email the official announcement of his funeral that I felt the reality of his passing. He was 85 and in failing health so his death was not a surprise, indeed, it was expected, but the finality of death always carries a particular jolt.

His name was Dr. David Hawkins and I first met him in 2002 when I was deeply on my spiritual journey. From childhood I had read books about saints and mystics and masters and however much I admired them I was left wanting more – for all those people were already dead and in so many ways out of reach. It was my dearest wish that at least once before I died I might meet someone who was living and enlightened.

I was attending a spiritual life conference in San Francisco with a friend when I first heard about Dr. Hawkins and, more as a lark than as an opportunity, we decided to attend one of the monthly all-day seminars he was then holding in Sedona, Arizona. He was not a spiritual leader or associated with a religion or movement – in fact, he was a former, very successful psychiatrist who had had a number of mystical experiences over the years and was now talking about them.

The seminar was held in a small but beautiful conference center. When he first came out on stage I was disappointed. No one stood up or stopped talking, or in any way showed any special respect to him. He was a small-framed man, short,  thin and frail. He resembled the satiric comedian, George Carlin.

When he was speaking, he was animated, powerful, infused, but during the rest periods he seemed to shrink and deflate, become distant and removed.  The lecture was interesting and in some ways provocative but I did not feel the earth-shaking response in my soul that I had expected in meeting a holy man. Somewhat disgruntled I returned to Sacramento and picked up the reins of life.

Except that something had changed. My meditations were deeper, my mind was clearer, I was more at peace. Hmmm. I went back to Arizona the next month, and the month after that, and the month after that. During that year the trips became the focus of my life. His explanation of the states of consciousness and the experience of the divine resonated in my spirit and I finally believed that yes, indeed, he had achieved the state that cannot be spoken of.

I remember one lecture in particular. As was his custom, at the end of the presentation, he bowed his head and prayed aloud, asking God’s blessing on all who were there. For the first and only time in my life I saw a great golden aura extend from him and light up the auditorium. The golden light wavered and sparkled, holding within itself a great feeling of joy and peace.

After that year of lectures was over, I went to see Dr. Hawkins in person on a few other occasions. I continued to listen to the tapes of his lectures and still pull them out today. Over the years his reputation continued to grow and thousands of people came from all around the world to listen to him.

I learned three important things from Dr. Hawkins. The first was the difference between thought and consciousness, and how we are not our thoughts. The second was that life is not the opposite of death, birth is the opposite of death; life is eternal and has no opposite. And lastly, that to find joy one must surrender to life, not fight against what is. It was these three lessons that gave me the strength in the years ahead when I lost so much.

So today, although my discourse is a personal one and probably of little interest to most readers, I want to acknowledge my gratitude to a man who was a blessing in my life. He came in fulfillment of my desire to meet, just one time, someone who had experienced the presence of God and was willing to share his journey with others.

Gloria in Excelsis, Deo, Dr. Hawkins.

LEFT BEHIND

I arrive at the park today later than my unusual hour and discover that my favorite spot is filled with cars and visitors on this mild autumn day. I drive instead to a less frequented lot, pull a small lawn chair from the back seat and take up a station beneath a young oak along one of the many walking paths that surround the dog park.

Various singles and couples come into view walking with determination, aware of my presence but slewing their eyes up, down, to the left, for the “privacy space” must be observed. A couple in conversation pass and the small dog accompanying them has trouble keeping to their pace. In contrast, an older Japanese woman leads a large German Shepherd whose back legs slightly drag as if it was pulling heavy weights.

I see a youngish girl with a beagle approaching the dog park, its tail wagging violently in anticipation. After they enter the fenced enclosure the hound darts from one delectable spot to another as he records what dogs have already been here, their age, weight, species and recent meals – for all of this is data for his superb nose.

The girl sits at the picnic table and talks on her cell phone while the dog bounces before her, impatient and ready to play. But no balls are thrown and so it barks and runs along the fence line trying to coax other passing canines into conversation.

After a few minutes the girl gets up, leaves the dog in the fenced enclosure without a backward look and walks down the pathway. The dog is frantic at being left behind. It runs back and forth along the fence looking for a way out, then leaps three, four feet high trying to jump over the chain links. It howls and barks. When the girl gets further away, the dog suddenly sits and is silent and trembling, its gaze riveted on her receding form.

Is she leaving him, I wonder, abandoning the dog in a place where perhaps someone else will come and take him home?  Is he not wanted? As these thoughts race through my mind and my concern mounts, I read the dog’s body language and suddenly recognize the ancient drama being enacted. It is one universal to all tribal creatures  – it is the anguish of one left behind, left alone, lost, abandoned.

Creatures of the lower orders are born ready for the struggle to survive but mammals, in particular, have long childhoods in which the protection and guidance of the adults are needed. This dependency is perhaps the impetus that gave rise to the tribe, the flock, the herd in which members must hold together to survive.

The ultimate rejection – for it is in essence a death sentence – is the expulsion from the pack, the closing of the village gate, the turning away of the face. It is a miniature reenactment of that drama that I am witnessing with the dog. It pulls at my heart because I have participated in that story myself. Who cannot remember as a child being separated from the parent and the terror that follows? Or as a parent, leaving a child in another’s care and hearing their cries at being left behind as we walk to the car?

The first moments of our lives marks the separation from the security of womb and after that our life’s journey is a series of meetings and separations. Which role is more difficult to play – the one who moves on or the one who is left behind? The wrench of separation strips away facades and roles and personas, leaving the emotions revealed and buzzing like hot wires under the skin. It is then we realize the truth of our hearts and discover that some endings are final.

But today, for this small dog, the ending is a happy one for after talking to another walker on the path, the girl returns. The dog is wild with excitement as she approaches and re-enters the fenced area. It jumps and circles her, barking with joy at the reunion. Soon another couple with a small dog joins them and play begins.

The park has busy boulevards on all sides and from my chair I hear the steady swoosh of traffic in the background against the more obvious rattle of skateboards, the swish of bicycle tires, the pong of tennis balls, the slam of car doors and chattering of small children. From the grassy knoll just behind me I can hear the slight snore of the street person who is sleeping with his arm around the small but alert dog who will never leave him.

BLUE SKY MORNING

Flutterings of white in the sky catch my eye and I watch as four, no five, white-winged birds soar in spirals overhead – one hundred, two hundred feet above – I am no good judge of heights or depths or long distances. Tirelessly, they swirl like pale confetti in the air.

Silently they gyre round and round, their wings sparkling like reflectors in the thin morning sun. Flutter, then glide, wing again even higher. None leading nor following, they circle. Too high to be looking for food, I think, mostly likely at play, enjoying the cool lift of the wind beneath their wings, the slipstream whispering as it glides smoothly over their head and shoulders.

I feel the chill of the morning air on my arms and shoulders. Should I hurry in and pick up the sweater I so carelessly left on the chair?  I hesitate, reluctant to leave this aerial display for fear it will disappear if I am not here to witness it. I dash – then scurry back, warmer now, and instantly look up to spy the acrobats of the air.

The pale blue morning is still. Then a flicker of white and then another. One by one, they descend from higher levels, dancing down, wheeling and turning like the leaves that are even now falling one by one from limbs and yellowing branches. Up again they soar, higher, higher, until there are only two flashes of white, then one, then none.  I can feel, in the distance, high-piled clouds gathering as the curtains of the sky close without a sound.

AUTUMNAL PREPARATION

The park is quiet again now that the children are back in school. This morning when I stop by there are only a few joggers and dog walkers on the path. The squirrels are once again dancing along the limbs and swinging in the branches. A plump pigeon with seashell-like markings of brown and white bobbles through the grass, pecking here and there. The little creek is full and running smoothly through the tall-standing, brown and brittle reeds; along the curve of the walk the lawn sprinklers spray long fountains of water in high wide arcs.

In less than a week, the autumn equinox will arrive and the balance of dark and light will lean into the shadows. Mornings will come later and require sweaters and hot cups of tea. The grass will be covered in dew and the sky reflect a Madonna blue edged by high white clouds. The nights will be sharper and darker, shards of stars will shatter across the sky. Blankets will move from the bottom of the bed to nestle within sheets and comforters. Closets will be explored, clothing tried on and heavy shoes brought out.

Behind the face of Autumn always lies the hint of tears for endings are reflected in its eyes. Roses gather up their skirts and explode in one last burst of color and scent; chrysanthemums of rust, orange, red and yellow shake their bushy heads in defiance; trees withdraw life from leaves and begin their journey inward towards sleep. Spring and summer are packed away with a sigh in cardboard boxes, vacation photos are downloaded and forgotten.

I smell the air and remember an Autumn day when I am sixteen. It is after school and I am picking flowers from the beds alongside the house. My arms are full as I carry this colorful bounty to the back porch where vases wait. The smell of burning leaves is in the air, sharp and acrid; smoke from the fire is traveling southward with the geese. The blue sky outlines the church across the street which shimmers in golden light only seen in autumn. I feel life moving within me and although I do not realize it at the time, these few moments in the afternoon will ever be etched in my memory.

How often is it that we realize we are alive? How often do we feel the transcendent blessing inhabit our hearts? Day after day, the years slip by unnoticed, filled with the commonplace, with the expected and routine, until we see nothing but what we have seen before. We look back and wonder where the years have gone; how did the children grow up so quickly; were we not looking as the seasons came and went? Where are our parents and family and friends? When did our youth depart and when was it replaced by age?

Rocks, trees, water, birds, grass, ants – all that live treasure life and fight to keep it. It is we, the thinkers, who have lost touch with our inheritance, have traded stewardship for despotism and so abdicated our capacity for joy. Life is precious and rare and painful in its awe-full beauty yet we squander it in our innocence and ignorance.

How many moments of clarity do we hold in our hearts? What golden moments have we strung on the rosary of our lives and when we tell our beads are we filled with gratitude for them?  From the formless to form we have come, and back to the formless we shall return. What have we learned from our sojourn here?

APPLES? ORANGES?

He that would have the fruit must climb the tree.

 Thomas Fuller

I went to the market the other day in search of sustenance of the sweet and juicy kind. My mouth was set for oranges, succulent and plump. Imagine my dismay to discover that oranges were in short supply, so short as to offer only the hard, yellow, sour, seeded varieties. It was too early for good oranges, the white capped produce clerk sniffed, oranges were for Christmas.

And he was right, for it was oranges that had finally revealed to me the non-existence of Santa Claus when as a girl of seven I had cannily counted the number of oranges in the refrigerator on Christmas Eve only to find on the following morning the count was one short, due, no doubt, to the missing fruit nestled in my Santa stocking. I had my parents dead to rights but confronted with the evidence neither of them would cop a plea and I was left knowing I was correct but unacknowledged – a state of mind I would find familiar in my later dealings with men.

Should I have wanted apples, the produce department would be my Ali Baba’s cave for there were apples of every shape, size, variety, color and price. From the “throw a shrimp on the barbie” Braeburns from Down Under, to red Delicious that came with their own little tripod feet and stood like plump ballerinas to the Granny Smiths so packed with pectin that they demanded to be made into pies. A plethora of perishables.

But I was not in the mood for apples. Apples required too much chewing and fortitude; they were too crunchy and American. I needed something more decadent, more tropical, softer and smoother and wetter. Like an orange.

As I started to get grumpy, my glance skewed around and I saw creatively piled ovals that looked familiar. What ho! Pears! Deeper observation revealed that this must be pear season for there were at least six varieties of pears – Bartlett, Asian, Red, Anjou and more. I ask myself when was the last time I really thought about a pear?

Often the subject for 19th century still life paintings, the contemporary pear seems to have lost some of its luster and appeal. The pear has become somewhat pedestrian except for the occasional holiday reference in conjunction with partridges. Once thought of as extremely provocative, the pear shared with the tomato the dubious distinction of being of an aphrodisiac.

Then I saw a small sign reading “mangoes” but I was uncertain whether the mango was the rather large globular, yellow tinted, thin-skinned, orange fleshed and black seeded one, or the even larger yellow skinned, impossible to peel, densely fleshed fruit.

As you can see, I have drawn the circle of experimentation around certain areas of my life and within those perimeters fruit has not fallen. It must also be remembered that as a native born Pennsylvanian whose comestible boundaries were stretched by tangerines, I am easily confused by unfamiliar fruit.  In any event, I think one of these fruits was mangoes and the other papayas.

Those ready for a walk on the wild side should buy a kiwi. Not only is this fruit named after a brand of shoe polish but it has a sense of humor. Looking like a miniature coconut, the kiwi is small and hairy but when bisected boasts a bright green interior dotted with black seeds, a color scheme right out of the 1950’s. It immediately put me in mind of a ’57 Ford or Thunderbird.

I considered my options. Mango rhymes with tango, one of the most romantic dances, and with fandango, one of the most liberating. Mango is also a conjunction of two common words, man and go which led me to consider its digestive actions. Lastly, among the hill tribes of western Borneo mango is the word which describes the mold on the under belly of a courting frog.

In conclusion, you can see how, within moments a simple word like mango can lead the thoughtful man or woman down corridors hinted at but heretofore undreamed of. I reviewed the alternatives and then remembered the lessons of Eden. I eschewed apples and the serendipitous charms of pears and papayas; I postponed the promise of oranges and cartoon humor of the kiwi. It was a mango for me as I hummed a tune by Astor Piazzolla.

ALPHABET SOUP

To be simple is the best thing in the world;

to be modest is the next best thing.

I am not sure about being quiet.

G.K. Chesterton

Life is way too complicated. if there is any message to be remembered, any maxim to tattoo on your left bicep, it is “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”

To wit; yesterday as my dog Cassie and I  perambulated to the park, my eye was caught by the street signs. In our neighborhood, the theme is national parks. So we have a Mammoth, a Yellowstone, a Cascades, a Yosemite, an Everglades, etc. As I looked at Yosemite, I remembered how I used to call it Yo-se-mite (rhyming with “a little tyke”). Then I remembered La Jolla and “la jolly;” Caheunga and “Cahunga,” etc.  You get the idea.

Then I thought about j’s and g’s, h’s and i’s, k’s and q’s, and y’s and i’s. Is there a little overlapping here, I pondered? I mean how many words do you use on a regular basis – other than yellow – that start with a “y?” Is it possible y could be eliminated? No, you say, we need y’s for words like pretty and very and oy vey. I ask you to consider substituting an i for all those y’s.

Now, observe the confusion that has accumulated through the years with g’s and j’s. There’s the name George and the words garage and great and gee whiz; for j’s we have Jack and Janet, juice and jump. Couldn’t we practice a little consonantal conservation and just use g’s for everything. There is also a confusion when j slides into the i territory; that’s where you find the Johns and Juan and Ians.

That same principal applies to k’s and q’s. How hard would it be to live without q’s? And, if we get rid of the q’s, why do we need u’s? Instead of quack, you’d have kwack; instead of quick, you’d have kwik; queer would be kweer. Was that so hard?  Did you have any trouble understanding any of it?

So, with a little forethought and prudence we can easily take our alphabet down from 26 letters, to say 20 or 22. Our dictionaries wouldn’t be so big and our books would be shorter. We’d use less paper which would save the trees which would put more oxygen in the air and repair that big hole over Antarctica where all of the cosmic rays are oozing in and giving us skin cancer in the greenhouse.

If we stopped the cosmic ray seepage might that not deflect that mile-wide asteroid that is predicted? The last time something like that happened all the dinosaurs disappeared. Were they killed or did they get on the space ship?  Was this the Rapture, the Second Coming, Armageddon, cosmic-style? Was Haley Bop just the doorman? Where’s the exit?  Do we really need an “x”?

Art…should simplify.  That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process;

finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole.

Willa Cather

(I was doing some reviewing of old writing and came across this from the archives @ 1998. This was blogging before it was invented. I used to send my posts via personal email to subscribers. Ah, the good old days.)